Infomotions, Inc.The Window-Gazer / Mackay, Isabel Ecclestone, 1875-1928



Author: Mackay, Isabel Ecclestone, 1875-1928
Title: The Window-Gazer
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): benis; spence; aunt caroline; caroline; aunt; benis spence; mary; desire; professor; professor spence; aunt caroline's; miss farr
Contributor(s): Hapgood, Isabel Florence, 1850-1928 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 83,971 words (short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 72 (easy)
Identifier: etext4284
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

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

The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Window-Gazer
by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before distributing this or any other
Project Gutenberg file.

We encourage you to keep this file, exactly as it is, on your
own disk, thereby keeping an electronic path open for future
readers.  Please do not remove this.

This header should be the first thing seen when anyone starts to
view the etext. Do not change or edit it without written permission.
The words are carefully chosen to provide users with the
information they need to understand what they may and may not
do with the etext.


**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*****These Etexts Are Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****

Information on contacting Project Gutenberg to get etexts, and
further information, is included below.  We need your donations.

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a 501(c)(3)
organization with EIN [Employee Identification Number] 64-6221541



Title: The Window-Gazer

Author: Isabel Ecclestone Mackay

Release Date: July, 2003  [Etext #4284]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on December 30, 2001]

Edition: 10

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Window-Gazer
by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay
******This file should be named wgaze10.txt or wgaze10.zip******

Corrected EDITIONS of our etexts get a new NUMBER, wgaze11.txt
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, wgaze10a.txt

Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

Project Gutenberg Etexts are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we usually do not
keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition.

We are now trying to release all our etexts one year in advance
of the official release dates, leaving time for better editing.
Please be encouraged to tell us about any error or corrections,
even years after the official publication date.

Please note neither this listing nor its contents are final til
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg Etexts is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month.  A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so.

Most people start at our sites at:
http://gutenberg.net or
http://promo.net/pg

These Web sites include award-winning information about Project
Gutenberg, including how to donate, how to help produce our new
etexts, and how to subscribe to our email newsletter (free!).


Those of you who want to download any Etext before announcement
can get to them as follows, and just download by date.  This is
also a good way to get them instantly upon announcement, as the
indexes our cataloguers produce obviously take a while after an
announcement goes out in the Project Gutenberg Newsletter.

http://www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/etext03 or
ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03

Or /etext02, 01, 00, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93, 92, 92, 91 or 90

Just search by the first five letters of the filename you want,
as it appears in our Newsletters.


Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work.  The
time it takes us, a rather conservative estimate, is fifty hours
to get any etext selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc.   Our
projected audience is one hundred million readers.  If the value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour in 2001 as we release over 50 new Etext
files per month, or 500 more Etexts in 2000 for a total of 4000+
If they reach just 1-2% of the world's population then the total
should reach over 300 billion Etexts given away by year's end.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away One Trillion Etext
Files by December 31, 2001.  [10,000 x 100,000,000 = 1 Trillion]
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only about 4% of the present number of computer users.

At our revised rates of production, we will reach only one-third
of that goal by the end of 2001, or about 4,000 Etexts.  We need
funding, as well as continued efforts by volunteers, to maintain
or increase our production and reach our goals.

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been created
to secure a future for Project Gutenberg into the next millennium.

We need your donations more than ever!

As of November, 2001, contributions are being solicited from people
and organizations in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin,
and Wyoming.

*In Progress

We have filed in about 45 states now, but these are the only ones
that have responded.

As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list
will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states.
Please feel free to ask to check the status of your state.

In answer to various questions we have received on this:

We are constantly working on finishing the paperwork to legally
request donations in all 50 states.  If your state is not listed and
you would like to know if we have added it since the list you have,
just ask.

While we cannot solicit donations from people in states where we are
not yet registered, we know of no prohibition against accepting
donations from donors in these states who approach us with an offer to
donate.

International donations are accepted, but we don't know ANYTHING about
how to make them tax-deductible, or even if they CAN be made
deductible, and don't have the staff to handle it even if there are
ways.

All donations should be made to:

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
PMB 113
1739 University Ave.
Oxford, MS 38655-4109

Contact us if you want to arrange for a wire transfer or payment
method other than by check or money order.


The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been approved by
the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization with EIN
[Employee Identification Number] 64-622154.  Donations are
tax-deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law.  As fundraising
requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be
made and fundraising will begin in the additional states.

We need your donations more than ever!

You can get up to date donation information at:

http://www.gutenberg.net/donation.html


***

If you can't reach Project Gutenberg,
you can always email directly to:

Michael S. Hart <hart@pobox.com>

Prof. Hart will answer or forward your message.

We would prefer to send you information by email.


**The Legal Small Print**


(Three Pages)

***START**THE SMALL PRINT!**FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS**START***
Why is this "Small Print!" statement here? You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this etext, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault. So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you. It also tells you how
you may distribute copies of this etext if you want to.

*BEFORE!* YOU USE OR READ THIS ETEXT
By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
etext, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement. If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this etext by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from. If you received this etext on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

ABOUT PROJECT GUTENBERG-TM ETEXTS
This PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext, like most PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etexts,
is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor Michael S. Hart
through the Project Gutenberg Association (the "Project").
Among other things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties. Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this etext
under the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

Please do not use the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark to market
any commercial products without permission.

To create these etexts, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works. Despite these efforts, the Project's etexts and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects". Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other etext medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

LIMITED WARRANTY; DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES
But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] Michael Hart and the Foundation (and any other party you may
receive this etext from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext) disclaims
all liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including
legal fees, and [2] YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE OR
UNDER STRICT LIABILITY, OR FOR BREACH OF WARRANTY OR CONTRACT,
INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE
OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

If you discover a Defect in this etext within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from. If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy. If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.

THIS ETEXT IS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO YOU "AS-IS". NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARE MADE TO YOU AS
TO THE ETEXT OR ANY MEDIUM IT MAY BE ON, INCLUDING BUT NOT
LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A
PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

INDEMNITY
You will indemnify and hold Michael Hart, the Foundation,
and its trustees and agents, and any volunteers associated
with the production and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm
texts harmless, from all liability, cost and expense, including
legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of the
following that you do or cause:  [1] distribution of this etext,
[2] alteration, modification, or addition to the etext,
or [3] any Defect.

DISTRIBUTION UNDER "PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm"
You may distribute copies of this etext electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,
or:

[1]  Only give exact copies of it.  Among other things, this
     requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
     etext or this "small print!" statement.  You may however,
     if you wish, distribute this etext in machine readable
     binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
     including any form resulting from conversion by word
     processing or hypertext software, but only so long as
     *EITHER*:

     [*]  The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
          does *not* contain characters other than those
          intended by the author of the work, although tilde
          (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
          be used to convey punctuation intended by the
          author, and additional characters may be used to
          indicate hypertext links; OR

     [*]  The etext may be readily converted by the reader at
          no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
          form by the program that displays the etext (as is
          the case, for instance, with most word processors);
          OR

     [*]  You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
          no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
          etext in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
          or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2]  Honor the etext refund and replacement provisions of this
     "Small Print!" statement.

[3]  Pay a trademark license fee to the Foundation of 20% of the
     gross profits you derive calculated using the method you
     already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  If you
     don't derive profits, no royalty is due.  Royalties are
     payable to "Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation"
     the 60 days following each date you prepare (or were
     legally required to prepare) your annual (or equivalent
     periodic) tax return.  Please contact us beforehand to
     let us know your plans and to work out the details.

WHAT IF YOU *WANT* TO SEND MONEY EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO?
Project Gutenberg is dedicated to increasing the number of
public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed
in machine readable form.

The Project gratefully accepts contributions of money, time,
public domain materials, or royalty free copyright licenses.
Money should be paid to the:
"Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

If you are interested in contributing scanning equipment or
software or other items, please contact Michael Hart at:
hart@pobox.com

[Portions of this header are copyright (C) 2001 by Michael S. Hart
and may be reprinted only when these Etexts are free of all fees.]
[Project Gutenberg is a TradeMark and may not be used in any sales
of Project Gutenberg Etexts or other materials be they hardware or
software or any other related product without express permission.]

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS*Ver.10/04/01*END*




Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

THE WINDOW-GAZER

ISABEL ECCLESTONE MACKAY

     So in ye matere of Life's goodlie showe
       Some buy what doth them plese.
     While others stand withoute and gaze thereinne--
       Your eare, good folk, for these!
                              --OLD ENGLISH RHYME.






THE

WINDOW-GAZER

BY

ISABEL ECCLESTONE MACKAY

AUTHOR OF "MIST OF MORNING," "UP THE HILL AND OVER," "THE SHINING
SHIP," ETC.






THE WINDOW-GAZER


CHAPTER I

Professor Spence sat upon an upturned keg--and shivered. No one had
told him that there might be fog and he had not happened to think of
it for himself. Still, fog in a coast city at that time of the year
was not an unreasonable happening and the professor was a reasonable
man. It wasn't the fog he blamed so much as the swiftness of its
arrival. Fifteen minutes ago the world had been an ordinary world.
He had walked about in it freely, if somewhat irritably, following
certain vague directions of the hotel clerk as to the finding of
Johnston's wharf. He had found Johnston's wharf; extracted it neatly
from a very wilderness of wharves, a feat upon which Mr. Johnston,
making boats in a shed at the end of it, had complimented him
highly.

"There's terrible few as finds me just off," said Mr. Johnston.
"Hours it takes 'em sometimes, sometimes days." It was clear that he
was restrained from adding "weeks" only by a natural modesty.

At the time, this emphasizing of the wharf's seclusion had seemed
extravagant, but now the professor wasn't so sure. For the wharf had
again mysteriously lost itself. And Mr. Johnston had lost himself,
and the city and the streets of it, and the sea and its ships were
all lost--there was nothing left anywhere save a keg (of nails) and
Professor Benis Hamilton Spence sitting upon it. Around him was
nothing but a living, pulsing whiteness, which pushed momentarily
nearer.

It was interesting. But it was really very cold. The professor, who
had suffered much from sciatica owing to an injury of the left leg,
remembered that he had been told by his medical man never to allow
himself to shiver; and here he was, shivering violently without so
much as asking his own leave. And the fog crept closer. He put out
his hands to push it back--and immediately his hands were lost too.
"Really," murmured the professor, "this is most interesting!"
Nevertheless, he reclaimed his hands and placed them firmly in his
coat pockets.

He began to wish that he had stayed with Mr. Johnston in the boat
shed, pending the arrival of the launch which, so certain letters in
his pocket informed him, would leave Johnston's wharf at 5 o'clock,
or there-abouts, Mondays and Fridays. Mr. Johnston had felt very
uncertain about this. "Though she does happen along off and on," he
said optimistically, "and she might come today. Not," he added with
commendable caution, "that I'd call old Doc. Farr's boat a 'launch'
myself."

"What," asked Professor Spence, "would you call her yourself?"

"Don't know as I can just hit on a name," said Mr. Johnston.
"Doesn't come natural to me to be free with language."

It had been pleasant enough on the wharf at first and certainly it
had been worth something to see the fog come in. Its incredible
advance, wave upon wave of massed and silent whiteness, had held him
spellbound. While he had thought it still far off, it was upon him--
around him, behind him, everywhere!

But perhaps it would go as quickly as it had come.

He had heard that this is sometimes a characteristic of fog.
Fortunately he had already selected a keg upon which to sit, so with
a patient fatalism, product of a brief but lurid career in Flemish
trenches, he resigned himself to wait. The keg was dry, that was
something, and if he spread the newspaper in his pocket over the
most sciatic part of the shrapneled leg he might escape with nothing
more than twinges.

How beautiful it was--this salt shroud from the sea! How it eddied
and funneled and whorled, now massing thick like frosted glass, now
thinning to a web of tissue. Suddenly, while he watched, a lane
broke through. He saw clearly the piles at the wharf's end, a
glimpse of dark water, and, between him and it, a figure huddled in
a cloak--a female figure, also sitting upon an upturned keg. Then
the magic mist closed in again.

"How the deuce did she get there?" the professor asked himself
crossly. "She wasn't there before the fog came." He remembered
having noticed that keg while choosing his own and there had been no
woman sitting on it then. "Anyway," he reflected, "I don't know her
and I won't have to speak to her." The thought warmed him so that he
almost forgot to shiver. From which you may gather that Professor
Spence was a bachelor, comparatively young; that he was of a
retiring disposition and the object of considerable unsolicited
attention in his own home town.

He arose cautiously from the keg of nails. It might he well to
return to the boatshed, even at the risk of falling into the Inlet.
But he had not proceeded very far before, suddenly, as he had hoped
it would, the mist began to lift. Swiftly, before the puff of a
warmer breeze, it eddied and thinned. Its soundless, impalpable
pressure lessened. The wharf, the sea, the city began to steal back,
sly, expressionless, pretending that they had been there all the
time. Even Mr. Johnston could be clearly seen coming down from the
boatshed with a curious figure beside him--a figure so odd and
unfamiliar that he might have been part of the unfamiliar fog
itself.

"Well, you've certainly struck it lucky today," called the genial
Mr. Johnston. "This here is Doc. Farr's boy. He's going right back
over there now and he'll take you along--if you want to go."

There was a disturbing cadence of doubt in the latter part of his
speech which affected the professor's always alert curiosity, as did
also the appearance of the "boy" reputed to belong to Dr. Farr. How
old he was no one could have guessed. The yellow parchment of his
face was ageless; ageless also the inscrutable, blank eyes. Only one
thing was certain--he had never been young. For the rest, he was
utterly composed and indifferent, and unmistakably Chinese.

"I hope there is no mistake," said Professor Spence hesitatingly.
"Dr. Farr certainly informed me that this was the wharf at which his
launch usually--er--tied up. But--there could scarcely be two
doctors of that name, I suppose? It's somewhat uncommon."

"Oh, it's him you want," assured Mr. Johnston. "Only man of that
name hereabouts. Lives out across the Narrows somewheres. Used to
live here in Vancouver years ago but now he don't honor us much.
Queer old skate! They say he's got some good Indian things, though--
if it's them you're after?"

The professor ignored the question but pondered the information.

"I think you are right. It must be the same person," he said. "But
he certainly led me to expect--"

A chuckle from the boat-builder interrupted him. "Ah, he'd do that,
all right," grinned Mr. Johnston. "They do say he has a special gift
that way."

"Well, thank you very much anyway." The professor offered his hand
cordially. "And if we're going, we had better go."

"You'll be a tight fit in the launch," said Mr. Johnston. "Miss
Farr's down 'ere somewhere. I saw her pass."

"Miss Farr!" The professor's ungallant horror was all too patent. He
turned haunted eyes toward the second nail keg, now plainly visible
and unoccupied.

"Missy in boat. She waitee. No likee!" said the Chinaman, speaking
for the first time.

"But," began the professor, and then, seeing the appreciative grin
upon Mr. Johnston's speaking countenance, he continued blandly--
"Very well, let us not keep the lady waiting. Especially as she
doesn't like it. Take this bag, my man, it's light. I'll carry the
other."

With no words, and no apparent effort, the old man picked up both
bags and shuffled off. The professor followed. At the end of the
wharf there were steps and beneath the steps a small floating
platform to which was secured what the professor afterwards
described as "a marine vehicle, classification unknown." Someone,
girl or woman, hidden in a loose, green coat, was already seated
there. A pair of dark eyes looked up impatiently.

"I am afraid you were not expecting me," said the professor. "I am
Hamilton Spence. Your father--"

"You're getting your feet wet," said the person in the coat. "Please
jump in."

The professor jumped. He hadn't jumped since the sciatica and he
didn't do it gracefully. But it landed him in the boat. The Chinaman
was already in his place. A rattle and a roar arose, the air turned
suddenly to gasoline and they were off.

"Has it a name?" asked the professor as soon as he could make
himself heard.

"What?"

The professor was not feeling amiable. "It might be easier to refer
to it in conversation if one knew its name," he remarked, "'Launch'
seems a trifle misleading."

There was a moment's silence. Then, "I suppose 'launch' is what
father called it," said his companion. He could have sworn that
there was cool amusement in her tone. "I see your difficulty," she
went on. "But, fortunately, it has a name of its own. It is called
the Tillicum.'"

"As such I salute it!" said Spence, gravely.

The other made no attempt to continue the conversation. She retired
into the fastness of the green cloak, leaving the professor to
ponder the situation. It seemed on the face of it an absurd
situation enough, yet there should certainly be nothing absurd in
it. Spence felt a somewhat bulky package of letters even now in the
pocket of his coat. These letters were real and sensible enough.
They comprised his correspondence with one Dr. Herbert Farr,
Vancouver, B. C. As letters they were quite charming. The earlier
ones had dealt with the professor's pet subject, primitive
psychology. The later ones had been more personal. Spence found
himself remembering such phrases as "my humble but picturesque
home," "my Chinese servant, a factotum extraordinary," "my young
daughter who attends to all my simple wants" and "my secretary on
whose efficient aid I more and more depend--"

"I suppose there is a secretary?" he asked suddenly.

"Oh yes," answered the green cloak, "I'm it."

"And, 'a young daughter who attends'--"

"--'to all my simple wants?' That's me, too."

"But you can't be 'my Chinese servant, a factotum extraordinary?'"

"No, you have already met Li Ho."

"There?" queried the professor, gesturing weakly.

"Yes."

Spence pulled himself together. "There must be a home, though," he
asserted firmly, "'Humble but picturesque'--"

"Well," admitted the voice from the green cloak, "it is rather
picturesque. And it is certainly humble."

Suddenly she laughed. It was a very young laugh. The professor felt
relieved. She was a girl, then, not a woman.

"Isn't father too' amusing?" she asked pleasantly.

"Quite too much so," agreed the professor. He was very cold. "I beg
your pardon," he added stiffly, remembering his manners.

"Oh, I don't mind!" The girl assured him. "Father is a dreadful old
fraud. I have no illusions. But perhaps it isn't so bad after all.
He really is quite an authority on the West Coast Indians,--if that
is what you wish to consult him about."

Professor Spence was in a quandary. But perfect frankness seemed
indicated.

"I didn't come to consult him about anything," he said slowly. "I am
a psychologist. I wish to do my own observing, at first hand. I came
not to question Dr. Farr, but to board with him."

"BOARD WITH HIM!"

In her heartfelt surprise the girl turned to him and he saw her
face, young, arresting, and excessively indignant.

"Quite so," he said. "Do not excite yourself. I perceive the
impossibility. I can't have you attending to my wants, however
simple. Neither can I share the services of a secretary whose post,
I gather, is an honorary one. But I simply cannot go back to Mr.
Johnston's grin: so if you can put me up for the night--"

She had turned away again and was silent for so long that Spence
became uneasy. But at last she spoke.

"This is really too bad of father! He has never done anything quite
as absurd as this before. I don't quite see what he expected to get
out of it. He might know that you would not stay. He wouldn't want
you to stay. I can't understand--unless," her voice became crisp
with sudden enlightenment, "unless you were foolish enough to pay in
advance! Surely you did not do that?"

The professor was observing his boots in an abstracted way.

"I am afraid my feet are very wet," he remarked.

"They are. They are resting in at least an inch of water," she said
coldly. "But that isn't answering my question. Did you pay my father
anything in advance?"

The professor fidgeted.

"A small payment in advance is not very unusual," he offered.
"Especially if one's prospective host is anxious to add a few little
unaccustomed luxuries--"

"Yes, yes," she interrupted rudely. "I recognize the phrase!"
Without looking up he felt her wrathful gaze upon his face. "It
means that father has simply done you brown. Oh, well, it's your own
fault. You're old enough to know your way about. And the luxuries
you will enjoy at our place will certainly be unaccustomed ones.
Didn't you even ask for references?"

Her tone irritated the professor unaccountably.

"Are we nearly there?" he asked, disdaining to answer. "I am
extremely cold."

"You will have a nice climb to warm you," she told him grimly, "all
up hill!"

"'A verdant slope,'" quoted the professor sweetly, "'rising gently
from salt water toward snowclad peaks, which, far away,--'" They
caught each other's eyes and laughed.

"Here is our landing," said the girl quite cheerfully. "And none too
soon! I suppose you haven't noticed it, but the 'Tillicum' is
leaking like a sieve!"




CHAPTER II

Salt in the air and the breath of pine and cedar are excellent sleep
inducers. Professor Spence had not expected to sleep that night; yet
he did sleep. He awoke to find the sun high. A great beam of it lay
across the foot of his camp cot, bringing comforting warmth to the
toes which protruded from the shelter of abbreviated blankets. The
professor wiggled his toes cautiously. He was accustomed to doing
this before making more radical movements. They were a valuable
index to the state of the sciatic nerve. This morning they wiggled
somewhat stiffly and there were also various twinges. But
considering the trying experiences of yesterday it was surprising
that they could wiggle at all. He lifted himself slowly--and sank
back with a relieved sigh. It would have been embarrassing, he
thought, had he not been able to get up.

All men have their secret fears and Professor Spence's secret fear
was embodied in a story which his friend and medical adviser
(otherwise "Old Bones") had seen fit to cite as a horrible example.
It concerned a man who had sciatica and who didn't take proper care
of him-self. One day this man went for a walk and fell suddenly upon
the pavement unable to move or even to explain matters
satisfactorily to a heartless policeman who insisted that he was
drunk. The doctor had laughed over this story; doctors are
notoriously inhuman. The professor had laughed also, but the
possible picture of him-self squirming helplessly before a casually
interested public had terrors which no enemies' shrapnel had ever
been able to inspire.

 Well, thank heaven it hadn't happened yet! The professor confided
his satisfaction to an inquisitive squirrel which swung, bright
eyed, from a branch which swept the window, and, sitting up,
prepared to take stock of the furnishings of his room. A grim smile
signalled his discovery that there were no furnishings to take stock
of. Save for his camp bed, an affair of stout canvas stretched
between crossed legs, the room was beautifully bare. Not a chair,
not a wash-stand, not a table cumbered it--unless a round, flat tree
stump, which looked as if it might have grown up through the floor,
was intended for both washstand and table. It had served the latter
purpose at any rate as upon it rested the candle-stick containing
the solitary candle by which he had got himself to bed.

"Single room, without bath," murmured the professor. "Oh, if my Aunt
Caroline could see me now!"

Oddly enough, something in the thought of Aunt Caroline seemed to
have a reconciling effect upon Aunt Caroline's nephew. He lay back
upon his one thin pillow and reviewed his position with surprising
fortitude. After all, Aunt Caroline couldn't see him--and that was
something. Besides, it had been an adventure. It was surprising how
he had come to look for adventures since that day, five years ago,
when the grim adventure of war had called him from the peace-filled
beginnings of what he had looked forward to as a life of scholarly
leisure. He had been thirty, then, and quite done with adventuring.
Now he was thirty-five and--well, he supposed the war had left him
restless. Presently he would settle down. He would begin his great
book on the "Psychology of Primitive Peoples." Everything would be
as it had been before.

But in the meantime it insisted upon being somewhat different--hence
this feeling which was not all dissatisfaction with his present
absurd position. He was, he admitted it, a badly sold man. But did
it matter? What had he lost except money and self-esteem? The money
did not matter and he was sure that Aunt Caroline, at least, would
say that he could spare the self-esteem. Besides, he would recover
it in time. His opinion of himself as a man of perspicacity in
business had recovered from harder blows than this. There was that
affair of the South American mines, for instance,--but anybody may
be mistaken about South American mines. He had told Aunt Caroline
this. "It was," he told Aunt Caroline, "a financial accident. I do
not blame myself. My father, as you know, was a far-sighted man.
These aptitudes run in families." Aunt Caroline had said, "Humph!"

Nevertheless it was true that the elder Hamilton Spence, now
deceased, had been a far-sighted man. Benis had always cherished a
warm admiration for the commercial astuteness which he conceived
himself to have inherited. He would have been, he thought, exactly
like his father--if he had cared for the drudgery of business. So it
was a habit of his, when in a quandary, to consider what his parent
would have done and then to do likewise--an excellent rule if he had
ever succeeded in applying it properly. But there were always so
many intruding details. Take the present predicament, for instance.
He could scarcely picture his father in these precise circumstances.
To do so would be to presuppose actions on the part of that astute
ancestor quite out of keeping with his known character. Would
Hamilton Spence, senior, have crossed a continent at the word of one
of whom he knew nothing, save that he wrote an agreeable letter?
Would he have engaged (and paid for in advance) board and lodging at
a place wholly supposititious? Would he have neglected to ask for
references? Hamilton Spence, junior, was forced to admit that he
would not.

But those letters of old Farr had been so blamed plausible!

Well, anyhow, he would have the pleasure of meeting and outfacing
the old rascal. This satisfaction he had expected the night before.
But upon their arrival at the "picturesque though humble" cottage
(after a climb at the memory of which his leg still shuddered), it
was found that Dr. Farr was not at home.

"He has probably gone 'up trail'" Miss Farr had said casually, "and
in that case he won't be back until morning."

"Did you say up?" The professor's voice held incredulity. Whereupon
his hostess had most unkindly smiled: "You're not much of a walker,
are you?" was her untactful comment.

"My leg--" He had actually begun to tell her about his leg! Luckily
her amused shrug had acted as a period. He felt very glad of this
now. To have admitted weakness would have been weak indeed. For the
girl was so splendidly strong! Only a child, of course, but so
finely moulded, so superbly strung--light and lithe. How she had
swung up the trail, a heavy packet in either hand, with scarcely a
quickened breath to tell of the effort! Her face?--he tried to
recall her face but found it provokingly elusive. It was a young
face, but not youthful. The distinction seemed strained and yet it
was a real distinction. The eyes were grey, he thought. The eyebrows
very fine, dark and slanted slightly, as if left that way by some
unanswered question. The nose was straight, delightful in profile.
The mouth too firm for a face so young, the chin too square--
perhaps. But even as he catalogued the features the face escaped
him. He had a changing impression, only, of a graceful contour, warm
and white, dark careless eyes, and hair--quantities of hair lying
close and smooth in undulated waves--its color like nothing so much
as the brown of a crisping autumn leaf. He remembered, though, that
she was poorly dressed--and utterly unconscious, or careless, of
being so. And she had been amused, undoubtedly amused, at his
annoyance. A most unfeminine girl! And that at least was fortunate--
for he was very, very weary of everything feminine!




CHAPTER III

Yawningly, the professor reached for his watch.

It had run down.

"Evidently they do not wake guests for breakfast," he mused.
"Perhaps," with rising dismay, "there isn't any breakfast to wake
them for!"

He felt suddenly ravenous and hurried into his clothes. It is really
wonderful how all kinds of problems give place to the need for a
wash and breakfast. Somewhere outside he could hear water running,
so with a towel over his arm and a piece of soap in his pocket he
started out to find it. His room, as he had noted the night before,
was one of two small rooms under the eaves. There was a small, dark
landing between them and a steep, ladderlike stair led directly down
into the living-room. There was no one there; neither was there
anyone in the small kitchen at the back. Benis Spence decided that
this second room was a kitchen because it contained a cooking stove.
Otherwise he would not have recognized it, Aunt Caroline's idea of a
kitchen being quite otherwise. Someone had been having breakfast on
a corner of the table and a fire crackled in the stove. Window and
door were open, and leafy, ferny odors mingled with the smell of
burning cedar. The combined scent was very pleasant, but the
professor could have wished that the bouquet of coffee and fried
bacon had been included. He was quite painfully hungry.

Through the open door the voice of falling water still called to him
but of other and more human voices there were none. Well, he could
at least wash. With a shrug he turned away from the half cleared
table and, in the doorway, almost ran into the arms of a little, old
man in a frock coat and a large umbrella. There were other items of
attire, but they did not seem to matter.

"My dear sir," said the little, old man, in a gentle, gurgling
voice. "Let me make you welcome--very, very welcome!"

"Thank you," said the professor.

There were other things that he might have said, but they did not
seem to suggest themselves. All the smooth and biting sentences
which his mind had held in readiness for this moment faded and died
before the stunning knowledge of their own inadequacy. Surprise,
pure and simple, stamped them down.

"Unpardonable, my not being at home to receive you," went on this
amazing old gentleman. "But the exact time of your coming was
somewhat indefinite. Still, I am displeased with myself, much
displeased. You slept well, I trust?"

The professor was understood to say that he had slept well.

Dr. Farr sighed. "Youth!" he murmured, waving his umbrella. "Oh,
youth!"

"Quite so," said the professor. There was a dryness in his tone not
calculated to encourage rhapsody. The old gentleman's gurgle changed
to a note of practical helpfulness.

"You wish to bathe, I see. I will not detain you. Our sylvan
bathroom you will find just down the trail and behind those alders.
Pray take your time. You will be quite undisturbed."

With another dry "Thank you," the professor passed on. He was
limping slightly, otherwise he would have passed on much faster. His
instinct was to seek cover before giving vent to the emotion which
consumed him.

Behind the alders, and taking the precaution of stuffing his mouth
with a towel, he could release this rising gust of almost hysterical
laughter.

That was Dr. Herbert Farr! The fulfilled vision of the learned
scholar he had come so far to see capped with nicety the climax of
this absurd adventure. What an utter fool, what an unbelievable
idiot he had made of himself! For the moment he saw clear and all
normal reactions proved inadequate. There was left only laughter.

When this was over he felt better. Withdrawing the towel and wiping
the tears of strangled mirth from his eyes he looked around him. The
sylvan bathroom was indeed a charming place. Great rocks, all smooth
and brown with velvet moss, curved gently down to form a basin into
which fell the water from the tiny stream whose musical flowing had
called to him through his window. Around, and somewhat back beneath
tall sentinel trees, crept the bushes and bracken of the mountain;
but, above, the foliage opened and the sun shone in, turning the
brown-green water of the pool to gold. With a sigh of pure delight
the laughter-weary professor stepped into its cool brightness--and
with a gasp of something very different, stepped quickly out again.
But, quick as he was, the liquid ice of that green-gold pool was
quicker. It ran through his tortured nerve like mounting fire--"Oh--
oh--damn!" said the professor heartily.

The sweat stood out on his forehead before he had rubbed and warmed
the outraged limb into some semblance of quietude again. The pool
seemed no longer lovely. Very gingerly he completed such ablutions
as were strictly necessary and then, very cold, very stiff and very,
very empty he turned back toward the house.

This time, instead of passing through the small vegetable garden
behind the kitchen, he skirted the clearing, coming out into the
wide, open space in front of the cottage. On one side of him, and
behind, spread the mountain woods but before him and to the right
the larger trees were down. There was a vista--for the first time
since he had sat upon a keg in the fog he forgot him-self and his
foolishness, his hunger, his aching nerves, his smarting pride,
everything! The beauty before him filled his heart and mind, leaving
not a cranny anywhere for lesser things. Blue sea, blue sky, blue
mountains, blue smoke that rose in misty spirals as from a thousand
fairy fires and, nearer, the sun-warmed, dew-drenched green--green
of the earth, green of the trees, green of the graceful, sweeping
curves of wooded point and bay. Far away, on peaks half hidden, snow
still lay--a whiteness so ethereal that the gazer caught his breath.

And with it all there was the scent of something--something so
fresh, so penetrating, so infinitely sweet--what could it be?

"Ambrosia!" said Benis Spence, unconscious that he spoke aloud.

"Balm of Gilead," said a practical voice beside him. "It smells like
that in the bud, you know."

"Does it?" The professor's tone was dreamy. "Honey and wine--that's
what it's like--honey and wine in the wilderness! You didn't tell me
it would be like this," he added, turning abruptly to his companion
of the night before.

"How could I tell what it would be like--to you?" asked the girl.
"It's different for everyone. I've known people stand here and think
of nothing but their breakfast."

At the word "breakfast" (which had temporarily slipped from his
vocabulary) the famished professor wheeled so quickly that his knee
twisted. Miss Farr smiled, her cool and too-understanding smile.

"There's something to eat," she said. "Come in."

She did not wait for him but walked off quickly. The professor
followed more slowly. The path, even the front path, was rough (he
had noticed that last night); but the cottage, seen now with the
glamour of its outlook still in his eyes, seemed not quite so
impossible as he had thought. The grace of early spring lay upon it
and all around. True, it was small and unpainted and in bad repair,
but its smallness and its brownness seemed not out of keeping with
the mountain-side. Its narrow veranda was railed by unbarked
branches from the cedars. Its walls were rough and weather-beaten,
its few windows, broad and low. The door was open and led directly
into the living room whence his hostess had preceded him.

The marvellous scent of the morning was everywhere. The room, as he
went in, seemed full of it. Not such a bad room, either, not nearly
so comfortless as he had thought last night. There was a fireplace,
for instance, a real fireplace of cobble-stones, for use, not
ornament; a long table stood in the middle of the room, an old
fashioned sofa sprawled beneath one of the windows. There was a
dresser at one end with open shelves for china and, at the other, a
book-case, also open, filled with old and miscellaneous books. . . .

And, best and most encouraging of all, there was breakfast on the
table.

"I told Li Ho to give you eggs," said Miss Farr. "It is the one
thing we can be sure of having fresh. Do you like eggs?"

The professor liked eggs. He had never liked eggs so well before,
except once in Flanders--he looked up to thank his hostess, but she
had not waited. Nevertheless the breakfast was very good. Not until
he had finished the last crumb of it did he notice that the comfort
of the place was more apparent than real. The table tipped whenever
you touched it. The chair upon which he sat had lost an original leg
and didn't take kindly to its substitute. The china was thick and
chipped. The walls were unfinished and draughty, the ceiling
obviously leaked. There had been some effort to keep the place
livable, for the faded curtains were at least clean and the floor
swept--but the blight of decay and poverty lay hopelessly upon it
all.

And what was a young girl--a girl with level eyes and lifted chin--
doing in this galley? . . . Undoubtedly the less he bothered himself
about that question the better. This young person was probably just
as she wished to appear, careless and content. And in any case it
was none of his business.

The sensible thing for him to do was to pack his bag and turn his
back--the absurd old man with the umbrella . . . pshaw! . . . He
wouldn't go home, of course. Aunt Caroline would say "I told you so"
. . . no, she wouldn't say it--she would look it, which was worse . . .
he had come away for a rest cure and a rest cure he intended to
have . . . with a groan he thought of the pictures he had formed of
this place, the comfortable seclusion, the congenial old scholar,
the capable secretary, the--he looked up to find that Miss Farr had
returned and was regarding him with a cool and pleasantly aloof
consideration.

"Are you wondering how soon you may decently leave?" she inquired.
"We are not at all formal here. And, of course--" her shrug and
gesture disposed of all other matters at issue. "Yours are the only
feelings that need to be considered. I should like to know, though,"
she continued with some warmth of interest, "if you really came just
to observe Indians. Father might think of a variety of attractions.
Health?--any-thing from gout to tuberculosis. Fish?--father can talk
about fish until you actually see them leaping. Shooting?--according
to father, all the animals of the ark abound in these mountains.
Curios?--father has an Indian mound somewhere which he always keeps
well stocked."

Professor Spence smiled. "So many activities," he said, "should
bring better results."

"They are too well known. Most people make some inquiry." The faint
emphasis on the "most" made the professor feel uncomfortable. Was it
possible that this young girl considered him, Benis Spence,
something of a fool? He dismissed the idea as unlikely.

"Inquiry in my case would have meant delay," he answered frankly,
"and I was in a hurry. I wanted to get away from--I wanted to get
away for rest and study in a congenial environment. Still, I will
admit that I might not have inquired in any case. I am accustomed to
trust to my instinct. My father was a very far-sighted man--what are
you laughing at?"

"Nothing. Only it sounded so much like 'nevertheless, my grandsire
drew a long bow at the battle of Hastings'--don't you remember, in
'Ivanhoe?'"

The professor sighed. "I have forgotten 'Ivanhoe,'" he said, "which
means, I suppose, that I have forgotten youth. Sometimes its ghost
walks, though. I think it was that which kept me so restless at
home. I thought that if I could get away--You see, before the war, I
was gathering material for a book on primitive psychology and when I
came back I found some of the keenness gone." He smiled grimly. "I
came back inclined to think that all psychology is primitive. But I
wanted to get to work again. I had never studied the West Coast
Indians and your father's letters led me to believe that--er--"

It was not at all polite of her to laugh, but he had to admit that
her laughter was very pleasant and young.

"It is funny, you know," she murmured apologetically. "For I am sure
you pictured father as a kind of white patriarch, surrounded by his
primitive children (father is certain to have called the Indians his
'children'!). Unfortunately, the Indians detest father. They're half
afraid of him, too. I don't know why. Years ago, when we lived up
coast--" she paused, plainly annoyed at her own loquacity, "we knew
plenty of Indians then," she finished shortly.

"And are there no Indians here at all?"

"There is an Indian reservation at North Vancouver. That is the
nearest. I do not think they are just what you are looking for. But
both in Vancouver and Victoria you can get in touch with men who can
direct you. Your journey need not be entirely wasted."

"But Dr. Farr himself--Is he not something of an authority?"

"Y-es. I suppose he is."

"What information the letters contained seemed to be the real
thing."

"Oh, the letters were all right. I wrote them."

"You!"

"Didn't I tell you I was the secretary? My department is the
'information bureau.' I do not see the actual letters. There are
always personal bits which father puts in himself."

"Bits regarding boarding accommodation, etc.?"

She did not answer his smile, and her eyes grew hard as she nodded.

"Usually I can keep things from going that far. I can't quite see
how it happened so suddenly in your case."

"I happen to be a sudden person."

"Evidently. Father was quite dumbfounded when he knew you had
actually arrived. He certainly expected an interval during which he
could invent good and sufficient reasons for putting you off."

"Such as?"

"Such as smallpox. An outbreak of smallpox among the Indians is
quite a favorite with father."

"The old--I beg your pardon!"

"Don't bother. You are certainly entitled to an expression of your
feelings. It may be the only satisfaction, you will get. But aren't
we getting away from the question?" "Question?"

"When do you wish Li Ho to take you back to Vancouver?"

Professor Spence opened his lips to say that any time would suit. It
was the obvious answer, the only sensible answer, the answer which
he fully intended to make. But he did not make it.

"Must I really go?" he asked. He was, so he had said himself, a
sudden person.

His hostess met his deprecating gaze with pure surprise.

"You can't possibly want to stay?"

"I quite possibly can. I like it here. And I'm horribly tired."

The hostility which had begun to gather in her eyes lightened a
little.

"Tired? I noticed that you limped this morning. Is there anything
the matter with you?"

It was certainly an ungracious way of putting it. And her eyes,
while not exactly hostile, were ungracious, too. They would make
anyone with a spark of pride want to go away at once. The professor
told himself this. Besides, his only possible reason for wishing to
stay had been some unformed idea of being helpful to the girl
herself--ungrateful minx!

"If there is anything really wrong--" the cold incredulity of her
tone was the last straw.

"Nothing wrong at all!" said Professor Spence. He arose briskly.
Alas! He had forgotten his sciatic nerve. He had forgotten, too, the
crampiness of its temper since that glacial bath, and, most
completely of all, had he forgotten the fate of the man-who-didn't-
take-care-of-himself. Therefore it was with something of surprise
that he found himself crumpled up upon the floor. Only when he tried
to rise again and felt the sweat upon his forehead did he remember
the doctor's story. . . . Spence swore under his breath and
attempted to pull himself up by the table.

"Wait a moment!"

The cold voice held authority--the authority he had come to respect
in hospital--and he waited, setting his teeth. Next moment he set
them still harder, for Li Ho and the girl picked him up without
ceremony and laid him, whitefaced, upon the sprawling sofa.

"Why didn't you say you had sciatica?" asked Miss Farr,
belligerently.

It seemed unnecessary to answer.

"I know it is sciatica," she went on, "because I've seen it before.
And if you had no more sense than to bathe in that pool you deserve
all you've got."

"It looked all right." "Oh--looked! It's melted ice--simply."

"So I realized, afterwards."

"You seem to do most things afterwards. caused it in the first
place, cold?"

"The sciatica? No--an injury."

There was a slight pause.

"Was it--in the war?" The new note in her voice did not escape
Spence. He lied promptly--too promptly. Desire Farr was an observant
young person, quite capable of drawing conclusions.

"I'm not going to be sympathetic," she said. "That," with sudden
illumination, "is probably what you ran away from. But you'd better
be truthfull Was it a bullet?"

"Shrapnel."

"And the treatment?"

"Rest, and the tablets in my bag."

"Right--I'll get them."

It was quite like old hospital times. The sofa was hard and the
pillows knobby. But he had lain upon worse. Li Ho was not more
unhandy than many an orderly. And the tablets, quickly and neatly
administered by Miss Farr, brought something of relief.

Not until she saw the strain within his eyes relax did his self-
appointed nurse pass sentence.

"You certainly can't move until you are better," she said. "You'll
have to stay. It can't be helped but--father will have a fit."

"A fit?" murmured Spence. Privately he thought that a fit might do
the old gentleman good.

"He hates having anyone here," she went on thoughtfully. "It upsets
him."

"Does it? But why? I can understand it upsetting you. But he--he
doesn't do the work, does he?"

"Not exactly," the girl smiled. "But--oh well, I don't believe in
explanations. You'll see things for your-self, perhaps. And now I'll
get you a book. I won't warn you not to move for I know you can't."

With a glance which, true to her promise, was not overburdened with
sympathy, his strangely acquired hostess went out and closed the
door.

He tried to read the book she had handed him ("Green Mansions"--ho-r
had it wandered out here?) but his mind could not detach itself. It
insisted upon listening for sounds outside. And presently a sound
came--the high, thin sound of a voice shaking with weakness or rage.
Then the cool tones of his absent nurse, then the voice again--
certainly a most unpleasant voice--and the crashing sound of
something being violently thrown to the ground and stamped upon.
Through the closed door, the professor seemed to see a vision of an
absurd old man with pale eyes, who shrieked and stamped upon an
umbrella.

"That," said Hamilton Spence, with resignation, "that must be father
having a fit!"




CHAPTER IV

Letter from Professor Hamilton Spence to his friend, John Rogers,
M.D.

DEAR Bones: Chortle if you want to--your worst prognostications have
come true. The unexpectedness of the sciatic nerve, as set forth in
your parting discourse, has amply proved itself. The dashed thing is
all that you said of it--and more. It did not even permit me to
collapse gracefully--or to choose my public. Your other man had a
policeman, hadn't he?

Here I am, stranded upon a sofa from which I cannot get up and
detained indefinitely upon a mountain from which I cannot get down.
My nurse (I have a nurse) refuses to admit the mountain. She insists
upon referring to this dizzy height as "just above sea-level" and
declares that the precipitous ascent thereto is "a slight grade."
Otherwise she is quite sane.

But sanity is more than I feel justified in claiming for anyone else
in this household. There is Li Ho, for instance. Well, I'm not
certain about Li Ho. He may be Chinese-sane. My nurse says he is.
But I have no doubts at all about my host. He is so queer that I
sometimes wonder if he is not a figment. Perhaps I imagine him. If
so, my imagination is going strong. What I seem to see is a little
old man in a frock coat so long that his legs (like those of the
Queen of Spain) are negligible. He has a putty colored face (so
blurred that I keep expecting him to rub it out altogether), white
hair, pale blue eyes--and an umbrella.

Yesterday, attempting to establish cordial relations, I asked him
why the umbrella. He had a fit right on the spot?

Let me explain about the fits. When his daughter just said, "Father
will have a fit," I thought she spoke in a Pickwickian sense,
meaning, "Father will experience annoyance." But when I heard him
having it, I realized that she had probably been quite literal. When
father has a fit he bangs his umbrella to the floor and jumps on it.
Also he tears his hair. I have seen the pieces.

I said to my nurse: "The mention of his umbrella seems to agitate
your father." She turned quite pale. "It does," she said. "I hope
you haven't mentioned it." I said that I had merely asked for
information. "And did you get it?" asked she. I said that I had--
since it was apparent that one has to carry an umbrella if one
wishes to have it handy to jump upon. She didn't laugh at all, and
looked so withdrawn that it was quite plain I need expect no
elucidation from her.

I had to dismiss the subject altogether. But, later on, Li Ho (who
appears to partially approve of me) gave a curious side light on the
matter. At night as he was tucking me up safely (the sofa is
slippery), he said, "Honorable Boss got hole in head-top. Sun velly
bad. Umblella keep him off."

"But he carries it at night, too," I objected.

Li Ho wagged his parchment head. "Keep moon off all same. Moon muchy
more bad. Full moon find urn hole. Make Honorable Boss much klasy."

Remarkably lucid explanation--don't you think so? The "hole in head
top" is evidently Li Ho's picturesque figure for "mental vacuum."
Therefore I gather that our yellow brother suspects his honorable
boss of being weak-headed, a condition aggravated by the direct rays
of the sun and especially by the full moon. He may be right--though
the old man seems harmless enough. "Childlike and bland" describes
him usually. Though there are times when he looks at me with those
pale eyes--and I wish that I were not quite so helpless! He dislikes
me. But I have known quite sane people do that.

I am writing nonsense. One has to, with sciatica. I hope this
confounded leg lets me get some sleep tonight.

Yours,

B.

P.S.: Not exactly an ideal home for a young girl--is it?




CHAPTER V

It had rained all night. It had rained all yesterday. It had rained
all the day before. It was raining still. Apparently it could go on
raining indefinitely.

Miss Farr said not. She said that it would be certain to clear up in
a day or two. "And then," she said, "you will forget that it ever
rained."

Professor Spence doubted it. He had a good memory.

"You look much better this morning," his nurse went on. "Have you
tried to move your leg yet?"

"I am thinking of trying it."

This was not exactly a fib on the part of the professor because he
was thinking of it. But it did not include the whole truth, because
he had already tried it, tried it very successfully only a few
moments before. First he had made sure that he was alone in the room
and then he had proceeded with the trial. Very cautiously he had
drawn his lame leg up, and tenderly stretched it out. He had turned
over and back again. He had wiggled his toes to see how many of them
were present--only the littlest toe was still numb. He had realized
that he was much better. If the improvement kept on, he knew that in
a day or so he would be able to walk with the aid of a cane. And he
also knew that, with his walking, his status as an invalid guest
would vanish. Luckily, no one but himself could say when the walking
stage was reached--hence the strict privacy of his experiments.

"Father thinks that you should be able to walk in about three days,"
said Miss Farr cheerfully.

Spence said he hoped that Dr. Farr was right. But the rain, he
feared, might keep him back a bit, "I am really sorry," he added,
"that my presence is so distasteful to the doctor. I have been here
almost two weeks and I have seen so little of him that I'm afraid I
am keeping him out of his own house."

"No, you are not doing that," the girl's reassurance was cordial
enough, "Father is having an outside spell just now. He quite often
does. Sometimes for weeks together he spends most of his time out of
doors. Then, quite suddenly, he will settle down and be more like--
other people."

It was her way, the professor noticed, to state facts, not to
explain them.

"Then he has what I call an 'inside spell,'" she went on. "That is
when he does most of his writing. He does some quite good things,
you know. And a few of them get published."

"Scientific articles?" asked Spence.

"Well--articles. You might not call them scientific. Science is very
exact, isn't it? Father would rather be interesting than exact any
day."

Her hearer found no difficulty in believing this.

"His folk-lore stories are the best--and the least exact," continued
she, heedless of the shock inflicted upon the professorial mind. "He
knows exactly the kind of things Indians tell, and tells it very
much better,"

"You mean he--he fakes it?"

"Well--he calls it 'editing.'"

"But, my dear girl, you can't edit folk-lore!"

"Father can."

"But--but it isn't done! Such material loses all value if not
authentic."

"Does it?"

The question was indifferent. So indifferent, in the face of a
matter of such moment, that Hamilton Spence writhed upon his couch.
Here at least there was room for genuine missionary work. He cleared
his throat.

"I will tell you just how much it matters," he began firmly. But the
fates were not with him, neither was his audience. Attracted by some
movement which he had missed she, the audience, had slipped to the
door, and was opening it cautiously.

"What is it?" asked the baffled lecturer crossly.

"S-ssh! I think it's Sami."

"A tame bear?"

"No. Wait. I'll prop you up so you can see him. Look, behind the
veranda post."

The professor looked and forgot about the value of authenticity; for
from behind the veranda post a most curious face was peeping--a
round, solemn baby face of cafe au lait with squat, wide nose and
flat-set eyes.

"A Jap?" exclaimed Spence in surprise.

"No. He's Indian. Some of the babies are so Japaneesy that it's hard
to tell the difference. Father says it's a strain of the same blood.
But they are not all as pretty as Sami. Isn't he a duck?"

"He is at home in the rain, anyway. Why doesn't he come in?"

"He's afraid of you."

"That's unusual--until one has seen me."

"Sami doesn't need to see a stranger."

"Well, that's primitive enough, surely! Let's call him in."

"I'd like to, but Sami won't come for calling."

"Oh, won't he? Leave the door open and watch him."

As absorbed now as the girl herself, the professor put his finger to
his lips and whistled--a low, clear whistle, rather like the calling
of a meditative bird. Several times he whistled so, on different
notes; and then, to her surprise, the watching girl saw the little
wild thing outside stir in answer to the call. Sami came out from
behind the post and stood listening, for all the world like an
inquiring squirrel. The whistle sounded again, a plaintive, seeking
sound, infinitely alluring. It seemed to draw the heart like a
living thing. Slowly at first and then with the swift, gliding
motion of the woods, the wide-eyed youngster approached the open
door and stood there waiting, poised and ready for advance or
flight. Again the whistle came, and to it came Sami, straight as a
bird to its calling mate.

"Tamed!" said the professor softly. "See, he is not a bit afraid."

"How on earth did you do it?" asked Miss Farr when the shy, brown
baby had been duly welcomed. The whistler was visibly vain.

"Oh, it's quite simple. I merely talked to him in his own language."

"I see that. But where did you learn the language?"

"Well, a fellow taught me that--man I met at Ypres. He could have
whistled back the dodo, I think. He knew all kinds of calls--said
all the wild things answered to them."

"Was he a great naturalist?"

The cheerful vanity faded from Spence's face, leaving it sombre.

"He--would have been," he said briefly.

Miss Farr asked no more questions. It was a restful way she had. And
perhaps because she did not ask, the professor felt an unaccustomed
impulse. "He was a wonderful chap," he volunteered. "There are few
like him in a generation. It seemed--rather a waste."

The girl nodded. "Used or wasted--it's as it happens," she said.
"There is no plan."

"That's a heathen sentiment!" The professor recovered his
cheerfulness. "A sentiment not at all suited for the contemplation
of extreme youth."

"I am not extremely young."

"You? I was referring to our brown brother. He is becoming uneasy
again. What's the matter with him?"

Whatever was the matter, it reached, at that moment, an acute stage
and Sami disappeared through the door into the kitchen. Perhaps his
ears were sharper than theirs and his eyes keener. He may have seen
a large umbrella coming across the clearing.

Miss Farr frowned. "Sami is afraid of father," she explained
briefly. The door opened as she added, "I wonder why?"

"A caprice of childhood, my daughter," said the old doctor mildly.
"Who indeed can account for the vagaries of the young?"

"They are usually quite easy to account for," replied his daughter
coldly. "You must have frightened the child some time."

"Tut, tut, my dear. How could an old fogey like myself frighten
anyone?"

"I don't know. But I should like to."

Father and daughter looked at each other for a moment. And again the
captive on the sofa found himself disliking intensely the glance of
the old man's pale blue eyes. He was glad to see that they fell
before the grey eyes of the girl.

"Well, well!" murmured Dr. Farr vaguely, looking away. "It doesn't
matter. It doesn't matter. Tut, tut, a trifle!"

"I don't think so," said she. And abruptly she went out after the
child.

"Fanciful, very fanciful," murmured the old man, looking after her.
"And stubborn, very stubborn. A bad fault in one so young. But,"
beaming benevolently upon his guest, "we must not trouble you with
our small domestic discords. You are much better, I see, much
better. That is good."

"Getting along very nicely, thanks," said Spence. "I was able to
change position this morning without assistance."

"Only that?" The doctor's disappointment was patent. "Come, we
should progress better than that. If you will allow me to prescribe-
-"

"Thank you--no. I feel quite satisfied with the treatment prescribed
by old Bones--I mean by my friend, Dr. Rogers. He understands the
case thoroughly. One must be patient."

"Quite so, quite so." The curiously blurred face of the doctor
seemed for a moment to take on sharper lines. Spence had observed it
do this before under stress of feeling. But as the exact feeling
which caused the change was usually obscure, it seemed safest to
ignore it altogether. He was growing quite expert at ignoring
things. For, quite contrary to the usual trend of his character, he
was reacting to the urge of a growing desire to stay where he wasn't
wanted. He didn't reason about it. He did not even admit it. But it
moved in his mind.

"I'm not fretting at all about being tied up here," he went on
cheerfully. "I find the air quite stimulating. I believe I could
work here. In fact, I have some notes with me which I may elaborate.
I fancy that, as you said in your letters, Miss Farr will prove a
most capable secretary. I am going to ask her to help me."

"Are you indeed?" The doctor's tone was polite but absent.

"You do not object, I hope?"

"Object--why should I object? But Desire is busy, very busy. I doubt
if her duties will spare her. I doubt it very much."

"Naturally, I should wish to offer her ample remuneration."

Again the loose lines of the strange old face seemed to sharpen.
There was a growing eagerness in the pale eyes . . . but it died.

"Even in that case," said Dr. Farr regretfully, "I fear it will be
impossible."

Spence pressed this particular point no further. He had found out
what he wanted to know, namely, that his host's desire to see the
last of him was stronger even than his desire for money. His own
desire to see more of his host strengthened in proportion.

"Supposing we leave it to Miss Farr herself," he suggested smoothly.
"Since you have personally no objection. If she is unwilling to
oblige me, of course--"

"I will speak to her," promised the doctor.

Spence smiled.

"What surprises me, doctor," he went on, pushing a little further,
"is how you have managed to keep so very intelligent a secretary in
so restricted an environment. The stronger one's wings, the stronger
the temptation to use them."

He had expected to strike fire with this, but the pale eyes looked
placidly past him.

"Desire has left me, at times, but--she has always come back." The
old man's voice was very gentle, almost caressing, and should
certainly have provided no reason for the chill that crept up his
hearer's spine.

"She has never found work suited to her, perhaps," suggested Spence.
"If you will allow me,--"

"You are very kind," the velvet was off the doctor's voice now. He
rose with a certain travesty of dignity. "But I may say that I
desire--that I will tolerate--no interference. My daughter's future
shall be her father's care."

Spence laughed. It was an insulting laugh, and he knew it. But the
contrast between the grandiloquent words and the ridiculous figure
which uttered them was too much for him. Besides, though the most
courteous of men, he deliberately wished to be insulting. He
couldn't help it. There rose up in him, suddenly, a wild and
unreasoning anger that mere paternity could place anyone (and
especially a young girl with cool, grey eyes) in the power of such a
caricature of manhood.

"Really?" said Spence. There was everything in the word that tone
could utter of challenge and derision. He raised himself upon his
elbow. The doctor, who had been closely contemplating his umbrella,
looked up slowly. The eyes of the two men met. . . . Spence had
never seen eyes like that . . . they dazzled him like sudden
sunlight on a blade of steel . . . they clung to his mind and
bewildered it . . . he forgot the question at issue . . . he forgot-
-

Just then Li Ho opened the kitchen door.

"Get 'um lunch now," said Li Ho, in his toneless drawl. "Like 'um
egg flied? Like 'um boiled?"

Spence sank back upon his pillow.

"Like um any old way!" he said. His voice sounded a little
breathless.

The doctor, once again absorbed in the contemplation of his
umbrella, went out.




CHAPTER VI

Luncheon, for which Li Ho had provided eggs both boiled and fried,
was eaten alone. His hostess did not honor him with her company, nor
did her father return. Li Ho was attentive but silent And outside
the rain still rained.

Professor Spence lay and counted the drops as they fell from a knot
hole in the veranda roof--one small drop--two medium-sized drops--
one big drop--as if some unseen djinn were measuring them out in
ruthless monotony. He counted the drops until his brain felt soggy
and he began to speculate upon what Aunt Caroline would think of
fried eggs for luncheon. He wondered why there were no special
dishes for special meals in Li Ho's domestic calendar; why all
things, to Li Ho, were good (or bad) at all times? Would he give
them porridge and bacon for dinner? Spence decided that he didn't
mind. He was ready to like anything which was strikingly different
from Aunt Caroline. . . .

One small drop--two medium-sized drops--one big drop. . . . He
wondered when he would know his young nurse well enough to call her
by her first name? (Prefixed by "miss," perhaps.) "Desire"--it was a
rather charming name. How old would she be, he wondered; twenty?
There were times when she looked even younger than twenty. But he
had to confess that she never acted like it. At least she did not
act as he had believed girls of twenty are accustomed to act. Very
differently indeed. . . . One small drop--two medium-sized--oh,
bother the drops! Where was she, anyway? Did she intend to stay out
all afternoon? Was that the way she treated an invalid? . . . He
couldn't see why people go out in the rain, anyway. People are apt
to take their deaths of cold. People may get pneumonia. It would
serve people right--almost. . . . One drop--oh, confound the drops!

The professor tried to read. The book he opened had been a famous
novel, a best-seller, some five years ago. It had been thought
"advanced." Advanced!--but now how inconceivably flat and stale! How
on earth had anyone ever praised it, called it "epoch-marking,"
bought it by the thousand thousand? Why, the thing was dead--a dead
book, than which there is nothing deader. This reflection gave him
something to think of for a while. Instead of counting drops he
amused himself by strolling back through the years, a critical
stretcher-bearer, picking up literary corpses by the wayside. They
were thickly strewn. He was appalled to find how faintly beat the
pulse of life even in the living. Would not another generation see
the burial of them all? Was there no new Immortal anywhere?

"When I write a novel," thought the professor solemnly, "which,
please God, I shall never do, I will write about people and not
about things. Things change always; people never." It was a wise
conclusion but it did not help the afternoon to pass.

Desire, that is to say Miss Farr, had passed the window twice
already. He might have called her. But he hadn't. If people forget
one's very existence it is not prideful to call them. And the
Spences are a prideful race. Desire (he decided it didn't matter if
he called her Desire to himself, she was such a child) was wearing--
an old tweed coat and was carrying wood. She wore no hat and her
hair was glossy with rain. . . . People take such silly risks--And
where was Li Ho? Why wasn't he carrying the wood? Not that the wood
seemed to bother Desire in the least.

The captive on the sofa sighed. It was no use trying to hide from
himself his longing to be out there with her in that heavenly
Spring-pierced air, revelling in its bloomy wetness; strong and fit
in muscle and nerve, carrying wood, getting his head soaked, doing
all the foolish things which youth does with impunity and careless
joy. The new restlessness, which he had come so far to quiet, broke
over him in miserable, taunting waves.

Why was he here on the sofa instead of out there in the rain? The
war? But he was too inherently honest to blame the war. It was,
perhaps, responsible for the present state of his sciatic nerve but
not for the selling of his birthright of sturdy youth. The causes of
that lay far behind the war. Had he not refused himself to youth
when youth had called? Had he not shut himself behind study doors
while Spring crept in at the window? The war had come and dragged
him out. Across his quiet, ordered path its red trail had stretched
and to go forward it had been necessary to go through. The Spences
always went through. But Nature, every inch a woman, had made him
pay for scorning her. She had killed no fatted calf for her
prodigal.

So here he was, at thirty-five, envying a girl who could carry wood
without weariness. The envy had become acute irritation by the time
the wood was stacked and the wood-carrier brought her shining hair
and rain-tinted cheeks into the living-room.

"Leg bad again?" asked Desire casually.

"No--temper."

"It's time for tea. I'll see about it."

"You'll take your wet things off first. You must be wet through. Do
you want to come down with pneumonia?"

 The girl's eyebrows lifted. "That's silly," she said. And indeed
the remark was absurd enough addressed to one on whom the wonder and
mystery of budding life rested so visibly. "I'm not wet at all," she
went on. "Only my coat." She slipped out of the old tweed ulster,
scattering bright drops about the room. "And my hair," she added as
if by an afterthought. "I'll dry it presently. But I don't wonder
you're cross. The fire is almost out. We'll have something to eat
when the kettle boils. Father's gone up trail. He probably won't be
back." For an instant she stood with a considering air as if
intending to add something. Then turned and went into the kitchen
without doing it. She came back with a handful of pine-knots with
which she deftly mended the fire.

The professor moved restlessly.

"I'll be around soon now," he said, "and then you shan't do that."

"Shan't do what?"

"Carry wood."

"That's funny." Desire placed a crackling pine-knot on the apex of
her pyramid and sat back on her heels to watch it blaze. Her tone
was ruminative. "There's no real sense in that, you know. Why
shouldn't I carry wood when I am perfectly able to do it? Your
objection is purely an acquired one--a manifestation of the herd
instinct."

There was a slight pause. Professor Spence was wondering if he had
really heard this.

"W--what was that you said?" he asked cautiously.

Desire laughed. He had observed with wonder, amounting almost to
awe, that she never giggled.

"Score one for me!" She turned grey, mirthful eyes  on his. Amn't I
learned? I read it in an article in an old Sociological Review--a
copy left here by a man whom father--well, we needn't bother about
that part of it. But the article was wonderful. I can't remember who
wrote it."

"Trotter, perhaps,--yes, it would be Trotter," murmured the
professor.

Desire swung round upon her heels, regarding him a trifle wistfully.

"I should like to know all that you know," she said. "All the
strange things inside our minds."

"Would you? But if you knew what I know you would only know that you
knew nothing at all."

"Yes, it's all very well to say that," shrewdly, "but you don't mean
it. Besides, even if you don't know anything, you have glimpses of
all sorts of wonderful things which might be known. You can go on,
and it's the going on that matters."

"But I can't carry wood."

A little smile curled the corners of Desire's lips. He did not see
it because she had turned to the fire again and, with that
deliberate unself-consciousness which characterized her, was
proceeding to unpin and dry her hair. Spence had not seen it undone
before and was astonished at its length and lustre. The girl shook
it as a young colt shakes its mane, spreading it out to the blaze
upon her hands.

"I know what you mean, though," admitted Spence, "there is nothing
like the fascination of the unknown. It very nearly did for me."

Desire looked up long enough to allow her slanting brows to ask
their eternal question.

"Too much inside, not enough outside," he answered. "I ought to have
made myself a man first and a student afterward. Then I might have
been out in the rain you."

 She considered this, as she considered most things, gravely. Then
met it in her downright way.

"There's nothing very wrong with you, is there? Nothing but what can
be put right."

"No."

"Well then, you can begin again. And begin properly."

"I am thirty-five."

"In that case you have no time to waste."

It was a thoroughly sensible remark. But somehow the professor did
not like it. After all, thirty-five is not so terribly old. He
decided to change the subject. But there was no immediate hurry. It
was pleasant to lie there in the firelight watching this enigma of
girl-hood dry her hair. Perhaps she would notice his silence and ask
him what he was thinking about.

"You really ought to offer me a penny for my thoughts," he observed
plaintively.

"Oh, were you thinking? So was I."

"I'll give you a penny for yours!"

Desire shook her head.

"No? Then I'll give you mine for nothing. I was thinking what a pity
it is that you are only an amateur nurse."

"I hate nursing."

"How unwomanly! Lots of women hate it--but few admit it. However, it
wasn't a nurse's duties I was thinking of, but a patient's
privileges. You see, if you were a professional nurse I could call
you 'Nurse Desire.'"

"Do you mean that you want to call me by my first name?"

"Since you put it more bluntly than I should dare to,--yes. It is a
charming name. But perhaps--"

"Oh, you may use it if you like," said the owner of the name
indifferently. "It sounds more natural. I am not accustomed to 'Miss
Fair.'"

This ought to have been satisfactory. But it wasn't. And after he
had led up to it so tactfully, too! Not for the first time did it
occur to our psychologist that tact was wasted upon this downright
young person. He decided not to be tactful any longer.

"I'm getting well so rapidly," he said, "that I shall have to admit
it soon."

The girl nodded.

"Are you glad?"

"Of course I am glad."

"I shall walk with a cane almost in no time. And when I can walk, I
shall have to go away."

"Yes." There was no hesitation in her prompt agreement. Neither did
she add any polite regrets. The professor felt unduly irritated. He
had never become used to her ungirlish taciturnity. It always
excited him. The women he had known, especially the younger women,
had all been chatterers. They had talked and he had not listened.
This girl said little and her silences seemed to clamour in his
ears. Well, she would have to answer this time.

"Do you want me to go?" he asked plainly.

"I don't want you to go." Her tone was thoughtful. "But I know you
can't stay. One has to accept things."

"One doesn't. One can make things happen."

"How?"

"By willing."

"Do you honestly believe that?" He was astonished at the depth of
mockery in her tone.

"I certainly do believe it. I'll prove it if you like."

"How?"

"By staying."

Again she was silent.

He went on eagerly. "Why shouldn't I stay--for a time at least? I
have plenty of work to go on with. Indeed it was with the definite
intention of doing this work that I came. If you want me, I'll stay
right enough. The bargain that was made with your father was a
straight, fair business arrangement. I have no scruples about
requiring him to carry out his part of it The trouble was that it
seemed as if insistence would be unfair to you. But if you and I can
arrange that--if you will agree to let me do what I can to help,
chores, you know, carrying wood and so on, then I should not need to
feel myself a burden."

"You have not been a burden."

"Thanks. You have been extraordinarily kind. As for the rest of it--
I mentioned the matter to Dr. Farr this morning."

She was interested now. He could see her eyes, intent, through the
falling shadow of her hair.

"I reminded him that he had offered me the services of a secretary
and explained that I was ready to avail myself of his offer."

"And what did he say to that?"

"Well--er--we agreed to leave the decision to you."

"Was that all?"

"Practically all."

"Practically, but not quite. You quarreled, didn't you? Frankly, I
do not understand father's attitude but I know what his attitude is.
He does not want you here. Neither you nor anyone else. The
secretarial work you offer would be--I can't tell you exactly what
it would be to me. It would teach me something--and I am so hungry
to know! But he will find some way to make it impossible. You will
have to go."

"Nonsense! He cannot go back on his agreement."

"You mean he has accepted money? That," bitterly, "means nothing to
him."

"Nevertheless it gives me ground to stand on. And you, too. You have
done secretarial work before?"

"Yes. I have certain qualifications. At intervals I have tried to
make myself independent. Several times I have secured office
positions in Vancouver. But father has always made the holding of
them impossible."

"How?"

"I would rather not go into it." There was weary disgust in her
voice.

"But what reason does he give?"

"That his daughter's place is in her father's house--funny, isn't
it?"

"You do not think that affection has anything to do with it?"

"Not even remotely. Whatever his reason may be for keeping me with
him, it is not that. Affection is something of which one knows by
instinct, don't you think? Even Li Ho--I know instinctively that Li
Ho is fond of me. I am absolutely certain that my father is not."

"It is no life for a young girl."

"It has been my life."

The professor felt uncomfortable. There was that in her tone which
forbade all comment. She had given him this tiny glimpse and quite
evidently intended to give no more. But Spence, upon occasion, could
be a persistent man.

"Miss Desire," he said gravely, "do you absolutely decline my
friendship?" If she wanted directness, she was getting it now.

"How can I do otherwise?" Her face was turned from him and her low
voice was muffled by her hair. But for the first time she had cast
away her guard of light indifference. "Friendship is impossible for
me. I thought you would see--and go away. Nothing that you can do
would be any real help. I have tried before to free myself. But I
could not. Nor, in the little flights of freedom which I had, did I
find anything that I wanted. I am as well here as anywhere. Unless--
"

She was silent, looking into the fire.

"Unless I were really free," she added softly.

He could not see her face. But she looked very young sitting there
with her unbound hair and hands clasped childishly about her knees.

"You have wondered about me--in a psychological way--ever since you
came." She went on, her voice taking on a harsher note. "You have
been trying to 'place' me. Well, since you are curious I will tell
you what I am. When I was younger and we lived in towns I used to
wander off by myself down the main streets to gaze in the windows. I
never went into any of the stores. The things I wanted were inside
and for sale--but I could not buy them. I was just a window-gazer.
That's what I am still. Life is for sale somewhere. But I cannot buy
it."

The throb of her voice was like the beating of caged wings through
the quiet room.

"But--" began Spence, and then he paused. It wasn't at all easy to
know what to say. "You are mistaken," he went on finally. "Life
isn't for sale anywhere. Life is inside, not outside. And no one
ever really wants the things they see in other people's windows."

"I do," said Desire coldly.

She was certainty very young! Spence felt suddenly indulgent.

"What, then--for instance?" he asked.

The girl shook back her hair and arose.

"Freedom, money, leisure, books, travel, people!"

"I thought you were going to leave out people altogether," said
Spence, whimsically. "But otherwise your wants are fairly
comprehensive. You have neglected only two important things--health
and love."

"I have health--and I don't want love."

"Not yet--of course--" began the professor, still fatherly
indulgent. But she turned on him with a white face.

"Never!" she said. "That one thing I envy no one. You are wondering
why I have never considered marriage as a possible way out? Well, it
isn't a possible way--for me. Marriage is a hideous thing--hideous!"

She wasn't young now, that was certain. It was no child who stood
there with a face of sick distaste. The professor's mood of
indulgent maturity melted into dismay before the half-seen horror in
her eyes.

But the moment of revelation passed as quickly as it had come. The
girl's face settled again into its grave placidity.

"I'll get the tea," she said. "The kettle will be boiling dry."




CHAPTER VII

In the form of a letter from Professor Spence to his friend, Dr.
John Rogers.

No letter yet from you, Bones; Bainbridge must be having the
measles. Or perhaps I am not allowing for the fact that it takes
almost a fortnight to go and come across this little bit of Empire.
Also Li Ho hasn't been across the Inlet for a week. He says
"Tillicum too muchy hole. Li Ho long time patch um."

On still days, I can hear him doing it. Perhaps my hostess is right
and we are not so far away from the beach as I fancied on the night
of my arrival. I'll test this detail, and many others, soon. For
today I am sitting up. I'm sure I could walk a little, if I were to
try. But I am not in a hurry. Hurry is a vice of youth.

And I am actually getting some work done. Bones, old thing, I have
made a discovery for the lack of which many famous men have died too
soon. I have discovered the perfect secretary!

These blank lines represent all the things which I might say but
which, with great moral effort, I suppress. I know what a frightful
bore is the man who insists upon talking about a new discovery.
Therefore I shall not indulge my natural inclination to tell you
just how perfect this secretary is. I shall merely note that she is
quick, accurate, silent, interested, appreciative, intelligent to a
remarkable degree--Good Heavens! I'm doing it! I blush now when I
remember that I engaged Miss Farr's services in the first place from
motives of philanthropy. Is it possible that I was ever fatuous
enough to believe that I was the party who conferred the benefit? If
so, I very soon discovered my mistake. In justice to myself I must
state that I saw at once what a treasure I had come upon. You
remember what a quick, sure judgment my father had? Somehow I seem
to be getting more like him all the time. The moment any proposition
takes on a purely business aspect, I become, as it were, pure
intellect. I see the exact value, business value, of the thing. Aunt
Caroline never agrees with me in this. She insists upon referring to
that oil property at Green Lake and that little matter of South
American Mines. But those mistakes were trifles. Any man might have
made them.

In this case, where I am right on the spot, there can be no
possibility of a mistake. I see with my own eyes. Miss Farr is a
dream of secretarial efficiency. She combines, with ease, those
widely differing qualities which are so difficult to come by in a
single individual. It is inspiring to work with her. I find that her
co-operation actually stimulates creative thought. My notes are
expanding at a most satisfactory rate. My introductory chapter
already assumes form. And--by Jove! I seem to be doing it again.

But one simply does not make these discoveries every day.

The other aspects of the situation here, the non-business aspects,
are not so satisfactory. The menage is certainly peculiar. I had
what amounted to a bloodless duel with mine host the other day.
Perhaps I was not as tactful as I might have been. But he is an
irritating person. One of those people who seem to file your nerves.
In fact there is something almost upsetting' about that mild old
scoundrel. He gives me what the Scots call a "scunner." (You have to
hear a true Scot pronounce it before you get its inner meaning.) And
when, that day, he began talking about his daughter's future being
her father's care, I said--I forget exactly what I said but he
seemed to get the idea all right. It annoyed him. We were both
annoyed. He did not put his feelings into words. He put them into
his eyes instead. And horrid, nasty feelings they were. Quite
murderous.

The duel was interrupted by Li Ho. Li Ho never listens but he always
hears. Seems to have some quieting influence over his "honorable
Boss," too.

But I wish you could have seen the old fellow's eyes, Bones. I think
they might have told some tale to a medical mind. Normally, his eyes
are blurry like the rest of his fatherly face. And their color, I
think, is blue. But just then they looked like no eyes I have ever
seen. A cold light on burnished steel is the only simile I can think
of--perfect hardness, perfect coldness, lustre without depth! The
description is poor, but you may get the idea better if I describe
the effect of the look rather than the look itself. The warm spot in
my heart froze. And it takes something fairly eerie to freeze the
heart at its core.

From this, as a budding psychologist, I draw a conclusion--there was
something abnormal, something not quite human in that flashing look.
The conclusion seems somewhat strained now. But at the time I was
undoubtedly glad to see Li Ho. Li Ho may be a Chink, but he is
human.

You may gather that our "battle of the Glances" did not smooth my
pillow here. If the old chap didn't want me to stay before, he is
even less anxious for my company now. But I am going to stay. Aunt
Caroline would call this stubbornness. But of course it isn't. It is
merely a certain strength of character and a business determination
to carry out a business bargain. Dr. Farr allowed me to engage board
here and to pay for it. I am under no obligation to take cognizance
of his deeper feelings.

The only feelings which concern me in this matter are the feelings
of his daughter. If my staying were to prove a burden for her I
could not, of course, stay. But I see many ways in which I may be
helpful, and I know that she needs and wants the secretarial work
which I have given her. Usually she holds her head high and one
isn't even allowed to guess. But one does guess. Her meagre ration
of life is plain beyond all artifice of pride.

John, she interests me intensely. She is a strange child. She is a
strange woman. For both child and woman she seems to be, in
fascinating combination. But, lest you should mistake me, good old
bone-head, let me make it plain that there is absolutely no danger
of my falling in love with her. My interest is not that kind of
interest. I am far too hard headed to be susceptible. I can
appreciate the tragedy of a charming girl placed in such unsavory
environment, and feel impelled to seek some way of escape for her
without being for one moment disturbed by that unreasoning madness
called love. Every student of psychology understands the nature and
the danger of loving. 'Every sensible student profits by what he
understands. You and I have had this out before and you know my
unalterable determination never to allow myself to become the slave
of those primitive and passing instincts. Nature, the old hussy, is
welcome to the use of man as a tool for her own purposes. But there
are enough tools without me. The race will not perish because I
intend to remain my own man. But I shall have to evolve some way of
helping Miss Farr. She cannot be left here under these conditions.

I am writing to Aunt Caroline, briefly, that I am immersed in study
and that my return is indefinite. Don't, for heaven's sake, let her
suspect that I have employed Miss Farr as secretary. You know Aunt
Caroline's failing. Do be discreet!

Yours,

B. H. S.

P.S.: Any arrangement I may find it necessary to propose in Miss
Farr's case will be based on business, not sentiment.        B.




CHAPTER VIII

Desire was seated upon a moss-covered rock, hugging her knees and
gazing out to sea. It was her favorite attitude and, according to
Professor Spence, a very dangerous one, especially in connection
with a moss-covered rock. He would have liked to point out this
obvious fact but that would have been fussy--and fussy the professor
was firmly determined not to be. Aunt Caroline was fussy. The best
he could do was to select another rock, not so slippery, and to
provide an object lesson as to the proper way of sitting upon it.
Unfortunately, Desire was not looking. They had come a little way
"up trail"--at least Desire had said it was a little way, and her
companion was too proud of his recovered powers of locomotion to
express unkind doubt of the adjective. There had been no rainy days
for a week. The air was sun-soaked, and salt-soaked, and somewhere
there was a wind. But not here. Here some high rock angle shut it
out and left them to the drowsy calm of wakening Summer. Below them
lay the blue-green gulf, white-flecked and gently heaving; above
them bent a sky which only Italy could rival--and if Miss Farr with
her hands clasped round her knees were to move ever so little,
either way, there was nothing to prevent her from falling off the
face of the mountain. The professor tried not to let this reflection
spoil his enjoyment of the view. He reminded him-self that she was
probably much safer than she looked. And he remembered Aunt
Caroline. Still--

"Don't you think you might sit a little farther back?" he suggested
carelessly.

"Why?"

"I can't talk to the back of your head."

"Talk!" dreamily, "do you really have to talk?"

Naturally the professor was silent.

"That's rude, I suppose," said Desire, suddenly swinging round (a
feat which brought Spence's heart into his mouth). "I don't seem to
acquire the social graces very rapidly, do I?"

"I thought," the professor's tone was somewhat stiff, "that we came
up here for the express purpose of talking."

"Y-es. You did express some such purpose. But--must we? It won't do
any good, you know."

"I don't know. And it will do good. One can't get anywhere without
proper discussion."

The girl sighed. "Very well--let's discuss. You begin."

"My month," said Spence firmly, "is almost up. I shall have to move
along on Friday."

"On Friday?" If he had intended to startle her, he had certainly
succeeded. "Was--was the arrangement only for a month?" she asked in
a lowered voice.

"The arrangement was to continue for as long as I wished. But only
one month's payment was made in advance. With Friday, Dr. Farr's
obligation toward me ends. He is not likely to extend it."

She sat so still that he forgot how slippery the moss was and
thought only of the growing shadow on her face.

"But, the work!" she murmured. "We are only just beginning. I wish--
oh, I shall miss it dreadfully."

"'It,'" said Spence, "is not a personal pronoun."

"I shall miss you, too, of course."

"Well, be careful not to overemphasize it."

Her grey eyes looked frankly and straightly into his. Their clear
depths held a rueful smile. "You are conceited enough already," she
said, "but if it will make you feel any better, I don't mind
admitting that I shall miss you far, far more than you deserve."

"Spoken like a lady!" said Spence warmly. "And now let us consider
my side of it. After the month that I have spent here--do you really
think that I intend to go away--like that?"

"There is only one way of going, isn't there?"

"Not at all. There are various ways. Ways which are quite, quite
different."

"You have thought of some other--some quite different way?"

"Yes. But I daren't tell it to you while you sit on that slippery
rock. It is a somewhat startling way and you might--er--manifest
emotion. I should prefer to have you manifest it in a less dangerous
place."

Desire's very young laugh rippled out. "Fussy!" she said. But
nevertheless she climbed down and sat demurely upon stones in the
hollow. There was an unfamiliar light in her waiting eyes, the light
of interest and of hope.

Spence, rather to his consternation, realized that it was up to him
to justify that hope. And he wasn't at all sure . . . however, he
had to go through with it, . . . There was a fighting chance,
anyway.

"Let's think about the work for a moment," he began nervously. "That
work, my book, you know, is simply going all to pot if you can't
keep on with it. You can see yourself what it means to have a
competent secretary. And you like the work. You've just admitted
that you like it."

He saw the light begin to fade from her eyes. She shook her head.

"If you are going to suggest that I go with you as your secretary,"
she said with her old bluntness, "it is useless. I have tried that
way out. I won't try it again." Her lips grew stern and her eyes
dark with some too bitter memory.

"I honestly don't see what Dr. Farr could do," said Spence
tentatively.

"You would," said Dr. Farr's daughter with decision.

"And anyway," proceeding hastily, "that wasn't what I was thinking
of. I knew that you would refuse to go as my secretary. I ask you to
go as my wife."

Desire rose.

"Is this where I am expected to manifest emotion?" she asked dryly.

"Yes. And you're doing it! I knew you would. .Women are utterly
unreasoning. You won't even listen to what I have to say."

The girl moved slowly away.

"And I can't get up without help," he added querulously.

Desire stopped. "You can," she said.

"I can't. Not after that dreadful climb."

"Then I shall wait until you are ready. But we do not need to
continue this conversation."

The professor sighed. "This," he said, "is what comes of taking a
woman at her word."

"What?"

"I might have known," he went on guilefully, "that you didn't really
mean it. No young girl would."

"Mean what?"

"That you had no room in your scheme of things for ordinary
marriage. Of course you were talking nonsense. I beg your pardon."

"Will you kindly explain what you mean!"

"I will if you will sit down so that I may talk to you on my own
level. You see, your determination not to marry struck me very much
at the time because it voiced my own--er--determination also. I said
to myself, 'Here are two people sufficiently original to wish to
escape the common lot.' I thought about it a great deal. And then an
idea came. It was, I admit, the inspiration of a moment. But it
grew. It certainly grew."

Desire sat down again and folded her hands over her knees.

"I will listen."

"It is very simple," he hastened to explain. "Simplicity is, I
think, the keynote of all true inspiration. An idea comes, and we
are filled with amazement that we have so long ignored the obvious.
Take our case. Here are we two, strongly of one mind and wanting the
same thing. A perfectly feasible way of getting that thing occurs to
me. Yet when I suggest this way you jump up and rush away."

"I haven't rushed yet."

"No. But you were going to. And all because you cannot be logical.
No woman can."

His listener brushed this away with a gesture of impatience.

"I can prove it," went on the wily one. "You object to marriage, yet
you covet the freedom marriage gives. Now what is the logical result
of that? The logical result is fear--fear that some day you may want
freedom so badly that you will marry in order to get it."

"It is not--I won't."

"I knew you would not admit it. But it is true all the same. The
other night when you said 'marriage is hideous,' I saw fear in your
eyes. There is fear in your eyes now."

The girl dropped her eyes and raised them again instantly. Her
slanting eyebrows frowned.

"Nevertheless," she said, "I shall not marry."

"But you will, as an honest person, admit the other part of the
proposition--that you want something at least of what marriage can
give?"

"Yes."

"Well then--that states your case. Now let me state mine. I, too,
have an insuperable objection to marriage. My--er--disinclination is
probably more soundly based than yours, since it is built upon a
wider view of life. But I, too, want certain things which marriage
might bring. I want a home. Not too homey a home, in the strictly
domestic sense (Aunt Caroline is strictly domestic) but a--a
congenial home. I want the advice and help of a clever woman
together with the sense of permanence and security which, in our
imperfect state of civilization, is made possible only by marriage.
And I, too, have my secret fear. I am afraid that some day I may be
driven--in short, I am afraid of Aunt Caroline."

Desire's inquiring eyebrows lifted.

"A man--afraid of his aunt?"

"Yes," gloomily, "it is men who are afraid of aunts. It is not at
all funny," he added as her eyes relaxed, "if you knew Aunt Caroline
you wouldn't think so. She is determined to have me married and she
has a long life of successful effort behind her. One failure is
nothing to an aunt. She is always quite certain that the next
venture will turn out well. And it usually does. In brief, I am
thirty-five and I go in terror of the unknown. If I do not marry
soon to please myself, I shall end by marrying to please someone
else. Do you follow me?"

"Make it plainer," ordered Desire soberly. "Make it absolutely
plain."

"I will. My proposition is, in its truest and strictest sense, a
marriage of convenience. Marriage, it appears, can give us both what
we want, a formal ceremony will legalize your position as my
secretary and free you entirely from the interference of your
father. It will permit you to accept freely my protection and
everything else which I have. Your way will be open to the things
you spoke of the other night, freedom, leisure, money, travel,
books. The only thing we are shutting out is the thing you say you
have no use for--love. But perhaps you did not mean--"

"I did."

"Then, logically, my proposal is sound."

"Am I to take all these things, and give nothing?"

"Not at all. You give me the things I want most, freedom, security,
the grace of companionship, and collaboration in my work, so long as
your interest in it continues. I will be a safely married man and
you--you will be a window-gazer no longer. There is only one point"-
-the speaker's gaze turned from her and wandered out to sea--"I can
be sure of what I can bring into your life," his voice was almost
stern, "but I warn you to be very sure of what you will be shutting
out."

"You mean?"

"Children," said Spence crisply.

"I do not care for children."

The professor's soberness vanished. "Oh--what a whopper!" he
exclaimed.

"I mean, I do not want children of my own."

"But supposing you were to develop a desire for them later on?"

She nodded thoughtfully.

"I might," she acknowledged. "But in my case it would be merely the
outcropping of a feminine instinct, easily suppressed. I am not at
all afraid of it. Look at all the women who are perfectly happy
without children."

"Hum!" said the professor. "I am looking at them. But I find them
unconvincing. There are a few, however, of whom what you say is
true. You may be one of them. How about Sami?"

"Sami? Oh, Sami is different. He is more like a mountain imp than a
child. I don't think Sami would seem real anywhere but here. If
anyone were to try to transplant him he might vanish altogether.
Poor little chap--how terribly he would miss me!" finished Desire
artlessly.

She had accepted the possibility, then! Spence's heart gave a leap
and was promptly reproved for leaping. This was not, he reminded
himself, an affair of the heart at all. It was a coldly-thought-out,
hard-headed business proposition. Such a proposition as his father's
son might fittingly conceive. The thing to do now was to stride on
briskly and avoid sentiment.

"Then as we seem to agree upon the essentials," he said, "there
remains only one concrete difficulty, your father. He would object
to marriage as to other things, I suppose?"

"Yes, but we should have to ignore that."

"You wouldn't mind?" somewhat doubtfully.

"No. I have always known that a break would come some day. It isn't
as if he really cared. Or as if I cared. I don't. If I should decide
that there is an honest chance for freedom, a chance which I can
take and keep my self-respect, I am conscious of no duty that need
restrain me."

Spence said nothing, and after a moment she went on.

"Why should I pretend--as he pretends? I loath it! Day after day,
even when there is no one to see, he keeps up that horrible
semblance of affection. And all the time he hates me. I see it in
his eyes. And once or twice--" She hesitated and then went rapidly
on without finishing her sentence. "There is some reason why it is
to his advantage to keep me with him. But it imposes no obligation
upon me. I do not even know what it is."

"Perhaps Li Ho may know?"

"Li Ho does know. Li Ho knows everything. But when I asked him he
said, 'Honorable boss much lonely--heap scared of devil maybe.' Li
Ho always refers to devils when he doesn't wish to tell anything."

"I've noticed that. He's a queer devil himself. Would he stay on, do
you think?"

"Yes. And that's odd, too. In some way Li Ho is father's man. It's
as if he owned him. There must be a story which explains it. But no
one will ever hear it. Li Ho keeps his secrets."

Spence nodded. "Yes. Li Ho and his kind are the product of forces we
only guess at. I asked a man who had spent twenty years in China if
he had learned to understand the Oriental mind. He said he had
learned more than that, he had learned that the Oriental mind is
beyond understanding. But--aren't we getting away from our subject?
Let's begin all over again. Miss Farr, I have the honor to ask your
hand in marriage."

She was silent for so long a time that the professor had opportunity
to think of many things. And, as he thought, his heart went down--
and down. She would refuse. He knew it. The clean edge of her mind
would cut through all his tangle of words right to the core of the
real issue, And the core of the real issue was not as sound as it
would need to be to satisfy her demands. For in that core still lay
a possibility, the possibility of love. He had not eliminated love.
Many a man has loved after thirty-five. Many a girl who has sworn--
but no, she would not admit this possibility in her own case. It was
only in his case that she would recognize it. She would see the weak
spot there.... She would refuse. He could feel refusal gathering in
her heart. And his own heart beat hotly in his throat. For if this
failed, what other way was left? Yet to go and leave her here, alone
in that rotting cottage on the hill. . .. the prey of any ghastly
fate.... no, it couldn't be done. He must convince her. He must.

"My friend," said Desire (he loved her odd, old-fashioned way of
calling him "my friend"), "I admit that you have tempted me. But--I
can't. It wouldn't be fair. It is easy to feel sure for one's self
but it's another thing to be sure for others. A marriage of that
kind would not satisfy you. You say your outlook is wider than mine
and of course it is. But I have seen more than you think. Even men
who are tremendously interested in their work, like you, want--other
things. They want what they call love, even if to them it always
sinks to second place, if indeed it means nothing more than
distraction. And love would mean more than that to you. I have an
instinct which tells me that, in your case, love will come. You must
be free to take it."

It was final. He felt its finality, and more than ever he swore that
it should not be so. There must be an argument somewhere--wait!

"Supposing," said Spence haltingly, "Supposing.... supposing I am
not free now? Supposing love has come--and gone?"

He was not a good liar. But his very ineptitude helped him here. It
tangled the words on his tongue, it brought a convincing dew upon
his forehead. "I'd rather not talk about it," he finished. "But you
see what I mean."

"Yes. I hadn't thought of that. It might make a difference. I should
want to be very sure. If there were any chance--"

"There is no chance. Positively none. That experience, which you say
you feel was a necessary experience in my case, is over and done
with. It cannot recur. I am not the man to--to--" he was really
unable to go on. But she finished it for him.

"To love twice," said Desire, looking out over the sea. "Yes I can
understand that--what did you say?"

"I think I may be able to walk now," said the professor.




CHAPTER IX

With the recovery of a leg sufficiently workable in the matter of
climbing stairs, Dr. Farr's boarder had resigned the family couch in
the sitting-room and had retired to his spartan chamber under the
eaves. From its open window that night he watched the moon. Let
nothing happen to the universe in the meantime, and there would be a
full moon on Friday night. The professor hoped that nothing would
happen.

She had not exactly said "Yes" yet. He must not forget that. But it
could do no harm to feel reasonably sure that she was going to. He
did not conceal from himself that he had brought things off
remarkably well. That last argument of his had been a masterpiece of
strategy. There were other, shorter, words which might have
described it. But they were not such pleasant words. And when a
thing is necessary it is just as well to be pleasant about it. No
harm had been done. Quite the opposite. Desire's one valid objection
had been neatly and effectually disposed of. And now the matter
could be dropped. It would be forgotten. . . . What did it amount to
in any case? Other men lied every day saying they had never loved.
He had lied only once in saying that he had.... At the same time it
might be very embarrassing to.... yes, certainly, the matter must be
dropped!

They would, he supposed, find it necessary to elope.... No sense in
looking for trouble! The old gentleman had been odder than ever the
last day or so. He had ceased even to pretend that his guest's
presence was anything but an annoyance. He had refused utterly to
enter into any connected conversation and had been restless and
erratic to a degree. "Too muchy moon-devil," according to Li Ho.
That very afternoon he had met them coming down from their talk upon
the rocks and the ironic courtesy of his greeting had been little
less than baleful. At supper he had remarked sentimentally upon the
flight of time, referring to the nearness of Friday in a way
eminently calculated to speed the parting guest.

Friday, at latest, then? If they were to go they would go on
Friday.--Friday and the full moon.

In the meantime he felt no desire for sleep. The moon, perhaps?
Certainly there is nothing in the mere business-like prospect of
engaging a permanent secretary to cause insomnia. The professor
supposed it was simply his state of health in general. It might be a
good idea to drop a line to his medical man. He had promised to
report symptoms. Besides, it was only fair to prepare John. The
candle was burnt out, but the moon would do--pad on knee, he began
to write. . . .

"Beloved Bones--I am writing in the hope that the thought of you may
cause cerebral exhaustion. I find the moon too stimulating.
Otherwise I rejoice to report myself recovered. I can walk. I can
climb hills. I can un-climb hills, which is much worse, and I eat so
much that I'm ashamed to look my board money in the face. You might
gently prepare Aunt Caroline by some mention of an improved
appetite.

I had a letter from Aunt Caroline yesterday. That is to say, three
letters. When you included (by request) "positively no letter
writing" in my holiday menu, you did not make it plain who it was
that was positively not to write. So, although she tells me sadly
that she expects no answers, Aunt Caroline positively does. I may
say at once that I know all the news.

On the other hand, there is some news which Aunt Caroline does not
know. Owing to your embargo on letters, I have not been able to
inform my Aunt of the progress of my book, nor of my discovery of
the perfect secretary. I have not, in short, been able to tell her
anything.

So you will have to do it for me.

But first, as man to man, I want to ask you a question. Having
found, by an extraordinary turn of luck, the perfect secretary,
would you consider me sane if I let her go? Of course you would not.
I asked myself the same question yesterday and received the same
answer.

So I have asked her to marry me.

I put it that way because I know you like to have things broken to
you. And now, having heard all your objections (oh, yes, I can hear
them. Distance is only an idea) I shall proceed to answer them.--

No. It is not unwise to marry a young girl whom I scarcely know. Why
man! That is part of the game. Think of the boredom of having to
live with some one you know? Someone in whose house of life you need
expect no odd corners, no unlooked for turnings, no steps up, or
down, no windows with a view? Only a madman would face such
monotony.

No. It is not unfair to the other party. The other party has a mind
and is quite capable of making it up. She will not marry me unless
she jolly well wants to. Far more than most people, I think, she has
the gift of decision. Neither is it as if what I have to offer her
were not bona fide. Take me on my merits and I'm not a bad chap. My
life may have been tame but it has been clean. (Only don't tell Aunt
Caroline). I have a sufficiency of money. What I promise, I shall
perform. And as for ancestors--Well, I refer everyone to Aunt
Caroline for ancestors. If Miss Desire marries me she will receive
all that is in the bond and any little frills which I may be able to
slip in. (There will not be many frills, though, for my lady is
proud.)

Yes. Aunt Caroline will make a fuss. I trust you will bear up under
it for my sake. I think it will be well for her to learn of my
marriage sufficiently long before our return to insure resignation,
at least, upon our arrival. After the storm the calm, and although,
with my dear Aunt, the calm is almost the more devastating, I trust
you will acquit yourself with fortitude.

And now we come to the only valid objection, which you have, strong-
mindedly, left until the last--my prospective father-in-law! He is a
very objectionable old party, and I do not mind your saying so. But
one simply can't have everything. And Bainbridge is a long way from
Vancouver. Also, as a husband I can take precedence, and, by George,
I'll do it! So you see your objection is really an extra inducement.
It is only by marrying the daughter of Dr. Farr that I can protect
Dr. Farr's daughter.

Are you satisfied now? I don't know whether I mentioned it, but she
hasn't actually said "yes" yet. She had certain objections, or
rather a certain objection which I found it necessary to meet in a--
a somewhat regrettable manner. I was compelled to adopt strategy.
She thought our proposed contract (we do things in a business
manner) might not be quite fair to me. She was ready to admit that I
was getting a good thing in secretaries but she feared that, later
on, I might wish to make a change. I had to meet this scruple
somehow and I seemed to know by instinct that she would not believe
me if I expounded those theories of love and marriage which you know
I so strongly hold. Pure reason would not appeal to her. So I had to
fall back upon sentiment. Instead of saying, "I shall never love. It
is impossible," I said, "I have loved. It is over."

Sound tactics, don't you think? . . . Well I don't care what you
think! I have to get this girl safely placed somehow.

We shall have to elope probably. Fancy, an elopement at thirty-five!
The father seems to consider her continued presence here as vital to
his interest, though why, neither of us can understand. Well, I'm
not exactly afraid of the old chap but it will certainly be easier
for her if there are no wild farewells. Therefore we shall probably
fold our tent like the Arabs and steal away as silently as the
"Tillicum" will allow.

Li Ho will have to be told. He will know anyway, so we may as well
tell him. It appears that whatever may be the reasons for keeping a
young girl buried here, they do not extend to Li Ho. It will not be
the first time that his Chinese inscrutability has assisted at a
(temporary) departure.

I shall let Aunt Caroline know as soon as the act is irrevocable and
shall inform you at the same time so that you may not be unprepared.
You realize, I suppose, that you will be accused of being accessory?
Didn't you tell me that a trip would do me good?

We shall not come home for a few weeks. My secretary has spoken of
an old Indian whom she knows, a perfect mine of simon-pure folk-
lore. He lives some-where up the coast, about a day's journey, I
think. We may visit him. With her to interpret for me, I may get
some very valuable notes. I may add that we are both very keen on
notes. When we have done what can be done out here, we shall come
home. The fall and winter we shall spend upon the book. My secretary
will insist upon attending to business first. And then--well, then
she wants to go shopping. So we shall have to go where the good
shops are.

What does she wish to buy? Oh, not much--just life, the assorted
kind.

B. H. S.




CHAPTER X

It was the day before Friday. Friday, so very near, seemed already
palpably present in the surcharged air of the cottage. No one
mentioned it, but that made its nearness more potent. At his usual
hour for dictation, Professor Spence had come out upon the narrow
veranda. But, although his secretary was there, pencil in hand, he
had not dictated. Instead he had sat contemplating Friday so long
that his secretary tapped her foot in impatience.

"Are you really lazy?" she asked, "Or are you just pretending to
be?"

"I am really lazy. All truly gifted people are. You know what Wilde
says, 'Real industry is simply the refuge of people who have nothing
to do.'"

The prompt, "Who is Wilde?" of the secretary did not disconcert him.
He had discovered that her ignorance was as unusual as her
knowledge.

"Who is Wilde? Oh, just a little bit of English literature.
Christian name of Oscar. You'll come across him when you go
shopping."

A faint pucker appeared between the secretary's eye-brows.

"You are coming shopping, aren't you?" asked Spence, faintly
stressing the verb.

"I--want to."

"That's settled then."

The pucker grew more pronounced. The secretary resigned all hope of
dictation and laid down her pencil.

"Tomorrow," reminded Spence gently, "is Friday."

"Yes, I know. And if I go, do I--we--go tomorrow?"

"It would be advisable."

"The time doesn't matter," mused Desire. "But--do you mind if I
speak quite plainly?"

"Not at all. You have hardened me to plain speaking."

"I have been thinking over what you told me. It does make a
difference. I see that I need not be afraid of--of what I was afraid
of. It's as if--as if we had both had the measles."

"You can take--" began Spence, but stopped him-self. It would never
do to remind her that one may take the measles twice.

"Of course you won't believe it, not for a long time anyway," she
went on in the tone of an indulgent grand-mother, "but love is only
an episode. You are fortunate to be well over it."

Spence sighed. He hadn't intended to sigh. It just happened.
Fortunately it was the correct thing.

"I don't want to distress you," kindly, "but we were rather vague
the other night. I understood the main fact, but that is about all.
You didn't tell me what happened after."

The professor's chair, which had been tilted negligently back, came
down with a thud.

"After?" he murmured meekly. "After--?"

"I mean," prompted Desire gently, "did she marry the other man?"

"The other man? I--I don't know." The professor was willing to be
truthful while he could. But instantly he saw that it wouldn't do.

"You--don't--know?" If ever incredulity breathed in any voice it
breathed in hers. It gave our weak-kneed liar the brace that he
needed.

"No," he said sadly, "they were to have been married--I have never
heard."

"Oh! Then, of course, she did not live in your home town."

"Didn't she?" asked Spence, momentarily off guard. "Oh, I see what
you mean--no, naturally not."

"I thought that perhaps you might have been boy and girl together,"
dreamily. "It so often happens."

"It does," said Spence. "But it didn't."

"And is there no one--no friend, from whom you could naturally
inquire? You feel you wouldn't care to ask anyone?"

"Ask? Good heavens, no--certainly not!"

"Men are queer," said Desire naively. "A woman would just simply
have to ask."

"She would."

"You think me inquisitive?" Her quick brain had not missed the dry
implication of his tone. "But you see I had to know something. It's
all right, I'm sure. But it would have been so much--more
comfortable if she were quite married."

(Oh course it would--why in thunder hadn't he thought of that? The
professor was much annoyed with himself.)

"She is probably quite, utterly married long ago," he said gloomily.
"What possible difference can it make?"

"None. Don't look so bitter! Perhaps I should not have asked
questions. I won't ask any more--except one. Would you mind very
much telling me her name?"

Her name!

The harassed man looked wildly around. But there was no escape. Not
even Sami was in sight. Only a jeering crow flapped black wings and
laughed discordantly.

"Just her first name, you know," added Desire reasonably.

"Oh yes--certainly. No, of course I don't mind. I am quite willing
to tell you her name. But--do you mean her real name or--or--the
name she was usually called?" The professor was sparring wildly for
time.

"Wasn't she called by her real name?"

"Well--er--not always."

Desire's eyebrows became very slanting. "Any name will do," she said
coldly.

The professor gathered himself together. "Her name," he said
triumphantly, "Was--is Mary."

He had done well for himself this time! His questioner was plainly
satisfied with the name Mary. Perhaps lying gets easier as you go
on. He hoped so.

"My mother's name was Mary," said Desire. "It is a lovely name."

Spence felt very proud of himself. Not only had he produced a lovely
name in the space of three seconds and a half, but he had also
provided a not-to-be-missed opportunity of changing the subject.

"I suppose you do not remember your mother," he said tentatively.

"Oh yes, I do, although I was quite small when she died. Father says
I fancy some of the things I remember. Perhaps I do. I always dream
very vividly. And fact and dream are easily confused in a child's
mind. My most distinct memories are detached, like pictures, with-
out any before or after to explain them. There is one, for instance,
about waking up in the woods at night, wrapped in my mother's shawl
and seeing her face, all frightened and white, with the moon, like a
great, silver eye, shining through the trees. But I can't imagine
why my mother would be hiding in the woods at night."

"Why hiding?"

"There is a sense of hiding that comes with the memory--without
anything to account for it But, although I do not remember connected
incidents very well, I remember her--the feeling of having her with
me. And the terrible emptiness afterwards. If she had gone quite
away, all at once, I couldn't have borne it."

"Do you mean that she had a long illness?" asked Spence, greatly
interested.

"No. She died suddenly. It was just--you will call it silly
imagination--" she broke off uncertainly.

"I might call it imagination without the adjective."

"Yes. But it wasn't. It was real. The sense, I mean, that she hadn't
gone away. Nothing that wasn't real would have been of the slightest
use."

"It all depends on how we define reality. What seems real at one
time may seem unreal at another."

She nodded.

"That is just what has happened. I am not sure, now. The sense of
nearness left me as I grew up. But at that time, I lived by it. Do
you find the idea absurd?"

"Why should I? Our knowledge of our own consciousness is the
absurdity. All we know is that our normal waking consciousness is
only one special type. Around it lie potential forms of
consciousness entirely different, and quite as real. Sometimes we,
or it, or they, break through. I am paraphrasing James. Do you know
James?"

"I have read 'Daisy Miller.'"

"This James was the Daisy Miller man's brother."

"Did he believe in the possibility of the dead helping the living?"

"He believed in all kinds of possibilities. But I don't think he
considered that possibility proven."

"It couldn't be proved, could it?" asked Desire thoughtfully.
"Experiences like that are so intensely individual. One cannot pass
them on."

"Can you describe yours at all?"

"Hardly. It was just a feeling of Presence. A sense of her being
there. It came at all sorts of times and in all sorts of places. We
lived in Vancouver when mother died. It was a much smaller town
then, not like the city you have seen. But after her death we moved
about a great deal, never staying very long anywhere, until we came
here. There were--experiences." Her eyes hardened. "But, as long as
I had that sense I am speaking of, I was safe. I used to have long
crying fits in the dark, a kind of blind terror of everything. And
after one of them it nearly always came. I never questioned it.
Never once did I ask myself, 'Is it mother?'. I just knew that it
was. There seemed nothing unusual about it."

"Was there no one, no woman, to take care of you?"

"There were--women." Desire's lips tightened into a thin red line.
"We did not travel alone. Once I remember terrifying a--a friend of
father's who was 'looking after' me. She heard me crying in my
little, dark room one night, and as soon as she could slip away,
came in. She was a kindly sort. But when she got there I was quite
content and happy--which surprised her much more than the crying had
done. She asked me what had 'shut me up,' and I said 'My mother is
here--go away.' She turned quite pasty-white and the candle shook so
that the hot grease fell upon my hands."

"What a life for a child!" exclaimed Spence in sudden rage. "Desire
dear, you must come with me! I couldn't--couldn't leave you here. I-
-oh, dash it! I mean, it's so evident, isn't it, that we need each
other?"

"You really and truly need me?" doubtfully.

"Really and truly."

"But if I come, you ought to know something of the life I have
lived. You must realize that I am not an innocent young girl."

"Aren't you?" The professor found it difficult to say this with the
proper inflection. It did not sound as business-like as he could
have wished. But she was too much absorbed to notice.

"No. I've seen things which young girls do not see. I have heard
things which are never whispered before them. No one cared
particularly what I saw or heard. When I was smaller there was
always someone--some 'housekeeper.' They were all kinds. None of
them ever stayed long. Looking back, it seems as if they passed like
lurid shadows. Only one of them seemed a real person. The others
were husks. Her name was Lily. She was very stout, her face was red
and her voice loud. But there was something real about Lily. And she
was fond of children. She liked me. She went out of her lazy way to
teach me wisdom--oh, yes, it was wisdom," in answer to Spence's
horrified exclamation, "hard, sordid wisdom, the only wisdom which
would have helped me through the back alleys of those days. I am
unspeakably grateful to Lily. She spared me much, and once she saved
me--I can't tell you about that," she finished simply.

Spence bit his lip on a word to which the expression of his face
gave force and meaning. But Desire was not looking at him.

"Do you see why I am different from other girls?" She asked gravely.

The professor restrained himself. "I see that you are different," he
said. "I don't care why. But I'm glad that you have told me what you
have. It explains something that has bothered me--" he paused
seeking words. But she caught up his thought with lightning
intuition.

"You mean it explains why marriage isn't beautiful to me, like it
may be to a sheltered girl? Yes. I wanted you to see that. It may be
holy, but it isn't holy to me. I want to live my life apart from all
that. To me it is smirched and sodden and hateful. And now, do you
still wish me to come and be your secretary?"

"Now more than ever," said Spence. It was only the sealing of a
business transaction. But greatly to his annoyance he could not
entirely control a certain warmth and eagerness.

Desire held out a frank hand.

"Then I will marry you when you are ready," she said.




CHAPTER XI

Being a delayed letter from Dr. John Rogers to his friend and
patient, Benis Hamilton Spence.

DEAR Idiot: I knew you would get it--and you got it. Perhaps after
this you will learn to treat your sciatic nerve with proper respect.
But there is a worse complaint than sciatica. It lasts longer.
Certain symptoms of it are indicated in the things which your letter
leaves unsaid. Beans, old thing, you alarm me.

Now here is a sporting offer. If you'll drop it and come home at
once I'll promise never to tell Aunt Caroline. Come the moment you
can put foot to the ground. And, until then, I recommend strict
seclusion and no nursing. Nursing might well be fatal. Stick to Li
Ho. He is your only chance.

Your Aunt Caroline sends her love. (I told her I was writing you
directions for further treatment). She feels the deprivation of your
letters keenly. She can't see why the writing of a nice, chatty
letter to one's only living Aunt should prove an undue drain upon
nervous energy. Life has taught her not to expect consideration from
relatives, but it does seem hard that her only sister's boy should
treat her as if she were the scarlet fever. To allow himself to be
ordered away from home for a rest cure was certainly less than
courteous. To anyone not understanding the situation it would almost
imply that his home was not restful. And after all the trouble she
had taken even to the extent of strained relations with those
Macfarland people who own a rooster. If the slight had been aimed
entirely at herself she could have taken it silently, but when it
included the three or four charming girls whom she had asked to
visit (one at a time) for the purpose of providing pleasant company,
she felt obliged to protest. Although protest, she knew, was
useless. All this, however, she could have borne. The thing that she
could scarcely forgive was the slight offered to his native town by
a departure three days before the set date, thereby turning his
"going away" tea into a "gone away"--an action considered by all
(invited) Bainbridge as a personal insult.

Pause here for breath.

To continue. Your Aunt Caroline does not believe in rest cures
anyway. She thinks poultices are much more effective. It stands to
reason that if a thing is in, it ought to come out. Rest cures are
just laziness. But, thank goodness, she never expected anything from
the Spence family but laziness. And she had told her sister so
before she married into it. ...

Allow an hour here for ancestral history with appropriate comment
and another hour for a brief review of your own conduct from youth
up and we come within measurable distance of a few words by me. I
took up the point of the four or five nice girls who had been
invited to visit. I put the whole thing down to shock and pointed
out that patience is required. A return to physical normality, I
said, would doubtless bring with it a reviving interest in the sex.
It was indeed very fortunate, I told her, that you were, at present,
indifferent. Any question of selecting a life partner in your
present nervous state would be most dangerous. Your power of
judgment, I pointed out, was temporarily jarred and out of gear. You
might marry anybody. The only safe, the only humane way, was to give
you time to recover yourself.

"Power of judgment!" said Aunt Caroline. "Do you mean to tell me
that my sister's son is in danger of becoming an idiot?"

I said not exactly an idiot. Yet your strong disinclination toward
marriage could certainly be traced to a shocked condition of the
nerves. Certain fixed ideas--

"Fixed ideas!" said your Aunt. She has a particularly annoying habit
of repeating one's words. "Benis has always had fixed ideas--though
when he was young," she added with satisfaction, "I knew how to
unfix them. If this absurd rest cure can do anything to cure chronic
stubbornness, I've nothing to say. Why, even his father was easier
to manage."

"Benis," I said, "considers himself very like his father."

"Does he?" retorted your dear Aunt with withering scorn. "He is just
as much like his father as a lemon is like a lobster."

This ended our conversation. But the effect of it is still with me.
Last night I dreamed of lemons and today I prescribed lobster for a
man with acute dyspepsia. I tell you what, you old shirker, it's up
to you to come home and bear your own Aunt. I'm through.       Bones.

P.S. The office nurse has been changed since you left. I have now
Miss Watkins, returned from overseas. I think you knew her--name of
Mary? Very good looking--almost her only fault.

P.P.S. What you say about your pleasant old gentle-man with the
umbrella sounds very much like masked epilepsy. Ought to be under
treatment. I should say dangerous.

S.O.S. Aunt Caroline has just 'phoned to know whether all letter-
writing is barred or if not, wouldn't it be helpful if you were to
drop a line to a few of your young-friends? For herself she expects
nothing, but she does think, etc., etc., etc.!

Come back!          B.




CHAPTER XII

Comprising a lengthy letter from, Benis Spence to John Rogers, M.D.

DEAR and Venerable Bones: Your fatherly letter came too late. What
was going to happen has happened. But I will be honest and admit
that its earlier arrival would have made no difference. Calm
yourself with the thought that our fates are written upon our
foreheads. I have been able to read mine for some little time now.
For there are some things which are impossible and leaving Desire
here was one of them.

I call her "Desire" to you because it is what you will be calling
her soon. Strange, how that small fact seems to place her' Fancy my
marrying someone whom you would naturally call "Mrs. Spence"? There
are such people. All Aunt Caroline's young friends are like that.
You would say, "I have looked forward to meeting you, Mrs. Spence,"
and she would giggle and say, "Oh, Dr. Rogers, I have heard my
husband speak of you so often!" But Desire will say, "So this is
John." And then she will look at you with that detached yet
interested look and you will find yourself saying "Desire" before
you think of it. You see, she belongs.

But before I bring you up to date with regard to recent events, I
had better tell you a few facts about my more remote past. I refer
to Mary. I have already told you that I found a past necessary. At
that time I hoped that something fairly abstract would do. But
Desire does not like abstractions. She likes to "know where she is."
So I had to tell her about Mary. I'll tell you, too, before I forget
details and for heaven's sake get them right! You never can tell
when your knowledge may be needed. In the first place there is the
name. I'm rather proud of that. I had to choose it at a moment's
notice and I did not hesitate. Desire herself says it is a lovely
name. And so safe--amn't I right in the impression that every second
girl in Bainbridge and elsewhere is called Mary? Mary, my Mary,
might be anybody.

Here, then, are the main facts. I have had (pre-war) a serious
attachment. It was an affection tragically misplaced. She did not
love me. She loved another. She may, or may not, have married him.
(It would have been better to have had the marriage certain, but I
didn't see it in time.) I will never care for another woman. Her
name was Mary. Please tabulate this romance where you can put your
hand on it. I may need your help at any time. As a doctor your aid
would be invaluable should it become necessary for Mary to decease.

And now to leave romance for reality. Your long and lucid discourse
on masked epilepsy was most helpful. It was almost as informing as
Li Ho's diagnosis of "moon-devil." Both have the merit of leaving
the inquirer with an open mind. However--let's get on. If you have
had my later letters you will know that circumstances indicated an
elopement. But the more I thought of eloping, the more I disliked
the idea. My father was not a man who would have eloped. And, in
spite of Aunt Caroline's lobsters and lemons, I am very like my
father. "That I have stolen away this old man's daughter--" Somehow
it seemed very Othelloish. I decided to simply tell Dr. Farr, calmly
and reasonably, that Desire and I had decided to marry. I did tell
him. I was calm and reasonable. But he wasn't.

There is a bit of sound tactics which says, "Never let the enemy
surprise you." But how is one to keep him from doing it if he
insists? The surer you are that the enemy is going to do a certain
thing, the more surprised you are when he doesn't. Now I felt sure
that when Dr. Farr heard the news he would have a fit. I expected
him to use language and even his umbrella. But nothing of this kind
happened. He simply sat there like a slightly faded and vague old
gentleman and said "So?"--just like that.

I assured him, as delicately as possible that it was so.

Then, without warning, he began to weep. John, it was horrible! I
can't describe it. You would have to see his blurred old face and
depthless eyes before you could understand. Tears are healthy,
normal things. They were never meant for faces like his. I must have
said something, in a kind of horror, for he got up suddenly and
trotted off into the woods, without as much as a whisper.

It looked like an easy victory. But I knew it wasn't. I admit that I
felt rather sorry we had not eloped. Li Ho made me still sorrier.

"Not much good, you make honorable Boss cly," said Li Ho. "Gettie
mad heap better."

I felt that, as usual, Li Ho was right. And, just here, let me
interpose that I am quite sure Li Ho can speak perfectly good
English if he wishes. He certainly understands it. I have tried to
puzzle him often by measured and academic speech and never yet has
he missed the faintest shade of meaning. So I did not waste time
with Pigeon English. I told him the facts briefly.

"Me no likee," said Li Ho.

"You don't have to," said I.

Li Ho explained that it was not the contemplated marriage which
received his disapproval but the circumstances surrounding it. "Me
muchy glad Missy get mallied," said he. "Ladies so do, velly nice!
When you depart to go?"

"Tomorrow," I said. Since we had given up the elopement it seemed
more dignified to wait and depart by daylight.

Li Ho shook his head.

"You no wait tomolla," said he, "You go tonight. You go click."

"We can't go too quickly to suit me," I said. "It is for Miss Desire
to decide."

"Me tell Missy," he said and hurried away.

Somehow, Li Ho always knows where to find Desire. She vanishes from
my ken often, but never from his. He must have found her quickly
this time for she came at once. She looked troubled.

"Li Ho says we had better go tonight," she said.

"Can you be ready?"

"Yes. It isn't that. It's just that it would seem more--more
sensible by daylight. But Li Ho says you have told father, and that
father was--upset. He said something about tonight being the full
moon. But I can't see why that should matter. Do you?"

"Only that it will be easy to cross the Inlet."

"It can't be that. Li Ho can take the Tillicum' over on the darkest
night. It has something to do with father. He seems to think that
the full moon affects him. And it's true that he often goes off on
the mountain about that time. But I can't see why that should hurry
us."

I did not see it either. And yet I felt that I should like to hurry.

"We certainly will not go unless you wish," I began. But Li Ho
interrupted me in his colorless way.

"Alice same go this eveling," he said blandly. "No take 'Tillicum'
tomolla. Velly busy tomolla. Velly busy next day. Velly busy all
week."

"Look here," I said, "you'll do exactly what your mistress tells
you."

His celestial impudence was making me hot. But Desire stopped me.
"It's no use," she explained. "I have really no authority. And he
means what he says. We must go tonight or wait indefinitely."

I was eager to be gone. But it went against the grain to be hustled
off by a Chinaman. Perhaps my face showed as much, for Desire went
on. "You needn't feel like that about it. He doesn't intend to be
impudent. He probably thinks he has a very real reason for getting
us away. And Li Ho's reasons are liable to be good ones. We had
better go."

The rest of the day was uneventful, save for the incident of Sami. I
think I told you about Sami, didn't I? A kind of brown familiar who
follows Desire about. He is a baby Indian as much a part of the
mountain as the leaping squirrels and not nearly so tame. He is the
one thing here that I think Desire is sorry to leave. And for this
reason I hoped he wouldn't appear before we were gone. I had done
all my packing--easy enough since I had scarcely unpacked--and I
could hear Desire moving about doing hers. The place seemed
particularly peaceful. I could, have felt almost sorry to leave my
cool, bare room with its tree-stump for a table and all the forest
just outside. But as I sat there by the window there came upon me,
for the second time that day, a mounting hurry to be gone. There was
nothing to account for it, but I distinctly felt an inward "Hurry!
Hurry!" So propelling was it that only the knowledge that the
"Tillicum" would not float until high tide kept me from finding
Desire and begging her to come away at once. I did go so far as to
wander restlessly down into the garden where she had gone to feed
the chickens. Perhaps I would have gone farther and mentioned my
misgivings but just then Sami came and I forgot all about them. I
don't believe I have ever seen any child so frightened as that
little Indian! He simply fell through the bushes behind the chicken
house and shot, like a small, brown catapult, into Desire's arms.
His round face was actually grey with fear. And he huddled in her
big apron shivering, for all the world like some terrified animal.

Naturally the first thing to do was to get the thing that had
frightened him. An axe seemed a likely weapon, so, picking it up, I
slid into the bushes at the point where Sami had come out of them.

Perfect serenity was there! The afternoon light lay golden on the
moss above the fallen trees. No hidden scurrying in the underbrush
told of wild, wood things hastening to safety from some half-sensed
danger. No broken branches or trampled earth told of any past or
present struggle. There was no trace of any fearsome creature having
passed along that peaceful trail.

I searched thoroughly and found nothing. On my way back to the
clearing I met Li Ho.

'"Find anything, Li Ho?" I asked eagerly.

The Celestial grinned.

"Find honorable self," said he. "Missy she send. Missy heap scared
along of you."

"Nonsense!" I said. "I can take care of myself. Even if it had been
a bear, I had an axe."

"Bear!" said Li Ho. And then he laughed. Did you ever hear a
Chinaman laugh? I never had. Not this Chinaman anyway. It was so
startling that I forgot what I was saying. Next moment I could have
sworn that he had not laughed at all.

We found Sami, much comforted, sitting upon Desire's lap, a thing he
could seldom be induced to do. At our entrance he began to shiver
again but soon quieted. Desire had tried questioning but it was of
no use. He either couldn't, or wouldn't, say anything about what had
frightened him. Desire was inclined to think that he did not know.
But I was not so sure. It's a fairly well established fact that
children simply can't speak of certain terrors. And the more
frightened they are the more powerful is the inhibition. In any case
it was useless to question Sami so we fed him instead and presently
he went to sleep.

I suppose we all forgot him. I know I did. One doesn't elope every
day. And it was never Sami's way to insist upon his presence as
ordinary children do. Li Ho departed to tinker with the "Tillicum"
and afterwards returned to give us a late supper. Desire kept out of
my way. One might almost have thought that she was shy--if so, a
most perplexing development. For why should she feel shy? It wasn't
as if we had not put the whole affair on a perfectly business basis.
Perhaps there is some elemental magic in names, so that, to a woman,
the very word "marriage" has power to provoke certain nervous
reactions?

However that may be, even Desire forgot Sami. We left the house just
as the clearing began to grow brighter with light from the still
hidden moon, and we were halfway down to the boat landing before
anyone thought of him. Oddly enough it was I who remembered. "Sami!"
I exclaimed, with a little throb of nameless fear. "We have
forgotten Sami."

Desire, I thought, looked surprised and somewhat vexed at her
oversight. But displayed no trace of the consternation which had
suddenly fallen on me.

"He is all right," she said. "He will sleep till morning unless his
mother comes for him."

"Where you leave um?" asked Li Ho briefly. He had already set down
the bag he was carrying.

"In my own bed."

"Me go get!" said Li Ho.

But I had not waited. I had started to "go get" myself. The sense of
breathless hurry was on me again. I did not pause to argue that the
child was perfectly safe. I forgot that I had ever been lame.
Perhaps that sciatic nerve is only mortal mind anyway. When I came
out into the clearing the cottage was turning silver in the first
rays of the full moon. Very peaceful and secure it looked. And yet I
hurried!

I made no noise. To myself I explained this by a desire not to waken
the youngster. No use frightening him. I stole, as quietly as one of
his own ancestors, to the foot of the stairs. The door of Desire's
room was open. I could see a moonlit bar across the dark landing....

I think I went straight up that stair. I hope so. You know that one
of my worst nervous troubles has been a dread that I might fail in
some emergency? I dread a sort of nerve paralysis. . . . But I got
up the stair. The fear that seemed to push me back wasn't personal,
or physical--one might call it psychic fear, only that the word
explains nothing. . . . I looked in at the open door. There seemed
to be nothing there but the moonlight. The room must have been
almost as bare as my own. But over on the far side, beyond the zone
of the window, was the dim whiteness of a bed. I could see nothing
clearly--but the Fear was there. I dragged, actually dragged, my
feet across the floor--my sight growing clearer, until at last--I
saw!

I think I shouted, but it was so like a nightmare that I may not
have made a sound. . . . The dragging weight must have left my feet
as I sprang forward . . . but it is all confused! And the whole
thing lasted only a minute.

In that minute I had seen what I would have sworn was not human.
Even while I knew It for the little old man with the umbrella, I had
no sense of its humanness. Something bent above the bed--the old
man's face was there, the thin figure, the white hair, and yet it
seemed the wildest absurdity to call the Fury who wore them by any
human name.

The eyes looked at me--eyes without depth or meaning--eyes like bits
of blue steel reflecting the light of Tophet--, incarnate evil,
blazing, peering . . . I caught a glimpse of long, thin hands, like
claws, around the folded umbrella, a flash of something bright at
the ferrule . . . and then the picture dissolved like an image
passing from a dimly lighted screen. Before I could skirt the bed,
whatever had been upon the other side of it had melted into the
darkness beyond the moon. I bent over the bed. Sami was there--Sami,
rolled shapelessly in the concealing bedclothes, his round face
hidden in the pillow, his black hair just a blot of darkness on the
white. . . . It might have been Desire lying there! . . .

I found the door through which the Thing had slipped. But it was
useless to try to follow. There was no one in the house nor in the
moonlit clearing. And Desire and Li Ho were waiting on the trail. I
picked up the still sleeping child and blundered down to them.

It seemed incredible to hear Desire's laugh.

"Good gracious!" she said. "You're carrying him upside down."

She had had no hint of danger. But with Li Ho it was different. He
fell back beside me when Desire had relieved me of the child. I
could feel his inscrutable eyes upon my face.

"You see um," said Li Ho. It was an assertion, not a question.

I nodded.

"No be scare," muttered he. "Missy all safe. Everything all safe
now. Li Ho go catch um. Li Ho catch um good. All light--tomolla."

"You mean you can manage him and he'll be all right tomorrow?" I
said. "But--what is it!"

The Celestial shrugged.

"Muchy devil maybe. Muchy moon-devil, plaps. Velly bad."

"There's a knife in that umbrella, Li Ho."

But though his eyes looked blandly into mine, I couldn't tell
whether this was news to Li Ho or not....

Well, that's the story. I've written it down while it's fresh,
sparing comment. Desire sang as we crossed the Inlet; little, low
snatches of song with a hint of freedom in them. She had made her
choice and it is never her way to look back. The old "Tillicum"
rattled and chugged and the damp crept in around our feet. But the
water was a path of gold and the sky a bowl of silver--and as an
example of present day elopements it had certainly been fairly
exciting.

Yours, Benis.




CHAPTER XIII

Desire Spence bent earnestly over the writing pad which lay open
upon her knee.

"Mrs. Benis Hamilton Spence," she wrote. And then:

"Mrs. B. Hamilton Spence."

And then:

"Mrs. Benis H. Spence."

Over this last she sucked her pencil thoughtfully.

"One more!" prompted her husband encouragingly. "Don't decide before
you inspect our full line of goods."

"Initials, only, lack character," objected Desire. "There is nothing
distinctive about 'Mrs. B. H. Spence'. It doesn't balance well,
either. I think I'll decide upon the 'Benis H.' I like it--although
I have never heard of 'Benis' as a name before."

"You are not supposed to have heard of it," explained its owner
complacently. "It is a very exclusive name, a family name. My
mother's paternal grandmother was a Benis."

Desire was not attending. "Your nickname, too, is odd," she mused.
"How on earth could anyone make 'Beans' out of 'Benis Hamilton?'"

"Very easily--but how did you know that anyone had?"

"Oh, from a touching inscription on one of your books, 'To Beans--
from Bones.'"

"Well--there's a whole history in that. It happened by a well
defined process of evolution. When I went to school I had to have a
name. A school boy's proper name is no good to him. Proper names are
simply not done. But the christening party found my combination
rather a handful. No one could do anything with Benis and the
obvious shortening of Hamilton was considered too Biblical. 'Ham',
however, suggested 'Piggy'. This might have done had there not
already existed a 'Piggy' with a prior right. 'Piggy' suggested
'Pork', but 'Pork' isn't a name. 'Pork' suggested 'Beans'. And once
more behold the survival of the fittest."

Desire laughed.

The professor listened to her laugh with a strained expression which
relaxed when no words followed it.

"I was afraid," he admitted penitently, "that you might want to know
why 'Pork' is not as much a name as 'Beans'."

"But--it isn't."

"Quite so. Only you are the first member of your delightful sex who
has ever perceived it. You are a perceptive person, Mrs. Spence."

It was the fourth day of their Business Honeymoon. Four days ago
they had landed from the cheerful little coast steamer whose
chattering load of summer campers they had left behind on the route.
For four sun-bright days and dew-sweet nights they had found
themselves .sole possessors of a bay so lovely that it seemed to
have emerged bodily from a green and opal dream.

"'Friendly Bay,' they calls it," a genial deckhand told them,
grinning. "But you folks will be the only friends anywheres about.
There's a sort of farm across the point, though, and maybe you could
hit the trail by climbing, if you get too fed up with the scenery."

"Oh, we shan't want any Compaq," said the new Mrs. Spence
innocently--a remark so disappointing in its unembarrassed frankness
that the deck-hand lost interest and decided that they were "just
relations" after all.

They had carried their camp with them, and, from where they now sat,
they could see its canvas gleaming ivory white against its
background of green. Desire's eyes, as she raised them from her
name-building, lingered upon it proudly. It was such a wonderful
camp!--her first experience of what money, unconsidered save as a
purchasing agent, can do. Even her personal outfit was something of
a revelation. How deliciously keen and new was this consciousness of
clothes--the smart high-laced boots, the soft, sand-colored coat and
skirt, the knickers which felt so easy and so trim, the cool, silk
shirt with its wide collar, the dainty, intimate things beneath! She
would have been less than woman, had the possession of these things
failed to meet some need,--some instinct, deep within, which her
old, bare life had daily mortified.

And it had all been so easy, so natural! How could she ever have
hesitated to make the change? Even her pride was left to her,
intact. He, her friend, had given and she had taken, but in this
there had been no spoiling sense of obligation, for, presently, she
too was to give and to give unstintedly: new strength and skill
seemed already tingling in her firm, quick hands; new vigor and
inspiration stirred in her eager brain--and both hands and brain
were to be her share of giving--her partnership offering in this
pact of theirs. She was eager, eager to begin.

But already they had been four days in camp without a beginning. So
far they had not even looked for the trail which was to lead them to
the cabin of Hawk-Eye Charlie whose store of Indian lore had been
the reason for their upcoast journey. This delay of the
expeditionary party was due to no fault of its secretary. During the
past four days she had proposed the search for the trail four times,
one proposal per day. And each day the chief expeditioner had voted
a postponement. The chief expeditioner was lazy. At least that was
the excuse he made. And Desire, who was not lazy, might have fretted
at the inaction had she believed him. But she knew it was not
laziness which had drawn certain new lines about the expeditioner's
mouth and deepened the old ones on his forehead. It was not laziness
which lay behind the strained look in his eyes and the sudden return
of his almost vanished limp. These things are not symptoms of
indolence. They are symptoms of nerves. And Desire knew something of
nerves. What she did not know, in the present case, was their
exciting cause. Neither could she understand this new reticence on
the part of their victim nor his reluctance to admit the obvious.
She puzzled much about these problems while the lazy one rested in
the sun and the quiet, golden days wrought the magic of their cure.

And Spence, mere man that he was, fancied that she noticed nothing.
The pleasant illusion hastened his recovery. It tended to restore a
complacency, rudely disturbed by an enforced realization of his own
back-sliding. He had been quite furious upon discovering that the
"little episode" of the moonlit cottage had filched from him all his
new won strength and nervous stamina, leaving him sleepless and
unstrung, ready to jump at the rattling of a stone. More and more,
there grew in him a fierce disdain of weakness and a cold
determination to beat Nature at her own game. Let him once again be
"fit" and wily indeed would be the trick which would steal his
fitness from him.

Meanwhile, laziness was as good a camouflage as anything and lying
on the grass while Desire chose her name was pleasant in the
extreme.

"Names," murmured the lazy one dreamily, "are things. When a thing
is 'named true' its name and itself become inseparable and
identical. That is why all magic is wrought by names. It becomes
simply a matter of knowing the right ones."

"Is that a very new idea, or a very old one?"

"All ideas are ageless, so it must be both."

"I wonder how they named things in the very, very first?" mused
Desire. "Did they just sit in the sun, as we are sitting, and think
and think, until suddenly--they knew?"

"Very likely. There is a legend that, in the beginning, everything
was named true--fire, water, earth, air--so that the souls of
everything knew their names and were ruled by those who could speak
them. But, as the race grew less simple and more corrupt, the true
names were obscured and then lost altogether. Only once or twice in
all the ages has come some master who has known their secret--such,
perhaps, as He who could speak peace to the wind and walk upon the
sea and change the water into wine."

Desire nodded. "Yes," she said. "It feels like that--as if one had
forgotten. Sometimes when I have been in the woods alone or drifting
far out on the water, where there was no sound but its own voice, it
has seemed as if I had only to think--hard--hard--in order to
remember! Only one never does."

"But one may--there is always the chance. I fancied I was near it
once--in a shell hole. The stars were big and close and the earth
seemed light and ready to float away. I almost had it then--my lips
were just moving upon some mighty word--but someone came. They found
me and carried me in . . . I say, the sun is climbing up, let's
follow it."

Hand in hand they followed the line of the sinking sun up the
slippery slope. They both knew where they were going, for every
evening of their stay they had wandered there to sit awhile in the
little deserted Indian burying-ground which lay, white fenced and
peaceful, facing the flaming west. When they had found it first it
had seemed to give the last touch of beauty to that beautiful place.

"It is so different," said Desire, searching carefully, as was her
way, for the proper word. "It is so--so beautifully dead. It ought
to be like that," she went on thoughtfully. "I never realized before
why our cemeteries are so sad--it is because we will not let them
really die--we dress them up with flowers--a kind of ghastly life in
death. But this--"

They looked around them at the little white-fenced spot with its
great centre cross, grey and weather-beaten, and all its smaller
crosses clustering round. There was warmth here, the warmth of sun
upon a western slope. There was life, too, the natural life of grass
and vine, the cheerful noise of birds and squirrels and bees. And,
for color, there were harmonies in all the browns and greens and
yellows of the rocky soil.

"Let us sit here. They won't mind. They are all sleeping so
happily," Desire had declared. "And the crosses make it seem like
one large family--see how that wild rose vine has spread itself over
a whole group of graves! It is so friendly."

Spence had fallen in with her humor, and had come indeed to love
this place where even the sun paused lingeringly before the
mountains swallowed it up.

This afternoon he flung himself down beside their favorite rose-vine
with the comfortable sense of well-being which comes with returning
health. Even more than Desire, he wondered that he had ever
hesitated before an arrangement so eminently satisfying. If ever
events had justified an impulse, his impulse, he felt, had been
justified. He stole a glance at Desire as she sat in pleasant
silence gazing into the sunset. She was happier already, and
younger. Something of that hard maturity was fading from her eyes--
the tiny dented corners of her lips were softer. . . . Oh,
undoubtedly he had done the right thing! And everything had run so
smoothly. There had been no trouble. No unlocked for Nemesis had
dogged his steps even in the matter of that small strategy
concerning his unhappy past. He had been unduly worried about that,
owing probably to early copy-book aphorisms. Honesty is the best
policy. Yes, but--nothing had happened. Mary, bless her, was already
only a memory. She had played her part and slipped back into the
void from whence she came. He could forget her very name with
impunity. A faint smile testified to a conscience lulled to warm
security.

But security is a dangerous thing. It tempts the fates. Even while
our strategist smiled, the girl who sat so silently beside him was
wondering about that smile--and other things. He was much better,
she reflected, if he could find his passing thoughts amusing.
Amusement at one's own fancies is a healthy sign. And today she had
noticed, also, that his laziness was almost natural. Perhaps it
might be safe now to say what she had made up her mind should be
said. But not too abruptly. When next she spoke it was merely to
continue their previous discussion.

"Do you think people may have 'true' names, too?" she asked
presently. "Just ordinary people, like you and me?"

Spence nodded. "Always noting," he added, "that you and I are not
ordinary people."

"Then if anyone knew another's true name, and used it, the other
could not help responding?"

"Um-m. I suppose not."

"Perhaps that is what love is," said Desire.

Even then no presentiment of coming trouble stirred beneath Spence's
dangerous serenity. Perhaps it was because the air had made him
comfortably drowsy. He merely nodded, deftly swallowing a yawn.
Desire went on:

"Then love is only complete understanding?"

"Always thought it might be some trifle like that," murmured the
drowsy one. "But don't ask me. How should I know? That is," rousing
hastily, "I do know, of course. And it is. There's a squirrel eating
your hat."

Desire changed the position of the hat. But the subject remained and
she resumed it dreamily.

"Then in order that it might be quite complete, the understanding
would have to be mutual. If only one loved, there would always be a
lack."

"Not a doubt of it!" said Spence firmly.

"Well, then--don't you see?"

"See? See what? That squirrel's eating your hat again."

"Go away!" said Desire to the squirrel. And, when it had gone,
"Don't you see?" she repeatedly gravely.

The professor always loved her gravity. And he had not seen. He was,
in fact, almost asleep. "You tell me," he said, rushing upon
destruction.

Then Desire said what she had made up her mind to say. He never knew
exactly what it was because before she actually said the word
"Mary," he was too sleepy, and afterwards he was too dazed.

Mary! The word went through him like an electric shock. It tingled
to his criminal toes. It whirled through his cringing brain like a
pinwheel suddenly lighted. It exploded like a bomb in the recesses
of his false content.

Desire was talking about Mary! Talking about her in that frank and
unembarrassed way which he had always admired. But good heavens!
didn't she realize that Mary was dead and buried? No. She evidently
did not. Far from it. When he was able to listen intelligently once
more, Desire was saying:

"... and, to a man like you, philosophy should be such a help. I
feel you will be far, far less unhappy if you do not shut yourself
up with your memories. Do you suppose I have not noticed how nervous
and worn out you have been since the night we came away? Why have
you tried to hide it?"

"I haven't--"

"Yes you have. Please, please don't quibble. And hidden things are
so dangerous. It isn't as if I would not understand. You ought to
give me credit for a little knowledge of human nature. I knew
perfectly well that when you married me--you would think of Mary.
You could hardly help it."

The professor sat up. He was not at all sleepy now. Mary had
"murdered sleep." But he was still dazed.

"Wait a moment." He raised a restraining hand. "Let me get this
right. You say you have noticed a certain lack of energy in my
manner of late?"

"Anyone must have noticed it."

"But I explained it, didn't I?"

"Yes?" The slight smile on Desire's lips was sufficient comment on
the explanation. The professor began to feel injured.

"Then I gather, further, that you do not accept the explanation?"

"Don't be cross! How could I? I have eyes. And my point is simply
that there is no need for any concealment between us. You promised
that we should be friends. Friends help friends when they are in
trouble."

The professor rumpled his hair The pinwheel in his brain was slowing
down. Already the marvelous something which accepts and adjusts the
unexpected was hard at work restoring order. Mary was not dead. He
had to reckon with Mary. Very well, let Mary look to her-self. Let
her beware how she harassed a desperate man! Let her--but he was not
pushed to extremes yet.

"I thought," he said slowly, "that we had tacitly agreed not to
reopen this subject."

Desire looked surprised.

"And I still think that it would be better, much better to ignore it
altogether."

"Oh, but it wouldn't," said Desire. "See how dreadfully dumpy you
have been since Friday."

"I have not been dumpy. But supposing I have, there may be other
reasons. What if I can honorably assure you that I have not been
thinking of the past at all?"

"Then I should want to know what you have been thinking of."

"But supposing I were to go further and say that my thoughts are my
own property?"

"That would be horridly rude, don't you think? And you are not at
all a rude person. If you'll risk it, I will."

Her smile was insufferably secure.

"You are willing to risk a great deal," snapped Spence. "But if it's
truth you want--"

He almost confessed then. The temptation to slay Mary with a few
well chosen words almost overpowered him. But he looked at the
expectant face beside him and faltered. Mary would not die alone.
With her would die this newborn comradeship. And Desire's smile,
though insufferable, was sweet. How would it feel to see that bright
look change and pale to cold dislike? Already in imagination he
shivered under the frozen anger of that frank glance.

He could not risk it!

Should he then, ignoring Mary, ascribe his symptoms to their true
cause? By dragging out the horror of that moonlit night, he could
account for any vagary of nerves. But that way of escape was equally
impossible. He could not let that shadow fall across her path of
new-found freedom. Nor would he, in any case, gain much by such
postponement. The wretched professor began to realize that the devil
is indeed the father of lies and that he who sups with him needs a
long spoon.

Meanwhile, Desire was waiting.

He felt that he would like to shake her--sitting there with
untroubled air and face like an inquiring sphinx--to shake her and
kiss her and tell her that there wasn't any Mary and--he brought
himself up with a start. What nonsense was this!

"Look here," he said irritably, "you are all wrong. You really are.
It's perfectly true I've been feeling groggy. But there doesn't have
to be a reason for that, unfortunately. Old Bones warned me that I
might expect all kinds of come-backs. But I'm almost right again
now. Another day or two of this heavenly place and I shan't know
that I have a nerve."

"Yes," critically. "You are better. I should say that the worst was
over."

"I'm sure it is. Supposing we leave it at that."

Desire smiled her shadowy smile. "Very well. But I wanted you to
know that I understand. It's so silly to go on pretending not to
see, when one does see. And it's only natural that things should
seem more poignant for a time. Only you will recover much more
quickly if you adopt a sensible attitude. I do not say, 'do not
think of Mary,' I say 'think of her openly.'"

"How," said Spence, "does one think openly?"

"One talks."

"You wish me to talk of Mary?"

"It will be so good for you!" warmly.

They looked for a moment into each other's eyes. And Spence was
conscious of a second shock. Was there, was there the faintest glint
of something which was not all sympathy in those grey depths of
hers? Before his conscious mind had even formulated the question,
his other mind had asked and answered it, and, with the lightning
speed of the subconscious, had acted. The professor became aware of
a complete change of outlook. His remorse and timidity left him. His
brain worked clearly.

"Very well," said the professor.

The worm had turned!




CHAPTER XIV

Mornings are beautiful all over the earth but Nature keeps a special
kind of morning for early summer use at Friendly Bay. In sudden
clearness, in chill sweetness, in almost awful purity there is no
other morning like it. It wrings the human soul quite clear of
everything save wonder at its loveliness.

Desire never bathed until the sun was up, not because she feared the
dawn-cold water but because she would not stir the unbroken beauty
of its opal tide. With the first rays of the sun, the spell would
break, the waves would dance again, the gulls would soar and dip,
the crabs would scuttle across the shining sand, the round wet head
of a friendly seal would pop up here and there to say good-morning.
Then, Desire would swim--far out--so far that Spence, watching her,
would feel his heart contract. He could not follow her--yet. But he
never begged her not to take the risk, if risk there were. Why
should she lose one happy thrill in her own joyous strength because
he feared? Better that she should never come back from these long,
glorious swims than that he should have held her from them by so
much as a gesture.

And she always did come back, glowing, dripping, laughing, her head
as sleek as a young seal's, salt upon her lips and on her wave-
whipped cheek. Spence, whose swims were shorter and more sedate,
would usually have breakfast ready.

But upon this particular morning Desire loitered. Though the smell
of bacon was in the air, she sat pensively in the shallows of an
outgoing tide and flung shells at the crabs. She would have told you
that she was thinking. But had she used the word "feeling" she would
have been nearer the truth. And the thing which she obscurely felt
was that something had mysteriously altered for the worse in a world
which, of late, had shown remarkable promise. It was a small thing.
She hardly knew what it was. Merely a sense of dissonance somewhere.

Whatever it was, it had not been there yesterday. Yesterday morning
she had felt no desire to sit in the shallows and throw shells at
crabs. Yesterday morning her mind had been full of that happy
inconsequence which feels no need of thought. Today was different.
Mentally she shook herself with some irritation. "What is the matter
with you?" she asked. But the self she addressed seemed oddly
reluctant. "Come now," said Desire, hitting an especially big crab,
"out with it! There's no use pretending that you don't know." Thus
adjured, the self offered one single and sulky word. The word was
"Mary." "Oh, nonsense!" said Desire hastily.

But there it was. She had forced the answer and had to make the best
of it. Her memory trailed back. Once started, it had small
difficulty in tracking her dissatisfaction to its real beginning.
Everything, it reminded her, had been perfect until she and Benis
had sat upon the hill in the sunset and talked about Mary. Something
had happened then. Like a certain ancestress she had coveted the
fruit of knowledge and knowledge had been given her. Not at once--
Benis had at first been distinctly reluctant--but by gentle
persistence she had won through his cool reserve. Abruptly and
without visible reason, his attitude had changed. He had said in
that drawling voice of his, "You wish me to talk about Mary?" And
then, suddenly, he had talked.

He had told her several things. The color of Mary's hair, for
instance. Her hair was yellow. Benis had been insistent in pointing
out that when he said "yellow" he did not mean goldish or bronze, or
fawn-colored or tow-colored or Titian, but just yellow. "Do you see
that patch of sky over there where the mountain dips?" he had said.
"Mary's hair was yellow, like that."

That patch of sky, as Desire remembered it, was very beautiful.
Quite too beautiful to be compared to any-one's hair. No doubt it
was only in Benis's imagination that Mary's hair was anything like
it.

But nevertheless it was there that the world had gone wrong. It was
while Benis had sat gazing into that patch of amber sky that Desire,
gazing too, had, for the first time, realized the Other. Up until
then, Mary had been an abstraction--thenceforth she was a
personality. That made all the difference. Desire, throwing shells
at crabs, admitted that, for her, there had been no Mary until she
had heard that her hair was yellow.

It was ridiculous but it was true. Mary without hair had been a
gentle and retiring shade. A phantom in whom it had been possible to
take an academic interest. But no shade has a right to hair like an
amber sunset. Desire threw a shell viciously. Very little more, she
felt, and she would positively dislike Mary!

She jumped up and stamped in the shallow water. The crabs, big and
little, scuttled away.

"Hurr-ee!" called the professor waving a frying-pan.

"Com-ing!" Desire's voice rose gaily. For the present, her small
dissatisfaction vanished with the crabs.

"This coffee has been made ten minutes," grumbled the getter-of-
breakfast with a properly martyred air. "Whatever were you doing?"

"Thinking."

"It isn't done. Not before breakfast."

"I was thinking," fibbed Desire, "that I have never been so spoiled
in my life and that it can't go on. My domestic conscience is
beginning to murmur. As soon as we are at home, you will be expected
to stay in bed until you smell the coffee coming up the stairs."

"Aunt Caroline," said the professor, "does not believe in coffee for
breakfast, except on Sunday."

"I do."

"Eh? Oh--I see. Well, I'll put my money on you. Only I hope you
aren't really set on making it yourself. Because the cook would
leave.'"

"Good gracious! Do we have a cook?"

"We do. At least, we did. Also a maid. But maids, I understand, are
greatly diminished. There appear to have been tragedies in
Bainbridge. Have you eaten sufficient bacon to listen calmly to an
extract from Aunt Caroline's last? Sit tight, then--

"'As to what the world is coming to in the matter of domestic
service,'" writes Aunt Caroline, "I do not know. I do not wish to
worry you, Benis, but as you will be marrying some day, in spite of
that silly doctor of yours who insists that it's not to be thought
of, you may as well be conversant with the situation. To put it
briefly--/ have been without competent help for two weeks. You know,
dear boy, that I am easily satisfied. I expect very little from
anyone. But I think that I am entitled to prompt and willing
service. That, at the very least! Yet I must tell you that Mabel, my
cook, has left me most ungratefully after only three months' notice!
She is to be married to Bob Summers, the plumber. (Lieutenant Robert
Summers, since the war, if you please!) Well, she can never say I
did not warn her. I did not mince matters. I told her exactly what
married life is, and why I have never tried it. But the foolish girl
is beyond advice. I have had two cooks since Mabel, but one insisted
upon whistling in the kitchen and the other served omelette made
with one egg. My wants are trifling, as you know, but one cannot
abrogate all personal dignity--'

"Do you get the subtle connection between the one egg and Aunt
Caroline's personal dignity?" asked Spence with anxiety. "Because if
you don't, I'll never be able to ask you to live in Bainbridge. I
may as well confess now that it was only my serene confidence in
your sense of humor which permitted me to marry you at all. I should
never have dared to offer Aunt Caroline as an 'in-law' to anyone who
couldn't see a joke."

"You are very fond of her all the same," said Desire shrewdly. "And
though she expects very little from anyone, she evidently adores
you. She can't be all funny. There must be an Aunt Caroline, deep
down, that is not funny at all. I think I'm rather afraid of her.
Only you have so often said that she wished you to get married--"

"Excuse me, my dear. What I said was, 'Aunt Caroline wished to get
me married.' The position of the infinitive is the important thing.
Aunt Caroline never intended me to do it all by myself."

"Oh. Then, in that case, she may resent your having done it."

"Resent," cheerfully, "is a feeble word. It doesn't express Aunt
Caroline at all."

"You take it calmly."

"Well, you see I've got you to fight for me now."

They looked at each other over the empty coffee cups and laughed.

It is easy to laugh on a fine morning. But if they had known where
Aunt Caroline was at that moment--how-ever, they didn't.

"Once," said Spence "my Aunt read a book upon Eugenics. I don't know
how it happened. It was one of those inexplicable events for which
no one can account. It made a deep impression. She has studied me
ever since with a view to scientific matrimony. Alas, my poor
relative!"

"I once read a book upon Eugenics, too," said Desire with a
reminiscent smile. "It seemed sensible. Of course I was not
personally interested and that always makes a difference. One thing
occurred to me, though--it didn't seem to give Nature credit for
much judgment."

Benis chuckled. "No, it wouldn't. Terrible old blunderer, Nature!
Always working for the average. Never seems to have heard the word
'specialize.' We've got her there."

"Then you think--"

"Oh no," hastily, "I don't. I observe results with interest, that is
all."

Desire began to collect the breakfast dishes. "That was where the
book seemed weak," she said thoughtfully. "It hadn't much to say
about results. It dealt mostly with consequences. They," she added
after a pause, "were rather frightening."

The professor glanced at her sharply. Had she been worrying over
this? Had she connected it with that dreadful old man whom she
called father? But her face was quite untroubled as she went on.

"I think they've missed something, though," she said. "There must be
something more than the things they tabulate. Some subtle force of
life which isn't physical at all. Something that uses physical
things as tools. If its tools are fine, it will do finer work, but
if its tools are blunt it will work with them anyway. And it gets
things done."

"By Jove!" said Spence. This was one of Desire's "windows with a
view." He was always stumbling upon them. But he knew she was shy of
comment. "We'll tell Aunt Caroline that," he murmured hopefully. "It
may distract her mind." . . .

That day they found and followed the trail to the shack of Hawk-Eye
Charlie. It proved to be neither long nor arduous. The professor
managed it with ease. But he would have been quite unable to manage
the hawk-eyed one without the expert aid of his secretary. To his
unaccustomed mind their quarry was almost witless and exceedingly
dirty. But Desire knew her Indian.

"It isn't what he is, but what he knows," she explained. "And he has
a retiring nature."

So very retiring was it that only fair words, aided by tactful
displays of tea and tobacco, could penetrate its reservations.
Desire was quite unhurried. But presently she began to extract bits
of carefully hidden knowledge. It had to be slow work, for, witless
as he of the hawk-eye seemed, he was well aware of the value (in
tobacco) of a wise conservation. He who babbles all he knows upon
first asking is a fool. But he who withholds beyond patience is a
fool also. Was it not so? Desire agreed that a middle course is
undoubtedly the path of wisdom. She added, carelessly, that the
white-man-who-wished-stories was in no hurry. Neither had he come
seeking much for little. Payment would be made strictly on account
of value received. The tea was good. And the tobacco exceptionally
strong, as anyone could tell from a distance. Why then should the
hawk-eyed one delay his own felicity?

This hastened matters considerably and the secretary's note-book was
soon busy. Spence felt his oldtime keenness revive. And Desire was
happy for was not this her work at last? It was a profitable day.
Should anyone care to know its results, and the results of others
like it, they may look up chapter six, section two, of Spence's
Primitive Psychology, unabridged edition. Here they will find that
the fables of Hawk-Eye Charlie, properly classified and commented
upon, have added considerably to our knowledge of a fascinating
subject. But far be it from us to steal the professor's thunder. We
are not writing a book upon primitive psychology. We are interested
only in the sigh of pleasurable satisfaction with which the
professor's secretary closed her fat note-book and called it a day.

From that point our interest leads us back to camp along the trail
through the warm June woods with the late sunlight hanging like
golden gauze behind the fretted screens of green. We are interested
in sunsets and in basket suppers eaten in the dim coolness of a
miniature canyon through which rushed and tumbled an icy stream
from, the snow peaks far above. We are interested in a breathless
race with a chattering squirrel during which Desire's hair came
down--a bit of glorious autumn in the deep green wood--and the tying
of it up again (a lengthy process) by the professor with cleverly
plaited stems of tender bracken. All these trifles interest us
because, to those two who knew them, they remained fresh and living
memories when the note-book and its contents were buried in the dust
of yesterday.

It was twilight when they came out of the wood. The sun had gone and
taken its golden trappings with it. A clear, still light was
everywhere and, in the brilliant green of the far sky, a pale star
shone. They watched it brighten as the green grew dark. A wonderful
purple blueness spread upon the distant hills.

Desire sighed happily.

"It is the end of the first day of real work," she said. "The end
and the beginning."

Her companion, usually like wax to her moods, made no answer. He did
not seem to hear. His gaze seemed drowned in that wonderful blue.
Desire, who had been unaccountably content, felt suddenly lonely and
disturbed.

"What is it?" she asked. Her voice had fallen from its glad note.
She put out her hand, touching his coat sleeve timidly. It was the
first time she had ever touched him save in service. But if her
touch brought a thrill there was no> sign of it. Her voice dropped
still lower, "What are you thinking of?" she almost whispered.

The professor did not answer. Instead he turned to her with a sad
smile. (Very well done, too!)

Desire dropped her hand with a sharp exclamation. "Oh," she said, "I
forgot! You were thinking--"

The professor's smile smote her.

"Her eyes were blue like that!" he said.

Desire tripped over a fallen branch. And, when she recovered
herself, "Purple, do you mean?" she asked. "I have always thought
purple eyes were a myth."

"Now you are making fun," said the professor after a reproachful
pause.

"How do you mean--making fun?"

"'I never saw a purple cow,'" quoted he patiently.

"Oh, I wasn't!" cried Desire in distress.

Spence begged her pardon. But he did it abstractedly. His eyes were
still upon the sky.

"You'll fall over that root," prophesied she grimly. "Do look where
you are going!"

The professor returned to earth with difficulty. "Sorry!" he
murmured. "I doubt if I should allow these moods to bother you. But
you told me it might do me good to talk."

"Not all the time!" said Desire a trifle tartly.

He looked surprised. "But--" he began.

"Oh, I'm so hungry!" said Desire. "Do let's hurry."

She hastened ahead down the slope towards the camp. The tents lay in
the shadow now but, as they neared them, a flickering light shot up
as if in welcome. Desire paused.

"Someone lighting a fire!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Who can it
be?"

Against the glow of the new-lit blaze a tall figure lifted itself
and a clear whistle cut the silence of the Bay.

Spence's graceful melancholy dropped from him like a forgotten
cloak.

"Bones!" he gasped in an agitated whisper. "Oh, my prophetic soul,
my doctor!"

Another figure rose against the glow--a wider figure who called
shrilly through a cupped hand.

"Ben--is!"

"My Aunt!" said the professor.

He sat down suddenly behind a boulder.




CHAPTER XV

To understand Aunt Caroline's arrival at Friendly Bay we should have
to understand Aunt Caroline, and that, as Euclid says, is absurd.
Therefore we shall have to take the arrival for granted. The only
light which she herself ever shed upon the matter was a statement
that she "had a feeling." And feelings, to Aunt Caroline, were the
only reliable things in a strictly unreliable world. To follow a
feeling across a continent was a trifle to a determined character
such as hers. To insist upon Dr. Rogers following it, too, was a
matter of course.

"I shall need an escort," said Aunt Caroline to that astonished
physician, "and you will do very nicely. If Benis is off his head,
as you suggest, it is my plain duty to look into the matter and your
plain duty, as his medical adviser, to accompany me. I am a woman
who demands little from her fellow creatures, knowing perfectly well
that she won't get it, but I naturally refuse to undertake the
undivided responsibility of a deranged nephew galavanting, by your
own orders, Doctor, at the ends of the earth."

"I did not say he was deranged," began the doctor helplessly, "and
you said you didn't believe me anyway."

"Don't quote me to excuse yourself." Aunt Caroline sailed serenely
on. "At least preserve the courage of your convictions. There is
certainly something the matter with Benis. He has answered none of
my letters. He has completely ignored my lettergrams. To my telegram
of Thursday telling him that I had been compelled to discharge my
third cook since Mabel for wiping dishes on a hand towel, he replied
only by silence. And the telegraph people say that the message was
never delivered owing to lack of address. Easy as I am to satisfy,
things like this cannot be allowed to continue. My nephew must be
found."

"But we don't know where to look for him," objected her victim
weakly.

Aunt Caroline easily rose superior to this.

"We have a map, I hope? And Vancouver, heathenish name! must be
marked on it somewhere. If not, the railroad people can tell us."

"But he is not in Vancouver."

"There--or thereabouts. When we get there we can ask the policeman,
or," with a grim twinkle, "we can enquire at the asylums. You forget
that my nephew is a celebrated man even if he is a fool."

The doctor gave in. He hadn't had a chance from the beginning, for
Aunt Caroline could answer objections far faster than he could make
them. They arrived at the terminus just four days after the
expeditionary party had left for Friendly Bay.

If Aunt Caroline were surprised at finding more than one policeman
in Vancouver, she did not admit it. Neither did the general
atmosphere of ignorance as to Benis daunt her in the least. She
adhered firmly to her campaign of question asking and found it fully
justified when inquiry at the post-office revealed that all letters
for Professor Benis H. Spence were to be delivered to the care of
the Union Steamship Company. From the Union Steamship Company to the
professor's place of refuge was an easy step. But Dr. Rogers, to
whom this last inquiry had been intrusted, returned to the hotel
with a careful jauntiness of manner which ill accorded with a
disturbed mind.

"Well, we've found him," he announced cheerfully. "And now, if we
are wise, I think we'll leave him alone. He is camping up the coast
at a place called Friendly Bay--no hotels, no accommodation for
ladies--he is evidently perfectly well and attending to business.
You know he came out here partly to get material for his book? Well,
that's what he's doing. Must be, because there are only Indians up
there."

"Indians? What do you mean--Indians? Wild ones?"

"Fairly wild."

Aunt Caroline snorted. She is one of the few ladies left who possess
this Victorian, accomplishment. "And you advise my leaving my
sister's child in his present precarious state of mind alone among
fairly wild Indians?"

"Well--er--that's just it, you see. He isn't alone--not exactly."

"What do you mean--not exactly?"

"I mean that his--er--secretary is with him. He has to have a
secretary on account of never being sure whether receive is 'ie' or
'ei.' They are quite all right, though. The captain of the boat says
so. And naturally on a trip of that kind, research you know, a man
doesn't like to be interrupted."

Aunt Caroline arose. "When does the next boat leave?" She asked
calmly.

"But--dash it all! We're not invited. We can't butt in. I--I won't
go."

Aunt Caroline, admirable woman, knew when she was defeated. She had
a formula for it, a formula which seldom failed to turn defeat into
victory. When all else failed, Aunt Caroline collapsed. She
collapsed now. She had borne a great deal, she had not complained,
but to be told that her presence would be a "butting in" upon the
only living child of her only dead sister was more than even her
fortitude could endure! No, she wouldn't take a glass of water,
water would choke her. No, she wouldn't lie down. No, she wouldn't
lower her voice. What did hotel people matter to her? What did
anything matter? She had come to the end. Accustomed to ingratitude
as she was, hardened to injustice and desertion, there were still
limits--

There were. The doctor had reached his. Hastily he explained that
she had mistaken his meaning. And, to prove it, engaged passage at
once, for the next upcoast trip, on the same little steamer which a
few days earlier had carried Mr. and Mrs. Benis H. Spence.

It was a heavenly day. The mountains lifted them-selves out of veils
of tinted mist, the islands lay like jewels--but Aunt Caroline,
impervious to mere scenery, turned her thought severely inward.

"I suppose," she said to her now subdued escort, "that we shall have
to pay the secretary a month's salary. Benis will scarcely wish to
take him back east with us."

The doctor attempted to answer but seemed to have some trouble with
his throat.

"It's the damp air," said Aunt Caroline. "Have a troche. If Benis
really needs a secretary I think I can arrange to get one for him.
Do you remember Mary Davis? Her mother was an Ashton--a very good
family. But unfortunate. The girls have had to look out for
themselves rather. Mary took a course. She could be a secretary, I'm
sure. Benis could always correct things afterward. And she is not
too young. Just about the right age, I should think. They used to
know each other. But you know what Benis is. He simply doesn't--your
cold is quite distressing, Doctor. Do take a troche."

The doctor took one.

"Of course Benis may object to a lady secretary--"

"By Jove," said Rogers as if struck with a brilliant idea. "Perhaps
his secretary is a lady!"

"How do you mean--a lady! Don't be absurd, Doctor. You said yourself
there was no proper hotel. Benis is discreet. I'll say that for
him."

The doctor's brilliance deserted him. He twiddled his thumbs. But
although Aunt Caroline's repudiation of his suggestion had been
unhesitating there was a gleam of new uneasiness in her eye. She
said no more. It was indeed quite half an hour before she remarked
explosively.

"Unless it were an Indian!"

Her companion turned from the scenery in pained surprise.

"An Indian what?" he asked blankly.

"An Indian secretary--a female one."

"Nonsense. Indians aren't secretaries."

But Aunt Caroline had "had a feeling." "It was your-self who
suggested that she might be a girl," she declared stubbornly, "and
if she is a girl, she must be an Indian. Indians are different--look
at Pullman porters."

The doctor gasped.

"Even I don't mind a Pullman porter," finished Aunt Caroline
grandly.

"That's very nice," the doctor struggled to adjust him-self. "But
Pullman porters are not Indians, and even if they were I can't quite
see how it affects Benis and his lady secretary."

"The principle," said Aunt Caroline, "is the same."

Rogers wondered if his brain were going. At any rate he felt that he
needed a smoke. Aunt Caroline did not like smoke, so comparative
privacy was assured. Also, a good smoke might show him a way out of
his difficulty.

It didn't. At the end of the second cigar the cold fact, imparted by
the clerk in the steamship office, that Professor Spence and wife
had preceded them upon this very boat, was still a cold fact and
nothing more. The long letter from the bridegroom which would have
made things plain had passed him on his trip across the continent
and was even now lying, with other unopened mail, in his Bainbridge
office.

If Benis were married, then the bride could be no other than the
nurse-secretary he had written about in that one inconsequent letter
to which he, Rogers, had replied with unmistakable warning. But the
thing seemed scarcely credible. If it were a fact, then it might
very easily be a tragedy also. Marriage in such haste and under such
circumstances could scarcely be other than a mistake, and
considering the quality of Benis Spence, a most serious one.

John Rogers was very fond of his eccentric friend and the threatened
disaster loomed almost personal. He felt himself to blame too, for
the advice which had thrown Spence directly from the frying-pan of
Aunt Caroline into the fire of a sterner fate. Add to all this a
keen feeling of unwarranted intrusion and we have some idea of the
state of mind with which Dr. John Rogers saw the white tents of the
campers as the steamer put in at Friendly Bay.

"There are two tents," said Aunt Caroline lowering her lorgnette. "I
shall be quite comfortable."

The doctor did not smile. His sense of humor was suffering from
temporary exhaustion and his strongest consciousness was a feeling
of relief that neither Benis nor anyone else appeared to notice
their arrival. Even the unique spectacle of a middle-aged lady in
elastic-sided boots proceeding on tiptoe, and with all the tactics
of a scouting party, toward the evidently deserted tents provoked no
demonstration from anyone.

"They're not here!" called the scouting party in a carrying whisper.

"Obviously not." The doctor wiped his heated fore-head. "Probably
they've gone for the night. Then you'll have to marry me to save my
reputation."

"Jokes upon serious subjects are in very bad taste, young man," said
Aunt Caroline. But her rebuke was half-hearted. She looked uneasy.
"John," she added with sudden suspicion, "you don't suppose they
could have known we were coming?"

"How could they possibly?"

"If she is an Indian, they might. I've heard of such things. I--oh,
John! Look!"

"Snake?" asked John callously. Nevertheless he followed Aunt
Caroline's horrified gaze and saw, with a thrill of more normal
interest, a pair of dainty moccasins whose beaded toes protruded
from the flap of one of the tents.

"Indian!" gasped Aunt Caroline. "Oh John!"

"Not a bit of it!" Our much tried physician spoke with salutary
shortness. "They may be Indian-made but that's all. I'll eat my hat
if it's an Indian who has worn them. Did you ever see an Indian with
a foot like that?"

Indignation enabled Aunt Caroline to disclaim acquaintance with any
Indian feet whatever.

"It's a white girl's moccasin," he assured her. "Lots of girls wear
them in camp. Or," hastily, "it may be a curiosity. Benis may be
making a collection."

Aunt Caroline snorted. Her gaze was fixed with almost piteous
intensity upon the tent.

"D'you think I might go in?" she faltered.

"You might" said John carefully.

Aunt Caroline sighed.

"How dreadful to have traditions!" she murmured. "There's no real
reason why I shouldn't go in. And," with grim honesty, "if you
weren't here watching I believe I'd do it. Anyway we may have to, if
they don't come soon. I can't sit on this grass. I'm sure it's
damp."

"I'll get you a chair from Benis's tent," offered John unkindly.
"There are no traditions to forbid that, are there?"

"No. And, John--you might look around a little? Just to make sure."

The doctor nodded. He had every intention of looking around. He
felt, in fact, entitled to any knowledge which his closest
observation might bring him. But the tent was almost empty. That at
least proved that the tent belonged to Spence. He was a man with an
actual talent for bareness and spareness in his sleeping quarters.
Even his room at school had possessed that man-made neatness which
one associates with sailor's cabins and the cells of monks. The
camp-bed was trimly made, a dressing-gown lay across a canvas chair,
a shaving mug hung from the centre pole--there was not so much as a
hairpin anywhere.

John crossed thoughtfully to the folding stand which stood with its
portable reading lamp beside the bed. There was one unusual thing
there, a photograph. Benis, as his friend knew, was an expert
amateur photographer--but he never perched his photographs upon
stands. This one must be an exception, and exceptions are
illuminating.

It was still quite light inside the tent and the doctor could see
the picture clearly. It was an extraordinarily good one, quite in
the professor's happiest style. Composition, lighting, timing, all
were perfect. But it is doubtful if John Rogers noticed any of these
excellencies. He was absorbed at once and utterly in the personality
of the person photographed. This was a girl, bending over a still
pool. The pose was one of perfectly arrested grace and the face
which was lifted, as if at the approach of someone, looked directly
out of the picture and into Roger's eyes. It was the most living
picture he had ever seen. The lips were parted as if for speech,
there was a smile behind the widely opened eyes. And both face and
form were beautiful.

The doctor straightened up with a sharply drawn breath. It seemed
that something had happened. For one flashing instant some inner
knowledge had linked him with his own unlived experience. It was
gone as soon as it came. He did not even realize it, save as a sense
of strangeness. Yet, as a chemist lifts a vial and drops the one
drop which changes all within his crucible, so some magic philtre
tinged John Roger's cup of life in that one stolen look.

"Have you found anything?" Aunt Caroline's voice came impatiently.

"Nothing."

But to himself he added "everything" for indeed the mystery of Benis
seemed a mystery no longer. The photograph made everything clear.
And yet not so clear, either. The doctor looked around at the ship-
shape bachelorness of the tent, at the neat pile of newly typed
manuscript upon the bed, and felt bewildered. Even the eccentricity
of Benis, in its most extravagant mode, seemed inadequate as a
covering explanation.

Giving himself a mental shake, the intruder picked up the largest
chair and rejoined Aunt Caroline.

"It's Benis right enough," he announced. "He is probably off
interviewing Indians. I had better light a fire. It may break the
news."




CHAPTER XVI

We left the professor somewhat abruptly in the midst of a cryptic
ejaculation of "My Aunt!"

"How can it be your Aunt?" asked Desire reasonably.

"I don't know how. But, owing to some mysterious combination of the
forces of nature, it is my Aunt. No one else could wear that hat."

"Then hadn't we better go to meet her? You can't sit here all
night."

"I know I can't. It's too near. We didn't see her soon enough!"

"Cowardly custard!" said Desire, stamping her foot.

The professor's mild eyes blinked at her in surprise. "Good!" he
said with satisfaction. "That is the first remark suitable to your
extreme youth that I've ever heard you make. But the sentiment it
implies is all wrong. Physical courage, as such, is mere waste when
opposed to my Aunt. What is wanted is technique. Technique requires
thought. Thought requires leisure. That is why I am sitting here
behind a boulder--what is she doing now?"

Desire investigated.

"She is walking up and down."

"A bad sign. It doesn't leave us much time. The most difficult point
is the introduction. Now, in an introduction, what counts for most?
Ancestors, of course. My dear, have you any ancestors?"

"Not one."

"I was afraid of that. In fact I had intended to provide a few. But
I never dreamed they would be needed so soon. What is she doing
now?"

"She has stopped walking. She has turned. She is coming this way."

"Then we must take our chance." The professor rose briskly. "Never
allow the enemy to attack. Come on. But keep behind me while I draw
her fire."

Aunt Caroline advanced in full formation.

"Benis. Ben--nis!" she called piercingly. "He can't be very far
away," she declared over her shoulder. "I have a feeling--Benis!"

"Who calls so loud?" quoted the professor innocently, appearing with
startling suddenness from behind the boulder. "Why!" in amazed
recognition. "It is Aunt Caroline!"

"It is." Aunt Caroline corroborated grimly.

"This is a surprise," exclaimed the professor. As we have noted
before, he liked to be truthful when possible. "How'd'do, Aunt!
However did you get here?"

"How I came," replied Aunt Caroline, "is not material. The fact that
I am here is sufficient."

"Quite," said Benis. "But," he added in a puzzled tone, "you are not
alone. Surely, my dear Aunt, I

"You see Dr. Rogers who has kindly accompanied me."

"John Rogers here? With you?" In rising amazement.

"It is a detail." Aunt Caroline's voice was somewhat tart. "I could
scarcely travel unaccompanied."

"Surely not. But really--was there no lady friend--"

"Don't be absurd, Benis!" But she was obscurely conscious of a
check. Against the disturbed surprise of her nephew's attitude her
sharpened weapons had already turned an edge. Only one person can
talk at a time, and, to her intense indignation, she found herself
displaced as the attacking party. Also the behavior of her auxiliary
force was distinctly apologetic.

"Hello, Benis!" said Rogers, coming up late and reluctant. "Sorry to
have dropped in on you like this. But your Aunt thought--"

"Don't say a word, my dear fellow! No apology is necessary. I am
quite sure she did. But it might be a good idea for you to do a
little thinking yourself occasionally. Aunt is so rash. How were you
to know that you would find us at home? Rather a risk, what?
Luckily, Aunt," turning to that speechless relative with
reassurance, "it is quite all right. My wife will be delighted--
Desire, my dear, permit me--Aunt, you will be glad, I'm sure--this
is Desire. Desire, this is your new Aunt."

"How do you do?" said Desire. "I have never had an Aunt before."

It was the one thing which she should have said. Had she known Aunt
Caroline for years she could not have done better. But,
unfortunately, that admirable lady did not hear it. She had heard
nothing since the shattering blow of the word "wife."

"John," she said hoarsely. "Take me away. Take me away at once!"

"Certainly," said John, "Only it's frightfully damp in the woods.
And there may be bears."

"Bears or not. I can't stay here."

"Oh, but you must," Desire came forward with innocent hospitality.
"You can sleep on my cot and I'll curl up in a blanket. I am quite
used to sleeping out."

Aunt Caroline closed her eyes. It was true then. Benis Spence had
married a squaw! Blindly she groped for the supporting hand of the
doctor. "John," she moaned, "did you hear that? Sleeping out--oh how
could he?"

"Very easily, I should think." Under the slight handicap of
assisting the drooping lady to her chair, John Rogers looked back at
Desire, standing now within the radius of the camp fire's light--and
once again he felt the strangeness as of some half-glimpsed
prophecy. "She is wonderful," he added. "Look!"

Aunt Caroline looked, shuddered, and collapsed again upon a
whispered "Indian!"

"Nonsense!" Rogers almost shook her. And yet, considering the
suggestive force of the poor lady's preconceived ideas, the mistake
was not unpardonable. In those surroundings, against that flickering
light, standing, straight and silent in her short skirt and
moccasins, her leaf-brown hair tied with bracken and turned to
midnight black by the shadows, her grey eyes mysterious under their
dark lashes, and her lips unsmiling, Desire might well have been
some beauty of that vanishing race. A princess, perhaps, waiting
with grave courtesy for the welcome due her from her husband's
people.

"And not a bit ashamed of it," murmured Aunt Caroline in what she
fondly hoped was a whisper. "Utterly callous! Benis," in a wavering
voice, "I had a feeling--"

"Wait!" interrupted Benis, producing a notebook and pencil. "Let us
be exact, Aunt. Just when did you notice the feeling first?"

"What difference does that make?" Aunt Caroline's voice was
perceptibly stronger.

"Why," eagerly, "don't you see? If you had the feeling at the time
(allowing for difference by the sun) it is a case of actual
clairvoyance. If the feeling was experienced previous to the fact
then it is a case of premonition only, and, if after, the whole
thing can be explained as mere telepathy."

"Oh," said Aunt Caroline. But she said it thoughtfully. Her voice
was normal.

"Wonderful thing--this psychic sense," went on her nephew. "Fancy
you're knowing all about it even before you got my letter!"

"Did you send a letter?" asked Aunt Caroline after a pause. "Why
Aunt! Of course. Two of them. Before and after. But I might have
known you would hardly need them. If you had only arrived a few days
sooner, you might have been present at the ceremony."

"Ceremony? There was a ceremony?"

"My dear Aunt!"

"The Church service?"

"My dear Aunt!"

"In a church?"

"Not exactly a church. You see it was rather late in the evening.
The care-taker had gone to bed. In fact we had to get the Rector out
of his."

"Bern's!"

"He didn't mind. Said he'd sleep all the better for it. And he wore
his gown--over his pyjamas--very effective."

"Had the man no conscientious scruples?" sternly.

"Scruples--against pyjamas?"

"Against mixed marriages."

"I don't know. I didn't ask him. We weren't discussing the ethics of
mixed marriage."

"Don't pretend to misunderstand me, Benis. For a man who has married
an Indian, your levity is disgraceful."

"How ridiculous, Aunt! If you will listen to an explanation--"

"I need no explanation," Aunt Caroline, once more mistress of
herself rose majestically. "I hope I know an Indian when I see one.
I am not blind, I believe. But as there seems to be no question as
to the marriage, I have nothing further to say. Another woman in my
place might feel justified in voicing a just resentment, but I have
made it a rule to expect nothing from any relative, especially if
that relative be, even partially, a Spence. When my poor, dear
sister married your father I told her what she was doing. And she
lived to say, 'Caroline, you were right!' That was my only reward.
More I have never asked. All that I have ever required of my
sister's child has been ordinary docility and reliance upon my
superior sense and judgment. Now when I find that, in a matter so
serious as marriage, neither my wishes nor my judgment have been
considered, I am not surprised. I may be shocked, outraged,
overwhelmed, but I am not surprised."

"Bravo!" said Benis involuntarily. He couldn't help feeling that
Aunt Caroline was really going strong. "What I mean to say," he
added, "is that you are quite right Aunt, except in these
particulars, in which you are entirely wrong. But before we go
further, what about a little sustenance. Aren't you horribly
hungry?"

"I am sure they are both starved," said Desire. "And I hate to
remind you that you ate the last sandwich. Will you make Aunt
Caroline comfortable while I cut some more? Perhaps Dr. John will
help me--although we haven't shaken hands yet."

She held out her hands to the uneasy doctor with a charming gesture
of understanding. "Did you expect to see a squaw, too', Doctor?"

"I expected to see, just you." His response was a little too eager.
"I had seen you before--by a pool, bending over--"

"Oh, the photograph? Benis is terribly proud of it,"

"Best I've ever done," confirmed the professor. "Did you notice the
curious light effect on that silver birch at the left?"

"Wonderful," said Rogers, but he wasn't thinking of the light effect
on the silver birch. As he followed Desire to the tent his orderly
mind was in a tumult. "He doesn't know how wonderful she is!" he
thought. "And she doesn't care whether he does or not. And that
explains--" But he saw in a moment that it didn't explain anything.
It only made the mystery deeper.

"And now, Benis, that we are alone--" began Aunt Caroline. . . .

We may safely leave out several pages here. If you realize Aunt
Caroline at all, you will see that at least so much self-expression
is necessary before anyone else can expect a chance. Time enough to
pick up the thread again when the inevitable has happened and her
exhausted vocabulary is replaced by tears.

"Not that I care at all for my own feelings," wept Aunt Caroline.
"There are others to think of. What will Bainbridge say?"

Her nephew roused himself. From long experience he knew that the
worst was over.

"Bainbridge, my dear Aunt," he said, "will say exactly what you tell
it to say. It was because we realized this that we decided to leave
the whole matter in your hands--all the announcing and things. But
of course," with resignation, "if we have taken too much for
granted; if you are not equal to it, we had better not come back to
Bainbridge at all."

"Oh," cried Aunt Caroline with fresh tears. "My poor boy! The very
idea! To think that I should live to hear you say it! How gladly I
would have saved you from this had I known in time."

"I am sure you would, Aunt. But the gladness would have been all
yours. I did not want to be saved, you see, and people who are saved
against their will are so frightfully ungrateful. Wouldn't you like
a dry hanky? Just wait till you've had a couple of dozen sandwiches.
You'll feel quite differently. Think what a relief it will be to
have me off your mind. You can relax now, and rest. You've been
overworking for years. Consider how peaceful it will be not to have
to ask any more silly girls to visit. You know you hated it, really,
and only did it for my sake."

"I did everything for your sake," moaned Aunt Caroline brokenly.
"And they were silly. But I hoped you would not notice it. And you
will never know what I went through trying to get them down for
breakfast at nine."

"I can imagine it," with ready sympathy. "They always yawned. And
there must have been many darker secrets which I never guessed. You
kept them from me. Do you remember that hole in Ada's stocking?"

"Yes, but I--"

"Never mind. The fib wasn't nearly as big as the hole. But how could
you expect me to help noticing the general lightness and frivolity
of your visitors, shown up so plainly against the background of your
own character?"

"Y-es. I didn't think of that"

"Perhaps I should never have married if I had not got away--from the
comparison, I mean."

"There was a danger, I suppose. But," with renewed grief, "Oh,
Benis, such a wedding! No cards, no cake--and in pyjamas--oh!"

"Come now, Aunt, don't give way! And do you feel that it is quite
right to criticise the clergy? I always fancy that it is the first
step toward free-thinking. And you couldn't see much of them, you
know, only the legs. Besides, consider what a wedding with cards and
cake would have meant in Bainbridge at this time. No second maid, no
proper cook! We should have appeared at a disadvantage in the eyes
of the whole town. As it is, we can take our time, engage competent
help, select a favorable date and give a reception which will be the
very last word in elegance."

"Yes! I could get--what am I talking about? Of course I shan't do
anything of the kind. How can you ask me to? Oh, Benis--a heathen!"

"Not a bit of it, Aunt. Church of England. But I can see what has
happened. You have been allowing old Bones to cloud your judgment. I
never knew a fellow so prone to jump to idiotic conclusions. No
doubt he heard that I had come in search of Indians and, without a
single inquiry, decided that I had married one."

"It was hasty of him. I admit that," said Aunt Caroline wiping her
eyes.

"But with your knowledge of my personal character you will
understand that my interest in, and admiration for, our aborigines
in their darker and wilder state--"

"John said they were only fairly wild."

"Well, even in a fairly wild state. Or indeed in a wholly tame one.
My interest at any time is purely scientific and would never lead me
to marry into their family circle. My wife's father, as a matter of
fact, is English. A professional man, retired, and living upon a
small--er--estate near Vancouver. Her mother, who died when Desire
was a child, was English also."

"Who took care of the child?"

"A Chinaman." The professor was listening to Desire's distant laugh
and answered absently with more truth than wisdom.

"What!" The tone of horror brought him back.

"Oh, you mean who brought her up? Her father, of course."

"You said a Chinaman."

"They had a Chinese cook."

"Scandalous! Had the child no Aunt?"

The professor sighed. "Poor girl," he said. "One of the first things
she told me about herself was, 'I have no Aunt.'"

Aunt Caroline polished her nose thoughtfully.

"That would account for a great deal," she admitted. "And her being
English on both sides is something. Now that you speak of it, I did
notice a slight accent. I never met an English person yet who could
say "a" properly. But she is young and may learn. In the meantime--"

"The sandwiches are ready," called Desire from the tent.




CHAPTER XVII

"And do you mean to tell me that she really believes that lie?"

Benis Spence had taken his medical adviser up the slope to the
Indian burying-ground. It was the one place within reasonable radius
where they were not likely to be interrupted by periodic appearances
of Aunt Caroline. Aunt Caroline never took liberties with burying-
grounds. "A graveyard is a graveyard," said Aunt Caroline, "and not
a place for casual conversation." There-fore, amid the graves and
the crosses, the friends felt fairly safe.

"Why shouldn't she believe it?" countered Spence. "Don't you suppose
I can tell a lie properly?"

"To be honest--I don't."

"Well," somewhat gloomily, "this one seemed to go over all right. It
went much farther than I ever expected. It's far too up-and-coming.
The way it grows frightens me. At first there was nothing--just an
'experience.' A mild abstraction, buried in the past, a sentimental
'has-been' without form or substance. Then, without warning, the
experience acquired a name, and then a history and then, just when I
had begun to forget about it, hair suddenly popped up, yellow hair,
and, the day after, eyes--blue eyes, misty. The nose remains
indeterminate, but noses often do. Only yesterday I felt compelled
to add a mouth. Small and red, I made it--ugh! How I hate a small
red mouth. Oh, if it amuses you--all right!"

"Laugh at it yourself, old man! It's all you can do. But what a
frightful list of blunders. If you had to tell a lie why didn't you
take Mark Twain's advice and tell a good one? The name, for
instance--why on earth did you choose 'Mary?' Even 'Marion' would
have been safer. Don't you know you can't turn a corner in Bain-
bridge or anywhere else without stumbling over a Mary? There's a
Mary in my office at the present minute and--yes, by Jove, she has
golden hair!"

The professor looked stubborn.

"My Mary's hair was not golden. It was yellow, plain yellow. I
remember I made a point of that."

"Well then, there's Mary Davis. You remember her?"

"The one who visited Aunt Caroline?"

"Yes. Pretty girl. About your own age! 'Twas thought in Bainbridge
that her thoughts turned youward. Her hair was yellow then, and may
be again by now. And she had blue eyes, bright blue."

"My Mary's were not bright blue. Hers were misty, like the hills."

"Forget it, old man! You'll find you won't be able to insist on
shades. Any Mary with golden, yellow, tawny or tow-colored hair, and
old blue, grey blue, Alice blue or plain blue eyes will come under
Mrs. Spence's reflective observation. Your progress will be a
regular charge of the light brigade with Marys on all sides."

"Now you're making yourself unpleasant," said the professor. "And,
to change the subject, why do you insist upon calling Desire 'Mrs.
Spence?' She calls you John."

To his questioner's infinite amazement the doctor blushed.

"She has told me I might," he admitted. "But it seemed so dashed
cheeky."

"Why? You are at least ten years older than she. And a friend of the
family."

"Ten years is nothing," said the doctor. "And I want to be her
friend, not a friend of the family. Besides, she, herself, is not at
all like the girls of twenty whom one usually meets."

"She is simpler, perhaps."

"In manner, but not in character. There is a distance, a poise, a--
surely you feel what I mean."

"Imagination, John. It is you who create the distance by clinging to
formality."

"All right. You're sure you don't object?"

"My dear Bones, why should I possibly?"

The doctor looked sulky. Benis smiled.

"Look here, John," he said after a reflective pause. "Desire is as
direct as a child. If she calls you by your first name you can
depend that she feels no embarrassment about it. So why should you?
And there's another thing. She may not find everything quite easy in
Bainbridge. She will need your frank and unembarrassed friendship--
as well as mine."

"Yours?"

"Yes. You understand the situation, don't you? At least as far as
understanding is necessary. And you are the only one who will
understand. So you will be of more use to her than anyone else,
except me. I am going to do my best to make her happy. It's my job.
I am not turning it over to you. But there may be times when I shall
fail. There may be times when I shan't know that she isn't happy--a
lack of perspective or something. If ever there comes a time like
that and you know of it, don't spare me. I have taken the
responsibility of her youth upon my shoulders and I am not going to
shirk. It will be her happiness first--at all costs."

"People aren't usually made happy at all costs," said the doctor
wisely.

"They may be, if they do not know the price."

"I see."

"You'll know where I stand a bit better when you've read a letter
you'll find waiting for you at home. But here is the whole point of
the matter--I had to get desire away from that devilish old parent
of hers. And marriage was the only effective way. But Desire did not
want marriage. She has never told me just why but I have seen and
heard enough to know that her horror of the idea is deep seated, a
spiritual nausea, an. abnormal twist which may never straighten. I
say 'may,' because there is a good chance the other way. All one can
do is to wait. And in the meantime I want her to find life pleasant.
She once told me that she was a window-gazer. I want to open all the
doors."

"Except the one door that; matters," said Rogers gloomily.

"Nonsense! You don't believe that. Life has many things to give
besides the love of man and woman."

"Has it? You'll know better some day--even a cold-blooded fish like
you."

"Fish?" said Spence sorrowfully. "And from mine own familiar friend?
Fish!"

"What will you do," exploded the doctor, "when she wakes up and
finds how you have cheated her? When she realizes, too late, that
she has sold her birthright?"

The professor rose slowly and dusted the dry grass from the knees of
his knickers. "Tut, tut!" he said, "the subject excites you. Let us
talk about me for a change. Observe me carefully, John, and tell me
what you think of me. Only not in marine language. Am I an Apollo?
Or a Greek god? Or even a movie star of the third magnitude? Or am
I, not to put too fine a point on it, as homely as a hedge fence?"

"Oh, hang it, Benis, stop your fooling."

"I'm not fooling. I want you to understand that I have consulted my
mirror. And I know just how likely I am to appeal to the imagination
of a young girl. I take my chance, nevertheless. Your question,
divested of oratory, means what shall I do if Desire finds her mate
and that mate is not myself? My answer, also divested of oratory, is
that I do not keep what does not belong to me. Is that plain?"

The doctor nodded. "Plain enough," he said. "But how will you know?"

"Well, I might guess. You see," resuming his seat and his ordinary
manner at the same time, "Desire is my secretary. I make a point of
studying the psychology of those who work with me. And, aside from
the slight abnormality which I have mentioned, Desire is very true
to type, her own type--a very womanly one. And a woman in love is
hard to mistake. But," cheerfully, "she is only a child yet in
matters of loving. And she may never grow up."

"You seem quite happy about it."

" 'Call no man happy till he is dead.' And yet--I am happy. If tears
must come, why anticipate them?"

"There speaks the hopeless optimist," said Rogers, laughing. "But
because I called you a fish, I'll give you a bit of valuable advice.
I can't see you scrap quite all your chances. Kill Mary."

"I can't. Besides, why should I? Desire likes to hear about her. Or
says she does. It provides her with an interest. And a little
perfectly human jealousy is very stimulating."

"You think she is jealous?"

"Oh, not in the way you mean. But every woman likes to be first,
even with her friends. And if she can't be first, she is healthily
curious about the woman who is. Desire would miss Mary very much."

"You've been a fool, Benis."

"I shall try not to be a bigger one."

The friends looked polite daggers at each other. And suddenly
smiled.

"To be continued in our next," said Rogers. "Is it finally settled
that we turn homeward tomorrow?"

"Yes. We did our last extracting from the hawk-eyed one yesterday.
He has been a real find, John. Do you know what he calls Aunt
Caroline? 'The-old-woman-who-sniffs-the-air.' Desire did not
translate. Isn't she rather a wonder, John? Did you ever see any-
thing like the way she manages Aunt?"

But the doctor's eyes were on the distant tents.

"Someone in blue is waving to us," he said. "It must be your Aunt."

Spence lazily raised his eyes.

"No. That's Desire. She is wearing blue."

"She was wearing pink this morning."

"Yes. But she won't be wearing it this afternoon."

"How do you know?" curiously.

The professor yawned. "By psychology! I happened to mention that
pink was Mary's favorite color."

Rogers opened his lips. He was plainly struggling with himself.

"Don't trouble," said Spence serenely. "I know what you feel it your
duty to say. But it isn't really your duty. And there would be no
use in saying it, anyway. I take my chances!"




CHAPTER XVIII

The long Transcontinental puffed steadily up toward the white-capped
peaks of a continent. They were a day out from Vancouver--a day
during which Desire had sat upon the observation platform, drugged
with wonder and beauty. She had known mountains all her life. They
were dear and familiar, and the sound of rushing water was in her
blood. But these heights and depths, these incredible valleys, these
ever-climbing, piling hills pushing brown shoulders through their
million pines, the dizzy, twisting track and the constant marvel of
the man-made train which braved it, held her spellbound and almost
speechless.

Fortunately, Aunt Caroline was indisposed and had remained all day
in the privacy of their reserved compartment. Only one such
reservation had been available and the men of the party had been
compelled to content themselves with upper berths in the next car.

To Desire, who presented that happy combination, a good traveller
still uncloyed by travel, every deft arrangement of the comfortable
train provided matter for curiosity and interest--the little ladders
for the upstair berths, the tiny reading-lamps, the paper bags for
one's new hat, the queer little soaps and drinking cups in sealed
oil paper--all these brought their separate thrill. And then there
was the inexhaustible interest of the travellers themselves. When
night had fallen and the great Outside withdrew itself, she turned
with eager eyes to the shifting world around her, a human world even
more absorbing than the panorama of the hills.

What was there, for instance, about that handsome old lady, from
Golden (fascinating name!) which permitted her to act as if the
whole train were her private suite and all the porters servants of
her person? She was the most autocratic old lady Desire had ever
seen and far younger and more alert than the tired-looking daughter
who accompanied her. They were going to New York. They went to New
York every year. desire wondered why.

She wondered, too, about the rancher's wife going home to Scotland
for the first time since her marriage. What did it feel like to be
going home--to a real home with a mother and brothers and sisters?
What did it feel like to be taking two dark-haired, bright-eyed
babies, as like as twins and with only a year between them, for the
fond approval of grand-parents across the seas? . . . The rancher's
wife looked as if she enjoyed it. But women will pretend anything.

Desire's eyes shifted to the inevitable honeymoon couple who were
going to Winnipeg to visit "his" people. The bride was almost
painfully smart, but she was pretty and "he" adored her. Her mouth
was small and red. It fascinated Desire. She could not keep her eyes
off it. It was like--well, it was the kind of mouth men seemed to
admire. She tried honestly to admire it her-self, but the more she
tried the less admirable she found it. She wondered if Benis--

"What do you think of the bride?" she murmured, under cover of a
magazine.

"Where?" said Benis, in an unnecessarily loud voice, laying down his
paper.

"S-ssh! Over there. The girl in green."

"Pretty little thing," said Benis. His tone lacked conviction.

"Lovely eyes, don't you think? Nice hair and such a darling nose.
But her mouth--isn't her mouth rather small?"

"Regular 'prunes and prisms,'" agreed Benis.

"It is very red, though."

"Lipstick, probably."

"But I thought you liked small, red mouths."

"Hate 'em," said Benis, who had a shockingly bad memory.

Desire went to bed thoughtful. "I suppose," she thought as she lay
listening to the swinging train, "men like certain things because
they belong to certain people and not because they like them really
at all." This was not very lucid but it seemed to satisfy Desire for
she stopped thinking and went to sleep.

Morning found them on the top of the world. desire was up and out
long before the mists had lifted. She watched the wonder of their
going, she saw the coming of the sun. She drew in, with great deep
breaths, the high, sweet air. The cream of her skin glowed softly
with the tang of it.

"Quite lovely!" said a voice behind her, and Desire turned to find
her solitude shared by the young old lady from Golden.

"Your complexion, I mean, my dear," said she, sitting down
comfortably in the folds of a fur coat. "I never use adjectives
about the mountains. It would seem impertinent. How old are you?"

Desire gave her age smiling. "Charming age," nodded the old lady.
"Youth is a wonderful thing. See that you keep it."

"Like you?" said Desire, her smile brightening.

The old lady looked pleased.

"Quite so," she said. "Never allow yourself to believe that silly
folly about a woman being as old as she looks. As if a mirror had
more mind than the person looking in it! I remember very well waking
up on the morning of my thirtieth birthday and thinking, 'I am
thirty. I am growing old.' But, thank heaven, I had a mind. I soon
put a stop to that. 'Not a day older will I grow!' I said. And I
never have. What's a mind for, if not to make use of?"

Desire looked a little awed at an audacity which defied time.

"Don't misunderstand me," went on her companion. "I don't mean that
I tried to look young. I was young. I am young still."

"Yes," said Desire. "I see what you mean. But--wasn't it lonely?"

The old lady patted her arm with an approving hand.

"Clever child!" she said. "Yes, of course it was lonely. But one
can't have everything. Pick out what you want most and cling to it.
Let the rest go. It's a good philosophy."

"Isn't it selfish?"

"Youth is always selfish," complacently. "I feel quite complimented
now when anyone calls me a selfish creature. You are a bride, aren't
you?"

Desire blushed beautifully. But one couldn't resent so frank an
interest.

"Yes," she said.

"That thin, dark man is your husband? The one with the chin?"

"He has a chin," doubtfully. "Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, he is my
husband."

"Odd you never noticed his chin before," commented the old lady.
"Well, look out! That man has reserves. Who is the other one?"

"A friend."

The old lady shook a well-kept finger.

"Inconvenient things, friends!" said she. "Far better without them."

"Haven't you any?"

"Not one. They went on. All old fogies now." Her air of boredom was
unfeigned.

"But you have your daughter."

"Too old!" The youthful eyes twinkled maliciously. "Now you, my
dear, would be nearer my age. For you have youth within as well as
without. Keep it. It's all there is worth having."

Desire smiled. But the words lingered. She had never valued her
youth. She had been impatient of it. And now to be told that it was
all there was worth having! It was the creed of selfishness. And
yet--had life already given her one of her greatest treasures and
had she come near to missing the meaning of the gift?

At breakfast she observed her husband's chin so narrowly that he
became uneasy, wondering if he had forgotten to shave. She looked at
John's chin, too, with reflective eyes. Undoubtedly it was much
inferior.

The train had conquered the mountains now and was plunging down upon
their farther side. Soon they were in the foot-hills and then
nothing but a flashing streak across an endless, endless tableland
of wheat. Desire, who had never seen the prairie, smiled
whimsically.

"It is like coming from the world's cathedral to the world's
breakfast-table!" said she.

Aunt Caroline snorted. For her part, she said, she found train
breakfasts much the same anywhere except near the Great Lakes, where
one might expect better fish.

It grew very hot. The effortless speed of the train rolled up the
blazing miles and threw them behind, league on league. The sun set
and rose on a level sky. The babies of the rancher's wife grew tired
and sticky. They were almost too much for their equally tired
mother, so half of them sat on Desire's lap most of the time.
desire's half seemed to bounce a great deal and gave bubbly kisses,
but the rings around its fat wrist and the pink dimples in its
fingers were well worth while keeping clean and cool just to look
at. It was true, as Desire reminded herself, that she did not care
for children, but anyone might find a round, fat one with cooey
laughs a pleasant thing to play with! She did it mostly when Benis
was in the smoker with John.

At Winnipeg the honeymoon couple left them and the old lady from
Golden, much to her disgust, was also compelled to stay over for a
day because her middle-aged daughter was train-sick. Other and less
interesting faces took their places.

Desire watched them hopefully but the only one who seemed appealing
was a sturdy prairie school teacher going "home." Desire liked the
school teacher. She was so solid, so sure of herself, so wrapped up
in and satisfied with something which she called "education." She
asked Desire where she had been educated. desire did not seem to
know. "Just anywhere," she said, "when father felt like it and had
time. And I taught myself shorthand."

"Then you aren't really educated at all?" said the teacher with
frank pity. "What a shame! Education is so important."

Benis was frankly afraid of her.

"But you need not be," Desire assured him. "She looks up to you. She
thinks that, being a professor, you have even more education than
she has."

"God forbid!" said Benis devoutly.

"Besides, she knows all about you. I found out today that she is an
Ontario girl. And she lives--guess where? In Bainbridge!"

Aunt Caroline (they were at dinner) looked up from her roast lamb
and remarked "Impossible."

"But she does, Aunt. She says so."

Aunt Caroline fancied that probably the young person was mistaken.
"Certainly," she said, "I have never heard of her."

"She lives," said Desire, "on Barker Street and she took her first
class teacher's certificate at Bainbridge Collegiate Institute."

Aunt Caroline fancied that they gave almost anyone a certificate
there. All one had to do was to pass the examinations. As to Barker
Street--there was a Barker Street, certainly. And this young person
might live on it. She, herself, was not acquainted with the
neighborhood.

"But she knows you," Desire persisted. "She said, 'Oh, is Miss
Caroline Campion your Aunt? I remember her from my youth up.'"

"Very impertinent," said Miss Campion. Her nephew's eyes began to
twinkle.

"Oh, everyone knows Aunt Caroline," he explained. "But then,
everyone knows the Queen of England."

Aunt Caroline was mollified. "Of course, in that sense--" She felt
able to go on with her roast lamb.

Dr. Rogers, who had listened to this interchange with delight, said
now that the young lady had been quite right about her place of
residence. She did live in Bainbridge, on Barker Street. He did not
know her personally but her older sister was a patient of his. The
mother and father were dead. Very nice, quiet people.

Desire was quite young enough to laugh and to point this with "Dead
ones usually are."

The school teacher, at another table, heard the laugh and felt a
passing sense of injustice. It seemed unfair that anyone so
obviously without education could feel free to laugh in that
satisfying way. It was plain that young Mrs. Spence scarcely
realized her sad deficiency. And it certainly was a little
discouraging that the cleverest men almost invariably. . . .

Fort William came and passed and in the sparkling sunshine of
another morning the train dashed into the wild Superior country
where the wealth lies under the rock instead of above it. To Desire,
her first glimpse of the Great Lake was like a glimpse of home. The
coolness of the air was grateful after prairie heat but, scarcely
had she welcomed back the smell of pine and fir, before it, too, was
left behind and they swung swiftly into a softer land--a land of
rolling fields and fences and farmhouses; of little towns, with
tree-lined roads; of streams less noisy and more disciplined; of fat
cows drowsy in the growing heat.

"This," said Aunt Caroline with a breath of proprietary
satisfaction, "is Ontario."

Desire, always literal, pointed out that according to the map in the
time-table, they had been in Ontario for some considerable time.

Aunt Caroline thought that the map was probably mistaken. "For," she
added with finality, "it was certainly not the Ontario to which I
have been accustomed."

This settled the matter for any sensible person.

"We are nearly home now," she went on kindly. "I hope you are not
feeling very nervous, my dear."

"I am not feeling nervous at all," said Desire with surprise.

Fortunately Aunt Caroline took this proof of insensibility in a
flattering light.

"Yes, yes," she said. "It is not, of course, as if you were arriving
alone. You can depend upon me entirely. John, are you sure that your
car will be in waiting?"

"I wired it to wait," grinned John. "And usually it's a good
waiter."

"Because," said Aunt Caroline, "we do not wish to be delayed at the
station. If Eliza Merry weather is there, the quicker we get away
the better. I am determined that she shall be introduced to Desire
exactly when other people are and not before. Please remember that,
Benis. Introduce Desire to no one at the station. I think, my dear,
we may put on our hats."

"It's an hour yet, Aunt."

"I know, but I do not wish to be hurried."

Desire put on her hat. It was because she was always willing to give
Aunt Caroline her way in small matters that she invariably took her
own in anything that counted. It is a simple recipe and recommended
to anyone with Aunts. . . .

"There's Potter's wood!" said Benis, who had been somewhat silent.

Desire looked out eagerly. But Potter's wood was just like any other
wood and--

"There's Sadler's Pond!" said John.

"They've cut down the old elm!" Aunt Caroline voiced deep
displeasure.

"And put up a bill-board," said Benis.

Desire felt a trifle lonely. These people, so close to her and yet
so far away, were going home.

"Oh, how I wish you weren't stopping off," said the rancher's wife,
an actual tear on her flushed cheek. "You've been so kind, Mrs.
Spence. And anyone more understanding with children I never saw.
When you've got a boy like my Sandy for your own--"

"By jove!" exclaimed Benis. "They're starting to cut down Miller's
hill at last."

Aunt Caroline rose flutteringly. "There is the water-tank," she
announced in an agitated voice. "Desire, where is your parasol? My
dear, don't kiss that child again, it's sticky. WHERE is my hand-
bag? John, do you see your car?"

"I don't SEE it," admitted John, "but--"

"Bainbridge!" shouted the brakeman.




CHAPTER XIX

Desire was conscious of a brown and gabled station with a bow-window
and flower-beds, a long platform where baggage trucks lumbered, the
calling of taxi-men, a confused noise of greeting and farewell, and
Aunt Caroline's voice uncomfortably near her ear.

"There she is!" whispered Aunt Caroline hoarsely. "Be careful! Don't
look!"

"Who? Where?" asked Desire, wondering.

"Eliza Merryweather. Second to the left."

There was another confused impression of curious faces, of one face
especially with eager eyes and bobbing grey curls, and then she was
caught, as it were, in the swirl of Aunt Caroline and deposited,
somewhat breathless, in a car which, providentially, seemed to
expect her.

Miss Campion was breathing heavily but her face was calm.

"She nearly got it," she said. "But not quite."

"Got what?" asked Desire, still wondering.

"An introduction. Where is Benis? My dear, DON'T LOOK! She is the
most determined person."

Miss Campion herself was staring straight ahead. Desire, much
amused, endeavored to do the same.

"Surely it is a trifle!" she murmured.

But Miss Campion was preoccupied. "Where can Benis be? John, do you
know what is keeping Benis? Oh, here he is," with an exclamation of
relief. "Now we can start. Did I hear you say 'trifle,' my dear?
There are no trifles in Bainbridge. John, I think we might drive
home by the Park."

They drove home by the Park. It was not a long drive, just a dozen
or so of quiet streets, sentineled by maples; a factory in a hollow;
a church upon a hill; a glimpse of two long rows of prosperous
looking business blocks facing each other across an asphalted
pavement; a white brick school where children shouted; then quiet
streets again, the leisurely rising of a boulevarded slope and--
home.

They turned in at a white gate in the centre of a long fence backed
by trees. The Spences had built their homestead in days when land
was plentiful and, being a liberal-minded race, they had taken of it
what they would. Of all the houses in Bainbridge theirs alone was
prodigal of space. It stood aloof in its own grounds, its face
turned negligently from the street, outside. For the passer-by it
had no welcome; it kept itself, its flowers and its charm, for its
own people.

Desire said "Oh," as she saw it--long and white, with green shutters
and deep verandas and wide, unhurried steps. She had seen many
beautiful homes but she had never seen "home" before. The beauty and
the peace of it caught the breath in her throat. She was glad that
Benis did not speak as he gave her his hand from the car. She was
glad for the volubility of Aunt Caroline and for the preoccupation
of Dr. John with his engine. She was glad that she and Benis stepped
info the cool, dim hall alone. In the dimness she could just see the
little, nervous smile upon his lips and the warm and kindly look in
his steady eyes.

After that first moment, the picture blurred a little with the
bustle of arrival. Aunt Caroline, large and light in her cream dust-
coat, seemed everywhere. The dimness fled before her and rooms and
stairs and a white-capped maid emerged. The rooms confused Desire,
there were so many of them and all with such a strong family
likeness of dark furniture and chintz. Aunt Caroline called them by
their names and, throwing open their doors, announced them in
prideful tones. Desire felt very diffident, they were such exclusive
rooms, so old and settled and sure of themselves--and she was so
new. They might, she felt, cold-shoulder her entirely. It was touch
and go.

All but one room!

"This," said her conductor, throwing open a door, "is where Benis
does his work. He calls it his den. But you will agree that library
sounds better."

Desire went in--with the other rooms she had been content to stand
in the doors--and, as she entered, the room seemed to draw round and
welcome her. It was deeply and happily familiar--that shallow,
rounded window from which one could lean and touch the grass out-
side, that dark, old desk with its leather and brass, that blue bowl
on the corner of the mantel-piece, the lazy, yet expectant, chairs;
even the beech tree whose light fingers tapped upon the window
glass! It was all part of her life, past or future--somewhere.

"You see," said Aunt Caroline in her character of showman, "we have
fireplaces!"

Desire was so used to fireplaces that this did not seem
extraordinary and yet, from Aunt Caroline's tone, she knew that it
must be, and tried to look impressed.

"They are dirty," went on Aunt Caroline, "but they are worth it.
They give atmosphere. If you have a house like this, you have to
have fireplaces. That is what I tell my maids when I engage them. So
that they cannot grumble afterwards. Fireplaces are dirty, I tell
them, but--what are you staring at, my dear?"

"Was I staring? I didn't know. It is just that I seem to know it
all."

Aunt Caroline looked wise. "Oh, yes. I know what you mean. Benis
explains that curious feeling--some-thing about your right sphere or
something being larger than your left, or quicker, I forget which.
Not that I can see any sense in it, anyway. Do you mind if I leave
you here? I want to see if Olive has made the changes I ordered
upstairs."

"Get a hump on!" said a loud, rude voice.

Aunt Caroline jumped.

"Oh, my dear! It's that horrible parrot. Benis insists on keeping
it. Some soldier friend of his left it to him. A really terrible
bird. And its language is disgraceful. It doesn't know anything but
slang. Not even 'Polly wants a cracker.' You'll hardly believe me,
but it says, 'Gimme the eats!' instead."

"Can it!" said the parrot. Aunt Caroline fled.

Desire, to whom a talking bird was a delightful novelty, went over
to the large cage where a beautiful green and yellow parrot swung
mournfully, head down.

"Pretty Polly," said Desire timidly.

The bird made a chuckling noise in his throat like a derisive
goblin.

"What is your name, Polly?"

"Yorick," said Polly unexpectedly. "Alas. Poor Yorick! I knew him
well."

"You'd think it knew what I said!" thought Desire with a start. She
edged away and once more the welcoming spirit of the room rose up to
meet her. She tried first one chair and then another, fingered the
leather on their backs and finally settled on the light, straight
one in the round window. It was as familiar as the glove upon her
hand, and the view from the window--well, the view from the window
was partially blocked by the professor under the beech tree,
smoking.

Seeing her, he discarded his cigar and came nearer, leaning on the
sill of the opened window.

"You haven't got your hat off yet," he said in a discontented tone.
"Aren't you going to stay?"

"May not a lady wear her hat in her own house?"

"Oh, I see. Then I shan't have to butter your fingers?"

"Do you compare me to a stray cat?"

"I never compare you to anything."

Desire wanted terribly to ask why, but an unaccustomed shyness
prevented her. Instead she asked if Yorick were really the parrot's
name.

"I don't know. But he says it is, so I take his word for it. Do you
want to talk about parrots? Because it's not one of my best
subjects. May I change it?"

"If you like."

"Don't say, 'If you like,' say 'Right-o.' I always do when I think
of it. Since the war it is expected of one--a sign of this new
fraternity, you know, between Englishmen and Colonials. Everyone
over there is expected to say 'I guess' for the same reason. Only
they don't do it. How do you like your workroom?" "Mine?"

"I thought you might not like me to say 'Ours.'"

"Don't be silly!"

"Well, how do you like it, anyway?"

Desire's eyes met his for an instant and then fell quickly. But not
before he had seen a mistiness which looked remarkably like--Good
heavens, he might have known that she would be tired and upset!

"You have noticed, of course," he went on lightly, "that we have
fireplaces? They are very dirty but they provide atmosphere. Almost
too much atmosphere sometimes. There are no dampers and when the
wind blows the wrong way--Oh, my dear child, do cry if you really
feel like it."

"Cry!" indignantly. "I n--never cry."

"Well, try it for a change. I believe it is strongly recommended
and--don't go away. Please."

"I had no idea I was going to be silly," said Desire after a moment,
in an annoyed voice.

"It usually comes unexpectedly. Probably you are tired."

Desire wiped her eyes with businesslike thoroughness.

"No. I'm not. I'm suppressed. Do you remember what you said about
suppressed emotion the other day? Well, I'm like that, and it's your
fault. You bring me to this beautiful home and you never, never
once, allow me to thank you properly--oh, I'm not going to do it, so
don't look frightened. But one feels so safe here. Benis, it's years
and years since I felt just safe."

"I know. I swear every time I think of it"

"Then you can guess a little of what it means?"

Their hands were very close upon the window-sill.

"As a psychologist--" began the professor.

"Oh--No!" murmured Desire.

Their hands almost touched.

And just at that moment Aunt Caroline came in.

"Are you there, Benis?" asked Aunt Caroline unnecessarily. "I wish
you would come in and take--oh, I did not mean you to come in
through the window. If Olive saw you! But a Spence has no idea of
dignity. Now that you are in, I wish you would take Desire up to
your room. I wired Olive to prepare the west room. It is grey and
pink, so nice for Desire who is somewhat pale. The bed is very
comfortable, too, and large. But, of course, if you prefer any other
room you will change. Desire, my dear, it is your home, I do not
forget that. I have had your bags carried up. Benis can manage his
own."

If Desire were pale naturally, she was more than pale now. Her
frightened eyes fluttered to her husband's face and fluttered away
again. Why had she never thought of this! Sheer panic held her quiet
in the straight-backed chair.

But Spence, without seeming to notice, had seen and understood her
startled eyes.

"Thanks, Aunt," he said cheerfully. "Of course desire must make her
own choice. But if she takes my tip she will stay where you've put
her. It's a jolly room. As for me, I'm going up to my old diggings--
thought I'd told you."

"What!"

Aunt Caroline's remark was not a question. It was an explosion.

Spence dropped his bantering manner.

"My dear Aunt. I hate to disturb your arrangements with my
eccentricities. But insomnia is a hard master. I must sleep in my
old room. We'll consider that settled."

"Humph!" said Aunt Caroline.

Like the house, she was somewhat old fashioned.




CHAPTER XX

Tea had been laid on the west lawn under the maples.

Possibly some time in the past the Spences had been a leisured
people. They had brought from the old country the tradition of
afternoon tea. Many others had, no doubt, done the same but with
these others the tradition had not persisted. In the more crowded
life of a new country they had let it go. The Spences had not let it
go. It wasn't their way. And in time it had assumed the importance
of a survival. It stood for some-thing. Other Bainbridgers had
"Teas." The Spences had "tea."

Desire had been in her new home a month and had just made a remark
which showed her astonished Aunt Caroline that tea was no more of a
surprise to her than fireplaces had been.

"Do you mean to tell me you have always had tea?" Miss Campion
ceased from pouring in pure surprise.

"Why, yes." Desire's surprise was even greater than Aunt Caroline's.
"Li Ho never dreamed of forgetting tea. He served it much more
regularly than dinner because sometimes there wasn't any dinner to
serve. It was a great comfort--the tea, I mean."

"But how extraordinary! And a Chinaman, too."

"I suppose my mother trained him."

"And Vancouver isn't Bainbridge," put in Benis lazily. "A great many
people there are more English than they are in England. All the old-
time Chinese 'boys' served tea as a matter of course."

"Even when no one was calling?"

"Absolutely sans callers of any kind."

"Well, I am sure that is very nice." But it was plain from Aunt
Caroline's tone that she thought it a highly impertinent
infringement upon the privileges of a Spence. She poured her
nephew's cup in aloof silence and refreshed herself with a second
before re-entering the conversation. When she did, it was with
something of a bounce.

"Benis," she said abruptly, "can you tell me just exactly what is a
Primitive?"

"Eh?" The professor had been trying to read the afternoon News-
Telegram and sip tea at the same time.

Aunt Caroline repeated her question.

"Certainly," said Spence. "That is to say, I can be fairly exact.
Would you like me to begin now? If you have nothing to do until
dinner I can get you nicely started. And there is a course of
reading--"

Aunt Caroline stopped him with dignity. "Thank you, Benis. I infer
that the subject is a complicated one. Therefore I will word my
question more simply. Would an Indian, for instance, be considered a
Primitive?"

"Um--some Indians might."

"Oh," thoughtfully, "then I suppose that is what Mrs. Stopford Brown
meant."

Her delighted listeners exchanged an appreciative glance.

"Very probably," said Benis, with tact, "were you discussing
Primitives at the Club?"

"No. Though it might be rather a good idea, don't you think? If, as
you say, there is a course of reading, it would be sufficiently
literary, I suppose? At present we are taking up psycho-analysis--
dreams, you know. It was not my choice. As a subject for club study
I consider it too modern. Besides, I seldom dream. And when I do, my
dreams are not remarkable. However, it seems that all dreams are
remarkable. And I admit that there may be something in it. Take, for
instance, a dream which I had the other night. I dreamed that I was
endeavoring to do my hair and every time I put my hand on a hairpin
that horrible parrot of yours snapped it up and swallowed it. Now,
according to psycho-analysis, that dream has a meaning. Understood
rightly it discloses that I have, in my waking moments, a repressed
feeling of intense dislike for that hateful bird. And it is quite
true. I have. So you can see how useful that kind of thing might be
in getting at the truth in cases of murder. I hope," turning to
Desire, "I hope I am not being too scientific for you, my dear? When
the ladies feel that they know you better you may perhaps join our
club, if you care for anything so serious? May I give you more tea?"

"Thanks, yes. That would be delightful."

"Not so delightful, my dear, as educative. But as I was saying,
Benis, it is all your fault that this misconception has got about. I
blame you very much in the matter. It comes naturally from your
writing so continually about Indians and foreigners and Primitives
generally. People come to associate you with them. Still, I think it
was extremely rude of Mrs. Stopford Brown to say it."

"So do I," said Spence, with conviction.

"I asked Mrs. Everett, who told me, if anyone else had made remarks
leading up to it. But she says not a word. It was just that Mrs.
Everett said that it was strange that when you had taken so long to
consider marriage you should have made up your mind so quickly in
the end--'Gone off like a sky-rocket!' was her exact wording, and
Mrs. Stopford Brown said, in that frivolous way she has, 'Oh, I
suppose he stumbled across a Primitive.' You will notice, Desire,
that Mrs. Stopford Brown's name is not upon the list for your
reception."

"But--" began Desire, controlling her face with difficulty.

"No 'buts,' my dear. It may seem severe, but Mrs. Stopford Brown is
quite too careless in her general conversation. It is true that her
remark is directly traceable to my nephew's unfortunate writings,
but she should have investigated her facts before speaking. The
result is that it is all over town that you have Indian blood. They
say that, out there, almost everyone married squaws once and that is
why there is no dower law in British Columbia. Those selfish people
did not wish their Indian wives to wear the family jewels. Benis!
You will break that cup if you balance it so carelessly. What I want
to know is, what are you going to do about it?"

"Not being a resident of British Columbia, I cannot do anything,
Aunt. But I think you will find that since women got the vote the
matter has been adjusted."

"I do not understand you. What possible connection has the women's
vote with Mrs. Stopford Brown?"

"I thought you were speaking of dower laws. As for Mrs. Brown,
haven't you already fitted the punishment to the crime?"

"Then you will not officially contradict the rumor?"

"Dear Aunt, I am not an official. And a rumor is of no importance--
until it is contradicted. Surely you are letting yourself get
excited about nothing."

Aunt Caroline bestowed upon Desire the feminine glance which means,
"What fools men are."

"That's all very well now," she said. "But it is incredible how
rumor persists. And when you are a father--there! I knew you would
end by breaking that cup."

"Aren't we being rather absurd?" asked Desire a little later when
Aunt Caroline and the tea tray had departed together. "Besides, you
can't break a cup every time."

Spence sighed. It was undoubtedly true that cups do come to an end.

"What we want to do," said Desire, angry at her heightened color,
"is to be sensible."

"That's what Aunt Caroline is. Do you want us to be like Aunt
Caroline?"

"I want us to face facts without blushing and jumping."

"I never blush."

"You jump."

"Sorry. But give me time. I am new at this yet. Presently I shall be
able to listen to Aunt describing my feelings as a grandfather
without a quiver. Poor Aunt!"

"Why do you say 'poor Aunt'?"

"It is going to be rather a blow to her, you know."

"Do you think we ought to--tell her?"

"Good heavens, no!"

"But it seems so mean to let her go on believing things."

"Not half so mean as taking the belief from her. Besides--" He
paused and Desire felt herself clutch, unaccountably, at the arm of
her garden chair.

"She wouldn't understand," finished Benis.

Desire's grasp upon the chair relaxed.

"Life is like that," he went on slowly. "No matter how careful
people are there is always someone who slips in and gets hurt. Our
affairs are strictly our own affairs and yet--we stumble over Aunt
Caroline and leave her indignant and disappointed and probably
blaming Providence for the whole affair. It is just a curious
instance of the intricacy of human relationships--you're not going
in, are you?"

"There is some typing I want to finish," said Desire. "I have been
letting myself get shamefully behind."




CHAPTER XXI

The weather on the day of Desire's reception could scarcely have
been bettered. Rain had fallen during the night; fallen just
sufficiently to lay the dust on the drive and liberate all the
thousand flower scents in the drowsy garden. It was hot enough for
the most summery dresses and cool enough for a summer fur. What more
could be desired?

Bainbridge was expectant. It was known that Miss Campion was
excelling herself in honor of her nephew's bride, and the bride
herself was alluringly rumored to be a personality. It is doubtful
if anyone really believed the "part Indian" suggestion, but there
were those who liked to dally with it. Its possibility was a taste
of lemon on a cloyed tongue.

"They say she is part Indian--fancy, a Spence!" "Nonsense. I asked
Dr. Rogers about it and he made me feel pretty foolish. The truth
is--her parents are both English. The father is a doctor, at one
time a most celebrated physician in London."

"Physicians who are celebrated in London usually stay there."

"And I am sure she is dark enough." "Not with that skin! And her
eyes are grey." "Oh, I admit she's pretty--if you like that style. I
wonder where she gets her clothes?"

"Where they know how to make them, anyway. Did you notice that smoke
colored georgette she wore on Sunday? Not a scrap of relief
anywhere. Not even around the neck."

"It's the latest. I went right home and ripped the lace off mine.
But it made me look like a skinned rabbit, so I put it back. I don't
see why fashions are always made for sweet and twenty!"

"Twenty? She's twenty-five if she's a day. For myself I can't say
that I like to see young people so sure of themselves. A bride,
too!"

"They say Mrs. Stopford Brown hasn't had a card for the reception."

"Did she tell you so?"

"Oh, no! But she let it drop that she thought it was on the seventh
instead of the eighth."

"Plow funny! Serve her right. It's about time she knew she isn't
quite everybody. . . ."

Desire, herself, was unperturbed. To her direct and unself-conscious
mind there was no reason why she should excite herself. These
people, to whom she was so new, were equally new to her. The
interest might be expected to be mutual. Any picture of herself as
affected by their personal opinions had not obtruded itself. She was
prepared to like them; hoped they would like her, but was not
actively concerned with whether they did or not. She had lived too
far away from her kind to feel the impact of their social aura.
Besides, she had other things to think about.

First of all, there was Mary. She found that she had to think about
Mary a great deal. She did not want to, but there seemed to be a
compulsion. This may have been partly owing to a change of mind with
regard to Mary as a subject for conversation. She had decided that
it was not good for Benis to talk about Her. Why revive memories
that are best forgotten? She never now disturbed him when he gazed
into the sunset; and when he sighed, as he sometimes did without
reason, she did not ask him why. She had even felt impatient once or
twice and, upon leaving the room abruptly, had banged the door.

So, because Mary was unavailable for discussion, desire had to think
about her. She had to wonder whether her hair was really? And
whether her eyes really were? She wanted to know. If she could find
someone who had known Mary, some entirely unprejudiced person who
would tell her, she might be able to dismiss the subject from her
mind. And surely, in Bainbridge, there must be someone?

But she had been in Bainbridge a month now. People had called. And
she was still as ignorant as ever. She had been so sure that someone
would mention Mary almost at once. She had felt that people would
simply not be able to refrain from hinting to the bride a knowledge
of her husband's unhappy past. There were so many ways in which it
might be done. Someone might say, "When I heard that Professor
Spence was married, I felt sure that the bride would have dark hair
because--oh, what am I saying! Please, may I have more tea?" But no
one, not even the giddiest flapper of them all, had said even that!
Perhaps, incredible as it might seem, Bainbridge did not know about
Mary? She had been, Desire remembered, a visitor there when Benis
met her. Perhaps her stay had been brief. Perhaps the ill-fated
courtship had taken place elsewhere? Even then, it seemed almost
unbelievably stupid of Bainbridge not to have known something. But
of course, she had not met nearly everybody. This fact lent
excitement to the idea of the reception. Something might be said at
any moment.

If not--there was still John. John must know. A man does not keep
the news of a serious love affair from his best friend. Some day,
when John knew her well enough, he might speak, delicately, of that
lost romance. Yes. She would have to cultivate John.

Luckily, John was easily cultivated. He had been quite charming to
her from the very first. He thought of her comfort continually,
almost too continually--but that, no doubt, was medical fussiness.
He insisted, for instance, upon putting wraps about her shoulders
after dewfall and refused to believe that she never caught cold.
Only last night he had left early saying that she must get her
beauty sleep so as to be fresh for the reception.

"One would think," she had said, sauntering with him to the gate,
"that the guests might decide to eat me instead of the ices. Why do
you all expect me to quake and shiver? They can't really do anything
to me, I suppose?"

"Do?" The doctor was absent-minded. "Do? Oh, they can do things all
right. But," with quite unnecessary emphasis, "their worst efforts
won't be a patch on the things you will do to them. Why, you'll add
ten years to the age of everyone over twenty and make the others
feel like babes in arms. You'll raise all their vibrations to
boiling point and remain yourself as cool and pulseless as--as you
are now."

Desire was surprised, but she was reasonable.

"If you can tell me why my vibrations should raise themselves," she
said, "I will see what can be done."

The doctor had gone home gloomily.

"He is really very moody, for a doctor," thought desire, as she
sauntered back through the dusk. "It seems to me that he needs
cheering up."

Then she probably forgot him, for certainly no thought of his
gloominess disturbed her beauty sleep. A fresher or more glowing
bride had never gathered flowers for her own reception. She had
carried them into all the rooms; careless for once of their cool
aloofness; making them welcome her whether they would or not. Then,
as the stir of preparation ceased and the house sank into perfumed
quiet, she had slipped back into her own pink and grey room for a
breathing space before it was time to dress.

At Aunt Caroline's earnest request she had taken Yorick with her.
"For," said Aunt Caroline, "I refuse to receive guests with that
bird within hearing distance. The things he says are bad enough but
I have a feeling that he knows many things which he hasn't said yet.
And people are sensitive. Only the other day when old Mrs. Burton
was calling him 'Pretty Pol,' he burst into that dreadful laugh of
his and told her to 'Shake a leg'! How the creature happened to know
about the scandal of her early youth I can't say. But it is quite
true that she did dance on the stage. She grew quite purple when
that wretched bird threw it up to her."

Desire had laughed and promised to sequestrate Yorick for the
afternoon. He had taken the insult badly and was now muttering
protests to himself with throaty noises which exploded occasionally
in bursts of bitter laughter.

It was too early to dress for another hour but already the dress lay
ready on the bed. Desire had chosen it with care. She had no
wedding-dress. Bridal white would have seemed--well, dangerously
near the humorous. She would have feared that half-smile with which
Spence was wont to appreciate life's pleasantries. But the gown upon
the bed was the last word in smartness and charm. In color it was
like pale sunlight through green water. It was both cool and bright.
Against it, her warm, white skin glowed warmer and whiter; her leaf-
brown hair showed more softly brown. Its skirt was daintily short
and beneath it would show green stockings that shimmered, and
slippers that were vanity.

Desire sat in the window seat and allowed herself to be quite happy.
"If I could just sit here forever," she mused. "If someone could
enchant me, just as I am, with the sun warm on the tips of my toes
and this little wind, so full of flowers, cool upon my face. If I
need never again hear anything save the drone of sleepy bees, the
chirping of fat robins and the hum of a lawn-mower--"

She sat up suddenly. Who could be mowing the west lawn in the heat
of the day? Desire, forgetting about the enchantment, leaned out to
see. Surely it couldn't be? And yet it certainly was. The lawn-mower
man displayed the heated countenance of the bridegroom him-self.

"What is he thinking of?" groaned Desire. "He will make himself a
rag--a perfect rag. I wonder Aunt Caroline allows it."

But Aunt Caroline was presumably occupied elsewhere. No one came to
prevent the ragmaking of the professor, and Desire, after watching
for a moment, raised her finger and gave the little searching call
which had been their way of finding each other in the woods at
Friendly Bay.

The professor stopped instantly, leaving the lawn-mower exactly
where it was, in the middle of a swath. With an answering wave he
crossed to the west room window and, with an ease which surprised
his audience, drew his long slimness up the pillar of the porch and
clambered over the railing into the small balcony.

"I can't come in by the front door," he explained, "on account of my
boots. And I can't come in by the back door on account of Extra
Help. I intended getting in eventually by the cellarway, but, if you
want me, that would take too long. Besides, I wanted to show you how
neatly I can shin up a post."

He smiled at her cheerfully. He was damp and flushed, but much
brisker than Desire had thought. He did not look at all raglike. For
the first time since their homecoming she seemed to see him with
clear eyes. And she found him changed. He was younger. Some of the
lines had smoothed out of his forehead. His face showed its
cheekbones less sharply and his hair dipped charmingly, like an
untidy boy's. His shirt was open at the throat. He did not look like
a professor at all. Desire momentarily experienced what Dr. John had
called a "heightening of vibration."

"Anything that I can do," offered he helpfully.

"The best thing will be to stop doing," suggested desire. "Don't you
know that you're accessory to a reception this afternoon? Of course
you are only the host, but it looks better to have the host
unwilted."

"Like the salad? I hadn't thought of that. In fact I'm afraid I
haven't been giving the matter serious attention. I must consult my
secretary. How else should a host look?"

"He should look happy."

Benis noted this on his cuff.

"Yes?"

Desire's eyes began to sparkle.

"If he is a bridegroom, as well as a host, he should be careful to
look often at the bride."

"No chance," said Spence gloomily. "Not with the mob that's coming."

"Above all, he looks after his least attractive lady guests. And he
never on any account slips away for a smoke with a stray gentleman
friend."

The professor's gloom lightened. "Is there going to be a stray
gentleman friend? Did old Bones promise?"

Desire nodded triumphantly.

"First time in captivity," murmured Spence. "How on earth did you
manage it?"

"I simply asked him!"

"As easy as that?"

They both laughed as happy people laugh at merest nonsense.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" shrieked Yorick. "Go to it, give 'em hell!"

"I don't wonder Aunt Caroline dreads him," said desire. "His
experience seems to have been lurid."

"Kiss her, you flat-foot, kiss her," shrieked the ribald Yorick.

"Sorry, old man," said Spence regretfully. "It's against the rules
to kiss one's secretary."

Again they both laughed. But was it fancy, or was this laugh a
trifle less spontaneous than the other? "Gracious!" said Desire,
suddenly in a hurry, "I've hardly left myself time to dress."




CHAPTER XXII

I may be said with fairness that the reception given by Miss Campion
for her nephew's bride left Bainbridge thoughtful. They had
expected the bride to be different, and they had found her to be
different from what they had expected. They could not place her;
and, in Bainbridge, everyone is placed.

"I understood," said Mrs. T. L. Lawson, whose word in intellectual
matters was final, "that young Mrs. Spence was wholly uneducated. A
school teacher who met her on the train told my dressmaker that she
had heard her admit the fact with her own lips. So, naturally, not
wishing to embarrass a newcomer, I confined my remarks to the
simplest matters. She did not say very much but I must confess--you
will scarcely believe it--I actually got the impression that she was
accommodating her conversation to me,"

"Oh, surely not!" from a shocked chorus.

"It is just a manner she affects," comforted Mrs. Burton Holmes.
"Far, far too assured, in my opinion, for a young bride. I hope it
does not denote a certain lack of fine feeling. In a girl who had
been brought up to an assured social position, such a manner might
be understood. But--well, all I can say is that I heard from my
friend Marion Walford yesterday, and she assured me that Mrs. Spence
is quite unknown in Vancouver society. But, of course, dear Marion
knows only the very smartest people. For myself I do not allow these
distinctions to affect me. If only for dear Miss Campion's sake I
determined to be perfectly friendly. But I felt that, in justice to
everybody, it might be well for her to know that we know. So I asked
her, casually, if she were well acquainted with the Walfords. At
first she looked as if she had never heard of them, and then--'Oh,
do you mean the soap people?' she said. 'I don't know them--but one
sees their bill-boards everywhere.' It was almost as if--"

"Oh--absurd!" echoed the chorus. "Though if she is really English,"
ventured one of them, "she might, you know. The English have such a
horror of trade."

These social and educational puzzles were as nothing to the
religious problem. Bainbridge, who had seen. desire more or less
regularly at church, had taken for granted that in this respect, at
least, she was even as they were. But, after the reception, Mrs.
Pennington thought not.

"I felt quite worried about our pretty bride," said Mrs. Pennington.
"You know how we all hoped that when the dear professor married he
would become more orthodox. Science is so unsettling. And married
men so often do. But--" she sighed.

"Surely not a free thinker?" ventured one in a subdued whisper.

"Or a Christian Scientist?" with equal horror.

Mrs. Pennington intimated that she had not yet sufficient data to
decide. "But," she added, solemnly, "she is not a. Presbyterian."

"She goes to church."

"Yes. She was quite frank about that. She did not scruple to say
that she goes to please Miss Campion and because 'it is all so new.'
"

"New?"

"Exactly what I said to her. I said, 'New?' My dear, what you do
mean--new?' And she tipped her eyebrows in that oriental way she has
and said, 'Why, just new. I have never been to church, you know!'"

"Oh, impossible--in this country!"

"Yes, imagine it! Perhaps she saw my disapproval for she added, 'We
had a prayer-book in the house, though.' As if it were quite the
same thing."

One of the more optimistic members of the chorus thought that this
might show some connection with the Church of England. But Mrs.
Pennington shook her head.

"Hardly, I think. Her language was not such as to encourage such a
hope. The very next thing she said to me was, 'Don't you think the
prayer-book is lovely?'"

"Oh!--not really?"

"I admit I was shocked. I am not," said Mrs. Pennington, "a Church
of England woman. But I am broad-minded, I hope. And I have more
respect for ANY sacred work than to speak of it as 'lovely.' In
fact, in all kindness, I must say that I fear the poor child is a
veritable heathen."

This conclusion was felt to be sound, logically, but without great
practical significance. The veritable heathen persisted in church-
going to such an extent that she tired out several of the most
orthodox and it was rumored that she even went so far as to discuss
the sermon afterward. "Just as if," said Mrs. Pennington, "it were a
lecture or a play or something."

As a matter of fact, Desire was intensely interested in sermons. She
had so seldom heard any that the weekly doling out of truth by the
Rev. Mr. McClintock had all the fascination of a new experience. Mr.
McClintock was of the type which does not falter in its message. He
had no doubts. He had thought out every possible spiritual problem
as a young man and had seen no reason for thinking them out a second
time. What he had accepted at twenty, he believed at sixty, with
this difference that while at twenty some of his conclusions had
caused him sleepless nights, at sixty they were accepted with
complacency. No questioning pierced the hard enamel of his
assurance. He saw no second side to anything because he never
turned it over. He had a way of saying "I believe" which was
absolutely final.

Desire had been collecting Mr. McClintock's beliefs carefully. They
fascinated her. She often woke up in the night thinking of them,
wondering at their strange diversity and speculating as to the
ultimate discovery of some missing piece which might make them all
fit in. It was because she was afraid of missing this master-bit
that she went to church so regularly.

The Sunday after the reception was exceptionally hot. It was
exceptionally dusty too, for Bainbridge tolerated no water carts on
Sunday. It was one of those Sundays when people have headaches. Aunt
Caroline had a head-ache. She felt that it would be most unwise to
venture out. She even suggested that, no doubt, Desire had a
headache, too.

"But I haven't," said that downright young person, looking
provokingly cool and energetic. Her husband groaned.

"Don't look at me," he said hastily. "My excuse is not hallowed by
antiquity like Aunt's but it is equally effective. I have to go down
to the cellar to make ice-cream."

This, as Desire knew, was perfectly legitimate. No ice-cream of any
kind could be bought in Bainbridge on Sunday. Therefore a certain
proportion of the population had to descend into its cellars and
make it. It was even possible to tell, if one were curious, how many
families were going to have ice-cream for dinner by counting the
empty seats at morning service. Nearly all of the more prominent
families owned freezers while many of those who were freezerless did
not go to church, anyway. From which it would seem that, in
Bainbridge at least, the righteous had prospered.

On this hot morning, therefore, Desire collected Mr. McClintock's
belief alone. It was an especially puzzling one, having to do with
the origin and meaning of pain and founded upon the text, "Whom the
Lord loveth he chasteneth."

"There is a tendency among modern translators," began Mr.
McClintock, "a tendency which I deplore, to render the word
'chasteneth' as 'teacheth or directeth.' This rendering, in my
opinion, is regrettably lax. We will therefore confine our attention
to the older version. It is my belief that. . . ."

Desire listened attentively to a lengthy and blood-curdling
exposition of this belief and was still in the daze which followed
the hearty singing of the doxology on top of it when the assistant
Sunday School Superintendent asked her to take a class. He was a
very hot assistant and a very hurried one. Even while he spoke to
Desire his eye wandered past her to some of his flock who were
escaping by the church door.

"Do take a class, Mrs. Spence," he urged.

"Do you mean teach one?" asked Desire. "I'm sorry, but I don't know
how."

"Beg pardon? Oh, but of course you do. It is only for today. We are
so short. You will do splendidly, I'm sure. They are very little
girls and it's in the Old Testament."

"But I don't--"

"Oh, that will be quite all right. It's Moses. Quite easy."

"I have never--"

"It doesn't matter, really. Just the plain story, you know. I find
myself the best way is to adopt a cheerful, conversational manner
and keep them from asking questions. At that age they never ask the
right ones. Stump you every time if you're not careful. Give them
the facts. They'll understand them later."

"I don't understand them myself," objected Desire. But by this time
the assistant's eye was quite distracted.

"So very good of you," he murmured, "if you will come this way--"

Desire went that way and presently found herself seated in the
Sunday School room in a blazing bar of sunlight and facing a row of
small Bainbridgers, surprisingly brisk and wide-awake considering
the weather.

"We usually have our boys' and girls' classes separate," explained
the assistant. "But this is a mixed class as you see."

Desire saw that the mixture consisted of a very round boy in a very
stiff sailor suit.

"Now children, Mrs. Spence is going to tell you about Moses. Mrs.
Spence is a newcomer. We must make her welcome and show her how well
behaved we are."

"I'm not," volunteered an angel-faced child with an engaging smile.

"I got a lickin' on Friday," added the round boy, who as sole member
of his sex felt that he must stand up for it.

The assistant shook a finger at them cheerfully and hurried away.

Desire became the focus of all eyes and a watchful dumbness settled
down upon them like a pall. Frantically she tried to remember her
instructions. But never had a light conversational manner seemed
more difficult to attain.

"I hope," she faltered, seeking for a sympathetic entry, "that your
regular teacher is not ill?"

The row of inquiring eyes showed no intelligence.

"Is she?" asked Desire, looking directly at the child opposite.

"Ma says she only thinks she is," said the child. The row rustled
pleasantly.

"I understand," went on Desire hastily, "that we are to talk about
Moses. How many here can tell me anything about Moses?"

The row of eyes blinked. But Moses might have been a perfect
stranger for any sign of recognition from their owners.

"Moses," went on Desire, "was a very remarkable man. In his age he
seems even more remarkable--"

A small hand shot up and an injured voice inquired: "Please,
teacher, don't we have the Golden Text?"

"I suppose we do." There was evidently some technique here of which
the hurried assistant had not informed her. "We will have it now.
What is the Golden Text?"

Nobody seemed to know.

"I don't see how we can have it, if you don't know it," said Desire
mildly.

Another hand shot up. "Please teacher, you say it first."

There was also, then, an established order of precedence.

"I don't know it, either," said Desire.

This might have precipitated a deadlock. But, fortunately, the row
did not believe her. They smiled stiffly. Their smile revealed more
clearly than anything else how unthinkable it was for a teacher not
to know the Golden Text. Desire, in desperation, remembered the
paper-covered "Quarterly" which the assistant had put into her hands
and, with a flash of inspiration, decided that what the children
wanted was probably there. She opened it feverishly and was
delighted to discover "Golden Text" in large letters on the first
page she looked at. She read hastily.

"And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda--"

A whole row of hands shot up. "Please teacher, that was last
Christmas!" announced the class reproachfully.

With shame Desire noticed that the lessons in the Quarterly were
dated. But she was regaining something of her ordinary poise.

"You ought to know it, even if it is," she remarked firmly. This was
more according to Hoyle. The little boy's hand answered it.

"'Tain't review Sunday, teacher."

Teacher decided to ignore this. "Very well," she said. "We will now
have the Golden Text for today. Who will say it first? I will give
you a start--'As Moses--'"

"As Moses," piped a chorus of small voices.

"Lifted up," prompted Desire.

"Lifted up," shrilled the chorus.

"Yes?" expectantly.

The chorus was silent.

"Well, children, go on."

But nobody went on.

"You don't know it," declared Desire with mild severity. "Very
well. Learn it for next Sunday. Now I am going to ask you some
questions. First of all--who was Moses?"

She asked the question generally but her eye fell upon the one male
member who swallowed his Sunday gum-drop with a gulp.

"Don't know his nother name," said the male member sulkily.

Desire realized that she didn't know, either. "I did not ask you to
tell his name but something about him. Where he lived, for instance.
Where did Moses live?" Her eye swept down to the mite at the end of
the row.

"Bulrushes!" said that infant gaspingly.

"He was hidden among bulrushes," explained Desire, "but he couldn't
exactly live there. Does anyone know what a bulrush is?"

The row exchanged glances and nudged each other.

"Things you soak in coal-oil," began one.

"To make torches at 'lections," added another.

"Same as cat-tails," volunteered a third condescendingly.

"Well, even if they were anything like that, he couldn't live in
them, could he?" Desire felt that she had made a point at last.

"Could if he was a frog," offered the male member after
consideration.

To Desire's surprise the row accepted this seriously.

"But as he was a baby and not a frog," she went on hurriedly, "he
must have lived with his mother in a house. The name of the country
they lived in was Egypt. And Egypt had a wicked King. This wicked
King ordered all the little boy babies--" She paused, appalled at
the thought of telling these infants of that long-past ruthlessness.
But, again to her surprise, the infants now showed pleasurable
interest. An excited murmur rose.

"I like that part!" . . . "Why didn't he kill the girl babies, too?"
. . . "Did he cut their heads right off?" . . . "Did their mothers
holler?" . . . While the male member offered with an air of
authority, "I 'spect he just wrung their necks."

"Well, well! Getting along nicely, I see," said the assistant,
tiptoeing down the aisle. "I felt sure you would interest them, Mrs.
Spence. You will find our children very intelligent."

"Very," agreed Desire.

"They all know the Golden Text, I am sure," he continued with that
delightful manner which children dumbly hate. "Annie, you may
begin."

But Annie refused to avail herself of this privilege. Instead she
showed symptoms of tears.

"Come, come!" chided the assistant still more delightfully. "We
mustn't be shy! Bessie, let us hear from you. 'As Moses--'"

"As Moses."

"Very good. Now, Eddie. 'Lifted up.'"

"Lifted up."

"Very good indeed. Mabel, you next. 'The ser-'"

"I'm scared of snakes," said Mabel unexpectedly.

"Well, well! But you are not afraid of snakes in Sunday School."

"I'm s-cared of snakes anywhere!" wailed Mabel.

"Oh, there is the first bell--excuse me." The relief of the
assistant was a joyful thing. "That means that you have three
minutes more, Mrs. Spence. We usually utilize these last moments for
driving home the main thought of the lesson. Very important, of
course, to leave some concrete idea--sorry, I must hurry."

Desire felt that she must hurry, too. She hadn't even time to wonder
what a concrete idea might be. One can't wonder about anything in
three minutes.

"Children," she began. "We haven't learned much about Moses. But the
main idea of this lesson is that he was a very good man and a great
patriot. He had been brought up in a King's palace, yet when the
time came for him to choose, he left the beautiful home of the
mother who had adopted him and went to his own people. His Own
People," she repeated slowly. "Do you understand that?" The class
sat stolidly silent. Desire's eye rested again upon the little girl
with the prim mouth.

"Ma says 'dopting anyone's a terrible risk," said the prim one.
"Like as not they'll never say thank yuh." . . .




CHAPTER XXIII

"And that," said Desire later in the day as she related her
experiences to the professor, "that was the idea with which I left
them! I shan't have to teach again, shall I, Benis?"

Her husband smiled. "No. I should think more would be a
superfluity."

"They'll say I'm a heathen. I know they will. You don't realize how
serious it is. Think how your prestige will suffer."

"It has suffered already. Only yesterday Mrs. Walkem, the laundress,
told Aunt that your--er--peculiarities were a judgment on me for
'tryin' to find out them things in folkses minds which God has hid
away a-purpose.'"

"But I'm in earnest, Benis--more or less."

"Let it be less, then. My dear girl, you don't really think that
Bainbridge disturbs me?"

"N-no. But it disturbs me. A little. I am so different from all
these people, your friends. And being different is rather--lonely."

"It is," he agreed. "But it is also stimulating."

"I used to think," she went on, following her own thought, "that I
was different because my life was different. I thought that if I
could ever live with people, just as we live here, with everything
normal and everyday, the strangeness would drop away. But it hasn't.
I am still outside."

"Everyone is, though you are young to realize it. Our social life is
very deceiving. Most of us wake up some day to find ourselves alone
in a desert."

Desire swung the hammock gently with the tip of her shoe. "Is not
one ever a part of a whole?"

"Socially, yes. Spiritually--I doubt it. It is some-thing which you
will have to decide for yourself."

"I don't want to be alone," said Desire rebelliously. "It frightens
me. I want to have a place. I want to fit in. But here, it seems as
if I had come too late. Every-one is fitted in already. There isn't
a tiny corner left."

Spence's grey eyes looked at her with a curious light in their
depths.

"Wait," he said. "You haven't found your corner yet. When you do,
the rest won't matter."

"But people do not want me. I had a horrid dream last night. I was
wandering all through Bainbridge and all the doors were open so that
I might go in anywhere. I was glad--at first. But I soon saw that my
freedom did not mean anything. No one saw me when I entered or cared
when I went away. I spoke to them and they did not answer. Then I
knew that I was just a ghost"

"I'm another," said a cheerful voice behind them. "All my 'too, too
solid flesh' is melting rapidly. Only ice-cream can save me now!"
Using his straw hat vigorously as a fan Dr. Rogers dropped limply
into an empty chair. "Tell you a secret," he went on confidentially.
"I had two invitations to Sunday supper but neither included ice-
cream. So I came on here."

"Very kind, I'm sure," murmured Benis.

"How did you guess?" began Desire, and then she dimpled. "Oh, of
course,--Benis wasn't in church."

"How did he know that?" asked Benis sharply. "He wasn't there, was
he?"

The doctor looked conscious. Desire laughed. "His presence did seem
to create a mild sensation," she admitted.

"Well, you see," he explained, "in the summer I am often very busy--
"

"In the cellar," murmured Benis.

"But no one happened to need me today and, besides, my freezer is
broken. This, combined with--"

"An added attraction," sotto voce from the professor.

"Oh, well--I went, anyway."

"I saw you there," said Desire, ignoring their banter. "I thought
you might have gone for the sermon. The subject was one of your
specialties, wasn't it?"

The doctor twirled his hat.

"Better tell him what the subject was," suggested Benis unkindly.

"Didn't you listen?" Desire's inquiring eyebrows lifted. "That's one
of the things I don't understand about people here. Church and
church affairs seem to play such an important part in Bainbridge.
Nearly everyone goes to some church. But no one seems at all
disturbed about what they hear there. Is it because they believe all
that the minister says, or because they don't believe any of it?"

Her hearers exchanged an alarmed glance.

"What do you want them to do?" said John uneasily. "Argue about it?
Besides, this morning was very exceptionally hot."

"I don't want to be any more heathen than I have to be," went on
Desire, "but I must be terribly heathen if what Mr. McClintock said
this morning is right. He was speaking of pain, physical pain, and,
he said God. sent it. I always thought," she concluded naively,
"that it came straight from the devil."

"Healthy chap, McClintock!" said Benis lazily. "Never had anything
worse than measles and doesn't remember them."

"What I'd like to know," said the doctor, "would be his opinion
after several weeks of--something unpleasant. He might feel more
like blaming the devil. What does he think doctors are fighting?
God? By Jove, I must have this out with McClintock! I know that, for
one, I never fight down pain without a glorious sense of giving
Satan his licks."

"But you did not even listen."

"I'm listening now."

"And no one else seemed to object to anything he said. I heard some
of them call it a 'beautiful discourse' and 'so helpful.'"

Under her perplexed gaze the two Bainbridgers were clearly
uncomfortable.

"It's because you don't really care what you hear from the pulpit,"
said the girl accusingly. "You have your own beliefs and go your own
ways. Another man's views, good or bad, make no difference."

"S-shish! 'ware Aunt Caroline!" warned the professor, but Desire was
too absorbed to heed.

"Why, if one actually believed half of what was said this morning,"
she went on, "the world would be a beautiful garden with half its
lovely things forbidden. 'Don't touch the flowers' and 'Keep off the
grass' would be everywhere. It seems such a waste, if God made so
many happy things and then doesn't like it if people are too happy."

"Not many of us suffer from too much happiness," muttered Benis.

"Or too much health," echoed the doctor. "I'd like to tell
McClintock that if people would expect more health, they'd get more.
The ordinary person expects ill-ness. They have a 'disease complex'-
-that's in your line, Benis. But just supposing they could change
the idea--Eh? Supposing everybody began to look for health--just
take it, you know, as a God-intended right? I'd lose half my living
in a fortnight."

"John Rogers!" Aunt Caroline's voice fell with the effect of
sizzling hailstones upon the fire of John's enthusiasm. "If you must
talk heresy, there are other places beside my garden to do it in."

"I was merely saying--"

"I heard what you were saying. And although it takes a great deal to
surprise me, I am surprised. Such doctrines I consider most
dangerous, highly so. If you are thinking of setting up as a faith
healer, the sooner we know it the better. Desire, my dear, you might
see Olive about tea. Tell her not to forget the lemon. I do not know
what I have done to deserve a maid called Olive," she sighed, "but
the only alternative was Gladys. And Gladys I could not endure. As
for illness, I am surprised at you, John Rogers. I was not in church
owing to a severe headache, but I know the sermon. It is one of Mr.
McClintock's very best. If you had not gone to sleep in the middle
of the first point you would have heard the mystery of pain
beautifully explained. A wonderful preacher. If he wouldn't click
his teeth."

The professor shuddered.

"Benis acts so foolishly about it," went on Aunt Caroline. "He
insists that the clicking makes him ill. But why should it? At the
same time, if one of the Elders were to suggest, tactfully, to Mr.
McClintock that he have the upper set tightened it might be well. It
would at least" (with grimness) "do away with the trivial excuses of
some people for not attending Divine service."

Her graceless nephew was understood to murmur something about "too
hot to fight."

"As for Mr. McClintock's ideas," pursued Aunt Caroline, "they are
quite beautiful. The first time he gave the deathbed description
which comprises part of this morning's discourse he had us all in
tears. I mean all of us who were sufficiently awake to realize the
fact that it was a deathbed. His description of the last agony has
clearly lost nothing in poignancy, for Desire came home quite pale.
I wonder if you have noticed, Benis, that Desire is looking somewhat
less robust? Doctor, now that she is not here--"

"Now that she is not here, we will not discuss her," said Spence
firmly.

"Indeed! And may I ask why you wish to stop me, Benis? I am speaking
to a qualified medical man, am I not? But there," with resignation,
"I never can expect to understand the present generation. So lax on
one hand, so squeamish on the other. Surely it is perfectly proper
that I, her Aunt--oh, very well, Benis, if you are determined to be
silly."

"Now with regard to the Rev. McClintock," put in the doctor hastily.
"Do you really think that he is sufficiently in touch with modern
views to--to--oh, dash it! what was I saying?"

"You were interrupting me when I was telling Benis--"

"Oh yes. I remember. We were talking about new ideas. And you
suggested heresy. But you must remember that, in my profession, new
ideas are not called heresy--except when they are very new. What
would you think of me if I doctored exactly as my father did before
me?"

"When you are half as capable as your father, young man, I may
discuss that with you."

"One for you!'' said Benis gleefully.

"Well, leaving me out then, and speaking generally, why should a
physician search continually for fresh wisdom, while a minister--"

"Beware, young man!" Aunt Caroline raised an affrighted hand.
"Beware how you compare your case with that of a minister of the
Gospel. That further wisdom is needed in the practice of medicine,
anyone who has ever employed a doctor is well aware. But where is he
who dare add one jot to Divine revelation?"

"No one is speaking of adding anything. But surely, in the matter of
interpretation, an open mind is a first essential?"

"In the matter of interpretation," said Aunt Caroline grandly, "we
have our ordained ministers. How do you feel," she added shrewdly,
"toward quacks and healers who, without study or training, call
themselves doctors? Do you say, 'Let us display an open mind'?"

"Time!" said Benis, who enjoyed his relative hugely--when she was
disciplining someone else. "Here comes Desire with the tea."

"What I really came out to say, Benis," resumed Aunt Caroline, "is
that I have just had a long distance call--Desire, my dear, cream or
lemon?--a long distance call from Toronto where, I fear, such things
are allowed on Sunday--Doctor, you like lemon, I think?--a call in
fact from Mary Davis. You remember her, Benis? Such a sweet girl.
She is feeling a little tired and would like to run down here for a
rest. Desire, my dear, have you any plans with which this would
interfere? I said that I would consult you and let her know. You are
very careless with your plate, Benis. That Spode can never be
replaced."

Fortunately her anxiety for the family heirloom absorbed Aunt
Caroline's whole attention. If she noticed her nephew's look of
anguished guilt and his friend's politely raised brows she ascribed
it to his carelessness in balancing china. Desire's downcast eyes
and stiffened manner she did not notice at all.

"Well, my dear, what do you say? Shall we invite Mary?"

"It depends on Benis, of course," said Desire quietly.

"Benis? What has Benis to do with it? Not but that he enjoyed having
her here last time well enough. It is the privilege of the mistress
of the house to choose her guests. I hope you will not be slack in
claiming your privileges. They are much harder to obtain than one's
rights. My dear sister was careless. She allowed Benis's father to
do just as he pleased. Be warned in time."

"Do you wish Miss Davis to visit us, Benis?" desire's hands were
busy with her teacup. Her eyes were still lowered.

"I have no wishes whatever in the matter," said the professor with
what might be considered admirable detachment.

"Tell Miss Davis we shall be delighted, Aunt," said Desire.




CHAPTER XXIV

Time, in quiet neighborhoods, like water in a pool, slips in and out
leaving the pool but little changed. Only when one is waiting for
something dreaded or desired do the days drag or hasten. Miss Davis
was to arrive upon the Friday following her telephone invitation.
That left Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Desire found them
very long.

Nothing more had been said of the personality of the expected
visitor. Desire did not ask, because she felt sure that, when she
had seen, she would know without asking. At present there was little
enough to go upon. The guest's name was Mary. Her hair was yellow.
She had visited in Bainbridge before. She and Benis had been
friends. Beyond this there was nothing save the professor's
carelessness with the family Spode--an annoying device for diverting
attention in moments of embarrassment.

Against this circumstantial evidence there was the common-sense
argument that the real Mary of the professor's romance would hardly
be likely, under the circumstances, to propose herself as his aunt's
guest.

Desire was inclined to take the common-sense view. Especially as
just about this time she came upon the track of another Mary, also
with yellow hair, who presented possibilities. The most suspicious
thing about this second Mary was that neither the professor nor his
friend Dr. Rogers had been able to tell Desire her first name. Now
in Bainbridge everyone knows the first name of everyone else. One
does not use it, necessarily, but one knows it. So that when Desire,
having one day noticed a gleam of particularly golden hair, asked
innocently to "whom it might belong" and was met by a plain surname
prefixed merely by "Miss," she became instantly curious. From other
sources she learned that the golden-haired Miss Watkins had been
employed as a nurse in Dr. Rogers' office for several months and
that her Christian name was Mary Sophia.

This also, you will see, was not much to build upon. But Desire felt
that she must neglect nothing. The menace of the unseen, unknown
Mary was beginning seriously to disturb her peace of mind. She
determined to see the doctor's pretty nurse at the earliest
opportunity.

The comradeship between herself and Rogers had prospered amazingly.
She had liked the young doctor at first sight; had discerned in him
something charmingly boylike and appealing. And Desire had never had
boy friends. The utter frankness of her friendship was undisturbed
by overmuch knowledge of her own attractions, and the possibility of
less contentment on his side did not occur to her. Feeling herself
so much older, in reality, than he, she assumed with delicious
naivete, the role of confidant and general adviser. What time she
could spare from Benis and the great Book she bestowed most
generously upon his friend.

During the four dragging days of waiting the appearance of Miss
Davis, she had found the distraction of Dr. John's company
particularly helpful. And then, after all, Miss Davis did not
arrive. Instead, there came a note regretting a very bad cold and
postponing the visit until its indefinite recovery. The news came at
the breakfast table.

"How long," asked Desire thoughtfully, "does a bad cold usually
last?"

"Not long--if it's just a cold," answered Benis with some gloom.
"But," more hopefully, "if it is tonsillitis it lasts weeks and if
pneumonia sets in you have to stay indoors for months."

Aunt Caroline looked over her spectacles.

"You sound," she said, "as if you wish it were pneumonia."

But in this she was, perhaps, severe. Her nephew was really not
capable of wishing pneumonia for anyone, not even a possible Nemesis
by the name of Mary. He merely felt that if such a complication
should supervene he would bear the news with fortitude. For,
speaking colloquially, the professor was finding himself very much
"in the air." Desire's mind upon the subject of this guest in
particular and of Marys in general, had become clouded to his
psychological gaze. He had thought at first that his young secretary
was jealous with that harmless sex jealousy which may almost as well
be described as "pique." But, of late, he had not felt so sure about
it. He did not, in fact, feel quite so sure about any-thing.

Desire was changing. He had expected her to change, but the rapidity
of it was somewhat breath-taking. In appearance she had become
noticeably younger. The firm line of her lips had taken on softer
curves; the warm white of her skin was bloomy like a healthy child's;
shadow after shadow had lifted from her deep grey eyes. But it was
in her manner that the most significant difference lay. Spence
sometimes wondered if he had dreamed the silent Desire of the
mountain cottage. That Desire had stood coldly alone; had listened
and weighed and gone her own way with the hard confidence of too
early maturity. This Desire listened and weighed still, but her
confidence was often now replaced by questioning. In this new and
more normal world, her unserved, unsatisfied youth was breaking
through.

But, if she were younger, she was certainly not more simple. If the
grey eyes were less shadowed, they were no less inscrutable. If the
lips were softer, their serenity was as baffling as their sternness
had been. If she seemed more plastic she was not less illusive.
Nimble as were his mental processes, the professor was discomfited
to find that hers were still more nimble.

Meanwhile the Book was getting on. No excursions into the land of
youth were allowed to interfere with Desire's idea of her
secretarial duties. If anyone shirked, it was the author; if anyone
wanted holidays it was he. If he were lazy, Desire found ways of
making progress without him; if he grumbled, she laughed.

The day set apart for the arrival of Miss Davis had been voted a
holiday and the professor hoped that her non-appearance would not
interfere with so pleasant an arrangement. But Desire's ideas were
quite otherwise. Sharply on time she descended to the library with
her note-book ready. The professor felt injured.

"Must we really?" he said. "Yes. I see we must. But mind! I know why
you are doing it. I thought of your reason in the night when I was
unable to sleep from overwork. You are hurrying to get through so
that we may leave this sleepy town. Insatiable window-gazer! You
wish to look in bigger windows."

"Do I?" Desire turned limpid eyes upon him and tapped her note-book.
"Then the sooner we get on with this chapter on 'The Significance of
the Totem' the better. But, if you can excuse me this afternoon, Dr.
John has just 'phoned to ask me if I can call on the eldest Miss
Martin. He says that her state of mind is her greatest trouble. And
it does not react to medicine."

The professor looked still more injured.

"We can't begin the totem chapter unless we are going to go on with
it," he objected. "I don't see why John doesn't get a secretary of
his own."

"He has a nurse," said Desire smoothly.

"Er--oh yes, of course. Well, perhaps we had better begin--but why
does he want you to call on Miss Martin?"

Desire looked self-conscious, a rare thing for her. "Well, you see,
I have an idea about Miss Martin. It may be entirely wrong but John
thinks it worth trying. You knew that her fiance was killed just
before the armistice, didn't you? John says she seemed stunned at
the time but kept on, the way most women did. She helped him fight
the 'flu' all that winter without taking it her-self. But she was
one of the first to come down with it when it returned this Spring.
She got through the worst--and there she stays. John says that if
she doesn't begin to pick up soon there won't be enough of her left
to bother about."

"And your idea?"

"You might laugh," said Desire with sudden shyness.

The professor promised not to laugh.

"My idea is this. To find out the real reason for her not getting
better and treat that."

"Very simple."

"Yes, because John already knows the real cause. He says she doesn't
get well because she doesn't want to. In the old days people would
say her heart was broken. And it seems such a pity, because, if what
everyone says is true, she would have been frightfully unhappy if
she had married him. (Desire became slightly incoherent here.) They
weren't suited at all. He was a musician, a derelict who hadn't a
thought in the world for anything but his violin. Aunt Caroline says
the engagement was a mystery to everyone. She says that probably
Miss Martin just offered to take him in hand and look after him (she
used to be very capable) and he hadn't backbone enough to say she
couldn't. They say that the only time anyone ever saw a gleam in his
face was the day he went away to the war. Then he was killed. And
now she won't get well because she can't forget him."

"And that is what you call a 'pity'?"

"Well, not exactly that." She hesitated. "If he had cared for her as
she thought he did, it wouldn't seem such a waste. But he didn't.
Everybody knew it--except herself."

"Everybody may have been wrong."

"Yes. But that is just the point. They weren't. He died as he had
lived without a thought for anything but music. I happened to hear a
rather wonderful story about his dying. Sergeant Timms, who drives
the baker's cart, was in the next cot to his, in the hospital. And
my idea is that if he could just tell her the story--just let her
see that he went away without a thought--she might get things in
proportion again and let herself get well."

"I see. Well, my dear, it is your idea. Is John going to drive you
out?"

"No. He wanted to. But I'll have to find the Sergeant and take him
with me."

"In the baker's cart?"

"What a good idea! I would never have thought of that. And I've
always wanted to ride in a baker's cart. They smell so crusty."

So it was really the professor's fault that Bainbridge was
scandalized by the sight of young Mrs. Spence jogging comfortably
along through the outskirts in a bread cart driven by the one-time
Sergeant Edward Timms.

"And him so silly with havin' her," said Mrs. Beatty (who first
noticed them), "that he didn't know a French roll from a currant
bun."

Indeed we may as well admit that the gallant Sergeant confused more
things that day than rolls and buns. The latter part of his orderly
bread route was strewn thickly with indignant customers. For the
Sergeant was a thoroughgoing fellow quite incapable of a divided
interest.

"You can tell me the details of the story as we go along," Desire
said, "so that I shan't be interrupting your work at all."

The dazzled Sergeant agreed and immediately delivered two whites
instead of one brown and forgot the tickets.

"Well, you see," he said, "it was this way. We went over there
together, him and me. And we hadn't known each other, so to speak,
not intimate. You didn't know him yourself at all, did you?"

Desire shook her head.

"He was a queer one. Willin' as could be to do what he was told, but
forgettin' what it was, regular. Just naturally no good, like,
except with the fiddle. I will say, that with that there instrument
he was a Paderwooski--yes, mam! By the time our outfit got into them
trenches the boys was just clean dippy about him. They kind of took
turns dry-nursin' him and remindin' him of the things he'd got to
do, and doin' them for him when they could put it over. I'll tell
you this--it's my private suspicion that more than one chap went
west tryin' to keep the bullets offen him! Not that they were crazy
about him exactly, but that fiddle of his had got them goin'.
'Twasn't only the fiddle he played on, either. Anything would do.
That there chap could play you into any kind of dashed mood he liked
and out of it again. Put more pep into you with a penny whistle than
Sousy's band or a bottle of rum. Ring you out like a dishrag, he
could, and hang you out to dry. Gee! He could do anything--just
anything!"

(It was here that the bun episode occurred.)

"Well,--he got buried. Parapet blown in. And when they got him out
he was--hurt some." (The Sergeant remembered that one must not shock
the ladies.)

"That was all I would have known about it," he went on, "only we
happen to turn up in hospital together. I wakes up one mornin' and
finds him in the next cot. He was supposed to be recoverin' but was
somehow botchin' the job.

"'Where's the fiddle?' I says to him one day when I was feelin'
social. And then, all of a minute, I guessed why he wasn't patchin'
up like what was his duty. You see, that b-blessed parapet hadn't
had any more sense than to go and spoil his right arm for him--the
one he fiddled with, see?"

(Here the Sergeant delivered one brick loaf instead of two sandwich
ditto.)

"Well, they kept sayin' there weren't any reason he shouldn't mend
up. But he didn't. And one night--" the Sergeant pulled up the cart
so quickly that Desire almost fell out of it. "You won't believe
this part," he said in a kind of shamefaced way.

"Try me."

"Well then, one night he called to me in a kind of clear whisper.
'Bob!' he says, 'I've got my fiddle!'

"'Sure you have, old cock,' says I.

"'And my arm's as good as ever,' says he.

"'Sure it is! Better,' says I.

"'Listen!' says he.

"And I listened and--but you won't believe this part--"

"I will."

"Well, I heared him playin'! Not loud--not very near but so clear
not one of the Httlest, tinkly notes was lost. I never heard playin'
like that--no, mam! And the ward was still. I never heard the ward
still, like that. I think I went to sleep listenin'. I don't know."

The Sergeant broke off here long enough to deliver several orders--
all wrong. Desire waited quietly and presently he finished with a
jerk.

"When I woke up in the mornin', I was feelin' fine--fine. The first
thing I did was to look over to the next cot. But there was a screen
around it. . . . I ain't told the story to his folks because he
hasn't got any," he added after a pause. "And I kind of thought it
mightn't comfort his fiancy any--it not bein' personal, so to
speak."

Desire frankly wiped her eyes. (It was fortunate that no one saw her
do this.)

"It's a beautiful story," she said.

"Well, if you think I ought to tell, I will. But if his fiancy says,
'Was there any message?' hadn't I best put in a little one--
somethin' comforting?"

"Oh--no."

"All right. Couldn't I just say that at the end he called out
'Amelia!'?"

"Oh, Mr. Timms!"

"Not quite playin' the game, eh? Well, then I won't. But it does
seem kind of skimp like. . . . There's the doctor waitin' at the
gate."




CHAPTER XXV

It seemed to Desire, waiting in the garden, that the Sergeant was
taking an unnecessarily long time in telling his story. She had
thought it best that he should be left alone to tell it, so the
doctor had gone on to visit another patient, promising to call for
her as he came back.

Desire waited. And, as she waited, she thought. And, as she thought,
she questioned. What had Benis meant when he had said, in that
whimsical way of his, "Well, my dear, it is your idea"? If he had
not approved of it, why hadn't he said so? It had seemed such a
sensible idea. An idea of which anyone might approve. . . . Why also
had Sergeant Timms been so reluctant to approach Miss Martin with
the bare (and, Desire thought, beautiful) truth? Because he feared
it would rob her of an illusion? But illusions are surely something
which people are better without?--aren't they?

The Sergeant came at last, twirling his cap and looking hot.

"Well?" asked Desire nervously.

"She'd like you to go in, Mrs. Spence, if you can spare the time.
She took it quite quiet. 'Thank you, Sergeant,' says she. And never
a question."

The two looked at each other and Desire saw her own doubt plainly
reflected upon the honest gaze of Robert Timms.

"I'll go in," she said. "The doctor will take me home."

In the invalid's room there was only quietness. Miss Martin sat in
her chair by the window; her plain, thin face had not sought to turn
from the searching light. Desire felt her heart begin to beat with
the beginnings of an understanding as new as it was revealing.

"Don't be sorry," Miss Martin's reassurance was instant. "I am glad
to know. . . . I always did know, anyway . . . and it did not make
any difference . . . If you can understand."

Desire nodded. "He must have been very wonderful," she said. In that
new and nameless understanding she forgot that only that morning she
had referred to the dead musician as a "derelict" and "no good for
anything."

"Yes," said the invalid musing. "Not quite like the rest of us. And
I see now that he never would have been. I used to think--but the
difference was too deep. It was fundamental. . . . I feel . . . as
if he knew it . . . and just wandered on."

"But you?" Desire ventured this almost timidly. The quietness seemed
to intensify in the room. Then the invalid's voice, serene, distant.

"I? . . . There is no hurry. . . . He has his fiddle, you see. . . ."
Miss Martin smiled and the smile held no bitterness. So might a
mother have smiled over a thoughtless child who turns away from a
love he is too young to value.

Desire was silent.

"I did not know love was like that," she said after a long pause.
"But perhaps I do not know anything about love at all."

The older woman looked at her with quiet scrutiny.

"You will," she said.

After that they talked of other things until the doctor came to take
Desire home.

"Queer thing," he said as he threw in the clutch, "I believe she
looks a little better already. That was an excellent idea of yours."

"It was anything but an excellent idea." Desire's tone was taut with
emotional reaction. "Fortunately, it did no harm. But I don't know
what you were thinking of to allow it."

"Allow it?" In surprised injury.

Desire did not take up the challenge. She was looking, he thought,
unusually excited. There was faint color on her cheek. Her hands,
generally so quiet, clasped and unclasped her handbag with an
irritating click. Being a wise man, Rogers waited until the clicking
had subsided. Then, "What's the matter?" he asked mildly.

"John," said Desire, "do you know anything about love?"

"I see you do," she added as the car leapt forward, narrowly missing
a surprised cow. "So perhaps you will laugh at my new wisdom. I
learned something to-day."

The car was giving trouble. For a few moments its eccentricities
required its driver's undivided attention. Even when it was running
smoothly again, he appeared preoccupied. But Desire was seldom in a
hurry. She waited until he was quite ready.

"You learned something--about love?" asked John gruffly.

"Yes. Have you a sore throat? Your voice sounds all dusty. I used to
think," she went on dreamily, "that love was something that came
from outside. That it depended on things. But it doesn't depend on
anything and it's not outside at all."

"And you found this out, today?"

"Yes. I saw it, in Miss Martin. It was quite plain. What idiots we
were to pity her!"

"Did we pity her?"

The question was mechanical. John was not thinking of Miss Martin.
He was thinking of the faint rose upon Desire's half-turned cheek.
Desire blushing!

"Of course we did. And we had no right. And there is no need."

"Don't let's do it, then," said John. Out of the corner of his eye
he saw, with a quickening of his pulse, how stirred she was. And his
wonder mounted. That desire, of the cool, grey eyes and unwarmed
smile, should speak of love at all was sufficiently amazing, but
that she should speak of it with tinted cheek was a miracle.

Yet this, he quickly remembered, was something which he had himself
foreseen. He had never really accepted Spence's theory that early
disillusion had seriously poisoned the lifesprings natural to her
age. Her awakening had been certain. He had warned Spence that she
would wake! He felt all the exultation of a prophet who sees his
prophecy fulfilled. But common sense urged caution. To frighten her
now might be fatal. He tried to bring his mind back to Miss Martin.

"At least," he said, "our intentions were admirable. We were trying
to help her."

"We were being very impertinent," affirmed Desire. "Benis told me so
this morning."

"Benis told you?" in surprise.

"Well, he didn't exactly tell me. But I am sure he wanted to."

This was too subtle for the doctor. There were times when he frankly
admitted his inability to bridge Desire's conversational chasms. He
was often puzzled by the things she did not say.

"What was Benis thinking of," he said irritably, "to let you come
out in that bread cart?"

Desire laughed. "I hope he was thinking of the Significance of the
Totem. But I'm almost sure he wasn't."

"Does he ever think of anything but that blessed book of his?"

"I'm afraid he does--occasionally."

"You mean," with sharpened interest, "that he isn't quite as keen on
it as he used to be?"

"I mean that he doesn't like me to work too hard."

"Oh, I see. Perhaps he does not wish you to work too hard for me,
either?"

Desire folded her hands upon her bag and looked primly into space.

"He is a very considerate employer," she remarked mildly. "Take
care--you nearly hit that hen!"

"Oh, d--bother the hen!"

"And he never swears," added Desire with gentle dignity.

They drove for a mile or so without remark and then, Desire, who had
something to say, reopened the conversation without rancour.

"Don't be cross," she said. "As a matter of fact Benis does swear
sometimes. He is nervous, you know. I sometimes wonder if it is all
due to shell shock, or whether it is a result of his--er--other
experience."

For the second time that day the car skidded. And for the second
time, its unfortunate driver was called upon to give it his whole
attention. Desire waited.

"I mean his former love affair," said she when conversation was
again possible.

"His--I don't know," said John weakly.

Desire looked sceptical.

"Don't fancy I want to question you," she said with haughtiness.
"But I don't see how you can help knowing. You are his doctor. And
his friend, too. He must have told you. Didn't he?"

"He mentioned something--er--that is to say--"

"Oh, don't hesitate! Don't fancy that I mind. I don't, of course.
And I am not curious. Although any-one might be curious. I won't ask
you questions. I am only mildly interested. It is entirely for his
own good that I should like to know if she is quite as wonderful as
he thinks. Is she, John?"

"I--I don't know," stammered the wretched John.

Desire nodded patiently.

"You mean you don't know how wonderful he thought her? But did you
think her very wonderful, John?"

"No, I didn't"

"You thought her plain?"

"No, I--I didn't think of her at all."

"You mean that you found her insignificant?"

The doctor made a sound which Desire was pleased to interpret as
assent.

"I'm not surprised," said she earnestly. "Because, from the
description Benis gave, I felt sure he was exaggerating. Not that it
makes any difference, because, if he thought she was like that, what
she really was like didn't matter. That," with plaintive triumph,
"is one of the things I learned today."

The doctor said nothing. It was the only thing which he felt it safe
to say.




CHAPTER XXVI

The professor was smoking under the maples by the front steps when
the car drove up. He looked very cool, very comfortable and very
sure of himself--entirely too sure of himself, in John's opinion.
John, who at the moment, felt neither cool nor comfortable, and
anything but sure, observed him with envy and pity. Envy for so
obvious a content, pity for an ignorance which made content
possible.

Spence, on his part, seemed unaware of a certain tenseness in the
attitude of both Desire and John, a symptom which might have
suggested many things to a reflective mind.

"You look frightfully 'het up,' Bones," he said. "And your collar is
wilting. Better pause in your mad career and have some tea."

"Thanks, can't. Office hours--see you later," jerked the doctor
rapidly as he turned his car.

"What have you been doing to John to bring on an attack of 'office
hours' at this time of day?" asked Spence as he and Desire crossed
the lawn together. "Wasn't the great idea a success?"

"John thinks it was."

It was so unlike Desire to give someone else's opinion when asked
for her own that the professor said "um."

"I suppose," she added stiffly, "it is a question of values."

"Something for something--and a doubt as to whether one pays too
dear for the whistle? Well, don't worry about it. If you could not
help, you probably could not hurt, either. . . . I had a letter from
Li Ho this afternoon."

"A letter!" Desire's swift step halted. Her eyes, wide and startled,
questioned him. "A letter from Li Ho? But Li Ho can't write--in
English."

"Can't he? Wait until you've read it. But I shan't let you read it,
if you look like that."

"Like what? Frightened? But I am frightened. I can't help it. I know
it's foolish. But the more I forget--the worse it is when I
remember."

"You must get over that. Sit here while I fetch the letter. Aunt is
out. I'll tell Olive to bring tea."

Desire sat where he placed her. It was very pleasant there with the
green slope of the lawn and the cool shadow of trees. But her widely
opened eyes saw nothing of its homely peace. They saw, instead, a
curving stretch of moonlit beach and a trail which wound upwards
into thick darkness. Ever since she had broken away, that vision had
haunted her, now near and menacing, now dimmer and farther off, but
always there like a spectre of the past.

"It hasn't let me go--it is there always--waiting," thought Desire.
And in the still warmth of the garden she shivered.

The sense of Self, which is our proudest possession, receives some
curious shocks at times. Before the mystery of its own strange
changing the personality stands appalled. The world swings round in
chaos before the startled question, "Who am I--where is that other
Self that once was I?"

Only a few months separated Desire from her old life in the mountain
cottage and already the mental and spiritual separation seemed
infinite. But was it? Was there any real separation at all? That
ghost of herself, which she had left behind on the moonlit beach,
was it not still as much herself as ever it had been? Behind the
shrouding veil of the present might not the old life still live, and
the old Self wander, fixed and changeless? It was a fantastic idea
of Desire's that the girl she had been was still where she had left
her, working about the log-walled rooms, or wandering alone by the
shining water. This Self knew no other life, would never know it--
had no lot or part in the new life of the new desire. Yet in its
background she was always there, a figure of fate, waiting. Through
the pleasant, busy days Desire forgot her--almost. But never was she
quite free from the pull of that unsevered bond.

Until today there had been no actual word from the discarded past.
Dr. Farr had not replied to Desire's brief announcement of her
marriage. She had not expected that he would. And for the rest,
Spence had arranged with Li Ho for news of anything which might
concern the old man's welfare.

"Here is the letter," said Benis, breaking in upon her musing. "You
will see that, if the clear expression of thought constitutes good
English, Li Ho's English is excellent."

He handed her a single sheet of blue note paper, beautiful with a
narrow purple border and the very last word in "chaste and
distinctive" stationery.

"Honorable Spence and Respected Sir"--wrote Li Ho--"I address
husband as is propriety but include to Missy wishes of much
happiness. Honorable Boss and father is as per accustomed but no
different. Admirable Sami child also of strong appetite when last
observed. departure of Missy is well to remain so. Moon-devil not
say when, but arrive spontaneous. This insignificant advise from
worthless personage Li Ho."

Desire handed back the letter with a hand that was not quite steady.
The professor frowned. He had hoped that she was beginning to
forget. But, with one so unused to self-revelation as Desire, it had
been difficult to tell. He had thought it unwise to question and he
had never pressed any comparison between her life as it was and as
it had been. Better, he thought, to let all the old memories die.
They were, he fancied, not very tellable memories, being compounded
not so much of word and deed as of those more subtle things without
voice or being which are no less terribly, evilly, real and whose
mark remains longest upon the soul. Even complete understanding
would not help him to rub out these markings. Only that slow over-
growing of life, which we call forgetfulness, could do that. She was
so young, there was still an infinite impulse of growth within her
and in the new growth old scars might pass away.

Desire noticing the new seriousness of his face was conscious of a
pang of guilt. It seems such crass ingratitude to doubt for one
instant the stability of the happiness he had given her. Had he not
done more than it had seemed possible for anyone to do? From the
first she had overflowed with silent gratitude to him. There was
wonder yet in the apparent ease with which he had sauntered into the
prison of her life and, with a laugh and jest, set her free. He had
shown her, for the first time in her life, the blessedness of
receiving. Those whose nature it is to give greatly are not
ungenerous to the giving of others. It is a small and selfish mind
which fears to take, and Desire was neither small nor selfish. She
had hidden the thanks she could not speak deep in her heart, letting
them lie there, a core of sweetness, sweeter for its silence.

Who shall say when in this secret core a wonderful something began
to quicken and to grow? So fine were its beginnings that Desire
herself knew them only as new bloom and color, 'violets sweeter, the
blue sky bluer'--the old eternal miracle of a new-made earth.

She had called this new thing friendship and had been content. Only
today, when she had for an instant glimpsed life through the eyes of
Agnes Martin, had there seemed possible a greater word. In that
quiet room another name had whispered around her heart like the
first breath of a rising wind. She had not dared to listen. Yet,
without listening, she heard. And now, through Li Ho's letter, that
other Self who would have none of love, stretched out a phantom hand
and beckoned.

The professor took the letter from her gravely, retaining, for an
instant the unsteady hand that gave it.

"Aren't you able to get away from it yet?" he asked kindly.

"No. Perhaps I never shall. When the memory comes back I feel--sick.
It is even worse in retrospect. When it was my daily life, I lived
it. But now it seems impossible. Am I getting more cowardly, do you
think?"

Spence smiled. "I hope you are," he told her. "When you lived under
a daily strain you were probably keyed to a sort of harmony with it.
Now you are getting more normal. Life is a thing of infinite
adjustment."

"You think I could get 'adjusted' again if I had to?"

"You won't have to. Why discuss it?"

"Because it puzzles me. Why do I mind things more now than I did? I
used to feel quite casual about father's oddities. They never seemed
to exactly matter. But now," naively, "I would so much like to have
a father like other people."

"That is more normal, too."

"I suppose," she went on, as if following her own thoughts, "what Li
Ho calls the moon-devil is really a disease. Have you ever told Dr.
John about father, Benis? What did he say?" The professor fidgeted.
"Oh, nothing much. He couldn't, you know, without more data. But he
thinks his periodical spells may be a kind of masked epilepsy. There
are some symptoms which look like it. The way the attacks come on,
with restlessness and that peculiar steely look in the eye, the
unreasoning anger and especially the--er--general indications." The
professor came to a stammering end, suddenly remembering that she
did not know that last and worst of the moon-devil symptoms.

"It is hereditary, of course," said Desire calmly.

The professor jumped.

"My dear girl! What an idea."

"An idea which I could not very well escape. All these things tend
to transmit themselves, do they not? Only not necessarily so. I seem
to have escaped."

"Yes," shortly. "Surely you have never supposed--"

"No. I haven't. That's the odd part of it. I have never been the
least bit afraid. Perhaps it's because I have never felt that I have
anything at all in common with father. Or it may be because I have
never faced facts. I don't know. Even now, when I am facing facts,
they do not seem really to touch me. I never pretended to understand
father. He seemed like two or three people, all strangers. Sometimes
he was just a rather sly old man full of schemes for getting money
without working for it, and very clever and astute. Sometimes he
seemed a student and a scholar--this was his best mood. It was
during this phase that he wrote his scientific articles and taught
me all that I know. His own knowledge seemed to be an orderly
confusion o>f all kinds of things. And he could be intensely
interesting when he chose. In those moods he treated me with a
certain courtesy which may have been a remnant of an earlier manner.
But it never lasted long."

"And the other mood--the third one?"

"Oh, that Well, that was the bad mood. If it is a disease he was not
responsible. So' we won't talk of it." Desire's lips tightened. "He
usually went away in the hills when the restlessness came on. And I
fancy Li Ho--watched."

"Good old Li Ho!"

Desire nodded. "I think now that perhaps I did not quite appreciate
Li Ho. I should like to know--but what is the use? We shall never
know more than we do."

"Not about Li Ho'. He is the eternal Sphinx wrapped in an
everlasting yesterday. I suppose he did not have even a beginning?"

Desire smiled. "No. He was always there. He is one of my first
memories. A kind of family familiar. Sometimes I think that if he
had not been away the night my mother died she might have been alive
still."

Spence hesitated. "You have never told me about your mother's death,
you know," he reminded her gently.

"Haven't I?" Desire was plainly surprised. "Why--I thought you knew.
That is a queer thing about you," she went on musingly, "I am always
thinking that you know things which you don't. Perhaps it's because
you guess so much without being told. My mother died suddenly--of
shock. Her heart was never strong and the fright of waking to find a
thief in her room proved fatal. It happened one night when Li Ho was
away. We lived in Vancouver at the time and Li Ho often disappeared
into Chinatown. He had all the Oriental passion for fan-tan. That
night there was a police raid on his favorite gambling place and Li
Ho was held till morning. It was always he who locked the doors and
attended to everything at night. Perhaps it was known that he was
away. But just what happened was never settled, for my father was
found unconscious on the floor of the passage outside my mother's
door. He couldn't remember anything clearly. The fact that there had
been several previous burglaries in town and that there were
valuables missing offered the only explanation."

The professor was silent so long that Desire added: "I'm sorry. I
should have told you before."

"What difference would it have made?" He roused himself. "Tell me
the rest of it. Did Li Ho think that your mother had been frightened
by a--thief?"

"I suppose so," in surprise. "Li Ho blamed himself terribly. He said
it was his fault. If they hadn't known he was in the cells all night
they might have suspected him. He acted so queerly. But of course
what he meant was that if he had been at home the thief would not
have broken in."

"There were evidences of his having broken in?"

"There was a window open."

"And were any of the stolen things recovered."

"Not that I ever heard of. And yet, I think perhaps some of them
were. I remember--" Desire paused and a painful flush crept into her
cheek.

"Yes?" prompted Spence gently.

"One of the lost things was an old-fashioned watch belonging to
mother. I used to listen to it ticking. And once, years after, I saw
it. Father had given it to--a friend of his. So, you see, he must
have got it back."

"I see." The professor was aware of a pricking along his spine. He
looked at the unconscious face of the girl and ventured another
question.

"Was your father injured at all?"

"His head was hurt. They did not know whether the thief had struck
him or whether it was the fall. He had fallen just at the foot of
the stairs. We lived in a bungalow, then, and as I was asleep in my
little room under the eaves, it was thought that he had been trying
to reach me--what is the matter?"

The professor had been unable to control an involuntary shudder.

"Nothing," he said. "Just nerves."

Desire's smile was wistful. "It isn't a pretty story," she said.
"None of the stories I can tell are pretty. That's why I am
different from other people. But I am trying. Perhaps I shall get to
be more like them presently."

The professor banished his dark thoughts with an effort. "God
forbid!" he said cheerfully. "And here comes teat"




CHAPTER XXVII

One wonders what would happen to our admirable muddle of a world, if
even a minority of its inhabitants were suddenly to embrace
consistency. It would, presumably, be a world still, but so changed
that its best friends would not know it. It is because every-body,
everywhere and at all times, acts as they could not logically be
expected to act, that our dear familiar chaos of you-never-can-tell
continues to entertain us.

Had Desire possessed consistency, this quality so jewel-like in its
rarity, she would have realized that, having voluntarily stepped
aside from woman's natural destiny, she should also have ceased to
trouble herself with those feminine doubts and hopes which are
peculiar to it. She would have known that the position of secretary
to a professional man does not logically include heart-burnings and
questionings concerning that gentleman's love affairs, past or
present. She would have refused to consider Mary. She would have
been quite happy in the position she had deliberately made for
herself.

Much as we would like to present Desire in this thoroughly sensible
light, we fear that her action on the morning following her visit to
the invalid Miss Martin would not bear us out in so doing. For on
that morning, with all facts of the situation freshly in her mind,
she went down-town to Dr. Rogers' office for no other purpose than
to see and talk to Dr. Rogers' yellow-haired nurse.

"When I see her and hear her," said Desire to her-self, "I shall
know. And it will be so comfortable to know." Never a word, mind
you, about the inconsistency of being uncomfortable through not
knowing.

No attempt at reminding herself that knowledge was none of her
business. No arguing out of the matter at all. Merely the following
of a blind impulse to find Mary if Mary were to be found.

This impulse, which was wholly foreign to her natural habit of mind,
she justified to herself under the guise of "natural curiosity." All
she had to do was to make the call seem sufficiently casual and to
time her arrival at the doctor's office at an hour when he could not
possibly be in it. As a newcomer, such a mistake would seem quite
plausible and could be passed over easily with "How stupid of me! I
should have known." After that the nurse would probably invite her
to wait. And, even if she did not, the mere exchange of question
and. answer would probably be sufficiently revealing.

This small program proceeded exactly as planned and Desire, in her
most becoming frock, learned of the absence of Dr. Rogers with
exactly the right degree of impatience and regret.

"Please come in," said Dr. Rogers' nurse in somewhat drawling
accents. "Doctor may be back any minute." Being a nurse she always
predicted the doctor's arrival no matter how certain she might be
that he would not arrive.

Desire hesitated, glanced quite naturally at her watch and decided
to wait. "If you are sure the doctor won't be long--?" The nurse was
sure that he wouldn't be long.

Here her interest in the caller seemed to cease and she became very
much occupied with a business-like addressing of envelopes at a desk
in the corner.

Desire looked around the cool and pleasant room. It was not like her
idea of a doctor's office, save perhaps for a faint clean smell of
drugs. There were comfortable chairs, flowers in a window-box, a
table with a book or two and some magazines. Through a half-open
door, an inner office showed--all very different from the picture
her memory showed her of the musty, cumbered room in which her
father had received his dwindling patients. As a child she had hated
that room, hated the hideous charts of "people with their skins
off," the ponderous books with their horrific and highly colored
plates, the "patients' chair" with its clinging odor of plush and
ether, the untidy desk, the dust on everything!

But she had not come to Dr. Rogers' office to indulge in memory. She
had come to see the lady who was so busily addressing envelopes and,
after a decent interval of polite abstraction, she devoted herself
cautiously to this purpose.

Nurse Watkins, before Desire's entrance, had not been addressing
envelopes. She had been reading. Her book lay open upon the window-
sill and Desire, having good eyes, could read its title upside down.
It was not a title which she knew, nor, if titles tell anything, did
it belong to a book which invited knowing. Desire felt almost
certain that it was not a book which Mary would care to read. Still,
one never could tell. The professor had said nothing whatever about
Mary's literary taste.

Desire's eyes strayed, vaguely, from the book to its owner. Only
Miss Watkins' profile was visible but it was a profile well worth
attention. People who cannot choose their literature are often quite
successful with their caps. Miss Watkins' cap was just right. And
her hair was certainly yellow. Desire frowned.

Miss Watkins, looking up, caught the frown.

"Doctor really can't be long now," she drawled sympathetically.
Desire felt that the sympathy, like the assurance, was professional-
-an afterglow, perhaps of sympathy which had existed once, before
life had overdrawn its account. She felt, also, that Miss Watkins'
nose was decidedly good. It was straight, with the nicest little
blunt point; and her eyes were blue--not misty blue, like the hills,
but a passable blue for all that. Her expression was cold and
eminently superior. ("Frightfully nursey" was what Desire called it
to herself.) Her voice was thin. (Desire was glad of that.)

"Doctor must have been kept somewhere," said the nurse pursuing her
formula. "Won't you sit near the window? There's a breeze."

"Thank you." Desire moved to the window. "You must find it very
peaceful here--after nursing overseas."

Nurse Watkins tapped her full upper lip with her pen. "Yes," she
said. "It's very dull." Desire smiled. Her spirits had been rising
ever since her entrance and she was now quite cheerful. Pretty as
Miss Mary Watkins undoubtedly was, there was a some-thing--could it
be possible that she chewed gum? No, of course she could not chew
gum. And yet there was an impression of gum somewhere--an
insinuating certainty that she might chew gum on a dark night when
no one was looking. Desire heaved a little sigh of satisfaction and,
leaning out, appeared to occupy herself with the passers-by.

"Aren't Bainbridge streets wonderful?" she said.

Nurse Watkins' mouth took on a discontented droop. "The streets are
all right," she said, "only they don't go anywhere."

Desire laughed. "Are you as bored as that?" she asked.

"Worse. I wouldn't stay here a minute if it weren't--I mean, if I
hadn't been advised to rest up a bit."

Desire looked at her watch, and rose. Now that her curiosity had
been amply satisfied, she began to realize that curiosity is an
undignified thing. And also that she had not been the only person
present to give way to it.

The somewhat drawling tones of Miss Watkins' voice were not at all
in keeping with the activity of her wide-awake blue eyes. A sense of
this nurse's speculation as to her presence there flicked Desire
with little whips of irritation. It is one thing to observe and
quite another to render oneself observable. She felt the blood flow
hotly to her cheek. Why had she come? How could she have so far
forgotten her natural reserve, her instinctive dislike of intrusion?
Desire saw plainly that she had allowed a regrettable sentiment to
trick her into a ridiculous situation. Satisfied curiosity is
usually ashamed of itself.

And how absurd to have fancied for a moment that this blond
prettiness could be Mary!

"I am afraid I cannot wait longer," she murmured with polite regret.

"If there is any message--"

"None, I think. Thank you so much."

With the departure of her caller, Miss Watkins' manner underwent a
remarkable change. Professional coolness deserted her. She stamped
her foot and, from the safe concealment of the window curtain, she
watched Desire's unhurried progress down the street with eyes in
which the blue grew clouded and opaque. They brightened again as she
noticed Professor Spence passing on the opposite side of the street,
and became quite snappy with interest as she saw him pause as if to
call to his wife, then, after a swift and hesitating glance at the
door from which she had emerged, pass on without attracting her
attention.

As a bit of pure pantomime, these expressions of feeling on Miss
Watkins' part might be misleading with-out the added comment of a
letter which she wrote that night.

"I'm going to cut it, Flossy old girl," wrote Miss Watkins. "If you
know of anything near you that would suit me, pass it on. I think
I'm about due to get out of here. You know why I've stayed so long.
At first, I thought if we were together enough he might get to care.
People say I'm not bad for the eyes. And I don't use peroxide. Well,
I've made myself useful--he'll miss me anyway!

"It's kind of hard to give up. But I don't believe it's a bit of
use. I've noticed a difference in him ever since he came back from
that western trip. He doesn't seem to see me anymore. And there's
something else, a look in his eyes and a line along his mouth that
were never there before. I knew something had happened. And now I
know what it was. Another girl, of course.

"And this girl is married!

"You might think this would make things hopeful for me. But it
doesn't. Doctor's just the kind that would go on loving her if she
had a thousand husbands. So here's where I hook it. No use wasting
myself, honey. Maybe I'll get over it. They say everyone does.

"Funny thing--she's just the kind I'd think he'd go dippy over, dark
and still, with a lovely, wide mouth and skin like lilies. She is
young, younger than I am. But, believe me, she isn't a kid. Those
eyes of hers have seen things. They're the kind of eyes that I'd go
wild over if I were a man. So I'm not blaming Doctor. He can't help
it.

"She came into the office today, just like an ordinary patient. But
I knew right off that she'd come for some-thing. Don't know yet what
she came for. She doesn't give herself away, that one! Didn't seem
to look around, didn't ask questions and only stayed a few minutes.
Do you suppose she could have come to see me? Because, if she did--
Well, that shows where her interest is.

"Another odd thing--as she went out, I saw her husband. (I'll tell
you, in strict confidence, that her husband is Professor Spence.
They are well known people here. He used to be a sort of recluse. A
queer chap. Deep as a judge.) Well, I saw him pass, on the opposite
side of the road. He saw her and was just going to call, when it
seemed to strike him where she had come from. I couldn't see very
well across the road, but he looked as if someone had hit him. And
he went on without saying a word. Now that looked queer to me.

"Don't write and say that I'm only guessing at things. I may be
mistaken, of course, but I know I'm not. And I'm not a Pharisee (or
whoever it was that threw stones). If she cares for Doctor, I
suppose she can't help it. Some people think her husband handsome
but I don't. He's too thin and he has the oddest little smile. It
slips out and slips in like a mouse. When Dr. John smiles, he smiles
all over.

"Well, I'll wait a week or so to make sure. Although I'm sure now.
If I ever see Doctor look at her, I'll know. You see, I know how
he'd look if he looked that way. I've kept hoping--but I guess I'd
better take my ticket, Yours,

"MARY."

This letter satisfactorily explains the loss, some weeks later, of
Dr. Rogers' capable nurse--a matter which he, himself, could never
understand.




CHAPTER XXVIII

Desire was smiling as she left Dr. Rogers' office. It was a smile
compounded of derision and relief--a shamefaced smile which admitted
an opinion of herself very far from flattering.

So occupied was she with her mental reactions that she had no
attention to spare for the opposite side of the street and therefore
missed the slightly peculiar action of her husband-by-courtesy.
Professor Spence, when he had first caught sight of his wife had
automatically paused, as if to call or cross over. It had become
their friendly habit to inform each other of their daily plans and a
cheery "whither away?" had risen naturally to the professor's lips.
It rose to them, but did not leave them, for, in the intervening
instant, he had grasped the fact of Desire's smiling abstraction and
had sought its explanation in the place from which she had come.
desire calling at old Bones' office at this hour of the morning?
Before he had recovered from the surprise of it, she had passed.

Time, which seems so mighty, is sometimes quite negligible. The most
amazing mental illuminations may occupy only the fraction of a
second. A light flashes and is gone--but meanwhile one has seen.

The professor's pause was hardly noticeable. He walked on at once.
But years could not have instructed him more thoroughly than that
one second. He had received a revelation. Like all revelations, he
received it in its entirety and realized it piecemeal. His thoughts
stumbled over each other in confusion. . . . Desire at John's office
at this unusual hour? . . . Desire in her prettiest frock and
smiling . . . smiling, and so lost in her own thoughts that she saw
no one . . . Desire . . . John? . . . What the devil!

Spence had a finicky dislike of strong language. He thought it
savored of weakness, yet he found himself swearing heartily as he
hurried on--meaningless swears which by their very childishness
brought him back to common sense. His step slowed, he forced himself
to be reasonable. He took a brief against his own unwarranted
disturbance of mind and reduced it to argument. There was nothing at
all strange, he pointed out, in Desire having called at old Bones'
office at this, or any other, time of day (but what under heaven did
she do it for?). She might easily have forgotten to tell the doctor
some-thing. (What in thunder would she have to tell him?) She might
have dropped in, in passing (at that hour of the morning?) merely to
ask him over for some tennis (was the dashed telephone out of
order?). Or she might have felt a trifle seedy (pshaw! her health
was perfect--idiot!). Anyway she had a perfect right to see Dr.
Rogers at any time and for any reason she might choose. (Yes, she
had--that was the devil of it!)

At this point of his argument the professor was nearly-run down by a
delivery boy on a bicycle and saved himself only by a sharp
collision with a telegraph pole. This served to clear his brain
somewhat. His confusion of thought dropped away. He began to look
his revelation in the face--

"Desire--John?"

It was certainly possible! Why had he never seen it before? . . . He
had been warned. John himself had warned him--Old John who had been
so palpably "hit" when he had first seen Desire at Friendly Bay. But
he, Benis Spence, had laughed. Honestly laughed. No possibility of
this possibility had troubled him. He simply had not seen it. And
now--he saw. The thing italicised itself on his brain.

Granted that Desire might love, there was no reason on earth why she
should not love John.

The conclusion seemed childishly simple and yet he had never
seriously considered it. Why? Relentlessly he forced himself to
answer why. It was because he had believed that when Desire woke to
love, if she should so wake, she would wake to love for him! He tore
this admission out of a shrinking heart and laughed at it. It was
funny, quite funny in its ridiculous conceit. . . . But it hadn't
been conceit, it had been assurance. Impossible to account for, and
absurd as it seemed now, it was some-thing higher than vanity which
had hidden in his heart that happy sense of kinship with Desire
which had made John's warning seem an emptiness of words.

It was gone now, that wonderful sense of "belonging," swept away in
the swift rush of startled doubt. Searching as it might, his mind
could not find anywhere the faintest foothold for a belief that
Desire, free to choose, should turn to him and not to another.

"I had better go and sleep this off somewhere," murmured the
professor with a wry smile. "Mustn't let it get ahead of me. Mustn't
make any more mistakes. This needs thinking out--steady now!"

He tried to forget his own problem in thinking of hers. It couldn't
be very pleasant for her--this. And yet she had been smiling as she
came out of John's office. perhaps she did not know yet? On second
thoughts, he felt sure that she did not know. He recognized the
essentials of Desire. She was loyalty itself. And had he not reason
to know from his own present experience that the beginnings of love
can be very blind.

John, too--but with John it was different. John had given his
warning. If the warning were to be justified he could not blame
John. He could not blame anyone save his own too confident self.
Why, oh why, had he been so sure? Had he not known that love is the
most unaccountable of all the passions? How had he dared to build
security on that subtle thing within himself which, without cause or
reason, had claimed as his the unstirred heart of the girl he had
married.

Spence returned home with lagging step. The old distaste for
familiar things, which he thought had gone with the coming of
Desire, was heavy upon him. The gate of his pleasant home shut
behind him like a prison gate. In short, Benis Spence paid for a
moment's enlightenment with a bad day and a night that was no
better.

By the morning he had won through. One must carry on. And the
advantage of a quiet manner is that no one notices when it grows
more quiet.

Desire was already in the library when he entered it. She looked
very crisp and cool. It struck Spence for the first time that she
was dressing her part--the neat, dark skirt and laundered blouse,
blackbowed at the neck in a perfect orgy of simplicity, were
eminently secretarial. How beautifully young she was!

Desire looked up from her note-book with business-like promptitude.

"I think," she said, "that we are quite ready to go on with the
thirteenth chapter."

"But I think," said Benis, "that it would be much nicer to go
fishing."

"Why?"

"Well, it's Friday, for one thing. Do you really think it safe to
begin the thirteenth chapter on a Friday?"

His secretary's smile was dutiful, but her lips were firm. "We
didn't do a thing-yesterday," she reminded him. "I couldn't find you
anywhere and no one knew where you were."

"I was--just around," vaguely.

"Not around here," Desire was uncompromising. "Benis, I think we
should really be more businesslike. We should have talked this
thirteenth chapter over yesterday. I see you have a note here for
some opening paragraphs on The Apprehension of Color in Primitive
Minds--"

A cascade of goblin laughter from Yorick interrupted her.

"Yorick is amused," said Benis. "He knows all about the apprehension
of color in primitive minds. He advises us to go fishing."

Desire watched him stroke the bird's bent head with a puzzled frown.

"I wish you wouldn't joke about--this," she said slowly. "You don't
want that habit of mind to affect your serious work."

Spence looked up surprised.

"The whole character of the book is changing," went on Desire
resolutely. "It will all have to be revised and brought into
harmony. I'm sure you've felt it yourself. In a book like this the
treatment must be the same throughout. I've heard you say that a
hundred times. It doesn't matter what the treatment is, the
necessary thing is that it be consistent. Isn't that right?"

"Certainly."

"Well--yours isn't!"

Spence forgot the parrot (who immediately pecked his finger). He
almost forgot that he had suffered an awakening and had passed a bad
night. Desire interested him in the present moment as she always
did. She was--what was she? "Satisfying" was perhaps the best word
for it. Just to be with her seemed to round out life.

"Prove it!" said he with some heat.

For half an hour he listened while she proved it with great energy
and a thorough knowledge of her facts. He listened because he liked
to listen and not because she was telling him anything new. He knew
just where his "treatment" of his material had changed, and he knew,
as Desire did not, what had changed it. For the change was not
really in the treatment at all, but in himself.

This book had been his earliest ambition. It had been the sole
companion of his thoughts for years. It had been the little idol
which must be served. Without a word of it being written, it had
grown with his growth. His notes for it comprised all that he had
filched from life. He had not hurried. He was leisurely by nature.
Then had come the war, lifting him out of all the things he knew.
And, after the war, its great weariness. Not until he had met Desire
and found, in her fresh interest, something of his own lost
enthusiasm, had he been able to work again. Then, in a glow of
recovered energy, the book had been begun. And all had gone well
until the book's inspirer had begun to usurp the place of the book
itself. (Spence smiled as he realized that Desire was painstakingly
tracing the course of her self-caused destruction.) How could he
think of the book when he wanted only to think of her? Insensibly,
his gathered facts had begun to lose their prime importance, his
deductions had lost their sense of weight, all that he had done
seemed strangely insignificant--it was like looking at something
through the wrong end of a telescope. The great book was a star
which grew steadily smaller.

The proportion was wrong. He knew that. But at present he could do
nothing to readjust it. Two interests cannot occupy the same space
at the same time. The book interest had simply succumbed to an
interest older and more potent.

"In this chapter, the Sixth," Desire was saying, "you seem to lose
some of the serious purpose which is a prominent note in the opening
chapters. You begin to treat things casually. You almost allow
yourself to be humorous. Now is this supposed to be a humorous book,
or is it not?"

"Oh--not. Distinctly not."

"Well then, don't you see? If you had treated the thing in that
semi-humorous manner all through and continued in that vein you
would produce a certain definite type of book. The critics would
probably say--"

"I know, spare me!" "They would say," sternly, "that 'Professor
Spence has a light touch.' That 'he has treated his subject in a
popular manner.'" (The professor groaned.) "But that isn't a patch
upon what they will say if you mix up your styles as you are doing
at present."

"But--well, what do you advise?"

Desire sucked her pencil. (He had given up trying to cure her of
this poisonous habit.)

"I've thought about that. If you were not so--so temperamental, I
would say go back and begin again. But that is risky. It will be
better to go on, I think, trying to recapture the more serious
style, until the whole book it at least in some form. Then you will
know exactly where you are and what is necessary to harmonize the
whole. You can then rewrite the 'off' chapters, bringing them into
line. This is a recognized literary method, I believe."

"Is it? Good heavens!"

"I read it in a book."

"Then it must be literary. All right. I'm agreeable. But at present-
-"

"At present," firmly, "the main thing is to go on."

"This morning?"

"Certainly."

"But I don't want to go on this morning. That is the flaw in your
literary method. It makes me go on whether I want to or not. Now the
really top-notchers never do that. They are as full of stoppages as
a freight train. Fact. They only create when the spirit moves them."

"Aren't you thinking of Quakers?" suggested Desire sweetly. "Besides
you are not creating. You are compiling--a very different thing."

"But what is the use of compiling an off chapter when I know it is
going to be an off one?"

Desire threw down her pencil.

"Oh, Benis," she said. "I don't like this. Don't let us play with
words. Surely you are not getting tired--you can't be."

Her eyes, urgent and truth-compelling, forced an answer.

"I don't quite know," he said. "But I am certainly off work at
present. There may be all kinds of reasons. You will have to be
patient, Desire."

"Then," in a low voice, "it isn't only indolence?"

He was moved to candor. "It isn't indolence at all. I have always
been a fairly good worker, and will be again. But the driving force
has shifted. I have not been doing good work and I know it. The more
I know it the worse the work will become. . . . It doesn't matter,
really, child," he added gently, seeing that she had turned away.
"The world can wait for the bit of knowledge I can give it."

Desire, whose face was invisible, took a moment to answer this. When
she did her voice was carefully with-out expression.

"Then this ends my usefulness. You will not need me any more."

The professor, who had been nursing his knee on the corner of the
desk, straightened up so suddenly that he heard his spine click.

"What's this?" he said. (Good heavens--the girl was as full of
surprises as a grab-bag!)

"It was for the book you needed me, was it not? That was my share of
our partnership."

("Now you've done it!" shouted an exultant voice in the professor's
brain. "Oh, you are an ass!")

"Shut up!" said Spence irritably. "I wasn't talking to you," he
explained apologetically. "It's just a horrid little devil I
converse with sometimes. What I meant was--" He did not seem to know
what he meant and looked rather helplessly out of the window. "Oh, I
say," he said presently, "you are not going to--to act like that,
are you? Agitation's so frightfully bad for me. Ask old Bones."

"You are not agitated," said Desire coldly. "Please be serious."

"I am. Deuced serious. And agitated too. You ought to think twice
before you startle me like that--just when everything was going
along so nicely."

"I am only reminding you of your own agreement," stubbornly. "I want
to be of use."

"Very selfish of you. Can't you think of someone else once in a
while?"

"Selfish? Because I want to help?"

"Certainly. I wonder you don't see it! Think of the mornings I've
put in on this dashed book just because you wanted to help. I have
to be polite, haven't I?--up to a point. But when you begin to blame
me for doing poorly what I do not want to do at all I begin to see
that my self-sacrifice is not appreciated."

"You are talking nonsense."

"Perhaps I am. But it was you who started it. When you said I did
not need you, you said a very nonsensical thing. And a very unkind
thing, too. A man does not like to talk of--his need. But, now that
we have come to just this point, let us have it out. Surely our
partnership was not quite as narrow as you suggest? The book is a
detail. It is L. part of life which will fit in somewhere--an
important part in its right place--but it isn't the whole pattern."
He smiled whimsically. "Do not think of me as just an animated book,
my dear--if you can help it. And remember, no matter how we choose
to interpret our marriage, you are my wife. And my very good
comrade. The one thing which could ever change my need of you is
your greater need of--of someone else."

The last words were casual enough but the look which accompanied
them was keen, and a sense of relief rose gratefully in the
professor as no sign of disturbance appeared upon the thoughtful
face of his hearer.

"Is Benis here, my dear?" asked Aunt Caroline opening the door. "Oh
yes, I see that he is. Benis, you are wanted on the 'phone. If you
would take my advice, which you never do, you would have an
extension placed in this room. Then you could always just answer and
save Olive a great deal of bother. Not that I think maids ought to
mind being bothered. They never did in my time. But it would be
quite simple for you, when you are writing here, to attend to the
'phone. Perhaps if the butcher heard a man's voice occasionally he
might be more respectful. I do not expect much of tradespeople, as
you know, but if the butcher--"

"Is it the butcher who wishes to speak to me, Aunt?"

"Good gracious, no. It's long distance. Why don't you hurry? . . .
Men have no idea of the value of time," she added as the professor
vanished. "My dear you must not let Benis overwork you. He doesn't
intend to be unkind, but men never think."




CHAPTER XXIX

Desire turned back to her papers as the door closed. But her manner
was no longer brisk and business-like. There was a small, hot lump
in her throat.

"It isn't fair," she thought passionately. "It's all very well to
talk, but it does make a difference--it does. If I'm not his
secretary what am I?" A hot blush crimsoned her white skin and she
stamped her foot. "I'm not his wife. I'm not! I'm not!" she said
defiantly.

There was no one to contradict her. Even Yorick was silent. And, as
contradiction is really necessary to belligerency, some of the fire
died out of her stormy eyes. But it flared again as thought flung
thought upon the embers.

"Wife!" How dared he use the word? And in that tone! A word that
meant nothing to him. Nothing, save a cold, calm statement of claim.
. . . Not that she wanted it to mean anything else. Had she not,
herself, arranged a most satisfactory basis of coolness and
calmness? (Reason insisted upon reminding her of this.) And a strict
recognition of this basis was precisely what she wanted, of course.
Only she wanted it as a secretary and not as a--not as anything
else.

"What's in a word?" asked Reason mildly. "Words mean only what you
mean by them. Wife or secretary, if they mean the same--"

Desire flung her note-books viciously into a drawer and banged it
shut.

Why did things insist upon changing anyway? She had been content--
well, almost. She had not asked for more than she had. Why, then,
should a cross-grained fate insist upon her getting less? Since
yesterday she had not troubled even about Mary. Her self-ridicule at
the absurdity of her mistake regarding Dr. Rogers' pretty nurse had
had a salutary effect. And now--just when everything promised so
well (self-pity began to cool the hot lump in her throat). And just
when she had made up her mind that, however small her portion of her
husband's thought might be, it would be enough--well, almost enough-
-

A screech from Yorick made her start nervously.

"Cats!" said Yorick. "Oh the devil--cats!"

Desire laughed and firmly dislodged Aunt Caroline's big Maltese cat
from its place of vantage on the window-sill. The laughter dissolved
the last of the troublesome lump and she began to feel better. After
all, the book-weariness of which Benis had spoken would probably be
a passing phase. If she allowed herself to go on creating mountains
out of molehills she would soon have a whole range upon her hands.

And he had said he needed her!

Mechanically, she began to straighten the desk, restoring the
professor's notes to their proper places. She was feeling almost
sanguine again when her hand fell upon the photograph.

We say "the" photograph because, of all photographs in the world,
this one was the one most fatal to Desire's new content. She picked
it up casually. Photographs have no proper place amongst notes of
research. Desire, frowning her secretarial frown, lifted the
intruder to remove it and, lifting, naturally looked at it. Having
looked, she continued looking.

It was an arresting photograph. Desire had not seen it before. That
in itself was surprising, since one of Aunt Caroline's hardest-to-
bear social graces was the showing of photographs. She had
quantities of them--tons, Desire sometimes thought. They lived in
boxes in different parts of the house, and were produced upon most
unlikely occasions. One was never quite safe from them. Even the
spare room had its own box, appropriately covered with chintz to
match the curtains.

This photograph, Desire saw at once, would not fit into Aunt
Caroline's boxes. It was too big. And it was very modern. Most of
Aunt Caroline's collection dated from the "background" period of
photographic art. But this one was all person. And a very charming
person too.

Photographs are often deceiving. But one can usually catch them at
it. Desire perceived at once that this photograph's nose had been
artistically rounded and that its flawlessness of line and texture
owed something to retoucher's lead. But looking through and behind
all this, there was enough--oh, more than enough!

With instant disfavor, Desire noted the perfect arrangement of the
hair, the delicate slope of the shoulder, the lifted chin, the tip
of a hidden ear, the slightly mocking, but very alluring, glance of
long, fawn-like eyes.

"Another molehill," thought Desire. And, virtuously disregarding the
instinct leaping in her heart, she turned the fascinating thing face
downwards. Probably fate laughed then. For written large and in very
black ink across the back was the admirably restrained autograph,
"Benis, from Mary" . . .

Well, she knew now!

A very different person, this, from the blond Miss Watkins with her
hard blue eyes and too, too dewy lips! Here was a woman of character
and charm. A woman fully armed with all the witchery of sex. A woman
any man might love--even Benis.

Desire did not struggle against her certainty. Her acceptance of it
was as sudden as it was complete. Huddling back in her chair, with
the tell-tale photo in her hands, she felt cold. Certainty is a
chill thing. We all seek certainty but, when we get it, we shiver.
The proper place for certainty is just ahead, that we may warm our
blood in the pursuit of it. Certainty stands at the end of things
and human nature shrinks from endings.

Only that morning, Desire had qualified the good of her present
state by the "if" of "if I only knew." And, now that she did know,
the only unqualified thing was her sense of desolation. The most
disturbing of her speculations had been as nothing to this
relentless knowledge. Not until she had found certainty did she
realize how she had clung to hope.

She did not know that she was crying until a tear splashed hot upon
her hand. She did not hear the door open as Benis reentered the
room, but she sprang to her feet, alert and defensive, at the sound
of his voice.

"Crying?" said Benis.

It was hardly a question. He had, in fact, seen the tear. But there
was nothing in his manner to indicate more than ordinary concern.

"Certainly not," said Desire.

"My mistake. But what is it you are hiding so carefully behind you?
Mayn't I see?"

Desire thought quickly. Her denial of tears had been, she knew,
quite useless. Besides, she had heard that note of dry patience in
the professor's voice before. It came when he wanted something and
intended to get it. And he wanted now to know the cause of her
tears. Well, he would never know it--never. It was the one
impossible thing. Desire's pride flamed in her, a white fire which
would consume her utterly--if he knew.

"It is a personal matter," she said. (This was merely to gain time.)

"It is personal to me also."

"I do not wish to show it to you."

"No. But--do not force me to insist."

These two wasted but few words upon each other. It was not
necessary. Desire took a quick step backward. And, as she did so,
the desired inspiration came. Directly behind her stood the table on
which lay Aunt Caroline's box of photographs. If she could, without
turning, substitute one of them for the tell-tale picture in her
hand--

"You will hardly insist, I think." Her eyes were on him, cool and
wary. She took another step backward. He did not follow her. There
was a faint smile on his lips but his face, she noticed with
perturbation, had gone very pale. His eyes were shining and chill,
like water under grey skies.

"Please," he said, holding out his hand.

Desire let her glance go past him. "The door!" she murmured. He
turned to close it. It gave her only a moment. But a moment was all
she needed.

"Surely we are making a fuss over nothing." With difficulty she kept
a too obvious relief out of her voice. He must not find her
opposition weakened.

"Perhaps. But--let me decide, Desire."

"Shan't!" said Desire, like a naughty child.

Fire leapt from the chill grey of his eyes.

"Very well, then--"

He took it so quickly that Desire gasped. Then she laughed. She
had never had anything taken from her by force since her childhood
and it was an astonishing experience. Also, she had not dreamed that
Benis was so strong. It hadn't been at all difficult. And this in
spite of the fact that she had clung to the substituted photo-graph
with convincing stubbornness.

"Well--now you've got it, I hope you like it," she said a little
breathlessly. Her eyes were sparkling. She did not know what photo
she had picked up when she dropped the real one. 'Probably it was a
picture of Aunt Caroline herself or of some dear and departed
Spence. Benis would have some difficulty in tracing the cause of the
tears he had surprised. Fortunately he could always see a joke on
himself. It would be funny . . .

But it did not seem to be funny. Benis was not laughing. He had gone
quite grey.

"What is it, Benis?" in a startled tone. "You see it was just a
mistake? I was crying because--because I was sorry you were not
going on with the book. I just happened to have a photograph--" The
look in his eyes stopped her.

"Please don't," he said.

She took the card he held out to her, glanced at it, and choked back
a spasm of hysterical laughter. For it wasn't a picture of Aunt
Caroline, or even of a departed Spence--it was a picture of Dr. John
Rogers!

"Gracious!" said Desire. There seemed to be nothing else to say.
"Well," she ventured after a perplexed pause, "you can see that I
couldn't be crying over John, can't you?"

"I can see--no need why you should;" said Benis slowly. "I'm afraid
I have been very blind."

The girl's complete bewilderment at this was plain to anyone of
unbiased judgment. But Spence's judgment was not at present
unbiased. He went on painfully.

"I owe you an apology for my very primitive method of obtaining your
confidence. But it is better that I should know--"

"Know what? You don't know. I don't know myself. I did not even know
whose the photograph was until--" She hesitated at the look of hurt
wonder in his eyes. "You think I am lying?" she finished angrily.

"I think you are making things unnecessarily difficult. There is no
need for you to explain--anything."

Desire was furious. And helpless. She remembered now that when he
had entered the room he had certainly seen her bending over a
photograph. No wonder her statement that she did not know whose
photograph it was seemed uniquely absurd. There was only one
adequate explanation. And that explanation she wouldn't and couldn't
make.

"Very well then," she said loftily. "I shall not explain."

He did not look at her. He had not looked at her since handing her
back John's picture. But he had himself well in hand now. Desire
wondered if she had imagined that greyish pallor, that sudden look
of a man struck down. What possible reason had there been for such
an effect anyway? Desire could see none.

"I came to tell you/' he said in his ordinary voice, "that the long
distance call came from Miss Davis. If it is convenient for you and
Aunt, she plans to come along on the evening train. Her cold is
quite better."

"The evening train, tonight?"

"Yes." He smiled. "She is a sudden person. Gone today and here
tomorrow. But you will like her. And you will adore her clothes."

"Are they the very latest?"

"Later than that. Mary always buys yesterday what most women buy
tomorrow."

"Oh," said Desire. "And what does this futurist lady look like?"

Benis considered. "I can't think of anything that she looks like,"
he concluded. "She doesn't go in for resemblances. Futurists don't,
you know!"

"Isn't it odd?" said Desire in what she hoped was a casual voice.
"So many of your friends seem to be named Mary."

"I've noticed that myself--lately."

"There are--"

"'Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton and Mary Carmichael and me,'" quoted
Benis gravely.

Desire permitted herself to smile and turning, still smiling, faced
Aunt Caroline; who, for her part, was in anything but a smiling
humor.

"I'm glad you take it good-naturedly, Desire," said Aunt Caroline
acidly. "But people who arrive at a moment's warning always annoy
me. I do not require much, but a few days' notice at the least--have
you seen a photograph anywhere about?"

Desire bit her lips. "Whose photograph was it, Aunt?"

"Why, Mary Davis' photograph, of course. The one she gave to Benis
when she was last here. I hope you do not mind my taking it from
your room, Benis? My intention was to have it framed. People do like
to see themselves framed. I thought it might be a delicate little
attention. But if she is coming tonight, it is too late now. Still,
we might put it in place of Cousin Amelia Spence on the drawing-room
mantel. What do you think, my dear?"

"I think we might," said Desire. Her tone was admirably judicial but
her thoughts were not. . . . If the Mary of the visit were no other
than the Mary of the faun-eyed photograph, why then--

Why then, no wonder that Benis had lost interest in the great Book!




CHAPTER XXX

To give exhaustive reasons for the impulse which brought Miss Mary
Davis to Bainbridge at this particular time would be to delve too
deeply into the complex psychology of that lady. But we shall not be
far wrong if we sum up the determining impulse in one word--
curiosity.

The news of Benis Spence's unexpected marriage had been something of
a shock to more than one of his friends. But especially so to Mary
Davis. Upon a certain interesting list, which Miss Davis kept in her
well-ordered mind, the name of this agreeable bachelor had been
distinctly labelled "possible." To have a possibility snatched from
under one's nose without warning is annoying, especially if the
season in possibilities threatens to be poor. The war had sadly
depleted Miss Davis' once lengthy list. And she, herself, was five
years older. It would be interesting, and perhaps instructive, to
see the young person from nowhere who had still further narrowed her
personal territory.

"It does seem rather a shame," she confided to a select friend or
two, "that clever men who have escaped the perils of early matrimony
should in maturity turn back to the very thing which constituted
that peril."

"You mean men like them young?" said a select friend with brutal
candor.

"I mean they like them too young. In the case I'm thinking of, the
girl is a mere child. And quite uncultured. What possibility of
intellectual companionship could the most sanguine man expect?"

"None. But they don't want intellectual companionship." Another
select friend spoke bitterly. "I used to think they did. It seemed
reasonable. As the basis for a whole lifetime, it seemed the only
possible thing. But what's the use of insisting on a theory, no
matter how abstractly sound, if it is disproved in practice every
day? Remember Bobby Wells? He is quite famous now; knows more about
biology than any man on this side of the water. He married last
week. His wife is a pretty little creature who thinks protoplasm
another name for appendicitis."

There was a sympathetic pause.

"And biology was always such a fad of yours," sighed Mary
thoughtfully. "Never mind! They are sure to be frightfully unhappy."

"No, they won't. That's it. That's the point I am making. They'll be
as cozy as possible."

Miss Davis thought this point over after the select friend who made
it had gone. She did not wish to believe that its implication was a
true one. But, if it were, if youth, just youth, were the thing of
power, then it were wise that she should realize it before it was
too late. Her own share of the magic thing was swiftly passing.

From a drawer of her desk she took a recent letter from a Bainbridge
correspondent and re-read the part referring to the Spence
reception.

"Really, it was quite well done," she read. "Old Miss Campion has a
'flair' for the suitabilities, and now that so many are trying to be
smart or bizarre, it is a relief to come back to the old pleasant
suitable things--you know what I mean. And the old lady has an air.
How she gets it, I don't know, for the dear Queen is her idea of
style. Perhaps there is something in the 'aura' theory. If so, Miss
Campion's aura is the very glass of fashion.

"And the bride! But I hear you are coming down, so you will see the
bride for yourself. There was a silly rumor about her being part
Indian. Well, if Indian blood can give one a skin like hers, I could
do with an off-side ancestor myself! She is even younger than report
predicted. But not sweet or coy (Heavens, how one wearies of that
type!) And Benis Spence, as a bride-groom, has lost something of his
'moony' air. He is quite attractive in an odd way. All the same, I
can't help feeling (and others agree with me) that there is
something odd about that marriage. My dear, they do not act like
married people. The girl is as cool as a princess (I suppose
princesses are). And the professor's attitude is so--so casual. Even
John Rogers' manner to the bride is more marked than the
bridegroom's. But you know I never repeat gossip. It isn't kind. And
any-way it may not be true that he drops in for tea nearly every
day."

Miss Davis replaced the letter with a musing smile. And the next
morning she called up on long distance. A visit to Bainbridge, she
felt, might be quite stimulating. . . .

Observe her, then, on the morning of her arrival having breakfast in
bed. Breakfast in bed is always offered to travellers at the Spence
home--a courtesy based upon the tradition of an age which travelled
hard and seldom. Miss Davis quite approved of the custom. She had
not neglected to bring "matinees" in which she looked most charming.
Negligee became her. She openly envied Margot Asquith her bedroom
receptions.

Young Mrs. Spence, inquiring with true western hospitality, whether
the breakfast had been all that could be desired, was conscious of a
pang, successfully repressed, at the sight of that matinee. She saw
at once that she had never realized possibilities in this direction.
Her night-gowns (even the new ones) were merely night-gowns and her
kimonas were garments which could still be recognized under that
name.

"It is rather a duck," said Mary, reading Desire's admiring glance.
"Quite French, I think. But of course, as a bride, you will have
oceans of lovely things. I adore trousseaux. Perhaps you will show
me some of your pretties?" (The bride's gowns, she admitted, might
be passable but what really tells the tale is the underneaths.)

"Oh, with pleasure." Desire's assent was instant and warm. "I shall
love to let you see my things."

It was risky--but effective. Mary's desire to see the trousseau
evaporated on the instant. No girl would be so eager to show things
which were not worth showing. And Mary was no altruist to rejoice
over other people's Paris follies.

After all, she really knew very little about Benis's wife. And you
never can tell. She began to wish that she had brought down with her
some very special glories--things she had decided not to waste on
Bainbridge. Her young hostess had eyes which were coolly, almost
humorously, critical. "Absurd in a girl who simply can't have any
proper criteria!" thought Miss Davis crossly.

"When you are quite rested," said Desire kindly, "you will find us
on the west lawn. The sun is never too hot there in the morning."

"Yes--I remember that." The faintest sigh disturbed the laces of
Mary's matinee. Her faun-like eyes looked wistful. "But if you do
not mind, I think I shall be really lazy--these colds do leave one
so wretched."

Desire agreed that colds were annoying. She had not missed the sigh
which accompanied Mary's memory of the west lawn and very naturally
misread it. Mary's regretful decision to challenge no morning
comparison in the sunlight on any lawn was interpreted as regret of
a much more tender nature. Desire's eyes grew cold and dark with
shadow as she left her charming visitor to her wistful rest.

That Mary Davis was the lady of her husband's one romance, she had
no longer any doubt. Anyone, that is, any man, might love deeply and
hopelessly a woman of such rare and subtle charm. Possessing youth
in glorious measure herself, Desire naturally discounted her rival's
lack of it. With her, the slight blurring of Mary's carefully tended
"lines," the tired look around her eyes, the somewhat cold-creamy
texture of her delicate skin, weighed nothing against the exquisite
finish and fine sophistication which had been the gift of the added
years.

In age, she thought, Mary and Benis would rank each other. They were
also essentially of the same world. Neither had ever gazed through
windows. Both had been free of life from its beginning. Love between
them might well have been a fitting progression.

The one fact which did not fit in here was this--in the story as
told by Benis the affair had been one of unreciprocated affection.
This presupposed a blindness on the lady's part which Desire began
increasingly to doubt. She had already reached the point when it
seemed impossible that anyone should not admire what to her was
entirely admirable. Even the explanation of a prior attachment (the
"Someone Else" of the professor's story), did not carry conviction.
Who else could there be--compared with Benis?

No. It looked, upon the face of it, as if there had been a mistake
somewhere. Benis had despaired too soon!

This fateful thought had been crouching at the door of Desire's mind
ever since Mary had ceased to be an abstraction. She had kept it
out. She had refused to know that it was there. She had been happy
in spite of it. But now, when its time was fully come, it made small
work of her frail barriers. It blundered in, leering and triumphant.

Men have been mistaken before now. Men have turned aside in the very
moment of victory. And Benis Spence was not a man who would beg or
importune. How easily he might have taken for refusal what was, in
effect, mere withdrawal. Had Mary retreated only that he might
pursue? And had the Someone Else been No One Else at all?

If this were so, and it seemed at least possible, the retreating
lady had been smartly punished. Serve her right--oh, serve her right
a thousand times for having dared to trifle! Desire wasted no pity
on her. But what of him? With merciless lucidity Desire's busy brain
created the missing acts which might have brought the professor's
tragedy of errors to a happy ending. It would have been so simple--
if Benis had only waited. Even pursuit would not have been required
of him. Mary, unpursued, would have come back; unasked, she might
have offered. But Benis had not waited.

Desire saw all this in the time that it took her to go down-stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs she faced its unescapable logic: if he
were free now, he might be happy yet.

How blind they had both been! He to believe that love had passed;
she to believe that love would never come. Desire paused with her
hand upon the library door. He was there. She could hear him talking
to Yorick. She had only to open the door . . . but she did not open
it. Yesterday the library had been her kingdom, the heart of her
widening world. Now it was only a room in someone else's house.
Yesterday she would have gone in swiftly--hiding her gladness in a
little net of everyday words. But today she had no gladness and no
words.




CHAPTER XXXI

Miss Davis had been in Bainbridge a week. Her cold was entirely
better and her nerves, she said, much rested. "This is such a
restful place," murmured Miss Davis, selecting her breakfast toast
with care.

"I'm glad you find it so," said Aunt Caroline. "Though, with the
club elections coming on next week--" she broke off to ask if Desire
would have more coffee.

Desire would have no more, thanks. Miss Campion, looking over her
spectacles, frowned faintly and took a second cup herself--an
indulgence which showed that she had something on her mind. Her
nephew, knowing this symptom, was not surprised when later she
joined him on the side veranda. Being a prompt person she began at
once.

"Benis," she said, "I have a feeling--I am not at all satisfied
about Desire. If you know what is the matter with her I wish you
would tell me. I am not curious. I expect no one's confidence, nor
do I ask for it. But I have a right to object to mysteries, I
think."

As Aunt Caroline spoke, she looked sternly at the smoke of the
professor's after-breakfast cigarette, the blue haze of which
temporarily clouded his expression. Benis took his time in
answering.

"You think there is something the matter besides the heat?" he
inquired mildly.

"Heat! It is only ordinary summer weather."

"But Desire is not used to ordinary summer, in Ontario."

"Nonsense. It can't be much cooler on the coast. Although I have
heard people say that they felt quite chilly there. It isn't that."

"What is it, then?"

Not noticing that she was being asked to answer her own question,
Aunt Caroline considered. Then, with a flash of shrewd insight,
"Well," she said, "if there were any possible excuse for it, I
should say that it is Mary Davis."

"My dear Aunt!"

"You asked me, Benis. And I have told you what I think. Desire has
changed since Mary came. Before that she seemed happy. There was
something about her--well, I admit I liked to look at her. And she
seemed to love this place. Even that Yorick bird pleased her, a
taste which I admit I could never understand. Now she looks around
and sees nothing. The girl has some-thing on her mind, Benis. She's
thinking."

"With some people thought is not fatal."

"I am serious, Benis."

"So am I."

"What I should like to know is--have you, by any chance, been
flirting with Mary?"

"What?"

"Don't shout. You heard what I said perfectly. I do not wish to
interfere. It is against my nature. But if you had been flirting
with Mary, that might account for it. I don't believe Desire would
understand. She might take it seriously. As for Mary--I am ashamed
of her. I shall not invite her here again."

"This is nonsense, Aunt."

"Excuse me, Benis. The nonsense is on your side. I know what I am
talking about, and I know Mary Davis. She is one of those women for
whom a man obscures the landscape. She will flirt on her deathbed,
or any-body else's deathbed, which is worse. Come now, be honest.
She has been doing it, hasn't she?"

"Certainly not."

"I suppose you have to say that. I'll put it in another way. What
is your opinion of Mary?"

"She is an interesting woman."

"You find her more interesting than you did upon her former visit?"

"I hardly remember her former visit. I never really knew her
before."

"And you know her now?"

"She has honored me with a certain amount of confidence."

Aunt Caroline snorted. "I thought so. Well, she doesn't need to
honor me with her confidence because I know her without it. Was she
honoring you that way last night when you stayed out in the garden
until mid-night?"

"We were talking, naturally."

"And--your wife?"

There was a moment's pause while the cigarette smoke grew bluer. "My
wife," said Benis, "was very well occupied."

"You mean that when Dr. John saw how distrait and pale she was, he
took her for a run in his car? Now admit, Benis, that you made it
plain that you wished her to go."

"Did I?"

"Yes," significantly, "too plain. Mary saw it--and John. You are
acting strangely, Benis. I don't like it, that's flat. Desire is too
much with John. And you are too much with Mary. It is not a natural
arrangement. And it is largely your fault. It is almost as if you
were acting with some purpose. But I'll tell you this--whatever your
purpose may be--you have no right to expose your wife to comment."

She had his full attention now. The cigarette haze drifted away.

"Comment?" slowly. "You mean that people--but of course people
always do. I hadn't allowed for that. Which shows how impossible it
is to think of everything. I'm sorry."

"I do not pretend to understand you, Benis. But then, I never did.
Your private affairs are your own, also your motives. And I never
meddle, as you know. I think though, that I may be permitted a
straight question. Has your feeling toward Desire changed?"

"Neither changed nor likely to change."

Miss Campion's expression softened.

"Are you sure that she knows it?"

"I am not sure of anything with regard to Desire."

"Then you ought to be. Don't shilly-shally, Benis. It is a habit of
yours. All of the Spences shilly-shally. Make certain that Desire is
aware of your--er--affection. Mark my words--I have a feeling. She
is fretting over Mary."

"I happen to know that she is not."

Small red flags began to fly from Miss Campion's prominent cheek-
bones.

"We shall quarrel in a moment, Benis. You are pig-headed. Exactly as
your father was, and without his common sense. I know you think me
an interfering old maid. But I like Desire, and I won't have her
made miserable. I want--"

"Hush--here she comes."

"Ill leave you then," in a sepulchral whisper. "And for goodness'
sake, Benis, do something! . . . Were you looking for me, my dear?"
added Aunt Caroline innocently as Desire came slowly toward them.
"Do not try to be energetic this morning. It is so very hot. Sit
here. I'll send Olive out with something cool. I'd like you both to
try the new raspberry vinegar."

Greatly pleased with her simple stratagem the good soul bustled
away. Desire looked after her with a grateful smile.

"I believe Aunt Caroline likes me," she said with a note of faint
surprise.

"Is that very wonderful?"

"Yes."

Benis looked at her quickly and looked away. She was certainly
paler. She held her head as if its crown of hair were heavy.

"It does not seem wonderful to other people who also--like you."

Her eyes turned to him almost timidly. It hurt him to notice that
the old frank openness of glance was gone. Good heavens! was the
child afraid of him? Did she think that he blamed her? That he did
not understand how helpless she was before her awakening womanhood?
He forgot how difficult speech was in the overpowering impulse to
reassure her.

"I wish you could be happy; my dear," he said. "You are so young.
Can't you be a little patient? Can't you be content as things are--
for a while?"

Even Spence, blinded as he was by the bitterness of his own
struggle, noticed the strangeness of her look.

"You want things to go on--as they are?"

"Yes. For a time. We had better be quite sure. We do not want a
second mistake."

"You see that there has been a mistake?"

"Can I help seeing it, Desire?"

"No, I suppose not. . . . And when you are sure?" Her voice was very
low.

"When I--when we are both sure, I shall act. There are ways out. It
ought not to be difficult."

"No, quite easy, I think. I hope it will not be long."

His mask of reasonable acquiescence slipped a little at the
wistfulness of her voice.

"Don't speak like that!" he said sharply. "No man is worth it."

Desire smiled. It was such a sure, secret little smile, that it
maddened him.

"You can't--you can't care like that!" he said in a low, furious
tone. "You said you never could!"

"I do," said Desire.

It was the avowal which she had sworn she would never make. Yet she
made it without shame. Love had taught Desire much since the day of
the episode of the photograph. And one of its teachings had to do
with the comparative insignificance of pride. Why should he not know
that she loved him? Of what use a gift that is never given? Besides,
as this leaden week had passed, she knew that, more than anything
else, she wanted truth between them. Now, when he asked it of her,
she gave him truth.

"It is breaking our bargain," she went on with a wavering smile.
"But I was so sure! I cannot even blame myself. It must be possible
to be quite sure and quite wrong at the same time."

"Yes. There is no blame, anywhere. I--I didn't think of what I was
saying."

"Well, then--you will guess that it isn't exactly easy. But I will
wait as you ask me. When you are quite sure--you will let me go?"

"Yes," he said.

Neither of them looked at the other.

Does Jove indeed laugh at lover's perjuries? Even more at their
stupidities, perhaps!




CHAPTER XXXII

For they really were stupid! Looking on, we can see so plainly what
they should have seen, and didn't.

If thoughts are things (and Professor Spence continues to argue that
they are) a mistaken thought is quite as powerful a reality as the
other kind. Only let it be conceived with sufficient force and
nourished by continual attention and it will grow into a veritable
high-wayman of the mind--a thievish tyrant of one's mental roads,
holding their more legitimate travellers at the stand and deliver.

Desire, usually so clearsighted, ought to have seen that the
attentions of Benis to the too-sympathetic Mary were hollow at the
core. But this, her mistaken Thought would by no means allow.
Ceaselessly on the watch, it leapt upon every unprejudiced deduction
and turned it to the strengthening of its own mistaken self. What
might have seemed merely boredom on the professor's part was twisted
by the Thought to appear an anguished effort after self-control. Any
avoidance of Mary's society was attributed to fear rather than to
indifference. And so on and so on.

Spence, too, a man learned in the byways of the mind, ought to have
known that, to Desire, John was a refuge merely, and Mary the real
lion in the way. But his mistaken Thought, born of a smile and a
photograph, grew steadily stronger and waxed fat upon the everyday
trivialities which should have slain it. So powerful had it become
that, by the time of Desire's arrival on the veranda, it had closed
every road of interpretation save its own.

Nor was John in more reasonable case. His mistaken Thought was
different in action but equally successful in effect. Born of an
insistent desire, and nursed by half fearful hope, it stood a beggar
at the door of life, snatching from every passing circumstance the
crumbs by which it lived. Did Desire smile--how eagerly John's
famished Thought would claim it for his own. Did she frown--how
quick it was to find some foreign cause for frowning. And, as Desire
woke to love under his eyes, how ceaselessly it worked to add belief
to hope. How plausibly it reasoned, how cleverly it justified! That
Spence loved his wife, the Thought would not accept as possible. All
John's actual knowledge of the depth and steadfastness of his
friend's nature was pooh-poohed or ignored. Benis, dear old chap,
cared nothing for women. Hadn't he always shunned them in his quiet
way? And hadn't he, John, warned Benis, anyway? The Thought insisted
upon the warning with virtuous emphasis. It pointed out that Benis
had laughed at the warning. Even if--but we need not follow John's
excursions further. They all led through devious ways to the old,
old justification of everything in love and war.

As time went on, the thing which fed the mistaken thoughts of both
Benis and John was the change in desire herself. That she was
increasingly unhappy was evident to both. And why should she be
unhappy--unless?

To John Rogers, that summer remained the most distracting summer of
his life. Desire should have seen this--would have seen it had her
mind-roads not been closed by their own obsession. The probability
is that she did not consciously think of John at all. He was there
and he was kind. She saw nothing farther than that.

The relationship between the two men remained apparently the same
and indeed it is likely that, in the main, their conception one of
the other did not change. To Benis, John's virtues were still as
real and admirable as ever. To John, Benis was still a bit of a
mystery and a bit of a hero>. (There were war stories which John
knew but had never dared to tell, lest vengeance befall him.) But,
these basic things aside, there were new points of view. Seen as a
possible mate for Desire, Benis found John most lamentably lacking.
Seen in the same light, Benis to John was undesirable in the
extreme. "If it could only be someone more subtle than John,"
thought Benis. And, "If only old Benis were a bit more stable,"
thought John. Both were insincere, since no possible combination of
qualities would have satisfied either.

Of this fatally misled quartette, Mary Davis was perhaps the one
most open to reason. And yet not altogether so, for the thought of
Benis Spence as eternally escaped was not a welcome one. She
realized now that she might have liked the elusive professor more
than a little. They would have been, she thought, admirably suited.
At the worst, neither would have bored the other. And the Spence
home was quite possible--as a home for part of the year at least. It
was certainly annoying that fate should have cut in so unexpectedly.
And for what? Apparently for nothing but that a girl with grey,
enigmatic eyes and close-shut lips should keep from Mary a position
which she did not want herself. For Mary, captive of her Thought,
was more than ready to believe that Desire's hidden preference was
for John. She naturally could not grant her rival a share of her own
discriminating taste in loving.

"I suppose," thought Mary, "it is her immaturity which makes her
prefer the doctor person to one who so far outranks him. She admires
sleek hair and a straight nose. The finer fascinations of Benis
escape her."

Meanwhile she stayed on.

"I know I should come home," she wrote the most select of the select
friends. "And I know dear Miss Campion thinks so! But the situation
here is too absorbing. And, as my invitation was indefinite, I can
hardly be accused of outstaying it. I can't be supposed to know that
I'm not wanted. I justify myself by the knowledge that I am of some
use to Benis. You know I can interest most men when I try, and this
time my 'heart is in it'--like Sentimental Tommy. I am even teaching
a perfectly dear parrot they have here to sing, 'Oh, What a Pal was
Mary.' Will you run over to my rooms and send down that London smoke
chiffon frock with the silver underslip? Stockings and slippers to
match in a box in the bottom drawer. I am contemplating a moon-light
mood and must have the accessories. One loses half the effect if one
does not dress the part. Madam Enigma never dresses in character.
Because she never assumes one. So dull to be always just oneself,
don't you think? Even if one knew what one's real self is, which I
am sure I do not.

"This girl annoys me. How she can be so simple and yet so complex I
can't understand. I thought perhaps a dash of jealousy might be
revealing. But she hasn't turned a hair. I have my emotions pretty
well in hand myself but even if I didn't adore my husband, I'd see
that no one else appropriated him. But as far as Madam Coolness is
concerned it looks as if I might put her husband in my pocket and
keep him there indefinitely.

"I told you in my last about the good-looking doctor. What she sees
in him puzzles me. He is handsome but as dull as all the proverbs.
Can't be original even in his love affairs--otherwise he would
hardly select his best friend's bride--so bookish! Why doesn't
someone fall in love with the wife of his enemy? It seems to have
gone out since Romeo's time. (Now don't write and tell me that
Juliet wasn't married.)

"Another thing which I find odd, is the attitude of Benis himself.
He is quite alive, painfully so, to the drift of the thing. Yet he
does nothing. And this is not in keeping with his character. He is
the type of man who, in spite of an unassertive manner, holds what
he has with no uncertain grasp. Why, then, does he let this one
thing go? The logical deduction is that he knows that he never had
it. All of which, being interpreted, means that things may happen
here through the sheer inertia of other things. Almost every day I
think, 'Something ought to be done.' But I know I shall never do it.
I am not the novelist's villainess who arranges a compromising
situation and produces the surprised husband from behind a door.
Neither am I a peacemaker or an altruist. I am not selfish enough in
one way nor un-selfish enough in another. (Probably that is why life
has lost interest in my special case.) Even my emotions are
hopelessly mixed. There are times when I find myself viciously
hoping that Madam Composure will go the limit and that right
quickly. And there are other times when I feel I should like to
choke her into a proper realization of what she is risking. Not for
her sake--I'm far too feminine for that--but because I hate to see
her play with this man (whom I like myself) and get away with it."

It is worth while remembering the closing sentences of this letter.
They explain, or partially explain, a certain future action on the
part of the writer, which might otherwise seem out of keeping with
her well denned attitude of "Mary first."




CHAPTER XXXIII

"There is one thing which I simply do not understand." Miss Davis dug
the point of a destructive parasol into the well-kept gravel of the
drive and allowed a glance of deep seriousness to drift from under
the shadow of her hat. Unfortunately, her companion was not
attending.

It was the day of Mrs. Burton Jones' garden party, the Bainbridge
event for which Miss Davis was, presumably, staying over. Mary, in a
new frock of sheerest grey and most diaphanous white, and a hat
which lay like a breath of mist against the gold of her hair, had
come down early. In the course of an observant career, she had
learned that, in one respect at least, men are like worms. They are
inclined to be early. Mary had often profited by this bit of wisdom,
and was glad that so few other women seemed to realize its
importance. One can do much with ten or fifteen uninterrupted
minutes.

But today Mary had not done much. She had found Benis, as she
expected, on the front steps. They had talked for quite ten minutes
without an interruption--but also without any reason to deplore one.

This was failure. And Mary, whose love of the chase grew as the
quarry proved shy, was beginning to be seriously annoyed with Benis.
He might at least play up! Even now he was not looking at her, and
he did not ask her what it was that she simply did not understand.
Mary decided that he deserved something--a pin-prick at least.

"Why don't you get a car, Benis?" she asked inconsequently. "If you
had one, Desire might ride in it some-times, instead of always in
Dr. Rogers'. Can't you see that it's dangerous?"

"One has to take risks," said Spence plaintively. "John is careless.
But he has never killed anyone yet."

"You're impossible, Benis."

"Yes, I know. But particularly impossible as a chauffeur. That's why
I haven't a car. What would I do with a driver when I wasn't using
him? Desire will have a car of her own as soon as she likes to try
it. Aunt won't drive and I--don't."

This was the first approach to a personal remark the professor had
made. No one was in sight yet and Mary began to hope again. Once
more she tried the gently serious gaze.

"Why not?" she asked, not too eagerly.

Yorick, sunning himself by the door, gave vent to a goblin chuckle.
"Oh, what a pal was M-Mary! Oh, what a pal--Nothing doing!" he
finished with a shriek and began to flap his wings.

The professor laughed. "Yorick gets his lessons mixed," he said.
"But isn't he a wonder? Did you ever know a bird who could learn so
quickly?"

Mary did not want to talk about birds.  "Do tell me why you dislike
driving?" she asked with gentle insistence.

"Oh, I like it.-It's not that. I used to drive like Jehu, or John.
Never had an accident. But when I came back from overseas I found I
couldn't trust my nerve--no quick judgment, no instinctive reaction-
-all gone to pieces. Rather rotten,"

With unerring intuition Mary knew this for a real confidence.
Fortunately she was an expert with shy game.

"Quite rotten," she said soberly. He went on.

"It's little things like that that hit hard. Not to be One's own man
in a crisis--d'y' see?"

Mary nodded.

"But it's only temporary," he continued more cheer-fully. "I'll try
myself out one of these days. Only, of course, arranged tests are
never real ones. The crisis must leap on one to be of any use. Some
little time ago, when I was at the coast, an incident happened--a
kind of unexpected emergency"--he paused thoughtfully as a sudden
vision of a moon-lit room flashed before him--"I got through that
all right," he added, "so I'm hopeful."

"How thrilling," said Mary. "Won't you tell me what it was?"

His eyes met hers with a placidity for which she could have shaken
him.

"It wouldn't interest you," he said. "I hear Aunt coming at last."

Miss Campion's voice had indeed preceded her.

"Oh, there you are, Mary," she said with some acidity. "I told
Desire you were sure to be down first."

"I try to be prompt," said Mary meekly. "I have been keeping Benis
company until you were ready." She spoke to Miss Campion but her
slightly mocking eyes watched for some change upon the face of her
young hostess. Desire, as usual, was serene.

"Mary thinks we are all heathens not to have a car," said Benis.
"When are you going to choose yours, desire?"

"Not at all, I think," said Desire.

Men, even clever men, are like that. The professor had seen no
possible sting in his idly spoken words. But the sore, hot spot,
which now seemed ever present in Desire's heart, grew sorer and
hotter. To owe a car to the reminder of another woman! Naturally,
Desire could do very well without it.

"But don't you miss a car terribly?" asked Mary with kind concern.

"I cannot miss what I have never had."

"Oh, in the west, I suppose one does have horses still."

"There may be a few left, I think." Desire's slow smile crept out as
memory brought the asthmatic "chug" of the "Tillicum." "My father
and I used a launch almost exclusively." In spite of herself she
could not resist a glance at the professor. His eyes met hers with a
ghost of their old twinkle.

"A launch?" Mary's surprise was patent. "Did you run it yourself?"

"We had a Chinese engineer," said Desire demurely. "But I could
manage it if necessary."

Further conversation upon modes of locomotion on the coast was cut
off by the precipitate arrival of John who, coming up the drive in
his best manner, narrowly escaped a triple fatality at the steps.

"You people are careless!" he exclaimed indignantly. "What do you
mean by standing on the drive? Some-one might have been hurt! Anyone
here like to get driven to the garden party?"

"Do doctors find time for garden parties in Bainbridge?" asked Mary
in mock surprise.

"Healthiest place you ever saw!" declared Dr. John gloomily. "And
anyway, this garden party is a prescription of mine. Naturally I am
expected to take my own medicine. I said to Mrs. B. Jones, 'What you
need, dear Mrs. Jones, is a little gentle excitement combined with
fresh air, complete absence of mental strain and plenty of cooling
nourishment.' Did you ever hear a garden party more delicately
suggested? Desire, will you sit in front?"

"Husbands first," said Benis. "In the case of a head-on collision, I
claim the post of honorable danger."

It was surely a natural and a harmless speech. But instantly the
various mistaken thoughts of his hearers turned it to their will.
Desire's eyes grew still more clouded under their lowered lids. "He
does not dare to sit beside Mary," whispered her particular mental
highwayman. "Oho, he is beginning to show human jealousy at last,"
thought Mary. "He has noticed that she likes to sit beside me,"
exulted John. Of them all, only Aunt Caroline was anywhere near the
truth. "He has taken my warning to heart," thought she. "But then, I
always knew I could manage men if I had a chance."

A garden party in Bainbridge is not exciting, in itself. In
themselves, no garden parties are exciting. As mere garden parties
they partake somewhat of the slow and awful calm of undisturbed
nature. One could see the grass grow at a garden party, if so many
people were not trampling on it. So it is possible that there were
those in Mrs. Burton Jones' grounds that afternoon who, bringing no
personal drama with them, had rather a dull time. For others it was
a fateful day. There were psychic milestones on Mrs. Burton Jones'
smooth lawn that afternoon.

It was there, for instance, that the youngest Miss Keith (the pretty
one) decided to marry Jerry Clarkson, junior (and regretted it all
her life). It was there that Mrs. Keene first suspected the new
principal of the Collegiate Institute of Bolshevik tendencies. (He
had said that, in his opinion, kings were bound to go.) And it was
there that Miss Ellis spoke to Miss Sutherland for the first time in
three years. (She asked her if she would have lemon or chocolate
cake--a clear matter of social duty.) It was there also that Miss
Mary Sophia Watkins, Dr. Rogers' capable nurse, decided finally that
a longer stay in Bainbridge would be wasted time. It was the first
time she had actually seen her admired doctor and the object of his
supposed regard together, and a certain look which she surprised on
Dr. John's face as his eyes followed Desire across the lawn,
convinced her so thoroughly that, like a sensible girl, she packed
up that night and went back to the city.

Perhaps it was that very look which also decided Spence. For decide
he did. There was no excuse for waiting longer. He must "have it
out" with John. desire must be given her freedom. Of John's attitude
he had small doubt. His infatuation for Desire had been plain from
the beginning. Time had served only to centre and strengthen it. He
could not in justice blame John. He didn't blame John. That is to
say, he would not officially permit himself to blame John, though he
knew very well that he did blame him. A sense of the rights of other
people as opposed to one's own rights has been hardly gained by the
Race, and is by no means firmly seated yet. Let primitive passions
slip control for an instant and presto! good-bye to the rights of
other people! The primitive man in Spence would not have argued the
matter. Having obtained his mate by any means at all, it would have
gone hard with anyone who, however justly, attempted to take her
from him. Today, at Mrs. Burton-Jones' garden party, the acquired
restraints of character seemed wearing thin. The professor decided
that it might be advisable to go home.

Desire and Mary noticed his absence at about the same time. And both
lost interest in the party with the suddenness of a light blown out.

"Things are moving," thought Mary with a thrill of triumph. But in
spite of her triumph she was angry. It is not pleasant to have the
power of one's rival so starkly revealed. Malice crept into her
faun-like eyes as she looked across to where Desire sat, a composed
young figure, listening with apparent interest to the biggest bore
in Bainbridge. What right had she to hold a man's hot heart between
her placid hands! Mary ground her parasol into Mrs. Burton-Jones'
best sod and her small white teeth shut grindingly behind her lips.

Desire was trying to listen to the little man with the enlarged ego
who attempted to entertain her. But she was very much aware of Mary
and all her moods. "She is selfish. She will make him miserable,"
thought desire. "But she will make him happy first. And, in any
case, he must be free."

"Yes, Mrs. Spence," the little man beside her was saying, "a man
like myself, however diffident, must be ready to do his full duty by
the community in which he lives. That is why I feel I must accept
the nomination for mayor of this town--if I am offered it. My
friends say to me, 'Miller, you are a man, and we need a man.
Bainbridge needs a man.' What am I to do under such circumstances?
If there is no man--"

"You might try a woman," said Desire, suddenly losing patience. The
garden party was stupid. The egotist was stupid. She was probably
stupid too, because she knew that a few weeks ago she would have
found both the party and the egotist entertaining. She would have
been delighted to peep in at a window where every-thing was labelled
"Big I." She would have enjoyed Mrs. Burton-Jones' windows
immensely--but now, windows bored her. In the only window that
mattered the blinds were down. Desire's life had narrowed as it
broadened. It wasn't life that she wanted any more--it was the one
thing which could have made life dear.

A great impatience of trivialities came upon her. She hardly heard
the injured tones of the little man who had embarked upon a heated
repudiation of a feminine mayoralty. It did not amuse her even when
he proved logically that women could never be anything because they
were always something else. Instead she looked to Dr. John for
rescue, and Dr. John, most observant of knights, immediately rescued
her.

"Did you see that?" asked Mrs. Keene (the same who discovered the
Bolshevik principal). She touched Miss Davis significantly on the
arm.

Mary, who had seen perfectly well, looked blank.

"Of course you are not one of us," went on Mrs. Keene. "So you can
scarcely be expected. . . . Still, living in the same house . . .
and knowing the dear professor so well."

"Did you wish to speak to him? He has gone home, I think," said
Mary, innocently. "I fancy he doesn't suffer garden parties gladly."

"No--such a pity! With a wife so young and, if I may say so, so
different. One feels that she has not been brought up amongst us. So
sad. I always say 'Let our young men marry at home.' So sensible.
One knows where one is then, don't you think?"

Mary agreed that, in such a position, one might know where one was.

"And book writing," said Mrs. Keene, "so fatiguing! So liable to
occupy one's attention--to the exclusion of other matters. . . . The
dear professor. . . . So bound up in the marvels of the human
brain!"

"Not brain, mind," corrected Mary gently. "The professor is a
psychologist."

"Well, of course if you wish to separate them, in a scriptural
sense. But what I mean is that such biological studies are
dangerous. So absorbing. When one examines things through a
microscope--"

"One doesn't--in psychology."

"Well, perhaps not so much as formerly, especially since vivisection
is so looked down upon. But it is terribly absorbing, as I say. And
one can hardly expect an absorbed man to see things. And yet--"

"What is it," asked Mary bluntly, "that you think Professor Spence
ought to see?"

This was entirely too blunt for Mrs. Keene. She, in her turn, looked
blank. What did Miss Davis mean? She was not aware that she had
suggested the professor's seeing anything. Probably there was
nothing at all to see. Young people have such latitude nowadays. She
herself was not a gossip. She despised gossip. "What I always say,"
declared she, virtuously, "is 'do not hint thing's.' Say them right
out and then we shall know where we are. Don't you think so?"

Mary agreed that, under these conditions also, one might be fairly
sure of one's position in space. "Unless," she concluded
maliciously, "there is anything in the Einstein theory."

This latter shot had the effect intended, for Mrs. Keene said
hurriedly, "Oh, of course in that case--" and moved away.

"I'm going home, Mary," said Aunt Caroline, coming up. Aunt Caroline
had had enough garden party. She had noticed both the rescue of
Desire by John, and the conversation of Mary with Mrs. Keene--the
"worst old gossip in Bainbridge."

Desire was quite ready to go. So was Mary. The centre of attraction
for them both had shifted itself. John too, felt that he ought to
turn up at the office. But all three ladies politely declined a lift
home in his car.

"It is so hot," he pleaded.

"It is not hot," said Aunt Caroline.

Mary smiled mockingly and murmured something about the great
distances of small towns. Desire said, "No, thank you, John," in her
detached way--a way which drove him mad even while he adored it.

So the Burton-Jones garden party faded into history. But history-in-
the-making caught up its effects and carried them on. . . .

It was a lovely night. But indoors it was hot with the accumulated
heat of the day. Instead of going to bed, Mary slipped out into the
garden. It was fresher there, and she was restless. The front of the
house lay in darkness, but, from the library window at the side,
stretched a ribbon of light. Benis must be still at work. With
slippers which made no sound upon the grass, Mary crossed over to
the window and looked in.

What she saw there stung her already fretted soul to unreasoning
anger, and for once the circumspect Miss Davis acted upon impulse
undeterred by thought. Entering the house softly, she ran upstairs
to the west room which she entered without knocking.

Desire, seated at the dressing table, turned in surprise. She was
ready for bed, but lingered over the brushing of her hair. With
another spasm of anger, Mary noticed the hair she brushed--hair long
and lustrous and lifted in soft waves. A pink kimona lay across the
back of her chair, a pretty thing--but not at all French.

"Put it on," said Mary, "and come here. I want to show you
something."

Desire did not ask "What?" Nor did she keep Mary waiting. Pleasant
or unpleasant, it was not Desire's way to delay revelation. Together
the two girls hurried out into the dew-sweet garden. As they went,
Mary spoke in gusty sentences.

"I don't care what you do." (She was almost sobbing in her anger.)
"I don't understand you. . . . I don't want to. . . . But you're not
going to get away with it . . . that cool air of yours . . .
pretending not to see. . . . If you are human at all you'll see . . .
and remember all your life."

They were close to the library window now. Desire looked in.

She looked so long and stood so still that Mary had time to get back
a little of her breath and something of her common sense. An
instinct which her selfish life had pretty well buried began to
stir.

"Come away," she whispered, "I shouldn't have . . . it wasn't fair . . .
he would never forgive us if he knew we had seen him like this!"

Desire drew back instantly.

"No," she said. Her voice was toneless. Her face in the darkness
gleamed wedge-shaped and unfamiliar between the falling waves of her
hair.

"I'm sorry," said Mary sulkily. "But I thought you ought to know
what you are doing. It takes a lot to break up a man like that."

"Yes," said Desire. "All the same I had no right--"

"You will have," said Desire evenly.

They were at her door now. She paused with her hand on the knob.

"I knew he cared," she said in the same level voice, "but I didn't
know that he cared like that."

"You know now," said Mary. Her irritation was returning.

"Yes," said Desire. "Good-night."

She opened the door and went in.




CHAPTER XXXIV

It seems incredible and yet it is a fact that Bainbridge never knew
that young Mrs. Spence had run away. Full credit for this must be
given to Miss Caroline Campion, who never really believed it
herself--a mental limitation which lent the necessary air of
unemphasized truth to her statement that Desire had been summoned
suddenly to her father.

Miss Campion had, in her own mind, built up an imaginary Dr. Farr in
every way suited to be the father-in-law of a Spence. This creation
she passed on to Bainbridge as Desire's father. "Such a fine old
gentleman," she would say. "And so devoted to his only daughter.
Quite a recluse, though, my nephew tells me. And not at all strong."
This idea of delicacy, which Miss Campion had added to the picture
from a sense of the fitness of things, proved useful now. An only
daughter may be summoned to attend a delicate father at a moment's
notice, without unduly straining credulity.

One feels almost sorry for Bainbridge. It would have enjoyed the
truth so much!

"Is Desire going to have no breakfast at all?" asked Aunt Caroline,
from behind the coffee-urn on the morning following the garden-
party. It was an invariable custom of hers to pretend that her
nephew was fully conversant with his wife's intentions.

"She may be tired," said Benis.

"No. She has been up some time. The door of her room was open when I
came down."

"Then she is probably in. the garden. I'll ask Olive to call her."

"Why not call her yourself? I have a feeling--"

The professor rose from his untasted coffee. When Aunt Caroline "had
a feeling" it was useless to argue.

"Are you sleeping badly again, Benis?" asked Aunt Caroline. "Your
eyes look like burnt holes in a blanket."

"Nothing to bother about, Aunt." He stepped out quickly into the
sunny garden. But Desire was not among the flowers, neither was she
on the lawn nor in the shrubbery. A few moments' search proved that
she was not out of doors at all. Benis returned to his coffee. He
found it quite cold and no waiting Aunt Caroline to pour him another
cup. "I wonder," he pondered idly, "why, when one really wants
coffee, it is always cold."

Then he forgot about coffee suddenly and completely, for Aunt
Caroline came in with the news that Desire was gone.

"Gone where?" asked Spence stupidly.

"That," said Aunt Caroline, "she leaves you to inform me."

With the feeling of being someone else and acting under compulsion
he took the few written lines which she held out to him. "Dear Aunt
Caroline," he read, "Benis will tell you why I am going. But I
cannot go without thanking you. I'll never forget how good you have
been--Desire."

"I had a feeling," said Aunt Caroline with mournful triumph. "It
never deceives me, never! As I passed our dear girl's room this
morning, I said, 'She is not there'--and she wasn't!"

"I think you mentioned that the door was open."

"That has nothing to do with it. I--"

"Where did you find this note?"

"On her dressing table. When you went into the gar-den, I went
upstairs. I had a feeling--"

"Was there nothing else? No note for me?"

"No," in surprise. "She says you know all about it. Don't you?"

"Something, not all."

Aunt Caroline was, upon occasion, quite capable of meeting a crisis.
Remembering the neglected coffee, she poured a cup for each of them.

"Here," said she, "drink this. You look as if you needed it. I must
say, Benis, that you don't act as if you knew anything, but if you
do, you'd better tell me. Where is Desire?"

"I don't know."

"Umph! Then what you do know won't help us to find her. Finding her
is the first thing. I wonder," thoughtfully, "if she told John?"

A wintry smile passed over the professor's lips.

"I shall ask him," he said.

Aunt Caroline proceeded with her own deducing. "There is no one else
she could have told," she reasoned. "She did not tell you. She did
not tell me. Naturally, she would not tell Mary. And a girl nearly
always tells somebody. So it must be John. I hope you are
sufficiently ashamed of yourself, Benis? I told you Desire wouldn't
understand your attentions to Mary. Though I admit I did not dream
she would take them quite so seriously. I don't envy you your
explanations."

"Aunt--"

"Wait a moment, Benis. On second thought, if I were you I would not
explain at all. Simply tell her she is mistaken and stick to that.
She may believe you. Promise her that you will never see Mary again-
-and you won't" (grimly) "if I have anything to say about it. Desire
will come around. I have a feeling--"

"My dear Aunt!"

"Let me proceed, Benis. I have a feeling that she will forgive you--
once. But let this be a lesson. Desire is not a girl who will
forgive twice."

"You are all wrong, Aunt," with weary patience. "But it doesn't
matter. Say nothing about this. I am going to see John."

"Not before you drink that coffee."

Benis obediently drank. Hurry would not mend what had happened.

"She has taken her travelling coat and hat," pursued Aunt Caroline.
"Her train slippers, that taupe jersey-cloth suit, some fresh
blouses, her dressing case, her night things and your photo off the
dressing table."

Benis smiled, a wry smile, and pushed back his cup.

"You don't look fit to go anywhere," said Aunt Caroline irritably.
"Why can't you call John on the 'phone?"

"That would be quite modern," said Benis. "But--I think I'll see
him. I shan't be long."

It never once occurred to the professor, you will notice, that he
might find John vanished also. His obsessing thought had not been
able to change his essential knowledge of either Desire or John. If
Desire had gone, she had gone because she could not stay. But she
had gone alone. Just what determining thing had happened to make her
flight imperative, Benis could not guess. But he would not have been
human if he had not blamed the other man. "The fool has bungled it!"
he thought. "Lost control of his precious feelings, perhaps--broken
through--said something--frightened her." We may be sure that he
cursed John in his heart very completely.

But when he entered John's office and saw John he began to doubt
even this. There was no guilt on the doctor's face--no sign of
apprehension or regret, no tremor of knowledge. An angry-eyed young
man looked up from a letter he was reading with nothing more serious
than injured wonder in his gaze.

"Can you beat it?" asked John disgustedly, waving the letter.
"Aren't women the limit? Here's this one going off without a word,
or an excuse, or anything. Just gone! And a silly note thrown on my
desk. I tell you women have absolutely no sense of business
obligation--positively not!"

Spence restrained himself.

"You are speaking of--?"

"That nurse of mine, Miss Watkins. Never a word about leaving
yesterday, and today vanished--vamoosed--simply non est! Look
at what she says.--"

Spence pushed the letter aside.

"There is something more important than that, John," he said
quietly, "Desire has left me."

The two men stared at each other. Spence was the first to speak.

"There is no doubt about it. She is gone. She has not told us where.
I see that you do not know."

John shook his head.

"There may be a note for you in the morning's mail." Benis was
coldly brief. "I must know where she is. If you can help me, let me
know." He turned to the door.

With difficulty John found his voice.

"I knew nothing of this, Benis."

"I realize that," dryly. "But you may be responsible for it. She had
no idea of leaving yesterday."

"Benis, I swear--"

"It is not necessary. Besides," bitterly, "you could afford to be
patient. You felt fairly--sure, didn't you?"

"Sure! No, I--"

"You mean you merely hoped?"

"Oh--damn!"

"Quite so. There is nothing to say. Not being a sentimentalist, I
shan't pretend to love you, John. But I gambled and I've lost. I
have always admired a good loser."




CHAPTER XXXV

Upon reaching home Benis found Aunt Caroline waiting for him just
inside the outer gate.

"I thought," she explained, "that we might talk while strolling up
the drive. Then Olive would not overhear."

The professor had quite neglected to consider Olive.

"I have told Olive," went on Aunt Caroline, "that Mrs. Spence had
received news of her father which was far from satisfactory and that
she had left for Vancouver by the early morning train. The morning
train is the only one she could have left by, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"Then that's all right. I also let Olive know, indirectly, that you
were remaining behind to attend to a few matters. After which you
would follow."

Admiration for this generalship pierced even the deep depression of
the professor.

"Does John know where she is?" pursued Aunt Caroline.

"No."

"Then she has gone home to her father. She said something the other
day which puzzled me. I can't remember just what it was but she
seemed to have some fatalistic idea, about her old life having a
hold upon her which she couldn't shake off. Pure morbidity, as I
pointed out. But she has gone back. I have a feeling that she has."

"You may be right, Aunt. It will be easy to find out. If I can make
the necessary inquiries without arousing gossip. There was nothing
in the mail--for me?"

"No. The man has just been. But there is something for Desire, an
odd looking package done up in foreign paper. I have it here."

Spence took from her hand a slim, yellowish packet, directed in the
crabbed writing of Li Ho.

"I can't make out whether it is 'Hon. Mrs. Professor Spence' or
whether the 'Mrs.' is 'Mr.' Perhaps you had better open it, Benis."

"Perhaps, later." Spence slipped the packet into his pocket. "It
'can't have anything to do with our present problem. . . . I must
make some telephone inquiries. But if Desire has gone, Aunt, we may
as well face facts. She does not want me to follow her."

"Doesn't she?" Aunt Caroline surveyed him with a pitying smile. "How
stupid men are! But go along to the library. You've had no decent
breakfast. I'll send you in something to eat. As for Bainbridge--
leave that to me." . . .

How curiously does a room change with the changing mind of its
occupant. Benis Spence had known his library in many moods. It had
been a refuge; it had been a prison; it had been a place of dreams.
He had liked to fancy that something of himself stayed there--
something which met him, warm and welcoming, when he came in at the
door. He had liked to play that the room had a soul. And, after he
had brought Desire home, the idea had grown until he had seemed to
feel an actual presence in its cool seclusion. But if presence there
had been, it was gone now. The place was empty. The air hung dull
and lifeless. The chairs stood stiff against the wall, the watching
books had no greeting. Only Yorick swung and flapped in his cage,
his throat full of mutterings.

It is all very well to be a good loser. But loss is bitter. Here was
loss, stark and staring.

Spence walked over to the neatly tidied desk and there, for an
instant, the cold finger lifted from his heart. A letter was lying
on the clean blotter--she had not gone without a word, then! She had
slipped in here to say good-bye. . . . A very little is much to him
who has nothing.

The letter was brief. Only a few words written hurriedly with a
spluttering pen:

"I am going, Ben-is. I think we are both sure now. But please--
please do not pity me. Love is too big for pity. You have given me
so much, give me this one thing more--the understanding that can
believe me when I say that I, too, am glad to give.

"Desire."

Benis laid the letter softly down upon the ordered desk. No, he need
not pity her. She had had the courage to let little things go. She,
who had demanded so royally of life, now made no outcry that the
price was high. Well, . . . it need not be so high, perhaps. He
would make it as easy as might be.

The parrot was trying to attract him with his usual goblin croaks.
Benis rubbed its bent, green head.

"You'll miss her, too, old chap," he said, adding angrily, "dashed
sentimentality!"

The sound of his own voice steadied him. He must be careful. Above
all, he must not sink into self-pity. He must go back to his work.
It had meant everything to him once. It must mean everything to him
again. If he were a man at all he must fight through this inertia.
Life had tumbled him out of his shell, played with him for an hour,
and now would tumble him back again--no, by Jove, he refused to be
tumbled back! He would fight through. He would come out somewhere,
some-time.

It occurred to him that he ought to be thankful that Desire at least
was going to be happy. But he did not feel glad. He was not even
sure that she was going to be happy. Something kept stubbornly
insisting that she would have been much happier with him. Quite
with-out prejudice, had they not been extraordinarily well suited?
He put the question up to fate. The hardest thing about the whole
hard matter was the insistent feeling that a second mistake had been
made. John and Desire--his mind refused to see any fitness in the
mating. Yet this very perversity of love was something which he had
long recognized with the complacence of assured psychology.

He heard Mary's voice in the hall. He had forgotten Mary. He hoped
she would not tap upon the library door--as she sometimes did. No,
thank heaven, she had gone upstairs! That was an odd idea of Aunt
Caroline's. If he had felt like smiling he would have smiled at it.
Desire jealous of Mary? Ridiculous. . . .

"Here comes old Bones," said Yorick conversationally.

The professor started. It was a phrase he had him-self taught the
bird during that time of illness when John's visit had been the
bright spot in long dull days. It had amused them both that the
parrot seldom made a mistake, seeming to know, long before his
master, when the doctor was near.

But today? Surely Yorick was wrong today. John would not come today.
Would never come again--but did anyone save John race up the drive
in that abandoned manner? Benis frowned. He did not want to see
John. He would not see him! But as he went to leave the library by
one door John threw open the other and stood for an instant blinded
by the comparative dimness within.

"Where are you, Benis?"

"Here."

Spence closed the door. His brief anger was swallowed up in
something else. Never, even in France, had he seen John look like
this.

"We're a precious pair of dupes!" began John in a high voice and
without preliminaries. "Prize idiots--imbeciles!"

"Very likely," said Benis. "But you're not talking to New York."

He made no move to take the paper which John held out in a shaking
hand.

"What is the matter with you?" he asked sternly.

"What's the matter with me? Oh, nothing. What's the matter with all
of us? Crazy--that's all! Here--read it! It's from Desire. Must have
posted it last night."

Spence put the letter aside.

"If you have news, you had better tell it. That is if you can talk
in an ordinary voice."

John laughed harshly. "My voice is all right. Not so dashed cool as
yours. Read it!"

Spence took the sheet held out to him; but he had no wish to> read
Desire's words to John.

"If it is a private letter--" he began.

"Oh, don't be a bigger fool than you have been! Unless," with sudden
suspicion, "you've known all along? Perhaps you have. Even you could
hardly have been so completely duped."

"If you will tell me what you are talking about--"

"Read it. It is plain enough."

The professor slowly opened the folded sheet. It was a longer note
than the one she had left for him.

"Dear John," he read, "if I I'd known yesterday that I would leave
so soon I could have said good-bye. But my decision was made
suddenly. I think you must have seen how it is with Benis and Mary
and I can't go "with-out telling you that I knew about it from the
first. I don't want you to blame Benis. He told me about it before
we were married, and I took the risk with my eyes open. How could
he, or I, have guessed that he had given up hope too soon?--and
anyway, it wasn't in the bargain that I should love him.--It just
happened.--He is desperately unhappy. Help him if you can.--Your
affectionate Desire."

"My affectionate Desire!" mocked John, still in that high, strained
voice which now was perilously near a sob. "That--that is what I was
to her, a convenient friend! You--you had it all. And let it go, for
the sake of that blond-haired, deer-eyed, fashion plate--"

"That's enough! You are not an hysterical girl. Sit down. . . . I
can't understand this, John. I thought--"

The two men looked at each other, a long look in which distrust at
least was faced and ended. The excited flush, died out of John's
cheek. He looked weary and shame-faced.

"I thought she loved you," said Spence simply.

The doctor's eyes fell. It was his honest admission that he, too,
had thought this possible.

"Even now," went on the professor haltingly, "I can-not believe . . .
it doesn't seem possible . . . me? . . . John, does the letter
mean that Desire loves me?"

John Rogers nodded, turning away.

Silence fell between them.

"What will you do--about the other?" asked the doctor presently.

"What other? There is no other. I loved Desire from the very first
night I saw her. I didn't know it, then. It was all new. And," with
a bitter smile, "so different from what one expects. Mary was never
any-thing but the figure of straw I told you of. I thought,"
naively, "that Desire had forgotten Mary."

"Did you?" said John. "Why man, the woman doesn't live who would
forget! And Miss Davis filled the bill to the last item--even the
name 'Mary'."

"Oh what a pal was M-Mary!" croaked Yorick obligingly.

"The bird, too!" said John. "Everyone doing his little best to
sustain the illusion--even, if I am any judge, the lady herself."

But Benis Spence had never wasted time upon the lady herself. And he
did not begin now. With a face which had suddenly become years
younger he was searching frantically in his desk for the
transcontinental time-table.




CHAPTER XXXVI

The train crawled.

Although it was a fast express whose speed might well provoke the
admiration of travellers, in one traveller it provoked nothing save
grim endurance. Beside the consuming impatience of Benis Hamilton
Spence, its best effort was a little thing. When it slowed, he
fidgeted, when it stopped he fumed. He wanted to get out and push
it.

Five days--four--three--two--a day and a half--the vastness of the
spaces over which it must carry him grew endless as his mind
continually tried to span them. He felt a distinct grievance that
any country should be so wide.

"Making good time!" said a genial person, travelling in the tobacco
trade. The professor eyed him with suspicion, as a man deranged by
optimism.

The train crawled.

Spence removed his eyes from the passing landscape and tried to
forget how slowly it was passing. He saw himself at the end of his
journey. He saw Desire. He saw a grudging moment, or second perhaps,
devoted to explanation. And then--How happy they were going to be!
(If the train would only forget to stop at stations it might get
somewhere.) How wonderful it would be to feel the empty world grow
full again! To raise one's eyes, just casually, and to see--Desire.
To speak, in just one's ordinary voice, and to know she heard. To
stretch out one's hand and feel that she was there. (What were they
doing now? Putting on more cars? Outrageous!) He would even write
that book presently, when he got around to it. (When one felt sure
one could write.) But first they would go away, just he and she,
east of the sun and west of the moon. They would sit together
somewhere, as they used to sit on the sun-warmed grass at Friendly
Bay, and say nothing at all. . . . How nearly they had missed it . . .
but it would be all right now. Love, whom they had both denied,
had both given and forgiven. It would be all right, it must be all
right, now! (But how the train crawled.)

Poor John, poor old Bones! What a blow it had been for him. Although
he should certainly have had more sense than to fancy--Well, of
course, a man can fancy anything it he wants it badly enough. Spence
was honestly sorry for John--that is, he would be when he had time
to consider John's case. But John, too, would be all right
presently. (Why under heaven do trains need to wait ten minutes
while silly people walk on platforms without hats?) John would marry
a nice girl. Not a girl like Desire--not that type of girl at all.
Someone quite different, but nice. A fair girl, like that nurse he
had had in his office. John might be very happy with a wife like
that . . .

       *       *       *       *       *      *      *

It was not until the fourth night out that the professor remembered
the packet from Li Ho. It had loomed so small among the events of
that day of revelations that he had completely forgotten it. He did
not even remember putting it in his pocket--but there it was, still
unopened, and promising some slight distraction from the wearying
contemplation of the crawling train. It would shut out, too, the
annoyance of the tobacco traveller, smoking with an offensive
leisureliness, and declaring, in defiance of all feeling, that they
were "Sharp on time and going some!"

With a reviving interest in something outside the time-table, Spence
cut the string and opened the yellow packet. A small note-book fell
out and a letter--two letters, and one of them in the unmistakable
writing of Li Ho him-self. This latter, the professor opened first.

"Honorable Spence and Esteemed Professor, dear Sir," wrote Li Ho.
"Permit felicity to include book belong departed parent of valued
wife. Deceased lady write as per day. Li Ho extract and think proper
missy to know. Honorable Boss head much loony. Secure that missy
remain removed if desiring safety. Belong much danger here since
married as per also enclosed. Exalted self be insignificantly warned
by person of no intelligence, Li Ho."

Farther down, in a corner of the sheet was this sentence:

"Permit to notably add that respected lady departed life Jan. 14."

Li Ho had certainly surpassed himself. The bewildered professor
forgot about the time-table entirely. What Chinese meaning lay
behind this jumble of dictionary words? That they were not used at
haphazard Spence knew. Li Ho had some distinct meaning to convey--
had indeed already conveyed it in the one outstanding word "danger."
For an instant the professor's mind sickened with that weakness
which had been his dreadful legacy of war. But it passed
immediately. Something stronger, deeper in, took quiet command.
Desire was in danger! Shock has a way at times of giving back what
shock has taken.--Spence became his own man once more--cool, ready.

With infinite care he went over the Chinaman's disjointed sentences.
They had been written under stress.

That much presented no difficulty. Li Ho, the imperturbable, had
permitted himself a fit of nerves . . . Something must have
happened. Something new. Something which threatened a danger not
sufficiently emphasized before. In his former letter Li Ho had
indeed intimated that a return was not desirable, but it had been an
intimation based on general principles only. This was different.
This had all the marks of urgent warning. "No more safe being
married as per inclosed." This cryptic remark might mean that
further enlightenment was to be sought in the enclosures.

Spence picked up the second letter. It was addressed to Dr. Herbert
Farr at Vancouver, and was merely a formal notice from a firm of
English solicitors--post-marked London--a well-known firm, probably,
from the address on their letterhead.

"Dr. Herbert Farr,

Vancouver, B. C. Dear Sir:

As executors in the estate of Mrs. Henry Strangeways we beg to
inform you that the allowance paid to you for the maintenance of
Miss Desire Farr is hereby discontinued. This action is taken under
the terms of our late clients will,--whereby such allowance ceases
upon the marriage of the said Desire Farr or her voluntary removal
from your roof and care.

Obediently yours,

Hervey & Ellis."

The professor whistled. Here was enlightenment indeed! A very
sufficient explanation of the old man's grim determination to block
any self-dependence on desire's part which would mean "removal from"
his "care." Here was someone paying a steady (and perhaps a fat)
allowance for the young girl's maintenance--someone of whom she
herself had certainly never heard and of whose bounty she remained
completely ignorant. It was easy enough now to follow Li Ho's
reasoning. If it was for this allowance, and this alone, that the
old doctor had kept Desire with him, long after her presence had
become a matter of indifference or even of distaste, the ending of
the allowance meant also the ending of his tolerance. "No more safe,
being married." The difference, in Li Ho's opinion, was all the
difference between comparative safety and real danger. Money! As
long as Desire had meant money there had been an instinct in the old
scoundrel which, even in his moon-devil fits, had protected the
goose which laid the golden eggs. But now--now this inhibition was
removed, Desire, no longer valuable, was no longer safeguarded. And
who could tell what added grudge of rage and vengeance might be
darkly harbored in the depths of that crafty and unbalanced mind?

And Desire, unwarned, was even now almost within the madman's reach.
. . . Spence sternly refused to think of this . . . there was time
yet . . . plenty of time. . . . The thing to do was to keep cool . . .
steady now!

"Kind of pretty, going through these here mountains by moonlight,"
observed the tobacco traveller, inclined to be genial even under
difficulties. "She'll be full tomorrow night. Queer thing that them
there prohibitionists can't keep the moon from getting full!" He
laughed in hearty appreciation of his own cleverness.

The professor, a polite man, tried to smile. And then, suddenly, the
meaning of what had been said came home to him.

Tomorrow night would be full moon!

He had forgotten about the moon.

"Queer cuss," thought the travelling man. "Stares at you polite
enough but never says anything. No conversation. Just about as
lively as an undertaker."

But if Benis had forgotten to remove his eyes from the travelling
man, he did not know it. He did not see him. He saw nothing but
moonlight--moonlight across an uncovered floor and the white dimness
of a bed in the shadow! . . . But he must keep cool . . . was there
time to stop Desire with a telegram? She was only a day ahead . . .
no--he was just too late for that. He knew the time-table by heart.
Her train was already in . . . impossible to reach her now!

Fear having reached its limit, his mind swung slowly back to reason.
. . . There was, he told himself, no occasion for panic. Li Ho might
have exaggerated. Besides, a danger known is almost a danger met And
Li Ho knew. Li Ho would be there. When, Desire came he would guard
her. . . . A few hours only . . . until he could get to her. . . .
She was safe for tonight at least. She would not attempt to cross
the Inlet, until the morning. She would have to hire a launch--a
thing no woman would attempt to do at that hour of night. She was in
no hurry. She would stay somewhere in the city and get herself taken
to Farr's Landing in the morning. . . . Through the day, too, she
would be safe . . . and, to-morrow night, he, Benis, would be there.
. . . But not until late . . . not until after the moon . . . better
not think of the moon . . . think of Li Ho . . . Li Ho would surely
watch . . .

He lay in his berth and told himself this over and over. The train
swung on. The cool, high air of the mountains crept through the
screened window. They were swinging through a land of awful and
gigantic beauty. The white moon turned the snow peaks into
glittering fountains from which pure light cascaded down, down into
the blackness at their base . . . one more morning . . . one more
day . . . Vancouver at night . . . a launch . . . Desire!

Meanwhile one must keep steady. The professor drew from its yellow
wrapping the little note-book which had been the second of Li Ho's
enclosures. It had belonged, if Li Ho's information were correct, to
Desire's mother--a diary, probably. "Deceased lady write as per
day." Spence hesitated. It was Desire's property. He felt a delicacy
in examining it. But so many mistakes had already been made through
want of knowledge, he dared not risk another one. And Li Ho had
probably other than sentimental reasons for sending the book.

He shut out the mountains and the moonlight, and clicking on the
berth-light, turned the dog-eared pages reverently. Only a few were
written upon. It was a diary, as he had guessed, or rather brief
bits of one. The writing was small but very clear in spite of the
fading ink. The entries began abruptly. It was plain that there had
been another book of which this was a continuation.

The first date was November 1st--no year given.

"It is raining. The Indians say the winter will be very wet. Desire
plays in the rain and thrives. She is a lovely child, high-spirited-
-not like me."

"November 10th--He was worse this month. I think he gets steadily a
little worse. I dare not say what I think. He would say that I had
fancies. No one else sees anything save harmless eccentricity,--
except perhaps Li Ho. But I am terrified.

"December 7th--I tried once more to get away. He found me quickly.
It isn't easy for a woman with a child to hide--without money. For
myself I can stand it--my own fault! But--my little girl!

"December 15th--I have been ill. Such a terrible experience. My one
thought was the dread of dying. I must live. I cannot leave Desire--
here.

"December 20th--He bought Desire new shoes and a frock today. It is
strange, but he seems to take a certain care of her. Why? I do not
know. I have wondered about his motives until I fancy things. What
motive could he have . . . except that maybe he is not all evil?
Maybe be cares for the child. She is so sweet--No. I must not
deceive myself. Whatever his reason is, I know that it is not that.

"January 9th--A strange thing happened today. I found a torn
envelope bearing the name of Harry's English lawyers. I have seen
the same kind of envelope in Harry's hands more than once. They used
to send him his remittance, I think. What can this man have to do
with English lawyers? I am frightened. But for once I am more angry
than afraid. I must watch. If he has dared to write to Harry's
people--"

The writing of the next entry had lost its clearness. It was almost
illegible.

"January 13th--How could he! How could he sink so low! I have seen
the lawyer's letter. He has taken money. From Harry's mother--for
Desire. And this began within a month of our marriage. It shames me
so that I cannot live. Yet I must live. I can't leave the child. But
I can stop this hateful traffic in a dead man's honor. I will write
myself to England."

This was the last fragment. Spence looked again at the almost erased
date--January 13th. He felt the sweat on his forehead for, beside
that date, the unexplained postscript of Li Ho's letter took on a
ghastly significance.

"Respected lady depart life on January 14th."

She had not lived to write to England!




CHAPTER XXXVII

It seemed to Benis Spence afterward that during that last day, while
the train plunged steadily down to sea level, he passed every
boundary ever set for the patience of man. It was a lovely,
sparkling day. The rivers leaped and danced in sunshine. Long
shadows swept like beating wings along the mountain sides. The air
blew cool and sweet upon his lips. But for once he was deaf and
blind and heedless of it all. He thought only of the night--of the
night and the moon.

It came at last--a night as lovely as the day. Benis sat with his
hand upon his watch. They were running sharp on time. There could be
nothing to delay them now--barring an accident. Instantly his mind
created an accident, providing all the ghastly details. He saw him-
self helpless, pinned down, while the full moon climbed and sailed
across the skies. . . .

But there was no accident. A cheery bustle soon began in the car.
Suitcases were lifted up, unstrapped and strapped again. Women took
their hats from the big paper bags which hung like balloons between
the windows. There was a general shaking and fixing and sorting of
possessions. Only the porter remained serene. He knew exactly how
long it would take him to brush his car and did not believe in
beginning too soon. Benis kept his eye on the porter. He stirred at
last.

"Bresh yo' coat, Suh?"

The professor allowed himself to be brushed and even proffered the
usual tip, so powerful is the push of habit. In the narrow corridor
by the door he waited politely while the lady who wouldn't trust her
suitcase to the porter got stuck sideways and had to be pried out.
But when once his foot descended upon the station platform, he was a
man again. The killing inaction was over.

With the quiet speed of one who knows that hurry defeats haste, he
set about materializing the plans which he had made upon the train.
And circumstance, repentant of former caprice, seemed willing to
serve. The very first taxi-man he questioned was an intelligent
fellow who knew more about Vancouver than its various hotels. A
launch? Yes, he knew where a launch might be hired, also a man who
could run it. Provided, of course--

Spence produced an inspiring roll of bills. The taxi-man grinned.

"Sure, if you've got the oof it's easy enough," he assured him.
"Wake up the whole town and charter a steamer if you don't care what
they soak you." He considered a moment. "'Tisn't a dope job, is
it?"

Spence looked blank.

"What I mean to say is, what kind of man do you want?"

"Any man who will take me where I want to go."

The taxi-man nodded. "All right. That's easy."

In less time than even to the professor seemed possible the required
boat-man was produced and bargained with. That is to say he was
requested to mention his terms and produce his launch, both of which
he did without hesitancy. And again circumstance was kind.

"If it's Farr's Landing you want," said the boat-man, leading a
precarious way down a dark wharf, "I guess you've come to the right
party. 'Taint a place many folks know. But I ran in there once to
borrow some gas. Queer gink that there Chinaman! Anyone know you're
coming? Anyone likely to show a light or anything?"

The professor said that his visit was unexpected. They would have to
manage without a light.

The boat-man feared that, in that case, the terms might "run to" a
bit more. But, upon receiving a wink from the taxi-man, did not
waste time in stating how far they might run, but devoted himself to
the encouragement of a cold engine and the business of getting under
way.

Once more Spence was reduced to passive waiting. But the taste of
the salt and the smell of it brought back the picture of Desire as
he had seen her first--strong, self-confident. He had thought these
qualtities ungirlish at the time; now he thanked God for the memory
of them.

It had been dark enough when they left the wharf but soon a soft
brightness grew.

"Here she comes!" said his pilot with satisfaction. "Some moon,
ain't she?"

"Hurry!" There was an urge in the professor's voice which fitted in
but poorly with the magic of the night. The boat-man felt it and
wondered. He tried a little conversation.

"Know the old Doc. well?" he inquired. "Queer old duck, eh? And that
Li Ho is about the most Chinky Chinaman I ever seen. Come to think
of it, I never paid him back that gas I borrowed."

"Hasn't he been across lately?" asked Spence, controlling his
voice.

"Haven't seen him. But then 'tisn't as if I was out looking for him.
Used to be a right pretty girl come over sometimes, the old Doc's
daughter. Hasn't been around for a long time. Maybe you're a
relative or some-thing?"

"See here," said Spence. "It's on account of the young lady that I
am going there tonight. I have reason to fear that she may be in
danger."

"That so?" The boat-man's comfortably slouched shoulders squared. He
leaned over and did something to his engine. "In that case we'll
take a chance or two. Hold tight, we're bucking the tide-rip. Lucky
we've got the moon!"

Yes, they had the moon! With growing despair the professor watched
her white loveliness drag a slipping mantle over the dark water. The
same light must lie upon the clearing on the mountain . . . where
was Li Ho? Was he awake--and watching? Had he warned the girl? Or
was she sleeping, weary with the journey, while only one frail old
Chinaman stood between her and a terror too grim to guess . . .

A long interval . . . the sailing moon . . . the swish of parting
water as the launch cut through . . .

"Must be thereabouts now," said the boat-man suddenly. "I'll slow
her down. Keep your eye skinned for the landing."

A period of endless waiting, while the launch crept cautiously along
the rocky shore--then a darker shadow in the shadows and the boat-
man's excited "Got it!" The launch slipped neatly in beside the
float.

"Want any help?" asked the boat-man curiously as his passenger
sprang from the moving launch.

Spence did not hear him. He was already across the sodden planks.
Only the up-trail now lay between him and the end--or the beginning.
The shadows of the trees stretched waving arms. He felt strong as
steel, light as air as he sprang up the wooded path. . . .

It was just as he had pictured it--the cottage in its square of
silver . . . the sailing moon!

But the cottage was empty.

He knew at once that it was empty. He dared not let himself know it.
With a doggedness which defied conviction, he dragged his feet,
suddenly heavy, across the rough grass. The door on the veranda was
open. Why not?--the door of an empty house. . . . He went in.

The moonlight showed the old familiar things, the chinks in the
wall, the rickety table, the couch, the stairway! . . . He stumbled
to the stairway. He forced his leaden feet to mount it. . . . It was
pitch dark there. The upper doors were shut. . . . "Her door--on the
right." He said this to himself as if prompting a stupid little boy
with a lesson . . . In the darkness his hand felt for the door-knob
. . . but why open the door? . . . There was no life behind it. He
knew that. . . . There was no life anywhere in this horrible
emptiness. . . . "Death, then." He muttered, as he flung back the
door.

There was nothing there . . . only moonlight . . . nothing . . .
yes, something on the floor . . . some-thing light and lacy, crushed
into shapelessness . . . Desire's hat.

He picked it up. The wires of its chiffon frame, broken and twisted,
fell limp in his hand.

There was no other sign in the room. The bed was untouched. The
Thing which had wrecked its insatiate rage upon the hat had not
lingered. Spence went out slowly. There would be time for everything
now--since time had ceased to matter. He laid the hat aside gently.
There might be work for his hands to do.

With mechanical care he searched the cottage. No trace of
disturbance met him anywhere until he reached the kitchen. Something
had happened there Over-turned chairs and broken table--a door half
off its hinge. Someone had fled from the house this way . . . fled
where?

There were so many places!

In his mind's eye Spence saw them . . . the steep and slippery
cliff, with shingle far below . . . the clumps of dense bracken . . .
the deep, dark crevices where water splashed! . . .

He went outside. It was not so bright now. There were clouds on the
moon. One side of the clearing lay wholly in shadow. He waited and,
as the light brightened, he saw the thing he sought--trampled
bracken, a broken bush. . . . He followed the trail with a slow
certitude of which ordinarily he would have been incapable. . . . It
did not lead very far. The trees thinned abruptly. A rounded moss-
covered rock rose up between him and the moon . . . and on the rock,
grotesque and darkly clear, a crouching figure--looking down. . . .

A curious sound broke from Spence's throat. He stooped and sprang.
But quick as he was, the figure on the rock was quicker. It slipped
aside. Spence heard a guttural exclamation and caught a glimpse of a
yellow face.

"Li Ho!"

The Chinaman pulled him firmly back from the edge of the moss-
covered rock.

"All same Li Ho," he said. "You come click--but not too dam click."

"I know. Where is he?"

It was the one thing which held interest for Bern's Spence now.

Li Ho stepped gingerly to the edge of the rounded rock. In the clear
light, Spence could see how the moss had been scraped from the
margin.

"Him down there," said Li Ho. "Moon-devil push 'um. Plenty stlong
devil!" Li Ho shrugged.

Spence's clenched hands relaxed.

"Dead?" he asked dully.

"Heap much dead," said Li Ho. "Oh, too much squash!" He made a
gesture.

Benis was not quite sure what happened then. He remembers leaning
against a tree. Presently he was aware of a horrible smell--the
smell of some object which Li Ho held to his nostrils.

"Plenty big smell," said Li Ho. "Make 'urn sit up."

Benis sat up.

"Where is--" he began. But his throat closed upon the question. He
could not ask.

"Missy in tent," said Li Ho stolidly. "Missy plenty tired. Sleep
velly good."

Spence tried to take this in . . . tent . . . sleep . . .

"Li Ho tell missy house no so-so," went on the China-man, pressing
his evil-smelling salts closer to his victim's face. "Missy say 'all
light'--sleep plenty well in tent; velly fine night."

Benis tried feebly to push the abomination away from his nose.

"Desire . . . alive?" he whispered.

"Oh elite so. Velly much. Moon-devil velly smart but Li Ho much more
clever. Missy she no savey--all light."

Spence began to laugh. It was dangerous laughter--or so at least Li
Ho thought, for he promptly smothered it with his "velly big smell."
The measure proved effective. The professor decided not to laugh. He
held himself quiet until control came back and then stood up.

"I thought she was dead, Li Ho," he said.

In the half light the inscrutable face changed ever so little.

"Li Ho no let," said the Chinaman simply. "You better now, p'laps?"
he went on. "We go catch honor-able Boss before missy wake." Spence
nodded. He felt extraordinarily tired. But it seemed that tiredness
did not matter, would never matter. The empty world had become warm
and small again. Desire was safe.

Together he and Li Ho slid and scrambled down the mountain's face,
by ways known only to Li Ho. And there, on a strip of beach left
clean and wet by the receding tide, they found the dead man. Beside
him, and twisted beneath, lay the green umbrella.

"How did it really happen, Li Ho?" asked Spence. Not that he
expected any information.

"Moon-devil velly mad," said Li Ho. "Honorable Boss no watch step.
Moon-devil push--too bad!"

"And the fight in the kitchen? And on the trail?"

Li Ho shook his head.

"No fight anywhere," he said blandly.

"And this long rip in your coat?"

"Too much old coat--catch 'um in bush," said Li Ho.

So when they lifted the body and it was found that the arm beneath
the torn coat was useless, Spence said nothing. And somehow they
managed to carry the dead man home.

It was dawn when they laid him down. Birds were already beginning to
twitter in the trees. Desire would be waking soon. The world was
going to begin all over presently. Spence laid his hand gently on
the Chinaman's injured arm.

"You saved her, Li Ho," he said. "It is a big debt for one man to
owe another."

The Chinaman said nothing. He was looking at the dead face--a
curious lost look.

"He velly good man one time," said Li Ho. "All same before moon-
devil catch 'um."

"You stayed with him a long time, Li Ho. You were a good friend."

Li Ho blinked rapidly, but made no reply.

"Will you come with us, Li Ho?" The inscrutable, oriental eyes
looked for a moment into the frank eyes of the white man and then
passed by them to the open door--to the dawn just turning gold above
the sea. The uninjured hand rose and fell in an indescribable
gesture.

"Li Ho go home now!"

The words seemed to flutter out like birds into some vast ocean of
content.




CHAPTER XXXVIII

Desire was waking. She had slept without a dream and woke
wonderingly to the shadows of dancing leaves upon the white canvas
above her. It was a long time since she had slept in a tent--a
lifetime. She felt very drowsy and stupid. The brooding sense of
fatality which had made her return so dreamlike still numbed her
senses. She had come back to the mountain, as she had known she must
come. And, curiously enough, in returning she had freed herself. In
coming back to what she had hated and feared she had faced a bogie.
It would trouble her no more. For all that she had lost she had
gained one thing, Freedom. But even freedom did not thrill her. She
was too horribly tired.

Idly she let her thought drift over the details of her home-coming.
Li Ho had been so surprised. His consternation at seeing her had
been comic. But he had asked no questions, and had given her
breakfast in hospitable haste. In the cottage nothing was altered.
It was as if she had been away overnight. And against this
changelessness she knew herself changed. She was outside of it now.
It could never prison her again.

While she drank Li Ho's coffee, Dr. Farr had come in. He had been
told, she supposed, of her return, for he showed no surprise at
seeing her--had greeted her absently--and sat for a time without
speaking, his long hands folded about the green umbrella. This, too,
was familiar and added to the "yesterday" feeling. He had not
changed. It was her attitude toward him which was different. The
curious fear of him, which she had hidden under a mask of
indifference, was no longer there to hide. Even the fact of his
relationship had lost its sharp significance. She was done with the
thing which had made it poignant. Parentage no longer mattered. So
little mattered now.

She had spoken to him cheerfully, ignoring his mood, and he had
replied irritably, like a bad-tempered child who resents some
unnecessary claim upon its attention. But she did not observe him
closely. Had she done so, she might have noticed a curious glazing
of the eyes as they lifted to follow her--shining and depthless like
blue steel.

"I do not expect to stay long, father," she told him. "Only until I
find something to do. I am a woman now, you know, and must support
myself."

She spoke as one might speak to a child, and he had nodded and
mumbled: "Yes, yes . . . a woman now . . . certainly." Then he had
begun to laugh. She had always hated this silent, shaking laugh of
his. Even now it stirred something in her, something urgent and
afraid. But she was too tired to be urged or frightened. She refused
to listen.

In the afternoon she had sat out in the sun, not thinking, willing
to be rested by the quiet and drugged by the scent of pine and sea.
To her had come Sami, appearing out of nothing as by magic, his
butter-colored face aglow with joy. Sami had almost broken up her
weary calm. He was so glad, so warm, so alive, so little! But even
while he snuggled against her side, her Self had drifted away. It
would not feel or know. It was not ready yet for anything save rest.

Li Ho had made luncheon, Li Ho had brought tea. Otherwise Li Ho had
left her alone. About one thing only had he been fussy. She must not
sleep in her old room. It was not aired. It needed "heap scrub." He
had arranged, he said, a little tent "all velly fine." desire was
passive. She did not care where she slept.

When bedtime had come, Li Ho had taken her to the tent. It was
cozily hidden in the bush and, as he had promised, quite
comfortable. But she thought his manner odd. "Are you nervous, Li
Ho?" she asked with a smile.

The Chinaman blinked rapidly, disdaining reply. But in his turn
asked a question--his first since her arrival. Had the honorable
Professor Spence received an insignificant parcel? Desire replied
vaguely that she did not know. What was in the parcel?

"Velly implotant plasel," said Li Ho gravely. "Honorable husband
arrive plenty click when read um insides."

There had seemed no sense to this. But Desire did not argue. She did
not even attend very carefully when Li Ho added certain
explanations. He had found, it appeared, some papers which had
belonged to her mother and had felt it his duty to send them on.

"Where did you find them, Li Ho?"

Instead of answering this, Li Ho, after a moment's hesitation, had
produced from some recess of his old blue coat an envelope which he
handled with an air of awed respect.

"Li Ho find more plasel too. Pletty soon put um back. Honorable Boss
indulge in fit if missing."

"Which means that it belongs to father and that you have--borrowed
it?" suggested she, delicately.

"No b'long him. B'long you," said Li Ho, thrusting the packet into
her hand. And, as if fearful of being questioned further, he had
taken the candle and departed.

"Leave me the candle, Li Ho," she had called to him. But he had not
returned. And a candle is a small matter. She was used to undressing
in the dusk. Almost at once she had fallen asleep.

Now in the morning, as she lay and watched the shadows of the
leaves, she remembered that, though he had taken the candle, he had
left the letter. It lay there on the strip of old carpet beside her
cot. Desire withdrew her attention from the leaves and picked it up.
With a little thrill she saw that Li Ho had been right. It was her
own name which was written across the envelope . . .

Her own name, faded yet clear on a wrinkled envelope yellowed at the
edges. The seal of the envelope had been broken. . . .

Sometime in her childhood Desire must have seen her mother's
writing. Conscious memory of it was gone, but in the deeper recesses
of her mind there must have lingered some recognition which
quickened her heart at sight of it.

A letter from the dead? No wonder Li Ho had handled it with
reverence. With trembling fingers the girl drew it from its violated
covering.

"Little Desire"--the name lay like a caress--"if you read this it
will be because I am not here to tell you. And, there is no one
else. My great dread is the dread of leaving you. If I could only
look into the future for one moment, and see you in it, safe and
happy, nothing else would matter. But I am afraid. I have always
been too much afraid. You are not like me. I try to remember that.
You are like your grandfather. He was a brave man. His eyes were
grey like yours. He died before you were born and he never knew that
Harry was not really my husband. I did not know it either, then. You
see, he had u wife in England. I suppose he thought it did not
matter. But when he diea, it did matter. There was no one then on
whom either you or I had any claim. I should have been brave enough
to go on by myself. But I was never brave.

"It was then that Dr. Farr, who had been kind through Harry's
illness, asked me to marry him. He was a middle-aged man. He said he
would take care of w both. You were just three months old.

"I know now that I made a terrible mistake. He is not kind. He is
not good. I am terrified of him. But the fear which makes me brave
against other fears is the thought of leaving you. I try to remember
my father. If I had been like him I could have worked for you and we
might have been happy. Perhaps my mother was timid. I don't remember
her.

"I don't know what to put in this letter, or how to make you
understand. I loved your father. He was not a bad man. I am sure he
never harmed anyone. He would have taken care of me all his life.
But he didn't live. It was Dr. Farr who found out about the English
wife. He pointed out that you would have no name and offered to give
you his.

"I did you a great wrong. His name--better far to have no name than
his! I am sure it is a wicked name. So I want you to know that it is
not yours. You have no name by law, but I think, now, that there are
worse things. Your father's name was Harry Strangeways. His people
are English, a good family but very strict. I could not let them
know about us. They would never have forgiven Harry. It would have
been like slandering the dead. Do not blame him, little Desire, for
I am sure he meant to do right. He was always light-hearted. And
kind--always kind. Your laugh is just like his. Think of us both, if
you can, with kindness--your unhappy Mother."

Long before Desire came to the end of the crumpled sheets her tears
were falling hot and thick upon them. Tears which she had not been
able to shed for her own broken hope came easily now for this long
vanished sorrow. Her mother! How pitifully bare lay the shortened
story of that smothered life. Desire's heart, so much stronger than
the heart of her who gave it birth, filled with a great tenderness.
She saw herself once more a little frightened child. She felt again
that sense of Presence in the room. And knew that, for a child's
sake, a gentle soul had not made haste to happiness.

For that gay scamp, her father, Desire had no tear. And no
condemnation. Her mother had loved him. Her gentleness had seen no
flaw. Lightly he had taken a woman to protect through life--to
neglect, as lightly, the little matter of living. Desire let his
picture slip unhindered from her mind.

There was relief, though, in the knowledge that she owed no duty
there--or here. The instinct which had always balked at kinship with
the strange old man who had held her youth in bondage had not been
the abnormal thing she once had feared it was. She had fought
through--but it was good to know that she had fought with Nature,
not against her. At least she could start upon her new life clean
and free. . . .

A pity, though, that life should lie like ashes on her lips!




CHAPTER XXXIX

Nevertheless, and despite the taste of ashes, one must live and take
one's morning bath. desire thought, not without pleasure, of the
pool beneath the tree. Wrapped in her blue kimona, her leaf-brown
hair braided tightly into a thick pigtail and both hands occupied
with towels and soap, she pushed back the tent flap and stepped out
into the green and gold of morning.

The first thing she saw was Benis sitting on a fallen log and
waiting. He had been waiting a long time. In the flashing second
before he saw her, Desire had time to draw one long breath of
wonder. After that, there was no time for anything. The professor's
patience suddenly gave out.

He had intended to begin with an explanation. But it is a poor lover
who can't find a better beginning than that . . . And what could
Desire do, with towels in one hand and soap in the other?

When he released her at last, blushing and glowing, it was to find
the most urgent need for explanation past.

"Idiots, weren't we?" asked Benis happily.

Desire agreed. But her eyes questioned.

"There isn't any Mary, you see," he told her hastily. "Never was;
never could be. (Let me take your soap?) Mary was a figment--mortal
mind, you know. Your fault entirely."

"But--"

"Yes, I know. But I did it to please you. I am a truthful person,
really. (Let me take your towels?) And I thought you had more sense-
-Oh, Desire, darling!"

"But--"

"Oh, I was a fool, too. I admit it. I thought you were fretting
about John. Fancy your fretting about dear old Bones! I thought--oh
well, it seems silly enough now. But the day I found you crying over
his photo-graph--"

"Her photograph," interposed Desire shakily.

"Eh?"

"It was Mary's photograph. I found it on your desk."

"It was John's, when I saw it."

"Yes--but you didn't see it soon enough."

"Oh--you young deceiver! But once you went to John's office and came
away smiling."

"Why not? I went to find Mary. And I didn't find her. When the real
Mary came--"

"There is no real Mary."

"Oh, Benis--isn't she?"

"She positively isn't."

"But you said--"

"I lied, my dear. It was a jolly good lie, though."

"A lie is never--"

"No, but this one was. You wouldn't have married me if I hadn't. And
you told a whopper yourself once. You said that children--" but
Desire refused to listen.

Later on, as they sat together on the log with a squirrel hiding
provender in one of Desire's slippers and another chattering
agreeably in Benis's ear, he told her briefly the history of the
night. That is, he told her all that he thought it needful she
should know. Of the scraps of diary in his pocket he said nothing,--
some day, perhaps, when she had become used to happiness, and the
cottage on the mountain was far away. But now--of what use to drag
out the innermost horror or add an awful query to her memory of her
mother's death? The old man was gone--let the past go with him.

Desire listened silently. Sorrow she could not pretend. The
suddenness of the end was shocking and death is ever awful to the
young. But the eyes she lifted to her husband, though solemn, were
not sad. When he had finished, she slipped into his hand, with new,
sweet shyness, the letter which lifted forever the shadow of the
dead man from across their path.

Benis Spence read it with deep thankfulness. Fate was indeed making
full amends. No dread inheritance now need narrow the way before
them. It meant--he stole a glance at Desire who was industriously
emptying her slipper. The curve of her averted cheek was faintly
flushed. The professor's whimsical smile crept out.

"Let me!" he said. He took her slipper from her and, kneeling, felt
her breath like flowers brush his cheek.

"It was a whopper, Benis," Desire whispered.

Looking up, he saw the open gladness of her face.

THE END


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Window-Gazer
by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext4284, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext4284



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."