The Foolish Virgin
by Thomas Dixon
WITH GRATITUDE AND ADMIRATION
LEADING CHARACTERS OF THE STORY MARY ADAMS, An Old-Fashioned Girl.
JIM ANTHONY, A Modern Youth.
JANE ANDERSON, An Artist.
ELLA, A Scrubwoman.
NANCE OWENS, Jim Anthony's Mother.
A DOCTOR, Whose Call was Divine.
THE BABY, A Mascot.
CHAPTER I. A FRIENDLY WARNING
Mary Adams, you're a fool!"
The single dimple in a smooth red cheek smiled in
"You're repeating yourself, Jane----"
"You won't give him one hour's time for just three
"Not a second for one sitting----"
Mary smiled provokingly, her white teeth gleaming
in obstinate good humor.
"He's the most distinguished artist in America----"
"I've heard so."
"It would be a liberal education for a girl of your
training to know such a man----"
"I'll omit that course of instruction."
The younger woman was silent a moment, and a flush
of anger slowly mounted her temples. The blue eyes
were fixed reproachfully on her friend.
"You really thought that I would pose?"
"I hoped so."
"Alone with a man in his studio for hours?"
Jane Anderson lifted her dark brows.
"Why, no, I hardly expected that! I'm sure he
would take his easel and palette out into the square in
front of the Plaza Hotel and let you sit on the base of
the Sherman monument. The crowds would cheer and
inspire him--bah! Can't you have a little common-
sense? There are a few brutes among artists, as there
are in all professions--even among the superintendents
of your schools. Gordon's a great creative genius. If
you'd try to flirt with him, he'd stop his work and
send you home. You'd be as safe in his studio as in
your mother's nursery. I've known him for ten years.
He's the gentlest, truest man I've ever met. He's
doing a canvas on which he has set his whole heart."
"He can get professional models."
"For his usual work, yes--but this is the head of
the Madonna. He saw you walking with me in the Park
last week and has been to my studio a half-dozen times
begging me to take you to see him. Please, Mary dear,
do this for my sake. I owe Gordon a debt I can never
pay. He gave me the cue to the work that set me on
my feet. He was big and generous and helpful when I
needed a friend. He asked nothing in return but the
privilege of helping me again if I ever needed it. You
can do me an enormous favor--please."
Mary Adams rose with a gesture of impatience,
walked to her window and gazed on the torrent of
humanity pouring through Twenty-third Street from the
beehives of industry that have changed this quarter of
New York so rapidly in the last five years. She turned
suddenly and confronted her friend.
"How could you think that I would stoop to such a
"Yes," she snapped, "--pose for an artist! I'd as
soon think of rushing stark naked through Twenty-third
Street at noon!"
The older woman looked at her flushed face,
suppressed a sharp answer, broke into a fit of laughter
and threw her arms around Mary's neck.
"Honey, you're such a hopeless little fool, you're
delicious! You know that I love you--don't you?"
The pretty lips quivered.
"Could I possibly ask you to do a thing that would
harm a single brown hair of your head?"
The firm hand of the older girl touched a
rebellious lock with tenderness.
"Of course not, from your point of view, Jane
dear," the stubborn lips persisted. "But you see it's
not my point of view. You're older than I----"
"Hoity toity, Miss! I'm just twenty-eight and
you're twenty-four. Age is not measured by calendars
"I didn't mean that," the girl apologized. "But
you're an artist. You're established and
distinguished. You belong to a different world."
Jane Anderson laid her hand softly on her friend's.
"That's just it, dear. I do belong to a different
world--a big new world of whose existence you are not
quite conscious. You are living in the old, old world
in which women have groped for thousands of years. I
don't mind confessing that I undertook this job of
getting you to pose for Gordon for a double purpose. I
wished to do something to repay the debt I owe him--but
I wished far more to be of help to you. You're living
in the Dark Ages, and it's a dangerous thing for a
pretty girl to live in the Dark Ages and date her
letters from New York to-day----"
"I don't understand you in the least."
"And I'm afraid you never will."
She paused suddenly and changed her tone.
"Tell me now, are you happy in your work?"
"I'm earning sixty dollars a month--my position is
"But are you happy in it?"
"I don't expect to teach school all my life," was
the vague answer.
"Exactly. You loathe the sight of a school-room.
You do the task they set you because your father's a
clergyman and can't support his big family. You're
waiting and longing for the day of your deliverance--
isn't it so?"
"And that day of deliverance?"
"Will come when I meet my Fate!"
"You'll meet him, too!"
Jane Anderson shook her fine head.
"And may the Lord have mercy on your poor little
soul when you do!"
"And why, pray?"
"Because you're the most helpless and defenseless
of all the things He created."
"I've managed to take pretty good care of myself
"And you will--until the thunderbolt falls."
"Until you meet your Fate."
"I'll have someone to look after me then."
"We'll hope so anyhow," was the quick retort.
"But can't you see, Jane dear, that we look at life
from such utterly different angles. You glory in your
work. It's your inspiration--the breath you breathe.
I don't believe in women working for money. I don't
believe God ever meant us to work when He made us
women. He made us women for something more wonderful.
I don't see anything good or glorious in the fact that
half the torrent of humanity you see down there pouring
through the street from those factories and offices is
made up of women. They are wage-earners--so much the
worse. They are forcing the scale of wages for men
lower and lower. They are paying for it in weakened
bodies and sickly, hopeless children. We should not
shout for joy; we should cry. God never meant for
woman to be a wage-earner!"
A sob caught her voice and she paused.
The artist watched her emotion with keen
"Neither do I believe that God means to force woman
at last to do the tasks of man. But she's doing them,
dear--and it must be so until a brighter day dawns for
humanity. The new world that opens before us will
never abolish marriage, but it has opened our eyes to
know what it means. You refuse to open yours. You
refuse to see this new world about you. I've begged
you to join one of my clubs. You refuse. I beg you to
meet and know such men of genius as Gordon----"
"As an artist's model!"
"It's the only way on earth you can meet him. You
stick to your narrow, hide-bound conventional life and
dream of the Knight who will suddenly appear some day
out of the mists and clouds. You dream of the Fate God
has prepared for you in His mysterious Providence.
It's funny how that idea persists even today in novels.
As a matter of fact we know that the old-fashioned girl
met her Fate because her shrewd mother planned the
meeting--planned it with cunning and stratagem. You're
alone in a great modern city, with all the conditions
of the life of the old regime reversed or blotted out.
Your mother is not here. And if she were, her schemes
to bring about the mysterious meeting of the Fates
would be impossible. You outgrew the limits of your
village life. Your highly trained mind landed you in
New York. You've fought your way to a competent living
in five years and kept yourself clean and unspotted
from the world. Granted. But how many men have you
met who are your equals in culture and character?"
Jane paused and held Mary's gaze with steady
"None as yet," she confessed.
"But you live in the one fond, imperishable hope!
It's the only thing that keeps you alive and going--
this idea of your Fate. It's an obsession--this
mysterious Knight somewhere in the future riding to
"I'll find him, never fear," the girl laughed.
"Of course you will. You'll make him out of whole
cloth if it's necessary. Our ideals are really the
same when you come to analyze my wider outlook."
The artist paused and laughed softly.
"The same?" the girl asked incredulously.
"Certainly. Mine is based on intelligence,
however--yours on blind instinct perverted and twisted
by the idiotic fiction you read morning, noon and
"I don't see it," Mary answered emphatically.
"Your ideal is fame, achievement, the applause of the
world--mine just a home and a baby----"
Jane laughed softly.
"And that's all you know about me?"
"Isn't it true?"
"You've been in this room five years, haven't you?"
the older girl asked musingly.
"And though you've kept your lamp trimmed and
burning, you haven't yet seen a man whom you could
recognize as your equal."
"I'm only twenty-four."
"In these five years I've met a hundred men my
"And smashed the conventions of Society whenever
you saw fit."
"Without breaking a single law of reason or common-
sense. In the meantime I've met two men who have
really made love to me. I thought I loved one of
them--until I met the other. The second proved himself
to be an unprincipled scoundrel. If I had held your
views of life and hated my work, I would have married
this man and lived to awake in a prison whose only door
was Death. But I loved my work. Life meant more than
one man who was not worth an hour's tears. I turned
to my studio and he slipped back into the gutter where
he belonged. I'll meet MY Fate some day, too,
dear. I'm waiting and watching--but with clear eyes
and unafraid. I'll know mine when he comes, I shall
not be blinded by passion or the fear of drudgery.
Can't you see this bigger world of realities?"
The dimple flashed again in the smooth red cheek.
"It's not for me, Jane. I'm just a modest little
home body. I'll bide my time----"
"And eat your foolish heart out here between the
narrow walls of this cell you've built for yourself. I
should think you'd die living here alone."
The girl flushed.
"I'm not lonely----"
"Don't fib! I know better. Your birds and kitten
occupy daily about thirty minutes of the time that's
your own. What do you do with the rest of it?"
"Sit by my window, watch the crowds stream through
the streets below, read and dream and think----"
"Yes--read love stories and dream about your
"It's morbid and unhealthy. You've hedged
yourself about with the old conventions and imagine
you're safe--and you are--until you meet HIM!"
"I'll know how to behave--never fear."
"You mean you'll know how instantly to blindfold,
halter and lead him to the Little Church Around the
Mary moved uneasily.
"And what else should I do with him?"
"Compare him with other men. Weigh him in the
balances of a remorseless common-sense. Study him
under a microscope and keep your reason clear. The
girl who rushes into marriage in a great city under the
conditions in which you and I live is a fool. More
girls are ruined in New York by marriage than by any
other process. The thunderbolt out of the blue hasn't
struck you yet, but when it does----"
"I'll tell you, Jane."
"Will you, honestly?"
The question was asked with wistful tenderness.
"I promise. And you mustn't think I don't
appreciate this visit and the chance you've given again
to enter the `big world' you're always telling me
about. I just can't do it, dear. It's not my world."
"All right, my little foolish virgin, have it your
own way. When you're lonely, run up to my studio
to see me. I won't ask you to pose or meet any of the
dangerous men of my circle. We'll lock the doors and
have a snug time all by ourselves."
The clock in the Metropolitan Tower chimed the hour
of five, and Jane Anderson rose with a quick, business-
"Don't hurry," Mary protested. "I know I've been
stubborn, but I've been so happy in your coming. I do
get lonely--frightfully lonely, sometimes--don't think
"You're dangerously beautiful, child," the artist
said, with enthusiasm. "And remember that I love you--
no matter how silly you are--good-by."
"You won't stay for a cup of tea? I meant to ask
you an hour ago."
"No, I've an engagement with a dreadful man whom
I've no idea of ever marrying. I'm going to dinner
with him--just to study the animal at dose range."
With a jolly laugh and quick, firm step she was
Mary snatched the kitten from his snug bed between
the pillows of the window-seat and pressed his fuzzy
head under her chin.
"She tempted us terribly, Kitty darling, but we
didn't let her find out--did we? You know deep down in
your cat's soul that I was just dying to meet the
distinguished Gordon--but such high honors are not for
home bodies like you and me----"
She dropped on the seat and closed her eyes for a
long time. The kitten watched her wonderingly sure of
a sudden outbreak with each passing moment. Two soft
paws at last touched her cheeks and two bright eyes
sought in vain for hers. The little nose pressed
closer and kissed the drooping eyelids until they
opened. He curled himself on her bosom and began to
sing a gentle lullaby. For a long while she lay and
listened to the music of love with which her pet sought
to soothe the ache within.
The clock in the tower chimed six.
She lifted her body and placed her head on a pillow
beside the window. The human torrent below was now at
its flood. Two streams of humanity flowed eastward
along each broad sidewalk. Hundreds were pouring in
endless procession across Madison Square. The cars in
Broadway north and South were jammed. Every day she
watched this crowd hurrying, hurrying away into the
twilight--and among all its hundreds of thousands not
an eye was ever lifted to hers--not one man or
woman among them cared whether she lived or died.
It was horrible, this loneliness of the desert in
an ocean of humanity! For the past year it had become
an increasing horror to look into the silent faces of
this crowd of men and women and never feel the touch of
a friendly hand or hear the sound of a human voice in
And yet this endless procession held for her a
supreme fascination. Somewhere among its myriads of
tramping feet, walked the one man created for her. She
no more doubted this than she doubted God Himself. It
was His law. He had ordained it so. She had grown so
used to the throngs below her window and so loved the
little park with its splashing fountain that she had
refused to follow her landlady uptown when the
brownstone boarding-house facing the Square had been
turned into a studio building.
Instead of moving she had wheedled the landlord
into allowing her to cut off a small space from her
room for a private bath and kitchenette, built a box
couch across the window large enough for a three-
quarter mattress and covered it with velour. For five
dollars a week she had thus secured a little home in
which was combined a sitting-room, bed-room, bath and
It had its drawbacks, of course. The Professor
downstairs who taught music sometimes gave a special
lesson at night, and the Italian sculptor who worked on
the top floor used a hammer at the most impossible
hours. But on the whole she liked it better than the
tiresome routine of boarding. She was not afraid at
night. The stamp-and-coin man who occupied the first
floor, lived with his wife and baby in the rear. The
janitress had a room on the floor above hers. Two
elderly women workers of ability in the mechanical arts
occupied the rear of her floor, and a dear little fat
woman of fifty who drew designs for the New England
weavers of cotton goods lived in the room adjoining
She had never spoken to any of these people, but
Ella, the janitress, who cleaned up her place every
morning, had told her their history. Ella was a
sociable soul, her face an eternal study and an
inscrutable mystery. She spoke both German and English
and yet never a word of her own life's history passed
her lips. She had loved Mary from the moment she
cocked her queer drawn face to one side and looked at
her with the one good eye she possessed. She was
always doing little things for her comfort--and never
asked tips for it. If Mary offered to pay she smiled
quietly and spoke in the softest drawl: "Oh,
that's nothing, child-- Ach, Gott im Himmel--nein!"
This one-eyed, homely woman who cleaned up her room
for three dollars a month, and Jane Anderson, were the
only friends she had among the six million people whose
lives centered on Manhattan Island.
Man had yet to darken her door. The little room
had been carefully fitted, however, to receive her
Knight when the great event of his coming should be at
The box couch was built of hard wood paneling and
was covered with pillows of soft leather and silk. The
bed-clothes were carefully stored in the locker beneath
the mattress cushion. No one would ever suspect its
use as a bed. The bathroom was fitted with a bureau
and no signs of a sleeping apartment disfigured the
effect of her one library, parlor, and reception-room.
A desk and bookcase stood at either end of the box
couch. The bookcase was filled with fiction--love
A large birdcage swung from a staple in the window
and two canaries peered cautiously from their perches
at the kitten in her lap. She had trained him to
ignore this cage.
The crowds below were thinning down. A light
snow was falling. The girl lifted her pet and kissed
his cold nose.
"We must get our own dinner tonight, Mr.
Thomascat--it's snowing outside. And did you hear what
she said, Kitty dear--`More girls are ruined by
marriage in New York than by any other process!' A
good joke, Kitty!--You and I know better than that if
we do live in our own tiny world! We'll risk it some
day, anyhow, won't we?"
The kitten purred his assent and Mary bustled over
the little gas stove humming an old love song her
mother had taught her in a far-off village in Kentucky.
CHAPTER II. TEMPTATION
Her kitchenette was a model of order and cleanliness.
The carpenter who built its neat cupboard and fitted
the drawers beneath the tiny gas range, had outdone
himself in its construction. He had given the wood-
work four coats of immaculate white paint without extra
charge. Mary had insisted on paying for it, but he
waved the proffered money aside with a gesture that
spoke louder than words:
"Pooh! That's nothing to what I'd like to do for
She was not surprised when he called the following
Saturday and stood at her door awkwardly fumbling his
hat, trying to ask her to spend the afternoon and
evening at Coney Island with him. There was no
mistaking the manner in which he made this request.
She had refused him as gently as possible--a big,
awkward, good-natured, ignorant boy he was, with
the eyes of a St. Bernard dog. He apologized for his
presumption and never repeated the offense.
Somehow her conquests had all been in this class.
The tall, blushing German youth from the butcher's
around the corner had been slipping extra cuts into her
bundle and making awkward advances until she caught him
red-handed with a pound of lamb chops which he failed
to explain. She read him a lecture on honesty that
discouraged him. It was not so much what she said, as
the way she said it, that wounded his sensitive nature.
The ice man she had not yet entirely subdued. Tony
Bonelli had the advantage of pretending not to
understand her orders of dismissal. He merely smiled
in his sad Italian way and continued to pack her ice-
box so full the lid would never close.
She was reminded at every turn tonight of these
futile conquests of the impossible. They all smelled
of the back stairs and the kitchen. Her people had
been slaveholders in the old regime of southern
Kentucky. A kindly tolerant contempt for the
pretensions of a servant class was bred in the bone of
And yet their tribute to her beauty had its
compensations. It was the promise of triumph when he
for whom she waited should step from the throng and
lift his hat. Just how he was going to do this without
a breach of the proprieties of life, she couldn't see.
It would come. It must come. It was Fate.
In twenty minutes her coffee-pot was boiling, the
lamb chops broiled to perfection and she was seated
before the dainty, snow-white table, the kitten softly
begging at her feet. Half an hour later, every dish
and pot and pan was back in its place in perfect order.
She prided herself on her mastery of the details of
cooking and the most economical administration of every
dollar devoted to housekeeping. She studied cooking in
the best schools the city afforded. She meant to show
her Knight a thing or two in this line when the time
came. His wife would not be an ignorant slattern, the
victim of incompetent servants. No servant could fool
her. She would know the business of the house down to
its minutest detail.
Not that she loved dish-washing and pot-polishing
and scrubbing. It was simply a part of the Game of
Life she must play in the ideal home she would build.
There was no drudgery in it for this reason. She was a
soldier on the drill grounds preparing for the battle
on the successful issue of which hung her happiness and
the happiness of the one of whom she dreamed. She
might miss some of the dangerous fun which Jane
Anderson could enjoy without a scratch, but she would
make sure of the fundamental things which Jane would
never stop to consider.
She threw herself on the couch in her favorite
position against the pillows, drew the kitten into her
arms and hugged him violently.
"It's all right, Mr. Thomascat; we'll show them,"
she purred softly. "We'll see who wins at last, the
eagle who soars or the little wren in the hedge close
beside the garden wall--we'll see, Kitty--we'll see!"
The room was still, the noise of the street-cars
below muffled with the first soft blanket of snow. The
street lamps flickered in the wind with a pale subdued
light that scarcely brought out the furnishings of her
nest. She was in the habit of dreaming in this window
for hours with only the light from the lamps on the
The Square, deserted by its tramp lovers, lay white
and still and cold. The old battle with the Blue
Devils was on again within. The fight with Jane had
been easy. She had always found it easy to face
temptation in the concrete. The moment Satan appeared
in human shape she was up in arms and ready for the
fray. It was this silent hour she dreaded when the
defenses of the soul were down.
There was no use to lie to herself. She was
utterly lonely and heartsick.
She had guarded the portals of life with religious
care--with a care altogether unnecessary as events had
proved. There had been no crush of rude men to assault
her. Only an awkward carpenter, a butcher's boy and
the ice man! It was incredible. Of all the men whose
restless feet pressed the pavements of New York, not
one, save these three, had apparently cared whether she
lived or died.
The men whom she met in her duties in the
schoolroom she had found utterly devoid of imagination
and beneath contempt. They had each been obviously on
guard against the machinations of the female of the
species. They had, each of them, shown plainly their
fear and hatred of women teachers. The feeling was
mutual. God knows she had no desire to encroach on
their domain any longer than absolutely necessary.
Perhaps she was making a mistake. The thought was
strangling. Only the girl who waived conventions in
the rushing tide of the modern city's life seemed to
live at all. The others merely existed. Jane
Anderson lived! There could be no mistake about that.
She had mastered the ugly mob. Its cruel loneliness
was to her a thing unknown. But Jane was an
exception--the one woman in a thousand who could defy
conventions and yet keep her soul and body clean.
The offer she had made had proved a terrible
temptation. The artist who had asked with such
eagerness to use her head for his portrait of the
Madonna on the canvas he was executing for the new
cathedral, had long appealed to her vivid imagination.
Two prints of his famous work hung on her walls. She
had always wished to know him. He had married a
That was just the point--he WAS married!
No girl could afford to be shut up alone in a
studio with a fascinating married man for three hours--
or half an hour. What if she should fall in love with
him at first sight! Such things had happened. They
could happen again. Only tragedy could be the end of
such an event. It was too dangerous to consider for a
She would have consented had it been possible for
Jane to chaperon her. That would have been obviously
ridiculous. No artist with any self-respect would
tolerate such a reflection on his honesty. No girl
could afford to confess her fears in this brazen
The necessity for her refusal had depressed her
beyond any experience she had passed through in the
dreary desert of the past five years.
She lifted the sleeping kitten and whispered
"Am I a silly fool, Kitty? Am I?"
The tears came at last. She lay back on the
pillows and let them pour down her cheeks without
protest or effort at self-control. Every nerve of her
strong, healthy body ached for the love and
companionship of men which she had denied herself with
an iron will. At nineteen it had been easy. The sheer
animal joy in life had been enough. With the growth of
each year the ache within had become more and more
insistent. With each ripening season of body and mind,
the hunger of love had grown more and more maddening.
How long could she keep up this battle with every
instinct of her being?
She rose at last, determined to go to Jane, confess
that she had been a fool, and step out into the new
world, New York's world, and begin to live.
She seized her hat and furs and put them on with
"God knows it's time I began--I'll be an old maid
in another year and dry up--ugh!"
She looked in the quaint oval mirror that hung
beside her door and lifted her head with a touch of
She had reached the street and started for the
Broadway car before she suddenly remembered that Jane
was "dining with a dangerous man."
She couldn't turn back to that little room tonight
without new courage. Her decision was instantaneous.
She couldn't surrender to the flesh and the devil by
yielding to Jane.
She would go to prayer-meeting!
Religion had always been a very real thing in her
life. Her father was a Methodist presiding elder. She
would have gone to the meeting tonight in the first
place but for the snow. Dr. Craddock, the new
sensational pastor of the Temple, was giving a series
of Wednesday-night talks that had aroused wide interest
and drawn immense crowds.
His theme tonight was one that promised all sorts
of sensations--"The Woman of the Future." The only
trouble with the Doctor was that the substance of his
discourses sometimes failed to make good the startling
suggestions of his titles. No matter--she would go.
She felt a sense of righteous pride infighting her
way to the church through the first storm of the
In spite of the snow the church was crowded. The
subject announced had evidently touched a vital spot in
modern life. More people were thinking about "The
Woman of the Future" than she had suspected. The crowd
sat with eager, upturned faces.
The first half-hour's prayer and song service had
just begun. Mary joined in the singing of the stirring
evangelistic hymns with enthusiasm. Something in their
battle-cry melody caught her spirit instantly tonight
and her whole being responded. In ten minutes she was
a good shouting Methodist and supremely happy without
knowing why. She never paused to ask. Her nature was
profoundly religious and she had been born and bred in
the atmosphere of revivals. Her father was an
aggressive evangelist both in his character and methods
of work, and she was his own daughter--a child of
The individuals in the eager crowd which packed the
popular church meant nothing to her personally. They
had passed before her unseeing eyes Sunday after Sunday
the past five years as mere shadows of an unknown world
which swallowed them up the moment they reached the
street. She had never seen the inside of one of their
homes. Not one of them had drawn close enough to her
to venture an invitation.
Two of the stewards she knew personally--one a
bricklayer, the other a baker on Eighth Avenue. The
preacher she had met in a purely formal way as the
bishop of the flock. She liked Dr. Craddock. He was
known in the ministry as a live wire. He was a man of
vigorous physique--just turning fifty, magnetic,
eloquent and popular with the masses.
Mary was curious tonight as to what the preacher
would say on "The Woman of the Future." The Methodist
Church had been a pioneer in the modern Feminist
movement, having long ago admitted women to the full
ordination of the ministry. Craddock, however, had
been known for his conservatism in the woman movement.
He abhorred the idea of woman's suffrage as a dangerous
revolution and the fact that he consented to treat the
topic at all was a reluctant confession of its menacing
With keen interest, the girl saw him rise at last.
A breathless hush fell on the crowd. He walked
deliberately to the edge of the platform and gazed into
the faces of the people.
"I have often been asked," he slowly began, "where
I get my sermons." He paused and laughed. "I'll be
perfectly honest with you. Sometimes I get them from
the Bible--sometimes from the book of life. The
genesis of this talk tonight is very definite. I found
it in the liquid depths of a little girl's eyes. She
asked a simple question that set me thinking--not only
about the subject of her query but on the vaster issues
that grew out of it. She looked up into my face the
other night after my call for volunteers for the new
mission we are beginning in the slums of the East Side,
and asked me if the girls were not going to be given
the chance to do something worth while in this church's
"I couldn't honestly answer her off-hand and in my
groping I forgot the child and her question. I saw a
vision--a vision of that broader, nobler future toward
which human civilization is now swiftly moving.
"I say deliberately that it is swiftly moving,
because the progress of the world during the last fifty
years has been greater than in any five hundred years
of the past.
"The older I grow the stronger becomes my
conviction that the problems of the age in which we now
live cannot be solved by masculine brain and brawn
alone. The problems of the city and the nation and the
great fundamental social questions that involve the
foundations of modern life will find no solution until
the heart and brain of woman are poured into the
crucible of our test.
"They talk about a woman's sphere
As though it had a limit:
There's not a place in earth or heaven,
There's not a task to mankind given,
There's not a blessing or a woe,
There's not a whisper yes or no,
There's not a life, or death, or birth
That has a feather's weight of worth
Without a woman in it!
"The difference between a man and a woman is one
that makes them the complementary parts of a perfect
unit. God made man in His own image--male and female.
The person of God therefore combines these two elements
unseparated. The mind of God is both male and female.
In man we have the strength which lifts and tugs and
fights the elements. This is the aspect turned
primarily toward matter. In woman we have the finer
qualities of the Spirit turned toward the source of all
spirit in God. The idea of a masculine deity is a
false assumption of the Dark Ages. God is both male
"I used to wonder why Jesus Christ was a man, until
I realized that the Incarnation expressed the depth of
human need. God stooped lower in assuming the form of
man. The form of the divine revelation through Jesus
Christ was determined solely by this depth of human
For half an hour in impetuous eloquence, in telling
incidents wet with tears and winged with hope, he held
his listeners in a spell. It was not until the burst
of applause which greeted his closing sentence had died
away that Mary Adams realized that another landmark had
toppled before the onrushing flood of modern Feminism.
The conservatism of Doctor Craddock had yielded at last
to the inevitable. He, too, had joined the ranks of
the prophets who preach of a Woman's Day of
And yet it never occurred to her that this fact had
the slightest bearing on her personal outlook on life.
On the contrary she felt in the spiritual elation of
the triumphant eloquence of her favorite preacher a
renewal of her simple religious faith. At the bottom
of that religion lay the foundation of life itself--her
conception of marriage as the supreme and only
expression of woman's power in the world.
She walked back to her home on the Square, in a
glow of ecstatic emotion.
Surely God had miraculously saved her this night
from the wiles of the Devil! No matter what this
eloquent discourse had meant to others, it had renewed
her faith in the old-fashioned woman and the old-
fashioned ways of the old-fashioned home. Her vision
was once more clear. She was glad Jane Anderson had
come to put her to the test. She had been tried in the
fires of hell and came forth unscorched.
She stood beside her window dreaming again of the
home she would build when her Knight should stand
before her revealed in beauty no words could describe.
The moon was shining now in solemn glory on the white-
shrouded Square. Temptation had only strengthened the
fiber of her soul. She knelt in the moonlight beside
her couch and prayed that God should ever keep her
faith serene. She rose with a sense of peace and joy.
God would hear and answer the cry of her heart. The
City might be the Desert--it was still God's world and
not a sparrow that twittered in those bare trees or
chattered on her window-ledge in the morning could fall
to the ground without His knowledge. God had put this
deathless passion in her heart; He could not deny
it expression. She could bide His time. If the day of
her deliverance were near, it was good. If God should
choose to try her faith in loneliness and tears, it was
His way to make the revelation of glory the more
dazzling when it came.
She drew the covering about her warm young body
with the firm faith that her hour was close at hand,
and fell asleep to dream of her Knight.
CHAPTER III. FATE
Mary waked next morning with the delicious sense of
impending happiness. A wonderful dream had come to
thrill her half-conscious moments, repeating itself in
increasing vividness and beauty with each awakening.
The vision had been interrupted by the unusual noise of
the snow machines on the car tracks, and yet she had
fallen asleep after each break and picked up the
rapturous scene at the exact moment of its
She was married and madly in love with her husband.
His face she could never see quite clearly. His
business kept him away from home on long trips. But
his baby was always there--a laughing, wonderful boy
whose chubby hands persisted in pulling her hair down
into her face each time she bent over his cradle to
Ella was chattering in German to someone on the
stairs. She wondered again for the hundredth time
how this poor, slovenly, one-eyed, ill-kempt creature,
scrub-woman and janitress, could speak two languages
with such ease. Her English, except in excitement,
seemed equally fluent with her German. How did such a
woman fall so low? She was industrious and untiring in
her work. She never touched liquor or drugs. She was
kind and thoughtful and watched over her tenants with a
motherly care for which no landlord could pay in
dollars and cents. She was on her knees on the stairs
now, scrubbing down the steps to be crowded again with
muddy feet from the street below.
Mary lay for half an hour snuggling under the warm
blankets, weaving a romance about Ella's life. A great
love for some heroic man who died and left her in
poverty could alone explain the mystery that hung about
her. She never spoke of her life or people. Mary had
ventured once to ask her. A wan smile flitted across
the haggard face for a moment, and she answered in low
tones that closed the subject.
"I haven't any people, dear," she said slowly.
"They are dead long ago."
The girl wondered if it were really true. In her
joy this morning she felt her heart go out to the
pathetic, drooping figure on the stairs. She
wished that every living creature might share the
secret joy that filled her soul.
She drew the kitten from his nest beside her pillow
and rubbed her cheek against his little cold nose. He
always waked her with a kiss on her eyelids and then
coiled himself back for a tiny cat-nap until she could
make up her mind to rise.
She sprang from the couch with sudden energy and
stretched her dainty figure with a prodigious yawn.
"Gracious, Kitty, we must hurry!" she cried,
thrusting her bare feet into a pair of embroidered
slippers and throwing her blue flannel kimono on over
The coffee-pot was boiling busily when she had
bathed and dressed. Each detail of her domestic
schedule was given an extra care this morning. The
stove was carefully polished, each pot and pan placed
in its rack with a precision that spoke an unusual joy
within the heart of the housewife.
And through it all she hummed a lullaby that
haunted her from the memories of a happy childhood.
Breakfast over, the kitten fed, the birds given
their bath, their sand and seed, she couldn't stop
until the whole place had been thoroughly cleaned
and dusted. Exactly why she had done this on Thursday
morning it was impossible to say. Some hidden force
within had impelled her.
Then back into the dream world her mind flew on
joyous wings. It was a sign from God in answer to
prayer. Why not? The Bible was full of such
revelations in ancient times. God was not dead because
the world was modern and we had steam and electricity.
The routine of school was no longer dull. Around each
commonplace child hung a halo of romance. They were
love-children today. She wove a dream of tenderness,
of chivalry, and heroic deeds about them all. She
searched each face for some line of beauty caught in
the vision of her own baby who had looked into her
heart from the mists of eternity.
Three days passed in a sort of trance. Never had
she felt surer of life and the full fruition of every
hope and faith. Just how this marvelous blossoming
would come, she could not guess. Her chances of
meeting her Fate were no better than at any moment of
the past years of drab disillusionment, and yet, for
some reason, her foolish heart kept singing.
There could be but one answer. The event was
impending. Such things could be felt--not reasoned
She applied herself to her teaching with a new
energy and thoroughness. She must do this work well
and carry into the real life that must soon begin the
consciousness of every duty faithfully performed.
A boy asked her a question about a little flower
which grew in a warm crevice of the stone wall on which
the iron fence of the school yard rested. She blushed
at her failure to enlighten him and promised to tell
him on Monday.
Botany was not one of her tasks but she felt the
tribute to her personality in his question, and she
would take pains to make her answer full and
Saturday afternoon she hurried to the Public
Library, on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, to
look up every reference to this flower.
The boulevard of the Metropolis was thronged with
eager thousands. Handsome men and beautifully dressed
women passed each other in endless procession on its
crowded pavements. The cabs and automobiles, two
abreast on either side, moved at a snail's pace, so
dense were the throngs at each crossing. Her fancy was
busy weaving about each throbbing tonneau and
limousine a story of love. Not a wheel was turning in
all that long line of shining vehicles that didn't
carry a woman or was hurrying to do a woman's bidding.
Her hero was coming, too, somewhere in the crowd
with his gloved hand on one of those wheels. She could
feel his breath on her cheek as he handed her into the
seat by his side and then the sudden leap of the car
into space and away on the wings of lightning into the
She ascended the broad steps of the majestic
building with quick, springing strength. She loved
this glorious library, with its lofty, arched ceilings.
The sense of eternity that brooded over it and filled
the stately rooms rested and inspired her.
Besides, she forgot her poverty in this temple of
all time. Within its walls she belonged to the great
aristocracy of brains and culture of which this palace
was the supreme expression. And it was hers. Andrew
Carnegie had given the millions to build it and the
city of New York granted the site on land that was
worth many millions more. But it was all built for her
convenience, her comfort and inspiration. Every volume
of its vast and priceless collection was hers--hers to
hold in her hands, read and ponder and enjoy. Every
officer and manager in its inclosure was her
servant--to come at her beck and call and do her
bidding. The little room on Twenty-third Street was
the symbol of the future. This magnificent building
was the realization of the present.
She smiled pleasantly to the polite assistant who
received her order slip, and took her seat on the
waiting line until her books were delivered.
This magnificent room with its lofty ceilings of
golden panels and drifting clouds had always brought to
her a peculiar sense of restful power. The
consciousness of its ownership had from the first been
most intimate. No man can own what he cannot
appreciate. He may possess it by legal documents, but
he cannot own it unless he has eyes to see, ears to
hear, and a heart to feel its charm. This appreciation
Mary Adams possessed by inheritance from her student
father who devoured books with an insatiate hunger.
Nowhere in all New York's labyrinth did she feel as
perfectly at home as in this reading-room. The quiet
which reigned without apparent sign or warning seemed
to belong to the atmosphere of the place. It was
unthinkable that any man or woman should be rude or
thoughtless enough to break it by a loud word.
This room was hers day or night, winter or
summer, always heated and lighted, and a hundred
swift, silent servants at hand to do her bidding.
Around the room on serried shelves, dressed in leather
aprons, stood twenty-five thousand more servants of the
centuries of the past ready to answer any question her
heart or brain might ask of the world's life since the
dawn of Time.
In the stack-room below, on sixty-three miles of
shelves, stood a million others ready to come at her
slightest nod. She loved to dream here of the future,
in the moments she must wait for these messengers she
had summoned. In this magic room the past ceased to
be. These myriads of volumes made the past a myth. It
was all the living, throbbing present--with only the
golden future to be explored.
Her number flashed in red letters on the electric
She rose and carried her books to the seat number
assigned her near the center of the southern division
of the room on the extreme left beside the bookcases
containing the dictionaries of all languages.
Her seat was on the aisle which skirted the
shelves. She found the full description of the flower
in which she was interested, made her notes and
closed the volume with a lazy movement of her slender,
She lifted her eyes and they rested on a
remarkable-looking young man about her own age who
stood gazing in an embarrassed, helpless sort of way at
the row of ponderous volumes marked "The Century
He was evidently a newcomer. By his embarrassment
she could easily tell that it was the first time he had
ever ventured into this room.
He looked at the books, apparently puzzled by their
number. He raised his hand and ran his fingers
nervously through the short, thick, red hair which
covered his well-shaped head.
The girl's attention was first fixed by the strange
contrast between his massive jaw and short neck which
spoke the physical strength of an ox, and the slender
gracefully tapering fingers of his small hand. The
wrist was small, the fingers almost feminine in their
He caught her look of curious interest and to her
horror, smiled and walked straight to her seat.
There was no mistaking his determination to speak.
It was useless to drop her eyes or turn aside. He
would certainly follow.
She blushed and gazed at him in a timid,
helpless fashion while he bent over her seat and
"You look kind and obliging, miss--could you help
me a little?"
His tone was so genuine in its appeal, so
distressed and hesitating, it was impossible to resent
"If I can--yes," was the prompt answer.
"You won't mind?" he asked, fumbling his hat.
"No--what is it?"
Mary had recovered her composure as his distress
had increased and looked steadily into his steel blue
"You see," he went on, in low hurried tones, "I'm
all worked up about the mountains of North Carolina--
thinkin' o' goin' down there to Asheville in a car, an'
I want to look the bloomin' place up and kind o' get my
bearin's before I start. A lawyer friend o' mine told
me to come here and I'd find all the maps in the
Century Dictionary. The man at the desk out there told
me to come in this room and look in the shelves on the
left and take it right out. Gee, the place is so big,
I get all rattled. I found the Century Dictionary on
He paused and smiled helplessly.
"I thought a dictionary was one book--there's a
dozen of 'em marked alike. I'm afraid to pull 'em all
down an' I don't know where to begin-- COULD you
"Certainly, with pleasure," she answered, quickly
rising and leading the way back to the shelf at which
he had been gazing.
"You want the atlas volume," she explained, drawing
the book from the shelf and returning to the seat.
He followed promptly and bent over her shoulder
while she pointed out the map of North Carolina, the
position of Asheville and the probable route he must
follow to get there.
"Thanks!" he exclaimed gratefully.
"Not at all," she replied simply. "I'm only too
glad to be of service to you."
Her answer emboldened him to ask another question.
"You don't happen to know anything about that
country down there, do you?"
"Why, yes. I know a great deal about it----"
"I've been through Asheville many times and spent a
summer there once."
His tones implied that he plainly regarded her
as a prodigy of knowledge. His whole attitude
suggested at once the mind of an alert, interested boy
asking his teacher for information on a subject near to
his heart. It was impossible to resist his appeal.
"Why, yes," Mary went on in low, rapid tones. "My
people live in the Kentucky mountains."
He bent low and gently touched her arm.
"Say, we can't talk in here--I'm afraid. Would it
be asking too much of you to come out in the park, sit
down on a bench and tell me about it? I'll never know
how to thank you, if you will?"
It was absurd, of course, such a request, and yet
his interest was so keen, his deference to her superior
knowledge so humble and appealing, to refuse seemed
ungracious. She hesitated and rose abruptly.
"Just a moment--I'll return my books and then we'll
go. You can replace this volume on the shelf where we
"Thank yoo, miss," he responded gratefully.
"You're awfully kind."
"Don't mention it," she laughed.
In a moment she was walking by his side down the
smooth marble stairs and out through the grand entrance
into Fifth Avenue. The strange part about it was, she
was not in the least excited over a very unconventional
situation. She had allowed a handsomely groomed,
young, red-haired adventurer to pick her up without the
formality of an introduction, in the Public Library.
She hadn't the remotest idea of his name--nor had he of
hers--yet there was something about him that seemed
oddly familiar. They must have known one another
somewhere in childhood and forgotten each other's
The sun was shining in clear, steady brilliancy in
a cloudless sky. The snow had quickly melted and it
was unusually warm for early December. They turned
into the throng of Fifth Avenue and at the corner of
Forty-second Street he paused and hesitated and looked
at her timidly:
"Say," he began haltingly, "there's an awful crowd
of bums on those seats in the Square behind the
building--you know Central Park, don't you?"
"Quite well--I've spent many happy hours in its
"You know that place the other side of the Mall--
that ragged hill covered with rocks and trees and
"I've been there often."
"Would you mind going there where it's quiet--I've
such a lot o' things I want to ask you--you won't mind
the walk, will you?"
"Certainly not--we'll go there," Mary responded in
even, business-like tones.
"Because, if you don't want to walk I'll call a
cab, if you'll let me----"
"Not at all," was the quick answer. "I love to
It was impossible for the girl to repress a smile
at her ridiculous situation! If any human being had
told her yesterday that she, Mary Adams, an old-
fashioned girl with old-fashioned ideas of the
proprieties of life, would have allowed herself to be
picked up by an utter stranger in this unceremonious
way, she would have resented the assertion as a
personal insult--yet the preposterous and impossible
thing had happened and she was growing each moment more
and more deeply interested in the study of the
remarkable youth by her side.
He was not handsome in the conventional sense. His
features were too strong for that. An enemy might have
called them coarse. Their first impression was of
enormous strength and exhaustless vitality. He walked
with a quick, military precision and planted his small
feet on the pavement with a soft, sure tread that
suggested the strength of a young tiger.
The one feature that puzzled her was the size of
his hands and feet. They were remarkably small and
remarkable for their slender, graceful lines.
His eyes were another interesting feature. The
lids drooped with a careless Oriental languor, as
though he would shut out the glare of the full
daylight, and yet the pupils flashed with a cold steel-
blue fire. One look into his eyes and there could be
no doubt that the man behind them was an interesting
She wondered what his business could be. Not a
lawyer or doctor or teacher certainly. His timidity in
handling books was clear proof on that point. He was
well groomed. His clothes were made by a first-class
Her heart thumped with a sudden fear. Perhaps he
was some sort of criminal. His questions may have been
a trick to lure her away. . . .
They had just crossed the broad plaza at Fifty-
ninth Street and entered the walkway that leads to the
She stopped suddenly.
"It's too far to the hill beyond the Mall," she
began hesitatingly. "We'll find a seat in one of the
little rustic houses along the Fifty-ninth Street
"Sure, if you say so," he agreed.
He accepted the suggestion so simply, she regretted
her suspicions, instantly changed her mind and said,
"No, we'll go on where we started. The long walk
will do me good."
"All right," he laughed; "whatever you say's the
law. I'm the little boy that does just what his
She blushed and shot him a surprised look.
"Who told you that I was a teacher?" she asked,
with a smile.
"Lord, nobody! I had no idea of such a thing. It
never popped into my head that you do anything at all.
You know, I was awful scared when I spoke to you?"
"Were you?" she laughed.
"Surest thing you know! I'd 'a' never screwed up
my courage to do it if you hadn't 'a' looked so kind
and gentle and sweet. I just knew you couldn't turn me
There was no mistaking the genuineness of the
apology for his presumption. She smiled a gracious
answer, and threw the last ugly suspicion to the winds.
He broke into a laugh and lifted his hand in the
sudden gesture of a traffic policeman commanding a
"What is it?" she asked.
"You know I was so excited I clean forgot to
introduce myself! What do you think o' that? You'll
excuse me, won't you? My name's Jim Anthony. I'm
sorry I can't give you any references to my folks. I
haven't any--I'm a lost sheep in New York--no father or
mother. That's why I'm so excited about this trip I'm
plannin' down South. I hear I've got some people down
He stopped suddenly as if absorbed in the thought.
Her heart went out to him in sympathy for this
confession of his orphaned life.
"I'm Mary Adams," she smiled in answer. "I'm a
teacher in the public schools."
"Gee--that accounts for it! I thought you looked
like you knew everything in those books. And you've
been to Asheville, too?"
"Suppose it's not as big a burg as New York?"
"Hardly--it's just a hustling mountain town of
about twenty-five thousand people."
"Lot o' swells from around New York live down
there, they tell me."
"Yes, the Vanderbilts have a beautiful castle just
"Some mountains near Asheville?"
"Hundreds of square miles."
"Mountains in every direction?"
"As far as the eye can reach, one blue range piled
above another until they're lost in the dim skies on
"Gee, it may be pretty hard to find your folks if
they just live in the mountains near Asheville?"
"Unless your directions are more explicit--I should
"You know, I thought the mountains near Asheville
was a bunch o' hills off one side like the Palisades,
that you couldn't miss if you tried. I've never been
outside of New York--since I can remember. I'd love to
see real mountains."
The last sentence was spoken in a wistful pathos
that touched Mary with its irresistible appeal. Her
mother instincts responded to it in quick sympathy.
"You've missed a lot," she answered gravely.
"I'll bet I have. It's a rotten old town, this New
He paused, and a queer light flashed from his steel
"Until you get your hand on its throat," he added,
bringing his square jaws together.
Mary lifted her face with keen interest.
"And you've got it by the throat?"
"That's just what--little girl!" he cried, with a
ring of pride. "You see, I'm an inventor and I won a
little pile on my first trick. I've got a machine-shop
in a room eight-by-ten over on the East Side."
"A machine-shop all your own?"
"I'd like to see it some day."
He shook his head emphatically.
"It's too dirty. I couldn't let a pretty girl like
you in such a place." He paused and resumed the tone
of his narrative where she interrupted him. "You see,
I've just put a new crimp in a carburetor for the
automobile folks. They're tickled to death over it and
I've got automobiles to burn. Will you go to ride with
The teacher broke into a joyous laugh.
"Why do you laugh?" he asked awkwardly.
"Well, in the language of New York, that would be
going some, wouldn't it?"
"And why not, I'd like to know?" he cried with
scorn. "Who's to tell us we can't? You've no kids to
bother you tomorrow. I'm my own boss. You've seen
Asheville, but you've never seen New York until you sit
down beside me in a big six-cylinder racing car I'm
handlin' next week. Let me show it to you. I'll swing
her around to your door at eight o'clock. In twenty-
five minutes we'll clear the Bronx and shoot into New
Rochelle. There'll be no cops out to bother us, and
not a wheel in sight. It'll do you good. Let me take
you! I owe you that much for bein' so nice to me
today. Will you go with me?"
"I'll think it over and let you know."
"Got a telephone?"
"Then you'll have to tell me before I go--won't
"I suppose so," she answered demurely.
They passed the big fountain beyond the Mall and
skirted the lake to the bridge, crossed, walked along
the water's edge to the laurel-covered crags and found
a seat alone in the summer house that hides among the
trees on its highest point.
The roar of the city was dim and far away. The
only sounds to break the stillness were the laughter of
lovers along the walks below and the distant cry of
steamers in the harbor and rivers.
"You'd almost think you're in the mountains up
here, now wouldn't you?" he asked, after a moment's
"Yes. I call this park my country estate. It
costs me nothing to keep it in perfect order. The city
pays for it all. But I own it. Every tree and shrub
and flower and blade of grass, every statue and bird
and animal in it is mine. I couldn't get more joy out
of them if I had them inclosed behind an iron fence,
and the deed to the land in my pocket--not half as
much, for I'd be lonely and miserable without someone
to see and enjoy it all with me."
"Gee, that's so, ain't it? I never looked at it
like that before."
He gazed at her a long time in silent admiration,
and then spoke briskly.
"Now tell me about this North Carolina and all
those miles and square miles of mountains."
"You've a piece of paper and pencil?"
He lifted his hand school-boy fashion:
"Johnny on the spot, teacher!"
A blank-book and pencil he threw in her lap and
"Tear the leaves out, if you like."
"No, I'll just draw the maps on the pages and leave
them for you to study."
With deft touch she outlined in rough on the first
page, the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Virginia and North Carolina, tracing his possible route
by Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Dover, Norfolk
and Raleigh, or by Washington, Richmond, and Danville
"Either route you see," she said softly, "leads to
Salisbury, where you strike the foothills of the
mountains. It's about two hundred miles from there to
Asheville and `The Land of the Sky.'"
For two hours she answered his eager, boyish
questions about the country and its people, his eyes
wide with admiration at her knowledge.
The sun was sinking in a sea of scarlet and purple
clouds behind the tall buildings beside the Park before
she realized that they had been talking for more than
She sprang to her feet, blushing and confused.
"Mercy, I had no idea it was so late."
"Why--is it late?" he asked incredulously.
"We must hurry----"
She brushed the stray ringlets of hair from her
forehead, laughed and hurried down the pathway.
They crossed the Park and took the Madison Avenue
line to Twenty-third Street. They were silent in the
car. The roar of the traffic was deafening after the
quiet of the summer house among the trees.
"I can see you home?" he inquired appealingly.
"We get off at Twenty-third Street."
They stood on the steps at her door beside the
Square and there was a moment's awkward silence.
He lifted his hat with a little chivalrous bow.
"Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock in my car?"
She smiled and hesitated.
"You'll have a bully time!"
"It's Sunday," she stammered.
"Sure, that's why I asked you."
"I don't like to miss my church."
"You go to church every Sunday?" he asked in
"Well, just this once then. It'll do you good.
And I'll drive as careful as a farmer."
"All right," she said in low tones, and extended
"Good night, teacher!" he responded with a
boyish wave of his slender hand and quickly
disappeared in the crowd.
She rushed up the stairs, her cheeks aflame, her
heart beating a tattoo of foolish joy.
She snatched the kitten from sleep and whispered in
his tiny ear:
"Oh, Kitty dear, I've had such an adventure! I've
spent the happiest, silliest afternoon of my life! I'm
going to have a more wonderful day tomorrow. I just
feel it. In a big racing automobile if you please, Mr.
Thomascat! Sorry I can't take you but the dust would
blind you, Kitty dear. I'm sorry to tell you that
you'll have to stay at home all day alone and keep
house. It's too bad. But I'll fix your milk and bread
before I go and you must promise me on your sacred
Persian cat's honor not to look at my birds!"
She hugged him violently and he purred his soft
answer in song.
"Oh, Kitty, I'm so happy--so foolishly happy!"
CHAPTER IV. DOUBTS AND FEARS
Mary attempted no analysis of her emotions. It was all
too sudden, too stunning. She was content to feel and
enjoy the first overwhelming experience of life. Hour
after hour she lay among the pillows of her couch in
the dim light of the street lamps and lazily watched
the passing Saturday evening crowds.
The world was beautiful.
She undressed at last and went to bed, only to toss
wide-eyed for hours.
A hundred times she reenacted the scene in the
Library and recalled her first impression of Jim's
personality. What could such an utterly unforeseen and
extraordinary meeting mean except that it was her Fate?
Certainly he could not have planned it. Certainly she
had not foreseen such an event. It had never occurred
to her in the wildest flights of fancy that she could
meet and speak to a man under such conditions, to say
nothing of the walk in the Park and the hours she
spent in the little summer house.
And the strangest part of it all was that she could
see nothing wrong in it from beginning to end. It had
happened in the simplest and most natural way
imaginable. By the standards of conventional propriety
her act was the maddest folly; and yet she was still
happy over it.
There was one disquieting trait about him that made
her a little uneasy. He used the catch-words of the
street gamins of New York without any consciousness of
incongruity. She thought at first that he did this as
the Southern boy of culture and refinement
unconsciously drops into the tones and dialect of the
negro, by daily association. His constant use of the
expressive and characteristic "Gee" was startling, to
say the least. And yet it came from his lips in such a
boyish way she felt sure that it was due to his
embarrassment in the unusual position in which he had
found himself with her.
His helplessness with the dictionary was proof, of
course, that he was no scholar. And yet a boy might
have a fair education in the schools of today and be
unfamiliar with this ponderous and dignified
encyclopedia of words. It was impossible to believe
that he was illiterate. His clothes, his carriage,
even his manners made such an idea preposterous.
Besides, no inventor could be really illiterate.
He may have been forced to work and only attended night
schools. But if he were a mechanic, capable of making
a successful improvement on one of the most delicate
and important parts of an automobile, he must have
studied the principles involved in his inventions.
His choice of a profession appealed to her
imagination, too. It showed independence and
initiative. It opened boundless possibilities. He
might be an obscure and poorly educated boy today. In
five years he could be a millionaire and the head of
some huge business whose interests circled the world.
The tired brain wore itself out at last in eager
speculations, and she fell into a fitful stupor. The
roar of the street-cars waked her at daylight, and
further sleep was out of the question. She rose,
dressed quickly and got her breakfast in a quiver of
nervous excitement over the adventure of the coming
As the hour of eight drew nearer, her doubts of the
propriety of going became more acute.
"What on earth has come over me in the past twenty-
four hours?" she asked of herself. "I've known
this man but a day. I don't KNOW him at all, and
yet I'm going to put my life in his hands in that
racing machine. Have I gone crazy?"
She was not in the least afraid of him. His face
and voice and personality all seemed familiar. Her
brain and common-sense told her that such a trip with
an utter stranger was dangerous and foolish beyond
words. In his automobile, unaccompanied by a human
soul and unacquainted with the roads over which they
would travel, she would be absolutely in his power.
She set her teeth firmly at last, her mind made up.
"It's too mad a risk. I was crazy to promise. I
She had scarcely spoken her resolution when the
soft call of the auto-horn echoed below. She stood
irresolute for a moment, and the call was repeated in
plaintive, appealing notes.
She tried to hold fast to her resolutions, but the
impulse to open the window and look out was resistless.
She turned the old-fashioned brass knob, swung her
windows wide on their hinges and leaned out.
His keen eyes were watching. He lifted his cap and
waved. She answered with the flutter of her
handkerchief--and all resolutions were off.
"Of course, I'll go," she cried, with a laugh.
"It's a glorious day--I may never have such a chance
CHAPTER V. WINGS OF STEEL
She threw on her furs and hurried downstairs. Her
surrender was too sudden to realize that she was being
driven by a power that obscured reason and crushed her
Reason made one more vain cry as she paused at the
door below to draw on her gloves.
"You have refused every invitation to see or know
the unconventional world into which thousands of women
in New York, clear-eyed and unafraid, enter daily.
You'd sooner die than pose an hour in Gordon's studio,
and on a Sabbath morning you cut your church and go on
a day's wild ride with a man you have known but fifteen
And the voice inside quickly answered:
"But that's different! Gordon's a married man. My
chevalier is not! I have the right to go, and he has
It was settled anyhow before this little
controversy arose at the street door, but the ready
answer she gave eased her conscience and cleared
the way for a happy, exciting trip.
He leaped from the big, ugly racer to help her in,
stopped and looked at her light clothing.
"That's your heaviest coat?"
"Yes. It isn't cold."
"I've one for you."
He drew an enormous fur coat from the car and held
it up for her arms.
"You think I'll need that?" she asked.
His white teeth gleamed in a friendly smile.
"Take it from me, Kiddo, you certainly will!"
She winced just a little at the common expression,
but he said it with such a quick, boyish enthusiasm,
she wondered whether he were quoting the expression
from the Bowery boy's vocabulary or using it in a
facetious personal way.
"I knew you'd need it. So I brought it for you,"
he added genially.
"Thanks," she murmured, lifting her arms and
drawing the coat about her trim figure.
He helped her into the car and drew from his pocket
a light pair of goggles.
"Now these, and you're all hunky-dory!"
"Will I need these, too?" she asked incredulously.
"Will you!" he cried. "You wouldn't ask
that question if you knew the horse we've got
hitched to this benzine buggy today. He's got wings--
believe me! It's all I can do to hold him on the
"You'll drive carefully?" she faltered.
He lifted his hand.
"With you settin' beside me, my first name's
She fumbled the goggles in a vain effort to lift
her arms over her head to fasten them on. He sprang
into the seat by her side and promptly seized them.
"Let me fix 'em."
His slender, skillful fingers adjusted the band and
brushed a stray ringlet of hair back under the furs.
The thrill of his touch swept her with a sudden dizzy
sense of excitement. She blushed and drew her head
down into the collar of the shaggy coat.
He touched the wheel, and the gray monster leaped
from the curb and shot down the street. The single
impulse carried them to the crossing. He had shut off
the power as the machine gracefully swung into Fourth
Avenue. The turn made, another leap and the car swept
up the Avenue and swung through Twenty-sixth Street
into Fifth Avenue. Again the power was off as he made
the turn into Fifth Avenue at a snail's pace.
"Can't let her out yet," he whispered
apologetically. "Had to make these turns. There's no
room for her inside of town."
Mary had no time to answer. He touched the wheel,
and the car shot up the deserted Avenue. She gasped
for breath and braced her feet, her whole being
tingling with the first exhilarating consciousness that
she too was possessed of the devil of speed madness.
It was glorious! For the first time in her life, space
and distance lost their meaning. She was free as the
birds in the heavens. She was flying on the wings of
this gray, steel monster through space. The palaces on
the Avenue whirled by in dim ghost-like flashes. They
flew through Central Park into Seventy-second Street
and out into the Drive. The waters of the river, broad
and cool, flashing in the morning sun, rested her eyes
a moment and then faded in a twinkling. They had
leaped the chasm beyond Grant's Tomb, plunged into
Broadway and before she could get her bearings, swept
up the hill at One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Street,
slipped gracefully across the iron bridge and in a
jiffy were lost in a gray cloud of dust on the Boston
When the first intoxicating joy of speed had spent
itself, she found herself shuddering at the daring
turns he made, missing a curb by a hair's breadth--
grazing a trolley by half an inch. Her fears were soon
The hand on the wheel was made of steel, too.
The throbbing demon encased within the hood obeyed
his slightest whim. She glanced at the square, massive
jaw with furtive admiration.
Without turning his head he laughed.
"You like it, teacher?"
"I'm in Heaven!"
"You won't worry about church then, will you?"
They stopped at a road-house, and he put in more
gasoline, lifted the casing from the engine, touched
each vital part, examined his tires, and made sure that
his machine was at its best.
She watched him with a growing sense of his
strength of character, his poise and executive ability.
He was an awkward, stammering boy in the Library
yesterday. Today with this machine in his hand he was
the master of Time and Space.
She yielded herself completely to the delicious
sense of his protection. The extraordinary care he was
giving the machine was a plain avowal of his deep
regard for her comfort and happiness. She had been in
one or two moderately moving cars driven by careful
chauffeurs through Central Park. She had always felt
on those trips with Jane Anderson like a poor relation
from the country imposing on a rich friend.
This trip was all her own. The car and its master
were there solely for her happiness. Her slightest
whim was law for both. It was sweet, this sense of
power. She began to lift her body with a touch of
She laughed now at fears. What nonsense! No
Knight of the Age of Chivalry could treat her with more
deference. He had tried already to get her to stop for
a bite of lunch.
"Don't you want a thing to eat?" he persisted.
"Not a thing. I've just had my breakfast. It's
only nine o'clock----"
"I know, but we've come thirty miles and the air
makes you hungry. We ought to eat about six good meals
She shook her head.
"No--not yet. I'm too happy with these new wings.
I want to fly some more--come on----"
He lifted his hand in his favorite gesture of
"'Nuff said--we'll streak it back now by another
road, hump it through town and jump over the
Brooklyn Bridge. I'll show you Coney Island and then I
know you'll want a hot dog anyhow."
He crossed the country and darted into Broadway.
Before she could realize it, the last tree and field
were lost behind in a cloud of dust, and they were
again in the crowded streets of the city. The deep
growl of his horn rang its warnings for each crossing
and Mary watched the timid women scramble to the
sidewalks five and six blocks ahead.
It was delicious. She had always been the one to
scramble before. Her heart went out in a wave of
tenderness to the man by her side, strong, daring,
masterful, her chevalier, her protector and admirer.
Yes, her admirer! There was no doubt on that
point. The moment he relaxed the tension of his hand
on the wheel, his deep, mysterious eyes beneath the
drooping lids were fixed on hers in open, shameless
admiration. Their cold fire burned into her heart and
thrilled to her finger-tips.
In spite of his deference and his obedience to her
whim, she felt the iron grip of his personality on her
imagination. Whatever his education, his origin or his
environment, he was a power to be reckoned with.
No other type of man had ever appealed to her.
Her conception of a real man had always been one who
did his own thinking and commanded rather than asked
the respect of others.
She had thrown the spell of her beauty over this
headstrong, masterful man. He was wax in her hands. A
delicious sense of power filled her. She had never
known what happiness meant before. She floated through
space. The spinning lines of towering buildings on
Broadway passed as mists in a dream.
As the velvet feet of the car touched the great
bridge she lazily opened her eyes for a moment and
gazed through the lace-work of steel at the broad sweep
of the magnificent harbor. The dark blue hills of
Staten Island framed the picture.
He was right. She had never seen New York before.
Never before had its immense panorama been swept within
two hours. Never before had she realized its
dimensions. She had always felt stunned and crushed in
the effort to conceive it. Today she had wings. The
city lay at her feet, conquered. She was mistress of
Time and Space.
Again her sidelong glance swept the lines of Jim
Anthony's massive jaw. She laughed softly.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Nothing. I'm just happy."
She blushed and wondered if he had read her
thoughts by some subtle power of clairvoyance. She was
speculating on the effects of love at first sight on
such a man. Would he hesitate, back and fill and hang
on for months trying in vain to gain the courage to
speak? Or would he spring with the leap of a young
tiger the moment he realized what he wanted?
Her own attitude was purely one of joyous
expectancy. It would, of course, be a long time before
her feelings could take any definite attitude toward a
man. For the moment she was supremely happy. It was
enough. She made no effort to probe her feelings. She
might return to earth tomorrow. Today she was in
Heaven. She would make the most of it.
They skimmed the wooded cliffs of Bay Ridge, her
heart beating in ecstasy at the revelation of beauty of
whose existence she had not dreamed.
"I bet you never saw this drive before, now did
you?" he asked with boyish enthusiasm.
"You know when I make my pile, I'd like a palace of
white marble perched on this cliff with the windows
on the south looking out over Sandy Hook, and the
windows on the west looking over that fort on the top
of Staten Island with its black eyes gazing over the
sea. How would you like that?"
She turned away to mask the smile she couldn't
"That would be splendid, wouldn't it?"
"I like the water, don't you?"
"I love it."
"Water and hills both right together! I reckon my
father must 'a' been a sea-captain and my mother from
He said this with a pathos that found the girl's
heart. What a pitiful, lonely life, a boy's without
even the memory of a mother or father! The mother
instinct rose in a resistless flood of pity. Her eyes
grew suddenly dim.
"Well," he said briskly, "now for the dainty job!
I've got to jump my way through that Coney Island
bunch. You see my low speed's a racing pace for an
everyday car. All I can do in a crowd is to jump from
one crossing to the next and cut her power off every
time. You can bet I'll make a guy or two jump with
"You won't hurt anyone?" she pleaded.
"Lord, no! I wouldn't dare to put her
through that mob in the afternoon. I'd kill a
regiment of 'em. But it's early--just the shank of the
morning. There's nobody down here yet."
The car suddenly leaped into the Avenue that runs
through the heart of Coney Island, the deep-throated
horn screaming its warning. The crowd scattered like
sheep before a lion.
The girl laughed in spite of her effort at self-
"Watch 'em hump!" Jim grunted.
"It's funny, isn't it?"
"When you're in the car--yes. It don't seem so
funny when you're on foot. Well, some people were made
to walk and some to ride. I had to hoof it at first.
I like riding better--don't you?"
"To be perfectly honest--yes!"
The car leaped forward again, the horn screaming.
The wheel passed within a foot of a fat woman's skirt.
With a cry of terror she fled to the sidewalk and shook
her fist at Jim, her face purple with anger.
He waved his hand back at her:
"Never touched you, dearie! Never touched you!"
Mary lost all fear of accident and watched him
handle the machine with the skill of a master. She
could understand now the spirit of deviltry in a
chauffeur who knows his business. It seemed a wicked,
cruel thing from the ground--this swift plunge of a car
as if bent on murder. But now that she felt the sure,
velvet grip of the brake in a master's hand, she saw
that the danger was largely a myth.
It was fun to see people jump at the approach of an
avalanche of steel that always stopped just short of
harm. Of course, it took a steady nerve and muscle to
do the trick. The man by her side had both. He was
always smiling. Nothing rattled him.
Her trust was now implicit. She relaxed the
tension of the first two hours of doubt and fear, and
yielded to the spell of his strength. It seemed
inseparable from the throbbing will of the giant
machine. He was its incarnate spirit. She was being
swept through space now on the wings of omnipotent
power--but power always obedient to her whim.
With steady, even pulse they glided down the long,
broad Avenue to Prospect Park, swung through its
winding lanes, on through the streets of Brooklyn and
once more into the open road.
"Now for Long Beach and a good lunch!" he cried.
"I'll show you something--but you'll have to shut your
eyes to see it."
With a sudden bound, the car leaped into the air,
and shot through the sky with the hiss and shriek of a
The girl caught her breath and instinctively
gripped his arm.
"Look out, Kiddo!" he shouted. "Don't touch me--or
we'll both land in Kingdom Come. I ain't ready for a
harp just yet. I'd rather fool with this toy for a
while down here."
She braced her feet and gripped the sides of the
car, gasping for breath, steadied herself at last and
crouched low among the furs to guard her throat from
the icy daggers of the wind.
The landscape whirled in a circle of trees and sky,
while above the dark line of hills hung the boiling
cauldron of cloud-banked heavens.
"Are you game?" he called above the roar.
"Yes," she gasped. "Don't stop----"
Her soul had risen at last to the ecstasy of the
mania for speed that fired the man's spirit and nerved
his hand. It was inconceivable until experienced--this
awful joy! Her spirit sank with childish
disappointment as he slowly lowered the power.
"Got to take a sharp curve down there," he
explained. "We turn to the right for the meadows and
the Beach--how was that?"
"Wonderful," she cried, with dancing eyes. "Let
her go again if you want to--I'm game--now."
"A little rattled at first?"
"Well, we can't let her out on this road. It's too
narrow--have to take a ditch sometimes to pass. That
wouldn't do for an eighty-mile clip, you know--now
"I might risk it alone--but my first name's `Old
Man Caution' today--you get me?"
Mary nodded and turned her head away again.
"I got you the first time, sir," she answered
playfully taking his tone.
He ran the car into the garage at the Beach, sprang
out and lifted Mary to the ground with quick, firm
hand. They threw off their heavy coats and left them.
"Look out for this junk now, sonny," he cried to
the attendant, tossing him a half dollar.
"Fill her up to the chin by the time we get
Quickly they walked to the hotel and in five
minutes were seated beside a window in the dining-room,
watching the lazy roll of the sea sweep in on the sands
at low tide.
"I'm hungry as a wolf!" he whispered.
"So am I----"
"We'll eat everything in sight--start at the top
and come down."
He handed her the menu card and watched her from
the depths beneath the drooping eyelids.
Conscious of his gaze and rejoicing in its frank
admiration, she ordered the dinner with instinctive
good taste. No effort at conversation was made by
either. They were both too hungry. As Jim lighted his
cigarette when the coffee was served, he leaned back in
his chair and watched the breakers in silence.
"That's the best dinner I ever had in my life," he
"It was good. We were hungry."
"I've been hungry before, many a time. It was
something else, too." He paused and rose abruptly.
"Let's walk up the Beach."
"I'd love to," she answered, slowly rising.
CHAPTER VI. BESIDE THE SEA
They strolled leisurely along the board-walk, found the
sand, walked in the firm, dry line of the high-water
mark for a mile to the east, and sat down on a clump of
sea-grass on the top of a sand dune.
"I like this!" she cried joyously.
"So do I," he answered soberly, and lapsed into
The sun was warm and genial. The wind had died,
and the waves of the rising tide were creeping up the
long, sloping stretches of the sand with a lazy,
soothing rush. A winter gull poised above their heads
and soared seaward. The smoke of an ocean liner
streaked the horizon as she swept toward the channel
off Sandy Hook.
Jim looked at the girl by his side and tried to
speak. She caught the strained expression in his
strong face and lowered her eyes.
He began to trace letters in the sand.
She knew with unerring instinct that he had made
his first desperate effort to speak his love and
failed. Would he give it up and wait for weeks and
possibly months--or would he storm the citadel in one
mad rush at the beginning?
He found his voice at last. He had recovered from
the panic of his first impulse.
"Well, how do you like my idea of a good day as far
as you've gone?" he asked lightly.
She met his gaze with perfect frankness. "The
happiest day I ever spent in my life," she confessed.
"Oh, shucks--what's the use!" he cried, with sudden
fierce resolution. "You've got me, Kiddo, you've got
me! I've been eatin' out of your hand since the minute
I laid my eyes on you in that big room. I'm all yours.
You can do anything you want with me. For God's sake,
tell me that you like me a little."
The blood slowly mounted to her cheeks in red waves
of tremulous emotion.
"I like you very much," she said in low tones.
He seized her hand and held it in a desperate grip.
"I love you, Kiddo," he went on passionately. "You
don't mind me calling you Kiddo? You're so dainty
and pretty and sweet, and that dimple keeps coming in
your cheek, it just seems like that's the word--you
"You don't know how I've been starvin' all my life
for the love of a pure girl like you. You're the first
one I ever spoke to. I was scared to death yesterday
when I saw you. But I'd 'a' spoke to you if it killed
me in my tracks. I couldn't help it. It just looked
like an angel had dropped right down out of the gold
clouds from that ceilin'. I was afraid I'd lose you in
the crowd and never see you again. It didn't seem you
were a stranger anyhow--I didn't seem strange to you,
Her lips quivered, and she was silent.
"Didn't you feel like you'd known me somewhere
before?" he pleaded.
"I just felt you did, and that's what give me
courage. Oh, Kiddo, you've got to love me a little--
I've never been loved by a human soul in all my life.
The first thing I remember was hidin' under a stoop
from a brute who beat me every night. I ran away and
slept in barrels and crawled into coal shutes till I
was big enough to earn a livin' sellin' papers. For
years I never knew what it meant to have enough to
eat. I just scratched and fought my way through the
streets like a little hungry wolf till I got in a
blacksmith's shop down on South Street and learned to
handle tools. I was quick and smart, and the old man
liked me and let me sleep in the shop. I had enough to
eat then and got strong as an ox. I went to the night
schools and learned to read and write. I don't know
anything, but I'm quick and you can teach me--you will,
"I'll try," was the low answer.
"You do like me, Kiddo? Say it again!"
She rose to her feet and looked out over the sea,
her face scarlet.
"Yes, I do," she said at last.
With a sudden resistless sweep he clasped her in
his arms and kissed her lips.
Her heart leaped in mad response to the first kiss
a lover had ever given. Her body quivered and relaxed
in his embrace. It was sweet--it was wonderful beyond
He kissed her again, and she clung to him, lifting
her eyes to his at last in a long, wondering gaze and
then pressed her own lips to his.
"Oh, my God, Kiddo, you love me! It beats the
world, don't it? Love at first sight for both of
I've heard about it, but I didn't think it would
ever happen to me like this--did you?"
She shook her head and bit her lips as the tears
slowly dimmed her eyes.
"It takes my breath," she murmured. "I can't
realize what it all means. It seems too wonderful to
"And you won't turn me down because I don't know
who my father and mother was?"
"No--my heart goes out to you in a great pity for
your lonely, wretched boyhood."
"I couldn't help that--now could I?"
"Of course not. It's wonderful that you've made
your way alone and won the fight of life."
He gripped her hands and held her at arms' length,
devouring her with his deep, slumbering eyes.
"Gee, but you're a brick, little girl! I thought
you were an angel when I first saw you. Now I know it.
Just watch me work for you! I'll show you a thing or
two. You'll marry me right away, won't you?"
He bent close, his breath on her lips.
Her eyes drooped under his passionate gaze, and the
tears slowly stole down her cheeks. Her hour of life
had struck! So suddenly, so utterly unexpectedly, it
rang a thunderbolt from the clear sky.
"You will, won't you?" he pleaded.
She smiled at him through her tears and slowly
"I can't say yes today."
"You've swept me off my feet--I--I can't think."
"I don't want you to think--I want you to marry me
"I must have a little time."
His face fell in despair.
"Say, little girl, don't turn me down--you'll kill
"I'm not turning you down," she protested tenderly.
"I only want time to see that I'm not crazy. I have to
pinch myself to see if I'm awake. It all seems a
dream"--she paused and lifted her radiant face to his--
"a beautiful dream--the most wonderful my soul has ever
seen. I must be sure it's real!"
He drew her into his arms, and her body again
relaxed in surrender as his lips touched hers.
"Isn't that the real thing?" he laughed.
She lay very still, her eyes closed, her face a
scarlet flame. She was frightened at the swift
realization of its overwhelming reality. The touch of
his hand thrilled to the last fiber and nerve of her
body. Her own trembling fingers clung to him with
desperate longing tenderness. She roused herself with
an effort and drew away.
"That's enough now. I must have a little common-
sense. Let's go----"
He clung to her hand.
"You'll let me come to see you, tomorrow night?"
"And the next night--and every night this week--
what's the difference? There's nobody to say no, is
"You'll let me?"
"Tomorrow sure. Maybe you won't want to come the
"Maybe I won't! Just wait and see!"
He seized both hands again and held her at arms'
"Don't go yet--just let me look at you a minute
more! The only girl I ever had in my life--and she's
the prettiest thing God ever made on this earth. Ain't
I the lucky boy?"
"We must go now," she cried, blushing again under
his burning eyes.
He dropped her hands suddenly and saluted military
"All right, teacher! I'm the little boy that does
exactly what he's told."
They strolled leisurely along the shining sands in
silence. Now and then his slender hand caught hers and
crushed it. The moment he touched her a living flame
flashed through her body--and through every moment of
contact her nerves throbbed and quivered as if a
musician were sweeping the strings of a harp. If this
were not love, what could it be?
Her whole being, body and soul, responded to his.
Her body moved instinctively toward his, drawn by some
hidden, resistless power. Her hands went out to meet
his; her lips leaped to his.
She must test it with time, of course. And yet she
knew by a deep inner sense that time could only fan the
flame that had been kindled into consuming fire that
must melt every barrier between them.
She had asked him nothing of himself, his business
or his future, and knew nothing except what he had told
her in the first impetuous rush of his confession of
love. No matter. The big thing today was the fact of
love and the new radiance with which it was beginning
to light the world. The effect was stunning. Their
conversation had been the simplest of commonplace
questions and answers--and yet the day was the one
miracle of her life--her happiness something
unthinkable until realized.
She had not asked time in order to know him better.
She had only asked time to see herself more clearly in
the new experience. Not for a moment did she raise the
question of the worthiness of the man she loved. It
was inconceivable that she should love a man not worthy
of her. The only questions asked were soul-searching
ones put to herself.
Through the sweet, cool drive homeward, a hundred
times she asked within:
"Is this love?"
And each time the answer came from the depths:
"Yes--yes--a thousand times yes. It's the voice of
God. I feel it and I know it."
He throttled the racer down to the lowest speed and
took the longest road home.
Again and again he slipped his left hand from the
wheel and pressed hers.
"You won't let anybody knock me behind my back, now
will you, little girl?"
She pressed his hand in answer.
"I ain't got a single friend in all God's world to
stand up for me but just you."
"You don't need anyone," she whispered.
"You'll give me a chance to get back at 'em if any
of your friends knock me, won't you?"
"Why should they dislike you?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, I ain't exactly one o' the high-flyers now
"I'm glad you're not."
"Then it's me for you, Kiddo, for this world and
The car swung suddenly to the curb and Mary lifted
her eyes with a start to find herself in front of her
Jim sprang to the ground and lifted her out.
"Keep this coat," he whispered. "We'll need it
tomorrow. What time is your school out?"
"At three o'clock."
"I can come at four?"
"You don't have to work tomorrow?"
He hesitated a moment.
"No, I'm on a vacation till after Christmas.
They're putting through my new patent."
He followed her inside the door and held her hand
in the shadows of the hall.
"All right, at four," she said.
"I'll be here."
He stooped and kissed her, turned and passed
She stood for a moment in the shadows and listened
to the throb of the car until it melted into the roar
of the city's life, her heart beating with a joy so new
it was pain.
CHAPTER VII. A VAIN APPEAL
A week passed on the wings of magic.
Every day at four o'clock the car was waiting at
her door. The drab interior of the school-room had
lost its terror. No annoyance could break the spell
that reigned within. Her patience was inexhaustible,
her temper serene.
Walking with swift step down the Avenue to her home
she wondered vaguely how she could have been lonely in
all the music and the wonder of New York's marvelous
life. The windows of the stores were already crowded
with Christmas cheer, and busy thousands passed through
their doors. Each man or woman was a swift messenger
of love. Somewhere in the shadows of the city's
labyrinth a human heart would beat with quickened joy
for every step that pressed about these crowded
counters. Love had given new eyes to see, new ears to
hear and a new heart to feel the joys and sorrows of
She hadn't given her consent yet. She was
still asking her silly heart to be sure of herself.
Of her lover, the depth and tenderness, the strength
and madness of his love, there could be no doubt. Each
day he had given new tokens.
For Saturday afternoon she had told him not to
bring the car.
When they reached Fifth Avenue, across the Square,
he stopped abruptly and faced her with a curious,
"Say, tell me why you wanted to walk?"
"I had a good reason," she said evasively.
"Yes, but why? It's a sin to lay that car up a day
like this. Look here----"
He stopped and tried to gulp down his fears.
"Look here--you're not going to throw me down after
leading me to the very top of the roof, are you?"
She looked up with tender assurance.
"Then why hoof it? Let me run round to the garage
and shoot her out. You can wait for me at the Waldorf.
I've always wanted to push my buzz-wagon up to that big
joint and wait for my girl to trip down the steps."
"No. I've a plan of my own today. Let me have my
"All righto--just so you're happy."
"I am happy," she answered soberly.
At the foot of the broad stairs of the Library she
paused and looked up smilingly at its majestic front.
"Come in a moment," she said softly.
He followed her wonderingly into the vaulted hall
and climbed the grand staircase to the reading-room.
She walked slowly to the shelf on which the Century
Dictionary rested and looked laughingly at the seat in
which she sat Saturday afternoon a week ago at exactly
Jim smiled, leaned close and whispered:
"I got you, Kiddo--I got you! Get out of here
quick or I'll grab you and kiss you!"
She started and blushed.
"Don't you dare!"
"Beat it then--beat it--or I can't help it!"
She turned quickly and they passed through the
catalogue room and lightly down the stairs.
He held her soft, round arm with a grip that sent
the blood tingling to the roots of her brown hair.
"You understand now?" she whispered.
"You bet! We walk the same way up the Avenue,
through the Park to the little house on the laurel
hill. And you're goin' to be sweet to me today, my
Kiddo--I just feel it. I----"
"Don't be too sure, sir!" she interrupted,
He laughed aloud.
"You can't fool me now--and I'm crazy as a June
bug! You know I like to walk--if I can be with you!"
At the Park entrance she stopped again and smiled
"We'll find a seat in one of the summer houses
along the Fifty-ninth Street side."
"All right," he responded.
"No--we'll go on where we started!"
With a laugh, she slipped her hand through his arm.
"You were a little scared of me last Saturday about
this time, weren't you?"
"Just a little----"
"It hurt me, too, but I didn't let you know."
"It's all right now--it's all right. Gee I but
we've traveled some in a week, haven't we?"
"I've known you more than a week," she protested
"Sure--I've known you since I was born."
They walked through the stately rows of elms on the
Mall in joyous silence. Crowds of children and
nurses, lovers and loungers, filled the seats and
thronged the broad promenade.
Scarcely a word was spoken until they reached the
rustic house nestling among the trees on the hill.
"Just a week by the calendar," she murmured. "And
I've lived a lifetime."
"It's all right then--little girl? You'll marry me
right away? When--tonight?"
She drew the glove from her hand and held the
slender fingers up before him.
"You can get the ring----"
"Gee! I do have to get a ring, don't I?"
"Why didn't you tell me? You know I never got
"I should hope not!"
He seized her hand and kissed it, drew her into his
arms, held her crushed and breathless and released her
with a quick, impulsive movement.
"You'll help me get it?" he asked eagerly.
"If you like."
"A big white sparkler?"
"A plain little gold band."
"Let me get you a big diamond!"
"No--a plain gold band."
"It's all settled then?"
"We're engaged. You're my fiance."
"But for God's sake, Kiddo--how long do I have to
be a fiance?"
A ripple of laughter rang through the trees.
"Don't you think we've done pretty well for seven
"I could have settled it in seven minutes after we
met," he answered complainingly. "You won't tell me
the day yet?"
"All right, we'll just have to take blessings as
they come, then."
Through the beautiful afternoon they sat side by
side with close-pressed hands and planned the future
which love had given. A modest flat far up among the
trees on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson, they
"We'll begin with that," he cried enthusiastically,
"but we won't stay there long. I've got big plans.
I'm going to make a million. The white house down by
the sea for me, a yacht out in the front yard and a
half-dozen thundering autos in the garage. If this
deal I'm on now goes through, I'll make my pile in a
They rose as the shadows lengthened.
"I must go home and feed my pets," she sighed.
"All right," he responded heartily. "I'll get the
car and be there in a jiffy. We'll take a spin out to
a road-house for dinner."
She lifted her eyes tenderly.
"You can come right up to my room--now that we're
He swept her into his arms again, and held her in
It was dark when he swung the gray car against the
curb and sprang out. He didn't blow his horn for her
to come down. The privilege she had granted was too
sweet and wonderful. He wouldn't miss it for the
The stairs were dark. Ella was late this afternoon
getting back to her work. His light footstep scarcely
made a sound. He found each step with quick,
instinctive touch. The building seemed deserted. The
tenants were all on trips to the country and the
seashore. The day was one of rare beauty and warmth.
Someone was fumbling in the dark on the third floor
He made his way quickly to her room, and softly
knocked, waited a moment and knocked again. There was
no response. He couldn't be mistaken. He had seen her
lean out of that window every day the past week.
Perhaps she was busy in the kitchenette and the
noise from the street made it impossible to hear.
He placed his hand on the doorknob.
From the darkness of the hall, in a quick, tiger
leap, Ella threw herself on him and grappled for his
"What are you doing at that door, you dirty thief?"
"Here! Here! What'ell--what's the matter with
you?" he gasped, gripping her hands and tearing them
from his neck. "I'm no thief!"
"You are! You are, too!" she shrieked. "I heard
you sneak in the door downstairs--heard you slippin'
like a cat upstairs! Get out of here before I call a
She was savagely pushing him back to the landing of
the stairs. With a sudden lurch, Jim freed himself and
gripped her hands.
"Cut it! Cut it! Or I'll knock your block off!
I've come to take my girl to ride----"
He drew a match and quickly lighted the gas as
Mary's footstep echoed on the stairs below.
"Well, she's coming now--we'll see," was the sullen
Ella surveyed him from head to foot, her one eye
gleaming in angry suspicion.
Mary sprang up the last step and saw the two
confronting each other. She had heard the angry voices
"Why, Ella, what's the matter?" she gasped.
"He was trying to break into your room----"
Jim threw up his hands in a gesture of rage, and
Mary broke into a laugh.
"Why, nonsense, Ella, I asked him to come! This is
Mr. Anthony,"--her voice dropped,--"my fiance."
Ella's figure relaxed with a look of surprise.
"Oh, ja?" she murmured, as if dazed.
"Yes--come in," she said to Jim. "Sorry I was out.
I had to run to the grocer's for the Kitty."
Ella glared at Jim, turned and began to light the
other hall lamps without any attempt at apology.
Jim entered the room with a look of awe, took in
its impression of sweet, homelike order and recovered
quickly his composure.
"Gee, you're the dandy little housekeeper! I could
stay here forever."
"You like it?"
"It's a bird's nest " He glanced in the mirror and
saw the print of Ella's fingers on his collar. "Will
you look at that?" he growled.
"It's too bad," she said, sympathetically.
"You know I thought a she-tiger had got loose from
the Bronx and jumped on me."
"I'm awfully sorry," she apologized. "Ella's very
fond of me. She was trying to protect me. She
couldn't see who it was in the dark."
"No; I reckon not," Jim laughed.
"I've changed our plans for the evening," she
announced. "We won't go to ride tonight. I want you
to bring my best friend to dinner with us at Mouquin's.
Go after her in the car. I want to impress her----"
"I got you, Kiddo! She's goin' to look me over--
eh? All right, I'll stop at the store and get a clean
collar. I wouldn't like her to see the print of that
tiger's claw on my neck."
"There's her address the Gainsborough Studios.
Drop me at Mouquin's and I'll have the table set in one
of the small rooms upstairs. I'll meet you at the
Jim glanced at the address, put it in his pocket
and helped her draw on her heavy coat.
"You'll be nice to Jane? I want her to like you.
She's the only real friend I've ever had in New York."
"I'll do my best for you, little girl," he
He dropped her at the wooden cottage-front on Sixth
Avenue near Twenty-eighth Street, and returned in
twenty minutes with Jane.
As the tall artist led the way upstairs, Jim
"Say, for God's sake, let me out of this!"
"She's a frost. If I have to sit beside her an
hour I'll catch cold and die. I swear it; save me!
Save my life!"
"Sh! It's all right. She's fine and generous when
you know her."
They had reached the door and Mary pushed him in.
There was no help for it. He'd have to make the most
The dinner was a dismal failure.
Jane Anderson was polite and genial, but there was
a straight look of wonder in her clear gray eyes that
froze the blood in Jim's veins.
Mary tried desperately for the first half-hour to
put him at his ease. It was useless. The attack of
Ella had upset his nerves, and the unexpressed
hostility of Jane had completely crushed his spirits.
He tried to talk once, stammered and lapsed into a
sullen silence from which nothing could stir him.
The two girls at last began to discuss their own
affairs and the dinner ended in a sickening failure
that depressed and angered Mary.
The agony over at last, she rose and turned to Jim:
"You can go now, sir--I'll take Jane home with me
for a friendly chat."
"Thank God!" he whispered, grinning in spite of his
effort to keep a straight face.
"Tomorrow?" he asked in low tones.
"At eight o'clock."
Jim bowed awkwardly to Jane, muttered something
inarticulate and rushed to his car.
The two girls walked in silence through Twenty-
eighth Street to Broadway and thence across the Square.
Seated in her room, Mary could contain her pent-up
rage no longer.
"Jane Anderson, I'm furious with you! How could
you be so rude--so positively insulting!"
"Yes. You stared at him in cold disdain as if he
were a toad under your feet!"
"I assure you, dear----"
"Why did you do it?"
The artist rose, walked to the window, looked out
on the Square for a moment, extended her hand and laid
it gently on Mary's shoulder.
"You've made up your mind to marry this man,
"I certainly have," was the emphatic answer.
"And all in seven days?"
"Seven days or seven years--what does it matter?
He's my mate--we love--it's Fate."
"Perhaps love is madness--the madness that makes
life worth the candle. I've never lived before the
"And you, the dainty, cultured, pious little saint,
will marry this--this----"
"Say it! I want you to be frank----"
"This coarse, ugly, illiterate brute----"
"Jane Anderson, how dare you!" Mary sprang to her
feet, livid with rage.
"I asked if I might be frank. Shall I lie to you?
Or shall I tell you what I think?"
"Say what you please; it doesn't matter," Mary
"I only speak at all because I love you. Your
common-sense should tell you that I speak with
reluctance. But now that I have spoken, let me beg of
you for your father's sake, for your dead mother's
sake, for my sake--I'm your one disinterested friend
and you know that my love is real--for the sake of your
own soul's salvation in this world and the next--don't
marry that brute! Commit suicide if you will--jump off
the bridge--take poison, cut your throat, blow your
brains out--but, oh dear God, not this!"
"And why, may I ask?" was the cold question.
"He's in no way your equal in culture, in
character, in any of the essentials on which the
companionship of marriage must be based----"
"He's a diamond in the rough," Mary staunchly
"He's in the rough, all right! The only diamond
about him is the one in his red scarf--`Take it from
me, Kiddo! Take it from me!'"
Her last sentence was a quotation from Jim, her
imitation of his slang so perfect Mary's cheeks flamed
anew with anger.
"I'll teach him to use good English--never fear.
In a month he'll forget his slang and his red scarf."
"You mean that in a month you'll forget to use good
English and his style of dress will be yours. Oh,
honey, can't you see that such a man will only drag you
down, down to his level? Can it be possible that you--
that you really love him?"
"I adore him and I'm proud of his love!"
"Now listen! You believe in an indissoluble
marriage, don't you?"
"It's the first article of your creed--that
marriage is a holy sacrament, that no power on earth or
in hell can ever dissolve its bonds? Fools rush in
where angels fear to tread, my dear! They always
have--they always will, I suppose. This is peculiarly
true of your type of woman--the dainty, clinging girl
of religious enthusiasm. You're peculiarly susceptible
to the physical power of a brutal lover. Your soul
glories in submission to this force. The more coarse
and brutal its attraction the more abject and joyful
the surrender. Your religion can't save you because
your religion is purely emotional--it is only
another manifestation of your sex emotions."
"How can you be so sacrilegious!" the girl
interrupted with a look of horror.
"It may shock you, dear, but I'm telling you one of
the simplest truths of Nature. You'd as well know it
now as later. The moment you wake to realize that your
emotions have been deceived and bankrupted, your faith
will collapse. At least keep, your grip on common-
sense. Down in the cowardly soul of every weak woman--
perhaps of every woman--is the insane desire to be
dominated by a superior brute force. The woman of the
lower classes--the peasant of Russia, for example,
whose sex impulses are of all races the most violent--
refuses with scorn the advances of the man who will not
strike her. The man who can't beat his wife is beneath
contempt--he is no man at all----"
Mary broke into a laugh.
"Really, Jane, you cease to be serious you're a
joke. For Heaven's sake use a little common-sense
yourself. You can't be warning me that my lover is
marrying me in order to use his fists on me?"
"Perhaps not, dear,"--the artist smiled; "there
might be greater depths for one of your training and
character. I'm just telling you the plain truth
about the haste with which you're rushing into
this marriage. There's nothing divine in it. There's
no true romance of lofty sentiment. It's the simplest
and most elemental of all the brutal facts of animal
life. That it is resistless in a woman of your culture
and refinement makes it all the more pathetic----"
The girl rose with a gesture of impatience.
"It's no use, Jane dear; we speak a different
language. I don't in the least know what you're
talking about, and what's more, I'm glad I don't. I've
a vague idea that your drift is indecent. But we're
different. I realize that. I don't sit in judgment on
you. You're wasting your breath on me. I'm going into
this marriage with my eyes wide open. It's the
fulfillment of my brightest hopes and aspirations.
That I shall be happy with this man and make him
supremely happy I know by an intuition deeper and truer
than reason. I'm going to trust that intuition without
"All right, honey," the artist agreed with a smile.
"I won't say anything more, except that you're fooling
yourself about the depth of this intuitive knowledge.
Your infatuation is not based on the verdict of your
deepest and truest instincts."
"On what, then?"
"The crazy ideals of the novels you've been
"You're absolutely sure, for instance, that God
made just one man the mate of one woman, aren't you?"
"As sure as that I live."
"Where did you learn it?"
"So long ago I can't remember."
"Not in your Bible?"
"The Sunday school?"
"Craddock didn't tell you that, did he?"
"I thought not. He has too much horse-sense in
spite of his emotional gymnastics. You learned it in
the first dime-novel you read."
"I never read a dime-novel in my life," she
"I know--you paid a dollar and a quarter for it--
but it was a dime-novel. The philosophy of this school
of trash you have built into a creed of life. How can
you be so blind? How can you make so tragic a
"That's just it, Jane: I couldn't if your
impressions of his character were true. I
couldn't make a mistake about so vital a question. I
couldn't love him if he really were a coarse,
illiterate brute. What you see is only on the surface.
He hasn't had his chance yet----"
"Who is he? What does he do? Who are his people?"
"He has no people----"
"I thought not."
"I love him all the more deeply," she went on
firmly, "because of his miserable childhood. I'll do
my best to make up for the years of cruelty and hunger
and suffering through which he passed. What right have
you to sit in judgment on him without a hearing?
You've known him two hours----"
Jane shrugged her shoulders.
"Two minutes was quite enough."
"And you judge by what standard?"
"My five senses, and my sixth sense above all. One
look at his square bulldog jaw, his massive neck and
the deformity of his delicate hands and feet! I hear
the ignorant patois of the East Side underworld. I
smell the brimstone in his suppressed rage at my
dislike. There's something uncanny in the sensuous
droop of his heavy eyelids and the glitter of his
steel-blue eyes. There's something incongruous in
his whole personality. I was afraid of him the moment
I saw him."
Mary broke into hysterical laughter.
"And if my five senses and my intuitions contradict
yours? Who is to decide? If I loved him on sight----
If I looked into his eyes and saw the soul of my mate?
If their cold fires thrill me with inexpressible
passion? If I see in his massive neck and jaw the
strength of an irresistible manhood, the power to win
success and to command the world? If I see in his
slender hands and small feet lines of exquisite
beauty--am I to crush my senses and strangle my love to
please your idiotic prejudice?"
Jane threw up her hands in despair.
"Certainly not! If you're blind and deaf I can't
keep you from committing suicide. I'd lock you up in
an asylum for the insane if I had the power to save you
from the clutches of the brute."
Mary drew herself erect and faced her friend.
"Please don't repeat that word in my hearing--
there's a limit to friendship. I think you'd better
Jane rose and walked quickly to the door, her lips
"As you like--our lives will be far apart from
tonight. It's just as well."
She closed the door with a bang and reached the
head of the stairs before Mary threw her arms around
"Please, dear, forgive me--don't go in anger."
The older woman kissed her tenderly, glad of the
dim light to hide her own tears.
"There, it's all right, honey--I won't remember it.
Forgive me for my ugly words."
"I love him, Jane--I love him! It's Fate. Can't
"Yes, dear, I understand, and I'll love you
"You'll come to my wedding?"
"I'll let you know----"
Another kiss, and Jane Anderson strode down the
stairs and out into the night with a sickening,
helpless fear in her heart.
CHAPTER VIII. JIM'S TRIAL
The quarrel had left Mary in a quiver of exalted rage.
How dare a friend trample her most sacred feelings!
She pitied Jane Anderson and her tribe--these modern
feminine leaders of a senseless revolution against
man--they were crazy. They had all been disappointed
in some individual and for that reason set themselves
up as the judges of mankind.
"Thank God my soul has not been poisoned!" she
exclaimed aloud with fervor. "How strange that these
women who claim such clear vision can be so stupidly
She busied herself with her little household, and
made up her mind once and for all time to be done with
such friendships. The friendship of such women was a
vain thing. They were vicious cats at heart--not like
her gentle Persian kitten whose soul was full of sleepy
sunlight. These modern insurgents were wild, half-
starved stray cats that had been hounded and
beaten until they had lapsed into their elemental brute
instincts. They were so aggravating, too, they
deserved no sympathy.
Again she thanked God that she was not one of
them--that her heart was still capable of romantic
love--a love so sudden and so overwhelming that it
could sweep life before it in one mad rush to its
She woke next morning with a dull sense of
depression. The room was damp and chilly. It was
storming. The splash of rain against the window and
the muffled roar from the street below meant that the
wind was high and the day would be a wretched one
They couldn't take their ride.
It was a double disappointment. She had meant to
have him dash down to Long Beach and place the ring on
her finger seated on that same bright sand-dune
overlooking the sea. Instead, they must stay indoors.
Jim was not at his best indoors. She loved him behind
the wheel with his hand on the pulse of that racer.
The machine seemed a part of his being. He breathed
his spirit into its steel heart, and together they
swept her on and on over billowy clouds through the
gates of Heaven.
There was no help for it. They would spend
the time together in her room planning the future.
It would be sweet--these intimate hours in her home
with the man she loved.
Should she spend a whole day alone there with him?
Was it just proper? Was it really safe? Nonsense!
The vile thoughts which Jane had uttered had poisoned
her, after all. She hated her self that she could
remember them. And yet they filled her heart with
dread in spite of every effort to laugh them off.
"How could Jane Anderson dare say such things?" she
muttered angrily. "`A coarse, illiterate brute!' It's
a lie! a lie! a lie!" She stamped her foot in rage.
"He's strong and brave and masterful--a man among men--
he's my mate and I love him!"
And yet the frankness with which her friend had
spoken had in reality disturbed her beyond measure.
Through every hour of the day her uneasiness increased.
After all she was utterly alone and her life had been
pitifully narrow. Her knowledge of men she had drawn
almost exclusively from romantic fiction.
It was just a little strange that Jim persisted in
living so completely in the present and the future. He
had told her of his pitiful childhood. He had
told her of his business. It had been definite--the
simple statement he made--and she accepted it without
question until Jane Anderson had dropped these ugly
suspicions. She hated the meddler for it.
In the light of such suspicions the simplest,
bravest man might seem a criminal. How could her
friend be blind to the magnetism of this man's powerful
personality? Bah! She was jealous of their perfect
happiness. Why are women so contemptible?
She began a careful study of every trait of her
lover's character, determined to weigh him by the
truest standards of manhood. Certainly he was no
weakling. The one abomination of her soul was the type
of the city degenerate she saw simpering along Broadway
and Fifth Avenue at times. Jim was brave to the point
of rashness. No man with an ounce of cowardice in his
being could handle a car in every crisis with such cool
daring and perfect control. He was strong. He could
lift her body as if it were a feather. His arms
crushed her with terrible force. He could earn a
living for them both. There could be no doubt about
that. His faultless clothes, the ease with which he
commanded unlimited credit among the automobile
manufacturers and dealers--every supply store on
Broadway seemed to know him--left no doubt on that
There was just a bit of mystery and reserve about
his career as an inventor. His first success that had
given him a start he had not explained. The big deal
about the new carburetor she could, of course,
understand. He had a workshop all his own. He had
told her this the first day they met. She would ask
him to take her to see it this afternoon. The storm
would prevent the trip to the Beach. She would ask
this, not because she doubted his honesty, but because
she really wished to see the place in which he worked.
It was her workshop now, as well as his.
For a moment her suspicions were sickening.
Suppose he had romanced about his workshop and his
room? Supposed he lived somewhere in the squalid slums
of the lower East Side and his people, after all, were
alive? Perhaps a drunken father and a coarse, brutal
She stopped with a frown and clenched her fists.
She would ask Jim to show her his workshop. That
would be enough. If he had told her the truth about
that she would make up to him in tender abandonment of
utter trust for every suspicion she harbored.
The car was standing in front of her door. He
waved for her to come down.
"Jump right in!" he called gayly. "I've got an
extra rubber blanket for you."
"In the storm, Jim?" she faltered.
"Surest thing you know. It's great to fly through
a storm. You can just ride on its wings. Throw on
your raincoat and come on quick! I'm going to run down
to the Beach. Who's afraid of an old storm with this
thing under us?"
Her heart gave a bound. Her longing had reached
her lover and brought him through the storm to do her
bidding. It was wonderful--this oneness of soul and
She was happy again--supremely, divinely happy.
The man by her side knew and understood. She knew and
understood. She loved this daring spirit that rose to
the wind--this iron will that brooked no interference
with his plans, even from Nature, when it crossed his
The sting of the raindrops against her cheek was
exhilarating. The car glided over the swimming roadway
like a great gray gull skimming the beach at low tide.
Her soul rose. The sun of a perfect faith and love was
shining now behind the clouds.
She nestled close to his side and watched him
tenderly from the corners of her half-closed eyes, her
whole being content in his strength. The idea of
dashing through a blinding rain to the Beach on such a
day would have been to her mind an unthinkable piece of
madness. She was proud of his daring. It would be
hers to shield from the storms of life. She loved the
rugged lines of his massive jaw in profile. How could
Jane be such a fool as to call him ugly!
The weather, of course, prevented them from walking
up the Beach to their sand-dune. The walk would have
been all right--but it was out of the question to sit
down there and give her the ring in the pouring rain.
She knew this as well as he. She knew, too, that he
had the ring in his pocket, though he had carefully
refrained from referring to it in any way.
He led her to a secluded nook behind a pillar in
the little parlor. The hotel was deserted. They had
the building almost to themselves. A log fire crackled
in the open fireplace, and he drew a settee close. The
wind had moderated and the rain was pouring down in
straight streams, rolling in soft music on the roof.
He drew the ring from his pocket.
"Well, Kiddo, I got it. The fellow said this was all
He held the tiny gold band before her shining
"Slip it on!" she whispered.
"This one, silly!"
She extended her third finger, as he pressed the
ring slowly on.
"Seems to me a mighty little one and a mighty cheap
one, but he said it was the thing."
"It's all right, dear," she whispered. "Kiss me!"
He pressed his lips to hers and held them until she
sank back and lifted her hand in warning.
"Whose afraid?" Jim muttered, glancing over his
shoulder toward the door. "Now tell me what day--
"Nonsense, man!" she cried. "Give me time to
"Just to realize that I'm engaged--to plan and
think and dream of the wonderful day."
"We're losing time----"
"We'll never live these wonderful hours over again,
Jim's face fell and his voice was pitiful in its
funereal notes: "Lord, I thought the ring settled it."
"And so it does, dear--it does-----"
"Not if that long-legged spider that took dinner
with us the other night gets in her fine work. I'll
bet that she handed me a few when you got home?"
Mary was silent.
"Now didn't she?"
"To the best of her ability--yes--but I didn't mind
her silly talk."
"Gee, but I'd love to give her a bouquet of poison
"We had an awful quarrel----"
"And you stood up for me?"
"You know I did!"
"All right, I don't give a tinker's damn what
anybody says if you stand by me! In all this world
there's just you--for me. There's never been anybody
else--and there never will be. I'm that kind."
"And I love you for it!" she cried, with rapture
pressing his hand in both of hers.
"What did she say about me, anyhow?"
"Nothing worth repeating. I've forgotten it."
Jim held her gaze.
"It's funny how you love anybody the minute you lay
eyes on 'em--or hate 'em the same way. I wanted to
choke her the minute she opened her yap to me."
"Forget it, dear," she broke in briskly. "I want
you to take me to see your workshop tomorrow--will
A flash of suspicion shot from the depths of his
"Did she tell you to ask me that?"
"Of course not! I'm just interested in everything
you do. I want to see where you work."
"It's no place for a sweet girl to go--that part of
"But I'll be with you."
"I don't want you to go down there," he sullenly
"But why, dear?"
"It's a low, dirty place. I had to locate the shop
there to get the room I needed for the rent I could
pay. It's not fit for you. I'm going to move uptown
in a little while."
"Please let me go," she pleaded.
He shook his head emphatically.
She turned away to hide the tears. The first real,
hideous fear she had ever had about him caught her
heart in spite of every effort to fight it down. His
workshop might be a myth after all. He had failed in
the first test to which she had put him. It was
horrible. All the vile suggestions of Jane Anderson
rushed now into her memory.
She struggled bravely to keep her head and not
break down. It was beyond her strength. A sob
strangled her, and she buried her face in her hands.
Jim looked at her in helpless anguish for a moment,
started to gather her in his arms and looked around the
room in terror.
He leaned over her and whispered tensely:
"For God's sake, Kiddo--don't--don't do that! I
didn't mean to hurt you--honest, I didn't. Don't cry
any more and I'll take you right down to the black
hole, and let you sleep on the floor if you want to.
Gee! I'll give you the whole place, tools, junk and
She lifted her head.
"Will you, Jim?"
"Sure I will! We start this minute if you want to
She glanced over his shoulder to see that no one
was looking, threw her arms around his neck and kissed
him again and again.
"It was the first time you ever said no, dear, and
it hurt. I'm happy again now. If you'll just let me
see you in the shop for five minutes I'll never ask you
"All right--tomorrow when you get out of school.
I'll take you down. Holy Mike, that was a dandy kiss!
Let's quarrel again--start something else."
She rose laughing and brushed the last trace of
tears from her eyes.
"Let's eat dinner now--I'm hungry."
"By George, I'd forgot all about the feed!"
By eight o'clock the storm had abated; the rain
suddenly stopped, and the moon peeped through the
He drove the big racer back at a steady, even
stride on her lowest notch of speed--half the time with
only his right hand on the wheel and his left gripping
As the lights of Manhattan flashed from the hills
beyond the Queensborough Bridge, he leaned close and
The car was waiting the next day at half-past
"It's not far," he said, nodding carelessly. "You
needn't put on the coat. Be there in a jiffy."
Down Twenty-third Street to Avenue A, down the
avenue to Eighteenth Street, and then he suddenly swung
the machine through Eighteenth into Avenue B and
stopped below a low, red brick building on the corner.
He set his brakes with a crash, leaped out and
extended his hands.
"I didn't like to take you up these stairs at the
back of that saloon, little girl, but you would come.
Now don't blame me----"
She pressed his arm tenderly.
"Of course I won't blame you. I'm proud and happy
to share your life and help you. I'm surprised to see
everything so quiet down here. I thought all the East
Side was packed with crowded tenements."
"No," he answered, in a matter-of-fact way. "About
the only excitement we have in this quarter is an
occasional gas explosion in the plant over there, and
the noise of the second-hand material men unloading
iron. The tenements haven't been built here yet."
He led her quickly past the back door of the saloon
and up two narrow flights of stairs to the top of the
building, drew from his pocket the key to a heavy
padlock and slipped the crooked bolt from the double
staples. He unlocked the door with a second key and
pushed his way in.
"All righto," he cried.
The straight, narrow hall inside was dark. He
fumbled in his pocket and lit the gas.
"The workshop first, or my sleeping den?"
"The workshop first!" she whispered excitedly.
She had made the reality of this shop the supreme
test of Jim's word and character. She was in a fever
of expectant uncertainty as to its equipment and
He unlocked the door leading to the front.
"That's my den--we'll come back here."
He passed quickly to the further end of the hall
and again used two keys to open the door, and held it
back for her to enter.
"I'm sorry it's so dirty--if you get your pretty
dress all ruined--it's not my fault, you know."
Mary surveyed the room with an exclamation of
"Oh, what a wonderful place! Why, Jim, you're a
There could be no doubt about the practical use to
which the shop was being put. Its one small window
opened on a fire escape in the narrow court in the
rear. A skylight in the middle opened with a hinge on
the roof and flooded the space with perfect light. An
iron ladder swung from the skylight and was hooked up
against the ceiling by a hasp fastened to a staple
over a work-bench. On one side of the room was a tiny
blacksmith's forge, an anvil, hammers and a complete
set of tools for working in rough iron. A small
gasoline engine supplied the power which turned his
lathe and worked the drills, saw and plane. On the
other side of the room was arranged a fairly complete
chemical laboratory with several retorts, and an
oxyhydrogen blow-pipe capable of developing the
powerful heat used in the melting and brazing of
metals. Beneath the benches were piled automobile
supplies of every kind.
"You know how to use all these machines, Jim?" she
asked in wonder.
"Sure, and then some!" he answered with a wave of
his slender hand.
"You're a wizard----"
"Now the den?" he said briskly.
She followed him through the hall and into the
large front corner room overlooking Avenue B and
Eighteenth Street. The morning sun flooded the front
and the afternoon sun poured into the side windows.
The furniture was solid mahogany--a bed, bureau,
chiffonier, couch and three chairs. The windows were
fitted with wood-paneled shutters, shades and heavy
draperies. A thick, soft carpet of faded red covered
"It's a nice room, Jim, but I'd like to dust it for
you," she said with a smile.
"Sure. I'm for giving you the right to dust it
every morning, Kiddo, beginning now. Let's find a
She blushed and moved a step toward the door.
"Just a little while. You know it's been only ten
days since we met----"
"But we've lived some in that time, haven't we?"
"An eternity, I think," she said reverently.
"I want to marry right now, girlie!" he pleaded
desperately. "If that spider gets you in her den
again, I just feel like it's good night for me."
"Nonsense. You can't believe me such a silly
child. I'm a woman. I love you. Do you think the
foolish prejudice of a friend could destroy my love for
the man whom I have chosen for my mate?"
"No, but I want it fixed and then it's fixed--and
they can say what they please. Marry me tonight!
You've got the ring. You're going to in a little
while, anyhow. What's the use to wait and lose these
days out of our life? What's the sense of it? Don't
you know me by this time? Don't you trust me by this
She slipped her hand gently into his.
"I trust you utterly. And I feel that I've known
you since the day I was born----"
"Then why--why wait a minute?"
"You can't understand a girl's feelings, dear--only
a little while and it's all right."
He sat down on the couch in silence, rose and
walked to the window. She watched him struggling with
He turned suddenly.
"Look here, Kiddo, I've got to leave on that trip
to the mountains of North Carolina. I've got to get
down there before Christmas. I must be back here by
the first of the year. Gee--I can't go without you!
You don't want to stay here without me, do you?"
A sudden pallor overspread her face. For the first
time she realized how their lives had become one in the
sweet intimacy of the past ten days.
"You must go now?" she gasped.
"Yes. I've made my arrangements. I've business
back here the first of the year that can't wait. Marry
me and go with me. We'll take our honeymoon down
there. By George, we'll go together in the car! Every
day by each other's side over hundreds and hundreds of
miles! Say, ain't you game? Come on! It's a
crime to send me away without you. How can you do it?"
"I can't--I'm afraid," she faltered.
"You'll marry me, then?"
"Yes!" she whispered. "What is the latest day you
"Next Saturday, if we go in the car----"
"All right,"--she was looking straight into the
depths of his soul now--"next Saturday."
He clasped her in his arms and held her with
CHAPTER IX. ELLA'S SECRET
The consummation of her life's dream was too near, too
sweet and wonderful for Jane's croakings to distress
Mary Adams beyond the moment. She had, of course,
wished her friend to be present at the wedding--yet the
curt refusal had only aroused anew her pity at stupid
prejudices. It was out of the question to ask her
father to leave his work in the Kentucky mountains and
come all the way to New York. She would surprise him
with the announcement. After all, she was the one
human being vitally concerned in this affair, and the
only one save the man whose life would be joined to
In five minutes after the painful scene with Jane
she had completely regained her composure, and her face
was radiant with happiness when she waved to Jim. He
was standing before the door in the car, waiting to
take her to the City Hall to get the marriage
"Gee!" he cried, "you're the prettiest, sweetest
thing that ever walked this earth, with those cheeks
all flaming like a rose! Are you happy?"
She motioned him to keep his seat and sprang
lightly to his side.
"Aren't you happy, sir?" she added gayly.
"I am, yes--but to tell you the truth, I'm
beginning to get scared. You know what to do, don't
you, when we get before that preacher?"
"Of course, silly----"
"I never saw a wedding in my life."
She pressed his hand tenderly.
"I swear it. You'll have to tell me how to
"We'll rehearse it all tonight. I'll show you.
I've seen hundreds of people married. My father's a
preacher, you know."
"Yes, I know that," he went on solemnly; "that's
what gives me courage. I knew you'd understand
everything. I'm counting on you, Kiddo--if you fall
down, we're gone. I'll run like a turkey."
"It's easy," she laughed.
"And this license business--how do we go about
that? What'll they do to us?"
"Nothing, goose! We just march up to the clerk and
demand the license. He asks us a lot of questions----"
"Questions! What sort of questions?"
"The names of your father and mother--whether
you've been married before and where you live and how
old you are----"
"Ask you about your business?" he interrupted,
"No. They think if you can pay the license fee you
can support your wife, I suppose."
"How much is it?"
"I don't know, here. It used to be two dollars in
"That's cheap--must come higher in this burg. I
brought along a hundred."
"There's a lot of graft in this town. I'll be
ready. I've got to get 'em--don't care how high they
"There'll be no graft in this, Jim," she protested
"Well, it'll be the first time I ever got by
without it--believe me!"
The ease with which the license was obtained was
more than Jim could understand. All the way back from
the City Hall he expected to be held up at every
corner. He kept looking over his shoulder to see if
they were being followed.
Arrived in her room, they discussed their plans for
the day of days.
"I'll come round soon in the morning, and we'll
spend the whole day at the Beach," he suggested.
She lifted her hands in protest.
"Not on our wedding-day, Jim!"
"It's not good form. The groom should not see the
bride that day until they meet at the altar."
"Let's change it!"
"No, sir, the old way's the best. I'll spend the
day in saying good-by to the past. You'll call for me
at six o'clock. We'll go to Dr. Craddock's house and
be married in time for our wedding dinner."
The lover smiled, and his drooping eyelids fell
still lower as he watched her intently.
"I want that dinner here in this little place,
She blushed and protested.
"I thought we'd go to the Beach and spend the night
"Here, girlie, here! I love this little place--
it's so like you. Get the old wild-cat who cleans up
for you to fix us a dinner here all by ourselves--
"She'd do anything for me--yes."
"Then fix it here--I want to be just with you--
don't you understand?"
"Yes," she whispered. "But I'd rather spend that
first day of our new life in a strange place--and the
Beach we both love--hadn't you just as leave go there,
"No. The waiters will stare at us, and hear us
"We can have our meals served in our room.
"This is better," he insisted. "I want to spend
one day here alone with you, before we go--just to feel
that you're all mine. You see, if I walk in here and
own the place, I'll know that better than any other
way. I've just set my heart on it, Kiddo--what's the
She lifted her lips to his.
"All right, dear. It shall be as you wish.
Tomorrow I will be all yours--in life, in death, in
eternity. Your happiness will be the one thing for
which I shall plan and work."
Ella was very happy in the honor conferred
on her. She was given entire charge of the place,
and spent the day in feverish preparation for the
dinner. She insisted on borrowing a larger table from
the little fat woman next door, to hold the extra
dishes. She dressed herself in her best. Her raven
black hair was pressed smooth and shining down the
sides of her pale temples.
The work was completed by three o'clock in the
afternoon, and Mary lay in her window lazily watching
the crowds scurrying home. The offices closed early on
Ella was puttering about the room, adding little
touches here and there in a pretense of still being
busy. As a matter of fact, she was watching the girl
from her one eye with a wistful tenderness she had not
dared as yet to express in words. Twice Mary had
turned suddenly and seen her thus. Each time Ella had
started as if caught in some act of mischief and asked
an irrelevant question to relieve her embarrassment.
Mary could feel her single eye fixed on her now in
a deep, brooding look. It made her uncomfortable.
She turned slowly and spoke in gentle tones.
"You've been so sweet to me today, Ella--father and
mother and best friend. I'll never forget your
kindness. You'd better rest awhile now until we go to
Dr. Craddock's. I want you to be there, too----"
"To see the marriage--ja?" she asked softly.
"Oh, no, my dear, no--I stay here and wait for you
to come. I keep the lights burning bright. I welcome
the bride and groom to their little home--ja."
A quick glance of suspicion shot from Mary's blue
eyes. Could it be possible that this forlorn
scrubwoman would carry her hostility to her lover to
the same point of ungracious refusal to witness the
ceremony? It was nonsense, of course. Ella would feel
out of place in the minister's parlor, that was all.
She wouldn't insist.
"All right, Ella; you can receive us here with
ceremony. You'll be our maid, butler, my father, my
mother and my friends!"
There was a moment's silence and still no move on
Ella's part to go. The girl felt her single eye again
fixed on her in mysterious, wistful gaze. She would
send her away if it were possible without hurting her
Mary lifted her eyes suddenly, and Ella stirred
awkwardly and smiled.
"I hope you are very happy, meine liebe--ja?"
"I couldn't be happier if I were in Heaven," was
the quick answer.
"I'm so glad----"
Again an awkward pause.
"I was once young and pretty like you, meine
liebe," she began dreamily, "--slim and straight and
Mary held her breath in eager expectancy. Ella was
going to lift the veil from the mystery of her life,
stirred by memories which the coming wedding had
"And you had a thrilling romance--Ella? I always
Again silence, and then in low tones the woman told
"Ja--a romance, too. I was so young and
foolish--just a baby myself--not sixteen. But I was
full of life and fun, and I had a way of doing what I
"The man was older than me--Oh, a lot older--with
gray hairs on the side of his head. I was wild about
him. I never took to kids. They didn't seem to like
She paused as if hesitating to give her full
confidence, and quickly went on:
"My folks were German. They couldn't speak
English. I learned when I was five years old. They
didn't like my lover. We quarrel day and night. I say
they didn't like him because they could not speak his
language. They say he was bad. I fight for him, and
run away and marry him----"
Again she paused and drew a deep breath.
"Ah, I was one happy little fool that year! He
make good wages on the docks--a stevedore. They had a
strike, and he got to drinking. The baby came----"
She stopped suddenly.
"You had a little baby, Ella?" the girl asked in a
"Ja--ja" she sobbed--"so sweet, so good--so
quiet--so beautiful she was. I was very happy--like a
little girl with a doll--only she laugh and cry and coo
and pull my hair! He stop the drink a little while
when she come, and he got work. And then he begin
worse and worse. It seem like he never loved me any
more after the baby. He curse me, he quarrel. He
begin to strike me sometimes. I laugh and cry at first
and make up and try again----"
Again she paused as if for courage to go on, and
choked into silence.
"Yes--and then?" the girl asked.
"And then he come home one night wild drunk. He
stumble and fall across the cradle and hurt my baby so
she never cry--just lie still and tremble--her eyes
wide open at first and then they droop and close and
"He laugh and curse and strike me, and I fight him
like a tiger. He was strong--he throw me down on the
floor and gouge my eye out with his big claw----"
"Oh, my God," Mary sobbed.
Ella sprang to her feet and bent over the girl with
"You keep my secret, meine liebe?"
"I never tell a soul on earth what I tell you now--
I just eat my heart out and keep still all the years, I
can tell you--ja?"
"Yes, I'll keep it sacred--go on----"
"When I know he gouge my eye out, I go wild. I get
my hand on his throat and choke him still. I drag him
to the stairs and throw him head first all the way down
to the bottom. He fall in a heap and lie still. I run
down and drag him to the door. I kick his face and he
never move. He was dead. I kick him again--and again.
And then I laugh--I laugh--I laugh in his dead
face--I was so glad I kill him!"
She sank in a paroxysm of sobs on the floor, and
the girl touched her smooth black hair tenderly,
strangled with her own emotions.
Ella rose at last and brushed the tears from her
"Now, you know, meine liebe! Why I tell you
this today, I don't know--maybe I must! I dream once
like you dream today----"
The girl slipped her arms around the drooping,
pathetic figure and stroked it tenderly.
"The sunshine is for some, maybe," Ella went on
pathetically; "for some the clouds and the storms. I
hope you are very, very happy today and all the
"I will be, Ella, I'm sure. I'll always love you
"Maybe I make you sad because I tell you----"
"No--no! I'm glad you told me. The knowledge of
your sorrow will make my life the sweeter. I shall be
more humble in my joy."
It never occurred to the girl for a moment that
this lonely, broken woman had torn her soul's deepest
secret open in a last pathetic effort to warn her of
the danger of her marriage. The wistful, helpless
look in her eye meant to Mary only the anguish of
memories. Each human heart persists in learning the
big lessons of life at first hand. We refuse to learn
any other way. The tragedies of others interest us as
fiction. We make the application to others--never to
Jim's familiar footstep echoed through the hall,
and Mary sprang to the door with a cry of joy.
CHAPTER X. THE WEDDING
Ella hurried into the kitchenette and busied herself
with dinner. Jim's unexpectedly early arrival broke
the spell of the tragedy to which Mary had listened
with breathless sympathy. Her own future she faced
without a shadow of doubt or fear.
Her reproaches to Jim were entirely perfunctory, on
the sin of his early call on their wedding-day.
"Naughty boy!" she cried with mock severity. "At
this unseemly hour!"
He glanced about the room nervously.
"Anybody in there?"
He nodded toward the kitchenette.
"Send her away."
"What's the matter?"
Mary let Ella out from the little private hall
without her seeing Jim, and returned.
"For heaven's sake, man, what ails you?" she asked
"Say--I forgot that thing already. We got to go
over it again. What if I miss it?"
He mopped his brow and looked at his watch.
"By the time we get to that preacher's house, I
won't know my first name if you don't help me."
Mary laughed softly and kissed him.
"You can't miss it. All you've got to do is say,
`I will' when he asks you the question, put the ring on
my finger when he tells you, and repeat the words after
him--he and I will do the rest."
"Say my question over again."
"`Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to
live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate
of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor,
and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking
all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both
She looked at him and laughed.
"Why don't you answer?"
"Yes--that's the end of the question. Say, `I
"Oh, I will all right! What scares me is that I'll
jump in on him and say `I will' before he gets halfway
through. Seems to me when he says, `Wilt thou have
this woman to be thy wedded wife?' I'll just have to
choke myself there to keep from saying, `You bet your
life I will, Parson!'"
"It won't hurt anything if you say, `I will'
several times," she assured him.
"It wouldn't queer the job?"
"Not in the least. I've often heard them say, `I
will' two or three times. Wait until you hear the
words, `so long as ye both shall live----'"
"`So long as ye both shall live,'" he repeated
"The other speech you say after the minister."
"He won't bite off more than I can chew at one
time, will he?"
"No, silly--just a few words----"
"Because if he does, I'll choke."
Jim drew his watch again, mopped his brow, and
gazed at Mary's serene face with wonder.
"Say, Kiddo, you're immense--you're as cool as a
"Of course. Why not? It's my day of joy and
perfect peace--the day I've dreamed of since the dawn
of maidenhood. I'm marrying the man of my
choice--the one man God made for me of all men on
earth. I know this--I'm content."
"Let me hang around here till time--won't you?" he
"We must have Ella come back to fix the table."
"Sure. I just didn't want her to hear me tell you
that I had cold feet. I'm better now."
Ella moved about the room with soft tread, watching
Jim with sullen, concentrated gaze when he was not
The lovers sat on the couch beside the window,
holding each other's hands and watching in silence the
hurrying crowds pass below. Now that his panic was
over, Jim began to breathe more freely, and the time
As the shadows slowly fell, they rang the bell at
the parson's house beside the church, and his good wife
ushered them into the parlor. The little Craddocks
crowded in--six of them, two girls and four boys, their
ages ranging from five to nineteen.
Sweet memories crowded the girl's heart from her
happy childhood. She had never missed one of these
affairs at home. Her father was a very popular
minister and his home the Mecca of lovers for miles
Craddock, like her father, was inclined to be
conservative in his forms. Marriage he held with
the old theologians to be a holy sacrament. He never
used the new-fangled marriage vows. He stuck to the
formula of the Book of Common Prayer.
When she stood before the preacher in this
beautiful familiar scene which she had witnessed so
many times at home, Mary's heart beat with a joy that
was positively silly. She tried to be serious, and the
dimple would come in her cheek in spite of every
As Craddock's musical voice began the opening
address, the memory of a foolish incident in her
father's life flashed through her mind, and she
wondered if Jim in his excitement had forgotten his
pocket-book and couldn't pay the preacher.
"Dearly beloved," he began, "we are gathered
together here in the sight of God----"
Mary tried to remember that she was in the sight of
God, but she was so foolishly happy she could only
remember that funny scene. A long-legged Kentucky
mountain bridegroom at the close of the ceremony had
turned to her father and drawled:
"Well, parson, I ain't got no money with me--but I
want to give ye five dollars. I've got a fine dawg.
He's worth ten. I'll send him to ye fur five--if it's
The children had giggled and her father blushed.
"Oh, that's all right," he had answered. "Money's
no matter. Forget the five. I hope you'll be very
Two weeks later a crate containing the dog had come
by express. On the tag was scrawled:
Dear Parson:--I like Nancy so well, I send ye the
hole dawg, anyhow.
She hadn't a doubt that Jim would feel the same
way--but she hoped he hadn't forgotten his pocketbook.
The scene had flashed through her mind in a single
moment. She had bitten her lips and kept from laughing
by a supreme effort. Not a word of the solemn
ceremonial, however, had escaped her consciousness.
"And in the face of this company," the preacher's
rich voice was saying, "to join together this Man and
this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is commended of St.
Paul to be honorable among all men: and therefore is
not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly;
but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in
the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two
persons present come now to be joined. If any man
can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be
joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter
for ever hold his peace."
Craddock paused, and his piercing eyes searched the
man and woman before him.
"I require to charge you both, as ye will answer at
the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all
hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know
any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined
together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it----"
Again he paused. The perspiration stood in beads
on Jim's forehead, and he glanced uneasily at Mary from
the corners of his drooping eyes. A smile was playing
about her mouth, and Jim was cheered.
"For be ye well assured," the preacher continued,
"that if any persons are joined together otherwise than
as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not
He turned with deliberation to Jim and transfixed
him with the first question of the ceremony. The groom
was hypnotized into a state of abject terror. His ears
heard the words; the mind recorded but the vaguest idea
of what they meant.
"Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife,
to live together after God's ordinance in the holy
estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her,
honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and,
forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long
as ye both shall live?"
Jim's mouth was open; his lower jaw had dropped in
dazed awe, and he continued to stare straight into the
preacher's face until Mary pressed his arm and
"I will--yes, I will--you bet I will!" he hastened
The children giggled, and the preacher's lips
He turned quickly to Mary.
"Wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to
live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate
of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love,
honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and,
forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long
as ye both shall live?"
With quick, clear voice, Mary answered:
"Please join your right hands and repeat after
He fixed Jim with his gaze and spoke with
deliberation, clause by clause:
"I, James, take thee, Mary, to my wedded wife, to
have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for
worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in
health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,
according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight
thee my troth."
Jim's throat at first was husky with fear, but he
caught each clause with quick precision and repeated
them without a hitch.
He smiled and congratulated himself: "I got ye
that time, old cull!"
The preacher's eyes sought Mary's:
"I, Mary, take thee, James, to my wedded husband,
to have and to hold from this day forward, for better
for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in
health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death do us
part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I
give thee my troth."
In the sweetest musical voice, quivering with
happiness, the girl repeated the words.
Again the preacher's eyes sought Jim's:
AND THE MAN SHALL GIVE UNTO THE WOMAN A RING----
The groom fumbled in his pocket and found at
last the ring, which he handed to Mary. The minister
at once took it from her hand and handed it back to
The bride lifted her left hand, deftly extending
the fourth finger, and the groom slipped the ring on,
and held it firmly gripped as he had been instructed.
"With this ring I thee wed----"
"With this ring I thee wed----" Jim repeated
"----and with all my worldly goods I thee
"----and with all my worldly goods I thee
"In the Name of the Father----"
"In the Name of the Father----"
"----and of the Son----"
"----and of the Son----"
"----and of the Holy Ghost----"
"----and of the Holy Ghost----"
The voice of the preacher's prayer that followed
rang far-away and unreal to the heart of the girl. Her
vivid imagination had leaped the years. Her spirit did
not return to earth and time and place until the
minister seized her right hand and joined it to Jim's.
"Those whom God hath joined together let no man put
"Forasmuch as James Anthony and Mary Adams have
consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed
the same before God and this company, and thereto have
given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and
have declared the same by giving and receiving a Ring,
and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Man and
Wife, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The preacher lifted his hands solemnly above their
"God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost,
bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with
His favor look upon you, and fill you with all
spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live
together in this life, that in the world to come ye may
have life everlasting. AMEN."
The preacher took Mary's hand.
"Your father is my friend, child. This is for
He bent quickly and kissed her lips, while Jim
gasped in astonishment.
The minister's wife congratulated them both. The
two older children smilingly advanced and added their
voices in good wishes.
Mary whispered to Jim:
"Don't forget the preacher's fee!"
"Lord, how much? Will fifty be enough? It's all
"Give him twenty. We'll need the rest."
It was not until they were seated in the waiting
cab and sank back among the shadows, that Jim crushed
her in his arms and kissed her until she cried for
"The gall of that preacher, kissing you!" he
muttered savagely. "You know, I come within an ace of
pasting him one on the nose!"
CHAPTER XI. "UNTIL DEATH"
The lights burned in the hall with unusual brightness.
Ella stood in the open door of the room, through which
the light was streaming. With its radiance came the
perfume of roses--the scrub-woman's gift of love. The
room was a bower of gorgeous flowers. She had spent
her last cent in this extravagance.
Mary swept the place with a look of amazement.
"Oh, Ella," she cried, "how could you be so silly!"
"You like them, ja?" Ella asked softly.
"They're glorious--but you should not have made
such a sacrifice for me."
"For myself, maybe, I do it--all for myself to make
me happy, too, tonight."
She dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand
and placed the chairs beside the beautifully set table.
"Dinner is all ready," she announced
cheerfully. "And shall I go now and leave you?
Or will you let me serve your dinner first?"
A sudden panic seized the bride.
"Stay and serve the dinner, Ella, if you will," she
Jim frowned, but seated himself in business-like
"All right; I'm ready for it, old girl!"
With soft tread and swift, deft touch, Ella served
the dinner, standing prim and stiff and ghost-like
behind Jim's chair between the courses.
The bride watched her, fascinated by the pallor of
her haggard face and the queer suggestion of Death
which her appearance made in spite of the background of
flowers. She had dressed herself in a simple skirt and
shirtwaist of spotless white. The material seemed to
be draped on her tall figure, thin to emaciation. The
chalk-like pallor of her face brought out with
startling sharpness the deep, hollow caverns beneath
her straight eyebrows. Her single eye shone unusually
Gradually the grim impression grew that Death was
hovering over her bridal feast--a foolish fancy which
persisted in her highly-wrought nervous state. Yet the
idea, once fixed, could not be crushed. In vain she
used her will to bring her wandering mind back to
the joyous present. Each time she lifted her eyes they
rested upon the silent, white figure with its single
eye piercing the depths of her soul.
She could endure it no longer. She nodded and
smiled wanly at Ella.
"You may go now!"
The woman gazed at the bride in surprise.
"I shall come again--yes?"
"Tomorrow morning, Ella, you may help me."
The white figure paused uncertainly at the door,
and her drawling voice breathed her parting word
The bride closed her eyes and answered.
"Good night, Ella!"
The door closed. Jim rose quickly and bolted it.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed fervently. He fixed his
slumbering eyes on his wife for a moment, saw the
frightened look, walked quickly back to the table and
took his seat.
"Now, Kiddo, we can eat in peace."
"Yes, I'd rather be alone," she sighed.
"I must say," Jim went on briskly, "that parson of
yours did give us a run for our money."
"I like the old, long ceremony best."
"Well, you see, I ain't never had much choice--
but do you know what I thought was the best thing
"UNTIL DEATH DO US PART! Gee how he did ring
out on that! His voice sounded to me like a big bell
somewhere away up in the clouds. Did you hear me sing
it back at him?"
Mary smiled nervously.
"You had found your voice then."
"You bet I had! I muffed that first one, though,
"A little. It didn't matter." She answered
He fixed his eyes on her again.
"No," she gasped.
"What's the use!" he cried in low, vibrant tones,
springing to his feet. "I don't want to eat this
stuff--I just want to eat you!"
Mary rose tremblingly and moved instinctively to
He clasped her form in his arms and crushed with
"Until death do us part!" he whispered
She answered with a kiss.
CHAPTER XII. THE LOTOS-EATERS
It was eleven o'clock next morning before Ella ventured
to rap softly on the door. They had just finished
breakfast. The bride was clearing up the table,
humming a song of her childhood.
Jim caught her in his arms.
"Once more before she comes!"
"Don't kill me!" she laughed.
Jim lounged in the window and smoked his cigarette
while Ella and Mary chattered in the kitchenette.
In half an hour the scrub-woman had made her last
trip with the extra dishes, and the little home was
spick and span.
Mary sprang on the couch and snuggled into Jim's
"I've changed our plans----" he began thoughtfully.
"We won't give up our honeymoon trip?"
she cried in alarm. "That's one dream we MUST
live, Jim, dear. I've set my heart on it."
"Sure we will--sure," he answered quickly. "But
not in that car."
"Because I like you better--you get me, Kiddo?"
She pressed close and whispered:
"I think so."
"You see, that fool car might throw a tire or two.
Believe me, it'll be a job to have her on my hands for
a thousand miles. Of course, if I didn't know you,
little girl, it would be all sorts of fun. But, honest
to God, this game beats the world."
He bent low and kissed her again.
"Where'll we go, then?" she murmured.
"That's what I'm tryin' to dope out. I like the
sea. It lulls me just like whisky puts a drunkard to
sleep. I wish we could get where it's bright and warm
and the sun shines all the time. We could stay two
weeks and then jump on the train and be in Asheville
the day before Christmas."
Mary sprang up excitedly.
"I have it! We'll go to Florida--away down to the
Keys. It's the dream of my life to go there!"
"The Keys what's that?" he asked, puzzled.
"The Keys are little sand islands and reefs that
jut out into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The railroad takes us right there."
"It's warm and sunny there now?"
"Just like summer up here. We can go in bathing in
the surf every day."
Jim sprang to his feet.
"Got a bathing suit?"
Yes--a beauty. I've never worn it here."
"It seemed so bold."
"All right. Maybe we can get a Key all by
ourselves for two weeks."
"Wouldn't it be glorious!"
"We'll try it, anyhow. I'll buy the doggoned thing
if they don't ask too much. Pack your traps. I'll go
down to the shop and get my things. We'll be ready to
start in an hour."
By four o'clock they were seated in the drawing-
room of a Pullman car on the Florida Limited, gazing
entranced at the drab landscape of the Jersey meadows.
Three days later, Jim had landed his boat on a tiny
sand reef a half-mile off the coast of Florida with a
tent and complete outfit for camping. Like two romping
children, they tied the boat to a stake and rushed
over the sand-dunes to the beach. They explored their
domain from end to end within an hour. Not a tree
obscured the endless panorama of sea and bay and waving
grass on the great solemn marshes. Piles of soft, warm
seaweed lay in long, dark rows along the high-tide
Mary selected a sand-dune almost exactly the height
and shape of the one on which they sat at Long Beach
the day he told her of his love.
"Here's the spot for our home!" she cried. "Don't
you recognize it?"
"Can't say I've ever been here before. Oh, I got
you--I got you! Long Beach--sure! What do you think
He hurried to the boat and brought the tent. Mary
carried the spade, the pole and pegs.
In half an hour the little white home was shining
on the level sand at the foot of their favorite dune.
The door was set toward the open sea, and the stove
securely placed beneath an awning which shaded it from
the sun's rays.
"Now, Kiddo, a plunge in that shining water the
first thing. I'll give you the tent. I'll chuck my
things out here."
In a fever of joyous haste she threw off her
clothes and donned the dainty, one-piece bathing suit.
She flew over the sand and plunged into the water
before Jim had finished changing to his suit.
She was swimming and diving like a duck in the
lazy, beautiful waters of the Gulf when he reached the
"Come on! Come on!" she shouted.
He waved his hand and finished his cigarette.
"It's glorious! It's mid-summer!" she called.
With a quick plunge he dived into the water,
disappeared and stayed until she began to scan the
surface uneasily. With a splash he rose by her side,
lifting her screaming in his arms. Her bathing-cap was
brushed off, and he seized her long hair in his mouth,
turned and with swift, strong beat carried her
unresisting body to the beach.
He drew her erect and looked into her smiling face.
"That's the way I'd save you if you had called for
help. How'd you like it?"
"It was sweet to give up and feel myself in your
His drooping eyes were devouring her exquisite
figure outlined so perfectly in the clinging suit.
"I was afraid to wear this in New York," she said
"I can't blame you. If you'd ever have gone
on the beach at Coney Island in that, there'd have
been a riot."
He lifted her in his arms and kissed her.
"And you're all mine, Kiddo! It's too good to be
true! I'm afraid to wake up mornings now for fear I'll
find I've just been dreaming."
They plunged again in the water, and side by side
swam far out from the shore, circled gracefully and
Hours they spent snuggling in the warm sand. Not a
sound of the world beyond the bay broke the stillness.
The music of the water's soft sighing came on their
ears in sweet, endless cadence. The wind was gentle
and brushed their cheeks with the softest caress. Far
out at sea, white-winged sails were spread--so far away
they seemed to stand in one spot forever. The deep cry
of an ocean steamer broke the stillness at last.
"We must dress for dinner, Jim!" she sighed.
"We must eat, you know."
"But why dress? I like that style on you. It's
too much trouble to dress."
"All right!" she cried gayly. "We'll have a little
informal dinner this evening. I love to feel the sand
under my feet."
He gathered the wood from the dry drifts above the
waterline and kindled a fire. The salt-soaked sticks
burned fiercely, and the dinner was cooked in a jiffy--
a fresh chicken he had bought, sweet potatoes, and
delicious buttered toast.
They sat in their bathing suits on camp-stools
beside the folding table and ate by moonlight.
The dinner finished, Mary cleared the wooden dishes
while Jim brought heaps of the dry, spongy sea grass
and made a bed in the tent. He piled it two feet high,
packed it down to a foot, and then spread the sheets
"All ready for a stroll down the avenue, Kiddo?" he
called from the door.
"Fifth Avenue or Broadway?" she laughed.
"Oh, the Great White Way--you couldn't miss it!
Just look at the shimmer of the moon on the sands!
Ain't it great?"
Hand in hand, they strolled on the beach and bathed
in the silent flood of the moonlit night--no prying
eyes near save the stars of the friendly southern
"The moon seems different down here, Jim!" she
"It is different," he answered with boyish
enthusiasm. "It's all so still and white!"
"Could we stay here forever?"
He shook his head emphatically.
"Not on your life. This little boy has to work,
you know. Old man John D. Rockefeller might, but it's
early for a young financier to retire."
"A whole week, then?"
"Sure! For a week we'll forget New York."
They sat down on the sand-dune behind the tent and
watched the waters flash in the silvery light, the
world and its fevered life forgotten.
"You're the only thing real tonight, Jim!" she
"And you're the world for me, Kiddo!"
She waked at dawn, with a queer feeling of awe at
the weird, gray light which filtered through the cotton
walls. A sense of oneness with Nature and the beat of
Her eternal heart filled her soul. The soft wash of
the water on the sands seemed to be keeping time to the
throb of her own pulse.
She peered curiously into the face of her sleeping
lover. She had never seen him asleep before. She
started at the transformation wrought by the closing of
his heavy eyelids and the complete relaxation of his
features. The strange, steel-blue coloring of his eyes
had always given his face an air of mystery and charm.
The complete closing of the heavy lids and the
slight droop of the lower jaw had worked a frightful
change. The romance and charm had gone, and instead
she saw only the coarse, brutal strength.
She frowned like a spoiled child, put her dainty
hand under his chin and pressed his mouth together.
"Wake up, sir!" she whispered. "I don't like your
He refused to stir, and she drew the tips of her
fingers across his ears and eyelids.
He rubbed his eyes and muttered:
"Let's take a bath in the sea before sunrise--come
The sleeper groaned heavily, turned over, and in a
moment was again dead to the world.
Mary's eyes were wide now with excitement. The
hours were too marvelous to be lost in sleep. She
could sleep when they must return to the tiresome world
with its endless crowds of people.
She rose softly, ran barefoot to the beach, threw
her night-dress on the sand and plunged, her white,
young body trembling with joy, into the water.
It was marvelous--this wonderful hush of the dawn
over the infinite sea. The air and water melted into a
pearl gray. Far out toward the east, the waters
began to blush at the kiss of the coming sun. The
pearl gray slowly turned into purple. So startling was
the vision, she swam in-shore and stood knee-deep in
the shallows to watch the magic changes. In breathless
wonder she saw the sea and sky and shore turn into a
trembling cloud of dazzling purple. A moment before,
she had caught the water up in her hand and poured it
out in a stream of pearls. She lifted a handful and
poured it out now, each drop a dazzling amethyst. And
even while she looked, the purple was changing to
scarlet--the amethyst into rubies!
A great awe filled her in the solemn hush. She
stood in Nature's vast cathedral, close to God's
heart--her life in harmony with His eternal laws.
How foolish and artificial were the ways of the
far-away, drab, prosaic world of clothes and houses and
furnishings! If she could only live forever in this
Even while the thought surged through her heart,
she lifted her head and saw the red rim of the sun
suddenly break through the sea, and started lest the
white light of day had revealed her to some passing
boatman hurrying to his nets.
Her keen eye quickly swept the circle of the wide,
silent world of sand-dunes, marsh and waters. No
prying eye was near. Only the morning star still
gleaming above saw. And they were twin sisters.
Four days flew on velvet wings before the first
cloud threw its shadow across her life. Jim always
slept until nine o'clock, and refused with dogged good-
natured indifference to stir when she had asked him to
get the wood for breakfast. It was nothing, of course,
to walk a hundred yards to the beach and pick up the
wood, and she did it. The hurt that stung was the
feeling that he was growing indifferent.
She felt for the first time an impulse to box his
lazy jaws as he yawned and turned over for the dozenth
time without rising. He looked for all the world like
a bulldog curled up on his bed of grass.
She shook him at last.
"Jim, dear, you must get up now! Breakfast is
almost ready and it won't be fit to eat if you don't
He opened his heavy eyelids and gazed at her
"All righto----! Just as you say--just as you
"Hurry! Breakfast will be ready before you can
"Gee! Breakfast all ready! You're one smart
little wifie, Kiddo."
The compliment failed to please. She was sure that
he had been fully awake twice before and pretended to
be asleep from sheer laziness and indifference.
The thought hurt.
When they sat down at last to breakfast, she looked
into his half-closed eyes with a sudden start.
"Why, Jim, your eyes are red!"
"What's the matter?"
"You're ill--what is it?"
He grinned sheepishly.
"You couldn't guess now, could you?"
"You haven't been drinking!" she gasped.
"No," he drawled lazily, "I wouldn't say drinking--
I just took one big swallow last night--makes you sleep
good when you're tired. Good medicine! I always carry
a little with me."
A sickening wave went over her. Not that she felt
that he was going to be a drunkard. But the utter
indifference with which he made the announcement was a
painful revelation of the fact that her opinion on such
a question was not of the slightest importance.
That he was now master of the situation he evidently
meant that she should see and understand at once.
She refused to accept the humiliating position
without a struggle and made up her mind to try at once
to mold his character. She would begin by getting him
to cut the slang from his conversation.
"You remember the promise you made me one day
before we were married, Jim?" she asked brightly.
"Which one? You know a fellow's not responsible
for what he promises to get his girl. All's fair in
love and war, they say----"
"I'm going to hold you to this one, sir," she
"All right, little bright eyes," he responded
cheerfully as he lit a cigarette and sent the smoke
curling above his red head.
She sat for a while in silence, studying the man
before her. The task was delicate and difficult. And
she had thought it a mere pastime of love! As her
fiance, he had been wax in her hands. As her husband,
he was a lazy, headstrong, obstinate young animal
grinning good-naturedly at her futile protests. How
long would he grin and bear her suggestions with
patience? The transition from this lazy grin to the
growl of an angry bulldog might be instantaneous.
She would move with the utmost caution--but she
would move and at once. It would be a test of
character between them. She edged her chair close to
his, drew his head down in her lap and ran her fingers
through his thick, red hair.
"Still love me, Jim?" she smiled.
"Crazier over you every day--and you know it, too,
you sly little puss," he answered dreamily.
"You WILL make good your promises?"
"Sure, I will--surest thing you know!"
"You see, Jim dear," she went on tenderly, "I want
to be proud of you----"
"Well, ain't you?"
"Of course I am, silly. I know you and understand
you. But I want all the world to respect you as I do."
She paused and breathed deeply. "They've got to do it,
too, they've got to----"
"Sure, I'll knock their block off--if they don't!"
he broke in.
She raised her finger reprovingly and shook her
"That's just the trouble: you can't do it with your
fists. You can't compel the respect of cultured
men and women by physical force. We've got to win with
"All right, Kiddo--dope it out for me," he
responded lazily. "Dope it out----"
Her lips quivered with the painful recognition of
the task before her. Yet when she spoke, her voice was
low and sweet and its tones even. She gave no sign to
the man whose heavy form rested in her arms.
"Then from today we must begin to cut out every
word of slang--it's a bargain?"
"Sure, Mike--I promised!"
"Cut `Sure Mike!'"
She raised her finger severely.
"All right, teacher," he drawled. "What'll we put
in Sure Mike's place? I've found him a handy man!"
Jim grinned good-naturedly.
"Aw hell, Kiddo--that sounds punk!"
"And HELL, Jim, isn't a nice word----"
"Gee, Kid, now look here--can't get along with out
HELL--leave me that one just a little while."
She shook her head.
"And PUNK is expressive, but not suited to
"All right--t'ell with PUNK!" He turned and
looked. "What's the matter now?" he asked.
"Don't you realize what you've just said?"
"What did I say?"
She turned away to hide a tear.
He threw his arms around her neck and drew her lips
down to his.
"Ah, don't worry, Kiddo--I'll do better next time.
Honest to God, I will. That's enough for today. Just
let's love now. T'ell with the rest."
She smiled in answer.
"You promise to try honestly?"
He raised his hand in solemn vow.
Each day's trial ended in a laugh and a kiss until
at last Jim refused to promise any more. He grinned in
obstinate, good-natured silence and let her do the
She watched him with growing wonder and alarm. He
gradually lapsed into little coarse, ugly habits at the
table. She tried playfully to correct them. He took
it good-naturedly at first and then ignored her
suggestions as if she were a kitten complaining at his
She studied him with baffling rage at the mystery
of his personality. The long silences between them
grew from hour to hour. She could see that he was
restless now at the isolation of their sand-island
home. The queer lights and shadows that played in his
cold blue eyes told only too plainly that his mind was
back again in the world of battle. He was fighting
She was glad of it. She could manage him better
there. She would throw him into the company of
educated people and rouse his pride and ambition. She
heard his announcement of their departure on the eighth
day with positive joy.
"Well, Kiddo," he began briskly, "we've got to be
moving. Time to get back to work now. The old town
and the little shop down in Avenue B have been calling
"Today, Jim?" she asked quickly.
"Right away. We'll catch the first train north,
stop two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas, in
Asheville, and then for old New York!"
The journey along the new railroad built on
concrete bridges over miles of beautiful waters was one
of unalloyed joy. They had passed over this stretch of
marvelous engineering at night on their trip down and
had not realized its wonders. For hours the train
seemed to be flying on velvet wings through the ocean.
She sat beside her lover and held his hand. In
spite of her enthusiasm, he would doze. At every turn
of entrancing view she would pinch his arm:
"Look, Jim! Look!"
He would lift his heavy eyelids, grunt good-
naturedly and doze again.
In the dining-car she was in mortal terror at first
lest he should lapse into the coarse table manners into
which he had fallen in camp. She laid his napkin
conspicuously on his plate and saw that he had opened
and put it in place across his lap before ordering the
The moment he found himself in a crowd, the lights
began to flash in his eyes, his broad shoulders lifted
and his whole being was at once alert and on guard. He
followed his wife's lead with unerring certainty.
She renewed her faith in his early reformation,
though his character was a puzzle. He seemed to be
forever watching out of the corners of his slumbering
eyes. She wondered what it meant.
CHAPTER XIII. THE REAL MAN
They arrived in Asheville the night before Christmas
Eve. Jim listened to his wife's prattle about the
wonderful views with quiet indifference.
They stopped at the Battery Park Hotel, and she
hoped the waning moon would give them at least a
glimpse of the beautiful valley of the French Broad and
Swannanoa rivers and the dark, towering ranges of
mountains among the stars. She made Jim wait on the
balcony of the room for half an hour, but the clouds
grew denser and he persisted in nodding.
His head dipped lower than usual, and she laughed.
"Poor old sleepy-head!"
"For the love o' Mike, Kiddo--me for the hay.
Won't them mountains wait till morning?"
"All right!" she answered cheerily. "I'll pull you
out at sunrise. The sunrise from our window will be
He rose and stretched his body like a young, well
"I think it's prettier from the bed. But have it
your own way--have it your own way. I'll agree to
anything if you lemme go to sleep now."
She rose as the first gray fires of dawn began to
warm the cloud-banks on the eastern horizon, stood
beside her window and watched in silent ecstasy. Jim
was sleeping heavily. She would not wake him until the
glory of the sunrise was at its height. She loved to
watch the changing lights and shadows in sky and valley
and on distant mountain peaks as the light slowly
filtered over the eastern hills.
She had recovered from the depression of the last
days of their camp. The journey back into the world
had improved Jim's manners. There could be no doubt
about his ambitions. His determination to be a
millionaire was the lever she now meant to work in
raising his social aspirations.
Why should she feel depressed?
Their married life had just begun. The two weeks
they had passed on their honeymoon had been happy
beyond her dreams of happiness. Somehow her
imagination had failed to give any conception of the
wonder and glory of this revelation of life. His
little lapses of selfishness on their sand island
no doubt came from ignorance of what was expected of
For one thing she felt especially thankful. There
had been no ugly confessions of a shady past to cloud
the joy of their love. Her lover might be ignorant of
the ways of polite society. He was equally free of its
sinister vices. She thanked God for that. The soul of
the man she had married was clean of all memories of
women. The love he gave was fierce in its unrestrained
passion--but it was all hers. She gloried in its
She made up her mind, standing there in the soft
light of the dawn, that she would bend his iron will to
her own in the growing, sweet intimacy of their married
life and threw her fears to the winds.
The thin, fleecy clouds that hung over the low
range of the eastern foreground were all aglow now,
with every tint of the rainbow, while the sun's bed
beyond the hills was flaming in scarlet and gold.
She clapped her hands in ecstasy.
"Jim! Jim, dear!"
He made no response, and she rushed to his side and
"You must see this sunrise--get up quick, quick,
dear. It's wonderful."
"What's the matter?" he muttered.
"The sunrise over the mountains--quick--it's
His heavy eyelids drooped and closed. He dropped
on the pillow and buried his face out of sight.
"Ah, Jim dear, do come--just to please me."
"I'm dead, Kiddo--dead to the world," he sighed.
"Don't like to see the sun rise. I never did. Come on
back and let's sleep----"
His last words were barely audible. He was
breathing heavily as his lips ceased to move.
She gave it up, returned to the window and watched
the changing colors until the white light from the
sun's face had touched with life the last shadows of
the valleys and flashed its signals from the farthest
Her whole being quivered in response to the beauty
of this glorious mountain world. The air was wine.
She loved the sapphire skies and the warm, lazy,
caressing touch of the sun of the South.
A sense of bitterness came, just for a moment, that
the man she had chosen for her mate had no eye to see
these wonders and no ear to hear their music. During
the madness of his whirlwind courtship she had gotten
the impression that his spirit was sensitive to
beauty--to the waters of the bay, the sea and the
wooded hills. She must face the facts. Their stay on
the island had convinced her that he had eyes only for
her. She must make the most of it.
It was ten o'clock before Jim could be persuaded to
rise and get breakfast. She literally pulled him up
the stairs to the observatory on the tower of the
"What's the game, Kiddo? What's the game?" he
"Ask me no questions. But do just as I tell you;
Her face was radiant, her hair in a tangle of
riotous beauty about her forehead and temples, her eyes
"Don't look till I tell you!" she cried, as they
emerged on the little minaret which crowns the tower.
"Now open and see the glory of the Lord!" she cried
with joyous awe.
The day was one of matchless beauty. The clouds
that swung low in the early morning had floated higher
and higher till they hung now in shining billows above
the highest balsam-crowned peaks in the distance.
In every direction, as far as the eye could
reach, north, south, east, west, the dark ranges
mounted in the azure skies until the farthest dim lines
melted into the heavens.
"Oh, Jim dear, isn't it wonderful! We're lucky to
get this view on our first day. It's such a good
Jim opened his eyes lazily and puffed his cigarette
in a calm, patronizing way.
"Tough sledding we'd have had with an automobile
over those hills," he said. "We'll try it after lunch,
"We'll go for a ride?" she cried joyfully.
"Yep. Got to hunt up the folks. The mountains
near Asheville!" he said with disgust. "I should say
they are near--and far, too. Holy smoke, I'll bet we
"Where's the Black Mountains, I wonder?" he asked
"Over there!" She pointed to the giant peaks
projecting here and there in dim, blue waves beyond the
Great Craggy Range in the foreground.
"Holy Moses! Do we have to climb those crags
before we start?"
"To go to Black Mountain?"
"Yes. That's where the lawyer said they
lived, under Cat-tail Peak in the Black Mountain
Range--wherever t'ell that is."
"No, no! You don't climb the Great Craggy; you go
around this end of it and follow the Swannanoa River
right up to the foot of Mount Mitchell, the highest
peak this side of the Rockies. The Cat-tail is just
beyond Mount Mitchell."
"You've been there?" he asked in surprise.
"Once, with a party from Asheville. We spent three
days and slept in caves."
"Suppose you'd know the way now?"
"We couldn't miss it. We follow the bed of the
Swannanoa to its source-----"
"Then that settles it. We'll go by ourselves. I
don't want any mutt along to show us the way. We
couldn't get lost nohow, could we?"
"Of course not--all the roads lead to Asheville.
We can ask the way to the house you want, when we reach
the little stopping place at the foot of Mount
"Gee, Kid, you're a wonder!" he exclaimed
admiringly. "Couldn't get along without you, now could
"I hope not, sir!"
"You bet I couldn't! We'll start right away. The
roads will give us a jolt----"
He turned suddenly to go.
"Wait--wait a minute, dear," she pleaded. "You
haven't seen this gorgeous view to the southwest, with
Mount Pisgah looming in the center like some vast
cathedral spire--look, isn't it glorious?"
"Fine! Fine!" he responded in quick, businesslike
"You can look for days and weeks and not begin to
realize the changing beauty of these mountains, clothed
in eternal green! Just think, dear, Mount Pisgah,
there, is forty miles away, and it looks as if you
could stroll over to it in an hour's walk. And there
are twenty-three magnificent peaks like that, all of
them more than six thousand feet high----"
She paused with a frown. He was neither looking
nor listening. He had fallen into a brown study; his
mind was miles away.
"You're not listening, Jim--nor seeing anything,"
she said reproachfully.
"No--Kiddo, we must get ready for that trip. I've
got a letter for a lawyer downtown. I'll find him and
hire a car. I'll be back here for you in an hour.
You'll be ready?"
"Right away, in half an hour----"
"Just pack a suit-case for us both. We'll
stay one night. I'll take a bag, too, that I have
in my trunk."
It was noon before he returned with a staunch
touring car ready for the trip. He opened the little
steamer trunk which he had always kept locked and took
from it a small leather bag. He placed it on the
floor, and, in spite of careful handling, the ring of
metal inside could be distinctly heard.
"What on earth have you got in that queer black
bag?" she asked in surprise.
"Oh, just a lot o' junk from the shop. I thought I
might tinker with it at odd times. I don't want to
leave it here. It's got one of my new models in it."
He carried the bag in his hand, refusing to allow
the porter who came for the suit-case to touch it.
He threw the suit-case in the bottom of the
tonneau. The bag he stowed carefully under the
cushions of the rear seat. The moment he placed his
hand on the wheel of the machine, he was at his best.
Every trace of the street gamin fell from him. Again
he was the eagle-eyed master of time and space. The
machine answered his touch with more than human
obedience. He knew how to humor its mood. He
conserved its power for a hill with unerring accuracy
and threw it over the grades with rarely a pause
to change his speeds. He could turn the sharp curves
with such swift, easy grace that he scarcely caused
Mary's body to swerve an inch. He could sense a rough
place in the road and glide over it with velvet touch.
A tire blew out, five miles up the stream from
Asheville, and the easy, business-like deliberation
with which he removed the old and adjusted the new, was
a revelation to Mary of a new phase of his character.
He never once grunted, or swore, or lost his poise,
or manifested the slightest impatience. He set about
his task coolly, carefully, skillfully, and finished it
quickly and silently.
His long silences at last began to worry her. An
invisible barrier had reared itself between them. The
impression was purely mental--but it was none the less
real and distressing.
There was a look of aloof absorption about him she
had never seen before. At first she attributed it to
the dread of meeting his kinsfolk for the first time,
his fear of what they might be like or what they might
think of him.
He answered her questions cheerfully but
mechanically. Sometimes he stared at her in a cold,
impersonal way and gave no answer, as if her
questions were an impertinence and she were not of
sufficient importance to waste his breath on.
Unable at last to endure the strain, she burst out
"What on earth's the matter with you, Jim?"
"Why?" he asked softly.
"You haven't spoken to me in half an hour, and I've
asked you two questions."
"Just studying about something, Kiddo, something
big. I'll tell you sometime, maybe--not now."
Slowly a great fear began to shape itself in her
heart. The real man behind those slumbering eyes she
had never known. Who was he?
CHAPTER XIV. UNWELCOME GUESTS
While she was yet puzzling over the strange mood of
absorbed brooding into which Jim had fallen, his face
suddenly lighted, and he changed with such rapidity
that her uneasiness was doubled.
They had reached the stretches of deep forest at
the foot of the Black Mountain ranges. The Swannanoa
had become a silver thread of laughing, foaming spray
and deep, still pools beneath the rocks. The fields
were few and small. The little clearings made scarcely
an impression in the towering virgin forests.
"Great guns, Kiddo!" he exclaimed, "this is some
country! By George, I had no idea there was such a
place so close to New York!"
She looked at him with uneasy surprise. What could
be in his mind? The solemn gorge through which they
were passing gave no entrancing views of clouds or sky
or towering peaks. Its wooded cliffs hung
ominously overhead in threatening shadows. The scene
had depressed her after the vast sunlit spaces of sky,
of shining valleys and cloud-capped, sapphire peaks on
which they had turned their backs.
"You like this, Jim?" she asked.
"I thought that waterfall we just passed was very
"I didn't see it. But this is something like it.
You're clean out of the world here--and there ain't a
railroad in twenty miles!"
The deeper the shadows of tree and threatening
crag, the higher Jim's strange spirit seemed to rise.
She watched him with increasing fear. How little
she knew the real man! Could it be possible that this
lonely, unlettered boy of the streets of lower New
York, starved and stunted in childhood, had within him
the soul of a great poet? How else could she explain
the sudden rapture over the threatening silences and
shadows of these mountain gorges which had depressed
her? And yet his utter indifference to the glories of
beautiful waters, his blindness at noon before the most
wonderful panorama of mountains and skies on which she
had ever gazed, contradicted the theory of the poetic
soul. A poet must see beauty where she had seen
it--and a thousand wonders her eyes had not found.
His elation was uncanny. What could it mean?
He was driving now with a skill that was
remarkable, a curious smile playing about his drooping,
Oriental eyelids. A wave of fierce resentment swept
her heart. She was a mere plaything in this man's
life. The real man she had never seen. What was he
thinking about? What grim secret lay behind the
mysterious smile that flickered about the corners of
those eyes? He was not thinking of her. The mood was
new and cold and cynical, for all the laughter he might
put in it.
She asked herself the question of his past, his
people, his real life-history. The only answer was his
baffling, mysterious smile.
A frown suddenly clouded his face.
"Hello! Ye're running right into a man's yard!"
Mary lifted her head with quick surprise.
"Why yes, it's the stopping place for the parties
that climb Mount Mitchell. I remember it. We stayed
all night here, left our rig, and started next morning
at sunrise on horseback to climb the trail."
"Pretty near the jumping-off place, then," he
remarked. "We'll ask the way to Cat-tail Peak."
He stopped the car in front of the low-pitched,
weather-stained frame house and blew the horn.
A mountain woman with three open-eyed, silent
children came slowly to meet them.
She smiled pleasantly, and without embarrassment
spoke in a pleasant drawl:
"Won't you 'light and look at your saddle?"
The expression caught Jim's fancy, and he broke
into a roar of laughter. The woman blushed and laughed
with him. She couldn't understand what was the matter
with the man. Why should he explode over the simple
greeting in which she had expressed her pleasure at
Anyhow, she was an innkeeper's wife, and her
business was to make folks feel at home--so she laughed
again with Jim.
"You know that's the funniest invitation I ever got
in a car," he cried at last. "We fly in these things
sometimes. And when you said, `Won't you 'light,'"--he
paused and turned to his wife--"I could just feel
myself up in the air on that big old racer's back."
"Won't you-all stay all night with us?" the soft
voice drawled again.
"Thank you, not tonight," Mary answered.
She waited for Jim to ask the way.
"No--not tonight," he repeated. "You happen to
know an old woman by the name of Owens who lives up
"That's her name."
"Lord, everybody knows old Nance!" was the smiling
"She ain't got good sense!" the tow-headed boy
"Sh!" the mother warned, boxing his ears.
"She's a little queer, that's all. Everybody knows
her in Buncombe and Yancey counties. Her house is
built across the county line. She eats in Yancey and
sleeps in Buncombe----"
"Yes," broke in the boy joyously, "an' when the
Sheriff o' Yancey comes, she moves back into Buncombe.
She's some punkin's on a green gourd vine, she is--if
she ain't got good sense."
His mother struck at him again, but he dodged the
blow and finished his speech without losing a word.
"Could you tell us the way to her house?"
"Keep right on this road, and you can't miss it."
"How far is it?"
"Oh, not far."
"No; right at the bottom o' the Cat's-tail," the
boy joyfully explained.
"He means the foot o' Cat-tail Peak!" the mother
"How many miles?"
"Just a little ways--ye can't miss it; the third
house you come to on this road."
"You'll be there in three shakes of a sheep's
tail--in that thing!" the boy declared.
Jim waved his thanks, threw in his gear, and the
car shot forward on the level stretch of road beyond
the house. He slowed down when out of sight.
"Gee! I'd love to have that kid in a wood-shed
with a nice shingle all by ourselves for just ten
"The people spoil him," Mary laughed. "The people
who stop there for the Mount Mitchell climb. He was a
baby when I was there six years ago"--she paused and a
rapt look crept into her eyes--"a beautiful little
baby, her first-born, and she was the happiest thing I
ever saw in my life."
Her voice sank to a whisper.
A vision suddenly illumined her own soul, and she
forgot her anxiety over Jim's queer moods.
Deeper and deeper grew the shadows of crag,
gorge, and primeval forest. The speedometer on the
foot-board registered five miles from the Mount
Mitchell house. They had passed two cabins by the way,
and still no sign of the third.
"Why couldn't she tell us how many miles, I'd like
to know?" Jim grumbled.
"It's the way of the mountain folk. They're
noncommittal on distances."
He stopped the car and lighted the lamps.
"Going to be dark in a minute," he said. "But I
like this place," he added.
He picked his way with care over the narrow road.
They crossed the little stream they were trailing, and
the car crawled over the rocks along the banks at a
An owl called from a dead tree-top silhouetted
against an open space of sky ahead.
"Must be a clearing there," Jim muttered.
He stopped the car and listened for the sounds of
life about a house.
A vast, brooding silence filled the world. A wolf
howled from the edge of a distant crag somewhere
"For God's sake!" Jim shivered. "What was that?"
"Only a mountain wolf crying for company."
"Wolves up here?" he asked in surprise.
"A few--harmless, timid, lonesome fellows. It
makes me sorry for them when I hear one."
"Great country! I like it!" Jim responded.
Again she wondered why. What a queer mixture of
strength and mystery--this man she had married!
He started the car, turned a bend in the road, and
squarely in front, not more than a hundred yards away,
gleamed a light in a cabin window--four tiny panes of
"By Geeminy, we come near stopping in the front
yard without knowing it!" he exclaimed. "Didn't we?"
"I'm glad she's at home!" Mary exclaimed. "The
light shines with a friendly glow in these deep
"Afraid, Kiddo?" he asked lightly.
"I don't like these dark places."
"All right when you get used to 'em--safer than
Again her heart beat at his queer speech. She
shivered at the thought of this uncanny trait of
character so suddenly developed today. She made an
effort to throw off her depression. It would vanish
with the sun tomorrow morning.
He picked his way carefully among the trees and
stopped in front of the cabin door. The little house
sat back from the road a hundred feet or more.
He blew his horn twice and waited.
A sudden crash inside, and the light went out. He
waited a moment for it to come back.
Only darkness and dead silence.
"Suppose she dropped dead and kicked over the
lamp?" Jim laughed.
"She probably took the lamp into another room."
"No; it went out too quick--and it went out with a
He blew his horn again.
Still no answer.
"Hello! Hello!" he called loudly.
Someone stirred at the door. Jim's keen ear was
turned toward the house.
"I heard her bar the door, I'll swear it."
"How foolish, Jim!" Mary whispered. "You couldn't
have heard it."
"All the same I did. Here's a pretty kettle of
fish! The old hellion's not even going to let us in."
He seized the lever of his horn and blew one
terrific blast after another, in weird, uncanny
sobs and wails, ending in a shriek like the last
cry of a lost soul.
"Don't, Jim!" Mary cried, shivering. "You'll
frighten her to death."
"I hope so."
"Go up and speak to her--and knock on the door."
He waited again in silence, scrambled out of the
car, and fumbled his way through the shadows to the
dark outlines of the cabin. He found the porch on
which the front door opened.
His light foot touched the log with sure step, and
he walked softly to the cabin wall. The door was not
yet visible in the pitch darkness. His auto lights
were turned the other way and threw their concentrated
rays far down into the deep woods.
He listened intently for a moment and caught the
cat-like tread of the old woman inside.
"I say--hello, in there!" he called.
Again the sound of her quick, furtive step told him
that she was on the alert and determined to defend her
castle against all comers. What if she should slip an
old rifle through a crack and blow his head off?
She might do it, too!
He must make her open the door.
"Say, what's the matter in there?" he asked
A moment's silence, and then a gruff voice slowly
"They ain't nobody at home!"
"The hell they ain't!" Jim laughed.
"Who are you?"
She hesitated and then growled back:
"None o' your business. Who are you?"
"We're strangers up here--lost our way. It's
cold--we got to stop for the night."
"Ye can't--they's nobody home, I tell ye!" she
repeated with sullen emphasis.
Jim broke into a genial laugh.
"Ah! Come on, old girl! Open up and be sociable.
We're not revenue officers or sheriffs. If you've got
any good mountain whiskey, I'll help you drink it."
"Who are ye?" she repeated savagely.
"Ah, just a couple o' gentle, cooing turtle-doves--
a bride and groom. Loosen up, old girl; it's Christmas
Eve--and we're just a couple o' gentle cooin'
Jim kept up his persuasive eloquence until the
light of the candle flashed through the window,
and he heard her slip the heavy bar from the door.
He lost no time in pushing his way inside.
Nance threw a startled look at his enormous, shaggy
fur coat--at the shining aluminum goggles almost
completely masking his face. She gave a low,
breathless scream, hurled the door-bar crashing to the
floor and stared at him like a wild, hunted animal at
bay, her thin hands trembling, the iron-gray hair
tumbling over her forehead.
"Oh, my God!" she wailed, crouching back.
Jim gazed at her in amazement. He had forgotten
his goggles and fur coat.
"What's the matter?" he asked in high-keyed tones
Nance made no answer but crouched lower and
attempted to put the table between them.
"What t'ell Bill ails you--will you tell me?" he
asked with rising wrath.
"I THOUGHT you wuz the devil," the old woman
panted. "Now I KNOW it!"
Jim suddenly remembered his goggles and coat, and
broke into a laugh.
He removed his goggles and cap, threw back his big
coat and squared his shoulders with a smile.
Nance glowered at him with ill-concealed rage,
looked him over from head to foot, and answered with a
"'Tain't much better--ef ye ax ME!"
"Gee! But you're a sociable old wild-cat!" he
exclaimed, starting back as if she had struck him a
His eye caught the dried skin of a young wildcat
hanging on the log wall.
"No wonder you skinned your neighbor and hung her
up to dry," he added moodily.
He took in the room with deliberate insolence while
the old woman stood awkwardly watching him, shifting
her position uneasily from one foot to the other.
In all his miserable life in New York he could not
recall a room more bare of comforts. The rough logs
were chinked with pieces of wood and daubed with red
clay. The door was made of rough boards, the ceiling
of hewn logs with split slabs laid across them. An
old-fashioned, tall spinning wheel, dirty and unused,
sat in the corner. A rough pine table was in the
middle of the floor and a smaller one against the wall.
On this side table sat two rusty flat-irons, and
against it leaned an ironing board. A dirty piece
of turkey-red calico hung on a string for a portiere at
the opening which evidently led into a sort of kitchen
somewhere in the darkness beyond.
The walls were decorated at intervals. A huge
bunch of onions hung on a wooden peg beside the wild-
cat skin. Over the window was slung an old-fashioned
muzzle-loading musket. The sling which held it was
made of a pair of ancient home-made suspenders fastened
to the logs with nails. Beneath the gun hung a cow's
horn, cut and finished for powder, and with it a dirty
game-bag. Strings of red peppers were strung along
each of the walls, with here and there bunches of
popcorn in the ears. A pile of black walnuts lay in
one corner of the cabin and a pile of hickory nuts in
A three-legged wooden stool and a split-bottom
chair stood beside the table, and a haircloth couch,
which looked as if it had been saved from the Ark, was
pushed near the wall beside the door.
Across this couch was thrown a ragged patchwork
quilt, and a pillow covered with calico rested on one
end, with the mark of a head dented deep in the center.
Jim shrugged his shoulders with a look of disgust,
stepped quickly to the door and called:
"Come on in, Kid!"
Nance fumbled her thin hands nervously and spoke
with the faintest suggestion of a sob in her voice.
"I ain't got nothin' for ye to eat----"
"We've had dinner," he answered carelessly.
He stepped to the door and called:
"Bring that little bag from under the seat, Kiddo."
He held the door open, and the light streamed
across the yard to the car. He watched her steadily
while she raised the cushion of the rear seat, lifted
the bag and sprang from the car. His keen eye never
left her for an instant until she placed it in his
"Mercy, but it's heavy!" she panted, as she gave it
He took it without a word and placed it on the
table in the center of the room.
Nance glared at him sullenly.
"There's no place for ye, I tell ye----"
Jim faced her with mock politeness.
"For them kind words--thanks!"
He bowed low and swept the room with a mocking
"There ain't no room for ye," the old woman
Jim raised his voice to a squeaking falsetto with
deliberate purpose to torment her.
"I got ye the first time, darlin'!" he exclaimed,
lifting his hands above her as if to hold her down.
"We must linger awhile for your name--anyhow, we
mustn't forget that. This is Mrs. Nance Owens?"
The old woman started and watched him from beneath
her heavy eyebrows, answering with sullen emphasis:
Again Jim lifted his hands above his head and waved
her to earth.
"Well! Don't blame me! I can't help it, you
He turned to his wife and spoke with jolly good
"It's the place, all right. Set down, Kiddo--take
off your hat and things. Make yourself at home."
Nance flew at him in a sudden frenzy at his
assumption of insolent ownership of her cabin.
"There's no place for ye to sleep!" she fairly
shrieked in his face.
Again Jim's arms were over her head, waving her
"All right, sweetheart! We're from New York. We
don't sleep. We've come all the way down here to the
mountains of North Carolina just to see you. And we're
goin' to sit up all night and look at ye----"
He sat down deliberately, and Nance fumbled her
hands with a nervous movement.
Mary's heart went out in sympathy to the forlorn
old creature in her embarrassment. Her dress was dirty
and ragged, an ill-fitting gingham, the elbows out and
her bare, bony arms showing through. The waist was too
short and always slipping from the belt of wrinkled
cloth beneath which she kept trying to stuff it.
Mary caught her restless eye at last and held it in
a friendly look.
"Please let us stay!" she pleaded. "We can sleep
on the floor--anywhere."
"You bet!" Jim joined in. "Married two weeks--and
I don't care whether it rains or whether it pours or
how long I have to stand outdoors--if I can be with
The old woman hesitated until Mary's smile melted
its way into her heart.
Her lips trembled, and her watery blue eyes
"Well," she began grumblingly, "thar's a little
single bed in that shed-room thar for you--ef he'll
sleep in here on the sofy."
Jim leaped to his feet.
"What do ye think of that? Bully for the old gal!
Kinder slow at first. As the poet sings of the little
bed-bug, she ain't got no wings--but she gets there
just the same!"
He drew the electric torch from his pocket and
advanced on Nance.
"By Golly--I'll have another look at you."
Nance backed in terror at the sight of the
"What's that?" she gasped.
"Just a little Gatlin' gun!" he cried jokingly. He
pressed the button, and the light flashed squarely in
the old woman's eyes.
"God 'lmighty--don't shoot!" she screamed.
Jim doubled with laughter.
"For the love o' Mike!"
Nance leaned against the side table and wiped the
perspiration from her brow.
"Lord! I thought you'd kilt me!" she panted, still
"Ah, don't be foolish!" Jim said persuasively. "It
can't hurt you. Here, take it in your hand--I'll
show you how to work it. It's to nose round dark
places under the buzz-wagon."
He held it out to Nance.
"Here, take it and press the button."
The old woman drew back.
"No--no--I'm skeered! No----"
Jim thrust the torch into her hand and forced her
to hold it.
"Oh, come on, it's easy. Push your finger right
down on the button."
Nance tried it gingerly at first, and then laughed
at the ease with which it could be done. She flashed
it on the floor again and again.
"Why, it's like a big lightnin' bug, ain't it?"
She turned the end of it up to examine more
closely, pushed the button unconsciously, and the light
flashed in her eyes. She jumped and handed it quickly
"Or a jack o' lantern--here, take it," she cried,
Jim threw his hands up with a laugh.
"Can you beat it!"
Backing quickly to the door, Nance called nervously
"I'll get your room ready in a minute, ma'am." She
paused and glanced at Jim.
"And thar's a shed out thar you can put your devil
She slipped through the dirty calico curtains, and
Mary saw her go with wondering pity in her heart.
CHAPTER XV. A LITTLE BLACK BAG
Mary watched Nance, with a quick glance at Jim. Again
he had forgotten that he had a wife. She had studied
this strange absorption with increasing uneasiness.
During the long, beautiful drive of the afternoon
beside laughing waters, through scenes of unparalleled
splendor, through valleys of entrancing peace, the
still, sapphire skies bending above with clear,
Southern Christmas benediction, he had not once pressed
her hand, he had not once bent to kiss her.
Each time the thought had come, she fought back the
tears. She had made excuses for him. He was absorbed
in the memories of his miserable childhood in New York,
perhaps. The approaching meeting with his relatives
had awakened the old hunger for a mother's love that
had been denied him. The scenes through which they
were passing had perhaps stirred the currents of his
And yet why should such memories estrange his
spirit from hers? The effect should be the opposite.
In the remembrance of his loneliness and suffering, he
should instinctively turn to her. The love with which
she had unfolded his life should redeem the past.
He was standing now with his heavy chin silhouetted
against the flickering light of the candle on the
table. His hand closed suddenly on the handle of the
bag with the swift clutch of an eagle's claw. She
started at the ugly picture it made in the dim rays of
What were the thoughts seething behind the mask of
his face? She watched him, spellbound by his complete
surrender to the mood that had dominated him from the
moment he had touched the deep forests of the Black
Mountain range. A grim elation ruled even his
silences. The man standing there rigid, his face a
smiling, twitching mask, was a stranger. This man she
had never known, or loved. And yet they were bound for
life in the tenderest and strongest ties that can hold
the human soul and body.
She tossed her head and threw off the ugly thought.
It was morbid nonsense! She was just hungry for a
kiss, and in his new environment he had forgotten
himself as many thoughtless men had forgotten before
and would forget again.
"Jim!" she whispered tenderly.
He made no answer. His thick lips were drawn in
deep, twisted lines on one side, as if he had suddenly
reached a decision from which there could be no appeal.
She raised her voice slightly.
Not a muscle of his body moved. The drawn lines of
the mouth merely relaxed. His answer was scarcely
She moved toward him wistfully.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
His square jaw still held its rigid position
silhouetted in sharp profile against the candle's
light. He answered slowly and mechanically.
His indifference was more than the sore heart could
bear. The pent-up tears of the afternoon dashed in
flood against the barriers of her will.
"You--haven't--kissed--me--today," she stammered,
struggling with each word to save a break.
Still he stood immovable. This time his answer was
tinged with the slightest suggestion of amusement.
She staggered against the table beside the door and
gripped its edge desperately.
"Oh--" she gasped. "Don't you love me any more?"
With his sullen head still holding its position of
indifference, his absorption in the idea which
dominated his mind still unbroken, he threw out one
hand in a gesture of irritation.
"Cut it, Kid! Cut it!"
His tones were not only indifferent; they were
With a sob, she sank into the chair and buried her
face in her arms.
"You're tired! I see it now; you've tired of me.
Oh--it's not possible--it's not possible!"
The torrent came at last in a flood of utter
Jim turned, looked at her and threw up his hands in
"Oh, for God's sake!" he muttered, crossing
deliberately to her side. He stood and let her
With a quick change of mood, he drew her to her
feet, swept her swaying form into his arms, crushed her
and covered her lips with kisses.
She smiled through her tears.
"I feel better----"
"For better or worse--`until Death do us part'--
that's what you said, Kid, and you meant it, too,
He seized both of her arms, held them firmly and
gazed into her eyes with steady, stern inquiry.
She looked up with uneasy surprise.
"Of course--I meant it," she answered slowly.
He held her arms gripped close and said:
His hands relaxed, and he turned away, rubbing his
square chin thoughtfully.
She watched him in growing amazement. What could
be the mystery back of this new twist of his elusive
He laid his hand on the black bag again, smiled,
and turned and faced her with expanding good humor.
"Great scheme, this marryin', Kid! And you believe
in it exactly as I do, don't you?"
"How do you mean?" she faltered.
"That it binds and holds both our lives as only
Almighty God can bind and hold?"
"Yes--nothing else IS marriage."
"That's what I say, too!"
He placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Great scheme!" he repeated. "I get a pretty girl
to work for me for nothing for the balance of my life."
He paused and lifted the slender forefinger of his
right hand. "And you pledged your pious soul--I
memorized the words, every one of them: `I, Mary, take
thee, James, to my wedded husband--TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
from this day forward, FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to
love, cherish AND OBEY, TIL DEATH DO US PART, ACCORDING
TO GOD'S HOLY ORDINANCE; AND THEREUNTO I GIVE THEE MY
He paused, lifted his head and smiled grimly:
"That's some promise, believe me, Kiddo! `AND OBEY'--you
meant it all, didn't you?"
She would have hedged lightly over that ugly old
word which still survived in the ceremony Craddock had
used, but for the sinister suggestion in his voice back
of the playful banter. He had asked it half in jest,
half in earnest. She had caught by the subtle sixth
sense the tragic idea in that one word that he was
going to hold her to it. The thought was too absurd!
"OBEY--you meant it, didn't you?" he repeated
A smile played about the corners of her mouth as
she answered dreamily:
"That's why I set my head on you from the first--
you're good and sweet--you're the real thing."
Again she caught the sinister suggestion in his
tone and threw him a startled look.
"What has come over you today, Jim?" she asked.
He hesitated and answered carelessly.
"Oh, nothing, Kiddo--just been thinking a little
about business. Got to go to work, you know." He
returned to the table and touched the bag lightly.
"Watch out now for this bag while I put up the
car--and don't forget that curiosity killed the
Quick as a flash, she asked:
"What's in it?"
Jim threw up his hands and laughed.
"Didn't I tell you that curiosity killed a cat?"
He pointed to the skin on the wall. "That's what
stretched that wild-cat's hide up there! She got too
near the old musket!"
"Anyhow, I'm not afraid of her end--what's in it?"
Jim scratched his red head and looked at her
"You asked me that once before today, didn't you?"
"Well, it's a little secret of mine. Take my
advice--put your hand on it, but not in it."
Again the sinister look and tone chilled her.
"I don't like secrets between us, Jim," she said.
She looked at the bag reproachfully, and he watched
her keenly--then laughed.
"I'd as well tell you and be done with it; you'll
go in it anyhow."
She tossed her head with a touch of angry pride.
He took her hand, led her across the room and placed it
on the valise.
"I've got five thousand dollars in gold in that
She drew back, surprised beyond the power of
"And I'm going to give it to this old woman----"
To her--why?" she gasped.
"She's my mother."
"I--I--thought--you told me she was dead."
"No. I said that I didn't know who she was."
He paused, and a queer brooding look crept into his
"I haven't seen her since I was a little duffer
three years old. This room and these wild crags and
trees come back to me now--just a glimpse of them here
and there. I've always remembered them. I thought I'd
"You remember--how wonderful!" she breathed
reverently. She understood now, and the clouds lifted.
"The skunk I called my daddy," Jim went on
thoughtfully, "took me to New York. He said that my
mother deserted me when I was a kid. I believed him at
first. But when he beat me and kicked me into the
streets, I knew he was a liar. When I got grown I
began to think and wonder about her. I hired a lawyer
that knew my daddy, and he found her here----"
With a cry of joy, she seized his arms:
"Tell her quick! Oh, you're big and fine and
generous, Jim--and I knew it! They said that you were
a brute. I knew they lied. Tell her quick!"
He lifted his hand in protest.
"Nope--I'm going to put up a little job on the old
girl--show her the money tonight, get her wild at the
sight of it--and give it to her Christmas morning.
We've only a few hours to wait----"
"Oh, give it to her now--Jim! Give it to her now!"
He shook his head and walked to the door.
"I want to say something to her first and give her
time to think it over. Look out for the bag, and I'll
bring in the things."
He swung the rough board door wide, slammed it and
disappeared in the darkness.
The young wife watched the bag a moment with
consuming curiosity. She had fiercely resented his
insulting insinuations at her curiosity, and yet she
was wild to look at that glowing pile of gold inside
and picture the old woman's joyous surprise.
Her hand touched the lock carelessly and drew back
as if her finger had been burned. She put her hands
behind her and crossed the room.
"I won't be so weak and silly!" she cried fiercely.
She heard Jim cranking the car. It would take him
five minutes more to start it, get it under the shed
and bring in the suit-case and robes.
"Why shouldn't I see it!" she exclaimed. "He
has told me about it." She hesitated and struggled for
a moment, quickly walked back to the bag and touched
the spring. It yielded instantly.
"Why, it's not even locked!" she cried in tones of
surprise at her silly scruples.
Her hand had just touched the gold when Nance
She snapped the bag and smiled at the old woman
carelessly. What a sweet surprise she would have
Nance crossed slowly, glancing once at the girl
wistfully as if she wanted to say something friendly,
and then, alarmed at her presumption, hurried on into
the little shed-room.
Mary waited until she returned.
"Room's all ready in thar, ma'am," she drawled,
passing into the kitchen without a pause.
"All right--thank you," Mary answered.
She quickly opened the bag, thrust her hand into
the gold and withdrew it, holding a costly green-
leather jewelry-case of exquisite workmanship. There
could be no mistake about its value.
With a cry of joy, she started back, staring at the
"Another surprise! And for me! Oh, Jim, man,
you're glorious! My Christmas present, of course! I
mustn't look at it--I won't!"
She pushed the case from her toward the bag and
drew it back again.
"What's the difference? I'll take one little, tiny
She touched the spring and caught her breath. A
string of pearls fit for the neck of a princess lay
shining in its soft depths. She lifted them with a
sigh of delight. Her eye suddenly rested on a stanza
of poetry scrawled on the satin lining in the trembling
hand of an old man she had known.
She dropped the pearls with a cry of terror. Her
face went white, and she gasped for breath. The jewel-
case in her hand she had seen before. It had belonged
to the old gentleman who lived in the front room on the
first floor of her building in the days when it was a
boarding house. The wife he had idolized was long ago
dead. This string of pearls from her neck the old man
had worshiped for years. The stanza from "The Rosary"
he had scrawled in the lining one day in Mary's
presence. He had moved uptown with the landlady. Two
months ago a burglar had entered his room, robbed and
"It's impossible--impossible!" she gasped.
"Oh, dear God--it's impossible! Of course the
burglar pawned them, and Jim bought them without
knowing. Of course! My nerves are on edge today--how
silly of me----"
Jim's footsteps suddenly sounded on the porch, and
she thrust the jewel-case back into the bag with
desperate effort to pull herself together.
CHAPTER XVI. THE AWAKENING
For a moment she felt the foundations of the moral and
physical world sinking beneath her feet. Dizziness
swept her senses. She gripped the table, leaning
heavily against it, her eye watching the door with
feverish terror for Jim's appearance.
She had never fainted in her life. It was absurd,
but the room was swimming now in a dim blur. Again she
gripped the table and set her teeth. She simply would
not give up. Why should she leap to the worst possible
explanation of the jewels? The hatred of old Ella for
Jim and the furious antagonism of Jane Anderson had
poisoned her mind, after all. It was infamous that she
could suspect her husband of crime merely because two
silly women didn't like him.
He could explain the jewels. He, of course, asked
no questions of the pawn-broker. They were probably
sold at auction and he bought them.
It seemed an eternity from the time Jim's foot step
echoed on the little porch until he pushed the door
open and hastily entered, his arms piled with lap-
robes, coats and the dress-suit case in his hand.
He walked with quick, firm step, threw the coats
and robes on the couch and placed the suit-case at its
head. He hadn't turned toward her and his face was
still in profile while he removed the gloves from his
pockets, threw them on the robes, and drew the scarlet
woolen neckpiece from his throat.
She was studying him now with new terror-stricken
eyes. Never had she seen his jaw look so big and
brutal. Never had the droop of his eyelids suggested
such menace. Never had the contrast of his slender
hands and feet suggested such hideous possibilities.
"Merciful God! No! No!" she kept repeating in her
soul while her dilated eyes stared at him in sheer
horror of the suggestion which the jewels had roused.
She drew a deep breath and strangled the idea by
"I'll at least be as fair as a jury," she thought
grimly. "I'll not condemn him without a hearing."
Jim suddenly became aware of the menace of her
silence. She had not moved a muscle, spoken or made
the slightest sound since he had entered. He had
merely taken in the room at a glance and had seen her
standing in precisely the same place beside the table.
He saw now that she was leaning heavily against it.
He raised his head and faced her with a sudden,
bold stare, and his voice rang in tones of sharp
She tried to speak and failed. She had not yet
sufficiently mastered her emotions.
"What's the matter?" he growled.
"Jim----" she gasped.
He took a step toward her with set teeth.
"You've been in that bag--Well?"
Her face was white, her voice husky.
"Those jewels, Jim----"
A cunning smile played about his mouth and he shook
"I tried to keep my little secret from you till
Christmas morning; but you're on to my curves now,
Kiddo, and I'll have to 'fess up----"
"You bought them for me?" she asked with trembling
"Who else do you reckon I'd buy 'em for? I was
going to surprise you, too, tomorrow morning. You've
spoiled the fun."
She had slipped close to his side and he could hear
her quick intake of breath.
"That's--so--sweet of you, Jim. I'm sorry--I--
spoiled the surprise--you'd--planned----"
"Oh, what's the difference!" he broke in
carelessly. "It's all the same five minutes after,
anyhow. Well, don't you like 'em? Why don't you say
"They're wonderful, Jim. Where--where--did you buy
He held her gaze in silence for an instant and
"Isn't that a funny question, Kiddo?" he said in
low tones. "I once heard the old man I worked with in
the shop say that you shouldn't look a gift horse in
"I just want to know," she insisted.
"I'm not going to tell you!" he said with a dry
"Because you keep asking."
"You wish to tease me?"
"Why do you want to know? Are you afraid they're
"No, they're beautiful--they're wonderful."
"Well, if you don't want them," he broke in
angrily, "I'll keep them. I'll sell them."
"Don't tease me, Jim!" she begged. "I don't mind
if you bought them at a pawn-shop--if that's why you
won't tell me. That is the reason, isn't it?
Honestly, isn't it?"
She asked the question with eager intensity. She
had persuaded herself that it was so and the horror had
been lifted. She pressed close with smiling, trembling
"I don't mind that, Jim! You got them from a pawn-
broker, of course, didn't you?"
He looked at her with a puzzled expression and
"Didn't you?" she repeated.
"No--I didn't!" was the curt answer.
"You didn't?" she echoed feebly.
With a quick breath she unconsciously drew back and
he glared at her angrily.
"Say, what'ell's the matter with you, anyhow? Have
you gone crazy?"
"You--won't--tell me--where you bought them?" she
He faced her squarely and spoke with deliberate
"It's--none--of your business!"
She held his gaze with steady determination.
"That string of pearls belongs to the man who once
lived in the front room of my old building in New York.
He moved uptown with my landlady. A few months ago a
burglar robbed and shot him----"
She stopped, seized his arm and cried with
"Jim! Jim! Where did you get them?"
"Now I know you've gone crazy! You don't suppose
that's the only string of pearls in the world, do you?
Did you count 'em? Did you weigh 'em?"
"Where did you get them?" she demanded.
"What put it into your head that that string of
pearls belonged to your old boarder?"
"I saw him write the stanza of poetry on the satin
lining of that case. I've heard him recite it over and
over again in his piping voice: `Each bead a pearl--my
rosary!' I KNOW that they belonged to him!"
His mouth twitched angrily and he faced her,
speaking with cold, brutal frankness.
"I might keep on lying to you, Kiddo, and get away
with it. But what's the use? You've got to know.
It's just as well now--I did that job----Yes!"
Her face blanched.
Jim followed her with quick, angry gestures.
"All I wanted was his money! He fought--it was his
life or mine----"
"I just went after his money--I tell you--besides,
he didn't die; he got well. If he'd kept still he
wouldn't have lost his pearls and he wouldn't have been
"And I stood up for you against them all!" she
answered in a dazed whisper. "They told me--Jane
Anderson with brutal frankness, Ella with the heart-
rending, timid confession of her own tragic life--they
told me that you were bad. I said they were liars. I
said that they envied our happiness. I believed that
you were big and brave and fine. I stood by you and
She paused and looked at him steadily. In a rush
of suppressed passion she seized his arm with a
violence that caused his heavy eyelids to lift in
"Oh, Jim--it's not true! It's not true--it's not
true! For God's sake, tell me that you're joking!--
that you're teasing me! You can't mean it! I won't
believe it--I won't believe it!"
Her head sank until it rested piteously against his
breast. He stood with his face turned awkwardly away
and then moved his body until she was forced to stand
He touched her shoulder gently and spoke
"Come, now, Kid, don't take on so. I'll quit the
business when I make my pile."
She drew back instinctively and he followed:
"I'll never touch another penny of yours. There's
blood on it!"
"Rot!" he went on soothingly. "It's good Wall
Street cash--got it exactly like they got theirs--got
it because I was quicker and smarter than the fellow
that had it. I use a jimmy, they use a ticker--that's
all the difference."
She drew her figure to its full height.
His voice rasped like a file against steel.
"Your home's with me."
"I won't live with a thief!"
He stepped squarely before her and spoke with
"Get out of my way!" she cried defiantly.
His big jaw closed with a snap and his figure
became rigid. The candle's yellow light threw a
strange glare on his face, convulsed. The blue flames
of hell were in the glitter of his steel eyes.
Her heart sank in a dull wave of terror. She tried
to gauge the depth of his brutal rage. There was no
standard by which to measure it. She had never seen
that look in his face before. His whole being was
transformed by some sinister power.
She was afraid to move, but her mind was alert in
this moment of supreme trial. She hadn't used her last
weapon yet. The fact that he held her with such
terrible determination was proof of the spell she had
cast over him. She might save him. He couldn't have
been a criminal long. She formed her new battle-line
with quick decision.
CHAPTER XVII. THE SURRENDER
How long she gazed into the convulsed face of the man
who had squared himself before her, mattered little
measured by the tick of the watch in her belt. Into
the mental anguish endured a life's agony had been
pressed. It could not have been more than twenty
seconds, and yet it marked the birth of a new being
within the soul of a woman. She had been searching
only for her own happiness. The search had entangled
another in the meshes of her life. Too much had been
lived in the past two weeks to be undone by a word and
forgotten in a day. She had attempted, coward-like, to
She saw now in the consuming flame of a great
sorrow that the man before her had some rights which
the purest woman must reckon with. He might be a
burglar. At least it was her duty to try to save him
from himself. Her surrender of the past weeks was a
tie that would bind them through all eternity.
There was no chemistry of earth or heaven or hell that
could erase its memories. Her life was no longer her
own--this man's was bound with hers. She must face the
facts. She would make one honest, brave effort to save
him. To do this she would give all without
reservation--pride must be cast to the winds.
Her voice suddenly changed to tears.
"Oh, Jim, you do love me, don't you?"
His body slowly relaxed, his eyes shifted, and he
shrugged his square shoulders.
"What'ell did I marry you for?"
"Tell me--do you?" she demanded.
"You know that I love you. What do you ask me such
a fool question for? I love you with a love that can
kill. Do you hear me? That's why you're not going
anywhere without me."
There was no mistaking the depth of his passion.
She trembled to realize its power and yet it was the
lever by which she must move him.
"Then you've got to give this life up. You're
young and brave and strong. You can earn an honest
living. You haven't been in this long--I feel it, I
know it. Have you?"
"Oh, Jim, dear, you must give it up now for my
sake. I'll work with you and work for you. I'll
teach, I'll sew, I'll scrub, I'll slave for you day and
night--if you're only clean and honest."
He turned on her fiercely.
"Cut it, Kid--cut it! I'm out for the stuff now.
I'm going to get rich and I'm going to get rich
QUICK--that's all that's the matter with me!"
"But, Jim," she broke in tenderly--"you did earn an
honest living. Your workshop proves that."
"I've used that to improve my tools and melt the
swag the past year. The shop's all right."
"But you did make a successful invention?"
"You bet I did," he answered savagely, "and that's
why I quit the business. Three years ago I took down a
big automobile and worked out an improvement in the
transmission that settled the question of heavy draft
machines. I took it to a lawyer in Wall Street and he
took it to a man that had money. Between the two of
'em, they didn't do a thing to me! They were going to
put my patent on the market and make me a millionaire.
God, I was crazy----"
He paused and squared his shoulders with a deep
"They put it on the market all right and they made
some millionaires--but I wasn't one of 'em, Kiddo!
They got me to sign a paper that skinned me out of
every dollar as slick as you can pull an eel through
your fingers. I hired another lawyer
and gave him half he could get to beat 'em. He fought
like a tiger and two days before I met you he got his
verdict and they paid it--just ten thousand dollars.
Think of it--ten thousand dollars! And each of them
got a million cash. They sold it outright for two
millions and a half. My lawyer got five thousand
dollars, and I got five thousand dollars. That's mine,
anyhow. It's in that bag there. I'm working on a new
set of tools now in my shop. I'm going to get that
money back from the two thieves who stole it from me by
law. I'll take it by force, the way they took it. If
I can croak them both in the fight--well, there'll be
two thieves less to rob honest men and women, that's
"Oh, Jim!" Mary gasped, lifting a trembling hand to
her throat as if to tear open her collar. "You're mad.
You don't know what you're saying----"
"Don't fool yourself, Kiddo," he interrupted
fiercely. "My eyes are open now, and I've got a
level head back of 'em, too. I've doped it all out.
You ought to 'a' heard that lawyer give me a few
lessons in business when he'd skinned me and salted
my hide. He was good-natured and confidential. He
seemed to love me. `Business is war, sonny,' he piped,
between the puffs of the big Havana cigar he was
smoking--`war! war to the knife! We got you off your
guard and put the knife into you at the right minute--
that's all. Don't take it so hard! Invent something
else and keep your eyes peeled. You ought to love us
for giving you an education in business early in life.
You're young. You won't have to learn your lesson
again. Go to work, sonny, in your shop, and turn out
another new tool for the advancement of trade!'"
He paused and smiled grimly.
"I've done it, too! I've just finished a little
invention that'll crack any safe in New York in twenty
minutes after I touch it."
He broke into a dry laugh, sat down and
deliberately lighted a fresh cigarette.
She studied his face with beating heart. Was he
lost beyond all hope of reformation? Or was this the
boyish bravado of an amateur criminal poisoned by the
consciousness of wrong? She tried to think. She felt
the red blood pounding through her heart and
beating against her brain in suffocating waves
In vivid flashes the scene of her marriage but two
weeks ago, came back in tormenting memories. The
solemn words she had spoken kept ringing like the throb
of a funeral bell far up in the star-lit heavens----
"I, MARY ADAMS, TAKE THEE, JAMES ANTHONY, TO MY
WEDDED HUSBAND, TO HAVE AND TO HOLD . . . FOR BETTER
FOR WORSE, FOR RICHER FOR POORER, IN SICKNESS AND IN
HEALTH, TO LOVE, CHERISH, AND TO OBEY, TILL DEATH DO US
PART, ACCORDING TO GOD'S HOLY ORDINANCE; AND THERETO
I GIVE THEE MY TROTH."
The last solemn prayer kept ringing its deep-toned
message over all----
"GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, GOD THE HOLY GHOST,
BLESS, PRESERVE, AND KEEP YOU; THE LORD MERCIFULLY
WITH HIS FAVOR LOOK UPON YOU, AND FILL YOU WITH ALL
SPIRITUAL BENEDICTION AND GRACE; THAT YE MAY SO LIVE
TOGETHER IN THIS LIFE, THAT IN THE WORLD TO COME
YE MAY HAVE LIFE EVERLASTING. AMEN."
In a sudden rush of desperate pity for herself and
the man to whom she was bound, she dropped on her
knees by his side, slipped her arms about his neck and
clung to him, sobbing.
"Oh, Jim, Jim, man," she whispered hoarsely. "I
can't see you sink into hell like this! Have you no
real love in your heart for the woman who has given
all? Have mercy on me! Have mercy! You can't mean
the hideous things you've just said! You've been
crazed by your losses. You're just a boy yet. Life is
all before you. You're only twenty-four. I'm just
twenty-four. We can both begin anew. I've never lived
until these past weeks--neither have you. You couldn't
drag me down into a life of crime----"
Her head sank and her voice choked into silence.
He made no movement of his hand to soothe her. His
voice was not persuasive. It was hard and cold.
"I'm not asking you to help me on any of my jobs,"
he said. "I'm the financier of the family. You can
say the prayers and keep house."
"Knowing that you are a criminal? That your hands
are stained with human blood?"
"Why not?" he snapped, the blue blaze flashing
again in his eyes. "Suppose you were the wife of the
gentlemanly lawyer-thief who robbed me, using the law
instead of a jimmy--would you bother your little head
about my business? Does his wife ask him where he
got it? Does anybody know or care? He lives on Fifth
Avenue now. He bought a palace up there the day after
he got my money. We passed it on the way to the Park
the day I met you. A line of carriages was standing in
front and finely dressed women were running up the red
carpet that led down the stoop and under the canopy to
the curb. Did any of the gay dames who smiled and
smirked at that thief's wife ask how he got the money
to buy the house? Not much. Would they have cared if
they had known? They'd have called him a shrewd
lawyer--that's all! Do you reckon his wife worries
about such tricks of trade? Why should mine worry?"
She gripped his hand with desperate pleading.
"Oh, Jim, dear, you can't be a criminal at heart!
I wouldn't have loved you if it had been true. I can't
believe it! I won't believe it. You're posing. You
don't mean this. You can't mean it. You're going to
return every dishonest dollar that you've taken."
"You don't know what you're talking about!"
He closed his jaw with a snap and leaned close in
eager, tense excitement.
"Do you know how much junk I've piled into a little
box in my shop the past three months?"
"I don't care--I don't want to know!"
"You've got to care--you've got to know now! It's
worth a hundred thousand dollars, do you hear? A
hundred thousand dollars! It would take me a life-time
to earn that on a salary. In two weeks after we get
back to New York with my new invention that lawyer
advised me to make, I'll go through his house--I'll
open his safe, I'll take every diamond, every pearl and
every scrap of stolen jewelry his wife's wearing. And
I won't leave a fingerprint on the window sill. I've
got two of his servants working for me.
"In six months I'll be worth half a million. In a
year I'll pull off the big haul I'm planning and I'll
be a millionaire. We'll retire from business then--
just like they did. We'll build our marble palace down
at Bay Ridge and our yacht will nod in the harbor.
We'll spend our summers in Europe when we like and
every snob and fool in New York will fall over himself
to meet me. And every woman will envy my wife. I'm
young, Kiddo, but I've cut my eye teeth. You've just
been born. I'm running the business end of this thing.
You think you can reform me. You can--AFTER I'VE MADE
OUR PILE. I'll join the church then and sing
louder than that lawyer. But if you think you're going
to stop my business career at this stage of the
game--forget it, forget it!"
He sprang up with a quick movement of his tense
body and threw her off. She rose and watched his
restless steps as he paced the floor. Her mind was
numb as if from a mortal blow. She brushed the tangled
ringlets of brown hair back from her forehead, drew the
handkerchief from her belt and wiped the perspiration
from her brow.
Before she could gather the strength to speak, he
wheeled suddenly and confronted her:
"I've known from the first, Kiddo, that you're not
the kind to help in this business. I don't expect it.
I don't ask it. I need a ranch like this down here for
storage. I'm going to take the old woman into
partnership with me."
She started back in an instinctive recoil of
She drew a step nearer and peered into his set
"YOU WILL MAKE YOUR OWN MOTHER A CRIMINAL?"
"Sure!" he growled. "That's what I came down here
"She won't do it!"
"She won't, eh?" he sneered. "Look at this hog
He swept the bare, wretched cabin with a gesture of
contempt and shrugged his shoulders.
"Look at the rags she's wearing," he went on
savagely. "When we talk it over tonight with that five
thousand dollars in gold shining in her eyes--I'm going
to show her a lot o' things she never saw before,
Kiddo--take it from me!"
She answered in slow, even tones:
"I can't live with you, Jim."
The blue flames beneath the drooping eyelids were
leaping now in the yellow glare of the candle's rays.
The muscles of his body were knotted. His voice came
from his throat a low growl.
"Do you know who you're fooling with?"
The blood of a clean life flamed in her cheeks and
nerved her with reckless daring. Her figure stiffened
and her voice rang with defiant scorn:
"Yes. I know at last--a thief who would drag his
own mother down to hell with him!"
Not a muscle of his powerful body moved; his face
was a stolid mask. He threw his words slowly through
"Now you listen to me. You're my wife. I didn't
invent this marriage game. I played it as I found
it. And that's the way you're going to play it.
You're good and sweet and clean--I like that kind, and
I won't have no other. You're mine. MINE, do you
hear! Mine for life--body and soul--`FOR BETTER FOR
WORSE, FOR RICHER FOR POORER, IN SICKNESS AND IN
HEALTH, TO LOVE, CHERISH'----"
He paused and thrust his massive jaw squarely into
"`----AND OBEY!'" he hissed, "`UNTIL DEATH DO US
PART, ACCORDING TO GOD'S HOLY ORDINANCE'--you
said it, didn't you?"
She turned from him with sudden aversion:
"I didn't know what you were----"
"Nobody ever knows BEFORE they're married!" he
broke in savagely. "You took your chances. I took
mine--`FOR BETTER FOR WORSE.' We'll just say now
it's for worse and let it go at that!"
The little body stiffened.
"I'll die first!"
He held her gaze without words, searching the
depths of her being with the cold, blue flame in his
drooping eyes. If she were bluffing, it was easy. She
could talk her head off for all he cared. If she meant
it, he might have his hands full unless he
mastered the situation at once and for all time.
There was no sign of yielding to his iron will. An
indomitable soul had risen in her frail body and defied
him. His decision was instantaneous.
"Oh, you'll die sooner than live with me--eh?"
There was something hideous in the cold venom with
which he drawled the words. Her heart fairly stopped
its beating. With the last ounce of courage left, she
held her place and answered:
With the sudden crouch of a tiger he drew his
clenched fist to strike.
She sprang back with terror, her body trembling in
"You snivelling little coward!" he growled.
"Oh, Jim, Jim," she faltered,--"you--you--couldn't
A step nearer and he stood over her, his big, flat
head thrust forward, his eyes gleaming, his muscles
knotted in blind rage.
"No--I won't STRIKE you," he whispered. "I'll
just KILL you--that's all!"
With the leap of an infuriated beast he sprang on
her and his sharp fingers gripped her throat.
The world went black and she felt herself sinking
into a bottomless abyss. With maniac energy she tore
his hands from her throat and the warm blood streamed
from the gash his nails had torn.
Jim! Jim! For God's sake!" she moaned in abject
With a sullen growl, his fingers, sharp as a
leopard's claw, found her neck again and closed with a
grip that sent the blood surging to her brain and her
eyes starting from their sockets.
The one hideous thought that flashed through her
mind was that he was going to plunge his claws into her
eyes and blind her for life. He could hold her his
prisoner then. She made a last desperate struggle for
breath, her hands relaxed, she drooped and sank to the
couch toward which he had hurled her in the first rush
of his assault.
He lifted her and choked the slender neck again to
make sure, loosed his hands and the limp body dropped
on the couch and was still.
He stood watching her in silence, his arms at his
"Damned little fool!" he muttered. "I had to give
you that lesson. The sooner the better!"
He waited with contemptuous indifference until
she slowly recovered consciousness. She lay motionless
for a long time and then slowly opened her eyes.
Thank God! They had not been gouged out as poor
Ella's. She didn't mind the warm blood that soaked her
collar and ran down her neck. If he would only spare
her eyes. Blindness had been her one unspeakable
terror. She closed her eyes again and silently prayed
for strength. Her strength was gone. Wave after wave
of sickening, cowardly terror swept her prostrate soul.
She could feel his sullen presence--his body with its
merciless strength towering above her. She dared not
look. She knew that he was watching her with cruel
indifference. A single cry, a single word and he might
thrust his claw into her eyes and the light of the
world would go out forever.
Her terror was too hideous; she could endure it no
longer. She must move. She must try to save herself.
She lifted her head and caught his steady, venomous
A quick, sliding movement of abject fear and she
was erect, facing him and backing away silently.
He followed with even step, his gaze holding her as
the eyes of a snake its victim. She would not let him
know her terror of blindness. She preferred death
a thousand times. If he would only kill her outright
it was all the mercy she would ask.
"You--won't--kill--me--Jim!" she sobbed. "Please--
please, don't kill me!"
He lifted his sharp finger and followed her toward
the shed-room door, his voice the triumphant cry of an
eagle above his prey.
"`FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE--UNTIL DEATH DO US PART!'"
Her heart gave a bound of cowardly joy. He had
relented. He would not blind her. She could live.
She was young and life was sweet.
She tried to smile her surrender through her tears
as she backed slowly away from his ominous finger.
"Yes, I'll try--Jim. I'll try--`UNTIL DEATH DO
US PART--UNTIL DEATH--UNTIL DEATH----'"
Her voice broke into a flood of tears as she
blindly felt her way through the door and into the
He paused on the threshold, held the creaking board
shutter in his hand and broke into a laugh.
"The world ain't big enough for you to get away
from me, Kiddo. Good night--a good little wife now and
it's all right!"
CHAPTER XVIII. TO THE NEW GOD
Jim closed the door of the little shed-room with a
bang, and stood listening a moment to the sobs inside.
"`UNTIL DEATH DO US PART,' Kiddo!" he laughed grimly.
He turned back into the room and saw Nance standing
at the opposite entrance between the calico curtains,
an old, battered, flickering lantern in her hand. A
white wool shawl was thrown over the gray head and fell
in long, filmy waves about her thin figure. Her deep-
sunken eyes were exaggerated in the dim light of
lantern and candle. She smiled wanly.
He stopped short at the apparition; a queer shiver
of superstitious fear shook him. The white form of
Death suddenly and noiselessly appearing from the
darkness could not have been more uncanny. He had
wondered vaguely while the quarrel with his wife was
progressing, what had become of his mother. As
the fight had reached its height, he had forgotten her.
She looked at him, blinking her eyes and trying to
"Where the devil have you been, old gal?" he asked nervously.
"Nowhere," she answered evasively.
"You've been mighty quiet on the trip anyhow. I
see you've brought something back from nowhere."
Nance glanced down at the jug she carried in her
left hand and laughed.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Nothin' from nowhere sounds pretty good to me when
I see it in a brown jug on Christmas Eve. You're all
right, old gal! I was just going to ask if you had a
little mountain dew. You're a mind reader. I'll bet
the warehouse you keep that stored in is some snug
"They ain't never found it yit!" she giggled.
"And I'll bet they won't--bully for you!"
She took down a tin cup from a shelf and placed it
beside the jug.
"Another glass, sweetheart----"
The old woman stared at him in surprise, walked to
the shelf and brought another tin cup.
"What do ye want with two?" she asked in surprise.
Jim moved toward the stool beside the table.
"Sure. Let's be sociable. It's Christmas Eve,
"Yeah!" Nance answered cheerfully, taking her seat
and glancing timidly at her guest.
Jim seized the jug, poured out two drinks of corn
whiskey, handed her one and raised his:
"Well, here's lookin' at you, old girl."
He paused, lowered his cup and smiled.
"But say, give me a toast." He nodded toward the
shed-room. "I'm on my honeymoon, you know."
His hostess laughed timidly and glanced at him from
the corners of her eyes. She wished to be sociable and
make up as best she could for her rudeness on their
"I ain't never heard but one fur honeymooners," she
"Let's have it. I've never heard a toast for
honeymooners in my life. It'll be new to me--fire
Nance fumbled her faded dress with her left hand
and laughed again.
"'May ye live long and prosper an' all yer troubles
be LITTLE ONES!'"
She laughed aloud at the old, worm-eaten joke and
"Bully! Bully, old girl--bully!"
He lifted his cup and drained it at one draught and
Nance did the same.
He seized the jug and poured another drink for each.
He leaned across the table.
"And here's one for you." He squared his body and
lifted his cup:
"To all your little ones--no matter how big they
Jim drained his liquor without apparently noticing
her agitation, though he was watching her keenly from
the corner of his eye.
The cup she held was lowered slowly until the
whiskey poured over her dress and on the floor. Her
thin figure drooped pathetically and her voice was the
"I heard you had a boy," Jim said carelessly.
The drooping figure shot upright as if a bolt of
lightning had swept her. She stared at him in
tense silence, trying to gather her wits before
"Who told you anything about me?" she demanded
"A fellow in New York," Jim continued with studied
carelessness--"said he used to live down here."
"He LIVED down here?" she repeated blankly.
"Yep--come now, loosen up and tell us about the
"There ain't nuthin' ter tell--he's dead," she
"He said you deserted the child and left him to
"He said that?" she growled.
He was silent again and watched her keenly.
She fumbled her dress and glanced nervously across
the table as if afraid to ask more. Unable to wait for
him to speak, she cried nervously at last:
"Well--well--what else did he say?"
"That he took the little duffer to New York and
She fairly screamed the words, springing to her
feet trembling from head to foot.
"Till he was big enough to kick into the streets to
shuffle for himself."
"The scoundrel said he was dead."
Her voice was far away and sank into dreamy
silence. She was living the hideous, lonely years
again with a heart starved for love.
Jim's voice broke the spell:
"Then you didn't desert him?" The man's eyes held
She stared at him blankly and spoke with rushing
"Desert him--my baby--my own flesh and blood?
There's never been a minute since I looked into his
eyes that I wouldn't 'a' died fur him."
She paused and sobbed.
"He had such pretty eyes, stranger. They looked
like your'n--only they wuz puttier and bluer."
She lifted her faded dress, brushed the tears from
her cheeks and went on rapidly:
"When I found his drunken brute of a daddy was a
liar and had another wife, I wouldn't live with him.
He tried to make me but I kicked him out of the house--
and he stole the boy to get even with me." Her voice
broke, she dropped her head and choked back the tears.
"He did get even with me, too--he did," she
Jim watched her in silence until the paroxysm had
"You think you'd know this boy now if you found
She bent close, her breath coming in quick gasps.
"My God, mister, do you think I COULD find
"He lives in New York; his name is Jim Anthony."
"Yes--yes?" she said in a dazed way. "He called
hisself Walter Anthony--he wuz a stranger from the
North and my boy's name was Jim." She paused and bent
eagerly across the table. "New York's an awful big
place, ain't it?"
"Some town, old gal, take it from me."
"COULD I find him?"
"If you've got money enough. You said you'd know
"I'd know him!" she answered eagerly. "The last
quarrel we had was about a mark on his neck. He wuz a
spunky little one. You couldn't make him cry. His
devil of a daddy used to stick pins in him and laugh
because he wouldn't cry. The last dirty trick he tried
was what ended it all. He pushed a live cigar agin his
little neck until I smelled it burnin' in the next
room. I knocked him down with a chair, drove him from
the house and told him I'd kill him if he ever put
his foot inside the door agin.
He stole my boy the next night--but he'll carry
that scar to his grave."
"You'd love this boy now if you found him in New
York as bad as his father ever was?" Jim asked with a
"Yes--he's mine!" was the quick, firm answer.
Jim watched her intently.
"I looked Death in the face for him," she went on
fiercely. "I'd dive to the bottom o' hell to find him
if I knowed he wuz thar---- But what's the use to
talk; that devil killed him! I've waked up many a
night stranglin' with a dream when I seed the drunken
brute burnin' an' beatin' an' torturin' him to death.
The feller you've heard about ain't him. 'Tain't no
use to make me hope an' then kill me----"
"He's not dead, I tell you. I know."
Jim's voice rang with conviction so positive the
old woman's breath came in quick gasps and she smiled
through her eager tears.
"And I MIGHT find him?"
"IF you've got money enough! Money can do
anything in this world."
He opened the black bag, thrust both hands into it
and threw out a handful of yellow coin which
he allowed to pour through his fingers and rattle
into a tin plate which had been left on the table.
Her eyes sparkled with avarice.
"It's your'n--all your'n?" she breathed hungrily.
"I'm taking it down South to invest for a fool who
thinks"--he stopped and laughed--"who thinks it's bad
luck to keep money that's stained with blood----"
Nance started back.
"Got blood on it?"
Jim spoke in confidential appeal.
"That wouldn't make any difference to you, would
She shook her gray locks and glanced at the pile of
yellow metal, hungrily.
"I--I wouldn't like it with blood marks!"
He lifted a handful of coin, clinked it musically
in his hands and held it in his open palms before her.
"Look! Look at it close! You don't see any blood
marks on it, do you?"
Her eyes devoured it.
He seized her hand, thrust a half-dozen pieces into
it and closed her thin fingers over it.
"Feel of it--look at it!"
Her hands gripped the gold. She breathed quickly,
broke into a laugh, caught herself in the middle of it,
and lapsed suddenly into silence.
"Feels good, don't it?" he laughed.
Nance grinned, her uneven, discolored gleaming
ominously in the flicker of the candle.
"Don't it?" he repeated.
He lifted another handful and threw it in the air,
catching it again.
"That's the stuff that makes the world go 'round.
There's your only friend, old girl! Others promise
well--but in the scratch they fail."
"Yeah--when the scratch comes they fail!" Nance
"Money never fails!" Jim continued eagerly. "It's
the god that knows no right or wrong----"
He touched the pile in the plate and drew the bag
close for her to see.
"How much do you guess is there?"
Nance gazed greedily into the open bag and looked
again at the shining heap in the plate.
"I dunno--a million, I reckon."
The man laughed.
"Not quite that much! But enough to make you rich
for life--IF you had it."
The old woman turned away pathetically and shook
her gray head.
"I wouldn't have to work no more, would I?"
Her thin hands touched the faded, dirty dress.
"And I could buy me a decent dress," her voice sank
to a whisper, "and I could find my boy."
"You bet you could!" Jim exclaimed. "There's just
one god in this world now, old girl--the Almighty
He paused and leaned close, persuasively:
"Suppose now, the man that got that money had to
kill a fool to take it--what of it? You don't get big
money any other way. A burglar watches his chance,
takes his life in his hands and drills his way into a
house. He finds a fool there who fights. It's not his
fault that the man was born a fool, now is it?"
"Of course not. A burglar kills but one to get his
pile, and then only because he must, in self-defence.
A big gambling capitalist corners wheat, raises the
price of bread and starves a hundred thousand children
to death to make his. It's not stained with blood.
Every dollar is soaked in it! Who cares?"
"Yeah--who cares?" Nance growled fiercely.
Jim smiled at his easy triumph.
"It's dog eat dog and the devil take the hindmost
"That's so--ain't it?" she agreed.
"You bet! Business is business and the best man's
the man that gets there. Steal a hundred dollars, you
go to the penitentiary--foolish! Don't do it. Steal a
million and go to the Senate!"
"Yeah!" Nance laughed.
"Money--money for its own sake," he rushed on
savagely--"right or wrong. That's all there is in it
today, old girl--take it from me!"
He paused and his smile ended in a sneer.
"Man shall eat bread in the sweat of his brow?
Only fools SWEAT!"
Nance turned her face away, sighed softly, glancing
back at Jim furtively.
"I reckon that's so, too. Have another drink,
She poured another cup of whiskey and one for
herself. She raised hers as if to drink and deftly
threw the contents over her shoulder.
Jim seized the jug and poured again.
"Once more. Come, I've another toast for you.
You'll drink this one I know."
He lifted his cup and rose a little unsteadily.
Nance stood with uplifted cup watching him.
"As the poet sings," he began with a bow to the old
"France has her lily, England the rose,
Everybody knows where the shamrock grows--
Scotland has her thistle flowerin' on the hill,
But the American Emblem--is a One Dollar Bill!"
He broke into a boisterous laugh.
"How's that, old girl?"
"That's bully, stranger!"
He lifted high his cup.
"We drink to the Almighty Dollar!"
"To the Almighty Dollar!" Nance echoed, clinking
her cup against his."
He drained it while she again emptied hers over her
"By golly, you're all right, old girl. You're a
good fellow!" he cried jovially.
"Yeah--have another?" she urged.
She filled his cup and placed it on his side of the
table. His eye had rested on the gold. He ignored the
invitation, lifted a handful of gold and dropped it
with musical clinking into the plate.
"Blood marks--tommyrot!" he sneered.
"Yeah--tommyrot!" she echoed. "That's what I say,
Jim wagged his head sagely:
"Now you're talking sense, old girl!"
He leaned across the table and pointed his finger
straight into her face.
"And don't you forget what I'm tellin' ye tonight--
get money, get money!"
He stopped suddenly and a sneer curled his lips.
"Oh I Get it `fairly'--get it `squarely'--but
whatever you do--by God!--GET IT!"
His uplifted hand crashed downward and gripped the
gold. His fingers slowly relaxed and the coin clinked
into the plate.
Nance watched him eagerly.
"Yeah, that's it--get it," she breathed slowly.
Jim lifted his drooping eyes to hers.
"If you've GOT it, you're a god--you can do no
wrong. Nobody's goin' to ask you HOW you got it;
all they want to know is HAVE you got it!"
"Yeah, nobody's goin' to ask you HOW you got
it, Nance repeated, "they just want to know HAVE
you got it! Yeah--yeah!"
Jim's head sank in the first stupor of liquor and
he dropped into the chair.
The old woman leaned eagerly over the plate of gold
and clutched the coin with growing avarice. Her
fingers opened and closed like a bird of prey. She
touched it lovingly and held it in her hands a long
time watching Jim's nodding head with furtive glances.
She dropped a handful of coin into the plate and
watched its effect on the drooping head.
He looked up and his eyes fell again.
"Bed-time, I reckon," Nance said.
"Yep--pretty tired. I'll turn in."
The old woman glided sidewise to the table near the
kitchen door, picked up the lantern and started to feel
her way backwards through the calico curtains.
"See you in the mornin', old gal," Jim drawled--
"Christmas mornin'--an' I got somethin' else to tell ye
in the mornin'----"
Again his head sank to the table.
"All right, mister--good night!" Nance answered,
slowly feeling her way through the opening, watching
Jim lifted his head and nodded heavily for a
moment. His hand slipped from the table and he drew
himself up sharply and rose, holding to the table for
He picked up the plate of coin, poured it back in
the bag, snapped the lock and walked with the bag
unsteadily to the couch. He placed the bag under
the pillow and pressed the soft feathers down over it,
turned back to the table and extinguished the candle by
a quick, square blow of his open palm on the flame.
He staggered to the couch, pushed the coats to the
floor, dropped heavily, drew the lap-robe over him and
in five minutes was sound asleep.
CHAPTER XIX. NANCE'S STOREHOUSE
The cabin was still. Only the broken sobbing of the
woman in the little shed-room came faint and low on old
She slipped from the kitchen into the shadows of a
tree near the house and listened until the sobbing
She crept close to the shed and stood silent and
ghost-like beside its daubed walls. Immovable as a cat
crouching in the hedge to spring on her prey, she
waited until the waning moon had sunk behind the crags.
She laid her ear close to a crack in the logs from
which she had once pushed the red mud to let in the
light. All was still at last. The sobbing had
stopped. The young wife was sound asleep.
She had wondered vaguely at first about the crying,
but quickly made up her mind that it was only a lover's
quarrel. She was glad of it. The girl would bar her
door and sulk all night. So much the better.
There would be no danger of her entering the living-
room where Jim slept.
She would wait a little longer to make sure she was
asleep. A half hour passed. The white-shrouded figure
stood immovable, her keen ears tuned for the slightest
sounds from within.
The stars were shining in unusual brilliance. She
could see her way through the shadows even better than
in full moon. A wolf was crying again for his mate
from a distant crag. She had grown used to his howls.
He had come close to her cabin once in the day-time.
She had tried to creep on him and show her
friendliness. But he had fled in terror at the first
glimpse of her dress through the parting underbrush.
An owl was calling from his dead tree-top down the
valley. She smiled at his familiar, tremulous call.
Her own eyes were wide as his tonight. No sight or
sound of Nature among the crags about her cabin had for
her spirit any terror. The night was her mantle.
She added to the meager living which she had wrung
from her mountain farm by trading with the illicit
distillers of the backwoods of Yancey County. Too
ignorant to run a distillery of her own, she had stored
their goods with such skill that the hiding-place
had never been discovered. She loved good
whiskey herself. She had tried to find in its fiery
depths the dreams of happiness life had so cruelly
The hiding-place of this whiskey had puzzled the
revenue officers of every administration for years.
They had watched her house day and night. Not one of
them had ever struck the trail to her storehouse.
The game had excited her imagination. She loved
its daring and danger. That there was the slightest
element of wrong or crime in her association with the
moonshiners of her native heath had never for a moment
entered her mind. It was no crime to make whiskey.
This was the first article of the creed of the true
North Carolina mountaineer. They had from the first
declared that the tax levied by the Federal Government
on the product of their industry was an infamous act of
tyranny. They had fought this tyranny for two
generations. They would fight it as long as there was
breath in their bodies and a single load of powder and
buckshot for their rifles.
Nance considered herself a heroine in the pride of
her soul for the shrewd and successful defiance she had
given the revenue officers for so many years.
She had been too cunning to even allow one of
her own people to know the secret of her store house.
For that reason it had never been discovered. She
always stored the whiskey temporarily in the potato
shed or under the cabin floor until night and then
alone carried it to the place she had discovered.
She laughed softly at the thought of this deep
hiding-place tonight. Its temperature never varied
winter or summer. Not a track had ever been left at
its door. She might live a hundred years and, unless
some spying eye should see her enter, its existence
could never be suspected.
She tipped softly into the kitchen, walked to the
door of the living-room and listened to the even, heavy
breathing of the man on the couch.
Once more the faint echo of a sob in the shed
beyond came to her keen ears. She stood for five
minutes. It was not repeated. She had only imagined
it. The girl was still asleep.
She turned noiselessly back into the kitchen, put a
box of matches in her pocket, felt her way to the low
shelf on which she had placed the battered lantern,
picked it up and shook it to make sure the oil was
She stepped lightly into the yard, pushed open the
gate of the split-board garden fence, walked
along the edge to the corner and selected a spade
from the tools that leaned against the boards.
Carrying the spade and unlighted lantern in her
left hand, she glided from the yard into the woods.
Her right hand before her to feel for underbrush or
overhanging bough, she made her way rapidly to the
swift-flowing mountain brook.
Arrived at the water whose musical ripple had
guided her steps, she removed her shoes and placed them
beside a tree. She wore no stockings. The faded skirt
she raised and tucked into her belt. She could wade
knee deep now without hindrance.
Seizing the spade and lantern, she made her way
slowly and carefully downstream for three hundred yards
and paused beside a shelving ledge which projected
half-way across the brook.
She paused and listened again for full ten minutes,
immovable as the rock on which her thin, bony hand
rested. The stars were looking, but they could only
peep through the network of overhanging trees.
Feeling her way along the rock until the ledge rose
beyond her reach, she bent low and waded through a
still pool of eddying water straight under the
mountain-side for more than a hundred feet. Her
extended right hand had felt for the stone ceiling
above her head until it ran abruptly out of reach.
She straightened her body and took a deep breath.
Ten steps she counted carefully and placed her bare
feet on the dry rock beyond the water.
Carefully picking her way up the sloping bank until
she reached a stretch of soft earth, she sank to her
hands and knees and crawled through an opening less
than three feet in height.
"Thar now!" she laughed. "Let 'em find me if they
She lighted her lantern and seated herself on a
boulder to rest--one hundred and fifty feet in the
depths of a mountain. The cavern was ten feet in
height and fifty feet in length. The projecting ledges
of rock made innumerable shelves on which a merchant
might have displayed his wares.
The old woman was too shrewd for that. Her jugs
were carefully planted in the ground behind two fallen
boulders, and their hiding-place concealed by a layer
of drift which she had gathered from the edge of the
water. She had taken this precaution against the day
when some curious explorer might stumble on her secret
as she had found it hunting ginsing roots in the woods
overhead. Her foot had slipped suddenly through a hole
in the soft mould. She peered cautiously below and
could see no bottom. She dropped a stone and heard it
strike in the depths. She made her way down the
side of the crag and found the opening through the
still eddying waters. The hole through the roof she
had long ago plugged and covered with earth and dry
She carried her lantern and spade to the further
end of her storehouse and dug a hole in the earth about
two feet in depth. The earth she carefully placed in a
"That's the place!" she giggled excitedly.
She left her lantern burning, dropped again on the
soft, mould-covered earth and quickly emerged on the
stone banks of the wide, still pool. Her hand high
extended above her head, she waded through the water
until she touched the heavy ceiling, lowered her body
again to a stooping position and rapidly made her way
out into the bed of the brook.
She passed eagerly along the babbling path and
stopped with sure instinct at the tree beside whose
trunk she had placed her shoes.
In five minutes she had made her way through the
woods and reached the house. She tipped into the
kitchen and stood in the doorway or the living-room
watching her sleeping guest. The even breathing
assured her that all was well. Her plan couldn't
fail. She listened again for the sobs in the shed-
She was sure once that she heard them. Five
minutes passed and still she was uncertain. To avoid
any possible accident she tipped back through the
kitchen, circled the house and placed her ear against
the crack in the logs.
The girl was sobbing--or was she praying? She
crouched beside the wall, waited and listened. The
night wind stirred the dead leaves at her feet. She
lifted her head with a sudden start, laughed softly and
bent again to listen.
CHAPTER XX. TRAPPED
The sobbing in the little room was the only sound that
came from one of the grimmest battle-fields from which
the soul of a woman ever emerged alive.
To the first rush of cowardly tears Mary had
yielded utterly. She had fallen across the high-puffed
feather mattress of the bed, shivering in humble
gratitude at her escape from the horror of blindness.
The grip of his claw-like fingers on her throat came
back to her now in sickening waves. The blood was
still trickling from the wound which his nails had made
when she tore them loose in her first mad fight for
She lifted her body and breathed deeply to make
sure her throat was free. God in heaven! Could she
ever forget the hideous sinking of body and soul down
into the depths of the black abyss! She had seen the
face of Death and it was horrible. Life, warm and
throbbing, was sweet. She loved it. She hated
Yes--she was a coward. She knew it now, and didn't
She sprang to her feet with sudden fear. He might
attack her again to make sure that her soul had been
She crept to the door and felt its edges.
"Yes, thank God, there's a place for the bar!" She
She ran her trembling fingers carefully along the
rough logs and found it in the corner. She slipped it
cautiously into the iron sockets, staggered to the bed
and dropped in grateful assurance of safety for the
moment. She buried her face in the pillow to fight
back the sobs. How great her fall! She could crawl on
her hands and knees to Jane Anderson now and beg for
protection. The last shred of pretense was gone. The
bankrupt soul stood naked and shivering, the last rag
torn from pride.
What a miserable fight she had made, too, when put
to the test! Ella had at least proved herself worthy
to live. The scrub-woman had risen in the strength of
desperation and killed the beast who had maimed her.
She had only sunk a limp mass of shivering, helpless
cowardice and fled from the room whining and pleading
She could never respect herself again. The
scene came back in vivid flashes. His eyes,
glowing like two balls of blue fire, froze the blood in
her veins--his voice the rasping cold steel of a file.
And this coarse, ugly beast had held her in the spell
of love. She had clung to him, kissed him in rapture
and yielded herself to him soul and body. And he had
gripped her delicate throat and choked her into
insensibility, dropping her limp form from his hands
like a strangled rat. She could remember the half-
conscious moment that preceded the total darkness as
she felt his grip relax.
He would choke and beat her again, too. He had
said it in the sneering laughter at the door.
"A good little wife now and it's all right!"
And if you're not obedient to my whims I'll choke
you until you are! That was precisely what he meant.
That he was capable of any depth of degradation, and
that he meant to drag her with him, there could be no
longer the shadow of a doubt.
She could not endure another scene like that. She
sprang to her feet again, shivering with terror. She
could hear the hum of the conversation in the next
room. He was persuading his mother to join in his
criminal career. He was busy with his oily tongue
transforming the simple, ignorant, lonely old
woman into an avaricious fiend who would receive his
blood-stained booty and rejoice in it.
He was laughing again. She put her trembling hands
over her ears to shut out the sound. He had laughed at
her shame and cowardice. It made her flesh creep to
She would escape. The mountain road was dark and
narrow and crooked. She would lose her way in the
night, perhaps. No matter. She could keep warm by
walking. At dawn she would find her way to a cabin and
ask protection. If she could reach Asheville, a
telegram would bring her father. She wouldn't lose a
minute. Her hat and coat were in the living-room. She
would go bareheaded and without a coat. In the morning
she could borrow one from the woman at the Mount
She crept cautiously along the walls of the room
searching for a door or window. There must be a way
out. She made the round without discovering an opening
of any kind. There must be a window of some kind high
up for ventilation. There was no glass in it, of
course. It was closed by a board shutter--if she could
She began at the door, found the corner of the room
and stretched her arms upward until they touched the
low, rough joist. Over every foot of its surface
she ran her fingers, carefully feeling for a window.
There was none!
She found an open crack and peered through. The
stars were shining cold and clear in the December sky.
The twinkling heavens reminded her that it was
Christmas Eve. The dawn she hoped to see in the woods,
if she could escape, would be Christmas morning. There
was no time for idle tears of self-pity.
The one thought that beat in every throb of her
heart now was to escape from her cell and put a
thousand miles between her body and the beast who had
strangled her. She might break through the roof! As a
rule the shed-rooms of these rude mountain cabins were
covered with split boards lightly nailed to narrow
strips eighteen inches apart. If there were no
ceiling, or if the ceiling were not nailed down and she
should move carefully, she might break through near the
eaves and drop to the ground. The cabin was not more
than nine feet in height.
She raised herself on the footrail of the bed and
felt the ceiling. There could be no mistake. It was
there. She pressed gently at first and then with all
her might against each board. They were nailed hard
She sank to the bed again in despair. She had
barred herself in a prison cell. There was no escape
except by the door through which the beast had driven
her. And he would probably draw the couch against it
and sleep there.
And then came the crushing conviction that such
flight would be of no avail in a struggle with a man of
Jim's character. His laughing words of triumph rang
through her soul now in all their full, sinister
"The world ain't big enough for you to get away
from me, Kiddo!"
It wasn't big enough. She knew it with tragic and
terrible certainty. In his blind, brutal way he loved
her with a savage passion that would halt at nothing.
He would follow her to the ends of the earth and kill
any living thing that stood in his way. And when he
found her at last he would kill her.
How could she have been so blind! There was no
longer any mystery about his personality. The slender
hands and feet, which she had thought beautiful in her
infatuation, were merely the hands and feet of a thief.
The strength of jaw and neck and shoulders had made him
the most daring of all thieves--a burglar.
His strange moods were no longer strange. He
laughed for joy at the wild mountain gorges and crags
because he saw safety for the hiding-place of priceless
jewels he meant to steal.
There could be no escape in divorce from such a
brute. He was happy in her cowardly submission. He
would laugh at the idea of divorce. Should she dare to
betray the secrets of his life of crime, he would kill
her as he would grind a snake under his heel.
A single clause from the marriage ceremony kept
ringing its knell--"until DEATH DO US PART!"
She knelt at last and prayed for Death.
"Oh, dear God, let me die, let me die!"
Suicide was a crime unthinkable to her pious mind.
Only God now could save her in his infinite mercy.
She lay for a long time on the floor where she had
fallen in utter despair. The tears that brought relief
at first had ceased to flow. She had beaten her
bleeding wings against every barrier, and they were
beyond her strength.
Out of the first stupor of complete surrender, her
senses slowly emerged. She felt the bare boards of the
floor and wondered vaguely why she was there.
The hum of voices again came to her ears. She
lay still and listened. A single terrible sentence she
caught. He spoke it with such malignant power she
could see through the darkness the flames of hell
leaping in his eyes.
"Nobody's going to ask you HOW you got it--all
they want to know is HAVE you got it!"
She laughed hysterically at the idea of reformation
that had stirred her to such desperate appeal in the
first shock of discovery. As well dream of reforming
the Devil as the man who expressed his philosophy of
life in that sentence! Blood dripped from every word,
the blood of the innocent and the helpless who might
consciously or unconsciously stand in his way. The man
who had made up his mind to get rich quick, no matter
what the cost to others, would commit murder without
the quiver of an eyelid. If she had ever had a doubt
of this fact, she could have none after her experience
She wondered vaguely of the effects he was
producing on his ignorant old mother. Her words were
too low and indistinct to be heard. But she feared the
worst. The temptation of the gold he was showing her
would be more than she could resist.
She staggered to her feet and fell limp across
the bed. The iron walls of a life prison closed about
her crushed soul. The one door that could open was
Death and only God's hand could lift its bars.
CHAPTER XXI. THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE
Hour after hour Nance stood beside the wall of the
shed-room and with the patience of a cat waited for the
sobs to cease and the girl to be quiet.
Mary had risen from the bed once and paced the
floor in the dark for more than an hour, like a
frightened, wild animal, trapped and caged for the
first time in life. With growing wonder, Nance counted
the beat of her foot-fall, five steps one way and five
back--round after round, round after round, in
"Goddlemighty, is she gone clean crazy!" she
The footsteps stopped at last and the low sobs came
once more from the bed. The old woman crouched down on
a stone beside the log wall and drew the shawl about
A rooster crowed for midnight. Still the restless
thing inside was stirring. Nance rose uneasily.
Her lantern was still burning in her storehouse under
the cliff. The wick might eat so low it would explode.
She had heard that such things happened to lamps. It
was foolish to have left it burning, anyhow.
She glided noiselessly from the house into the
woods, entered her hidden door exactly as she had done
before, extinguished the lantern, placed it on a
shelving rock and put a dozen matches beside it.
In ten minutes she had returned to the house and
crouched once more against the wall of the shed.
The low, pleading voice was praying. She pressed
her ear to the crack and heard distinctly. She must be
patient. Her plan was sure to succeed if she were only
patient. No woman could sob and pray and walk all
night. She must fall down unconscious from sheer
exhaustion before day.
The old woman slipped into the kitchen, took up the
quilt which she had spread on the floor for her bed,
wrapped it about her thin shoulders and returned to her
Again and again she rose, believing her patience
had won, and placed her ear to the crack only to hear a
sound within which told her only too plainly that the
girl was yet awake. Sometimes it was a sigh, sometimes
she cleared her throat, sometimes she tossed
restlessly. One spoken sentence she heard again and
"Oh, dear God, have mercy on my lost soul!"
"What can be the matter with the fool critter!"
Nance muttered. "Is she moanin' for sin? To be shore,
they don't have no revival meetings this time o' year!"
She had known sinners to mourn through a whole
summer sometimes, but never in all her experience in
religious revivals had a mourner carried it over into
winter. The dancing had always eased the tension and
brought a relapse to sinful thoughts.
The hours dragged until the roosters began to crow
for day. It would soon be light.
She must act now. There was no time to lose. She
pressed her ear to the crack once more and held it five
Not a sound came from within. The broken spirit
had yielded to the stupor of exhaustion at last.
With swift, cat's tread Nance circled the cabin and
entered the kitchen. The quilt she carefully spread on
the floor leading to the entrance to the living-room,
crossed it softly and stood in the doorway with her
long hands on the calico hangings.
For five minutes she remained immovable and
listened to the deep, regular breathing of the
sleeping man. Her wits were keen, her eyes wide.
She could see the dim outlines of the furniture by the
starlight through the window. Small objects in the
room were, of course, invisible. To light a candle was
not to be thought of. It might wake the sleeper.
She knew how to make the light without a noise or
its rays reaching his face. He had startled her with
the electric torch because of its novelty. She was no
longer afraid. She would know how to press the button.
He had left the thing lying on the table beside the
black bag. He might have hidden the gold. He would
not remember in his drunken stupor to move the electric
She glided ghost-like into the room. Her bare feet
were velvet. She knew every board in the floor. There
was one near the table that creaked. She counted her
steps and cleared the spot without a sound.
Her thin fingers found the edge of the table and
slipped with uncanny touch along its surface until her
hand closed on the rounded form of the torch.
Without moving in her tracks she turned the light
on the table and in every nook and corner of the room
beyond. She slowly swung her body on a pivot, flashing
the light into each shadow and over every inch of
floor, turning always in a circle toward the couch.
Satisfied that the object she sought was nowhere in
the circle she had covered, she moved a step from the
table and winked the light beneath it. She squatted on
the floor and flashed it carefully over every inch of
its boards from one corner of the room to the other and
under the couch.
She rose softly, glided behind the head of the
sleeping man and stood back some six feet, lest the
flash of the torch might disturb him. She threw its
rays behind the couch and slowly raised them until they
covered the dirty pillow on which Jim was sleeping.
There beneath the pillow lay the bag with its precious
treasure. He was sleeping on it. She had feared this,
but felt sure that the whiskey he had drunk would hold
him in its stupor until late next morning.
She crouched low and fixed the light's ray slowly
on the bag that her hand might not err the slightest in
its touch. She laid her bony fingers on it with a
slow, imperceptible movement, held them there a moment
and moved the bag the slightest bit to test the
sleeper's wakefulness. To her surprise he stirred
"What'ell!" he growled sleepily.
She stood motionless until he was breathing again
with deep, even, heavy throb. Gliding back to the
table, she flashed the light again on the bag and
studied its position. His big neck rested squarely
across it. To move it without waking him was a
Here was a dilemma she had not fully faced. She
had not believed it possible for him to place the bag
where she could not get it. Her only purpose up to
this moment had been to take it and store it safely
beneath the soft earth in the inner recess of the cave.
He would miss it in the morning, of course. She would
express her amazement. The bar would be down from the
front door. Someone had robbed him. The money could
never be found.
She had made up her mind to take it the moment he
had convinced her that his philosophy of life was true.
His eloquence had transformed her from an ignorant old
woman, content with her poverty and dirt, into a
dangerous and daring criminal.
There was no such thing as failure to be thought of
now for a moment. The spade in the inner room of her
store-house could be put to larger use if necessary.
With the strength of the madness now on her she could
carry his body on her back through the woods. The
world would be none the wiser. He had quarreled
with his wife, and left her in a rage that night. That
was all she knew. The sheriff of neither county could
afford to bother his head long over an insolvable
mystery. Besides, both sheriffs were her friends.
Her decision was instantaneous when once she saw
that it was safe.
She smiled over the grim irony of the thing--his
words kept humming in her ears, his voice, low and
"Suppose now the man that got that money had to
kill a fool to take it--what of it? You don't get big
money any other way!"
On the shelf beside the door was a butcher knife
which she also used for carving. She had sharpened its
point that night to carve her Christmas turkey next
She raised the torch and flashed its rays on the
shelf to guide her hand, crept to the wall, took down
the knife and laid the electric torch in its place.
Steadying her body against the wall, her arms
outspread, she edged her way behind the couch and bent
over the sleeping man until by his breathing she had
located his heart.
She raised her tall figure and brought the
knife down with a crash into his breast. With a
sudden wrench she drew it from the wound and crouched
among the shadows watching him with wide-dilated eyes.
The stricken sleeper gasped for breath, his
writhing body fairly leaped into the air, bounded on
the couch and stood erect. He staggered backward and
lurched toward her. The crouching figure bent low,
gripping the knife and waiting for her chance to strike
the last blow.
Strangling with blood, Jim opened his eyes and saw
the old woman creeping nearer through the gray light of
He threw his hands above his head and tried to
shout his warning. She was on him, her trembling hand
feeling for his throat, before he could speak.
Struggling, in his weakened condition, to tear her
fingers away, he gasped:
"Here! Here! Great God! Do you know what you're
"I just want yer money," she whispered. "That's
all, and I'm a-goin' ter have it!"
Her fingers closed and the knife sank into his
She sprang back and watched him lurch and fall
across the couch. His body writhed a moment in agony
and was still.
Holding the knife in her hand, she tore open the
bag and thrust her itching fingers into the gold,
gripping it fiercely.
"Nobody's goin' to ask ye how ye got it--they just
want to know HAVE ye got it--yeah! Yeah----"
The last word died on her lips. The door of the
shed-room suddenly opened and Mary stood before her.
CHAPTER XXII. DELIVERANCE
The first dim noises of the tragedy in the living-room
Mary's stupefied senses had confused with a nightmare
which she had
been painfully fighting.
The torch in Nance's hand had flashed through a
crack into her face once. It was the flame of a
revolver in the hands of a thief in Jim's den in New
York. She merely felt it. Her eyes had been gouged
out and she was blind. A gang of his coarse companions
were holding a council, cursing, drinking, fighting.
Jim had sprung between two snarling brutes and knocked
the revolver into the air. The flame had scorched her
With an oath he had slapped her.
"Get out, you damned little fool!" he growled.
"You're always in the way when you're not wanted.
Nobody can ever find you when there's work to be
"But I can't see, Jim dear," she pleaded. "I
do not know when things are out of place----"
"You're a liar!" he roared. "You know where every
piece of junk stands in this room better than I do. I
can't bring a friend into that door that you don't know
it. You can hear the swish of a woman's skirt on the
stairs four stories below----"
"I only asked you who the woman was who came in
with you, Jim----"
His fingers gripped her throat and stopped her
breath. Through the roar of surging blood she could
barely hear the vile words he was dinning into her
"I know you just asked me, you nosing little devil,
and it's none of your business! She's a pal of mine,
if you want to know, the slickest thief that ever
robbed a flat. She's got more sense in a minute than
you'll ever have in a lifetime. She's going to live
here with me now. You can sleep on the cot in the
kitchen. And you come when she calls, if you know
what's good for your lazy hide. I've told her to
thrash the life out of you if you dare to give her any
She had cowered at his feet and begged him not to
beat her again. The fumes of whiskey and stale beer
filled the place.
Jim turned from her to quell a new fight at
the other end of the room. Another woman was
there, coarse, dirty, beastly. She drew a knife and
demanded her share of the night's robberies. She was
trying to break from the men who held her to stab Jim.
They were all fighting and smashing the furniture----
She sprang from the bed with a cry of horror. The
noise was real! It was not a dream. The beast inside
was stumbling in the dark. His passions fired by
liquor, he was fumbling to find his way into her room.
She rushed to the door and put her shoulder against
the bar, panting in terror.
She heard his strangling cry:
"Here! Here! Great God! Do you know what you're
And then his mother's voice, mad with greed, cruel,
"I just want yer money--that's all, an' I'm goin'
to have it!"
She heard the clinch in the struggle and the dull
blow of the knife. In a sudden flash she saw it all.
He had succeeded in rousing Nance's avarice and
transforming her into a fiend. Without knowing it she
was stabbing her own son to death in the room in which
he had been born!
She tried to scream and her lips refused to move.
She tried to hurry to the rescue and her knees turned
Gasping for breath, she drew the bar from her
prison door and walked slowly into the room.
Nance's tall, bony figure was still crouched over
the open bag, her left hand buried in the gold, her
right gripping the knife, her face convulsed with
greed--avarice and murder blended into perfect hell-lit
unity at last.
Jim lay on his back, limp and still, obliquely
across the couch, his breast bared in the struggle, the
blood oozing a widening scarlet blot on his white
shirt. His head had fallen backward over the edge and
could not be seen.
Without moving a muscle, her body crouching, Nance
"You wuz awake--you heered?"
The gleaming eyes burned through the gray dawn, two
points of scintillating, hellish light fixed in purpose
on the intruder.
She had only meant to take the money. The fool had
fought. She killed him because she had to. And now
the sobbing, sniveling little idiot who had kept her
waiting all night had stuck her nose into some
thing that didn't concern her. If she opened her
mouth, the gallows would be the end.
She would open it too. Of course she would. She
was his wife. They had quarreled, but the simpleton
would blab. Nance knew this with unerring instinct.
It was no use to offer her half the money. She didn't
have sense enough to take it. She knew those pious,
baby faces--well, there was room for two in the cave
under the cliff. It was daylight now. No matter; it
was Christmas morning. No man or woman ever darkened
her door on Christmas day. She could hide their bodies
until dark, and then it was easy. She would be in New
York herself before anyone could suspect the meaning of
that automobile in the shed or the owners would trouble
themselves to come after it.
Again her decision was quick and fierce. Her hand
was on the bag. She would hold it against the world,
all hell and heaven.
With the leap of a tigress she was on the girl, the
bag gripped in her left hand, the knife in her right.
To her amazement the trembling figure stood stock
still gazing at her with a strange look of pity.
"Well!" Nance growled. "I ain't goin' ter be
took now I've got this money--I'm goin' to New York ter
find my boy!"
She lifted the knife and stopped in sheer stupor of
surprise at the girl's immovable body and staring eyes.
Had she gone crazy? What on earth could it mean? No
girl of her youth and beauty could look death in the
face without a tremor. No woman in her right senses
could see the body of her dead husband lying there red
and yet quivering without a sign. It was more than
even Nance's nerves could endure.
She lowered the knife and peered into the girl's
set face and glanced quickly about the room. Could she
have called help? Was the house surrounded? It was
impossible. She couldn't have escaped. What did it
The old woman drew back with a terror she couldn't
"What are you looking at me like that for?" she
Mary held her gaze in lingering pity. Her heart
went out now to the miserable creature trembling in the
presence of her victim. The blow must fall that would
crush the soul out of her body at one stroke. The gray
hair had tumbled over her distorted features, the
ragged dress had been torn from her throat in the
struggle and her flat, bony breast was exposed.
"You don't--have--to--go--to--New York--to--find--
your--boy!" the strained voice said at last.
Nance frowned in surprise and flew back at her in
"Yes I do, too--he lives thar!"
The little figure straightened above the crouching
Nance sank slowly against the table and rested the
bag on the edge of the chair. Its weight was more than
she could bear. She tried to glance over her shoulder
at the body on the couch and her courage failed. The
first suspicion of the hideous truth flashed through
her stunned mind. She couldn't grasp it at once.
"Whar?" she whispered hoarsely.
Mary lifted her arm slowly and pointed to the
Nance glared at her a moment and broke into a
"It's a lie--a lie--a lie!"
"Yer're just a lyin' ter me ter get away an give me
up--but ye won't do it--little Miss--old Nance is too
smart for ye this time. Who told you that?"
"He told me tonight!"
"He told you?" she repeated blankly.
"You're a liar!" she growled. "And I'll prove it--
you move out o' your tracks an' I'll cut your throat.
My boy's got a scar on his neck--I know right whar to
look for it. Don't you move now till I see--I know
you're a liar----"
She turned and with the quick trembling fingers of
her right hand tore the shirt back from the neck and
saw the scar. She still held the bag in her left hand.
The muscles slowly relaxed and the bag fell endwise to
the floor, the gold crashing and rolling over the
boards. She stared in stupor and threw both hands
above her streaming gray hair.
"Lord God Almighty!" she shrieked. "Why didn't I
think that he wuz somebody else's boy if he weren't
The thin body trembled and crumpled beside the
The girl lifted her head in a look of awe as if in
"And God has set me free! free! free!"
CHAPTER XXIII. THE DOCTOR
Mary stood overwhelmed by the tragedy she had
witnessed. For the time her brain refused to record
sensations. She had seen too much, felt too much in
the past eight hours. Soul and body were numb.
The first impressions of returning consciousness
were fixed on Nance. She had risen suddenly from the
floor and smoothed the hair back from Jim's forehead
with tender touch as if afraid to wake him. She drew
the quilt from the kitchen floor, spread it over the
body, and lifted her eyes to Mary's. It was only too
Reason had gone.
She tipped close and put her fingers on her lips.
"Sh! We mustn't wake him. He's tired. Let him
sleep. It's my boy. He's come home. We'll fix him a
fine Christmas dinner. I've got a turkey. I'll bake a
cake----" she paused and laughed softly. "I've got
eggs too, fresh laid yesterday. We'll make egg-
nog all day and all night. I ain't had no Christmas
since that devil stole him. We'll have one this time,
The girl's wits were again alert. She must run for
help. A minute to humor the old woman's delusion and
she might return before any harm came to her. Jim had
not moved a muscle. It was plain that he was beyond
"Yes," Mary answered cheerfully. "You fix the
cake--and I'll get the wood to make a fire."
Nance laughed again.
"We'll have the dinner all ready for him when he
wakes, won't we?"
"Yes. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Nance hurried into the kitchen humming an old song
in a faltering voice that sent the cold chills down the
Mary slipped quietly through the door and ran with
swift, sure foot down the narrow road along which the
machine had picked its way the afternoon before. The
cabin they had passed last could not be more than a
She made no effort to find the logs for pedestrians
when the road crossed the brook. She plunged straight
through the babbling waters with her shoes, regardless
Panting for breath, she saw the smoke curling from
the cabin chimney a quarter of a mile away.
"Thank God!" she cried. "They're awake!"
She was so glad to have reached her goal, her
strength suddenly gave way and she dropped to a boulder
by the wayside to rest. In two minutes she was up and
running with all her might.
She rushed to the door and knocked.
A mountaineer in shirt-sleeves and stockings
answered with a look of mild wonder.
"For God's sake come and help me. I must have a
doctor quick. We spent the night at Mrs. Owens'.
She's lost her mind completely--a terrible thing has
happened--you'll help me?"
"Cose I will, honey," the mountaineer drawled.
"Jest ez quick ez I get on my shoes."
"Is there a doctor near?" she asked breathlessly.
He answered without looking up:
"The best one that God ever sent to a sick bed. He
don't charge nobody a cent in these parts. He just
heals the sick because hit's his callin'. Come from
somewhar up North and built hisself a fine log house up
on the side of the mountains. Hit's full of all the
medicines in the world, too----"
"Will you ask him to come for me?" Mary broke
"I'll jump on my hoss an' have him thar in half a'
hour. You can run right back, honey, and look out for
the po' ole critter till we get thar."
"Thank you! Thank you!" she answered grate fully.
"Not at all, not at all!" he protested as he swung
through the door and hurried to the low-pitched sheds
in which his horse and cow were stabled. "Be thar in
When Mary returned, Nance was still busy in the
kitchen. She had built a fire and put the turkey in
Mary was counting the minutes now until the doctor
should come. The old woman's prattle about the return
of her lost boy, so big and strong and handsome, had
become unendurable. She felt that she should scream
and collapse unless help came at once. She looked at
her watch. It was just thirty-five minutes from the
time she had left the cabin in the valley below.
She sprang to her feet with a smothered cry of joy.
The beat of a horse's hoof at full gallop was ringing
down the road.
In two minutes the Doctor's firm footstep was heard
at the kitchen door.
Nance turned with a look of glad surprise.
"Well, fur the land sake, ef hit ain't Doctor
Mulford! Come right in!" she cried.
The Doctor seized her hand.
"And how is my good friend, Mrs. Owens, this
morning?" he asked cheerfully.
Mary was studying him with deep interest. She had
asked herself the question a hundred times how much she
could tell him--what to say and what to leave unsaid.
One glance at his calm, intellectual face was enough.
He was a man of striking appearance, six feet tall,
forty-five years of age, hair prematurely gray and a
slight stoop to his broad shoulders. His brown eyes
seemed to enfold the old woman in their sympathy.
Nance was chattering her answer to his greeting.
"Oh, I'm feelin' fine, Doctor--" she dropped her
voice confidentially--"and you're just in time for a
good dinner. My boy that was lost has come home. He's
a great big fellow, wears fine clothes and come up the
mountain all the way in a devil wagon." She put her
hand to her mouth. "Sh! He's asleep! We won't wake
him till dinner! He's all tired out."
The Doctor nodded understandingly and turned toward
"And this young lady?"
"Oh, that's his wife from New York--ain't she
The Doctor saw the delicate hands trembling and
No word was spoken. None was needed. There was
healing in his touch, healing in his whole being. No
man or woman could resist the appeal of his
personality. Their secrets were yielded with perfect
"Come with me quickly," Mary whispered.
"I understand," he answered carelessly.
Turning again to Nance, he said with easy
"I'll not disturb you with your cooking, Mrs.
Owens. Go right on with it. I'll have a little chat
with your son's wife. If she's from New York I want to
ask her about some of my people up there----"
"All right," Nance answered, "but don't you wake
HIM! Go with her inter the shed-room."
"We'll go on tip-toe!" the Doctor whispered.
Nance nodded, smiled and bent again over the oven.
Mary led him quickly through the living-room, head
averted from the couch, and into the prison cell in
which she had passed the night. The physician
glanced with a startled look at the gold still
scattered on the floor.
She seized his hand and swayed.
He touched the brown hair of her bared head gently
and pressed her hand.
"Steady, now, child, tell me quickly."
"Yes, yes," she gasped, "I'll tell you the
He held her gaze.
"And the whole truth--it's best."
Mary nodded, tried to speak and failed. She drew
her breath and steadied herself, still gripping his
"I will," she began faintly. "He's dead----"
She paused and nodded toward the living-room.
"The man--her son?"
"Yes. We came last night from Asheville. We were
on our honeymoon. We haven't been married but three
weeks. I never knew the truth about his life and
character until last night when he told me that this
old woman was his mother. I found a case of jewels in
the bag he carried--jewels that belonged to a man in
New York who was robbed and shot. I recognized the
case. He confessed to me at last in cold, brutal words
that he was a thief. I couldn't believe it at first.
I tried to make him give up his criminal career.
He laughed at me. He gloried in it. I tried to leave
him. He choked me into insensibility and drove me into
this cell, where I spent the night. He brought the
gold that you saw on the floor which he had honestly
made to give to his old mother--but for a devilish
purpose. He showed it to her last night to rouse her
avarice and make her first agree to hide his stolen
goods. He succeeded too well. Before he had revealed
himself she slipped into the room at daylight while he
slept in a drunken stupor, murdered him and took the
money. The struggle waked me and I rushed in. She
gripped her knife to kill me. I told her that she had
murdered her own son and she went mad----"
She paused for breath and her lips trembled
"You know what to do, Doctor?"
"And you'll help me?"
He smiled tenderly and nodded his head.
"God knows you need it, child!"
The nerves snapped at last, and she sank a limp
heap at his feet.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE CALL DIVINE
The Doctor threw off his coat and took charge of the
stricken house. He sent his waiting messenger for a
faithful nurse, a mountain woman whom he had trained,
and began the fight for Mary's life. The collapse into
which she had fallen would require weeks of patient
care. There was no immediate danger of death, and
while he awaited the arrival of help, he turned into
the living-room to examine the body of the slain
The head had fallen backward over the side of the
lounge and a pool of blood, still warm and red, lay on
the floor in a widening circle beneath it. His quick
eye took in its significance at a glance. He sprang
forward, ripped the shirt wide open and applied his ear
to the breast.
"He's still alive!" he cried excitedly.
He examined the ugly wound in the left side and
found that the knife had penetrated the lung. The
heart had not been touched. The blow on the neck had
not been fatal. The shock of the final stroke had
merely choked the wounded man into collapse from the
hemorrhage of the left lung. The position into which
the body had fallen across the couch had gradually
cleared the accumulated blood. There was a chance to
save his life.
In ten minutes he had applied stimulants and
restored respiration, but the deep wheeze from the
stricken lung told only too plainly the dangerous
character of the wound. It would be a bitter fight.
His enormous vitality might win. The chances were
Jim's lips moved and he tried to speak.
The Doctor placed his hand on his mouth and shook
his head. The drooping eyelids closed in grateful
The beat of horses' hoofs echoed down the mountain
road. His nurse and messenger were coming. He decided
at once to move Mary to his own house. She must regain
consciousness in new surroundings or her chance of
survival would be slender. To awake in this miserable
cabin, the scene of the tragedy she had witnessed,
might be instantly fatal. Besides she must not yet
know that the brute who had choked her was alive and
might still hold the power of life and death over
her frail body. She believed him dead. It was best
so. He might be dead and buried before she recovered
consciousness. The fever that burned her brain would
completely cloud reason for days.
He hastily improvised a stretcher with a blanket
and two strong quilting-poles which stood in the corner
of the room. Nance helped him without question. She
obeyed his slightest suggestion with childlike
He placed Mary on the stretcher, wrapped her body
in another warm blanket and turned to his nurse and
"Carry her to my house. Walk slowly and rest
whenever you wish. Don't wake her. Tell Aunt Abbie to
put her to bed in the south room overlooking the
valley. Don't leave her a minute, Betty. She's in the
first collapse of brain fever. You know what to do.
I'll be there in an hour. You come back here, John. I
The mountaineer nodded and seized one end of the
stretcher. The nurse took up the other and the Doctor
held wide the cabin door as they passed out.
For three weeks he fought the grim battle with
Death for the two young lives the Christmas
tragedy had thrust into his hands. He gave his
entire time day and night to the desperate struggle.
When pneumonia had developed and Jim's life hung by
a hair, he slept on the couch in the living-room of the
cabin and had Nance make for herself a bed on the floor
of the kitchen.
The old woman remained an obedient child. She
cooked the Doctor's meals and did the work about the
house and yard as if nothing had disturbed her habits
of lonely plodding. She believed implicitly all that
was told her. Her son had pneumonia from cold he had
taken in the long drive from Asheville. The house must
be kept quiet. John Sanders was helping her nurse him.
She was sure the Doctor would save him.
Even the knife with which she had stabbed him made
no impression on her numbed senses. The Doctor had
scoured every trace of blood from the blade and put it
back in its place on the shelf, lest she should miss it
and ask questions. She used it daily without the
slightest memory of the frightful story it might tell.
Each morning before going to the cabin the Doctor
watched with patience for the first signs of returning
consciousness in Mary's fever-wracked body. The day
she lifted her grateful eyes to his and her lips
moved in a tremulous question he raised his hand
"Sh! Child--don't talk! It's all right. You're
getting better. I've been with you every day. You're
in my house now. You'll soon be yourself again."
She smiled wanly, put her delicate hand on his and
pressed it gratefully.
"I understand. You thank me--you say that I am
good to you. But I'm not. This is my life. I heal
the sick because I must. I love this battle royal with
Death. He beats me sometimes--but I never quit. I'm
always tramping on his trail, and I've won this fight!"
The calm brown eyes held her in a spell and she
"Sleep now," he said soothingly. "Sleep day and
night. Just wake to take a little food--that's all and
Nature will do the rest."
He stroked her hand gently until her eyelids
Two days later Jim clung to the Doctor's hand and
insisted on talking.
"Better wait a little longer, boy," the physician
answered kindly. "You're not out of the woods
"I can't wait--Doc----" Jim pleaded. "I've just
got to ask you something."
"All right. You can talk five minutes."
"My wife, Doc, how is she? You took her to your
house, John told me. She'll get well?"
"Yes. She's rapidly recovering now."
"What does she say about me?"
"She thinks you're dead."
"You haven't told her?"
"She had all she could stand----"
Jim stared in silence.
"You think she'd be sorry to know I am alive?" he
"It would be a great shock."
The steel blue eyes slowly filled with tears.
"God! I am rotten, ain't I?"
"There's no doubt about that, my son," was the firm
"Why did you fight so hard to save me--I wonder?"
"An old feud between Death and me."
Jim suddenly seized the Doctor's hand.
"Say, you can't fool me--you're a good one, Doc.
You've been a friend to me and you've got to
help now--you've just got to. You're the only one
on earth who can. You've a great big heart and you
can't go back on a fellow that's down and out. Give me
a chance! You will--won't you?"
The hot fingers gripped the Doctor's hand with
The brown eyes searched Jim's soul.
"If you can show me it's worth while----"
The fingers tightened their grip in silence.
"Just give me a chance, Doc," he said at last, "and
I'll show you! I ain't never had a chance to really
know what was right and what was wrong. If I'd a lived
here with my old mother she'd have told me. You know
what it is to be a stray dog on the streets of New
York? Even then, I'd have kept straight if I hadn't
been robbed by a lawyer and his pal. I didn't know
what I was doin' till that night here in this cabin--
honest to God, I didn't----"
He paused for breath and a tear stole down his
cheek. He fought for control of his emotions and went
on in low tones.
"I didn't know--till I saw my old mother creepin'
on me in the shadows with that big knife gleamin' in
her hand! I tried to stop her and I couldn't. I tried
to yell and strangled with blood. I saw the flames of
hell in her eyes and I had kindled them there--
God! I never knew until that minute! I'm broken and
bruised lyin' on the rocks now in the lowest pit----
Give me your hand, Doc! You're my only friend--I'm
goin' straight from now on--so help me God!"
He paused again for breath and sought the actor's
"You'll stand by me, won't you?"
A friendly grip closed on the trembling fingers.
"Yes--I'll help you--if I can."
CHAPTER XXV. THE MOTHER
Mary was resting in the chair beneath the southern
windows of the sun-parlor of the Doctor's bungalow. He
had built his home of logs cut from the mountainside.
Its rooms were supplied with every modern convenience
and comfort. Clear spring water from the cliff above
poured into the cypress tank constructed beneath the
roof. An overflow pipe sent a sparkling, bubbling and
laughing through the lawn, refreshing the wild flowers
planted along its edges.
The view from the window looking south was one of
ravishing beauty and endless charm. Perched on a
rising spur of the Black Mountain the house commanded a
view of the long valley of the Swannanoa opening at the
lower end into the wide, sunlit sweep of the lower
hills around Asheville. Upward the balsam-crowned
peaks towered among the clouds and stars.
No two hours of the day were just alike.
Sometimes the sun was raining showers of diamonds
on the trembling tree-tops of the valleys while the
blackest storm clouds hung in ominous menace around
Mount Mitchell and the Cat-tail. Sometimes it was
raining in the valley--the rain cloud a level sheet of
gray cloth stretching from the foot of the lawn across
to the crags beyond, while the sun wrapped the little
bungalow in a warm, white mantle.
Mary had never tired of this enchanted world during
the days of her convalescence. The Doctor, with firm
will, had lifted every care from her mind. She had
gratefully submitted to his orders, and asked no
She began to wonder vaguely about his life and
people and why he had left the world in which a man of
his culture and power must have moved, to bury himself
in these mountain wilds. She wondered if he had
married, separated from his wife and chosen the life of
a recluse. He volunteered no information about
When not attending his patients he spent his hours
in the greenhouse among his flowers or in the long
library extension of the bungalow. More than five
thousand volumes filled the solid shelves. A massive
oak table, ten feet in length and four feet wide,
stood in the center of the room, always generously
piled with books, magazines and papers. At the end of
this table he kept the row of books which bore
immediately on the theme he was studying.
Beside the window opening on the view of the valley
stood his old-fashioned desk--six feet long, its top a
labyrinth of pigeon-holes and tiny drawers.
He pursued his studies with boyish enthusiasm and
chattered of them to Mary by the hour--with never a
word passing his lips about himself.
Aunt Abbie, the cook, brought her a cup of tea, and
Mary volunteered a question.
"Do you know the Doctor's people, Auntie?" she
"Lord, child, he's a mystery to everybody! All we
know is that he's the best man that ever walked the
earth. He won't talk and the mountain folks are too
polite to nose into his business. He saved my boy's
life one summer, and when he was strong and well and
went back to Asheville to his work, I had nothin' to do
but to hold my hands, and I come here to cook for him.
He tries to pay me wages but I laugh at him. I told
him if he could save my boy's life for nothin' I reckon
I could cook him a few good meals without pay----"
Her eyes filled with tears. She brushed them off,
laughed and added:
"He lets me alone now and don't pester me no more
Her tea and toast finished, Mary placed the tray on
the table, rose with a sudden look of pain, and made
her way slowly to the library.
A warm fire of hardwood logs sparkled in the big
stone fireplace. The Doctor was out on a visit to a
patient. He had given her the freedom of the place and
had especially insisted that she use his books and make
his library her resting place whenever her mind was
fagged. She had spent many quiet hours in its
She seated herself at his desk and studied the
calendar which hung above it. A sudden terror
overwhelmed her; she buried her face in her arms and
burst into tears.
She was still lying across the desk, sobbing, when
the Doctor walked into the room.
He touched her hair reproachfully with his firm
"Why, what's this? My little soldier has disobeyed
"I don't want to live now," she sobbed.
"And why not?"
"I--I--am going to be a mother," she whispered.
"The mother of a criminal! Oh, Doctor, it's
horrible! Why did you let me live? The hell I passed
through that night was enough--God knows! This will be
unendurable. I've made up my mind--I'll die first----"
"Rubbish, child! Rubbish!" he answered with a
laugh. "Where did you get all this misinformation?"
"You know what my husband was. How can you ask?"
"Because I happen to know also his wife--the
mother-to-be of this supposed criminal who has just set
sail for the shores of our planet--and I know that she
is one of the purest and sweetest souls who ever lost
her way in the jungles of the world. If you were the
criminal, dear heart, the case might be hopeless. But
you're not. You are only the innocent victim of your
own folly. That doesn't count in the game of
"What do you mean?" she asked breathlessly.
"Simply this: The part which the male plays in the
reproduction of the race is small in comparison with
the role of the female. He is merely a supernumerary
who steps on the stage for a moment
and speaks one word announcing the arrival of the
queen. The queen is the mother. She plays the star
role in the drama of Heredity. She is never off the
stage for a single moment. We inherit the most obvious
physical traits from our male ancestors but even these
may be modified by the will of the mother."
"Modified by the will of the mother?" she repeated
"Certainly. There are yet long days and weeks and
months before your babe will be born--at least seven
months. There's not a sight or sound of earth or
heaven that can reach or influence this coming human
being save through your eyes and ears and touch and
soul. Almighty God can speak His message only through
you. You are his ambassador on earth in this solemn
hour. What your husband was, is of little importance.
There is not a moment, waking or sleeping, day or
night, that does not bring to you its divine
opportunity. This human life is yours--absolutely to
mold and fashion in body and mind as you will."
"You're just saying this to keep me from suicide,"
"I am telling you the simplest truth of physical
life. You can even change the contour of your
baby's head if you like. You think in your silly fears
that the bull neck and jaw of the father will reappear
in the child. It might be so unless you see fit to
change it. All any father can do is to transmit
general physical traits unless modified by the will of
"You mean that I can choose even the personal
appearance of my child?" she asked in blank amazement.
"Exactly that. Choose the type of man you wish
your babe to be and it shall be so. Who in all the
world would you prefer that he resemble?"
"You," she answered promptly.
He smiled gently.
"That pays me for all my trouble, child! No doctor
ever got a bigger fee than that. Banks may fail, but
I'll never lose it. Your choice simplifies that matter
very much. You won't need a picture in your room----"
"A picture could determine the features of an
unborn babe?" she asked incredulously.
"Beyond a doubt, and it will determine character
sometimes. I knew a mother in the mountains of Vermont
who hung the picture of a ship under full sail in her
living-room. She bore seven sons. Not one of them
ever saw the ocean until he was grown and yet all
of them became sailors. This was not an accident. In
her age and loneliness she blamed God for taking her
children from her. Yet she had made sailors of them
all by the selection of a single piece of furniture in
her room. Nature has a way of starting her children on
their journey through this world very nearly equal--
each a bundle of possibilities in the hands of a
mother. A father may transmit physical disease, if his
body is unsound. Such marriages should be prohibited
by law. But nine-tenths of the spiritual traits out of
which character is formed are the work of the mother.
A criminal mother will bring into the world only
criminals. A criminal male may be the father of a
saint. The responsibility of shaping the destiny of
the race rests with the mother----"
The Doctor sprang to his feet and paced the floor,
his arms gripped behind his back in deep thought. He
paused before the enraptured listener and hesitated to
speak the thought in his mind.
He lifted his hand suddenly, his decision
"It is of the utmost importance to the race that
our mothers shall be pure. Better certainly if both
father and mother are so. It is indispensable that the
mother shall be! On this elemental fact rests the
dual standard of sex morals. On this fact rests the
hope of a glorified humanity through the development of
an intelligent motherhood. Stay here with me until
your child is born and I'll prove the truth of every
word I've spoken----"
"Oh, if I only could!"
"I couldn't impose such a burden on you!" she
"You would confer on me the highest honor, if you
will allow me to direct you in this experiment."
There was no mistaking his honesty and earnestness.
There was no refusing the appeal.
"You really wish me to stay?" she asked.
"I beg of you to stay! You will bring to me a new
inspiration--new faith--new courage to fight. Will
She extended her hand.
"And you will agree to follow my instructions?"
"Good. We begin from this moment. I give you my
first orders. Forget that James Anthony ever lived.
Forget the tragedy of Christmas Eve. You are going to
be a mother. All other events in life pale before this
fact. God has conferred on you the highest honor
He can give to mortal. Keep your soul serene, your
body strong. You are to worry about nothing----"
"I must pay you for this extra expense I impose,
Doctor. I have a thousand dollars in bank in New
York," she interrupted.
"Certainly, if you will be happier. My home is now
your sanitarium. You are my patient. Your board will
cost me about eight dollars a week. All right. You
can pay that if you wish.
"Take no thought now except on the business of
being a mother. I will make myself your father, your
brother, your guardian, your physician, your friend and
companion. I will give you at once a course of
reading. You are to think only beautiful thoughts, see
beautiful things, dream beautiful dreams, hear
beautiful music. I'm going to make you climb these
mountain peaks with me for the next three months and
live among the clouds. I'm going to refit your room
with new furniture and pictures and place in it a
phonograph with the best music. When you are strong
enough you can work for me three hours a day as my
secretary. You use the typewriter?"
"I'm an expert----"
"Good! I'm writing a book which I'm going to
call `The Rulers of the World.' It is a study of
Motherhood. I am one who believes that the redemption
of humanity awaits the realization by woman of her
divine call. When woman knows that she is really a co-
creator with God in the reproduction of the race, a new
era will dawn for mankind. You promise me faithfully
to obey my instructions?"
"You're a wonderful subject on which to make an
experiment. You are young--in the first dawn of the
glory of womanhood. Your body is beautiful, your mind
singularly pure and sweet. You must give me at once
the full power of your will in its concentration on
Truth and Beauty. The success or failure of this
experiment will depend almost entirely on your
mentality and the use you make of it during these
months in which your babe is being formed. Whatever
the shape of the body there is one eternal certainty--
only YOUR mind can reach the soul of this child.
If the father were the veriest fiend who ever existed
and should concentrate his mind to the task, not one
thought from his darkened soul could reach your babe!
YOUR mind will be the ever-brooding, enfolding
spirit forming and fashioning character."
He paused and his deep brown eyes flashed with
"Think of it! You are now creating an immortal
being whose word may bend a million wills to his. And
you are doing this mighty work solely by your mind.
The physical processes are simple and automatic.
"The first lesson you must learn and hold with
deathless grip is that thoughts are things. A thought
can kill the body. A thought can heal the body. If I
am successful as a physician it is because I use this
power with my patients. With some I use drugs, with
others none. With all I use every ounce of mental
power which God has given me. You will remember this?"
He walked to the shelves and drew down a volume of
"Read these poems until you are tired today--then
sleep. I'll give you a good novel tomorrow and when
you've read it, a volume of philosophy. When we climb
the peaks, I'll give you a study of these rocks that
will tell you the story of their birth, their life, and
their coming death. We'll learn something of the birds
and flowers next spring. We'll dream great dreams and
think great thoughts--you and I--in these
wonderful days and weeks and months which God shall
give us together."
She looked up at him through her tears:
"Oh, Doctor, you have not only saved a miserable
life: you have saved my soul!"
CHAPTER XXVI. A SOUL IS BORN
It was more than a month after the experiment began
before the Doctor ventured to hint of Jim's survival.
He had waited patiently until Mary's strength had been
fully restored and her
mind filled with the new enthusiasm for motherhood. He
could tell her now with little risk. And yet he
ventured on the task with reluctance. He found her
seated at her favorite window overlooking the deep blue
valley of the Swannanoa, a volume of poetry in her lap.
He touched her shoulder and she smiled in cheerful
"You are content?" he asked.
"A strange peace is slowly stealing into my heart,"
she responded reverently. "I shall learn to love life
again when my baby comes to help me."
"You remember your solemn promise?"
"Have I not kept it?" she murmured.
"Faithfully--and I remind you of it that you
may not forget today for a moment that your work
is too high and holy to allow a shadow to darken your
spirit even for an hour. I have something to tell you
that may shock a little unless I warn you----"
She lifted her eyes with a quick look of
uneasiness, and studied his immovable face.
"You couldn't guess?" he laughed.
She shook her head in puzzled silence.
"Suppose I were to tell you," he went on evenly,
"that I found a spark of life in your husband's body
that morning and drew him back from the grave?"
Her eyes closed and she stretched her hand toward
He clasped the fingers firmly between both his
palms, held and stroked them gently.
"You did save him?" she breathed.
"Thank God his poor old mother is not a murderer!
But he is dead to me. I shall never see him again--
"I thought you would feel that way," the Doctor
"You won't let him come here?" she asked suddenly.
"He won't try unless you consent----"
"You don't know him----"
The Doctor smiled.
"I'm afraid you don't know him now, my child."
"He has changed?"
"The old, old miracle over again. He has been
literally born again--this time of the spirit."
"It's true. He's a new man. I think his
reformation is the real thing. He's young. He's
strong. He has brains. He has personality----"
Mary lifted her hand.
"All I ask of him is to keep out of my sight. The
world is big enough for us both. The past is now a
nightmare. If I live to be a hundred years old, with
my dying breath I shall feel the grip of his fingers on
She paused and closed her eyes.
"Forget it! Forget it!" the Doctor laughed. "We
have more important things to think of now."
"He wishes to see me?"
"Begs every day that I ask you."
"And you have hesitated these long weeks?"
"Your strength and peace of mind were of greater
importance than his happiness, my dear. Let him wait
until you please to see him."
"He'll wait forever," was the firm answer.
Jim smiled grimly when his friend bore back the
"I'll never give up as long as there's breath in my
body," he cried, bringing his square jaws together with
"That's the way to talk, my boy," the Doctor
"Anyhow you believe in me, Doc, don't you?"
"And you'll help me a little on the way if it gets
"If I can--you may always depend on me."
Jim clasped his outstretched hand gratefully.
"Well, I'm going to make good."
There was something so genuine and manly in the
tones of his voice, he compelled the Doctor's respect.
A smaller man might have sneered. The healer of souls
and bodies had come to recognize with unerring instinct
the true and false note in the human voice.
His heart went out in a wave of sympathy for the
lonely, miserable young animal who stood before him
now, trembling with the first sharp pains of the
immortal thing that had awaked within. He slipped his
arm about Jim's shoulders and whispered:
"I'll tell you something that may help you
when the way gets dark--the wife is going to bear
you a child."
"God!---- That's great, ain't it?"
Jim choked into silence and looked up at the Doctor
with dimmed eyes.
"Say, Doc, you hit me hard when you brought what
she said--but that's good news! Watch me work my hands
to the bone--you know it's my kid and she can't keep me
from workin' for it if she tries now can she?"
"There's just one thing that'll hang over me like a
black cloud," he mused sorrowfully.
"I know, boy--your mother's darkened mind."
"When I see that queer glitter in her eyes it goes
through me like a knife. Will she ever get over it?"
"We can't tell yet. It takes time. I believe she
"You'll do the best you can for her, Doc?" he
pleaded pathetically. "You won't forget her a single
day? If you can't cure her, nobody can."
"I'll do my level best, boy."
Jim pressed his hand again.
"Gee, but you've been a friend to me! I didn't
know that there were such men in the world as you!"
For six months the Doctor watched the transplanted
child of the slums grow into a sturdy manhood in his
new environment. He snapped at every suggestion his
friend gave and with quick wit improved on it. He not
only discovered and developed a mica mine on his
mother's farm, he invented new machinery for its
working that doubled the market output. Within six
weeks from the time he began his shipments the mine was
paying a steady profit of more than five hundred
dollars a month. He had made just one trip to New York
and secretly returned to the police every stolen jewel
and piece of plunder taken, with a full confession of
the time and place of the crime. He had shipped his
tools and machinery from the workshop on the east side
before his sensational act and made good his departure
for the South.
The tools and machinery he installed in a new
workshop which he built in the yard of Nance's cabin.
Here he worked day and night at his blacksmith forge
making the iron hinges, and irons, shovels, tongs, fire
sets and iron work complete for a log bungalow of seven
rooms which he was building on the sunny slope of
the mountain which overlooks the valley toward
The Doctor had lent Jim the blue-prints of his own
home and he was quietly duplicating it with loving
care. His wife might refuse to see him but he could
build a home for their boy. For his sake she couldn't
With childlike obedience Nance followed him every
day and watched the workmen rear the beautiful
structure under Jim's keen eyes and skillful hands.
The man's devotion to his mother was pathetic. Only
the Doctor knew the secret of his pitiful care, and he
kept his own counsel.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE BABY
The last roses of summer were bursting their topmost
buds into full bloom on the lawn of the Doctor's
bungalow. The martins that built each year in the
little boxes he had set on poles around his garden were
circling and chattering far up in the sapphire skies of
a late September day. Their leaders had sensed the
coming frost and were drilling for their long march
across the world to their winter home. The chestnut
burrs were bursting in the woods. The silent sun-
wrapped Indian Summer had begun. Not a cloud flecked
A quiet joy filled the soul of the woman who smiled
and heard her summons.
"You are not afraid?" the Doctor asked.
She turned her grateful eyes to his.
"The peace of God fills the world--and I owe it all
"Nonsense. Your sturdy will and cultivated mind
did the work. I merely made the suggestion."
"You are not going to give me an anesthetic, are
you?" she said evenly.
"Why did you ask that?"
"Because I wish to feel and know the pain and glory
of it all."
"You don't wish to take it?"
"Not unless you say I should."
"What a wonderful patient you are, child! What a
beautiful spirit!" He looked at her intently. "Well,
I'm older and wiser in experience than you. I'm glad
you added that clause `unless you say I should.' I'm
going to say it. After all my talks to you on our
return to the truths and simplicity of Nature you are
perhaps surprised. You needn't be. I'm going to put
you into a gentle sleep. Nature will then do her
physical work automatically. I do this because our
daughters are the inheritors of the sins of their
mothers for centuries. The over-refinement of nerves,
the hothouse methods of living, and the maiming of
their bodies with the inventions of fashion have made
the pains of this supreme hour beyond endurance. This
should not be. It will not be so when our race has
come into its own. But it will take many generations
and perhaps many centuries before we reach the ideal.
No physician who has a soul could permit a woman of
your physique, your culture and refinement to walk
barefoot and blindfolded into such a hell of physical
torture. I will not permit it."
He walked quietly into his laboratory, prepared the
sleeping powders and gave them to her.
Six hours later she opened her eyes with eager
wonder. Aunt Abbie was busy over a bundle of fluffy
clothes. The Doctor was standing with his arms folded
behind his back, his fine, clean-shaven face in profile
looking thoughtfully over the sun-lit valley. There
was just one moment of agonized fear. If they had
failed! If her child were hideous--or deformed! Her
lips moved in silent prayer.
"Doctor?" she whispered.
In a moment he was bending over her, a look of
exaltation in his brown eyes.
"Tell me quick!"
"A wonderful boy, little mother! The most
beautiful babe I have ever seen. He didn't even cry--
just opened his big, wide eyes and grunted
"Give him to me."
Aunt Abbie laid the warm bundle in her arms and she
pressed it gently until the sweet, red flesh touched
her own. She lay still for a moment, a smile on her
"Lift him and let me look!"
"What a funny little pug nose," she laughed.
"Yes--exactly like his mother's!" the Doctor
She gazed with breathless reverence.
"He is beautiful, isn't he?" she sighed.
"And you have observed the chin and mouth?"
"Exactly like yours. It's wonderful!"
CHAPTER XXVIII. WHAT IS LOVE?
Eighteen months swiftly passed with the little mother
and her boy still in Dr. Mulford's sanitarium. She had
allowed herself to be persuaded that he had the right
to be her guide and helper in the first year's training
of the child.
The boy had steadily grown in strength and beauty
of body and mind. The Doctor persuaded her to spend
one more winter basking in his sun-parlor and finishing
the final chapters of his book. Her mind was
singularly clever and helpful in the interpretation of
the experiences and emotions of motherhood.
She had stubbornly resisted every suggestion to see
her husband or allow him to see the child. The Doctor
had managed twice to give Jim an hour with the baby
while she had gone to Asheville on shopping trips. He
was rewarded for his trouble in the devotion with which
the young father worshiped his son. The Doctor
watched the slumbering fires kindle in the man's deep
blue eyes with increasing wonder at the strength and
tenderness of his newfound soul.
Jim had completed the furnishing of the bungalow
with the advice and guidance of his friend, and every
room stood ready and waiting for its mistress. He had
insisted on making every piece of furniture for Mary's
room and the nursery adjoining. The Doctor was amazed
at the mechanical genius he displayed in its
construction. He had taken a month's instruction at a
cabinet maker's in Asheville and the bed, bureau,
tables and chairs which he had turned out were
astonishingly beautiful. Their lines were copied from
old models and each piece was a work of art. The iron
work was even more tastefully and beautifully wrought.
He had toiled day and night with an enthusiasm and
patience that gave the physician a new revelation in
the possibility of the development of human character.
His friend came at last with a cheering message.
He began smilingly:
"I'm going to make the big fight today, boy, to get
her to see you."
"You think she will?"
"There's a good chance. Her savings have all
been used up from her bank account in New York. She is
determined to go to her father in Kentucky. I'll have
a talk with her, bring her over to the bungalow, show
her through it on the pretext of its model construction
and then you can tell her that you built it with your
own hands for her and the baby. You might be loafing
around the place about that time."
Jim's hand was suddenly lifted.
"I got ye, Doc, I got ye! I'll be there--all day."
"Don't let her see you until I give the signal."
"Caution's my name."
"We'll see what happens."
Jim pressed close.
"Say, Doc, if you know how to pray, I wish you'd
send up a little word for me while you're talkin' to
her. Could ye now?"
"I'll do my best for you, boy--and I think you've
got a chance. She's been watching the blue eyes of
that baby lately with a rather curious look of unrest."
"They're just like mine, ain't they?" Jim broke in
"Time has softened the old hurt," the Doctor went
on. "The boy may win for you----"
The square jaw came together with a smash.
"Gee--I hope so. I'll wait there all day for you
and I'm goin' to try my own hand at a little prayer or
two on the side while I'm waiting. Maybe God'll think
He's hit me hard enough by this time to give me another
With a friendly wave of his hand the Doctor hurried
He found Mary seated under the rose trellis beside
the drive, watching for his coming. The day was still
and warm for the end of April. Birds were singing and
chattering in every branch and tree. A quail on the
top fence-rail of the wheat field called loudly to his
The boy was screaming his joy over a new wagon to
which Aunt Abbie had hitched his goat. He drove by in
style, lifted his chubby hand to his mother and
The Doctor waved a smiling answer, and lapsed into
a long silence.
He waked at last from his absorption to notice that
Mary was day-dreaming. The fair brow was drawn into
deep lines of brooding.
"Why shadows in your eyes a day like this, little
mother?" he asked softly.
"About a past that you should forget?"
"Yes and no," she answered thoughtfully. "I was
just thinking in this flood of spring sunlight of the
mystery of my love for such a man as the one I married.
How could it have been possible to really love him?"
"You are sure that you loved him?"
"How did you know?"
"By all the signs. I trembled at his footstep.
The touch of his hand, the sound of his voice thrilled
me. I was drawn by a power that was resistless. I was
mad with happiness those wonderful days that preceded
our marriage. I was madder still during our
honeymoon--until the shadows began to fall that fatal
Christmas Eve." She paused and her lips trembled.
"Oh, Doctor, what is love?"
The drooping shoulders of the man bent lower. He
picked up a pebble from the ground and flicked it
carelessly across the drive, lifted his head at last
and asked earnestly:
"Shall I tell you the truth?"
"Yes--your own particular brand, please--the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
"I'll try," he began soberly. "If I were a poet,
naturally I would use different language. As I'm
only a prosaic doctor and physiologist I may shock your
ideals a little."
"No matter," she interrupted. "They couldn't well
get a harder jolt than they have had already."
He nodded and went on:
"There are two elemental human forces that maintain
life--hunger and love. They are both utterly simple,
otherwise they could not be universal. Hunger compels
the race to live. Love compels it to reproduce itself.
There has never been anything mysterious about either
of these forces and there never will be--except in the
imagination of sentimentalists.
"Nature begins with hunger. For about thirteen
years she first applies this force to the development
of the body before she begins to lay the foundation of
the second. Until this second development is complete
the passion known as love cannot be experienced.
"What is this second development? Very simple
again. At the base of the brain of every child there
is a vacant space during the first twelve or fifteen
years. During the age of twelve to fourteen in girls,
thirteen to fifteen in boys, this vacant space is
slowly filled by a new lobe of the brain and with its
growth comes the consciousness of sex and the
of sex powers.
"This new nerve center becomes on maturity a
powerful physical magnet. The moment this magnet comes
into contact with an organization which answers its
needs, as certain kinds of food answer the needs of
hunger, violent desire is excited. If both these
magnets should be equally powerful, the disturbance to
both will be great. The longer the personal
association is continued the more violent becomes this
disturbance, until in highly sensitive natures it
develops into an obsession which obscures reason and
crushes the will.
"The meaning of this impulse is again very simple--
the unconscious desire of the male to be a father, of
the female to become a mother."
"And there is but one man on earth who could thus
affect me?" Mary asked excitedly.
"Rubbish! There are thousands."
"Literally thousands. The reason you never happen
to meet them is purely an accident of our poor social
organization. Every woman has thousands of true
physical mates if she could only meet them. Every man
has thousands of true physical mates if he could only
meet them. And in every such meeting, if mind and
body are in normal condition, the same violent
disturbance would result--whether married or single,
free or bound.
"Marriage therefore is not based merely on the
passion of love. It is a crime for any man or woman to
marry without love. It is the sheerest insanity to
believe that this passion within itself is sufficient
to justify marriage. All who marry should love. Many
love who should not marry.
"The institution of marriage is the great
SOCIAL ordinance of the race. Its sanctity and
perpetuity are not based on the violence of the passion
of love, but something else."
He paused and listened to the call of the quail
again from the field.
"You hear that bob white calling his mate?"
"Yes--and she's answering him now very softly. I
can hear them both."
"They have mated this spring to build a home and
rear a brood of young. Within six months their babies
will all be full grown and next spring a new alignment
of lovers will be made. Their marriage lasts during
the period of infancy of their offspring. This is
"It happens in the case of man that the period of
infancy of a human being is about twenty-four
years. This is the most wonderful fact in nature.
It means that the capacity of man for the improvement
of his breed is practically limitless. A quail has a
few months in which to rear her young. God gives to
woman a quarter of a century in which to mold her
immortal offspring. Because the period of infancy of
one child covers the entire period of motherhood
capacity, marriage binds for life, and the sanctity of
marriage rests squarely on this law of Nature."
He paused again and looked over the sunlit valley.
"I wish our boys and girls could all know these
simple truths of their being. It would save much
unhappiness and many tragic blunders.
"You were swept completely off your feet by the
rush of the first emotion caused by meeting a man who
was your physical mate. You imagined this emotion to
be a mysterious revelation which can come but once.
Your imagination in its excited condition, of course,
gave to your first-found mate all sorts of divine
attributes which he did not possess. You were `in
love' with a puppet of your own creation, and
hypnotized yourself into the delusion that James
Anthony was your one and only mate, your knight, your
"In a very important sense this was true.
Your intuitions could not make a mistake on so
vital an issue. But you immediately rushed into
marriage and your union has been perfected by the birth
of a child. Whether you are happy or unhappy in
marriage does not depend on the reality of love.
Happiness in marriage is based on something else."
"The joy and peace that comes from oneness of
spirit, tastes, culture and character. I know this
from the deepest experiences of life and the widest
"You have loved?" she asked softly.
A silence fell between them.
"Shall I tell you, little mother?" he finally asked
He seated himself and looked into the skies beyond
the peaks across the valley.
"Ten years ago I met my first mate. The meeting
was fortunate for both. She was a woman of gentle
birth, of beautiful spirit. Our courtship was ideal.
We thought alike, we felt alike, she loved my
profession even--an unusual trait in a woman. She
thought it so noble in its aims that the petty jealousy
that sometimes wrecks a doctor's life was to her an
unthinkable crime. The first year was the nearest to
heaven that I had ever gotten down here.
"And then, little mother, by one of those
inexplicable mysteries of nature she died when our baby
was born. For a while the light of the world went out.
I quit New York, gave up my profession and came here
just to lie in the sun on this mountainside and try to
pull myself together. I didn't think life could ever
be worth living again. But it was. I found about me
so much of human need--so much ignorance and
helplessness--so much to pity and love, I forgot the
ache in my own heart in bringing joy to others.
"I had money enough. I gave up the ambitions of
greed and strife and set my soul to higher tasks. For
nine years I've devoted my leisure hours to the study
of Motherhood as the hope of a nobler humanity. But
for the great personal sorrow that came to me in the
death of my wife and baby I should never have realized
the truths I now see so clearly.
"And then the other woman suddenly came into my
life. I never expected to love again--not because I
thought it impossible, but because I thought it
improbable in my little world here that I could
ever again meet a woman I would ask to be my wife. But
she dropped one day out of the sky."
He paused and took a deep breath.
"I recognized her instantly as my mate, gentle and
pure and capable of infinite joy or infinite pain. She
did not realize the secret of my interest in her. I
didn't expect it. I knew that under the conditions she
could not. But I waited."
He paused and searched for Mary's eyes.
"And you married her?" she asked in even tones.
"I have never allowed her to know that I love her."
"She was married."
Mary threw him a startled look and he went on
"I could have used my power over mind and body to
separate her from her husband. I confess that I was
tempted. But there was a child. Their union had been
sealed with the strongest tie that can bind two human
beings. I have never allowed her to realize that she
might love me. Had I chosen to break the silence
between us I could have revealed this to her, taken her
and torn her from the man to whom she had borne a babe.
I had no right to commit that crime, no matter how deep
the love that cried for its own. Marriage is
based on the period of infancy of the child which spans
the maternal life of woman. God had joined these two
people together and no man had the right to put them
"And you gave her up?"
"I had to, little mother. On the recognition of
this eternal law the whole structure of our
Mary bent her gaze steadily on his face for a
moment in silence.
"And you are telling me that I should be reconciled
to the man who choked me into insensibility?"
"I am telling you that he is the father of your
son--that he has rights which you cannot deny; that
when you gave yourself to him in the first impulse of
love a deed was done which Almighty God can never undo.
Your tragic blunder was the rush into marriage with a
man about whose character you knew so little. It's the
timid, shrinking, home-loving girl that makes this
mistake. You must face it now. You are responsible as
deeply and truly as the man who married you. That he
happened at that moment to be a brute and a criminal is
no more his fault than yours. It was YOUR business
to KNOW before you made him the father of your
"I tried to appeal to his better nature that awful
night," Mary interrupted, "but he only laughed at me!"
"You owe him another trial, little mother--you owe
it to his boy, too."
Mary shook her head bitterly.
"I can't--I just can't!"
"You won't see him once?"
She sprang to her feet trembling.
"I don't think it's fair."
"I'm afraid of him! You can't understand his power
over my will."
"Come, come, this is sheer cowardice--give the
devil his dues. Face him and fight it out. Tell him
you're done forever with him and his life, if you
will--but don't hedge and trim and run away like this.
I'm ashamed of you."
"I won't see him--I've made up my mind."
The Doctor threw up both hands.
"All right. If you won't, you won't. We'll let it
go at that."
He paused and changed his tones to friendly
"And you're determined to leave me and take my kid
"We must go. I've no money to pay my board. I
can't impose on you----"
"It's going to be awfully lonely."
He looked at her with a strange, deep gaze, lifted
his stooping shoulders with sudden resolution and
changed his manner to light banter.
"I suppose I couldn't persuade you to give me that
She smiled tenderly.
"You know his father did leave his mark on him
after all! The eyes are all his. Of course, I will
admit that those drooping lids have often been the mark
of genius--perhaps a genius for evil in this case. If
you don't want to take the risk--now's your chance. I
Mary shook her head in reproachful protest.
"Don't tease me, dear doctor man. I've just this
one day more with you. I'm counting each precious
"Forgive me!" he cried gayly. "I won't tease you
any more. Come, we'll run over now and see our
neighbor's new bungalow before you go. You admire this
one and threaten to duplicate it. He has built a
"I don't believe it."
"If you wish it----"
"Good. We'll take the boy, too. He can drive his
new wagon the whole way. It's only half a mile.
CHAPTER XXIX. THE NEW MAN
The door of the bungalow stood wide open. Mary paused
in rapture over the rich beds of wood violets that
carpeted the spaces between the drive and the log
"Aren't they beautiful!" she cried. "A perfect
carpet of dazzling green and purple!"
"Come right in," the Doctor urged from the steps.
"My neighbor's a patient of mine. He hasn't moved in
yet but he told me always to make myself at home."
Mary lifted the boy from his wagon, tied the goat
and led the child into the house. The Doctor showed
her through without comment. None was needed. The
woman's keen eye saw at a glance the perfection of care
with which the master builder had wrought the slightest
detail of every room. The floors were immaculate
native hard-wood--its grain brought out through shining
mirrors of clean varnish. There was not one shoddy
piece of work from the kitchen sink to the big
open fireplace in the spacious hall and living-room.
"It's exquisite!" she exclaimed at last. "It seems
all hand-made--doesn't it?"
"It is, too. The owner literally built it with his
own hands--a work of love."
"For himself?" Mary asked with a smile.
"For the woman he loves, of course! My neighbor's
a sort of crank and insisted on expressing himself in
this way. Come, I want you to see two rooms upstairs."
He led her into the room Jim had built for his
"Observe this furniture, if you please."
"Don't tell me that he built that too?" she
"That's exactly what I'm going to tell you."
"Impossible!" she protested. "Why, the line and
finish would do credit to the finest artisan in
"So I say. Look at the perfect polish of that
table! It's like the finish of a rosewood piano." He
touched the smooth surface.
"Of course you're joking?" Mary answered. "No
amateur could have done such work."
"So I'd have said if I had not seen him do
"What on earth possessed him to undertake such a
"The love of a beautiful woman--what else?"
"He learned a trade--just to furnish this room with
his own hand?"
"His love must be the real thing," she mused.
"That's what I've said. Look at this iron work,
too--the stately andirons in that big fireplace, the
shovel, the tongs, and the massive strop-hinges on the
"He did that, too?" she asked in amazement.
"Every piece of iron on the place he beat out with
his own hand at his forge."
"And all for the love of a woman? The age of
romance hasn't passed after all, has it?"
Mary paused before the window looking south.
"What a glorious view!" she cried. "It's even
grander than yours, Doctor."
"Yes. I claim some of the credit, though, for
that. I helped him lay out the grounds."
"Who is this remarkable man?" she asked at last.
"A friend of mine. I'll introduce him directly.
He should be here at any moment now."
"We're intruding," Mary whispered. "We must
go. I mustn't look any more. I'll be coveting my
The doctor turned to the window and signaled to
someone on the lawn, as Mary hurried down the stairs.
She fairly ran into Jim, who was being pulled into
the house by the boy.
"'Ook, Mamma! 'Ook! I found a Daddy! He says he
be my Daddy if you let him. Please let him. I want a
Daddy, an' I like him. Please!"
Jim blushed and trembled and lifted his eyes
appealingly, while Mary stood white and still watching
him in a sort of helpless terror.
The child moved on to his wagon.
"Say, little girl," Jim began in low tones, "it's
been a thousand years since I saw you. Don't drive me
away--just give me one chance for God's sake and this
baby's that He sent us! I've gone straight. I've sent
back every dishonest dollar. I'm earning a clean
living down here and a good one. I've practiced for
two years cutting out the slang, too."
He paused for breath and she turned her head away.
"Just listen a minute! I know I was a beast that
night. I'm not the same now. I've been through the
fires of hell and I've come out a cleaner man.
Let me show you how much I love you! Life's too
short, but just give me a chance. If I could undo that
awful hour when I hurt you so, I'd crawl 'round the
world on my hands and knees--and I'll show you that I
mean it! I built this house for you and the baby."
Mary turned suddenly with wide dilated eyes.
"You--YOU built this house?" she gasped.
"I've worked on it every hour, day and night, the
past two years when I wasn't earning a living in the
mine. I made every stick of that furniture in the
rooms up there--for you and my boy. The house is
yours--whether you let me stay or not."
"I--I can't take it, Jim," she faltered.
"You've got to, girlie. You can't throw a gift
like this back in a fellow's face--it cost too much!
Your money's all gone. You've got to bring up that
kid. He's mine, too. I'm man enough to support my
wife and baby and I'm going to do it. I don't care
what you say. You've got to let me. I'm going to work
for you, live for you and die for you--whether you stay
with me or not. I've got the right to do that, you know."
She lifted her head and faced him squarely for the
first time, amazed at the new dignity and strength of
his quiet bearing.
"You HAVE changed, Jim----"
Her eyes sought the depths of his soul in a
moment's silence, and she slowly extended her hand:
"We'll try again!"
He bent and kissed the tips of her fingers reverently.
They stood for a moment hand in hand and looked
over the sunlit valley of the Swannanoa shimmering in
peace and beauty between its sheltering walls of blue
mountains. The bees were humming spring music among
the flowers at their feet and the faint odor of fruit
trees in blossom came from the orchard Jim had planted
two years before.
"I'll show you, little girl--I'll show you!" he whispered tensely.