Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1896 to 1901
A Case of Trespass
A Christmas Inspiration
A Christmas Mistake
A Strayed Allegiance
An Invitation Given on Impulse
Detected by the Camera
In Spite of Myself
Lillian's Business Venture
Miss Calista's Peppermint Bottle
The Jest that Failed
The Pennington's Girl
The Red Room
The Setness of Theodosia
The Story of An Invitation
The Touch of Fate
The Waking of Helen
The Way of Winning Anne
A Case of Trespass
It was the forenoon of a hazy, breathless day, and
Dan Phillips was trouting up one of the back creeks
of the Carleton pond. It was somewhat cooler up
the creek than out on the main body of water, for
the tall birches and willows, crowding down to the brim,
threw cool, green shadows across it and shut out the scorching
glare, while a stray breeze now and then rippled down the
wooded slopes, rustling the beech leaves with an airy, pleasant
Out in the pond the glassy water creamed and shimmered
in the hot sun, unrippled by the faintest breath of air. Across
the soft, pearly tints of the horizon blurred the smoke of the
big factory chimneys that were owned by Mr. Walters, to
whom the pond and adjacent property also belonged.
Mr. Walters was a comparative stranger in Carleton, having
but recently purchased the factories from the heirs of the
previous owner; but he had been in charge long enough to
establish a reputation for sternness and inflexibility in all his
One or two of his employees, who had been discharged by
him on what they deemed insufficient grounds, helped to
deepen the impression that he was an unjust and arbitrary
man, merciless to all offenders, and intolerant of the slightest
infringement of his cast-iron rules.
Dan Phillips had been on the pond ever since sunrise. The
trout had risen well in the early morning, but as the day wore
on, growing hotter and hotter, they refused to bite, and for
half an hour Dan had not caught one.
He had a goodly string of them already, however, and he
surveyed them with satisfaction as he rowed his leaky little
skiff to the shore of the creek.
"Pretty good catch," he soliloquized. "Best I've had this
summer, so far. That big spotted one must weigh near a
pound. He's a beauty. They're a good price over at the hotels
now, too. I'll go home and get my dinner and go straight over
with them. That'll leave me time for another try at them
about sunset. Whew, how hot it is! I must take Ella May home
a bunch of them blue flags. They're real handsome!"
He tied his skiff under the crowding alders, gathered a big
bunch of the purple flag lilies with their silky petals, and
started homeward, whistling cheerily as he stepped briskly
along the fern-carpeted wood path that wound up the hill
under the beeches and firs.
He was a freckled, sunburned lad of thirteen years. His
neighbours all said that Danny was "as smart as a steel trap,"
and immediately added that they wondered where he got his
smartness from—certainly not from his father!
The elder Phillips had been denominated "shiftless and
slack-twisted" by all who ever had any dealings with him in
his unlucky, aimless life—one of those improvident, easygoing
souls who sit contentedly down to breakfast with a very
faint idea where their dinner is to come from.
When he had died, no one had missed him, unless it were
his patient, sad-eyed wife, who bravely faced her hard lot, and
toiled unremittingly to keep a home for her two children—Dan
and a girl two years younger, who was a helpless cripple,
suffering from some form of spinal disease.
Dan, who was old and steady for his years, had gone manfully
to work to assist his mother. Though he had been disappointed
in all his efforts to obtain steady employment, he was
active and obliging, and earned many a small amount by odd
jobs around the village, and by helping the Carleton farmers
in planting and harvest.
For the last two years, however, his most profitable source
of summer income had been the trout pond. The former
owner had allowed anyone who wished to fish in his pond,
and Dan made a regular business of it, selling his trout at
the big hotels over at Mosquito Lake. This, in spite of its
unattractive name, was a popular summer resort, and Dan
always found a ready market for his catch.
When Mr. Walters purchased the property it somehow
never occurred to Dan that the new owner might not be so
complaisant as his predecessor in the matter of the best trouting
pond in the country.
To be sure, Dan often wondered why it was the pond was
so deserted this summer. He could not recall having seen a
single person on it save himself. Still, it did not cross his mind
that there could be any particular reason for this.
He always fished up in the cool, dim creeks, which long
experience had taught him were best for trout, and came and
went by a convenient wood path; but he had no thought of
concealment in so doing. He would not have cared had all
Carleton seen him.
He had done very well with his fish so far, and prices for
trout at the Lake went up every day. Dan was an enterprising
boy, and a general favourite with the hotel owners. They
knew that he could always be depended on.
Mrs. Phillips met him at the door when he reached home.
"See, Mother," said Dan exultantly, as he held up his
fish. "Just look at that fellow, will you? A pound if he's an
ounce! I ought to get a good price for these, I can tell you.
Let me have my dinner now, and I'll go right over to the
Lake with them."
"It's a long walk for you, Danny," replied his mother pityingly,
"and it's too hot to go so far. I'm afraid you'll get sun-struck
or something. You'd better wait till the cool of the
evening. You're looking real pale and thin this while back."
"Oh, I'm all right, Mother," assured Dan cheerfully. "I
don't mind the heat a bit. A fellow must put up with some
inconveniences. Wait till I bring home the money for these
fish. And I mean to have another catch tonight. It's you that's
looking tired. I wish you didn't have to work so hard, Mother.
If I could only get a good place you could take it easier. Sam
French says that Mr. Walters wants a boy up there at the factory,
but I know I wouldn't do. I ain't big enough. Perhaps
something will turn up soon though. When our ship comes
in, Mother, we'll have our good times."
He picked up his flags and went into the little room where
his sister lay.
"See what I've brought you, Ella May!" he said, as he
thrust the cool, moist clusters into her thin, eager hands.
"Did you ever see such beauties?"
"Oh, Dan, how lovely they are! Thank you ever so much!
If you are going over to the Lake this afternoon, will you
please call at Mrs. Henny's and get those nutmeg geranium
slips she promised me? Just look how nice my others are
growing. The pink one is going to bloom."
"I'll bring you all the geranium slips at the Lake, if you
like. When I get rich, Ella May, I'll build you a big conservatory,
and I'll get every flower in the world in it for you. You
shall just live and sleep among posies. Is dinner ready,
Mother? Trouting's hungry work, I tell you. What paper is
He picked up a folded newspaper from the table.
"Oh, that's only an old Lake Advertiser," answered Mrs.
Phillips, as she placed the potatoes on the table and wiped her
moist, hot face with the corner of her gingham apron. "Letty
Mills brought it in around a parcel this morning. It's four
weeks old, but I kept it to read if I ever get time. It's so seldom
we see a paper of any kind nowadays. But I haven't looked at it
yet. Why, Danny, what on earth is the matter?"
For Dan, who had opened the paper and glanced over the
first page, suddenly gave a choked exclamation and turned
pale, staring stupidly at the sheet before him.
"See, Mother," he gasped, as she came up in alarm and
looked over his shoulder. This is what they read:
Anyone found fishing on my pond at Carleton after
date will be prosecuted according to law, without
respect of persons.
"Oh, Danny, what does it mean?"
Dan went and carefully closed the door of Ella May's room
before he replied. His face was pale and his voice shaky.
"Mean? Well, Mother, it just means that I've been stealing
Mr. Walters's trout all summer—stealing them. That's what
"Oh, Danny! But you didn't know."
"No, but I ought to have remembered that he was the new
owner, and have asked him. I never thought. Mother, what
does 'prosecuted according to law' mean?"
"I don't know, I'm sure, Danny. But if this is so, there's
only one thing to be done. You must go straight to Mr. Walters
and tell him all about it."
"Mother, I don't dare to. He is a dreadfully hard man. Sam
French's father says—"
"I wouldn't believe a word Sam French's father says about
Mr. Walters!" said Mrs. Phillips firmly. "He's got a spite
against him because he was dismissed. Besides, Danny, it's
the only right thing to do. You know that. We're poor, but we
have never done anything underhand yet."
"Yes, Mother, I know," said Dan, gulping his fear bravely
down. "I'll go, of course, right after dinner. I was only scared
at first. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll clean these trout nicely
and take them to Mr. Walters, and tell him that, if he'll only
give me time, I'll pay him back every cent of money I got for
all I sold this summer. Then maybe he'll let me off, seeing as I
didn't know about the notice."
"I'll go with you, Danny."
"No, I'll go alone, Mother. You needn't go with me," said
Dan heroically. To himself he said that his mother had troubles
enough. He would never subject her to the added ordeal
of an interview with the stern factory owner. He would beard
the lion in his den himself, if it had to be done.
"Don't tell Ella May anything about it. It would worry her.
And don't cry, Mother, I guess it'll be all right. Let me have
my dinner now and I'll go straight off."
Dan ate his dinner rapidly; then he carefully cleaned his
trout, put them in a long basket, with rhubarb leaves over
them, and started with an assumed cheerfulness very far from
his real feelings.
He had barely passed the gate when another boy came
shuffling along—a tall, raw-boned lad, with an insinuating
smile and shifty, cunning eyes. The newcomer nodded familiarly
"Hello, sonny. Going over to the Lake with your catch, are
you? You'll fry up before you get there. There'll be nothing
left of you but a crisp."
"No, I'm not going to the Lake. I'm going up to the factory
to see Mr. Walters."
Sam French gave a long whistle of surprise.
"Why, Dan, what's taking you there? You surely ain't
thinking of trying for that place, are you? Walters wouldn't
look at you. Why, he wouldn't take me! You haven't the ghost
of a chance."
"No, I'm not going for that. Sam, did you know that Mr.
Walters had a notice in the Lake Advertiser that nobody
could fish in his pond this summer?"
"Course I did—the old skinflint! He's too mean to live,
that's what. He never goes near the pond himself. Regular dog
in the manger, he is. Dad says—"
"Sam, why didn't you tell me about that notice?"
"Gracious, didn't you know? I s'posed everybody did, and
here I've been taking you for the cutest chap this side of
sunset—fishing away up in that creek where no one could see
you, and cutting home through the woods on the sly. You
don't mean to tell me you never saw that notice?"
"No, I didn't. Do you think I'd have gone near the pond if I
had? I never saw it till today, and I'm going straight to Mr.
Walters now to tell him about it."
Sam French stopped short in the dusty road and stared at
Dan in undisguised amazement.
"Dan Phillips," he ejaculated, "have you plum gone out of
your mind? Boy alive, you needn't be afraid that I'd peach on
you. I'm too blamed glad to see anyone get the better of that
old Walters, smart as he thinks himself. Gee! To dream of
going to him and telling him you've been fishing in his pond!
Why, he'll put you in jail. You don't know what sort of a man
he is. Dad says—"
"Never mind what your dad says, Sam. My mind's
"Dan, you chump, listen to me. That notice says
'prosecuted according to law.' Why, Danny, he'll put you in
prison, or fine you, or something dreadful."
"I can't help it if he does," said Danny stoutly. "You get
out of here, Sam French, and don't be trying to scare me. I
mean to be honest, and how can I be if I don't own up to Mr.
Walters that I've been stealing his trout all summer?"
"Stealing, fiddlesticks! Dan, I used to think you were a
chap with some sense, but I see I was mistaken. You ain't
done no harm. Walters will never miss them trout. If you're
so dreadful squeamish that you won't fish no more, why, you
needn't. But just let the matter drop and hold your tongue
about it. That's my advice."
"Well, it isn't my mother's, then. I mean to go by hers. You
needn't argue no more, Sam. I'm going."
"Go, then!" said Sam, stopping short in disgust. "You're a
big fool, Dan, and serve you right if Walters lands you off to
jail; but I don't wish you no ill. If I can do anything for your
family after you're gone, I will, and I'll try and give your
remains Christian burial—if there are any remains. So long,
Danny! Give my love to old Walters!"
Dan was not greatly encouraged by this interview. He
shrank more than ever from the thought of facing the stern
factory owner. His courage had almost evaporated when he
entered the office at the factory and asked shakily for Mr.
"He's in his office there," replied the clerk, "but he's very
busy. Better leave your message with me."
"I must see Mr. Walters himself, please," said Dan firmly,
but with inward trepidation.
The clerk swung himself impatiently from his stool and
ushered Dan into Mr. Walters's private office.
"Boy to see you, sir," he said briefly, as he closed the
ground-glass door behind him.
Dan, dizzy and trembling, stood in the dreaded presence.
Mr. Walters was writing at a table covered with a businesslike
litter of papers. He laid down his pen and looked up with a
frown as the clerk vanished. He was a stern-looking man with
deep-set grey eyes and a square, clean-shaven chin. There was
not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his frame, and his voice
and manner were those of the decided, resolute, masterful
man of business.
He pointed to a capacious leather chair and said concisely,
"What is your business with me, boy?"
Dan had carefully thought out a statement of facts beforehand,
but every word had vanished from his memory. He had
only a confused, desperate consciousness that he had a theft
to confess and that it must be done as soon as possible. He did
not sit down.
"Please, Mr. Walters," he began desperately, "I came to
tell you—your notice—I never saw it before—and I've been
fishing on your pond all summer—but I didn't know—honest—I've
brought you all I caught today—and I'll pay back for
them all—some time."
An amused, puzzled expression crossed Mr. Walters's noncommittal
face. He pushed the leather chair forward.
"Sit down, my boy," he said kindly. "I don't quite understand
this somewhat mixed-up statement of yours. You've
been fishing on my pond, you say. Didn't you see my notice in
Dan sat down more composedly. The revelation was over
and he was still alive.
"No, sir. We hardly ever see an Advertiser, and nobody
told me. I'd always been used to fishing there, and I never
thought but what it was all right to keep on. I know I ought to
have remembered and asked you, but truly, sir, I didn't mean
to steal your fish. I used to sell them over at the hotels. We
saw the notice today, Mother and me, and I came right up. I've
brought you the trout I caught this morning, and—if only you
won't prosecute me, sir, I'll pay back every cent I got for the
others—every cent, sir—if you'll give me time."
Mr. Walters passed his hand across his mouth to conceal
something like a smile.
"Your name is Dan Phillips, isn't it?" he said irrelevantly,
"and you live with your mother, the Widow Phillips, down
there at Carleton Corners, I understand."
"Yes, sir," said Dan, wondering how Mr. Walters knew so
much about him, and if these were the preliminaries of prosecution.
Mr. Walters took up his pen and drew a blank sheet
"Well, Dan, I put that notice in because I found that many
people who used to fish on my pond, irrespective of leave or
licence, were accustomed to lunch or camp on my property,
and did not a little damage. I don't care for trouting myself;
I've no time for it. However, I hardly think you'll do much
damage. You can keep on fishing there. I'll give you a written
permission, so that if any of my men see you they won't interfere
with you. As for these trout here, I'll buy them from you
at Mosquito Lake prices, and will say no more about the matter.
How will that do?"
"Thank you, sir," stammered Dan. He could hardly
believe his ears. He took the slip of paper Mr. Walters handed
to him and rose to his feet.
"Wait a minute, Dan. How was it you came to tell me this?
You might have stopped your depredations, and I should not
have been any the wiser."
"That wouldn't have been honest, sir," said Dan, looking
squarely at him.
There was a brief silence. Mr. Walters thrummed meditatively
on the table. Dan waited wonderingly.
Finally the factory owner said abruptly, "There's a vacant
place for a boy down here. I want it filled as soon as possible.
Will you take it?"
"Mr. Walters! Me!" Dan thought the world must be turning
"Yes, you. You are rather young, but the duties are not
hard or difficult to learn. I think you'll do. I was resolved not
to fill that place until I could find a perfectly honest and trustworthy
boy for it. I believe I have found him. I discharged the
last boy because he lied to me about some trifling offence for
which I would have forgiven him if he had told the truth. I can
bear with incompetency, but falsehood and deceit I cannot
and will not tolerate," he said, so sternly that Dan's face
paled. "I am convinced that you are incapable of either. Will
you take the place, Dan?"
"I will if you think I can fill it, sir. I will do my best."
"Yes, I believe you will. Perhaps I know more about you
than you think. Businessmen must keep their eyes open.
We'll regard this matter as settled then. Come up tomorrow
at eight o'clock. And one word more, Dan. You have perhaps
heard that I am an unjust and hard master. I am not the former,
and you will never have occasion to find me the latter if
you are always as truthful and straightforward as you have
been today. You might easily have deceived me in this matter.
That you did not do so is the best and only recommendation I
require. Take those trout up to my house and leave them.
That will do. Good afternoon."
Dan somehow got his dazed self through the glass door and
out of the building. The whole interview had been such a surprise
to him that he was hardly sure whether or not he had
dreamed it all.
"I feel as if I were some person else," he said to himself, as
he started down the hot white road. "But Mother was right.
I'll stick to her motto. I wonder what Sam will say to this."
A Christmas Inspiration
"Well, I really think Santa Claus has been very
good to us all," said Jean Lawrence, pulling
the pins out of her heavy coil of fair hair
and letting it ripple over her shoulders.
"So do I," said Nellie Preston as well as she
could with a mouthful of chocolates. "Those
blessed home folks of mine seem to have divined
by instinct the very things I most wanted."
It was the dusk of Christmas Eve and they were
all in Jean Lawrence's room at No. 16 Chestnut
Terrace. No. 16 was a boarding-house, and boarding-houses
are not proverbially cheerful places in
which to spend Christmas, but Jean's room, at least,
was a pleasant spot, and all the girls had brought
their Christmas presents in to show each other.
Christmas came on Sunday that year and the
Saturday evening mail at Chestnut Terrace had been
an exciting one.
Jean had lighted the pink-globed lamp on her
table and the mellow light fell over merry faces as
the girls chatted about their gifts. On the table was
a big white box heaped with roses that betokened
a bit of Christmas extravagance on somebody's
part. Jean's brother had sent them to her from
Montreal, and all the girls were enjoying them in
No. 16 Chestnut Terrace was overrun with girls
generally. But just now only five were left; all the
others had gone home for Christmas, but these five
could not go and were bent on making the best
Belle and Olive Reynolds, who were sitting on
the bed—Jean could never keep them off it—were
High School girls; they were said to be always
laughing, and even the fact that they could not go
home for Christmas because a young brother had
measles did not dampen their spirits.
Beth Hamilton, who was hovering over the
roses, and Nellie Preston, who was eating candy,
were art students, and their homes were too far
away to visit. As for Jean Lawrence, she was an
orphan, and had no home of her own. She worked
on the staff of one of the big city newspapers and
the other girls were a little in awe of her cleverness,
but her nature was a "chummy" one and her room
was a favourite rendezvous. Everybody liked frank,
open-handed and hearted Jean.
"It was so funny to see the postman when he
came this evening," said Olive. "He just bulged with
parcels. They were sticking out in every direction."
"We all got our share of them," said Jean with a
sigh of content.
"Even the cook got six—I counted."
"Miss Allen didn't get a thing—not even a
letter," said Beth quickly. Beth had a trick of seeing
things that other girls didn't.
"I forgot Miss Allen. No, I don't believe she
did," answered Jean thoughtfully as she twisted up
her pretty hair. "How dismal it must be to be so
forlorn as that on Christmas Eve of all times. Ugh!
I'm glad I have friends."
"I saw Miss Allen watching us as we opened our
parcels and letters," Beth went on. "I happened to
look up once, and such an expression as was on her
face, girls! It was pathetic and sad and envious all
at once. It really made me feel bad—for five minutes,"
she concluded honestly.
"Hasn't Miss Allen any friends at all?" asked Beth.
"No, I don't think she has," answered Jean. "She
has lived here for fourteen years, so Mrs. Pickrell
says. Think of that, girls! Fourteen years at Chestnut
Terrace! Is it any wonder that she is thin and
dried-up and snappy?"
"Nobody ever comes to see her and she never
goes anywhere," said Beth. "Dear me! She must
feel lonely now when everybody else is being
remembered by their friends. I can't forget her
face tonight; it actually haunts me. Girls, how
would you feel if you hadn't anyone belonging
to you, and if nobody thought about you at
"Ow!" said Olive, as if the mere idea made her
A little silence followed. To tell the truth, none
of them liked Miss Allen. They knew that she did
not like them either, but considered them frivolous
and pert, and complained when they made a
"The skeleton at the feast," Jean called her,
and certainly the presence of the pale, silent,
discontented-looking woman at the No. 16 table
did not tend to heighten its festivity.
Presently Jean said with a dramatic flourish,
"Girls, I have an inspiration—a Christmas inspiration!"
"What is it?" cried four voices.
"Just this. Let us give Miss Allen a Christmas
surprise. She has not received a single present and
I'm sure she feels lonely. Just think how we would
feel if we were in her place."
"That is true," said Olive thoughtfully. "Do you
know, girls, this evening I went to her room with
a message from Mrs. Pickrell, and I do believe she
had been crying. Her room looked dreadfully bare
and cheerless, too. I think she is very poor. What
are we to do, Jean?"
"Let us each give her something nice. We can
put the things just outside of her door so that she
will see them whenever she opens it. I'll give her
some of Fred's roses too, and I'll write a Christmassy
letter in my very best style to go with them," said
Jean, warming up to her ideas as she talked.
The other girls caught her spirit and entered into
the plan with enthusiasm.
"Splendid!" cried Beth. "Jean, it is an inspiration,
sure enough. Haven't we been horribly selfish—thinking
of nothing but our own gifts and fun
and pleasure? I really feel ashamed."
"Let us do the thing up the very best way we
can," said Nellie, forgetting even her beloved
chocolates in her eagerness. "The shops are open
yet. Let us go up town and invest."
Five minutes later five capped and jacketed
figures were scurrying up the street in the frosty,
starlit December dusk. Miss Allen in her cold little
room heard their gay voices and sighed. She was
crying by herself in the dark. It was Christmas for
everybody but her, she thought drearily.
In an hour the girls came back with their
"Now, let's hold a council of war," said Jean jubilantly.
"I hadn't the faintest idea what Miss Allen
would like so I just guessed wildly. I got her a lace
handkerchief and a big bottle of perfume and a
painted photograph frame—and I'll stick my own
photo in it for fun. That was really all I could afford.
Christmas purchases have left my purse dreadfully
"I got her a glove-box and a pin tray," said Belle,
"and Olive got her a calendar and Whittier's poems.
And besides we are going to give her half of that
big plummy fruit cake Mother sent us from home.
I'm sure she hasn't tasted anything so delicious for
years, for fruit cakes don't grow on Chestnut Terrace
and she never goes anywhere else for a meal."
Beth had bought a pretty cup and saucer and said
she meant to give one of her pretty water-colours
too. Nellie, true to her reputation, had invested in
a big box of chocolate creams, a gorgeously striped
candy cane, a bag of oranges, and a brilliant lampshade
of rose-coloured crepe paper to top off with.
"It makes such a lot of show for the money," she
explained. "I am bankrupt, like Jean."
"Well, we've got a lot of pretty things," said Jean
in a tone of satisfaction. "Now we must do them
up nicely. Will you wrap them in tissue paper, girls,
and tie them with baby ribbon—here's a box of
it—while I write that letter?"
While the others chatted over their parcels Jean
wrote her letter, and Jean could write delightful
letters. She had a decided talent in that respect, and
her correspondents all declared her letters to be
things of beauty and joy forever. She put her best
into Miss Allen's Christmas letter. Since then she
has written many bright and clever things, but I
do not believe she ever in her life wrote anything
more genuinely original and delightful than that
letter. Besides, it breathed the very spirit of Christmas,
and all the girls declared that it was splendid.
"You must all sign it now," said Jean, "and I'll put
it in one of those big envelopes; and, Nellie, won't
you write her name on it in fancy letters?"
Which Nellie proceeded to do, and furthermore
embellished the envelope by a border of chubby
cherubs, dancing hand in hand around it and a
sketch of No. 16 Chestnut Terrace in the corner
in lieu of a stamp. Not content with this she hunted
out a huge sheet of drawing paper and drew upon
it an original pen-and-ink design after her own
heart. A dudish cat—Miss Allen was fond of the
No. 16 cat if she could be said to be fond of anything—was
portrayed seated on a rocker arrayed
in smoking jacket and cap with a cigar waved airily
aloft in one paw while the other held out a placard
bearing the legend "Merry Christmas." A second
cat in full street costume bowed politely, hat in paw,
and waved a banner inscribed with "Happy New
Year," while faintly suggested kittens gambolled
around the border. The girls laughed until they
cried over it and voted it to be the best thing Nellie
had yet done in original work.
All this had taken time and it was past eleven
o'clock. Miss Allen had cried herself to sleep long
ago and everybody else in Chestnut Terrace was
abed when five figures cautiously crept down the
hall, headed by Jean with a dim lamp. Outside of
Miss Allen's door the procession halted and the girls
silently arranged their gifts on the floor.
"That's done," whispered Jean in a tone of satisfaction
as they tiptoed back. "And now let us go
to bed or Mrs. Pickrell, bless her heart, will be
down on us for burning so much midnight oil. Oil
has gone up, you know, girls."
It was in the early morning that Miss Allen
opened her door. But early as it was, another door
down the hall was half open too and five rosy faces
were peering cautiously out. The girls had been
up for an hour for fear they would miss the sight
and were all in Nellie's room, which commanded
a view of Miss Allen's door.
That lady's face was a study. Amazement, incredulity,
wonder, chased each other over it, succeeded
by a glow of pleasure. On the floor before her was
a snug little pyramid of parcels topped by Jean's
letter. On a chair behind it was a bowl of delicious
hot-house roses and Nellie's placard.
Miss Allen looked down the hall but saw
nothing, for Jean had slammed the door just in
time. Half an hour later when they were going
down to breakfast Miss Allen came along the hall
with outstretched hands to meet them. She had
been crying again, but I think her tears were happy
ones; and she was smiling now. A cluster of Jean's
roses were pinned on her breast.
"Oh, girls, girls," she said, with a little tremble in
her voice, "I can never thank you enough. It was so
kind and sweet of you. You don't know how much
good you have done me."
Breakfast was an unusually cheerful affair at No.
16 that morning. There was no skeleton at the feast
and everybody was beaming. Miss Allen laughed
and talked like a girl herself.
"Oh, how surprised I was!" she said. "The roses
were like a bit of summer, and those cats of Nellie's
were so funny and delightful. And your letter too,
Jean! I cried and laughed over it. I shall read it every
day for a year."
After breakfast everyone went to Christmas
service. The girls went uptown to the church they
attended. The city was very beautiful in the
morning sunshine. There had been a white frost
in the night and the tree-lined avenues and public
squares seemed like glimpses of fairyland.
"How lovely the world is," said Jean.
"This is really the very happiest Christmas
morning I have ever known," declared Nellie. "I
never felt so really Christmassy in my inmost soul
"I suppose," said Beth thoughtfully, "that it is
because we have discovered for ourselves the old
truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
I've always known it, in a way, but I never realized
"Blessing on Jean's Christmas inspiration," said
Nellie. "But, girls, let us try to make it an all-the-year-round
inspiration, I say. We can bring a little
of our own sunshine into Miss Allen's life as long as
we live with her."
"Amen to that!" said Jean heartily. "Oh, listen,
girls—the Christmas chimes!"
And over all the beautiful city was wafted the
grand old message of peace on earth and good will
to all the world.
A Christmas Mistake
"Tomorrow is Christmas," announced Teddy
Grant exultantly, as he sat on the floor
struggling manfully with a refractory bootlace
that was knotted and tagless and stubbornly
refused to go into the eyelets of Teddy's patched
boots. "Ain't I glad, though. Hurrah!"
His mother was washing the breakfast dishes in
a dreary, listless sort of way. She looked tired and
broken-spirited. Ted's enthusiasm seemed to grate
on her, for she answered sharply:
"Christmas, indeed. I can't see that it is anything
for us to rejoice over. Other people may be glad
enough, but what with winter coming on I'd
sooner it was spring than Christmas. Mary Alice,
do lift that child out of the ashes and put its shoes
and stockings on. Everything seems to be at sixes
and sevens here this morning."
Keith, the oldest boy, was coiled up on the sofa
calmly working out some algebra problems, quite
oblivious to the noise around him. But he looked
up from his slate, with his pencil suspended above
an obstinate equation, to declaim with a flourish:
"Christmas comes but once a year,
And then Mother wishes it wasn't here."
"I don't, then," said Gordon, son number two,
who was preparing his own noon lunch of bread
and molasses at the table, and making an atrocious
mess of crumbs and sugary syrup over everything.
"I know one thing to be thankful for, and that is
that there'll be no school. We'll have a whole week
Gordon was noted for his aversion to school and
his affection for holidays.
"And we're going to have turkey for dinner,"
declared Teddy, getting up off the floor and rushing
to secure his share of bread and molasses,
"and cranb'ry sauce and—and—pound cake! Ain't
"No, you are not," said Mrs. Grant desperately,
dropping the dishcloth and snatching the baby on
her knee to wipe the crust of cinders and molasses
from the chubby pink-and-white face. "You may as
well know it now, children, I've kept it from you so
far in hopes that something would turn up, but
nothing has. We can't have any Christmas dinner
tomorrow—we can't afford it. I've pinched and
saved every way I could for the last month, hoping
that I'd be able to get a turkey for you anyhow, but
you'll have to do without it. There's that doctor's
bill to pay and a dozen other bills coming in—and
people say they can't wait. I suppose they can't, but
it's kind of hard, I must say."
The little Grants stood with open mouths and
horrified eyes. No turkey for Christmas! Was the
world coming to an end? Wouldn't the government
interfere if anyone ventured to dispense with a
The gluttonous Teddy stuffed his fists into his
eyes and lifted up his voice. Keith, who understood
better than the others the look on his mother's face,
took his blubbering young brother by the collar and
marched him into the porch. The twins, seeing the
summary proceeding, swallowed the outcries they
had intended to make, although they couldn't keep
a few big tears from running down their fat cheeks.
Mrs. Grant looked pityingly at the disappointed
faces about her.
"Don't cry, children, you make me feel worse.
We are not the only ones who will have to do
without a Christmas turkey. We ought to be very
thankful that we have anything to eat at all. I hate
to disappoint you, but it can't be helped."
"Never mind, Mother," said Keith, comfortingly,
relaxing his hold upon the porch door, whereupon
it suddenly flew open and precipitated Teddy, who
had been tugging at the handle, heels over head
backwards. "We know you've done your best. It's
been a hard year for you. Just wait, though. I'll soon
be grown up, and then you and these greedy
youngsters shall feast on turkey every day of the
year. Hello, Teddy, have you got on your feet again?
Mind, sir, no more blubbering!"
"When I'm a man," announced Teddy with
dignity, "I'd just like to see you put me in the porch.
And I mean to have turkey all the time and I won't
give you any, either."
"All right, you greedy small boy. Only take
yourself off to school now, and let us hear no more
squeaks out of you. Tramp, all of you, and give
Mother a chance to get her work done."
Mrs. Grant got up and fell to work at her dishes
with a brighter face.
"Well, we mustn't give in; perhaps things will
be better after a while. I'll make a famous bread
pudding, and you can boil some molasses taffy and
ask those little Smithsons next door to help you pull
it. They won't whine for turkey, I'll be bound. I
don't suppose they ever tasted such a thing in all
their lives. If I could afford it, I'd have had them
all in to dinner with us. That sermon Mr. Evans
preached last Sunday kind of stirred me up. He said
we ought always to try and share our Christmas joy
with some poor souls who had never learned the
meaning of the word. I can't do as much as I'd like
to. It was different when your father was alive."
The noisy group grew silent as they always did
when their father was spoken of. He had died the
year before, and since his death the little family had
had a hard time. Keith, to hide his feelings, began
to hector the rest.
"Mary Alice, do hurry up. Here, you twin nuisances,
get off to school. If you don't you'll be late
and then the master will give you a whipping."
"He won't," answered the irrepressible Teddy.
"He never whips us, he doesn't. He stands us on the
floor sometimes, though," he added, remembering
the many times his own chubby legs had been seen
to better advantage on the school platform.
"That man," said Mrs. Grant, alluding to the
teacher, "makes me nervous. He is the most abstracted
creature I ever saw in my life. It is a wonder
to me he doesn't walk straight into the river some
day. You'll meet him meandering along the street,
gazing into vacancy, and he'll never see you nor
hear a word you say half the time."
"Yesterday," said Gordon, chuckling over the
remembrance, "he came in with a big piece of
paper he'd picked up on the entry floor in one hand
and his hat in the other—and he stuffed his hat into
the coal-scuttle and hung up the paper on a nail as
grave as you please. Never knew the difference till
Ned Slocum went and told him. He's always doing
things like that."
Keith had collected his books and now marched
his brothers and sisters off to school. Left alone
with the baby, Mrs. Grant betook herself to her
work with a heavy heart. But a second interruption
broke the progress of her dish-washing.
"I declare," she said, with a surprised glance
through the window, "if there isn't that absent-minded
schoolteacher coming through the yard!
What can he want? Dear me, I do hope Teddy
hasn't been cutting capers in school again."
For the teacher's last call had been in October
and had been occasioned by the fact that the irrepressible
Teddy would persist in going to school
with his pockets filled with live crickets and in
driving them harnessed to strings up and down the
aisle when the teacher's back was turned. All mild
methods of punishment having failed, the teacher
had called to talk it over with Mrs. Grant, with the
happy result that Teddy's behaviour had improved—in
the matter of crickets at least.
But it was about time for another outbreak.
Teddy had been unnaturally good for too long a
time. Poor Mrs. Grant feared that it was the calm
before a storm, and it was with nervous haste that
she went to the door and greeted the young
He was a slight, pale, boyish-looking fellow, with
an abstracted, musing look in his large dark eyes.
Mrs. Grant noticed with amusement that he wore
a white straw hat in spite of the season. His eyes
were directed to her face with his usual unseeing
"Just as though he was looking through me at
something a thousand miles away," said Mrs. Grant
afterwards. "I believe he was, too. His body was
right there on the step before me, but where his
soul was is more than you or I or anybody can tell."
"Good morning," he said absently. "I have just
called on my way to school with a message from
Miss Millar. She wants you all to come up and have
Christmas dinner with her tomorrow."
"For the land's sake!" said Mrs. Grant blankly.
"I don't understand." To herself she thought, "I
wish I dared take him and shake him to find if he's
walking in his sleep or not."
"You and all the children—every one," went on
the teacher dreamily, as if he were reciting a lesson
learned beforehand. "She told me to tell you to be
sure and come. Shall I say that you will?"
"Oh, yes, that is—I suppose—I don't know," said
Mrs. Grant incoherently. "I never expected—yes,
you may tell her we'll come," she concluded
"Thank you," said the abstracted messenger,
gravely lifting his hat and looking squarely through
Mrs. Grant into unknown regions. When he had
gone Mrs. Grant went in and sat down, laughing in
a sort of hysterical way.
"I wonder if it is all right. Could Cornelia really
have told him? She must, I suppose, but it is enough
to take one's breath."
Mrs. Grant and Cornelia Millar were cousins,
and had once been the closest of friends, but that
was years ago, before some spiteful reports and ill-natured
gossip had come between them, making
only a little rift at first that soon widened into a
chasm of coldness and alienation. Therefore this
invitation surprised Mrs. Grant greatly.
Miss Cornelia was a maiden lady of certain
years, with a comfortable bank account and a handsome,
old-fashioned house on the hill behind the
village. She always boarded the schoolteachers and
looked after them maternally; she was an active
church worker and a tower of strength to struggling
ministers and their families.
"If Cornelia has seen fit at last to hold out the
hand of reconciliation I'm glad enough to take it.
Dear knows, I've wanted to make up often enough,
but I didn't think she ever would. We've both of
us got too much pride and stubbornness. It's the
Turner blood in us that does it. The Turners were
all so set. But I mean to do my part now she has
And Mrs. Grant made a final attack on the dishes
with a beaming face.
When the little Grants came home and heard
the news, Teddy stood on his head to express his
delight, the twins kissed each other, and Mary Alice
and Gordon danced around the kitchen.
Keith thought himself too big to betray any joy
over a Christmas dinner, but he whistled while
doing the chores until the bare welkin in the yard
rang, and Teddy, in spite of unheard of misdemeanours,
was not collared off into the porch once.
When the young teacher got home from school
that evening he found the yellow house full of all
sorts of delectable odours. Miss Cornelia herself
was concocting mince pies after the famous family
recipe, while her ancient and faithful handmaiden,
Hannah, was straining into moulds the cranberry
jelly. The open pantry door revealed a tempting
array of Christmas delicacies.
"Did you call and invite the Smithsons up to
dinner as I told you?" asked Miss Cornelia anxiously.
"Yes," was the dreamy response as he glided
through the kitchen and vanished into the hall.
Miss Cornelia crimped the edges of her pies
delicately with a relieved air. "I made certain he'd
forget it," she said. "You just have to watch him as
if he were a mere child. Didn't I catch him yesterday
starting off to school in his carpet slippers? And
in spite of me he got away today in that ridiculous
summer hat. You'd better set that jelly in the out-pantry
to cool, Hannah; it looks good. We'll give
those poor little Smithsons a feast for once in their
lives if they never get another."
At this juncture the hall door flew open and Mr.
Palmer appeared on the threshold. He seemed considerably
agitated and for once his eyes had lost
their look of space-searching.
"Miss Millar, I am afraid I did make a mistake
this morning—it has just dawned on me. I am
almost sure that I called at Mrs. Grant's and invited
her and her family instead of the Smithsons. And
she said they would come."
Miss Cornelia's face was a study.
"Mr. Palmer," she said, flourishing her crimping
fork tragically, "do you mean to say you went
and invited Linda Grant here tomorrow? Linda
Grant, of all women in this world!"
"I did," said the teacher with penitent wretchedness.
"It was very careless of me—I am very sorry.
What can I do? I'll go down and tell them I made
a mistake if you like."
"You can't do that," groaned Miss Cornelia,
sitting down and wrinkling up her forehead in dire
perplexity. "It would never do in the world. For
pity's sake, let me think for a minute."
Miss Cornelia did think—to good purpose evidently,
for her forehead smoothed out as her meditations
proceeded and her face brightened. Then
she got up briskly. "Well, you've done it and no
mistake. I don't know that I'm sorry, either.
Anyhow, we'll leave it as it is. But you must go
straight down now and invite the Smithsons too.
And for pity's sake, don't make any more mistakes."
When he had gone Miss Cornelia opened her
heart to Hannah. "I never could have done it myself—never;
the Turner is too strong in me. But I'm
glad it is done. I've been wanting for years to make
up with Linda. And now the chance has come,
thanks to that blessed blundering boy, I mean to
make the most of it. Mind, Hannah, you never
whisper a word about its being a mistake. Linda
must never know. Poor Linda! She's had a hard
time. Hannah, we must make some more pies, and
I must go straight down to the store and get some
more Santa Claus stuff; I've only got enough to go
around the Smithsons."
When Mrs. Grant and her family arrived at the
yellow house next morning Miss Cornelia herself
ran out bareheaded to meet them. The two women
shook hands a little stiffly and then a rill of long-repressed
affection trickled out from some secret
spring in Miss Cornelia's heart and she kissed her
new-found old friend tenderly. Linda returned the
kiss warmly, and both felt that the old-time friendship
was theirs again.
The little Smithsons all came and they and the
little Grants sat down on the long bright dining
room to a dinner that made history in their small
lives, and was eaten over again in happy dreams for
How those children did eat! And how beaming
Miss Cornelia and grim-faced, soft-hearted Hannah
and even the absent-minded teacher himself enjoyed
After dinner Miss Cornelia distributed among
the delighted little souls the presents she had bought
for them, and then turned them loose in the big
shining kitchen to have a taffy pull—and they had
it to their hearts' content! And as for the shocking,
taffyfied state into which they got their own rosy
faces and that once immaculate domain—well, as
Miss Cornelia and Hannah never said one word
about it, neither will I.
The four women enjoyed the afternoon in their
own way, and the schoolteacher buried himself in
algebra to his own great satisfaction.
When her guests went home in the starlit
December dusk, Miss Cornelia walked part of the
way with them and had a long confidential talk
with Mrs. Grant. When she returned it was to find
Hannah groaning in and over the kitchen and the
schoolteacher dreamily trying to clean some
molasses off his boots with the kitchen hairbrush.
Long-suffering Miss Cornelia rescued her property
and despatched Mr. Palmer into the woodshed to
find the shoe-brush. Then she sat down and
"Hannah, what will become of that boy yet?
There's no counting on what he'll do next. I don't
know how he'll ever get through the world, I'm
sure, but I'll look after him while he's here at least.
I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for this Christmas
blunder. What an awful mess this place is in!
But, Hannah, did you ever in the world see anything
so delightful as that little Tommy Smithson
stuffing himself with plum cake, not to mention
Teddy Grant? It did me good just to see them."
A Strayed Allegiance
"Will you go to the Cove with me this afternoon?"
It was Marian Lesley who asked the question.
Esterbrook Elliott unpinned with a masterful touch
the delicate cluster of Noisette rosebuds she wore at
her throat and transferred them to his buttonhole as he
answered courteously: "Certainly. My time, as you
know, is entirely at your disposal."
They were standing in the garden under the creamy
bloom of drooping acacia trees. One long plume of
blossoms touched lightly the soft, golden-brown coils
of the girl's hair and cast a wavering shadow over the
beautiful, flower-like face beneath it.
Esterbrook Elliott, standing before her, thought
proudly that he had never seen a woman who might
compare with her. In every detail she satisfied his
critical, fastidious taste. There was not a discordant
touch about her.
Esterbrook Elliott had always loved Marian Lesley—or
thought he had. They had grown up together from
childhood. He was an only son and she an only daughter.
It had always been an understood thing between
the two families that the boy and girl should marry.
But Marian's father had decreed that no positive pledge
should pass between them until Marian was twenty-one.
Esterbrook accepted his mapped-out destiny and selected
bride with the conviction that he was an exceptionally
lucky fellow. Out of all the women in the
world Marian was the very one whom he would have
chosen as mistress of his fine, old home. She had been
his boyhood's ideal. He believed that he loved her
sincerely, but he was not too much in love to be blind
to the worldly advantages of his marriage with his
His father had died two years previously, leaving
him wealthy and independent. Marian had lost her
mother in childhood; her father died when she was
eighteen. Since then she had lived alone with her aunt.
Her life was quiet and lonely. Esterbrook's companionship
was all that brightened it, but it was enough.
Marian lavished on him all the rich, womanly love of
her heart. On her twenty-first birthday they were formally
betrothed. They were to be married in the following
No shadow had drifted across the heaven of her
happiness. She believed herself secure in her lover's
unfaltering devotion. True, at times she thought his
manner lacked a lover's passionate ardour. He was
always attentive and courteous. She had only to utter a
wish to find that it had been anticipated; he spent
every spare minute at her side.
Yet sometimes she half wished he would betray more
lover-like impatience and intensity. Were all lovers as
calm and undemonstrative?
She reproached herself for this incipient disloyalty as
often as it vexingly intruded its unwelcome presence
across her inner consciousness. Surely Esterbrook was
fond and devoted enough to satisfy the most exacting
demands of affection. Marian herself was somewhat
undemonstrative and reserved. Passing acquaintances
called her cold and proud. Only the privileged few
knew the rich depths of womanly tenderness in her
Esterbrook thought that he fully appreciated her. As
he had walked homeward the night of their betrothal,
he had reviewed with unconscious criticism his mental
catalogue of Marian's graces and good qualities, admitting,
with supreme satisfaction, that there was not one
thing about her that he could wish changed.
This afternoon, under the acacias, they had been
planning about their wedding. There was no one to
consult but themselves.
They were to be married early in September and
then go abroad. Esterbrook mapped out the details of
their bridal tour with careful thoughtfulness. They would
visit all the old-world places that Marian wished to see.
Afterwards they would come back home. He discussed
certain changes he wished to make in the old Elliott
mansion to fit it for a young and beautiful mistress.
He did most of the planning. Marian was content to
listen in happy silence. Afterwards she had proposed
this walk to the Cove.
"What particular object of charity have you found at
the Cove now?" asked Esterbrook, with lazy interest,
as they walked along.
"Mrs. Barrett's little Bessie is very ill with fever,"
answered Marian. Then, catching his anxious look, she
hastened to add, "It is nothing infectious—some kind
of a slow, sapping variety. There is no danger, Esterbrook."
"I was not afraid for myself," he replied quietly.
"My alarm was for you. You are too precious to me,
Marian, for me to permit you to risk health and life, if
it were dangerous. What a Lady Bountiful you are to
those people at the Cove. When we are married you
must take me in hand and teach me your creed of
charity. I'm afraid I've lived a rather selfish life. You
will change all that, dear. You will make a good man of
"You are that now, Esterbrook," she said softly. "If
you were not, I could not love you."
"It is a negative sort of goodness, I fear. I have never
been tried or tempted severely. Perhaps I should fail
under the test."
"I am sure you would not," answered Marian
Esterbrook laughed; her faith in him was pleasant.
He had no thought but that he would prove worthy of
The Cove, so-called, was a little fishing hamlet situated
on the low, sandy shore of a small bay. The
houses, clustered in one spot, seemed like nothing so
much as larger shells washed up by the sea, so grey
and bleached were they from long exposure to sea
winds and spray.
Dozens of ragged children were playing about them,
mingled with several disreputable yellow curs that
yapped noisily at the strangers.
Down on the sandy strip of beach below the houses
groups of men were lounging about. The mackerel,
season had not yet set in; the spring herring netting
was past. It was holiday time among the sea folks.
They were enjoying it to the full, a happy, ragged
colony, careless of what the morrows might bring forth.
Out beyond, the boats were at anchor, floating as
gracefully on the twinkling water as sea birds, their tall
masts bowing landward on the swell. A lazy, dreamful
calm had fallen over the distant seas; the horizon blues
were pale and dim; faint purple hazes blurred the outlines
of far-off headlands and cliffs; the yellow sands
sparkled in the sunshine as if powdered with jewels.
A murmurous babble of life buzzed about the hamlet,
pierced through by the shrill undertones of the
wrangling children, most of whom had paused in their
play to scan the visitors with covert curiosity.
Marian led the way to a house apart from the others
at the very edge of the shelving rock. The dooryard
was scrupulously clean and unlittered; the little footpath
through it was neatly bordered by white clam
shells; several thrifty geraniums in bloom looked out
from the muslin-curtained windows.
A weary-faced woman came forward to meet them.
"Bessie's much the same, Miss Lesley," she said, in
answer to Marian's inquiry. "The doctor you sent was
here today and did all he could for her. He seemed
quite hopeful. She don't complain or nothing—just lies
there and moans. Sometimes she gets restless. It's very
kind of you to come so often, Miss Lesley. Here, Magdalen,
will you put this basket the lady's brought up
there on the shelf?"
A girl, who had been sitting unnoticed with her back
to the visitors, at the head of the child's cot in one
corner of the room, stood up and slowly turned around.
Marian and Esterbrook Elliott both started with involuntary
surprise. Esterbrook caught his breath like a
man suddenly awakened from sleep. In the name of all
that was wonderful, who or what could this girl be, so
little in harmony with her surroundings?
Standing in the crepuscular light of the corner, her
marvellous beauty shone out with the vivid richness of
some rare painting. She was tall, and the magnificent
proportions of her figure were enhanced rather than
marred by the severely plain dress of dark print that
she wore. The heavy masses of her hair, a shining
auburn dashed with golden foam, were coiled in a rich,
glossy knot at the back of the classically modelled head
and rippled back from a low brow whose waxen fairness
even the breezes of the ocean had spared.
The girl's face was a full, perfect oval, with features
of faultless regularity, and the large, full eyes were of
tawny hazel, darkened into inscrutable gloom in the
dimness of the corner.
Not even Marian Lesley's face was more delicately
tinted, but not a trace of colour appeared in the smooth,
marble-like cheeks; yet the waxen pallor bore no trace
of disease or weakness, and the large, curving mouth
was of an intense crimson.
She stood quite motionless. There was no trace of
embarrassment or self-consciousness in her pose. When
Mrs. Barrett said, "This is my niece, Magdalen Crawford,"
she merely inclined her head in grave, silent
acknowledgement. As she moved forward to take Marian's
basket, she seemed oddly out of place in the low,
crowded room. Her presence seemed to throw a strange
restraint over the group.
Marian rose and went over to the cot, laying her
slender hand on the hot forehead of the little sufferer.
The child opened its brown eyes questioningly.
"How are you today, Bessie?"
"Mad'len—I want Mad'len," moaned the little plaintive
Magdalen came over and stood beside Marian Lesley.
"She wants me," she said in a low, thrilling voice;
free from all harsh accent or intonation. "I am the only
one she seems to know always. Yes, darling, Mad'len
is here—right beside you. She will not leave you."
She knelt by the little cot and passed her arm under
the child's neck, drawing the curly head close to her
throat with a tender, soothing motion.
Esterbrook Elliott watched the two women intently—the
one standing by the cot, arrayed in simple yet
costly apparel, with her beautiful, high-bred face, and
the other, kneeling on the bare, sanded floor in her
print dress, with her splendid head bent low over the
child and the long fringe of burnished lashes sweeping
the cold pallor of the oval cheek.
From the moment that Magdalen Crawford's haunting
eyes had looked straight into his for one fleeting
second, an unnamable thrill of pain and pleasure stirred
his heart, a thrill so strong and sudden and passionate
that his face paled with emotion; the room seemed to
swim before his eyes in a mist out of which gleamed
that wonderful face with its mesmeric, darkly radiant
eyes, burning their way into deeps and abysses of his
soul hitherto unknown to him.
When the mist cleared away and his head grew steadier,
he wondered at himself. Yet he trembled in every
limb and the only clear idea that struggled out of his
confused thoughts was an overmastering desire to take
that cold face between his hands and kiss it until its
passionless marble glowed into warm and throbbing
"Who is that girl?" he said abruptly, when they had
left the cottage. "She is the most beautiful woman I
have ever seen—present company always excepted,"
he concluded, with a depreciatory laugh.
The delicate bloom on Marian's face deepened slightly.
"You had much better to have omitted that last sentence,"
she said quietly, "it was so palpably an afterthought.
Yes, she is wonderfully lovely—a strange
beauty, I fancied. There seemed something odd and
uncanny about it to me. She must be Mrs. Barrett's
niece. I remember that when I was down here about a
month ago Mrs. Barrett told me she expected a niece of
hers to live with her—for a time at least. Her parents
were both dead, the father having died recently. Mrs.
Barrett seemed troubled about her. She said that the
girl had been well brought up and used to better
things than the Cove could give her, and she feared
that she would be very discontented and unhappy. I
had forgotten all about it until I saw the girl today. She
certainly seems to be a very superior person; she will
find the Cove very lonely, I am sure. It is not probable
she will stay there long. I must see what I can do for
her, but her manner seemed rather repellent, don't you
"Hardly," responded Esterbrook curtly. "She seemed
surprisingly dignified and self-possessed, I fancied, for
a girl in her position. A princess could not have looked
and bowed more royally. There was not a shadow of
embarrassment in her manner, in spite of the incongruity
of her surroundings. You had much better leave her
alone, Marian. In all probability she would resent any
condescension on your part. What wonderful, deep,
lovely eyes she has."
Again the sensitive colour flushed Marian's cheek as
his voice lapsed unconsciously into a dreamy, retrospective
tone, and a slight restraint came over her
manner, which did not depart. Esterbrook went away
at sunset. Marian asked him to remain for the evening,
but he pleaded some excuse.
"I shall come tomorrow afternoon," he said, as he
stooped to drop a careless good-bye kiss on her face.
Marian watched him wistfully as he rode away, with
an unaccountable pain in her heart. She felt more acutely
than ever that there were depths in her lover's nature
that she was powerless to stir into responsive life.
Had any other that power? She thought of the girl at
the Cove, with her deep eyes and wonderful face. A
chill of premonitory fear seized upon her.
"I feel exactly as if Esterbrook had gone away from
me forever," she said slowly to herself, stooping to
brush her cheek against a dew-cold, milk-white acacia
bloom, "and would never come back to me again. If
that could happen, I wonder what there would be left
to live for?"
Esterbrook Elliott meant, or honestly thought he meant,
to go home when he left Marian. Nevertheless, when
he reached the road branching off to the Cove he
turned his horse down it with a flush on his dark
cheek. He realized that the motive of the action was
disloyal to Marian and he felt ashamed of his weakness.
But the desire to see Magdalen Crawford once more
and to look into the depths of her eyes was stronger
than all else, and overpowered every throb of duty and
He saw nothing of her when he reached the Cove.
He could think of no excuse for calling at the Barrett
cottage, so he rode slowly past the hamlet and along
The sun, red as a smouldering ember, was half buried
in the silken violet rim of the sea; the west was a
vast lake of saffron and rose and ethereal green, through
which floated the curved shallop of a thin new moon,
slowly deepening from lustreless white, through
gleaming silver, into burnished gold, and attended by one
solitary, pearl-white star. The vast concave of sky above
was of violet, infinite and flawless. Far out dusky amethystine
islets clustered like gems on the shining breast
of the bay. The little pools of water along the low
shores glowed like mirrors of polished jacinth. The
small, pine-fringed headlands ran out into the water,
cutting its lustrous blue expanse like purple wedges.
As Esterbrook turned one of them he saw Magdalen
standing out on the point of the next, a short distance
away. Her back was towards him, and her splendid
figure was outlined darkly against the vivid sky.
Esterbrook sprang from his horse and left the animal
standing by itself while he walked swiftly out to her.
His heart throbbed suffocatingly. He was conscious of
no direct purpose save merely to see her.
She turned when he reached her with a slight start of
surprise. His footsteps had made no sound on the
For a few moments they faced each other so, eyes
burning into eyes with mute soul-probing and questioning.
The sun had disappeared, leaving a stain of fiery
red to mark his grave; the weird, radiant light was
startlingly vivid and clear. Little crisp puffs and flakes
of foam scurried over the point like elfin things. The
fresh wind, blowing up the bay, tossed the lustrous
rings of hair about Magdalen's pale face; all the routed
shadows of the hour had found refuge in her eyes.
Not a trace of colour appeared in her face under
Esterbrook Elliott's burning gaze. But when he said
"Magdalen!" a single, hot scorch of crimson flamed up
into her cheeks protestingly. She lifted her hand with a
splendid gesture, but no word passed her lips.
"Magdalen, have you nothing to say to me?" he
asked, coming closer to her with an imploring passion
in his face never seen by Marian Lesley's eyes. He
reached out his hand, but she stepped back from his
"What should I have to say to you?"
"Say that you are glad to see me."
"I am not glad to see you. You have no right to come
here. But I knew you would come."
"You knew it? How?"
"Your eyes told me so today. I am not blind—I can
see further than those dull fisher folks. Yes, I knew
you would come. That is why I came here tonight—so
that you would find me alone and I could tell you that
you were not to come again."
"Why must you tell me that, Magdalen?"
"Because, as I have told you, you have no right to
"But if I will not obey you? If I will come in defiance
of your prohibition?"
She turned her steady luminous eyes on his pale, set
"You would stamp yourself as a madman, then,"
she said coldly. "I know that you are Miss Lesley's
promised husband. Therefore, you are either false to
her or insulting to me. In either case the companionship
of Magdalen Crawford is not what you must seek.
She turned away from him with an imperious gesture
of dismissal. Esterbrook Elliott stepped forward
and caught one firm, white wrist.
"I shall not obey you," he said in a low, intense
tone; his fine eyes burned into hers. "You may send
me away, but I will come back, again and yet again
until you have learned to welcome me. Why should
you meet me like an enemy? Why can we not be
The girl faced him once more.
"Because," she said proudly, "I am not your equal.
There can be no friendship between us. There ought
not to be. Magdalen Crawford, the fisherman's niece,
is no companion for you. You will be foolish, as well as
disloyal, if you ever try to see me again. Go back to the
beautiful, high-bred woman you love and forget me.
Perhaps you think I am talking strangely. Perhaps you
think me bold and unwomanly to speak so plainly to
you, a stranger. But there are some circumstances in
life when plain-speaking is best. I do not want to see
you again. Now, go back to your own world."
Esterbrook Elliott slowly turned from her and walked
in silence back to the shore. In the shadows of the
point he stopped to look back at her, standing out like
some inspired prophetess against the fiery background
of the sunset sky and silver-blue water. The sky overhead
was thick-sown with stars; the night breeze was
blowing up from its lair in distant, echoing sea caves.
On his right the lights of the Cove twinkled out through
"I feel like a coward and a traitor," he said slowly.
"Good God, what is this madness that has come over
me? Is this my boasted strength of manhood?"
A moment later the hoof beats of his horse died
away up the shore.
Magdalen Crawford lingered on the point until the
last dull red faded out into the violet gloom of the June
sea dusk, than which nothing can be rarer or diviner,
and listened to the moan and murmur of the sea far
out over the bay with sorrowful eyes and sternly set
The next day, when the afternoon sun hung hot and
heavy over the water, Esterbrook Elliott came again to
the Cove. He found it deserted. A rumour of mackerel
had come, and every boat had sailed out in the rose-red
dawn to the fishing grounds. But down on a strip
of sparkling yellow sand he saw Magdalen Crawford
standing, her hand on the rope that fastened a small
white dory to the fragment of a half-embedded wreck.
She was watching a huddle of gulls clustered on the
tip of a narrow, sandy spit running out to the left. She
turned at the sound of his hurried foot-fall behind her.
Her face paled slightly, and into the depths of her eyes
leapt a passionate, mesmeric glow that faded as quickly
as it came.
"You see I have come back in spite of your command,
"I do see it," she answered in a gravely troubled
voice. "You are a madman who refuses to be warned."
"Where are you going, Magdalen?" She had loosened
the rope from the wreck.
"I am going to row over to Chapel Point for salt.
They think the boats will come in tonight loaded with
mackerel—look at them away out there by the score—and
salt will be needed."
"Can you row so far alone?"
"Easily. I learned to row long ago—for a pastime
then. Since coming here I find it of great service to
She stepped lightly into the tiny shallop and picked
up an oar. The brilliant sunshine streamed about her,
burnishing the rich tints of her hair into ruddy gold.
She balanced herself to the swaying of the dory with
the grace of a sea bird. The man looking at her felt his
"Good-bye, Mr. Elliott."
For answer he sprang into the dory and, snatching
an oar, pushed against the old wreck with such energy
that the dory shot out from the shore like a foam bell.
His sudden spring had set it rocking violently. Magdalen
almost lost her footing and caught blindly at his
arm. As her fingers closed on his wrist a thrill as of fire
shot through his every vein.
"Why have you done this, Mr. Elliott? You must go
"But I will not," he said masterfully, looking straight
into her eyes with an imperiousness that sat well upon
him. "I am going to row you over to Chapel Point. I
have the oars—I will be master this once, at least."
For an instant her eyes flashed defiant protest, then
drooped before his. A sudden, hot blush crimsoned
her pale face. His will had mastered hers; the girl
trembled from head to foot, and the proud, sensitive,
Into the face of the man watching her breathlessly
flashed a triumphant, passionate joy. He put out his
hand and gently pushed her down into the seat. Sitting
opposite, he took up the oars and pulled out over the
sheet of sparkling blue water, through which at first
the bottom of white sand glimmered wavily but afterwards
deepened to translucent, dim depths of greenness.
His heart throbbed tumultuously. Once the thought
of Marian drifted across his mind like a chill breath
of wind, but it was forgotten when his eyes met
"Tell me about yourself, Magdalen," he said at last,
breaking the tremulous, charmed, sparkling silence.
"There is nothing to tell," she answered with characteristic
straightforwardness. "My life has been a very
uneventful one. I have never been rich, or very well
educated, but—it used to be different from now. I had
some chance before—before Father died."
"You must have found it very lonely and strange
when you came here first."
"Yes. At first I thought I should die—but I do not
mind it now. I have made friends with the sea; it has
taught me a great deal. There is a kind of inspiration in
the sea. When one listens to its never-ceasing murmur
afar out there, always sounding at midnight and midday,
one's soul goes out to meet Eternity. Sometimes it
gives me so much pleasure that it is almost pain."
She stopped abruptly.
"I don't know why I am talking to you like this."
"You are a strange girl, Magdalen. Have you no
other companion than the sea?"
"No. Why should I wish to have? I shall not be here
Elliott's face contracted with a spasm of pain.
"You are not going away, Magdalen?"
"Yes—in the fall. I have my own living to earn, you
know. I am very poor. Uncle and Aunt are very kind,
but I cannot consent to burden them any longer than I
A sigh that was almost a moan broke from Esterbrook
"You must not go away, Magdalen. You must stay
"You forget yourself," she said proudly. "How dare
you speak to me so? Have you forgotten Miss Lesley?
Or are you a traitor to us both?"
Esterbrook made no answer. He bowed his pale,
miserable face before her, self-condemned.
The breast of the bay sparkled with its countless
gems like the breast of a fair woman. The shores were
purple and amethystine in the distance. Far out, bluish,
phantom-like sails clustered against the pallid horizon.
The dory danced like a feather over the ripples. They
were close under the shadow of Chapel Point.
Marian Lesley waited in vain for her lover that afternoon.
When he came at last in the odorous dusk of the
June night she met him on the acacia-shadowed verandah
with cold sweetness. Perhaps some subtle woman-instinct
whispered to her where and how he had spent
the afternoon, for she offered him no kiss, nor did she
ask him why he had failed to come sooner.
His eyes lingered on her in the dim light, taking in
every detail of her sweet womanly refinement and loveliness,
and with difficulty he choked back a groan.
Again he asked himself what madness had come over
him, and again for an answer rose up the vision of
Magdalen Crawford's face as he had seen it that day,
crimsoning beneath his gaze.
It was late when he left. Marian watched him out of
sight, standing under the acacias. She shivered as with
a sudden chill. "I feel as I think Vashti must have felt,"
she murmured aloud, "when, discrowned and unqueened,
she crept out of the gates of Shushan to hide
her broken heart. I wonder if Esther has already usurped
my sceptre. Has that girl at the Cove, with her pale,
priestess-like face and mysterious eyes, stolen his heart
from me? Perhaps not, for it may never have been
mine. I know that Esterbrook Elliott will be true to the
letter of his vows to me, no matter what it may cost
him. But I want no pallid shadow of the love that
belongs to another. The hour of abdication is at hand,
I fear. And what will be left for throneless Vashti then?"
Esterbrook Elliott, walking home through the mocking
calm of the night, fought a hard battle with himself.
He was face to face with the truth at last—the bitter
knowledge that he had never loved Marian Lesley,
save with a fond, brotherly affection, and that he did
love Magdalen Crawford with a passion that threatened
to sweep before it every vestige of his honour and
He had seen her but three times—and his throbbing
heart lay in the hollow of her cold white hand.
He shut his eyes and groaned. What madness. What
unutterable folly! He was not free—he was bound to
another by every cord of honour and self-respect. And,
even were he free, Magdalen Crawford would be no fit
wife for him—in the eyes of the world, at least. A girl
from the Cove—a girl with little education and no
social standing—aye! but he loved her.
He groaned again and again in his misery. Afar down
the slope the bay waters lay like an inky strip and the
distant, murmurous plaint of the sea came out of the
stillness of the night; the lights at the Cove glimmered
In the week that followed he went to the Cove every
day. Sometimes he did not see Magdalen; at other
times he did. But at the end of the week he had conquered
in the bitter, heart-crushing struggle with himself.
If he had weakly given way to the first mad sweep
of a new passion, the strength of his manhood reasserted
itself at last. Faltering and wavering were over,
though there was passionate pain in his voice when he
said at last, "I am not coming back again, Magdalen."
They were standing in the shadow of the pine-fringed
point that ran out to the left of the Cove. They had
been walking together along the shore, watching the
splendour of the sea sunset that flamed and glowed in
the west, where there was a sea of mackerel clouds,
crimson and amber tinted, with long, ribbon-like strips
of apple-green sky between. They had walked in silence,
hand in hand, as children might have done, yet
with the stir and throb of a mighty passion seething in
Magdalen turned as Esterbrook spoke, and looked at
him in a long silence. The bay stretched out before
them, tranced and shimmering; a few stars shone down
through the gloom of dusk. Right across the translucent
greens and roses and blues of the west hung a
dark, unsightly cloud, like the blurred outline of a
monstrous bat. In the dim, reflected light the girl's
mournful face took on a weird, unearthly beauty. She
turned her eyes from Esterbrook Elliott's set white face
to the radiant gloom of the sea.
"That is best," she answered at last, slowly.
"Best—yes! Better that we had never met! I love
you—you know it—words are idle between us. I never
loved before—I thought I did. I made a mistake and I
must pay the penalty of that mistake. You understand
"I understand," she answered simply.
"I do not excuse myself—I have been weak and
cowardly and disloyal. But I have conquered myself—I
will be true to the woman to whom I am pledged. You
and I must not meet again. I will crush this madness to
death. I think I have been delirious ever since that day
I saw you first, Magdalen. My brain is clearer now. I
see my duty and I mean to do it at any cost. I dare not
trust myself to say more. Magdalen, I have much for
which to ask your forgiveness."
"There is nothing to forgive," she said steadily. "I
have been as much to blame as you. If I had been as
resolute as I ought to have been—if I had sent you
away the second time as I did the first—this would not
have come to pass. I have been weak too, and I deserve
to atone for my weakness by suffering. There is
only one path open to us. Esterbrook, good-bye." Her
voice quivered with an uncontrollable spasm of pain,
but the misty, mournful eyes did not swerve from his.
The man stepped forward and caught her in his arms.
"Magdalen, good-bye, my darling. Kiss me once—only
once—before I go."
She loosened his arms and stepped back proudly.
"No! No man kisses my lips unless he is to be my
husband. Good-bye, dear."
He bowed his head silently and went away, looking
back not once, else he might have seen her kneeling on
the damp sand weeping noiselessly and passionately.
Marian Lesley looked at his pale, determined face the
next evening and read it like an open book.
She had grown paler herself; there were purple shadows
under the sweet violet eyes that might have hinted
of her own sleepless nights.
She greeted him calmly, holding out a steady, white
hand of welcome. She saw the traces of the struggle
through which he had passed and knew that he had
come off victor.
The knowledge made her task a little harder. It would
have been easier to let slip the straining cable than to
cast it from her when it lay unresistingly in her hand.
For an instant her heart thrilled with an unutterably
sweet hope. Might he not forget in time? Need she
snap in twain the weakened bond between them after
all? Perhaps she might win back her lost sceptre, yet
Womanly pride throttled the struggling hope. No
divided allegiance, no hollow semblance of queenship
Her opportunity came when Esterbrook asked with
grave earnestness if their marriage might not be hastened
a little—could he not have his bride in August?
For a fleeting second Marian closed her eyes and the
slender hands, lying among the laces in her lap, clasped
each other convulsively.
Then she said quietly, "Sometimes I have thought,
Esterbrook, that it might be better—if we were never
married at all."
Esterbrook turned a startled face upon her.
"Not married at all! Marian, what do you mean?"
"Just what I say. I do not think we are as well suited
to each other after all as we have fancied. We have
loved each other as brother and sister might—that is
all. I think it will be best to be brother and sister
Esterbrook sprang to his feet.
"Marian, do you know what you are saying? You
surely cannot have heard—no one could have told
"I have heard nothing," she interrupted hurriedly.
"No one has told me anything. I have only said what I
have been thinking of late. I am sure we have made a
mistake. It is not too late to remedy it. You will not
refuse my request, Esterbrook? You will set me free?"
"Good heavens, Marian!" he said hoarsely. "I cannot
realize that you are in earnest. Have you ceased to care
for me?" The rigidly locked hands were clasped a little
"No—I shall always care for you as my friend if you
will let me. But I know we could not make each other
happy—the time for that has gone by. I would never
be satisfied, nor would you. Esterbrook, will you release
me from a promise which has become an irksome
He looked down on her upturned face mistily. A
great joy was surging up in his heart—yet it was mingled
with great regret.
He knew—none better—what was passing out of his
life, what he was losing when he lost that pure, womanly
"If you really mean this, Marian," he said slowly, "if
you really have come to feel that your truest love is not
and never can be mine—that I cannot make you happy—then
there is nothing for me to do but to grant your
request. You are free."
"Thank you, dear," she said gently, as she stood up.
She slipped his ring from her finger and held it out
to him. He took it mechanically. He still felt dazed and
Marian held out her hand.
"Good-night, Esterbrook," she said, a little wearily.
"I feel tired. I am glad you see it all in the same light as
"Marian," he said earnestly, clasping the outstretched
hand, "are you sure that you will be happy—are you
sure that you are doing a wise thing?"
"Quite sure," she answered, with a faint smile. "I am
not acting rashly. I have thought it all over carefully.
Things are much better so, dear. We will always be
friends. Your joys and sorrows will be to me as my
own. When another love comes to bless your life,
Esterbrook, I will be glad. And now, good-night. I
want to be alone now."
At the doorway he turned to look back at her, standing
in all her sweet stateliness in the twilight duskness,
and the keen realization of all he had lost made him
bow his head with a quick pang of regret.
Then he went out into the darkness of the summer
An hour later he stood alone on the little point where
he had parted with Magdalen the night before. A restless
night wind was moaning through the pines that
fringed the bank behind him; the moon shone down
radiantly, turning the calm expanse of the bay into a
He took Marian's ring from his pocket and kissed it
reverently. Then he threw it from him far out over the
water. For a second the diamond flashed in the moonlight;
then, with a tiny splash, it fell among the ripples.
Esterbrook turned his face to the Cove, lying dark
and silent in the curve between the crescent headlands.
A solitary light glimmered from the low eaves of the
Tomorrow, was his unspoken thought, I will be free;
to go back to Magdalen.
An Invitation Given on Impulse
It was a gloomy Saturday morning. The trees in
the Oaklawn grounds were tossing wildly in the
gusts of wind, and sodden brown leaves were
blown up against the windows of the library,
where a score of girls were waiting for the principal to
bring the mail in.
The big room echoed with the pleasant sound of girlish
voices and low laughter, for in a fortnight school
would close for the holidays, and they were all talking
about their plans and anticipations.
Only Ruth Mannering was, as usual, sitting by herself
near one of the windows, looking out on the misty lawn.
She was a pale, slender girl, with a sad face, and was
dressed in rather shabby black. She had no special friend
at Oaklawn, and the other girls did not know much about
her. If they had thought about it at all, they would probably
have decided that they did not like her; but for the
most part they simply overlooked her.
This was not altogether their fault. Ruth was poor and
apparently friendless, but it was not her poverty that was
against her. Lou Scott, who was "as poor as a church
mouse," to quote her own frank admission, was the most
popular girl in the seminary, the boon companion of the
richest girls, and in demand with everybody. But Lou
was jolly and frank and offhanded, while Ruth was painfully
shy and reserved, and that was the secret of the
There was "no fun in her," the girls said, and so it came
about that she was left out of their social life, and was
almost as solitary at Oaklawn as if she had been the only
girl there. She was there for the special purpose of studying
music, and expected to earn her own living by teaching
it when she left. She believed that the girls looked
down on her on this account; this was unjust, of course,
but Ruth had no idea how much her own coldness and
reserve had worked against her.
Across the room Carol Golden was, as usual, the centre
of an animated group; Golden Carol as her particular
friends sometimes called her, partly because of her beautiful
voice, and partly because of her wonderful fleece of
golden hair. Carol was one of the seminary pets, and
seemed to Ruth Mannering to have everything that she
Presently the mail was brought in, and there was a
rush to the table, followed by exclamations of satisfaction
or disappointment. In a few minutes the room was almost
deserted. Only two girls remained: Carol Golden,
who had dropped into a big chair to read her many
letters; and Ruth Mannering, who had not received any
and had gone silently back to her part of the window.
Presently Carol gave a little cry of delight. Her mother
had written that she might invite any friend she wished
home with her to spend the holidays. Carol had asked for
this permission, and now that it had come was ready to
dance for joy. As to whom she would ask, there could be
only one answer to that. Of course it must be her particular
friend, Maud Russell, who was the cleverest and prettiest
girl at Oaklawn, at least so her admirers said. She
was undoubtedly the richest, and was the acknowledged
"leader." The girls affectionately called her "Princess,"
and Carol adored her with that romantic affection that is
found only among school girls. She knew, too, that Maud
would surely accept her invitation because she did not
intend to go home. Her parents were travelling in Europe,
and she expected to spend her holidays with some
cousins, who were almost strangers to her.
Carol was so much pleased that she felt as if she must
talk to somebody, so she turned to Ruth.
"Isn't it delightful to think that we'll all be going home
in a fortnight?"
"Yes, very—for those that have homes to go to," said
Carol felt a quick pang of pity and self-reproach.
"Haven't you?" she asked.
Ruth shook her head. In spite of herself, the kindness
of Carol's tone brought the tears to her eyes.
"My mother died a year ago," she said in a trembling
voice, "and since then I have had no real home. We were
quite alone in the world, Mother and I, and now I have
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you," cried Carol impulsively. She
leaned forward and took Ruth's hand in a gentle way.
"And do you mean to say that you'll have to stay here all
through the holidays? Why, it will be horrid."
"Oh, I shall not mind it much," said Ruth quickly,
"with study and practice most of the time. Only now,
when everyone is talking about it, it makes me wish that I
had some place to go."
Carol dropped Ruth's hand suddenly in the shock of a
sudden idea that darted into her mind.
A stray girl passing through the hall called out, "Ruth,
Miss Siviter wishes to see you about something in Room
Ruth got up quickly. She was glad to get away, for it
seemed to her that in another minute she would break
Carol Golden hardly noticed her departure. She gathered
up her letters and went abstractedly to her room,
unheeding a gay call for "Golden Carol" from a group of
girls in the corridor. Maud Russell was not in and Carol
was glad. She wanted to be alone and fight down that
"It is ridiculous to think of it," she said aloud, with a
petulance very unusual in Golden Carol, whose disposition
was as sunny as her looks. "Why, I simply cannot. I
have always been longing to ask Maud to visit me, and
now that the chance has come I am not going to throw it
away. I am very sorry for Ruth, of course. It must be
dreadful to be all alone like that. But it isn't my fault. And
she is so fearfully quiet and dowdy—what would they all
think of her at home? Frank and Jack would make such
fun of her. I shall ask Maud just as soon as she comes in."
Maud did come in presently, but Carol did not give her
the invitation. Instead, she was almost snappish to her
idol, and the Princess soon went out again in something
of a huff.
"Oh, dear," cried Carol, "now I've offended her. What
has got into me? What a disagreeable thing a conscience
is, although I'm sure I don't know why mine should be
prodding me so! I don't want to invite Ruth Mannering
home with me for the holidays, but I feel exactly as if I
should not have a minute's peace of mind all the time if I
didn't. Mother would think it all right, of course. She
would not mind if Ruth dressed in calico and never said
anything but yes and no. But how the boys would laugh!
I simply won't do it, conscience or no conscience."
In view of this decision it was rather strange that the
next morning, Carol Golden went down to Ruth Mannering's
lonely little room on Corridor Two and said, "Ruth,
will you go home with me for the holidays? Mother wrote
me to invite anyone I wished to. Don't say you can't
come, dear, because you must."
Carol never, as long as she lived, forgot Ruth's face at
"It was absolutely transfigured," she said afterwards. "I
never saw anyone look so happy in my life."
A fortnight later unwonted silence reigned at Oaklawn.
The girls were scattered far and wide, and Ruth Mannering
and Carol Golden were at the latter's home.
Carol was a very much surprised girl. Under the influence
of kindness and pleasure Ruth seemed transformed
into a different person. Her shyness and reserve melted
away in the sunny atmosphere of the Golden home. Mrs.
Golden took her into her motherly heart at once; and as
for Frank and Jack, whose verdict Carol had so dreaded,
they voted Ruth "splendid." She certainly got along very
well with them; and if she did not make the social sensation
that pretty Maud Russell might have made, the
Goldens all liked her and Carol was content.
"Just four days more," sighed Carol one afternoon,
"and then we must go back to Oaklawn. Can you realize
Ruth looked up from her book with a smile. Even in
appearance she had changed. There was a faint pink in
her cheeks and a merry light in her eyes.
"I shall not be sorry to go back to work," she said. "I
feel just like it because I have had so pleasant a time here
that it has heartened me up for next term. I think it will
be very different from last. I begin to see that I kept to
myself too much and brooded over fancied slights."
"And then you are to room with me since Maud is not
coming back," said Carol. "What fun we shall have. Did
you ever toast marshmallows over the gas? Why, I declare,
there is Mr. Swift coming up the walk. Look, Ruth! He is
the richest man in Westleigh."
Ruth peeped out of the window over Carol's shoulder.
"He reminds me of somebody," she said absently, "but
I can't think who it is. Of course, I have never seen him
before. What a good face he has!"
"He is as good as he looks," said Carol, enthusiastically.
"Next to Father, Mr. Swift is the nicest man in the
world. I have always been quite a pet of his. His wife is
dead, and so is his only daughter. She was a lovely girl
and died only two years ago. It nearly broke Mr. Swift's
heart. And he has lived alone ever since in that great big
house up at the head of Warner Street, the one you admired
so, Ruth, the last time we were uptown. There's
the bell for the second time, Mary can't have heard it. I'll
As Carol showed the caller into the room, Ruth rose to
leave and thus came face to face with him. Mr. Swift
"Mr. Swift, this is my school friend, Miss Mannering,"
Mr. Swift seemed strangely agitated as he took Ruth's
timidly offered hand.
"My dear young lady," he said hurriedly, "I am going
to ask you what may seem a very strange question. What
was your mother's name?"
"Agnes Hastings," answered Ruth in surprise. And
then Carol really thought that Mr. Swift had gone crazy,
for he drew Ruth into his arms and kissed her.
"I knew it," he said. "I was sure you were Agnes'
daughter, for you are the living image of what she was
when I last saw her. Child, you don't know me, but I am
your Uncle Robert. Your mother was my half-sister."
"Oh, Mr. Swift!" cried Carol, and then she ran for her
Ruth turned pale and dropped into a chair, and Mr.
Swift sat down beside her.
"To think that I have found you at last, child. How
puzzled you look. Did your mother never speak of me?
How is she? Where is she?"
"Mother died last year," said Ruth.
"Poor Agnes! And I never knew! Don't cry, little girl. I
want you to tell me all about it. She was much younger
than I was, and when our mother died my stepfather
went away and took her with him. I remained with my
father's people and eventually lost all trace of my sister. I
was a poor boy then, but things have looked up with me
and I have often tried to find her."
By this time Carol had returned with her father and
mother, and there was a scene—laughing, crying, explaining—and
I don't really know which of the two girls
was the more excited, Carol or Ruth. As for Mr. Swift, he
was overjoyed to find his niece and wanted to carry her
off with him then and there, but Mrs. Golden insisted on
her finishing her visit. When the question of returning to
Oaklawn came up, Mr. Swift would not hear of it at first,
but finally yielded to Carol's entreaties and Ruth's own
"I shall graduate next year, Uncle, and then I can come
back to you for good."
That evening when Ruth was alone in her room, trying
to collect her thoughts and realize that the home and
love that she had so craved were really to be hers at last,
Golden Carol was with her mother in the room below,
talking it all over.
"Just think, Mother, if I had not asked Ruth to come
here, this would not have happened. And I didn't want
to, I wanted to ask Maud so much, and I was dreadfully
disappointed when I couldn't—for I really couldn't. I
could not help remembering the look in Ruth's eyes
when she said that she had no home to go to, and so I
asked her instead of Maud. How dreadful it would have
been if I hadn't."
Detected by the Camera
One summer I was attacked by the craze for amateur
photography. It became chronic afterwards,
and I and my camera have never since been parted.
We have had some odd adventures together, and
one of the most novel of our experiences was that in
which we played the part of chief witness against
I may say that my name is Amy Clarke, and that I
believe I am considered the best amateur photographer
in our part of the country. That is all I need
tell you about myself.
Mr. Carroll had asked me to photograph his
place for him when the apple orchards were in
bloom. He has a picturesque old-fashioned country
house behind a lawn of the most delightful old
trees and flanked on each side by the orchards. So I
went one June afternoon, with all my accoutrements,
prepared to "take" the Carroll establishment
in my best style.
Mr. Carroll was away but was expected home
soon, so we waited for him, as all the family
wished to be photographed under the big maple at
the front door. I prowled around among the shrubbery
at the lower end of the lawn and, after a great
deal of squinting from various angles, I at last fixed
upon the spot from which I thought the best view
of the house might be obtained. Then Gertie and
Lilian Carroll and I got into the hammocks and
swung at our leisure, enjoying the cool breeze
sweeping through the maples.
Ned Brooke was hanging around as usual,
watching us furtively. Ned was one of the hopeful
members of a family that lived in a tumble-down
shanty just across the road from the Carrolls. They
were wretchedly poor, and old Brooke, as he was
called, and Ned were employed a good deal by Mr.
Carroll—more out of charity than anything else, I
The Brookes had a rather shady reputation. They
were notoriously lazy, and it was suspected that
their line of distinction between their own and
their neighbours' goods was not very clearly
drawn. Many people censured Mr. Carroll for encouraging
them at all, but he was too kind-hearted
to let them suffer actual want and, as a consequence,
one or the other of them was always dodging
about his place.
Ned was a lank, tow-headed youth of about fourteen,
with shifty, twinkling eyes that could never
look you straight in the face. His appearance was
anything but prepossessing, and I always felt,
when I looked at him, that if anyone wanted to do a
piece of shady work by proxy, Ned Brooke would
be the very lad for the business.
Mr. Carroll came at last, and we all went down to
meet him at the gate. Ned Brooke also came shuffling
along to take the horse, and Mr. Carroll tossed
the reins to him and at the same time handed a
pocketbook to his wife.
"Just as well to be careful where you put that,"
he said laughingly. "There's a sum in it not to be
picked up on every gooseberry bush. Gilman Harris
paid me this morning for that bit of woodland I
sold him last fall—five hundred dollars. I promised
that you and the girls should have it to get a new
piano, so there it is for you."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Carroll delightedly.
"However, you'd better put it back in your pocket
till we go in. Amy is in a hurry."
Mr. Carroll took back the pocketbook and
dropped it carelessly into the inside pocket of the
light overcoat that he wore.
I happened to glance at Ned Brooke just then,
and I could not help noticing the sudden crafty, eager
expression that flashed over his face. He eyed
the pocketbook in Mr. Carroll's hands furtively,
after which he went off with the horse in a great
The girls were exclaiming and thanking their father,
and nobody noticed Ned Brooke's behaviour
but myself, and it soon passed out of my mind.
"Come to take the place, are you, Amy?" said
Mr. Carroll. "Well, everything is ready, I think. I
suppose we'd better proceed. Where shall we
stand? You had better group us as you think best."
Whereupon I proceeded to arrange them in due
order under the maple. Mrs. Carroll sat in a chair,
while her husband stood behind her. Gertie stood
on the steps with a basket of flowers in her hand,
and Lilian was at one side. The two little boys,
Teddy and Jack, climbed up into the maple, and
little Dora, the dimpled six-year-old, stood gravely
in the foreground with an enormous grey cat
hugged in her chubby arms.
It was a pretty group in a pretty setting, and I
thrilled with professional pride as I stepped back
for a final, knowing squint at it all. Then I went to
my camera, slipped in the plate, gave them due
warning and took off the cap.
I took two plates to make sure and then the thing
was over, but as I had another plate left I thought I
might as well take a view of the house by itself, so I
carried my camera to a new place and had just got
everything ready to lift the cap when Mr. Carroll
came down and said:
"If you girls want to see something pretty, come
to the back field with me. That will wait till you
come back, won't it, Amy?"
So we all betook ourselves to the back field, a
short distance away, where Mr. Carroll proudly displayed
two of the prettiest little Jersey cows I had
We returned to the house by way of the back lane
and, as we came in sight of the main road, my
brother Cecil drove up and said that if I were ready,
I had better go home with him and save myself a
hot, dusty walk.
The Carrolls all went down to the fence to speak
to Cecil, but I dashed hurriedly down through the
orchard, leaped over the fence into the lawn and
ran to the somewhat remote corner where I had left
my camera. I was in a desperate hurry, for I knew
Cecil's horse did not like to be kept waiting, so I
never even glanced at the house, but snatched off
the cap, counted two and replaced it.
Then I took out my plate, put it in the holder and
gathered up my traps. I suppose I was about five
minutes at it all and I had my back to the house the
whole time, and when I laid all my things ready
and emerged from my retreat, there was nobody to
be seen about the place.
As I hurried up through the lawn, I noticed Ned
Brooke walking at a smart pace down the lane, but
the fact did not make any particular impression on
me at the time, and was not recalled until afterwards.
Cecil was waiting for me, so I got in the buggy
and we drove off. On arriving home I shut myself
up in my dark room and proceeded to develop the
first two negatives of the Carroll housestead. They
were both excellent, the first one being a trifle the
better, so that I decided to finish from it. I intended
also to develop the third, but just as I finished the
others, a half-dozen city cousins swooped down
upon us and I had to put away my paraphernalia,
emerge from my dark retreat and fly around to entertain
The next day Cecil came in and said:
"Did you hear, Amy, that Mr. Carroll has lost a
pocketbook with five hundred dollars in it?"
"No!" I exclaimed. "How? When? Where?"
"Don't overwhelm a fellow. I can answer only
one question—last night. As to the 'how,' they
don't know, and as to the 'where'—well, if they
knew that, there might be some hope of finding it.
The girls are in a bad way. The money was to get
them their longed-for piano, it seems, and now it's
"But how did it happen, Cecil?"
"Well, Mr. Carroll says that Mrs. Carroll handed
the pocketbook back to him at the gate yesterday,
and he dropped it in the inside pocket of his over-coat—"
"I saw him do it," I cried.
"Yes, and then, before he went to be photographed,
he hung his coat up in the hall. It hung
there until the evening, and nobody seems to have
thought about the money, each supposing that
someone else had put it carefully away. After tea
Mr. Carroll put on the coat and went to see somebody
over at Netherby. He says the thought of the
pocketbook never crossed his mind; he had forgotten
all about putting it in that coat pocket. He came
home across the fields about eleven o'clock and
found that the cows had broken into the clover hay,
and he had a great chase before he got them out.
When he went in, just as he entered the door, the
remembrance of the money flashed over him. He
felt in his pocket, but there was no pocketbook
there; he asked his wife if she had taken it out. She
had not, and nobody else had. There was a hole in
the pocket, but Mr. Carroll says it was too small for
the pocketbook to have worked through. However,
it must have done so—unless someone took it out
of his pocket at Netherby, and that is not possible,
because he never had his coat off, and it was in an
inside pocket. It's not likely that they will ever see it
again. Someone may pick it up, of course, but the
chances are slim. Mr. Carroll doesn't know his exact
path across the fields, and if he lost it while he
was after the cows, it's a bluer show still. They've
been searching all day, of course. The girls are
A sudden recollection came to me of Ned
Brooke's face as I had seen it the day before at the
gate, coupled with the remembrance of seeing him
walking down the lane at a quick pace, so unlike
his usual shambling gait, while I ran through the
"How do they know it was lost?" I said. "Perhaps
it was stolen before Mr. Carroll went to Netherby."
"They think not," said Cecil. "Who would have
"Ned Brooke. I saw him hanging around. And
you never saw such a look as came over his face
when he heard Mr. Carroll say there was five hundred
dollars in that pocketbook."
"Well, I did suggest to them that Ned might
know something about it, for I remembered having
seen him go down the lane while I was waiting for
you, but they won't hear of such a thing. The
Brookes are kind of protégés of theirs, you know,
and they won't believe anything bad of them. If
Ned did take it, however, there's not a shadow of
evidence against him."
"No, I suppose not," I answered thoughtfully,
"but the more I think it over, the more I'm convinced
that he took it. You know, we all went to the
back field to look at the Jerseys, and all that time
the coat was hanging there in the hall, and not a
soul in the house. And it was just after we came
back that I saw Ned scuttling down the lane so
I mentioned my suspicions to the Carrolls a few
days afterwards, when I went down with the photographs,
and found that they had discovered no
trace of the lost pocketbook. But they seemed
positively angry when I hinted that Ned Brooke
might know more about its whereabouts than anyone
else. They declared that they would as soon
think of suspecting one of themselves as Ned, and
altogether they seemed so offended at my suggestion
that I held my peace and didn't irritate them by
any more suppositions.
Afterwards, in the excitement of our cousins'
visit, the matter passed out of my mind completely.
They stayed two weeks, and I was so busy the
whole time that I never got a chance to develop that
third plate and, in fact, I had forgotten all about it.
One morning soon after they went away, I remembered
the plate and decided to go and develop
it. Cecil went with me, and we shut ourselves up in
our den, lit our ruby lantern and began operations.
I did not expect much of the plate, because it had
been exposed and handled carelessly, and I
thought that it might prove to be underexposed or
light-struck. So I left Cecil to develop it while I prepared
the fixing bath. Cecil was whistling away
when suddenly he gave a tremendous "whew" of
astonishment and sprang to his feet.
"Amy, Amy, look here!" he cried.
I rushed to his side and looked at the plate as he
held it up in the rosy light. It was a splendid one,
and the Carroll house came out clear, with the
front door and the steps in full view.
And there, just in the act of stepping from the
threshold, was the figure of a boy with an old straw
hat on his head and—in his hand—the pocketbook!
He was standing with his head turned towards
the corner of the house as if listening, with one
hand holding his ragged coat open and the other
poised in mid-air with the pocketbook, as if he
were just going to put it in his inside pocket. The
whole scene was as clear as noonday, and nobody
with eyes in his head could have failed to recognize
"Goodness!" I gasped. "In with it—quick!"
And we doused the thing into the fixing bath and
then sat down breathlessly and looked at each
"I say, Amy," said Cecil, "what a sell this will be
on the Carrolls! Ned Brooke couldn't do such a
thing—oh, no! The poor injured boy at whom everyone
has such an unlawful pick! I wonder if this
will convince them."
"Do you think they can get it all back?" I asked.
"It's not likely he would have dared to use any of it
"I don't know. We'll have a try, anyhow. How
long before this plate will be dry enough to carry
down to the Carrolls as circumstantial evidence?"
"Three hours or thereabouts," I answered, "but
perhaps sooner. I'll take two prints off when it is
ready. I wonder what the Carrolls will say."
"It's a piece of pure luck that the plate should
have turned out so well after the slap-dash way in
which it was taken and used. I say, Amy, isn't this
quite an adventure?"
At last the plate was dry, and I printed two
proofs. We wrapped them up carefully and
marched down to Mr. Carroll's.
You never saw people so overcome with astonishment
as the Carrolls were when Cecil, with
the air of a statesman unfolding the evidence of
some dreadful conspiracy against the peace and
welfare of the nation, produced the plate and the
proofs, and held them out before them.
Mr. Carroll and Cecil took the proofs and went
over to the Brooke shanty. They found only Ned
and his mother at home. At first Ned, when taxed
with his guilt, denied it, but when Mr. Carroll confronted
him with the proofs, he broke down in a
spasm of terror and confessed all. His mother produced
the pocketbook and the money—they had
not dared to spend a single cent of it—and Mr. Carroll
went home in triumph.
Perhaps Ned Brooke ought not to have been let
off so easily as he was, but his mother cried and
pleaded, and Mr. Carroll was too kind-hearted to
resist. So he did not punish them at all, save by
utterly discarding the whole family and their concerns.
The place got too hot for them after the story
came out, and in less than a month all moved
away—much to the benefit of Mapleton.
In Spite of Myself
My trunk was packed and I had arranged with my
senior partner—I was the junior member of a law
firm—for a month's vacation. Aunt Lucy had written
that her husband had gone on a sea trip and she
wished me to superintend the business of his farm and mills
in his absence, if I could arrange to do so. She added that
"Gussie" thought it was a pity to trouble me, and wanted to
do the overseeing herself, but that she—Aunt Lucy—preferred
to have a man at the head of affairs.
I had never seen my step-cousin, Augusta Ashley, but I
knew, from Aunt Lucy's remarks concerning her, pretty
much what sort of person she was—just the precise kind I disliked
immeasurably. I had no idea what her age was, but
doubtless she was over thirty, tall, determined, aggressive,
with a "faculty" for managing, a sharp, probing nose, and a
y-formation between her eyebrows. I knew the type, and I
was assured that the period of sojourn with my respected
aunt would be one of strife between Miss Ashley and myself.
I wrote to Aunt Lucy to expect me, made all necessary
arrangements, and went to bid Nellie goodbye. I had made up
my mind to marry Nellie. I had never openly avowed myself
her suitor, but we were cousins, and had grown up together,
so that I knew her well enough to be sure of my ground. I liked
her so well that it was easy to persuade myself that I was in
love with her. She more nearly fulfilled the requirements of
my ideal wife than anyone I knew. She was pleasant to look
upon, without being distractingly pretty; small and fair and
womanly. She dressed nicely, sang and played agreeably,
danced well, and had a cheerful, affectionate disposition. She
was not alarmingly clever, had no "hobbies," and looked up
to me as heir to all the wisdom of the ages—what man does
not like to be thought clever and brilliant? I had no formidable
rival, and our families were anxious for the match. I considered
myself a lucky fellow. I felt that I would be very lonely
without Nellie when I was away, and she admitted frankly
that she would miss me awfully. She looked so sweet that I
was on the point of asking her then and there to marry me.
Well, fate interfered in the guise of a small brother, so I said
goodbye and left, mentally comparing her to my idea of Miss
Augusta Ashley, much to the latter's disadvantage.
When I stepped from the train at a sleepy country station
next day I was promptly waylaid by a black-eyed urchin who
informed me that Mrs. Ashley had sent him with an express
wagon for my luggage, and that "Miss Gussie" was waiting
with the carriage at the store, pointing down to a small building
before whose door a girl was trying to soothe her frightened
As I went down the slope towards her I noticed she was tall—quite
too tall for my taste. I dislike women who can look
into my eyes on a level—but I had to admit that her form was
remarkably symmetrical and graceful. She put out her hand—it
was ungloved and large, but white and firm, with a cool,
pleasant touch—and said, with a composure akin to indifference,
"Mr. Carslake, I presume. Mother could not come to
meet you, so she sent me. Will you be kind enough to hold my
horse for a few minutes? I want to get something in the
store." Whereupon she calmly transferred the reins to me and
At the time she certainly did not impress me as pretty, yet
neither could I call her plain. Taken separately, her features
were good. Her nose was large and straight, the mouth also a
trifle large but firm and red, the brow wide and white, shadowed
by a straying dash of brown curl or two. She had a certain
cool, statuesque paleness, accentuated by straight, fine,
black brows, and her eyes were a bluish grey; but the pupils,
as I afterward found out, had a trick of dilating into wells of
blackness which, added to a long fringe of very dark lashes,
made her eyes quite the most striking feature of her face. Her
expression was open and frank, and her voice clear and musical
without being sweet. She looked about twenty-two.
At the time I did not fancy her appearance and made a
mental note to the effect that I would never like Miss Ashley.
I had no use for cool, businesslike women—women should
have no concern with business. Nellie would never have
troubled her dear, curly head over it.
Miss Ashley came out with her arms full of packages,
stowed them away in the carriage, got in, told me which road
to take, and did not again speak till we were out of the village
and driving along a pretty country lane, arched over with
crimson maples and golden-brown beeches. The purplish
haze of a sunny autumn day mellowed over the fields, and the
bunch of golden rod at my companion's belt was akin to the
plumed ranks along the fences. I hazarded the remark that it
was a fine day; Miss Ashley gravely admitted that it was.
Then a deep smile seemed to rise somewhere in her eyes and
creep over her face, discovering a dimple here and there as it
"Don't let's talk about the weather—the subject is rather
stale," she said. "I suppose you are wondering why on earth
Mother had to drag you away out here. I tried to show her how
foolish it was, but I didn't succeed. Mother thinks there must
be a man at the head of affairs or they'll never go right. I could
have taken full charge easily enough; I haven't been Father's
'boy' all my life for nothing. There was no need to take you
away from your business."
I protested. I said I was going to take a vacation anyway,
and business was not pressing just then. I also hinted that,
while I had no doubt of her capacity, she might have found the
duties of superintendent rather arduous.
"Not at all," she said, with a serenity that made me groan
inwardly. "I like it. Father always said I was a born business
manager. You'll find Ashley's Mills very quiet, I'm afraid. It's
a sort of charmed Sleepy Hollow. See, there's home," as we
turned a maple-blazoned corner and looked from the crest of
one hill across to that of another. "Home" was a big, white,
green-shuttered house buried amid a riot of autumn colour,
with a big grove of dark green spruces at the back. Below them
was a glimpse of a dark blue mill pond and beyond it long
sweeps of golden-brown meadow land, sloping up till they
dimmed in horizon mists of pearl and purple.
"How pretty," I exclaimed admiringly.
"Isn't it?" said Gussie proudly. "I love it." Her pupils
dilated into dark pools, and I rather unwillingly admitted that
Miss Ashley was a fine-looking girl.
As we drove up Aunt Lucy was standing on the steps of the
verandah, over whose white roof trailed a luxuriant creeper,
its leaves tinged by October frosts into lovely wine reds and
tawny yellows. Gussie sprang out, barely touching my
offered hand with her fingertips.
"There's Mother waiting to pounce on you and hear all the
family news," she said, "so go and greet her like a dutiful
"I must take out your horse for you first," I said politely.
"Not at all," said Miss Ashley, taking the reins from my
hands in a way not to be disputed. "I always unharness Charley
myself. No one understands him half so well. Besides, I'm
used to it. Didn't I tell you I'd always been Father's boy?"
"I well believe it," I thought in disgust, as she led the horse
over to the well and I went up to Aunt Lucy. Through the sitting-room
windows I kept a watchful eye on Miss Ashley as
she watered and deftly unharnessed Charley and led him into
his stable with sundry pats on his nose. Then I saw no more of
her till she came in to tell us tea was ready, and led the way
out to the dining room.
It was evident Miss Gussie held the reins of household
government, and no doubt worthily. Those firm, capable
white hands of hers looked as though they might be equal to a
good many emergencies. She talked little, leaving the conversation
to Aunt Lucy and myself, though she occasionally
dropped in an apt word. Toward the end of the meal, however,
she caught hold of an unfortunate opinion I had incautiously
advanced and tore it into tatters. The result was a spirited
argument, in which Miss Gussie held her own with such ability
that I was utterly routed and found another grievance
against her. It was very humiliating to be worsted by a girl—a
country girl at that, who had passed most of her life on a farm!
No doubt she was strong-minded and wanted to vote. I was
quite prepared to believe anything of her.
After tea Miss Ashley proposed a walk around the premises,
in order to initiate me into my duties. Apart from his
farm, Mr. Ashley owned large grist-and saw-mills and did a
flourishing business, with the details of which Miss Gussie
seemed so conversant that I lost all doubt of her ability to run
the whole thing as she had claimed. I felt quite ignorant in the
light of her superior knowledge, and our walk was enlivened
by some rather too lively discussions between us. We walked
about together, however, till the shadows of the firs by the
mills stretched nearly across the pond and the white moon
began to put on a silvery burnish. Then we wound up by a bitter
dispute, during which Gussie's eyes were very black and
each cheek had a round, red stain on it. She had a little air of
triumph at having defeated me.
"I have to go now and see about putting away the milk, and
I dare say you're not sorry to be rid of me," she said, with a
demureness I had not credited her with, "but if you come to
the verandah in half an hour I'll bring you out a glass of new
milk and some pound cake I made today by a recipe that's
been in the family for one hundred years, and I hope it will
choke you for all the snubs you've been giving me." She
walked away after this amiable wish, and I stood by the pond
till the salmon tints faded from its waters and stars began to
mirror themselves brokenly in its ripples. The mellow air
was full of sweet, mingled eventide sounds as I walked back
to the house. Aunt Lucy was knitting on the verandah. Gussie
brought out cake and milk and chatted to us while we ate,
in an inconsequent girlish way, or fed bits of cake to a green-eyed
goblin in the likeness of a black cat.
She appeared in such an amiable light that I was half
inclined to reconsider my opinion of her. When I went to my
room the vase full of crimson leaves on my table suggested
Gussie, and I repented of my unfriendliness for a moment—and
only for a moment. Gussie and her mother passed
through the hall below, and Aunt Lucy's soft voice floated up
through my half-open door.
"Well, how do you like your cousin, my dear?"
Whereat that decided young lady promptly answered, "I
think he is the most conceited youth I've met for some time."
Pleasant, wasn't it? I thought of Nellie's meek admiration
of all my words and ways, and got her photo out to soothe my
vanity. For the first time it struck me that her features were
somewhat insipid. The thought seemed like disloyalty, so I
banished it and went to bed.
I expected to dream of that disagreeable Gussie, but I did
not, and I slept so soundly that it was ten o'clock the next
morning before I woke. I sprang out of bed in dismay, dressed
hastily, and ran down, not a little provoked at myself.
Through the window I saw Gussie in the garden digging up
some geraniums. She was enveloped in a clay-stained brown
apron, a big flapping straw hat half hid her face, and she wore a
pair of muddy old kid gloves. Her whole appearance was disreputable,
and the face she turned to me as I said "Good
morning" had a diagonal streak of clay across it. I added slovenliness
to my already long list of her demerits.
"Good afternoon, rather. Don't you know what time it is?
The men were here three hours ago for their orders. I thought
it a pity to disturb your peaceful dreams, so I gave them
myself and sent them off."
I was angrier than ever. A nice beginning I had made. And
was that girl laughing at me?
"I expected to be called in time, certainly," I said stiffly. "I
am not accustomed to oversleep myself. I promise it will not
My dignity was quite lost on Gussie. She peeled off her
gloves cheerfully and said, "I suppose you'd like some breakfast.
Just wait till I wash my hands and I'll get you some. Then
if you're pining to be useful you can help me take up these
There was no help for it. After I had breakfasted I went,
with many misgivings. We got on fairly well, however. Gussie
was particularly lively and kept me too busy for argument.
I quite enjoyed the time and we did not quarrel until nearly
the last, when we fell out bitterly over some horticultural
problem and went in to dinner in sulky silence. Gussie disappeared
after dinner and I saw no more of her. I was glad of this,
but after a time I began to find it a little dull. Even a dispute
would have been livelier. I visited the mills, looked over the
farm, and then carelessly asked Aunt Lucy where Miss Ashley
was. Aunt Lucy replied that she had gone to visit a friend
and would not be back till the next day.
This was satisfactory, of course, highly so. What a relief it
was to be rid of that girl with her self-assertiveness and independence.
I said to myself that I hoped her friend would keep
her for a week. I forgot to be disappointed that she had not
when, next afternoon, I saw Gussie coming in at the gate with
a tolerably large satchel and an armful of golden rod. I sauntered
down to relieve her, and we had a sharp argument under
way before we were halfway up the lane. As usual Gussie
refused to give in that she was wrong.
Her walk had brought a faint, clear tint to her cheeks and
her rippling dusky hair had half slipped down on her neck.
She said she had to make some cookies for tea and if I had
nothing better to do I might go and talk to her while she
mixed them. It was not a gracious invitation but I went,
rather than be left to my own company.
By the end of the week I was as much at home at Ashley
Mills as if I had lived there all my life. Gussie and I were
thrown together a good deal, for lack of other companions,
and I saw no reason to change my opinion of her. She could be
lively and entertaining when she chose, and at times she
might be called beautiful. Still, I did not approve of her—at
least I thought so, most of the time. Once in a while came a
state of feeling which I did not quite understand.
One evening I went to prayer meeting with Aunt Lucy and
Gussie. I had not seen the minister of Ashley Mills before,
though Gussie and her mother seemed to know him intimately.
I had an idea that he was old and silvery-haired and
benevolent-looking. So I was rather surprised to find him as
young as myself—a tall, pale, intellectual-looking man, with
a high, white brow and dark, earnest eyes—decidedly
I was still more surprised when, after the service, he joined
Gussie at the door and went down the steps with her. I felt
distinctly ill-treated as I fell back with Aunt Lucy. There was
no reason why I should—none; it ought to have been a relief.
Rev. Carroll Martin had every right to see Miss Ashley home
if he chose. Doubtless a girl who knew all there was to be
known about business, farming, and milling, to say nothing
of housekeeping and gardening, could discuss theology also.
It was none of my business.
I don't know what kept me awake so late that night. As a
consequence I overslept myself. I had managed to redeem my
reputation on this point, but here it was lost again. I felt cross
and foolish and cantankerous when I went out.
There was some unusual commotion at the well. It was an
old-fashioned open one, with a chain and windlass. Aunt
Lucy was peering anxiously down its mouth, from which a
ladder was sticking. Just as I got there Gussie emerged from
its depths with a triumphant face. Her skirt was muddy and
draggled, her hair had tumbled down, and she held a dripping
"Coco must have fallen into the well last night," she
explained, as I helped her to the ground. "I missed him at
milking-time, and when I came to the well this morning I
heard the most ear-splitting yowls coming up from it. I
couldn't think where he could possibly be, for the water was
quite calm, until I saw he had crept into a little crevice in the
stones on the side. So I got a ladder and went down after him."
"You should have called me," I said sourly. "You might
have killed yourself, going down there."
"And Coco might have tumbled in and drowned while you
were getting up," retorted Gussie. "Besides, what was the
need? I could go down as well as you."
"No doubt," I said, more sharply than I had any business
to. "I don't dream of disputing your ability to do anything you
may take it into your head to do. Most young ladies are not in
the habit of going down wells, however."
"Perhaps not," she rejoined, with freezing calmness. "But,
as you may have discovered, I am not 'most young ladies.' I
am myself, Augusta Ashley, and accountable to nobody but
myself if I choose to go down the well every day for pure love
She walked off in her wet dress with her muddy cat. Gussie
Ashley was the only girl I ever saw who could be dignified
under such circumstances.
I was in a very bad humour with myself as I went off to see
about having the well cleaned out. I had offended Gussie and I
knew she would not be easily appeased. Nor was she. For a
week she kept me politely, studiously, at a distance, in spite
of my most humble advances. Rev. Carroll was a frequent
caller, ostensibly to make arrangements about a Sunday
school they were organizing in a poor part of the community.
Gussie and he held long conversations on this enthralling
subject. Then Gussie went on another visit to her friend, and
when she came back so did Rev. Carroll.
One calm, hazy afternoon I was coming slowly up from
the mills. Happening to glance at the kitchen roof, I gasped. It
was on fire in one place. Evidently the dry shingles had caught
fire from a spark. There was not a soul about save Gussie,
Aunt Lucy, and myself. I dashed wildly into the kitchen,
where Gussie was peeling apples.
"The house is on fire," I exclaimed. Gussie dropped her
knife and turned pale.
"Don't wake Mother," was all she said, as she snatched a
bucket of water from the table. The ladder was still lying by
the well. In a second I had raised it to the roof and, while Gussie
went up it like a squirrel and dashed the water on the
flames, I had two more buckets ready for her.
Fortunately the fire had made little headway, though a few
minutes more would have given it a dangerous start. The
flames hissed and died out as Gussie threw on the water, and
in a few seconds only a small black hole in the shingles
remained. Gussie slid down the ladder. She trembled in every
limb, but she put out her wet hand to me with a faint, triumphant
smile. We shook hands across the ladder with a cordiality
never before expressed.
For the next week, in spite of Rev. Carroll, I was happy
when I thought of Gussie and miserable when I thought of
Nellie. I held myself in some way bound to her and—was she
not my ideal? Undoubtedly!
One day I got a letter from my sister. It was long and
newsy, and the eighth page was most interesting.
"If you don't come home and look after Nellie," wrote
Kate, "you'll soon not have her to look after. You remember
that old lover of hers, Rod Allen? Well, he's home from the
west now, immensely rich, they say, and his attentions to
Nellie are the town talk. I think she likes him too. If you bury
yourself any longer at Ashley Mills I won't be responsible for
This lifted an immense weight from my mind, but the
ninth page hurled it back again.
"You never say anything of Miss Ashley in your letters.
What is she like—young or old, ugly or pretty, clever or dull? I
met a lady recently who knows her and thinks she is charming.
She also said Miss Ashley was to be married soon to Rev.
Something-or-Other. Is it true?"
Aye, was it? Quite likely. Kate's letter made a very miserable
man of me. Gussie found me a dull companion that day.
After several vain attempts to rouse me to interest she gave
"There's no use talking to you," she said impatiently. "I
believe you are homesick. That letter you got this morning
looked suspicious. Anyhow, I hope you'll get over it before I
"Are you going away again?" I asked.
"Yes. I am going to stay a few days with Flossie." Flossie
was that inseparable chum of hers.
"You seem to spend a good deal of your time with her," I
Gussie opened her eyes at my tone.
"Why, of course," she said. "Flossie and I have always been
chums. And she needs me more than ever just now, for she is
awfully busy. She is to be married next month."
"Oh, I see—and you—"
"I'm to be bridesmaid, of course, and we've heaps to do.
Flossie wanted to wait until Christmas, but Mr. Martin
is in a—"
"Mr. Martin," I interrupted. "Is Mr. Martin going to marry
"Why, yes. Didn't you know? They just suit each other.
There he comes now. He's going to drive me over, and I'm not
ready. Talk to him, for pity's sake, while I go and dress."
I never enjoyed a conversation more. Rev. Carroll Martin
was a remarkably interesting man.
Nellie married Rod Allen at Christmas and I was best
man. Nellie made a charming little bride, and Rod fairly
worshipped her. My own wedding did not come off until
spring, as Gussie said she could not get ready before that.
The fifth heat in the free-for-all was just over.
"Lu-Lu" had won, and the crowd on the grand stand and
the hangers-on around the track were cheering themselves
hoarse. Clear through the noisy clamour shrilled a woman's
"Ah—I have dropped my scorecard."
A man in front of her turned.
"I have an extra one, madame. Will you accept it?"
Her small, modishly-gloved hand closed eagerly on it
before she lifted her eyes to his face. Both started convulsively.
The man turned very pale, but the woman's ripe-tinted
face coloured darkly.
"You?" she faltered.
His lips parted in the coldly-grave smile she remembered
"You are not glad to see me," he said calmly, "but that,
I suppose, was not to be expected. I did not come here to
annoy you. This meeting is as unexpected to me as to you.
I had no suspicion that for the last half-hour I had been
standing next to my—"
She interrupted him by an imperious gesture. Still
clutching the scorecard she half-turned from him. Again
he smiled, this time with a tinge of scorn, and shifted his
eyes to the track.
None of the people around them had noticed the little
by-play. All eyes were on the track, which was being
cleared for the first heat of another race. The free-for-all
horses were being led away blanketed. The crowd cheered
"Lu-Lu" as she went past, a shapeless oddity. The backers
of "Mascot", the rival favourite, looked gloomy.
The woman noticed nothing of all this. She was small,
very pretty, still young, and gowned in a quite unmistakable
way. She studied the man's profile furtively. He
looked older than when she had seen him last—there
were some silver threads gleaming in his close-clipped dark
hair and short, pointed beard. Otherwise there was little
change in the quiet features and somewhat stern grey eyes.
She wondered if he had cared at all.
They had not met for five years. She shut her eyes and
looked in on her past. It all came back very vividly. She
had been eighteen when they were married—a gay, high-spirited
girl and the season's beauty. He was much older
and a quiet, serious student. Her friends had wondered
why she married him—sometimes she wondered herself,
but she had loved him, or thought so.
The marriage had been an unhappy one. She was fond
of society and gaiety, he wanted quiet and seclusion. She
Was impulsive and impatient, he deliberate and grave. The
strong wills clashed. After two years of an unbearable sort
of life they had separated—quietly, and without scandal
of any sort. She had wanted a divorce, but he would not
agree to that, so she had taken her own independent
fortune and gone back to her own way of life. In the
following five years she had succeeded in burying all remembrance
well out of sight. No one knew if she were
satisfied or not; her world was charitable to her and she
lived a gay and quite irreproachable life. She wished that
she had not come to the races. It was such an irritating
encounter. She opened her eyes wearily; the dusty track,
the flying horses, the gay dresses of the women on the
grandstand, the cloudless blue sky, the brilliant September
sunshine, the purple distances all commingled in a glare
that made her head ache. Before it all she saw the tall
figure by her side, his face turned from her, watching the
She wondered with a vague curiosity what induced him
to come to the races. Such things were not greatly in his
line. Evidently their chance meeting had not disturbed
him. It was a sign that he did not care. She sighed a little
wearily and closed her eyes. When the heat was over he
turned to her.
"May I ask how you have been since—since we met last?
You are looking extremely well. Has Vanity Fair palled in
She was angry at herself and him. Where had her careless
society manner and well-bred composure gone? She felt
weak and hysterical. What if she should burst into tears
before the whole crowd—before those coldly critical grey
eyes? She almost hated him.
"No—why should it? I have found it very pleasant—and
I have been well—very well. And you?"
He jotted down the score carefully before he replied.
"I? Oh, a book-worm and recluse always leads a placid
life. I never cared for excitement, you know. I came down
here to attend a sale of some rare editions, and a well-meaning
friend dragged me out to see the races. I find it
rather interesting, I must confess, much more so than I
should have fancied. Sorry I can't stay until the end. I must
go as soon as the free-for-all is over, if not before. I have
backed 'Mascot'; you?"
"'Lu-Lu'" she answered quickly—it almost seemed
defiantly. How horribly unreal it was—this carrying on
of small talk, as if they were the merest of chance-met
acquaintances! "She belongs to a friend of mine, so I am
"She and 'Mascot' are ties now—both have won two
heats. One more for either will decide it. This is a good
day for the races. Excuse me."
He leaned over and brushed a scrap of paper from her
grey cloak. She shivered slightly.
"You are cold! This stand is draughty."
"I am not at all cold, thank you. What race is this?—oh!
the three-minute one."
She bent forward with assumed interest to watch the
scoring. She was breathing heavily. There were tears in her
eyes—she bit her lips savagely and glared at the track
until they were gone.
Presently he spoke again, in the low, even tone demanded
"This is a curious meeting, is it not?—quite a flavor of
romance! By-the-way, do you read as many novels as ever?"
She fancied there was mockery in his tone. She remembered
how very frivolous he used to consider her novel-reading.
Besides, she resented the personal tinge. What
right had he?
"Almost as many," she answered carelessly.
"I was very intolerant, wasn't I?" he said after a pause.
"You thought so—you were right. You have been happier
since you—left me?"
"Yes," she said defiantly, looking straight into his eyes.
"And you do not regret it?"
He bent down a little. His sleeve brushed against her
shoulder. Something in his face arrested the answer she
meant to make.
"I—I—did not say that," she murmured faintly.
There was a burst of cheering. The free-for-all horses
were being brought out for the sixth heat. She turned
away to watch them. The scoring began, and seemed likely
to have no end. She was tired of it all. It didn't matter a
pin to her whether "Lu-Lu" or "Mascot" won. What did
matter! Had Vanity Fair after all been a satisfying exchange
for love? He had loved her once, and they had been
happy at first. She had never before said, even in her own
heart: "I am sorry," but—suddenly, she felt his hand on
her shoulder, and looked up. Their eyes met. He stooped
and said almost in a whisper:
"Will you come back to me?"
"I don't know," she whispered breathlessly, as one half-fascinated.
"We were both to blame—but I the most. I was too
hard on you—I ought to have made more allowance. We
are wiser now both of us. Come back to me—my wife."
His tone was cold and his face expressionless. It was on
her lips to cry out "No," passionately.
But the slender, scholarly hand on her shoulder was
trembling with the intensity of his repressed emotion. He
did care, then. A wild caprice flashed into her brain. She
"See," she cried, "they're off now. This heat will probably
decide the race. If 'Lu-Lu' wins I will not go back to
you, if 'Mascot' does I will. That is my decision."
He turned paler, but bowed in assent. He knew by
bitter experience how unchangeable her whims were, how
obstinately she clung to even the most absurd.
She leaned forward breathlessly. The crowd hung silently
on the track. "Lu-Lu" and "Mascot" were neck and neck,
getting in splendid work. Half-way round the course "Lu-Lu"
forged half a neck ahead, and her backers went mad.
But one woman dropped her head in her hands and dared
look no more. One man with white face and set lips
watched the track unswervingly.
Again "Mascot" crawled up, inch by inch. They were on
the home stretch, they were equal, the cheering broke out,
then silence, then another terrific burst, shouts, yells and
clappings—"Mascot" had won the free-for-all. In the
front row a woman stood up, swayed and shaken as a leaf
in the wind. She straightened her scarlet hat and readjusted
her veil unsteadily. There was a smile on her lips and tears
in her eyes. No one noticed her. A man beside her drew
her hand through his arm in a quiet proprietary fashion.
They left the grand stand together.
Lilian's Business Venture
Lilian Mitchell turned into the dry-goods store
on Randall Street, just as Esther Miller and Ella
Taylor came out. They responded coldly to her
greeting and exchanged significant glances as they
Lilian's pale face crimsoned. She was a tall, slender girl of
about seventeen, and dressed in mourning. These girls had
been her close friends once. But that was before the Mitchells
had lost their money. Since then Lilian had been cut by many
of her old chums and she felt it keenly.
The clerks in the store were busy and Lilian sat down to
wait her turn. Near to her two ladies were also waiting and
"Helen wants me to let her have a birthday party," Mrs.
Saunders was saying wearily. "She has been promised it so
long and I hate to disappoint the child, but our girl left last
week, and I cannot possibly make all the cakes and things
myself. I haven't the time or strength, so Helen must do without
"Talking of girls," said Mrs. Reeves impatiently, "I am
almost discouraged. It is so hard to get a good all-round one.
The last one I had was so saucy I had to discharge her, and the
one I have now cannot make decent bread. I never had good
luck with bread myself either."
"That is Mrs. Porter's great grievance too. It is no light
task to bake bread for all those boarders. Have you made your
"No. Maria cannot make it, she says, and I detest messing
with jelly. But I really must see to it soon."
At this point a saleswoman came up to Lilian, who made
her small purchases and went out.
"There goes Lilian Mitchell," said Mrs. Reeves in an
undertone. "She looks very pale. They say they are dreadfully
poor since Henry Mitchell died. His affairs were in a bad
condition, I am told."
"I am sorry for Mrs. Mitchell," responded Mrs. Saunders.
"She is such a sweet woman. Lilian will have to do something,
I suppose, and there is so little chance for a girl here."
Lilian, walking down the street, was wearily turning over
in her mind the problems of her young existence. Her father
had died the preceding spring. He had been a supposedly prosperous
merchant; the Mitchells had always lived well, and
Lilian was a petted and only child. Then came the shock of
Henry Mitchell's sudden death and of financial ruin. His
affairs were found to be hopelessly involved; when all the
debts were paid there was left only the merest pittance—barely
enough for house-rent—for Lilian and her mother to
live upon. They had moved into a tiny cottage in an
unfashionable locality, and during the summer Lilian had
tried hard to think of something to do. Mrs. Mitchell was a
delicate woman, and the burden of their situation fell on
Lilian's young shoulders.
There seemed to be no place for her. She could not teach
and had no particular talent in any line. There was no opening
for her in Willington, which was a rather sleepy little place,
and Lilian was almost in despair.
"There really doesn't seem to be any real place in the
world for me, Mother," she said rather dolefully at the supper
table. "I've no talent at all; it is dreadful to have been born
without one. And yet I must do something, and do it soon."
And Lilian, after she had washed up the tea dishes, went
upstairs and had a good cry.
But the darkest hour, so the proverb goes, is just before the
dawn, and after Lilian had had her cry out and was sitting at
her window in the dusk, watching a thin new moon shining
over the trees down the street, her inspiration came to her. A
minute later she whirled into the tiny sitting-room where her
mother was sewing.
"Mother, our fortune is made! I have an idea!"
"Don't lose it, then," said Mrs. Mitchell with a smile.
"What is it, my dear?"
Lilian sobered herself, sat down by her mother's side, and
proceeded to recount the conversation she had heard in the
store that afternoon.
"Now, Mother, this is where my brilliant idea comes in.
You have often told me I am a born cook and I always have
good luck. Now, tomorrow morning I shall go to Mrs.
Saunders and offer to furnish all the good things for Helen's
birthday party, and then I'll ask Mrs. Reeves and Mrs. Porter if
I may make their bread for them. That will do for a beginning,
I like cooking, you know, and I believe that in time I can work
up a good business."
"It seems to be a good idea," said Mrs. Mitchell thoughtfully,
"and I am willing that you should try. But have you
thought it all out carefully? There will be many difficulties."
"I know. I don't expect smooth sailing right along, and perhaps
I'll fail altogether; but somehow I don't believe I will."
"A great many of your old friends will think—"
"Oh, yes; I know that too, but I am not going to mind it,
Mother. I don't think there is any disgrace in working for my
living. I'm going to do my best and not care what people say."
Early next morning Lilian started out. She had carefully
thought over the details of her small venture, considered
ways and means, and decided on the most advisable course.
She would not attempt too much, and she felt sure of success.
To secure competent servants was one of the problems of
Willington people. At Drayton, a large neighbouring town,
were several factories, and into these all the working girls
from Willington had crowded, leaving very few who were
willing to go out to service. Many of those who did were poor
cooks, and Lilian shrewdly suspected that many a harassed
housekeeper in the village would be glad to avail herself of the
Lilian was, as she had said of herself, "a born cook." This
was her capital, and she meant to make the most of it. Mrs.
Saunders listened to her businesslike details with surprise
"It is the very thing," she said. "Helen is so eager for that
party, but I could not undertake it myself. Her birthday is Friday.
Can you have everything ready by then?"
"Yes, I think so," said Lilian briskly, producing her notebook.
"Please give me the list of what you want and I will do
From Mrs. Saunders she went to Mrs. Reeves and found a
customer as soon as she had told the reason of her call. "I'll
furnish all the bread and rolls you need," she said, "and they
will be good, too. Now, about your jelly. I can make good jelly,
and I'll be very glad to make yours."
When she left, Lilian had an order for two dozen glasses of
apple jelly, as well as a standing one for bread and rolls. Mrs.
Porter was next visited and grasped eagerly at the opportunity.
"I know your bread will be good," she said, "and you may
count on me as a regular customer."
Lilian thought she had enough on hand for a first attempt
and went home satisfied. On her way she called at the grocery
store with an order that surprised Mr. Hooper. When she told
him of her plan he opened his eyes.
"I must tell my wife about that. She isn't strong and she
doesn't like cooking."
After dinner Lilian went to work, enveloped in a big apron,
and whipped eggs, stoned raisins, stirred, concocted, and
baked until dark. When bedtime came she was so tired that
she could hardly crawl upstairs; but she felt happy too, for the
day had been a successful one.
And so also were the days and weeks and months that followed.
It was hard and constant work, but it brought its
reward. Lilian had not promised more than she could perform,
and her customers were satisfied. In a short time she
found herself with a regular and growing business on her
hands, for new customers were gradually added and always
came to stay.
People who gave parties found it very convenient to follow
Mrs. Saunders's example and order their supplies from Lilian.
She had a very busy winter and, of course, it was not all plain
sailing. She had many difficulties to contend with. Sometimes
days came on which everything seemed to go wrong—when
the stove smoked or the oven wouldn't heat properly,
when cakes fell flat and bread was sour and pies behaved as
only totally depraved pies can, when she burned her fingers
and felt like giving up in despair.
Then, again, she found herself cut by several of her old
acquaintances. But she was too sensible to worry much over
this. The friends really worth having were still hers, her
mother's face had lost its look of care, and her business was
prospering. She was hopeful and wide awake, kept her wits
about her and looked out for hints, and learned to laugh over
During the winter she and her mother had managed to do
most of the work themselves, hiring little Mary Robinson
next door on especially busy days, and now and then calling
in the assistance of Jimmy Bowen and his hand sled to carry
orders to customers. But when spring came Lilian prepared to
open up her summer campaign on a much larger scale. Mary
Robinson was hired for the season, and John Perkins was
engaged to act as carrier with his express wagon. A summer
kitchen was boarded in in the backyard, and a new range
bought; Lilian began operations with a striking advertisement
in the Willington News and an attractive circular sent
around to all her patrons. Picnics and summer weddings were
frequent. In bread and rolls her trade was brisk and constant.
She also took orders for pickles, preserves, and jellies, and this
became such a flourishing branch that a second assistant had
to be hired.
It was a cardinal rule with Lilian never to send out any
article that was not up to her standard. She bore the loss of her
failures, and sometimes stayed up half of the night to fill an
order on time. "Prompt and perfect" was her motto.
The long hot summer days were very trying, and sometimes
she got very tired of it all. But when on the anniversary
of her first venture she made up her accounts she was well
pleased. To be sure, she had not made a fortune; but she had
paid all their expenses, had a hundred dollars clear, and had
laid the solid foundations of a profitable business.
"Mother," she said jubilantly, as she wiped a dab of flour
from her nose and proceeded to concoct the icing for Blanche
Remington's wedding cake, "don't you think my business
venture has been a decided success?"
Mrs. Mitchell surveyed her busy daughter with a motherly
smile. "Yes, I think it has," she said.
I had been reading a ghost story to Mrs. Sefton,
and I laid it down at the end with a little shrug of
"What utter nonsense!" I said.
Mrs. Sefton nodded abstractedly above her fancywork.
"That is. It is a very commonplace story indeed. I
don't believe the spirits of the departed trouble
themselves to revisit the glimpses of the moon for
the purpose of frightening honest mortals—or
even for the sake of hanging around the favourite
haunts of their existence in the flesh. If they ever
appear, it must be for a better reason than that."
"You don't surely think that they ever do appear?"
I said incredulously.
"We have no proof that they do not, my dear."
"Surely, Mary," I exclaimed, "you don't mean to
say that you believe people ever do or can see spirits—ghosts,
as the word goes?"
"I didn't say I believed it. I never saw anything of
the sort. I neither believe nor disbelieve. But you
know queer things do happen at times—things
you can't account for. At least, people who you
know wouldn't lie say so. Of course, they may be
mistaken. And I don't think that everybody can see
spirits either, provided they are to be seen. It requires
people of a certain organization—with a
spiritual eye, as it were. We haven't all got that—in
fact, I think very few of us have. I dare say you
think I'm talking nonsense."
"Well, yes, I think you are. You really surprise
me, Mary. I always thought you the least likely person
in the world to take up with such ideas. Something
must have come under your observation to
develop such theories in your practical head. Tell
me what it was."
"To what purpose? You would remain as sceptical
"Possibly not. Try me; I may be convinced."
"No," returned Mrs. Sefton calmly. "Nobody
ever is convinced by hearsay. When a person has
once seen a spirit—or thinks he has—he thenceforth
believes it. And when somebody else is intimately
associated with that person and knows all
the circumstances—well, he admits the possibility,
at least. That is my position. But by the time it gets
to the third person—the outsider—it loses power.
Besides, in this particular instance the story isn't
very exciting. But then—it's true."
"You have excited my curiosity. You must tell me
"Well, first tell me what you think of this. Suppose
two people, both sensitively organized individuals,
loved each other with a love stronger than
life. If they were apart, do you think it might be
possible for their souls to communicate with each
other in some inexplicable way? And if anything
happened to one, don't you think that that one
could and would let the spirit of the other know?"
"You're getting into too deep waters for me,
Mary," I said, shaking my head. "I'm not an authority
on telepathy, or whatever you call it. But
I've no belief in such theories. In fact, I think they
are all nonsense. I'm sure you must think so too in
your rational moments."
"I dare say it is all nonsense," said Mrs. Sefton
slowly, "but if you had lived a whole year in the
same house with Miriam Gordon, you would have
been tainted too. Not that she had 'theories'—at
least, she never aired them if she had. But there
was simply something about the girl herself that
gave a person strange impressions. When I first
met her I had the most uncanny feeling that she
was all spirit—soul—what you will! no flesh, anyhow.
That feeling wore off after a while, but she
never seemed like other people to me.
"She was Mr. Sefton's niece. Her father had died
when she was a child. When Miriam was twenty
her mother had married a second time and went to
Europe with her husband. Miriam came to live
with us while they were away. Upon their return
she was herself to be married.
"I had never seen Miriam before. Her arrival was
unexpected, and I was absent from home when she
came. I returned in the evening, and when I saw
her first she was standing under the chandelier in
the drawing room. Talk about spirits! For five seconds
I thought I had seen one.
"Miriam was a beauty. I had known that before,
though I think I hardly expected to see such wonderful
loveliness. She was tall and extremely graceful,
dark—at least her hair was dark, but her skin
was wonderfully fair and clear. Her hair was
gathered away from her face, and she had a high,
pure, white forehead, and the straightest, finest,
blackest brows. Her face was oval, with very large
and dark eyes.
"I soon realized that Miriam was in some mysterious
fashion different from other people. I think
everyone who met her felt the same way. Yet it was
a feeling hard to define. For my own part I simply
felt as if she belonged to another world, and that
part of the time she—her soul, you know—was
back there again.
"You must not suppose that Miriam was a disagreeable
person to have in the house. On the contrary,
it was the very reverse. Everybody liked her.
She was one of the sweetest, most winsome girls I
ever knew, and I soon grew to love her dearly. As
for what Dick called her 'little queernesses'—well,
we got used to them in time.
"Miriam was engaged, as I have told you, to a
young Harvard man named Sidney Claxton. I
knew she loved him very deeply. When she
showed me his photograph, I liked his appearance
and said so. Then I made some teasing remark
about her love-letters—just for a joke, you know.
Miriam looked at me with an odd little smile and
"'Sidney and I never write to each other.'
"'Why, Miriam!' I exclaimed in astonishment.
'Do you mean to tell me you never hear from him
"'No, I did not say that. I hear from him every
day—every hour. We do not need to write letters.
There are better means of communication between
two souls that are in perfect accord with each
"'Miriam, you uncanny creature, what do you
mean?' I asked.
"But Miriam only gave another queer smile and
made no answer at all. Whatever her beliefs or theories
were, she would never discuss them.
"She had a habit of dropping into abstracted reveries
at any time or place. No matter where she
was, this, whatever it was, would come over her.
She would sit there, perhaps in the centre of a gay
crowd, and gaze right out into space, not hearing
or seeing a single thing that went on around her.
"I remember one day in particular; we were sewing
in my room. I looked up and saw that Miriam's
work had dropped on her knee and she was leaning
forward, her lips apart, her eyes gazing upward
with an unearthly expression.
"'Don't look like that, Miriam!' I said, with a little
shiver. 'You seem to be looking at something a
thousand miles away!'
"Miriam came out of her trance or reverie and
said, with a little laugh:
"'How do you know but that I was?'
"She bent her head for a minute or two. Then
she lifted it again and looked at me with a sudden
contraction of her level brows that betokened vexation.
"'I wish you hadn't spoken to me just then,' she
said. 'You interrupted the message I was receiving.
I shall not get it at all now.'
"'Miriam,' I implored. 'I so wish my dear girl,
that you wouldn't talk so. It makes people think
there is something queer about you. Who in the
world was sending you a message, as you call it?'
"'Sidney,' said Miriam simply.
"'You think it is nonsense because you don't understand
it,' was her calm response.
"I recall another event was when some caller
dropped in and we had drifted into a discussion
about ghosts and the like—and I've no doubt we
all talked some delicious nonsense. Miriam said
nothing at the time, but when we were alone I
asked her what she thought of it.
"'I thought you were all merely talking against
time,' she retorted evasively.
"'But, Miriam, do you really think it is possible
"'I detest that word!'
"'Well, spirits then—to return after death, or to
appear to anyone apart from the flesh?'
"'I will tell you what I know. If anything were to
happen to Sidney—if he were to die or be killed—he
would come to me himself and tell me.'
"One day Miriam came down to lunch looking
pale and worried. After Dick went out, I asked her
if anything were wrong.
"'Something has happened to Sidney,' she replied,
'some painful accident—I don't know what.'
"'How do you know?' I cried. Then, as she
looked at me strangely, I added hastily, 'You
haven't been receiving any more unearthly messages,
have you? Surely, Miriam, you are not so
foolish as to really believe in that!'
"'I know,' she answered quickly. 'Belief or disbelief
has nothing to do with it. Yes, I have had a
message. I know that some accident has happened
to Sidney—painful and inconvenient but not particularly
dangerous. I do not know what it is.
Sidney will write me that. He writes when it is absolutely
"'Aerial communication isn't perfected yet
then?' I said mischievously. But, observing how
really worried she seemed, I added, 'Don't fret,
Miriam. You may be mistaken.'
"Well, two days afterwards she got a note from
her lover—the first I had ever known her to receive—in
which he said he had been thrown from
his horse and had broken his left arm. It had happened
the very morning Miriam received her message.
"Miriam had been with us about eight months
when one day she came into my room hurriedly.
She was very pale.
"'Sidney is ill—dangerously ill. What shall I do?'
"I knew she must have had another of those
abominable messages—or thought she had—and
really, remembering the incident of the broken
arm, I couldn't feel as sceptical as I pretended to. I
tried to cheer her, but did not succeed. Two hours
later she had a telegram from her lover's college
chum, saying that Mr. Claxton was dangerously ill
with typhoid fever.
"I was quite alarmed about Miriam in the days
that followed. She grieved and fretted continually.
One of her troubles was that she received no more
messages; she said it was because Sidney was too ill
to send them. Anyhow, she had to content herself
with the means of communication used by ordinary
"Sidney's mother, who had gone to nurse him,
wrote every day, and at last good news came. The
crisis was over and the doctor in attendance
thought Sidney would recover. Miriam seemed like
a new creature then, and rapidly recovered her
"For a week reports continued favourable. One
night we went to the opera to hear a celebrated
prima donna. When we returned home Miriam
and I were sitting in her room, chatting over the
events of the evening.
"Suddenly she sat straight up with a sort of convulsive
shudder, and at the same time—you may
laugh if you like—the most horrible feeling came
over me. I didn't see anything, but I just felt that
there was something or someone in the room besides
"Miriam was gazing straight before her. She rose
to her feet and held out her hands.
"'Sidney!' she said.
"Then she fell to the floor in a dead faint.
"I screamed for Dick, rang the bell and rushed to
"In a few minutes the whole household was
aroused, and Dick was off posthaste for the doctor,
for we could not revive Miriam from her death-like
swoon. She seemed as one dead. We worked over
her for hours. She would come out of her faint for a
moment, give us an unknowing stare and go shudderingly
"The doctor talked of some fearful shock, but I
kept my own counsel. At dawn Miriam came back
to life at last. When she and I were left alone, she
turned to me.
"'Sidney is dead,' she said quietly. 'I saw him—just
before I fainted. I looked up, and he was standing
between me and you. He had come to say
"What could I say? Almost while we were talking
a telegram came. He was dead—he had died at the
very hour at which Miriam had seen him."
Mrs. Sefton paused, and the lunch bell rang.
"What do you think of it?" she queried as we
"Honestly, I don't know what I think of it," I answered
Miss Calista's Peppermint Bottle
Miss Calista was perplexed. Her nephew, Caleb
Cramp, who had been her right-hand man for
years and whom she had got well broken into her
ways, had gone to the Klondike, leaving her to fill
his place with the next best man; but the next best
man was slow to appear, and meanwhile Miss Calista
was looking about her warily. She could afford
to wait a while, for the crop was all in and the fall
ploughing done, so that the need of a successor to
Caleb was not as pressing as it might otherwise
have been. There was no lack of applicants, such as
they were. Miss Calista was known to be a kind
and generous mistress, although she had her
"ways," and insisted calmly and immovably upon
wholehearted compliance with them. She had a
small, well-cultivated farm and a comfortable
house, and her hired men lived in clover. Caleb
Cramp had been perfection after his kind, and
Miss Calista did not expect to find his equal. Nevertheless,
she set up a certain standard of requirements;
and although three weeks, during which
Miss Calista had been obliged to put up with the
immature services of a neighbour's boy, had
elapsed since Caleb's departure, no one had as yet
stepped into his vacant and coveted shoes.
Certainly Miss Calista was somewhat hard to
please, but she was not thinking of herself as she
sat by her front window in the chilly November
twilight. Instead, she was musing on the degeneration
of hired men, and reflecting that it was high
time the wheat was thrashed, the house banked,
and sundry other duties attended to.
Ches Maybin had been up that afternoon to negotiate
for the vacant place, and had offered to give
satisfaction for smaller wages than Miss Calista had
ever paid. But he had met with a brusque refusal,
scarcely as civil as Miss Calista had bestowed on
drunken Jake Stinson from the Morrisvale Road.
Not that Miss Calista had any particular prejudice
against Ches Maybin, or knew anything
positively to his discredit. She was simply unconsciously
following the example of a world that exerts
itself to keep a man down when he is down
and prevent all chance of his rising. Nothing succeeds
like success, and the converse of this is likewise
true—that nothing fails like failure. There was
not a person in Cooperstown who would not have
heartily endorsed Miss Calista's refusal.
Ches Maybin was only eighteen, although he
looked several years older, and although no flagrant
misdoing had ever been proved against him,
suspicion of such was not wanting. He came of a
bad stock, people said sagely, adding that what was
bred in the bone was bound to come out in the
flesh. His father, old Sam Maybin, had been a shiftless
and tricky rascal, as everybody knew, and had
ended his days in the poorhouse. Ches's mother
had died when he was a baby, and he had come up
somehow, in a hand-to-mouth fashion, with all the
cloud of heredity hanging over him. He was always
looked at askance, and when any mischief came to
light in the village, it was generally fastened on
him as a convenient and handy scapegoat. He was
considered sulky and lazy, and the local prophets
united in predicting a bad end for him sooner or
later; and, moreover, diligently endeavoured by
their general treatment of him to put him in a fair
way to fulfil their predictions. Miss Calista, when
she had shut Chester Maybin out into the chill
gloom of the November dusk, dismissed him from
her thoughts. There were other things of more moment
to her just then than old Sam Maybin's hopeful
There was nobody in the house but herself, and
although this was neither alarming nor unusual, it
was unusual—and Miss Calista considered it
alarming—that the sum of five hundred dollars
should at that very moment be in the upper right-hand
drawer of the sideboard, which sum had
been up to the previous day safe in the coffers of
the Millageville bank. But certain unfavourable
rumours were in course of circulation about that
same institution, and Miss Calista, who was
nothing if not prudent, had gone to the bank that
very morning and withdrawn her deposit. She intended
to go over to Kerrytown the very next day
and deposit it in the Savings Bank there. Not another
day would she keep it in the house, and,
indeed, it worried her to think she must keep it even
for the night, as she had told Mrs. Galloway that
afternoon during a neighbourly back-yard chat.
"Not but what it's safe enough," she said, "for
not a soul but you knows I've got it. But I'm not
used to have so much by me, and there are always
tramps going round. It worries me somehow. I
wouldn't give it a thought if Caleb was here. I
s'pose being all alone makes me nervous."
Miss Calista was still rather nervous when she
went to bed that night, but she was a woman of
sound sense and was determined not to give way to
foolish fears. She locked doors and windows carefully,
as was her habit, and saw that the fastenings
were good and secure. The one on the dining-room
window, looking out on the back yard, wasn't; in
fact, it was broken altogether; but, as Miss Calista
told herself, it had been broken just so for the last
six years, and nobody had ever tried to get in at it
yet, and it wasn't likely anyone would begin tonight.
Miss Calista went to bed and, despite her worry,
slept soon and soundly. It was well on past midnight
when she suddenly wakened and sat bolt upright
in bed. She was not accustomed to waken in
the night, and she had the impression of having
been awakened by some noise. She listened
breathlessly. Her room was directly over the dining-room,
and an empty stovepipe hole opened up
through the ceiling of the latter at the head of her
There was no mistake about it. Something or
some person was moving about stealthily in the
room below. It wasn't the cat—Miss Calista had
shut him in the woodshed before she went to bed,
and he couldn't possibly get out. It must certainly
be a beggar or tramp of some description.
Miss Calista might be given over to nervousness
in regard to imaginary thieves, but in the presence
of real danger she was cool and self-reliant. As
noiselessly and swiftly as any burglar himself, Miss
Calista slipped out of bed and into her clothes.
Then she tip-toed out into the hall. The late moonlight,
streaming in through the hall windows, was
quite enough illumination for her purpose, and she
got downstairs and was fairly in the open doorway
of the dining-room before a sound betrayed her
Standing at the sideboard, hastily ransacking the
neat contents of an open drawer, stood a man's figure,
dimly visible in the moonlight gloom. As Miss
Calista's grim form appeared in the doorway, the
midnight marauder turned with a start and then,
with an inarticulate cry, sprang, not at the courageous
lady, but at the open window behind him.
Miss Calista, realizing with a flash of comprehension
that he was escaping her, had a
woman-like impulse to get a blow in anyhow; she
grasped and hurled at her unceremonious caller
the first thing that came to hand—a bottle of peppermint
essence that was standing on the sideboard.
The missile hit the escaping thief squarely on the
shoulder as he sprang out of the window, and the
fragments of glass came clattering down on the sill.
The next moment Miss Calista found herself alone,
standing by the sideboard in a half-dazed fashion,
for the whole thing had passed with such lightning-like
rapidity that it almost seemed as if it were
the dissolving end of a bad dream. But the open
drawer and the window, where the bits of glass
were glistening in the moonlight, were no dream.
Miss Calista recovered herself speedily, closed the
window, lit the lamp, gathered up the broken glass,
and set up the chairs which the would-be thief had
upset in his exit. An examination of the sideboard
showed the precious five hundred safe and sound
in an undisturbed drawer.
Miss Calista kept grim watch and ward there until
morning, and thought the matter over exhaustively.
In the end she resolved to keep her own
counsel. She had no clue whatever to the thief's
whereabouts or identity, and no good would come
of making a fuss, which might only end in throwing
suspicion on someone who might be quite innocent.
When the morning came Miss Calista lost no
time in setting out for Kerrytown, where the
money was soon safely deposited in the bank. She
heaved a sigh of relief when she left the building.
I feel as if I could enjoy life once more, she said to
herself. Goodness me, if I'd had to keep that
money by me for a week itself, I'd have been a raving
lunatic by the end of it.
Miss Calista had shopping to do and friends to
visit in town, so that the dull autumn day was well
nigh spent when she finally got back to Cooperstown
and paused at the corner store to get a
bundle of matches.
The store was full of men, smoking and chatting
around the fire, and Miss Calista, whose pet abomination
was tobacco smoke, was not at all minded to
wait any longer than she could help. But Abiram
Fell was attending to a previous customer, and Miss
Calista sat grimly down by the counter to wait her
The door opened, letting in a swirl of raw
November evening wind and Ches Maybin. He
nodded sullenly to Mr. Fell and passed down the
store to mutter a message to a man at the further
Miss Calista lifted her head as he passed and
sniffed the air as a charger who scents battle. The
smell of tobacco was strong, and so was that of the
open boxes of dried herring on the counter, but
plainly, above all the commingled odours of a
country grocery, Miss Calista caught a whiff of
peppermint, so strong as to leave no doubt of its
origin. There had been no hint of it before Ches
The latter did not wait long. He was out and
striding along the shadowy road when Miss Calista
left the store and drove smartly after him. It never
took Miss Calista long to make up her mind about
anything, and she had weighed and passed judgement
on Ches Maybin's case while Mr. Fell was
doing up her matches.
The lad glanced up furtively as she checked her
fat grey pony beside him.
"Good evening, Chester," she said with brisk
kindness. "I can give you a lift, if you are going my
way. Jump in, quick—Dapple is a little restless."
A wave of crimson, duskily perceptible under his
sunburned skin, surged over Ches Maybin's face. It
almost seemed as if he were going to blurt out a
blunt refusal. But Miss Calista's face was so
guileless and her tone so friendly, that he thought
better of it and sprang in beside her, and Dapple
broke into an impatient trot down the long hill
lined with its bare, wind-writhen maples.
After a few minutes' silence Miss Calista turned
to her moody companion.
"Chester," she said, as tranquilly as if about to
ask him the most ordinary question in the world,
"why did you climb into my house last night and
try to steal my money?"
Ches Maybin started convulsively, as if he meant
to spring from the buggy at once, but Miss Calista's
hand was on his arm in a grasp none the less firm
because of its gentleness, and there was a warning
gleam in her grey eyes.
"It won't mend matters trying to get clear of me,
Chester. I know it was you and I want an answer—a
truthful one, mind you—to my question. I am
your friend, and I am not going to harm you if you
tell me the truth."
Her clear and incisive gaze met and held irresistibly
the boy's wavering one. The sullen obstinacy of
his face relaxed.
"Well," he muttered finally, "I was just desperate,
that's why. I've never done anything real bad
in my life before, but people have always been
down on me. I'm blamed for everything, and nobody
wants anything to do with me. I'm willing to
work, but I can't get a thing to do. I'm in rags and I
haven't a cent, and winter's coming on. I heard you
telling Mrs. Galloway yesterday about the money. I
was behind the fir hedge and you didn't see me. I
went away and planned it all out. I'd get in some
way—and I meant to use the money to get away
out west as far from here as I could, and begin life
there, where nobody knew me, and where I'd have
some sort of a chance. I've never had any here. You
can put me in jail now, if you like—they'll feed and
clothe me there, anyhow, and I'll be on a level with
The boy had blurted it all out sullenly and half-chokingly.
A world of rebellion and protest against
the fate that had always dragged him down was
couched in his voice.
Miss Calista drew Dapple to a standstill before
"I'm not going to send you to jail, Chester. I believe
you've told me the truth. Yesterday you
wanted me to give you Caleb's place and I refused.
Well, I offer it to you now. If you'll come, I'll hire
you, and give you as good wages as I gave him."
Ches Maybin looked incredulous.
"Miss Calista, you can't mean it."
"I do mean it, every word. You say you have
never had a chance. Well, I am going to give you
one—a chance to get on the right road and make a
man of yourself. Nobody shall ever know about last
night's doings from me, and I'll make it my business
to forget them if you deserve it. What do you
Ches lifted his head and looked her squarely in
"I'll come," he said huskily. "It ain't no use to try
and thank you, Miss Calista. But I'll live my
And he did. The good people of Cooperstown
held up their hands in horror when they heard that
Miss Calista had hired Ches Maybin, and prophesied
that the deluded woman would live to repent
her rash step. But not all prophecies come true.
Miss Calista smiled serenely and kept on her own
misguided way. And Ches Maybin proved so efficient
and steady that the arrangement was continued,
and in due time people outlived their old
suspicions and came to regard him as a thoroughly
smart and trustworthy young man.
"Miss Calista has made a man of Ches Maybin,"
said the oracles. "He ought to be very grateful to
And he was. But only he and Miss Calista and
the peppermint bottle ever knew the precise extent
of his gratitude, and they never told.
The Jest That Failed
"I think it is simply a disgrace to have a person like
that in our class," said Edna Hayden in an injured
"And she doesn't seem a bit ashamed of it,
either," said Agnes Walters.
"Rather proud of it, I should say," returned her roommate,
spitefully. "It seems to me that if I were so poor that I had to
'room' myself and dress as dowdily as she does that I really
couldn't look anybody in the face. What must the boys think
of her? And if it wasn't for her being in it, our class would be
the smartest and dressiest in the college—even those top-lofty
senior girls admit that."
"It's a shame," said Agnes, conclusively. "But she needn't
expect to associate with our set. I, for one, won't have anything
to do with her."
"Nor I. I think it is time she should be taught her place. If
we could only manage to inflict some decided snub on her,
she might take the hint and give up trying to poke herself in
where she doesn't belong. The idea of her consenting to be
elected on the freshmen executive! But she seems impervious
"Edna, let's play a joke on her. It will serve her right. Let us
send an invitation in somebody's name to the senior 'prom.'"
"The very thing! And sign Sidney Hill's name to it. He's
the handsomest and richest fellows at Payzant, and belongs to
one of the best families in town, and he's awfully fastidious
besides. No doubt she will feel immensely flattered and, of
course, she'll accept. Just think how silly she'll feel when she
finds out he never sent it. Let's write it now, and send it at
once. There is no time to lose, for the 'prom' is on Thursday
The freshmen co-eds at Payzant College did not like Grace
Seeley—that is to say, the majority of them. They were a
decidedly snobbish class that year. No one could deny that
Grace was clever, but she was poor, dressed very plainly—"dowdily,"
the girls said—and "roomed" herself, that phrase
meaning that she rented a little unfurnished room and
cooked her own meals over an oil stove.
The "senior prom," as it was called, was the annual reception
which the senior class gave in the middle of every
autumn term. It was the smartest and gayest of all the college
functions, and a Payzant co-ed who received an invitation to
it counted herself fortunate. The senior girls were included as
a matter of course, but a junior, soph, or freshie could not go
unless one of the senior boys invited her.
Grace Seeley was studying Greek in her tiny room that
afternoon when the invitation was brought to her. It was
scrupulously orthodox in appearance and form, and Grace
never doubted that it was genuine, although she felt much
surprised that Sidney Hill, the leader of his class and the foremost
figure in all college sports and societies, should have
asked her to go with him to the senior prom.
But she was girlishly pleased at the prospect. She was as
fond of a good time as any other girl, and she had secretly
wished very much that she could go to the brilliant and much
talked about senior prom.
Grace was quite unaware of her own unpopularity among
her class co-eds, although she thought it was very hard to get
acquainted with them. Without any false pride herself, and of
a frank, independent nature, it never occurred to her that
the other Payzant freshies could look down on her because
she was poor, or resent her presence among them because she
She straightway wrote a note of acceptance to Sidney Hill,
and that young man naturally felt much mystified when he
opened and read it in the college library next morning.
"Grace Seeley," he pondered. "That's the jolly girl with
the brown eyes that I met at the philomathic the other night.
She thanks me for my invitation to the senior prom, and
accepts with pleasure. Why, I certainly never invited her or
anyone else to go with me to the senior prom. There must be
Grace passed him at this moment on her way to the Latin
classroom. She bowed and smiled in a friendly fashion and
Sidney Hill felt decidedly uncomfortable. What was he to
do? He did not like to think of putting Miss Seeley in a false
position because somebody had sent her an invitation in
"I suppose it is some cad who has a spite at me that has
done it," he reflected, "but if so I'll spoil his game. I'll take
Miss Seeley to the prom as if I had never intended doing anything
else. She shan't be humiliated just because there is
someone at Payzant who would stoop to that sort of thing."
So he walked up the hall with Grace and expressed his
pleasure at her acceptance, and on the evening of the prom he
sent her a bouquet of white carnations, whose spicy fragrance
reminded her of her own little garden at home. Grace thought
it extremely nice of him, and dressed in a flutter of pleasant
Her gown was a very simple one of sheer white organdie,
and was the only evening dress she had. She knew there
would be many smarter dresses at the reception, but the
knowledge did not disturb her sensible head in the least.
She fingered the dainty white frills lovingly as she remembered
the sunny summer days at home in the little sewing-room,
where cherry boughs poked their blossoms in at the
window, when her mother and sisters had helped her to make
it, with laughing prophesies and speculations as to its first
appearance. Into seam and puff and frill many girlish hopes
and dreams had been sewn, and they all came back to Grace as
she put it on, and helped to surround her with an atmosphere
When she was ready she picked up her bouquet and looked
herself over in the mirror, from the top of her curly head to the
tips of her white shoes, with a little nod of satisfaction. Grace
was not exactly pretty, but she had such a bright, happy face
and such merry brown eyes and such a friendly smile that she
was very pleasant to look upon, and a great many people
thought so that night.
Grace had never in all her life before had so good a time as
she had at that senior prom. The seniors were quick to discover
her unaffected originality and charm, and everywhere
she went she was the centre of a merry group. In short, Grace,
as much to her own surprise as anyone's, found herself a
Presently Sidney brought his brother up to be introduced,
and the latter said:
"Miss Seeley, will you excuse my asking if you have a
brother or any relative named Max Seeley?"
Grace nodded. "Oh, yes, my brother Max. He is a doctor
"I was sure of it," said Murray Hill triumphantly. "You
resemble him so strongly. Please don't consider me as a
stranger a minute longer, for Max and I are like brothers.
Indeed, I owe my life to him. Last summer I was out there on a
surveying expedition, and I took typhoid in a little out-of-the-way
place where good nursing was not to be had for love or
money. Your brother attended me and he managed to pull me
through. He never left me day or night until I was out of danger,
and he worked like a Trojan for me."
"Dear old Max," said Grace, her brown eyes shining with
pride and pleasure. "That is so like him. He is such a dear
brother and I haven't seen him for four years. To see somebody
who knows him so well is next best thing to seeing
"He is an awfully fine fellow," said Mr. Hill heartily, "and
I'm delighted to have met the 'little sister' he used to talk so
much about. I want you to come ever and meet my mother
and sister. They have heard me talk so much about Max that
they think almost as much of him as I do, and they will be
glad to meet his sister."
Mrs. Hill, a handsome, dignified lady who was one of the
chaperones of the prom, received Grace warmly, while
Beatrice Hill, an extremely pretty, smartly gowned girl, made
her feel at home immediately.
"You came with Sid, didn't you?" she whispered. "Sid is so
sly—he never tells us whom he is going to take anywhere. But
when I saw you come in with him I knew I was going to like
you, you looked so jolly. And you're really the sister of that
splendid Dr. Seeley who saved Murray's life last summer?
And to think you've been at Payzant nearly a whole term and
we never knew it!"
"Well, how have you enjoyed our prom, Miss Seeley?"
asked Sid, as they walked home together under the arching
elms of the college campus.
"Oh! it was splendid," said Grace enthusiastically.
"Everybody was so nice. And then to meet someone who
could tell me so much about Max! I must write them home all
about it before I sleep, just to calm my head a bit. Mother and
the girls will be so interested, and I must send Lou and Mab a
carnation apiece for their scrapbooks."
"Give me one back, please," said Sid. And Grace with a
little blush, did so.
That night, while Grace was slipping the stems of her carnations
and putting them into water, three little bits of conversation
were being carried on which it is necessary to report
in order to round up this story neatly and properly, as all
stories should be rounded up.
In the first place, Beatrice Hill was saying to Sidney, "Oh,
Sid, that Miss Seeley you had at the prom is a lovely girl. I
don't know when I've met anyone I liked so much. She was
so jolly and friendly and she didn't put on learned airs at all,
as so many of those Payzant girls do. I asked her all about herself
and she told me, and all about her mother and sisters and
home and the lovely times they had together, and how hard
they worked to send her to college too, and how she taught
school in vacations and 'roomed' herself to help along. Isn't it
so brave and plucky of her! I know we are going to be great
"I hope so," said Sidney briefly, "because I have an idea
that she and I are going to be very good friends too."
And Sidney went upstairs and put away a single white carnation
In the second place, Mrs. Hill was saying to her eldest
son, "I liked that Miss Seeley very much. She seemed a very
And, finally, Agnes Walters and Edna Hayden were discussing
the matter in great mystification in their room.
"I can't understand it at all," said Agnes slowly. "Sid Hill
took her to the prom and he must have sent her those carnations
too. She could never have afforded them herself. And
did you see the fuss his people made over her? I heard Beatrice
telling her that she was coming to call on her tomorrow, and
Mrs. Hill said she must look upon 'Beechlawn' as her second
home while she was at Payzant. If the Hills are going to take
her up we'll have to be nice to her."
"I suppose," said Edna conclusively, "the truth of the matter
is that Sid Hill meant to ask her anyway. I dare say he
asked her long ago, and she would know our invitation was a
fraud. So the joke is on ourselves, after all."
But, as you and I know, that, with the exception of the last
sentence, was not the truth of the matter at all.
The Penningtons' Girl
Winslow had been fishing—or pretending to—all
the morning, and he was desperately thirsty. He
boarded with the Beckwiths on the Riverside East
Shore, but he was nearer Riverside West, and he
knew the Penningtons well. He had often been there for bait
and milk and had listened times out of mind to Mrs. Pennington's
dismal tales of her tribulations with hired girls. She
never could get along with them, and they left, on an average,
after a fortnight's trial. She was on the lookout for one now, he
knew, and would likely be cross, but he thought she would
give him a drink.
He rowed his skiff into the shore and tied it to a fir that
hung out from the bank. A winding little footpath led up to
the Pennington farmhouse, which crested the hill about
three hundred yards from the shore. Winslow made for the
kitchen door and came face to face with a girl carrying
a pail of water—Mrs. Pennington's latest thing in hired girls,
Winslow's first bewildered thought was "What a goddess!"
and he wondered, as he politely asked for a drink,
where on earth Mrs. Pennington had picked her up. She
handed him a shining dipper half full and stood, pail in hand,
while he drank it.
She was rather tall, and wore a somewhat limp, faded print
gown, and a big sunhat, beneath which a glossy knot of chestnut
showed itself. Her skin was very fair, somewhat freckled,
and her mouth was delicious. As for her eyes, they were grey,
but beyond that simply defied description.
"Will you have some more?" she asked in a soft, drawling
"No, thank you. That was delicious. Is Mrs. Pennington
"No. She has gone away for the day."
"Well, I suppose I can sit down here and rest a while.
You've no serious objections, have you?"
She carried her pail into the kitchen and came out again
presently with a knife and a pan of apples. Sitting down on a
bench under the poplars she proceeded to peel them with a
disregard of his presence that piqued Winslow, who was not
used to being ignored in this fashion. Besides, as a general
rule, he had been quite good friends with Mrs. Pennington's
hired girls. She had had three strapping damsels during his
sojourn in Riverside, and he used to sit on this very doorstep
and chaff them. They had all been saucy and talkative. This
girl was evidently a new species.
"Do you think you'll get along with Mrs. Pennington?" he
asked finally. "As a rule she fights with her help, although she
is a most estimable woman."
The girl smiled quite broadly.
"I guess p'r'aps she's rather hard to suit," was the answer,
"but I like her pretty well so far. I think we'll get along with
each other. If we don't I can leave—like the others did."
"What is your name?"
"Well, Nelly, I hope you'll be able to keep your place. Let
me give you a bit of friendly advice. Don't let the cats get into
the pantry. That is what Mrs. Pennington has quarrelled with
nearly every one of her girls about."
"It is quite a bother to keep them out, ain't it?" said Nelly
calmly. "There's dozens of cats about the place. What on
earth makes them keep so many?"
"Mr. Pennington has a mania for cats. He and Mrs. Pennington
have a standing disagreement about it. The last girl
left here because she couldn't stand the cats; they affected her
nerves, she said. I hope you don't mind them."
"Oh, no; I kind of like cats. I've been tryin' to count them.
Has anyone ever done that?"
"Not that I know of. I tried but I had to give up in despair—never
could tell when I was counting the same cat over again.
Look at that black goblin sunning himself on the woodpile. I
say, Nelly, you're not going, are you?"
"I must. It's time to get dinner. Mr. Pennington will be in
from the fields soon."
The next minute he heard her stepping briskly about the
kitchen, shooing out intruding cats, and humming a darky air
to herself. He went reluctantly back to the shore and rowed
across the river in a brown study.
I don't know whether Winslow was afflicted with chronic
thirst or not, or whether the East side water wasn't so good as
that of the West side; but I do know that he fairly haunted the
Pennington farmhouse after that. Mrs. Pennington was home
the next time he went, and he asked her about her new girl. To
his surprise the good lady was unusually reticent. She
couldn't really say very much about Nelly. No, she didn't
belong anywhere near Riverside. In fact, she—Mrs. Pennington—didn't
think she had any settled home at present. Her
father was travelling over the country somewhere. Nelly was
a good little girl, and very obliging. Beyond this Winslow
could get no more information, so he went around and talked
to Nelly, who was sitting on the bench under the poplars and
seemed absorbed in watching the sunset.
She dropped her g's badly and made some grammatical
errors that caused Winslow's flesh to creep on his bones. But
any man could have forgiven mistakes from such dimpled
lips in such a sweet voice.
He asked her to go for a row up the river in the twilight and
she assented; she handled an oar very well, he found out, and
the exercise became her. Winslow tried to get her to talk
about herself, but failed signally and had to content himself
with Mrs. Pennington's meagre information. He told her
about himself frankly enough—how he had had fever in the
spring and had been ordered to spend the summer in the
country and do nothing useful until his health was fully
restored, and how lonesome it was in Riverside in general and
at the Beckwith farm in particular. He made out quite a dismal
case for himself and if Nelly wasn't sorry for him, she
should have been.
At the end of a fortnight Riverside folks began to talk
about Winslow and the Penningtons' hired girl. He was
reported to be "dead gone" on her; he took her out rowing
every evening, drove her to preaching up the Bend on Sunday
nights, and haunted the Pennington farmhouse. Wise folks
shook their heads over it and wondered that Mrs. Pennington
allowed it. Winslow was a gentleman, and that Nelly Ray,
whom nobody knew anything about, not even where she
came from, was only a common hired girl, and he had no business
to be hanging about her. She was pretty, to be sure; but
she was absurdly stuck-up and wouldn't associate with other
Riverside "help" at all. Well, pride must have a fall; there
must be something queer about her when she was so awful
sly as to her past life.
Winslow and Nelly did not trouble themselves in the least
over all this gossip; in fact, they never even heard it. Winslow
was hopelessly in love, when he found this out he was aghast.
He thought of his father, the ambitious railroad magnate; of
his mother, the brilliant society leader; of his sisters, the
beautiful and proud; he was honestly frightened. It would
never do; he must not go to see Nelly again. He kept this prudent
resolution for twenty-four hours and then rowed over to
the West shore. He found Nelly sitting on the bank in her old
faded print dress and he straightway forgot everything he
ought to have remembered.
Nelly herself never seemed to be conscious of the social
gulf between them. At least she never alluded to it in any way,
and accepted Winslow's attentions as if she had a perfect right
to them. She had broken the record by staying with Mrs.
Pennington four weeks, and even the cats were in subjection.
Winslow was well enough to have gone back to the city
and, in fact, his father was writing for him. But he couldn't
leave Beckwiths', apparently. At any rate he stayed on and
met Nelly every day and cursed himself for a cad and a cur and
a weak-brained idiot.
One day he took Nelly for a row up the river. They went
further than usual around the Bend. Winslow didn't want to
go too far, for he knew that a party of his city friends,
chaperoned by Mrs. Keyton-Wells, were having a picnic
somewhere up along the river shore that day. But Nelly
insisted on going on and on, and of course she had her way.
When they reached a little pine-fringed headland they came
upon the picnickers, within a stone's throw. Everybody
recognized Winslow. "Why, there is Burton!" he heard Mrs.
Keyton-Wells exclaim, and he knew she was putting up her
glasses. Will Evans, who was an especial chum of his, ran
down to the water's edge. "Bless me, Win, where did you
come from? Come right in. We haven't had tea yet. Bring your
friend too," he added, becoming conscious that Winslow's
friend was a mighty pretty girl. Winslow's face was crimson.
He avoided Nelly's eye.
"Are them people friends of yours?" she asked in a low
"Yes," he muttered.
"Well, let us go ashore if they want us to," she said calmly.
"I don't mind."
For three seconds Winslow hesitated. Then he pulled
ashore and helped Nelly to alight on a jutting rock. There was
a curious, set expression about his fine mouth as he marched
Nelly up to Mrs. Keyton-Wells and introduced her. Mrs.
Keyton-Wells's greeting was slightly cool, but very polite.
She supposed Miss Ray was some little country girl with
whom Burton Winslow was carrying on a summer flirtation;
respectable enough, no doubt, and must be treated civilly, but
of course wouldn't expect to be made an equal of exactly. The
other women took their cue from her, but the men were more
cordial. Miss Ray might be shabby, but she was distinctly
fetching, and Winslow looked savage.
Nelly was not a whit abashed, seemingly, by the fashionable
circle in which she found herself, and she talked away to
Will Evans and the others in her soft drawl as if she had
known them all her life. All might have gone passably well,
had not a little Riverside imp, by name of Rufus Hent, who
had been picked up by the picnickers to run their errands,
come up just then with a pail of water.
"Golly!" he ejaculated in very audible tones. "If there ain't
Mrs. Pennington's hired girl!"
Mrs. Keyton-Wells stiffened with horror. Winslow darted
a furious glance at the tell-tale that would have annihilated
anything except a small boy. Will Evans grinned and went on
talking to Nelly, who had failed to hear, or at least to heed, the
The mischief was done, the social thermometer went
down to zero in Nelly's neighbourhood. The women ignored
her altogether. Winslow set his teeth together and registered
a mental vow to wring Rufus Hent's sunburned neck at the
first opportunity. He escorted Nelly to the table and waited
on her with ostentatious deference, while Mrs. Keyton-Wells
glanced at him stonily and made up her mind to tell his
mother when she went home.
Nelly's social ostracism did not affect her appetite. But
after lunch was over, she walked down to the skiff. Winslow
"Do you want to go home?" he asked.
"Yes, it's time I went, for the cats may be raidin' the pantry.
But you must not come; your friends here want you."
"Nonsense!" said Winslow sulkily. "If you are going I
But Nelly was too quick for him; she sprang into the skiff,
unwound the rope, and pushed off before he guessed her
"I can row myself home and I mean to," she announced,
taking up the oars defiantly.
"Nelly," he implored.
Nelly looked at him wickedly.
"You'd better go back to your friends. That old woman
with the eyeglasses is watchin' you."
Winslow said something strong under his breath as he
went back to the others. Will Evans and his chums began to
chaff him about Nelly, but he looked so dangerous that they
concluded to stop. There is no denying that Winslow was in a
fearful temper just then with Mrs. Keyton-Wells, Evans, himself,
Nelly—in fact, with all the world.
His friends drove him home in the evening on their way to
the station and dropped him at the Beckwith farm. At dusk he
went moodily down to the shore. Far up the Bend was dim and
shadowy and stars were shining above the wooded shores.
Over the river the Pennington farmhouse lights twinkled out
alluringly. Winslow watched them until he could stand it no
longer. Nelly had made off with his skiff, but Perry Beckwith's
dory was ready to hand. In five minutes, Winslow was
grounding her on the West shore. Nelly was sitting on a rock
at the landing place. He went over and sat down silently
beside her. A full moon was rising above the dark hills up the
Bend and in the faint light the girl was wonderfully lovely.
"I thought you weren't comin' over at all tonight," she
said, smiling up at him, "and I was sorry, because I wanted to
say goodbye to you."
"Goodbye? Nelly, you're not going away?"
"Yes. The cats were in the pantry when I got home."
"Well, to be serious. I'm not goin' for that, but I really am
goin'. I had a letter from Dad this evenin'. Did you have a good
time after I left this afternoon? Did Mrs. Keyton-Wells thaw
"Hang Mrs. Keyton-Wells! Nelly, where are you going?"
"To Dad, of course. We used to live down south together,
but two months ago we broke up housekeepin' and come
north. We thought we could do better up here, you know. Dad
started out to look for a place to settle down and I came here
while he was prospectin'. He's got a house now, he says, and
wants me to go right off. I'm goin' tomorrow."
"Nelly, you mustn't go—you mustn't, I tell you,"
exclaimed Winslow in despair. "I love you—I love you—you
must stay with me forever."
"You don't know what you're sayin', Mr. Winslow," said
Nelly coldly. "Why, you can't marry me—a common servant
"I can and I will, if you'll have me," answered Winslow
recklessly. "I can't ever let you go. I've loved you ever since I
first saw you. Nelly, won't you be my wife? Don't you love
"Well, yes, I do," confessed Nelly suddenly; and then it
was fully five minutes before Winslow gave her a chance to
say anything else.
"Oh, what will your people say?" she contrived to ask at
last. "Won't they be in a dreadful state? Oh, it will never do
for you to marry me."
"Won't it?" said Winslow in a tone of satisfaction. "I
rather think it will. Of course, my family will rampage a bit at
first. I daresay Father'll turn me out. Don't worry over that,
Nelly. I'm not afraid of work. I'm not afraid of anything
except losing you."
"You'll have to see what Dad says," remarked Nelly, after
another eloquent interlude.
"He won't object, will he? I'll write to him or go and see
him. Where is he?"
"He is in town at the Arlington."
"The Arlington!" Winslow was amazed. The Arlington
was the most exclusive and expensive hotel in town.
"What is he doing there?"
"Transacting a real estate or railroad deal with your father,
I believe, or something of that sort."
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I say."
Winslow got up and looked at her.
"Nelly, who are you?"
"Helen Ray Scott, at your service, sir."
"Not Helen Ray Scott, the daughter of the railroad king?"
"The same. Are you sorry that you're engaged to her? If
you are, she'll stay Nelly Ray."
Winslow dropped back on the seat with a long breath.
"Nelly, I don't understand. Why did you deceive me? I feel
"Oh, do forgive me," she said merrily. "I shouldn't have, I
suppose—but you know you took me for the hired girl the
very first time you saw me, and you patronized me and called
me Nelly; so I let you think so just for fun. I never thought it
would come to this. When Father and I came north I took a
fancy to come here and stay with Mrs. Pennington—who is an
old nurse of mine—until Father decided where to take up our
abode. I got here the night before we met. My trunk was
delayed so I put on an old cotton dress her niece had left here—and
you came and saw me. I made Mrs. Pennington keep the
secret—she thought it great fun; and I really was a great hand
to do little chores and keep the cats in subjection too. I made
mistakes in grammar and dropped my g's on purpose—it was
such fun to see you wince when I did it. It was cruel to tease
you so, I suppose, but it was so sweet just to be loved for
myself—not because I was an heiress and a belle—I couldn't
bear to tell you the truth. Did you think I couldn't read your
thoughts this afternoon, when I insisted on going ashore? You
were a little ashamed of me—you know you were. I didn't
blame you for that, but if you hadn't gone ashore and taken
me as you did I would never have spoken to you again. Mrs.
Keyton-Wells won't snub me next time we meet. And some
way I don't think your father will turn you out, either. Have
you forgiven me yet, Burton?"
"I shall never call you anything but Nelly," said Winslow
The Red Room
You would have me tell you the story, Grandchild?
'Tis a sad one and best forgotten—few remember it
now. There are always sad and dark stories in old
families such as ours.
Yet I have promised and must keep my word. So
sit down here at my feet and rest your bright head
on my lap, that I may not see in your young eyes
the shadows my story will bring across their bonny
I was a mere child when it all happened, yet I
remember it but too well, and I can recall how
pleased I was when my father's stepmother, Mrs.
Montressor—she not liking to be called grandmother,
seeing she was but turned of fifty and a
handsome woman still—wrote to my mother that
she must send little Beatrice up to Montressor Place
for the Christmas holidays. So I went joyfully
though my mother grieved to part with me; she
had little to love save me, my father, Conrad
Montressor, having been lost at sea when but three
My aunts were wont to tell me how much I resembled
him, being, so they said, a Montressor to
the backbone; and this I took to mean commendation,
for the Montressors were a well-descended
and well-thought-of family, and the women were
noted for their beauty. This I could well believe,
since of all my aunts there was not one but was
counted a pretty woman. Therefore I took heart of
grace when I thought of my dark face and spindling
shape, hoping that when I should be grown
up I might be counted not unworthy of my race.
The Place was an old-fashioned, mysterious
house, such as I delighted in, and Mrs. Montressor
was ever kind to me, albeit a little stern, for she was
a proud woman and cared but little for children,
having none of her own.
But there were books there to pore over without
let or hindrance—for nobody questioned of my
whereabouts if I but kept out of the way—and
strange, dim family portraits on the walls to gaze
upon, until I knew each proud old face well, and
had visioned a history for it in my own mind—for I
was given to dreaming and was older and wiser
than my years, having no childish companions to
keep me still a child.
There were always some of my aunts at the Place
to kiss and make much of me for my father's sake—for
he had been their favourite brother. My aunts—there
were eight of them—had all married well, so
said people who knew, and lived not far away, coming
home often to take tea with Mrs. Montressor,
who had always gotten on well with her step-daughters,
or to help prepare for some festivity or
other—for they were notable housekeepers, every
They were all at Montressor Place for Christmas,
and I got more petting than I deserved, albeit they
looked after me somewhat more strictly than did
Mrs. Montressor, and saw to it that I did not read
too many fairy tales or sit up later at nights than
became my years.
But it was not for fairy tales and sugarplums nor
yet for petting that I rejoiced to be at the Place at
that time. Though I spoke not of it to anyone, I had
a great longing to see my Uncle Hugh's wife, concerning
whom I had heard much, both good and
My Uncle Hugh, albeit the oldest of the family,
had never married until now, and all the countryside
rang with talk of his young wife. I did not
hear as much as I wished, for the gossips took heed
to my presence when I drew anear and turned to
other matters. Yet, being somewhat keener of comprehension
than they knew, I heard and understood
not a little of their talk.
And so I came to know that neither proud Mrs.
Montressor nor my good aunts, nor even my gentle
mother, looked with overmuch favour on what
my Uncle Hugh had done. And I did hear that Mrs.
Montressor had chosen a wife for her stepson, of
good family and some beauty, but that my Uncle
Hugh would have none of her—a thing Mrs. Montressor
found hard to pardon, yet might so have done had
not my uncle, on his last voyage to the Indies—for he
went often in his own vessels—married and brought
home a foreign bride, of whom no one knew aught
save that her beauty was a thing to dazzle the day
and that she was of some strange alien blood such as
ran not in the blue veins of the Montressors.
Some had much to say of her pride and insolence,
and wondered if Mrs. Montressor would
tamely yield her mistress-ship to the stranger. But
others, who were taken with her loveliness and
grace, said that the tales told were born of envy and
malice, and that Alicia Montressor was well worthy
of her name and station.
So I halted between two opinions and thought to
judge for myself, but when I went to the Place my
Uncle Hugh and his bride were gone for a time,
and I had even to swallow my disappointment and
bide their return with all my small patience.
But my aunts and their stepmother talked much
of Alicia, and they spoke slightingly of her, saying
that she was but a light woman and that no good
would come of my Uncle Hugh's having wed her,
with other things of a like nature. Also they spoke
of the company she gathered around her, thinking
her to have strange and unbecoming companions
for a Montressor. All this I heard and pondered
much over, although my good aunts supposed that
such a chit as I would take no heed to their whisperings.
When I was not with them, helping to whip eggs
and stone raisins, and being watched to see that I
ate not more than one out of five, I was surely to be
found in the wing hall, poring over my book and
grieving that I was no more allowed to go into the
The wing hall was a narrow one and dim, connecting
the main rooms of the Place with an older
wing, built in a curious way. The hall was lighted
by small, square-paned windows, and at its end a
little flight of steps led up to the Red Room.
Whenever I had been at the Place before—and this
was often—I had passed much of my time in this
same Red Room. It was Mrs. Montressor's sitting-room
then, where she wrote her letters and examined
household accounts, and sometimes had an
old gossip in to tea. The room was low-ceilinged
and dim, hung with red damask, and with odd,
square windows high up under the eaves and a
dark wainscoting all around it. And there I loved to
sit quietly on the red sofa and read my fairy tales,
or talk dreamily to the swallows fluttering crazily
against the tiny panes.
When I had gone this Christmas to the Place I
soon bethought myself of the Red Room—for I had
a great love for it. But I had got no further than the
steps when Mrs. Montressor came sweeping down
the hall in haste and, catching me by the arm,
pulled me back as roughly as if it had been Bluebeard's
chamber itself into which I was venturing.
Then, seeing my face, which I doubt not was
startled enough, she seemed to repent of her haste
and patted me gently on the head.
"There, there, little Beatrice! Did I frighten you,
child? Forgive an old woman's thoughtlessness.
But be not too ready to go where you are not bidden,
and never venture foot in the Red Room now,
for it belongs to your Uncle Hugh's wife, and let me
tell you she is not over fond of intruders."
I felt sorry overmuch to hear this, nor could I see
why my new aunt should care if I went in once in a
while, as had been my habit, to talk to the swallows
and misplace nothing. But Mrs. Montressor saw to
it that I obeyed her, and I went no more to the Red
Room, but busied myself with other matters.
For there were great doings at the Place and
much coming and going. My aunts were never idle;
there was to be much festivity Christmas week and
a ball on Christmas Eve. And my aunts had promised
me—though not till I had wearied them of my
coaxing—that I should stay up that night and see
as much of the gaiety as was good for me. So I did
their errands and went early to bed every night
without complaint—though I did this the more
readily for that, when they thought me safely
asleep, they would come in and talk around my
bedroom fire, saying that of Alicia which I should
not have heard.
At last came the day when my Uncle Hugh and
his wife were expected home—though not until
my scanty patience was well nigh wearied out—and
we were all assembled to meet them in the
great hall, where a ruddy firelight was gleaming.
My Aunt Frances had dressed me in my best
white frock and my crimson sash, with much lamenting
over my skinny neck and arms, and bade
me behave prettily, as became my bringing up. So I
slipped in a corner, my hands and feet cold with
excitement, for I think every drop of blood in my
body had gone to my head, and my heart beat so
hardly that it even pained me.
Then the door opened and Alicia—for so I was
used to hearing her called, nor did I ever think of
her as my aunt in my own mind—came in, and a
little in the rear my tall, dark uncle.
She came proudly forward to the fire and stood
there superbly while she loosened her cloak, nor
did she see me at all at first, but nodded, a little
disdainfully, it seemed, to Mrs. Montressor and my
aunts, who were grouped about the drawing-room
door, very ladylike and quiet.
But I neither saw nor heard aught at the time
save her only, for her beauty, when she came forth
from her crimson cloak and hood, was something
so wonderful that I forgot my manners and stared
at her as one fascinated—as indeed I was, for never
had I seen such loveliness and hardly dreamed it.
Pretty women I had seen in plenty, for my aunts
and my mother were counted fair, but my uncle's
wife was as little like to them as a sunset glow to
pale moonshine or a crimson rose to white day-lilies.
Nor can I paint her to you in words as I saw her
then, with the long tongues of firelight licking her
white neck and wavering over the rich masses of
her red-gold hair.
She was tall—so tall that my aunts looked but
insignificant beside her, and they were of no mean
height, as became their race; yet no queen could
have carried herself more royally, and all the passion
and fire of her foreign nature burned in her
splendid eyes, that might have been dark or light
for aught that I could ever tell, but which seemed
always like pools of warm flame, now tender, now
Her skin was like a delicate white rose leaf, and
when she spoke I told my foolish self that never
had I heard music before; nor do I ever again think
to hear a voice so sweet, so liquid, as that which
rippled over her ripe lips.
I had often in my own mind pictured this, my
first meeting with Alicia, now in one way, now in
another, but never had I dreamed of her speaking
to me at all, so that it came to me as a great surprise
when she turned and, holding out her lovely
hands, said very graciously:
"And is this the little Beatrice? I have heard much
of you—come, kiss me, child."
And I went, despite my Aunt Elizabeth's black
frown, for the glamour of her loveliness was upon
me, and I no longer wondered that my Uncle Hugh
should have loved her.
Very proud of her was he too; yet I felt, rather
than saw—for I was sensitive and quick of perception,
as old-young children ever are—that there
was something other than pride and love in his face
when he looked on her, and more in his manner
than the fond lover—as it were, a sort of lurking
Nor could I think, though to me the thought
seemed as treason, that she loved her husband
overmuch, for she seemed half condescending and
half disdainful to him; yet one thought not of this
in her presence, but only remembered it when she
When she went out it seemed to me that nothing
was left, so I crept lonesomely away to the wing
hall and sat down by a window to dream of her;
and she filled my thoughts so fully that it was no
surprise when I raised my eyes and saw her coming
down the hall alone, her bright head shining
against the dark old walls.
When she paused by me and asked me lightly of
what I was dreaming, since I had such a sober face,
I answered her truly that it was of her—whereat
she laughed, as one not ill pleased, and said half
"Waste not your thoughts so, little Beatrice. But
come with me, child, if you will, for I have taken a
strange fancy to your solemn eyes. Perchance the
warmth of your young life may thaw out the ice
that has frozen around my heart ever since I came
among these cold Montressors."
And, though I understood not her meaning, I
went, glad to see the Red Room once more. So she
made me sit down and talk to her, which I did, for
shyness was no failing of mine; and she asked me
many questions, and some that I thought she
should not have asked, but I could not answer
them, so 'twere little harm.
After that I spent a part of every day with her in
the Red Room. And my Uncle Hugh was there
often, and he would kiss her and praise her loveliness,
not heeding my presence—for I was but a
Yet it ever seemed to me that she endured rather
than welcomed his caresses, and at times the ever-burning
flame in her eyes glowed so luridly that a
chill dread would creep over me, and I would remember
what my Aunt Elizabeth had said, she
being a bitter-tongued woman, though kind at
heart—that this strange creature would bring on us
all some evil fortune yet.
Then would I strive to banish such thoughts and
chide myself for doubting one so kind to me.
When Christmas Eve drew nigh my silly head
was full of the ball day and night. But a grievous
disappointment befell me, for I awakened that day
very ill with a most severe cold; and though I bore
me bravely, my aunts discovered it soon, when, despite
my piteous pleadings, I was put to bed,
where I cried bitterly and would not be comforted.
For I thought I should not see the fine folk and,
more than all, Alicia.
But that disappointment, at least, was spared
me, for at night she came into my room, knowing
of my longing—she was ever indulgent to my little
wishes. And when I saw her I forgot my aching
limbs and burning brow, and even the ball I was
not to see, for never was mortal creature so lovely
as she, standing there by my bed.
Her gown was of white, and there was nothing I
could liken the stuff to save moonshine falling
athwart a frosted pane, and out from it swelled her
gleaming breast and arms, so bare that it seemed to
me a shame to look upon them. Yet it could not be
denied they were of wondrous beauty, white as
And all about her snowy throat and rounded
arms, and in the masses of her splendid hair, were
sparkling, gleaming stones, with hearts of pure
light, which I know now to have been diamonds,
but knew not then, for never had I seen aught of
And I gazed at her, drinking in her beauty until
my soul was filled, as she stood like some goddess
before her worshipper. I think she read my thought
in my face and liked it—for she was a vain woman,
and to such even the admiration of a child is sweet.
Then she leaned down to me until her splendid
eyes looked straight into my dazzled ones.
"Tell me, little Beatrice—for they say the word of
a child is to be believed—tell me, do you think me
I found my voice and told her truly that I thought
her beautiful beyond my dreams of angels—as
indeed she was. Whereat she smiled as one well
Then my Uncle Hugh came in, and though I
thought that his face darkened as he looked on the
naked splendour of her breast and arms, as if he
liked not that the eyes of other men should gloat on
it, yet he kissed her with all a lover's fond pride,
while she looked at him half mockingly.
Then said he, "Sweet, will you grant me a
And she answered, "It may be that I will."
And he said, "Do not dance with that man tonight,
Alicia. I mistrust him much."
His voice had more of a husband's command
than a lover's entreaty. She looked at him with
some scorn, but when she saw his face grow
black—for the Montressors brooked scant disregard
of their authority, as I had good reason to
know—she seemed to change, and a smile came to
her lips, though her eyes glowed balefully.
Then she laid her arms about his neck and—though
it seemed to me that she had as soon strangled
as embraced him—her voice was wondrous
sweet and caressing as she murmured in his ear.
He laughed and his brow cleared, though he said
still sternly, "Do not try me too far, Alicia."
Then they went out, she a little in advance and
After that my aunts also came in, very beautifully
and modestly dressed, but they seemed to me as
nothing after Alicia. For I was caught in the snare of
her beauty, and the longing to see her again so
grew upon me that after a time I did an undutiful
and disobedient thing.
I had been straitly charged to stay in bed, which I
did not, but got up and put on a gown. For it was in
my mind to go quietly down, if by chance I might
again see Alicia, myself unseen.
But when I reached the great hall I heard steps
approaching and, having a guilty conscience, I
slipped aside into the blue parlour and hid me behind
the curtains lest my aunts should see me.
Then Alicia came in, and with her a man whom I
had never before seen. Yet I instantly bethought
myself of a lean black snake, with a glittering and
evil eye, which I had seen in Mrs. Montressor's
garden two summers agone, and which was like to
have bitten me. John, the gardener, had killed it,
and I verily thought that if it had a soul, it must
have gotten into this man.
Alicia sat down and he beside her, and when he
had put his arms about her, he kissed her face and
lips. Nor did she shrink from his embrace, but even
smiled and leaned nearer to him with a little
smooth motion, as they talked to each other in
some strange, foreign tongue.
I was but a child and innocent, nor knew I aught
of honour and dishonour. Yet it seemed to me that
no man should kiss her save only my Uncle Hugh,
and from that hour I mistrusted Alicia, though I
understood not then what I afterwards did.
And as I watched them—not thinking of playing
the spy—I saw her face grow suddenly cold, and
she straightened herself up and pushed away her
Then I followed her guilty eyes to the door,
where stood my Uncle Hugh, and all the pride and
passion of the Montressors sat on his lowering
brow. Yet he came forward quietly as Alicia and the
snake drew apart and stood up.
At first he looked not at his guilty wife but at her
lover, and smote him heavily in the face. Whereat
he, being a coward at heart, as are all villains,
turned white and slunk from the room with a muttered
oath, nor was he stayed.
My uncle turned to Alicia, and very calmly and
terribly he said, "From this hour you are no longer
wife of mine!"
And there was that in his tone which told that his
forgiveness and love should be hers nevermore.
Then he motioned her out and she went, like a
proud queen, with her glorious head erect and no
shame on her brow.
As for me, when they were gone I crept away,
dazed and bewildered enough, and went back to
my bed, having seen and heard more than I had a
mind for, as disobedient people and eavesdroppers
But my Uncle Hugh kept his word, and Alicia
was no more wife to him, save only in name. Yet of
gossip or scandal there was none, for the pride of
his race kept secret his dishonour, nor did he ever
seem other than a courteous and respectful husband.
Nor did Mrs. Montressor and my aunts, though
they wondered much among themselves, learn
aught, for they dared question neither their brother
nor Alicia, who carried herself as loftily as ever,
and seemed to pine for neither lover nor husband.
As for me, no one dreamed I knew aught of it, and
I kept my own counsel as to what I had seen in the
blue parlour on the night of the Christmas ball.
After the New Year I went home, but ere long
Mrs. Montressor sent for me again, saying that the
house was lonely without little Beatrice. So I went
again and found all unchanged, though the Place
was very quiet, and Alicia went out but little from
the Red Room.
Of my Uncle Hugh I saw little, save when he
went and came on the business of his estate, somewhat
more gravely and silently than of yore, or
brought to me books and sweetmeats from town.
But every day I was with Alicia in the Red Room,
where she would talk to me, oftentimes wildly and
strangely, but always kindly. And though I think
Mrs. Montressor liked our intimacy none too well,
she said no word, and I came and went as I listed
with Alicia, though never quite liking her strange
ways and the restless fire in her eyes.
Nor would I ever kiss her, after I had seen her
lips pressed by the snake's, though she sometimes
coaxed me, and grew pettish and vexed when I
would not; but she guessed not my reason.
March came in that year like a lion, exceedingly
hungry and fierce, and my Uncle Hugh had ridden
away through the storm nor thought to be back for
In the afternoon I was sitting in the wing hall,
dreaming wondrous day-dreams, when Alicia
called me to the Red Room. And as I went, I marvelled
anew at her loveliness, for the blood was
leaping in her face and her jewels were dim before
the lustre of her eyes. Her hand, when she took
mine, was burning hot, and her voice had a strange
"Come, little Beatrice," she said, "come talk to
me, for I know not what to do with my lone self
today. Time hangs heavily in this gloomy house. I
do verily think this Red Room has an evil influence
over me. See if your childish prattle can drive away
the ghosts that riot in these dark old corners—ghosts
of a ruined and shamed life! Nay, shrink
not—do I talk wildly? I mean not all I say—my
brain seems on fire, little Beatrice. Come; it may be
you know some grim old legend of this room—it
must surely have one. Never was place fitter for a
dark deed! Tush! never be so frightened, child—forget
my vagaries. Tell me now and I will listen."
Whereat she cast herself lithely on the satin
couch and turned her lovely face on me. So I
gathered up my small wits and told her what I was
not supposed to know—how that, generations
agone, a Montressor had disgraced himself and his
name, and that, when he came home to his mother,
she had met him in that same Red Room and flung
at him taunts and reproaches, forgetting whose
breast had nourished him; and that he, frantic with
shame and despair, turned his sword against his
own heart and so died. But his mother went mad
with her remorse, and was kept a prisoner in the
Red Room until her death.
So lamely told I the tale, as I had heard my Aunt
Elizabeth tell it, when she knew not I listened or
understood. Alicia heard me through and said
nothing, save that it was a tale worthy of the
Montressors. Whereat I bridled, for I too was a
Montressor, and proud of it.
But she took my hand soothingly in hers and
said, "Little Beatrice, if tomorrow or the next day
they should tell you, those cold, proud women,
that Alicia was unworthy of your love, tell me,
would you believe them?"
And I, remembering what I had seen in the blue
parlour, was silent—for I could not lie. So she flung
my hand away with a bitter laugh, and picked
lightly from the table anear a small dagger with a
It seemed to me a cruel-looking toy and I said
so—whereat she smiled and drew her white fingers
down the thin, shining blade in a fashion that
made me cold.
"Such a little blow with this," she said, "such a
little blow—and the heart beats no longer, the
weary brain rests, the lips and eyes smile never
again! 'Twere a short path out of all difficulties, my
And I, understanding her not, yet shivering,
begged her to cast it aside, which she did carelessly
and, putting a hand under my chin, she turned up
my face to hers.
"Little, grave-eyed Beatrice, tell me truly, would
it grieve you much if you were never again to sit
here with Alicia in this same Red Room?"
And I made answer earnestly that it would, glad
that I could say so much truly. Then her face grew
tender and she sighed deeply.
Presently she opened a quaint, inlaid box and
took from it a shining gold chain of rare workmanship
and exquisite design, and this she hung
around my neck, nor would suffer me to thank her
but laid her hand gently on my lips.
"Now go," she said. "But ere you leave me, little
Beatrice, grant me but the one favour—it may be
that I shall never ask another of you. Your people, I
know—those cold Montressors—care little for me,
but with all my faults, I have ever been kind to you.
So, when the morrow's come, and they tell you
that Alicia is as one worse than dead, think not of
me with scorn only but grant me a little pity—for I
was not always what I am now, and might never
have become so had a little child like you been always
anear me, to keep me pure and innocent.
And I would have you but the once lay your arms
about my neck and kiss me."
And I did so, wondering much at her manner—for
it had in it a strange tenderness and some sort
of hopeless longing. Then she gently put me from
the room, and I sat musing by the hall window until
night fell darkly—and a fearsome night it was, of
storm and blackness. And I thought how well it
was that my Uncle Hugh had not to return in such
a tempest. Yet, ere the thought had grown cold,
the door opened and he strode down the hall, his
cloak drenched and wind-twisted, in one hand a
whip, as though he had but then sprung from his
horse, in the other what seemed like a crumpled
Nor was the night blacker than his face, and he
took no heed of me as I ran after him, thinking selfishly
of the sweetmeats he had promised to bring
me—but I thought no more of them when I got to
the door of the Red Room.
Alicia stood by the table, hooded and cloaked as
for a journey, but her hood had slipped back, and
her face rose from it marble-white, save where her
wrathful eyes burned out, with dread and guilt and
hatred in their depths, while she had one arm
raised as if to thrust him back.
As for my uncle, he stood before her and I saw
not his face, but his voice was low and terrible,
speaking words I understood not then, though
long afterwards I came to know their meaning.
And he cast foul scorn at her that she should
have thought to fly with her lover, and swore that
naught should again thwart his vengeance, with
other threats, wild and dreadful enough.
Yet she said no word until he had done, and then
she spoke, but what she said I know not, save that
it was full of hatred and defiance and wild accusation,
such as a mad woman might have uttered.
And she defied him even then to stop her flight,
though he told her to cross that threshold would
mean her death; for he was a wronged and desperate
man and thought of nothing save his own dishonour.
Then she made as if to pass him, but he caught
her by her white wrist; she turned on him with
fury, and I saw her right hand reach stealthily out
over the table behind her, where lay the dagger.
"Let me go!" she hissed.
And he said, "I will not."
Then she turned herself about and struck at him
with the dagger—and never saw I such a face as
was hers at the moment.
He fell heavily, yet held her even in death, so that
she had to wrench herself free, with a shriek that
rings yet in my ears on a night when the wind
wails over the rainy moors. She rushed past me unheeding,
and fled down the hall like a hunted creature,
and I heard the heavy door clang hollowly
As for me, I stood there looking at the dead man,
for I could neither move nor speak and was like to
have died of horror. And presently I knew nothing,
nor did I come to my recollection for many a day,
when I lay abed, sick of a fever and more like to die
So that when at last I came out from the shadow
of death, my Uncle Hugh had been long cold in his
grave, and the hue and cry for his guilty wife was
well nigh over, since naught had been seen or
heard of her since she fled the country with her
When I came rightly to my remembrance, they
questioned me as to what I had seen and heard in
the Red Room. And I told them as best I could,
though much aggrieved that to my questions they
would answer nothing save to bid me to stay still
and think not of the matter.
Then my mother, sorely vexed over my adventures—which
in truth were but sorry ones for a
child—took me home. Nor would she let me keep
Alicia's chain, but made away with it, how I knew
not and little cared, for the sight of it was loathsome
It was many years ere I went again to Montressor
Place, and I never saw the Red Room more, for
Mrs. Montressor had the old wing torn down,
deeming its sorrowful memories dark heritage
enough for the next Montressor.
So, Grandchild, the sad tale is ended, and you
will not see the Red Room when you go next
month to Montressor Place. The swallows still
build under the eaves, though—I know not if you
will understand their speech as I did.
The Setness of Theodosia
When Theodosia Ford married Wesley Brooke
after a courtship of three years, everybody concerned
was satisfied. There was nothing particularly
romantic in either the courtship or marriage.
Wesley was a steady, well-meaning, rather slow
fellow, comfortably off. He was not at all handsome.
But Theodosia was a very pretty girl with
the milky colouring of an auburn blonde and large
china-blue eyes. She looked mild and Madonna-like
and was known to be sweet-tempered. Wesley's
older brother, Irving Brooke, had married a
woman who kept him in hot water all the time,
so Heatherton folks said, but they thought there
was no fear of that with Wesley and Theodosia.
They would get along together all right.
Only old Jim Parmelee shook his head and said,
"They might, and then again they mightn't"; he
knew the stock they came of and it was a kind
you could never predict about.
Wesley and Theodosia were third cousins; this
meant that old Henry Ford had been the great-great-grandfather
of them both. Jim Parmelee,
who was ninety, had been a small boy when this
remote ancestor was still alive.
"I mind him well," said old Jim on the morning
of Theodosia's wedding day. There was a little
group about the blacksmith's forge. Old Jim was
in the centre. He was a fat, twinkling-eyed old
man, fresh and ruddy in spite of his ninety years.
"And," he went on, "he was about the settest
man you'd ever see or want to see. When old
Henry Ford made up his mind on any p'int a
cyclone wouldn't turn him a hairsbreadth—no,
nor an earthquake neither. Didn't matter a mite
how much he suffered for it—he'd stick to it if it
broke his heart. There was always some story or
other going round about old Henry's setness. The
family weren't quite so bad—only Tom. He was
Dosia's great-grandfather, and a regular chip of
the old block. Since then it's cropped out now
and again all through the different branches of
the family. I mistrust if Dosia hasn't got a spice
of it, and Wes Brooke too, but mebbe not."
Old Jim was the only croaker. Wesley and
Theodosia were married, in the golden prime of
the Indian summer, and settled down on their
snug little farm. Dosia was a beautiful bride, and
Wesley's pride in her was amusingly apparent.
He thought nothing too good for her, the Heatherton
people said. It was a sight to make an old
heart young to see him march up the aisle of the
church on Sunday in all the glossy splendour of
his wedding suit, his curly black head held high
and his round boyish face shining with happiness,
stopping and turning proudly at his pew to
show Theodosia in.
They always sat alone together in the big pew,
and Alma Spencer, who sat behind them, declared
that they held each other's hands all through the
service. This lasted until spring; then came a sensation
and scandal, such as decorous Heatherton
had not known since the time Isaac Allen got
drunk at Centreville Fair and came home and
kicked his wife.
One evening in early April Wesley came home
from the store at "the Corner," where he had
lingered to talk over politics and farming methods
with his cronies. This evening he was later than
usual, and Theodosia had his supper kept warm
for him. She met him on the porch and kissed
him. He kissed her in return, and held her to him
for a minute, with her bright head on his shoulder.
The frogs were singing down in the south
meadow swamp, and there was a splendour of
silvery moonrise over the wooded Heatherton
hills. Theodosia always remembered that
When they went in, Wesley, full of excitement,
began to talk of what he had heard at the
store. Ogden Greene and Tom Cary were going
to sell out and go to Manitoba. There were better
chances for a man out there, he said; in Heatherton
he might slave all his life and never make
more than a bare living. Out west he might make
Wesley talked on in this strain for some time,
rehashing all the arguments he had heard Greene
and Cary use. He had always been rather disposed
to grumble at his limited chances in Heatherton,
and now the great West seemed to stretch
before him, full of alluring prospects and visions.
Ogden and Tom wanted him to go too, he said.
He had half a notion to. Heatherton was a stick-in-the-mud
sort of place anyhow.
"What say, Dosia?"
He looked across the table at her, his eyes
bright and questioning. Theodosia had listened in
silence, as she poured his tea and passed him her
hot, flaky biscuits. There was a little perpendicular
wrinkle between her straight eyebrows.
"I think Ogden and Tom are fools," she said
crisply. "They have good farms here. What do
they want to go west for, or you, either? Don't
get silly notions in your head, Wes."
"Wouldn't you go with me, Dosia?" he said,
trying to speak lightly.
"No, I wouldn't," said Theodosia, in her calm,
sweet voice. Her face was serene, but the little
wrinkle had grown deeper. Old Jim Parmelee
would have known what it meant. He had seen
the same expression on old Henry Ford's face
many a time.
Wesley laughed good-humouredly, as if at a
child. His heart was suddenly set on going west,
and he was sure he could soon bring Theodosia
around. He did not say anything more about it
just then. Wesley thought he knew how to manage
When he broached the subject again, two days
later, Theodosia told him plainly that it was no
use. She would never consent to leave Heatherton
and all her friends and go out to the prairies. The
idea was just rank foolishness, and he would soon
see that himself.
All this Theodosia said calmly and sweetly,
without any trace of temper or irritation. Wesley
still believed that he could persuade her and he
tried perseveringly for a fortnight. By the end of
that time he discovered that Theodosia was not a
great-great-granddaughter of old Henry Ford for
Not that Theodosia ever got angry. Neither
did she laugh at him. She met his arguments and
pleadings seriously enough, but she never
"If you go to Manitoba, Wes, you'll go alone,"
she said. "I'll never go, so there is no use in any
Wesley was a descendant of old Henry Ford
too. Theodosia's unexpected opposition roused all
the latent stubbornness of his nature. He went
over to Centreville oftener, and kept his blood at
fever heat talking to Greene and Cary, who
wanted him to go with them and spared no pains
The matter was gossiped about in Heatherton,
of course. People knew that Wesley Brooke had
caught "the western fever," and wanted to sell
out and go to Manitoba, while Theodosia was
opposed to it. They thought Dosia would have to
give in in the end, but said it was a pity Wes
Brooke couldn't be contented to stay where he
was well off.
Theodosia's family naturally sided with her and
tried to dissuade Wesley. But he was mastered
by that resentful irritation, roused in a man by
opposition where he thinks he should be master,
which will drive him into any cause.
One day he told Theodosia that he was going.
She was working her butter in her little, snowy-clean
dairy under the great willows by the well.
Wesley was standing in the doorway, his stout,
broad-shouldered figure filling up the sunlit space.
He was frowning and sullen.
"I'm going west in two weeks' time with the
boys, Dosia," he said stubbornly. "You can come
with me or stay here—just exactly as you please.
But I'm going."
Theodosia went on spatting her balls of golden
butter on the print in silence. She was looking
very neat and pretty in her big white apron, her
sleeves rolled up high above her plump, dimpled
elbows, and her ruddy hair curling about her face
and her white throat. She looked as pliable as her
Her silence angered her husband. He shuffled
"Well, what have you to say, Dosia?"
"Nothing," said Theodosia. "If you have made
up your mind to go, go you will, I suppose. But
I will not. There is no use in talking. We've been
over the ground often enough, Wes. The matter
Up to that moment Wesley had always believed
that his wife would yield at last, when she saw
that he was determined. Now he realized that she
never would. Under that exterior of milky, dimpled
flesh and calm blue eyes was all the iron will
of old dead and forgotten Henry Ford. This mildest
and meekest of girls and wives was not to be
moved a hairsbreadth by all argument or entreaty,
or insistence on a husband's rights.
A great, sudden anger came over the man. He
lifted his hand and for one moment it seemed to
Theodosia as if he meant to strike her. Then he
dropped it with the first oath that had ever
crossed his lips.
"You listen to me," he said thickly. "If you
won't go with me I'll never come back here—never.
When you want to do your duty as a wife
you can come to me. But I'll never come back."
He turned on his heel and strode away. Theodosia
kept on spatting her butter. The little perpendicular
wrinkle had come between her brows
again. At that moment an odd, almost uncanny
resemblance to the old portrait of her great-great-grandfather,
which hung on the parlour wall at
home, came out on her girlish face.
The fortnight passed by. Wesley was silent and
sullen, never speaking to his wife when he could
avoid it. Theodosia was as sweet and serene as
ever. She made an extra supply of shirts and
socks for him, put up his lunch basket, and
packed his trunk carefully. But she never spoke
of his journey.
He did not sell his farm. Irving Brooke rented it.
Theodosia was to live in the house. The business
arrangements were simple and soon concluded.
Heatherton folks gossiped a great deal. They
all condemned Theodosia. Even her own people
sided against her now. They hated to be mixed
up in a local scandal, and since Wes was bound
to go they told Theodosia that it was her duty to
go with him, no matter how much she disliked it.
It would be disgraceful not to. They might as well
have talked to the four winds. Theodosia was
immoveable. They coaxed and argued and
blamed—it all came to the same thing. Even those
of them who could be "set" enough themselves
on occasion could not understand Theodosia, who
had always been so tractable. They finally gave
up, as Wesley had done, baffled. Time would
bring her to her senses, they said; you just had
to leave that still, stubborn kind alone.
On the morning of Wesley's departure Theodosia
arose at sunrise and prepared a tempting
breakfast. Irving Brooke's oldest son, Stanley,
who was to drive Wesley to the station, came over
early with his express wagon. Wesley's trunk,
corded and labelled, stood on the back platform.
The breakfast was a very silent meal. When it was
over Wesley put on his hat and overcoat and went
to the door, around which Theodosia's morning-glory
vines were beginning to twine. The sun was
not yet above the trees and the long shadows lay
on the dewy grass. The wet leaves were flickering
on the old maples that grew along the fence between
the yard and the clover field beyond. The
skies were all pearly blue, cleanswept of clouds.
From the little farmhouse the green meadows
sloped down to the valley, where a blue haze
wound in and out like a glistening ribbon.
Theodosia went out and stood looking inscrutably
on, while Wesley and Irving hoisted the trunk
into the wagon and tied it. Then Wesley came up
the porch steps and looked at her.
"Dosia," he said a little huskily, "I said I
wouldn't ask you to go again, but I will. Will you
come with me yet?"
"No," said Theodosia gently.
He held out his hand. He did not offer to kiss
There was no tremor of an eyelash with her.
Wesley smiled bitterly and turned away. When
the wagon reached the end of the little lane he
turned and looked back for the last time. Through
all the years that followed he carried with him the
picture of his wife as he saw her then, standing
amid the airy shadows and wavering golden
lights of the morning, the wind blowing the skirt
of her pale blue wrapper about her feet and ruffling
the locks of her bright hair into a delicate
golden cloud. Then the wagon disappeared around
a curve in the road, and Theodosia turned and
went back into her desolate home.
For a time there was a great buzz of gossip over
the affair. People wondered over it. Old Jim Parmelee
understood better than the others. When
he met Theodosia he looked at her with a curious
twinkle in his keen old eyes.
"Looks as if a man could bend her any way
he'd a mind to, doesn't she?" he said. "Looks is
deceiving. It'll come out in her face by and by—she's
too young yet, but it's there. It does seem
unnatteral to see a woman so stubborn—you'd
kinder look for it more in a man."
Wesley wrote a brief letter to Theodosia when
he reached his destination. He said he was well
and was looking about for the best place to settle.
He liked the country fine. He was at a place called
Red Butte and guessed he'd locate there.
Two weeks later he wrote again. He had taken
up a claim of three hundred acres. Greene and
Cary had done the same. They were his nearest
neighbours and were three miles away. He had
knocked up a little shack, was learning to cook
his own meals, and was very busy. He thought
the country was a grand one and the prospects
Theodosia answered his letter and told him all
the Heatherton news. She signed herself "Theodosia
Brooke," but otherwise there was nothing
in the letter to indicate that it was written by a
wife to her husband.
At the end of a year Wesley wrote and once
more asked her to go out to him. He was getting
on well, and was sure she would like the place.
It was a little rough, to be sure, but time would
"Won't you let bygones be bygones, Dosia?" he
wrote, "and come out to me. Do, my dear wife."
Theodosia wrote back, refusing to go. She never
got any reply, nor did she write again.
People had given up talking about the matter
and asking Theodosia when she was going out to
Wes. Heatherton had grown used to the chronic
scandal within its decorous borders. Theodosia
never spoke of her husband to anyone, and it was
known that they did not correspond. She took her
youngest sister to live with her. She had her garden
and hens and a cow. The farm brought her
enough to live on, and she was always busy.
When fifteen years had gone by there were naturally
some changes in Heatherton, sleepy and;
unprogressive as it was. Most of the old people
were in the little hillside burying-ground that
fronted the sunrise. Old Jim Parmelee was there
with his recollections of four generations. Men
and women who had been in their prime when
Wesley went away were old now and the children
were grown up and married.
Theodosia was thirty-five and was nothing like!
the slim, dimpled girl who had stood on the porch
steps and watched her husband drive away that
morning fifteen years ago. She was stout and
comely; the auburn hair was darker and arched
away from her face in smooth, shining waves
instead of the old-time curls. Her face was unlined
and fresh-coloured, but no woman could live in
subjection to her own unbending will for so many
years and not show it. Nobody, looking at Theodosia
now, would have found it hard to believe
that a woman with such a determined, immoveable
face could stick to a course of conduct in
defiance of circumstances.
Wesley Brooke was almost forgotten. People
knew, through correspondents of Greene and
Cary, that he had prospered and grown rich. The
curious old story had crystallized into accepted
A life may go on without ripple or disturbance
for so many years that it may seem to have settled
into a lasting calm; then a sudden wind of passion
may sweep over it and leave behind a wake of
tempestuous waters. Such a time came at last to
One day in August Mrs. Emory Merritt dropped
in. Emory Merritt's sister was Ogden Greene's
wife, and the Merritts kept up an occasional correspondence
with her. Hence, Cecilia Merritt
always knew what was to be known about Wesley
Brooke, and always told Theodosia because
she had never been expressly forbidden to do
Today she looked slightly excited. Secretly she
was wondering if the news she brought would
have any effect whatever on Theodosia's impassive
"Do you know, Dosia, Wesley's real sick? In
fact, Phoebe Greene says they have very poor
hopes of him. He was kind of ailing all the spring,
it seems, and about a month ago he was took
down with some kind of slow fever they have out
there. Phoebe says they have a hired nurse from
the nearest town and a good doctor, but she reckons
he won't get over it. That fever goes awful
hard with a man of his years."
Cecilia Merritt, who was the fastest talker in
Heatherton, had got this out before she was
brought up by a queer sound, half gasp, half cry,
from Theodosia. The latter looked as if someone
had struck her a physical blow.
"Mercy, Dosia, you ain't going to faint! I didn't
suppose you'd care. You never seemed to care."
"Did you say," asked Theodosia thickly, "that
Wesley was sick—dying?"
"Well, that's what Phoebe said. She may be
mistaken. Dosia Brooke, you're a queer woman. I
never could make you out and I never expect to.
I guess only the Lord who made you can translate
Theodosia stood up. The sun was getting low,
and the valley beneath them, ripening to harvest,
was like a river of gold. She folded up her sewing
with a steady hand.
"It's five o'clock, so I'll ask you to excuse me,
Cecilia. I have a good deal to attend to. You can
ask Emory if he'll drive me to the station in the
morning. I'm going out to Wes."
"Well, for the land's sake," said Cecilia Merritt
feebly, as she tied on her gingham sunbonnet.
She got up and went home in a daze.
Theodosia packed her trunk and worked all
night, dry-eyed, with agony and fear tearing at
her heart. The iron will had snapped at last, like
a broken reed, and fierce self-condemnation
seized on her. "I've been a wicked woman," she
A week from that day Theodosia climbed down
from the dusty stage that had brought her from
the station over the prairies to the unpretentious
little house where Wesley Brooke lived. A young
girl, so like what Ogden Greene's wife had been
fifteen years before that Theodosia involuntarily
exclaimed, "Phoebe," came to the door. Beyond
her, Theodosia saw the white-capped nurse.
Her voice trembled.
"Does—does Wesley Brooke live here?" she
The girl nodded.
"Yes. But he is very ill at present. Nobody is
allowed to see him."
Theodosia put up her hand and loosened her
bonnet strings as if they were choking her. She
had been sick with the fear that Wesley would be
dead before she got to him. The relief was almost
"But I must see him," she cried hysterically—she,
the calm, easy-going Dosia, hysterical—"I am
his wife—and oh, if he had died before I got
The nurse came forward.
"In that case I suppose you must," she conceded.
"But he does not expect you. I must prepare
him for the surprise."
She turned to the door of a room opening off
the kitchen, but Theodosia, who had hardly heard
her, was before her. She was inside the room
before the nurse could prevent her. Then she
stood, afraid and trembling, her eyes searching
the dim apartment hungrily.
When they fell on the occupant of the bed
Theodosia started in bitter surprise. All unconsciously
she had been expecting to find Wesley as
he had been when they parted. Could this gaunt,
haggard creature, with the unkempt beard and
prematurely grey hair and the hollow, beseeching
eyes, be the ruddy, boyish-faced husband of her
youth? She gave a choking cry of pain and
shame, and the sick man turned his head. Their
Amazement, incredulity, hope, dread, all
flashed in succession over Wesley Brooke's lined
face. He raised himself feebly up.
"Dosia," he murmured.
Theodosia staggered across the room and fell
on her knees by the bed. She clasped his head to
her breast and kissed him again and again.
"Oh, Wes, Wes, can you forgive me? I've been
a wicked, stubborn woman—and I've spoiled our
lives. Forgive me."
He held his thin trembling arms around her and
devoured her face with his eyes.
"Dosia, when did you come? Did you know I
"Wes, I can't talk till you say you've forgiven
"Oh, Dosia, you have just as much to forgive.
We were both too set. I should have been more
"Just say, I forgive you, Dosia,'" she entreated.
"I forgive you, Dosia," he said gently, "and oh,
it's so good to see you once more, darling. There
hasn't been an hour since I left you that I haven't
longed for your sweet face. If I had thought you
really cared I'd have gone back. But I thought you
didn't. It broke my heart. You did though, didn't
"Oh, yes, yes, yes," she said, holding him
more closely, with her tears falling.
When the young doctor from Red Butte came
that evening he found a great improvement in his
patient. Joy and happiness, those world-old physicians,
had done what drugs and medicines had
failed to do.
"I'm going to get better, Doc," said Wesley.
"My wife has come and she's going to stay. You
didn't know I was married, did you? I'll tell you
the story some day. I proposed going back east,
but Dosia says she'd rather stay here. I'm the happiest
man in Red Butte, Doc."
He squeezed Theodosia's hand as he had used
to do long ago in Heatherton church, and Dosia
smiled down at him. There were no dimples now,
but her smile was very sweet. The ghostly finger
of old Henry Ford, pointing down through the
generations, had lost its power to brand with its
malediction the life of these, his descendants.
Wesley and Theodosia had joined hands with
their long-lost happiness.
The Story of an Invitation
Bertha Sutherland hurried home from the post
office and climbed the stairs of her boarding-house
to her room on the third floor. Her
roommate, Grace Maxwell, was sitting on the
divan by the window, looking out into the twilight.
A year ago Bertha and Grace had come to Dartmouth
to attend the Academy, and found themselves roommates.
Bertha was bright, pretty and popular, the favourite
of her classmates and teachers; Grace was a grave,
quiet girl, dressed in mourning. She was quite alone in
the world, the aunt who had brought her up having recently
died. At first she had felt shy with bright and
brilliant Bertha; but they soon became friends, and the
year that followed was a very pleasant one. It was almost
ended now, for the terminal exams had begun, and in a
week's time the school would close for the holidays.
"Have some chocolates, Grace," said Bertha gaily. "I got
such good news in my letter tonight that I felt I must
celebrate it fittingly. So I went into Carter's and invested
all my spare cash in caramels. It's really fortunate the
term is almost out, for I'm nearly bankrupt. I have just
enough left to furnish a 'tuck-out' for commencement
night, and no more."
"What is your good news, may I ask?" said Grace.
"You know I have an Aunt Margaret—commonly called
Aunt Meg—out at Riversdale, don't you? There never was
such a dear, sweet, jolly aunty in the world. I had a letter
from her tonight. Listen, I'll read you what she says."
I want you to spend your holidays with me, my dear.
Mary Fairweather and Louise Fyshe and Lily Dennis
are coming, too. So there is just room for one more,
and that one must be yourself. Come to Riversdale
when school closes, and I'll feed you on strawberries
and cream and pound cake and doughnuts and mince
pies, and all the delicious, indigestible things that
school girls love and careful mothers condemn. Mary
and Lou and Lil are girls after your own heart, I know,
and you shall all do just as you like, and we'll have
picnics and parties and merry doings galore.
"There," said Bertha, looking up with a laugh. "Isn't
"How delightful it must be to have friends like that to
love you and plan for you," said Grace wistfully. "I am
sure you will have a pleasant vacation, Bertie. As for me, I
am going into Clarkman's bookstore until school reopens.
I saw Mr. Clarkman today and he agreed to take
Bertha looked surprised. She had not known what
Grace's vacation plans were.
"I don't think you ought to do that, Grace," she said
thoughtfully. "You are not strong, and you need a good
rest. It will be awfully trying to work at Clarkman's all
"There is nothing else for me to do," said Grace, trying
to speak cheerfully. "You know I'm as poor as the proverbial
church mouse, Bertie, and the simple truth is that I
can't afford to pay my board all summer and get my
winter outfit unless I do something to earn it. I shall be
too busy to be lonesome, and I shall expect long, newsy
letters from you, telling me all your fun—passing your
vacation on to me at second-hand, you see. Well, I must
set to work at those algebra problems. I tried them before
dark, but I couldn't solve them. My head ached and I felt
so stupid. How glad I shall be when exams are over."
"I suppose I must revise that senior English this
evening," said Bertha absently.
But she made no move to do so. She was studying her
friend's face. How very pale and thin Grace looked—surely
much paler and thinner than when she had come to
the Academy, and she had not by any means been plump
and rosy then.
I believe she could not stand two months at Clarkman's,
thought Bertha. If I were not going to Aunt Meg's, I
would ask her to go home with me. Or even if Aunt Meg
had room for another guest, I'd just write her all about
Grace and ask if I could bring her with me. Aunt Meg
would understand—she always understands. But she
hasn't, so it can't be.
Just then a thought darted into Bertha's brain.
"What nonsense!" she said aloud so suddenly and
forcibly that Grace fairly jumped.
"Oh, nothing much," said Bertha, getting up briskly.
"See here, I'm going to get to work. I've wasted enough
She curled herself up on the divan and tried to study
her senior English. But her thoughts wandered hopelessly,
and finally she gave it up in despair and went to bed.
There she could not sleep; she lay awake and wrestled
with herself. It was after midnight when she sat up in
bed and said solemnly, "I will do it."
Next day Bertha wrote a confidential letter to Aunt
Meg. She thanked her for her invitation and then told her
all about Grace.
"And what I want to ask, Aunt Meg, is that you will let
me transfer my invitation to Grace, and ask her to go to
Riversdale this summer in my place. Don't think me ungrateful.
No, I'm sure you won't, you always understand
things. But you can't have us both, and I'd rather Grace
should go. It will do her so much good, and I have a
lovely home of my own to go to, and she has none."
Aunt Meg understood, as usual, and was perfectly willing.
So she wrote to Bertha and enclosed a note of invitation
I shall have to manage this affair very carefully, reflected
Bertha. Grace must never suspect that I did it on
purpose. I will tell her that circumstances have prevented
me from accepting Aunt Meg's invitation. That is true
enough—no need to say that the circumstances are hers,
not mine. And I'll say I just asked Aunt Meg to invite her
in my place and that she has done so.
When Grace came home from her history examination
that day, Bertha told her story and gave her Aunt Meg's
"You must come to me in Bertha's place," wrote the
latter. "I feel as if I knew you from her letters, and I will
consider you as a sort of honorary niece, and I'll treat you
as if you were Bertha herself."
"Isn't it splendid of Aunt Meg?" said Bertha diplomatically.
"Of course you'll go, Gracie."
"Oh, I don't know," said Grace in bewilderment. "Are
you sure you don't want to go, Bertha?"
"Indeed, I do want to go, dreadfully," said Bertha
frankly. "But as I've told you, it is impossible. But if I am
disappointed, Aunt Meg musn't be. You must go, Grace,
and that is all there is about it."
In the end, Grace did go, a little puzzled and doubtful
still, but thankful beyond words to escape the drudgery
of the counter and the noise and heat of the city. Bertha
went home, feeling a little bit blue in secret, it cannot be
denied, but also feeling quite sure that if she had to do it
all over again, she would do just the same.
The summer slipped quickly by, and finally two letters
came to Bertha, one from Aunt Meg and one from Grace.
"I've had a lovely time," wrote the latter, "and, oh, Bertie,
what do you think? I am to stay here always. Oh, of
course I am going back to school next month, but this is
to be my home after this. Aunt Meg—she makes me call
her that—says I must stay with her for good."
In Aunt Meg's letter was this paragraph:
Grace is writing to you, and will have told you that I
intend to keep her here. You know I have always wanted
a daughter of my own, but my greedy brothers and
sisters would never give me one of theirs. So I intend
to adopt Grace. She is the sweetest girl in the world,
and I am very grateful to you for sending her here. You
will not know her when you see her. She has grown
plump and rosy.
Bertha folded her letters up with a smile. "I have a
vague, delightful feeling that I am the good angel in a
storybook," she said.
The Touch of Fate
Mrs. Major Hill was in her element. This did not
often happen, for in the remote prairie town of the
Canadian Northwest, where her husband was stationed,
there were few opportunities for match-making.
And Mrs. Hill was—or believed herself to be—a born
Major Hill was in command of the detachment of Northwest
Mounted Police at Dufferin Bluff. Mrs. Hill was wont to
declare that it was the most forsaken place to be found in
Canada or out of it; but she did her very best to brighten it up,
and it is only fair to say that the N.W.M.P., officers and men,
seconded her efforts.
When Violet Thayer came west to pay a long-promised
visit to her old schoolfellow, Mrs. Hill's cup of happiness
bubbled over. In her secret soul she vowed that Violet should
never go back east unless it were post-haste to prepare a wedding
trousseau. There were at least half a dozen eligibles
among the M.P.s, and Mrs. Hill, after some reflection, settled
on Ned Madison as the flower of the flock.
"He and Violet are simply made for each other," she told
Major Hill the evening before Miss Thayer's arrival. "He has
enough money and he is handsome and fascinating. And
Violet is a beauty and a clever woman into the bargain. They
can't help falling in love, I'm sure; it's fate!"
"Perhaps Miss Thayer may be booked elsewhere already,"
suggested Major Hill. He had seen more than one of his wife's
card castles fall into heartbreaking ruin.
"Oh, no; Violet would have told me if that were the case.
It's really quite time for her to think of settling down. She
is twenty-five, you know. The men all go crazy over her,
but she's dreadfully hard to please. However, she can't help
liking Ned. He hasn't a single fault. I firmly believe it is
And in this belief Mrs. Hill rested securely, but nevertheless
did not fail to concoct several feminine artifices for the
helping on of foreordination. It was a working belief with her
that it was always well to have the gods in your debt.
Violet Thayer came, saw, and conquered. Within thirty-six
hours of her arrival at Dufferin Bluff she had every one of
the half-dozen eligibles at her feet, not to mention a score or
more ineligibles. She would have been surprised indeed had it
been otherwise. Miss Thayer knew her power, and was somewhat
unduly fond of exercising it. But she was a very nice girl
into the bargain, and so thought one and all of the young men
who frequented Mrs. Hill's drawing-room and counted it
richly worth while merely to look at Miss Thayer after having
seen nothing for weeks except flabby half-breed girls and
Madison was foremost in the field, of course. Madison was
really a nice fellow, and quite deserved all Mrs. Hill's encomiums.
He was good-looking and well groomed—could sing and
dance divinely and play the violin to perfection. The other
M.P.s were all jealous of him, and more so than ever when
Violet Thayer came. They did not consider that any one of
them had the ghost of a chance if Madison entered the lists
Violet liked Madison, and was very chummy with him
after her own fashion. She thought all the M.P.s were nice
boys, and they amused her, for which she was grateful. She
had expected Dufferin Bluff to be very dull, and doubtless it
would pall after a time, but for a change it was delightful.
The sixth evening after her arrival found Mrs. Hill's room
crowded, as usual, with M.P.s. Violet was looking her best in a
distracting new gown—Sergeant Fox afterwards described it
to a brother officer as a "stunning sort of rig between a cream
and a blue and a brown"; she flirted impartially with all the
members of her circle at first, but gradually narrowed down to
Ned Madison, much to the delight of Mrs. Hill, who was
hovering around like a small, brilliant butterfly.
Violet was talking to Madison and watching John Spencer
out of the tail of her eye. Spencer was not an M.P. He had some
government post at Dufferin Bluff, and this was his first call
at Lone Poplar Villa since Miss Thayer's arrival. He did not
seem to be dazzled by her at all, and after his introduction had
promptly retired to a corner with Major Hill, where they
talked the whole evening about the trouble on the Indian reservation
at Loon Lake.
Possibly this indifference piqued Miss Thayer. Possibly
she considered it refreshing after the servile adulation of the
M.P.s. At any rate, when all the latter were gathered about the
piano singing a chorus with gusto, she shook Madison off and
went over to the corner where Spencer, deserted by the Major,
whose bass was wanted, was sitting in solitary state.
He looked up indifferently as Violet shimmered down on
the divan beside him. Sergeant Robinson, who was watching
them jealously from the corner beyond the palms, and would
have given his eyes, or at least one of them, for such a favour,
mentally vowed that Spencer was the dullest fellow he had
ever put those useful members on.
"Don't you sing, Mr. Spencer?" asked Violet by way of
beginning a conversation, as she turned her splendid eyes full
upon him. Robinson would have lost his head under them,
but Spencer kept his heroically.
"No," was his calmly brief reply, given without any bluntness,
but with no evident intention of saying anything more.
In spite of her social experience Violet felt disconcerted.
"If he doesn't want to talk to me I won't try to make him,"
she thought crossly. No man had ever snubbed her so before.
Spencer listened immovably to the music for a time. Then
he turned to his companion with a palpable effort to be civilly
"How do you like the west, Miss Thayer?" he said.
Violet smiled—the smile most men found dangerous.
"Very much, so far as I have seen it. There is a flavour
about the life here that I like, but I dare say it would soon pall.
It must be horribly lonesome here most of the time, especially
"The M.P.s are always growling that it is," returned
Spencer with a slight smile. "For my own part I never find
Violet decided that his smile was very becoming to him
and that she liked the way his dark hair grew over his forehead.
"I don't think I've seen you at Lone Poplar Villa before?"
"No. I haven't been here for some time. I came up tonight
to see the Major about the Loon Lake trouble."
"Otherwise you wouldn't have come," thought Violet.
"Flattering—very!" Aloud she said, "Is it serious?"
"Oh, no. A mere squabble among the Indians. Have you
ever visited the Reservation, Miss Thayer? No? Well, you
should get some of your M.P. friends to take you out. It would
be worth while."
"Why don't you ask me to go yourself?" said Violet audaciously.
Spencer smiled again. "Have I failed in politeness by not
doing so? I fear you would find me an insufferably dull
So he was not going to ask her after all. Violet felt piqued.
She was also conscious of a sensation very near akin to disappointment.
She looked across at Madison. How trim and
dapper he was!
"I hate a bandbox man," she said to herself.
Spencer meanwhile had picked up one of Mrs. Hill's
novels from the stand beside him.
"Fools of Habit," he said, glancing at the cover. "I see it is
making quite a sensation down east. I suppose you've read
"Yes. It is very frivolous and clever—all froth but delightful
froth. Did you like it?"
Spencer balanced the novel reflectively on his slender
"Well, yes, rather. But I don't care for novels as a rule. I
don't understand them. The hero of this book, now—do you
believe that a man in love would act as he did?"
"I don't know," said Violet amusedly. "You ought to be a
better judge than I. You are a man."
"I have never loved anybody, so I am in no position to
decide," said Spencer.
There was as little self-consciousness in his voice as if he
were telling her a fact concerning the Loon Lake trouble. Violet
rose to the occasion.
"You have an interesting experience to look forward to,"
Spencer turned his deep-set grey eyes squarely upon her.
"I don't know that. When I said I had never loved, I meant
more than the love of a man for some particular woman. I
meant love in every sense. I do not know what it is to have an
affection for any human being. My parents died before I can
remember. My only living relative was a penurious old uncle
who brought me up for shame's sake and kicked me out on
the world as soon as he could. I don't make friends easily. I
have a few acquaintances whom I like, but there is not a soul
on earth for whom I care, or who cares for me."
"What a revelation love will be to you when it comes,"
said Violet softly. Again he looked into her eyes.
"Do you think it will come?" he asked.
Before she could reply Mrs. Hill pounced upon them. Violet
was wanted to sing. Mr. Spencer would excuse her,
wouldn't he? Mr. Spencer did so obligingly. Moreover, he got
up and bade his hostess good night. Violet gave him her hand.
"You will call again?" she said.
Spencer looked across at Madison—perhaps it was accidental.
"I think not," he said. "If, as you say, love will come some
time, it would be a very unpleasant revelation if it came in
hopeless guise, and one never knows what may happen."
Miss Thayer was conscious of a distinct fluttering of her
heart as she went across to the piano. This was a new sensation
for her, and worthy of being analyzed. After the M.P.s had
gone she asked Mrs. Hill who Mr. Spencer was.
"Oh, John Spencer," said Mrs. Hill carelessly. "He's at the
head of the Land Office here. That's really all I know about
him. Jack says he is a downright good fellow and all that, you
know. But he's no earthly good in a social way; he can't talk or
he won't. He's flat. So different from Mr. Madison, isn't he?"
"Very," said Violet emphatically.
After Mrs. Hill had gone out Violet walked to the nearest
mirror and looked at herself with her forefinger in the dimple
of her chin.
"It is very odd," she said. She did not mean the dimple.
Spencer had told her he was not coming back. She did not
believe this, but she did not expect him for a few days. Consequently,
when he appeared the very next evening she was surprised.
Madison, to whom she was talking when Spencer
entered, does not know to this day what she had started to say
to him, for she never finished her sentence.
"I wonder if it is the Loon Lake affair again?" she thought
Mrs. Hill came up at this point and whisked Madison off
for a waltz. Spencer, seeing his chance, came straight across
the room to her. Sergeant Robinson, who was watching them
as usual, is willing to make affidavit that Miss Thayer
After his greeting Spencer said nothing. He sat beside her,
and they watched Mrs. Hill and Madison dancing. Violet
wondered why she did not feel bored. When she saw Madison
coming back to her she was conscious of an unreasonable
anger with him. She got up abruptly.
"Let us go out on the verandah," she said imperiously. "It
is absolutely stifling in here."
They went out. It was very cool and dusky. The lights of
the town twinkled out below them, and the prairie bluffs
behind them were dark and sibilant.
"I am going to drive over to Loon Lake tomorrow afternoon
to look into affairs there," said Spencer. "Will you go
Violet reflected a moment. "You didn't ask me as if you
really wanted me to go," she said.
Spencer put his hand over the white fingers that rested on
the railing. He bent forward until his breath stirred the tendrils
of hair on her forehead.
"Yes, I do," he said distinctly. "I want you to go with me to
Loon Lake tomorrow more than I ever wanted any thing in my
Later on, when everybody had gone, Violet had her bad
quarter of an hour with Mrs. Hill. That lady felt herself
"I think you treated poor Ned very badly tonight, Vi. He
felt really blue over it. And it was awfully bad form to go out
with Spencer as you did and stay there so long. And you
oughtn't to flirt with him—he doesn't understand the game."
"I'm not going to flirt with him," said Miss Thayer calmly.
"Oh, I suppose it's just your way. Only don't turn the poor
fellow's head. By the way, Ned is coming up with his camera
tomorrow afternoon to take us all."
"I'm afraid he won't find me at home," said Violet sweetly.
"I am going out to Loon Lake with Mr. Spencer."
Mrs. Hill flounced off to bed in a pet. She was disgusted
with everything, she declared to the Major. Things had been
going so nicely, and now they were all muddled.
"Isn't Madison coming up to time?" queried the Major
"Madison! It's Violet. She is behaving abominably. She
treated poor Ned shamefully tonight. You saw yourself how
she acted with Spencer, and she's going to Loon Lake with
him tomorrow, she says. I'm sure I don't know what she can
see in him. He's the dullest, pokiest fellow alive—so different
from her in every way."
"Perhaps that is why she likes him," suggested the Major.
"The attraction of opposites and all that, you know."
But Mrs. Hill crossly told him he didn't know anything
about it, so, being a wise man, he held his tongue.
During the next two weeks Mrs. Hill was the most dissatisfied
woman in the four districts, and every M.P. down to
the rawest recruit anathemized Spencer in secret a dozen
times a day. Violet simply dropped everyone else, including
Madison, in the coolest, most unmistakable way.
One night Spencer did not come to Lone Poplar Villa. Violet
looked for him to the last. When she realized that he was
not coming she went to the verandah to have it out with herself.
As she sat huddled up in a dim corner beneath a silkily
rustling western maple two M.P.s came out and, not seeing
her, went on with their conversation.
"Heard about Spencer?" questioned one.
"No. What of him?"
"Well, they say Miss Thayer's thrown him over. Yesterday
I was passing here about four in the afternoon and I saw
Spencer coming in. I went down to the Land Office and was
chatting to Cribson when the door opened about half an hour
later and Spencer burst in. He was pale as the dead, and looked
wild. 'Has Fyshe gone to Rainy River about those Crown
Lands yet?' he jerked out. Cribson said, 'No.' Then tell him
he needn't; I'm going myself,' said Spencer and out he bolted.
He posted off to Rainy River today, and won't be back for a
fortnight. She'll be gone then."
"Rather rough on Spencer after the way she encouraged
him," returned the other as they passed out of earshot.
Violet got up. All the callers were gone, and she swept in to
Mrs. Hill dramatically.
"Edith," she said in the cold, steady voice that, to those
who knew her, meant breakers ahead for somebody, "Mr.
Spencer was here yesterday when I was riding with the Major,
was he not? What did you tell him about me?"
Mrs. Hill looked at Violet's blazing eyes and wilted.
"I—didn't tell him anything—much."
"What was it?"
Mrs. Hill began to sob.
"Don't look at me like that, Violet! He just dropped in and
we were talking about you—at least I was—and I had heard
that Harry St. Maur was paying you marked attention before
you came west—and—and that some people thought you were
engaged—and so—and so—"
"You told Mr. Spencer that I was engaged to Harry St.
"No-o-o—I just hinted. I didn't mean an-any harm. I never
dreamed you'd really c-care. I thought you were just amusing
yourself—and so did everybody—and I wanted Ned
Violet had turned very pale.
"I love him," she said hoarsely, "and you've sent him
away. He's gone to Rainy River. I shall never see him again!"
"Oh, yes, you will," gasped Mrs. Hill faintly. "He'll come
back when he knows—you c-can write and tell him—"
"Do you suppose I am going to write and ask him to come
back?" said Violet wildly. "I've enough pride left yet to keep
me from doing that for a man at whose head I've thrown
myself openly—yes, openly, and who has never, in words at
least, told me he cared anything about me. I will never forgive
Then Mrs. Hill found herself alone with her lacerated feelings.
After soothing them with a good cry, she set to work
thinking seriously. There was no doubt she had muddled
things badly, but there was no use leaving them in a muddle
when a word or two fitly spoken might set them straight.
Mrs. Hill sat down and wrote a very diplomatic letter
before she went to bed, and the next morning she waylaid Sergeant
Fox and asked him if he would ride down to Rainy River
with a very important message for Mr. Spencer. Sergeant Fox
wondered what it could be, but it was not his to reason why; it
was his only to mount and ride with all due speed, for Mrs.
Hill's whims and wishes were as stringent and binding as the
rules of the force.
That evening when Mrs. Hill and Violet—the latter very
silent and regal—were sitting on the verandah, a horseman
came galloping up the Rainy River trail. Mrs. Hill excused
herself and went in. Five minutes later John Spencer, covered
with the alkali dust of his twenty miles' ride, dismounted at
The M.P.s gave a concert at the barracks that night and
Mrs. Hill and her Major went to it, as well as everyone else of
any importance in town except Violet and Spencer. They sat
on Major Hill's verandah and watched the moon rising over
the bluffs and making milk-white reflections in the prairie
"It seems a year of misery since last night," sighed Violet
"You couldn't have been quite as miserable as I was," said
Spencer earnestly. "You were everything—absolutely everything
to me. Other men have little rills and driblets of affection
for sisters and cousins and aunts, but everything in me
went out to you. Do you remember you told me the first time
we met that love would be a revelation to me? It has been
more. It has been a new gospel. I hardly dared hope you could
care for me. Even yet I don't know why you do."
"I love you," said Violet gravely, "because you are you."
Than which, of course, there could be no better reason.
The Waking of Helen
Robert Reeves looked somewhat curiously at the girl
who was waiting on him at his solitary breakfast. He
had not seen her before, arriving at his summer boarding
house only the preceding night.
It was a shabby farmhouse on the inland shore of a
large bay that was noted for its tides, and had wonderful
possibilities of light and shade for an impressionist.
Reeves was an enthusiastic artist. It mattered little to
him that the boarding accommodations were most primitive,
the people uncultured and dull, the place itself
utterly isolated, as long as he could revel in those
transcendent sunsets and sunrises, those marvellous
moonlights, those wonderful purple shores and sweeps
of shimmering blue water.
The owner of the farm was Angus Fraser, and he
and his wife seemed to be a reserved, uncouth pair,
with no apparent interest in life save to scratch a bare
living out of their few stony acres. He had an impression
that they were childless and was at a loss to place
this girl who poured his tea and brought in his toast.
She did not resemble either Fraser or his wife. She was
certainly not beautiful, being very tall and rather awkward,
and dressed in a particularly unbecoming dark
print wrapper. Her luxuriant hair was thick and black,
and was coiled in a heavy knot at the nape of her neck.
Her features were delicate but irregular, and her skin
was very brown. Her eyes attracted Reeves's notice especially;
they were large and dark and full of a half-unconscious,
wistful longing, as if a prisoned soul behind
them were vainly trying to reveal itself.
Reeves could find out nothing of her from herself,
for she responded to his tentative questions about the
place in the briefest fashion. Afterwards he interviewed
Mrs. Fraser cautiously, and ascertained that the girl's
name was Helen Fraser, and that she was Angus's niece.
"Her father and mother are dead and we've brought
her up. Helen's a good girl in most ways—a little
obstinate and sulky now and then—but generally she's
steady enough, and as for work, there ain't a girl in
Bay Beach can come up to her in house or field. Angus
calculates she saves him a man's wages clear. No, I
ain't got nothing to say against Helen."
Nevertheless, Reeves felt somehow that Mrs. Fraser
did not like her husband's niece. He often heard her
scolding or nagging Helen at her work, and noticed
that the latter never answered back. But once, after
Mrs. Angus's tongue had been especially bitter, he met
the girl hurrying along the hall from the kitchen with
her eyes full of tears. Reeves felt as if someone had
struck him a blow. He went to Angus and his wife
that afternoon. He wished to paint a shore picture,
he said, and wanted a model. Would they allow Miss
Fraser to pose for him? He would pay liberally for
Angus and his wife had no objection. They would
pocket the money, and Helen could be spared a spell
every day as well as not. Reeves told Helen of his plan
himself, meeting her in the evening as she was bringing
the cows home from the low shore pastures beyond
the marsh. He was surprised at the sudden illumination
of her face. It almost transfigured her from a plain,
sulky-looking girl into a beautiful woman.
But the glow passed quickly. She assented to his
plan quietly, almost lifelessly. He walked home with
her behind the cows and talked of the sunset and the
mysterious beauty of the bay and the purple splendour
of the distant coasts. She listened in silence. Only once,
when he spoke of the distant murmur of the open sea,
she lifted her head and looked at him.
"What does it say to you?" she asked.
"It speaks of eternity. And to you?"
"It calls me," she answered simply, "and then I
want to go out and meet it—and it hurts me too. I can't
tell how or why. Sometimes it makes me feel as if I
were asleep and wanted to wake and didn't know
She turned and looked out over the bay. A dying
gleam of sunset broke through a cloud and fell across
her hair. For a moment she seemed the spirit of the
shore personified—all its mystery, all its uncertainty,
all its elusive charm.
She has possibilities, thought Reeves.
Next day he began his picture. At first he had thought
of painting her as the incarnation of a sea spirit, but
decided that her moods were too fitful. So he began to
sketch her as "Waiting"—a woman looking out across
the bay with a world of hopeless longing in her eyes.
The subject suited her well, and the picture grew
When he was tired of work he made her walk around
the shore with him, or row up the head of the bay in
her own boat. He tried to draw her out, at first with
indifferent success. She seemed to be frightened of
him. He talked to her of many things—the far outer
world whose echoes never reached her, foreign lands
where he had travelled, famous men and women whom
he had met, music, art and books. When he spoke of
books he touched the right chord. One of those transfiguring
flashes he delighted to evoke now passed over
her plain face.
"That is what I've always wanted," she said hungrily,
"and I never get them. Aunt hates to see me
reading. She says it is a waste of time. And I love it so.
I read every scrap of paper I can get hold of, but I
hardly ever see a book."
The next day Reeves took his Tennyson to the shore
and began to read the Idylls of the King to her.
"It is beautiful," was her sole verbal comment, but
her rapt eyes said everything.
After that he never went out with her without a
book—now one of the poets, now some prose classic.
He was surprised by her quick appreciation of and
sympathy with the finest passages. Gradually, too, she
forgot her shyness and began to talk. She knew nothing
of his world, but her own world she knew and
knew well. She was a mine of traditional history about
the bay. She knew the rocky coast by heart, and every
old legend that clung to it. They drifted into making
excursions along the shore and explored its wildest
retreats. The girl had an artist's eye for scenery and
"You should have been an artist," Reeves told her
one day when she had pointed out to him the exquisite
loveliness of a shaft of light falling through a cleft in
the rocks across a dark-green pool at their base.
"I would rather be a writer," she said slowly, "if I
could only write something like those books you have
read to me. What a glorious destiny it must be to have
something to say that the whole world is listening for,
and to be able to say it in words that will live forever! It
must be the noblest human lot."
"Yet some of those men and women were neither
good nor noble," said Reeves gently, "and many of
them were unhappy."
Helen dismissed the subject as abruptly as she always
did when the conversation touched too nearly on
the sensitive edge of her soul dreams.
"Do you know where I am taking you today?" she
"To what the people here call the Kelpy's Cave. I
hate to go there. I believe there is something uncanny
about it, but I think you will like to see it. It is a dark
little cave in the curve of a small cove, and on each side
the headlands of rock run far out. At low tide we can
walk right around, but when the tide comes in it fills
the Kelpy's Cave. If you were there and let the tide
come past the points, you would be drowned unless
you could swim, for the rocks are so steep and high it
is impossible to climb them."
Reeves was interested.
"Was anyone ever caught by the tide?"
"Yes," returned Helen, with a shudder. "Once, long
ago, before I was born, a girl went around the shore
to the cave and fell asleep there—and the tide came
in and she was drowned. She was young and very
pretty, and was to have been married the next week.
I've been afraid of the place ever since."
The treacherous cave proved to be a picturesque and
innocent-looking spot, with the beach of glittering sand
before it and the high gloomy walls of rock on either
"I must come here some day and sketch it," said
Reeves enthusiastically, "and you must be the Kelpy,
Helen, and sit in the cave with your hair wrapped
about you and seaweed clinging to it."
"Do you think a kelpy would look like that?" said
the girl dreamily. "I don't. I think it is a wild, wicked
little sea imp, malicious and mocking and cruel, and it
sits here and watches for victims."
"Well, never mind your sea kelpies," Reeves said,
fishing out his Longfellow. "They are a tricky folk, if all
tales be true, and it is supposed to be a very rash thing
to talk about them in their own haunts. I want to read
you 'The Building of the Ship.' You will like it, I'm
When the tide turned they went home.
"We haven't seen the kelpy, after all," said Reeves.
"I think I shall see him some day," said Helen gravely.
"I think he is waiting for me there in that gloomy cave
of his, and some time or other he will get me."
Reeves smiled at the gloomy fancy, and Helen smiled
back at him with one of her sudden radiances. The tide
was creeping swiftly up over the white sands. The sun
was low and the bay was swimming in a pale blue
glory. They parted at Clam Point, Helen to go for the
cows and Reeves to wander on up the shore. He thought
of Helen at first, and the wonderful change that had
come over her of late; then he began to think of another
face—a marvellously lovely one with blue eyes as
tender as the waters before him. Then Helen was
The summer waned swiftly. One afternoon Reeves
took a fancy to revisit the Kelpy's Cave. Helen could
not go. It was harvest time, and she was needed in the
"Don't let the kelpy catch you," she said to him half
seriously. "The tide will turn early this afternoon, and
you are given to day-dreaming."
"I'll be careful," he promised laughingly, and he
meant to be careful. But somehow when he reached
the cave its unwholesome charm overcame him, and
he sat down on the boulder at its mouth.
"An hour yet before tide time," he said. "Just enough
time to read that article on impressionists in my review
and then stroll home by the sandshore."
From reading he passed to day-dreaming, and day-dreaming
drifted into sleep, with his head pillowed on
the rocky walls of the cave.
How long he had slept he did not know, but he
woke with a start of horror. He sprang to his feet,
realizing his position instantly. The tide was in—far in
past the headlands already. Above and beyond him
towered the pitiless unscalable rocks. There was no
way of escape.
Reeves was no coward, but life was sweet to him,
and to die like that—like a drowned rat in a hole—to be
able to do nothing but wait for that swift and sure
oncoming death! He reeled against the damp rock wall,
and for a moment sea and sky and prisoning headlands
and white-lined tide whirled before his eyes.
Then his head grew clearer. He tried to think. How
long had he? Not more than twenty minutes at the
outside. Well, death was sure and he would meet it
bravely. But to wait—to wait helplessly! He should go;
mad with the horror of it before those endless minutes
would have passed!
He took something from his pocket and bent his,
head over it, pressing his lips to it repeatedly. And
then, when he raised his face again, a dory was coming
around the headland on his right, and Helen Fraser
was in it.
Reeves was dizzy again with the shock of joy and
thankfulness. He ran down over the little stretch of
sand still uncovered by the tide and around to the rocks
of the headlands against which the dory was already
grating. He sprang forward impulsively and caught the
girl's cold hands in his as she dropped the oars and
"Helen, you have saved me! How can I ever thank
He broke off abruptly, for she was looking up at
him, breathlessly and voicelessly, with her whole soul
in her eyes. He saw in them a revelation that amazed
him; he dropped her hands and stepped back as if she
had struck him in the face.
Helen did not notice the change in him. She clasped
her hands together and her voice trembled.
"Oh, I was afraid I should be too late! When I came
in from the field Aunt Hannah said you had not come
back—and I knew it was tide time—and I felt somehow
that it had caught you in the cave. I ran down
over the marsh and took Joe Simmon's dory. If I had
not got here in time—"
She broke off shiveringly. Reeves stepped into the
dory and took up the oars.
"The kelpy would have been sure of its victim then,"
he said, trying to speak lightly. "It would have almost
served me right for neglecting your warning. I was
very careless. You must let me row back. I am afraid
you have overtasked your strength trying to cheat the
Reeves rowed homeward in an absolute silence. Helen
did not speak and he could not. When they reached
the dory anchorage he helped her out.
"I think I'll go out to the Point for a walk," he said.
"I want to steady my nerves. You must go right home
and rest. Don't be anxious—I won't take any more
chances with sea kelpies."
Helen went away without a word, and Reeves walked
slowly out to the Point. He was grieved beyond measure
at the discovery he believed he had made. He had
never dreamed of such a thing. He was not a vain
man, and was utterly free from all tendency to flirtation.
It had never occurred to him that the waking of
the girl's deep nature might be attended with disastrous
consequences. He had honestly meant to help
her, and what had he done?
He felt very uncomfortable; he could not conscientiously
blame himself, but he saw that he had acted
foolishly. And of course he must go away at once. And
he must also tell her something she ought to know. He
wished he had told her long ago.
The following afternoon was a perfect one. Reeves
was sketching on the sandshore when Helen came.
She sat down on a camp stool a little to one side and
did not speak. After a few moments Reeves pushed
away his paraphernalia impatiently.
"I don't feel in a mood for work," he said. "It is too
dreamy a day—one ought to do nothing to be in keeping.
Besides, I'm getting lazy now that my vacation is
nearly over. I must go in a few days."
He avoided looking at her, so he did not see the
sudden pallor of her face.
"So soon?" she said in a voice expressive of no particular
"Yes. I ought not to have lingered so long. My world
will be forgetting me and that will not do. It has been a
very pleasant summer and I shall be sorry to leave Bay
"But you will come back next summer?" asked Helen
quickly. "You said you would."
Reeves nerved himself for his very distasteful task.
"Perhaps," he said, with an attempt at carelessness,
"but if I do so, I shall not come alone. Somebody who
is very dear to me will come with me—as my wife. I
have never told you about her, Helen, but you and I
are such good friends that I do not mind doing so now.
I am engaged to a very sweet girl, and we expect to be
married next spring."
There was a brief silence. Reeves had been vaguely
afraid of a scene and was immensely relieved to find
his fear unrealized. Helen sat very still. He could not
see her face. Did she care, after all? Was he mistaken?
When she spoke her voice was perfectly calm.
"Thank you, it is very kind of you to tell me about
her. I suppose she is very beautiful."
"Yes, here is her picture. You can judge for yourself."
Helen took the portrait from his hand and looked at
it steadily. It was a miniature painted on ivory, and the
face looking out from it was certainly lovely.
"It is no wonder you love her," said the girl in a low
tone as she handed it back. "It must be strange to be so
beautiful as that."
Reeves picked up his Tennyson.
"Shall I read you something? What will you have?"
"Read 'Elaine,' please. I want to hear that once more."
Reeves felt a sudden dislike to her choice.
"Wouldn't you prefer something else?" he asked,
hurriedly turning over the leaves. "'Elaine' is rather
sad. Shan't I read 'Guinevere' instead?"
"No," said Helen in the same lifeless tone. "I have
no sympathy for Guinevere. She suffered and her love
was unlawful, but she was loved in return—she did
not waste her love on someone who did not want or
care for it. Elaine did, and her life went with it. Read
me the story."
Reeves obeyed. When he had finished he held the
book out to her.
"Helen, will you take this Tennyson from me in
remembrance of our friendship and of the Kelpy's Cave?
I shall never forget that I owe my life to you."
She took the book and placed a little thread of crimson
seaweed that had been caught in the sand between
the pages of "Elaine." Then she rose.
"I must go back now. Aunt will need me. Thank you
again for the book, Mr. Reeves, and for all your kindness
Reeves was relieved when the interview was over.
Her calmness had reassured him. She did not care very
much, after all; it was only a passing fancy, and when
he was gone she would soon forget him.
He went away a few days later, and Helen bade him
an impassive good-bye. When the afternoon was far
spent she stole away from the house to the shore, with
her Tennyson in her hand, and took her way to the
The tide was just beginning to come in. She sat
down on the big boulder where Reeves had fallen
asleep. Beyond stretched the gleaming blue waters,
mellowing into a hundred fairy shades horizonward.
The shadows of the rocks were around her. In front
was the white line of the incoming tide; it had almost
reached the headlands. A few minutes more and escape
would be cut off—yet she did not move.
When the dark green water reached her, and the
lapping wavelets swished up over the hem of her dress,
she lifted her head and a sudden strange smile flashed
over her face.
Perhaps the kelpy understood it.
The Way of the Winning of Anne
Jerome Irving had been courting Anne Stockard
for fifteen years. He had begun when she was
twenty and he was twenty-five, and now that
Jerome was forty, and Anne, in a village where
everybody knew everybody else's age, had to own to being
thirty-five, the courtship did not seem any nearer a climax
than it had at the beginning. But that was not Jerome's fault,
At the end of the first year he had asked Anne to marry
him, and Anne had refused. Jerome was disappointed, but he
kept his head and went on courting Anne just the same; that
is he went over to Esek Stockard's house every Saturday
night and spent the evening, he walked home with Anne from
prayer meeting and singing school and parties when she
would let him, and asked her to go to all the concerts and
socials and quilting frolics that came off. Anne never would
go, of course, but Jerome faithfully gave her the chance. Old
Esek rather favoured Jerome's suit, for Anne was the plainest
of his many daughters, and no other fellow seemed at all anxious
to run Jerome off the track; but she took her own way
with true Stockard firmness, and matters were allowed to
drift on at the will of time or chance.
Three years later Jerome tried his luck again, with precisely
the same result, and after that he had asked Anne regularly
once a year to marry him, and just as regularly Anne said
no a little more brusquely and a little more decidedly every
year. Now, in the mellowness of a fifteen-year-old courtship,
Jerome did not mind it at all. He knew that everything comes
to the man who has patience to wait.
Time, of course, had not stood still with Anne and Jerome,
or with the history of Deep Meadows. At the Stockard homestead
the changes had been many and marked. Every year or
two there had been a wedding in the big brick farmhouse, and
one of old Esek's girls had been the bride each time. Julia and
Grace and Celia and Betty and Theodosia and Clementina
Stockard were all married and gone. But Anne had never had
another lover. There had to be an old maid in every big family
she said, and she was not going to marry Jerome Irving just for
the sake of having Mrs. on her tombstone.
Old Esek and his wife had been put away in the Deep
Meadows burying-ground. The broad, fertile Stockard acres
passed into Anne's possession. She was a good business-woman,
and the farm continued to be the best in the district.
She kept two hired men and a servant girl, and the sixteen-year-old
of her oldest sister lived with her. There
were few visitors at the Stockard place now, but Jerome
"dropped in" every Saturday night with clockwork regularity
and talked to Anne about her stock and advised her regarding
the rotation of her crops and the setting out of her orchards.
And at ten o'clock he would take his hat and cane and tell
Anne to be good to herself, and go home.
Anne had long since given up trying to discourage him;
she even accepted attentions from him now that she had used
to refuse. He always walked home with her from evening
meetings and was her partner in the games at quilting parties.
It was great fun for the young folks. "Old Jerome and Anne"
were a standing joke in Deep Meadows. But the older people
had ceased to expect anything to come of it.
Anne laughed at Jerome as she had always done, and
would not have owned for the world that she could have
missed him. Jerome was useful, she admitted, and a comfortable
friend; and she would have liked him well enough if he
would only omit that ridiculous yearly ceremony of proposal.
It was Jerome's fortieth birthday when Anne refused him
again. He realized this as he went down the road in the
moonlight, and doubt and dismay began to creep into his
heart. Anne and he were both getting old—there was no
disputing that fact. It was high time that he brought her to
terms if he was ever going to. Jerome was an easy-going
mortal and always took things placidly, but he did not mean
to have all those fifteen years of patient courting go for nothing
He had thought Anne would get tired of saying no,
sooner or later, and say yes, if for no other reason than to
have a change; but getting tired did not seem to run in the
Stockard blood. She had said no that night just as coolly and
decidedly and unsentimentally as she said it fifteen years
before. Jerome had the sensation of going around in a circle
and never getting any further on. He made up his mind that
something must be done, and just as he got to the brook that
divides Deep Meadows West from Deep Meadows Central
an idea struck him; it was a good idea and amused him. He
laughed aloud and slapped his thigh, much to the amusement
of two boys who were sitting unnoticed on the railing
of the bridge.
"There's old Jerome going home from seeing Anne
Stockard," said one. "Wonder what on earth he's laughing at.
Seems to me if I couldn't get a wife without hoeing a fifteen-year
row, I'd give up trying."
But, then, the speaker was a Hamilton, and the Hamiltons
never had any perseverance.
Jerome, although a well-to-do man, owning a good farm,
had, so to speak, no home of his own. The old Irving homestead
belonged to his older brother, who had a wife and family.
Jerome lived with them and was so used to it he didn't
At forty a lover must not waste time. Jerome thought out
the details that night, and next day he opened the campaign.
But it was not until the evening after that that Anne Stockard
heard the news. It was her niece, Octavia, who told her. The
latter had been having a chat up the lane with Sam Mitchell,
and came in with a broad smile on her round, rosy face and a
twinkle in her eyes.
"I guess you've lost your beau this time, Aunt Anne. It
looks as if he meant to take you at your word at last."
"What on earth do you mean?" asked Anne, a little sharply.
She was in the pantry counting eggs, and Octavia's interruption
made her lose her count. "Now I can't remember
whether it was six or seven dozen I said last. I shall have to
count them all over again. I wish, Octavia, that you could
think of something besides beaus all the time."
"Well, but listen," persisted Octavia wickedly. "Jerome
Irving was at the social at the Cherry Valley parsonage last
night, and he had Harriet Warren there—took her there, and
drove her home again."
"I don't believe it," cried Anne, before she thought. She
dropped an egg into the basket so abruptly that the shell
"Oh, it's true enough. Sam Mitchell told me; he was there
and saw him. Sam says he looked quite beaming, and was
dressed to kill, and followed Harriet around like her shadow.
I guess you won't have any more bother with him, Aunt
In the process of picking the broken egg out of the whole
ones Anne had recovered her equanimity. She gave a careful
"Well, it's to be hoped so. Goodness knows it's time he
tried somebody else. Go and change your dress for milking,
Octavia, and don't spend quite so much time gossiping up the
lane with Sam Mitchell. He always was a fetch-and-carry.
Young girls oughtn't to be so pert."
When the subdued Octavia had gone, Anne tossed the broken
eggshell out of the pantry window viciously enough.
"There's no fool like an old fool. Jerome Irving always was
an idiot. The idea of his going after Harriet Warren! He's old
enough to be her father. And a Warren, too! I've seen the time
an Irving wouldn't be seen on the same side of the road with a
Warren. Well, anyhow, I don't care, and he needn't suppose I
will. It will be a relief not to have him hanging around any
It might have been a relief, but Anne felt strangely lonely
as she walked home alone from prayer meeting the next
night. Jerome had not been there. The Warrens were Methodists
and Anne rightly guessed that he had gone to the
Methodist prayer meeting at Cherry Valley.
"Dancing attendance on Harriet," she said to herself
When she got home she looked at her face in the glass
more critically than she had done for years. Anne Stockard at
her best had never been pretty. When young she had been
called "gawky." She was very tall and her figure was lank and
angular. She had a long, pale face and dusky hair. Her eyes had
been good—a glimmering hazel, large and long-lashed. They
were pretty yet, but the crow's feet about them were plainly
visible. There were brackets around her mouth too, and her
cheeks were hollow. Anne suddenly realized, as she had never
realized before, that she had grown old—that her youth was
left far behind. She was an old maid, and Harriet Warren was
young, and pretty. Anne's long, thin lips suddenly quivered.
"I declare, I'm a worse fool than Jerome," she said angrily.
When Saturday night came Jerome did not. The corner of
the big, old-fashioned porch where he usually sat looked bare
and lonely. Anne was short with Octavia and boxed the cat's
ears and raged at herself. What did she care if Jerome Irving
never came again? She could have married him years ago if
she had wanted to—everybody knew that!
At sunset she saw a buggy drive past her gate. Even at that
distance she recognized Harriet Warren's handsome, high-coloured
profile. It was Jerome's new buggy and Jerome was
driving. The wheel spokes flashed in the sunlight as they
crept up the hill. Perhaps they dazzled Anne's eyes a little; at
least, for that or some other reason she dabbed her hand
viciously over them as she turned sharply about and went
upstairs. Octavia was practising her music lesson in the parlour
below and singing in a sweet shrill voice. The hired men
were laughing and talking in the yard. Anne slammed down
her window and banged her door and then lay down on her
bed; she said her head ached.
The Deep Meadows people were amused and made joking
remarks to Anne, which she had to take amiably because she
had no excuse for resenting them. In reality they stung her
pride unendurably. When Jerome had gone she realized that
she had no other intimate friend and that she was a very
lonely woman whom nobody cared about. One night—it was
three weeks afterward—she met Jerome and Harriet squarely.
She was walking to church with Octavia, and they were driving
in the opposite direction. Jerome had his new buggy and
crimson lap robe. His horse's coat shone like satin and had
rosettes of crimson on his bridle. Jerome was dressed
extremely well and looked quite young, with his round,
ruddy, clean-shaven face and clear blue eyes.
Harriet was sitting primly and consciously by his side; she
was a very handsome girl with bold eyes and was somewhat
overdressed. She wore a big flowery hat and a white lace veil
and looked at Anne with a supercilious smile.
Anne felt dowdy and old; she was very pale. Jerome lifted
his hat and bowed pleasantly as they drove past. Suddenly
Harriet laughed out. Anne did not look back, but her face
crimsoned darkly. Was that girl laughing at her? She trembled
with anger and a sharp, hurt feeling. When she got home that
night she sat a long while by her window.
Jerome was gone—and he let Harriet Warren laugh at her
and he would never come back to her. Well, it did not matter,
but she had been a fool. Only it had never occurred to her that
Jerome could act so.
"If I'd thought he would I mightn't have been so sharp
with him," was as far as she would let herself go even in
When four weeks had elapsed Jerome came over one
Saturday night. He was fluttered and anxious, but hid it in a
Anne was taken by surprise. She had not thought he would
ever come again, and was off her guard. He had come around
the porch corner abruptly as she stood there in the dusk, and
she started very perceptibly.
"Good evening, Anne," he said, easily and unblushingly.
Anne choked up. She was very angry, or thought she was.
Jerome appeared not to notice her lack of welcome. He sat
coolly down in his old place. His heart was beating like a
hammer, but Anne did not know that.
"I suppose," she said cuttingly, "that you're on your way
down to the bridge. It's almost a pity for you to waste time
stopping here at all, any more than you have of late. No doubt
Harriet'll be expecting you."
A gleam of satisfaction flashed over Jerome's face. He
looked shrewdly at Anne, who was not looking at him, but
was staring uncompromisingly out over the poppy beds. A
jealous woman always gives herself away. If Anne had been
indifferent she would not have given him that slap in the face.
"I dunno's she will," he replied coolly. "I didn't say for sure
whether I'd be down tonight or not. It's so long since I had a
chat with you I thought I'd drop in for a spell. But of course if
I'm not wanted I can go where I will be."
Anne could not get back her self-control. Her nerves were
"all strung up," as she would have said. She had a feeling that
she was right on the brink of a "scene," but she could not help
"I guess it doesn't matter much what I want," she said
stonily. "At any rate, it hasn't seemed that way lately. You
don't care, of course. Oh, no! Harriet Warren is all you care
about. Well, I wish you joy of her."
Jerome looked puzzled, or pretended to. In reality he was
hugging himself with delight.
"I don't just understand you, Anne," he said hesitatingly
"You appear to be vexed about something."
"I? Oh, no, I'm not, Mr. Irving. Of course old friends don't
count now. Well, I've no doubt new ones will wear just as
"If it's about my going to see Harriet," said Jerome easily
"I don't see as how it can matter much to you. Goodness
knows, you took enough pains to show me you didn't want
me. I don't blame you. A woman has a right to please herself,
and a man ought to have sense to take his answer and go. I
hadn't, and that's where I made my mistake. I don't mean to
pester you any more, but we can be real good friends, can't
we? I'm sure I'm as much your friend as ever I was."
Now, I hold that this speech of Jerome's, delivered in a
cool, matter-of-fact tone, as of a man stating a case with dispassionate
fairness, was a masterpiece. It was the last
cleverly executed movement of the campaign. If it failed to
effect a capitulation, he was a defeated man. But it did not fail.
Anne had got to that point where an excited woman must
go mad or cry. Anne cried. She sat flatly down on a chair and
burst into tears.
Jerome's hat went one way and his cane another. Jerome
himself sprang across the intervening space and dropped into
the chair beside Anne. He caught her hand in his and threw
his arm boldly around her waist.
"Goodness gracious, Anne! Do you care after all? Tell me
"I don't suppose it matters to you if I do," sobbed Anne. "It
hasn't seemed to matter, anyhow."
"Anne, look here! Didn't I come after you for fifteen years?
It's you I always have wanted and want yet, if I can get you. I
don't care a rap for Harriet Warren or anyone but you. Now
that's the truth right out, Anne."
No doubt it was, and Anne was convinced of it. But she
had to have her cry out—on Jerome's shoulder—and it soothed
her nerves wonderfully. Later on Octavia, slipping noiselessly
up the steps in the dusk, saw a sight that transfixed her
with astonishment. When she recovered herself she turned
and fled wildly around the house, running bump into Sam
Mitchell, who was coming across the yard from a twilight
conference with the hired men.
"Goodness, Tavy, what's the matter? Y' look 'sif y'd seen a
Octavia leaned up against the wall in spasms of mirth.
"Oh, Sam," she gasped, "old Jerome Irving and Aunt Anne
are sitting round there in the dark on the front porch and he
had his arms around her, kissing her! And they never saw nor
heard me, no more'n if they were deaf and blind!"
Sam gave a tremendous whistle and then went off into a
shout of laughter whose echoes reached even to the gloom of
the front porch and the ears of the lovers. But they did not
know he was laughing at them and would not have cared if
they had. They were too happy for that.
There was a wedding that fall and Anne Stockard was the
bride. When she was safely his, Jerome confessed all and was
"But it was kind of mean to Harriet," said Anne rebukingly,
"to go with her and get her talked about and then drop
her as you did. Don't you think so yourself, Jerome?"
Her husband's eyes twinkled.
"Well, hardly that. You see, Harriet's engaged to that Johnson
fellow out west. 'Tain't generally known, but I knew it
and that's why I picked on her. I thought it probable that she'd
be willing enough to flirt with me for a little diversion, even if
I was old. Harriet's that sort of a girl. And I made up my mind
that if that didn't fetch it nothing would and I'd give up for
good and all. But it did, didn't it, Anne?"
"I should say so. It was horrid of you, Jerome—but I daresay
it's just as well you did or I'd likely never have found out that
I couldn't get along without you. I did feel dreadful. Poor
Octavia could tell you I was as cross as X. How did you come
to think of it, Jerome?"
"A fellow had to do something," said Jerome oracularly,
"and I'd have done most anything to get you, Anne, that's a
fact. And there it was—courting fifteen years and nothing to
show for it. I dunno, though, how I did come to think of it.
Guess it was a sort of inspiration. Anyhow, I've got you and
that's what I set out to do in the beginning."
Mr. Bentley had just driven into the yard with the new
summer boarder. Mrs. Bentley and Agnes were peeping
at her from behind the parlour curtains with the
keen interest that they—shut in by their restricted farm
life—always felt in any visitor from the outside world
lying beyond their boundary of purple misted hills.
Mrs. Bentley was a plump, rosy-cheeked woman with
a motherly smile. Agnes was a fair, slim schoolgirl, as
tall as her mother, with a sweet face and a promise of
peach blossom prettiness in the years to come. The
arrival of a summer boarder was a great event in her
"Ain't she pretty?" whispered Mrs. Bentley admiringly,
as the girl came slowly up the green slope before
the house. "I do hope she's nice. You can generally
calculate on men boarders, but girls are doubtful. Preserve
me from a cranky boarder! I've had enough of
them. I kinder like her looks, though."
Ethel Lennox had paused at the front door as Mrs.
Bentley and Agnes came into the hall. Agnes gazed at
the stranger with shy, unenvious admiration; the latter
stood on the stone step just where the big chestnut by
the door cast flickering gleams and shadows over her
dress and shining hair.
She was tall, and gowned in some simple white
material that fell about her in graceful folds. She wore a
cluster of pale pink roses at her belt, and a big, picturesque
white hat shaded her face and the glossy, clinging
masses of her red hair—hair that was neither auburn
nor chestnut but simply red. Nor would anyone have
wished it otherwise, having once seen that glorious
mass, with all its wonderful possibilities of rippling
Her complexion was of that perfect, waxen whiteness
that goes with burnished red hair and the darkest
of dilated violet eyes. Her delicately chiselled features
wore what might have been a somewhat too decided
impress of spirit and independence, had it not been for
the sweet mouth, red and dimpled and curving, that
parted in a slow, charming smile as Mrs. Bentley came
forward with her kindly welcome.
"You must be real tired, Miss Lennox. It's a long
drive from the train down here. Agnes, show Miss
Lennox up to her room, and tea will be ready when
you come down."
Agnes came forward with the shy grace that always
won friends for her, and the two girls went slowly up
the broad, old-fashioned staircase, while Mrs. Bentley
bustled away to bring in the tea and put a goblet of
damask roses on the table.
"She looks like a picture, doesn't she, John?" she
said to her husband. "I never saw such a face—and
that hair too. Would you have believed red hair could
be so handsome? She seems real friendly—none of
your stuck-up fine ladies! I've had all I want of them, I
can tell you!"
"Sh—sh—sh!" said Mr. Bentley warningly, as Ethel
Lennox came in with her arm about Agnes.
She looked even more lovely without her hat, with
the soft red tendrils of hair lying on her forehead. Mrs.
Bentley sent a telegraphic message of admiration across
the table to her husband, who was helping the cold
tongue and feeling his way to a conversation.
"You'll find it pretty quiet here, Miss Lennox. We're
plain folks and there ain't much going and coming.
Maybe you don't mind that, though?"
"I like it. When one has been teaching school all the
year in a noisy city, quiet seems the one thing to be
desired. Besides, I like to fancy myself something of an
artist. I paint and sketch a little when I have time, and
Miss Courtland, who was here last summer, said I
could not find a more suitable spot. So I came because I
knew that mackerel fishing was carried on along the
shore, and I would have a chance to study character
among the fishermen."
"Well, the shore ain't far away, and it's pretty—though
maybe us folks here don't appreciate it rightly, being as
we're so used to it. Strangers are always going crazy
over its 'picturesqueness,' as they call it. As for 'character,'
I reckon you'll find all you want of that among the
Pointers; anyway, I never seed such critters as they be.
When you get tired of painting, maybe you can amuse
yourself trying to get to the bottom of our mystery."
"Oh, have you a mystery? How interesting!"
"Yes, a mystery—a mystery," repeated Mr. Bentley
solemnly, "that nobody hain't been able to solve so far.
I've give it up—so has everyone else. Maybe you'll
have better luck."
"But what is it?"
"The mystery," said Mr. Bentley dramatically, "is—Young
Si. He's the mystery. Last spring, just when the
herring struck in, a young chap suddenly appeared at
the Point. He appeared—from what corner of the globe
nobody hain't ever been able to make out. He bought a
boat and a shanty down at my shore and went into a
sort of mackerel partnership with Snuffy Curtis—Snuffy
supplying the experience and this young fellow the
cash, I reckon. Snuffy's as poor as Job's turkey; it was a
windfall for him. And there he's fished all summer."
"But his name—Young Si?"
"Well, of course, that isn't it. He did give himself out
as Brown, but nobody believes that's his handle—sounds
unnatteral here. He bought his establishment from 'old
Si,' who used to fish down there and was a mysterious
old critter in a way too. So when this young fellow
stepped in from goodness knows where, some of the
Pointers christened him Young Si for a joke, and he
never gets anything else. Doesn't seem to mind it. He's
a moody, keep-to-himself sort of chap. Yet he ain't
unpopular along shore, I believe. Snuffy was telling me
they like him real well, considering his unsociableness.
Anyways, he's as handsome a chap as I ever seed, and
well eddicated too. He ain't none of your ordinary
fishermen. Some of us kind of think he's a runaway—got
into some scrape or another, maybe, and is skulking
around here to keep out of jail. But wife here won't
give in to that."
"No, I never will," said Mrs. Bentley firmly. "Young
Si comes here often for milk and butter, and he's a
perfect gentleman. Nobody'll ever convince me that he
has done anything to be ashamed of, whatever's his
reason for wasting his life down there at that shore."
"He ain't wasting his life," chuckled Mr. Bentley.
"He's making money, Young Si is, though he don't
seem to care about that a mite. This has been a big year
for mackerel, and he's smart. If he didn't know much
when he begun, he's ahead of Snuffy now. And as for
work, I never saw his beat. He seems possessed. Up
afore sunrise every blessed morning and never in bed
till midnight, and just slaving away all between time. I
said to him t'other day, says I: 'Young Si, you'll have to
let up on this sort of thing and take a rest. You can't
stand it. You're not a Pointer. Pointers can stand anything,
but it'll kill you.'
"He give one of them bitter laughs of his. Says he:
'It's no difference if it does. Nobody'll care,' and off he
walks, sulky like. There's something about Young Si I
can't understand," concluded Mr. Bentley.
Ethel Lennox was interested. A melancholy, mysterious
hero in a setting of silver-rimmed sand hills and
wide blue sweeps of ocean was something that ought
to lend piquancy to her vacation.
"I should like to see this prince in disguise," she
said. "It all sounds very romantic."
"I'll take you to the shore after tea if you'd like," said
Agnes eagerly. "Si's just splendid," she continued in a
confidential aside as they rose from the table. "Pa doesn't
half like him because he thinks there's something queer
about him. But I do. He's a gentleman, as Ma says. I
don't believe he's done anything wrong."
Ethel Lennox sauntered out into the orchard to wait for
Agnes. She sat down under an apple tree and began to
read, but soon the book slipped from her hands and
the beautiful head leaned back against the grey, lichened
trunk of the old tree. The sweet mouth drooped
wistfully. There was a sad, far-away look in the violet
eyes. The face was not that of a happy girl, so thought
Agnes as she came down the apple tree avenue.
But how pretty she is! she thought. Won't the folks
around here stare at her! They always do at our boarders,
but we've never had one like her.
Ethel sprang up. "I had no idea you would be here
so soon," she said brightly. "Just wait till I get my
When she came out they started off, and presently
found themselves walking down a grassy, deep-rutted
lane that ran through mown hay fields, green with
their rich aftergrowth, and sheets of pale ripening oats
and golden-green wheat, until it lost itself in the rolling
sand hills at the foot of the slope.
Beyond the sand hills stretched the shining expanse
of the ocean, of the faint, bleached blue of hot August
seas, and reaching out into a horizon laced with long
trails of pinkish cloud. Numberless fishing boats dotted
the shimmering reaches.
"That furthest-off boat is Young Si's," said Agnes.
"He always goes to that particular spot."
"Is he really all your father says?" asked Miss Lennox
"Indeed, he is. He isn't any more like the rest of the
shore men than you are. He's queer, of course. I don't
believe he's happy. It seems to me he's worrying over
something, but I'm sure it is nothing wrong. Here we
are," she added, as they passed the sand hills and
came out on the long, level beach.
To their left the shore curved around in a semi-circle
of dazzling whiteness; at their right stood a small grey
"That's Young Si's place," said Agnes. "He lives
there night and day. Wouldn't it make anyone melancholy?
No wonder he's mysterious. I'm going to get his
spyglass. He told me I might always use it."
She pushed open the door and entered, followed by
Ethel. The interior was rough but clean. It was a small
room, lighted by one tiny window looking out on the
water. In one corner a rough ladder led up to the loft
above. The bare lathed walls were hung with fishing
jackets, nets, mackerel lines and other shore appurtenances.
A little stove bore a kettle and a frying pan. A low
board table was strewn with dishes and the cold remnants
of a hasty repast; benches were placed along the
walls. A fat, bewhiskered kitten, looking as if it were
cut out of black velvet, was dozing on the window sill.
"This is Young Si's cat," explained Agnes, patting
the creature, which purred joyously and opened its
sleepy green eyes. "It's the only thing he cares for, I
believe. Witch! Witch! How are you, Witch? Well, here's
the spyglass. Let's go out and have a look. Si's catching
mackerel," announced Agnes a few minutes later, after
she had scrutinized each boat in turn, "and he won't
be in for an hour yet. If you like, we have time for a
walk up the shore."
The sun slipped lower and lower in the creamy sky,
leaving a trail of sparkles that ran across the water and
lost itself in the west. Sea gulls soared and dipped, and
tiny "sand peeps" flitted along the beach. Just as the
red rim of the sun dipped in the purpling sea, the
boats began to come in.
"Most of them will go around to the Point," explained
Agnes, with a contemptuous sweep of her
hand towards a long headland running out before them.
"They belong there and they're a rough crowd. You
don't catch Young Si associating with the Pointers.
There, he's getting up sail. We'll just have time to get
back before he comes in."
They hurried back across the dampening sand as the
sun disappeared, leaving a fiery spot behind him. The
shore was no longer quiet and deserted. The little spot
where the fishing house stood had suddenly started
into life. Roughly clad boys were running hither and
thither, carrying fish or water. The boats were hauled
up on the skids. A couple of shaggy old tars, who had
strolled over from the Point to hear about Young Si's
catch, were smoking their pipes at the corner of his
shanty. A mellow afterlight was shining over sea and
shore. The whole scene delighted Ethel's artist eyes.
Agnes nudged her companion.
"There! If you want to see Young Si," she whispered,
pointing to the skids, where a busy figure was
discernible in a large boat, "that's him, with his back to
us, in the cream-coloured boat. He's counting out mackerel.
If you go over to that platform behind him, you'll
get a good look when he turns around. I'm going to
coax a mackerel out of that stingy old Snuffy, if I can."
She tripped off, and Ethel walked slowly over to the
boats. The men stared at her in open-mouthed admiration
as she passed them and walked out on the platform
behind Young Si. There was no one near the two.
The others were all assembled around Snuffy's boat.
Young Si was throwing out the mackerel with marvellous
rapidity, but at the sound of a footstep behind him
he turned and straightened up his tall form. They stood
face to face.
Young Si staggered back against the mast, letting
two silvery bloaters slip through his hands overboard.
His handsome, sunburned face was very white.
Ethel Lennox turned abruptly and silently and walked
swiftly across the sand. Agnes felt her arm touched,
and turned to see Ethel standing, pale and erect, beside
"Let us go home," said the latter unsteadily. "It is
very damp here—I feel chilled."
"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Agnes penitently. "I ought to
have told you to bring a shawl. It is always damp on
the shore after sunset. Here, Snuffy, give me my mackerel.
Thank you. I'm ready now, Miss Lennox."
They reached the lane before Agnes remembered to
ask the question Ethel dreaded.
"Oh, did you see Young Si? And what do you think
Ethel turned her face away and answered with studied
carelessness. "He seems to be quite a superior
fisherman so far as I could see in the dim light. It was
very dusky there, you know. Let us walk a little faster.
My shoes are quite wet."
When they reached home, Miss Lennox excused herself
on the plea of weariness and went straight to her
Back at the shore Young Si had recovered himself and
stooped again to his work. His face was set and expressionless.
A dull red burned in each bronzed cheek. He
threw out the mackerel mechanically, but his hands
Snuffy strolled over to the boat. "See that handsome
girl, Si?" he asked lazily. "One of the Bentleys' boarders,
I hear. Looks as if she might have stepped out of a
picture frame, don't she?"
"We've no time to waste, Curtis," said Young Si
harshly, "with all these fish to clean before bedtime.
Stop talking and get to work."
Snuffy shrugged his shoulders and obeyed in silence.
Young Si was not a person to be trifled with. The
catch was large and it was late before they finished.
Snuffy surveyed the full barrels complacently.
"Good day's work," he muttered, "but hard—I'm
dead beat out. 'Low I'll go to bed. In the name o'
goodness, Si, whar be you a-goin' to?"
Young Si had got into a dory and untied it. He made
no answer, but rowed out from the shore. Snuffy stared
at the dory blankly until it was lost in the gloom.
"Ef that don't beat all!" he ejaculated. "I wonder if Si
is in his right senses? He's been actin' quar right along,
and now to start off, Lord knows whar, at this hour o'
night! I really don't believe it's safe to stay here alone
Snuffy shook his unkempt head dubiously.
Young Si rowed steadily out over the dark waves.
An eastern breeze was bringing in a damp sea fog that
blurred darkly over the outlines of horizon and shore.
The young fisherman found himself alone in a world of
water and grey mist. He stopped rowing and leaned
forward on his oars.
"To see her here, of all places!" he muttered. "Not a
word, scarcely a look, after all this long heartbreak!
Well, perhaps it is better so. And yet to know she is so
near! How beautiful she is! And I love her more than
ever. That is where the sting lies. I thought that in this
rough life, amid all these rude associations, where nothing
could remind me of her, I might forget. And now—"
He clenched his hands. The mist was all around and
about him, creeping, impalpable, phantom-like. The
dory rocked gently on the swell. From afar came the
low persistent murmur of the ocean.
The next day Ethel Lennox declined to visit Si's shore.
Instead she went to the Point and sketched all day. She
went again the next day and the next. The Point was
the most picturesque part of the shore, she averred, and
the "types" among its inhabitants most interesting.
Agnes Bentley ceased to suggest another visit to Si's
shore. She had a vague perception that her companion
did not care to discuss the subject.
At the end of a week Mrs. Bentley remarked: "What
in the world can have happened to Young Si? It's a
whole week since he was here for milk or butter. He
ain't sick, is he?"
Mr. Bentley chuckled amusedly.
"I 'low I can tell you the reason of that. Si's getting
his stuff at Walden's now. I saw him going there twice
this week. 'Liza Walden's got ahead of you at last,
"Well, I never did!" said Mrs. Bentley. "Well, Young
Si is the first that ever preferred 'Liza Walden's butter
to mine. Everyone knows what hers is like. She never
works her salt half in. Well, Young Si's welcome to it,
I'm sure; I wish him joy of his exchange."
Mrs. Bentley rattled her dishes ominously. It was
plain her faith in Young Si had received a severe shock.
Upstairs in her room, Ethel Lennox, with a few
undried tears glistening on her cheeks, was writing a
letter. Her lips were compressed and her hand trembled:
"I have discovered that it is no use to run away from
fate," she wrote. "No matter how hard we try to elude
it, and how sure we are that we have succeeded, it will
rise and meet us where we least expect it. I came down
here tired and worn out, looking for peace and rest—and
lo! the most disquieting element of my life is here
to confront me.
"I'm going to confess, Helen. 'Open confession is
good for the soul,' you know, and I shall treat myself
to a good dose while the mood is on.
"You know, of course, that I was once engaged to
Miles Lesley. You also know that that engagement was
broken last autumn for unexplained reasons. Well, I
will tell you all about it and then mail this letter speedily,
before I change my mind.
"It is over a year now since Miles and I first became
engaged. As you are aware, his family is wealthy, and
noted for its exclusiveness. I was a poor school teacher,
and you may imagine with what horror his relatives
received the news of Miles's attentions to one whom
they considered his inferior. Now that I have thought
the whole matter over calmly, I scarcely blame them. It
must be hard for aristocratic parents who have lavished
every care upon a son, and cherished for him the
highest hopes, when he turns from the women of his
own order to one considered beneath him in station.
But I did not view the subject in this light then; and
instead of declining his attentions, as I perhaps should
have done, I encouraged them—I loved him so dearly,
Nell!—and in spite of family opposition, Miles soon
openly declared his attachment.
"When his parents found they could not change his
purpose, their affection for him forced them into outward
acquiescence, but their reluctant condescension
was gall and wormwood to me. I saw things only from
my own point of view, and was keenly sensitive to
their politely concealed disapprobation, and my offended
vanity found its victim in Miles. I belonged to the class
who admit and resent slights, instead of ignoring them,
as do the higher bred, and I thought he would not see
those offered to me. I grew cold and formal to him. He
was very patient, but his ways were not mine, and my
manner puzzled and annoyed him. Our relations soon
became strained, and the trifle necessary for an open
quarrel was easily supplied.
"One evening I went to a large At Home given by
his mother. I knew but few and, as Miles was necessarily
busy with his social duties to her guests, I was, after
the first hurried greeting, left unattended for a time.
Not being accustomed to such functions, I resented
this as a covert insult and, in a fit of jealous pique, I
blush to own that I took the revenge of a peasant maid
and entered into a marked flirtation with Fred Currie,
who had paid me some attention before my engagement.
When Miles was at liberty to seek me, he found
me, to all appearances, quite absorbed in my companion
and oblivious of his approach. He turned on his
heel and went away, nor did he come near me the rest
of the evening.
"I went home angry enough, but so miserable and
repentant that if Miles had been his usual patient self
when he called the following evening I would have
begged his forgiveness. But I had gone too far; his
mother was shocked by my gaucherie, and he was
humiliated and justly exasperated. We had a short,
bitter quarrel. I said a great many foolish, unpardonable
things, and finally I threw his ring at him. He gave
me a startled look then, in which there was something
of contempt, and went away without another word.
"After my anger had passed, I was wretchedly unhappy.
I realized how unworthily I had acted, how
deeply I loved Miles, and how lonely and empty my
life would be without him. But he did not come back,
and soon after I learned he had gone away—whither
no one knew, but it was supposed abroad. Well, I
buried my hopes and tears in secret and went on with
my life as people have to do—a life in which I have
learned to think, and which, I hope, has made me
nobler and better.
"This summer I came here. I heard much about a
certain mysterious stranger known as 'Young Si' who
was fishing mackerel at this shore. I was very curious.
The story sounded romantic, and one evening I went
down to see him. I met him face to face and, Helen, it
was Miles Lesley!
"For one minute earth, sky and sea reeled around
me. The next, I remembered all, and turned and walked
away. He did not follow.
"You may be sure that I now religiously avoid that
part of the shore. We have never met since, and he has
made no effort to see me. He clearly shows that he
despises me. Well, I despise myself. I am very unhappy,
Nell, and not only on my own account, for I
feel that if Miles had never met me, his mother would
not now be breaking her heart for her absent boy. My
sorrow has taught me to understand hers, and I no
longer resent her pride.
"You need hardly be told after this that I leave here
in another week. I cannot fabricate a decent excuse to
go sooner, or I would."
In the cool twilight Ethel went with Agnes Bentley to
mail her letter. As they stopped at the door of the little
country store, a young man came around the corner. It
was Young Si. He was in his rough fishing suit, with a
big herring net trailing over his shoulder, but no disguise
could effectually conceal his splendid figure. Agnes
sprang forward eagerly.
"Si, where have you been? Why have you never I
been up to see us for so long?"
Young Si made no verbal reply. He merely lifted his
cap with formal politeness and turned on his heel.
"Well, I never!" exclaimed Agnes, as soon as she
recovered her powers of speech. "If that is how Young
Si is going to treat his friends! He must have got offended
at something. I wonder what it is," she added,
her curiosity getting the better of her indignation.
When they came out they saw the solitary figure of
Young Si far adown, crossing the dim, lonely shore
fields. In the dusk Agnes failed to notice the pallor of
her companion's face and the unshed tears in her eyes.
"I've just been down to the Point," said Agnes, coming
in one sultry afternoon about a week later, "and Little
Ev said as there was no fishing today he'd take us out
for that sail tonight if you wanted to go."
Ethel Lennox put her drawing away listlessly. She
looked pale and tired. She was going away the next
day, and this was to be her last visit to the shore.
About an hour before sunset a boat glided out from
the shadow of the Point. In it were Ethel Lennox and
Agnes, together with Little Ev, the sandy-haired, undersized
Pointer who owned the boat.
The evening was fine, and an off-shore breeze was
freshening up rapidly. They did not notice the long,
dark bank of livid cloud low in the northwest.
"Isn't this glorious!" exclaimed Ethel. Her hat was
straining back from her head and the red rings of her
hair were blowing about her face.
Agnes looked about her more anxiously. Wiser in
matters of sea and shore than her companion, there
were some indications she did not like.
Young Si, who was standing with Snuffy their
skids, lowered his spyglass with a start.
"It is Agnes Bentley and—and—that boarder of
theirs," he said anxiously, "and they've gone out with
Little Ev in that wretched, leaky tub of his. Where are
their eyes that they can't see a squall coming up?"
"An' Little Ev don't know as much about managing
a boat as a cat!" exclaimed Snuffy excitedly. "Sign 'em
to come back."
Si shook his head. "They're too far out. I don't know
that the squall will amount to very much. In a good
boat, with someone who knew how to manage it, they'd
be all right. But with Little Ev—" He began walking
restlessly up and down the narrow platform.
The boat was now some distance out. The breeze
had stiffened to a slow strong wind and the dull-grey
level of the sea was whipped into white-caps.
Agnes bent towards Ethel. "It's getting too rough. I
think we'd better go back. I'm afraid we're in for a
thunder squall. Look at the clouds."
A long, sullen muttering verified her words.
"Little Ev," she shouted, "we want to go in."
Little Ev, thus recalled to things about him, looked
around in alarm. The girls questioned each other with
glances of dismay. The sky had grown very black, and
the peals of thunder came louder and more continuously.
A jagged bolt of lightning hurtled over the horizon.
Over land and sea was "the green, malignant
light of coming storm."
Little Ev brought the boat's head abruptly round as a
few heavy drops of rain fell.
"Ev, the boat is leaking!" shrieked Agnes, above the
wind. "The water's coming in!"
"Bail her out then," shouted Ev, struggling with the
sail. "There's two cans under the seat. I've got to lower
this sail. Bail her out."
"I'll help you," said Ethel.
She was very pale, but her manner was calm. Both
girls bailed energetically.
Young Si, watching through the glass, saw them. He
dropped it and ran to his boat, white and resolute.
"They've sprung a leak. Here, Curtis, launch the
boat. We've got to go out or Ev will drown them."
They shot out from the shore just as the downpour
came, blotting out sea and land in one driving sheet of
"Young Si is coming off for us," said Agnes. "We'll
be all right if he gets here in time. This boat is going to
Little Ev was completely demoralized by fear. The
girls bailed unceasingly, but the water gained every
minute. Young Si was none too soon.
"Jump, Ev!" he shouted as his boat shot alongside.
"Jump for your life!"
He dragged Ethel Lennox in as he spoke. Agnes
sprang from one boat to the other like a cat, and Little
Ev jumped just as a thunderous crash seemed to burst
above them and air and sky were filled with blue flame.
The danger was past, for the squall had few difficulties
for Si and Snuffy. When they reached the shore,
Agnes, who had quite recovered from her fright, tucked
her dripping skirts about her and announced her determination
to go straight home with Snuffy.
"I can't get any wetter than I am," she said cheerfully.
"I'll send Pa down in the buggy for Miss Lennox.
Light the fire in your shanty, Si, and let her get dry. I'll
be as quick as I can."
Si picked Ethel up in his strong arms and carried her
into the fish-house. He placed her on one of the low
benches and hurriedly began to kindle a fire. Ethel sat
up dazedly and pushed back the dripping masses of
her bright hair. Young Si turned and looked down at
her with a passionate light in his eyes. She put out her
cold, wet hands wistfully.
"Oh, Miles!" she whispered.
Outside, the wind shook the frail building and tore
the shuddering sea to pieces. The rain poured down. It
was already settling in for a night of storm. But, inside,
Young Si's fire was casting cheery flames over the rude
room, and Young Si himself was kneeling by Ethel
Lennox with his arm about her and her head on his
broad shoulder. There were happy tears in her eyes
and her voice quivered as she said, "Miles, can you
forgive me? If you knew how bitterly I have repented—"
"Never speak of the past again, my sweet. In my
lonely days and nights down here by the sea, I have
forgotten all but my love."
"Miles, how did you come here? I thought you were
"I did travel at first. I came down here by chance,
and resolved to cut myself utterly adrift from my old
life and see if I could not forget you. I was not very
successful." He smiled down into her eyes. "And you
were going away tomorrow. How perilously near we
have been to not meeting! But how are we going to
explain all this to our friends along shore?"
"I think we had better not explain it at all. I will go
away tomorrow, as I intended, and you can quietly
follow soon. Let 'Young Si' remain the mystery he has
"That will be best—decidedly so. They would never
understand if we did tell them. And I daresay they
would be very much disappointed to find I was not a
murderer or a forger or something of that sort. They
have always credited me with an evil past. And you
and I will go back to our own world, Ethel. You will be
welcome there now, sweet—my family, too, have
learned a lesson, and will do anything to promote my
Agnes drove Ethel Lennox to the station next day.
The fierce wind that had swept over land and sea
seemed to have blown away all the hazy vapours and
oppressive heats in the air, and the morning dawned
as clear and fresh as if the sad old earth with all her
passionate tears had cleansed herself from sin and stain
and come forth radiantly pure and sweet. Ethel bubbled
over with joyousness. Agnes wondered at the
change in her.
"Good-bye, Miss Lennox," she said wistfully. "You'll
come back to see us some time again, won't you?"
"Perhaps," smiled Ethel, "and if not, Agnes, you
must come and see me. Some day I may tell you a
About a week later Young Si suddenly vanished, and
his disappearance was a nine-day's talk along shore.
His departure was as mysterious as his advent. It leaked
out that he had quietly disposed of his boat and shanty
to Snuffy Curtis, sent his mackerel off and, that done,
slipped from the Pointers' lives, never more to re-enter
Little Ev was the last of the Pointers to see him tramping
along the road to the station in the dusk of the
autumn twilight. And the next morning Agnes Bentley,
going out of doors before the others, found on the
doorstep a basket containing a small, vociferous black
kitten with a card attached to its neck. On it was
written: "Will Agnes please befriend Witch in memory
of Young Si?"