Mother, A Story
by Kathleen Norris
J. E. T. AND J. A. T.
As years ago we carried to your knees
The tales and treasures of eventful days,
Knowing no deed too humble for your praise,
Nor any gift too trivial to please,
So still we bring, with older smiles and tears,
What gifts we may, to claim the old, dear right;
Your faith, beyond the silence and the night,
Your love still close and watching through the years.
"WELL, we couldn't have much worse weather than this for the last
week of school, could we?" Margaret Paget said in discouragement. She
stood at one of the school windows, her hands thrust deep in her coat
pockets for warmth, her eyes following the whirling course of the storm
that howled outside. The day had commenced with snow, but now, at
twelve o'clock, the rain was falling in sheets, and the barren
schoolhouse yard, and the play-shed roof, ran muddy streams of water.
Margaret had taught in this schoolroom for nearly four years now,
ever since her seventeenth birthday, and she knew every feature of the
big bare room by heart, and every detail of the length of village
street that the high, uncurtained windows commanded. She had stood at
this window in all weathers: when locust and lilac made even ugly
little Weston enchanting, and all the windows were open to floods of
sweet spring air; when tie dry heat of autumn burned over the world;
when the common little houses and barns, and the bare trees, lay
dazzling and transfigured under the first snowfall, and the wood
crackled in the schoolroom stove; and when, as to-day, midwinter rains
swept drearily past the windows, and the children must have the lights
lighted for their writing lesson. She was tired of it all, with an
utter and hopeless weariness. Tired of the bells, and the whispering,
and the shuffling feet, of the books that smelled of pencil-dust and
ink and little dusty fingers; tired of the blackboards, cleaned in
great irregular scallops by small and zealous arms; of the
clear-ticking big clock; of little girls who sulked, and little girls
who cried after hours in the hall because they had lost their lunch
baskets or their overshoes, and little girls who had colds in their
heads, and no handkerchiefs. Looking out into the gray day and the
rain, Margaret said to herself that she was sick of it all!
There were no little girls in the schoolroom now. They were for the
most part downstairs in the big playroom, discussing cold lunches, and
planning, presumably, the joys of the closely approaching holidays. One
or two windows had been partially opened to air the room in their
absence, and Margaret's only companion was another teacher, Emily
Porter, a cheerful little widow, whose plain rosy face was in marked
contrast to the younger woman's unusual beauty.
Mrs. Porter loved Margaret and admired her very much, but she
herself loved teaching. She had had a hard fight to secure this
position a few years ago; it meant comfort to her and her children, and
it still seemed to her a miracle of God's working, after her years of
struggle and worry. She could not understand why Margaret wanted
anything better; what better thing indeed could life hold! Sometimes,
looking admiringly at her associate's crown of tawny braids, at the
dark eyes and the exquisite lines of mouth and forehead, Mrs. Porter
would find herself sympathetic with the girl's vague discontent and
longings, to the extent of wishing that some larger social circle than
that of Weston might have a chance to appreciate Margaret Paget's
beauty, that "some of those painters who go crazy over girls not half
as pretty" might see her. But after all, sensible little Mrs. Porter
would say to herself, Weston was a "nice" town, only four hours from
New York, absolutely up-to-date; and Weston's best people were all
"nice," and the Paget girls were very popular, and "went everywhere,"
— young people were just discontented and exacting, that was all!
She came to Margaret's side now, buttoned snugly into her own storm
coat, and they looked out at the rain together. Nothing alive was in
sight. The bare trees tossed in the wind, and a garden gate halfway
down the row of little shabby cottages banged and banged.
"Shame — this is the worst yet!" Mrs. Porter said. "You aren't
going home to lunch in all this, Margaret?"
"Oh, I don't know," Margaret said despondently. "I'm so dead that
I'd make a cup of tea here if I didn't think Mother would worry and
send Julie over with lunch."
"I brought some bread and butter — but not much. I hoped it would
hold up. I hate to leave Tom and Sister alone all day," Mrs. Porter
said dubiously. "There's tea and some of those bouillon cubes and some
crackers left. But you're so tired, I don't know but what you ought to
have a hearty lunch."
"Oh, I'm not hungry." Margaret dropped into a desk, put her elbows
on it, pushed her hair off her forehead. The other woman saw a tear
slip by the lowered, long lashes.
"You're exhausted, aren't you, Margaret?" she said suddenly.
The little tenderness was too much. Margaret's lip shook.
"Dead!" she said unsteadily. Presently she added, with an effort at
cheerfulness, "I'm just cross, I guess, Emily; don't mind me! I'm tired
out with examinations and — " her eyes filled again — "and I'm sick
of wet cold weather and rain and snow," she added childishly. "Our
house is full of muddy rubbers and wet clothes! Other people go places
and do pleasant things," said Margaret, her breast rising and falling
stormily; "but nothing ever happens to us except broken arms, and
bills, and boilers bursting, and chicken-pox! It's drudge, drudge,
drudge, from morning until night!"
With a sudden little gesture of abandonment she found a
handkerchief in her belt, and pressed it, still folded, against her
eyes. Mrs. Porter watched her solicitously, but silently. Outside the
schoolroom windows the wind battered furiously, and rain slapped
steadily against the panes.
"Well!" the girl said resolutely and suddenly. And after a moment
she added frankly, "I think the real trouble to-day, Emily, is that we
just heard of Betty Forsythe's engagement — she was my brother's girl,
you know; he 's admired her ever since she got into High School, and of
course Bruce is going to feel awfully bad."
"Betty engaged? Who to?" Mrs. Porter was interested.
"To that man — boy, rather, he's only twenty-one — who's been
visiting the Redmans," Margaret said. "She's only known him two weeks."
"Gracious! And she's only eighteen — "
"Not quite eighteen. She and my sister, Julie, were in my first
class four years ago; they're the same age," Margaret said. "She came
fluttering over to tell us last night, wearing a diamond the size of a
marble! Of course," — Margaret was loyal, — "I don't think there's a
jealous bone in Julie's body; still, it's pretty hard! Here's Julie
plugging away to get through the Normal School, so that she can teach
all the rest of her life, and Betty's been to California, and been to
Europe, and now is going to marry a rich New York man! Betty's the only
child, you know, so, of course, she has everything. It seems so unfair,
for Mr. Forsythe's salary is exactly what Dad's is; yet they can
travel, and keep two maids, and entertain all the time! And as for
family, why, Mother's family is one of the finest in the country, and
Dad 's had two uncles who were judges — and what were the Forsythes!
However," — Margaret dried her eyes and put away her handkerchief, —
"however, it's for Bruce I mind most!"
"Bruce is only three years older than you are, twenty-three or
four," Mrs. Porter smiled.
"Yes, but he's not the kind that forgets!" Margaret's flush was a
little resentful. "Oh, of course, you can laugh, Emily. I know that
there are plenty of people who don't mind dragging along day after day,
working and eating and sleeping — but I'm not that kind!" she went on
moodily. "I used to hope that things would be different; it makes me
sick to think how brave I was; but now here's Ju coming along, and Ted
growing up, and Bruce's girl throwing him over — it's all so unfair! I
look at the Cutter girls, nearly fifty, and running the post-office for
thirty years, and Mary Page in the Library, and the Norberrys painting
pillows, — and I could scream!"
"Things will take a turn for the better some day, Margaret," said
the other woman, soothingly; "and as time goes on you'll find yourself
getting more and more pleasure out of your work, as I do. Why, I've
never been so securely happy in my life as I am now. You'll feel
differently some day."
"Maybe," Margaret assented unenthusiastically. There was a pause.
Perhaps the girl was thinking that to teach school, live in a plain
little cottage on the unfashionable Bridge Road, take two roomers, and
cook and sew and plan for Tom and little Emily, as Mrs. Porter did, was
not quite an ideal existence.
"You're an angel, anyway, Emily," said she, affectionately, a
little shamefacedly. "Don't mind my growling. I don't do it very often.
But I look about at other people, and then realize how my mother 's
slaved for twenty years and how my father 's been tied down, and I've
come to the conclusion that while there may have been a time when a
woman could keep a house, tend a garden, sew and spin and raise twelve
children, things are different now; life is more complicated. You owe
your husband something, you owe yourself something. I want to get on,
to study and travel, to be a companion to my husband. I don't want to
be a mere upper servant!"
"No, of course not," assented Mrs. Porter, vaguely, soothingly.
"Well, if we are going to stay here, I'll light the stove,"
Margaret said after a pause. "B-r-r-r! this room gets cold with the
windows open! I wonder why Kelly doesn't bring us more wood?"
"I guess — I'll stay!" Mrs. Porter said uncertainly, following her
to the big book closet off the schoolroom, where a little gas stove and
a small china closet occupied one wide shelf. The water for the tea and
bouillon was put over the flame in a tiny enamelled saucepan; they set
forth on a fringed napkin crackers and sugar and spoons.
At this point, a small girl of eleven with a brilliant, tawny head,
and a wide and toothless smile, opened the door cautiously, and said,
blinking rapidly with excitement, —
"Mark, Mother theth pleath [sic] may thee come in?"
This was Rebecca, one of Margaret's five younger brothers and
sisters, and a pupil of the school herself. Margaret smiled at the
eager little face.
"Hello, darling! Is Mother here? Certainly she can! I believe," —
she said, turning, suddenly radiant, to Mrs. Porter, — "I'll just bet
you she's brought us some lunch!"
"Thee brought uth our luncheth — eggth and thpith caketh [sic] and
everything!" exulted Rebecca, vanishing, and a moment later Mrs. Paget
She was a tall woman, slender but large of build, and showing,
under a shabby raincoat and well pinned-up skirt, the gracious generous
lines of shoulders and hips, the deep-bosomed erect figure that is
rarely seen except in old daguerreotypes, or the ideal of some artist
two generations ago. The storm to-day had blown an unusual color into
her thin cheeks, her bright, deep eyes were like Margaret's, but the
hair that once had shown an equally golden lustre was dull and smooth
now, and touched with gray. She came in smiling, and a little
"Mother, you didn't come out in all this rain just to bring us our
lunches!" Margaret protested, kissing the cold, fresh face.
"Well, look at the lunch you silly girls were going to eat!" Mrs.
Paget protested in turn, in a voice rich with amusement. "I love to
walk in the rain, Mark; I used to love it when I was a girl. Tom and
Sister are at our house, Mrs. Potter, playing with Duncan and Baby.
I'll keep them until after school, then I'll send them over to walk
home with you."
"Oh, you are an angel!" said the younger mother, gratefully. And
"You are an angel, Mother!" Margaret echoed, as Mrs. Paget opened a
shabby suitcase, and took from it a large jar of hot rich soup, a
little blue bowl of stuffed eggs, half a fragrant whole-wheat loaf in a
white napkin, a little glass full of sweet butter, and some of the
spice cakes to which Rebecca had already enthusiastically alluded.
"There!" said she, pleased with their delight, "now take your time,
you've got three-quarters of an hour. Julie devilled the eggs, and the
sweet-butter man happened to come just as I was starting."
"Delicious! — You've saved our lives," Margaret said, busy with
cups and spoons. "You'll stay, Mother?" she broke off suddenly, as
Mrs. Paget closed the suitcase.
"I can't, dear! I must go back to the children," her mother said
cheerfully. No coaxing proving of any avail, Margaret went with her to
the top of the hall stairs.
"What's my girl worrying about?" Mrs. Paget asked, with a keen
glance at Margaret's face.
"Oh, nothing!" Margaret used both hands to button the top button of
her mother's coat. "I was hungry and cold, and I didn't want to walk
home in the rain!" she confessed, raising her eyes to the eyes so near
"Well, go back to your lunch," Mrs. Paget urged, after a brief
pause, not quite satisfied with the explanation. Margaret kissed her
again, watched her descend the stairs, and leaning over the banister
called down to her softly:
"Don't worry about me, Mother!"
"No — no — no!" her mother called back brightly. Indeed, Margaret
reflected, going back to the much-cheered Emily, it was not in her
nature to worry.
No, Mother never worried, or if she did, nobody ever knew it. Care,
fatigue, responsibility, hard long years of busy days and broken nights
had left their mark on her face; the old beauty that had been hers was
chiselled to a mere pure outline now; but there was a contagious
serenity in Mrs. Paget's smile, a clear steadiness in her calm eyes,
and her forehead, beneath an unfashionably plain sweep of hair, was
untroubled and smooth.
The children's mother was a simple woman; so absorbed in the hourly
problems attendant upon the housing and feeding of her husband and
family that her own personal ambitions, if she had any, were quite lost
sight of, and the actual outlines of her character were forgotten by
every one, herself included. If her busy day marched successfully to
nightfall; if darkness found her husband reading in his big chair, the
younger children sprawled safe and asleep in the shabby nursery, the
older ones contented with books or games, the clothes sprinkled, the
bread set, the kitchen dark and clean; Mrs. Paget asked no more of
life. She would sit, her overflowing work-basket beside her, looking
from one absorbed face to another, thinking perhaps of Julie's new
school dress, of Ted's impending siege with the dentist, or of the old
bureau up attic that might be mended for Bruce's room. "Thank God we
have all warm beds," she would say, when they all went upstairs,
yawning and chilly.
She had married, at twenty, the man she loved, and had found him
better than her dreams in many ways, and perhaps disappointing in some
few others, but "the best man in the world" for all that. That for more
than twenty years he had been satisfied to stand for nine hours daily
behind one dingy desk, and to carry home to her his unopened salary
envelope twice a month, she found only admirable. Daddy was "steady,"
he was "so gentle with the children," he was "the easiest man in the
world to cook for." "Bless his heart, no woman ever had less to worry
over in her husband!" she would say, looking from her kitchen window to
the garden where he trained the pea-vines, with the children's yellow
heads bobbing about him. She never analyzed his character, much less
criticised him. Good and bad, he was taken for granted; she was much
more lenient to him than to any of the children. She welcomed the
fast-coming babies as gifts from God, marvelled over their tiny
perfectness, dreamed over the soft relaxed little forms with a heart
almost too full for prayer. She was, in a word, old-fashioned,
hopelessly out of the modern current of thoughts and events. She
secretly regarded her children as marvellous, even while she laughed
down their youthful conceit and punished their naughtiness.
Thinking a little of all these things, as a girl with her own
wifehood and motherhood all before her does think, Margaret went back
to her hot luncheon. One o'clock found her at her desk, refreshed in
spirit by her little outburst, and much fortified in body. The room was
well aired, and a reinforced fire roared in the little stove. One of
the children had brought her a spray of pine, and the spicy fragrance
of it reminded her that Christmas and the Christmas vacation were
near; her mind was pleasantly busy with anticipation of the play that
the Pagets always wrote and performed some time during the holidays,
and with the New Year's costume dance at the Hall, and a dozen lesser
Suddenly, in the midst of a droning spelling lesson, there was a
jarring interruption. From the world outside came a child's shrill
screaming, which was instantly drowned in a chorus of frightened
voices, and in the schoolroom below her own Margaret heard a thundering
rush of feet, and answering screams. With a suffocating terror at her
heart she ran to the window, followed by every child in the room.
The rain had stopped now, and the sky showed a pale, cold, yellow
light low in the west. At the schoolhouse gate an immense limousine car
had come to a stop. The driver, his face alone visible between a great
leather coat and visored leather cap, was talking unheard above the
din. A tall woman, completely enveloped in sealskins, had evidently
jumped from the limousine, and now held in her arms what made
heart turn sick and cold, the limp figure of a small girl.
About these central figures there surged the terrified crying small
children of the just-dismissed primer class, and in the half moment
that Margaret watched, Mrs. Porter, white and shaking, and another
teacher, Ethel Elliot, an always excitable girl, who was now sobbing
and chattering hysterically, ran out from the school, each followed by
her own class of crowding and excited boys and girls.
With one horrified exclamation, Margaret ran downstairs, and out to
the gate. Mrs. Porter caught at her arm as she passed her in the path.
"Oh, my God, Margaret! It's poor little Dorothy Scott!" she said.
"They've killed her. The car went completely over her!"
"Oh, Margaret, don't go near, oh, how can you!" screamed Miss
Elliot. "Oh, and she's all they have! Who'll tell her mother!"
With astonishing ease, for the children gladly recognized
authority, Margaret pushed through the group to the motor-car.
"Stop screaming — stop that shouting at once — keep still, every
one of you!" she said angrily, shaking various shoulders as she went
with such good effect that the voice of the woman in sealskins could be
heard by the time Margaret reached her.
"I don't think she's badly hurt!" said this woman, nervously and
eagerly. She was evidently badly shaken, and was very white. "Do quiet
them, can't you?" she said, with a sort of apprehensive impatience.
"Can't we take her somewhere, and get a doctor? Can't we get out of
Margaret took the child in her own arms. Little Dorothy roared
afresh, but to Margaret's unspeakable relief she twisted about and
locked her arms tightly about the loved teacher's neck. The other woman
watched them anxiously.
"That blood on her frock's just nosebleed," she said; "but I think
the car went over her! I assure you we were running very slowly. How it
happened — ! But I don't think she was struck."
"Nosebleed!" Margaret echoed, with a great breath. "No," she said
quietly, over the agitated little head; "I don't think she's much hurt.
We'll take her in. Now, look here, children," she added loudly to the
assembled pupils of the Weston Grammar School, whom mere curiosity had
somewhat quieted, "I want every one of you children to go back to your
schoolrooms; do you understand? Dorothy 's had a bad scare, but she's
got no bones broken, and we're going to have a doctor see that she's
all right. I want you to see how quiet you can be. Mrs. Porter, may my
class go into your room a little while?"
"Certainly," said Mrs. Porter, eager to cooperate, and much
relieved to have her share of the episode take this form. "Form lines,
children," she added calmly.
"Ted," said Margaret to her own small brother, who was one of Mrs.
Porter's pupils, and who had edged closer to her than any boy
unprivileged by relationship dared, "will you go down the street, and
ask old Doctor Potts to come here? And then go tell Dorothy's mother
that Dorothy has had a little bump, and that Miss Paget says she's all
right, but that she'd like her mother to come for her."
"Sure I will, Mark!" Theodore responded enthusiastically, departing
on a run.
"Mama!" sobbed the little sufferer at this point, hearing a
" Yes, darling, you want Mama, don't you?" Margaret said
soothingly, as she started with her burden up the schoolhouse steps.
"What were you doing, Dorothy," she went on pleasantly, "to get under
that big car?"
"I dropped my ball!" wailed the small girl, her tears beginning
afresh, "and it rolled and rolled. And I didn't see the automobile, and
I didn't see it! And I fell down and b-b-bumped my nose!"
"Well, I should think you did!" Margaret said, laughing. "Mother
won't know you at all with such a muddy face and such a muddy apron!"
Dorothy laughed shakily at this, and several other little girls,
passing in orderly file, laughed heartily. Margaret crossed the lines
of children to the room where they played and ate their lunches on wet
days. She shut herself in with the child and the fur-clad lady.
"Now you're all right!" said Margaret, gayly. And, Dorothy was
presently comfortable in a big chair, wrapped in a rug from the
motor-car, with her face washed, and her head dropped languidly back
against her chair, as became an interesting invalid. The Irish janitor
was facetious as he replenished the fire, and made her laugh again.
Margaret gave her a numerical chart to play with, and saw with
satisfaction that the little head was bent interestedly over it.
Quiet fell upon the school; the muffled sound of lessons recited in
concert presently reached them. Theodore returned, reporting that the
doctor would come as soon as he could and that Dorothy's mother was
away at a card-party, but that Dorothy's "girl" would come for her as
soon as the bread was out of the oven. There was nothing to do but
"It seems a miracle," said the strange lady, in a low tone, when
she and Margaret were alone again with the child. "But I don't believe
she was scratched!"
"I don't think so," Margaret agreed. "Mother says no child who can
cry is very badly hurt."
"They made such a horrible noise," said the other, sighing wearily.
She passed a white hand, with one or two blazing great stones upon it,
across her forehead. Margaret had leisure now to notice that by all
signs this was a very great lady indeed. The quality of her furs, the
glimpse of her gown that the loosened coat showed, her rings, and most
of all the tones of her voice, the authority of her manner, the
well-groomed hair and skin and hands, all marked the thoroughbred.
"Do you know that you managed that situation very cleverly just
now?" said the lady, with a keen glance that made Margaret color. "One
has such a dread of the crowd, just public sentiment, you know. Some
odious bystander calls the police, they crowd against your driver,
perhaps a brick gets thrown. We had an experience in England once — "
She paused, then interrupted herself. "But I don't know your name?"
she said brightly.
Margaret supplied it, was led to talk a little of her own people.
"Seven of you, eh? Seven's too many," said the visitor, with the
assurance that Margaret was to learn characterized her. "I've two
myself, two girls," she went on. "I wanted a boy, but they're nice
girls. And you've six brothers and sisters? Are they all as handsome as
you and this Teddy of yours? And why do you like teaching?"
"Why do I like it?" Margaret said, enjoying these confidences and
the unusual experience of sitting idle in mid-afternoon. "I don't, I
"I see. But then why don't you come down to New York, and do
something else?" the other woman asked.
"I'm needed at home, and I don't know any one there," Margaret said
"I see," the lady said again thoughtfully. There was a pause. Then
the same speaker said reminiscently, "I taught school once for three
months when I was a girl, to show my father I could support myself."
"I've taught for four years," Margaret said.
"Well, if you ever want to try something else, — there are such
lots of fascinating things a girl can do now! — be sure you come and
see me about it," the stranger said. "I am Mrs. Carr-Boldt, of New
Margaret's amazed eyes flashed to Mrs. Carr-Boldt's face; her
"Mrs. Carr-Boldt!" she echoed blankly.
"Why not?" smiled the lady, not at all displeased.
"Why," stammered Margaret, laughing and rosy, "why, nothing — only
I never dreamed who you were!" she finished, a little confused.
And indeed it never afterward seemed to her anything short of a
miracle that brought the New York society woman — famed on two
continents and from ocean to ocean for her jewels, her entertainments,
her gowns, her establishments — into a Weston schoolroom, and into
Margaret Paget's life.
"I was on my way to New York now," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt.
"I don't see why you should be delayed," Margaret said, glad to be
able to speak normally, with such a fast-beating and pleasantly excited
heart. "I'm sure Dorothy's all right."
"Oh, I'd rather wait. I like my company," said the other. And
Margaret decided in that instant that there never was a more deservedly
admired and copied and quoted woman.
Presently their chat was interrupted by the tramp of the departing
school children; the other teachers peeped in, were reassured, and went
their ways. Then came the doctor, to pronounce the entirely cheerful
Dorothy unhurt, and to bestow upon her some hoarhound drops. Mrs.
Carr-Boldt settled at once with the doctor, and when Margaret saw the
size of the bill that was pressed into his hand, she realized that she
had done her old friend a good turn.
"Use it up on your poor people," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt, to his
protestations; and when he had gone, and Dorothy's "girl" appeared, she
tipped that worthy and amazed Teuton, and after promising Dorothy a
big doll from a New York shop, sent the child and maid home in the
"I hope this hasn't upset your plans," Margaret said, as they stood
waiting in the doorway. It was nearly five o'clock, the school was
empty and silent.
"No, not exactly. I had hoped to get home for dinner. But I think
I'll get Woolcock to take me back to Dayton; I've some very dear
friends there who'll give me a cup of tea. Then I'll come back this way
and get home, by ten, I should think, for a late supper." Then, as the
limousine appeared, Mrs. Carr-Boldt took both Margaret's hands in hers,
and said, "And now good-bye, my dear girl. I've got your address, and
I'm going to send you something pretty to remember me by. You saved me
from I don't know what annoyance and publicity. And don't forget that
when you come to New York I'm going to help you meet the people you
want to, and give you a start if I can. You're far too clever and
good-looking to waste your life down here. Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" Margaret said, her cheeks brilliant, her head awhirl.
She stood unmindful of the chilly evening air, watching the great
motor-car wheel and slip into the gloom. The rain was over; a dying
wind moaned mysteriously through the dusk. Margaret went slowly
upstairs, pinned on her hat, buttoned her long coat snugly about her.
She locked the schoolroom door, and, turning the corner, plunged her
hands into her pockets, and faced the wind bravely. Deepening darkness
and coldness were about her, but she felt surrounded by the warmth and
brightness of her dreams. She saw the brilliant streets of a big city,
the carriages and motor-cars coming and going, the idle, lovely women
in their sumptuous gowns and hats. These things were real, near —
almost attainable — to-night.
"Mrs. Carr-Boldt!" Margaret said, "the darling! I wonder if I'll
ever see her again!"
LIFE in the shabby, commonplace house that sheltered the Paget
family sometimes really did seem to proceed, as Margaret had suggested,
in a long chain of violent shocks, narrow escapes, and closely averted
catastrophes. No sooner was Duncan's rash pronounced not to be scarlet
fever than Robert swallowed a penny, or Beck set fire to the
dining-room waste-basket, or Dad foresaw the immediate failure of the
Weston Home Savings Bank, and the inevitable loss of his position
there. Sometimes there was a paternal explosion because Bruce liked to
murmur vaguely of "dandy chances in Manila," or because Julie, pretty,
excitable, and sixteen, had an occasional dose of stage fever, and
would stammer desperately between convulsive sobs that she wasn't half
as much afraid of "the terrible temptations of the life" as she was
afraid of dying a poky old maid in Weston. In short, the home was
crowded, the Pagets were poor, and every one of the seven possessed a
spirited and distinct entity. All the mother's effort could not keep
them always contented. Growing ambitions made the Weston horizon seem
narrow and mean, and the young eyes that could not see beyond to-morrow
were often wet with rebellious tears.
Through it all they loved each other; sometimes whole weeks went by
in utter harmony; the children contented over "Parchesi" on the
hearthrug in the winter evenings, Julie singing in the morning
sunlight, as she filled the vases from the shabby marguerite bushes on
the lawn. But there were other times when to the dreamy, studious
Margaret the home circle seemed all discord, all ugly dingyness and
threadbareness; the struggle for ease and beauty and refinement seemed
hopeless and overwhelming. In these times she would find herself
staring thoughtfully at her mother's face, bent over the mending
basket, or her eyes would leave the chessboard that held her father's
attention so closely, and move from his bald spot, with its encircling
crown of fluffy gray, to his rosy face, with its kind, intent blue eyes
and the little lines about his mouth that his moustache didn't hide, —
with a half-formed question in her heart. What hadn't they done, these
dearest people, to be always struggling, always tired, always "behind
the game"? Why should they be eternally harassed by plumbers' bills,
and dentists' bills, and shoes that would wear out, and school-books
that must be bought? Why weren't they holding their place in Weston
society, the place to which they were entitled by right of the Quincy
grandfather, and the uncles who were judges?
And in answer Margaret came despondently to the decision, "If you
have children, you never have anything else!" How could Mother keep up
with her friends, when for some fifteen years she had been far too busy
to put on a dainty gown in the afternoon, and serve a hospitable cup of
tea on the east porch? Mother was buttering bread for supper, then;
opening little beds and laying out little nightgowns, starting Ted off
for the milk, washing small hands and faces, soothing bumps and binding
cuts, admonishing, praising, directing. Mother was only too glad to
sink wearily into her rocker after dinner, and, after a few spirited
visits to the rampant nursery upstairs, express the hope that nobody
would come in to-night. Gradually the friends dropped away, and the
social life of Weston flowed smoothly on without the Pagets.
But when Margaret began to grow up, she grasped the situation with
all the keenness of a restless and ambitious nature. Weston, detested
Weston, it must apparently be. Very well, she would make the best of
Weston. Margaret called on her mother's old friends; she was tireless
in charming little attentions. Her own first dances had not been
successful; she and Bruce were not good dancers, Margaret had not been
satisfied with her gowns, they both felt out of place. When Julie's
dancing days came along, Margaret saw to it that everything was made
much easier. She planned social evenings at home, and exhausted herself
preparing for them, that Julie might know the "right people." To her
mother all people were alike, if they were kind and not vulgar;
Margaret felt very differently. It was a matter of the greatest
satisfaction to her when Julie blossomed into a fluffy-haired
butterfly, tremendously in demand, in spite of much-cleaned slippers
and often-pressed frocks. Margaret arranged Christmas theatricals, May
picnics, Fourth of July gatherings. She never failed Bruce when this
dearest brother wanted her company; she was, as Mrs. Paget told her
over and over, "the sweetest daughter any woman ever had." But deep in
her heart she knew moods of bitter distaste and restlessness. The
struggle did not seem worth the making; the odds against her seemed too
Still dreaming in the winter dark, she went through the home gate,
and up the porch steps of a roomy, cheap house that had been built in
the era of scalloped and pointed shingles, of colored glass
embellishments around the window-panes, of perforated scroll work and
wooden railings in Grecian designs. A mass of wet over-shoes lay on
the porch, and two or three of the weather-stained porch rockers swayed
under the weight of spread wet raincoats. Two opened umbrellas wheeled
in the current of air that came around the house; the porch ran water.
While Margaret was adding her own rainy-day equipment to the others, a
golden brown setter, one ecstatic wriggle from nose to tail, flashed
into view, and came fawning to her feet.
"Hello, Bran!" Margaret said, propping herself against the house
with one hand, while she pulled at a tight overshoe. "Hello, old
fellow! Well, did they lock him out?"
She let herself and a freezing gust of air into the dark hall,
groping to the hat-rack for matches. While she was lighting the gas, a
very pretty girl of sixteen, with crimson cheeks and tumbled soft dark
hair, came to the dining-room door. This was her sister Julie,
Margaret's roommate and warmest admirer, and for the last year or two
her inseparable companion. Julie had her finger in a book, but now she
closed it, and said affectionately between her yawns: "Come in here,
darling! You must be dead."
"Don't let Bran in," cried some one from upstairs.
"He is in, Mother!" Margaret called back, and Rebecca and the three
small boys — Theodore, the four-year-old baby, Robert, and Duncan, a
grave little lad of seven — all rushed out of the dining-room
together, shouting, as they fell on the delighted dog: —
"Aw, leave him in! Aw, leave the poor little feller in! Come on,
Bran, come on, old feller! Leave him in, Mark, can't we?"
Kissing and hugging the dog, and stumbling over each other and over
him, they went back to the dining-room, which was warm and stuffy. A
coal fire was burning low in the grate, the window-panes were beaded,
and the little boys had marked their initials in the steam. They had
also pushed the fringed table-cover almost off, and scattered the
contents of a box of "Lotto" over the scarred walnut top. The room was
shabby, ugly, comfortable. Julie and Margaret had established a
tea-table in the bay window, had embroidered a cover for the wide
couch, had burned the big wooden bowl that was supposedly always full
of nuts or grapes or red apples. But these touches were lost in the
mass of less pleasing detail. The "body Brussels" carpet was worn, the
wall paper depressing, the woodwork was painted dark brown, with an
imitation burl smeared in by the painter's thumb. The chairs were of
several different woods and patterns, the old black walnut sideboard
clumsy and battered. About the fire stood some comfortable worn chairs.
Margaret dropped wearily into one of these, and the dark-eyed Julie
hung over her with little affectionate attentions. The children
returned to their game.
"Well, what a time you had with little Dolly Scott!" said Julie,
sympathetically. "Ted's been getting it all mixed up! Tell us about it.
Poor old Mark, you're all in, aren't you? Mark, would you like a cup of
"Love it!" Margaret said, a little surprised, for this luxury was
"And toast — we'll toast it!" said Theodore, enthusiastically.
"No, no — no tea!" said Mrs. Paget, coming in at this point with
some sewing in her hands. "Don't spoil your dinner, now, Mark dear;
tea doesn't do you any good. And I think Blanche is saving the cream
for an apple tapioca. Theodore, Mother wants you to go right downstairs
for some coal, dear. And, Julie, you'd better start your table; it's
close to six. Put up the game, Rebecca!"
There was general protest. Duncan, it seemed, needed only "two
more" to win. Little Robert, who was benevolently allowed by the other
children to play the game exactly as he pleased, screamed delightedly
that he needed only one more, and showed a card upon which even the
blank spaces were lavishly covered with glass. He was generously
conceded the victory, and kissed by Rebecca and Julie as he made his
way to his mother's lap.
"Why, this can't be Robert Paget!" said Mrs. Paget, putting aside
her sewing to gather him in her arms. "Not this great, big boy!"
"Yes, I am! " the little fellow asserted joyously, dodging her
"Good to get home!" Margaret said luxuriously.
"You must sleep late in the morning," her mother commanded
"Yes, because you have to be fresh for the party Monday!" exulted
Julie. She had flung a white cloth over the long table, and was putting
the ringed napkins down with rapid bangs. "And New Year's Eve's the
dance!" she went on buoyantly. "I just love Christmas, anyway!"
"Rebecca, ask Blanche if she needs me," — that was Mother.
"You'd go perfectly crazy about her, Ju, she's the most
fascinating, and the most unaffected woman!" Margaret was full of the
day's real event.
"And Mother theth that Ted and Dunc and I can have our friendth in
on the day after Chrithmath to thee the Chrithmath tree!" That was
Rebecca, who added, "Blanche theth no, Mother, unleth you want to make
thom cream gravy for the chopth!"
"And, Mark, Eleanor asked if Bruce and you and I weren't going as
Pierrot and Pierettes; she's simply crazy to find out!" This was Julie
again; and then Margaret, coaxingly, "Do make cream gravy for Bruce,
Mother. Give Baby to me!" and little Robert's elated "I know three
things Becky's going to get for Christmas, Mark!"
"Well, I think I will, there's milk," Mrs. Paget conceded, rising.
"Put Bran out, Teddy; or put him in the laundry if you want to, while
we have dinner." Margaret presently followed her mother into the
kitchen, stopping in a crowded passageway to tie an apron over her
"Bruce come in yet?" she said in a low voice.
Her mother flashed her a sympathetic look.
"I don't believe he's coming, Mark."
"Isn't! Oh, Mother! Oh, Mother, does he feel so badly about Betty?"
"I suppose so!" Mrs. Paget went on with her bread cutting.
"But, Mother, surely he didn't expect to marry Betty Forsythe?"
"I don't know why not, Mark. She's a sweet little thing."
"But, Mother — " Margaret was a little at a loss. "We don't seem
old enough to really be getting married!" she said, a little lamely.
"Brucie came in about half-past five, and said he was going over to
Richie's," Mrs. Paget said, with a sigh.
"In all this rain — that long walk!" Margaret ejaculated, as she
filled a long wicker basket with sliced bread.
"I think an evening of work with Richie will do him a world of
good," said his mother. There was a pause. "There's Dad. I'll go in,"
she said, suddenly ending it, as the front door slammed.
Margaret went in, too, to kiss her father; a tired-looking,
gray-haired man close to fifty, who had taken her chair by the fire.
Mrs. Paget was anxious to be assured that his shoulders and shoes were
"But your hands are icy, Daddy," said she, as she sat down behind a
smoking tureen at the head of the table. "Come, have your nice hot
soup, dear. Pass that to Dad, Becky, and light the other gas. What sort
of a day?"
"A hard day," said Mr. Paget, heavily. "Here, one of you girls put
Baby into his chair. Let go, Bob, — I'm too tired to-night for
monkey-shines!" He sat down stiffly. "Where's Bruce? Can't that boy
remember what time we have dinner?"
"Bruce is going to have supper with Richie Williams, Dad," said
Mrs. Paget, serenely. "They'll get out their blue prints afterwards and
have a good evening's work. Fill the glasses before you sit down, Ju.
Come, Ted — put that back on the mantel. — Come, Becky! Tell Daddy
about what happened to-day, Mark — "
They all drew up their chairs. Robert, recently graduated from a
high chair, was propped upon "The Officers of the Civil War," and "The
Household Book of Verse." Julie tied on his bib, and kissed the back of
his fat little neck, before she slipped into her own seat. The mother
sat between Ted and Duncan, for reasons that immediately became
obvious. Margaret sat by her father, and attended to his needs, telling
him all about the day, and laying her pretty slim hand over his as it
rested beside his plate. The chops and cream gravy, as well as a
mountain of baked potatoes, and various vegetables, were under
discussion, when every one stopped short in surprise at hearing the
"Who — ?" said Margaret, turning puzzled brows to her mother, and
"I'm sure I — " her mother answered, shaking her head. Ted was heard
to mutter uneasily that, gee, maybe it was old Pembroke, mad because
the fellers had soaked his old skate with snowballs; Julie dimpled and
said, "Maybe it's flowers!" Robert shouted, "Bakeryman!" more because
he had recently acquired the word than because of any conviction on the
subject. In the end Julie went to the door, with the four children in
her wake. When she came back, she looked bewildered, and the children a
"It's — it's Mrs. Carr-Boldt, Mother," said Julie.
"Well, don't leave her standing there in the cold, dear!" Mrs.
Paget said, rising quickly, to go into the hall. Margaret, her heart
thumping with an unanalyzed premonition of something pleasant, and
nervous, too, for the hospitality of the Pagets, followed her. So they
were all presently crowded into the hall, Mrs. Paget all hospitality,
Margaret full of a fear she would have denied that her mother would not
be equal to the occasion, the children curious, Julie a little
The visitor, fur-clad, rain-spattered, — for it was raining again,
— and beaming, stretched a hand to Mrs. Paget.
"You're Mrs. Paget, of course, — this is an awful hour to
interrupt you," she said in her big, easy way, "and there's my Miss
Paget, — how do you do? But you see I must get up to town to-night —
in this door? I can see perfectly, thank you! — and I did want a
little talk with you first. Now, what a shame!" — for the gas, lighted
by Theodore at this point, revealed Duncan's bib, and the napkins some
of the others were still carrying. "I've interrupted your dinner! Won't
you let me wait here until — "
"Perhaps — if you haven't had your supper — you will have some
with us," said Mrs. Paget, a little uncertainly. Margaret inwardly
shuddered, but Mrs. Carr-Boldt was gracious.
"Mrs. Paget, that's charming of you," she said. "But I had tea at
Dayton, and mustn't lose another moment. I shan't dine until I get
home. I'm the busiest woman in the world, you know. Now, it won't take
me two minutes — "
She was seated now, her hands still deep in her muff, for the
parlor was freezing cold. Mrs. Paget, with a rather bewildered look,
sat down, too.
"You can run back to your dinners," said she to the children. "Take
them, Julie. Mark, dear, will you help the pudding?" They all filed
dutifully out of the room, and Margaret, excited and curious, continued
a meal that might have been of sawdust and sand for all she knew. The
strain did not last long; in about ten minutes Mrs. Paget looked into
the room, with a rather worried expression, and said, a little
"Daddy, can you come here a moment? — You're all right, dear," she
added, as Mr. Paget indicated with an embarrassed gesture his
well-worn house-coat. They went out together. The young people sat
almost without speaking, listening to the indistinguishable murmur from
the adjoining room, and smiling mysteriously at each other. Then
Margaret was called, and went as far as the dining-room door, and came
back to put her napkin uncertainly down at her place, hesitated,
arranged her gown carefully, and finally went out again. They heard her
voice with the others in the parlor... questioning... laughing.
Presently the low murmur broke into audible farewells; chairs were
pushed back, feet scraped in the hall.
"Good-night, then!" said Mrs. Carr-Boldt's clear tones, "and so
sorry to have — Good-night, Mr. Paget! — Oh, thank you — but I'm
well wrapped. Thank you! Good-night, dear! I'll see you again soon —
And then came the honking of the motor-car, and a great swish where
it grazed a wet bush near the house. Somebody lowered the gas in the
hall, and Mrs. Paget's voice said regretfully, "I wish we had had a
fire in the parlor — just one of the times! — but there's no help for
it." They all came in, Margaret flushed, starry-eyed; her father and
mother a little serious. The three blinked at the brighter light, and
fell upon the cooling chops as if eating were the important business of
"We waited the pudding," said Julie. "What is it?"
"Why — " Mrs. Paget began, hesitatingly. Mr. Paget briskly took
the matter out of her hands.
"This lady," he said, with an air of making any further talk
unnecessary, "needs a secretary, and she has offered your sister
Margaret the position. That's the whole affair in a nutshell. I'm not
at all sure that your mother and I think it a wise offer for Margaret
to accept, and I want to say here and now that I don't want any child
of mine to speak of this matter, or make it a matter of general gossip
in the neighborhood. Mother, I'd like very much to have Blanche make me
a fresh cup of tea."
"Wants Margaret!" gasped Julie, unaffected — so astonishing was
the news — by her father's unusual sternness. "Oh, Mother! Oh, Mark!
Oh, you lucky thing! When is she coming down here?"
"She isn't coming down here — she wants Mark to go to her —
that's it," said her mother.
"Mark — in New York!" shrilled Theodore. Julie got up to rush
around the table and kiss her sister; the younger children laughed and
"There is no occasion for all this," said Mr. Paget, but mildly,
for the fresh tea had arrived. "Just quiet them down, will you, Mother?
I see nothing very extraordinary in the matter. This Mrs. — Mrs.
Carr-Boldt — is it? — needs a secretary and companion; and she offers
the position to Mark."
"But — but she never even saw Mark until to-day!" marvelled Julie.
"I hardly see how that affects it, my dear!" her father observed
"Why, I think it makes it simply extraordinary!" exulted the
generous little sister. "Oh, Mark, isn't this just the sort of thing
you would have wished to happen! Secretary work, — just what you love
to do! And you, with your beautiful handwriting, you'll just be
invaluable to her! And your German — and I'll bet you'll just have
them all adoring you — !"
"Oh, Ju, if I only can do it!" burst from Margaret, with a little
childish gasp. She was sitting back from the table, twisted about so
that she sat sideways, her hands clasped about the top bar of her
chair-back. Her tawny soft hair was loosened about her face, her dark
eyes aflame. "Lenox, she said," Margaret went on dazedly; "and Europe,
and travelling everywhere! And a hundred dollars a month, and nothing
to spend it on, so I can still help out here! Why, it — I can't
believe it!" — she looked from one smiling, interested face to
another, and suddenly her radiance underwent a quick eclipse. Her lip
trembled, and she tried to laugh as she pushed her chair back, and ran
to the arms her mother opened. "Oh, Mother!" sobbed Margaret, clinging
there, "do you want me to go — shall I go? I've always been so happy
here, and I feel so ashamed of being discontented, — and I don't
deserve a thing like this to happen to me!"
"Why, God bless her heart!" said Mrs. Paget, tenderly, "of course
"Oh, you silly! I'll never speak to you again if you don't!"
laughed Julie, through sympathetic tears.
Theodore and Duncan immediately burst into a radiant reminiscence
of their one brief visit to New York; Rebecca was heard to murmur that
she would "vithet Mark thome day"; and the baby, tugging at his
mother's elbow, asked sympathetically if Mark was naughty, and was
caught between his sister's and his mother's arms and kissed by them
both. Mr. Paget, picking his paper from the floor beside his chair,
took an arm-chair by the fire, stirred the coals noisily, and while
cleaning his glasses, observed rather huskily that the little girl
always knew, she could come back again if anything went wrong.
"But suppose I don't suit?" suggested Margaret, sitting back on her
heels, refreshed by tears, and with her arms laid across her mother's
"Oh, you'll suit," said Julie, confidently; and Mrs. Paget smoothed
the girl's hair back and said affectionately, "I don't think she'll
find many girls like you for the asking, Mark!"
"Reading English with the two little girls," said Margaret,
dreamily, "and answering notes and invitations. And keeping books — "
"You can do that anyway," said her father, over his paper.
"And dinner lists, you know, Mother — doesn't it sound like an
English story!" Margaret stopped in the middle of an ecstatic wriggle.
"Mother, will you pray I succeed?" she said solemnly.
"Just be your own dear simple self, Mark," her mother advised.
"January!" she added, with a great sigh. "It's the first break, isn't
it, Dad? Think of trying to get along without our Mark!"
"January!" Julie was instantly alert. "Why, but you'll need all
sorts of clothes!"
"Oh, she says there's a sewing woman always in the house," Margaret
said, almost embarrassed by the still-unfolding advantages of the
proposition. "I can have her do whatever's left over." Her father
lowered his paper to give her a shrewd glance.
"I suppose somebody knows something about this Mrs. Carr-Boldt,
Mother?" asked he. "She's all right, I suppose?"
"Oh, Dad, her name's always in the papers," Julie burst out; and
the mother smiled as she said, "We'll be pretty sure of everything
before we let our Mark go!" Later, when the children had been
dismissed, and he himself was going, rather stiffly, toward the stairs,
Mr. Paget again voiced a mild doubt.
"There was a perfectly good reason for her hurry, I suppose? Old
secretary deserted — got married — ? She had good reason for wanting
Mark in all this hurry?"
Mrs. Paget and her daughters had settled about the fire for an
hour's delicious discussion, but she interrupted it to say soothingly,
"It was her cousin, Dad, who's going to be married, and she's been
trying to get hold of just the right person — she says she's fearfully
behind-hand — "
"Well, you know best," said Mr. Paget, departing a little
Left to the dying fire, the others talked, yawned, made a pretence
of breaking up: talked and yawned again. The room grew chilly. Bruce,
— oldest of the children, — dark, undemonstrative, weary, —
presently came in, and was given the news, and marvelled in his turn.
Bruce and Margaret had talked of their ambitions a hundred times: of
the day when he might enter college and when she might find the leisure
and beauty in life for which her soul hungered. Now, as he sat with his
arm about her, and her head on his shoulder, he said with generous
satisfaction over and over: —
"It was coming to you, Mark; you've earned it!"
At midnight, loitering upstairs, cold and yawning, Margaret kissed
her mother and brother quietly, with whispered brief good-nights. But
Julie, lying warm and snug in bed half-an-hour later, had a last word.
"You know, Mark, I think I'm as happy as you are — no, I'm not
generous at all! It's just that it makes me feel that things do come
your way finally, if you wait long enough, and that we aren't the only
family in town that never has anything decent happen to it!... I'll
miss you awfully, Mark, darling!... Mark, do you suppose Mother'd let
me take this bed out, and just have a big couch in here? It would make
the room seem so much bigger. And then I could have the girls come up
here, don't you know — when they came over.... Think of you — you —
going abroad! I'd simply die! I can't wait to tell Betty!... I hope to
goodness Mother won't put Beck in here!... We've had this room a long
time together, haven't we? Ever since Grandma died. Do you remember her
canary, that Teddy hit with a plate?... I'm going to miss you terribly,
Mark. But we'll write...."
ON the days that followed, the miracle came to be accepted by all
Weston, which was much excited for a day or two over this honor done a
favorite daughter, and by all the Pagets, — except Margaret. Margaret
went through the hours in her old, quiet manner, a little more tender
and gentle perhaps than she had been; but her heart never beat
normally, and she lay awake late at night, and early in the morning,
thinking, thinking, thinking. She tried to realize that it was in her
honor that a farewell tea was planned at the club, it was for her that
her fellow-teachers were planning a good-bye luncheon; it was really
she — Margaret Paget — whose voice said at the telephone a dozen
times a day, "On the fourteenth. — Oh, do I? I don't feel calm! Can't
you try to come in — I do want to see you before I go!" She dutifully
repeated Bruce's careful directions; she was to give her check to an
expressman, and her suitcase to a red-cap; the expressman would
probably charge fifty cents, the red-cap was to have no more than
fifteen. And she was to tell the latter to put her into a taxicab.
"I'll remember," Margaret assured him gratefully, but with a sense
of unreality pressing almost painfully upon her. — One of a million
ordinary school teachers, in a million little towns — and this marvel
had befallen her!
The night of the Pagets' Christmas play came, a night full of
laughter and triumph; and marked for Margaret by the little parting
gifts that were slipped into her hands, and by the warm good wishes
that were murmured, not always steadily, by this old friend and that.
When the time came to distribute plates and paper napkins, and great
saucers of ice cream and sliced cake, Margaret was toasted in cold
sweet lemonade; and drawing close together to "harmonize" more
perfectly, the circle about her touched their glasses while they sang,
"For she's a jolly good fellow." Later, when the little supper was
almost over, Ethel Elliot, leaning over to lay her hand on Margaret's,
began in her rich contralto: —
" When other lips and other hearts..."
and as they all went seriously through the two verses, they stood
up, one by one, and linked arms; the little circle, affectionate and
admiring, that had bounded Margaret's friendships until now.
Then Christmas came, with a dark, freezing walk to the pine-spiced
and candle-lighted early service in the little church, and a quicker
walk home, chilled and happy and hungry, to a riotous Christmas
breakfast, and a littered breakfast table. The new year came, with a
dance and revel, and the Pagets took one of their long tramps through
the snowy afternoon, and came back hungry for a big dinner. Then there
was dressmaking, — Mrs. Schmidt in command, Mrs. Paget tireless at the
machine, Julie all eager interest. Margaret, patiently standing to be
fitted, conscious of the icy, wet touch of Mrs. Schmidt's red fingers
on her bare arms, dreamily acquiescent as to buttons or hooks, was
totally absent in spirit.
A trunk came, Mr. Paget very anxious that the keys should not be
"fooled with" by the children. Margaret's mother packed this trunk
scientifically. "No, now the shoes, Mark — now that heavy skirt," she
would say. "Run get mother some more tissue paper, Beck. You'll have to
leave the big cape, dear, and you can send for it if you need it. Now
the blue dress, Ju. I think that dyed so prettily, just the thing for
mornings. And here's your prayer book in the tray, dear; if you go
Saturday you'll want it the first thing in the morning. See, I'll put a
fresh handkerchief in it — "
Margaret, relaxed and idle, in a rocker, with Duncan in her lap
busily working at her locket, would say over and over: —
"You're all such angels, — I'll never forget it!" and wish that,
knowing how sincerely she meant it, she could feel it a little more.
Conversation languished in these days; mother and daughters feeling
that time was too precious to waste speech of little things, and that
their hearts were too full to touch upon the great change impending.
A night came when the Pagets went early upstairs, saying that,
after all, it was not like people marrying and going to Russia; it was
not like a real parting; it wasn't as if Mark couldn't come home again
in four hours if anything went wrong at either end of the line.
Margaret's heart was beating high and quick now; she tried to show some
of the love and sorrow she knew she should have felt, she knew that she
did feel under the hurry of her blood that made speech impossible. She
went to her mother's door, slender and girlish in her white nightgown,
to kiss her good-night again. Mrs. Paget's big arms went about her
daughter. Margaret laid her head childishly on her mother's shoulder.
Nothing of significance was said. Margaret whispered, "Mother, I love
you!" Her mother said, "You were such a little thing, Mark, when I
kissed you one day, without hugging you, and you said, 'Please don't
love me just with your face, Mother, love me with your heart!'" Then
she added, "Did you and Julie get that extra blanket down to-day, dear?
— it's going to be very cold." Margaret nodded. "Good-night, little
girl — " "Goodnight, Mother — "
That was the real farewell, for the next morning was all confusion.
They dressed hurriedly, by chilly gas-light; clocks were compared,
Rebecca's back buttoned; Duncan's overcoat jerked on; coffee drunk
scalding hot as they stood about the kitchen table; bread barely
tasted. They walked to the railway station on wet sidewalks, under a
broken sky, Bruce, with Margaret's suit-case, in the lead. Weston was
asleep in the gray morning, after the storm. Far and near belated cocks
A score of old friends met Margaret at the train; there were gifts,
promises, good wishes. There came a moment when it was generally felt
that the Pagets should be left alone, now — the far whistle of the
train beyond the bridge — the beginning of good-byes — a sudden
filling of the mother's eyes that was belied by her smile. —
"Good-bye, sweetest — don't knock my hat off, baby dear! Beck, darling
— Oh, Ju, do! don't just say it — start me a letter to-night! ALL
write to me! Good-bye, Dad, darling, — all right, Bruce, I'll get
right in! — another for Dad. Good-bye, Mother darling, — goodbye!
Then for the Pagets there was a walk back to the empty disorder of
the house: Julie very talkative, at her father's side; Bruce walking
far behind the others with his mother, — and the day's familiar
routine to be somehow gone through without Margaret.
But for Margaret, settling herself comfortably in the grateful
warmth of the train, and watching the uncertain early sunshine brighten
unfamiliar fields and farmhouses, every brilliant possibility in life
seemed to be waiting. She tried to read, to think, to pray, to stare
steadily out of the window; she could do nothing for more than a moment
at a time. Her thoughts went backward and forward like a weaving
shuttle: "How good they've all been to me! How grateful I am! Now if
only, only, I can make good!"
"Look out for the servants!" Julie, from the depth of her
sixteen-years-old wisdom had warned her sister. "The governess will
hate you because she'll be afraid you'll cut her out, and Mrs.
Carr-Boldt's maid will be a cat! They always are, in books."
Margaret had laughed at this advice, but in her heart she rather
believed it. Her new work seemed so enchanting to her that it was not
easy to believe that she did not stand in somebody's light. She was
glad that by a last-moment arrangement she was to arrive at the Grand
Central Station at almost the same moment as Mrs. Carr-Boldt herself,
who was coming home from a three-weeks' visit in the middle west.
Margaret gave only half her attention to the flying country that was
beginning to shape itself into streets and rows of houses; all the last
half hour of the trip was clouded by the nervous fear that she would
somehow fail to find Mrs. Carr-Boldt in the confusion at the railroad
But happily enough the lady was found without trouble, or rather
Margaret was found, felt an authoritative tap on her shoulder, caught
a breath of fresh violets, and a glimpse of her patron's clear-skinned,
resolute face. They whirled through wet deserted streets; Mrs.
Carr-Boldt gracious and talkative, Margaret nervously interested and
Their wheels presently grated against a curb, a man in livery
opened the limousine door. Margaret saw an immense stone mansion facing
the park, climbed a dazzling flight of wide steps, and was in a great
hall that faced an interior court, where there were Florentine marble
benches, and the great lifted leaves of palms. She was a little dazed
by crowded impressions; impressions of height and spaciousness and
richness, and opening vistas; a great marble stairway, and a landing
where there was an immense designed window in clear leaded glass; rugs,
tapestries, mirrors, polished wood and great chairs with brocaded seats
and carved dark backs. Two little girls, heavy, well groomed little
girls, — one spectacled and good-natured looking, the other rather
pretty, with a mass of fair hair, — were coming down the stairs with
an eager little German woman. They kissed their mother, much diverted
by the mad rushes and leaps of the two white poodles who accompanied
"These are my babies, Miss Paget," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt. "This is
Victoria, who's eleven, and Harriet, who's six. And these are Monsieur
"Monsieur Patou and Monsieur Mouche," said Victoria, introducing
the dogs with entire ease of manner. The German woman said something
forcibly, and Margaret understood the child's reply in that tongue:
"Mamma won't blame you, FraŸlein; Harriet and I wished them to come
Presently they all went up in a luxuriously fitted little lift,
Margaret being carried to the fourth floor to her own rooms, to which a
little maid escorted her.
When the maid had gone Margaret walked to the door and tried it,
for no reason whatever; it was shut. Her heart was beating violently.
She walked into the middle of the room and looked at herself in the
mirror, and laughed a little breathless laugh. Then she took off her
hat carefully and went into the bedroom that was beyond her
sitting-room, and hung her hat in a fragrant white closet that was
entirely and delightfully empty, and put her coat on a hanger, and her
gloves and bag in the empty big top drawer of a great mahogany bureau.
Then she went back to the mirror and looked hard at her own beauty
reflected in it; and laughed her little laugh again.
"It's too good — it's too much!" she whispered.
She investigated her domain, after quelling a wild desire to sit
down at the beautiful desk and try the new pens, the crystal ink-well,
and the heavy paper, with its severely engraved address, in a long
letter to Mother.
There was a tiny upright piano in the sitting-room, and at the
fireplace a deep thick rug, and an immense leather arm-chair. A clock
in crystal and gold flanked by two crystal candlesticks had the centre
of the mantelpiece. On the little round mahogany centre table was a
lamp with a wonderful mosaic shade; a little book-case was filled with
books and magazines. Margaret went to one of the three windows, and
looked down upon the bare trees and the snow in the park, and upon the
rumbling green omnibuses, all bathed in bright chilly sunlight.
A mahogany door with a crystal knob opened into the bedroom, where
there was a polished floor, and more rugs, and a gay rosy wall paper,
and a great bed with a lace cover. Beyond was a bathroom, all enamel,
marble, glass, and nickel-plate, with heavy monogrammed towels on the
rack, three new little wash-cloths sealed in glazed paper, three new
tooth-brushes in paper cases, and a cake of famous English soap just
out of its wrapper.
Over the whole little suite there brooded an exquisite order. Not a
particle of dust broke the shining surfaces of the mahogany, not a
fallen leaf lay under the great bowl of roses on the desk. Now and then
the radiator clanked in the stress; it was hard to believe in that
warmth and silence that a cold winter wind was blowing outside, and
that snow still lay on the ground.
Margaret, resting luxuriously in the big chair, became thoughtful;
presently she went into the bedroom, and knelt down beside the bed.
"O Lord, let me stay here," she prayed, her face in her hands. "I
want so to stay — make me a success!"
Never was a prayer more generously answered. Miss Paget was an
instant success. In something less than two months she became
indispensable to Mrs. Carr-Boldt, and was a favorite with every one,
from the rather stolid, silent head of the house down to the least of
the maids. She was so busy, so unaffected, so sympathetic, that her
sudden rise in favor was resented by no one. The butler told her his
troubles, the French maid darkly declared that but for Miss Paget she
would not for one second r-r-remain! The children went cheerfully even
to the dentist with their adored Miss Peggy; they soon preferred her
escort to matinee or zoo to that of any other person. Margaret also
escorted Mrs. Carr-Boldt's mother, a magnificent old lady, on shopping
expeditions, and attended the meetings of charity boards for Mrs.
Carr-Boldt. With notes and invitations, account books and cheque books,
dinner lists, and interviews with caterers, decorators, and florists,
Margaret's time was full, but she loved every moment of her work, and
gloried in her increasing usefulness.
At first there were some dark days; notably the dreadful one upon
which Margaret somehow — somewhere — dropped the box containing the
new hat she was bringing home for Harriet, and kept the little girl out
in the cold afternoon air while the motor made a fruitless trip back to
the milliner's. Harriet contracted a cold, and Harriet's mother for the
first time spoke severely to Margaret. There was another bad day when
Margaret artlessly admitted to Mrs. Pierre Polk at the telephone that
Mrs. Carr-Boldt was not engaged for dinner that evening, thus obliging
her employer to snub the lady, or accept a distasteful invitation to
dine. And there was a most uncomfortable occasion when Mr. Carr-Boldt,
not at all at his best, stumbled in upon his wife with some angry
observations meant for her ear alone; and Margaret, busy with accounts
in a window recess, was, unknown to them both, a distressed witness.
"Another time, Miss Paget," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt, coldly, upon
Margaret's appearing scarlet-cheeked between the curtains, "don't
oblige me to ascertain that you are not within hearing before feeling
sure of privacy. Will you finish those bills upstairs, if you please?"
Margaret went upstairs with a burning heart, cast her bills
haphazard on her own desk, and flung herself, dry-eyed and furious, on
the bed. She was far too angry to think, but lay there for perhaps
twenty minutes with her brain whirling. Finally rising, she brushed up
her hair, straightened her collar, and, full of tremendous resolves,
stepped into her little sitting room, to find Mrs. Carr-Boldt in the
big chair, serenely eyeing her.
"I'm so sorry I spoke so, Peggy," said her employer, generously.
"But the truth is, I am not myself when — when Mr. Carr-Boldt — " The
little hesitating appeal in her voice completely disarmed Margaret. In
the end the little episode cemented the rapidly growing friendship
between the two women, Mrs. Carr-Boldt seeming to enjoy the relief of
speaking rather freely of what was the one real trial in her life.
"My husband has always had too much money," she said, in her
positive way. "At one time we were afraid that he would absolutely ruin
his health by this — habit of his. His physician and I took him around
the world, — I left Victoria, just a baby, with mother, — and for too
years he was never out of my sight. It has never been so bad since. You
know yourself how reliable he usually is," she finished cheerfully,
"unless some of the other men get hold of him!"
As the months went on Margaret came to admire her employer more and
more. There was not an indolent impulse in Mrs. Carr-Boldt's entire
composition. Smooth-haired, fresh-skinned, in spotless linen, she began
the day at eight o'clock, full of energy and interest. She had daily
sessions with butler and house-keeper, shopped with Margaret and the
children, walked about her greenhouse or her country garden with her
skirts pinned up, and had tulips potted and stone work continued. She
was prominent in several clubs, a famous dinner-giver, she took a
personal interest in all her servants, loved to settle their quarrels
and have three or four of them up on the carpet at once, tearful and
explanatory. Margaret kept for her a list of some two hundred friends,
whose birthdays were to be marked with carefully selected gifts. She
pleased Mrs. Carr-Boldt by her open amazement at the latter's vitality.
The girl observed that her employer could not visit any institution
without making a few vigorous suggestions as she went about, she
accompanied her cheques to the organized charities — and her charity
flowed only through absolutely reliable channels — with little
friendly, advisory letters. She liked the democratic attitude for
herself, — even while promptly snubbing any such tendency in children
or friends; — and told Margaret that she only used her coat of arms on
house linen, stationery, and livery, because her husband and mother
liked it. "It's of course rather nice to realize that one comes from
one of the oldest of the Colonial families," she would say. "The
Carterets of Maryland, you know. — But it's all such bosh!"
And she urged Margaret to claim her own right to family honors:
"You're a Quincy, my dear! Don't let that woman intimidate you, — she
didn't remember that her grandfather was a captain until her husband
made his money. And where the family portraits came from I don't know,
but I think there's a man on Fourth Avenue who does 'em!" she would
say, or, "I know all about Lilly Reynolds, Peggy. Her father was as
rich as she says, and I daresay the crest is theirs. But ask her what
her maternal grandmother did for a living, if you want to shut her up!"
Other people she would condemn with a mere whispered "Coal!" or "Patent
bath-tubs!" behind her fan, and it pleased her to tell people that her
treasure of a secretary had the finest blood in the world in her veins.
Margaret was much admired, and Margaret was her discovery, and she
liked to emphasize her find.
Mrs. Carr-Boldt's mother, a tremulous, pompous old lady,
unwittingly aided the impression by taking an immense fancy to
Margaret, and by telling her few intimates and the older women among
her daughter's friends that the girl was a perfect little thoroughbred.
When the Carr-Boldts filled their house with the reckless and noisy
company they occasionally affected, Mrs. Carteret would say
majestically to Margaret: —
"You and I have nothing in common with this riff-raff, my dear!"
Summer came, and Margaret headed a happy letter "Bar Harbor." Two
months later all Weston knew that Margaret Paget was going abroad for a
year with those rich people, and had written her mother from the
Lusitania. Letters from London, from Germany, from Holland, from
Russia, followed. "We are going to put the girls at school in
Switzerland, and (ahem!) winter on the Riviera, and then Rome for Holy
Week!" she wrote.
She was presently home again, chattering French and German to amuse
her father, teaching Becky a little Italian song to match her little
"It's wonderful to me how you get along with all these rich people,
Mark," said her mother, admiringly, during Margaret's home visit. Mrs.
Paget was watering the dejected-looking side garden with a straggling
length of hose; Margaret and Julie shelling peas on the side steps.
Margaret laughed, coloring a little.
"Why, we're just as good as they are, Mother!"
Mrs. Paget drenched a dried little dump of carnations.
"We're as good," she admitted; "but we're not as rich, or as
travelled, — we haven't the same ideas; we belong to a different
"Oh, no, we don't, Mother," Margaret said quickly. "Who are the
Carr-Boldts, except for their money? Why, Mrs. Carteret, — for all her
family! — isn't half the aristocrat Grandma was! And you — you could
be a Daughter of The Officers of the Revolution, Mother!"
"Why, Mark, I never heard that!" her mother protested, cleaning
the sprinkler with a hairpin.
"Mother!" Julie said eagerly. "Great-grandfather Quincy!"
"Oh, Grandpa," said Mrs. Paget. "Yes, Grandpa was a paymaster. He
was on Governor Hancock's staff. They used to call him 'Major.' But
Mark — " she turned off the water, holding her skirts away from the
combination of mud and dust underfoot, "that's a very silly way to
talk, dear! Money does make a difference; it does no good to go back
into the past and say that this one was a judge and that one a major;
we must live our lives where we are!"
Margaret had not lost a wholesome respect for her mother's opinion
in the two years she had been away, but she had lived in a very
different world, and was full of new ideas.
"Mother, do you mean to tell me that if you and Dad hadn't had a
perfect pack of children, and moved so much, and if Dad — say — had
been in that oil deal that he said he wished he had the money for, and
we still lived in the brick house, that you wouldn't be in every way
the equal of Mrs. Carr-Boldt?"
"If you mean as far as money goes, Mark, — no. We might have been
well-to-do as country people go, I suppose — "
"Exactly!" said Margaret; "and you would have been as well off as
dozens of the people who are going about in society this minute! It's
the merest chance that we aren't rich. Just for instance: father's
father had twelve children, didn't he? — and left them — how much was
it? — about three thousand dollars apiece — "
"And a Godsend it was, too," said her mother, reflectively.
"But suppose Dad had been the only child, Mother," Margaret
persisted, "he would have had — "
"He would have had the whole thirty-six thousand dollars, I
"Or more," said Margaret, "for Grandfather Paget was presumably
spending money on them all the time."
"Well, but, Mark — " said Mrs. Paget, laughing as at the vagaries
of a small child, "Father Paget did have twelve children — and Daddy
and I eight — " she sighed, as always, at the thought of the little
son who was gone, — "and there you are! You can't get away from that,
Margaret did not answer. But she thought to herself that very few
people held Mother's views of this subject.
Mrs. Carr-Boldt's friends, for example, did not accept increasing
cares in this resigned fashion; their lives were ideally pleasant and
harmonious without the complicated responsibilities of large families.
They drifted from season to season without care, always free, always
gay, always irreproachably gowned. In winter there were daily meetings,
for shopping, for luncheon, bridge or tea; summer was filled with a
score of country visits. There were motor-trips for week-ends, dinners,
theatre, and the opera to fill the evenings, German or singing lessons,
manicure, masseuse, and dressmaker to crowd the morning hours all the
year round. Margaret learned from these exquisite, fragrant creatures
the art of being perpetually fresh and charming, learned their methods
of caring for their own beauty, learned to love rare toilet waters and
powders, fine embroidered linen and silk stockings. There was no
particular strain upon her wardrobe now, nor upon her purse; she could
be as dainty as she liked. She listened to the conversations that went
on about her, — sometimes critical or unconvinced; more often
admiring; and as she listened she found slowly but certainly her own
viewpoint. She was not mercenary. She would not marry a man just for
his money, she decided, but just as certainly she would not marry a man
who could not give her a comfortable establishment, a position in
The man seemed in no hurry to appear; as a matter of fact, the men
whom Margaret met were openly anxious to evade marriage, even with the
wealthy girls of their own set. Margaret was not concerned; she was too
happy to miss the love-making element; the men she saw were not of a
type to inspire a sensible busy, happy, girl with any very deep
feeling. And it was with generous and perfect satisfaction that she
presently had news of Julie's happy engagement. Julie was to marry a
young and popular doctor, the only child of one of Weston's most
prominent families. The little sister's letter bubbled joyously with
"Harry's father is going to build us a little house on the big
place, the darling," wrote Julie; "and we will stay with them until it
is done. But in five years Harry says we will have a real honeymoon, in
Europe! Think of going to Europe as a married woman! Mark, I wish you
could see my ring; it is a beauty, but don't tell Mother I was silly
enough to write about it!"
Margaret delightedly selected a little collection of things for
Julie's trousseau. A pair of silk stockings, a scarf she never had
worn, a lace petticoat, pink silk for a waist. Mrs. Carr-Boldt, coming
in in the midst of these preparations, insisted upon adding so many
other things, from trunks and closets, that Margaret was speechless
with delight. Scarves, cobwebby silks in uncut lengths, embroidered
lingerie still in the tissue' paper of Paris shops, parasols, gloves,
and lengths of lace, — she piled all of them into Margaret's arms.
Julie's trousseau was consequently quite the most beautiful Weston had
ever seen; and the little sister's cloudless joy made the fortnight
Margaret spent at home at the time of the wedding a very happy one. It
was a time of rush and flurry, laughter and tears, of roses, and girls
in white gowns. But some ten days before the wedding, Julie and
Margaret happened to be alone for a peaceful hour over their sewing,
and fell to talking seriously.
"You see, our house will be small," said Julie; "but I don't care
— we don't intend to stay in Weston all our lives. Don't breathe this
to any one, Mark, but if Harry does as well as he's doing now for two
years, we'll rent the little house, and we're going to Baltimore for a
year for a special course. Then — you know he's devoted to Dr. McKim,
he always calls him 'the chief,' — then he thinks maybe McKim will
work him into his practice, — he's getting old, you know, and that
means New York!"
"Oh, Ju, — really!"
"I don't see why not," Julie said, dimpling. "Harry's crazy to do
it. He says he doesn't propose to live and die in Weston. McKim could
throw any amount of hospital practice his way, to begin with. And you
know Harry'll have something, — and the house will rent. I'm crazy,"
said Julie, enthusiastically, "to take one of those lovely old
apartments on Washington Square, and meet a few nice people, you know,
and really make something of my life!"
"Mrs. Carr-Boldt and I will spin down for you every few days,"
Margaret said, falling readily in with the plan. "I'm glad you're not
going to simply get into a rut the way some of the other girls have, —
cooking and babies and nothing else!" she said.
"I think that's an awful mistake," Julie said placidly. "Starting
in right is so important. I don't want to be a mere drudge like Ethel
or Louise — they may like it. I don't! Of course, this isn't a matter
to talk of," she went on, coloring a little. "I'd never breathe this to
Mother! But it's perfectly absurd to pretend that girls don't discuss
these things. I've talked to Betty and Louise — we all talk about it,
you know. And Louise says they haven't had one free second since Buddy
came. She can't keep one maid, and she says the idea of two maids
eating their three meals a day, whether she's home or not, makes her
perfectly sick! Some one's got to be with him every single second, even
now, when he's four, — to see that he doesn't fall off something, or
put things in his mouth. And as Louise says — it means no more
week-end trips; you can't go visiting over night, you can't even go for
a day's drive or a day on the beach, without extra clothes for the
baby, a mosquito-net and an umbrella for the baby — milk packed in ice
for the baby — somebody trying to get the baby to take his nap — it's
awful! It would end our Baltimore plan, and that means New York, and
New York means everything to Harry and me!" finished Julie,
contentedly, flattening a finished bit of embroidery on her knee, and
regarding it complacently.
"Well, I think you're right," Margaret approved. "Things are
different now from what they were in Mother's day."
"And look at Mother," Julie said. "One long slavery! Life's too
short to wear yourself out that way!"
Mrs. Paget's sunny cheerfulness was sadly shaken when the actual
moment of parting with the exquisite, rose-hatted, gray-frocked Julie
came; her face worked pitifully in its effort to smile; her tall
figure, awkward in an ill-made unbecoming new silk, seemed to droop
tenderly over the little clinging wife. Margaret, stirred by the sight
of tears on her mother's face, stood with an arm about her, when the
bride and groom drove away in the afternoon sunshine.
"I'm going to stay with you until she gets back!" she reminded her
"And you know you've always said you wanted the girls to marry,
Mother," urged Mr. Paget. Rebecca felt this a felicitous moment to ask
if she and the boys could have the rest of the ice-cream.
"Divide it evenly," said Mrs. Paget, wiping her eyes and smiling.
"Yes, I know, Daddy dear, I'm an ungrateful woman! I suppose your turn
will come next, Mark, and then I don't know what I will do!"
BUT Margaret's turn did not come for nearly a year. Then — in
Germany again, and lingering at a great Berlin hotel because the spring
was so beautiful, and the city so sweet with linden bloom, and
especially because there were two Americans at the hotel whose game of
bridge it pleased Mr. and Mrs. Carr-Boldt daily to hope they could
match, — then Margaret was transformed within a few hours from a
merely pretty, very dignified, perfectly contented secretary, entirely
satisfied with what she wore as long as it was suitable and fresh, into
a living woman, whose cheeks paled and flushed at nothing but her
thoughts, who laughed at herself in her mirror, loitered over her
toilet trying one gown after another, and walked half-smiling through a
succession of rosy dreams.
It all came about very simply. One of the afore-mentioned bridge
players wondered if Mrs. Carr-Boldt and her niece — oh, wasn't it? —
her secretary then, — would like to hear a very interesting young
American professor lecture this morning? — wondered, when they were
fanning themselves in the airy lecture-room, if they would care to meet
Margaret looked into a pair of keen, humorous eyes, answered with
her own smile Professor Tenison's sudden charming one, lost her small
hand in his big firm one. Then she listened to him talk, as he strode
about the platform, boyishly shaking back the hair that fell across his
forehead. After that he walked to the hotel with them, through dazzling
seas of perfume, and of flowers, under the enchanted shifting green of
great trees, — or so Margaret thought. There was a plunge from the hot
street into the awninged cool gloom of the hotel, and then a luncheon,
when the happy steady murmur from their own table seemed echoed by the
murmurous clink and stir and laughter all about them, and accented by
the not-too-close music from the band.
Doctor Tenison was everything charming, Margaret thought, instantly
drawn by the unaffected, friendly manner, and watching the interested
gleam of his blue eyes and the white flash of his teeth He was a
gentleman, to begin with; distinguished at thirty-two in his chosen
work; big and well-built, without suggesting the athlete, of an old and
honored American family, and the only son of a rich — and eccentric —
old doctor whom Mrs. Carr-Boldt chanced to know.
He was frankly delighted at the chance that had brought him in
contact with these charming people; and as Mrs. Carr-Boldt took an
instant fancy to him, and as he was staying at their own hotel, they
saw him after that every day, and several times a day. Margaret would
come down the great sun-bathed stairway in the morning to find him
patiently waiting in a porch chair. Her heart would give a great leap
— half joy, half new strange pain, as she recognized him. There would
be time for a chat over their fruit and eggs before Mr. Carr-Boldt came
down, all ready for a motor-trip, or Mrs. Carr-Boldt, swathed in
cream-colored coat and flying veils, joined them with an approving
Margaret would remember these breakfasts all her life; the
sun-splashed little table in a corner of the great dining-room, the
rosy fatherly waiter who was so much delighted with her German, the
busy picturesque traffic in the street just below the wide-open window.
She would always remember a certain filmy silk striped gown, a wide hat
loaded with daisies; always love the odor of linden trees in the
Sometimes the professor went with them on their morning drive, to
be dropped at the lecture-hall with Margaret and Mrs. Carr-Boldt. The
latter was pleased to take the course of lectures very seriously, and
carried a handsome Russian leather note-book, and a gold pencil.
Sometimes after luncheon they all went on an expedition together, and
now and then Margaret and Doctor Tenison went off alone on foot, to
explore the city. They would end the afternoon with coffee and little
cakes in some tea-room, and come home tired and merry in the long
shadows of the spring sunset, with wilted flowers from the street
markets in their hands.
There was one glorious tramp in the rain, when the professor's
great laugh rang out like a boy's for sheer high spirits, and when
Margaret was an enchanting vision in her long coat, with her cheeks
glowing through the blown wet tendrils of her hair. That day they had
tea in the deserted charming little parlor of a tiny inn, and drank it
toasting their feet over a glowing fire.
"Is Mrs. Carr-Boldt your mother's or your father's sister?" John
Tenison asked, watching his companion with approval.
"Oh, good gracious!" said Margaret, laughing over her teacup.
"Haven't I told you yet that I'm only her secretary? I never saw Mrs.
Carr-Boldt until five years ago."
"Perhaps you did tell me. But I got it into my head, that first
day, that you were aunt and niece — "
"People do, I think," Margaret said thoughtfully, "because we're
both fair." She did not say that but for Mrs. Carr-Boldt's invaluable
maid the likeness would have been less marked, on this score at least.
"I taught school," she went on simply, "and Mrs. Carr-Boldt happened to
come to my school, and she asked me to come to her."
"You're all alone in the world, Miss Paget?" He was eyeing her
musingly; the direct question came quite naturally.
"Oh, dear me, no! My father and mother are living"; and feeling, as
she always did, a little claim on her loyalty, she added: "We are, or
were, rather, Southern people, — but my father settled in a very small
New York town — "
"Mrs. Carr-Boldt told me that — I'd forgotten — " said Professor
Tenison, and he carried the matter entirely out of Margaret's hands, —
much, much further indeed than she would have carried it, by
continuing, "She tells me that Quincyport was named for your mother's
grandfather, and that Judge Paget was your father's father."
"Father's uncle," Margaret corrected, although as a matter of fact
Judge Paget had been no nearer than her father's second cousin. "But
father always called him uncle," Margaret assured herself inwardly. To
the Quincy-port claim she said nothing. Quincyport was in the county
that Mother's people had come from; Quincy was a very unusual name, and
the original Quincy had been a Charles, which certainly was one of
Mother's family names. Margaret and Julie, browsing about among the
colonial histories and genealogies of the Weston Public Library years
before, had come to a jubilant certainty that mother's grandfather must
have been the same man. But she did not feel quite so positive now.
"Your people aren't still in the South, you said?"
"Oh, no!" Margaret cleared her throat. "They're in Weston —
Weston, New York."
"Weston! Not near Dayton?"
"Why, yes! Do you know Dayton?"
"Do I know Dayton?" He was like an eager child. "Why, my Aunt
Pamela lives there; the only mother I ever knew! I knew Weston, too, a
little. Lovely homes there, some of them, — old colonial houses. And
your mother lives there? Is she fond of flowers?"
"She loves them," Margaret said, vaguely uncomfortable.
"Well, she must know Aunt Pamela," said John Tenison,
enthusiastically. "I expect they'd be great friends. And you must know
Aunt Pam. She's like a dainty old piece of china, or a — I don't know,
a tea rose! She 's never married, and she lives in the most charming
brick house, with brick walls and hollyhocks all about it, and such an
atmosphere inside! She has an old maid and an old gardener, and —
don't you know — she's the sort of woman who likes to sit down under a
portrait of your great-grandfather, in a dim parlor full of mahogany
and rose jars, with her black silk skirts spreading about her, and an
Old Blue cup in her hand, and talk family, — how cousin this married a
man whose people aren't anybody, and cousin that is outraging precedent
by naming her child for her husband's side of the house. She's a funny,
dear old lady! You know, Miss Paget," the professor went on, with his
eager, impersonal air, "when I met you, I thought you didn't quite seem
like a New Yorker and a Bar Harborer — if that's the word! Aunt Pam
— you know she's my only mother, I got all my early knowledge from
her! — Aunt Pam detests the usual New York girl, and the minute I met
you I knew she'd like you. You'd sort of fit into the Dayton picture,
with your braids, and those ruffly things you wear!"
Margaret said simply, "I would love to meet her," and began slowly
to draw on her gloves. It surely was not requisite that she should add,
"But you must not confuse my home with any such exquisitely ordered
existence as that. We are poor people, our house is crowded, our days a
severe and endless struggle with the ugly things of life. We have good
blood in our veins, but not more than hundreds of thousands of other
American families. My mother would not understand one tenth of your
aunt's conversation; your aunt would find very uninteresting the things
that are vital to my mother."
No, she couldn't say that. She picked up her dashing little hat,
and pinned it over her loosened soft mass of yellow hair, and buttoned
up her storm coat, and plunged her hands deep in her pockets. No, the
professor would call on her at Bar Harbor, take a yachting trip with
the Carr-Boldts perhaps, and then — and then, when they were really
good friends, some day she would ask. Mother to have a simple little
luncheon, and Mrs. Carr-Boldt would let her bring Dr. Tenison down in
the motor from New York. And meantime — no need to be too explicit.
For just two happy weeks Margaret lived in Wonderland. The fourteen
days were a revelation to her. Life seemed to grow warmer, more
rosy-colored. Little things became significant; every moment carried
its freight of joy. Her beauty, always notable, became almost
startling; there was a new glow in her cheeks and lips, new fire in the
dark-lashed eyes that were so charming a contrast to her bright hair.
Like a pair of joyous and irresponsible children she and John Tenison
walked through the days, too happy ever to pause and ask themselves
whither they were going.
Then abruptly it ended. Victoria, brought down from school in
Switzerland with various indications of something wrong, was in a flash
a sick child; a child who must be hurried home to the only surgeon in
whom Mrs. Carr-Boldt placed the least trust. There was hurried packing,
telephoning, wiring; it was only a few hours after the great German
physician's diagnosis that they were all at the railway station,
breathless, nervous, eager to get started.
Doctor Tenison accompanied them to the station, and in the five
minutes' wait before their train left, a little incident occurred, the
memory of which clouded Margaret's dreams for many a day to come.
Arriving, as they were departing, were the St. George Allens, noisy,
rich, arrogant New Yorkers, for whom Margaret had a special dislike.
The Allens fell joyously upon the Carr-Boldt party, with a confusion of
greetings. "And Jack Tenison!" shouted Lily Allen, delightedly. "Well,
what fun! What are you doing here?"
"I'm feeling a little lonely," said the professor, smiling at Mrs.
"Nothing like that; unsay them woyds," said Maude Allen,
cheerfully. "Mamma, make him dine with us! Say you will."
"I assure you I was dreading the lonely evening," John Tenison said
gratefully. Margaret's last glimpse of his face was between Lily's pink
and cherry hat, and Maude's astonishing headgear of yellow straw, gold
braid, spangled quills, and calla lilies. She carried a secret
heartache through the worried fortnight of Victoria's illness, and the
busy days that followed; for Mrs. Carr-Boldt had one of many nervous
break-downs, and took her turn at the hospital when Victoria came home.
For the first time in five happy years, Margaret drooped, and for the
first time a longing for money and power of her own gnawed at the
girl's heart. If she had but her share of these things, she could hold
her own against a hundred Maude and Lily Allens.
As it was, she told herself a little bitterly, she was only a
secretary, one of the hundred paid dependents of a rich woman. She was
only, after all, a little middle-class country school teacher.
"SO you're going home to your own people for the week end, Peggy?
— And how many of you are there, — I always forget?" said young Mrs.
George Crawford, negligently. She tipped back in her chair, half shut
her novel, half shut her eyes, and looked critically at her
Outside the big country house summer sunshine flooded the smooth
lawns, sparkled on the falling diamonds and still pool of the fountain,
glowed over acres of matchless wood and garden. But deep awnings made a
clear cool shade indoors, and the wide rooms were delightfully breezy.
Margaret, busy with a ledger and cheque-book, smiled absently,
finished a long column, made an orderly entry, and wiped her pen.
"Seven," said she, smiling.
"Seven!" echoed Mrs. Potter, lazily. "My heaven — seven children!
How early Victorian!"
"Isn't it?" said a third woman, a very beautiful woman, Mrs. Watts
Watson, who was also idling and reading in the white-and-gray morning
room. "Well," she added, dropping her magazine, and locking her hands
about her head, "my grandmother had ten. Fancy trying to raise ten
"Oh, everything's different now," the first speaker said
indifferently. "Everything's more expensive, life is more complicated.
People used to have roomier houses, aunts and cousins and grandmothers
living with them; there was always some one at home with the children.
Nowadays we don't do that."
"And thank the saints we don't!" said Mrs. Watson, piously. "If
there's one thing I can't stand, it's a houseful of things-in-law!"
"Of course; but I mean it made the family problem simpler," Mrs.
Crawford pursued. "Oh — and I don't know! Everything was so simple.
All this business of sterilizing, and fumigating, and pasteurizing,
and vaccinating, and boiling in boracic acid wasn't done in those
days," she finished vaguely.
"Now there you are — now there you are!" said Mrs. Carr-Boldt,
entering into the conversation with sudden force. Entirely recovered
after her nervous collapse, as brisk as ever in her crisp linen gown,
she was signing the checques that Margaret handed her, frowningly busy
and absorbed with her accounts. Now she leaned back in her chair,
glanced at the watch at her wrist, and relaxed the cramped muscles of
her body. "That's exactly it, Rose," said she to Mrs. Crawford. "Life
is more complicated. People — the very people who ought to have
children — simply cannot afford it! And who's to blame? Can you blame
a woman whose life is packed full of other things she simply cannot
avoid, if she declines to complicate things any further? Our
grandmothers didn't have telephones, or motor-cars, or week-end
affairs, or even — for that matter — manicures and hair-dressers! A
good heavy silk was full dress all the year 'round. They washed their
own hair. The 'up-stairs girl' answered the doorbell, — why, they
didn't even have talcum powder and nursery refrigerators, and sanitary
rugs that have to be washed every day! Do you suppose my grandmother
ever took a baby's temperature, or had its eyes and nose examined, or
its adenoids cut? They had more children, and they lost more children,
— without any reason or logic whatever. Poor things, they never
thought of doing anything else, I suppose! A fat old darky nurse
brought up the whole crowd — it makes one shudder to think of it! Why,
I had always a trained nurse, and the regular nurse used to take two
baths a day. I insisted on that, and both nurseries were washed out
every day with chloride of potash solution, and the iron beds washed
every week! And even then Vic had this mastoid trouble, and Harriet got
"Exactly," said Mrs. Watson. "That's you, Hattie, with all the
money in the world. Now do you wonder that some of the rest of us, who
have to think of money — in short," she finished decidedly, "do you
wonder that people are not having children? At first, naturally, one
doesn't want them, — for three or four years, I'm sure, the thought
doesn't come into one's head. But then, afterwards, — you see, I've
been married fifteen years now! — afterwards, I think it would be
awfully nice to have one or two little kiddies, if it was a possible
thing. But it isn't."
"No, it isn't," Mrs. Crawford agreed. "You don't want to have them
unless you're able to do everything in the world for them. If I were
Hat here, I'd have a dozen."
"Oh, no, you wouldn't," Mrs. Carr-Boldt assured her promptly. "No,
you wouldn't! You can't leave everything to servants — there are
clothes to think of, and dentists, and special teachers, and it's
frightfully hard to get a nursery governess. And then you've got to see
that they know the right people — don't you know? — and give them
parties — I tell you it's a strain."
"Well, I don't believe my mother with her seven ever worked any
harder than you do!" said Margaret, with the admiration in her eyes
that was so sweet to the older woman. "Look at this morning — did you
sit down before you came in here twenty minutes ago?"
"I? Indeed I didn't!" Mrs. Carr-Boldt said. "I had my breakfast and
letters at seven, bath at eight, straightened out that squabble between
Swann and the cook, — I think Paul is still simmering, but that's
neither here nor there! — then I went down with the vet to see the
mare. Joe'll never forgive me if I've really broken the creature's
knees! — then I telephoned mother, and saw Harriet's violin man, and
talked to that Italian Joe sent up to clean the oils, — he's in the
gallery now, and — let's see — "
"Italian lesson," Margaret prompted.
"Italian lesson," the other echoed, "and then came in here to sign
"You're so executive, Harriet!" said Mrs. Crawford, languidly.
"Apropos of Swann," Margaret said, "he confided to me that he has
seven children — on a little farm down on Long Island."
"The butler — oh, I dare say!" Mrs. Watson agreed. "They can,
because they've no standard to maintain — seven, or seventeen — the
only difference in expense is the actual amount of bread and butter
"It's too bad," said Mrs. Crawford. "But you've got to handle the
question sanely and reasonably, like any other. Now, I love children,"
she went on. "I'm perfectly crazy about my sister's little girl. She's
eleven now, and the cutest thing alive. But when I think of all Mabel's
been through, since she was born, — I realize that it's a little too
much to expect of any woman. Now, look at us, — there are thousands of
people fixed as we are. We're in an apartment hotel, with one maid.
There's no room for a second maid, no porch and no back yard. Well, the
baby comes, — one loses, before and after the event, just about six
months of everything, and of course the expense is frightful, but no
matter! — the baby comes. We take a house. That means three indoor
maids, George's chauffeur, a man for lawn and furnace — that's five —
"Doubling expenses," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt, thoughtfully.
"Doubling — ! Trebling, or more. But that's not all. Baby must be
out from eleven to three every day. So you've got to go sit by the
carriage in the park while nurse goes home for her lunch. Or, if you're
out for luncheon, or giving a luncheon, she brings baby home, bumps the
carriage into the basement, carries the baby upstairs, eats her lunch
in snatches — the maids don't like it, and I don't blame them! I know
how it was with Mabel; she had to give up that wonderful old apartment
of theirs on Gramercy Park. Sid had his studio on the top floor, and
she had such a lovely flat on the next floor, but there was no lift,
and no laundry, and the kitchen was small — a baby takes so much
fussing! And then she lost that splendid cook of hers, Germaine. She
wouldn't stand it. Up to that time she'd been cooking and waiting, too,
but the baby ended that. Mabel took a house, and Sid paid studio rent
beside, and they had two maids, and then three maids, — and what with
their fighting, and their days off, and eternally changing, Mabel was a
wreck. I've seen her trying to play a bridge hand with Dorothy bobbing
about on her arm — poor girl! Finally they went to a hotel, and of
course the child got older, and was less trouble. But to this day Mabel
doesn't dare leave her alone for one second. And when they go out to
dinner, and leave her alone in the hotel, of course the child cries —
"That's the worst of a kiddie," Mrs. Watson said. "You can't ever
turn 'em off, as it were, or make it spades! They're always right on
the job. I'll never forget Elsie Clay. She was the best friend I had,
— my bridesmaid, too. She married, and after a while they took a house
in Jersey because of the baby. I went out there to lunch one day. There
she was in a house perfectly buried in trees, with the rain sopping
down outside, and smoke blowing out of the fireplace, and the
drawing-room as dark as pitch at two o'clock. Elsie said she used to
nearly die of loneliness, sitting there all afternoon long listening to
the trains whistling, and the maid thumping irons in the kitchen, and
picking up the baby's blocks. And they quarrelled, you know, she and
her husband — that was the beginning of the trouble. Finally the boy
went to his grandmother, and now I believe Elsie's married again, and
living in California somewhere."
Margaret, hanging over the back of her chair, was an attentive
"But people — people in town have children!" she said. "The
Blankenships have one, and haven't the de Normandys?"
"The Blankenship boy is in college," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt; "and the
little de Normandys lived with their grandmother until they were old
enough for boarding school."
"Well, the Deanes have three!" Margaret said triumphantly.
"Ah, well, my dear! Harry Deane's a rich man, and she was a Pell of
Philadelphia," Mrs. Crawford supplied promptly. "Now the Eastmans have
three, too, with a trained nurse apiece."
"I see," Margaret admitted slowly.
"Far wiser to have none at all," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt, in her
decisive way, "than to handicap them from the start by letting them see
other children enjoying pleasures and advantages they can't afford.
And now, girls, let's stop wasting time. It's half-past eleven. Why
can't we have a game of auction right here and now?"
Margaret returned to her cheque-book with speed. The other two,
glad to be aroused, heartily approved the idea.
"Well, what does this very businesslike aspect imply?" Mrs.
Carr-Boldt asked her secretary.
"It means that I can't play cards, and you oughtn't," Margaret
"Oh — ? Why not?"
"Because you've lots of things to do, and I've got to finish these
notes, and I have to sit with Harriet while she does her German — "
"FraŸlein's going to drive Vic over to the Partridges' for
luncheon, and I promised Swann I'd talk to him about favors and things
for to-morrow night."
"Well — busy Lizzie! And what have I to do?"
Margaret reached for a well-filled date-book.
"You were to decide about those alterations, the porch and
dining-room, you know," said she. "There are some architect's sketches
around here; the man's going to be here early in the morning. You said
you'd drive to the yacht club, to see about the stage for the
children's play; you were to stop on the way back and see old Mrs.
McNab a moment. You wanted to write Mrs. Polk a note to catch the
Kaiserin Augusta , and luncheon's early because of the Kellogg bridge."
She shut the book. "And call Mr. Carr-Boldt at the club at one," she
"All that, now fancy!" said her employer, admiringly.
She had swept some scattered magazines from a small table, and was
now seated there, negligently shuffling a pack of cards in her fine
"Ring, will you, Peggy?" said she.
"And the boat races are to-day, and you dine at Oaks-in-the-Field,"
Margaret supplemented inflexibly.
"Yes? Well, come and beat the seven of clubs," said Mrs.
Carr-Boldt, spreading the deck for the draw.
"FraŸlein," she said sweetly, a moment later, when a maid had
summoned that worthy and earnest governess, "tell Miss Harriet that
Mother doesn't want her to do her German to-day, it's too warm. Tell
her that she's to go with you and Miss Victoria for a drive. Thank you.
And, FraŸlein, will you telephone old Mrs. McNab, and say that Mrs.
Carr-Boldt is lying down with a severe headache, and she won't be able
to come in this morning? Thank you. And, FraŸlein, telephone the yacht
club, will you? And tell Mr. Mathews that Mrs. Carr-Boldt is indisposed
and he'll have to come back this afternoon. I'll talk to him before the
children's races. And — one thing more! Will you tell Swann Miss Paget
will see him about to-morrow's dinner when she comes back from the
yacht club to-day? And tell him to send us something cool to drink now.
Thank you so much. No, shut it. Thank you. Have a nice drive!"
They all drew up their chairs to the table.
"You and I, Rose," said Mrs. Watson. "I'm so glad you suggested
this, Hattie. I am dying to play."
"It really rests me more than anything else," said Mrs. Carr-Boldt.
ARCHERTON, a blur of flying trees and houses, bright in the late
sunlight, Pottsville, with children wading and shouting, under the
bridge, Hunt's Crossing, then the next would be Weston — and home.
Margaret, beginning to gather wraps and small possessions together,
sighed. She sighed partly because her head ached, partly because the
hot trip had mussed her usual fresh trimness, largely because she was
This was August; her last trip home had been between Christmas and
the New Year. She had sent a box from Germany at Easter, ties for the
boys, silk scarves for Rebecca, books for Dad; and she had written
Mother for her birthday in June, and enclosed an exquisite bit of lace
in the letter; but although Victoria's illness had brought her to
America nearly three months ago, it had somehow been impossible, she
wrote them, to come home until now. Margaret had paid a great deal for
the lace, as a sort of salve for her conscience, — not that Mother
would ever wear it!
Here was Weston. Weston looking its very ugliest in the level
pitiless rays of the afternoon sun. The town, like most of its
inhabitants, was wilted and grimed after the burden and heat of the
long summer day. Margaret carried her heavy suit-case slowly up Main
Street. Shop windows were spotted and dusty, and shopkeepers, standing
idle in their doorways, looked spotted and dusty too. A cloud of flies
fought and surged about the closely guarded door of the butcher shop; a
delivery cart was at the curb, the discouraged horse switching an
As Margaret passed this cart, a tall boy of fourteen came out of
the shop with a bang of the wire-netting door, and slid a basket into
the back of the cart.
"Teddy!" said Margaret, irritation evident in her voice, in spite
"Hello, Mark!" said her brother, delightedly. "Say, great to see
you! Get in on the four-ten?"
"Ted," said Margaret, kissing him, as the Pagets always quite
simply kissed each other when they met, "what are you driving
Costello's cart for?"
"Like to," said Theodore, simply. "Mother doesn't care. Say, you
look swell, Mark!"
"What makes you want to drive this horrid cart, Ted?" protested
Margaret. "What does Costello pay you?"
"Pay me?" scowled her brother, gathering up the reins. "Oh, come
out of it, Marg'ret! He doesn't pay me anything. Don't you make Mother
stop me, either, will you?" he ended anxiously.
"Of course I won't!" Margaret said impatiently.
"Giddap, Ruth!" said Theodore; but departing, he pulled up to add
cheerfully, "Say, Dad didn't get his raise."
"Did?" said Margaret, brightening.
"Didn't!" He grinned affectionately upon her as with a dislocating
jerk the cart started a ricochetting career down the street, with that
abandon known only to butchers' carts. Margaret, changing her heavy
suit-case to the rested arm, was still vexedly watching it, when two
girls, laughing in the open doorway of the express company's office
across the street, caught sight of her. One of them, a little vision of
pink hat and ruffles, and dark eyes and hair, came running to join her.
Rebecca was now sixteen, and of all the handsome Pagets the best to
look upon. She was dressed according to her youthful lights; every
separate article of her apparel to-day, from her rowdyish little hat to
her openwork hose, represented a battle with Mrs. Paget's preconceived
ideas as to propriety in dress, with the honors largely for Rebecca.
Rebecca had grown up, in eight months, her sister thought, confusedly;
she was no longer the adorable, un-self-conscious tomboy who fought and
skated and toboganned with the boys.
"Hello, darling dear!" said Rebecca. "Too bad no one met you! We
all thought you were coming on the six. Crazy about your suit! Here's
Maudie Pratt. You know Maudie, don't you, Mark?"
Margaret knew Maudie. Rebecca's infatuation for plain,
heavy-featured, complacent Miss Pratt was a standing mystery in the
Paget family. Margaret smiled, bowed.
"I think we stumbled upon a pretty little secret of yours to-day,
Miss Margaret," said Maudie, with her best company manner, as they
walked along. Margaret raised her eyebrows. "Rebel and I," Maudie went
on, — Rebecca was at the age that seeks a piquant substitute for an
unpoetical family name, — "Rebel and I are wondering if we may ask you
who Mr. John Tenison is?"
John Tenison! Margaret's heart stood still with a shock almost
sickening, then beat furiously. What — how — who on earth had told
them anything of John Tenison? Coloring high, she looked sharply at
"Cheer up, angel," said Rebecca, "he's not dead. He sent a telegram
to-day, and Mother opened it — "
"Naturally," said Margaret, concealing an agony of impatience, as
Rebecca paused apologetically.
"He's with his aunt, at Dayton, up the road here," continued
Rebecca; "and wants you to wire him if he may come down and spend
Margaret drew a relieved breath. There was time to turn around, at
"Who is he, sis?" asked Rebecca.
"Why, he's an awfully clever professor, honey," Margaret answered
serenely. "We heard him lecture in Germany this spring, and met him
afterwards. I liked him very much. He's tremendously interesting." She
tried to keep out of her voice the thrill that shook her at the mere
thought of him. Confused pain and pleasure stirred her to the very
heart. — He wanted to come to see her, he must have telephoned Mrs.
Carr-Boldt and asked to call, or he would not have known that she was
at home this week end, — surely that was significant, surely that
meant something! The thought was all pleasure, so great a joy and pride
indeed that Margaret was conscious of wanting to lay it aside, to
think of, dream of, ponder over, when she was alone. But, on the other
hand, there was instantly the miserable conviction that he mustn't be
allowed to come to Weston, no — no — she couldn't have him see her
home and her people on a crowded hot summer Sunday, when the town
looked its ugliest, and the children were home from school, and when
the scramble to get to church and to safely accomplish the one o'clock
dinner exhausted the women of the family. And how could she keep him
from coming, what excuse could she give?
"Don't you want him to come — is he old and fussy?" asked Rebecca,
"I'll see," Margaret answered vaguely. "No, he's only thirty-two or
"And charming!" said Maudie archly. Margaret eyed her with a
coolness worthy of Mrs. Carr-Boldt herself, and then turned rather
pointedly to Rebecca.
"How's Mother, Becky?"
"Oh, she's fine!" Rebecca said, absently in her turn. When Maudie
left them at the next corner, she said quickly: —
"Mark, did you see where we were when I saw you?"
"At the express office — ? Yes," Margaret said, surprised.
"Well, listen," said Rebecca, reddening. "Don't say anything to
Mother about it, will you? She thinks those boys are fresh in there —
She don't like me to go in!"
"Oh, Beck — then you oughtn't!" Margaret protested.
"Well, I wasn't!" Rebecca said uncomfortably. "We went to see if
Maudie's racket had come. You won't — will you, Mark?"
"Tell Mother — no, I won't," Margaret said, with a long sigh. She
looked sideways at Rebecca, — the dainty, fast-forming little figure,
the even ripple and curl of her plaited hair, the assured pose of the
pretty head. Victoria Carr-Boldt, just Rebecca's age, was a big
schoolgirl still, self-conscious and inarticulate, her well-groomed
hair in an unbecoming "club," her well-hung skirts unbecomingly short.
Margaret had half expected to find Rebecca at the same stage of
Rebecca was cheerful now, the promise exacted, and cheerfully
"Dad didn't get his raise — isn't that the limit?"
Margaret sighed again, shrugged wearily. They were in their own
quiet side street now, a street lined with ugly, shabby houses and
beautified by magnificent old elms and maples. The Pagets' own
particular gate was weather-peeled, the lawn trampled and bare. A
bulging wire netting door gave on the shabby old hall Margaret knew so
well; she went on into the familiar rooms, acutely conscious, as she
always was for the first hour or two at home, of the bareness and
ugliness everywhere — the old sofa that sagged in the seat, the
scratched rockers, the bookcases overflowing with coverless magazines,
and the old square piano half-buried under loose sheets of music.
Duncan sat on the piano bench — gloomily sawing at a violoncello.
Robert, — nine now, with all his pretty baby roundness gone, a lean
little burned, peeling face, and big teeth missing when he smiled,
stood in the bay window, twisting the already limp net curtains into a
tight rope. Each boy gave Margaret a kiss that seemed curiously to
taste of dust, sunburn, and freckles, before she followed a noise of
hissing and voices to the kitchen to find Mother.
The kitchen, at five o'clock on Saturday afternoon, was in wild
confusion, and insufferably hot. Margaret had a distinct impression
that not a movable article therein was in place, and not an available
inch of tables or chairs unused, before her eyes reached the tall
figure of the woman in a gown of chocolate percale, who was frying
cutlets at the big littered range. Her face was dark with heat, and
streaked with perspiration. She turned as Margaret entered, and gave a
"Well, there's my girl! Bless her heart! Look out for this spoon,
lovey," she added immediately, giving the girl a guarded embrace. Tears
of joy stood frankly in her fine eyes.
"I meant to have all of this out of the way, dear," apologized Mrs.
Paget, with a gesture that included cakes in the process of frosting,
salad vegetables in the process of cooling, soup in the process of
getting strained, great loaves of bread that sent a delicious fragrance
over all the other odors. "But we didn't look for you until six."
"Oh, no matter!" Margaret said bravely.
"Rebecca tell you Dad didn't get his raise?" called Mrs. Paget, in
a voice that rose above the various noises of the kitchen. "Blanche!"
she protested, "can't that wait?" for the old negress had begun to
crack ice with deafening smashes. But Blanche did not hear, so Mrs.
Paget continued loudly: "Dad saw Redman himself; he'll tell you about
it! Don't stay in the kitchen in that pretty dress, dear! I'm coming
It was very hot upstairs; the bedrooms smelled faintly of matting,
the soap in the bathroom was shrivelled in its saucer. In Margaret's
old room the week's washing had been piled high on the bed. She took
off her hat and linen coat, brushed her hair back from her face,
flinging her head back and shutting her eyes the better to fight tears,
as she did so, and began to assort the collars and shirts and put them
away. For Dad's bureau — for Bruce's bureau — for the boys' bureau,
table-cloths to go downstairs, towels for the shelves in the bathroom.
Two little shirtwaists for Rebecca with little holes torn through them
where collar and belt pins belonged.
Her last journey took her to the big, third-story room where the
three younger boys slept. The three narrow beds were still unmade, and
the western sunlight poured over tumbled blankets and the scattered
small possessions that seem to ooze from the pores of little boys,
Margaret set her lips distastefully as she brought order out of chaos.
It was all wrong, somehow, she thought, gathering handkerchiefs and
matches and "Nick Carters" and the oiled paper that had wrapped
caramels from under the pillows that would in a few hours harbor a
She went out on the porch in time to put her arms about her
father's shabby shoulders when he came in. Mr. Paget was tired, and he
told his wife and daughters that he thought he was a very sick man.
Margaret's mother met this statement with an anxious solicitude that
was very soothing to the sufferer. She made Mark get Daddy his slippers
and loose coat, and suggested that Rebecca shake up the dining-room
couch before she established him there, in a rampart of pillows. No
outsider would have dreamed that Mrs. Paget had dealt with this exact
emergency some hundreds of times in the past twenty years.
Mr. Paget, reclining, shut his eyes, remarked that he had had an
"awful, awful day," and wondered faintly if it would be too much
trouble to have "somebody" make him just a little milk toast for his
dinner. He smiled at Margaret when she sat down beside him; all the
children were dear, but the oldest daughter knew she came first with
"Getting to be an old, old man!' he said wearily, and Margaret
hated herself because she had to quell an impatient impulse to tell him
he was merely tired and cross and hungry, before she could say, in the
proper soothing tone, "Don't talk that way, Dad darling!" She had to
listen to a long account of the "raise," wincing every time her father
emphasized the difference between her own position and that of her
employer. Dad was at least the equal of any one in Weston! Why, a man
Dad's age oughtn't to be humbly asking a raise, he ought to be
dictating now. It was just Dad's way of looking at things, and it was
"Well, I'll tell you one thing!" said Rebecca, who had come in with
a brimming soup plate of milk toast, "Joe Redman gave a picnic last
month, and he came here with his mother, in the car, to ask me. And I
was the scornfullest thing you ever saw, wasn't I, Ted? Not much!"
"Oh, Beck, you oughtn't to mix social and business things that
way!" Margaret said helplessly.
"Dinner!" screamed the nine-year-old Robert, breaking into the room
at this point, and "Dinner!" said Mrs. Paget, wearily, cheerfully, from
the chair into which she had dropped at the head of the table. Mr.
Paget, revived by sympathy, milk toast, and Rebecca's attentions, took
his place at the foot, and Bruce the chair between Margaret and his
mother. Like the younger boys, whose almost confluent freckles had been
brought into unusual prominence by violently applied soap and water,
and whose hair dripped on their collars, he had brushed up for dinner,
but his negligee shirt and corduroy trousers were stained and spotted
from machine oil. Margaret, comparing him secretly to the men she knew,
as daintily groomed as women, in their spotless white, felt a little
resentment that Bruce's tired face was so contented, and said to
herself again that it was all wrong.
Dinner was the same old haphazard meal with which she was so
familiar; Blanche supplying an occasional reproof to the boys, Ted
ignoring his vegetables, and ready in an incredibly short time for a
second cutlet, and Robert begging for corn syrup, immediately after the
soup, and spilling it from his bread. Mrs. Paget was flushed, her
disappearances kitchenward frequent. She wanted Margaret to tell her
all about Mr. Tenison. Margaret laughed, and said there was nothing to
"You might get a horse and buggy from Peterson's," suggested Mrs.
Paget, interestedly, "and drive about after dinner."
"Oh, Mother, I don't think I had better let him come!" Margaret
said. "There's so many of us, and such confusion, on Sunday! Ju and
Harry are almost sure to come over."
"Yes, I guess they will," Mrs. Paget said, with her sudden radiant
smile. "Ju is so dear in her little house, and Harry's so sweet with
her," she went on with vivacity. "Daddy and I had dinner with them
Tuesday. Bruce said Rebecca was lovely with the boys, — we're going to
Julie's again sometime. I declare it's so long since we've been
anywhere without the children that we both felt funny. It was a lovely
"You're too much tied, Mother," Margaret said affectionately.
"Not now!" her mother protested radiantly. "With all my babies
turning into men and women so fast. And I'll have you all together
to-morrow — and your friend I hope, too, Mark," she added hospitably.
"You had better let him come, dear. There's a big dinner, and I always
freeze more cream than we need, anyway, because Daddy likes a plate of
it about four o'clock, if there's any left."
"Well — but there's nothing to do," Margaret protested.
"No, but dinner takes quite a while," Mrs. Paget suggested a little
doubtfully; "and we could have a nice talk on the porch, and then you
could go driving or walking. I wish there was something cool and
pleasant to do, Mark," she finished a little wistfully. "You do just as
you think best about asking him to come."
"I think I'll wire him that another time would be better," said
Margaret, slowly. "Sometime we'll regularly arrange for it."
"Well, perhaps that would be best," her mother agreed. "Some other
time we'll send the boys off before dinner, and have things all nice
and quiet. In October, say, when the trees are so pretty. I don't know
but what that's my favorite time of all the year!"
Margaret looked at her as if she found something new in the tired,
bright face. She could not understand why her mother — still too
heated to commence eating her dinner — should radiate so definite an
atmosphere of content, as she sat back a little breathless, after the
flurry of serving. She herself felt injured and sore, not at the mere
disappointment it caused her to put off John Tendon's visit, but
because she felt more acutely than ever to-night the difference between
his position and her own.
"Something nice has happened, Mother?" she hazarded, entering with
an effort into the older woman's mood.
"Nothing special." Her mother's happy eyes ranged about the circle
of young faces. "But it's so lovely to have you here, and to have Ju
coming to-morrow," she said. "I just wish Daddy could build a house for
each one of you, as you marry and settle down, right around our house
in a circle, as they say people do sometimes in the Old World. I think
then I'd have nothing in life to wish for!"
"Oh, Mother — in Weston!" Margaret said hopelessly, but her mother
did not catch it.
"Not, Mark," she went on hastily and earnestly, "that I'm not more
than grateful to God for all His goodness, as it is! I look at other
women, and I wonder, I wonder — what I have done to be so blessed!
Mark — " her face suddenly glowed, she leaned a little toward her
daughter, "dearie, I must tell you," she said; "it's about Ju — "
Their eyes met in the pause.
"Mother — really?" Margaret said slowly.
"She told me on Tuesday,." Mrs. Paget said, with glistening eyes.
"Now, not a word to any one, Mark, — but she'll want you to know!"
"And is she glad?" Margaret said, unable to rejoice.
"Glad?" Mrs. Paget echoed, her face gladness itself.
"Well, Ju's so young, — just twenty-one," Margaret submitted a
little uncertainly; "and she's been so free, — and they're just in the
new house! And I thought they were going to Europe!"
"Oh, Europe!" Mrs. Paget dismissed it cheerfully. "Why, it's the
happiest time in a woman's life, Mark! Or I don't know, though," she
went on thoughtfully, — "I don't know but what I was happiest when you
were all tiny, tumbling about me, and climbing into my lap.... Why, you
love children, dear," she finished, with a shade of reproach in her
voice, as Margaret still looked sober.
"Yes, I know, Mother," Margaret said. "But Julie's only got the one
maid, and I don't suppose they can have another. I hope to goodness Ju
won't get herself all run down!"
Her mother laughed. "You remind me of Grandma Paget," said she,
cheerfully; "she lived ten miles away when we were married, but she
came in when Bruce was born. She was rather a proud, cold woman
herself, but she was very sweet to me. Well, then little Charlie came,
fourteen months later, and she took that very seriously. Mother was
dead, you know, and she stayed with me again, and worried me half sick
telling me that it wasn't fair to Bruce and it wasn't fair to Charlie
to divide my time between them that way. Well, then when my third baby
was coming, I didn't dare tell her. Dad kept telling me to, and I
couldn't, because I knew what a calamity a third would seem to her!
Finally she went to visit Aunt Rebecca out West, and it was the very
day she got back that the baby came. She came upstairs, — she 'd come
right up from the train, and not seen any one but Dad; and he wasn't
very intelligible, I guess — and she sat down and took the baby in her
arms, and says she, looking at me sort of patiently, yet as if she was
exasperated too: 'Well, this is a nice way to do, the minute my back's
turned! What are you going to call him, Julia?' And I said, 'I'm going
to call her Margaret, for my dear husband's mother, and she's going to
be beautiful and good, and grow up to marry the President!'" Mrs.
Paget's merry laugh rang out. "I never shall forget your grandmother's
"Just the same," Mrs. Paget added, with a sudden deep sigh, "when
little Charlie left us, the next year, and Brucie and Dad were both so
ill, she and I agreed that you — you were just talking and trying to
walk — were the only comfort we had! I could wish my girls no greater
happiness than my children have been to me," finished Mother,
"I know," Margaret began, half angrily; "but what about the
children?" she was going to add. But somehow the arguments she had used
so plausibly did not utter themselves easily to Mother, whose children
would carry into their own middle age a wholesome dread of her anger.
Margaret faltered, and merely scowled.
"I don't like to see that expression on your face, dearie," her
mother said, as she might have said it to an eight-year-old child. "Be
my sweet girl! Why, marriage isn't marriage without children, Mark.
I've been thinking all week of having a baby in my arms again, — it's
so long since Rob was a baby."
Margaret devoted herself, with a rather sullen face, to her
dessert. Mother would never feel as she did about these things, and
what was the use of arguing? In the silence she heard her father speak
loudly and suddenly.
"I am not in a position to have my children squander money on
concerts and candy," he said. Margaret forgot her own grievance, and
looked up. The boys looked resentful and gloomy; Rebecca was flushed,
her eyes dropped, her lips trembling with disappointment.
"I had promised to take them to the Elks Concert and dance," Mrs.
Paget interpreted hastily. "But now Dad says the Bakers are coming over
to play whist."
"Is it going to be a good show, Ted?" Margaret asked.
"Oh," Rebecca flashed into instant glowing response. "It's going to
be a dandy! Every one's going to be there! Ford Patterson is going to
do a monologue, — he's as good as a professional! — and George is
going to send up a bunch of carrots and parsnips! And the Weston Male
Quartette, Mark, and a playlet by the Hunt's Crossing Amateur
"Oh — oh!" — Margaret mimicked the eager rush of words. "Let me
take them, Dad," she pleaded, "if it's going to be as fine as all that!
I'll stand treat for the crowd."
"Oh, Mark, you darling!" burst from the rapturous Rebecca.
"Say, gee, we've got to get there early!" Theodore warned them,
finishing his pudding with one mammoth spoonful.
"If you take them, my dear," Mr. Paget said graciously, "of course
Mother and I are quite satisfied."
"I'll hold Robert by one ear and Rebecca by another," Margaret
promised; "and if she so much as dares to look at George or Ted or
Jimmy Barr or Paul, I'll — "
"Oh, Jimmy belongs to Louise, now," said Rebecca, radiantly. There
was a joyous shout of laughter from the light-hearted juniors, and
Rebecca, seeing her artless admission too late, turned scarlet while
she laughed. Dinner broke up in confusion, as dinner at home always
did, and everybody straggled upstairs to dress.
Margaret, changing her dress in a room that was insufferably hot,
because the shades must be down, and the gas-lights as high as
possible, reflected that another forty-eight hours would see her
speeding back to the world of cool, awninged interiors, uniformed
maids, the clink of iced glasses, the flash of white sails on blue
water. She could surely afford for that time to be patient and sweet.
She lifted Rebecca's starched petticoat from the bed to give Mother a
seat, when Mother came rather wearily in to watch them.
"Sweet girl to take them, Mark," said Mother, appreciatively. "I
was going to ask Brucie. But he's gone to bed, poor fellow; he's worn
"He had a letter from Ned Gunther this morning," said Rebecca,
cheerfully, — powdering the tip of her pretty nose, her eyes almost
crossed with concentration, — "and I think it made him blue all day."
"Ned Gunther?" said Margaret.
"Chum at college," Rebecca elucidated; "a lot of them are going to
Honolulu, just for this month, and of course they wanted Bruce. Mark,
does that show?"
Margaret's heart ached for the beloved brother's disappointment.
There it was again, all wrong! Before she left the house with the
rioting youngsters, she ran upstairs to his room. Bruce, surrounded by
scientific magazines, a drop-light with a vivid green shade over his
shoulder, looked up with a welcoming smile.
"Sit down and talk, Mark," said he.
Margaret explained her hurry.
"Bruce, — this isn't much fun!" she said, looking about the room
with its shabby dresser and worn carpet. "Why aren't you going to the
"Is there a concert?" he asked, surprised.
"Why, didn't you hear us talking at dinner? The Elks, you know."
"Well — sure! I meant to go to that. I forgot it was to-night," he
said, with his lazy smile. "I came home all in, forgot everything."
"Oh, come,!" Margaret urged, as eagerly as Rebecca ever did. "It's
early, Bruce, come on! You don't have to shave! We'll hold a seat, —
"Sure, I will!" he said, suddenly roused. The magazines rapped on
the floor, and Margaret had barely shut the door behind her when she
heard his bare feet follow them.
It was like old times to sit next to him through the hot merry
evening, while Rebecca glowed like a little rose among her friends,
and the smaller boys tickled her ear with their whispered comments.
Margaret had sent a telegram to Professor Tenison, and felt relieved
that at least that strain was spared her. She even danced with Bruce
after the concert, and with one or two old friends.
Afterwards, they strolled back slowly through the inky summer dark,
finding the house hot and close when they came in. Margaret went
upstairs, hearing her mother's apologetic, "Oh, Dad, why didn't I give
you back your club?" as she passed the dining-room door. She knew
Mother hated whist, and wondered rather irritably why she played it.
The Paget family was slow to settle down. Robert became tearful and
whining before he was finally bumped protesting into bed. Theodore and
Duncan prolonged their ablutions until the noise of shouting,
splashing, and thumping in the bathroom brought Mother to the foot of
the stairs. Rebecca was conversational. She lay with her slender arms
locked behind her head on the pillow, and talked, as Julie had talked
on that memorable night five years ago. Margaret, restless in the hot
darkness, wondering whether the maddening little shaft of light from
the hall gas was annoying enough to warrant the effort of getting up
and extinguishing it, listened and listened.
Rebecca wanted to join the Stage Club, but Mother wouldn't let her
unless Bruce did. Rebecca belonged to the Progressive Diners. Did Mark
suppose Mother'd think she was crazy if she asked the family not to be
in evidence when the crowd came to the house for the salad course? And
Rebecca wanted to write to Bruce's chum, not regularly, you know, Mark,
but just now and then, he was so nice! And Mother didn't like the idea.
Margaret was obviously supposed to lend a hand with these interesting
"...and I said, 'Certainly not! I won't unmask at all, if it comes
to that!'... And imagine that elegant fellow carrying my old books and
my skates! So I wrote, and Maudie and I decided... And Mark, if it
wasn't a perfectly gorgeous box of roses!... That old, old dimity, but
Mother pressed and freshened it up.... Not that I want to marry him, or
Margaret wakened from uneasy drowsing with a start. The hall was
dark now, the room cooler. Rebecca was asleep. Hands, hands she knew
well, were drawing a light covering over her shoulders. She opened her
eyes to see her mother.
"I've been wondering if you're disappointed about your friend not
coming to-morrow, Mark?" said the tender voice.
"Oh, no-o!" said Margaret, hardily. "Mother — why are you up so
"Just going to bed," said the other, soothingly. "Blanche forgot to
put the oatmeal into the cooker, and I went downstairs again. I'll say
my prayers in here."
Margaret went off to sleep again, as she had so many hundred times
before, with her mother kneeling beside her.
IT seemed but a few moments before the blazing Sunday was
precipitated upon them, and everybody was late for everything.
The kitchen was filled with the smoke from hot griddles blue in the
sunshine, when Margaret went downstairs; and in the dining-room the
same merciless light fell upon the sticky syrup pitcher, and upon the
stains on the tablecloth. Cream had been brought in in the bottle, the
bread tray was heaped with orange skins, and the rolls piled on the
tablecloth. Bruce, who had already been to church with Mother, and was
off for a day's sail, was dividing his attention between Robert and his
watch. Rebecca, daintily busy with the special cup and plate that were
one of her little affectations, was all ready for the day, except as
to dress, wearing a thin little kimono over her blue ribbons and
starched embroideries. Mother was putting up a little lunch for Bruce.
Confusion reigned. The younger boys were urged to hurry, if they wanted
to make the "nine." Rebecca was going to wait for the "half-past ten,"
because the "kids sang at nine, and it was fierce." Mr. Paget and his
sons departed together, and the girls went upstairs for a hot, tiring
tussle with beds and dusting before starting for church. They left
their mother busy with the cream freezer in the kitchen. It was very
hot even then.
But it was still hotter, walking home in the burning midday
stillness. A group of young people waited lazily for letters, under the
trees outside the post-office door. Otherwise the main street was
deserted. A languid little breeze brought the far echoes of pianos and
phonographs from this direction and that.
"Who's that on the porch?" said Rebecca, suddenly, as they neared
home, instantly finding the stranger among her father and the boys.
Margaret, glancing up sharply, saw, almost with a sensation of
sickness, the big, ungainly figure, the beaming smile, and the shock of
dark hair that belonged to nobody else in the world but John Tenison, A
stony chill settled about her heart as she went up the steps and gave
him her hand.
Oh, if he only couldn't stay to dinner, she prayed. Oh, if only he
could spare them time for no more than a flying visit! With a sinking
heart she smiled her greetings.
"Doctor Tenison, — this is very nice of you!" Margaret said. "Have
you met my father — my small brothers? "
"We have been having a great talk," said John Tenison, genially,
"and this young man — " he indicated Robert, "has been showing me the
colored supplement of the paper. I didn't have any word from you, Miss
Paget," he went on, "so I took the chance of finding you. And your
mother has assured me that I will not put her out by staying to have
luncheon with you."
"Oh, that's nice!" Margaret said mechanically, trying to dislodge
Robert from the most comfortable chair by a significant touch of her
fingers on his small shoulder. Robert perfectly understood that she
wanted the chair, but continued in absorbed study of the comic
supplement, merely wriggling resentfully at Margaret's touch. Margaret,
at the moment, would have been glad to use violence on the stubborn,
serene little figure. When he was finally dislodged, she sat down,
still flushed from her walk and the nervousness Doctor Tenison's
arrival caused her, and tried to bring the conversation into a normal
channel. But an interruption occurred in the arrival of Harry and Julie
in the runabout; the little boys swarmed down to examine it. Julie,
very pretty, with a perceptible little new air of dignity, went
upstairs to freshen hair and gown, and Harry, pushing his straw hat
back the better to mop his forehead, immediately engaged Doctor
Tenison's attention with the details of what sounded to Margaret like a
particularly uninteresting operation, which he had witnessed the day
Utterly discouraged, and acutely wretched, Margaret presently
slipped away, and went into the kitchen, to lend a hand with the
dinner preparations if help was needed. The room presented a scene if
possible a little more confused than that of the day before, and was
certainly hotter. Her mother, flushed and hurried, in a fresh but
rather unbecoming gingham, was putting up a cold supper for the younger
boys, who, having duly attended to their religious duties, were to take
a long afternoon tramp, with a possible interval of fishing. She
buttered each slice of the great loaf before she cut it, and lifted it
carefully on the knife before beginning the next slice. An opened pot
of jam stood at her elbow. A tin cup and the boys' fishing-gear lay on
a chair. Theodore and Duncan themselves hung over these preparations;
never apparently helping themselves to food, yet never with empty
mouths. Blanche, moaning "The Palms" with the insistence of one who
wishes to show her entire familiarity with a melody, was at the range.
Roast veal, instead of the smothered chickens her mother had so
often, and cooked so deliciously, a mountain of mashed potato — corn
on the cob, and an enormous heavy salad mantled with mayonnaise —
Margaret could have wept over the hopelessly plebeian dinner!
"Mother, mayn't I get down the finger-bowls," she asked; "and
mayn't we have black coffee in the silver pot, afterwards?"
Mrs. Paget looked absently at her for a dubious second. "I don't
like to ask Blanche to wash all that extra glass," she said, in an
undertone, adding briskly to Theodore, "No, no, Ted! You can't have all
that cake. Half that!" and to Blanche herself, "Don't leave the door
open when you go in, Blanche; I just drove all the flies out of the
dining-room." Then she returned to Margaret with a cordial: "Why,
certainly, dear! Any one who wants coffee, after tea, can have it! Dad
always wants his cup of tea."
"Nobody but us ever serves tea with dinner!" Margaret muttered; but
her mother did not hear it. She buckled the strap of the lunch-box,
straightened her back with an air of relief, and pushed down her
"Don't lose that napkin, Ted," said she, and receiving the boy's
grateful kiss haphazard between her hair and forehead, she added
affectionately: "You're more than welcome, dear! We're all ready, Mark,
— go and tell them, dear! All right, Blanche."
Ruffled and angry, Margaret went to summon the others to dinner.
Maudie had joined them on the porch now, and had been urged to stay,
and was already trying her youthful wiles on the professor.
"Well, he'll have to leave on the five o'clock!" Margaret
reflected, steeled to bitter endurance until that time. For everything
went wrong, and dinner was one long nightmare for her. Professor
Tenison's napkin turned out to be a traycloth. Blanche, asked for
another, disappeared for several minutes, and returned without it, to
whisper in Mrs. Paget's ear. Mrs. Paget immediately sent her own fresh
napkin to the guest. The incident, or something in their murmured
conversation, gave Rebecca and Maudie "the giggles." There seemed an
exhausting amount of passing and repassing of plates. The room was hot,
the supply of ice insufficient. Mr. Paget dwelt on his favorite
grievance — "the old man isn't needed, these days. They're getting all
young fellows into the bank. They put young college fellows in there
who are getting pretty near the money I am — after twenty-five years!"
In any pause, Mrs. Paget could be heard, patiently dissuading little
Robert from his fixed intention of accompanying the older boys on their
walk, whether invited or uninvited.
John Tenison behaved charmingly, eating his dinner with enjoyment,
looking interestedly from one face to the other, sympathetic, alert,
and amused. But Margaret writhed in spirit at what he must be thinking.
Finally the ice cream, in a melting condition, and the chocolate
cake, very sticky, made their appearance; and although these were
regular Sunday treats, the boys felt called upon to cheer. Julie asked
her mother in an audible undertone if she "ought" to eat cake. Doctor
Tenison produced an enormous box of chocolates, and Margaret was
disgusted with the frantic scramble her brothers made to secure them.
"If you're going for a walk, dear," her mother said, when the meal
was over, "you'd better go. It's almost three now."
"I don't know whether we will, it's so hot," Margaret said, in an
indifferent tone, but she could easily have broken into disheartened
"Oh, go," Julie urged, "it's much cooler out." They were up in
Margaret's old room, Mrs. Paget tying a big apron about Julie's ruffled
frock, preparatory to an attack upon the demoralized kitchen. "We think
he's lovely," the little matron went on approvingly. "Don't fall in
love with him, Mark."
"Why not?" Margaret said carelessly, pinning on her hat.
"Well, I don't imagine he's a marrying man," said the young
authority, wisely. Margaret flushed, and was angry at herself for
flushing. But when Mrs. Paget had gone downstairs, Julie came very
simply and charmingly over to her sister, and standing close beside her
with embarrassed eyes on her own hand, — very youthful in its plain
ring, — as she played with the bureau furnishing, she said: —
"Mother tell you?"
Margaret looked down at the flushed face.
"Are you sorry, Ju?"
"Sorry!" The conscious eyes flashed into view. "Sorry!" Julie
echoed in astonishment. "Why, Mark," she said dreamily, — there was no
affectation of maturity in her manner now, and it was all the more
impressive for that. "Why, Mark," said she, "it's — it's the most
wonderful thing that ever happened to me! I think and think," — her
voice dropped very low, — "of holding it in my arms, — mine and
Harry's, you know — and of its little face!"
Margaret, stirred, kissed the wet lashes.
"Ju, but you're so young — you're such a baby yourself!" she said.
"And, Mark," Julie said, unheeding, "you know what Harry and I are
going to call her, if it's a girl? Not for Mother, for it's so
confusing to have two Julias, but for you! Because," her arms went
about her sister, "you've always been such a darling to me, Mark!"
Margaret went downstairs very thoughtfully, and out into the silent
Sunday streets. Where they walked, or what they talked of, she did not
know. She knew that her head ached, and that the village looked very
commonplace, and that the day was very hot. She found it more painful
than sweet to be strolling along beside the big, loose-jointed figure,
and to send an occasional side glance to John Tenison's earnest face,
which wore its pleasantest expression now. Ah, well, it would be all
over at five o'clock, she said wearily to herself, and she could go
home and lie down with her aching head in a darkened room, and try not
to think what to-day might have been. Try not to think of the dainty
little luncheon Annie would have given them at Mrs. Carr-Boldt's, of
the luxurious choice of amusements afterward: motoring over the lovely
country roads, rowing on the wide still water, watching the tennis
courts, or simply resting in deep chairs on the sweep of velvet lawn
above the river.
She came out of a reverie to find Doctor Tenison glancing calmly up
from his watch.
"The train was five o'clock, was it?" he said. "I've missed it!"
"Missed it!" Margaret echoed blankly. Then, as the horrible
possibility dawned upon her, "Oh, no!"
"Oh, yes, — as bad as that!" he said, laughing at her.
Poor Margaret, fighting despair, struggled to recover herself.
"Well, I thought it might have been important to you!" she said,
laughing quite naturally. "There's a seven-six, but it stops
everywhere, and a ten-thirty. The ten-thirty is best, because supper's
apt to be a little late."
"The ten-thirty," Doctor Tenison echoed contentedly. Margaret's
heart sank, — five more hours of the struggle! "But perhaps that's an
imposition," he said. "Isn't there a tea-room — isn't there an inn
here where we could have a bite?"
"We aren't in Berlin," Margaret reminded him cheerfully. "There's a
hotel, — but Mother would never forgive me for leading any one there!
No, we'll take that little walk I told you of, and Mother will give us
something to eat later. — Perhaps if we're late enough," she added to
herself, "we can have just tea and bread and jam alone, after the
Suddenly, unreasonably, she felt philosophical and gay. The little
episode of missing the train had given her the old dear feeling of
adventure and comradeship again. Things couldn't be any worse than they
had been at noon, anyway. The experience had been thoroughly
disenchanting. What did a few hours, more or less, matter! Let him be
disgusted if he wanted to, she couldn't help it!
It was cooler now, the level late shadows were making even Weston
pretty. They went up a steep shady lane to the old graveyard, and
wandered, peacefully, contentedly, among the old graves. Margaret
gathered her thin gown from contact with the tangled, uncut grass; they
had to disturb a flock of nibbling sheep to cross to the crumbling
wall. Leaning on the uneven stones that formed it, they looked down at
the roofs of the village, half lost in tree-tops; and listened to the
barking of dogs, and the shrill voices of children. The sun sank lower,
lower. There was a feeling of dew in the air as they went slowly home.
When, at seven o'clock, they opened the gate, they found on the
side porch only Rebecca, enchanting in something pink and dotted,
Mother, and Dad.
"Lucky we waited!" said Rebecca, rising, and signaling some
wordless message to Margaret that required dimples, widened eyes,
compressed lips, and an expression of utter secrecy. "Supper's all
ready," she added casually.
"Where are the others'" Margaret said, experiencing the most
pleasant sensation she had had in twenty-four hours.
"Ju and Harry went home, Rob's at George's, boys walking," said
Rebecca, briefly, still dimpling mysteriously with additional
information. She gave Margaret an eloquent side glance as she led the
way into the dining-room. At the doorway Margaret stopped, astounded.
The room was hardly recognizable now. It was cool and delightful,
with the diminished table daintily set for five, The old silver
candlesticks and silver teapot presided over blue bowls of berries, and
the choicest of Mother's preserved fruits. Some one had found time to
put fresh parsley about the Canton platter of cold meats, some one had
made a special trip to Mrs. O'Brien's for the cream that filled the
Wedgwood pitcher. Margaret felt tears press suddenly against her eyes.
"Oh, Beck!" she could only stammer, when the sisters went into the
kitchen for hot water and tea biscuit.
"Mother did it," said Rebecca, returning her hug with fervor. "She
gave us all an awful talking to, after you left! She said here was dear
old Mark, who always worked herself to death for us, trying to make a
nice impression, and to have things go smoothly, and we were all acting
like Indians, and everything so confused at dinner, and hot and noisy!
So, later, when Paul and I and the others were walking, we saw you and
Doctor Tenison going up toward the graveyard, and I tore home and told
Mother he'd missed the five and would be back; it was after five then,
and we just flew!"
It was all like a pleasant awakening after a troubled dream. As
Margaret took her place at the little feast, she felt an exquisite
sensation of peace and content sink into her heart. Mother was so
gracious and charming, behind the urn; Rebecca irresistible in her
admiration of the famous professor. Her father was his sweetest self,
delightfully reminiscent of his boyhood, and his visit to the White
House in Lincoln's day, with "my uncle, the judge." But it was to her
mother's face that Margaret's eyes returned most often, she wanted —
she was vaguely conscious that she wanted — to get away from the
voices and laughter, and think about Mother. How sweet she was, just
sweet, and after all, how few people were that in this world! They were
clever, and witty, and rich, — plenty of them, but how little
sweetness there was! How few faces, like her mother's, did not show a
line that was not all tenderness and goodness.
They laughed over their teacups like old friends; the professor and
Rebecca shouting joyously together, Mr. Paget one broad twinkle, Mrs.
Paget radiantly reflecting, as she always did react, the others' mood.
It was a memorably happy hour.
And after tea they sat on the porch, and the stars came out, and
presently the moon sent silver shafts through the dark foliage of the
trees. Little Rob came home, and climbed silently, contentedly, into
his father's lap.
"Sing something, Mark," said Dad, then; and Margaret, sitting on
the steps with her head against her mother's knee, found it very simple
to begin in the darkness one of the old songs he loved: —
"Don't you cry, ma honey, Don't you weep no more."
Rebecca, sitting on the rail, one slender arm flung above her head
about the pillar, joined her own young voice to Margaret's sweet and
steady one. The others hummed a little. John Tenison, sitting watching
them, his locked hands hanging between his knees, saw in the moonlight
a sudden glitter on the mother's cheek.
Presently Bruce, tired and happy and sunburned, came through the
splashed silver-and-black of the street to sit by Margaret, and put his
arm about her; and the younger boys, returning full of the day's great
deeds, spread themselves comfortably over the lower steps. Before long
all their happy voices rose together, on "Believe me," and "Working on
the Railroad," and "Seeing Nellie Home," and a dozen more of the old
songs that young people have sung for half a century in the summer
And then it was time to say good-night to Professor Tenison. "Come
again, sir!" said Mr. Paget, heartily; the boys slid their hands, still
faintly suggestive of fish, cordially into his; Rebecca promised to
mail him a certain discussed variety of fern the very next day; Bruce's
voice sounded all hearty good-will as he hoped that he wouldn't miss
Doctor Tenison's next visit. Mrs. Paget, her hand in his, raised keen,
almost anxious eyes to his face.
"But surely you'll be down our way again?" said she, unsmilingly.
"Oh, surely." The professor was unable to keep his eyes from moving
toward Margaret, and the mother saw it.
"Good-bye for the present, then," she said, still very gravely.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Paget," said Doctor Tenison. "It's been an
inestimable privilege to meet you all. I haven't ever had a happier
Margaret, used to the extravagant speeches of another world,
thought this merely very charming politeness. But her heart sang, as
they walked away together. He liked them — he had had a nice time!
"Now I know what makes you so different from other women," said
John Tenison, when he and Margaret were alone. "It's having that
wonderful mother! She — she — well, she's one woman in a million; I
don't have to tell you that! It's something to thank God for, a mother
like that; it's a privilege to know her. I've been watching her all
day, and I've been wondering what she gets out of it, — that was what
puzzled me; but now, just now, I've found out! This morning, thinking
what her life is, I couldn't see what repaid her, do you see? What made
up to her for the unending, unending effort, and sacrifice, the pouring
out of love and sympathy and help — year after year after year...."
He hesitated, but Margaret did not speak.
"You know," he went on musingly, "in these days, when women just
serenely ignore the question of children, or at most, as a special
concession, bring up one or two, — just the one or two whose expenses
can be comfortably met! — there's something magnificent in a woman
like your mother, who begins eight destinies instead of one! She
doesn't strain and chafe to express herself through the medium of
poetry or music or the stage, but she puts her whole splendid
philosophy into her nursery — launches sound little bodies and minds
that have their first growth cleanly and purely about her knees.
Responsibility, — that's what these other women say they are afraid
of! But it seems to me there's no responsibility like that of decreeing
that young lives simply shall not be. Why, what good is learning, or
elegance of manner, or painfully acquired fineness of speech, and taste
and point of view, if you are not going to distil it into the growing
plants, the only real hope we have in the world! You know, Miss Paget,"
his smile was very sweet, in the half darkness, "there's a higher
tribunal than the social tribunal of this world, after all; and it
seems to me that a woman who stands there, as your mother will, with a
forest of new lives about her, and a record like hers, will — will
find she has a Friend at court!" he finished whimsically.
They were at a lonely corner, and a garden fence offering Margaret
a convenient support, she laid her arms suddenly upon the rosevine that
covered it, and her face upon her arms, and cried as if her heart was
"Why, why — my dear girl!" the professor said, aghast. He laid his
hand on the shaking shoulders, but Margaret shook it off.
"I'm not what you think I am!" she sobbed out, incoherently. "I'm
not different from other women; I'm just as selfish and bad and mean as
the worst of them! And I'm not worthy to t-tie my m-mother's shoes!"
"Margaret!" John Tenison said unsteadily. And in a flash her
drooping bright head was close to his lips, and both his big arms were
about her. "You know I love you, don't you Margaret?" he said hoarsely,
over and over, with a sort of fierce intensity. "You know that, don't
you? Don't you, Margaret?"
Margaret could not speak. Emotion swept her like a rising tide from
all her familiar moorings; her heart thundered, there was a roaring in
her ears. She was conscious of a wild desire to answer him, to say one
hundredth part of all she felt; but she could only rest, breathless,
against him, her frightened eyes held by the eyes so near, his arms
"You do, don't you, Margaret?" he said more gently. "You love me,
don't you? Don't you?"
And after a long time, or what seemed a long time, while they stood
motionless in the summer night, with the great branches of the trees
moving a little overhead, and garden scents creeping out on the damp
air, Margaret said, with a sort of breathless catch in her voice: —
"You know I do!" And with the words the fright left her eyes, and
happy tears filled them, and she raised her face to his.
Coming back from the train half an hour later, she walked between a
new heaven and a new earth! The friendly stars seemed just overhead; a
thousand delicious odors came from garden beds and recently watered
lawns. She moved through the confusion that always attended the
settling down of the Pagets for the night, like one in a dream, and was
glad to find herself at last lying in the darkness beside the sleeping
Rebecca again. Now, now, she could think!
But it was all too wonderful for reasonable thought. Margaret
clasped both her hands against her rising heart. He loved her. She
could think of the very words he had used in telling her, over and over
again. She need no longer wonder and dream and despair: he had said it.
He loved her, had loved her from the very first. His old aunt suspected
it, and his chum suspected it, and he had thought Margaret knew it. And
beside him in that brilliant career that she had followed so wistfully
in her dreams, Margaret saw herself, his wife. Young and clever and
good to look upon, — yes, she was free to-night to admit herself all
these good things for his sake! — and his wife, mounting as he mounted
beside the one man in the world she had elected to admire and love.
"Doctor and Mrs. John Tenison " — so it would be written. "Doctor
Tenison's wife" — "This is Mrs. Tenison" — she seemed already to hear
the magical sound of it!
Love — what a wonderful thing it was! How good God was to send
this best of all gifts to her! She thought how it belittled the other
good things of the world. She asked no more of life, now; she was loved
by a good man, and a great man, and she was to be his wife. Ah, the
happy years together that would date from to-night, — Margaret was
thrilling already to their delights. "For better or worse," the old
words came to her with a new meaning. There would be no worse, she said
to herself with sudden conviction, — how could there be? Poverty,
privation, sickness might come, — but to bear them with John, — to
comfort and sustain him, to be shut away with him from all the world
but the world of their own four walls, — why, that would be the
greatest happiness of all! What hardship could be hard that knitted
their two hearts closer together; what road too steep if they essayed
it hand in hand?
And that — her confused thoughts ran on — that was what had
changed all life for Julie. She had forgotten Europe, forgotten all the
idle ambitions of her girlhood, because she loved her husband; and now
the new miracle was to come to her, — the miracle of a child, the
little perfect promise of the days to come. How marvellous — how
marvellous it was! The little imperative, helpless third person,
bringing to radiant youth and irresponsibility the terrors of danger
and anguish, and the great final joy, to share together. That was life.
Julie was living; and although Margaret's own heart was not yet a
wife's, and she could not yet find room for the love beyond that, still
she was strangely, deeply stirred now by a longing for all the
experiences that life held.
How she loved everything and everybody to-night, — how she loved
just being alive — just being Margaret Paget, lying here in the dark
dreaming and thinking. There was no one in the world with whom she
would change places to-night! Margaret found herself thinking of one
woman of her acquaintance after another, — and her own future,
opening all color of rose before her, seemed to her the one enviable
path through the world.
In just one day, she realized with vague wonder, her slowly formed
theories had been set at naught, her whole philosophy turned upside
down. Had these years of protest and rebellion done no more than lead
her in a wide circle, past empty gain, and joyless mirth, and the dead
sea fruit of riches and idleness, back to her mother's knees again? She
had met brilliant women, rich women, courted women — but where among
them was one whose face had ever shone as her mother's shone to-day?
The overdressed, idle dowagers; the matrons, with their too-gay frocks,
their too-full days, their too-rich food; the girls, all crudeness,
artifice, all scheming openly for their own advantage, — where among
them all was happiness? Where among them was one whom Margaret had
heard say — as she had heard her mother say so many, many times, —
"Children, this is a happy day," — "Thank God for another lovely
Sunday all together," — "Isn't it lovely to get up and find the sun
shining?" — "Isn't it good to come home hungry to such a nice dinner!"
And what a share of happiness her mother had given the world! How
she had planned and worked for them all, — Margaret let her arm fall
across the sudden ache in her eyes as she thought of the Christmas
mornings, and the stuffed stockings at the fireplace that proved every
childish wish remembered, every little hidden hope guessed! Darling
Mother — she hadn't had much money for those Christmas stockings, they
must have been carefully planned, down to the last candy cane. And how
her face would beam, as she sat at the breakfast-table, enjoying her
belated coffee, after the cold walk to church, and responding warmly to
the onslaught of kisses and bugs that added fresh color to her cold,
rosy cheeks! What a mother she was, — Margaret remembered her making
them all help her clear up the Christmas disorder of tissue paper and
ribbons; then came the inevitable bed making, then tippets and
overshoes, for a long walk with Dad. They would come back to find the
dining-room warm, the long table set, the house deliciously fragrant
from the immense turkey that their mother, a fresh apron over her
holiday gown, was basting at the oven. Then came the feast, and then
games until twilight, and more table-setting; and the baby, whoever he
was, was tucked away upstairs before tea, and the evening ended with
singing, gathered about Mother at the piano.
"How happy we all were!" Margaret said; "and how she worked for
And suddenly theories and speculation ended, and she knew. She knew
that faithful, self-forgetting service, and the love that spends itself
over and over, only to be renewed again and again, are the secret of
happiness. For another world, perhaps, leisure and beauty and luxury —
but in this one, "Who loses his life shall gain it." Margaret knew now
that her mother was not only the truest, the finest, the most generous
woman she had ever known, but the happiest as well.
She thought of other women like her mother; she suddenly saw what
made their lives beautiful. She could understand now why Emily Porter,
her old brave little associate of school-teaching days, was always
bright, why Mary Page, plodding home from the long day at the library
desk to her little cottage and crippled sister, at night, always made
one feel the better and happier for meeting her.
Mrs. Carr-Boldt's days were crowded to the last instant, it was
true; but what a farce it was, after all, Margaret said to herself in
all honesty, to humor her in her little favorite belief that she was a
busy woman! Milliner, manicure, butler, chef, club, card-table,
tea-table, — these and a thousand things like them filled her day, and
they might all be swept away in an hour, and leave no one the worse.
Suppose her own summons came; there would be a little flurry throughout
the great establishment, legal matters to settle, notes of thanks to be
written for flowers. Margaret could imagine Victoria and Harriet, awed
but otherwise unaffected, home from school in midweek, and to be sent
back before the next Monday. Their lives would go on unchanged, their
mother had never buttered bread for them, never schemed for their boots
and hats, never watched their work and play, and called them to her
knees for praise and blame. Mr. Carr-Boldt would have his club, his
business, his yacht, his motor-cars, — he was well accustomed to
living in cheerful independence of family claims.
But life without Mother — ! In a sick moment of revelation,
Margaret saw it. She saw them gathering in the horrible emptiness and
silence of the house Mother had kept so warm and bright, she saw her
father's stooped shoulders and trembling hands, she saw Julie and Beck,
red-eyed, white-cheeked, in fresh black, — she seemed to hear the
low-toned voices that would break over and over again so cruelly into
sobs. What could they do — who could take up the work she laid down,
— who would watch and plan and work for them all, now? Margaret
thought of the empty place at the table, of the room that, after all
these years, was no longer "Mother's room — "
Oh, no — no — no! — She began to cry bitterly in the dark. No,
please God, they would hold her safe with them for many years. Mother
should live to see some of the fruits of the long labor of love. She
should know that with every fresh step in life, with every deepening
experience, her children grew to love her better, turned to her more
and more! There would be Christmases as sweet as the old ones, if not
so gay; there would come a day — Margaret's whole being thrilled to
the thought — when little forms would run ahead of John and herself up
the worn path, and when their children would be gathered in Mother's
experienced arms! Did life hold a more exquisite moment, she wondered,
than that in which she would hear her mother praise them!
All her old castles in the air seemed cheap and tinselled to-night,
beside these tender dreams that had their roots in the real truths of
life. Travel and position, gowns and motor-cars, yachts and country
houses, these things were to be bought in all their perfection by the
highest bidder, and always would be. But love and character and
service, home and the wonderful charge of little lives, — the "pure
religion breathing household laws" that guided and perfected the
whole, — these were not to be bought, they were only to be prayed for,
worked for, bravely won.
"God has been very good to me," Margaret said to herself very
seriously; and in her old childish fashion she made some new resolves.
From now on, she thought, with a fervor that made it seem half
accomplished, she would be a very different woman. If joy came, she
would share it as far as she could; if sorrow, she would show her
mother that her daughter was not all unworthy of her. To-morrow, she
thought, she would go and see Julie. Dear old Ju, whose heart was so
full of the little Margaret! Margaret had a sudden tender memory of the
days when Theodore and Duncan and Rob were all babies in turn. Her
mother would gather the little daily supply of fresh clothes from
bureau and chest every morning, and carry the little bath-tub into the
sunny nursery window, and sit there with only a bobbing downy head and
waving pink angers visible from the great warm bundle of bath apron....
Ju would be doing that now.
And she had sometimes wished, or half formed the wish, that she and
Bruce bad been the only ones — ! Yes, came the sudden thought, but it
wouldn't have been Bruce and Margaret, after all, it would have been
Bruce and Charlie.
Good God! That was what women did, then, when they denied the right
of life to the distant, unwanted, possible little person! Calmly,
constantly, in all placid philosophy and self-justification, they kept
from the world — not only the troublesome new baby, with his tears and
his illnesses, his merciless exactions, his endless claim on mind and
body and spirit — but perhaps the glowing beauty of a Rebecca, the
buoyant indomitable spirit of a Ted, the sturdy charm of a small
Robert, whose grip on life, whose energy and ambition were as strong as
Margaret stirred uneasily, frowned in the dark. It seemed perfectly
incredible, it seemed perfectly impossible that if Mother had had only
the two — and how many thousands of women didn't have that! — she,
Margaret, a pronounced and separate entity, travelled, ambitious, and
to be the wife of one of the world's great men, might not have been
lying here in the summer night, rich in love and youth and beauty and
It was all puzzling, all too big for her to understand. But she
could do what Mother did, just take the nearest duty and fulfil it, and
sleep well, and rise joyfully to fresh effort.
Margaret felt as if she would never sleep again. The summer night
was cool, she was cramped and chilly; but still her thoughts raced on,
and she could not shut her eyes. She turned and pressed her face
resolutely into the pillow, and with a great sigh renounced the joys
and sorrows, the lessons and the awakening that the long day had held.
A second later there was a gentle rustle at the door.
"Mark — " a voice whispered. "Can't you sleep?"
Margaret locked her arms tight about her mother, as the older woman
knelt beside her.
"Why, how cold you are, sweetheart!" her mother protested, tucking
covers about her. "I thought I heard you sigh! I got up to lock the
stairway door; Baby's gotten a trick of walking in his sleep when he's
overtired. It's nearly one o'clock, Mark! What have you been doing?"
"Thinking." Margaret put her lips close to her mother's ear.
"Mother — " she stammered and stopped. Mrs. Paget kissed her.
"Daddy and I thought so," she said simply; and further announcement
was not needed. "My darling little girl!" she added tenderly; and then,
after a silence, "He is very fine, Mark, so unaffected, so gentle and
nice with the boys. I — I think I'm glad, Mark. I lose my girl, but
there's no happiness like a happy marriage, dear."
"No, you won't lose me, Mother," Margaret said, clinging very
close. "We hadn't much time to talk, but this much we did decide. You
see, John — John goes to Germany for a year, next July. So we thought
— in June or July, Mother, just as Julie's was! Just a little wedding
like Ju's. You see, that's better than interrupting the term, or trying
to settle down, when we'd have to move in July. And, Mother, I'm going
to write Mrs. Carr-Boldt, — she can get a thousand girls to take my
place, her niece is dying to do it! — and I'm going to take my old
school here for the term. Mr. Forbes spoke to me about it after church
this morning; they want me back. I want this year at home; I want to
see more of Bruce and Ju, and sort of stand by darling little Beck! But
it's for you, most of all, Mother," said Margaret, with difficulty.
"I've always loved you, Mother, but you don't know how wonderful I
think you are — " She broke off pitifully, "Ah, Mother!"
For her mother's arms had tightened convulsively about her, and the
face against her own was wet.
"Are you talking?" said Rebecca, rearing herself up suddenly, with
a web of bright hair falling over her shoulder. "You said your prayers
on Mark last night — " said she, reproachfully, "come over and say
them on me to-night, Mother."