by Ethel M. Kelley
[Illustration: Ifif you've made a woman really care"]
ETHEL M. KELLEY
Over Here, Turn About Eleanor, Etc.
With Frontispiece by
W. B. KING
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Printed in the United States of America
PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH &CO.
BROOKLYN, N. Y.
CHAPTER I. A
CHAPTER VI. AN
CHAPTER X. THE
THE HAPPIEST DAY
CLOUDS OF GLORY
CHAPTER I. A GOOD LITTLE DREAM
I Elijah Peebles Martin, of the city and county of Harrison, in the
state of Rhode Island, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do
make and declare the following, as and for, my last will and
testament.' ... I wish you'd take your head out of that barrel, Nancy,
and listen to the document that is going to make you rich beyond the
dreams of avarice.
I was beyond them anyway. The young woman in blue serge made one
last effectual dive into the depths of excelsior, the topmost billows
of which were surging untidily over the edge of a big crate in the
middle of the basement floor, and secured a nest of blue and rose
colored teacups, which she proceeded to unwrap lovingly and display on
a convenient packing box. Not one single thing broken in this whole
lot, Billy.... What is a disposing mind and memory, anyhow?
You don't deserve to know, the blond young man in the Norfolk
jacket assured her, adjusting himself more firmly to the idiosyncrasies
of the rackety step-ladder he was striding. You're not human about
this. Here you are suddenly in possession of a fortune. Money enough to
make you independently wealthy for the rest of your lifemoney you
didn't know the existence of, two weeks agofed to you by a gratuitous
providence. A legacy is a legacy, and deserves to be treated as such,
and I propose to see that it gets what it deserves, without any more
I'm a busy woman, Nancy groaned, and I've hammered my finger to a
pulp, trying to open this crate, while you perch on a broken
step-ladder and prate to me of legacies. The saucers to these cups may
be in here, and I can't wait to find out. I'm perfectly crazy about
this ware. It's EnglishWedgewood, you know.
I didn't know. Billy resignedly let himself to the floor, and
appropriated the screwdriver. I thought Wedgewood was dove color, and
consisted chiefly of ladies in deshabille, doing the tango on a parlor
ornament. I smashed one in my youth, so I know. There, it's open now. I
may as well unpack what's here. These seem to be demi-tasses.
'You may tempt your upper classes,
With your villainous demi-tasses.
But Heaven will protect the working girl,'
he finished lugubriously, in a wailing baritone, taking an imaginary
encore by bowing a head picturesquely adorned with a crop of excelsior
curls, accumulated during his activities in and about the barrel.
The trouble with the average tea-room, or Arts and Crafts table
d'hôte, Nancy said, sinking into the depths of a broken armchair in
the corner of the dim, overcrowded interior, is that when the pinch
comes, quantity is sacrificed to quality. Smaller portions of food, and
chipped chinaware. People who can't keep a place up, let it run down
genteelly. They won't compromise on quality. I should never be like
that. I should go to the ten-cent stores and replenish my whole
establishment, if I couldn't make it pay with imported ware and
Colonial silver. I'd never go to the other extreme. I'd never be so
perceptibly second-rate, but in the matter of furnishings as well as
food values, I'd find my perfect balance between quality and quantity,
and keep it.
I believe you would. You are a thorough child, when you set about a
thing. I'll bet you know the restaurant business from A to Z.
I do. You know, I studied the organization of every well-run
restaurant in New York, when I was doing field work from Teachers'
College. I've read every book on the subject of Diet and Nutrition and
Domestic Economy that I could get my hands on. I'm just ready now for
the practical application of all my theories.
Nancy Calory Martin is your real name. I don't blame you for hating
to give up this tea-room idea. You've dug so deep into the
possibilities of it, that you want to go through. I get that.
Nancy's eyes widened in satiric admiration.
You could understand almost anything, couldn't you, Billy? she
All I want now, Billy continued imperturbably, is a chance to
make you understand something. He smote the document in his
left hand. Of course, your uncle's lawyer has explained all the
details in his letters to you, but if you won't read the letters or
familiarize yourself with the contents of this will, somebody has got
to explain it to you in words of one syllable. My legal training,
slight as it is
Sketchy is the better word, don't you think so, Billy?
Slight as it isexcept for a prodigious frown, Billy ignored the
interruption, though he took advantage of her suddenly upright position
to encircle her neatly with a barrel hoop, as if she were the iron peg
in a game of quoitsenables me to put the fact before you in a few
short, sharp, well-chosen sentences. I won't again attempt to read the
You'd better not, Nancy interrupted witheringly, your delivery is
poor. Besides, I don't want to know what is in that will. If I had, it
stands to reason that I would have found out long before this. I've had
it three days.
You've had it three days and never once looked into it? Billy
groaned. Who started all this scandal about the curiosity of women,
I don't want to know what's in it, Nancy insisted. As long as I'm
not in possession of any definite facts, I can ignore it. I've got the
kind of mind that must deal with concrete facts concretely.
Billy grinned. I'd hate the job of trying to subpoena you, he
said, but you'd make a corking good witness, on the stand. Of course,
you can proceed for a certain length of time on the theory that what
you don't know can't hurt you, but take it from me, little girl, what
you ought to know and don't know is the thing that's bound to hurt you
most tremendously in the long run. What are you afraid of, anyway,
I'm not afraid of anything, Nancy corrected him, with some
heat. I just plain don't want to be interrupted at this stage of my
career. I consider it an impertinence of Uncle Elijah, to make me his
heir. I never saw him but once, and I had no desire to see him that
time. It was about ten years ago, and I caught a grippe germ from him.
He told me between sneezes that I was too big a girl to wear a mess of
hair streaming down my back like a baby. I stuck out my tongue at him,
but he was too near-sighted to see it. Why couldn't he have left his
money to an eye and ear infirmary? Or the Sailors' Snug Retreat?
If you really don't want the money, Billy said, it's your
privilege to endow some institution
You know very well that I can't get rid of money that way, Nancy
cried hotly. I am at least a responsible person. I don't believe in
these promiscuous, eleemosynary institutions. It would be against all
my principles to contribute money to any such philanthropy. I know too
much about thembut he didn't. He could have disposed of his money to
any one of a dozen of these mid-Victorian charities, but nohe was
just one of those old parties that want to shift their responsibilities
on to young shoulders, and so he chose mine.
You don't speak very kindly of your dear dead relative.
I don't feel very kindly toward him. He was a meddling old
creature. He never gave any member of the family a cent when they
wanted it and needed it. Now that I've just got my life in shape, and
know what I want to do with it without being beholden to anybody on
earth, he leaves me a whole lot of superfluous money.
If I weren't engaged to Caroline, who is a jealous woman, though I
say it as shouldn't, I'd be tempted to undertake the management of your
fortune myself, Billy said reflectively; as it ishonor
I know what I want to do with my life, Nancy continued, as if he
had not spoken. I want to run an efficiency tea-room and serve dinner
and breakfast and tea to my fellow men and women. I want the perfectly
balanced ration, perfectly served, to be my contribution to the cause
She looked about her ruefully. The sun, through the barred dusty
windows, struck in long slant rays, athwart the confusion of the
cellar, illuminating piles upon piles of gay, blue latticed
chinaware,cups set out methodically in rows on the lids and bottoms
of packing boxes; assorted sizes of plates and saucers, graded
pyramidically, rising from the floor. There were also individual copper
casseroles and serving dishes, and a heterogeneous assortment of
Japanese basketry tangled in excelsior and tissue. A wandering sunbeam
took her hair, displaying its amber, translucent quality.
I've just got capital enough to get it going right; to swing it for
the first year, even if I don't make a cent on it. It's my one big
chance to do my share in the world, and to work out my own salvation.
This legacy is a menace to all my dreams and plans.
I see that, Billy said. What I don't see is what you gain by
refusing to let it catch up with you.
You're not it till you're tagged. That's all. If I don't know
whether my income is going to be five thousand dollars or twenty-five
thousand a year, I can go on unpacking teacups with
Five thousand or twenty-fivemy darling Nancy! You'll have fifty
thousand a year at the very lowest estimate. The actual money is more
than five hundred thousand dollars. The stock in the Union Rubber
Company will amount to as much again, maybe twice as much. You're a
real heiress, my dear, with wads of real money to show for it. That's
what I'm trying to tell you.
Fifty thousand a year! Nancy turned a shocked face, from which the
color slowly drained, leaving it blue-white. Fifty thousand a year!
You're mad. It can't be!
Yes'um. Fifty thousand at least.
Nancy's pallor increased. She closed her eyes.
Don't do that, Billy said sharply. No woman can faint on me just
because she's had money left her. You make me feel like the ghost of
Nancy clutched at his sleeve.
Don't, Billy! she besought. I'm past joking now. Fifty thousand a
year! Why, Uncle Elijah bought fifteen-dollar suits and fifteen-cent
lunches. How could a retired sea captain get all that money by
investing in a little rubber, and getting to be president of a little
That's how. Be a good sensible girl, and face the music.
I'll have to give up the tea-room.
Billy laid a consolatory arm over her shoulder, and patted her
Cheer up, he said, there's worse things in this world than money.
The time may come when you'll be grateful to your poor little old
uncle, for his nifty little fifty thousand per annum.
Nancy turned a tragic face to him.
I tell you I'm not grateful to him, she said, and I doubt if I
ever will be. I don't want the stupid money. I want to work life out in
my own way. I know I've got it in me, and I want my chance to prove it.
I want to give myself, my own brain and strength, to the job I've
selected as mine. Now, it's all spoiled for me. I'm subsidized. I'm
done for, and I can't see any way out of it.
You can give the money away.
I can't. Giving money away is a special science of itself. If I
devote my life to doing that as it should be done, I won't have time or
energy for anything else. I'm not a philanthropist in that sense. I
wanted my restaurant to be philanthropic only incidentally. I wanted to
cram my patrons with the full value of their money's worth of good
nourishing food; to increase the efficiency of hundreds of people who
never suspected I was doing it, by scientific methods of feeding.
That's my dream.
A good little dream, all right.
To make people eat the right food; to help them to a fuller and
more effective use of themselves by supplying them with the proper fuel
for their functions.
You could buy a chain of restaurants with the money you've got.
I don't want a chain of restaurants.
You can endow a perpetual diet squad. You can buy out the whole
Life Extension Institute. If you would only stop to think of the
advantages of having all the money you wanted to spend on anything you
Billy, Nancy said solemnly, I've been through all that. If I had
thought I would have been a better person with a great deal of money at
my disposal, II might have
Married Dick, Billy finished for her. I forgot that interesting
possibility. I suppose to a girl who has just turned down a cold five
millions, this meager little propositionhe flourished the crumpled
document in his handhas no real allure. Lord! What a world this is.
You'll marry Dick yet. Them as hasgits. It never rains but it
pours. To the victor belong the spoils, et cetera, et cetera
Money simply does not interest me.
Dick interests you. I don't know to what extent, but he interests
Don't be sentimental, Billy. Just because you're in love with
Caroline, you can't make all your other friends marry each other. Tell
me what to do about this legacy. What is customary when you get a lump
of money like that? I suppose I'll have to begin to get rid of all
this immediately. There was more than a hint of tears in her
voice, but she smiled at Billy bravely. I'm so perfectly crazy about
thesethese cups and saucers, Billy. See the lovely way that rose is
split to fit into the design. Oh, when do I come into possession,
You don't come into possession right away, you know. You don't
inherit for a couple of years, under the Rhode Island law. The
formalities will take
Billy Boynton, do you mean to say that I won't have to do a blessed
thing about this money for two years? Nancy shrieked.
Why, no. It takes a certain amount of red tape to settle an estate,
to probate a will, etc., and the law allows a period of time, varying
in different states
Oho! Is there anything in all this universe so stupid as a man?
Nancy interrupted fervently. Why didn't you tell me that before? Do
you suppose I care how much money I have two years from now? Two years
of freedom, why, that's all I want, Billy. There you've been sitting up
winking and blinking at me like a sympathetic old owl, when all I
needed to know was that I had two years of grace. Of course, I'll go on
with my tea-room, and not a soul shall know the difference.
While the feminine temperament has my hearty admiration and my most
cordial endorsement, Billy murmured, there are things about it
I won't have to tell anybody, will I?
There's no law to that effect. If your friends don't know it from
you, they're not likely to hear it.
I haven't mentioned it, Nancy said. I only told you, because it
seemed rather in your line of work, and I was getting so much mail
about it, I thought it would be wise to have some one look it over.
I've given up my law practice and Caroline for three days in your
You've done more than well, Billy, and I'm grateful to you. Of
course, you would have saved me days of nervous wear and tear if it had
only occurred to you to tell me the one simple little thing that was
the essential point of the whole matter. If I had known that I didn't
inherit for two years, I wouldn't have cared what was in that
Billy stared at her feelingly.
A peculiar sensation always comes over me, he said musingly,
after I spend several hours uninterruptedly in the society of a woman
who is using her mind in any way. I couldn't explain it to you exactly.
It's a kind of impression that my own brain has begun to disintegrate,
Don't be too hard on yourself, Billy. Nancy soothed him
sweetly,Billy was not one of the people to whom she habitually
allowed full conversational leeway: Swear you won't tell Caroline or
Nancy held out her hand to him.
You're a good boy, she said, and I appreciate you, which is more
than Caroline does, I'm afraid. Run along and see her nowI don't need
you any more, and you're probably dying to.
Billy bowed over her hand, lingeringly and politely, but once
releasing it, he shook his big frame, and straightening up, drew a long
deep breath of something very like relief.
With all deference to your delightful sex, he said, the only
society that I'm dying for at the present moment is that of the old
As Billy left her, Nancy turned to her basement window, and stood
looking out at the quaint stone court he had to cross in order to reach
the high gate that guarded the entrance to the marble worker's
establishment, under the shadow of which it was her intention to open
her out-of-door tea-room. She watched him dreamily is he made his way
among the cinerary urns, the busts and statues and bas-reliefs that
were a part of the stock in trade of her incongruous business
In her investigation of the various sorts and conditions of
restaurants in New York, she characteristically hit upon the garden
restaurant, a commonplace in the down-town table d'hôte district, as
the ideal setting for her adventure in practical philanthropy, while
the ubiquitous tea-room and antique-shop combination gave her the
inspiration to stage her own undertaking even more spectacularly. Her
enterprise was destined to flourish picturesquely in the open court
during the fair months of the year, and in the winter months, or in the
event of a bad storm, to be housed under the eaves in the rambling
garret of the old brick building, the lower floor of which was given
over to traffic in marbles.
She sighed happily. Billy, extricating himself from the grasp of an
outstretched marble hand, which bad seemed to clutch desperately at his
elbow, and narrowly escaping a plunge into a too convenient bird's
bath, turned to see her eyes following him, and waved gaily, but she
scarcely realized that he had done so. It was rather with the eye of
her mind that she was contemplating the dark, quadrangular area
outstretched before her. In spirit she was moving to and fro among the
statuary, bringing a housewifely order out of the chaos that
prevailed,placing stone ladies draped in stone or otherwise; cherubic
babies, destined to perpetual cold water bathing; strange mortuary
furniture, in the juxtaposition that would make the most effective
background for her enterprise.
She saw the gritty, gray paving stones of the court cleared of their
litter, and scoured free from discoloration and grime, set with dozens
of little tables immaculate in snowy napery and shiny silver, and
arranged with careful irregularity at the most alluring angle. She saw
a staff of Hebe-like waitresses in blue chambray and pink ribbons, to
match the chinaware, and all bearing a marked resemblance to herself in
her last flattering photograph, moving among a crowd of well brought up
but palpably impoverished young people,mostly social workers and
artists. They were all young, and most of them very beautiful.
In all her twenty-five years, she had never before been so close to a
vision realized, as she was at that moment.
Outside Inn, she said to herself, still smiling. It's a perfect
name for it, really. Outside Inn!
CHAPTER II. APPLICANTS FOR BLUE
Ann Martin was an orphan of New England extraction. Her father, the
eldest child of a simple unpretentious country family in Western
Massachusetts, had been a brilliant but erratic throw-back to Mayflower
traditions and Puritan intellectualism. He had married a girl with much
the same ancestry as his own, but herself born and brought up in New
York, and of a generation to which the assumption of prerogative was a
natural rather than an acquired characteristic. The possession of a
comfortable degree of fortune and culture was a matter of course with
Ann Winslow, while to poor David Martin education in the finer things
of life, and the opportunity to indulge his taste in the choice of
surroundings and associates, were hard-won privileges.
Both parents had been killed in a railroad accident when Ann, or
Nancy as her mother had insisted on calling her from the day of her
christening, was about seven years old. She had been placed in the care
of a maternal aunt, and had flourished in the heart of a well ordered
establishment of the mid-Victorian type, run by a vigorous, rather
worldly old lady.
From her lovely motherAnn Winslow had been more than a merely
attractive or pretty woman; she had the real grace and distinction, and
purity of profile that placed her in the actual category of
beauty,Nancy had inherited a healthy and equitable outlook on life,
while her father, irresistible and impracticable being that he was, had
endowed her with a certain eccentric and adventurous spirit in the
investigation of it.
She had been educated in a boarding-school, forty minutes' run from
New York, and had specialized in the domestic sciences and basket ball;
and on attaining her majority had taken up a course or two at Columbia,
rather more to put off the evil day of assuming the responsibility of
the stuffy, stately old house in Washington Square than because she
ever expected to make any use of her superfluous education. She was
conceded by every one to be her aunt's heir, but old Miss Winslow died
intestate, very suddenly in Nancy's twenty-third year; and the
beneficiaries of this accident, most of them extremely well-to-do
themselves, combined to make Nancy a regular allowance until she was
twenty-five. On her twenty-fifth birthday fifteen thousand dollars was
deposited to her account in the Trust Company which conserved the
family fortunes of the Winslows, and Nancy understood that they
considered their duty by her to be done. It was with this fifteen
thousand dollars that she was to inaugurate her darling
Money, as she had truthfully told Billy, meant nothing to her. Her
aunt, living and giving generously, had furnished her with a background
of comfortable, unostentatious well being, against which the rather
vivid elements that went to make up her intimate social circleshe was
a creature of intimatesstood out in alluring relief. She had
literally never wanted for anything. Her tastes, to be sure, were
modest, but the wherewithal to gratify them had always been almost
stultifyingly near at hand. The excitement and adventure of an income
to which there was attached some uncertainty had never been hers, and
she was too much her father's daughter to be interested in the playing
of any game in which she could not lose. With all she possessed staked
against her untried business acumen she was for the first time in her
life concerned with her financial situation, and quite honestly
resentful of any interruption of her experiment. Her life was closely
associated with her mother's family. Her father's people had at no time
entered into her scheme of living,her uncle Elijah less than any
member of it, and she found his post-obit intervention in her affairs
embarrassing in a dozen different connections.
The best friend she had in the world, before he had made the
tactical error of asking her to marry him, was Richard Thorndyke. He
was still, thanks to his immediate skill in trying to retrieve that
error, a very good friend indeed. Nancy would normally have told him
everything that happened to her in the exact order of its occurrence;
but partly because she did not wish to exaggerate her eccentricity in
eyes that looked upon her so kindly, and partly because she had the
instinct to spare him the realization that there was no way in which he
might come to her rescue in the event of disaster,she did not inform
him of her legacy. She knew that he was shrewdly calculating to stand
behind her venture, morally and practically, and that the chief
incentive of his encouragement and helpfulness was the hidden hope that
through her experiment and its probable unfortunate termination she
would learn to depend on him. Nancy was so sure of herself that
this attitude of Dick's roused her tenderness instead of her ire.
The two girls who were closest to her, Caroline Eustace and Betty
Pope, had been actively enlisted in the service of Outside Inn and the
ideals that it represented. Betty, a dimpling, dynamic little being,
who took a sporting interest in any project that interested her,
irrespective of its merits, was to be associated with Nancy in the
actual management of the restaurant. Caroline, who took herself more
seriously, and was busy with a dozen enterprises that had to do with
the welfare of the race, was concerned chiefly with the humanitarian
side of the undertaking and willing to deflect to it only such energy
as she felt to be essential to its scientific betterment. She was
tentatively engaged to Billy Boynton,for what reason no onenot even
Billyhad been able to determine; since she systematically disregarded
him in relation to all the interests and activities that went to make
up her life.
The affairs of the Inn progressed rapidly. It was in the first week
of May that Nancy and Billy had their memorable discussion of her
situation. By the latter part of June, when she could be reasonably
sure of a succession of propitious days and nights, for she had set her
heart on balmy weather conditions, Nancy expected to have her formal
opening,a dinner which not only initiated her establishment, but
submitted it to the approval of her own group of intimate friends, who
were to be her guests on that occasion.
Meantime, the most extensive and discriminating preparations were
going forward. Billy and Dick were present one afternoon by special
request when Betty and Nancy were interviewing a contingent of
We've got three perfectly charming girls already, Nancy said,
that is, girls that look perfectly charming to me, but a man's point
of view on a woman's looks is so different that I thought it would be a
good plan to have you boys look over this lot. They are all very
high-class and competent girls. The Manning Agency doesn't send any
Trot 'em along, Billy said; where are they anyway?
In the room in front. They were in the smallest of the nest of
attic rooms that Nancy planned to make her winter quarters. Michael
receives them, and shows them in here one by one.
You like Michael then? Dick asked. I always said his talents were
hidden at our place. He has a soul above the job of handy man on a Long
He's certainly a handy man here, Nancy said; I couldn't live
The lucky dog, Billy said, with a side glance at Dick.
You see, Betty explained, the girl comes in, and we ask her
questions. Then if I don't like her I take my pencil from behind my
ear, and rap against my palm with it. If Nancy doesn't like her she
says, 'You're losing a hairpin, Betty.' If we like her we rub our hands
It's a good system, Billy said, but I don't see why Nancy doesn't
take her pencil from behind her ear, or why you don't say to her
I wouldn't put a pencil behind my ear, Nancy said scathingly.
And she never loses a hairpin, Betty cut in. If I approve this
system of signals I don't see what you have to complain of. Nancy
couldn't get a pencil behind her ear even if she wanted to. It's only a
criminal ear like mine that accommodates a pencil.
Speaking of ears, Dick said, looking at his watch, let's get on
with the beauty show. I have to take my mother to see Boris
to-night, and she has an odd notion of being on time.
Aw right, Betty said. Here's Michael. Bring in the first one
Sure an' I will that, Miss Pope. The old family servitor of the
Thorndykes pulled a deliberate lid over a twinkling left eye by way of
acknowledging the presence of his young master. There's quite a
display of thim this time.
The first applicant, guided thus by Michael, appeared on the
threshold and stood for a moment framed in the low doorway. Seeing two
gentlemen present she carefully arranged her expression to meet that
contingency. She was a blonde girl with masses of doubtfully tinted
hair and no chin, but her eyes were very blue and matched a chain of
turquoise beads about her throat, and she radiated a peculiar vitality.
Betty took her pencil from behind her ear.
You're losing a hair Nancy began, but Dick and Billy exchanged
glances and began rubbing their hands together energetically and
I'm sorry, Nancy said crisply, but you're a little too tall for
And too blonde, Betty added with a bland dismissing smile. We're
looking for a special type of girl.
I understood you were looking for a waitress, the girl said
pertly, with her eyes on Billy.
I was, Billy answered, but I'm not now. Mymy wife won't let
me. He waved an inclusive hand in the direction of Nancy and Betty.
If you don't behave, Nancy said, while they waited for Michael to
bring in the next girl, you can't stay. If that is the kind of girl
you men find attractive then my restaurant is doomed from the
beginning. I wouldn't have that girl in my employ for
Before she could begin again, applicant number two stood before
them,a comfortable, kind-eyed girl, no longer very young but with
efficiency written all over her, despite the shyness that beset her.
Nancy rubbed her hands with satisfaction and looked at Betty, who
beamed back at her. The girl, encouraged by Nancy's kindly smile took a
step forward, and began to recite her qualifications for the position.
Dick fumbled with a fountain-pen which he placed elaborately behind his
ear for an instant, and then as ostentatiously removed.
I think you're losing a hairpin, Dick, Billy suggested
solicitously, as Nancy, ignoring their existence entirely, proceeded to
make terms with the newcomer.
The next girl created a diversionbeing palpably an adventuress out
of a job and impressing none of the quartette as being interesting
enough to deserve one,but the two girls who followed her were bright
and sprightly creatures, disarmingly graceful and ingenuous, of whom
the entire quartette approved. They were twin sisters, they said, Dolly
and Molly, and they had always had places together ever since they had
begun working out.
Tell me, pretty maiden, are there any more at home like
Billy was addressing Molly gravely when Dick slipped a friendly but
firm hand over his jugular region, and cut off his utterance.
He's not feeling quite himself, he explained suavely to Dolly,
but we'll bring him around soon.I think you'll find Miss Martin an
ideal person to work for, and the salary and the hours unusually
Thank you, sir, said Molly and Dolly together, in the English
manner which showed the excellence of their training.
There were several other dubby creatures so much out of the picture
that they were not even considered, and then Michael brought in what he
called a grand girl, and left her standing statuesquely in their
With large lovely arms and a neck like a tower, Dick quoted in his
Nancy engaged her without enthusiasm.
She'll draw, she said briefly. Personally, I dislike these Alma
What the men see, Betty said, curling around the better part of
two straight dining chairs, in the moment of relaxation that followed
the final disposition of the business of the day, in a girl like that
first one is one of the mysteries of existence.
I know it, Nancy agreed, with New England colloquialism. You feel
reasonably allied to them as a sex, and then suddenly they show some
vulgar preference for a woman like that, and it's all off.
This from the woman who thinks my chauffeur is an ideal of manly
beauty, Dick scoffed, a dimpled man with a little finger ring.
He can run a car, though, Nancy retorted.
I'll bet little blue eyes could run a restaurant.
That was just the trouble,she would have been running mine in
twenty-four hours. Oh! I think what you men really like is a bossy
Now, what a woman really likes in a man Betty began, isis
Quality, Nancy finished for her succinctly.
I wonder Dick mused. I should have said finish.
Almost any kind of finish so long as it is smooth enough, Billy
supplemented. Look at the way they eat up this artistic and poetic
Look at the way they mangle their metaphors, Nancy complained to
* * * * *
I know what I really like in a woman, Dick whispered to Nancy, as
he helped her into her coat just before they started out together, and
you know what I like, too. That's one of the subjects that needs no
discussion between us.
Betty and Billy walking up the avenue ahead of them,Outside Inn
was located in one of the cross-streets in the thirties,were
discussing their relation to one another.
I wonder sometimes if Nancy's got it in her really to care for a
man, Betty argued; she's as fond as she can be of Dick, but she'd
sacrifice him heart, soul and body for that restaurant of hers. She's a
perfect darling, I don't mean that; she's the very essence of sweetness
and kindness, but she doesn't seem to understand or appreciate the
possibilities of a devotion like Dick's. Do you think she's really
capable of loving anybodyof putting any man in the world before all
her ideas and notions and experiments?
Lord, yes, said Billy, accelerating his pace, suggestively in the
hope of getting Betty home in good time for him to dress to keep his
engagement with Caroline.
CHAPTER III. INAUGURATION
Nancy's heart was beating heavily when she woke on the memorable
morning of the day that was to inaugurate the activities of Outside
Inn. A confused dream of her Uncle Elijah in tatters on a park bench,
which was instantly metamorphosed into one of the rustic seats she had
arranged against the wall along the side of some of the bigger tables
in the marble worker's court, was ostensibly the cause of the
disturbance in her cardiac region. She had, it seemed, in the
interminable tangle of nightmare, given Molly and Dolly and the Alma
Tadema girl instructions to throw out the unwelcome guest, and she was
standing by with Michael, who was assuring her that the big blonde was
certain a grand bouncer, when she was smitten with a sickening
dream-panic at her own ingratitude. He has given me everything he had
in the world, poor old man, she said to herself, and approached him
remorsefully; but when she looked at him again she saw that he had the
face and figure of a young stranger, and that the garments that had
seemed to her to be streaming and unsightly rags, were merely the
picturesque habiliments of a young artist, apparently newly translated
from the Boulevard Montparnasse. At the sight of the stranger a
heart-sinking terror seemed to take possession of her, and so, quaking
and quavering in mortal intimidation,she woke up.
She laughed at herself as she brushed the sleep out of her eyes, and
drew the gradual long breaths that soothed the physical agitation that
still beset her.
I'm scared, she said, I'm as excited and nervous as a youngster
on circus day.Oh! I'm glad the sun shines.
Nancy lived in a little apartment of her own in that hinterland of
what is now down-town New York, between the Rialto and its more
conventional prototype, Society,that is, she lived east of Broadway
on a cross-street in the forties. The maid who took care of her had
been in her aunt's employ for years, and had seen Nancy grow from her
rather spoiled babyhood to a hoydenish childhood, and so on to
soft-eyed, vibrant maturity. She was the only person who tyrannized
over Nancy. She brought her a cup of steaming hot water with a pinch of
soda in it, now.
You were moaning and groaning in your sleep, she said, in the
strident accents of her New England birthplace, so you'll have to
drink this before I give you a living thing for your breakfast.
I will, Hitty, Nancy said, and thank you kindly. Now I know
you've been making pop-overs, and are afraid they will disagree with
me. I'm gladfor I need the moral effect of them.
I dunno whether pop-overs is so moral, or so immoral if it comes to
that. I notice it's always the folks that ain't had much to do with
morals one way or the other that's so almighty glib about them.
There's a good deal in what you say, Hitty. If I had time I would
go into the matter with you, but this is my busy day. Nancy sat up in
bed, and began sipping her hot water obediently. She looked very
childlike in her straight cut, embroidered night-gown, with a long
chestnut pig-tail over either shoulder. I feel as if I were going to
be married, oror something. I'm so excited.
I guess you'd be a good sight more excited if you was going to be
marriedHitty was a widow of twenty-five years' standingand
according to my way of thinking 'twould be a good deal more suitable,
she added darkly. I don't take much stock in this hotel business. In
my day there warn't no such newfangled foolishness for a girl to take
up with instead o' getting married and settled down. When I was your
age I was working on my second set o' baby clothes.
Don't scold, Hitty, Nancy coaxed. I could make perfectly good
baby clothes if I needed to. Don't you think I'll be of more use in the
world serving nourishing food to hordes of hungry men and women than
making baby clothes for one hypothetical baby?
I dunno about the hypothetical part, Hitty said, folding back the
counterpane, inexorably. What I do know is that a girl that's getting
to be an old girllike youpast twenty-fiveought to be bestirring
herself to look for a life pardner if she don't see any hanging around
that suits her, instead of opening up a hotel for a passel of perfect
strangers. If ever I saw a woman spoiling for something of her own to
If ever there was a woman who had something of her own to
fuss over, Nancy cried ecstatically, I'm that woman to-day, Hitty.
You're a professional Puritan, and you don't understand the broader
aspects of the maternal instinct. She sprang out of bed, and tucked
her bare pink toes into the fur bordered blue mules that peeped from
under the bed, and slipped into the wadded blue silk bathrobe that lay
on the chair beside her. Is my bath drawn, Hitty?
Your bath is drawed, Hitty acknowledged sourly, and your
breakfast will be on the table in half an hour by the clock.
I suppose I must require that corrective New England influence,
Nancy said to herself, as she tried the temperature of her bath and
found it frigid, just as some people need acid in their diet. If my
mother were alive, I wonder what she would have said to me this
Nancy spent a long day directing, planning, and arranging for the
great event of the evening, the first dinner served to the public at
From the basement kitchen to the ground-floor serving-room in the
rear, space cunningly coaxed from the reluctant marble worker, the
mechanism of Nancy's equipment was as perfect as lavish expenditure and
scientific management could make it. The kitchen gleamed with copper
and granite ware; huge pots for soup and vegetables, mammoth double
boilers of white enamel,Nancy was firm in her conviction that rice
and cereal could be cooked in nothing but white enamel,rows upon rows
of shelves methodically set with containers and casseroles and
odd-shaped metal serving-dishes, as well as the ubiquitous blue and
rose-color chinaware presenting its gay surface from every available
bit of space.
Presiding over the hooded ranges, two of gas and one coal for
toasting and broiling, there was to be a huge Franco-American man-cook,
discovered in one of the Fifth Avenue pastry shops in the course of
Nancy's indefatigable tours of exploration, who was the son of a French
chef and a Virginian mother, and could express himself in the
culinary art of either his father's or his mother's nativity. His staff
of helpers and dishwashers had been chosen by himself, with what Nancy
considered most felicitous results, while her own galaxy of waitresses,
who operated the service kitchen up-stairs, proved themselves to a
woman almost unbelievably superior and efficient.
The courtyard itself was a brave spectacle in its final aspect of
background for the detail and paraphernalia of polite dining. The more
unself-conscious of the statues, the nymphs and nereids and Venuses,
she managed either to relegate to the storehouse within, or to add a
few cunningly draped vines to the nonchalance of their effect, while
the gargoyles and Roman columns and some of the least ambitious of the
fountain-models she was able to adapt delightfully to her outrageous
ideal of arrangement. Dick had denuded several smart florist shops to
furnish her with field flowers enough to develop her decorative scheme,
which included strangely the stringing of half a dozen huge Chinese
lanterns that even in the daylight took on a meteoric light and glow.
The night was clear and soft, and Fifth Avenue, ingratiatingly swept
and garnished, stretched its wake of summer allure before the never
unappreciative eyes of Billy and Caroline, and Betty and Dick
respectively, who had met at the Waldorf by appointment, and were now
making their way, thus ceremoniously and in company, to the formal
opening dinner of Nancy's Inn.
Two nondescript Pagan gentlemen of Titanesque proportions had joined
the watch of the conventional leonine twins, and the big gate now stood
hospitably open, over it swinging the new sign in gallant crimson and
white, that announced to all the world that Outside Inn was even at
that moment, at its most punctilious service.
Molly and Dolly, in the prescribed blue chambray, their cheeks
several shades pinker than their embellishment of pink ribbon, and
panting with ill-suppressed excitement, rushed forward to greet the
four and ushered them solemnly to their places,the gala table in the
center of the court, set with a profusion of fleur de lis, with pink
ribbon trainers. Thanks to Dick's carefully manipulated advertising
campaign and personal efforts among his friends and business
associates, they were not by any means the first arrivals. Half a dozen
laughing groups were distributed about the round tables in the center
space, while several tête-à-tête couples were confidentially ensconced
in corners and at cozy tables for two, craftily sheltered by some of
the most imposing of the marble figures and columns.
It seems like a real restaurant, Caroline said wonderingly.
What did you think it would seem like? Betty asked
argumentatively. Just because Nancy is the best friend you have in the
world, and you're familiar with her in pig-tails and a dressing-gown
doesn't argue that she is incapable of managing an undertaking like
this as well as if she were a perfect stranger.
I don't suppose it does, Caroline mused, but someway I'd feel
easier about a perfect stranger investing her last cent in such a
venture. I don't see how she can possibly make it pay, and I don't feel
as if I could ever have a comfortable moment again until I knew whether
she could or not.What are you looking so guilty about, Billy?
I was regretting your uncomfortable moments, Caroline, Billy said,
and wishing it were in my power to do away with them, but it isn't. I
was also musing sadly, but quite irrelevantly, on the tangled web we
weave when first we practise to deceive.
Are you deceiving Caroline in some way? Dick inquired.
No, he isn't, Caroline answered for him, though he has full
permission to if he wants.
The time may come when he will avail himself of that permission,
Betty said; you ought to be careful how you tempt Fate, Caroline.
She ought to be, Billy groaned, but the fact is that I am not one
of the things she is superstitious about. Pipe the dame at the corner
table with the lorgnette. Classy, isn't she?
Friend of my aunt's, Dick said, acknowledging the lady's salute.
And the Belasco adventuress in the corner.
My stenographer, Dick explained, bowing again.
I've got a bunch of men coming, Billy said; if they put the place
on the bum you've got to help me bounce them, Dick.
Up-stairs in the service kitchen, Betty was explaining to
Caroline, they keep all the dishes that don't have to be heated for
serving, also the silver and daily linen supply. When we seat ourselves
at a table like this, the waitress to whom it is assigned goes in and
gets a basket of breadI think it's a pretty idea to serve the bread
in baskets, don't you?and whatever silver is necessary, and a bottle
of water. When she places those things she asks us what our choice of a
meat course is,there is a choice except on chicken nightand gives
that order in the kitchen when she goes to get our soup.
Who serves the things,puts the meat on the plates, and dishes up
The cookNancy won't let me call him the chefbecause she
is going to make a specialty of the southern element of his education.
He has a serving-table by his range and he cuts up the meat and fowl,
and dishes up the vegetables. In a bigger establishment he would have a
helper to do that.
Why can't Michael help him? Dick asked.
Michael calls him the Haythan Shinee. He is rather a glossy
man, you know, and he says when the time comes for him, Michael, to
dress like a street cleaner and pilot a gravy boat, he'll let us know.
Respect for his superiors is not one of Michael's most salient
characteristics, Dick twinkled. Nancy and I have a scheme for making
a match between him and Hitty.
Here's the soup, Betty announced. Nancy's idea is to have
everything perfectly simple, andand
Simply perfect, Billy assisted her.
Isn't she going to eat with us? Dick asked.
She can't. She's busy getting it going just at present. She may
Somebody's got to direct this pageant, old top, Billy reminded
The soup is perfect, Caroline said seriously. It is simplewith
that deceptive simplicity of a Paris morning frock.
French home cooking is all like that, Dick said. I like purée of
Molly or Dolly, I can't tell the difference between you, Billy
said, extend our compliments to Miss Martin, and tell her that this
course is a triumph.
Wait till you see the roast, sir.
It's the very best sirloin, Dick announced at the first
mouthful, and these assorted vegetables all cut down to the same size
are as pretty as they are good, as one says of virtuous innocence.
This variety of asparagus is expensive, Caroline said; she can't
do things like this at seventy-five cents a head. She'll ruin herself.
I don't see how she can, Dick said thoughtfully, with the price
of foodstuffs soaring sky-high.
I never for a moment expected it to pay, Betty said, but think of
the run she will have for her money, and the experience we'll get out
You're in it for the romance there is in it, Betty. I must confess
it isn't altogether my idea of a good time, Caroline said.
I know, you would go in for military training for women, and that
sort of thing. There's a woman over there asking for more olives, and
she's eaten a plate full of them already.
They're as big as hen's eggs anyhow, Caroline groaned, and almost
as extravagant. I don't see how Nancy'll go through the first month at
this rate. There she comes now. Doesn't she look nice in that color of
How do you like my party? Nancy asked, slipping into the empty
chair between Dick and Billy; isn't the food good and nourishing, and
aren't there a lot of nice-looking people here?
Very much, and it is, and there are, Dick answered with
affectionate eyes on her.
The salad is alligator pear served in half sections, with French
dressing, she said dreamily. I'm too happy to eat, but I'll have some
with you. Look at them all, don't they look relaxed and soothed and
refreshed? Every individual has a perfectly balanced ration of the most
superlatively good quality, slowly beginning to assimilate within him.
I don't see many respectable working girls, Billy said.
There are though,from the different shops and offices on the
avenue. There is a contingent from the Columbia summer school coming
to-morrow evening. This group coming in now is newspaper people.
Who's the fellow sitting over in the corner with that Vie de Bohême
hat? He looks familiar, but I can't seem to place him.
The man in black with the mustache? Dick asked. He's an artist,
pretty well known. That impressionistic chapI can't think of his
namethat had that exhibition at the Palsifer galleries.
Does he sell? Caroline asked.
No, they say he's awfully poor, refuses to paint down to the public
taste. What the deuce is his nameoh! I know, Collier Prattdo you
know him, Nancy? Lived in Paris always till the war. He'll appreciate
Ritz cooking at Riggs' prices if anybody will.
Nancy looked fixedly at the small side-table where the stranger had
just placed himself as if he were etched upon the whiteness of the wall
behind him. He sat erect and brooding,his dark, rather melancholy
eyes staring straight ahead, and a slight frown wrinkling his really
fine forehead. He wore an Inverness cape slung over one shoulder.
Looks like one of Rembrandt's portraits of himself, Caroline
He looks like a brigand, Betty said. Nancy's struck dumb with the
privilege of adding fuel to a flame of genius like that. Wake up and
eat your peach Melba, Nancy.
Nancy started, and took perfunctorily the spoon that Molly was
holding out to her, which she forgot to lift to her lips even after it
was freighted with its first delicious mouthful.
I dreamed about that man, she said.
CHAPTER IV. CINDERELLA
Nancy shut the door of her apartment behind her, and slipped out
into the dimly lit corridor. From her sitting-room came a burst of
concerted laughter, the sound of Betty's sweet, high pitched voice
raised in sudden protest, and then the echo of some sort of a physical
struggle; and Caroline took the piano and began to improvise.
They won't miss me, Nancy said to herself, I must have air. She
drew a long breath with a hand against her breast, apparently to
relieve the pressure there. I can't stay shut up in a room,
she kept repeating as if she were stating the most reasonable of
premises, and turning, fled down the two flights of stairs that led to
the outside door of the building.
The breath of the night was refreshingly cool upon her hot cheeks,
and she smiled into the darkness gratefully. Across the way a row of
brownstone houses, implacably boarded up for the summer, presented dull
and dimly defined surfaces that reflected nothing, not even the lights
of the street, or the shadow of a passing straggler. Nancy turned her
face toward the avenue. The nostalgia that was her inheritance from her
father, and through him from a long line of ancestors that followed the
sea whither it might lead them, was upon her this night, although she
did not understand it as such. She only thought vaguely of a strip of
white beach with a whiter moon hung high above it, and the long silver
line of the tide,drawing out.
I wish I had a hat on, she said. There was a night light in the
chemist's shop at the corner, and the panel of mirror obligingly placed
for the convenience of the passing crowd, at the left of the big
window, showed her reflection quite plainly. She was suddenly inspired
to take the soft taffeta girdle from the waist of her dark blue muslin
gown, and bind it turban-wise about her head. The effect was pleasingly
modish and conventional, and she quickened her stepssatisfied. There
was a tingle in the air that set her blood pleasantly in motion, and
she established a rhythm of pace that made her feel almost as if she
were walking to music. Insensibly her mind took up its responsibilities
again as the blood, stimulated from its temporary inactivity, began to
course naturally through her veins.
There is plenty of beer and ginger ale in the ice-box, she
thought, and I've done this before, so they won't be unnaturally
disturbed about me. Billy wanted to take Caroline home early, and Dick
can go on up-town with Betty, without making her feel that she ought to
leave him alone with me for a last tête-à-tête. It will hurt Dick's
feelings, but he understands really. He has a most blessed
understandingness, Dick has.
She had the avenue almost entirely to herself, a silent gleaming
thoroughfare with the gracious emptiness that a much lived in street
sometimes acquires, of a Sunday at the end of an adventurous season. It
was early July, the beginning of the actual summer season in New York.
Nancy had never before been in town so late in the year, nor for that
matter had Caroline or Betty, but Betty's interest in the affairs of
the Inn was keeping her at Nancy's side, while Caroline had just
accepted a secretarial position in one of the big Industrial Leagues
recently organized by women for women, that would keep her in town all
summer. Billy and Dick, by virtue of their respective occupations, were
never away from New York for longer than the customary two weeks'
My soul smoothed itself out, a long cramped scroll,her
conscience placated on the score of her deserted guests, Nancy was
quoting Browning to herself, as she widened the distance between
herself and them. I wonder why I have this irresistible tendency to
shake the people I love best in the world at intervals. I am such a
really well-balanced and rational individual, I don't understand it in
myself. I thought the Inn was going to take all the nonsense out of me,
but it hasn't, it appears, she sighed; but then, I think it is going
to take the nonsense out of a lot of people that are only erratic
because they have never been properly fed. I guess I'll go and have a
look at the old place in its Sunday evening calm. Already it seems
queer not to be there at nine o'clock in the evening, but I don't
really think there are people enough in New York now on Sundays to make
it an object.
Nancy's feet turned mechanically toward the arena of her most
serious activities. Like most of us who run away, she was following by
instinct the logical periphery of her responsibilities.
The big green latticed gate was closed against all intruders. Nancy
had the key to its padlock in her hand-bag, but she had no intention of
using it. The white and crimson sign flapped in the soft breeze
companionably responsive to the modest announcement, Marble Workshop,
Reproductions and Antiques, Garden Furniture, which so inadequately
invited those whom it might concern to a view of the petrified
vaudeville within. Through the interstices of the gate the courtyard
looked littered and unalluring;the wicker tables without their fine
white covers; the chairs pushed back in a heterogeneous assemblage; the
segregated columns of a garden peristyle gaunt against the dark,
gleamed a more ghostly white than the weather-stained busts and figures
less recently added to the collection. It seemed to Nancy incredible
that the place would ever bloom again with lights and bouquets and
eager patrons, with her group of pretty flower-like waitresses moving
deftly among them. She stared at the spot with the cold eye of the
creator whose handiwork is out of the range of his vision, and the
inspiration of it for the moment, gone.
I feel like Cinderella and her godmother rolled into one, she
thought disconsolately. I waved my wand, and made so many things
happen, and now that the clock has struck, again here I am outside in
the cold and dark,the wind was taking on a keener edge, and she
shivered slightly in her muslinswith nothing but a pumpkin shell to
show for it. Hitty says that getting what you want is apt to be
unlikely business, and I'm inclined to think she's right.
It seemed to her suddenly that the thing she had wanted,a
picturesque, cleverly executed restaurant where people could be fed
according to the academic ideals of an untried young woman like herself
was an unthinkable thing. The power of illusion failed for the moment.
Just what was it that she had hoped to accomplish with this fling at
executive altruism? What was she doing with a French cook in white
uniform, a competent staff of professional dishwashers and waitresses
and kitchen helpers? How had it come about that she owned so many
mounds and heaps and pyramids of silver and metal and linen? What was
this Inn that she had conceived as a project so unimaginably fine? Who
were these shadow people that came and went there? Who was she? Why
with all her vitality and all her hungry yearning for life and
adventure couldn't she even believe in her own substantiality and
focus? Wasn't life even real enough for a creature such as she to grasp
it,if it wasn't
She saw a figure that was familiar to her turn in from the avenue, a
tall man in an Inverness with a wide black hat pulled down over his
eyes. For the moment she could not remember who he was, but by the time
he had stopped in front of the big gate, giving utterance to a well
delivered expletive, she knew him perfectly, and stood waiting,
motionless, for him to turn and speak to her. She was sure that he
would have no recollection of her. He turned, but it was some seconds
before he addressed her.
Doubt thou the stars are fire, he said at last, with a shrug that
admitted her to the companionship of his discomfiture. Doubt thou the
sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt that your
favorite New York restaurant will be closed on a Sunday night.
Oh! is it your favorite New York restaurant? Nancy cried,
her heart in her throat. It's mine, you know, mymy favorite.
So I judged, or you wouldn't be beating against the gate so
disconsolately. It was too dark to see his face clearly, but Nancy
realized that he was looking down at her quizzically through the
Do you really like this restaurant? she persisted.
In some ways I like it very much. The food is quite possible as you
know, very American in character, but very good American, and it has
the advantage of being served out-of-doors. I am a Frenchman by
adoption, and I like the outdoor café. In fact, I am never happy eating
The surroundings are picturesque? Nancy hazarded.
The stranger laughed. According to the American ideal, he said,
they arebut I do admit that they show a rather extraordinary
imagination. I've often thought that I should like to make the
acquaintance of the woman,of course, it's a womanwho conceived the
notion of this mortuary tea-room.
Why, of course, is it a woman?
A man wouldn't set up housekeeping inin Père Lachaise.
Why not, if he found a really domestic-looking corner?
He wouldn't in the first place, it wouldn't occur to him,
that's all, and if he did he couldn't get away with it. The only real
drawback to this hostelry is, as you know, that they don't serve
spirits of any kind. I'm accustomed to a glass or two of wine with my
dinner, and my food sticks in my throat when I can't have it, but I've
found a way around that, now.
Oh! have you? said Nancy.
Don't give me away, but there's a man about the place here whose
name is Michael, and he possesses that blend of Gallic facility with
Celtic canniness that makes the Irish so wonderful as a race. I told my
trouble to Michael,with the result that I get a teapot full of
Chianti with my dinner every night, and no questions asked.
Oh! you do? gasped Nancy.
You see Michael is serving the best interests of his employer, who
wants to keep her patrons, because if I couldn't have it I wouldn't be
there. He couldn't trouble the lady about it, naturally, because it is
technically an offense against the law. Come, let's go and find a quiet
corner where we can continue our conversation comfortably. There's a
painfully respectable little hotel around the corner here that looks
like the Café L'avenue when you first go in, but is a place where the
most bourgeoise of one's aunts might put up.
II don't know that I can go, said Nancy.
There's no reason why you shouldn't, you know. My name is Collier
Pratt. I'm an artist. The more bourgeoise of my aunts would introduce
me if she were here. She's a New Englander like so many of your own
How did you know that? Nancy asked, as she followed him with a
docility quite new to her, past the big green gate, and the row of
nondescript shops between it and the corner of Broadway.
I was born in Boston, Collier Pratt said a trifle absently.
I know a Massachusetts product when I see one. Ah! here we are.
He led her triumphantly to a table in the far corner of the
practically empty restaurant, waved away the civilities of a swarthy
and somewhat badly coordinated waiter, and pulled out her chair for her
Now, let me have a look at you, he said; why, you've nothing on
but muslin, and you're wearing your belt for a turban.
A sop to the conventions, Nancy said, blushing burningly. She was
not quite able yet to get her bearings with this extraordinary man, who
had assumed charge of her so cavalierly, but she was eager to find her
poise in the situation. I ran away, and I thought it would look better
to have something like a hat on.
Looks, said Collier Pratt, looks! That's New England, always the
looks of a thing, never the feel of it. Mind you I don't mean the
look of a thing, that's something different again.
Yes, I know, the conventional slant as opposed to the artistic
Good! It isn't necessary to have my remarks followed intelligently,
but it always adds piquancy to the situation when they are. Speaking of
artistic perspective, you have a very nice coloring. I like a ruddy
chestnut hair with a skin as delicately white and pink as yours. He
spoke impersonally with the narrowing eye of the artist. I can see you
either in white,not quite a cream white, but almost,against a
pearly kind of Quakerish background, or flaming out in the most crude,
barbaric assemblage of colors. That's the advantage of your type and
the environment you connoteyou can be the whole show, or the veriest
little mouse that ever sought the protective coloring of the shadows.
You aren't exactly taking the quickest way of putting me at my
ease, Nancy said. I'm very much embarrassed, you know. I'd stand
being looked over for a few minutes longer if I could,but I can't.
I'm not having one of my most equable evenings.
I beg your pardon, Collier Pratt said.
For the first time since she had seen his face with the light upon
it, he smiled, and the smile relieved the rather empiric quality of his
habitual expression. Nancy noticed the straight line of the heavy brows
scarcely interrupted by the indication of the beginning of the nose,
and wondering to herself if it were not possible for a person with that
eyebrow formation to escape the venality of disposition that is
popularly supposed to be its adjunct,decided affirmatively.
I'm not used to talking to American girls very much. I forget how
daintily they're accustomed to being handled. I'm extremely anxious to
put you at your ease, he added quietly. I appreciate the privilege of
your company on what promised to be the dullest of dull evenings. I
should appreciate still more, he bowed, as he handed her a bill of
fare of the journalistic proportions of the usual hotel menu, if you
would make a choice of refreshment, that we may dispense with the
somewhat pathological presence of our young friend here, he indicated
the waiter afflicted with the jerking and titubation of a badly strung
puppet. I advise Rhine wine and seltzer. I offer you anything from
green chartreuse to Scotch and soda. Personally I'm going to drink
I'd rather have an ice-cream, Nancy said, than anything else in
the world,coffee ice-cream, and a glass of water.
I wonder if you would, or if you only think it'ssafer. At any
rate I'm going to put my coat over your shoulders while you eat it. I
never leave my rooms at this hour of the night without this cape. If I
can find a place to sit out in I always do, and I'm naturally rather
I'm not, said Nancy, but she meekly allowed him to drape her in
the folds of the light cape, and found it grateful to her.
Bring the lady a big cup of coffee, and mind you have it hot,
Collier Pratt ordered peremptorily, as her ice-cream was served by the
shaking waiter. Coffee may be the worst thing in the world for you,
nervously. I don't know,it isn't for me, I rather thrive on it, but
at any rate I'm going to save you from the combination of organdie and
ice-cream on a night like this. What is your name? he inquired
Not at my service?
I don't know, yet.
Well, I don't know,but I hope and trust so. I like you. You've
got something they don't havethese American girls,softness and
strength, too. I imagine you've never been out of America.
With two other girls and a chaperon, doing Europe, and staying at
all the hotels doped up for tourist consumption.
Nancy was constrained to answer with a smile.
You don't like America very much, she said presently.
I like it for itself, but I loathe itfor myself. My way of living
here is all wrong. I can't get to bed in this confounded city. I can't
get enough to eat.
Oh! can't you? Nancy cried.
In Paris, or any town where there is a café life one naturally gets
fed. The technique of living is taken care of much better over there.
Your concierge serves you a nourishing breakfast as a matter of
course. When you've done your morning's work you go to your favorite
cafénot with the one object in lifeto cram a Châteaubriand
down your dry and resisting throat because he who labors must
live,but to see your friends, to read your daily journals, to write
your letters, and do it incidentally in the open air while some
diplomat of a waiter serves you with food that assuages the palate,
without insulting your mood. That's what I like about the little
restaurant in the court there. It's out-of-doors, and you may stay
there without feeling your table is in requisition for the next man.
It's a very polite little place.
You didn't expect to get in there to-night.
I had hopes of it. I've not dined, you see.
Not dined? Nancy's eyes widened in dismay.
There's no use for me to dine unless I can eat my food tranquilly,
in some accustomed corner. Getting nourished with me is a spiritual, as
well as a physical matter. It is with all sensitive people. Don't you
I suppose so. II hadn't thought of it that way. Couldn't you eat
something nowan oyster stew, or something like that?
Nothing in any way remotely connected with that. An oyster stew is
to me the most barbarous of concoctions. I loathe hot milk,an oyster
is an adjunct to a fish sauce, or a preface to a good dinner.
You ought to have something, Nancy urged, even ice-cream is more
nourishing than mineral water, or coffee with cream in it.
I like coffee after dinner, not before.
If you only eat when it's convenient, or the mood takes you, Nancy
cried out in real distress, how can you ever be sure that you have
calories enough? The requirement of an average man at active labor is
estimated at over three thousand calories. You must have something like
a balanced ration in order to do your work.
Must I? Collier Pratt smiled his rare smile. Well, at any rate,
it is good to hear you say so.
She finished her ice-cream, and Collier Pratt drank his mineral
water slowly, and smoked innumerable cigarettes of Virginia tobacco.
The conversation which had proceeded so expeditiously to this point
seemed for no apparent reason, suddenly to become gratuitous. Nancy had
never before begun on the subject of the balanced ration without being
respectfully allowed to go through to the end. She had not been allowed
to feel snubbed, but she was a little bewildered that any conversation
in which she was participating, could be so gracefully stopped before
it was ended by her expressed desire.
Collier Pratt took his watch out of his pocket, and looked at it
By jove, he said, I had entirely forgotten. I have a child in my
charge. I must be about looking after her.
A child? Nancy cried, astonished.
Yes, a little girl. She's probably sitting up for me, poor baby.
Can you get home alone, if I put you on a bus or a street-car?
If you'll call a taxi for me Nancy said.
She noticed that the check was paid with change instead of a bill.
In fact, her host seemed not to have a bill of any denomination in his
pocket, but to be undisturbed by the fact. He parted from her casually.
Good-by, child, he said with his head in the door after he had
given the chauffeur her street number; with the permission of le
bon Dieu, we shall see each other again. I feel that He is going to
give it to us.
Good-by, Nancy said to his retreating shoulder.
At her own front door was Dick's big Rolls-Royce, and Dick sitting
inside of it, with his feet comfortably up, feigning sleep.
You didn't think I'd go home until I saw you safe inside your own
door, did you? he demanded.
Where's Betty? Nancy asked mechanically.
I sent Williams home with her. Then he came back here, and left the
car with me.
You needn't have waited, Nancy said, I'm sorry, Dick, II had to
have air. I had to get out. I couldn't stay inside a minute longer.
You need never explain anything to me.
Don't you want to know where I've been?
Dick looked at her carefully before he made his answer. Then he said
I might have told you, she said, if you had wanted to know. She
felt her knees sagging with fatigue, and drooped against the
Come and sit in the car, and talk to me for a minute, he
suggested. Do you good, before you climb the stairs.
He opened the car door for her ingratiatingly, but she shook her
I've done unconventional things enough for one evening, she said.
Unlock the door for me. Hitty'll be waiting up to take care of me.
What's that queer thing you're wearing? he asked her, as he held
the door for her to pass through, I never remember seeing you wear
Nancy looked down wonderingly at the folds of the Inverness still
swinging from her shoulders. She had been subconsciously aware of the
grateful warmth in which she was encased ever since she snuggled
comfortably into the depths of the taxi-cab into which Collier Pratt
had tucked her.
No, I never have worn it before, she said, answering Dick's
CHAPTER V. SCIENCE
The activities of the day at Outside Inn began with luncheon and the
preparation for it. Nancy longed to serve breakfast there, but as yet
it had not seemed practicable to do so. Most of the patrons of the
restaurant conducted the business of the day down-town, but had their
actual living quarters in New York's remoter fastnesses,Brooklyn, the
Bronx or Harlem. Nancy was satisfied that the bulk of her patronage
should be the commuting and cliff dwelling contingent of
Manhattanites,indeed it was the sort of patronage that from the
beginning she had intended to cater to.
Nancy did most of the marketing herself at first, but Gaspardthe
big cookgradually coaxed this privilege away from her.
You see, he said, we situs together, and talk of eatinghe
prided himself on his use of English, and never used his native tongue
to help him out, except in moments of great excitement. It is
immediately after breakfast. Yes! I am full of milk-coffee sopped with
bread, and you of bacon with eggs and marmalade. We say, what shall we
give to our custom for its dinner and its luncheon? We think sadlywe
who have but now brushed away the crumbs of breakfastof those who
must sit down so soon to the table groaning with viands. Therefore we
say, 'Market delicately. Have the soup clear, the entrée light and the
salad green with plenty of vinegar.' Even your caloriesthey do not
help us much. They are in quantities so unexpected in the food that
weighs nothing in the scales. We say you shall go to market and buy
these things, and you go. I stir and walk about, and grow restless for
my déjeuner, and when you return from market, hungry too, we are
not the same people who had thought our soup should be clear, and our
entrée more beautiful than nutritious. If I go to market myself late
I am inspired there to buy what is right, because by that hour I have a
proper relish and understanding of what all the world should eat.
I know he is right, Nancy said to Billy afterward in reporting the
conversation, I hate to admit it, but even my notion of what other
people should eat is colored by my own relation to food. I never
realized before how little use an intellect is in this matter of food
values. I can actually get up a meal that according to the tables is
scientifically correct that wouldn't feed anybody if they were hungry.
One banana is equal to a pound and three-quarters of steak, Billy
The trouble is that it isn't, Nancy said, except
You can't eat it and grow thin.
You can't eat it and grow fat unless it happens to be the
peculiar food to which you are idiosyncratic.
If that's really a word, Billy said, I'll overlook your trying it
out on me. If it isn't you'll have to take the consequences. He went
through the pantomime of one preparing to do physical violence.
Oh! it's a word. Ask Caroline. Nancy's eyes still held their look
of being focussed on something in the remote distance. The trouble
with all this dietetic problem is that the individual is dependent on
something more than an adjustment of values. His environment and his
heredity play an active part in his diet problem. Some people can eat
highly concentrated food, others have to have bulk, and so on. You
can't substitute cheese and bananas for steak and do the race a service
no matter what the cost of steak may soar to. You can't even substitute
rice for potatoes.
Not unless your patronage is more Oriental than Celtic.
Healthy people have to have honest fare of about the type to which
their environment has accustomed them, but intelligently
supervised,that's the conclusion I've come to.
You may be right, Billy said, my general notion has always been
that everybody ate wrong, and that everybody who would stand for it
ought to be started all over again. I wouldn't stand for it, so I've
never looked into the matter.
People don't eat wrong, that's the really startling discovery I've
made recently. I mean healthy people don't.
I don't believe it, said Billy; the way people eat is one of the
most outrageous of the human scandals. I read the newspapers.
The newspapers don't know, Nancy said; the individual usually has
an instinctive working knowledge of the diet that is good for him, and
his digestional experiences have taught him how to regulate it to some
How do you account for the clerk that orders coffee and sinkers at
Child's every day?
That's exactly it, Nancy said. He knows that he needs bulk and
stimulation. He's handicapped by his poverty, but he gets the nearest
substitute for the diet that suits him that he can get. If he could
afford it he would have a square meal that would nourish him as well as
warm and fill him.
I don't see but what this interesting theory lets you out
altogether. Why Outside Inn, with its foxy table d'hôte, if what's one
man's meat is another man's poison, and natural selection is the order
of the day?
Outside Inn is all the more necessary to the welfare of a nation
that's being starved out by the high cost of living. All I need to do
is to have a little more variety, to have all the nutritive
requirements in each meal, and such generous servings that every patron
can make out a meal satisfying to himself.
Everybody knows that all fat people eat all the sweets that they
can get, and all thin people take tea without sugar with lemon in it.
These people aren't healthy. That's where the intelligent
supervision comes in.
What do you intend to do about them?
Watch over them a little more carefully. Regulate their servings
craftily. Be sure of my tables. I have lots of schemes. I'll tell you
about them sometime.
Sometime,for this relief much thanks, murmured Billy;
just now I've had as much of these matters as I can stand. I don't see
how you are going to run this thing on a profit, though.
I'm not, Nancy said, I'm losing money every minute. That fifteen
thousand dollars is almost gone now, of course. Billy, do you think it
would be perfectly awful if I didn't try to make money at all?
I think it would be a good deal wiser. I'll raise all the money you
want on your expectations.
All right then. I'm not going to worry.
Billy looked down into the courtyard from the room up-stairs in
which they had been talking. Already the preparations for lunch were
under way. The girls were moving deftly about, laying cloths and
arranging flower vases and silver.
Can I get right down there and sit down at one of those tables and
have my lunch, Billy inquired, or do I have to go out of the back
door and come in the front like a regular customer?
Whichever you prefer. There's Caroline coming in at the gate now.
Well, then, I know which I prefer, Billy said, swimming
realistically toward the stairs.
You are getting fat, Billy, Caroline informed him critically after
the amenities were over, and the meal appropriately begun. You ought
to watch your diet a little more carefully.
No, Billy said firmly, I don't need to watch my diet, I'm
perfectly healthy, and therefore my natural cravings will point the way
to my most judicious nourishment. Nancy has explained all to me.
That's a very interesting theory of Nancy's, Caroline said, but I
don't altogether agree with it.
I do, said Billy, then he added hastily, but I agree with you,
too, Caroline. You are to all other women what moonlight is to
sunlight, or I meanwhat sunlight is to moonlight. In other wordsyou
are the goods.
Don't be silly, Billy.
There's only one thing in all this wide universe that you can't say
to me, Caroline, and 'don't be silly, Billy,' is that thing,express
this same thing in vers libre if you must say it! Look at the
handsome soup you're getting. What is the name of that soup, Molly?
He smiled ingratiatingly at the little waitress, who always beamed
at any one of Nancy's particular friends that came into the restaurant,
and made a point of serving them if she could possibly arrange it.
Cream of spinach, she said, it's a special to-day.
Beautiful soup so rich and green, Billy began in a soulful
baritone, waiting in a hot tureen. Where's mine, Molly?
Dolly's bringing your first course, sir.
Billy gazed in perplexity at the half of a delicious grapefruit set
before him by the duplicate of the pretty girl who stood smiling
deprecatingly behind Caroline's chair.
Where's my soup, Dolly? Billy asked with a thundering sternness of
I'm sorry, sir, Dolly began glibly, but the soup has given out.
Will you be good enough to allow the substitution of
That's a formula, Billy said. The soup can't be out. We're the
first people in the dining-room. Go tell Miss Nancy that I will be
served with some of that green soup at once, or know the reason why.
The two waitresses exchanged glances, and went off together
suppressing giggles, to return almost immediately, their risibility
still causing them great physical inconvenience.
Intelligent supervision, she says. Dolly exploded into the
miniature patch of muslin and ribbon that served her as an apron.
She says that's the reason why, Molly contributed,following her
Nancy doesn't serve soup to a fat man if she can possibly avoid it.
That's part of her theory, Caroline explained. There's no use making
a fuss about it, because you won't get it.
Billy sat looking at his grapefruit for some seconds in silence.
Then he began on it slowly.
Well, I'll be damned, he said.
Nancy was learning a great many things very rapidly. The practical
application of her theories of feeding mankind to her actual
experiments with the shifting population of New York, revolutionized
her attitude toward the problem almost daily. She had started in with a
great many ideas and ideals of service, with preconceived notions of
balanced rations, and exact distribution of fuel stuffs to the human
unit. She had come to realize very shortly, that the human unit was a
quantity as incalculable in its relation to its digestive problems as
its psychological ones. She had believed vaguely that in reference to
food values the race made its great exception to its rule of working
out toward normality; but she changed that opinion very quickly as she
watched her fellow men selecting their diet with as sure an instinct
for their nutritive requirements as if she had coached them personally
From the assumption that she lived in a world gone dietetically mad,
and hence in the process of destroying itself, she had gradually come
to see that in this phase of his struggle for existence, as well as in
every other, the instinct of man operated automatically in the
direction of his salvation. This new attitude in tie matter relieved
her of much of her responsibility, but left her not less anxious to do
what she could for her kind in the matter of calories. She was, as she
had shown in her treatment of Billy, not entirely blinded by her
growing predilection in favor of the doctrine of natural selection.
Every day she had Gaspard make, in addition to his regular table
d'hôte menu, dozens of nutritive custards, quarts of stimulating broths
and jellies and other dishes containing the maximum of easily digested
and highly concentrated nutriment, and these she managed to have Molly
or Dolly or even Hildeguardthe Alma Tadema girlintroduce into the
luncheon or dinner service in the case of those patrons who seemed to
need peculiarly careful nourishing. Let a white-faced girl sink into a
seat within the range of Nancy's vision,she always ensconced herself
in the doorway screened with vines at the beginning of a meal,and she
gave orders at once for the crafty substitution of invalid broth for
soup, of rich nut bread for the ordinary rolls and crackers, of
custards or specially made ice-cream for the dessert of the day. No
overfed, pasty-faced man ever escaped from Outside Inn until an attempt
at least had been made to introduce a portion of stewed prunes into his
diet; and all such were fed the minimum of bread and other starchy
foods, and the maximum of salad and green vegetables. Nancy had gluten
bread made in quantities for the stouter element of her patronage, and
in nine cases out of ten she was able to get it served and eaten
without protest. Some of her regular patrons began to change weight
gradually, a heavy man or two became less heavy, and a wraithlike girl
now and then took on a new bloom and substantiality. These were the
triumphs for which Nancy lived. Her only regret was that she was not
able to give to each her personal time and attention, and establish
herself on a footing with her patrons where she might learn from their
own lips the secrets of their metabolism.
She was not known as the proprietor of the place. In fact, the
management of the restaurant was kept a careful secret from those who
frequented it and with the habitual indifference of New Yorkers to the
power behind the throne, so long as its affairs were manipulated in
good and regular order, they soon ceased to feel any apparent curiosity
about it. Betty, who sometimes rebelled at remaining so scrupulously
incognita, defiantly took the limelight at intervals and moved among
the assembled guests with an authoritative and possessive air,
adjusting and rearranging small details, and acknowledging the presence
of habitués, but since her attentions were popularly supposed to
be those of a superior head waitress, she soon tired of the gesture of
Nancy's intention had been to allow the restaurant to speak for
itself, and then at the climactic moment to allow her connection with
it to be discovered, and to speak for it with all the force and
earnestness of which she was capable. She had meant to stand sponsor
for the practical working theory on which her experiment was based, and
she had already partially formulated interviews with herself in which
she modestly acknowledged the success of that experiment, but the
untoward direction in which it was developing made such a revelation
There was one regular patron to whom she was peculiarly anxious to
remain incognita. Collier Pratt made it his almost invariable habit to
come sauntering toward the table in the corner, under the life-sized
effigy of the Vênus de Medici, at seven o'clock in the evening,
and that table was scrupulously reserved for him. To it were sent the
choicest of all the viands that Outside Inn could command. Michael was
tacitly sped on his way with his teapot full of claret. Gaspard did
amazing things with the breasts of ducks and segments of orange, with
squab chicken stuffed with new corn, with filets de sole a la
Marguery. Nancy craftily spurred him on to his most ambitious
achievements under pretense of wishing her own appetite stimulated, and
the big cook, who adored her, produced triumph after triumph of his art
for her delectation, whereupon the biggest part of it was cunningly
smuggled out to the artist. From behind her screen of vines Nancy
watched the fine features of her quondam friend light with the rapture
of the gourmet as be sampled Gaspard's sauce verte or
Hollandaise or lifted the glass cover from the mushrooms sous cloche
and inhaled their delicate aroma.
I wonder if he finds our food very American in character, now, she
said to herself, with a blush at the memory of the real southern
cornbread and candied sweet potatoes that were offered him in the
initial weeks of his patronage. Gaspard still made these delicacies for
luncheon, but they had been almost entirely banished from the dinner
menu. Afternoon tea at the Inn was famous for the wonderful waffles
produced with Parisian precision from a traditional Virginian recipe,
but Collier Pratt never appeared at either of these meals to criticize
them for being American.
CHAPTER VI. AN ELEEMOSYNARY
One night during the latter part of July Betty had a birthday, and
according to immemorial custom Caroline and Nancy and Dick and Billy
helped her to celebrate it at one of the old-fashioned down-town hotels
where they had ordered practically the same dinner for her
anniversaries ever since they had been grown up enough to celebrate
them unchaperoned. Caroline's brother, Preston, had made a sixth member
of the party for the first two or three years, but he had been located
in London since then, in charge of the English office of his firm, to
which he had been suddenly appointed a month after he and Betty, who
had been sweethearts, had had a spectacular quarrel.
Nancy stayed by the celebration until about half past nine, and then
Dick put her into a taxi-cab, and she fled back to her responsibilities
as mistress of Outside Inn, agreeing to meet the others later for the
rounding out of the evening. As she drew up before the big gate the
courtyard seemed practically deserted. The waitresses were busy
clearing away the few cluttered tables left by the last late guests,
and in one sheltered corner a man and a girl were frankly holding hands
across the table, while they whispered earnestly of some impending
parting. The big canopy of striped awning cloth had been drawn over the
tables, as the rather heavy air of the evening bad been punctured
occasionally by a swift scattering of rain. Nancy was half-way across
the court before she realized that Collier Pratt was still occupying
his accustomed seat under the shadow of the big Venus. She had not seen
him face to face or communicated with him since the day she had looked
him up in the telephone book and sent his cape to him by special
messenger. She stopped involuntarily as she reached his side, and he
looked up and smiled as he recognized her.
You're late again, Miss Ann Martin, he said, rising and pulling
out a chair for her opposite his own. I think perhaps I can pull the
wires and procure you some sustenance if you will say the word.
I've no word to say, Nancy said, but how do you do? I've just
dined elsewhere. I only stopped in here for a moment to get
somethingsomething I left here at lunch.
In that case I'll offer you a drop of Michael's tea in my water
glass. He poured a tablespoonful or so of claret from the teapot into
the glass of ice-water before him, and added several lumps of sugar to
the concoction, which he stirred gravely for some time before he
offered it to her. I never touch water myself. This is eau rougie
as the French children drink it. It's really better for you than
ice-cream and a glass of water.
And less American, Nancy murmured with her eyes down.
And less American, he acquiesced blandly.
Nancy sipped her drink, and Collier Pratt stirred the dregs in his
coffee cupNancy had overheard some of her patrons remarking on the
curious habits of a man who consumed a pot of tea and a pot of coffee
at one and the same mealand they regarded each other for some time in
silence. Michael and Hildeguard, Molly and Dolly and two others of the
staff of girls were grouped in the doorway exactly in Nancy's range of
vision, and whispering to one another excitedly concerning the
phenomenon that met their eyes.
The little girl? Nancy said, trying to ignore the composite
scrutiny to which she was being subjected, by turning determinedly to
her companion, the little girl that you spoke ofis she well?
She's as well as a motherless baby could be, subjected to the
irregularities of a life like mine. Still she seems to thrive on it.
Is she yours? Nancy asked.
Yes, she's mine, Collier Pratt said, gravely dismissing the
subject, and leaving Nancy half ashamed of her boldness in putting the
question, half possessed of a madness to know the answer at any cost.
I've discovered something very interesting, Collier Pratt said,
after an interval in which Nancy felt that he was perfectly cognizant
of her struggle with her curiosity; in fact, it's one of the most
interesting discoveries that I have made in the course of a not
unadventurous life. Do you come to this restaurant often?
Quite often, Nancy equivocated, earlier in the day. For luncheon
and for tea.
I come here almost every night of my life, Collier Pratt declared,
and I intend to continue to come so long as le bon Dieu spares
me my health and my epicurean taste. You know that I spoke of the food
here before. The character of it has changed entirely. It's
unmistakably French now, not to say Parisian. Outside of Paris or
Vienna I have never tasted such soups, such sauce, such delicate and
suggestive flavors. My entire existence has been revolutionized by the
experience. I am no longer the lonely and unhappy man you discovered at
this gate a short month ago. I can not cavil at an America that
furnishes me with such food as I get in this place.
Man may live without friends, and may live without books.
But civilized man can not live without cooks,
Nancy quoted sententiously.
Exactly. The whole point is that the cooking here is civilized. Oh!
you ought to come here to dinner, my friend. I don't know what the
luncheons and teas are like
They're very good, Nancy said.
But not like the dinners, I'll wager. The dinners are the very last
word! I don't know why this place isn't famous. Of course, I do my best
to keep it a secret from the artistic rabble I know. It would be
overrun with them in a week, and its character utterly ruined.
I wonder if it would.
Oh! I'm sure of it.
What is your discovery? Nancy asked.
Collier Pratt leaned dramatically closer to her, and Nancy
instinctively bent forward across the tiny table until her face was
very near to his.
Do you know anything about the price of foodstuffs? he demanded.
A little, Nancy admitted.
You know then that the price of every commodity has soared
unthinkably high, that the mere problem of providing the ordinary
commonplace meal at the ordinary commonplace restaurant has become
almost unsolvable to the proprietors? Most of the eating places in New
York are run at a loss, while the management is marking time and
praying for a change in conditions. Well, here we have a restaurant
opening at the most crucial period in the history of such enterprises,
offering its patrons the delicacies of the season most exquisitely
cooked, at what is practically the minimum price for a respectable
That's true, isn't it?
More than that, there are people who come here, who order one thing
and get another, and the thing they get is always a much more elaborate
and extravagant dish than the one they asked for. I've seen that happen
again and again.
Have you? Nancy asked faintly, shrinking a little beneath the
intentness of his look. Howhow do you account for it?
There's only one way to account for it.
Do you think that there is anan unlimited amount of capital
I think that goes without saying, he said; there must be an
unlimited amount of capital behind it, or it wouldn't continue to
flourish like a green bay tree; but that's not in the nature of a
discovery. Anybody with any power of observation at all would have come
to that conclusion long since.
Then, what is it you have found out? Nancy asked, quaking.
My discovery is Collier Pratt paused for the whole effect of his
revelation to penetrate to her consciousness, that this whole outfit
is run philanthropically.
Don't you see? There can't be any other explanation of it. It's an
eleemosynary institution. That's what it is.
Nancy met his expectant eyes with a trifle of wildness in her own,
but he continued to hold her gaze triumphantly.
Don't you see, he repeated, doesn't everything point to that as
the only possible explanation? It's some rich woman's plaything. That
accounts for the food, the setting,everything in fact that has
puzzled us. Amateur,that's the word; effective, delightful but
inexperienced. It sticks out all over the place.
The food isn't amateur, Nancy said, a little resentfully.
Nothing is amateur but the spirit behind it, through which we
profit. Don't you see?
I'm beginning to see, Nancy admitted, perhaps you are right. I
guess the place is run philanthropically. II hadn't quite realized it
What did you think?
I knew that theone who was running it wasn't quite sure where she
was coming out, but I didn't think of it is an eleemosynary
Of course, it is.
It's an unscrupulous sort of charity, then, Nancy mused, if it's
masquerading as self-respecting and self-supporting. II've never
approved of things like that.
Why quarrel with a scheme so beneficent?
Don't you care? Nancy asked with a catch in her voice that was
very like an appeal.
He shook his head.
Why should I? he smiled.
Then I don't care, either, she decided with an emphasis that was
entirely lost on the man on the other side of the table.
CHAPTER VII. CAVE-MAN STUFF
Cave-man stuff, Billy said to Dick, pointing a thumb over his
shoulder toward the interior of the Broadway moving-picture palace at
the exit of which they had just met accidentally. It always goes big,
It does, Dick agreed thoughtfully, in the movies anyhow.
Caroline says that the modern woman has her response to that kind
of thing refined all out of her. Billy intended his tone to be
entirely jocular, but there was a note of anxiety in it that was not
lost on his friend.
Dick paused under the shelter of a lurid posterdisplaying a fierce
gentleman in crude blue, showing all his teeth, and in the act of
strangling an early Victorian ingenue with a dimple,and lit a
cigarette with his first match.
Caroline may have, he said, puffing to keep his light against the
breeze, but I doubt it.
Rough stuff doesn't seem to appeal to her, Billy said, quite
humorously this time.
She's healthy, Dick mused, rides horseback, plays tennis and all
that. Wouldn't she have liked the guy that swung himself on the roof
between the two poles? He indicated again the direction of the theater
from which they had just emerged.
She would have liked him, Billy said gloomily, but the show would
have started her arguing about this whole moving-picture
proposition,its crudity, and its tremendous sacrifice of artistic
values, and so on and so on.
Sure, she's a highbrow. Highbrows always cerebrate about the movies
in one way or another. Nancy doesn't get it at just that angle, of
course. She hasn't got Caroline's intellectual appetite. She's not
interested in the movies because she hasn't got a moving-picture house
of her own. The world is not Nancy's oysterit's her lump of putty.
I don't know which is the worst, Billy said. Caroline won't
listen to anything you say to her,but then neither will Nancy.
Women never listen to anything, Dick said profoundly, unless
they're doing it on purpose, or they happen to be interested. I imagine
Caroline is a little less tractable, but Nancy is capable of doing the
most damage. She works with concrete materials. Caroline's kit is
crammed with nothing but ideas.
Nothing but Billy groaned.
As for this cave-man businesstheoretically, they ought to react
to it,both of them. They're both normal, well-balanced young ladies.
They're both runnin' pretty hard to keep in the same place, just at
Nancy isn't doing thatnot by a long shot, Dick said.
She's not keeping in the same place certainly, Billy agreed.
Caroline is all eaten up by this economic independence idea.
It's a good idea, Dick admitted; economic conditions are
changing. No reason at all that a woman shouldn't prove herself willing
to cope with them, as long as she gets things in the order of their
importance. Earning her living isn't better than the
Mother-Home-and-Heaven job. It's a way out, if she gets left, or gets
I'm only thankful Caroline can't hear you. Billy raised pious eyes
to heaven but he continued more seriously after a second, It's all
right to theorize, but practically speaking both our girls are getting
beyond our control.
I'm not engaged to Nancy, Dick said a trifle stiffly.
Well, you ought to be, Billy said.
Dick stiffened. He was not used to speaking of his relations with
Nancy to any oneeven to Billy, who was the closest friend he had.
They walked up Broadway in silence for a while, toward the cross-street
which housed the university club which was their common objective.
I know I ought to be, Dick said, just as Billy was formulating an
apology for his presumption, or I ought to marry her out of hand. This
watchful waiting's entirely the wrong idea.
Why do we do it then? Billy inquired pathetically.
I wanted Nancy to sow her economic wild oats. I guess you felt the
same way about Caroline.
Well, they've sowed 'em, haven't they?
Not by a long shot. That's the trouble,they don't get any
forrider, from our point of view. I thought it would be the best policy
to stand by and let Nancy work it out. I thought her restaurant would
either fail spectacularly in a month, or succeed brilliantly and she'd
make over the executive end of it to somebody else. I never thought of
her buckling down like this, and wearing herself out at it.
There's a pretty keen edge on Caroline this summer.
I'm afraid Nancy's in pretty deep, Dick said. The money end of it
worries me as much as anything.
I wouldn't let that worry me.
She won't take any of mine, you know.
I know she won't. See here, Dick, I wouldn't worry about Nancy's
finances. She'll come out all right about money.
What makes you think so?
I know so. We've got lots of things in the world to worry about,
things that are scheduled to go wrong unless we're mighty delicate in
the way we handle 'em. Let's worry about them, and leave Nancy's
financial problems to take care of themselves.
Which means, Dick said, that you are sure that she's all right.
I'm not in her confidence in this matter
Well, I am, Billy said, I'm her legal adviser, and with all due
respect to your taste in girls, it's a very difficult position to
occupy. What with the things she won't listen to and the things she
won't learn, and the things she actually knows more about than I do
The indulgent smile of the true lover lit Dick's face, as if Billy
had waxed profoundly eulogistic. Unconsciously, Billy's own tenderness
took fire at the flame.
Why don't we run away with 'em? he said, breathing heavily.
Dick stopped in a convenient doorway to light his third cigarette,
It's the answer to you and Caroline, he said.
Why not to you and Nancy?
It may be, Dick said, I dunno. I've reached an impasse.
Still there is a great deal in your proposition.
They turned in at the portico that extended out over the big oak
doors of their club. An attendant in white turned the knob for them,
with the grin of enthusiastic welcome that was the usual tribute to
these two good-looking, well set up young men from those who served
I'll think it over, Dick added, as he gave up his hat and stick,
and let you know what decision I come to.
In another five minutes they were deep in a game of Kelly-pool from
which Dick emerged triumphantly richer by the sum of a dollar and
ninety cents, and Billy the poorer by the loss of a quarter.
* * * * *
There is a town in Connecticut, within a reasonable motoring
distance from New York that has been called the Gretna Green of
America. Here well-informed young couples are able to expedite the
business of matrimony with a phenomenal neatness and despatch. Licenses
can be procured by special dispensation, and the nuptial knot tied as
solemnly and solidly as if a premeditated train of bridesmaids and
flower girls and loving relatives had been rehearsed for days in
Dick and his Rolls-Royce had assisted at a hymeneal celebration or
two, where a successful rush had been made for the temporary altars of
this beneficent town with the most felicitous results, and he knew the
procedure. When he and Billy organized an afternoon excursion into
Connecticut, they tacitly avoided all mention of the consummation they
hoped to bring about, but they both understood the nature and
significance of the expedition. Dick,who was used to the easy
accomplishment of his designs and purposes, for most obstacles gave way
before his magnetic onslaught,had only sketchily outlined his scheme
of proceedings, but he trusted to the magic of that inspiration that
seldom or never failed him. He was the sort of young man that the last
century novelists always referred to as fortune's favorite, and his
luck so rarely betrayed him that he had almost come to believe it to be
His general idea was to get Nancy and Caroline to drive into the
country, through the cool rush of the freer purer air of the suburbs,
give them lunch at some smart road-house, soothingly restful and dim,
where the temperature was artificially lowered, and they could powder
their noses at will; and from thence go on until they were within the
radius of the charmed circle where modern miracles were performed while
the expectant bridegroom waited.
Nancy, my dear, we are going to be married,that he had
formulated, we're going to be done with all this nonsense of waiting
and doubting the evidence of our own senses and our own hearts. We're
going to put an end to the folly of trying to do without each
other,your folly of trying to feed all itinerant New York; my folly
of standing by and letting you do it, or any other fool thing that your
fancy happens to dictate. You're mine and I'm yours, and I'm going to
take youtake you to-day and prove it to you. This was to be timed to
be delivered at just about the moment when they drew up in front of the
office of the justice of the peace, who was Dick's friend of old. Hold
up your head, my dear, and put your hat on straight; we're going into
that building to be made man and wife, and we're not coming out of it
until the deed has been done. In some such fashion, he meant to carry
it through. Many a time in the years gone by he had steered Nancy
through some high-handed escapade that she would only have consented to
on the spur of the moment. She was one of these women who responded
automatically to the voice of a master. He had failed in mastery this
last year or so. That was the secret of his failure with her, but the
days of that failure were numbered now. He was going to succeed.
On the back seat of the big car he expected Billy and Caroline to be
going through much the same sort of scene.
We've come to a show-down now, Caroline,either I sit in this
game, or get out. He could imagine Billy bringing Caroline bluntly to
terms with comparatively little effort. That was what she
neededCarolinea strong hand. Billy's problem was simple. Caroline
had already signified her preference for him. She wore his ring. Billy
had only to pick her up, kicking and screaming if need be, and bear her
to the altar. She would marry him if he insisted. That was clear to the
most superficial of observers,but Nancy was different.
The day was hot, and grew steadily hotter. By the time Nancy and
Caroline were actually in the car, after an almost superhuman effort to
assemble them and their various accessories of veils and wraps, and to
dispose of the assortment of errands and messages that both girls
seemed to be committed to despatch before they could pass the
boundaries of Greater New York, the two men were very nearly exhausted.
It was only when the chauffeur let the car out to a speed greatly in
excess of the limitations on some clear stretch of road, that the
breath of the country brought them any relief whatsoever.
Dick looked over his shoulder at the two in the back seat, and noted
Caroline's pallor, and the fact that she was allowing a listless hand
to linger in Billy's; but when he turned back to Nancy he discovered no
such encouraging symptoms. She was sitting lightly relaxed at his side,
but there was nothing even negatively responsive in her attitude. Her
color was high; her breath coming evenly from between her slightly
parted lips. She looked like a child oblivious to everything but some
You look as if you were dreaming of candy and kisses, Nancy,are
you? he asked presently.
No, I'm just glad to be free. It's been a long time since I've
I know it. The dear constrained him, and he did not add it:
You've been working most unholy hard. II hate to have you.
But I was never so happy in my life.
That's good. His voice hoarsened with the effort to keep it steady
and casual. Is everything going all right?
Isis the money end of it all right?
Yes, that is, I am not worrying about money.
You're not making money?
You are not losing any?
I ama little. That was to be expected, don't you think so?
How much are you losing?
I don't know exactly.
You ought to know. Are you keeping your own books?
Betty helps me.
Are you losing a hundred a month?
I suppose so.
I don't really know.
A thousand? he insisted.
Yes, Nancy answered recklessly, the way I run it.
It doesn't make any difference, of course; Dick said, you've got
all my money behind you.
I haven't anybody's money behind me except my own.
You had fifteen thousand dollars. Do you mean to say that you have
any of that left to draw on?
No, I don't.
Do you mind telling me how you are managing?
Billy borrowed some money for me.
On what security?
I don't know.
Why didn't he come to me?
I told him not to.
Nancy, do you realize that you're the most exasperating woman that
ever walked the face of this earth? the unhappy lover asked.
Nancy managed to convey the fact that Dick's asseveration both
surprised and pained her, without resorting to the use of words.
I wish you wouldn't spoil this lovely party, she said to him a few
seconds later. I'm extremely tired, and I should like to get my mind
off my business instead of going over these tiresome details with
You look very innocent and kind and loving, Dick said desperately,
but at heart you're a little fraud, Nancy.
She interrupted him to point out two children laden with wild
flowers, trudging along the roadside.
See how adorably dirty and happy they are, she cried. That little
fellow has his shoestrings untied, and keeps tripping on them, he's so
tired, but he's so crazy about the posies that he doesn't care. I
wonder if he's taking them home to his mother.
You're devoted to children, Nancy, aren't you? Dick's voice
Yes, I am, and some day I'm going to adopt a whole orphan
asylum,her voice altered in a way that Dick did not in the least
understand. I could if I wanted to, she laughed. Maybe I will want
to some day. So many of my ideas are being changed and modified by
The road-house of his choice, when they reached it, proved to have
deteriorated sadly since his last visit. The cool interior that he
remembered had been inopportunely opened to the hottest blast of the
day's heat, and hermetically sealed again, or at least so it seemed to
Dick; and the furniture was all red and thickly, almost suffocatingly,
upholstered. Nancy had no comment on the torrid air of the
dining-room,she rarely complained about anything. Even the presence
of a fly in her bouillon jelly scarcely disturbed her equanimity, but
Dick knew that she was secretly sustained by the conviction that such
an accident was impossible under her system of supervision at Outside
Inn, and resented her tranquillity accordingly.
Caroline, behaving not so well, seemed to him a much more human and
sympathetic figure, though her nose took on a high shine unknown to
Nancy's demurer and more discreetly served features; but Billy
evidently preferred Nancy's deportment, which was on the surface calm
Nancy's a sport, he pointed out to Caroline enthusiastically, no
fly in the ointment gets her goat. She enjoys herself even when she's
She doesn't feel the heat the way I do, Caroline snapped.
I feel the heat, Nancy said, but I
She's got a system, Dick cut in savagely: she stands it just as
long as she can, and then she takes it out of me in some diabolical
Nancy's gray-blue eyes took on the far-away look that those who
loved her had learned to associate with her most baffling moments.
Just by being especially nice to Dick, she said thoughtfully, I
can make him more furious with me than in any other way.
Nancy and Caroline finished their sloppy ices at the table together
while Dick and Billy sought the solace of a pipe in the garage outside.
I don't understand coming into Connecticut to-day, Nancy said as
soon as they were alone; it seems like such a stupid excursion for
Dick to make. He's usually pretty good at picking out places to go. In
fact, he has a kind of genius for it.
He slipped up this time, Caroline said, I'm so hot.
So am I, said Nancy, slumping limply into the depths of her red
velour chair. I want to get back to New York. Oh! what was it you told
me the other day that you had been saving up to tell me?
Oh, yes! Why, it was something Collier Pratt said about you. You
know Betty has scraped up quite an acquaintance with him. She goes and
sits down at his table sometimes.
She's going to be stopped doing that, Nancy said.
Well, you remember the night when you went home early with a
headache, and passed by his table going out?
Yes, but I didn't know he saw me.
He sees everything, Betty says.
He didn't suspect me?
He didn't know you came out of the interior. He said to Betty,
'It's curious that Miss Martin never stays here to dine in the evening,
though she so often drops in.' Betty is pretty quick, you know. She
said, 'I think Miss Martin is a friend of the proprietor.'
So I am, said Nancy, the best friend she's got. Go on, dear.
Then he said slowly and thoughtfully, 'It's a crime for a woman
like that not to be the mother of children. If ever I saw a maternal
type, Miss Ann Martin is the apotheosis of it. Why some man hasn't made
her understand that long ago I can not see.'
Nancy's cheeks burned crimson and then white again.
How dare Betty? she said.
Wait till you hear. You know Betty doesn't care what she says. Her
reply to that was peculiarly Bettyish. She sighed and cast down her
eyes,the little imp! 'The course of true love never does run smooth,'
she said; 'perhaps Ann has discovered the truth of that old saying in
some new connection.' She didn't mean to be a cat, she was only trying
to create a romantic interest in your affairs, doing as she would be
done by. The effect was more than she bargained for though. Collier
Pratt's eyes quite lit up. 'I can imagine no greater crime than
frustrating the instincts of a woman like that,' he said. Imagine
thatthe instinctswhereupon Betty, of course, flounced off and left
She would, Nancy said. Then a storm of real anger surged through
her. I'll turn her out of my place to-morrow. I'll never look at her
or speak to her again.
I think it would be more to the point, Caroline said, to turn out
Collier Pratt. That was certainly an extraordinary way for him to speak
of you to a girl who is a stranger to him.
Caroline, you're almost as bad as Betty is. You're both of you
hopelesslyhelplesslyprovincially American. I don't think that was
extraordinary or impertinent even, Nancy said. II understand how
that man means things.
* * * * *
The car drove up in front of the office of the justice of the peace
in the town beyond that in which they had had their unauspicious
Are we stopping here for any particular reason? Caroline said.
Nancy had not spoken in more than a monosyllable since they had
resumed their places in the car again.
Not now, Dick said wearily. I thought I'd point out the sights of
the town. This place is called the Gretna Green of America, you know. A
great many runaway couples come out here to be married. The man inside
that office, the one with whiskers and no collar, is the one that
Does he? Billy asked a trifle uncertainly.
Nancy turned to Dick with a real appeal in her voice. It was the
first time during the day that she had addressed him with anything like
her natural tenderness and sweetness.
Oh! Dick, can't we start on? she said.
CHAPTER VIII. SCIENCE APPLIED
Gaspard was illvery ill. He lay in the little anteroom at the top
of the stairs and groaned thunderously. He had a pain in his back and a
roaring in his head, and an extreme disorder in the region of his solar
Sure an' he's no more nor less than a human earthquake, Michael
reported after an examination.
Nancy applied ice caps and hot-water bags to the afflicted areas
without avail. The stricken man had struggled from his bed in the
Twentieth Street lodging-house that he had chosen for his habitation,
and staggered through the heavy morning heat to his post in the
basement kitchen of Nancy's Inn, there to collapse ignominiously
between his cooking ranges. With Molly and Dolly and Hildeguard at his
feet and herself and Michael and a dishwasher at his head they had
managed to get him up the two short flights of stairs. It developed
that it would be necessary to remove him in an ambulance later in the
day, but for the time being he lay like a contorted Colossus on the
fragile-looking cot that constituted his improvised bed of pain: Like
the great grandfather, to quote Michael again, of all of them Zeus'es
and gargoyles, and other cavortin' gentlemen in the yard down-stairs.
With the luncheon menu before her, Nancy decided that the hour had
come for her to prove herself. She had assumed the practical management
of the business of the Inn only to have the responsibility and much of
the authority of her position taken from her by the very efficiency of
her staff. She was far too good a business woman not to realize that
this condition was distinctly to her advantage, and to encourage it
accordingly, but there was still so much of the child in her that she
secretly resented every usurpation of privilege.
With Gaspard ill she was able to manipulate the affairs of the
kitchen exactly as she chose, and even in the moment of applying the
hot at the base of the brain and the cold at the forehead that the
doctor had prescribed as the most effective method for relieving the
pressure of blood in the tortured temples of the suffering man, she had
been conscious of that thrill of triumph that most human beings feel
when the involuntary removal of the man higher up invests them with
Michael did the marketing, and the list went through as Gaspard had
planned it, with some slight adaptations to the exigency, such as the
substitution of twenty-five cans of tomato soup for the fresh
vegetables with which Gaspard had planned to make his tomato bisque,
and brandied peaches in glass jars instead of peach soufflé.
If I allow myself a little handicap in the matter of details, she
said, I know I can put everything else through as well as Gaspard;
whereupon she enveloped herself in a huge linen apron, tucked her hair
into one of the chef's white caps, and attacked the problem of
preparing luncheon for from sixty-five to two hundred people, who were
scheduled to appear at uncertain intervals between the hours of twelve
and two-thirty. Later she must be ready to serve tea and ices to a
problematical number of patrons, but she tried not to think beyond the
She could make a very good tomato bisque by adding one cup of milk
and a dash of cream to one half-pint can of MacDonald's tomato soup,
enough to serve three people adequately, and she proceeded to multiply
that recipe by twenty-five. She didn't think of getting large cans till
Michael in the process of opening the half-pint tins made the belated
suggestion, which she greeted with some hauteur.
I'm not the person to mind a little extra work, Michael, when I am
sure of my results. Precisionthat's the secret of the difference
between American and French cooking.
An' sure and I fail to see the difference between the preciseness
of a quart can and four half-pint ones, but I suppose it's my ignorance
Your supposition is correct, Michael, she said airily, but out of
the corner of her eye she saw him smiling to himself over the growing
heap of half-pint tins, and reddened with mortification at her naiveté
in the matter.
She looked at the vat of terra-cotta purée with considerable dismay
when she had stirred in the last measure of cream. Twenty-five pints of
tomato bisque is a rather formidable quantity of a liquid the chief
virtue of which is its sparing and judicious introduction into the
individual diet scheme. Nancy hardly felt that she wanted to be alone
They'll soon lick it all up, and be polishing their plates like so
many Tom-cats, Michael said, indicating their potential patronage by
waving his hand toward the courtyard. Here comes Miss Betty, now.
She'll be after lending a hand in the cooking.
Keep her away, Michael, Nancy cried; go out and head her off.
Make her go up-stairs and sit with Gaspard,anything, but don't let
her come in here. If she does I won't answer for the consequences.
I'llI'llI don't know what I'll do to her.
Throw her in the soup kettle, most likely, Michael chuckled.
Faith, an' I never saw a woman yet that wasn't ready to scratch the
eyes out of the next one that got into her kitchen.
She isn't safe, Nancy said darkly. I need every bit of brain and
self-control I have to put this luncheon through. You keep Miss Betty's
mind on something elseanything but me and the way I am doing the
'Tis done, said Michael; sure an' I'll protect her from you, if I
have to abduct her myself!
I wish he would, Nancy said to herself viciously, before she gets
another chance at Collier Pratt.Creamed chicken and mushrooms. It's a
lucky thing that Gaspard diced the chicken last night, and fixed that
macédoine of vegetables for a garnish.She's a dangerous woman; she
might wreck one's whole life with her unfeeling, histrionic
nonsense.I wonder if thirteen quarts of cream sauce is going to be
It turned out to be quite enough after the crises in which the
butter basis got too brown, and the flour after melting into it
smoothly seemed unreasonably inclined to lump again as Nancy stirred
the cold milk into it, but the result after all was perfectly adequate,
except for the uncanny brown tinge that the whole mixture had taken on.
Nancy was unable to restrain herself from taking a sample of it to
Maisbut I can not eat it now, he cried, misunderstanding
the purpose of her visit, nor againnor ever again. Jamais!
I don't want you to eat it, Gaspard, I want you to look at it, and
tell me what makes it that color. It turned tan, you see. I don't want
to poison any one.
I am too miserable, Gaspard said. The sauceyou have made into
Béchamel with the browning butter, voilà tout. It is better
so,it would not hurt any one in the world but meand me it would
Poor thing, sighed Nancy, as she took her place by the kitchen
dresser again, trying to remember where she had last seen brown eyes
that reflected the look of stricken endurance that glazed Gaspard's
velvet orbs, recalled with a start that Dick had gazed at her in much
the same helpless fashion on their drive home from their recent motor
trip in Connecticut. She had been too absorbed in her own distresses to
consider anybody's state of mind but her own, on that occasion, but now
Dick's expression came back to her vividly, and she nearly ruined a big
bowl of French dressing, at the crucial moment of putting in the
vinegar, trying to imagine which one of the events of that inauspicious
day might conceivably have caused it.
After the actual serving of the meal began, however, she had very
little time for reflection or reminiscence. The distribution of food to
the waitresses as they called for it required the full concentration of
her powers. Molly and Dolly coached her, and with their assistance she
was soon able to fill the bewilderingly rapid orders from the line of
girls stretching from the door to the open space in front of her
serving-table, which never seemed to diminish however adequately its
demands were met.
Mechanically she took soup and meat dishes from the hooded shelves
at the top of the range where they were kept warming, and ladled out
the brick-colored bisque, the creamed chicken and garnishing of the
individual orders. The chicken looked delicious with its accompaniment
of vari-colored vegetables,Nancy had done away with the side dish
long sinceand each serving was assembled with special reference to
its decorative qualities. The girls went up-stairs to put the salad on
the plates, where the desserts were already dished in the quaint blue
bowls in which stewed fruits and the more fluid sweets were always
In her mind's eye Nancy could see the picture. At noon the court was
almost entirely in the shade, and instead of the awning top, which shut
out the air, there were gay striped umbrellas at the one or two tables
that were imperfectly protected from the sun. She had recently invested
in some table-cloths with bright blue woven borders. Flowers were
arranged in low bowls and baskets on respective tables. Nancy
instinctively grouped tired young business men in blue serge and soft
collars at the tables decorated with the baskets of blue flowers; and
pale young women in lingerie blouses before the bowls of roses. She
could see them,those big-eyed girls with delicate blue veins
accentuating the pallor of their white facessinking gratefully into
the wicker seats and benches, and sniffing rapturously at the faint
far-away fragrance of the woodland blossoms.
I hope they will steal a great many of them, she thought, for her
patrons were given to despoiling her flower vases in a way that
scandalized the good Hildeguard, who was a just but ungenerous soul in
spite of her ample proportions and popular qualities. Molly and Dolly
were rather given to encouraging the vandals, knowing that they had
Nancy's tacit approval.
Automatically dipping the huge metal ladleone filling of which was
enough for a serviceinto the big soup kettle, she stood for a moment
gazing into its magenta depths oblivious to everything but the
rhapsodic consideration of her realized dream. Now for the first time
she was contributing directly her own strength and energy to the public
which she served. She had prepared with her own hands the meal which
her grateful patrons were consuming. The little girls with the tired
faces, the jaded men, the smart, weary business womenbuyers and
secretaries and modistes,who were occupied in the neighborhood were
all being literally nourished by her. She had actually manufactured the
product that was to sustain them through the weary day of heat and
How do they like the lunch, Molly? she asked, as she deftly
deposited the forty-fifth serving of chicken with Béchamel sauce on the
exact center of the plate before her. Are they pleased with the soup?
Are they saying complimentary things about the chicken?
Some of them is, Miss Nancy. Some of them is complaining that they
can't get any other kind of soup. Them that usually gets invalid broth
don't understand our running out of it.
I forgot about the specials, Nancy cried.
That red-haired girl that we feed on custards and nut bread and
that special cocoa Gaspard makes for her, she acted real bad. They get
expecting certain things, and then they want them.
I'm sorry, Nancy said; I'll make all those things to-morrow.
The old feller that always has the stewed prunes is terrible
pleased though. I give him two helps of the peaches, and he wanted
another. He was pleased to get white bread too. He complains something
dreadful about his bran biscuit every day.
I meant to send to the woman's exchange for different kinds of
health bread, but I forgot it, Nancy moaned. Do they like the peaches
Most of them likes them too well. There was one old lady that got
one whiff of them, and pushed back her chair and left. I guess she had
took the pledge, and the brandy went against her principles.
I never thought of that. I only thought that brandied peaches would
be a treat to so many people who didn't have them habitually served at
The picture in Nancy's mind changed in color a trifle. She could see
sour-faced spinsters at single tables pushing back their chairs,
overturning the rose bowls in their hurry to shake the dust of her
restaurant from their feet.
Don't accept any money from people who don't like their luncheon,
she admonished Molly, who was next in line with several orders to be
filled at once. Tell them that the proprietor of Outside Inn prefers
not to be paid unless the meal is entirely satisfactory.
I'm afraid there wouldn't never be any satisfactory meals if I told
them that, Miss Nancy.
I don't want any one ever to pay for anything he doesn't like,
Nancy insisted. Slip the money back in their coat pockets if you can't
manage it any other way.
There's lots of complaints about the soup, Dolly said; so many
people don't like tomato in the heat. Gaspard, he always had a choice
even if it wasn't down on the menu. I might deduct, say fifteen cents
now, and slip it back to them with their change.
Please do, Nancy implored. Tell Molly and Hildeguard.
Hilda would drop dead, but Molly'd like the fun of it.
It was hot in the kitchen. The soup kettle bad been emptied of more
than half its contents, but the liquid that was left bubbled thickly
over the gas flame that had been newly lit to reheat it. The pungent,
acrid odor of hot tomatoes affronted her nostrils. She had a vision now
of the pale tired faces of the little stenographers turning in disgust
from the contemplation of the flamboyant and sticky purée on their
plates, annoyed by the color scheme in combination with the soft
wild-rose pink of the table bouquets, if not actually sickened by the
fluid itself. For the first time since his abrupt seizure that morning
she began to hope in her heart that Gaspard's illness might be a matter
of days instead of weeks. She served Hildeguard and one of the other
waitresses with more soup, and then began to boil some eggs to eke out
the chicken, which, owing to her unprecedented generosity in the matter
of portions, seemed to be diminishing with alarming rapidity.
From the kitchen closet beyond came the clatter of dishwashing, the
interminable splashing of water, and stacking of plates, punctuated by
the occasional clang of smashing glass or pottery. She had discharged
two dishwashers in less than two weeks' time, with the natural feeling
that any change in that department must be for the better, but the
present incumbent was even more incompetent than his predecessors. Even
Nancy's impregnable nerves began to feel the strain of the continual
clamorous assault on them.
Betty appeared in the doorway that led directly from the restaurant
I'm sorry to intrude, she said. Don't blame Michael, I'm breaking
my parole to get in here. He locked me in and made me swear I'd keep
out of the kitchen before he'd let me out at all, but I had to tell you
this. The tomato soup has curdled and you ought not to serve it any
Well, I thought it looked rather funny, Nancy moaned.
It won't do anybody any harm, you know. It just looks bad, and a
lot of people are kicking about it. Did Molly tell you about the old
fellow that got tipsy on the peaches?
No, she didn't. I sent Michael out for some ripe peaches and other
fruit to serve instead.
That's a good idea. How's the food holding out? There are lots of
people you know up-stairs, she rattled on, for Nancy, who was getting
more and more distraught with each disquieting detail, made no pretense
of answering her. Dolly has probably kept you informed. Dick's aunt is
here, and that terribly highbrow cousin of Caroline's; and that
good-looking young surgeon that suddenly got so famous last winter, and
admired you so much. Dr. Sunderlandisn't that his name? I never saw
Collier Pratt here for lunch before. There's a little girl with him,
Collier Pratt? Nancy cried, Oh, Betty, he isn't here. He couldn't
be. Don't frighten me with any such nonsense. He never comes here in
He is though, Betty said, and a queer-looking little child with
him, a dark-eyed little thing dressed in black satin.
It seems a good deal to me as if you were making that up, Nancy
cried in exasperation; it's so much the kind of thing you do make up.
I know it, Betty said, unexpectedly reasonable, but as it happens
I'm not. Collier Pratt really is up-stairs with a poor little orphan in
tow. Ask any one of the girls.
At this moment Dolly, her ribbons awry and her china-blue eyes
widened with excitement, appeared with a dramatic confirmation of
Betty's astonishing announcement.
There's a little girl took sick from the peaches, and moved
up-stairs in the room next to Gaspard's, she cried breathlessly. The
doctor that was sitting at the next table, had her moved right up
there. He wants to see the lady that runs the restaurant, and he wants
a lot of hot water in a pitcher, and some baking soda.
You see, Betty said, go on up, I'll take your place here. Dolly,
get the things the doctor asked for.
Nancy stripped off her cap and her apron and resigned her spoons and
ladles to Betty without a word. She was still incredulous of what she
would find at the top of the three flights of creaking age-worn stairs
that separated her from the nest of rooms that were the storm quarters
of her hostelry, now converted by a sudden malevolence on the part of
fate into a temporary hospital. As she took the last flight she could
hear Gaspard's stertorous breathing coming at the regular intervals of
distressful slumber, and through that an ominous murmur of grave and
low-voiced conference, such as one hears in the chambers of the dead.
The convulsive application of a powder puff to the tip of her burning
noseher whole face was aflame with exertion and excitementwas
merely a part of her whole subconscious effort to get herself in hand
for the exigency. Her mind, itself, refused any preparation for the
scene that awaited her.
On one of the cushioned benches against the wall in the most
decorative of the dining-rooms of the up-stairs suite, a little girl
was lying stark against the brilliant blue of the upholstery. She was a
child of some seven or eight, lightly built and delicate of features
and dressed all in black. Her eyes were closed, but the long lashes
emphasizing the shadows in which they were set, prepared you for the
revelation of them. Nancy understood that they were Collier Pratt's
eyes, and that they would open presently, and look wonderingly up at
her. She recognized the presence of Dr. Sunderland, of Michael and
several of the waitresses, and a flighty woman in blue taffetaan
ubiquitous patron,but she made her way past them at once, and sank on
her knees before the prostrate child.
It's nothing very serious, Miss Martin, the young surgeon
reassured her, delicate children of this type are likely to have these
seizures. It's not exactly a fainting fit. It belongs rather to the
family of hysteria.
Wasn't it the peaches? Nancy asked fearfully. Theythey had a
little brandy in them.
They may have been a contributing cause, Dr. Sunderland
acknowledged, but the child's condition is primarily responsible. Let
her alone until she rouses,then give her hot water with a pinch of
soda in it at fifteen-minute intervals. Keep her feet hot and her head
cold and don't try to move her until after dark, when it's cooler.
All right, Nancy said, I'll take care of her.
Here comes her poor father, now, the lady in taffeta announced
with the dramatic commiseration of the self-invited auditor. He
thought an iced towel on her head might make her feel better. Is the
dear little thing an orphanI mean a half orphan?
The assembled company seeming disinclined to respond, she repeated
her inquiry to Collier Pratt himself, as with the susceptive grace that
characterized all his movements, he swung the compress he was carrying
sharply to and fro to preserve its temperature in transit. Is the poor
little thing a half orphan?
The poor little thing is nine-tenths orphan, madam, said Collier
Pratt, that isthe only creature to whom she can turn for protection
is the apology for a parent that you see before you. Would you mind
stepping aside and giving me a little more room to work in?
Not at all. Irony was wasted on the indomitable sympathizer in
blue. Hasn't she really anybody but you to take care of her?
Collier Pratt arranged the towel precisely in position over the
little girl's forehead, smoothing with careful fingers the cloud of
dusky hair that fell about her face.
She has not, he answered with some savagery.
Hasn't she any women friends or relatives that would be willing to
take charge of her?
Then some woman that has no child of her own to care for ought to
adopt her, and relieve you of the responsibility. It's a shame and
disgrace the way these New York women with no natural ties of their own
go around crying for something to do, when there are sweet little
children like this suffering for a mother's care. I'd adopt her myself
if I was able to. I certainly would.
I'm perfectly willing to give over the technical part of her
bringing up to some one of the women whom you so feelingly describe,
Collier Pratt said. The trouble is to find the womanthe right woman.
The vicarious mother is not the most prevalent of our modern types, I
regret to say.
The little girl on the couch stirred softly, and the hand that Nancy
was holding, a pathetic, thin, unkempt little hand, grew warm in hers.
The lids of the big eyes fluttered and lifted. Nancy looked into their
clouded depths for an instant. Then she turned to Collier Pratt
I'll take care of your little girl for you, if you will let me,
CHAPTER IX. SHEILA
I had mal de mer when I was on the steamer, the child said,
in her pretty, painstaking Englishshe spoke French habitually. I do
not like to have it on the land. The gentleman in there, she pointed
to the room beyond where Gaspard was again distressfully sleeping the
sleep of the spent after a period of the most profound physical
agitation, he does not like to have it, too,I mean either.
Nancy had propped the little girl up on improvised pillows made of
coats and wraps swathed in towels and covered her with some strips of
canton flannel designed to use as hushers under the table covers. As
soon as the intense discomfort and nausea that had followed the first
period of faintness had passed, Nancy had slipped off the shabby satin
dress, made like the long-sleeved kitchen apron of New England
extraction, and attired the child in a craftily simulated night-gown of
table linen. Collier Pratt had worked with her, deftly supplementing
all her efforts for his little girl's comfort until she had fallen into
the exhausted sleep from which she was only now rousing and beginning
to chatter. Her father had left her, still sleeping soundly, in Nancy's
care, and gone off to keep an appointment with a prospective picture
buyer. He had made no comment on Nancy's sudden impulsive offer to take
the child in charge, and neither she nor he had referred to the matter
Are you comfortable now, Sheila? Nancy asked. She had expected the
child to have a French name, Suzanne or Japonette or something equally
picturesque, but she realized as soon as she heard it that Sheila was
much more suitable. The cloudy blue-black hair, and steel-blue eyes,
the slight elongation of the space between the upper lip and nose, the
dazzling satin whiteness of the skin were all Irish in their
suggestion. Was the child's motherthat other natural protector of the
child, who had died or deserted herNancy tried not to wonder too much
which it was that she had done,an Irish girl, or was Collier Pratt
himself of that romantic origin?
Oui, Mademoiselle, I mean, yes, thank you. I do not think I
will say to you Miss Martin. We only say their names like that to the
people with whom we are not intime. We are intime now,
aren't we, now that I have been so very sick chez vous? In Paris
the concierge had a daughter that I called Mademoiselle Cherie,
and we were very intime. I think I would like to call you Miss
Dear in English after her.
I should like that very much, Nancy said.
I am glad the sick gentleman is called Gaspard. So many
messieursI mean gentlemen in Paris are called Gaspard, and hardly
any in the United States of America. American things are very different
from things in Paris, don't you think so, Miss Dear?
I'm afraid they are, Nancy acquiesced gravely.
I'm afraid they are too, the child said, but afraid is what I try
not to be of them. My father says America is full of beasts and devils,
but he does not mind because he can paint them.
Do you live in a studio? Nancy asked after a struggle to prevent
herself from asking the question. She felt that she had no right to any
of the facts about Collier Pratt's existence that he did not choose to
volunteer for himself.
Yes, Miss Dear, but not like Paris. There we had a door that opened
into a garden, and the birds sang there, and I was allowed to go and
play. Here we have only a fire-escape, and the concierge is only
a janitor and will not allow us to keep milk bottles on it. I do not
like a janitor. Concierges have so much more politesse.
Now, no one takes care of me when father goes out, or brings me soup or
gâteaux when he forgets.
Does he forget? Nancy cried, horrified.
Sometimes. He forgets himself, too, very often except dinner. He
remembers that because he likes to come to this Outside Inn restaurant,
where the cooking is so good. He brought me here to-day because it was
my birthday. I think the cooking is very good except that I was so sick
of eating it, but father swore to-day that it was not.
He said damn. That is not very bad swearing. I think nom de Dieu
is worse, don't you, Miss Dear?
I'm going to take you up in my arms, said Nancy with sudden
passion. I want to feel how thin you are, and I want to feel how
Why, your eyes are wetting, the little girl exclaimed as she
nestled contentedly against Nancy's breast, where Nancy had gathered
her, converted table-cloth and all.
It's your not having enough to eat, Nancy cried. Oh! baby child,
honey. How could they? It's your calling me Miss Dear, too, she said.
II can't stand the combination.
The child patted her cheek consolingly.
Don't cry, she said; my father cries because I get so hungry,
when he forgets, but he does forget again as soon.
Would you like to come and live with me, Sheila? Nancy asked.
I think so, Miss Dear.
Then you shall, Nancy said devoutly.
Collier Pratt found his child in Nancy's arms when he again mounted
the stairs to the third floor of Outside Inn. The place was curiously
cool to one who had been walking the sun-baked streets, and he gave an
appreciative glance at the dim interior and the tableau of woman and
child. Nancy's burnished head bent gravely over the shadowy dark one
resting against her bosom.
All right again, is she? he inquired with the slow rare smile that
Nancy had not seen before that day.
Yes, Nancy said, she's better. She's under-nourished, that's what
the trouble is.
I suspected that, Collier Pratt said ruefully. I'm not specially
talented as a parent. I feed her passionately for days, and then I stop
feeding her almost entirely. Artists in my circumstances eat sketchily
at best. The only reason that I am fed with any regularity is that I
have the habit of coming to this restaurant of yours. By the way, is it
yours? I found you in charge to-day to my amazement.
I am in charge to-day, Nancy acknowledged; in fact I have taken
over the management of it forfor a friend.
The mysterious philanthropist.
Then I will refrain from any comment on the lunch to-day.
Oh! thatthat was a mistake, Nancy cried, an experiment. Gaspard
the chefwas ill.
He was very ill, father, dear, Sheila added gravely, like
crossing the Channel, much sicker than I was. I was only sick like
crossing the ocean, you know.
These fine distinctions, Collier Pratt said, she's much given to
them. His eyes narrowed as they rested again on the picture Nancy
madethe cool curve of her bent neck, the rise and fall of the breast
in which the breathing had quickened perceptibly since his coming,the
child swathed in the long folds of white linen outlined against the
Madonna blue of the dress that she was wearing. Nancy blushed under the
intentness of his gaze, understanding, thanks to Caroline's report of
his conversation with Betty, something of what was in his mind about
Gaspard is going to be taken away in an ambulance, the child said,
to the hospital.
Then who is going to cook my dinner? Collier Pratt asked.
Good lord, I don't know, Nancy cried, roused to her
She looked at the watch on her wrist, a platinum bracelet affair
with an octagonal face that Dick had persuaded her to accept for a
Christmas present by giving one exactly like it to Betty and Caroline.
It was twenty-five minutes of five. Dinner was served every night
promptly at half past six, and there was absolutely no preparation made
for it, not so much as a loaf of bread ordered. Instead of doing the
usual marketing in the morning she had sent Michael out for the things
that she needed in the preparation of luncheon, and planned to make up
a list of things that she needed for dinner just as soon as her midday
duties in the kitchen had set her free. She thought that she would be
more like Gaspard, inspired to buy what is right if she waited until
the success of her luncheon had been assured. The ensuing events had
driven the affairs of her cuisine entirely out of her mind. She was
constrained by her native tendency to concentrate on the business in
hand to the exclusion of all other matters, big and little. She had
dismissed Betty during the excitement that followed Sheila's illness,
and Betty had seemed unnaturally willing to leave the hectic scene and
go about her business. Michael had made several ineffectual attempts to
speak to her, but she had waved him away impatiently. She knew that
neither he nor any one else on the restaurant staff would believe that
she hadn't made some adequate and mysterious provision for the serving
of the night meal. She had never failed before in the smallest detail
of executive policy. She set the child back upon the cushion, and
arranged her perfunctorily in position there.
I don't know what you are going to have for dinner, she
said, much less who's going to cook it for you.
Perhaps I had better arrange to have it elsewhere, since this seems
to be literally the cook's day out.
There'll be dinner, said Nancy uncertainly.
Dick came up the stairs three at a time, and in his wake she heard
the murmur of women's voicesCaroline's and Betty's.
I heard you were in difficulties, Dick said, so I made Sister
Betty and Caroline give up their perfectly good trip into the country,
in order to come around and mix in.
I didn't know Betty was going driving with you, Nancy said. She
didn't say so. Oh! Dick, there isn't any dinner. I forgot all about it.
This is Mr. Collier Pratt and his little daughter,Mr. Richard
Thorndyke. She's coming to live with me soon, I hope, and let Hitty
take care of her.
The two men shook hands.
Hold on a minute, Dick said, that paragraph is replete with
interest, but I want to get it assimilated. Sure, Betty was going
driving with me. I told her to ask you if she thought it would be any
use, but she allowed it wouldn't. I am delighted to meet Mr. Pratt, and
pleased to know that his daughter is coming to live with you, but isn't
that rather sudden? Also, what's this about there not being any
There isn't, Nancy was beginning, when she realized that Caroline
and Betty, who had followed closely on Dick's footsteps, were looking
at her with faces pale with consternation and alarm. She could see the
anticipatory collapse of Outside Inn writ large on Caroline's
expressive countenance. Caroline was the type of girl who believed that
in the very nature of things the undertakings of her most intimate
friends were doomed to failure. There isn't any dinner yet, Nancy
corrected herself, but you go up to my place, Dick, and get Hitty.
Tell her she's got to cook dinner for this restaurant to-night. She can
cook three courses of anything she likes, and have carte blanche
in the kitchen. You have more influence with her than anybody, so, no
matter what she says, make her do it. Then when she decides what she
wants to cook, drive her around until she collects her ingredients. She
won't let anybody do the marketing for her.
All right, Dick said, I'll do my best.
You'll have to do more than that, Betty laughed as he started off,
but you're perfectly capable of it. How do you do, Mr. Pratt? This is
Miss Eustace, pale with apprehension about the way things are going,
but still recognizable and answering to her name. Betty always enjoyed
introducing Caroline with an audacious flourish, since Caroline always
suffered so much in the process.
And this is little Miss Sheila Pratt, Nancy supplemented.
Enchanté, the little girl said, I mean, I am very pleased
to meet you. I was very sick, but I am better now, and I am going to
live with Miss Dear.
It seems to be settled, her father said, shrugging.
Would you mind it so very much? Nancy asked.
I wouldn't mind it at all, Collier Pratt said. I think it would
be a delightful arrangement,if I'm to take you seriously.
Nancy is always to be taken seriously, Betty put in. What she
really wants of the child is to use her for dietetic experiment, I'm
That's what she's used to, poor child, Collier Pratt said
The removal of Gaspard created a diversion. Nancy took Sheila in to
bid him good-by, and the great creature was so touched by the farewell
kiss that she imprinted on his forehead, and the revelation of the fact
that a fellow being had been suffering kindred throes in the chamber
just beyond his own that he was of two minds about letting himself be
moved at all from her proximity. A group of waitresses collected on the
second landing, and Nancy and her friends stood together at the head of
the stairs while the white-coated intern from the hospital rolled his
great bulk upon a fragile-looking stretcher, and with the assistance of
all the male talent in the establishment, managed to head him down the
stairs, and so on across the court and into the waiting ambulance.
Nancy's eyes filled with inexplicable tears, and she caught Collier
Pratt regarding them with some amusement.
He's such a dear, she said somewhat irrelevantly. I really didn't
care whether he was sick or not this morning,but you get so fond of
people that are around all the time.
I don't, said Collier Pratt,he spoke very lightly, but there was
something in his tone that made Nancy want to turn and look at him
intently. She seemed to see for the first time a shade of defiant
cruelty in his face,I don't, he reiterated.
I do, Nancy repeated stubbornly, but as she met his slow smile,
the slight impression of unpleasantness vanished.
We artists are selfish people, he said. I'm going to run away
now, and leave my daughter to cultivate your charming friends. Will you
come and eat your dinner at my little table to-night, and talk, discuss
this matter of her visit to you?
I will if there is any dinner, Nancy said, putting out a throbbing
hand to him.
There was a dinner. It was Hitty's conception of an emergency
mealthe kind of thing that her mother before her had prepared on
wash-day when an unexpected relative alighted from the noon train, and
surprised her into inadvertent hospitality. It began with steamed clams
and melted butter sauce. Hitty knew a fish market where the clams were
imported direct from Cape Cod by the nephew of a man who used to go to
school with her husband's brother, and he warranted every clam she
bought of him. They were served in soup plates and the drawn butter in
demi-tasses, but Hitty would have it no other way. The pièce de
résistance was ham and eggs, great fragrant crispy slices of ham
browned faintly gold across their pinky surface, and eggsHitty knew
where to get country eggs, tooso white, so golden-yolked, so tempting
that it was difficult to associate them with the prosaic process of
frying, but fried they were. With them were served boiled potatoes in
their jackets,no wash-day cook ever removed the peeling from an
emergency potato,and afterward a course of Hitty's famous huckleberry
dumplings, the lightest, most ephemeral balls of dumplings that were
ever dipped into the blue-black deeps of hot huckleberrynot
blueberry, but country huckleberrysauce.
Where's the coffee? Nancy asked Dolly miserably, when the
humiliating meal was drawing to its close.
She won't make coffee, Dolly whispered; she says it will keep
everybody awake, and they're much better off without it, but Miss
Betty, she's watching her chance, and she's making it.
Collier Pratt had received each course in silence, but had eaten
heartily of the food that was set before him.
I suppose he was hungry enough to eat anything, Nancy thought;
the lunch was humiliating enough, but this surpasses anything I
She had given up trying to estimate the calories that each man was
likely to average in partaking of Hitty's menu. She noticed that a
great many of her patrons had taken second helpings, and that threw her
out in her calculation of quantities, while the relative digestibility
of the protein and the fats in pork depend so much upon its preparation
that she could not approximate the virtue of Hitty's bill of fare
without consultation with Hitty.
That was a very excellent dinner, Collier Pratt broke through her
painful reverie to make his pronouncement. Astonishing, but very
satisfactory. It reminds me of days on my grandfather's farm when I was
I should think it might, Nancy said, for the first time in her
relation with her new friend becoming ironical on her own account. Then
she added seriously, It's Hitty, you know, that will have all the real
care of Sheila. I'm pretty busy down here, and I she hesitated, half
expecting him to threaten to remove his child at once from the
prospective guardianship of a creature who reverted so readily to the
barbarism of ham and eggs.
Well, if it's Hitty that is to have the care of Sheila, Collier
Pratt said, and Nancy was not longer puzzled as to which element of her
parentage Sheila owed her Irish complexion, why, more power to her!
Nancy dreamed that night that she was married to Dick, and that
Hitty made and served them pâté de foies gras dumplings, while
Collier Pratt in freckles and overalls sat in a high chair, and had his
dinner with the family. Later it was discovered that Betty had poisoned
his bread and milk, and he died in Nancy's arms in dreadful agony,
swearing in a beautiful Irish brogue that in all his life he had never
looked at another woman,which even in her dream seemed to Nancy a
somewhat irreconcilable statement.
CHAPTER X. THE PORTRAIT
To Nancy's surprise Hitty welcomed the little girl warmly, when she
was introduced into the family circle. She liked to be busy all day,
and her duties in taking care of Nancy were not onerous enough to keep
her full energy employed. She liked children and family life, and she
seemed to have the feeling that if Nancy continued to assemble the
various parts that go to make up a family, she would end by adding to
it the essential masculine element, though it was Dick and not Collier
Pratt that she visualized at the head of the table cutting up Sheila's
meat for her. Collier Pratt was to her a necessary but insignificant
detail in Nancy's scheme of things, a poor artist who had frittered
away so much time in furrin parts that he was incapable of supporting
his only childpoor little motherless lamb!in anything like a
befitting and adequate manner. Whenever he came to see Sheila she
treated him with the condescension of a poor relation, and served his
tea in the second best china with the kitchen silver and linen, unless
Nancy caught her at it in time to demand the best.
Nancy had expected that Collier Pratt would try to make some
business arrangement with her when she took Sheila in charge,that he
would insist on paying her at least a nominal sum a week for the
child's board. She had lain awake nights planning the conversations
with him in which she would overcome his delicate but natural scruples
in the matter and persuade him to her own way of thinking. She had even
fixed on the smallest sumtwo dollars and a half a weekat which she
thought she might induce him to compromise, if all her eloquence
failed. She knew that he considered her the hard working, paid manager
of Outside Inn, and took it for granted that she had no other source of
income. She was a little disconcerted that he made no effort, beyond
thanking her sincerely and simply for her kindness, to put the matter
on a more concrete basis, but when he told her presently that he was
going to do a portrait of her, she scourged herself for her New England
perspective on an affair that he handled with so much delicacy.
Her friends were, on the whole, pleased with her experiment in
vicarious motherhood. Dick instinctively resented the fact that Nancy
had taken Collier Pratt's daughter into her home and heart, but the
child herself was a delight to him, and he spent hours romping with her
and telling her stories, loading her with toys and sweetmeats, and
taking her off for enchanting holiday excursions over the Palisades
and far away. Billy was hardly less diverted with her, and Betty
regarded her advent as a provision on the part of Providence against
things becoming too commonplace. Caroline, as was her wont, took the
child very seriously, and tried to interest Nancy in all the latest
educational theories for her development, including posture dancing,
and potato raising.
Nancy herself had loved the child from the moment the big lustrous
gray eyes opened, on the day of her sudden illness at Outside Inn, and
looked confidingly up into hers. For the first time in her life her
maternal ardorthe instinct which made her yearn to nourish and
minister to a racehad concentrated on a single human being. Sheila,
hungry for mothering, had turned to her with the simplicity of the
people among whom she had been brought up, taking her sympathetic
response as a matter of course; and the two were soon on the closest,
most affectionate terms.
Sheila and Outside Inn divided Nancy's time to the practical
exclusion of all other interests. She had, without realizing her
processes, taken into her life artificial responsibilities in almost
exact proportion to the normal ones of any woman who makes the choice
of marriage rather than that of a career. She was doing housekeeping on
a large scale,she had a child to care for, and she felt that she had
entirely disproved any lingering feeling in the mind of any one
associated with her that she ought to marry,at least that she ought
to marry Dick.
No woman ought to marry for the sake of marrying, but she was
growing to understand now that the experiences of love and marriage
might be necessary to the true development of a woman like herself;
that there might even be some tragedy in missing them. She was
twenty-five, practically alone in the world, and the growing passion of
her life was for a child that she had borrowed, and might be
constrained to relinquish at any moment.
She was tired. The unaccustomed confinement of the long hours at the
Inn, the strain of enduring the thick, almost unalleviated heat of an
exceptionally humid New York summer, and the tension engendered by her
various executive responsibilities, all told on her physically, and her
physical condition in its turn reacted on her mind, till she was
conscious of a nostalgia,a yearning and a hunger for something that
she could not understand or name, but that was none the less
irresistible. She fell into strange moods of brooding and lassitude;
but there were two connections in which her spirit and ambition never
failed her. She never failed of interest in the distribution of food
values to her unconscious patrons, and incidentally to Collier Pratt,
or in directing the activities and diversions of Sheila.
She bathed and dressed the child with her own hands every morning,
combed out the cloudy black hair, fine spun and wavy, that framed the
delicate face, and accentuated the dazzling white and pink of her
coloring. She had bought her a complete new wardrobeshe was spending
money freely now on every one but herselfventuring on one dress at a
time in fear and trepidation lest Collier Pratt should suddenly call
her to account for her interference with his rights as a parent, but he
seemed entirely oblivious of the fact that Sheila had changed her
shabby studio black for the most cobwebby of muslins and linens, frocks
that by virtue of their exquisite fineness cost Nancy considerably more
than her own.
I say to my father, 'See the pretty new gown that Miss Dear bought
for me,' and my father says to me, 'Comb your hair straight back from
your brow, and don't let your arms dangle from your shoulders.' Sheila
complained, He sees so hard the little things that nobody seesand
big things like a dress or a hat he does not notice.
Men are like that, Nancy said. Last night when I put on my new
rose-colored gown for the first time, your friend Monsieur Dick told me
he had always liked that dress best of all.
Comme il est drôle, Monsieur Dick, Sheila said; he asked
me to grow up and marry him some day. He said I should sit on a cushion
and sew a fine seam, and feast upon strawberries, sugar and creamlike
And what did you say? Nancy asked.
I said that I thought I should like to marry him if I ever got to
be big enough,but I was afraid I should not be bigger for a long
time. Miss Betty said she would marry him if I was trop petite.
What did Dick say to that? Nancy could not forbear asking.
He said she was very kind, and maybe the time might come when he
would think seriously of her offer.
There was a feeling in Nancy's breast as if her heart had suddenly
got up and sat down again. Betty bore no remotest resemblance to the
pale kind girl, practically devoid of feminine allure, that Nancy had
visualized as the mate for Dick, and frequently exhorted him to go in
Miss Betty was only making a joke, she told Sheila sharply.
We were all making jokes, Miss Dear, Sheila explained.
I have never loved any one in the world quite so much as I love
you, Sheila, Nancy cried in sudden passion as the little girl turned
her face up to be kissed, as she always did when the conversation
I like being loved, Sheila said, sighing happily. My father loves
me,when he is not painting or eating. He is very good to me, I
Your father is a very wise man, Sheila, Nancy said, he
understands beautiful things that other people don't know anything
about. He looks at a flower and knows all about it, andand what it
needs to make it flourish. He looks at people that way, too.
But he doesn't always have time to get the flower what it wants,
Sheila said; my jessamine died in Paris because he forgot to water
Your father needs taking care of himself, Sheila. We must plan ways
of trying to make him more comfortable. Don't you think of something
that he needs that we could get for him?
More sockshe would like, Sheila said unexpectedly. When his
socks get holes in them he will not wear them. He stops whatever he is
doing to mend them, and the mends hurt him. He mends my stockings, too,
sometimes, but I like better the holes especially when he mends them on
Sheila could have presented no more appealing picture of her father
to Nancy's vivid imagination. Collier Pratt with the incongruous sewing
equipment of the unaccustomed male, using, more than likely, black
darning cotton on a white sockNancy's mental pictures were always
full of the most realistic detailbent tediously over a child's
stocking, while the precious sunlight was streaming unheeded upon the
waiting canvas. She darned very badly herself, but the desire was not
less strong in her to take from him all these preposterous and
unbefitting tasks, and execute them with her own hands. She stared at
the child fixedly.
You buy him some socks out of your allowance, she said at last.
Then she added an anxious and inadequate Oh, dear!
Aren't you happy? Sheila asked in unconscious imitation of Dick,
with whom she had been spending most of her time for days, while Nancy
superintended the additions and improvements she was making in the
up-stairs quarters of her Inn, preparatory to moving in for the winter.
Yes, I'm happy, Nancy said, but I'm sort ofstirred, too. I wish
you were my own little girl, Sheila. I think I'll take you with me to
the Inn to-day. You might melt and trickle away if I left you alone
here with Hitty.
Quelle joie! I mean, how nice that will be! Then I can talk
about Paris to Gaspard, and he will give me some baba, with a
soupçon of maraschine in the sauce, if you will tell him that I
may, Miss Dear.
I'll think about it. It was Nancy's dearest privilege to be asked
and grant permission for such indulgences. Put on that floppy white
hat with the yellow ribbon, and take your white coat.
When I had only one dress to wear I suppose I got just as dirty,
Sheila reflected, only it didn't show on black satin. Now I can tell
just how dirty I am by looking. I make lots of washing, Miss Dear.
Yes, thank heaven, Nancy said, unaccountably tearful of a sudden.
The first part of the day at the Inn went much like other days.
Gaspard, eager to retrieve the record of the week when Hitty and a
Viennese pastry cook had divided the honors of preparing the daily
menus between themfor Nancy had never again attempted the featnever
let a day go by without making a new plat de jour or inventing a
sauce; was in the throes of composing a new casserole, and it was a
pleasure to watch him deftly sifting and sorting his ingredients, his
artist's eyes aglow with the inward fire of inspiration. Nancy called
all the waitresses together and offered them certain prizes and rewards
for all the buttermilk, and prunes and other health dishes that they
were able to distribute among ailing patrons,with the result they
were over assiduous at the luncheon hour, and a red-headed young man
with gold teeth made a disturbance that it took both Hilda and Michael,
who appeared suddenly in his overalls from the upper regions where he
was constructing window-boxes, to quell. But these incidents were not
sufficiently significant to make the day in any way a memorable one to
Nancy. It took a telephone message from Collier Pratt, requesting, nay
demanding, her presence in his studio for the first sitting on her
portrait, to make the day stand out upon her calendar.
Sheila is with me. Shall I bring her? Nancy asked.
No, Collier Pratt said uncompromisingly, I am not a parent at
this hour. She would disturb me.
What shall I wear?
What have you got on?
That blue crêpe, made surplice,the one you liked the other
That's just what I wantMadonna blue. Can you get down here in
Yes, I'll send Michael up-town with Sheila.
The bare, ramshackle studio on Washington Square shocked her,it
was so comfortless, so dingy; but the canvases on the walls, set up
against the wainscoting, stacked on every available chair, gave her a
new and almost appalling impression of his personality, and the
peculiar poignant power of him. She could not appraise them, or get any
real sense of their quality apart from the astounding revelation of the
man behind the work.
They're wonderful! she gasped, but You're wonderful were the
words she stifled on her lips.
He painted till the light failed him.
It's this diffused glow,this gentle, faded afternoon light that I
want, he said. I want you to emerge from your background as if you
had bloomed out of it that very moment. Oh! I've got you at your hour,
you know! The prescient maternalthat's what I want. The conscious
moment when a woman becomes aware that she is potentially a mother.
Sheila's done that for you. She's brought it out in you. It was ready,
it was waiting there before, but now it's come. It's wonderful!
Yes, Nancy said, it'sit's come.
It hasn't been done, you know. It's a modern conception, of course;
but they all do the thing realized, or incipient. I want to do it
implicitthat's what I want. I might have searched the whole world
over and not found it.
Well, here I am, said Nancy faintly.
Yes, here you are, Collier Pratt responded out of the fervor of
his artist's absorption.
It's rather a personal matter to me, Nancy ventured some seconds
Collier Pratt turned from the canvas he was contemplating, and
looked at her, still posed as he had placed her, upright, yet relaxed
in the scooped chair that held her without constraining her.
Like a flower in a vase, he said; to me you're a wonderful
I'm glad you like me, Nancy said, quivering a little. This is a
rather uncommon experience to me, you know, being looked at so
impersonally. Now please don't say that I'm being American.
But, good God! I don't look at you impersonally.
Don't you? Nancy meant her voice to be light, and she was appalled
to hear the quaver in it.
You know I don't. He glanced toward a dun-colored curtain
evidently concealing shelves and dishes. Let's have some tea.
I can't stay for tea. Nancy felt her lips begin to quiver
childishly, but she could not control their trembling. Oh! I had
better go, she said.
Collier Pratt took one step toward her. Then he turned toward the
canvas. Nancy read his mind like a flash.
You're afraid you'll disturb thewhat you want to paint, she said
I am. He smiled his sweet slow smile, then he took her stiff
interlaced hands and raised them, still locked together, to his lips
where he kissed them gently, one after the other. Will you forgive
me? he asked, and pushed her gently outside of his studio door.
CHAPTER XI. BILLY AND CAROLINE
It was one night in middle October when Billy and Caroline met by
accident on Thirty-fourth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Caroline stood looking into a drug-store window where an automatic
mannikin was shaving himself with a patent safety razor.
There's a wax feller going to bed in an automatic folding settee, a
little farther down the street, Billy offered gravely at her elbow;
and on Forty-second Street there is a real live duck pond advertising
the advantages of electric heaters in the home.
H'lo, said Caroline, who was colloquial only in moments of real
pleasure or excitement. I've just written to you. I asked you to come
and see me to-morrow evening, she added more seriously, to talk about
something that's weighing on my mind.
I'm going out with a blonde to-morrow, night, Billy said
speciously, but what's the matter with to-night? I'm free until
six-fifty A. M. and I could spare an hour or two between then and
I can't to-night, Caroline said, I promised Nancy to dine at the
That wasn't your line at all, Billy groaned. Who's the
blonde?that was your cue. If it's only Nancy you're dining withthat
can be fixed.
I regard an engagement with Nancy as just as sacred as
So do I, Billy cut in. She is the blonde. Well, let to-morrow
night be as it may; let's you and I call up the Nancy girl now and tell
her that we're going batting together; she won't care.
I don't like doing that, Caroline said; it's a nice night for a
I walked down Murray Hill and saw the sun set in a nice pinky gold
setting, Billy said artfully. Caroline liked to have him get an
artistic perspective on New York. Let's walk down the avenue to the
Café des Artistes and have Emincé Bernard, and a long wide high, tall
drink ofginger ale, he finished lamely.
We'd have to telephone Nancy, Caroline hesitated.
Billy took her by the arm and guided her into the interior of the
drug-store to the side aisle where the telephones were, and stepped
into the first empty booth that offered. Caroline stopped him firmly as
he was about to shut himself inside.
I'd rather hear what you say, she said.
Billy slipped his nickel in the slot and took up the receiver.
Madison Square 3403 doesn't answer, Central informed him crisply
after an interval.
Oh! Nancy, dear, Billy replied softly into her astonished ear.
Caroline and I are going off by ourselves to-night, you don't care, do
Ringing thr-r-ree-four-o-thr-r-ee, Madison Square.
That's nice of you, Billy responded heartily. I thought you'd say
Madison Square thr-r-ree-four-o-t-h-r-r-ree doesn't answer. Hang up
your receiver and I'll call you if I get the party.
Of course I will. You're always so tactful in the way you put
things, always so generous and kind and thoughtful. I can't tell you
how much I appreciate it.
What did Nancy say? Caroline asked, as they turned away from the
You heard my end of the conversation, Billy said blandly. You can
deduce hers from it.
There was something about your end of the conversation that sounded
queer to me somehow. It was odd that Central should have returned your
nickel to you after you had talked so long.
Yes, wasn't it? Billy asked innocently. Well, I suppose mistakes
will happen in the best regulated telephone companies.
I like you, Billy said contentedly, as the lights of the avenue
strung themselves out before them. I like walking down this royal
thoroughfare with you. You're a kind of a neutral girl, but I like
You're a kind of ridiculous boy.
Don't you like me a little bit?
Yes, a little.
What did you get engaged to me for if you only like me a little?
Ought not to be engaged to you. That's one of the things I want to
talk to you about.
Well, you are engaged to me, and that's one of the things I don't
care to discusseven with you.
Oh! Billy, Caroline sighed, why can't we be just good friends and
see a good deal of each other without this perpetual argument about
I don't know why we can't, but we can't, Billy said firmly. What
was the other thing you wanted to talk to me about?
Nancy's affairs. The recklessthe criminal way she is running that
restaurant, and the unthinkable expenditure of money involved. I can't
sleep at night thinking of it.
And I thought this was going to be a pleasant evening, Billy cried
to the stars.
I wish you'd be serious about this, Caroline said. Nancy's the
best friend I have in the world, and she doesn't seem to be quite right
in her mind, Billy. Of course, I approve of a good part of her scheme.
I believe that she can be of incalculable value as a pioneer in an
enterprise of this sort. Her restaurant is based on a strictly
scientific theory, and every person who patronizes it gets a balanced
ration, if he has the good sense to eat it as it's served.
And not leave any protein on his plate, Billy murmured.
I don't even mind the slight extra expenditure and the deficit that
is bound to follow her theory of stuffing all her subnormal patrons
with additional nourishment. That is charity. I believe in devoting a
certain amount of one's income to charity, but what I mind about the
whole proceeding is the crazy way that Nancy is running it. She's not
even trying to break even. She orders all the delicacies of the
seasonno matter what they are. She's paid an incredible amount for
the new set of carved chairs she has bought for up-stairs. You'd think
she had an unlimited fortune behind her, instead of being in a position
where the sheriff may walk in upon her any day.
Handy men to have around the house,sheriffs. I knew a deputy
sheriff once that helped the lady of the house do a baby wash while he
was standing around in charge of the place. All the servants had
You pretend to be Nancy's friend, and you're the only thing
remotely approaching a lawyer that she has, and yet you can shake with
joy at the thought of her going into bankruptcy.
That isn't what I'm shaking with joy about.
Nancy must have spent at least twice the amount of her original
Just about, Billy agreed cheerfully.
Caroline turned large reproachful eyes on him.
Billy, how can you?
Listen to me, Caroline, honey love, it will be all right. Nancy
isn't so crazy as she seems. She is running wild a little, I admit, but
there's no danger of the sheriff or any other disaster. She knows what
she's doing, and she's playing safe, though I admit it's an
She's unhappy, Caroline said. You don't suppose she's going to
marry Dick to get out of the scrape, and that she's suffering because
she's had to make that compromise.
No, I don't, said Billy.
I can't imagine anything more dreadful than to give up your
careeryour independence because you were beaten before you could
Let's go right in here, Billy said, guiding her by the arm through
the door of the grill of the Café des Artistes which she was ignoring
in her absorption.
It was early but the place was already crowded with the assortment
of upper cut Bohemians, Frenchmen, and other discriminating diners to
whom the café owed its vogue. Billy and Caroline found a snowy table by
the window, a table so small that it scarcely seemed to separate them.
If it's Dick that Nancy's depending on, Caroline shook out her
mammoth napkin vigorously, then I think the whole situation is
I don't see why, Billy argued; have him to fall back onthat's
what men are for.
Your opinion of women, Billy Boynton, just about tallies with the
most conservative estimate of the Middle Ages.
Charmed, I'm sure, he grinned, then his evil genius prompting, he
continued. Isn't that just about what you have me forto fall back
on? You're fond of me. You know I'll be there if the bottom drops out.
You're sure of me, and you're holding me in reserve against the time
when you feel like concentrating your attention on me.
Is that what you think?
Sure, it's the way it is. If I haven't got any kick coming I don't
see why you should have any. You're worth it to me. That's the point.
Caroline opened her lips to speak, and then thought better of it.
The dangerous glint in her pellucid hazel eyes was lost on Billy. He
was watching the clear cool curve of her cheek, the smooth brown hair
brushed up from the temple, and tucked away under the smart folds of a
premature velvet turban.
I like those mouse-colored clothes of yours, he said contentedly.
I think the only reason a woman should marry a man is that
Likes him? Billy suggested.
No, that she can be of more use in the world married than single.
She can't be that unless she's going to marry a man who is entirely in
sympathy with her point of view.
That I know to be unsound, Billy said. Caroline, my love, this is
a bat. Can't we let these matters of the mind rest for a little? See,
I've ordered Petite Marmite, and afterward an artichoke, and all
the nice fattening things that Nancy won't let me eat.
I wish you'd tell me about Nancy, Caroline said. It makes a lot
of difference. You haven't any idea how much difference it makes.
See the nice little brown pots with the soup in them, Billy
implored her. Cheese, too, all grated up so fine and white. Sprinkle
it in like little snow-flakes.
But in spite of all Billy's efforts the evening went wrong after
that. Caroline was wrapped in a mantle of sorrowful meditation the
opacity of which she was not willing to let Billy penetrate for a
moment. After they had dined they took a taxi-cab up-town and danced
for an hour on the smooth floor of one of the quieter hotels. Billy's
dancing being of that light, sure, rhythmic quality that should have
installed him irrevocably in the regard of any girl who had ever danced
with a man who performed less admirably. Caroline liked to dance and
fell in step with an unexpected docility, but even in his arms,
dipping, pivoting, swaying to the curious syncopation of modern dance
time, she was as remote and cool as a snow maiden.
At the table on the edge of the dancing platform where they sat
between dances, Billy pledged her in nineteen-four Chablis Mouton.
This is what you look like, he said, holding up his glass to the
light, or perhaps I ought to say what you act like,clear, cold
stuff,lovely, but not very sweet.
If it's Dick,Caroline refused to be divertedNancy is merely
taking the easiest way out. Just getting married because she hasn't the
courage to go through any other way. She and Dick have hardly a taste
in commonthey don't even read the same books.
What difference does that make?
If you don't know I can't tell you. When you see somebody else in
danger of following the same course of action that you, yourself, are
pursuing, she added cryptically, it puts a new face on your own
Oh! let's get out of here, Billy said, signaling for his check.
Caroline lived, for the summer while her family were away, in an
elaborate Madison Avenue boarding-house. The one big room into which
the entrance gave, dim and palatial in effectat least in the light of
the single gas-jet turned economically lowseemed scarcely to present
a departure from its prototype, the great living hall of the private
residence for which the house was originally designed. It was only on
the second floor that the character of the establishment became
unmistakable. Billy took Caroline's latchkey from her,she usually
opened the door for herselfand let her quietly into the dim interior.
Then he stepped inside himself, and closed the door gently after him.
Being a man he entirely failed to note the drift of psychological
straws that indicated the sudden sharp turn of the wind, and the
presage of storm in the air. He was thinking only of the illusive,
desirable, maddening quality of the girl that walked beside him, filled
with inexplicable forebodings for a friend, whom he knew to be
invulnerable to misfortune. Certain phrases of Dick's were ringing in
his ears to the exclusion of all more immediate conversational
Cave-man stuffthat's the answer to you and Caroline.... This
watchful waiting's entirely the wrong idea....
Billy made a great lunge toward the figure of his fiancée, and
caught her in his arms.
I've never really kissed you before, he cried, now I shan't let
She struggled in his arms, but he mastered her. He covered her cool
brow with kisses, her hands, the lovely curve of her neck where the
smooth hair turned upward, and at lasther lips.
You're mine, my girl, he exulted, and nothing, nothing, nothing
shall ever take you away from me now.
There was a click in the latch of the door through which they had
just entered. Another belated boarder was making his way into the
domicile which he had chosen as a substitute for the sacred privacy of
home. Caroline tore herself out of Billy's arms just in time to
exchange greetings with the incoming guest with some pretense of
composure. He was a fat man with an umbrella which clattered against
the balusters as he ascended the carved staircase.
Caught with the goods, Billy tried to say through lips stiffened
in an effort at control.
Caroline turned on him, her face blazing with anger, the
transfiguring white rage of the woman whose spiritual fastnesses have
been invaded through the approach of the flesh.
There is no way of my ever forgiving you, she said. No way of my
ever tolerating you, or anything you stand for again. You are
utterlyutterlyutterly detestable in my eyes.
Isis that so? Billy stammered, dizzied by the suddenness of the
II've got some decent hold on my pride and self-respecteven if
Nancy hasn't, and I'm not going to be subjugated like a cave woman by
mere brute force either.
Aren't you? said Billy weakly, his mind in a whirl still from the
lightning-like overthrow of all his theories of action.
I'm not going to do what Nancy is going to do, just out of sheer
temperamental weakness, andand tendency to follow the line of least
Billy had no idea of the significance of her last phrase, and let it
go unheeded. Caroline turned and walked away from him, her head high.
But, good lord, Nancy isn't going to do it, he called after her
retreating figure, but all the answer he got was the silken swish of
her petticoat as she took the stairs.
CHAPTER XII. MORE CAVE-MAN STUFF
When Nancy left Collier Pratt's studio on the day of her first
sitting for the portrait he was to do of her, she never expected to
enter it again. She was in a panic of hurt pride and anger at his
handling of the situation that had developed there, and in a passion of
self-disgust that she had been responsible for it.
It was a simple fact of her experience that the men she knew valued
her favors, and exerted themselves to win them. She had always had
plenty of suitors, or at least admirers who lacked only a few smiles of
encouragement to make suitors of them, and she was accustomed to the
consideration of the desirable woman, whose privilege it is to guide
the conversation into personal channels, or gently deflect it
therefrom. An encounter in which she could not find her poise was as
new as it was bewildering to her.
From the moment that she had begun to realize Collier Pratt's
admiration for her she had scarcely given a thought to any other man.
With the insight of the artist he had seen straight into the heart of
Nancy's secretthe secret that she scarcely knew herself until he
translated it for her, the most obvious secret that a prescient
universe ever throbbed with,that a woman is not fulfilled until she
is a mate and a mother. The nebulous urge of her spirit had been
formulated. In Nancy's world there was no abstract sentimentalityif
this man indulged himself in emotional regret for her frustrated
womanhoodshe called it that to herselfit must in some way concern
him. She had never in her life been troubled by a condition that she
was not eager to ameliorate, and she could not conceive of an emotional
interest in an individual disassociated from a certain responsibility
for that individual's welfare. She took Collier Pratt's growing
tenderness for her for granted, and dreamed exultant dreams of their
The scene in the studio had shocked her only because he put his art
first. He had taken a lover's step toward her, and then glancing at the
crudely splotched canvas from which his ideal of her was presently to
emerge, he had thought better of it, soothing her with caresses as if
she were a child, and like a child dismissing her. She felt that she
never wanted to see again the man who could so confuse and humiliate
her. But this mood did not last. As the days went on, and she
feverishly recapitulated the circumstances of the episode, she began to
feel that it was she who had failed to respond to the beautiful
opportunity of that hour. She had inspired the soul of an artist with a
great concept of womanhood, and had, in effect, demanded an immediate
personal tribute from him. He had been wise to deflect the emotion that
had sprung up within them both. After the picture was done. She
became eager to show him that she understood and wanted to help him
conserve the impression of her from which his inspiration had come, and
when he asked her to go to the studio again the following week she
rejoiced that she had another chance to prove to him how simply she
could behave in the matter.
She looked in the mirror gravely every night after she had done her
hair in the prescribed pig-tails to try to determine whether or not the
look he had discovered in her face was still there,the look of
implicit maternity that she had been fortunate enough to reflect and
symbolize for him,but she was unable to come to any decision about
it. Her face looked to her much as it had always lookedexcept that
her brow and temples seemed to have become more transparent and the
blue veins there seemed to be outlined with an even bluer brush than
She was busier than she had ever been in her life. The volume of her
business was swelling. With the return of the native to the city of his
adoptionthere is no native New Yorker in the strict sense of the
wordOutside Inn was besieged by clamorous patrons. Gaspard, with the
adaptability of his race, had evolved what was practically a perfect
system of presenting the balanced ration to an unconscious populace,
and the populace was responding warmly to his treatment. It had taken
him a little time to gauge the situation exactly, to adapt the supply
to the idiosyncrasies of the composite demand, but once he had mastered
his problem he dealt with it inspiredly. His southern inheritance made
it possible for him to apprehend if he could not actually comprehend
the taste of a people who did not want the flavor of nutmeg in their
cauliflower, and who preferred cocoanut in their custard pie, and he
realized that their education required all the diplomacy and skill at
Nancy found him unexpectedly intelligent about the use of her
tables. He grasped the essential fact that the values of food changed
in the process of cooking, and that it was necessary to Nancy's peace
of mind to calculate the amount of water absorbed in preparing certain
vegetables, and that the amount of butter and cream introduced in their
preparation was an important factor in her analysis. He also nodded his
head with evident appreciation when she discoursed to him of the
optimum amount of protein as opposed to the actual requirements in
calories of the average man, but she never quite knew whether the
matter interested him, or his native politeness constrained him to
listen to her smilingly as long as she might choose to claim his
attention. But the fact remained that there was no such cooking in any
restaurant in New York of high or low degree, as that which Gaspard
provided, and as time went on, and he realized that expense was not a
factor in Nancy's conception of a successfully conducted restaurant,
the reputation of Outside Inn increased by leaps and bounds.
To Nancy's friendswith the exception, of course, of Billy, who was
in her confidencethe whole business became more and more puzzling.
Caroline, her susceptibility to vicarious distress being augmented by
the sensitiveness of her own emotional state, yearned and prayed over
her alternately. Betty, avid of excitement, spent her days in the
pleasurable anticipation of a dramatic bankruptcy. It was on Dick,
however, that the actual strain came. He saw Nancy growing paler and
more ethereal each day, on her feet from morning till night
manipulating the affairs of an enterprise that seemed to be assuming
more preposterous proportions every hour of its existence. He made
surreptitious estimates of expenditures and suffered accordingly,
approximating the economic unsoundness of the Inn by a very close
figure, and still Nancy kept him at arm's length and flouted all his
suggestions for easing, what seemed to him now, her desperate
He managed to pick her up in his car one day with Sheila, and
persuaded her to a couple of hours in the open. She was on her way home
from the Inn, and had meant to spend that time resting and dressing
before she went back to consult with Gaspard concerning the night meal.
She had no complaint to make now of the usurpation of her authority or
the lack of actual executive service that was required of her. With the
increase in the amount of business that the Inn was carrying she found
that every particle of her energy was necessary to get through the work
of the day.
I'm worried about you, Dick said, as they took the long ribbon of
road that unfurled in the direction of Yonkers, and Nancy removed her
hat to let the breeze cool her distracted brow. His man Williams, was
Well, don't tell me so, she answered a trifle ungraciously.
Miss Dear is cross to-day, Sheila explained. The milk did not
come for Gaspard to make the poor people's custard, crême renversé, he makesdeliciously good, and we give it to the clerking girls.
The buttermilk cultures were bad, Nancy said. And I wasn't able
to get any of the preparations of it, that I can trust. There are one
or two people that ought to have it every day and their complexions
show it if they don't.
I suppose so, Dick said, with a grimace.
These people who have worked in New York all summer have run pretty
close to their margin of energy. You've no idea what a difference a few
calories make to them, or how closely I have to watch them, and when I
have to substitute an article of diet for the thing they've been used
to, it's awfully hard to get them to take it.
I should think it might be, Dick said. It's true about people who
have worked in New York all summer, though. I haveand you have.
Oh! I'm all right, Nancy said.
So am I, Sheila said, and so is Monsieur Dick, n'est-ce pas
Father isn't very right, though. Even when Miss Dear has all the
beautiful things in the most beautiful colors in the world cooked for
him and sent to him, he won't eat them unless she comes and sits beside
him and begs him.
He's very fond of sauce verte, Nancy said hastily, and
apricot mousse and cèpes et pimentos, things that Gaspard
can't make for the regular menu,bright colored things that Sheila
loves to look at.
He likes petit pois avec laitue too and haricot coupé, and artichaut mousselaine. Sometimes when he does not want them
Miss Dear eats them.
I'm glad they are diverted to some good use, Dick said.
I've been looking into the living conditions of my waitresses.
Nancy changed the subject hastily. Did you realize, Dick, that the
waitresses have about the unfairest deal of any of the day laborers?
They're not organized, you know. Their hours are interminable, the work
intolerably hard, and the compensation entirely inadequate. Moreover,
they don't last out for any length of time. I'm trying out a new scheme
of very short shifts. Also, I'm having a certain sum of money paid over
to them every month from my bank. If they don't know where it comes
from it can't do them any harm. That is, I am not establishing a
precedent for wages that they won't be able to earn elsewhere. I
consider it immoral to do that.
You are paying them an additional sum of money out of your own
pocket? You told me you paid them the maximum wage, anyhow, and they
get lots of tips.
Oh! but that's not nearly enough.
Nancy, Dick said dramatically, where do you get the money?
Oh, I don't know, Nancy said, it comes along. The restaurant
I could make it pay any time that I wanted to.
Sometimes I wonder if you are in full possession of your senses.
Caroline is affected that way, too. I feel that she is likely to
get an alienist in at any time. She is so earnest in anything she
undertakes. She and Billy have had a scrap, did you know it?
Billy wants to marry her, and he has shocked her delicate feelings
by suggesting it to her.
I imagine you have a good deal to do with her feelings on the
subject, Dick said gloomily. I suppose at heart you don't believe in
marriage, or think you don't and you've communicated the poison to
I've done nothing of the kind, Nancy insisted warmly. I do
believe in marriage with all my heart. I think the greatest service any
woman can render her kind in this mix-up age is to marry one man and
make that marriage work by taking proper scientific care of him and his
This is news to me, Dick said. I thought that you thought
that the greatest service a woman could do was to run Outside Inn, and
stuff all the derelicts with calories.
That's a service, too.
They were out beyond the stately decay of the up-town drive, with
its crumbling mansions and the disheveled lawns surrounding them,
beyond the view of the most picturesque river in the world, though,
comparatively speaking, the least regarded, covering the prosaic
stretch of dusty road between Van Courtland Park and the town of
I like the Bois better, Sheila said, but I like Central
Park better than the Champs Elyseés. In Paris the children are
not so gay as the grown-up people. Here it is the grown-up people who
are without smiles on the streets.
Why is that, Dick? Nancy asked.
That's always true of the maturer races, the gaiety of the French
is appreciative enthusiasm,if I may invent a phrase. The children
haven't developed it.
I would like to have my hand held, Monsieur Dick, Sheila
announced. I always feel homesick when I think about Paris. I was so
contente and so malheureuse there.
Why were you unhappy, sweetest? Nancy asked.
My father says I am never to speak of those things, and so I
don'teven to Miss Dear, my bien aimée.
Dick lifted Sheila into his lap, he took the hand that still clung
to Nancy's in his warm palm, and held them both there caressingly.
My bien aimée, he said softly.
Beyond the town a more gracious and magnificent country revealed
itself; lovely homes set high on sweeping terraces, private parks and
gardens and luxuriant estates, all in a blaze of October radiance with
the glorious pigments of the season.
Isn't it time to go back? Nancy asked.
Not yet, Dick said. I want to show you something. There's an old
place here I want you to see. That colonial house set way back in the
Williams is driving in, Nancy said as they approached it.
He's been here before.
Are we going to get out? Sheila asked.
Dick was already opening the door of the tonneau and assisting Nancy
out of the car.
I'm going to leave Sheila with Williams, and take you over the
house, Nancy. She'll be more interested in the grounds than she would
in the interior. I want you to see the inside.
He took a key out of his pocket, and unlocked the stately door.
Everything about the place was gigantic, stately,the huge columns
that supported the roof of the porch, the big elms that flanked it, and
the great entrance hall, as they stepped into its majestic enclosure.
It's a biggish sort of place, isn't it? Nancy said.
But it's rather lovely, don't you think so? Dick asked anxiously.
These old places are getting increasingly hard to find,real old
homes, dignified and beautiful, within a reasonable distance from
It is lovely, Nancy said, it could be made perfectly wonderful to
live in. I can see this big hallfurnished in mahogany or even carved
oak that was old enough. Thank heaven, we're no longer slaves to a
period in our decorating; we can use anything that's beautiful and
suitable and not intrinsically incongruous with a clear conscience.
Nancy lingered on the landing of the fine old staircase, white
banistered with a mahogany hand-rail, that turned only once before it
led into the region up-stairs.
I'd rather see the kitchen, she said.
The kitchen isn't the thing that I'm proudest of. Its plumbing is
early English, or Scottish, I'm afraid. I think this arrangement up
here is delightful. See these front suites, one on either side of the
hall. Bedroom, dressing-room, sitting-room. Which do you like best? I
thought perhaps I might take the one that overlooks the orchard.
Nancy stopped still on her way from window to window.
Dick Thorndyke, whose house is this? she demanded.
Yourshave you bought it?
Yes, I put the deed in my safe deposit vault yesterday. Come in
here. Isn't this a cunning little guest chamber nested in the trees? Be
becoming to Betty's style of beauty, wouldn't it? He held the door
open for her ingratiatingly, and she passed under his arm
What on earth did you buy a house like this for?
I thought you might like it.
Iwhat have I to do with it?
Dick turned the rusty key in the lock deliberately, and put it in
his pocket, thus closing them into the little musty room which had no
other exit. A branch of flaming maple leaves tapped lightly on the
You've a whole lot to do with it, Nancy, he said. It's yours, and
I'm yours, and I want to know how much longer you're going to hedge.
I'm not hedging, Nancy blazed. Take that key out of your pocket.
This is moving-picture stuff.
I know it is. I can't get you to talk to me any other way, so I
thought I'd try main force for a change.
Well, it is a change, she agreed. Shall I begin to scream now, or
do you intend to give me some other provocation?
Don't be coarse, darling. There is a certain disadvantage in
having known the woman who is the object of your tenderest emotions all
your life, and to be on terms of the most familiar badinage with her.
Dick was feeling this disadvantage acutely at the moment. He took a
step toward her, and put a heavy hand on her shoulder. Nancy, don't
you love me? he said, don't you really?
No, Nancy said deliberately, I don't, and you know very well I
don't. Unlock that door, and let's be sensible.
Don't you know, dear, or care that you're hurting me?
No, I don't, Nancy said. You say so, and I hear you, but I don't
really believe it. If I did
If you didwhat?
Then I'd be sorrier.
You aren't sorry at all, as it stands.
I find it's awfully hard to be sorry for you, Dick, in any
connection. There's really nothing pathetic about you, no matter how
tragic you think you are being. You're rich and lucky and healthy. You
have everything you want
And you live the way you want to, and eat the food you want to
The ruling passion.
And make the jokes you want to. Nancy literally stuck up a saucy
nose at him. There is really nothing that I could contribute to your
happiness. I mean nothing important. You are not a poor man whom I
could help to work his way up to the top, or a genius that needs
fostering, or a
Dyspeptic that needs putting on a special diet,but for all that I
do need a mother's love, Nancy.
I don't believe you do, Nancy said, a trifle absently. Unlock the
door, Dick. I don't think Sheila put on that sweater when I told her
to, and I'm afraid she'll get cold.
Kiss me, Nancy.
Will you unlock the door if I do?
Nancy put up cool fragrant lips to meet a brother's kiss, and for
the moment was threatened with a second salute that was very much less
fraternal, but the danger passed. Dick unlocked the door and let her
pass him without protest.
If you had been any other girl, he mused, as they went down the
stairs together companionably, you wouldn't have got away with that.
With what? Nancy asked innocently.
If you don't know, Dick said, I won't tell you. If you'd been any
other girl I should have thrown that key out of the window when you
began to sass me.
And then? Nancy inquired politely.
And then, Dick replied finally and firmly.
Are there any other girls? Nancy asked, faintly curious, as they
stood on the deep steps of the porch waiting for Sheila and Williams
who were emerging from the middle entrance.
Dick met her glance a little solemnly, and hesitated for a
Are there, Dick? she insisted.
Yes, dear, he said.
CHAPTER XIII. THE HAPPIEST DAY
It was thoroughly characteristic of Nancy to turn her back on the
most significant facts of her experience, and occupy herself
exclusively with its by-products. She refused to consider herself as an
heiress entitled to spend money lavishly for her own uses, but she
squandered it on her pet enterprise. She dismissed the idea that Dick,
whom she neglected to discourage as decisively as her growing interest
in another man would seem to warrant, had bought a country estate for
the sole purpose of ensconcing her there as mistress. She dreamed of
Collier Pratt and his ideal of her, and presented herself punctually at
his studio as a model for that ideal, while ignoring absolutely the
fact that he was nearly a hundred dollars in debt to her for meals
served at Outside Inn. She had sufficient logic and common sense to
apply to these matters, and sufficient imagination to handle them
sympathetically, had she chosen to consider them at all, but she did
not choose. She was deep in the adventure of her existence as
differentiated from its practical working out.
The day Collier Pratt finished his portrait of her she was not alone
in the studio with him. Sheila, in a fluffy white dress with a floppy
black satin hat framing her poignant little face, was omnipresent at
the interview which succeeded the actual two hours of absorption when
he put in the last telling strokes.
It's done, he said, as he set aside pigments and brushes, and
divested himself of his painting apron. I don't want to look at it
now. I've got it, but I can't stand the strain of contemplating it till
my brain cools a trifle. Let's go out and celebrate.
Where shall we go? Nancy said. This was the moment she had dreamed
of for weeks, the hour of fruition when the work was done, and they
could face each other, man and woman again with no strip of canvas
The place I always go when I've finished a picture is a little café
under the shadow of Notre Dame, where I get cakes and beer and
an excellent perspective on all my favorite gargoyles.
And the little birds flutter in the sun, and eat my crumbs and the
great music swells out while you ask the garçon for another
bock. Do you remember, father dear, the day that she found
I remember only that you made yourself ill eating Madelaines
and had to be taken home en voiture, Collier Pratt said
quickly. We will go and have some coffee at the Café des Artistes, and
discuss ships and shoes and sealing waxanything but the art of
And cabbages and kings, Sheila contributed ecstatically. I used
to think when I was a very little girl and couldn't read English very
well that it was really Heaven where Alice went, and it made me sad to
think she was dead and I didn't understand it, but now Miss Dear has
explained to me.
Miss Dear has made a good many things clear to us both, Collier
Pratt said, but he said no more that might be even remotely construed
as referring to the issue between them, and Nancy finished out her day
with dragging limbs and an aching empty heart that a word of tenderness
would have filled to running over.
But after her work for the day was done, and she was back in her own
apartment with Sheila tucked snugly in bed, and Hitty out for the night
with a sick friend, there came the touch on her bell that she knew was
Collier Pratt's; and she opened the door to find him standing on her
I knew you'd come, she said, as women always say to the man they
have that hour given up looking for.
I wasn't sure I would, Collier Pratt said, but I did, you see.
Why weren't you sure? She stood beside him in her little
rectangular hall while he divested himself of his cape, and placed his
hat, stick and gloves in orderly sequence on the oak settee beside it.
She liked to watch the precision with which he always arranged these
Why should I be sure? He turned and faced her. Miss Dear, he
said to himself softly, Miss Dear, and she saw that in his eyes which
made the moment simpler for her to bear.
She led the way into her drawing-room.
Light the candles, he said, this firelight is too good to drown
in a flood of electric light!
Is that better? she asked.
They were standing before the fireplace; the embers had burned to a
gentle glowing radiance. Of the four candles she had lighted, the wick
of only one had taken fire and was burning. Nancy's breath caught in
her throat, and she could not steady it. Collier Pratt took a step
forward and held out his arms.
No, this is better, he said.
I thought there was some place in the world where I could
becomfortable, Nancy said, when she finally lifted her head from the
shoulder of the shabby, immaculate black suit, but I wasn't quite
Are you sure now, you little wonder woman? He held her at the
length of his arm for a moment and gazed curiously into her face. Then
he drew her slowly toward him again. She met his kiss bravely, so
bravely that he understood the quality of her courage.
I didn't realize that this would be the first time, he said.
There couldn't have been any other time, Nancy breathed, you know
I didn't know, Collier Pratt said thoughtfully. Oh! you little
American girls, with your strange, straight-laced little bodies and
your fearless souls!
Betty told you something, Nancy cried, scarcely hearing him, but
it wasn't true. There never has been anybody else. She put her head
down on his shoulder again. It is comfortable here, she said, where
She felt the sudden passion sweep through him,the high avid wave
of tenderness and desire,and she exulted as all purely innocent women
exult when that madness surges first through the veins of the man they
love. He put his hands on her shoulders and pressed her into the
armchair by the fire, and there she took his head on her breast and
understood for all time what it means for a woman to be called the
mother of men.
You wonder woman, he murmured again.
She brushed the dark hair back from his forehead and kissed his
eyes. You dear, she said, you boy, you little boy.
Suddenly through the darkness came the sound of a shrill cry, and
the thud of a fall in some room down the corridor.
It's Sheila, Nancy said, she has those little nightmares and
falls out of bed.
I know she does, Collier Pratt said, but she picks herself up
Not always, Nancy said; don't you want to come in and help me put
I do not, Collier Pratt said with unnecessary emphasis.
Nancy was of two minds about picking the child up in her little
white night-gown and bringing her out to her father, flushed and lovely
with sleep as she was. It was Collier Pratt's baby she had in her arms;
her charge, the child she loved, and the child of the man she loved, a
part of the miracle that was slowly revealing itself to her; but a
sudden sharp instinct warned her that her impulse was ill-timed.
I had forgotten the child was here, Collier Pratt said when she
returned to him.
I hadn't, Nancy said happily.
I suppose she has to be somewhere, poor little wretch, he said.
She's an extraordinarily picturesque baby, isn't she?
Nancy crept nearer to him. He stood leaning against the mantel and
frowning slightly, but he made no move toward her again.
She doesn't have nightmares often now, Nancy said with stiffening
lips. She used to have them almost every night, but by watching her
diet carefully we have practically eliminated them.
The Hitty person doesn't like me, Collier Pratt said. Pas du
tout. She treats me as if I were a book agent.
She loves Sheila, sheshe'd do anything for her.
The women who do not find me attractive are likely to find me quite
conspicuously otherwise, I am afraid. He had been carefully avoiding
Nancy's eyes, but her little cry at this drew his gaze. She was
standing before him, slowly blanching as if he had struck her,
absolutely still except for the trembling of her lips.
What am I, he said, to hold out against all the forces of the
Universe? Do you love me, Nancy, do you love me?
You know, she whispered, once more in the shelter of the shabby
This is madness, he swore as he kissed her; we're both out of our
senses, Nancy; don't you know it?
The picture is done, anyhow, she said. I don't know how I can
ever bear to look it in the face, but I shall have to.
It's the best work I've ever done, he said.
I don't look like it now, do I?
He held her off to see.
No, by jove, you don't. It's gone, nowjust that thing I painted.
How do I look now?
Much more commonplace from the point of view from which I painted
you. Much more beautiful though,much more beautiful.
I might paint you again,like this. No, I swear I won't. I got the
thing itself down on canvas. I'll never try to paint you again.
When am I going to have my picture? she asked after another
interlude. Do you want me to send for it?
I can't give you the picture, he said. I intended to if I had
done merely a portrait, but I can't part with this. It has got to make
my fame and fortune.
I thought I was to have it, Nancy said. II then she felt she
was being ungenerous, unworthy, but I couldn't take it, of course,
it's too valuable.
It would be wonderful, wouldn't it, if my picture did make you
I think it will.
I'm nothing but a grubby little working girl, and you're a great
artist,and you love me.
You're not a grubby little working girl to me, he said, you're a
glorious creaturea wonder woman. I ought to go down on my knees to
you for what you've given me in that picture.
In the picture? Nancy said. I love you. I love you. That wasn't
in the pictureI kept it out.
* * * * *
I won't marry him until he is ready for me, she said to herself at
one time during the night. She lay perfectly quiet till morning, her
hands folded upon her breast, and her little girl pig-tails pulled down
on either side of the coverlet, wide-eyed and tranquil. She could not
bear to sleep and forget for a moment the beautiful thing that had
happened to her between dawn and dawn. I'll take care of him and
Sheila, and nourish him, and help him to sell my picture. It isn't
every woman who would understand his kind of loving, but I understand
At eight o'clock Hitty came in to her, and roused her from the light
drowse into which she had fallen at last.
You was crying in your sleep again, she said, your cheeks is all
wet. I heard you the minute I put my key into the latch. You're as bad
as Sheila, only I expect she suffers from something laying hard on her
stummick. It's always something on your mind that starts you in.
There's nothing on my mind, Hitty, Nancy said, sitting up in bed,
nothing but happiness, I mean. In some ways, Hitty dear, this is the
happiest day that I've ever waked up to.
Well, then, there's other ways that it isn't, Hitty said, opening
the door to stalk out majestically.
CHAPTER XIV. BETTY
There's a lady waiting to see you, sir, Dick's man servant
informed him on his arrival at his apartment one evening when he had
been dining at his club, and was putting in a leisurely appearance at
his own place after his coffee and cigar.
Yes, sir, she has been here since nine. She says it's not
important, but she insisted on waiting.
The deuce she did.
Dick's quarters were not, strictly speaking, of the bachelor
variety. That is, he had a suite in one of the older apartment houses
in the fifties, a building that domiciled more families and middle-aged
married couples than sprightly young single gentlemen. Dick had fallen
heir to the establishment of an elderly uncle, who had furnished the
place some time in the nineties and when he grew too decrepit to keep
his foothold in New York had retired to the country, leaving Dick in
possession. Even if Dick had been a conspicuously rakish young
gentleman, which he was not, the traditional dignity of his
surroundings would have certainly protected him from incongruous
indiscretion in their vicinity.
Betty rose composedly from the pompous red velour couch that ran
along the wall under a portrait of a gentleman that looked like a
Philip of Spain, but was really Dick's maternal great grandfather.
Why, Betty, Dick said, this isn't convenable unless you
have a chaperon somewhere concealed. We don't do things like this.
I do, Betty said. I wanted to see you, so I came. In these
emancipated days ladies call upon their men friends if they like. It's
archaic to prattle of chaperons.
Still we were all brought up in the fear of them.
Mine were brought up in the fear of me. I like this place, Dicky.
Why don't you give us more parties in it? You haven't had a crowd here
Everybody's so busy, Dick said, we don't seem to get together any
more. I'm willing to play host any time that the rest want to come.
You mean Nancy is so busy with her old Outside Inn.
You are busy there, too.
I'm not so busy that I wouldn't come here when I was asked, Dicky.
Or even when you weren't? Dick's smile took the edge off his
obviously inhospitable suggestion.
Or even when I wasn't, Betty said impudently. Won't you sit down,
Can't I call you a cab, Miss Pope?
I don't wish to go away.
Betty, be reasonable, Dick said, it's after ten o'clock. It is
not usual for me to receive young ladies alone here, and it looks
badly. I don't care for myself, of course, but for you it looks badly.
If it's only for meI don't care how it looks. Come and sit down
beside me, and talk to me, Dicky, and I'll tell you really why I came.
Dick folded his arms and looked down at her. Betty's piquant little
face, olive tinted, and pure oval in contour, was turned up to him
confidently; under the close seal turban the soft brown hair framed the
childish face, while the big dark eyes danced with mischief. She patted
the couch by her side invitingly.
I'll go away in fifteen minutes, Dicky dear. It certainly wouldn't
look well if you put me out immediately, after all your establishment
knowing that I waited here an hour for you.
Dick took out his watch.
Fifteen minutes, then, he said. What's your trouble, Betty?
Well, it's a long sad story, she temporized. Perhaps I had better
not begin on it now that our time is so short. You wouldn't like to
hold my hand, would you, Dicky?
I'm not going to, at any rate.
I thought you'd say that, she sighed. Have you seen Nancy
She's looking better, don't you think so?
Preston Eustace is back.
Is that so? I didn't know he was here yet. I knew he was coming.
He's to be here six months, or so.
Have you seen him?
No, Caroline told me. Her voice was carefully steadied but Dick
noticed for the first time the shadows etched under the big brown eyes,
and the flush of excitement splotched high on her cheek-bones. She had
been engaged to Preston Eustace for three months succeeding her
On second thoughts I think I will hold your hand, Betty, he said,
covering that childlike member with his own rather brawny one. You are
not a very big little girl, are you, Betty?
My mother used to tell me that I was a very destructive child.
I shouldn't wonder if you were that yet.
Don't let's talk about me. Let's talk about you, Dicky.
Yes, please. I think you're a very interesting subject.
Having arrived at some conclusion concerning this unprecedented
attack upon his privacy, Dick was disposed to be kind to his unexpected
visitor. The fact that Preston Eustace was in town and Betty had not
seen him shed an entirely new light on her recklessness. Like every
other incident in Betty's history her love-affair had been very
The interesting things about me just at present are he was just
about to say six shirts of imported gingham but he bethought himself
that she would be certain to demand to see them, so he finished lamely
withmy game of golf, and my new dogs.
What kind of dogs?
Belgian police dogs.
Where do you keep them?
I haven't taken them over yet.
I heard that you had bought a place up in Westchester, but I asked
Nancy, and she said she didn't know. I don't think Nancy appreciates
That so often happens.
I mean that seriously.
It's a serious matterbeing appreciated. The only person who I
ever thought really appreciated me was Billy's old aunt. Every time she
saw me she used to say to me, 'You're such a clean-looking young man I
can't take my eyes off you.'
You are clean-looking, and awfully good-looking too.
Do you mind if I smoke, Betty? Dick carefully disengaged his hand
from her clinging fingers, and a look of something like intelligence
passed between them, before Betty turned her ingenuous child's stare on
Not if you'll give me a cigarette, too.
Dick fumbled through his pockets.
It's awfully stupid, but I haven't any about me, he said,
fingering what he knew that she knew to be the well filled case he
always carried in his inner pocket. He did not approve of women
But Poor Dicky! was all she said.
Your fifteen minutes are up, Betty, he said presently, taking out
Well, I suppose I'll have to go then.
Dick rose politely.
You really don't care whether I go or stay, do you? she sighed.
I would rather have you go, Betty, he said gravely.
Betty's eyes filled with sudden tears, that Dick to his surprise
realized were genuine.
I wanted you to want me to stay, she said incoherently.
I suppose you're just a miserable little thing that doesn't want to
be alone, he concluded. Come, I'll take you home.
The telephone bell on the table beside him rang sharply.
I'm just going out, he said to Billy, on the wire. Betty is here
with a fit of the blues. I'm going to take her home. Ride up with us,
He'll meet us down-stairs in ten minutes, he said. I'll order a
I don't want to see Billy, Betty said rebelliously. She rose
suddenly, pulling on her gloves, and took a step forward as if about to
brush by him petulantly, but as she did so she staggered, put her hand
to her eyes, and fell forward against his breast.
Dick picked up the limp little body, and made his way to the couch
where he deposited it gently among the stiff red pillows there. Then he
began to chafe her hands, to push back the tumbled hair from which the
fur hat had been displaced, and finally fallen off, and to call out her
Betty, dear, dearest, he cried, I didn't know, I didn't dream,I
thought you were just trying it on. I'm so sorry, dear, I am so sorry.
She moaned softly, and he bent over her again more closely. Then he
gathered her up in his arms.
Betty, dear, Betty, he said again.
She opened her eyes. Her two soft arms stole up around his neck, and
she lifted her lips.
You little devil, Dick cried, almost at the same instant that he
She deserves to be spanked, he told Billy grimly at the door. She
got in my apartment when I was out, and insisted on staying there till
I came in, to make me a visit.
He doesn't understand me, Betty complained, as she cuddled
confidingly in the corner of the taxi-cab, when I'm serious he doesn't
realize or appreciate it, and he doesn't understand the nature of my
I don't likepractical jokes, Dick said. Have you seen Preston
I haven't seen Caroline, Billy said, as if that disposed of all
the interrogatory remarks that might be addressed to him in the present
or the future.
It's a nice-looking river, Betty said, looking out at the softly
gleaming surface of the Hudson, as their cab took the drive. It looks
strange to-night, though, laden with all kinds of queer little boats. I
wonder how it would feel to be drifting down it, or up it, on a barque
or a barkentineI don't know what a barkentine isall dead like
Elaine or Ophelia,with your hands neatly folded across your breast?
For heaven sake's, Betty, Billy cried, I don't like your style of
conversation. I'm in a state of gloom myself, to-night.
I didn't say I was in a state of gloom, Betty said. They rode the
rest of the way in silence, but when Dick got out of the cab to open
her door for her, she whispered to him, I'm awfully ashamed, Dick,
before she fled up-stairs through the darkened hallway of her own home.
Queer little thing,Betty, Billy said as Dick stepped back to the
cab again, you never know where you have her. Full of the deuce as she
can stick. Unscrupulous little rascal, too, but made of good stuff.
Don't you think so? Billy inquired presently as Dick did not
That Betty's a queer sort of girl.
Dick took his pipe out of his pocket and began stuffing it full of
tobacco. When this was satisfactorily accomplished, he struck a match
on his boot heel, and lit the mixture, drawing at it critically
Damn' queer, he admitted, between puffs.
CHAPTER XV. CLOUDS OF GLORY
Nancy, trailing clouds of glory, took up the management of her Inn
with renewed vigor. She had found her touchstone. The flower of love,
which she had scarcely understood to be indigenous to the soil of her
own practical little garden, had suddenly lifted up its head there in
fragrant, radiant bloom. She was so happy that she was impatient of all
the inadequate, inefficient manipulation of affairs in the whole world.
She felt strong and wise to put everything right in a neglected
She loved. She was satisfied to live in that love for the present,
with no imagination of the future except as her lover should construct
it for her; and in him she had absolute faith. The things that he had
said or left unsaid had no significance to her. Before she had dreamed
of a personal relation with him he had singled her out as a creature
made for the consummation and fulfilment of the greatest passion of
all. The merest suspicion that there had been a man in the world who
could have frustrated this beautiful potentiality in her had moved him
profoundly. There was nothing in her experience to help her to
differentiate between the sensibility of the artistic temperament and
the manifestations of the more reliable emotions. The presence in the
human breast of a fire that gave out light and not heat was a condition
undreamed of in her philosophy. To doubt Collier Pratt's love for her
in the face of his tacit pursuit of her, and the acceptance of the
obligation she had chosen to put him under, would have seemed to her
the rankest kind of heresy.
She had been brought up on terms of comradely equality with boys and
men, and she understood the rules of all the pretty games of fluffing
and light flirtation that young men and women play with each other, but
serious love-makingthat was a thing apart. In the world of honor and
fair dealing a man took a woman's kiss of surrender for one reason and
one reason onlythat she was his woman, and he so held her in his
Now that she was in this sort committed to her love for Collier
Pratt, her one ambition was to put her life in order for him,to pick
up the raveling threads of her achievement and prove to him and to
herself that she was the kind of woman who accomplishes that which she
attempts. In the light of his indefatigable patience in all matters
that pertained to his arthis clean-cut workmanshiphis skill in
handling his materialshe blushed for the amateur spirit that animated
all her undertakings, and for the first time recognized it for what it
Gaspard, she said one morning soon after her miracle had been
achieved, where do you think the greatest leak is? We spend a great
deal too much money in running this place. As you know, that is not the
most important matter to me. Getting my customers properly nourished
with invitingly prepared food is the essential thing, but if there was
a way to adjust the economical end of it, I should feel a great deal
more comfortable in my mind.
But certainly, mademoiselle, I should like myself to try the pretty
little economies. The Frenchman he likes to spend his money when it is
there, but it hurts him in the heart to waste this money without
Am I wasting money without cause, Gaspard, in your opinion?
How can I stop it?
By calculation of the tall cost of living, and by buying what is
good instead of what is expensive.
What do you mean, Gaspard?
Gaspard contemplated her for a moment.
We have had this weeksquab chicken, he said, racks of little
unseasonable lambs, sweetbreads, guinea fowl and filet du boeuf.
We have with them mushrooms, fresh string bean, cooked endive, and new,
not very good peas grown in glass. We have the salted nuts, the radish,
the olive, the celery, the bon bon, all extra without pay. Then
you make in addition to this the health foods, and your bills are sky
high up. Is it not?
I'm afraid it is, Gaspard. I had no idea I was as reckless as all
But yes, and more of it.
What would you do if you were running this restaurant, Gaspard?
I would give ragoût, and rabbitsso cheap and so good
toostewed in red wine, and the good pot roast with vegetables all in
the delicious sauce, and carrots with parsley and the peas out of the
can, cooked with onion and lettuce, and macédoine of all the other
things left over. Lentils and flageolet I should buy dried up, and soak
them out.All those things which you have said were needless.In my
way they would be so excellent.
You make my mouth water, Gaspard. I don't know whether it's a
Gallic eloquence, or whether that food really would work. They might
like it for a change anyhow.
I have many personal patrons now, Gaspard said with some pride;
all day they send me messages, and very good tips. I think what I
would serve them they would eat.But there is one thing he paused
and hesitated dejectedly, that, what you say, takes the heart out of
the beautiful cooking.
What thing is that, Gaspard?
Why, Gaspard, surely you're used to working with tables now. It
must be almost second nature to you. My whole end and aim has been to
serve a balanced ration.
I know, but the ration when he is right, he balances himself. These
tables they are like the steps in dancingto learn and to forget. I
figure all day all night to get those calories, and then I find I have
eightand eight are so littlelesser than I would have had without
the figuring, and if our customer he has taken himself one piece of
sweetmeat outside, he has more than made it up.
I always have worried about what they eat between meals, Nancy
said,but that, of course, we can't regulate.
Could I perhaps go to it, as you say, and cook like the
bourgeoisie for a week or two of trials?
Yes, I think you could, Gaspard, Nancy said thoughtfully. Go to
it, as we say, and I won't interfere in any way. Maybe they'd like it.
Perhaps our food is getting to be too much like hotel food, anyway.
She knew in her heart that the gradually increasing scale of luxury
on which she had been running her cuisine had been largely due to her
desire to provide Collier Pratt with all the delicacies he loved,
without making the fact too conspicuous. The specially prepared dishes
sent out to his table had become a matter of so much comment among the
members of the staff, and the target of so much piquant satire from
Betty that she had become sensitive on the subject, especially since
Betty had access to the books, and knew in actual dollars and cents how
much this favoritism was costing her. Now that matters had been settled
between herself and her lover, she felt vaguely ashamed of this
elaboration of method. It was so simple a thing to love a man and give
him all you had, with the eyes of the world upon you, if necessary. She
felt that she handled the matter rather unworthily.
She had also a consultation with Molly and Dolly about the economic
problem, and discovered that they agreed with Gaspard about the
unnecessary extravagance of her management.
Them health foods, Dolly said,she was not the more grammatical
of the twins, the ones that gets them regular gets so tired of them,
or else they gets where they don't need them any more. There's one girl
that crumbs up her health muffins and puts them on the window-sill
every day when I ain't looking, so's not to hurt my feelings.
That accounts for all those chittering sparrows, Nancy said.
And some of those buttermilk men threatens not to come any more if
I don't stop serving it to them.
What do you say to them, Dolly, when they object to it?
Well, sometimes I say one thing, and sometimes another. Sometimes I
say it's orders to serve it; and sometimes I say will they please to
let it stand by their plate not to get me in trouble with the
management; and sometimes I coax them to take it.
By an appeal to their better nature, Nancy said. I'm glad Dick
can't hear all this,he'd think it was funny.
We don't have so much trouble with the broths, Molly said, but so
many people would rather have the cream soups Gaspard makes, that we
waste a good deal.
It sours on us, Dolly elucidated.
What do you think would be the best way out of that?
I think to charge for the invalid things, Dolly said; people
would think more of them if they was specials, and had to be paid good
money for. Health bread, if you didn't call it that, would go good, if
it cost five cents extra.
What would you call it? Nancy asked.
California fruit nut bread, or something like that, and call the
custards crême renversé, and the ice-cream, French ice-cream.
Oh, dear! Nancy said, that isn't the way I want to do things at
We can slip the ones that needs them a few things from time to
time, can't we, Molly? Dolly said.
We'll do it, Nancy said. I hate the way that the most uninspired
ways of doing things turn out to be the best policy after all. I don't
believe in stereotyped philanthropy, but I did think I had found a way
around this problem of feeding up people who needed it.
They get fed up pretty good if they do pay a regular price for it,
Dolly said. You can't get something for nothing in this world, and
most everybody knows it by now.
I'm managing my restaurant a little differently, she told Collier
Pratt a few days later, as she took her place at the little table
beside him, where she habitually ate her dinner. If you don't like it
you are to tell me, and I'll see that you have things you will like.
This dinner is good, he said reflectively, like French home
cooking. I haven't had a real ragoût of lamb since I left the
pension of Madame Pellissier. Has your mysterious patroness got tired
of furnishing diners de luxe to the populace?
Not exactly that, Nancy said, but sheshe wants me to try out
another way of doing things.
I thought that would come. That's the trouble with patronage of any
kind. It is so uncertain. There is no immediate danger of your being
ousted, is there?
No, Nancy said, therethere is no danger of that.
I don't like that cutting you down, he said, frowning. It would
be rather a bad outlook for us all if she threw you over, now wouldn't
Oh!she won't, there's nothing to worry about, really.
It would be like my luck to have the only café in America turn me
out-of-doors.I should never eat again.
I promise it won't, Nancy said; can't you trust me?
I never have trusted any womanbut you, he said.
You can trust me, Nancy said. The truth is, she couldn't put me
out even if she wanted to. Ishe is under a kind of obligation to me.
Thank God for that. I only hope you are in a position to threaten
her with blackmail.
I could if anybody could, Nancy said. She put out of her mind as
disloyal, the faintly unpleasant suggestion of his words. He owed her
mythical patron a substantial sum of money by this time. He was not
even able to pay Michael the cash for the nightly teapot full of
Chianti that Nancy herself now sent out for him regularly. For the
first time since her association with him she was tempted to compare
him to Dick, and that not very favorably; but at the next instant she
was reproaching herself with her littleness of vision. He was too great
a man to gauge by the ordinary standards of life. Money meant nothing
to him except that it was the insignificant means to the end of that
Art, which was to him consecrated.
They were placed a little to the left of the glowing fireNancy had
restored the fireplace in the big central dining-roomand the light
took the brass of the andirons, and all the polished surface of copper
and pewter and silver candelabra that gave the room its quality of
Some of those branching candlesticks are very beautiful, he said;
the impression here is a little like that of a Catholic altar just
before the mass. I've always thought I'd like to have my meals served
in church, Saint-Germain-des-Prés for instance.
It is rather dim religious light. Nancy had no wish to utter this
banality, but it was forced from her by her desire to seem sympathetic.
Can we go to your place for a little while to-night?
These were the words she had spent her days and nights hungering
for; yet now she hesitated for a perceptible instant.
Yes, we can, of course. There is a friend of mineBilly Boynton,
up there this evening. He is not feeling very fit, and phoned to ask if
he could go up and sprawl before my fire, so, of course, I said he
Oh! yes, Sheila's friend. Can't he be disposed of?
I think so. We could try.
But at Nancy's apartment they found not only Billy, but Caroline,
and the atmosphere was like that of the glacial regions, both literally
Hitty had the windows open, and the fire went out, and I forgot to
turn on the heat, Billy explained from his position on the hearth
where he was trying to build an unscientific fire with the morning
paper, and the remains of a soap box. There was a long smudge across
Caroline drew Nancy into the seclusion of her bedroom and clutched
her violently by the arm.
I can't stand the strain any longer, she cried, you've got to
tell me. Are you or are you not going to marry Dick Thorndyke for his
money, and is Billy Boynton putting you up to itout of cowardice?
No, I'm not and he isn't, Nancy said. What's the matter with you
and Billy anyway?
I haven't seen him for weeks before. I just happened to be in this
neighborhood to-night, and ran in here, and there he was.
Why don't you take him home with you? Nancy said.
I don't want him to go home with me.
Don't you love him?
Oh, I don't know. That isn't the point.
It is the point, Nancy said; there isn't any other point to the
whole of existence. There's nothing else in the world, but love, the
great, big, beautiful, all-giving-up kind of love, and bearing children
for the man you love; and if you don't know that yet, Caroline, go down
on your bended knees and pray to your God that He will teach it to you
before it is too late.
II didn't know you felt like that, Caroline gasped.
Well, I do, Nancy said, and I think that any woman who doesn't is
just confusing issues, and taking refuge in sophistry. I wouldn't give
thatshe snapped an energetic forefinger, for all your silly,
smug little ideas of economic independence and service to the race, and
all that tommy-rot. There is only one service a woman can do to her
race, and that is to take hold of the problems of love and
marriage,and the problems of life, birth and death that are involved
in themand work them out to the best of her ability. They will
Youyou're a sort of a pragmatist, aren't you? Caroline gasped.
Billy loves you, and you love Billy. Billy needs you. He is the
most miserable object lately, that ever walked the face of the earth.
I'm going to call a taxi-cab, and send you both home in it, and when
you get inside of it I want you to put you arms around Billy's neck,
and make up your quarrel.
I won't do that, said Caroline, butbut somehow or other you've
cleared up something for me. Something that was worrying me a good
Shall I call the taxi? Nancy said inexorably.
Well, yesifif you want to, Caroline said.
The fire was crackling merrily in the drawing-room when she stepped
into it again after speeding her departing guests. Collier Pratt was
walking up and down impatiently with his hands clasped behind his back.
You got rid of them at last, he said. I was afraid they would
decide to remain with us indefinitely.
I didn't have as much trouble as I anticipated, admitted Nancy
Collier Pratt made a round of the rose-shaded lamps in the
roomthere were three including a Japanese candle lamp,and turned
them all deliberately low. Then he held out his arms to Nancy.
We'll snatch at the few moments of joy the gods will vouchsafe us,
CHAPTER XVI. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
Sheila and Nancy were doing their Christmas shopping. The weather,
which had been like mid-Mayeven to betraying a bewildered Jersey
apple tree into unseasonable bloom that gave it considerable newspaper
notoriety,had suddenly turned sharp and frosty. Sheila, all in gray
fur to the beginning of her gray gaiters, and Nancy in blue, a smart
blue tailor suit with black furs and a big black satin hatshe was
dressing better than she had ever dressed in her lifewere in that
state of physical exhilaration that follows the spur of the frost.
We mustn't dance down the avenue, Sheila, Nancy said, it isn't
done, in the circles in which we move.
It is you who are almost very nearly dancing, Miss Dear, Sheila
said, I was only walking on my toetips.
Oh! don't you feel good, Sheila? Nancy cried.
Don't you, Miss Dear?
I feel almost too good, Nancy said, as if in another minute the
top of the world might come off.
The top of the world is screwed on very tight, I think, said
Sheila. I used to think when I was a little girl that it was made out
of blue plush, but now I know better than that.
It might be, Nancy argued, blue plush and bridal veils. There's a
great deal of filmy white about it, to-day.
It's a long way off from Fifth Avenue, Sheila sighed, too far. I
am not going to think about it any more. I am going to think hard about
what to give my father. Michael said to get a smoking set, but I don't
know what a smoking set is. Hitty said some hand knit woolen stockings,
but I am afraid he would be scratched by them. Gaspard said a big
bottle of Cointreau, but I do not know what that is either.
Couldn't we give him a beautiful brocaded dressing-gown and a Swiss
watch, thin as a wafer, and some handkerchiefs cobwebby fine, and a
dozen bottles of Cointreau, andthen get the other things as we
think of them?
Are we rich enough to do that? Sheila asked, her eyes
sparkling with excitement.
Rich enough to buy anything we want, Sheila, Nancy cried. I had
no idea it was going to be such a heavenly feeling. When you say your
prayers to-night, Sheila, I hope you will ask God to bless somebody
you've never heard of before. Elijah Peebles Martin, do you
think you could remember that long name, Sheila?
Yes, Miss Dear,do you remember him in your prayers every night?
Well, I haven't, Nancy said, but I intend to from now on. Do you
think Collierfatherwould like to have a new pipe?
I don't know, Shelia said; wouldn't Uncle Dick like to have one?
I don't know whether Uncle Dick is going to want a Christmas
present from me or not, Sheila. Nancy answered seriously. There may
bereasons why he won't come to see us for a while when he knows
Oh, dear, Sheila said, but I can buy him a Christmas present
myself, can't I? I don't want it to be Christmas if I can't.
Of course, dear. What shall we buy Aunt Caroline and Uncle Billy?
Some pink and blue housekeeping dishes, I think.
I'm going to have trouble buying Caroline anything, Nancy
said. She's so sure I can't afford it. If I give a silver chest I'll
have to make Billy say it came from his maiden aunt.
What shall we give Aunt Betty?
I don't know exactly why, Nancy said, but someway I feel more
like giving her a good shaking than anything else.
For a little surprise, Sheila said presently, do you think we
could go down to see my father in his studio, after we have shopped? I
feel like seeing my father to-day. Sometimes I wake up in the morning
and I think of Hitty and my breakfast, and the canary bird, and of you,
Miss Dear, fast asleep where I can hear you breathing in your roomif
I listen to itand then other mornings I wake up thinking only of my
father, and how he looks in his shirt-sleeves and necktie. I was
thinking of him this morning like that. So now I should like to see
You shall, dear. I want him to see you in your new clothes. He'll
think you look like a little gray bird with a scarlet breast.
Then I must open the front of my coat when I go in so he shall see
my vest at once, mustn't I?
Do you know how much I love you, Sheila? Nancy cried suddenly.
Is it a great deal, Miss Dear?
It's more than I've ever loved anybody in this world but one
person, and if I should ever be separated from you I think it would
break my heartso that you could hear it crack with a loud report,
The little girl slipped her gray gloved hand into Nancy's and held
it there silently for a moment.
Then we won't ever be separated, Miss Dear, she said.
The shops were crowded with the usual conglomerate Christmas throng,
and their progress was somewhat retarded by Sheila's desire to make the
acquaintance of every department-store and Salvation Army Santa Claus
that they met in their peregrinations. In the toy department of one of
the Thirty-fourth Street shops there was a live Kris Kringle with
animated reindeers on rollers, who made a short trip across an open
space in one end of the department for a consideration, and presented
each child who rode with him a lovely present, tied up in tissue and
marked Not to be opened until Christmas. Sheila refused a second trip
with him on the ground that it would not be polite to take more than
Nancy was able to discover the little girl's preferences by a
tactful question here and there when they were making the rounds of the
different counters. She wanted, it developed, a golden-haired doll with
a white fur coat, a pair of roller skates, an Indian costume, a beaded
pocketbook, with a blue cat embroidered on it, a parchesi board to play
parchesi with her Uncle Dick, some doll's dinner dishes, a boy's
bicycle, some parlor golf sticks, a red leather writing set, a doll's
manicure set, a sailor-boy paper doll, a dozen small suede animals in a
box, a drawing book and crayon pencils and several other trifles of a
like nature. The things she did not want she rejected unerringly. It
pleased Nancy to realize that she knew exactly what she did want, even
though her range of taste was so extensive. Nancy had a sheaf of her
own cards with her address on them in her pocketbook, and each time
Sheila saw the thing her heart coveted Nancy nodded to the saleswoman
and whispered to her to send it to the address given and charge to her
They took their lunch in a famous confectionary shop, full of candy
animals and alluring striped candy sticks and baskets. Here Sheila's
eye was taken by a basket of spun sugar flowers, which she insisted on
buying for Gaspard. By the time they were ready to resume their
shopping tour, Sheila began to show signs of fag, so they bought only
brooches for the waitresses, and the watch as thin and exquisite of
workmanship as a man's pocket watch could be, for Collier Pratt.
I think we had better give it to him now, Miss Dear, Sheila
decided. I don't see how he can wait till Christmas for itit is so
beautiful. He has not had a gold watch since that time in Paris when we
had all that trouble.
What trouble, Sheila dear? Nancy said. She had tucked the child in
a hansom, and they were driving slowly through the lower end of Central
Park to restore Sheila's roses before she was exhibited to her parent.
When we lost all our money, and my father and some one I must not
speak of, had those dreadful quarrelings, and we ran away. I do not
like to think of it. My father does not like to think of it.
Well, then, you mustn't, dear, Nancy said, but just be glad it is
all over now. I don't like to realize that so many hard things happened
to you and him before I knew you, but I do like to think that I can
perhaps prevent them ever happening to you again.
She closed resolutely that department of her mind that had begun to
occupy itself with conjectures concerning the past of the man to whom
she had given her heart. The child's words conjured up nightmare scenes
of unknown panic and dread. It was terrible to her to know that Collier
Pratt had the memory of so much bitterness and distress of mind and
body locked away in the secret chambers of his soul. Some one of whom
I must not speak, Sheila had said, and some one of whom I must not
think, Nancy added to herself. It was probably some one with whom he
had quarreled and struggled passionately maybe, with disastrous
results. He could not have injured or killed anybody, else how could he
be free and honorably considered in a free and honorable country? She
laughed at her own melodramatic misgivings. It was only, she realized,
that she so detested the connotation of the words ran away. Nancy had
never run away from anything or anybody in her life, and she could not
understand that any one who was close to her should ever have the
instinct of flight.
The most conscientious objector to New York's traffic regulations
can not claim that they fail to regulate. The progress of their cab
down the avenue was so scrupulously regulated by the benignant
guardians of the semaphores that twilight was deepening into early
December evening before they reached their objective point,the
ramshackle studio building on the south side of Washington Square where
the man she loved lived, moved and had his being, with the gallant ease
and grace which made him so romantic a figure to Nancy's imagination.
She had never been to his studio before without an appointment, and
her heart beat a little harder as, Sheila's hand in hers, they tiptoed
up the worn and creaking stairs, through the ill-kept, airless
corridors of the dingy structure, till they reached the top, and stood
breathless from their impetuous ascent, within a few feet of Collier
Pratt's battered door.
I feel a little scared, Miss Dear, Sheila whispered. I thought it
was going to be so much fun and now I don't think so at all. Do you
think he will be very angry at my coming?
I don't think he will be angry at all, Nancy said. I think he
will be very much surprised and pleased to see both of us. Turn around,
dear, and let me be sure that you're neat.
Sheila turned obediently. Nancy fumbled with her pocket mirror, and
then thought better of it, but passed a precautionary hand over the
back of her hair to reassure herself as to its arrangement, and
straightened her hat.
Now we're ready, she said.
But Sheila put out her hand, and clutched at Nancy's sleeve.
There's some one in there, she said, somebody crying. Oh! don't
let's go in, Miss Dear.
From behind the closed door there issued suddenly the confused
murmur of voices, onea woman'srising and falling in the cadence of
distress, the other low pitched in exasperated expostulation.
It's Collier, Nancy said mechanically, and some woman with him.
Sheila shrank closer into the protecting shelter of her arms.
Don't let's go in, Miss Dear, she repeated.
It may be just some model, Nancy said. We'll wait a minute here
and see if she doesn't come out.
II don't want to see who comes out, the child said, her face
There was a sharp sound of something falling within, then Collier
Pratt's voice raised loud in anger.
You'd better go now, he said, before you do any more damage. I
don't want you here. Once and for all I tell you that there is no place
for you in my life. Weeping and wailing won't do you any good. The only
thing for you to do is to get out and stay out.
This was answered by an indistinguishable outburst.
I won't tell you where the child is, Collier Pratt said steadily.
She's well taken care of. God knows you never took care of her.
There's nothing you can do, you know. You might sue for a restitution
of conjugal rights, I suppose, but if you drag this thing into the
courts I'll fight it out to the end. I swear I will.
At the first clear sound of the woman's voice the child at Nancy's
side broke into sobs of convulsive terror.
Take me away, Miss Dear. Oh! take me away from here, quickly,
quickly, I'm so frightened. I'm so afraid she'll come out and get me.
It's my mother, she moaned.
CHAPTER XVII. GOOD-BY
Nancy had no memory of her actions during the time that elapsed
between leaving the studio building and her arrival at her own
apartment. She knew that she must have guided Sheila to the beginning
of the bus route at the lower end of the square, and as perfunctorily
signaled the conductor to let her off at the corner of Fifth Avenue and
her own street, but she could never remember having done so. Her first
conscious recollection was of the few minutes in Sheila's room, while
she was slipping off the child's gaiters, in the interval before she
gave her over to Hitty for the night. The little girl was still sobbing
beneath her breath, though her emotion was by this time purely
I didn't understand that your mother was living, Sheila, she said.
She isn't very nice, the little girl said miserably. We don't
tell any one. She always cries and screams and makes us trouble?
Did she live with you in Paris?
Does she dosomething that she should not do, Sheila? Nancy
asked, with her mind on inebriety, or drug addiction.
She just isn't very nice, Sheila repeated. She is histérique
; she pounded me with her hands, and hurt me.
Nancy telephoned to the Inn that she had a headache, and shut
herself into her room, without food, to gather her scattered forces.
She lay wide-awake all the night through, her mind trying to work its
way through the lethargy of shock it had received. She remembered
falling down the cellar stairs, when she was a little girl, and lying
for hours on the hard stone floor, perfectly serene and calm, without
pain, until she tried to do so much as move a little finger or lift an
eyelid, when the intolerable nausea would begin. She was calm now,
until she made the attempt to think what it was that had so prostrated
her, and then the anguish spread through her being and convulsed her
with unimaginable distress of mind and body.
By morning she had herself in hand again,at least to the extent of
dealing with the unthinkable fact that Collier Pratt, her lover, the
man to whom she had given the lover's right to hold her in his arms and
cover her upturned face with kisses, had a living wife, and that he was
not free to make honorable love to any woman.
Her life had been too sound, too sweet, to give her any perspective
on a situation of the kind. It was inconceivable to her that a married
man should make advances to an unmarried woman,but gradually she
began to make excuses for this one man whose circumstances had been so
exceptional. Tied to an insane creature, who beat his child, who made
him strange hectic scenes, and followed him all over the world to
threaten his security, and menace that beautiful and inexplicable
creative instinct that animated him like a holy fire, and set him apart
from his kind; she began to see how it might be with him. She was still
the woman he loved,she believed that; he was weaker than she had
thought,that was all, weaker and not so wise. This being true, she
must put aside her own pain and bewilderment, her own devastating
disillusionment, and comfort him, and help him. She rose from her bed
that morning firmly resolved to see him before the day was through.
She breakfasted with Sheila, and made a brave attempt to get through
the morning on her usual schedule, but once at the Inn she collapsed,
and Michael and Betty had to put her in a cab and send her home again,
where Hitty ministered to her grimly,and she slept the sleep of
exhaustion until well on into the evening, and into the night again.
On the day following she was quite herself; but she still hesitated
to bring about the momentous interview that she so dreaded, and yet
longed for. She intended to take her place at the table beside Collier
Pratt when he came for his dinner that night, but when the time came
she could not bring herself to do it, and fled incontinently. Later in
the evening he telephoned that he wanted to see her, and she told him
that he might come.
She faced him with the facts, breathlessly, and in spite of herself
accusingly,and then waited for the explanation that would extenuate
the apparent ugliness of his attitude toward her, and set all the world
right for her again. As she looked into his face she felt that it must
come. She noted compassionately how the shadows under the dark eyes had
deepened; how weary the pose of the fine head; and for the moment she
longed only to rest it on her breast again. Even as she spoke of the
thing that had so tortured her it seemed insignificant in light of the
fact that he was there beside her, within reach of her arms whenever
she chose to hold them out to him.
I regret that the revelation of my private embarrassments should
have been thrust upon you so suddenly, he said, when she had poured
out the story to him. My marriage has proved the most uncomfortable
indiscretion that I ever committed; and unfortunately my indiscretions
have been numberless as the well-known leaves of Vallombrosa.
You always said that Sheila was motherless, Nancy said.
It is simpler than stating that she is worse than motherless.
Why didn't you tell me you were married?
Collier Pratt smiled at herkindly it seemed to Nancy.
It hadn't anything to do with us, he said. I should never
want to marry againeven if I were free. The thought is horrible to
me. You mean a great deal to me. Think, if you doubt that and
think again. I have had in this little front room of yours the only
real moments of peace and happiness that I have had for years. I value
themyou can not dream or imagine how muchbut surely it is
understood between us that our relation can not be anything but
transitory. I am an artist with a way to make for my art: you are a
working woman with a career, odd as it is, he smiled whimsically,
that you have chosen, and that you will pursue faithfully until some
stalwart young man dissuades you from it, when you will take your place
in your niche as wife and mother, and leave me one more beautiful
Surely, Nancy said, you know it isn'tlike that.
What is it like then?
Nancy felt every sane premise, every eager hope and delicate ideal
slipping beyond her reach as she faced his mocking, tender eyes.
It can't be that you believe you have beenfair with me, she
I don't think I have been unfair, he said, I have made no
protestations, you know.
Nancy shut her eyes. Curious scraps of her early religious education
came back to her.
You have partaken of my bread and wine, she said.
It wasn't exactly consecrated.
I think it was, she said faintly. Oh! don't you understand that
that isn't a way for a man to think or to feel about a woman like me?
Little American girl, Collier Pratt said, little American girl,
don't you understand that there is only one way for a woman to think or
feel about a man like me? I have had my life, and I
haven't liked it much. I'm to be loved warmly and lightly till the
flesh and blood prince comes along, but I'm never to be mistaken for
I don't believe you're sincere, Nancy cried; women must have
loved you deeply, tragically, and have suffered all the torture there
is, at losing you.
That may be. Sincerity is a matter of so many connotations. You
haven't known many artists, my dear.
No, said Nancy. No, but I thought they were the same as other
men, only worthier.
How should they be? He who perceives a merit is not necessarily he
who achieves it. Else the world would be a little more one-sided than
I can't believe those things, Nancy said. I want to believe in
you. You must care for me, and what becomes of me. You have
known so long what I was like, and what I was made for. All this seems
like a terrible nightmare. I want you to tell me what it is you want of
me, and let me give it to you.
I am proving some faint shadow of worthiness at least, when I say
to you that I want absolutely nothing of you. I love, but I refrain.
You love, Nancy cried, you love?
Not as you understand loving, I am afraid. In my own way I love
I don't like your way, then, Nancy said wearily.
We're both so poor, little girl,that's one thing. If I were free
and could overcome my prejudice against matrimony, and could be a
little surer of my own heart and its constancy,even then, don't you
see, practical considerations would and ought to stand in our way. I
couldn't support you, you couldn't possibly support me.
I see, said Nancy. Would you marry me If I were rich? she said
I already have one wife, Collier Pratt smiled. Nancy remembered
afterward that he smiled oftener during this interview than at any
other. But if somebody died, and left you a million, she might
possibly be disposed of.
For one moment, perhaps, his fate hung in the balance. Then he took
a step forward.
Kiss me good night, dear, he said, and let us end this bitter and
Kiss you good night, Nancy cried. Kiss you good night. Oh! how
dare you!How dare you? And she struck him twice across his mouth. I
wish I could kill you, she blazed. Oh! how dare you,how dare you?
Oh! very well, said Collier Pratt calmly, wiping his mouth with
his handkerchief. If that's the way you feelthen our pleasant little
acquaintanceship is ended. I'll take my hat and stick and my childand
Your child? Nancy cried aghast. You wouldn't take Sheila away
I don't feel exactly tempted to leave her with you, he said
deliberately. I don't mind a woman striking meI'm used to that; it
is one of my charming wife's ways of expressing herself in moments of
stressbut I do object to any but the most purely formal relations
with her afterward. There is a certain degree of intimacy involved in
your having charge of my child. I think I will take the little girl
away with me now.
Please, please, please don't, Nancy said. I love her. I couldn't
bear it now. You can't be so cruel.
Better get it over, Collier Pratt said. Will you call Hitty, or
Sheila is in bed, Nancy cried. You wouldn't take her out of her
warm bed to-night. I'll send her to you to-morrow at whatever hour you
I ask for her now.
There was no fight left in Nancy. She called Hitty and superintended
the dressing of the little girl to its last detail. She could not touch
Won't you kiss me good night, Miss Dear? Sheila said, drowsily, as
she took her father's hand at the door.
Not to-night, Nancy said hoarsely. I've a bad throat, dear, I
wouldn't want you to catch it.
I don't know where I'm going, the little girl said, but I suppose
my father knows. I'll come back as soon as I can.
Yes, dear, Nancy said. Good-by.
Collier Pratt turned at the door and made an exaggerated gesture of
We part more in anger than in sorrow, he said.
Oh! Go, Nancy cried.
As the door closed upon the two Nancy sank to her knees, and thence
to a crumpled heap on the floor, but remembering that Hitty would find
her there shortly, and being entirely unable to regain her feet
unaided, she started to crawl in the direction of her own room, and
presently arrived there, and pushed the door to behind her with her
CHAPTER XVIII. TAME SKELETONS
It was Sunday night, and New Year's Eve. Gaspard was preparing, and
Molly and Dolly were serving a special dinner for Preston Eustace,
planned weeks before on his first arrival in New York.
Before the great logsimported by Michael for the occasionthat
blazed in the fireplace, a round table was set, decorously draped in
the most immaculate of fine linen, and crowned with a wreath of holly
and mistletoe, from which extended red satin trailers with a present
from Nancy for each guest, on the end of each. All the impedimenta of
the restaurant was cleared away, and a couch and several easy chairs
that Nancy kept in reserve for such occasions were placed comfortably
about the room. Only the innumerable starry candles and branching
candelabra were reminiscent of the room's more professional aspect.
Billy and Caroline were the first to arrive,Caroline in pale
floating green tulle, which accentuated the pure olive of her coloring,
and transported Billy from his chronic state of adoration to that of an
almost agonizing worship. Dick and Betty were next. He had realized the
possible awkwardness of the situation for her, and had been thoughtful
enough to offer to call for her. She was in defiant scarlet from top to
toe, and had never looked more entrancing. Preston Eustace was to come
in from Long Island where he was spending the holidays with a married
sister. Michael received the guests and did the honors beamingly.
Where's Nancy? Dick asked, as, divested of his outer garments, he
appeared without warning in the presence of the lovers. Don't bother
to drop her hand, Billy. I don't see how you have the heart to, she's
so lovely to-night.
We don't know where Nancy is, Caroline answered for him. It seems
to be all right, though. She's expected, Michael says.
Where's Nancy? Betty asked, in her turn, appearing on the
threshold with every hair most amazingly in place.
Coming, Dick reassured her.
Has anybody heard from her? Betty asked.
Michael has, I think.
You aren't worried about her, are you? Caroline asked.
Yes, I am, Betty said.
I thought you and Nancy were rather on the outs, Caroline
suggested. It seems odd to have you worrying about her like her maiden
You wait till you see her, you'll be worried about her, too.
What's wrong? Dick asked quickly.
She's lost Sheila for one thing. That unspeakable Collier PrattI
hope he chokes on his dinner to-night, and I hope it's a rotten
dinnerhas taken the child away.
The devil he has.
There was a step on the rickety stair.
Hush! There she is now, Caroline cried.
No, Betty said quietly, listening. That's not Nancy. That's your
I haven't heard his step for such a long time I've forgotten it,
I haven't heard it for a long time either, Betty said, her face
draining of its last bit of color.
Promises to be one of those merry little meals when everybody
present is attended by a tame skeleton, Billy whispered, except us,
I don't feel that we have any right to be so happy with the whole
continent of Europe in the state it's in, Caroline whispered in reply.
I feel better about the continent of Europe than I did a while
back, Billy said, contentedly.
Hello, everybody, Preston Eustace said as Michael held the door
for him. How's everything, Caroline?
All right, Caroline said. Then she added unnecessarily, Youyou
know Betty, don't you?
I used to know Betty, he said slowly.
The two looked at each other, with that look of incredulity with
which lovers sometimes greet each other after absence and estrangement.
This can't be you, their eyes seem to be saying, I've disposed of
you long since, God help me!
How do you do, Preston? Betty said, giving him her hand. Then she
smiled faintly, and added with a caricature of her usual manner:
Lovely weather we're having for this time of year, aren't we?
I'm very fond of you, Betty,Dick smiled as she sank into the
chair beside him and Preston turned to his sister. I think you're a
I don't know how you can, Dicky, she smiled at him forlornly.
I've got a bad black heart, and I play the wrong kind of games.
Well, I see through them, so it's all right. What's this about
I'll tell you later, Betty said; there she comes now.
Nancy, stimulated by massage and steam, her hair dressed by a
professional; powdered, and for the first time in her life rouged to
hide the tell-tale absence of her natural quickening color, came
forward to meet her guests in supreme unconsciousness of the pathos of
the effect she had achieved. She was dressed in snowy white like a
bride,the only gown she had that was in keeping with the holiday
decorations, and she moved a little clumsily, as if her brain had found
itself suddenly in charge of an unfamiliar set of reflexes. Her lids
drooped over burning eyes that had known no sleep for many nights, and
every line and lineament of her face was stamped with pain.
I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting, she said. Her voice,
curiously, was the only natural thing about her. I've been scouring
off every vestige of my work-a-day self, and that takes time. Thank you
for the roses, Dick, but the only flowers I could have worn with this
color scheme would have been geraniums.
I'll send you some geraniums to-morrow.
Don't, she said. How do you do, Preston?
She gave him a cold hand, and he stared at her almost as he had
stared at Betty. He was a tall grave-looking youth, with Caroline's
straight features and olive coloring, and a shock of heavy blond hair.
I hope you'll like your party, Nancy hurried on. Gaspard is
bursting with pride in it. I think it would be a nice thing to have him
in and drink his health after the coffee. He would never forget the
My God! Dick said in an undertone to Betty, how long has she been
I'll tell you later, she promised him again.
With the serving of the first course of dinnerGaspard's wonderful
Purée Mongolan artist's dream of all the most delicate vegetables
in the world mingled together as the clouds are mingled, the tensity in
the air seemed to break and shatter about them in showers of brilliant,
artificial mirth, which presently, because they were all young and fond
of one another and their group had the habit of intimacy, became less
and less strained and unreal.
Nancy's tired eyes lost something of their unnatural glitter, and
Betty seemed more of a woman than a scarlet sprite, while Caroline's
smile began to reflect something of the real gladness that possessed
her soul. Dick and Billy took up the burden of the entertainment of the
party, and gave at least an excellent imitation of inspirational
This filet of sole, Billy observed as he sampled his second
course appreciatively, is common or barnyard flounder,and the shrimp
and the oyster crab, and that mushroom of the sea, and the other little
creature in the corner of my plate who shall be nameless, because I
have no idea what his name is,are all put in to make it harder.
Gaspard is using some of the simpler native products now instead of
the high-priced imported ones, Nancy said eagerly, and he is getting
wonderful results, I think.
Flounder a la Française is all right, Dick said.
Our restaurant has reformed, Betty said. We're running it on a
strictly business basis.
And making money? Dick asked quickly.
We're not losing much, Betty said. That's a great improvement.
Some of those little girls from the publishing houses look paler to
me than they did, Nancy said. I wish I could give them hypodermics of
protein and carbohydrates.
Give me the name and address of any of your customers that worry
you, Dick said, and I'll buy 'em a cow or a sugar plum tree or a
flivver or anything else they seem to be in need of.
Don't those things tend to pauperize the poor? Caroline's brother
put in gravely.
Sure they do, Billy agreed, only Nancy has kind of given up her
struggle not to pauperize them.
I started in with some very high ideals about scientific service,
Nancy explained. I was never going to give anybody anything they
hadn't actually earned in some way, except to bring up the average of
normality by feeding my patrons surreptitious calories. I had it all
figured out that the only legitimate charity was putting flesh on the
bones of the human race,that increasing the general efficiency that
way wasn't really charity at all.
You don't believe that now? Preston Eustace asked.
I don't know what I believe now.
What is scientific charity, anyhow? Dick looked about inquiringly.
There ain't no such animal, Billy contributed.
It's substituting the cool human intellect for the warm human
heart, I guess, Betty said dreamily.
But that so often works, Caroline said.
I was never going to make any mistakes, Nancy said. I was going
to keep my fists scientifically shut, and my heart beatifically open.
She hesitated. II was going to swing my life, and my
undertakingsright. It became increasingly hard for her to speak, and
a little gasp went round the table. I'veI've made nothingnothing
but mistakes, she finished piteously.
But you've rectified them, Betty put in vigorously. Nancy, dear,
I've never known you to make a mistake that you haven't rectified, and
that is more than I can say of any other person in the world.
Sirloin and carrots, Caroline said, as the next course came in.
I'll wager you've cut the price of this dinner in two by judicious
There's nothing else but field salad, Nancy said, still piteously,
and raspberry mousse.
Nancy, you'll break my heart, Betty said, wiping her eyes frankly,
but Nancy only looked at her wonderingly, wistfully, preoccupied and
remote, while Preston Eustace gazed at Betty as if he too would find a
welcome relief in shedding a heavy tear or two.
Collier Pratt has broken her heart, Dick, Betty told him in the
limousine on the way home. It's been going on ever since the first
time she saw him. Down at the restaurant we've all known it. She's been
eating at his table every night for months, and Gaspard and everybody
else in the place, in fact, has been a slave to his lightest whim. I've
always disliked him intensely, myself.
Why didn't you tell me before, Betty?
It wasn't my business to tell you. I thought it was coming off, you
What was coming off?
Their affair. I thought it was past my meddling.
Do you mean to say that you thought Nancy was going to marry
Why, yes, if I hadn't II wouldn't have acted up the way I did in
your rooms that night.
But Dick neither heard nor understood her.
Do you mean to say that you think Collier Pratt has been making
love to her?
I think so.
But the damned scoundrel is married.
Oh! Betty cried. Oh!I didn't know that.
I've known itI've always known it, Dick said. I never dreamed
that Nancy had any special interest in him.
Well, she had. She's going through everything, Dick, even
Sheilayou know how she loved Sheila?
I know, Dick said grimly. Do you mind going on home alone, Betty?
You'll be perfectly safe with Williams, you know.
Of course not. What are you going to do, Dick? Are you going to
No, I'm not going to Nancy.
Betty, looking at him more closely, realized for the first time that
she was sitting beside a man in whom the rage of the primitive animal
was gaining its ascendency. His breath was coming in short stertorous
gasps, his hands were clinched, the purplish color was mounting to his
brows, but he still went through the motions of a courteous
Where are you going, Dick? she asked again, as he stood on the
curb where he had signaled Williams to leave him, with the door of the
car in his hand, staring down at it, and for the moment forgetting to
I'm going to find Collier Pratt, he said thickly. Then with a slam
that splintered the hinge of the door he was holding he crashed it in
toward the car.
CHAPTER XIX. OTHER PEOPLE'S TROUBLES
Nancy was trying conscientiously to interest herself in other
people's troubles. After the first great shock of pain following her
loss at a blow of her lover and Sheila, she began automatically to try
to work her way through her suffering. The habit of application to the
daily task combined with her instinct for taking immediate action in a
crisis stood her in good stead in her hour of need. She decided what to
occupy herself with, and then devoted herself faithfully to the
The Inn did not need her. With Betty to guide him economically
Gaspard was able to superintend all the details of the establishment
adequately and artistically. Sheila was gone. She packed up several
trunks of dresses and toys and other childish belongings and sent them
to Washington Square, but even without these constant reminders of her,
the hunger for the child's presence did not abate. The little girl was
curiously dissociated from her father in Nancy's mind. She had seen so
little of the two together that they seemed to belong to entirely
different compartments of her consciousness. It was only the anguish of
losing them that linked them together.
Nancy decided to devote a certain proportion of her days and nights
to remedying such evils as lay under her immediate observation;to
helping the individuals with whom she came into daily contactthe
dependents and tradespeople with whom she dealt. She had always been
convinced that the people who ministered to her daily comfort in New
York should occupy some part in her scheme of existence. It was one of
her favorite arguments that a little more energy and imagination on the
part of New York citizens would develop the communal spirit which was
so painfully lacking in the soul of the average Manhattanite.
So the milkman and the corner grocer, the newspaper man, and Hitty's
small brood of grand nieces and nephews, to say nothing of the Italian
fruit man's family, and her laundress's invalid daughter, were all
occupying a considerable place in Nancy's daily schedule. In a very
short interval she had the welfare of more than half a dozen families
on her hands, and was involved in all manner of enterprises of a
domestic nature,from the designing of confirmation gowns to the
purchase of rubber-tired rolling chairs, and heterogeneous woolen
garments and other intimate necessities.
She was a little ashamed of her new line of activities, and still
hurt enough to shun the scrutiny of her friends, and thereby succeeded
in mystifying and alarming Billy and Dick and Betty and Caroline almost
beyond the limit of their endurance by resolutely keeping them at arm's
length. She was supremely unconscious of anything at all remarkable in
her behavior, and believed that they accepted her excuses and apologies
at their face value. She had no conception of the fact that her
tortured face, with tragedy looking newly out of her eyes, kept them
from their rest at night.
Sheila wrote to thank her for sending the trunks.
* * * * *
My dear, ma chère, Miss Dear, she said. Merci beaucoup
pour my clothes and other beautiful things. I like them. Je
t'aimeje t'aime toujours. My father will not permit me to go
back. Commehow I desire to see you! My father has been sick.
He fell down or was hurt in the street. There was blooda great deal.
Are they wellthe others? Tell Monsieur Dick I give him tout mon
coeur. Come to see me if it is permit. No more. You could
write peut-être. Je t'aime.
* * * * *
Nancy read this letter, in the quaint childish hand, with a great
wave of dumb sickness creeping over hera devastating, disintegrating
nausea of soul and body. The most significant fact in it, however, that
Collier Pratt had fallen down or been hurt in the street, of course
escaped her entirely, except to stir her with a kind of dim pity for
In one of her long night vigils Preston Eustace's face came back to
her oddly. She remembered suddenly the strange sad way he had stared at
Betty on the evening of her party at the Inn. She reconstructed Betty's
love-story, and its sudden breaking off, three years before, and with
her new insight into the human heart, decided that these two loved each
other still, and must be helped to the consummation of their happiness.
She telephoned to them both the next day that they could be of service
to her; and made an appointment to meet them at a given hour the next
evening at her apartment.
She expected and intended to be there herself to give the meeting
the semblance of coincidence, and to offer them the hospitality of her
house before she was inspired with the excuse that would permit her an
exit that left them alone together; but she found herself in the slums
of Harlem by an Italian baby's bedside at that hour, and decided that
even to telephone would be superfluous, as once finding each other the
lovers would be oblivious to all other considerations.
What actually happened was that Preston Eustace, exactly on time as
was his habit, had been waiting some ten minutes on Nancy's hearth-rug
when Betty, delayed by the eccentricities of a casual motor-bus engine,
and frantic with anxiety for her friend, burst in upon him. So full was
she of the most hectic speculations concerning Nancy's sudden appeal to
her that she scarcely noticed who was waiting there to greet her, and
when she did notice, scarcely heeded that recognition.
Where's Nancy? she demanded breathlessly.
I don't know, Betty, Preston Eustace said.
Doesn't Hitty know?
She says she doesn't!
How did you happen to be here?
She sent for me.
She's probably sent for everybody else, Betty said. She's killed
herself, I know she has.
What makes you think so?
Her heart is broken, she's been suffering terribly.
I don't think she would have sent for me if she had been going to
kill herself, Preston Eustace said, a little as if he would have
added, We are not on those terms.
I don't suppose she would, Betty said. But oh, Preston, I'm so
worried about her. I don't know where she is or anything. I tell you
her heart is broken.
I didn't know you believed in heartsbroken or otherwise, Betty.
I believe in Nancy's heart.
You never believed in mine.
You never gave me much reason to, Preston. Youyou let me give you
back your ring the first time I threatened to.
Of course I did.
You never came near me again.
Of course I didn't.
You let three years go by without a word.
If you say 'of course I did' again I'll fly straight up through
this roof. If you'd ever loved me you wouldn't have gone away and left
If I hadn't loved you I wouldn't have gone away.
Oh, dear, Betty sighed. I don't see how you can stand there and
think about yourself with Nancy out in the nightwe don't know where.
Ourselves, Bettydid you ever really love me?
It doesn't make any difference whether I did or not, Betty said.
I hate men.
I think I'd better be going, Preston Eustace said, his face dark
with pain. He was rather a literal-minded young man, as Caroline's
brother would have been likely to be.
Betty buried her face in her hands.
My head aches, she said, and I was never in my life so mad and so
miserable. I can't understand why everything and everybody should
behave sodevilishly. You and every one else, I mean. I just simply
can't bear to have Nancy suffer so. My head aches and my heart aches
and my soul aches. She lifted her head defiantly.
I think I had better be going, Preston Eustace repeated, looking
down at her sorrowfully.
Oh! don't be going, Betty said. What in the name of sense do you
want to be going for? Then without warning or premeditation she hurled
herself at his breast. Oh! Preston, if there is anything comforting in
this world, she said, tell it to me, now.
Preston Eustace gathered her to his breast with infinite tenderness.
I love you, he said with his lips on her brow. Doesn't that
comfort you a little?
Yes, she admitted, yes, winding her arms about his neck, but
you have no idea what a little devil I am, Preston.
I don't want to have any idea, he said, still holding her
No, I don't think you do, Betty said. Oh! kiss me again, dear,
and tell me you won't ever let me go now.
When Nancy came in she found the lovers so oblivious to the sound of
her key in the latch or her footstep in the corridor that she decided
to slip into bed without disturbing them, and did so, without their
ever realizing that for the latter part of the evening at least, they
had a hostess within range of the sound of their voicesindeed, she
was obliged to stuff the pillow into her ears to prevent herself from
actually hearing what they were saying.
* * * * *
At first her freedomher release from the monotonous constraint of
her daily confinement at the Innthe unaccustomed independence of her
new activities which justified her most untoward goings and
comingswas very soothing to her. She liked the feeling of slipping
out of the house at night, accountable to no one except the redoubtable
Hitty to whom she presented any explanation that happened to occur to
her,however wide its departure from the actual factsand losing
herself in the resurgent town. But after a while her liberty lost its
savor. She began to feel uncared for and neglected. The unaccountable
anguish in her breast was neither assuaged nor mitigated by the
geographical latitude she permitted herself. She kept doggedly on with
her personally conducted philanthropies, but she began to feel a little
frightened about her capacity for endurance. Her body and brain began
to show strange signs of fatigue. She was afraid that one or the other
might suddenly refuse to function.
One night, on coming out into the heterogeneous human stream on
Avenue A, after a visit to a Polish family in the model tenements on
Seventy-ninth Street, she ran into Dick.
Why, Dick, she said, what an extraordinary place to find you!
Yes, isn't it? he said. My business often brings me up this way.
Your business? What business? she asked incredulously.
I don't know exactly what business it is. The ministering business,
I guess. He motioned toward the basket on her arm: Let me carry that,
and you, too, if you'll let me, Nancy. You look tired.
I am tired, Dick, she said. Have you got a car anywhere around?
I can phone for it in two shakes, he said. Here in this ice-cream
parlor. Can I buy you a cone while you're waiting?
Buy cones for that crowd of children and I'll watch them eat them.
Doesn't that little girl in the pink dress look like Sheila, Dick?
She sank down on a stool in the interior of the candy shop and
rested her elbows on the damp marble table in front of her, splotched
and streaked still with the refreshment of the last customer who
occupied the seat there and watched the horde of dirty clamorous street
children devouring ice-cream cones and cheap sweets to the limit of
I didn't know you believed in this promiscuous feeding of children
between meals, Dick said, when she was settled comfortably at last
among the cushions of his car, which had arrived on the scene with an
amazing, not to say, suspicious promptness.
I don't, Nancy said, in the least; but I don't really
believe in the things I believe in any more.
Poor Nancy! Dick said.
I've had some trouble, Dick. I'm shaken all out of my poise. I
can't seem to get my universe straight again.
I'm sorry for that, he said. Anything I can do?
Stand by; that's all, I guess.
You couldn't tell me a little more about it, could you?
No, I couldn't, Dick.
I'm not even to guess?
You couldn't guess. It's the kind of thing that's entirely outside
ofof the probabilities. I think it's outside of the range of your
understanding, Dick. I don't think you know that there is exactly that
kind of trouble in the world.
And you think you'd better not enlighten me?
I couldn't, Dick, even if I wanted to. Funny you happened to be in
this part of town to-night just when I really needed you.
He smiled. Every night of his life he followed her, watching over
her, dodging down dark alley ways, waiting at squalid entrances until
she came out. To-night he had ventured to speak to her only because he
knew her to be in need of actual physical assistance.
Awfully glad to be anywhere around when you need me, he said;
still I hope you don't mind my suggesting that this is a Gehenna of a
place for either of us to be in.
Haven't you any feeling for the downtrodden? Nancy asked, with a
faint reflection of what Billy referred to as her older and better
I'm downtrodden myself, Nancy.
She smiled in her turn.
You don't look very downtrodden to me, she said. You've
got everything to live for.
Well, money and freedom andand
Money is the only thing I've got that you haven't, and that doesn't
mean much unless you can share it with the person you love.
No, it doesn't, does it? Nancy said unexpectedly. What's that
scar on your forehead?
That's a scratch I got.
Shaving or fighting, or something like that.
Was it fighting, Dick?
Who were you fighting with?
I wasn't fighting. I was assaulting and battering.
If it's any satisfaction to you to know it I made one grand job of
Why should it be any satisfaction to me?
I don't know.
Why, Dick! Nancy said again. I didn't know you had any of that
kind of brutality in you.
What happens to a man when hedoes a thing like that?
He gets jugged.
Did he get jugged?
Well, that wasn't the part that interested me.
An odd picture presented itself to Nancy's mind of the men of the
world engaged in one grand mêlée of brawling; struggling, belaying one
another with their bare fists, drawing blood; brutes turned on brutes.
Men are queer things, she said.
Dick's face was turned away from her. It was not at the moment a
face she would have recognized. The eyes were contracted: the nostrils
quivering: the teeth set.
I'm always at your service, Nancy, he said presently. Is there
anything in the world you want that I can get for you?
The only thing I want is something you can't get?
And that is?
No, Dick said. I can't get Sheila for you. I'm sorry. I suppose
that's the whole answer to you, he went on musingly. You want
something, somebody to motherto minister to. It doesn't make so much
difference what else it is, so long as it'sdowntrodden. That's why
I've never made more of a hit with you. I've never been downtrodden
enough. I didn't need feeding or nursing. I've always sort of cherished
the feeling that I liked to be the one creature you didn't have to
carry on your back. I thought that to stand behind you was a
pretty good stunt, but you've never needed anything yet to fall back
I don't think I ever shall, Nancy said. Not,not in the way you
So be it, he said, folding his arms. But there's still one thing
you'll take from me, and that's the thing I've got that you
haven'tmoney. I never have cared much about it before, but now that
there are so many things I can't put right for you, I know you won't be
selfish enough to deny this one satisfaction. Let me make over to you
all the money you need to get you out of your difficulties with the
Inn. Let me hand out a good round sum for all these charities of yours.
If you knew how everything else in connection with you had conspired to
hurt me,how this being discounted and losing out all around has cut
into me, you wouldn't deny me this one privilege. You don't want me, you wouldn't take me, but for God's sake, Nancy, take this one thing
that I can give you.
They had just swung into the lower entrance of the Park, and the big
car was speeding silently into the deepening night, low hung with
silver stars, and jeweled with soft lights.
You're awfully good to me, Dick, Nancy said, and I appreciate
every word you've been saying. I'd take your money, not for myself, but
for the things I'm doing, if I needed it, but I don't, you know. She
looked out into the coolness of the evening, lulled by the transition
to a region of so much airiness and space, soothed by the soft motion,
and the presence of a friend who loved her. The conversation in which
she was engaged suddenly became trivial and unimportant to her. She was
very tired, and she found herself beginning to rest and relax. I don't
need it, she repeated vaguely. I've got plenty of money of my own.
Over a million, Billy says now. Uncle Elijah left it to me. I didn't
want him to, but perhaps it was all for the best. She put her head
back against the cushions and shut her eyes. I'm terribly sleepy, she
said, and as for the Innthat's making money, too, you know. Last
month we cleared more than two hundred dollars.
And Dick saying nothing, but continuing to stare into spacethe
panoramic space fleeting rhythmically by the car window,she let
herself gradually slip into the depths of sudden drowsiness that had
CHAPTER XX. HITTY
Hitty put on her bonnetshe had worn widow's weeds for twenty-five
yearsand went out into the morning. She finally succeeded in boarding
a south-bound Sixth Avenue car,though since it was her habit to
ignore the near side stop regulation, she always had considerable
trouble in getting on any car,and in seating herself bolt upright on
the lengthwise seat, her black gloved hands folded indomitably before
At Fourth Street she descended and made her way east to the square,
and thence to the top floor of the studio building to which Collier
Pratt had taken his little daughter on the memorable occasion when he
had plucked her from her warm nest of blankets and led her, sleepy and
shivering, into the cold of the night. She had been at some pains to
secure the address without taking Nancy into her confidence.
She took each creaking stair with a snort of disgust, and reaching
the battered door with Collier Pratt's visiting card tacked on the
smeary panel on a level with her eye, she knocked sharply, and scorning
to wait for a reply, turned the knob and walked in.
Collier Pratt was making coffee on a small spirit lamp, set on the
wash-stand, which was decorously concealed during the more formal hours
of the day behind a soft colored Japanese screen. He was wearing a
smutty painter's smock, and though his face was shining with soap and
water, his hair was standing about his face in a disorder eloquent of
at least a dozen hours' neglect. Sheila, in a mussy gingham dress, was
trying to pry off the pasteboard covering of a pint bottle of milk with
a pair of scissors, and succeeding only indifferently. They both turned
on Hitty's entrance, and the milk bottle went crashing to the floor
when the little girl recognized her friend, but after one terrified
look at her father she made no move at all in Hitty's direction.
And to what, Collier Pratt ejaculated slowly and disagreeably, as
is any man's wont before he has had his draught of breakfast coffee,
am I to attribute the pleasure of this visit?
It ain't no pleasure to me, Hitty said, advancing, a figure of
menace, into the center of the dusty workshop, strangely uncouth and
unprepossessing in the cold morning light,and if it's any pleasure
to you, that's an effect that I ain't calculated to produce. I've come
here on businessthe business of collecting that poor neglected child
there, and taking her back where she belongs, where there's folks that
knows enough to treat her right.
Another of Miss Martin's friends and well-wishers, I take it. These
American girls are given to surrounding themselves with groups of warm
and impulsive associates. Do you by any chance happen to know a young
lawyer by the name of Boynton, Hitty? A collection lawyer?
I'll thank you to call me Mrs. Spinney, if you please, or if you
don't please. Mrs. Spinney is the name I go by when I'm spoken to by
them that knows their manners. If Billy Boynton thinks he can collect
blood out of a stone he's welcome to try, but I should think he was too
long headed to waste his time.
I gave him my I. O. U., Collier Pratt said wearily. If you don't
mind, Hitty,I really must be excused from your inexcusable surnameI
am going to drink a cup of coffee before we continue this interesting
discussioncafé noir, our late unfortunate accident depriving
me of café au lait as usual. Sheila, get the cups.
You don't mean to say that you feed that peaked child with full
strength coffee, do you? It'll stunt her growth; ain't you got the
sense to know that?
I don't like big women, Collier Pratt said. She's very
fond of coffee.
Well! I've come to get her and take her away where you won't be in
a position to stunt her growth, whatever your ideas on the subject is.
Collier Pratt seated himself at the deal table that Sheila had set
with the coffee-cups and a big loaf of French bread, and began slowly
consuming a bowl of inky fluid, strong of chicory, into which from time
to time he dipped a portion of the loaf. Sheila imitated his processes
with less daintiness and precision, since she was shaken with
excitement at Hitty's appearance.
I should spread a newspaper down if I was you, Hitty said, before
I et my vittles off a table that way. If a table ain't scrubbed as
often as twice a day it ain't fit to be et off.
I know your breed, Collier Pratt said. You'd be capable of taking
your breakfast off The Evening Telegram if no more appropriately
colored sheet were at hand. Tell me, did Miss Martin send you here this
morning, or was the inspiration to come entirely your own?
Nobody had to send me. Wild horses wouldn't have kept me away from
Nor drag you away from here, I suppose, until your gruesome visit
is accomplished. What makes you think that I would give up Sheila to
I don't think you would. I know you're a-goin' to.
We want the child. You don't want her, and you can't pretend to me
that you do. Even if you did want her you can't take care of her in no
way that's decent.
There's a great deal in what you say, Hitty.
What you're going to do is to sign a paper giving up your claim to
her, and then Nancy can adopt her when she sees fitting to do so.
What would you suggest my doing about the child's mother? She has a
mother living, you know.
Well, I didn't know, Hitty said, but now I do know I guess I
ain't going to have so much trouble as I thought I was. You're just a
plain low-down yellow cur that any likely man I know would come down
here and lick the lights out of.
Well, don't send any more of them, Hitty, Collier Pratt protested.
My work won't stand it.
You 'tend to the child's mother then, and I'll 'tend to you. You'd
better let Sheila come away peaceable without any more trouble.
What do you propose doing to me if I don't?
There's so many different things I could use, Hitty said
thoughtfully, that I don't know which one to hold over your head
I don't see how you could use anything you've got.
I'd just as soon use something I hadn't got, Hitty said grimly.
I'd sue you for breach o' promise myself ruther than lose what I come
I don't doubt you're capable of it, Collier Pratt said, surveying
her ruefully. That certainly would ruin my reputation. But seriously,
supposing I were to give my consent to Sheila's going back to Miss
MartinSheila's fond of her, and I should be very glad to do Miss
Martin a servicelittle as you may be inclined to believe it of me.
I'm fond enough of the child, but she is a considerable embarrassment
to a man situated as I am. Supposing I should consent to giving her up
as you suggest, how can a woman situated as Miss Martin is situated
undertake such a charge permanently? How could she afford it? What kind
of a future should I be surrendering my little girl to? One has to
think of those things. Miss Martin is a poor girl
It's a lucky thing that you didn't know it before, Hitty said
deliberately. What you don't know that a woman's got, you wouldn't be
trying to get away from her. Nancy's Uncle Elijah that died last year
left her a million dollars in his will.
The devil he did
I guess if anybody's going to talk about devils it had better be
me, Hitty said dryly. Does the child go or stay?
Oh! she goes, Collier Pratt said. I'm sorry you didn't come after
me too, Hitty.
Nobody from up our way is ever coming after you. You can put that
in your pipe and smoke it. Put on your bonnet, Sheila.
In some ways that is more of a relief than you know, Hitty. Some of
the young men from up your way are so violent.
It ain't generally known yet, Hitty said as a parting shot when,
Sheila's hand in hers, she stood at the door preparatory to taking her
triumphal departure. But Nancy is going to marry considerable money in
addition to what she's inherited.
Nancy finding it impossible to spend an hour of her time idly and
with no appointments before noon that day, was engaged in darning a
basket full of slum socks that she had brought home from the tenements
to occupy Hitty's leisure moments. She was not very expert at this
particular task, and the holes were so huge, and their method of
behaving under scientific management so peculiarit is hardly
necessary to say that Nancy knew the theory of darning perfectlythat
she was becoming more and more dissatisfied with her progress. Hitty's
unprecedented and taciturn donning of her best bonnet in the early
morning hours, followed by her abrupt departure without explanation or
apology, was also a little disconcerting to any one acquainted with her
habits. Nancy was relieved to hear her key in the lock again, and put
down her work to greet her.
The door opened and Sheila stood on the threshold. Hitty was close
behind her, but Nancy had eyes only for the child.
Don't cry, Miss Dear, Sheila said, in her arms. I cried hard
every night when I was gone from you, but now I have come back. My
father does not want me, and he says that you can have me.
He signed a paper, Hitty said. I've got it in my bag with my
specs. If ever he shows his face around here we can have the law on
Can I really have Sheila? Nancy cried. I can't believe thather
father would let her go. I can't understand it.
He's a kind of a poor soul, Hitty said. He ain't got no real
contrivance. He's glad enough to get rid of her.
Did he say so?
Well, nearabout. He has a high-falutin way of talking but that was
the amount of it. He knows which side his bread is buttered. He ain't
nobody's fool. I'll say that for him.
I can't say that you make him out a very pleasant character, Nancy
said. But he's an artist, Hitty. Artists don't react to the same set
of laws that we do. They're different somehow.
They ain't so different, when it comes to that, Hitty said dryly.
They won't take a hint, but the harder you kick 'em the better for all
concerned. Don't you go sticking up for that low-down loon. He ain't
I suppose he isn't, Nancy said; he's a pretty poor apology for a
man as we understand men, Hitty, but there's something about him,a
power and a charm that you can't altogether discount, even though you
have lost every particle of your respect for him.
He has a kind of way, Hitty conceded, but I ain't one o' them
kind o' women that hankers much for the society of a man that's once
shown himself to be more of a sneak than the average.
I don't think that I am, either, Nancy said gravely.
I want to be your little girl always, Sheila announced, if I may
talk now, may I? And Monsieur Dick's, too, and sit on a cushion and sew
a fine seam, and feast upon strawberries, sugar and cream. I want to
see Monsieur Dick. Where is he?
He's been sick, Nancy said, but he's getting better now, I think.
I haven't seen him for some time, myself.
Don't you love him very much and aren't you very sorry?
He probably isn't very sick, Nancy said. I don't think he could
bebut if he were I should be sorry, of course.
I don't want him to be sick, Sheila said, making herself a nest in
Nancy's lap, and curling around in it like a kitten. If he was I
should be very, very unhappy, and I am tired of being unhappy, Miss
Nancy's arms closed tight about her little body, which was lighter
in her arms than she had ever known it. Oh! I'm going to make such a
strong well, little girl of you, she cried, and we're going to have
so many pleasant times together. I'm tired of being unhappy, too,
CHAPTER XXI. LOHENGRIN AND WHITE
Dick, having la grippe, and doing his bewildered best to get
pneumonia and gastritis by creeping out of bed when his temperature was
highest, and indulging in untrammelled orgies of food and drink and
exposure to draughts, had finally succeeded in making himself
physically very miserable indeed. His mind had been out of joint for
weeks. He reached the phase presently of refusing all nourishment and
spiritual consolation, indiscriminately, and finding himself
unbenefited by these heroic methods, decided in his own mind that all
was over with him.
He knew nothing about sickness, having led a charmed life in that
respect since the measles period, and the persistent misery in his
interior, attacking lung and liver impartially,to say nothing of the
top of his head and the back of his neck, and as his weakness
increased, his cardiac region where there was a perpetual palpitation,
and the calves of his legs which set up an ache like that of a
recalcitrant tooth,persuaded him that such suffering as his must be a
certain indication of the approaching end. He had dismissed his doctor
after the first visit, and denying himself to visitors, found himself
alone and apparently in a desperate condition, with no one to minister
to him but paid dependents. It was then that the loss of Nancy began to
assume spectral proportions. He had been so long accustomed to think of
himself as the strong silent lover, equipped with the patience and
understanding that would outlast all the vagaries of Nancy's
adventurous tendencies, that it was difficult to readjust himself to a
new conception of her as a woman that another and even less worthy man
had so nearly won,under his nose.
He had never thought much of his money until it began to acquire the
virtue of an alkahest in his mind, an universal solvent that would
transmute all the baser metals in Nancy's life and the lives of the
people in whom Nancy was interested, into the pure gold of luxury and
ease. He knew that the conventional fairy gifts would mean very little
to her, but he had dreamed, when she was ready, of working out with her
some practicable and gracious scheme of beneficence. There was one
power she coveted that he could put in her hands,one way that he
could befriend and relieve her even before she conceded him that
prerogative. When he learned that she had a fortune of her own his
hopes came tumbling about his head, and he lay disconsolate among the
ruins. His creeping physical disability seemed significant of the
cataclysmic overthrow of all his dreams and desires. From having
secretly and in some terror arrived at the conclusion that death was
imminent, he began to look upon such a solution of his misery with some
It was a very gaunt and hollow-eyed caricature of the Dick she had
known that confronted Nancy, when instigated by Betty, who had his
illness heavily on her mind, she forced her way unannounced into the
curious Georgian living-room of the suite wherein he was incarcerated.
He had been stretched in an attitude of abandon on the couch when she
opened the oak paneled door, but he jumped to his feet in a spasm of
rage and alarm when he discovered that he had a visitor.
Go away, he said, I am not able to see anybody. There's a
mistake. I gave strict orders that nobody at all was to be admitted.
I know, Dick, Nancy said gently, don't blame your faithful
servitors. I thought I should have to use a gun on them, but I
explained to them that you must be looked after.
I don't want to be looked after. I'm all right, thank you. Are you
No, Hitty's outside. Betty simply insisted on my bringing her,I
don't know why, but she said you'd be kinder to me if I did. I don't
think you're very kind.
A flicker of a smile crossed Dick's face, which seemed to say that
if anything could bring back a momentary relish of existence the
mention of Betty's name would be that thing. Nancy saw the expression
and misinterpreted it.
I don't want to see anybody, Dick repeated firmly. Will you be
good enough to go away and leave me to my misery?
No, I won't, Nancy said, I never left anybody to their misery
yet, and I'm not going to begin on you. Of course, if you'd rather see
Betty, I'll send for her. She seems to know a good deal about your
habits and customs. You look like a monk in that bathrobe. I'm glad
you're not a fat man, Dick. It's so very hard to calculate just how
much to cut down on starches and sweets without injury to the health.
What are you feeding up on?
You know very well that I'm not feeding up on anything, but if you
think you can come around here, and dope out one of your darned health
menus for me, and sit around watching me eat it, you are jolly well
mistaken. I wish you'd go home, Nancy. I don't like you to-day. I don't
like myself or anybody in this whole universe. I'm not fit for human
societydon't you see I'm not?
You're awful cross, dear.
Don't call me dear. I'm not Sheila or one of your sick waitresses,
Don't you care?
Oh, I suppose so.
She loves you.
You told me once there were other girls, Dick.
They're all over it by now.
Dick, can't I do something for you?
Yes, leave me alone.
I've never seen you like this before.
No, thank God.
I didn't know you were ever anything but sort of smug and
You ought to be in bed, dearI didn't mean to call you dear, it
slipped out, Dicky,and taking nourishment every hour or so. What does
the doctor say?
Nothing, he's given me up as a bad job.
Given you up?
Yes, there's nothing he can do for me.
Why, Dick, my dear, what is it?
Oh! lungs or liver or something. I don't know.
What are you taking, Dick?
I tell you I can't take anything, he said, misunderstanding her.
It makes me sick to eat. Every time I try to eat anything I feel a lot
worse for it.
When did you try last?
Oh, yesterday some time. Now what in the name of sense makes a
woman shed tears at a simple statement like that? I'm not in shape to
stand this. Once and for all, Nancy, will you get out and leave me? I
tell you I never wanted to see you less in my life. I'll write you a
letter and apologize if you'll only go, now.
Oh, I'll go, Nancy said. I couldn't really believe that you
wanted me to,that's all.
She started for the doorbut Dick, weakened by lack of food,
tortured beyond his endurance by the sudden assault on his nerves made
by Nancy's appearance, gave way to his relief at her going an instant
too soon. Like a small boy in pain he crooked his elbow and covered his
face with his arm.
Nancy ran to him and knelt at his side, taking his head on her
Dear, she said, you do want me. We want each other. You love me,
Dicky, and I am going to love youif you'll only let me look after you
and nurse you back to health again.
I don't want to be nursed, Dick blubbered, his head buried in her
bosom, I want to look out for you, and take care of you, andand now
look at me. You'll never love me after this, Nancy.
Yes, I shall, dear, Nancy said. I've always loved you somehow.
It'llit'll be the saving of me, Dick.
Well, then I do want to be nursed. II haven't cried before since
I had the measles, Nancy.
I'm glad you cried, now, then, Nancy said.
* * * * *
I suppose you'll want to be married in the courtyard of the Inn,
Dick said some weeks later, when they were conventionally ensconced in
Nancy's own drawing-room; Hitty happily rattling silverware in the
butler's pantry in the rear, with old Triton blowing his wreathed horn
above us, and all the nymphs and gargoyles and Hercules as interested
spectators. Well, go as far as you like. I haven't any objection. I'll
be married in a Roman bath if you want me to, and eat bran biscuit and
hygienic apple sauce for my wedding breakfast.
Betty and Preston are going to be married at the Inn, Nancy said;
you know her mother's an invalid, and they can't have it at home. Do
you know what I'd like to give them as a wedding present?
Well, you know, Preston's firm has gone out of existence. The war
simply killed it. They haven't much money ahead, and he may have a
harder time than he thinks getting located again.
I thought I'd like to give them Outside Inn for a wedding present.
Besides, I don't see what else there is to do with it. It's making
several hundred a month, now, and promises to make more.
Good idea, Dick said.
You don't seem exceedingly interested.
Oh, I am, Dick said, I'm more interested in our wedding than
Betty's wedding present, but that doesn't imply a lack of merit in your
idea. You'll want to be married at the Inn, I take it?
You'd let me, wouldn't you?
Sure I'd let you. When a man marries a modern girl with all the
trappings and the suits of modernity, he ought to be prepared to take
the consequences cheerfully.
Then I'm going to surprise you. I don't want anything modern at all
about my wedding. I want it in church with a huge bridal bouquet and
Lohengrin and white satin; Caroline for my matron of honor and
Betty for my bridesmaid, and Sheila for flower girl. I want a wedding
breakfast at the Ritz and rice and old shoesjust all the old
Gee whiz, Dick ejaculated, is this straight, or are you only
making it up to sound good to me? You can have it anyway you like it,
That's the way I like it, Nancy said. It's good to be a modern
girl, but I really prefer to be an old-fashioned wifewith
reservations, she added hastily.
That's what we all come to in the end, Dick said, no matter how
we feel or think we feel about itbeing modern with reservations.
I saw Collier Pratt to-day, Nancy said suddenly, as she watched a
log split apart in the fireplace and scatter its tiny shower of sparks,
on the avenue.
Dick carefully stamped out two smoldering places on the rug before
Did you? he said.
He had a cheap little creature with him, dark haired in messy
It may have been his wife. I hear that she's living with him
Nancy, Dick said with an effort, after a few minutes of silence,
are you all over that? Is it really fair and right of me to take you?
I've been puzzling over that lately. I want you on any terms, you know,
as far as I am concerned, but I'm a sort of monogamist. If a woman has
once cared for a person, no matter who or what that person is, can she
ever care again in the same way for any one? Isn't it pity you feel for
me, after all?
No it isn't pity, Nancy said slowly. I cared for that man until I
found that he was the shadow and not the substance. He isn't fit to
black your shoes, Dick.Besidesifif it was pity, she added
irrelevantly, that's the way to get me started, you know.
If I only have got you startedreally.
Nancy crossed the two feet of space between them and sank at his
feet, leaning her head back against his knee while he stroked her hair
There's one way of proving, she said presently, ifif you've
made a woman really care for you. I should think you'd know that. I
told you how you'd made me feel about the bridal bouquet and
Does that prove something?
I suppose it does. You mean it proves that a woman truly loves a
man if he's made her feel that she wants to be an old-fashioned wife
And mother, Dick, Nancy finished for him bravely.