The Last Carolan by Kathleen Norris
A blazing afternoon of mid-July lay warmly over the old Carolan
house, and over the dusty, neglected gardens that enclosed it. The
heavy wooden railing of the porch, half smothered in dry vines, was
hot to the touch, as were the brick walks that wound between parched
lawns and the ruins of old flowerbeds. The house, despite the charm
of its simple, unpretentious lines, looked shabby and desolate. Only
the great surrounding trees kept, after long years of neglect, their
beauty and dignity.
At the end of one of the winding paths was an old fountain. Its
wide stone basin was chipped, and the marble figure above it was
discolored by storm and sun. Weeds—such weeds as could catch a
foothold in the shallow layer of earth—had grown rank and high where
once water had brimmed clear and cool, and great lazy bees boomed
among them. Cut in the granite brim, had any one cared to push back
the dry leaves and sifted earth that obscured them, might have been
found the words:
Over land and water blown, Come back to find your own.
A stone bench, sunk unevenly in the loose soil, stood near the
fountain in the shade of the great elms, and here two women were
sitting. One of them was Mary Moore, the doctor's wife, from the
village, a charming little figure in her gingham gown and wide hat.
The other was Jean Carolan, wife of the estate's owner, and mother of
Peter, the last Carolan.
Jean was a beautiful woman, glowing with the bloom of her early
thirties. Her eyes were moving contentedly over house and garden. She
gave Mrs. Moore's hand a sudden impulsive pressure. "Well, here we
are, Mary!" she said, smiling, "just as we always used to plan at St.
Mary's—keeping house in the country near each other, and bringing up
our children together!"
"I never forgot those plans of ours," said the doctor's wife, her
eyes full of pleasant reminiscence. "But here I've been, nearly
eleven years, duly keeping house and raising four small babies in a
row. And what about YOU? You've been gadding all over Europe—never a
word about coming home to Carolan Hall until this year!"
"I know," said Mrs. Carolan, with a charming air of apology. "Oh, I
know! But Sid had to hunt up his references abroad, you know, and
then there was that hideous legal delay. I really have been frantic
to settle down somewhere, for years. And as for poor Peter! The
unfortunate baby has been farmed out in Italy, and boarded in Rome,
and flung into English sanitariums, just as need arose! The marvel is
he's not utterly ruined. But Peter's unique—you'll love him!"
"Who's he like, Jean?"
"Oh, Sidney! He's Carolan all through." With the careless words a
thin veil of shadow fell across her bright face, and there came a
Carolan Hall! Jean had never seen it before to-day. Looking at the
garden, and the trees, and the roof that showed beyond, she felt as
if she had not truly seen it until this minute. All its gloomy
history, half forgotten, lightly brushed aside, came back to her
slowly now. This was the home of her husband's shadowed childhood; it
was here that those terrible events had taken place of which he had so
seriously told her before their wedding day.
Here old Peter Carolan, her little Peter's great-grandfather, had
come with his two dark boys and his silent wife, eighty years before.
A cruel, passionate man he must have been, for stories presently crept
about the county of the whippings that kept his boys obedient to him.
Rumor presently had an explanation of the wife's shadowed life. There
had been a third boy, the first-born, whom no whippings could make
obedient. That boy was dead.
The day came when old Peter's blooded mare refused him obedience,
too, and stood trembling and mutinous before the bars he would have
had her take. He presently had his way, and the lovely, frightened
creature went bravely over. But after that he rode her at that fence
day after day, and sometimes the wood rang for an hour with his
shouting and urging before she would essay the leap. While he forced
her, Madam Carolan sat at the one library window that gave on the
road, and knotted her hands together and waited. She waited, one
gusty March evening, until the shouting stopped, and the bewildered
mare came trotting riderless into view. Then she and the maids ran to
the wood. But even after that she still sat at that window at the end
of every day, a familiar figure to all who came and went upon the
The sons, Sidney and Laurence, grew up together, passionate,
devoted, and widely loved. Sidney married and went away for a few
years; but presently he came back to his mother and brother, bringing
with him the motherless little Sidney who was Jean's sunny big husband
now. This younger Sidney well remembered the day—and had once told
his wife of it—when his father and his uncle fell to sudden
quarrelling in their boat, during a morning's fishing on the placid
river. He remembered, a small watcher on the bank, that the boat
upset, and that, when his uncle reached the shore, it was to work
unavailingly for hours over his father's silent form, which never
moved again. The boy was sent away for a while, but came back to find
his uncle a silent, morose shadow, pacing the lonely garden in
unassailable solitude, or riding his horse for hours in the great
woods. Sometimes the little fellow would sit with his grandmother in
the library window, where she watched and waited. Always, as he went
about the garden and yards, he would look for her there, and wave his
cap to her. He missed her, in his unexpressed little-boy fashion, when
she sat there no longer, although she had always been silent and
reserved with him. Then came his years of school and travel, and in
one of them he learned that the Hall was quite empty now. Sidney meant
to go back, just to turn over the old books, and open the old doors,
and walk the garden paths again; but, somehow, he had never come until
to-day. And now that he had come, he, and Jean, and Peter, too, wanted
"You knew Madam Carolan, didn't you, Mary?"
"No—no, I didn't," said Mrs. Moore, coloring uneasily. "I've seen
her, though, as a small girl, at the window. I used to visit
Billy's—my husband's—people when we were both small, you know, and
we often came to these woods."
"I've been thinking of the house and its cheerful history," said
Jean, with a little shudder. "Sweet heritage for Peterkin!"
"Heritage—nonsense!" said the other woman, hardily. "Every one
tells me that your husband is the gentlest and finest of them all—
and his father was before him. I don't believe such things come down,
"Well," smiled Sidney's wife, a little proudly, "I've never seen
the Carolan temper in the nine years we've been married!"
"Exactly. Besides, it's not a temper—just strong will."
"Sidney has WILL enough," mused Jean.
"Oh, all men have," said the doctor's wife contentedly. "Billy,
now! He won't STAND a locked door. One night—I never shall
forget!—the children locked themselves in the nursery, and Will
simply burst the door in. Nobody makes a fuss or worries over THAT!"
If the illustration was beside the point, neither woman perceived
"There, you see!" said Jean, glad to be quite sure of conviction.
"It never really worries me," she added, after a moment, "for Peter
adores his father, and is only too eager to obey him. If Peter—and
it's impossible!—ever DID really work himself up to disobedience,
why, I suppose he'd get a thrashing,"—she made a wry face,—"and
they'd love each other all the more for it."
"Of course they would," agreed the other cheerfully.
"There must have been some way in which Madam Carolan could have
managed them," pursued Jean, thoughtfully. "The women of that
generation were a poor-spirited lot, I imagine. One isn't quite a
child!" There was another little pause in the hot murmuring silence
of the garden, and then, with a sudden change of manner, she rose to
her feet. "Mary! come and meet Sidney and the kiddy!" she commanded.
"Well, I rather hoped you were going to present them," said Mrs.
Moore, rising too, and gathering up sunshade and gloves.
They threaded the silent garden paths again, passed the house, and
crossed a neglected stable yard, where a great red motor-car had
crushed a path for itself across dry grass and weeds. In the stable
itself they found Sidney Carolan, the little Peter, and a couple of
servants—the chauffeur with oily hands, and the wrinkled old Italian
maid, very gay in scarlet gown and headdress.
Jean's husband had all the Carolan beauty and charm, and was his
most gracious and radiant self to-day. His sunny cordiality gave Mary
no chance to remember that she had a little feared the writer and
critic. But, after the first moment, her eye was irresistibly drawn to
Tawny-haired, erect, and astonishing in the perfection of his
childish beauty, Peter Carolan advanced her a bronzed, firm little
hand, and gave her with it a smile that seemed all brilliant color—
white teeth, ocean-blue eyes, and poppied cheeks. His square little
figure was very boyish in the thin silk shirt and baggy
knickerbockers, and a wide hat, slipping from his yellow mane, added
a last debonair touch to his picturesque little person. He was
flushed, but gracious and at ease.
"You're one of the reasons we came!" he said in a rich little
voice- -when his mother's "You've heard me speak of Mrs. Moore,
Peter?" had introduced them. "You have boys, too, haven't you?"
"I have three," said Mrs. Moore, in the rational, unhurried tone
that only very clever people use to children. "Billy is nine, George
seven, Jack is three; and then there's a girl—my Mary."
"I come next to Billy," calculated little Peter, his eyes very
"You and he will like each other, I hope," said Billy's mother.
"I hope we will—I hope so!" he assented vivaciously. "I've been
Mrs. Carolan presently suggested that he go off with Betta to pack
the luncheon things in the car, and the three watched his sturdy,
erect little figure out of sight. Mrs. Moore heard his gay voice
break into ready Italian as they went.
A horde of workmen took possession of Carolan Hall a few days
later, and for happy weeks Jean and Mary followed and directed them.
The Moore children and Peter Carolan explored every fascinating inch
of house and garden. Linen and china were unpacked, old furniture
polished, and old paintings restored.
Mrs. Moore, with her two oldest sons frolicking about her like
excited puppies, came up to Carolan Hall one exquisite morning a
month later. Brush fires were burning in the thinning woods, and the
blue, fragrant smoke drifted in thin veils across the sunlight.
A visit to the circus was afoot, and Peter Carolan, seated on the
porch steps in the full glory of starched blue linen and tan sandals,
leaped up to join his friends in a war-dance of wild anticipation.
Jean came out, also starched and radiant, kissed her guests, piled
some wraps into the waiting motor, and engineered the group into the
shaded dining-room, where the excited children were somehow to be
coaxed into eating their luncheon. Sidney came in late, to smile at
them all from the top of the table.
It was rapidly dawning on the adult consciousness that, above every
other sound, the voices of the children were really reaching
inexcusable heights, when a burst of laughter and a brief struggle
between Peter and Billy Moore resulted in an overturned mug, the
usual rapidly spreading pool of milk, and the usual reckless mopping.
Peter's silver mug fell to the floor, and rolled to the sideboard,
where it lay against the carved mahogany base, winking in the sun.
"Peter!" said Jean, severely. "No, don't ring, Sidney! He did that
by his own carelessness, and mother can't ask poor, busy Julia to
pick up things for boys who are noisy and rude at the table. Go pick
up your mug, dear!"
"Yes. Quite right!" approved Sidney, under his breath.
Peter, who had been laughing violently a moment before seemed
rather inclined to regard the incident as a tribute to his own
brilliancy. He caught his heels in a rung of his chair, raised himself
to a standing position, and turned a bright little face to his mother.
"But—but—but what if I don't WANT to pick it up, mother?" he said
The little Moore boys, still bubbling, giggled outright, and
Peter's cheeks grew pink. He was innocently elated with this new role
"What do you mean?" said Sidney's big voice, very quietly. There
was a pause. Peter slowly turned his eyes toward his father.
"Oh, please, Sidney!" said Jean, a shade impatiently. "He thinks he
has some reason." She turned to Peter. "What do you mean, dear?" she
Peter looked about the group. He was confused and excited at
finding himself so suddenly the centre of attention.
"Well—well—why are you all looking at me?" he asked in his
confident little treble, with his baffling smile.
"Dearie, did you hear mother tell you to get quietly down and pick
up your mug?" demanded Jean, authoritatively.
"Well—well, you know, I don't want to, mother, because Billy and I
were both reaching for that mug," drawled Peter, "and maybe it was
"Now, look here, son!" said his father, controlling his impatience
with difficulty, "we've had enough of this! You do it because your
mother told you to, and you do it right NOW!"
"And don't let anything spoil this happy day," pleaded Jean's
"Can't I let it stay there, mother?" suggested Peter, brilliantly,
"and have my milk in a glass? I don't want my mug! It can just lie
His mother unsmilingly interrupted this pleasantly offered
"Peter! Father and mother are waiting."
"Gee—I'll pick it up!" said Billy Moore, good-naturedly, slipping
to the floor.
Sidney reached for the little boy, and brought him to anchor in the
curve of his big arm, without once glancing at him.
"Thank you, Billy," he said, "but Peter will pick it up himself.
Now, Peter! We don't care who knocked it down, or whose fault it was.
Your mother told you to pick up your mug, and we are waiting to have
you do it. Don't talk about it any more. Nobody thinks it is at all
smart or funny for boys to disobey their mothers!"
"It will take you JUST one second, dear," interpolated Jean softly,
"and then we will all go upstairs and get ready, and forget all about
"Just a little too much c-i-r-c-u-s!" spelled Mrs. Moore, in the
"Pick it up, son!" said Sidney, very calm.
Peter stopped smiling. He breathed hard and took a firm hold of his
"Go on. Go ahead!" said his father, briskly, encouragingly.
The child moved his eyes from the mug to his father's face, but did
"Peter?" said Sidney. A white line had come about his mouth.
For a long moment there was not a sound in the rooms. Julia stood
transfixed at the door. Mrs. Moore's eyes were on her plate. Jean's
lips were shut tight; she was breathing as if she had been running.
"I won't!" said Peter, simply, with a quick breath.
"Sid!" said Jean, hurriedly. "Sidney!"
"Just a moment, Jean," said her husband, without glancing at her.
"You will do it now, or have father punish you to make you do it," he
said to the boy. "Father can't have boys here who don't obey, you
know. Every one obeys. Soldiers have to, engineers have to, even
animals have to. Are you going to do what mother told you to?"
"No," said little Peter. "I said I wouldn't, and now I won't!"
"He is hot and excited now," said Jean, quickly, in French, "but
I'll take him upstairs and quiet him down. He'll come to his senses.
Leave him to me, dear!"
"Much the wisest thing to do, Sidney," supplemented Mrs. Moore, in
the same tongue.
"Certainly!" said his father, coldly. "Give him time. Let him
understand that if he doesn't obey, it means no circus. That's
reasonable, I think, Jean?"
"Oh, perfectly! Perfectly!" Mrs. Carolan assented nervously.
Nothing more was said as she took the boy's hand and led him away. The
others heard Peter chatting cheerfully as he mounted the stairway a
"The boys and I will go down and look at Nellie's puppies," said
Mrs. Moore, acutely uncomfortable.
Her host muttered something about closing his mail.
"But are we going to the circus?" fretted little George Moore. His
mother hardly heard him.
A moment later, Julia, the maid, appealed to her submissively.
"Shall you pick up the cup?" repeated the doctor's wife. "No. No,
indeed, I wouldn't, Julia. Yes, you can clear the table, I think;
we've all finished."
She led her sons down to the fascinating realm of dogs and horses,
vaguely uneasy, yet unwilling to admit her fears. An endless warm
half hour crept by. Then, glancing toward the house, she saw Sidney
and Jean deep in conversation on the porch, and a moment later Sidney
came to find her.
The boy was obstinate, he told her briefly—adding, with a look in
his kind eyes that was quite new to her, that Peter had met his
match, and would realize it sooner or later. Mary protested against
there being any further talk of the circus that day, but Sidney would
not refuse the disappointed eyes of the small Moores. In the end, the
doctor's family went off alone in the motor-car.
"Don't worry, Mary," said Sidney, kindly, as he tucked her in
comfortably. "Peter's had nothing but women and servants so far. Now
he's got to learn to obey!"
"But such a baby, Sidney!" she reminded him.
"He's older than I was, Mary, when my poor father and Uncle
"Yes—yes, I know!" she assented hurriedly. "Good-by!"
"Good-by!" repeated a hardy little voice from an upper window. Mary
looked up to see Peter, composed and smiling, looking down from the
All the next day, and the next, Mary Moore's thoughts were at the
Hall. She told her husband all about it on the afternoon of the
second day, for no word or sign had come from Jean, and real anxiety
began to haunt her. She and the doctor were roaming about their
pretty, shabby garden, Mrs. Moore's little hand, where she loved to
have it, in the crook of his big arm. The doctor, stopping
occasionally to shake a rose post with his free hand, or to break a
dead blossom from its stalk, scowled through the recital, even while
contentedly enjoying his wife, his garden, and his pipe.
Before he could make a definite comment, they were interrupted by
Sidney himself, who brought his big riding horse up close to the
fence and waved his whip with a shout of greeting. The doctor went to
meet him, Mary, a little pale, following.
"Good day to you!" said Sidney Carolan, baring his head without a
smile. "I'm bound to Barville; my editor is there for a few days, and
I may have to dine with him. I stopped to ask if Mary would run in and
see Jean this afternoon. She's feeling a little down."
"Of course I will!" said Mary, heartily.
There was a pause.
"Mary's told you that we're having an ugly time with the boy?" said
Sidney, then, combing his horse's mane with big gloved fingers.
"Too bad!" said the doctor, shaking his head and pursing his lips.
"No change, Sidney?" Mary asked gravely.
"No. No, I think the little fellow is rather gratified by the stir
he's making. He—oh, Lord knows what he thinks!"
"Give him a good licking," suggested the doctor.
"Oh, I'd lick him fast enough, Bill, if that would bring him
round!" his father said, scowling. "But suppose I do, and it leaves
things just where they are now? That's all I CAN do, and he knows it.
His mother has talked to him; I've talked to him." He looked
frowningly at the seam of his glove. "Well, I mustn't bother you. He's
a Carolan, I suppose—that's all!"
"And you're a Carolan," said the doctor.
"And I'm a Carolan," assented the other, briefly.
Mary found Jean, serious and composed over her sewing, on the cool
north veranda. When they had talked awhile, they went up to see
Peter, who was sprawled on the floor, busy with hundreds of leaden
soldiers. He was no longer gay; there was rather a strained look
about his beautiful babyish eyes. But at Jean's one allusion to the
unhappy affair, he flushed and said with nervous decision:
"Please don't, mother! You know I am sorry; you know I just CAN'T!"
"He has all his books and toys?" said Mary when they went
"Oh, yes! Sidney doesn't want him to be sick. He's just to be shut
up on bread and milk until he gives in. I must say, I think Sid is
very gentle," said Jean, leaning back wearily in her chair, with
closed eyes. Her voice dropped perceptibly as she added, "But he says
he is going to thrash him to-morrow."
"I think he ought to," said Mary Moore, sturdily. "This isn't
excitement or showing off any more; it's sheer naughty obstinacy over
a perfectly simple demand!"
"Oh, but I couldn't bear it!" whispered Jean, with a shudder. A
moment later she added sensibly, "But he's right, of course; Sidney
Peter was duly whipped the next day. It was no light punishment
that Sidney gave his son. Jean's gold-mounted riding-crop had never
seen severer service. The maids, with paling cheeks, gathered together
in the kitchen when Sidney went slowly upstairs with the whip in his
hand; and Betta and her mistress, their hands over their ears,
endured a very agony while the little boy's cries rang through the
house. Sidney went for a long and lonely walk afterward, and later
Jean went to her son.
Mrs. Moore heard of this event from her husband, who stopped at the
Hall late that evening, and found Peter asleep, and Jean restless and
headachy. He spent a long and almost silent hour pacing the rose
terrace with Sidney in the cool dark. Late into the night the doctor
and his wife lay wakeful, discussing affairs at the Hall.
After some hesitation, Mrs. Moore went the next day to find Jean.
There was no sound as she approached the house, and she stepped
timidly into the big hall, listening for voices. Presently she went
softly to the dining-room, and stood in the doorway. The room was
empty. But Mary's heart rose with a throb of thanksgiving. Peter's
silver mug was in its place on the sideboard. She went swiftly to the
pantry where Julia was cleaning the silver.
"Julia!" she said eagerly, softly, "I notice that the baby's cup is
back. Did he give in?"
The maid, who had started at the interruption, shook her head
"No'm. Mrs. Carolan picked it up."
"Yes'm. She seemed quite wildlike this morning," went on the maid,
with the simple freemasonry of troubled times, "and after Peter went
off with Mrs. Butler, she—"
"Oh, he went off? Did his father let him go?" Mary's voice was full
of relief. Mrs. Butler was Jean's cousin, a cheery matron who had
taken a summer cottage at Broadsands, twenty miles away.
Julia's color rose; she looked uneasy.
"Mr. Carolan had to go to Barville quite early," she evaded
uncomfortably, "and when Mrs. Butler asked could she take Peter, his
mother said yes, she could."
"Thank you," Mary said pleasantly, but her heart was heavy. She
went slowly upstairs to find Jean.
Peter's mother was lying in a darkened bedroom, and the face she
turned to the door at Mary's entrance was shockingly white. They
exchanged a long pressure of fingers.
"Headache, Jean, dear?"
"Oh, and heartache!" said Jean, with a pitiful smile. "Sid thrashed
him yesterday!" she added, with suddenly trembling lips.
"I know." Mary sat down on the edge of the bed and patted Jean's
"I've let him go with Alice," said Jean, defensively. "I had to!"
She turned on her elbow, her voice rising. "Mary, I didn't say one
word about the whipping, but now—now he threatens to hold him under
the stable pump!" she finished, dropping back wearily against her
pillows. Mrs. Moore caught her breath.
"Ah!" They eyed each other sombrely.
"Mary, would YOU permit it?" demanded Mrs. Carolan, miserably.
"Jeanie, dearest, I don't know what I'd do!"
After a long silence, Mary slipped from the bedside and went
noiselessly to the door and down the stairs, vague ideas of hot tea
in mind. In the dining-room she was surprised to find Sidney, looking
white and exhausted, and mixing himself something at the sideboard.
"I'm glad you're with Jean," he said directly. "I'm off to get the
boy! The car is to be brought round in a few minutes."
Mrs. Moore went to him, and laid her fingers on his arm.
"Sidney!" she protested sharply, "you must stop this—not for
Peter; he's as naughty as he can be, like all other boys his age
sometimes; but you don't want to kill Jean!" And, to her
self-contempt, she began to cry.
"My dear girl," he said concernedly, "you mustn't take this matter
too hard. Jean knows enough of our family history to realize—"
"All that is such nonsense!" she protested angrily. But she saw
that he was not listening. He compared his watch with the big
dining-room clock, and then, quite as mechanically picked Peter's mug
from the group of bowls and flagons on the sideboard, studied the
chasing absently for a moment, and, stooping, placed the mug just as
it had fallen four days before. Mary watched as if fascinated.
A moment later she ran upstairs, her heart thundering with a sense
of her own daring. She entered the dark bedroom hurriedly, and leaned
"Jean! Jean, I hate to tell you! But Sidney's going to leave in a
few minutes to bring Peter home. He's going after him."
She had to repeat the message before the meaning of it flashed into
the heavy eyes so near her own. Then Jean gathered her filmy gown
together, and ran to the door.
"He shall not!" she said, panting, and Mary heard her imperative
call, "Sidney! Sidney!" as she ran downstairs. Then she heard both
With an intolerable consciousness of eavesdropping, Mrs. Moore
slipped out of the house by the servants' quarters, and crossed the
drying lawn at the back of the house, to gain the old grape arbor
beyond. She sat there with burning cheeks and a fast-beating heart,
and gazed with unseeing eyes down the valley.
Presently she heard the horn and the scraping start of the motor-
car, and a moment later it swept into view on the road below. Sidney
was its only occupant.
Mrs. Moore sat there thinking a long while. Dull clouds banked
themselves in the west, and the rising breeze brought dead leaves
about her feet.
She sat there half an hour—an hour. The afternoon was darkening
toward dusk when she saw the motorcar again still a mile away. Even
at this distance, Mary could see that Peter was sitting beside his
father in the tonneau, and that the little figure was as erect and
unyielding as the big one.
She rose to her feet and stood watching the car as it curved and
turned on the winding road that led to the gates of Carolan Hall.
Even when the gates were entered, both figures still faced straight
Suddenly Sidney leaned toward the chauffeur, and a moment later the
car came to a full stop. Mary watched, mystified. Then Sidney got
out, and stretched a hand to the boy to help him from his place. The
simple little motion, all fatherly, brought the tears to her eyes. A
moment later the driver wheeled the car about, to take it to the
garage by the rear roadway, and Sidney and his son began to walk
slowly toward the house, the child's hand still in his father's. Once
or twice they stopped short, and once Mary saw Sidney point toward the
house, and saw, from the turn of Peter's head, that his eyes were
following his father's. Her heart rose with a wild, unreasoning hope.
When a dip in the road hid them, Mary turned toward the house, not
knowing whether to go to Jean or to slip away through the wood. But
the instant her eye fell on Madam Carolan's window she knew what had
halted Sidney, and a wave of heartsickness made her breath come
Jean had taken her place there, to watch and wait. She was keeping
the first vigil of her life. Mary could see how the slight figure
drooped in the carved chair; she remembered, with a pang, the other
patient, drooping figure that had stamped itself upon her childish
memory so many years ago. The suffocating tears rose in her throat. A
sudden sense of helplessness overwhelmed her.
Obviously, the watcher had not seen Sidney and Peter. Her head was
resting on her hand, and her heavy eyes were fixed upon some sombre
inner vision that was hers alone.
Mary crossed behind the house, and, as they came up through the
shrubbery, met Sidney and his son at the side door. Sidney's face was
tired, but radiant with a mysterious content. Peter looked
white—awed. He was clinging with both small brown hands to one of
his father's firm, big ones.
"I know what you're going to say, Mary," said Sidney, in a tone
curiously gentle, and with his oddly bright smile. "I know she's
there. But we're going to her now, and it's all right. Peter and I
have been talking it over. I saw her there, Mary, and it was like a
blow! SHE'S not the one who must suffer for all this. Peter and I are
going to start all over again, and settle our troubles without hurting
a woman; aren't we, Peter?"
The little boy nodded, with his eyes fixed on his father's.
"So the episode is closed, Mary," said Sidney, simply. "And the
next time—if there is a next time!—Peter shall make his own
decision, and abide by what it brings. The mug goes back to its place
to- night, and—and we're going to tell mother that she never need
watch and wait and worry about us again!"
They turned to the steps; but, as the boy ran ahead, Sidney came
back to say in a lower tone:
"I—it may be weakness, Mary, but I can't have Jean doing
what—what SHE did, you know! I tried to give the boy some idea, just
now, of the responsibility of it. Nobody spared my grandmother, but
Jean SHALL be spared, if I never try to control him or save him from
"Ah, Sidney," Mary said, "you have done more, in taking him into
your confidence, than any amount of punishing could do!"
"Well, we'll see!" he said, with a weary little shrug. "I must go
to Jeanie now."
As he mounted the steps, Peter reappeared in the darkened doorway.
The child looked like a little knight, with his tawny loose mop of
hair and short tunic, and the uplifted look in his lovely eyes.
"Shall we go to her now, Dad?" said the little treble gallantly.
And, as the boy came close to Sidney's side, Mary saw the silver mug
glitter in his hand.