Bridging the Years by Kathleen Norris
The rain had stopped; and after long days of downpour, there seemed
at last to be a definite change. Anne Warriner, standing at one of
the dining-room windows, with the tiny Virginia in her arms, could
find a decided brightening in the western sky. Roofs—the roofs that
made a steep sky-line above the hills of old San Francisco—glinted
in the light. The glimpse of the bay that had not yet been lost
between the walls of fast-encroaching new buildings, was no longer
dull, and beaten level by the rain, but showed cold, and ruffled, and
steely-blue; there was even a whitecap or two dancing on the crests
out toward Alcatraz. A rising wind made the ivy twinkle cheerfully
against the old-fashioned brick wall that bounded the Warriners'
"I believe the storm is really over!" Anne said, thankfully, half
aloud, "to-morrow will be fair!"
"Out to-morrow?" said Diego, hopefully. He was wedged in between
his mother and the window-sill, and studying earth and sky as
absorbedly as she.
"Out to-morrow, sweetheart," his mother promised. And she wondered
if it was too late to take the babies out to-day.
But it was nearly four o'clock now; even the briefest airing was
out of the question. By the time the baby was dressed, coated, and
hooded, and little Diego buttoned into gaiters and reefer, and Anne
herself had changed her house gown for street wear, and pinned on her
hat and veil, and Helma, summoned from her ironing, had bumped
Virginia's coach down the back porch steps, and around the wet garden
path to the front door,—by the time all this was accomplished, the
short winter daylight would be almost gone, she knew, and the crowded
hour that began with the children's baths, and that ended their little
day with bread-and-milky kisses to Daddy when he came in, and prayers,
and cribs, would have arrived.
Anne sighed. She would have been glad to get out into the cool
winter afternoon, herself, after a long, quiet day in the warm house.
It was just the day and hour for a brisk walk, with one's hands
plunged deep in the pockets of a heavy coat, and one's hat tied snugly
against the wind. Twenty minutes of such walking, she thought
longingly, would have shaken her out of the little indefinable mood of
depression that had been hanging over her all day. She could have
climbed the steep street on which the cottage faced, and caught the
freshening ocean breeze full in her face at the corner; she could have
looked down on the busy little thoroughfares of the Chinese quarter
just below, and the swarming streets of the Italian colony beyond, and
beyond that again to the bay, dotted now with the brown sails of
returning fishing smacks, and crossed and recrossed by the white wakes
of ferry-boats. For the Warriners' cottage clung to the hill just
above the busy, picturesque foreign colonies, and the cheerful
unceasing traffic of the piers. It was in a hopelessly unfashionable
part of the city now; its old, dignified neighbors—French and Spanish
houses of plaster and brick, with deep gardens where willow and pepper
trees, and fuchsias, and great clumps of calla lilies had once
flourished— were all gone, replaced by modern apartment houses. But
it had been one of the city's show places fifty years before, when its
separate parts had been brought whole "around the Horn" from some much
older city, and when homesick pioneer wives and mothers had climbed
the board-walk that led to its gate, just to see, and perhaps to cry
over, the painted china door-knobs, the colored glass fan-light in
the hall, the iron-railed balconies, and slender, carved balustrade
that took their hungry hearts back to the decorous, dear old world
they had left so far behind them.
Jimmy and Anne Warriner had stumbled upon the Jackson Street
cottage five years ago, just before their marriage, and after an
ecstatic, swift inspection of it, had raced like children to the
agent, to crowd into his willing hand a deposit on the first month's
rent. Anne had never kept house before, she had no eyes for obsolete
plumbing, uneven floors, for the dark cellar sacred to cats and
rubbish. She and Jim chattered rapturously of French windows, of
brick garden walks, of how plain little net curtains and Anne's big
brass bowl full of nasturtiums would look on the landing of the
absurd little stairway that led from the square hall to two useless
little chambers above.
"Jimski—this floor oiled, and the rug laid cross-wise! And old
tapestry papers from Fredericks! And the spindle-chair and Fanny's
clock in the hall!"
"And the davenport in the dining-room, Anne,—there's no room in
here, and your tea-table at the fireplace, with your copper blazer on
"Oh, Jim, we'll have a place people will talk about!" Anne would
sigh happily, after one of these outbursts. And when they made their
last inspection before really coming to take possession of the
cottage, she came very close to him,—Anne was several inches shorter
than her big husband-to-be, and when she got as close as this to Jim
she had to tip her serious little face up quite far, which Jim found
attractive,—and said, in a little, breathless voice:
"It's going to be like a home from the very start, isn't it, Jim?
And aren't you glad, Jim, that we aren't doing EXACTLY what every one
else does, that you and I, who ARE a little different, Jim, are going
to KEEP a little different? I mean that you really did do unusual work
at college, and you really are of a fine family, and I am a
Pendeering, and have travelled a lot, and been through Vassar,- -don't
you know, Jim? You don't think it's conceited for us to think we
aren't quite the usual type, just between ourselves? Do you?"
Jim implied wordlessly that he did not. And whatever Jim thought
himself, he was quite sincere in saying that he believed Anne to be
peerless among her kind.
So they came to Jackson Street, and Anne made it quite as quaint
and charming as her dreams. For a year they could not find a flaw in
Then little enchanting James Junior came, nick-named Diego for
convenience, who fitted so perfectly into the picture, with his
checked gingham, and his mop of yellow hair. Anne gallantly went on
with her little informal luncheons and dinners, but she had to
apologize for an untrained maid now, and interrupt these festivities
with flying visits to the crib in the big bedroom that opened out of
the dining-room. And then, very soon after Diego, Virginia was born-
-surely the most radiant, laughing baby that ever brought her joyous
little presence into any home anywhere. But with Virginia's coming,
life grew very practical for Anne, very different from what it had
been in her vague hopes and plans of years ago.
The cottage was no longer quite comfortable, to begin with. The
garden, shadowed heavily by buildings on both sides, was undeniably
damp, and the fascinating railing of the little balconies was
undeniably mouldy. The bath-room, despite its delightful size, and
the ivy that rapped outside its window, was not a modern bath-room.
The backyard, once sacred to geraniums and grass, and odd pots of
shrubs, was sunny for the children's playing, to be sure, but no
longer picturesque after their sturdy little boots had trampled it
down, and with lines of their little clothes intersecting it. Anne
began to think seriously of the big apartments all about, hitherto
regarded as enemies, but perhaps the solution, after all. The modern
flats were delightfully airy, high up in the sun, their floors were
hard-wood, their bath-rooms tiled, their kitchens all tempting
enamel, and nickel plate, and shining new wood. One had gas to cook
with, furnace heat, hall service, and the joy of the lift.
"What if we do have to endure a dining-room with red paper and
black woodwork, Jim," she would say, "and have near-Tiffany shades and
a hall two feet square? It would be so COMFORTABLE!"
But if Jim agreed,—"we'll have a look at some of them on Sunday,"
Anne would hesitate.
"They're so horribly commonplace; they're just what every one else
has!" she would mourn.
Commonplace,—Anne said the word over to herself sometimes, in the
long hours that she spent alone with the children. That was what her
life had become. The inescapable daily routine left her no time for
unnecessary prettiness. She met each day bravely, only to find
herself beaten and exhausted every night. It was puzzling, it was
sometimes a little depressing. Anne reflected that she had always
been busy, she was indeed a little dynamo of energy, her college
years and the years of travel had been crowded with interests and
enterprises. But she had never been tired before; she had never felt,
as she felt now, that she could fall asleep at the dinner table for
sheer weariness, and that no trial was more difficult to bear than
Jim's cheerful announcement that the Deanes might be in later for a
call, or the Weavers wanted them to come over for a game of bridge.
And what did she accomplish, after all? she thought sometimes. What
mark did her busy days leave upon her life? She dressed and undressed
the children, she bathed, rocked, amused them; indeed, she was so
adoring a mother that sometimes whole precious fractions of hours
slipped by while she was watching them, laughing at them, catching the
little unresponsive soft cheeks to hers for the kisses that interfered
so seriously with their important little goings and comings. She sewed
on buttons and made puddings for Jim, she went for aimless walks,
pushing Jinny before her in the go-cart, and guiding the chattering
Diego with her free hand. She paused long in the market, uncomfortably
undecided between the expensive steak Jim liked so much, and the
sausages that meant financial balm to her own harassed soul. She
commenced letters to her mother that drifted about half-written until
Jinny captured and destroyed them. She sewed up rents in cloth lions
and elephants, and turned page after page of the children's cloth
books. Same and eventless, the months went by,—it was March, and the
last of the rains,—it was July, and she and Jim were taking the
children off for long Sundays in Sausalito, or on the Piedmont
hills,—it was October, with the usual letter from Mother about
Thanksgiving,—it was Christmas-time again! The seasons raced through
their familiar surprises, and were gone. Anne had a desperate sense of
wanting to halt them; just to think, just to realize what life meant,
and what she could do to make it nearer her dreams.
So the first five years of their marriage slipped by, but toward
the end with a perceptible brightening of the prospect in every
direction. Not in one day, nor in one week, did the change come; it
was just that things went well for Jim at the office, that the
children were daily growing less helpless and more enchanting, that
Anne was beginning to take an interest in the theatre again, and was
charming in a new suit and a really extravagant hat. The Warriners
began to spend their Sunday afternoons with real estate agents in
Berkeley—not this year, perhaps, but certainly next, they told each
other, they could CONSIDER that lovely one, with the two baths, and
such a view, or the smaller one, nearer the station, don't you
remember, Jim? where there was a sleeping-porch, and the garden all
laid out? They would bring the children up in the open air and
sunshine, and find neighbors, and strike roots, in the lovely college
Then suddenly, there were hard times again. Anne's health became
poor, she was fitful and depressed, quite unlike her usual sunshiny
self. Sometimes Jim found her in tears,—"It's nothing, dearest! Only
I'm so MISERABLE all the time!" Sometimes she—Anne, the hopeful!—was
filled with forebodings for herself and the child that was to come. No
unnecessary expense could be incurred now, with this fresh, inevitable
expense approaching. Especial concessions must be made to Helma,
should Helma really stay; the whole little household was like a ship
that shortens sail, and makes all snug against a storm. As a further
complication, business matters began to go badly for Jim. Salaries
were cut, new rules made, and an unpopular manager installed at the
office. Anne struggled bravely to hide her mental and physical
discomfort from Jim. Jim, cut to the heart to have to add anything to
her care just now, touched her with a thousand little tendernesses; a
joke over the burned pudding, a little name she had not heard since
honeymoon days, a hundred barefoot expeditions about the bedroom in
the dark, when Jinny awoke crying in the night, or Diego could not
sleep because he was so "firsty." Tender and intimate days these, but
the strain of them told on both husband and wife.
Things were at this point on the particular dark afternoon that
found Anne with the two children at the window. All three were still
staring out into the early dusk when Helma came in from the kitchen
with an armful of damp little garments:
"Ef aye sprad dese hare, dey be dray en no tayme?" suggested Helma.
"Oh, yes! Spread them here by all means; then you can get a good
start with your ironing to-morrow!" Anne agreed, rousing herself from
her revery. "Put them all around the fire. And I MUST straighten this
room!" she said, half to herself; "it's getting on to five!"
Followed by the stumbling children, she went briskly about the
room, reducing it to order with a practised hand. Toys were piled in a
large basket, scraps tossed into the fire, sewing materials gathered
together and put out of sight, the rugs laid smoothly, the window-
shades drawn. Anne "brushed up" the floor, pushed chairs against the
wall, put a shovelful of coals on the fire, and finally took her
rocker at the hearth, and sat with Virginia in her arms, and Diego
beside her, while two silver bowls of bread and milk were finished to
the last drop.
"There!" said she, pleasantly warmed by these exertions, "now for
nighties! And Daddy can come as soon as he likes."
But Virginia was fretful and sleepy now, and did not want to be put
down. So Diego manfully departed kitchenward with the empty bowls,
and Anne, baby, rocker, and all, hitched her way across the room to
the old chest of drawers by the hall door, and managed to secure the
small sleeping garments with the little daughter still in her arms.
She had hitched her way back to the fireplace again, and was very
busy with buttons and strings, when Helma, appearing in the doorway,
announced a visitor.
"Who?" said Anne, puzzled. "Did the bell ring? I didn't hear it.
What is it?"
"Jantl'man," said Helma.
"A gentleman?" Anne, very much at a loss, got up, and carrying
Jinny, and followed by the barefoot Diego, went to the door. She had
a reassuring and instant impression that it was a very fine—even a
magnificent—old man, who was standing in the twilight of the little
hall. Anne had never seen him before, but there was no question in
her heart as to his reception, even at this first glance.
"How do you do?" she said, a little fluttered, but cordial, too.
"Will you come in here by the fire? The sitting-room is so cold."
"Thank you," said her caller, easily, with a little inclination of
his head that seemed to acknowledge her hospitality. He put his hat,
a shining, silk hat, upon the hall table, and followed her into the
dining-room. Anne found, when she turned to give him the big chair,
that he had pulled off his big gloves, too, and that Diego had put a
confident, small hand into his.
He sat down comfortably, a big, square-built man, with rosy color,
hair that was already silvered, and a fast-silvering mustache, and
keen, kind eyes as blue as Virginia's. In the expression of these
eyes, and in the lines about his fine mouth, was that suggestion of
simple friendliness and sympathy that no man, woman, or child can
long resist. Anne found herself already deciding that she LIKED this
man. She went on with Jinny's small toilet, even while she wondered
about her caller, and while she decided that Jim should have an
overcoat of exactly this big, generous cut, and of exactly this
delightful, warm-looking rough cloth, some day.
"Perhaps this is a bad hour to disturb these little people?" said
the caller, smiling, but with something in his manner and in his
rather deliberate and well-chosen speech, of the dignity and courtesy
of an older generation.
"Oh, no, indeed!" Anne assured him. "I'm going right on with them,
Jinny, deliciously drowsy, gave the stranger a slow yet approving
smile, from the safety of Anne's arms. Diego went to lay a small hand
upon the gentleman's knee.
"This is my shoe," said Diego, frankly exhibiting a worn specimen,
"and Baby has shoes, too, blue ones. And Baby cried in the night when
the mirror fell down, didn't she, mother? And she broke her bowl, and
bited on the pieces, and blood came down on her bib—"
"All our tragedies!" laughed Anne.
"Didn't that hurt her mouth?" said the caller, interestedly,
lifting Diego into the curve of his arm.
Diego rested his golden mop comfortably against the big shoulder.
"It hurt her teef," he said dreamily, and subsided.
As if it were quite natural that the child should be there, the
gentleman eyed Anne over the little head.
"I've not told you my name, madam," said he. "I am Charles Rideout.
Not that that conveys anything to you, I suppose—?"
"But it does, as it happens!" Anne said, surprised and pleased.
"Jim—my husband, is with the Rogers-Wiley Company, and I think they
do a good deal of cement work for Rideout Company."
"Surely," assented the man, "and your husband's name is—?"
"Warriner,—James Warriner," Anne supplied.
"Ah—? I don't place him," Mr. Rideout said thoughtfully. "There
are so many. Well, Mrs. Warriner," he turned his smiling, bright eyes
to her again, from the fire, "I am intruding on you this afternoon for
a reason that I hope you will find easy to forgive in an old man. I
must tell you first that my wife and I used to live in this house, a
good many years ago. We moved away from it—let me see—we left this
house something like twenty-six or —eight years ago. But we've talked
a hundred times of coming back here some day, and having a little look
about 'little Ten-Twelve,' as we always used to call it. I see your
number's changed. But"—his gesture was almost apologetic—"we are
busy people. Mrs. Rideout likes to live in the country a great part
of the time; this neighborhood is inaccessible now—time goes by,
and, in short, we haven't ever come back. But this was home to us for
a good many years." He was speaking in a lower voice now, his eyes on
the fire. "Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am," he said gently, "I brought Rose
here a bride—thirty-three years ago."
"Well, but fancy!" said Anne, her face radiant, "just as we did!
No wonder we said the house looked as if people had been happy in it!"
"There was a Frenchwoman here then," said Mr. Rideout,
thoughtfully, "a queer woman! She played fast and loose until I didn't
know whether we'd ever really get the place or not. This neighborhood
was full of just such houses then, although I remember Rose used to
make great capital out of the fact that ours was the only brick one
among them. This house came around the Horn from Philadelphia, as a
matter of fact, and"—his eyes, twinkling with indulgent amusement,
met Anne's,—"and you know that before a lady has got a baby to boast
of, she's going to do a little boasting about her new house!"
Anne laughed. "Perhaps she boasted about her husband, too," she
said, "as I do, when Jimmy isn't anywhere around."
She liked the tender look, that had in it just a touch of pleased
embarrassment with which he shook his head.
"Well, well, perhaps she did. Perhaps she did. She was very merry;
pleased with everything; to this day my wife always sees the cheerful
side of things first. A great gift, that. She danced about this house
as if it were another toy, and she a little girl. We thought it a
very, very lovely little home." His eyes travelled about the low
walls. "I got to thinking of it to-day, wondered if it were still
standing. I stood at your gate a little while,—the path is the same,
and the steps, and some of the old trees,—a japonica, I remember, and
the lemon verbenas. Finally, I found myself ringing your bell."
"I'm so glad you did!" Anne said. "There are lots of old trees and
shrubs in the backyard, too, that you and your wife might remember.
We think it is the dearest little house in the world, except that now
we are rather anxious to get the children out of the city."
"Yes, yes," he agreed with interest, "much better for them
somewhere across the bay. I remember that finally we moved into the
country— Alameda. The boy was a baby, then, and the two little girls
very small. It was quite a move! Quite a move! We got one load
started, and then had to wait and wait here—it was raining, too!—for
the men to come for the other load. My wife's sister had gone ahead
with the girls, but I remember Rose and I and the baby waiting and
waiting,—with the baby's little coat and cap on top of a box, ready
to be put on. Finally, I got Rose a carriage, to go to the ferry,—
quite a luxury in those days!" he interrupted himself, with a smile.
"And did the children love it,—the country?" said Anne, wistfully.
"Made them over!" said he, nodding reflectively. "Yes. I remember
that the day after we moved was a Sunday, and we had quite a patch of
lawn over there that I thought needed cutting. I shall never forget
those little girls tumbling about in the cut grass, and Rose watching
from the steps, with the baby in her lap. It made us all over." His
voice fell again, and he stared smilingly into the fire.
"The children were born here, then?" said Anne.
"The little girls, yes. And the oldest boy. Afterward there was
another boy, and a little girl—" he paused. "A little girl whom we
lost," he finished gravely.
"Both these babies were born here," Anne said, after a moment. Her
caller looked from one child to the other with an expression of
interest and understanding that no childless man can ever wear.
"Our Rose was born here, our first girl," he said. "Sometimes a
foggy morning even now will bring that morning back to me. My wife
was very ill, and I remember creeping out of her room, when she had
gone to sleep, and hearing the fog-horns outside,—it was early
morning. We had an old woman taking care of her,—no trained nurses
in those days!—and she was sitting here by this fireplace, with the
tiny girl in her lap. Do you know—" his smile met Anne's—"do you
know, I was so tired, and we had been so frightened for Rose, and it
seemed to me that I had been up and moving about through unfamiliar
things for so many, many hours, that I had almost forgotten the baby!
I remember that it came to me with a shock that Rose was safe, and
asleep, and that morning had come, and breakfast was ready, and here
was the baby, the same baby we had been so placidly expecting and
planning for, and that, in short, it was all right, and all over!"
"Oh, I KNOW!" Anne laid an impulsive hand for a second on his, and
the eyes of the young wife, and of the man who had been a young
father thirty years before, met in wonderful understanding. "That's-
-that's the way it is," said Anne, a little lamely, with a swift
thought for another foggy morning, when the familiar horn, the waking
noises of the city, had fallen strangely on her own senses, after the
terror and triumph of the night. Neither spoke for a moment. Diego's
voice broke cheerily into the pause.
"I can undress myself," he announced, with modest complacence.
"Can you?" said Charles Rideout. "How about buttons?"
"I can't do buttons," Diego qualified firmly.
"Well, I think—I can—remember—how to unbutton—a boy!" said the
man, with his pleasant deliberation, as he began on the button that
was always catching itself on Diego's hair. Diego cheerfully extended
little arms and legs in turn for the disrobing process. Presently a
small heap of garments lay on the floor, and the children were quite
delicious in baggy blue flannels. All the four were laughing and
absorbed, when James Senior came in a few minutes later, and found
"Jim," said his wife, eagerly, rising to greet him, and to bring
him, cold and ruddy, to the fireplace, "this is Mr. Rideout, dear!"
"How do you do, sir?" said Jim, stretching out his hand, and with a
smile on his tired, keen, young face. "Don't get up. I see that my
boy is making himself at home."
"Yes, sir; we've been having a great time getting undressed," said
"Jim," Anne went on radiantly, "Mr. Rideout and HIS wife lived here
years ago, when THEY were just married, and their children were born
"No—is that so!" Jim was as much pleased and surprised as Anne, as
he settled himself with Virginia's web of silky hair against his
shoulder. "Built it, perhaps, Mr. Rideout?"
"No. No, it was eight or ten years old, then. I used to pass it,
walking to the office. We had a little office down on Meig's pier
then. As a matter of fact, my wife never saw it until I brought her
home to it. She was the only child of a widow, very formal Southern
people, and we weren't engaged very long. So my brother and I
furnished the house; used—" his eyes twinkled—"used to buy our
pictures in a lump. We decided we needed about four to each room, and
we'd go to a dealer's, and pick out a dozen of 'em, and ask him to
make us a price!"
"Just like men!" said the woman.
"I suppose so. I know that some of those pictures disappeared after
Rose had been here a while! And we had linen curtains—"
"Not linen!" protested Anne.
"Very—pretty—little—ruffled—curtains they were," he affirmed
seriously. "Linen, with blue bands, in this bedroom, and red bands
upstairs. And things—things—" he made a vague gesture—"things on
the dressing-tables and bed to match 'em! I remember that on our
wedding day, when I brought Rose home, we had a little maid here, and
dinner was all ready, but no, Rose must run up and down stairs looking
at everything in her little wedding dress—" Suddenly came another
pause. The room was dark now, but for the firelight. Little Jinny was
asleep in her father's arms, Diego blinking manfully. Neither husband
nor wife, whose hands had found each other, cared to break the
silence. But after a while Anne said:
"What WAS her wedding dress?"
Instantly roused, the guest raised bright, pleased eyes.
"The ladies' question, Warriner," said he. "It was silk, my dear,
her first silk gown. Yellowish, or brownish, it was. And she had one
of those little ruffled capes the ladies used to wear. And a little
"A bonnet she had trimmed herself. I remember watching her, when we
were engaged, making that trimming. You don't see it any more, but
that year all the girls were making it. They made little bunches of
grapes out of dried peas covered with chamois skin—"
"Oh, not really!" ejaculated Anne.
"Indeed, they did. Then they covered their bonnets with them, and
with leaves cut out of the chamois skin. They were charming, too. My
wife wore that bonnet a long time. She trimmed it over and over." He
sighed, but there was a shade of longing as well as pity in his eyes.
"We were young," he said thoughtfully; "I was but twenty-five; we had
our hard times. The babies came pretty fast. Rose wasn't very strong.
I worked too hard, got broken down a little, and expenses went right
on, you know—"
"You bet I know!" Jim said, with his pleasant laugh, and a glance
"Well," said Charles Rideout, looking keenly from one to the other,
"thank God for it, you young people! It never comes back! The days
when you shoulder your troubles cheerfully together,—they come to
their end! And they are"—he shook his head—"they are very wonderful
to look back to! I remember a certain day," he went on reminiscently,
"when we had paid the last of the doctor's bills, and Rose met me down
town for a little celebration. We had had five or six years of pretty
hard sailing then. We bought her new gloves that day, I remember,
and—shoes, I think it was, and I got a hat, and a book I'd been
wanting. We went to a little French restaurant to dinner, with all our
bundles. And that, that, my dear,—"he said, smiling at Anne,—"seemed
to be the turning point. We got into the country next year, picked out
a little house. And then, the rest of it all followed; we had two
maids, a surrey, I was put into the superintendent's place—" a sweep
of the fine hand dismissed the details. "No man and wife, who do what
we did," said he, gravely, "who live modestly, and work hard, and love
each other and their children, can FAIL. That's one of the blessed
things of life."
Jim cleared his throat, but did not speak. Anne was frankly unable
"And now I mustn't keep these children out of bed any longer," said
the older man. "This has been a—a lovely afternoon for me. I wish
Mrs. Rideout had been with me." He stood up. "Shall I give you this
little fellow, Mrs. Warriner?"
"We'll put the babies down," said Jim, rising, too, "and then,
perhaps, you'd like to look about the house, Mr. Rideout?"
"But I know how a lady feels about having her house inspected—"
hesitated the caller, with his bright, fatherly look for Anne.
"Oh, please do!" she urged them.
So the gas was lighted, and they all went into the bedroom, where
Anne tucked the children into their cribs. She stayed there while the
others went on their tour of inspection, patting her son's small, warm
body in the darkness, and listening with a smile to the visitor's
cheerful comments in kitchen and hallway, and Jim's answering laugh.
When she came blinking out into the lighted dining-room, the men
were upstairs, and Helma, to Anne's astonishment, was showing in
another caller,—and another Charles Rideout, as Anne's puzzled
glance at the card in her hand, assured her. This was a tall young
man, a little dishevelled, in a big storm coat, and with dark rings
about his eyes.
"I beg your pardon, madam," said he, abruptly, "but was my father,
Mr. Charles Rideout, here this afternoon?"
"Why, he's upstairs with my husband now!" Anne said, strangely
disquieted by the young man's manner.
"Thank God!" said the newcomer, briefly. And he wiped his forehead
with his handkerchief, and drew a deep short breath.
"He—I must apologize to you for breaking in upon you this way,"
said young Rideout, "but he came out in the car this afternoon, and
we didn't know where he had gone. He made the chauffeur wait at the
corner at the bottom of the hill, and the fool man waited an hour
before it occurred to him to telephone me at the house. I came at
"He's been here all that time," Anne said. "He's all right. Your
mother and father used to live here, you know, years ago. In this
"Yes, I know we did. I think I was born here," said Charles
Rideout, Junior. "I had a sort of feeling that he had come here, as
soon as Bates telephoned. Dear old dad! He and mother have told us
about this place a hundred times! They were talking about it for a
couple of hours a few nights ago." He looked about the room as his
father had done. "They were very happy here. There—" he smiled a
little bashfully at Anne—"there never was a pair of lovers like
mother and dad!" he said. Then he cleared his throat. "Did my father
tell you—?" he began, and stopped.
"No," Anne said, troubled. He had told them a great deal, but not—
she felt sure—not this, whatever it was.
"That's why we worried about him," said his son, his honest,
distressed eyes meeting hers. "You see—you see—we're in trouble at
the house—my mother—my mother left us, last night—"
"Dead?" whispered Anne.
"She's been ill a good while," said the young man, "but we
thought— She's been so ill before! A day or two ago the rest of us
knew it, and we wired for my married sister, but we couldn't get dad
to realize it. He never left her, and he's not been eating, and he'd
tell all the doctors what serious sicknesses she'd gotten over
before—" And with a suddenly shaking lip and filling eyes, he turned
his back on Anne, and went to the window.
"Ah!" said Anne, pitifully. And for a full moment there was
Then Charles Rideout, the younger, came back to her, pushing his
handkerchief into his coat pocket; and with a restored self-control.
"Too bad to bother you with our troubles," he said, with a little
smile like his father's. "To us, of course, it seems like the end of
the world, but I am sorry to distress YOU! Dad just doesn't seem to
grasp it, he hasn't been excited, you know, but he doesn't seem to
understand. I don't know that any of us do!" he finished simply.
"Here they are!" Anne said warningly, as the two other men came
down the stairs.
"Hello, Dad!" said young Rideout, easily and cheerfully, "I came to
bring you home!"
"This is MY boy, Mrs. Warriner," said his father; "you see he's
turned the tables, and is looking after me! I'm glad you came,
Charley. I've been telling your good husband, Mrs. Warriner," he
said, in a lower tone, "that we—that I—"
"Yes, I know!" Anne said, with her ready tenderness, and a little
gasp like a child's.
"So you will realize what impulse brought me here to-day," the
older man went on; "I was talking to my wife of this house only a day
or two ago." His voice had become almost inaudible, and the three
young people knew he had forgotten them. "Only a day or two ago," he
repeated musingly. And then, to his son, he added wistfully, "I don't
seem to get it through my head, my boy. For a while to-day, I
forgot—I forgot. The heart—" he said, with his little old-world
touch of dignity—"the heart does not learn things as quickly as the
mind, Mrs. Warriner."
Anne had found something wistful and appealing in his smile before,
now it seemed to her heartbreaking. She nodded, without speaking.
"Dear old Dad," said Charles Rideout, affectionately. "You are
tired out. You've been doing too much, sir, you want sleep and rest."
"Surely—surely," said his father, a little heavily. Father and son
shook hands with Jim and Anne, and the older man said gravely, "God
bless you both!" as he and his son went down the wet path, in the
shaft of light from the hall door. At the gate the boy put his arm
tenderly about his father's shoulders.
"Oh, Anne, Anne," said her husband as she clung to him when the
door was shut, "I couldn't live one day without YOU, my dearest! But
don't—don't cry. Don't let it make you blue,—he HAD his happiness,
you know,—he has his children left!"
Anne tightened her arms about his neck.
"I am crying a little for sorrow, Jim, dearest!" she sobbed,
burying her face in his shoulder. "But I believe it is mostly—mostly
for joy and gratitude, Jim!"