The Rose Garden Husband
by Margaret Widdemer
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
NEW YORK GROSSET &DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT 1914, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
PUBLISHED, JANUARY 27, 1915
* * * * *
[Illustration: YOU KNOW, I MARRIED YOU PRINCIPALLY FOR A
ROSE-GARDEN, AND THAT'S LOVELY!
* * * * *
IN LOVING MEMORY
HOWARD TAYLOR WIDDEMER
* * * * *
THE ROSE-GARDEN HUSBAND
The Liberry Teacher lifted her eyes from a half-made catalogue-card,
eyed the relentlessly slow clock and checked a long wriggle of purest,
frankest weariness. Then she gave a furtive glance around to see if the
children had noticed she was off guard; for if they had she knew the
whole crowd might take more liberties than they ought to, and have to
be spoken to by the janitor. He could do a great deal with them,
because he understood their attitude to life, but that wasn't good for
the Liberry Teacher's record.
It was four o'clock of a stickily wet Saturday. As long as it is
anything from Monday to Friday the average library attendant goes
around thanking her stars she isn't a school-teacher; but the last day
of the week, when the rest of the world is having its relaxing Saturday
off and coming to gloat over you as it acquires its Sunday-reading best
seller, if you work in a library you begin just at noon to wish
devoutly that you'd taken up scrubbing-by-the-day, or hack-driving, or
porch-climbing oranything on earth that gave you a weekly
So the Liberry Teacher braced herself severely, and put on her
reading-glasses with a view to looking older and more firm. Liberry
Teacher, it might be well to explain, was not her official title. Her
description on the pay-roll ran Assistant for the Children's
Department, Greenway Branch, City Public Library. Grown-up people,
when she happened to run across them, called her Miss Braithwaite. But
Liberry Teacher was the only name the children ever used, and she saw
scarcely anybody but the children, six days a week, fifty-one weeks a
year. As for her real name, that nobody ever called her by, that
was Phyllis Narcissa.
She was quite willing to have such a name as that buried out of
sight. She had a sense of fitness; and such a name belonged back in an
old New England parsonage garden full of pink roses and nice green
caterpillars and girl-dreams, and the days before she was eighteen: not
in a smutty city library, attached to a twenty-five-year-old young
woman with reading-glasses and fine discipline and a woolen
It wasn't that the Liberry Teacher didn't like her position. She not
only liked it, but she had a great deal of admiration for it, because
it had been exceedingly hard to get. She had held it firmly now for a
whole year. Before that she had been in the Cataloguing, where your
eyes hurt and you get a little pain between your shoulders, but you sit
down and can talk to other girls; and before that in the Circulation,
where it hurts your feet and you get ink on your fingers, but you see
lots of funny things happening. She had started at eighteen years old,
at thirty dollars a month. Now she was twenty-five, and she got all of
fifty dollars, so she ought to have been a very happy Liberry Teacher
indeed, and generally she was. When the children wanted to specify her
particularly they described her as the pretty one that laughs. But at
four o'clock of a wet Saturday afternoon, in a badly ventilated, badly
lighted room full of damp little unwashed foreign children, even the
most sunny-hearted Liberry Teacher may be excused for having thoughts
that are a little tired and cross and restless.
She flung herself back in her desk-chair and watched, with brazen
indifference, Giovanni and Liberata Bruno stickily pawing the colored
Bird Book that was supposed to be looked at only under supervision; she
ignored the fact that three little Czechs were fighting over the
wailing library cat; and the sounds of conflict caused by Jimsy
Hoolan's desire to get the last-surviving Alger book away from John
Zanowski moved her not a whit. The Liberry Teacher had stopped, for
five minutes, being grown-up and responsible, and she was
wishingwishing hard and vengefully. This is always a risky thing to
do, because you never know when the Destinies may overhear you and take
you at your exact word. With the detailed and careful accuracy one
acquires in library work, she was wishing for a sum of money, a garden,
and a husbandbut principally a husband. This is why:
That day as she was returning from her long-deferred twenty-minute
dairy-lunch, she had charged, umbrella down, almost full into a pretty
lady getting out of a shiny gray limousine. Such an unnecessarily
pretty lady, all furs and fluffles and veils and perfumes and waved
hair! Her cheeks were pink and her expression was placid, and each of
her white-gloved hands held tight to a pretty picture-book child who
was wriggling with wild excitement. One had yellow frilly hair and one
had brown bobbed hair, and both were quaintly, immaculately,
expensively kissable. They were the kind of children every girl wishes
she could have a set like, and hugs when she gets a chance. Mother and
children were making their way, under an awning that crossed the
street, to the matinee of a fairy-play.
The Liberry Teacher smiled at the children with more than her
accustomed goodwill, and lowered her umbrella quickly to let them pass.
The mother smiled back, a smile that changed, as the Liberry Teacher
passed, to puzzled remembrance. The gay little family went on into the
theatre, and Phyllis Braithwaite hurried on back to her work, trying to
think who the pretty lady could have been, to have seemed to almost
remember her. Somebody who took books out of the library, doubtless.
Still the pretty lady's face did not seem to fit that conjecture,
though it still worried her by its vague familiarity. Finally the
solution came, just as Phyllis was pulling off her raincoat in the dark
little cloak-room. She nearly dropped the coat.
Eva Atkinson! she said.
Eva Atkinson!... If it had been anybody else but Eva!
You see, back in long-ago, in the little leisurely windblown New
England town where Phyllis Braithwaite had lived till she was almost
eighteen, there had been a Principal Grocer. And Eva Atkinson had been
his daughter, not so very pretty, not so very pleasant, not so very
clever, and about six years older than Phyllis. Phyllis, as she tried
vainly to make her damp, straight hair go back the way it should,
remembered hearing that Eva had married and come to this city to live.
She had never heard where. And this had been EvaEva, by the grace of
gold, radiantly complexioned, wonderfully groomed, beautifully gowned,
and looking twenty-four, perhaps, at most: with a car and a placid
expression and heaps of money, and pretty, clean children! The
Liberry Teacher, severely work-garbed and weather-draggled, jerked
herself away from the small greenish cloak-room mirror that was unkind
to you at your best.
She dashed down to the basement, harried by her usual panic-stricken
twenty-minutes-late feeling. She had only taken one glance at herself
in the wiggly mirror, but that one had been enough for her peace of
mind, supposing her to have had any left before. She felt as if she
wanted to break all the mirrors in the world, like the wicked queen in
the French fairy-tale.
Most people rather liked the face Phyllis saw in the mirror; but to
her own eyes, fresh from the dazzling vision of that Eva Atkinson who
had been dowdy and stupid in the far-back time when seventeen-year-old
Phyllis was growin' up as pretty as a picture, the tired,
twenty-five-year-old, workaday face in the green glass was dreadful. What made her feel worstand she entertained the thought with a
whimsical consciousness of its impertinent vanitywas that she'd had
so much more raw material than Eva! And the world had given Eva a
chance because her father was rich. And she, Phyllis, was condemned to
be tidy and accurate, and no more, just because she had to earn her
living. That face in the greenish glass, looking tiredly back at her!
She gave a little out-loud cry of vexation now as she thought of it,
two hours later.
I must have looked to Eva like a battered bisque dollno wonder
she couldn't place me! she muttered crossly.
And it must be worse and more of it now, because in the interval
between two and four there had been many little sticky fingers pulling
at her sleeves and skirt, and you just have to cuddle dear
little library children, even when they're not extra clean; and when
Vera Aronsohn burst into heartbroken tears on the Liberry Teacher's
blue woolen shoulder because her pet fairy-book was missing, she had
caught several strands of the Teacher's yellow hair in her anguish,
much to the hair's detriment.
It was straight, heavy hair, and it would have been of a dense and
fluffy honey-color, only that it was tarnished for lack of the constant
sunnings and brushings which blonde hair must have to stay its best
self. And her skin, too, that should have been a living rose-and-cream,
was dulled by exposure to all weathers, and lack of time to pet it with
creams and powders; perhaps a little, too, by the very stupid things to
eat one gets at a dairy-lunch and boarding-house. Some of the
assistants did interesting cooking over the library gas-range, but the
Liberry Teacher couldn't do that because she hadn't time.
She went on defiantly thinking about her looks. It isn't a
noble-minded thing to do, but when you might be so very, very pretty if
you only had a little time to be it inYes, I might! said
Phyllis to her shocked self defiantly.... Yes, the shape of her face
was all right still. Hard work and scant attention couldn't spoil its
pretty oval. But her eyeswell, you can't keep your eyes as blue and
luminous and childlike as they were back in the New England country,
when you have been using them hard for years in a bad light. And oh,
they had been such nice eyes when she was just Phyllis Narcissa
at home, so long and blue and wondering! And now the cataloguing had
heavied the lids and etched a line between her straight brown brows.
They weren't decorative eyes now ... and they filled with indignant
self-sympathy. The Liberry Teacher laughed at herself a little here.
The idea of eyes that cried about themselves was funny, somehow.
Direct from producer to consumer! she quoted half-aloud, and wiped
each eye conscientiously by itself.
Teacher! I want a liberry called 'Bride of Lemon Hill!' demanded a
small citizen just here. The school teacher, she says I must to have
Phyllis thought hard. But she had to search the pinned-up list of
required reading for schools for three solid minutes before she
bestowed The Bride of Lammermoor on a thirteen-year-old daughter of
This is it, isn't it, honey? she asked with the flashing smile for
which her children, among other things, adored her.
Yes, ma'am, thank you, teacher, said the thirteen-year-old
gratefully; and went off to a corner, where she sat till closing time
entranced over her own happy choice, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit,
with colored pictures dotting it satisfactorily. The Liberry Teacher
knew that it was her duty to go over and hypnotize the child into
reading something which would lead more directly to Browning and
Strindberg. But she didn't.
Poor little wop! she thought unacademically. Let her be happy in
her own way!
And the Liberry Teacher herself went on being unhappy in her
I'm just a battered bisque doll! she repeated to herself bitterly.
But she was wrong. One is apt to exaggerate things on a workaday
Saturday afternoon. She looked more like a pretty bisque figurine; slim
and clear-cut, and a little neglected, perhaps, by its owners, and
dressed in working clothes instead of the pretty draperies it should
have had; but needing only a touch or so, a little dusting, so to
speak, to be as good as ever.
Eva never was as pretty as I was! her rebellious thoughts
went on. You think things, you know, that you'd never say aloud. I'm
sick of elevating the public! I'm sick of working hard fifty-one weeks
out of fifty-two for board and lodging and carfare and shirtwaists and
the occasional society of a few girls who don't get any more out of
life than I do! I'm sick of libraries, and of being efficient! I want
to be a real girl! Oh, I wishI wish I had a lot of money, and a
rose-garden, and a husband!
The Liberry Teacher was aghast at herself. She hadn't meant to wish
such a very unmaidenly thing so hard. She jumped up and dashed across
the room and began frantically to shelf-read books, explaining
meanwhile with most violent emphasis to the listening Destinies:
I didn'toh, I didn't mean a real husband. It isn't
that I yearn to be married to some good man, like an old maid or a
Duchess novel. II just want all the lovely things Eva has, or any
girl that marries them, without any trouble but taking care of a
man. One man couldn't but be easier than a whole roomful of
library babies. I want to be looked after, and have time to keep
pretty, and a chance to make friends, and lovely frocks with lots of
lace on them, and just months and months and months when I never had to
do anything by a clockandand a rose-garden!
This last idea was dangerous. It isn't a good thing, if you want to
be contented with your lot, to think of rose-gardens in a stuffy city
library o' Saturdays; especially when where you were brought up
rose-gardens were one of the common necessities of life; and more
especially when you are tired almost to the crying-point, and have all
the week's big sisters back of it dragging on you, and all its little
sisters to come worrying at you, andtime not up till six.
But the Liberry Teacher went blindly on straightening shelves nearly
as fast as the children could muss them up, and thinking about that
rose-garden she wanted, with files of masseuses and manicures and
French maids and messenger-boys with boxes banked soothingly behind
every bush. And the thought became too beautiful to dally with.
I'd marry anything that would give me a rose-garden!
reiterated the Liberry Teacher passionately to the Destinies, who are
rather catty ladies, and apt to catch up unguarded remarks you make.
Anythingso long as it was a gentlemanand he didn't scold
meandandI didn't have to associate with him! her New England
maidenliness added in haste.
Then, for the librarian who cannot laugh, like the one who reads, is
supposed in library circles to be lost, Phyllis shook herself and
laughed at herself a little, bravely. Then she collected the most
uproarious of her flock around her and began telling them stories out
of the Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. It would keep the children
quiet, and her thoughts, too. She put rose-gardens, not to say
manicurists and husbands, severely out of her head. But you can't play
fast and loose with the Destinies that way.
Done! they had replied quietly to her last schedule of
requirements. We'll send our messenger over right away. It was not
their fault that the Liberry Teacher could not hear them.
He was gray-haired, pink-cheeked, curvingly side-whiskered and
immaculately gray-clad; and he did not look in the least like a
messenger of Fate.
The Liberry Teacher was at a highly keyed part of her narrative, and
even the most fidgety children were tense and open-mouthed.
'And where art thou now?' cried the Stranger to Robin Hood. And
Robin roared with laughter. 'Oh, in the flood, and floating down the
stream with all the little fishes,' said he she was relating
Tea-cher! hissed Isaac Rabinowitz, snapping his fingers at
her at this exciting point. Teacher! There's a guy wants to speak to
Aw, shut-tup! chorused his indignant little schoolmates.
Can't you see that Teacher's tellin' a story? Go chase yerself! Go do
a tango roun' de block!
Isaac, a small Polish Jew with tragic, dark eyes and one suspender,
received these and several more such suggestions with all the calm
impenetrability of his race.
Here's de guy, was all he vouchsafed before he went back to the
unsocial nook where, afternoon by faithful afternoon, he read away at a
fat three-volume life of Alexander Hamilton.
The Liberry Teacher looked up without stopping her story, and smiled
a familiar greeting to the elderly gentleman, who was waiting a little
uncertainly at the Children's Room door, and had obviously been looking
for her in vain. He smiled and nodded in return.
Just a minute, please, Mr. De Guenther, said the Liberry Teacher
The elderly gentleman nodded again, crossed to Isaac and his
ponderous volumes, and began to talk to him with that benign lack of
haste which usually means a very competent personality. Phyllis hurried
somewhat with Robin Hood among his little fishes, and felt happier. It
was always, in her eventless life, something of a pleasant adventure to
have Mr. De Guenther or his wife drop in to see her. There was usually
something pleasant at the end of it.
They were an elderly couple whom she had known for some years. They
were so leisurely and trim and gentle-spoken that long ago, when she
was only a timorous substitute behind the circle of the big
charging-desk, she had picked them both out as
people-you'd-like-if-you-got-the-chance. Then she had waited on them,
and identified them by their cards as belonging to the same family.
Then, one day, with a pleased little quiver of joy, she had found him
in the city Who's Who, age, profession (he was a corporation lawyer),
middle names, favorite recreation, and all. Gradually she had come to
know them both very well in a waiting-on way. She often chose
love-stories that ended happily and had colored illustrations for Mrs.
De Guenther when she was at home having rheumatism; she had saved more
detective stories for Mr. De Guenther than her superiors ever knew; and
once she had found his black-rimmed eye-glasses where he had left them
between the pages of the Pri-Zuz volume of the encyclopedia, and mailed
them to him.
When she had vanished temporarily from sight into the
nunnery-promotion of the cataloguing room the De Guenthers had still
remembered her. Twice she had been asked to Sunday dinner at their
house, and had joyously gone and remembered it as joyously for months
afterward. Now that she was out in the light of partial day again, in
the Children's Room, she ran across both of them every little while in
her errands upstairs; and once Mrs. De Guenther, gentle, lorgnetted and
gray-clad, had been shown over the Children's Room. The couple lived
all alone in a great, handsome old house that was being crowded now by
the business district. She had always thought that if she were a
Theosophist she would try to plan to have them for an uncle and aunt in
her next incarnation. They suited her exactly for the parts.
But it's a long way down to the basement where city libraries are
apt to keep their children, and the De Guenthers hadn't been down there
since the last time they asked her to dinner. And here, with every sign
of having come to say something very special, stood Mr. De
Guenther! Phyllis' irrepressibly cheerful disposition gave a little
jump toward the light. But she went on with her storybusiness before
However, she did manage to get Robin Hood out of his brook a little
more quickly than she had planned. She scattered her children with a
swift executive whisk, and made so straight for her friend that she
deceived the children into thinking they were going to see him
expelled, and they banked up and watched with anticipatory grins.
I do hope you want to see me especially! she said brightly.
The children, disappointed, relaxed their attention.
Mr. De Guenther rose slowly and neatly from his seat beside the
rather bored Isaac Rabinowitz, who dived into his book again with
Good afternoon, Miss Braithwaite, he said in the amiably precise
voice which matched so admirably his beautifully precise movements and
his immaculate gray spats. Yes. In the language of our young friend
here, 'I am the guy.'
Phyllis giggled before she thought. Some people in the world always
make your spirits go up with a bound, and the De Guenther pair
invariably had that effect on her.
Oh, Mr. De Guenther! she said, I am shocked at you! That's
It was more in the nature of a quotation, said he apologetically.
And how are you this exceedingly unpleasant day, Miss Braithwaite? We
have seen very little of you lately, Mrs. De Guenther and I.
The Liberry Teacher, gracefully respectful in her place, wriggled
with invisible impatience over this carefully polite conversational
opening. He had come down here on purpose to see herthere must be
something going to happen, even if it was only a request to save a
seven-day book for Mrs. De Guenther! Nobody ever wanted something, any kind of a something, to happen more wildly than the Liberry
Teacher did that bored, stickily wet Saturday afternoon, with those
tired seven years at the Greenway Branch dragging at the back of her
neck, and the seven times seven to come making her want to scream. So
few things can possibly happen to you, no matter how good you are, when
you work by the day. And now maybe somethingoh, please, the very
smallest kind of a something would be welcomed!was going to occur.
Maybe Mrs. De Guenther had sent her a ticket to a concert; she had once
before. Or maybe, since you might as well wish for big things while
you're at it, it might even be a ticket to an expensive seat in a real
theatre! Her pleasure-hungry, work-heavy blue eyes burned luminous at
But I really shouldn't wish, she reminded her prancing mind
belatedly. He may only have come down to talk about the weather. It
mayn't any of it be true.
So she stood up straight and gravely, and answered very courteously
and holding-tightly all the amiable roundabout remarks the old
gentleman was shoving forward like pawns on a chessboard before the
real game begins. She answered with the same trained cheerfulness she
could give her library children when her head and her disposition ached
worst; and even warmed to a vicious enthusiasm over the state of the
streets and the wetness of the damp weather.
He knows lots of real things to say, she complained to herself,
why doesn't he say them, instead of talking editorials? I suppose this
is his bedsideno, lawyers don't have bedside mannerswell, his
barside manner, then
It is difficult to think and listen at the same time: by this time
she had missed a beautiful long paragraph about the Street-Cleaning
Department; and something else, apparently. For her friend was holding
out to her a note addressed to her flowingly in his wife's English
hand, and was saying,
which she has asked me to deliver. I trust you have no imperative
engagement for to-morrow night.
Something had happened!
Why, no! said the Liberry Teacher delightedly. No, indeed! Thank
you, and her, too. I'd love to come.
Teacher! clamored a small chocolate-colored citizen in a Kewpie
muffler, my maw she want' a book call' 'Ugwin!' She say it got a
yellow cover an' pictures in it.
Just a moment! said Phyllis; and sent him upstairs with a note
asking for Hugh Wynne in the two-volume edition. She was used to
translating that small colored boy's demands. Last week he had
described to her a play he called Eas' Limb", with the final comment,
But it wan't no good. 'Twant no limb in it anywhar, ner no trees
Do you have much of that? Mr. De Guenther asked idly.
Lots! said Phyllis cheerfully. You take special training in
guesswork at library school. They call them 'teasers'. They say they're
good for your intellect.
Ahyes, said Mr. De Guenther absently in the barside manner.
And then, sitting calmly with his silvery head against a
Washington's Birthday poster so that three scarlet cherries stuck above
him in the manner of a scalp-lock, he said something else remarkably
I havewe havea little matter of business to discuss with you
to-morrow night, my dear; an offer, I may say, of a different line of
work. And I want you to satisfy yourself thoroughlythoroughly, my
dear child, of my reputableness. Mr. Johnstone, the chief of the city
library, whose office I believe to be in this branch, is one of my
oldest friends. I am, I think I may say, well known as a lawyer in this
my native city. I should be glad to have you satisfy yourself
personally on these points, because could it be that the eminently
poised Mr. De Guenther was embarrassed? Because the line of work which
I wish, or rather my wife wishes, to lay before you isis a very
different line of work! ended the old gentleman inconclusively. There
was no mistake about it this timehe was embarrassed.
Oh, Mr. De Guenther! cried Phyllis before she thought, out of the
fulness of her heart, catching his arm in her eagerness; Oh, Mr. De
Guenther, could the Very Different Line of Work have ahave a
rose-garden attached to it anywhere?
Before she was fairly finished she knew what a silly question she
had asked. How could any line of work she was qualified to do possibly
have rose-gardens attached to it? You can't catalogue roses on neat
cards, or improve their minds by the Newark Ladder System, or do
anything at all librarious to them, except pressing them in books to
mummify; and the Liberry Teacher didn't think that was at all a
courteous thing to do to roses. So Mr. De Guenther's reply quite
Thereseemsto beno good reason, he said, slowly and placidly,
as if he were dropping his words one by one out of a slot;why there
should notbea very satisfactory rose-garden, or eventwo
connected with it. Nonewhatever.
That was all the explanation he offered. But the Liberry Teacher
asked no more. Oh! she said rapturously.
Then we may expect you to-morrow at seven? he said; and smiled
politely and moved to the door. He walked out as matter-of-coursely as
if he had dropped in to ask the meaning of circumflex, or who
invented smallpox, or the name of Adam's house-cat, or how long it
would take her to do a graduation essay for his daughteror any such
little things that librarians are prepared for most days.
And insteadhis neat gray elderly back seemed to deny ithe had
left with her, the Liberry Teacher, her, dusty, tousled, shopworn
Phyllis Braithwaite, an invitation to consider a Line of Work which was
so mysteriously Different that she had to look up the spotless De
Guenther reputation before she came!
One loses track of time, staring at a red George Washington poster,
and wondering about a future with a sudden Different Line in it.... It
was ten minutes past putting-out-children time! She stared aghast at
the ruthless clock, then created two Monitors for Putting Out at one
royal sweep. She managed the nightly eviction with such gay expedition
that it almost felt like ten minutes ago when the place, except for the
pride-swollen monitors, was cleared. While these officers watched the
commonalty clumping reluctantly upstairs toward the umbrella-rack, the
Liberry Teacher paced sedately around the shelves, giving the books
that routine straightening they must have before seven struck and the
horde rushed in again. It was really her relieving officer's work, but
the Liberry Teacher felt that her mind needed straightening, too, and
this always seemed to do it.
She looked, as she moved slowly down along the shelves, very much
like most of the librarians you see; alert, pleasant, slender, a little
dishevelled, a little worn. But there was really no librarian there.
There was only Phyllis Narcissathat dreaming young Phyllis who had
had to stay pushed out of sight all the seven years that Miss
Braithwaite had been efficiently earning her living.
She let her mind stray happily as far as it would over the
possibilities Mr. De Guenther had held out to her, and woke to discover
herself trying to find a place under Domestic EconomyCondiments for
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. She laughed aloud in the
suddenly empty room, and then lifted her head to find Miss Black, the
night-duty girl that week, standing in the doorway ready to relieve
Oh, Anna, see what I've done! she laughed. Somehow everything
seemed merely light-hearted and laughable since Mr. De Guenther's most
fairy-tale visit, with its wild hints of Lines of Work. Anna Black
came, looked, laughed.
In the 640's! she said. Well, you're liable to do nearly
everything by the time it's Saturday. Last Saturday, Dolly Graham up in
the Circulation was telling me, an old colored mammy said she'd lost
her mittens in the reading-room; and the first they knew Dolly was
hunting through the Woollen Goods classification, and Mary Gayley
pawing the dictionary wildly for m-i-t!
And they found the mittens hung around her neck by the cord,
finished the Liberry Teacher. I knowit was a thrilling story. Well,
good-by till Monday, Anna Black. I'm going home now, to have some
lovely prunes and some real dried beef, and maybe a glass of
almost-milk if I can persuade the landlady I need it.
Mine prefers dried apricots, responded Miss Black cheerfully, but
she never has anything but canned milk in the house, thus sparing us
the embarrassment of asking for real. Good-bygood luck!
But as the Liberry Teacher pinned her serviceable hat close, and
fastened her still good raincoat over her elderly sweater, neither
prunes nor mittens nor next week's work worried her at all. After all,
living among the fairy-stories with the Little People makes that
pleasant land where wanting is having, and all the impossibilities can
come true, very easy of access. Phyllis Braithwaite's mind, as she
picked her way down the bedraggled street, wandered innocently off in a
dream-place full of roses, till the muddy marble steps of her
boarding-place gleamed sloppily before her through the foggy rain.
She sat up late that night, doing improving things to the white net
waist that went with her best suit, which was black. As her needle
nibbled busily down the seams she continued happily to wonder about
that Entirely Different Line. It sounded to her more like a
reportership on a yellow journal than anything else imaginable. Or,
perhaps, could she be wanted to join the Secret Service?
At any rate, she concluded light-heartedly, as she stitched the
last clean ruching into the last wrist-covering, sedate sleeve, at any
rate I'll have a chance to-morrow to wear mother's gold earrings that I
mustn't have on in the library. And oh, how lovely it will be to have a
dinner that wasn't cooked by a poor old bored boarding-house cook or a
shiny tiled syndicate!
And she went to bedto dream of Entirely Different Lines all the
colors of the rainbow, that radiated out from the Circulation Desk like
tight-ropes. She never remembered Eva Atkinson's carefully prettied
face, or her own vivid, work-worn one, at all. She only dreamed that
far at the end of the pink Entirely Different Linea very hard one to
walkthere was a rose-garden exactly like a patchwork quilt, where she
was to be.
When Phyllis woke next morning everything in the world had a
light-hearted, holiday feeling. Her Sundays, gloriously unoccupied,
generally did, but this was extra-special. The rain had managed to
clear away every vestige of last week's slush, and had then itself most
unselfishly retired down the gutters. The sun shone as if May had come,
and the wind, through the Liberry Teacher's window, had a springy,
pussy-willowy, come-for-a-walk-in-the-country feel to it. She found
that she had slept too late to go to church, and prepared for a joyful
dash to the boarding-house bathtub. There might bewho knew but there
actually might beon this day of days, enough hot water for a real
I feel as if everything was going to be lovely all day! she said
without preface to old black Maggie, who was clumping her accustomed
bed-making way along the halls, with her woolly head tied up in her
Sunday silk handkerchief. Even she looked happier, Phyllis thought,
than she had yesterday. She grinned broadly at Phyllis, leaning
smilingly against the door in her kimona.
Ah dunno, Miss Braithways, she said, and entered the room and took
a pillow-case-corner in her mouth. Ah never has dem premeditations!
Phyllis laughed frankly, and Maggie, much flattered at the happy
reception of her reply, grinned so widely that you might almost have
tied her mouth behind her ears.
You sure is a cheerful person, Miss Braithways! said Maggie, and
went on making the bed.
Phyllis fled on down the hall, laughing still. She had just
remembered another of old Maggie's compliments, made on one of the rare
occasions when Phyllis had sat down and sung to the boarding-house
piano. (She hadn't been able to do it long, because the Mental Science
Lady on the next floor had sent down word that it stopped her from
concentrating, and as she had a very expensive room there was nothing
for the landlady to do but make Phyllis stop.) Phyllis had come out in
the hall to find old Maggie listening rapturously.
Oh, Miss Braithways! she had murmured, rolling her eyes, you
certainly does equalize a martingale!
It had been a compliment Phyllis never forgot. She smiled to herself
as she found the bathroom door open. Why, the world was full of a
number of things, many of them funny. Being a Liberry Teacher was
rather nice, after all, when you were fresh from a long night's sleep.
And if that Mental Science Lady wouldn't let her play the piano,
why, her thrilling tales of what she could do when her mind was
unfettered were worth the price. That story she told so seriously about
how the pipes burstand the plumber wouldn't come, and My dear, I
gave those pipes only half an hour's treatment, and they closed right
up! It was quite as much funwell, almost as muchhearing her, as it
would have been to play.
... All of the contented, and otherwise, elderly people who
inhabited the boarding-house with Phyllis appeared to have gone off
without using hot water, for there actually was some. The Liberry
Teacher found that she could have a genuine bath, and have enough water
besides to wash her hair, which is a rite all girls who work have to
reserve for Sundays. This was surely a day of days!
She used the wateralas for selfish human nature!to the last warm
drop and went gayly back to her little room with no emotions whatever
for the poor other boarders, soon to find themselves wrathfully
hot-waterless. And thenshe thoughtlessly curled down on the bed, and
slept and slept and slept! She wakened dimly in time for the one
o'clock dinner, dressed, and ate it in a half-sleep. She went back
upstairs planning a trolley-ride that should take her out into the
country, where a long walk might be had. And midway in changing her
shoes she lay back across the bed andfell asleep again. The truth
was, Phyllis was about as tired as a girl can get.
She waked at dusk, with a jerk of terror lest she should have
overslept her time for going out. But it was only six. She had a whole
hour to prink in, which is a very long time for people who are used to
being in the library half-an-hour after the alarm-clock wakes them.
* * * * *
Some houses, all of themselves, and before you meet a soul who lives
in them, are silently indifferent to you. Some make you feel that you
are not wanted in the least; these usually have a lot of gilt
furniture, and what are called objects of art set stiffly about. Some
seem to be having an untidy good time all to themselves, in which you
are not included.
The De Guenther house, staid and softly toned, did none of these
things. It gave the Liberry Teacher, in her neat, last year's best
suit, a feeling as of gentle welcome-home. She felt contented and
belonging even before quick-smiling, slender little Mrs. De
Guenther came rustling gently in to greet her. Then followed Mr. De
Guenther, pleasant and unperturbed as usual, and after him an
agreeable, back-arching gray cat, who had copied his master's walk as
exactly as it can be done with four feet.
All four sat amiably about the room and held precise and pleasant
converse, something like a cheerful essay written in dialogue, about
many amusing, intelligent things which didn't especially matter. The
Liberry Teacher liked it. It was pleasant beyond words to sit
nestlingly in a pluffy chair, and hear about all the little
lightly-treated scholarly day-before-yesterday things her father had
used to talk of. She carried on her own small part in the talk blithely
enough. She approved of herself and the way she was behaving, which
makes very much for comfort. There was only once that she was ashamed
of herself, and thought about it in bed afterwards and was mortified;
when her eyes filled with quick tears at a quite dry and
unemotionalindeed, rather a sarcasticquotation from Horace on the
part of Mr. De Guenther. But she smiled, when she saw that they noticed
That's the first time I've heard a Latin quotation since I came
away from home, she found herself saying quite simply in explanation,
and Father quoted Horace so much every day thatthat I felt as if an
old friend had walked in!
But her hosts didn't seem to mind. Mr. De Guenther in his careful
evening clothes looked swiftly across at Mrs. De Guenther in her
gray-silk-and-cameo, and they both nodded little satisfied nods, as if
she had spoken in a way that they were glad to hear. And then dinner
was served, a dinner as differentwell, she didn't want to remember in
its presence the dinners it differed from; they might have clouded the
moment. She merely ate it with a shameless inward joy.
It ended, still to a pleasant effortless accompaniment of talk about
books and music and pictures that Phyllis was interested in, and had
found nobody to share her interest with for so longso long! She felt
happily running though everything the general, easy taking-for-granted
of all the old, gentle, inflexible standards of breeding that she had
nearly forgotten, down in the heart of the city among her obstreperous,
affectionate little foreigners.
They had coffee in the long old-fashioned salon parlor, and then Mr.
De Guenther straightened himself, and Mrs. De Guenther folded her
veined, ringed old white hands, and Phyllis prepared thrilledly to
listen. Surely now she would hear about that Different Line of Work.
There was nothing, at first, about work of any sort. They merely
began to tell her alternately about some clients of theirs, a Mrs.
Harrington and her son: rather interesting people, from what Phyllis
could make out. She wondered if she was going to hear that they needed
This lady, my client, Mrs. Harrington, continued her host gravely,
is the one for whom I may ask you to consider doing some work. I say
may, but it is a practical certainty. She is absolutely alone, my dear
Miss Braithwaite, except for her son. I am afraid I must ask you to
listen to a long story about them.
It was coming!
Oh, but I want to hear! said Phyllis, with that quick,
affectionate sympathy of hers that was so winning, leaning forward and
watching them with the lighted look in her blue eyes. It all seemed to
her tired, alert mind like some story she might have read to her
children, an Arabian Nights narrative which might begin, And the
Master of the House, ascribing praise unto Allah, repeated the
There have always been just the two of them, mother and son, said
the Master of the House. And Allan has always been a very great deal
to his mother.
Poor Angela! murmured his wife.
They are old friends of ours, her husband explained. My wife and
Mrs. Harrington were schoolmates.
Well, Allan, the boy, grew up, dowered with everything a mother
could possibly desire for her son, personally and otherwise. He was
handsome and intelligent, with much charm of manner.
I know now what people mean by 'talking like a book,' thought
Phyllis irreverently. And I don't believe any one man could be
There was practically nothing, Mr. De Guenther went on, which the
poor lad had not. That was one trouble, I imagine. If he had not been
highly intelligent he would not have studied so hard; if he had not
been strong and active he might not have taken up athletic sports so
whole-heartedly; and when I add that Allan possessed charm, money and
social status you may see that what he did would have broken down most
young fellows. In short, he kept studies, sports and social affairs all
going at high pressure during his four years of college. But he was
young and strong, and might not have felt so much ill effects from all
that; though his doctors said afterwards that he was nearly at the
breaking point when he graduated.
Phyllis bent closer to the story-teller in her intense interest.
Why, it was like one of her fairy-tales! She held her breath to
listen, while the old lawyer went gravely on.
Allan could not have been more than twenty-two when he graduated,
and it was a very short while afterwards that he became engaged to a
young girl, the daughter of a family friend. Louise Frey was her name,
was it not, love?
Yes, that is right, said his wife, Louise Frey.
A beautiful girl, he went on, dark, with a brilliant color, and
full of life and good spirits. They were both very young, but there was
no good reason why the marriage should be delayed, and it was set for
the following September.
A princess, too, in the story! Butwhere had she gone? The two of
them only, he had said.
It must have been scarcely a month, the story went onMr. De
Guenther was telling it as if he were stating a casenearly a month
before the date set for the wedding, when the lovers went for a long
automobile ride, across a range of mountains near a country-place where
they were both staying. They were alone in the machine.
Allan, of course, was driving, doubtless with a certain degree of
impetuosity, as he did most things.... They were on an unfrequented
part of the road, said Mr. De Guenther, lowering his voice, when
there occurred an unforeseen wreckage in the car's machinery. The car
was thrown over and badly splintered. Both young people were pinned
So far as he knew at the time, Allan was not injured, nor was he in
any pain; but he was held in absolute inability to move by the car
above him. Miss Frey, on the contrary, was badly hurt, and in
suffering. She died in about three hours, a little before relief came
Phyllis clutched the arms of her chair, thrilled and wide-eyed. She
could imagine all the horror of the happening through the old lawyer's
precise and unemotional story. The boy-lover, pinioned, helpless,
condemned to watch his sweetheart dying by inches, and unable to help
her by so much as lifting a handcould anything be more awful not only
to endure, but to remember?
And yet, she thought whimsically, it mightn't be so bad to have
one real tragedy to remember, if you haven't anything else! All
I'll have to remember when I'm old will be bad little children and
good little children, and books and boarding-houses, and the
recollection that people said I was a very worthy young woman once!
But she threw off the thought. It's just as well not to think of old
age when all the idea brings up is a vision of a nice, clean Old
But you said he was an invalid? she said aloud.
Yes, I regret to say, answered Mr. De Guenther. You see, it was
found that the shock to the nerves, acting on an already over-keyed
mind and body, together with some spinal blow concerning which the
doctors are still in doubt, had affected Allan's powers of locomotion.
(Mr. De Guenther certainly did like long words!) He has been unable to
walk since. And, which is sadder, his state of mind and body has become
steadily worse. He can scarcely move at all now, and his mental
attitude can only be described as painfully morbidyes, I may say
very painfully morbid. Sometimes he does not speak at all for days
together, even to his mother, or his attendant.
Oh, poor boy! said Phyllis. How long has he been this way?
Seven years this fall, the answer came consideringly. Is it not,
Yes, said his wife, seven years.
Oh! said the Liberry Teacher, with a quick catch of
sympathy at her heart.
Just as long as she had been working for her living in the big,
dusty library. Supposingoh, supposing she'd had to live all that time
in such suffering as this poor Allan had endured and his mother had had
to witness! She felt suddenly as if the grimy, restless Children's
Room, with its clatter of turbulent little outland voices, were a safe,
sunny paradise in comparison.
Mr. De Guenther did not speak. He visibly braced himself and was
I have told most of the story, Isabel, love, said he at last.
Would you not prefer to tell the rest? It is at your instance that I
have undertaken this commission for Mrs. Harrington, you will
It struck Phyllis that he didn't think it was quite a dignified
commission, at that.
Very well, my dear, said his wife, and took up the tale in her
swift, soft voice.
You can fancy, my dear Miss Braithwaite, how intensely his mother
has felt about it.
Indeed, yes! said Phyllis pitifully.
Her whole life, since the accident, has been one long devotion to
her son. I don't think a half-hour ever passes that she does not see
him. But in spite of this constant care, as my husband has told you, he
grows steadily worse. And poor Angela has finally broken under the
strain. She was never strong. She is dying nowthey give her maybe two
Her one anxiety, of course, is for poor Allan's welfare. You can
imagine how you would feel if you had to leave an entirely helpless son
or brother to the mercies of hired attendants, however faithful. And
they have no relativesthey are the last of the family.
The listening girl began to see. She was going to be asked to act as
nurse, perhaps attendant and guardian, to this morbid invalid with the
injured mind and body.
[Illustration: NO, SAID MRS. DE GUENTHER GRAVELY. YOU WOULD NOT.
YOU WOULD HAVE TO BE HIS WIFE"]
But how would I be any better for him than a regular trained
nurse? she wondered. And they said he had an attendant.
She looked questioningly at the pair.
Where does my part come in? she asked with a certain sweet
directness which was sometimes hers. Wouldn't I be a hireling too
ifif I had anything to do with it?
No, said Mrs. De Guenther gravely. You would not. You would have
to be his wife.
The Liberry Teacher, in her sober best suit, sat down in her
entirely commonplace chair in the quiet old parlor, and looked
unbelievingly at the sedate elderly couple who had made her this wild
proposition. She caught her breath. But catching her breath did not
seem to affect anything that had been said. Mr. De Guenther took up the
explanation again, a little deprecatingly, she thought.
You see now why I requested you to investigate our reputability?
he said. Such a proposition as this, especially to a young lady who
has no parent or guardian, requires a considerable guarantee of good
faith and honesty of motive.
Will you please tell me more about it? she asked quietly. She did
not feel now as if it were anything which had especially to do with
her. It seemed more like an interesting story she was unravelling
sentence by sentence. The long, softly lighted old room, with its
Stuarts and Sullys, and its gracious, gray-haired host and hostess,
seemed only a picturesque part of it.... Her hostess caught up the tale
Angela has been nearly distracted, she said. And the idea has
come to her that if she could find some conscientious woman, a lady,
and a person to whom what she could offer would be a consideration, who
would take charge of poor Allan, that she could die in peace.
But why did you think of asking me? the girl asked breathlessly.
And why does she want me married to him? And how could you or she be
sure that I would not be as much of a hireling as any nurse she may
Mrs. De Guenther answered the last two questions together.
Mrs. Harrington's idea is, and I think rightly, that a
conscientious woman would feel the marriage tie, however nominal, a
bond that would obligate her to a certain duty toward her husband. As
to why we selected you, my dear, my husband and I have had an interest
in you for some years, as you know. We have spoken of you as a girl
whom we should like for a relative
Why, isn't that strange? cried Phyllis, dimpling. That's just
what I've thought about you!
Mrs. De Guenther flushed, with a delicate old shyness.
Thank you, dear child, she said. I was about to add that we have
not seen you at your work all these years without knowing you to have
the kind heart and sense of honor requisite to poor Angela's plan. We
feel sure you could be trusted to take the place. Mr. De Guenther has
asked his friend Mr. Johnston, the head of the library, such things as
we needed to supplement our personal knowledge of you. You have
everything that could be asked, even to a certain cheerfulness of
outlook which poor Angela, naturally, lacks in a measure.
Butbut what about me? asked Phyllis Braithwaite a little
piteously, in answer to all this.
They seemed so certain she was what they wantedwas there anything
in this wild scheme that would make her life better than it was
as the tired, ill-paid, light-hearted keeper of a roomful of turbulent
Unless you are thinking of marriage Phyllis shook her headyou
would have at least a much easier life than you have now. Mrs.
Harrington would settle a liberal income on you, contingent, of course,
of your faithful wardership over Allan. We would be your only judges as
to that. You would have a couple or more months of absolute freedom
every year, control of much of your own time, ample leisure to enjoy
it. You would give only your chances of actual marriage for perhaps
five years, for poor Allan cannot live longer than that at his present
state of retrogression, and some part of every day to seeing that Allan
was not neglected. If you bestow on him half of the interest and effort
I have known of your giving any one of a dozen little immigrant boys,
his mother has nothing to fear for him.
Mr. De Guenther stopped with a grave little bow, and he and his wife
waited for the reply.
The Liberry Teacher sat silent, her eyes on her slim hands, that
were roughened and reddened by constant hurried washings to get off the
dirt of the library books. It was truea good deal of it, anyhow. And
one thing they had not said was true also: her sunniness and accuracy
and strength, her stock-in-trade, were wearing thin under the pressure
of too long hours and too hard work and too few personal interests. Her
youth was worn down. Andmarriage? What chance of love and marriage
had she, a working-girl alone, too poor to see anything of the class of
men she would be willing to marry? She had not for years spent six
hours with a man of her own kind and age. She had not even been
specially in love, that she could remember, since she was grown up. She
did not feel much, now, as if she ever would be. All that she had to
give up in taking this offer was her freedom, such as it wasand those
fluttering perhapses that whisper such pleasant promises when you are
young. But, then, she wouldn't be young so very much longer.
Should sheshe put it to herself crudelyshould she wait long, hard,
closed-in years in the faith that she would learn to be absolutely
contented, or that some man she could love would come to the cheap
boarding-house, or the little church she attended occasionally when she
was not too tired, fall in love with her work-dimmed looks at sight,
andmarry her? It had not happened all these years while her girlhood
had been more attractive and her personality more untired. There was
scarcely a chance in a hundred for her of a kind lover-husband and such
dear picture-book children as she had seen Eva Atkinson convoying.
Wellher mind suddenly came up against the remembrance, as against a
sober fact, that in her passionate wishings of yesterday she had not
wished for a lover-husband, nor for children. She had asked for a
husband who would give her money, and leisure to be rested and pretty,
anda rose-garden! And here, apparently, was her wish uncannily
Well, what are you going to do about it? inquired the Destinies
with their traditional indifference. We can't wait all night!
She lifted her head and cast an almost frightened look at the De
Guenthers, waiting courteously for her decision. In reply to the look,
Mr. De Guenther began giving her details about the money, and the
leisure time, and the business terms of the contract generally. She
listened attentively. All thatfor a little guardianship, a little
kindness, and the giving-up of a little piece of life nobody wanted and
a few little hopes and dreams!
Phyllis laughed, as she always did when there were big black
problems to be solved.
After all, it's fairly usual, she said. I heard last week of a
woman who left money along with her pet dog, very much the same way.
Did you? Did you, dear? asked Mrs. De Guenther, beaming. Then you
think you will do it?
The Liberry Teacher rose, and squared her straight young shoulders
under the worn net waist.
If Mrs. Harrington thinks I'll do for the situation! she said
gallantly,and laughed again.
* * * * *
It feels partly like going into a nunnery and partly like going
into a fairy-story, she said to herself that night as she wound her
alarm. ButI wonder if anybody's remembered to ask the consent of the
He looked like a young Crusader on a tomb. That was Phyllis's first
impression of Allan Harrington. He talked and acted, if a moveless man
can be said to act, like a bored, spoiled small boy. That was her
Mrs. Harrington, fragile, flushed, breathlessly intense in her
wheel-chair, had yet a certain resemblance in voice and gesture to Mrs.
De Guenthera resemblance which puzzled Phyllis till she placed it as
the mark of that far-off ladies' school they had attended together.
There was also a graceful, mincing white wolfhound which, contrary to
the accepted notion of invalids' faithful hounds, didn't seem to care
for his master's darkened sick-room at all, but followed the one sunny
spot in Mrs. Harrington's room with a wistful persistence. It was such
a small spot for such a long wolfhoundthat was the principal thing
which impressed itself on Phyllis's frightened mind throughout her
Mrs. De Guenther convoyed her to the Harrington house for inspection
a couple of days after she had accepted some one's proposal to marry
Allan Harrington. (Whether it counted as her future mother-in-law's
proposal, or her future trustee's, she was never sure. The only sure
thing was that it did not come from the groom.) She had borrowed a
half-day from the future on purpose, though she did not want to go at
all. But the reality was not bad; only a fluttering, emotional little
woman who clung to her hands and talked to her and asked useless
questions with a nervous insistence which would have been nerve-wearing
for a steady thing, but was only pitiful to a stranger.
You see strange people all the time in library work, and learn to
place them, at length, with almost as much accuracy as you do your
books. The fact that Mrs. Harrington was not long for this world did
not prevent Phyllis from classing her, in her mental card-catalogue, as
a very perfect specimen of the Loving Nagger. She was lying back,
wrapped in something gray and soft, when her visitors came, looking as
if the lifting of her hand would be an effort. She was evidently
pitifully weak. But she had, too, an ineradicable vitality she could
summon at need. She sprang almost upright to greet her visitors, a hand
out to each, an eager flood of words on her lips.
And you are Miss Braithwaite, that is going to look after my boy?
she ended. Oh, it is so good of youI am so gladI can go in peace
now. Are you suresure you will know the minute his attendants are the
least bit negligent? I watch and watch them all the time. I tell Allan
to ring for me if anything ever is the least bit wrongI am always
begging him to remember. I go in every night and pray with himdo you
think you could do that? But I always cry so before I'm throughI cry
and crymy poor, helpless boyhe was so strong and bright! And you
are sure you are conscientious
At this point Phyllis stopped the flow of Mrs. Harrington's
conversation firmly, if sweetly.
Yes, indeed, she said cheerfully. But you know, if I'm not, Mr.
De Guenther can stop all my allowance. It wouldn't be to my own
interest not to fulfil my duties faithfully.
Yes, that is true, said Mrs. Harrington. That was a good thought
of mine. My husband always said I was an unusual woman where business
So they went on the principle that she had no honor beyond working
for what she would get out of it! Although she had made the suggestion
herself, Phyllis's cheeks burned, and she was about to answer sharply.
Then somehow the poor, anxious, loving mother's absolute preoccupation
with her son struck her as right after all.
If it were my son, thought Phyllis, I wouldn't worry about any
strange hired girl's feelings either, maybe. I'd just think about
him.... I promise I'll look after Mr. Harrington's welfare as if he
were my own brother! she ended aloud impulsively. Indeed, you may
I amsure you will, panted Mrs. Harrington. You look likea
good girl, andand old enough to be
Not very far from that, said Phyllis serenely.
And you are sure you will know when the attendants are neglectful?
I speak to them all the time, but I never can be sure.... And now you'd
better see poor Allan. This is one of his good days. Just think, dear
Isabel, he spoke to me twice without my speaking to him this morning!
Ohmust I? asked Phyllis, dismayed. Couldn't I wait tilltill
Mrs. Harrington actually laughed a little at her shyness, lighting
up like a girl. Phyllis felt dimly, though she tried not to, that
through it all her mother-in-law-elect was taking pleasure in the
dramatic side of the situation she had engineered.
Oh, my dear, you must see him. He expects you, she answered almost
gayly. The procession of three moved down the long room towards a door,
Phyllis's hand guiding the wheel-chair. She was surprised to find
herself shaking with fright. Just what she expected to find beyond the
door she did not know, but it must have been some horror, for it was
with a heart-bound of wild relief that she finally made out Allan
Harrington, lying white in the darkened place.
A Crusader on a tomb. Yes, he looked like that. In the room's
half-dusk the pallor of his still, clear-featured face and his long,
clear-cut hands was nearly the same as the whiteness of the
couch-draperies. His hair, yellow-brown and waving, flung back from his
forehead like a crest, and his dark brows and lashes made the only note
of darkness about him. To Phyllis's beauty-loving eyes he seemed so
perfect an image that she could have watched him for hours.
Here's Miss Braithwaite, my poor darling, said his mother. The
young lady we have been talking about so long.
The Crusader lifted his eyelids and let them fall again.
Is she? he said listlessly.
Don't you want to talk to her, darling boy? his mother persisted,
half out of breath, but still full of that unrebuffable, loving energy
and insistence which she would probably keep to the last minute of her
No, said the Crusader, still in those empty, listless tones. I'd
rather not talk. I'm tired.
His mother seemed not at all put out.
Of course, darling, she said, kissing him. She sat by him still,
however, and poured out sentence after sentence of question,
insistence, imploration, and pity, eliciting no answer at all. Phyllis
wondered how it would feel to have to lie still and have that done to
you for a term of years. The result of her wonderment was a decision to
forgive her unenthusiastic future bridegroom for what she had at first
been ready to slap him.
Presently Mrs. Harrington's breath flagged, and the three women went
away, back to the room they had been in before. Phyllis sat and let
herself be talked to for a little longer. Then she rose impulsively.
May I go back and see your son again for just a minute? she asked,
and had gone before Mrs. Harrington had finished her permission. She
darted into the dark room before her courage had time to fail, and
stood by the white couch again.
Mr. Harrington, she said clearly, I'm sorry you're tired, but I'm
afraid I am going to have to ask you to listen to me. You know, don't
you, that your mother plans to have me marry you, for a sort of
interested head-nurse? Are you willing to have it happen? Because I
won't do it unless you really prefer it.
The heavy white lids half-lifted again.
I don't mind, said Allan Harrington listlessly. I suppose you are
quiet and trustworthy, or De Guenther wouldn't have sent you. It will
give mother a little peace and it makes no difference to me.
He closed his eyes and the subject at the same time.
Well, then, that's all right, said Phyllis cheerfully, and started
to go. Then, drawn back by a sudden, nervous temper-impulse, she moved
back on him. And let me tell you, she added, half-laughing,
half-impertinently, that if you ever get into my quiet, trustworthy
clutches you may have an awful time! You're a very spoiled invalid.
She whisked out of the room before he could have gone very far with
his reply. But he had not cared to reply, apparently. He lay unmoved
Phyllis discovered, poising breathless on the threshold, that
somehow she had seen his eyes. They had been a little like the
wolfhound's, a sort of wistful gold-brown.
For some reason she found that Allan Harrington's attitude of
absolute detachment made the whole affair seem much easier for her. And
when Mrs. Harrington slipped a solitaire diamond into her hand as she
went, instead of disliking it she enjoyed its feel on her finger, and
the flash of it in the light. She thanked Mrs. Harrington for it with
real gratitude. But it made her feel more than ever engaged to marry
She walked home rather silently with Mrs. De Guenther. Only at the
foot of the De Guenther steps, she made one absent remark.
He must have been delightful, she said, when he was alive!
After a week of the old bustling, dusty hard work, the Liberry
Teacher's visit to the De Guenthers' and the subsequent one at the
Harringtons', and even her sparkling white ring, seemed part of a queer
story she had finished and put back on the shelf. The ring was the most
real thing, because it was something of a worry. She didn't dare leave
it at home, nor did she want to wear it. She finally sewed it in a
chamois bag that she safety-pinned under her shirt-waist. Then she
dismissed it from her mind also. There is very little time in a Liberry
Teacher's life for meditation. Only once in a while would come to her
the vision of the wistful Harrington wolfhound following his inadequate
patch of sunlight, or of the dusky room where Allan Harrington lay
inert and white, and looking like a wonderful carved statue on a tomb.
She began to do a little to her clothes, but not very much, because
she had neither time nor money. Mr. De Guenther had wanted her to take
some money in advance, but she had refused. She did not want it till
she had earned it, and, anyway, it would have made the whole thing so
real, she knew, that she would have backed out.
And it isn't as if I were going to a lover, she defended herself
to Mrs. De Guenther with a little wistful smile. Nobody will know what
I have on, any more than they do now.
Mrs. De Guenther gave a scandalized little cry. Her attitude was
determinedly that it was just an ordinary marriage, as good an excuse
for sentiment and pretty frocks as any other.
My dear child, she replied firmly, you are going to have one
pretty frock and one really good street-suit now, or I will know
why! The rest you may get yourself after the wedding, but you must obey
me in this. Nonsense!you can get a half-day, as you call it,
perfectly well! What's Albert in politics for, if he can't get favors
for his friends!
And, in effect, it proved that Albert was in politics to some
purpose, for orders came up from the Head's office within twenty
minutes after Mrs. De Guenther had used the telephone on her husband,
that Miss Braithwaite was to have a half-day immediatelyas far as she
could make out, in order to transact city affairs! She felt as if the
angels had told her she could have the last fortnight over again, as a
favor, or something of the sort. A half-day out of turn was something
nobody had ever heard of. She was even too surprised to object to the
frock part of the situation. She tried to stand out a little longer,
but it's a very stoical young woman who can refuse to have pretty
clothes bought for her, and the end of it was a seat in a salon which
she had always considered so expensive that you scarcely ought to look
in the window.
Had it better be a black suit? asked Mrs. De Guenther doubtfully,
as the tall lady in floppy charmeuse hovered haughtily about them,
expecting orders. It seems horrible to buy mourning when dear Angela
is not yet passed away, but it would only be showing proper respect;
and I remember my own dear mother planned all our mourning outfits
while she was dying. It was quite a pleasure to her.
Phyllis kept her face straight, and slipped one persuasive hand
through her friend's arm.
I don't believe I could buy mourning, dear, she said.
Andoh, if you knew how long I'd wanted a really blue blue
suit! Only, it would have been too vivid to wear wellI always knew
thatbecause you can only afford one every other year. AndPhyllis
rather diffidently voiced a thought which had been in the back of her
mind for a long timeif I'm going to be much around Mr. Harrington,
don't you think cheerful clothes would be best? Everything in that
house seems sombre enough now.
Perhaps you are right, dear child, said Mrs. De Guenther. I hope
you may be the means of putting a great deal of brightness into poor
Allan's life before he joins his mother.
Oh, don't! cried Phyllis impulsively. Somehow she could not bear
to think of Allan Harrington's dying. He was too beautiful to be dead,
where nobody could see him any more. Besides, Phyllis privately
considered that a long vacation before he joined his mother would be
only the fair thing for poor Allan. Youth sides with youth. Andthe
clear-cut white lines of him rose in her memory and stayed there. She
could almost hear that poor, tired, toneless voice of his, that was yet
so deep and so perfectly accented.... She bought docilely whatever her
guide directed, and woke from a species of gentle daze at the
afternoon's end to find Mrs. De Guenther beaming with the weary rapture
of the successful shopper, and herself the proprietress of a turquoise
velvet walking-suit, a hat to match, a pale blue evening frock, a pale
green between-dress with lovely clinging lines, and a heavenly white
crepe thing with rosy ribbons and filmy shadow-lacesthe negligee of
one's dreams. There were also slippers and shoes and stockings
andthis was really too bad of Mrs. De Guenthera half-dozen set of
lingerie, straight through. Mrs. De Guenther sat and continued to beam
joyously over the array, in Phyllis's little bedroom.
It's my present, dearie, she said calmly. So you needn't worry
about using Angela's money. Gracious, it's been lovely! I
haven't had such a good time since my husband's little grand-niece came
on for a week. There's nothing like dressing a girl, after all.
And Phyllis could only kiss her. But when her guest had gone she
laid all the boxes of finery under her bed, the only place where there
was any room. She would not take any of it out, she determined, till
her summons came. But on second thought, she wore the blue velvet
street-suit on Sunday visits to Mrs. Harrington, which becameshe
never knew just when or howa regular thing. The vivid blue made her
eyes nearly sky-color, and brightened her hair very satisfactorily. She
was taking more time and trouble over her looks nowone has to live up
to a turquoise velvet hat and coat! She found herself, too, becoming
very genuinely fond of the restless, anxiously loving, passionate,
unwise child who dwelt in Mrs. Harrington's frail elderly body and had
almost worn it out. She sat, long hours of every Sunday afternoon,
holding Mrs. Harrington's thin little hot hands, and listening to her
swift, italicised monologues about Allanwhat he must do, what he must
not do, how he must be looked after, how his mother had treated him,
how his wishes must be ascertained and followed.
Though all he wants now is dark and quiet, said his mother
piteously. I don't even go in there now to cry.
She spoke as if it were an established ritual. Had she been using
her son's sick-room, Phyllis wondered, as a regular weeping-place? She
could feel in Mrs. Harrington, even in this mortal sickness, the
tremendous driving influence which is often part of a passionately
active and not very wise personality. That certitude and insistence of
Mrs. Harrington's could hammer you finally into believing or doing
almost anything. Phyllis wondered how much his mother's heartbroken
adoration and pity might have had to do with making her son as
hopeless-minded as he was.
Naturally, the mother-in-law-elect she had acquired in such a
strange way became very fond of Phyllis. But indeed there was something
very gay and sweet and honest-minded about the girl, a something which
gave people the feeling that they were very wise in liking her. Some
people you are fond of against your will. When people cared for Phyllis
it was with a quite irrational feeling that they were doing a sensible
thing. They never gave any of the credit to her very real, though
almost invisible, charm.
She never saw Allan Harrington on any of the Sunday visits. She was
sure the servants thought she did, for she knew that every one in the
great, dark old house knew her as the young lady who was to marry Mr.
Allan. She believed that she was supposed to be an old family friend,
perhaps a distant relative. She did not want to see Allan. But she did
want to be as good to his little, tensely-loving mother as she could,
and reassure her about Allan's future care. And she succeeded.
It was on a Friday about two that the summons came. Phyllis had
thought she expected it, but when the call came to her over the library
telephone she found herself as badly frightened as she had been the
first time she went to the Harrington house. She shivered as she laid
down the dater she was using, and called the other librarian to take
her desk. Fortunately, between one and four the morning and evening
shifts overlapped, and there was some one to take her place.
Mrs. Harrington cannot last out the night, came Mr. De Guenther's
clear, precise voice over the telephone, without preface. I have
arranged with Mr. Johnston. You can go at once. You had better pack a
suit-case, for you possibly may not be able to get back to your
So it was to happen now! Phyllis felt, with her substitute in her
place, her own wraps on, and her feet taking her swiftly towards her
goal, as if she were offering herself to be made a nun, or have a hand
or foot cut off, or paying herself away in some awful, irrevocable
fashion. She packed, mechanically, all the pretty things Mrs. De
Guenther had given her, and nothing else. She found herself at the door
of her room with the locked suit-case in her hand, and not even a
nail-file of the things belonging to her old self in it. She shook
herself together, managed to laugh a little, and returned and put in
such things as she thought she would require for the night. Then she
went. She always remembered that journey as long as she lived; her
hands and feet and tongue going on, buying tickets, giving
directionsand her mind, like a naughty child, catching at everything
as they went, and screaming to be allowed to go back home, back to the
dusty, matter-of-course library and the dreary little boarding-house
They were all waiting for her, in what felt like a hideously quiet
semicircle, in Allan's great dark room. Mrs. Harrington, deadly pale,
and giving an impression of keeping herself alive only by force of that
wonderful fighting vitality of hers, lay almost at length in her
wheel-chair. There was a clergyman in vestments. There were the De
Guenthers; Mr. De Guenther only a little more precise than his
every-day habit was, Mrs. De Guenther crying a little, softly and
As for Allan Harrington, he lay just as she had seen him that other
time, white and moveless, seeming scarcely conscious except by an
effort. Only she noticed a slight contraction, as of pain, between his
Phyllis has come, panted Mrs. Harrington. Now it will beall
right. You must marry him quicklyquickly, do you hear, Phyllis? Oh,
people never willdowhat I want them to
Yesyes, indeed, dear, said Phyllis, taking her hands soothingly.
We're going to attend to it right away. See, everything is ready.
It occurred to her that Mrs. Harrington was not half as correct in
her playing of the part of a dying woman as she would have seen to it
that anyone else was; also, that things did not seem legal without the
wolfhound. Then she was shocked at herself for such irrelevant
thoughts. The thing to do was to keep poor Mrs. Harrington quieted. So
she beckoned the clergyman and the De Guenthers nearer, and herself
sped the marrying of herself to Allan Harrington.
... When you are being married to a Crusader on a tomb, the easiest
way is to kneel down by him. Phyllis registered this fact in her mind
quite blankly, as something which might be of use to remember in
future.... The marrying took an unnecessarily long time, it seemed to
her. It did not seem as if she were being married at all. It all seemed
to concern somebody else. When it came to the putting on of the
wedding-ring, she found herself, very naturally, guiding Allan's
relaxed fingers to hold it in its successive places, and finally slip
it on the wedding-finger. And somehow having to do that checked the
chilly awe she had had before of Allan Harrington. It made her feel
quite simply sorry for him, as if he were one of her poor little boys
in trouble. And when it was all over she bent pitifully before she
thought, and kissed one white, cold cheek. He seemed so tragically
helpless, yet more alive, in some way, since she had touched his hand
to guide it. Then, as her lips brushed his cheek, she recoiled and
colored a little. She had felt that slight roughness which a man's
cheek, however close-shaven, always hasthe man-feel. It made
her realize unreasonably that it was a man she had married, after all,
not a stone image nor a sick childa live man! With the thought, or
rather instinct, came a swift terror of what she had done, and a swift
impulse to rise. She was half-way risen from her knees when a hand on
her shoulder, and the clergyman's voice in her ear, checked her.
Not yet, he murmured almost inaudibly. Stay as you are tilltill
Mrs. Harrington is wheeled from the room.
Phyllis understood. She remained as she was, her body a shield
before Allan Harrington's eyes, her hand just withdrawing from his
shoulder, till she heard the closing of the door, and a sigh as of
relaxed tension from the three people around her. Then she rose. Allan
lay still with closed eyelids. It seemed to her that he had flushed, if
ever so faintly, at the touch of her lips on his cheek. She laid his
hand on the coverlet with her own roughened, ringed one, and followed
the others out, into the room where the dead woman had been taken,
leaving him with his attendant.
The rest of the evening Phyllis went about in a queer-keyed, almost
light-hearted frame of mind. It was only the reaction from the
long-expected terror that was over now, but it felt indecorous. It was
just as well, however. Some one's head had to be kept. The servants
were upset, of course, and there were many arrangements to be made. She
and Mr. De Guenther worked steadily together, telephoning, ordering,
guiding, straightening out all the tangles. There never was a wedding,
she thought, where the bride did so much of the work! She even
remembered to see personally that Allan's dinner was sent up to him.
The servants had doubtless been told to come to her for ordersat any
rate, they did. Phyllis had not had much experience in running a house,
but a good deal in keeping her head. And that, after all, is the main
thing. She had a far-off feeling as if she were hearing some other
young woman giving swift, poised, executive orders. She rather admired
After dinner the De Guenthers went. And Phyllis Braithwaite, the
little Liberry Teacher who had been living in a hall bedroom on much
less money than she needed, found herself alone, sole mistress of the
great Harrington house, a corps of servants, a husband passive enough
to satisfy the most militant suffragette, a check-book, a wistful
wolfhound, and five hundred dollars, cash, for current expenses. The
last weighed on her mind more than all the rest put together.
Why, I don't know how to make Current Expenses out of all that!
she had said to Mr. De Guenther. It looks to me exactly like about ten
months' salary! I'm perfectly certain I shall get up in my sleep and
try to pay my board ahead with it, so I shan't have it all spent before
the ten months are up! There was a blue bead necklace, she went on
meditatively, in the Five-and-Ten, that I always wanted to buy. Only I
never quite felt I could afford it. Oh, just imagine going to the
Five-and-Ten and buying at least five dollars' worth of things you
You have great discretionary powersgreat discretionary powers, my
dear, you will find! Mr. De Guenther had said, as he patted her
shoulder. Phyllis took it as a compliment at the time. Discretionary
powers sounded as if he thought she was a quite intelligent young
person. It did not occur to her till he had gone, and she was alone
with her check-book, that it meant she had a good deal of liberty to do
as she liked.
It seemed to be expected of her to stay. Nobody even suggested a
possibility of her going home again, even to pack her trunk. Mrs. De
Guenther casually volunteered to do that, a little after the
housekeeper had told her where her rooms were. She had been consulting
with the housekeeper for what seemed ages, when she happened to want
some pins for something, and asked for her suit-case.
It's in your rooms, said the housekeeper. Mrs. Harringtonthe
late Mrs. Harrington, I should say
Phyllis stopped listening at this point. Who was the present Mrs.
Harrington? she wondered before she thoughtand then remembered. Why
she was! So there was no Phyllis Braithwaite any more! Of course
not.... Yet she had always liked the name sowell, a last name was a
small thing to give up.... Into her mind fitted an incongruous, silly
story she had heard once at the library, about a girl whose last name
was Rose, and whose parents christened her Wild, because the
combination appealed to them. And then she married a man named Bull....
Meanwhile the housekeeper had been going on.
... She had the bedroom and bath opening from the other side of Mr.
Allan's day-room ready for you, madam. It's been ready several weeks.
Has it? said Phyllis. It was like Mrs. Harrington, that careful
planning of even where she should be put. Is Mr. Harrington in his
For some reason she did not attempt to give herself, she did not
want to see him again just now. Besides, it was nearly eleven and time
a very tired girl was in bed. She wanted a good night's rest, before
she had to get up and be Mrs. Harrington, with Allan and the check-book
and the Current Expenses all tied to her.
Some one had laid everything out for her in the bedroom; the filmy
new nightgown over a chair, the blue satin mules underneath, her plain
toilet-things on a dressing-table, and over another chair the exquisite
ivory crepe negligee with its floating rose ribbons. She took a hasty
baththere was so much hot water that she was quite reconciled for a
moment to being a check-booked and wolf hounded Mrs. Harringtonand
slid straight into bed without even stopping to braid her loosened,
It seemed to her that she was barely asleep when there came an
urgent knocking at her door.
Yes? she said sleepily, looking mechanically for her alarm-clock
as she switched on the light. What is it, please?
It's I, Wallis, Mr. Allan's man, Madame, said a nervous voice.
Mr. Allan's very bad. I've done all the usual things, but nothing
seems to quiet him. He hates doctors so, and they make him so wrought
upplease could you come, ma'am? He says as how all of us are all
deadoh, please, Mrs. Harrington!
There was panic in the man's voice.
All right, said Phyllis sleepily, dropping to the floor as she
spoke with the rapidity that only the alarm-clock-broken know. She
snatched the negligee around her, and thrust her feet hastily into the
blue satin slipperswhy, she was actually using her wedding finery!
And what an easily upset person that man was! But everybody in the
house seemed to have nerves on edge. It was no wonder about Allanhe
wanted his mother, of course, poor boy! She felt, as she ran fleetly
across the long room that separated her sleeping quarters from her
husband's, the same mixture of pity and timidity that she had felt with
him before. Poor boy! Poor, silent, beautiful statue, with his one
friend gone! She opened the door and entered swiftly into his room.
She was not thinking about herself at all, only of how she could
help Allan, but there must have been something about her of the
picture-book angel to the pain-racked man, lying tensely at length in
the room's darkest corner. Her long, dully gold hair, loosening from
its twist, flew out about her, and her face was still flushed with
sleep. There was a something about her that was vividly alight and
alive, perhaps the light in her blue eyes.
From what the man had said Phyllis had thought Allan was delirious,
but she saw at once that he was only in severe pain, and talking more
disconnectedly, perhaps, than the slow-minded Englishman could follow.
He did not look like a statue now. His cheeks were burning with evident
pain, and his yellow-brown eyes, wide-open, and dilated to darkness,
stared straight out. His hands were clenching and unclenching, and his
head moved restlessly from side to side. Every nerve and muscle, she
could see, was taut.
They're all dead, he muttered. Father and Mother and Louiseand
Ionly I'm not dead enough to bury. Oh, God, I wish I was!
That wasn't delirium; it was something more like heart-break.
Phyllis moved closer to him, and dropped one of her sleep-warm hands on
his cold, clenched one.
Oh, poor boy! she said. I'm so sorryso sorry! She closed her
hands tight over both his.
Some of her strong young vitality must have passed between them and
helped him, for almost immediately his tenseness relaxed a little, and
he looked at her.
Youyou're not a nurse, he said. They go aroundlikelike
She had caught his attention! That was a good deal, she felt. She
forgot everything about him, except that he was some one to be
comforted, and her charge. She sat down on the bed by him, still
holding tight to his hands.
No, indeed, she said, bending nearer him, her long loose hair
falling forward about her resolutely-smiling young face. Don't you
remember seeing me? I never was a nurse.
Whatare you? he asked feebly.
I'mwhy, the children call me the Liberry Teacher, she answered.
It occurred to her that it would be better to talk on brightly at
random than to risk speaking of his mother to him, as she must if she
reminded him of their marriage. I spend my days in a basement, making
bad little boys get so interested in the Higher Culture that they'll
forget to shoot crap and smash windows.
One of the things which had aided Phyllis to rise from
desk-assistant to one of the Children's Room librarians was a very
sweet and carrying voicea voice which arrested even a child's
attention, and held his interest. It held Allan now; merely the sound
of it, seemingly.
Go ontalking, he murmured. Phyllis smiled and obeyed.
Sometimes the Higher Culture doesn't work, she said. Yesterday
one of my imps got hold of a volume of Shaw, and in half an hour his
aunt marched in on me and threatened I don't know what to a library
that 'taught chilren to disrespect their lawful guardeens.'
I remember now, said Allan. You are the girl in the blue dress.
The girl mother had me marry. I remember.
Yes, said Phyllis soothingly, and a little apologetically. I
know. But thatoh, please, it needn't make a bit of difference. It was
only so I could see that you were looked after properly, you know. I'll
never be in the way, unless you want me to do something for you.
I don't mind, he said listlessly, as he had before.... Oh,
this dreadful darkness, and mother dead in it somewhere!
Wallis, called Phyllis swiftly, turn up the lights!
The man slipped the close green silk shades from the electric bulbs.
Allan shrank as if he had been hurt.
I can't stand the glare, he cried.
Yes, you can for a moment, she said firmly. It's better than the
ghastly green glow.
It was probably the first time Allan Harrington had been
contradicted since his accident. He said nothing more for a minute, and
Phyllis directed Wallis to bring a sheet of pink tissue paper from her
suit-case, where she remembered it lay in the folds of some new muslin
thing. Under her direction still, he wrapped the globes in it and
secured it with string.
There! she told Allan triumphantly when Wallis was done. See,
there is no glare now; only a pretty rose-colored glow. Better than the
green, isn't it?
Allan looked at her again. You arekind, he said. Mother
saidyou would be kind. Oh, mothermother! He tried uselessly to
lift one arm to cover his convulsed face, and could only turn his head
a little aside.
You can go, Wallis, said Phyllis softly, with her lips only. Be
in the next room. The man stole out and shut the door softly. Phyllis
herself rose and went toward the window, and busied herself in braiding
up her hair. There was almost silence in the room for a few minutes.
Thankyou, said Allan brokenly. Will youcome back, please?
She returned swiftly, and sat by him as she had before.
Would you mindholding my wrists again? he asked. I feel
quieter, somehow, when you donot solost. There was a pathetic
boyishness in his tone that the sad, clear lines of his face would
never prepare you for.
Phyllis took his wrists in her warm, strong hands obediently.
Are you in pain, Allan? she asked. Do you mind if I call you
Allan? It's the easiest way.
He smiled at her a little, faintly. It occurred to her that perhaps
the novelty of her was taking his mind a little from his own feelings.
Nono pain. I haven't had any for a very long time now. Only this
dreadful blackness dragging at my mind, a blackness the light hurts.
Why! said Phyllis to herself, being on known ground
herewhy, it's nervous depression! I believe cheering-up would
help. I know, she said aloud; I've had it.
You? he said. But you seem sohappy!
I suppose I am, said Phyllis shyly. She felt a little afraid of
poor Allan still, now that there was nothing to do for him, and they
were talking together. And he had not answered her question, either;
doubtless he wanted her to say Mr. Allan or even Mr. Harrington! He
replied to her thought in the uncanny way invalids sometimes do.
You said something about what we were to call each other, he
murmured. It would be foolish, of course, not to use first names.
Yours is Alice, isn't it?
Phyllis laughed. Oh, worse than that! she said. I was named out
of a poetrybook, I believePhyllis Narcissa. But I always conceal the
Phyllis. Thank you, he said wearily. ... Phyllis, don't let
go! Talk to me! His eyes were those of a man in torment.
What shall I talk about? she asked soothingly, keeping the two
cold, clutching hands in her warm grasp. Shall I tell you a story? I
know a great many stories by heart, and I will say them for you if you
like. It was part of my work.
Yes, he said. Anything.
Phyllis arranged herself more comfortably on the bed, for it looked
as if she had some time to stay, and began the story she knew best,
because her children liked it best, Kipling's How the Elephant Got His
Trunk. A long, long time ago, O Best Beloved....
Allan listened, and, she thought, at times paid attention to the
words. He almost smiled once or twice, she was nearly sure. She went
straight on to another story when the first was done. Never had she
worked so hard to keep the interest of any restless circle of children
as she worked now, sitting up in the pink light in her crepe wrappings,
with her school-girl braids hanging down over her bosom, and Allan
Harrington's agonized golden-brown eyes fixed on her pitying ones.
You must be tired, he said more connectedly and quietly when she
had ended the second story. Can't you sit up here by me, propped on
the pillows? And you need a quilt or something, too.
This from an invalid who had been given nothing but himself to think
of this seven years back! Phyllis's opinion of Allan went up very much.
She had supposed he would be very selfish. But she made herself a bank
of pillows, and arranged herself by Allan's side so that she could keep
fast to his hands without any strain, something as skaters hold. She
wrapped a down quilt from the foot of the bed around her mummy-fashion
and went on to her third story. Allan's eyes, as she talked on, grew
less intentdrooped. She felt the relaxation of his hands. She went
monotonously on, closing her own eyesjust for a minute, as she
finished her story.
I've overslept the alarm! was Phyllis's first thought next morning
when she woke. It must be Where was she? So tired, so very tired,
she remembered being, and telling some one an interminable story....
She held her sleepy eyes wide open by will-power, and found that a
silent but evidently going clock hung in sight. Six-thirty. Then she
hadn't overslept the alarm. But ... she hadn't set any alarm. And she
had been sleeping propped up in a sitting position, half onwhy, it
was a shoulder. And she was rolled tight in a terra-cotta down quilt.
She sat up with a jerkfortunately a noiseless oneand turned to
look. Then suddenly she remembered all about it, that jumbled, excited,
hard-working yesterday which had held change and death and marriage for
her, and which she had ended by perching on poor Allan Harrington's
bed and sending him to sleep by holding his hands and telling him
children's stories. She must have fallen asleep after he did, and slid
down on his shoulder. A wonder it hadn't disturbed him! She stole
another look at him, as he lay sleeping still, heavily and quietly.
After all, she was married to him, and she had a perfect right to
recite him to sleep if she wanted to. She unrolled herself cautiously,
and slid out like a shadow.
She almost fell over poor Wallis, sleeping too in his clothes
outside the door, on Allan's day couch. He came quickly to his feet, as
if he were used to sudden waking.
Don't disturb Mr. Harrington, said Phyllis as staidly as if she
had been giving men-servants orders in her slipper-feet all her life.
He seems to be sleeping quietly.
Begging your pardon, Mrs. Harrington, but you haven't been giving
him anything, have you? asked Wallis. He hasn't slept without a break
for two hours to my knowledge since I've been here, not without
Not a thing, said Phyllis, smiling with satisfaction. He must
have been sleeping nearly three hours now! I read him to sleep, or what
amounted to it. I got his nerves quiet, I think. Please kill anybody
that tries to wake him, Wallis.
Very good, ma'am, said Wallis gravely. And yourself, ma'am?
I'm going to get some sleep, too, she said. Call me if there's
She meant necessary, but she wanted so much more sleep she never
knew the difference. When she got into her room she found that there
also she was not alone: the wistful wolfhound was curled plaintively
across her bed, which he overlapped. From his nose he seemed to have
been dipping largely into the cup of chocolate somebody had brought to
her, and which she had forgotten to drink when she found it, on her
You aren't a bit high-minded, said Phyllis indignantly. She
was too sleepy to do more than shove him over to the back of the bed.
Allthe beds here are sofull, she complained sleepily; and
crawled inside, and never woke again till nearly afternoon.
There was all the grave business to be done, in the days that
followed, of taking Mrs. Harrington to a quiet place beside her
husband, and drawing together again the strings of the disorganized
household. Phyllis found herself whispering over and over again:
The sweeping up the heart
And putting love away
We shall not need to use again.
Until the Judgment Day.
And with all there was to see after, it was some days before she saw
Allan again, more than to speak to brightly as she crossed their common
sitting-room. He did not ask for her. She looked after his comfort
faithfully, and tried to see to it that his man Wallis was all he
should bea task which was almost hopeless from the fact that Wallis
knew much more about his duties than she did, even with Mrs.
Harrington's painstakingly detailed notes to help her. Also his
attitude to his master was of such untiring patience and worship that
it made Phyllis feel like a rude outsider interfering between man and
However, Wallis was inclined to approve of his new mistress, who was
not fussy, seemed kind, and had given his beloved Mr. Allan nearly
three hours of unbroken sleep. Allan had been a little better ever
since. Wallis had told Phyllis this. But she was inclined to think that
the betterment was caused by the counter-shock of his mother's death,
which had shaken him from his lethargy, and perhaps even given his
nerves a better balance. And she insisted that the pink paper stay on
the electric lights.
After about a week of this, Phyllis suddenly remembered that she had
not been selfish at all yet. Where was her rose-gardenthe garden she
had married the wolfhound and Allan and the check-book for? Where were
all the things she had intended to get? The only item she had bought as
yet ran, on the charge account she had taken over with the rest, 1
doz. checked dish-towels; and Mrs. Clancy, the housekeeper's, pressing
demand was responsible for these.
It's certainly time I was selfish, said Phyllis to the wolfhound,
who followed her round unendingly as if she had patches of sunshine in
her pocket: glorious patches, fit for a life-sized wolfhound. Perhaps
he was grateful because she had ordered him long daily walks. He wagged
his tail now as she spoke, and rubbed himself curvingly against her. He
was a rather affected dog.
So Phyllis made herself out a list in a superlatively neat library
One string of blue beads.
One lot of very fluffy summer frocks with flowers on them.
One banjo and a self-teacher. (And a sound-proof room.)
One set Arabian Nights.
One set of Stevenson, all but his novels.
Ever so many Maxfield Parrish pictures full of Prussian-blue
A house to put them in, with fireplaces.
A lady's size motor-car that likes me.
A plain cat with a tame disposition.
A sun-dial. (But that might be thrown in with the garden.)
A gold watch-bracelet.
All the colored satin slippers I want.
A room big enough to put all father's books up.
It looked shamelessly long, but Phyllis's discretionary powers
would cover it, she knew. Mrs. Harrington's final will, while full of
advice, had been recklessly trusting.
She could order everything in one afternoon, she was sure, all but
the house, the garden, the motor, which she put checks against, and the
plain cat, which she thought she could pick up in the village where her
house would be.
Next she went to see Allan. She didn't want to bother him, but she
did feel that she ought to share her plans with him as far as possible.
Besides, it occurred to her that she could scarcely remember what he
was like to speak to, and really owed it to herself to go. She fluffed
out her hair loosely, put on her pale-green gown that had clinging
lines, and pulled some daffodils through her sash. She had resolved to
avoid anything sombre where Allan was concernedand the green gown was
very becoming. Then, armed with her list and a pencil, she crossed
boldly to the couch where her Crusader lay in the old attitude,
moveless and with half-closed eyes.
Allan, she asked, standing above him, do you think you could
stand being talked to for a little while?
Whyyes, said Allan, opening his eyes a little more. Wallis,
getMrs. Harringtona chair.
He said the name haltingly, and Phyllis wondered if he disliked her
having it. She dropped down beside him, like a smiling touch of spring
in the dark room.
Do you mind their calling me that? she asked. If there's anything
else they could use
Mother made you a present of the name, he said, smiling faintly.
No reason why I should mind.
All right, said Phyllis cheerfully. After all, there was nothing
else to call her, speaking of her. The servants, she knew, generally
said the young madam, as if her mother-in-law were still alive.
I want to talk to you about things, she began; and had to stop to
deal with the wolfhound, who was trying to put both paws on her
shoulders. Oh, Ivan, get down, honey! I wish somebody
would take a day off some time to explain to you that you're not a
lap-dog! Do you like wolfhounds specially better than any other kind of
Not particularly, said Allan, patting the dog languidly as he put
his head in a convenient place for the purpose. Mother bought him, she
said, because he would look so picturesque in my sick-room. She wanted
him to lie at my feet or something. But he never saw it that
wayneither did I. Hates sick-rooms. Don't blame him.
This was the longest speech Allan had made yet, and Phyllis learned
several things from it that she had only guessed before. One was that
the atmosphere of embodied grief and regret in the house had been Mrs.
Harrington's, not Allan'sthat he was more young and natural than she
had thought, better material for cheering; that his mother's devotion
had been something of a pressure on him at times; and that he himself
was not interested in efforts to stage his illness correctly.
What he really had said when the dog was introduced, she learned
later from the attached Wallis, was that he might be a cripple, but he
wasn't going to be part of any confounded tableau. Whereupon his mother
had cried for an hour, kissing and pitying him in between, and his
night had been worse than usual. But the hound had stayed outside.
Phyllis made an instant addition to her list. One bull-pup,
convenient size, for Allan. The plain cat could wait. She had heard of
publicity campaigns; she had made up her mind, and a rather firm young
mind it was, that she was going to conduct a cheerfulness campaign in
behalf of this listless, beautiful, darkness-locked Allan of hers.
Unknowingly, she was beginning to regard him as much her property as
the check-book, and rather more so than the wolfhound. She moved back a
little, and reconciled herself to the dog, who had draped as much of
his body as would go, over her, and was batting his tail against her
Poor old puppy, she said. I want to talk over some plans with
you, Allan, she began again determinedly. She was astonished to see
Don't! he said, for heaven's sake! You'll drive me crazy!
Phyllis drew back a little indignantly, but behind the couch she saw
Wallis making some sort of face that was evidently intended for a
warning. Then he slipped out of the room, as if he wished her to follow
soon and be explained to. Plans must be a forbidden subject. Anyhow,
crossness was a better symptom than apathy!
Very well, she said brightly, smiling her old, useful,
cheering-a-bad-child library smile at him. It was mostly about things
I wanted to buy for myself, any waysatin slippers and such. I don't
suppose they would interest a man much.
Oh, that sort of thing, said Allan relievedly. I thought you
meant things that had to do with me. If you have plans about me, go
ahead, for you know I can't do anything to stop youbut for heaven's
sake, don't discuss it with me first!
He spoke carelessly, but the pity of it struck to Phyllis's heart.
It was true, he couldn't stop her. His foolish, adoring little
desperate mother, in her anxiety to have her boy taken good care of,
had exposed him to a cruel risk. Phyllis knew herself to be
trustworthy. She knew that she could no more put her own pleasures
before her charge's welfare than she could steal his watch. Her
conscience was New-England rock. But, oh! suppose Mr. De Guenther had
chosen some girl who didn't care, who would have taken the money and
not have done the work! She shivered at the thought of what Allan had
escaped, and caught his hand impulsively, as she had on that other
night of terror.
Oh, Allan Harrington, I wouldn't do anything I oughtn't to!
I know it's dreadful, having a strange girl wished on you this way, but
truly I mean to be as good as I can, and never in the way or anything!
Indeed, you may trust me! Youyou don't mind having me round, do you?
Allan's cold hand closed kindly on hers. He spoke for the first time
as a well man speaks, quietly, connectedly, and with a little
The fact that I am married to you does not weigh on me at all, my
dear child, he said. I shall be dead, you know, this time five years,
and what difference does it make whether I'm married or not? I don't
mind you at all. You seem a very kind and pleasant person. I am sure I
can trust you. Now are you reassured?
Oh, yes, said Phyllis radiantly, and you can trust
me, and I won't fuss. All you have to do if I bore you is to
look bored. You can, you know. You don't know how well you do it! And
I'll stop. I'm going to ask Wallis how much of my society you'd better
have, if any.
Why, I don't think a good deal of it would hurt me, he said
indifferently. But he smiled in a quite friendly fashion.
All right, said Phyllis again brightly. But she fell silent then.
There were two kinds of Allan, she reflected. This kind of Allan, who
was very much more grown-up and wise than she was, and of whom she
still stood a little in awe; and the little-boy Allan who had clung to
her in nervous dread of the dark the other nightwhom she had sent to
sleep with children's stories. She wondered which was real, which he
had been when he was well.
I must go now and have something out with Mrs. Clancy, she said,
smiling and rising. She's perfectly certain carpets have to come up
when you put down mattings, and I'm perfectly certain they don't.
She tucked the despised list, to which she had furtively added her
bull-pup, into her sleeve, took her hand from his and went away. It
seemed to Allan that the room was a little darker.
Outside the sitting-room door stood Wallis, who had been lying in
I wanted to explain, madam, about the plans, he said. It worries
Mr. Allan. You see, madam, the late Mrs. Harrington was a great one for
plans. She had, if I may say so, a new one every day, and she'd argue
you deaf, dumb, and blindnot to speak ill of the deadtill you were
fair beat out fighting it. Then you'd settle down to itand next day
there be another one, with Mrs. Harrington rooting for it just as hard,
and you, with your mouth fixed for the other plan, so to speak, would
have to give in to that. The plan she happened to have last always went
through, because she fought for that as hard as she had for the others,
and you were so bothered by then you didn't care what.
Wallis's carefully impersonal servant-English had slipped from him,
and he was talking to Phyllis as man to man, but she was very glad of
it. These were the sort of facts she had to elicit.
When Mr. Allan was well, he went on, he used to just laugh and
say, 'All right, mother darling,' and pet her and do his own wayhe
was always laughing and carrying on then, Mr. Allanbut after he was
hurt, of course, he couldn't get away, and the old madam, she'd sit by
his couch by the hour, and he nearly wild, making plans for him. She'd
spend weeks planning details of things over and over, never getting
tired. And then off again to the next thing! It was all because she was
so fond of him, you see. But if you'll pardon my saying so,
madamWallis was resuming his man-servant mannersit was not always
good for Mr. Allan.
I think I understand, said Phyllis thoughtfully, as she and the
wolfhound went to interview Mrs. Clancy. So that was why! She had
imagined something of the sort. And sheshe herselfwas doubtless the
outcome of one of Mrs. Harrington's long-detailed plans, insisted on to
Allan till he had acquiesced for quiet's sake! ... But he said now he
didn't mind. She was somehow sure he wouldn't have said it if it had
not been true. Then Wallis's other words came to her, He was always
laughing then, and suddenly there surged up in Phyllis a passionate
resolve to give Allan back at least a little of his lightness of heart.
He might be going to diethough she didn't believe itbut at least
she could make things less monotonous and dark for him; and she
wouldn't offer him plans! And if he objected when the plans rose up and
hit him, why, the shock might do him good. She thought she was fairly
sure of an ally in Wallis.
She cut her interview with Mrs. Clancy short. Allan, lying
motionless, caught a green flash of her, crossing into her room to
dress, another blue flash as she went out; dropped his eyelids and
crossed his hands to doze a little, an innocent and unwary Crusader. He
did not know it, but a Plan was about to rise up and hit him. The bride
his mother had left him as a parting legacy had gone out to order a
string of blue beads, a bull-pup, a house, a motor, a banjo, and a
rose-garden; as she went she added a talking machine to the list; and
he was to be planted in the very centre of everything.
Seems like a nice girl, Wallis, said Allan dreamily. And the
discreet Wallis said nothing (though he knew a good deal) about his
Yes, Mr. Allan, he conceded.
* * * * *
It was Phyllis Harrington's firm belief that Mr. De Guenther could
produce anything anybody wanted at any time, or that if he couldn't his
wife could. So it was to him that she went on her quest for the
rose-garden, with its incidental house. The rest of the items she
thought she could get for herself. It was nearly the last of April, and
she wanted a well-heated elderly mansion, preferably Colonial, not too
unwieldily large, with as many rose-trees around it as her
discretionary powers would stand. And she wanted it as near and as soon
as possible. By the help of Mr. De Guenther, amused but efficient, Mrs.
De Guenther, efficient but sentimental; and an agent who was efficient
merely, she got very nearly what she wanted. Money could do a great
deal more than a country minister's daughter had ever had any way of
imagining. By its aid she found it possible to have furniture bought
and placed inside a fortnight, even to a list of books set up in
sliding sectional cases. She had hoped to buy those cases some day, one
at a time, and getting them at one fell swoop seemed to her more
arrogantly opulent than the purchase of the house and groundsthan
even the big shiny victrola. She had bought that herself, before there
was a house to put it in, going on the principle that all men not
professional musicians have a concealed passion for music that they can
create themselves by merely winding up something. Andto
anticipateshe found that as far as Allan was concerned she was quite
But why do you take this very radical step, my dear? asked Mrs. De
Guenther gently, as she helped Phyllis choose furniture.
I am going to try the only thing Allan's mother seems to have
omitted, said Phyllis dauntlessly. A complete change of
Oh, my dear! breathed Mrs. De Guenther. It may help poor Allan
more than we know! And dear Angela did discuss moving often, but she
could never bear to leave the city house, where so many of her dear
ones have passed away.
Well, none of my dear ones are going to pass away there,
said Phyllis irreverently, unless Mrs. Clancy wants to. I'm not even
taking any servants but Wallis. The country-house doesn't need any more
than a cook, a chambermaid, and outdoor man. Mrs. Clancy is getting
them. I told her I didn't care what age or color she chose, but they
had to be cheerful. She will stay in the city and keep the others
straight, in something she calls board-wages. I'm starting absolutely
They were back at Mrs. De Guenther's house by the time Phyllis was
done telling her plans, Phyllis sitting in the identical pluffy chair
where she had made her decision to marry Allan. Mrs. De Guenther sprang
from her own chair, and came over and impulsively kissed her.
God bless you, dear! she said. I believe it was Heaven that
inspired Albert and myself to choose you to carry on poor Angela's
Phyllis flushed indignantly.
I'm undoing a little of it, I hope, she said passionately. If I
can only make that poor boy forget some of those dreadful years she
spent crying over him, I shan't have lived in vain!
Mrs. De Guenther looked at Phyllis earnestlyand, most
unexpectedly, burst into a little tinkling laugh.
My dear, she said mischievously, what about all the fine things
you were going to do for yourself to make up for being tied to poor
Allan? You should really stop being unselfish, and enjoy yourself a
Phyllis felt herself flushing crimson. Elderly people did seem to be
I've bought myself lots of things, she defended herself. Most of
this is really for me. AndI can't help being good to him. It's only
common humanity. I was never so sorry for anybody in my lifeyou'd be,
too, if it were Mr. De Guenther!
She thought her explanation was complete. But she must have said
something that she did not realize, for Mrs. De Guenther only laughed
her little tinkling laugh again, andas is the fashion of elderly
I would, indeed, my dear, said she.
Allan Harrington lay in his old attitude on his couch in the
darkened day-room, his tired, clear-cut face a little thrown back, eyes
half-closed. He was not thinking of anything or any one especially;
merely wrapped in a web of the dragging, empty, gray half-thoughts of
weariness in general that had hung about him so many years. Wallis was
not there. Wallis had been with him much less lately, and he had
scarcely seen Phyllis for a fortnight; or, for the matter of that, the
dog, or any one at all. Something was going on, he supposed, but he
scarcely troubled himself to wonder what. The girl was doubtless making
herself boudoirs or something of the sort in a new part of the house.
He closed his eyes entirely, there in the dusky room, and let the web
of dreary, gray, formless thought wrap him again.
Phyllis's gay, sweetly carrying voice rang from outside the door:
The three-thirty, then, Wallis, and I feel as if I were going to
steal Charlie Ross! Well
On the last word she broke off and pushed the sitting-room door
softly open and slid in. She walked in a pussy-cat fashion which would
have suggested to any one watching her a dark burden on her conscience.
She crossed straight to the couch, looked around for the chair that
should have been by it but wasn't, and sat absently down on the floor.
She liked floors.
Allan! she said.
Still none. Allan was half-asleep, or what did instead, in one of
his abstracted moods.
This time she reached up and pulled at his heavy silk sleeve as she
Yes, said Allan courteously, as if from an infinite distance.
Would you mind, asked Phyllis guilelessly, if Walliswemoved
youa little? I can tell you all about everything, unless you'd rather
not have the full details of the plan
Anything, said Allan wearily from the depths of his gray cloud;
only don't bother me about it!
Phyllis jumped to her feet, a whirl of gay blue skirts and
cheerfully tossing blue feathers. Good-by, dear Crusader! she said
with a catch in her voice that might have been either a laugh or a sob.
The next time you see me you'll probably hate me! Wallis!
Wallis appeared like the Slave of the Lamp. It's all right,
Wallis, she said, and ran. Wallis proceeded thereupon to wheel his
master's couch into the bedroom.
If you're going to be moved, you'd better be dressed a little
heavier, sir, he said with the same amiable guilelessness, if the
victim had but noticed it, which Phyllis had used from her seat on the
floor not long before.
Very well, said Allan resignedly from his cloud. And Wallis
proceeded to suit the action to the word.
Allan let him go on in unnoticing silence till it came to that
totally unfamiliar thing these seven years, a stand-up collar. A
shiningly new linen collar of the newest cut, a beautiful golden-brown
knit tie, a gray suit
What on earth? inquired Allan, awakening from his lethargy. I
don't need a collar and tie to keep me from getting cold on a journey
across the house. And where did you get those clothes? They look new.
Wallis laid his now fully dressed master back to a reclining
positionhe had been propped upand tucked a handkerchief into the
appropriate pocket as he replied, Grant &Moxley's, sir, where you
always deal. And he wheeled the couch back to the day-room, over to
its very door.
It did not occur to Allan, as he was being carried downstairs by
Wallis and Arthur, another of the servants, that anything more than a
change of rooms was intended; nor, as he was carried out at its door to
a long closed carriage, that it was anything worse than his new
keeper's mistaken idea that drives would be good for him. He was a
little irritable at the length and shutupness of the drive, though, as
his cot had been swung deftly from the ceiling of the carriage, he was
not jarred. But when Wallis and Arthur carried the light pallet on
which he lay swiftly up a plank walk laid to the door of a private
carwhy then it began to occur to Allan Harrington that something was
happening. Andwhich rather surprised himselfhe did not lift a
supercilious eyebrow and say in a soft, apathetic voice, Very we-ell!
Instead, he turned his head towards the devoted Wallis, who had helped
two conductors swing the cot from the ceiling, and was now waiting for
the storm to break. And what he said to Wallis was this:
What the deuce does this tomfoolery mean? As he spoke he felt the
accumulated capacity for temper of the last seven years surging up
toward Wallis, and Arthur, and Phyllis, and the carriage-horses, and
everything else, down to the two conductors. Wallis seemed rather
relieved than otherwise. Waiting for a storm to break is rather
Well, sir, Mrs. Harrington, she thought, sir, thatthat a little
move would do you good. And you didn't want to be bothered, sir
Bothered! shouted Allan, not at all like a bored and dying
invalid. I should think I did, when a change in my whole way of life
is made! Who gave you, or Mrs. Harrington, permission for this
outrageous performance! It's sheer, brutal, insulting idiocy!
Nobody, siryes, sir, replied Wallis meekly. Would you care for
a drink, siror anything?
No! thundered Allan.
Or a fan? ventured Wallis, approaching near with that article and
laying it on the coverlid. Allan's hand snatched the fan angrilyand
before he thought he had hurled it at Wallis! Weakly, it is true, for
it lighted ingloriously about five feet away; but he had thrown
it, with a movement that must have put to use the muscles of the
long-disused upper arm. Wallis sat suddenly down and caught his breath.
Mr. Allan! he said. Do you know what you did then? You threw, and you haven't been able to use more than your forearm before! Oh,
Mr. Allan, you're getting better!
Allan himself lay in astonishment at his feat, and forgot to be
angry for a moment. I certainly did! he said.
And the way you lost your temper! went on Wallis enthusiastically.
Oh, Mr. Allan, it was beautiful! You haven't been more than to say
snarly since the accident! It was so like the way you used to throw
But at the mention of his lost temper Allan remembered to lose it
still further. His old capacity for storming, a healthy lad's healthy
young hot-temperedness, had been weakened by long disuse, but he did
fairly well. Secretly it was a pleasure to him to find that he was
alive enough to care what happened, enough for anger. He demanded
presently where he was going.
Not more than two hours' ride, sir, I heard Mr. De Guenther
mention, answered Wallis at once. A little place called
Wallravenquite country, sir, I believe.
So the De Guenthers are in it, too! said Allan. What the dickens
has this girl done to them, to hypnotize them so?
But I've heard say it's a very pretty place, sir, was all Wallis
vouchsafed to this. The De Guenthers were not the only people Phyllis
He gave Allan other details as they went on, however. His clothes
and personal belongings were coming on immediately. There were two
suit-cases, perhaps he had noticed, in the car with them. The young
madam was planning to stay all the summer, he believed. Mrs. Clancy had
been left behind to look after the other servants, and he understood
that she had seen to the engagement of a fresh staff of servants for
the country. And Allan, still awakened by his fit of temper, and fresh
from the monotony of his seven years' seclusion, found all the things
Wallis could tell him very interesting.
* * * * *
Phyllis's rose-garden house had, among other virtues, the charm of
being near the little station: a new little mission station which had
apparently been called Wallraven by some poetic young real-estate
agency, for the surrounding countryside looked countrified enough to be
a Gray's Corners, or Smith's Crossing, or some other such placid old
country name. There were more trees to be seen in Allan's quick passage
from the train to the long old carryall (whose seats had been removed
to make room for his cot) than he had remembered existed. There were
sleepy birds to be heard, too, talking about how near sunset and their
bedtime had come, and a little brook splashed somewhere out of sight.
Altogether spring was to be seen and heard and felt, winningly
insistent. Allan forgave Wallis, not to speak of Phyllis and the
conductors, to a certain degree. He ordered the flapping black oilcloth
curtain in front rolled up so he could see out, and secretly enjoyed
the drive, unforeseen though it had been. His spine never said a word.
Perhaps it, too, enjoyed having a change from a couch in a dark city
They saw no one in their passage through the long, low old house.
Phyllis evidently had learned that Allan didn't like his carryings
about done before people.
Wallis seemed to be acting under a series of detailed orders. He and
Arthur carried their master to a long, well-lighted room at the end of
the house, and deftly transferred him to a couch much more convenient,
being newer, than the old one. On this he was wheeled to his adjoining
bedroom, and when Wallis had made him comfortable there, he left him
mysteriously for a while. It was growing dark by now, and the lights
were on. They were rose-shaded, Allan noticed, as the others had been
at home. Allan watched the details of his room with that vivid interest
in little changes which only invalids can know. There was an
old-fashioned landscape story paper on the walls, with very little
repeat. Over it, but not where they interfered with tracing out the
adventures of the paper people, were a good many pictures, quite
incongruous, for they were of the Remington type men like, but pleasant
to see nevertheless. The furniture was chintz-covered and gay. There
was not one thing in the room to remind a man that he was an invalid.
It occurred to Allan that Phyllis must have put a good deal of
deliberate work on the place. He lay contentedly, watching the grate
fire, and trying to trace out the story of the paper, for at least a
half-hour. He found himself, at length, much to his own surprise,
thinking with a certain longing of his dinner-tray. He was thinking of
it more and more interestedly by the time Wallistraylesscame back.
Mr. and Mrs. De Guenther and the young madam are waiting for you in
the living-room, he announced. They would be glad if you would have
supper with them.
Very well, said Allan amiably, still much to his own surprise. The
truth was, he was still enough awake and interested to want to go on
having things happen.
The room Wallis wheeled him back into was a long, low one,
wainscoted and bare-floored. It was furnished with the best imitation
Chippendale to be obtained in a hurry, but over and above there were
cushioned chairs and couches enough for solid comfort. There were more
cheerful pictures, the Maxfield Parrishes Phyllis had wanted, over the
green-papered walls. There was a fire here also. The room had no more
period than a girl's sentence, but there was a bright air of
welcomeness and informality that was winning. An old-fashioned
half-table against the wall was covered with a great many picknicky
things to eat. Another table had more things, mostly to eat with, on
it. And there were the De Guenthers and Phyllis. On the whole it felt
very like a welcome-home.
Phyllis, in a satiny rose-colored gown he had never seen before,
came over to his couch to meet him. She looked very apprehensive and
young and wistful for the rôle of Bold Bad Hypnotist. She bent towards
him with her hand out, seemed about to speak, then backed, flushed, and
acted as if something had frightened her badly.
Is she as afraid of me as all that? thought Allan. Wallis must
have given her a lurid account of how he had behaved. His quick impulse
was to reassure her.
Well, Phyllis, my dear, you certainly didn't bother me with plans
this time! he said, smiling. This is a bully surprise!
II'm glad you like it, said his wife shyly, still backing away.
Of course he'd like it, said Mrs. De Guenther's kind staccato
voice behind him. Kiss your husband, and tell him he's welcome home,
Now, Phyllis was tired with much hurried work, and overstrung. And
Allan, lying there smiling boyishly up at her, Allan seen for the first
time in these usual-looking gray man-clothes, was like neither the
marble Crusader she had feared nor the heartbroken little boy she had
pitied. He was suddenly her contemporary, a very handsome and
attractive young fellow, a little her senior. From all appearances, he
might have been well and normal, and come home to her only a little
tired, perhaps, by the day's work or sport, as he lay smiling at her in
that friendly, intimate way! It was terrifyingly different. Everything
felt different. All her little pieces of feeling for him, pity and awe
and friendliness and love of service, seemed to spring suddenly
together and make something elsesomething unplaced and disturbing.
Her cheeks burned with a childish embarrassment as she stood there
before him in her ruffled pink gown. What should she do?
It was just then that Mrs. De Guenther's crisply spoken advice came.
Phyllis was one of those people whose first unconscious instinct is to
obey an unspoken order. She bent blindly to Allan's lips, and kissed
him with a child's obedience, then straightened up, aghast. He would
think her very bold!
But he did not, for some reason. It may have seemed only comforting
and natural to him, that swift childish kiss, and Phyllis's
honey-colored, violet-scented hair brushing his face. Men take a great
deal without question as their rightful due.
The others closed around him then, welcoming him, laughing at the
surprise and the way he had taken it, telling him all about it as if
everything were as usual and pleasant as possible, and the present
state of things had always been a pleasant commonplace. And Wallis
began to serve the picnic supper.
There were trays and little tables, and the food itself would have
betrayed a southern darky in the kitchen if nothing else had. It was
the first meal Allan had eaten with any one for years, and he found it
so interesting as to be almost exciting. Wallis took the plates
invisibly away when they were done, and they continued to stay in their
half-circle about the fire and talk it all over. Phyllis, tired to
death still, had slid to her favorite floor-seat, curled on cushions
and leaning against the couch-side. Allan could have touched her hair
with his hand. She thought of this, curled there, but she was too tired
to move. It was exciting to be near him, somehow, tired as she was.
Most of the short evening was spent celebrating the fact that Allan
had thrown something at Wallis, who was recalled to tell the story
three times in detail. Then there was the house to discuss, its good
and bad points, its nearnesses and farnesses.
Let me tell you, Allan, said Mrs. De Guenther warmly at this
point, from her seat at the foot of the couch, this wife of yours is a
wonder. Not many girls could have had a house in this condition two
weeks after it was bought.
Allan looked down at the heap of shining hair below him, all he
could see of Phyllis.
Yes, he said consideringly. She certainly is.
At a certain slowness in his tone, Phyllis sprang up. You must be
tired to death! she said. It must be nearly ten. Do you feel
Before he could say anything, Mrs. De Guenther had also risen, and
was sweeping away her husband.
Of course he is, she said decisively. What have we all been
thinking of? And we must go to bed, too, Albert, if you insist on
taking that early train in the morning, and I insist on going with you.
Wallis had appeared by this time, and was wheeling Allan from the
room before he had a chance to say much of anything but good-night. The
De Guenthers talked a little longer to Phyllis, and were gone also.
Phyllis flung herself full-length on the rugs and pillows before the
fire, too tired to move further.
Well, she had everything that she had wished for on that wet
February day in the library. Money, leisure to be pretty, a husband
whom she didn't have to associate with much, rest, if she ever gave
herself leave to take it, and the rose-garden. She had her wishes, as
uncannily fulfilled as if she had been ordering her fate from a
department store, and had money to pay for it.... And back there in the
city it was somebody's late night, and that somebodyit would be Anna
Black's turn, wouldn't it?was struggling with John Zanowskis and
Sadie Rabinowitzes by the lapful, just as she had. And yetand yet
they had really cared for her, those dirty, dear little foreigners of
hers. But she'd had to work for their liking.... Perhapsperhaps she
could make Allan Harrington like her as much as the children did. He
had been so kind to-night about the move and all, and so much brighter,
her handsome Allan in his gray, every-day-looking man-clothes! If she
could stay brave enough and kind enough and bright enough ... her
eyelids drooped.... Wallis was standing respectfully over her.
Mrs. Harrington, he was saying, with a really masterly ignoring of
her attitude on the rug, Mr. Harrington says you haven't bid him
An amazing message! Had she been in the habit of it, that he
demanded it like a small boy? But she sprang up and followed Wallis
into Allan's room. He was lying back in his white silk sleeping things
among the white bed-draperies, looking as he always had before. Only,
he seemed too alive and awake still for his old rôle of
Phyllis, he began eagerly, as she sat down beside him, what made
you so frightened when I first came? Wallis hadn't worried you, had
Oh, no; it wasn't that at all, said Phyllis. And thank you for
being so generous about it all.
I wasn't generous, said her husband. I behaved like everything to
old Wallis about it. Well, what was it, then?
IIonlyyou looked so different inclothes, pleaded
Phyllis, like any man my age or olderas if you might get up and go
to business, or play tennis, or anything, andand I was afraid
of you! That's all, truly!
She was sitting on the bed's edge, her eyes down, her hands
quivering in her lap, the picture of a school-girl who isn't quite sure
whether she's been good or not.
Why, that sounds truthful! said Allan, and laughed. It was the
first time she had heard him, and she gave a start. Such a clear,
cheerful, young laugh! Maybe he would laugh more, by and by, if
she worked hard to make him.
Good-night, Allan, she said.
Aren't you going to kiss me good-night? demanded this new Allan,
precisely as if she had been doing it ever since she met him. Evidently
that kiss three hours ago had created a precedent. Phyllis colored to
her ears. She seemed to herself to be always coloring now. But she
mustn't cross Allan, tired as he must be!
Good-night, Allan, she said again sedately, and kissed his cheek
as she had done a month agoyears ago!when they had been married.
Then she fled.
Wallis, said his master dreamily when his man appeared again, I
want some more real clothes. Tired of sleeping-suits. Get me some,
As for Phyllis, in her little green-and-white room above him, she
was crying comfortably into her pillow. She had not the faintest idea
why, except that she liked doing it. She felt, through her sleepiness,
a faint, hungry, pleasant want of something, though she hadn't an idea
what it could be. She had everything, except that it wasn't time for
the roses to be out yet. Probably that was the trouble.... Roses....
She, too, went to sleep.
* * * * *
How did Mr. Allan pass the night? Phyllis asked Wallis anxiously,
standing outside his door next morning. She had been up since seven,
speeding the parting guests and interviewing the cook and chambermaid.
Mrs. Clancy's choice had been cheerful to a degree, and black, all of
it; a fat Virginia cook, a slim young Tuskegee chambermaid of a pale
saddle-color, and a shiny brown outdoor man who came from nowhere in
particular, but was very useful now he was here. Phyllis had seen them
all this morning, and found them everything servants should be. Now she
was looking after Allan, as her duty was.
Wallis beamed from against the door-post, his tray in his hands.
Mrs. Harrington, it's one of the best sleeps Mr. Allan's had! Four
hours straight, and then sleeping still, if broken, till six! And still
taking interest in things. Oh, ma'am, you should have heard him
yesterday on the train, as furious as furious! It was beautiful!
Then his spine wasn't jarred, said Phyllis thoughtfully. Wallis,
I believe there was more nervous shock and nervous depression than ever
the doctors realized. And I believe all he needs is to be kept happy,
to be much, much better. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he got so he could
move freely from the waist up? I believe that may happen if we can keep
him cheered and interested.
Wallis looked down at his tray. Yes, ma'am, he said. Not to speak
ill of the dead, Mrs. Harrington, the late Mrs. Harrington was always
saying 'My poor stricken boy,' and things like that'Do not jar him
with ill-timed light or merriment,' and reminding him how bad he was.
And she certainly didn't jar him with any merriment, ma'am.
What were the doctors thinking about? demanded Phyllis
Well, ma'am, they did all sorts of things to poor Mr. Allan for the
first year or so. And then, as nothing helped, and they couldn't find
out what was wrong to have paralyzed him so, he begged to have them
stopped hurting him. So we haven't had one for the past five years.
I think a masseur and a wheel-chair are the next things to get,
said Phyllis decisively. And remember, Wallis, there's something the
matter with Mr. Allan's shutters. They won't always close the sunshine
out as they should.
Wallis almost winked, if an elderly, mutton-chopped servitor can be
imagined as winking.
No, ma'am, he promised. Something wrong with 'em. I'll remember,
Phyllis went singing on down the sunny old house, swinging her
colored muslin skirts and prancing a little with sheer joy of being
twenty-five, and prettily dressed, with a dear house all her own,
andyesa dear Allan a little her own, too! Doing well for a man what
another woman has done badly has a perennial joy for a certain type of
woman, and this was what Phyllis was in the very midst of. She pranced
a little more, and came almost straight up against a long old mirror
with gilt cornices, which had come with the house and was staying with
it. Phyllis stopped and looked critically at herself.
I haven't taken time yet to be pretty, she reminded the girl in
the glass, and began then and there to take account of stock, by way of
beginning. Whya good deal had done itself! Her hair had been washed
and sunned and sunned and washed about every ten minutes since she had
been away from the library. It was springy and three shades more
golden. She had not been rushing out in all weathers unveiled, nor
washing hastily with hard water and cheap library soap eight or ten
times a day, because private houses are comparatively clean places. So
her complexion had been getting back, unnoticed, a good deal of its
original country rose-and-cream, with a little gold glow underneath.
And the tired heaviness was gone from her eyelids, because she had
scarcely used her eyes since she had married Allanthere had been too
much else to do! The little frown-lines between the brows had gone,
too, with the need of reading-glasses and work under electricity. She
was more rounded, and her look was less intent. The strained Liberry
Teacher look was gone. The luminous long blue eyes in the glass looked
back at her girlishly. Would you think we were twenty-five even? they
said. Phyllis smiled irrepressibly at the mirrored girl.
Yas'm, said the rich and comfortable voice of Lily-Anna, the cook,
from the dining-room door; you sholy is pretty. Yas'ma lady wants
to stay pretty when she's married. Yo' don' look much mo'n a bride,
ma'am, an' dat's a fac'. Does you want yo' dinnehs brought into de
sittin'-room regular till de gem'man gits well?
Yesnoyesfor the present, any way, said Phyllis, with a
mixture of confusion and dignity. Fortunately the doorbell chose this
time to ring.
A business-like young messenger with a rocking crate wanted to speak
to the madam. The last item on Phyllis's shopping list had come.
The wolfhound's doing fine, ma'am, the messenger answered in
response to her questions. Like a different dog already. All he needed
was exercise and a little society. Yes'm, this pup's brokenin a
manner, that is. Your man picked you out the best-tempered little
feller in the litter. Here, Foxycareful, lady! Hold on to his leash!
There was the passage of the check, a few directions about
dog-biscuits, and then the messenger from the kennels drove back to the
station, the crate, which had been emptied of a wriggling six-months
black bull-dog, on the seat beside him.
Allan, lying at the window of the sunny bedroom, and wondering if
they had been having springs like this all the time he had lived in the
city, heard a scuffle outside the door. His wife's voice inquired
breathlessly of Wallis, Can Mr. Allansee me?... Oh, gracious
don't, Foxy, you little black gargoyle! Open the door, orshut
But the door, owing to circumstances over which nobody but the black
dog had any control, flew violently open here, and Allan had a flying
vision of his wife, flushed, laughing, and badly mussed, being
railroaded across the room by a prancingly exuberant French bull at the
end of a leash.
He'she's a cheerful dog, panted Phyllis, trying to bring Foxy to
anchor near Allan, and I don't think he knows how to keep still long
enough to pose across your feethe wouldn't become them anyhowhe's a
real man-dog, Allan, not an interior decoration.... Oh, Wallis, he has
Mr. Allan's slipper! Foxy, you little fraud! Did him want a drink,
Did you get him for me, Phyllis? asked Allan when the tumult and
the shouting had died, and the caracoling Foxy had buried his hideous
little black pansy-face in a costly Belleek dish of water.
Yes, gasped Phyllis from her favorite seat, the floor; but you
needn't keep him unless you want to. I can keep him where you'll never
see himcan't I, honey-dog-gums? Only I thought he'd be company for
you, and don't you think he seemscheerful?
Allan threw his picturesque head back on the cushions, and laughed
Cheerful! he said. Most assuredly! Whythank you, ever so much,
Phyllis. You're an awfully thoughtful girl. I always did like
bullshad one in college, a Nelson. Come here, you little rascal!
He whistled, and the puppy lifted its muzzle from the water, made a
dripping dash to the couch, and scrambled up over Allan as if they had
owned each other since birth. Never was a dog less weighed down by the
glories of ancestry.
Allan pulled the flopping bat-ears with his most useful hand, and
asked with interest, Why on earth did they call a French bull Foxy?
Yes, sir, said Wallis. I understand, sir, that he was the most
active and playful of the litter, and chewed up all his brothers' ears,
sir. And the kennel people thought it was so clever that they called
The best-tempered dog in the litter! cried Phyllis, bursting into
helpless laughter from the floor.
That doesn't mean he's bad-tempered, explained master and man
eagerly together. Phyllis began to see that she had bought a family pet
as much for Wallis as for Allan. She left them adoring the dog with
that reverent emotion which only very ugly bull-dogs can wake in a
man's breast, and flitted out, happy over the success of her new toy
Take him out when he gets too much for Mr. Allan, she managed to
say softly to Wallis as she passed him. But, except for a run or so for
his health, Wallis and Allan between them kept the dog in the bedroom
most of the day. Phyllis, in one of her flying visits, found the little
fellow, tired with play, dog-biscuits, and other attentions, snuggled
down by his master, his little crumpled black muzzle on the pillow
close to Allan's contented, sleeping face. She felt as if she wanted to
cry. The pathetic lack of interests which made the coming of a new
little dog such an event!
Before she hung one more picture, before she set up even a book from
the boxes which had been her father's, before she arranged one more
article of furniture, she telephoned to the village for the regular
delivery of four daily papers, and a half-dozen of the most masculine
magazines she could think of on the library lists. She had never known
of Allan's doing any reading. That he had cared for books before the
accident, she knew. At any rate, she was resolved to leave no point
uncovered that might, just possibly might, help her Allan just a
little way to interest in life, which she felt to be the way to
recovery. He liked being told stories to, any way.
Do you think Mr. Allan will feel like coming into the living-room
to-day? she asked Wallis, meeting him in the hall about two o'clock.
Why, he's dressed, ma'am, was Wallis's astonishing reply, and him
and the pup is having a fine game of play. He's got more use of that
hand an' arm, ma'am, than we thought.
Do you think he'd care to be wheeled into the living-room about
four? asked Phyllis.
For tea, ma'am? inquired Wallis, beaming. I should think so,
ma'am. I'll ask, anyhow.
Phyllis had not thought of teaone does not stop for such leisurely
amenities in a busy public librarybut she saw the beauty of the idea,
and saw to it that the tea was there. Lily-Anna was a jewel. She built
the fire up to a bright flame, and brought in some daffodils from the
garden without a word from her mistress. Phyllis herself saw that the
victrola was in readiness, and cleared a space for the couch near the
fire. There was quite a festal feeling.
The talking-machine was also a surprise for Allan. Phyllis thought
afterward that she should have saved it for another day, but the
temptation to grace the occasion with it was too strong. She and Allan
were as excited over it as a couple of children, and the only drawback
to Allan's enjoyment was that he obviously wanted to take the records
out of her unaccustomed fingers and adjust them himself. He knew how,
it appeared, and Phyllis naturally didn't. However, she managed to
follow his directions successfully. She had bought recklessly of
rag-time discs, and provided a fair amount of opera selections. Allan
seemed equally happy over both. After the thing had been playing for
three-quarters of an hour, and most of the records were exhausted,
Phyllis rang for tea. It was getting a little darker now, and the
wood-fire cast fantastic red and black lights and shadows over the
room. It was very intimate and thrilling to Phyllis suddenly, the
fire-lit room, with just their two selves there. Allan, on his couch
before the fire, looked bright and contented. The adjustable couch-head
had been braced to such a position that he was almost sitting up. The
bull-dog, who had lately come back from a long walk with the gratified
outdoor man, snored regularly on the rug near his master, wakening
enough to bat his tail on the floor if he was referred to. The little
tea-table was between Allan and Phyllis, crowned with a bunch of
apple-blossoms, whose spring-like scent dominated the warm room.
Phyllis, in her green gown, her cheeks pink with excitement, was
waiting on her lord and master a little silently.
Allan watched her amusedly for awhileshe was as intent as a good
child over her tea-ball and her lemon and her little cakes.
Say something, Phyllis, he suggested with the touch of mischief
she was not yet used to, coming from him.
This is a serious matter, she replied gravely. Do you know I
haven't made teaafternoon tea, that isfor so long it's a wonder I
know which is the cup and which is the saucer?
Why not? he asked idly, yet interestedly too.
I was otherwise occupied. I was a Daughter of Toil, explained
Phyllis serenely, setting down her own cup to relax in her chair, hands
behind her head; looking, in her green gown, the picture of graceful,
strong, young indolence. I was a librariandidn't you know?
No. I wish you'd tell me, if you don't mind, said Allan. About
you, I mean, Phyllis. Do you know, I feel awfully married to you this
afternoonyou've bullied me so much it's no wonderand I really ought
to know about my wife's dark past.
Phyllis's heart beat a little faster. She, too, had felt awfully
married here alone in the fire-lit living-room, dealing so intimately
and gayly with Allan.
There isn't much to tell, she said soberly.
Come over here closer, commanded Allan the spoilt. We've both had
all the tea we want. Come close by the couch. I want to see you when
Phyllis did as he ordered.
I was a New England country minister's daughter, she began. New
England country ministers always know lots about Greek and Latin and
how to make one dollar do the work of one-seventy-five, but they never
have any dollars left when the doing's over. Father and I lived alone
together always, and he taught me things, and I petted himfathers
need it, specially when they have country congregationsand we didn't
bother much about other folks. Then hedied. I was eighteen, and I had
six hundred dollars. I couldn't do arithmetic, because Father had
always said it was left out of my head, and I needn't bother with it.
So I couldn't teach. Then they said, 'You like books, and you'd better
be a librarian.' As a matter of fact, a librarian never gets a chance
to read, but you can't explain that to the general public. So I came to
the city and took the course at library school. Then I got a position
in the Greenway Branchtwo years in the circulating desk, four in the
cataloguing room, and one in the Children's Department. The short and
simple annals of the poor!
Go on, said Allan.
I believe it's merely that you like the sound of the human voice,
said Phyllis, laughing. I'm going to go on with the story of the Five
Little Pigsyou'll enjoy it just as much!
Exactly, said Allan. Tell me what it was like in the library,
It was rather interesting, said Phyllis, yielding at once. There
are so many different things to be done that you never feel any
monotony, as I suppose a teacher does. But the hours are not much
shorter than a department store's, and it's exacting, on-your-feet work
all the time. I liked the work with the children best. Onlyyou never
have any time to be anything but neat in a library, and you do get so
tired of being just neat, if you're a girl.
And a pretty one, said Allan. I don't suppose the ugly ones mind
It was the first thing he had said about her looks. Phyllis's ready
color came into her cheeks. So he thought she was pretty!
Do youthink I'm pretty? she asked breathlessly. She couldn't
Of course I do, you little goose, said Allan, smiling at her.
Phyllis plunged back into the middle of her story:
You see, you can't sit up nights to sew much, or practise doing
your hair new ways, because you need all your strength to get up when
the alarm-clock barks next morning. And then, there's always the
money-worry, if you have nothing but your salary. Of course, this last
year, when I've been getting fifty dollars a month, things have been
all right. But when it was only thirty a month in the
Circulationwell, that was pretty hard pulling, said Phyllis
thoughtfully. But the worstthe worst, Allan, was waking up nights
and wondering what would happen if you broke down for a long time.
Because you can't very well save for sickness-insurance on even
fifty a month. And the workwell, of course, most girls' work is just
a little more than they have the strength for, always. But I was
awfully lucky to get into children's work. Some of my imps, little
Poles and Slovaks and Hungarians mostly, are the cleverest, most
She began to tell him stories of wonderful ten-year-olds who were
Socialists by conviction, and read economics, and dazed little atypical
sixteen-year-olds who read Mother Goose, and stopped even that because
they got married.
You poor little girl! said Allan, unheeding. What brutes they
were to you! Well, thank Heaven, that's over now!
Why, Allan! she said, laying a soothing hand on his. Nobody was a
brute. There's never more than one crank-in-authority in any library,
they say. Ours was the Supervisor of the Left Half of the Desk, and
after I got out of Circulation I never saw anything of her.
Allan burst into unexpected laughter. It sounds like a Chinese
title of honor, he explained. 'Grand Warder of the Emperor's Left
Slipper-Rosette,' or something of the sort.
The Desk's where you get your books stamped, she explained, and
the two shifts of girls who attend to that part of the work each have a
supervisorthe Right and Left halves. The one that was horrid had
favorites, and snapped at the ones that weren't. I wasn't under her,
though. My Supervisor was lovely, an Irishwoman with the most florid
hats, and the kindest, most just disposition, and always laughing. We
all adored her, she was so fair-minded.
You think a good deal about laughing, said Allan thoughtfully.
Does it rank as a virtue in libraries, or what?
You have to laugh, explained Phyllis. If you don't see the
laugh-side of things, you see the cry-side. And you can't afford to be
unhappy if you have to earn your living. People like brightness best.
And it's more comfortable for yourself, once you get used to it.
So that was your philosophy of life, said Allan. His hand
tightened compassionately on hers. You poor little girl!...
Tell me about the cry-side, Phyllis.
His voice was very moved and caressing, and the darkness was
deepening as the fire sank. Only an occasional tongue of flame glinted
across Phyllis's silver slipper-buckle and on the seal-ring Allan wore.
It was easy to tell things there in the perfumed duskiness. It was a
great many years since any one had cared to hear the cry-side. And it
was so dark, and the hand keeping hers in the shadows might have been
any kind, comforting hand. She found herself pouring it all out to
Allan, there close by her; the loneliness, the strain, the hard work,
the lack of all the woman-things in her life, the isolation and
dreariness at night, the over-fatigue, and the hurt of watching youth
and womanhood sliding away, unused, with nothing to show for all the
years; only a cold hope that her flock of little transient aliens might
be a little better for the guidance she could give them
Years hence in rustic speech a phrase,
As in rude earth a Grecian vase.
And then, that wet, discouraged day in February, and the vision of
Eva Atkinson, radiantly fresh and happy, kept young and pretty by
unlimited money and time.
Her children were so pretty, said Phyllis wistfully, and mine,
dear little villains, were such dirty, untaught, rude little
thingsoh, it sounds snobbish, but I'd have given everything I had to
have a dainty, clean little lady-child throw her arms around me
and kiss me, instead of my pet little handsome, sticky Polish Jewess.
Up at home everything had been so clean and old and still that you
always could remember it had been finished for three hundred years. And
Father's clean, still old library
Phyllis did not know how she was revealing to Allan the unconscious
motherhood in her; but Allan, femininely sensitive to unspoken things
from his long sojourn in the darkAllan did. It was the
mother-instinct that she was spending on him, but mother-instinct of a
kind he had never known before; gayly self-effacing, efficient, shown
only in its results. And she could never have anything else to spend it
on, he thought. Well, he was due to die in a few years.... But he
didn't want to. Living was just beginning to be interesting again,
somehow. There seemed no satisfactory solution for the two of them....
Well, he'd be unselfish and die, any way. Meanwhile, why not be happy?
Here was Phyllis. His hand clasped hers more closely.
And when Mr. De Guenther made me that offer, she murmured,
coloring in the darkness, I was tired and discouraged, and the years
seemed so endless! It didn't seem as though I'd be harming any onebut
I wouldn't have done it if you'd said a word against ittruly I
The last little word slipped out unnoticed. She had been calling her
library children dear for a year now, and the word slipped out of
itself. But Allan liked it.
My poor little girl! he said. In your place I'd have married the
devil himselfup against a life like that.
Thenthen you don'tmind? asked Phyllis anxiously, as she had
No, indeed! said Allan, with a little unnecessary firmness. I
told you that, didn't I? I like it.
So you did tell me, she said penitently.
But supposing De Guenther hadn't picked out some one like you
That's just what I've often thought myself, said Phyllis naively.
She might have been much worse than I.... Oh, but I was frightened
when I saw you first! I didn't know what you'd be like. And then, when
I looked at you
Well, when you looked at me? demanded Allan.
But Phyllis refused to go on.
But that's not all, said Allan. What aboutmen?
What men? asked Phyllis innocently.
Why, men you were interested in, of course, he answered.
There weren't any, said Phyllis. I hadn't any place to meet them,
or anywhere to entertain them if I had met them. Oh, yes, there was
onean old bookkeeper at the boarding-house. All the boarders there
were old. That was why the people at home had chosen it. They thought
it would be safe. It was all of that!
Well, the bookkeeper? demanded Allan. You're straying off from
your narrative. The bookkeeper, Phyllis, my dear!
I'm telling you about him, protested Phyllis. He was awfully
cross because I wouldn't marry him, but I didn't see any reason why I
should. I didn't like him especially, and I would probably have gone on
with my work afterwards. There didn't seem to me to be anything to it
for any one but himfor of course I'd have had his mending and all
that to do when I came home from the library, and I scarcely got time
for my own. But he lost his temper fearfully because I didn't want to.
Then, of course, men would try to flirt in the library, but the janitor
always made them go out when you asked him to. He loved doing it....
Why, Allan, it must be seven o'clock! Shall I turn on more lights?
No.... Then you were quite as shut up in your noisy library as I
was in my dark rooms, said Allan musingly.
I suppose I was, she said, though I never thought of it before.
You mustn't think it was horrid. It was fun, lots of it. Only, there
wasn't any being a real girl in it.
There isn't much in this, I should think, said Allan savagely,
except looking after a big doll.
Phyllis's laugh tinkled out. Oh, I love playing with dolls,
she said mischievously. And you ought to see my new slippers! I have
pink ones, and blue ones, and lavender and green, all satin and suede.
And when I get time I'm going to buy dresses to match. And a banjo,
maybe, with a self-teacher. There's a room upstairs where nobody can
hear a thing you do. I've wanted slippers and a banjo ever since I can
Then you're fairly happy? demanded Allan suddenly.
Why, of course! said Phyllis, though she had not really stopped to
ask herself before whether she was or not. There had been so many
exciting things to do. Wouldn't you be happy if you could buy
everything you wanted, and every one was lovely to you, and you had
pretty clothes and a lovely houseand a rose-garden?
Yesif I could buy everything I wanted, said Allan. His voice
dragged a little. Phyllis sprang up, instantly penitent.
You're tired, and I've been talking and talking about my silly
little woes till I've worn you out! she said. ButAllan, you're
getting better. Try to move this arm. The hand I'm holding. There!
That's a lot more than you could do when I first came. I thinkI think
it would be a good plan for a masseur to come down and see it.
Now look here, Phyllis, protested Allan, I like your taste in
houses and music-boxes and bull-dogs, but I'll be hanged if I'll stand
for a masseur. There's no use, they can't do me any good, and the last
one almost killed me. There's no reason why I should be tormented
simply because a professional pounder needs the money.
No, no! said Phyllis. Not that kind! Wallis can have orders to
shoot him or something if he touches your spinal column. All I meant
was a man who would give the muscles of your arms and shoulders a
little exercise. That couldn't hurt, and might help you use them. That
wouldn't be any trouble, would it? Please! The first minute he
hurts, you can send him flying. You know they call massage lazy
I believe you're really interested in making me better, said
Allan, after a long silence.
Why, of course, said Phyllis, laughing. That's what I'm here
But this answer did not seem to suit Allan, for some reason. Phyllis
said no more about the masseur. She only decided to summon him, any
way. And presently Wallis came in and turned all the lights on.
In due course of time June came. So did the masseur, and more
flowered frocks for Phyllis, and the wheel-chair for Allan. The
immediate effect of June was to bring out buds all over the rose-trees;
of the flowered dresses, to make Phyllis very picturesquely pretty. As
for the masseur, he had more effect than anything else. It was as
Phyllis had hoped: the paralysis of Allan's arms had been less
permanent than any one had thought, and for perhaps the last three
years there had been little more the matter than entire loss of
strength and muscle-control, from long disuse. By the time they had
been a month in the country Allan's use of his arms and shoulders was
nearly normal, and Phyllis was having wild hopes, that she confided to
no one but Wallis, of even more sweeping betterments. Allan slept much
better, from the slight increase of activity, and also perhaps because
Phyllis had coaxed him outdoors as soon as the weather became warm, and
was keeping him there. Sometimes he lay in the garden on his couch,
sometimes he sat up in the wheel-chair, almost always with Phyllis
sitting, or lying in her hammock near him, and the devoted Foxy
pretending to hunt something near by.
There were occasional fits of the old depression and silence, when
Allan would lie silently in his own room with his hands crossed and his
eyes shut, answering no onenot even Foxy. Wallis and Phyllis
respected these moods, and left him alone till they were over, but the
adoring Foxy had no such delicacy of feeling. And it is hard to remain
silently sunk in depression when an active small dog is imploring you
by every means he knows to throw balls for him to run after. For the
rest, Allan proved to have naturally a lighter heart and more carefree
disposition than Phyllis. His natural disposition was buoyant. Wallis
said that he had never had a mood in his life till the accident.
His attitude to his wife became more and more a taking-for-granted
affection and dependence. It is to be feared that Phyllis spoiled him
badly. But it was so long since she had been needed by any one person
as Allan needed her! And he had such lovable, illogical, masculine ways
of being wronged if he didn't get the requisite amount of petting, and
grateful for foolish little favors and taking big ones for granted,
thatentirely, as Phyllis insisted to herself, from a sense of
combined duty and grateful interestshe would have had her pretty head
removed and sent him by parcel-post, if he had idly suggested his
possible need of a girl's head some time.
And it was so heavenlyoh, but it was heavenly there in Phyllis's
rose-garden, with the colored flowers coming out, and the little green
caterpillars roaming over the leaves, and pretty dresses to wear, and
Foxy-dog to play withand Allan! Allan demandedno, not exactly
demanded, but expected and gotso much of Phyllis's society in these
days that she had learned to carry on all her affairs, even the
housekeeping, out in her hammock by his wheel-chair or couch. She wore
large, floppy white hats with roses on them, by way of keeping the sun
off; but Allan, it appeared, did not think much of hats except as an
ornament for girls, and his uncovered curly hair was burned to a sort
of goldy-russet all through, and his pallor turned to a clear pale
Phyllis looked up from her work one of these heavenly last-of-June
days, and tried to decide whether she really liked the change or not.
Allan was handsomer unquestionably, though that had hardly been
necessary. But the resignedly statuesque look was gone.
Allan felt her look, and looked up at her. He had been reading a
magazine, for Phyllis had succeeded in a large measure in reviving his
taste for magazines and books. Well, Phyllis, my dear, said he,
smiling, what's the problem now? I feel sure there is something new
going to be sprung on meget the worst over!
You wrong me, she said, beginning to thread some more pink
embroidery silk. I was only wondering whether I liked you as well
tanned as I did when you were so nice and white, back in the city.
Cheerful thought! said Allan, laying down his magazine entirely.
Shall I ring for Wallis and some peroxide? As you said the other day,
'I have to be approved of or I'm unhappy!'
Oh, it really doesn't matter, said Phyllis mischievously. You
know, I married you principally for a rose-garden, and that's lovely!
I suppose I spoil the perspective, said Allan, unexpectedly
Phyllis leaned forward in her blossom-dotted draperies and stroked
his hand, that long carven hand she so loved to watch.
Not a bit, Allan, she said, laughing at him. You're exceedingly
decorative! I remember the first time I saw you I thought you looked
exactly like a marble knight on a tomb.
AllanAllan the listless, tranced invalid of four months
beforethrew his head back and shouted with laughter.
I suppose I serve the purpose of garden statuary, he said. We
used to have some horrors when I was a kid. I remember two awful bronze
deer that always looked as if they were trying not to get their feet
wet, and a floppy bronze dog we called Fido. He was meant for a Gordon
setter, I think, but it didn't go much further than intention. Louise
and I used to ride the deer.
His face shadowed a little as he spoke, for nearly the first time,
of the dead girl.
Allan, Phyllis said, bending closer to him, all rosy and golden in
her green hammock, tell me aboutLouise Freyif you don't mind
talking about her? Would it be bad for you, do you think?
Allan's eyes dwelt on his wife pleasurably. She was very real and
near and lovable, and Louise Frey seemed far away and shadowy in his
thoughts. He had loved her very dearly and passionately, that
boisterous, handsome young Louise, but that gay boy-life she had
belonged to seemed separated now from this pleasant rose-garden, with
its golden-haired, wisely-sweet young chatelaine, by thousands of black
years. The blackness came back when he remembered what lay behind it.
There's nothing much to tell, Phyllis, he said, frowning a little.
She was pretty and full of life. She had black hair and eyes and a
good deal of color. We were more or less friends all our lives, for our
country-places adjoined. She was eighteen whenit happened.
Eighteen, said Phyllis musingly. She would have been just my
age.... We won't talk about it, then, Allan ... Well, Viola?
The pretty Tuskegee chambermaid was holding out a tray with a card
The doctor, ma'am, she said.
The doctor! echoed Allan, half-vexed, half-laughing. I knew
you had something up your sleeve, Phyllis! What on earth did you have
Phyllis's face was a study of astonishment. On my honor, I hadn't a
notion he was even in existence, she protested. He's not my
He must have 'just growed,' or else Lily-Anna's called him in,
suggested Allan sunnily. Bring him along, Viola.
Viola produced him so promptly that nobody had time to remember the
professional doctor's visits don't usually have cards, or thought to
look at the card for enlightenment. So the surprise was complete when
the doctor appeared.
Johnny Hewitt! ejaculated Allan, throwing out both hands in
greeting. Of all people! Well, you old fraud, pretending to be a
doctor! The last I heard about you, you were trying to prove that you
weren't the man that tied a mule into old Sumerley's chair at college.
I never did prove it, responded Johnny Hewitt, shaking hands
vigorously, but the fellows said afterwards that I ought to
apologizeto the mule. He was a perfectly good mule. But I'm a doctor
all right. I live here in Wallraven. I wondered if it might be you by
any chance, Allan, when I heard some Harringtons had bought here. But
this is the first chance a promising young chickenpox epidemic has
given me to find out.
It's what's left of me, said Allan, smiling ruefully.
AndPhyllis, this doctor-person turns out to be an old friend of
mine. This is Mrs. Harrington, Johnny.
Oh, I'm so glad! beamed Phyllis, springing up from her hammock,
and looking as if she loved Johnny. Here was exactly what was
neededsomebody for Allan to play with! She made herself delightful to
the newcomer for a few minutes, and then excused herself. They would
have a better time alone, for awhile, any way, and there was dinner to
order. Maybe this Johnny Hewitt-doctor would stay for dinner. He should
if she could make him! She sang a little on her way to the house, and
almost forgot the tiny hurt it had been when Allan seemed so saddened
by speaking of Louise Frey. She had no right to feel hurt, she knew. It
was only to be expected that Allan would always love Louise's memory.
She didn't know much about men, but that was the way it always was in
stories. A man's heart would die, under an automobile or anywhere else,
and all there was left for anybody else was leavings. It wasn't fair!
And then Phyllis threw back her shoulders and laughed, as she had
sometimes in the library days, and reminded herself what a nice world
it was, any way, and that Allan was going to be much helped by Johnny
Hewitt. That was a cheering thought, anyhow. She went on singing, and
ordered a beautiful, festively-varied dinner, a very poem of gratitude.
Then she pounced on the doctor as he was leaving and made him stay for
Allan's eyes were bright and his face lighted with interest.
Phyllis, at the head of the table, kept just enough in the talk to push
the men on when it seemed flagging, which was not often. She learned
more about Allan, and incidentally Johnny Hewitt, in the talk as they
lingered about the table, than she had ever known before. She and Allan
had lived so deliberately in the placid present, with its almost
childish brightnesses and interests, that she knew scarcely more about
her husband's life than the De Guenthers had told her before she
married him. But she could see the whole picture of it as she listened
now: the active, merry, brilliant boy who had worked and played all day
and danced half the night; who had lived, it almost seemed to her, two
or three lives in one. And then the change to the darkened
roomhelpless, unable to move, with the added sorrow of his
sweetheart's death, and his mother's deliberate fostering of that
sorrow. It was almost a shock to see him in the wheel-chair at the foot
of the table, his face lighted with interest in what he and his friend
were saying. What if he did care for Louise Frey's memory still! He'd
had such a hard time that anything Phyllis could do for him oughtn't to
be too much!
When Dr. Hewitt went at last Phyllis accompanied him to the door.
She kept him there for a few minutes, talking to him about Allan and
making him promise to come often. He agreed with her that, this much
progress made, a good deal more might follow. He promised to come back
very soon, and see as much of them as possible.
Allan, watching them, out of earshot, from the living-room where he
had been wheeled, saw Phyllis smiling warmly up at his friend,
lingering in talk with him, giving him both hands in farewell; and he
saw, too, Hewitt's rapt interest and long leave-taking. At last the
door closed, and Phyllis came back to him, flushed and animated. He
realized, watching her return with that swift lightness of foot her
long years of work had lent her, how young and strong and lovely she
was, with the rose-color in her cheeks and the light from above making
her hair glitter. And suddenly her slim young strength and her bright
vitality seemed to mock him, instead of being a comfort and support as
heretofore. A young, beautiful, kind girl like thatit was natural she
should like Hewitt. And it was going to come natural to Hewitt to like
Phyllis. He could see that plainly enough.
Tired, Allan Harrington? she asked brightly, coming over to him
and dropping a light hand on his chair, in a caressing little way she
had dared lately.... Kindness! Yes, she was the incarnation of
kindness. Doubtless she had spoken to and touched those little
ragamuffins she had told him of just so.
He had got into a habit of feeling that Phyllis belonged to him
absolutely. He had forgottenwhat was it she had said to him that
afternoon, half in funbut oh, doubtless half in earnest!about
marrying him for a rose-garden? She had done just that. She had never
made any secret of itwhy, how could she, marrying him before she had
spoken a half-dozen words to him? But how wonderful she had been to him
sincesometimes almost as if she cared for him....
He moved ungraciously. Don't touch me, Phyllis! he said
irritably. Wallis! You can wheel me into my room.
Oh-h! said Phyllis, behind him. The little forlorn sound hurt him,
but it pleased him, too. So he could hurt her, if only by rudeness?
Well, that was a satisfaction. Shut the door, he ordered Wallis
Phyllis, her hands at her throat, stood hurt and frightened in the
middle of the room. It never occurred to her that Allan was jealous, or
indeed that he could care enough for her to be jealous.
It was talking about Louise Frey, she said. That, and Dr. Hewitt
bringing up old times. Oh, why did I ask about her? He was
contentedI know he was contented! He'd gotten to like having me with
himhe even wanted me. Oh, Allan, Allan!
She did not want to cry downstairs, so she ran for her own room.
There she threw herself down and cried into a pillow till most of the
case was wet. She was sillyshe knew she was silly. She tried to think
of all the things that were still hers, the garden, the watch-bracelet,
the leisure, the pretty gownsbut nothing, nothing seemed of
any consequence beside the fact thatshe had not kissed Allan
good-night! It seemed the most intolerable thing that had ever happened
It was just as well, perhaps, that Phyllis did not do much sleeping
that night, for at about two Wallis knocked at her door. It seemed like
history repeating itself when he said: Could you come to Mr. Allan,
please? He seems very bad.
She threw on the silk crepe negligee and followed him, just as she
had done before, on that long-ago night after her mother-in-law had
Did Dr. Hewitt's visit overexcite him, do you think? he asked as
I don't know, ma'am, Wallis said. He's almost as bad as he was
after the old madam diedyou remember?
Oh, yes, said Phyllis mechanically. I remember.
* * * * *
Allan lay so exactly as he had on that other night, that the strange
surroundings seemed incongruous. Just the same, except that his
restlessness was more visible, because he had more power of motion.
She bent and held the nervously clenching hands, as she had before.
What is it, Allan? she said soothingly.
Nothing, said her husband savagely. Nerves, hysteriaany other
silly womanish thing a cripple could have. Let me alone, Phyllis. I
wish you could put me out of the way altogether!
Phyllis made herself laugh, though her heart hurried with fright.
She had seen Allan suffer badly beforebe apathetic, irritable,
despondent, but never in a state where he did not cling to her.
I can't let you alone, she said brightly. I've come to stay with
you till you feel quieter.... Would you rather I talked to you, or kept
Oh, do your wifely duty, whatever it is, he said.... It was a
mistake, the whole thing. You've done more than your duty, child,
butoh, you'd better go away.
Phyllis's heart turned over. Was it as bad as this? Was he as sick
of her as this?
You meanyou think, she faltered, it was a mistakeour
Yes, he said restlessly. Yes.... It wasn't fair.
She had no means of knowing that he meant it was unfair to her. She
held on to herself, though she felt her face turning cold with the
sudden pallor of fright.
I think it can be annulled, she said steadily. No, I suppose it
She stopped to get her breath and catch at the only things that
matteredsteadiness, quietness, ability to soothe Allan!
It can be annulled, she said again evenly. But listen to me now,
Allan. It will take quite a while. It can't be done to-night, or before
you are stronger. So for your own sake you must try to rest now.
Everything shall come right. I promise you it shall be annulled. But
forget it now, please. I am going to hold your wrists and talk to you,
recite things for you, till you go back to sleep.
She wondered afterwards how she could have spoken with that hard
serenity, how she could have gone steadily on with story after story,
poem after poem, till Allan's grip on her hands relaxed, and he fell
into a heavy, tired sleep.
[Illustration: BUT YOU SEEHE'SALL I HAVE ... GOOD-NIGHT,
She sat on the side of the bed and looked at him, lying still
against his white pillows. She looked and looked, and presently the
tears began to slide silently down her cheeks. She did not lift her
hands to wipe them away. She sat and cried silently, openly, like a
desolate, unkindly treated child.
Mrs. Allan! Mrs. Allan, ma'am! came Wallis's concerned whisper
from the doorway. Don't take it as hard as that. It's just a little
relapse. He was overtired. I shouldn't have called you, but you always
quiet him so.
Phyllis brushed off her tears, and smiled. You seemed to have to do
so much smiling in this house!
I know, she said. I worry about his condition too much. But you
seehe'sall I have.... Good-night, Wallis.
Once out of Allan's room, she ran at full speed till she gained her
own bed, where she could cry in peace till morning if she wanted to,
with no one to interrupt. That was all right. The trouble was going to
be next morning.
But somehow, when morning came, the old routine was dragged through
with. Directions had to be given the servants as usual, Allan's comfort
and amusement seen to, just as if nothing had happened. It was a
perfect day, golden and perfumed, with just that little tang of fresh
windiness that June days have in the northern states. And Allan must
not lose ithe must be wheeled out into the garden.
She came out to him, in the place where they usually sat, and sank
for a moment in the hammock, that afternoon. She had avoided him all
I just came to see if everything was all right, she said, leaning
toward him in that childlike, earnest way he knew so well. I don't
need to stay here if I worry you.
I'd rather you'd stay, if you don't mind, he answered. Phyllis
looked at him intently. He was white and dispirited, and his voice was
listless. Oh, Phyllis thought, if Louise Frey had only been kind enough
to die in babyhood, instead of under Allan's automobile! What could
there have been about her to hold Allan so long? She glanced at his
weary face again. This would never do! What had come to be her dominant
instinct, keeping Allan's spirits up, emboldened her to bend forward,
and even laugh a little.
Come, Allan! she said. Even if we're not going to stay together
always, we might as well be cheerful till we do part. We used to be
good friends enough. Can't we be so a little longer? It sounded
heartless to her after she had said it, but it seemed the only way to
speak. She smiled at him bravely.
Allan looked at her mutely for a moment, as if she had hurt him.
You're right, he said suddenly. There's no time but the present,
after all. Come over here, closer to me, Phyllis. You've been awfully
good to me, childisn't there anythinganything I could do for
yousomething you could remember afterwards, and say, 'Well, he did
that for me, any way?'
Phyllis's eyes filled with tears. You have given me everything
already, she said, catching her breath. She didn't feel as if she
could stand much more of this.
Everything! he said bitterly. No, I haven't. I can't give you
what every girl wantsa well, strong man to be her husbandthe health
and strength that any man in the street has.
Oh, don't speak that way, Allan!
She bent over him sympathetically, moved by his words. In another
moment the misunderstanding might have been straightened out, if it had
not been for his reply.
I wish I never had to see you at all! he said involuntarily. In
her sensitive state of mind the hurt was all she feltnot the deeper
meaning that lay behind the words.
I'll relieve you of my presence for awhile, she flashed back.
Before she gave herself time to think, she had left the garden, with
something which might be called a flounce. When people say things like
that to you, she said as she walked away from him, it's carrying
being an invalid a little too far!
Allan heard the side-door slam. He had never suspected before that
Phyllis had a temper. And yet, what could he have said? But she gave
him no opportunity to find out. In just about the time it might take to
find gloves and a parasol, another door clanged in the distance. The
street door. Phyllis had evidently gone out.
* * * * *
Phyllis, on her swift way down the street, grew angrier and angrier.
She tried to persuade herself to make allowances for Allan, but they
refused to be made. She felt more bitterly toward him than she ever had
toward any one in her life. If she only hadn't leaned over him and been
sorry for him, just before she got a slap in the face like that!
She walked rapidly down the main street of the little village. She
hardly knew where she was going. She had been called on by most of the
local people, but she did not feel like being agreeable, or making
formal calls, just now. And what was the use of making friends, any
way, when she was going back to her rags, poor little Cinderella that
she was! Below and around and above everything else came the stinging
thought that she had given Allan so muchthat she had taken so much
Her quick steps finally took her to the outskirts of the village, to
a little green stretch of woods. There she walked up and down for
awhile, trying to think more quietly. She found the tide of her anger
ebbing suddenly, and her mind forming all sorts of excuses for Allan.
But that was not the way to get quietthinking of Allan! She tried to
put him resolutely from her mind, and think about her own future plans.
The first thing to do, she decided, was to rub up her library work a
It was with an unexpected feeling of having returned to her own
place that she crossed the marble floor of the village library. She
felt as if she ought to hurry down to the cloak-room, instead of
waiting leisurely at the desk for her card. It all seemed uncannily
like homethere was even a girl inside the desk who looked like Anna
Black of her own Greenway Branch. Phyllis could hear, with a faint
amusement, that the girl was scolding energetically in Anna Black's own
way. The words struck on her quick ears, though they were not intended
That's what comes of trusting to volunteer help. Telephones at the
last moment 'she has a headache,' and not a single soul to look after
the story-hour! And the children are almost all here already.
We'll just have to send them home, said the other girl, looking up
from her trayful of cards. It's too late to get anybody else, and
goodness knows we can't get it in!
They ought to have another librarian, fretted the girl who looked
like Anna. They could afford it well enough, with their Soldiers'
Monuments and all.
Phyllis smiled to herself from where she was investigating the
card-catalogue. It all sounded so exceedingly natural. Then that swift
instinct of hers to help caught her over to the desk, and she heard
I've had some experience in story telling; maybe I could help you
with the story-hour. I couldn't help hearing that your story-teller has
The girl like Anna fell on her with rapture.
Heaven must have sent you, she said. The other one, evidently
slower and more cautious by nature, rose too, and came toward her. You
have a card here, haven't you? she said. I think I've seen you.
Yes, Phyllis said, with a pang at speaking the name she had grown
to love bearing; I'm Mrs. HarringtonPhyllis Harrington. We live at
the other end of the village.
Oh, in the house with the garden all shut off from the lane! said
the girl like Anna, delightedly. That lovely old house that used to
belong to the Jamesons. Oh, yes, I know. You're here for the summer,
aren't you, and your husband has been very ill?
Exactly, said Phyllis, smiling, though she wished people wouldn't
talk about Allan! They seemed possessed to mention him!
We'll be obliged forever if you'll do it, said the other girl,
evidently the head librarian. Can you do it now? The children are
Certainly, said Phyllis, and followed the younger girl straightway
to the basement, where, it seemed, the story-hour was held. She
wondered, as they went, if the girl envied her her expensively
perishable summer organdie, with its flying sashes and costly
accessories; if the girl thought about her swinging jewelries and
endless leisure with a wish to have them for herself. She had wanted
such things, she knew, when she was being happy on fifty dollars a
month. And perhaps some of the women she had watched then had had
heartaches under their furs....
The children, already sitting in a decorous ring on their low
chairs, seemed after the first surprise to approve of Phyllis. The
librarian lingered for a little by way of keeping order if it should be
necessary, watched the competent sweep with which Phyllis gathered the
children around her, heard the opening of the story, and left with an
air of astonished approval. Phyllis, late best story-teller of the
Greenway Branch, watched her go with a bit of professional triumph in
She told the children stories till the time was up, and then just
one story more. She had not forgotten how, she found. But she never
told them the story of How the Elephant Got His Trunk, that foolish,
fascinating story-hour classic that she had told Allan the night his
mother had died; the story that had sent him to sleep quietly for the
first time in years.... Oh, dear, was everything in the world connected
with Allan in some way or other?
It was nearly six when she went up, engulfed in children, to the
circulating room. There the night-librarian caught her. She had
evidently been told to try to get Phyllis for more story-hours, for she
did her best to make her promise. They talked shop together for perhaps
an hour and a half. Then the growing twilight reminded Phyllis that it
was time to go back. She had been shirking going home, she realized
now, all the afternoon. She said good-by to the night-librarian, and
went on down the village street, lagging unconsciously. It must have
been about eight by this time.
It was a mile back to the house. She could have taken the trolley
part of the way, but she felt restless and like walking. She had
forgotten that walking at night through well-known, well-lighted city
streets, and going in half-dusk through country byways, were two
different things. She was destined to be reminded of the difference.
Can you help a poor man, lady? said a whining voice behind her,
when she had a quarter of the way yet to go. She turned to see a big
tramp, a terrifying brute with a half-propitiating, half-fierce look on
his heavy, unshaven face. She was desperately frightened. She had been
spoken to once or twice in the city, but there there was always a
policeman, or a house you could run into if you had to. But here, in
the unguarded dusk of a country lane, it was a different matter. The
long gold chain that swung below her waist, the big diamond on her
finger, the gold mesh-purseall the jewelry she took such a childlike
delight in wearingshe remembered them in terror. She was no
brown-clad little working-girl now, to slip along disregarded. And the
tramp did not look like a deserving object.
If you will come to the house to-morrow, she said, hurrying on as
she spoke, I'll have some work for you. The first house on this street
that you come to. She did not dare give him anything, or send him
Won't you gimme somethin' now, lady? whined the tramp, continuing
to follow. I'm a starvin' man.
She dared not open her purse and appease him by giving him
moneyshe had too much with her. That morning she had received the
check for her monthly income from Mr. De Guenther, sent Wallis down to
cash it, and then stuffed it in her bag and forgotten it in the
distress of the day. The man might take the money and strike her
senseless, even kill her.
To-morrow, she said, going rapidly on. She had now what would
amount to about three city blocks to traverse still. There was a short
way from outside the garden-hedge through to the garden, which cut off
about a half-block. If she could gain this she would be safe.
Naw, yeh don't, snarled the tramp, as she fled on. Ye'll set that
bull-pup o' yours on me. I been there, an' come away again. You just
gimme some o' them rings an' things an' we'll call it square, me fine
Phyllis's heart stood still at this open menace, but she ran on
still. A sudden thought came to her. She snatched her gilt
sash-bucklea pretty thing but of small valuefrom her waist, and
hurled it far behind the tramp. In the half-light it might have been
her gold mesh-bag.
There's my moneygo get it! she gaspedand ran for her life. The
tramp, as she had hoped he would, dashed back after it and gave her the
start she needed. Breathless, terrified to death, she raced on, tearing
her frock, dropping the library cards and parasol she still had held in
her hand. Once she caught her sash on a tree-wire. Once her
slipper-heel caught and nearly threw her. The chase seemed unending.
She could hear the dreadful footsteps of the tramp behind her, and his
snarling, swearing voice panting out threats. He was drunk, she
realized with another thrill of horror. It was a nightmare happening.
On and onshe stumbled, fell, caught herselfbut the tramp had
gained. Then at last the almost invisible gap in the hedge, and she
Allan! Allan! Allan! she screamed, fleeing instinctively to
The rose-garden was like a place of enchanted peace after the terror
of outside. Her quick vision as she rushed in was of Allan still there,
moveless in his chair, with the little black bull-dog lying asleep
across his arms and shoulder like a child. It often lay so. As she
entered, the scene broke up before her eyes like a dissolving view. She
saw the little dog wake and make what seemed one flying spring to the
tramp's throat, and sink his teeth in itand Allan, at her scream,
spring from his chair!
Phyllis forgot everything at the sight of Allan, standing. Wallis
and the outdoor man, who had run to the spot at Phyllis's screams, were
dealing with the tramp, who was writhing on the grass, choking and
striking out wildly. But neither Phyllis nor Allan saw that. Which
caught the other in an embrace they never knew. They stood locked
together, forgetting everything else, he in the idea of her peril, she
in the wonder of his standing.
Oh, darling, darling! Allan was saying over and over again. You
are safethank heaven you are safe! Oh, Phyllis, I could never forgive
myself if you had been hurt! Phyllis! Speak to me!
But Phyllis's own safety did not concern her now. She could only
think of one thing. You can stand! You can stand! she
reiterated. Then a wonderful thought came to her, striking across the
others, as she stood locked in this miraculously raised Allan's arms.
She spoke without knowing that she had said it aloud. Do you care,
too? she said very low. Then the dominant thought returned. You
must sit down again, she said hurriedly, to cover her confusion, and
what she had said. Please, Allan, sit down. Please, dearyou'll tire
Allan sank into his chair again, still holding her. She dropped on
her knees beside him, with her arms around him. She had a little
leisure now to observe that Wallis, the ever-resourceful, had tied the
tramp neatly with the outdoor man's suspenders, which were nearer the
surface than his own, and succeeded in prying off the still unappeased
Foxy, who evidently was wronged at not having the tramp to finish. They
carried him off, into the back kitchen garden. Allan, now that he was
certain of Phyllis's safety, paid them not the least attention.
Did you mean it? he said passionately. Tell me, did you mean what
Phyllis dropped her dishevelled head on Allan's shoulder.
I'm afraidI'm going to cry, andand I know you don't like it!
she panted. Allan half drew, half guided her up into his arms.
Was it true? he insisted, giving her an impulsive little shake.
She sat up on his knees, wide-eyed and wet-cheeked like a child.
But you knew that all along! she said. That was why I felt so
humiliated. It was you that I thought didn't care
Allan laughed joyously. Care! he said. I should think I did,
first, last, and all the time! Why, Phyllis, child, didn't I behave
like a brute because I was jealous enough of John Hewitt to throw him
in the river? He was the first man you had seen since you married
meattractive, and well, and clever, and all thatit would have been
natural enough if you'd liked him.
Liked him! said Phyllis in disdain. When there was you? And I
thoughtI thought it was the memory of Louise Frey that made you act
that way. You didn't want to talk about her, and you said it was all a
I was a brute, said Allan again. It was the memory that I was
about as useful as a rag doll, and that the world was full of live men
with real legs and arms, ready to fall in love with you.
There's nobody but you in the world, whispered Phyllis....
But you're well now, or you will be soon, she added joyously. She
slipped away from him. Allan, don't you want to try to stand again? If
you did it then, you can do it now.
Yes, by Jove, I do! he said. But this time the effort to rise was
noticeable. Still, he could do it, with Phyllis's eager help.
It must have been what Dr. Hewitt called neurasthenic inhibition,
said Phyllis, watching the miracle of a standing Allan. That was what
we were talking about by the door that night, you foolish boy!... Oh,
how tall you are! I never realized you were tall, lying down, somehow!
I don't have to bend very far to kiss you, though, suggested
Allan, suiting the action to the word.
But Phyllis, when this was satisfactorily concluded, went back to
the great business of seeing how much Allan could walk. He sat down
again after a half-dozen steps, a little tired in spite of his
I can't do much at a time yet, I suppose, he said a little
ruefully. Do you mean to tell me, sweetheartcome over here closer,
where I can touch youyou're awfully far awaydo you mean to tell me
that all that ailed me was I thought I couldn't move?
Oh, no! explained Phyllis, moving her chair close, and then, as
that did not seem satisfactory, perching on the arm of Allan's. You'd
been unable to move for so long that when you were able to at last your
subconscious mind clamped down on your muscles and was convinced you
couldn't. So no matter how much you consciously tried, you couldn't
make the muscles go till you were so strongly excited it broke the
inhibitionjust as people can lift things in delirium or excitement
that they couldn't possibly move at other times. Do you see?
I do, said Allan, kissing the back of her neck irrelevantly. If
somebody'd tried to shoot me up five years ago I might be a well man
now. That's a beautiful word of yours, Phyllis, inhibition. What a lot
of big words you know!
Oh, if you won't be serious! said she.
We'll have to be, said Allan, laughing, for here's Wallis, and,
as I live, from the direction of the house. I thought they carried our
friend the tramp out through the hedgehe must have gone all the way
Phyllis was secretly certain that Wallis had been crying a little,
but all he said was, We've taken the tramp to the lock-up, sir.
But his master and his mistress were not so dignified. They showed
him exhaustively that Allan could really stand and walk, and Allan
demonstrated it, and Wallis nearly cried again. Then they went in, for
Phyllis was sure Allan needed a thorough rest after all this. She was
shaking from head to foot herself with joyful excitement, but she did
not even know it. And it was long past dinner-time, though every one
but Lily-Anna, to whom the happy news had somehow filtered, had
I've always wanted to hold you in my arms, this way, said Allan
late that evening, as they stood in the rose-garden again; but I
thought I never would.... Phyllis, did you ever want me to?
It was too beautiful a moonlight night to waste in the house, or
even on the porch. The couch had been wheeled to its accustomed place
in the rose-garden, and Allan was supposed to be lying on it as he
often did in the evenings. But it was hard to make him stay there.
Oh, you must lie down, said Phyllis hurriedly, trying to
move out of the circle of his arms. You mustn't stand till we find how
much is enough.... I'm going to send for the wolfhound next week. You
won't mind him now, will you?
Did you ever want to be here in my arms, Phyllis?
Of course not! said Phyllis, as a modest young person should.
Well, my wife?
I've often wondered just where I'd reach to, said Phyllis in a
rush.... Allan, please don't stand any longer!
I'll lie down if you'll sit on the couch by me.
Very well, said Phyllis; and sat obediently in the curve of his
arm when he had settled himself in the old position, the one that
looked so much more natural for him.
Mine, every bit of you! he said exultantly. Heaven bless that
tramp!... And to think we were talking about annulments!... Do you
remember that first night, dear, after mother died? I was half-mad with
grief and physical pain. And Wallis went after you. I didn't want him
to. But he trusted you from the firstgood old Wallis! And you came in
with that swift, sweeping step of yours, as I've seen you come fifty
times sincehalf-flying, it seemed to me thenwith all your pretty
hair loose, and an angelic sort of a white thing on. I expect I was a
brute to youI don't remember how I actedbut I know you sat on the
bed by me and took both my wrists in those strong little hands of
yours, and talked to me and quieted me till I fell fast asleep. You
gave me the first consecutive sleep I'd had in four months. It felt as
if life and calmness and strength were pouring from you to me. You
stayed till I fell asleep.
I remember, said Phyllis softly. She laid her cheek by his, as it
had been on that strange marriage evening that seemed so far away now.
I was afraid of you at first. But I felt that, too, as if I were
giving you my strength. I was so glad I could! And then I fell asleep,
too, over on your shoulder.
You never told me that, said Allan reproachfully. Phyllis laughed
There never seemed to be any point in our conversations where it
fitted in neatly, she said demurely. Allan laughed, too.
You should have made one. But what I was going to tell you wasI
think I began to be in love with you then. I didn't know it, but I did.
And it got worse and worse but I didn't know what ailed me till Johnny
drifted in, bless his heart! Then I did. Oh, Phyllis, it was awful! To
have you with me all the time, acting like an angel, waiting on me hand
and foot, and not knowing whether you had any use for me or not!... And
you never kissed me good-night last night.
Phyllis did not answer. She only bent a little, and kissed her
husband on the lips, very sweetly and simply, of her own accord. But
she said nothing then of the long, restless, half-happy, half-wretched
time when she had loved him and never even hoped he would care for her.
There was time for all that. There were going to be long, joyous years
together, years of being a real woman, as she had so passionately
wished to be that day in the library. She would never again need to
envy any woman happiness or love or laughter. It was all before her
now, youth and joy and love, and Allan, her Allan, soon to be well, and
loving herloving nobody else but her!
Oh, I love you, Allan! was all she said.