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The House that Susan Built by Sarah Winter Kellogg

Susan—Susan Summerhaze—was twenty-nine, and had never had a lover. You smile. You people have a way of smiling at the mention of a maiden lady who has never had a lover, as though there was a very good joke in the matter. You ought to be ashamed to smile. You have a tear for the girl at the grave of her lover, and for the bride of a month in her widow's cap, and even for her who mourns a lover changed. But in each of these cases the woman has had her romance: her spirit has thrilled to enchanted music; there is a consecrated something in her nature; a tender memory is hers for ever.

Nothing is so pathetic as the insignificant. Than a dead blank, better a path marked by—well, anything, perhaps, except dishonor. The colorless, commonplace life was especially dreary to my Susan, because of a streak of romance—and a broad streak it was—that ran from end to end of her nature.

It's another provoking way you people have of laughing at romantic young women. Sentimental, you call them. I tell you it's the most womanly thing in the world to be sentimental. A woman's affections reaching out toward a man's heart is as much a part of Nature, and just as pretty a thing in Nature, as the morning-glory—or let us take the old and oft-used yet good illustration of the ivy and the oak. When the woman's reaching affections attain the sought heart, everybody cries out, "How sweet and tender and graceful!" But if they miss of the hold, then there is derision. Here, as everywhere else, there are cheers for success and no pity for failure.

Well, however you may receive it, the truth must be acknowledged: my Susan was sentimental. She had had her longings and dreams, and an abundance of those great vague heartaches which only sentimental people can have. She had gone through with the whole—the sweet hopes, the yearning expectancy, the vague anxiety, the brooding doubt, the slow giving up—the reluctant acceptance of her fading life. Her romance died hard. Very gradually, and with many a protest, the woman of heartaches and sentiment glided into the practical and commonplace maiden lady who served on all sorts of committees and watched with sick people.

At an early age, when she was barely sixteen, the suggestion had been forced on Susan that it was her duty to spread her wings and leave the paternal nest to earn her living. Of course she went to teaching. That's what such people as Susan always do in like circumstances. At first her earnings went into the family fund to buy bread for little mouths that were not to blame for being hungry, and shoes for little feet that did not know wherefore they had been set to travel life's road. But after a while a portion of Susan's salary came to be deposited in bank as her very own money, to have and to hold. She had now reached the giving-up period of her life, when the heartaches were dulling, and the nameless longings were being resolved into occasional lookings back to the time when there had been hopes of deliverance from the commonplace. Having tasted the sweets of being a capitalist, Susan came in process of time to be eager at money-getting and at money-saving and at speculating. The day arrived when my sentimental Susan had United States bonds and railroad stocks, and owned a half acre in city lots in a great, teeming, tempestuous State metropolis.

It was at this period in her affairs that Susan received a gift of fifteen hundred dollars from her bachelor uncle Adolphus, "as a token," so the letter of transmission read, "of my approval of your industry and of your business ability and successes, and as a mark of my gratitude for your kindness to me twenty-one years ago when I was sick at your father's house. You were the only one of my brother's children that showed me any consideration."

"Twenty-one years ago!" exclaimed Gertrude, Susan's younger sister, when she had read the letter through. "Why, that was before I was born! How in the world could I show him consideration? I wish to goodness he'd come here now and get sick. I'd show him consideration: I'd tend him like an own mother."

"Susie didn't tend him like an own mother," said Brother Tom, who was two years younger than Susan. "I remember all about it. All she did for him was to keep the flies off with an apple-tree limb, and she was for ever letting it drop on his face."

"I recollect all about it," said Susan: "I pity myself now when I remember how tired and sleepy I used to get. The room was always so quiet—not a sound in it but the buzzing of the lazy flies and poor uncle's hard breathing. I used to feel as though I were in prison or all alone at a funeral."

"But self-abnegation has its reward, Susie," said Brother Tom, lifting his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders.

"Oh, I'm free to acknowledge that I performed the duties at that bedside very reluctantly," Susan answered. "I had many a cry over my hard fate. Indeed, I believe I always had to wash off the tear-stains before going to the task. I can recall now just how the little red-eyed girl looked standing before the glass with towel and brush. But still, I did keep the flies off, and I did bring uncle fresh water from the well, and perhaps I deserve a reward all the more because the work was distasteful."

"Mother used to try to make me do it," said Brother Tom. "I remember how I used to slip away from the table while she was pouring out father's fourth cup of coffee, and put for the playground, to escape that fly-brush. I wasn't a good boy, alas! or I might now be a happy man with all my debts paid. I wish my mother had trounced me and made me keep those flies off Uncle Adolphus."

Brother Tom was one of those people who are always trying to say and look funny things. Sometimes he succeeded, and sometimes he didn't.

"Anyhow, I think it's a shame," Gertrude said, pouting—"downright mean for Uncle Adolphus to give you all that money, and never give me a cent."

"Very likely." Susan replied dryly.

"Well, it is, Susie. You've got lots more money now than you know what to do with: you don't need that money at all."

"Don't I?"

"No, you don't, Susie: you know you don't. You never go into society, and you wear your dresses the same way all the time, just as Grandma Summerhaze does. But I'm just making my début"—and Gertrude flushed and tossed her head with a pretty confusion, because she was conscious of having made a sounding speech—"and I need lots of things, such as the rest of the girls have."

"My dear Gertrude," began Brother Tom, "'beauty unadorned'—"

"Oh, do, pray, Tom, have mercy upon us!" Gertrude said testily. "Unfortunately, I happen not to be a beauty, so I need some adorning. Moreover, I don't admit that beauty can do without adorning. There's Minnie Lathrop: she's a beauty, but she wouldn't improve herself by leaving off flowers and ribbons and laces, and dressing herself like a nun. Dear me! she does have the loveliest things! Mine are so shabby beside them. I'm about the tag-end of our set, anyhow, in matters of dress. I think, Susie, you might give me a hundred or two dollars."

"To waste in ribbons and bonnets?" asked business-woman Susan.

"Why, Susie, how you do talk! A body would think you had never worn a ribbon, and that you'd gone bareheaded all the days of your life. But you needn't talk: it's not so long ago but I can remember when you were as fond of dress as any girl in the city. I remember how you used to tease mamma for pretty things."

"Which I never got, even though I was earning them over and over." Susan spoke half sadly, half bitterly.

"Well, you ought to have had nice things, Susie, when you were in society," Gertrude insisted. "Girls can't get married if they're shabby and old-fashioned."

"That's true," said Susan gravely.

"I think," continued her sister, "it's the meanest feeling, the sheep-ish-est"—Gertrude syllabled the word to make sure of her hold on it—"in this world to know that the gentlemen are ashamed to show you attention. Now, I'm cleverer and better-looking than lots of girls in our set—Delia Spaulding, for instance—but I don't have half the attention she receives, just on account of her fixings and furbelows."

"And Miss Spaulding always manages to keep ahead in those sublimities," said Brother Tom.

"Yes," assented Gertrude briskly. "No matter what on earth the rest of us girls get, Delia Spaulding manages to have something to cast us into the shade. It makes me so mad! Now, last week at Mrs. Gildersleeve's, when I dressed for the party I thought I looked really nice. I felt a complacency toward myself, as Margaret Pillsbury would say. But when I got to the party, there was Delia Spaulding prinked out with such lights and shades and lustres that I looked plain as a Quaker in comparison with her—or with any of the other girls, for that matter. Do you know, Susie, what the feeling is to be always behind in dress?"

"Yes," Susan answered, a piteous shadow coming into her face as memories of the heart-burning days were evoked, "but I am glad to have done with all the vanity and heartache that comes of it."

"But yet, Susie, you ought to know how to feel for me."

"I do know how," Susan answered.

"Then why don't you help me across some of the heartache?"

"I might help you into a worse heartache by my meddling," Susan suggested.

"You don't want anybody to marry you because you dress well and are stylish?" said Brother Tom, undertaking to explain Susan's meaning.

"I don't know that I want anybody to marry me for any reason," Gertrude flashed out, her cheeks flushing, "but I like to go, once in a while, to young people's gatherings, and then I like to be dressed so that gentlemen are not ashamed to be seen with me."

"A fellow ought to have pluck enough to stand up for the merit of a young lady, no matter how she's dressed."

"Now, Tom, for pity's sake, don't talk heroics," said Gertrude. "I've seen you at parties shying around the poorly-dressed girls and picking out the pretty-plumaged birds. I know all about your heroism. I'm not blaming you, you understand: I don't like to dance or promenade with a gentleman not well dressed. Next to looking well yourself, you wish your partner to look well. That's nature.—But what are you going to do with your fifteen hundred dollars, anyhow, Susie?"

"I shall add something to it and build a house on one of my lots."

"'Pon my soul!" said Brother Tom, laughing.

"How perfectly absurd!" exclaimed Gertrude. "Suppose your house should burn down as soon as it's finished, as the First Congregational church did?"

"I'd get the insurance on it, as the Congregational church didn't."

"What in the world do you want with a house? Are you going to live in it yourself? Are you going to get married?" asked Brother Tom.

"I have two objects in building the house," Susan explained. "One is to secure a good investment for my money: the other is to exercise my ingenuity in planning a model house."

"And in the mean time I am to keep on being Miss Nobody," Gertrude said warmly, "and lose all the chances of fortune. I wouldn't have believed, Susie, that you could be so hard-hearted;" and tears began to gather in Miss Gertrude's pretty eyes. "It must be that you want an old-maid sister for company," she added with some spite.'

Tom went out of the room whistling. He was apt to run if he perceived a fight waxing. He had a soft place in his silly heart for his pretty young sister. He wished Susan would do something for Gertrude: he thought she might. He'd feel considerably more comfortable in escorting Gertrude to parties if she ranked higher in the dress-circle. He'd help her if he could, but he was already behind at his tailor's and at Hunsaker's cigar-shop.

"I'm invited to Mrs. Alderson's next week," Gertrude continued, "and I've nothing on earth to wear but that everlasting old white muslin that I've worn five times hand-running."

"I heard you say that Amanda Stewart had worn one dress to all the parties of this season," Susan remarked.

"Amanda Stewart can afford to wear one dress: her father's worth millions, and everybody knows it. Everybody knows she can have a dozen new dresses for every day of the year. But we poor folks have got to give ocular demonstration of our ability to have new dresses, or nobody will ever believe that we can. Everybody knows that I wear that white muslin because I can't afford any other, I do wish I could have a new dress for Mrs. Alderson's: it will be a dreadfully select party. I've rung all the changes possible on that white muslin: I've worn pink trimmings, and white trimmings, and blue trimmings, and I've worn flowers; and now I'm at my wit's end."

"I wish I were able to advise you," Susan said.

"Advise me?" Gertrude exclaimed impatiently. "What good would advice do? It takes money to get up changes in evening dresses."

"You poor little goose!" said Susan with a grave smile, "I suppose I was once just as foolish. Well, here are twenty-five dollars you may have. It is really all I can spare, for I mean to go at building my house immediately."

"Susie, you're a duck!" cried the delighted Gertrude, eagerly taking the bills. "I can get along nicely with twenty-five dollars for this time, but, oh dear! the next time!"

But Susan did not heed her sister's foreboding cry. Getting pencil and paper, she was soon engaged in sketching the ground-floor of a cottage house. It was to cost about twenty-six hundred dollars. This was years before the day of high prices, when a very cozy house could be compassed for twenty-six hundred.

The following three weeks were very busy weeks for Susan, though all she did was to work at the plan of her house. Her mother grumbled. Brother Tom made his jokes, and Gertrude "feazed," to use her own word. The neighbors came and went, and still Susan continued to sit with drawing-tools at her desk, sketching plan after plan, and rejecting one after another.

"I declare, Susie," said her sister, "I don't believe Christopher Wren gave as much thought to the planning of St. Paul's as you have to that cottage you're going to build. I believe in my heart you've made a thousand diagrams."

"Well," Susan retorted, "I don't suppose anybody's been hurt by them."

"You wouldn't say that if you had to clear up the library every morning as I have to. Those sketches of yours are everywhere, lying around loose. I have picked them up and picked them up, till they've tired me out. 'Parlor, dining-room, kitchen, pantry:' I've read this and read it, till it runs in my head all day, like 'rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief.' I've marked off the figures on all the papering in this house into 'parlor, dining-room, kitchen, pantry."

"I don't see a mite of reason in Susan's being so particular about that house," said the mother, "seein' she's going to rent it. Now, if she was going to live in it herself, or any of the rest of the family, it would be different, Anyway, these plans all look to me like first-rate ones," she continued, glancing from one to another of half a dozen under her spectacles—"plenty good enough for renting-houses. Now, this one is right pretty, 'pears to me, and right handy.—What's the reason this one won't do, Susan?"

"Why, mother, don't you see the fault?" Susan replied. "There's no way of getting to the dining-room except through the kitchen."

"To be sure!" said the mother. "Of course that would never do, for, of all things, I do despise to have folks stalking through my kitchen when the pots and kittles are all in a muss, as they're always like to be at meal-times. What ever did you draw it this way for, Susan?"

"Well, I didn't see how it was coming out till it was finished."

"To be sure! Well, now, what's the matter with this one?" and the mother singled out another sketch. "This one seems to be about right."

"Why, yes, I think it's splendid," said Gertrude, leaning over her mother's shoulder and studying the plan under consideration. "There's the cellar-way opening from the pantry, and there's a movable slide between dining-room and pantry, right over the sink.—Why, Susie, I think this is wonderfully nice. Why don't you adopt this plan?"

"The objection to it is that the pantry has no window: it would be as dark as a pocket. Don't you see there can't be a window?"

"So there can't," said Gertrude.

"That spoils the whole thing," said the mother. "If there's anything I do despise, it's this thing of fumblin' 'round in a dark pantry; and, before everything else, I want my mouldin'-board so I can see what goes into my bread. Now, I never noticed about that window, and I s'pose would never have minded about it till the house was built an' I'd gone in to mix my bread. Then wouldn't I have been in a pretty pickle? Clean beat! Well, I suppose there's something or other the matter with all these plans?"

"Yes," said Susan, "they're all faulty."

"I don't see any fault in this one, Susie," said Gertrude.

"That one has the kitchen chimney in the pantry," Susan explained.

"Dear me! that would never do," said the mother. "Of all things, I dote on a cool pantry. What with the baking and the laundry-work, that chimney would keep the pantry all the while het up. It would be handy for canned fruits and jellies in the winter, though—so many of ours froze and bursted last winter."

"Now, this one," said Gertrude—"I'm sure this is all right, Susie. I can't see anything wrong about this one."

"Why, don't you see? That kitchen hasn't a door in it except the cellar-door," said Susan.

"Well, I declare!" Gertrude said. "What ridiculous plans you do make, Susie! The idea of planning a kitchen without a door!"

"Why, that would never do, Susan," the mother objected. "Folks never could take all the victuals and things down through the cellar."

"I warrant I could plan a house, and a model house, the first time," Gertrude boasted.

"Try it," replied Susan quietly.

"I know I can," Gertrude insisted, settling herself with paper and pencil.

"I believe I'll try my hand," said the mother. "I've housekept so long I likely know what are the belongings of a handy house;" and she too settled herself with paper and pencil and spectacles.

There was silence for a few minutes as the three drew lines and rubbed them out.

Presently Brother Tom came in. "Well, for ever!" he exclaimed, with the inevitable laugh. "What are you people all about? Have you all gone house-mad? Are you, too, going to build a house, Gert?"

"No, I'm just helping Susie: she can't get any plan to suit her."

"Why don't you call on me, Susie? Let me have a pencil and a scrap of paper: I can plan a house in the half of no time."

"Here," Susan answered, furnishing the required materials, and enjoying, meanwhile, the thought of the discomfiture which, as she felt sure, awaited these volunteer architects.

"Do see mother's plan!" laughed Gertrude after a while, peeping over that lady's shoulder. "Her kitchen is large enough for a prosperous livery-stable, and it has ten windows; and here's the parlor—nothing but a goods-box; and she hasn't any way of gettin; to the second floor."

"Put in an elevator," said Brother Tom.

This drew Gertrude's attention to Tom's sketch, so she went across, and looked it over. Man-like, he had left out of his plan everything in the way of a pantry or closet, though he had a handsome smoking-room and a billiard-hall.

Not at all disconcerted by the criticisms of his plan, Tom proceeded with wonderful contrivance to run a partition with his pencil across one end of his roomy smoking apartment for pantry and ladies' clothes-presses.

"That's just like a man," Gertrude said. "He'd have all the dishes and all the ladies' dresses toted through the smoking-room."

"Well, see here," Tom said: "I can take closets off this bedroom;" and the division-line was quickly run.

"And, pray, whose bedroom is that supposed to be?" Gertrude asked. "It might answer for a retired bachelor who has nothing to store but an extra shirt: it wouldn't do for a young lady with such hoops as they wear these days. She couldn't squeeze in between the bed and washstand to save her flounces. You ain't an architect, Tom: that's certain."

"Well, now, let's see your plan," challenged the gentleman; and he began to read from Gertrude's paper: "'Parlor, sewing-room—' Now that's extravagant, Gert. I think your women-folks might get along without a special sewing-room. Why can't they sew in the dining-room?"

"That's handsome, and very gallant," answered Gertrude. "Your men can have a billiard-room and a smoking-room, while my poor women can't even have a comfortable place for darning the men's stockings and sewing on their shirt-buttons. Oh, men are such selfish creatures!"

"Well, now," said Brother Tom, "I'll leave it to Susie if those tenants of hers can afford to have a special sewing-room."

"And I'll leave it to Susie if—"

But Susan interrupted her: "You and Tom must settle your disputes without my help. There, now! I think I have my plan decided upon at last. After a hundred and one trials I believe I have a faultless sketch."

"Let's see it," said one and another, all gathering about the speaker.

Susan explained her plan. The only objection to it came from the mother. She was afraid if things were made so dreadful handy the folks would get to be lazy; and, anyhow, there wasn't any use in having things so nice in a rented house: they'd get put out of kilter right away.

But Susan had set out to build a perfect house, and she was not to be frightened from her object. So in process of time there were delivered into the owner's hands the keys of the house that Susan had built.

Three lines in a morning paper inviting a tenant brought a throng of applicants. Susan, like the generality of landlords, had her face set against tenants with certain encumbrances, so a score or more of applicants had been refused the house before the close of the first day.

Toward evening a gentleman called to see Miss Summerhaze, announcing himself as Mr. Falconer. When Susan entered the parlor she found a heavy-set, rather short man, who had bright gray eyes, a broad full forehead, and was altogether a very good-looking person.

"I have called," he said immediately, "to inquire about the house you have advertised for rent on North Jefferson street."

"I am ready to answer your inquiries," said Susan, like the business-woman she was.

After the questions usual in such circumstances, by which Mr. Falconer satisfied himself that the house would probably answer his purpose, it became Susan's turn to satisfy herself that he was such a tenant as she desired for her model house. "Before going to look at the house," she said, "I ought to ask you some questions, for I feel particular about who goes into it."

Susan had occasion at a later day to remember the shade of uneasiness that came into Mr. Falconer's face at this point. "I trust I shall be able to answer all your questions to your satisfaction," he said.

"Do you keep dogs?" This is the first question Susan asked.

Mr. Falconer smiled, and looked as though he wondered what that had to do with the matter.

"I ask," Susan hastened to explain, "because dogs often tear up the grounds."

"Well, no, I don't keep dogs," Mr. Falconer answered.

"Have you boys?"

Mr. Falconer smiled quietly, and replied, "No, I haven't any boys."

"Three or four rough boys will ruin a house in a few months," Susan said in her justification. "Have you any children?—a large family?"

"What do people do who have large families and who must rent houses?" Mr. Falconer asked.

"Why, go to people more anxious to rent than I am."

"No," said Mr. Falconer, returning to the question: "I am unfortunately a bachelor."

"Do you propose keeping bachelor's hall?" Susan asked in quick concern. "Excuse me, but I could not think of renting the house to a bachelor or bachelors. It is a rare man who is a house-keeper. Things would soon be at sixes and sevens with a set of men in the house."

"I do not wish to rent the house for myself, but for a friend."

"Well, I propose the same questions in reference to your friend that I have asked concerning yourself."

"Well, then," Mr. Falconer replied, still smiling, "my friend does not keep dogs; she has no boys; she has one little girl."

"Your friend is a lady—a widow?"

"No—yes, I mean to say."

"Do I understand that she is a widow?"

"Yes, of course."

There was a confusion in Mr. Falconer's manner that Susan remembered afterward.

"Can you give me references, Mr. Falconer?" and Susan looked him straight in the eye.

"Well, yes. Mr. Hamilton of the Hamilton Block I know, and Mr. Dorsheimer of the Metropolitan Hotel. I am also acquainted with Andrew Richardson, banker, and with John Y. Martindale, M.C."

"Those references are sufficient," Susan said, her confidence restored. "I will make inquiries, and if everything is right, as I have no doubt it is, you can have the house if you should find that it suits you. Will you go over now and look at it? It is scarcely a half block from here."

"Yes, if you please: I should like the matter settled as soon as possible."

So Susan put on her bonnet and brought a bunch of keys, and walked away with Mr. Falconer to show the house which she had built. And a proud woman was Susan as she did this, and a perfect right had Susan to be a proud woman. She had, indeed, built a model house as far as twenty-six hundred dollars could do this. That amount was never, perhaps, put into brick and mortar in better shape. So Mr. Falconer thought, and so he said very cordially.

"Oh," sighed our poor Susan when she was again at home, "how good it seems to have such appreciation!"

Susan made inquiries of Mr. Hamilton of the Hamilton Block concerning Mr. Falconer.

"Very nice man—very nice man, indeed!" Mr. Hamilton answered briskly: "deals on the square, and always up to time."

So the papers were drawn up, and Mr. Falconer paid the first month's rent—forty dollars.

"Here, Gertrude," Susan said, handing her sister a roll of bills: "half the rent of my house I shall allow you. Make yourself as pretty as you can with it."

"Oh, you blessed darling angel!" Gertrude cried in a transport. "You're the best sister that ever lived, Susie: you really are. Make myself pretty! I tell you I mean to shine like a star with this money. Twenty dollars a month! Delia Spaulding spends five times as much, I suppose. But never mind. I have an eye and I have fingers: I'll make my money do wonders."

This Gertrude indeed did. She knew instinctively what colors and what shapes would suit her form and face and harmonize with her general wardrobe. So she wasted nothing in experiments or in articles to be discarded because unbecoming or inharmonious. If Gertrude's toilets were less expensive than Delia Spaulding's, they were more unique and more picturesque. Indeed, there was not in her set a more prettily-dressed girl than Gertrude, and scarcely a prettier girl. Her society among the gentlemen was soon quoted at par, and then rose to a premium.

Promptly on the first day of the second month Mr. Falconer called to pay Susan's rent.

"How does your friend like the house?" she asked with a pardonable desire to hear her house praised.

"Very much indeed. She says it is the most complete house of its kind that she ever saw. Who was your architect, Miss Summerhaze? I ask because the question has been asked of me by a gentleman who contemplates building an inexpensive residence."

"I planned the house," Susan answered, a light coming into her face.

"Indeed! In all its details?"

"Yes, I planned everything."

"Have you studied architecture?"

"Not until I undertook to plan that house."

"That is your first effort? You never planned a house before?"

"No."

"You ought to turn builder: you ought to open an architect's office."

Susan laughed at the novel suggestion, for that was before the days when women were showing their heads in all the walks of life.

"'Miss Summerhaze, Architect:' that would make a very unique card. It would get abundant advertising free of expense, for everybody would talk about it. There is no reason," continued Mr. Falconer, "why women should not be architects: they have the taste, and they are the best judges as to household conveniences—the only proper judges, indeed."

This has now a very commonplace sound, but for the period it was fresh and original, and seemed so to Susan. Indeed, the idea was fascinating: she thought Mr. Falconer a wonderfully bright and suggestive man.

"I wish there were other things women could do besides teaching and taking in sewing," Susan said.

"Well, why don't you put yourself in the lead in this matter, Miss Summerhaze? Somebody or bodies must step to the front. A revolution in these matters is bound to come. Why shouldn't you become an architect? Why shouldn't you go into a work for which you have evidently remarkable talent? Why shouldn't you become a builder?"

"Well," said Susan, smiling, "there is no pressing call for me to earn money. I have had my work-day, and have sufficient means to meet my simple wants. Besides, I am not pining or rusting in idleness. The management of my little means gives me employment. I happen to be one of those exceptional women who 'want but little here below,' especially in the way of ribbons and new bonnets. As you perceive, I give myself little concern about matters of dress."

"And why shouldn't you give yourself concern about matters of dress, Miss Summerhaze? Pardon me, but I think it your duty to look as well as you can. You cannot do this without bestowing thought on matters of dress."

"Why," said Susan, laughing, "what possible difference can it make to anybody how I look?"

"It makes a difference to every person whom you encounter," Mr. Falconer replied incisively.

"To you?" Susan challenged laughingly.

"Yes, a good deal of difference to me," the gentleman replied promptly. "The sight of a woman artistically dressed affects me like fine music or a fine painting."

"But have you no commendation for the woman who is independent enough to rise above the vanities of fashion?" Susan asked with some warmth.

"Most certainly I have. I admire the woman who rises above vanities of whatever nature. By all means throw the vanities of dress overboard, but don't let sense and taste go with them. But I am making a lengthy call: I had forgotten myself. Excuse me. Good-morning;" and Mr. Falconer went out, and left Susan standing in the parlor just opposite an oil-painting over the mantel.

She lifted her eyes to the picture. A simple little landscape it was, where cows stood in a brook which wound in and out among drooping willows. Susan always liked to look at this picture, because she knew it was well painted. The cows had a look of quiet enjoyment in their shapely figures. A coolness was painted in the brook and a soft wind in the willow-branches. She stood there before it this morning thinking how sweet it would be to move some man's soul as a fine painting might move it. Then she sighed, and went to divide her month's rent with her sister.

"Gertrude," she said, "do I look very old-fashioned?"

"Of course you do," said Gertrude. "You look fully as old-fashioned as grandma does—more old-fashioned than mother does. I do wish, Susie, you would dress better. You make me feel terribly sheepish sometimes. You can afford to dress well."

"I have decided to get a new dress," said Susan. "What shall it be? and how shall it be made? Something for the street."

"Oh, I know exactly what you ought to have," Gertrude said with enthusiasm. "A dark-blue merino, a shade lighter than a navy, with blue velvet bretelles. You would look superb in it, Susie: you'd be made over new."

"I never looked superb in anything," said Susan with a smile through which one saw a heartache.

"Because you never had pretty things to wear, Susie—because you never dressed becomingly." The tears were actually in Gertrude's eyes, so keen was her sympathy with any woman who didn't wear pretty things. "Mayn't I go and select your dress this afternoon? Please let me: I know the exact shade you ought to have."

Susan gave her consent, and away sailed Gertrude to the shops, brimming with interest.

Through the enterprising management of this exuberant lady the new blue dress soon arrived from the dressmaker's, bearing at its throat a white favor in the shape of a good-sized bill. But then the dress was handsome and stylish, and Susan when duly arrayed in it did indeed seem made over.

"Susie, you look really handsome," Gertrude said when she had wound her sister's abundant chestnut hair into a stylish coil, and had arranged with artistic touches the inevitable laces and ribbons. "Just come to the glass and look at yourself."

To the mirror went Susan—poor Susan who had always thought herself plain—and there, sure enough, was a handsome face looking into hers, growing momently handsomer with surprise and pleasure kindling in the eye and spreading over cheek and brow.

Susan, be it understood, was by no means an ill-favored woman even in her old-fashioned dress. She had a very good complexion, blue eyes, large and dark and warm; and a mouth of some character, with mobile lips and bright even teeth. But nobody had ever called her handsome till to-day, neither had anybody called her plain. She had simply passed unmarked. But what she had all along needed was somebody to develop her resources, somebody to do just what had been done to-day—to get her into a dress that would bring out her clear complexion, that would harmonize with the shade of her earnest eyes; to take her hair out of that hard twist at the back of the head, and lay it tiara-like, a bright mass, above the brow; to substitute soft lace for stiff, glazed linen, and a graceful knot of ribbon for that rectangular piece of gold with a faded ambrotype in it called a breastpin. And, too, she needed that walk she took in the crisp air to bring the glow into her cheek; and then she needed that meeting with Mr. Falconer, which chanced in that walk, to heighten the glow and to brighten her already pleased eyes. The meeting took place at the door of her house. It was an arrested, lingering look which he gave her, and doubtless it was the character of this look, conscious and significant, that deepened the glow in her face,

"I wonder if I affected him like a fine picture or a fine strain of music?" Susan asked herself in passing him.

"Miss Summerhaze must be acting on the hint I gave her," thought Mr. Falconer; and he went on with a little smile about his mouth. It pleased him to think he had influenced her.

Thus it was that this man and this woman came to think of each other. And now you are guessing that this thinking of each other advanced into a warmer interest—that these two people fell in love if they were not too far gone in years for such nonsense. Well for us all that there are hearts that are never too old for the sweet nonsense—the nonsense that is more sensible than half the philosophy of the sages. Your guess is so good that I should feel chagrined if I were one of those writers who delight in mysteries and in surprising the reader. But my highest aim is to tell a straight-forward story, so I acknowledge the guess correct, so far, at least, as my Susan is concerned. I have said that the romance in her nature died hard; but it never died at all. This man, this almost stranger, was rousing it as warmth and light stir the sleeping asphodels of spring. The foolish Susan came to think of Mr. Falconer whenever she made her toilet—to thrill at every sight of him and at his lightest word. But this was not till after many other meetings and interviews than those this story has recorded. As Mr. Falconer was frequently at the house which Susan built, and as this was less than a block removed from the one she occupied, there naturally occurred many a chance meeting, when some significant glance or word would send Susan's heart searching for its meaning.

And these chance meetings were not all.

"Who was it that called, Susie?" Gertrude asked one evening when her sister came up from a half-hour's interview with some one in the parlor.

"The gentleman who rents my house," Susan replied, her face turned from Gertrude.

"What is he for ever coming here for?"

"He came to tell me that there were some screws loose in a door-hinge," Susan answered.

"For pity's sake!" exclaimed Gertrude. "That's a great thing to come bothering about! Why didn't he get a screw-driver and screw up the screws?"

"It's my place to keep the house in order," said Susan.

"The report of things out of order usually sets landlords in a feaze, but you keep as serene as the moon with your tenant's complaints. He's always finding something out of order, which seems strange, considering that the house is brand-new."

Not many days after Gertrude had occasion to repeat her question to Susan: "Who was it called?"

She received the reply she was expecting: "The man who rents my house."

"Indeed! What's the matter now? another screw loose?" Gertrude asked.

"He wanted to suggest an alteration in the pantry."

"Why, he's for ever wanting alterations made! I don't see how you can be so patient with his criticisms: we all know you are house-proud. I wouldn't listen to that man: he'll ruin your house with his improvements. I don't know, anyhow, what he can mean by saying in one breath that it is a perfect house, and in the next asking for an alteration."

"I'm sure I don't know," said Susan; and then her heart went into a happy wondering as to what Mr. Falconer could mean.

"What is it this time?" Gertrude asked about three days after in reference to "the man who rents my house," as described by Susan. "Does he want another story put on your house?"

"No, he simply wanted to say that it would suit him to pay the rent semi-monthly, instead of monthly," Susan answered somewhat warmly.

"And, pray, what's his notion for that?" Gertrude asked.

"I didn't inquire," replied Susan shortly, resenting the evident criticism in her sister's tone.

But Susan did inquire why it was—inquired not of Mr. Falconer, but of her own heart.

"I don't see any reason for his making two errands to do a thing that could be done in one call. Instead of putting off pay-day, after the manner of most men, he proposes to anticipate it. Well, perhaps you and he understand it: I don't."

Why was this? Was it because it would double his visits to her? Was Susan vain or foolish that she thus questioned herself?

It was perhaps a little singular that Mr. Falconer's name had never passed between these two sisters; neither had Gertrude ever seen the gentleman who made these frequent business-calls on Susan.

"The man who rents my house:" this reply told something—all that Gertrude cared to know on the subject; whereas the reply, "Mr. Falconer," would have conveyed no information. And because the name had never been mentioned Susan was startled one morning after one of Gertrude's fine parties. She was sitting at the window with a new magazine while the young people talked over the party.

"I liked him so much," said Gertrude. "He says such bright, sensible things: he's so original. Some men are good to dance, and some are good to talk: he's good for both."

"I heard him when he asked for an introduction to you," said Brother Tom. "He designated you as the young lady in the blonde dress: then he said, 'Her dress is exquisite—just the color of golden hair. I never saw a more beautiful toilette.'"

"Isn't that delightful?" cried Gertrude in a transport. "You precious old Tom, to hear that! I'll give you a kiss for it."

"I wonder," said Brother Tom, recovering, "if he can be the same Falconer I've heard the boys talk about?"

Susan had been hearing in an indolent way the talk between Tom and Gertrude, but now her heart was bounding, and she was listening intently.

"They tell about a Falconer who holds rather suspicious relations with a handsome woman somewhere in the city. He rents a house for her where she lives all alone, except that there's a baby and a servant-girl."

Alas for Susan! she knew but too well that this was her Mr. Falconer.

Tom continued: "The fellows have quizzed him about his lady, and have tried to find out who she is, and how he's connected with her, but he's close as a clam about the matter."

"Perhaps it's a widowed sister," Gertrude suggested.

"Then why doesn't he say so? and why doesn't he go there and live with her, instead of boarding at a hotel? and why doesn't she ever go out with him? They say she never goes out at all, but keeps hid away there like a criminal."

"I'd like to know how the fellows, as you call them, could have found all this out unless they employ spies?" Gertrude spoke testily, feeling a strong inclination to stand up for the man who had paid her a handsome compliment. "There probably are two Falconers. I know there's nothing wrong about my Mr. Falconer, otherwise Mr. Richmond wouldn't have introduced him to me."

"I wish I had thought to inquire if he's the man, but till this moment I've not thought of that talk of the boys since I heard it. It takes women to remember scandal and repeat it," said Brother Tom sagely. "But I'll inquire about it, Gerty. Don't go to dreaming about Mr. Falconer till I find out."

"Hold your tongue, you great idjiot!" said Gertrude, wrapping with lazy grace a bright shawl about her and settling herself on a sofa to nap off the party drowsiness. "Go on down town and find out," she continued, her heavily-lashed lids dropping over the sleepy eyes: "go along!"

So Tom went down town, Gertrude went to sleep, and Susan was left to her thoughts. What had these thoughts been about all these weeks that the question had never arisen as to the connection between Mr. Falconer and the woman who occupied her house, "Who is she?" Now, indeed, Susan asked the question with a burning at her heart. If she was simply a friend or a sister, why this reticence and mystery of which Tom had spoken? If she was his wife, why any reticence or mystery? Besides, Mr. Falconer had said he was a bachelor.

Susan could contrive no answers to these questions that brought any relief to her vexed heart. She had no courage to make inquiries of others, lest the character of her interest might be discovered. Guilt made her cowardly.

She was yet turning the matter over and over when Brother Tom returned. She scanned his face with a keen scrutiny, eager to get at what he had learned, yet not daring to ask a question.

When Tom had pinched Gertrude's drowsy ear into consciousness he poured into it this unwelcome information: "I've found out that your Mr. Falconer is the man. But who the lady is I have not been able to discover. She is an inscrutable mystery—a good heroine for Wilkie Collins."

"Who told you?" Gertrude demanded in a challenging tone.

"Jack Sidmore: he knows your Mr. Falconer well. Why, Falconer's no new man: he's an old resident here. He's of the firm of Falconer, Trowbridge & Co., grain-dealers on Canal street. You know Phil Trowbridge?"

"I'm sure there's nothing wrong about Mr. Falconer, or he wouldn't have been at Minnie Lathrop's party." said Gertrude resolutely.

"Well, Jack Sidmore knows the gentleman, and he says there is no doubt he has suspicious relations with Miss or Madam The-Lord-knows-who. So, you see, you're to drop Mr. Falconer like a hot potato—to give him the cut direct."

"It would be a shame to if he's all right, and I feel certain he is," said Gertrude, still showing fight.

"Now, look here, Gert: don't be foolish. It won't do to compromise yourself. Be advised by me: I'm your guardian angel, you know. You can spare Mr. Falconer: your train will be long enough with him cut off."

"He's the most interesting acquaintance I've made this winter," said Gertrude persistently.

"Don't you say so, Sue? Oughtn't Gertrude to cut him? You've heard what we've been talking about, haven't you?"

"Please don't appeal to me," Susan managed to say without lifting her eyes from the blurred page before her.

She had been more than once on the point of telling Gertrude and Tom what she knew about Mr. Falconer—that it was her house he had rented for his friend, etc. But everything about the matter was so indefinite. She was fearful of exposing her unhappy heart, and she had withal some vague hope of unsnarling the tangled skein when she should find opportunity to think. So she allowed them to finish up their discussion and to leave the room without a hint of the facts in her knowledge.

When they had gone the set, statuesque features relaxed. A stricken look settled like a shadow over them. You would have said, "It will never depart: that face can never brighten again."

The thing in Susan's heart was not despair. There was the suffering that comes from the blight of a sweet hope, from the rude dispossession of a good long withheld. But overriding everything else was humiliation—a feeling of degradation, such as some deed of shame would engender. Her spirit was in the dust, for she knew now that she had given her love unasked. Was not this enough, after all the years of longing and dreary waiting and sickening commonplace? Could not the Fates have let her off from this cup, so bitter to a proud woman's lips? Why should she be delivered over to an unworthy love? Why should they exact this uttermost farthing of anguish her heart could pay? But is he unworthy? is this proved? asked the sweet voice of Hope. Then the face which you were sure could never brighten, did brighten, but, alas! so little; for there was another voice, a voice that dismayed: "Why otherwise the silence, the mystery?" Persistently the question was repeated, till Mrs. Summerhaze came in and asked Susan to do some marketing for dinner.

"You look all fagged, anyway: the fresh air 'll be good for you."

So Susan put on her bonnet and went out, feeling there was nothing could do her any good. She drew her veil down, the better to shut away her suffering from people, and a little way from home turned into a meat-market. She was in the centre of the shop before she discovered Mr. Falconer a few yards away, his back turned to her. She involuntarily caught at her veil to make sure it was closely drawn. She held it securely down, and hurried away at random to the remotest part of the shop, though her ear was all the while strained to hear what Mr. Falconer was saying.

He was ordering sundry packages to be sent to No. 649 North Jefferson street—Susan's house. In her remote corner, from behind her veil, with eager eyes Susan looked at the face that to her had been so noble, at the form which had seemed full of graceful strength. She would have yielded up her life there to have had that face and form now as it had been to her. He went out of the shop, and she went about making her purchases in a dazed kind of way that caused the shopman to stare. Then she wandered up the street past her home to 649 North Jefferson street, to the house she had built with such abounding pride and pleasure. How changed it now seemed! It had become a haunted house—haunted by the ghosts of her faith and peace.

For three days Susan as much as possible kept away from the family, and appeared very much engaged with Prescott's Conquest of Peru. But at the breakfast-table on the third day she received a start. Gertrude and Tom had been at a party the evening before. (They averaged some four parties a week.) Tom looked surly and Gertrude defiant.

"Why, Tom, what's the matter with you?" the mother asked. "'Pears to me I never did see you so pouty as you be this morning. What's gone crooked?"

"Perhaps Gertrude can inform you," Tom answered severely.

Gertrude flushed with annoyance, but tossed her head.

"Why, what's happened, Gertrude?"

"Nothing for Tom to make such a fuss about. He's mad at me because I won't insult a gentleman who is invited to the best houses, and who is received by the most particular young ladies of my acquaintance."

"At any rate," retorted Tom, "I heard Jack Sidmore tell his sister that she was not to recognize Mr. Falconer. I have warned Gertrude that a great many people believe him to be a suspicious character, and some know him to be such, so far as women are concerned, and yet last night Gertrude accepted his company home."

"Hadn't you gone home with Delia Spaulding? Was I to come trapesing home alone?" said Gertrude by way of justification.

"Now, Gert, be fair: didn't I tell you that I'd be back immediately?"

"Yes, but I knew something about the length of your 'immediatelies' when Delia Spaulding was concerned."

"You might have had Phil Trowbridge as an escort."

"Phil Trowbridge! I hate him!" said Gertrude with such vehemence that the very line which parted her hair was crimsoned.

"Well, what's that other man done?" asked the mother, who had not lost her interest in the original question. "What do folks have against him?"

"Why, he's rented a house and set up a woman in it, and nobody knows who she is, and he won't let out a word about her. If she's an honest wife or his sister or a reputable friend, why the deuce doesn't he say so? Jack Sidmore says there isn't any doubt but that the woman is Falconer's mistress, to speak in plain English. Hang it! Gertrude can't take a hint."

"Falconer! Why, Susan, ain't that the name of the man who rented your house?" cried the mother.

Susan felt all their eyes turned on her, and knew that she was cornered. So she said "Yes," and raised her coffee-cup to her lips, but set it down quickly, as she felt her hand trembling.

"And did he rent it for a lady friend?" Tom asked, putting a significant stress on the last two words.

"He did," Susan answered.

"And is there living in your house, right here beside us, a mysterious woman with a baby?" Gertrude asked eagerly.

"There's a woman living in my house, and she has a little girl," said Susan on the defensive.

"And does Mr. Falconer visit her?"

"Perhaps so: I have no spies out."

"Why, Susie! how strange! You never told me a word about it. I never dreamed that Mr. Falconer was the man who had rented your house, and who has been running here so much," Gertrude said.

"Well, I'd get that woman out of my house as quick as ever I could if I was you, Susan," said Mrs. Summerhaze. "Like as not the house will get a bad name, so you'll have trouble renting it."

"I'm more concerned about Gertrude's name," Tom said.

Gertrude's eyes flashed daggers at Tom.

"Of course Gertrude mustn't keep company with Mr. Falconer," said the mother. "Young girls can't be too particular who they 'sociate with."

Susan said nothing on the subject, though by far the most concerned of the party on her sister's account. It was significant and alarming, the warmth and persistence with which Gertrude defended Mr. Falconer. It was evident that her interest was in some way enlisted. Was it sympathy she felt, or was hers a generous stand against a possible injustice? Whatever the feeling, there was danger in this young and ardent girl becoming the partisan of an interesting man. Yet how could she, the involved, bewildered Susan, dare warn Gertrude? How could she ever do it? Would it not seem even to her own heart that she was acting selfishly? How could she satisfy her own conscience that she was not moved by jealousy? Besides, what could she say? Gertrude knew all that she could tell her of Mr. Falconer and his relations—knew everything except that she, Susan, had loved—and, alas! did yet love unasked—this unworthy man.

Ought she, as her mother had advised, demand possession of her house? She shrunk from striking at a man—above all, this man—whom so many were assaulting. No. She would leave God to deal with him. Besides, there might be nothing wrong. All might yet be explained, all might yet be set to rights, all—unless, unless Gertrude—Oh, why should there arise this new and terrible complication? Gertrude with her youth and beauty and enthusiasm—why must she be drawn into the wretchedness?

For days, feverish, haunted days, Susan went over and over these questions and speculations. In the mean time, Tom entered another complaint against Gertrude. "She gave the greater part of last evening to the fellow," he said.

"The party was stiff and stupid: Margaret Pillsbury's parties always are—no dancing, no cards. Mr. Falconer was the only man there who could say anything." This was Gertrude's defence, given with some confusion, and with more of doggedness than defiance in her tone.

"I told you, Gertrude, you had ought to stop keeping company with Mr. Falconer," said her mother.

"If she doesn't stop, she will force me to insult the gentleman," said Brother Tom resolutely.

Gertrude looked at the speaker as though she would like to bite him with all her might.

"Now, don't go to getting into a fuss," the mother said to Tom. "Gertrude must stop, or else she'll have to stop going to parties and stay to home."

Gertrude did not speak, but Susan, glancing up, saw a set look in the young face that struck a terror to her heart. She believed that she could interpret her sister's every look and mood—that she knew Gertrude by heart.

"By their opposition they are only strengthening her interest:" this was Susan's conclusion.

In the mean time, Mr. Falconer's next pay-day was approaching. With a dreadful kind of fascination Susan counted the hours that must bring the interview with him. She longed yet dreaded to meet him. Would he look changed to her? would she seem changed to him? How should she behave? how would he behave? Would she be able to maintain a calm coldness, or would her conscious manner betray her mistrust, her wounded heart? So great, at times, grew her dread of the meeting that she was tempted to absent herself, and to ask her mother or Tom to see Mr. Falconer and receive the rent-money. But she did not dare trust either of these. Tom might take that opportunity of conveying the insult with which he had threatened Mr. Falconer, while the plain-spoken mother would be certain to forbid him Gertrude's society, and probably give him notice to vacate Susan's house. No, she must stay at home and abide the meeting; and, after all, what would she not rather do and suffer than miss it?

But an interview with Mr. Falconer came sooner than Susan had anticipated. It was in the early evening, immediately after tea, that the servant brought her Mr. Falconer's card, on which was written, "An emergency! May I see you immediately?"

Susan hid the card in her dress-pocket, and went wondering and blundering down stairs and into the parlor.

Mr. Falconer rose and came quickly forward. His manner was nervous and hurried; "I thank you for this prompt response to my appeal, Miss Summerhaze. You can do a great kindness for me; and not for me only—you can serve a woman who is in sore need of a friend."

Susan's heart was ready to leap from her bosom. Was she to be asked to befriend this woman toward whom people's eyes were turning in mistrust, and about whom their lips were whispering?

"May I depend on you?" Mr. Falconer asked.

"Go on," said Susan vaguely.

"But may I depend upon you? upon your secresy?"

"In all that is honest you may depend upon me," she replied.

"Briefly, then. The lady for whom I rented your house is my sister. I could never tell you her story: it ought never to be told. But the man she married betrayed all her trust, and made her life one long nightmare of horrors. At length, in a drunken fury one wretched autumn night, in the rain and sleet, he turned her and her baby into the street at midnight, and bolted the doors against them. Then she resolved to fly from him and be rid of him for ever. A train was about leaving the dépôt, some three blocks distant. Without bonnet or shawl, the damp ice in her hair and on her garments, she entered the car, the only woman in it. She came to me. Thank God! she had me to come to!"

Mr. Falconer was crying; so was Susan.

"The beneficent law gives the child to the father," Mr. Falconer continued. "The father is now in the city seeking the child. He has his detectives at work, and I have mine. In his very camp there is a man in my service. Fortunately, I out-money him. Now, my sister knows of Patterson's being here. (The man's name is Patterson.) She has grown pitifully nervous, and is full of apprehension. She is very lonely. I must get her away from that house, and yet I must keep her here with me: she has no one else to look to. I don't know, Miss Summerhaze, why I should come to you for help when there are hundreds of others here whom I have known so much longer. I am following an impulse."

He paused and looked at Susan, as if waiting for her reply. Happy Susan! Eager, trembling, her face glowing with a tender enthusiasm, a tearful ecstasy, feeling that it would be sweet to die in the service of this man whom her thoughts had so wronged, she gave her answer: "I am so glad you have come to me! Anything on earth I can do to aid you I will do with all my heart—as for myself. Let your sister come here if that will suit you."

It was what he wanted.

"I am sorry I have not made your sister's acquaintance: would it be convenient for me to go with you this evening and get acquainted with her?"

"Perfectly convenient, and I should be glad to have you go."

"I will bring my bonnet and shawl, and we will go at once."

"If you please."

Susan quickly crossed the parlor, but stopped at the door: "Perhaps your sister would feel more secure and more at peace to come to us right away—to-night. Sha'n't I bring her away to-night?"

"It would be a great mercy if you would do so, Miss Summerhaze," Mr. Falconer replied with an earnest thankfulness in his voice.

"Then please wait a few minutes till I explain things a little to my mother;" and with a quick, light step Susan hurried away.

Great were the surprise and interest awakened in the household by the revelation she made in the next ten minutes.

"Have her come right along to-night, poor thing!" the mother said, overflowing with sympathy.

Gertrude was triumphant. There was a warm glow on her cheek, and such a happy light in her eyes as Susan afterward remembered with a pang. "She had better have my room: it is so much more cheerful than the guest-chamber," Gertrude said.

Even Brother Tom, though demonstrated to have been on the wrong side, was pleased, for he was good-natured and generous in his light manner.

So Susan went back to Mr. Falconer, feeling that she had wings and could soar to the heavens. And she was happier yet as she walked that half block, her arm in his, feeling its warmth and strength. It is all very well to speculate in stocks and to build houses, but for such hearts as Susan's there is perhaps something better.

Too soon for one of them their brief walk was ended, and Susan sat in the neat, plainly-furnished parlor waiting the return of Mr. Falconer, who had gone to seek his sister. When at length the door opened, Susan sat forgetful, her gaze intent on the rare face that appeared by Mr. Falconer's side. It was not that the face was beautiful, though perhaps it was, or had been. It was picturesque, made so in great measure by a stricken look it had, and a strange still whiteness. It was one of those haunting faces that will not let themselves be forgotten—a face that solemnized, because it indexed the mortal agony of a human soul.

"Miss Summerhaze, this is my sister, Mrs. Patterson." said Mr. Falconer,

With a sweet cordiality of manner the lady held out her hand: "My brother has often told me about you: I am very glad to make your acquaintance."

Susan was greatly interested. "And I am very glad too," she said, a tremor in her voice. She wanted to run away and cry off the great flood of sympathy that was choking her. "Dear lady, may I kiss you?" she wanted to say. "Poor dear! she needs brooding." This Susan thought, and she wished she dared put out her arms and draw the sad face to her bosom, the sad heart against her own.

They talked over their plans, and then Mrs. Patterson and the little girl went home with Susan.

During Mrs. Patterson's stay with the Summerhazes, Mr. Falconer made frequent calls, though his movements were marked by great caution, lest they might betray the pursued wife to her husband. These calls were of a general character, designed for the household, and not exclusively for Mrs. Patterson. And they were continued after the lady had returned to No. 649. But they were to Susan tortures. They were but opportunities for noting the interest between Mr. Falconer and Gertrude. This was evident not alone to Susan, or she might have had some chance of charging it to the invention of her jealousy. Tom and Mrs. Summerhaze had both remarked it.

"He's well to do, Tom says, and stands respectable with the business-men," the mother commented to Susan; "and Gertrude 'pears fond of him, and he does of her; so I can't see any good reason why they shouldn't marry if they want one another. Anyhow, it's better for girls to marry and settle down and learn to housekeep—"

"Yes, yes," cried Susan's heart with pathetic impatience, "it's better, but—"

"Instead of going to parties in thin shoes and cobweb frocks: I wonder they don't all take the dipthery. And then they set up till morning. I couldn't ever stand that: I'd be laid up with sick headache every time. Besides, they eat them unhealthy oysters and Charlotte rooshes, and such like: no wonder so many people get the dyspepsy. Yes, I think Gertrude had better take Mr. Falconer if he wants her to. Ain't that your mind about it, Susan?"

"She had better accept him if—if—they love each other." Then Susan grew faint and soul-sick, and something in her heart seemed to die, as though she had spoken the fatal words that made them each other's for ever—that cut her loose from her sweet romance and sent her drifting into the gloom.

That evening Mr. Falconer called. Susan said she was not well, and kept her room. Gertrude had planned to go to the opera with Tom, but she decided to remain at home. Long after Tom had gone out Susan in her chamber above could hear from the parlor the murmur of voices—Mr. Falconer's and Gertrude's. They were low and deep: the topic between them was evidently no light one. While she listened her imagination was busy concerning their subject, their attitudes, their looks, and even their words. And every imagining was such a pain that she tried to close her ear against their voices. Then she went to her mother's room. Here, being forced to reply to commonplaces when all her thought was strained to the parlor, she was soon driven back to her own chamber. She turned the gas low and lay on a lounge, her face buried in the cushion, abandoned to a wrecked feeling.

After a time she heard some one enter her room. She sat up, and saw Gertrude standing beside her, the gas turned high. She wished her sister would go away: she hated the sight of that beautiful, glad face. She turned her eyes away from it, and then, ashamed to begrudge the young thing her happiness, she lifted her stained lids, to Gertrude's face and smiled all she possibly could. She tried in that moment to feel glad that the disappointment and grief had come to her instead of Gertrude. Her heart was inured to a hard lot, but Gertrude's had always been sheltered. It would be a pity to have it turned out into the cold: her own had long been used to chill and to hunger.

"Susie, won't you go with us sleigh-riding to-morrow evening?" Gertrude asked. "Mr. Falconer and I have planned a sleighing-party for to-morrow evening. They say the sleighing is perfectly superb."

"Is that what you've been doing?" Susan asked, feeling somehow that there would be a relief in hearing that it was all.

"That's a part of what we've been doing." A rosy glow came into Gertrude's cheek, and the old mean, jealous feeling came back into Susan's heart. "Mr. Falconer wants you to go," said Gertrude.

"He does not," Susan returned in a fierce tone. She was forgetting herself: her heart was giddy and blind with the sudden wave of bitterness that came pouring over it. "He wants you: nobody wants me. Go away!"

"Of course I'll go away if you want me to," Gertrude replied, pouting and looking injured, but yet lingering at Susan's side. She had come to tell something, and she didn't wish to be defrauded of the pleasure. "I guess you're asleep yet, Susie. Wake up and look at this;" and Gertrude held her beautiful white hand before Susan's eyes, and pointed to a superb solitaire diamond that blazed like a star on her finger. She sat down beside her sister. "I'm engaged, Susie, and I came up here to ask your blessing, and you're so cross to me;" and Gertrude put her head on Susan's shoulder and shed a few tears.

Susan could have cried out with frantic pain. "But," she thought, "I knew it was coming. After all, I am glad to have the suspense ended—to be brought to face the matter squarely."

In response to Gertrude's reproach Susan said in a low tone that was almost a whisper, "I congratulate you: I think you are doing well."

"Of course I'm doing well," Gertrude said, lifting her head and speaking with triumphant animation. "He's wealthy and handsome, and half the girls in our set are dying for him. But we've been about the same as engaged for months. But about two weeks ago we had an awful quarrel, all about nothing. But we were both so spunky I don't believe we ever would have made up in the wide world if it hadn't been for Mr. Falconer. He just went back and forth between us until I agreed to grant Phil an interview. So Phil came round to-night; and don't you believe the conceited thing brought the ring along!"

Susan was listening with wide-opened, staring eyes, like one in a trance. It wasn't Mr. Falconer, then; and who in the world was Phil? Was she awake? Had she heard aright? Yes, there was the ring and there was Gertrude, and she was still speaking: "I've already picked out my bridesmaids, I'm going to have Nellie Trowbridge—Phil's sister, you know—she's going to stand with Tom; and you're going to stand with Mr. Falconer, because he's the senior partner in Phil's firm: and then I'm going to have Delia Spaulding and Minnie Lathrop, because they'll make a good exhibition, they're so stylish."

On and on Gertrude went, talking of white satin and tulle and lace and bridal veils and receptions. And Susan sat and listened with a happy light in her eyes, and now and then laughed a little glad laugh or spoke some sweet word of sympathy.

At a late hour in the night Susan put her arms around her sister and kissed the happy young face once, twice, three times, and said, in no whisper now, "God bless you, dear!" Then Gertrude went away to happy dreams, and left Susan to happy thoughts—at last.

No, not at last. The "at last" did not come till the next evening, when by Mr. Falconer's side, warm and snug under the great wolf-robe, Susan heard something. With the something there came at length to the tired, hungry, waiting heart the thrill, the transport, the enchanted music that makes this earth a changed world.