The House that
Susan Built by
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"I might help you into a worse heartache by my meddling,"
"You don't want anybody to marry you because you dress well
and are stylish?" said Brother Tom, undertaking to explain
"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,
"I shall add something to it and build a house on one of my
"'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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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,
"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
"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,
"Well, I didn't see how it was coming out till it was
"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
"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
"That one has the kitchen chimney in the pantry," Susan
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"I have called," he said immediately, "to inquire about the
house you have advertised for rent on North Jefferson
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
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
"I planned the house," Susan answered, a light coming into
"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
"You ought to turn builder: you ought to open an architect's
Susan laughed at the novel suggestion, for that was before
the days when women were showing their heads in all the walks
"'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
"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
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
"Indeed! What's the matter now? another screw loose?"
"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
"No, he simply wanted to say that it would suit him to pay
the rent semi-monthly, instead of monthly," Susan answered
"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
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
Why was this? Was it because it would double his visits to
her? Was Susan vain or foolish that she thus questioned
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
"Isn't that delightful?" cried Gertrude in a transport. "You
precious old Tom, to hear that! I'll give you a kiss for
"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
"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.
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"Hadn't you gone home with Delia Spaulding? Was I to come
trapesing home alone?" said Gertrude by way of
"Now, Gert, be fair: didn't I tell you that I'd be back
"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
"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
"And did he rent it for a lady friend?" Tom asked,
putting a significant stress on the last two
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"I will bring my bonnet and shawl, and we will go at
"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
"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
Great were the surprise and interest awakened in the
household by the revelation she made in the next ten
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
In response to Gertrude's reproach Susan said in a low tone
that was almost a whisper, "I congratulate you: I think you are
"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
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
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
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.