Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1902 to 1903
A Patent Medicine Testimonial
A Sandshore Wooing
After Many Days
An Unconventional Confidence
Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket
Miss Cordelia's Accommodation
Ned's Stroke of Business
Our Runaway Kite
The Bride Roses
The Josephs' Christmas
The Magical Bond of the Sea
The Martyrdom of Estella
The Old Chest at Wyther Grange
The Osborne's Christmas
The Romance of Aunt Beatrice
The Running Away of Chester
The Strike at Putney
The Unhappiness of Miss Farquhar
Why Mr. Cropper Changed His Mind
A Patent Medicine Testimonial
"You might as well try to move the rock of Gibraltar as attempt to
change Uncle Abimelech's mind when it is once made up," said Murray
Murray is like dear old Dad; he gets discouraged rather easily. Now,
I'm not like that; I'm more like Mother's folks. As Uncle Abimelech
has never failed to tell me when I have annoyed him, I'm "all Foster."
Uncle Abimelech doesn't like the Fosters. But I'm glad I take after
them. If I had folded my hands and sat down meekly when Uncle
Abimelech made known his good will and pleasure regarding Murray and
me after Father's death, Murray would never have got to college—nor I
either, for that matter. Only I wouldn't have minded that very much. I
just wanted to go to college because Murray did. I couldn't be
separated from him. We were twins and had always been together.
As for Uncle Abimelech's mind, I knew that he never had been known to
change it. But, as he himself was fond of saying, there has to be a
first time for everything, and I had determined that this was to be
the first time for him. I hadn't any idea how I was going to bring it
about; but it just had to be done, and I'm not "all Foster" for
I knew I would have to depend on my own thinkers. Murray is clever at
books and dissecting dead things, but he couldn't help me out in this,
even if he hadn't settled beforehand that there was no use in opposing
"I'm going up to the garret to think this out, Murray," I said
solemnly. "Don't let anybody disturb me, and if Uncle Abimelech comes
over don't tell him where I am. If I don't come down in time to get
tea, get it yourself. I shall not leave the garret until I have
thought of some way to change Uncle Abimelech's mind."
"Then you'll be a prisoner there for the term of your natural life,
dear sis," said Murray sceptically. "You're a clever girl, Prue—and
you've got enough decision for two—but you'll never get the better of
"We'll see," I said resolutely, and up to the garret I went. I shut
the door and bolted it good and fast to make sure. Then I piled some
old cushions in the window seat—for one might as well be comfortable
when one is thinking as not—and went over the whole ground from the
Outside the wind was thrashing the broad, leafy top of the maple whose
tallest twigs reached to the funny grey eaves of our old house. One
roly-poly little sparrow blew or flew to the sill and sat there for a
minute, looking at me with knowing eyes. Down below I could see Murray
in a corner of the yard, pottering over a sick duck. He had set its
broken leg and was nursing it back to health. Anyone except Uncle
Abimelech could see that Murray was simply born to be a doctor and
that it was flying in the face of Providence to think of making him
From the garret windows I could see all over the farm, for the house
is on the hill end of it. I could see all the dear old fields and the
spring meadow and the beech woods in the southwest corner. And beyond
the orchard were the two grey barns and down below at the right-hand
corner was the garden with all my sweet peas fluttering over the
fences and trellises like a horde of butterflies. It was a dear old
place and both Murray and I loved every stick and stone on it, but
there was no reason why we should go on living there when Murray
didn't like farming. And it wasn't our own, anyhow. It all belonged to
Father and Murray and I had always lived here together. Father's
health broke down during his college course. That was one reason why
Uncle Abimelech was set against Murray going to college, although
Murray is as chubby and sturdy a fellow as you could wish to see.
Anybody with Foster in him would be that.
To go back to Father. The doctors told him that his only chance of
recovering his strength was an open-air life, so Father rented one of
Uncle Abimelech's farms and there he lived for the rest of his days.
He did not get strong again until it was too late for college, and he
was a square peg in a round hole all his life, as he used to tell us.
Mother died before we could remember, so Murray and Dad and I were
everything to each other. We were very happy too, although we were
bossed by Uncle Abimelech more or less. But he meant it well and
Father didn't mind.
Then Father died—oh, that was a dreadful time! I hurried over it in
my thinking-out. Of course when Murray and I came to look our position
squarely in the face we found that we were dependent on Uncle
Abimelech for everything, even the roof over our heads. We were
literally as poor as church mice and even poorer, for at least they
get churches rent-free.
Murray's heart was set on going to college and studying medicine. He
asked Uncle Abimelech to lend him enough money to get a start with and
then he could work his own way along and pay back the loan in due
time. Uncle Abimelech is rich, and Murray and I are his nearest
relatives. But he simply wouldn't listen to Murray's plan.
"I put my foot firmly down on such nonsense," he said. "And you know
that when I put my foot down something squashes."
It was not that Uncle Abimelech was miserly or that he grudged us
assistance. Not at all. He was ready to deal generously by us, but it
must be in his own way. His way was this. Murray and I were to stay on
the farm, and when Murray was twenty-one Uncle Abimelech said he would
deed the farm to him—make him a present of it out and out.
"It's a good farm, Murray," he said. "Your father never made more than
a bare living out of it because he wasn't strong enough to work it
properly—that's what he got out of a college course, by the way.
But you are strong enough and ambitious enough to do well."
But Murray couldn't be a farmer, that was all there was to it. I told
Uncle Abimelech so, firmly, and I talked to him for days about it, but
Uncle Abimelech never wavered. He sat and listened to me with a
quizzical smile on that handsome, clean-shaven, ruddy old face of his,
with its cut-granite features. And in the end he said,
"You ought to be the one to go to college if either of you did, Prue.
You would make a capital lawyer, if I believed in the higher education
of women, but I don't. Murray can take or leave the farm as he
chooses. If he prefers the latter alternative, well and good. But he
gets no help from me. You're a foolish little girl, Prue, to back him
up in this nonsense of his."
It makes me angry to be called a little girl when I put up my hair a
year ago, and Uncle Abimelech knows it. I gave up arguing with him. I
knew it was no use anyway.
I thought it all over in the garret. But no way out of the dilemma
could I see. I had eaten up all the apples I had brought with me and I
felt flabby and disconsolate. The sight of Uncle Abimelech stalking up
the lane, as erect and lordly as usual, served to deepen my gloom.
I picked up the paper my apples had been wrapped in and looked it over
gloomily. Then I saw something, and Uncle Abimelech was delivered into
The whole plan of campaign unrolled itself before me, and I fairly
laughed in glee, looking out of the garret window right down on the
little bald spot on the top of Uncle Abimelech's head, as he stood
laying down the law to Murray about something.
When Uncle Abimelech had gone I went down to Murray.
"Buddy," I said, "I've thought of a plan. I'm not going to tell you
what it is, but you are to consent to it without knowing. I think it
will quench Uncle Abimelech, but you must have perfect confidence in
me. You must back me up no matter what I do and let me have my own way
in it all."
"All right, sis," said Murray.
"That isn't solemn enough," I protested. "I'm serious. Promise
"I promise solemnly, 'cross my heart,'" said Murray, looking like an
"Very well. Remember that your role is to lie low and say nothing,
like Brer Rabbit. Alloway's Anodyne Liniment is pretty good stuff,
isn't it, Murray? It cured your sprain after you had tried everything
else, didn't it?"
"Yes. But I don't see the connection."
"It isn't necessary that you should. Well, what with your sprain and
my rheumatics I think I can manage it."
"Look here, Prue. Are you sure that long brooding over our troubles up
in the garret hasn't turned your brain?"
"My brain is all right. Now leave me, minion. There is that which I
Murray grinned and went. I wrote a letter, took it down to the office,
and mailed it. For a week there was nothing more to do.
There is just one trait of Uncle Abimelech's disposition more marked
than his fondness for having his own way and that one thing is family
pride. The Melvilles are a very old family. The name dates back to the
Norman conquest when a certain Roger de Melville, who was an ancestor
of ours, went over to England with William the Conqueror. I don't
think the Melvilles ever did anything worth recording in history
since. To be sure, as far back as we can trace, none of them has ever
done anything bad either. They have been honest, respectable folks and
I think that is something worth being proud of.
But Uncle Abimelech pinned his family pride to Roger de Melville. He
had the Melville coat of arms and our family tree, made out by an
eminent genealogist, framed and hung up in his library, and he would
not have done anything that would not have chimed in with that coat of
arms and a conquering ancestor for the world.
At the end of a week I got an answer to my letter. It was what I
wanted. I wrote again and sent a parcel. In three weeks' time the
One day I saw Uncle Abimelech striding up the lane. He had a big
newspaper clutched in his hand. I turned to Murray, who was poring
over a book of anatomy in the corner.
"Murray, Uncle Abimelech is coming. There is going to be a battle
royal between us. Allow me to remind you of your promise."
"To lie low and say nothing? That's the cue, isn't it, sis?"
"Unless Uncle Abimelech appeals to you. In that case you are to back
Then Uncle Abimelech stalked in. He was purple with rage. Old Roger de
Melville himself never could have looked fiercer. I did feel a quake
or two, but I faced Uncle Abimelech undauntedly. No use in having your
name on the roll of Battle Abbey if you can't stand your ground.
"Prudence, what does this mean?" thundered Uncle Abimelech, as he
flung the newspaper down on the table. Murray got up and peered over.
Then he whistled. He started to say something but remembered just in
time and stopped. But he did give me a black look. Murray has a
sneaking pride of name too, although he won't own up to it and laughs
at Uncle Abimelech.
I looked at the paper and began to laugh. We did look so funny, Murray
and I, in that advertisement. It took up the whole page. At the top
were our photos, half life-size, and underneath our names and
addresses printed out in full. Below was the letter I had written to
the Alloway Anodyne Liniment folks. It was a florid testimonial to the
virtues of their liniment. I said that it had cured Murray's sprain
after all other remedies had failed and that, when I had been left a
partial wreck from a very bad attack of rheumatic fever, the only
thing that restored my joints and muscles to working order was
Alloway's Anodyne Liniment, and so on.
It was all true enough, although I dare say old Aunt
Sarah-from-the-Hollow's rubbing had as much to do with the cures as
the liniment. But that is neither here nor there.
"What does this mean, Prudence?" said Uncle Abimelech again. He was
quivering with wrath, but I was as cool as a cucumber, and Murray
stood like a graven image.
"Why, that, Uncle Abimelech," I said calmly, "well, it just means one
of my ways of making money. That liniment company pays for those
testimonials and photos, you know. They gave me fifty dollars for the
privilege of publishing them. Fifty dollars will pay for books and
tuition for Murray and me at Kentville Academy next winter, and Mrs.
Tredgold is kind enough to say she will board me for what help I can
give her around the house, and wait for Murray's until he can earn it
I rattled all this off glibly before Uncle Abimelech could get in a
"It's disgraceful!" he stormed. "Disgraceful! Think of Sir Roger de
Melville—and a patent medicine advertisement! Murray Melville, what
were you about, sir, to let your sister disgrace herself and her
family name by such an outrageous transaction?"
I quaked a bit. If Murray should fail me! But Murray was true-blue.
"I gave Prue a free hand, sir. It's an honest business transaction
enough—and the family name alone won't send us to college, you know,
Uncle Abimelech glared at us.
"This must be put an end to," he said. "This advertisement must not
appear again. I won't have it!"
"But I've signed a contract that it is to run for six months," I said
sturdily. "And I've others in view. You remember the Herb Cure you
recommended one spring and that it did me so much good! I'm
negotiating with the makers of that and—"
"The girl's mad!" said Uncle Abimelech. "Stark, staring mad!"
"Oh, no, I'm not, Uncle Abimelech. I'm merely a pretty good
businesswoman. You won't help Murray to go to college, so I must. This
is the only way I have, and I'm going to see it through."
After Uncle Abimelech had gone, still in a towering rage, Murray
remonstrated. But I reminded him of his promise and he had to succumb.
Next day Uncle Abimelech returned—a subdued and chastened Uncle
"See here, Prue," he said sternly. "This thing must be stopped. I say
it must. I am not going to have the name of Melville dragged all
over the country in a patent medicine advertisement. You've played
your game and won it—take what comfort you can out of the confession:
If you will agree to cancel this notorious contract of yours I'll
settle it with the company—and I'll put Murray through college—and
you too if you want to go! Something will have to be done with you,
that's certain. Is this satisfactory?"
"Perfectly," I said promptly. "If you will add thereto your promise
that you will forget and forgive, Uncle Abimelech. There are to be no
Uncle Abimelech shrugged his shoulders.
"In for a penny, in for a pound," he said. "Very well, Prue. We wipe
off all scores and begin afresh. But there must be no more such
doings. You've worked your little scheme through—trust a Foster for
that! But in future you've got to remember that in law you're a
Melville whatever you are in fact."
I nodded dutifully. "I'll remember, Uncle Abimelech," I promised.
After everything had been arranged and Uncle Abimelech had gone I
looked at Murray. "Well?" I said.
Murray twinkled. "You've accomplished the impossible, sis. But, as
Uncle Abimelech intimated—don't you try it again."
A Sandshore Wooing
Fir Cottage, Plover Sands.
We arrived here late last night, and all day Aunt Martha has kept her
room to rest. So I had to keep mine also, although I felt as fresh as
a morning lark, and just in the mood for enjoyment.
My name is Marguerite Forrester—an absurdly long name for so small a
girl. Aunt Martha always calls me Marguerite, with an accent of
strong disapproval. She does not like my name, but she gives me the
full benefit of it. Connie Shelmardine used to call me Rita. Connie
was my roommate last year at the Seminary. We correspond occasionally,
but Aunt Martha frowns on it.
I have always lived with Aunt Martha—my parents died when I was a
baby. Aunt Martha says I am to be her heiress if I please her—which
means—but, oh, you do not know what "pleasing" Aunt Martha means.
Aunt is a determined and inveterate man-hater. She has no particular
love for women, indeed, and trusts nobody but Mrs. Saxby, her maid. I
rather like Mrs. Saxby. She is not quite so far gone in petrifaction
as Aunt, although she gets a little stonier every year. I expect the
process will soon begin on me, but it hasn't yet. My flesh and blood
are still unreasonably warm and pulsing and rebellious.
Aunt Martha would be in danger of taking a fit if she ever saw me
talking to a man. She watches me jealously, firmly determined to guard
me from any possible attack of a roaring and ravening lion in the
disguise of nineteenth-century masculine attire. So I have to walk
demurely and assume a virtue, if I have it not, while I pine after the
untested flesh-pots of Egypt in secret.
We have come down to spend a few weeks at Fir Cottage. Our good
landlady is a capacious, kindly-souled creature, and I think she has
rather a liking for me. I have been chattering to her all day, for
there are times when I absolutely must talk to someone or go mad.
This sort of life is decidedly dull. The program of every day is the
same. I go to the sandshore with Aunt Martha and Mrs. Saxby in the
morning, read to Aunt in the afternoons, and mope around by my
disconsolate self in the evenings. Mrs. Blake has lent me, for shore
use, a very fine spyglass which she owns. She says her "man" brought
it home from "furrin' parts" before he died. While Aunt and Mrs. Saxby
meander up and down the shore, leaving me free to a certain extent, I
amuse myself by examining distant seas and coasts through it, thus
getting a few peeps into a forbidden world. We see few people,
although there is a large summer hotel about a mile up the beach. Our
shore haunts do not seem to be popular with its guests. They prefer
the rocks. This suits Aunt Martha admirably. I may also add that it
doesn't suit her niece—but that is a matter of small importance.
The first morning I noticed a white object on the rocks, about half a
mile away, and turned my glass on it. There—apparently within a
stone's throw of me—was a young man. He was lounging on a rock,
looking dreamily out to sea. There was something about his face that
reminded me of someone I know, but I cannot remember whom.
Every morning he has reappeared on the same spot. He seems to be a
solitary individual, given to prowling by himself. I wonder what Aunt
would say if she knew what I am so earnestly watching through my glass
I shall have to cease looking at the Unknown, I am afraid.
This morning I turned my glass, as usual, on his pet haunt. I nearly
fell over in my astonishment, for he was also looking through a
spyglass straight at me, too, it seemed. How foolish I felt! And yet
my curiosity was so strong that a few minutes afterward I peeped back
again, just to see what he was doing. Then he coolly laid down his
glass, rose, lifted his cap and bowed politely to me—or, at least, in
my direction. I dropped my glass and smiled in a mixture of dismay and
amusement. Then I remembered that he was probably watching me again,
and might imagine my smile was meant for him. I banished it
immediately, shut my glass up and did not touch it again. Soon after
we came home.
Something has happened at last. Today I went to the shore as usual,
fully resolved not even to glance in the forbidden direction. But in
the end I had to take a peep, and saw him on the rocks with his glass
levelled at me. When he saw that I was looking he laid down the glass,
held up his hands, and began to spell out something in the deaf-mute
alphabet. Now, I know that same alphabet. Connie taught it to me last
year, so that we might hold communication across the schoolroom. I
gave one frantic glance at Aunt Martha's rigid back, and then watched
him while he deftly spelled: "I am Francis Shelmardine. Are you not
Miss Forrester, my sister's friend?"
Francis Shelmardine! Now I knew whom he resembled. And have I not
heard endless dissertations from Connie on this wonderful brother of
hers, Francis the clever, the handsome, the charming, until he has
become the only hero of dreams I have ever had? It was too wonderful.
I could only stare dazedly back through my glass.
"May we know each other?" he went on. "May I come over and introduce
myself? Right hand, yes; left, no."
I gasped! Suppose he were to come? What would happen? I waved my
left hand sorrowfully. He looked quite crestfallen and disappointed as
he spelled out: "Why not? Would your friends disapprove?"
I signalled: "Yes."
"Are you displeased at my boldness?" was his next question.
Where had all Aunt Martha's precepts flown to then? I blush to record
that I lifted my left hand shyly and had just time to catch his
pleased expression when Aunt Martha came up and said it was time to go
home. So I picked myself meekly up, shook the sand from my dress, and
followed my good aunt dutifully home.
When we went to the shore this morning I had to wait in spasms of
remorse and anxiety until Aunt got tired of reading and set off along
the shore with Mrs. Saxby. Then I reached for my glass.
Mr. Shelmardine and I had quite a conversation. Under the
circumstances there could be no useless circumlocution in our exchange
of ideas. It was religiously "boiled down," and ran something like
"You are not displeased with me?"
"No—but I should be."
"It is wrong to deceive Aunt."
"I am quite respectable."
"That is not the question."
"Cannot her prejudices be overcome?"
"Mrs. Allardyce, who is staying at the hotel, knows her well. Shall I
bring her over to vouch for my character?"
"It would not do a bit of good."
"Then it is hopeless."
"Would you object to knowing me on your own account?"
"Do you ever come to the shore alone?"
"No. Aunt would not permit me."
"Must she know?"
"Yes. I would not come without her permission."
"You will not refuse to chat with me thus now and then?"
"I don't know. Perhaps not."
I had to go home then. As we went Mrs. Saxby complimented me on my
good colour. Aunt Martha looked her disapproval. If I were really ill
Aunt would spend her last cent in my behalf, but she would be just as
well pleased to see me properly pale and subdued at all times, and not
looking as if I were too well contented in this vale of tears.
I have "talked" a good deal with Mr. Shelmardine these past four days.
He is to be at the beach for some weeks longer. This morning he
signalled across from the rocks: "I mean to see you at last. Tomorrow
I will walk over and pass you."
"You must not. Aunt will suspect."
"No danger. Don't be alarmed. I will do nothing rash."
I suppose he will. He seems to be very determined. Of course, I cannot
prevent him from promenading on our beach all day if he chooses. But
then if he did, Aunt would speedily leave him in sole possession of
I wonder what I had better wear tomorrow.
Yesterday morning Aunt Martha was serene and unsuspicious. It is
dreadful of me to be deceiving her and I do feel guilty. I sat down on
the sand and pretended to read the "Memoirs of a Missionary"—Aunt
likes cheerful books like that—in an agony of anticipation. Presently
Aunt said, majestically: "Marguerite, there is a man coming this
way. We will move further down."
And we moved. Poor Aunt!
Mr. Shelmardine came bravely on. I felt my heart beating to my very
finger tips. He halted by the fragment of an old stranded boat. Aunt
had turned her back on him.
I ventured on a look. He lifted his hat with a twinkle in his eye.
Just then Aunt said, icily: "We will go home, Marguerite. That
creature evidently intends to persist in his intrusion."
Home we came accordingly.
This morning he signalled across: "Letter from Connie. Message for
you. I mean to deliver it personally. Do you ever go to church?"
Now, I do go regularly to church at home. But Aunt Martha and Mrs.
Saxby are both such rigid church people that they would not darken the
doors of the Methodist church at Plover Sands for any consideration.
Needless to say, I am not allowed to go either. But it was impossible
to make this long explanation, so I merely replied: "Not here."
"Will you not go tomorrow morning?"
"Aunt will not let me."
"Coaxing never has any effect on her."
"Would she relent if Mrs. Allardyce were to call for you?"
Now, I have been cautiously sounding Aunt about Mrs. Allardyce, and I
have discovered that she disapproves of her. So I said: "It would be
useless. I will ask Aunt if I may go, but I feel almost sure that she
will not consent."
This evening, when Aunt was in an unusually genial mood, I plucked up
heart of grace and asked her.
"Marguerite," she said impressively, "you know that I do not attend
"But, Aunt," I persisted, quakingly, "couldn't I go alone? It is not
very far—and I will be very careful."
Aunt merely gave me a look that said about forty distinct and separate
things, and I was turning away in despair when Mrs. Saxby—bless her
heart—said: "I really think it would be no harm to let the child go."
As Aunt attaches great importance to Mrs. Saxby's opinion, she looked
at me relentingly and said: "Well, I will think it over and let you
know in the morning, Marguerite."
Now, everything depends on the sort of humour Aunt is in in the
This morning was perfect, and after breakfast Aunt said,
condescendingly: "I think you may attend church if you wish,
Marguerite. Remember that I expect you to conduct yourself with
becoming prudence and modesty."
I flew upstairs and pulled my prettiest dress out of my trunk. It is a
delicate, shimmering grey stuff with pearly tints about it. Every time
I get anything new, Aunt Martha and I have a battle royal over it. I
verily believe that Aunt would like me to dress in the fashions in
vogue in her youth. There is always a certain flavour of
old-fashionedness about my gowns and hats. Connie used to say that it
was delicious and gave me a piquant uniqueness—a certain unlikeness
to other people that possessed a positive charm. That is only Connie's
view of it, however.
But I had had my own way about this dress and it is really very
becoming. I wore a little silvery-grey chip hat, trimmed with pale
pink flowers, and I pinned at my belt the sweetest cluster of
old-fashioned blush rosebuds from the garden. Then I borrowed a hymn
book from Mrs. Blake and ran down to undergo Aunt Martha's scrutiny.
"Dear me, child," she said discontentedly, "you have gotten yourself
up very frivolously, it seems to me."
"Why, Aunty," I protested, "I'm all in grey—every bit."
Aunt Martha sniffed. You don't know how much Aunt can express in a
sniff. But I tripped to church like a bird.
The first person I saw there was Mr. Shelmardine. He was sitting right
across from me and a smile glimmered in his eyes. I did not look at
him again. Through the service I was subdued enough to have satisfied
even Aunt Martha.
When church came out, he waited for me at the entrance to his pew. I
pretended not to see him until he said "Good morning," in a voice
vibrating and deep, which sounded as though it might become infinitely
tender if its owner chose. When we went down the steps he took my
hymnal, and we walked up the long, bowery country road.
"Thank you so much for coming today," he said—as if I went to oblige
"I had a hard time to get Aunt Martha's consent," I declared frankly.
"I wouldn't have succeeded if Mrs. Saxby hadn't taken my part."
"Heaven bless Mrs. Saxby," he remarked fervently. "But is there any
known way of overcoming your aunt's scruples? If so, I am ready to
"There is none. Aunt Martha is very good and kind to me, but she will
never stop trying to bring me up. The process will be going on when I
am fifty. And she hates men! I don't know what she would do if she saw
Mr. Shelmardine frowned and switched the unoffending daisies viciously
with his cane.
"Then there is no hope of my seeing you openly and above-board?"
"Not at present," I said faintly.
After a brief silence we began to talk of other things. He told me how
he happened to see me first.
"I was curious to know who the people were who were always in the same
place at the same time, so one day I took my telescope. I could see
you plainly. You were reading and had your hat off. When I went back
to the hotel I asked Mrs. Allardyce if she knew who the boarders at
Fir Cottage were and she told me. I had heard Connie speak of you, and
I determined to make your acquaintance."
When we reached the lane I held out my hand for the hymnal.
"You mustn't come any further, Mr. Shelmardine," I said hurriedly.
"Aunt—Aunt might see you."
He took my hand and held it, looking at me seriously.
"Suppose I were to walk up to the cottage tomorrow and ask for you?"
I gasped. He looked so capable of doing anything he took it into his
head to do.
"Oh, you wouldn't," I said piteously. "Aunt Martha would—you are not
"I suppose not," he said regretfully. "Of course I would not do
anything that would cause you unpleasantness. But this must not—shall
not be our last meeting."
"Aunt will not let me come to church again," I said.
"Does she ever take a nap in the afternoon?" he queried.
I wriggled my parasol about in the dust uneasily.
"I shall be at the old boat tomorrow afternoon at two-thirty," he
I pulled my hand away.
"I couldn't—you know I couldn't," I cried—and then I blushed to my
"Are you sure you couldn't?" bending a little nearer.
"Quite sure," I murmured.
He surrendered my hymnal at last.
"Will you give me a rose?"
I unpinned the whole cluster and handed it to him. He lifted it until
it touched his lips. As for me, I scuttled up the lane in the most
undignified fashion. At the turn I looked back. He was still standing
there with his hat off.
On Monday afternoon I slipped away to the shore while Aunt Martha and
Mrs. Saxby were taking their regular nap and I was supposed to be
reading sermons in my room.
Mr. Shelmardine was leaning against the old boat, but he came swiftly
across the sand to meet me.
"This is very kind of you," he said.
"I ought not to have come," I said repentantly. "But it is so lonely
there—and one can't be interested in sermons and memoirs all the
Mr. Shelmardine laughed.
"Mr. and Mrs. Allardyce are on the other side of the boat. Will you
come and meet them?"
How nice of him to bring them! I knew I should like Mrs. Allardyce,
just because Aunt Martha didn't. We had a delightful stroll. I never
thought of the time until Mr. Shelmardine said it was four o'clock.
"Oh, is it so late as that?" I cried. "I must go at once."
"I'm sorry we have kept you so long," remarked Mr. Shelmardine in a
tone of concern. "If she should be awake, what will the consequences
"Too terrible to think of," I answered seriously. "I'm sorry, Mr.
Shelmardine, but you mustn't come any further."
"We will be here tomorrow afternoon," he said.
"Mr. Shelmardine!" I protested. "I wish you wouldn't put such ideas
into my head. They won't come out—no, not if I read a whole volume of
sermons right through."
We looked at each other for a second. Then he began to smile, and we
both went off into a peal of laughter.
"At least let me know if Miss Fiske rampages," he called after me as I
But Aunt Martha was not awake—and I have been to the shore three
afternoons since then. I was there today, and I'm going tomorrow for a
boat sail with Mr. Shelmardine and the Allardyces. But I am afraid the
former will do something rash soon. This afternoon he said: "I don't
think I can stand this much longer."
"Stand what?" I asked.
"You know very well," he answered recklessly. "Meeting you in this
clandestine manner, and thereby causing that poor little conscience of
yours such misery. If your aunt were not so—unreasonable, I should
never have stooped to it."
"It is all my fault," I said contritely.
"Well, I hardly meant that," he said grimly. "But hadn't I better go
frankly to your aunt and lay the whole case before her?"
"You would never see me again if you did that," I said hastily—and
then wished I hadn't.
"That is the worst threat you could make," he said.
It is all over, and I am the most miserable girl in the world. Of
course this means that Aunt Martha has discovered everything and the
deserved punishment of my sins has overtaken me.
I slipped away again this afternoon and went for that boat sail. We
had a lovely time but were rather late getting in, and I hurried home
with many misgivings. Aunt Martha met me at the door.
My dress was draggled, my hat had slipped back, and the kinks and curls
of my obstreperous hair were something awful. I know I looked very
disreputable and also, no doubt, very guilty and conscience-stricken.
Aunt gave me an unutterable look and then followed me up to my room in
"Marguerite, what does this mean?"
I have lots of faults, but untruthfulness isn't one of them. I
confessed everything—at least, almost everything. I didn't tell about
the telescopes and deaf-mute alphabet, and Aunt was too
horror-stricken to think of asking how I first made Mr. Shelmardine's
acquaintance. She listened in stony silence. I had expected a terrible
scolding, but I suppose my crimes simply seemed to her too enormous
When I had sobbed out my last word she rose, swept me one glance of
withering contempt, and left the room. Presently Mrs. Saxby came up,
"My dear child, what have you been doing? Your aunt says that we are
to go home on the afternoon train tomorrow. She is terribly upset."
I just curled up on the bed and cried, while Mrs. Saxby packed my
trunk. I will have no chance to explain matters to Mr. Shelmardine.
And I will never see him again, for Aunt is quite capable of whisking
me off to Africa. He will just think me a feather-brained flirt. Oh, I
am so unhappy!
I am the happiest girl in the world! That is quite a different strain
from yesterday. We leave Fir Cottage in an hour, but that doesn't
I did not sleep a wink last night and crawled miserably down to
breakfast. Aunt took not the slightest notice of me, but to my
surprise she told Mrs. Saxby that she intended taking a farewell walk
to the shore. I knew I would be taken, too, to be kept out of
mischief, and my heart gave a great bound of hope. Perhaps I would
have a chance to send word to Francis, since Aunt did not know of the
part my spyglass had played in my bad behaviour.
I meekly followed my grim guardians to the shore and sat dejectedly on
my rug while they paced the sand. Francis was on the rocks. As soon as
Aunt Martha and Mrs. Saxby were at a safe distance, I began my
message: "All discovered. Aunt is very angry. We go home today."
Then I snatched my glass. His face expressed the direst consternation
and dismay. He signalled: "I must see you before you go."
"Impossible. Aunt will never forgive me. Good-bye."
I saw a look of desperate determination cross his face. If forty Aunt
Marthas had swooped down upon me, I could not have torn my eyes from
"I love you. You know it. Do you care for me? I must have my answer
What a situation! No time or chance for any maidenly hesitation or
softening aureole of words. Aunt and Mrs. Saxby had almost reached the
point where they invariably turned. I had barely time to spell out a
plain, blunt "yes" and read his answer.
"I shall go home at once, get Mother and Connie, follow you, and
demand possession of my property. I shall win the day. Have no fear.
Till then, good-bye, my darling."
"Marguerite," said Mrs. Saxby at my elbow, "it is time to go."
I got up obediently. Aunt Martha was as grim and uncompromising as
ever, and Mrs. Saxby looked like a chief mourner, but do you suppose I
cared? I dropped behind them just once before we left the shore. I
knew he was watching me and I waved my hand.
I suppose I am really engaged to Francis Shelmardine. But was there
ever such a funny wooing? And what will Aunt Martha say?
After Many Days
The square, bare front room of the Baxter Station Hotel—so called
because there was no other house in the place to dispute the
title—was filled with men. Some of them were putting up at the hotel
while they worked at the new branch line, and some of them had dropped
in to exchange news and banter while waiting for the mail train.
Gabe Foley, the proprietor, was playing at checkers with one of the
railroad men, but was not too deeply absorbed in the game to take in
all that was said around him. The air was dim with tobacco smoke, and
the brilliant, scarlet geraniums which Mrs. Foley kept in the bay
window looked oddly out of place. Gabe knew all those present except
one man—a stranger who had landed at Baxter Station from the
afternoon freight. Foley's hotel did not boast of a register, and the
stranger did not volunteer any information regarding his name or
business. He had put in the afternoon and early evening strolling
about the village and talking to the men on the branch line. Now he
had come in and ensconced himself in the corner behind the stove,
where he preserved a complete silence.
He had a rather rough face and was flashily dressed. Altogether, Gabe
hardly liked his looks, put as long as a man paid his bill and did not
stir up a row Gabe Foley did not interfere with him.
Three or four farmers from "out Greenvale way" were drawn up by the
stove, discussing the cheese factory sales and various Greenvale
happenings. The stranger appeared to be listening to them intently,
although he took no part in their conversation.
Presently he brought his tilted chair down with a sharp thud. Gabe
Foley had paused in his manipulation of a king to hurl a question at
the Greenvale men.
"Is it true that old man Strong is to be turned out next week?"
"True enough," answered William Jeffers. "Joe Moore is going to
foreclose. Stephen Strong has got three years behind with the interest
and Moore is out of patience. It seems hard on old Stephen, but Moore
ain't the man to hesitate for that. He'll have his own out of it."
"What will the Strongs do?" asked Gabe.
"That's the question everyone in Greenvale is asking. Lizzie Strong
has always been a delicate little girl, but maybe she'll manage to
scare up a living. Old Stephen is to be the most pitied. I don't see
anything for him but the poorhouse."
"How did Stephen Strong come to get into such a tight place?" the
stranger asked suddenly. "When I was in these parts a good many years
ago he was considered a well-to-do man."
"Well, so he was," replied William Jeffers. "But he began to get in
debt when his wife took sick. He spent no end of money on doctors and
medicines for her. And then he seemed to have a streak of bad luck
besides—crops failed and cows died and all that sort of thing. He's
been going behind ever since. He kind of lost heart when his wife
died. And now Moore is going to foreclose. It's my opinion poor old
Stephen won't live any time if he's turned out of his home."
"Do you know what the mortgage comes to?"
"Near three thousand, counting overdue interest."
"Well, I'm sorry for old Stephen," said Gabe, returning to his game.
"If anybody deserves a peaceful old age he does. He's helped more
people than you could count, and he was the best Christian in
Greenvale, or out of it."
"He was too good," said a Greenvale man crustily. "He just let himself
be imposed upon all his life. There's dozens of people owes him and
he's never asked for a cent from them. And he's always had some
shiftless critter or other hanging round and devouring his substance."
"D'ye mind that Ben Butler who used to be in Greenvale twenty years
ago?" asked a third man. "If ever there was an imp of Satan 'twas
him—old Ezra Butler's son from the valley. Old Stephen kept him for
three or four years and was as good to him as if he'd been his own
"Most people out our way do mind Ben Butler," returned William Jeffers
grimly, "even if he ain't been heard tell of for twenty years. He
wasn't the kind you could forget in a hurry. Where'd he go? Out to the
Kootenay, wasn't it?"
"Somewhere there. He was a reg'lar young villain—up to every kind of
mischief. Old Stephen caught him stealing his oats one time and 'stead
of giving him a taste of jail for it, as he ought to have done, he
just took him right into his family and kept him there for three
years. I used to tell him he'd be sorry for it, but he always
persisted that Ben wasn't bad at heart and would come out all right
some day. No matter what the young varmint did old Stephen would make
excuses for him—'his ma was dead,' or he 'hadn't had no bringing-up.'
I was thankful when he did finally clear out without doing some
"If poor old Stephen hadn't been so open-handed to every unfortunate
critter he came across," said Gabe, "he'd have had more for himself
The whistle of the mail train cut short the discussion of Stephen
Strong's case. In a minute the room was vacant, except for the
stranger. When left to himself he also rose and walked out. Turning
away from the station, he struck briskly into the Greenvale road.
About three miles from the station he halted before a house built close
to the road. It was old-fashioned, but large and comfortable-looking,
with big barns in the rear and an orchard on the left slope. The house
itself was in the shadow of the firs, but the yard lay out in the
moonlight and the strange visitor did not elect to cross it. Instead,
he turned aside into the shadow of the trees around the garden and,
leaning against the old rail fence, gave himself up to contemplation of
There was a light in the kitchen. The window-blind was not down and he
had a fairly good view of the room. The only visible occupant was a
grey-haired old man sitting by the table, reading from a large open
volume before him. The stranger whistled softly.
"That's old Stephen—reading the Bible same as ever, by all that's
holy! He hasn't changed much except that he's got mighty grey. He must
be close on to seventy. It's a shame to turn an old man like him out
of house and home. But Joe Moore always was a genuine skinflint."
He drew himself softly up and sat on the fence. He saw old Stephen
Strong close his book, place his spectacles on it, and kneel down by
his chair. The old man remained on his knees for some time and then,
taking up his candle, left the kitchen. The man on the fence still sat
there. Truth to tell, he was chuckling to himself as he recalled all
the mischief he had done in the old days—the doubtful jokes, tricks,
and escapades he had gone through with.
He could not help remembering at the same time how patient old Stephen
Strong had always been with him. He recalled the time he had been
caught stealing the oats. How frightened and sullen he had been! And
how gently the old man had talked to him and pointed out the sin of
which he had been guilty!
He had never stolen again, but in other respects he had not mended his
ways much. Behind old Stephen's back he laughed at him and his
"preaching." But Stephen Strong had never lost faith in him. He had
always asserted mildly that "Ben would come out all right by and by."
Ben Butler remembered this too, as he sat on the fence.
He had "always liked old Stephen," he told himself. He was sorry he
had fallen on such evil times.
"Preaching and praying don't seem to have brought him out clear after
all," he said with a chuckle that quickly died away. Somehow, even in
his worst days, Ben Butler had never felt easy when he mocked old
Stephen. "Three thousand dollars! I could do it but I reckon I'd be a
blamed fool. I ain't a-going to do it. Three thousand ain't picked up
every day, even in the Kootenay—'specially by chaps like me."
He patted his pocket knowingly. Fifteen years previously he had gone
to the Kootenay district with visions of making a fortune that were
quickly dispelled by reality. He had squandered his wages as soon as
paid, and it was only of late years that he had "pulled up a bit," as
he expressed it, and saved his three thousand dollars.
He had brought the money home with him, having some vague notion of
buying a farm and "settling down to do the respectable." But he had
already given up the idea. This country was too blamed quiet for him,
he said. He would go back to the Kootenay, and he knew what he would
do with his money. Jake Perkins and Wade Brown, two "pals" of his,
were running a flourishing grocery and saloon combined. They would be
glad of another partner with some cash. It would suit him to a T.
"I'll clear out tomorrow," he mused as he walked back. "As long as I
stay here old Stephen will haunt me, sure as fate. Wonder what he was
praying for tonight. He always used to say the Lord would provide, but
He don't appear to have done it. Well, I ain't His deputy."
The next afternoon Ben Butler went over to Greenvale and called at
Stephen Strong's. He found only the old man at home. Old Stephen did
not recognize him at first, but made him heartily welcome when he did.
"Ben, I do declare! Ben Butler! How are you? How are you? Sit down,
Ben—here, take this chair. Where on earth did you come from?"
"Baxter just now—Kootenay on the large scale," answered Ben. "Thought
I'd come over and see you again. Didn't expect you'd remember me at
"Remember you! Why, of course I do. I haven't ever forgot you, Ben.
Many's the time I've wondered where you was and how you was getting
on. And you tell me you've been in the Kootenay! Well, well, you have
seen a good bit more of the world than I ever have. You've changed a
lot, Ben. You ain't a boy no longer. D'ye mind all the pranks you used
Ben laughed sheepishly.
"I reckon I do. But it ain't myself I come here to talk about—not
much to say if I did. It's just been up and down with me. How are you
yourself, sir? They were telling me over at Baxter that you were kind
of in trouble."
The old man's face clouded over; all the sparkle went out of his kind
"Yes, Ben, yes," he said, with a heavy sigh. "I've kind of gone
downhill, that's a fact. The old farm has to go, Ben—I'm sorry for
that—I'd have liked to have ended my days here, but it's not to be. I
don't want to complain. The Lord does all things well. I haven't a
doubt but that it all fits into His wise purposes—not a doubt, Ben,
although it may be kind of hard to see it."
Ben was always skittish of "pious talk." He veered around adroitly.
"I dunno as the Lord has had much to do with this, sir. Seems to me as
if 'twas the other one as was running it, with Joe Moore for deputy.
The main thing, as I look at it, is to get a cinch on him. How much
does the mortgage amount to, sir?"
"About three thousand dollars, interest and all."
Old Stephen's voice trembled. The future looked very dark to him in
his old age.
Ben put his hand inside his coat and brought out a brand-new, plump
pocketbook. He opened it, laid it on his knee, and counted out a
number of crisp notes.
"Here, sir," he said, pushing them along the table. "I reckon that'll
keep you out of Joe Moore's clutches. There's three thousand there if
I ain't made a mistake. That'll set you clear, won't it?"
"Ben!" Old Stephen's voice trembled with amazement. "Ben, I can't take
it. It wouldn't be fair—or right. I could never pay you back."
Ben slipped the rubber band around his wallet and replaced it airily.
"I don't want it paid back, sir. It's a little gift, so to speak, just
to let you know I ain't ungrateful for all you did for me. If it
hadn't been for you I might have been in the penitentiary by now. As
for the money, it may seem a pile to you, but we don't think anything
more of a thousand or so in the Kootenay than you Greenvale folks do
of a fiver—not a bit more. We do things on a big scale out there."
"But, Ben, are you sure you can afford it—that you won't miss it?"
"Pop sure. Don't you worry, I'm all right."
"Bless you—bless you!" The tears were running down old Stephen's face
as he gathered up the money with a shaking hand. "I always knew you
would do well, Ben—always said it. I knew you'd a good heart. I just
can't realize this yet—it seems too good to be true. The old place
saved—I can die in peace. Of course, I'll pay you back some of it
anyhow if I'm spared a while longer. Bless you, Ben."
Ben would not stay long after that. He said he had to leave on the
4:30 train. He was relieved when he got away from the old man's thanks
and questions. Ben did not find it easy to answer some of the latter.
When he was out of sight of the house he sat on a fence and counted up
his remaining funds.
"Just enough to take me back to the Kootenay—and then begin over
again, I s'pose. But 'twas worth the money to see the old fellow's
face. He'd thank the Lord and me, he said. How Jake and Wade'd roar to
hear them two names in partnership! But I'm going to pull up a bit
after this, see if I don't, just to justify the old man's faith in me.
'Twould be too bad to disappoint him if he's believed for so long that
I was going to turn out all right yet."
When the 4:30 train went out Ben Butler stood on the rear platform.
Gabe Foley watched him abstractedly as he receded.
"Blamed if I know who that fellow was," he remarked to a crony. "He
never told his name, but seems to me I've seen him before. He has a
kind of hang-dog look, I think. But he paid up square and it is none
of my business."
An Unconventional Confidence
The Girl in Black-and-Yellow ran frantically down the grey road under
the pines. There was nobody to see her, but she would have run if all
Halifax had been looking on. For had she not on the loveliest new
hat—a "creation" in yellow chiffon with big black choux—and a
dress to match? And was there not a shower coming straight from the
hills across the harbour?
Down at the end of the long resinous avenue the Girl saw the shore
road, with the pavilion shutting out the view of the harbour's mouth.
Below the pavilion, clean-shaven George's Island guarded the town like
a sturdy bulldog, and beyond it were the wooded hills, already lost in
a mist of rain.
"Oh, I shall be too late," moaned the Girl. But she held her hat
steady with one hand and ran on. If she could only reach the pavilion
in time! It was a neck-and-neck race between the rain and the Girl,
but the Girl won. Just as she flew out upon the shore road, a tall
Young Man came pelting down the latter, and they both dashed up the
steps of the pavilion together as the rain swooped down upon them and
blotted George's Island and the smoky town and the purple banks of the
Eastern Passage from view.
The pavilion was small at the best of times, and just now the rain was
beating into it on two sides, leaving only one dry corner. Into this
the Girl moved. She was flushed and triumphant. The Young Man thought
that in all his life he had never seen anyone so pretty.
"I'm so glad I didn't get my hat wet," said the Girl breathlessly, as
she straightened it with a careful hand and wondered if she looked
very blown and blowsy.
"It would have been a pity," admitted the Young Man. "It is a very
"Pretty!" The Girl looked the scorn her voice expressed. "Anyone can
have a pretty hat. Our cook has one. This is a creation."
"Of course," said the Young Man humbly. "I ought to have known. But I
am very stupid."
"Well, I suppose a mere man couldn't be expected to understand
exactly," said the Girl graciously.
She smiled at him in a friendly fashion, and he smiled back. The Girl
thought that she had never seen such lovely brown eyes before. He
could not be a Haligonian. She was sure she knew all the nice young
men with brown eyes in Halifax.
"Please sit down," she said plaintively. "I'm tired."
The Young Man smiled again at the idea of his sitting down because the
Girl was tired. But he sat down, and so did she, on the only dry seat
to be found.
"Goodness knows how long this rain will last," said the Girl, making
herself comfortable and picturesque, "but I shall stay here until it
clears up, if it rains for a week. I will not have my hat spoiled. I
suppose I shouldn't have put it on. Beatrix said it was going to rain.
Beatrix is such a horribly good prophet. I detest people who are good
prophets, don't you?"
"I think that they are responsible for all the evils that they
predict," said the Young Man solemnly.
"That is just what I told Beatrix. And I was determined to put on this
hat and come out to the park today. I simply had to be alone, and I
knew I'd be alone out here. Everybody else would be at the football
game. By the way, why aren't you there?"
"I wasn't even aware that there was a football game on hand," said the
Young Man, as if he knew he ought to be ashamed of his ignorance, and
"Dear me," said the Girl pityingly. "Where can you have been not to
have heard of it? It's between the Dalhousie team and the Wanderers.
Almost everybody here is on the Wanderers' side, because they are
Haligonians, but I am not. I like the college boys best. Beatrix says
that it is just because of my innate contrariness. Last year I simply
screamed myself hoarse with enthusiasm. The Dalhousie team won the
"If you are so interested in the game, it is a wonder you didn't go to
see it yourself," said the Young Man boldly.
"Well, I just couldn't," said the Girl with a sigh. "If anybody had
ever told me that there would be a football game in Halifax, and that
I would elect to prowl about by myself in the park instead of going to
it, I'd have laughed them to scorn. Even Beatrix would never have
dared to prophesy that. But you see it has happened. I was too
crumpled up in my mind to care about football today. I had to come
here and have it out with myself. That is why I put on my hat. I
thought, perhaps, I might get through with my mental gymnastics in
time to go to the game afterwards. But I didn't. It is just maddening,
too. I got this hat and dress on purpose to wear to it. They're black
and yellow, you see—the Dalhousie colours. It was my own idea. I was
sure it would make a sensation. But I couldn't go to the game and take
any interest in it, feeling as I do, could I, now?"
The Young Man said, of course, she couldn't. It was utterly out of the
The Girl smiled. Without a smile, she was charming. With a smile, she
"I like to have my opinions bolstered up. Do you know, I want to tell
you something? May I?"
"You may. I'll never tell anyone as long as I live," said the Young
"I don't know you and you don't know me. That is why I want to tell
you about it. I must tell somebody, and if I told anybody I knew,
they'd tell it all over Halifax. It is dreadful to be talking to you
like this. Beatrix would have three fits, one after the other, if she
saw me. But Beatrix is a slave to conventionality. I glory in
discarding it at times. You don't mind, do you?"
"Not at all," said the Young Man sincerely.
The Girl sighed.
"I have reached that point where I must have a confidant, or go crazy.
Once I could tell things to Beatrix. That was before she got engaged.
Now she tells everything to him. There is no earthly way of
preventing her. I've tried them all. So, nowadays, when I get into
trouble, I tell it out loud to myself in the glass. It's a relief, you
know. But that is no good now. I want to tell it to somebody who can
say things back. Will you promise to say things back?"
The Young Man assured her that he would when the proper time came.
"Very well. But please don't look at me while I'm telling you. I'll be
sure to blush in places. When Beatrix wants to be particularly
aggravating she says I have lost the art of blushing. But that is only
her way of putting it, you know. Sometimes I blush dreadfully."
The Young Man dragged his eyes from the face under the
black-and-yellow hat, and fastened them on a crooked pine tree that
hung out over the bank.
"Well," began the Girl, "the root of the whole trouble is simply this.
There is a young man in England. I always think of him as the
Creature. He is the son of a man who was Father's especial crony in
boyhood, before Father emigrated to Canada. Worse than that, he comes
of a family which has contracted a vile habit of marrying into our
family. It has come down through the ages so long that it has become
chronic. Father left most of his musty traditions in England, but he
brought this pet one with him. He and this friend agreed that the
latter's son should marry one of Father's daughters. It ought to have
been Beatrix—she is the oldest. But Beatrix had a pug nose. So Father
settled on me. From my earliest recollection I have been given to
understand that just as soon as I grew up there would be a ready-made
husband imported from England for me. I was doomed to it from my
cradle. Now," said the Girl, with a tragic gesture, "I ask you, could
anything be more hopelessly, appallingly stupid and devoid of
romance than that?"
The Young Man shook his head, but did not look at her.
"It's pretty bad," he admitted.
"You see," said the Girl pathetically, "the shadow of it has been over
my whole life. Of course, when I was a very little girl I didn't mind
it so much. It was such a long way off and lots of things might
happen. The Creature might run away with some other girl—or I might
have the smallpox—or Beatrix's nose might be straight when she grew
up. And if Beatrix's nose were straight she'd be a great deal prettier
than I am. But nothing did happen—and her nose is puggier than ever.
Then when I grew up things were horrid. I never could have a single
little bit of fun. And Beatrix had such a good time! She had scores of
lovers in spite of her nose. To be sure, she's engaged now—and he's a
horrid, faddy little creature. But he is her own choice. She wasn't
told that there was a man in England whom she must marry by and by,
when he got sufficiently reconciled to the idea to come and ask her.
Oh, it makes me furious!"
"Is—is there—anyone else?" asked the Young Man hesitatingly.
"Oh, dear, no. How could there be? Why, you know, I couldn't have the
tiniest flirtation with another man when I was as good as engaged to
the Creature. That is one of my grievances. Just think how much fun
I've missed! I used to rage to Beatrix about it, but she would tell me
that I ought to be thankful to have the chance of making such a good
match—the Creature is rich, you know, and clever. As if I cared how
clever or rich he is! Beatrix made me so cross that I gave up saying
anything and sulked by myself. So they think I'm quite reconciled to
it, but I'm not."
"He might be very nice after all," suggested the Young Man.
"Nice! That isn't the point. Oh, don't you see? But no, you're a
man—you can't understand. You must just take my word for it. The
whole thing makes me furious. But I haven't told you the worst. The
Creature is on his way out to Canada now. He may arrive here at any
minute. And they are all so aggravatingly delighted over it."
"What do you suppose he feels like?" asked the Young Man
"Well," said the Girl frankly, "I've been too much taken up with my
own feelings to worry about his. But I daresay they are pretty much
like mine. He must loathe and detest the very thought of me."
"Oh, I don't think he does," said the Young Man gravely.
"Don't you? Well, what do you suppose he does think of it all? You
ought to understand the man's part of it better than I can."
"There's as much difference in men as in women," said the Young Man in
an impersonal tone. "I may be right or wrong, you see, but I imagine
he would feel something like this: From boyhood he has understood that
away out in Canada there is a little girl growing up who is some day
to be his wife. She becomes his boyish ideal of all that is good and
true. He pictures her as beautiful and winsome and sweet. She is his
heart's lady, and the thought of her abides with him as a safeguard
and an inspiration. For her sake he resolves to make the most of
himself, and live a clean, loyal life. When she comes to him she must
find his heart fit to receive her. There is never a time in all his
life when the dream of her does not gleam before him as of a star to
which he may aspire with all reverence and love."
The Young Man stopped abruptly, and looked at the Girl. She bent
forward with shining eyes, and touched his hand.
"You are splendid," she said softly. "If he thought so—but no—I am
sure he doesn't. He's just coming out here like a martyr going to the
stake. He knows he will be expected to propose to me when he gets
here. And he knows that I know it too. And he knows and I know
that I will be expected to say my very prettiest 'yes.'"
"But are you going to say it?" asked the Young Man anxiously.
The Girl leaned forward. "No. That is my secret. I am going to say a
most emphatic 'no.'"
"But won't your family make an awful row?"
"Of course. But I rather enjoy a row now and then. It stirs up one's
grey matter so nicely. I came out here this afternoon and thought the
whole affair over from beginning to end. And I have determined to say
"Oh, I wouldn't make it so irreconcilable as that," said the Young Man
lightly. "I'd leave a loophole of escape. You see, if you were to like
him a little better than you expect, it would be awkward to have
committed yourself by a rash vow to saying 'no,' wouldn't it?"
"I suppose it would," said the Girl thoughtfully, "but then, you know,
I won't change my mind."
"It's just as well to be on the safe side," said the Young Man.
The Girl got up. The rain was over and the sun was coming out through
"Perhaps you are right," she said. "So I'll just resolve that I will
say 'no' if I don't want to say 'yes.' That really amounts to the same
thing, you know. Thank you so much for letting me tell you all about
it. It must have bored you terribly, but it has done me so much good.
I feel quite calm and rational now, and can go home and behave myself.
"Goodbye," said the Young Man gravely. He stood on the pavilion and
watched the Girl out of sight beyond the pines.
When the Girl got home she was told that the Dalhousie team had won
the game, eight to four. The Girl dragged her hat off and waved it
"What a shame I wasn't there! They'd have gone mad over my dress."
But the next item of information crushed her. The Creature had
arrived. He had called that afternoon, and was coming to dinner that
"How fortunate," said the Girl, as she went to her room, "that I
relieved my mind to that Young Man out in the park today. If I had
come back with all that pent-up feeling seething within me and heard
this news right on top of it all, I might have flown into a thousand
pieces. What lovely brown eyes he had! I do dote on brown eyes. The
Creature will be sure to have fishy blue ones."
When the Girl went down to meet the Creature she found herself
confronted by the Young Man. For the first, last, and only time in her
life, the Girl had not a word to say. But her family thought her
confusion very natural and pretty. They really had not expected her to
behave so well. As for the Young Man, his manner was flawless.
Toward the end of the dinner, when the Girl was beginning to recover
herself, he turned to her.
"You know I promised never to tell," he said.
"Be sure you don't, then," said the Girl meekly.
"But aren't you glad you left the loophole?" he persisted.
The Girl smiled down into her lap.
"Perhaps," she said.
Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket
When Lucy Rose met Aunt Cyrilla coming downstairs, somewhat flushed
and breathless from her ascent to the garret, with a big, flat-covered
basket hanging over her plump arm, she gave a little sigh of despair.
Lucy Rose had done her brave best for some years—in fact, ever since
she had put up her hair and lengthened her skirts—to break Aunt
Cyrilla of the habit of carrying that basket with her every time she
went to Pembroke; but Aunt Cyrilla still insisted on taking it, and
only laughed at what she called Lucy Rose's "finicky notions." Lucy
Rose had a horrible, haunting idea that it was extremely provincial
for her aunt always to take the big basket, packed full of country
good things, whenever she went to visit Edward and Geraldine.
Geraldine was so stylish, and might think it queer; and then Aunt
Cyrilla always would carry it on her arm and give cookies and apples
and molasses taffy out of it to every child she encountered and, just
as often as not, to older folks too. Lucy Rose, when she went to town
with Aunt Cyrilla, felt chagrined over this—all of which goes to
prove that Lucy was as yet very young and had a great deal to learn in
That troublesome worry over what Geraldine would think nerved her to
make a protest in this instance.
"Now, Aunt C'rilla," she pleaded, "you're surely not going to take
that funny old basket to Pembroke this time—Christmas Day and all."
"'Deed and 'deed I am," returned Aunt Cyrilla briskly, as she put it
on the table and proceeded to dust it out. "I never went to see Edward
and Geraldine since they were married that I didn't take a basket of
good things along with me for them, and I'm not going to stop now. As
for it's being Christmas, all the more reason. Edward is always real
glad to get some of the old farmhouse goodies. He says they beat city
cooking all hollow, and so they do."
"But it's so countrified," moaned Lucy Rose.
"Well, I am countrified," said Aunt Cyrilla firmly, "and so are you.
And what's more, I don't see that it's anything to be ashamed of.
You've got some real silly pride about you, Lucy Rose. You'll grow
out of it in time, but just now it is giving you a lot of trouble."
"The basket is a lot of trouble," said Lucy Rose crossly. "You're
always mislaying it or afraid you will. And it does look so funny to
be walking through the streets with that big, bulgy basket hanging on
"I'm not a mite worried about its looks," returned Aunt Cyrilla
calmly. "As for its being a trouble, why, maybe it is, but I have
that, and other people have the pleasure of it. Edward and Geraldine
don't need it—I know that—but there may be those that will. And if
it hurts your feelings to walk 'longside of a countrified old lady
with a countrified basket, why, you can just fall behind, as it were."
Aunt Cyrilla nodded and smiled good-humouredly, and Lucy Rose, though
she privately held to her own opinion, had to smile too.
"Now, let me see," said Aunt Cyrilla reflectively, tapping the snowy
kitchen table with the point of her plump, dimpled forefinger, "what
shall I take? That big fruit cake for one thing—Edward does like my
fruit cake; and that cold boiled tongue for another. Those three mince
pies too, they'd spoil before we got back or your uncle'd make himself
sick eating them—mince pie is his besetting sin. And that little
stone bottle full of cream—Geraldine may carry any amount of style,
but I've yet to see her look down on real good country cream, Lucy
Rose; and another bottle of my raspberry vinegar. That plate of jelly
cookies and doughnuts will please the children and fill up the chinks,
and you can bring me that box of ice-cream candy out of the pantry,
and that bag of striped candy sticks your uncle brought home from the
corner last night. And apples, of course—three or four dozen of those
good eaters—and a little pot of my greengage preserves—Edward'll
like that. And some sandwiches and pound cake for a snack for
ourselves. Now, I guess that will do for eatables. The presents for
the children can go in on top. There's a doll for Daisy and the little
boat your uncle made for Ray and a tatted lace handkerchief apiece for
the twins, and the crochet hood for the baby. Now, is that all?"
"There's a cold roast chicken in the pantry," said Lucy Rose wickedly,
"and the pig Uncle Leo killed is hanging up in the porch. Couldn't you
put them in too?"
Aunt Cyrilla smiled broadly. "Well, I guess we'll leave the pig alone;
but since you have reminded me of it, the chicken may as well go in. I
can make room."
Lucy Rose, in spite of her prejudices, helped with the packing and,
not having been trained under Aunt Cyrilla's eye for nothing, did it
very well too, with much clever economy of space. But when Aunt
Cyrilla had put in as a finishing touch a big bouquet of pink and
white everlastings, and tied the bulging covers down with a firm hand,
Lucy Rose stood over the basket and whispered vindictively:
"Some day I'm going to burn this basket—when I get courage enough.
Then there'll be an end of lugging it everywhere we go like a—like an
Uncle Leopold came in just then, shaking his head dubiously. He was
not going to spend Christmas with Edward and Geraldine, and perhaps
the prospect of having to cook and eat his Christmas dinner all alone
made him pessimistic.
"I mistrust you folks won't get to Pembroke tomorrow," he said sagely.
"It's going to storm."
Aunt Cyrilla did not worry over this. She believed matters of this
kind were fore-ordained, and she slept calmly. But Lucy Rose got up
three times in the night to see if it were storming, and when she did
sleep had horrible nightmares of struggling through blinding
snowstorms dragging Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas basket along with her.
It was not snowing in the early morning, and Uncle Leopold drove Aunt
Cyrilla and Lucy Rose and the basket to the station, four miles off.
When they reached there the air was thick with flying flakes. The
stationmaster sold them their tickets with a grim face.
"If there's any more snow comes, the trains might as well keep
Christmas too," he said. "There's been so much snow already that
traffic is blocked half the time, and now there ain't no place to
shovel the snow off onto."
Aunt Cyrilla said that if the train were to get to Pembroke in time
for Christmas, it would get there; and she opened her basket and gave
the stationmaster and three small boys an apple apiece.
"That's the beginning," groaned Lucy Rose to herself.
When their train came along Aunt Cyrilla established herself in one
seat and her basket in another, and looked beamingly around her at her
These were few in number—a delicate little woman at the end of the
car, with a baby and four other children, a young girl across the
aisle with a pale, pretty face, a sunburned lad three seats ahead in a
khaki uniform, a very handsome, imposing old lady in a sealskin coat
ahead of him, and a thin young man with spectacles opposite.
"A minister," reflected Aunt Cyrilla, beginning to classify, "who
takes better care of other folks' souls than of his own body; and
that woman in the sealskin is discontented and cross at something—got
up too early to catch the train, maybe; and that young chap must be
one of the boys not long out of the hospital. That woman's children
look as if they hadn't enjoyed a square meal since they were born; and
if that girl across from me has a mother, I'd like to know what the
woman means, letting her daughter go from home in this weather in
clothes like that."
Lucy Rose merely wondered uncomfortably what the others thought of
Aunt Cyrilla's basket.
They expected to reach Pembroke that night, but as the day wore on the
storm grew worse. Twice the train had to stop while the train hands
dug it out. The third time it could not go on. It was dusk when the
conductor came through the train, replying brusquely to the questions
of the anxious passengers.
"A nice lookout for Christmas—no, impossible to go on or back—track
blocked for miles—what's that, madam?—no, no station near—woods for
miles. We're here for the night. These storms of late have played the
mischief with everything."
"Oh, dear," groaned Lucy Rose.
Aunt Cyrilla looked at her basket complacently. "At any rate, we won't
starve," she said.
The pale, pretty girl seemed indifferent. The sealskin lady looked
crosser than ever. The khaki boy said, "Just my luck," and two of the
children began to cry. Aunt Cyrilla took some apples and striped candy
sticks from her basket and carried them to them. She lifted the oldest
into her ample lap and soon had them all around her, laughing and
The rest of the travellers straggled over to the corner and drifted
into conversation. The khaki boy said it was hard lines not to get
home for Christmas, after all.
"I was invalided from South Africa three months ago, and I've been in
the hospital at Netley ever since. Reached Halifax three days ago and
telegraphed the old folks I'd eat my Christmas dinner with them, and
to have an extra-big turkey because I didn't have any last year.
They'll be badly disappointed."
He looked disappointed too. One khaki sleeve hung empty by his side.
Aunt Cyrilla passed him an apple.
"We were all going down to Grandpa's for Christmas," said the little
mother's oldest boy dolefully. "We've never been there before, and
it's just too bad."
He looked as if he wanted to cry but thought better of it and bit off
a mouthful of candy.
"Will there be any Santa Claus on the train?" demanded his small
sister tearfully. "Jack says there won't."
"I guess he'll find you out," said Aunt Cyrilla reassuringly.
The pale, pretty girl came up and took the baby from the tired mother.
"What a dear little fellow," she said softly.
"Are you going home for Christmas too?" asked Aunt Cyrilla.
The girl shook her head. "I haven't any home. I'm just a shop girl out
of work at present, and I'm going to Pembroke to look for some."
Aunt Cyrilla went to her basket and took out her box of cream candy.
"I guess we might as well enjoy ourselves. Let's eat it all up and
have a good time. Maybe we'll get down to Pembroke in the morning."
The little group grew cheerful as they nibbled, and even the pale girl
brightened up. The little mother told Aunt Cyrilla her story aside.
She had been long estranged from her family, who had disapproved of
her marriage. Her husband had died the previous summer, leaving her in
"Father wrote to me last week and asked me to let bygones be bygones
and come home for Christmas. I was so glad. And the children's hearts
were set on it. It seems too bad that we are not to get there. I have
to be back at work the morning after Christmas."
The khaki boy came up again and shared the candy. He told amusing
stories of campaigning in South Africa. The minister came too, and
listened, and even the sealskin lady turned her head over her
By and by the children fell asleep, one on Aunt Cyrilla's lap and one
on Lucy Rose's, and two on the seat. Aunt Cyrilla and the pale girl
helped the mother make up beds for them. The minister gave his
overcoat and the sealskin lady came forward with a shawl.
"This will do for the baby," she said.
"We must get up some Santa Claus for these youngsters," said the khaki
boy. "Let's hang their stockings on the wall and fill 'em up as best
we can. I've nothing about me but some hard cash and a jack-knife.
I'll give each of 'em a quarter and the boy can have the knife."
"I've nothing but money either," said the sealskin lady regretfully.
Aunt Cyrilla glanced at the little mother. She had fallen asleep with
her head against the seat-back.
"I've got a basket over there," said Aunt Cyrilla firmly, "and I've
some presents in it that I was taking to my nephew's children. I'm
going to give 'em to these. As for the money, I think the mother is
the one for it to go to. She's been telling me her story, and a
pitiful one it is. Let's make up a little purse among us for a
The idea met with favour. The khaki boy passed his cap and everybody
contributed. The sealskin lady put in a crumpled note. When Aunt
Cyrilla straightened it out she saw that it was for twenty dollars.
Meanwhile, Lucy Rose had brought the basket. She smiled at Aunt
Cyrilla as she lugged it down the aisle and Aunt Cyrilla smiled back.
Lucy Rose had never touched that basket of her own accord before.
Ray's boat went to Jacky, and Daisy's doll to his oldest sister, the
twins' lace handkerchiefs to the two smaller girls and the hood to the
baby. Then the stockings were filled up with doughnuts and jelly
cookies and the money was put in an envelope and pinned to the little
"That baby is such a dear little fellow," said the sealskin lady
gently. "He looks something like my little son. He died eighteen
Aunt Cyrilla put her hand over the lady's kid glove. "So did mine,"
she said. Then the two women smiled tenderly at each other. Afterwards
they rested from their labours and all had what Aunt Cyrilla called a
"snack" of sandwiches and pound cake. The khaki boy said he hadn't
tasted anything half so good since he left home.
"They didn't give us pound cake in South Africa," he said.
When morning came the storm was still raging. The children wakened and
went wild with delight over their stockings. The little mother found
her envelope and tried to utter thanks and broke down; and nobody knew
what to say or do, when the conductor fortunately came in and made a
diversion by telling them they might as well resign themselves to
spending Christmas on the train.
"This is serious," said the khaki boy, "when you consider that we've
no provisions. Don't mind for myself, used to half rations or no
rations at all. But these kiddies will have tremendous appetites."
Then Aunt Cyrilla rose to the occasion.
"I've got some emergency rations here," she announced. "There's plenty
for all and we'll have our Christmas dinner, although a cold one.
Breakfast first thing. There's a sandwich apiece left and we must fill
up on what is left of the cookies and doughnuts and save the rest for
a real good spread at dinner time. The only thing is, I haven't any
"I've a box of soda crackers," said the little mother eagerly.
Nobody in that car will ever forget that Christmas. To begin with,
after breakfast they had a concert. The khaki boy gave two
recitations, sang three songs, and gave a whistling solo. Lucy Rose
gave three recitations and the minister a comic reading. The pale shop
girl sang two songs. It was agreed that the khaki boy's whistling solo
was the best number, and Aunt Cyrilla gave him the bouquet of
everlastings as a reward of merit.
Then the conductor came in with the cheerful news that the storm was
almost over and he thought the track would be cleared in a few hours.
"If we can get to the next station we'll be all right," he said. "The
branch joins the main line there and the tracks will be clear."
At noon they had dinner. The train hands were invited in to share it.
The minister carved the chicken with the brakeman's jack-knife and the
khaki boy cut up the tongue and the mince pies, while the sealskin
lady mixed the raspberry vinegar with its due proportion of water.
Bits of paper served as plates. The train furnished a couple of
glasses, a tin pint cup was discovered and given to the children, Aunt
Cyrilla and Lucy Rose and the sealskin lady drank, turn about, from
the latter's graduated medicine glass, the shop girl and the little
mother shared one of the empty bottles, and the khaki boy, the
minister, and the train men drank out of the other bottle.
Everybody declared they had never enjoyed a meal more in their lives.
Certainly it was a merry one, and Aunt Cyrilla's cooking was never
more appreciated; indeed, the bones of the chicken and the pot of
preserves were all that was left. They could not eat the preserves
because they had no spoons, so Aunt Cyrilla gave them to the little
When all was over, a hearty vote of thanks was passed to Aunt Cyrilla
and her basket. The sealskin lady wanted to know how she made her
pound cake, and the khaki boy asked for her receipt for jelly cookies.
And when two hours later the conductor came in and said the
snowploughs had got along and they'd soon be starting, they all
wondered if it could really be less than twenty-four hours since they
"I feel as if I'd been campaigning with you all my life," said the
At the next station they all parted. The little mother and the
children had to take the next train back home. The minister stayed
there, and the khaki boy and the sealskin lady changed trains. The
sealskin lady shook Aunt Cyrilla's hand. She no longer looked
discontented or cross.
"This has been the pleasantest Christmas I have ever spent," she said
heartily. "I shall never forget that wonderful basket of yours. The
little shop girl is going home with me. I've promised her a place in
my husband's store."
When Aunt Cyrilla and Lucy Rose reached Pembroke there was nobody to
meet them because everyone had given up expecting them. It was not far
from the station to Edward's house and Aunt Cyrilla elected to walk.
"I'll carry the basket," said Lucy Rose.
Aunt Cyrilla relinquished it with a smile. Lucy Rose smiled too.
"It's a blessed old basket," said the latter, "and I love it. Please
forget all the silly things I ever said about it, Aunt C'rilla."
It was a rainy afternoon, and we had been passing the time by telling
ghost stories. That is a very good sort of thing for a rainy
afternoon, and it is a much better time than after night. If you tell
ghost stories after dark they are apt to make you nervous, whether you
own up to it or not, and you sneak home and dodge upstairs in mortal
terror, and undress with your back to the wall, so that you can't
fancy there is anything behind you.
We had each told a story, and had had the usual assortment of
mysterious noises and death warnings and sheeted spectres and so on,
down through the whole catalogue of horrors—enough to satisfy any
reasonable ghost-taster. But Jack, as usual, was dissatisfied. He said
our stories were all second-hand stuff. There wasn't a man in the
crowd who had ever seen or heard a ghost; all our so-called authentic
stories had been told us by persons who had the story from other
persons who saw the ghosts.
"One doesn't get any information from that," said Jack. "I never
expect to get so far along as to see a real ghost myself, but I would
like to see and talk to one who had."
Some persons appear to have the knack of getting their wishes granted.
Jack is one of that ilk. Just as he made the remark, Davenport
sauntered in and, finding out what was going on, volunteered to tell a
ghost story himself—something that had happened to his grandmother,
or maybe it was his great-aunt; I forget which. It was a very good
ghost story as ghost stories go, and Davenport told it well. Even Jack
admitted that, but he said:
"It's only second-hand too. Did you ever have a ghostly experience
yourself, old man?"
Davenport put his finger tips critically together.
"Would you believe me if I said I had?" he asked.
"No," said Jack unblushingly.
"Then there would be no use in my saying it."
"But you don't mean that you ever really had, of course?"
"I don't know. Something queer happened once. I've never been able to
explain it—from a practical point of view, that is. Want to hear
Of course we did. This was exciting. Nobody would ever have suspected
Davenport of seeing ghosts.
"It's conventional enough," he began. "Ghosts don't seem to have much
originality. But it's firsthand, Jack, if that's what you want. I
don't suppose any of you have ever heard me speak of my brother,
Charles. He was my senior by two years, and was a quiet, reserved sort
of fellow—not at all demonstrative, but with very strong and deep
"When he left college he became engaged to Dorothy Chester. She was
very beautiful, and my brother idolized her. She died a short time
before the date set for their marriage, and Charles never recovered
from the blow.
"I married Dorothy's sister, Virginia. Virginia did not in the least
resemble her sister, but our eldest daughter was strikingly like her
dead aunt. We called her Dorothy, and Charles was devoted to her.
Dolly, as we called her, was always 'Uncle Charley's girl.'
"When Dolly was twelve years old Charles went to New Orleans on
business, and while there took yellow fever and died. He was buried
there, and Dolly half broke her childish heart over his death.
"One day, five years later, when Dolly was seventeen, I was writing
letters in my library. That very morning my wife and Dolly had gone to
New York en route for Europe. Dolly was going to school in Paris for a
year. Business prevented my accompanying them even as far as New York,
but Gilbert Chester, my wife's brother, was going with them. They were
to sail on the Aragon the next morning.
"I had written steadily for about an hour. At last, growing tired, I
threw down my pen and, leaning back in my chair, was on the point of
lighting a cigar when an unaccountable impulse made me turn round. I
dropped my cigar and sprang to my feet in amazement. There was only
one door in the room and I had all along been facing it. I could have
sworn nobody had entered, yet there, standing between me and the
bookcase, was a man—and that man was my brother Charles!
"There was no mistaking him; I saw him as plainly as I see you. He was
a tall, rather stout man, with curly hair and a fair, close-clipped
beard. He wore the same light-grey suit which he had worn when bidding
us good-bye on the morning of his departure for New Orleans. He had no
hat on, but wore spectacles, and was standing in his old favourite
attitude, with his hands behind him.
"I want you to understand that at this precise moment, although I was
surprised beyond measure, I was not in the least frightened, because I
did not for a moment suppose that what I saw was—well, a ghost or
apparition of any sort. The thought that flashed across my bewildered
brain was simply that there had been some absurd mistake somewhere,
and that my brother had never died at all, but was here, alive and
well. I took a hasty step towards him.
"'Good heavens, old fellow!' I exclaimed. 'Where on earth have you
come from? Why, we all thought you were dead!'
"I was quite close to him when I stopped abruptly. Somehow I couldn't
move another step. He made no motion, but his eyes looked straight
"'Do not let Dolly sail on the Aragon tomorrow,' he said in slow,
clear tones that I heard distinctly.
"And then he was gone—yes, Jack, I know it is a very conventional way
of ending up a ghost story,| but I have to tell you just what
occurred, or at least what I thought occurred. One moment he was there
and the next moment he wasn't. He did not pass me or go out of the
"For a few moments I felt dazed. I was wide awake and in my right and
proper senses so far as I could judge, and yet the whole thing seemed
incredible. Scared? No, I wasn't conscious of being scared. I was
"In my mental confusion one thought stood out sharply—Dolly was in
danger of some kind, and if the warning was really from a supernatural
source, it must not be disregarded. I rushed to the station and,
having first wired to my wife not to sail on the Aragon, I found
that I could connect with the five-fifteen train for New York. I took
it with the comfortable consciousness that my friends would certainly
think I had gone out of my mind.
"I arrived in New York at eight o'clock the next morning and at once
drove to the hotel where my wife, daughter and brother-in-law were
staying. I found them greatly mystified by my telegram. I suppose my
explanation was a very lame one. I know I felt decidedly like a fool.
Gilbert laughed at me and said I had dreamed the whole thing. Virginia
was perplexed, but Dolly accepted the warning unhesitatingly.
"'Of course it was Uncle Charley,' she said confidently. 'We will not
sail on the Aragon now.'
"Gilbert had to give in to this decision with a very bad grace, and
the Aragon sailed that day minus three of her intended passengers.
"Well, you've all heard of the historic collision between the Aragon
and the Astarte in a fog, and the fearful loss of life it involved.
Gilbert didn't laugh when the news came, I assure you. Virginia and
Dolly sailed a month later on the Marseilles, and reached the other
side in safety. That's all the story, boys—the only experience of the
kind I ever had," concluded Davenport.
We had many questions to ask and several theories to advance. Jack
said Davenport had dreamed it and that the collision of the Aragon
and the Astarte was simply a striking coincidence. But Davenport
merely smiled at all our suggestions and, as it cleared up just about
three, we told no more ghost stories.
Emily Fair got out of Hiram Jameson's waggon at the gate. She took her
satchel and parasol and, in her clear, musical tones, thanked him for
bringing her home. Emily had a very distinctive voice. It was very
sweet always and very cold generally; sometimes it softened to
tenderness with those she loved, but in it there was always an
undertone of inflexibility and reserve. Nobody had ever heard Emily
Fair's voice tremble.
"You are more than welcome, Mrs. Fair," said Hiram Jameson, with a
glance of bold admiration. Emily met it with an unflinching
indifference. She disliked Hiram Jameson. She had been furious under
all her external composure because he had been at the station when she
left the train.
Jameson perceived her scorn, but chose to disregard it.
"Proud as Lucifer," he thought as he drove away. "Well, she's none the
worse of that. I don't like your weak women—they're always sly. If
Stephen Fair don't get better she'll be free and then—"
He did not round out the thought, but he gloated over the memory of
Emily, standing by the gate in the harsh, crude light of the autumn
sunset, with her tawny, brown hair curling about her pale, oval face
and the scornful glint in her large, dark-grey eyes.
Emily stood at the gate for some time after Jameson's waggon had
disappeared. When the brief burst of sunset splendour had faded out
she turned and went into the garden where late asters and
chrysanthemums still bloomed. She gathered some of the more perfect
ones here and there. She loved flowers, but to-night the asters
seemed to hurt her, for she presently dropped those she had gathered
and deliberately set her foot on them.
A sudden gust of wind came over the brown, sodden fields and the
ragged maples around the garden writhed and wailed. The air was raw
and chill. The rain that had threatened all day was very near. Emily
shivered and went into the house.
Amelia Phillips was bending over the fire. She came forward and took
Emily's parcels and wraps with a certain gentleness that sat oddly on
her grim personality.
"Are you tired? I'm glad you're back. Did you walk from the station?"
"No. Hiram Jameson was there and offered to drive me home. I'd rather
have walked. It's going to be a storm, I think. Where is John?"
"He went to the village after supper," answered Amelia, lighting a
lamp. "We needed some things from the store."
The light flared up as she spoke and brought out her strong, almost
harsh features and deep-set black eyes. Amelia Phillips looked like an
overdone sketch in charcoal.
"Has anything happened in Woodford while I've been away?" asked Emily
indifferently. Plainly she did not expect an affirmative answer.
Woodford life was not eventful.
Amelia glanced at her sharply. So she had not heard! Amelia had
expected that Hiram Jameson would have told her. She wished that he
had, for she never felt sure of Emily. The older sister knew that
beneath that surface reserve was a passionate nature, brooking no
restraint when once it overleaped the bounds of her Puritan
self-control. Amelia Phillips, with all her naturally keen insight and
her acquired knowledge of Emily's character, had never been able to
fathom the latter's attitude of mind towards her husband. From the
time that Emily had come back to her girlhood's home, five years
before, Stephen Fair's name had never crossed her lips.
"I suppose you haven't heard that Stephen is very ill," said Amelia
Not a feature of Emily's face changed. Only in her voice when she
spoke was a curious jarring, as if a false note had been struck in a
"What is the matter with him?"
"Typhoid," answered Amelia briefly. She felt relieved that Emily had
taken it so calmly. Amelia hated Stephen Fair with all the intensity
of her nature because she believed that he had treated Emily ill, but
she had always been distrustful that Emily in her heart of hearts
loved her husband still. That, in Amelia Phillips' opinion, would have
betrayed a weakness not to be tolerated.
Emily looked at the lamp unwinkingly.
"That wick needs trimming," she said. Then, with a sudden recurrence
of the untuneful note:
"Is he dangerously ill?"
"We haven't heard for three days. The doctors were not anxious about
him Monday, though they said it was a pretty severe case."
A faint, wraith-like change of expression drifted over Emily's
beautiful face and was gone in a moment. What was it—relief? Regret?
It would have been impossible to say. When she next spoke her vibrant
voice was as perfectly melodious as usual.
"I think I will go to bed, Amelia. John will not be back until late I
suppose, and I am very tired. There comes the rain. I suppose it will
spoil all the flowers. They will be beaten to pieces."
In the dark hall Emily paused for a moment and opened the front door
to be cut in the face with a whip-like dash of rain. She peered out
into the thickly gathering gloom. Beyond, in the garden, she saw the
asters tossed about, phantom-like. The wind around the many-cornered
old farmhouse was full of wails and sobs.
The clock in the sitting-room struck eight. Emily shivered and shut
the door. She remembered that she had been married at eight o'clock
that very morning seven years ago. She thought she could see herself
coming down the stairs in her white dress with her bouquet of asters.
For a moment she was glad that those mocking flowers in the garden
would be all beaten to death before morning by the lash of wind and
Then she recovered her mental poise and put the hateful memories away
from her as she went steadily up the narrow stairs and along the hall
with its curious slant as the house had settled, to her own room under
the north-western eaves.
When she had put out her light and gone to bed she found that she
could not sleep. She pretended to believe that it was the noise of the
storm that kept her awake. Not even to herself would Emily confess
that she was waiting and listening nervously for John's return home.
That would have been to admit a weakness, and Emily Fair, like Amelia,
Every few minutes a gust of wind smote the house, with a roar as of a
wild beast, and bombarded Emily's window with a volley of rattling
drops. In the silences that came between the gusts she heard the soft,
steady pouring of the rain on the garden paths below, mingled with a
faint murmur that came up from the creek beyond the barns where the
pine boughs were thrashing in the storm. Emily suddenly thought of a
weird story she had once read years before and long forgotten—a story
of a soul that went out in a night of storm and blackness and lost its
way between earth and heaven. She shuddered and drew the counterpane
over her face.
"Of all things I hate a fall storm most," she muttered. "It frightens
Somewhat to her surprise—for even her thoughts were generally well
under the control of her unbending will—she could not help thinking
of Stephen—thinking of him not tenderly or remorsefully, but
impersonally, as of a man who counted for nothing in her life. It was
so strange to think of Stephen being ill. She had never known him to
have a day's sickness in his life before. She looked back over her
life much as if she were glancing with a chill interest at a series of
pictures which in no way concerned her. Scene after scene, face after
face, flashed out on the background of the darkness.
Emily's mother had died at her birth, but Amelia Phillips, twenty
years older than the baby sister, had filled the vacant place so well
and with such intuitive tenderness that Emily had never been conscious
of missing a mother. John Phillips, too, the grave, silent, elder
brother, loved and petted the child. Woodford people were fond of
saying that John and Amelia spoiled Emily shamefully.
Emily Phillips had never been like the other Woodford girls and had no
friends of her own age among them. Her uncommon beauty won her many
lovers, but she had never cared for any of them until Stephen Fair,
fifteen years her senior, had come a-wooing to the old, gray,
willow-girdled Phillips homestead.
Amelia and John Phillips never liked him. There was an ancient feud
between the families that had died out among the younger generation,
but was still potent with the older.
From the first Emily had loved Stephen. Indeed, deep down in her
strange, wayward heart, she had cared for him long before the
memorable day when he had first looked at her with seeing eyes and
realized that the quiet, unthought-of child who had been growing up at
the old Phillips place had blossomed out into a woman of strange,
seraph-like beauty and deep grey eyes whose expression was nevermore
to go out of Stephen Fair's remembrance from then till the day of his
John and Amelia Phillips put their own unjustifiable dislike of
Stephen aside when they found that Emily's heart was set on him. The
two were married after a brief courtship and Emily went out from her
girlhood's home to the Fair homestead, two miles away.
Stephen's mother lived with them. Janet Fair had never liked Emily.
She had not been willing for Stephen to marry her. But, apart from
this, the woman had a natural, ineradicable love of making mischief
and took a keen pleasure in it. She loved her son and she had loved
her husband, but nevertheless, when Thomas Fair had been alive she had
fomented continual strife and discontent between him and Stephen. Now
it became her pleasure to make what trouble she could between Stephen
and his wife.
She had the advantage of Emily in that she was always sweet-spoken
and, on the surface, sweet-tempered. Emily, hurt and galled in a score
of petty ways, so subtle that they were beyond a man's courser
comprehension, astonished her husband by her fierce outbursts of anger
that seemed to him for the most part without reason or excuse. He
tried his best to preserve the peace between his wife and mother; and
when he failed, not understanding all that Emily really endured at the
elder woman's merciless hands, he grew to think her capricious and
easily irritated—a spoiled child whose whims must not be taken too
To a certain extent he was right. Emily had been spoiled. The unbroken
indulgence which her brother and sister had always accorded her had
fitted her but poorly to cope with the trials of her new life. True,
Mrs. Fair was an unpleasant woman to live with, but if Emily had
chosen to be more patient under petty insults, and less resentful of
her husband's well-meant though clumsy efforts for harmony, the older
woman could have effected real little mischief. But this Emily refused
to be, and the breach between husband and wife widened insidiously.
The final rupture came two years after their marriage. Emily, in
rebellious anger, told her husband that she would no longer live in
the same house with his mother.
"You must choose between us," she said, her splendid voice vibrating
with all the unleashed emotion of her being, yet with no faltering in
it. "If she stays I go."
Stephen Fair, harassed and bewildered, was angry with the relentless
anger of a patient man roused at last.
"Go, then," he said sternly, "I'll never turn my mother from my door
for any woman's whim."
The stormy red went out of Emily's face, leaving it like a marble
"You mean that!" she said calmly. "Think well. If I go I'll never
"I do mean it," said Stephen. "Leave my house if you will—if you hold
your marriage vow so lightly. When your senses return you are welcome
to come back to me. I will never ask you to."
Without another word Emily turned away. That night she went back to
John and Amelia. They, on their part, welcomed her back gladly,
believing her to be a wronged and ill-used woman. They hated Stephen
Fair with a new and personal rancour. The one thing they could hardly
have forgiven Emily would have been the fact of her relenting towards
But she did not relent. In her soul she knew that, with all her just
grievances, she had been in the wrong, and for that she could not
Two years after she had left Stephen Mrs. Fair died, and his widowed
sister-in-law went to keep house for him. If he thought of Emily he
made no sign. Stephen Fair never broke a word once passed.
Since their separation no greeting or look had ever passed between
husband and wife. When they met, as they occasionally did, neither
impassive face changed. Emily Fair had buried her love deeply. In her
pride and anger she would not let herself remember even where she had
dug its grave.
And now Stephen was ill. The strange woman felt a certain pride in her
own inflexibility because the fact did not affect her. She told
herself that she could not have felt more unconcerned had he been the
merest stranger. Nevertheless she waited and watched for John
At ten o'clock she heard his voice in the kitchen. She leaned out of
the bed and pulled open her door. She heard voices below, but could
not distinguish the words, so she rose and went noiselessly out into
the hall, knelt down by the stair railing and listened. The door of
the kitchen was open below her and a narrow shaft of light struck on
her white, intent face. She looked like a woman waiting for the decree
At first John and Amelia talked of trivial matters. Then the latter
"Did you hear how Stephen Fair was?"
"He's dying," was the brief response.
Emily heard Amelia's startled exclamation. She gripped the square
rails with her hands until the sharp edges dinted deep into her
fingers. John's voice came up to her again, harsh and expressionless:
"He took a bad turn the day before yesterday and has been getting
worse ever since. The doctors don't expect him to live till morning."
Amelia began to talk rapidly in low tones. Emily heard nothing
further. She got up and went blindly back into her room with such
agony tearing at her heartstrings that she dully wondered why she
could not shriek aloud.
Stephen—her husband—dying! In the burning anguish of that moment her
own soul was as an open book before her. The love she had buried rose
from the deeps of her being in an awful, accusing resurrection.
Out of her stupor and pain a purpose formed itself clearly. She must
go to Stephen—she must beg and win his forgiveness before it was too
late. She dared not go down to John and ask him to take her to her
husband. He might refuse. The Phillipses had been known to do even
harder things than that. At the best there would be a storm of protest
and objection on her brother's and sister's part, and Emily felt that
she could not encounter that in her present mood. It would drive her
She lit a lamp and dressed herself noiselessly, but with feverish
haste. Then she listened. The house was very still. Amelia and John
had gone to bed. She wrapped herself in a heavy woollen shawl hanging
in the hall and crept downstairs. With numbed fingers she fumbled at
the key of the hall door, turned it and slipped out into the night.
The storm seemed to reach out and clutch her and swallow her up. She
went through the garden, where the flowers already were crushed to
earth; she crossed the long field beyond, where the rain cut her face
like a whip and the wind almost twisted her in its grasp like a broken
reed. Somehow or other, more by blind instinct than anything else, she
found the path that led through commons and woods and waste valleys to
her lost home.
In after years that frenzied walk through the storm and blackness
seemed as an unbroken nightmare to Emily Fair's recollection. Often
she fell. Once as she did so a jagged, dead limb of fir struck her
forehead and cut in it a gash that marked her for life. As she
struggled to her feet and found her way again the blood trickled down
over her face.
"Oh God, don't let him die before I get to him—don't—don't—don't!"
she prayed desperately with more of defiance than entreaty in her
voice. Then, realizing this, she cried out in horror. Surely some
fearsome punishment would come upon her for her wickedness—she would
find her husband lying dead.
When Emily opened the kitchen door of the Fair homestead Almira
Sentner cried out in her alarm, who or what was this creature with the
white face and wild eyes, with her torn and dripping garments and
dishevelled, wind-writhen hair and the big drops of blood slowly
trickling from her brow?
The next moment she recognized Emily and her face hardened. This
woman, Stephen's sister-in-law, had always hated Emily Fair.
"What do you want here?" she said harshly.
"Where is my husband?" asked Emily.
"You can't see him," said Mrs. Sentner defiantly. "The doctors won't
allow anyone in the room but those he's used to. Strangers excite
The insolence and cruelty of her speech fell on unheeding ears. Emily,
understanding only that her husband yet lived, turned to the hall
"Stand back!" she said in a voice that was little more than a
thrilling whisper, but which yet had in it something that cowed Almira
Sentner's malice. Sullenly she stood aside and Emily went unhindered
up the stairs to the room where the sick man lay.
The two doctors in attendance were there, together with the trained
nurse from the city. Emily pushed them aside and fell on her knees by
the bed. One of the doctors made a hasty motion as if to draw her
back, but the other checked him.
"It doesn't matter now," he said significantly.
Stephen Fair turned his languid, unshorn head on the pillow. His dull,
fevered eyes met Emily's. He had not recognized anyone all day, but he
knew his wife.
"Emily!" he whispered.
Emily drew his head close to her face and kissed his lips
"Stephen, I've come back to you. Forgive me—forgive me—say that you
"It's all right, my girl," he said feebly.
She buried her face in the pillow beside his with a sob.
In the wan, grey light of the autumn dawn the old doctor came to the
bedside and lifted Emily to her feet. She had not stirred the whole
night. Now she raised her white face with dumb pleading in her eyes.
The doctor glanced at the sleeping form on the bed.
"Your husband will live, Mrs. Fair," he said gently. "I think your
coming saved him. His joy turned the ebbing tide in favour of life."
"Thank God!" said Emily.
And for the first time in her life her beautiful voice trembled.
The morning sun hung, a red, lustreless ball, in the dull grey sky. A
light snow had fallen in the night and the landscape, crossed by
spider-like trails of fences, was as white and lifeless as if wrapped
in a shroud.
A young man was driving down the road to Rykman's Corner; the youthful
face visible above the greatcoat was thoughtful and refined, the eyes
deep blue and peculiarly beautiful, the mouth firm yet sensitive. It
was not a handsome face, but there was a strangely subtle charm about
The chill breathlessness of the air seemed prophetic of more snow. The
Reverend Allan Telford looked across the bare wastes and cold white
hills and shivered, as if the icy lifelessness about him were slowly
and relentlessly creeping into his own heart and life.
He felt utterly discouraged. In his soul he was asking bitterly what
good had come of all his prayerful labours among the people of this
pinched, narrow world, as rugged and unbeautiful in form and life as
the barren hills that shut them in.
He had been two years among them and he counted it two years of
failure. He had been too outspoken for them; they resented sullenly
his direct and incisive tirades against their pet sins. They viewed
his small innovations on their traditional ways of worship with
disfavour and distrust and shut him out of their lives with an
ever-increasing coldness. He had meant well and worked hard and he
felt his failure keenly.
His thoughts reverted to a letter received the preceding day from a
former classmate, stating that the pastorate of a certain desirable
town church had become vacant and hinting that a call was to be
moderated for him unless he signified his unwillingness to accept.
Two years before, Allan Telford, fresh from college and full of
vigorous enthusiasm and high ideas, would have said:
"No, that is not for me. My work must lie among the poor and lowly of
earth as did my Master's. Shall I shrink from it because, to worldly
eyes, the way looks dreary and uninviting?"
Now, looking back on his two years' ministry, he said wearily:
"I can remain here no longer. If I do, I fear I shall sink down into
something almost as pitiful as one of these canting, gossiping people
myself. I can do them no good—they do not like or trust me. I will
accept this call and go back to my own world."
Perhaps the keynote of his failure was sounded in his last words, "my
own world." He had never felt, or tried to feel, that this narrow
sphere was his own world. It was some lower level to which he had come
with good tidings and honest intentions but, unconsciously, he had
held himself above it, and his people felt and resented this. They
expressed it by saying he was "stuck-up."
Rykman's Corner came into view as he drove over the brow of a long
hill. He hated the place, knowing it well for what it was—a festering
hotbed of gossip and malice, the habitat of all the slanderous rumours
and innuendoes that permeated the social tissue of the community. The
newest scandal, the worst-flavoured joke, the latest details of the
most recent quarrel, were always to be had at Rykman's store.
As the minister drove down the hill, a man came out of a small house
at the foot and waited on the road. Had it been possible Telford would
have pretended not to see him, but it was not possible, for Isaac
Galletly meant to be seen and hailed the minister cheerfully.
"Good mornin', Mr. Telford. Ye won't mind giving me a lift down to the
Corner, I dessay?"
Telford checked his horse reluctantly and Galletly crawled into the
cutter. He was that most despicable of created beings, a male gossip,
and he spent most of his time travelling from house to house in the
village, smoking his pipe in neighbourly kitchens and fanning into an
active blaze all the smouldering feuds of the place. He had been
nicknamed "The Morning Chronicle" by a sarcastic schoolteacher who had
sojourned a winter at the Corner. The name was an apt one and clung.
Telford had heard it.
I suppose he is starting out on his rounds now, he thought.
Galletly plunged undauntedly into the conversational gap.
"Quite a fall of snow last night. Reckon we'll have more 'fore long.
That was a grand sermon ye gave us last Sunday, Mr. Telford. Reckon it
went home to some folks, judgin' from all I've heard. It was needed
and that's a fact. 'Live peaceably with all men'—that's what I lay
out to do. There ain't a house in the district but what I can drop
into and welcome. 'Tain't everybody in Rykman's Corner can say the
Galletly squinted out of the corner of his eye to see if the minister
would open on the trail of this hint. Telford's passive face was
discouraging but Galletly was not to be baffled.
"I s'pose ye haven't heard about the row down at Palmers' last night?"
The monosyllable was curt. Telford was vainly seeking to nip
Galletly's gossip in the bud. The name of Palmer conveyed no especial
meaning to his ear. He knew where the Palmer homestead was, and that
the plaintive-faced, fair-haired woman, whose name was Mrs. Fuller and
who came to church occasionally, lived there. His knowledge went no
further. He had called three times and found nobody at home—at least,
to all appearances. Now he was fated to have the whole budget of some
vulgar quarrel forced on him by Galletly.
"No? Everyone's talkin' of it. The long and short of it is that Min
Palmer has had a regular up-and-down row with Rose Fuller and turned
her and her little gal out of doors. I believe the two women had an
awful time. Min's a Tartar when her temper's up—and that's pretty
often. Nobody knows how Rose managed to put up with her so long. But
she has had to go at last. Goodness knows what the poor critter'll do.
She hasn't a cent nor a relation—she was just an orphan girl that
Palmer brought up. She is at Rawlingses now. Maybe when Min cools off,
she'll let her go back but it's doubtful. Min hates her like p'isen."
To Telford this was all very unintelligible. But he understood that
Mrs. Fuller was in trouble of some kind and that it was his duty to
help her if possible, although he had an odd and unaccountable
aversion to the woman, for which he had often reproached himself.
"Who is this woman you call Min Palmer?" he said coldly. "What are the
family circumstances? I ought to know, perhaps, if I am to be of any
service—but I have no wish to hear idle gossip."
His concluding sentence was quite unheeded by Galletly.
"Min Palmer's the worst woman in Rykman's Corner—or out of it. She
always was an odd one. I mind her when she was a girl—a saucy,
black-eyed baggage she was! Handsome, some folks called her. I never
c'd see it. Her people were a queer crowd and Min was never brung up
right—jest let run wild all her life. Well, Rod Palmer took to
dancin' attendance on her. Rod was a worthless scamp. Old Palmer was
well off and Rod was his only child, but this Rose lived there and
kept house for them after Mis' Palmer died. She was a quiet,
well-behaved little creetur. Folks said the old man wanted Rod to
marry her—dunno if 'twas so or not. In the end, howsomever, he had
to marry Min. Her brother got after him with a horse-whip, ye
understand. Old Palmer was furious but he had to give in and Rod
brought her home. She was a bit sobered down by her trouble and lived
quiet and sullen-like at first. Her and Rod fought like cat and dog.
Rose married Osh Fuller, a worthless, drunken fellow. He died in a
year or so and left Rose and her baby without a roof over their heads.
Then old Palmer went and brought her home. He set great store by Rose
and he c'dn't bear Min. Min had to be civil to Rose as long as old
Palmer lived. Fin'lly Rod up and died and 'twasn't long before his
father went too. Then the queer part came in. Everyone expected that
he'd purvide well for Rose and Min'd come in second best. But no will
was to be found. I don't say but what it was all right, mind you. I
may have my own secret opinion, of course. Old Palmer had a regular
mania, as ye might say, for makin' wills. He'd have a lawyer out from
town every year and have a new will made and the old one burnt. Lawyer
Bell was there and made one 'bout eight months 'fore he died. It was
s'posed he'd destroyed it and then died 'fore he'd time to make
another. He went off awful sudden. Anyway, everything went to Min's
child—to Min as ye might say. She's been boss. Rose still stayed on
there and Min let her, which was more than folks expected of her. But
she's turned her out at last. Min's in one of her tantrums now and
'tain't safe to cross her path."
"What is Mrs. Fuller to do?" asked Telford anxiously.
"That's the question. She's sickly—can't work much—and then she has
her leetle gal. Min was always jealous of that child. It's a real
purty, smart leetle creetur and old Palmer made a lot of it. Min's own
is an awful-looking thing—a cripple from the time 'twas born. There's
no doubt 'twas a jedgement on her. As for Rose, no doubt the god of
the widow and fatherless will purvide for her."
In spite of his disgust, Telford could not repress a smile at the
tone, half-whine, half-snuffle, with which Galletly ended up.
"I think I had better call and see this Mrs. Palmer," he said slowly.
"'Twould be no airthly use, Mr. Telford. Min'd slam the door in your
face if she did nothing worse. She hates ministers and everything
that's good. She hasn't darkened a church door for years. She never
had any religious tendency to begin with, and when there was such a
scandal about her, old Mr. Dinwoodie, our pastor then—a godly man,
Mr. Telford—he didn't hold no truck with evildoers—he went right to
her to reprove and rebuke her for her sins. Min, she flew at him. She
vowed then she'd never go to church again, and she never has. People
hereabouts has talked to her and tried to do her good, but it ain't no
use. Why, I've heard that woman say there was no God. It's a fact, Mr.
Telford—I have. Some of our ministers has tried to visit her. They
didn't try it more than once. The last one—he was about your heft—he
got a scare, I tell you. Min just caught him by the shoulder and shook
him like a rat! Didn't see it myself but Mrs. Rawlings did. Ye ought
to hear her describin' of it."
Galletly chuckled over the recollection, his wicked little eyes
glistening with delight. Telford was thankful when they reached the
store. He felt that he could not endure this man's society any
Nevertheless, he felt strangely interested. This Min Palmer must at
least be different from the rest of the Cornerites, if only in the
greater force of her wickedness. He almost felt as if her sins on the
grand scale were less blameworthy than the petty vices of her
Galletly eagerly joined the group of loungers on the dirty wet
platform, and Telford passed into the store. A couple of slatternly
women were talking to Mrs. Rykman about "the Palmer row." Telford made
his small purchases hastily. As he turned from the counter, he came
face to face with a woman who had paused in the doorway to survey the
scene with an air of sullen scorn. By some subtle intuition Telford
knew that this was Min Palmer.
The young man's first feeling was one of admiration for the woman
before him, who, in spite of her grotesque attire and defiant,
unwomanly air, was strikingly beautiful. She was tall, and not even
the man's ragged overcoat which she wore could conceal the grace of
her figure. Her abundant black hair was twisted into a sagging knot at
her neck, and from beneath the old fur cap looked out a pair of large
and brilliant black eyes, heavily lashed, and full of a smouldering
fire. Her skin was tanned and coarsened, but the warm crimson blood
glowed in her cheeks with a dusky richness, and her face was a perfect
oval, with features chiselled in almost classic regularity of outline.
Telford had a curious experience at that moment. He seemed to see,
looking out from behind this external mask of degraded beauty, the
semblance of what this woman might have been under more favouring
circumstance of birth and environment, wherein her rich, passionate
nature, potent for either good or evil, might have been trained and
swayed aright until it had developed grandly out into the glorious
womanhood the Creator must have planned for her. He knew, as if by
revelation, that this woman had nothing in common with the narrow,
self-righteous souls of Rykman's Corner. Warped and perverted though
her nature might be, she was yet far nobler than those who sat in
judgement upon her.
Min made some scanty purchases and left the store quickly, brushing
unheedingly past the minister as she did so. He saw her step on a
rough wood-sleigh and drive down the river road. The platform loungers
had been silent during her call, but now the talk bubbled forth anew.
Telford was sick at heart as he drove swiftly away. He felt for Min
Palmer a pity he could not understand or analyze. The attempt to
measure the gulf between what she was and what she might have been
hurt him like the stab of a knife.
He made several calls at various houses along the river during the
forenoon. After dinner he suddenly turned his horse towards the Palmer
place. Isaac Galletly, comfortably curled up in a neighbour's chimney
corner, saw him drive past.
"Ef the minister ain't goin' to Palmers' after all!" he chuckled.
"He's a set one when he does take a notion. Well, I warned him what to
expect. If Min claws his eyes out, he'll only have himself to blame."
Telford was not without his own misgivings as he drove into the Palmer
yard. He tied his horse to the fence and looked doubtfully about him.
Untrodden snowdrifts were heaped about the front door, so he turned
towards the kitchen and walked slowly past the bare lilac trees along
the fence. There was no sign of life about the place. It was beginning
to snow again, softly and thickly, and the hills and river were hidden
behind a misty white veil.
He lifted his hand to knock, but before he could do so, the door was
flung open and Min herself confronted him on the threshold.
She did not now have on the man's overcoat which she had worn at the
store, and her neat, close-fitting home-spun dress revealed to
perfection the full, magnificent curves of her figure. Her splendid
hair was braided about her head in a glossy coronet, and her dark eyes
were ablaze with ill-suppressed anger. Again Telford was overcome by a
sense of her wonderful loveliness. Not all the years of bondage to
ill-temper and misguided will had been able to blot out the beauty of
that proud, dark face.
She lifted one large but shapely brown hand and pointed to the gate.
"Go!" she said threateningly.
"Mrs. Palmer," began Telford, but she silenced him with an imperious
"I don't want any of your kind here. I hate all you ministers. Did you
come here to lecture me? I suppose some of the Corner saints set you
on me. You'll never cross my threshold."
Telford returned her defiant gaze unflinchingly. His dark-blue eyes,
magnetic in their power and sweetness, looked gravely, questioningly,
into Min's stormy orbs. Slowly the fire and anger faded out of her
face and her head drooped.
"I ain't fit for you to talk to anyway," she said with a sort of
sullen humility. "Maybe you mean well but you can't do me any good.
I'm past that now. The Corner saints say I'm possessed of the devil.
Perhaps I am—if there is one."
"I do mean well," said Telford slowly. "I did not come here to reprove
you. I came to help you if I could—if you needed help, Mrs. Palmer—"
"Don't call me that," she interrupted passionately. She flung out her
hands as if pushing some loathly, invisible thing from her. "I hate
the name—as I hated all who ever bore it. I never had anything but
wrong and dog-usage from them all. Call me Min—that's the only name
that belongs to me now. Go—why don't you go? Don't stand there
looking at me like that. I'm not going to change my mind. I don't want
any praying and whining round me. I've been well sickened of that.
Telford threw back his head and looked once more into her eyes. A long
look passed between them. Then he silently lifted his cap and, with no
word of farewell, he turned and went down to the gate. A bitter sense
of defeat and disappointment filled his heart as he drove away.
Min stood in the doorway and watched the sleigh out of sight down the
river road. Then she gave a long, shivering sigh that was almost a
"If I had met that man long ago," she said slowly, as if groping
vaguely in some hitherto unsounded depth of consciousness, "I would
never have become what I am. I felt that as I looked at him—it all
came over me with an awful sickening feeling—just as if we were
standing alone somewhere out of the world where there was no need of
words to say things. He doesn't despise me—he wouldn't sneer at me,
bad as I am, like those creatures up there. He could have helped me
if we had met in time, but it's too late now."
She locked her hands over her eyes and groaned, swaying her body to
and fro as one in mortal agony. Presently she looked out again with
hard, dry eyes.
"What a fool I am!" she said bitterly. "How the Corner saints would
stare if they saw me! I suppose some of them do—" with a glance at
the windows of a neighbouring house. "Yes, there's Mrs. Rawlings
staring out and Rose peeking over her shoulder."
Her face hardened. The old sway of evil passion reasserted itself.
"She shall never come back here—never. Oh, she was a sweet-spoken cat
of a thing—but she had claws. I've been blamed for all the trouble.
But if ever I had a chance, I'd tell that minister how she used to
twit and taunt me in that sugary way of hers—how she schemed and
plotted against me as long as she could. More fool I to care what he
thinks either! I wish I were dead. If 'twasn't for the child, I'd go
and drown myself at that black spring-hole down there—I'd be well out
of the way."
It was a dull grey afternoon a week afterwards when Allan Telford
again walked up the river road to the Palmer place. The wind was
bitter and he walked with bent head to avoid its fury. His face was
pale and worn and he looked years older.
He paused at the rough gate and leaned over it while he scanned the
house and its surroundings eagerly. As he looked, the kitchen door
opened and Min, clad in the old overcoat, came out and walked swiftly
across the yard.
Telford's eyes followed her with pitiful absorption. He saw her lead a
horse from the stable and harness it into a wood-sleigh loaded with
bags of grain. Once she paused to fling her arms about the animal's
neck, laying her face against it with a caressing motion.
The pale minister groaned aloud. He longed to snatch her forever from
that hard, unwomanly toil and fold her safely away from jeers and
scorn in the shelter of his love. He knew it was madness—he had told
himself so every hour in which Min's dark, rebellious face had haunted
him—yet none the less was he under its control.
Min led the horse across the yard and left it standing before the
kitchen door; she had not seen the bowed figure at the gate. When she
reappeared, he saw her dark eyes and the rose-red lustre of her face
gleam out from under the old crimson shawl wrapped about her head.
As she caught the horse by the bridle, the kitchen door swung heavily
to with a sharp, sudden bang. The horse, a great, powerful, nervous
brute, started wildly and then reared in terror.
The ice underfoot was glib and treacherous. Min lost her foothold and
fell directly under the horse's hoofs as they came heavily down. The
animal, freed from her detaining hand, sprang forward, dragging the
laden sleigh over the prostrate woman.
It had all passed in a moment. The moveless figure lay where it had
fallen, one outstretched hand still grasping the whip. Telford sprang
over the gate and rushed up the slope like a madman. He flung himself
on his knees beside her.
"Min! Min!" he called wildly.
There was no answer. He lifted her in his arms and staggered into the
house with his burden, his heart stilling with a horrible fear as he
laid her gently down on the old lounge in one corner of the kitchen.
The room was a large one and everything was neat and clean. The fire
burned brightly, and a few green plants were in blossom by the south
window. Beside them sat a child of about seven years who turned a
startled face at Telford's reckless entrance.
The boy had Min's dark eyes and perfectly chiselled features, refined
by suffering into cameo-like delicacy, and the silken hair fell in
soft, waving masses about the spiritual little face. By his side
nestled a tiny dog, with satin ears and paws fringed as with ravelled
Telford paid heed to nothing, not even the frightened child. He was as
"Min," he wailed again, striving tremblingly to feel her pulse while
cold drops came out on his forehead.
Min's face was as pallid as marble, save for one heavy bruise across
the cheek and a cruel cut at the edge of the dark hair, from which the
blood trickled down on the pillow.
She opened her eyes wonderingly at his call, looking up with a dazed,
appealing expression of pain and dread. A low moan broke from her
white lips. Telford sprang to his feet in a tumult of quivering joy.
"Min, dear," he said gently, "you have been hurt—not seriously, I
hope. I must leave you for a minute while I run for help—I will not
"Come back," said Min in a low but distinct tone.
He paused impatiently.
"It is of no use to get help," Min went on calmly. "I'm dying—I know
it. Oh, my God!"
She pressed her hand to her side and writhed. Telford turned
desperately to the door. Min raised her arm.
"Come here," she said resolutely.
He obeyed mutely. She looked up at him with bright, unquailing eyes.
"Don't you go one step—don't leave me here to die alone. I'm past
help—and I've something to say to you. I must say it and I haven't
Telford hardly heeded her in his misery.
"Min, let me go for help—let me do something," he implored. "You must
not die—you must not!"
Min had fallen back, gasping, on the blood-stained pillow.
He knelt beside her and put his arm about the poor, crushed body.
"I must hurry," she said faintly. "I can't die with it on my mind.
Rose—it's all hers—all. There was a will—he made it—old Gran'ther
Palmer. He always hated me. I found it before he died—and read it. He
left everything to her—not a cent to me nor his son's child—we were
to starve—beg. I was like a madwoman. When he died—I hid the will. I
meant—to burn it—but I never could. It's tortured me—night and
day—I've had no peace. You'll find it in a box—in my room. Tell
her—tell Rose—how wicked I've been. And my boy—what will become of
him? Rose hates him—she'll turn him out—or ill-treat him—"
Telford lifted his white, drawn face.
"I will take your child, Min. He shall be to me as my own son."
An expression of unspeakable relief came into the dying woman's face.
"It is good—of you. I can die—in peace—now. I'm glad to die—to get
clear of it all. I'm tired—of living so. Perhaps—I'll have a
chance—somewhere else. I've never—had any—here."
The dark eyes drooped—closed. Telford moaned shudderingly.
Once again Min opened her eyes and looked straight into his.
"If I had met you—long ago—you would have—loved me—and I would
have been—a good woman. It is well for us—for you—that I am—dying.
Your path will be clear—you will be good and successful—but you will
Telford bent and pressed his lips to Min's pain-blanched mouth.
"Do you think—we will—ever meet again?" she said faintly. "Out
there—it's so dark—God can never—forgive me—I've been so—wicked."
"Min, the all-loving Father is more merciful than man. He will forgive
you, if you ask Him, and you will wait for me till I come. I will stay
here and do my duty—I will try hard—"
His voice broke. Min's great black eyes beamed out on him with
passionate tenderness. The strong, deep, erring nature yielded at
last. An exceeding bitter cry rose to her lips.
"Oh, God—forgive me—forgive me!"
And with the cry, the soul of poor suffering, sinning, sinned-against
Min Palmer fled—who shall say whither? Who shall say that her
remorseful cry was not heard, even at that late hour, by a Judge more
merciful than her fellow creatures?
Telford still knelt on the bare floor, holding in his arms the dead
form of the woman he loved—his, all his, in death, as she could never
have been in life. Death had bridged the gulf between them.
The room was very silent. To Min's face had returned something of its
girlhood's innocence. The hard, unlovely lines were all smoothed out.
The little cripple crept timidly up to Telford, with the silky head of
the dog pressed against his cheek. Telford gathered the distorted
little body to his side and looked earnestly into the small
face—Min's face, purified and spiritualized. He would have it near
him always. He bent and reverently kissed the cold face, the closed
eyelids and the blood-stained brow of the dead woman. Then he stood
"Come with me, dear," he said gently to the child.
The day after the funeral, Allan Telford sat in the study of his
little manse among the encircling wintry hills. Close to the window
sat Min's child, his small, beautiful face pressed against the panes,
and the bright-eyed dog beside him.
Telford was writing in his journal.
"I shall stay here—close to her grave. I shall see it every time I
look from my study window—every time I stand in my pulpit—every time
I go in and out among my people. I begin to see wherein I have failed.
I shall begin again patiently and humbly. I wrote today to decline the
C—— church call. My heart and my work are here."
He closed the book and bowed his head on it. Outside the snow fell
softly; he knew that it was wrapping that new-made grave on the cold,
fir-sentinelled hillside with a stainless shroud of infinite purity
Miss Cordelia's Accommodation
"Poor little creatures!" said Miss Cordelia compassionately.
She meant the factory children. In her car ride from the school where
she taught to the bridge that spanned the river between Pottstown, the
sooty little manufacturing village on one side, and Point Pleasant,
which was merely a hamlet, on the other, she had seen dozens of them,
playing and quarrelling on the streets or peering wistfully out of
dingy tenement windows.
"Tomorrow is Saturday," she reflected, "and they've no better place to
play in than the back streets and yards. It's a shame. There's work
for our philanthropists here, but they don't seem to see it. Well, I'm
so sorry for them it hurts me to look at them, but I can't do
Miss Cordelia sighed and then brightened up, because she realized that
she was turning her back upon Pottstown for two blissful days and
going to Point Pleasant, which had just one straggling, elm-shaded
street hedging on old-fashioned gardens and cosy little houses and
trailing off into the real country in a half-hour's walk.
Miss Cordelia lived alone in a tiny house at Point Pleasant. It was so
tiny that you would have wondered how anyone could live in it.
"But it's plenty big for a little old maid like me," Miss Cordelia
would have told you. "And it's my own—I'm queen there. There's solid
comfort in having one spot for your own self. To be sure, if I had
less land and more house it would be better."
Miss Cordelia always laughed here. It was one of her jokes. There was
a four-acre field behind the house. Both had been left to her by an
uncle. The field was of no use to Miss Cordelia; she didn't keep a cow
and she hadn't time to make a garden. But she liked her field; when
people asked her why she didn't sell it she said:
"I'm fond of it. I like to walk around in it when the grass grows
long. And it may come in handy some time. Mother used to say if you
kept anything seven years it would come to use. I've had my field a
good bit longer than that, but maybe the time will come yet. Meanwhile
I rejoice in the fact that I am a landed proprietor to the extent of
Miss Cordelia had thought of converting her field into a playground
for the factory children and asking detachments of them over on
Saturday afternoon. But she knew that her Point Pleasant neighbours
would object to this, so that project was dropped.
When Miss Cordelia pushed open her little gate, hung crookedly in a
very compact and prim spruce hedge, she stopped in amazement and said,
"Well, for pity's sake!"
Cynthia Ann Flemming, who lived on the other side of the spruce hedge,
now came hurrying over.
"Good evening, Cordelia. I have a letter that was left with me for
"But—that—horse," said Miss Cordelia, with a long breath between
every word. "Where did he come from? Tied at my front door—and he's
eaten the tops off every one of my geraniums! Where's his owner or
rider or something?"
The horse in question was a mild-eyed, rather good-looking quadruped,
tied by a halter to the elm at Miss Cordelia's door and contentedly
munching a mouthful of geranium stalks. Cynthia Ann came through the
hedge with the letter.
"Maybe this will explain," she said. "Same boy brought it as brought
the horse—a little freckly chap mostly all grin and shirtsleeves.
Said he was told to take the letter and horse to Miss Cordelia Herry,
Elm Street, Point Pleasant, and he couldn't wait. So he tied the
creature in there and left the letter with me. He came half an hour
ago. Well, he has played havoc with your geraniums and no mistake."
Miss Cordelia opened and read her letter. When she finished it she
looked at the curious Cynthia Ann solemnly.
"Well, if that isn't John Drew all over! I suspected he was at the
bottom of it as soon as I laid my eyes on that animal. John Drew is a
cousin of mine. He's been living out at Poplar Valley and he writes me
that he has gone out west, and wants me to take 'old Nap.' I suppose
that is the horse. He says that Nap is getting old and not much use
for work and he couldn't bear the thought of shooting him or selling
him to someone who might ill-treat him, so he wants me to take him and
be kind to him for old times' sake. John and I were just like brother
and sister when we were children. If this isn't like him nothing ever
was. He was always doing odd things and thinking they were all right.
And now he's off west and here is the horse. If it were a cat or a
dog—but a horse!"
"Your four-acre field will come in handy now," said Cynthia Ann
"So it will." Miss Cordelia spoke absently. "The very thing! Yes, I'll
put him in there."
"But you don't really mean that you're going to keep the horse, are
you?" protested Cynthia Ann. "Why, he is no good to you—and think of
the expense of feeding him!"
"I'll keep him for a while," said Miss Cordelia briskly. "As you say,
there is the four-acre field. It will keep him in eating for a while.
I always knew that field had a mission. Poor John Drew! I'd like to
oblige him for old times' sake, as he says, although this is as crazy
as anything he ever did. But I have a plan. Meanwhile, I can't feed
Nap on geraniums."
Miss Cordelia always adapted herself quickly and calmly to new
circumstances. "It is never any use to get in a stew about things,"
she was wont to say. So now she untied Nap gingerly, with many rueful
glances at her geraniums, and led him away to the field behind the
house, where she tied him safely to a post with such an abundance of
knots that there was small fear of his getting away.
When the mystified Cynthia Ann had returned home Miss Cordelia set
about getting her tea and thinking over the plan that had come to her
concerning her white elephant.
"I can keep him for the summer," she said. "I'll have to dispose of
him in the fall for I've no place to keep him in, and anyway I
couldn't afford to feed him. I'll see if I can borrow Mr. Griggs's
express wagon for Saturday afternoons, and if I can those poor factory
children in my grade shall have a weekly treat or my name is not
Cordelia Herry. I'm not so sure but that John Drew has done a good
thing after all. Poor John! He always did take things so for granted."
All the point pleasant people soon knew about Miss Cordelia's
questionable windfall, and she was overwhelmed with advice and
suggestions. She listened to all tranquilly and then placidly followed
her own way. Mr. Griggs was very obliging in regard to his old express
wagon, and the next Saturday Point Pleasant was treated to a mild
sensation—nothing less than Miss Cordelia rattling through the
village, enthroned on the high seat of Mr. Griggs's yellow express
wagon, drawn by old Nap who, after a week of browsing idleness in the
four-acre field, was quite frisky and went at a decided amble down Elm
Street and across the bridge. The long wagon had been filled up with
board seats, and when Miss Cordelia came back over the bridge the
boards were crowded with factory children—pale-faced little creatures
whose eyes were aglow with pleasure at this unexpected outing.
Miss Cordelia drove straight out to the big pine-clad hills of
Deepdale, six miles from Pottstown. Then she tied Nap in a convenient
lane and turned the children loose to revel in the woods and fields.
How they did enjoy themselves! And how Miss Cordelia enjoyed seeing
them enjoy themselves!
When dinner time came she gathered them all around her and went to the
wagon. In it she had a basket of bread and butter.
"I can't afford anything more," she told Cynthia Ann, "but they must
have something to stay their little stomachs. And I can get some water
at a farmhouse."
Miss Cordelia had had her eye on a certain farmhouse all the morning.
She did not know anything about the people who lived there, but she
liked the looks of the place. It was a big, white, green-shuttered
house, throned in wide-spreading orchards, with a green sweep of
velvety lawn in front.
To this Miss Cordelia took her way, surrounded by her small
passengers, and they all trooped into the great farmhouse yard just as
a big man stepped out of a nearby barn. As he approached, Miss
Cordelia thought she had never seen anybody so much like an incarnate
smile before. Smiles of all kinds seemed literally to riot over his
ruddy face and in and out of his eyes and around the corners of his
"Well, well, well!" he said, when he came near enough to be heard. "Is
this a runaway school, ma'am?"
"I'm the runaway schoolma'am," responded Miss Cordelia with a twinkle.
"And these are a lot of factory children I've brought out for a
Saturday treat. I thought I might get some water from your well, and
maybe you will lend us a tin dipper or two?"
"Water? Tut, tut!" said the big man, with three distinct smiles on his
face. "Milk's the thing, ma'am—milk. I'll tell my housekeeper to
bring some out. And all of you come over to the lawn and make
yourselves at home. Bless you, ma'am, I'm fond of children. My name is
Smiles, ma'am—Abraham Smiles."
"It suits you," said Miss Cordelia emphatically, before she thought,
and then blushed rosy-red over her bluntness.
Mr. Smiles laughed. "Yes, I guess I always have an everlasting grin
on. Had to live up to my name, you see, in spite of my naturally
cantankerous disposition; But come this way, ma'am, I can see the
hunger sticking out of those youngsters' eyes. We'll have a sort of
impromptu picnic here and now, I'll tell my housekeeper to send out
some jam too."
While the children devoured their lunch Miss Cordelia found herself
telling Mr. Smiles all about old Nap and her little project.
"I'm going to bring out a load every fine Saturday all summer," she
said. "It's all I can do. They enjoy it so, the little creatures. It's
terrible to think how cramped their lives are. They just exist in
soot. Some of them here never saw green fields before today."
Mr. Smiles listened and beamed and twinkled until Miss Cordelia felt
almost as dazzled as if she were looking at the sun.
"Look here, ma'am, I like this plan of yours and I want to have a hand
in helping it along. Bring your loads of children out here every
Saturday, right here to Beechwood Farm, and turn them loose in my
beech woods and upland pastures. I'll put up some swings for them and
have some games, and I'll provide the refreshments also. Trouble,
ma'am? No, trouble and I ain't on speaking terms. It'll be a pleasure,
ma'am. I'm fond of children even if I am a grumpy cross-grained old
bachelor. If you can give up your own holiday to give them a good
time, surely I can do something too."
When Miss Cordelia and her brood of tired, happy little lads and
lasses ambled back to town in the golden dusk she felt that the
expedition had been an emphatic success. Even old Nap seemed to jog
along eye-deep in satisfaction. Probably he was ruminating on the
glorious afternoon he had spent in Mr. Smiles's clover pasture.
Every fine Saturday that summer Miss Cordelia took some of the factory
children to the country. The Point Pleasant people nicknamed her
equipage "Miss Cordelia's accommodation," and it became a mild
As for Mr. Smiles, he proved a valuable assistant. Like Miss Cordelia,
he gave his Saturdays over to the children, and high weekly revel was
held at Beechwood Farm.
But when the big bronze and golden leaves began to fall in the beech
woods, Miss Cordelia sorrowfully realized that the summer was over and
that the weekly outings which she had enjoyed as much as the children
must soon be discontinued.
"I feel so sorry," she told Mr. Smiles, "but it can't be helped. It
will soon be too cold for our jaunts and of course I can't keep Nap
through the winter. I hate to part with him, I've grown so fond of
him, but I must."
She looked regretfully at Nap, who was nibbling Mr. Smiles's clover
aftermath. He was sleek and glossy. It had been the golden summer of
Mr. Smiles coughed in an embarrassed fashion. Miss Cordelia looked at
him and was amazed to see that not a smile was on or about his face.
He looked absurdly serious.
"I want to buy Nap," he said in a sepulchral tone, "but that is not
the only thing I want. I want you too, ma'am. I'm tired of being a
cross old bachelor. I think I'd like to be a cross old husband, for a
change. Do you think you could put up with me in that capacity, Miss
Cordelia, my dear?"
Miss Cordelia gave a half gasp and then she had to laugh. "Oh, Mr.
Smiles, I'll agree to anything if you'll only smile again. It seems
unnatural to see you look so solemn."
The smiles at once broke loose and revelled over her wooer's face.
"Then you will come?" he said eagerly.
Half an hour later they had their plans made. At New Year's Miss
Cordelia was to leave her school and sooty Pottstown and come to be
mistress of Beechwood Farm.
"And look here," said Mr. Smiles. "Every fine Saturday you shall have
a big, roomy sleigh and Nap, and drive into town for some children and
bring them out here for their weekly treat as usual. The house is
large enough to hold them, goodness knows, and if it isn't there are
the barns for the overflow. This is going to be our particular pet
charity all our lives, ma'am—I mean Cordelia, my dear."
"Blessings on old Nap," said Miss Cordelia with a happy light in her
"He shall live in clover for the rest of his days," added Mr. Smiles
Ned's Stroke of Business
"Jump in, Ned; I can give you a lift if you're going my way." Mr.
Rogers reined up his prancing grey horse, and Ned Allen sprang lightly
into the comfortable cutter. The next minute they were flying down the
long, glistening road, rosy-white in the sunset splendour. The first
snow of the season had come, and the sleighing was, as Ned said,
"Going over to Windsor, I suppose," said Mr. Rogers, with a glance at
the skates that were hanging over Ned's shoulder.
"Yes, sir; all the Carleton boys are going over tonight. The moon is
out, and the ice is good. We have to go in a body, or the Windsor
fellows won't leave us alone. There's safety in numbers."
"Pretty hard lines when boys have to go six miles for a skate,"
commented Mr. Rogers.
"Well, it's that or nothing," laughed Ned. "There isn't a saucerful of
ice any nearer, except that small pond in Old Dutcher's field, behind
his barn. And you know Old Dutcher won't allow a boy to set foot
there. He says they would knock down his fences climbing over them,
and like as not set fire to his barn."
"Old Dutcher was always a crank," said Mr. Rogers, "and doubtless will
be to the end. By the way, I heard a rumour to the effect that you are
soon going to take a course at the business college in Trenton. I hope
Ned's frank face clouded over. "I'm afraid not, sir. The truth is, I
guess Mother can't afford it. Of course, Aunt Ella has very kindly
offered to board me free for the term, but fees, books, and so on
would require at least fifty dollars. I don't expect to go."
"That's a pity. Can't you earn the necessary money yourself?"
Ned shook his head. "Not much chance for that in Carleton, Mr. Rogers.
I've cudgelled my brains for the past month trying to think of some
way, but in vain. Well, here is the crossroad, so I must get off.
Thank you for the drive, sir."
"Keep on thinking, Ned," advised Mr. Rogers, as the lad jumped out.
"Perhaps you'll hit on some plan yet to earn that money, and if you
do—well, it will prove that you have good stuff in you."
"I think it would," laughed Ned to himself, as he trudged away. "A
quiet little farming village in winter isn't exactly a promising field
for financial operations."
At Winterby Corners Ned found a crowd of boys waiting for him, and
soon paired off with his chum, Jim Slocum. Jim, as usual, was
grumbling because they had to go all the way to Windsor to skate.
"Like as not we'll get into a free fight with the Windsorites when we
get there, and be chevied off the ice," he complained.
The rivalry which existed between the Carleton and the Windsor boys
was bitter and of long standing.
"We ought to be able to hold our own tonight," said Ned. "There'll be
thirty of us there."
"If we could only get Old Dutcher to let us skate on his pond!" said
Jim. "It wouldn't hurt his old pond! And the ice is always splendid on
it. I'd give a lot if we could only go there."
Ned was silent. A sudden idea had come to him. He wondered if it were
feasible. "Anyhow, I'll try it," he said to himself. "I'll interview
Old Dutcher tomorrow."
The skating that night was not particularly successful. The small pond
at Windsor was crowded, the Windsor boys being out in force and,
although no positive disturbance arose, they contrived to make matters
unpleasant for the Carletonites, who tramped moodily homeward in no
very good humour, most of them declaring that, skating or no skating,
they would not go to Windsor again.
The next day Ned Allen went down to see Mr. Dutcher, or Old Dutcher,
as he was universally called in Carleton. Ned did not exactly look
forward to the interview with pleasure. Old Dutcher was a crank—there
was no getting around that fact. He had "good days" occasionally when,
for him, he was fairly affable, but they were few and far between, and
Ned had no reason to hope that this would be one. Old Dutcher was
unmarried, and his widowed sister kept house for him. This poor lady
had a decidedly lonely life of it, for Old Dutcher studiously
discouraged visitors. His passion for solitude was surpassed only by
his eagerness to make and save money. Although he was well-to-do, he
would wrangle over a cent, and was the terror of all who had ever had
dealings with him.
Fortunately for Ned and his project, this did turn out to be one of
Old Dutcher's good days. He had just concluded an advantageous bargain
with a Windsor cattle-dealer, and hence he received Ned with what, for
Old Dutcher, might be called absolute cordiality. Besides, although
Old Dutcher disliked all boys on principle, he disliked Ned less than
the rest because the boy had always treated him respectfully and had
never played any tricks on him on Hallowe'en or April Fool's Day.
"I've come down to see you on a little matter of business, Mr.
Dutcher," said Ned, boldly and promptly. It never did to beat about
the bush with Old Dutcher; you had to come straight to the point. "I
want to know if you will rent your pond behind the barn to me for a
Old Dutcher's aspect was certainly not encouraging. "No, I won't. You
ought to know that. I never allow anyone to skate there. I ain't going
to have a parcel of whooping, yelling youngsters tearing over my
fences, disturbing my sleep at nights, and like as not setting fire to
my barns. No, sir! I ain't going to rent that pond for no
Ned smothered a smile. "Just wait a moment, Mr. Dutcher," he said
respectfully. "I want you to hear my proposition before you refuse
definitely. First, I'll give you ten dollars for the rent of the pond;
then I'll see that there will be no running over your fields and
climbing your fences, no lighting of fire or matches about it, and no
'whooping and yelling' at nights. My rink will be open only from two
to six in the afternoon and from seven to ten in the evening. During
that time I shall always be at the pond to keep everything in order.
The skaters will come and go by the lane leading from the barn to the
road. I think that if you agree to my proposition, Mr. Dutcher, you
will not regret it."
"What's to prevent my running such a rink myself?" asked Old Dutcher
"It wouldn't pay you, Mr. Dutcher," answered Ned promptly. "The
Carleton boys wouldn't patronize a rink run by you."
Old Dutcher's eyes twinkled. It did not displease him to know that the
Carleton boys hated him. In fact, it seemed as if he rather liked it.
"Besides," went on Ned, "you couldn't afford the time. You couldn't be
on the pond for eight hours a day and until ten o'clock at night. I
can, as I've nothing else to do just now. If I had, I wouldn't have to
be trying to make money by a skating-rink."
Old Dutcher scowled. Ten dollars was ten dollars and, as Ned had said,
he knew very well that he could not run a rink by himself. "Well," he
said, half reluctantly, "I suppose I'll let you go ahead. Only
remember I'll hold you responsible if anything happens."
Ned went home in high spirits. By the next day he had placards out in
conspicuous places—on the schoolhouse, at the forge, at Mr. Rogers's
store, and at Winterby Corners—announcing that he had rented Mr.
Dutcher's pond for a skating-rink, and that tickets for the same at
twenty-five cents a week for each skater could be had upon application
Ned was not long left in doubt as to the success of his enterprise. It
was popular from the start. There were about fifty boys in Carleton
and Winterby, and they all patronized the rink freely. At first Ned
had some trouble with two or three rowdies, who tried to evade his
rules. He was backed up, however, by Old Dutcher's reputation and by
the public opinion of the other boys, as well as by his own undoubted
muscle, and soon had everything going smoothly. The rink flourished
amain, and everybody, even Old Dutcher, was highly pleased.
At the end of the season Ned paid Old Dutcher his ten dollars, and had
plenty left to pay for books and tuition at the business college in
Trenton. On the eve of his departure Mr. Rogers, who had kept a keen
eye on Ned's enterprise, again picked him up on the road.
"So you found a way after all, Ned," he said genially. "I had an idea
you would. My bookkeeper will be leaving me about the time you will be
through at the college. I will be wanting in his place a young man
with a good nose for business, and I rather think that you will be
that young man. What do you say?"
"Thank you, sir," stammered Ned, scarcely believing his ears. A
position in Mr. Rogers's store meant good salary and promotion. He had
never dared to hope for such good fortune. "If you—think I can give
"You manipulated Old Dutcher, and you've earned enough in a very
slow-going place to put you through your business-college term, so I
am sure you are the man I'm looking for. I believe in helping those
who have 'gumption' enough to help themselves, so we'll call it a
Our Runaway Kite
Of course there was nobody for us to play with on the Big Half Moon,
but then, as Claude says, you can't have everything. We just had to
make the most of each other, and we did.
The Big Half Moon is miles from anywhere, except the Little Half Moon.
But nobody lives there, so that doesn't count.
We live on the Big Half Moon. "We" are Father and Claude and I and
Aunt Esther and Mimi and Dick. It used to be only Father and Claude
and I. It is all on account of the kite that there are more of us.
This is what I want to tell you about.
Father is the keeper of the Big Half Moon lighthouse. He has always
been the keeper ever since I can remember, although that isn't very
long. I am only eleven years old. Claude is twelve.
In winter, when the harbour is frozen over, there isn't any need of a
light on the Big Half Moon, and we all move over to the mainland, and
Claude and Mimi and Dick and I go to school. But as soon as spring
comes, back we sail to our own dear island, so glad that we don't know
what to do with ourselves.
The funny part used to be that people always pitied us when the time
came for us to return. They said we must be so lonesome over there,
with no other children near us, and not even a woman to look after us.
Why, Claude and I were never lonesome. There was always so much to do,
and Claude is splendid at making believe. He makes the very best
pirate chief I ever saw. Dick is pretty good, but he can never roar
out his orders in the bloodcurdling tones that Claude can.
Of course Claude and I would have liked to have someone to play with
us, because it is hard to run pirate caves and things like that with
only two. But we used to quarrel a good deal with the mainland
children in winter, so perhaps it was just as well that there were
none of them on the Big Half Moon. Claude and I never quarrelled. We
used to argue sometimes and get excited, but that was as far as it
ever went. When I saw Claude getting too excited I gave in to him. He
is a boy, you know, and they have to be humoured; they are not like
As for having a woman to look after us, I thought that just too silly,
and so did Claude. What did we need with a woman when we had Father?
He could cook all we wanted to eat and make molasses taffy that was
just like a dream. He kept our clothes all mended, and everything
about the lighthouse was neat as wax. Of course I helped him lots. I
like pottering round.
He used to hear our lessons and tell us splendid stories and saw that
we always said our prayers. Claude and I wouldn't have done anything
to make him feel bad for the world. Father is just lovely.
To be sure, he didn't seem to have any relations except us. This used
to puzzle Claude and me. Everybody on the mainland had relations; why
hadn't we? Was it because we lived on an island? We thought it would
be so jolly to have an uncle and aunt and some cousins. Once we asked
Father about it, but he looked so sorrowful all of a sudden that we
wished we hadn't. He said it was all his fault. I didn't see how that
could be, but I never said anything more about it to Father. Still, I
did wish we had some relations.
It is always lovely out here on the Big Half Moon in summer. When it
is fine the harbour is blue and calm, with little winds and ripples
purring over it, and the mainland shores look like long blue lands
where fairies dwell. Away out over the bar, where the big ships go, it
is always hazy and pearl-tinted, like the inside of the mussel shells.
Claude says he is going to sail out there when he grows up. I would
like to too, but Claude says I can't because I'm a girl. It is
dreadfully inconvenient to be a girl at times.
When it storms it is grand to see the great waves come crashing up
against the Big Half Moon as if they meant to swallow it right down.
You can't see the Little Half Moon at all then; it is hidden by the
mist and spume.
We had our pirate cave away up among the rocks, where we kept an old
pistol with the lock broken, a rusty cutlass, a pair of knee boots,
and Claude's jute beard and wig. Down on the shore, around one of the
horns of the Half Moon, was the Mermaid's Pool, where we sailed our
toy boats and watched for sea kelpies. We never saw any. Dick says
there is no such thing as a kelpy. But then Dick has no imagination.
It is no argument against a thing that you've never seen it. I have
never seen the pyramids, either, but I know that there are pyramids.
Every summer we had some hobby. The last summer before Dick and Mimi
came we were crazy about kites. A winter boy on the mainland showed
Claude how to make them, and when we went back to the Big Half Moon we
made kites galore. Even pirating wasn't such good fun. Claude would go
around to the other side of the Big Half Moon and we would play
shipwrecked mariners signalling to each other with kites. Oh, it was
We had one kite that was a dandy. It was as big as we could make it
and covered with lovely red paper; we had pasted gold tinsel stars all
over it and written our names out in full on it—Claude Martin Leete
and Philippa Brewster Leete, Big Half Moon Lighthouse. That kite had
the most magnificent tail, too.
It used to scare the gulls nearly to death when we sent up our kites.
They didn't know what to make of them. And the Big Half Moon is such a
place for gulls—there are hundreds of them here.
One day there was a grand wind for kite-flying, and Claude and I were
having a splendid time. We used our smaller kites for signalling, and
when we got tired of that Claude sent me to the house for the big
one. I'm sure I don't know how it happened, but when I was coming back
over the rocks I tripped and fell, and my elbow went clear through
that lovely kite. You would never have believed that one small elbow
could make such a big hole. Claude said it was just like a girl to
fall and stick her elbow through a kite, but I don't see why it should
be any more like a girl than a boy. Do you?
We had to hurry to fix the kite if we wanted to send it up before the
wind fell, so we rushed into the lighthouse to get some paper. We knew
there was no more red paper, and the looks of the kite were spoiled,
anyhow, so we just took the first thing that came handy—an old letter
that was lying on the bookcase in the sitting-room. I suppose we
shouldn't have taken it, although, as matters turned out, it was the
best thing we could have done; but Father was away to the mainland to
buy things, and we never thought it could make any difference about an
old yellow letter. It was one Father had taken from a drawer in the
bookcase which he had cleaned out the night before. We patched the
kite up with the letter, a sheet on each side, and dried it by the
fire. Then we started out, and up went the kite like a bird. The wind
was glorious, and it soared and strained like something alive. All at
once—snap! And there was Claude, standing with a bit of cord in his
hand, looking as foolish as a flatfish, and our kite sailing along at
a fearful rate of speed over to the mainland.
I might have said to Claude, So like a boy! but I didn't. Instead, I
sympathized with him, and pointed out that it really didn't matter
because I had spoiled it by jabbing my elbow through it. By this time
the kite was out of sight, and we never expected to see or hear of it
A month later a letter came to the Big Half Moon for Father. Jake
Wiggins brought it over in his sloop. Father went off by himself to
read it, and such a queer-looking face as he had when he came back!
His eyes looked as if he had been crying, but that couldn't be, I
suppose, because Claude says men never cry. Anyhow, his face was all
glad and soft and smiley.
"Do you two young pirates and freebooters want to know what has become
of your kite?" he said.
Then he sat down beside us on the rocks at the Mermaid's Pool and told
us the whole story, and read his letter to us. It was the most amazing
It seems Father had had relations after all—a brother and a sister in
particular. But when he was a young man he quarrelled with his
brother, who didn't treat him very well—but he's been dead for years,
so I won't say a word against him—and had gone away from home. He
never went back, and he never even let them know he was living.
Father says that this was very wrong of him, and I suppose it was,
since he says so; but I don't see how Father could do anything wrong.
Anyway, he had a sister Esther whom he loved very much; but he felt
bitter against her too, because he thought she took his brother's part
too much. So, though a letter of hers, asking him to go back, did
reach him, he never answered it, and he never heard anything more.
Years afterward he felt sorry and went back, but his brother was dead
and his sister had gone away, and he couldn't find out a single thing
So much for that; and now about the kite. The letter Father had just
received was from his sister, our Aunt Esther and the mother of Dick
and Mimi. She was living at a place hundreds of miles inland. Her
husband was dead and, as we found out later, although she did not say
a word about it in the letter, she was very poor. One day when Dick
and Mimi were out in the woods looking for botany specimens they saw
something funny in the top of a tree. Dick climbed up and got it. It
was a big red kite with a patch on each side and names written on it.
They carried it home to their mother. Dick has since told us that she
turned as pale as the dead when she saw our names on it. You see,
Philippa was her mother's name and Claude was her father's. And when
she read the letter that was pasted over the hole in the kite she knew
who we must be, for it was the very letter she had written to her
brother so long ago. So she sat right down and wrote again, and this
was the letter Jake Wiggins brought to the Big Half Moon. It was a
beautiful letter. I loved Aunt Esther before I ever saw her, just from
Next day Father got Jake to take his place for a few days, and he left
Claude and me over on the mainland while he went to see Aunt Esther.
When he came back he brought Aunt Esther and Dick and Mimi with him,
and they have been here ever since.
You don't know how splendid it is! Aunt Esther is such a dear, and
Dick and Mimi are too jolly for words. They love the Big Half Moon as
well as Claude and I do, and Dick makes a perfectly elegant
But the best of it all is that we have relations now!
The Bride Roses
Miss Corona awoke that June morning with a sigh, the cause of which
she was at first too sleepy to understand. Then it all came over her
with a little sickening rush; she had fallen asleep with tear-wet
lashes the night before on account of it.
This was Juliet Gordon's wedding day, and she, Miss Corona, could not
go to the wedding and was not even invited, all because of the
Quarrel, a generation old, and so chronic and bitter and terrible that
it always presented itself to Miss Corona's mental vision as spelled
with a capital. Well might Miss Corona hate it. It had shut her up
into a lonely life for long years. Juliet Gordon and Juliet's father,
Meredith Gordon, were the only relations Miss Corona had in the world,
and the old family feud divided them by a gulf which now seemed
Miss Corona turned over on her pillows, lifted one corner of the white
window-blind and peeped out. Below her a river of early sunshine was
flowing through the garden, and the far-away slopes were translucent
green in their splendour of young day, with gauzy, uncertain mists
lingering, spiritlike, in their intervales. A bird, his sleek plumage
iridescent in the sunlight, was perched on the big chestnut bough that
ran squarely across the window, singing as if his heart would burst
with melody and the joy of his tiny life. No bride could have wished
anything fairer for her day of days, and Miss Corona dropped back on
her pillows with another gentle sigh.
"I'm so glad that the dear child has a fine day to be married," she
Juliet Gordon was always "dear child" to Miss Corona, although the two
had never spoken to each other in their lives.
Miss Corona was a brisk and early riser as a rule, with a genuine
horror of lazy people who lay late abed or took over-long to get their
eyes well opened, but this morning she made no hurry about rising,
even though scurrying footsteps, banging doors, and over-loud tinkling
of dishes in the room below betokened that Charlotta was already up
and about. And Charlotta, as poor Miss Corona knew only too well, was
fatally sure to do something unfortunate if she were not under some
careful, overseeing eye. To be sure, Charlotta's intentions were
But Miss Corona was not thinking about Charlotta this morning, and she
felt so strong a distaste for her lonely, purposeless life that she
was in no haste to go forth to meet another day of it.
Miss Corona felt just the least little bit tired of living, although
she feared it was very wicked of her to feel so. She lay there
listlessly for half an hour longer, looking through a mist of tears at
the portrait of her stern old father hanging on the wall at the foot
of the bed, and thinking over the Quarrel.
It had happened thirty years ago, when Miss Corona had been a girl of
twenty, living alone with her father at the old Gordon homestead on
the hill, with the big black spruce grove behind it on the north and
far-reaching slopes of green fields before it on the south. Down in
the little northern valley below the spruce grove lived her uncle,
Alexis Gordon. His son, Meredith, had seemed to Corona as her own
brother. The mothers of both were dead; neither had any other brother
or sister. The two children had grown up together, playmates and
devoted friends. There had never been any sentiment or lovemaking
between them to mar a perfect comradeship. They were only the best of
friends, whatever plans the fathers might have cherished for the union
of their estates and children, putting the property consideration
first, as the Gordons were always prone to do.
But, if Roderick and Alexis Gordon had any such plans, all went by the
board when they quarreled. Corona shivered yet over the bitterness of
that time. The Gordons never did anything half-heartedly. The strife
between the two brothers was determined and irreconcilable.
Corona's father forbade her to speak to her uncle and cousin or to
hold any communication with them. Corona wept and obeyed him. She had
always obeyed her father; it had never entered into her mind to do
anything else. Meredith had resented her attitude hotly, and from that
day they had never spoken or met, while the years came and went, each
making a little wider and more hopeless the gulf of coldness and anger
Ten years later Roderick Gordon died, and in five months Alexis Gordon
followed him to the grave. The two brothers who had hated each other
so unyieldingly in life slept very peaceably side by side in the old
Gordon plot of the country graveyard, but their rancour still served
to embitter the lives of their descendants.
Corona, with a half-guilty sense of disloyalty to her father, hoped
that she and Meredith might now be friends again. He was married, and
had one little daughter. In her new and intolerable loneliness
Corona's heart yearned after her own people. But she was too timid to
make any advances, and Meredith never made any. Corona believed that
he hated her, and let slip her last fluttering hope that the old
breach would ever be healed.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" she sobbed softly into her pillows. It seemed a
terrible thing to her that one of her race and kin was to be married
and she could not be present at the ceremony, she who had never seen a
When Miss Corona went downstairs at last, she found Charlotta sobbing
in the kitchen porch. The small handmaiden was doubled up on the
floor, with her face muffled in her gingham apron and her long braids
of red hair hanging with limp straightness down her back. When
Charlotta was in good spirits, they always hung perkily over each
shoulder, tied up with enormous bows of sky-blue ribbon.
"What have you done this time?" asked Miss Corona, without the
slightest intention of being humorous or sarcastic.
"I've—I've bruk your green and yaller bowl," sniffed Charlotta.
"Didn't mean to, Miss C'rona. It jest slipped out so fashion 'fore I
c'd grab holt on it. And it's bruk into forty millyun pieces. Ain't I
the onluckiest girl?"
"You certainly are," sighed Miss Corona. At any other time she would
have been filled with dismay over the untoward fate of her green and
yellow bowl, which had belonged to her great-grandmother and had stood
on the hall table to hold flowers as long as she could remember. But
just now her heart was so sore over the Quarrel that there was no room
for other regrets. "Well, well, crying won't mend it. I suppose it is
a judgment on me for staying abed so late. Go and sweep up the pieces,
and do try and be a little more careful, Charlotte."
"Yes'm," said Charlotta meekly. She dared not resent being called
Charlotte just then. "And I'll tell you what I'll do, ma'am, to make
up, I'll go and weed the garden. Yes'm, I'll do it beautiful."
"And pull up more flowers than weeds," Miss Corona reflected
mournfully. But it did not matter; nothing mattered. She saw Charlotta
sally forth into the garden with a determined, do-or-die expression
surmounting her freckles, without feeling interest enough to go and
make sure that she did not root out all the late asters in her tardy
and wilfully postponed warfare on weeds.
This mood lasted until the afternoon. Then Miss Corona, whose heart
and thoughts were still down in the festive house in the valley,
roused herself enough to go out and see what Charlotta was doing.
After finding out, she wandered idly about the rambling, old-fashioned
place, which was full of nooks and surprises. At every turn you might
stumble on some clump or tangle of sweetness, showering elusive
fragrance on the air, that you would never have suspected. Nothing in
the garden was planted quite where it should be, yet withal it was the
most delightful spot imaginable.
Miss Corona pushed her way into the cherry-tree copse, and followed a
tiny, overgrown path to a sunshiny corner beyond. She had not been
there since last summer; the little path was getting almost
impassable. When she emerged from the cherry trees, somewhat rumpled
and pulled about in hair and attire, but attended, as if by a
benediction, by the aromatic breath of the mint she had trodden on,
she gave a little cry and stood quite still, gazing at the rosebush
that grew in the corner. It was so large and woody that it seemed more
like a tree than a bush, and it was snowed over with a splendour of
large, pure white roses.
"Dear life," whispered Miss Corona tremulously, as she tiptoed towards
it. "The bride roses have bloomed again! How very strange! Why, there
has not been a rose on that tree for twenty years."
The rosebush had been planted there by Corona's great-grandmother, the
lady of the green and yellow bowl. It was a new variety, brought out
from Scotland by Mary Gordon, and it bore large white roses which
three generations of Gordon brides had worn on their wedding day. It
had come to be a family tradition among the Gordons that no luck would
attend the bride who did not carry a white rose from Mary Gordon's
Long years ago the tree had given up blooming, nor could all the
pruning and care given it coax a single blossom from it. Miss Corona,
tinctured with the superstition apt to wait on a lonely womanhood,
believed in her heart that the rosebush had a secret sympathy with the
fortunes of the Gordon women. She, the last of them on the old
homestead, would never need the bride roses. Wherefore, then, should
the old tree bloom? And now, after all these years, it had flung all
its long-hoarded sweetness into blossom again. Miss Corona thrilled at
the thought. The rosebush had bloomed again for a Gordon bride, but
Miss Corona was sure there was another meaning in it too; she
believed it foretokened some change in her own life, some
rejuvenescence of love and beauty like to that of the ancient
rose-tree. She bent over its foam of loveliness almost reverently.
"They have bloomed for Juliet's wedding," she murmured. "A Gordon
bride must wear the bride roses, indeed she must. And this—why, it is
almost a miracle."
She ran, light-footedly as a girl, to the house for scissors and a
basket. She would send Juliet Gordon the bride roses. Her cheeks were
pink from excitement as she snipped them off. How lovely they were!
How very large and fragrant! It was as if all the grace and perfume
and beauty and glory of those twenty lost summers were found here at
once in them. When Miss Corona had them ready, she went to the door
and called, "Charlotte! Charlotte!"
Now Charlotta, having atoned to her conscience for the destruction of
the green and yellow bowl by faithfully weeding the garden, a task
which she hated above all else, was singing a hymn among the sweet
peas, and her red braids were over her shoulders. This ought to have
warned Miss Corona, but Miss Corona was thinking of other things, and
kept on calling patiently, while Charlotta weeded away for dear life,
and seemed smitten with treble deafness.
After a time Miss Corona remembered and sighed. She did hate to call
the child that foolish name with its foreign sound. Just as if plain
"Charlotte" were not good enough for her, and much more suitable to
"Smith" too! Ordinarily Miss Corona would not have given in. But the
case was urgent; she could not stand upon her dignity just now.
"Charlotta!" she called entreatingly.
Instantly Charlotta flew to the garden gate and raced up to the door.
"Yes'm," she said meekly. "You want me, Miss C'rona?"
"Take this box down to Miss Juliet Gordon, and ask that it be given to
her at once," said Miss Corona, "Don't loiter, Charlotta. Don't stop
to pick gum in the grove, or eat sours in the dike, or poke sticks
through the bridge, or—"
But Charlotta had gone.
Down in the valley, the other Gordon house was in a hum of excitement.
Upstairs Juliet had gone to her invalid mother's room to show herself
in her wedding dress to the pale little lady lying on the sofa. She
was a tall, stately young girl with the dark grey Gordon eyes and the
pure creaminess of colouring, flawless as a lily petal. Her face was a
very sweet one, and the simple white dress she wore became her dainty,
flowerlike beauty as nothing elaborate could have done.
"I'm not going to put on my veil until the last moment," she said
laughingly. "I would feel married right away if I did. And oh, Mother
dear, isn't it too bad? My roses haven't come. Father is back from the
station, and they were not there. I am so disappointed. Romney
ordered pure white roses because I said a Gordon bride must carry
nothing else. Come in"—as a knock sounded at the door.
Laura Burton, Juliet's cousin and bridesmaid, entered with a box.
"Juliet dear, the funniest little red-headed girl with the most
enormous freckles has just brought this for you. I haven't an idea
where she came from; she looked like a messenger from pixy-land."
Juliet opened the box and gave a cry.
"Oh, Mother, look—look! What perfect roses! Who could have sent them?
Oh, here's a note from—from—why, Mother, it's from Cousin Corona."
"My dear child," ran the letter in Miss Corona's fine,
old-fashioned script. "I am sending you the Gordon bride roses.
The rose-tree has bloomed for the first time in twenty years, my
dear, and it must surely be in honour of your wedding day. I
hope you will wear them for, although I have never known you, I
love you very much. I was once a dear friend of your father's.
Tell him to let you wear the roses I send for old times' sake. I
wish you every happiness, my dear.
"Your affectionate cousin,
"Oh, how sweet and lovely of her!" said Juliet gently, as she laid the
letter down. "And to think she was not even invited! I wanted to send
her an invitation, but Father said it would be better not to—she was
so hard and bitter against us that she would probably regard it as an
"He must have been mistaken about her attitude," said Mrs. Gordon. "It
certainly is a great pity she was not invited, but it is too late now.
An invitation sent two hours before the ceremony would be an insult
"Not if the bride herself took it!" exclaimed Juliet impulsively.
"I'll go myself to Cousin Corona, and ask her to come to my wedding."
"Go yourself! Child, you can't do such a thing! In that dress...."
"Go I must, Momsie. Why, it's only a three minutes' walk. I'll go up
the hill by the old field-path, and no one will see me. Oh, don't say
a word—there, I'm gone!"
"That child!" sighed the mother protestingly, as she heard Juliet's
flying feet on the stairs. "What a thing for a bride to do!"
Juliet, with her white silken skirts caught up above grasses and dust,
ran light-footedly through the green lowland fields and up the hill,
treading for the first time the faint old field-path between the two
homes, so long disused that it was now barely visible in its fringing
grasses and star-dust of buttercups. Where it ran into the spruce
grove was a tiny gate which Miss Corona had always kept in good
repair, albeit it was never used. Juliet pushed up the rusty hasp and
Miss Corona was sitting alone in her shadowy parlour, hanging over a
few of the bride roses with falling tears, when something tall and
beautiful and white, came in like a blessing and knelt by her chair.
"Cousin Corona," said a somewhat breathless bride, "I have come to
thank you for your roses and ask you to forgive us all for the old
"Dear child," said Miss Corona out of her amazement, "there is nothing
to forgive. I've loved you all and longed for you. Dear child, you
have brought me great happiness."
"And you must come to my wedding," cried Juliet. "Oh, you must—or I
shall think you have not really forgiven us. You would never refuse
the request of a bride, Cousin Corona. We are queens on our wedding
day, you know."
"Oh, it's not that, dear child—but I'm not dressed—I—"
"I'll help you dress. And I won't go back without you. The guests and
the minister must wait if necessary—yes, even Romney must wait. Oh, I
want you to meet Romney. Come, dear."
And Miss Corona went. Charlotta and the bride got her into her grey
silk and did her hair, and in a very short time she and Juliet were
hurrying down the old field-path. In the hollow Meredith Gordon met
"Cousin Meredith," said Miss Corona tremulously.
He took both her hands in his, and kissed her heartily. "Forgive me
for misunderstanding you so long. I thought you hated us all."
Turning to Juliet, he said with a fatherly smile,
"What a terrible girl it is for having its own way! Who ever heard of
a Gordon bride doing such an unconventional thing? There, scamper off
to the house before your guests come. Laura has made your roses up
into what she calls 'a dream of a bouquet,' I'll take Cousin Corona up
"Oh, I knew that something beautiful was going to happen when the old
rose-tree bloomed," murmured Miss Corona happily.
The Josephs' Christmas
The month before Christmas was always the most exciting and mysterious
time in the Joseph household. Such scheming and planning, such putting
of curly heads together in corners, such counting of small hoards,
such hiding and smuggling of things out of sight, as went on among the
There were a good many of them, and very few of the pennies; hence the
reason for so much contriving and consulting. From fourteen-year-old
Mollie down to four-year-old Lennie there were eight small Josephs in
all in the little log house on the prairie; so that when each little
Joseph wanted to give a Christmas box to each of the other little
Josephs, and something to Father and Mother Joseph besides, it is no
wonder that they had to cudgel their small brains for ways and means
Father and Mother were always discreetly blind and silent through
December. No questions were asked no matter what queer things were
done. Many secret trips to the little store at the railway station two
miles away were ignored, and no little Joseph was called to account
because he or she looked terribly guilty when somebody suddenly came
into the room. The air was simply charged with secrets.
Sister Mollie was the grand repository of these; all the little
Josephs came to her for advice and assistance. It was Mollie who for
troubled small brothers and sisters did such sums in division as this:
How can I get a ten-cent present for Emmy and a fifteen-cent one for
Jimmy out of eighteen cents? Or, how can seven sticks of candy be
divided among eight people so that each shall have one? It was Mollie
who advised regarding the purchase of ribbon and crepe paper. It was
Mollie who put the finishing touches to most of the little gifts. In
short, all through December Mollie was weighed down under an avalanche
of responsibility. It speaks volumes for her sagacity and skill that
she never got things mixed up or made any such terrible mistake as
letting one little Joseph find out what another was going to give
him. "Dead" secrecy was the keystone of all plans and confidences.
During this particular December the planning and contriving had been
more difficult and the results less satisfactory than usual. The
Josephs were poor at any time, but this winter they were poorer than
ever. The crops had failed in the summer, and as a consequence the
family were, as Jimmy said, "on short commons." But they made the
brave best of their small resources, and on Christmas Eve every little
Joseph went to bed with a clear conscience, for was there not on the
corner table in the kitchen a small mountain of tiny—sometimes very
tiny—gifts labelled with the names of recipients and givers, and
worth their weight in gold if love and good wishes count for anything?
It was beginning to snow when the small small Josephs went to bed, and
when the big small Josephs climbed the stairs it was snowing thickly.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph sat before the fire and listened to the wind
howling about the house.
"I'm glad I'm not driving over the prairie tonight," said Mr. Joseph.
"It's quite a storm. I hope it will be fine tomorrow, for the
children's sake. They've set their hearts on having a sleigh ride, and
it will be too bad if they can't have it when it's about all the
Christmas they'll have this year. Mary, this is the first Christmas
since we came west that we couldn't afford some little extras for
them, even if 'twas only a box of nuts and candy."
Mrs. Joseph sighed over Jimmy's worn jacket which she was mending.
Then she smiled.
"Never mind, John. Things will be better next Christmas, we'll hope.
The children will not mind, bless their hearts. Look at all the little
knick-knacks they've made for each other. Last week when I was over at
Taunton, Mr. Fisher had his store all gayified up,' as Jim says, with
Christmas presents. I did feel that I'd ask nothing better than to go
in and buy all the lovely things I wanted, just for once, and give
them to the children tomorrow morning. They've never had anything
really nice for Christmas. But there! We've all got each other and
good health and spirits, and a Christmas wouldn't be much without
those if we had all the presents in the world."
Mr. Joseph nodded.
"That's so. I don't want to grumble; but I tell you I did want to get
Maggie a 'real live doll,' as she calls it. She never has had anything
but homemade dolls, and that small heart of hers is set on a real one.
There was one at Fisher's store today—a big beauty with real hair,
and eyes that opened and shut. Just fancy Maggie's face if she saw
such a Christmas box as that tomorrow morning."
"Don't let's fancy it," laughed Mrs. Joseph, "it is only aggravating.
Talking of candy reminds me that I made a big plateful of taffy for
the children today. It's all the 'Christmassy' I could give them. I'll
get it out and put it on the table along with the children's presents.
That can't be someone at the door!"
"It is, though," said Mr. Joseph as he strode to the door and flung it
Two snowed-up figures were standing on the porch. As they stepped in,
the Josephs recognized one of them as Mr. Ralston, a wealthy merchant
in a small town fifteen miles away.
"Late hour for callers, isn't it?" said Mr. Ralston. "The fact is, our
horse has about given out, and the storm is so bad that we can't
proceed. This is my wife, and we are on our way to spend Christmas
with my brother's family at Lindsay. Can you take us in for the night,
"Certainly, and welcome!" exclaimed Mr. Joseph heartily, "if you don't
mind a shakedown by the kitchen fire for the night. My, Mrs. Ralston,"
as his wife helped her off with her things, "but you are snowed up!
I'll see to putting your horse away, Mr. Ralston. This way, if you
When the two men came stamping into the house again Mrs. Ralston and
Mrs. Joseph were sitting at the fire, the former with a steaming hot
cup of tea in her hand. Mr. Ralston put the big basket he was
carrying down on a bench in the corner.
"Thought I'd better bring our Christmas flummery in," he said. "You
see, Mrs. Joseph, my brother has a big family, so we are taking them a
lot of Santa Claus stuff. Mrs. Ralston packed this basket, and
goodness knows what she put in it, but she half cleaned out my store.
The eyes of the Lindsay youngsters will dance tomorrow—that is, if we
ever get there."
Mrs. Joseph gave a little sigh in spite of herself, and looked
wistfully at the heap of gifts on the corner table. How meagre and
small they did look, to be sure, beside that bulgy basket with its
cover suggestively tied down.
Mrs. Ralston looked too.
"Santa Claus seems to have visited you already," she said with a
The Josephs laughed.
"Our Santa Claus is somewhat out of pocket this year," said Mr. Joseph
frankly. "Those are the little things the small folks here have made
for each other. They've been a month at it, and I'm always kind of
relieved when Christmas is over and there are no more mysterious
doings. We're in such cramped quarters here that you can't move
without stepping on somebody's secret."
A shakedown was spread in the kitchen for the unexpected guests, and
presently the Ralstons found themselves alone. Mrs. Ralston went over
to the Christmas table and looked at the little gifts half tenderly
and half pityingly.
"They're not much like the contents of our basket, are they?" she
said, as she touched the calendar Jimmie had made for Mollie out of
cardboard and autumn leaves and grasses.
"Just what I was thinking," returned her husband, "and I was thinking
of something else, too. I've a notion that I'd like to see some of the
things in our basket right here on this table."
"I'd like to see them all," said Mrs. Ralston promptly. "Let's just
leave them here, Edward. Roger's family will have plenty of presents
without them, and for that matter we can send them ours when we go
"Just as you say," agreed Mr. Ralston. "I like the idea of giving the
small folk of this household a rousing good Christmas for once.
They're poor I know, and I dare say pretty well pinched this year like
most of the farmers hereabout after the crop failure."
Mrs. Ralston untied the cover of the big basket. Then the two of them,
moving as stealthily as if engaged in a burglary, transferred the
contents to the table. Mr. Ralston got out a small pencil and a note
book, and by dint of comparing the names attached to the gifts on the
table they managed to divide theirs up pretty evenly among the little
When all was done Mrs. Ralston said, "Now, I'm going to spread that
tablecloth carelessly over the table. We will be going before
daylight, probably, and in the hurry of getting off I hope that Mr.
and Mrs. Joseph will not notice the difference till we're gone."
It fell out as Mrs. Ralston had planned. The dawn broke fine and clear
over a vast white world. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph were early astir;
breakfast for the storm-stayed travellers was cooked and eaten by
lamplight; then the horse and sleigh were brought to the door and Mr.
Ralston carried out his empty basket.
"I expect the trail will be heavy," he said, "but I guess we'd get to
Lindsay in time for dinner, anyway. Much obliged for your kindness,
Mr. Joseph. When you and Mrs. Joseph come to town we shall hope to
have a chance to return it. Good-bye and a merry Christmas to you
When Mrs. Joseph went back to the kitchen her eyes fell on the
heaped-up table in the corner.
"Why-y!" she said, and snatched off the cover.
One look she gave, and then this funny little mother began to cry;
but they were happy tears. Mr. Joseph came too, and looked and
There really seemed to be everything on that table that the hearts of
children could desire—three pairs of skates, a fur cap and collar, a
dainty workbasket, half a dozen gleaming new books, a writing desk, a
roll of stuff that looked like a new dress, a pair of fur-topped kid
gloves just Mollie's size, and a china cup and saucer. All these were
to be seen at the first glance; and in one corner of the table was a
big box filled with candies and nuts and raisins, and in the other a
doll with curling golden hair and brown eyes, dressed in "real"
clothes and with all her wardrobe in a trunk beside her. Pinned to her
dress was a leaf from Mr. Ralston's notebook with Maggie's name
written on it.
"Well, this is Christmas with a vengeance," said Mr. Joseph.
"The children will go wild with delight," said his wife happily.
They pretty nearly did when they all came scrambling down the stairs a
little later. Such a Christmas had never been known in the Joseph
household before. Maggie clasped her doll with shining eyes, Mollie
looked at the workbasket that her housewifely little heart had always
longed for, studious Jimmy beamed over the books, and Ted and Hal
whooped with delight over the skates. And as for the big box of good
things, why, everybody appreciated that. That Christmas was one to
date from in that family.
I'm glad to be able to say, too, that even in the heyday of their
delight and surprise over their wonderful presents, the little Josephs
did not forget to appreciate the gifts they had prepared for each
other. Mollie thought her calendar just too pretty for anything, and
Jimmy was sure the new red mittens which Maggie had knitted for him
with her own chubby wee fingers, were the very nicest, gayest mittens
a boy had ever worn.
Mrs. Joseph's taffy was eaten too. Not a scrap of it was left. As Ted
said loyally, "It was just as good as the candy in the box and had
more 'chew' to it besides."
The Magical Bond of the Sea
A late September wind from the northwest was sweeping over the waters
of Racicot Harbour. It blew in, strong with the tang of the salt seas,
past the grim lighthouse rock on the one hand and the sandbars on the
other, up the long, narrow funnel of darkly blue water, until it
whistled among the masts of the boats at anchor and among the
stovepipe chimneys of the fishing village. It was a wind that sang and
piped and keened of many things—but what it sang to each listener was
only what was in that listener's heart. And Nora Shelley, standing at
the door of her father's bleached cottage on the grey sands, heard a
new strain in it. The wind had sung often to her of the outer world
she longed for, but there had never been the note of fulfilment in it
There's a new life beyond, Nora, whistled the wind. A good life—and
it's yours for the taking. You have but to put out your hand and all
you've wished for will be in your grasp.
Nora leaned out from the door to meet the wind. She loved that
northwest gale; it was a staunch old friend of hers. Very slim and
straight was Nora, with a skin as white as the foam flakes crisping
over the sands, and eyes of the tremulous, haunting blue that deepens
on the water after a fair sunset. But her hair was as black as
midnight, and her lips blossomed out with a ripe redness against the
uncoloured purity of her face. She was far and away the most beautiful
of the harbour girls, but hardly the most popular. Men and women alike
thought her proud. Even her friends felt themselves called upon to
make excuses for her unlikeness to themselves.
Nora had dosed the door behind her to shut in the voices. She wanted
to be alone with the wind while she made her decision. Before her the
sandy shingle, made firm by a straggling growth of some pale sea-ivy,
sloped down to the sapphire cup of the harbour. Around her were the
small, uncouth houses of the village—no smaller or more uncouth than
the one which was her home—with children playing noisily on the paths
between them. The mackerel boats curtsied and nodded outside; beyond
them the sharp tip of Sandy Point was curdled white with seagulls.
Down at the curve of the cove a group of men were laughing and talking
loudly in front of French Joe's fish-house. This was the life that she
had always known.
Across the harbour, on a fir-fringed headland, stood Dalveigh. John
Cameron, childless millionaire, had built a summer cottage on that
point two years ago, and given it the name of the old ancestral estate
in Scotland. To the Racicot fishing folk the house and grounds were
as a dream of enchantment made real. Few of them had ever seen
anything like it.
Nora Shelley knew Dalveigh well. She had been the Camerons' guest many
times that summer, finding in the luxury and beauty of their
surroundings something that entered with a strange aptness into her
own nature. It was as if it were hers by right of fitness. And this
was the life that might be hers, did she so choose.
In reality, her choice was already made, and she knew it. But it
pleased her to pretend for a little time that it was not, and to dally
tenderly with-the old loves and emotions that tugged at her heart and
clamoured to be remembered.
Within, in the low-ceilinged living room, with its worn, uneven floor
and its blackened walls hung with fish nets and oilskins, four people
were sitting. John Cameron and his wife were given the seats of honour
in the middle of the room. Mrs. Cameron was a handsome, well-dressed
woman, with an expression that was discontented and, at times,
petulant. Yet her face had a good deal of plain common sense in it,
and not even the most critical of the Racicot folks could say that she
"put on airs." Her husband was a small, white-haired man, with a
fresh, young-looking face. He was popular in Racicot, for he mingled
freely with the sailors and fishermen. Moreover, Dalveigh was an
excellent market for fresh mackerel.
Nathan Shelley, in his favourite corner behind the stove, sat lurching
forward with his hands on his knees. He had laid aside his pipe out of
deference to Mrs. Cameron, and it was hard for him to think without
it. He wished his wife would go to work; it seemed uncanny to see her
idle. She had sat idle only once that he remembered—the day they had
brought Ned Shelley in, dank and dripping, after the August storm ten
years before. Mrs. Shelley sat by the crooked, small-paned window and
looked out down the harbour. The coat she had been patching for her
husband when the Camerons came still lay in her lap, and she had
folded her hands upon it. She was a big woman, slow of speech and
manner, with a placid, handsome face—a face that had not visibly
stirred even when she had heard the Camerons' proposition.
They wanted Nora—these rich people who had so much in life wanted the
blossom of girlhood that had never bloomed for them. John Cameron
pleaded his cause well.
"We will look on her as our own," he said at last. "We have grown to
love her this summer. She is beautiful and clever—she has a right to
more than Racicot can give her. You have other children—we are
childless. And we do not take her from you utterly. You will see her
every summer when we come to Dalveigh."
"It won't be the same thing quite," said Nathan Shelley drily. "She'll
belong to your life then—not ours. And no matter how many young ones
folks has, they don't want to lose none of 'em. But I dunno as we
ought to let our feelings stand in Nora's light. She's clever, and
she's been hankering for more'n we can ever give her. I was the same
way once. Lord, how I raged at Racicot! I broke away finally—went to
a city and got work. But it wasn't no use. I'd left it too long. The
sea had got into my blood. I toughed it out for two years, and then I
had to come back. I didn't want to, mark you, but I had to come. Been
here ever since. But maybe 'twill be different with the girl. She's
younger than I was; if the hankering for the sea and the life of the
shore hasn't got into her too deep, maybe she'll be able to cut loose
for good. But you don't know how the sea calls to one of its own."
Cameron smiled. He thought that this dry old salt was a bit of a poet
in his own way. Very likely Nora got her ability and originality from
him. There did not seem to be a great deal in the phlegmatic,
"What say, wife?" asked Shelley at last.
His wife had said in her slow way, "Leave it to Nora," and to Nora it
When she came in at last, her face stung to radiant beauty by the
northwest wind, she found it hard to tell them after all. She looked
at her mother appealingly.
"Is it go or stay, girl," demanded her father brusquely.
"I think I'll go," said Nora slowly. Then, catching sight of her
mother's face, she ran to her and flung her arms about her. "But I'll
never forget you, Mother," she cried. "I'll love you always—you and
Her mother loosened the clinging arms and pushed her gently towards
"Go to them," she said calmly. "You belong to them now."
The news spread quickly over Racicot. Before night everyone on the
harbour shore knew that the Camerons were going to adopt Nora Shelley
and take her away with them. There was much surprise and more envy.
The shore women tossed their heads.
"Reckon Nora is in great feather," they said. "She always did think
herself better than anyone else. Nate Shelley and his wife spoiled her
ridiculous. Wonder what Rob Fletcher thinks of it?"
Nora asked her brother to tell the news to Rob Fletcher himself, but
Merran Andrews was before him. She was at Rob before he had fairly
landed, when the fishing boats came in at sunset.
"Have you heard the news, Rob? Nora's going away to be a fine lady.
The Camerons have been daft about her all summer, and now they are
going to adopt her."
Merran wanted Rob herself. He was a big, handsome fellow, and
well-off—the pick of the harbour men in every way. He had slighted
her for Nora, and it pleased her to stab him now, though she meant to
be nice to him later on.
He turned white under his tan, but he did not choose to make a book of
his heart for Merran's bold black eyes to read. "It's a great thing
for her," he answered calmly. "She was meant for better things than
can be found at Racicot."
"She was always too good for common folks, if that is what you mean,"
said Merran spitefully.
Nora and Rob did not meet until the next evening, when she rowed
herself home from Dalveigh. He was at the shore to tie up her boat and
help her out. They walked up the sands together in the heart of the
autumn sunset, with the northwest wind whistling in their ears and the
great star of the lighthouse gleaming wanly out against the golden
sky. Nora felt uncomfortable, and resented it. Rob Fletcher was
nothing to her; he never had been anything but the good friend to whom
she told her strange thoughts and longings. Why should her heart ache
over him? She wished he would talk, but he strode along in silence,
with his fine head drooping a little.
"I suppose you have heard that I am going away, Rob?" she said at
He nodded. "Yes, I've heard it from a hundred mouths, more or less,"
he answered, not looking at her.
"It's a splendid thing for me, isn't it?" dared Nora.
"Well, I don't know," he said slowly. "Looking at it from the outside,
it seems so. But from the inside it mayn't look the same. Do you
think you'll be able to cut twenty years of a life out of your heart
without any pain?"
"Oh, I'll be homesick, if that is what you mean," said Nora
petulantly. "Of course I'll be that at first. I expect it—but people
get over that. And it is not as if I were going away for good. I'll be
back next summer—every summer."
"It'll be different," said Rob stubbornly, thinking as old Nathan
Shelley had thought. "You'll be a fine lady—oh, all the better for
that perhaps—but you'll not be the same. No, no, the new life will
change you; not all at once, maybe, but in the end. You'll be one of
them, not one of us. But will you be happy? That's the question I'm
In anyone else Nora would have resented this. But she never felt angry
"I think I shall be," she said thoughtfully. "And, anyway, I must go.
It doesn't seem as if I could help myself if I wanted to.
Something—out beyond there—is calling me, always has been calling me
ever since I was a tiny girl and found out there was a big world far
away from Racicot. And it always seemed to me that I would find a way
to it some day. That was why I kept going to school long after the
other girls stopped. Mother thought I'd better stop home; she said too
much book learning would make me discontented and too different from
the people I had to live along. But Father let me go; he understood;
he said I was like him when he was young. I learned everything and
read everything I could. It seems to me as if I had been walking along
a narrow pathway all my life. And now it seems as if a gate were
opened before me and I can pass through into a wider world. It isn't
the luxury and the pleasure or the fine house and dresses that tempt
me, though the people here think so—even Mother thinks so. But it is
not. It's just that something seems to be in my grasp that I've always
longed for, and I must go—Rob, I must go."
"Yes, if you feel like that you must go," he answered, looking down at
her troubled face gently. "And it's best for you to go, Nora. I
believe that, and I'm not so selfish as not to be able to hope that
you'll find all you long for. But it will change you all the more if
it is so. Nora! Nora! Whatever am I going to do without you!"
The sudden passion bursting out in his tone frightened her.
"Don't, Rob, don't! And you won't miss me long. There's many another."
"No, there isn't. Don't fling me that dry bone of comfort. There's no
other, and never has been any other—none but you, Nora, and well you
"I'm sorry," she said faintly.
"You needn't be," said Rob grimly. "After all, I'd rather love you
than not, hurt as it will. I never had much hope of getting you to
listen to me, so there's no great disappointment there. You're too
good for me—I've always known that. A girl that is fit to mate with
the Camerons is far above Rob Fletcher, fisherman."
"I never had such a thought," protested Nora.
"I know it," he said, casing himself up in his quietness again. "But
it's so—and now I've got to lose you. But there'll never be any other
for me, Nora."
He left her at her father's door. She watched his stalwart figure out
of sight around the point, and raged to find tears in her eyes and a
bitter yearning in her heart. For a moment she repented—she would
stay—she could not go. Then over the harbour flashed out the lights
of Dalveigh. The life behind them glittered, allured, beckoned. Nay,
she must go on—she had made her choice. There was no turning back
Nora Shelley went away with the Camerons, and Dalveigh was deserted.
Winter came down on Racicot Harbour, and the colony of fisher folk at
its head gave themselves over to the idleness of the season—a time
for lounging and gossipping and long hours of lazy contentment smoking
in the neighbours' chimney corners, when tales were told of the sea
and the fishing. The Harbour laid itself out to be sociable in winter.
There was no time for that in summer. People had to work eighteen
hours out of the twenty-four then. In the winter there was spare time
to laugh and quarrel, woo and wed and—were a man so minded—dream, as
did Rob Fletcher in his loneliness.
In a Racicot winter much was made of small things. The arrival of Nora
Shelley's weekly letter to her father and mother was an event in the
village. The post-mistress in the Cove store spread the news that it
had come, and that night the Shelley kitchen would be crowded. Isobel
Shelley, Nora's younger sister, read the letter aloud by virtue of
having gone to school long enough to be able to pronounce the words
and tell where the places named were situated.
The Camerons had spent the autumn in New York and had then gone south
for the winter. Nora wrote freely of her new life. In the beginning
she admitted great homesickness, but after the first few letters she
made no further mention of that. She wrote little of herself, but she
described fully the places she had visited, the people she had met,
the wonderful things she had seen. She sent affectionate messages to
all her old friends and asked after all her old interests. But the
letters came to be more and more like those of a stranger and one
apart from the Racicot life, and the father and mother felt it.
"She's changing," muttered old Nathan. "It had to be so—it's well for
her that it is so—but it hurts. She ain't ours any more. We've lost
the girl, wife, lost her forever."
Rob Fletcher always came and listened to the letters in silence while
the others buzzed and commented. Rob, so the Harbour folk said, was
much changed. He had grown unsociable and preferred to stay home and
read books rather than go a-visiting as did others. The Harbour folk
shook their heads over this. There was something wrong with a man who
read books when there was a plenty of other amusements. Jacob Radnor
had read books all one winter and had drowned himself in the
spring—jumped overboard from his dory at the herring nets. And that
was what came of books, mark you.
The Camerons came later to Dalveigh the next summer, on account of
John Cameron's health, which was not good. It was the first of August
before a host of servants came to put Dalveigh in habitable order, and
a week later the family came. They brought a houseful of guests with
At sunset on the day of her arrival Nora Shelley looked out cross the
harbour to the fishing village. She was tired after her journey, and
she had not meant to go over until the morning, but now she knew she
must go at once. Her mother was over there; the old life called to
her; the northwest wind swept up the channel and whistled alluringly
to her at the window of her luxurious room. It brought to her the tang
of the salt wastes and filled her heart with a great, bitter-sweet
She was more beautiful than ever. In the year that had passed she had
blossomed out to a gracious fulfilment of womanhood. Even the Camerons
had wondered at her swift adaptation to her new surroundings. She
seemed to have put Racicot behind her as one puts by an old garment.
In everything she had held her own royally. Her adopted parents were
proud of her beauty and her nameless, untamed charm. They had lavished
every indulgence upon her. In those few short months she had lived
more keenly and fully than in all her life before. The Nora Shelley
who went away was not, so it would seem, the Nora Shelley who came
But when she looked from her window to the waves and saw the star of
the lighthouse and the blaze of the sunset in the window of the
fishing-houses and heard the summons of the wind, something broke
loose in her soul and overwhelmed her, like a wave of the sea. She
must go at once—at once—at once. Not a moment could she wait.
She was dressed for dinner, but with tingling fingers she threw off
her costly gown and put on her dark travelling suit again. She left
her hair as it was and knotted a crimson scarf about her head. She
would slip away quietly to the boathouse, get Davy to launch the
little sailboat for her—and then for a fleet skim over the harbour
before that glorious wind! She hoped not to be seen, but Mrs. Cameron
met her in the hall.
"Nora!" she said in astonishment.
"Oh, I must go, Aunty! I must go!" the girl cried feverishly. She was
afraid Mrs. Cameron would try to prevent her going, and all at once
she knew that she could not bear that.
"Must go? Where? Dinner is almost ready, and—"
"Oh, I don't want any dinner. I'm going home—I will sail over."
"My dear child, don't be foolish. It's too late to go over the
harbour tonight. They won't be expecting you. Wait until the morning."
"No—oh, you don't understand. I must go—I must! My mother is over
Something in the girl's last sentence or the tone in which it was
uttered brought a look of pain to Mrs. Cameron's face. But she made no
further attempt to dissuade her.
"Well, if you must. But you cannot go alone—no, Nora, I cannot allow
it. The wind is too high and it is too late for you to go over by
yourself. Clark Bryant will take you."
Nora would have protested but she knew it would be in vain. She
submitted somewhat sullenly and walked down to the shore in silence.
Clark Bryant strode beside her, humouring her mood. He was a tall,
stout man, with an ugly, clever, sarcastic face. He was as clever as
he looked, and was one of the younger millionaires whom John Cameron
drew around him in the development of his huge financial schemes.
Bryant was in love with Nora. This was why the Camerons had asked him
to join their August house party at Dalveigh, and why he had accepted.
It had occurred to Nora that this was the case, but as yet she had
never troubled to think the situation over seriously.
She liked Clark Bryant well enough, but just at the moment he was in
the way. She did not want to take him over to Racicot—just why she
could not have explained. There was in her no snobbish shame of her
humble home. But he did not belong there; he was an alien, and she
wished to go back to it for the first time alone.
At the boathouse Davy launched the small sailboat and Nora took the
tiller. She knew every inch of the harbour. As the sail filled before
the wind and the boat sprang across the upcurling waves, her brief
sullenness fell away from her. She no longer resented Clark Bryant's
presence—she forgot it. He was no more to her than the mast by which
he stood. The spell of the sea and the wind surged into her heart and
filled it with wild happiness and measureless content. Over yonder,
where the lights gleamed on the darkening shore under the high-sprung
arch of pale golden sky, was home. How the wind whistled to welcome
her back! The lash of it against her face—the flick of salt spray on
her lips—the swing of the boat as it cut through the racing
crests—how glorious it all was!
Clark Bryant watched her, understanding all at once that he was
nothing to her, that he had no part or lot in her heart. He was as one
forgotten and left behind. And how lovely, how desirable she was! He
had never seen her look so beautiful. The shawl had slipped down to
her shoulders and her head rose out of it like some magnificent flower
out of a crimson calyx. The masses of her black hair lifted from her
face in the rush of the wind and swayed back again like rich shadows.
Her lips were stung scarlet with the sea's sharp caresses, and her
eyes, large and splendid, looked past him unseeing to the harbour
lights of Racicot.
When they swung in by the wharf Nora sprang from the boat before
Bryant had time to moor it. Pausing for an instant, she called down to
him, carelessly, "Don't wait for me. I shall not go back tonight."
Then she caught her shawl around her head and almost ran up the wharf
and along the shore. No one was abroad, for it was supper hour in
Racicot. In the Shelley kitchen the family was gathered around the
table, when the door was flung open and Nora stood on the threshold.
For a moment they gazed at her as at an apparition. They had not known
the precise day of her coming and were not aware of the Camerons'
arrival at Dalveigh.
"It's the girl herself. It's Nora," said old Nathan, rising from his
"Mother!" cried Nora. She ran across the room and buried her face in
her mother's breast, sobbing.
When the news spread, the Racicot people crowded in to see Nora until
the house was full. They spent a noisy, merry, whole-hearted evening
of the old sort. The men smoked and most of the women knitted while
they talked. They were pleased to find that Nora did not put on any
airs. Old Jonas Myers bluntly told her that he didn't see as her year
among rich folks had done her much good, after all.
"You're just the same as when you went away," he said. "They haven't
made a fine lady of you. Folks here thought you'd be something
Nora laughed. She was glad that they did not find her changed. Old
Nathan chuckled in his dry way. There was a difference in the girl,
and he saw it, though the neighbours did not, but it was not the
difference he had feared. His daughter was not utterly taken from him
Nora sat by her mother and was happy. But as the evening wore away she
grew very quiet, and watched the door with something piteous in her
eyes. Old Nathan noticed it and thought she was tired. He gave the
curious neighbours a good-natured hint, and they presently withdrew.
When they had all gone Nora went out to the door alone.
The wind had died down and the shore, gemmed with its twinkling
lights, was very still, for it was too late an hour for Racicot folk
to be abroad in the mackerel season. The moon was rising and the
harbour was a tossing expanse of silver waves. The mellow light fell
on a tall figure lurking at the angle of the road that led past the
Shelley cottage. Nora saw and recognized it. She flew down the sandy
slope with outstretched hands.
"Nora!" he said huskily, holding out his hand. But she flung herself
on his breast and clung to him, half laughing, half crying.
"Oh, Rob! I've been looking for you all the evening. Every time there
was a step I said to myself, 'That is Rob, now.' And when the door
opened to let in another, my heart died within me. I dared not even
ask after you for fear of what they might tell me. Why didn't you
"I didn't know that I'd be welcome," he whispered, holding her closer
to him. "I've been hanging about thinking to get a glimpse of you
unbeknown. I thought maybe you wouldn't want to see me tonight."
"Not want to see you! Oh, Rob, this evening at Dalveigh, when I looked
across to Racicot, it was you I thought of before all—even before
She drew back and looked at him with her soul in her eyes.
"What a splendid fellow you are—how handsome you are, Rob!" she
cried. All the reserve of womanhood fell away from her in the inrush
of emotions. For the moment she was a child again, telling out her
thoughts with all a child's frankness. "I've been in a dream this past
year—a lovely dream—a fair dream, but only a dream, after all. And
now I've wakened. And you are part of the wakening—the best part! Oh,
to think I never knew before!"
"Knew what, my girl?"
He had her close against his heart now; the breath of her lips mingled
with his, but he would not kiss her yet.
"That I loved you," she whispered back. "Oh, Rob, you are all the
world to me. I belong to you and the sea. But I never knew it until I
crossed the harbour tonight. Then I knew—it came to me all at once,
like a flood of understanding. I knew I could never go away
again—that I must stay here forever where I could hear that call of
wind and waves. The new life was good—good—but it could not go deep
enough. And when you did not come I knew what was in my heart for you
That night Nora lay beside her sisters in the tiny room that looked
out on the harbour. The younger girls slept soundly, but Nora kept
awake to listen to the laughter of the wind outside, and con over what
she and Rob had said to each other. There was no blot on her happiness
save a sorry wonder what the Camerons would say when they knew.
"They will think me ungrateful and fickle," she sighed. "They don't
know that I can't help it even if I would. They will never
Nor did they. When Nora told them that she was going back to Racicot,
they laughed at her kindly at first, treating it as the passing whim
of a homesick girl. Later, when they came to understand that she meant
it, they were grieved and angry. There were scenes of pleading and
tears and reproaches. Nora cried bitterly in Mrs. Cameron's arms, but
stood rock-firm. She could never go back to them—never.
They appealed to Nathan Shelley finally, but he refused to say
"It can't be altered," he told them. "The sea has called her and
she'll listen to naught else. I'm sorry enough for the girl's own
sake. It would have been better for her if she could have cut loose
from it all and lived your life, I dare say. But you've made a fair
trial and it's of no use. I know what's in her heart—it was in mine
once—and I'll say no word of rebuke to her. She's free to go or stay
as she chooses—just as free as she was last year."
Mrs. Cameron made one more appeal to Nora. She told the girl bitterly
that she was ungrateful.
"I'm not that," said Nora with quivering lips. "I love you, and I'm
grateful to you. But your life isn't for me, after all. I thought it
was—I longed so for it. And I loved it, too—I love it yet. But
there's something stronger in me that holds me here."
"I don't think you realize what you are doing, Nora. You have been a
little homesick and you are glad to be back. But after we have gone
and you must settle into the old Racicot life again, you will not be
contented. You will find that your life with us will have unfitted you
for this. There will be no real place for you here—nothing for you to
do. You will be as a stranger here."
"Oh, no. I am going to marry Rob Fletcher," said Nora proudly.
"Marry Rob Fletcher! And you might have married Clark Bryant, Nora!"
Nora shook her head. "That could never have been. I thought it might
once—but I know better now. You see, I love Rob."
There did not seem to be anything more to say after that. Mrs. Cameron
did not try to say anything. She went away in sorrow.
Nora cried bitterly after she had gone. But there were no tears in her
eyes that night when she walked on the shore with Rob Fletcher. The
wind whistled around them, and the stars came out in the great ebony
dome of the sky over the harbour. Laughter and song of the fishing
folk were behind them, and the deep, solemn call of the sea before.
Over the harbour gleamed the score of lights at Dalveigh. Rob looked
from them to Nora.
"Do you think you'll ever regret yon life, my girl?"
"Never, Rob. It seems to me now like a beautiful garment put on for a
holiday and worn easily and pleasantly for a time. But I've put it off
now, and put on workaday clothes again. It is only a week since I left
Dalveigh, but it seems long ago. Listen to the wind, Rob! It is
singing of the good days to be for you and me."
He bent over and kissed her.
"My own dear lass!" he said softly.
The Martyrdom of Estella
Estella was waiting under the poplars at the gate for Spencer Morgan.
She was engaged to him, and he always came to see her on Saturday and
Wednesday evenings. It was after sunset, and the air was mellow and
warm-hued. The willow trees along the walk and the tall birches in the
background stood out darkly distinct against the lemon-tinted sky. The
breath of mint floated out from the garden, and the dew was falling
Estella leaned against the gate, listening for the sound of wheels and
dreamily watching the light shining out from the window of Vivienne
LeMar's room. The blind was up and she could see Miss LeMar writing at
her table. Her profile was clear and distinct against the lamplight.
Estella reflected without the least envy that Miss LeMar was very
beautiful. She had never seen anyone who was really beautiful
before—beautiful with the loveliness of the heroines in the novels
she sometimes read or the pictures she had seen.
Estella Bowes was not pretty. She was a nice-looking girl, with clear
eyes, rosy cheeks, and a pervading air of the content and happiness
her life had always known. She was an orphan and lived with her uncle
and aunt. In the summer they sometimes took a boarder for a month or
two, and this summer Miss LeMar had come. She had been with them about
a week. She was an actress from the city and had around her all the
glamour of a strange, unknown life. Nothing was known about her. The
Boweses liked her well enough as a boarder. Estella admired and held
her in awe. She wondered what Spencer would think of this beautiful
woman. He had not yet seen her.
It was quite dark when he came. Estella opened the gate for him, but
he got out of his buggy and walked up the lane beside her with his arm
about her. Miss LeMar's light had removed to the parlour where she was
singing, accompanying herself on the cottage organ. Estella felt
annoyed. The parlour was considered her private domain on Wednesday
and Saturday night, but Miss LeMar did not know that.
"Who is singing?" asked Spencer. "What a voice she has!"
"That's our new boarder, Miss LeMar," answered Estella. "She's an
actress and sings and does everything. She is awfully pretty,
"Yes?" said the young man indifferently.
He was not in the least interested in the Boweses' new boarder.
Indeed, he considered her advent a nuisance. He pressed Estella closer
to him, and when they reached the garden gate he kissed her. Estella
always remembered that moment afterwards. She was so supremely happy.
Spencer went off to put up his horse, and Estella waited for him on
the porch steps, wondering if any other girl in the world could be
quite so happy as she was, or love anyone as much as she loved
Spencer. She did not see how it could be possible, because there was
only one Spencer.
When Spencer came back she took him into the parlour, half shyly, half
proudly. He was a handsome fellow, with a magnificent physique. Miss
LeMar stopped singing and turned around on the organ stool as they
entered. The little room was flooded with a mellow light from the
pink-globed lamp on the table, and in the soft, shadowy radiance she
was as beautiful as a dream. She wore a dress of crepe, cut low in the
neck. Estella had never seen anyone dressed so before. To her it
She introduced Spencer. He bowed awkwardly and sat stiffly down by the
window with his eyes riveted on Miss LeMar's face. Estella, catching a
glimpse of herself in the old-fashioned mirror above the mantel,
suddenly felt a cold chill of dissatisfaction. Her figure had never
seemed to her so stout and stiff, her brown hair so dull and prim, her
complexion so muddy, her features so commonplace. She wished Miss
LeMar would go out of the room.
Vivienne LeMar watched the two faces before her; a hard gleam, half
mockery, half malice, flashed into her eyes and a smile crept about
her lips. She looked straight in Spencer Morgan's honest blue eyes and
read there the young man's dazzled admiration. There was contempt in
the look she turned on Estella.
"You were singing when we came in," said Spencer. "Won't you go on,
please? I am very fond of music."
Miss LeMar turned again to the organ. The gleaming curves of her neck
and shoulders rose out of their filmy sheathings of lace. Spencer,
sitting where he could see her face with its rose-leaf bloom and the
ringlets of golden hair clustering about it, gazed at her, unheeding
of aught else. Estella saw his look. She suddenly began to hate the
black-eyed witch at the organ—and to fear her as well. Why did
Spencer look at her like that? She wished she had not brought him in
at all. She felt commonplace and angry, and wanted to cry.
Vivienne LeMar went on singing, drifting from one sweet love song into
another. Once she looked up at Spencer Morgan. He rose quickly and
went to her side, looking down at her with a strange fire in his eyes.
Estella got up abruptly and left the room. She was angry and jealous,
but she thought Spencer would follow her. When he did not, she could
not believe it. She waited on the porch for him, not knowing whether
she were more angry or miserable. She would not go back into the room.
Vivienne LeMar had stopped singing. She could hear a low murmur of
voices. When she had waited there an hour, she went in and upstairs to
her room with ostentatious footsteps. She was too angry to cry or to
realize what had happened, and still kept hoping all sorts of
impossible things as she sat by her window.
It was ten o'clock when Spencer went away and Vivienne LeMar passed
up the hall to her room. Estella clenched her hands in an access of
helpless rage. She was very angry, but under her fury was a horrible
ache of pain. It could not be only three hours since she had been so
happy! It must be more than that! What had happened? Had she made a
fool of herself? Ought she to have behaved in any other way? Perhaps
Spencer had come out to look for her after she had gone upstairs and,
not finding her, had gone back to Miss LeMar to show her he was angry.
This poor hope was a small comfort. She wished she had not acted as
she had. It looked spiteful and jealous, and Spencer did not like
people who were spiteful and jealous. She would show him she was sorry
when he came back, and it would be all right.
She lay awake most of the night, thinking out plausible reasons and
excuses for Spencer's behaviour, and trying to convince herself that
she had exaggerated everything absurdly. Towards morning she fell
asleep and awoke hardly remembering what had happened. Then it rolled
back upon her crushingly.
But she rose and dressed in better spirits. It had been hardest to lie
there and do nothing. Now the day was before her and something
pleasant might happen. Spencer might come back in the evening. She
would be doubly nice to him to make up.
Mrs. Bowes looked sharply at her niece's dull eyes and pale cheeks at
the breakfast table. She had her own thoughts of things. She was a
large, handsome woman with a rather harsh face.
"Did you go upstairs last night and leave Spencer Morgan with Miss
LeMar?" she asked bluntly.
"Yes," muttered Estella.
"Did you have a quarrel with him?"
"What made you act so queer?"
"I couldn't help it," faltered the girl.
The food she was eating seemed to choke her. She wished she were a
hundred miles away from everyone she ever knew.
Mrs. Bowes gave a grunt of dissatisfaction.
"Well, I think it is a pretty queer piece of business. But if you are
satisfied, it isn't anyone else's concern, I suppose. He stayed with
her till ten o'clock and when he left she did everything but kiss
him—and she asked him to come back too. I heard."
"Aunt!" protested the girl.
She felt as if her aunt were striking her blow after blow on a
sensitive, quivering spot. It was bad enough to know it all, but to
hear it put into such cold, brutal words was more than she could
endure. It seemed to make everything so horribly sure.
"I guess I had a right to listen, hadn't I, with such goings on in my
own house? You're a little fool, Estella Bowes! I don't believe that
LeMar girl is a bit better than she ought to be. I wish I'd never
taken her to board, and if you say so, I'll send her packing right off
and not give her a chance to make mischief atween folks."
Estella's suffering found vent in a burst of anger.
"You needn't do anything of the sort!" she cried.
"It's all nonsense about Spencer—it was my fault—and anyhow, if he
is so easily led away as that, I am sure I don't want him! I wish to
goodness, Aunt, you'd leave me alone!"
"Oh, very well!" returned Mrs. Bowes in an offended tone. "It was for
your own good I spoke. You know best, I suppose. If you don't care, I
don't know that anyone else need."
Estella went about her work like one in a dream. A great hatred had
sprung up in her heart against Vivienne LeMar. The simple-hearted
country girl felt almost murderous. The whole day seemed like a
nightmare to her. When night came she dressed herself with feverish
care, for she could not quell the hope that Spencer would surely come
again. But he did not; and when she went up to bed, it did not seem as
if she could live through the night. She lay staring wide-eyed through
the darkness until dawn. She wished that she might cry, but no tears
came to her relief.
Next day she went to work with furious energy. When her usual tasks
were done, she ransacked the house for other employment. She was
afraid if she stopped work for a moment she would go mad. Mrs. Bowes
watched her with a grim pity.
At night she walked to prayer meeting in the schoolhouse a mile away.
She always went, and Spencer was generally on hand to see her home. He
was not there tonight. She wished she had not come. It was dreadful to
have to sit still and think. She did not hear a word the minister
She had to walk home with a crowd of girls and nerve herself to answer
their merry sallies that no one might suspect. She was tortured by the
fear that everyone knew her shame and humiliation and was pitying her.
She got hysterically gay, but underneath all she was constantly trying
to assign a satisfactory reason for Spencer's nonappearance. He was
often kept away, and of course he was a little cross at her yet, as
was natural. If he had come before her then, she could have gone down
in the very dust at his feet and implored his forgiveness.
When she reached home she went into the garden and sat down. The calm
of the night soothed her. She felt happier and more hopeful. She
thought over all that had passed between her and Spencer and all his
loving assurances, and the recollection comforted her. She was almost
happy when she went in.
Tomorrow is Sunday, she thought when she wakened in the morning. Her
step was lighter and her face brighter. Mrs. Bowes seemed to be in a
bad humour. Presently she said bluntly:
"Do you know that Spencer Morgan was here last night?"
Estella felt the cold tighten round her heart. Yet underneath it
sprang up a wild, sweet hope.
"Spencer here! I suppose he forgot it was prayer meeting night. What
did he say? Why didn't you tell him where I was?"
"I don't know that he forgot it was prayer meeting night," returned
Mrs. Bowes with measured emphasis. "'Tisn't likely his memory has
failed so all at once. He didn't ask where you was. He took good care
to go before you got home too. Miss LeMar entertained him. I guess she
was quite capable of it."
Estella bent over her dishes in silence. Her face was deadly white.
"I'll send her away," said Mrs. Bowes pityingly. "When she's gone,
Spencer will soon come back to you."
"No, you won't!" said Estella fiercely. "If you do, she'll only go
over to Barstows', and it would be worse than ever. I don't care—I'll
show them both I don't care! As for Spencer coming back to me, do you
think I want her leavings? He's welcome to go."
"He's only just fooled by her pretty face," persisted Mrs. Bowes in a
clumsy effort at consolation. "She's just turning his head, the hussy,
and he isn't really in his proper senses. You'll see, he'll be ashamed
of himself when he comes to them again. He knows very well in his
heart that you're worth ten girls like her."
Estella faced around.
"Aunt," she said desperately, "you mean well, I know, but you're
killing me! I can't stand it. For pity's sake, don't say another word
to me about this, no matter what happens. And don't keep looking at me
as if I were a martyr! She watches us and it would please her to think
I cared. I don't—and I mean she shall see I don't. I guess I'm well
rid of a fellow as fickle as he is, and I've sense enough to know it."
She went upstairs then, tearing off her turquoise engagement ring as
she climbed the steps. All sorts of wild ideas flashed through her
head. She would go down and confront Vivienne LeMar—she would rush
off and find Spencer and throw his ring at him, no matter where he
was—she would go away where no one would ever see her again. Why
couldn't she die? Was it possible people could suffer like this and
yet go on living?
"I don't care—I don't care!" she moaned, telling the lie aloud to
herself, as if she hoped that by this means she would come to believe
When twilight came she went out to the front steps and leaned her
aching head against the honeysuckle trellis. The sun had just set and
the whole world swam in dusky golden light. The wonderful beauty
frightened her. She felt like a blot on it.
While she stood there, a buggy came driving up the lane and wheeled
about at the steps. In it was Spencer Morgan.
Estella saw him and, in spite of the maddening throb of hope that
seemed suddenly to transfigure the world for her, her pride rose in
arms. Had Spencer come the night before, he would have found her
loving and humble. Even now, had she but been sure that he had come to
see her, she would have unbent. But was it the other? The torturing
doubt stung her to the quick.
She waited, stubbornly resolved that she would not speak first. It was
not in her place. Spencer Morgan flicked his horse sharply with his
whip. He dared not look at Estella, but he felt her uncompromising
attitude. He was miserably ashamed of himself, and he felt angry at
Estella for his shame.
"Do you care to come for a drive?" he asked awkwardly, with a covert
glance at the parlour windows.
Estella caught the glance and her jealous perception instantly divined
its true significance. Her heart died within her. She did not care
what she said.
"Oh," she cried with a toss of her head, "it's not me you want—it's
Miss LeMar, isn't it? She's away at the shore. You'll find her there,
I dare say."
Still, in spite of all, she perversely hoped. If he would only make
any sign, the least in the world, that he was sorry—that he still
loved her—she could forgive him everything. When he drove away
without another word, she could not believe it again. Surely he would
not go—surely he knew she did not mean it—he would turn back before
he got to the gate.
But he did not. She saw him disappear around the turn of the road. She
could not see if he took the shore lane further on, but she was sure
he would. She was furious at herself for acting as she had done. It
was all her fault again! Oh, if he would only give her another chance!
She was in her room when she heard the buggy drive up again. She knew
it was Spencer and that he had brought Vivienne LeMar home. Acting on
a sudden wild impulse, the girl stepped out on the landing and
confronted her rival as she came up the stairs.
The latter paused at sight of the white face and anguished eyes. There
was a little mocking smile on her lovely face.
"Miss LeMar," said Estella in a quivering voice, "what do you mean by
all this? You know I'm engaged to Spencer Morgan!"
Miss LeMar laughed softly.
"Really? If you are engaged to the young man, my dear Miss Bowes, I
would advise you to look after him more sharply. He seems very willing
to flirt, I should say."
She passed on to her room with a malicious smile. Estella shrank back
against the wall, humiliated and baffled. When she found herself
alone, she crawled back to her room and threw herself face downward on
the bed, praying that she might die.
But she had to live through the horrible month that followed—a month
so full of agony that she seemed to draw every breath in pain. Spencer
never sought her again; he went everywhere with Miss LeMar. His
infatuation was the talk of the settlement. Estella knew that her
story was in everyone's mouth, and her pride smarted; but she carried
a brave front outwardly. No one should say she cared.
She believed that the actress was merely deluding Spencer for her own
amusement and would never dream of marrying him. But one day the idea
occurred to her that she might. Estella had always told herself that
even if Spencer wanted to come back to her she would never take him
back, but now, by the half-sick horror that came over her, she knew
how strong the hope had really been and despised herself more than
One evening she was alone in the parlour. She had lit the lamp and was
listlessly arranging the little room. She looked old and worn. Her
colour was gone and her eyes were dull. As she worked, the door opened
and Vivienne LeMar walked or, rather, reeled into the room.
Estella dropped the book she held and gazed at her as one in a dream.
The actress's face was flushed and her hair was wildly disordered. Her
eyes glittered with an unearthly light. She was talking incoherently.
The air was heavy with the fumes of brandy.
Estella laughed hysterically. Vivienne LeMar was grossly intoxicated.
This woman whom Spencer Morgan worshipped, for whom he had forsaken
her, was reeling about the room, laughing idiotically, talking wildly
in a thick voice. If he could but see her now!
Estella turned white with the passion of the wild idea that had come
to her. Spencer Morgan should see this woman in her true colours.
She lost no time. Swiftly she left the room and locked the door behind
her on the maudlin, babbling creature inside. Then she flung a shawl
over her head and ran from the house. It was not far to the Morgan
homestead. She ran all the way, hardly knowing what she was doing.
Mrs. Morgan answered her knock. She gazed in bewilderment at Estella's
"I want Spencer," said the girl through her white lips.
The elder woman stepped back in dumb amazement. She knew and rued her
son's folly. What could Estella want with him?
The young man appeared in the doorway. Estella caught him by the arm
and pulled him outside.
"Miss LeMar wants you at once," she said hoarsely. "At once—you are
to come at once!"
"Has anything happened to her?" cried Spencer savagely. "Is she
ill—is she—what is the matter?"
"No, she is not ill. But she wants you. Come at once."
He started off bareheaded. Estella followed him up the road
breathlessly. Surely it was the strangest walk ever a girl had, she
told herself with mirthless laughter. She pushed the key into his hand
at the porch.
"She's in the parlour," she said wildly. "Go in and look at her,
Spencer snatched the key and fitted it into the door. He was full of
fear. Had Estella gone out of her mind? Had she done anything to
Vivienne? Had she—
As he entered, the actress reeled to her feet and came to meet him. He
stood and gazed at her stupidly. This could not be Vivienne, this
creature reeking with brandy, uttering such foolish words! What fiend
was this in her likeness?
He grew sick at heart and brain; she had her arms about him. He tried
to push her away, but she clung closer, and her senseless laughter
echoed through the room. He flung her from him with an effort and
rushed out through the hall and down the road like a madman. Estella,
watching him, felt that she was avenged. She was glad with a joy more
pitiful than grief.
Vivienne LeMar left the cottage the next day. Mrs. Bowes, suspecting
some mystery, questioned Estella sharply, but could find out nothing.
The girl kept her own counsel stubbornly. The interest and curiosity
of the village centred around Spencer Morgan, and his case was well
discussed. Gossip said that the actress had jilted him and that he was
breaking his heart about it. Then came the rumour that he was going
Estella heard it apathetically. Life seemed ended for her. There was
nothing to look forward to. She could not even look back. All the past
was embittered. She had never met Spencer since the night she went
after him. She sometimes wondered what he must think of her for what
she had done. Did he think her unwomanly and revengeful? She did not
care. It was rather a relief to hear that he was going away. She would
not be tortured by the fear of meeting him then. She was sure he would
never come back to her. If he did, she would never forgive him.
One evening in early harvest Estella was lingering by the lane gate at
twilight. She had worked slavishly all day and was very tired, but she
was loath to go into the house, where her trouble always seemed to
weigh on her more heavily. The dusk, sweet night seemed to soothe her
as it always did.
She leaned her head against the poplar by the gate. How long Spencer
Morgan had been standing by her she did not know, but when she looked
up he was there. In the dim light she could see how haggard and
hollow-eyed he had grown. He had changed almost as much as herself.
The girl's first proud impulse was to turn coldly away and leave him.
But some strange tumult in her heart kept her still. What had he come
There was a moment's fateful silence. Then Spencer spoke in a muffled
"I couldn't go away without seeing you once more, Estella, to say
good-bye. Perhaps you won't speak to me. You must hate me. I deserve
He paused, but she said no word. She could not. After a space, he went
"I know you can never forgive me—no girl could. I've behaved like a
fool. There isn't any excuse to be made for me. I don't think I could
have been in my right senses, Estella. It all seems like some bad
dream now. When I saw her that night, I came to my right mind, and
I've been the most miserable man alive ever since. Not for her—but
because I'd lost you. I can't bear to live here any longer, so I am
going away. Will you say good-bye, Estella?"
Still she did not speak. There were a hundred things she wanted to say
but she could not say them. Did he mean that he loved her still? If
she were sure of that, she could forgive him anything, but her doubt
rendered her mute.
The young man turned away despairingly from her rigid attitude. So be
it—he had brought his fate on himself.
He had gone but a few steps when Estella suddenly found her voice with
"Spencer!" He came swiftly back. "Oh, Spencer—do—you—do you love me
He caught her hands in his.
"Love you—oh, Estella, yes, yes! I always have. That other wasn't
love—it was just madness. When it passed I hated life because I'd
lost you. I know you can't forgive me, but, oh—"
He broke down. Estella flung her arms around his neck and put her face
up to his. She felt as if her heart must break with its great
happiness. He understood her mute pardon. In their kiss the past was
put aside. Estella's martyrdom was ended.
The Old Chest at Wyther Grange
When I was a child I always thought a visit to Wyther Grange was a
great treat. It was a big, quiet, old-fashioned house where
Grandmother Laurance and Mrs. DeLisle, my Aunt Winnifred, lived. I was
a favourite with them, yet I could never overcome a certain awe of
them both. Grandmother was a tall, dignified old lady with keen black
eyes that seemed veritably to bore through one. She always wore
stiffly-rustling gowns of rich silk made in the fashion of her youth.
I suppose she must have changed her dress occasionally, but the
impression on my mind was always the same, as she went trailing about
the house with a big bunch of keys at her belt—keys that opened a
score of wonderful old chests and boxes and drawers. It was one of my
dearest delights to attend Grandmother in her peregrinations and watch
the unfolding and examining of all those old treasures and heirlooms
of bygone Laurances.
Of Aunt Winnifred I was less in awe, possibly because she dressed in a
modern way and so looked to my small eyes more human and natural. As
Winnifred Laurance she had been the beauty of the family and was a
handsome woman still, with brilliant dark eyes and cameo-like
features. She always looked very sad, spoke in a low sweet voice, and
was my childish ideal of all that was high-bred and graceful.
I had many beloved haunts at the Grange, but I liked the garret best.
It was a roomy old place, big enough to have comfortably housed a
family in itself, and was filled with cast-off furniture and old
trunks and boxes of discarded finery. I was never tired of playing
there, dressing up in the old-fashioned gowns and hats and practising
old-time dance steps before the high, cracked mirror that hung at one
end. That old garret was a veritable fairyland to me.
There was one old chest which I could not explore and, like all
forbidden things, it possessed a great attraction for me. It stood
away back in a dusty, cobwebbed corner, a strong, high wooden box,
painted blue. From some words which I had heard Grandmother let fall I
was sure it had a history; it was the one thing she never explored in
her periodical overhaulings. When I grew tired of playing I liked to
creep up on it and sit there, picturing out my own fancies concerning
it—of which my favourite one was that some day I should solve the
riddle and open the chest to find it full of gold and jewels with
which I might restore the fortune of the Laurances and all the
traditionary splendours of the old Grange.
I was sitting there one day when Aunt Winnifred and Grandmother
Laurance came up the narrow dark staircase, the latter jingling her
keys and peering into the dusty corners as she came along the room.
When they came to the old chest, Grandmother rapped the top smartly
with her keys.
"I wonder what is in this old chest," she said. "I believe it really
should be opened. The moths may have got into it through that crack in
"Why don't you open it, Mother?" said Mrs. DeLisle. "I am sure that
key of Robert's would fit the lock."
"No," said Grandmother in the tone that nobody, not even Aunt
Winnifred, ever dreamed of disputing. "I will not open that chest
without Eliza's permission. She confided it to my care when she went
away, and I promised that it should never be opened until she came for
"Poor Eliza," said Mrs. DeLisle thoughtfully. "I wonder what she is
like now. Very much changed, like all the rest of us, I suppose. It is
almost thirty years since she was here. How pretty she was!"
"I never approved of her," said Grandmother brusquely. "She was a
sentimental, fanciful creature. She might have married well but she
preferred to waste her life pining over the memory of a man who was
not worthy to untie the shoelace of a Laurance."
Mrs. DeLisle sighed softly and made no reply. People said that she had
had her own romance in her youth and that her mother had sternly
repressed it. I had heard that her marriage with Mr. DeLisle was
loveless on her part and proved very unhappy. But he had been dead
many years, and Aunt Winnifred never spoke of him.
"I have made up my mind what to do," said Grandmother decidedly. "I
will write to Eliza and ask her if I may open the chest to see if the
moths have got into it. If she refuses, well and good. I have no doubt
that she will refuse. She will cling to her old sentimental ideas as
long as the breath is in her body."
I rather avoided the old chest after this. It took on a new
significance in my eyes and seemed to me like the tomb of
something—possibly some dead and buried romance of the past.
Later on a letter came to Grandmother; she passed it over the table to
"That is from Eliza," she said. "I would know her writing
anywhere—none of your modern sprawly, untidy hands, but a fine
lady-like script, as regular as copperplate. Read the letter,
Winnifred; I haven't my glasses and I dare say Eliza's rhapsodies
would tire me very much. You need not read them aloud—I can imagine
them all. Let me know what she says about the chest."
Aunt Winnifred opened and read the letter and laid it down with a
"This is all she says about the chest. 'If it were not for one thing
that is in it, I would ask you to open the chest and burn all its
contents. But I cannot bear that anyone but myself should see or touch
that one thing. So please leave the chest as it is, dear Aunt. It is
no matter if the moths do get in.' That is all," continued Mrs.
DeLisle, "and I must confess that I am disappointed. I have always had
an almost childish curiosity about that old chest, but I seem fated
not to have it gratified. That 'one thing' must be her wedding dress.
I have always thought that she locked it away there."
"Her answer is just what I expected of her," said Grandmother
impatiently. "Evidently the years have not made her more sensible.
Well, I wash my hands of her belongings, moths or no moths."
It was not until ten years afterwards that I heard anything more of
the old chest. Grandmother Laurance had died, but Aunt Winnifred still
lived at the Grange. She was very lonely, and the winter after
Grandmother's death she sent me an invitation to make her a long
When I revisited the garret and saw the old blue chest in the same
dusty corner, my childish curiosity revived and I begged Aunt
Winnifred to tell me its history.
"I am glad you have reminded me of it," said Mrs. DeLisle. "I have
intended to open the chest ever since Mother's death but I kept
putting it off. You know, Amy, poor Eliza Laurance died five years
ago, but even then Mother would not have the chest opened. There is no
reason why it should not be examined now. If you like, we will go and
open it at once and afterwards I will tell you the story."
We went eagerly up the garret stairs. Aunt knelt down before the old
chest and selected a key from the bunch at her belt.
"Would it not be too provoking, Amy, if this key should not fit after
all? Well, I do not believe you would be any more disappointed than
She turned the key and lifted the heavy lid. I bent forward eagerly. A
layer of tissue paper revealed itself, with a fine tracing of sifted
dust in its crinkles.
"Lift it up, child," said my aunt gently. "There are no ghosts for
you, at least, in this old chest."
I lifted the paper up and saw that the chest was divided into two
compartments. Lying on the top of one was a small, square, inlaid box.
This Mrs. DeLisle took up and carried to the window. Lifting up the
cover she laid it in my lap.
"There, Amy, look through it and let us see what old treasures have
lain hidden there these forty years."
The first thing I took out was a small square case covered with dark
purple velvet. The tiny clasp was almost rusted away and yielded
easily. I gave a little cry of admiration. Aunt Winnifred bent over my
"That is Eliza's portrait at the age of twenty, and that is Willis
Starr's. Was she not lovely, Amy?"
Lovely indeed was the face looking out at me from its border of
tarnished gilt. It was the face of a young girl, in shape a perfect
oval, with delicate features and large dark-blue eyes. Her hair,
caught high on the crown and falling on her neck in the long curls of
a bygone fashion, was a warm auburn, and the curves of her bare neck
and shoulders were exquisite.
"The other picture is that of the man to whom she was betrothed. Tell
me, Amy, do you think him handsome?"
I looked at the other portrait critically. It was that of a young man
of about twenty-five; he was undeniably handsome, but there was
something I did not like in his face and I said so.
Aunt Winnifred made no reply—she was taking out the remaining
contents of the box. There was a white silk fan with delicately carved
ivory sticks, a packet of old letters and a folded paper containing
some dried and crumpled flowers. Aunt laid the box aside and unpacked
the chest in silence. First came a ball dress of pale-yellow satin
brocade, made with the trained skirt, "baby" waist and full puffed
sleeves of a former generation. Beneath it was a case containing a
necklace of small but perfect pearls and a pair of tiny satin
slippers. The rest of the compartment was filled with household linen,
fine and costly but yellowed with age—damask table linen and webs of
the uncut fabric.
In the second compartment lay a dress. Aunt Winnifred lifted it out
reverently. It was a gown of rich silk that had once been white, but
now, like the linen, it was yellow with age. It was simply made and
trimmed with cobwebby old lace. Wrapped around it was a long white
bridal veil, redolent with some strange, old-time perfume that had
kept its sweetness all through the years.
"Well, Amy, this is all," said Aunt Winnifred with a quiver in her
voice. "And now for the story. Where shall I begin?"
"At the very beginning, Aunty. You see I know nothing at all except
her name. Tell me who she was and why she put her wedding dress away
"Poor Eliza!" said Aunt dreamily. "It is a sorrowful story, Amy, and
it seems so long ago now. I must be an old woman. Forty years ago—and
I was only twenty then. Eliza Laurance was my cousin, the only
daughter of Uncle Henry Laurance. My father—your grandfather, Amy,
you don't remember him—had two brothers, each of whom had an only
daughter. Both these girls were called Eliza after your
great-grandmother. I never saw Uncle George's Eliza but once. He was a
rich man and his daughter was much sought after, but she was no
beauty, I promise you that, and proud and vain to the last degree.
Her home was in a distant city and she never came to Wyther Grange.
"The other Eliza Laurance was a poor man's daughter. She and I were of
the same age and did not look unlike each other, although I was not so
pretty by half. You can see by the portrait how beautiful she was, and
it does her scant justice, for half her charm lay in her arch
expression and her vivacious ways. She had her little faults, of
course, and was rather over much given to romance and sentiment. This
did not seem much of a defect to me then, Amy, for I was young and
romantic too. Mother never cared much for Eliza, I think, but everyone
else liked her. One winter Eliza came to Wyther Grange for a long
visit. The Grange was a very lively place then, Amy. Eliza kept the
old house ringing with merriment. We went out a great deal and she was
always the belle of any festivity we attended. Yet she wore her
honours easily; all the flattery and homage she received did not turn
"That winter we first met Willis Starr. He was a newcomer, and nobody
knew much about him, but one or two of the best families took him up,
and his own fascinations did the rest. He became what you would call
the rage. He was considered very handsome, his manners were polished
and easy, and people said he was rich.
"I don't think, Amy, that I ever trusted Willis Starr. But like all
the rest, I was blinded by his charm. Mother was almost the only one
who did not worship at his shrine, and very often she dropped hints
about penniless adventurers that made Eliza very indignant.
"From the first he had paid Eliza marked attention and seemed utterly
bewitched by her. Well, his was an easy winning. Eliza loved him with
her whole impulsive, girlish heart and made no attempt to hide it.
"I shall never forget the night they were first engaged. It was
Eliza's birthday, and we were invited to a ball that evening. This
yellow gown is the very one she wore. I suppose that is why she put it
away here—the gown she wore on the happiest night of her life. I had
never seen her look more beautiful—her neck and arms were bare, and
she wore this string of pearls and carried a bouquet of her favourite
"When we reached home after the dance, Eliza had her happy secret to
tell us. She was engaged to Willis Starr, and they were to be married
in early spring.
"Willis Starr certainly seemed to be an ideal lover, and Eliza was so
perfectly happy that she seemed to grow more beautiful and radiant
"Well, Amy, the wedding day was set. Eliza was to be married from the
Grange, as her own mother was dead, and I was to be bridesmaid. We
made her wedding dress together, she and I. Girls were not above
making their own gowns then, and not a stitch was set in Eliza's save
those put there by loving fingers and blessed by loving wishes. It was
I who draped the veil over her sunny curls—see how yellow and creased
it is now, but it was as white as snow that day.
"A week before the wedding, Willis Starr was spending the evening at
the Grange. We were all chattering gaily about the coming event, and
in speaking of the invited guests Eliza said something about the
other Eliza Laurance, the great heiress, looking archly at Willis over
her shoulder as she spoke. It was some merry badinage about the cousin
whose namesake she was but whom she so little resembled.
"We all laughed, but I shall never forget the look that came over
Willis Starr's face. It passed quickly, but the chill fear that it
gave me remained. A few minutes later I left the room on some trifling
errand, and as I returned through the dim hall I was met by Willis
Starr. He laid his hand on my arm and bent his evil face—for it was
evil then, Amy—close to mine.
"'Tell me,' he said in a low but rude tone, 'is there another Eliza
Laurance who is an heiress?'
"'Certainly there is,' I said sharply. 'She is our cousin and the
daughter of our Uncle George. Our Eliza is not an heiress. You surely
did not suppose she was!'
"Willis stepped aside with a mocking smile.
"'I did—what wonder? I had heard much about the great heiress, Eliza
Laurance, and the great beauty, Eliza Laurance. I supposed they were
one and the same. You have all been careful not to undeceive me.'
"'You forget yourself, Mr. Starr, when you speak so to me,' I retorted
coldly. 'You have deceived yourself. We have never dreamed of allowing
anyone to think that Eliza was an heiress. She is sweet and lovely
enough to be loved for her own sake.'
"I went back to the parlour full of dismay. Willis Starr remained
gloomy and taciturn all the rest of the evening, but nobody seemed to
notice it but myself.
"The next day we were all so busy that I almost forgot the incident
of the previous evening. We girls were up in the sewing room putting
the last touches to the wedding gown. Eliza tried it and her veil on
and was standing so, in all her silken splendour, when a letter was
brought in. I guessed by her blush who was the writer. I laughed and
ran downstairs, leaving her to read it.
"When I returned she was still standing just where I had left her in
the middle of the room, holding the letter in her hand. Her face was
as white as her veil, and her wide-open eyes had a dazed, agonized
look as of someone who had been stricken a mortal blow. All the soft
happiness and sweetness had gone out of them. They were the eyes of an
old woman, Amy.
"'Eliza, what is the matter?' I said. 'Has anything happened to
"She made no answer, but walked to the fireplace, dropped the letter
in a bed of writhing blue flame and watched it burn to white ashes.
Then she turned to me.
"'Help me take off this gown, Winnie,' she said dully. 'I shall never
wear it again. There will be no wedding. Willis is gone.'
"'Gone!' I echoed stupidly.
"'Yes. I am not the heiress, Winnie. It was the fortune, not the girl,
he loved. He says he is too poor for us to dream of marrying when I
have nothing. Oh, such a cruel, heartless letter! Why did he not kill
me? It would have been so much more merciful! I loved him so—I
trusted him so! Oh, Winnie, Winnie, what am I to do!'
"There was something terrible in the contrast between her passionate
words and her calm face and lifeless voice. I wanted to call Mother,
but she would not let me. She went away to her own room, trailing
along the dark hall in her dress and veil, and locked herself in.
"Well, I told it all to the others in some fashion. You can imagine
their anger and dismay. Your father, Amy—he was a hot-blooded,
impetuous, young fellow then—went at once to seek Willis Starr. But
he was gone, no one knew where, and the whole country rang with the
gossip and scandal of the affair. Eliza knew nothing of this, for she
was ill and unconscious for many a day. In a novel or story she would
have died, I suppose, and that would have been the end of it. But this
was in real life, and Eliza did not die, although many times we
thought she would.
"When she did recover, how frightfully changed she was! It almost
broke my heart to see her. Her very nature seemed to have changed
too—all her joyousness and light-heartedness were dead. From that
time she was a faded, dispirited creature, no more like the Eliza we
had known than the merest stranger. And then after a while came other
news—Willis Starr was married to the other Eliza Laurance, the true
heiress. He had made no second mistake. We tried to keep it from Eliza
but she found it out at last. That was the day she came up here alone
and packed this old chest. Nobody ever knew just what she put into it.
But you and I see now, Amy—her ball dress, her wedding gown, her love
letters and, more than all else, her youth and happiness—this old
chest was the tomb of it all. Eliza Laurance was really buried here.
"She went home soon after. Before she went she exacted a promise from
Mother that the old chest should be left at the Grange unopened until
she came for it herself. But she never came back, and I do not think
she ever intended to, and I never saw her again.
"That is the story of the old chest. It was all over so long ago—the
heartbreak and the misery—but it all seems to come back to me now.
My own eyes were full of tears as Aunt Winnifred went down the stairs,
leaving me sitting dreamily there in the sunset light, with the old
yellowed bridal veil across my lap and the portrait of Eliza Laurance
in my hand. Around me were the relics of her pitiful story—the old,
oft-repeated story of a faithless love and a woman's broken heart—the
gown she had worn, the slippers in which she had danced
light-heartedly at her betrothal ball, her fan, her pearls, her
gloves—and it somehow seemed to me as if I were living in those old
years myself, as if the love and happiness, the betrayal and pain were
part of my own life. Presently Aunt Winnifred came back through the
"Let us put all these things back in their grave, Amy," she said.
"They are of no use to anyone now. The linen might be bleached and
used, I dare say—but it would seem like a sacrilege. It was Mother's
wedding present to Eliza. And the pearls—would you care to have them,
"Oh, no, no," I said with a little shiver. "I would never wear them,
Aunt Winnifred. I should feel like a ghost if I did. Put everything
back just as we found it—only her portrait. I would like to keep
Reverently we put gowns and letters and trinkets back into the old
blue chest. Aunt Winnifred closed the lid and turned the key softly.
She bowed her head over it for a minute and then we went together in
silence down the shadowy garret stairs of Wyther Grange.
The Osbornes' Christmas
Cousin Myra had come to spend Christmas at "The Firs," and all the
junior Osbornes were ready to stand on their heads with delight.
Darby—whose real name was Charles—did it, because he was only eight,
and at eight you have no dignity to keep up. The others, being older,
But the fact of Christmas itself awoke no great enthusiasm in the
hearts of the junior Osbornes. Frank voiced their opinion of it the
day after Cousin Myra had arrived. He was sitting on the table with
his hands in his pockets and a cynical sneer on his face. At least,
Frank flattered himself that it was cynical. He knew that Uncle Edgar
was said to wear a cynical sneer, and Frank admired Uncle Edgar very
much and imitated him in every possible way. But to you and me it
would have looked just as it did to Cousin Myra—a very discontented
and unbecoming scowl.
"I'm awfully glad to see you, Cousin Myra," explained Frank carefully,
"and your being here may make some things worth while. But Christmas
is just a bore—a regular bore."
That was what Uncle Edgar called things that didn't interest him, so
that Frank felt pretty sure of his word. Nevertheless, he wondered
uncomfortably what made Cousin Myra smile so queerly.
"Why, how dreadful!" she said brightly. "I thought all boys and girls
looked upon Christmas as the very best time in the year."
"We don't," said Frank gloomily. "It's just the same old thing year in
and year out. We know just exactly what is going to happen. We even
know pretty well what presents we are going to get. And Christmas Day
itself is always the same. We'll get up in the morning, and our
stockings will be full of things, and half of them we don't want. Then
there's dinner. It's always so poky. And all the uncles and aunts come
to dinner—just the same old crowd, every year, and they say just the
same things. Aunt Desda always says, 'Why, Frankie, how you have
grown!' She knows I hate to be called Frankie. And after dinner
they'll sit round and talk the rest of the day, and that's all. Yes, I
call Christmas a nuisance."
"There isn't a single bit of fun in it," said Ida discontentedly.
"Not a bit!" said the twins, both together, as they always said
"There's lots of candy," said Darby stoutly. He rather liked
Christmas, although he was ashamed to say so before Frank.
Cousin Myra smothered another of those queer smiles.
"You've had too much Christmas, you Osbornes," she said seriously. "It
has palled on your taste, as all good things will if you overdo them.
Did you ever try giving Christmas to somebody else?"
The Osbornes looked at Cousin Myra doubtfully. They didn't understand.
"We always send presents to all our cousins," said Frank hesitatingly.
"That's a bore, too. They've all got so many things already it's no
end of bother to think of something new."
"That isn't what I mean," said Cousin Myra. "How much Christmas do you
suppose those little Rolands down there in the hollow have? Or Sammy
Abbott with his lame back? Or French Joe's family over the hill? If
you have too much Christmas, why don't you give some to them?"
The Osbornes looked at each other. This was a new idea.
"How could we do it?" asked Ida.
Whereupon they had a consultation. Cousin Myra explained her plan, and
the Osbornes grew enthusiastic over it. Even Frank forgot that he was
supposed to be wearing a cynical sneer.
"I move we do it, Osbornes," said he.
"If Father and Mother are willing," said Ida.
"Won't it be jolly!" exclaimed the twins.
"Well, rather," said Darby scornfully. He did not mean to be scornful.
He had heard Frank saying the same words in the same tone, and thought
it signified approval.
Cousin Myra had a talk with Father and Mother Osborne that night, and
found them heartily in sympathy with her plans.
For the next week the Osbornes were agog with excitement and interest.
At first Cousin Myra made the suggestions, but their enthusiasm soon
outstripped her, and they thought out things for themselves. Never did
a week pass so quickly. And the Osbornes had never had such fun,
Christmas morning there was not a single present given or received at
"The Firs" except those which Cousin Myra and Mr. and Mrs. Osborne
gave to each other. The junior Osbornes had asked that the money which
their parents had planned to spend in presents for them be given to
them the previous week; and given it was, without a word.
The uncles and aunts arrived in due time, but not with them was the
junior Osbornes' concern. They were the guests of Mr. and Mrs.
Osborne. The junior Osbornes were having a Christmas dinner party of
their own. In the small dining room a table was spread and loaded with
good things. Ida and the twins cooked that dinner all by themselves.
To be sure, Cousin Myra had helped some, and Frank and Darby had
stoned all the raisins and helped pull the home-made candy; and all
together they had decorated the small dining room royally with
Then their guests came. First, all the little Rolands from the Hollow
arrived—seven in all, with very red, shining faces and not a word to
say for themselves, so shy were they. Then came a troop from French
Joe's—four black-eyed lads, who never knew what shyness meant. Frank
drove down to the village in the cutter and brought lame Sammy back
with him, and soon after the last guest arrived—little Tillie Mather,
who was Miss Rankin's "orphan 'sylum girl" from over the road.
Everybody knew that Miss Rankin never kept Christmas. She did not
believe in it, she said, but she did not prevent Tillie from going to
the Osbornes' dinner party.
Just at first the guests were a little stiff and unsocial; but they
soon got acquainted, and so jolly was Cousin Myra—who had her dinner
with the children in preference to the grown-ups—and so friendly the
junior Osbornes, that all stiffness vanished. What a merry dinner it
was! What peals of laughter went up, reaching to the big dining room
across the hall, where the grown-ups sat in rather solemn state. And
how those guests did eat and frankly enjoy the good things before
them! How nicely they all behaved, even to the French Joes! Myra had
secretly been a little dubious about those four mischievous-looking
lads, but their manners were quite flawless. Mrs. French Joe had been
drilling them for three days—ever since they had been invited to "de
Chrismus dinner at de beeg house."
After the merry dinner was over, the junior Osbornes brought in a
Christmas tree, loaded with presents. They had bought them with the
money that Mr. and Mrs. Osborne had meant for their own presents, and
a splendid assortment they were. All the French-Joe boys got a pair of
skates apiece, and Sammy a set of beautiful books, and Tillie was made
supremely happy with a big wax doll. Every little Roland got just what
his or her small heart had been longing for. Besides, there were nuts
and candies galore.
Then Frank hitched up his pony again, but this time into a great pung
sleigh, and the junior Osbornes took their guests for a sleigh-drive,
chaperoned by Cousin Myra. It was just dusk when they got back,
having driven the Rolands and the French Joes and Sammy and Tillie to
their respective homes.
"This has been the jolliest Christmas I ever spent," said Frank,
"I thought we were just going to give the others a good time, but it
was they who gave it to us," said Ida.
"Weren't the French Joes jolly?" giggled the twins. "Such cute
speeches as they would make!"
"Me and Teddy Roland are going to be chums after this," announced
Darby. "He's an inch taller than me, but I'm wider."
That night Frank and Ida and Cousin Myra had a little talk after the
smaller Osbornes had been haled off to bed.
"We're not going to stop with Christmas, Cousin Myra," said Frank, at
the end of it. "We're just going to keep on through the year. We've
never had such a delightful old Christmas before."
"You've learned the secret of happiness," said Cousin Myra gently.
And the Osbornes understood what she meant.
The Romance of Aunt Beatrice
Margaret always maintains that it was a direct inspiration of
Providence that took her across the street to see Aunt Beatrice that
night. And Aunt Beatrice believes that it was too. But the truth of
the matter is that Margaret was feeling very unhappy, and went over to
talk to Aunt Beatrice as the only alternative to a fit of crying.
Margaret's unhappiness has nothing further to do with this story, so
it may be dismissed with the remark that it did not amount to much, in
spite of Margaret's tragical attitude, and was dissipated at once and
forever by the arrival of a certain missent letter the next day.
Aunt Beatrice was alone. Her brother and his wife had gone to the "at
home" which Mrs. Cunningham was giving that night in honour of the
Honourable John Reynolds, M.P. The children were upstairs in bed, and
Aunt Beatrice was darning their stockings, a big basketful of which
loomed up aggressively on the table beside her. Or, to speak more
correctly, she had been darning them. Just when Margaret was sliding
across the icy street Aunt Beatrice was bent forward in her chair, her
hands over her face, while soft, shrinking little sobs shook her from
head to foot.
When Margaret's imperative knock came at the front door, Aunt Beatrice
started guiltily and wished earnestly that she had waited until she
went to bed before crying, if cry she must. She knew Margaret's knock,
and she did not want her gay young niece, of all people in the world,
to suspect the fact or the cause of her tears.
"I hope she won't notice my eyes," she thought, as she hastily plumped
a big ugly dark-green shade, with an almond-eyed oriental leering from
it, over the lamp, before going out to let Margaret in.
Margaret did not notice at first. She was too deeply absorbed in her
own troubles to think that anyone else in the world could be miserable
too. She curled up in the deep easy-chair by the fire, and clasped her
hands behind her curly head with a sigh of physical comfort and mental
unhappiness, while Aunt Beatrice, warily sitting with her back to the
light, took up her work again.
"You didn't go to Mrs. Cunningham's 'at home,' Auntie," said Margaret
lazily, feeling that she must make some conversation to justify her
appearance. "You were invited, weren't you?"
Aunt Beatrice nodded. The hole she was darning in the knee of Willie
Hayden's stocking must be done very carefully. Mrs. George Hayden was
particular about such matters. Perhaps this was why Aunt Beatrice did
"Why didn't you go?" asked Margaret absently, wondering why there had
been no letter for her that morning—and this was the third day too!
Could Gilbert be ill? Or was he flirting with some other girl and
forgetting her? Margaret swallowed a big lump in her throat, and
resolved that she would go home next week—no, she wouldn't,
either—if he was as hateful and fickle as that—what was Aunt
"Well, I'm—I'm not used to going to parties now, my dear. And the
truth is I have no dress fit to wear. At least Bella said so, because
the party was to be a very fashionable affair. She said my old grey
silk wouldn't do at all. Of course she knows. She had to have a new
dress for it, and, we couldn't both have that. George couldn't afford
it these hard times. And, as Bella said, it would be very foolish of
me to get an expensive dress that would be no use to me afterward. But
it doesn't matter. And, of course, somebody had to stay with the
"Of course," assented Margaret dreamily. Mrs. Cunningham's "at home"
was of no particular interest. The guests were all middle-aged people
whom the M.P. had known in his boyhood and Margaret, in her
presumptuous youth, thought it would be a very prosy affair, although
it had made quite a sensation in quiet little Murraybridge, where
people still called an "at home" a party plain and simple.
"I saw Mr. Reynolds in church Sunday afternoon," she went on. "He is
very fine-looking, I think. Did you ever meet him?"
"I used to know him very well long ago," answered Aunt Beatrice,
bowing still lower over her work. "He used to live down in Wentworth,
you know, and he visited his married sister here very often. He was
only a boy at that time. Then—he went out to British Columbia
and—and—we never heard much more about him."
"He's very rich and owns dozens of mines and railroads and things like
that," said Margaret, "and he's a member of the Dominion Parliament,
too. They say he's one of the foremost men in the House and came very
near getting a portfolio in the new cabinet. I like men like that.
They are so interesting. Wouldn't it be awfully nice and complimentary
to have one of them in love with you? Is he married?"
"I—I don't know," said Aunt Beatrice faintly. "I have never heard
that he was."
"There, you've run the needle into your finger," said Margaret
"It's of no consequence," said Aunt Beatrice hastily.
She wiped away the drop of blood and went on with her work. Margaret
watched her dreamily. What lovely hair Aunt Beatrice had! It was so
thick and glossy, with warm bronze tones where the lamp-light fell on
it under that hideous weird old shade. But Aunt Beatrice wore it in
such an unbecoming way. Margaret idly wondered if she would comb her
hair straight back and prim when she was thirty-five. She thought it
very probable if that letter did not come tomorrow.
From Aunt Beatrice's hair Margaret's eyes fell to Aunt Beatrice's
face. She gave a little jump. Had Aunt Beatrice been crying? Margaret
sat bolt upright.
"Aunt Beatrice, did you want to go to that party?" she demanded
explosively. "Now tell me the truth."
"I did," said Aunt Beatrice weakly. Margaret's sudden attack fairly
startled the truth out of her. "It is very silly of me, I know, but I
did want to go. I didn't care about a new dress. I'd have been quite
willing to wear my grey silk, and I could have fixed the sleeves. What
difference would it have made? Nobody would ever have noticed me, but
Bella thought it wouldn't do."
She paused long enough to give a little sob which she could not
repress. Margaret made use of the opportunity to exclaim violently,
"It's a shame!"
"I suppose you don't understand why I wanted to go to this particular
party so much," went on Aunt Beatrice shyly. "I'll tell you why—if
you won't laugh at me. I wanted to see John Reynolds—not to talk to
him—oh, I dare say he wouldn't remember me—but just to see him.
Long ago—fifteen years ago—we were engaged. And—and—I loved him so
much then, Margaret."
"You poor dear!" said Margaret sympathetically. She reached over and
patted her aunt's hand. She thought that this little bit of romance,
long hidden and unsuspected, blossoming out under her eyes, was
charming. In her interest she quite forgot her own pet grievance.
"Yes—and then we quarrelled. It was a dreadful quarrel and it was
about such a trifle. We parted in anger and he went away. He never
came back. It was all my fault. Well, it is all over long ago and
everybody has forgotten. I—I don't mind it now. But I just wanted to
see him once more and then come quietly away."
"Aunt Beatrice, you are going to that party yet," said Margaret
"Oh, it is impossible, my dear."
"No, it isn't. Nothing is impossible when I make up my mind. You must
go. I'll drag you there by main force if it comes to that. Oh, I have
such a jolly plan, Auntie. You know my black and yellow dinner
dress—no, you don't either, for I've never worn it here. The folks at
home all said it was too severe for me—and so it is. Nothing suits me
but the fluffy, chuffy things with a tilt to them. Gil—er—I
mean—well, yes, Gilbert always declared that dress made me look like
a cross between an unwilling nun and a ballet girl, so I took a
dislike to it. But it's as lovely as a dream. Oh, when you see it your
eyes will stick out. You must wear it tonight. It's just your style,
and I'm sure it will fit you, for our figures are so much alike."
"But it is too late."
"'Tisn't. It's not more than half an hour since Uncle George and Aunt
Bella went. I'll have you ready in a twinkling."
"But the fire—and the children!"
"I'll stay here and look after both. I won't burn the house down, and
if the twins wake up I'll give them—what is it you give
them—soothing syrup? So go at once and get you ready, while I fly
over for the dress. I'll fix your hair up when I get back."
Margaret was gone before Aunt Beatrice could speak again. Her niece's
excitement seized hold of her too. She flung the stockings into the
basket and the basket into the closet.
"I will go—and I won't do another bit of darning tonight. I hate
it—I hate it—I hate it! Oh, how much good it does me to say it!"
When Margaret came flying up the stairs Aunt Beatrice was ready save
for hair and dress. Margaret cast the gown on the bed, revealing all
its beauty of jetted lace and soft yellow silk with a dextrous sweep
of her arm. Aunt Beatrice gave a little cry of admiration.
"Isn't it lovely?" demanded Margaret. "And I've brought you my opera
cape and my fascinator and my black satin slippers with the cunningest
gold buckles, and some sweet pale yellow roses that Uncle Ned gave me
yesterday. Oh, Aunt Beatrice! What magnificent arms and shoulders you
have! They're like marble. Mine are so scrawny I'm just ashamed to
have people know they belong to me."
Margaret's nimble fingers were keeping time with her tongue. Aunt
Beatrice's hair went up as if by magic into soft puffs and waves and
twists, and a golden rose was dropped among the bronze masses. Then
the lovely dress was put on and pinned and looped and pulled until it
fell into its simple, classical lines around the tall, curving figure.
Margaret stepped back and clapped her hands admiringly.
"Oh, Auntie, you're beautiful! Now I'll pop down for the cloak and
fascinator. I left them hanging by the fire."
When Margaret had gone Aunt Beatrice caught up the lamp and tiptoed
shamefacedly across the hall to the icy-cold spare room. In the long
mirror she saw herself reflected from top to toe—or was it herself!
Could it be—that gracious woman with the sweet eyes and flushed
cheeks, with rounded arms gleaming through their black laces and the
cluster of roses nestling against the warm white flesh of the
"I do look nice," she said aloud, with a little curtsey to the radiant
reflection. "It is all the dress, I know. I feel like a queen in
it—no, like a girl again—and that's better."
Margaret went to Mrs. Cunningham's door with her.
"How I wish I could go in and see the sensation you'll make, Aunt
Beatrice," she whispered.
"You dear, silly child! It's just the purple and fine linen," laughed
Aunt Beatrice. But she did not altogether think so, and she rang the
doorbell unquailingly. In the hall Mrs. Cunningham herself came
beamingly to greet her.
"My dear Beatrice! I'm so glad. Bella said you could not come because
you had a headache."
"My headache got quite better after they left, and so I thought I
would get ready and come, even if it were rather late," said Beatrice
glibly, wondering if Sapphira had ever worn a black-and-yellow dress,
and if so, might not her historic falsehood be traced to its
When they came downstairs together, Beatrice, statuesque and erect in
her trailing draperies, and Mrs. Cunningham secretly wondering where
on earth Beatrice Hayden had got such a magnificent dress and what she
had done to herself to make her look as she did—a man came through
the hall. At the foot of the stairs they met. He put out his hand.
"Beatrice! It must be Beatrice! How little you have changed!"
Mrs. Cunningham was not particularly noted in Murraybridge for her
tact, but she had a sudden visitation of the saving grace at that
moment, and left the two alone.
Beatrice put her hand into the M.P.'s.
"I am glad to see you," she said simply, looking up at him.
She could not say that he had not changed, for there was little in
this tall, broad-shouldered man of the world, with grey glints in his
hair, to suggest the slim, boyish young lover whose image she had
carried in her heart all the long years.
But the voice, though deeper and mellower, was the same, and the thin,
clever mouth that went up at one corner and down at the other in a
humorous twist; and one little curl of reddish hair fell over his
forehead away from its orderly fellows, just as it used to when she
had loved to poke her fingers through it; and, more than all, the
deep-set grey eyes looking down into her blue ones were unchanged.
Beatrice felt her heart beating to her fingertips.
"I thought you were not coming," he said. "I expected to meet you here
and I was horribly disappointed. I thought the bitterness of that
foolish old quarrel must be strong enough to sway you yet."
"Didn't Bella tell you I had a headache?" faltered Beatrice.
"Bella? Oh, your brother's wife! I wasn't talking to her. I've been
sulking in corners ever since I concluded you were not coming. How
beautiful you are, Beatrice! You'll let an old friend say that much,
Beatrice laughed softly. She had forgotten for years that she was
beautiful, but the sweet old knowledge had come back to her again. She
could not help knowing that he spoke the simple truth, but she said
"You've learned to flatter since the old days, haven't you? Don't you
remember you used to tell me I was too thin to be pretty? But I
suppose a bit of blarney is a necessary ingredient in the composition
of an M.P."
He was still holding her hand. With a glance of dissatisfaction at the
open parlour door, he drew her away to the little room at the end of
the hall, which Mrs. Cunningham, for reasons known only to herself,
called her library.
"Come in here with me," he said masterfully. "I want to have a long
talk with you before the other people get hold of you."
When Beatrice got home from the party ten minutes before her brother
and his wife, Margaret was sitting Turk fashion in the big armchair,
with her eyes very wide open and owlish.
"You dear girlie, were you asleep?" asked Aunt Beatrice indulgently.
Margaret nodded. "Yes, and I've let the fire go out. I hope you're not
cold. I must run before Aunt Bella gets here, or she'll scold. Had a
"Delightful. You were a dear to lend me this dress. It was so funny to
see Bella staring at it."
When Margaret had put on her hat and jacket she went as far as the
street door, and then tiptoed back to the sitting-room. Aunt Beatrice
was leaning back in the armchair, with a drooping rose held softly
against her lips, gazing dreamily into the dull red embers.
"Auntie," said Margaret contritely, "I can't go home without
confessing, although I know it is a heinous offence to interrupt the
kind of musing that goes with dying embers and faded roses in the
small hours. But it would weigh on my conscience all night if I
didn't. I was asleep, but I wakened up just before you came in and
went to the window. I didn't mean to spy upon anyone—but that street
was bright as day! And if you will let an M.P. kiss you on the
doorstep in glaring moonlight, you must expect to be seen."
"I wouldn't have cared if there had been a dozen onlookers," said Aunt
Beatrice frankly, "and I don't believe he would either."
Margaret threw up her hands. "Well, my conscience is clear, at least.
And remember, Aunt Beatrice, I'm to be bridesmaid—I insist upon that.
And, oh, won't you ask me to visit you when you go down to Ottawa next
winter? I'm told it's such a jolly place when the House is in session.
And you'll need somebody to help you entertain, you know. The wife of
a cabinet minister has to do lots of that. But I forgot—he isn't a
cabinet minister yet. But he will be, of course. Promise that you'll
have me, Aunt Beatrice, promise quick. I hear Uncle George and Aunt
Aunt Beatrice promised. Margaret flew to the door.
"You'd better keep that dress," she called back softly, as she opened
The Running Away of Chester
Chester did the chores with unusual vim that night. His lips were set
and there was an air of resolution as plainly visible on his small,
freckled face as if it had been stamped there. Mrs. Elwell saw him
flying around, and her grim features took on a still grimmer
"Ches is mighty lively tonight," she muttered. "I s'pose he's in a gog
to be off on some foolishness with Henry Wilson. Well, he won't, and
he needn't think it."
Lige Barton, the hired man, also thought this was Chester's purpose,
but he took a more lenient view of it than did Mrs. Elwell.
"The little chap is going through things with a rush this evening," he
reflected. "Guess he's laying out for a bit of fun with the Wilson
But Chester was not planning anything connected with Henry Wilson, who
lived on the other side of the pond and was the only chum he
possessed. After the chores were done, he lingered a little while
around the barns, getting his courage keyed up to the necessary pitch.
Chester Stephens was an orphan without kith or kin in the world,
unless his father's stepsister, Mrs. Harriet Elwell, could be called
so. His parents had died in his babyhood, and Mrs. Elwell had taken
him to bring up. She was a harsh woman, with a violent temper, and she
had scolded and worried the boy all his short life. Upton people said
it was a shame, but nobody felt called upon to interfere. Mrs. Elwell
was not a person one would care to make an enemy of.
She eyed Chester sourly when he went in, expecting some request to be
allowed to go with Henry, and prepared to refuse it sharply.
"Aunt Harriet," said Chester suddenly, "can I go to school this year?
It begins tomorrow."
"No," said Mrs. Elwell, when she had recovered from her surprise at
this unexpected question. "You've had schoolin' in plenty—more'n I
ever had, and all you're goin' to get!"
"But, Aunt Harriet," persisted Chester, his face flushed with
earnestness, "I'm nearly thirteen, and I can barely read and write a
little. The other boys are ever so far ahead of me. I don't know
"You know enough to be disrespectful!" exclaimed Mrs. Elwell. "I
suppose you want to go to school to idle away your time, as you do at
home—lazy good-for-nothing that you are!" Chester thought of the
drudgery that had been his portion all his life. He resented being
called lazy when he was willing enough to work, but he made one more
"If you'll let me go to school this year, I'll work twice as hard out
of school to make up for it—indeed, I will. Do let me go, Aunt
Harriet. I haven't been to school a day for over a year."
"Let's hear no more of this nonsense," said Mrs. Elwell, taking a
bottle from the shelf above her with the air of one who closes a
discussion. "Here, run down to the Bridge and get me this bottle full
of vinegar at Jacob's store. Be smart, too, d'ye hear! I ain't going
to have you idling around the Bridge neither. If you ain't back in
twenty minutes, it won't be well for you."
Chester did his errand at the Bridge with a heart full of bitter
disappointment and anger.
"I won't stand it any longer!" he muttered. "I'll run away—I don't
care where, so long as it's away from her. I wish I could get out West
on the harvest excursions."
On his return home, as he crossed the yard in the dusk, he stumbled
over a stick of wood and fell. The bottle of vinegar slipped from his
hand and was broken on the doorstep. Mrs. Elwell saw the accident from
the window. She rushed out and jerked the unlucky lad to his feet.
"Take that, you sulky little cub!" she exclaimed, cuffing his ears
soundly. "I'll teach you to break and spill things you're sent for!
You did it on purpose. Get off to bed with you this instant."
Chester crept off to his garret chamber with a very sullen face. He
was too used to being sent to bed without any supper to care much for
that, although he was hungry. But his whole being was in a tumult of
rebellion over the injustice that was meted out to him.
"I won't stand it!" he muttered over and over again. "I'll run away. I
won't stay here."
To talk of running away was one thing. To do it without a cent in your
pocket or a place to run to was another. But Chester had a great deal
of determination in his make-up when it was fairly roused, and his
hard upbringing had made him older and shrewder than his years. He lay
awake late that night, thinking out ways and means, but could arrive
at no satisfactory conclusion.
The next day Mrs. Elwell said, "Ches, Abner Stearns wants you to go up
there for a fortnight while Tom Bixby is away, and drive the milk
wagon of mornings and do the chores for Mrs. Stearns. You might as
well put in the time 'fore harvest that way as any other. So hustle
off—and mind you behave yourself."
Chester heard the news gladly. He had not yet devised any feasible
plan for running away, and he always liked to work at the Stearns'
place. To be sure, Mrs. Elwell received all the money he earned, but
Mrs. Stearns was kind to him, and though he had to work hard and
constantly, he was well fed and well treated by all.
The following fortnight was a comparatively happy one for the lad.
But he did not forget his purpose of shaking the dust of Upton from
his feet as soon as possible, and he cudgelled his brains trying to
find a way.
On the evening when he left the Stearns' homestead, Mr. Stearns paid
him for his fortnight's work, much to the boy's surprise, for Mrs.
Elwell had always insisted that all such money should be paid directly
to her. Chester found himself the possessor of four dollars—an amount
of riches that almost took away his breath. He had never in his whole
life owned more than ten cents at a time. As he tramped along the road
home, he kept his hand in his pocket, holding fast to the money, as if
he feared it would otherwise dissolve into thin air.
His mind was firmly made up. He would run away once and for all. This
money was rightly his; he had earned every cent of it. It would surely
last him until he found employment elsewhere. At any rate, he would
go; and even if he starved, he would never come back to Aunt
When he reached home, he found Mrs. Elwell in an unusual state of
worry. Lige had given warning—and this on the verge of harvest!
"Did Stearns say anything about coming down tomorrow to pay me for
your work?" she asked.
"No, ma'am. He didn't say a word about it," said Chester boldly.
"Well, I hope he will. Take yourself off to bed, Ches. I'm sick of
seeing you standing there, on one foot or t'other, like a gander."
Chester had been shifting about uneasily. He realized that, if his
project did not miscarry, he would not see his aunt again, and his
heart softened to her. Harsh as she was, she was the only protector he
had ever known, and the boy had a vague wish to carry away with him
some kindly word or look from her. Such, however, was not
forthcoming, and Chester obeyed her command and took himself off to
the garret. Here he sat down and reflected on his plans.
He must go that very night. When Mr. Stearns failed to appear on the
morrow, Mrs. Elwell was quite likely to march up and demand the amount
of Chester's wages. It would all come out then, and he would lose his
money—besides, no doubt, getting severely punished into the bargain.
His preparations did not take long. He had nothing to carry with him.
The only decent suit of clothes he possessed was his well-worn Sunday
one. This he put on, carefully stowing away in his pocket the precious
He had to wait until he thought his aunt was asleep, and it was about
eleven when he crept downstairs, his heart quaking within him, and got
out by the porch window. When he found himself alone in the clear
moonlight of the August night, a sense of elation filled his cramped
little heart. He was free, and he would never come back here—never!
"Wisht I could have seen Henry to say good-by to him, though," he
muttered with a wistful glance at the big house across the pond where
the unconscious Henry was sleeping soundly with never a thought of
moonlight flittings for anyone in his curly head.
Chester meant to walk to Roxbury Station ten miles away. Nobody knew
him there, and he could catch the morning train. Late as it was, he
kept to fields and wood-roads lest he might be seen and recognized. It
was three o'clock when he reached Roxbury, and he knew the train did
not pass through until six. With the serenity of a philosopher who is
starting out to win his way in the world and means to make the best of
things, Chester curled himself up in the hollow space of a big lumber
pile behind the station, and so tired was he that he fell soundly
asleep in a few minutes.
Chester was awakened by the shriek of the express at the last crossing
before the station. In a panic of haste he scrambled out of his lumber
and dashed into the station house, where a sleepy, ill-natured agent
stood behind the ticket window. He looked sharply enough at the
freckled, square-jawed boy who asked for a second-class ticket to
Belltown. Chester's heart quaked within him at the momentary thought
that the ticket agent recognized him. He had an agonized vision of
being collared without ceremony and haled straightway back to Aunt
Harriet. When the ticket and his change were pushed out to him, he
snatched them and fairly ran.
"Bolted as if the police were after him," reflected the agent, who did
not sell many tickets and so had time to take a personal interest in
the purchasers thereof. "I've seen that youngster before, though I
can't recollect where. He's got a most fearful determined look."
Chester drew an audible sigh of relief when the train left the
station. He was fairly off now and felt that he could defy even
curious railway officials.
It was not his first train ride, for Mrs. Elwell had once taken him to
Belltown to get an aching tooth extracted, but it was certainly his
first under such exhilarating circumstances, and he meant to enjoy it.
To be sure, he was very hungry, but that, he reflected, was only what
he would probably be many times before he made his fortune, and it was
just as well to get used to it. Meanwhile, it behooved him to keep his
eyes open. On the road from Roxbury to Belltown there was not much to
be seen that morning that Chester did not see.
The train reached Belltown about noon. He did not mean to stop long
there—it was too near Upton. From the conductor on the train, he
found that a boat left Belltown for Montrose at two in the afternoon.
Montrose was a hundred miles from Upton, and Chester thought he would
be safe there. To Montrose, accordingly, he decided to go, but the
first thing was to get some dinner. He went into a grocery store and
bought some crackers and a bit of cheese. He had somewhere picked up
the idea that crackers and cheese were about as economical food as you
could find for adventurous youths starting out on small capital.
He found his way to the only public square Belltown boasted, and
munched his food hungrily on a bench under the trees. He would go to
Montrose and there find something to do. Later on he would gradually
work his way out West, where there was more room for an ambitious
small boy to expand and grow. Chester dreamed some dazzling dreams as
he sat there on the bench under the Belltown chestnuts. Passers-by, if
they noticed him at all, saw merely a rather small, poorly clad boy,
with a great many freckles, a square jaw and shrewd, level-gazing grey
eyes. But this same lad was mapping out a very brilliant future for
himself as people passed him heedlessly by. He would get out West,
somehow or other, some time or other, and make a fortune. Then,
perhaps, he would go back to Upton for a visit and shine in his
splendour before all his old neighbours. It all seemed very easy and
alluring, sitting there in the quiet little Belltown square. Chester,
you see, possessed imagination. That, together with the crackers and
cheese, so cheered him up that he felt ready for anything. He was
aroused from a dream of passing Aunt Harriet by in lofty scorn and a
glittering carriage, by the shrill whistle of the boat. Chester
pocketed his remaining crackers and cheese and his visions also, and
was once more his alert, wide-awake self. He had inquired the way to
the wharf from the grocer, so he found no difficulty in reaching it.
When the boat steamed down the muddy little river, Chester was on
board of her.
He was glad to be out of Belltown, for he was anything but sure that
he would not encounter some Upton people as long as he was in it. They
often went to Belltown on business, but never to Montrose.
There were not many passengers on the boat, and Chester scrutinized
them all so sharply in turn that he could have sworn to each and every
one of them for years afterwards had it been necessary. The one he
liked best was a middle-aged lady who sat just before him on the
opposite side of the deck She was plump and motherly looking, with a
fresh, rosy face and beaming blue eyes.
"If I was looking for anyone to adopt me I'd pick her," said Chester
to himself. The more he looked at her, the better he liked her. He
labelled her in his mind as "the nice, rosy lady."
The nice, rosy lady noticed Chester staring at her after awhile. She
smiled promptly at him—a smile that seemed fairly to irradiate her
round face—and then began fumbling in an old-fashioned reticule she
carried, and from which she presently extracted a chubby little paper
"If you like candy, little boy," she said to Chester, "here is some of
my sugar taffy for you."
Chester did not exactly like being called a little boy. But her voice
and smile were irresistible and won his heart straightway. He took the
candy with a shy, "Thank you, ma'am," and sat holding it in his hand.
"Eat it," commanded the rosy lady authoritatively. "That is what taffy
is for, you know."
So Chester ate it. It was the most delicious thing he had ever tasted
in his life, and filled a void which even the crackers and cheese had
left vacant. The rosy lady watched every mouthful he ate as if she
enjoyed it more than he did. When he had finished the taffy she smiled
one of her sociable smiles again and said, "Well, what do you think of
"It's the nicest taffy I ever ate," answered Chester enthusiastically,
as if he were a connoisseur in all kinds of taffies. The rosy lady
nodded, well pleased.
"That is just what everyone says about my sugar taffy. Nobody up our
way can match it, though goodness knows they try hard enough. My
great-grandmother invented the recipe herself, and it has been in our
family ever since. I'm real glad you liked it."
She smiled at him again, as if his appreciation of her taffy was a
bond of good fellowship between them. She did not know it but,
nevertheless, she was filling the heart of a desperate small boy, who
had run away from home, with hope and encouragement and self-reliance.
If there were such kind folks as this in the world, why, he would get
along all right. The rosy lady's smiles and taffy—the smiles much
more than the taffy—went far to thaw out of him a certain hardness
and resentfulness against people in general that Aunt Harriet's harsh
treatment had instilled into him. Chester instantly made a resolve
that when he grew stout and rosy and prosperous he would dispense
smiles and taffy and good cheer generally to all forlorn small boys on
boats and trains.
It was almost dark when they reached Montrose. Chester lost sight of
the rosy lady when they left the boat, and it gave him a lonesome
feeling; but he could not indulge in that for long at a time. Here he
was at his destination—at dark, in a strange city a hundred miles
"The first thing is to find somewhere to sleep," he said to himself,
resolutely declining to feel frightened, although the temptation was
Montrose was not really a very big place. It was only a bustling
little town of some twenty thousand inhabitants, but to Chester's eyes
it was a vast metropolis. He had never been in any place bigger than
Belltown, and in Belltown you could see one end of it, at least, no
matter where you were. Montrose seemed endless to Chester as he stood
at the head of Water Street and gazed in bewilderment along one of its
main business avenues—a big, glittering, whirling place where one
small boy could so easily be swallowed up that he would never be heard
Chester, after paying his fare to Montrose and buying his cheese and
crackers, had just sixty cents left. This must last him until he found
work, so that the luxury of lodgings was out of the question, even if
he had known where to look for them. To be sure, there were benches in
a public square right in front of him; but Chester was afraid that if
he curled up on one of them for the night, a policeman might question
him, and he did not believe he could give a very satisfactory account
of himself. In his perplexity, he thought of his cosy lumber pile at
Roxbury Station and remembered that when he had left the boat he had
noticed a large vacant lot near the wharf which was filled with piles
of lumber. Back to this he went and soon succeeded in finding a place
to stow himself. His last waking thought was that he must be up and
doing bright and early the next morning, and that it must surely be
longer than twenty-four hours since he had crept downstairs and out of
Aunt Harriet's porch window at Upton.
Montrose seemed less alarming by daylight, which was not so
bewildering as the blinking electric lights. Chester was up betimes,
ate the last of his cheese and crackers and started out at once to
look for work. He determined to be thorough, and he went straight into
every place of business he came to, from a blacksmith's forge to a
department store, and boldly asked the first person he met if they
wanted a boy there. There was, however, one class of places Chester
shunned determinedly. He never went into a liquor saloon. The last
winter he had been allowed to go to school in Upton, his teacher had
been a pale, patient little woman who hated the liquor traffic with
all her heart. She herself had suffered bitterly through it, and she
instilled into her pupils a thorough aversion to it. Chester would
have chosen death by starvation before he would have sought for
employment in a liquor saloon. But there certainly did not seem room
for him anywhere else. Nobody wanted a boy. The answer to his question
was invariably "No." As the day wore on, Chester's hopes and courage
went down to zero, but he still tramped doggedly about. He would be
thorough, at least. Surely somewhere in this big place, where everyone
seemed so busy, there must be something for him to do.
Once there seemed a chance of success. He had gone into a big
provision store and asked the clerk behind the counter if they wanted
"Well, we do," said the clerk, looking him over critically, "but I
hardly think you'll fill the bill. However, come in and see the boss."
He took Chester into a dark, grimy little inner office where a fat,
stubby man was sitting before a desk with his feet upon it.
"Hey? What!" he said when the clerk explained. "Looking for the place?
Why, sonny, you're not half big enough."
"Oh, I'm a great deal bigger than I look," cried Chester breathlessly.
"That is, sir—I mean I'm ever so much stronger than I look. I'll work
hard, sir, ever so hard—and I'll grow."
The fat, stubby man roared with laughter. What was grim earnest to
poor Chester was a joke to him.
"No doubt you will, my boy," he said genially, "but I'm afraid you'll
hardly grow fast enough to suit us. Boys aren't like pigweed, you
know. No, no, our boy must be a big, strapping fellow of eighteen or
nineteen. He'll have a deal of heavy lifting to do."
Chester went out of the store with a queer choking in his throat. For
one horrible moment he thought he was going to cry—he, Chester
Stephens, who had run away from home to do splendid things! A nice
ending that would be to his fine dreams! He thrust his hands into his
pockets and strode along the street, biting his lips fiercely. He
would not cry—no, he would not! And he would find work!
Chester did not cry, but neither, alas, did he find work. He parted
with ten cents of his precious hoard for more crackers, and he spend
the night again in the lumber yard.
Perhaps I'll have better luck tomorrow, he thought hopefully.
But it really seemed as if there were to be no luck for Chester except
bad luck. Day after day passed and, although he tramped resolutely
from street to street and visited every place that seemed to offer any
chance, he could get no employment. In spite of his pluck, his heart
began to fail him.
At the end of a week Chester woke up among his lumber to a realization
that he was at the end of his resources. He had just five cents left
out of the four dollars that were to have been the key to his fortune.
He sat gloomily on the wall of his sleeping apartment and munched the
one solitary cracker he had left. It must carry him through the day
unless he got work. The five cents must be kept for some dire
He started uptown rather aimlessly. In his week's wanderings he had
come to know the city very well and no longer felt confused with its
size and bustle. He envied every busy boy he saw. Back in Upton he had
sometimes resented the fact that he was kept working continually and
was seldom allowed an hour off. Now he was burdened with spare time.
It certainly did not seem as if things were fairly divided, he
thought. And then he thought no more just then, for one of the queer
spells in his head came on. He had experienced them at intervals
during the last three days. Something seemed to break loose in his
head and spin wildly round and round, while houses and people and
trees danced and wobbled all about him. Chester vaguely wondered if
this could be what Aunt Harriet had been wont to call a "judgement."
But then, he had done nothing very bad—nothing that would warrant a
judgement, he thought. It was surely no harm to run away from a place
where you were treated so bad and where they did not seem to want you.
Chester felt bitter whenever he thought of Aunt Harriet.
Presently he found himself in the market square of Montrose. It was
market day, and the place was thronged with people from the
surrounding country settlements. Chester had hoped that he might pick
up a few cents, holding a horse or cow for somebody or carrying a
market basket, but no such chance offered itself. He climbed up on
some bales of pressed hay in one corner and sat there moodily; there
was dejection in the very dangle of his legs over the bales. Chester,
you see, was discovering what many a boy before him has
discovered—that it is a good deal easier to sit down and make a
fortune in dreams than it is to go out into the world and make it.
Two men were talking to each other near him. At first Chester gave no
heed to their conversation, but presently a sentence made him prick up
"Yes, there's a pretty fair crop out at Hopedale," one man was saying,
"but whether it's going to be got in in good shape is another matter.
It's terrible hard to get any help. Every spare man-jack far and wide
has gone West on them everlasting harvest excursions. Salome Whitney
at the Mount Hope Farm is in a predicament. She's got a hired man, but
he can't harvest grain all by himself. She spent the whole of
yesterday driving around, trying to get a couple of men or boys to
help him, but I dunno if she got anyone or not."
The men moved out of earshot at this juncture, but Chester got down
from the bales with a determined look. If workers were wanted in
Hopedale, that was the place for him. He had done a man's work at
harvest time in Upton the year before. Lige Barton had said so
himself. Hope and courage returned with a rush.
He accosted the first man he met and asked if he could tell him the
way to Hopedale.
"Reckon I can, sonny. I live in the next district. Want to go there?
If you wait till evening, I can give you a lift part of the way. It's
five miles out."
"Thank you, sir," said Chester firmly, "but I must go at once if
you'll kindly direct me. It's important."
"Well, it's a straight road. That's Albemarle Street down
there—follow it till it takes you out to the country, and then keep
straight on till you come to a church painted yellow and white. Turn
to your right, and over the hill is Hopedale. But you'd better wait
for me. You don't look fit to walk five miles."
But Chester was off. Walk five miles! Pooh! He could walk twenty with
hope to lure him on. Albemarle Street finally frayed off into a real
country road. Chester was glad to find himself out in the country once
more, with the great golden fields basking on either side and the
wooded hills beyond, purple with haze. He had grown to hate the town
with its cold, unheeding faces. It was good to breathe clear air again
and feel the soft, springy soil of the ferny roadside under his tired
Long before the five miles were covered, Chester began to wonder if he
would hold out to the end of them. He had to stop and rest frequently,
when those queer dizzy spells came on. His feet seemed like lead. But
he kept doggedly on. He would not give in now! The white and yellow
church was the most welcome sight that had ever met his eyes.
Over the hill he met a man and inquired the way to Mount Hope Farm.
Fortunately, it was nearby. At the gate Chester had to stop again to
recover from his dizziness.
He liked the look of the place, with its great, comfortable barns and
quaint, roomy old farmhouse, all set down in a trim quadrangle of
beeches and orchards. There was an appearance of peace and prosperity
If only Miss Salome Whitney will hire me! thought Chester wistfully,
as he crept up the slope. I'm afraid she'll say I'm too small. Wisht I
could stretch three inches all at once. Wisht I wasn't so dizzy.
What Chester's third wish was will never be known, for just as he
reached the kitchen door the worst dizzy spell of all came on. Trees,
barns, well-sweep, all whirled around him with the speed of wind. He
reeled and fell, a limp, helpless little body, on Miss Salome
Whitney's broad, spotless sandstone doorstep.
In the Mount Hope kitchen Miss Salome was at that moment deep in
discussion with her "help" over the weighty question of how the
damsons were to be preserved. Miss Salome wanted them boiled;
Clemantiny Bosworth, the help, insisted that they ought to be baked.
Clemantiny was always very positive. She had "bossed" Miss Salome for
years, and both knew that in the end the damsons would be baked, but
the argument had to be carried out for dignity's sake.
"They're so sour when they're baked," protested Miss Salome.
"Well, you don't want damsons sweet, do you?" retorted Clemantiny
scornfully. "That's the beauty of damsons—their tartness. And they
keep ever so much better baked, Salome—you know they do. My
grandmother always baked hers, and they would keep for three years."
Miss Salome knew that when Clemantiny dragged her grandmother into the
question, it was time to surrender. Beyond that, dignity degenerated
into stubbornness. It would be useless to say that she did not want to
keep her damsons for three years, and that she was content to eat them
up and trust to Providence for the next year's supply.
"Well, well, bake them then," she said placidly. "I don't suppose it
makes much difference one way or another. Only, I insist—what was
that noise, Clemantiny? It sounded like something falling against the
"It's that worthless dog of Martin's, I suppose," said Clemantiny,
grasping a broom handle with a grimness that boded ill for the dog.
"Mussing up my clean doorstep with his dirty paws again. I'll fix
Clemantiny swept out through the porch and jerked open the door. There
was a moment's silence. Then Miss Salome heard her say, "For the
land's sake! Salome Whitney, come here."
What Miss Salome saw when she hurried out was a white-faced boy
stretched on the doorstep at Clemantiny's feet.
"Is he dead?" she gasped.
"Dead? No," sniffed Clemantiny. "He's fainted, that's what he is.
Where on earth did he come from? He ain't a Hopedale boy."
"He must be carried right in," exclaimed Miss Salome in distress.
"Why, he may die there. He must be very ill."
"Looks more to me as if he had fainted from sheer starvation,"
returned Clemantiny brusquely as she picked him up in her lean,
muscular arms. "Why, he's skin and bone. He ain't hardly heavier than
a baby. Well, this is a mysterious piece of work. Where'll I put him?"
"Lay him on the sofa," said Miss Salome as soon as she had recovered
from the horror into which Clemantiny's starvation dictum had thrown
her. A child starving to death on her doorstep! "What do you do for
people in a faint, Clemantiny?"
"Wet their face—and hist up their feet—and loosen their collar,"
said Clemantiny in a succession of jerks, doing each thing as she
mentioned it. "And hold ammonia to their nose. Run for the ammonia,
Salome. Look, will you? Skin and bone!"
But Miss Salome had gone for the ammonia. There was a look on the
boy's thin, pallid face that tugged painfully at her heart-strings.
When Chester came back to consciousness with the pungency of the
ammonia reeking through his head, he found himself lying on very soft
pillows in a very big white sunny kitchen, where everything was
scoured to a brightness that dazzled you. Bending over him was a tall,
gaunt woman with a thin, determined face and snapping black eyes, and,
standing beside her with a steaming bowl in her hand, was the nice
rosy lady who had given him the taffy on the boat!
When he opened his eyes, Miss Salome knew him.
"Why, it's the little boy I saw on the boat!" she exclaimed.
"Well, you've come to!" said Clemantiny, eyeing Chester severely. "And
now perhaps you'll explain what you mean by fainting away on doorsteps
and scaring people out of their senses."
Chester thought that this must be the mistress of Mount Hope Farm, and
hastened to propitiate her.
"I'm sorry," he faltered feebly. "I didn't mean to—I—"
"You're not to do any talking until you've had something to eat,"
snapped Clemantiny inconsistently. "Here, open your mouth and take
this broth. Pretty doings, I say!"
Clemantiny spoke as sharply as Aunt Harriet had ever done, but somehow
or other Chester did not feel afraid of her and her black eyes. She
sat down by his side and fed him from the bowl of hot broth with a
deft gentleness oddly in contrast with her grim expression.
Chester thought he had never in all his life tasted anything so good
as that broth. The boy was really almost starved. He drank every drop
of it. Clemantiny gave a grunt of satisfaction as she handed the empty
bowl and spoon to the silent, smiling Miss Salome.
"Now, who are you and what do you want?" she said.
Chester had been expecting this question, and while coming along the
Hopedale road he had thought out an answer to it. He began now,
speaking the words slowly and gaspingly, as if reciting a hastily
"My name is Chester Benson. I belong to Upton up the country. My folks
are dead and I came to Montrose to look for work, I've been there a
week and couldn't get anything to do. I heard a man say that you
wanted men to help in the harvest, so I came out to see if you'd hire
In spite of his weakness, Chester's face turned very red before he got
to the end of his speech. He was new to deception. To be sure, there
was not, strictly speaking, an untrue word in it. As for his name, it
was Chester Benson Stephens. But for all that, Chester could not have
felt or looked more guilty if he had been telling an out-and-out
falsehood at every breath.
"Humph!" said Clemantiny in a dissatisfied tone. "What on earth do you
suppose a midget like you can do in the harvest field? And we don't
want any more help, anyway. We've got enough."
Chester grew sick with disappointment. But at this moment Miss Salome
"No, we haven't, Clemantiny. We want another hand, and I'll hire you,
Chester—that's your name, isn't it? I'll give you good wages, too."
"Now, Salome!" protested Clemantiny.
But Miss Salome only said, "I've made up my mind, Clemantiny."
Clemantiny knew that when Miss Salome did make up her mind and
announced it in that very quiet, very unmistakable tone, she was
mistress of the situation and intended to remain so.
"Oh, very well," she retorted. "You'll please yourself, Salome, of
course. I think it would be wiser to wait until you found out a little
more about him."
"And have him starving on people's doorsteps in the meantime?"
questioned Miss Salome severely.
"Well," returned Clemantiny with the air of one who washes her hands
of a doubtful proposition, "don't blame me if you repent of it."
By this time Chester had grasped the wonderful fact that his troubles
were ended—for a while, at least. He raised himself up on one arm and
looked gratefully at Miss Salome.
"Thank you," he said. "I'll work hard. I'm used to doing a lot."
"There, there!" said Miss Salome, patting his shoulder gently. "Lie
down and rest. Dinner will be ready soon, and I guess you'll be ready
To Clemantiny she added in a low, gentle tone, "There's a look on his
face that reminded me of Johnny. It came out so strong when he sat up
just now that it made me feel like crying. Don't you notice it,
"Can't say that I do," replied that energetic person, who was flying
about the kitchen with a speed that made Chester's head dizzy trying
to follow her with his eyes. "All I can see is freckles and bones—but
if you're satisfied, I am. For law's sake, don't fluster me, Salome.
There's a hundred and one things to be done out of hand. This frolic
has clean dundered the whole forenoon's work."
After dinner Chester decided that it was time to make himself useful.
"Can't I go right to work now?" he asked.
"We don't begin harvest till tomorrow," said Miss Salome. "You'd
better rest this afternoon."
"Oh, I'm all right now," insisted Chester. "I feel fine. Please give
me something to do."
"You can go out and cut me some wood for my afternoon's baking," said
Clemantiny. "And see you cut it short enough. Any other boy that's
tried always gets it about two inches too long."
When he had gone out, she said scornfully to Miss Salome, "Well, what
do you expect that size to accomplish in a harvest field, Salome
"Not very much, perhaps," said Miss Salome mildly. "But what could I
do? You wouldn't have me turn the child adrift on the world again,
would you, Clemantiny?"
Clemantiny did not choose to answer this appeal. She rattled her
dishes noisily into the dishpan.
"Well, where are you going to put him to sleep?" she demanded. "The
hands you've got will fill the kitchen chamber. There's only the spare
room left. You'll hardly put him there, I suppose? Your philanthropy
will hardly lead you as far as that."
When Clemantiny employed big words and sarcasm at the same time, the
effect was tremendous. But Miss Salome didn't wilt.
"What makes you so prejudiced against him?" she asked curiously.
"I'm not prejudiced against him. But that story about himself didn't
ring true. I worked in Upton years ago, and there weren't any Bensons
there then. There's more behind that he hasn't told. I'd find out what
it was before I took him into my house, that's all. But I'm not
"Well, well," said Miss Salome soothingly, "we must do the best we can
for him. It's a sort of duty. And as for a room for him—why, I'll put
him in Johnny's."
Clemantiny opened her mouth and shut it again. She understood that it
would be a waste of breath to say anything more. If Miss Salome had
made up her mind to put this freckled, determined-looking waif,
dropped on her doorstep from heaven knew where, into Johnny's room,
that was an end of the matter.
"But I'll not be surprised at anything after this," she muttered as
she carried her dishes into the pantry. "First a skinny little urchin
goes and faints on her doorstep. Then she hires him and puts him in
Johnny's room. Johnny's room! Salome Whitney, what do you mean?"
Perhaps Miss Salome hardly knew what she meant. But somehow her heart
went out warmly to this boy. In spite of Clemantiny's sniffs, she held
to the opinion that he looked like Johnny. Johnny was a little nephew
of hers. She had taken him to bring up when his parents died, and she
had loved him very dearly. He had died four years ago, and since that
time the little front room over the front porch had never been
occupied. It was just as Johnny had left it. Beyond keeping it
scrupulously clean, Miss Salome never allowed it to be disturbed. And
now a somewhat ragged lad from nowhere was to be put into it! No
wonder Clemantiny shook her head when Miss Salome went up to air it.
Even Clemantiny had to admit that Chester was willing to work. He
split wood until she called him to stop. Then he carried in the
wood-box full, and piled it so neatly that even the grim handmaiden
was pleased. After that, she sent him to the garden to pick the early
beans. In the evening he milked three cows and did all the chores,
falling into the ways of the place with a deft adaptability that went
far to soften Clemantiny's heart.
"He's been taught to work somewheres," she admitted grudgingly, "and
he's real polite and respectful. But he looks too cute by half. And
his name isn't Benson any more than mine. When I called him 'Chester
Benson' out there in the cow-yard, he stared at me fer half a minute
'sif I'd called him Nebuchadnezzar."
When bedtime came, Miss Salome took Chester up to a room whose
whiteness and daintiness quite took away the breath of a lad who had
been used to sleeping in garrets or hired men's kitchen chambers all
his life. Later on Miss Salome came in to see if he was comfortable,
and stood, with her candle in her hand, looking down very kindly at
the thin, shrewd little face on the pillow.
"I hope you'll sleep real well here, Chester," she said. "I had a
little boy once who used to sleep here. You—you look like him. Good
She bent over him and kissed his forehead. Chester had never been
kissed by anyone before, so far as he could remember. Something came
up in his throat that felt about as big as a pumpkin. At the same
moment he wished he could have told Miss Salome the whole truth about
himself. I might tell her in the morning, he thought, as he watched
her figure passing out of the little porch chamber.
But on second thought he decided that this would never do. He felt
sure she would disapprove of his running away, and would probably
insist upon his going straight back to Upton or, at least, informing
Aunt Harriet of his whereabouts. No, he could not tell her.
Clemantiny was an early riser, but when she came into the kitchen the
next morning the fire was already made and Chester was out in the yard
with three of the five cows milked.
"Humph!" said Clemantiny amiably. "New brooms sweep clean."
But she gave him cream with his porridge that morning. Generally, all
Miss Salome's hired hands got from Clemantiny was skim milk.
Miss Salome's regular hired man lived in a little house down in the
hollow. He soon turned up, and the other two men she had hired for
harvest also arrived. Martin, the man, looked Chester over
"What do you think you can do, sonny?"
"Anything," said Chester sturdily. "I'm used to work."
"He's right," whispered Clemantiny aside. "He's smart as a steel trap.
But just you keep an eye on him all the same, Martin."
Chester soon proved his mettle in the harvest field. In the brisk
three weeks that followed, even Clemantiny had to admit that he earned
every cent of his wages. His active feet were untiring and his wiry
arms could pitch and stock with the best. When the day's work was
ended, he brought in wood and water for Clemantiny, helped milk the
cows, gathered the eggs, and made on his own responsibility a round
of barns and outhouses to make sure that everything was snug and tight
for the night.
"Freckles-and-Bones has been well trained somewhere," said Clemantiny
It was hardly fair to put the bones in now, for Chester was growing
plump and hearty. He had never been so happy in his life. Upton
drudgery and that dreadful week in Montrose seemed like a bad dream.
Here, in the golden meadows of Mount Hope Farm, he worked with a right
good will. The men liked him, and he soon became a favourite with
them. Even Clemantiny relented somewhat. To be sure, she continued
very grim, and still threw her words at him as if they were so many
missiles warranted to strike home. But Chester soon learned that
Clemantiny's bark was worse than her bite. She was really very good to
him and fed him lavishly. But she declared that this was only to put
some flesh on him.
"It offends me to see bones sticking through anybody's skin like that.
We aren't used to such objects at Mount Hope Farm, thank goodness.
Yes, you may smile, Salome. I like him well enough, and I'll admit
that he knows how to make himself useful, but I don't trust him any
more than ever I did. He's mighty close about his past life. You can't
get any more out of him than juice out of a post. I've tried, and I
But it was Miss Salome who had won Chester's whole heart. He had never
loved anybody in his hard little life before. He loved her with an
almost dog-like devotion. He forgot that he was working to earn
money—and make his fortune. He worked to please Miss Salome. She was
good and kind and gentle to him, and his starved heart thawed and
expanded in the sunshine of her atmosphere. She went to the little
porch room every night to kiss him good night. Chester would have been
bitterly disappointed if she had failed to go.
She was greatly shocked to find out that he had never said his prayers
before going to bed. She insisted on teaching him the simple little
one she had used herself when a child. When Chester found that it
would please her, he said it every night. There was nothing he would
not have done for Miss Salome.
She talked a good deal to him about Johnny and she gave him the
jack-knife that Johnny had owned.
"It belonged to a good, manly little boy once," she said, "and now I
hope it belongs to another such."
"I ain't very good," said Chester repentantly, "but I'll try to be,
Miss Salome—honest, I will."
One day he heard Miss Salome speaking of someone who had run away from
home. "A wicked, ungrateful boy," she called him. Chester blushed
until his freckles were drowned out in a sea of red, and Clemantiny
saw it, of course. When did anything ever escape those merciless black
eyes of Clemantiny's?
"Do you think it's always wrong for a fellow to run away, Miss
Salome?" he faltered.
"It can't ever be right," said Miss Salome decidedly.
"But if he wasn't treated well—and was jawed at—and not let go to
school?" pleaded Chester.
Clemantiny gave Miss Salome a look as of one who would say, You're
bat-blind if you can't read between the lines of that; but Miss Salome
was placidly unconscious. She was not really thinking of the subject
at all, and did not guess that Chester meant anything more than
"Not even then," she said firmly. "Nothing can justify a boy for
running away—especially as Jarvis Colemen did—never even left a word
behind him to say where he'd gone. His aunt thought he'd fallen into
"Don't suppose she would have grieved much if he had," said Clemantiny
sarcastically, all the while watching Chester, until he felt as if
she were boring into his very soul and reading all his past life.
When the harvest season drew to a close, dismay crept into the soul of
our hero. Where would he go now? He hated to think of leaving Mount
Hope Farm and Miss Salome. He would have been content to stay there
and work as hard as he had ever worked at Upton, merely for the roof
over his head and the food he ate. The making of a fortune seemed a
small thing compared to the privilege of being near Miss Salome.
"But I suppose I must just up and go," he muttered dolefully.
One day Miss Salome had a conference with Clemantiny. At the end of it
the latter said, "Do as you please," in the tone she might have used
to a spoiled child. "But if you'd take my advice—which you won't and
never do—you'd write to somebody in Upton and make inquiries about
him first. What he says is all very well and he sticks to it
marvellous, and there's no tripping him up. But there's something
behind, Salome Whitney—mark my words, there's something behind."
"He looks so like Johnny," said Miss Salome wistfully.
"And I suppose you think that covers a multitude of sins," said
On the day when the last load of rustling golden sheaves was carried
into the big barn and stowed away in the dusty loft, Miss Salome
called Chester into the kitchen. Chester's heart sank as he obeyed the
His time was up, and now he was to be paid his wages and sent away. To
be sure, Martin had told him that morning that a man in East Hopedale
wanted a boy for a spell, and that he, Martin, would see that he got
the place if he wanted it. But that did not reconcile him to leaving
Mount Hope Farm.
Miss Salome was sitting in her favourite sunny corner of the kitchen
and Clemantiny was flying around with double briskness. The latter's
thin lips were tightly set and disapproval was writ large in every
flutter of her calico skirts.
"Chester," said Miss Salome kindly, "your time is up today."
Chester nodded. For a moment he felt as he had felt when he left the
provision store in Montrose. But he would not let Clemantiny see him
cry. Somehow, he would not have minded Miss Salome.
"What are you thinking of doing now?" Miss Salome went on.
"There's a man at East Hopedale wants a boy," said Chester, "and
Martin says he thinks I'll suit."
"That is Jonas Smallman," said Miss Salome thoughtfully. "He has the
name of being a hard master. It isn't right of me to say so, perhaps.
I really don't know much about him. But wouldn't you rather stay here
with me for the winter, Chester?"
"Ma'am? Miss Salome?" stammered Chester. He heard Clemantiny give a
snort behind him and mutter, "Clean infatuated—clean infatuated,"
without in the least knowing what she meant.
"We really need a chore boy all the year round," said Miss Salome.
"Martin has all he can do with the heavy work. And there are the
apples to be picked. If you care to stay, you shall have your board
and clothes for doing the odd jobs, and you can go to school all
winter. In the spring we will see what need be done then."
If he would care to stay! Chester could have laughed aloud. His eyes
were shining with joy as he replied, "Oh, Miss Salome, I'll be so glad
to stay! I—I—didn't want to go away. I'll try to do everything you
want me to do. I'll work ever so hard."
This, of course, was from Clemantiny, as she set a pan of apples on
the stove with an emphatic thud. "Nobody ever doubted your willingness
to work. Pity everything else about you isn't as satisfactory."
"Clemantiny!" said Miss Salome rebukingly. She put her arms about
Chester and drew him to her. "Then it is all settled, Chester. You are
my boy now, and of course I shall expect you to be a good boy."
If ever a boy was determined to be good, that boy was Chester. That
day was the beginning of a new life for him. He began to go to the
Hopedale school the next week. Miss Salome gave him all Johnny's old
school books and took an eager interest in his studies.
Chester ought to have been very happy, and at first he was; but as the
bright, mellow days of autumn passed by, a shadow came over his
happiness. He could not help thinking that he had really deceived Miss
Salome, and was deceiving her still—Miss Salome, who had such
confidence in him. He was not what he pretended to be. And as for his
running away, he felt sure that Miss Salome would view that with
horror. As the time passed by and he learned more and more what a high
standard of honour and truth she had, he felt more and more ashamed of
himself. When she looked at him with her clear, trustful, blue eyes,
Chester felt as guilty as if he had systematically deceived her with
intent to do harm. He began to wish that he had the courage to tell
her the whole truth about himself.
Moreover, he began to think that perhaps he had not done right, after
all, in running away from Aunt Harriet. In Miss Salome's code nothing
could be right that was underhanded, and Chester was very swiftly
coming to look at things through Miss Salome's eyes. He felt sure that
Johnny would never have acted as he had, and if Chester now had one
dear ambition on earth, it was to be as good and manly a fellow as
Johnny must have been. But he could never be that as long as he kept
the truth about himself from Miss Salome.
"That boy has got something on his mind," said the terrible
Clemantiny, who, Chester felt convinced, could see through a stone
"Nonsense! What could he have on his mind?" said Miss Salome. But she
said it a little anxiously. She, too, had noticed Chester's absent
ways and abstracted face.
"Goodness me, I don't know! I don't suppose he has robbed a bank or
murdered anybody. But he is worrying over something, as plain as
"He is getting on very well at school," said Miss Salome. "His teacher
says so, and he is very eager to learn. I don't know what can be
She was fated not to know for a fortnight longer. During that time
Chester fought out his struggle with himself, and conquered. He must
tell Miss Salome, he decided, with a long sigh. He knew that it would
mean going back to Upton and Aunt Harriet and the old, hard life, but
he would not sail under false colours any longer.
Chester went into the kitchen one afternoon when he came home from
school, with his lips set and his jaws even squarer than usual. Miss
Salome was making some of her famous taffy, and Clemantiny was
spinning yarn on the big wheel.
"Miss Salome," said Chester desperately, "if you're not too busy,
there is something I'd like to tell you."
"What is it?" asked Miss Salome good-humouredly, turning to him with
her spoon poised in midair over her granite saucepan.
"It's about myself. I—I—oh, Miss Salome, I didn't tell you the
truth about myself. I've got to tell it now. My name isn't
Benson—exactly—and I ran away from home."
"Dear me!" said Miss Salome mildly. She dropped her spoon, handle and
all, into the taffy and never noticed it. "Dear me, Chester!"
"I knew it," said Clemantiny triumphantly. "I knew it—and I always
said it. Run away, did you?"
"Yes'm. My name is Chester Benson Stephens, and I lived at Upton with
Aunt Harriet Elwell. But she ain't any relation to me, really. She's
only father's stepsister. She—she—wasn't kind to me and she wouldn't
let me go to school—so I ran away."
"But, dear me, Chester, didn't you know that was very wrong?" said
Miss Salome in bewilderment.
"No'm—I didn't know it then. I've been thinking lately that maybe it
was. I'm—I'm real sorry."
"What did you say your real name was?" demanded Clemantiny.
"And your mother's name before she was married?"
"Mary Morrow," said Chester, wondering what upon earth Clemantiny
Clemantiny turned to Miss Salome with an air of surrendering a dearly
"Well, ma'am, I guess you must be right about his looking like Johnny.
I must say I never could see the resemblance, but it may well be
there, for he—that very fellow there—and Johnny are first cousins.
Their mothers were sisters!"
"Clemantiny!" exclaimed Miss Salome.
"You may well say 'Clemantiny.' Such a coincidence! It doesn't make
you and him any relation, of course—the cousinship is on the mother's
side. But it's there. Mary Morrow was born and brought up in Hopedale.
She went to Upton when I did, and married Oliver Stephens there. Why,
I knew his father as well as I know you."
"This is wonderful," said Miss Salome. Then she added sorrowfully,
"But it doesn't make your running away right, Chester."
"Tell us all about it," demanded Clemantiny, sitting down on the
wood-box. "Sit down, boy, sit down—don't stand there looking as if
you were on trial for your life. Tell us all about it."
Thus adjured, Chester sat down and told them all about it—his
moonlight flitting and his adventures in Montrose. Miss Salome
exclaimed with horror over the fact of his sleeping in a pile of
lumber for seven nights, but Clemantiny listened in silence, never
taking her eyes from the boy's pale face. When Chester finished, she
"We've got it all now. There's nothing more behind, Salome. It would
have been better for you to have told as straight a story at first,
Chester knew that, but, having no reply to make, made none. Miss
Salome looked at him wistfully.
"But, with it all, you didn't do right to run away, Chester," she said
firmly. "I dare say your aunt was severe with you—but two wrongs
never make a right, you know."
"No'm," said Chester.
"You must go back to your aunt," continued Miss Salome sadly.
Chester nodded. He knew this, but he could not trust himself to speak.
Then did Clemantiny arise in her righteous indignation.
"Well, I never heard of such nonsense, Salome Whitney! What on earth
do you want to send him back for? I knew Harriet Elwell years ago, and
if she's still what she was then, it ain't much wonder Chester ran
away from her. I'd say 'run,' too. Go back, indeed! You keep him right
here, as you should, and let Harriet Elwell look somewhere else for
somebody to scold!"
"Clemantiny!" expostulated Miss Salome.
"Oh, I must and will speak my mind, Salome. There's no one else to
take Chester's part, it seems. You have as much claim on him as
Harriet Elwell has. She ain't any real relation to him any more than
Miss Salome looked troubled. Perhaps there was something in
Clemantiny's argument. And she hated to think of seeing Chester go. He
looked more like Johnny than ever, as he stood there with his flushed
face and wistful eyes.
"Chester," she said gravely, "I leave it to you to decide. If you
think you ought to go back to your aunt, well and good. If not, you
shall stay here."
This was the hardest yet. Chester wished she had not left the decision
to him. It was like cutting off his own hand. But he spoke up
"I—I think I ought to go back, Miss Salome, and I want to pay back
the money, too."
"I think so, too, Chester, although I'm sorry as sorry can be. I'll go
back to Upton with you. We'll start tomorrow. If, when we get there,
your aunt is willing to let you stay with me, you can come back."
"There's a big chance of that!" said Clemantiny sourly. "A woman's
likely to give up a boy like Chester—a good, steady worker and as
respectful and obliging as there is between this and sunset—very
likely, isn't she! Well, this taffy is all burnt to the saucepan and
clean ruined—but what's the odds! All I hope, Salome Whitney, is that
the next time you adopt a boy and let him twine himself 'round a
person's heart, you'll make sure first that you are going to stick to
it. I don't like having my affections torn up by the roots."
Clemantiny seized the saucepan and disappeared with it into the pantry
amid a whirl of pungent smoke.
Mount Hope Farm was a strangely dismal place that night. Miss Salome
sighed heavily and often as she made her preparations for the morrow's
Clemantiny stalked about with her grim face grimmer than ever. As for
Chester, when he went to bed that night in the little porch chamber,
he cried heartily into his pillows. He didn't care for pride any
longer; he just cried and didn't even pretend he wasn't crying when
Miss Salome came in to sit by him a little while and talk to him. That
talk comforted Chester. He realized that, come what might, he would
always have a good friend in Miss Salome—aye, and in Clemantiny, too.
Chester never knew it, but after he had fallen asleep, with the tears
still glistening on his brown cheeks, Clemantiny tiptoed silently in
with a candle in her hand and bent over him with an expression of
almost maternal tenderness on her face. It was late and an aroma of
boiling sugar hung about her. She had sat up long after Miss Salome
was abed, to boil another saucepan of taffy for Chester to eat on his
"Poor, dear child!" she said, softly touching one of his crisp curls.
"It's a shame in Salome to insist on his going back. She doesn't know
what she's sending him to, or she wouldn't. He didn't say much against
his aunt, and Salome thinks she was only just a little bit cranky. But
I could guess."
Early in the morning Miss Salome and Chester started. They were to
drive to Montrose, leave their team there and take the boat for
Belltown. Chester bade farewell to the porch chamber and the long,
white kitchen and the friendly barns with a full heart. When he
climbed into the wagon, Clemantiny put a big bagful of taffy into his
"Good-by, Chester," she said. "And remember, you've always got a
friend in me, anyhow."
Then Clemantiny went back into the kitchen and cried—good,
rough-spoken, tender-hearted Clemantiny sat down and cried.
It was an ideal day for travelling—crisp, clear and sunny—but
neither Chester nor Miss Salome was in a mood for enjoyment.
Back over Chester's runaway route they went, and reached Belltown on
the boat that evening.
They stayed in Belltown overnight and in the morning took the train to
Roxbury Station. Here Miss Salome hired a team from the storekeeper
and drove out to Upton.
Chester felt his heart sink as they drove into the Elwell yard. How
well he knew it!
Miss Salome tied her hired nag to the gatepost and took Chester by the
hand. They went to the door and knocked. It was opened with a jerk and
Mrs. Elwell stood before them. She had probably seen them from the
window, for she uttered no word of surprise at seeing Chester again.
Indeed, she said nothing at all, but only stood rigidly before them.
Dear me, what a disagreeable-looking woman! thought Miss Salome. But
she said courteously, "Are you Mrs. Elwell?"
"I am," said that lady forbiddingly.
"I've brought your nephew home," continued Miss Salome, laying her
hand encouragingly on Chester's shrinking shoulder. "I have had him
hired for some time on my farm at Hopedale, but I didn't know until
yesterday that he had run away from you. When he told me about it, I
thought he ought to come straight back and return your four dollars,
and so did he. So I have brought him."
"You might have saved yourself the trouble then!" cried Mrs. Elwell
shrilly. Her black eyes flashed with anger. "I'm done with him and
don't want the money. Run away when there was work to do, and thinks
he can come back now that it's all done and loaf all winter, does he?
He shall never enter my house again."
"That he shall not!" cried Miss Salome, at last finding her tongue.
Her gentle nature was grievously stirred by the heartlessness shown in
the face and voice of Mrs. Elwell. "That he shall not!" she cried
again. "But he shall not want for a home as long as I have one to give
him. Come, Chester, we'll go home."
"I wish you well of him," Mrs. Elwell said sarcastically.
Miss Salome already repented her angry retort. She was afraid she had
been undignified, but she wished for a moment that Clemantiny was
there. Wicked as she feared it was, Miss Salome thought she could have
enjoyed a tilt between her ancient handmaid and Mrs. Elwell.
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Elwell, if I have used any intemperate
expressions," she said with great dignity. "You provoked me more than
was becoming by your remarks. I wish you good morning."
Mrs. Elwell slammed the door shut.
With her cheeks even more than usually rosy, Miss Salome led Chester
down to the gate, untied her horse and drove out of the yard. Not
until they reached the main road did she trust herself to speak to the
dazed lad beside her.
"What a disagreeable women!" she ejaculated at last. "I don't wonder
you ran away, Chester—I don't, indeed! Though, mind you, I don't
think it was right, for all that. But I'm gladder than words can say
that she wouldn't take you back. You are mine now, and you will stay
mine. I want you to call me Aunt Salome after this. Get up, horse! If
we can catch that train at Roxbury, we'll be home by night yet."
Chester was too happy to speak. He had never felt so glad and grateful
in his life before.
They got home that night just as the sun was setting redly behind the
great maples on the western hill. As they drove into the yard,
Clemantiny's face appeared, gazing at them over the high board fence
of the cow-yard. Chester waved his hand at her gleefully.
"Lawful heart!" said Clemantiny. She set down her pail and came out to
the lane on a run. She caught Chester as he sprang from the wagon and
gave him a hearty hug.
"I'm glad clean down to my boot soles to see you back again," she
"He's back for good," said Miss Salome. "Chester, you'd better go in
and study up your lessons for tomorrow."
The Strike at Putney
The church at Putney was one that gladdened the hearts of all the
ministers in the presbytery whenever they thought about it. It was
such a satisfactory church. While other churches here and there were
continually giving trouble in one way or another, the Putneyites were
never guilty of brewing up internal or presbyterial strife.
The Exeter church people were always quarrelling among themselves and
carrying their quarrels to the courts of the church. The very name of
Exeter gave the members of presbytery the cold creeps. But the Putney
church people never quarrelled.
Danbridge church was in a chronic state of ministerlessness. No
minister ever stayed in Danbridge longer than he could help. The
people were too critical, and they were also noted heresy hunters.
Good ministers fought shy of Danbridge, and poor ones met with a chill
welcome. The harassed presbytery, worn out with "supplying," were
disposed to think that the millennium would come if ever the
Danbridgians got a minister whom they liked. At Putney they had had
the same minister for fifteen years and hoped and expected to have him
for fifteen more. They looked with horror-stricken eyes on the
Danbridge theological coquetries.
Bloom Valley church was over head and heels in debt and had no visible
prospect of ever getting out. The moderator said under his breath that
they did over-much praying and too little hoeing. He did not believe
in faith without works. Tarrytown Road kept its head above water but
never had a cent to spare for missions or the schemes of the church.
In bright and shining contradistinction to these the Putney church had
always paid its way and gave liberally to all departments of church
work. If other springs of supply ran dry the Putneyites
enthusiastically got up a "tea" or a "social," and so raised the
money. Naturally the "heft" of this work fell on the women, but they
did not mind—in very truth, they enjoyed it. The Putney women had the
reputation of being "great church workers," and they plumed themselves
on it, putting on airs at conventions among the less energetic women
of the other churches.
They were especially strong on societies. There was the Church Aid
Society, the Girls' Flower Band, and the Sewing Circle. There was a
Mission Band and a Helping Hand among the children. And finally there
was the Women's Foreign Mission Auxiliary, out of which the whole
trouble grew which convulsed the church at Putney for a brief time and
furnished a standing joke in presbyterial circles for years
afterwards. To this day ministers and elders tell the story of the
Putney church strike with sparkling eyes and subdued chuckles. It
never grows old or stale. But the Putney elders are an exception. They
never laugh at it. They never refer to it. It is not in the wicked,
unregenerate heart of man to make a jest of his own bitter defeat.
It was in June that the secretary of the Putney W.F.M. Auxiliary wrote
to a noted returned missionary who was touring the country, asking her
to give an address on mission work before their society. Mrs.
Cotterell wrote back saying that her brief time was so taken up
already that she found it hard to make any further engagements, but
she could not refuse the Putney people who were so well and favourably
known in mission circles for their perennial interest and liberality.
So, although she could not come on the date requested, she would, if
acceptable, come the following Sunday.
This suited the Putney Auxiliary very well. On the Sunday referred to
there was to be no evening service in the church owing to Mr.
Sinclair's absence. They therefore appointed the missionary meeting
for that night, and made arrangements to hold it in the church itself,
as the classroom was too small for the expected audience.
Then the thunderbolt descended on the W.F.M.A. of Putney from a clear
sky. The elders of the church rose up to a man and declared that no
woman should occupy the pulpit of the Putney church. It was in direct
contravention to the teachings of St. Paul.
To make matters worse, Mr. Sinclair declared himself on the elders'
side. He said that he could not conscientiously give his consent to a
woman occupying his pulpit, even when that woman was Mrs. Cotterell
and her subject foreign missions.
The members of the Auxiliary were aghast. They called a meeting
extraordinary in the classroom and, discarding all forms and
ceremonies in their wrath, talked their indignation out.
Out of doors the world basked in June sunshine and preened itself in
blossom. The birds sang and chirped in the lichened maples that cupped
the little church in, and peace was over all the Putney valley. Inside
the classroom disgusted women buzzed like angry bees.
"What on earth are we to do?" sighed the secretary plaintively. Mary
Kilburn was always plaintive. She sat on the steps of the platform,
being too wrought up in her mind to sit in her chair at the desk, and
her thin, faded little face was twisted with anxiety. "All the
arrangements are made and Mrs. Cotterell is coming on the tenth. How
can we tell her that the men won't let her speak?"
"There was never anything like this in Putney church before," groaned
Mrs. Elder Knox. "It was Andrew McKittrick put them up to it. I always
said that man would make trouble here yet, ever since he moved to
Putney from Danbridge. I've talked and argued with Thomas until I'm
dumb, but he is as set as a rock."
"I don't see what business the men have to interfere with us anyhow,"
said her daughter Lucy, who was sitting on one of the window-sills.
"We don't meddle with them, I'm sure. As if Mrs. Cotterell would
contaminate the pulpit!"
"One would think we were still in the dark ages," said Frances
Spenslow sharply. Frances was the Putney schoolteacher. Her father was
one of the recalcitrant elders and Frances felt it bitterly—all the
more that she had tried to argue with him and had been sat upon as a
"child who couldn't understand."
"I'm more surprised at Mr. Sinclair than at the elders," said Mrs.
Abner Keech, fanning herself vigorously. "Elders are subject to queer
spells periodically. They think they assert their authority that way.
But Mr. Sinclair has always seemed so liberal and broad-minded."
"You never can tell what crotchet an old bachelor will take into his
head," said Alethea Craig bitingly.
The others nodded agreement. Mr. Sinclair's inveterate celibacy was a
standing grievance with the Putney women.
"If he had a wife who could be our president this would never have
happened, I warrant you," said Mrs. King sagely.
"But what are we going to do, ladies?" said Mrs. Robbins briskly. Mrs.
Robbins was the president. She was a big, bustling woman with clear
blue eyes and crisp, incisive ways. Hitherto she had held her peace.
"They must talk themselves out before they can get down to business,"
she had reflected sagely. But she thought the time had now come to
"You know," she went on, "we can talk and rage against the men all day
if we like. They are not trying to prevent us. But that will do no
good. Here's Mrs. Cotterell invited, and all the neighbouring
auxiliaries notified—and the men won't let us have the church. The
point is, how are we going to get out of the scrape?"
A helpless silence descended upon the classroom. The eyes of every
woman present turned to Myra Wilson. Everyone could talk, but when it
came to action they had a fashion of turning to Myra.
She had a reputation for cleverness and originality. She never talked
much. So far today she had not said a word. She was sitting on the
sill of the window across from Lucy Knox. She swung her hat on her
knee, and loose, moist rings of dark hair curled around her dark,
alert face. There was a sparkle in her grey eyes that boded ill to the
men who were peaceably pursuing their avocations, rashly indifferent
to what the women might be saying in the maple-shaded classroom.
"Have you any suggestion to make, Miss Wilson?" said Mrs. Robbins,
with a return to her official voice and manner.
Myra put her long, slender index finger to her chin.
"I think," she said decidedly, "that we must strike."
When Elder Knox went in to tea that evening he glanced somewhat
apprehensively at his wife. They had had an altercation before she
went to the meeting, and he supposed she had talked herself into
another rage while there. But Mrs. Knox was placid and smiling. She
had made his favourite soda biscuits for him and inquired amiably
after his progress in hoeing turnips in the southeast meadow.
She made, however, no reference to the Auxiliary meeting, and when the
biscuits and the maple syrup and two cups of matchless tea had nerved
the elder up, his curiosity got the better of his prudence—for even
elders are human and curiosity knows no gender—and he asked what they
had done at the meeting.
"We poor men have been shaking in our shoes," he said facetiously.
"Were you?" Mrs. Knox's voice was calm and faintly amused. "Well, you
didn't need to. We talked the matter over very quietly and came to the
conclusion that the session knew best and that women hadn't any right
to interfere in church business at all."
Lucy Knox turned her head away to hide a smile. The elder beamed. He
was a peace-loving man and disliked "ructions" of any sort and
domestic ones in particular. Since the decision of the session Mrs.
Knox had made his life a burden to him. He did not understand her
sudden change of base, but he accepted it very thankfully.
"That's right—that's right," he said heartily. "I'm glad to hear you
coming out so sensible, Maria. I was afraid you'd work yourselves up
at that meeting and let Myra Wilson or Alethea Craig put you up to
some foolishness or other. Well, I guess I'll jog down to the Corner
this evening and order that barrel of pastry flour you want."
"Oh, you needn't," said Mrs. Knox indifferently. "We won't be needing
"Not needing it! But I thought you said you had to have some to bake
for the social week after next."
"There isn't going to be any social."
"Not any social?"
Elder Knox stared perplexedly at his wife. A month previously the
Putney church had been recarpeted, and they still owed fifty dollars
for it. This, the women declared, they would speedily pay off by a big
cake and ice-cream social in the hall. Mrs. Knox had been one of the
foremost promoters of the enterprise.
"Not any social?" repeated the elder again. "Then how is the money for
the carpet to be got? And why isn't there going to be a social?"
"The men can get the money somehow, I suppose," said Mrs. Knox. "As
for the social, why, of course, if women aren't good enough to speak
in church they are not good enough to work for it either. Lucy, dear,
will you pass me the cookies?"
"Lucy dear" passed the cookies and then rose abruptly and left the
table. Her father's face was too much for her.
"What confounded nonsense is this?" demanded the elder explosively.
Mrs. Knox opened her mellow brown eyes widely, as if in amazement at
her husband's tone.
"I don't understand you," she said. "Our position is perfectly
She had borrowed that phrase from Myra Wilson, and it floored the
elder. He got up, seized his hat, and strode from the room.
That night, at Jacob Wherrison's store at the Corner, the Putney men
talked over the new development. The social was certainly off—for a
"Best let 'em alone, I say," said Wherrison. "They're mad at us now
and doing this to pay us out. But they'll cool down later on and we'll
have the social all right."
"But if they don't," said Andrew McKittrick gloomily, "who is going to
pay for that carpet?"
This was an unpleasant question. The others shirked it.
"I was always opposed to this action of the session," said Alec Craig.
"It wouldn't have hurt to have let the woman speak. 'Tisn't as if it
was a regular sermon."
"The session knew best," said Andrew sharply. "And the
minister—you're not going to set your opinion up against his, are
"Didn't know they taught such reverence for ministers in Danbridge,"
retorted Craig with a laugh.
"Best let 'em alone, as Wherrison says," said Abner Keech.
"Don't see what else we can do," said John Wilson shortly.
On Sunday morning the men were conscious of a bare, deserted
appearance in the church. Mr. Sinclair perceived it himself. After
some inward wondering he concluded that it was because there were no
flowers anywhere. The table before the pulpit was bare. On the organ a
vase held a sorry, faded bouquet left over from the previous week. The
floor was' unswept. Dust lay thickly on the pulpit Bible, the choir
chairs, and the pew backs.
"This church looks disgraceful," said John Robbins in an angry
undertone to his daughter Polly, who was president of the Flower
Band. "What in the name of common sense is the good of your Flower
Banders if you can't keep the place looking decent?"
"There is no Flower Band now, Father," whispered Polly in turn. "We've
disbanded. Women haven't any business to meddle in church matters. You
know the session said so."
It was well for Polly that she was too big to have her ears boxed.
Even so, it might not have saved her if they had been anywhere else
than in church.
Meanwhile the men who were sitting in the choir—three basses and two
tenors—were beginning to dimly suspect that there was something amiss
here too. Where were the sopranos and the altos? Myra Wilson and
Alethea Craig and several other members of the choir were sitting down
in their pews with perfectly unconscious faces. Myra was looking out
of the window into the tangled sunlight and shadow of the great
maples. Alethea Craig was reading her Bible.
Presently Frances Spenslow came in. Frances was organist, but today,
instead of walking up to the platform, she slipped demurely into her
father's pew at one side of the pulpit. Eben Craig, who was the Putney
singing master and felt himself responsible for the choir, fidgeted
uneasily. He tried to catch Frances's eye, but she was absorbed in
reading the mission report she had found in the rack, and Eben was
finally forced to tiptoe down to the Spenslow pew and whisper, "Miss
Spenslow, the minister is waiting for the doxology. Aren't you going
to take the organ?"
Frances looked up calmly. Her clear, placid voice was audible not only
to those in the nearby pews, but to the minister.
"No, Mr. Craig. You know if a woman isn't fit to speak in the church
she can't be fit to sing in it either."
Eben Craig looked exceedingly foolish. He tiptoed gingerly back to his
place. The minister, with an unusual flush on his thin, ascetic face,
rose suddenly and gave out the opening hymn.
Nobody who heard the singing in Putney church that day ever forgot it.
Untrained basses and tenors, unrelieved by a single female voice, are
There were no announcements of society meetings for the forthcoming
week. On the way home from church that day irate husbands and fathers
scolded, argued, or pleaded, according to their several dispositions.
One and all met with the same calm statement that if a noble,
self-sacrificing woman like Mrs. Cotterell were not good enough to
speak in the Putney church, ordinary, everyday women could not be fit
to take any part whatever in its work.
Sunday School that afternoon was a harrowing failure. Out of all the
corps of teachers only one was a man, and he alone was at his post. In
the Christian Endeavour meeting on Tuesday night the feminine element
sat dumb and unresponsive. The Putney women never did things by
The men held out for two weeks. At the end of that time they
"happened" to meet at the manse and talked the matter over with the
harassed minister. Elder Knox said gloomily, "It's this way. Nothing
can move them women. I know, for I've tried. My authority has been set
at naught in my own household. And I'm laughed at if I show my face in
any of the other settlements."
The Sunday School superintendent said the Sunday School was going to
wrack and ruin, also the Christian Endeavour. The condition of the
church for dust was something scandalous, and strangers were making a
mockery of the singing. And the carpet had to be paid for. He supposed
they would have to let the women have their own way.
The next Sunday evening after service Mr. Sinclair arose hesitatingly.
His face was flushed, and Alethea Craig always declared that he looked
"just plain everyday cross." He announced briefly that the session
after due deliberation had concluded that Mrs. Cotterell might occupy
the pulpit on the evening appointed for her address.
The women all over the church smiled broadly. Frances Spenslow got up
and went to the organ stool. The singing in the last hymn was good and
hearty. Going down the steps after dismissal Mrs. Elder Knox caught
the secretary of the Church Aid by the arm.
"I guess," she whispered anxiously, "you'd better call a special
meeting of the Aids at my house tomorrow afternoon. If we're to get
that social over before haying begins we've got to do some smart
The strike in the Putney church was over.
The Unhappiness of Miss Farquhar
Frances Farquhar was a beauty and was sometimes called a society
butterfly by people who didn't know very much about it. Her father was
wealthy and her mother came of an extremely blue-blooded family.
Frances had been out for three years, and was a social favourite.
Consequently, it may be wondered why she was unhappy.
In plain English, Frances Farquhar had been jilted—just a
commonplace, everyday jilting! She had been engaged to Paul Holcomb;
he was a very handsome fellow, somewhat too evidently aware of the
fact, and Frances was very deeply in love with him—or thought herself
so, which at the time comes to pretty much the same thing. Everybody
in her set knew of her engagement, and all her girl friends envied
her, for Holcomb was a matrimonial catch.
Then the crash came. Nobody outside the family knew exactly what did
happen, but everybody knew that the Holcomb-Farquhar match was off,
and everybody had a different story to account for it.
The simple truth was that Holcomb was fickle and had fallen in love
with another girl. There was nothing of the man about him, and it did
not matter to his sublimely selfish caddishness whether he broke
Frances Farquhar's heart or not. He got his freedom and he married
Maud Carroll in six months' time.
The Farquhars, especially Ned, who was Frances's older brother and
seldom concerned himself about her except when the family honour was
involved, were furious at the whole affair. Mr. Farquhar stormed, and
Ned swore, and Della lamented her vanished role of bridemaid. As for
Mrs. Farquhar, she cried and said it would ruin Frances's future
The girl herself took no part in the family indignation meetings. But
she believed that her heart was broken. Her love and her pride had
suffered equally, and the effect seemed disastrous.
After a while the Farquhars calmed down and devoted themselves to the
task of cheering Frances up. This they did not accomplish. She got
through the rest of the season somehow and showed a proud front to the
world, not even flinching when Holcomb himself crossed her path. To be
sure, she was pale and thin, and had about as much animation as a
mask, but the same might be said of a score of other girls who were
not suspected of having broken hearts.
When the summer came Frances asserted herself. The Farquhars went to
Green Harbour every summer. But this time Frances said she would not
go, and stuck to it. The whole family took turns coaxing her and had
nothing to show for their pains.
"I'm going up to Windy Meadows to stay with Aunt Eleanor while you
are at the Harbour," she declared. "She has invited me often enough."
Ned whistled. "Jolly time you'll have of it, Sis. Windy Meadows is
about as festive as a funeral. And Aunt Eleanor isn't lively, to put
it in the mildest possible way."
"I don't care if she isn't. I want to get somewhere where people won't
look at me and talk about—that," said Frances, looking ready to cry.
Ned went out and swore at Holcomb again, and then advised his mother
to humour Frances. Accordingly, Frances went to Windy Meadows.
Windy Meadows was, as Ned had said, the reverse of lively. It was a
pretty country place, with a sort of fag-end by way of a little
fishing village, huddled on a wind-swept bit of beach, locally known
as the "Cove." Aunt Eleanor was one of those delightful people, so few
and far between in this world, who have perfectly mastered the art of
minding their own business exclusively. She left Frances in peace.
She knew that her niece had had "some love trouble or other," and
hadn't gotten over it rightly.
"It's always best to let those things take their course," said this
philosophical lady to her "help" and confidant, Margaret Ann Peabody.
"She'll get over it in time—though she doesn't think so now, bless
For the first fortnight Frances revelled in a luxury of unhindered
sorrow. She could cry all night—and all day too, if she
wished—without having to stop because people might notice that her
eyes were red. She could mope in her room all she liked. And there
were no men who demanded civility.
When the fortnight was over, Aunt Eleanor took crafty counsel with
herself. The letting-alone policy was all very well, but it would not
do to have the girl die on her hands. Frances was getting paler and
thinner every day—and she was spoiling her eyelashes by crying.
"I wish," said Aunt Eleanor one morning at breakfast, while Frances
pretended to eat, "that I could go and take Corona Sherwood out for a
drive today. I promised her last week that I would, but I've never had
time yet. And today is baking and churning day. It's a shame. Poor
"Who is she?" asked Frances, trying to realize that there was actually
someone in the world besides herself who was to be pitied.
"She is our minister's sister. She has been ill with rheumatic fever.
She is better now, but doesn't seem to get strong very fast. She ought
to go out more, but she isn't able to walk. I really must try and get
around tomorrow. She keeps house for her brother at the manse. He
isn't married, you know."
Frances didn't know, nor did she in the least degree care. But even
the luxury of unlimited grief palls, and Frances was beginning to feel
this vaguely. She offered to go and take Miss Sherwood out driving.
"I've never seen her," she said, "but I suppose that doesn't matter. I
can drive Grey Tom in the phaeton, if you like."
It was just what Aunt Eleanor intended, and she saw Frances drive off
that afternoon with a great deal of satisfaction.
"Give my love to Corona," she told her, "and say for me that she isn't
to go messing about among those shore people until she's perfectly
well. The manse is the fourth house after you turn the third corner."
Frances kept count of the corners and the houses and found the manse.
Corona Sherwood herself came to the door. Frances had been expecting
an elderly personage with spectacles and grey crimps; she was
surprised to find that the minister's sister was a girl of about her
own age and possessed of a distinct worldly prettiness. Corona was
dark, with a different darkness from that of Frances, who had ivory
outlines and blue-black hair, while Corona was dusky and piquant.
Her eyes brightened with delight when Frances told her errand.
"How good of you and Miss Eleanor! I am not strong enough to walk far
yet—or do anything useful, in fact, and Elliott so seldom has time to
take me out."
"Where shall we go?" asked Frances when they started. "I don't know
much about this locality."
"Can we drive to the Cove first? I want to see poor little Jacky Hart.
He has been so sick—"
"Aunt Eleanor positively forbade that," said Frances dubiously. "Will
it be safe to disobey her?"
"Miss Eleanor blames my poor shore people for making me sick at first,
but it was really not that at all. And I want to see Jacky Hart so
much. He has been ill for some time with some disease of the spine and
he is worse lately. I'm sure Miss Eleanor won't mind my calling just
to see him."
Frances turned Grey Tom down the shore road that ran to the Cove and
past it to silvery, wind-swept sands, rimming sea expanses crystal
clear. Jacky Hart's home proved to be a tiny little place overflowing
with children. Mrs. Hart was a pale, tired-looking woman with the
patient, farseeing eyes so often found among the women who watch sea
and shore every day and night of their lives for those who sometimes
She spoke of Jacky with the apathy of hopelessness. The doctor said he
would not last much longer. She told all her troubles unreservedly to
Corona in her monotonous voice. Her "man" was drinking again and the
mackerel catch was poor.
When Mrs. Hart asked Corona to go in and see Jacky, Frances went too.
The sick boy, a child with a delicate, wasted face and large, bright
eyes, lay in a tiny bedroom off the kitchen. The air was hot and
heavy. Mrs. Hart stood at the foot of the bed with her tragic face.
"We have to set up nights with him now," she said. "It's awful hard on
me and my man. The neighbours are kind enough and come sometimes, but
most of them have enough to do. His medicine has to be given every
half hour. I've been up for three nights running now. Jabez was off to
the tavern for two. I'm just about played out."
She suddenly broke down and began to cry, or rather whimper, in a
Corona looked troubled. "I wish I could come tonight, Mrs. Hart, but
I'm afraid I'm really not strong enough yet."
"I don't know much about sickness," spoke up Frances firmly, "but if
to sit by the child and give him his medicine regularly is all that is
necessary, I am sure I can do that. I'll come and sit up with Jacky
tonight if you care to have me."
Afterwards, when she and Corona were driving away, she wondered a good
deal at herself. But Corona was so evidently pleased with her offer,
and took it all so much as a matter of course, that Frances had not
the courage to display her wonder. They had their drive through the
great green bowl of the country valley, brimming over with sunshine,
and afterwards Corona made Frances go home with her to tea.
Rev. Elliott Sherwood had got back from his pastoral visitations, and
was training his sweet peas in the way they should go against the
garden fence. He was in his shirt sleeves and wore a big straw hat,
and seemed in nowise disconcerted thereby. Corona introduced him, and
he took Grey Tom away and put him in the barn. Then he went back to
his sweet peas. He had had his tea, he said, so that Frances did not
see him again until she went home. She thought he was a very
indifferent young man, and not half so nice as his sister.
But she went and sat up with Jacky Hart that night, getting to the
Cove at dark, when the sea was a shimmer of fairy tints and the boats
were coming in from the fishing grounds. Jacky greeted her with a
wonderful smile, and later on she found herself watching alone by his
bed. The tiny lamp on the table burned dim, and outside, on the rocks,
there was loud laughing and talking until a late hour.
Afterwards a silence fell, through which the lap of the waves on the
sands and the far-off moan of the Atlantic surges came sonorously.
Jacky was restless and wakeful, but did not suffer, and liked to talk.
Frances listened to him with a new-born power of sympathy, which she
thought she must have caught from Corona. He told her all the tragedy
of his short life, and how bad he felt, about Dad's taking to drink
and Mammy's having to work so hard.
The pitiful little sentences made Frances's heart ache. The maternal
instinct of the true woman awoke in her. She took a sudden liking to
the child. He was a spiritual little creature, and his sufferings had
made him old and wise. Once in the night he told Frances that he
thought the angels must look like her.
"You are so sweet pretty," he said gravely. "I never saw anyone so
pretty, not even Miss C'rona. You look like a picture I once saw on
Mr. Sherwood's table when I was up at the manse one day 'fore I got
so bad I couldn't walk. It was a woman with a li'l baby in her arms
and a kind of rim round her head. I would like something most awful
"What is it, dear?" said Frances gently. "If I can get or do it for
you, I will."
"You could," he said wistfully, "but maybe you won't want to. But I do
wish you'd come here just once every day and sit here five minutes and
let me look at you—just that. Will it be too much trouble?"
Frances stooped and kissed him. "I will come every day, Jacky," she
said; and a look of ineffable content came over the thin little face.
He put up his hand and touched her cheek.
"I knew you were good—as good as Miss C'rona, and she is an angel. I
When morning came Frances went home. It was raining, and the sea was
hidden in mist. As she walked along the wet road, Elliott Sherwood
came splashing along in a little two-wheeled gig and picked her up. He
wore a raincoat and a small cap, and did not look at all like a
minister—or, at least, like Frances's conception of one.
Not that she knew much about ministers. Her own minister at home—that
is to say, the minister of the fashionable uptown church which she
attended—was a portly, dignified old man with silvery hair and
gold-rimmed glasses, who preached scholarly, cultured sermons and was
as far removed from Frances's personal life as a star in the Milky
But a minister who wore rubber coats and little caps and drove about
in a two-wheeled gig, very much mud-bespattered, and who talked about
the shore people as if they were household intimates of his, was
absolutely new to Frances.
She could not help seeing, however, that the crisp brown hair under
the edges of the unclerical-looking cap curled around a remarkably
well-shaped forehead, beneath which flashed out a pair of very fine
dark-grey eyes; he had likewise a good mouth, which was resolute and
looked as if it might be stubborn on occasion; and, although he was
not exactly handsome, Frances decided that she liked his face.
He tucked the wet, slippery rubber apron of his conveyance about her
and then proceeded to ask questions. Jacky Hart's case had to be
reported on, and then Mr. Sherwood took out a notebook and looked over
its entries intently.
"Do you want any more work of that sort to do?" he asked her abruptly.
Frances felt faintly amused. He talked to her as he might have done to
Corona, and seemed utterly oblivious of the fact that her profile was
classic and her eyes delicious. His indifference piqued Frances a
little in spite of her murdered heart. Well, if there was anything she
could do she might as well do it, she told him briefly, and he, with
equal brevity, gave her directions for finding some old lady who lived
on the Elm Creek road and to whom Corona had read tracts.
"Tracts are a mild dissipation of Aunt Clorinda's," he said. "She
fairly revels in them. She is half blind and has missed Corona very
There were other matters also—a dozen or so of factory girls who
needed to be looked after and a family of ragged children to be
clothed. Frances, in some dismay, found herself pledged to help in all
directions, and then ways and means had to be discussed. The long, wet
road, sprinkled with houses, from whose windows people were peering to
see "what girl the minister was driving," seemed very short. Frances
did not know it, but Elliott Sherwood drove a full mile out of his
way that morning to take her home, and risked being late for a very
important appointment—from which it may be inferred that he was not
quite so blind to the beautiful as he had seemed.
Frances went through the rain that afternoon and read tracts to Aunt
Clorinda. She was so dreadfully tired that night that she forgot to
cry, and slept well and soundly.
In the morning she went to church for the first time since coming to
Windy Meadows. It did not seem civil not to go to hear a man preach
when she had gone slumming with his sister and expected to assist him
with his difficulties over factory girls. She was surprised at Elliott
Sherwood's sermon, and mentally wondered why such a man had been
allowed to remain for four years in a little country pulpit. Later on
Aunt Eleanor told her it was for his health.
"He was not strong when he left college, so he came here. But he is as
well as ever now, and I expect he will soon be gobbled up by some of
your city churches. He preached in Castle Street church last winter,
and I believe they were delighted with him."
This was all of a month later. During that time Frances thought that
she must have been re-created, so far was her old self left behind.
She seldom had an idle moment; when she had, she spent it with Corona.
The two girls had become close friends, loving each other with the
intensity of exceptional and somewhat exclusive natures.
Corona grew strong slowly, and could do little for her brother's
people, but Frances was an excellent proxy, and Elliott Sherwood kept
her employed. Incidentally, Frances had come to know the young
minister, with his lofty ideals and earnest efforts, very well. He
had got into a ridiculous habit of going to her—her, Frances
Farquhar!—for advice in many perplexities.
Frances had nursed Jacky Hart and talked temperance to his father and
read tracts to Aunt Clorinda and started a reading circle among the
factory girls and fitted out all the little Jarboes with dresses and
coaxed the shore children to go to school and patched up a feud
between two 'longshore families and done a hundred other things of a
Aunt Eleanor said nothing, as was her wise wont, but she talked it
over with Margaret Ann Peabody, and agreed with that model domestic
when she said: "Work'll keep folks out of trouble and help 'em out of
it when they are in. Just as long as that girl brooded over her own
worries and didn't think of anyone but herself she was miserable. But
as soon as she found other folks were unhappy, too, and tried to help
'em out a bit, she helped herself most of all. She's getting fat and
rosy, and it is plain to be seen that the minister thinks there isn't
the like of her on this planet."
One night Frances told Corona all about Holcomb. Elliott Sherwood was
away, and Frances had gone up to stay all night with Corona at the
manse. They were sitting in the moonlit gloom of Corona's room, and
Frances felt confidential. She had expected to feel badly and cry a
little while she told it. But she did not, and before she was half
through, it did not seem as if it were worth telling after all. Corona
was deeply sympathetic. She did not say a great deal, but what she did
say put Frances on better terms with herself.
"Oh, I shall get over it," the latter declared finally. "Once I
thought I never would—but the truth is, I'm getting over it now. I'm
very glad—but I'm horribly ashamed, too, to find myself so fickle."
"I don't think you are fickle, Frances," said Corona gravely,
"because I don't think you ever really loved that man at all. You only
imagined you did. And he was not worthy of you. You are so good, dear;
those shore people just worship you. Elliott says you can do anything
you like with them."
Frances laughed and said she was not at all good. Yet she was pleased.
Later on, when she was brushing her hair before the mirror and smiling
absently at her reflection, Corona said: "Frances, what is it like to
be as pretty as you are?"
"Nonsense!" said Frances by way of answer.
"It is not nonsense at all. You must know you are very lovely,
Frances. Elliott says you are the most beautiful girl he has ever
For a girl who has told herself a dozen times that she would never
care again for masculine admiration, Frances experienced a very odd
thrill of delight on hearing that the minister of Windy Meadows
thought her beautiful. She knew he admired her intellect and had
immense respect for what he called her "genius for influencing
people," but she had really believed all along that, if Elliott
Sherwood had been asked, he could not have told whether she was a whit
better looking than Kitty Martin of the Cove, who taught a class in
Sunday school and had round rosy cheeks and a snub nose.
The summer went very quickly. One day Jacky Hart died—drifted out
with the ebb tide, holding Frances's hand. She had loved the patient,
sweet-souled little creature and missed him greatly.
When the time to go home came Frances felt dull. She hated to leave
Windy Meadows and Corona and her dear shore people and Aunt Eleanor
and—and—well, Margaret Ann Peabody.
Elliott Sherwood came up the night before she went away. When
Margaret Ann showed him reverentially in, Frances was sitting in a
halo of sunset light, and the pale, golden chrysanthemums in her hair
shone like stars in the blue-black coils.
Elliott Sherwood had been absent from Windy Meadows for several days.
There was a subdued jubilance in his manner.
"You think I have come to say good-bye, but I haven't," he told her.
"I shall see you again very soon, I hope. I have just received a call
to Castle Street church, and it is my intention to accept. So Corona
and I will be in town this winter."
Frances tried to tell him how glad she was, but only stammered.
Elliott Sherwood came close up to her as she stood by the window in
the fading light, and said—
But on second thoughts I shall not record what he said—or what she
said either. Some things should be left to the imagination.
Why Mr. Cropper Changed His Mind
"Well, Miss Maxwell, how did you get along today?" asked Mr. Baxter
affably, when the new teacher came to the table.
She was a slight, dark girl, rather plain-looking, but with a smart,
energetic way. Mr. Baxter approved of her; he "liked her style," as he
would have said.
The summer term had just opened in the Maitland district. Esther
Maxwell was a stranger, but she was a capable girl, and had no doubt
of her own ability to get and keep the school in good working order.
She smiled brightly at Mr. Baxter.
"Very well for a beginning. The children seem bright and teachable and
not hard to control."
Mr. Baxter nodded. "There are no bad children in the school except the
Cropper boys—and they can be good enough if they like. Reckon they
weren't there today?"
"Well, Miss Maxwell, I think it only fair to tell you that you may
have trouble with those boys when they do come. Forewarned is
forearmed, you know. Mr. Cropper was opposed to our hiring you. Not,
of course, that he had any personal objection to you, but he is set
against female teachers, and when a Cropper is set there is nothing on
earth can change him. He says female teachers can't keep order. He's
started in with a spite at you on general principles, and the boys
know it. They know he'll back them up in secret, no matter what they
do, just to prove his opinions. Cropper is sly and slippery, and it is
hard to corner him."
"Are the boys big?" queried Esther anxiously.
"Yes. Thirteen and fourteen and big for their age. You can't whip
'em—that is the trouble. A man might, but they'd twist you around
their fingers. You'll have your hands full, I'm afraid. But maybe
they'll behave all right after all."
Mr. Baxter privately had no hope that they would, but Esther hoped
for the best. She could not believe that Mr. Cropper would carry his
prejudices into a personal application. This conviction was
strengthened when he overtook her walking from school the next day and
drove her home. He was a big, handsome man with a very suave, polite
manner. He asked interestedly about her school and her work, hoped she
was getting on well, and said he had two young rascals of his own to
send soon. Esther felt relieved. She thought that Mr. Baxter had
exaggerated matters a little.
"That plum tree of Mrs. Charley's is loaded with fruit again this
year," remarked Mr. Baxter at the tea table that evening. "I came past
it today on my way 'cross lots home from the woods. There will be
bushels of plums on it."
"I don't suppose poor Mrs. Charley will get one of them any more than
she ever has," said Mrs. Baxter indignantly. "It's a burning shame,
that's what it is! I just wish she could catch the Croppers once."
"You haven't any proof that it is really them, Mary," objected her
husband, "and you shouldn't make reckless accusations before folks."
"I know very well it is them," retorted Mrs. Baxter, "and so do you,
Adoniram. And Mrs. Charley knows it too, although she can't prove
it—more's the pity! I don't say Isaac Cropper steals those plums with
his own hands. But he knows who does—and the plums go into Mehitable
Cropper's preserving kettle; there's nothing surer."
"You see, Miss Maxwell, it's this way," explained Mr. Baxter, turning
to Esther. "Mrs. Charley Cropper's husband was Isaac's brother. They
never got on well together, and when Charley died there was a
tremendous fuss about the property. Isaac acted mean and scandalous
clear through, and public opinion has been down on him ever since. But
Mrs. Charley is a pretty smart woman, and he didn't get the better of
her in everything. There was a strip of disputed land between the two
farms, and she secured it. There's a big plum tree growing on it
close to the line fence. It's the finest one in Maitland. But Mrs.
Charley never gets a plum from it."
"But what becomes of them?" asked Esther.
"They disappear," said Mr. Baxter, with a significant nod. "When the
plums are anything like ripe Mrs. Charley discovers some day that
there isn't one left on the tree. She has never been able to get a
scrap of proof as to who took them, or she'd make it hot for them. But
nobody in Maitland has any doubt in his own mind that Isaac Cropper
knows where those plums go."
"I don't think Mr. Cropper would steal," protested Esther.
"Well, he doesn't consider it stealing, you know. He claims the land
and says the plums are his. I don't doubt that he is quite clear in
his own mind that they are. And he does hate Mrs. Charley. I'd give
considerable to see the old sinner fairly caught, but he is too deep."
"I think Mr. Baxter is too hard on Mr. Cropper," said Esther to
herself later on. "He has probably some private prejudice against
But a month later she had changed her opinion. During that time the
Cropper boys had come to school.
At first Esther had been inclined to like them. They were handsome
lads, with the same smooth way that characterized their father, and
seemed bright and intelligent. For a few days all went well, and
Esther felt decidedly relieved.
But before long a subtle spirit of insubordination began to make
itself felt in the school. Esther found herself powerless to cope with
it. The Croppers never openly defied her, but they did precisely as
they pleased. The other pupils thought themselves at liberty to follow
this example, and in a month's time poor Esther had completely lost
control of her little kingdom. Some complaints were heard among the
ratepayers and even Mr. Baxter looked dubious. She knew that unless
she could regain her authority she would be requested to hand in her
resignation, but she was baffled by the elusive system of defiance
which the Cropper boys had organized.
One day she resolved to go to Mr. Cropper himself and appeal to his
sense of justice, if he had any. It had been an especially hard day in
school. When she had been absent at the noon hour all the desks in the
schoolroom had been piled in a pyramid on the floor, books and slates
interchanged, and various other pranks played. When questioned every
pupil denied having done or helped to do it. Alfred and Bob Cropper
looked her squarely in the eyes and declared their innocence in their
usual gentlemanly fashion, yet Esther felt sure that they were the
guilty ones. She also knew what exaggerated accounts of the affair
would be taken home to Maitland tea tables, and she felt like sitting
down to cry. But she did not. Instead she set her mouth firmly, helped
the children restore the room to order, and after school went up to
Isaac Cropper's house.
That gentleman himself came in from the harvest field looking as
courtly as usual, even in his rough working clothes. He shook hands
heartily, told her he was glad to see her, and began talking about the
weather. Esther was not to be turned from her object thus, although
she felt her courage ebbing away from her as it always did in the
presence of the Cropper imperviousness.
"I have come up to see you about Alfred and Robert, Mr. Cropper," she
said. "They are not behaving well in school."
"Indeed!" Mr. Cropper's voice expressed bland surprise. "That is
strange. As a rule I do not think Alfred and Robert have been
troublesome to their teachers. What have they been doing now?"
"They refuse to obey my orders," said Esther faintly.
"Ah, well, Miss Maxwell, perhaps you will pardon my saying that a
teacher should be able to enforce her orders. My boys are
high-spirited fellows and need a strong, firm hand to restrain them. I
have always said I considered it advisable to employ a male teacher
in Maitland school. We should have better order. Not that I disapprove
of you personally—far from it. I should be glad to see you succeed.
But I have heard many complaints regarding the order in school at
"I had no trouble until your boys came," retorted Esther, losing her
temper a little, "and I believe that if you were willing to co-operate
with me that I could govern them."
"Well, you see," said Mr. Cropper easily, "when I send my boys to
school I naturally expect that the teacher will be capable of doing
the work she has been hired to do."
"Then you refuse to help me?" said Esther in a trembling voice.
"Why, my dear young lady, what can I do? Boys soon know when they can
disobey a teacher with impunity. No doubt you will be able to secure a
school easier to control and will do good work. But here, as I have
already said, we need a firm hand at the helm. But you are not going
yet, Miss Maxwell? You need some refreshment after your long walk.
Mrs. Cropper will bring you in something."
"No, thank you," said poor Esther. She felt that she must get away at
once or she would burst into heartsick tears under those steely, bland
blue eyes. When she got home she shut herself up in her room and
cried. There was nothing for her to do but resign, she thought
On the following Saturday Esther went for an afternoon walk, carrying
her kodak with her. It was a brilliantly fine autumn day, and woods
and fields were basking in a mellow haze. Esther went across lots to
Mrs. Charley Cropper's house, intending to make a call. But the house
was locked up and evidently deserted, so she rambled past it to the
back fields. Passing through a grove of maples she came out among
leafy young saplings on the other side. Just beyond her, with its
laden boughs hanging over the line fence, was the famous plum tree.
Esther looked at it for a moment. Then an odd smile gleamed over her
face and she lifted her kodak.
Monday evening Esther called on Mr. Cropper again. After the
preliminary remarks in which he indulged, she said, with seeming
irrelevance, that Saturday had been a fine day.
"There was an excellent light for snapshots," she went on coolly. "I
went out with my kodak and was lucky enough to get a good negative. I
have brought you up a proof. I thought you would be interested in it."
She rose and placed the proof on the table before Mr. Cropper. The
plum tree came out clearly. Bob and Alf Cropper were up among the
boughs picking the plums. On the ground beneath them stood their
father with a basket of fruit in his hand.
Mr. Cropper looked at the proof and from it to Esther. His eyes had
lost their unconcerned glitter, but his voice was defiant.
"The plums are mine by right," he said.
"Perhaps," said Esther calmly, "but there are some who do not think
so. Mrs. Charley, for instance—she would like to see this proof, I
"Don't show it to her," cried Mr. Cropper hastily. "I tell you, Miss
Maxwell, the plums are mine. But I am tired of fighting over them and
I had decided before this that I'd let her have them after this. It's
only a trifle, anyhow. And about that little matter we were discussing
the other night, Miss Maxwell. I have been thinking it over, and I
admit I was somewhat unreasonable. I'll talk to Alfred and Robert and
see what I can do."
"Very well," said Esther quietly. "The matter of the plums isn't my
business and I don't wish to be involved in your family feuds,
especially as you say that you mean to allow Mrs. Charley to enjoy her
own in future. As for the school, we will hope that matters will
"You'll leave the proof with me, won't you?" said Mr. Cropper
"Oh, certainly," said Esther, smiling. "I have the negative still, you
From that time out the Cropper boys were models of good behaviour and
the other turbulent spirits, having lost their leaders, were soon
quelled. Complaint died away, and at the end of the term Esther was
"You seem to have won old Cropper over to your side entirely," Mr.
Baxter told her that night. "He said at the meeting today that you
were the best teacher we had ever had and moved to raise your salary.
I never knew Isaac Cropper to change his opinions so handsomely."
Esther smiled. She knew it had taken a powerful lever to change Mr.
Cropper's opinion, but she kept her own counsel.