S is for Shiftless Susanna by Kathleen Norris
"You look glorious. What's the special programme you've laid out
for this morning, Sue?" said Susanna's husband, coming upon her in her
rose garden early on a certain perfect October morning.
"I FEEL glorious too" young Mrs. Fairfax said, returning his kiss
and dropping basket and scissors to bestow all her attention upon his
buttonhole rose. "There is no special occasion for all this
extravagance," she added, giving a complacent downward glance at the
filmy embroideries of her gown, and her small whiteshod feet. "In
fact, to-day breaks before me a long and delicious blank. I don't
know when I have had such a Saturday. I shall write letters this
morning—or perhaps wash my hair—I don't know. And then I'll take
Mrs. Elliot for a drive this afternoon, or take some fruit to the
Burkes, maybe, and stop for tea at the club. And if you decide to
dine in town, I'll have Emma set my dinner out on the porch and
commence my new Locke. And if you can beat that programme for sheer
idle bliss," said Susanna, "let me hear you do it!"
She finished fastening his rose, stepped back to survey it, and
raised to his eyes her own joyous, honest blue eyes, which still were
as candid as a nice child's. Jim Fairfax, keenly alive to the delight
of it, even after six months of marriage, kissed her again.
"You know, Jim," said Susanna, when they were presently sauntering
with their load of roses toward the house and breakfast, "apropos of
this new dress, I believe I put it on just BECAUSE there was no real
reason for it. It is so delightful sometimes to get into dainty
petties, and silk stockings, and a darling new gown, just as a matter
of course! All my life, you know, I've had just one good outfit at a
time, and sometimes less than that, and all the things I wore every
day were so awfully plain—!"
"I know, my darling," Jim said, a little gravely. For he was always
sorry to remember that there had been long years of poverty and
struggle in Susanna's life before the day when he had found her, an
underpaid librarian in a dark old law library, in a dark old street.
Susanna, buoyant, ambitious, and overworked, had never stopped in her
hard daily round long enough to consider herself pitiful, but she
could look back from her rose garden now to the days before she knew
Jim, and join him in a little shudder of reminiscence.
"I don't believe a long, idle day will ever seem anything but a
joyous holiday to me," she said now. "It seems so curious still, not
to be expected anywhere every morning!"
"Well, you may as well get used to it," Jim told her smilingly. But
a few minutes later, when Susanna was busy with the coffee-pot, he
looked up from a letter to say: "Here's a job for you, after all,
to-day, Sue! This—" and he flattened the crackling sheets beside his
plate, "this is from old Thayer."
"Thayer himself?" Susanna echoed appreciatively. For old Whitman
Thayer, in whose hands lay the giving of contracts far larger than
any that had as yet been handled by Jim or his senior partners in the
young firm of Reid, Polk Fairfax, Architects, was naturally an
enormously important figure in his and Susanna's world. They spoke of
Thayer nearly every night, Jim reporting to his interested wife that
Thayer had "come in," or "hadn't come in," that Thayer had "seemed
pleased," that Thayer had "jumped" on this, or had "been tickled to
death" with that; and the Fairfax domestic barometer varied
"Go ON, Jim," said Susanna, in suspense.
"Why, it seems that his wife—she's awfully sweet and nice," Jim
proceeded, "is coming into town this afternoon, and she wonders if it
would be too much trouble for Mrs. Fairfax to come in and lunch with
her and help her with some shopping."
"Jim, it doesn't say that!" But Susanna's eyes were kindling with
joy at the thought. "Oh, Jim, what a chance! Doesn't that look as if
he really liked you!"
"Liked YOU, you mean," Jim said, giving her the letter. "Now I call
that a very friendly, decent thing for them to do," young Mr. Fairfax
went on musingly. "If you and she like each other, Sue—"
"Oh, don't worry, we will!" Mrs. Fairfax was always sure of her
touch upon a feminine heart.
"Wonder why he didn't think of Mrs. Reid or Mrs. Polk?" said Jim.
"Oh, Jim, they are sort of—stiff, don't you know?" Susanna
returned to her coffee, seasoning Jim's cup carefully before she
added, with a look of naive pleasure that Jim thought very charming:
"You know I rather THOUGHT that Mr. Thayer liked me just that one day
I saw him!"
"Well, you'll like her," Jim prophesied. "She's very sweet and
gentle, not very strong. They live right up the line there somewhere.
She rarely comes into town. Old Thayer is devoted to her, and he
always seems—" Jim hesitated. "I don't know," he went on, "I may be
all wrong about this, Sue, but Thayer always seems to be protecting
her, don't you know? I don't imagine he'd want to run her up against
society women like Jane Reid and Mrs. Polk. You're younger and less
affected; you're approachable. I don't know, but it seems to me that
way. Anyway," he finished with supreme satisfaction, "I wouldn't take
anything in the world for this chance! It shows the old man is really
"He says she'll be at the office at eleven," said Susanna. "That
means I must get the ten twenty-two."
"Sure. And take a taxi when you get to town. Got money? Got the
"Hydrangea hat," Susanna decided aloud. "New pongee, and pongee
coat hung in careless elegance over my arm. As the last chime of
eleven rings I will step into your office—"
"I hope to goodness you will!" said Jim, with an anxious look.
"You'll really get there, won't you, Sue? No slips?"
This might have seemed overemphatic to an unprejudiced outsider.
But no one who really knew Susanna would have blamed her young husband
for an utter disbelief in the likelihood of her getting anywhere at
any given time. Susanna's one glaring fault was a cheerful
indifference to the fixed plans of others. Engagements she forgot,
ignored, or cancelled at the last minute; dinner guests, arriving at
her lovely home, never dreamed how often the consternation of utter
surprise was hidden under the hilarious greetings of hostess and
host. Dressmakers and dentists charged Susanna mercilessly for
forgotten appointments; but an adoring circle of friends had formed a
sort of silent conspiracy to save her from herself, and socially she
suffered much less than she deserved.
"But some day you'll get an awful jolt; you'll get the lesson of
your life, Sue," Jim used to say, and Susanna always answered meekly:
"Oh, Jim, I know it!"
"My mother used to have a nursery rhyme about me," she told Jim on
one occasion. "It was one of those 'A is for Amiable Annie' things,
you know; 'K is for Kind little Katie, whose weight is one hundred
and eighty'—you've heard them, of course? Well, 'S was for Shiftless
Susanna.' I know the next line was, 'But such was the charm of her
manner'—but I've forgotten the rest. Whether mother made that up for
my especial benefit or not, I don't know."
"Well, you have the charm all right," Jim was obliged to confess,
for Susanna had an undeniable genius for adjustment and placation.
Nobody was angry long at Susanna, perhaps because so many other
people were always ready to step in gladly and fill any gaps in her
programme. She was too popular to be snubbed. And her excuses were
always so reasonable!
"You know I simply lose my mind at the telephone," she would plead.
"I accept anything then—it never occurs to me that we may have
engagements!" Or, "Well, the Jacksons said Thursday," she would
brilliantly elucidate, "and Mrs. Oliver said the twentieth, and it
never OCCURRED to me that it was the same day!"
And she was always willing—this was the maddening part of
Susanna!- -to own herself entirely in the wrong, and always ended any
conversation on the subject with a cheerful: "But anyway, I'm
improving, you admit that, don't you, Jim? I'm not nearly as bad as I
used to be!"
She said now very seriously: "Jim, darling, you may depend upon me.
I realize what this means, and I am perfectly delighted to have the
chance. At eleven to-day, 'one if by land, and two if by sea,' I'll
be at your office. Trust me!"
"I do, dearest," Jim said. And he went down the drive a little
later, under the blazing glory of the maples with great content in
his heart. Susanna, going about her pretty house briskly, felt so
sure of herself that the day's good work seemed half accomplished
She had adjusted the skirt of the pongee suit, and pinned the
hydrangea hat at a fascinating angle when the telephone rang.
Susanna slipped her bare arms into the stiff sleeves of a Mandarin
coat and crossed the hall to the instrument.
"Hello, Susanna!" said the cheerful voice of young Mrs. Harrington,
a neighbor and friend, at the other end of the telephone. "I just
rang up to know if I could come over early and help you out with
anything and whether—"
"Help me out with anything?" Mrs. Fairfax's voice ranged through
delicate shades of surprise to dawning consternation. "Help me out
"Why, you told me yourself that this was the day of the bridge-club
lunch at your house!" Mrs. Harrington said, almost indignantly. But
immediately she became mirthful. "Oh, Susanna, Susanna! You haven't
forgotten—oh, you HAVE! Oh, you poor girl, what will you do! Listen,
I could bring a—"
"Oh, my goodness, Ethel—and I've got to go to town!" Susanna's
tone was hushed with a sort of horror. "And those seven women will be
here at half-past twelve! And not ONE thing in the house—"
"Oh, you could get Ludovici as far as the lunch goes, Sue. But the
girls will think it's odd, perhaps. Couldn't you wait and take the
"Yes, I'll get Ludovici," Susanna decided hastily. "No, I couldn't
do that. But I'll tell you what I COULD do. If you'll be an angel,
Ethel, and do the honors until I get here, I could lunch early, get
through my business in town, and get the one-fifty train for home—"
"Well, that'll be all right. I'll explain," said the amiable Mrs.
A few minutes later Mrs. Fairfax left the telephone and went down
to the kitchen to explain to Emma and Veronica, the maids, that there
would be a luncheon for eight ladies served by a caterer, in her
home, that day, and that they must simply assist him. She herself
must be in town unfortunately, but Mrs. Harrington had very kindly
offered to come over and be hostess and play the eighth hand of
bridge afterward. Emma and Veronica, perhaps more hardened to these
emergencies than are ordinary maids, rose to the occasion, and
Susanna hurried off to her train satisfied that as far as the actual
luncheon was concerned, all would go well. But what the seven women
would think was another story!
"I don't suppose Mrs. Thayer wants to do so very much shopping,"
said Susanna to herself, hurrying along. "If I meet her at eleven and
we lunch at one, say, I don't see why I shouldn't get the one- fifty
train home. I'd get here before the girls had fairly started playing
bridge, and explain—somehow one can always explain things so much
better in person—"
"Or suppose we lunched at half-past twelve," her uneasy thoughts
ran on. "That gives us an hour and a half to shop—that ought to be
plenty. But we mustn't lose a minute getting started! Mrs. Thayer
will come up in her motor—that will save us time. We can start right
off the instant I get to Jim's office."
She stopped at the caterer's for a brief but satisfactory
interview. The caterer was an artist, but his enthusiasms this morning
were wasted upon Susanna.
"Yes, yes—cucumber sandwiches by all means," she assented hastily,
"and the ices—just as you like! Plain, I think—or did you say in
cases? I don't care. Only don't fail me, Mr. Ludovici."
Fail her? Mr. Ludovici's lexicon did not know the word. Susanna
breathed more freely as she crossed the sunny village street to the
The station platform was deserted and bare. Susanna, accustomed to
a breathless late arrival, could saunter with delightful leisure to
the ticket-seller's window.
"You've not forgotten the new time-table?" said the agent,
pleasantly, when they had exchanged greetings.
"Oh, does the change begin to-day?" Susanna looked blank.
"October sixteenth, winter schedule," he reminded her buoyantly.
"Going to be lots of engagements missed to-day!"
"But mine is very important and I cannot miss it," said Susanna,
displeased at his levity. "I MUST be in Mr. Fairfax's office at
"You won't be more than ten or twelve minutes late," said young Mr.
Green, consolingly. "You tell Mr. Fairfax it's up to the N.Y. and
Susanna smiled perfunctorily, but took her place in the train with
a sinking heart. She would be late, of course, and Jim would be angry,
of course. Late to-day, when every minute counted and the programme
allowed for not an instant's delay! Her eyes on the flying
countryside, she rehearsed her part, found herself eloquently
explaining to a pacified Jim, capturing a gracious Mrs. Thayer,
successfully reaching home again, and explaining to an entirely
amiable bridge club.
It could be done, of course, but it meant a pretty full day!
Susanna's mind reverted uneasily to the consideration that she had
already bungled matters. Oh, well, if she was late, she was late,
that was all; and if Jim was furious, why, Jim would simply have to
be furious! And she began her explanations again—
After all, it was but fifteen minutes past eleven when she walked
into her husband's office. But neither Jim nor Mrs. Thayer was there.
"Mr. Fairfax went out not three minutes ago," said the pretty
stenographer in the outer office. Susanna, brought to a full stop,
stared at her blankly.
"Yes, with Mrs. Thayer to the dentist. He said to say he was afraid
you had missed your train. There's a note."
The note was forthwith produced. Susanna read it frowningly. It was
rather conspicuously headed "Eleven-twelve!"
DEAREST GIRL: Can't wait any longer. Mrs. T. must see her dentist
(Archibald). I'm taking her up. Thayers and we lunch at the Palace at
one-thirty. Wait for me in my office. J. F.
"Oh, what is the matter with everything to-day!" Susanna burst out
in exasperation. "He's wild, of course. When does he ever sign
himself 'J. F.' to me! When did they go?" she asked Miss Perry,
briefly, with an unreasonable wish that she might somehow hold that
irreproachable young woman responsible.
"Just about three minutes ago," said Miss Perry. "He said that if
you had missed your train, you wouldn't be here for more than an
hour, and it was no use waiting."
"You see, it was a changed time-table, and he forgot it just as I
did," explained Susanna, pleased to find him fallible, even to that
"But HE was on time," fenced Miss Perry, innocently.
"They don't change the business trains," Susanna said coldly. And
she decided that she disliked this girl. She opened a magazine and
sat down by the open window.
The minutes ticked slowly by. The telephone rang, doors opened and
shut, and men came and went through the office. Susanna, opposed in
every fibre of her being to passive waiting, suddenly rose.
"Dr. Archibald is in the First National Bank Building, isn't he?"
she inquired. "I think I'll join Mrs. Thayer up there. There's no use
in my waiting here."
Miss Perry silently verified Dr. Archibald's address in the
telephone book, and to the First National Bank Building Susanna
immediately made her way. It was growing warmer now and the streets
seemed noisy and crowded, but no matter—"If I can only get to them
and SEE Jim!" thought Susanna.
In the pleasant shadiness of Dr. Archibald's office, rising from a
delightful mahogany arm-chair, Susanna presently asked if Mrs. Thayer
could be told that Mrs. Fairfax was there.
"I think Mrs. Thayer is gone," said the attendant pleasantly. "I'm
not sure, but I'll see."
In a few minutes she returned to inform Mrs. Fairfax that Mrs.
Thayer had just come in to have a bridge replaced, and was gone.
"You don't know where?" Susanna's voice was a trifle husky with
repressed emotion. She realized that she was getting a headache.
No, the attendant didn't know where.
So there was nothing for it but to go back to Jim's office, and
back Susanna accordingly went. She walked as fast as she could,
conscious of every separate hot step, and was nervous and headachy
when she entered Miss Perry's presence again.
Mr. Fairfax and Mrs. Thayer had not come in; no, but Miss Perry
reported that Mr. Fairfax had telephoned not ten minutes ago, and
seemed very anxious to get hold of his wife.
"Oh, dear, dear!" lamented Susanna. "And where is he now?"
Miss Perry couldn't say. "I wrote his message down," she said, with
sympathetic amusement at Susanna's crushed dismay. And, referring to
her notes, she repeated it:
"Mr. Fairfax said that Mrs. Thayer had had an appointment to see a
sick friend in a hospital this afternoon. But she has gone right out
there now instead, so that you and she can go shopping after lunch.
You are, please, to meet Mr. Fairfax and the Thayers at the Palace
for luncheon at half-past one; there'll be a table reserved. Mr.
Fairfax has a little business to attend to just now, but if you don't
mind waiting in the office, he thinks it's the coolest place you could
be. He wanted to know if you had the whole afternoon free- -"
"Oh, absolutely!" Susanna assented eagerly. This was not the time
to speak or think of the bridge club.
"And that was all," finished Miss Perry, "except he said perhaps
you would like to look at the plans of the orphanage. Mr. Fairfax got
them out to show to Mr. Thayer this afternoon. I can get them for
"Oh, thank you! I do want to see them!" said Susanna, gratefully.
And she established herself comfortably by the open window, the
orphanage plans, a stiff roll of blue paper, in her lap, her idle
eyes following the noonday traffic in the street below.
What a shame to have to sit here doing nothing, to-day of all days,
for nearly two hours! Susanna thought. Why, she could have met her
luncheon guests, seen that the meal was at least under way,
apologized in person, and then started for town. As it was, they
might be angry, and no wonder! And these were her neighbors and very
good friends, after all, the women upon whose good feeling half the
joy of her country home and garden depended. It was too bad!
She glanced at the blue-prints, but one of her sudden inspirations
turned the page blank. What time was it? Ten minutes of twelve. She
referred to her new timetable. Ten minutes of—why, she could just
catch the noon train, rush home, meet her guests, explain, and come
back easily on the one o'clock. But would it be wise? Why not?
Her thoughts in a jumble, Susanna hastily gathered her small
possessions together, moved to a decision by the always imperative
argument that in a few minutes it would be too late to decide.
"Heavens! I'm glad I thought of that!" she ejaculated, seating
herself in the train as the noon whistles shrilled all over the city.
A moment later she was a trifle disconcerted to find the orphanage
plans still in her hand.
"Well, this is surely one of my crazy days!" Susanna strapped the
stiff sheets firmly to her handbag. "I must not forget to take those
back," she told herself. "Jim will ask for them the very first
Her house; when she reached it, seemed quiet, seemed empty. Susanna
crossed the porch, wondering, and encountered the maid.
"Emma! Nobody come?"
"Sure you had the wrong day of it," said Emma, beaming. "Mrs.
Harrington fomed about an hour ago, and she says 'tis NEXT Saturday
"What do you mean?" said Susanna, sharply.
"'Tis not to-day they're comin', Mrs. Fairfax—"
"Nonsense!" Susanna said under her breath. She flew to her desk and
snatched up the scribbled card of engagements. "Why, it's no such
thing!" she said indignantly. "Of course it's to-day! October
sixteenth, as plain as print." And with her eyes still on the card
she reached for her desk telephone.
"Ethel," said Susanna, a moment later. "Listen, Ethel, this is
Susanna. Ethel, what made you say the club luncheon wasn't to-day?
This is my day to have the girls.... Certainly.... Why, I don't care
what she said, I have it written down!... Why, I think that's very
funny.... I have it written.... No, you can laugh all you want to,
but I know I'm right.... No, that's nothing. Jim will eat it all up
to-morrow; he says he never gets enough to eat on Sundays.... But I
can't understand, and I don't believe YET that I... Yes, it's written
right here; I've got my eyes on it now! It's the most
A little vexed at Mrs. Harrington's unbounded amusement, Susanna
terminated the conversation as soon as was decently possible, and
went kitchenward. In her anxiety not to miss her train back to the
city, she refused Teresa's offer of dainty sandwiches, pastries, and
tea, and merely stopped long enough to brush up her hair and to
ascertain by carefully enumerating them out loud that she had her
purse, her gloves, the orphanage plans, and the new time-table.
"This will seem very funny," said poor Susanna, gallantly to
herself, as she took her seat in the train and tried to ignore a
really sharp headache, "when once I see them! If I can only get hold
of Jim, and if the afternoon goes smoothly, I shan't mind anything!"
Only ten minutes late for her luncheon engagement, Susanna entered
the cool depths of the restaurant and, piloted by an impressed head
waiter, looked confidently for her own party. It was very pleasant
here, and the trays of salads and iced things that were borne
continually past her were very inviting.
But still there was no Mrs. Thayer and no Jim. Susanna waited a few
nervous minutes, sat down, got up again, and finally, at two o'clock,
went out into the blazing, unfriendly streets, and walked the five
short squares that lay between the restaurant and her husband's
office. A hot, dusty wind blew steadily against her; the streets were
full of happy girls and men with suit-cases, bound for the country and
a day or two of fresh air and idleness. Miss Perry was putting the
cover on her typewriter as Susanna entered the office, her own
suit-case waiting in a corner. She looked astonished as Susanna came
"My goodness, Mrs. Fairfax!" she ejaculated. "We've been trying and
trying to get you by telephone! Mr. Fairfax was so anxious to get
hold of those orphanage plans. Mr. Thayer wanted—"
"I've been following him about all day," said Susanna, with an
undignified, but uncontrollable gulp. She sat down limply. "WHAT
happened to the luncheon plan?" she asked forlornly. "Where is Mr.
Miss Perry, perhaps softened by the sight of Susanna's filling eyes
and tired face, became very sympathetic. "Isn't it TOO bad—I know
you have! But you see Mrs. Thayer couldn't see her friend in the
hospital this morning, so she came right down here and got here not
ten minutes after you left. She said she couldn't wait for you, as
she had to be back at the hospital at two, so she would do a little
shopping herself and let the rest wait."
"Well," said Susanna, after a pause in which her very soul
rebelled, "it can't be helped, I suppose! Did Mr. Fairfax go out with
"He was to take her somewhere for a cup of tea and then he was
"Going home! But I've just come from there!"
"He thought he'd probably catch you there, I think. He was anxious
to get hold of those plans."
"Oh, I could CRY—" Susanna began despairingly. But indeed Miss
Perry needed no assurance of that. "I could cry!" said Susanna again.
"To-day," she expanded, "has been simply one miserable accident after
another! I hope it'll be a lesson to me! Well—" She broke off short,
for Miss Perry, while kind, was human, and was visibly conscious that
she had promised her brother and sister-in- law to be at their house
in East Auburndale, a populous suburb, long before it was time to put
the baby to bed. "I suppose there's nothing for me to do but go home,"
finished Susanna, discontentedly.
"Accidents will happen!" trilled Miss Perry, blithely, hurrying for
Susanna went thoughtfully home, reflecting soberly upon the events
of the day. If she could but live this episode down, she told
herself; but meet and win Mrs. Thayer somehow in the near future; but
bring Jim to the point of entirely forgetting and forgiving the whole
disgraceful day, she would really reform. She would "keep lists," she
would "make notes," and she would "think twice." In short, she would
do all the things that those who had her good at heart had been
advising for the past ten years.
Of course, if the Thayers were resentful—refused to be placated—
Susanna made a little wry mouth. But they wouldn't be!
Still deep in stimulating thoughts of a complete reformation,
Susanna reached home again, crossed the deep-tiled porch with its
potted olives and gay awnings, entered the big hall now dim with
afternoon shadows. Now for Jim—!
But where was Jim?
"Mr. Fairfax is home, Emma?"
"Oh, there you are, Mrs. Fairfax! And us trying and trying to
telefome you! No ma'am, he's not home. He left on the three-twenty.
He'd only come out in a rush for some papers, and he had to get back
to town to see some one at once. There's a note—"
Susanna sat down. Her head was splitting, she was hungry and
exhausted, and, at the effort she made to keep the tears out of her
eyes, a wave of acute pain swept across her forehead. She opened the
If you can find a reliable messenger [said the note, without
preamble], I wish you would get those orphanage plans to me at
Thornton's office before six. I have to meet him there at four. The
matter is really important, or I would not trouble you. I'll dine
with Thayer at the club. J.F. The pretty hallway and the glaring
strip of light beyond the open garden door swam suddenly before
Susanna's eyes. The hand that held the note trembled.
"I could not be so mean to him!" said Susanna to herself. "But
perhaps he was tired and hot—poor Jim!" And aloud she said with
dignity: "I shall have to take this paper—these plans—in to Mr.
Fairfax, Emma. I'll catch the four-twenty."
"You'll be dead!" said Emma, sympathetically.
"My head aches," Mrs. Fairfax admitted briefly. But when she was
upstairs and alone she found herself suddenly giving way to the long
deferred burst of tears.
After a while she bathed her eyes, brushed her hair, and
substituted a more substantial gown for the pongee. Then she started
out once more, refreshed and more cheerful in spite of herself, and
soothed unconsciously by the quiet close of the lovely autumn
Her own gateway was separated by a flight of shallow stone steps
from the road, and Susanna paused there on her way to the train to
gather her skirts safely for the dusty walk. And while she was
standing there she found her gaze suddenly riveted upon a motor-car
that, still a quarter of a mile away, was rapidly descend the slope
of the hill, its two occupants fairly shaken by its violent and rapid
approach. The road here was not wide, and curved on a sharp grade, and
Susanna always found the descent of a large car, like this one, a
matter of half-terrified fascination. But surely with this car there
was more than the ordinary danger, she thought, with a sudden sick
thumping at her heart. Surely here was something all wrong! Surely no
"That man is drunk," she said, quite aloud. "He cannot make it! He
Her voice broke on a gasp, and she pressed one hand tight over her
eyes. For with swift and terrible precision the accident had indeed
come to pass. The car skidded, turned, hung for a sickening second on
one wheel, struck the stone of the roadside fence with a horrible
grinding jar and toppled heavily over against the bank.
When Susanna uncovered her eyes again, and before she could move or
cry out in the dumb horror that had taken possession of her, she saw
a man in golfing wear run from the Porters' gate opposite; and
another motor, in which Susanna recognized the figure of a friend and
neighbor, Dr. Whitney, swept up beside the overturned one. When she
ran, as she presently found herself running, to the spot, other men
and women had gathered there, drawn from lawns and porches by this
sudden projection of tragedy into the gayety of their Saturday
"Hurt?" gasped Susanna, joining the group.
"The man is—dead, Billy says," said young Mrs. Porter, in lowered
tones, with an agitated clutch of Susanna's arm. "And, poor thing!
she doesn't realize it, and she keeps asking where her chauffeur is
and why he doesn't come to her!"
"Wouldn't you think people would have better sense than to keep a
man like that!" added another neighbor, Dexter Ellis, with a
bitterness born entirely of nervousness. "He was drunk as a lord!
Young and I were just coming out of my side gate—"
Every one talked at once—there was a confusion of excited comment.
Somebody had flung a carriage robe over the silent form of the man as
it lay tumbled in the dust and weeds; Susanna glanced toward it with a
shudder. Somehow she found herself supporting the car's other
occupant, the woman, who was half sitting and half lying on the bank
where she had fallen. The woman had opened her eyes and was looking
slowly about the group; she had pushed away the whiskey the doctor
held to her lips, but she looked sick and seemed in pain.
"I had just put the baby down when I heard Dex shout—" Susanna
could hear Mrs. Ellis saying behind her in low tones. "Oh, it is,
it's an outrage—they should have regarded it years ago," said
another voice. "Merest chance in the world that we took the side
gate," Dexter Ellis was saying, and some man's voice Susanna did not
know reiterated over and over: "Well, I guess he's run his last car,
poor fellow; I guess he's run his last car—"
"You feel better, don't you?" the doctor asked his patient,
encouragingly. "Just open your mouth and swallow this." And Susanna
said gently: "Just try it; you'll feel so much stronger!"
The woman turned upon her a pair of eyes as heavy as a sick
animal's, and moistened her lips. "Arm," she said with difficulty.
"Her arm's broken," said the doctor, in a low tone, "and I think
her leg, too. Kane has gone to wire for the ambulance. We'll get her
right into town."
"You can't take her to town!" Susanna ejaculated, turning so that
she might not be heard by the sufferer. "Take her in to my house."
"The hospital is really the most comfortable place for her, Mrs.
Fairfax," the doctor said guardedly. "I am afraid there is internal
injury. Her mind seems somewhat confused. You can't undertake the
"Ah, but you can't jolt the poor thing all the way into town—"
Susanna began again. Mrs. Porter, at her shoulder, interrupted her in
an earnest whisper:
"Sue, dear, it's always done. It won't take very long, and nobody
"I know just how Susanna feels," interrupted Mrs. Ellis, "but after
all, you never can tell—we don't know one thing about her—"
"She'll be taken good care of," finished the doctor, soothingly.
"Please—don't let them frighten—my husband—" said the woman
herself, slowly, her distressed eyes moving from one face to another.
"If I could—be moved somewhere before he hears—"
"We won't frighten him," Susanna assured her tenderly. "But will
you tell us your name so we may let him know?"
The injured woman frowned. "I did tell you—didn't I?" she asked
"No"—Susanna would use this tone in her nursery some day—"No,
dear, not yet."
"Tell us again," said the doctor, with too obvious an intention to
The woman gave him a look full of dignified reproach.
"If I could rest on your porch a little while," she said to
Susanna, ignoring the others rather purposely, "I should be quite
myself again. That will be best. Then I can think—I can't think now.
These people—and my head—"
And she tried to rise, supporting herself with a hand on Susanna's
arm. But with the effort the last vestige of color left her face, and
she slipped, unconscious, back to the grass.
"Dead?" asked Susanna, very white.
"No—no! Only fainted," Dr. Whitney said. "But I don't like it," he
added, his finger at the limp wrist.
"Bring her in, won't you?" Susanna urged with sudden decision. "I
simply can't let her be taken 'way up to town! This way—"
And, relieved to have it settled, she led them swiftly across the
garden and into the house, flung down the snowy covers of the guest-
room bed, and with Emma's sympathetic help established the stranger
"Trouble," whispered the injured woman apologetically, when she
opened her eyes upon walls and curtains rioting with pink roses, and
felt the delicious softness and freshness of the linen and pillows
"Oh, don't think of that—I love to do it!" Susanna said honestly,
patting her head. "A nurse is coming up from the village to look out
for you, and she and the doctor are going to make you more
The woman, fixing her with a dazed yet curiously intent look,
formed with her lips the words, "God bless you," and wearily shut her
eyes. Susanna, slipping out of the room a few minutes later, said over
and over again to herself, "I don't care—I'm glad I did it!"
Still, it was not very reassuring to hear the big hall clock strike
six, and suddenly to notice the orphanage plans lying where they had
been flung on the hall table.
"I wish it was the middle of next year," said Susanna,
thoughtfully, going out to sink wearily into a porch chair, "or even
next week! I'd pretend to be asleep when Jim came home to-night," she
went on gloomily, "if it wasn't my duty to sit up and explain that
there are a perfect stranger and a trained nurse in the house. Of
course, being there as I was, any humane person would have to do what
I did, but it does seem strange, this day of all days, that I had to
be there! And I wish I had thought to send those plans in by
messenger- -that would have been one thing the less to worry about, at
least!— What is it, Emma?"
For Emma, mildly repeating some question, had come out to the
porch. "Would you like tea, Mrs. Fairfax? I could bring it out here
like you had it last week with your book."
Susanna brightened. After all, she had not eaten for a long while;
tea would be very welcome. And the porch was delightful, and there
was the new Locke.
"Well, that was my original idea, Emma," said she, "and although
the day has not gone quite as I had planned, still there's no reason
why the idea should be changed. Bring a supper-tea, Emma, lots of
sandwiches—I'm combining three meals in one, Miss Smith," she broke
off to explain smilingly, as the nurse, trimly clad in white, came to
the doorway. "I've not eaten since breakfast. You must have some tea
with me. And how is she? Is her mind clearer?"
"Oh, dear me, yes! She's quite comfortable," Miss Smith said
cheerfully. "Doctor thinks there's no question of internal trouble.
Her arm is broken and her ankle badly wrenched, but that's all. And
she's so grateful to you, Mrs. Fairfax. It seems she has a perfect
horror of hospitals, and she feels that you've done such a remarkably
kind thing—taking her in. She asked to see you, and then we're going
to try to make her sleep. Oh, and may I telephone her husband?"
"Oh, she could give you his name then!" cried Susanna, in relief.
"Oh, I am glad! Indeed, you may telephone. Who is she?"
Miss Smith repeated the name and address.
Susanna, stared at her blankly. Then the most radiant of all her
ready smiles lighted her face.
"Well, this is really the most extraordinary day!" she said softly,
after a pause. "I'll come right up, Miss Smith, but perhaps you might
let me telephone for you first. I can get her husband easily. I know
just where he is. He and my own husband are dining together this
evening, as it happens—"