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A Romance of Billy-Goat Hill by Alice Hegan Rice

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[Illustration: "Do you believe in love, Doctor?"]

A ROMANCE OF BILLY-GOAT HILL

BY

ALICE HEGAN RICE

Author of
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
Lovey Mary, Sandy, Etc.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

By GEORGE WEIGHT

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"Do you believe in love, Doctor?"

The Colonel leaned back upon his knees and glared at Morley

There was a sharp report, a smothered groan, then a heavy fall

She held it to the flame, and watched it burn to ashes on the hearth

Maria began to cry, and forgot to jolt the Boarder

Mrs. Sequin paused with her hand on the banister

"It was a great wrong I did you, Don; can you forgive me?"

"Tell me quick! How do you know about the shooting?"

CHAPTER I

It was springtime in Kentucky, gay, irresponsible, Southern
springtime, that comes bursting impetuously through highways and
byways, heedless of possible frosts and impossible fruitions. A
glamour of tender new green enveloped the world, and the air was sweet
with the odor of young and growing things. The brown river, streaked
with green where the fresher currents of the creeks poured in, circled
the base of a long hill that dominated the landscape from every
direction.

In spite of the fact that impertinent railroads were beginning to
crawl about its feet, and the flotsam and jetsam of the adjacent city
were gradually being deposited at its base, it nevertheless reared its
granite shoulders proudly and defiantly against the sky.

From the early days when the hill and rich surrounding farm lands had
been granted to the old pioneer William Carsey, one generation of
Carseys after another had lived in the stately old mansion that now
stood like the last remaining fortress against the city's invasion.
Sagging cornices and discolored walls had not dispelled the atmosphere
of contentment that enveloped the place, an effect heightened by the
wide front porch which ran straight across the face of it, like a
broad, complacent smile. Some old houses, like old gallants, bear an
unmistakable air of past prosperity, of past affairs. Romance has
trailed her garments near them and the fragrance lingers.

Thornwood, shabby and neglected, could still afford to drowse in the
sunshine and smile over the past. It remembered the time when its
hospitality was the boast of the countryside, when its stables held
the best string of horses in the State; when its smokehouse, now
groaning under a pile of lumber, sheltered shoulders of pork, and
sides of bacon, and long lines of juicy, sugar-cured hams; when the
cellar quartered battalions of cobwebby bottles that stood at
attention on the low hanging shelves. It was a house ripe with
experience and mellow with memories, a wise, old, sophisticated house,
that had had its day, and enjoyed it, and now, through with ambitions,
and through with striving, had settled down to a peaceful old age.

On this particular Sunday afternoon Colonel Bob Carsey, the third of
his name, sat on the porch in a weather-beaten mahogany rocker, making
himself a mint julep. He was a stout, elderly gentleman, and, like the
rocking chair, was weather-beaten, and of a slightly mahogany hue. His
features, having long ago given up the struggle against encroaching
flesh, were now merely slight indentures, and mild protuberances, with
the exception of the eyes which still blazed away defiantly, like
twinkling lights at the end of a passage. Across his feet with nose on
paws lay a dog, and about him was scattered a profusion of fishing
paraphernalia.

The Colonel, carefully crushing the mint between his stubby fingers,
stirred it with the sugar at the bottom of his tall glass; then,
resting the concoction on the broad arm of the rocker, and without
turning his head, lifted his voice in stentorian command:

"Jimpson!"

No answer. He turned his head slightly to the left, in the general
direction of the negro cabins whose roofs could be seen through the
trees, and sent another summons hurtling through the bushes:

"Jimpson!"

Again he waited, and again there was no response. The Colonel sighed
resignedly, and spreading a large bordered handkerchief over his
obliterated features, clasped his fat hands with some difficulty about
his ample girth, and slept. When he awoke he began exactly where he
had left off, only this time turning his head slightly to the right,
and sending his command toward the kitchen wing.

A door slammed somewhere in the distance, and presently a shuffling of
feet was heard in the hall, and a small, alert old negro presented
himself to his master with an air of cheerful conciliation.

The Colonel did not turn his head; he gazed with an air of great
injury at the tops of the locust trees, clasping his tumbler as it
rested on the arm of the rocker.

"Jimpson," he began, after the culprit had suffered his silence some
minutes.

"Now, Cunnel," began Jimpson nervously. He had evidently rehearsed
this scene in the past.

"Just answer my questions," insisted the Colonel. "_Is_ this my
house?"

"Yas, sir, but Carline, she--"

"And are you my nigger?" persisted the Colonel plaintively.

"Yas, sir; but you see, Carline--"

"And haven't I, for twenty years," persisted the Colonel, "been taking
a mint julep at half past two on Sunday afternoons?"

"Yas, sir, I was a comin'--"

"Then you don't regard it as an unreasonable request, that a gentleman
should ask his own nigger, in his own house, to bring him a small
piece of ice?" The Colonel's sense of injury was becoming so
overpowering that the offender might have been crushed by contrition
had not a laugh made them both look up.

Standing in the doorway was a young girl in a short riding habit, and
a small hat of red felt that was carelessly pinned to her bright,
tumbled hair. Her eyes were dark, and round like those of a child, and
they danced from object to object as if eager to miss none of the good
things that the world had to offer. Joy of life and radiant youth
seemed to flash from her face and figure.

"What's the matter, Squire Daddy?" she asked, pausing on the
threshold. "Mad again?" The Colonel's head twitched in her direction,
but he held it stiff.

"Well, please don't kill Uncle Jimpson 'til he finds my gloves. I
don't know where I took them off."

"Yas 'm, Miss Lady," Jimpson welcomed the diversion. "I'll find 'em
jes as soon as I git yer Paw his ice."

"Oh, Daddy'll wait, won't you, Dad? I'm in a hurry."

For a moment Jimpson and the Colonel eyed each other, then the
Colonel's gaze shifted.

"I'll git de ice fer you on my way back," Jimpson whispered
reassuringly. "I spec' dat chile _is_ in a hurry."

The young lady in question gave no appearance of haste as she perched
herself on the arm of her father's chair, and presented a boot-lace
for him to tie.

"Going fishing, Dad?" she asked.

"Yes," said the Colonel, struggling to make a two-loop bow-knot. "Noah
Wicker and I are going down below the mill dam. Want to come along?"

"I can't. I'm going riding."

"That's good. Who with?"

"With Don Morley."

The smile that had returned to the Colonel's face during this
conversation contracted suddenly, leaving his mouth a round little
button of disapprobation.

"What in thunder is he doing up here anyhow; why don't he go on back
to town where he belongs?"

"Don?" Miss Lady pretended to effect a part in the few straggling
hairs that adorned his forehead. "Why, he's staying over to the
Wickers' while he looks around for a farm. Here's a gray hair, Daddy!
I'd pull it out only there are two more on that other side now than
there are on this."

"Buying a farm, is he?" The Colonel waxed a deeper mahogany. "Well,
this place is not for sale. I should think he could find something
better to do with his time than hanging around here. For two weeks I
haven't been able to sit on this porch for five minutes without having
him under my feet! What's the sense of his coming so often?"

Miss Lady caught him by the ears, and turned his irate face up to her
own.

"He comes to see me!" she announced, emphasizing each word with a nod.
"He likes horses and dogs and me, and I like horses and dogs and him.
But I like you, too, Daddy."

The Colonel refused to be beguiled by such blandishments.

"I'll speak to him when he comes. He needn't think just because he is
a city fellow, he can take a daughter of mine racing all over the
country on Sunday afternoon!"

"Why, Dad, that's absurd! Don't you take me yourself almost every
Sunday? And don't I go with Noah, and the Brooks boys whenever I
like?"

"Well, you can't go to-day."

"But this is Donald's last day. He goes back to town to-night, and he
may go abroad next week to stay ever and ever so long."

The Colonel brought his fist down on his knees: "I don't care a hang
where he goes. It's _you_ we are talking about. You've got to promise
me not to go with him this afternoon."

"But why?"

"Because," the Colonel argued feebly, "because it's Sunday."

Miss Lady sat for a moment looking straight before her and there was a
contraction of her lips that might have passed for a comic imitation
of her father's had it not softened into a smile.

"Suppose I won't promise?" she said.

The Colonel's free hand gripped the arm of the chair, and he looked as
if he had every intention in the world of being firm.

"You see, if it is wrong for me to go riding on Sunday," went on Miss
Lady, "it's wrong for you to go fishing. Suppose we both reform and
stay at home?"

The Colonel's eyes involuntarily flew to his cherished tackle, lying
ready for action on the top step, then they came back with a snap to
the top of a locust tree.

Miss Lady squeezed his arm and laughed: "Of course you don't want to
stay at home this glorious afternoon, neither do I! Now, that's
settled. Here comes Noah; I'll go and fix your lunch."

It was not by any means the first time the daughter of the house of
Carsey had scored in a contest with her father. His subjection had
begun on that morning now nearly twenty years ago, when she had been
placed in his arms, a motherless bundle of helplessness without even a
personal name to begin life with.

That question of a name had baffled him. He had consulted all the
neighbors, considered all the possibilities in the back of the
dictionary, and even had recourse to the tombstones in the old
cemetery, but the haunting fear that in days to come she might not
like his choice, held him back from a final decision. In the meanwhile
she was "The Little Lady," then "Lady," and finally through the
negroes it got to be "Miss Lady." So the Colonel weakly compromised in
the matter by deciding to wait until she was old enough to name
herself. When that time arrived she stubbornly refused to exchange her
nickname for a real one. A halfhearted effort was made to harness her
up to "Elizabeth," but she flatly declined to answer to the
appellation.

She and Noah Wicker, the son of a neighboring farmer, had run wild on
the big place, and it was Miss Lady who invariably got to the top of
the peach tree first, or dared to wade the farthest into the stream.
All through the summer days her little bare legs raced beside Noah's
sturdier brown ones. She could handle a fishing rod as well as her
father, could ride and drive and shoot, and was on terms of easy
friendship with every neighbor who passed over the brow of Billy-goat
Hill.

The matter of education had been the first serious break in this
idyllic existence. After romping through the country school, she had
had several young and pretty governesses, all of whom had succumbed to
the charms of neighboring country swains, and abandoned their young
charge, to start establishments of their own. Then came wise counsel
from without and after many tears she was sent to a boarding school in
the city.

The older teachers at Miss Gibbs' Select School for Young Ladies still
recall their trials during the one year Miss Lady was enrolled. She
was pretty, yes, and clever, and lovable, oh, yes! And at this point
usually followed a number of stories of her generosity and impulsive
kindness; "but," the conclusion always ran, "such a strange, wild
little creature, so intolerant of convention, in dress, in education,
in religion. Quite impossible in a young ladies' seminary."

After one term of imprisonment Miss Lady escaped to the outdoor world
again, and implored her devoted "Dad" to let her grow up in ignorance,
protesting passionately that she did not want puffs on her head, and
heels on her shoes, and whalebones about her waist. That she didn't
care whether X plus Y equaled Z, or not, and that going to church and
saying the same thing a dozen times, drove all ideas of religion out
of her head. She would study at home, she declared, anything,
everything he suggested, if only she could do it, in her own way, out
of doors.

So the sorely puzzled Colonel had procured her the necessary text-
books, and she had plunged into her original method of self-education.
She usually fought out her mathematical battles down by the river,
using a stick on the sand for her calculations; history she studied in
the fork of an old elm, declaiming the most dramatic episodes aloud,
to the edification of the sparrows.

In the long winter months her favorite haunt was a little unused room
over the front hall, traditionally known as the library. Its only
possible excuse for the name was its one piece of furniture, a
battered secretary containing a small collection of musty volumes that
did credit to the taste of some long-departed Carsey.

Miss Lady had discovered the library in her paper-doll days, and had
ruthlessly clipped small bonneted ladies with flounced skirts from
magazines that dated back to the first year of publication. Later she
had discovered that some of the ladies had jokes on their backs, or
rather pieces of jokes, the rest of which she hunted up in the old
magazines. It was an easy step from the magazines to the books, and in
time she knew them all, from the little dog-eared copy of Horace in
the upper left-hand corner, to the fat Don Quixote in the lower right.

In this neglected little room, with its festoons of cobwebs, its musty
smell and its sense of old, forgotten things and people, she would
tuck herself away with a pocket full of apples, to study and read by
the hour.

The Colonel had done his part, and she was determined to do hers; for
three years she kept sturdily at it, devouring the things she could
understand, and blithely skipping those she could not, extracting
meanwhile a vast amount of pleasure out of each passing day. For the
thing that differentiated Miss Lady from the rest of her fellow kind
was that she was usually glad. She liked to get up in the morning and
to go to bed at night, a peculiarity in itself sufficiently great to
individualize her. She greeted each new experience with enthusiasm and
managed to extract the largest possible quota of happiness out of the
smallest and most insignificant occasion.

As she went singing through the hall, the Colonel tried to frown over
his glasses, but he was only partially successful. She was too
satisfying a sight with her shining hair and eyes, and lithe, supple
figure, every motion of which bespoke that quick, unconscious freedom
of body peculiar to children and those favored of the gods, who never
grow old.

The tall, awkward young man who had by this time arrived at the porch,
followed the Colonel's gaze, and then, without speaking, sat down on
the steps and clasped his hands about his knees. Noah Wicker's
awkwardness, however manifest to others, was evidently a matter of
small moment to him. He had apparently accepted the companionship of
unmanageable arms and legs without question, and without
embarrassment. His stubby blond hair rose straight from a high, broad
forehead, and grew down in square patches in front of his ears. His
eyes, small and steady, surveyed the world with profound indifference.

When Miss Lady disappeared the Colonel turned upon him suddenly:

"What about this rich young fellow over at your house? Who is he
anyhow?"

"Morley?" Noah crossed his knees deliberately. "Why, he's a brother-
in-law of Mr. Sequin."

"Not Basil Sequin, the president of the People's Bank! You don't say!"
The Colonel paused for a moment to digest this fact, then he went on:
"Hell-bent on farming I hear; wants your father to look around for a
place."

This not being in the form of a question, Noah conserved his energies.

"Don't amount to a hill of beans, I'll warrant," continued the
Colonel, with a watchful eye on Noah for denial or confirmation, but
Noah was noncommittal. "When a fellow gets to be twenty-three years
old and can't find anything better to do than to run around the
country spending his money, and playing with the girls, there's a
screw loose somewhere. What does he know about stock-farming?"

"Says he's been reading up."

"Fiddlesticks!" roared the Colonel. "You can't learn farming out of a
book! What does he know about horses?"

"Oh! He's on to horses all right," Noah grinned ambiguously. "You and
I couldn't teach him anything about horses."

"Can he shoot?"

"Can't hit a barn door."

The Colonel heaved a deep sigh, drained the last drops from his
tumbler, then leaned forward, confidentially:

"Noah Wicker, do you like that young chap?"

"Like him?" Noah looked up in surprise. "Why, everybody likes Don
Morley."

"I don't," said the Colonel fiercely. "Here he comes now. I wish you'd
look at that!"

A headlong young man in model riding costume, astride a bob-tailed
sorrel, rashly took a fence where gate there was none, and came
cantering across the Colonel's favorite stretch of blue grass.

"Awfully sorry to have cut across, Colonel!" he called out in tones
that spoke little contrition. "Slipped my trolley as usual and got
lost in the bullrushes. Hope I haven't kept Miss Lady waiting?"

The Colonel rose and extended a hand of welcome. A true Kentuckian may
commit murder and still be a gentleman, but to fail in hospitality is
to forfeit even his own self-respect.

"My daughter, Mr. Morley, will be out presently," he announced with
great formality.

"And how are you, Mike?" went on young Morley, stooping to pat the
dog; "didn't mean to cut you, old fellow, 'pon my word I didn't."

The dog, a shaggy beast, with small, plaintive eyes looking out from a
fringe of wiry hair, expressed his appreciation of this attention with
all the emotion a stump of tail would permit.

"It's a bully day!" continued the visitor with enthusiasm, wiping his
wrists and forehead, and tossing his hair back. "If I weren't going to
town to-night I'd ask you to take me fishing, Colonel. Hello! What
kind of a reel is that?"

Now the article which had attracted attention happened to be an
invention of the Colonel's, something he had been working on for a
long time, so he could not resist explaining its unique qualities.

"Well, I'll be hanged!" said Morley, turning it over and over
admiringly. "If that isn't the cleverest thing I ever saw. This little
screw regulates the slack, doesn't it? Does your legal mind get on to
that, Wick?"

"It was a great job to get that to fit," said the Colonel, nattered in
spite of himself. "Took me the best part of a week to puzzle out that
one point."

"A week!" exclaimed Morley. "It would have taken me months! Oh! here
she is!" and from the very ardent look that leapt into his face, and
the alacrity with which he sprang up, it might have been doubted
whether his mind had been wholly upon the matter under discussion.

Miss Lady greeted him with almost boyish frankness, but there was an
unmistakable flush under the smooth tan of her cheek that did not
escape the vigilant eye of the Colonel.

"Here you are, Dad! here you are, Noah!" she said, tossing a small
package to each; "sandwiches and hard boiled eggs for two."

"Put the salt in for the eggs?" asked the Colonel, having had
experience with her lunches.

"I believe I did. Open yours and see, Noah. Say, Daddy darling!" she
swooped down upon him from the rear, slipping an arm about his neck as
he knelt on the porch to collect his hooks and lines, "you are going
to let me ride Prince, just this once, aren't you?"

[Illustration: The Colonel leaned back upon his knees and glared at
Morley.]

The Colonel gasped, partly from strangulation, and partly from
amazement.

"Prince!" he cried. "Well, I reckon not! That colt's hardly broken to
the saddle. He threw Jimpson last week."

"Well, I'm not Jimpson. Please, Daddy, just this once."

"If that's the little beast Wick was telling me about," said Morley,
"we are certainly not going to trust you on him."

The Colonel leaned back upon his knees where he knelt on the porch,
and glared at Morley.

"Who do you mean by we?"

"The conservative party of which I, for once, am a member. From all I
can hear of that colt, no girl could handle him."

"You are absolutely mistaken, sir! I taught my daughter to straddle a
horse before I taught her to walk. Handle him? Of course she can
handle him! Jimpson!" he roared in conclusion, "put the side-saddle on
Prince!"

CHAPTER II

The Cane Run Road lay straight ahead, now white under the full light
of the sun, now dappled with tiny dancing shadows from the interlaced
twigs overhead, new clothed in their garb of green. White and purple
violets peeped from the fence corners, and overhead the birds made
busy in the branches.

Two young people, flushed and smiling, drew rein and looked at each
other. In the eyes of each was a challenge.

"I'll race you to the mill!" cried Miss Lady, tugging at her bridle.
"Don't start 'til I give the word. Now, go!"

Off through the smiling, sunlit fields they dashed, too impetuous and
young, and gloriously free, to waste a thought on that inexorable
wheel of life, upon which sooner or later the most irresponsible must
break their wings. On and on they went, neck to neck, the gallop
breaking into a run. Down past the blacksmith's, past the old mill
which was to have been the goal, through the long covered bridge, over
the hill and out again on the level road where they still kept
abreast.

And close upon them, with head up and mane flying, came another steed,
free, irresponsible, unbridled, invisible. It was Romance, pounding in
their wake; Romance, whose hoof beats made their pulses dance in
unison, whose breath upon their cheeks made them laugh for joy in the
face of the wind.

They were almost to the city now, having reached that slovenly suburb
that had given its plebeian name to the once aristocratic
neighborhood. Clouds of dust whirled in their wake, and stones flew
right and left under the horses' hoofs; men in carts pulled their
teams to the side of the road to let the mad pair pass; dogs dashed
from dark doorways, barking furiously.

Suddenly, just as they neared the railroad junction, the sharp whistle
of an engine sent Prince plunging into the air. Donald rose in his
stirrups and made a frantic clutch at the horse's head, but even as he
missed it, he heard the clanging signal for an approaching train and
saw the gates immediately in front of them descending. Instantly he
flung himself out of the saddle, and sprang for Prince's head. The
horse, almost under the nose of the engine, reared frantically,
swerved, then came to a trembling stand, as Miss Lady deftly loosened
her skirt from the pommel, and swung herself to the ground.

In a second Don was beside her.

"Are you hurt?" he cried, catching her arm with his free hand and
looking anxiously into her face.

"Not a bit. Who won?" she asked with a little catch in her voice.

"Lord! You were plucky! If anything had happened to you!" his hand
tightened on her wrist, and he drew in his breath sharply.

The afternoon freight came lumbering by, and they stood close together
with the hot breath of the engine in their faces. Her hair blew across
his face and he could feel her body trembling against his shoulder.
Neither of them seemed to be aware of the fact that he still held her
hand, and that the horses were tugging at their respective bridles.

As the train thundered past and the gates lifted, Miss Lady turned
quickly and began to pin up her loosened hair.

"Pretty narrow shave, Miss," commented a redheaded man with a flag,
hurrying across the track, and joining an old apple-woman and two
small boys who constituted an interested audience.

"I seen you a-coming an' would 'a' let you through, only I'm a-
substitutin' on this job, and wasn't in fer takin' no extry risks."

"Here, boy!" cried Donald, "hold my horse. The girth's broken; I'll
have to make another hole in the strap."

The word "boy" being a generic term was promptly appropriated by each
of the youngsters as applying to himself, and a fierce scramble ensued
in which the larger was victorious.

"Skeeter's it," announced the flagman, a self-constituted umpire. "Git
out 'er the way there, Chick, and give the gent a chanct to see what
he's a-doin'."

Chick, a large-headed, small-bodied goblin of a boy, made an
unintelligible, guttural sound in his throat and remained where he
was, evidently considering it of paramount importance that _he_ should
see what the gentleman was doing.

It was with some difficulty that the new hole in the strap was made,
and to secure the buckle more firmly Don gave it several sharp raps
with the handle of his riding whip. At the last one the silver knob
flew from the handle and rolled to the roadside.

In an instant the small boys were after it, the older having deserted
his post without compunction, when a question of booty was involved.
They grappled together in the dust of the road, long before they
reached the prize, and with arms and legs entwined rolled toward it.

Chick was underneath when they arrived, but he loosened his clutch of
Skeeter's throat, and darted forth a small, grimy hand that closed
upon the treasure. In an instant Skeeter seized upon the clenched
fist, and was wrenching it open, when a third party entered the fray.

"The little one got it!" cried Miss Lady indignantly; "he got it
first! Give it to him this minute!"

"I be damned if I do!" shouted Skeeter, roused to fury by the combat.

"I'll be damned if you don't," said Miss Lady, equally determined.

The skirmish was fierce but short, and by the time Don got to them,
Miss Lady had restored the spoils to the lawful victor, and was
assisting the vanquished foe to wipe the dust from his eyes.

"Well, partner," said Donald to Chick, "what have you got to say to
the young lady for taking your part?"

"He ain't got nothin' to say," said Skeeter glibly. "He's dumb. Nobody
but me can't understand him. He says thank you, ma'am."

Chick having uttered no sound, it was evident that Skeeter depended
upon telepathy.

"He's a ash-barrel baby," went on Skeeter, eager to impart
information; "he ain't got no real folks, and he's been to the
Juvenile Court twict; onct for hopping freights and onct fer me and
him smashin' winders."

All eyes were turned upon the hero, who immediately became absorbed in
his whip-handle. He was small, and exceedingly thin, and exceedingly
dirty. The most conspicuous things about him were his large, wistful
eyes, and his broad smile that showed where his teeth were going to
be. Across his narrow chest a ragged elbowless coat was hitched
together by one button, while a pair of bare, spindling legs dwindled
away respectively into a high black shoe, and a low-cut tan one, both
of which were well ventilated at the heels.

"I don't believe he's very bad," smiled Miss Lady, catching his chin
in her hand and turning his face up to hers. "Are you, Chick?"

He made a queer guttural sound in his throat but, his official
interpreter being by this time absorbed in the horses, was unable to
make himself understood.

"It must be awful for a boy not to be able to ask questions!" she went
on, looking down at him, then seeing something in his face that other
people missed, she suddenly drew him to her and gave him a little
motherly squeeze.

The ride home was somewhat leisurely, for the accident, slight as it
was, had sobered the riders, and there was, moreover, a subject under
discussion that called for considerable earnest expostulation on one
side, and much tantalizing evasion on the other.

"It all depends upon you," Donald was saying, as they climbed the last
hill. "Cropsie Decker starts for the coast to-morrow but the steamer
doesn't sail for ten days. Shall I go or stay?"

"But you were so mad about it two weeks ago, you could scarcely wait
to start."

"Lots of things can happen in two weeks. Shall I stay?"

"What do your family think about it?"

"My family? Oh, you mean my sister. She doesn't make a habit of losing
sleep over my affairs. She'd probably say go. I am rather unpopular
with her just now, because I don't approve of this affair between my
niece Margery and Fred Dillingham. I fancy she'd be rather relieved to
get me out of the way. In fact, everybody says go, except Doctor
Queerington. He is a cousin of ours, used to be my English professor,
up at the university. He has always harbored the illusion that I can
write. Wants me to settle down some place in the country and go at it
in earnest."

"You don't mean John Jay Queerington, the author?" Miss Lady said
eagerly. "Is he really your cousin? Daddy went to school to his
father, and has told me so much about him, that without seeing him, I
could write a book on the subject."

"Great old chap in his way, an authority on heaven knows how many
subjects, yet he scarcely makes enough money to take care of his
children."

"But think of the books he is giving to the world! He told Daddy he
was on his thirteenth volume!"

"Yes, he swims around most of the time in a sea of declensions,
conjugations, and syntaxes, in Greek, Latin and English."

"I think he's magnificent!" cried Miss Lady, trying to hold Prince
down to a walk. "I adore people who do great things and amount to
something."

"All of which I suppose is meant to reflect on a poor devil who
doesn't do things and doesn't amount to anything?"

"I never said so."

"See here," said Donald whimsically, "for two weeks you have been
getting me _not_ to do things. When I think of all the things I have
promised you, I can feel my hair turning white. Having polished me off
on the don'ts, you aren't going to begin on the do's, are you?"

"Indeed I am. Does Doctor Queerington really think you could be a
writer?"

"He has been after me about it ever since I was a youngster. I'm
always scribbling at something, but there is nothing in it. Besides,"
he added with a smile, "I'm going to be a farmer."

Miss Lady threw back her head and laughed:

"He wants to be a farmer
And with the farmers stand
The hay seed on his forehead
And a rake within his hand."

"Oh! Don Morley, one minute it's the Orient, the next it's literature,
and the next a farm; you don't know what you want!"

"Yes, I do, too," he caught her bridle and brought the horses close
together. "I know perfectly what I want, and so do you. Haven't I told
you four times a day for two weeks?"

She looked away to the far horizon where a bank of formidable clouds
was forming:

"Oh, we all think we want things one day and forget about them the
next. Life is made up of desires that seem big and vital one minute,
and little and absurd the next. I guess we get what's best for us in
the end."

"I haven't so far!" Don said fiercely. "I've gotten what was worst for
me and I've made the worst of it."

They had turned into the lane now and were walking their horses up to
the stile where Jimpson was waiting to take them.

"Don't put my mare up," directed Donald. "I've got to ride back to
town to-night. There's rain in those clouds; I ought to be starting
this minute."

But his haste was evidently not imperative, for he followed Miss Lady
through the narrow winding paths, between a tangle of shrubs and
vines, into the old-fashioned flower garden. The spiraea was just
putting out its long, feathery plumes of white, and the lilacs nodded
white and purple in the breeze.

"Here's the first wild rose!" cried Miss Lady, darting to a corner of
the old stone wall; "the idea of its daring to come out so soon!"

He took the frail little blossom and smiled at it half quizzically:
"It's funny," he said awkwardly, "your giving me this. You know, it's
what you made me think of, the first time I saw you,--a wild rose.
Didn't she, Mike?"

Mike, who had been dreaming all afternoon on the porch, had gotten up
reluctantly as they passed and followed them. He had a slow, lopsided
gait, and his tongue dangled from the side of his mouth. It was
evidently a sacrifice for him to accompany them, but duty was duty.

"You angel dog! Come here to your Missus!" commanded Miss Lady, as she
and Donald dropped down in the old barrel-stave hammock, that had
swung beneath the lilacs since the Colonel was a boy.

But Mike ambled past her, and after snuggling up to Don with a great
show of intimacy lay down at his feet.

"I'm glad somebody loves me," Donald said.

"It's your riding boots, Mike likes. He never had a chance to taste
tan shoe polish before!"

"What do you like me for?"

"Me? Who said I did?"

"Don't you?"

"Oh, yes, I like tan boots, too. Why didn't you tell me my hair had
tumbled down again?"

"Because you are so beautiful, with it like that, Miss Lady--"

"Now, Don, if you begin again I shall go straight in the house. What
did you mean by saying you had gotten what was worst for you, and you
had made the worst of it?"

"Oh, the way I've been brought up. You see my sister took me when I
was a baby, and I guess I was an awful nuisance to her. She liked to
travel, and kept it up a good while even after Margery was born. I
grew up in hotels and on steamers and trains, going to school wherever
we happened to be staying long enough; sometimes in France, sometimes
in Switzerland, sometimes in America. I remember one Christmas when I
was about six, we were in a hotel in Paris. My nurse put me to bed
early so she could go out with her sweetheart, and told me there
wasn't any Santa Claus, so I wouldn't stay awake watching for him. I
hate that woman to this day! I can remember the big, lonesome room,
and the red curtains, and the crystal chandelier and the way I cried
because there wasn't any Santa Claus, and because I didn't have a
sweetheart!"

"Poor little chap! It was a mother you wanted."

"Perhaps. Sister was good to me. But she didn't understand me; she
never has. She has always given me too much of everything, advice
included."

"But since you have been grown, you've had lots of time to--to--take
things into your own hands."

"Well, I did for a while. I managed to squeeze through the university,
then I went into the shops and had a bully time for five months, but
it made no end of a row! Sister felt that after all she had done for
me, I oughtn't to go dead against her wishes, and I guess she was
right. Then I went into the bank and was beginning to get the hang of
things, when she had a nervous collapse and was ordered to Egypt for
the winter. My brother-in-law couldn't take her, so he sent me."

"But you stayed longer than she did."

"Yes, I played around on the Riviera for a while."

"And you have been home, how long?"

"Three months. Honestly, I meant to buckle down to something right
off, but Cropsie Decker got this offer to go to the Orient for the
_Herald-Post_, and asked me to go along. I was keen about it
until--until I came down here."

They were both silent for a while, watching a spider that was
exploring Don's boot-lace.

"It all seems so footless now. What I want is a house of my own, a
home, I mean. I never had much of that sort of thing--I'm not quite
sure I knew what a home was until I saw Thornwood."

"Isn't it dear?" asked Miss Lady with a loving look over her shoulder
at the old house silhouetted against the sky. "I could kiss every
brick of it, I love it so."

"I wish I didn't have to go back to town tonight!" burst out Donald
inconsequentially. "I wish I never had to go back to it!"

"Why?"

"Oh, for lots of reasons. I'm a different fellow down here in the
country, with things to do, and the right sort of things to think
about, and--and you! You see," he smiled without looking up, "I'm not
much good in town."

"How do you mean?" asked Miss Lady, with disconcerting frankness.

Donald shrugged his broad shoulders: "Oh! I don't know. I get into
things before I know it. This Eastern trip, now; it sounded great when
I said I'd go, Cropsie is a regular bird, the best fellow in the world
to go on such a lark with, but--"

Miss Lady shot a glance at the handsome, boyish, irresponsible face
beside her.

"Don't go, Don!" she whispered impulsively; "stay here and buy your
farm!"

"You mean it!" he demanded, seizing her hands. "You want me to stay?"

The blood surged into her cheeks, but she did not withdraw her hands.
Into her eager, luminous eyes had leapt the response that had been
held in abeyance all afternoon.

"If I stay," he pressed hotly, "if I settle down and behave myself,
and make good, you'll promise me--"

"Jimpson!" thundered a familiar voice from the road. "That good-for-
nothing, lazy nigger, why don't he come help me with these things?
Jimpson!"

"I'll tell him, Dad!" called Miss Lady, springing from the hammock.

"But wait!" pleaded Donald, "just a minute. I've got to beat that
storm to town, and tell Decker the trip is off. But I'll be back in
the morning! Perhaps to breakfast. Oh, my darling, I am so happy! Say
you love me! Say it!"

Old Mike stirred in his slumbers, then opened one eye. It was
evidently time for him to take some action. When two young people are
standing very close with clasped hands and love-lit eyes in the dim
fragrance of an old garden, even a dog of a chaperon knows that it is
time to interfere! With great presence of mind he discovered an
imaginary squirrel in the hedge directly beside them, and set up such
a furious barking that Miss Lady looked around and laughed. For a
second she stood, her head thrown back, a teasing, half-shy, half-
daring look on her face, then she dropped a swift kiss on the hand
that clasped hers, and without a word went flying crimson-cheeked up
the lilac-bordered path.

CHAPTER III

Donald Morley rode back to town through the coming storm, in that
particular state of ecstasy that mortals are permitted to enjoy but
once in a lifetime. Not that falling in love was a novel sensation; on
the contrary a varied experience had made him agreeably familiar with
all the symptoms. But this, he assured himself with passionate
vehemence, was something altogether and absolutely different. Between
now and that morning when he had idly ridden out to Wicker's in search
of a farm, lay a sea as wide as Destiny!

There in the country he had unexpectedly come upon his fate and with
characteristic impetuosity had pursued and overtaken it. Other girls
may have stirred his heart, but it had remained for a wild little
pagan of the woods to stir his soul. He had laid bare to her the most
secret places of his being, had confessed his sins, and received
absolution. From this time on the frivolities of youth lay behind him,
and ambition sat upon his brow. He would cut out the trip to the
Orient, buy a farm and settle down to work as if he hadn't a penny in
the world. Once the Colonel was made to recognize his worth, the gates
of Paradise would be open!

He thought of the home he would build for her, and the flowers that
would encompass it, of the horses and dogs they would have and
perhaps--The memory of her face as she clasped Chick in the road
flashed over him, and he straightened his shoulders suddenly and
smiled almost tremulously. Yes, he'd be worthy of her, from this time
forward life should hold no higher privilege!

It was after seven o'clock by the time he reached the Junction, and
heavy mutterings of thunder could be heard in the west.

"Does this street go through to the boulevard?" he asked of a man,
pointing with his knobless whip.

The lank person addressed removed his weight from the telegraph pole
that had supported it and sauntered forward. As he did so Donald
recognized the red-headed umpire of the afternoon.

"No, sir, Captain," he said, "it do not. This here is Bean Alley.
These city politicians has got their own way of running streets; they
take a pencil you see and draw a line along the property of folks that
can pay for streets. The balance of us sets in mud puddles." The man
evidently found some difficulty in expressing himself without the
assistance of profanity. There were blanks left between the words,
which he supplied mentally with compressed lips and lifting of shaggy
brows, that served as an effective substitute. His conversation
printed would resemble these grammatical exercises, struggled with an
early youth, in which "a----dog----attacked a----boy with a----stick."

But his suppressed eloquence was lost upon his hearer, for Donald had
become absorbed in a theatrical poster, which represented a
preternaturally slim young lady, poised on a champagne bottle, coyly
surveying an admiring world through the extended fingers of a small
black gloved hand. It was "La Florine," whose charms he had heard
recounted times without number by Mr. Cropsie Decker.

This evening, the poster announced, "La Florine" would for the first
time in any American city, perform her incomparable dance, "The
Serpent of the Nile."

Don had consulted his watch, and made a lightning calculation as to
the time in which he could get a bite of supper and reach the Gayety,
before he remembered that he was a reformed character. Then he sternly
withdrew his gaze from the lady who peeped through her fingers in the
dusk, and brought it back to the red-headed person, who had continued
his conversation with unbroken volubility.

"... and she says to me," he was concluding "'Mr. Flathers,' she says,
'it's a privelege to help such as you. A man what's been in the gutter
times without number, and bore the awful horrors of delirium tremins
four times and still can feel the stirrings of Christianity in his
bosom.'"

Donald looked at him and laughed. Here was evidently a fellow sinner.

"So you've straightened up, have you? How does it feel?"

Mr. Flathers cast a sidelong glance upward as if to size up the
handsome young gentleman on horseback.

"Mighty depressin'," he confessed, "with a thirst that's been
accumulatin' for weeks and weeks, and a sick wife, and a adobted child
that ain't spoke a word for seven years. But I'm restin' on the Lord.
He well pervide."

"Oh, you'll get along!" said Don, feeling uncommonly lenient toward
his fellow men. "Here's a dollar if that will help you out a bit."

"It will," said Mr. Flathers reassuringly; "it undoubtedly will. I got
much to be thankful for, I know that. Fer instance I never was a poor
relation! That's more than lots of men kin say! The fact are, there
ain't airy one in my whole family connection what's got any more 'n I
have!"

The shower that had been threatening began now in earnest, and Donald
started toward town at a brisk canter, but before he had gone two
squares the rain was driving in sheets across the street, and he was
obliged to dismount and seek shelter in the doorway of an isolated
building that stood at the end of the common. It was a double door
with the upper parts in colored glass, on which was boldly lettered,

The CANT-PASS-IT SALOON.

In one of the windows a placard informed the famishing residents of
Billy-goat Hill that their thirst might not be assuaged until after
twelve o'clock on Sunday night.

As Donald stood in the doorway, an automobile turned the corner and
came to a stop, the lights from the lamps shining on the wet street,
and throwing everything outside their radius into sudden darkness.

A man got out of the machine and ran for shelter. He was coughing, and
held his collar close about his throat.

"Why, hello, Dillingham," said Morley, recognizing him. "How did you
get out here?"

"Joy-riding," said Dillingham with a curl of his lip. "Tried to make a
short cut, and got marooned. What are you doing here?"

"I've been out in the country for a couple of weeks. Got caught in the
shower. What's the matter? Are you sick?"

Dillingham was leaning against the door jamb, shivering. He was a
short, sallow, delicate-looking young fellow with self-explanatory
puffs under his somewhat prominent eyes.

"Chilled to the bone," he chattered. "I've got to get something to
warm me up. Is this a saloon?"

"Yes, but it's closed. Won't be open until midnight."

Mr. Dillingham made a sweeping condemnation of a city administration
that would countenance such a proceeding, then set his wits to work to
evade the law.

"Whose joint is this, anyhow?" he asked, glancing up. "Sheeley's? Why,
of course. I've been out here to prize fights. He lives somewhere
around here. Ugh! but I'm cold. I'll be a corpse this time next week
if I don't head off this chill. Let's look him up and get a drink."

Donald hesitated to spring the news of his reformation upon one who
was already in a weakened condition. He assured himself that he would
refuse when the time came. In the meanwhile no reason presented itself
for refusing to assist his friend in quest of a life-preserver.

"Sheeley used to live in one of those shacks over there. It's letting
up a bit, suppose we go over?" proposed Dillingham, shaking the water
out of his cap.

"Been out to the house to-day?" asked Donald as they splashed through
the mud.

"Just came from there. The truth is Margery and I have fixed things up
at last. Any congratulations?"

"To be sure," said Donald, extending a wet hand, but frowning into the
darkness. "Have you told my sister?"

"Mrs. Sequin?" Dillingham smiled with superior amusement. "I guess she
didn't have to be told. I imagine she thought of it before we did.
Rather keen on me, you know, from the start."

Donald drew in his breath but said nothing. Had it not been true, how
he would have enjoyed punching Dill's head!

"You get off to the Orient this week, I suppose," went on Dillingham.
"Lucky devil! Decker asked me to go along. If it hadn't been for the
paternal grandparent I'd have gone in a minute, but he put his foot
down. When do you sail?"

"I've given up the trip. I'm going to buy a farm out near the
Wickers', and get down to work."

Dillingham whistled incredulously:

"Yes, I see you doing it! You are counting on pulling off the Derby, I
suppose?"

"No, I'm not going to enter my horse."

"What! Why Lickety-Split could win that race in a walk. All the crowd
say you stand to win. Here, this is the shanty; at least it's where he
used to live."

A bright light streamed from the uncurtained window of a small
cottage, revealing a family group within. A fat, smiling woman in curl
papers, with a baby in her arms, and six youngsters in varying stages
of Sabbath cleanliness, hung upon the words of a man who sat in a
large, plush self-rocker, and read from a highly colored picture book.
In the head of the family Dillingham recognized Richard Sheeley, ex-
pugilist, and present proprietor of the Cant-Pass-It.

"Well, if it ain't Mr. Dillingham!" exclaimed Sheeley, throwing open
the door in answer to their knock. "Soaked through, ain't you? Little
somethin' to warm you up? Sure. Just come in and wait 'til I git on my
shoes and find an umbrella and I'll go over with you. Don't keep a
drop here," he added in a whisper, behind a hand so large that he
evidently regarded it as sound proof. "Missus won't stand fer it,
'count of the kids, eh?"

"That's him, Ma, the one I was telling you about," Richard Sheeley,
Jr.,--yclept "Skeeter"--tugged at his mother's sleeve, nodding his
head at Donald, who was making love to the smallest and shyest of the
daughters of the house.

"She ain't as meek as she looks!" Mrs. Sheeley was saying, as she
tried to get the child from behind her skirts. "She's got her popper's
temper along with his smartness. They ain't either one of them got a
grain of sense when they git mad. I never seen a child with such a
temper, did you, Popper?"

But Sheeley did not heed her; he was busy doing the honors to one he
evidently considered an honored guest.

"Sit right down here, Mr. Dillingham, lemme take the book out of the
chair. I was just reading to the Missus and the kids a book Skeeter
brought home from Sunday School, all about Dan'l and the lions' den.
Tall tale that, Mr. Dillingham. About one of the raciest animal
articles I ever come acrost."

When they were ready to go, Mrs. Sheeley followed them anxiously to
the door.

"It's a awful stormy night, Popper; you ain't going to stay, are you?"

"Not long. I'll be back to finish the story. So long, kids!" He swung
himself down the wooden steps, between his two well-groomed
companions, looking back now and then at the bright, open doorway,
where the smiling fat woman stood surrounded by half a dozen tow-
headed children.

Just as they reached the saloon, the storm, which had evidently only
paused for breath, broke in all its fury. The thunder rolled nearer
and flashes of lightning pierced the darkness.

"Here! The side door!" shouted Sheeley.

"Wait till I strike a match. I'll take the umbrella. Go right up-
stairs, if you don't mind. I want you to see the improvements I been
making. There ain't a saloon this side the city limits that's got the
'quipment for sparring matches mine has."

"Get busy with some whisky in the meanwhile," reminded Dillingham
sharply; "and I say, can't you make a fire somewhere? I'm chattering
like an idiot."

"Sure I can. There's a stove up there, and a bottle or two of extra
fine liquor. Jes' step right up."

Half way up the ill-lighted stairs they paused. Above the wind and the
rain, a curious sound had come from below as if someone had stumbled
against something.

"Who is that?" Sheeley demanded sharply, leaning over the banister and
peering down into the gloom.

No answer came, but a draught of wind blew in from somewhere, swaying
the gas-jet.

"Oh! it's a window that's left open," said Sheeley. "That fool
bartender! I'll just go down and fasten it."

The lock proved stubborn, and it was with some difficulty that he
forced it into place. Meanwhile the two young men had lit the gas in
the large upper room and were inspecting the elevated stage where
boxers were wont to engage surreptitiously in the noble art of self-
defense.

"Take yours straight I believe, Mr. Dillingham?" said Sheeley,
rejoining them; "an' yer gentleman friend?"

"Nothing for me," said Morley with unnecessary firmness. "I'll just
wait a second until the storm lets up, then be off to town."

"Do any boxing these days, Dick?" asked Dillingham, pouring himself a
second drink of whisky, as he hovered over the newly kindled fire.

"Oh! I don the mitts occasionally to gratify me friends. My long suit
these days is faro; more money in it."

Donald, standing at the window, staring out at the wild night, drummed
impatiently on the pane.

"Hurry up, Dill," he said. "I don't want to keep my mare standing so
long in the rain."

"Your mare be hanged," said Dillingham; "just wait ten minutes until I
get thawed out, and I'll go with you."

Donald had waited ten minutes for Dill before, but never with the
present sense of responsibility, born of his new connection with the
family. He knew that his only chance of getting him home was to humor
him.

How the wind whistled across the window! He wondered what Miss Lady
was doing? Was she sitting by the table in the cozy living-room at
Thornwood, with the lamplight on her hair? Was she at the harpsichord,
singing to the Colonel? Was she standing, as he was standing, at the
window, peering out into the wild night, and thinking,--and longing--?

"What's the matter with a little game of poker?" asked Sheeley,
lightly running a deck of cards up the length of his arm and reversing
them with a deftness that spoke of long familiarity.

"Great idea!" exclaimed Dillingham expansively. "Just pass that
bottle, will you? What's that, Morley? Haven't got time? What in
thunder's the matter with you to-night?"

Donald retorted, with great dignity, that nothing in thunder was the
matter with him, except that he wanted to get back to town.

"Better not start with it storming like this," urged Sheeley, as a
crash of thunder shook the windows. "It'll let up soon."

"Tell you what I'll do!" said Dillingham, putting an arm across
Donald's shoulder affectionately, and speaking a trifle unsteadily.
"If you'll play a couple of games I'll go home with you--You ought to
be willing to do that for a fellow that's going to be your uncle. I
mean your nephew."

"And you'll go the minute the rain lets up?"

"Yes, if you'll play with us."

Donald stood irresolute, watching Dillingham's thin, unsteady fingers
shuffle the cards. He must get him home somehow, for Margery's sake.
Dill never knew when to stop, he was good for the night unless
somebody intervened.

Sheeley caught his eye and nodded significantly.

"All right!" said Donald, dropping into the vacant chair. "Only two
games remember! No whisky, thanks. What's the ante?"

CHAPTER IV

When Miss Lady had championed the cause of the oppressed that
afternoon, she had unknowingly spoiled a criminal in the making. Chick
Flathers, at the advanced age of eleven, had been so impressed by the
injustice of social conditions that he had dedicated himself to a life
of crime. He had already achieved two appearances in the Juvenile
Court, and two days in the Detention Home. He was now fully decided to
be a burglar.

To be sure there were extenuating circumstances for Chick. It was
unquestionably a handicap to have opened his eyes for the first time
in an ash barrel, and in Mr. Flathers' ash barrel at that. The
transfer in a patrol wagon to an incubator in the City Hospital had
been the next move, hence back to Mr. Flathers' who, inasmuch as it
was _his_ ash barrel, felt called upon by Providence to adopt the
foundling.

The next misfortune that befell him was in being dropped out of the
window on his head, during one of Maria Flathers' absent-minded
moments. This apparently did not affect his head, but in time it
seriously affected his speech. The fact that he had so much to say,
without being able to say it, resulted in a dammed-up current that
sometimes overflowed in temper and viciousness. He talked a great
deal, but nobody was able, or took the pains to try, to understand
him. That is, not until Skeeter Sheeley gave him his nickname and
became his official interpreter.

Their friendship dated from a memorable day when Skeeter had for the
first time heard of the incubator incident, and had promptly accosted
the Flathers' foundling as "Chicken." The insult had been instantly
resented in a battle so fierce and so bloody, that the details of it
became historic in the annals of Billy-goat Hill. Chick, though of
lighter weight, and feeble muscle, was armed with righteous
indignation. He observed no rules, but fought with arms, legs, teeth
and nails. The odds were against him however, and he had to be
assisted from the field, a vanquished hero.

From that time on, by one of those mysterious laws that govern boydom,
the two were inseparable companions, waging open war on all adjoining
neighborhoods, engaging in predatory expeditions in their own, and,
when interest in life flagged, fighting each other.

Skeeter interpreted all that Chick said, interpreted it freely, and
with imagination, and Chick apparently considered himself honor bound
to accept the interpretation and stand for it, no matter how far it
came from expressing his meaning.

Eleven years of wickedness had thus been swaggered through when Chick
suddenly and unexpectedly fell in love. It was when the beautiful
young lady at the railroad crossing had bent above him like a
succoring angel, that he had been forced to change his classification
of the human race. Hitherto it had been divided into grown people and
children, henceforth it was divided into men and women!

All that Sunday afternoon he went about in a dream. He could not get
over the fact that she had taken his part, that she had put her arm
around him, and smiled at him. Once or twice when nobody was looking,
he put his very dirty hand on his cheek and felt the spot where her
fingers had rested.

But this new and tender emotion was not allowed to interfere with the
special project that Chick had in mind. It was a project so colossal
in its nature, that not even Skeeter was to be admitted to the secret.
For six weeks Chick had been the victim of a gaming system, and to-
night he was to take his revenge.

At supper time Skeeter recognized a convention of civilization and
repaired to the bosom of his family, but Chick being accountable to
nobody, and recognizing no conventions, stole a couple of apples from
a passing cart, and repaired to the dump heap to wait for the dark.

He had not long to wait, for great black clouds were covering the sky,
and he could no longer see the houses at the end of the alley.
Carefully storing his apple cores in his pocket for future trades, he
picked his way over the tin cans and debris, until he reached the
Junction. Here he hesitated. It was there that he and Skeeter had
tussled for the whip. It was here that the young lady had come to his
rescue, and said she didn't believe he was so very bad. Gee! but she
was a pretty young lady, and her hand was so soft, and her voice--

Chick rammed his hands in his pockets and pulled his cap over his
eyes. This was no way for a cove to be feeling when he had a job to
do! With watchful eyes for passers-by, he slipped through an opening
in the fence, and entered the switch-yard. When he emerged he
staggered under the weight of a crowbar which he vainly tried to hide
under his ragged jacket.

Just at the intersection of Bean Alley and the switch-yard, where the
dusk banked up densely in the corners, he stopped again. He was
watching his chance to get across the wide common, undetected. Twice
he started, and twice he shrank back and flattened himself against the
wall as some one passed.

If, to the casual observer, Chick was but a dirty, ragged little boy,
undersized and underfed, and rather frightened, to himself at least he
was a bold desperado, about to avenge himself for a wrong committed.

Thunder muttered ominously, and a drop of rain fell on his face as he
skirted the common, and reached the big, dark saloon at the cross-
roads. Skirting the side wall, he crept to the rear, and felt for the
open window which he had discovered earlier in the day. It was a low
window and easy of access, and he lost no time in climbing in.

The passage was in utter darkness, but he felt his way along the wall
until he reached a door. Here he fumbled for the knob and opened it. A
street lamp outside threw a dim, wavering light into the room,
revealing the long bar with its shining fixtures. Chick put down his
crowbar and tremblingly removed his coat. According to the moving
pictures of criminals, that was the first move. Then he resolutely
grasped his weapon and with thumping heart approached his enemy.

It appeared a very innocent enemy as it stood there in the half light,
announcing in printed letters across its face, that seven out of every
ten persons who put a nickel in the slot, received a prize in money.
But Chick knew that it lied! Had it not eaten up his nickels week
after week? Had he not worked for it, fought for it, and bled for it,
confidently believing that the prize would be his? And there it stood
gorged with his precious nickels, mysterious and fascinating still,
but treacherous through and through!

In a blaze of wrath Chick dealt it a sounding blow with the crowbar,
then crouched in terror for what might happen. There was no sound but
the dash of rain against the windows, and the heavy rumble of thunder
overhead. Once more Chick grasped his heavy weapon and began the
attack in earnest. Blow followed blow, as fast as his small arms could
swing the crowbar. Suddenly a spring seemed to snap, and out poured a
stream of money that rolled about his feet, and off into the farthest
corners of the room.

Chick crouched on the floor, overcome by his exertions and the success
of his venture. Wealth was within his reach, more wealth than he had
ever dreamed of! Not unintelligible gold and silver, but dear,
familiar nickels, whose purchasing power he knew. But no thought of
appropriation crossed his mind as he knelt there, fingering the
glittering pile. He was carefully counting out his rightful share, the
eleven nickels that the slot machine had stolen from him, and his
hesitation came from the fact that he was trying to select the
shiniest ones!

Having gotten what he came for, he once more shouldered his crowbar,
and let himself out into the dark passage. Here he stopped in terror!
Something was snorting and hissing without, something that sounded as
if it _might_ be the Devil!

In Chick's creed there was but one affirmation. He believed absolutely
in the Devil. He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was red,
and cloven-footed and that his tail ended in a hard, sharp, spike,
like Mammy Flathers' ice-pick. He also knew that when he breathed, it
was in groans and hisses, such as he was hearing at the present
moment. Chick's hair would have risen on his head, it wanted to, but
it was not long enough.

For a moment he stood breathless, then he drew a sigh of relief. It
wasn't anything but an automobile after all! He tiptoed to a window
and peered out. The lamps from the machine threw long lights across
the shining wet street, but nothing else was visible.

After a long while he heard voices at the side door. Somebody was
coming into the saloon! He could hear the doorknob turning, and a key
in the latch. He started back to the barroom, then remembering a
little closet under the steps where he and Skeeter used to play, he
felt along the wall. There it was! And just in time for him to stumble
in and pull the door to, leaving enough crack to breathe through, in
case his breath ever came back.

The side door was flung open, and the sputter of a match was followed
by the feeble light from a gas-jet at the end of the passage.

"Here, I'll take the umbrella!" said a voice he dreaded next to the
Devil's. It was Sheeley; he would go into the barroom, and discover
the wreckage of the slot-machine! Chick was beginning to feel the
handcuffs on his wrists, when he became aware of ascending footsteps
overhead. What were they going up-stairs for? Was it a sparring match?
Forgetting his precarious position he leaned forward to listen,
upsetting a box on the shelf beside him.

"Who's that?" came in Sheeley's fiercest tones from the stairway
above, and Chick cowered back into the dark with chattering teeth.
Then he heard him say something about the window, and followed the
sound of his heavy footsteps down the stairs and up again.

Now was his chance to escape while they were up-stairs. With utmost
caution he pushed open the closet door, and on hands and knees began
his perilous journey to the window. It was at that moment that he
decided positively that he would not be a burglar. A plumber took
fewer risks, and made more money. Once at the window he was unable to
budge the lock. Standing on the sill, whimpering with fear, he
wrestled with it frantically, bruising his fingers, and tearing his
nails, but he could not move it. Then he tried the door but Sheeley
had evidently locked it and taken out the key.

A blinding flash of lightning sent him scurrying back to his hiding-
place, where he sank on the floor, shivering and cringing. Nearer and
nearer roared the thunder, and the wind seemed as anxious to get into
the house as he was eager to get out of it. Gradually his arms and
legs ceased jerking, his head relaxed against an empty box, he laid
his hand against the cheek that had been patted and forgot his
troubles in sleep.

When he awoke he heard loud voices overhead. At first he supposed he
was at home, and that the voice was only Mr. Flathers enjoying one of
his periodical backslidings. But Dick Sheeley's voice recalled him;
Dick was mad at somebody, and when Dick got mad he fought. Not a boy
on Billy-goat Hill but would have faced death to see the ex-
prizefighter in a row. It was a distinction that placed one at a bound
in the front ranks of juvenile aristocracy.

Chick crept from his hiding-place and listened. The voices grew louder
and more excited. Drawn as by a magnet he slipped up the stairs step
by step. At the top was an off-set in the hall, a corner in which he
could hide, unseen from the open door beyond. There he lay on his
stomach and wriggled forward until his eye was on a line with the
crack in the half-open door.

Three men were sitting around a card table, two of them with their
backs to him; and Dick facing them with his jaw set and his teeth
showing. All three were talking at once, and Dick was the most excited
of the three.

"You didn't have no ace of spades to show down! You discarded it. You
know you did, you--cheat!" He had risen and was shaking his fist in
the face of the thin young man.

"It's a lie, you common cur!" cried the other wildly, but before the
words were well out of his mouth, Sheeley's mighty right arm had shot
out across the table and struck him in the face.

"Sheeley! For God's sake, don't you see Dillingham's drunk?" protested
the other young man whom Chick recognized as his friend of the
afternoon.

"Drunk or no drunk, he can't call me a liar!" yelled Sheeley, and the
next instant Chick, with his heart pounding madly between him and the
floor, was in his element. It was a fight! A real one, in which the
hero of Billy-goat Hill held his own against two opponents.

The tumblers and the whisky bottles went first, the liquor dripping
from the table to floor; then a chair was overturned, and a window-
pane shattered to the ground below.

The thin young man hadn't sense to stop; again and again he flung his
insults at the infuriated Sheeley, impatiently fighting off the
efforts of his companion who sought to part them. Suddenly Chick saw
him step back, while the others were grappling, and fumble in his rear
pocket. He saw him steady himself against the door jamb, not four feet
away, and raise a pistol. There was a sharp report, a smothered groan,
then a heavy fall.

The man with the pistol flung it through the broken window, then
staggered to the table where he sank down with his head on his arms.

What had happened in the corner, Chick could not tell, but in a few
minutes _his_ young man came swiftly into his line of vision, and
shook the limp figure half lying on the table.

"Get up, Dill! For God's sake! Are you too drunk to crank up your
machine? As soon as I can get that blood stopped I must go for a
doctor."

The dazed eyes of the drunken man looked at him in helpless terror!

"I can't stay here!"

[Illustration: There was a sharp report, a smothered groan, then a
heavy fall.]

"You've got to stay here! Can't you see you are in no fix to run a
machine? Brace up, you idiot; we've got to _do_ something and do
it quick. Go down and try to crank up. Here's the door key! I'll be
there as soon as I can get the blood stopped!"

The man at the table staggered to the door, passed through the hall,
so close to Chick that he almost trod upon him, then went swaying down
the stairs, steadying himself by wall and banister. Chick heard the
side door slam, and the chug of the machine, then realized that it was
turning the corner.

The young man in the room rushed frantically to the window and leaned
out, then he said something savage under his breath, and plunged out
into the passage and headlong down the steps. Chick heard the side
door bang again, and a moment later the gallop of a horse.

Then everything was still, but the noisy beating of his heart that
threatened to burst its confines. Through the crack he saw the table
with its broken tumblers, and the whisky drip, dripping on the floor;
he saw the chairs overturned, and the gas-jet flickering in the wind
from the broken window.

The thing he could not see was what lay in the corner, the huddled-up,
blood-stained hulk of a something for which a smiling, fat woman and
six tow-headed youngsters were waiting across the common. Chick
crawled to the head of the stairs, and as he reached the top step his
hand touched a hard object. He picked it up and held it to the light,
and as he did so, the joy that often blossoms on the brink of tragedy
was his for a moment. It was the riding whip whose handle he had
fallen heir to that afternoon!

Down the steps, through the door and out into the rain-soaked night he
sped; across the common, through the switch-yard, and down the narrow,
noisome darkness of Bean Alley. Over a ram-shackled fence, and up a
dilapidated porch he clambered like a cat, until he reached the small
loft in the Flathers' two-roomed mansion which he called home.

Here the hardened criminal, the breaker of laws, and of slot machines,
the would-be burglar, threw himself upon an old mattress, and with two
grimy fists in his eyes sobbed out his heart to the rafters above.

It was not repentance for his sins, neither was it terror of the
secret that was locked behind his inarticulate lips, although both of
them had a part. It was because a beautiful young lady had taken his
part, and put her arms about him, and refused to believe that he was
as bad as Skeeter Sheeley said he was.

CHAPTER V

During the rest of the week the rainstorm, that had started all the
trouble, continued to hover ominously, breaking forth day after day in
fierce, petulant showers. Out at Thornwood the aspect was most dreary;
the low-lying ground in front of the house was under water for a
quarter of a mile, trees, limp and draggled, stood disconsolate in an
unfamiliar lake, the bridge below the dam was washed away, and horses
going to the creek for water were constantly being caught by the
current, and having to be rescued by ropes. In the flower garden
dirty-faced little blossoms lay in the mud, vines trailed across the
paths, all the fragrance and color seemed to be soaked out of
everything by those continuous, pelting showers.

Within the house it was not much gayer. The front hall, with its
steep, narrow stairway, and floor-covering of highly ornate landscape
oilcloth, was in a perpetual twilight. An occasional glint from white
woodwork, or the gold molding of a picture, strove in vain to dispel
the gloom. The parlor, at the right of the hall, was sepulchral with
its window cracks stuffed with paper, and the shutters securely
closed. To be sure, the living-room on the other side of the hall did
its best to look cheerful, but even that comfortable spot with its low
ceiling and battered mahogany furniture, its high cupboards flanking
the wide, stone fireplace, and its friendly litter of every-day
necessities, was not equal to the occasion.

One afternoon when the Colonel came in from the chicken yard where he
and Uncle Jimpson had constituted themselves a salvage corps, he
surprised Miss Lady sitting in the dusk on the floor before the empty
fireplace, with suspicious traces of tears upon her face.

"Make a light," blustered the Colonel; "you mustn't sit around in the
dark like this, you know. Where's my pipe?"

She sprang up and found the missing article, and with a great show of
cheerfulness lit the lamp and held the match out for him to light his
pipe.

"What's the matter?" asked the Colonel; "sort of trembly, ain't you?"

"Me? Watch me!" She held the match very straight and very tight, then
as it wavered, blew it out and dropped it down his sleeve. "There's
some mail over there on the table for you, Daddy dear. Noah brought it
down from town in his buggy."

She said it very carelessly, and even enumerated the contents as she
handed it to him:

"Two circulars, a letter from the seed man, the _Confederate Veteran_
and the newspapers."

"Nothing for you?"

"Nothing."

Under his scrutiny Miss Lady's eyes fell, and she turned abruptly to
the window, while the Colonel, mouth open, pipe in hand, watched her.

He had never seen his girl like this in her life! What business had
her lip to tremble in the middle of a sentence, or her eyes to brim
with sudden tears, making her turn her back on her adoring Dad, and
busy herself with the window curtain?

Of course it is upsetting to have a friend, whom you have been seeing
daily for a couple of weeks, get into trouble such as young Donald
Morley had fallen into. It made even the Colonel feel bad, he didn't
deny it. But what business had the kitten to be taking it all so to
heart? Why was she called upon to champion this young stranger's cause
so hotly, to resent every insinuation, and to contend! passionately
that he would be able to explain everything? Morley had not explained.
Three days had dragged past and nothing had been heard from him.
Nothing probably would be heard from him! The Colonel wanted to feel
victorious, but he did! not. Instead, he cast anxious and sympathetic
glances at the back of his daughter's head, and surreptitiously wiped
his small snub nose on the corner of his red-bordered handkerchief.

He had a good mind to give up his trip to Virginia! To be sure, he had
looked forward for months to celebrating Founders' Day at the old
college. If it weren't for seeing all the old boys, he would stay at
home. By George! the little girl came first; he would stay at home
anyhow!

"Those gloves," he burst out by way of breaking the news; "the thin
ones I told you to mend. Well, you needn't mend them."

"I haven't," said Miss Lady, "but I'll do it now."

"Needn't mind. Won't need 'em. Fact is, I ain't going."

"Yes you are," said Miss Lady, adding inconsequently, "Why not?"

"Needed here at home. Roads washed out, everything out of fix. Decided
to stay at home." Miss Lady wheeled from the window where she had been
tracing the raindrops on the pane, and made a rush for him,
establishing herself on his lap, as far as one could establish oneself
on such a perpendicular surface.

"You are not going to do anything of the kind. Uncle Jimpson is going
to drive you in to town to catch the first train in the morning."

"I ain't going," insisted the Colonel, shaking his head doggedly.

"Yes you are. Where's your traveling bag?"

"On the top shelf of the cupboard. But I'm not going." He said it
firmly, but the next instant he asked, "Did Jimpson press my gray
suit?"

"Oh! Squire Daddy, I'm so sorry I forgot to tell him! I'll tell him
now."

"Too late!" the Colonel sighed in resignation; "no use talking any
more about it."

"Yes there is! Your enthusiasm's just gotten damp like everything
else. I am going to tell Uncle Jimpson to make a little fire to cheer
us up, then we'll all go to work to get you ready."

It seemed to be a relief to her to bustle about and set things in
motion. In a short while she had a cheerful blaze going on the hearth,
and the curtains drawn against the dreary twilight without.

The Colonel sat in the middle of the room, watching Uncle Jimpson and
Aunt Caroline collect his scattered wardrobe, keeping a vigilant eye
meanwhile upon Miss Lady. He simply did not intend to have her
unhappy! It was preposterous! Altogether out of the question! His
little girl crying around in corners where he couldn't see her? The
idea of such a thing! If she must cry, what was the matter with his
shoulder?

"You ain't got but four hankchiefs in de wash, Cunnel," announced Aunt
Caroline from her knees beside a large wicker basket. "Don't look lak
dat's enough fer a white gem-man to start off on a trip wif."

"Jimpson," the Colonel looked up reproachfully, "did you hear that?
You have actually let me get down to four handkerchiefs."

"And socks," continued Caroline, enjoying the opportunity of
emphasizing the shortcomings of her lesser half, "'bout sebenteen, all
singles. No two scarcely de same color."

"Miss Lady, she been 'cumulatin' 'em to darn 'em," explained Jimpson,
glad to shift responsibility. "She 'low she gwine to tak a day off
some o' dese days, an' mend up ever'thing in de house."

The Colonel glanced around: "Where is Miss Lady?"

"Out in de hall, readin' de evenin' paper. Nebber did see dat chile
tek so much notice ob de newspaper. Yas, sir, I'll call her."

"Any later news of the shooting?" asked the Colonel casually, when she
returned.

"Yes, Mr. Dillingham was indicted and arraigned before the court. The
case was passed until June first."

"And Sheeley? What of his condition?"

"The paper says he will lose his eye, but that he will probably get
well."

"And--and nothing has been heard of Morley?"

"Not yet."

After supper, when all the preparations for the trip were completed,
and the cheerful presence of Uncle Jimpson and Aunt Caroline removed,
the Colonel and Miss Lady sat before the dying fire, and tried to make
conversation. Outside wet branches swept the windows, and sudden gusts
of rain beat against the panes.

"Thirty years since I saw some of the old boys," the Colonel said,
trying to warm up to his coming journey. "I'll miss old Professor
Queerington, but John Jay will be there. We are planning to come home
together. Fine man, he is, fine man!"

"Who? Oh, yes, Doctor Queerington."

"Just a little boy when I boarded at his father's. He can't be much
over forty now. The smartest man the old college ever turned out! And
just as good as he's smart. A little too much book learning maybe, and
not any too much common sense, but there ain't many heads built to
carry both. He's sound though, sound to the core, and that's saying a
good deal these days. What's the matter? Sleepy?"

"No, just the fidgets. Say, Daddy, what do you suppose they will do
with Mr. Dillingham, if he is convicted?"

"Penitentiary offense, I hear. But Noah says they'll get him off. Old
General Dillingham has plenty of money, and friends at court. He'll
take care of his grandson."

"But if he is cleared," began Miss Lady, "that throws the guilt on--"

"Now see here," interrupted the Colonel, "you stop bothering your
little head about that trial. Go over there and play me a couple of
good old tunes, and then we'll both trot to bed."

Miss Lady's soft untrained voice began bravely enough. She described
with feeling the charms of Annie Laurie, and was half way through
Robin Adair before she faltered, started anew, stumbled again, then
came to an ignominious halt.

"Tut! tut!" said the Colonel fussily, getting himself out of his chair
in an incredibly short time for so stout a gentleman. "This won't do,
you know; this ain't right!"

"It's that silly old piece!" said Miss Lady petulantly. "It always
works on my feelings."

"But it wouldn't make you cry like this. Come, tell me."

"There's nothing to tell--that is--"

"Well, never mind then. Just cry it out. That's right. Don't mind me.
Just your old Dad." And with much fussing and petting and foolish
assurances that he was her Daddy, he got her over to the sofa. Sitting
on the floor with her arms across his knees, she wept with the
abandonment of a child, while his short, stubby fingers tenderly
stroked her shining hair. At last when the storm had subsided and she
was able to look up, he took her face between his hands.

"Out with it, kitten!" he demanded. "What's troubling you? Don Morley
business?"

She kissed his nearest hand.

"Thought so. You--you got to like him pretty well, eh?"

She nodded between her sobs.

"Better 'n most anybody?" he asked it jealously, but unflinchingly.

"Except you, Daddy." It was a faint whisper, but it was reassuring.

"And what about him?" the Colonel continued.

Another burst of tears, then a resolute effort at self-control.

"He meant to do what's right. I know he did! He promised to give up
drinking and gambling and go to work."

"He made a good start!" The Colonel knocked the ashes from his pipe.
"And after he got into the fracas, what in thunder did he run away
for? Why didn't he stay and face it out? Any fool would know that if
Dillingham is cleared, the suspicion would all be on him."

"But, Daddy, we haven't heard his side yet. If I could just hear from
him, or see him."

"See him!" he exploded. "What in the name of the devil do you want to
see him for? No siree! Not while Bob Carsey's got any buckshot left in
his gun! Do you think there's any chance of his prowling 'round here
while I'm gone? That settles it! I'll not budge an inch. Tell Jimpson!
Tell Caroline! Unpack my things."

"But, Daddy, wait! He is probably out at the coast by this time.
Besides, he hasn't written or sent any word. How do we know that...
that he wants to come back?" "He'll try it all right. I saw how things
were going. I saw how he looked at you. The impudent young hound!"

"Daddy! Please don't! You don't know him. He will explain everything
when he writes, I know he will!"

"But he won't write! He won't have the face to. The idea of his going
straight off from my girl, and getting mixed up in a scrape like this!
You've got to promise me never to speak to the young scoundrel again!"

"But if he explains?"

"Why hasn't he done so? Because he can't. Besides, I don't want him
to. We are through with him from now on. Promise me never to have
anything more to do with him."

She hesitated, and the Colonel began to fling the things out of his
bag in great agitation.

"Please, Squire Daddy!" She caught his hands, and looked at him, and
something in her pleading eyes and quivering lips was so reminiscent
of another face he had loved, that he broke down completely and had to
have recourse to one of his four clean handkerchiefs that were still
in the bag.

He was an old fool, he declared between violent blowings of his nose,
and clearings of his throat. Was only doing what he thought was his
duty. Didn't mean to make her unhappy. Didn't have sense enough to
bring up a girl. Had tried to, though! Always would try. Only she
mustn't be unhappy; he couldn't stand that. It would kill him if she
dared to be unhappy!

And Miss Lady with her arms about his neck, making futile dabs at his
streaming eyes with her little wet knot of a handkerchief,
passionately declared that she would promise him anything under the
sun, that she was going to be happy, that she _was_ happy!

"Not yet," said the Colonel, with much mopping of his brow; "but you
will be! We'll straighten it out. Soon as I get back, I'll take the
matter up. Sift it clean to the bottom. We'll give Morley every chance
to square himself. But 'til then, you won't see him if you can help
it, or read his letters, if he writes? You don't mind promising me
that much, do you?"

"I promise, Daddy."

Oh! the promises made for a day, and kept through the years, what a
lot of tangled lives they have to answer for!

Miss Lady put the Colonel's things back in his bag, and stooped to
kiss him good night.

"Sure you don't mind my going?", he asked, studying her face. "I'll be
back Saturday night."

"All right. Good-by, I won't be up in the morning when you start. Have
a good time, Daddy dear, and--and don't worry about me."

He lit her candle for her and carried it to the steps where he kissed
her again.

"My little girl," he whispered.

The house grew still. Out on the landing the tall clock ticked off the
hours to midnight; the fire died to an ember; from the porch without
came the drip, drip, drip of the gutter. Still the Colonel sat in his
split-bottom chair, his little eyes like watch fires in the gloom,
listening for the faintest sound of restlessness from the room above.

CHAPTER VI

The sudden light of publicity that had fallen upon the Cant-Pass-It
saloon sent a glow over that entire region of Billy-goat Hill.
Everybody had something to talk about, and everybody talked, except
Chick.

Phineas Flathers appointed himself headquarters for information, and
devoted himself exclusively to arguing about the matter. Myrtella, his
twin sister, who for fifteen years had presided over innumerable
cooking ranges throughout the city, almost lost her new place through
her interest in the affair.

The one subject upon which Myrtella Flathers considered herself a
connoisseur was murder. In sundry third floors back, she had for years
followed the current casualties with burning interest. Realism,
romance, intrigue, adventure, she found them all, in these grim
recitals of daily crime.

Myrtella and Phineas Flathers had been cast into the sea of life at an
early age to sink or swim as they saw fit. Myrtella had survived by
combating the waves, while Phineas adopted the less arduous expedient
of floating.

To him work appeared a wholly artificial and abnormal action, self-
imposed and unnecessary. The stage of life presented so many
opportunities for him to exercise his histrionic ability, that the
idea of settling down to a routine of labor seemed a waste of talent.
With far-reaching discernment he had early perceived that a straight
part was not for him.

In casting about for a field that promised the widest opportunity for
his talent, he discovered the Immanuel Church in the city. Here
philanthropy burned with such zealous enthusiasm that the harvest was
not sufficient for the laborers. Phineas saw his chance and grasped
it. He became a Prodigal Son.

From that time on his sole vocation was attending church. Three times
a week, regardless of the inclemency of the weather, he unwound his
long legs from the chair rungs in the Cant-Pass-It, carefully smoothed
his red hair, and made his way to a front pew in the Immanuel Church.
At intervals, calculated to a nicety, he fell from grace, and was
reclaimed, passing from periods of grave backsliding into periods of
great religious fervor. Meanwhile he followed the Scriptures literally
and took no thought of the morrow. His reliance in Providence and the
Ladies' Aid became, in time, absolute.

Nor did Phineas Flathers' self-respect suffer in the least by this
mode of living. In no sense did he consider himself an incumbent. Did
he not three times a week give a masterly presentation of "our needy
poor," "our brother-in-misfortune"? Did he not freely offer up his
family for each new church society to cut its wisdom teeth upon? Had
Maria, his wife, not labored wearily through unintelligible tracts,
and Chick, his adopted son, done penance in Sunday School, as often as
three Sundays in succession? Considering all things, Phineas felt that
the church got a great deal for its money.

Myrtella Flathers, following another method, had for fifteen years
fought every obstacle that crossed her path. She had left in her wake
traditions of unexcelled cooking, and unparalleled cleanliness,
together with a vanquished army of mistresses, housemaids,
laundresses, and butlers. She belonged to the order of Cooks Militant,
and she had long since won her spurs.

Among the things which Myrtella in her sweeping condemnation of life
in general disapproved, none loomed larger than her brother and his
family. But the bond of blood, stronger than likes or dislikes, favor
or prejudice, brought her back to him again and again, to share with
him her substance, and to criticize his conduct.

On this particular afternoon she had started out for Billy-goat Hill
to hear about the shooting, and to break the news to the family, that
she had gotten a new place. This happened with such regularity, that
it would not have deserved attention, had not the astounding fact to
be added that Myrtella was pleased. In her fifteen years of rebellious
services she had never before approximated a place that gave
satisfaction. To be sure there were dark and not-to-be-remembered
instances where she had failed to give satisfaction herself, but
usually it was the place, "the new place," with its varying code of
musts and must-nots, that caused Myrtella to spend many of her days in
the Intelligence Office, or on street-cars, or tramping through the
streets in quest of that ever elusive "good home."

She had started out on her pilgrimage in a fairly equable frame of
mind, but before she got well under way, the wind had made her
furious. It was a frisky March breeze that had gotten left behind and
now wandered into May, bent on mischief.

Myrtella tacked into it, like a sailing sloop, full rigged and all
sails set, an angular, heavy-set person with a belligerent expression
strangely at variance with the embarrassed, almost timid movements of
her hands and feet. Short locks of straight black hair whipped across
her face, her skirts, blown tightly back against her knees, bellied in
the wind, while her wide-brimmed hat caught the full force of the
blast, like a veritable top-sail.

By the time she had taken three tacks to cross the common, and was
ready to come about at the corner, there was a balloon jibe, that sent
the sails all flapping against the mast, and left her in such a flurry

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