Part 5 out of 6
She looked up at him quizzically and gave a short enigmatic laugh.
"That's my trouble," she said, "if I stick it out for a week, I won't be
wanting to quit!"
Nance's prophecy regarding herself was more than fulfilled. Whatever
scruples had assailed her at the start were soon overthrown by the
on-rushing course of events. That first month in Mr. Clarke's office
proved to be a time of delightful madness. There were daily meetings with
Mac at the noon hour, stolen chats on street corners, thrilling suppers
with him and Monte at queer cafes, and rides after dark in that wonderful
racer that proved the most enticing of playthings.
Dan was as busy as Mac was idle; Mr. Clarke was gloomy and preoccupied;
Mrs. Snawdor was in bed when Nance left home in the morning, and gone to
work when she returned in the evening. The days flashed by in a glorious
succession of forbidden joys, with nobody to interrupt the furious
progress of affairs.
Half of her salary Nance gave to her stepmother, and the other half she
spent on clothes. She bought with taste and discrimination, measuring
everything by the standard set up by her old idol, Miss Stanley at Forest
Home. The result was that she soon began to look very much like the
well-dressed women with whom she touched elbows on the avenue.
She had indeed got the bit between her teeth, and she ran at full tilt,
secure in the belief that she had full control of the situation. As long
as she gave satisfaction in her work, she told herself, and "behaved
right," she could go and come as she liked, and nobody would be the
worse for it.
She did not realize that her scoffing disbelief in Mac's avowals, and her
gay indifference were the very things that kept him at fever heat. He was
not used to being thwarted, and this high-handed little working-girl,
with her challenging eyes and mocking laugh, who had never heard of the
proprieties, and yet denied him favors, was the first person he had ever
known who refused absolutely to let him have his own way. With a boy's
impetuous desire he became obsessed by the idea of her. When he was not
with her, he devised schemes to remind her of him, making love to her by
proxy in a dozen foolish, whimsical ways. When it was not flowers or
candy, it was a string of nonsense verses laid between the pages of her
type-writer paper, sometimes a clever caricature of himself or Monte, and
always it was love notes in the lining of her hat, in her gloves, in her
pocket-book. She was afraid to raise her umbrella for fear a rain of
tender missives would descend therefrom. Once he gave her a handsome
jeweled bracelet which she wore under her sleeve. But he got hard up
before the week was over and borrowed it back and pawned it.
Of two things Nance succeeded in keeping him in ignorance. During all
their escapades he never discovered where she lived, and he never
suspected her friendship for Dan Lewis. He was not one to concern himself
with troublesome details. The pleasure of the passing moment was his sole
aim in life.
And Nance, who ordinarily scorned subterfuge and hated a secret,
succeeded not only in keeping him in ignorance of Dan; but with even
greater strategy managed to keep Dan in complete ignorance of the whole
situation. Dan, to be sure, took his unconscious revenge. His kind,
puzzled eyes haunted her dreams, and the thought of him proved the one
disturbing element in these halcyon days. In vain she told herself that
he was an old fogy, that he had Sunday-school notions, that he wouldn't
be able to see anything but wrong in a harmless flirtation that would end
with Mac's return to college. But would it end? That was a question Nance
was beginning to ask herself with curious misgiving.
The last of the month rolled round with incredible swiftness. It brought
to Nance not only an end to all her good times, but the disheartening
knowledge that she would soon be out of employment again with no money
saved, and under the self-imposed necessity of making a clean breast of
her misdeeds to Dan Lewis.
On the Saturday before Mac's intended departure, as she sat at her desk
ruefully facing the situation, he rushed into the office.
"Has a mean-looking little Jew been in here this morning?" he demanded
"Nobody's been here," said Nance.
"Gloree!" said Mac, collapsing into a chair. "He gave me a scare! Wonder
if he 'phoned!"
"Mr. Clarke's been out all morning. These are the people who called up."
Mac ran his eye hurriedly down the list and sighed with relief. Then he
got up and went to the window and stood restlessly tapping the pane.
"I've a good notion to go East to-night," he said, half to himself, "no
use waiting until Monday."
Nance glanced at him quickly.
"What's up?" she asked.
"Money, as usual," said Mac in an aggrieved tone. "Just let me get ready
to leave town, and fellows I never heard of turn up with bills. I could
stand off the little fellows, but Meyers is making no end of a stew. He
holds a note of mine for five hundred and sixty dollars. It was due
yesterday, and he swore that if I didn't smoke up by noon to-day, he'd
come to the governor."
"Won't he give you an extension?"
"He's given me two already. It's the money I lost last spring at the
races. That's the reason I can't get it out of the governor. It looks as
if it were about time for little Willie to take to the tall timbers."
Nance got up from her desk and joined him at the window. There was
something she had been burning to say to him for ten days, but it was
something she found it very hard to say. He might tell her it was none of
her business; he might even not like her any more.
"See here, Mr. Mac," she said, bracing herself for the ordeal, "did it
ever strike you that you spend a lot of money that don't belong to you?"
"It'll all be mine some day," said Mac reassuringly. "If the governor
would listen to mother, we'd never have these financial rackets. She
knows that it takes a lot for a fellow to live right."
"It takes a lot more for him to live wrong," said Nance, stoutly.
"You get a whacking big allowance; when you get to the end of it, why
don't you do like some of the rest of us--go without the things you
can't pay for?"
"I am going to," said Mac as if the idea was a new one. "Once I get
squared up, you bet I'll stay so. But that doesn't help me out of this
mess. The money has got to come from somewhere, and I tell you I haven't
got a sou!"
Nance had never seen him so perturbed. He usually approached these
conflicts with his father with a passing grimace, exhibited sufficient
repentance to get what he wanted, and emerged more debonair than ever.
It was disturbing to see him so serious and preoccupied.
"I bet your father'd help you if he thought you'd make a new
start," she said.
Mac shook his head.
"He would have a month ago. But he's got it in for me now. He believes an
idiotic story that was cocked up about me, and he's just waiting for my
next slip to spring a mine on me. I got to keep him from finding out
until I'm gone; that's all there is to it!"
He fumbled in his pocket for a match and instead drew out a bank-note.
"By George! here's a lonesome five-spot I didn't know I had! I
believe I'll play it on the races and see what it'll do for me. Maybe
it's a mascot."
His momentary depression was gone, and he was eager to be off. But
Nance stood between him and the door, and there was a dangerous light
in her eyes.
"Do you know," she said, "I've a good mind to tell you what I
think of you?"
He caught her hand. "Do, Nance! And make it nice. It's going to be no end
of a grind to leave you. Say something pretty that I can live on 'til
Christmas. Tell me I'm the sweetest fellow that ever lived. Go on. Make
love to me, Nance!"
"I think you are a short-sport!" she burst forth. "Any fellow that'll
go on making debts when he can't pay his old ones, that'll get things
in a muddle and run off and let somebody else face the racket is a
"Help! Help!" cried Mac, throwing up an arm in pretended defense, and
laughing at her flashing eyes and blazing cheeks. "By jinks, I don't know
whether you look prettiest when you are mad or when you are glad. If you
don't stop this minute I'll have to kiss you!"
The anger in Nance's face faded into exasperation. She felt suddenly hot
and uncomfortable and a little ashamed of her violence. She had neither
offended him nor humiliated him; she had simply amused him. Tears of
chagrin sprang to her eyes, and she turned away abruptly.
"Nance!" Mac demanded, with quick concern, "you surely aren't crying? Why
the very idea! It makes me perfectly miserable to see girls cry. You
mustn't, you know. Look at me, Nance! Smile at me this minute!"
But Nance's head was down on her desk, and she was past smiling.
"I'll do anything you say!" cried Mac, dropping on his knees beside her.
"I'll 'fess up to the governor. I'll go on the water-wagon. I'll cut out
the races. I'll be a regular little tin god if you'll only promise to be
good to me."
"Good to you nothing!" said Nance, savagely, lifting a tear-stained,
earnest face. "What right have I got to be anything to you? Haven't I
been letting you spend the money on me that wasn't yours? I've been as
bad as you have, every bit."
"Oh, rot!" said Mac, hotly. "You've been an angel. There isn't another
girl in the world that's as much fun as you are and yet on the square
"It isn't on the square!" contradicted Nance, twisting her wet
handkerchief into a ball. "Sneaking around corners and doing things on
the sly. I am ashamed to tell you where I live, or who my people are,
and you are ashamed to have your family know you are going with me.
Whenever I look at your father and see him worrying about you, or think
of your mother--"
"Yes, you think of everybody but me. You hold me at arm's length and
knock on me and say things to me that nobody else would dare to say! And
the worse you treat me, the more I want to take you in my arms and run
away with you. Can't you love me a little, Nance? Please!"
He was close to her, with his ardent face on a level with hers. He was
never more irresistible than when he wanted something, especially a
forbidden something, and in the course of his twenty-one years he had
never wanted anything so much as he wanted Nance Molloy.
She caught her breath and looked away. It was very hard to say what she
intended, with him so close to her. His eloquent eyes, his tremulous
lips were very disconcerting.
"Mr. Mac," she whispered intently, "why don't you tell your father
everything, and promise him some of the things you been promising me? Why
don't you make a clean start and behave yourself and stop giving 'em all
"And if I do, Nance? Suppose I do it for you, what then?"
For a long moment their eyes held each other. These two young,
undisciplined creatures who had started life at opposite ends of the
social ladder, one climbing up and the other climbing down, had met
midway, and the fate of each trembled in the balance.
"And if I do?" Mac persisted, hardly above his breath.
Nance's eyelids fluttered ever so slightly, and the next instant, Mac had
crushed her to him and smothered her protests in a passion of kisses.
BETWEEN TWO FIRES
When Mr. Clarke returned from luncheon, it was evident that he was in no
mood to encourage a prodigal's repentance. For half an hour Nance heard
his voice rising and falling in angry accusation; then a door slammed,
and there was silence. She waited tensely for the next sound, but it was
long in coming. Presently some one began talking over the telephone in
low, guarded tones, and she could not be sure which of the two it was.
Then the talking ceased; the hall door of the inner office opened and
Nance went to the window and saw Mac emerge from the passage below and
hurry across the yard to the stables. His cap was over his eyes, and his
hands were deep in his pockets. Evidently he had had it out with his
father and was going to stay over and meet his difficulties. Her eyes
grew tender as she watched him. What a spoiled boy he was, in spite of
his five feet eleven! Always getting into scrapes and letting other
people get him out! But he was going to face the music this time, and he
was doing it for her! If only she hadn't let him kiss her! A wave of
shame made her bury her hot cheeks in her palms.
She was startled from her reverie by a noise at the door. It was Dan
Lewis, looking strangely worried and preoccupied.
"Hello, Nance," he said, without lifting his eyes. "Did Mr. Clarke leave
a telegram for me?"
"Not with me. Perhaps it is on his table. Want me to see?"
"No, I'll look," Dan answered and went in and closed the door behind him.
Nance looked at the closed door in sudden apprehension. What was the
matter with Dan? What had he found out? She heard him moving about in the
empty room; then she heard him talking over the telephone. When he came
out, he crossed over to where she was sitting.
"Nance," he began, still with that uneasy manner, "there's something I've
got to speak to you about. You won't take it amiss?"
"Cut loose," said Nance, with an attempt at lightness, but her heart
began to thump uncomfortably.
"You see," Dan began laboriously. "I'm sort of worried by some talk
that's been going on 'round the factory lately. It hadn't come direct to
me until to-day, but I got wind of it every now and then. I know it's
not true, but it mustn't go on. There's one way to stop it. Do you know
what it is?"
Nance shook her head, and he went on.
"You and I have been making a mess of things lately. Maybe it's been my
fault, I don't know. You see a fellow gets to know a lot of things a nice
girl don't know. And the carnival ball business--well--I was scared for
you, Nance, and that's the plain truth."
"I know, Dan," she said impatiently. "I was a fool to go that time, but I
never did it again."
Dan fingered the papers on the desk.
"I ain't going to rag about that any more. But I can't have 'em saying
things about you around the factory. You know how I feel about you--how I
always have felt--Nance I want you to marry me."
Nance flashed a look at him, questioning, eager, uncertain; then her eyes
fell. How could she know that behind his halting sentences a paean of
love was threatening to burst the very confines of his inarticulate soul?
She only saw an awkward young workman in his shirt sleeves, with a smudge
across his cheek and a wistful look in his eyes, who knew no more about
making love than he knew about the other graces of life.
"I've saved enough money," he went on earnestly, "to buy a little house
in the country somewhere. That's what you wanted, wasn't it?"
Nance's glance wandered to the tall gas-pipe that had been their
unromantic trysting place. Then she closed her eyes and pressed her
fingers against them to keep back the stinging tears. If Dan loved her,
why didn't he say beautiful things to her, why didn't he take her in his
arms as Mac had done, and kiss away all those fears of herself and of the
future that crowded upon her? With her head on his shoulder she could
have sobbed out her whole confession and been comforted, but now--
"You care for me, don't you, Nance?" Dan asked with a sharp note of
anxiety in his voice.
"Of course I care!" she said irritably. "But I don't want to get married
and settle down. I want to get out and see the world. When you talk about
a quiet little house in the country, I want to smash every window in it!"
Dan slipped the worn drawing he had in his hand back into his pocket. It
was no time to discuss honeysuckle porches.
"We don't have to go to the country," he said patiently. "I just thought
it was what you wanted. We can stay here, or we can go to another town if
you like. All I want is to make you happy, Nance."
For a moment she sat with her chin on her palms, staring straight ahead;
then she turned toward him with sudden resolution.
"What's the talk you been hearing about me?" she demanded.
"There's no use going into that," he said. "It's a lie, and I mean to
stamp it out if I have to lick every man in the factory to do it."
"Was it--about Mac Clarke?"
"Who dared bring it to you?" he asked fiercely.
"What are they saying, Dan?"
"That you been seen out with him on the street, that you ride with
him after night, and that he comes down here every day at the noon
hour to see you."
"Is that all?"
"Ain't it enough?"
"Well, it's true!" said Nance, defiantly. "Every word of it. If anybody
can find any real harm in what I've done, they are welcome to it!"
"It's true?" gasped Dan, his hands gripping a chair-back. "And you never
told me? Has he--has he made love to you, Nance?"
"Why, he makes love to everybody. He makes love to his mother when he
wants to get something out of her. What he says goes in one ear and
out the other with me. But I like him and I ain't ashamed to say so.
He's give me the best time I ever had in my life, and you bet I don't
"Will you answer me one thing more?" demanded Dan, sternly.
"Yes; I ain't afraid to answer any question you can ask."
"Was it Clarke that took you to the carnival ball?"
"Him and a fellow named Monte Pearce."
"Just you three?"
"No; Birdie Smelts was along."
Dan brushed his hand across his brow as if trying to recall something.
"Birdie come here that day," he said slowly. "She wanted to see Clarke
for a friend of hers. Nance did he--did he ever ask you to kiss him?"
"Why didn't you tell me all this before, Nance? Why didn't you give me a
chance to put you on your guard?"
"I _was_ on my guard!" she cried, with rising anger. "I don't need
anybody to take care of me!"
But Dan was too absorbed in his own thoughts to heed her.
"It's a good thing he's going away in a couple of days," he said grimly.
"If ever the blackguard writes to you, or dares to speak to you again--"
Nance had risen and was facing him.
"Who's to stop him?" she asked furiously. "I'm the one to say the word,
and not you!"
"And you won't let me take it up with him?"
"And you mean to see him again, and to write to him?"
Nance had a blurred vision of an unhappy prodigal crossing the factory
yard. He had kept his part of their compact; she must keep hers.
"I will if I want to," she said rather weakly.
Dan's face flushed crimson.
"All right," he said, "keep it up if you like. But I tell you now, I
ain't going to stay here to see it. I'm going to clear out!"
He turned toward the door, and she called after him anxiously:
"Dan, come back here this minute. Where are you going?"
He paused in the doorway, his jaw set and a steady light in his eyes.
"I am going now," he said, "to apologize to the man I hit yesterday for
telling the truth about you!"
That night Nance shed more tears than she had ever shed in the whole
course of her life before; but whether she wept for Mac, or Dan, or
for herself, she could not have said. She heard the sounds die out of
the alley one by one, the clanging cars at the end of the street
became less frequent; only the drip, drip, drip from a broken gutter
outside her window, and the rats in the wall kept her company. All day
Sunday she stayed in-doors, and came to the office on Monday pale and
a bit listless.
Early as it was, Mr. Clarke was there before her, pacing the floor in
"Come in here a moment, Miss Molloy," he said, before she had taken off
her hat. "I want a word with you."
Nance followed him into the inner room with a quaking heart.
"I want you to tell me," he said, waiving all preliminaries, "just who
was in this room Saturday afternoon after I left."
"Dan Lewis. And of course, Mr. Mac. You left him here."
"But there must have been," insisted Mr. Clarke, vehemently. "A man,
giving my name, called up our retail store between two and two-thirty
o'clock, and asked if they could cash a check for several hundred
dollars. He said it was too late to go to the bank, and he wanted the
money right away. Later a messenger brought my individual check, torn out
of this check-book, which evidently hasn't been off my desk, and received
the money. The cashier thought the signature looked queer and called me
up yesterday. I intend to leave no stone unturned until I get at the
truth of the matter. You were the only person here all afternoon. Tell
me, in detail, exactly what happened."
Nance recalled as nearly as she could, the incidents of the afternoon,
with careful circuits around her own interviews with Mac and Dan.
"Could any one have entered the inner office between their visits,
without your knowing it?" asked Mr. Clarke, who was following her
"Oh, yes, sir; only there wasn't time. You see Mr. Mac was just going out
the factory yard as Dan come in here."
"Did either of them use my telephone?"
"Both of them used it."
"Could you hear what was said?"
"No; the door was shut both times."
"Did Lewis enter through the other room, or through the hall?"
"He come through the other room and asked me if you had left a
telegram for him."
"Then he came in here?"
Mr. Clarke's brows were knitted in perplexity. He took up the telephone.
"Send Lewis up here to my office," he directed. "What? Hasn't come in
yet?" he repeated incredulously. "That's strange," he said grimly, half
to himself. "The first time I ever knew him to be late."
Something seemed to tighten suddenly about Nance's heart. Could it be
possible that Mr. Clarke was suspecting Dan of signing that check?
She watched his nervous hands as they ran over the morning mail. He
had singled out one letter and, as he finished reading it, he handed
it to her.
It was from Dan, a brief business-like resignation, expressing
appreciation of Mr. Clarke's kindness, regret at the suddenness of his
departure, and giving as his reason private affairs that took him
permanently to another city.
When Nance lifted her startled eyes from the signature, she saw that Mr.
Clarke was closely scrutinizing the writing on the envelope.
"It's incredible!" he said, "and yet the circumstances are most
suspicious. He gives no real reason for leaving."
"I can," said Nance, resolutely. "He wanted me to marry him, and I
wouldn't promise. He asked me Saturday afternoon, after he come out of
here. We had a quarrel, and he said he was going away; but I didn't
"Did he ask you to go away with him? Out of town anywhere?"
"Yes; he said he would go anywhere I said."
A flash of anger burnt out the look of fear that had been lurking in Mr.
"He's the last man I would have suspected! Of course I knew he had been
in a reformatory at one time, but--"
The band that had been tightening around Nance's heart seemed suddenly
to burst. She sprang to her feet and stood confronting him with
"What right have you got to think Dan did it? There were two of them in
this room. Why don't you send for Mr. Mac and ask him questions?"
"Well, for one reason he's in New York, and for another, my son doesn't
have to resort to such means to get what money he wants."
"Neither does Dan Lewis! He was a street kid; he was had up in court
three times before he was fourteen; he was a month at the reformatory;
and he's knocked elbows with more crooks than you ever heard of; but you
know as well as me that there ain't anybody living more honest than Dan!"
"All he's got to do is to prove it," said Mr. Clarke, grimly.
Nance looked at the relentless face of the man before her and thought of
the money at his command to prove whatever he wanted to prove.
"See here, Mr. Clarke!" she said desperately, "you said a while ago that
all the facts were against Dan. Will you tell me one thing?"
"What is it?"
"Did you give Mr. Mac the money to pay that note last Saturday?"
"The one the Meyers fellow was after him about?"
"Mac asked for no money, and I gave him none. In fact he told me that
aside from his debts at the club and at the garage, he owed no bills. So
you see your friend Meyers misinformed you."
Here was Nance's chance to escape; she had spoken in Dan's defense; she
had told of the Meyers incident. To take one more step would be to
convict Mac and compromise herself. For one miserable moment conflicting
desires beat in her brain; then she heard herself saying quite calmly:
"No, sir, it wasn't Meyers that told me; it was Mr. Mac himself."
Mr. Clarke wheeled on her sharply.
"How did my son happen to be discussing his private affairs with you?"
"Mr. Mac and me are friends," she said. "He's been awful nice to me; he's
given me more good times than I ever had in my whole life before. But I
didn't know the money wasn't his or I wouldn't have gone with him."
"And I suppose you thought it was all right for a young man in Mac's
position to be paying attention to a young woman in yours?"
Mr. Clarke studied her face intently, but her fearless eyes did not
falter under his scrutiny.
"Are you trying to implicate Mac in this matter to spare Lewis, is that
"No, sir. I don't say it was Mr. Mac. I only say it wasn't Dan. There are
some people you just _know_ are straight, and Dan's one of them."
Mr. Clarke got up and took a turn about the room, his hands locked behind
him. Her last shot had evidently taken effect.
"Tell me exactly what Mac told you about this Meyers note," he demanded.
Nance recounted the facts in the case, ending with the promise Mac had
made her to tell his father everything and begin anew.
"I wish I had known this Saturday!" Mr. Clarke said, sinking heavily
into his chair. "I came down on the boy pretty severely on another score
and gave him little chance to say anything. Did he happen to mention the
exact amount of his indebtedness to Meyers?"
"He said it was five hundred and sixty dollars."
A sigh that was very like a groan escaped from Mr. Clarke; then he pulled
himself together with an effort.
"You understand, Miss Molloy," he said, "that it is quite a different
thing for my son to have done this, and for Lewis to have done it. Mac
knows that what is mine will be his eventually. If he signed that check,
he was signing his own name as well as mine. Of course, he ought to have
spoken to me about it. I am not excusing him. He has been indiscreet in
this as well as in other ways. I shall probably get a letter from him in
a few days explaining the whole business. In the meanwhile the matter
must go no further. I insist upon absolute silence. You understand?"
"And one thing more," Mr. Clarke added. "I forbid any further
communication between you and Mac. He is not coming home at Christmas,
and we are thinking of sending him abroad in June. I propose to keep him
away from here for the next two or three years."
Nance fingered the blotter on the table absently. It was all very well
for them to plan what they were going to do with Mac, but she knew in her
heart that a line from her would set at naught all their calculations.
Then her mind flew back to Dan.
"If he comes back--Dan, I mean,--are you going to take him on again?"
Mr. Clarke saw his chance and seized it.
"On one condition," he said. "Will you give me your word of honor not to
communicate with Mac in any way?"
They were both standing now, facing each other, and Nance saw no
compromise in the stern eyes of her employer.
"I'll promise if I've got to," she said.
"Very well," said Mr. Clarke. "That's settled."
FATE TAKES A HAND
Some sinister fascination seems to hover about a bridge at night,
especially for unhappy souls who have grappled with fate and think
themselves worsted. Perhaps they find a melancholy pleasure in the
company of ghosts who have escaped from similar defeats; perhaps they
seek to read the riddle of the universe, as they stand, elbows on rail,
studying the turbulent waters below.
On the third night after Dan's arrival in Cincinnati, the bridge claimed
him. He had deposited his few belongings in a cheap lodging-house on the
Kentucky side of the river, and then aimlessly paced the streets, too
miserable to eat or sleep, too desperate even to look for work. His one
desire was to get away from his tormenting thoughts, to try to forget
what had happened to him.
A cold drizzle of rain had brought dusk on an hour before its time.
Twilight was closing in on a sodden day. From the big Ohio city to the
smaller Kentucky towns, poured a stream of tired humanity. Belated
shoppers, business men, workers of all kinds hurried through the murky
soot-laden air, each hastening to some invisible goal.
To Dan, watching with somber eyes from his niche above the wharf, it
seemed that they were all going home to little lamp-lit cottages where
women and children awaited them. A light in the window and somebody
waiting! The old dream of his boyhood that only a few days ago had seemed
about to come true!
Instead, he had been caught up in a hurricane and swept out to sea. His
anchors had been his love, his work, and his religion, and none of them
held. The factory, to which he had given the best of his brain and his
body, for which he had dreamed and aspired and planned, was a nightmare
to him. Mrs. Purdy and the church activities, which had loomed so large
in his life, were but fleeting, unsubstantial shadows.
Only one thing in the wide universe mattered now to him, and that was
Nance. Over and over he rehearsed his final scene with her, searching
for some word of denial or contrition or promise for the future. She had
never lied to him, and he knew she never would. But she had stood before
him in angry defiance, refusing to defend herself, declining his help,
and letting him go out of her life without so much as lifting a finger
to stop him.
His heavy eyes, which had been following the shore lights, came back to
the bridge, attracted by the movement of a woman leaning over one of
the embrasures near him. He had been vaguely aware for the past five
minutes of a disturbing sound that came to him from time to time; but it
was only now that he noticed the woman was crying. She was standing with
her back to him, and he could see her lift her veil every now and then
and wipe her eyes.
With a movement of impatience, he moved further on. He had enough
troubles of his own to-night without witnessing those of others. He had
determined to stop fleeing from his thoughts and to turn and face them. A
rich young fellow, like Mac Clarke, didn't go with a girl like Nance for
nothing. Why, this thing must have been going on for months, perhaps long
before the night he had found Nance at the signal tower. They had been
meeting in secret, going out alone together; she had let him make love to
her, kiss her.
The blood surged into his head, and doubts blacker than the waters below
assailed him, but even as he stood there with his head in his hands and
his cap pulled over his eyes, all sorts of shadowy memories came to plead
for her. Memories of a little, tow-headed, independent girl coming and
going in Calvary Alley, now lugging coal up two flights of stairs, now
rushing noisily down again with a Snawdor baby slung over her shoulder,
now to snatch her part in the play. Nance, who laughed the loudest, cried
the hardest, ran the fastest, whose hand was as quick to help a friend
as to strike a foe! He saw her sitting beside him on the mattress,
sharing his disgrace on the day of the eviction, saw her standing before
the bar of justice passionately pleading his cause. Then later and
tenderer memories came to reinforce the earlier ones--memories of her
gaily dismissing all other offers at the factory to trudge home night
after night with him; of her sitting beside him in Post-Office Square,
subdued and tender-eyed, watching the electric lights bloom through the
dusk; of her nursing Uncle Jed, forgetting herself and her disappointment
in ministering to him and helping him face the future.
A wave of remorse swept over him! What right had he to make her stay on
and on in Cemetery Street when he knew how she hated it? Why had he
forced her to go back to the factory? She had tried to make him
understand, but he had been deaf to her need. He had expected her to
buckle down to work just as he did. He had forgotten that she was young
and pretty and wanted a good time like other girls. Of course it was
wrong for her to go with Mac, but she was good, he _knew_ she was good.
The words reverberated in his brain like a hollow echo, frightening away
all the pleading memories. Those were the very words he had used about
his mother on that other black night when he had refused to believe the
truth. All the bitterness of his childhood's tragedy came now to poison
his present mood. If Nance was innocent, why had she kept all this from
him, why had she refused in the end to let him defend her good name?
He thought of his own struggle to be good; of his ceaseless efforts to be
decent in every thought as well as deed for Nance's sake. Decent! His lip
curled at the irony of it! That wasn't what girls wanted? Decency made
fellows stupid and dull; it kept them too closely at work; it made them
take life too seriously. Girls wanted men like Mac Clarke--men who
snapped their fingers at religion and refused responsibilities, and
laughed in the face of duty. Laughter! That was what Nance loved above
everything! All right, let her have it! What did it matter? He would
With a reckless resolve, he turned up his coat collar, rammed his hands
in his pockets, and started toward the Kentucky shore. The drizzle by
this time had turned into a sharp rain, and he realized that he was cold
and wet. He remembered a swinging door two squares away.
As he left the bridge, he saw the woman in the blue veil hurry past him,
and with a furtive look about her, turn and go down the steep levee
toward the water. There was something so nervous and erratic in her
movements, that he stopped to watch her.
For a few moments she wandered aimlessly along the bank, apparently
indifferent to the pelting rain; then she succeeded, after some
difficulty, in climbing out on one of the coal barges that fringed the
[Illustration: "Don't call a policeman!" she implored wildly]
Dan glanced down the long length of the bridge, empty now save for a few
pedestrians and a lumbering truck in the distance. In mid-stream the
paddle of a river steamer was churning the water into foam, and
up-stream, near the dock, negro roustabouts could be heard singing. But
under the bridge all was silent, and the levee was deserted in both
directions. He strained his eyes to distinguish that vague figure on the
barge from the surrounding shadows. He saw her crawling across the
shifting coal; then he waited to see no more.
Plunging down the bank at full speed, he scrambled out on the barge and
seized her by the arms. The struggle was brief, but fierce. With a cry
of despair, she sank face downward on the coal and burst into
"Don't call a policeman!" she implored wildly. "Don't let 'em take me to
"I won't. Don't try to talk 'til you get hold of yourself," said Dan.
"But I'm chokin'! I can't breathe! Get the veil off!"
As Dan knelt above her, fumbling with the long veil, he noticed for the
first time that she was young, and that her bare neck between the collar
and the ripple of her black hair was very white and smooth. He bent down
and looked at her with a flash of recognition.
"Birdie!" he cried incredulously, "Birdie Smelts!"
Her heavy white lids fluttered wildly, and she started up in terror.
"Don't be scared!" he urged. "It's Dan Lewis from back home. How did you
ever come to be in this state?"
With a moan of despair she covered her face with her hands.
"I was up there on the bridge," Dan went on, almost apologetically. "I
saw you there, but I didn't know it was you. Then when you started down
to the water, I sorter thought--"
"You oughtn't 'a' stopped me," she wailed. "I been walkin' the
streets tryin' to get up my courage all day. I'm sick, I tell you. I
want to die."
"But it ain't right to die this way. Don't you know it's wicked?"
"Good and bad's all the same to me. I'm done for. There ain't a soul in
this rotten old town that cares whether I live or die!"
Dan flushed painfully. He was much more equal to saving a body than a
soul, but he did not flinch from his duty.
"God cares," he said. "Like as not He sent me out on the bridge a-purpose
to-night to help you. You let me put you on the train, Birdie, and ship
you home to your mother."
"Never! I ain't goin' home, and I ain't goin' to a hospital. Promise me
you won't let 'em take me, Dan!"
"All right, all right," he said, with an anxious eye on her shivering
form and her blue lips. "Only we got to get under cover somewhere. Do you
feel up to walking yet?"
"Where'd I walk to?" she demanded bitterly. "I tell you I've got no money
and no place to go. I been on the street since yesterday noon."
"You can't stay out here all night!" said Dan at his wit's end. "I'll
have to get you a room somewhere."
"Go ahead and get it. I'll wait here."
But Dan mistrusted the look of cunning that leaped into her eyes and the
way she glanced from time to time at the oily, black water that curled
around the corner of the barge.
"I got a room a couple of squares over," he said slowly. "You might come
over there 'til you get dried out and rested up a bit."
"I don't want to go anywhere. I'm too sick. I don't want to have to
"You won't have to. It's a rooming house. The old woman that looks after
things has gone by now."
It took considerable persuasion to get her on her feet and up the bank.
Again and again she refused to go on, declaring that she didn't want to
live. But Dan's patience was limitless. Added to his compassion for her,
was the half-superstitious belief that he had been appointed by
Providence to save her.
"It's just around the corner now," he encouraged her. "Can you make it?"
She stumbled on blindly, without answering, clinging to his arm and.
"Here we are!" said Dan, turning into a dark entrance, "front room on the
left. Steady there!"
But even as he opened the door, Birdie swayed forward and would have
fallen to the floor, had he not caught her and laid her on the bed.
Hastily lighting the lamp on the deal table by the window, he went back
to the bed and loosened the neck of her dripping coat and then looked
down at her helplessly. Her face, startlingly white in its frame of black
hair, showed dark circles under the eyes, and her full lips had lost not
only their color, but the innocent curves of childhood as well.
Presently she opened her eyes wearily and looked about her.
"I'm cold," she said with a shiver, "and hungry. God! I didn't know
anybody could be so hungry!"
"I'll make a fire in the stove," cried Dan; "then I'll go out and get
you something hot to drink. You'll feel better soon."
"Don't be long, Dan," she whispered faintly. "I'm scared to stay
Ten minutes later Dan hurried out of the eating-house at the corner,
balancing a bowl of steaming soup in one hand and a plate of food in the
other. He was soaked to the skin, and the rain trickled from his hair
into his eyes. As he crossed the street a gust of wind caught his cap and
hurled it away into the wet night. But he gave no thought to himself or
to the weather, for the miracle had happened. That dancing gleam in the
gutter came from a lighted lamp in a window behind which some one was
waiting for him.
He found Birdie shaking with a violent chill, and it was only after he
had got off her wet coat and wrapped her in a blanket, and persuaded her
to drink the soup that she began to revive.
"What time of night is it?" she asked weakly.
"After eleven. You're going to stay where you are, and I'm going out and
find me a room somewhere. I'll come back in the morning."
All of Birdie's alarms returned.
"I ain't going to stay here by myself, Dan. I'll go crazy, I tell you! I
don't want to live and I am afraid to die. What sort of a God is He to
let a person suffer like this?"
And poor old Dan, at death-grips with his own life problem, wrestled in
vain with hers; arguing, reassuring, affirming, trying with an almost
fanatic zeal to conquer his own doubts in conquering hers.
Then Birdie, bent on keeping him with her, talked of herself, pouring
out an incoherent story of misfortune: how she had fainted on the stage
one night and incurred the ill-will of the director; how the company
went on and left her without friends and without money; how matters had
gone from bad to worse until she couldn't stand it any longer. She
painted a picture of wronged innocence that would have wrung a sterner
heart than Dan's.
"I know," he said sympathetically. "I've seen what girls are up against
Birdie's feverish eyes fastened upon him.
"Have you just come from Clarke's?"
"Is Mac there?"
Dan's face hardened.
"I don't know anything about him."
"No; and you don't want to! If there's one person in this world I hate,
it's Mac Clarke."
"Same here," said Dan, drawn to her by the attraction of a common
"Thinks he can do what he pleases," went on Birdie, bitterly, "with his
good looks and easy ways. He'll have a lot to answer for!"
Dan sat with his fists locked, staring at the floor. A dozen questions
burned on his lips, but he could not bring himself to ask them.
A fierce gust of wind rattled the window, and Birdie cried out in terror.
"You stop being afraid and go to sleep," urged Dan, but she shook her
"I don't dare to! You'd go away, and I'd wake up and go crazy with fear.
I always was like that even when I was a kid, back home. I used to pretty
near die of nights when pa would come in drunk and get to breaking up
things. There was a man like that down where I been staying. He'd fall
against my door 'most every night. Sometimes I'd meet him out in the
street, and he'd follow me for squares."
Dan drew the blanket about her shoulders.
"Go to sleep," he said. "I won't leave you."
"Yes; but to-morrow night, and next night! Oh, God! I'm smothering.
Lift me up!"
He sat on the side of the bed and lifted her until she rested against his
shoulder. A deathly pallor had spread over her features, and she clung to
Through the long hours of the stormy night he sat there, soothing and
comforting her, as he would have soothed a terror-stricken child. By
and by her clinging hands grew passive in his, her rigid, jerking limbs
relaxed, and she fell into a feverish sleep broken by fitful sobs and
smothered outcries. As Dan sat there, with her helpless weight against
him, and gently stroked the wet black hair from her brow, something
fierce and protective stirred in him, the quick instinct of the
chivalrous strong to defend the weak. Here was somebody more wretched,
more desolate, more utterly lonely than himself--a soft, fearful,
feminine somebody, ill-fitted to fight the world with those frail,
Hitherto he had blindly worshiped at one shrine, and now the image was
shattered, the shrine was empty--so appallingly empty that he was ready
to fill it at any cost. For the first time in three days he ceased to
think of Nance Molloy or of Mac Clarke, whose burden he was all
unconsciously bearing. He ceased, also, to think of the soul he had
been trying so earnestly to save. He thought instead of the tender
weight against his shoulder, of the heavy lashes that lay on the
tear-stained cheeks so close to his, of the soft, white brow under his
rough, brown fingers. Something older than love or religion was making
its claim on Dan.
THE PRICE OF ENLIGHTENMENT
It was November of the following year that the bird of ill-omen,
which had been flapping its wings over Calvary Alley for so long,
decided definitely to alight. A catastrophe occurred that threatened
to remove the entire population of the alley to another and, we
trust, a fairer world.
Mrs. Snawdor insists to this day that it was the sanitary inspector who
started the trouble. On one of his infrequent rounds he had encountered a
strange odor in Number One, a suspicious, musty odor that refused to come
under the classification of krout, kerosene, or herring. The tenants, in
a united body, indignantly defended the smell.
"It ain't nothin' at all but Mis' Smelts' garbage," Mrs. Snawdor
declared vehemently. "She often chucks it in a hole in the kitchen floor
to save steps. Anybody'd think the way you was carryin' on, it was a
But the inspector persisted in his investigations, forcing a way into the
belligerent Snawdor camp, where he found Fidy Yager with a well-developed
case of smallpox. She had been down with what was thought to be
chicken-pox for a week, but the other children had been sworn to secrecy
under the threat that the doctor would scrape the skin off their arms
with a knife if they as much as mentioned Fidy's name.
It was a culmination of a battle that had raged between Mrs. Snawdor
and the health authorities for ten years, over the question of
vaccination. The epidemic that followed was the visible proof of Mrs.
Calvary Alley, having offered a standing invitation to germs in general,
was loathe to regard the present one as an enemy. It resisted the
inspector, who insisted on vaccinating everybody all over again; it was
indignant at the headlines in the morning papers; it was outraged when
Number One was put in quarantine.
Even when Fidy Yager, who "wasn't all there," and who, according to her
mother, had "a fit a minute," was carried away to the pest-house, nobody
was particularly alarmed. But when, twenty-four hours later, Mr. Snawdor
and one of the Lavinski helpers came down with it, the alley began to
look serious, and Mrs. Snawdor sent for Nance.
For six months now Nance had been living at a young women's boarding
home, realizing a life-long ambition to get out of the alley. But on
hearing the news, she flung a few clothes into an old suitcase and rushed
to the rescue.
Since that never-to-be-forgotten day a year ago when word had reached
her of Dan's marriage to Birdie Smelts, a hopeless apathy had possessed
her. Even in the first weeks after his departure, when Mac's impassioned
letters were pouring in and she was exerting all her will power to make
good her promise to his father, she was aware of a dull, benumbing
anxiety over Dan. She had tried to get his address from Mrs. Purdy, from
Slap Jack's, where he still kept some of his things, from the men he knew
best at the factory. Nobody could tell her where he had gone, or what he
intended to do.
Just what she wanted to say to him she did not know. She still resented
bitterly his mistrust of her, and what she regarded as his interference
with her liberty, but she had no intention of letting matters rest as
they were. She and Dan must fight the matter out to some satisfactory
Then came the news of his marriage, shattering every hope and shaking the
very foundation of her being. From her earliest remembrance Dan had been
the most dependable factor in her existence. Whirlwind enthusiasms for
other things and other people had caught her up from time to time, but
she always came back to Dan, as one comes back to solid earth after a
flight in an aeroplane.
In her first weeks of chagrin and mortification she had sought refuge in
thoughts of Mac. She had slept with his unanswered letters under her
pillow and clung to the memory of his ardent eyes, his gay laughter, the
touch of his lips on her hands and cheeks. Had Mac come home that
Christmas, her doom would have been sealed. The light by which she
steered had suddenly gone out, and she could no longer distinguish the
warning coast lights from the harbor lights of home.
But Mac had not come at Christmas, neither had he come in the summer, and
Nance's emotional storm was succeeded by an equally intolerable calm.
Back and forth from factory to boarding home she trudged day by day, and
on Sunday she divided her wages with Mrs. Snawdor, on the condition that
she should have a vote in the management of family affairs. By this plan
Lobelia and the twins were kept at school, and Mr. Snawdor's feeble
efforts at decent living were staunchly upheld.
When the epidemic broke out in Calvary Alley, and Mrs. Snawdor signaled
for help, Nance responded to the cry with positive enthusiasm. Here was
something stimulating at last. There was immediate work to be done, and
she was the one to do it.
As she hurried up the steps of Number One, she found young Dr. Isaac
Lavinski superintending the construction of a temporary door.
"You can't come in here!" he called to her, peremptorily. "We're in
quarantine. I've got everybody out I can. But enough people have been
exposed to it already to spread the disease all over the city. Three more
cases to-night. Mrs. Smelts' symptoms are very suspicious. Dr. Adair is
coming himself at nine o'clock to give instructions. It's going to be a
tussle all right!"
Nance looked at him in amazement. He spoke with more enthusiasm than he
had ever shown in the whole course of his life. His narrow, sallow face
was full of keen excitement. Little old Ike, who had hidden under the bed
in the old days whenever a fight was going on, was facing death with the
eagerness of a valiant soldier on the eve of his first battle.
"I'm going to help you, Ike!" Nance cried instantly. "I've come to stay
'til it's over."
But Isaac barred the way.
"You can't come in, I tell you! I've cleared the decks for action. Not
another person but the doctor and nurse are going to pass over this
"Look here, Ike Lavinski," cried Nance, indignantly, "you know as well as
me that there are things that ought to be done up there at the
"They'll have to go undone," said Isaac, firmly.
Nance wasted no more time in futile argument. She waited for an opportune
moment when Ike's back was turned; then she slipped around the corner of
the house and threaded her way down the dark passage, until she reached
the fire-escape. There were no lights in the windows as she climbed past
them, and the place seemed ominously still.
At the third platform she scrambled over a wash-tub and a dozen plaster
casts of Pocahontas,--Mr. Snawdor's latest venture in industry,--and
crawled through the window into the kitchen. It was evident at a glance
that Mrs. Snawdor had at last found that long-talked-of day off and had
utilized it in cleaning up. The room didn't look natural in its changed
condition. Neither did Mrs. Snawdor, sitting in the gloom in an
attitude of deep dejection. At sight of Nance at the window, she gave a
cry of relief.
"Thank the Lord, you've come!" she said. "Can you beat this? Havin' to
climb up the outside of yer own house like a fly! They've done sent Fidy
to the pest-house, an' scattered the other childern all over the
neighborhood, an' they got me fastened up here, like a hen in a coop!"
"How is he?" whispered Nance, glancing toward the inner room.
"Ain't a thing the matter with him, but the lumbago. Keeps on complainin'
of a pain in his back. I never heard of such a hullabaloo about nothin'
in all my life. They'll be havin' me down with smallpox next. How long
you goin' to be here?"
Nance, taking off her hat and coat, announced that she had come to stay.
Mrs. Snawdor heaved a sigh of relief.
"Well, if you'll sorter keep a eye on him, I believe I'll step down
an' set with Mis' Smelts fer a spell. I ain't been off the place fer
"But wait a minute! Where's Uncle Jed? And Mr. Demry?"
"They 're done bounced too! Anybody tell you 'bout yer Uncle Jed's
patent? They say he stands to make as much as a hundern dollars offen it.
"I don't care what they say!" cried Nance, distractedly. "Tell me, did
the children take clean clothes with 'em? Did you see if Uncle Jed had
his sweater? Have you washed the bedclothes that was on Fidy's bed?"
Mrs. Snawdor shook her head impatiently.
"I didn't, an' I ain't goin' to! That there Ike Lavinski ain't goin' to
run me! He took my Fidy off to that there pest-house where I bet they
operate her. He'll pay up fer this, you see if he don't!"
She began to cry, but as Nance was too much occupied to give audience to
her grief, she betook herself to the first floor to assist in the care of
Mrs. Smelts. Illness in the abode of another has a romantic flavor that
home-grown maladies lack.
When Dr. Adair and Isaac Lavinski made their rounds at nine o'clock, they
found Nance bending over a steaming tub, washing out a heavy comfort.
"What are you doing here?" demanded Isaac in stern surprise.
"Manicuring my finger-nails," she said, with an impudent grin, as she
straightened her tired shoulders. Then seeing Dr. Adair, she blushed and
wiped her hands on her apron.
"You don't remember me, Doctor, do you? I helped you with Uncle Jed Burks
at the signal tower that time when the lightning struck him."
He looked her over, his glance traveling from her frank, friendly face to
her strong bare arms.
"Why, yes, I do. You and your brother had been to some fancy-dress
affair. I remember your red shoes. It isn't every girl of your age that
could have done what you did that night. Have you been vaccinated?"
"Twice. Both took."
"She's got no business being here, sir," Isaac broke in hotly. "I told
her to keep out."
"Doctor! Listen at me!" pleaded Nance, her hand on his coat sleeve.
Honest to goodness, I _got_ to stay. Mrs. Snawdor don't believe it's
smallpox. She'll slip the children in when you ain't looking and go out
herself and see the neighbors. Don't you see that somebody's got to be
here that understands?"
"The girl's right, Lavinski," said Dr. Adair. "She knows the ropes here,
and can be of great service to us. The nurse downstairs can't begin to
do it all. Now let us have a look at the patient."
Little Mr. Snawdor was hardly worth looking at. He lay rigid, like a
dried twig, with his eyes shut tight, and his mouth shut tight, and his
hands clenched tighter still. It really seemed as if this time Mr.
Snawdor was going to make good his old-time threat to quit.
Dr. Adair gave the necessary instructions; then he turned to go. He had
been watching Nance, as she moved about the room carrying out his orders,
and at the door he laid a hand on her shoulder.
"How old are you, my girl?" he asked.
"We need girls like you up at the hospital. Have you ever thought of
taking the training?"
"Me? I haven't got enough spondulicks to take a street-car ride."
"That part can be arranged if you really want to go into the work.
Think it over."
Then he and the impatient Isaac continued on their rounds, and Nance went
back to her work. But the casual remark, let fall by Dr. Adair, had set
her ambition soaring. Her imagination flared to the project. Snawdor's
flat extended itself into a long ward; poor little Mr. Snawdor, who was
hardly half a man, became a dozen; and Miss Molloy, in a becoming
uniform, moved in and out among the cots, a ministering angel of mercy.
For the first time since Dan Lewis's marriage, her old courage and zest
for life returned, and when Mrs. Snawdor came in at midnight, she found
her sitting beside her patient with shining eyes full of waking dreams.
"Mis' Smelts is awful bad," Mrs. Snawdor reported, looking more serious
than she had heretofore. "Says she wants to see you before the nurse
wakes up. Seems like she's got somethin' on her mind."
Nance hurried into her coat and went out into the dark, damp hall. Long
black roaches scurried out of her way as she descended the stairs. In the
hall below the single gas-jet flared in the draught, causing ghostly
shadows to leap out of corners and then skulk fearfully back again. Nance
was not afraid, but a sudden sick loathing filled her. Was she never
going to be able to get away from it all? Was that long arm of duty going
to stretch out and find her wherever she went, and drag her back to this
noisome spot? Were all her dreams and ambitions to die, as they had been
born, in Calvary Alley?
Mrs. Smelts had been moved into an empty room across the hall from her
own crowded quarters, and as Nance pushed open the door, she lifted a
warning hand and beckoned.
"Shut it," she said in a hoarse whisper. "I don't want nobody to hear
what I got to tell you."
"Can't it wait, Mrs. Smelts?" asked Nance, with a pitying hand on the
feverish brow across which a long white scar extended.
"No. They're goin' to take me away in the mornin'. I heard 'em say
so. It's about Birdie, Nance, I want to tell you. They've had to
lock her up."
"It's the fever makes you think that, Mrs. Smelts. You let me sponge you
off a bit."
"No, no, not yet. She's crazy, I tell you! She went out of her head last
January when the baby come. Dan's kept it to hisself all this time, but
now he's had to send her to the asylum."
"Who told you?"
"Dan did. He wrote me when he sent me the last money. I got his
letter here under my pillow. I want you to burn it, Nance, so no one
Nance went on mechanically stroking the pain-racked head, as she reached
under the pillow for Dan's letter. The sight of the neat, painstaking
writing made her heart contract.
"You tell him fer me," begged Mrs. Smelts, weakly, "to be good to her.
She never had the right start. Her paw handled me rough before she come,
an' she was always skeery an' nervous like. But she was so purty, oh, so
purty, an' me so proud of her!"
Nance wiped away the tears that trickled down the wrinkled cheeks, and
tried to quiet her, but the rising fever made her talk on and on.
"I ain't laid eyes on her since a year ago this fall. She come home sick,
an' nobody knew it but me. I got out of her whut was her trouble, an' I
went to see his mother, but it never done no good. Then I went to the
bottle factory an' tried to get his father to listen--"
"Whose father?" asked Nance, sharply.
"The Clarke boy's. It was him that did fer her. I tell you she was a good
girl 'til then. But they wouldn't believe it. They give me some money to
sign the paper an' not to tell; but before God it's him that's the father
of her child, and poor Dan--"
But Mrs. Smelts never finished her sentence; a violent paroxysm of pain
seized her, and at dawn the messenger that called for the patient on the
third floor, following the usual economy practised in Calvary Alley, made
one trip serve two purposes and took her also.
By the end of the month the epidemic was routed, and the alley, cleansed
and chastened as it had never been before, was restored to its own. Mr.
Snawdor, Fidy Yager, Mrs. Smelts, and a dozen others, being the unfittest
to survive, had paid the price of enlightenment.
One sultry July night four years later Dr. Isaac Lavinski, now an
arrogant member of the staff at the Adair Hospital, paused on his last
round of the wards and cocked an inquiring ear above the steps that led
to the basement. Something that sounded very much like suppressed
laughter came up to him, and in order to confirm his suspicions, he
tiptoed down to the landing and, making an undignified syphon of himself,
peered down into the rear passage. In a circle on the floor, four nurses
in their nightgowns softly beat time, while a fifth, arrayed in pink
pajamas, with her hair flying, gave a song and dance with an abandon that
ignored the fact that the big thermometer in the entry registered
The giggles that had so disturbed Dr. Lavinski's peace of mind increased
in volume, as the dancer executed a particularly daring _passeul_ and,
turning a double somersault, landed deftly on her bare toes.
"Go on, do it again!" "Show us how Sheeny Ike dances the tango." "Sing
Barney McKane," came in an enthusiastic chorus.
But before the encore could be responded to, a familiar sound in the
court without, sent the girls scampering to their respective rooms.
Dr. Isaac, reluctantly relinquishing his chance for administering prompt
and dramatic chastisement, came down the stairs and out to the entry.
An ambulance had just arrived, and behind it was a big private car, and
behind that Dr. Adair's own neat runabout.
Dr. Adair met Dr. Isaac at the door.
"It's an emergency case," he explained hastily. "I may have to operate
to-night. Prepare number sixteen, and see if Miss Molloy is off duty."
"She is, sir," said Isaac, grimly, "and the sooner she's put on a case
"Tell her to report at once. And send an orderly down to lend a hand with
Five minutes later an immaculate nurse, every button fastened, every fold
in place, presented herself on the third floor for duty. You would have
had to look twice to make certain that that slim, trim figure in its
white uniform was actually Nance Molloy. To be sure her eyes sparkled
with the old fire under her becoming cap, and her chin was still carried
at an angle that hinted the possession of a secret gold mine, but she had
changed amazingly for all that. Life had evidently been busy chiseling
away her rough edges, and from a certain poise of body and a
professional control of voice and gesture, it was apparent that Nance had
done a little chiseling on her own account.
As she stood in the dim corridor awaiting orders, she could not help
overhearing a conversation between Dr. Adair and the agitated lady who
stood with her hand on the door-knob of number sixteen.
"My dear madam," the doctor was saying in a tone that betokened the limit
of patience, "you really must leave the matter to my judgment, if we
"But you won't unless it's the last resort?" pleaded the lady. "You know
how frightfully sensitive to pain he is. But if you find out that you
must, then I want you to promise me not to let him suffer afterward. You
must keep him under the influence of opiates, and you will wait until his
father can get here, won't you?"
"But that's the trouble. You've waited too long already. Appendicitis is
not a thing to take liberties with."
"You don't mean it's too late? You don't think--"
"We don't think anything at present. We hope everything." Then spying
Nance, he turned toward her with relief. "This is the nurse who will take
charge of the case."
The perturbed lady uncovered one eye.
"You are sure she is one of your very best?"
"One of our best," said the doctor, as he and Nance exchanged a
"Let her go in to him now. I can't bear for him to be alone a second. As
I was telling you--"
Nance passed into the darkened room and closed the door softly. The
patient was evidently asleep; so she tiptoed over to the window and
slipped into a chair. On each side of the open space without stretched
the vine-clad wings of the hospital, gray now under the starlight.
Nance's eyes traveled reminiscently from floor to floor, from window to
window. How many memories the old building held for her! Memories of
heartaches and happiness, of bad times and good times, of bitter defeats
and dearly won triumphs.
It had been no easy task for a girl of her limited education and
undisciplined nature to take the training course. But she had gallantly
stood to her guns and out of seeming defeat, won a victory. For the first
time in her diversified career she had worked in a congenial environment
toward a fixed goal, and in a few weeks now she would be launching her
own little boat on the professional main.
Her eyes grew tender as she thought of leaving these protecting gray
walls that had sheltered her for four long years; yet the adventure of
the future was already calling. Where would her first case lead her?
A cough from the bed brought her sharply back to the present. She went
forward and stooped to adjust a pillow, and the patient opened his eyes,
stared at her in bewilderment, then pulled himself up on his elbow.
"Nance!" he cried incredulously. "Nance Molloy!"
She started back in dismay.
"Why, it's Mr. Mac! I didn't know! I thought I'd seen the lady
before--no, please! Stop, they're coming! Please, Mr. Mac!"
For the patient, heretofore too absorbed in his own affliction to note
anything, was covering her imprisoned hands with kisses and calling on
Heaven to witness that he was willing to undergo any number of operations
if she would nurse him through them.
Nance escaped from the room as Mrs. Clarke entered. With burning cheeks
she rushed to Dr. Adair's office.
"You'll have to get somebody else on that case, Doctor," she declared
impulsively. "I used to work for Mr. Clarke up at the bottle factory,
and--and there are reasons why I don't want to take it."
Dr. Adair looked at her over his glasses and frowned.
"It is a nurse's duty," he said sternly, "to take the cases as they come,
irrespective of likes or dislikes. Mr. Clarke is an old friend of mine,
a man I admire and respect."
"Yes, sir, I know, but if you'll just excuse me this once--"
"Is Miss Rand off duty?"
"No, sir. She's in number seven."
"Then I shall have to insist upon your taking the case. I must have
somebody I can depend upon to look after young Clarke for the next
twenty-four hours. It's not only the complication with his appendix; it's
"You mean he's tubercular?"
Nance's eyes widened.
"Does he know it?"
"No. I shall wait and tell his father. I wouldn't undertake to break the
news to that mother of his for a house and lot! You take the case
to-night, and I'll operate in the morning--"
"No, no, please, Doctor! Mr. Clarke wouldn't want me."
"Mr. Clarke will be satisfied with whatever arrangement I see fit to
make. Besides another nurse will be in charge by the time he arrives."
A stern glance silenced her, and she went out, closing the door as hard
as she dared behind her. During her four years at the hospital the
memory of Mac Clarke had grown fainter and fainter like the perfume of a
fading flower. But the memory of Dan was like a thorn in her flesh,
buried deep, but never forgotten.
To herself, her fellow-nurses, the young internes who invariably fell in
love with her, she declared gaily that she was "through with men
forever." The subject that excited her fiercest scorn was matrimony, and
she ridiculed sentiment with the superior attitude of one who has weighed
it in the balance and found it wanting.
Nevertheless something vaguely disturbing woke in her that night when she
watched with Mrs. Clarke at Mac's bedside. Despite the havoc five years
had wrought in him, there was the old appealing charm in his voice and
manner, the old audacity in his whispered words when she bent over him,
the old eager want in his eyes as they followed her about the room.
Toward morning he dropped into a restless sleep, and Mrs. Clarke, who
had been watching his every breath, tiptoed over to the table and sat
down by Nance.
"My son tells me you are the Miss Molloy who used to be in the office,"
she whispered. "He is so happy to find some one here he knows. He loathes
trained nurses as a rule. They make him nervous. But he has been
wonderfully good about letting you do things for him. It's a tremendous
relief to me."
Nance made a mistake on the chart that was going to call for an
"He's been losing ground ever since last winter," the doting mother went
on. "He was really quite well at Divonne-les-Bains, but he lost all he
gained when we reached Paris. You see he doesn't know how to take care of
himself; that's the trouble."
Mac groaned and she hurried to him.
"He wants a cigarette, Miss Molloy. I don't believe it would hurt
him," she said.
"His throat's already irritated," said Nance, in her most professional
tone. "I am sure Dr. Adair wouldn't want him to smoke."
"But we can't refuse him anything to-night," said Mrs. Clarke, with an
apologetic smile as she reached for the matches.
Nance looking at her straight, delicate profile thrown into sudden relief
by the flare of the match, had the same disturbing sense of familiarity
that she had experienced long ago in the cathedral.
But during the next twenty-four hours there was no time to analyze
subtle impressions or to indulge in sentimental reminiscence. From the
moment Mac's unconscious form was borne down from the operating room and
handed over to her care, he ceased to be a man and became a critically
"We haven't much to work on," said Dr. Adair, shaking his head. "He has
no resisting power. He has burned himself out."
But Mac's powers of resistance were stronger than he thought, and by the
time Mr. Clarke arrived the crisis was passed. Slowly and painfully he
struggled back to consciousness, and his first demand was for Nance.
"It's the nurse he had when he first came," Mrs. Clarke explained to her
husband. "You must make Dr. Adair give her back to us. She's the only
nurse I've ever seen who could get Mac to do things. By the way, she used
to be in your office, a rather pretty, graceful girl, named Molloy."
"I remember her," said Mr. Clarke, grimly. "You better leave things as
they are. Miss Hanna seems to know her business."
"But Mac hates Miss Hanna! He says her hands make him think of
bedsprings. Miss Molloy makes him laugh and helps him to forget the pain.
He's taken a tremendous fancy to her."
"Yes, he had quite a fancy for her once before."
"Now, Macpherson, how can you?" cried Mrs. Clarke on the verge of tears.
"Just because the boy made one slip when he was little more than a
_child_, you suspect his every motive. I don't see how you can be so
cruel! If you had seen his agony, if you had been through what I have--"
Thus it happened that instead of keeping Nance out of Mac's sight, Mrs.
Clarke left no stone unturned to get her back, and Mr. Clarke was even
persuaded to take it up personally with Dr. Adair.
Nance might have held out to the end, had her sympathies not been
profoundly stirred by the crushing effect the news of Mac's serious
tubercular condition had upon his parents. On the day they were told Mr.
Clarke paced the corridor for hours with slow steps and bent head,
refusing to see people or to answer the numerous inquiries over the
telephone. As for Mrs. Clarke, all the fragile prettiness and girlish
grace she had carried over into maturity, seemed to fall away from her
within the hour, leaving her figure stooped and her face settled into
lines of permanent anxiety.
The mother's chief concern now was to break the news of his condition to
Mac, who was already impatiently straining at the leash, eager to get
back to his old joyous pursuits and increasingly intolerant of
"He refuses to listen to me or to his father," she confided to Nance, who
had coaxed her down to the yard for a breath of fresh air. "I'm afraid
we've lost our influence over him. And yet I can't bear for Dr. Adair to
tell him. He's so stern and says such dreadful things. Do you know he
actually was heartless enough to tell Mac that he had brought a great
deal of this trouble on himself!"
Nance slipped her hand through Mrs. Clarke's arm, and patted it
reassuringly. She had come to have a sort of pitying regard for this
terror-stricken mother during these days of anxious waiting.
"I wonder if you would be willing to tell him?" Mrs. Clarke asked,
looking at her appealingly. "Maybe you could make him understand without
"I'll try," said Nance, with ready sympathy.
The opportunity came one day in the following week when the regular day
nurse was off duty. She found Mac alone, propped up in bed, and
tremendously glad to see her. To a less experienced person the
brilliancy of his eyes and the color in his cheeks would have meant
returning health, but to Nance they were danger signals that nerved her
to her task.
"I hear you are going home next week," she said, resting her crossed arms
on the foot of his bed. "Going to be good and take care of yourself?"
"Not on your life!" cried Mac, gaily, searching under his pillow for his
cigarette case. "The lid's been on for a month, and it's coming off with
a bang. I intend to shoot the first person that mentions health to me."
"Fire away then," said Nance. "I'm it. I've come to hand you out a nice
little bunch of advice."
"You needn't. I've got twice as much now as I intend to use. Come on
around here and be sociable. I want to make love to you."
Nance declined the invitation.
"Has Dr. Adair put you wise on what he's letting you in for?"
"Rather! Raw eggs, rest, and rust. Mother put him up to it. It's perfect
rot. I'll be feeling fit as a fiddle inside of two weeks. All I need is
to get out of this hole. They couldn't have kept me here this long if it
hadn't been for you."
"And I reckon you're counting on going back and speeding up just as you
"Sure, why not?"
"Because you can't. The sooner you soak that in, the better."
He blew a succession of smoke rings in her direction and laughed.
"So they've taken you into the conspiracy, have they? Going to
frighten me into the straight and narrow, eh? Suppose I tell them that
I'm lovesick? That there's only one cure for me in the world, and
The ready retort with which she had learned to parry these personalities
was not forthcoming. She felt as she had that day five years ago in his
father's office, when she told him what she thought of him. He smiled up
at her with the same irresponsible light in his brown eyes, the same
eager desire to sidestep the disagreeable, the old refusal to accept life
seriously. He was such a boy despite his twenty-six years. Such a
spoiled, selfish lovable boy!
With a sudden rush of pity, she went to him and took his hand:
"See here, Mr. Mac," she said very gravely, "I got to tell you
something. Dr. Adair wanted to tell you from the first, but your mother
headed him off."
He shot a swift glance at her.
"What do you mean, Nance?"
Then Nance sat on the side of his bed and explained to him, as gently and
as firmly as she could, the very serious nature of his illness,
emphasizing the fact that his one chance for recovery lay in complete
surrender to a long and rigorous regime of treatment.
From scoffing incredulity, he passed to anxious skepticism and then to
agonized conviction. It was the first time he had ever faced any
disagreeable fact in life from which there was no appeal, and he cried
out in passionate protest. If he was a "lunger" he wanted to die as soon
as possible. He hated those wheezy chaps that went coughing through life,
avoiding draughts, and trying to keep their feet dry. If he was going to
die, he wanted to do it with a rush. He'd be hanged if he'd cut out
smoking, drinking, and running with the boys, just to lie on his back for
a year and perhaps die at the end of it!
Nance faced the bitter crisis with him, whipping up his courage,
strengthening his weak will, nerving him for combat. When she left him
an hour later, with his face buried in the pillow and his hands locked
above his head, he had promised to submit to the doctor's advice on the
one condition that she would go home with him and start him on that fight
for life that was to tax all his strength and patience and self-control.
HER FIRST CASE
October hovered over Kentucky that year in a golden halo of enchantment.
The beech-trees ran the gamut of glory, and every shrub and weed had its
hour of transient splendor. A soft haze from burning brush lent the world
a sense of mystery and immensity. Day after day on the south porch at
Hillcrest Mac Clarke lay propped with cushions on a wicker couch, while
Nance Molloy sat beside him, and all about them was a stir of whispering,
dancing, falling leaves. The hillside was carpeted with them, the brook
below the pergola was strewn with bits of color, while overhead the warm
sunshine filtered through canopies of russet and crimson and green.
"I tell you the boy is infatuated with that girl," Mr. Clarke warned his
wife from time to time.
"What nonsense!" Mrs. Clarke answered. "He is just amusing himself a bit.
He will forget her as soon as he gets out and about."
"But the girl?"
"Oh, she's too sensible to have any hopes of that kind. She really is
an exceptionally nice girl. Rather too frank in her speech, and
frequently ungrammatical and slangy, but I don't know what we should do
But even Mrs. Clarke's complacence was a bit shaken as the weeks slipped
away, and Mac's obsession became the gossip of the household. To be sure,
so long as Nance continued to regard the whole matter as a joke and
refused to take Mac seriously, no harm would be done. But that very
indifference that assured his adoring mother, at the same time piqued her
pride. That an ordinary trained nurse, born and brought up, Heaven knew
where, should be insensible to Mac's even transient attention almost
amounted to an impertinence. Quite unconsciously she began to break down
"You must be very good to my boy, dear," she said one day in her gentle,
coaxing way. "I know he's a bit capricious and exacting at times. But we
can't afford to cross him now when he is just beginning to improve. He
was terribly upset last night when you teased him about leaving."
"But I ought to go, Mrs. Clarke. He'd get along just as well now with
another nurse. Besides I only promised--"
"Not another word!" implored Mrs. Clarke in instant alarm. "I wouldn't
answer for the consequences if you left us now. Mac goes all to pieces
when it is suggested. He has always been so used to having his own way,
Yes, Nance knew. Between her unceasing efforts to get him well, and her
grim determination to keep the situation well in hand, she had unlimited
opportunity of finding out. The physicians agreed that his chances for
recovery were one to three. It was only by the most persistent observance
of certain regulations pertaining to rest, diet, and fresh air, that they
held out any hope of arresting the malady that had already made such
alarming headway. Nance realized from the first that it was to be a fight
against heavy odds, and she gallantly rose to the emergency. Aside from
the keen personal interest she took in Mac, and the sympathy she felt for
his stricken parents, she had an immense pride in her first private case,
on which she was determined to win her spurs.
For three months now she had controlled the situation. With undaunted
perseverance she had made Mac submit to authority and succeeded in
successfully combatting his mother's inclination to yield to his every
whim. The gratifying result was that Mac was gradually putting on flesh
and, with the exception of a continued low fever, was showing decided
improvement. Already talk of a western flight was in the air.
The whole matter hinged at present on Mac's refusal to go unless Nance
could be induced to accompany them. The question had been argued from
every conceivable angle, and gradually a conspiracy had been formed
between Mac and his mother to overcome her apparently absurd resistance.
"It isn't as if she had any good reason," Mrs. Clarke complained to her
husband, with tears in her eyes. "She has no immediate family, and she
might just as well be on duty in California as in Kentucky. I don't see
how she can refuse to go when she sees how weak Mac is, and how he
depends on her."
"The girl's got more sense than all the rest of you put together!" said
Mr. Clarke. "She sees the way things are going."
"Well, what if Mac is in love with her?" asked Mrs. Clarke, for the first
time frankly facing the situation. "Of course it's just his sick fancy,
but he is in no condition to be argued with. The one absolutely necessary
thing is to get her to go with us. Suppose you ask her. Perhaps that's
what she is waiting for."
"And you are willing to take the consequences?"
"I am willing for anything on earth that will help me keep my boy,"
sobbed Mrs. Clarke, resorting to a woman's surest weapon.
So Mr. Clarke turned his ponderous batteries upon the situation, using
money as the ammunition with which he was most familiar.
The climax was reached one night toward the end of October when the
first heavy hoar-frost of the season gave premonitory threat of coming
winter. The family was still at dinner, and Mac was having his from a
tray before the library fire. The heavy curtains had been drawn against
the chill world without, and the long room was a soft harmony of dull
reds and browns, lit up here and there by rose-shaded lamps.
It was a luxurious room, full of trophies of foreign travel. The long
walls were hung with excellent pictures; the floors were covered with
rare rugs; the furniture was selected with perfect taste. Every detail
had been elaborately and skilfully worked out by an eminent decorator.
Only one insignificant item had been omitted. In the length and breadth
of the library, not a book was to be seen.
Mac, letting his soup cool while he read the letter Nance had just
brought him, gave an exclamation of surprise.
"By George! Monte Pearce is going to get married!"
"I've got a tintype of Mr. Monte settling down. Who's the girl?"
"A cousin of his in Honolulu. Her father is a sugar king; no end of cash.
Think of old Monte landing a big fish like that!"
"That's what you'll be doing when you get out to your ranch."
"I intend to take my girl along."
"You'll have to get her first."
Mac turned on her with an invalid's fretfulness. "See here, Nance,"
he cried, "cut that out, will you? Either you go, or I stay, do you
see? I know I'm a fool about you, but I can't help it. Nance, why
don't you love me?"
Nance looked down at him helplessly. She had been refusing him on an
average of twice a day for the past week, and her powers of resistance
were weakening. The hardest granite yields in the end to the persistent
dropping of water. However much the clear-headed, independent side of her
might refuse him, to another side of her he was strangely appealing.
Often when she was near him, the swift remembrance of other days filled
her with sudden desire to yield, if only for a moment, to his insatiable
demands. Despite her most heroic resolution, she sometimes relaxed her
vigilance as she did to-night, and allowed her hand to rest in his.
Mac made the most of the moment.
"I don't ask you to promise me anything, Nance. I just ask you to come
with me!" he pleaded, with eloquent eyes, "we can get a couple of ponies
and scour the trails all over those old mountains. At Coronada there's
bully sea bathing. And the motoring--why you can go for a hundred miles
straight along the coast!"
Nance's eyes kindled, but she shook her head. "You can do all that
without me. All I do is to jack you up and make you take care of
yourself. I should think you 'd hate me, Mr. Mac."
"Well, I don't. Sometimes I wish I did. I love you even when you come
down on me hardest. A chap gets sick of being mollycoddled. When you fire
up and put your saucy little chin in the air, and tell me I sha'n't have
a cocktail, and call me a fool for stealing a smoke, it bucks me up more
than anything. By George, I believe I'd amount to something if you'd take
me permanently in hand."
Nance laughed, and he pulled her down on the arm of his chair.
"Say you'll marry me, Nance," he implored. "You'll learn to care for me
all right. You want to get out and see the world. I'll take you. We'll go
out to Honolulu and see Monte. Mother will talk the governor over; she's
promised. They'll give me anything I want, and I want you. Oh, Nance
darling, don't leave me to fight through this beastly business alone!"
There was a haunted look of fear in his eyes as he clung to her that
appealed to her more than his former demands had ever done. Instinctively
her strong, tender hands closed over his thin, weak ones.
"Nobody expects you to fight it through alone," she reassured him, "but
you come on down off this high horse! We'll be having another bad night
the first thing you know."
"They'll all be bad if you don't come with me, Nance. I won't ask you to
say yes to-night, but for God's sake don't say no!"
Nance observed the brilliancy of his eyes and the flush on his thin
cheeks, and knew that his fever was rising.
"All right," she promised lightly. "I won't say no to-night, if you'll
stop worrying. I'm going to fix you nice and comfy on the couch and not
let you say another word."
But when she had got him down on the couch, nothing would do but she must
sit on the hassock beside him and soothe his aching head. Sometimes he
stopped her stroking hand to kiss it, but for the most part he lay with
eyes half-closed and elaborated his latest whim.
"We could stay awhile in Honolulu and then go on to Japan and China. I
want to see India, too, and Mandalay,
... somewhere east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
And there aren't no Ten Commandments
--you remember Kipling's Mandalay?"
Nance couldn't remember what she had never known, but she did not say
so. Since her advent at Hillcrest she had learned to observe and listen
without comment. This was not her world, and her shrewd common-sense told
her so again and again. Even the servants who moved with such easy
familiarity about their talks were more at home than she. It had kept her
wits busy to meet the situation. But now that she had got over her first
awkwardness, she found the new order of things greatly to her liking. For
the first time in her life she was moving in a world of beautiful
objects, agreeable sounds, untroubled relations, and that starved side of
her that from the first had cried out for order and beauty and harmony
fed ravenously upon the luxury around her.
And this was what Mac was offering her,--her, Nance Molloy of Calvary
Alley,--who up to four years ago had never known anything but bare
floors, flickering gas-jets, noise, dirt, confusion. He wanted her to
marry him; he needed her.
She ceased to listen to his rambling talk, her eyes rested dreamily on
the glowing back-log. After all didn't every woman want to marry and have
a home of her own, and later perhaps--Twenty-four at Christmas! Almost an
old maid! And to think Mr. Mac had gone on caring for her all these
years, that he still wanted her when he had all those girls in his own
world to choose from. Not many men were constant like that, she thought,
as an old memory stabbed her.
Then she was aware that her hand was held fast to a hot cheek, and that a
pair of burning eyes were watching her.
"Nance!" Mac whispered eagerly, "you're giving in! You're going with me!"
A step in the hall made Nance scramble to her feet just before Mrs.
Clarke came in from the dining-room.
"I thought we should never get through dinner!" said that lady, with an
impatient sigh. "The bishop can talk of nothing else but his new hobby,
and do you know he's actually persuaded your father to give one of the
tenements back of the cathedral for the free clinic!"
Nance who was starting out with the tray, put it down suddenly.
"How splendid!" she cried. "Which house is it?"
"I don't know, I am sure. But they are going to put a lot of money into
doing it over, and Dr. Adair has offered to take entire charge of it. For
my part I think it is a great mistake. Just think what that money would
mean to our poor mission out in Mukden! These shiftless people here at
home have every chance to live decently. It's not our fault if they
refuse to take advantage of their opportunities."
"But they don't know how, Mrs. Clarke! If Dr. Adair could teach the
Mrs. Clarke lifted her hands in laughing protest.
"My dear girl, don't you know that mothers can't be taught? The most
ignorant mother alive has more instinctive knowledge of what is good for
her child than any man that ever lived! Mac, dearest, why didn't you eat
"Because I loathe grapes. Nance is going to work them off on an old sick
man she knows."
"Some one at the hospital?" Mrs. Clarke asked idly.
"No," said Nance, "it's an old gentleman who lives down in the very
place we're talking about. He's been sick for weeks. It's all right
about the grapes?"
"Why, of course. Take some oranges, too, and tell the gardener to give
you some flowers. The dahlias are going to waste this year. Mac, you
He shook off her hand impatiently.
"No, I'm not. I feel like a two-year old. Nance thinks perhaps she may go
with us after all."
"Of course she will!" said Mrs. Clarke, with a confident smile at the
girl. "We are going to be so good to her that she will not have the
heart to refuse."
Mrs. Clarke with her talent for self-deception had almost convinced