Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Calvary Alley by Alice Hegan Rice

Part 6 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

herself that Nance was a fairy princess who had languished in a nether
world of obscurity until Mac's magic smile had restored her to her own.

Nance evaded an answer by fleeing to the white and red breakfast-room
where the butler was laying the cloth for her dinner. As a rule she
enjoyed these tête-à-têtes with the butler. He was a solemn and
pretentious Englishman whom she delighted in shocking by acting and
talking in a manner that was all too natural to her. But to-night she
submitted quite meekly to his lordly condescension.

She ate her dinner in dreamy abstraction, her thoughts on Mac and the
enticing prospects he had held out. After all what was the use in
fighting against all the kindness and affection? If they were willing to
take the risk of her going with them, why should she hesitate? They knew
she was poor and uneducated and not of their world, and they couldn't
help seeing that Mac was in love with her. And still they wanted her.

California! Honolulu! Queer far-off lands full of queer people! Big ships
that would carry her out of the sight and sound of Calvary Alley forever!
And Mac, well and happy, making a man of himself, giving her everything
in the world she wanted.

Across her soaring thoughts struck the voices from the adjoining
dining-room, Mr. Clarke's sharp and incisive, the bishop's suave and
unctious. Suddenly a stray sentence arrested her attention and she
listened with her glass half-way to her lips.

"It is the labor question that concerns us more than the war," Mr.
Clarke was saying. "I have just succeeded in signing up with a man I
have been after for four years. He is a chap named Lewis, the only man
in this part of the country who seems to be able to cope with the
problem of union labor."

"A son of General Lewis?"

"No, no. Just a common workman who got his training at our factory. He
left me five or six years ago without rhyme or reason, and went over to
the Ohio Glass Works, where he has made quite a name for himself. I had a
tussle to get him back, but he comes to take charge next month. He is one
of those rare men you read about, but seldom find, a practical idealist."

Nance left her ice untouched, and slipped through the back entry and up
to the dainty blue bedroom that had been hers now for three months. All
the delicious languor of the past hour was gone, and in its place was a
turmoil of hope and fear and doubt. Dan was coming back. The words beat
on her brain. He cared nothing for her, and he was married, and she would
never see him, but he was coming back.

She opened the drawer of her dressing table and took out a small faded
photograph which she held to the silk-shaded lamp. It was a cheap
likeness of an awkward-looking working-boy in his Sunday clothes, a stiff
lock of unruly hair across his temple, and a pair of fine earnest eyes
looking out from slightly scowling brows.

Nance looked at it long and earnestly; then she flung it back in the
drawer with a sigh and, putting out the light, went down again to
her patient.



The next afternoon, armed with her flowers and fruit, Nance was
setting forth for Calvary Alley, when Mrs. Clarke called to her from
an upper window.

"If you will wait ten minutes, I will take you down in the machine."

"But I want the walk," Nance insisted. "I need the exercise."

"Nonsense, you are on your feet nearly all the time. I won't be long."

Nance made a wry face at an unoffending sparrow and glanced regretfully
at the long white road that wound invitingly in and out of the woods
until it dropped sharply to the little station in the valley a mile
below. She had been looking forward to that walk all morning. She wanted
to get away from the hot-house atmosphere of the Clarke establishment,
away from Mac's incessant appeals and his mother's increasing dependence.
Aside from amusing her patient and seeing that he obeyed Dr. Adair's
orders, her duties for the past few weeks had been too light to be
interesting. The luxury that at first had so thrilled her was already
beginning to pall. She wanted to be out in the open alone, to feel the
sharp wind of reality in her face, while she thought things out.

"I am going to the cathedral," said Mrs. Clarke, emerging from the
door, followed by a maid carrying coats and rugs. "But I can drop you
wherever you say."

"I'll go there, too," said Nance as she took her seat in the car. "The
old gentleman I'm taking the things to lives just back of there, in the
very house Dr. Adair is trying to get for the clinic."

"Poor soul!" said Mrs. Clarke idly, as she viewed with approval Nance's
small brown hat that so admirably set off the lights in her hair and the
warm red tints of her skin.

"He's been up against it something fierce for over a year now," Nance
went on. "We've helped him all he'd let us since he stopped playing at
the theater."

"Playing?" Mrs. Clarke repeated the one word that had caught her
wandering attention. "Is he an actor?"

"No; he is a musician. He used to play in big orchestras in New York and
Boston. He plays the fiddle."

For the rest of the way into town Mrs. Clarke was strangely preoccupied.
She sat very straight, with eyes slightly contracted, and looked absently
out of the window. Once or twice she began a sentence without finishing
it. At the cathedral steps she laid a detaining hand on Nance's arm.

"By the way, what did you say was the name of the old man you are
going to see?"

"I never said. It's Demry."

"Demry--Never mind, I just missed the step. I'm quite all right. I think
I will go with you to see this--this--house they are talking about."

"But it's in the alley. Mrs. Clarke; it's awfully dirty."

"Yes, yes, but I'm coming. Can we go through here?"

So impatient was she that she did not wait for Nance to lead the way, but
hurried around the bishop's study and down the concrete walk to the gate
that opened into the alley.

"Look out for your skirt against the garbage barrel," warned Nance. It
embarrassed her profoundly to have Mrs. Clarke in these surroundings; she
hated the mud that soiled her dainty boots, the odors that must offend
her nostrils, the inevitable sights that awaited her in Number One. She
only prayed that Mrs. Snawdor's curl-papered head might not appear on the
upper landing.

"Which way?" demanded Mrs. Clarke, impatiently.

Nance led the way into the dark hall where a half-dozen ragged,
dirty-faced children were trying to drag a still dirtier pup up the
stairs by means of a twine string.

"In here, Mrs. Clarke," said Nance, pushing open the door at the left

The outside shutters of the big cold room were partly closed, but the
light from between them fell with startling effect on the white,
marble-like face of the old man who lay asleep on a cot in front of the
empty fireplace. For a moment Mrs. Clarke stood looking at him; then with
a smothered cry she bent over him.

"Father!" she cried sharply, "Oh, God! It's my father!"

Nance caught her breath in amazement; then her bewildered gaze fell upon
a familiar object. There, in its old place on the mantel stood the
miniature of a pink and white maiden in the pink and white dress, with
the golden curl across her shoulder. In the delicate, beautiful profile
Nance read the amazing truth.

Mr. Demry sighed heavily, opened his eyes with an effort and, looking
past the bowed head beside him, held out a feeble hand for the flowers.

"Listen, Mr. Demry," said Nance, breathlessly. "Here's a lady says she
knows you. Somebody you haven't seen for a long, long time. Will you look
at her and try to remember?"

His eyes rested for the fraction of a minute on the agonized face lifted
to his, then closed wearily.

"Can you not get the lady a chair, Nancy?" he asked feebly. "You can
borrow one from the room across the hall."

"Father!" demanded Mrs. Clarke, "don't you know me? It is Elise. Your
daughter, Elise Demorest!"

"Demorest," he repeated, and smiled. "How unnatural it sounds now!

"It's no use," said Nance. "His mind wanders most of the time. Let me
take you back to the cathedral, Mrs. Clarke, until we decide what's got
to be done."

"I am going to take him home," said Mrs. Clarke, wildly. "He shall have
every comfort and luxury I can give him. Poor Father, don't you want to
come home with Elise?"

"I live at Number One, Calvary Alley," said Mr. Demry, clinging to the
one fact he had trained his mind to remember. "If you will kindly get me
to the corner, the children will--"

"It's too late to do anything!" cried Mrs. Clarke, wringing her hands. "I
knew something terrible would happen to him. I pleaded with them to help
me find him, but they put me off. Then I got so absorbed in Mac that he
drove everything else out of my mind. How long has he been in this awful
place? How long has he been ill? Who takes care of him?"

Nance, with her arms about Mrs. Clarke, told her as gently as she could
of Mr. Demry's advent into the alley fourteen years before, of his
friendship with the children, his occasional lapses from grace, and the
steady decline of his fortune.

"We must get him away from here!" cried Mrs. Clarke when she had gained
control of herself. "Go somewhere and telephone Mr. Clarke. Telephone Dr.
Adair. Tell him to bring an ambulance and another nurse and--and plenty
of blankets. Telephone to the house for them to get a room ready. But
wait--there's Mac--he mustn't know--"

It was the old, old mother-cry! Keep it from Mac, spare Mac, don't let
Mac suffer. Nance seized on it now to further her designs.

"You go back to Mr. Mac, Mrs. Clarke. I'll stay here and attend to
everything. You go ahead and get things ready for us."

And Mrs. Clarke, used to taking the easiest way, allowed herself to be
persuaded, and after one agonized look at the tranquil face on the
pillow, hurried away.

Nance, shivering with the cold, got together the few articles that
constituted Mr. Demry's worldly possessions. A few shabby garments in the
old wardrobe, the miniature on the shelf, a stack of well-worn books, and
the violin in its rose-wood case. Everything else had been sold to keep
the feeble flame alive in that wasted old form.

Nance looked about her with swimming eyes. She recalled the one happy
Christmas that her childhood had known. The gay garlands of tissue paper,
the swinging lanterns, the shelf full of oranges and doughnuts, and the
beaming old face smiling over the swaying fiddle bow! And to think that
Mrs. Clarke's own father had hidden away here all these years, utterly
friendless except for the children, poor to the point of starvation, sick
to the point of death, grappling with his great weakness in heroic
silence, and going down to utter oblivion rather than obtrude his
misfortune upon the one he loved best.

As the old man's fairy tales had long ago stirred Nance's imagination and
wakened her to the beauty of invisible things, so now his broken, futile
life, with its one great glory of renunciation, called out to the soul of
her and roused in her a strange, new sense of spiritual beauty.

For one week he lived among the luxurious surroundings of his daughter's
home. Everything that skill and money could do, was done to restore him
to health and sanity. But he saw only the sordid sights he had been
seeing for the past fourteen years; he heard only the sounds to which his
old ears had become accustomed.

"You would better move my cot, Nancy," he would say, plucking at the
silken coverlid. "They are scrubbing the floor up in the Lavinski flat.
The water always comes through." And again he would say: "It is nice and
warm in here, but I am afraid you are burning too much coal, dear. I
cannot get another bucket until Saturday."

One day Mrs. Clarke saw him take from his tray, covered with delicacies,
a half-eaten roll and slip it under his pillow.

"We must save it," he whispered confidentially, "save it for to-morrow."
In vain they tried to reassure him; the haunting poverty that had stalked
beside him in life refused to be banished by death.

Mrs. Clarke remained "the lady" to him to the end. When he spoke to her,
his manner assumed a faint dignity, with a slight touch of gallantry, the
unmistakable air of a gentleman of the old school towards an attractive
stranger of the opposite sex.

His happiest hours were those when he fancied the children were with him.

"Gently! gently!" he would say; "there is room for everybody. This knee
is for Gussie Gorman, this one for Joe, because they are the smallest,
you know. Now are you ready?" And then he would whisper fairy stories,
smiling at the ceiling, and making feeble gestures with his wasted old

The end came one day after he had lain for hours in a stupor. He stirred
suddenly and asked for his violin.

"I must go--to the--theater, Nancy," he murmured. "I--do not want--to

They laid the instrument in his arms, and his fingers groped feebly over
the strings; then his chin sank into its old accustomed place, and a
great light dawned in his eyes. Mr. Demry, who was used to seeing
invisible things, had evidently caught the final vision.

That night, worn with nursing and full of grief for the passing of her
old friend, Nance threw a coat about her and slipped out on the terrace.
Above her, nebulous stars were already appearing, and their twinkling
was answered by responsive gleams in the city below. Against the velvety
dusk two tall objects towered in the distance, the beautiful Gothic
spire of the cathedral, and the tall, unseemly gas pipe of Clarke's
Bottle Factory. Between them, under a haze of smoke and grime, lay
Calvary Alley.

"I don't know which is worse," thought Nance fiercely, "to be down there
in the mess, fighting and struggling and suffering to get the things you
want, or up here with the mummies who haven't got anything left to wish
for. I wish life wasn't just a choice between a little hard green apple
and a rotten big one!"

She leaned her elbows on the railing and watched the new moon dodging
behind the tree trunks and, as she watched, she grappled with the
problem of life, at first bitterly and rebelliously, then with a dawning
comprehension of its meaning. After all was the bishop, with his
conspicuous virtues and his well-known dislike of children, any better
than old Mr. Demry, with his besetting sin and his beautiful influence on
every child with whom he came in contact? Was Mr. Clarke, working
children under age in the factory to build up a great fortune for his
son, very different from Mr. Lavinski, with his sweat-shop, hoarding
pennies for the ambitious Ikey? Was Mrs. Clarke, shirking her duty to her
father, any happier or any better than Mrs. Snawdor, shirking hers to her
children? Was Mac, adored and petted and protected, any better than
Birdie, now in the state asylum paying the penalty of their joint
misdeed? Was the tragedy in the great house back of her any more poignant
than the tragedy of Dan Lewis bound by law to an insane wife and burdened
with a child that was not his own? She seemed to see for the first time
the great illuminating truth that the things that make men alike in the
world are stronger than the things that make them different. And in this
realization an overwhelming ambition seized her. Some hidden spiritual
force rose to lift her out of the contemplation of her own interests into
something of ultimate value to her fellowmen.

After all, those people down there in Calvary Alley were her people, and
she meant to stand by them. It had been the dream of her life to get out
and away, but in that moment she knew that wherever she went, she would
always come back. Others might help from the top, but she could help
understandingly from the bottom. With the magnificent egotism of youth,
she outlined gigantic schemes on the curtain of the night. Some day,
somehow, she would make people like the Clarkes see the life of the poor
as it really was, she would speak for the girls in the factories, in the
sweatshops, on the stage. She would be an interpreter between the rich
and the poor and make them serve each other.

"Nance!" called an injured voice from the music room behind her, "what in
the mischief are you doing out there in the cold? Come on in here and
amuse me. I'm half dead with the dumps!"

"All right, Mr. Mac. I'm coming," she said cheerfully, as she stepped in
through the French window and closed it against her night of dreams.



The Dan Lewis who came back to Clarke's Bottle Factory was a very
different man from the one who had walked out of it five years before. He
had gone out a stern, unforgiving, young ascetic, accepting no
compromise, demanding perfection of himself and of his fellow-men. The
very sublimity of his dream doomed it to failure. Out of the crumbling
ideals of his boyhood he had struggled to a foothold on life that had
never been his in the old days. His marriage to Birdie Smelts had been
the fiery furnace in which his soul had been softened to receive the
final stamp of manhood.

For his hour of indiscretion he had paid to the last ounce of his
strength and courage. After that night in the lodging-house, there seemed
to him but one right course, and he took it with unflinching promptness.
Even when Birdie, secure in the protection of his name and his support,
lapsed into her old vain, querulous self, he valiantly bore his burden,
taking any menial work that he could find to do, and getting a sort of
grim satisfaction out of what he regarded as expiation for his sin.

But when he became aware of Birdie's condition and realized the use she
had made of him, the tragedy broke upon him in all of its horror. Then
he, too, lost sight of the shore lights, and went plunging desperately
into the stream of life with no visible and sustaining ideal to guide
his course, but only the fighting necessity to get across as decently
as possible.

After a long struggle he secured a place in the Ohio Glass Works, where
his abilities soon began to be recognized. Instead of working now with
tingling enthusiasm for Nance and the honeysuckle cottage, he worked
doggedly and furiously to meet the increasing expense of Birdie's
wastefulness and the maintenance of her child.

Year by year he forged ahead, gaining a reputation for sound judgment and
fair dealing that made him an invaluable spokesman between the employer
and the employed. He set himself seriously to work to get at the real
conditions that were causing the ferment of unrest among the working
classes. He made himself familiar with socialistic and labor newspapers;
he attended mass meetings; he laid awake nights reading and wrestling
with the problems of organized industrialism. His honest resentment
against the injustice shown the laboring man was always nicely balanced
by his intolerance of the haste and ignorance and misrepresentation of
the labor agitators. He was one of the few men who could be called upon
to arbitrate differences, whom both factions invariably pronounced
"square." When pressure was brought to bear upon him to return to
Clarke's, he was in a position to dictate his own terms.

It was the second week after his reinstatement that he came up to the
office one day and unexpectedly encountered Nance Molloy. At first he did
not recognize the tall young lady in the well-cut brown suit with the bit
of fur at the neck and wrists and the jaunty brown hat with its dash of
gold. Then she looked up, and it was Nance's old smile that flashed out
at him, and Nance's old impulsive self that turned to greet him.

For one radiant moment all that had happened since they last stood there
was swept out of the memory of each; then it came back; and they shook
hands awkwardly and could find little to say to each other in the
presence of the strange stenographer who occupied Nance's old place at
the desk by the window.

"They told me you weren't working here," said Dan at length.

"I'm not. I've just come on an errand for Mrs. Clarke."

Dan's eyes searched hers in swift inquiry.

"I'm a trained nurse now," she said, determined to take the situation
lightly. "You remember how crazy I used to be about doping people?"

He did not answer, and she hurried on as if afraid of any silence that
might fall between them.

"It all started with the smallpox in Calvary Alley. Been back
there, Dan?"

"Not yet."

"Lots of changes since the old days. Mr. Snawdor and Fidy and Mrs. Smelts
and Mr. Demry all gone. Have you heard about Mr. Demry?"

Dan shook his head. He was not listening to her, but he was looking at
her searchingly, broodingly, with growing insistence.

The hammering of the type-writer was the only sound that broke the
ensuing pause.

"Tell me your news, Dan," said Nance in desperation. "Where you
living now?"

"At Mrs. Purdy's. She's going to take care of Ted for me."

"Ted? Oh! I forgot. How old is he now?"

For the first time Dan's face lit up with his fine, rare smile.

"He's four, Nance, and the smartest kid that ever lived! You'd be
crazy about him, I know. I wonder if you couldn't go out there some
day and see him?"

Nance showed no enthusiasm over the suggestion; instead she gathered up
her muff and gloves and, leaving a message for Mr. Clarke with the
stenographer, prepared to depart.

"I am thinking about going away," she said. "I may go out to California
next week."

The brief enthusiasm died out of Dan's face.

"What's taking you to California?" he asked dully, as he followed her
into the hall.

"I may go with a patient. Have you heard of the trouble they're in at the


"It's Mr. Mac. He's got tuberculosis, and they are taking him out to the
coast for a year. They want me to go along."

Dan's face hardened.

"So it's Mac Clarke still?" he asked bitterly.

His tone stung Nance to the quick, and she wheeled on him indignantly.

"See here, Dan! I've got to put you straight on a thing or two. Where can
we go to have this business out?"

He led her across the hall to his own small office and closed the door.

"I'm going to tell you something," she said, facing him with blazing
eyes, "and I don't care a hang whether you believe it or not. I never was
in love with Mac Clarke. From the day you left this factory I never saw
or wrote to him until he was brought to the hospital last July, and I was
put on the case. I didn't have anything more to do with him than I did
with you. I guess you know how much that was!"

"What about now? Are you going west with him?"

Dan confronted her with the same stern inquiry in his eyes that had shone
there the day they parted, in this very place, five years ago.

"I don't know whether I am or not!" cried Nance, firing up. "They've done
everything for me, the Clarkes have. They think his getting well depends
on me. Of course that's rot, but that's what they think. As for Mr. Mac

"Is he still in love with you?"

At this moment a boy thrust his head in the door to say that Dr. Adair
had telephoned for Miss Molloy to come by the hospital before she
returned to Hillcrest.

Nance pulled on her gloves and, with chin in the air, was departing
without a word, when Dan stopped her.

"I'm sorry I spoke to you like that, Nance," he said, scowling at the
floor. "I've got no right to be asking you questions, or criticizing what
you do, or where you go. I hope you'll excuse me."

"You _have_ got the right!" declared Nance, with one of her quick changes
of mood. "You can ask me anything you like. I guess we can always be
friends, can't we?"

"No," said Dan, slowly, "I don't think we can. I didn't count on seeing
you like this, just us two together, alone. I thought you'd be married
maybe or moved away some place."

It was Nance's time to be silent, and she listened with wide eyes and
parted lips.

"I mustn't see you--alone--any more, Nance," Dan went on haltingly. "But
while we are here I want to tell you about it. Just this once, Nance, if
you don't mind."

He crossed over and stood before her, his hands gripping a chair back.

"When I went away from here," he began, "I thought you had passed me up
for Mac Clarke. It just put me out of business, Nance. I didn't care
where I went or what I did. Then one night in Cincinnati I met Birdie,
and she was up against it, too--and--"

After all he couldn't make a clean breast of it! Whatever he might say
would reflect on Birdie, and he gave the explanation up in despair. But
Nance came to his rescue.

"I know, Dan," she said. "Mrs. Smelts told me everything. I don't know
another fellow in the world that would have stood by a girl like you did
Birdie. She oughtn't have let you marry her without telling you."

"I think she meant to give me my freedom when the baby came," said Dan.
"At least that was what she promised. I couldn't have lived through
those first months of hell if I hadn't thought there was some way out.
But when the baby came, it was too late. Her mind was affected, and by
the law of the State I'm bound to her for the rest of her life."

"Do you know--who--who the baby's father is, Dan?"

"No. She refused from the first to tell me, and now I'm glad I don't
know. She said the baby was like him, and that made her hate it. That was
the way her trouble started. She wouldn't wash the little chap, or feed
him, or look after him when he was sick. I had to do everything. For a
year she kept getting worse and worse, until one night I caught her
trying to set fire to his crib. Of course after that she had to be sent
to the asylum, and from that time on, Ted and I fought it out together.
One of the neighbors took charge of him in the day, and I wrestled with
him at night."

"Couldn't you put him in an orphan asylum?"

Dan shook his head.

"No, I couldn't go back on him when he was up against a deal like that. I
made up my mind that I'd never let him get lonesome like I used to be,
with nobody to care a hang what became of him. He's got my name now, and
he'll never know the difference if I can help it."

"And Birdie? Does she know you when you go to see her?"

"Not for two years now. It's easier than when she did."

There was silence between them; then Nance said:

"I'm glad you told me all this, Dan. I--I wish I could help you."

"You can't," said Dan, sharply. "Don't you see I've got no right to be
with you? Do you suppose there's been a week, or a day in all these years
that I haven't wanted you with every breath I drew? The rest was just a
nightmare I was living through in order to wake up and find you. Nance--I
love you! With my heart and soul and body! You've been the one beautiful
thing in my whole life, and I wasn't worthy of you. I can't let you go!
I--Oh, God! what am I saying? What right have I--Don't let me see you
again like this, Nance, don't let me talk to you--"

He stumbled to a chair by the desk and buried his head in his arms. His
breath came in short, hard gasps, with a long agonizing quiver between,
and his broad shoulders heaved. It was the first time he had wept since
that night, so long ago, when he had sat in the gutter in front of Slap
Jack's saloon and broken his heart over an erring mother.

For one tremulous second Nance hovered over him, her face aflame with
sympathy and almost maternal pity; then she pulled herself together and
said brusquely:

"It's all right, Danny. I understand. I'm going. Good-by."

And without looking back, she fled into the hall and down the steps to
the waiting motor.



For two hours Nance was closeted with Dr. Adair in his private office,
and when she came out she had the look of one who has been following
false trails and suddenly discovers the right one.

"Don't make a hasty decision," warned Dr. Adair in parting. "The trip
with the Clarkes will be a wonderful experience; they may be gone a year
or more, and they'll do everything and see everything in the approved
way. What I am proposing offers no romance. It will be hard work and
plenty of it. You'd better think it over and give me your answer

"I'll give it to you now," said Nance. "It's yes."

He scrutinized her quizzically; then he held out his hand with its short,
thick, surgeon's fingers.

"It's a wise decision, my dear," he said. "Say nothing about it at
present. I will make it all right with the Clarkes."

During the weeks that followed, Nance was too busy to think of herself
or her own affairs. She superintended the shopping and packing for Mrs.
Clarke; she acted as private secretary for Mr. Clarke; she went on
endless errands, and looked after the innumerable details that a family
migration entails.

Mac, sulking on the couch, feeling grossly abused and neglected, spent
most of his time inveighing against Dr. Adair. "He's got to let you come
out by the end of next month." he threatened Nance, "or I'll take the
first train home. What's he got up his sleeve anyhow?"

"Ask him," advised Nance, over her shoulder, as she vanished into the

Toward the end of November the Clarkes took their departure; father,
mother, and son, two servants, and the despised, but efficient Miss
Hanna. Nance went down to see them off, hovering over the unsuspecting
Mac with feelings of mingled relief and contrition.

"I wish you'd let me tell him," she implored Mrs. Clarke. "He's bound to
know soon. Why not get it over with now?"

Mrs. Clarke was in instant panic.

"Not a word, I implore you! We will break the news to him when he is
better. Be good to him now, let him go away happy. Please, dear, for my
sake!" With the strength of the weak, she carried her point.

For the quarter of an hour before the train started, Nance resolutely
kept the situation in hand, not giving Mac a chance to speak to her
alone, and keeping up a running fire of nonsense that provoked even Mr.
Clarke to laughter. When the "All Aboard!" sounded from without, there
was scant time for good-bys. She hurried out, and when on the platform,
turned eagerly to scan the windows above her. A gust of smoke swept
between her and the slow-moving train; then as it cleared she caught her
last glimpse of a gay irresponsible face propped about with pillows and a
thin hand that threw her kisses as far as she could see.

It was with a curious feeling of elation mingled with depression, that
she tramped back to the hospital through the gloom of that November day.
Until a month ago she had scarcely had a thought beyond Mac and the
progress of his case; even now she missed his constant demands upon her,
and her heart ached for the disappointment that awaited him. But under
these disturbing thoughts something new and strange and beautiful was
calling her.

Half mechanically she spent the rest of the afternoon reestablishing
herself in the nurses' quarters at the hospital which she had left nearly
four months before. At six o'clock she put on the gray cape and small
gray bonnet that constituted her uniform, and leaving word that she would
report for duty at nine o'clock, went to the corner and boarded a street
car. It was a warm evening for November, and the car with its throng of
home-going workers was close and uncomfortable. But Nance, clinging to a
strap, and jostled on every side, was superbly indifferent to her
surroundings. With lifted chin and preoccupied eyes, she held counsel
with herself, sometimes moving her lips slightly as if rehearsing a part.
At Butternut Lane she got out and made her way to the old white house
midway of the square.

A little boy was perched on the gate post, swinging a pair of fat legs
and trying to whistle. There was no lack of effort on his part, but the
whistle for some reason refused to come. He tried hooking a small finger
inside the corners of his mouth; he tried it with teeth together and
teeth apart.

Nance, sympathizing with his thwarted ambition, smiled as she approached;
then she caught her breath. The large brown eyes that the child turned
upon her were disconcertingly familiar.

"Is this Ted?" she asked.

He nodded mistrustfully; then after surveying her gravely, evidently
thought better of her and volunteered the information that he was waiting
for his daddy.

"Where is Mrs. Purdy?" Nance asked.

"Her's making me a gingerbread man."

"I know a story about a gingerbread man; want to hear it?"

"Is it scareful?" asked Ted.

"No, just funny," Nance assured. Then while he sat very still on the gate
post, with round eyes full of wonder, Nance stood in front of him with
his chubby fists in her hands and told him one of Mr. Demry's old fairy
tales. So absorbed were they both that neither of them heard an
approaching step until it was quite near.

"Daddy!" cried Ted, in sudden rapture, scrambling down from the post and
hurling himself against the new-comer.

But for once his daddy's first greeting was not for him. Dan seized
Nance's outstretched hand and studied her face with hungry,
inquiring eyes.

"I've come to say good-by, Dan," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.

His face hardened.

"Then you are going with the Clarkes? You've decided?"

"I've decided. Can't we go over to the summer-house for a few minutes. I
want to talk to you."

They crossed the yard to the sheltered bower in its cluster of bare
trees, while Ted trudged behind them kicking up clouds of dead leaves
with his small square-toed boots.

"You run in to Mother Purdy, Teddykins," said Dan, but Nance caught the
child's hand.

"Better keep him here," she said with an unsteady laugh. "I got to get
something off my chest once and for all; then I'll skidoo."

But Ted had already spied a squirrel and gone in pursuit, and Nance's
eyes followed him absently.

"When I met you in the office the other day," she said, "I thought I
could bluff it through. But when I saw you all knocked up like that; and
knew that you cared--" Her eyes came back to his. "Dan we might as well
face the truth."

"You mean--"

"I mean I'm going to wait for you if I have to wait forever. You're not
free now, but when you are, I'll come to you."

He made one stride toward her and swept her into his arms.

"Do you mean it, girl?" he asked, his voice breaking with the unexpected
joy. "You are going to stand by me? You are going to wait?"

"Let me go, Dan!" she implored. "Where's Ted? I mustn't stay--I--"

But Dan held her as if he never meant to let her go, and suddenly she
ceased to struggle or to consider right or wrong or consequences. She
lifted her head and her lips met his in complete surrender. For the
first time in her short and stormy career she had found exactly what
she wanted.

For a long time they stood thus; then Dan recovered himself with a

He pushed her away from him almost roughly. "Nance, I didn't mean to! I
won't again! Only I've wanted you so long, I've been so unhappy. I can't
let you leave me now! I can't let you go with the Clarkes!"

"You don't have to. They've gone without me."

"But you said you'd come to say good-by. I thought you were starting to

"Well, I'm not. I am going to stay right here. Dr. Adair has asked me to
take charge of the clinic--the new one they are going to open in
Calvary Alley."

"And we're going to be near each other, able to see each other
every day--"

But she stopped him resolutely.

"No, Dan, no. I knew we couldn't do that before I came to-night. Now I
know it more than ever. Don't you see we got to cut it all out? Got to
keep away from each other just the same as if I was in California and you
were here?"

Dan's big strong hands again seized hers.

"It won't be wrong for us just to see each other," he urged hotly. "I
promise never to say a word of love or to touch you, Nance. What's
happened to-night need never happen again. We can hold on to ourselves;
we can be just good friends until--"

But Nance pulled her hands away impatiently.

"You might. I couldn't. I tell you I got to keep away from you, Dan.
Can't you see? Can't you understand? I counted on you to see the right of
it. I thought you was going to help me!" And with an almost angry sob,
she sat down suddenly on the leaf-strewn bench and, locking her arms
across the railing, dropped her flaming face upon them.

For a long time he stood watching her, while, his face reflected the
conflicting emotions that were fighting within him for mastery. Then into
his eyes crept a look of dumb compassion, the same look he had once bent
on a passion-tossed little girl lying on the seat of a patrol-wagon in
the chill dusk of a Christmas night.

He straightened his shoulders and laid a firm hand on her bowed head.

"You must stop crying, Nance," he commanded with the stern tenderness he
would have used toward Ted. "Perhaps you are right; God knows. At any
rate we are going to do whatever you say in this matter. I promise to
keep out of your way until you say I can come."

Nance drew a quivering breath, and smiled up at him through her tears.

"That's not enough, Dan; you got to keep away whether I say to come or
not. You're stronger and better than what I am. You got to promise that
whatever happens you'll make me be good."

And Dan with trembling lips and steady eyes made her the solemn promise.

Then, sitting there in the twilight, with only the dropping of a leaf to
break the silence, they poured out their confidences, eager to reach a
complete understanding in the brief time they had allotted themselves. In
minute detail they pieced together the tangled pattern of the past; they
poured out their present aims and ambitions, coming back again and again
to the miracle of their new-found love. Of their personal future, they
dared not speak. It was locked to them, and death alone held the key.

Darkness had closed in when the side door of the house across the yard
was flung open, and a small figure came plunging toward them through the
crackling leaves.

"It's done, Daddy!" cried an excited voice. "It's the cutest little
gingerbread man. And supper's ready, and he's standing up by my plate."

"All right!" said Dan, holding out one hand to him and one to Nance.
"We'll all go in together to see the gingerbread man."

"But, Dan--"

"Just this once; it's our good-by night, you know."

Nance hesitated, then straightening the prim little gray bonnet that
would assume a jaunty tilt, she followed the tall figure and the short
one into the halo of light that circled the open door.

The evening that followed was one of those rare times, insignificant in
itself, every detail of which was to stand out in after life, charged
with significance. For Nance, the warmth and glow of the homely little
house, with its flowered carpets and gay curtains, the beaming face of
old Mrs. Purdy in its frame of silver curls, the laughter of the happy
child, and above all the strong, tender presence of Dan, were things
never to be forgotten.

At eight o'clock she rose reluctantly, saying that she had to go by the
Snawdors' before she reported at the hospital at nine o'clock.

"Do you mind if I go that far with you?" asked Dan, wistfully.

On their long walk across the city they said little. Their way led them
past many familiar places, the school house, the old armory, Cemetery
Street, Post-Office Square, where they used to sit and watch the
electric signs. Of the objects they passed, Dan was superbly unaware. He
saw only Nance. But she was keenly aware of every old association that
bound them together. Everything seemed strangely beautiful to her, the
glamorous shop-lights cutting through the violet gloom, the subtle
messages of lighted windows, the passing faces of her fellow-men. In
that gray world her soul burned like a brilliant flame lighting up
everything around her.

As they turned into Calvary Alley the windows of the cathedral glowed
softly above them.

"I never thought how pretty it was before!" said Nance, rapturously.
"Say, Dan, do you know what 'Evol si dog' means?"

"No; is it Latin?"

She squeezed his arm between her two hands and laughed gleefully.

"You're as bad as me," she said, "I'm not going to tell you; you got to
go inside and find out for yourself."

On the threshold of Number One they paused again. Even the almost
deserted old tenement, blushing under a fresh coat of red paint, took on
a hue of romance.

"You wait 'til we get it fixed up," said Nance. "They're taking out all
the partitions in the Smelts' flat, and making a big consulting room of
it. And over here in Mr. Demry's room I'm going to have the baby clinic.
I'm going to have boxes of growing flowers in every window; and
storybooks and--"

"Yes," cried Dan, fiercely, "you are going to be so taken up with all
this that you won't need me; you'll forget about to-night!"

But her look silenced him.

"Dan," she said very earnestly, "I always have needed you, and I always
will. I love you better than anything in the world, and I'm trying to
prove it."

A wavering light on the upper landing warned them that they might be
overheard. A moment later some one demanded to know who was there.

"Come down and see!" called Nance.

Mrs. Snawdor, lamp in hand, cautiously descended.

"Is that you, Nance?" she cried. "It's about time you was comin' to see
to the movin' an' help tend to things. Who's that there with you?"

"Don't you know?"

"Well, if it ain't Dan Lewis!" And to Dan's great embarrassment the
effusive lady enveloped him in a warm and unexpected embrace. She even
held him at arm's length and commented upon his appearance with frank
admiration. "I never seen any one improve so much an' yet go on favorin'

Nance declined to go up-stairs on the score of time, promising to come on
the following Sunday and take entire charge of the moving.

"Ain't it like her to go git mixed up in this here fool clinic business?"
Mrs. Snawdor asked of Dan. "Just when she'd got a job with rich swells
that would 'a' took her anywhere? Here she was for about ten years
stewin' an' fumin' to git outen the alley, an' here she is comin' back
again! She's tried about ever'thin' now, but gittin' married."

Dan scenting danger, changed the direction of the conversation by asking
her where they were moving to.

"That's some more of her doin's," said Mrs. Snawdor. "She's gittin' her
way at las' 'bout movin' us to the country. Lobelia an' Rosy V. is goin'
to keep house, an' me an' William Jennings is going to board with 'em.
You'd orter see that boy of mine, Dan. Nance got him into the 'lectric
business an' he's doin' somethin' wonderful. He's got my brains an' his
pa's manners. You can say what you please, Mr. Snawdor was a perfect

It was evident from the pride in her voice that since Mr. Snawdor's
demise he had been canonized, becoming the third member of the ghostly
firm of Molloy, Yager, and Snawdor.

"What about Uncle Jed?" asked Nance. "Where's he going?"

Mrs. Snawdor laughed consciously and, in doing so, exhibited to full
advantage the dazzling new teeth that were the pride of her life.

"Oh, Mr. Burks is goin' with us," she said. "It's too soon to talk about
it yet,--but--er--Oh, you know me, Nance!" And with blushing confusion
the thrice-bereaved widow hid her face in her apron.

The clock in the cathedral tower was nearing nine when Nance and Dan
emerged from Number One. They did not speak as they walked up to the
corner and stood waiting for the car. Their hands were clasped hard,
and she could feel his heart thumping under her wrist as he pressed it
to his side.

Passers-by jostled them on every side, and an importunate newsboy
implored patronage, but they seemed oblivious to their surroundings. The
car turned a far corner and came toward them relentlessly.

"God bless you, Dan," whispered Nance as he helped her on the platform;
then turning, she called back to him with one of her old flashing smiles.
"And me too, a little bit!"


Book of the day: