Part 4 out of 4
'Jill' must say good-by to 'Jack,' for she must make herself ready
to receive a Mr. Bray who is expected."
And when Bray a little later called at the front door, he was
respectfully announced. He called another day, and many days
after. He came frequently to San Francisco, and one day did not
return to his old partners. He had entered into a new partnership
with one who he declared "had made the first strike on Eureka
MR. BILSON'S HOUSEKEEPER
When Joshua Bilson, of the Summit House, Buckeye Hill, lost his
wife, it became necessary for him to take a housekeeper to assist
him in the management of the hotel. Already all Buckeye had
considered this a mere preliminary to taking another wife, after a
decent probation, as the relations of housekeeper and landlord were
confidential and delicate, and Bilson was a man, and not above
female influence. There was, however, some change of opinion on
that point when Miss Euphemia Trotter was engaged for that
position. Buckeye Hill, which had confidently looked forward to a
buxom widow or, with equal confidence, to the promotion of some
pretty but inefficient chambermaid, was startled by the selection
of a maiden lady of middle age, and above the medium height, at
once serious, precise, and masterful, and to all appearances
outrageously competent. More carefully "taking stock" of her, it
was accepted she had three good points,--dark, serious eyes, a trim
but somewhat thin figure, and well-kept hands and feet. These,
which in so susceptible a community would have been enough, in the
words of one critic, "to have married her to three men," she seemed
to make of little account herself, and her attitude toward those
who were inclined to make them of account was ceremonious and
frigid. Indeed, she seemed to occupy herself entirely with looking
after the servants, Chinese and Europeans, examining the bills and
stores of traders and shopkeepers, in a fashion that made her
respected and--feared. It was whispered, in fact, that Bilson
stood in awe of her as he never had of his wife, and that he was
"henpecked in his own farmyard by a strange pullet."
Nevertheless, he always spoke of her with a respect and even a
reverence that seemed incompatible with their relative positions.
It gave rise to surmises more or less ingenious and conflicting:
Miss Trotter had a secret interest in the hotel, and represented a
San Francisco syndicate; Miss Trotter was a woman of independent
property, and had advanced large sums to Bilson; Miss Trotter was a
woman of no property, but she was the only daughter of--variously--
a late distinguished nobleman, a ruined millionaire, and a foreign
statesman, bent on making her own living.
Alas, for romance! Miss Euphemia Trotter, or "Miss E. Trotter," as
she preferred to sign herself, loathing her sentimental prefix, was
really a poor girl who had been educated in an Eastern seminary,
where she eventually became a teacher. She had survived her
parents and a neglected childhood, and had worked hard for her
living since she was fourteen. She had been a nurse in a hospital,
an assistant in a reformatory, had observed men and women under
conditions of pain and weakness, and had known the body only as a
tabernacle of helplessness and suffering; yet had brought out of
her experience a hard philosophy which she used equally to herself
as to others. That she had ever indulged in any romance of human
existence, I greatly doubt; the lanky girl teacher at the Vermont
academy had enough to do to push herself forward without entangling
girl friendships or confidences, and so became a prematurely hard
duenna, paid to look out for, restrain, and report, if necessary,
any vagrant flirtation or small intrigue of her companions. A
pronounced "old maid" at fifteen, she had nothing to forget or
forgive in others, and still less to learn from them.
It was spring, and down the long slopes of Buckeye Hill the flowers
were already effacing the last dented footprints of the winter
rains, and the winds no longer brought their monotonous patter. In
the pine woods there were the song and flash of birds, and the
quickening stimulus of the stirring aromatic sap. Miners and
tunnelmen were already forsaking the direct road for a ramble
through the woodland trail and its sylvan charms, and occasionally
breaking into shouts and horseplay like great boys. The
schoolchildren were disporting there; there were some older couples
sentimentally gathering flowers side by side. Miss Trotter was
also there, but making a short cut from the bank and express
office, and by no means disturbed by any gentle reminiscence of her
girlhood or any other instinctive participation in the wanton
season. Spring came, she knew, regularly every year, and brought
"spring cleaning" and other necessary changes and rehabilitations.
This year it had brought also a considerable increase in the sum
she was putting by, and she was, perhaps, satisfied in a practical
way, if not with the blind instinctiveness of others. She was
walking leisurely, holding her gray skirt well over her slim ankles
and smartly booted feet, and clear of the brushing of daisies and
buttercups, when suddenly she stopped. A few paces before her,
partly concealed by a myrtle, a young woman, startled at her
approach, had just withdrawn herself from the embrace of a young
man and slipped into the shadow. Nevertheless, in that moment,
Miss Trotter's keen eyes had recognized her as a very pretty
Swedish girl, one of her chambermaids at the hotel. Miss Trotter
passed without a word, but gravely. She was not shocked nor
surprised, but it struck her practical mind at once that if this
were an affair with impending matrimony, it meant the loss of a
valuable and attractive servant; if otherwise, a serious
disturbance of that servant's duties. She must look out for
another girl to take the place of Frida Pauline Jansen, that was
all. It is possible, therefore, that Miss Jansen's criticism of
Miss Trotter to her companion as a "spying, jealous old cat" was
unfair. This companion Miss Trotter had noticed, only to observe
that his face and figure were unfamiliar to her. His red shirt and
heavy boots gave no indication of his social condition in that
locality. He seemed more startled and disturbed at her intrusion
than the girl had been, but that was more a condition of sex than
of degree, she also knew. In such circumstances it is the woman
always who is the most composed and self-possessed.
A few days after this, Miss Trotter was summoned in some haste to
the office. Chris Calton, a young man of twenty-six, partner in
the Roanoke Ledge, had fractured his arm and collar-bone by a fall,
and had been brought to the hotel for that rest and attention,
under medical advice, which he could not procure in the Roanoke
company's cabin. She had a retired, quiet room made ready. When
he was installed there by the doctor she went to see him, and found
a good-looking, curly headed young fellow, even boyish in
appearance and manner, who received her with that air of deference
and timidity which she was accustomed to excite in the masculine
breast--when it was not accompanied with distrust. It struck her
that he was somewhat emotional, and had the expression of one who
had been spoiled and petted by women, a rather unusual circumstance
among the men of the locality. Perhaps it would be unfair to her
to say that a disposition to show him that he could expect no such
"nonsense" THERE sprang up in her heart at that moment, for she
never had understood any tolerance of such weakness, but a certain
precision and dryness of manner was the only result of her
observation. She adjusted his pillow, asked him if there was
anything that he wanted, but took her directions from the doctor,
rather than from himself, with a practical insight and minuteness
that was as appalling to the patient as it was an unexpected
delight to Dr. Duchesne. "I see you quite understand me, Miss
Trotter," he said, with great relief.
"I ought to," responded the lady dryly. "I had a dozen such cases,
some of them with complications, while I was assistant at the
"Ah, then!" returned the doctor, dropping gladly into purely
professional detail, "you'll see this is very simple, not a
comminuted fracture; constitution and blood healthy; all you've to
do is to see that he eats properly, keeps free from excitement and
worry, but does not get despondent; a little company; his partners
and some of the boys from the Ledge will drop in occasionally; not
too much of THEM, you know; and of course, absolute immobility of
the injured parts." The lady nodded; the patient lifted his blue
eyes for an instant to hers with a look of tentative appeal, but it
slipped off Miss Trotter's dark pupils--which were as abstractedly
critical as the doctor's--without being absorbed by them. When the
door closed behind her, the doctor exclaimed: "By Jove! you're in
luck, Chris! That's a splendid woman! Just the one to look after
you!" The patient groaned slightly. "Do what she says, and we'll
pull you through in no time. Why! she's able to adjust those
This, indeed, she did a week later, when the surgeon had failed to
call, unveiling his neck and arm with professional coolness, and
supporting him in her slim arms against her stiff, erect buckramed
breast, while she replaced the splints with masculine firmness of
touch and serene and sexless indifference. His stammered
embarrassed thanks at the relief--for he had been in considerable
pain--she accepted with a certain pride as a tribute to her skill,
a tribute which Dr. Duchesne himself afterward fully indorsed.
On re-entering his room the third or fourth morning after his advent
at the Summit House, she noticed with some concern that there was a
slight flush on his cheek and a certain exaltation which she at
first thought presaged fever. But an examination of his pulse and
temperature dispelled that fear, and his talkativeness and good
spirits convinced her that it was only his youthful vigor at last
overcoming his despondency. A few days later, this cheerfulness
not being continued, Dr. Duchesne followed Miss Trotter into the
hall. "We must try to keep our patient from moping in his
confinement, you know," he began, with a slight smile, "and he
seems to be somewhat of an emotional nature, accustomed to be
"His friends were here yesterday," returned Miss Trotter dryly,
"but I did not interfere with them until I thought they had stayed
long enough to suit your wishes."
"I am not referring to THEM," said the doctor, still smiling; "but
you know a woman's sympathy and presence in a sickroom is often the
best of tonics or sedatives."
Miss Trotter raised her eyes to the speaker with a half critical
"The fact is," the doctor went on," I have a favor to ask of you
for our patient. It seems that the other morning a new chambermaid
waited upon him, whom he found much more gentle and sympathetic in
her manner than the others, and more submissive and quiet in her
ways--possibly because she is a foreigner, and accustomed to
servitude. I suppose you have no objection to HER taking charge of
Miss Trotter's cheek slightly flushed. Not from wounded vanity,
but from the consciousness of some want of acumen that had made her
make a mistake. She had really believed, from her knowledge of the
patient's character and the doctor's preamble, that he wished HER
to show some more kindness and personal sympathy to the young man,
and had even been prepared to question its utility! She saw her
blunder quickly, and at once remembering that the pretty Swedish
girl had one morning taken the place of an absent fellow servant,
in the rebound from her error, she said quietly: "You mean Frida!
Certainly! she can look after his room, if he prefers her." But
for her blunder she might have added conscientiously that she
thought the girl would prove inefficient, but she did not. She
remembered the incident of the wood; yet if the girl had a lover in
the wood, she could not urge it as a proof of incapacity. She gave
the necessary orders, and the incident passed.
Visiting the patient a few days afterward, she could not help
noticing a certain shy gratitude in Mr. Calton's greeting of her,
which she quietly ignored. This forced the ingenuous Chris to more
positive speech. He dwelt with great simplicity and enthusiasm on
the Swedish girl's gentleness and sympathy. "You have no idea of--
her--natural tenderness, Miss Trotter," he stammered naively. Miss
Trotter, remembering the wood, thought to herself that she had some
faint idea of it, but did not impart what it was. He spoke also of
her beauty, not being clever enough to affect an indifference or
ignorance of it, which made Miss Trotter respect him and smile an
unqualified acquiescence. Frida certainly was pretty! But when he
spoke of her as "Miss Jansen," and said she was so much more
"ladylike and refined than the other servants," she replied by
asking him if his bandages hurt him, and, receiving a negative
answer, graciously withdrew.
Indeed, his bandages gave him little trouble now, and his improvement
was so marked and sustained that the doctor was greatly gratified,
and, indeed, expressed as much to Miss Trotter, with the
conscientious addition that he believed the greater part of it was
due to her capable nursing! "Yes, ma'am, he has to thank YOU for
it, and no one else!"
Miss Trotter raised her dark eyes and looked steadily at him.
Accustomed as he was to men and women, the look strongly held him.
He saw in her eyes an intelligence equal to his own, a knowledge of
good and evil, and a toleration and philosophy, equal to his own,
but a something else that was as distinct and different as their
sex. And therein lay its charm, for it merely translated itself in
his mind that she had very pretty eyes, which he had never noticed
before, without any aggressive intellectual quality. And with
this, alas! came the man's propensity to reason. It meant of
course but ONE thing; he saw it all now! If HE, in his
preoccupation and coolness, had noticed her eyes, so also had the
younger and emotional Chris. The young fellow was in love with
her! It was that which had stimulated his recovery, and she was
wondering if he, the doctor, had observed it. He smiled back the
superior smile of our sex in moments of great inanity, and poor
Miss Trotter believed he understood her. A few days after this,
she noticed that Frida Jansen was wearing a pearl ring and a
somewhat ostentatious locket. She remembered now that Mr. Bilson
had told her that the Roanoke Ledge was very rich, and that Calton
was likely to prove a profitable guest. But it was not HER
It became her business, however, some days later, when Mr. Calton
was so much better that he could sit in a chair, or even lounge
listlessly in the hall and corridor. It so chanced that she was
passing along the upper hall when she saw Frida's pink cotton skirt
disappear in an adjacent room, and heard her light laugh as the
door closed. But the room happened to be a card-room reserved
exclusively for gentlemen's poker or euchre parties, and the
chambermaids had no business there. Miss Trotter had no doubt that
Mr. Calton was there, and that Frida knew it; but as this was an
indiscretion so open, flagrant, and likely to be discovered by the
first passing guest, she called to her sharply. She was
astonished, however, at the same moment to see Mr. Calton walking
in the corridor at some distance from the room in question.
Indeed, she was so confounded that when Frida appeared from the
room a little flurried, but with a certain audacity new to her,
Miss Trotter withheld her rebuke, and sent her off on an imaginary
errand, while she herself opened the card-room door. It contained
simply Mr. Bilson, her employer; his explanation was glaringly
embarrassed and unreal! Miss Trotter affected obliviousness, but
was silent; perhaps she thought her employer was better able to
take care of himself than Mr. Calton.
A week later this tension terminated by the return of Calton to
Roanoke Ledge, a convalescent man. A very pretty watch and chain
afterward were received by Miss Trotter, with a few lines
expressing the gratitude of the ex-patient. Mr. Bilson was highly
delighted, and frequently borrowed the watch to show to his guests
as an advertisement of the healing powers of the Summit Hotel.
What Mr. Calton sent to the more attractive and flirtatious Frida
did not as publicly appear, and possibly Mr. Bilson did not know
it. The incident of the cardroom was forgotten. Since that
discovery, Miss Trotter had felt herself debarred from taking the
girl's conduct into serious account, and it did not interfere with
One afternoon Miss Trotter received a message that Mr. Calton
desired a few moments' private conversation with her. A little
curious, she had him shown into one of the sitting-rooms, but was
surprised on entering to find that she was in the presence of an
utter stranger! This was explained by the visitor saying briefly
that he was Chris's elder brother, and that he presumed the name
would be sufficient introduction. Miss Trotter smiled doubtfully,
for a more distinct opposite to Chris could not be conceived. The
stranger was apparently strong, practical, and masterful in all
those qualities in which his brother was charmingly weak. Miss
Trotter, for no reason whatever, felt herself inclined to resent
"I reckon, Miss Trotter," he said bluntly, "that you don't know
anything of this business that brings me here. At least," he
hesitated, with a certain rough courtesy, "I should judge from your
general style and gait that you wouldn't have let it go on so far
if you had, but the fact is, that darned fool brother of mine--beg
your pardon!--has gone and got himself engaged to one of the girls
that help here,--a yellow-haired foreigner, called Frida Jansen."
"I was not aware that it had gone so far as that," said Miss
Trotter quietly, "although his admiration for her was well known,
especially to his doctor, at whose request I selected her to
especially attend to your brother."
"The doctor is a fool," broke in Mr. Calton abruptly. "He only
thought of keeping Chris quiet while he finished his job."
"And really, Mr. Calton," continued Miss Trotter, ignoring the
interruption, "I do not see what right I have to interfere with the
matrimonial intentions of any guest in this house, even though or--
as you seem to put it--BECAUSE the object of his attentions is in
Mr. Calton stared--angrily at first, and then with a kind of
wondering amazement that any woman--above all a housekeeper--should
take such a view. "But," he stammered, "I thought you--you--looked
after the conduct of those girls."
"I'm afraid you've assumed too much," said Miss Trotter placidly.
"My business is to see that they attend to their duties here.
Frida Jansen's duty was--as I have just told you--to look after
your brother's room. And as far as I understand you, you are not
here to complain of her inattention to that duty, but of its
resulting in an attachment on your brother's part, and, as you tell
me, an intention as to her future, which is really the one thing
that would make my 'looking after her conduct' an impertinence and
interference! If you had come to tell me that he did NOT intend to
marry her, but was hurting her reputation, I could have understood
and respected your motives."
Mr. Calton felt his face grow red and himself discomfited. He had
come there with the firm belief that he would convict Miss Trotter
of a grave fault, and that in her penitence she would be glad to
assist him in breaking off the match. On the contrary, to find
himself arraigned and put on his defense by this tall, slim woman,
erect and smartly buckramed in logic and whalebone, was preposterous!
But it had the effect of subduing his tone.
"You don't understand," he said awkwardly yet pleadingly. "My
brother is a fool, and any woman could wind him round her finger.
SHE knows it. She knows he is rich and a partner in the Roanoke
Ledge. That's all she wants. She is not a fit match for him.
I've said he was a fool--but, hang it all! that's no reason why he
should marry an ignorant girl--a foreigner and a servant--when he
could do better elsewhere."
"This would seem to be a matter between you and your brother, and
not between myself and my servant," said Miss Trotter coldly. "If
you cannot convince HIM, your own brother, I do not see how you
expect me to convince HER, a servant, over whom I have no control
except as a mistress of her WORK, when, on your own showing, she
has everything to gain by the marriage. If you wish Mr. Bilson,
the proprietor, to threaten her with dismissal unless she gives up
your brother,"--Miss Trotter smiled inwardly at the thought of the
card-room incident,--"it seems to me you might only precipitate the
Mr. Calton looked utterly blank and hopeless. His reason told him
that she was right. More than that, a certain admiration for her
clear-sightedness began to possess him, with the feeling that he
would like to have "shown up" a little better than he had in this
interview. If Chris had fallen in love with HER--but Chris was a
fool and wouldn't have appreciated her!
"But you might talk with her, Miss Trotter," he said, now completely
subdued. "Even if you could not reason her out of it, you might
find out what she expects from this marriage. If you would talk to
her as sensibly as you have to me"--
"It is not likely that she will seek my assistance as you have,"
said Miss Trotter, with a faint smile which Mr. Calton thought
quite pretty, "but I will see about it."
Whatever Miss Trotter intended to do did not transpire. She
certainly was in no hurry about it, as she did not say anything to
Frida that day, and the next afternoon it so chanced that business
took her to the bank and post-office. Her way home again lay
through the Summit woods. It recalled to her the memorable
occasion when she was first a witness to Frida's flirtations.
Neither that nor Mr. Bilson's presumed gallantries, however, seemed
inconsistent, in Miss Trotter's knowledge of the world, with a
serious engagement with young Calton. She was neither shocked nor
horrified by it, and for that reason she had not thought it
necessary to speak of it to the elder Mr. Calton.
Her path wound through a thicket fragrant with syringa and
southernwood; the faint perfume was reminiscent of Atlantic
hillsides, where, long ago, a girl teacher, she had walked with the
girl pupils of the Vermont academy, and kept them from the shy
advances of the local swains. She smiled--a little sadly--as the
thought occurred to her that after this interval of years it was
again her business to restrain the callow affections. Should she
never have the matchmaking instincts of her sex; never become the
trusted confidante of youthful passion? Young Calton had not
confessed his passion to HER, nor had Frida revealed her secret.
Only the elder brother had appealed to her hard, practical common
sense against such sentiment. Was there something in her manner
that forbade it? She wondered if it was some uneasy consciousness
of this quality which had impelled her to snub the elder Calton,
and rebelled against it.
It was quite warm; she had been walking a little faster than her
usual deliberate gait, and checked herself, halting in the warm
breath of the syringas. Here she heard her name called in a voice
that she recognized, but in tones so faint and subdued that it
seemed to her part of her thoughts. She turned quickly and beheld
Chris Calton a few feet from her, panting, partly from running and
partly from some nervous embarrassment. His handsome but weak
mouth was expanded in an apologetic smile; his blue eyes shone with
a kind of youthful appeal so inconsistent with his long brown
mustache and broad shoulders that she was divided between a laugh
and serious concern.
"I saw you--go into the wood--but I lost you," he said, breathing
quickly, "and then when I did see you again--you were walking so
fast I had to run after you. I wanted--to speak--to you--if you'll
let me. I won't detain you--I can walk your way."
Miss Trotter was a little softened, but not so much as to help him
out with his explanation. She drew her neat skirts aside, and made
way for him on the path beside her.
"You see," he went on nervously, taking long strides to her shorter
ones, and occasionally changing sides in his embarrassment, "my
brother Jim has been talking to you about my engagement to Frida,
and trying to put you against her and me. He said as much to me,
and added you half promised to help him! But I didn't believe him--
Miss Trotter!--I know you wouldn't do it--you haven't got it in
your heart to hurt a poor girl! He says he has every confidence in
you--that you're worth a dozen such girls as she is, and that I'm a
big fool or I'd see it. I don't say you're not all he says, Miss
Trotter; but I'm not such a fool as he thinks, for I know your
GOODNESS too. I know how you tended me when I was ill, and how you
sent Frida to comfort me. You know, too,--for you're a woman
yourself,--that all you could say, or anybody could, wouldn't
separate two people who loved each other."
Miss Trotter for the first time felt embarrassed, and this made her
a little angry. "I don't think I gave your brother any right to
speak for me or of me in this matter," she said icily; "and if you
are quite satisfied, as you say you are, of your own affection and
Frida's, I do not see why you should care for anybody'sinterference."
"Now you are angry with me," he said in a doleful voice which at
any other time would have excited her mirth; "and I've just done
it. Oh, Miss Trotter, don't! Please forgive me! I didn't mean to
say your talk was no good. I didn't mean to say you couldn't help
us. Please don't be mad at me!"
He reached out his hand, grasped her slim fingers in his own, and
pressed them, holding them and even arresting her passage. The act
was without familiarity or boldness, and she felt that to snatch
her hand away would be an imputation of that meaning, instead of
the boyish impulse that prompted it. She gently withdrew her hand
as if to continue her walk, and said, with a smile:--
"Then you confess you need help--in what way?"
Miss Trotter stared. "With HER!" she repeated. This was a new
idea. Was it possible that this common, ignorant girl was playing
and trifling with her golden opportunity? "Then you are not quite
sure of her?" she said a little coldly.
"She's so high spirited, you know," he said humbly, "and so
attractive, and if she thought my friends objected and were saying
unkind things of her,--well!"--he threw out his hands with a
suggestion of hopeless despair--"there's no knowing what she might
Miss Trotter's obvious thought was that Frida knew on which side
her bread was buttered; but remembering that the proprietor was a
widower, it occurred to her that the young woman might also have it
buttered on both sides. Her momentary fancy of uniting two lovers
somehow weakened at this suggestion, and there was a hardening of
her face as she said, "Well, if YOU can't trust her, perhaps your
brother may be right."
"I don't say that, Miss Trotter," said Chris pleadingly, yet with a
slight wincing at her words; "YOU could convince her, if you would
only try. Only let her see that she has some other friends beside
myself. Look! Miss Trotter, I'll leave it all to you--there! If
you will only help me, I will promise not to see her--not to go
near her again--until you have talked with her. There! Even my
brother would not object to that. And if he has every confidence
in you, I'm showing you I've more--don't you see? Come, now,
promise--won't you, dear Miss Trotter?" He again took her hand,
and this time pressed a kiss upon her slim fingers. And this time
she did not withdraw them. Indeed, it seemed to her, in the quick
recurrence of her previous sympathy, as if a hand had been put into
her loveless past, grasping and seeking hers in its loneliness.
None of her school friends had ever appealed to her like this
simple, weak, and loving young man. Perhaps it was because they
were of her own sex, and she distrusted them.
Nevertheless, this momentary weakness did not disturb her good
common sense. She looked at him fixedly for a moment, and then
said, with a faint smile, "Perhaps she does not trust YOU. Perhaps
you cannot trust yourself."
He felt himself reddening with a strange embarrassment. It was not
so much the question that disturbed him as the eyes of Miss
Trotter; eyes that he had never before noticed as being so
beautiful in their color, clearness, and half tender insight. He
dropped her hand with a new-found timidity, and yet with a feeling
that he would like to hold it longer.
"I mean," she said, stopping short in the trail at a point where a
fringe of almost impenetrable "buckeyes" marked the extreme edge of
the woods,--"I mean that you are still very young, and as Frida is
nearly your own age,"--she could not resist this peculiarly
feminine innuendo,--"she may doubt your ability to marry her in the
face of opposition; she may even think my interference is a proof
of it; but," she added quickly, to relieve his embarrassment and a
certain abstracted look with which he was beginning to regard her,
"I will speak to her, and," she concluded playfully, "you must take
He said "Thank you," but not so earnestly as his previous appeal
might have suggested, and with the same awkward abstraction in his
eyes. Miss Trotter did not notice it, as her own eyes were at that
moment fixed upon a point on the trail a few rods away. "Look,"
she said in a lower voice, "I may have the opportunity now for
there is Frida herself passing." Chris turned in the direction of
her glance. It was indeed the young girl walking leisurely ahead
of them. There was no mistaking the smart pink calico gown in
which Frida was wont to array her rather generous figure, nor the
long yellow braids that hung Marguerite-wise down her back. With
the consciousness of good looks which she always carried, there
was, in spite of her affected ease, a slight furtiveness in the
occasional swift turn of her head, as if evading or seeking
"I will overtake her and speak to her now," continued Miss Trotter.
"I may not have so good a chance again to see her alone. You can
wait here for my return, if you like."
Chris started out of his abstraction. "Stay!" he stammered, with a
faint, tentative smile. "Perhaps--don't you think?--I had better
go first and tell her you want to see her. I can send her here.
You see, she might"-- He stopped.
Miss Trotter smiled. "It was part of your promise, you know, that
you were NOT to see her again until I had spoken. But no matter!
Have it as you wish. I will wait here. Only be quick. She has
just gone into the grove."
Without another word the young man turned away, and she presently
saw him walking toward the pine grove into which Frida had
disappeared. Then she cleared a space among the matted moss and
chickweed, and, gathering her skirts about her, sat down to wait.
The unwonted attitude, the whole situation, and the part that she
seemed destined to take in this sentimental comedy affected her
like some quaint child's play out of her lost youth, and she
smiled, albeit with a little heightening of color and lively
brightening of her eyes. Indeed, as she sat there listlessly
probing the roots of the mosses with the point of her parasol, the
casual passer-by might have taken herself for the heroine of some
love tryst. She had a faint consciousness of this as she glanced
to the right and left, wondering what any one from the hotel who
saw her would think of her sylvan rendezvous; and as the
recollection of Chris kissing her hand suddenly came back to her,
her smile became a nervous laugh, and she found herself actually
But she was recalled to herself as suddenly. Chris was returning.
He was walking directly towards her with slow, determined steps,
quite different from his previous nervous agitation, and as he drew
nearer she saw with some concern an equally strange change in his
appearance: his colorful face was pale, his eyes fixed, and he
looked ten years older. She rose quickly.
"I came back to tell you," he said, in a voice from which all trace
of his former agitation had passed, "that I relieve you of your
promise. It won't be necessary for you to see--Frida. I thank you
all the same, Miss Trotter," he said, avoiding her eyes with a
slight return to his boyish manner. "It was kind of you to promise
to undertake a foolish errand for me, and to wait here, and the
best thing I can do is to take myself off now and keep you no
longer. Please don't ask me WHY. Sometime I may tell you, but not
"Then you have seen her?" asked Miss Trotter quickly, premising
Frida's refusal from his face.
He hesitated a moment, then he said gravely, "Yes. Don't ask me
any more, Miss Trotter, please. Good-by!" He paused, and then,
with a slight, uneasy glance toward the pine grove, "Don't let me
keep you waiting here any longer." He took her hand, held it
lightly for a moment, and said, "Go, now."
Miss Trotter, slightly bewildered and unsatisfied, nevertheless
passed obediently out into the trail. He gazed after her for a
moment, and then turned and began rapidly to ascend the slope where
he had first overtaken her, and was soon out of sight. Miss
Trotter continued her way home; but when she had reached the
confines of the wood she turned, as if taking some sudden
resolution, and began slowly to retrace her steps in the direction
of the pine grove. What she expected to see there, possibly she
could not have explained; what she actually saw after a moment's
waiting were the figures of Frida and Mr. Bilson issuing from the
shade! Her respected employer wore an air of somewhat ostentatious
importance mingled with rustic gallantry. Frida's manner was also
conscious with gratified vanity; and although they believed
themselves alone, her voice was already pitched into a high key of
nervous affectation, indicative of the peasant. But there was
nothing to suggest that Chris had disturbed them in their privacy
and confidences. Yet he had evidently seen enough to satisfy
himself of her faithlessness. Had he ever suspected it before?
Miss Trotter waited only until they had well preceded her, and then
took a shorter cut home. She was quite prepared that evening for
an interview which Mr. Bilson requested. She found him awkward and
embarrassed in her cool, self-possessed presence. He said he
deemed it his duty to inform her of his approaching marriage with
Miss Jansen; but it was because he wished distinctly to assure her
that it would make no difference in Miss Trotter's position in the
hotel, except to promote her to the entire control of the
establishment. He was to be married in San Francisco at once, and
he and his wife were to go abroad for a year or two; indeed, he
contemplated eventually retiring from business. If Mr. Bilson was
uneasily conscious during this interview that he had once paid
attentions to Miss Trotter, which she had ignored, she never
betrayed the least recollection of it. She thanked him for his
confidence and wished him happiness.
Sudden as was this good fortune to Miss Trotter, an independence
she had so often deservedly looked forward to, she was, nevertheless,
keenly alive to the fact that she had attained it partly through
Chris's disappointment and unhappiness. Her sane mind taught her
that it was better for him; that he had been saved an ill-assorted
marriage; that the girl had virtually rejected him for Bilson before
he had asked her mediation that morning. Yet these reasons failed
to satisfy her feelings. It seemed cruel to her that the interest
which she had suddenly taken in poor Chris should end so ironically
in disaster to her sentiment and success to her material prosperity.
She thought of his boyish appeal to her; of what must have been his
utter discomfiture in the discovery of Frida's relations to Mr.
Bilson that afternoon, but more particularly of the singular change
it had effected in him. How nobly and gently he had taken his loss!
How much more like a man he looked in his defeat than in his
passion! The element of respect which had been wanting in her
previous interest in him was now present in her thoughts. It
prevented her seeking him with perfunctory sympathy and worldly
counsel; it made her feel strangely and unaccountably shy of any
As Mr. Bilson evidently desired to avoid local gossip until after
his marriage, he had enjoined secrecy upon her, and she was also
debarred from any news of Chris through his brother, who, had he
known of Frida's engagement, would have naturally come to her for
explanation. It also convinced her that Chris himself had not
revealed anything to his brother.
When the news of the marriage reached Buckeye Hill, it did not,
however, make much scandal, owing, possibly, to the scant number of
the sex who are apt to disseminate it, and to many the name of Miss
Jansen was unknown. The intelligence that Mr. Bilson would be
absent for a year, and that the superior control of the Summit
Hotel would devolve upon Miss Trotter, DID, however, create a stir
in that practical business community. No one doubted the wisdom of
the selection. Every one knew that to Miss Trotter's tact and
intellect the success of the hotel had been mainly due. Possibly,
the satisfaction of Buckeye Hill was due to something else. Slowly
and insensibly Miss Trotter had achieved a social distinction; the
wives and daughters of the banker, the lawyer, and the pastor had
made much of her, and now, as an independent woman of means, she
stood first in the district. Guests deemed it an honor to have a
personal interview with her. The governor of the State and the
Supreme Court judges treated her like a private hostess; middle-
aged Miss Trotter was considered as eligible a match as the
proudest heiress in California. The old romantic fiction of her
past was revived again,--they had known she was a "real lady" from
the first! She received these attentions, as became her sane
intellect and cool temperament, without pride, affectation, or
hesitation. Only her dark eyes brightened on the day when Mr.
Bilson's marriage was made known, and she was called upon by James
"I did you a great injustice," he said, with a smile.
"I don't understand you," she replied a little coldly.
"Why, this woman and her marriage," he said; "you must have known
something of it all the time, and perhaps helped it along to save
"You are mistaken," returned Miss Trotter truthfully. "I knew
nothing of Mr. Bilson's intentions."
"Then I have wronged you still more," he said briskly, "for I
thought at first that you were inclined to help Chris in his
foolishness. Now I see it was your persuasions that changed him."
"Let me tell you once for all, Mr. Calton," she returned with an
impulsive heat which she regretted, "that I did not interfere in
any way with your brother's suit. He spoke to me of it, and I
promised to see Frida, but he afterwards asked me not to. I know
nothing of the matter."
"Well," laughed Mr. Calton, "WHATEVER you did, it was most
efficacious, and you did it so graciously and tactfully that it has
not altered his high opinion of you, if, indeed, he hasn't really
transferred his affections to you."
Luckily Miss Trotter had her face turned from him at the beginning
of the sentence, or he would have noticed the quick flush that
suddenly came to her cheek and eyes. Yet for an instant this calm,
collected woman trembled, not at what Mr. Calton might have
noticed, but at what SHE had noticed in HERSELF. Mr. Calton,
construing her silence and averted head into some resentment of his
familiar speech, continued hurriedly:--
"I mean, don't you see, that I believe no other woman could have
influenced my brother as you have."
"You mean, I think, that he has taken his broken heart very
lightly," said Miss Trotter, with a bitter little laugh, so unlike
herself that Mr. Calton was quite concerned at it.
"No," he said gravely. "I can't say THAT! He's regularly cut up,
you know! And changed; you'd hardly know him. More like a gloomy
crank than the easy fool he used to be," he went on, with brotherly
directness. "It wouldn't be a bad thing, you know, if you could
manage to see him, Miss Trotter! In fact, as he's off his feed,
and has some trouble with his arm again, owing to all this, I
reckon, I've been thinking of advising him to come up to the hotel
once more till he's better. So long as SHE'S gone it would be all
right, you know!"
By this time Miss Trotter was herself again. She reasoned, or
thought she did, that this was a question of the business of the
hotel, and it was clearly her duty to assent to Chris's coming.
The strange yet pleasurable timidity which possessed her at the
thought she ignored completely.
He came the next day. Luckily, she was so much shocked by the
change in his appearance that it left no room for any other
embarrassment in the meeting. His face had lost its fresh color
and round outline; the lines of his mouth were drawn with pain and
accented by his drooping mustache; his eyes, which had sought hers
with a singular seriousness, no longer wore the look of sympathetic
appeal which had once so exasperated her, but were filled with an
older experience. Indeed, he seemed to have approximated so near
to her own age that, by one of those paradoxes of the emotions, she
felt herself much younger, and in smile and eye showed it; at which
he colored faintly. But she kept her sympathy and inquiries
limited to his physical health, and made no allusion to his past
experiences; indeed, ignoring any connection between the two. He
had been shockingly careless in his convalescence, had had a
relapse in consequence, and deserved a good scolding! His relapse
was a reflection upon the efficacy of the hotel as a perfect cure!
She should treat him more severely now, and allow him no
indulgences! I do not know that Miss Trotter intended anything
covert, but their eyes met and he colored again. Ignoring this
also, and promising to look after him occasionally, she quietly
But about this time it was noticed that a change took place in Miss
Trotter. Always scrupulously correct, and even severe in her
dress, she allowed herself certain privileges of color, style, and
material. She, who had always affected dark shades and stiff white
cuffs and collars, came out in delicate tints and laces, which lent
a brilliancy to her dark eyes and short crisp black curls, slightly
tinged with gray. One warm summer evening she startled every one
by appearing in white, possibly a reminiscence of her youth at the
Vermont academy. The masculine guests thought it pretty and
attractive; even the women forgave her what they believed a natural
expression of her prosperity and new condition, but regretted a
taste so inconsistent with her age. For all that, Miss Trotter had
never looked so charming, and the faint autumnal glow in her face
made no one regret her passing summer.
One evening she found Chris so much better that he was sitting on
the balcony, but still so depressed that she was compelled so far
to overcome the singular timidity she had felt in his presence as
to ask him to come into her own little drawing-room, ostensibly to
avoid the cool night air. It was the former "card-room" of the
hotel, but now fitted with feminine taste and prettiness. She
arranged a seat for him on the sofa, which he took with a certain
brusque boyish surliness, the last vestige of his youth.
"It's very kind of you to invite me in here," he began bitterly,
"when you are so run after by every one, and to leave Judge
Fletcher just now to talk to me, but I suppose you are simply
pitying me for being a fool!"
"I thought you were imprudent in exposing yourself to the night air
on the balcony, and I think Judge Fletcher is old enough to take
care of himself," she returned, with the faintest touch of
coquetry, and a smile which was quite as much an amused recognition
of that quality in herself as anything else.
"And I'm a baby who can't," he said angrily. After a pause he
burst out abruptly: "Miss Trotter, will you answer me one
"Go on," she said smilingly.
"Did you know--that--woman was engaged to Bilson when I spoke to
you in the wood?"
"No!" she answered quickly, but without the sharp resentment she
had shown at his brother's suggestion. "I only knew it when Mr.
Bilson told me the same evening."
"And I only knew it when news came of their marriage," he said
"But you must have suspected something when you saw them together
in the wood," she responded.
"When I saw them together in the wood?" he repeated dazedly.
Miss Trotter was startled, and stopped short. Was it possible he
had not seen them together? She was shocked that she had spoken;
but it was too late to withdraw her words. "Yes," she went on
hurriedly, "I thought that was why you came back to say that I was
not to speak to her."
He looked at her fixedly, and said slowly: "You thought that?
Well, listen to me. I saw NO ONE! I knew nothing of this! I
suspected nothing! I returned before I had reached the wood--
because--because--I had changed my mind!"
"Changed your mind!" she repeated wonderingly.
"Yes! Changed my mind! I couldn't stand it any longer! I did not
love the girl--I never loved her--I was sick of my folly. Sick of
deceiving you and myself any longer. Now you know why I didn't go
into the wood, and why I didn't care where she was nor who was with
"I don't understand," she said, lifting her clear eyes to his
"Of course you don't," he said bitterly. "I didn't understand
myself! And when you do understand you will hate and despise me--
if you do not laugh at me for a conceited fool! Hear me out, Miss
Trotter, for I am speaking the truth to you now, if I never spoke
it before. I never asked the girl to marry me! I never said to
HER half what I told to YOU, and when I asked you to intercede with
her, I never wanted you to do it--and never expected you would."
"May I ask WHY you did it then?" said Miss Trotter, with an
acerbity which she put on to hide a vague, tantalizing consciousness.
"You would not believe me if I told you, and you would hate me if
you did." He stopped, and, locking his fingers together, threw his
hands over the back of the sofa and leaned toward her. "You never
liked me, Miss Trotter," he said more quietly; "not from the first!
From the day that I was brought to the hotel, when you came to see
me, I could see that you looked upon me as a foolish, petted boy.
When I tried to catch your eye, you looked at the doctor, and took
your speech from him. And yet I thought I had never seen a woman
so great and perfect as you were, and whose sympathy I longed so
much to have. You may not believe me, but I thought you were a
queen, for you were the first lady I had ever seen, and you were so
different from the other girls I knew, or the women who had been
kind to me. You may laugh, but it's the truth I'm telling you,
He had relapsed completely into his old pleading, boyish way--it
had struck her even as he had pleaded to her for Frida!
"I knew you didn't like me that day you came to change the
bandages. Although every touch of your hands seemed to ease my
pain, you did it so coldly and precisely; and although I longed to
keep you there with me, you scarcely waited to take my thanks, but
left me as if you had only done your duty to a stranger. And worst
of all," he went on more bitterly, "the doctor knew it too--guessed
how I felt toward you, and laughed at me for my hopelessness! That
made me desperate, and put me up to act the fool. I did! Yes,
Miss Trotter; I thought it mighty clever to appear to be in love
with Frida, and to get him to ask to have her attend me regularly.
And when you simply consented, without a word or thought about it
and me, I knew I was nothing to you."
Miss Trotter felt a sudden thrill. The recollection of Dr.
Duchesne's strange scrutiny of her, of her own mistake, which she
now knew might have been the truth--flashed across her confused
consciousness in swift corroboration of his words. It was a DOUBLE
revelation to her; for what else was the meaning of this subtle,
insidious, benumbing sweetness that was now creeping over her sense
and spirit and holding her fast. She felt she ought to listen no
longer--to speak--to say something--to get up--to turn and confront
him coldly--but she was powerless. Her reason told her that she
had been the victim of a trick--that having deceived her once, he
might be doing so again; but she could not break the spell that was
upon her, nor did she want to. She must know the culmination of
this confession, whose preamble thrilled her so strangely.
"The girl was kind and sympathetic," he went on, "but I was not so
great a fool as not to know that she was a flirt and accustomed to
attention. I suppose it was in my desperation that I told my
brother, thinking he would tell you, as he did. He would not tell
me what you said to him, except that you seemed to be indignant at
the thought that I was only flirting with Frida. Then I resolved
to speak with you myself--and I did. I know it was a stupid,
clumsy contrivance. It never seemed so stupid before I spoke to
you. It never seemed so wicked as when you promised to help me,
and your eyes shone on me for the first time with kindness. And it
never seemed so hopeless as when I found you touched with my love
for another. You wonder why I kept up this deceit until you
promised. Well, I had prepared the bitter cup myself--I thought I
ought to drink it to the dregs."
She turned quietly, passionately, and, standing up, faced him with
a little cry. "Why are you telling me this NOW?"
He rose too, and catching her hands in his, said, with a white
face, "Because I love you."
. . . . . .
Half an hour later, when the under-housekeeper was summoned to
receive Miss Trotter's orders, she found that lady quietly writing
at the table. Among the orders she received was the notification
that Mr. Calton's rooms would be vacated the next day. When the
servant, who, like most of her class, was devoted to the good-
natured, good-looking, liberal Chris, asked with some concern if
the young gentleman was no better, Miss Trotter, with equal
placidity, answered that it was his intention to put himself under
the care of a specialist in San Francisco, and that she, Miss
Trotter, fully approved of his course. She finished her letter,--
the servant noticed that it was addressed to Mr. Bilson at Paris,--
and, handing it to her, bade that it should be given to a groom,
with orders to ride over to the Summit post-office at once to catch
the last post. As the housekeeper turned to go, she again referred
to the departing guest. "It seems such a pity, ma'am, that Mr.
Calton couldn't stay, as he always said you did him so much good."
Miss Trotter smiled affably. But when the door closed she gave a
hysterical little laugh, and then, dropping her handsome gray-
streaked head in her slim hands, cried like a girl--or, indeed, as
she had never cried when a girl.
When the news of Mr. Calton's departure became known the next day,
some lady guests regretted the loss of this most eligible young
bachelor. Miss Trotter agreed with them, with the consoling
suggestion that he might return for a day or two. He did return
for a day; it was thought that the change to San Francisco had
greatly benefited him, though some believed he would be an invalid
all his life.
Meantime Miss Trotter attended regularly to her duties, with the
difference, perhaps, that she became daily more socially popular
and perhaps less severe in her reception of the attentions of the
masculine guests. It was finally whispered that the great Judge
Boompointer was a serious rival of Judge Fletcher for her hand.
When, three months later, some excitement was caused by the
intelligence that Mr. Bilson was returning to take charge of his
hotel, owing to the resignation of Miss Trotter, who needed a
complete change, everybody knew what that meant. A few were ready
to name the day when she would become Mrs. Boompointer; others had
seen the engagement ring of Judge Fletcher on her slim finger.
Nevertheless Miss Trotter married neither, and by the time Mr. and
Mrs. Bilson had returned she had taken her holiday, and the Summit
House knew her no more.
Three years later, and at a foreign Spa, thousands of miles distant
from the scene of her former triumphs, Miss Trotter reappeared as a
handsome, stately, gray-haired stranger, whose aristocratic bearing
deeply impressed a few of her own countrymen who witnessed her
arrival, and believed her to be a grand duchess at the least. They
were still more convinced of her superiority when they saw her
welcomed by the well-known Baroness X., and afterwards engaged in a
very confidential conversation with that lady. But they would have
been still more surprised had they known the tenor of that
"I am afraid you will find the Spa very empty just now," said the
baroness critically. "But there are a few of your compatriots
here, however, and they are always amusing. You see that somewhat
faded blonde sitting quite alone in that arbor? That is her
position day after day, while her husband openly flirts or is
flirted with by half the women here. Quite the opposite experience
one has of American women, where it's all the other way, is it not?
And there is an odd story about her which may account for, if it
does not excuse, her husband's neglect. They're very rich, but
they say she was originally a mere servant in a hotel."
"You forget that I told you I was once only a housekeeper in one,"
said Miss Trotter, smiling.
"Nonsense. I mean that this woman was a mere peasant, and
frightfully ignorant at that!"
Miss Trotter put up her eyeglass, and, after a moment's scrutiny,
said gently, "I think you are a little severe. I know her; it's a
"No, my dear. You are quite wrong. That was the name of her FIRST
husband. I am told she was a widow who married again--quite a
fascinating young man, and evidently her superior--that is what is
so funny. She is a Mrs. Calton--'Mrs. Chris Calton,' as she calls
"Is her husband--Mr. Calton--here?" said Miss Trotter after a
pause, in a still gentler voice.
"Naturally not. He has gone on an excursion with a party of ladies
to the Schwartzberg. He returns to-morrow. You will find HER very
stupid, but HE is very jolly, though a little spoiled by women.
Why do we always spoil them?"
Miss Trotter smiled, and presently turned the subject. But the
baroness was greatly disappointed to find the next day that an
unexpected telegram had obliged Miss Trotter to leave the Spa
without meeting the Caltons.