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

Half a Rogue by Harold MacGrath

Part 2 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.

celebrated townsman, will act as best man. The announcement comes as a
great surprise to society, as Mr. Bennington was looked upon as a
confirmed bachelor.

And again you will find something of this sort:

April 22--Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene leaves next week for Washington, where
she will be the guest of Senator Soandso's wife.

April 29--Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene left yesterday for Washington.

May 6--Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene, who is visiting in Washington, will
return next week.

May 13--Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene has returned home from a delightful
visit in Washington.

Sometimes, when there was no escape from it, Mr. Franklyn-Haldene's
name also appeared.

From mundane things to the spiritual!

"Yes, I feel for Mrs. Bennington," continued Mrs. Haldene. "We have to
submit to our boys' running around with actresses; but to marry them!"

"And married life, I understand, seldom agrees with them. They
invariably return to the stage. I wonder if this woman has ever been
married before?"

"I shouldn't be surprised. For my part, I'm very glad the ceremony
will not be performed in the church. Hush!" with a warning glance over
her shoulder.

There was a sudden craning of necks, an agitation among the hats and
bonnets. Down the aisle came a handsome, dignified woman in widow's
weeds, a woman who was easily fifty-six, but who looked as if she had
just crossed the threshold of the forties. Her face was serene, the
half-smile on her lips was gentle and sweet her warm brown eyes viewed
the world peacefully. Ah, how well she knew that to-day this temple of
worship was but a den of jackals, ready to rend her if she so much as
hesitated, so much as faltered in look or speech! Never should they
feed themselves upon her sorrow. She went on, smiling here and there.
The low hum, the pallid lights, the murmur from the organ, all seemed
cruelly accented. Her pew was third from the chancel; she was but
half-way through the gantlet of curious eyes.

Following her was a young girl of twenty. She was youth in all its
beauty and charm and fragrance. Many a young masculine heart throbbed
violently as she passed, and straightway determined to win fame and
fortune, if for no other purpose than to cast them at her feet. This
was Patty Bennington.

The two reached their pew without mishap, and immediately rested their
heads reverently upon the rail in prayer. Presently the music ceased,
the rector mounted the pulpit, and the day's service began. I doubt if
many could tell you what the sermon was about that day.

No other place offers to the speculative eye of the philosopher so
many varied phases of humanity as the church. In the open, during the
week-days, there is little pretense, one way or the other; but in
church, on Sunday, everybody, or nearly everybody, seems to have
donned a mask, a transparent mask, a smug mask, the mask of the known
hypocrite. The man who is a brute to his wife goes meekly to his seat;
the miser, who has six days pinched his tenants or evicted them,
passes the collection plate, his face benevolent; the woman whose
tongue is that of the liar and the gossip, who has done her best to
smirch the reputation of her nearest neighbor, lifts her eyes
heavenward and follows every word of a sermon she can not comprehend;
and the man or woman who has stepped aside actually believes that his
or her presence in church hoodwinks every one. Heigh-ho! and envy with
her brooding yellow eyes and hypocrisy with her eternal smirk sit side
by side in church.

Oh, there are some good and kindly people in this ragged world of
ours, and they go to church with prayer in their hearts and goodness
on their lips and forgiveness in their hands. They wear no masks;
their hearts and minds go in and out of church unchanged. These are
the salt of the earth, and do not often have their names in the Sunday
papers, unless it is in the matter of their wills and codicils. Then
only do the worldly know that charity had walked among them and they
knew her not.

Of such was Miss Anna Warrington, spinster-aunt of Richard. She
occupied the other half of the Bennington pew. Until half a dozen
years ago, when her boy had come into his own, she had known but
little save poverty and disillusion; and the good she always dreamed
of doing she was now doing in fact. Very quietly her withered old hand
stole over the low partition and pressed Mrs. Bennington's hand. The
clasp spoke mutely of courage and good-will. She knew nothing of awe,
kindly soul; the great and the small were all the same to her. She
remembered without rancor the time when Mrs. Bennington scarcely
noticed her; but sorrow had visited Mrs. Bennington and widened her
vision and broadened her heart; and the two met each other on a common
basis, the loss of dear ones.

The clock is invariably hung in the rear of the church. The man who
originally selected this position was evidently a bit of a cynic.
Perhaps he wanted to impress the preacher with the fact that there
must be a limitation to all things, even good sermons; or perhaps he
wanted to test the patience and sincerity of the congregation. The
sermon was rather tedious this Sunday; shiny, well-worn platitudes are
always tedious. And many twisted in their seats to get a glimpse of
the clock.

Whenever Patty looked around (for youth sits impatiently in church),
always she met eyes, eyes, eyes. But she was a brave lass, and more
than once she beat aside the curious gaze. How she hated them! She
knew what they were whispering, whispering. Her brother was going to
marry an actress. She was proud of her brother's choice. He was going
to marry a woman who was as brilliant as she was handsome, who counted
among her friends the great men and women of the time, who dwelt in a
world where mediocrity is unknown and likewise unwelcome. Mediocrity's
teeth are sharp only for those who fear them.

Patty was nervous on her mother's account, not her own. It had been a
blow to the mother, who had always hoped to have her boy to herself as
long as she lived. He had never worried her with flirtations; there
had been no youthful affairs. The mother of the boy who is always
falling in love can meet the final blow half-way. Mrs. Bennington had
made an idol of the boy, but at the same time she had made a man of
him. From the time he could talk till he had entered man's estate, she
had been constant at his side, now with wisdom and learning, now with
laughter and wit, always and always with boundless and brooding love.
The first lesson had been on the horror of cruelty; the second, on the
power of truth; the third, on the good that comes from firmness. It is
very easy to make an idol and a fool of a boy; but Mrs. Bennington
always had the future in mind. It was hard, it was bitter, that
another should step in and claim the perfected man. She had been
lulled into the belief that now she would have him all her own till
the end of her days. But it was not to be. Her sense of justice was
evenly balanced; her son had the same right that his father had; it
was natural that he should desire a mate and a home of his own; but,
nevertheless, it was bitter. That his choice had been an actress
caused her no alarm. Her son was a gentleman; he would never marry
beneath him; it was love, not infatuation; and love is never love
unless it can find something noble and good to rest upon. It was not
the actress, no; the one great reiterating question was: did this
brilliant woman love her son? Was it the man or his money? She had
gone to New York to meet Miss Challoner. She had steeled her heart
against all those subtle advances, such as an actress knows how to
make. She had gone to conquer, but had been conquered. For when Kate
Challoner determined to charm she was not to be resisted. She had gone
up to the mother and daughter and put her arms around them. "I knew
that I should love you both. How could I help it? And please be kind
to me: God has been in giving me your son." Ah, if she had only said:
"I shall love you because I love him!" But there was doubt, haunting
doubt. If the glamour of married life wore out, and the craving for
publicity returned, this woman might easily wreck her son's life and
the lives of those who loved him.

She was very glad when the service came to an end and the stir and
rustle announced the departure of the congregation.

At the door she found Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene. She rather expected to
find her. They were enemies of old.

"Shall I congratulate you?" asked the formidable person.

Many of the congregation stopped. They hadn't the courage of Mrs.
Franklyn-Haldene, but they lacked none of her curiosity.

"You may, indeed," returned Mrs. Bennington serenely. She understood
perfectly well; but she was an old hand at woman's war. "My son is
very fortunate. I shall love my new daughter dearly, for she loves my

"She is just splendid!" said Patty, with sparkling eyes. How she
longed to scratch the powder from Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene's beak-like
nose! Busybody, meddler! "I never suspected John had such good sense."

"You are very fortunate," said Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene. She smiled,
nodded, and passed on into the street. A truce!

Mr. Franklyn-Haldene, as he entered the carriage after his wife,
savagely bit off the end of a cigar.

"What the devil's the matter with you women, anyhow?" he demanded.


"Why couldn't you leave her alone? You're all a pack of buzzards,
waiting for some heart to peck at. Church!--bah!"

It was only on rare occasions that Mr. Franklyn-Haldene voiced his
sentiments. On these occasions Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene rarely spoke.
There was a man in her husband she had no desire to rouse. Mr. Haldene
was the exception referred to; he was not afraid of his wife.

They rode homeward in silence. As they passed the Warrington place,
Mr. Haldene again spoke.

"Warrington is home over Sunday. Saw him on horseback this morning."

"There's one thing I'm thankful for: the wedding will not be in


"It's disgusting; and we shall have to receive her. But I do not envy
her her lot."

"Neither do I," said Haldene. "You women have already mapped out a
nice little hell for her. Why should you be so vindictive simply
because she is an actress? If she is good and honest, what the deuce?"

"There's no use arguing with you."

"I'm glad you've found that out. You'd find out lots of other things
if you stayed home long enough. I shall treat the woman decently."

"I dare say all you men will."

"And you, Madam, shall be among the first to call on her. Mind that!"

She looked at the man pityingly. Men never understood. Call on her? Of
course, she would call on her. For how could she make the woman
unhappy if she did not call on her?

Chapter V

Every city has its Fifth Avenue. That which we can not have as our own
we strive to imitate. Animal and vegetable life simply reproduces
itself; humanity does more than that, it imitates. Williams Street was
the Fifth Avenue of Herculaneum. It was broad, handsome, and climbed a
hill of easy incline. It was a street of which any city might be
justly proud. Only two or three houses jarred the artistic sense.
These were built by men who grew rich so suddenly and unexpectedly
that their sense of the grotesque became abnormal. It is an
interesting fact to note that the children of this class become
immediately seized with a species of insanity, an insanity which urges
them on the one hand to buy newspapers with dollar-bills, and on the
other to treat their parents with scant respect. Sudden riches have,
it would seem, but two generations: the parent who accumulates and the
son who spends.

The Warrington home (manor was applied to but few houses in town)
stood back from the street two hundred feet or more, on a beautiful
natural terrace. The lawn was wide and crisp and green, and the oak
trees were the envy of many. The house itself had been built by one of
the early settlers, and Warrington had admired it since boyhood. It
was of wood, white, with green blinds and wide verandas, pillared
after the colonial style. Warrington had purchased it on a bank
foreclosure, and rather cheaply, considering the location. The
interior was simple but rich. The great fireplace was made of old
Roman bricks; there were exquisite paintings and marbles and rugs and
china, and books and books. Very few persons in Herculaneum had been
inside, but these few circulated the report that the old house had the
handsomest interior in town. Straightway Warrington's income became
four times as large as it really was.

The old aunt and the "girl" kept the house scrupulously clean, for
there was no knowing when Richard might take it into his head to come
home. The "girl's" husband took care of the stables and exercised the
horses. And all went very well.

Warrington seldom went to church. It was not because he was without
belief; there was a strong leaven of faith underlying his cynicism.
Frankly, sermons bored him. It was so easy for his imaginative mind to
reach out and take the thought from the preacher's mouth almost before
he uttered it. Thus, there was never any suspense, and suspense in
sermons, as in books and plays, is the only thing that holds captive
our interest.

So he stayed at home and read the Sunday papers. That part not devoted
to society and foreign news was given up wholly to local politics.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties were in bad odor. In the
Common Council they were giving away street-railway franchises;
gambling-dens flourished undisturbed, and saloons closed only when
some member of the saloon-keeper's family died. The anti-gambling
league had succeeded in suppressing the slot machines for a fortnight;
this was the only triumph virtue could mark down for herself. There
were reformers in plenty, but their inordinate love of publicity
ruined the effectiveness of their work. A brass band will not move the
criminal half so quickly as a sudden pull at the scruff of his neck.
So the evil-doer lay low, or borrowed the most convenient halo and
posed as a deeply-wronged man. Warrington, as he read, smiled in
contempt. They had only one real man in town, scoundrel though he was.
There are certain phases of villainy that compel our admiration, and
the villainy of McQuade was of this order. The newspapers were
evidently subsidized, for their clamor was half-hearted and
hypocritical. Once or twice Warrington felt a sudden longing to take
off his coat and get into the fight; but the impulse was transitory.
He realized that he loved ease and comfort too well.

Finally he tossed aside the sheets and signaled to the dog. It was a
bull terrier, old and scarred, and unchanging in his affections. He
loved this master of his, even if he saw him but once a year. They
understood each other perfectly. He was a peace-loving animal, but he
was a fighter at times--like his master. He had a beautiful head,
broad punishing jaws, and, for all his age, he had not run to fat,
which is the ignominious end of all athletes, men or dogs.

"Old boy, this is a jolly bad world."

Jove wagged his stump of a tail.

"We should all be thieves if it were not for publicity and jail."

Jove coughed deprecatingly. Perhaps he recollected purloined haunches
of aforetime.

"Sometimes I've half a mind to pack up and light out to the woods, and
never look at a human being again."

Jove thought this would be fine; his tail said so.

"But I'm like a man at a good play; I've simply got to stay and see
how it ends, for the great Dramatist has me guessing."

Warrington stared into the kind brown eyes and pulled the ragged ears.
There was a kind of guilt in the old dog's eyes, for dogs have
consciences. If only he dared tell his master! There was somebody else
now. True, this somebody else would never take the master's place; but
what was a poor dog to do when he was lonesome and never laid eyes on
his master for months and months? Nobody paid much attention to him in
this house when the master was away. He respected aunty (who had the
spinster's foolish aversion for dogs and the incomprehensible
affection for cats!) and for this reason never molested her
supercilious Angora cat. Could he be blamed if he sought (and found)
elsewhere affection and confidence? Why, these morning rides were as
good as a bone. She talked to him, told him her secrets (secrets he
swore on a dog's bible never to reveal!) and desires, and fed him
chicken, and cuddled him. There were times when he realized that old
age was upon him; some of these canters left him breathless and

"I've been thinking, boy," the master's voice went on. "New York isn't
so much, after all. I wasn't city born, and there are times when the
flowing gold of the fields and the cool woods call. Bah! There's
nothing now to hold me anywhere. I hope she'll make him happy; she can
do it if she tries. Heigh-ho! the ride this morning has made me
sleepy. To your rug, boy, to your rug."

Warrington stretched himself on the lounge and fell asleep. And thus
the aunt found him on her return from church. She hated to wake him
but she simply could not hold back the news till luncheon. She touched
his arm, and he woke with the same smile that had dimpled his cheeks
when he was a babe in her arms. Those of us who have retained the good
disposition of youth never scowl upon being awakened.

"Aha," he cried, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"Richard, I wish you had gone to church this morning."

"And watched the gossips and scandal-mongers twist their barbs in Mrs.
Bennington's heart? Hardly."

She gazed at him, nonplussed. There was surely something uncanny in
this boy, who always seemed to know what people were doing, had done
or were going to do.

"I wouldn't have believed it of my congregation," she said.

"Oh, Mrs. Bennington is a woman of the world; she understands how to
make barbs harmless. But that's why I never go to church. It doesn't
soothe me as it ought to; I fall too easily into the habit of pulling
my neighbor's mind into pieces. Gossip and weddings and funerals; your
reputation in shreds, your best girl married, your best friend dead. I
find myself nearer Heaven when I'm alone in the fields. But I've been
thinking, Aunty."

"About what?"

"About coming home to stay."

"Oh, Richard, if you only would!" sitting beside him and folding him
in her arms. "I'm so lonely. There's only you and I; all the others
I've loved are asleep on the hill. Do come home, Richard; you're all I

"I'm thinking it over."

Here the Angora came in cautiously. She saw Jove and the dog saw her;
fur and hair bristled. Jove looked at his master beseechingly--"Say
the word, Dick, say the word, and I'll give you an entertainment." But
the word did not come.

"There's your church-goers, Aunty; always ready to fly at each other.
In order to study humanity thoroughly, one must first learn the ways
of the beast."

"I'm afraid your dog's a traitor."

"A traitor?"

"Yes. Half the time he runs over to the Benningtons' and stays all
night. I don't see why he should."

"Maybe they pet him over there. Perhaps he wants a hand sometimes,
just like human beings when they're lonely. If you petted him once in
a while, one pat for every ten you give the cat, the old boy would be
tickled to death."

"But I'm kind to him, Richard; he has the best meat I can buy. I'd pet
him, too, but I'm afraid of him. I'm always afraid of dogs. Besides,
his feet are always muddy and his hair falls out and sticks to

"Who is his latest love?"

"Patty Bennington. They go out riding together. I can always tell, for
his stomach is invariably caked with dried mud."

"Patty Bennington? The old dog shows good taste. And I had forgotten
all about Bennington's having a sister. I was thunderstruck when I met
her the other week in New York. I had really forgotten her. She is

"She is a dear young girl. Ah, Richard, if only you would find some
one like her."

"Marriages are made in Heaven, Aunt, and I'm going to wait till I get
there. But I'll think it over about coming home to stay."

"I'll be so happy!" the old lady cried. "I'm going right out into the
kitchen myself and make one of those cherry pies you used to rave

She disappeared; and Warrington laughed, rose and stretched the sleep
from his arms and legs, and went up stairs to dress. Yes, he would
think it over. There was nothing to hold him in New York, nothing but
the craving for noise and late hours. Why not settle down here? There
would be plenty to do. Besides, if he lived in Herculaneum he could
run over to the Bennington home at any time of day. His cheeks flushed
of a sudden.

"Hang it, am I lying to myself about that girl? Is it the knowledge
that she'll be my neighbor that inclines me to live here? I know I
shall miss her if I stay in New York; I'm honest enough to admit that.
God knows I've nothing but honor in my heart for her. Why, I wouldn't
even kiss her hand without old Jack's consent. Well, well; the scene
in the church Wednesday will solve all doubts--if I have any."

The Sunday luncheon passed uneventfully. The aunt said nothing more
about his coming home to stay. She knew her boy; urging would do more
harm than good; so she left him to decide freely.

"Is the pie good, Richard?" she asked.

"Fine! Can you spare me another piece?"

"I'm glad you'll never be too proud to eat pie," she returned.

"Not even when it's humble," laughed Warrington.

"There are some folks roundabout who do not think pie is proper,"

"Not proper? Tommyrot! Pie is an institution; it is as unassailable as
the Constitution of the country. I do not speak of the human
constitution. There are some folks so purse-proud that they call pies

She looked askance at him. There were times when she wasn't quite sure
of this boy of hers. He might be serious, and then again he might be
quietly laughing. But she saw with satisfaction that the pie

"The world, Richard, isn't what it was in my time."

"I dare say it isn't, Aunty; yet cherries are just as good as ever and
June as beautiful. It isn't the world, Aunt o' mine; it's the plaguy
people. Those who stay away from church ought to go, and those who go
ought to stay away. I'm going down to the club this afternoon. I shall
dine there, and later look up the Benningtons. So don't keep dinner
waiting for me."

"Cheer her up, Richard; she needs cheering. It's been a blow to her to
lose her boy. If you'd only get married, too, Richard, I could die
content. What in the world shall you do when I am gone?"

"Heaven knows!" The thought of losing this dear old soul gave a
serious tone to his voice. He kissed her on the cheek and went out
into the hall. Jove came waltzing after him. "Humph! What do you want,
sir? Want to go out with me, eh? Very well; but you must promise to
behave yourself. I'll have you talking to no poor-dog trash, mind."
Jove promised unutterable things. "Come on, then."

He walked slowly down town, his cane behind his back, his chin in his
collar, deep in meditation. He knew instinctively that Mrs. Bennington
wanted to talk to him about the coming marriage. He determined to tell
her the truth, truth that would set her mother's heart at peace.

Jove ran hither and thither importantly. It was good to be out with
the master. He ran into this yard and that, scared a cat up a tree,
chased the sparrows, and grumbled at the other dogs he saw. All at
once he paused, stiffened, each muscle tense. Warrington, catching the
pose, looked up. A handsome trotter was coming along at a walk. In the
light road-wagon sat a man and a white bulldog. It was easy for
Warrington to recognize McQuade, who in turn knew that this
good-looking young man must be the dramatist. The two glanced at each
other casually. They were unacquainted. Not so the dogs. They had met.
The white bull teetered on the seat. Jove bared his strong teeth. How
he hated that sleek white brute up there! He would have given his life
for one good hold on that broad throat. The white dog was thinking,
too. Some day, when the time came, he would clean the slate. Once he
had almost had the tan for his own. And he hated the girl who had
beaten him off with her heavy riding-crop.

McQuade drove on, and Warrington resumed his interrupted study of the
sidewalk. McQuade thought nothing more about the fellow who wrote
plays, and the dramatist had no place in his mind for the petty
affairs of the politician. Fate, however, moves quite as certainly and
mysteriously as the cosmic law. The bitter feud between these two men
began with their dogs.

At the club Warrington found a few lonely bachelors, who welcomed him
to the long table in the grill-room; but he was in no mood for gossip
and whisky. He ordered a lithia, drank it quickly, and escaped to the
reading-room to write some letters.

Down in the grill-room they talked him over.

"I don't know whether he boozes now, but he used to be tanked quite
regularly," said one.

"Yes, and they say he writes best when half-seas over."

"Evidently," said a third, "he doesn't drink unless he wants to; and
that's more than most of us can say."

"Pshaw! Sunday's clearing-up day; nobody drinks much on Sunday. I
wonder that Warrington didn't marry Challoner himself. He went around
with her a lot."

Everybody shrugged. You can shrug away a reputation a deal more safely
than you can talk it.

"Oh, Bennington's no ass. She's a woman of brains, anyhow. It's
something better than marrying a little fool of a pretty chorus girl.
She'll probably make things lively for one iron-monger. If the hair
doesn't fly, the money will. He's a good sort of chap, but he wants a
snaffle and a curb on his high-stepper."

Then the topic changed to poker and the marvelous hands held the night

Warrington finished his correspondence, dined alone, and at
seven-thirty started up the street to the Benningtons'. Jove, with the
assurance of one who knows he will be welcomed, approached the
inviting veranda at a gallop. His master, however, followed with a
sense of diffidence. He noted that there was a party of young people
on the veranda. He knew the severe and critical eye of youth, and he
was a bit afraid of himself. Evidently Miss Patty had no lack of
beaux. Miss Patty in person appeared at the top of the steps, and

"I was half expecting you," she said, offering a slim cool hand.

Warrington clasped it in his own and gave it a friendly pressure.

"Thank you," he replied. "Please don't disturb yourselves," he
remonstrated, as the young men rose reluctantly from their chairs. "Is
Mrs. Bennington at home?"

"You will find her in the library." Then Patty introduced him. There
was some constraint on the part of the young men. They agreed that,
should the celebrity remain, he would become the center of attraction
at once, and all the bright things they had brought for the dazzlement
of Patty would have to pass unsaid.

To youth, every new-corner is a possible rival; he wouldn't be human
if he didn't believe that each man who comes along is simply bound to
fall in love with the very girl HE has his eyes on.

On the other hand, the young girls regretted that the great dramatist
wasn't going to sit beside them. There is a strange glamour about
these men and women who talk or write to us from over the footlights.
As Warrington disappeared into the hallway, the murmur and frequent
laughter was resumed.

Mrs. Bennington was very glad to see him. She laid aside her book and
made room for him on the divan. They talked about the weather, the
changes that had taken place since the fall, a scrap of foreign travel
of mutual interest, each hoping that the other would be first to
broach the subject most vital to both. Finally, Mrs. Bennington
realized that she could fence no longer.

"It was very good of you to come. I have so many things to ask you."


"My boy's determination to marry has been very sudden. I knew nothing
till a month ago. I love him so, and my whole heart hungers for one
thing--the assurance that he will be happy with the woman of his

"My dear Mrs. Bennington, Jack will marry a woman who is as loyal and
honest as she is brilliant and beautiful. Miss Challoner is a woman
any family might be proud to claim. She numbers among her friends many
of the brilliant minds of the age; she compels their respect and
admiration by her intellect and her generosity. Oh, Jack is to be
envied. I can readily understand the deep-rooted antagonism the
actress still finds among the laity. It is a foolish prejudice. I can
point out many cases where the layman has married an actress and has
been happy and contented with his lot."

"But on the obverse side?" with a smile that was sad and dubious.

"Happiness is always in the minority of cases, in all walks of life.
Happiness depends wholly upon ourselves; environment has nothing to do
with it. Most of these theatrical marriages you have read about were
mere business contracts. John is in love."

"But is he loved?"

"Miss Challoner has a very comfortable fortune of her own. She would,
in my opinion, be the last person in the world to marry for money or
social position, the latter of which she already has."

But she saw through his diplomacy.

"Perhaps she may desire a home?"

"That is probable; but it is quite evident to me that she wants John
with it."

"There are persons in town who will do their best to make her

"You will always find those persons; but I am confident Miss Challoner
will prove a match for any of them. There is no other woman in the
world who knows better than she the value of well-applied flattery."

"She is certainly a charming woman; it is impossible not to admit that
frankly. But you, who are familiar with the stage, know how unstable
people of that sort are. Suppose she tires of John? It would break my

"Ah, all that will depend upon Jack. Doubtless he knows the meaning of
'to have and to hold.' To hold any woman's love, a man must make
himself indispensable; he must be her partner in all things: her
comrade and husband when need be, her lover always. There can be no
going back to old haunts, so attractive to men; club life must become
merely an incident. Again, he must not be under her feet all the time.
Too much or too little will not do; it must be the happy between."

"You are a very wise young man."

Warrington laughed embarrassedly. "I have had to figure out all these

"But if she does not love him!"

"How in the world can she help it?"

She caught up his hand in a motherly clasp.

"We mothers are vain in our love. We make our sons paragons; we blind
ourselves to their faults; we overlook their follies, and condone
their sins. And we build so many castles that one day tumble down
about our ears. Why is it a mother always wishes her boy to marry the
woman of her choice? What right has a mother to interfere with her
son's heart-desires? It may be that we fear the stranger will stand
between us. A mother holds, and always will hold, that no woman on
earth is good enough for her son. Now, as I recollect, I did not think
Mr. Bennington too good for me." She smiled drolly.

Lucky Jack! If only he had had a mother like this! Warrington thought.

"I dare say he thought that, too," he said. "Myself, I never knew a
mother's love. No doubt I should have been a better man. Yet, I've
often observed that a boy with a loving mother takes her love as a
matter of course, and never realizes his riches till he has lost them.
My aunt is the only mother I have known."

"And a dear, kind, loving soul she is," said Mrs. Bennington. "She
loves you, if not with mother-love, at least with mother-instinct.
When we two get together, we have a time of it; I, lauding my boy;
she, praising hers. But I go round and round in a circle: my boy. Sons
never grow up, they are always our babies; they come to us with their
heartaches, at three or at thirty; there is ever one door open in the
storm, the mother's heart. If she loves my boy, nothing shall be too
good for her."

"I feel reasonably sure that she does." Did she? he wondered. Did she
love Jack as he (Warrington) wanted some day to be loved?

"As you say," the mother went on, "how can she help loving him? He is
a handsome boy; and this alone is enough to attract women. But he is
so kind and gentle, Richard; so manly and strong. He has his faults;
he is human, like his mother. John is terribly strong-willed, and this
would worry me, were I not sure that his sense of justice is equally
strong. He is like me in gentleness; but the man in him is the same
man I loved in my girlhood days. When John maps out a course to act
upon, if he believes he is right, nothing can swerve him--nothing. And
sometimes he has been innocently wrong. I told Miss Challoner all his
good qualities and his bad. She told me that she, too, has her faults.
She added that there was only one other man who could in any manner
compare with John, and that man is you."

"I?" his face growing warm.

"Yes. But she had no right to compare anybody with my boy," laughing.

"There isn't any comparison whatever," admitted Warrington, laughing
too. "But it was very kind of Miss Challoner to say a good word for
me." And then upon impulse he related how, and under what
circumstances, he had first met the actress.

"It reads like a story,--a versatile woman. This talk has done me much
good. I know the affection that exists between you and John, and I am
confident that you would not misrepresent anything. I shall sleep
easier to-night."

The portieres rattled, and Patty stood in the doorway.

"Everybody's gone; may I come in?"

Warrington rose. "I really should be very glad to make your
acquaintance," gallantly. "It's so long a time since I've met young

"Young people!" indignantly. "I am not young people; I am twenty,
going on twenty-one."

"I apologize." Warrington sat down.

Thereupon Miss Patty, who was a good sailor, laid her course close to
the wind, and with few tacks made her goal; which was the complete
subjugation of this brilliant man. She was gay, sad, witty and wise;
and there were moments when her mother looked at her in puzzled
surprise. As for Warrington, he went from one laugh into another.

Oh, dazzling twenty; blissful, ignorant, confident twenty! Who among
you would not be twenty, when trouble passes like cloud-shadows in
April; when the door of the world first opens? Ay, who would not trade
the meager pittance, wrested from the grinding years, for one fleet,
smiling dream of twenty?

"It is all over town, the reply you made to Mrs. Winthrop and that
little, sawed-off, witty daughter of hers."


"Well, she is sawed-off and witty."

"What did I say?" asked Warrington, blushing. He had forgotten the

"Mrs. Winthrop asked you to make her daughter an epigram, and you
replied that Heaven had already done that."

"By the way," said Warrington, when the laughter subsided, "I
understand that my old dog has been running away from home lately. I
hope he doesn't bother you."

"Bother, indeed! I just love him," cried Patty. "He's such a lovable
animal. We have such good times on our morning rides. We had trouble
last week, though. A white bulldog sprang at him. Jove was so tired
that he would have been whipped had I not dismounted and beaten the
white dog off. Oh, Jove was perfectly willing to contest the right of
way. And when it was all over, who should come along but Mr. McQuade,
the politician. It was his dog. And he hadn't even the grace to make
an apology for his dog's ill manners."

"May I not ride with you to-morrow morning?" he asked. He had intended
to leave Herculaneum at noon; but there were many later trains.

"That will be delightful! I know so many beautiful roads; and we can
lunch at the Country Club. And Jove can go along, too."

"Where is the traitor?"

"He is sound asleep on the veranda rugs."

"Well, it's long past his bedtime. I must be going."

"Some time I hope you will come just to call on me."

"I shall not need any urging."

They followed him to the door, and good nights were said.

"Oh, Patty, he has lifted so much doubt!" said the mother, as the two
returned to the library. "He has nothing but praise for Miss
Challoner. It is quite possible that John will be happy."

"It is not only possible, mother darling, but probable. For my part, I
think her the most charming, most fascinating woman I ever met. And
she told me she rides. What jolly times we'll have together, when John
settles down in the new house!"

"The new house!" repeated the mother, biting her lips. "How the word
hurts! Patty, why could they not come here? We'll be so lonely. Yet,
it is the law of Heaven that a man and his wife must live by and for

Warrington walked home, lightened in spirit. He swung his cane, gave
Jove a dozen love-taps and whistled operatic airs. What a charming
young creature it was, to be sure! The brain of a woman and the heart
of a child. And he had forgotten all about her. Now, of course, his
recollection became clear. He remembered a mite of a girl in short
frocks, wonder-eyes, and candy-smudged lips. How they grew, these

He went into the house, still whistling. Jove ran out into the kitchen
to see if by some possible miracle there was another piece of steak in
his grub-pan. A dog's eyes are always close to his stomach.
Warrington, finding that everybody had gone to bed, turned out the
lights and went up stairs. He knocked on the door of his aunt's

"Is that you, Richard?"

"Yes. May I come in?"


He entered quietly. The moonlight, pouring in through the window, lay
blue-white on the counterpane and the beloved old face.

"What is it?" she asked.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and patted her hands.

"Aunty, old lady, I'm through thinking. I'm going to come home just as
soon as I can fix up things in New York."

"Richard, my boy!" Her arms pulled him downward. "I knew it when you
came in. I've prayed so long for this. God has answered my prayers.
I'm so happy. Don't you remember how you used to tell me all your
plans, the plots of your stories, the funny things that had come to
you during the day? You used to come home late, but that didn't
matter; you'd always find some pie and cheese and a glass of milk on
the kitchen table--the old kitchen table. I'm so glad!"

"It may be a month or so; for I'll have to sell some of the things.
But I'm coming home, I'm coming home." He bent swiftly and kissed her.
"Good night."

Chapter VI

Warrington was up and about at six the next morning. He had never
really outgrown the natural habit of waking at dawn, but he had fallen
upon the evil way of turning over and sleeping till half after nine.
He ate a light breakfast and went out to the stables and moved among
the stalls, talking affectionate nonsense to the horses. A man can not
talk baby-talk, that is the undisputed prerogative of the woman; but
he has a fashion of his own which serves. "Aha, old boy! handsome
beggar!" or--"How's the little lady this morning, eh?" or yet
again--"Rascal! you've been rubbing the hair off your tail!" In the
boxstall Warrington's thoroughbred Irish hunter nozzled his palm for
loaf-sugar, and whinnied with pleasure when he found it. One of the
first things Warrington had done, upon drawing his first big royalty
check, was to buy a horse. As a boy on the farm he had hungered for
the possession of one of those sleek, handsome animals which men call
thoroughbreds. Then for a while he bought, sold and traded horses, for
the mere pleasure it gave him to be near them. Finally he came to
Herculaneum with two such saddle-horses as made every millionaire in
town (and there were several in Herculaneum) offer fabulous sums
whenever they ran across the owner. Next, he added two carriage-horses,
in their way quite equal to the hunters. Men offered to buy these,
too, but Warrington was a property owner now, and he wanted the horses
for his own. In New York one of his wealthy friends had given him free
use of his stables: so Warrington rode, at home and abroad. His
income, ranging from twenty to thirty thousand the year, gave him that
financial independence which neither the clerk nor the millionaire
knew or understood. In the phraseology of the day, he carried his
business under his hat: in other words, he had no business cares or
responsibilities whatever.

Warrington made it a rule to saddle and bridle his own horses; grooms
become careless. One or two men of his acquaintance had gone to their
death for the want of care and a firm buckle. Besides, he enjoyed the
work, and it accustomed the horses to his touch. He saddled his
favorite hunter and led the eager animal into the open. He mounted and
whistled for the dog; but Jove for once did not respond; doubtless he
was out of hearing. Thereupon Warrington started for the Benningtons'
and found Patty already in the saddle. It was not that the dramatist
was blase, but he had come into contact with so many beautiful women
that his pulse rarely stirred out of its healthy, measured beat. But
this morning he was conscious of a slight thrill. The girl was really
beautiful; more than that, she was fresh with youth and gaiety, gaiety
which older women find necessary to repress. She was dressed in a dark
grey riding-habit and wore a beaver cocked-hat.

"Good morning," he said, touching his cap with his crop. "I hope I
haven't kept you waiting."

"Only a moment." The truth is, she wanted to prove to him that there
was one woman who did not keep men waiting. "Shall I pick the going?"

"I'm afraid I've lost track of the good country roads."

"Follow me, then."

They walked their horses to the city limits. You never saw either of
them galloping over brick or asphalt, which quickly ruins the surest-
footed horse; neither did they permit any fox-trotting, which, while
it shows off a spirited horse, decreases his value in the ring. All of
which is to say, these two, like their mounts, were thoroughbreds.

"Where is Jove?" she asked presently.

"The rogue is missing. I dare say he is gallivanting around some
neighbor's back yard. I haven't laid eyes on him this morning. I
believe he realizes that he will see me frequently hereafter, and has
not bothered his head to look me up."

"Frequently?" She turned her head.

"Yes. I am coming home to live. Of course, this is my place of
residence; my voter's bed, as the politicians say, is here in
Herculaneum. But I mean to live here now in deed as well as in

"I am sure we shall be delighted to have you with us." This was said
gravely. A thought, which she would have repelled gladly, sprang into
being. "I know John will be glad. He's always talking about you and
your exploits at college."

"Our exploits," he corrected, laughing. "Shall we give them a little
exercise now?" he asked, with a gesture toward the long brown road.

She nodded, and they started off at a sharp trot, and presently broke
into a canter. So he was coming home to live? She felt a hot wave of
sudden anger sweep over her, and her hands tightened on the reins. It
was true, then? She loved her brother. What right had this man at her
side to threaten her brother's happiness? Had Katherine Challoner
signified her desire not to leave New York, would Warrington have
decided to return to Herculaneum? Her hands relaxed. What a silly
little fool she was! She, who despised and contemned gossip, was
giving it ready ear. Had she ever found gossip other than an errant,
cowardly liar? Gossip, gossip! Ah, if gossip, when she had made her
round, would not leave suspicion behind her; suspicion, hydra-headed!
What signified it that Warrington intended to come home to live? What
signified it that her brother's wife would live across the way? She
was ashamed of her evil thought; presently she would be no better than
Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene, or any of those women who get together to tear
somebody apart. As if Warrington could compare with her big, handsome,
manly brother! It was all impossible. She would punish herself for
even entertaining such a thought as had been hers but a moment gone.

She stole a glance at Warrington. He was riding easily, his feet light
in the stirrups, his head thrown back, his eyes half closed, and was
breathing deeply of the cool air, which was heavy with the smell of
sweet clover and dew-wet earth. It was a good, clean, honest face.
Indeed, it was all impossible. Dissipation writes plainly upon the
human countenance, and it had left no visible sign on Warrington's
face. It may be that dissipation sometimes whimsically neglects to
write at all.

They thundered over a wooden bridge. The spirit of the morning was in
the horses; they began to race. An unexpected curve in the road
discovered a road-builder and his gang of Italians. A low barrier ran
across the road. It was not exactly needed, as they were not digging,
but laying crushed stone. The obstruction was simply for the
convenience of the boss, who desired to work unhampered.

"Shall we?" cried Warrington, mischief in his eyes.

"Yes." There was no fear in this girl.

On they went, in a cloud of dust. The Italians made for the ditches,
but the boss stood in the road and waved his arms in warning.
Presently he, too, ducked.

Hep! and over the pair went, landing clean and sound on the other side
of the barrier. Before the surprised boss could express himself, they
were far down the road. A curse was hurled after them, but they heard
it not. They hadn't hurt the road at all, but the authority of the
boss had suffered. He knew the girl, little snob! He would find out
who the man was, soon enough. And if he had any influence in the City
Hall, as he believed he had, he would make it tolerably warm for
yonder vanishing parties.

He had put up that barrier to signify that the road was closed; very
well, they'd see. Dirt under their feet, huh? All right. How he hated
them all, with their horses and carriages and dances and dinners and
clubs! Bah! He took a flask from his pocket and drank. Then he cursed
the laggard Italians, and mourned that a year and a half must pass
before he could sell their votes again. Bolles contracted for Italian
labor and controlled something more than eight hundred votes. McQuade
sublet various small contracts to him, and in return used the Italians
during elections.

That jump, harmless enough in itself, was to prove a bad inspiration
on Warrington's part. But it is always these seemingly inconsequent
things that bear the heaviest reckoning.

Half a mile onward they drew down to a walk, flushed and breathless.

"Perhaps we oughtn't to have done that," she said doubtfully, working
the numbness from her fingers. "No thoroughfare" had hitherto been
religiously respected by her; this was her first transgression, and
she wasn't entirely satisfied with herself.

"Pshaw! There's no harm done. There was no earthly reason why we
should have turned back to the fork and added two miles to our ride.
Don't let anything like that worry you; we went by too fast to be
recognized. Look! here's a big clover patch. I never pass clover
without wanting to get down and hunt for four-leaves. Shall we?"

She was out of the saddle before the query had left his lips.

"I believe it would be a good idea to arm ourselves against bad luck,"
she replied, gently moving aside the clover heads with her crop.

"You believe in four-leaf clover, then?"

She nodded.

"I do. I also am very careful," he added, "to catch the money-patches
on my coffee."

She laughed. After all, there was something old-fashioned about this
man. "And I never think of plucking a five-leaf. That's bad luck."

"The worst kind of bad luck. I remember, when I was a kid, I never
played hooky without first hunting up my four-leaved amulet. If I got
a licking when I returned home, why, I consoled myself with the
thought, that it might have been ten times worse but for the

They moved about, looking here and there, while the horses buried
their noses in the wet grass and threatened never to return to the
road again. After a diligent search Patty found a beautiful four-leaf
clover. She exhibited it in triumph.

"You've better luck than I," said Warrington. "We shall have to go on
without my finding one."

"You may have this one," she replied; "and I hope it will bring you
all sorts of good luck."

He took out his card-case and made room for the little amulet.

"It is impossible not to be fortunate now," he said, with a gravity
that was not assumed.

She looked at him dubiously. No, there was no laughter in his eyes; he
was perfectly serious.

They walked the horses over a small hill, then mounted. It was a very
pleasant morning for Warrington. It had been years since he had talked
to a young woman who was witty and unworldly. He had to readjust
himself. He had written down that all witty women were worldly, but
that all worldly women were not witty. But to be witty and
unsophisticated was altogether out of his calculations.

At the Country Club they stabled the horses and wandered about the
golf links. Luncheon was served on the veranda; and presently
Warrington found himself confiding in this young girl as if he had
known her intimately all his life. The girl felt a thrill of
exultation. It flattered her young vanity to hear this celebrity
telling her about his ambitions.

"Everything becomes monotonous after a while," he said. "And I have
just begun to grow weary of living alone. Day after day, the same
faces, the same places, the same arguments, the same work. I've grown
tired. I want to live like other human beings. Monotony leads very
quickly into folly, and I confess to many acts of folly. And no folly
is absolutely harmless." He stirred his tea and stared into the cup.

"Why, I should think you ought to be the most contented of men," she
cried. "You are famous, wealthy, courted. And when you return to
Herculaneum, every girl in town will set her cap for you. I warn you
of this, because I've taken a friendly interest in you."

"It is very good of you. Come," he said, draining his cup; "surely you
tell fortunes in tea-cups; tell mine."

"Four-leaf clovers and tea-grounds," she mused. "You strike me as
being a very superstitious young man."

"I am."

She passed the cup back to him. "Pour a little fresh tea in, spill it
gently, turn the cup against the saucer and twirl it three times.
That's the incantation."

He followed the directions carefully, and she extended her hand for
the cup.

"There is always a woman in a man's tea-cup," she began. "There are
two in this one."

"Good gracious!"

"Yes. Do you see that?" pointing to a cluster of leaves.

"Looks like a camel. Am I going to be thirsty?"

"That always indicates scandal," she declared soberly.

"Scandal?" He smiled skeptically.

"Scandal and disappointment. But happily these do not appear as having

"Thanks," piously. "Disappointment? I can readily believe that.
Disappointment has always been my portion. But scandal has never
lifted her ugly head."

"We are all far-sighted when scandal is in our immediate vicinity.
This cup says scandal. There is plenty of money about you. See that?
That means an enemy, strong, implacable. Disappointment and scandal
are in his zone, which means he will probably be the cause of all your
trouble. Have you an enemy?"

"None that I know of, save myself. But don't you think something is
the matter with the tea? It seems impossible that those harmless
grounds ... Why, I shan't sleep o' nights after this."

"You are laughing. Yet, this man is there. And here is a lie, too.
It's a very bad cup, Mr. Warrington. I'm sorry."

"So am I," gaily. "By the way, when do you and your mother start for
New York?"

"We leave to-night."

"Good. Do you mind if I take the same train down?"

"Mother and I'll be glad to have you with us."

The servant cleared the table, and Warrington lighted a cigar. A
trolley-car rolled up in front of the club, and several golf
enthusiasts alighted. They knew Patty, and bowed; they weren't quite
certain who her escort was.

At two o'clock they began the journey home. There wasn't much
loitering by the way. Patty had a tea; she must have time to rest and
dress. All told, it was an enjoyable day for Warrington. More than
ever he set his face against the great city and looked with
satisfaction on the hills of his childhood. It would be a pleasant
pastime to sit on Patty's veranda and talk, become, and act like one
of the young people. He was growing old; his youth must be renewed
soon, or he would lose it utterly. This young man had been surfeited
with noise and light, with the sham and glitter of hotels, clubs and
restaurants. He was not to the manner born; thus he could easily see
how palpably false life is in a great city. To those who have lived in
the abnormal glamour of city life, absolute quiet is a kind of new

Warrington found that he was a bit stiff from the long ride.

Patty, however, rode nearly every day; so she was but slightly
fatigued. Nevertheless, she was conscious of not wanting to dress for
the tea. But there was a very good reason why she must attend the
function (as applied by the society reporter); they would naturally
discuss her brother's coming marriage, but if she was present, the
discussion would not rise above whispers. She wanted to meet the old
busybodies in the open; she wasn't afraid. As she dressed, she caught
herself doing aimless things, such as approaching the window and
watching the clouds, or thoughtfully studying her face in the mirror,
or patting the rug impatiently, or sighing. She shook herself
vehemently, and went resolutely about the intricate business known as

"I simply can't believe it. I know he isn't that kind of man. This
can't be such a wicked world. But if she dares to make John unhappy, I
shall hate her. Why must we hear these things that make us doubt and
ponder and hesitate?"

At the tea the ladies greeted her sympathetically. Sympathy!
Hypocrites! Heads came together; she could see them from the corner of
her eyes. She saw Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene, like a vast ship of the line,
manoeuvering toward her. There were several escapes, but Patty stood
her ground.

"You are looking charming, my dear," said Mrs. Haldene.

"Thank you."

"You go to the wedding, of course."

"Yes; mother and I leave to-night for New York. I am so excited over
it. To think of John's being married to a celebrity!"

Patty was excited, but this excitement did not find its origin in
anything exultant. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Mrs.
Franklyn-Haldene to mind her own business. There was something
primitive in Patty. Her second thoughts were due to cultivation, and
not from any inherent caution.

Mrs. Haldene smiled and went on. It was a wonderful smile; it never
changed; it served for all emotions, anger, hate, love, envy and
malice. Mrs. Haldene never flew into passions or ecstasies. She was
indeed preserved; and from the puckering taste she left in her wake,
it might be suspected that she was pickled.

Before Patty arrived, two things had been fully discussed: the
Bennington wedding and the report that Warrington was coming home to
live. Shrugs, knowing glances, hypocritical resignation. Too bad, too
bad! Warrington was coming home to live; young Mrs. Bennington would
live across the street. When two and two make four, what more need be

But Patty had her friends, and they stood by her loyally.

New York. Clamor, clamor; noise, noise; the calling of cabmen, the
clanging of street-cars, the rumbling of the elevated, the roaring of
the drays, the rattling of the carts; shouting, pushing, hurrying,
rushing, digging, streaming, pell-mell; the smell of coal-gas, of food
cooking, of good and bad tobacco, of wet pavements, of plaster; riches
and poverty jostling; romance and reality at war; monoliths of stone
and iron; shops, shops; signs, signs; hotels; the tower of Babel; all
the nations of the world shouldering one another; Jews and Gentiles,
Christians and Turks; jumble, jumble. This is New York. There is
nothing American about it; there is nothing English, French, German,
Latin or Oriental about it. It is cosmopolitan; that is to say, it
represents everything and nothing.

Warrington, Patty and her mother alighted from the train in the
gloomy, smoky cavern called the Grand Central Station and walked
toward the gates. There was sunshine outside, but it was scarcely
noticeable through the blackened canopy overhead.

"There's John!" cried Patty, seizing her mother's arm. "And Miss
Challoner, too!"

A moment later the son was holding his mother in a fond embrace. Mrs.
Bennington gave the actress her hand, who ignored it, put her arms
around the mother and kissed her. There was not the slightest
affectation in the act; it was done naturally and sweetly. Mrs.
Bennington was well pleased. But Patty, Miss Challoner hugged Patty
and whispered: "My sister!" If Patty had any doubts, they disappeared
like summer mists in sunshine.

"I'm a rank outsider," Warrington grumbled.

"Surely you did not expect to be kissed!" Patty retorted.

"A man never gives up hoping. Well, Benedick," to John, "I suppose
you've a nice breakfast waiting for us somewhere."

"That I have!" John thwacked Warrington on the shoulder. "It was good
of you to come down with the folks."

"No trouble at all."

They all followed John, who announced that he had a carriage waiting,
large enough to carry them all comfortably. As they crossed over to
the street exit Warrington covertly glanced at Miss Challoner. She was
radiant; there was color on her cheeks and lips; she was happy.
Heigh-ho! Warrington sighed. She was gone, as completely as though she
had died. He grew angry at the heaviness of his heart. Was he always
to love no one but Warrington? It is fine to be a bachelor when one is
young; but when the years multiply, when there are no new junkets and
old ones grow stale, when scenes change, when friends drop out one by
one, when a younger generation usurps the primrose path of dalliance,
ah! the world becomes a dreary place. The old bachelor is the
loneliest and most pathetic of men.

Once inside the carriage, the women began a light, friendly chatter;
smiles and laughter; little jests about Benedicks, about the servant
question, about coming home late o' nights; antenuptial persiflage.
There was little that was spontaneous; each jest was an effort; but it
sufficed to relieve what might have been awkward silence.

"It's up to you, now, Dick," said John. "Think of the good times we
four could have together!"

"And who'd marry an old man like me?" asked Warrington plaintively.

"Bosh!" said John.

"Nonsense!" said Patty.

"You are a young man," said the mother.

"There are plenty setting their caps for you, if you but knew it,"
said Miss Challoner.

"Aha! I smell a conspiracy!" laughed Warrington. "You are putting your
heads together to get me off your hands."

The breakfast awaited them at Bennington's hotel. This passed off
smoothly. Then Warrington excused himself. He had a business
engagement down town. It was arranged, however, that they were to be
his guests that evening at dinner and a box-party at the summer opera.
On Wednesday, at ten, they were to breakfast in his apartment. From
his rooms they would go straight to the parson's, the "Little Church
Around the Corner."

When Warrington had gone, John turned to his sister.

"Isn't he the finest chap?"

"He isn't to be compared with you," Patty answered.

"Nobody is," said Miss Challoner.

John colored with pleasure.

"Mr. Warrington is a thorough gentleman, and I like him very much,"
said Mrs. Bennington. "I have heard things about him; I can see that
there has been some exaggeration. I shall be very glad to have him for
a neighbor."

"A neighbor?" said Miss Challoner.

"Yes. He is coming back to Herculaneum to live."

"That is news to me." The actress stirred her coffee and smiled at
Patty. "I understand you've been riding together. He is really a
splendid horseman."

"He has the dearest old dog," replied Patty.

The day passed quickly for all concerned: the dinner and box-party
left nothing to be desired.

The wedding-breakfast would have provoked envy in the heart of
Lucullus; for Warrington was a man of the world, thoroughly polished;
there was nothing Stoic about him (though, in the early days he had
been a disciple of this cult perforce); he was a thoroughgoing epicure.

Patty was delighted. Warrington guided her about the rooms on a tour
of inspection. He pointed out all the curios and told the history of
each. But the desk was the article which interested her most.

"And this is where you write? Upon this desk plays have grown up?
Won't you give me a single sheet of manuscript to take home with me?"

"I certainly shall."

He pulled out a drawer and found some old manuscript. He selected a
sheet, signed it, and gave it to her.

"I am rich!" the girl exclaimed. "Signed manuscript from a real live
author! I suppose that you receive tons of letters, some praising,
some arguing, some from mere autograph fiends."

"It's a part of the day's work." His face brightened. He searched his
pockets. "Here is one out of the ordinary. It is unsigned, so I feel
no qualms of conscience in letting you read it."

Patty took the envelope with suppressed eagerness. She drew out the
letter and read it slowly.

"Do you receive many like that?" she asked, folding the letter and
returning it.

"Very few; that's why I treasure it. I should like to meet the writer;
but that's impossible. I have read and re-read it fifty times."

"Evidently it was written in good faith." Patty was not very

"There's not the least doubt of that. I am glad of one thing: I can't
disillusion her."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, this young woman thinks I must be a paragon of virtues. I'm not;
I'm a miserable impostor. She takes it for granted that I am good and
kind and wise."

"Aren't you?" asked Patty gravely.

"As men go. I always try to be kind; sometimes I am good, and
sometimes I am wise."

"I'm afraid you are one of those young men who try to be bad and
can't. They are hopeless."

Warrington laughed.

"But I am superstitious about that letter. I've carried it in my
pocket for weeks. It's a kind of mentor. Whenever some fool thing
comes into my head, I stop and think of the letter."

"That is good. The writer hasn't wasted her time."

"I love you!" whispered John.

Miss Challoner smiled into his eyes. The smile encouraged him, and he
raised her hand to his lips.

Ah, if it were not for those gloves! Why did he not say something? She
was positive that he had them. To smile and laugh and talk; to face
the altar, knowing that he possessed those hateful gloves! To pretend
to deceive when she knew that he was not deceived! It was maddening.
It was not possible that Warrington had the gloves; he would never
have kept them all this while. What meant this man at her side? What
was he going to do? She recollected a play in which there was a pair
of gloves. The man had thrown them at the woman's feet, and, at the
very altar, turned and left her. But she knew that men did not do such
things in life. She was innocent of any wrong; this knowledge
sustained her.

"A honeymoon in Switzerland: it has been the dream of my life." This
time he drew her arm through his and crossed the room to his mother's
side. "Mother mine, we shall be gone only three months; then we shall
come home to stay."

"I shall miss you so; you have been away so much that I am hardly
acquainted with you."

The woman who was to become her daughter suddenly dropped on her knees
beside the chair.

"Please love me, too. I have been so lonely all my life."

"My daughter!" Mrs. Bennington laid her hand on the splendid head.

"I shall never marry," said Patty decidedly.

"What? Young lady, don't let any one hear you make such a remark. One
of these fine days somebody will swoop you up and run off with you. I
don't know but that I could play the part fairly well." Warrington

"Indeed! You'd have a time of it."

"I dare say. But there's the breakfast waiting."

Toasts and good wishes, how easy they are to give!

At the church the women cried a little. Women cry when they are happy,
they cry when they are not; their tears keep a man guessing year in
and year out. But this is no place for a dissertation on tears.
There's time enough for that.

The bride and groom left immediately for Boston, from which city they
were to sail for Europe the following day. In the carriage John drew
his bride close to his heart.

"Mine!" he said, kissing her. "God grant that I may make you happy,

"John, you are the finest gentleman in the world!"

His hand stole into his coat pocket and gently dropped something into
her lap. She looked down and saw through her tears a crumpled pair of
white kid gloves. Then she knew what manner of man was this at her

"It was not because I doubted you," he said softly: "it was because
they were yours."

Chapter VII

Spring came round again in Herculaneum. People began to go to the
tailor and the dress-maker and the hatter. There were witty
editorials in the newspapers on house-cleaning and about the man who
had the courage to wear the first straw hat. The season (referring to
the winter festivities) had been unusually lively. There had been two
charity balls by rival hospital boards, receptions, amateur dramatics,
dinners and dances, not to omit the announcement of several

The new Bennington mansion had its house-warming in November. The
reception, followed by a dinner-dance in the evening, was, according
to the society columns, "one of the social events of the season. The
handsomest house in town was a bower of smilax and hothouse roses."
Everybody went to the reception, for everybody was more or less
curious to meet the former celebrated actress. The society reporters,
waiting for their cues, were rather non-committal in their description
of the mistress. There was reason. They did not care, at this early
stage of the game, to offend the leader by too much praise of a
newcomer who had yet to establish herself. Besides, they realized how
little their paragraphs would mean to a woman whose portrait had
appeared in nearly all the illustrated magazines in the world. Thus,
the half-heartedness of the newspapers was equally due to
self-consciousness. Society itself, however, was greatly pleased with
the beautiful Mrs. Bennington, for she entered with zest into all
society's plans. In fact, she threatened to become very popular. The
younger element began to call her Mrs. Jack.

Kate was in her element, for to live after this fashion was the one
ambition that had survived all seasons. She was like a child with some
wonderful new French doll. There was always a crowd of young married
people about her, which is a healthy sign. She and Patty became
inseparable comrades. They shopped together, went to the matinees, and
drove and rode together.

Everything went along smoothly, too smoothly. Fate never permits
anything like this to prosper long.

For the first time in her career Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene saw her
position menaced. The younger set no longer consulted her as formerly.
When, like Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene, a woman has nothing more serious to
live for than to organize social affairs, the slightest defection from
her ranks is viewed in the light of a catastrophe. She had called on
Mrs. Bennington the second, armed with all those subtle cruelties
which women of her caliber know so well how to handle. And behold! she
met a fencer who quietly buttoned the foils before the bout began. She
had finally departed with smiles on her lips and rage in her heart.
This actress, whom she had thought to awe with the majesty of her
position in Herculaneum, was not awed at all. It was disconcerting; it
was humiliating. She had condescended to tolerate and was tolerated in
turn. Katherine adored Patty, and Patty had told her that she hated
Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene. Naturally Katherine assumed the defensive
whenever she met the common enemy.

But Mrs. Haldene could wait. She had waited before this. She had made
certain prophecies, and it embittered her to learn that so far none of
these prophecies had come true. She could wait. Something was destined
to happen, sooner or later. She knew human nature too well not to be
expectant. To Mrs. Haldene the most gratifying phrase in the language
was: "I told you so!" Warrington had disappointed her, too. He behaved
himself. He did not run after young Mrs. Bennington; he never called
there alone; he was seen more frequently at the old Bennington place.
The truth is, Patty was busy reforming the wayward dramatist, and
Warrington was busy watching the result. There were those who nodded
and looked wise whenever they saw the two together.

Oh, Herculaneum was a city to be desired, socially. Everybody was on
his or her best behavior. It was only from among the poor that scandal
gleaned her items for the newspapers. The shooting of such a man by
such a woman's husband aroused only the mildest comment. But that
class of people, don't you know, is so primeval. To kill a man from
jealousy! It was ridiculous. Why did they not go to court, like
civilized human beings?

Of course there is always scandal in politics; everybody understands
that this is unavoidable. Another franchise had slipped out of the
Common Council into the transit company's pocket, and even the
partizan papers mildly belabored the aldermanic body. The Evening
Call, however slashed the ward representatives vigorously. It wound up
its editorial with the query: "How much longer will the public stand
this sort of thing?" The Call was the only independent sheet in town,
and did about as it pleased.

Warrington found himself taking more than normal interest in the
situation. Occasionally, on Monday nights, he wandered into the City
Hall and listened to the impassioned speeches of the aldermen. Many a
tempestuous scene passed under his notice. Ordinances were passed or
blocked, pavement deals were rushed through or sidetracked. And once,
when the gas company was menaced with dollar-gas, the city pay-roll
was held up for two months by the lighting company's cohorts. Only
Heaven knows how much longer it might have been held back, had not an
assemblyman come to the mayor's help by rushing up to the capital and
railroading through a law that required only a two-thirds vote.

The Democrats had remained in power for six years, and Herculaneum was
essentially a Republican city. On the Democratic side was McQuade, on
the Republican side was ex-Senator Henderson. These men were bosses of
no ordinary type. The first was from the mass, the second from the
class; and both were millionaires. The political arena was a pastime
for these two men; it was a huge complex game of chess in which
recently the senator had been worsted. The public paid, as it
invariably does, to watch this game on the checkerboard of wards. The
senator had been unfortunate in his candidates. He had tried young men
and old, lawyers and merchants; but he had failed to nominate a man
who was popular with class and mass.

The present mayor was a shrewd Democrat who understood the diplomacy
of petty politics. He shook the grimy hand of toil in preference to
the gloved hand of idleness. He was thoroughly a politician. He never
disregarded public opinion openly. He never sailed close to the wind,
but spent his time in safe tacks to whatever harbor he desired. He was
McQuade's man just so long as McQuade made the business worth while.
He had opened up many new streets, abolished needless nuisances, and
these concessions gave him a strong hold on the independent voter. He
was a king over frogs which had changed much since Aesop's time, for
now they let well enough alone.

Nevertheless, things were going from bad to worse. Three terms are
likely to cause a man to grow careless or indifferent, and Donnelly
was making frequent bad breaks. The senator, ever watchful, believed
he saw a chance to sweep McQuade off the board.

McQuade had an able lieutenant in Alderman Martin, whom the sporting
fraternity followed loyally. Martin owned and ran the most
disreputable hotel in the city. It occupied a position of unusual
prominence on one of the principal business streets. There was a
saloon and a cheap restaurant on the ground floor. On the second floor
were wine-rooms and a notorious gambling-den. Above this was the
hotel. The guests stole in at midnight and stole out at dawn.

This gambling-den was frequently the bone of contention between
energetic ministers of the gospel and the police department. Regularly
the police swore that gambling did not exist in town, and regularly
the ministers went on a still hunt for proofs. Singularly enough, they
never found any. A hint from headquarters, and the den would close up
till after the excitement was over. All the newspapers understood that
the police lied; but the editors were either afraid or indifferent;
and the farce was played over yearly for the benefit of the
ministerial association.

The place was run honestly enough. When the stakes are small, the
professional gambler does not have to be dishonest. All the same, this
kind of gambler is the most despicable of men. He lures the wage of
the poor; clerks, bookkeepers, traveling salesmen, laborers, college
boys, men who drink too much of a Saturday night, all these come to
the net. Nobody ever wins anything; and if perchance one does make a
small winning, it goes quickly over the bar. Women wait and wonder at
home; it is their common lot. The spirit of the gambler is in us all,
and we might as well confess it here and now. It is in the corpuscles:
something for nothing, something for nothing!

Martin was a power in the Common Council. He could block or put
through any measure. He always carried a roll of gold-bills in his
pockets--for what purpose no one had the temerity to inquire. His
following was large and turbulent; it came from the shops and the
factories and the streets. In his ward no candidate had ever defeated
him. "Nice people" had very little to do with Mr. Martin; the laborer
who was honest had little to do with him, either. He was a pariah, but
a very formidable one. Yet, no one, though many accused him, caught
him in a dishonest deal.

On the other hand, Senator Henderson's party had the cloak of
respectability on its shoulders. His lieutenants were prominent
business men who went into politics as a light diversion, young men of
aristocratic families who were ambitious to go to Albany or
Washington, and lawyers. The senator was a shrewd politician, with an
unreadable face, clean-shaven but for a stubby mustache, and keen blue
eyes that saw everything. He was loyal to his party and above

This was the political situation in Herculaneum.

One May evening the senator called up Warrington. He was told that Mr.
Warrington was at the club. The senator drove to the club forthwith.
He found the dramatist in the reading-room, and greeted him

"My boy, I want half an hour of your time."

"You are welcome to an hour of it, Senator," replied Warrington,
curious to know what the senator had to say to him.

"Come into a private dining-room, then." Once seated at the table, the
senator reached over and touched Warrington mysteriously on the arm.
"Young man, I heard you speak the other night at the Chamber of
Commerce banquet. You're a born orator, and what is better than that,
you've common sense and humor. How would you like to be mayor of
Herculaneum next fall?"

"Mayor?" gasped Warrington.


"I'd make a fine mayor," with forced laughter, but thinking rapidly.
"Aren't you jollying me, Senator?"

"I'm dead in earnest, Warrington. There is not another available man
in sight. By available I mean a man who can pull the party out of the
bog. There are a hundred I could nominate, but the nomination would be
as far as they could go. We want a man who is fresh and new to the
people, so far as politics goes; a man who can not be influenced by
money or political emoluments. There are thousands of voters who are
discontented, but they'd prefer to vote for Donnelly again rather than
to vote for some one they know would be no better. You are known the
world over. A good many people would never have known there was such a
place as Herculaneum but for you. It is the home of the distinguished

"But I know practically nothing about political machinery," Warrington

"You can leave the machinery to me," said the senator wisely. "I'll
set the wheels going. It will be as easy as sliding down hill. I'll
give you my word, if you land in the City Hall, to send you to
Washington with the next Congress. Will you accept the nomination, in
case I swing it around to you in September? It's a big thing. All you
literary boys are breaking into politics. This is your chance."

"I'll take the night to think it over," said Warrington. He was vastly
flattered, but he was none the less cautious and non-committal.

"Take a week, my boy; take a week. Another thing. You are intimate
with young Bennington. He's a hard-headed chap and doesn't countenance
politics in his shops. The two of you ought to bring the hands to
their senses. If we can line up the Bennington steel-mills, others
will fall in. Bennington owns the shops, but our friend McQuade owns
the men who work there. Take a week to think it over; I can rely on
your absolute secrecy."

"I shall be silent for half a dozen reasons," Warrington replied. "But
I shan't keep you waiting a week. Call me up by 'phone to-morrow at
any time between five and six. I shall say yes or no, direct."

"I like to hear a man talk like that."

"I can't get the idea into my head yet. I never expected to meddle
with politics in this town."

"We'll do the meddling for you. Even if you accept, we shall require
silence till the convention. It will be a bomb in the enemy's camp.
You'll come around to the idea. Between five and six, then?"

"I shall have your answer ready. Good night."

The senator took himself off, while Warrington ordered a bottle of
beer and drank it thoughtfully. Mayor! It would be a huge joke indeed
to come back to Herculaneum to rule it. He chuckled all the way home
that night; but when his head struck the pillow he saw the serious
side of the affair. He recalled the old days when they sneered at him
for selling vegetables; and here they were, coming to him with the
mayoralty. It was mighty gratifying. And there was the promise of
Washington. But he knew the world: political promises and pie-crusts.
What would the aunt say? What would Patty say? Somehow, he was always
thinking of Patty. He had not thought as yet to make any analysis of
his regard for Patty. He held her in the light of an agreeable
comrade, nothing more than that. Would she be pleased to see him mayor
of Herculaneum? Bah! He couldn't sleep. He got out of bed, found a
pipe and lighted it, and sat in the rocker by the window. Jove,
hearing him moving about the room, woke up and came trotting in to

"Ha, old boy, what do you think?"

Jove laid his head on his master's knees.

"They want to make a mayor out of me."

Jove signified his approval.

"They have forgiven us our daily vegetables. But shall I? Will it be
worth while? Well, we'll take a ride into the hills in the morning,
and we'll think it all out. Mayor of Herculaneum; sounds good, doesn't
it? Nothing like success, Jove."

Warrington smoked till the fire in his pipe died. He turned in, and
this time he won sleep.

Early the next morning he was off on his horse, and he did not return
till noon. But he had his answer.

At three that afternoon he had callers. Patty and Kate had just run
over to see how the new play was getting on. Warrington confessed that
he was doing only desultory work, but promised to read the scenario to
them when it was done.

"You are becoming lazy," said Kate rebukingly.

"No; only a country gentleman."

"Patty, did you hear that? He calls Herculaneum a country village."

"Nothing of the sort. One may live in a city and be a countryman

"Mr. Warrington probably misses New York," said Patty.

"Not the veriest particle," promptly. Certainly Patty was growing more
charming every day.

The Angora cat, with feline caution, peeped into the room. Patty, who
loved cats, made a dash for the fluffy animal, which turned tail and
bolted for the kitchen, Patty a close second.

For the first time since the marriage Kate and Warrington were alone
together. He gazed at her, mildly speculative.

"Well, what do you see?" she asked.

"You are certainly one of the most beautiful women in the world," he
declared, sighing.

"You say 'one of'?" frowning. "There was a time when it was not
general; you used the definite article."

"I know it."

"Then there must be somebody else," quickly.

"I'm not a marrying man," he said evasively.

"Is it Patty, Dick? Oh, if it were only Patty!"

"I'm not good enough for Patty, Kate. The Lord knows, though, that I
wish I were. She embarrasses me at times with her implicit faith in my

"Ah, Richard, what a terrible past yours was!" mockingly. "Nonsense!"
briskly. "You are guilty of nothing but innocuous villainies. If there
were fairies I should ask one to make you fall violently in love with

"No fairies need apply," ambiguously. "But you; you seem to be happy."

"There can not be a happier woman in the world. Let me confess. The
confession may hurt your vanity. I love my husband better than I
dreamed I could love. He is so just, so tender and strong. And isn't
he handsome? I am madly jealous of every woman that comes near him.
And once upon a time I believed that I was in love with Mr. Richard."
There was no coquetry in this frank statement.

"Any one can see that you are happy."

"I want every one to see it. I want to tell everybody, too. You have
no idea how strong he is, Dick. Yesterday I was in the shops with him.
A rail was in the way; the men about did not see it; or refused to see
it. John stooped, picked it up with his bare hands, and dropped it to
one side. There are but two men in the shops who can do that. But I
have a horror of those great bars of twisting white iron. They terrify
me. I do not understand, but the men are always sullen when I am
there. John says it's my imagination."

"It probably is. Perhaps the begrimed faces have something to do with

"I can read the human countenance too well," she said. "Is it because
I have been on the stage? Have these men a base opinion of me?"


"And they seem to dislike John, too."

"John can take care of himself. He'll wait a long while, but when he
moves forward nothing can stop him. Don't you ever miss the glare of
the lights?" he asked, his endeavor being to interest her in something
foreign to the shops.

"Dick, I have almost forgotten that I ever acted. You will remember
that I refused to assist in the amateur theatricals last winter. Act?
I hate the word. It suggests the puppet, the living in other people's
worlds, parrot-wise, in imitation."

"Come, come, Kate; it's the greatest gift of all and you know it.
Think! The power to make people laugh and cry, to make either
happiness or misery perfectly real!"

"Oh, there was pleasure in it at times," she admitted reluctantly. "Do
you remember my gloves, Dick? John had them."

"He knew you were in my rooms that night?"

"Yes. I told him the simple truth, and he believed me. How could I
help loving a man as loyal as that?"

"It is fine. But Jack was always a thorough man. I don't blame you for
loving him. I call him all sorts of names to Patty, and it is fun to
watch her eyes flash."

Kate gave him a curious smile.

"What's the matter?"


"You smiled."

"I had a happy thought."

"Probably about that house-broken John of yours."

"Who's calling John house-broken?" Patty stood in the doorway, the
Angora struggling under her arm.

"Well, isn't he house-broken?" asked Warrington with gentle malice.
"Gentle and warranted to stand?"

Patty, for reasons of her own, permitted him to believe that he
succeeded in teasing her.

"Kate, let us be going. I can not listen to Mr. Warrington's remarks
regarding my brother. He treats John as if he were a horse."

"Just as you say, dear. We shall punish Mr. Warrington by not making
informal calls in the future."

"Wait till I get my hat," cried Warrington, "and I'll walk over to the
house with you."

"If you do that," said Patty, "we shall be compelled to ask you to
remain to dinner."

"Oh, I should refuse. I've a telephone engagement between five and

"But we never serve dinner till seven," replied Patty, buttoning her
coat austerely.

Kate laughed merrily.

"If you will ask me over to dinner," said Warrington, "I'll tell you a
secret, a real dark political secret, one that I've promised not to
tell to a soul."

The two women stopped abruptly. The cast was irresistible, and they
had to rise to it.

Yet Patty murmured: "How like a woman he is!"

"It simply shows what high regard I have for your discretion. It is a
secret some men would pay a comfortable fortune to learn."

"Will you please come and dine with us this evening?" asked Patty.

"I shall be very happy."

"And now, the secret," said Mrs. Jack.

"Between five and six I expect a call on the phone from Senator

"Senator Henderson!" exclaimed the women in unison.

"I shall say but a single word. It will be yes."

"But the secret! Mercy alive, you are keeping us waiting!"

Warrington glanced around with mock caution. He went mysteriously to
the portieres and peered into the hall; he repeated this performance
at the dining-room door, then turned, a finger upon his lips.

"Senator Henderson is looking for a candidate for mayor this fall.
Mind, not a word to a soul, not even to John," this warning addressed
principally to Mrs. Jack.

"The Honorable Richard Warrington," said Patty, musing. She rolled the
words on her tongue as if testing the sound of them.

"That's it," laughed Warrington. "The Honorable Richard
Warrington!--sounds like Lord Mayor of London!"

Every Eden has its serpent, sooner or later. Thus, having futilely
tried the usual gates by which he enters Eden to destroy it, this
particular serpent found a breach in the gate of politics.

Chapter VIII

McQuade and Martin entered a cafe popular for its noon lunches. It was
hot weather in July, and both were mopping their bald foreheads, their
faces and necks. The white bulldog trotted along behind, his tongue
lolling out of his mouth and his eyes heavy. The two men sat down in a
corner under an electric fan; the dog crawled under the table,
grateful for the cold stone tiling.

"What do you know about this fellow Warrington?" asked McQuade,
tossing his hat on one of the unoccupied chairs.

"The fellow who writes plays?"

"Yes. What do you know about him?"

"Why, he used to peddle vegetables and now he owns a swell place on
Williams Street."


"Not that I know of. I never go into Pete's myself. It wouldn't be
good business. But they tell me Warrington used to drop in once in a
while, when he was a reporter, and choke his salary to death over the
roulette table."

"Doesn't gamble now?"

"Not in any of the joints around town."


"Oh, I guess he boozes a little; but he's hard-headed and knows how
to handle the stuff."

"Women?--Roast beef, boiled potatoes and musty ale for two."

"Actresses.--Say, make mine a beer.--A gay buck in New York, I
understand. Used to chase around after the Challoner woman who married

"Nothing here in town?"

"Haven't paid any attention to him. I guess he's straight enough these

"Tip Pete off to-day. The police will make a raid Saturday night. The
ministers have been shouting again, and two or three losers have

"All right. But what's all this about Warrington?" asked Martin, whose
curiosity was aroused.

"I'll tell you later." The waiter returned with the platters of food,
and McQuade ate without further comment or question.

Martin ate his meat in silence also, but he was busy wondering.
Warrington? What had interested the boss in that swell? Humph!

These men ate quickly and digested slowly. McQuade took out two fat
black cigars and passed one to Martin, who tore off the end with his

"I want to find out all there is to know about Warrington. I can't
explain why just now; too many around."

"Set Bolles after him. Bolles used to be with a private detective
bureau. If there's anything to learn, he'll learn it. There he is now.
Hey, waiter, ask that gentleman looking for a vacant table to come
over. Hello, Bolles!"

Book of the day: