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

In The Bishop's Carriage by Miriam Michelson

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 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.

The woman looked at me. She was a bit hard-mouthed, with
iron-gray hair, but her eyes looked as though they'd seen a lot
and learned not to flinch, though they still felt like it. I knew
that kind of look--I'd seen it at the Cruelty.

"What an unpleasant job this of yours is," I said to her,
smiling up at her for all the world as that tike of a baby had
smiled at me, and watching her melt just as I had. "I'll not
make it a bit harder. This thing's all a mistake. Which way? . .
. I'll come back, Mr. Tausig, to receive your apology, but you
can hardly expect me to go to lunch after this."

He growled a wrathful, resenting mouthful. But he looked a bit
puzzled just the same.

He looked more puzzled yet, even bewildered, when we came back
into the main office a quarter of an hour later, the woman and I,
and she reported that no paper of any kind had she found.

Me? Oh, I was sweet amiability personified with the woman and
with the Sergeant, who began to back-water furiously. But with

What? You don't mean to say you're not on, Mag? Oh, dear, dear,
it's well you had that beautiful wig of red hair that puts even
Carter's in the shade; for you'd never have been a success in--in
other businesses I might name.

Bamboozled the woman? Not a bit of it; you can't deceive women
with mouths and eyes like that. It was just that I'd had a flash
of genius in the minute I heard Tausig's voice, and in spite of
my being so sure he wouldn't have me arrested I'd-- Guess, Mag,
guess! There was only one way.

The baby, of course! In the moment I had--it wasn't long--I'd
stooped down, pretending to kiss that cherub good-by, and in a
jiffy I'd pinned that precious paper with a safety-pin to the
baby's under-petticoat, preferring that risk to--

Risk! I should say it was. And now it was up to Nance to make

While Tausig insisted and explained and expostulated and at last
walked out with the Sergeant--giving me a queer last look that
was half-cursing, half-placating--I stood chatting sweetly with
the woman who had searched me.

I didn't know just how far I might go with her. She knew the
paper wasn't on me, and I could see she was disposed to believe I
was as nice as she'd have liked me to be. But she'd had a lot of
experience and she knew, as most women do even without
experience, that if there's not always fire where there is smoke,
it's because somebody's been clever enough and quick enough to
cover the blaze.

"Well, good-by," I said, putting out my hand. "It's been
disagreeable but I'm obliged to you for--why, where's my purse!
We must have left it--" And I turned to go back into the room
where I'd undressed.

"You didn't have any."

The words came clear and cold and positive. Her tone was like an
icicle down my back.

"I didn't have any!" I exclaimed. "Why, I certainly--"

"You certainly had no purse, for I should have seen it and
searched it if you had."

Now, what do you think of a woman like that?

"Nancy Olden," I said to myself, more in sorrow than in anger,
"you've met your match right here. When a woman knows a fact and
states it with such quiet conviction, without the least
unnecessary emphasis and not a superfluous word, 'ware that
woman. There's only one game to play to let you hang round here a
bit longer and find out what's become of the baby. Play it!"

I looked at her with respect; it was both real and feigned.

"Of course, you must be right," I said humbly. "I know you
wouldn't be likely to make a mistake, but, just to convince me,
do you mind letting me go back to look?"

"Not at all," she said placidly. "If I go with you there's no
reason why you should not look."

Oh, Mag, it was hard lines looking. Why?--Why, because the place
was so bare and so small. There were so few things to move and it
took such a short time, in spite of all I could do and pretend to
do, that I was in despair.

"You must be right," I said at length, looking woefully up at

"Yes; I knew I was," she said steadily.

"I must have lost it."


There was no hope there. I turned to go.

"I'll lend you a nickel to get home, if you'll leave me your
address," she said after a moment.

Oh, that admirable woman! She ought to be ruling empires instead
of searching thieves. Look at the balance of her, Mag. My best
acting hadn't shaken her. She hadn't that fatal curiosity to
understand motives that wrecks so many who deal with--we'll call
them the temporarily un-straight. She was satisfied just not to
let me get ahead of her in the least particular. But she wasn't
mean, and she would lend me a nickel--not an emotionally
extravagant ten-cent piece, but just a nickel--on the chance that
I was what I seemed to be.

Oh, I did admire her; but I'd have been more enthusiastic about
it if I could have seen my way clear to the baby and the paper.

I took the nickel and thanked her, but effusiveness left her
unmoved. A wholesome, blue-gowned rock with a neat, full-bibbed
white apron; that's what she was!

And still I lingered. Fancy Nance Olden just heartbroken at being
compelled to leave a police station!

But there was nothing for it. Go, I had to. My head was a-whirl
with schemes coming forward with suggestions and being dismissed
as unsuitable; my thoughts were flying about at such a dizzy rate
while I stood there in the doorway, the woman's patient hand on
the knob and her watchful eyes on me, that I actually--

Mag, I actually didn't hear the matron's voice the first time she

The second time, though, I turned--so happy I could not keep the
tremor out of my voice.

"I thought you had gone long ago," she said.

Oh, we were friends, we two! We'd chummed over a baby, which for
women is like what taking a drink together is for men. The
admirable dragon in the blue dress didn't waver a bit because her
superior spoke pleasantly to me. She only watched and listened.

Which puts you in a difficult position when your name's Nance
Olden--you have to tell the truth.

"I've been detained," I said with dignity, "against my wish.
But that's all over. I'm going now. Good-by." I nodded and
caught up my skirt. "Oh!" I paused just as the admirable dragon
was closing the door on me. "Is the baby asleep? I wonder if I
might see her once more."

My heart was beating like an engine gone mad, in spite of my
careless tone, and there was a buzzing in my ears that deafened
me. But I managed to stand still and listen, and then to walk
off, as though it didn't matter in the least to me, while her
words came smashing the hope out of me.

"We've sent her with an officer back to the neighborhood where
you found her. He'll find out where she belongs, no doubt. Good


Ah me, Maggie, the miserable Nance that went away from that
station! To have had your future in your grasp, like that one of
the Fates with the string, and then to have it snatched from you
by an impish breeze and blown away, goodness knows where!

I don't know just which way I turned after I left that station.
I didn't care where I went. Nothing I could think of gave me any
comfort. I tried to fancy myself coming home to you. I tried to
see myself going down to tell the whole thing to Obermuller. But
I couldn't do that. There was only one thing I wanted to say to
Fred Obermuller, and that thing I couldn't say now.

But Nance Olden's not the girl to go round long like a molting
hen. There was only one chance in a hundred, and that was the one
I took, of course.

"Back to the Square where you found the baby, Nance!" I cried
to myself. "There's the chance that that admirable dragon has
had her suspicions aroused by your connection with the baby,
which she hadn't known before, and has already dutifully notified
the Sergeant. There's the chance that the baby is home by now,
and the paper found by her mother will be turned over to her
papa; and then it's good-by to your scheme. There's the chance

But in the heart of me I didn't believe in any chance but
one--the chance that I'd find that blessed baby and get my
fingers just once more on that precious paper.

I blew in the A.D's nickel on a cross-town car and got back to
the little Square. There was another organ-grinder there grinding
out coon-songs, to which other piccaninnies danced. But nary a
little white bundle of fluff caught hold of my hand. I walked
that Square till my feet were sore. It was hot. My throat was
parched. I was hungry. My head ached. I was hopeless. And yet I
just couldn't give it up. I had asked so many children and
nurse-maids whether they'd heard of the baby lost that morning
and brought back by an officer, that they began to look at me as
though I was not quite right in my mind. The maids grabbed the
children if they started to come near me, and the children stared
at me with big round eyes, as though they'd been told I was an
ogre who might eat them.

I was hungry enough to. The little fruit-stand at the entrance
had a fascination for me. I found myself there time and again,
till I got afraid I might actually try to get of with a peach or
a bunch of grapes. That thought haunted me. Fancy Nance Olden
starved and blundering into the cheapest and most easily detected
species of thieving!

I suppose great generals in their hour of defeat imagine
themselves doing the feeblest, foolishest things. As I sat there
on the bench, gazing before me, I saw the whole thing--Nancy
Olden, after all her bragging, her skirmishing, her hairbreadth
scapes and successes, arrested in broad daylight and before
witnesses for having stolen a cool, wet bunch of grapes, worth a
nickel, for her hot, dry, hungering throat! I saw the policeman
that'd do it; he looked like that Sergeant Mulhill I met 'way,
'way back in Latimer's garden. I saw the officer that'd receive
me; he had blue eyes like the detective that came for me to the
Manhattan. I saw the woman jailer--oh, she was the A.D, all
right, who'd receive me without the slightest emotion, show me to
a cell and lock the door, as calm, as little triumphant or
affected, as though I hadn't once outwitted that cleverest of
creatures--and outwitted myself in forestalling her. I saw--

Mag, guess what I saw! No, truly; what I really saw? It made me
jump to my feet and grab it with a squeal.

I saw my own purse lying on the gravel almost at my feet, near
the little fruit-stand that had tempted me.

Blank empty it was, stripped clean, not a penny left in it, not a
paper, not a stamp, not even my key. Just the same I was glad to
have it. It linked me in a way to the place. The clever little
girl that had stolen it had been here in this park, on this very
spot. The thought of that cute young Nance Olden distracted my
mind a minute from my worry--and, oh, Maggie darlin', I was
worrying so!

I walked up to the fruit-stand with the purse in my hand. The old
fellow who kept it looked up with an inviting smile. Lord knows,
he needn't have encouraged me to buy if I'd had a penny.

"I want to ask you," I said, "if you remember selling a lot of
good things to a little girl who had a purse this--this

I showed it to him, and he turned it over in his crippled old

"It was full then--or fuller, anyway," I suggested.

"You wouldn't want to get her into trouble--that little girl?"
he asked cautiously.

I laughed. "Not I. I--myself--"

I was going to say--well, you can imagine what I was going to
say, and that I didn't say it or anything like it.

"Well--there she is, Kitty Wilson, over yonder," he said.

I gasped, it was so unexpected. And I turned to look. There on
one of the benches sat Kitty Wilson. If I hadn't been blind as a
bat and full of trouble--oh, it thickens your wits, does trouble,
and blinds your eyes and muffles your ears!--I'd have suspected
something at the mere sight of her. For there sat Kitty Wilson
enthroned, a hatless, lank little creature about twelve, and near
her, clustered thick as ants around a lump of sugar, was a crowd
of children, black and white, boys and girls. For Kitty--that
deplorable Kitty--had money to burn; or what was even more
effective at her age, she had goodies to give away. Her lap was
full of spoils. She had a sample of every good thing the
fruit-stand offered. Her cheeks and lips were smeary with candy.
Her dress was stained with fruit. The crumbs of cake lingered
still on her chin and apron. And Kitty--I love a generous
thief--was treating the gang.

It helped itself from her abundant lap; it munched and gobbled
and asked for more. It was a riot of a high old time. Even the
birds were hopping about as near as they dared, picking up the
crumbs, and the squirrels had peanuts to throw to the birds.

And all on Nancy Olden's money!

I laughed till I shook. It was good to laugh. Nancy Olden isn't
accustomed to a long dose of the doleful, and it doesn't agree
with her. I strolled over to where my guests were banqueting.

You see, Mag, that's where I shouldn't rank with the A.D. I'm
too inquisitive. I want to know how the other fellow in the case
feels and thinks. It isn't enough for me to see him act.

"Kitty," I said--somehow a twelve-year-old makes you feel more
of a grown-up than a twelve-months-old does--"I hope you're
having a good--time, Kitty Wilson, but--haven't you lost

She was chewing at the end of a long string of black
candy-shoe-strings, all right, the stuff looks like--and she was
eating just because she didn't want to stop. Goodness knows, she
was full enough. Her jaws stopped, though, suddenly, as she
looked from the empty purse in my outstretched hand to me, and
took me in.

Oh, I know that pause intimately. It says: "Wait a minute, till
I get my breath, and I'll know how much you know and just what
lie to tell you."

But she changed her mind when she saw my face. You know, Mag, if
there's a thing that's fixed in your memory it's the face of the
body you've done up. The respectables have their rogues' gallery,
but we, that is, the light-fingered brigade, have got a fools'
gallery to correspond to it.

In which of 'em is my picture? Now, Margaret, that's mean. You
know my portrait hangs in both.

I looked down on the little beggar that had painted me for the
second salon, and lo, in a flash she was on her feet, the lapful
of good things tumbled to the ground, and Kitty was off.

I was bitterly disappointed in that girl, Mag! I was altogether
mistaken in my diagnosis of her. Hers is only a physical
cleverness, a talented dexterity. She had no resource in time of
danger but her legs. And legs will not carry a grafter half so
far as a good, quick tongue and a steady head.

She halted at a safe distance and glared back at me. Her
hostility excited the crowd of children--her push--against me,
and the braver ones jeered the things Kitty only looked, while
the thrifty ones stooped and gathered up the spoil.

"Tell her I wouldn't harm her," I said to one of her

"She says she won't hurt ye, Kit," the child screamed.

"She dassent," yelled back Kitty, the valiant. "She knows I'd
peach on her about the kid."

"Kid! What kid?" I cried, all a-fire.

"The kid ye swiped this mornin'. Yah! I told the cop what
brought her back how ye took her jest as I--"

"Kitty!" I cried. "You treasure!" And with all my might I ran
after her.

Silly? Of course it was. I might have known what the short skirts
above those thin legs meant. I couldn't come within fifty feet of
her. I halted, panting, and she paused, too, dancing
tantalizingly half a block away.

What to do? I wished I had another purse to bestow on that sad
Kitty, but I had nothing, absolutely nothing, except--all at once
I remembered it--that little pin you gave me for Christmas, Mag.
I took it off and turned to appeal to the nearest one of the
flying body-guard that had accompanied us.

"You run on to her and tell her that if she'll show me the house
where that baby lives I'll give her this pin."

He sped on ahead and parleyed with Kit; and while they talked I
held aloft the little pin so that Kit might see the price.

She hesitated so long that I feared she'd slip through my hands,
but a sudden rival voice piping out, "I'll show ye the house,
Missus," was too much for her.

So, with Kit at a safe distance in advance to guard against
treachery, and a large and enthusiastic following, I crossed the
street, turned a corner, walked down one block and half up
another, and halted before a three-story brownstone.

I flew up the stairs, leaving my escort behind, and rang the
bell. It wasn't so terribly swagger a place, which relieved me

"I want to see the lady whose baby was lost this morning," I
said to the maid that opened the door.

"Yes'm. Who'll I tell her?"

Who? That stumped me. Not Nance Olden, late of the Vaudeville,
later of the Van Twiller, and latest of the police station.
No--not Nance Olden . . . not . . .

"Tell her, please," I said firmly, "that I'm Miss Murieson, of
the X-Ray, and that the city editor has sent me here to see

That did it. Hooray for the power of the press! She showed me
into a long parlor, and I sat down and waited.

It was cool and quiet and softly pretty in that long parlor. The
shades were down, the piano was open, the chairs were low and
softly cushioned. I leaned back and closed my eyes, exhausted.

And suddenly--Mag!--I felt something that was a cross between a
rose-leaf and a snowflake touch my hand.

If it wasn't that delectable baby!

I caught her and lifted her to my lap and hugged the chuckling
thing as though that was what I came for. Then, in a moment, I
remembered the paper and lifted her little white slip.

It was gone, Mag. The under-petticoat hadn't a sign of the paper
I'd pinned to it.

My head whirled in that minute. I suppose I was faint with the
heat, with hunger and fatigue and worry, but I felt myself
slipping out of things when I heard the rustling of skirts, and
there before me stood the mother of my baby.

The little wretch! She deserted me and flew to that pretty mother
of hers in her long, cool white trailing things, and sat in her
arms and mocked at me.

It was easy enough to begin talking. I told her a tale about
being a newspaper woman out on a story; how I'd run across the
baby and all the rest of it.

"I must ask your pardon," I finished up, "for disturbing you,
but two things sent me here--one to know if the baby got home
safe, and the other," I gulped, "to ask about a paper with some
notes that I'd pinned to her skirt."

She shook her head.

It was in that very minute that I noticed the baby's ribbons were
pink; they had been blue in the morning.

"Of course," I suggested, "you've had her clothes changed

"Why, yes, of course," said baby's mother. "The first thing I
did when I got hold of her was to strip her and put her in a tub;
the second, was to discharge that gossiping nurse for letting her
out of her sight."

"And the soiled things she had on--the dress with the blue

"I'll find out," she said.

She rang for the maid and gave her an order.

"Was it a valuable paper?" she asked.

"Not--very," I stammered. My tongue was thick with hope and
dread. "Just--my notes, you know, but I do need them. I couldn't
carry the baby easily, so I pinned them on her skirt,

The maid came in and dumped a little heap of white before me.
I fell on my knees.

Oh, yes, I prayed all right, but I searched, too. And there it

What I said to that woman I don't know even now. I flew out
through the hall and down the steps and--

And there Kitty Wilson corralled me.

"Say, where's that stick-pin?" she cried.

"Here!--here, you darling!" I said, pressing it into her hand.
"And, Kitty, whenever you feel like swiping another purse--just
don't do it. It doesn't pay. Just you come down to the Vaudeville
and ask for Nance Olden some day, and I'll tell you why."

"Gee!" said Kitty, impressed. "Shall--shall I call ye a
hansom, lady?"

Should she! The blessed inspiration of her!

I got into the wagon and we drove down street--to the Vaudeville.

I burst in past the stage doorkeeper, amazed to see me, and
rushed into Fred Obermuller's office.

"There!" I cried, throwing that awful paper on the desk before
him. "Now cinch 'em, Fred Obermuller, as they cinched you.
It'll be the holiest blackmail that ever--oh, and will you pay
for the hansom?"


I don't remember much about the first part of the lunch. I was so
hungry I wanted to eat everything in sight, and so happy that I
couldn't eat a thing.

But Mr. O. kept piling the things on my plate, and each time I
began to talk he'd say: "Not now--wait till you're rested, and
not quite so famished."

I laughed.

"Do I eat as though I was starved?"

"You--you look tired, Nance."

"Well," I said slowly, "it's been a hard week."

"It's been hard for me, too; harder, I think, than for you. It
wasn't fair to me to let me--think what I did and say what I did.
I'm so sorry, Nance,--and ashamed. So ashamed! You might have
told me."

"And have you put your foot down on the whole thing; not much!"

He laughed. He's got such a boyish laugh in spite of his chin and
his eye-glasses and the bigness of him. He filled my glass for me
and helped me again to the salad.

Oh, Mag, it's such fun to be a woman and have a man wait on you
like that! It's such fun to be hungry and to sit down to a jolly
little table just big enough for two, with carnations nodding in
the tall slim vase, with a fat, soft-footed, quick-handed waiter
dancing behind you, and something tempting in every dish your eye
falls on.

It's a gay, happy, easy world, Maggie darlin'. I vow I can't find
a dark corner in it--not to-day.

None but the swellest place in town was good enough, Obermuller
had said, for us to celebrate in. The waiters looked queerly at
us when we came in--me in my dusty shoes and mussed hair and old
rig, and Mr. O. in his working togs. But do you suppose we cared?

He was smoking and I was pretending to eat fruit when at last I
got fairly launched on my story.

He listened to it all with never a word of interruption.
Sometimes I thought he was so interested that he couldn't bear to
miss a word I said. And then again I fancied he wasn't listening
at all to me; only watching me and listening to something inside
of himself.

Can you see him, Mag, sitting opposite me there at the pretty
little table, off in a private room by ourselves? He looked so
big and strong and masterful, with his eyes half closed, watching
me, that I hugged myself with delight to think that I--I, Nancy
Olden, had done something for him he couldn't do for himself.

It made me so proud, so tipsily vain, that as I leaned forward
eagerly talking, I felt that same intoxicating happiness I get on
the stage when the audience is all with me, and the two of
us--myself and the many-handed, good-natured other fellow over on
the other side of the footlights--go careering off on a jaunt of
fun and fancy, like two good playmates.

He was silent a minute when I got through. Then he laid his cigar
aside and stretched out his hand to me.

"And the reason, Nance--the reason for it all?"

I looked up at him. I'd never heard him speak like that.

"The reason?" I repeated.

"Yes, the reason." He had caught my hand.

"Why--to down that tiger Trust--and beat Tausig."

He laughed.

"And that was all? Nonsense, Nance Olden, there was another
reason. There are other tiger trusts. Are you going to set up as
a lady-errant and right all syndicate wrongs? No, there was
another, a bigger reason, Nance. I'm going to tell it to

I pulled my hand from his; but not before that fat waiter who'd
come in without our noticing had got something to grin about.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said. "This message must be for you,
sir. It's marked immediate, and no one else--"

Obermuller took it and tore it open. He smiled the oddest smile
as he read it, and he threw back his head and laughed a full,
hearty bellow when he got to the end.

"Read it, Nance," he said, passing it over to me. "They sent
it on from the office."

I read it. "Mr. Fred W. Obermuller, Manager
Vaudeville Theater, New York City, N.Y.:

Dear Obermuller:--I have just learned from your little protegee,
Nance Olden, of a comedy you've written. From what Miss Olden
tells me of the plot and situations of And the Greatest of
These--your title's great--I judge the thing to be something
altogether out of the common; and my secretary and reader, Mr.
Mason, agrees with me that properly interpreted and perhaps
touched up here and there, the comedy ought to make a hit.

Would Miss Olden take the leading role, I wonder?

Can't you drop in this evening and talk the matter over? There's
an opening for a fellow like you with us that's just developed
within the past few days, and--this is strictly confidential--I
have succeeded in convincing Braun and Lowenthal that their
enmity is a foolish personal matter which business men shouldn't
let stand in the way of business. After all, just what is there
between you and them? A mere trifle; a misunderstanding that half
an hour's talk over a bottle of wine with a good cigar would
drive away.

If you're the man I take you for you'll drop in this evening at
the Van Twiller and bury the hatchet. They're good fellows, those
two, and smart men, even if they are stubborn as sin.

Counting on seeing you to-night, my dear fellow,
I am most cordially,

I dropped the letter and looked over at Obermuller.

"Miss Olden," he said severely, coming over to my side of the
table, "have you the heart to harm a generous soul like that?"

"He--he's very prompt, isn't he, and most--"

And then we laughed together.

"You notice the letter was marked personal?" Obermuller said.
He was still standing beside me.

"No--was it?" I got up, too, and began to pull on my gloves;
but my fingers shook so I couldn't do a thing with them.

"Oh, yes, it was. That's why I showed it to you. Nance--Nance,
don't you see that there's only one way out of this? There's only
one woman in the world that would do this for me and that I could
take it from."

I clasped my hands helplessly. Oh, what could I do, Maggie, with
him there and his arms ready for me!

"I--I should think you'd be afraid," I whispered. I didn't dare
look at him.

He caught me to him then.

"Afraid you wouldn't care for an old fellow like me?" he
laughed. "Yes, that's the only fear I had. But I lost it, Nancy,
Nancy Obermuller, when you flung that paper down before me.
That's quite two hours ago--haven't I waited long enough?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Oh, Mag--Mag, how can I tell him? Do you think he knows that I am
going to be good--good! that I can be as good for a good man who
loves me, as I was bad for a bad man I loved!


Maggie, dear:

I'm writing to you just before dinner while I wait for Fred. He's
down at the box-office looking up advance sales. I tell you,
Maggie Monahan, we're strictly in it--we Obermullers. That
Broadway hit of mine has preceded me here, and we've got the
town, I suspect, in advance.

But I'm not writing to tell you this. I've got something more
interesting to tell you, my dear old Cruelty chum.

I want you to pretend to yourself that you see me, Mag, as I came
out of the big Chestnut Street store this afternoon, my arms full
of bundles. I must have on that long coat to my heels, of dark,
warm red, silk-lined, with the long, incurving back sweep and
high chinchilla collar, that Fred ordered made for me the very
day we were married. I must be wearing that jolly little,
red-cloth toque caught up on the side with some of the fur.

Oh, yes, I knew I was more than a year behind the times when I
got them, but a successful actress wears what she pleases, and
the rest of the world wears what pleases her, too. Besides,
fashions don't mean so much to you when your husband tells you
how becoming--but this has nothing to do with the Bishop.

Yes, the Bishop, Mag!

I had just said, "Nance Olden--" To myself I still speak to me
as Nancy Olden; it's good for me, Mag; keeps me humble and for
ever grateful that I'm so happy. "Nance, you'll never be able to
carry all these things and lift your buful train, too. And
there's never a hansom round when it's snowing and--"

And then I caught sight of the carriage. Yes, Maggie, the same
fat, low, comfortable, elegant, sober carriage, wide and
well-kept, with rubber-tired wheels. And the two heavy horses,
fat and elegant and sober, too, and wide and well-kept. I knew
whose it was the minute my eyes lighted on it, and I couldn't--I
just couldn't resist it.

The man on the box-still wide and well-kept--was wide-awake this
time. I nodded to him as I slipped in and closed the door after

"I'll wait for the Bishop," I said, with a red-coated assurance
that left him no alternative but to accept the situation

Oh, dear, dear! It was soft and warm inside as it had been that
long, long-ago day. The seat was wide and roomy. The cushions had
been done over--I resented that--but though a different material,
they were a still darker plum. And instead of Quo Vadis, the
Bishop had been reading Resurrection.

I took it up and glanced over it as I sat there; but, you know,
Mag, the heavy-weight plays never appealed to me. I don't go in
for the tragic--perhaps I saw too much of the real thing when I
was little.

At any rate, it seemed dull to me, and I put it aside and sat
there absent-mindedly dreaming of a little girl-thief that I knew
once when--when the handle of the door turned and the Bishop got
in, and we were off.

Oh, the little Bishop--the contrast between him and the fat,
pompous rig caught me! He seemed littler and leaner than ever,
his little white beard scantier, his soft eye kindlier and his
soft heart {?}

"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed, jumping almost out of his
neat little boots, while he looked sharply over his spectacles.

What did he see? Just a red-coated ghost dreaming in the corner
of his carriage. It made him doubt his eyes--his sanity. I don't
know what he'd have done if that warm red ghost hadn't got tired
of dreaming and laughed outright.

"Daddy," I murmured sleepily.

Oh, that little ramrod of a bishop! The blood rushed up under his
clear, thin, baby-like skin and he sat up straight and solemn and
awful--awful as such a tiny bishop could be.

"I fear, Miss, you have made a mistake," he said primly.

I looked at him steadily.

"You know I haven't," I said gently.

That took some of the starch out of him, but he eyed me

"Why don't you ask me where I got the coat, Bishop Van
Wagenen?" I said, leaning over to him.

He started. I suppose he'd just that moment remembered my leaving
it behind that day at Mrs. Ramsay's.

"Lord bless me!" he cried anxiously. "You haven't--you haven't

"No, I haven't." Ah, Maggie, dear, it was worth a lot to me to
be able to say that "no" to him. "It was given to me. Guess
who gave it to me."

He shook his head.

"My husband!"

Maggie Monahan, he didn't even blink. Perhaps in the Bishop's set
husbands are not uncommon, or very likely they don't know what a
husband like Fred Obermuller means.

"I congratulate you, my child, or--or did it--were you--"

"Why, I'd never seen Fred Obermuller then," I cried. "Can't
you tell a difference, Bishop?" I pleaded. "Don't I look like
a--an imposing married woman now? Don't I seem a bit--oh, just a
bit nicer?"

His eyes twinkled as he bent to look more closely at me.

"You look--you look, my little girl, exactly like the pretty,
big-eyed, wheedling-voiced child I wished to have for my own

I caught his hand in both of mine.

"Now, that's like my own, own Bishop!" I cried. Mag--Mag, he
was blushing like a boy, a prim, rather scared little school-boy
that somehow, yet--oh, I knew he must feel kindly to me! I felt
so fond of him.

"You see, Bishop Van Wagenen," I began softly, "I never had a
father and--"

"Bless me! But you told me that day you had mistaken me for--for

The baby! I had forgotten what that old Edward told me--that this
trusting soul actually still believed all I'd told him. What was
I to do? I tell you, Mag, it's no light thing to get accustomed
to telling the truth. You never know where it'll lead you. Here
was I--just a clever little lie or two and the dear old Bishop
would be happy and contented again. But no; that fatal habit that
I've acquired of telling the truth to Fred and you mastered
me--and I fell.

"You know, Bishop," I said, shutting my eyes and speaking fast
to get it over--as I imagine you must, Mag, when you confess to
Father Phelan--"that was all a--a little farce-comedy--the whole
business--all of it--every last word of it!"

"A comedy!"

I opened my eyes to laugh at him; he was so bewildered.

"I mean a--a fib; in fact, many of them. I--I was just--it was
long ago--and I had to make you believe--"

His soft old eyes looked at me unbelieving. "You don't mean to
say you deliberately lied!"

Now, that was what I did mean--just what I did mean--but not in
that tone of voice.

But what could I do? I just looked at him and nodded.

Oh, Maggie, I felt so little and so nasty! I haven't felt like
that since I left the Cruelty. And I'm not nasty, Maggie, and I'm
Fred Obermuller's wife, and--

And that put a backbone in me again. Fred Obermuller's wife just
won't let anybody think worse of her than she can help--from
sheer love and pride in that big, clever husband of hers.

"Now, look here, Bishop Van Wagenen," I broke out, "if I were
the abandoned little wretch your eyes accuse me of being I
wouldn't be in your carriage confessing to you this blessed
minute when it'd be so much easier not to. Surely--surely, in
your experience you must have met girls that go wrong--and then
go right for ever and ever, Amen. And I'm very right now.
But--but it has been hard for me at times. And at those
times--ah, you must know how sincerely I mean it--at those times
I used to try to recall the sound of your voice, when you said
you'd like to take me home with you and keep me. If I had been
your daughter you'd have had a heart full of loving care for me.
And yet, if I had been, and had known that benevolent fatherhood,
I should need it less--so much less than I did the day I begged a
prayer from you. But--it's all right now. You don't know--do
you?--I'm Nance Olden."

That made him sit up and stare, I tell you. Even the Bishop had
heard of Nancy Olden. But suddenly, unaccountably, there came a
queer, sad look over his face, and his eyes wouldn't meet mine.

I looked at him puzzled.

"Tell me what it is," I said.

"You evidently forget that you have already told me you are the
wife of Mr.--Mr. Ober--"

"Obermuller. Oh, that's all right." I laughed aloud. I was so
relieved. "Of course I am, and he's my manager, and my
playwright, and my secretary, and--my--my dear, dear boy.
There!" I wasn't laughing at the end of it. I never can laugh
when I try to tell what Fred is to me.

But--funny?--that won him.

"There! there!" he said, patting me on the shoulder. "Forgive
me, my dear. I am indeed glad to know that you are living
happily. I have often thought of you--"

"Oh, have you?"

"Yes--I have even told Mrs. Van Wagenen about you and how I was
attracted to you and believed--ahem!"

"Oh--oh, have you!" I gave a wriggle as I remembered that
Maltese lace Maria wanted and that I--ugh!

But, luckily, he didn't notice. He had taken my hand and was
looking at me over his spectacles in his dear, fatherly old way.

"Tell me now, my dear, is there anything that an old clergyman
can do for you? I have an engagement near here and we may not
meet again. I can't hope to find you in my carriage many more
times. You are happy--you are living worthily, child? Pardon me,
but the stage--"

Oh, the gentle courtesy of his manner! I loved his solicitude.
Father-hungry girls like us, Maggie, know how to value a thing
like that.

"You know," I said slowly, "the thing that keeps a woman
straight and a man faithful is not a matter of bricks and mortar
nor ways of thinking nor habits of living. It's something finer
and stronger than these. It's the magic taboo of her love for him
and his for her that makes them--sacred. With that to guard

"Yes, yes," he patted my hand softly. "Still, the old see the
dangers of an environment that a young and impulsive woman like
you, my dear, might be blind to. Your associates--"

"My associates? Oh, you've heard about Beryl Blackburn.
Well--she's--she's just Beryl, you know. She wasn't made to live
any different. Some people steal and some drink and some gamble
and some . . . Well, Beryl belongs to the last class. She doesn't
pretend to be better than she is. And, just between you and me,
Bishop, I've more respect for a girl of that kind than for Grace
Weston, whose husband is my leading man, you know. Why, she pulls
the wool over his eyes and makes him the laughing-stock of the
company. I can't stand her any more than I can Marie Avon, who's
never without two strings--"

All at once I stopped. But wasn't it like me to spoil it all by
bubbling over? I tell you, Maggie, too much truth isn't good for
the Bishop's set;--they don't know how to digest it.

I was afraid that I'd lost him, for he spoke with a stately
little primness as the carriage just then came to a stop; I had
been so interested talking that I hadn't noticed where we were

"Ah, here we are!" he said. "I must ask you to excuse me,
Miss--ah, Mrs.--that is--there's a public meeting of the Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children this afternoon that I
must attend. Good-by, then--"

"Oh, are you bound for the Cruelty, too?" I asked. "Why, so am
I. And--yes--yes--that's the Cruelty!"

The Cruelty stands just where it did, Mag, when you and I first
saw it; most things do in Philadelphia, you know. There's the
same prim, official straight up-and-downness about the brick
front. The steps don't look so steep now and the building's not
so high, perhaps because of a skyscraper or two that've gone up
since. But it chills your blood, Maggie darlin', just as it
always did, to think what it stands for. Not man's inhumanity to
man, but women's cruelty to children! Maggie, think of it, if you
can, as though this were the first time you'd heard of such a
thing! Would you believe it?

I waked from that to find myself marching up the stairs behind
the Bishop's rigid little back. Oh, it was stiff and
uncompromising! Beryl Blackburn did that for me. Poor, pretty,
pagan Beryl!

My coming with the Bishop--we seemed to come together,
anyway--made the people think he'd brought me, so I must be just
all right. I had the man bring in the toys I'd got out in the
carriage, and I handed them over to the matron, saying:

"They're for the children. I want them to have them all and now,
please, to do whatever they want with them. There'll always be
others. I'm going to send them right along, if you'll let me, so
that those who leave can take something of their very own with
them--something that never belonged to anybody else but just
themselves, you understand. It's terrible, don't you know, to be
a deserted child or a tortured child or a crippled child and have
nothing to do but sit up in that bare, clean little room upstairs
with a lot of other strangelings--and just think on the cruelty
that's brought you here and the cruelty you may get into when you
leave here. If I'd had a doll--if Mag had only had a set of
dishes or a little tin kitchen--if the boy with the gouged eye
could have had a set of tools--oh, can't you understand--"

I became conscious then that the matron--a new one, Mag, ours is
gone--was staring at me, and that the people stood around
listening as though I'd gone mad.

Who came to my rescue? Why, the Bishop, like the manly little
fellow he is. He forgave me even Beryl in that moment.

"It's Nance Olden, ladies," he said, with a dignified little
wave of his hand that served for an introduction. "She begins
her Philadelphia engagement to-night in And the Greatest of

Oh, I'm used to it now, Maggie, but I do like it. All the
lady-swells buzzed about me, and there Nance stood preening
herself and crowing softly till--till from among the bunch of
millinery one of them stepped up to me. She had a big smooth
face with plenty of chins. Her hair was white and her nose was
curved and she rustled in silk and--

It was Mrs. Dowager Diamonds, alias Henrietta, alias Mrs. Edward

"Clever! My, how clever!" she exclaimed, as though the sob in
my voice that I couldn't control had been a bit of acting.

She was feeling for her glasses. When she got them and hooked
them on her nose and got a good look at me--why, she just dropped
them with a smash upon the desk.

I looked for a minute from her to the Bishop.

"I remember you very well, Mrs. Ramsay. I hope you haven't
forgotten me. I've often wanted to thank you for your kindness,"
I said slowly, while she as slowly recovered. "I think you'll be
glad to know that I am thoroughly well-cured. Shall I tell Mrs.
Ramsay how, Bishop?"

I put it square up to him. And he met it like the little man he
is--perhaps, too, my bit of charity to the Cruelty children had
pleased him.

"I don't think it will be necessary, Miss Olden," he said
gently. "I can do that for you at some future time."

And I could have hugged him; but I didn't dare.

We had tea there in the Board rooms. Oh, Mag, remember how we
used to peep into those awful, imposing Board rooms! Remember how
strange and resentful you felt--like a poor little red-haired
nigger up at the block--when you were brought in there to be
shown to the woman who'd called to adopt you!

It was all so strange that I had to keep talking to keep from
dreaming. I was talking away to the matron and the Bishop about
the play-room I'm going to fit up out of that bare little place
upstairs. Perhaps the same child doesn't stay there very long,
but there'll always be children to fill it--more's the cruel

Then the Bishop and I climbed up there to see it and plan about
it. But I couldn't really see it, Mag, nor the poor, white-faced,
wise-eyed little waifs that have succeeded us, for the tears in
my eyes and the ache at my heart and the queer trick the place
has of being peopled with you and me, and the boy with the gouged
eye, and the cripple, and the rest.

He put his gentle thin old arm about my shoulders for a moment
when he saw what was the matter with me. Oh, he understands, my
Bishop! And then we turned to go downstairs.

"Oh--I want--I want to do something for them," I cried. "I
want to do something that counts, that's got a heart in it, that
knows! You knew, didn't you, it was true--what I said downstairs?
I was--I am a Cruelty girl. Help me to help others like me."

"My dear," he said, very stately and sweet, "I'll be proud to
be your assistant. You've a kind, true heart and--"

And just at that minute, as I was preceding him down the narrow
steps, a girl in a red coat trimmed with chinchilla and in a red
toque with some of the same fur blocked our way as she was coming

We looked at each other. You've seen two peacocks spread their
tails and strut as they pass each other? Well, the peacock coming
up wasn't in it with the one going down. Her coat wasn't so fine,
nor so heavy, nor so newly, smartly cut. Her toque wasn't so big
nor so saucy, and the fur on it--not to mention that the
descending peacock was a brunette and . . . well, Mag, I had my
day. Miss Evelyn Kingdon paid me back in that minute for all the
envy I've spent on that pretty rig of hers.

She didn't recognize me, of course, even though the two red
coats were so near, as she stopped to let me pass, that they
kissed like sisters, ere they parted. But, Mag, Nancy Olden never
got haughty that there wasn't a fall waiting for her. Back of
Miss Kingdon stood Mrs. Kingdon--still Mrs. Kingdon, thanks to
Nance Olden--and behind her, at the foot of the steps, was a
frail little old-fashioned bundle of black satin and old lace.
I lost my breath when the Bishop hailed his wife.

"Maria," he said--some men say their wives' first names all the
years of their lives as they said them on their wedding-day--"I
want you to meet Miss Olden--Nance Olden, the comedian. She's the
girl I wanted for my daughter--you'll remember, it's more than a
year ago now since I began to talk about her?"

I held my breath while I waited for her answer. But her poor,
short-sighted eyes rested on my hot face without a sign.

"It's an old joke among us," she said pleasantly, "about the
Bishop's daughter."

We stood there and chatted, and the Bishop turned away to speak
to Mrs. Kingdon. Then I seized my chance.

"I've heard, Mrs. Van Wagenen," I said softly and oh, as nicely
as I could, "of your fondness for lace. We are going abroad in
the spring, my husband and I, to Malta, among other places. Can't
I get you a piece there as a souvenir of the Bishop's kindness to

Her little lace-mittened, parchment-like hands clasped and
unclasped with an almost childish eagerness.

"Oh, thank you, thank you very much; but if you would give the
same sum to charity--"

"I will," I laughed. She couldn't guess how glad I was to do
this thing. "And I'll spend just as much on your lace and be so
happy if you'll accept it."

I promised Henrietta a box for to-night, Maggie, and one to Mrs.
Kingdon. The Dowager told me she'd love to come, though her
husband is out of town, unfortunately, she said.

"But you'll come with me, won't you, Bishop?" she said, turning
to him. "And you, Mrs. Van?"

The Bishop blushed. Was he thinking of Beryl, I wonder. But I
didn't hear his answer, for it was at that moment that I caught
Fred's voice. He had told me he was going to call for me. I think
he fancied that the old Cruelty would depress me--as dreams of it
have, you know; and he wanted to come and carry me away from it,
just as at night, when I've waked shivering and moaning, I've
felt his dear arms lifting me out of the black night-memory of it.

But it was anything but a doleful Nance he found and hurried down
the snowy steps out to a hansom and off to rehearsal. For the
Bishop had said to me, "God bless you, child," when he shook
hands with both of us at parting, and the very Cruelty seemed to
smile a grim benediction, as we drove off together, on Fred and


Book of the day: