Part 2 out of 8
years. He had a sweet, simple face, rough, yellow hair, and hairy,
red, clumsy hands. A greater contrast to gentle little Sally, with
her timid brown eyes and the bloodless quiet of manner that was like
her mother and like Lydia, could hardly have been imagined.
"Where've you been?" Martie asked.
"We've been to church!" dimpled Sally with a glance at Joe.
The pronoun startled Martie.
"We were up in the organ loft," Joe contributed with his half-
laughing, half-nervous grin.
Still bewildered, Martie followed her sister into the dark garden,
after a good-night nod to Joe, and went into the house. Their father
reluctantly accepted the girls' separate accounts of the afternoon:
Sally had been in church, Martie had driven about with Rod and had
gone to tea at his house. Lydia fluttered with questions. Who was
there? What was said? Malcolm asked Martie where Rodney had left
"At the gate, Pa," the girl responded promptly.
All through the evening her eyes kept wandering in disapproval
toward Sally. Joe Hawkes!--it was monstrous. That stupid, common
lout of a boy--nearly two years her junior, too.
They were undressing, alone in their room, when she spoke of the
"Sally," said she, "you didn't really go sit in the choir with Joe
Hawkes, did you?"
"Well--yes, in a way," Sally admitted, adding indulgently, "he's
SUCH an idiot!"
"How do you mean?" Martie asked sharply. For Sally to flush and
dimple and give herself the airs of a happy woman over the calf-like
attentions of this clumsy boy of nineteen was more than absurd, it
was painful. "Sally--you couldn't! Why, you oughtn't even to be
FRIENDS with Joe Hawkes!" she stammered. "He gets--I suppose he gets
twenty dollars a month."
"On, no; more than that!" Sally said, brushing her fine, silky,
lifeless hair. "He gets twenty-five from the express company, and
when he meets the trains for Beetman he gets half he makes."
Martie stood astounded at her manner. That one of the Monroe girls
should be talking thus of Joe Hawkes! What mattered it to Sarah
Price Monroe how much Joe Hawkes made, or how? Joe Hawkes--Grace's
insignificant younger brother! Sally saw her consternation.
"Now listen, Mart, and don't have a fit," she said, laughing. "I'm
not any crazier over Joe than you are. I know what Pa would say. I'm
not likely to marry any one on thirty dollars a month, anyway. But
listen, Joe has always liked me terribly--"
"I never knew it!" Martie exclaimed.
"No; well, neither did I. But last year when he broke his leg I used
to go in and see him with Grace, and one day she left the room for a
while, and he sort of--broke out--"
"The GALL!" ejaculated Martie.
"Oh, no, Mart--he didn't mean it that way. Really he didn't. He just
wanted--to hold my hand, you know--and that. And he never thinks of
money, or getting married. And, Mart, he's so GRATEFUL, you know,
for just a moment's meeting, or if I smile at him, going out of
"I should think he might be!" Martie interpolated in fine scorn.
"Yes, I know how you feel, Martie," Sally went on eagerly, "and
that's true, of course. I feel that way myself. But you don't know
how miserable he makes himself about it. And does it seem wrong to
you, Mart, for me just to be kind to him? I tell him--I was telling
him this afternoon--that some day he'll meet some nice sweet girl
younger than he, and that he'll be making more money then--you know-
Her voice faltered. She looked wistfully at her sister.
"But I can't see why you let a big dummy like that talk to you at
all!" Martie said impatiently after a short silence. "What do you
care what he thinks? He's got a lot of nerve to DARE to talk to you
that way. I--well, I think Pa would be wild!"
"Oh, of course he would," Sally agreed in a troubled voice. "And I
know how you feel, Martie, with Joe's aunt working for the Parkers,
and all," she added. "I'll--I'll stop it. Truly I will. I'm only
doing it to be considerate to Joe, anyway!"
"You needn't do anything on my account," Martie said gruffly. "But I
think you ought to stop it on your own. Joe is only a kid, he
doesn't know beans--much less enough to really fall in love!"
She lay awake for a long time that night, in troubled thought. Cold
autumn moonlight poured into the room; a restless wind whined about
the house. The cuckoo clock struck eleven--struck twelve.
At all events she HAD gone driving with Rodney; she HAD had tea at
"I honestly think that some of us ought to go down to-night and see
Grandma Kelly," said Lydia at luncheon a week later. November had
come in bright and sunny, but with late dawns and early twilights.
Rodney Parker's college friend having delayed his promised visit,
the agitating question of the Friday Fortnightly had been
temporarily laid to rest, but Martie saw him nearly every day, and
family and friends alike began to change in their attitude to
"I'll go," she and Sally said together--Martie, because she was in a
particularly amiable mood; Sally, perhaps because old Mrs. Kelly was
Joe Hawkes's grandmother.
"Well, I wish you would, girls," their mother said in her gentle,
complaining voice. "She's a dear old lady--a perfect saint about
getting to church in all weathers! And while Pa doesn't care much
about having you so intimate with the Hawkeses, he was saying this
morning that Grandma Kelly is different. She was my nurse when all
four of you were born, and she certainly was interested and kind."
"We can go down about seven," Lydia said, "and not stay too long.
But I suppose 'most every one in Monroe will run in to wish her many
happy returns. Tom David's wife will come in from Westlake with
Grandma's great-grandchildren, I guess, and all the others will be
"That houseful alone would kill me, let alone having the whole tribe
stream in, if _I_ were seventy-eight!" Martie observed. "But I'd
just as soon go. We'll see how we feel after dinner!"
And after dinner, the night being fresh and sweet, and the meal
early concluded because Malcolm was delayed in Pittsville and did
not return for dinner, the three Monroes pinned on their hats,
powdered their noses, and buttoned on their winter coats. Any
excitement added to her present ecstatic mood was enough to give
Martie the bloom of a wild rose, and Sally had her own reasons for
radiance. Lydia alone, walking between them, was actuated by cool
motives of duty and convention and sighed as she thought of the heat
and hubbub of the Hawkes's house, and the hour that must elapse
before they were back in the cool night again.
The Hawkeses had always lived in one house in Monroe. It was a
large, square, cheap house near the bridge, with a bare yard kept
shabby by picking chickens, and a fence of struggling pickets.
Behind the house, which had not been painted in the memory of man,
was a yawning barn which had never been painted at all. In the yard
were various odds and ends of broken machinery and old harness; a
wagon-seat, on which Grandma sometimes sat shelling beans or peeling
potatoes in the summer afternoons; old brooms, old saucepans, and
lengths of rope, clotted with mud. Fuchsia and rose-bushes
languished in a tipsy wire enclosure near the front door.
To-night, although the yard presented a rather dismal appearance in
the early winter dark, the house was bursting with hospitality and
good cheer. From every one of the bare high windows raw gushes of
light tunnelled the gloom outside, and although the cold outside had
frosted all the glass, dim forms could be seen moving about, and
voices and laughter could be heard.
Martie briskly twisted the little rotary bell-handle that was set in
the centre of the front door, and before its harsh noise had died
away, the door was flung open and the Monroe sisters were instantly
made a part of the celebration. Hilarious members of the family and
their even more hilarious friends welcomed them in; the bare hallway
was swarming with young persons of both sexes; girls were coming
down the stairs, girls going up, and the complementary boys lined
the wall, or, grinning, looked on from the doorways.
The front room on the left, usually a bedroom, was used for a
smoking room to-night; the dining-room door had been locked, but on
the right two doors gave entrance to the long parlours, and here
were older men, older women--Mrs. Hawkes, big, energetic, perspiring
all over her delighted face; Carrie David, wild with hospitable
excitement; and Joe Hawkes, Senior, a lean little eager Irishman,
quite in his glory to-night. Throned on a sort of dais, in the front
bay window, was Grandma Kelly, a little shrivelled beaming old
woman, in a crumpled, shining, black satin gown. Her hair was
scanty, showing a wide bald parting, and to hear in all the
confusion she was obliged occasionally to cup one hand behind her
ear, but her snapping eyes were as bright as a monkey's and her
lips, over toothless gums, worked constantly with a rotary motion as
she talked and laughed. On each side of her were grouped other old
ladies--Mrs. Sark, Mrs. Mulkey, Mrs. Hansen, and Mrs. Mussoo--her
friends since the days, fifty years before, when they had crossed
the plains in hooded wagons, and fought out their simple and heroic
destinies on these strange western prairies.
They had borne children, comforting and caring for each other in the
wilderness; they had talked of wolves and of Indians while trusting
little hands caught their knees and ignorant little lips pulled at
their breasts; they had known fire and flood and famine, crude
offense and cruder punishment; they had seen the Indians and the
buffalo go with the Missions and the sheep; they had followed the
gold through its sensational rise to its sensational fall, and had
held the wheat dubiously in their fingers before ever California's
dark soil knew it--had wondered whether the first apple trees really
might come to blossom and bear where the pines were cleared away.
And now, with the second and third generation, had come schools and
post-offices, cable cars and gaslight; villages were cities;
crossroads were towns. At seventy-eight, Grandma Kelly was far from
ready for her nunc dimittis. Great days had been, no doubt, but
great days were also to be. Children, grandchildren, and great-
grandchildren kept the house swarming with life, and she could never
have enough of it.
The air, never too fresh in the Hawkes's house, was hot and charged
with odours of cheap cologne, of powder, of human bodies, and of
perspiration-soaked garments. The very gaslights screamed above the
din as if they found it contagious. Large crayon portraits decorated
the walls, that of the late Mr. Kelly having attached to its frame
the sheaf of wheat that had lain on his coffin. On the walls also
were the large calendars of insurance companies, and one or two
china plaques in plush frames. A bead portiere hung between the two
parlours, constantly clicking and catching as the guests swarmed to
and fro. All the chairs in the house had been set about the walls,
and all were occupied. A disk on the phonograph was duly revolving,
in charge of a hysterical girl in blue silk and a flushed, humorous
young man, but the music was almost unheard.
Whatever their attitude toward this merrymaking had previously been,
the Monroe girls were instantly drawn into the spirit of the
occasion. Martie and Sally were dragged upstairs, where they left
hats and coats, were taken downstairs again with affectionate,
girlish arms about their waists; and found themselves laughing and
shouting with the rest. Towed through the boiling crowd to Grandma,
they kissed the cool, soft old face. They greeted the other old
women with pretty enthusiasm.
Lydia meanwhile had decorously delivered her message of good wishes
and had drifted to a chair against the wall, where matrons greeted
her eagerly and where, in her own way, she began to enjoy herself.
Sentiment, hospitality, gaiety filled the air.
"Isn't Grandma wonderful?" said all the voices, over and over. "I
think she's wonderful! Mrs. Hawkes had a dinner for just the five
old ladies, you know. Wasn't that sweet? The family had to have
their dinner earlier--just the five old ladies. Wasn't that a cute
idea? Ellen said they looked perfectly dear, all together! Mary
Clute couldn't get here from San Francisco, you know, but she sent
Grandma a tea-pot cover--the cutest thing! Did you see the Davids'
baby? It's upstairs, I guess; it's a darling little thing! Think of
it, three great-grandchildren! Oh, I do, too; I think it's a lovely
party--I think the rooms look lovely--I think it was an awfully cute
The oldest David grandchild, becoming sodden with sleepiness,
climbed into Lydia's lap. Sally, after exchanging a conscious
undertone with young Joe, slipped through the dining-room door with
him, and happily joined the working forces in the kitchen. In her
mind Sally knew that the Hawkeses were but homely folk; she knew
that any Monroe should shrink from this hot and noisy kitchen. But
Sally's heart welcomed the eager bustle, the tasks so imperative
that her timid little entity was entirely forgotten, the talk that
was friendly and affectionate and comprehensible.
Joe and she laughed over piecing tablecloths together for the long
table, and kept a jingling ripple of laughter accompanying the
jingling of plated spoons and the thick glasses. Ellen and Grace, as
the family debutantes, were inside with the company, but Carrie and
Min, the married daughters, were here, with old Mrs. Crowley, who
never missed an occasion of this kind, Mrs. Mulkey's daughter Annie
Tate, Gertie Hansen, and an excited fringe of children too young to
dance and too old to be sent off to bed.
As it was the custom for the more intimate friends to bring a cake,
a pan of cookies, or a great jug of strong lemonade to such an
affair, there was more food than twice this surging group of men,
women, and children could possibly consume, so that the boys and
girls could keep their mouths full of oily, nutty, walnut wafers and
broken bits of layer cake without any conscientious scruples. One of
the large kitchen tables was entirely covered with plates bearing
layer cakes, with chocolate, maple, shining white, and streaky
orange icings, or topped with a deadly coating of fluffy cocoa-nut.
On the floor half a dozen ice cream freezers leaked generously; at
the sink, Mrs. Rose, who had been Minnie Hawkes, was black and
sticky to the elbows with lemon juice.
Meanwhile Martie, more in tune with the actual jollity than either
of her sisters, was warming to her most joyous mood. Her costume of
thin white waist and worn serge skirt might have been considered
deficient in a more formal assembly, but here it passed without
comment; the girls' dresses varied widely, and no one seemed any the
less gay. Grace had a long streamer of what appeared to be green
window-net tied loosely about a worn pink satin slip; Elsa Prout
wore the shepherdess costume she had made for the Elks' Hallowe'en
Dance, and Mrs. Cazley, sitting with her back against the wall, wore
her widow's bonnet with its limp little veil falling down to touch
her fresh white shirtwaist. Martie improved her own costume by
pinning a large pink tissue-paper rose against her high white stock,
and fastening another in her bronze hair; the girls laughed
appreciatively at her audacity; a vase of the paper roses had been
in the parlour for years. Youth and excitement did the rest.
Here, where her motives could not be misunderstood, where her
presence indeed was to be construed as adding distinction and
dignity to the festivities, Martie could be herself. She laughed,
she flirted with the common yet admiring boys, she paid charming
attention to the old women. A rambling musical programme was
presently set in motion; Martie's voice led all the voices. She was
presently asked to sing alone, and went through "Believe Me"
charmingly, putting real power and pathos into the immortal words.
Returning, flushed and happy in a storm of clapping, to her place
between Al Lunt and Art Carter on the sofa, she kept those
appreciative youths in such convulsions of laughter that their
entire neighbourhood was sympathetically affected. Carl Polhemus,
who played the organ at church, had begun a wandering improvisation
on the piano, evidently so taken with certain various chords and
runs that he could not resist playing them passionately over and
over. A dangerous laugh, started among the younger set, began to
strangle and stifle his audience. Martie, looking straight ahead of
her, gave only an occasional spasmodic heave of shoulders and
breast, but her lips were compressed in an agony, and her eyes full
of tears. From the writhing boys on each side of her came frequent
In upon this scene came old Dr. Ben, who had worked hand in hand
with Grandma Kelly in the darkened rooms where many of these
hilarious youngsters had drawn their first breath. Although the
infatuated musician did not stop at this interruption, many of his
listeners rose to greet the newcomer, and the tension snapped.
Dr. Ben sat down next to the old lady, and the room, from which the
older guests were quietly disappearing, was enthusiastically cleared
for dancing. The air, close already, became absolutely insufferable
now; the men's collars wilted, the girls' flushed faces streamed
perspiration. But the cool side-porch was accessible, and the
laughter and noise continued unabated.
Quietly crossing the dark backyard for his horse and buggy at ten
o'clock, Dr. Ben came upon Joe Hawkes sitting on the shadowy steps
with--he narrowed his eyes to make sure--yes, with little Sally
Monroe. The old man formed his lips into a slow, thoughtful whistle
as he busied himself with straps and buckles. Slowly, thoughtfully,
he climbed into his buggy.
"Sally!" he called, sitting irresolute with the reins in his hands.
The opaque spot that was Sally's gown did not stir in the shadows.
"Sally!" he called again. "I see ye, and Joe Hawkes, too. Come here
She went then, slowly into the clear November moonlight.
"What is it, Doc' Ben?" she asked, in a rather thick voice and with
a perceptible gulp. Even in this light he could see her wet lashes
For a minute he did not speak, fat hands on fat knees. Sally,
innocent, loving, afraid, hung her head before him.
"Like Joe, do ye, Sally?" said the mild old voice.
"I--" Sally's voice was almost inaudible--"why, I don't know, Doc,
Ben," she faltered. "My mother--my father--" she stopped short.
"Your father and mother, eh?" Dr. Ben repeated musingly, as if to
"I couldn't like--any one--if it was to make all the people who love
me unhappy, I suppose," Sally said in her mild, prim voice, with an
effort at lightness. "No happiness could come of that, could it,
To this dutiful expression the doctor made no immediate answer,
observing in a dissatisfied tone, after a pause: "That sounds like
your mother, or Lydia."
Sally, leaning against the shabby cushions of the carriage, looked
down in silent distress.
"There never could be anything serious between Joe Hawkes and I,"
she said presently, with a little unnatural laugh. She was not quite
sure of her pronoun. She looked anxiously at Dr. Ben's face. It was
still troubled and overcast. Sally wondered uncomfortably if he
would tell her mother that she was seeing Joe frequently. As it
chanced, she and Joe had more than once encountered the old man on
their solitary walks and talks. She thought, in her amiable heart,
that if she only knew what Dr. Ben wanted her to say she would say
it; or what viewpoint he expected her to take she would assume it.
"Joe and I were helping Mrs. David," she submitted timidly, "and we
came out to sit in the cool."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Sally," the doctor said absently. Sally
laughed with an effort to make the conversation seem all a joke, but
she was puzzled and unhappy. "Well," said the doctor suddenly,
gathering up his reins and rattling the whip in its socket as a
gentle hint to the old mare, "I must be getting on. I want you to
come and see me, Sally. Come to-morrow. I want to talk to you."
"Yes, sir," Sally answered obediently. She would have put out her
tongue for his inspection then and there if he had suggested it.
When the old phaeton had rattled out of the yard she went back to
the shadows and Joe. She was past all argument, all analysis, all
reason, now. She hungered only for this: Joe's big clean young arms
about her; Joe's fresh lips, with their ignorant passion, against
hers. For years she had known Joe only by sight; a few months ago
she had been merely amused and flattered by the boy's crudely
expressed preference; even now she knew that for a Monroe girl, at
twenty-one, to waste a thought on a Hawkes boy of nineteen was utter
madness. But a week or two ago, walking home from church with her
mother and herself on Sunday night, Joe had detained her for a
moment under the dooryard trees--had kissed her. Sally was like a
young tiger, tamed, petted, innocuous, whose puzzled lips have for
the first time tasted blood. Every fibre in her being cried for Joe,
his bashful words were her wisdom, his nearness her very breath and
She clung to him now, in the dark kitchen porch, in a fever of pure
desire. Their hearts beat together. Sally's arms were bent against
the boy's big chest, as his embrace crushed her; they breathed like
runners as they kissed each other.
A moment later they went back into the kitchen to scoop the hard-
packed ice cream into variegated saucers and enjoy unashamedly such
odd bits of it as clung to fingers or spoon. The cakes had all been
cut now, enormous wedges of every separate variety were arranged on
the plates that were scattered up and down the long stretch of the
table in the dining room. The dancers and all the other guests filed
out to enjoy the supper, the room rang with laughter and screamed
witticisms. A popular feature of the entertainment was the mottoes,
flat scalloped candies of pink and white sugar, whose printed
messages caused endless merriment among these uncritical young
persons. "Do You Love Me?"; "I Am A Flirt"; "Don't Kiss Me"; "Oh,
You Smarty," said the mottoes insinuatingly, and the revellers read
them aloud, exchanged them, secreted them, and even devoured them,
in their excessive delight.
Presently they all toasted Grandma Kelly in lemonade. The old lady,
with Lydia and some of the older women, was enjoying her cake and
cream in the parlour, but tears of pride and joy came to her eyes
when the young voices all rose with lingering enjoyment on "Silver
Threads Among the Gold," and there was a general wiping of eyes at
"She's a Jolly Good Fellow" which followed it. Then some of the
girls rushed in to kiss her once more, and, as it was now nearly
twelve o'clock, Lydia called her sisters, and they said their good-
Walking home under a jaded moon, yawning and cold in the revulsion
from hours of excitement and the change from the heated rooms to the
cold night air, Lydia was complacently superior; they were certainly
warm-hearted, hospitable people, the Hawkeses, and she was glad that
they, the Monroes, had paid Grandma the compliment of going. Sally,
hanging on Lydia's arm, was silent. Martie, on her other arm, was
smilingly reminiscent. "That Al Lunt was a caution," she observed.
"Wasn't Laura Carter's dance music good? Wasn't that maple walnut
cake delicious?" She had eaten goodness knows how much ice cream,
because she sat at table between Reddy Johnson and Bernard Thomas,
and every time Carrie David or any one asked them if they wanted any
more ice cream, Bernie had put their saucers in his lap, and told
Carrie that they hadn't had any yet.
Len suddenly came up behind his sisters, frightening them with a
deep "Boo!" before he emerged from the blackness to join them.
"Javva good time?" he asked, adding carelessly, "I was there."
"Yes, you were!" Martie said incredulously. "You wish you were!"
"Honest, I was," Len said. "Honest I was, Lyd."
"Well, you weren't there until pretty late, Len," Lydia said in mild
"Lissun," Len suggested pleadingly. "Tell Pa I brought you girls
home from Hawkes's--go on! Lissun, Lyd, I'll do as much for you some
"Oh, Len, how can I?" Lydia objected.
"Well, I went in, honest, early in the evening," the boy asserted
eagerly. "But I can't stand those boobs and roughnecks, so I went
down town for a while. Then I came back and waited until you girls
came out of the gate. I'll cross my heart and hope to die if I
"If Pa asks me--" Lydia said inexorably.
For a few moments they all walked together in the dark. Then Len
"Say, Mart, I saw Rod Parker to-night. He was down town, and he
asked me how my pretty sister was!"
"Did he?" Martie spoke carelessly, but her heart leaped.
"He talked a lot about you," went on Len, "he's going to call you up
in the morning about something."
"Oh--?" Martie mused. "I shouldn't wonder if it was about a dance we
were talking about," she said thoughtfully. She was quite acute
enough to see perfectly that Len was trying to enlist her silence in
his cause should their father make a general inquiry, and
philosophical enough to turn his mood to her own advantage. "Lissun,
Len," said she, "if I try to have a party you'll get the boys you
know to come, won't you? There are always too many girls, and I want
it to go off nicely. You will, won't you?"
"Sure I will," Len promised heartily. He and his sister perfectly
understood each other.
They all went quietly upstairs; Len to dreamless sleep, Sally to
thrilled memories of Joe--Joe--Joe, and Martie to shifting happy
thoughts of the evening and its little triumphs, thoughts that
always came back to Len's talk with Rodney. Rodney had asked Len for
his pretty sister.
Lydia lay wide awake for a long time. There was no doubt of it now;
she and her mother had told each other several times during the last
month or two that there was still doubt. But she was not mistaken
to-night in thinking that Len's breath was strong from something
alcoholic, that Len's eager, loose-lipped speech, his unusual
manner--She went over and over the words she would use in telling
her mother all about it in the morning. The two women would carry
heavy hearts on Len's account for the whole cold, silent day. But
they would not tell Pa--no, there was nothing sufficiently serious
as yet to tell Pa!
Martie and Sally loitered through the village, past the post-office
and the main shops and down through the poorer part of the town.
They entered a quiet region of shabby old houses, turned into a
deserted lane, and opened the picket gate before Dr. Ben's cottage.
The little house in winter stood in a network of bare vines; in
summer it was smothered in roses, and fuchsias, marguerites,
hollyhocks, and geraniums pressed against the fence. Marigolds,
alyssum, pansies, and border pinks flourished close to the ground,
with sweet William, stock, mignonette, and velvet-brown wallflowers.
Dr. Ben had planted all these himself, haphazard, and loved the
resulting untidy jumble of bloom, with the lilac blossoms rustling
overhead, birds nesting in his willow and pepper trees, and bees
buzzing and blundering over his flowers.
The house was not quite definite enough in type to be quaint; it
presented three much-ornamented gables to the lane, its windows were
narrow, shuttered inside with dark brown wood. At the back-between
the house and the little river, and shut away from the garden by a
fence--were a little barn, decorated like the house in scalloped
wood, and various small sheds and out-houses and their occupants.
Here lived the red cow, the old white mare, the chickens and
pigeons, the rabbits and bees that had made the place fascinating to
Monroe children for many years. Martie said to herself to-day that
she always felt like a child when she came to Dr. Ben's, shut once
more into childhood's world of sunshine and flowers and happy
companionship with animals and the good earth.
To-day the old man, with his setter Sandy, was busy with his
bookshelves when the girls went in. Two of the narrow low bay
windows that looked directly out on the level of the kitchen path
were in this room; the third, the girls knew, was a bedroom.
Upstairs were several unused rooms full of old furniture and piles
of magazines, and back of the long, narrow sitting room were a
little dining room with Crimson Rambler roses plastered against its
one window, and a large kitchen in which old Mis' Penny reigned
Here in the living room were lamps, shabby chairs, an air-tight
stove, shells, empty birds' nests, specimens of ore, blown eggs,
snakeskins, moccasins, wampum, spongy dry bees' nests, Indian
baskets and rugs, ropes and pottery, an enormous Spanish hat of
yellow straw with a gaudy band, and everywhere, in disorderly
cascades and tumbled heaps, were books and pamphlets and magazines.
Dr. Ben welcomed them eagerly and sent Martie promptly to the
kitchen to interview Mis' Penny on the subject of tea. The girls
were quite at home here, for the old doctor was Rose Ransome's
mother's cousin, and through their childhood the little gabled house
had been the favourite object of their walks. Sally, alone with her
host, began to help him in his hopeless attempt to get his library
"The point is this, Sally," said Dr. Ben suddenly, after a few
innocuous comments on the weather and the health of the Monroe
family had been exchanged. "Have you and Joe Hawkes come to care for
Sally flushed scarlet. She had been thinking hard--for Sally, who
was not given to thought--in the hours since the party for Grandma
Kelly. Now she began readily, with a great air of frankness.
"I'll tell you, Dr. Ben. I know you feel as if I was trying to hide
something from Ma and Pa, and it's worried me a good deal, too. But
the truth is, I've known Joe all my life, and he's only a boy, of
course--ever so much younger than I am--and he has just gotten this
notion into his head. Of course, it's perfectly ridiculous--because
naturally I am not going to throw my life away in any such fashion
as that! But Joe thinks now that he will never smile again--"
Thus Sally, kneeling among the books, her earnest, pretty, young
face turned toward the doctor, her eyes widely opened, as the
extraordinary jumble of words poured forth. The unpleasant sensation
of their last meeting, the confusing feeling that she was not saying
what Dr. Ben wanted her to say, beset her. She felt a sudden,
dreadful inclination toward tears, although with no clear sense of a
reason for crying.
"I suppose all boys go through their silly stages like measles,"
said Sally rapidly. "And it's only my misfortune and Joe's that his
first love affair had to be me. One reason why I haven't mentioned
it at home is--"
"Then you don't care for Joe?" the old man asked with his serious
"Oh, Dr. Ben! Of course, I like Joe enormously, he's a dear sweet
boy," Sally answered smoothly. "But you know as well as I do how my
father feels toward the village people in Monroe, and while the
Hawkeses are just as nice as they can be in their way--" again
Sally's flow of eloquence was strangely shaken; she felt as a child
might, caught up in the arm of a much larger person and rushed along
helplessly with only an occasional heartening touch of her feet to
the ground--"after all, that isn't quite our way, is it?" she asked.
If only, thought the nervous little girl who was Sally, if only she
knew what Dr. Ben wanted her to say!
"Why can't ye be honest with me, Sally?" said the doctor. "Ye love
Joe, don't ye?"
Sally's head dropped, the colour rose in her cheeks, and the tears
came. She nodded, and through all her body ran a delicious thrill at
the acknowledged passion.
"Ye've found each other out, in spite of them all!" said the old man
musingly. "And what does his age or yours, or his place or yours,
matter beside that? They've tried to fill you with lies, and you've
found that the lies don't hold water. Well--"
He straightened up suddenly, and began to march about the room.
Sally, kneeling still over the books, tears drying on her cheeks,
"Sally," said the doctor, "God made you and Joe Hawkes and your love
for each other. I don't know who made the social laws by which women
govern these little towns, but I suspect it was the devil. You've
been brought up to feel that if you marry a man Mrs. Cy Frost
doesn't ask to her house, you'll be unhappy ever after. But I ask
you, Sally--I ask you as a man old enough to be your father--if you
had your home, your husband, your health, your garden, and your
children, wouldn't you be a far happier woman than--than Lydia say,
or Florence Frost, or all the other girls who sit about this town
waiting for a man with position enough--position, BAH!--to marry?"
Sally's face was glowing.
"Oh, Dr. Ben, _I_ don't care anything about position!" she said, all
her honest innocence in her face.
"Then why do you act as if you did?" he said, well pleased.
"And would you advise me to marry Joe?" she asked radiantly.
"Joe--Tom--Billy, whomever you please!" he answered impatiently.
"But don't be afraid because he doesn't wear silk socks, Sally, or
smoke a monogrammed cigarette. Why, my child, that little polish,
that little fineness, is the woman's gift to her man! These Frosts
and Parkers: it was the coarse strength of their grandfathers that
got them across the plains; it was the women who packed the books in
the horsehair trunks, that read the Bibles and cleaned and sewed and
prayed in the old home way. You don't suppose those old miners and
grocers, who came later to be the city fathers, ever had as much
education as Joe Hawkes, or half as much!"
"I wish my father felt as you do, Doc' Ben," Sally said presently,
the brightness dying from her face. "But Pa will never, never--And
even if there were no other reason, why Joe hasn't a steady job--"
"That brings me to what I really want to say to you to-day, Sally,"
the old man interrupted her briskly. He opened a desk drawer and
took from it a small, old-fashioned photograph. Sally saw a young
woman's form, disguised under the scallops, ruffles, and pleats of
the early seventies, a bright face under a cascade of ringlets, and
a little oval bonnet set coquettishly awry. "D'ye know who that is?"
asked Dr. Ben.
"I--well, yes; I suppose?" murmured Sally sympathetically.
"Yes, it's my wife," he answered. "Mary--Our boy would be thirty.
They went away together--poor girl, poor girl! We wanted a big
family, Sally; we hoped for a houseful of children. And I had her
for only fifteen months--only fifteen months to remember for thirty
Sally was deeply impressed. She thought it strangely flattering in
Dr. Ben to take her into his confidence in this way, and that she
would tell Martie about it as they walked home.
"No," he said musingly. "I never had a child! And Sally, if I had it
all to do over again, I'd marry again. I'd have sons. That's the
citizen's duty. Some day we'll recognize it, and then you bearers of
children will come into your own. There'll be recognition for every
one of them, we'll be the first nation to make our poor women proud
and glad when a child is coming. It's got to be, Sally."
Sally was listening politely, but she was not interested. She had
heard all this before, many times. Dr. Ben's extraordinary views
upon the value of the family were familiar to every one in Monroe.
But her attention was suddenly aroused by the mention of her own
"Now, supposing that you and Joe take it into your heads to get
married some day," the doctor was saying, "how about children?"
Sally's ready colour flooded her face. She made no attempt to answer
"Would ye have them?" the old man asked impatiently.
"Why--why, Dr. Ben, I don't know!" Sally said in great confusion.
"I--I suppose people DO."
"You suppose people do?" he asked scornfully. "Don't ye KNOW they
"Well, I don't suppose any girl thinks very much of such things
until she's married," Sally said firmly. "Mama doesn't like us to
"Doesn't your mother ever talk to you about such things?" the old
"Certainly not!" Sally answered with spirit.
"What DOES she talk to you about?" he asked amazedly. "It's your
business in life, after all. She's not taught ye any other. What
does she expect ye to do--learn it all after it's too late to
"All what?" Sally said, a little frightened, even a little sick. He
stopped his march, and looked at her with something like pity.
"All the needs of your soul and body," he said kindly, "and your
children's souls and bodies. Well! that's neither here nor there.
But the fact is this, Sally: I've no children of my own to raise.
And as ye very well know, I've got my own theories about putting
motherhood on a different basis, a business basis. I want you to let
me pay you--as the State ought to pay you--three hundred a year for
every child you bear. I want to demonstrate to my own satisfaction,
before I try to convince any Government, that if the child-bearing
woman were put on a plane of economic value, her barren, parasite
sister would speedily learn--"
Sally had turned pale. Now she rose in girlish dignity.
"I hope you'll forgive me, Dr. Ben, for saying that I won't listen
to ONE word more. I know you've been thinking about these things so
long that you forget how OUTRAGEOUS they sound! Motherhood is a
sacred privilege, and to reduce it to--"
"So is wifehood, Sally!" the old man interposed soothingly.
"Well," she flashed back, "nobody's PAID for wifehood!"
"Oh, yes, my dear. You can sue a man for not supporting you. It's
done every day!"
"Then--then a man ought to pay the three hundred a year!" countered
"Well, I'm with you there. But the world has got to see that before
you can force him." The doctor sighed. "So you won't let me stand
grandfather to your children, Sally?" "Oh, if you WERE their
grandfather'" she answered. "Then you could do as you liked!"
"There you are, the parasite!" he said, smiling whimsically. "You're
your mother's daughter, Sally. Give you the least blood-claim on a
man's money, and you'll push it as far as you can. But offer to pay
you for doing the work God meant you to do and you're cut to the
He was still holding forth eloquently on the subject of children and
nations when Martie came back, and Sally, with a scarlet face, was
evidently lost in thoughts of her own.
As the girls walked home, Sally did not repeat to Martie her
conversation with the old doctor, nor for many weeks afterward. But
Martie did not notice her sister's indignant silence, for they met
Rodney Parker coming out of the Bank, and he walked with them to the
bridge, and asked Martie to go with him to see the Poulson Star
Stock Company in a Return Engagement Extraordinary on the following
Martie was conscious of passing a milestone in her emotional life on
the evening of this day, when she said to herself that she loved
Rodney Parker. She admitted it with a sort of splendid shame, as she
went about her usual household occupations, passing from the hot
pleasantness of the kitchen to the cool, stale odours of the dining
room; running upstairs to light the bathroom-and hall-gas for her
father and brother, and sometimes stepping for a moment into the
darkness of the yard to be alone with her enchanted thoughts.
All the young Monroes regarded their father's temperamental
shortcomings with stoicism, so that it was in no sense resentfully
that she faced the inevitable preliminaries that night.
"Pa," said she cheerfully over the dessert, "you don't mind if I go
to the show with Rodney to-morrow, do you?"
"This is the first I've heard of any show," Malcolm said stiffly,
glancing at his wife. Mrs. Monroe patiently told him what she knew
of it. "Why, no, I suppose there is no reason you shouldn't go," he
presently said discontentedly.
"Oh, thank you, Pa!" Martie said, with a soaring heart. He looked at
"Your sisters and your brother are going, I suppose?" Malcolm asked,
glancing about the circle. Martie told herself she might have known
he was not done with the subject so easily.
"I'm not--because I haven't the price!" grinned Leonard. His mother
and Lydia laughed.
"I don't suppose Martie proposes going alone with young Parker?"
Malcolm asked in well-assumed amazement.
"Why, Pa--I don't see why NOT" Mrs. Monroe protested weakly.
Her husband was magnificent in his surprise. He looked about in a
sort of royal astonishment.
"Don't you, my dear?" he asked politely. "Then permit me to say that
Martie sat dumb with despair.
"Certainly Martha may go, if Leonard and one of her sisters go; not
otherwise," said Malcolm. He retired to his library, and Martie had
to ease her boiling heart by piling the dinner dishes viciously, and
question no more.
However, she consoled herself, there was something rather dignified
in this arrangement, after all; Len was presentable, and she was
always the happier for being with Sally. She washed her only gloves,
pressed her suit, and spent every alternate minute during the next
day anxiously inspecting her chin where an ugly pimple threatened to
form. The family was again at dinner when Len broached a change of
"Can I go up to Wilson's to-night, Pa?" he asked. Martie flashed him
"I suppose so, for a little while," Malcolm said tolerantly. The
girls looked at each other.
"But I thought you were going to the Opera House with us?" Martie
"Well, now you know I ain't," Len answered airily.
"I am not, Len," corrected his mother. Martie gave him a look of
"Len says he promised to go to Wilson's," Lydia said placatingly.
"So I thought perhaps Sally and I would go with you--I'm sorry,
For Martie's breast was heaving dangerously.
"Pa, didn't you say Len was to go with us?" she asked with desperate
"I said SOME ONE was to go," Malcolm said, disapproving of her
vehemence. "I confess I cannot see why it must be Len!"
"Because--because when a man asks a girl to go out with him he
doesn't ask the whole FAMILY!" Martie muttered in a fury. Her lip
trembled, and she got to her feet. "It doesn't matter in the least,"
she said in a low, shaking voice, "because I am not going myself!"
Flashing from the room, she ran upstairs. She flung herself across
her bed, and cried stormily for ten minutes. Then she grew calmer,
and lay there crying quietly, and shaken by only an occasional long
sob. It was during this stage that Lydia came into the room, and
sitting down beside Martie's knees, patted her hand soothingly.
Lydia's weak acceptance of the younger sister's distaste for her
company gave Martie a sort of shamed heart-sickness.
"Don't!" said she huskily, jerking her arm away.
But Lydia was not to be rebuffed, and Martie was but nineteen, after
all, and longing for the happiness she had denied. An hour later,
all the prettier for her tears, she met Rodney at the hall door, the
boy making no sign of disappointment when Lydia and Sally joined
"But say, Martie," he said at once, "I've got only the two seats!"
"Oh, that's all right!" Lydia said quickly and cautiously. "We don't
have to SIT together!"
Martie's mood brightened and she flushed like a rose when the boy
"Say, listen, Martie. My sister Ida's going to-night, and one or two
others, and Mrs. Cliff Frost is going to chaperon us afterward; ask
your mother if that's all right."
The girl wasted no time on her mother, but crossed to the library
"Pa," said she without preamble, "Mrs. Cliff Frost is chaperoning
some of them after the theatre tonight. Can I go?"
"Go where? Shut that door," her father said, half turning.
"Oh--I don't know; to the hotel, I suppose."
"Yes," her father said in a dry voice. "Yes," he added unwillingly.
So the evening was a great success; one of the memorable times.
Martie and Rodney walked ahead of her sisters down town, the boy
gallantly securing the girls' tickets before he and Martie went up
the aisle to their own seats. All Monroe was in the Opera House.
Martie bowed and smiled radiantly. Rodney's sister and Mrs. Frost
and a strange man presently returned her smile.
"Rod--wouldn't you rather be with your own family?"
"Well--what do you think?"
The enchantment of it, the warmth and stimulus of his admiration,
his absorbed companionship, how they changed the world for Martie!
There was a witchery in the air, the blood ran quick in her veins.
The dirty big hall, with its high windows, was fairyland; the
whispering crowd, Rodney's nearness, and the consciousness of her
own youth and beauty, her flushed cheeks and loosened bronze hair,
acted upon Martie like strong wine. She grew lovely beneath his very
eyes; she was nineteen, and she loved!
They talked incessantly, elaborating the simple things they said
with a by-play of eyes and hands, making the insignificant words
rich with lowered tones, with smiles and the meeting of eyes. He
told Martie of his college days; borrowing episodes at random from
the lives of other men, men whom he admired. Martie believed it all,
believed that he had written the Junior Farce, that he had been
president of his class, that the various college societies had
disputed for his membership. In return, she spun her own romances,
flinging a veil of attractive eccentricity over her father's
character, generously giving Lydia an anonymous admirer, and
painting the dreary old mansion of North Main Street as a sort of
enchanted prison with her pretty restless self as captive therein.
The two exchanged brief French phrases, each believing the other to
have a fair command of the language, and Martie even quoted poetry,
to which Rodney listened in intense silence, his eyes fixed upon
Suddenly the house was darkened and the curtain rose. The play was
"The Sword of the King," a drama that seemed to Martie well suited
to her own exalted mood. She thought the whole company wonderful,
the leading lady especially gifted. She learned with awe that Rodney
had known Wallace Bannister, the leading man, more or less
intimately for years. An aunt of his lived in Pittsville and the two
had met as boys and later had been classmates for the brief period
Bannister had remained at the Leland Stanford University. Martie
wrapped her beauty-starved young soul in the perfect past, when men
wore ruffles and buckles and capes, and were all gallantry and
courage, and when women were beautiful and desired. Between the acts
the delicious exchange of confidences between herself and Rodney
went on; they nibbled Bonestell's chocolates from a striped paper
bag as they talked, and when the final curtain fell on a ringing
line there were real tears of pleasure in Martie's eyes.
"Oh, Rodney--this is LIVING!" she whispered, as they filed slowly
Sally and Lydia had considerately disappeared. Mrs. Clifford Frost
was waiting for them at the door, and Martie, with quick tact, fell
into conversation with the kindly matron, walking at her side down
the crowded street, and leaving Rodney to follow with the others.
Little Ruth Frost had had some trouble fearfully resembling
diphtheria, and Martie's first interested question was enough to
enlist the mother's attention. The girl did not really notice the
others in the party.
They crossed muddy Main Street, passed Wilkins's Furniture and
Coffin Parlours, and went into the shabby French restaurant known as
Mussoo's. The little eating house, with its cheap, white-painted
shop window, looking directly upon the sidewalk, its pyramid of
oyster shells cascading from a box set by the entrance, its jangling
bell that the opening door set to clanging, its dingy cash register,
damp tablecloths, and bottles of red catsup, was not a place to
which Monroe residents pointed with pride. Martie would ordinarily
have passed it as one unaware of its existence.
But it seemed a thoroughly daring and exciting thing to come here
to-night; quite another thing from going to the hotel for vanilla
ice cream and chocolate--even supposing the hotel had kept its
dining room open for a change, after the six o'clock supper--or to
Bonestell's for banana specials. This--this was living! Martie
established herself comfortably in the corner, slipped off her coat,
smiled lazily at Rodney's obvious manipulation of the party so that
he should be next her, played with her hot, damp, blackened knife
and fork, and was in paradise.
Ida Parker was in the party, and Florence Frost. The men were
Clifford Frost, a pleasant young man getting stout and bald at
forty; Billy Frost, a gentle little lad of fifteen who was lame;
Rodney, and a rosy-cheeked, black-moustached Dr. Ellis from San
Francisco, whose occasional rather simple and stupid remarks were
received with great enthusiasm by Ida and Florence.
In this group Martie shone. She had her own gift for ready nonsense,
and she was the radiant element that blended the varied types into a
happy whole. She skilfully ignored Rodney; Billy, Mary, Cliff, and
even Dr. Ellis were drawn into her fun. Rodney glowed. "Isn't she
great?" he said to Mary Frost in an aside.
A large bowl of small crackers was set before them, damp squares of
strong butter on small nicked plates, finally a bowl of pink,
odorous shrimps. These were all gone when, after a long wait, the
fried oysters came smoking hot, slipped straight from the pan to the
plates. Martie drank coffee, as Mary did; the others had thick
goblets of red wine. With the hot, warming food, their gaiety waxed
higher; everybody felt that the party was a great success.
The bell on the door reverberated, and a man came in alone, and
looked about undecidedly for a seat.
"Hello!" said Rodney. "There's Wallace Bannister!"
The young actor joined them. And this, to Martie, was one of the
most thrilling moments of her life. He quite openly wedged his way
in to sit on the other side of her; he said that he could see they
didn't need the gaslight when Miss Monroe was along. Rodney said she
was Brunhilde, and Bannister's comment was that she could save wig
bills with that hair! Florence said eagerly that she loved
Brunhilde--let's see, what opera did that come in? It was the Ring,
anyway. The spirits of the group rose every second.
Ah, this was living--thought Martie. Oysters and wine and a real
actor, a man who knew the world, who chattered of Portland, Los
Angeles, and San Francisco as if they had been Monroe and
Pittsville. It was intoxicating to hear him exchanging comments with
Rodney; no, he hadn't finished "coll." "I'm a rolling stone, Miss
Monroe; we actor-fellows always are!" He was "signed up" now; he
gave them a glimpse of a long, typewritten contract. Martie ventured
a question as to the leading lady.
"She's a nice woman," said Wallace Bannister generously. "I like to
play against Mabel. Jesse Cluett, her husband, is in the play; and
his kid, too, her stepson--Lloyd--he's seventeen. Ever try the
profession, Miss Monroe?"
Martie flushed a pleased disclaimer. But the tiny seed was sown,
nevertheless. She liked the question; she was even vaguely glad that
Mrs. Cluett was forty and a married woman.
Wallace Bannister was older than Rodney, thirty or thirty-two,
although even off the stage he looked much younger. He had dipped
into college work in a dull season, amusing himself idly in the
elementary classes of French and English where his knowledge in
these branches gave him immediate prominence--and drifting away in a
road company after only a few months of fraternity and campus
popularity. His mother and father were both dead; the latter had
been a theatrical manager in a small way, sending little stock
companies up and down the coast for one-night stands.
Bannister was tall, well-built, and handsome. His cheeks had a fresh
fullness, and his black hair was as shining as wet coal. He was
eager and magnetic; musical, literary, or religious, according to
the company in which he found himself. Martie's thrilled interest
firing him to-night, he exerted himself: told stories in Chinese
dialect, in brogue, and with an excellent Scotch burr; he went to
the rickety piano, and from the loose keys, usually set in motion by
a nickel in the slot, he evoked brilliant songs, looking over his
shoulder with his sentimental bold eyes at the company as he sang.
And Martie said to herself, "Ah--this IS life!"
Rodney took her home, the clock in the square booming the half hour
after midnight as they went by. And at the side door he told her to
look up at the Dipper throbbing in the cool sky overhead. Martie
knew what was coming, but she looked innocently up, and went to
sleep for the first time in her life with a man's kiss still
tingling on her smiling lips.
The cold November weather might have been rosy June; the dull
routine of the Monroe home a life rich and full for Martie now. She
sang like a lark, feeding the chickens in the foggy mornings; she
dimpled at her own reflection in the mirror; she walked down town as
if treading the clouds. Anything interested her, everything
interested her. Mrs. Harry Locker, born Preble, said that Martie
just seemed inspired, the way she talked when old lady Preble died.
Miss Fanny, in the Library, began to entertain serious hopes that
the girl would take the Cutter system to heart, and make a clever
understudy at the old desk. Sally, watching, dreamed and yearned of
Martie's distinction, Martie's happiness; Lydia prayed. Malcolm
Monroe, as became a man of dignity, ignored the whole affair, but
Len, realizing that various advantages accrued, befriended his
sister, and talked to Rodney familiarly, as man to man.
"I can't stand that fresh kid!" said Rodney of Len. Martie shrugged
without speaking. She owed Len no allegiance. Had it suited Rodney
to admire Len, Martie would have been a loyal sister. As it was, she
would not risk a difference with Rodney for any one like Len. She
was embarked now upon a vital matter of business. Had a few hundreds
of dollars been involved, Malcolm Monroe would have been at her
elbow, advising, commending. As it was, her happiness, her life, her
children, her whole future might be jeopardized or secured with no
sign from him. Interference from her mother or sisters would have
been considered indelicate. So Martie stood alone.
Immediately after the theatre party, the question of a series of
dances again arose, and Martie somewhat hesitatingly repeated her
offer of the Monroe house for the first. Rodney's friend, Alvah
Brigham, was to come to the Parker family for Thanksgiving; the
dance was to be on Friday night, and a large picnic to Brewster's
Woods on Saturday. They would take a lunch, build a fire for their
coffee, and have the old school-day programme of singing and games.
For the dance, the two big parlours and the back room must be
cleared; that was simple enough. Angela Baxter would be at the piano
for the music; sufficient, if not extraordinary, and costing only
two dollars. The supper would be sandwiches, cake, coffee, and
lemonade: Monroe's invariable supper. Rodney thought ices necessary,
and suggested at least a salad. Martie and Sally considered the
"Lord, I wish we could have a punch," Rodney complained. The girls
"Oh, Rod--Pa would explode!"
"Darn it," the boy mused, "I don't see WHY. He's not a teetotaler."
"Well, I know," Martie conceded. "But that's different, of course!
No--we can't have punch. I don't know how to make it, anyway--" She
was hardly following her own words. Under them lay the wonderful
consciousness that Rodney Parker was here at the house, sitting on
the porch steps on a warm November morning, as much at home as
Leonard himself. The sun was looking down into the dark garden, damp
paths were drying in sudden warmth after a rain.
In such an hour and such a mood, Martie felt absolutely confident
that the dance would be a great success. More; it seemed to her in
the heartening morning sunlight that it would be the first of many
such innocent festivities, and that before it was over--before it
was over, she and Rodney might have something wonderful to tell the
girls and boys of Monroe.
But in the long winter afternoons her confidence waned a little, and
at night, dreaming over her cards, she began to have serious
misgivings. Then the old house seemed cold and inhospitable and the
burden of carrying a social affair to success fell like a dreadful
weight on the girl's soul. Mama, Lydia, and Sally would cooperate to
the best of their power, of course; Pa and Len might be expected to
make themselves as annoying as possible.
Supper, decorations, even the question of gowns paled before the
task of making a list of guests. Sally and Martie early realized
that they must inevitably hurt the feelings and disappoint the trust
of more than one old friend. Mrs. Monroe and Lydia grew absolutely
sick over the necessity.
"Ma, this is just for the younger set," Martie argued. "And if
people like Miss Fanny and the Johnsons expect to come to it, why,
it's ridiculous, that's all!"
"I know, dear, but it's the first party we have given in YEARS" her
mother said plaintively, "and one hates to--"
"What I've DONE" said Martie in a worried tone, "is write down all
the POSSIBLE boys in Monroe, even counting Len and Billy Frost, and
Rod, and Alvah Brigham. Then I wrote down all the girls I'd like to
ask if I COULD, and there were about fourteen too many. So now I'm
scratching off all the girls I CAN--"
"I do think you ought to ask Grace Hawkes!" Lydia said firmly and
"Well, I can't!" Martie answered quickly. "So it doesn't matter what
you think! I beg your pardon, Lyd," she added penitently, laying her
hand on Lydia's arm. "But you know Rodney's sisters would die if
"Well, I think it's a mistake to slight Grace," Lydia persisted.
Martie studied her pencilled list gloomily for a few seconds.
"Sometimes I wish we weren't having it!" she said moodily.
"Oh, Martie, when we've always said we'd give ANYTHING to entertain
as other people do!" Sally exclaimed. "I DO think that's
Martie made no answer. She was looking at a memorandum which read:
As the days went by the thought of the dance grew more and more
troublesome. The details of the affair were too strange to be
entered into with any confidence, any rush of enthusiasm and
spontaneity. Every hour brought her fresh cause for worry.
Nothing went well. The thought of her dress worried her. She had
conceived the idea of a black gown ornamented with cretonne roses,
carefully applied. She and Sally cut out the flowers, and applied
them with buttonhole stitch, sewing until their fingers were sore,
their faces flushed, and their hair in frowsy disorder. It was slow
work. Miss Pepper, the seamstress, engaged for one day only to do
the important work on both Sally's and Martie's gown, kept
postponing, as she always did postpone, the day, finally appointing
the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day. Pa's cousin, a certain Mrs.
Potts, wrote from Portland that she was coming down for the holiday,
and Sally and Martie could have wept at the thought of the
complication of having her exacting presence in the house. Worse
than this Pa, who was to have gone to San Francisco on business on
Friday morning--whose decision to do so had indeed been one of
Martie's reasons for selecting this date for the affair--suddenly
changed his plan. He need not go until December, he said.
Leonard, who at first had been faintly interested in the
proceedings, later annoyed his sisters by intimating that he would
not be present at the dance. Martie and Sally did not want him for
any social qualities he possessed, but he was a male; he would at
least help to offset the alarming plurality of females.
Acceptances came promptly from the young women of Monroe, even from
Ida and May Parker. Florence Frost regretted; she was smitten even
now with the incurable illness that would end her empty life a few
years later. Such men as Martie and Sally had been able to list as
eligible--the new young doctor from the Rogers building, little
Billy Frost, the Patterson boys, home from college for Thanksgiving,
Reddy Johnson, and Carl Polhemus--answered not at all, as is the
custom with young men. Sally and Martie did not like the Patterson
boys; George was fat and stupid; Arthur at eighteen sophisticated
and blase, with dissipated eyes; both were supercilious, and the
girls did not really believe that they would come. Still, there was
not much to lose in asking them.
There had been a debate over Reddy Johnson's name; but Reddy was a
wonderful dancer. So he was asked, and Martie went so far as to say
that had Joe Hawkes possessed an evening suit, he and Grace might
have been asked, too. As it was, Sally and Martie hoped they would
not meet Grace until the affair was over.
They fumed and fussed over the list until they knew it by heart.
They wondered who would come first, how soon they should begin
dancing, how soon serve supper. Mrs. Monroe thought supper should be
served at half-past ten. Martie groaned. Oh, they couldn't serve
supper until almost midnight, she protested.
Dinner was at noon on Thanksgiving Day, and the Monroes, sated and
overwarm, were sitting about the fire when Rodney Parker and his
friend, Alvah Brigham, came to take Martie and Sally walking. The
girls were sewing at the endless roses; but they jumped up in a
flutter, and ran for hats and sweaters. They did not exchange a
word, nor lose a second, while they were upstairs, running down
again immediately to end the uncomfortable silence that held the
group about the fire.
It was a cold, bleak day, and the pure air was delicious to Martie's
hot cheeks after the close house. She had immediately taken
possession of Alvah; Sally and Rodney followed. They took the old
bridge road, which the girls loved for the memory of bygone days,
when they had played at dolls' housekeeping along the banks of the
little Sonora, climbed the low oaks, and waded in the bright shallow
water. Even through to-day's excitement Martie had time for a memory
of those long-ago summer afternoons, and she said to herself with a
vague touch of pain that it would of course be impossible to have
with any man the serene communion of those days with Sally.
Mr. Brigham was a pale, rather fat young man with hair already
thinning. He did not have much to say, but he was always ready to
laugh, and Martie saw that he had cause for laughter. She rattled on
recklessly, anxious only to avoid silence; hardly conscious of what
she said. The effect of the cool, fresh air was lost upon Martie to-
day; she was fired to fever-pitch by Rodney's nearness.
He had not ever said anything exactly loverlike, she said to
herself, with a sort of breathless discontent, when she was setting
the table for a cold supper that night. But he had brought his
friend to them after all! She must not be exacting. She had so much-
"I beg your pardon, Cousin Allie?" she stammered. Her obnoxious
relative, a stout, moustached woman of fifty, warming her skirts at
the fire, was smiling at her unkindly.
"You always was a great one to moon, Martha!" said Mrs. Potts, "I's
asking you what you see in that young feller to make such a to-do
"Then you don't like him?" Martie countered, laughing. Mrs. Potts
bridled. Her favourite attitude toward life was a bland but
suspicious superiority; she liked to be taken seriously.
"I didn't say I didn't like him," she answered, accurately, a little
nettled. "No, my dear, I didn't say that. No. I wouldn't say that of
any young man!" she added thoughtfully.
Smiling a dark smile, she looked into the fire. Martie, rather
uncomfortable, went on with her task.
"He's seemed to admire our Mart in a brotherly sort of way since the
very beginning," Lydia explained, anxious as usual to say the kind
thing, and succeeding as usual in saying the one thing that could
hurt and annoy. "He's quite a boy for the girls, but we think our
Martie is too sensible to take him seriously, yet awhile!" And Lydia
gave her sister a smile full of sweet significance.
"HOPE she is!" Mrs. Potts said heavily. "For if that young feller
means business I miss MY guess!"
"Oh, for pity's sake--can't a man ask a girl to go walking without
all this fuss!" Martie burst out angrily. "I NEVER heard so much--
The last words were only an ashamed mumble as she disappeared
"H'm!" said Mrs. Potts, eying Lydia over her glasses. "Kinder touchy
about him just the same. Well! what's he to that young feller used
to come see you, Lydia? Ain't the Frosts and the Parkers kin?"
"I really think she's the most detestable old woman that ever was!"
Martie said, when the three girls were going to bed that night.
Lydia, loitering in her sister's room for a few minutes, made no
"Well, by this time to-morrow night the party will be nearly over!"
Martie looked at the clock. A quarter past eleven. What would be
happening at quarter past eleven to-morrow night?
The girls awakened early, and were early astir. A rush of
preparation filled the morning, so soothing in its effect upon
nerves and muscles that Martie became wild with hope. The parlours
looked prettier than the girls had ever seen them; the pungent
sweetness of chrysanthemums and evergreen stealing into the clean,
well-aired spaces, and bowls of delicious violets sending out
currents of pure perfume. Martie swept, straightened, washed gas
globes, shook rugs. She gathered the flowers herself, straightening
the shoulders that were beginning to ache as she arranged them with
wet, cool fingers. Sally was counting napkins, washing china and
glass. Belle dragged through the breakfast dishes. Lydia was capably
mixing the filling for sandwiches. Outside, the morning was still;
fog dripped from the trees. Sometimes the sudden sputtering chuckle
of disputing chickens broke the quiet; a fish cart rattled by
unseen, the blare of the horn sending Mrs. Monroe with a large empty
platter to the gate.
At two o'clock Lydia and Martie walked down town for the last
shopping. Martie was aware, under the drumming excitement in her
blood, that she was already tired. But to buy bottled cherries for
the lemonade, olives for the sandwiches, and flat pink and white
mint candies was exhilarating, and Reddy Johnson's cheery "See you
to-night, Martie!" made her blue eyes dance with pleasure. After
all, a dance was no such terrible matter!
They were in Mason and White's, seated at a counter, in consultation
over a purchase of hairpins, when two gloved hands were suddenly
pressed over Martie's eyes, and a joyous voice said "Hello!" The
next instant Rose's eyes were laughing into hers.
"Rose Ransome!" Martie and Lydia said together. The two younger
girls began to chatter eagerly.
Why, when had she gotten home? Only this morning. And oh, it did
seem so good to be home! And how was everybody? And how was college?
Oh, fine! And was she still at the same house? Oh, yes! And so poor
old Mrs. Preble was dead? Uncle Ben had felt so badly--
"Say, Rose, we're having a sort of party to-night," Martie said
awkwardly, and with a certain hesitation. Details followed. Rose, as
pretty as a bird in her little checked suit and feathered hat,
listened with bright interest. "Why can't you come?" Martie finished
eagerly. "The more the merrier!"
"Well--no." Rose hesitated prettily. "My first evening at home, you
know--I think I hadn't better. I'd love to, Martie. And about the
picnic to-morrow; that I CAN do! What'll I bring?"
"Rose is a sweet little thing," Lydia said, when the sisters were
walking home again. "I'm sorry she can't come to-night; she has a
way of making things GO."
Martie did not answer. She was mentally, for the hundredth time,
putting on the black gown with the pink roses stitched all about the
flounce, and piling up her bronze hair.
The short afternoon waned, fog closing in the village again with the
dark. Martie and Sally came down to supper with thin little crepe
wrappers over their crisp skirts and best stockings and slippers.
Both girls had spent the late afternoon in bathing, taking last
stitches, laughing and romping over the upper floor, but the blazing
colour in their faces now was as much from nervous fatigue as from
excitement. Neither was hungry, nor talkative, and Mrs. Potts and
their father monopolized the conversation.
Len was sulky because he had played his usual game badly this
evening, and chance failing him had favoured the girls. He had asked
to be excused from the party, to their deep but unexpressed
indignation, and had almost won his father's consent to a request to
go down town a while, when a casual inquiry from Malcolm as to what
he intended to do down town inspired Len to a reminiscent chuckle
and an artless observation that gee! he might get a chance to sit
outside of the hotel and watch Colonel Frost's new automobile for
him, if the Colonel, as was usual, came down to the monthly meeting
of the Republican Club.
For a few seconds Malcolm did not sense the full indignity of his
son's position as groom for Cyrus Frost. When he did, Leonard had a
bad quarter of an hour, and was directed to get into his Sunday
suit, make himself as useful and agreeable to his sisters as was
possible, and let his father hear no more of this nonsense about old
Frost and his automobile.
Chuckling over this turn of events, the girls went upstairs to
finish dressing. Sally, in an old pink gown, freshly pressed, was
pretty; but Martie, turning flushed and self-conscious from the dim
old mirror, was quite lovely. The black gown made her too-generous
figure seem almost slender; the cretonne roses glowed richly against
the black, and Martie's creamy skin and burnished hair were all the
more brilliant for the contrast. Her heart rose buoyantly as she
realized the success of the gown, and she ran downstairs with sudden
gay confidence in herself and her party.
Her father and mother, with Mrs. Potts, had considerately
disappeared. Malcolm had gone down town; the ladies, wrapped in
shawls, were gossiping in Mrs. Potts's vaultlike chamber. Lydia was
moving about in the downstairs rooms.
"Oh, Martie, Rose telephoned," Lydia said as her sister came in,
"and she says that Mr. Rice and her mother say she must come up to-
night, if it's only for a little while. She's going to bring her
"Oh, that's good," Martie answered absently, sitting down to play
"The Two Grenadiers" with great spirit. "There's some one now, Lyd!"
she added in a half panic, as the doorbell rang. Lydia, her colour
rising suddenly, went to the door, raising her hand above as she
passed under the gaslight to turn the lights to their full
brilliancy. The first arrival was Angela Baxter, with her music roll
under her arm. She kissed Lydia, and went upstairs with Sally.
Then there were other feet on the porch: in came the German girls
and Laura Carter, hooded in knitted fragile scarfs, and wrapped in
pale blue and pink circular capes edged narrowly with fluffy
eiderdown. Elmer King, hoarsely respectful, and young Potter Street
followed. Martie, taking the girls upstairs, called back to them
that she would send Len down. While they were all in Lydia's room,
laying off wraps and powdering noses, Maude Alien came up, and
"Dutch" Harrison's older sister Kate, and Amy Scott, and Martie was
so funny and kept them all in such roars of laughter that Sally was
conscious of a shameless wish that this was what Monroe called a
"hen party," with no men asked. Then they could have games, Proverbs
and even Hide-the-Thimble, and every one would feel happy and at
When they went down Robert Archer, a quiet mild young man who was in
the real estate business, had come; and he and Elmer and Potter were
sitting silently in the parlour. Martie and Sally and the other
girls went in, and every one tried to talk gaily and naturally as
the young men stood up, but there seemed to be no reason why they
should not all sit down, and, once seated, it seemed hard to talk.
What Martie said was met with a nervous glimmer of laughter and a
few throaty monosyllables.
Sally wanted to suggest games, but did not dare. Martie, and indeed
every one else, would have been glad to play Proverbs and Twenty
Questions, but she did not quite like to begin anything so childish
at a real dance. She looked at the clock: just nine. The evening was
Suddenly Angela Baxter stopped murmuring to Lydia, and began to
rattle a quick two step from the piano. Robert Archer, sitting next
to Martie, asked her at once to dance, and Potter Street asked
Sally, but both girls, glancing self-consciously at their guests,
declined, and the young men subsided. So nobody danced the first
dance, and after it there was another lull. Then Martie cheerfully
asked Angela for a waltz, and said bravely:
"Come on, some of you, DO dance this! I can't because I'm hostess."
At this there was some subdued laughter, and immediately the four
young men found partners, and two of the girls danced together. Then
little Billy Frost came in, and after him, as fresh and sweet as her
name, came Rose with the Monroe's only dentist, Bruce Tate. Dr. Tate
was a rather heavy young man, flirtatious and conceited.
Rose put her violin on the piano, and explained that she had met
Rodney Parker that afternoon, "hadn't seen him for YEARS!" and that
he had talked her into coming. No--she wouldn't play until later
laughed Rose; now she wanted to dance.
The hours that followed seemed to Martie like years. She never
forgot them. She urged her guests into every dance with almost
physical force; she felt for the girls who did not dance a nervous
pity. Ida and May came in: neither danced, nor was urged to dance.
They went home at ten o'clock. It was immediately afterward that
Rodney came with his friend. Martie met them in the hall, ready for
the intimate word, the smile that should make all this tiresome
business of lights and piano and sandwiches worth while. Rodney was
a little flushed and noisy, Alvah red-faced, breathing and speaking
a little thickly. They said they were thirsty.
"Lemonade?" Martie suggested confidently.
Rodney glanced quickly at his friend. "Oh, Gawd!" said Mr. Brigham
Then they were in the hot parlour, and Martie was introducing them
to a circle that smiled and said "Pleased to meet choo," over and
over. Alvah would not dance, remarking that he hated dancing. And
Rodney--Rodney had eyes for no one but Rose. Martie saw it, every
one saw it.
Rose was at her best to-night. She knew college songs that Rodney
and Alvah knew, she dimpled and coquetted with the pretty confidence
of a kitten. She stood up, dainty and sweet in her pink gown, and
played her violin, with the gaslight shining down into her brown
eyes, and her lace sleeve slipping back and forth over her white arm
as the bow whipped to and fro.
Rodney did not leave her side, except for a dance with Martie and
one with Sally. After a while he and Rose went out to sit on the
stairs. Alvah grew noisy and familiar, and Martie did not know quite
how to meet his hilarity, although she tried. She was afraid the
echoes of his wild laugh would greet her father's ears, if he had
come in and was upstairs, and that Pa might do something awful.
The evening wore on. Lydia looked tired, and Sally was absolutely
mute, listening politely to Robert Archer's slow, uninteresting
narration of the purchase of the Hospital site. Martie felt as if
she had been in this dreadful gaslight forever; she watched the
At eleven they all went out to the dining room, and here the first
real evidences of pleasure might be seen on the faces of the guests.
Now Lydia, too, was in her favourite element, superintending coffee
cups, while Sally, alert again, cut the layer cakes. The table
looked charming and the sandwiches and coffee, cream and olives,
were swiftly put in circulation. Under the heartening rattle of
cutlery and china every one talked, the air was scented with coffee,
the room so warm that two windows by general consent were opened to
the cool night.
Martie took her share of the duties of hospitality as if in an
oppressive dream. Rodney sat beside her, and Rose on his other side.
To an outsider Martie might have seemed her chattering self, but she
knew--and Sally knew--that the knife was in her heart. She said
good-night to Rodney brightly, and kissed Rose. Rodney was to take
Rose home because, as she explained to Martie in an aside, it was
almost on his way, and it seemed a shame to take Dr. Tate so far.
"I've been scolding Rod terribly; those boys had highballs or
something before they came here," Rose said, puckering her lips and
shaking her head as she carefully pinned a scarf over her pretty
hair. "So silly! That's what we were talking about on the stairs."
She tripped away on Rodney's arm. Alvah, complaining of a splitting
head, went off alone. Somehow the others filtered away; Angela
Baxter, who was to spend the night with Lydia, piled the last of the
dishes with Lydia in the kitchen. Sally, silent and yawning, sank
into an armchair by the dying fire. Martie, watching the lanterns,
and hearing the voices die away after the last slamming of the gate,
stood on the dark porch staring into the night. The trees scarcely
showed against a heavy sky, a restless wind tossed their uppermost
branches; a few drops of rain fell on a little gust of air. The
night was damp and heavy; it pressed upon the village almost like a
soft, smothering weight. Martie felt as if she could hear the world
With miserable, dry eyes, she looked up at the enveloping blackness;
drops of rain on her burning face, a chill shaking her whole body in
the thin gown. Martie wanted to live no longer; she longed to press
somehow into that great silent space, to cool her burning head and
throbbing heart in those immeasurable distances on distances of
dark. She did not want to go back into the dreadful house, where the
chairs were pushed about, and the table a wreck of wilted flowers
and crumbs, where the air was still laden with the odour of coffee
and cigarettes. She did not want to reclaim her own shamed and
helpless little entity after this moment of escape.
Her own pain and mortification--ah, she could have borne those. But
to have Lydia and Sally and Len and all Monroe sorry for her ...
Martie did not sleep that night. She tossed in a restless agony of
remembering, and the pitiable party seemed a life-failure, as she
lay thinking of it in the dark, a colossal blunder never to be
obliterated. They were unlucky--the Monroes. They never could do
things like other people.
Early in the cold dawn she heard the quiet slop and spatter of rain.
Thank God there could be no picnic to-day! Exhausted, she slept.
Whatever Lydia, her mother, and Sally agreed between themselves the
next day they never told, but there was a conspiracy immediately on
foot. Little was said of the party, and nothing of Rodney Parker,
for many days. And if Martie in her fever of hurt pride was not
openly grateful, at least they knew her benefited by the silence.
Rose had no such compunction.
On the afternoon of the long rainy Saturday that was to have been
filled with a picnic, Rose telephoned. She just wanted to see how
every one was--and say what a lovely time she'd had! Ida Parker had
just telephoned, and Rose was going up there at about four o'clock
to stay for dinner, just informally, of course. She would go back to
Berkeley to-morrow night, but she hoped to see the girls in the
Silently, heavily, Martie went on wiping the "company" dishes,
carrying them into the pantry shelves where they had been piled
untouched for years, and where they would stand again unused for a
long, long time. Sally was tired, and complained of a headache.
Lydia was irritatingly cheerful and philosophical. Len had
disappeared, as was usual on Saturday, and Mrs. Monroe and Mrs.
Potts were talking in low tones over the sitting-room fire. Outside,
the rain fell and fell and fell.
Martie thought of Rose, laughing, pink-cheeked, discarding her neat
little raincoat with Rodney's help at four o'clock, at the Parkers'
house, and bringing her fresh laughter into their fire. She thought
of her at six--at seven--and during the silent two hours when she
brooded over her cards.
Coming out of church the next morning, Rose rejoiced over the clear
bath of sunlight that followed the rain. "Rod is going to take me
driving," she told Martie. "I like him ever so much; don't you,
Alice Clark, coming in for a chat with Lydia late that afternoon,
added the information that when little Rose Ransome left the city at
four o'clock, Rod Parker and that fat friend of his went, too.
Escorting Rose--and he and Rose would have tea in the city before he
took her to Berkeley--Martie thought.
That was the beginning, and now scarcely a day passed without its
new sting. The girl was not conscious of any instinct for bravery;
she did not want to be brave, she wanted to draw back from the rack-
-to escape, rather than to endure. A first glimpse of happiness had
awakened fineness in her nature; she had been generous, sweet,
ambitious, only a few weeks ago. She had given new thought to her
appearance, had carried her big frame more erectly. All her bigness,
all her capacity for loving and giving she would have poured at
Rodney's feet; his home, his people, his hopes, and plans--these
would have been hers.
Repulsed, this gold of youth turned to brass; through long idle days
and wakeful nights Martie paid the cruel price for a few hours of
laughter and dreaming. She was not given another moment of hope.
Not that she did not meet Rodney, for in Monroe they must often
meet. And when they met he greeted her, and they laughed and chatted
gaily. But she was not Brunhilde now, and if Sally or Lydia or any
one else was with her she knew he was not sorry.
In the middle of December Rose's mother, the neat little widow who
was like an older Rose, told Sally that Rose was not going back to
college after Christmas. Quietly, without comment, Sally told this
to Martie when they were going to bed that night.
Martie walked to the window, and stood looking out for a long time.
When she came back to Sally her face was pale, her breast moving
stormily, and her eyes glittering.
"They're engaged, I suppose?" Martie said.
Sally did not speak. But her eyes answered.
"Sally," said her sister, in a voice thick with pain, as she sat
down on the bed, "am I to blame? Could I have done differently? Why
does this come to Rose, who has everything NOW, and pass me by? I--I
don't want to be like--like Lyd, Sally; I want to live! What can I
do? Oh, my GOD," said Martie, rising suddenly and beginning to walk
to and fro, with her magnificent mane of hair rolling and tumbling
about her shoulders as she moved, "what shall I do? There is a
world, out there, and people working and living and succeeding in
it--and here I am, in Monroe--dying, dying, DYING of longing! Sally
..." and with tears wet on her cheeks, and her mouth trembling, she
came close to her sister. "Sally," whispered Martie unsteadily, "I
care for--him. I wanted nothing better. I thought--I thought that by
this time next year we might--we might be going to have a baby--
Rodney and I."
She flung back her head, and went again to the window. Sally burst
into bitter crying.
"Oh, Martie--Martie--I know! I know! My darling, splendid, glorious
sister--so much more clever than any one else, and so much BETTER! I
think it'll break my heart!"
And in each other's arms, nineteen and twenty-one wept together at
the bitterness of life.
The days wore by, and Rose came smiling home for Christmas, and
early in the new year Martie and Sally were asked to a pink luncheon
at the Ransome cottage, finding at each chair two little tissue-
paper heart-shaped frames initialled "R. P." and "R. R." with kodak
prints of Rose and Rodney inside. The Monroe girls gave Rose a
"linen shower" in return, and the whole town shared the pleasure of
the happy pair.
Martie had enough to think of now. Not even the thoughts of the
prospective bride could dwell more persistently on her own affairs
than did Martie's thoughts. Rose, welcome at the Parkers', envied
and admired even by Ida and May and Florence; Rose, prettily buying
her wedding finery and dashing off apt little notes of thanks for
her engagement cups and her various "showers"; Rose, fluttering with
confidences and laughter to the admiring Rodney, with the diamond
glittering on her hand; these and a thousand other Roses haunted
Martie. Lydia and her mother admired and marvelled with the rest.
Lydia it was who first brought home the news that the young Parkers
were to be married at Easter, Sally learned from Rose's own lips
that they were to spend a week in Del Monte as honeymoon.
The Monroe girls still wandered down town on weekday mornings,
loitering into the post-office, idling an hour away in the Library,
drifting home to mutton stew or Hamburg steak when the clock in the
town hall struck twelve. Sometimes Martie watched the big eastern
trains thunder by, looking with her wistful young blue eyes at the
card-playing men and the flushed, bored young women with their heads
resting on the backs of their upholstered seats. Sometimes she
stopped at the little magazine stand outside of Carlson's cigar
store; her eye caught by a photograph on the cover of a weekly:
"Broadway at Forty-Second," or "Night Lights from the Singer
Building," or the water-front silhouette that touches like the sight
of a beloved face even some hearts that know it not. She wanted to
do something, now that it was certain that she would not marry.
Slowly, and late, Martie's soul was awakening.
She asked her father if she might go to work. Certainly she might,
her father said lifelessly. Well, what should she do?--the girl
"Ah, that's quite another thing!" Malcolm said, with his favourite
air of detecting an inconsistency. "You want to work? Well and good,
go ahead and do it! But don't expect me to tell you what to do. Your
mother may have some idea. Your grandmother--and she was the
loveliest woman I ever knew!--was content to be merely a lady,
something I wish my daughters knew a little more about. Her
beautiful home, her children and servants, her friends and her
church--that was her work! She didn't want to push coarsely out into
the world. However, if you do, go ahead! I confess I am tired of
seeing the dark, ugly expression you've worn lately, Martie. Go your
Armed with this ungracious permission, Martie went down to see Miss
Fanny, talked with Grace, and even, meeting him on a lonely walk,
climbed into the old phaeton beside Dr. Ben, and asked his advice.
Nothing definite resulted, yet Martie was the happier for the new
interest. Old Father Martin talked to her of her plans one day, and
presently put her in communication with a certain widow, Mrs.
O'Brien, of San Francisco, who wanted an intelligent young woman to
go with her to New York to help with the care and education of two
This possibility fired Martie and Sally to fever-heat, and they
hoped and prayed eagerly while it was under discussion. New York at
last! said Martie, who felt that she had been waiting endless years
for New York. But Mrs. O'Brien, it seemed, wanted some one who would
be able to begin French and German and music lessons for little Jane
and Cora, and the question of Martie's fitness was settled.
Still she was happier, and when Easter came, and the Monroe girls
were bidden to Rose's wedding, it was with a new and charming
gravity in face and manner that Martie went.
The ceremony took place in the comfortable parlours of the Ransome
house; the pretty home wedding possible because Rodney was not a
Catholic. Just like Rose's luck--instead of being married in the
bare, big church, thought Martie, at whose age the religious side of
the question did not appear important. Dr. Ben gave his young cousin
away, and Rose's mother, whose every thought since the fatherless
child was born had been for the girl's good, who had schemed and
worked and prayed for twenty years that Rose might be happy, that
Rose might have music and languages, travel and friends, had her
reward when the lovely little Mrs. Parker flung her fragrant arms
about her, and gave her her first kiss.
Rose looked her prettiest, just becomingly pale, becomingly merry,
becomingly tearful. Her presents, on view upstairs, were far finer
than any Monroe had seen since Cliff Frost was married. Rodney was
the usual excited, nervous, laughing groom. The wedding supper was
perfection, and the young people danced when Father Martin was gone,
and when the bride and groom had dashed away to the ten-o'clock
It was all over. Rose had everything, as usual, and Martie had
Easter was in early April that year, and the sweet, warm month was
dying away when one afternoon Miss Fanny, always hopeful for this
dreaming helpless young creature so full of big faults and big
possibilities, detained Martie in the Library for a little
dissertation upon card catalogues. Martie listened with her usual
enthusiastic interest. Yes--she understood; yes, she understood.
"There's your telephone, Miss Fanny!" said she, in the midst of a
demonstration. The older woman picked up the instrument.
"It's for you, Martie. It's Sally," she said, surprised. "Sally!"
Martie did not understand. She had left Sally at the bridge, and
Sally was to go on to the Town Hall for Pa, with a letter.
"Hello, Martie!" said a buoyant yet tremulous voice. "Martie--this
is Sally. I'm over at Mrs. Hawkes's. Martie--I'm married!"
"Married!" echoed Martie stupidly, eyeing the listening Miss Fanny
"Yes--to Joe. Lissun--can't you come right over? I'll tell you all
Martie put back the receiver in a state of utter stupefaction.
Fortunately the Library was empty, and after telling Miss Fanny the
little she knew, she went out into the sweet, hot street. The town
was in a tent of rustling new leaves; lilacs were in heavy flower.
Roses and bridal-wreath and mock-orange trees were in bloom. Rank
brown grass stood everywhere; the fruit blossoms were gone, tall
buttercups were nodding over the grass.
At the Hawkes's house there were laughter and excitement. Sally,
rosier and more talkative than even Martie had ever seen her before,
was the heroine of the hour. When Martie came in, she flew toward
her in an ecstasy, and with laughter and tears the tale was told.
She and Joe had chanced to meet on the Court House steps, Sally
coming out from the task of delivering a letter from Pa to Judge
Parker, Joe going in with a telegram for Captain Tate. And almost
without words from the lilac-scented, green-shaded street they had
gone into the License Bureau; and almost without words they had
walked out to find Father Martin. And now they were married! And the
thin old ring on Sally's young hand had belonged to Father Martin's
Martie was too generous not to respond to her sister's demand, even
if she had not been completely carried away by the excitement about
Mrs. Hawkes, tears of joy in her eyes, yet smiles shining through
them, was brewing tea for the happy pair. Minnie Hawkes's Rose was
making toast when she was not jumping up and down half mad with
delight. Ellen Hawkes, now Mrs. Castle, was setting the table.
Grandma Kelly was quavering out blessings, and Joe's older brother,
Thomas, who worked at night, and had been breakfasting at four
o'clock, when the young pair burst in, rushed out to the bakery to
come back triumphantly with a white frosted cake.
"It's a fair cake," said Mrs. Hawkes in the babel. "But you wait--
I'll make you a cake!"
"And you know, Joe and I between us just made up the dollar for the
license!" laughed Sally.
"Say, listen," said Ellen suddenly, "you folks have got to take our
house for a few days; how about that, Mother? You and Joe can start
housekeeping there like Terry and me. How about it, Mother? We'll
"But, Sally--not to tell me!" Martie said reproachfully.
"Oh, darling--I did that deliberately!" her sister answered
earnestly. "I'm going to telephone Pa, and I know he'll be wild. And
I DIDN'T want you to be in it! You'll have enough--poor Martie!"
Already the shadow of the old house was passing from her. With what
gaiety she went about the old room, thought Martie, stopped by Mrs.
Hawkes's affectionate arms for a kiss, stopping to kiss Grandma
Kelly of her own free will. Sally had no sense of social values; she
loved to be here, admired, loved, busy.
"Think of the priest giving her his mother's own ring!" said the
women over and over. "It'll bring you big luck, Sally!"
They all sat down at the table, and Terry and John Healey came in to
rejoice, and the Healey baby awoke, and Grace came in from work.
When Martie left there was talk of supper; everybody was to stay for
Walking home in the late spring twilight, Martie felt a certain
satisfaction. Sally was happy, and they would be good to her, and
she would be better off than Lydia, anyway. Joe as a husband was
perfectly absurd, of course, but Joe certainly did love Sally.
Monroe would buzz, but Martie had heard Monroe buzzing for a long
time now, and after the first shock, had found herself unhurt.
Curiously, Sally's plunge into a new life seemed to free her own
"Now I am going to get out!" said Martie, opening her own gate.
When Malcolm Monroe came home that night it was to a well-sustained
hurricane of tears and protest. Mrs. Monroe and Lydia shed genuine
tears, and Martie and Len added diplomatically to the hubbub. Pa
must suspect no one of sympathy for the shameless Sally.
"To think, Pa, after all we've done for her!" sobbed Mrs. Monroe,
and Lydia, wiping her nose and shaking her head, kept saying with
reproachful firmness: "I can't believe it of Sally! Why shouldn't
she tell one of us. To stand up and be married all alone!"
Her father took the news exactly as might have been expected. While
there was hope of convicting Martie or Lydia of complicity, he
questioned them sharply and sternly. When this was gone, he swiftly
worked himself into such a passion as his children had rarely seen
before. Sally and Joe were solemnly denounced, disinherited, and
abandoned. And any child of his who spoke to either should share
"Oh, Papa--don't!" quavered Lydia, as her father strode to the
Bible, and with horrible precision inked from the register the
record of Sally's birth. Mrs. Monroe looked terrified, and even
Leonard was pale. But Martie, to her own amazement, found a sudden
calm scorn in her heart. What a silly thing to do, just because poor
little Sally married the boy she loved. How dared Pa call himself a
Christian while he regarded Sally's downward step from a mere social
level a disgrace! And how cruel he was, playing upon poor Ma's and
Lydia's feelings just for his own satisfaction.
"You understand me, don't you, Martie?" he asked grimly.
"I suppose so." An ugly smile curved Martie's lips. Her lids were
"Well--remember it. And never any one of you mention your sister's
name to me again!"
"No, Pa," said four fervent voices. Then they had dinner.
The next day the three women packed up Sally's things; Lydia and her
mother in tears, but Martie strangely content. Something had
happened at all events. She put Sally's baby sash and collar and
other treasured rubbish in the package, with two scribbled lines
pinned to them: "Praying for you, darling. Pa is furious. The
slipper is for luck. Your M."
And then the eventless days began to wheel by again. Rose came home,
and came to see Martie, and Martie dined at the Parkers'. Rodney,
though obviously blind to all women but his wife, was cordial and
gallant to the guest and Rose took her up to her pretty, frilly
bedroom, so that Martie might take off her hat and coat, and told
Martie that Rod was the neatest man she had ever seen, such a fusser
about his bath and his clothes. On Rose's bureau was a big
photograph of Rodney in a silver frame, and on Rodney's high dresser
a charming photograph of Rose in her wedding gown. When she was
putting on her hat four hours later to be driven home by Rodney,
Martie heard Rose's wifely voice in the hall: "You are a darling to
do this, Rod!" The tone was that in which a man is praised by his
women for a hard duty cheerfully done. Martie was not surprised when
Rose merrily confided to her that Rod wanted his wife to go along--
the silly!--and accompanied them on the short drive.
She did not see much of the young Parkers after that, nor did she
expect to be counted among their intimate friends. She began to
drift into the public kindergarten in the mornings, to help Miss
Malloy with the unruly babies. And she missed Sally more every day.
Sally and Joe had gone to Pittsville immediately after their
wedding; Joe having received a dazzling offer of forty dollars a
month for two summer months from the express company there.
But when Sally had been married six weeks, Martie heard her voice
one day when the younger sister was passing the Hawkes's house.
Instantly she entered the gate, her heart beating high. Sally's
dear, unforgettable voice! And Sally's slender shoulders and soft,
The girls were in each other's arms, laughing and crying as they
clung together. Martie thought she had never seen her sister look so
well, or seem so sweet and gay. There were a thousand questions on
each side to ask; Martie poured out the home news. Sally and Joe
were housekeeping in three rooms, and it was more FUN! And Sally
really cooked him wonderful dinners; his father and mother had come
over to one, and wasn't it good? Mrs. Hawkes enthusiastically
Of course, they had hardly ANYTHING, bubbled Sally, only two
saucepans and one frying pan and the coffee pot. But it was more
FUN! And in the evenings they walked around Pittsville, and went to
the ten-cent theatre, or bought candy and divided it. COULDN'T
Martie come some time to dinner?
"Pa," said Martie simply. Sally's bright face clouded. She sent a
kiss to Ma and darling Lyd. She and Joe would come back to Monroe in
September, and then she would come see Pa and make him forgive her.