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Mary Minds Her Business by George Weston

Part 5 out of 5

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had found herself connecting it with the auditors' work upon the books.

"I would have asked Mr. Woodward for an explanation," continued the
accountant, "but he has been absent yesterday and today. However, as you
will see, no explanation can possibly cover the facts disclosed. There is
a clear case for criminal action against him."

"I don't think there will be any action," said Mary, looking up after a
pause. "I'm sure his father will make good the shortage." But when she
looked at the total she couldn't help thinking, "It will be a tight
squeeze, though, even for Uncle Stanley."

Now that it was over, she felt relieved, as though a load had lifted from
her mind. "He'll never bother Helen again," she found herself thinking.
"Perhaps I had better telephone Judge Cutler and let him handle it--"

The judge promised to be down at once, and Mary turned to her mail. Near
the bottom she found a letter addressed in Burdon's writing. It was
unstamped and had evidently been left at the office. The date-line simply
said "Midnight."

It was a long letter, some of it clear enough and some of it obscure.
Mary was puzzling over it when Judge Cutler and Hutchins entered. As far
as she could remember, it was the first time that the butler had ever
appeared at the factory.

"Anything wrong?" she asked in alarm.

"He was in my office when you telephoned," said the judge. "I'll let him
tell his story as he told it to me.... I think I ought to ask you
something first, though.... Did any one ever tell you that you had a
brother Paul? ..."

"Yes," said Mary, her heart contracting.

Throughout the recital she sat breathless. Now and then the colour rose
to her cheeks, and more than once the tears came to her eyes, especially
when Hutchins' voice broke, and when he said in tones of pride, "Before
we could stop him, Master Paul was over the rail and in the water--"

More than once Mary looked away to hide her emotion, glancing around the
room at her forebears who had never seemed so attentive as then. "You may
well listen," thought Mary. "He may have been the black sheep of the
family, but you see what he did in the end...."

Hutchins told them about the search which he and Archey had made up and
down the banks, aided with a flashlight, climbing, calling, and sometimes
all but falling in the stream themselves. "But it was no use, Miss Mary,"
he concluded. "Master Paul is past all finding, I'm afraid."

For a long time Mary sat silent, her handkerchief to her eyes.

"Archey is still looking," said the judge, rising. "I'll start another
searching party at once. And telephone the towns below, too. We are bound
to find him if we keep on looking, you know--"

They found him sooner than they expected, in the grassy basin at the bend
of the river, where the high water of the night before had borne him--in
the place where he had loved to dream his dreams of youth and adventure
when life was young and the future full of promise. He was lying on his
side, his head on his arm, his face turned to the whispering river, and
there perhaps he was dreaming again--those eternal dreams which only
those who have gone to their rest can know.


Time, quickly passing, brought Mary to another wonderful morning in the
Story of her life. Even as her father's death had broadened her outlook,
so now Paul's heroism gave her a deeper glance at the future, a more
tolerant view of the past.

On the morning in question, Helen brought Wally to the office. He was now
entirely recovered, but Helen still mothered him, every touch a caress,
every glance a look of love. Mary grew very thoughtful as she watched
them. The next morning they were leaving for a tour of the Maine woods.

When they left, an architect called.

Under his arm he had a portfolio of plans for a Welfare Building which he
had drawn exactly according to Mary's suggestions. As long as the idea
had been a nebulous one--drawn only in fancy and coloured with nothing
stronger than conversation, she had liked it immensely; but seeing now
precisely how the building would look--how the space would be divided,
she found herself shaking her head.

"It's my own fault," she said. "You have followed out every one of my
ideas--but somehow--well, I don't like it: that's all. If you'll leave
these drawings, I'll think them over and call you up again in a few

At Judge Cutler's suggestion, Archey had been elected treasurer to take
Burdon's place. Mary took the plans into his office and showed them to
him. They were still discussing them, sitting at opposite sides of his
flat-top desk, when the twelve o'clock whistle blew. A few minutes later,
the four-hour workers passed through the gate, the men walking with their
wives, the children playing between.

"I wonder how it's going to turn out," said Archey.

"I wonder ..." said Mary. "Of course it's too early to tell yet. I don't
know.... Time will tell."

"It was the only solution," he told her.

"I wonder ..." she mused again. "Anyhow it was something definite. If
women are really going to take up men's trades, it's only right that they
should know what it means. As long as we just keep talking on general
lines about a thing, we can make it sound as nice as we like. But when we
try to put theory into practice ... it doesn't always seem the same.

"Take these plans, for instance," she ruefully remarked. "I thought I
knew exactly what I wanted. But now that I see it drawn out to scale, I
don't like it. And that, perhaps, is what we've been doing here in the
factory. We have taken a view of woman's possible future and we have
drawn it out to scale. Everybody can see what it looks like now--they can
think about it--and talk about it--and then they can decide whether they
want it or not...."

He caught a note in her voice that had a touch of emptiness in it.

"Do you know what I would do if I were you?" he gently asked.

She looked at him, his eyes eager with sympathy, his smile tender and
touched with an admiration so deep that it might be called devotion.
Never before had Archey seemed so restful to her--never before with him
had she felt so much at home.

"If I smile at him, he'll blush," she caught herself thinking--and
experienced a rising sense of elation at the thought.

"What would you do!" she asked.

"I'd go away for a few weeks.... I believe the change would do you good."

She smiled at him and watched his responding colour with satisfaction.

"If Vera was right," she thought, "that's Chapter One the way he just
spoke. Now next--he'll try to touch me."

Her eyes ever so dreamy, she reached her hand over the desk and began
playing with, the blotter.

"Why, he's trembling a little," she thought. "And he's looking at it....
But, oh, isn't he shy!"

She tried to hum then and lightly beat time with her hand. "No, it isn't
the only thing in life," she repeated to herself, "but--just as I said
before--sooner or later--it becomes awfully important--" She caught
Archey's glance and smilingly led it back to her waiting fingers.

"How dark your hand is by the side of mine," she said.

He rose to his feet.


"Yes ... Archey?"

"If I were a rich man--or you were a poor girl...."

Mary, too, arose.

"Well," she laughed unsteadily, "we may be ... some day...."

Ten minutes later Sir Joseph of the Plumed Crest opened the door with a
handful of mail. He suddenly stopped ... stared ... smiled ... and
silently withdrew.


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