Part 2 out of 9
it felt. Peaches looked at him with wondering eyes.
"Mickey," she said, "nothin" in all my life ever felt like that, an' the
nice cool washin' you do. Mickey-lovest, nex' time I act mean 'bout what
you want to do to me, slap me good, an' hold me, an' go on an' _do_ it!"
"Now nix on the beating," said Mickey. "I never had any from my mother;
but the kids who lost sales to me took my nickels, and give me plenty. You
ought to know, Lily, that I'm trying hard as I can to make you feel good;
and to take care of you. What I want to do, I think will make you
_better_, so I'm just nachally going to _do_ it, 'cause you're mine, and
you got to do what I say. But I won't say anything that'll hurt you and
make you worse. If you must take time to think new things over, I can
wait; but I can't hit you Lily, you're too little, too sick, and I like
you too well. I wish you'd be a lady! I wish you wouldn't ever be bad
"Hoh I feel so good!" Peaches stretched like a kitten. "Mickey, bet I can
walk 'fore long if you do that often! Mickey, I just love you, an' _love_
you. Mickey, say that at the door over again."
"What?" queried Mickey.
"'One't a little kid named Lily,'" prompted Peaches.
Mickey laughed and obeyed.
Neatly he put away all that had been supplied him; before lighting the
burner he gave Lily a drink of milk and tried arranging both pillows to
prop her up as he had been shown. When the water boiled he dropped in two
bouillon cubes the nurse had given him, and set out some crackers he had
bought. He put the milk in two cups, and when he cut the bread, he
carefully collected every crumb, putting it on the sill in the hope that a
bird might come. The thieving sparrows, used to watching windows and
stealing from stores set out to cool, were soon there. Peaches, to whom
anything with feathers was a bird, was filled with joy. The odour of the
broth was delicious. Mickey danced, turned handsprings, and made the
funniest remarks. Then he fixed the bowl on a paper, broke the crackers in
her broth, growing unspeakably happy at her delight as she tasted it.
"Every Saturday you get a box of that from the Nurse Lady," he boasted.
"Pretty soon you'll be so fat I can't carry you and so well you can have
supper ready when I come, then we can----" Mickey stopped short. He had
started to say, "go to the parks," but if other ladies were like the first
one he had talked with, and if, as she said, the law would not let him
keep Peaches, he had better not try to take her where people would see
"Can what?" asked Peaches.
"Have the most fun!" explained Mickey. "We can sit in the window to see
the sky and birds; you can have the shears and cut pictures from the
papers I'll bring you, while I'll read all my story books to you. I got
three that She gave me for Christmas presents, so I could learn to read
"Mickey could I ever learn to read them?"
"Sure!" cried Mickey. "Surest thing you know! You are awful smart, Lily.
You can learn in no time, and then you can read while I'm gone, so it
won't seem long. I'll teach you. Mother taught me. I can read the papers I
sell. Honest I can. I often pick up torn ones I can bring to you. It's
lots of fun to know what's going on. I sell many more by being able to
tell what's in them than kids who can't read. I look all over the front
page and make up a spiel on the cars. I always fold my papers neat and
keep them clean. To-day it was like this: 'Here's your nice, clean,
morning paper! Sterilized! Deodorized! Vulcanized!'"
"Mickey what does that mean?" asked Peaches.
"Now you see how it comes in!" said Mickey. "If you could read the papers,
you'd _know_. 'Sterilized,' is what they do to the milk in hot weather to
save the slum kids. That's us, Lily. 'Deodorized,' is taking the bad smell
out of things. 'Vulcanized,' is something they do to stiffen things. I
guess it's what your back needs."
"Is all them things done to the papers?" asked Peaches.
"Well, not _all_ of them," laughed Mickey, "but they are starting in on
_some_ of them, and all would be a good thing. The other kids who can't
read don't know those words, so I study them out and use them; it catches
the crowd for they laugh, and then pay me for making them. See? This world
down on the streets is in such a mix a laugh is the scarcest thing there
is; so they _pay_ for it. No grouchy, sad-cat-working-on-your-sympathy kid
sells many. I can beat one with a laugh every inning."
"What's 'inning,' Mickey?" came the next question.
"Playin' a side at a ball game. Now Ty Cobb----"
"Go on with what you say about the papers," interrupted Peaches.
"All right!" said Mickey. "'Here's your nice, clean morning paper!
Sterilized! Deodorized! Vulcanized! I _like_ to sell them. You _like_ to
buy them! _Sometimes_ I sell them! Sometimes I _don't!_ Latest war news!
Japan takes England! England takes France! France takes Germany! Germany
takes Belgium! Belgium takes the cake! Here's your paper! Nice clean
paper! Rush this way! Change your change for a paper! Yes, I _like_ to
sell them----' and on and on that way all day, 'til they're gone and every
one I pick up and smooth out is gone, and if they're torn and dirty, I
carry them back on the cars and sell them for pennies to the poor folks
"Mickey, will we be slum kids always?" she asked.
"Not on your tin type!" cried Mickey.
"If this is slum kids, I like it!" protested Peaches.
"Well, Sunrise Alley ain't so slummy as where you was, Lily," explained
"This is grand," said Peaches "Fine an' grand! No lady needn't have
"She wouldn't say so," said Mickey. "But Lily, you got something most of
the millyingaire ladies hasn't."
"What Mickey?" she asked interestedly.
"One man all to yourself, who will do what you want, if you ask pretty,
and he ain't going to drag you 'round and make you do things you don't
like to, and hit you, and swear at you, and get drunk. Gee, I bet the
worst you ever had didn't hurt more than I've seen some of the swell dames
hurt sometimes. It'd make you sick Lily."
"I guess 'at it would," said the girl, "'cause granny told me the same
thing. Lots of times she said 'at she couldn't see so much in bein' rich
if you had to be treated like she saw rich ladies. She said all they got
out of it was nice dresses an' struttin' when their men wasn't 'round;
nelse the money was theirn, an' nen they made the men pay. She said it was
'bout half and half."
"So 'tis!" cried Mickey. "Tell you Lily, don't let's ever _be_ rich! Let's
just have enough."
"Mickey, what is 'enough?'" asked Peaches.
"Why plenty, but not too much!" explained Mickey judicially. "Not enough
to fight over! Just enough to be comfortable."
"Mickey, I'm comf'rable as nangel now."
"Gee, I'm glad, Lily," said Mickey in deep satisfaction. "Maybe He heard
my S.O.S. after all, and you just being _comfortable_ is the answer."
"_Bearer of Morning_"
"Douglas," called Leslie over the telephone, "I have developed nerves."
"Why?" inquired he.
"Dad has just come in with a pair of waist-high boots, and a scalping
knife, I think," answered Leslie. "Are you going to bring a blanket and a
"The blanket, I can; the bonnet, I might," said Douglas.
"How early will you be ready?" she asked.
"Whenever you say," he replied.
"Five?" she queried.
"Very well!" he answered. "And Leslie, I would suggest a sweater, short
stout skirts, and heavy gloves. Do you know if you are susceptible to
"I have handled anything wild as I pleased all my life," she said. "I am
sure there is no danger from that source; but Douglas, did you ever hear
of, or see, a massasauga?"
"You are perfectly safe on that score," he said. "I am going along
especially to take care of you."
"All right, then I won't be afraid of snakes," she said.
"I have waders, too," he said, "and I'm going into the swamp with you.
Wherever you wish to go, I will precede you and test the footing."
"Very well! I have lingered on the borders long enough.
To-morrow will be my initiation. By night I'll have learned the state of
my artistic ability with natural resources, and I'll know whether the
heart of the swamp is the loveliest sight I ever have seen, and I will
have proved how I 'line up' with a squaw-woman."
"Leslie, I'm now reading a most interesting human document," said Douglas,
"and in it I have reached the place where Indians in the heart of terrific
winter killed and heaped up a pile of deer in early day in Minnesota, then
went to camp rejoicing, while their squaws were left to walk twenty-eight
miles and each carry back on her shoulder a deer frozen stiff. Leslie, you
don't line up! You are not expected to."
"Do you believe that, Douglas?" asked the girl.
"It's history dear, not fiction," he answered.
"Douglas!" she warned.
"Leslie, I beg your pardon! That was a slip!" cried he.
"Oh!" she breathed.
"Leslie, will you do something for me?" he questioned.
"What?" she retorted.
"Listen with one ear, stop the other, and tell me what you hear," he
"Yes," she said.
"Did you hear, Leslie?" he asked anxiously.
"I heard something, I don't know what," she answered.
"Can you describe it, Leslie?"
"Just a rushing, beating sound! What is it Douglas?"
"My heart, Leslie, sending to you each throbbing stroke of my manhood
pouring out its love for you."
"Oh-h-h!" cried the astonished girl.
"Will you listen again, Leslie?" begged the man.
"No!" she said.
"You don't want to hear what my heart has to say to you?" he asked.
"Not over a wire! Not so far away!" she panted.
"Then I'll shorten the distance. I'm coming, Leslie!"
"What shall I do?" she gasped. She stared around her, trying to decide
whether she should follow her impulse to hide, when her father entered the
"Daddy," she cried, "if you want to be nice to me, go away a little while.
Go somewhere a few minutes and stay until I call you."
"Leslie, what's the matter?" he asked.
"I've been talking to Douglas, and Daddy, he's coming like a charging
Highland trooper. Daddy, I heard him drop the receiver and start. Please,
please go away a minute. Even the dearest father in the world can't do
anything now! We must settle this ourselves."
"I'm not to be allowed a word?" he protested.
"Daddy, you've had two years! If you know anything to say against Douglas
and haven't said it in all that time, why should you begin now? You
couldn't help knowing! Daddy, do go! There he is! I hear him!"
Mr. Winton took his daughter in his arms, kissed her tenderly, and left
the room. A second later Douglas Bruce entered. Rushing to Leslie he
caught her to his breast roughly, while with a strong hand he pressed her
ear against his heart.
"Now you listen, my girl!" he cried. "You listen at close range."
Leslie remained quiet a long second. Then she lifted her face, adorable,
misty eyed and tenderly smiling.
"Douglas, I never listened to a heart before! How do I know what it is
saying? I can't tell whether it is talking about me or protesting against
the way you've been rushing around!" "No levity, my lady," he said grimly.
"This is serious business. You listen while I interpret. I love you,
Leslie! Every beat, every stroke, love for you. I claim you! My mate! My
wife! I want you!"
He held her from him, looking into her eyes.
"Now Leslie, the answer!" he cried. "May I listen to it or will you tell
me? _Is_ there any answer? What is _your_ heart saying? May I hear or will
you tell me?"
"I want to tell you!" said the girl. "I love you, Douglas! Every beat,
every stroke, love for you."
Early the next morning they inspected their equipment carefully, then
drove north to the tamarack swamp, where they arranged that Leslie and
Douglas were to hunt material, while Mr. Winton and the driver went to the
nearest Indian settlement to find the squaw who had made the other basket,
and bring her to the swamp.
If you have experienced the same emotions you will know how Douglas and
Leslie felt when hand in hand they entered the swamp on a perfect morning
in late May. If you have not, mere words are inadequate.
Through fern and brake head high, through sumac, willow, elder,
buttonbush, gold-yellow and blood-red osiers, past northern holly, over
spongy moss carpet of palest silvery green up-piled for ages, over red-
veined pitcher plants spilling their fullness, among scraggy, odorous
tamaracks, beneath which cranberries and rosemary were blooming; through
ethereal pale mists of dawn, in their ears lark songs of morning from the
fields, hermit thrushes in the swamp, bell birds tolling molten notes, in
a minor strain a swelling chorus of sparrows, titmice, warblers, vireos,
went two strong, healthy young people newly promised for "better or
worse." They could only look, stammer, flush, and utter broken
exclamations, all about "better." They could not remotely conceive that
life might serve them the cruel trick of "worse."
Leslie sank to her knees. Douglas lifted her up, set her on the firmest
location he could see, adoring her with his eyes and reverent touch. Since
that first rough grasp as he drew her to him, Leslie had felt positively
fragile in his hands. She smiled at him her most beautiful smile when
wide-eyed with emotion.
"Douglas, why just now, when you've waited two years?" she asked.
"Wanted a degree of success to offer," he answered.
Leslie disdained the need for success.
"Wanted you to have time to know me as completely as possible."
Leslie intimated that she could learn faster.
"Wanted to have the acknowledged right to put my body between yours and
any danger this swamp might have to offer to-day."
"Exactly what I thought!" cried she.
"Wise girl," commented the man.
"Douglas, I must hurry!" said Leslie. "It may take a long time to find the
flowers I want, while I've no idea what I shall do for a basket. I saw
osiers yellow and red in quantities, but where are the orchids?"
"We must make our way farther in and search," he said.
"Douglas, listen!" breathed Leslie.
"I hear exquisite music," he answered.
"But don't you recognize it?" she cried.
"It does seem familiar, but I am not sufficiently schooled in music----"
The girl began softly to whistle.
"By Jove!" cried the man. "What is that Leslie?"
"Di Provenza, from Traviata," she answered. "But I must stop listening for
birds Douglas, when I can scarcely watch for flowers or vines. I have to
keep all the time looking to make sure that you are really my man."
"And I, that you are my woman. Leslie, that expression and this location,
the fact that you are in competition with a squaw and the Indian talk we
have indulged in lately, all conspire to remind me that a few days ago,
while I was still a 'searcher' myself, I read a poem called 'Song of the
Search' that was the biggest thing of its kind that I have yet found in
our language. It was so great that I reread it until I am sure I can do it
justice. Listen my 'Bearer of Morning,' my 'Bringer of Song----'"
Douglas stood straight as the tamaracks, his feet sinking in "the little
moss," while from his heart he quoted Constance Skinner's wonderful poem:
"_I descend through the forest alone.
Rose-flushed are the willows, stark and a-quiver,
In the warm sudden grasp of Spring;
Like a woman when her lover has suddenly, swiftly taken her.
I hear the secret rustle of little leaves,
Waiting to be born.
The air is a wind of love
From the wings of eagles mating----
O eagles, my sky is dark with your wings!
The hills and the waters pity me,
The pine-trees reproach me.
The little moss whispers under my feet,
"Son of Earth, Brother,
Why comest thou hither alone?"
Oh, the wolf has his mate on the mountain----
Where art thou, Spring-daughter?
I tremble with love as reeds by the river,
I burn as the dusk in the red-tented west,
I call thee aloud as the deer calls the doe,
I await thee as hills wait the morning,
I desire thee as eagles the storm;
I yearn to thy breast as night to the sea,
I claim thee as the silence claims the stars.
O Earth, Earth, great Earth,
Mate of God and mother of me,
Say, where is she, the Bearer of Morning,
My Bringer of Song?
Love in me waits to be born,
Where is She, the Woman?_
"'Where is she, the Woman?' The answer is 'Here!' 'Bearer of Morning,'
'Bringer of Song,' I adore you!"
"Oh Douglas, how beautiful!" cried Leslie. "My Man, can we think of
anything save ourselves to-day? Can we make that basket?"
"It would be a bad start to give up our first undertaking together," he
"Of course!" she cried. "We must! We simply must find things. Father may
call any minute. Let go my hand and follow behind me. Keep close,
"I should go before to clear the way," he suggested.
"No, I may miss rare flowers if you do," she objected.
"Go slowly, so I can watch before and overhead."
"Yes!" she answered. "There! There, Douglas!"
"Ah! There they are!" he exulted.
"But I can't take them!" she protested.
"Only a few, Leslie. Look before you! See how many there are!" he said.
"Douglas, could there be more wonderful flowers than the moccasins and
slippers?" she asked.
"Scarcely more wonderful; there might be more delicate and lovely!"
"Farther! Let us go farther!" she urged.
Her cry closed the man's arms around her.
Then there was a long silence during which they stood on the edge of a
small open space breathlessly worshipping, but it was the Almighty they
were now adoring. Here the moss lay in a flat carpet, tinted deeper green.
Water willow rolled its ragged reddish-tan hoops, with swelling bloom and
leaf buds. Overflowing pitcher plants grew in irregular beds, on slender
stems, lifting high their flat buds. But scattered in groups here and
there, sometimes with massed similar colours, sometimes in clumps and
variegated patches, stood the rare, early fringed orchis, some almost
white, others pale lavender and again the deeper colour of the moccasins;
while everywhere on stems, some a foot high, nodded the exquisite lavender
and white showy orchis.
"Count!" he commanded.
Leslie pointed a slender finger indicating each as she spoke: "One, two,
three--thirty-two, under the sweep of your arms, Douglas! And more! More
by the hundred! Surely if we are careful not to kill them, the Lord won't
mind if we take out a few for people to see, will He?"
"He must have made them to be seen!" said Douglas.
"And worshipped!" cried the girl.
"Douglas, why didn't the squaw----?" asked Leslie.
"Maybe she didn't come this far," he said. "Perhaps she knows by
experience that these are too fragile to remove. You may not be able to
handle them, Leslie."
"I'm going to try," she said. "But first I must make my basket. We'll go
back to the osiers to weave it and then come here to fill it. Oh Douglas!
Did you ever see such flower perfection in all your life?"
"Only in books! In my home country applied botany is a part of every man's
education. I never have seen ragged or fringed orchids growing before. I
have read of many fruitless searches for the white ones."
"So have I. They seem to be the rarest. Douglas, look there!"
"There" was a group of purple-lavender, white-lipped bloom, made by years
of spreading from one root, until above the rank moss and beneath the dark
tamarack branch the picture appeared inconceivably delicate.
"Yes! The most exquisite flowers I ever have seen!"
"And there, Douglas!" She pointed to another group. "Just the shade of the
lavender on the toe of the moccasin--and in a great ragged mass! Would any
one believe it?"
"Not without seeing it," he said emphatically.
"And there, Douglas! Exactly the colour of the moccasins--see that
cluster! There are no words, Douglas!"
"Shall you go farther?" he asked.
"No," she answered. "I'm going back to weave my basket. There is nothing
to surpass the orchids in rarity and wondrous beauty."
"Good!" he cried. "I'll go ahead and you follow."
So they returned to the osiers. Leslie pondered deeply a few seconds, then
resolutely putting Douglas aside, she began cutting armloads of pale
yellow osiers. Finding a suitable place to work, she swiftly and deftly
selected perfect, straight evenly coloured ones, cutting them the same
length, then binding the tip ends firmly with raffia she had brought to
substitute for grass. Then with fine slips she began weaving, gradually
spreading the twigs while inwardly giving thanks for the lessons she had
taken in basketry. At last she held up a big, pointed, yellow basket.
"Ready!" she said.
"Beautiful!" cried Douglas.
Leslie carefully lined the basket with moss in which the flowers grew,
working the heads between the open spaces she had left. She bent three
twigs, dividing her basket top in exact thirds. One of these she filled
with the whitest, one with stronger, and one with the deepest lavender,
placing the tallest plants in the centre so that the outside ones would
show completely. Then she lifted by the root exquisite showy orchis,
lavender-hooded, white-lipped, the tiniest plants she could select and set
them around the edge. She bedded the moss-wrapped roots in the basket and
began bordering the rim and entwining the handle with a delicate vine. She
looked up at Douglas, her face thrilled with triumph, flushed with
exertion, her eyes humid with feeling, while he gazed at her stirred to
the depth of his heart with sympathy and the wonder of possession.
"'Bearer of Morning,' you win!" he cried triumphantly. "There is no use
going farther. Let me carry that to your father, and he too will say so."
"I have a reason for working out our plan," she said.
"Yes? May I know?" he asked.
"Surely!" she answered. "You remember what you told me about the Minturns.
I can't live in a city and not have my feelings harrowed every day, and
while I'd like to change everything wrong, I know I can't all of it, so
what I can't cope with must be put aside; but this refuses, it is
insistent. When you really think of it, that is so _dreadful_, Douglas. If
they once felt what we do now, could it _all_ go? There must be something
left! You mention him oftener than any other one man, so you must admire
him deeply; I know her as well as any woman I meet in society, better than
most; I had thought of asking them to be the judges. She is interested in
music and art; it would please her and be perfectly natural for me to ask
her; you are on intimate terms with him from your offices being opposite;
there could be no suspicion of any ulterior motive in having them. I don't
know that it would accomplish anything, but it would let them know, to
begin with, that we consider them friends; so it would be natural for them
to come with us; if we can't manage more than that to-day, it will give us
ground to try again."
"Splendid!" he said. "A splendid plan! It would let them see that at least
our part of the world thinks of them together, and expects them to be
"I have finished," said Leslie.
"I quite agree," answered Douglas. "No one could do better. That is the
ultimate beauty of the swamp made manifest. There is the horn! Your father
A surprise was also waiting. Mr. Winton had not only found the squaw who
brought the first basket, but he had made her understand so thoroughly
what was wanted that she had come with him, while at his suggestion she
had replaced the moccasin basket as exactly as she could and also made an
effort at decoration. She was smiling woodenly when Leslie and Douglas
approached, but as Leslie's father glimpsed and cried out over her basket,
the squaw frowned, drawing back.
"Where you find 'em?" she demanded.
"In the swamp!" Leslie nodded backward.
The squaw grunted disapprovingly. "Lowry no buy 'em! Sell slipper! Sell
moccasin! No sell weed!"
Leslie looked with shining eyes at her father.
"That lies with Lowry," he said. "I'll drive you there and bring you back,
and you'll have the ride and the money for your basket. That's all that
concerns you. We won't come here to make any more."
The squaw smiled again, so they started to the city. They drove straight
to the Winton residence for the slippers. While Mr. Winton and the squaw
went to take the baskets to Lowry's and leave Douglas at his office,
Leslie in his car went to Mrs. Minturn's.
"Don't think I'm crazy," laughed Leslie, as Mrs. Minturn came down to meet
her. "I want to use your exquisite taste and art instinct a few minutes.
Please do come with me. We've a question up. You know the wonderful stuff
the Indians bring down from the swamps to sell on the streets and to the
"Indeed yes! I often buy of them in the spring. I love the wild white
violets especially. What is it you want?"
"Why you see," said Leslie, looking eagerly at Mrs. Minturn, "you see
there are three flower baskets at Lowry's. Douglas Bruce is going to buy
me the one I want most for a present, to celebrate a very important
occasion, and I can't tell which is most artistic. I want you to decide.
Your judgment is so unfailing. Will you come? Only a little spin!"
"Leslie, you aren't by any chance asking me to select your betrothal gift,
Leslie's face was rose-flushed smiling wonderment. She had hastily slipped
off her swamp costume. Joy that seemed as if it must be imperishable shone
on her brightly illumined face. With tightly closed, smile-curved lips she
vigorously nodded. The elder woman bent to kiss her.
"Of course I'll come!" she laughed. "I feel thrilled, and flattered. And I
congratulate you sincerely. Bruce is a fine man. He'll make a big fortune
"Oh I hope not!" said Leslie.
"Are you crazy?" demanded Mrs. Minturn. "You said you didn't want me to
think you so!"
"You see," said Leslie, "Mr. Bruce has a living income; so have I, from my
mother. Fortunes seem to me to work more trouble than they do good. I
believe poor folks are happiest, they get most out of life, and after all
what gives deep, heart-felt joy, is the thing to live for, isn't it? But
we must hurry. Mr. Lowry didn't promise to hold the flowers long."
"I'll be ready in a minute, but I see where Douglas Bruce is giving you
wrong ideas," said Mrs. Minturn. "He needs a good talking to. Money is the
only thing worth while, and the comfort and the pleasure it brings.
Without it you are crippled, handicapped, a slave crawling while others
step over you. I'll convince _him!_ Back in a minute."
When Mrs. Minturn returned she was in a delightful mood, her face eager,
her dress beautiful. Leslie wondered if this woman ever had known a care,
then remembered that not long before she had lost a little daughter.
Leslie explained as they went swiftly through the streets.
"You won't mind waiting only a second until I run up to Mr. Bruce's
offices?" she asked.
He was ready, so together they stopped at Mr. Minturn's door. Douglas
whispered: "Watch the office boy. He is Minturn's Little Brother I told
Leslie nodded and entered gaily.
"Please ask Mr. Minturn if he will see Miss Winton and Mr. Douglas Bruce a
minute?" she said.
An alert, bright-faced lad bowed politely, laid aside a book and entered
the inner office.
"Now let me!" said Leslie. "Good May, Mr. Minturn!" she cried. "Positively
enchanting! Take that forbidding look off your face. Come for a few
minutes Maying! It will do you much good, and me more. All my friends are
pleasuring me to-day. So I want as good a friend of Mr. Bruce as you, to
be in something we have planned. You just must!"
"Has something delightful happened?" asked Mr. Minturn, retaining the hand
Leslie offered him as he turned to Douglas Bruce.
"You must ask Miss Winton," he said.
Mr. Minturn's eyes questioned her sparkling face, while again with closed
lips she nodded. "My most earnest congratulations to each of you. May life
grant you even more than you hope for, and from your faces, that is no
small wish to make for you. Surely I'll come! What is it you have
"Something lovely!" said Leslie. "At Lowry's are three flower baskets that
are rather bewildering. I am to have one for my betrothal gift, but I
can't decide. I appealed to Mrs. Minturn to help me, and she agreed; she
is waiting below. Mr. Bruce named you for him; so you two and Mr. Lowry
are to choose the most artistic basket for me, then if I don't agree, I
needn't take it, but I want to see what you think. You'll come of course?"
Mr. Minturn's face darkened at the mention of his wife, while he hesitated
and looked penetratingly at Leslie. She was guileless, charming, and
"Very well," Mr. Minturn said gravely. "I'm surprised, but also pleased.
Beautiful young ladies have not appealed to me so often of late that I can
afford to miss the chance of humouring the most charming of her sex."
"How lovely!" laughed Leslie. "Douglas, did you ever know Mr. Minturn
could flatter like that? It's most enjoyable! I shall insist on more of
it, at every opportunity! Really, Mr. Minturn, society has missed you of
late, and it is our loss. We need men who are worth while."
"Now it is you who flatter," smiled Mr. Minturn.
"See my captive!" cried Leslie, as she emerged from the building and
crossed the walk to the car. "Mr. Bruce and Mr. Minturn are great friends,
so as we passed his door we brought him along by force."
"It certainly would require that to bring him anywhere in my company,"
said Mrs. Minturn coldly.
The shock of the cruelty of the remark closed Douglas' lips, but it was
Leslie's day to bubble, so she resolutely set herself to heal and cover
"I think business is a perfect bugbear," she said as she entered the car.
"I'm going to have a pre-nuptial agreement as to just how far work may
trespass on Douglas' time, and how much belongs to me. I think it can be
arranged. Daddy and I always have had lovely times together, and I would
call him successful. Wouldn't you?"
"A fine business man!" said Mr. Minturn heartily.
"You could have had much greater advantages if he had made more money,"
said Mrs. Minturn.
"The advantage of more money--yes," retorted Leslie quickly, "but would
the money have been of more advantage to me than the benefits of his
society and his personal hand in my rearing? I think not! I prefer my
"When you take your place in society, as the mistress of a home, you will
find that millions will not be too much," said Mrs. Minturn.
"If I had millions, I'd give most of them away, and just go on living
about as I do now with Daddy," said Leslie.
"Leslie, where did you get bitten with this awful, common--what kind of an
idea shall I call it? You haven't imbibed socialistic tendencies have
"Haven't a smattering of what they mean!" laughed Leslie. "The 'istics'
scare me completely. Just _social_ ideas are all I have; thinking home
better than any other place on earth, the way you can afford to have it.
Merely being human, kind and interested in what my men are doing and
enjoying, and helping any one who crosses my path and seems to need me.
Oh, I get such joy, such delicious _joy_ from life."
"If I were undertaking wild-eyed reform, I'd sell my car and walk, and do
settlement work," said Mrs. Minturn scornfully.
Then Leslie surprised all of them. She leaned forward, looked beamingly
into the elder woman's face and cried enthusiastically: "I am positive
you'd be stronger, and much happier if you would! You know there is no
greater fun than going to the end of the car line and then walking miles
into the country, especially now in bloom-time. You see sights no painter
ever transferred even a good imitation of to canvas; you hear music--I
wish every music lover with your trained ear could have spent an hour in
that swamp this morning. You'd soon know where Verdi and Strauss found
some of their loveliest themes, and where Beethoven got the bird notes for
the brook scene of the Pastoral Symphony. Think how interested you'd be in
a yellow and black bird singing the Spinning Song from Martha, while you
couldn't accuse the bird of having stolen it from Flotow, could you?
Surely the bird holds right of priority!"
"If you weren't a little fool and talking purposely to irritate me, you'd
almost cause me to ask if you seriously mean that?" said Mrs. Minturn.
"Why," laughed Leslie, determined not to become provoked on this her great
day, "that is a matter you can test for yourself. If you haven't a score
of Martha, get one and I'll take you where you can hear a bird sing that
strain, then you may judge for yourself."
"I don't believe it!" said Mrs. Minturn tersely, "but if it were true,
that would be the _most wonderful experience_ I ever had in my life."
"And it would cost you only ten cents," scored Leslie. "You needn't ride
beyond the end of the car line for that, while a woman who can dance all
night surely could _walk_ far enough, to reach any old orchard. That's
what I am trying to _tell_ you. Money in large quantities isn't necessary
to provide the _most interesting_ things in the world, while millions
don't bring happiness. I can find more in what you would class almost
"Why don't you try it?" suggested Mrs. Minturn.
"But I _have!_" said Leslie. "And I enjoy it! I could go with a man I love
as I do Daddy, and make a home, and get joy I never have found in society,
from just what we two could do with our own hands in the woods. I don't
like a city. If Daddy's business didn't keep him here, I would be in the
country this minute. Look at us poor souls trying to find pleasure in a
basket from the swamp, when we might have the whole swamp. I'd be happy to
live at its door. Now try a basket full of it. There are three. You are to
examine each of them carefully, then write on a slip of paper which you
think the _most artistic_. You are not to say things that will influence
each other's decisions, or Mr. Lowry's. I want a straight opinion from
each of you."
They entered the florist's, and on a glass table faced the orchids, the
slippers, the fringed basket, and the moccasins. Mr. Winton and the squaw
were waiting, while the florist was smiling in gratification, but the
Minturns went to the flowers without a word. They simply stood and looked.
Each of the baskets was in perfect condition. The flowers were as fresh as
at home in the swamp. Each was a thing of wondrous beauty. Each deserved
the mute tribute it was exacting. Mrs. Minturn studied them with gradually
darkening face. Mrs. Minturn repeatedly opened her lips as if she would
speak, but did not. She stepped closer and gently turned the flowers and
lightly touched the petals.
"Beautiful!" she said at last. "Beautiful!"
Another long silence.
Then: "_Honestly Leslie, did you hear a bird sing that strain from
"Yes!" said Leslie, "I did. And if you will go with me to the swamp where
those flowers came from, you shall hear one sing a strain that will
instantly remind you of the opening chorus, while another renders Di
Provenza Il Mar from Traviata."
The lady turned again to the flowers. She was thinking something deep and
absorbing, but no one could have guessed exactly what it might be.
Finally: "I have decided," she said. "Shall we number these one, two, and
three, and so indicate them?"
"Yes," said Leslie a little breathlessly.
"Put your initials to the slips and I'll read them," offered Douglas. Then
he smilingly read aloud: "Mr. Lowry, one. Mrs. Minturn, two. Mr. Minturn,
"I cast the deciding vote," cried Leslie. "One!"
The squaw seemed to think of a war-whoop, but decided against it.
"Now be good enough to state your reasons," said Mr. Winton. "_Why_ do you
prefer the slipper basket, Mr. Lowry?"
"It satisfies my sense of the artistic."
"Why the fringed basket, Mrs. Minturn?"
"Because it contains daintier, more wonderful flowers than the others, and
is by far the most pleasing production."
"Now Minturn, your turn. Why do you like the moccasin basket?"
"It makes the deepest appeal to me," he answered.
"But why?" persisted Mr. Winton.
"If you will have it--the moccasins are the colour I once loved on the
face of my little daughter."
"Now Leslie!" said Mr. Winton hurriedly as he noted Mrs. Minturn's
"Must I tell?" she asked.
"Yes," said her father.
"Douglas selected it for me, so I like it best."
"But Leslie!" cried Douglas, "there were only two baskets when I favoured
that. Had the fringed orchids been here then, I most certainly should have
chosen them. I think yours far the most exquisite! I claim it now. Will
you give it to me?"
"Surely! I'd love to," laughed the girl.
"You have done your most exquisite work on the fringed basket," said Mrs.
Minturn to the squaw.
"No make!" said she promptly, pointing to Leslie.
"Leslie Winton, did you go to the swamp to make that basket?" demanded
"Yes," answered Leslie.
"Did you make all of them?"
"Only that one," replied Leslie.
"Why?" marvelled the lady.
"To see if I could go to the tamarack swamp and bring from it with the
same tools and material, a more artistic production than an Indian woman."
"Well, you have!" conceded Mrs. Minturn.
"The majority is against me," said Leslie.
"Majorities mean masses, and masses are notoriously insane!" said Mrs.
"But this is a small, select majority," said Leslie.
"Craziest of all," said Mrs. Minturn decidedly. "If you have finished with
us, I want to thank you for the pleasure of seeing these, and Leslie, some
day I really think I shall try that bird music. The idea interests me more
than anything that I have ever heard of. If it were true, it would indeed
be wonderful, it would be a new experience!"
"If you want to hear for yourself, make it soon, because now is nesting
time; not again until next spring will the music be so entrancing. I can
go any day."
"I'll look over my engagements and call you. If one ever had a minute to
"Another of the joys of wealth!" said Leslie. "Only the poor can afford to
'loaf and invite their souls.' The flowers you will see will delight your
eyes, quite as much as the music your ears."
"I doubt your logic, but I'll try the birds. Are you coming Mr. Minturn?"
"Not unless you especially wish me. Are these for sale?" he asked, picking
up the moccasins.
"Only those," replied the florist.
"Send your bill," he said, turning with the basket.
"How shining a thing is consistency!" sneered his wife. "You condemn the
riches you never have been able to amass, but at the same time spend like
"I never said I was not able to gain millions," replied Mr. Minturn
coldly. "I have had frequent opportunities! I merely refused them, because
I did not consider them legitimate. As for my method in buying flowers, in
this one instance, price does not matter. You can guess what I shall do
"I couldn't possibly!" answered Mrs. Minturn. "The only sure venture I
could make is that they will not by any chance come to me."
"No. These go to baby Elizabeth," he said. "Do you want to come with me to
take them to her?"
With an audible sneer she passed him. He stepped aside, gravely raising
his hat, while the others said good-bye to him and followed.
"Positively insufferable!" cried Mrs. Minturn. "Every one of my friends
say they do not know how I endure his insults and I certainly will not
many more. I don't, I really don't know what he expects."
Mr. Winton and Douglas Bruce were confused, while Leslie was frightened,
but she tried turning the distressing occurrence off with excuses.
"Of course he intended no insult!" she soothed. "He must have adored his
little daughter and the flowers reminded him. I am so much obliged for
your opinion and I shall be glad to take you to the swamp any time. Your
little sons--would they like to go? It is a most interesting and
instructive place for children."
"For Heaven's sake don't mention children!" cried Mrs. Minturn. "They are
a bother and a curse!"
"Oh Mrs. Minturn!" exclaimed Leslie.
"Of course I don't mean _quite_ that; but I do very near! Mine are perfect
little devils; all the trouble James and I ever had came through them. His
idea of a mother is a combined doctor, wet-nurse and nursery maid, while I
must say, I far from agree with him. What are servants for if not to take
the trouble of children off your hands?"
Leslie was glad to reach the rich woman's door and deposit her there.
As the car sped away the girl turned a despairing face toward Douglas:
"For the love of Moike!" she cried. "Isn't that shocking? Poor Mr.
"I don't pity him half so much as I do her," he answered. "What must a
woman have suffered or been through, to warp, twist, and harden her like
"Society life," answered Leslie, "as it is lived by people of wealth who
are aping royalty and the titled classes."
"A branch of them--possibly," conceded Douglas. "I know some titled and
wealthy people who would be dumbfounded over that woman's ideas."
"So do I," said Leslie. "Of course there are exceptions. Sometimes the
exception becomes bigger than the rule, but not in our richest society.
Douglas, let's keep close together! Oh don't let's ever drift into such a
state as that. I should have asked them to lunch, but I couldn't. If that
is the way she is talking before her friends, surely she won't have many,
"Then her need for a real woman like you will be all the greater,"
answered Douglas. "I suppose you should have asked her; but I'm delighted
that you didn't! To-day began so nearly perfect, I want to end it with
only you and your father. Will he resent me, Leslie?"
"It all depends on us. If we are selfish and leave him alone he will feel
it. If we can make him realize gain instead of loss he will be happier
than he is now."
"I wish I hadn't felt obliged to reject his offer the other night. I'm
very sorry about it."
"I'm not," said Leslie. "You have a right to live your life in your own
way. I have seen enough of running for office, elections and appointments
that I hate it. You do the work you educated yourself for and I'll help
"Then my success is assured," laughed Douglas. "Leslie, may I leave my
basket here? Will you care for it like yours, and may I come to see it
"No. You may come to see me and look at the basket incidentally," she
"Do you think Mrs. Minturn will go to the swamp to listen to those birds?"
"Eventually she will," answered the girl. "I may have to begin by taking
her to an orchard to hear a bird of gold sing a golden song about 'sewing,
and mending, and baby tending,' to start on; but when she hears that, she
will be eager for more."
"How interesting!" cried Douglas. "'Bearer of Morning,' sing that song to
Leslie whistled the air, beating time with her hand, then sang the words:
"_I can wash, sir, I can spin, sir,
I can sew and mend, and babies tend._"
"Oh you 'Bringer of Song!'" exulted Douglas. "I'd rather hear you sing
that than any bird, but from what she said, Nellie Minturn won't care
particularly for it!"
"She may not approve of, or practise, the sentiment," said Leslie, "but
she'll love the music and possibly the musician."
"Now what am I going to do yet to make the day shorter, Lily?" asked
"I guess I got everything," she answered. "There's my lunch. Here's my
pictures to cut. Here's my lesson to learn. There's my sky and bird
crumbs. Mickey, sometimes they hop right in on the sheet. Yest'day one
tried to get my lunch. Ain't they sassy?"
"Yes," said Mickey. "They fight worse than rich folks. I don't know why
the Almighty pays attention if they fall."
"Mebby nobody else cares," said Peaches, "and He feels obliged to 'cause
He made 'em."
"Gee! You say the funniest things, kid," laughed Mickey as he digested the
idea. "Wonder if He cares for us 'cause He made us."
"Mebby he didn't make us," suggested Peaches.
"Well we got one consoling thing," said Mickey. "If He made any of them,
He made us, and if He didn't make us, He didn't none of them, 'cause
everybody comes in and goes out the same way; She said so."
"Then of course it's so," agreed Peaches. "That gives us as good a chance
"Course it does if we got sense to take it," said Mickey. "We got to wake
up and make something of ourselves. Let me see if you know your lesson for
to-day yet. There is the picture of the animal--there is the word that
spells its name. Now what is it?"
"Milk!" answered Peaches, her eyes mischievous.
Mickey held over the book chuckling.
"All right! There is the word for that, too. For being so smart, Miss
Chicken, you can learn it 'fore you get any more to drink. If I have good
luck to-day, I'm going to blow in about six o'clock with a slate and
pencil for you; and then you can print the words you learn, and make
pictures. That'll help make the day go a lot faster."
"Oh it goes fast enough now," said Peaches. "I love days with you and the
window and the birds. I wish they'd sing more though."
"When your back gets well, I'll take you to the country where they sing
all the time," promised Mickey, "where there are grass, and trees, and
flowers, and water to wade in and----"
"Mickey, stop and go on!" cried Peaches. "Sooner you start, the sooner
I'll get my next verse. I want just norful good one to-night."
She held up her arms. Mickey submitted to a hug and a little cold dab on
his forehead, counted his money, locked the door and ran. On the car he
sat in deep thought, then suddenly sniggered aloud. He had achieved the
next installment of the doggerel to which every night Peaches insisted on
having a new verse added as he entered. He secured his papers, and
glimpsing the headlines started on his beat crying them lustily.
Mickey knew that washing, better air, enough food, and oil rubbing were
improving Peaches. What he did not know was that adding the interest of
her presence to his life, even though it made his work heavier, was
showing on him. He actually seemed bigger, stronger, and his face brighter
and fuller. He swung down the street thrusting his papers right and left,
crossed and went up the other side, watching closely for a customer. It
was ten o'clock and opportunities with the men were almost over. Mickey
turned to scan the street for anything even suggesting a sale. He saw none
and started with his old cry, watching as he went: "I _like_ to sell
papers! _Sometimes_ I sell them! Sometimes I _don't_----!"
Then he saw her. She was so fresh and joyous. She walked briskly. Even his
beloved nurse was not so wonderful. Straight toward her went Mickey.
"I _like_ to sell papers! _Sometimes_ I sell them! Sometimes I _don't!_
Morning paper, lady! Sterilized! Deodorized! Vulcanized! Nice _clean_
The girl's eyes betokened interest; her smiling lips encouraged Mickey. He
laid his chin over her arm, leaned his head against it and fell in step
"_Sometimes_ I sell them! Sometimes I _don't!_ If I _sell_ them, I'm
happy! If I don't, I'm _hungry!_ If you _buy_ them, you're happy!
"Not to-day, thank you," she said. "I'm shopping, so I don't wish to carry
Mickey saw Peaches' slate vanishing. It was a beautiful slate, small so it
would not tire her bits of hands, and its frame was covered with red. His
face sobered, his voice changed, taking on unexpected modulations.
"Aw lady! I thought _you'd_ buy my paper! Far down the street I saw you
_coming_. Lady, I like your gentle _voice_. I like your pleasant _smile!_
You don't want a nice _sterilized_ paper?--lady."
The lady stopped short; she lifted Mickey's chin in a firm grip, looking
intently into his face.
"Just by the merest chance, could your name be Mickey?" she asked.
"Sure, lady! Mickey! Michael O'Halloran!"
Her smile became even more attractive.
"I really don't want to be bothered with a paper," she said; "but I do
wish a note delivered. If you'll carry it, I'll pay you the price of half
a dozen papers."
"Gets the slate!" cried Mickey, bouncing like a rubber boy. "Sure I will!
Is it ready, lady?"
"One minute!" she said. She stepped to the inside of the walk, opened her
purse, wrote a line on a card, slipped it in an envelope, addressed it and
handed it to Mickey.
"You can read that?" she asked.
"I've read worse writing than that," he assured her. "You ought to see the
hieroglyphics some of the dimun-studded dames put up!"
Mickey took a last glimpse at the laughing face, then wheeling ran.
Presently he went into a big building, studied the address board, then
entered the elevator and following a corridor reached the number.
He paused a second, glancing around, when he saw the name on the opposite
door. A flash passed over his face. "Ugh!" he muttered. "'Member now--been
to this place before! Glad she ain't sending a letter to _that_ man." He
stepped inside the open door before him, crossed the room and laid the
note near a man who was bending over some papers on a desk. The man
reached a groping hand, tore open the envelope, taking therefrom a card on
which was pencilled: "Could this by any chance be your Little Brother?"
He turned hastily, glancing at Mickey, then in a continuous movement arose
with outstretched hand.
"Why Little Brother," he cried, "I'm so glad to see you!"
Mickey's smile slowly vanished as he whipped his hands behind him,
"Nothin' doing, Boss," he said. "You're off your trolley. I've no brother.
My mother had only me."
"Don't you remember me, Mickey?" inquired Douglas Bruce.
"Sure!" said Mickey. "You made Jimmy pay up!"
"Has he bothered you again?" asked the lawyer.
"Nope!" answered Mickey.
"Sit down, Mickey, I want to talk with you."
"I'm much obliged for helping me out," said Mickey, "but I guess you got
other business, and I know I have."
"What is your business?" was the next question.
"Selling papers. What's yours?" was the answer.
"Trying to be a corporation lawyer," explained Douglas. "I've been here
only two years, and it is slow getting a start. I often have more time to
spare than I wish I had, while I'm lonesome no end."
"Is your mother dead?" asked Mickey solicitously.
"Yes," answered Douglas.
"So's mine!" he commented. "You _do_ get lonesome! Course she was a good
"The very finest, Mickey," said Douglas. "And yours?"
"Same here, Mister," said Mickey with conviction.
"Well since we are both motherless and lonesome, suppose we be brothers!"
"Aw-w-w!" Mickey shook his head.
"No?" questioned Douglas.
"What's the use?" cried Mickey.
"You could help me with my work and share my play, while possibly I could
be of benefit to you."
"I just wondered if you wasn't getting to that," commented Mickey.
"Getting to what?" inquired Douglas.
"Going to do me good!" explained Mickey. "The swell stiffs are always
going to do us fellows good. Mostly they do! They do us good and brown!
They pick us up a while and make lap dogs of us, then when we've lost our
appetites for our jobs and got to having a hankerin' for the fetch and
carry business away they go and forget us, so we're a lot worse off than
we were before. Some of the fellows come out of it knowing more ways to be
mean than they ever learned on the street," explained Mickey. "If it's
that Big Brother bee you got in your bonnet, pull its stinger and let it
die an unnatural death! Nope! None! Good-bye!"
"Mickey, wait!" cried Douglas.
"Me business calls, an' I must go--'way to my ranch in Idaho!" gaily sang
"I'd like to shake you!" said Douglas Bruce.
"Well, go on," said Mickey. "I'm here and you're big enough."
"If I thought it would jolt out your fool notions and shake some sense in,
I would," said Douglas indignantly.
"Now look here, Kitchener," said Mickey. "Did I say one word that ain't
so, and that you don't know is so?"
"What you said is not even half a truth, young man! I do know cases where
idle rich men have tried the Little Brother plan as a fad, and made a
failure of it. But for a few like that, I know dozens of sincere, educated
men who are honestly giving a boy they fancy, a chance. I can take you
into the office of one of the most influential men in this city, right
across the hall there, and show you a boy he liked who has in a short time
become his friend, an invaluable helper, and hourly companion, and out of
it that boy will get a fine education, good business training, and a start
in life that will give him a better chance to begin on than the man who is
helping him had."
Mickey laughed boisterously, then sobered suddenly.
"'Scuse me, Brother," he said politely, "but that's most _too funny_ for
any use. Once I took a whirl with that gentleman myself. Whether he does
or not, I know the place where he ought to get off. See? Answer me this:
why would he be spending money and taking all that time for a 'newsy' when
he hardly knows his own kids if he sees them, and they're the wickedest
little rippers in the park. Just _why_ now?"
Douglas Bruce closed the door; then he came back and placing a chair for
Mickey, he took one opposite.
"Sit down Mickey," he said patiently. "There's a reason for my being
particularly interested in James Minturn, and the reason hinges on the
fact you mention: that he can't control his own sons, yet can make a boy
he takes comfort in, of a street gamin."
Mickey's eyes narrowed while he sat very straight in the chair he had
"If he's made so much of him, it sort of proves that he _wasn't_ a gamin.
Some of the boys are a long shot closer gentlemen than the guys who are
experimenting with them; 'cause they were born rich and can afford it. If
your friend's going to train his pick-up to be what _he_ is, then that boy
would stand a better chance on his own side the curb. See? I've been right
up against that gentleman with the documents, so I know him. Also her!
Gee! 'Tear up de choild and gimme de papers' was meant for a joke; but I
saw that lady and gentleman do it. See? And she was the prettiest little
pink and yellow thing. Lord! I can see her gasping and blinking now! Makes
me sick! If the boy across the hall had seen what I did, he'd run a mile
and never stop. Gee!"
Douglas Bruce stared aghast. At last he said slowly: "Mickey, you are
getting mighty close the very thing I wish to know. If I tell you what I
know of James Minturn, will you tell me what you know and think?"
"Sure!" said Mickey readily. "I got no reasons for loving him. I wouldn't
convoy a millying to the mint for that gentleman!"
"Mickey, shall I go first, or will you?"
"I will," replied Mickey instantly, "'cause when I finish you'll save your
"I see," said Douglas Bruce. "Proceed."
"Well, 'twas over two years ago," said Mickey, leaning forward to look
Bruce in the eyes. "I hadn't been up against the game so awful long alone.
'Twas summer and my papers were all gone, and I was tired, so I went over
in the park and sat on a seat, just watching folks. Pretty soon 'long
comes walking a nice lady with a sweet voice and kind eyes. She sat down
close me and says: 'It's a nice day.' We got chummy-like, when right up at
the fountain before us stops as swell an automobile as there is. One of
the brown French-governess-ladies with the hatchet face got out, and
unloaded three kids: two boys and a girl. She told the kids if they didn't
sit on the benches she socked them on hard, and keep their clothes clean
so she wouldn't have to wash and dress them again that day, she'd knock
the livers out of them, and walked off with the entrance policeman. Soon
as she and Bobbie got interested, the kids began sliding off the bench and
running around the fountain. The girl was only 'bout two or three, a fat
toddly thing, trying to do what her brothers did, and taking it like the
gamest kid you ever saw when they pushed her off the seat, and tripped
her, and 'bused her like a dog.
"Me and the woman were getting madder every minute. 'Go tell your nurse,'
says she. But the baby thing just glanced where nurse was and kind of
shivered and laughed, and ran on round the fountain, when the big boy
stuck his foot out so she fell. Nursie saw and started for her, but she
scrambled up and went kiting for the bench, and climbed on it, so nurse
told her she'd cut the blood out of her if she did that again, then went
back to her policeman. Soon as she was gone those little devils began
coaxing their sister to get down and run again. At last she began to smile
the cunningest and slipped to the walk, then a little farther, and a
little farther, all the time laughing and watching the nurse. The big boy,
he said: 'You ain't nothing but a _girl!_ You can't step on the edge like
I can and then step back!' She says: 'C'n too!' She did to show him, and
just as she did she saw that he was going to push her, then she tried to
get back, but he did push, and over she went! Not real in, but her arms
in, and her dress front some wet.
"She screamed while the little devil that pushed her grabbed her,
pretending to be _pulling her out_. Honest he did! Up came nurse just
frothing, and in language we couldn't understand she ripped and raved. She
dragged little pink back, grabbed her by the hair and cracked her head two
or three times against the _stone!_ The lady screamed, and so did I, and
we both ran at her. The boys just shouted and laughed and the smallest one
he up and kicked her while she was down. The policeman walked over
laughing too, but he told nurse that was _too rough_. Then my lady pitched
in, so he told her to tend to her business, that those kids were too tough
to live, and deserved all they got. The nurse laughed at her, and went
back to the grass with the policeman. The baby lay there on the stones,
and never made a sound. She just kind of gasped, and blinked, and lay
there, till my lady went almost wild. She went to her and stooped to lift
her up when she got awful sick. The policeman said something to the nurse,
so she came and dragged the kid away and said, 'The little pig has gone
and eaten too much again, and now I'll have to take her home and wash and
dress her all over,' then she gave her an awful shake. The policeman said
she'd better cut that out, because it _might_ have been the bumping, and
she said 'good for her if 'twas.' The driver pulled up just then and he
asked 'if the brat had been stuffin' too much again?' She said, 'yes,' and
the littlest boy he said, 'she pounded her head on the stone, good,' and
the nurse hit him 'cross the mouth till she knocked him against the car,
and she said, 'Want to try _that_ again? Open your head to say _that_
again, and I'll smash you too. _Eating too much made her sick_.' She
looked at the big boy fierce like so he laughed and said, 'Course eating
too much made her sick!' She nodded at him and said, 'Course! You get two
dishes of ice and two pieces of cake for remembering!' then she loaded
them in and they drove away.
"My lady was as white as marble and she said, 'Is there any way to find
out who they are?' I said, 'Sure! Half a dozen!' 'Boy,' she said, 'get
their residence for me and I'll give you a dollar.' Ought to seen me fly.
Car was chuffing away, waiting to get the traffic cop's sign when to cut
in on the avenue. I just took a dodge and hung on to the extra tire under
the top where nobody saw me, and when they stopped, I got the house number
they went in. Little pink was lying all white and limber yet, and nurse
looked worried as she carried her up. She said something fierce to the
boys, the big one rang and they went inside. I saw a footman take the
girl. I heard nurse begin that 'eat too much' story, then I cut back to
the park. The lady said, 'Get it?' I said, 'Sure! Dead easy.' She said,
'Can you take me?' I said, 'Glad to!'
"She said, 'That was the dreadfullest sight I ever saw. That child's
mother is going to know right now what kind of a nurse she is paying to
take care of her children. You come show me,' she said, so we went.
"'Will you come in with me?' she asked and I said, 'Yes!'
"Well, we rang and she asked pleasant to see the lady of the house on a
little matter of important business, so pretty soon here comes one of the
dimun-studded, fashion-paper ladies, all smiling sweet as honey, and asked
what the business was. My nice lady she said her name was Mrs. John Wilson
and her husband was a banker in Plymouth, Illinois, and she was in the
city shopping and went to the park to rest and was talking to me, when an
automobile let out a nurse, and two boys and a lovely little pink girl,
and she give the number and asked, 'was the car and the children hers?'
The dimun-lady slowly sort of began to freeze over, and when the nice lady
got that far, she said: 'I have an engagement. Kindly state in a _few_
words what you want.'
"My lady sort of stiffened up and then she said: 'I saw, this boy here
saw, and the park policeman nearest the entrance fountain saw your nurse
take your little girl by the hair, and strike her head against the
fountain curb three times, because her brother pushed her in. She lay
insensible until the car came, and she has just been carried into your
house in that condition.'
"I could see the footman peeking and at that he cut up the stairs. The
dimun-lady stiffened up and she said: 'So you are one of those meddling,
interfering country jays that come here and try to make us lose our good
servants, so you can hire them later. I've seen that done before. Lucette
is invaluable,' said she, 'and perfectly reliable. Takes all the care of
those dreadful little imps from me. Now you get out of here.' And she
reached for the button. My lady just sat still and smiled.
"'Do you really think I'd take the trouble to come here in this way if I
couldn't _prove_ I had seen the thing happen?' she asked.
"'God only knows what you country women would do!' the woman answered.
"'We would stand between our children and beastly cruelty,' my lady said.
'Your child's _condition_ is all the proof my words need. You go examine
her head, and feel the welt on it; see hew ill she is and you will thank
me. Your nurse is _not_ reliable! Keep her and your children will be
ruined, if not killed.'
"'Raving!' sneered the dimun-lady. 'But I know your kind so I'll go, as
it's the only way to get rid of you.'
"Now what do you think happened next? Well sir, 'bout three minutes in
walked the footman and salutes, sneering like a cat, and he said: 'Madam's
compliments. She finds her little daughter in perfect condition, sweetly
sleeping, and her sons having dinner. She asks you to see how quickly you
can leave her residence.'
"The woman looked at me so I said: 'It's all over but burying the kid if
it dies; come on, lady, they'd be _glad_ to plant it, and get it out of
the way.' So I started and she followed, and just as he let me out the
door I handed him this: 'I saw you listen and cut to tell, and I bet you
helped put the kid to sleep! But you better look out! She gave it to that
baby too rough for any use!'
"He started for me, but I flew. When we got on the street, the lady was
all used up so she couldn't say anything. She had me call a taxi to take
her to her hotel. I set down her name she gave me, and her house and
street number. I cut to a Newsies' directory and got the name of the owner
of the palace-place and it was Mrs. James Minturn. Next morning coming
down on the cars I was hunting headliners to make up a new call, like I
always do, and there I saw in big type, 'Mr. and Mrs. James Minturn
prostrate over the sudden death of their lovely little daughter from
poisoning, from an ice she ate.' I read it every word. Even what the
doctors said, and how investigation of the source of the ice came from was
to be made. What do you think of it?"
"I have no doubt but it's every word horrible truth," answered Douglas.
"_Sure!_" said Mickey. "I just hiked to the park and walked up to the cop
and showed him the paper, and he looked awful glum. I can point him out to
you, and give you the lady's address, and there were plenty more who saw
parts of it could be found if anybody was on the _kid's_ side. Sure it's
"Well I kept a-thinking it over. One day about three weeks later, blest if
the same car didn't stop at the same fountain, and the same nurse got out
with the boys and she set them on the same bench and told them the same
thing, and then she went into another palaver with the same p'liceman. I
looked on pretty much interested, and before long the boys got to running
again and one tripped the other, and she saw and come running, and fetched
him a crack like to split his head, and pushed him down still and white,
so I said to myself: 'All right for you. Lady tried a lady and got
nothing. Here's where a gentleman tries a gentleman, and sees what he
"I marched into the door just across the hall from you here, and faced Mr.
James Minturn, and gave him names, and dates, and addresses, even the
copper's name I'd got; and I told him all I've told you, and considerable
more. He wasn't so fiery as the lady, so I told him the whole thing, but
he never opened his trap. He just sat still and stony, listened till I
quit, and finally he heaved a big breath and looked at me sort of dazed
like and he said: 'What do you want, boy?'
"That made me red hot so I said: 'I want you to know that I saw the same
woman bust one of your _boys_ a good crack, over the head, a few minutes
"That made him jump, but he didn't say or do anything, so I got up and
went--and--the same woman was in the park with the same boys yesterday,
and they're the biggest little devils there. What's the answer?"
"A heartbroken man," said Douglas Bruce. "Now let me tell you, Mickey."
Then he told Mickey all he knew of James Minturn.
"All the same, he ought to be able to do something for his own kids,
'stead of boys who don't need it _half_ so bad," commented Mickey. "Why
honest, I don't know one street kid so low that he'd kick a little girl--
after she'd been beat up scandalous, for his meanness to start on. Honest,
I don't! I don't care what he is doing for the boy he has got, that boy
doesn't need help half so much as his _own_; I can prove it to you, if
you'll come with me to the park 'most any morning."
"All right, I'll come," said Douglas promptly.
"Well I couldn't say that they would be there this minute," said Mickey,
"but I can call you up the first time I see they are."
"All right, I'll come, if it's possible. I'd like to see for myself. So
this gives you a settled prejudice against the Big Brother movement,
"In my brogans, what would it give you?"
"A hard jolt!" said Douglas emphatically.
"Then what's the answer?"
"That it is more unfair than I thought you could be, to deprive me of my
Little Brother, because you deem the man across the hall unfit to have
one. Do I look as if you couldn't trust me, Mickey?"
"No, you don't! But neither does Mr. James Minturn. He _looks_ as if a
fellow could get a grip on him and pull safe across Belgium hanging on.
But you know I said the _same woman_----"
"I know Mickey; but that only proves that there are times when even the
strongest man can't help himself."
"Then like Ulhan I'd trot 1:54-1/2 to the judge of the Juvenile Court,"
said Mickey, "and I'd yell long and loud, and I'd put up the _proof_. That
would get the lady down to brass tacks. See?"
"But with Mrs. Minturn's position and the stain such a proceeding would
put on the boys----"
"Cut out the boys," advised Mickey. "They're gold plated, staining
wouldn't stick to them."
"So you are going to refuse education, employment and a respectable
position because you disapprove of one man among millions?" demanded
"That lets me out," said Mickey. "_She_ educated me a lot! No day is long
enough for the work I do right now; you can take my word for it that I'm
respectable, same as I'm taking yours that you are."
"All right!" said Douglas. "We will let it go then. Maybe you are right.
At least you are not worth the bother it requires to wake you up. Will you
take an answer to the note you brought me?"
"Now the returns are coming in," said Mickey. "Sure I will; but she is in
the big stores shopping."
"I'll find out," said Douglas.
He picked up the telephone and called the Winton residence; on learning
Leslie was still away, he left a request that she call him when she
"I would spend the time talking with you," he said to Mickey, "if I could
accomplish anything; as I can't, I'll go on with my work. You busy
yourself with anything around the rooms that interests you."
Mickey grinned half abashed. He took a long survey of the room they were
in, arose and standing in the door leading to the next he studied that. To
him "busy" meant work. Presently he went into the hall and returned with a
hand broom and dust pan he had secured from the janitor. He carefully went
over the floor, removing anything he could see that he thought should not
be there, and then began on the room adjoining. Next he appeared with a
cloth and dusted the furniture and window seats. Once he met Douglas' eye
and smiled. "Your janitor didn't have much of a mother," he commented. "I
could beat him to his base a rod."
"Job is yours any time you want it."
"Morning papers," carrolled Mickey. "Sterilized, deodorized, vulcanized. I
_like_ to sell them----"
Defeated again Bruce turned to his work and Mickey to his. He straightened
every rug, pulled a curtain, set a blind at an angle that gave the worker
more light and better air. He was investigating the glass when the
"Hello, Leslie! It certainly was! How did you do it? Not so hilarious as
you might suppose. Leslie, I want to say something, not for the wire. Will
you hold the line a second until I start Mickey with it? All right!
"She is there now, Mickey. Can you find your way?"
"Sure!" laughed Mickey. "If you put the address on. She started me from
"The address is plain. For straightening my rooms and carrying the note,
will that be about right?"
"A lady-bird! Gee!" cried Mickey. "I didn't s'pose you was a plute! And I
don't s'pose so yet. You want a Little Brother bad if you're willing to
_buy_ one. This number ain't far out, and I wouldn't have sold more than
three papers this time of day--twenty-five is about right."
"But you forget cleaning my rooms," said Douglas.
Mickey grinned, his face flushed.
"Me to you!" he said. "Nothing! Just a little matter of keeping in
practice. Good-bye and be good to yourself!"
Douglas turned to the telephone.
"Leslie!" he said, "I'm sending Mickey back to you with a note, not
because I had anything to say I couldn't say now, but because I can't
manage him. I pretended I didn't care, and let him go. Can't you help me?
See if you can't interest him in something that at least will bring him
back, or show us where to find him. Certainly! Thank you very much!"
When Mickey delivered the letter the lovely young woman just happened to
be in the hall. She told him to come in until she read it, to learn what
Mr. Bruce wanted. Mickey followed into a big room, looked around, then a
speculative, appreciative gleam crossed his face. He realized the
difference between a home and a show room. He did not know what he was
seeing or why it affected him as it did. Really the thought that was in
his mind was that this woman was far more attractive, but had less money
to spend on her home, than many others. He missed the glitter, but enjoyed
the comfort, for he leaned back against the chair offered him, thinking
what a cool, restful place it was. The girl seemed in no hurry to open the
"Have trouble finding Mr. Bruce?" she asked.
"Easy! I'd been to the same building before."
"And I suppose you'll be there many times again," she suggested.
"I'm going back right now, if you want to send an answer to that letter,"
"And if it requires none?" she questioned.
"Then I'm going to try to sell the rest of these papers, get a slate for
Lily and go home."
"Is Lily your little sister?" she asked.
Mickey straightened, firmly closing his lips. He had done it again.
"Just a little girl I know," he said cautiously.
"A little bit of a girl?" she asked.
"'Bout the littlest girl you ever saw," said Mickey, unconsciously
interested in the subject.
"And you are going to take her a slate to draw pictures on? How fine! I
wish you'd carry her a package for me, too. I was arranging my dresser
this morning and I put the ribbons I don't want into a box for some child.
Maybe Lily would like them for her doll."
"Lily hasn't any doll," he said. "She had one, but her granny sold it and
got drunk on the money."
Mickey stopped suddenly. In a minute more he would have another Orphans'
Home argument on his hands.
"Scandalous!" cried Leslie. "In my room there is a doll just begging to go
to some little girl. If you took it to Lily, would her granny sell it
"Not this morning," said Mickey. "You see Miss, a few days ago she lost
her breath. Permanent! No! If Lily had a doll, nobody would take it from
"I'll bring it at once," she offered "and the ribbons."
"Never mind," said Mickey. "I can get her a doll."
"But you haven't seen this one!" cried Leslie. "You save your money for
Without waiting for a reply she left the room, presently returning with a
box and a doll that seemed to Mickey quite as large as Peaches. It had a
beautiful face, hair, real hair that could be combed, and real clothes
that could be taken off. Leslie had dressed it for a birthday gift for the
little daughter of one of her friends; but by making haste she could
prepare another. Mickey gazed in bewilderment. He had seen dolls, even
larger and more wonderful than that, in the shop windows, but connecting
such a creation with his room and Peaches required mental adjustments.
"I guess you better not," he said with conviction.
"But why not?" asked Leslie in amazement.
"Well for 'bout fifty reasons," replied Mickey. "You see Lily is a poor
kid, and her back is bad. That doll is so big she couldn't dress it
without getting all tired out; and what's the use showing her such
dresses, when she can't have any herself. She's got the best she ever had,
and the best she can have right now; so that ain't the kind of a doll for
Lily--it's too big--and too--too gladsome!"
"I see," laughed Leslie. "Well Mickey, you show me what would be the right
size of a doll for Lily. I'll get another, and dress it as you say. How
would that do?"
"You needn't!" said Mickey. "Lily is happy now."
"But wouldn't she _like_ a doll?" persisted Leslie. "I never knew a girl
who didn't love a doll. Wouldn't she _like_ a doll?"
"'Most to death I 'spect," said Mickey. "I know she said she cried for the
one her granny sold, 'til she beat her. Yes I guess she'd _like_ a doll;
but I can get her one."
"But you can't make white nighties for Lily to put on it to take to bed
with her, and cunning little dresses for morning, and a street dress for
afternoon, and a party dress for evening," tempted the girl.
"Lily has been on the street twice, and she never heard of a party. Just
nighties and the morning dress would do, and there's no use for me to be
sticking. If you like to give away dolls, Lily might as well have one, for
she'd just--I don't know what she would do about it," conceded Mickey.
"All right," said Leslie. "I'll dress it this afternoon, and tomorrow you
can come for it in the evening before you go home. If I am not here, the
package will be ready. Take the ribbons now. She'd like them for her
"Her hair's too short for a ribbon," said Mickey.
"Then a headband! This way!" said Leslie.
She opened a box and displayed a wonderment of ribbon bands, and bits of
"Gee!" gasped Mickey. "I couldn't pick up that much brightness for her in
"You save what you find for her?" asked Leslie.
"Sure!" said Mickey. "You see Miss, things are pretty plain where she is,
so all the brightness I can take her ain't going to hurt her eyes. Thank
you heaps. Is there going to be any answer to the letter?"
"Why I haven't read it yet!" cried the girl.
"No! A-body can see that some one else is rustling for your grub!"
"That's so too," laughed Leslie. "Darling old Daddy!"
"Just about right is he?" queried Mickey, interestedly.
"Just exactly right!" said Leslie.
"Gur-ur-and!" said Mickey. "Some of them ain't so well fixed! And he that
wrote the note, I guess he's about as fine as you make them, too!"
"He's the finest man I ever have known, Mickey!" said the girl earnestly.
"Barring Daddy?" suggested Mickey.
"Not barring anybody!" cried she. "Daddy is lovely, but he's Daddy! Mr.
Bruce is different!"
"No letter?" questioned Mickey, rising.
"None!" said the girl. "Come to-morrow night. You are sure Lily is so very
"You wouldn't call me big, would you?" he asked. "Well! I can lift her
with one hand! Such a large doll as that would be tiring and confusing.
Please make Lily's _more like she's used to_. See?"
"Mickey, I do see!" said Leslie. "I beg your pardon. Lily's doll shall not
tire her or make her discontented with what she has. Thank you for a good
Mickey returned to the street shortly after noon, with more in his pocket
than he usually earned in a day, where by expert work he soon disposed of
his last paper. He bought the slate, then hurried home carrying it and the
box. At the grocery he carefully selected food again. Then he threw open
his door and achieved this:
"_Once a little kid named Peaches,
Swelled my heart until it eatches.
If you think I'd trade her for a dog,
Your think-tank has slipped a cog!_"
Peaches laughed, stretching her hands as usual. Mickey stooped for her
caress, scattering the ribbons over her as he arose. She gasped in
"Oh! Mickey! Where did you ever? Mickey, where did you get them? Mickey,
you didn't st----?"
"You just better choke on that, Miss!" yelled Mickey. "No I didn't st----!
And I don't st----! And nothing I ever bring you will be st----! And you
needn't ever put no more st's---- at me. See?"
"Mickey, I didn't _mean_ that! Course I know you _wouldn't!_ Course I know
you _couldn't!_ Mickey, that's the best poetry piece yet! Did you bring
"Sure!" said Mickey, somewhat mollified, but still injured. "I must have
dropped it with the banquet!"
Peaches pushed away the billow of colour, taking the slate. Her fingers
picking at the string reminded Mickey of sparrow feet; but he watched
until she untied and removed the paper which he folded to lay away. She
picked up the pencil, meditating.
"Mickey!" she said. "Make my hand do a word!"
"Sure!" said Mickey. "What do you want to write first, Flowersy-girl?"
Peaches looked at him reproachfully.
"Course there wouldn't be but _one_ I'd want to do first of all," she
said. "Hold my hand tight, and big and plain up at the top make it write,
"Sure," said the boy in a hushed voice. He gripped the hand, bending above
her, but suddenly collapsed, buried his face in her hair and sobbed until
Peaches crouched down, lying rigidly. She was badly frightened. At last
she could endure it no longer.
"Mickey!" she gasped. "Mickey, what did I do? Mickey, don't write it if
you don't _want_ to!"
Mickey arose, wiping his face on the sheet.
"You just bet I want to write that, Lily!" he said. "I never wanted to do
anything _more_ in all my life!"
"Then why----?" she began.
"Never you mind 'why' Miss!" said Mickey.
Grasping her hand, he traced the words. Peaches looked at them a long
time, then carefully laid the slate aside. She began fingering the
"Let me wash you," said Mickey, "and rub your back to rest you from all
this day, then I'll comb your hair and you pick the prettiest one. I'll
put it on the way she showed me, so you'll be a fash'nable lady."
"Who showed you Mickey, and gave you such pretties?"
"A girl I carried a letter to. After you're bathed and have had supper
I'll tell you."
Then Mickey began work. He sponged Peaches, rubbed her back, laid her on
his pallet, putting fresh sheets on her bed and carefully preparing her
supper. After she had eaten he again ran the comb through her ringlets,
telling her to select the ribbon he should use.
"No you!" said Peaches.
Mickey squinted, so exacting was the work of deciding. Red he discarded
with one sweep against her white cheeks; green went with it; blue almost
made him shudder, but a soft warm pink pleased him, so Mickey folded it
into the bands in which it had been creased before, binding it around
Peaches' head as Leslie had shown him, then with awkward fingers did his
best on a big bow. He crossed the room and picked up a mirror which he
held before her reciting: "Once a little kid named Peaches, swelled my
Peaches took the mirror, studying the face intently. She glanced over her
shoulder so Mickey piled the pillows higher. Then she looked at him.
Mickey scrutinized her closely.
"You're clean kid, clean as a plate!" he assured her. "Honest you are! You
needn't worry about that. I'll always keep you washed clean. _She_ was
more particular about that than anything else. Don't you fret about my
having a dirty girl around! You're clean, all right!"
Peaches sighed as she returned the mirror. Mickey replaced it, laid the
slate and ribbons in reach, washed the dishes, then the sheets he had
removed, and their soiled clothing. Peaches lay folding and unfolding the
ribbons; asking questions while Mickey worked, or with the pencil tracing
her best imitations of the name on the slate. By the time he had finished
everything to be done and drawn a chair beside the bed, to see if she had
learned her lesson for the day, it was cool evening. She knew all the
words he had given her, so he proceeded to write them on the slate. Then
told her about the big man named Douglas Bruce and the lovely girl named
Leslie Winton, also every word he could remember about the house she lived
in; then he added: "Lily, do you like to be surprised better or do you
like to think things over?"
"I don't know," said Peaches.
"Well, before long, I'll know," said Mickey. "What I was thinking was
this: you are going to have something. I just wondered whether you'd
rather know it was coming, or have me walk in with it and surprise you."
"Mickey, you just walk in," she decided.
"All right!" said Mickey.
"Mickey, write on the other side of my slate what you said at the door to-
night," she coaxed. "Get a little book an' write 'em all down. Mickey, I
want to learn all of them, when I c'n read. Lemme tell you. You make all
you c'n think of. Nen make more. An' make 'em, an' make 'em! An' when you
get big as you're goin' to be, make books of 'em, an' be a poet-man 'stead
of sellin' papers."
"Sure!" said Mickey. "I'd just as lief be a poet-man as not! I'd write a
big one all about a little yellow-haired girl named Lily Peaches, and I'd
put it on the front page of the _Herald!_ Honest I would! I'd like to!"
"Gee!" said Peaches. "You go on an' grow hel--wope! I mean hurry! Hurry
an' grow up!"
_The Song of a Bird_
"Leslie," said the voice of Mrs. James Minturn over the telephone, "is
there any particular time of the day when that bird of yours sings better
than at another?"
"Morning, Mrs. Minturn; five, the latest. At that time one hears the full
chorus, and sees the perfect beauty. Really, I wouldn't ask you, if I were
not sure, positively sure, that you'd find the trip worth while."
"I'll be ready in the morning, but that's an unearthly hour!" came the
"It is almost unearthly sights and sounds to which you are going,"
answered Leslie. "And be sure you wear suitable clothing."
"What do you call suitable clothing?"
"High heavy shoes," said Leslie, "short stout skirts."
"As if I had such things!" laughed Mrs. Minturn.
"Let me send you something of mine," offered Leslie. "I've enough for
"You're not figuring on really going in one of those awful places, are
you?" questioned Mrs. Minturn.
"Surely!" cried Leslie. "The birds won't sing to an automobile. And you
wouldn't miss seeing such flowers on their stems as you saw at Lowry's for
any money. It will be something to tell your friends about."
"Send what I should have. I'd ride a llama through a sea of champagne for
a new experience."
Mrs. Minturn turned from the telephone with a contemptuous sneer on her
face; but Leslie's gay laugh persisted in her ears. Restlessly she moved
through her rooms thinking what she might do to divert herself, and
shrinking from all the tiresome things she had been doing for years until
there was not a drop of the fresh juice of life to be extracted from them.
"I'm going to take a bath, go to bed early and see if I can sleep," she
muttered. "I don't know what it is that James is contemplating, but his
face haunts me. Really, if he doesn't be more civil, and stop his morose
glowering when I do see him, I'll put him or myself where we won't come in
contact. He makes it plain every day that he blames me about Elizabeth.
Why should he? He couldn't possibly know of the call of that wild-eyed
reformer. So unfortunate that she should come just at that time too! Of
course hundreds of children die from spoiled milk every summer, the rich
as well as the poor. I'll never get over regretting that I didn't finish
what I started to do; but I'd scarcely touched her in her life. She always
was so pink and warm, and that awful whiteness chilled me to the soul. I
wish I had driven, forced myself! Then I could defy James with more
spirit. That's what I lack--_spirit!_ Maybe this trip to the swamp will
steady my nerves! Something must be done soon, and I believe, actually I
believe he is thinking of doing it! Pooh! What _could_ he do? There isn't
an irregularity in my life he can lay his fingers on!"
She rang for her maid and cancelling two engagements for the evening, went
to bed, but not to sleep. When she was called early in the morning, she
gladly arose, and was dressed in Leslie Winton's short skirts, a waist of
khaki, and high shoes near enough her size to be comfortable. Her bath had
refreshed her, a cup of hot coffee stimulated her, and despite the lack of
sleep she felt better than she had that spring as she went down to the
car. On the threshold she met her husband. Evidently he had been out all
night on strenuous business. His face was haggard, his eyes bloodshot,
while in both hands he gripped a small, square paper-wrapped package. They
looked at each other a second that seemed long to both, then the woman
"Evidently an accounting is expected," she said. "Leslie Winton at the
door and the roll of music I carry should be sufficient to prove why I am
going out at this hour. You heard us make the arrangement. Thank Heaven
I've no interest in knowing where you have been, or what your precious
His expression and condition frightened her.
"For the weight of a straw overbalance," he said, "only for a hint that
you have a soul, I'd freeze it for all time with the contents of this
"A threat? You to me?" she cried in amazement.
"Verily, Madam," he said. "I wish you all the joy of the birds and flowers
"You've gone mad!" she cried.
"Contrarily, I have come to my senses after years of insanity," he said.