Part 6 out of 7
``Then I think--I'll--go,'' breathed Billy,
tremulously, plainly showing what a momentous
concession she thought she was making. ``I do
love `Romeo and Juliet,' and I haven't seen it
``Good! Then I'll find out about the tickets,''
cried Bertram, so elated at the prospect of having
an old-time evening out with his wife that
even the half-hourly telephones did not seem too
great a price to pay.
When the time came, they were a little late in
starting. Baby was fretful, and though Billy
usually laid him in his crib and unhesitatingly
left the room, insisting that he should go to sleep
by himself in accordance with the most approved
rules in her Scientific Training; yet to-night she
could not bring herself to the point of leaving the
house until he was quiet. Hurried as they were
when they did start, Billy was conscious of Bertram's
frowning disapproval of her frock.
``You don't like it, of course, dear, and I don't
blame you,'' she smiled remorsefully.
``Oh, I like it--that is, I did, when it was
new,'' rejoined her husband, with apologetic
frankness. ``But, dear, didn't you have anything
else? This looks almost--well, mussy,
``No--well, yes, maybe there were others,''
admitted Billy; ``but this was the quickest and
easiest to get into, and it all came just as I was
getting Baby ready for bed, you know. I am a
fright, though, I'll acknowledge, so far as clothes
go. I haven't had time to get a thing since Baby
came. I must get something right away, I suppose.''
``Yes, indeed,'' declared Bertram, with
emphasis, hurrying his wife into the waiting automobile.
Billy had to apologize again at the theater, for
the curtain had already risen on the ancient quarrel
between the houses of Capulet and Montague,
and Billy knew her husband's special abhorrence
of tardy arrivals. Later, though, when well
established in their seats, Billy's mind was plainly
not with the players on the stage.
``Do you suppose Baby _is_ all right?'' she
whispered, after a time.
``Sh-h! Of course he is, dear!''
There was a brief silence, during which Billy
peered at her program in the semi-darkness.
Then she nudged her husband's arm ecstatically.
``Bertram, I couldn't have chosen a better
play if I'd tried. There are _five_ acts! I'd forgotten
there were so many. That means you can
telephone four times!''
``Yes, dear.'' Bertram's voice was sternly
``You must be sure they tell you exactly how
``All right, dear. Sh-h! Here's Romeo.''
Billy subsided. She even clapped a little in
spasmodic enthusiasm. Presently she peered at
her program again.
``There wouldn't be time, I suppose, to telephone
between the scenes,'' she hazarded wistfully.
``There are sixteen of those!''
``Well, hardly! Billy, you aren't paying one
bit of attention to the play!''
``Why, of course I am,'' whispered Billy,
indignantly. ``I think it's perfectly lovely, and
I'm perfectly contented, too--since I found out
about those five acts, and as long as I _can't_ have
the sixteen scenes,'' she added, settling back in
As if to prove that she was interested in the
play, her next whisper, some time later, had to
do with one of the characters on the stage.
``Who's that--the nurse? Mercy! We
wouldn't want her for Baby, would we?''
In spite of himself Bertram chuckled this time.
Billy, too, laughed at herself. Then, resolutely,
she settled into her seat again.
The curtain was not fairly down on the first
act before Billy had laid an urgent hand on her
``Now, remember; ask if he's waked up, or
anything,'' she directed. ``And be sure to say I'll
come right home if they need me. Now hurry.''
``Yes, dear.'' Bertram rose with alacrity.
``I'll be back right away.''
``Oh, but I don't want you to hurry _too_ much,''
she called after him, softly. ``I want you to take
plenty of time to ask questions.''
``All right,'' nodded Bertram, with a quizzical
smile, as he turned away.
Obediently Bertram asked all the question
she could think of, then came back to his wife.
There was nothing in his report that even Billy
could disapprove of, or worry about; and with
almost a contented look on her face she turned
toward the stage as the curtain went up on the
``I love this balcony scene,'' she sighed happily.
Romeo, however, had not half finished his
impassioned love-making when Billy clutched her
husband's arm almost fiercely.
``Bertram,'' she fairly hissed in a tragic
whisper, ``I've just happened to think! Won't it be
awful when Baby falls in love? I know I shall
just hate that girl for taking him away from me!''
``Sh-h! _Billy!_'' expostulated her husband,
choking with half-stifled laughter. ``That woman
in front heard you, I know she did!''
``Well, I shall,'' sighed Billy, mournfully,
turning back to the stage.
`` `Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night, till it be morrow,'''
sighed Juliet passionately to her Romeo.
``Mercy! I hope not,'' whispered Billy flippantly
in Bertram's ear. ``I'm sure I don't want
to stay here till to-morrow! I want to go home
and see Baby.''
``_Billy!_'' pleaded Bertram so despairingly,
that Billy, really conscience-smitten, sat back in
her seat and remained, for the rest of the act,
very quiet indeed.
Deceived by her apparent tranquillity, Bertram
turned as the curtain went down.
``Now, Billy, surely you don't think it'll be
necessary to telephone so soon as this again,'' he
Billy's countenance fell.
``But, Bertram, you _said_ you would! Of course
if you aren't willing to--but I've been counting on
hearing all through this horrid long act, and--''
``Goodness me, Billy, I'll telephone every
minute for you, of course, if you want me to,''
cried Bertram, springing to his feet, and trying
not to show his impatience.
He was back more promptly this time.
``Everything 0. K.,'' he smiled reassuringly
into Billy's anxious eyes. ``Delia said she'd just
been up, and the little chap was sound asleep.''
To the man's unbounded surprise, his wife
grew actually white.
``Up! Up!'' she exclaimed. ``Do you mean
that Delia went down-stairs to _stay_, and left my
baby up there alone?''
``But, Billy, she said he was all right,''
murmured Bertram, softly, casting uneasy sidelong
glances at his too interested neighbors.
`` `All right'! Perhaps he was, _then_--but he
may not be, later. Delia should stay in the next
room all the time, where she could hear the least
``Yes, dear, she will, I'm sure, if you tell her
to,'' soothed Bertram, quickly. ``It'll be all
right next time.''
Billy shook her head. She was obviously near
``But, Bertram, I can't stand it to sit here
enjoying myself all safe and comfortable, and know
that Baby is _alone_ up there in that great big room!
Please, _please_ won't you go and telephone Delia
to go up _now_ and stay there?''
Bertram, weary, sorely tried, and increasingly
aware of those annoyingly interested neighbors,
was on the point of saying a very decided no; but
a glance into Billy's pleading eyes settled it.
Without a word he went back to the telephone.
The curtain was up when he slipped into his
seat, very red of face. In answer to Billy's hurried
whisper he shook his head; but in the short
pause between the first and second scenes he said,
in a low voice:
``I'm sorry, Billy, but I couldn't get the house
``Couldn't get them! But you'd just been
talking with them!''
``That's exactly it, probably. I had just
telephoned, so they weren't watching for the bell.
Anyhow, I couldn't get them.''
``Then you didn't get Delia at all!''
``Of course not.''
``And Baby is still--all alone!''
``But he's all right, dear. Delia's keeping
watch of him.''
For a moment there was silence; then, with
clear decisiveness carne Billy's voice.
``Bertram, I am going home.''
``Billy, for heaven's sake don't be a silly goose!
The play's half over already. We'll soon be going,
Billy's lips came together in a thin little
``Bertram, I am going home now, please,'' she
said. ``You needn't come with me; I can go
Bertram said two words under his breath which
it was just as well, perhaps, that Billy--and the
neighbors--did not hear; then he gathered up
their wraps and, with Billy, stalked out of the
At home everything was found to be absolutely
as it should be. Bertram, Jr., was peacefully
sleeping, and Delia, who had come up from
downstairs, was sewing in the next room.
``There, you see,'' observed Bertram, a little
Billy drew a long, contented sigh.
``Yes, I see; everything is all right. But that's
exactly what I wanted to do, Bertram, you know
--to _see for myself_,'' she finished happily.
And Bertram, looking at her rapt face as she
hovered over the baby's crib, called himself a
brute and a beast to mind _anything_ that could
make Billy look like that.
``SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT''
Bertram did not ask Billy very soon again to
go to the theater. For some days, indeed, he did
not ask her to do anything. Then, one evening,
he did beg for some music.
``Billy, you haven't played to me or sung to
me since I could remember,'' he complained. ``I
want some music.''
Billy gave a merry laugh and wriggled her
``Mercy, Bertram! I don't believe I could
play a note. You know I'm all out of practice.''
``But why _don't_ you practice?''
``Why, Bertram, I can't. In the first place I
don't seem to have any time except when Baby's
asleep; and I can't play then-I'd wake him
Bertram sighed irritably, rose to his feet, and
began to walk up and down the room. He came
to a pause at last, his eyes bent a trifle
disapprovingly on his wife.
``Billy, dear, _don't_ you wear anything but
those wrapper things nowadays?'' he asked plaintively.
Again Billy laughed. But this time a troubled
frown followed the laugh.
``I know, Bertram, I suppose they do look
dowdy, sometimes,'' she confessed; ``but, you
see, I hate to wear a really good dress--Baby
rumples them up so; and I'm usually in a hurry
to get to him mornings, and these are so easy to
slip into, and so much more comfortable for me
to handle him in!''
``Yes, of course, of course; I see,'' mumbled
Bertram, listlessly taking up his walk again.
Billy, after a moment's silence, began to talk
animatedly. Baby had done a wonderfully cunning
thing that morning, and Billy had not had
a chance yet to tell Bertram. Baby was growing
more and more cunning anyway, these days,
and there were several things she believed she
had not told him; so she told them now.
Bertram listened politely, interestedly. He
told himself that he _was_ interested, too. Of
course he was interested in the doings of his own
child! But he still walked up and down the room
a little restlessly, coming to a halt at last by the
window, across which the shade had not been
``Billy,'' he cried suddenly, with his old
boyish eagerness, ``there's a glorious moon. Come
on! Let's take a little walk--a real fellow-and-
his-best-girl walk! Will you?''
``Mercy! dear, I couldn't,'' cried Billy
springing to her feet. ``I'd love to, though, if I could,''
she added hastily, as she saw disappointment
cloud her husband's face. ``But I told Delia she
might go out. It isn't her regular evening, of
course, but I told her I didn't mind staying with
Baby a bit. So I'll have to go right up now.
She'll be going soon. But, dear, you go and take
your walk. It'll do you good. Then you can
come back and tell me all about it--only you
must come in quietly, so not to wake the baby,''
she finished, giving her husband an affectionate
kiss, as she left the room.
After a disconsolate five minutes of solitude,
Bertram got his hat and coat and went out for
his walk--but he told himself he did not expect
to enjoy it.
Bertram Henshaw knew that the old rebellious
jealousy of the summer had him fast in its grip.
He was heartily ashamed of himself, but he could
not help it. He wanted Billy, and he wanted her
then. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to
tell her about a new portrait commission he had
just obtained; and he wanted to ask her what she
thought of the idea of a brand-new ``Face of a
Girl'' for the Bohemian Ten Exhibition next
March. He wanted--but then, what would be
the use? She would listen, of course, but he
would know by the very looks of her face that
she would not be really thinking of what he was
saying; and he would be willing to wager his best
canvas that in the very first pause she would tell
about the baby's newest tooth or latest toy. Not
but that he liked to hear about the little fellow,
of course; and not but that he was proud as Punch
of him, too; but that he would like sometimes to
hear Billy talk of something else. The sweetest
melody in the world, if dinned into one's ears day
and night, became something to be fled from.
And Billy ought to talk of something else, too!
Bertram, Jr., wonderful as he was, really was not
the only thing in the world, or even the only baby;
and other people--outsiders, their friends--
had a right to expect that sometimes other
matters might be considered--their own, for
instance. But Billy seemed to have forgotten this.
No matter whether the subject of conversation
had to do with the latest novel or a trip to Europe,
under Billy's guidance it invariably led straight
to Baby's Jack-and-Jill book, or to a perambulator
journey in the Public Garden. If it had not
been so serious, it would have been really funny
the way all roads led straight to one goal. He
himself, when alone with Billy, had started the
most unusual and foreign subjects, sometimes,
just to see if there were not somewhere a little
bypath that did not bring up in his own nursery.
He never, however, found one.
But it was not funny; it was serious. Was this
glorious gift on parenthood to which he had looked
forward as the crowning joy of his existence, to
be nothing but a tragedy that would finally wreck
his domestic happiness? It could not be. It
must not be. He must he patient, and wait.
Billy loved him. He was sure she did. By and
by this obsession of motherhood, which had her
so fast in its grasp, would relax. She would
remember that her husband had rights as well as
her child. Once again she would give him the
companionship, love, and sympathetic interest
so dear to him. Meanwhile there was his work.
He must bury himself in that. And fortunate,
indeed, he was, he told himself, that he had
something so absorbing.
It was at this point in his meditations that
Bertram rounded a corner and came face to face
with a man who stopped him short with a
``Isn't it--by George, it is Bertie Henshaw!
Well, what do you think of that for luck?--and
me only two days home from `Gay Paree'!''
``Oh, Seaver! How are you? You _are_ a stranger!''
Bertram's voice and handshake were a bit
more cordial than they would have been had he
not at the moment been feeling so abused and
forlorn. In the old days he had liked this Bob Seaver
well. Seaver was an artist like himself, and was
good company always. But Seaver and his crowd
were a little too Bohemian for William's taste;
and after Billy came, she, too, had objected to
what she called ``that horrid Seaver man.'' In
his heart, Bertram knew that there was good
foundation for their objections, so he had avoided
Seaver for a time; and for some years, now, the
man had been abroad, somewhat to Bertram's
relief. To-night, however, Seaver's genial smile
and hearty friendliness were like a sudden burst
of sunshine on a rainy day--and Bertram detested
rainy days. He was feeling now, too, as
if he had just had a whole week of them.
``Yes, I am something of a stranger here,''
nodded Seaver. ``But I tell you what, little old
Boston looks mighty good to me, all the same.
Come on! You're just the fellow we want. I'm
on my way now to the old stamping ground.
Come--right about face, old chap, and come with
Bertram shook his head.
``Sorry--but I guess I can't, to-night,'' he
sighed. Both gesture and words were unhesitating,
but the voice carried the discontent of a
small boy, who, while the sun is still shining, has
been told to come into the house.
``Oh, rats! Yes, you can, too. Come on!
Lots of the old crowd will be there--Griggs,
Beebe, Jack Jenkins, and Tully. We need you
to complete the show.''
``Jack Jenkins? Is he here?'' A new eagerness
had come into Bertram's voice.
``Sure! He came on from New York last night.
Great boy, Jenkins! Just back from Paris fairly
covered with medals, you know.''
``Yes, so I hear. I haven't seen him for four
``Better come to-night then.''
``No-o,'' began Bertram, with obvious
reluctance. ``It's already nine o'clock, and--''
``Nine o'clock!'' cut in Seaver, with a broad
grin. ``Since when has your limit been nine
o'clock? I've seen the time when you didn't mind
nine o'clock in the morning, Bertie! What's
got-- Oh, I remember. I met another friend
of yours in Berlin; chap named Arkwright--
and say, he's some singer, you bet! You're
going to hear of him one of these days. Well, he
told me all about how you'd settled down now--
son and heir, fireside bliss, pretty wife, and all
the fixings. But, I say, Bertie, doesn't she let
``Nonsense, Seaver!'' flared Bertram in
``Well, then, why don't you come to-night?
If you want to see Jenkins you'll have to; he's
going back to New York to-morrow.''
For only a brief minute longer did Bertram
hesitate; then he turned squarely about with an
air of finality.
``Is he? Well, then, perhaps I will,'' he said.
``I'd hate to miss Jenkins entirely.''
``Good!'' exclaimed his companion, as they
fell into step. ``Have a cigar?''
``Thanks. Don't mind if I do.''
If Bertram's chin was a little higher and his
step a little more decided than usual, it was all
merely by way of accompaniment to his thoughts.
Certainly it was right that he should go, and
it was sensible. Indeed, it was really almost
imperative--due to Billy, as it were--after that
disagreeable taunt of Seaver's. As if she did not
want him to go when and where he pleased! As
if she would consent for a moment to figure in
the eyes of his friends as a tyrannical wife who
objected to her husband's passing a social evening
with his friends! To be sure, in this particular
case, she might not favor Seaver's presence,
but even she would not mind this once--
and, anyhow, it was Jenkins that was the attraction,
not Seaver. Besides, he himself was no
undeveloped boy now. He was a man, presumedly
able to take care of himself. Besides, again, had
not Billy herself told him to go out and enjoy the
evening without her, as she had to stay with the
baby? He would telephone her, of course, that
he had met some old friends, and that he might
be late; then she would not worry.
And forthwith, having settled the matter in
his mind, and to his complete satisfaction, Bertram
gave his undivided attention to Seaver, who
had already plunged into an account of a recent
Art Exhibition he had attended in Paris.
GHOSTS THAT WALKED FOR BERTRAM
October proved to be unusually mild, and
about the middle of the month, Bertram, after
much unselfish urging on the part of Billy, went
to a friend's camp in the Adirondacks for a week's
stay. He came back with an angry, lugubrious
face--and a broken arm.
``Oh, Bertram! And your right one, too--
the same one you broke before!'' mourned Billy,
``Of course,'' retorted Bertram, trying in vain
to give an air of jauntiness to his reply. ``Didn't
want to be too changeable, you know!''
``But how did you do it, dear?''
``Fell into a silly little hole covered with
underbrush. But--oh, Billy, what's the use? I
did it, and I can't undo it--more's the pity!''
``Of course you can't, you poor boy,''
sympathized Billy; ``and you sha'n't be tormented with
questions. We'll just be thankful 'twas no worse.
You can't paint for a while, of course; but we
won't mind that. It'll just give Baby and me a
chance to have you all to ourselves for a time,
and we'll love that!'
``Yes, of course,'' sighed Bertram, so abstractedly
that Billy bridled with pretty resentment.
``Well, I like your enthusiasm, sir,'' she frowned.
``I'm afraid you don't appreciate the blessings
you do have, young man! Did you realize what
I said? I remarked that you could be with _Baby_
and _me_,'' she emphasized.
Bertram laughed, and gave his wife an affectionate
``Indeed I do appreciate my blessings, dear--
when those blessings are such treasures as you
and Baby, but--'' Only his doleful eyes fixed
on his injured arm finished his sentence.
``I know, dear, of course, and I understand,''
murmured Billy, all tenderness at once.
They were not easy for Bertram--those following
days. Once again he was obliged to accept
the little intimate personal services that he
so disliked. Once again he could do nothing but
read, or wander disconsolately into his studio
and gaze at his half-finished ``Face of a Girl.''
Occasionally, it is true, driven nearly to desperation
by the haunting vision in his mind's eye, he
picked up a brush and attempted to make his
left hand serve his will; but a bare half-dozen
irritating, ineffectual strokes were usually enough
to make him throw down his brush in disgust.
He never could do anything with his left hand,
he told himself dejectedly.
Many of his hours, of course, he spent with
Billy and his son, and they were happy hours,
too; but they always came to be restless ones
before the day was half over. Billy was always
devotion itself to him--when she was not
attending to the baby; he had no fault to find with
Billy. And the baby was delightful--he could
find no fault with the baby. But the baby _was_
fretful--he was teething, Billy said--and he
needed a great deal of attention; so, naturally,
Bertram drifted out of the nursery, after a time,
and went down into his studio, where were his
dear, empty palette, his orderly brushes, and
his tantalizing ``Face of a Girl.'' From the
studio, generally, Bertram went out on to the street.
Sometimes he dropped into a fellow-artist's
studio. Sometimes he strolled into a club or
some friend who would help him while away a
tiresome hour. Bertram's friends quite vied with
each other in rendering this sort of aid, so much
so, indeed, that--naturally, perhaps--Bertram
came to call on their services more and more
Particularly was this the case when, after the
splints were removed, Bertram found, as the days
passed, that his arm was not improving as it
should improve. This not only disappointed and
annoyed him, but worried him. He remembered
sundry disquieting warnings given by the physician
at the time of the former break--warnings
concerning the probable seriousness of a repetition
of the injury. To Billy, of course, Bertram
said nothing of all this; but just before Christmas
he went to see a noted specialist.
An hour later, almost in front of the learned
surgeon's door, Bertram met Bob Seaver.
``Great Scott, Bertie, what's up?'' ejaculated
Seaver. ``You look as if you'd seen a ghost.''
``I have,'' answered Bertram, with grim
bitterness. ``I've seen the ghost of--of every `Face
of a Girl' I ever painted.''
``Gorry! So bad as that? No wonder you
look as if you'd been disporting in graveyards,''
chuckled Seaver, laughing at his own joke
``What's the matter--arm on a rampage to
He paused for reply, but as Bertram did not
answer at once, he resumed, with gay insistence:
``Come on! You need cheering up. Suppose
we go down to Trentini's and see who's
``All right,'' agreed Bertram, dully. ``Suit
Bertram was not thinking of Seaver, Trentini's,
or whom he might find there. Bertram was thinking
of certain words he had heard less than half
an hour ago. He was wondering, too, if ever
again he could think of anything but those words.
``The truth?'' the great surgeon had said.
``Well, the truth is--I'm sorry to tell you the
truth, Mr. Henshaw, but if you will have it--
you've painted the last picture you'll ever paint
with your right hand, I fear. It's a bad case.
This break, coming as it did on top of the serious
injury of two or three years ago, was bad enough;
but, to make matters worse, the bone was imperfectly
set and wrongly treated, which could not
be helped, of course, as you were miles away from
skilled surgeons at the time of the injury. We'll
do the best we can, of course; but--well, you
asked for the truth, you remember; so I had to
give it to you.''
THE MOTHER--THE WIFE
Bertram made up his mind at once that, for
the present, at least, he would tell no one what
the surgeon had said to him. He had placed
himself under the man's care, and there was nothing
to do but to take the prescribed treatment
and await results as patiently as he could.
Meanwhile there was no need to worry Billy, or
William, or anybody else with the matter.
Billy was so busy with her holiday plans that
she was only vaguely aware of what seemed to
be an increase of restlessness on the part of her
husband during those days just before Christmas.
``Poor dear, is the arm feeling horrid to-day?''
she asked one morning, when the gloom on her
husband's face was deeper than usual.
Bertram frowned and did not answer directly.
``Lots of good I am these days!'' he exclaimed,
his moody eyes on the armful of many-shaped,
many-sized packages she carried. ``What are
those for-the tree?''
``Yes; and it's going to be so pretty, Bertram,''
exulted Billy. ``And, do you know, Baby
positively acts as if he suspected things--little as
he is,'' she went on eagerly. ``He's as nervous
as a witch. I can't keep him still a minute!''
``How about his mother?'' hinted Bertram,
with a faint smile.
``Well, I'm afraid she isn't exactly calm
herself,'' she confessed, as she hurried out of the
room with her parcels.
Bertram looked after her longingly, despondently.
``I wonder what she'd say if she--knew,''
he muttered. ``But she sha'n't know--till she
just has to,'' he vowed suddenly, under his breath,
striding into the hall for his hat and coat.
Never had the Strata known such a Christmas
as this was planned to be. Cyril, Marie, and the
twins were to be there, also Kate, her husband
and three children, Paul, Egbert, and little Kate,
from the West. On Christmas Day there was
to be a big family dinner, with Aunt Hannah
down from the Annex. Then, in concession to
the extreme youth of the young host and his twin
cousins, there was to be an afternoon tree. The
shades were to be drawn and the candles lighted,
however, so that there might be no loss of effect.
In the evening the tree was to be once more loaded
with fascinating packages and candy-bags, and
this time the Greggorys, Tommy Dunn, and all
the rest from the Annex were to have the fun all
From garret to basement the Strata was aflame
with holly, and aglitter with tinsel. Nowhere
did there seem to be a spot that did not have its
bit of tissue paper or its trail of red ribbon. And
everything--holly, ribbon, tissue, and tinsel--
led to the mysteriously closed doors of the great
front drawing-room, past which none but Billy
and her accredited messengers might venture.
No wonder, indeed, that even Baby scented
excitement, and that Baby's mother was not
exactly calm. No wonder, too, that Bertram, with
his helpless right arm, and his heavy heart, felt
peculiarly forlorn and ``out of it.'' No wonder,
also, that he took himself literally out of it with
Mr. and Mrs. Hartwell and little Kate were
to stay at the Strata. The boys, Paul and
Egbert, were to go to Cyril's. Promptly at the
appointed time, two days before Christmas, they
arrived. And from that hour until two days after
Christmas, when the last bit of holly, ribbon,
tissue, and tinsel disappeared from the floor,
Billy moved in a whirl of anxious responsibility
that was yet filled with fun, frolic, and laughter.
It was a great success, the whole affair.
Everybody seemed pleased and happy--that is,
everybody but Bertram; and he very plainly tried to
seem pleased and happy. Even Cyril unbent to
the extent of not appearing to mind the noise
one bit; and Sister Kate (Bertram said) found
only the extraordinarily small number of four
details to change in the arrangements. Baby
obligingly let his teeth-getting go, for the
occasion, and he and the twins, Franz and Felix, were
the admiration and delight of all. Little Kate,
to be sure, was a trifle disconcerting once or twice,
but everybody was too absorbed to pay much
attention to her. Billy did, however, remember
her opening remarks.
``Well, little Kate, do you remember me?''
Billy had greeted her pleasantly.
``Oh, yes,'' little Kate had answered, with a
winning smile. ``You're my Aunt Billy what
married my Uncle Bertram instead of Uncle
William as you said you would first.''
Everybody laughed, and Billy colored, of
course; but little Kate went on eagerly:
``And I've been wanting just awfully to see
you,'' she announced.
``Have you? I'm glad, I'm sure. I feel highly
flattered,'' smiled Billy.
``Well, I have. You see, I wanted to ask you
something. Have you ever wished that you _had_
married Uncle William instead of Uncle Bertram,
or that you'd tried for Uncle Cyril before Aunty
Marie got him?''
``Kate!'' gasped her horrified mother. ``I
told you-- You see,'' she broke off, turning to
Billy despairingly. ``She's been pestering me
with questions like that ever since she knew she
was coming. She never has forgotten the way
you changed from one uncle to the other. You
may remember; it made a great impression on
her at the time.''
``Yes, I--I remember,'' stammered Billy,
trying to laugh off her embarrassment.
``But you haven't told me yet whether you
did wish you'd married Uncle William, or Uncle
Cyril,'' interposed little Kate, persistently.
``No, no, of course not!'' exclaimed Billy,
with a vivid blush, casting her eyes about for a
door of escape, and rejoicing greatly when she
spied Delia with the baby coming toward them.
``There, look, my dear, here's your new cousin,
little Bertram!'' she exclaimed. ``Don't you
want to see him?''
Little Kate turned dutifully.
``Yes'm, Aunt Billy, but I'd rather see the
twins. Mother says _they're_ real pretty and cunning.''
``Er--y-yes, they are,'' murmured Billy, on
whom the emphasis of the ``they're'' had not
Naturally, as may be supposed, therefore,
Billy had not forgotten little Kate's opening remarks.
Immediately after Christmas Mr. Hartwell
and the boys went back to their Western home,
leaving Mrs. Hartwell and her daughter to make
a round of visits to friends in the East. For
almost a week after Christmas they remained at
the Strata; and it was on the last day of their
stay that little Kate asked the question that
proved so momentous in results.
Billy, almost unconsciously, had avoided t
were alone together.
``Aunt Billy,'' began the little girl, after a
meditative gaze into the other's face, ``you _are_
married to Uncle Bertram, aren't you?''
``I certainly am, my dear,'' smiled Billy,
trying to speak unconcernedly.
``Well, then, what makes you forget it?''
``What makes me forget-- Why, child, what
a question! What do you mean? I don't forget
it!'' exclaimed Billy, indignantly.
``Then what _did_ mother mean? I heard her
tell Uncle William myself--she didn't know I
heard, though--that she did wish you'd remember
you were Uncle Bertram's wife as well as
Cousin Bertram's mother.''
Billy flushed scarlet, then grew very white.
At that moment Mrs. Hartwell came into the
room. Little Kate turned triumphantly.
``There, she hasn't forgotten, and I knew she
hadn't, mother! I asked her just now, and she
said she hadn't.''
``Hadn't what?'' questioned Mrs. Hartwell,
looking a little apprehensively at her sister-in-
law's white face and angry eyes.
``Hadn't forgotten that she was Uncle Bertram's
``Kate,'' interposed Billy, steadily meeting
her sister-in-law's gaze, ``will you be good enough
to tell me what this child is talking about?''
Mrs. Hartwell sighed, and gave an impatient
``Kate, I've a mind to take you home on the
next train,'' she said to her daughter. ``Run
away, now, down-stairs. Your Aunt Billy and I
want to talk. Come, come, hurry! I mean what
I say,'' she added warningly, as she saw unmistakable
signs of rebellion on the small young
``I wish,'' pouted little Kate, rising reluctantly,
and moving toward the door, ``that you
didn't always send me away just when I wanted
most to stay!''
``Well, Kate?'' prompted Billy, as the door
closed behind the little girl.
``Yes, I suppose I'll have to say it now, as
long as that child has put her finger in the pie.
But I hadn't intended to speak, no matter what
I saw. I promised myself I wouldn't, before I
came. I know, of course, how Bertram and Cyril,
and William, too, say that I'm always interfering
in affairs that don't concern me--though,
for that matter, if my own brother's affairs don't
concern me, I don't know whose should!
``But, as I said, I wasn't going to speak this
time, no matter what I saw. And I haven't--
except to William, and Cyril, and Aunt Hannah;
but I suppose somewhere little Kate got
hold of it. It's simply this, Billy. It seems
to me it's high time you began to realize that
you're Bertram's wife as well as the baby's
``That, I am-- I don't think I quite understand,''
said Billy, unsteadily.
``No, I suppose you don't,'' sighed Kate,
``though where your eyes are, I don't see--or,
rather, I do see: they're on the baby, _always_.
It's all very well and lovely, Billy, to be a devoted
mother, and you certainly are that. I'll
say that much for you, and I'll admit I never
thought you would be. But _can't_ you see what
you're doing to Bertram?''
``_Doing to Bertram!_--by being a devoted
mother to his son!''
``Yes, doing to Bertram. Can't you see what
a change there is in the boy? He doesn't act
like himself at all. He's restless and gloomy and
entirely out of sorts.''
``Yes, I know; but that's his arm,'' pleaded
Billy. ``Poor boy--he's so tired of it!''
Kate shook her head decisively.
``It's more than his arm, Billy. You'd see
it yourself if you weren't blinded by your
absorption in that baby. Where is Bertram every
evening? Where is he daytimes? Do you realize
that he's been at home scarcely one evening
since I came? And as for the days--he's almost
``But, Kate, he can't paint now, you know,
so of course he doesn't need to stay so closely
at home,'' defended Billy. ``He goes out to find
distraction from himself.''
``Yes, `distraction,' indeed,'' sniffed Kate.
``And where do you suppose he finds it? Do
you _know_ where he finds it? I tell you, Billy,
Bertram Henshaw is not the sort of man that
should find too much `distraction' outside his
home. His tastes and his temperament are
altogether too Bohemian, and--''
Billy interrupted with a peremptorily upraised
``Please remember, Kate, you are speaking
of my husband to his wife; and his wife has perfect
confidence in him, and is just a little particular
as to what you say.''
``Yes; well, I'm speaking of my brother, too,
whom I know very well,'' shrugged Kate. ``All
is, you may remember sometime that I warned
you--that's all. This trusting business is all
very pretty; but I think 'twould be a lot prettier,
and a vast deal more sensible, if you'd give him
a little attention as well as trust, and see if you
can't keep him at home a bit more. At least
you'll know whom he's with, then. Cyril says
he saw him last week with Bob Seaver.''
``With--Bob--Seaver?'' faltered Billy,
``Yes. I see you remember him,'' smiled
Kate, not quite agreeably. ``Perhaps now
you'll take some stock in what I've said, and
``I'll remember it, certainly,'' returned Billy,
a little proudly. ``You've said a good many
things to me, in the past, Mrs. Hartwell, and
I've remembered them all--every one.''
It was Kate's turn to flush, and she did it.
``Yes, I know. And I presume very likely
sometimes there _hasn't_ been much foundation
for what I've said. I think this time, however,
you'll find there is,'' she finished, with an air of
Billy made no reply, perhaps because Delia,
at that moment, brought in the baby.
Mrs. Hartwell and little Kate left the Strata
the next morning. Until then Billy contrived
to keep, before them, a countenance serene, and
a manner free from unrest. Even when, after
dinner that evening, Bertram put on his hat and
coat and went out, Billy refused to meet her sister-
in-law's meaning gaze. But in the morning,
after they had left the house, Billy did not
attempt to deceive herself. Determinedly, then,
she set herself to going over in her mind the past
months since the baby came; and she was appalled
at what she found. Ever in her ears, too,
was that feared name, ``Bob Seaver''; and ever
before her eyes was that night years ago when,
as an eighteen-year-old girl, she had followed
Bertram and Bob Seaver into a glittering caf
at eleven o'clock at night, because Bertram had
been drinking and was not himself. She remembered
Bertram's face when he had seen her, and
what he had said when she begged him to come
home. She remembered, too, what the family
had said afterward. But she remembered, also,
that years later Bertram had told her what that
escapade of hers had really done for him, and
that he believed he had actually loved her from
that moment. After that night, at all events,
he had had little to do with Bob Seaver.
And now Seaver was back again, it seemed--
and with Bertram. They had been seen together.
But if they had, what could she do? Surely she
could hardly now follow them into a public caf
and demand that Seaver let her husband come
home! But she could keep him at home, perhaps.
(Billy quite brightened at this thought.) Kate
had said that she was so absorbed in Baby that
her husband received no attention at all. Billy
did not believe this was true; but if it were true,
she could at least rectify that mistake. If it were
attention that he wanted--he should want no
more. Poor Bertram! No wonder that he had
sought distraction outside! When one had a
horrid broken arm that would not let one do anything,
what else could one do?
Just here Billy suddenly remembered the book,
``A Talk to Young Wives.'' If she recollected
rightly, there was a chapter that covered the very
claim Kate had been making. Billy had not
thought of the book for months, but she went
at once to get it now. There might be, after all,
something in it that would help her.
``The Coming of the First Baby.'' Billy
found the chapter without difficulty and settled
herself to read, her countenance alight with
interest. In a surprisingly short time, however,
a new expression came to her face; and at last a
little gasp of dismay fell from her lips. She looked
up then, with a startled gaze.
_Had_ her walls possessed eyes and ears all
these past months, only to give instructions to
an unseen hand that it might write what the
eyes and ears had learned? For it was such
sentences as these that the conscience-smitten
``Maternity is apt to work a miracle in a woman's
life, but sometimes it spells disaster so far
as domestic bliss is concerned. The young mother,
wrapped up in the delights and duties of motherhood,
utterly forgets that she has a husband.
She lives and moves and has her being in the
nursery. She thinks baby, talks baby, knows
only baby. She refuses to dress up, because it
is easier to take care of baby in a frowzy wrapper.
She will not go out with her husband for fear
something might happen to the baby. She gives
up her music because baby won't let her practice.
In vain her husband tries to interest her
in his own affairs. She has neither eyes nor ears
for him, only for baby.
``Now no man enjoys having his nose put out
of joint, even by his own child. He loves his
child devotedly, and is proud of him, of course;
but that does not keep him from wanting the society
of his wife occasionally, nor from longing
for her old-time love and sympathetic interest.
It is an admirable thing, certainly, for a woman
to be a devoted mother; but maternal affection
can be carried too far. Husbands have some
rights as well as offspring; and the wife who
neglects her husband for her babies does so at her
peril. Home, with the wife eternally in the
nursery, is apt to be a dull and lonely thing to the
average husband, so he starts out to find amusement
for himself--and he finds it. Then is the
time when the new little life that is so precious,
and that should have bound the two more closely
together, becomes the wedge that drives them
Billy did not read any more. With a little
sobbing cry she flung the book back into her
desk, and began to pull off her wrapper. Her
fingers shook. Already she saw herself a Monster,
a Wicked Destroyer of Domestic Bliss with
her thoughtless absorption in Baby, until he had
become that Awful Thing--a _Wedge_. And Bertram--
poor Bertram, with his broken arm! She
had not played to him, nor sung to him, nor gone
out with him. And when had they had one of
their good long talks about Bertram's work and
But it should all be changed now. She would
play, and sing, and go out with him. She would
dress up, too. He should see no more wrappers.
She would ask about his work, and seem
interested. She _was_ interested. She remembered
now, that just before he was hurt, he had told
her of a new portrait, and of a new ``Face of a
Girl'' that he had planned to do. Lately he had
said nothing about these. He had seemed
discouraged--and no wonder, with his broken arm!
But she would change all that. He should see!
And forthwith Billy hurried to her closet to pick
out her prettiest house frock.
Long before dinner Billy was ready, waiting in
the drawing-room. She had on a pretty little blue
silk gown that she knew Bertram liked, and she
watched very anxiously for Bertram to come up the
steps. She remembered now, with a pang, that he
had long since given up his peculiar ring; but she
meant to meet him at the door just the same.
Bertram, however, did not come. At a quarter
before six he telephoned that he had met some
friends, and would dine at the club.
``My, my, how pretty we are!'' exclaimed
Uncle William, when they went down to dinner
together. ``New frock?''
``Why, no, Uncle William,'' laughed Billy, a
little tremulously. ``You've seen it dozens of
``Have I?'' murmured the man. ``I don't
seem to remember it. Too bad Bertram isn't
here to see you. Somehow, you look unusually
And Billy's heart ached anew.
Billy spent the evening practicing--softly,
to be sure, so as not to wake Baby--but _practicing_.
As the days passed Billy discovered that it
was much easier to say she would ``change
things'' than it was really to change them. She
changed herself, it is true--her clothes, her
habits, her words, and her thoughts; but it was
more difficult to change Bertram. In the first
place, he was there so little. She was dismayed
when she saw how very little, indeed, he was at
home--and she did not like to ask him outright
to stay. That was not in accordance with her
plans. Besides, the ``Talk to Young Wives''
said that indirect influence was much to be
preferred, always, to direct persuasion--which
last, indeed, usually failed to produce results.
So Billy ``dressed up,'' and practiced, and
talked (of anything but the baby), and even
hinted shamelessly once or twice that she would
like to go to the theater; but all to little avail.
True, Bertram brightened up, for a minute, when
he came home and found her in a new or a favorite
dress, and he told her how pretty she looked.
He appeared to like to have her play to him, too,
even declaring once or twice that it was quite
like old times, yes, it was. But he never noticed
her hints about the theater, and he did not seem
to like to talk about his work, even a little bit.
Billy laid this last fact to his injured arm. She
decided that he had become blue and discouraged,
and that he needed cheering up, especially
about his work; so she determinedly and
systematically set herself to doing it.
She talked of the fine work he had done, and
of the still finer work he would yet do, when his
arm was well. She told him how proud she was
of him, and she let him see how dear his Art was
to her, and how badly she would feel if she thought
he had really lost all his interest in his work and
would never paint again. She questioned him
about the new portrait he was to begin as soon
as his arm would let him; and she tried to arouse
his enthusiasm in the picture he had planned to
show in the March Exhibition of the Bohemian
Ten, telling him that she was sure his arm would
allow him to complete at least one canvas to hang.
In none of this, however, did Bertram appear
in the least interested. The one thing, indeed,
which he seemed not to want to talk about, was
his work; and he responded to her overtures on
the subject with only moody silence, or else with
almost irritable monosyllables; all of which not
only grieved but surprised Billy very much. For,
according to the ``Talk to Young Wives,'' she
was doing exactly what the ideal, sympathetic,
interested-in-her-husband's-work wife should do.
When February came, bringing with it no
change for the better, Billy was thoroughly
frightened. Bertram's arm plainly was not
improving. He was more gloomy and restless than
ever. He seemed not to want to stay at home
at all; and Billy knew now for a certainty that he
was spending more and more time with Bob
Seaver and ``the boys.''
Poor Billy! Nowhere could she look these days
and see happiness. Even the adored baby seemed,
at times, almost to give an added pang. Had he
not become, according to the ``Talk to Young
Wives'' that awful thing, a _Wedge_? The Annex,
too, carried its sting; for where was the need of
an overflow house for happiness now, when there
was no happiness to overflow? Even the little
jade idol on Billy's mantel Billy could not bear
to see these days, for its once bland smile had
become a hideous grin, demanding, ``Where,
now, is your heap plenty velly good luckee?''
But, before Bertram, Billy still carried a bravely
smiling face, and to him still she talked earnestly
and enthusiastically of his work--which last,
as it happened, was the worst course she could
have pursued; for the one thing poor Bertram
wished to forget, just now, was--his work.
Early in February came Arkwright's appearance
at the Boston Opera House--the first since
he had sung there as a student a few years before.
He was an immediate and an unquestioned success.
His portrait adorned the front page of almost
every Boston newspaper the next morning,
and captious critics vied with each other to do
him honor. His full history, from boyhood up,
was featured, with special emphasis on his recent
triumphs in New York and foreign capitals. He
was interviewed as to his opinion on everything
from vegetarianism to woman's suffrage; and
his preferences as to pies and pastimes were given
headline prominence. There was no doubt of it.
Mr. M. J. Arkwright was a star.
All Arkwright's old friends, including Billy,
Bertram, Cyril, Marie, Calderwell, Alice Greggory,
Aunt Hannah, and Tommy Dunn, went to
hear him sing; and after the performance he held
a miniature reception, with enough adulation to
turn his head completely around, he declared
deprecatingly. Not until the next evening, however,
did he have an opportunity for what he
called a real talk with any of his friends; then,
in Calderwell's room, he settled back in his chair
with a sigh of content.
For a time his own and Calderwell's affairs
occupied their attention; then, after a short pause,
the tenor asked abruptly:
``Is there anything--wrong with the Henshaws,
Calderwell came suddenly erect in his chair.
``Thank you! I hoped you'd introduce that
subject; though, for that matter, if you hadn't,
I should. Yes, there is--and I'm looking to
you, old man, to get them out of it.''
``I?'' Arkwright sat erect now.
``What do you mean?''
``In a way, the expected has happened--
though I know now that I didn't really expect
it to happen, in spite of my prophecies. You may
remember I was always skeptical on the subject
of Bertram's settling down to a domestic hearthstone.
I insisted 'twould be the turn of a girl's
head and the curve of her cheek that he wanted
Arkwright looked up with a quick frown.
``You don't mean that Henshaw has been cad
enough to find another--''
Calderwell threw up his hand.
``No, no, not that! We haven't that to deal
with--yet, thank goodness! There's no woman
in it. And, really, when you come right down to
it, if ever a fellow had an excuse to seek diversion,
Bertram Henshaw has--poor chap! It's just
this. Bertram broke his arm again last October.''
``Yes, so I hear, and I thought he was looking
``He is. It's a bad business. 'Twas improperly
set in the first place, and it's not doing well
now. In fact, I'm told on pretty good authority
that the doctor says he probably will never use
``Oh, by George! Calderwell!''
``Yes. Tough, isn't it? 'Specially when you
think of his work, and know--as I happen to--
that he's particularly dependent on his right
hand for everything. He doesn't tell this
generally, and I understand Billy and the family
know nothing of it--how hopeless the case is,
I mean. Well, naturally, the poor fellow has
been pretty thoroughly discouraged, and to get
away from himself he's gone back to his old
Bohemian habits, spending much of his time with
some of his old cronies that are none too good
for him--Seaver, for instance.''
``Bob Seaver? Yes, I know him.'' Arkwright's
lips snapped together crisply.
``Yes. He said he knew you. That's why I'm
counting on your help.''
``What do you mean?''
``I mean I want you to get Henshaw away
from him, and keep him away.''
Arkwright's face darkened with an angry
``Great Scott, Calderwell! What are you
talking about? Henshaw is no kid to be toted
home, and I'm no nursery governess to do the
Calderwell laughed quietly.
``No; I don't think any one would take you
for a nursery governess, Arkwright, in spite of
the fact that you are still known to some of your
friends as `Mary Jane.' But you can sing a song,
man, which will promptly give you a through
ticket to their innermost sacred circle. In fact,
to my certain knowledge, Seaver is already planning
a jamboree with you at the right hand of
the toastmaster. There's your chance. Once
in, stay in--long enough to get Henshaw
``But, good heavens, Calderwell, it's impossible!
What can I do?'' demanded Arkwright,
savagely. ``I can't walk up to the man, take
him by the ear, and say: `Here, you, sir--march
home!' Neither can I come the `I-am-holier-
than-thou' act, and hold up to him the mirror
of his transgressions.''
``No, but you can get him out of it _some_ way.
You can find a way--for Billy's sake.''
There was no answer, and, after a moment,
Calderwell went on more quietly.
``I haven't seen Billy but two or three times
since I came back to Boston--but I don't need
to, to know that she's breaking her heart over
something. And of course that something is--
There was still no answer. Arkwright got up
suddenly, and walked to the window.
``You see, I'm helpless,'' resumed Calderwell.
``I don't paint pictures, nor sing songs, nor write
stories, nor dance jigs for a living--and you
have to do one or another to be in with that set.
And it's got to be a Johnny-on-the-spot with
Bertram. All is, something will have to be done
to get him out of the state of mind and body
he's in now, or--''
Arkwright wheeled sharply.
``When did you say this jamboree was going
to be?'' he demanded.
``Next week, some time. The date is not settled.
They were going to consult you.''
``Hm-m,'' commented Arkwright. And,
though his next remark was a complete change
of subject, Calderwell gave a contented sigh.
If, when the proposition was first made to him,
Arkwright was doubtful of his ability to be a
successful ``Johnny-on-the-spot,'' he was even
more doubtful of it as the days passed, and he
was attempting to carry out the suggestion.
He had known that he was undertaking a most
difficult and delicate task, and he soon began to
fear that it was an impossible one, as well. With
a dogged persistence, however, he adhered to his
purpose, ever on the alert to be more watchful,
more tactful, more efficient in emergencies.
Disagreeable as was the task, in a way, in
another way it was a great pleasure to him. He
was glad of the opportunity to do anything for
Billy; and then, too, he was glad of something
absorbing enough to take his mind off his own
affairs. He told himself, sometimes, that this
helping another man to fight his tiger skin was
assisting himself to fight his own.
Arkwright was trying very hard not to think
of Alice Greggory these days. He had come back
hoping that he was in a measure ``cured'' of his
``folly,'' as he termed it; but the first look into
Alice Greggory's blue-gray eyes had taught him
the fallacy of that idea. In that very first meeting
with Alice, he feared that he had revealed
his secret, for she was plainly so nervously distant
and ill at ease with him that he could but
construe her embarrassment and chilly dignity as
pity for him and a desire to show him that she
had nothing but friendship for him. Since then
he had seen but little of her, partly because he
did not wish to see her, and partly because his
time was so fully occupied. Then, too, in a round-
about way he had heard a rumor that Calderwell
was engaged to be married; and, though no feminine
name had been mentioned in connection
with the story, Arkwright had not hesitated
to supply in his own mind that of Alice Greggory.
Beginning with the ``jamboree,'' which came
off quite in accordance with Calderwell's prophecies,
Arkwright spent the most of such time as
was not given to his professional duties in
deliberately cultivating the society of Bertram and
his friends. To this extent he met with no difficulty,
for he found that M. J. Arkwright, the
new star in the operatic firmament, was obviously
a welcome comrade. Beyond this it was not so
easy. Arkwright wondered, indeed, sometimes,
if he were making any progress at all. But still
He walked with Bertram, he talked with Bertram,
unobtrusively he contrived to be near Bertram
almost always, when they were together
with ``the boys.'' Gradually he won from him
the story of what the surgeon had said to him,
and of how black the future looked in
consequence. This established a new bond between
them, so potent that Arkwright ventured to test
it one day by telling Bertram the story of the
tiger skin--the first tiger skin in his uncle's
library years ago, and of how, since then, any
difficulty he had encountered he had tried to treat
as a tiger skin. In telling the story he was careful
to draw no moral for his listener, and to preach
no sermon. He told the tale, too, with all possible
whimsical lightness of touch, and immediately
at its conclusion he changed the subject.
But that he had not failed utterly in his design
was evidenced a few days later when Bertram
grimly declared that he guessed _his_ tiger skin
was a lively beast, all right.
The first time Arkwright went home with
Bertram, his presence was almost a necessity.
Bertram was not quite himself that night. Billy
admitted them. She had plainly been watching
and waiting. Arkwright never forgot the look
on her face as her eyes met his. There was a
curious mixture of terror, hurt pride, relief, and
shame, overtopped by a fierce loyalty which almost
seemed to say aloud the words: ``Don't
you dare to blame him!''
Arkwright's heart ached with sympathy and
admiration at the proudly courageous way in
which Billy carried off the next few painful
minutes. Even when he bade her good night a little
later, only her eyes said ``thank you.'' Her lips
Arkwright often went home with Bertram after
that. Not that it was always necessary--
far from it. Some time, indeed, elapsed before
he had quite the same excuse again for his presence.
But he had found that occasionally he
could get Bertram home earlier by adroit
suggestions of one kind or another; and more and
more frequently he was succeeding in getting
him home for a game of chess.
Bertram liked chess, and was a fine player.
Since breaking his arm he had turned to games
with the feverish eagerness of one who looks for
something absorbing to fill an unrestful mind.
It was Seaver's skill in chess that had at first
attracted Bertram to the man long ago; but Bertram
could beat him easily--too easily for much
pleasure in it now. So they did not play chess
often these days. Bertram had found that, in
spite of his injury, he could still take part in
other games, and some of them, if not so intricate
as chess, were at least more apt to take his
mind off himself, especially if there were a bit
of money up to add zest and interest.
As it happened, however, Bertram learned
one day that Arkwright could play chess--and
play well, too, as he discovered after their first
game together. This fact contributed not a
little to such success as Arkwright was having
in his efforts to wean Bertram from his undesirable
companions; for Bertram soon found out
that Arkwright was more than a match for himself,
and the occasional games he did succeed in
winning only whetted his appetite for more.
Many an evening now, therefore, was spent by
the two men in Bertram's den, with Billy
anxiously hovering near, her eyes longingly
watching either her husband's absorbed face or the
pretty little red and white ivory figures, which
seemed to possess so wonderful a power to hold
his attention. In spite of her joy at the chessmen's
efficacy in keeping Bertram at home, however,
she was almost jealous of them.
``Mr. Arkwright, couldn't you show _me_ how to
play, sometime?'' she said wistfully, one evening,
when the momentary absence of Bertram
had left the two alone together. ``I used to
watch Bertram and Marie play years ago; but
I never knew how to play myself. Not that I
can see where the fun is in just sitting staring at
a chessboard for half an hour at a time, though!
But Bertram likes it, and so I--I want to learn
to stare with him. Will you teach me?''
``I should be glad to,'' smiled Arkwright.
``Then will you come, maybe, sometimes
when Bertram is at the doctor's? He goes every
Tuesday and Friday at three o'clock for treatment.
I'd rather you came then for two reasons:
first, because I don't want Bertram to know
I'm learning, till I can play _some_; and, secondly,
because--because I don't want to take you
The last words were spoken very low, and were
accompanied by a painful blush. It was the
first time Billy had ever hinted to Arkwright,
in words, that she understood what he was trying
``I'll come next Tuesday,'' promised Arkwright,
with a cheerfully unobservant air. Then Bertram
came in, bringing the book of Chess Problems,
for which he had gone up-stairs.
Promptly at three o'clock Tuesday afternoon
Arkwright appeared at the Strata, and for the
next hour Billy did her best to learn the names
and the moves of the pretty little ivory men.
But at the end of the hour she was almost ready
to give up in despair.
``If there weren't so many kinds, and if they
didn't all insist on doing something different, it
wouldn't be so bad,'' she sighed. ``But how can
you be expected to remember which goes diagonal,
and which crisscross, and which can't go
but one square, and which can skip 'way across
the board, 'specially when that little pawn-thing
can go straight ahead _two_ squares sometimes,
and the next minute only one (except when it
takes things, and then it goes crooked one square)
and when that tiresome little horse tries to go
all ways at once, and can jump 'round and hurdle
over _anybody's_ head, even the king's--how can
you expect folks to remember? But, then, Bertram
remembers,'' she added, resolutely, ``so I
guess I can.''
Whenever possible, after that, Arkwright came
on Tuesdays and Fridays, and, in spite of her
doubts, Billy did very soon begin to ``remember.''
Spurred by her great desire to play with Bertram
and surprise him, Billy spared no pains to learn
well her lessons. Even among the baby's books
and playthings these days might be found a
``Manual of Chess,'' for Billy pursued her study
at all hours; and some nights even her dreams
were of ruined, castles where kings and queens
and bishops disported themselves, with pawns
for servants, and where a weird knight on horseback
used the castle's highest tower for a hurdle,
landing always a hundred yards to one side of
where he would be expected to come down.
It was not long, of course, before Billy could
play a game of chess, after a fashion, but she
knew just enough to realize that she actually
knew nothing; and she knew, too, that until she
could play a really good game, her moves would
not hold Bertram's attention for one minute.
Not at present, therefore, was she willing Bertram
should know what she was attempting to do.
Billy had not yet learned what the great
surgeon had said to Bertram. She knew only that
his arm was no better, and that he never voluntarily
spoke of his painting. Over her now seemed
to be hanging a vague horror. Something was
the matter. She knew that. But what it was
she could not fathom. She realized that Arkwright
was trying to help, and her gratitude,
though silent, knew no bounds. Not even to
Aunt Hannah or Uncle William could she speak
of this thing that was troubling her. That they,
too, understood, in a measure, she realized. But
still she said no word. Billy was wearing a proud
little air of aloofness these days that was heart-
breaking to those who saw it and read it aright
for what it was: loyalty to Bertram, no matter
what happened. And so Billy pored over her
chessboard feverishly, tirelessly, having ever
before her longing eyes the dear time when Bertram,
across the table from her, should sit happily
staring for half an hour at a move she had
Whatever Billy's chess-playing was to signify,
however, in her own life, it was destined to play
a part in the lives of two friends of hers that was
During Billy's very first lesson, as it chanced,
Alice Greggory called and found Billy and Arkwright
so absorbed in their game that they did
not at first hear Eliza speak her name.
The quick color that flew to Arkwright's face
at sight of herself was construed at once by Alice
as embarrassment on his part at being found
she did not like it. She was not pleased that he
was there. She was less pleased that he blushed
for being there.
It so happened that Alice found him there
again several times. Alice gave a piano lesson
at two o'clock every Tuesday and Friday afternoon
to a little Beacon Street neighbor of Billy's,
and she had fallen into the habit of stepping in
to see Billy for a few minutes afterward, which
brought her there at a little past three, just after
the chess lesson was well started.
If, the first time that Alice Greggory found
Arkwright opposite Billy at the chess-table, she
was surprised and displeased, the second and third
times she was much more so. When it finally
came to her one day with sickening illumination,
that always the t
hour at the doctor's, she was appalled.
What could it mean? Had Arkwright given
up his fight? Was he playing false to himself
and to Bertram by trying thus, on the sly, to win
the love of his friend's wife? Was this man,
whom she had so admired for his brave stand,
and to whom all unasked she had given her heart's
best love (more the pity of it!)--was this idol
of hers to show feet of clay, after all? She could
not believe it. And yet--
Sick at heart, but imbued with the determination
of a righteous cause, Alice Greggory resolved,
for Billy's sake, to watch and wait. If
necessary she should speak to some one--though
to whom she did not know. Billy's happiness
should not be put in jeopardy if she could help it.
As the weeks passed, Alice came to be more
and more uneasy, distressed, and grieved. Of
Billy she could believe no evil; but of Arkwright
she was beginning to think she could believe
everything that was dishonorable and despicable.
And to believe that of the man she still loved--
no wonder that Alice did not look nor act like
herself these days.
Incensed at herself because she did love him,
angry at him because he seemed to be proving
himself so unworthy of that love, and genuinely
frightened at what she thought was the fast-
approaching wreck of all happiness for her dear
friend, Billy, Alice did not know which way to
turn. At the first she had told herself confidently
that she would ``speak to somebody.'' But, as
time passed, she saw the impracticability of that
idea. Speak to somebody, indeed! To whom?
When? Where? What should she say? Where
was her right to say anything? She was not
dealing with a parcel of naughty children who had
pilfered the cake jar! She was dealing with grown
men and women, who, presumedly, knew their
own affairs, and who, certainly, would resent
any interference from her. On the other hand,
could she stand calmly by and see Bertram lose
his wife, Arkwright his honor, Billy her happiness,
and herself her faith in human nature, all
because to do otherwise would be to meddle in other
people's business? Apparently she could, and
should. At least that seemed to be the r
she was expected to play.
It was when Alice had reached this unhappy
frame of mind that Arkwright himself unexpectedly
opened the door for her.
The two were alone together in Bertram
Henshaw's den. It was Tuesday afternoon. Alice
had called to find Billy and Arkwright deep in
their usual game of chess. Then a matter of
domestic affairs had taken Billy from the room.
``I'm afraid I'll have to be gone ten minutes,
or more,'' she had said, as she rose from the table
reluctantly. ``But you might be showing Alice
the moves, Mr. Arkwright,'' she had added, with
a laugh, as she disappeared.
``Shall I teach you the moves?'' he had smiled,
when they were alone together.
Alice's reply had been so indignantly short
and sharp that Arkwright, after a moment's
pause, had said, with a whimsical smile that yet
carried a touch of sadness:
``I am forced to surmise from your answer
that you think it is _you_ who should be teaching
_me_ moves. At all events, I seem to have been
making some moves lately that have not suited
you, judging by your actions. Have I offended
you in any way, Alice?''
The girl turned with a quick lifting of her head.
Alice knew that if ever she were to speak, it must
be now. Never again could she hope for such
an opportunity as this. Suddenly throwing
circumspect caution quite aside, she determined
that she would speak. Springing to her feet she
crossed the room and seated herself in Billy's
chair at the chess-table.
``Me! Offend me!'' she exclaimed, in a low
voice. ``As if I were the one you were offending!''
``Why, _Alice!_'' murmured the man, in obvious
Alice raised her hand, palm outward.
``Now don't, _please_ don't pretend you don't
know,'' she begged, almost piteously. ``Please
don't add that to all the rest. Oh, I understand,
of course, it's none of my affairs, and I wasn't
going to speak,'' she choked; ``but, to-day, when
you gave me this chance, I had to. At first I
couldn't believe it,'' she plunged on, plainly hurrying
against Billy's return. ``After all you'd
told me of how you meant to fight it--your
tiger skin. And I thought it merely _happened_
that you were here alone with her those days I
came. Then, when I found out they were _always_
the days Mr. Henshaw was away at the doctor's,
I had to believe.''
She stopped for breath. Arkwright, who, up
to this moment had shown that he was completely
mystified as to what she was talking
about, suddenly flushed a painful red. He was
obviously about to speak, but she prevented him
with a quick gesture.
``There's a little more I've got to say, please.
As if it weren't bad enough to do what you're
doing _at all_, but you must needs take it at such
a time as this when--when her husband _isn't_
doing just what he ought to do, and we all know
it--it's so unfair to take her now, and try to--
to win-- And you aren't even fair with him,''
she protested tremulously. ``You pretend to
be his friend. You go with him everywhere. It's
just as if you were _helping_ to--to pull him down.
You're one with the whole bunch.'' (The blood
suddenly receded from Arkwright's face, leaving
it very white; but if Alice saw it, she paid no
heed.) ``Everybody says you are. Then to
come here like this, on the sly, when you know
he can't be here, I-- Oh, can't you see what
There was a moment's pause, then Arkwright
spoke. A deep pain looked from his eyes. He
was still very pale, and his mouth had settled
into sad lines.
``I think, perhaps, it may be just as well if I
tell you what I _am_ doing--or, rather, trying to
do,'' he said quietly.
Then he told her.
``And so you see,'' he added, when he had
finished the tale, ``I haven't really accomplished
much, after all, and it seems the little I have
accomplished has only led to my being misjudged
by you, my best friend.''
Alice gave a sobbing cry. Her face was scarlet.
Horror, shame, and relief struggled for mastery
in her countenance.
``Oh, but I didn't know, I didn't know,'' she
moaned, twisting her hands nervously. ``And
now, when you've been so brave, so true--for
me to accuse you of-- Oh, can you _ever_ forgive
me? But you see, knowing that you _did_ care for
her, it did look--'' She choked into silence,
and turned away her head.
He glanced at her tenderly, mournfully.
``Yes,'' he said, after a minute, in a low voice.
``I can see how it did look; and so I'm going to
tell you now something I had meant never to tell
you. There really couldn't have been anything in
that, you see, for I found out long ago that it was
gone--whatever love there had been for--
``But your--tiger skin!''
``Oh, yes, I thought it was alive,'' smiled
Arkwright, sadly, ``when I asked you to help me
fight it. But one day, very suddenly, I discovered
that it was nothing but a dead skin of dreams
and memories. But I made another discovery,
too. I found that just beyond lay another one,
and that was very much alive.''
``Another one?'' Alice turned to him in
wonder. ``But you never asked me to help you fight
He shook his head.
``No; I couldn't, you see. You couldn't have
helped me. You'd only have hindered me.''
``Yes. You see, it was my love for--you,
that I was fighting--then.''
Alice gave a low cry and flushed vividly; but
Arkwright hurried on, his eyes turned away.
``Oh, I understand. I know. I'm not asking