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Miss Lulu Bett by Zona Gale

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"And Bobby Larkin?" Lulu cared nothing for appearances now.

"He went in on the Local," said Lenny, and his eyes widened.


"See." Lenny thought it through. "Millton," he said. "Yes, sure.
Millton. Both of 'em."

"How long till another train?"

"Well, sir," said the ticket man, "you're in luck, if you was goin' too.
Seventeen was late this morning--she'll be along, jerk of a lamb's

"Then," said Lulu, "you got to give me a ticket to Millton, without me
paying till after--and you got to lend me two dollars."

"Sure thing," said Lenny, with a manner of laying the entire railway
system at her feet.

"Seventeen" would rather not have stopped at Warbleton, but Lenny's
signal was law on the time card, and the magnificent yellow express
slowed down for Lulu. Hatless and in her blue cotton gown, she climbed

Then her old inefficiency seized upon her. What was she going to do?
Millton! She had been there but once, years ago--how could she ever
find anybody? Why had she not stayed in Warbleton and asked the sheriff
or somebody--no, not the sheriff. Cornish, perhaps. Oh, and Dwight and
Ina were going to be angry now! And Di--little Di. As Lulu thought of
her she began to cry. She said to herself that she had taught Di to

In sight of Millton, Lulu was seized with trembling and physical nausea.
She had never been alone in any unfamiliar town. She put her hands to
her hair and for the first time realized her rolled-up sleeves. She was
pulling down these sleeves when the conductor came through the train.

"Could you tell me," she said timidly, "the name of the principal hotel
in Millton?"

Ninian had asked this as they neared Savannah, Georgia.

The conductor looked curiously at her.

"Why, the Hess House," he said. "Wasn't you expecting anybody to meet
you?" he asked, kindly.

"No," said Lulu, "but I'm going to find my folks--" Her voice trailed

"Beats all," thought the conductor, using his utility formula for the

In Millton Lulu's inquiry for the Hess House produced no consternation.
Nobody paid any attention to her. She was almost certainly taken to be a
new servant there.

"You stop feeling so!" she said to herself angrily at the lobby
entrance. "Ain't you been to that big hotel in Savannah, Georgia?"

The Hess House, Millton, had a tradition of its own to maintain, it
seemed, and they sent her to the rear basement door. She obeyed meekly,
but she lost a good deal of time before she found herself at the end of
the office desk. It was still longer before any one attended her.

"Please, sir!" she burst out. "See if Di Deacon has put her name on your

Her appeal was tremendous, compelling. The young clerk listened to her,
showed her where to look in the register. When only strange names and
strange writing presented themselves there, he said:

"Tried the parlour?"

And directed her kindly and with his thumb, and in the other hand a pen
divorced from his ear for the express purpose.

In crossing the lobby in the hotel at Savannah, Georgia, Lulu's most
pressing problem had been to know where to look. But now the idlers in
the Hess House lobby did not exist. In time she found the door of the
intensely rose-coloured reception room. There, in a fat, rose-coloured
chair, beside a cataract of lace curtain, sat Di, alone.

Lulu entered. She had no idea what to say. When Di looked up, started
up, frowned, Lulu felt as if she herself were the culprit. She said the
first thing that occurred to her:

"I don't believe mamma'll like your taking her nice satchel."

"Well!" said Di, exactly as if she had been at home. And superadded: "My
goodness!" And then cried rudely: "What are you here for?"

"For you," said Lulu. "You--you--you'd ought not to be here, Di."

"What's that to you?" Di cried.

"Why, Di, you're just a little girl----"

Lulu saw that this was all wrong, and stopped miserably. How was she to
go on? "Di," she said, "if you and Bobby want to get married, why not
let us get you up a nice wedding at home?" And she saw that this sounded
as if she were talking about a tea-party.

"Who said we wanted to be married?"

"Well, he's here."

"Who said he's here?"

"Isn't he?"

Di sprang up. "Aunt Lulu," she said, "you're a funny person to be
telling _me_ what to do."

Lulu said, flushing: "I love you just the same as if I was married
happy, in a home."

"Well, you aren't!" cried Di cruelly, "and I'm going to do just as I
think best."

Lulu thought this over, her look grave and sad. She tried to find
something to say. "What do people say to people," she wondered, "when
it's like this?"

"Getting married is for your whole life," was all that came to her.

"Yours wasn't," Di flashed at her.

Lulu's colour deepened, but there seemed to be no resentment in her. She
must deal with this right--that was what her manner seemed to say. And
how should she deal?

"Di," she cried, "come back with me--and wait till mamma and papa get

"That's likely. They say I'm not to be married till I'm twenty-one."

"Well, but how young that is!"

"It is to you."

"Di! This is wrong--it _is_ wrong."

"There's nothing wrong about getting married--if you stay married."

"Well, then it can't be wrong to let them know."

"It isn't. But they'd treat me wrong. They'd make me stay at home. And I
won't stay at home--I won't stay there. They act as if I was ten years

Abruptly in Lulu's face there came a light of understanding.

"Why, Di," she said, "do you feel that way too?"

Di missed this. She went on:

"I'm grown up. I feel just as grown up as they do. And I'm not allowed
to do a thing I feel. I want to be away--I will be away!"

"I know about that part," Lulu said.

She now looked at Di with attention. Was it possible that Di was
suffering in the air of that home as she herself suffered? She had not
thought of that. There Di had seemed so young, so dependent,
so--asquirm. Here, by herself, waiting for Bobby, in the Hess House at
Millton, she was curiously adult. Would she be adult if she were let

"You don't know what it's like," Di cried, "to be hushed up and laughed
at and paid no attention to, everything you say."

"Don't I?" said Lulu. "Don't I?"

She was breathing quickly and looking at Di. If _this_ was why Di was
leaving home....

"But, Di," she cried, "do you love Bobby Larkin?"

By this Di was embarrassed. "I've got to marry somebody," she said, "and
it might as well be him."

"But is it him?"

"Yes, it is," said Di. "But," she added, "I know I could love almost
anybody real nice that was nice to me." And this she said, not in her
own right, but either she had picked it up somewhere and adopted it, or
else the terrible modernity and honesty of her day somehow spoke through
her, for its own. But to Lulu it was as if something familiar turned its
face to be recognised.

"Di!" she cried.

"It's true. You ought to know that." She waited for a moment. "You did
it," she added. "Mamma said so."

At this onslaught Lulu was stupefied. For she began to perceive its

"I know what I want to do, I guess," Di muttered, as if to try to cover
what she had said.

Up to that moment, Lulu had been feeling intensely that she understood
Di, but that Di did not know this. Now Lulu felt that she and Di
actually shared some unsuspected sisterhood. It was not only that they
were both badgered by Dwight. It was more than that. They were two
women. And she must make Di know that she understood her.

"Di," Lulu said, breathing hard, "what you just said is true, I guess.
Don't you think I don't know. And now I'm going to tell you--"

She might have poured it all out, claimed her kinship with Di by virtue
of that which had happened in Savannah, Georgia. But Di said:

"Here come some ladies. And goodness, look at the way you look!"

Lulu glanced down. "I know," she said, "but I guess you'll have to put
up with me."

The two women entered, looked about with the complaisance of those who
examine a hotel property, find criticism incumbent, and have no errand.
These two women had outdressed their occasion. In their presence Di kept
silence, turned away her head, gave them to know that she had nothing to
do with this blue cotton person beside her. When they had gone on, "What
do you mean by my having to put up with you?" Di asked sharply.

"I mean I'm going to stay with you."

Di laughed scornfully--she was again the rebellious child. "I guess
Bobby'll have something to say about that," she said insolently.

"They left you in my charge."

"But I'm not a baby--the idea, Aunt Lulu!"

"I'm going to stay right with you," said Lulu. She wondered what she
should do if Di suddenly marched away from her, through that bright
lobby and into the street. She thought miserably that she must follow.
And then her whole concern for the ethics of Di's course was lost in her
agonised memory of her terrible, broken shoes.

Di did not march away. She turned her back squarely upon Lulu, and
looked out of the window. For her life Lulu could think of nothing more
to say. She was now feeling miserably on the defensive.

They were sitting in silence when Bobby Larkin came into the room.

Four Bobby Larkins there were, in immediate succession.

The Bobby who had just come down the street was distinctly perturbed,
came hurrying, now and then turned to the left when he met folk, glanced
sidewise here and there, was altogether anxious and ill at ease.

The Bobby who came through the hotel was a Bobby who had on an
importance assumed for the crisis of threading the lobby--a Bobby who
wished it to be understood that here he was, a man among men, in the
Hess House at Millton.

The Bobby who entered the little rose room was the Bobby who was no less
than overwhelmed with the stupendous character of the adventure upon
which he found himself.

The Bobby who incredibly came face to face with Lulu was the real Bobby
into whose eyes leaped instant, unmistakable relief.

Di flew to meet him. She assumed all the pretty agitations of her role,
ignored Lulu.

"Bobby! Is it all right?"

Bobby looked over her head.

"Miss Lulu," he said fatuously. "If it ain't Miss Lulu."

He looked from her to Di, and did not take in Di's resigned shrug.

"Bobby," said Di, "she's come to stop us getting married, but she
can't. I've told her so."

"She don't have to stop us," quoth Bobby gloomily, "we're stopped."

"What do you mean?" Di laid one hand flatly along her cheek, instinctive
in her melodrama.

Bobby drew down his brows, set his hand on his leg, elbow out.

"We're minors," said he.

"Well, gracious, you didn't have to tell them that."

"No. They knew _I_ was."

"But, Silly! Why didn't you tell them you're not?"

"But I am."

Di stared. "For pity sakes," she said, "don't you know how to do

"What would you have me do?" he inquired indignantly, with his head held
very stiff, and with a boyish, admirable lift of chin.

"Why, tell them we're both twenty-one. We look it. We know we're
responsible--that's all they care for. Well, you are a funny...."

"You wanted me to lie?" he said.

"Oh, don't make out you never told a fib."

"Well, but this--" he stared at her.

"I never heard of such a thing," Di cried accusingly.

"Anyhow," he said, "there's nothing to do now. The cat's out. I've told
our ages. We've got to have our folks in on it."

"Is that all you can think of?" she demanded.

"What else?"

"Why, come on to Bainbridge or Holt, and tell them we're of age, and be
married there."

"Di," said Bobby, "why, that'd be a rotten go."

Di said, oh very well, if he didn't want to marry her. He replied
stonily that of course he wanted to marry her. Di stuck out her little
hand. She was at a disadvantage. She could use no arts, with Lulu
sitting there, looking on. "Well, then, come on to Bainbridge," Di
cried, and rose.

Lulu was thinking: "What shall I say? I don't know what to say. I don't
know what I can say." Now she also rose, and laughed awkwardly. "I've
told Di," she said to Bobby, "that wherever you two go, I'm going too.
Di's folks left her in my care, you know. So you'll have to take me
along, I guess." She spoke in a manner of distinct apology.

At this Bobby had no idea what to reply. He looked down miserably at the
carpet. His whole manner was a mute testimony to his participation in
the eternal query: How did I get into it?

"Bobby," said Di, "are you going to let her lead you home?"

This of course nettled him, but not in the manner on which Di had
counted. He said loudly:

"I'm not going to Bainbridge or Holt or any town and lie, to get you or
any other girl."

Di's head lifted, tossed, turned from him. "You're about as much like a
man in a story," she said, "as--as papa is."

The two idly inspecting women again entered the rose room, this time to
stay. They inspected Lulu too. And Lulu rose and stood between the

"Hadn't we all better get the four-thirty to Warbleton?" she said, and

"Oh, if Bobby wants to back out--" said Di.

"I don't want to back out," Bobby contended furiously, "b-b-but I

"Come on, Aunt Lulu," said Di grandly.

Bobby led the way through the lobby, Di followed, and Lulu brought up
the rear. She walked awkwardly, eyes down, her hands stiffly held. Heads
turned to look at her. They passed into the street.

"You two go ahead," said Lulu, "so they won't think--"

They did so, and she followed, and did not know where to look, and
thought of her broken shoes.

At the station, Bobby put them on the train and stepped back. He had, he
said, something to see to there in Millton. Di did not look at him. And
Lulu's good-bye spoke her genuine regret for all.

"Aunt Lulu," said Di, "you needn't think I'm going to sit with you. You
look as if you were crazy. I'll sit back here."

"All right, Di," said Lulu humbly.

* * * * *

It was nearly six o'clock when they arrived at the Deacons'. Mrs. Bett
stood on the porch, her hands rolled in her apron.

"Surprise for you!" she called brightly.

Before they had reached the door, Ina bounded from the hall.


She seized upon Di, kissed her loudly, drew back from her, saw the
travelling bag.

"My new bag!" she cried. "Di! What have you got that for?"

In any embarrassment Di's instinctive defence was hearty laughter. She
now laughed heartily, kissed her mother again, and ran up the stairs.

Lulu slipped by her sister, and into the kitchen.

"Well, where have _you_, been?" cried Ina. "I declare, I never saw such
a family. Mamma don't know anything and neither of you will tell

"Mamma knows a-plenty," snapped Mrs. Bett.

Monona, who was eating a sticky gift, jumped stiffly up and down.

"You'll catch it--you'll catch it!" she sent out her shrill general

Mrs. Bett followed Lulu to the kitchen; "I didn't tell Inie about her
bag and now she says I don't know nothing," she complained. "There I
knew about the bag the hull time, but I wasn't going to tell her and
spoil her gettin' home." She banged the stove-griddle. "I've a good
notion not to eat a mouthful o' supper," she announced.

"Mother, please!" said Lulu passionately. "Stay here. Help me. I've got
enough to get through to-night."

Dwight had come home. Lulu could hear Ina pouring out to him the
mysterious circumstance of the hag, could hear the exaggerated air of
the casual with which he always received the excitement of another, and
especially of his Ina. Then she heard Ina's feet padding up the stairs,
and after that Di's shrill, nervous laughter. Lulu felt a pang of pity
for Di, as if she herself were about to face them.

There was not time both to prepare supper and to change the blue cotton
dress. In that dress Lulu was pouring water when Dwight entered the

"Ah!" said he. "Our festive ball-gown."

She gave him her hand, with her peculiar sweetness of expression--almost
as if she were sorry for him or were bidding him good-bye.

"_That_ shows who you dress for!" he cried. "You dress for me; Ina,
aren't you jealous? Lulu dresses for me!"

Ina had come in with Di, and both were excited, and Ina's head was
moving stiffly, as in all her indignations. Mrs. Bett had thought better
of it and had given her presence. Already Monona was singing.

"Lulu," said Dwight, "really? Can't you run up and slip on another

Lulu sat down in her place. "No," she said. "I'm too tired. I'm sorry,

"It seems to me--" he began.

"I don't want any," said Monona.

But no one noticed Monona, and Ina did not defer even to Dwight. She,
who measured delicate, troy occasions by avoirdupois, said brightly:

"Now, Di. You must tell us all about it. Where had you and Aunt Lulu
been with mamma's new bag?"

"Aunt Lulu!" cried Dwight. "A-ha! So Aunt Lulu was along. Well now, that
alters it."

"How does it?" asked his Ina crossly.

"Why, when Aunt Lulu goes on a jaunt," said Dwight Herbert, "events
begin to event."

"Come, Di, let's hear," said Ina.

"Ina," said Lulu, "first can't we hear something about your visit? How

Her eyes consulted Dwight. His features dropped, the lines of his face
dropped, its muscles seemed to sag. A look of suffering was in his eyes.

"She'll never be any better," he said. "I know we've said good-bye to
her for the last time."

"Oh, Dwight!" said Lulu.

"She knew it too," he said. "It--it put me out of business, I can tell
you. She gave me my start--she took all the care of me--taught me to
read--she's the only mother I ever knew----" He stopped, and opened his
eyes wide on account of their dimness.

"They said she was like another person while Dwight was there," said
Ina, and entered upon a length of particulars, and details of the
journey. These details Dwight interrupted: Couldn't Lulu remember that
he liked sage on the chops? He could hardly taste it. He had, he said,
told her this thirty-seven times. And when she said that she was sorry,
"Perhaps you think I'm sage enough," said the witty fellow.

"Dwightie!" said Ina. "Mercy." She shook her head at him. "Now, Di," she
went on, keeping the thread all this time. "Tell us your story. About
the bag."

"Oh, mamma," said Di, "let me eat my supper."

"And so you shall, darling. Tell it in your own way. Tell us first what
you've done since we've been away. Did Mr. Cornish come to see you?"

"Yes," said Di, and flashed a look at Lulu.

But eventually they were back again before that new black bag. And Di
would say nothing. She laughed, squirmed, grew irritable, laughed again.

"Lulu!" Ina demanded. "You were with her--where in the world had you
been? Why, but you couldn't have been with her--in that dress. And yet
I saw you come in the gate together."

"What!" cried Dwight Herbert, drawing down his brows. "You certainly did
not so far forget us, Lulu, as to go on the street in that dress?"

"It's a good dress," Mrs. Bett now said positively. "Of course it's a
good dress. Lulie wore it on the street--of course she did. She was gone
a long time. I made me a cup o' tea, and _then_ she hadn't come."

"Well," said Ina, "I never heard anything like this before. Where were
you both?"

One would say that Ina had entered into the family and been born again,
identified with each one. Nothing escaped her. Dwight, too, his intimacy
was incredible.

"Put an end to this, Lulu," he commanded. "Where were you two--since you
make such a mystery?"

Di's look at Lulu was piteous, terrified. Di's fear of her father was
now clear to Lulu. And Lulu feared him too. Abruptly she heard herself
temporising, for the moment making common cause with Di.

"Oh," she said, "we have a little secret. Can't we have a secret if we
want one?"

"Upon my word," Dwight commented, "she has a beautiful secret. I don't
know about your secrets, Lulu."

Every time that he did this, that fleet, lifted look of Lulu's seemed to

"I'm glad for my dinner," remarked Monona at last. "Please excuse me."
On that they all rose. Lulu stayed in the kitchen and did her best to
make her tasks indefinitely last. She had nearly finished when Di burst

"Aunt Lulu, Aunt Lulu!" she cried. "Come in there--come. I can't stand
it. What am I going to do?"

"Di, dear," said Lulu. "Tell your mother--you must tell her."

"She'll cry," Di sobbed. "Then she'll tell papa--and he'll never stop
talking about it. I know him--every day he'll keep it going. After he
scolds me it'll be a joke for months. I'll die--I'll die, Aunt Lulu."

Ina's voice sounded in the kitchen. "What are you two whispering about?
I declare, mamma's hurt, Di, at the way you're acting...."

"Let's go out on the porch," said Lulu, and when Di would have escaped,
Ina drew her with them, and handled the situation in the only way that
she knew how to handle it, by complaining: Well, but what in this

Lulu threw a white shawl about her blue cotton dress.

"A bridal robe," said Dwight. "How's that, Lulu--what are _you_ wearing
a bridal robe for--eh?"

She smiled dutifully. There was no need to make him angry, she
reflected, before she must. He had not yet gone into the parlour--had
not yet asked for his mail.

It was a warm dusk, moonless, windless. The sounds of the village
street came in--laughter, a touch at a piano, a chiming clock. Bights
starred and quickened in the blurred houses. Footsteps echoed on the
board walks. The gate opened. The gloom yielded up Cornish.

Lulu was inordinately glad to see him. To have the strain of the time
broken by him was like hearing, on a lonely whiter wakening, the clock
strike reassuring dawn.

"Lulu," said Dwight low, "your dress. Do go!"

Lulu laughed. "The bridal shawl takes off the curse," she said.

Cornish, in his gentle way, asked about the journey, about the sick
woman--and Dwight talked of her again, and this time his voice broke. Di
was curiously silent. When Cornish addressed her, she replied simply and
directly--the rarest of Di's manners, hi fact not Di's manner at all.
Lulu spoke not at all--it was enough to have this respite.

After a little the gate opened again. It was Bobby. In the besetting
fear that he was leaving Di to face something alone, Bobby had arrived.

And now Di's spirits rose. To her his presence meant repentance,
recapitulation. Her laugh rang out, her replies came archly. But Bobby
was plainly not playing up. Bobby was, in fact, hardly less than glum.
It was Dwight, the irrepressible fellow, who kept the talk going. And it
was no less than deft, his continuously displayed ability playfully to
pierce Lulu. Some one had "married at the drop of the hat. You know the
kind of girl?" And some one "made up a likely story to soothe her own
pride--you know how they do that?"

"Well," said Ina, "my part, I think _the_ most awful thing is to have
somebody one loves keep secrets from one. No wonder folks get crabbed
and spiteful with such treatment."

"Mamma!" Monona shouted from her room. "Come and hear me say my

Monona entered this request with precision on Ina's nastiest moments,
but she always rose, unabashed, and went, motherly and dutiful, to hear
devotions, as if that function and the process of living ran their two
divided channels.

She had dispatched this errand and was returning when Mrs. Bett crossed
the lawn from Grandma Gates's, where the old lady had taken comfort in
Mrs. Bett's ministrations for an hour.

"Don't you help me," Mrs. Bett warned them away sharply. "I guess I can
help myself yet awhile."

She gained her chair. And still in her momentary rule of attention, she
said clearly:

"I got a joke. Grandma Gates says it's all over town Di and Bobby Larkin
eloped off together to-day. _He_!" The last was a single note of
laughter, high and brief.

The silence fell.

"What nonsense!" Dwight Herbert said angrily.

But Ina said tensely: "_Is_ it nonsense? Haven't I been trying and
trying to find out where the black satchel went? Di!"

Di's laughter rose, but it sounded thin and false.

"Listen to that, Bobby," she said. "Listen!"

"That won't do, Di," said Ina. "You can't deceive mamma and don't you
try!" Her voice trembled, she was frantic with loving and authentic
anxiety, but she was without power, she overshadowed the real gravity of
the moment by her indignation.

"Mrs. Deacon----" began Bobby, and stood up, very straight and manly
before them all.

But Dwight intervened, Dwight, the father, the master of his house. Here
was something requiring him to act. So the father set his face like a
mask and brought down his hand on the rail of the porch. It was as if
the sound shattered a thousand filaments--where?

"Diana!" his voice was terrible, demanded a response, ravened among

"Yes, papa," said Di, very small.

"Answer your mother. Answer _me_. Is there anything to this absurd

"No, papa," said Di, trembling.

"Nothing whatever?"

"Nothing whatever."

"Can you imagine how such a ridiculous report started?"

"No, papa."

"Very well. Now we know where we are. If anyone hears this report
repeated, send them to _me_."

"Well, but that satchel--" said Ina, to whom an idea manifested less as
a function than as a leech.

"One moment," said Dwight. "Lulu will of course verify what the child
has said."

There had never been an adult moment until that day when Lulu had not
instinctively taken the part of the parents, of all parents. Now she saw
Dwight's cruelty to her as his cruelty to Di; she saw Ina, herself a
child in maternity, as ignorant of how to deal with the moment as was
Dwight. She saw Di's falseness partly parented by these parents. She
burned at the enormity of Dwight's appeal to her for verification. She
threw up her head and no one had ever seen Lulu look like this.

"If you cannot settle this with Di," said Lulu, "you cannot settle it
with me."

"A shifty answer," said Dwight. "You have a genius at misrepresenting
facts, you know, Lulu."

"Bobby wanted to say something," said Ina, still troubled.

"No, Mrs. Deacon," said Bobby, low. "I have nothing--more to say."

In a little while, when Bobby went away, Di walked with him to the gate.
It was as if, the worst having happened to her, she dared everything

"Bobby," she said, "you hate a lie. But what else could I do?"

He could not see her, could see only the little moon of her face,

"And anyhow," said Di, "it wasn't a lie. We _didn't_ elope, did we?"

"What do you think I came for to-night?" asked Bobby.

The day had aged him; he spoke like a man. His very voice came gruffly.
But she saw nothing, softened to him, yielded, was ready to take his
regret that they had not gone on.

"Well, I came for one thing," said Bobby, "to tell you that I couldn't
stand for your wanting me to lie to-day. Why, Di--I hate a lie. And now
to-night--" He spoke his code almost beautifully. "I'd rather," he said,
"they had never let us see each other again than to lose you the way
I've lost you now."


"It's true. We mustn't talk about it."

"Bobby! I'll go back and tell them all."

"You can't go back," said Bobby. "Not out of a thing like that."

She stood staring after him. She heard some one coming and she turned
toward the house, and met Cornish leaving.

"Miss Di," he cried, "if you're going to elope with anybody, remember
it's with me!"

Her defence was ready--her laughter rang out so that the departing Bobby
might hear.

She came back to the steps and mounted slowly in the lamplight, a little
white thing with whom birth had taken exquisite pains.

"If," she said, "if you have any fear that I may ever elope with Bobby
Larkin, let it rest. I shall never marry him if he asks me fifty times a

"Really, darling?" cried Ina.

"Really and truly," said Di, "and he knows it, too."

Lulu listened and read all.

"I wondered," said Ina pensively, "I wondered if you wouldn't see that
Bobby isn't much beside that nice Mr. Cornish!"

When Di had gone upstairs, Ina said to Lulu in a manner of cajoling

"Sister----" she rarely called her that, "_why_ did you and Di have the
black bag?"

So that after all it was a relief to Lulu to hear Dwight ask casually:
"By the way, Lulu, haven't I got some mail somewhere about?"

"There are two letters on the parlour table," Lulu answered. To Ina she
added: "Let's go in the parlour."

As they passed through the hall, Mrs. Bett was going up the stairs to
bed--when she mounted stairs she stooped her shoulders, bunched her
extremities, and bent her head. Lulu looked after her, as if she were
half minded to claim the protection so long lost.

Dwight lighted the gas. "Better turn down the gas jest a little," said
he, tirelessly.

Lulu handed him the two letters. He saw Ninian's writing and looked up,
said "A-ha!" and held it while he leisurely read the advertisement of
dental furniture, his Ina reading over his shoulder. "A-ha!" he said
again, and with designed deliberation turned to Ninian's letter. "An
epistle from my dear brother Ninian." The words failed, as he saw the
unsealed flap.

"You opened the letter?" he inquired incredulously. Fortunately he had
no climaxes of furious calm for high occasions. All had been used on
small occasions. "You opened the letter" came in a tone of no deeper
horror than "You picked the flower"--once put to Lulu.

She said nothing. As it is impossible to continue looking indignantly at
some one who is not looking at you, Dwight turned to Ina, who was horror
and sympathy, a nice half and half.

"Your sister has been opening my mail," he said.

"But, Dwight, if it's from Ninian--"

"It is _my_ mail," he reminded her. "She had asked me if she might open
it. Of course I told her no."

"Well," said Ina practically, "what does he say?"

"I shall open the letter in my own time. My present concern is this
disregard of my wishes." His self-control was perfect, ridiculous,
devilish. He was self-controlled because thus he could be more
effectively cruel than in temper. "What excuse have you to offer?"

Lulu was not looking at him. "None," she said--not defiantly, or
ingratiatingly, or fearfully. Merely, "None."

"Why did you do it?"

She smiled faintly and shook her head.

"Dwight," said Ina, reasonably, "she knows what's in it and we don't.
Hurry up."

"She is," said Dwight, after a pause, "an ungrateful woman."

He opened the letter, saw the clipping, the avowal, with its facts.

"A-ha!" said he. "So after having been absent with my brother for a
month, you find that you were _not_ married to him."

Lulu spoke her exceeding triumph.

"You see, Dwight," she said, "he told the truth. He had another wife. He
didn't just leave me."

Dwight instantly cried: "But this seems to me to make you considerably
worse off than if he had."

"Oh, no," Lulu said serenely. "No. Why," she said, "you know how it all
came about. He--he was used to thinking of his wife as dead. If he
hadn't--hadn't liked me, he wouldn't have told me. You see that, don't

Dwight laughed. "That your apology?" he asked.

She said nothing.

"Look here, Lulu," he went on, "this is a bad business. The less you say
about it the better, for all our sakes--_you_ see that, don't you?"

"See that? Why, no. I wanted you to write to him so I could tell the
truth. You said I mustn't tell the truth till I had the proofs ..."

"Tell who?"

"Tell everybody. I want them to know."

"Then you care nothing for our feelings in this matter?"

She looked at him now. "Your feeling?"

"It's nothing to you that we have a brother who's a bigamist?"

"But it's me--it's me."

"You! You're completely out of it. Just let it rest as it is and it'll

"I want the people to know the truth," Lulu said.

"But it's nobody's business but our business! I take it you don't intend
to sue Ninian?"

"Sue him? Oh no!"

"Then, for all our sakes, let's drop the matter."

Lulu had fallen in one of her old attitudes, tense, awkward, her hands
awkwardly placed, her feet twisted. She kept putting a lock back of her
ear, she kept swallowing.

"Tell you, Lulu," said Dwight. "Here are three of us. Our interests are
the same in this thing--only Ninian is our relative and he's nothing to
you now. Is he?"

"Why, no," said Lulu in surprise.

"Very well. Let's have a vote. Your snap judgment is to tell this
disgraceful fact broadcast. Mine is, least said, soonest mended. What do
you say, Ina--considering Di and all?"

"Oh, goodness," said Ina, "if we get mixed up with bigamy, we'll never
get away from it. Why, I wouldn't have it told for worlds."

Still in that twisted position, Lulu looked up at her. Her straying
hair, her parted lips, her lifted eyes were singularly pathetic.

"My poor, poor sister!" Ina said. She struck together her little plump
hands. "Oh, Dwight--when I think of it: What have I done--what have _we_
done that I should have a good, kind, loving husband--be so protected,
so loved, when other women.... Darling!" she sobbed, and drew near to
Lulu. "You _know_ how sorry I am--we all are...."

Lulu stood up. The white shawl slipped to the floor. Her hands were
stiffly joined.

"Then," she said, "give me the only thing I've got--that's my pride. My
pride--that he didn't want to get rid of me."

They stared at her. "What about _my_ pride?" Dwight called to her, as
across great distances. "Do you think I want everybody to know my
brother did a thing like that?"

"You can't help that," said Lulu.

"But I want you to help it. I want you to promise me that you won't
shame us like this before all our friends."

"You want me to promise what?"

"I want you--I ask you," Dwight said with an effort, "to promise me that
you will keep this, with us--a family secret."

"No!" Lulu cried. "No. I won't do it! I won't do it! I won't do it!"

It was like some crude chant, knowing only two tones. She threw out her
hands, her wrists long and dark on her blue skirt. "Can't you
understand anything?" she asked. "I've lived here all my life--on your
money. I've not been strong enough to work, they say--well, but I've
been strong enough to be a hired girl in your house--and I've been glad
to pay for my keep.... But there wasn't anything about it I liked.
Nothing about being here that I liked.... Well, then I got a little
something, same as other folks. I thought I was married and I went off
on the train and he bought me things and I saw the different towns. And
then it was all a mistake. I didn't have any of it. I came back here and
went into your kitchen again--I don't know why I came back. I s'pose
because I'm most thirty-four and new things ain't so easy any more--but
what have I got or what'll I ever have? And now you want to put on to me
having folks look at me and think he run off and left me, and having 'em
all wonder.... I can't stand it. I can't stand it. I can't...."

"You'd rather they'd know he fooled you, when he had another wife?"
Dwight sneered.

"Yes! Because he wanted me. How do I know--maybe he wanted me only just
because he was lonesome, the way I was. I don't care why! And I won't
have folks think he went and left me."

"That," said Dwight, "is a wicked vanity."

"That's the truth. Well, why can't they know the truth?"

"And bring disgrace on us all."

"It's me--it's me----" Lulu's individualism strove against that terrible
tribal sense, was shattered by it.

"It's all of us!" Dwight boomed. "It's Di."

"_Di?_" He had Lulu's eyes now.

"Why, it's chiefly on Di's account that I'm talking," said Dwight.

"How would it hurt Di?"

"To have a thing like that in the family? Well, can't you see how it'd
hurt her?"

"Would it, Ina? Would it hurt Di?"

"Why, it would shame her--embarrass her--make people wonder what kind of
stock she came from--oh," Ina sobbed, "my pure little girl!"

"Hurt her prospects, of course," said Dwight. "Anybody could see that."

"I s'pose it would," said Lulu.

She clasped her arms tightly, awkwardly, and stepped about the floor,
her broken shoes showing beneath her cotton skirt.

"When a family once gets talked about for any reason----" said Ina and

"I'm talked about now!"

"But nothing that you could help. If he got tired of you, you couldn't
help that." This misstep was Dwight's.

"No," Lulu said, "I couldn't help that. And I couldn't help his other
wife, either."

"Bigamy," said Dwight, "that's a crime."

"I've done no crime," said Lulu.

"Bigamy," said Dwight, "disgraces everybody it touches."

"Even Di," Lulu said.

"Lulu," said Dwight, "on Di's account will you promise us to let this
thing rest with us three?"

"I s'pose so," said Lulu quietly.

"You will?"

"I s'pose so."

Ina sobbed: "Thank you, thank you, Lulu. This makes up for everything."

Lulu was thinking: "Di has a hard enough time as it is." Aloud she said:
"I told Mr. Cornish, but he won't tell."

"I'll see to that," Dwight graciously offered.

"Goodness," Ina said, "so he knows. Well, that settles----" She said no

"You'll be happy to think you've done this for us, Lulu," said Dwight.

"I s'pose so," said Lulu.

Ina, pink from her little gust of sobbing, went to her, kissed her, her
trim tan tailor suit against Lulu's blue cotton.

"My sweet, self-sacrificing sister," she murmured.

"Oh stop that!" Lulu said.

Dwight took her hand, lying limply in his. "I can now," he said,
"overlook the matter of the letter."

Lulu drew back. She put her hair behind her ears, swallowed, and cried

"Don't you go around pitying me! I'll have you know I'm glad the whole
thing happened!"

* * * * *

Cornish had ordered six new copies of a popular song. He knew that it
was popular because it was called so in a Chicago paper. When the six
copies arrived with a danseuse on the covers he read the "words," looked
wistfully at the symbols which shut him out, and felt well pleased.

"Got up quite attractive," he thought, and fastened the six copies in
the window of his music store.

It was not yet nine o'clock of a vivid morning. Cornish had his floor
and sidewalk sprinkled, his red and blue plush piano spreads dusted.
He sat at a folding table well back in the store, and opened a law book.

For half an hour he read. Then he found himself looking off the page,
stabbed by a reflection which always stabbed him anew: Was he really
getting anywhere with his law? And where did he really hope to get? Of
late when he awoke at night this question had stood by the cot, waiting.

The cot had appeared there in the back of the music-store, behind a dark
sateen curtain with too few rings on the wire. How little else was in
there, nobody knew. But those passing in the late evening saw the blur
of his kerosene lamp behind that curtain and were smitten by a realistic
illusion of personal loneliness.

It was behind that curtain that these unreasoning questions usually
attacked him, when his giant, wavering shadow had died upon the wall and
the faint smell of the extinguished lamp went with him to his bed; or
when he waked before any sign of dawn. In the mornings all was cheerful
and wonted--the question had not before attacked him among his red and
blue plush spreads, his golden oak and ebony cases, of a sunshiny

A step at his door set him flying. He wanted passionately to sell a

"Well!" he cried, when he saw his visitor.

It was Lulu, in her dark red suit and her tilted hat.

"Well!" she also said, and seemed to have no idea of saying anything
else. Her excitement was so obscure that he did not discern it.

"You're out early," said he, participating in the village chorus of this
bright challenge at this hour.

"Oh, no," said Lulu.

He looked out the window, pretending to be caught by something passing,
leaned to see it the better.

"Oh, how'd you get along last night?" he asked, and wondered why he had
not thought to say it before.

"All right, thank you," said Lulu.

"Was he--about the letter, you know?"

"Yes," she said, "but that didn't matter. You'll be sure," she added,
"not to say anything about what was in the letter?"

"Why, not till you tell me I can," said Cornish, "but won't everybody
know now?"

"No," Lulu said.

At this he had no more to say, and feeling his speculation in his eyes,
dropped them to a piano scarf from which he began flicking invisible

"I came to tell you good-bye," Lulu said.


"Yes. I'm going off--for a while. My satchel's in the bakery--I had my
breakfast in the bakery."

"Say!" Cornish cried warmly, "then everything _wasn't_ all right last

"As right as it can ever be with me," she told him. "Oh, yes. Dwight
forgave me."

"Forgave you!"

She smiled, and trembled.

"Look here," said Cornish, "you come here and sit down and tell me about

He led her to the folding table, as the only social spot in that vast
area of his, seated her in the one chair, and for himself brought up a
piano stool. But after all she told him nothing. She merely took the
comfort of his kindly indignation.

"It came out all right," she said only. "But I won't stay there any
more. I can't do that."

"Then what are you going to do?"

"In Millton yesterday," she said, "I saw an advertisement in the
hotel--they wanted a chambermaid."

"Oh, Miss Bett!" he cried. At that name she flushed. "Why," said
Cornish, "you must have been coming from Millton yesterday when I saw
you. I noticed Miss Di had her bag--" He stopped, stared.

"You brought her back!" he deduced everything.

"Oh!" said Lulu. "Oh, no--I mean--"

"I heard about the eloping again this morning," he said. "That's just
what you did--you brought her back."

"You mustn't tell that! You won't? You won't!"

"No. 'Course not." He mulled it. "You tell me this: Do they know? I mean
about your going after her?"


"You never told!"

"They don't know she went."

"That's a funny thing," he blurted out, "for you not to tell her
folks--I mean, right off. Before last night...."

"You don't know them. Dwight'd never let up on that--he'd _joke_ her
about it after a while."

"But it seems--"

"Ina'd talk about disgracing _her_. They wouldn't know what to do.
There's no sense in telling them. They aren't a mother and father," Lulu

Cornish was not accustomed to deal with so much reality. But Lulu's
reality he could grasp.

"You're a trump anyhow," he affirmed.

"Oh, no," said Lulu modestly.

Yes, she was. He insisted upon it.

"By George," he exclaimed, "you don't find very many _married_ women
with as good sense as you've got."

At this, just as he was agonising because he had seemed to refer to the
truth that she was, after all, not married, at this Lulu laughed in some
amusement, and said nothing.

"You've been a jewel in their home all right," said Cornish. "I bet
they'll miss you if you do go."

"They'll miss my cooking," Lulu said without bitterness.

"They'll miss more than that, I know. I've often watched you there--"

"You have?" It was not so much pleasure as passionate gratitude which
lighted her eyes.

"You made the whole place," said Cornish.

"You don't mean just the cooking?"

"No, no. I mean--well, that first night when you played croquet. I felt
at home when you came out."

That look of hers, rarely seen, which was no less than a look of
loveliness, came now to Lulu's face. After a pause she said: "I never
had but one compliment before that wasn't for my cooking." She seemed to
feel that she must confess to that one. "He told me I done my hair up
nice." She added conscientiously: "That was after I took notice how the
ladies in Savannah, Georgia, done up theirs."

"Well, well," said Cornish only.

"Well," said Lulu, "I must be going now. I wanted to say good-bye to
you--and there's one or two other places...."

"I hate to have you go," said Cornish, and tried to add something. "I
hate to have you go," was all that he could find to add.

Lulu rose. "Oh, well," was all that she could find.

They shook hands, Lulu laughing a little. Cornish followed her to the
door. He had begun on "Look here, I wish ..." when Lulu said
"good-bye," and paused, wishing intensely to know what he would have
said. But all that he said was: "Good-bye. I wish you weren't going."

"So do I," said Lulu, and went, still laughing.

Cornish saw her red dress vanish from his door, flash by his window, her
head averted. And there settled upon him a depression out of all
proportion to the slow depression of his days. This was more--it
assailed him, absorbed him.

He stood staring out the window. Some one passed with a greeting of
which he was conscious too late to return. He wandered back down the
store and his pianos looked back at him like strangers. Down there was
the green curtain which screened his home life. He suddenly hated that
green curtain. He hated this whole place. For the first time it
occurred to him that he hated Warbleton.

He came back to his table, and sat down before his lawbook. But he sat,
chin on chest, regarding it. No ... no escape that way....

A step at the door and he sprang up. It was Lulu, coming toward him, her
face unsmiling but somehow quite lighted. In her hand was a letter.

"See," she said. "At the office was this...."

She thrust in his hand the single sheet. He read:

" ... Just wanted you to know you're actually rid of me. I've heard from
her, in Brazil. She ran out of money and thought of me, and her lawyer
wrote to me.... I've never been any good--Dwight would tell you that if
his pride would let him tell the truth once in a while. But there ain't
anything in my life makes me feel as bad as this.... I s'pose you
couldn't understand and I don't myself.... Only the sixteen years
keeping still made me think she was gone sure ... but you were so
downright good, that's what was the worst ... do you see what I want to
say ..."

Cornish read it all and looked at Lulu. She was grave and in her eyes
there was a look of dignity such as he had never seen them wear.
Incredible dignity.

"He didn't lie to get rid of me--and she was alive, just as he thought
she might be," she said.

"I'm glad," said Cornish.

"Yes," said Lulu. "He isn't quite so bad as Dwight tried to make him

It was not of this that Cornish had been thinking.

"Now you're free," he said.

"Oh, that ..." said Lulu.

She replaced her letter in its envelope.

"Now I'm really going," she said. "Good-bye for sure this time...."

Her words trailed away. Cornish had laid his hand on her arm.

"Don't say good-bye," he said.

"It's late," she said, "I--"

"Don't you go," said Cornish.

She looked at him mutely.

"Do you think you could possibly stay here with me?"

"Oh!" said Lulu, like no word.

He went on, not looking at her. "I haven't got anything. I guess maybe
you've heard something about a little something I'm supposed to inherit.
Well, it's only five hundred dollars."

His look searched her face, but she hardly heard what he was saying.

"That little Warden house--it don't cost much--you'd be surprised. Rent,
I mean. I can get it now. I went and looked at it the other day, but
then I didn't think--" he caught himself on that. "It don't cost near
as much as this store. We could furnish up the parlour with pianos--"

He was startled by that "we," and began again:

"That is, if you could ever think of such a thing as marrying me."

"But," said Lulu. "You _know_! Why, don't the disgrace--"

"What disgrace?" asked Cornish.

"Oh," she said, "you--you----"

"There's only this about that," said he. "Of course, if you loved him
very much, then I'd ought not to be talking this way to you. But I
didn't think--"

"You didn't think what?"

"That you did care so very much--about him. I don't know why."

She said: "I wanted somebody of my own. That's the reason I done what I
done. I know that now."

"I figured that way," said Cornish.

They dismissed it. But now he brought to bear something which he saw
that she should know.

"Look here," he said, "I'd ought to tell you. I'm--I'm awful lonesome
myself. This is no place to live. And I guess living so is one reason
why I want to get married. I want some kind of a home."

He said it as a confession. She accepted it as a reason.

"Of course," she said.

"I ain't never lived what you might say private," said Cornish.

"I've lived too private," Lulu said.

"Then there's another thing." This was harder to tell her. "I--I don't
believe I'm ever going to be able to do a thing with law."

"I don't see," said Lulu, "how anybody does."

"I'm not much good in a business way," he owned, with a faint laugh.
"Sometimes I think," he drew down his brows, "that I may never be able
to make any money."

She said: "Lots of men don't."

"Could you risk it with me?" Cornish asked her. "There's nobody I've
seen," he went on gently, "that I like as much as I do you. I--I was
engaged to a girl once, but we didn't get along. I guess if you'd be
willing to try me, we would get along."

Lulu said: "I thought it was Di that you--"

"Miss Di? Why," said Cornish, "she's a little kid. And," he added,
"she's a little liar."

"But I'm going on thirty-four."

"So am I!"

"Isn't there somebody--"

"Look here. Do you like me?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Well enough--"

"It's you I was thinking of," said Lulu. "I'd be all right."

"Then!" Cornish cried, and he kissed her.

* * * * *

"And now," said Dwight, "nobody must mind if I hurry a little wee bit.
I've got something on."

He and Ina and Monona were at dinner. Mrs. Bett was in her room. Di was
not there.

"Anything about Lulu?" Ina asked.

"Lulu?" Dwight stared. "Why should I have anything to do about Lulu?"

"Well, but, Dwight--we've got to do something."

"As I told you this morning," he observed, "we shall do nothing. Your
sister is of age--I don't know about the sound mind, but she is
certainly of age. If she chooses to go away, she is free to go where she

"Yes, but, Dwight, where has she gone? Where could she go? Where--"

"You are a question-box," said Dwight playfully. "A question-box."

Ina had burned her plump wrist on the oven. She lifted her arm and
nursed it.

"I'm certainly going to miss her if she stays away very long," she

"You should be sufficient unto your little self," said Dwight.

"That's all right," said Ina, "except when you're getting dinner."

"I want some crust coffee," announced Monona firmly.

"You'll have nothing of the sort," said Ina. "Drink your milk."

"As I remarked," Dwight went on, "I'm in a tiny wee bit of a hurry."

"Well, why don't you say what for?" his Ina asked.

She knew that he wanted to be asked, and she was sufficiently willing to
play his games, and besides she wanted to know. But she _was_ hot.

"I am going," said Dwight, "to take Grandma Gates out in a wheel-chair,
for an hour."

"Where did you get a wheel-chair, for mercy sakes?"

"Borrowed it from the railroad company," said Dwight, with the triumph
peculiar to the resourceful man. "Why I never did it before, I can't
imagine. There that chair's been in the depot ever since I can
remember--saw it every time I took the train--and yet I never once
thought of grandma."

"My, Dwight," said Ina, "how good you are!"

"Nonsense!" said he.

"Well, you are. Why don't I send her over a baked apple? Monona, you
take Grandma Gates a baked apple--no. You shan't go till you drink your

"I don't want it."

"Drink it or mamma won't let you go."

Monona drank it, made a piteous face, took the baked apple, ran.

"The apple isn't very good," said Ina, "but it shows my good will."

"Also," said Dwight, "it teaches Monona a life of thoughtfulness for

"That's what I always think," his Ina said.

"Can't you get mother to come out?" Dwight inquired.

"I had so much to do getting dinner onto the table, I didn't try," Ina

"You didn't have to try," Mrs. Bett's voice sounded. "I was coming when
I got rested up."

She entered, looking vaguely about. "I want Lulie," she said, and the
corners of her mouth drew down. She ate her dinner cold, appeased in
vague areas by such martyrdom. They were still at table when the front
door opened.

"Monona hadn't ought to use the front door so common," Mrs. Bett

But it was not Monona. It was Lulu and Cornish.

"Well!" said Dwight, tone curving downward.

"Well!" said Ina, in replica.

"Lulie!" said Mrs. Bett, and left her dinner, and went to her daughter
and put her hands upon her.

"We wanted to tell you first," Cornish said. "We've just got married."

"For _ever_ more!" said Ina.

"What's this?" Dwight sprang to his feet. "You're joking!" he cried with

"No," Cornish said soberly. "We're married--just now. Methodist
parsonage. We've had our dinner," he added hastily.

"Where'd you have it?" Ina demanded, for no known reason.

"The bakery," Cornish replied, and flushed.

"In the dining-room part," Lulu added.

Dwight's sole emotion was his indignation.

"What on earth did you do it for?" he put it to them. "Married in a

No, no. They explained it again. Neither of them, they said, wanted the
fuss of a wedding.

Dwight recovered himself in a measure. "I'm not surprised, after all,"
he said. "Lulu usually marries in this way."

Mrs. Bett patted her daughter's arm. "Lulie," she said, "why, Lulie. You
ain't been and got married twice, have you? After waitin' so long?"

"Don't be disturbed, Mother Bett," Dwight cried. "She wasn't married
that first time, if you remember. No marriage about it!"

Ina's little shriek sounded.

"Dwight!" she cried. "Now everybody'll have to know that. You'll have to
tell about Ninian now--and his other wife!"

Standing between her mother and Cornish, an arm of each about her, Lulu
looked across at Ina and Dwight, and they all saw in her face a
horrified realisation.

"Ina!" she said. "Dwight! You _will_ have to tell now, won't you? Why I
never thought of that."

At this Dwight sneered, was sneering still as he went to give Grandma
Gates her ride in the wheel-chair and as he stooped with patient
kindness to tuck her in.

The street door was closed. If Mrs. Bett was peeping through the blind,
no one saw her. In the pleasant mid-day light under the maples, Mr. and
Mrs. Neil Cornish were hurrying toward the railway station.

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