Part 3 out of 4
Mrs. Mundy cannot find Etta Blake. She went this morning to the
house just opposite the box-factory, but no one is living there. A
"For Rent" sign is on it. After trying, without success, to find
from the families who live in the neighborhood where the people who
once occupied the house have gone, she went to the agent, but from
him also she could learn nothing.
"They were named Banch. A man and his wife and three children lived
in the house, but where they've moved nobody could tell me, or give
me a thing to go on. They went away between sun-up and sun-down and
no one knows where." Mrs. Mundy, who had come to my sitting-room to
make report, before taking off her coat and hat, sat down in a chair
near the desk at which I had been writing, and smoothed the fingers
of her gloves with careful precision. She was disappointed and
distressed that she had so little to tell me.
"I couldn't find a soul who'd ever heard of a girl named Etta Blake.
Poor people are generally sociable and know everybody in the
neighborhood, but didn't anybody know her. Mr. Parke, the agent,
said the man paid his rent regular and he was sorry to lose him as a
tenant, but he didn't know where he'd gone. If his wife took
boarders he didn't know anything about it. The girl might have
rented a room--" Mrs. Mundy hesitated, looked at me uncertainly.
"Shall I ask Mr. Crimm to--to help me find her? If she's in town
he'd soon know where."
Something in her voice sent the blood to my face. "You mean--oh no,
you cannot, do not mean--"
"I don't know. It's usually the end. The only one they have to come
to when a man like Mr. Thorne's brother makes a girl lose her head
about him. After he tires of her, or when he's afraid there may be
trouble, there's apt to be a row and he quits. When he's gone the
girl generally ends--down there." Mrs. Mundy's hand made movement
over her shoulder. "Respectable people don't want to have anything
to do with girls like that, and it's hard for them to get work.
After a while they give up and go to what's the only place some of
them have to go to. Would you mind if I ask Mr. Crimm?"
I shook my head. "No, I would not mind."
Going over to a window, I opened it, and as the sunshine fell upon my
face it seemed impossible that such things as Mrs. Mundy feared were
true. But I knew now they were true, and shiveringly I twisted my
hands within my arms as if to warm my heart, which was cold with a
nameless something it was difficult to define. On one side of me the
little, elfish creature with her frightened eyes and short, curly
hair seemed standing; on the other, the girl to whom Harrie was
engaged. I could not help them. Could not help Selwyn. Could help
no one! If David Guard--at thought of him the clutch at my throat
lessened. David Guard could help them. He had promised to come
whenever I sent for him, and to him I could talk as to no one else on
"I will see Mr. Crimm to-night. It won't be new to him--the finding
of a girl who's disappeared. He's found too many. I'll be careful
what I tell him, and Mr. Thorne needn't worry." Mrs. Mundy got up.
"Didn't you say he was coming this afternoon?"
"He is coming to-night. I am going out this afternoon."
Mrs. Mundy walked slowly to the door. She would have enjoyed talking
longer, but I could not talk. A sense of involvement with things
that frightened and repelled, with things of which I had hitherto
been irresponsibly ignorant, was bewildering me and I wanted to be
alone. I knew I was a coward, but there was no special need of her
I had been honest in thinking I wanted to know all sorts of people,
to see myself, and women like me, from the viewpoint of those denied
my opportunities, but it had not occurred to me as a possibility of
Scarborough Square that I should come in contact with any of the
women of Lillie Pierce's world. People like that had hardly seemed
the human beings other people were. And now--
"Tell Mr. Crimm whatever you think best." My back was to Mrs. Mundy.
"The girl is in trouble. You must see her. Bring her here if you
cannot go to her, and try and learn her side of the story. It's an
old one, perhaps, but it isn't fair that--"
"She should be shoved into hell and the lid shut down to keep her in,
and the man let alone to go where he pleases. It isn't fair, but
it's the world's way, and always will be lessen women learn some
things they ought to know. They wouldn't stand for some of the
things that go on if they understood them, but they don't understand.
They've been tongue-tied and hand-tied so long, they haven't taken in
yet they've got to do their own untying."
"It's a pretty lonely job--and a pretty hard one." I turned from the
window. Kitty's automobile had stopped in front of the house. I was
to go in it to call on Mrs. and Miss Swink. Kitty had insisted that
I use it.
I dressed quickly, putting on my best garments, but as I got into the
car something of the old protest at having to do what I did not want
to do, to go where I did not want to go, came over me, and I was
conscious of childish irritability. I did not care to know the
Swinks. Eternity wouldn't be long enough, and certainly time wasn't
to waste on people like that, and yet because Selwyn had asked me to
call I was doing it. All men are alike. When they don't know how to
do a thing that's got to be done, they tell a woman to do it. It was
not my business to tell this Swink person and her daughter that they
should be careful concerning matrimonial alliances. I would agree
with them that such intimation on my part was presumptuous and I had
no intention of making it. What I was going to do I did not know,
but it was necessary to see them, talk with them before any
suggestions could be made to Selwyn as to a tactful handling of an
embarrassing situation; and in obedience to this primary requisite I
In their private parlor at the Melbourne, pompously furnished, and
bare of all things that make a room reflective of personality, Mrs.
Swink and her daughter were awaiting me on my arrival, and the moment
I met the former all the perversity of which I am possessed rose up
within me, and for the latter I was conscious of sympathy, based on
nothing save intuitive antipathy to her mother. Inwardly I warned
myself to behave, but I wasn't sure I was going to do it.
"Oh, how do you do!" Mrs. Swink, a fat, florid, frizzy person,
waddled toward me with out-stretched and bejeweled hands, and took
mine in hers. "Mr. Thorne told us you would certainly call, and
we've been waiting for you ever since he told us. Charmed to meet
you! This is my daughter Madeleine. Where's Madeleine?" She turned
her short, red neck, bound with velvet, and looked behind her. "Oh,
here she is! Madeleine, this is Miss Wreath. You know all about
Miss Wreath, who's gone to such a queer place to live. Harrie told
us." Two sharp little eyes sunk in nests of embracing flesh winked
confidentially at first me and then her daughter. "Yes, indeed, we
know all about you. Sit down. Madeleine, push a chair up for Miss
"Heath, mother!" The girl called Madeleine turned her pretty,
dissatisfied face toward her mother and then looked at me. "She
never gets names right. She just hits at them and says the first
thing that comes to her mind." Pulling a large chair close to a
table, on which was a vase of American Beauty roses, she waited for
me to take it, then went over to the window and sat beside it.
"Well, everybody's got a mental weakness." Upright in a
blue-brocaded chair, elbows on its gilt arms, mother Swink surveyed
me with scrutinizing calculation, and as she appraised I appraised
also. Full-bosomed of body and short of leg, she looked close kin to
a frog in her tight-fitting purple gown with its iridescent
trimmings, and low-cut neck; and from her silver-buckled slippers to
the crimped and russet-colored transformation on her head, which had
slipped somewhat to one side, my eyes went up and then went down, and
I knew if Harrie ever married her daughter his punishment would begin
"Yes, indeed, everybody's got a mental weakness, and I'm thankful
mine's no worse than forgetting names. I ought to remember yours,
though. It makes you think of funerals and weddings and things like
that. I love names which--"
"Her name is Heath, mother! _Not_ Wreath."
"Oh yes--of course! This certainly is a beautiful day. If El Paso
hadn't been so far away we'd have brought one of our cars with us,
but I don't see any sense spending all that money when you can hire
cars so cheap by the hour. Madeleine don't like to ride in hired
cars. I like any kind of car."
So far I had had no opportunity of doing more than bend my head, a
chance to speak not having been permitted me, but, at her mother's
pause for breath, the girl at the window looked down upon the street
and then turned her face toward me. "That's a pretty car you came
in. Can you drive it yourself?"
"I have no car. That's Kitty's--I mean Mrs. McBryde's. That reminds
me. I have a message from her. She could not call this afternoon,
but she asks me to say she hopes you can both come in Thursday
afternoon and have tea with her. She is always at home on Thursdays
"Yes, indeed; we'll be glad to come." Mrs. Swink took up Kitty's
card, which had been sent up with mine, and looked at it through her
lorgnette, suspended around her neck by a chain studded with
amethysts, large and small. "We'll come with pleasure. Won't we,
Madeleine? Shall we write and tell her?"
"Of course not, mother. Didn't you just hear Miss Heath say it was
her regular 'at home' day? You don't write notes for things like
that." Miss Swink's eyes again turned in my direction. "I'm much
obliged, but I don't think I can come. I've an engagement for
"If it's with Harrie, he won't mind waiting awhile." With
unconcealed eagerness Mrs. Swink twisted herself in her tight and
too-embracing chair, for the moment forgetting, seemingly, that I was
a hearing person. "You can't afford to miss a chance like that.
You'll meet the best people. Harrie can stay to dinner. I'll get
tickets for the theatre."
"He won't come to dinner. I asked him. Says he's sick." The girl's
lips curled slightly. "He's always sick when--"
"Madeleine!" The sudden change in Mrs. Swink's voice was beyond
belief, and with a shrug of her shoulders the girl again looked out
of the window. I was making discoveries with unexpected rapidity,
discoveries that were filling me with speculation and promising
conclusions that were at variance with Selwyn's, and for a moment the
uncomfortable silence, following the sharp ejaculation, was unbroken
by me in the realization of my unwilling participation in a bit of
family revelation, and also by inability to think of anything to say.
"I hope you can come." My tone was but feebly urging. "Everybody
has such a good time at Kitty's. I hope, too, you are going to like
our city." I looked from mother to daughter as I uttered the usual
formulas for strangers. "This is not your first visit?"
"Oh no--we've been here several times before. We like it very much.
It's so distinguay and all that." Mrs. Swink's hands went to her
head and she patted her transformation, but failed to straighten it.
"I was born in Alabama, and Mr. Swink in Missouri, and Madeleine in
Texas, so we feel kin to all Southerners and at home anywhere in the
South; but I like this city best of any in it. Some day, I reckon,
we'll live here." Her voice was significant and again she looked at
her daughter, but her daughter did not look at her.
"We think it a very nice city, but I suppose I'd love any place in
which I had to live. That is, I'd try to. You have old friends
here, I believe, and of course you'll make new ones." My voice was
even less affirmative than interrogatory. I hardly knew what I was
saying. I was thinking of something else.
"Yes, indeed. That's what we expect to do. We don't know a great
many people here. Mrs. Hadden Cressy and I are old friends, but we
don't see much of each other. I suppose you know the Cressys?"
"I know of them very well. They are among our most valuable people.
I have often wanted to know Mr. and Mrs. Cressy. Their son, Tom, I
used to see often as a boy, but of late I rarely come across him.
What's become of him? He was one of the nicest boys I ever knew."
Mrs. Swink's hands made expressive gesture, but the girl at the
window gave no sign of hearing me. In her face, however, I saw color
creep, saw also that she bit her lips.
"Nobody knows what he does with himself." Mrs. Swink sighed. "After
all the money his father spent on his education, and after everybody
took him up, he dropped out of society and stuck at his business as
if he didn't have a cent in the world. He hasn't any ambition. He
could go with the most fashionable people in town, if his parents
can't, but he won't do it. He must be a great disappointment to his
With a slow movement of her shoulders, Miss Swink turned and looked
at her mother, in her eyes that which made me sit up. What the look
implied I was unable altogether to understand, but I could venture a
guess at it, and on the venture I spoke:
"He's the pride of their life, I've been told. Any parents would be
proud of such a son--that is, if they were the kind of parents a son
could be proud of. I'd like to see Tom. I used to be very fond of
him when he was a boy. He lived just back of us and he and Kitty
were great friends as children. I'm afraid he's forgotten me,
"No, he hasn't--" Miss Swink stopped as abruptly as she began, but
the color that had crept into her face at mention of Tom Cressy's
name now crimsoned it, and again she turned her head away. In her
eyes, however, I had caught the gratitude flashed to me, and quickly
I decided I must see her alone, talk to her alone; and so absorbed
was I in wondering how I could do it that only vaguely did I hear
Mrs. Swink, who was telling me of various engagements already made,
of the difficulty of getting in what had to be gotten in between
being manicured and marcelled and massaged and chiropodized and
tailored and dress-makered, and had she not been so interested in the
telling she would have discovered I was not at all interested in the
hearing. She did not discover.
When for the third time I saw Miss Swink glance at the watch upon her
wrist, and then out of the window, I knew she was waiting for some
one to pass. It wasn't Harrie. There was no necessity for furtive
watching for Harrie to pass, The latter's plaint of sickness was
evidently not convincing to the girl. I looked at the clock on the
mantel. I had been in the room twenty-seven minutes, but I didn't
agree with Selwyn that Miss Swink was in love with his brother. Her
engagement to him was due, I imagined, not so much to her literalness
as to her mother's management. An unholy desire to demonstrate that
the latter was not of a scientific kind possessed me, and quickly my
With eyes apparently on Mrs. Swink, I missed no movement of her
daughter, and when presently I saw her put her elbow on the
window-sill and wipe her lips with her handkerchief, and then make
movement as if to brush something away, I got up, made effort to say
good-by unhurriedly to her mother, and went over to the girl. As I
held out my hand I glanced out of the window. Exactly opposite, and
looking up at it, was Tom Cressy, his handkerchief to his lips.
I took the hand she held toward me in both of mine and something in
her eyes, something both mutinous and pleading, filled me with
sympathy I should not have felt, perhaps. She was only nineteen, and
her mother was obviously trying to make her marry Harrie when she
probably loved Tom. It was all so weak and so wicked, so sordid and
stupid, that I felt like Kitty when with Alice Herbert. I needed
disinfecting. I would have to get away before I said things I
"Your mother says the masseuse comes this afternoon. Can't you take
a drive with me while she is here?" I turned to Mrs. Swink. "You
will not mind if she leaves you for a little while? It is too lovely
to stay indoors."
"No, indeed, I won't mind. I'll be glad to have her go if she'll do
it. Lately she won't do anything but sit at that window." Mrs.
Swink, who had gotten out of her chair with difficulty, turned to her
daughter, blinking her little, near-sighted eyes at her as if she
were beyond all human understanding; and the fretfulness of her tone
she made no effort to control. "She's that restless and hard to
please and hard to interest in anything that she nearly wears me out.
Girls didn't do like that when I was young. If I'd had a hundredth
part of what she's got--"
"What's the use of having things you don't want?" Miss Swink's
shoulders made resentful movement; then she turned to me, for a
"Thank you very much for asking me, but I can't go this afternoon. I
need exercise. If I don't walk a great deal I--"
"I'd much rather walk. I love to walk." I must know why she was
meeting Tom without her mother's knowledge. "I'll send the car home
and we'll walk together. It isn't often I have an afternoon without
something that must be done in it. I'll wait here while you get your
hat and coat."
Into the girl's face came flush that spread slowly to the temples,
and uncertainly she looked at me. Steadily my eyes held hers and
after half a moment she turned and went out of the room. Coming
back, she followed me into the hall and to the elevator, but, eyes on
the gloves she was fastening, she said nothing until we reached the
street. On the corner opposite us Tom Cressy was standing in the
doorway of a cigar-shop, and as he saw the car dismissed, saw us
cross the street and come toward him, into his honest, if not
handsome, face came puzzled incredulity. Not until in front of him
did I give evidence of seeing him; then I stopped.
"Why, Tom Cressy!" I held out my hand and, as he took it, I noticed
the one holding his hat was not entirely steady. "It's ages since
I've seen you, Tom. You know Miss Swink, I believe." I pretended not
to see their formal and somewhat frightened bow. "We're going to
walk. Can't you go with us? Come on. We're going to the park."
Slipping my arm through Madeleine's, I caught step, and on the other
side of her Tom did likewise, hands in his pockets, and into both
faces came glow that illuminated them and enlightened me. At the end
of our walk I would know pretty well what I wanted to know.
For an hour and a half we walked briskly and talked along lines
usually self-revealing; and by the time the hotel was again reached I
was quite satisfied concerning a complicated situation that needed
skilful steering to avoid a dangerous and disastrous smash-up.
"Can't I go home with you, Miss Dandridge?" Tom twisted his hat
nervously. "It's too late for you to go so far by yourself. Please
let me go with you."
"Of course you're going with me. After dark I'm only a baby person
and I like a nice, big man with me! Good-by, dear." I turned to
Madeleine. "Some afternoon, if your mother does not mind, come down
and have tea with me in Scarborough Square. Tom can come, too, and
bring you home. I'll telephone you one day next week."
With a nod I walked away, but not before I saw a flash of joy pass
between two faces which were raised to each other, and, guiltily, I
wondered if I had again done something I shouldn't. I was always
doing it. Hurrying on with Tom, I talked of many things, but at my
door I turned to him and held out my hand.
"I haven't any right to ask you, but I'm going to ask you. You care
for each other and something is the matter. What is it, Tom?"
"Matter!" Indignation, wrathful and righteous, flared in face and
voice, and Tom's clutch of my hand was more fervid than considerate.
"Her mother's the matter. She's batty on the subject of society and
position, and first families, and fashion, and rot of that sort--all
right in its way, but not her way. I'm not aristocratic enough for
her. She doesn't want her daughter to marry me because we haven't
any family brush and coats of arms, and don't belong to the inside
set, and marrying me wouldn't give Madeleine what she wants her to
have. Madeleine don't want it. She wants--"
"You. I understand. Does Mrs. Swink want her to marry some one
else?" I hated my pretended ignorance, but I must know just what he
knew. Know if Madeleine had told him of her engagement. "Who is it
she wants her to marry?"
"Harrie Thorne. If she knew what others knew of Harrie--" Tom bit
his lip. "I don't want to go into that, however. Not my business.
But if she was told she wouldn't believe. She don't want to believe.
She wants her daughter to marry what Harrie can give her. An honored
name which he has dishonored."
Tom took out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead, in his eyes
boyish incomprehension of incomprehensible things. "Men are wicked,
Miss Dandridge, but they wouldn't do what some women do. They've got
it in their hands to do a lot they don't do--women have--and if it
wasn't for some of them, for those we believe in, the world would go
smash in certain ways as far as men are concerned. What's the use of
keeping straight and living clean when plenty of women don't seem to
care, or certainly don't ask too much about a man if he's got money,
or anything else they want for their daughters? Mrs. Swink is
determined that Madeleine shall marry Harrie."
"But has Madeleine no will of her own? If she permits her mother to
dispose of her--"
"She's been disposed of since she was a baby, and resistance wears
thin after a while, I suppose." The tips of Tom's right shoe made a
small circle on the brick pavement, but presently he looked up at me.
"It's pretty queer for me to be telling things like this, but you
always did understand a fellow. I've often wished I could come and
see you. Madeleine and I were engaged once."
"Why aren't you engaged now? Tell me anything you want. What
"Mother Swink happened!" Tom's words came jerkily. "She wouldn't
even let me talk to her; made a devil of a row, dragged Madeleine all
around Europe, wouldn't let her have a letter from me--sent them back
herself--and told Madeleine if she married me she would never speak
"That ought to have given you courage. Why didn't you marry
"I couldn't get hold of her. And, besides, she got so worked up that
she went all to pieces, and I--I wasn't patient enough, I guess.
When they came back I managed to see her once, but we both got mad
and said things we shouldn't, and she gave me up. I heard Harrie had
been giving her a rush in El Paso, and if Mrs. Swink can manage it
she'll have Madeleine engaged to him before he knows how it happened."
"Are you able to marry, Tom? Is there any reason why you shouldn't?"
"No, there isn't." His head went up. "I can't give her what her
mother can, but I can take care of her all right. On the first of
next May father makes me general manager of the business. He hasn't
spared me because I was his son, and he wouldn't give me the place
until I'd earned it, but I'll get it pretty soon now. I wish you
knew my father, Miss Dandridge. There isn't any sort of search-light
he can't stand, and it isn't his and mother's fault if I can't stand
"I don't think they'd be uneasy if any were to be turned on. I
wouldn't. Good night, Tom. Be careful how you meet Madeleine. How
many times have you seen her since she got here?"
"Just once before this afternoon." His face flushed. "Something is
the matter. She's not like herself. Her mother's up to something."
"When you want to see her, come down here and see me. Don't meet on
corners or in the park, and--and the next time you're engaged don't
let a girl think you're going to wait indefinitely. If she isn't
willing to marry you and go to Pungo if necessary, she isn't the girl
for you to marry. Good night."
At the door I turned. Tom was still standing at the foot of the
steps, staring at me, in his face slow-dawning understanding.
As Selwyn and David Guard shook hands, eagerness of desire must have
been in my face, for Selwyn, turning, seemed puzzled by what he saw.
Going into the room adjoining my sitting-room, I left them alone for
a few moments, and when I came back I was careful to keep out of my
eyes that which as yet it was not wise that they should tell. I have
long since learned a man must not be hurried. Certainly not a man of
Sitting down in a corner of the sofa, I nodded to the men to sit down
also, but that which they had been discussing while I was out of the
room still held, and, returning to it, they stood awhile longer, one
on either side of the mantelpiece, and, hands in my lap, I watched
them with hope in my heart of which they did not dream.
They are strangely contrasting--Selwyn and David Guard. That is, so
far as outward and physical appearance is concerned. But of certain
inward sympathies, certain personal standards of life, certain
intellectual acceptances and rejections, they have far more in common
than they imagine, and to find this basis upon which friendship might
take root is a desire that sprang into life upon seeing them
together. Should they ever be friends, they would be forever
friends. Of that I am very sure.
By Selwyn's side David Guard seemed smaller, frailer, less robust
than ever, yet about him was no hint of feebleness, and his radiation
of quiet force was not lessened by Selwyn's strength. His clothes
were shabbier than ever, his cravat even less secure than usual, and
the long lock of hair that fell at times across his forehead was
grayer than formerly, I thought, but no externals could dim the
consciousness that he was a man to be reckoned with.
Opposite him Selwyn seemed the embodiment of all he lacked. The
well-being of his body, the quiet excellence of his clothes, the
unconscious confidence, born of ability and abundance, the security
of established position, marked him a man to whom the gods have been
good. But the gods mock all men. In Selwyn's eyes was search for
something not yet found. In David Guard's the peace that comes of
finding. I had hardly thought of their knowing each other.
To-night, quite by accident, they had met. Selwyn had come according
to agreement. David Guard, to tell me of a case in which he was
interested. He had come before Selwyn, and at the latter's entrance
had started to go. I would not let him go. If they could be made
friends--God!--what a power they could be!
They were discussing the war. The afternoon's reports had been
somewhat more ghastly than usual.
"The twentieth century obviously doesn't propose to be outdone by any
other period of history, recorded or unrecorded." One hand in his
pocket, an elbow on the mantel-shelf, Selwyn looked at David Guard.
"In the quarter of a million years in which man, or what we term man,
has presumably lived on this particular planet, nothing so far has
been discovered, I believe, which tells of such abominations as are
taking place to-day. It's an interesting epoch from the standpoint
of man's advance in scientific barbarism."
"It deepens, certainly, our respect for our primeval ancestors."
David Guard smiled grimly. "I understand there are still
tree-dwellers in certain parts of Australia who knock one another in
the head when it so pleases them to do. For the settlement of
difficulties their methods require much less effort and trouble than
ours. On the whole, I prefer their manner of fighting. Each side
can see what the other's about."
"So do I." Curled up in the corner of the sofa, I had not intended
to speak. A woman's opinions on war don't interest men. "The
fundamental instinct in man to fight may require a few thousand more
years to yield to the advisability of settling differences around a
table in a council-chamber, but one can't tell. Much less time may
be necessary. The tree-dwellers and the cave-dwellers and the
tent-dwellers spent most of their time scrapping. We do have
intervals of peace in which to get ready to fight again."
"So did they, though their intervals were shorter, perhaps, owing to
their simpler methods of attack." Selwyn laughed. "In their day,
warfare being largely a personal or tribal affair, little time was
necessary for preparation. With us the whole machinery of government
is needed to murder and maim and devastate and ruin. Civilization
and science and education have complicated pretty hopelessly the
adjustments of disputes, the taking of territory, and the acceptance
of opposing ideals. The biggest artillery and the best brains for
butchery at present are having their day. Humanity in the making has
its discouraging side."
"It has!" David Guard's voice was emphatic, though he, too, laughed.
"If humanity made claim to being a finished product, there'd be
justification for more than discouragement. It makes no such claim.
Fists and clubs, and slingshots and battle-axes, are handier weapons
than guns and cannon, and armored air-ships and under-sea craft, but
in the days of the former using, but one kind of army was sent out to
fight. To-day we send out two."
"Two?" Selwyn looked puzzled. "What two?"
"One to undo, as far as possible, the work of the other. The second
army, not the first, is the test of humanity's advance; the army that
tries to keep life in the man the other army has tried to kill, to
give back what has been taken away, to help what has been hurt, to
feed what has been starved, to clothe what is made naked, to build up
what has been broken down. Each country that to-day gives fight,
equips and trains and sends out two contrasting armies. They work
together, but with opposing purposes. The second army--"
"Has a good many women in it. But it's so stupid, so wicked and
wasteful, to fight over things that are rarely finally settled by
fighting. It's bad business!" My hands twisted shiveringly in my
lap. "Do you suppose the time will ever come when man will see it's
the animal's way of getting what he wants, of keeping others from
getting what he's got, of settling difficulties and defending points
of view? Do you think he'll ever find a better way?"
"In a few thousand years--yes," Selwyn again smiled and, changing his
position, stood with his back to the fire. "When we have the same
code for nations as for individuals, the same insistence that what's
wrong in and punishable for a man is wrong in and punishable for his
country, or when we cease to think of ourselves as group people and
remember we are but parts of a whole, we may cease to be fighting
animals. Not until then, perhaps. Personally, I think war is a good
thing every now and then. That is, in the present state of our
"So do I." David Guard's shoulders made energetic movement. "War
brings out every evil passion of which man is possessed, but it has
its redemptive side. It clears away befogging sophistries, delivers
from deadening indulgences and indifferences; enables us to see
ourselves, our manner of life, our methods of government, our
obligations and our injustices, in perspective that reveals what
could, perhaps, be grasped in no other way. It brings about
readjustments and reaccountings, and puts into operation new forces
of life, new conceptions of duty. It's a frightful way of making man
get a firmer grip on certain essential realizations, of taking in
more definitely the high purpose of his destiny, but at times there
seems no other way. I pray God we may keep out of this, but if it
means a stand for human rights--"
"We'll all enlist!" The faces of the men before me were sober, and
quick fear made my voice unsteady. "War may have its redemptive
side; it may at times be necessary for the preservation of honor and
the maintenance of principle, but that's because, I imagine, of our
unpreparedness as human beings to--to be the right sort of human
beings. When we are there'll be no time to kill one another. We'll
need it all to help each other. I hate war as few hate it, perhaps,
but should it come to us I'm as ready to join my army as you to join
yours." I got up and took the hand David Guard was holding out to
me. "I wish you didn't have to go. Must you?"
"Must. Got an engagement at nine-fifteen. I'll see you before the
week is out about Clara Rudd. Good night." He turned to Selwyn,
shook hands, and was gone.
In the corner of the sofa I again sat down, and Selwyn, turning off
the light in the lamp behind me, took a chair and drew it close to
me. Anxiety he made no effort to control was in his eyes.
"Well--have you anything to tell me?"
"Not as much as I hoped. Mrs. Mundy hasn't been able to find Etta
Blake yet. Until--"
"Etta Blake?" Selwyn's tone was groping. "Oh, the little
cashier-girl. I didn't expect you to tell anything of her. I wish
you'd put her out of your mind." His face darkened.
"I can't. She seems to be in no one else's. But we won't talk of
her to-night. I saw the Swinks this afternoon."
"I know you did. Mrs. Swink telephoned Harrie to-night. Did my
appraisement approach correctness?"
"Of Mrs. Swink, yes. She's impossible. Most fat fools are. They're
like feather beds. You could stamp on them, but you couldn't get rid
of the fool-ness. It would just be in another place. She told me
she was manicured on Mondays, massaged on Tuesdays, marcelled
Wednesdays, and chiropodized on Thursdays, and one couldn't expect
much of a daughter with that sort of a mother; still, the girl
interested me. I feel sorry for her. She mustn't marry Harrie."
"But who's going to tell her?" Selwyn's voice was querulously eager.
"I thought perhaps you might find--find--"
"I did." I nodded in his flushed face. "I don't think it will be
necessary to tell her anything. She's very much in love, but not
Selwyn sat upright. A certain rigidity of which he is capable
stiffened him. He looked much, but said nothing.
"I've had an interesting time this afternoon. I never wanted to be a
detective person, but I can understand the fascination of the
profession. Luck was with me, and in less than thirty minutes after
meeting her I was pretty sure Madeleine Swink was not in love with
Harrie and was in love with some one else. A few minutes later I
found out who she was in love with, found he was equally in love with
her; that they were once engaged and still want to get married. Our
job's to help them do it."
Selwyn's seriousness is a heritage. Frowningly he looked at me.
"This is hardly a thing to jest about. I may be very dense, but I
fail to understand--"
For an hour we talked of Madeleine Swink and Mrs. Swink, of Harrie
and Tom Cressy, and in terms which even a man could understand I told
how my discoveries had been made, of how I had managed to see Tom and
Madeleine together, and of my frank questioning of the former. But
what I did not tell him was that my thought was not of them alone.
By my side the little girl with the baby in her arms had seemed
clinging to my skirt.
"What sort of a girl is she?" In Selwyn's voice was relief and
anxiety. "Has she courage enough to take things in her own hands?
I've no conscience so far as her mother is concerned. She deserves
no consideration, but, being an interested party, I--"
"You needn't have anything to do with it. I'm not sure what sort she
is, or how much courage she's got, but worms have been known to turn.
If a hundred years before they were born somebody had begun to train
her parents to be proper parents she might have been a better
product, still there seems to be something to her. For Tom's sake I
"He's a nice chap." Selwyn's voice was unqualifiedly emphatic. "And
his father is as honest a man as ever lived. His mother, I believe,
comes of pretty plain people."
"I don't know where she comes from, but she's made a success of her
son, which is what a good many well-born women fail to do. People
aren't responsible for their ancestors, but they are for their
descendants to a great extent, and Mrs. Cressy seems to understand
this more clearly than certain ancestrally dependent persons I have
met. I'd like to know her."
"You're looking at me as if I didn't agree with you. Some day I hope
there may be deeper understanding of, and better training for, the
supreme profession of life; but to get out of generalizations into a
concrete case, what can I do in the way of service to Miss Swink and
Mr. Thomas Cressy? Being, as I said before, an interested party, I
A knock on the door behind him made Selwyn start as if struck; gave
evidence of strain and nervousness of which he was unconscious, and,
jumping up, he went toward the door and opened it. In the hall
Bettina and Jimmy Gibbons were standing. The latter was twisting his
cap round and round in his hand, his big, brown eyes looking first at
Bettina and then at me and then at Selwyn, but to my "Come in," he
paid no attention.
Getting up, I went toward him, put my hand on his shoulder. "What is
it, Jimmy? Why don't you come in?"
"My shoes ain't fitten. I wiped them, but the mud wouldn't come
off." His eyes looked down on his feet. "I could tell you out here
if you wouldn't mind listening."
"I told him I'd take the message or call you down-stairs, but he
wouldn't let me do either one." Bettina, hands behind her, nodded in
my face. "His mother says her boarder is dying and she wants to tell
you something before she dies, and she told Jimmy he must see you
himself. Grannie's gone to prayer-meeting with Mrs. Crimm, and
afterward to see about a sick person. I'm awful sorry to interrupt
you, and if the lady hadn't been dying--"
"You're not interrupting." I drew the boy inside. Bettina came
also. From the fire to which I led him, Jimmy drew back, however,
and blew upon his stiff little fingers until it was safe to put them
closer to the blazing coals. Looking down at his feet, I saw a large
and ragged hole on the side of his right shoe from which a tiny bit
of blood was slowly oozing upon the rug.
"What's the matter with your foot, Jimmy? Have you cut it, stuck
something in it? You must take your shoe off and see what's the
matter." I pointed to the floor.
"I didn't know I'd done it." Craning his neck to its fullest
extending. Jimmy peered down at the bleeding foot, then looked up at
me. "I'm awful sorry it got on the rug. I'll wipe it up in a
minute." Imperishable merriment struggled with abashed regret, and,
holding out the offending foot, he laughed wistfully. "It ain't got
no feeling in it, though it's coming. I guess it's kinder froze.
They're regular flip-flops, them shoes are."
Under his breath I heard a smothered exclamation from Selwyn. He was
standing in front of the boy, hands in his pockets, and staring at
him. He knew, of course, there were countless ill-fed, ill-clothed,
unprotected children in every city of every land, but personally he
had come in contact with but few of them, and the bit of flesh and
blood before him stabbed with sharp realization. Helplessly he
turned to me. "The boy's half frozen. Where did he come from? What
does he want you to do?"
Jimmy looked up at me. "Mother told me to hurry. The doctor's done
gone and Mrs. Cotter says she's bound to see you before she dies.
She's got something to tell you. She says please, 'm, come quick."
Hesitating, I looked at the boy, who had come closer to the fire.
"Did the doctor say she was dying? I saw her yesterday and she
seemed better. Miss White was to see her to-day."
"Miss White is there now." Jimmy lifted his right foot and held it
from the ground. The warmth of the room was bringing pain to the
benumbed member into which something had been stuck. "She told me to
tell you please, 'm, to come if you could. Mrs. Cotter says she
can't die until she sees you, and she's so tired trying to hold out.
She won't have breath left to talk, mother says, if you don't hurry."
Perplexed, uncertain, I waited a half-minute longer. Mrs. Cotter,
the renter of Mrs. Gibbons's middle room, and sometime boarder, I had
seen frequently of late. Nothing human could have stood what she had
been forcing herself to do for some weeks past, and that resistance
should have yielded to relentless exaction was not to be wondered at.
Ten hours a day she sewed in the carpet department of one of the
city's big stores, and for some time past she had been one of the
office-cleaning force of the Metropolitan Building, which at night
made ready for the day's occupants the rooms which were swept and
dusted and scrubbed while others slept or played, or rested or made
plans for coming times. The extra work had been undertaken in order
to get nourishment and medicine needed for her little girl, who had
developed tuberculosis. There was nowhere for the child to go. The
insufficient sanatorium provided by the city for its diseased and
germ-disseminating poor was over-crowded. To save her child she had
fought valiantly, but her life was the forfeit of her fight. I
wondered what she wanted to tell me.
I looked at Selwyn, in my eyes questioning. Mrs. Mundy was out. I
could not leave Bettina alone in the house. What must I do?
"Do you think she is really dying? People like that are often
hysterical, often nervously imaginative." Selwyn's voice was
worried. "You ought not to be sent for like this. It isn't right."
"She wouldn't have sent as late as this, but the doctor says she
won't last till daybreak." Jimmy twisted his cap into a round, rough
ball. "I'll get Mrs. Mundy for Bettina if you'll tell me where she
"You can't get her. She's out the prayer-meeting by now and gone to
see somebody who sent for her. I don't know who it is, and I ain't
by myself. Miss Sallie Jenks is sitting with me while grannie's
out." Bettina's tones were energetic. She turned to me. "You
needn't stay back on my account, Miss Danny. Aren't you going?"
"Yes--I'm going." I walked toward my bedroom. At its door I
stopped. "I'm sorry, Selwyn, but I'll have to go. The woman is
Selwyn's teeth came together sharply and in his eyes were disapproval
and protest. For a half-minute he did not speak, then he faced me.
"If you insist, there's nothing to be said except that I am going
with you. Where's your telephone? I'll get a cab."
"Oh no! You must not go." Back to the door, I leaned against it.
"You've never seen things of this kind. They're--they're--"
"No pleasanter for you than for me." His voice was decisive; but his
eyes were no longer on mine. They were on Jimmy Gibbons's shoes with
the big and ragged hole in one of them through which the bare skin of
his foot showed red and raw. He drew in his breath; turned to me.
"Put on warm things. It's pretty cold to-night."
Jimmy followed me into the taxi, and as Selwyn snapped the door he
huddled in an opposite corner as if effacement were an obligation
required by the situation in which he found himself. But he had
never been in an automobile before, and his sense of awe soon yielded
to eager anxiety to miss no thrill of the unexpected experience. His
face was pressed against the glass pane of the door before we had
gone two blocks, in the hope that he might see some one who would see
him in the glory of an adventure long hoped for and long delayed and
Selwyn and I were forgotten in the joy of a dream come true.
There was time to tell Selwyn but little of the woman I was going to
see. Mrs. Gibbons's home was only a short distance from Scarborough
Square, and before I could do more than give the briefest explanation
of Mrs. Cotter's condition, of her long hours of work and lack of
home life, the cab had stopped, and Jimmy, springing out, hopped, on
his unhurt foot, to the sagging gate of his little yard and opened it
for us to pass through. Going up the broken steps, I pushed open the
partly closed door and went in.
A faint light from a kerosene-lamp, set on a bracket in the wall at
the far end of the hall, caused weird shadows to flicker on the floor
and up the narrow staircase, and for a half-minute Selwyn and I
waited until we could see where we should go. From the middle room
we could hear hoarse and labored breathing and the stir of footsteps
on the bare floor. Putting my hand on the door-knob, I was about to
turn it when Mrs. Gibbons came out, holding Mrs. Cotter's little girl
by the hand.
"I'm glad you've come. She keeps calling for you." Her voice was
the monotone of old, and, as unmoved as ever, she nodded to me and
then looked at Selwyn. "Is he a doctor? Did he come to see her?"
I explained Selwyn's presence and suggested that he wait for me while
I went to Mrs. Cotter. Beckoning him to follow, she went toward her
kitchen bedroom, but stopped to give warning of the two steps that
led down to it, and as she stopped I heard the low whimper of the
frightened child by her side and saw her footsteps drag.
"I want my mother! I want to go back to my mother! I don't want to
go 'way from my mother!"
Was it well to let her go back? Only a few minutes were left for
them to be together. Was it kind or cruel to keep them apart?
Uncertain, I looked at the group before me and saw Selwyn stoop and
take the child, a little girl of five, up in his arms.
"Your mother is going to sleep." His voice was low. "And we are
going to be quiet and not wake her. Jimmy will play with you, and
"Will you tell me a story?" Sleepily the child leaned against his
shoulder, one arm thrown over it. "Will you tell me a pretty story
As they disappeared through the door opening into Mrs. Gibbons's
quarters I went into Mrs. Cotter's room, but for a moment drew back.
I had learned not to shrink at much that once I would have run from,
but the gaunt body and ghastly face of the woman propped against
pillows on the bed frightened me, and my feet refused to move. All
the hardships and denials, the injustices and inequalities, of
working womanhood, unfit to fight and unprepared for struggle, were
staring at me, and on the open lips was something of the mocking
smile that had been on Lillie Pierce's face when she was first
brought in to Mrs. Mundy.
Heavily, and with great labor, breath came gaspingly, and the blank
stare in the eyes made me think at first I was too late. Slowly I
went toward the bed, and at its side I took a twitching hand in mine,
and as I did so the staring eyes turned to me. Too nearly gone for
aught save faint returning, light struggled back in a supreme and
final effort, and with life's last spark of energy she clutched my
fingers with her work-worn, weary hands. Miss White, the district
nurse, who was standing at the foot of the bed, nodded to me, and
from a far corner the sobbing of a man and woman in shabby clothes,
and crouched close together, reached across the room. All other
worlds were, for the moment, far away, and only the world before me
seemed real and true and unescapable.
Drawing a low chair close to the bed, I sat down and leaned toward
the woman. There was little time to lose. "What is it, Mrs. Cotter?
Look at me. This is Dandridge Heath. You have something you want to
say to me. Tell me what it is."
Her head made backward, twisting movement as if for breath, then her
eyes held mine, and in them was the cry eternal of all motherhood.
"My little girl! My little girl! If only--I could take--her with
me! Who's going to--tell her how--not to go--wrong? She won't be
safe--on earth. Promise me--promise me!"
"Promise you what?" I leaned still farther over the bed. The fire
of a tortured soul was burning in the eyes before me, and out of them
had gone dull glaze and ghastly stare; into them had come appeal,
both piteous and passionate, and fear that defied death. "What must
I promise?" My eyes held hers lest words should wander.
"Tell me what I must do?"
"Don't let them put her in--an orphan home. The ones who--manage
it--don't know themselves--how life--treats girls. They mean
kind--but they don't teach them--what might happen. Little
Etta--little Etta Blake lived in an orphan home. And now--now--"
The hands in mine were dropped, amazement for the moment making me
forget all else. I leaned yet closer. "Where is she? Where is Etta
Blake? Where can I find her?"
As if groping, the eyes looking into mine made effort to understand,
then turned away. "You can't find her--now. It's--too late. She
was let go--to work--and she--didn't know. She come--from a little
town--to a big one. And nobody--told her--what might happen. My
little Nora--who's going to tell her?"
With violent effort, the figure on the bed attempted to sit up, and
the twitching hands were flung one on either side, then again they
clutched mine. "Why don't God--let me--take her--with me? Promise
me--you won't forget--my little Nora! Won't let them--put her--in an
orphan home. Promise me--you'll watch--"
Gaspingly she lay back on the pillows, but her eyes held mine.
"I promise I will not--forget." Before God and a dying woman I was
pledging protection for a homeless child. My voice broke and then
steadied. "I promise--and I will watch."
As if that which held had snapped, the tossing head lay quiet, and
out of the face fear faded, and into it, as softly as widens dawn at
break of day, came peace. The sobbing in the corner of the room had
ceased, and through the thin walls I could hear Selwyn's low tones as
he told stumblingly to the child a story that was keeping her quiet,
and I knew he, too, was on new thresholds; he, too, was entering
"Tell her--" Flame-spent, the eyes again opened and this time looked
at Miss White. "Tell her--why I--don't want-- They mean--to be
good--but--people like that--don't know how--people like us--"
Martha White thrust her handkerchief up her sleeve, cleared her
throat, and straightened her wide and rustling apron. "She's been
trying to tell me all day that she didn't want Nora to be put in an
orphan asylum, and yet there's nobody to take her. All her people
are too poor to add another child to their families." She came
closer and lowered her voice that it might reach no one but me, and
with her shoulders made movement toward the bed, with her hands to
the man and woman still close together in tearless silence in the
corner. "You know how people like that are. They judge everything
by the few cases that come within their knowledge, and--"
"Most of us do. What does she know about asylums that prejudices her
"Little, except she's come across some girls who came out of them who
have gone wrong, and she thinks it's because they were kept too shut
off from outside life, and told too little of temptations and real
truths and--and things like that. What she means is that she thinks
those who manage asylums and homes try to keep the girls innocent
through ignorance, and when they're turned out to go to work they
don't understand the dangers that are ahead. Some grown-ups forget
that young people crave young ways and pretty things and good times,
and that they've got to be taught about what they don't understand."
"Little Etta--Etta Blake was an orphan. She was like a bird--in a
cage. When she--got out-- If only--they had--told her--" The voice
from the bed was strangely stronger, and the fingers, still twisted
into mine, made feeble pressure.
I leaned closer. "Where is she? Where is Etta Blake? Where can I
"You can't find her. It's--too late. We worked--at the same
place--once. And I tried--to make-- But she said--it was--too late."
The gasping voice trailed wearily and the face, turning from me, lay
still upon the pillow. Presently I saw Miss White start and come
closer. The short, quick breath had stopped.
At Mrs. Mundy's front door Selwyn, holding the sleeping child in his
arms, looked at me. "What are you going to do with her?" His voice
was uncertain, but in it there was not the disapproval I had expected
from the telling of my promise to Mrs. Cotter. "You can't keep her,
I shook my head. "She mustn't stay in town. The doctor says her
case is too advanced to be arrested, and the only thing that can be
done is to make her as comfortable and happy as possible until
she--can go--to her mother. I don't know what is best to be done. I
must be near enough to see her every now and then. Mr. Guard will
tell me what to do. Whenever I don't know I ask him. He always
"Are you never to ask me to--help you?" Selwyn's voice was low, but
from his eyes was no escape, and as the light from the door which I
had opened with my latch-key fell upon his face I saw it flush--saw
in it what I had never seen before.
"You!" I was very tired, and something long held back struggled for
utterance. "You!" The word was half a sob. "If only you--"
Mrs. Mundy was coming down the hall, and at the door her hands went
out to take the child from Selwyn. "Bettina told me, and I thought
perhaps you'd bring the little creature here. I've got a place all
fixed. You are tired out." She turned to me, and then to Selwyn.
"Thank you, sir, for taking care of her--for going with her and
bringing her back. I'm sorry I wasn't here to do it myself. She's
needing of some one to look after her." Turning, she went down the
hall with the child in her arms, and Selwyn, also turning, walked
down the steps and got into the cab.
The one day in the year I heartily hate is the first day of January.
Yesterday was January first. Its usual effect is to make me feel as
the grate in my sitting-room looks when the fire is dead. Knowing
the day would get ahead of me if I did not get ahead of it, I decided
to give a party. Last night I gave it.
All through the busy rush of Christmas with its compelling demands I
have been trying not to think; trying to put from me memories that
come and go of Mrs. Cotter, of my disappointment in not hearing from
her where Etta Blake could be found, and my anxiety about little
Nora, now in the care of a woman I know well who lives just out of
town. The child will not be here next Christmas. Kitty is paying
for all her needs. She asked that I would let her the day before I
received Selwyn's note concerning Nora. I promised her first.
Mr. Crimm cannot find Etta Blake. She must have gone away.
In the past few weeks I have seen little of Selwyn. I have been a
bit more than busy with Christmas preparations, and his mortification
over Harrie's behavior since the latter's return from El Paso has
kept him away even from me. Madeleine Swink I have seen several
times, also Tom Cressy, but Mrs. Swink I have been spared, owing to
absence from home when she returned my call.
I have told Madeleine that she must not meet Tom here again until she
breaks her engagement with Harrie and tells her mother she will not
marry him. I cannot help her marry Tom unless she is open and square
with her mother. She thinks I am hard, but I will agree to nothing
It isn't easy to be patient with halting, hesitating, helpless
people, and Madeleine, having long been dominated, is a rather
spiritless person. Still, she is the sort one always feels sorry
for. I wish I wasn't mixed up in her affairs, however. They aren't
my business and fingers put in other people's pies are likely to get
pinched. Then, too, my fingers have many other things to do.
Last night's party was a great success. During most of the day I was
telephoning messages, sending notes of invitations, and helping Mrs.
Mundy with the preparation of certain substantial refreshments which
must be abundant; and when at last I stood ready to receive my guests
a thrill I had long thought dead became alive again. At other
parties I knew what to expect. At this one I didn't.
Lucy Hobbs, resplendent in a green silk, lace-trimmed dress, was
dashingly handsome with her carefully curled hair and naturally
colored cheeks; and her big, black eyes missed no detail of my
holly-bedecked and brightly lighted rooms. It was difficult to
associate her with the girl in shabby clothes who hurried through the
streets in the dark of early mornings, and whose days were spent in a
factory, year in and year out; and yet the factory had left its
imprint in a shyness that was new to one whose usual role was that of
boss, and at first she was ill at ease.
"You must help me, Lucy." I spoke hurriedly and in an undertone.
"Some of these people think they're at a funeral. Mix them up and
introduce them again if they don't talk to each other. Take Mr.
Banister over to Gracie Hurd. He's afraid to cross the room to get
to her and she hasn't budged since she came in. And get Mr.
Schrioski from Mrs. Gibbons. She's telling him about the baby's
whooping-cough and enjoying the telling; but he isn't. Go to him
As I spoke to Lucy, David Guard came in the room. He wore his usual
clothes, but his cravat was fixed with apparent firmness and no
longer crawled half-way up his collar, and his hair had been
carefully brushed. As we shook hands I laughed.
"I'm frightened. Did you ever do a thing in a hurry and then wonder
what you did it for? Most of these people have such a stupid time at
home, so seldom go out at night, that I thought I'd have a party for
them, but they seem to think they're at a show waiting for the
curtain to go up. What am I going to do?"
"Give them time. They can't unlimber all at once. Mrs. Crimm over
there thinks it would be improper for her to smile, as she's just
lost her brother, but Mr. Crimm is a performance in himself. What's
he in uniform for?"
"He goes on duty at twelve, and he doesn't want to lose time going
home to change. Look at Archer Barbee. I believe he's in love with
"He is. I hope they are going to be married soon. Why don't you let
these people dance?"
I had not thought of dancing. My guests were oddly assorted, of
varying ages and conditions, and I had gathered them in for an
evening away from their usual routine rather than with the view of
getting a congenial group together, and the realization of social
blundering was upon me. Dancing might do what I could not.
To dance in my sitting-room would be difficult. The few things in
the room adjoining it could be easily pushed against the wall,
however, and quickly Fannie Harris and Mr. Guard began to make it
ready. And while they made ready, Mr. Crimm was invited to sing.
Mr. Crimm is my good friend. I had never known a policeman before I
came to Scarborough Square, but I shall always be glad I know him.
He is a remarkable man. He has been Mrs. Crimm's husband for thirty
years and has his first drink to take.
As I played the opening notes of "Molly, My Darling, There's No One
Like You," Mr. Crimm took his place by the piano. Straight and
important, shoulders back, and a fat right hand laid over a fat left
one, both of which rested just above the belt around his
well-developed waist, he surveyed the silent company with blinking,
twinkling eyes. Mrs. Crimm, struggling between righteous pride in
the possession of so handsome a piece of property as her
blue-uniformed and brass-buttoned husband, and the necessity of
subduing all emotions save that of respect, due to the recent death
of her brother, sat upright in her chair, hands clasped in her lap,
and eyes fastened on the floor. Not until the song was over did she
"Molly, My Darling, There's No One Like You" is a piece of music
permitting the making of strange sounds, and when Mr. Crimm sings it
the sounds are stranger. At the third verse he asked all present to
join in the chorus, and the effect was transforming. Bettina,
standing in front of him, eyes uplifted as if entranced, and hands
clasped tightly behind her back, was ready at the first word to join
in, and shrilly her young voice piped an accompaniment to the deep
notes of her official friend. With a nod of his head and a
time-beating movement of both hands, Mr. Crimm began his work of
leadership, and in five minutes every one in the room was around him,
save his wife, who kept her seat, her lips tight and her eyes on the
As a garment thrown off, the stiffness disappeared, and feet tapped
and heads moved to the rhythmic swing of first one song and then
another, but finally Mr. Crimm wiped his perspiring face and called
"It's Archie's time now. Step up, Archie, and tell the ladies and
gentlemen how 'Mary Rode the Goat, She Did.' Shying is out of
fashion. Step lively, Archie. This, ladies and gentlemen--" Mr.
Crimm waved one hand and with the other grasped firmly the collar of
his young friend's coat and drew him forward, "is Mr. Archer Barbee,
who will now entertain you. Begin, Archie. Make your bow and begin."
For a moment Archie stood in solemn silence, hands crossed on his
breast and thumbs revolving rapidly. His lips made odd movements,
although from them came no sound, and vacantly he stared ahead of
him, in his eyes no expression, in his manner no hint of what was
coming. Short and fat, with face round and red, hair red and curly,
and ears of a prodigious size, he made a queer picture; and, ignorant
of his power of mimicry and impersonation, I kept my seat on the
piano-stool. That is for a while I kept it. When safety lay no
longer on it I took refuge on the sofa. First, smiles had followed
his beginning words, then shouts of laughter, then shrieks of it; and
little gasping screams and bending of bodies and convulsive doubling
up; and when finally he stopped we were spent and breathless, and for
a while I could not see. When again my eyes were clear, Fannie
Harris was standing by me.
"If you think you can stand up, the room is ready for dancing." She
pointed ahead of her. "Please look at Mrs. Mundy. She'll split her
best black silk if she doesn't stop."
Mrs. Mundy's cackles were getting shorter and shorter and, wiping her
eyes, she joined us and nodded at Mr. Guard.
"I haven't laughed as much since the first time I went to the circus,
and if there's anything better for the insides than laughing, I've
never took it. Seems to me it clears out low-downness and sour
spirits better than any tonic you can buy, and for plum wore-outness
a good laugh's more resting than sleep. When you're ready to have
the hot things brought up, let me know, Miss Dandridge. Martha's
down-stairs and everything's ready and just waiting for the word."
It was hardly time for refreshments, and at Mr. Guard's announcement
that all who cared to dance could go into the next room, a movement
was made toward the latter, and then all stopped and waited for
Archie Barbee, who, with a low bow, was asking Mrs. Crimm for the
favor of a fox-trot.
Rigidly Mrs. Crimm stiffened. Indignantly she waved Archie away.
"I'm a church member. I never danced in my life, and it's unfeeling
of you to be asking of me when my poor brother's only been in his
grave eight days." She took out a, black-bordered handkerchief from
a bag hanging at her side, and opened it carefully. "It's unfeeling
of you, with him only dead one day over a week."
Hands in his coat pockets, Archie bowed low. "I ask your pardon,
ma'am. I hadn't heard about, your brother--leaving you, and I didn't
guess it, seeing you sitting here as handsome as a hollyhock, though
now you speak of it, I see your dress is elegant black and extra
becoming. I beg you'll be excusing of me. Mrs. Mundy, ma'am, I hope
you'll honor me."
The room had grown quiet, each waiting for the other to move, and,
hearing a step in the hall, I looked toward the door, which was
partly open, then went forward, thinking a belated guest might be
coming in. The door opened wider and Selwyn stood on its threshold.
For a half-minute I stared at him and he at me. In his face was
amazement. As I held out my hand he recovered himself and came
"I beg your pardon. I'm afraid I'm intruding. I did not know you
were having a--"
"Party. I am." I was angry with myself for the flush in my face.
"You are in time to share in some of it. Mr. Guard"--I turned to the
latter, who happened to be near the door--"will you introduce Mr.
Thorne to some of my friends while I see Martha? I will be back in a
moment." I had changed my mind and decided to have supper before we
Selwyn bit his lip and his eyes narrowed, then over his face swept
change, and, shaking hands with David Guard, he went forward and
spoke to Mrs. Mundy and Bettina; shook hands with Mr. Crimm, and met
in turn each of my guests. Why had he come to-night of all nights? I
asked myself. He evidently intended to stay and perhaps my party
might be ruined.
But it was not ruined. With an ability I did not know he possessed
Selwyn gave himself to the furtherance of the evening's pleasure,
talking to first one and then the other, and later, with the ease of
long usage, he waited on Mrs. Gibbons and Mrs. Crimm, serving them
punctiliously with all that was included in the evening's
refreshments. When there was nothing more that he could do I saw him
sitting between Gracie Hurd the little shirtwaist girl, and Marion
Spade, a waitress at one of the up-town restaurants, eating his
supper as they ate theirs, and they were finding him apparently
somewhat more than entertaining.
From my corner where I poured tea I watched the pictures made by the
different groupings and tried not to think of Selwyn. He was
behaving well, but he didn't approve of what I was doing. He rarely
approves of what I do.
"Do let Mrs. Mundy bring you some hot oysters." I leaned over and
spoke to Bettie Flynn, upon whom Mrs. Mundy and I were keeping watch
lest she show signs of her old trouble. "And can't I give you a cup
of coffee?" I held out my hand for her empty cup.
Bettie shook her head regarding the coffee, but handed her plate to
Mrs. Mundy. "You certainly can give me some more oysters. I've been
an Inmate for nine years and Inmates don't often have a chance at
oysters. At the City Home your chief nourishment is thankfulness.
You're expected to get fat on thankfulness. I ain't thankful, which
is what keeps me thin, maybe." She turned to me. "My dress looks
real nice, don't it? Seeing we're such different shapes, it's
strange how good your clothes fit me. I hope the rats won't eat this
dress. I'm going to keep it to be buried in. Good gracious! I
didn't know you was going to have ice-cream and cake. I wouldn't
have et all them oysters if I'd known."
When supper was over Dick Banister, who is Gracie Hurd's beau, asked
me, with awkward bowing, for the first dance, and, beginning with
him, I danced with every man in the room who made pretense of knowing
how, except Selwyn. He did not ask me. Bravely, however, he did his
part. He overlooked no one, and David Guard, watching, blinked his
eyes a bit and smiled. Selwyn would make a magnificent martyr. A
situation forced upon him is always met head up.
Mr. Crimm, who, like his wife, did not dance, though for different
reasons, at a quarter to twelve took out his watch and, looking at
it, got up with a start. "Come on, old lady, we've got to go."
Taking his wife by the arm, he held out his hand to me. "It's been
great, Miss Heath. I never had such a good time in my life. Good
night, friends." He bowed beamingly, then made a special bow in
"I'm glad to know you, sir. I used to know your father. I've heard
many a case tried in his court. A juster man never lived. Good
night, sir. Good night, Miss Heath."
When all good-bys were over and all were gone Selwyn, standing with
his back to the fire, looked at me, but for a moment said nothing.
As completely as if he had stepped from one body into another he
seemed a different person from the man who had been most charming to
my guests a few minutes before when he had told them good night as if
he were, indeed, their host. Looking at him, I saw his face was
haggard and worn and that he was nervously anxious and uneasy.
"It is late. I know I shouldn't stay." His voice was as troubled as
his eyes. "I'm sorry to keep Mrs. Mundy up, but I must talk to you
tonight. Again I must ask you what to do."
"It's pretty beastly in me to put this on you." Selwyn, who had
taken his seat in a chair opposite mine, first leaned back, then
forward, and, hands clasped between his knees, looked down upon the
floor. "I've kept away from you lest I trouble you with what I have
"If you did not talk to me frankly I would be much more troubled." I
drew the scarf about my shoulders a little closer. I knew what was
coming. The thought of it chilled. "Is it about Harrie you are
Selwyn nodded. "You knew he had left home? Knew he had taken a
bachelor apartment downtown?"
"I heard it day before yesterday. Kitty told me. Billie is pretty
upset about him. Being five years older and married, Billie is
seeing life rather differently from the way Harrie takes it, and the
Selwyn looked at me, then away. "The boy is beyond comprehension. I
haven't seen him but once in nearly two weeks. Five days before
Christmas he had his trunk and certain things sent down-town, and
wrote me a note telling of the apartment he'd taken. I've been to
see him several times, but he's never in and, I'm told, hasn't been
in now for over a week. I've written him, made every inquiry likely
to lead to information without exciting undue suspicion, and now,
unless I go to the police--" Biting the ends of his close-cut
mustache, Selwyn stopped abruptly.
"Does Mrs. Swink know he has left home?"
"If she doesn't, she'll know it to-morrow when she gets my answer to
this." Taking a letter from his pocket, Selwyn threw it on the table
behind me. "Later you can read that, if you've time to waste. I got
it to-day. Harrie hasn't been to see Madeleine for over a week.
Mrs. Swink wants to know why. Wants to know where he is. So do I."
"Didn't he dine with Mildred on Christmas day? I thought both of you
were always there at Christmas."
"We are. When Mildred's Christmas dinner is over I thank God there
will be three hundred and sixty-five days before she can have another
one. Harrie was all right when he came in, but he took too much
egg-nog, too much of other things Mildred had no business having, I
tried to make him go home with me, but he wouldn't do it. Then I
tried to go with him and he wouldn't let me do that either. Said he
had an engagement with Miss Swink. He was not in a condition to fill
it, but, thinking if she saw him Mrs. Swink might take in what she so
far has failed to understand, I was rather glad he was going to keep
his engagement. He didn't keep it."
"What did he do? Where did he go?"
Selwyn's face darkened. "I don't know. Nobody knows. He hasn't
been in his apartment since Christmas day. His trunk and clothes are
in his rooms, also his suit-cases and bags, and there is no evidence
of his having gone off on a trip. I haven't told Mildred. She'd go
into hysterics and tell the town Harrie had disappeared. Mrs. Swink,
however, had to be told something. Madeleine, I imagine, has given
notice and her mother is sitting up." Selwyn's hands made gesture of
disgust. "Her letter is inquisitorial and hysterical. My answer
will give a bump, I imagine."
"You've clouded visions and waked her from sweet dreaming. She's
been seeing herself in the Thorne house as the mother of its
mistress. I don't mean to laugh, indeed I don't, but--" I did
laugh. Mrs. Swink and Selwyn dwelling under the same roof was a
picture beyond the resistance of laughter. Incompatibility and
incongruity would be feeble terms with which to designate such a
situation, and at its suggestion seriousness was impossible. That
is, to me. In Selwyn's face was no smiling.
"If there have been any little dreams I'm glad she wrote me. In
reply I had a chance to say what there has been no chance to say
before. Were there imaginings that Harrie was to bring his wife to
his old home they will cease when she gets my note. No house is big
enough for a bride and groom and members of either family, and
certainly mine isn't. I limited comment on Harrie to his financial
condition; expressed regret at my inability to explain his failure to
keep his engagement, and gave her no hint of my uneasiness. Only to
you have I given it. Something is wrong. I'm afraid the boy is ill
somewhere. The thing has gotten on my nerves. I've got to do
something. I can't go on this way."
With eyes in which nervous uneasiness was unrestrained, Selwyn looked
at me, asking unconsciously for help I could not give, and for a
moment I said nothing. Possibilities of which I could not speak were
clutching at my heart and making me cold with fear and horror, for
suddenly something I had overheard a girl telling Mrs. Mundy a few
days before, as I passed through the hall, came to me with cruel and
compelling clearness. "He's a gentleman, all right. Drunk or sober,
you can tell that. She ain't left him day or night since he was
taken sick, and except the doctor she won't let any one come in the
The words of the girl talking to Mrs. Mundy repeated themselves with
such distinctness that it seemed Selwyn would hear the thick beating
of my heart and understand its wonder as to who the man was who was
ill, who the girl who was nursing him. Did Mrs. Mundy know? Lest he
notice that I, too, was nervous I got up and went over to a table in
an opposite corner of the room and drank a glass of water. Coming
back, I took my seat, but Selwyn remained standing, and, taking out
his watch again, looked at it.
"I must go. Had I known you were to have a party"--he smiled
faintly--"I should not have come. You are too tired to stay up
longer. Forget what I've told you and go to sleep. If tomorrow you
can suggest anything-- I'm pretty ragged and don't seem able to
think clearly. You are keener than I in grasping situations, and
quicker in making decisions. Whatever you think might be done--"
Again his teeth came down upon his lips, and, looking up, I saw his
face was white.
"Give me a day or two in which to see what can be done. And you
won't mind if I ask Mr. Crimm's advice?" I seemed pushing the girl
I'd heard talking to Mrs. Mundy behind me. "He hasn't been able to
find Etta Blake yet. Do you suppose her disappearance could have any
connection with Harrie's? It may be he really loves her."
Selwyn turned away. "Love is hardly a term to be used in connection
with an acquaintanceship such as theirs. A girl with a past,
"How about his past?"
"I think you understand pretty well my opinion of his past. But as
long as theories yield to accepted custom a man's past will be
forgotten, a woman's remembered. Harrie, if married, would be
received anywhere, provided he married a woman of his world. This
little girl would have to pay her price and his, were she his wife,
for no one would receive her. That's hardly the question before us,
however. To find where Harrie is, find if anything is wrong, if he's
The sharp, sudden ringing of the telephone on the table behind me
made me start, and, jumping up like a frightened child, I stood close
to Selwyn. "Who on earth-- It's half past twelve. Who can want me
at this time of night?" I started to take the receiver from its
hook, but, laughing at me, Selwyn got it first.
"One would think a spook was going to spring at you. Central's given
the wrong number, I guess. Hello! Who is that?"
Watching with as strained eagerness as if I were hearing, I saw
Selwyn lean forward, after admitting that the number wanted was the
right one, and heard him ask again: "Who is it? Who did you say?"
For the next five minutes there was snatchy, excited, and incoherent
conversation over the telephone, during which Selwyn and I alternated
in the talking in an effort to learn what Tom Cressy was saying at
the other end of the line, and what it was he wanted me to do. Tom's
voice was not distinct and caution was making it difficult to
understand what we finally got from him, which was that he wanted to
bring Madeleine down to spend the night with me; that they had
started to go away to be married and missed the train by one minute,
owing to an accident to the automobile they were in. The next train
did not leave until 4 A.M. Could Madeleine stay with me until train
"No, she can't!" Hand over the telephone transmission, Selwyn turned
to me. "They've got no business mixing you up in this. You'll be
blamed for the whole thing. I'm going to tell him to take her back
to the Melbourne. They can make another try some other time. Tom
must be crazy!"
"Most people in love are. You've never been desperate." I laughed
and took the receiver from him. "Madeleine's courage will be gone
after tonight and Tom's afraid to risk waiting. Get up and let me
Over the telephone I could hear Madeleine crying and I told Tom to
bring her down. Her two-penny worth of nerve and dash had given out
and she was frightened. Incoherently I was told by Tom that
Madeleine was being persecuted, and he wouldn't stand for it any
longer, and the only thing for them to do was to get married. Hadn't
it been for a durned tire--"
"Come on down." I heard a little cry. "And hurry. It's pretty
Mrs. Mundy, who had been told of their coming, opened the door for
them in dressing-gown and slippers, and piloted them up-stairs and
into my sitting-room, where Madeleine, at sight of Selwyn, burst into
tears and buried her face on my shoulder. But the ten minutes were
not entirely lost which passed before we understood why the venture
had been decided upon at this particular time, and how hard luck had
prevented its fulfilment. Tears are effective. Selwyn weakened as
rapidly as I could have wished.
"I haven't seen Harrie for two weeks. Ever since I've been here he's
been writing me he was sick." Madeleine's words came stumblingly,
and the corners of her handkerchief were pulled with nervous
movements in between the wiping of her pretty brown eyes. "The day
after Christmas I wrote him, breaking our engagement. I've never
heard from him since. I don't even know that he got my letter."
Questioningly she looked at Selwyn, and her face, already colored,
crimsoned yet more deeply.
"Neither do I." Selwyn's voice was gentle. Indignation at his and
my involvement in what was not an affair of ours seemed to have
vanished. "I redirected a number of letters to his new address,
"His new address?" Madeleine looked puzzled. "I didn't know he had
a new address."
"He is not living at home just now." The flush in Selwyn's face
deepened also. "I have not seen him since Christmas day. But go on.
I did not mean to interrupt you."
"Three days ago Madeleine told her mother she'd broken with Harrie
and was going to marry me." Tom was no longer to be repressed.
"She's had the devil of a time ever since, and yesterday I told her
she shouldn't stand it any longer, and neither would I. Harrie has
hypnotized her mother. She thinks--"
"I'm unkind and unsympathetic and hard and cruel to give him up
because he is not well. It isn't that. You know it isn't that--"
Madeleine's fingers twisted in appeal and again her eyes were on
Selwyn. "You think it's dreadful in me not to marry your brother--"
"No, I don't. I think it would be much more dreadful in you if you
did marry him." Selwyn's hands made gesture. "However, we'll leave
that out. You say you told your mother you intended to marry Tom?"
Handkerchief to her lips, she nodded. "I told her, and Tom wrote
her, asking her consent. She wouldn't give it, and said I was
ungrateful and had no ambition, and that if she had a stroke I'd be
the cause. She's never had a stroke and is very healthy, but--"
Bursting into fresh tears, Madeleine this time hid her face in her
hands, and Tom, wanting much to comfort, miserably ignorant of how to
do it, and consciously awkward and restrained in the presence of
witnesses, stood by her side, his hand on her shoulder, and at sight
of him I reached swift decision.
"I'm glad you told her. You've been open and square and asked her
consent. One can't wait indefinitely for consent to do things." I
got up and took Madeleine by the hand. "Come in my room and take off
your hat and coat. When we come back we'll talk about what is best
Five minutes later we were back and, eyes bathed and face powdered,
Madeleine gave evidence of fresh injections of courage, and quickly
we began to plan. The 4 A.M. train was the best to take, but for
half an hour we talked of whether Shelby or Claxon was the better
town to go to for the marriage ceremony, which at either place could
be performed without the consent of parent or guardian, and
irrespective of the age of the applicants for the same. Though
preferring Shelby, Tom agreed to Claxon on my insisting on the latter
place, which was the Mecca for runaway couples from our section of
the state. If I were going with them--
"Going with them?" The inflection in Selwyn's voice was hardly
polite. "You don't intend--"
"Yes, I do. They've made a mess of the first try and they'll be
caught and brought back if somebody isn't there to keep them from
being held up. I'm going with them."
"How do you expect to hold off--the holding up?" Selwyn was staring
at me and anxiety concerning Harrie was for the time in abeyance. He
needed something to distract him. "What are you going to do?" he
"I don't know--don't have to know until to-morrow--I mean later
to-day." I motioned toward the hall and, following me into it, he
partly closed the door behind us. "We'll let those children have a
chance to say good night, and then please go home. And don't look at
me like that! I don't approve of runaway marriages any more than you
do. I'd never be a party to one, because I wouldn't marry an
angel-man before I was twenty-one. Afterward running away wouldn't
be necessary. Tom and Madeleine are not entirely to blame."
"The blame for this will be put on you. Mrs. Swink will credit you
with the instigation and carrying out of the whole affair. You
mustn't go with them, Danny. It isn't necessary."
"Maybe it isn't, but I'm going. I can't let a girl of Madeleine's
age leave the house alone at half past three in the morning, and
certainly I cannot let Tom come here for her. We will get to Claxon
at ten o'clock and by that time Mrs. Swink will have finished her
swooning and be working the wires. They'll certainly be held up at
"Then why go there? Why not go on to Shelby?"
I shook my head. "Claxon is the better place. I don't know how it's
going to be managed, but if one couldn't outmanoeuver mother Swink--.
It doesn't matter about my being blamed for helping them. Long usage
has accustomed me to large shares of blame." I held out my hand.
"I'll be back to-morrow night. Come Thursday. I think by then--"
"There are few things you will let me share with you, but the blame
that will come from this I am going to share whether you let me or
not. I've gotten you into it and we'll see it through together. If
you are going with them, I am going also. Good night." He dropped
the hand he was holding and turned away. "Tell Tom I'm waiting, will
Telling Madeleine not to unpack her bags, I gave her one of my
kimonos and ordered her to lie down while I slipped down-stairs for a
few words with Mrs. Mundy. There was time for only a hurried talk,
but during it I told her what I wanted her to do, what she must get
Mr. Crimm to do, and also, if inquiry was made for me during the
coming day she was to say I was out and she did not know just when I
would be in. As Mrs. Swink was unaware that her daughter had made
frequent visits to Scarborough Square at the same time Mr. Thomas
Cressy happened to be there, she was hardly apt to associate me with
their departure from the city; still, with less justice I have been
held responsible for things with which I had nothing to do, and, that
Mrs. Mundy be prepared for possible questions, I gave her a few
instructions concerning them.
She recalled clearly the conversation of which I had heard a few
words, but the girl talking to her had not mentioned the name of the
girl of whom she talked, or of that of the man who was being nursed
"She spoke of her as a friend who was a fool to care for a man as she
cared." Mrs. Mundy put her hand to her mouth to cover a yawn. "She
I got up. It was too late for details. "Find the girl who came to
see you, and if the friend of whom she is speaking is Etta Blake, get
her address and go to see her, if you can. If not, send Mr. Crimm.
Tell the latter he must find Harrie. He may be somewhere under an
assumed name. So may Etta Blake. Do you suppose it is possible
they--can be together somewhere?"
"Anything is possible." Mrs. Mundy blinked her eyes bravely to
prevent my seeing the overpowering sleep in them, and quickly I went
to the door.
"It's a shame you have to go to the train with us. You can come
right back, however, and sleep as late as you want. The cab will be
here at three-thirty. Take a nap until then, and don't look so
worried. I'm not committing a crime. I'm helping to keep some one
else from committing one. Good night." I kissed the dear soul and,
leaving her, hurried up-stairs.
Madeleine was lying down when I came back in the room, and, wanting
much to talk, she began to do so, but unfeelingly I made her stop.
Getting out the oldest and shabbiest dress I possessed, with a hat to
correspond, I took off my party dress and slipped into a warm and
worn wrapper. After putting a few things in a bag, without further
undressing, I stretched out on the couch near the foot of the bed and
in the dark called to Madeleine.
"You won't be a beautiful bride if you don't get some sleep. Shut
your eyes." Mine were shut. I wasn't going to be married. I was
only a very tired maiden-lady about to do something she had no
business doing, and shamelessly I went to sleep and left Madeleine
Seemingly I had slept but a few minutes when, opening my eyes, I saw
Madeleine standing, fully dressed, by the side of my couch, and
looking down at me. "It's ten minutes past three," she said. "I
hate to wake you, but--"
Springing up, I threw off my wrapper and reached down for my shoes.
"If you'd waked me before you put on your dress you wouldn't have to
take it off. You're going to wear that dress." I pointed to the one
on the chair behind her. "I'm sorry your wedding garments can't be
more festive, and that I'll have to wear your good clothes, but we
mustn't run risks merely for pride. Take your dress off quickly and
give it to me. Don't look at me, but hurry."
Madeleine's mind does not work as quickly as some people's, and a
little time was lost in explaining that any description to which she
would answer would have to apply to me, not her. In consequence the
cab was at the door before she was fully garmented in my plainest
clothes and I arrayed in her beautiful ones, and regretfully she
looked at me. I am taller and slenderer than Madeleine, but fashion
was in my favor, and the absence of fit and shortness of skirt gave
emphasis of adherence to its requirements. I looked the part. She
At the station Tom and Selwyn were waiting and their puzzled
incomprehension was even greater than Madeleine's had been.
Explanations included a few suggestions as to the wisdom of our
separating and, the men agreeing, Selwyn and I went in the Pullman,
and poor little rich Madeleine and Tom to a day-coach, where crying
babies and peanut-hulls and close air and torn papers would have made
them wretchedly unhappy had they not been happily unconscious of
them. I was sorry for them, but marriage involves much. As the
train pulled out I waved from the window to Mrs. Mundy, who, on the
platform, waved back with one hand and with the other wiped her eyes.
Mrs. Mundy loves me, but she, too, does not always approve of me.
Travel evidently was light. The sleeper in which we found ourselves
had barely two-thirds of the berths made up, and, the rest of the
seats being empty, we took ours in a corner where in an undertone we
could talk and not disturb others. Taking off Madeleine's handsome
fur coat and newest hat I put the latter in its paper bag and gave
the former to Selwyn to hang on a hook. Gloves and other things
being disposed of, I again sat down and suggested that he, also, make
himself comfortable, and at the same time change his expression.
"Later you can smoke, but at present you will have to be in here
where I'm compelled to look at you. The photographic injunction to
look pleasant oughtn't to apply only to the taking of pictures. For
the love of Heaven, sit down, Selwyn, and behave yourself!"
Selwyn hung up his hat and coat and took the seat opposite mine.
From him came radiation of endurance, and, objecting to being
endured, I spoke impatiently. I did not care to be traveling at four
o'clock in the morning any more than he did, but much in life has to
be done that isn't preferable. He had invited himself to take the
trip. His desire to share any criticism coming to me for my part in
it was sincere, but rather than shielding it might subject me to an
increased amount. For the first time such a possibility came to me,
and, looking up, I saw his eyes were gravely watching me.
"I thought I was behaving. I'm willing to play the part properly if
I know the part, but I don't know it. Your intimations have been
"There's been no time for any other sort. When Mrs. Swink learns
that Madeleine and Tom have run away she will begin to ask where, and
somebody will certainly suggest Claxon."
"Then why go to Claxon?"
"They're not going to Claxon. We are going there. Just this side is
a little station at which they can take a local for Shelby. They
will change at this station and go to Shelby while we keep on to
Claxon and get off there."
"But last night you insisted on their going to Claxon." Selwyn's
voice implied that a woman's methods of management were beyond a
"Inquiries will be made as to who bought tickets for Claxon. Mrs.
Swink will have the whole police department running around for clues
and things. I told you not to buy tickets. Did you?"
"I did not. I'm taking orders and doing what I'm told, but, being
new at it, I don't work as smoothly as I might. Is there any special
reason why I shouldn't have bought tickets?"
"There is." I opened my pocket-book, and, taking out a note, handed
it to him. "I'll take breakfast with you but I'll have to pay my
railroad fare. I didn't want you to get tickets, because if two
couples bought them it would cause confusion and telegrams might be
sent to Shelby also. I didn't have time to think it all out last
night. I only knew Tom and Madeleine must seemingly go to Claxon and
yet not go. I wasn't sure what could be done, but after you decided
to come I thought we could play the part and give them time to be
married at Shelby."
"You mean you and I are to pretend we are somebody else, mean--"
Selwyn's voice was protestingly puzzled. Impersonation did not
"There'll be no necessity to pretend. If a sheriff, with orders to
do so, takes charge of us he will hardly believe our assertion that
we are not the parties wanted. He's used to that. All we will have
to do is to wait until Tom and Madeleine come back. When they show
as proper a marriage certificate as a dairy-maid and farmer-laddie
ever framed he will let us go. You don't look as if playing groom to
my bride pleases you. I'm sorry, but--"
Into Selwyn's eyes came that which made me turn mine away and look
out of the window. Unthinkingly I had invited what he was going to
say. "Playing groom does not interest me. Why play? And stop
looking out of the window." He changed his seat and took the one
beside me. "Look at me, Danny. Why can't we be married at Claxon?
We'll wait for those children to come back and then--"
"Is that exactly fair?" I drew away the hands he was hurting in his
tense grip. "I hardly thought you'd take--" I shut my eyes to keep
back quick tears for which there was no accounting. Something
curious was suddenly possessing me, something that for weeks I had
seemed fighting and resisting. An overmastering desire to give in;
to surrender, to yield to his love for me, to mine for him, was
disarming me, and swift, inexplicable impulse to marry him and give
up the thing I was trying to do urged and swept over me. And then I
remembered his house with its high walls. And I remembered
Scarborough Square. Until there was between them sympathy and
understanding there could be no abiding basis on which love could
build and find enrichment and fulfilment. Straightening, I sat up,
but I was conscious of being very tired.
"Please don't, Selwyn." The hand I had drawn away I held out to him.
"We must not think or talk of ourselves to-day. This is not our day."
"But I want my day." His strong fingers twisted into mine with
bruising force. "I have waited long for it. For all others you have
consideration, but my happiness alone you ignore. You seem to think
my endurance is beyond limit. How long are you going to keep this
thing up? Some day you are going to marry me. Why not to-day?"
I shook my head. "I cannot marry you today. Take care--" The
conductor was coming down the aisle toward us.
By the time we learn a few of the lessons life teaches we stop
living. I should have known it is the unexpected that happens, but I
forgot it. What I expected at Claxon did not come to pass.
At a little station a few miles east of the tiny town to which we
were going, Tom and Madeleine left our train and waited for a
crawling accommodation to Shelby, where, later, they would be
married. From the car window I waved to them and tried to transmit a
portion of my courage, for which there was no credit, and of my
enjoyment, of which I should have been ashamed and was not ashamed.
A taste for adventure will ever be a part of me, and I was getting
much more pleasure out of an unexpected experience than Madeleine
was. The playing of shadow to her substance was not so serious for
me as for her, and then, too, I had the joyful irresponsibility of
not going to be married. I do not want to be a married person yet.
As we left the car at Claxon I glanced in the mirror at the end of
our coach and was pleased. About me was a bridal atmosphere that was
unmistakable. Madeleine's clothes were new and lovely and I looked
well. So did Selwyn. As we reached the platform I was undecided
whether to cling timidly to Selwyn's arm or to walk bravely apart,
and the indecision, together with the certainty that some one would
put a hand on Selwyn's shoulder and say words I had never before
heard, made my heart beat with a rapidity that was as genuine as if I
were soon to become a bride in very truth. The sensation was
exhilarating. I liked it.
On the platform of the little station a few negroes in overalls, two
boys, and five men, having apparently nothing to do, were hanging
around, hands in their pockets; and, looking about me, I waited.
Nothing happened. Ahead of us and across a muddy road half a dozen
stores, hunched together in a row of detached and shabby frame
houses, with upper stories seemingly used for residential purposes,
comprised the business portion of the little town, and on our right
the post-office, telegraph and express offices, and telephone
exchange were in the one large building of the place. Out of each
window facing us some one was looking, and in the open door a man was
standing, hat off and sweater-coated, who, at regular intervals, and
with unfailing accuracy of aim, ejected tobacco juice into a puddle
of water some distance away. No one but ourselves got off the train,
and, its stay at the station being short, the attention of the
loungers near by and those resting themselves on boxes and barrels in
front of the stores across the road was turned determinatedly to us.
I looked at Selwyn. In his face was relief. In mine was anxiety
and, I'm afraid, disappointment. The situation was flat.
I had read various accounts of runaway marriages which had taken
place at Claxon, several of which had only succeeded after eluding
the sheriff, waiting under orders from irate parents to arrest them;
and feeling confident Mrs. Swink would wire the proper person to
prevent the marriage of her daughter, I looked around for the one
most likely to do the work. No one appeared. What if my plan had
failed and Madeleine, in my un-wedding garments, was to be taken into
custody in Shelby? I turned to Selwyn.
"Do you suppose--" My voice was low. A man close to me, with hands
in his pockets, hat on the back of his head, and his left cheek
lumpy, was looking at us appraisingly. "Do you suppose anything will
happen at Shelby? Nothing is happening here."
Selwyn's sigh of relief was long. "If nothing happens here I'll
thank God. To keep it out of the papers would have been impossible.
Stay here while I see if there is a decent hotel." He looked around
speculatively. In the distance a man could be seen on horseback
coming down the road which wound from the top of a mountain to the
valley below, while at our left a covered ox-cart, a farm wagon, and
a Ford car were waiting for their owners. Nothing in which we could
ride, however, was seemingly in sight. A sudden desire to go
somewhere, do something, possessed me. The day was mild, and the air
clean and clear and calling, and the sunshine brilliant. It was a
beautiful day. We must go somewhere.
For weeks I had been face to face with cruel conditions of life, had
seen hardships and denials and injustices, and dreary monotony of
days, and I wanted for a while to get away from it all, to breathe
deep of that which would renew and reinforce and revitalize; wanted
to be a child again, and, with Selwyn as my playmate, wander along
the winding road with faces to the sun, and hearts of hope, and faith
that God would not forget, and the world would yet be well. If
nobody was going to do anything to us, if we were not needed to play
a part, the hours ahead could be ours. The train on which we were to
return did not leave until three-thirty. I looked at my watch. It
"Get something from somebody." My hand made movement toward the men
about us and then in the direction of the shacks and sheds and cabins
of the negroes, scattered at wide intervals apart from the village,
which consisted of a long, rambling street with a white frame church
at one end, a gray one at the other, a court-house in the middle, and
a school-house at its back. "Get a buggy and something you can drive
and let's have a holiday--just by ourselves. What is that house over
I pointed to a square, old-fashioned red-brick building set well back
from the road and surrounded by great oak-trees, and smaller ones of
birch and maple and spruce and pine, and shrubs of various kinds. It
was Claxon's one redemption. Shading my eyes, I read the tin sign
swinging in the wind from a rod nailed at right angles to a sagging
post at its gateless yard. "Swan Tavern." The name thrilled. I was
no longer a twentieth-century person, but a lady of other days, and
if a coach and four with outriders had appeared I would have stepped
in it with delight. It did not appear, nor was Selwyn suddenly in
knee-breeches and buckles and satin coat and brocaded vest. Not even
my imagination could so clothe him. His practicality recalled me.
"I'll go over and find out what sort of place it is, and see if we
can get anything to ride in. Perhaps this man can tell me. Wait
here." He put out his hand as if to prevent my speaking first to the
man. I didn't intend to speak to him.
The man could tell him nothing. He lived seven miles back and had
come to the station to meet a friend who had failed to appear. There
were teams in the neighborhood that might be gotten. Swan Tavern
didn't have any. Used to, but most people nowaday, specially
drummers, wanted automobiles, and old Colonel Tavis, who owned the
place, wouldn't let an automobile come in his yard. Perhaps Major
Bresee might let him have his horse and buggy. The person who gave
the information changed his quid of tobacco from his left to his
right cheek and, spitting on the ground below the plank-loose
platform on which we were standing, pointed to a one-room
office-building down the street, then again surveyed us. Two or
three men across the road came over, and two or three others hanging
around the station drew nearer and nodded to us, while both of the
boys, hands in their pants pockets, stared up at Selwyn as if
something new had indeed come to town.
From each of the group, now uncomfortably close to us, the impression
radiated that the right of explanation was theirs as to why we should
appear in Claxon with no apparent purpose for so appearing.
Seemingly we were not the sort who usually applied for aid to the
minister of the little town, known far and near for his matrimonial
activities, and just what we wanted was a matter concerning which
they were entitled to enlightenment. They said nothing, but looked
much. Frowningly, Selwyn bit his lip. Presently he spoke.
"Can you tell me where I can get a horse and buggy for a few hours?"
He looked first at one man and then another. "We have to wait here
for friends who will return with us on the three-thirty train, and
we'd like to see something of the country round about here while
we're waiting. Can we get lunch over there? And what time do they
have it?" His hand pointed to Swan Tavern.
"Don't have lunch. Dinner's at twelve o'clock." The man farthest
away took his hands from the pockets of his pants and put them in
those of his coat. "I reckon you can get Major Bresee's horse and
buggy if he ain't using 'em. The horse ain't much, but it moves
along. Want me to see if I can get him for you?"
"I would be very much obliged." Selwyn turned to me. "Shall we have
the buggy sent over to us while we see about lunch?" he asked, but
not waiting for an answer spoke again to the man whose kindly offices
he had accepted. "If you can get anything we can ride in
comfortably, bring it over, will you? And bring it as soon as you
Lifting his hat, he turned from the staring strangers and helped me