Part 2 out of 4
"Don't you want to ride with me?"
"To Bannock Bars."
"To take some pills to Mrs. Richardson."
"Not much. Mrs. Richardson is frabjous and a gossip."
"What if she is? You needn't talk to her."
But Allyn shook his head.
"Not if I know myself. I'll oil your wheel for you, Babe, and pack your
pills; but I won't go within range of Mrs. Richardson, for she gives me
"She won't hurt you."
"No; but she makes me feel clammy in the spine of my back, and then she
gives me good advice. I'll tell you, Babe, I'll go and get Cis, and we
will ride part way with you. If two people escort you half way, that is
as good as having one of them go all the way. Besides, I never feel quite
easy when I am all alone with you. If anything happened, you might be
moved to experiment on me, and that would be fatal."
On the veranda, after luncheon Allyn and Phebe stood waiting for Cicely.
She came running across the lawn at last, trim and dainty in her short
"I am sorry to be late," she panted; "but I had to stop to chastise
Melchisedek. I found him asleep in Cousin Theodora's fernery. It was so
soft and cool that I suppose it tempted him, this hot day, poor little
man! But aren't you forcing the season, Babe?"
Phebe looked down at her immaculate duck suit.
"No; it is almost the first of June, and so warm. Besides, I am only
going out to the wilderness. I am clean and comfortable, and that is the
"Unless we get a shower," Allyn suggested.
Phebe looked up at the sky.
"There isn't a cloud in sight, Allyn. It's not going to rain, I know."
"It's sultry. You can't ever tell about a day like this. Still, if you
want to risk it,--"
"I do." And Phebe mounted her bicycle.
The Savins lay at the western edge of the town. Beyond it, the road to
Bannock Bars led away straight toward the sunset, over hill and hollow,
through stretches of sand and along narrow footpaths. It was a road to
terrify an amateur; but Phebe's riding was strong and steady, and she was
glad to be in the saddle once more, forgetful of her work and only
conscious of the sweet spring life about her. It was only an hour later
that The Savins was ten miles behind her, and she was setting up her
wheel against Mrs. Richardson's stone horse-block.
Mrs. Richardson met her accusingly.
"I hope you've got them pills," she demanded, without any formal
"Yes, my father has sent them."
"I wrote for them, day before yesterday. I thought sure they'd come
"He was busy," Phebe said curtly, as she took off her sailor hat and
"Jim Sykes said he see him drivin' off over Wisdom way."
"Yes, he had a case there, an important case." Phebe's head was tilted at
an aggressive angle.
"I guess I was some important, or he'd have said so, if he'd see me, last
night. I had a bad spell, and like to fainted."
"What had you been eating?" Phebe inquired, with a sudden access of
"Be you his youngest girl?" Mrs. Richardson asked rather irrelevantly.
"The one that was in Paris?"
"I wonder at your father's lettin' you go. They say it's an awful wicked
city, and I hear it's nip and tuck whether a person comes home as good as
"I didn't find it so."
"Maybe not. Still, it's risky and I don't think much of folks that don't
find America good enough for 'em. You look hot. Come in and get a drink
Inside the house and with a glass of water in her hand, Phebe felt that
it devolved upon her to make some efforts at conversation.
"You said you were worse, last night; didn't you? What were the
symptoms?" she asked, between her sips.
"What's generally the symptoms? I felt sick and wanted to keel over."
"Had you been--?"
"No; I hadn't. You tell your father that I'll tell him about it, when he
comes. I ain't goin' to be doctored by hearsay. Did you see Sol Bassitt's
barn, as you come over the hill?"
"I came by the lower road."
"What did you do that for? It's a good mile further."
"Yes; but it's better riding, that way."
"You'd better go back over the hill. The barn's worth seein', the best
one this side of town." Mrs. Richardson rocked to and fro in exultation
at having some one to listen to her month's accumulation of gossip.
Bannock Bars was an isolated hamlet, and visitors were few. "Sol's girl,
Fannie, has gone to Oswego for a week. She's had scarlet fever, and it
left her ailin'. It's too bad, for she is a likely girl."
"Very likely," Phebe assented, half under her breath.
"I said it was extremely probable."
"What was?" Mrs. Richardson glared at her guest who was tranquilly waving
a palm-leaf fan.
"That Fannie is a good girl."
"Well, she is," Mrs. Richardson returned shortly.
There was a silence, while Phebe inspected the black cambric binding of
her fan, and tried to gather energy to go out into the hot sun once more.
Mrs. Richardson had rocked herself into more placid humor.
"They've got a boarder over to Sykes's," she resumed.
"Have they?" Phebe spoke indifferently. Bannock Bars was too near town
for her to realize how countrified it was, how the coming of a single
stranger could stir the placid current of its existence.
"He's from New York, Bartlett is his name, or some such thing. They say
he's a music feller."
"A what?" Phebe wondered whether Mrs. Richardson had reference to a
member of a German band. The words suggested something of the kind.
"A feller that writes music. I don't know anything about it only what
they say. Anyhow, he's brought a pianner with him, and they say he bangs
away on it like all possessed, and then stops short and scolds. I went
past there, one day, when the windows was open, and I heard him thumpin'
and tiddlin' away for dear life. It didn't seem to me there was much tune
to it, nor time neither; you couldn't so much as tell where one line left
off and the next begun."
Phebe's fan slid out of her lap, and, as she stooped to pick it up, she
dropped her handkerchief.
"Have you seen him?" she asked, when she was upright once more.
"Have you ever seen this Mr. Bartlett?"
"Yes. He goes round in one of these short-pant suits and great coarse
stockin's and shoes, and he never acts as if he knew what he was about.
Half-baked, I call him. He holds his head like this, and he struts along
as if Bannock Bars wa'n't half good enough for him. Mis' Sykes says he
ain't a mite fussy, though, takes what she gives him and don't complain.
Land! If he can stand Eulaly Sykes's cookin', he must be tough."
"Perhaps he will keel over, some day," Phebe suggested.
"I should think he would. But then, they say folks like him eat all sorts
of things at night suppers, so I suppose he is used to it." She rocked in
silence, for a moment; then she went on, "What do you find to do with
yourself, now you're home again? You was with Mis' Farrington's folks;
wasn't you, she that was Theodora McAlister?"
"She does a good deal of writin', I hear. Does she get much out of it?"
Phebe hesitated, assailed by doubts as to how large a story Mrs.
Richardson would swallow, and her hostess swept on,--
"She's spreadin' herself a good deal, and it can't all be her earnin's.
Do you take after her?"
"No; I am studying medicine."
"I want to know! What for?"
"To be a doctor, I suppose." Phebe rose and put on her hat.
Mrs. Richardson took a step towards her.
"You don't want a skeleton; do you?" she asked. "I've got one I'd
For one instant, Phebe hesitated. Unexpected as was the offer, it
appealed to her. There was a certain dignity in having one's own
skeleton; it was the first step toward professional life. That one
instant's hesitation settled the matter, for Mrs. Richardson saw it and
was swift to take advantage of it.
"It belonged to His sister's husband," she said, with a jerk of her head
toward the portrait of her late husband. "He was a doctor and, when he
died, all his trumpery was brought here and stowed away in our garret.
It's as good as new, and you can have it for five dollars."
"I--don't--know," Phebe said slowly.
Mrs. Richardson interposed.
"I don't want to be hard on you. 'Tain't a very big one, and it ain't
strung up," she said persuasively. "You can have it for three. It's a
splendid chance for you."
"Well, I'll take it, if it is all there."
"I'll get it, and you can let your father count it up. I'm willing to
leave it to him." And Mrs. Richardson went hurrying out of the room.
She was gone for some time. When she came back again she bore in her
arms a bundle, large, knobby and misshapen. It was wrapped in
newspapers which had cracked away here and there over the end of a rib;
but it was enclosed in a network of strings that crossed and
crisscrossed like a hammock.
"I thought you might just as well take it right along with you," she
said. "You can send me the money in a letter, if it's all right, but
land knows when you will be here again, and I hain't got anybody to
send it by."
Phebe looked appalled. In a long experience of bicycling, she had scorned
a carrier, and she stood firmly opposed to the idea of converting her
wheel into a luggage van.
"I can't carry that," she said.
"Yes, you can. Just string it over your forepiece and it will go all
right. It ain't heavy for anything so bulky. I'll help you tie it on."
And she prepared to execute her offer.
"Oh, don't! At least, I'm much obliged; but--Oh, dear, if I must take
it, I suppose I must; but I think I'd better tie it on, myself."
"Just as you like. You'd better hurry up a little, though, for I
shouldn't wonder if it rained before sundown."
"Rain? Then I can't take this thing." Phebe paused, with the string
"Oh, I'll risk it. Besides if you don't take it, there's a man in
Greenway that will."
Phebe looked at her hostess, shut her teeth, jerked the knot tight, and
was silent; but there was a dangerous gleam in her eyes, as she mounted
and rode away, with her three-dollar skeleton clattering on the
handle-bars before her.
There is a certain inconvenience coupled with being called upon to pose
as a genius at the comparatively early age of twenty-six. Popular theory
to the contrary, notwithstanding, it is easier to plod slowly along on
the path to fame. Greatness does not repeat itself, every day in the
week. But fate had overtaken Gifford Barrett, and had hung a wreath of
tender young laurels about his boyish brow. He deserved the wreath, if
ever a boy did. Two years before, fresh from the inspiration of his years
in Germany and of his German master, he had composed his _Alan Breck
Overture_. It would have been well done, even for a man many years his
senior, and it quickly won a place on the programmes of the leading
orchestra's of the country. He had known what it was to be called out
from his box at the Auditorium or Carnegie Hall to bow to the audience,
while the orchestra thumped their approval on their music racks. He had
been hailed even as the American Saint Saens, and it was small wonder
that he began to feel the wreath too tight a fit for his brows.
His family was well known and, from the first, society had claimed him
for her own. He had the gift of talking well, of dancing better; and he
had found it easy to drift along from day to day, neglecting his music
for the sake of the invitations that poured in upon him. In his more
conscientious moments, he told himself that he would do all the better
work as the result of seeing the life of his native city; but so far its
influence had been only potent to move him to write a triplet of light
songs and to dedicate them to three of the prettiest girls in his set, no
one of whom was able to sing a note in tune.
At the end of the second season, a reaction set in. The public was
clamorous for a new work from him; he was tired of being lionized by
people who called his beloved overture pretty. The madness of the spring
was upon him, the spirit of work had seized him, and the middle of May
found him and his long-suffering piano installed in the "north chamber"
of the Sykes homestead at Bannock Bars.
He had chosen the place with some degree of care, in order to be
sufficiently remote from society to work undisturbed, sufficiently near
civilization to be able to buy more music paper in case of need. Ten
miles of even a bad road is not an impassible barrier to an enthusiastic
bicyclist; yet the place was as rustic and countrified as if it had been,
not ten, but ten hundred miles from an electric light. His digestion was
good enough to cope even with Eulaly Sykes's perennial doughnuts, and it
was in a mood of supreme content that he settled into his quarters in the
wilderness. It was years since he had watched the on-coming of the New
England summer; he watched it now with the trained sense, the inherent
quickness of perception of the true artist who realizes that the simplest
facts of the day's routine by his touch can be transmuted into glowing,
vivid material for his work.
It must be confessed that Eulaly Sykes occasionally mourned to her
friends over the irregularities of her boarder. His hours of work
passed her comprehension, his work itself filled her soul with wonder
and disgust. In his moments of inspiration when he was evoking the
stormy chords of the introduction to his symphonic poem, _Bisesa_ he
never dreamed that his landlady was craning her head up from her
pillows in a vain effort to discover the tune, or to reduce it to the
known terms of short metre rhythm. His broken, irregular measures
troubled her, as did also his broken, irregular hours of work. There
were days when he rode far afield, or was seen lying on his back under
the pines by the brookside, listening to the splash of the water, the
hissing of the air through the boughs above him. After such days, his
piano was wont to sound far into the night, and Eulaly, as she slept
and waked and still heard her boarder's fingers crashing over the keys,
reproached herself bitterly.
"Them last doughnuts was too rich," she used to say to her old-fashioned
bolster, set up like a grim idol by the bedside; "and the poor feller
can't sleep. I mustn't put so much shortenin' in the next ones. My, but
that was an awful scrooch! I wish he'd shut his windows a little mite
tighter, and not pester the whole neighborhood."
This state of things had endured for two weeks, and the symphonic poem
was progressing as well as its composer had any reason to expect. Already
it was bidding fair to rival the _Alan Overture_ and Mr. Barrett began
to carry his nose tilted at an angle higher than ever, as if in
imagination he already scented the fresh laurels in store for him. Pride
goeth before destruction. A long day under the pines resulted not in
inspiration, but in an uninspiring cold in his head; his temper suffered
together with his nose, and Eulaly Sykes, below stairs, chafed her hands
together at the sounds of musical and moral discord which floated down
upon her ears. All the morning long, he smote his brows and his piano by
turns. The new _motif_ he was seeking, refused to be found.
Later, fortified by Eulaly's fried chicken and rhubarb pie, he tried it
again, invitingly playing over the preceding _motif_ in every possible
key and tempo. It was of no use. He slammed down the top of his piano,
tore across a half-finished page, caught up his cap, mounted his bicycle
and rushed away up the road, quite regardless of the clouds lying low in
the western sky.
Fifteen miles of scorching over country roads sufficed to bring him to a
calmer mood, and he turned his wheel towards the Sykes homestead once
more. The _motif_ was still as far beyond his grasp as ever; but there
were other things in life besides elusive _motifs_. The increasing
blackness above his head was one of them; his hunger was another, and he
quickened his pace. His piano might be awaiting him in mute reproach; but
then, so did Eulaly's doughnuts await him, and there was no reproach in
those, at least, not until some time later. He fell to whistling a strain
of his overture, as he rode swiftly along, quite unconscious of the fact
that disaster, in the person of Miss Phebe McAlister, was riding quite as
swiftly to meet him.
Three miles from his boarding-place, the storm overtook him with a rush
which straight-way reduced the roads to the consistency of cream. He
looked about for shelter; but no shelter was at hand, and the road
meandered along before him uphill and down again with an easy nonchalance
which appeared to take no account of the pelting rain. It was hard riding
and dangerous, but he pushed on manfully, while the streams of water
trickled down his neck and along the bridge of his nose. As he reached
the crest of the hill, he saw before him, just crawling over the crest of
the opposite hill, a figure on a bicycle coming swiftly towards him.
Even at that distance, he could make out a bedraggled white suit, a limp
sailor hat and a vast pulpy bundle lashed to the handle-bars.
"Some country maiden, coming home from market," he said to himself. "I
Hope she is enjoying the shower."
Then of a sudden, he braced himself for a shock, for a bell was clanging
wildly, and a cry rang out upon his ears,--
"Oh, go away! Be careful! Get out of the way! Quick!"
He turned aside, out of the path of the flying wheel. It sounds a
cowardly thing to have done, and doubtless the knights of old would have
contrived a way of rescue. To the latter-day knight, however, there was
something inevitable in the on-coming of the wheel, with its rider's feet
kicking in a futile search for the pedals. It reminded him of his own
futile search for his _motif_. Both searchers seemed equally helpless to
attain their objects. Moreover, when a tall and muscular maiden sweeps
down upon one, leaving behind her a train of shrieks and scattered
phalanges, there is absolutely nothing for one to do but to get out of
her way as expeditiously as possible. No use in breaking two necks,
and--the critics were waiting for the symphonic poem.
He turned, then, to the right-hand edge of the road. Phebe was bouncing
along over the stones dangerously near the other gutter, and he already
was congratulating himself upon his escape. Then in a moment the
situation was changed. The runaway wheel flashed into a mud puddle,
veered and before his astonished eyes shed a rib or two and a clavicle
from the swaying bundle, veered again and collided with his own wheel. In
another instant, the right-hand gutter held two muddy bicycles, the
greater portion of a human skeleton, Phebe McAlister and the composer of
the _Alan Breck Overture_.
An experienced bicycle teacher once said that no woman ever picked
herself up from a fall, without saying that she was not at all hurt. True
to tradition, Phebe staggered to her feet, exclaiming,--
"Thank you; but I'm not hurt in the least. I'm so sorry--"
Then she paused abruptly and stared at the stranger in the gutter. He lay
as he had fallen, his face half buried in the mud and his right arm
twisted under him. More frightened than she had been in all her headlong
descent of the hill, she bent over him and tried to turn him as he lay.
Gifford Barrett was an athlete as well as a musician, however, and it
took all of Phebe's strength to stir him ever so slightly. As she did so,
she disclosed a gash where his temple had struck upon a stone, and his
right arm swung loosely out from his side. Phebe McAlister had suddenly
found herself in the presence of her first case, and the presence was
rather an appalling one.
In any crisis, the mind attacks a side issue. Phebe rose from her knees,
took off the sodden thing which had been her hat, and carefully covered
it over her saddle. Her face, underneath the streaks of mud, was very
white, and her lips were unsteady. Then she pressed her hands over her
eyes, bit her lips and gave her shoulders a little shake. That done, she
knelt down in the mud once more and set herself to the task in hand,
wondering meanwhile who and what her victim might be.
Obviously he was a gentleman. His firm, clean-cut lips alone would have
settled that point to her satisfaction. Beyond that, she had no possible
clue to his identity. The situation was a trying one. The nearest house
was a mile away; the rain was still pelting heavily down upon them, and
she, Phebe McAlister, was alone in the storm with a perfect stranger whom
she had knocked from his bicycle, stunned and perhaps injured for life.
To whom did he belong? What should she do with him? If he died, who would
be responsible, not for the injury, but for making the funeral
arrangements? For a moment, the unaccustomed tears rushed to her eyes,
and, seen through their mist, her victim seemed to be expanding until he
filled the whole landscape and surrounded her by dozens, all plastered
with mud and begirt with whitened bones. Then she pulled herself together
again. The stranger's arm was broken, his forehead bloody. She must see
what she could do for him, then go for help.
There was a long interval when the noise of the rain was interrupted by
little groans and exclamations from Phebe, while she tugged and shoved
and pried at the man in the road. He was so very big, so very
unconscious, so very determined to lie with his face buried in the mud
and meet his end by suffocation. At last, she drew a long breath,
mustered all her strength and gave him one pull which turned him
completely over on his back. As she did so, his eyes opened dully and by
degrees gathered expression. He looked up into her mud-stained face, down
at his mud-stained clothes, around at the mud-stained skull which lay
close to his side and grinned back at him encouragingly.
"What the deuce--" he faltered. Then once more he fainted away.
Twenty minutes later, Phebe was rushing away to the nearest house in
search of help. There was but one house within reach, however, and fate
willed that she should find that deserted. She hesitated whether she
should ride on for two miles farther, or go back to her victim, and she
decided upon the latter course. It seemed hours to her before she reached
the top of the hill again. Then she stopped short, dismounted and stared
down the slope in astonishment. Her victim had vanished from the scene.
Only the skull remained to mark the spot where he had lain, two deep
tracks in the soft mud to show the way by which he had gone.
"Well, Babe?" Allyn's voice hailed her, as she rode wearily up the drive,
the water squelching in her shoes and her soaked skirt flapping dismally
about her pedals. "Were you out in all that shower?"
"Why didn't you go under cover?"
"There wasn't any cover to go under." Phebe's tone was not
"But the mud? It's all over your face, and your wheel, and your hair."
"I fell off."
"Coming down Bannock Hill. I lost my pedals, and my wheel slipped
in the mud."
"Bannock Hill? That's a bad place to fall. Break anything?"
"You can look and see."
But Allyn was not to be suppressed.
"Where's your hat?"
She started slightly and raised her hand to her head. It was bare.
"Oh, yes," she said unguardedly. "I remember now. I must have left it
where I sat."
"Sat!" Allyn stared at his sister in amazement. "What did you do? Sit
down to study the landscape?"
But Phebe stalked up the steps and into the house, and Allyn saw her no
more until dinner-time.
Two days later, Allyn burst into the office where Phebe was bending over
a book. In his hand was an unfolded newspaper which he flapped excitedly,
as she looked up.
"There are others, Babe."
"What do you mean?"
"This. Listen! Oh, where is the thing? Here it is, in the Bannock
correspondence of the _Times_. Listen! 'Mr. G. Bartlett, the musician who
is sojourning at Mr. Jas. Sykes's farm, sustained a bad fall from his
bicycle on Bannock Hill, last Tuesday. His injuries are serious,
including a cut on his temple and a compound fracture of the right arm.
Dr. Starr reduced the fracture and reports the patient as doing as well
as--' you see somebody else slipped up on that hill, Babe. You ought to
feel you came out of it pretty well."
Phebe looked up with a frown.
"Go away, Allyn; I'm busy," she said sharply.
Three weeks later, Phebe had occasion to make another trip to see Mrs.
Richardson. This time, she chose the hill road, the one which led past
the Sykes farm. Gifford Barrett was sauntering along by the roadside,
smoking. His arm was in a sling, his hat drawn forward, half concealing
the patch of plaster on his temple. As she passed, Phebe looked him full
in the face, and instinctively his hand went to his cap, though without
any sign of recognition.
"Some girl that's heard the overture," he said to himself. "I don't seem
to remember her, though. She has a good figure and she rides well; but
what a color! She will have apoplexy, some day, if she's not careful."
The next day, Eulaly Sykes's boarder had started for the Maine coast
where three unmusical, but sympathetic maidens were waiting to help him
pass the dreary days of his convalescence.
Two willow chairs were swaying to and fro in the gathering dusk, and two
voices were blended in a low murmur. Theodora and Billy were exchanging
the confidences born of a long week of separation while business had
called Mr. Farrington to New York.
"How comes on the book, Ted?"
She shook her head.
"It doesn't come."
"Does Cicely's being here disturb you?"
"No, not really; not nearly so much as Melchisedek. In an unguarded
moment, I asked him, one day, to come and help auntie write books. Since
then he rushes from his breakfast straight to my room and capers madly on
the threshold till I appear."
"Then he insists on lying in my lap and resting his head on my arm,
and he snarls, every time I joggle him. It isn't helpful or
"No; I should say not. What is the story, Ted?"
"I'm not going to tell even you, Billy," she returned quickly. "It
always demoralizes me to talk over my stories while they are evolving. I
must work them out alone. It seems conceited and selfish; but there's no
help for it. You believe it; don't you?"
"I'll trust you, Ted. But is this hero very hectic?"
It was an old joke, but they were still laughing over it when Cicely
appeared in the doorway, with Melchisedek under her arm.
"Cousin Theodora?" she said interrogatively, for the piazza was dark.
"I want to talk."
"You generally do, Cis," Billy observed unkindly.
"Yes; but I mean I have something to talk about. I don't always."
"Shall I go away?" he asked politely.
"No; I want a man's view of it, too. But perhaps you were busy and I'll
be in the way."
For her reply, Theodora drew another chair into the group. Cicely sat
down, balanced Melchisedek on her knee and fell to poking his grey hair
this way and that, as if at a loss how to begin the conversation.
"How far is it safe for a girl to follow up a boy?" she asked abruptly,
yet with a little catch in her breath.
"Meaning yourself?" Billy queried.
"Yes, of course."
"I should say it depended a good deal on the boy."
"I mean Allyn."
"What's the matter? Have you had a falling out?"
"Yes, we are always doing it. I can't seem to help it, either. It's
horrid. He is outspoken and tells me what he thinks of me; I'm peppery,
and I don't like it."
"I know, dear," Theodora said gently, for she read the girl's irritation
in her voice. "Allyn isn't always as polite as he might be; but we must
try not to be too sensitive."
"I'm not sensitive," Cicely said forlornly. "I like him, though, and I
want him to like me, and it hurts my feelings when he doesn't."
"How long has the present feud lasted?" Billy inquired.
"Almost ten days. It's the worst one yet, and it started from nothing. I
know he is your brother, Cousin Theodora; but--I really don't think it's
all my fault."
"No." Theodora's voice suggested no mental reservation. "I know how it
is, Cicely. Allyn has been my baby and my boy; but, much as I love him, I
can't help seeing that he is cantankerous and cross-grained at times. But
it is only at times, Cis; it isn't chronic."
"I wish it were. Then I shouldn't mind it so much. But when he isn't
cross, he is one of the jolliest boys I have ever known. That's the
worst of it, for I miss him so, when we squabble. When we are on terms,
I don't care about anybody else; and so, when we are off, it leaves me
"When I squabbled with your Cousin Theodora," Billy said oracularly; "I
generally felt I had done my share, and I left her to do the making up."
"So I observed," his wife answered; but Cicely was too much absorbed in
her subject to heed the parenthesis.
"I'm willing to make up," she said, as she twisted Melchisedek's ears
with an absent-minded fervor which caused the sufferer to whimper; "but
how can I? He just goes off his way, and leaves me to go mine. I hate to
tag him; besides, I don't know but he really wants to get rid of me.
Hush, Melchisedek! Don't whine. I didn't intend to hurt you. That's what
I meant, Cousin Ted, when I asked you about following him up. How far is
it safe to go?"
"Till you get there," Mr. Farrington replied.
"Billy!" his wife remonstrated.
"All right, Ted; but I'm not altogether joking. I know boys better than
you do. It's not easy for them to come down off their dignity; and, nine
times out of ten, when they scowl the most darkly, they are really
wishing that they knew how to come to terms. I must go down town now,
Cis; but my parting advice to you is to corner Allyn and bully him into
shaking hands. The boy is an ungracious cub; but he is sound at the core,
and I honestly think he is fond of you in his dumb way."
After he had left them alone, Cicely dropped down on the floor at
"Life isn't a straight line; it's horribly squirmy," she said, and her
voice vas unusually grave.
Theodora drew the brown head against her knee.
"What is it, dear?" she asked.
"It's only Allyn. I don't know what the reason is that we can't get on.
I've known lots of boys, and I never squabbled with any of them before.
And I don't know why I care so much. Sometimes I really think I am good
for Allyn and can help him out, and I am disappointed because he won't
let me; but I more than half think it is only my vanity, after all."
"Was it a bad fight?"
"Awful." In spite of herself, Cicely laughed at the recollection.
"He wound up by telling me that I was no lady, and he didn't care to
have anything more to do with me. Since then I have hardly had a
glimpse of him."
"I hadn't noticed that anything was wrong between you," Theodora said
"No; we both of us are old enough not to quarrel in public. But I can't
see any end to this. I care for Allyn a great deal, and I miss him; but
if he does not want me for a friend, I can't force him to take me. I'm
not a pill, to be swallowed whether or no."
"Perhaps I could help a little."
Cicely shook her head.
"No; we were the ones to fight, and now we must be the ones to make up,
without any go-betweens. Papa has always told me that dignity doesn't
count in a case like this; and I'm willing to do anything reasonable. The
only trouble is that I don't know what Allyn really wants. If he truly
does wish I would let him alone, I don't see any use in my hanging on to
him. Just once, more than a month ago, he said something that made me
think he cared, and was glad to have me here; but it was only once, and
maybe I was mistaken. It isn't forever since you were a girl, Cousin
Theodora. What did you do in such cases?"
Theodora rapidly reviewed her past.
"I think I never had just such a case, Cicely," she said honestly. "Hu
and Billy were my two best friends; and I don't think either one of
them ever had a cross-grained day in his life. I was generally the
Cicely rubbed her head against Theodora's knee in mute contradiction.
"But what should you do in my case?" she persisted.
"I don't know. Sometimes I can't tell what to do in my own. Allyn is
rather a puzzle."
"He's worse than an original proposition in geometry. I want to solve
him and I can't. Papa has always taught me that we girls have a good deal
of responsibility, and that we can help our boy friends a good deal, or
else hinder them. Perhaps I am conceited; but it seems to me as if I
could help Allyn, if I could get at him. Besides--" she hesitated.
"Well?" Theodora said encouragingly.
"Oh, it's silly to tell; but sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn't help
you a little, at the same time. I'd love to feel it did; you have been so
good to me. I know you worry about Allyn. You watch him as a cat watches
a mouse, and you always seem to understand his queer ways and know just
how to manage him. I wish I could do it as you do."
Theodora was silent for a moment. Then she bent down and laid her cheek
against the brown chair.
"Cicely," she said; "those eyes of yours have a trick of seeing deeper
into things than you suspect. We have gone so far that we may as well go
a little farther. Allyn is very dear to me; but I do worry about him more
than I like to tell. He is headstrong and obstinate; worse than that; he
is moody, and there is his great danger. Under it all, he is a splendid
fellow; but I am afraid he will turn sour and hard. It grew on him fast,
last year, while I was away, and the next two or three years will settle
the matter, one way or the other. Ever so much is going to depend on
keeping him happy and jolly. He hasn't many friends left, and he needs
all those he has, needs to trust them and feel they trust him and care a
great deal for him, whatever he says or does. If you want to, you can
help me in this."
There was a short silence. Then Theodora went on,--
"Every girl has the making of at least one boy, if she manages him in the
right way. I agree with your father in that, Cis, agree with him with all
my heart. She must forget, though, that they are boy and girl, and only
remember that they are comrades. Flirting never helps things. But a girl
has more patience than a boy, as a rule, and more tact. Where a boy
fights, she waits till the time comes for her to put in a word that
tells. Moreover, she is willing to stand by her friends through thick and
thin, if she has any conscience at all, and most boys go through an age
when every such loyal friend counts in holding them steady. A girl that
neither preaches nor flirts, can sometimes carry a boy through hours when
his own mother would be helpless to manage him. It's a great gift in the
hands of you girls, Cis; and it shouldn't make you careless or conceited,
but very conscientious in the way you use it."
"I think I understand why Cousin Will looks at you just as he does
sometimes," the girl said slowly. "But about Allyn?"
"You can do whatever you choose with him," Theodora answered quickly.
"Allyn is very fond of you, Cis. I know him better than you do, and I
know that he cares a good deal more for you than you suspect, even if he
does take queer ways of showing it. You have it in your hands to help him
over one of the worst spots in his life."
"By making up with him and, if he fights again, making up again. Keep
friends with him, keep him bright and interested and healthy. I don't
mind his being cross half so much as I do his going off by himself and
looking glum. If you are willing, Cicely, you can do more to break that
up than I can."
The girl shook her head.
"I can help; but you stand first, Cousin Ted."
"Not in this. I'm related to him, and I am a great deal older than he is.
Those are two serious handicaps, sometimes. He will come to me always
probably in emergencies; at least, I hope he will, but it is the steady
companionship that counts for more than this, the chance to lessen the
friction in all manner of little things. There I am helpless. Allyn knows
that I have my house and my writing and my husband to look out for, and
he would be on his guard directly, if he saw me turn my back on them and
give my time to him. But, Cicely, this is asking a great deal of you."
"Not so much as it sounds," the girl said earnestly. "I'm not all a
child, Cousin Ted; and I have watched Allyn a good deal. It hasn't seemed
to me that things went right with him; but there was nothing I could put
my finger on, nothing at all. I like him, and I like to do things with
him, even if he is younger; but I don't want you to think I am horrid
and forward with him, when he doesn't want me."
She was silent for a moment, while Melchisedek licked her face,
unrebuked. Then she rose, pushing the dog gently away.
"Is this what you mean, Cousin Theodora: that it will be a good idea, for
me to do things with Allyn, to care for the things he likes, and, if he
gets cross and goes off not to care, but just go after him and bring him
"If you feel as if you could, Cicely."
"I do; I'd be glad to. Sometimes I wonder if any one else were ever half
so good fun; sometimes I wonder how such a grumpy thing can be a
McAlister," she said, with thoughtful frankness. "It's the grumpy side
that must be kept under, I suppose; but he isn't real sweet to handle
under such circumstances."
"I know that," Theodora answered, as she rose and stooped to pick up
Melchisedek who was pulling at her skirts appealingly. "But it's only the
chance of helping him forget to be grumpy, till he outgrows the habit. It
isn't that I want to spoil him, Cicely. It wouldn't do any good to coddle
him or give in to him. Just keep out of all the skirmishes you can; and
when he forces you into one, do what you can to establish a truce. Most
boys go through this thorny age; it's as inevitable as mumps, but Allyn
is taking it very hard, and we want to break it up before it becomes
chronic. Do you see what I am driving at, dear?"
"Enough so that I am going to wave the olive branch, to-morrow," she
answered, laughing. "If he ignores it, I'll try it again in some other
form. I only wanted to make sure that you approved of my meddling." She
put her hand through Theodora's arm and together they paced up and down
the broad piazza. Above them, the stars were dotting the still, dark air,
and the ragged outline of The Savins showed itself faintly through the
great trees. "His eyes have looked so heavy, the last day or two," she
added, as she looked across to the light shining out from Allyn's window.
And again, after a long interval, "It's not so easy, after all, Cousin
Ted, this being a girl."
"Teddy, I am worried about Allyn."
"What is the matter? Isn't he well?"
"Yes, only rather listless. It isn't his health I am worrying about; it
is his character."
"He will come out all right," Theodora said cheerily, for it was rare to
see her father in a despondent mood, and the sight distressed her.
"Perhaps; but it seems to me that something is wrong with the boy. He
isn't like the rest of you."
"Mercifully not; and yet we were all queer sticks," Theodora observed
tranquilly. "We appear to be working out our own salvation, though,
whether it's writing or bones, and Allyn will probably follow our example
when he is old enough."
"I wish he might. He is giving me more trouble than all the rest of you
put together, and the worst of it is that I don't know whether he needs a
tonic or a thrashing." The good doctor knitted his brows and endeavored
to look stern. "I suspect it is the latter," he added.
Theodora shook her head gayly.
"It wouldn't be of any use, papa. We must bide our time. Allyn is queer,
most mortal queer; but these may be the mutterings of genius, a volcanic
genius that is getting ready to erupt."
"I never regarded bad temper as a sign of genius."
"Perhaps not. But, even if it isn't, thrashings only leave callous spots.
You'd better try the tonic."
They had been walking up and down the front lawn. Now they turned, as
by common consent, and strolled away towards a more distant part of
"Is anything new the trouble?" Theodora asked, after an interval.
"No; only that his school reports get worse and worse, and that he
appears to have a perfect genius for losing friends."
"Even the warty James?"
The doctor laughed.
"I can't blame him for half his antipathies," he said; "and that makes it
hard for me to corner him in an argument. The boy was born with a hatred
of dirt and of lying and of toadying, and he is utterly intolerant of
anybody who shows anything of the three. His theories are all right, only
his way of carrying them out makes him rather unpopular. But what is
worrying me now is his school work. He isn't stupid; but his marks are
away below par."
"You might try the tonic," Theodora said. "But what about Babe?"
"Don't ask me, Ted. That girl defies prediction. She always did. One day,
I think she will bring glory to us all; the next, I want to turn her out
of my office. She is as smart as a steel trap; but she is as lawless as
Allyn. It's in a different way. I blame them both; but I am sorry for
him, while I want to shake Phebe. She could do anything she chose, but
she never really chooses. Sometimes I think she is only playing with her
study. The next day, she astonishes me by some brilliant stroke that
makes me forgive all her past laziness. She's splendid stuff, Ted, only
she needs a balance-wheel. The fact is, the girl is selfish. She isn't
working for love of her profession and the good it can do to others; all
she cares for is the pleasure she takes in it, the pride that it brings
her. That may do in some lines; but a doctor must think beyond that and
outside of himself and his own interests."
"That's true of most of us," Theodora said; "at least, that is what we
are aiming at."
"Some of us; not all. Teddy, you are a comfort to your old father."
"Even if I did help to turn his hair grey?"
He shook his head.
"You used to rush headlong into things, Ted; but you never went very far
astray, and now--"
Theodora seized his arm.
"Hush!" she said, pointing to the shady spot under the trees where Allyn
lay on the grass with Cicely by his side. The girl was bareheaded, and
one shaft of sunlight, slanting down between the oak leaves above her,
struck across her brown hair and across her hand as it lay on Allyn's
"Come, papa, let's leave them there," she added. "Cicely is a better
doctor for Allyn than either you or I."
It was the third day after her talk with Theodora, and Cicely had not so
much as caught a glimpse of Allyn, though she had dropped in at The
Savins repeatedly, on the chance of finding him at home. Whether the boy
had turned his back upon the world, or was merely trying to keep out of
her way, she was at a loss to determine. However, she saw no use in
taking the whole family into her confidence, and she apparently gave her
entire attention to Mrs. McAlister and Phebe, while in reality her grey
eyes were keeping a sharp lookout for the missing boy.
At last she made up her mind that indirect methods were useless. Siege
failing, she determined to carry the place by assault.
"Where is Allyn?" she demanded, as she came up the steps of The Savins
with Melchisedek at her heels.
"I don't know. Get away! Shoo! Cicely, do call your horrid dog away." And
Phebe brandished a scalpel threateningly.
"Here, Melchisedek, come here!"
But Melchisedek, his paws planted on the hem of Phebe's skirt, was
barking madly and making little lunges at something in her lap.
"Get out! Ugh! Do go away! Cicely, call him!"
Cicely stooped and caught up the wriggling little creature who protested
loudly, as she tucked him under her arm.
"Might I inquire what that choice morsel is, Phebe?" she asked
"It's a chicken's gizzard," Phebe answered shortly.
"Oh, and you were having a private lunch out here. Beg pardon for
disturbing you." Cicely's eyes were dancing, and the dimples in her
cheeks were at their deepest; but Phebe never looked up. "Poor little
Melchisedek!" the girl went on. "Wouldn't his old Aunt Babe give him one
little bittie piece? Well, it was too bad. Do you lunch out here from
choice, Babe; or were you sent away from the table?"
"Don't be silly, Cicely. Can't you see I am studying it?"
"To see how it's made."
"Oh, then it's science, not hunger. It's all right, Melchisedek; she is
learning things, not eating them. But what was it you said about Allyn?"
"Please do say something, then. I want him."
"Ask mother," Phebe said absently. "Oh-h, there now!"
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, only it's tough. Do go on."
"Gizzards generally are. If I can do you any little good turn in the way
of table scraps, Babe, don't hesitate to mention it." And Cicely departed
in search of Mrs. McAlister.
"No," she said; "I mustn't stay. I only want Allyn."
"I saw him go across the hill, just after lunch. He had a book with him,
and you may find him reading, somewhere over there. Don't hurry."
"Thank you; I must go." And she went away across the lawn.
She found Allyn quite at the farther side of the grounds, lying in the
tall June grass with his arms folded under his head. Face down beside him
was a book; but his thoughts were elsewhere and quite apart from the
great tree above him into which he was staring so fixedly. Instinctively
he had chosen the most beautiful spot in the grounds where the land
sloped away to the west, across a salt marsh all bright with greeny brown
grasses, and onward into the open country beyond. At the north, a faint
line of white smoke marked the path of a passing train; at the south
could be seen a small blue patch of ocean.
In the thick grass, Cicely's steps were noiseless, and Melchisedek
considerately neglected to bark, so Allyn was unconscious of her
approach. He started suddenly, as she dropped down at his side.
"What do you want?" he asked gruffly.
"You look it," she said merrily, as she pointed to the book against which
Melchisedek had promptly braced his back while he searched for a missing
burr that he had accumulated in the course of his rambles.
"I wish you'd go away," he grumbled.
"I'm not doing any harm," she said composedly. "You don't own this
"My father does, then."
"He won't turn me out."
"Wish he would and done with it." Allyn rolled over on his side with his
back inhospitably turned to his caller.
Her dimples came ever so little. Then she said quietly,
"What a dear, courteous soul you are, Allyn! Please do listen to me, for
I've come to tell you something."
"Tell away, if you want to." He pushed aside Melchisedek who had stolen
up behind him and pounced down upon his ear.
"I want to make peace."
"But if it takes two to make a quarrel, it probably takes two to make a
peace. Allyn, I am tired of fighting. Let's make up."
"What's the use? We should only fight again."
"Perhaps; but sufficient unto the day--We might try it and see."
He made no answer. Instead, he dislodged Melchisedek from a seat on his
neck, and reached out for the neglected book. Cicely anticipated him and
grasped it first. Quickly she dropped her coaxing tone and became curt
"What's that?" she asked.
"Not reading it for fun?"
"Not if I know myself. It's grammar."
"Isn't it hard, though?"
"Beastly. I can't get it into my head. Don't believe anybody can." And
Allyn sat up and vented his spite against the language by hurling a stone
against a distant birch tree.
"What are you studying it for now?" Cicely demanded, as Melchisedek
scurried, yelping rapturously, in search of the flying stone.
"Got to, or else be conditioned."
"I don't believe it is as bad as that."
"Yes, 'tis. I barely scraped through, last Christmas, and papa told me
then that, if I failed now, I couldn't go to Quantuck, but must stay here
alone with him and work all summer."
"And so you are trying to be on the safe side?"
"Not any safe side about it. I was warned, a week ago."
"How horrid!" Cicely said sympathetically. "It won't be any fun at
Quantuck without you. I was counting on having you to explore things
with, you know. I've never been there."
"You'll have to take it out in counting, then."
"I don't see why. You're only warned, and it's two weeks before
"Yes; but I can't get the blamed stuff into me."
"Perhaps I could help you," she suggested.
"You!" Allyn's tone was not altogether complimentary, and Cicely was
uncertain whether she wanted to laugh or to box his ears. "Do you know
"Papa and I used to talk it a good deal," she said demurely; "and I know
something about the grammar."
"Why, I didn't know it. I didn't suppose you knew anything but music." In
his honest boyish wonder, Allyn's voice regained something of its old
"Yes, I was almost ready for college; but, when I came up here, papa said
I'd better take a vacation and only keep up my music," she answered, in
an off-hand way which gave Allyn no hint that he was talking to the show
pupil of Professor Almeron's school. "It was great fun at first; but now
I am honestly sick of having so much vacation and I'd love to take up
my German again if I only had somebody to do it with."
"Do you like to study?"
"N--no; but I don't mind it. I like to practise better."
"I hate it all. I wish I weren't going to college."
"What do you for, then?"
"Oh, I'm expected to. They all take it for granted. Ted did, and Hubert
and Billy. I hate languages, though. I'd like to cut the whole thing."
"What do you like?"
Cicely clasped her hands in sudden envy.
"Oh, I do love pictures! Can you draw? I never saw any."
"I never drew a picture in my life." Allyn's tone was disdainful.
"What do you draw then?"
"Machinery, of course. Wheels and pulleys and things. It's such fun to
fit them together, Cis, and see how you can get the power across from one
to the other."
Her eyes flashed at the use of her nickname once more. She felt that the
feud was forgotten, as she asked, with an interest which was not all
"Have you any of them?"
"Not here; but lots of them in my room. I do them, evenings and all sorts
of off times, and some of them aren't so simple as they look, either."
"Has anybody seen them?"
He shook his head.
"What's the use? Phebe's bones are bad enough. The house wouldn't hold
two cranks. Nobody else knows."
"I want to see them," she asserted.
"They aren't anything to see. Besides, you couldn't understand them."
"I'm not so sure of that. At least, you might try me."
"Anyhow, I like them lots better than I do this stuff." He thumped the
German grammar viciously.
"Why don't you do them then?"
"I mean instead of college."
"Papa wouldn't let me."
"Have you ever asked him?"
"What's the use? He wants me to be a doctor."
"Do you want to?"
"No. Babe is enough to make me sick of doctors," he answered with
"I like doctors, myself; but I'd rather be a good machinist than a
"So would I, a plaguy sight," he muttered; "but the others wouldn't
"I can't see why," Cicely said thoughtfully. "It is smutty work, and
it doesn't sound exactly aristocratic; but soap is cheap, and you
aren't obliged to eat out of a tin pail. Allyn, I'd do it if I were in
He turned to face her, and his brown eyes were lighted with his
"I wish I could," he said excitedly, his words tumbling over and over
each other. "Ever since I was a little bit of a fellow, I've liked such
things, machinery and all that. I've felt at home with it and wanted to
handle it. I hate school and the things the fellows care for, girls and
dancing school and that stuff--I don't mean you, Cis; you're more like
a boy,--and I hate worst of all the everlasting Greek and Latin. It is
out of my line; I can't see anything in it. There's some sense in
machinery. You can handle it, and mend it, and make it go, and maybe
improve it. That's enough better than things you get out of books. Do
you suppose there would be any chance of their letting me cut school
and go into a shop?"
With a boy's eager haste, now that his secret was out, he was for
dropping everything else and rushing headlong into his hobby. Cicely
"Wait," she said, as she rested her hand on his for an instant. "You're
only fifteen, and there is plenty of time to decide. It is worth trying
for, and I think perhaps you may get your way; but, first of all, you'll
have to prove that it isn't just because you are too lazy to study Greek
and German that you want to give it up. If you pass good examinations,
this June, your chance will be all the better. Then you can go off, this
summer, and take time to think it over. By fall, you can tell what you
really do want; and, if your father is the man I think he is, and if you
behave yourself in the meantime, I believe you will get it." She paused
and, for the second time in her acquaintance with him, she felt Allyn's
fingers close warmly on her own; but he only said,--
"You're not half bad for a girl, Cis."
"And when shall we begin our Dutch?" she asked, determined to clinch the
fact of their treaty of peace.
"When can you?"
"To-night. Come over at eight, and I'll be ready. We'll take an hour,
every evening and I'll do fudge afterward."
The dinner bell was sounding at The Savins, as Cicely and Allyn came
strolling homeward. It was evident that they had been for a long walk.
Melchisedek's tail drooped dejectedly, and Allyn carried a sheaf of
nodding yellow lilies, while Cicely had the despised grammar tucked under
one arm and a bunch of greenish white clovers in the other hand. They
came on, shoulder to shoulder, talking busily, and Theodora as she
watched them, was well content.
At the table, Cicely ignored the events of the afternoon
"Allyn is having a bad time with his German and I am going to see if I
can help him," was all she said. "Are you going to use the library,
"'Lit-tle ones to him be-long,
Vey are weak, but he is strong.'
"Mam-ma-a-a!" Mac's burst of psalmody ended in a roar.
"Yes, Mac. Here I am."
Mac toiled up the stairs and into his mother's room.
"I fought maybe you wanted to see me," he observed. "What for you putting
all vose fings into ve box?"
"Because we are going to see grandpapa and Aunt Teddy, and then we are
all going to the seashore."
"What is ve seashore?"
"The ocean, the great, broad blue water without any edge to it, where the
waves keep tumbling over and over on the beach."
"What's beach?" he demanded. Always used to the mountains, the
phraseology of the sea was a new tongue to him.
"It's the edge of the water," his mother said absently, while she tried
to fold an organdie gown to the best advantage.
"But you said vere wouldn't be any edge," he protested, for he was
nothing if not logical, and he insisted upon logic from others.
"Well, never mind now. Run away, dear, and I'll tell you about it, some
But Mac festooned himself across the open box couch.
"No; sometime isn't ever, and I wants to hear it now. I do 'clare, mamma,
you've put in my best coat." And before she could stop him, he had
pounced upon it and pulled it out, upsetting a superstratum of gowns in
"Mac, let that be."
"But I want it, mamma. I want to wear it. I look just too sweet in it."
"Well, vat's what Lizabuf said. Will Lizabuf go too?"
"Who will take care of me, and put me into my coatsleeves ven?"
"I'd ravver have Lizabuf. Oh, mamma, is vat your swishy dress? It's so
beautiful!" This time, Mac lost his balance and plunged headlong into the
trunk. For one moment, his chubby legs waved in the air; then his mother
seized him and set him down in a chair at the farther side of the room.
"Now, Mac, I want you to stay there," she said with decision.
There was a brief silence. Then Mac remarked,--
"You act and look awful bangy, to-day, mamma, just as if you were going
to sweep rooms right away."
Five days later, Mrs. Holden acknowledged to herself that she felt
"bangy." It was her first long journey without her husband and, less
independent than her sisters, she would have dreaded it in any case.
Without Mr. Holden, the trip was an undertaking; with Mac, it was almost
insupportable. She embarked with a lunch basket, with picture books and
with theories. She landed, a chastened woman. Within twelve hours, the
basket was empty, the picture books were in shreds, and Mac, bareheaded,
coated with cinders and wreathed in smiles, was prancing up and down the
car, heedless of her admonitions. By day, the other passengers petted
him and encouraged him to all manner of pertnesses. At night, they
murmured, not always among themselves, when he waked up and in stentorian
tones demanded a drink. No child of three is altogether a desirable
companion on a long journey, least of all McAlister Holden. Small wonder
that it was a pale and haggard Hope who drove up to The Savins, one night
in late June, while Mac was as vivacious as at the start!
He went through the introductions with the nonchalance of his years,
though he resisted Theodora's efforts to kiss him, and sniffed
disdainfully at Phebe who was trying for her sister's sake to conceal her
dislike of children. By Mrs. McAlister's side, he paused and looked
straight up into her face. Then he tucked his hand into hers confidingly.
"Are you my grandma?"
"Why, you look too new," he said frankly, and then put up his rosy lips
for a kiss. For the moment, the cherub side was uppermost, and his
mother, as she reflected upon the permanence of first impressions,
rejoiced that it was so, and she hurried the child off to bed, for fear
he might do something to destroy the illusion.
"Mamma," he said sleepily, as she left him, to go down for her own
dinner; "will you please tell me just vis much?"
"Were you a mamma when you lived here before?"
"And now you've grown out into a beautifully mamma. Good-night!" And he
went to sleep with the saintly side of his character still uppermost.
The Farringtons and Cicely dined at The Savins; but, directly after
dinner, Cicely excused herself and went home to do some practising.
"No; I suppose it could wait," she said to Allyn who followed her to the
door; "but it must be done some time. It is ages since you were all here
together, and you ought to be just by yourselves to-night."
"But you are one of the family," Allyn protested.
"That's nice of you, Allyn; but it isn't quite the same thing. Besides,
if I practise now, I shall have more time for fun, to-morrow. Go back to
your sister. Isn't she a dear?"
"Yes, Hope is a good one," Allyn said, though without much enthusiasm;
"but Ted is worth ten of her, according to my notions." And Cicely nodded
up at him in token of agreement.
By the time dinner was over, the evening had grown chilly, and the
McAlisters drew up their chairs around the open fire.
"All here once more, thank God!" the doctor said contentedly, as he
settled himself between Theodora and Mrs. Holden.
"This seems just like the good old times," Theodora added. "It's five
years since we were all here together, like this. Doesn't it make you
feel as if you had never been away, Hope?"
"Yes, almost. If Allyn weren't quite so grown up and Billy so lively, I
should believe we were children again. Ted, do you remember the first
night that Archie came here?"
"The night I went slumming and stole the child? I should say I
did. Archie didn't take it kindly at all, when he found the infant
in his bed."
"That reminds me, papa," Phebe said abruptly; "Isabel and I want to take
some fresh-air children, next week."
"Why, Babe, I don't see how you can," Theodora remonstrated.
"I didn't ask you, Teddy. I have thought it all over, and I can't see any
objections. I should take all the care of it, and I want to do it."
"But the house is so full, Babe," Mrs. McAlister said. "There isn't any
room for one."
"It could sleep on the lounge in my room. I wouldn't let it trouble you
any. It is a fine charity, and this is such a good place for a child to
play. Isabel will take one for a week, if I will, and I said I would.
There is just time, before I go away," Phebe said with an air of
finality which would have ended the subject, had it not been for Allyn's
"They'd better get its life insured, then, for there's no telling how
long it will be before Babe takes it as a subject for her scalpel."
"Don't be foolish, Allyn," Phebe returned; but Hubert interposed,--
"Isn't Archie going to come on at all, this summer, Hope?"
"I'm afraid not. Summer is his busy time, and he will be out in camp till
"I don't see the use of having that kind of a husband," Phebe
"You like the kind like me better; don't you, Babe?"
"No; I should get sick of having you everlastingly around the house,
Billy. I want a man to have hours and stick to them, not keep running in
and out. I sha'n't marry. If I did, I would insist on a ten-hour law;
then I could be sure of getting some time to myself."
"Archie lives on a ten-month law," his wife said regretfully. "Of course,
I can go out to camp to be with him; but it's not good for Mac. He picks
up all the talk of the miners and retails it at inopportune times, and
runs wild generally. Archie usually comes home for a day, every two or
three weeks; but, this year, he is too far out for that, so I thought it
was best for me to come East now."
"You had an easy journey; didn't you?" Hubert asked.
"Yes; at least, as easy as it could be with Mac."
"I think you have slandered Mac," Mrs. McAlister observed. "He seems as
gentle as a cooing dove."
Hope and Theodora exchanged glances, as Hubert said laughingly,--
"That's because he paid you a compliment. Your judgment isn't a
But Hope only added,--
"Wait and see what the morrow may bring forth."
The morrow brought forth Mac, rested, refreshed, ready for mischief.
Before breakfast was on the table, he had had an unfriendly interview
with Patrick, had come into collision with Melchisedek, and Mrs.
McAlister met him hurriedly retiring from the kitchen with both hands
full of fried potatoes. The next that was seen of him, he was playing
horse on the front lawn, and Allyn was the horse. Even in his brief
survey of the family, the night before, Mac had come to a decision upon
two points. He did not like his Aunt Phebe; he did like his Uncle Allyn.
And Allyn, unaccustomed to children though he was, promptly became the
slave of his imperious young nephew.
"Oh, Hope, it is good to have you here," Theodora said, with a
tempestuous embrace, when Mrs. Holden appeared at the door of the
writing-room, that morning.
"Then I am not in the way?"
"Not a bit. I'm not writing, to-day; I can't settle myself, when I know
you are within reach."
"Perhaps I'd better go back to Helena," Hope suggested.
"No; I shall calm down in time; but I never get used to having you so far
away. It never seems quite right, when the rest of us are all here
"I am a little terrified at the prospect of the coming week," Hope
said, as she sat down on the couch and looked across the lawn to where
Mac was playing.
"Babe is to have her fresh-air child."
"Hope! You don't mean it?"
"Yes, she has coaxed papa into giving his consent. Is it a new
idea to you?"
Theodora dropped her duster, and sat down beside her sister.
"It's new to us all," she said despairingly. "We never heard of it till
last night. What will that girl do next? She detests children, and she
has about as much idea of discipline as she has about--raising poultry.
It is Isabel St. John's doing, I know. She is Babe's best-beloved
friend; and where one leads, the other will follow."
"Babe seems to be in earnest about it," Hope said charitably.
"She's in earnest about everything--by fits and starts. It only doesn't
last. She seems to be losing something of her medical fervor, and
probably this is taking its place. I suppose she has met somebody who
slums for a living, and the idea enchants her. I used to have aspirations
that way, myself; but I am coming to the conclusion that for me charity
begins at home, and that it counts for more to make Billy comfortable
than to make his life a burden with my hobbies."
"Blunt as ever, Teddy?" Hope's laugh had no sting.
"Yes. I haven't reformed yet. Things 'rile' me, just as they used to,
things and people. I'm a good hater, Hope." There was a suspicious
glitter in her eyes; but it vanished, as Hope's hand touched her own.
"And a good lover, too, dear. I wasn't criticising, for I think you are
in the right of it. But Babe really seems rather practical. She only
wants the child for a week, and she agrees to take all the care of it
and give it its meals away from the table."
"Yes; but what will she do with it?" Theodora's tone showed her
perplexity. "There's no telling what may happen in the course of a week.
She will test all the theories of all the cranks on the one poor baby,
one theory a day, and by the end of the week, there won't be any baby
left to send home again."
"My chief worry is for Mac," Hope said resignedly.
"Oh, I don't think the child will hurt him," Theodora reassured her.
"They won't dare send a very bad one."
"No; but it may work the other way about. I am a good deal more worried
in regard to Mac's effect on the child, and--"
"No, Mac. I told you that you mustn't come here. This is Aunt Teddy's
house, and people don't come here, unless she invites them."
The door swung open a little way, and a chubby face appeared in
"Ven please 'vite me now, Aunt Teddy."
"You may come in, Mac."
Mac came in, wriggled his fat little body into the narrow space between
his mother and his aunt, and gave a sigh of relief.
"Vere," he said gravely; "we're all fixed nice, Aunt Teddy, just ve way
my mamma does when she's going to give me somefing good to eat."
"I really can't see why they should call this cottage Valhalla," Dr.
McAlister said thoughtfully.
"Probably because there isn't any hall, and the dining-room is a tight
fit for five of us," Phebe answered, as she took a cup from the china
closet without troubling herself to leave her seat at the table.
"Teddy's establishment boasts the poetic name of Dandelion Lodge," Mrs.
McAlister added. "There isn't a dandelion in sight, and, architecturally
speaking, it is more like a hen-house than a lodge. Still, I suppose it
is well to have a name, even if there isn't anything in it."
"No matter," Hope said contentedly; "it's good to be free from the
everlasting Belviews and Wavecrests. Valhalla isn't trite; Babe and I
will be the Valkyries, and we have caught one hero already." She smiled
at her father, as she spoke.
"I intend to have another before I leave here," Phebe proclaimed, as she
passed her plate for more fish. "One hero isn't enough for us; we need
"Where will you get him, sister Valkyrie?"
"I don't know; out of the briny deep perhaps, but time will show."
"'Or old Valhalla's roaring hail,
Her ever-circling mead and ale,'"
the doctor sang, and Phebe joined his song,--
"'Where for eternity unite
The joys of wassail ad the fight,'"
for the stirring ballad was a favorite with them both.
Mac levelled his fork at them accusingly.
"You mustn't sing at ve table. It's horrid to sing at ve table."
"I beg your pardon, Mac," said his grandfather meekly.
Outside their windows, the sun was glowing over the steel blue sea. Not a
sail broke the distance; only the ceaseless tossing of white foam above
the rips, and close at hand a dory or two, rocking and rolling just
outside the line of surf. In the foreground was a broad strip of sand and
silvery beach grass then a narrower strip of sand without any grass at
all, and then the huge breakers which came crashing in, wave on wave,
mounting up, curling over, falling, breaking and racing up the sharp
slope of sand, with never a halt for rest. Beyond that, the sea; beyond
that again, three thousand miles beyond, Spain.
Qantuck lies crescent-wise along its low sandy cliff. The arms of the
crescent are made up of new houses of more normal shape and size; but
between them, the primeval village huddles itself together around the old
town pump. No seaside villas are there, but the tiny low cottages of the
old fishing hamlet, which seem to have grown like an amoeba, by the
simple process of putting out arms in any direction that chance may
dictate. Between them, the rutted, grass-grown roads are so narrow that
traffic is seriously congested by the meeting of a box cart and a certain
stout old dachshund that frequents the streets, and the cottages present
their fronts or sides or rears to the roads, according to the whim of the
owner. Crowded under the cliff are the bits of fishhouses, built, like
the cottages above, all of shingles all gray with the passing years, for
Quantuck history stretches back far into the long-ago, when, Town seven
miles away, was a prosperous whaling port. But though the summer
visitors come in schools like the bluefish, the little gray village on
the cliff is unchanging and unchanged.
In the very heart of the old settlement, poised on the verge of the
cliff, Valhalla and Dandelion Lodge were side by side, and the middle of
July found Dr. McAlister in one, in the other the Farringtons with Hubert
and Allyn as their guests.
"Valhalla can't hold you all," Billy had said, when they were making
their plans for the summer. "If we take the Lodge, there will be an
extra room, and Allyn and Hubert may as well use it. It really won't
make any difference how we divide up. At Quantuck the houses only count
on foggy days."
In fact, it had been Billy's idea, their choosing Quantuck, that summer.
Years before, in his young boyhood, the Farringtons had been there,
season after season, and he had always wanted to get back to the old
place. Again and again he had been prevented, and it was not until this
summer that he had succeeded in carrying out his plans. Now, for the
first time in years, Dr. McAlister had consented to take a long vacation;
Theodora's novel was locked up in the safe at home, waiting for
revision; Hubert was to be with them for three weeks of the time, and
Hope had come on from Helena to make the family circle complete.
To no one of the family had the week before the flitting been absolutely
enjoyable. On one scorching July morning, Phebe and Phebe's own familiar
friend, Isabel St. John, had roused their respective households at four
o'clock in order that they might catch the six-thirty train for New York.
Once there, they betook themselves to Hester Street in order to study the
conditions of life in the East Side. It chanced, however, to be Friday,
market day, and the place was a veritable Babel with the cries of the
hucksters and the shrill clamor of the women elbowing each other about
the push-carts. No one paid any heed to the girls; and on their side,
after a brief inspection they paid heed to but one question, how to get
out of the region as speedily as possible. Accordingly, they went up town
to lunch, strolled about Twenty-third Street for an hour or two before
going to the office of the fresh-air charity, and, late that evening,
reappeared at their own front doors, each with a wan and weary child at
her heels. Isabel's was a boy; Phebe, in deference to the conditions of a
family treaty, had a girl.
For about three weeks, Phebe's table had been heaped with books on
child-study, on pedagogy, on domestic hygiene; her room had been littered
with syllabi on child impressions in every conceivable relation. Phebe
was resolved to be scientific, or die in the attempt. She came nearer
achieving the latter alternative. The struggle began on the first morning
of her new charge. She was up early and ran down to the kitchen to put
the oatmeal over the fire. Then full of courage and sociological zeal,
she approached the tub, a thermometer in one hand, the child in the
other. The fray which followed, was a short one. It began with Phebe's
dropping the thermometer on the floor and plumping the child bodily into
the bath. It ended with the child's breaking away and diving into bed
again, dripping with bath-water and tears, while Phebe picked up the
scattered fragments of the thermometer and fished the towels from the tub
where they floated limply.
During the next half hour, Phebe parted with most of her theories and all
of her temper. In the first place, she had never before tried to dress a
child, and this first experience was not a pleasing one. The child's toes
persisted in catching in the tops of the stockings, the little waist
seemed to her unaccustomed eyes to be constructed upside down, and the
scant little skirt went on hind side before. In spite of shrill
protestations, she braided up the lanky hair and scoured a patch of skin
in the very middle of the child's face, and at last the toilet was
complete. Breakfast brought with it a new chapter in her experiences. No
arguments could induce the child to touch the oatmeal, unless it were
combined with equal parts of sugar, and Phebe meekly yielded to the
inevitable, while she hung up the dripping sheets to dry. Then she locked
the child into her room, and went wearily down to join the others at the
Later, when she appeared on the lawn, leading her charge by the hand, Mac
came forward to meet them. With his pudgy hands clasped behind him and
his small legs wide apart, he halted in front of the girl and, bending
forward, peered up under her sunbonnet.
"Shake hands, baby," he said encouragingly.
The child obediently put out one small fist; but unluckily Phebe had
spent all her energies on the face and neglected the hands entirely. Mac
looked at the grimy fingers, recalled the talk at the breakfast-table and
put his own hands behind him once more.
"Nahsty little girl!" he said severely, and, turning on his heel,
departed in search of Allyn.
For the next seven days, Phebe passed through every variety of toil and
woe and anxiety, also, it must be confessed, of teasing from her family.
According to its lights, the child was good. It was not bright enough to
be mischievous; it was pitifully apathetic on most points. In four
directions, however, it held pronounced opinions, and, moreover, it had
the courage of its convictions. It refused to be left alone for more than
five minutes at a time; it refused to be washed; it refused to eat plain
food, and it persisted, in spite of all opposition, in calling Phebe
_grandma_. The title suggested affectionate devotion; but Phebe would
have given up the devotion with perfect readiness.
It had been decreed that, if Phebe took the child, she should assume the
whole responsibility in the matter, and she was resolute in carrying out
her share of the compact. Theodora washed her hands of the affair
entirely and only viewed it as an immense joke; but Hope, motherly and
tender-hearted woman that she was, tried her best to come to the aid of
her young sister. It was in vain. The little girl, homesick and forlorn
for her wonted ways and plays, appeared to regard Phebe as the sole
connecting link between the present gilded captivity and her old-time
freedom. She wailed loudly at the approach of any one else, and was only
content when her temporary guardian was within sight and touch. For seven
weary days, the child was Phebe's inseparable companion and adjunct. On
the evening of the eighth day, Phebe came home from New York, burned her
syllabi and carried seven bulky tomes back to the public library.
"Retail reform isn't of the least use," she said vehemently to Isabel,
that night. "Next time, I'll either import a colony, or let the whole
thing alone. Either I will go and live with them, or nothing. It doesn't
do any good to drag them here to pine for their ashbins. Just wait till
next year, Isabel, and we'll try one of the settlements. This year, I've
got to go to Quantuck and enjoy myself."
With whatever misgivings she started for Quantuck, she certainly achieved
her end of enjoying herself. The summer colony, that year, was a large
and lively one, and Phebe threw herself into it with the same fervor
which had marked her entrance into slumming, and, before that, into
medicine. Skeletons and syllabi appeared to be alike forgotten; golf and
swimming lessons took their place, and Phebe revelled in her out-of-door
life as simply and as sincerely as Mac himself. Out on the cliff at dawn,
down on the beach for the bathing hour, out to the links for the
afternoon, back on the beach to watch the moon rise, she was perpetually
active, perpetually in earnest, perpetually in a hurry. To the others,
her energy was amusing and, at times, a little wearing. They liked better
to spend long hours on the beach, where their awning soon became a focal
point for the fun of the bathing hour; they loved to roam over the moors,
to sit down now and then on their own broad piazzas and glance from book
to sea and from sea to book again with the curious indifference to time
and literature which is characteristic of the place.
"Do stay down here, this afternoon," Theodora urged her, one day. "The
Bensons are coming over here soon, and it is much more fun to be here, a
day like this, than to be prancing around those links."
But Phebe shook her head.
"I didn't come down here to frivol, Ted; I leave that to you. Nobody
knows when I may have another chance to get myself in good form at golf,
and I must make the most of this."
"But there are more days coming, and the Bensons are such pleasant
people to know."
"I know more people now than I can get any good of," Phebe said, as she
balanced her driver, and then swept it around in a circle with a force
which nearly overturned her. "What's the use of any more? There comes
Harold; he's going to caddy for me, to-day. I must go."
"What do you suppose can be the attraction out at the links?" Theodora
said, after she had gone.
"Sheer delight in the sport," Hubert answered lazily, for he was
sprawling on the sand by his sister's side, and it seemed almost too
great an effort to speak.
"Isn't there any attendant knight?" Hope asked. "Phebe is impenetrable;
but I have sometimes wondered whether there might not be a social side to
it, rather than athletic."
"Don't waste any romance on Babe, Hope," Hubert advised her. "I wondered
about it, myself, for there is rather a gay crowd out there, and I didn't
know what might be going on. I went out, one day. I found the others all
in a bunch, and Babe tearing around the links all by herself, with her
poor caddie trotting hard to keep up with her."
"Who's that? Babe?" Allyn had suddenly plunged into the midst of the
group. "I hear that the caddies are talking of a boycott, charging her
double fees unless she goes slow. She plays a smashing game; but there's
no sort of sense in the way she goes about it."
"Babe is upsetting all my ideas," she said languidly. "I had always
regarded golf as a suitable amusement for stout elderly persons who
waddled, a good deal like the caucus race in _Alice_. Babe's vigor fairly
takes my breath away."
"Same with her swimming," Allyn remarked, with a certain pride. "She's
gone into it all over."
"Into the surf?" Cicely inquired, as she scooped little mounds of sand
over his feet.
"Yes, just that. She swims under water like a fish. There isn't another
girl here to beat her. You are nothing but a porpoise beside her, Cis,
and you swim fairly well. Hope, I do wish you'd take lessons. I'm tired
of seeing you chug up and down beside that lifeline."
"Do you know," Theodora said meditatively; "I'd rather face the
footlights at the Metropolitan than come down this beach at the bathing
hour. It makes me feel pigeon-toed in the extreme."
Cicely eyed her with a calm lack of comprehension born of healthy
"I don't see why," she said.
"Because you stay in the water, and can't hear the gossip along shore,"
Theodora answered. "Just you stay out here, some morning, and sit in the
Dragons' Row, as Billy calls it, and you will find out what I mean.
Charity covers a multitude of sins; but it never drapes an awkward woman
in an unbecoming bathing suit."
"That is where Babe has the advantage," Hubert remarked. "She isn't
exactly graceful; but she is no more awkward than an unbroken colt."
"And she acts a good deal like one," Hope added, laughing. "Still, she
may get broken soon, so let's let her go her ways in peace. She has
worked hard, the past six months, and she deserves to be allowed to take
her vacation in any form she chooses."
Down on the shore, Dragons' Row was holding high carnival. It was the
bathing hour, when those who had much energy plunged through and through
the breakers, those who had little floundered in the edge of the foam,
and those who had none sat upright under the awnings, lorgnette in hand,
and passed judgment upon their fellows. The tall, sinewy bathing master
sat on the shore, his yellow collie beside him, enjoying an interval of
well-earned leisure, for at this season he was the most conspicuous and
the most popular figure on Quantuck beach. Just now, he was looking on in
manifest pride at the skill of his latest pupil, Phebe McAlister. Even
Dragons' Row fell silent, when Phebe took to the water for her noon bath.
It was good to see her free, firm step as she came down the board walk,
dressed in the plain black suit which set off her fresh, clear skin and
her bright hair. Phebe scorned caps entirely, and no sunburn could
roughen her cheeks. Her suit fitted her, and she was as trim and comely
in it as in her more conventional raiment. Once on the beach, she had a
trick of standing for a moment, looking out at the distant water with an
unconsciousness which was not feigned, then rapidly measuring the
incoming wave, she chose the exact moment of its rising to curl over and
break, plunged through it and, after an interval when the onlookers
waited breathlessly, she reappeared on the farther side and swam
tranquilly away up the shore. Hope might cling to the lifeline and be
boiled to her heart's content, and Theodora was welcome to paddle about
in the thick of the crowd, with Hubert and Billy beside her. To Phebe,
there was something fairly intoxicating in the knowledge of her strength,
in feeling the free, firm play of her muscles and in conquering the power
of the sea.
The wind had been blowing strongly, all the morning, and the waves were
rolling in heavily. Their green tops were crested with white foam which
rose high and higher, curved over as softly as a rose petal, balanced for
a brief second, then fell with a crash and went flowing up the bank of
the beach, circling and twisting in countless eddies that now and then
crept to the very awnings and caused a stampede among their inhabitants.
A dozen portly matrons sat in the sand, rocking to and fro as the wave
came up about them and receded; and children innumerable pranced around
them, playing tag with the tricky surf that often caught them unawares.
"Grandma," Mac said, trudging up to the McAlister awning with a pail of
sand under his arm; "isn't vat sky just lovely? I'd like to fly up vere,
and maybe God would let me work ve sun."
"Do you think you could work it, Mac?"
"Yes, it goes just like ve clock. He winds it up wiv a key, and ven it
goes all right. Grandma!"
Mac dropped his sand into her lap, and then plumped himself down
by her side.
"Did you see vat funny man in ve pinky suit? Well, he's Mrs.
"Hush, dear!" Mrs. McAlister said hastily, for Mrs. Benson's awning was
next her own.
"What for should I hush? He is funny; just you look at him and see."
"Mac is earning his right to a place in Dragons' Row," Hubert observed
from the spot, ten feet away, where he was taking a sunbath between
plunges. "Why don't you come in, mother?"
"I dare not face the critics," she answered laughingly, while she
emptied Mac's sand from her lap. "I shouldn't come out of it as well as
Hubert raised himself on his elbow and looked after his sister with
"She's the best swimmer on the beach, except Mr. Drayton," he said, as he
dropped back again and burrowed his brown arms into the sand. "If he
gives her many more lessons, she'll beat him at his own trade, and that's
saying a good deal."
Phebe, meanwhile, had been swimming with the tide and was now far up the
shore. There she landed herself through the breakers as craftily as a
fisherman lands his dory, and came tramping back toward the awning onto
more. Not even the deep sand could hamper her light step, as she came
striding along with a perfect disregard of the buzz which passed along
the line of awnings parallel with her coming.
"Miss Phebe McAlister, Dr. McAlister's daughter, splendid looking girl,
but rather eccentric, they say." "A perfect snob; but I don't know as I
blame her. Sister to Mrs. Farrington, that tall woman with the handsome
husband." "Sister to Mrs. Theodora McAlister Farrington, the novelist.
Isn't she superb? But I hear she doesn't care a fig for society."
So the buzz ran on, and Phebe passed by, heedless of it, heedless, too,
of the gaze of a young man who stood alone, a little back of the line of
awnings. It was evident that he was a stranger, for he spoke to no one,
although it is not easy to be unsocial at Quantuck. For the rest, he was
tall, strongly built, with a fresh, boyish face; he wore a little pointed