Part 4 out of 7
telegram was directed to Philip Penrose, at the Colonial Theatre,
Will be with you this evening. Depend on me. Heartsick at news.
When he went upstairs again, he rapped at his stepmother's door.
Hatted, and with a fur coat over her arm, she opened it.
"Are you taking Fanny?" said Duncan, icily. Fanny, the maid, middle-
aged, loyal, could be trusted with the honor of the Coppereds.
"Heavens, no!" said Mrs. Coppered, vigorously.
"Then I hope you will not object to my escort," said the boy,
If he meant it for reproach, it missed its mark. Mrs. Coppered's
surprised look became doubtful, finally changed to relief.
"Why, that's very sweet of you, Duncan," she said graciously,
"especially as I can't tell you what I'm going for, my dear, for it
may not occur. But I think, of all people in the world, you're the
one to go with me!"
Duncan eyed her severely.
"At the same time," he said, "I can't for one moment pretend--"
"Exactly; so that it's all the nicer of you to volunteer to come
along!" she said briskly. "You'll have to hurry, Duncan. And ask
Paul to come up for my trunk, will you? We leave the house in half
Mrs. Coppered advised her stepson to supply himself with magazines
on the train.
"For I shall have to read," she said, "and perhaps you won't be able
And read she did, with hardly a look or a word for him. She turned
and re-turned the pages of a little paper-covered book, moving her
lips and knitting her brows over it as she read.
Duncan, miserably apprehensive that they would meet some
acquaintance and have to give an explanation of their mad journey,
satisfied himself that there was no such immediate danger, and,
assuming a forbidding expression, sat erect in his seat. But he
finally fell into an uneasy sleep, not rousing himself until the
train drew into the Forty-second Street station late in the evening.
His stepmother had made a rough pillow of his overcoat and put it
between his shoulder and the window-frame; but he did not comment
upon it as he slipped it on and followed her through the roaring,
chilly station to a taxicab.
"The Colonial Theatre, as fast as you can!" said she, as they jumped
in. She was obviously nervous, biting her lips and humming under her
breath as she watched the brilliantly lighted streets they threaded
so slowly. Almost before it stopped she was out of the cab, at the
entrance of a Broadway theatre. Duncan, alert and suspicious, read
the name "Colonial" in flaming letters, and learned from a larger
sign that Miss Eleanor Forsythe and an all-star cast were appearing
therein in a revival of Reade's "Masks and Faces."
In the foyer Mrs. Coppered asked authoritatively for the manager. It
was after ten o'clock, the curtain had risen on the last act, and a
general opinion prevailed that Mr. Wyatt had gone home. But Mrs.
Coppered's distinguished air, her magnificent furs, her beauty, all
had their effect, and presently Duncan followed her into the hot,
untidy little office where the manager was to be found.
He was a pleasant, weary-looking man, who wheeled about from his
desk as they came in, and signed the page to place chairs.
"Mr. Wyatt," said Mrs. Coppered, with her pleasantest smile, "can
you give us five minutes?"
"I can give you as many as you like, madam," said the manager,
patiently, but with a most unpromising air.
"Only five!" she reassured him, as they sat down. Then, with an
absolutely businesslike air, she continued: "Mr. Wyatt, you have Mr.
and Mrs. Penrose in your company, I think, both very old friends of
mine. She's playing Mabel Vane,--Mary Archer is the name she uses,--
and he's Triplet. Isn't that so?"
The manager nodded, eying her curiously.
"Mr. Wyatt, you've heard of their trouble, of course? The accident
this morning to their little boy?"
"Ah, yes--yes," said Wyatt. "Of course. Hurt by a fall, poor little
fellow. Very serious. Yes, poor things! Did you want to see--"
"You know that one of your big surgeons here--I've forgotten the
name!--is to operate on little Phil tomorrow?" asked Mrs. Coppered.
"So Penrose said," assented the manager, slowly, watching her as if
a little surprised at her insistence.
"Mr. Wyatt." said Mrs. Coppered,--and Duncan noticed that she had
turned a little pale,--"Mrs. Penrose wired me news of all this only
a few hours ago. She is half frantic at the idea that she must go on
tomorrow afternoon and evening; yet the understudy is ill, and she
felt it was too short notice to ask you to make a change now. But it
occurred to me to come to see you about it. I want to ask you a
favor. I want you to let me play Mrs. Penrose's part tomorrow
afternoon and tomorrow night. I've played Mabel Vane a hundred
times; it's a part I know very well," she went on quickly. "I--I am
not in the least afraid that I can't take it. And then she can be
with the little boy through the operation and afterward--he's only
five, you know, at the unreasonable age when all children want their
mothers! Can't that be arranged, Mr. Wyatt?"
Duncan, holding a horrified breath, fixed his eyes, as he did, on
the manager's face. He was relieved at the inflexible smile he saw
"My dear lady," said Wyatt, kindly, "that is--absolutely--OUT of the
question! Anything in reason I will be delighted to do for Penrose
and Miss Archer--but you must surely realize that I can't do that!"
"But wait!" said Mrs. Coppered, eagerly, not at all discouraged.
"Don't say no yet! I AM an actress, Mr. Wyatt, or was one. I know
the part thoroughly. And the circumstances--the circumstances are
unusual, aren't they?"
While she was speaking the manager was steadily shaking his head.
"I have no doubt you could play the part," said he, "but I can't
upset my whole company by substituting now. Tomorrow is going to be
a big night. The house is completely sold out to the Masons--their
convention week, you know. As it happens, there couldn't be a more
inconvenient time. No, I can't consider it!"
Mrs. Coppered smiled at him. She had a very winning smile.
"It would mean a rehearsal; I suppose THAT would be inconvenient, to
begin with," she said.
"Exactly," said Wyatt. "Friday night. I can't ask my people to
"But suppose you put it to them and they were all willing?" pursued
"My dear lady, I tell you it's absolutely--" He made a goaded
gesture. Then, making fierce little dashes and dots on his blotter
with his pencil, and eying each one ferociously as he made it, he
added irritably, but in a quieter tone: "You're an actress, eh?
Where'd you get your experience?"
"With various stock companies on the Pacific Coast," she answered
readily. "My name was Margaret Charteris. I don't suppose you ever
"As it happens, I HAVE," he returned, surprised into interest. "You
knew Joe Pitcher, of course. He spoke of you. I remember the name
"Professor Pitcher!" she exclaimed radiantly. "Of course I knew him-
-dear old man! Where is he--still there?"
"Still there," he assented absently. "You married, I think?"
"I am Mrs. Coppered now--Mrs. Carey Coppered," she said. The man
gave her a suddenly awakened glance.
"Surely," he said thoughtfully. They looked steadily at each other,
and Duncan saw the color come into Margaret's face. There was a
Then the manager flung down his pencil, wheeled about in his chair,
and rubbed his hands briskly together.
"Well!" he said. "And you think you can take Miss Archer's place,
"If you will let me."
"Why," he said,--and Duncan would not have believed that the
somewhat heavy face could wear a look so pleasant,--"you are doing
so much, Mrs. Coppered, in stepping into the gap this way, that I'll
do my share if I can! Perhaps I can't arrange it, but we can try.
I'll call a rehearsal and speak to Miss Forsythe to-night. If you
know the part, it's just possible that by going over it now we can
get out of a rehearsal tomorrow. She wants to be with the little
boy, eh?" he added musingly. "Yes, I suppose it might make a big
difference, his not being terrified by strangers." And then, turning
toward Margaret, he said warmly and a little awkwardly: "This is a
remarkably kind thing for you to do, Mrs. Coppered."
"Oh, I would do more than that for Mary Penrose," said she, with a
little difficulty. "She knows it. She wired me as a mad last hope
today, and we came as fast as we could, Mr. Coppered and I." And she
introduced Duncan very simply: "My stepson, Mr. Wyatt."
Duncan, fuming, could be silent no longer.
"I hope my--Mrs. Coppered is not serious in offering to do this,"
said he, very white, and in a slightly shaking voice. "I assure you
that my father--that every one!--would think it a most extraordinary
thing to do!"
Mrs. Coppered laid her hand lightly on his arm.
"Yes, I know, Duncan!" said she, quickly, soothingly. "I know how
you feel! But--"
Duncan slightly repudiated the touch.
"I can't think how you can consider it!" he said passionately, but
in a low voice. "A thing like this always gets out! You know--you
know how your having been on the stage is regarded by our friends!
It is simply insane--"
He had said a little more than he meant, in his high feeling, and
Margaret's face had grown white.
"I asked you only for your escort, Duncan," she said gently, but
with blazing eyes. There was open hostility in the look they
"I can't see what good my escort does," said the boy, childishly,
"when you won't listen to what you know is true!"
"Nevertheless, I still want it," she answered evenly. And after a
moment Duncan, true to his training, and already a little ashamed of
his ineffectual outburst,--for to waste a display of emotion was, in
his code, a lamentable breach of etiquette,--shrugged his shoulders.
"Still want to stay with it?" said Mr. Wyatt, giving her a shrewd,
"Certainly," she said promptly; but she was breathing fast.
"Then we might go and talk things over," he said; and a moment later
they were crossing the theatre to the stage door. The final curtain
had fallen only a moment before, but the lights were up, the
orchestra halfway through a swift waltz, and the audience, buttoning
coats and struggling with gloves, was pouring up the aisles. Duncan,
through all his anger and apprehension, felt a little thrill of
superiority over these departing playgoers as he and his stepmother
were admitted behind the scenes. He was young, and the imagined
romance of green-rooms and footlights appealed to him.
The company, suddenly summoned, appeared in various stages of street
and stage attire. Peg, a handsome young woman with brilliant color
and golden hair, still wore her brocaded gown and patches, and wore,
in addition, a slightly affronted look at this unprecedented
proceeding. The other members of the cast, yawning, slightly
curious, were grouped about in the great draughty space between the
wings that it cost Duncan some little effort to realize was the
From this group, as Margaret followed the stage manager into the
circle of light, a little woman suddenly detached herself, and,
running across the stage and breaking into sobs as she ran, she was
in Margaret's arms in a second.
"Oh, Meg, Meg, Meg!" she cried, laughing and crying at the same
time. "I knew you'd come! I knew you'd manage it somehow! I've been
praying so--I've been watching the clock! Oh, Meg," she went on
pitifully, fumbling blindly for a handkerchief, "he's been suffering
so, and I had to leave him! They thought he was asleep, but when I
tried to loosen his little hand he woke up!"
"Mary--Mary!" said Mrs. Coppered, soothingly, patting the bowed
shoulder. No one else moved; a breathless attention held the group.
"Of course I came," she went on, with a little triumphant laugh,
"and I think everything's ALL right!"
"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Penrose, with a convulsive effort at self-
control. She caught Margaret's soft big muff, and drew it across her
eyes. "I'm ru-ru-ruining your fur, Margaret!" she said, laughing
through tears, "but--but seeing you this way, and realizing that I
could go--go--go to him now--"
"Mary, you must NOT cry this way," said Mrs. Coppered, seriously.
"You don't want little Phil to see you with red eyes, do you? Mr.
Wyatt and I have been talking it over," she went on, "but it remains
to be seen, dear, if all the members of the company are willing to
go to the trouble." Her apologetic look went around the listening
circle. "It inconveniences every one, you know, and it would mean a
rehearsal tonight--this minute, in fact, when every one's tired and
cold." Her voice was soothing, very low. But the gentle tones
carried their message to every one there. The mortal cleverness of
such an appeal struck Duncan sharply, as an onlooker.
The warm-hearted star, Eleanor Forsythe, whose photographs Duncan
had seen hundreds of times, was the first to respond with a half-
indignant protest that SHE wasn't too tired and cold to do that much
for the dear kiddy, and other volunteers rapidly followed suit. Ten
minutes later the still tearful little mother was actually in a cab
whirling through the dark streets toward the hospital where the
child lay, and a rehearsal was in full swing upon the stage of the
Colonial. Only the few actors actually necessary to the scenes in
which Mabel figures need have remained; but a general spirit of
sympathetic generosity kept almost the entire cast. Mr. Penrose, as
Triplet, had the brunt of the dialogue to carry; and he and
Margaret, who had quite unaffectedly laid aside her furs and entered
seriously into the work of the evening, remained after all the
others had lingered away, one by one.
Duncan watched from one of the stage boxes, his vague, romantic
ideas of life behind the footlights rather dashed before the three
hours of hard work were over. This was not very thrilling; this had
no especial romantic charm. The draughts, the dust, the wide, icy
space of the stage, the droning voices, the crisp interruptions, the
stupid "business," endlessly repeated, all seemed equally
disenchanting. The stagehands had set the stage for the next day's
opening curtain, and had long ago departed. Duncan was cold, tired,
headachy. He began to realize the edge of a sharp appetite, too; he
and Margaret had barely touched their dinner, back at home those
He could have forgiven her, he told himself, bitterly, if this
plunge into her old life had had some little glory in it. If, for
instance, Mrs. Gregory had asked her to play Lady Macbeth or Lady
Teazle in amateur theatricals at home, why one could excuse her for
yielding to the old lure. But this, this secondary part, these
commonplace, friendly actors, this tiring night experience, this
eager deference on her part to every one, this pitiful anxiety to
please, where she should, as Mrs. Carey Coppered, have been proudly
commanding and dictatorial--it was all exasperating and
disappointing to the last degree; it was, he told himself, savagely,
only what one might have expected!
Presently, when Duncan was numb in every limb, Margaret began to
button herself into her outer wraps, and, escorted by Penrose, they
went to supper. Duncan hesitated at the door of the cafe.
"This is an awful place, isn't it?" he objected. "You can't be going
"One must eat, Duncan!" Mrs. Coppered said blithely, leading the
way. "And all the nice places are closed at this hour!" Duncan
sullenly followed; but, in the flood of reminiscences upon which she
and Penrose instantly embarked, his voice was not missed. Mollified
in spite of himself by delicious food and strong coffee, he watched
them, the man's face bright through its fatigue, his stepmother
glowing and brilliant.
"I'll see this through for Dad's sake," said Duncan, grimly, to
himself; "but, when he finds out about it, she'll have to admit I
kicked the whole time!"
At four o'clock they reached the Penroses' hotel, where rooms were
secured for Duncan and Margaret. The boy, dropping with sleep, heard
her cheerfully ask at the desk to be called at seven o'clock.
"I've a cloak to buy," she explained, in answer to his glance of
protest, "and a hairdresser to see, and a hat to find--they may be
difficult to get, too! And I must run out and have just a glimpse of
little Phil, and get to the theatre by noon; there's just a little
more going over that second act to do! But don't you get up."
"I would prefer to," said Duncan, with dignity, taking his key.
But he did not wake until afternoon, when the thin winter sunlight
was falling in a dazzling oblong on the floor of his room; and even
then he felt a little tired and stiff. He reached for his watch--
almost one o'clock! Duncan's heart stood still. Had SHE overslept?
He sat up a little dazed, and, doing so, saw a note on the little
table by his bed. It was from Margaret, and ran:
If you don't wake by one they're to call you, for I want you to see
Mabel's entrance. I've managed my hat and cloak, and seen the child-
-he's quiet and not in pain, thank God. Have your breakfast, and
then come to the box-office; I'll leave a seat for you there. Or
come behind and see me, if you will, for I am terribly nervous and
would like it. So glad you're getting your sleep. MARGAEET.
P.S. Don't worry about the nerves; I ALWAYS am nervous.
Duncan looked at the note for three silent minutes, sitting on the
edge of his bed.
"I'm sorry. She--she wanted me. I wish I'd waked!" he said slowly,
And ten minutes later, during a hurried dressing, he read the note
again, and said, aloud again:
"'Have breakfast'! I wonder if she had HERS?"
He entered the theatre so late, for all his hurry, that the first
act was over and the second well begun, and was barely in his seat
before the now familiar opening words of Mabel Vane's part fell
clearly on the silence of the darkened house.
For a moment Duncan thought, with a great pang of relief, that some
one else was filling his stepmother's place; but he recognized her
in another minute, in spite of rouge and powder and the piquant
dress she wore. His heart stirred with something like pride. She was
beautiful in her flowered hat and the caped coat that showed a foam
of lacy frills at the throat; and she was sure of herself, he
realized in a moment, and of her audience. She made a fresh and
appealing figure of the plucky little country bride, and the old
lines fell with delicious naturalness from her lips.
Duncan's heart hardly beat until the fall of the curtain; tears came
to his eyes; and when Margaret shared the applause of the house with
the gracious Peg, he found himself shaking with a violent nervous
He was still deeply stirred when he went behind the scenes after the
play. His stepmother presently came up from her dressing-room,
dressed in street clothes and anxious to hurry to the hospital and
have news of the little boy.
Duncan called a taxicab, for which she thanked him absently and with
worried eyes; and presently, with her and with the child's father,
he found himself speeding toward the hospital. It was a silent trip.
Margaret kept her ungloved fingers upon Penrose's hand, and said
only a cheerful word of encouragement now and then.
Duncan waited in the cab, when they went into the big building. She
was gone almost half an hour. Darkness came, and a sharp rain began
He was half drowsy when she suddenly ran down the long steps and
jumped in beside him. Her face was radiant, in spite of the signs of
tears about her eyes.
"He took the ether like a little soldier!" she said, as the motor-
car slowly wheeled up the wet street. "Mary held his hand all the
while. Everything went splendidly, and he came out of it at about
four. Mary sang him off to sleep, sitting beside him, and she's
still there--he hasn't stirred! Dr. Thorpe is more than well
satisfied; he said the little fellow had nerves of iron! And the
other doctor isn't even going to come in again! And Thorpe says it
is LARGELY because he could have his mother!"
But the exhilaration did not last. Presently she leaned her head
back against the seat, and Duncan saw how marked was the pallor of
her face, now that the rouge was gone. There was fatigue in the
droop of her mouth, and in the deep lines etched under her eyes.
"It's after six, Duncan," she said, without opening her eyes, "so I
can't sleep, as I hoped! We'll have to dine, and then go straight to
"You're tired," said the boy, abruptly. She opened her eyes at the
tone, and forced a smile.
"No--or, yes, I am, a little. My head's been aching. I wish to-night
was over." Suddenly she sighed. "It's been a strain, hasn't it?" she
said. "I knew it would be, but I didn't realize how hard! I just
wanted to do something for them, you know, and this was all I could
think of. And I've been wishing your father had been here; I don't
know what he will say. I don't stop to think--when it's the people I
love--" she said artlessly. "I dread--" she began again, but left
the sentence unfinished, after all, and looked out of the window. "I
suspect you're tired, too!" she went on brightly, after a moment. "I
shan't forget what a comfort it's been to have you with me through
this queer experience, Duncan. I know what it has cost you, my
"Comfort!" echoed Duncan. He tried to laugh, but the laugh broke
itself off gruffly. He found himself catching her hand, putting his
free arm boyishly about her shoulders. "I'm not fit to speak to you,
Margaret!" he said huskily. "You're--you're the best woman I ever
knew! I want you to know I'm sorry--sorry for it all--everything!
And as for Dad, why, he'll think what I think--that you're the only
person in the world who'd do all this for another woman's kid!"
Mrs. Coppered had tried to laugh, too, as she faced him. But the
tears came too quickly. She put her wet face against his rough
overcoat and for a moment gave herself up to the luxury of tears.
"Carey," said his wife, on a certain brilliant Sunday morning a
month later, when he had been at home nearly a month. She put her
head in at the library door. "Carey, will you do me a favor?"
He looked up to smile at her, in her gray gown and flowered hat, and
she came in to take the seat opposite him at the broad table.
"I will. Where are you going?"
"Duncan and I are going to church, and you're to meet us at the
Gregorys' for lunch," she reminded him.
"Yes'm. And what do you two kids want? What's the favor?"
"Oh!" She became serious. "You remember what I told you of our New
York trip a month ago, Carey? The Penroses, you know?"
"Well, Carey, I've discovered that it has been worrying Duncan ever
since you got home, because he thinks I'm keeping it from you."
"Thinks you haven't told me, eh?"
"Yes. Don't laugh that way, Carey! Yes. And he asked me in the
sweetest little way, a day or two ago, if I wouldn't tell you all
"What did you do--box his young ears?"
"No." Margaret's eyes laughed, but she shook her head reprovingly.
"I thought it was so DEAR of him to feel that way, yet never give
you even a hint, that I--"
"Well?" smiled her husband, as she paused.
"Well," hesitated Mrs. Coppered. And then in a little burst she
added: "I said, 'Duncan, if you ask me to I WILL tell him!'"
"And what do you think you gain by THAT, Sapphira?" said Carey, much
"Why, don't you see? Don't you see it means EVERYTHING to him to
have stood by me in this, and now to clear it all up between us!
Don't you see that it makes him one of us, in a way? He's done his
adored father a real service--"
"And his adored mother, too?"
His tone brought the happy tears to her eyes.
"And the favor?" he said presently.
"Oh! Well, you see, I'm supposed to be 'fessing up the whole
horrible business, Carey, and in a day or two I want you to thank
him, just in some general way,--you'll know how!--for looking out
for me so well while you were away. Will you?"
"I will," he promised slowly.
"He's coming downstairs--so good-by!" said she. She came around the
table to kiss him, and, suddenly smitten with a sense of youth and
well-being and the glory of the spring morning, she added a little
"I wonder what I've done to be so happy, Carey--I wonder what I've
ever done to be so loved?"
"I wonder!" said Carey, smiling.
MISS MIX, KIDNAPPER
"Well, he has done it now, confound his nerve!" said Anthony Fox,
Sr., in a tone of almost triumphant fury. He spread the loosely
written sheets of a long letter on the breakfast table. "Here I am,
just out of a sick-bed!" he pursued fretfully; "just home from a
month's idling abroad, and now I'll have to go away out to
California to lick some sense into that young fool!"
"For Heaven's sake, Tony, don't get yourself all worked up!" said
handsome, stately Mrs. Fox, much more concerned for father than for
son. She sighed resignedly as she folded a flattering request from
her club for an address entitled, "Do We Forget Our Maids?" and gave
him her full attention. "Read me the letter, dear," said she,
"Of course I always knew some woman would get hold of him," said
Anthony, Sr., fumbling blindly for his mouth with a bit of toast,
his eyes still on the letter; "but, by George, this sounds like
"Woman!" repeated Mrs. Fox, with a relieved laugh. "Buddy's in love,
is he? Don't worry, Tony, it won't last! Of all boys in the world
he's the least likely to be foolish that way!"
"Of all boys in the world he's the kind that is easiest taken in!"
said his father, dryly, securing the toast at last with a savage
snap. "H-m--she's his landlady! Keeps fancy fowls and takes
boarders--ha! Says they rather hope to be married in June. This has
quite a settled tone to it, for Buddy. I don't like the look of it!"
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Fox, with dawning uneasiness. "You don't mean
to say he considers himself seriously engaged? At twenty! And to his
landlady, too--I never heard such nonsense! Buddy's in no position
to marry. Who IS the girl, anyway?"
"GIRL is good!" said the reader, bitterly. "She's thirty-two!"
Mrs. Fox, her hand hovering over a finger-bowl, grew rigid.
"Thirty-two!" she echoed blankly. Then sharply: "Anthony, do you
think you can stop it?"
"I'll do what I can, believe me!" he assured her grimly. "Yes, sir,
she's thirty-two! By the way, Fanny, this letter's already a month
old. Why haven't I had it before?"
"You told them to hold only the office mail while you were
travelling, you know," Mrs. Fox reminded him. "That one evidently
has been following you. Anthony, can Tony marry without your
"No-o, but of course he's of age in five months, and if she's got
her hooks deep enough into him, she--oh, confound such a
"It looks to me as if she wanted his money," said Mrs. Fox.
"H-m!" said his father, again deep in the letter. "That's just
occurred to you, has it? Poor old Buddy--poor old Bud!"
"Oh, he'll surely get over it," said Mrs. Fox, uncertainly.
"He may, but you can bet SHE won't! Not before they're married,
anyway. No, Bud's the sort that gets it hard, when he does get it!"
his father said. "There's a final tone about the whole thing that I
don't like. Listen to this!" He quoted from the letter with a rueful
shake of the head. "'I don't know what the darling girl sees in me,
dad, but she has turned down enough other fellows to know her own
mind. At last I realize what Mrs. Browning's wonderful sonnets--'"
"He DOESN'T say that?" ejaculated the listener, incredulously.
"'She doesn't know I am writing you,'" Mr. Fox read on grimly,
"'because I don't want her to worry about your objecting. But you
won't object when you know her. She doesn't care anything about
money, and says she will stick by me if we have to begin on an
eighty-dollar-a-month job. You don't know how I love her, dad; it
has changed my whole life. It's not just because she's beautiful,
and all that. You will say that I am pretty young, but I know I can
count on you for some sort of job to begin with, and things will
work out all right.'"
"H-m!" said Mrs. Fox. "Yes, you're right, Tony. This is serious!"
"All worked out, you see," said the man, gloomily, as he drummed
absently on the letter.
"Oh, Anthony, I can't help thinking of the Page boy, and that awful
woman! Anthony, shall I go? Could I do any good if I went?"
"No," he said thoughtfully. "No, I'll go myself. Don't worry, Fanny,
there's still time. Isn't it a curious thing that it's a quiet
little fellow like Bud that--well, we'll see what can be done. I'll
talk to this woman. She may think he has money of his own, you know.
I'll buy her off if I can. Perhaps I can get him to go off somewhere
with me for a trip. I'll see. Barker can look me up a train, and
things here will have to wait. You'll see about my things, will you,
Fanny--have 'em packed? Oh, and here's the letter--pretty sick
reading you'll find it!"
"Be gentle with him!" said Mrs. Fox, deep in the boy's letter.
"Thirty-two! Why, she might be his mother--in some countries she
might, anyway. Anthony!"--her voice stopped him at the door--"IS her
name Sally Mix?"
"Apparently," he said. "Can you beat it? It sounds like a drink!"
"Well," said Mrs. Fox, firmly, as if the name clenched the matter,
"it must be STOPPED, that's all! Sally Mix! I hope she's WHITE!"
Just a week later, in Palo Alto, California, Anthony Fox slammed the
gate of Miss Mix's garden loudly behind him, and eyed the Mix
homestead with disapproval. The house was square and white, with
doors and windows open to spring sunlight and air, and was
surrounded by a garden space of flowers and trees and trim brick
walks. The click of the gate brought a maid to the doorway.
"Mr. Fox won't be here until noon," said the maid, in answer to his
"Does Miss--could I see Miss Mix?" substituted Anthony, after a
He took a porch chair while she departed to find out.
"If you please," said the maid, suddenly reappearing, "Miss Mix is
setting a Plymouth, and will you step right down?"
"Setting a--" scowled Anthony.
"Plymouth," supplied the maid, mildly.
Anthony eyed her suspiciously, but there was evidently nothing
concealed behind her innocence of manner. Finally he followed the
path she indicated as leading to Miss Mix. He followed it past the
house, past clothes drying on lines, past scattered apple trees with
whitewashed trunks, and down a board walk to the chicken yard.
No one was in sight. Anthony rattled the gate tentatively. A slim,
neat, black Minorca fowl made an insulting remark about him to
another hen. Both chuckled.
"Come in--come in and shut it!" called a clear voice from the
interior of the chicken house.
Anthony's jaw stiffened.
"May I speak to you?" he called, with as much dignity as a person
shouting at an utter stranger across an unfamiliar chicken yard may
"Certainly! Come right in!" called the voice, briskly.
Seeing nothing else to do, Anthony unwillingly crossed the yard, and
stepped into the pleasant, whitewashed gloom of the chicken house.
Loose chaff was scattered on the floor, and whitewashed boxes lined
the walls. An adjoining shed held the roosts, which a few murmuring
fowls were looping with heavy flights.
As he entered, a young woman in blue linen shut a gray hen into a
box, and turned a pleasantly inquiring glance upon him.
"Good morning!" she said, smiling. "I knew you would want to see the
thing sooner or later, so I asked Statia to show you right down
here. Now, there's the trap"--she indicated a mass of loose chains
and metal teeth on the floor--"and here's the key; but it simply
Anthony was not following. He was staring at her. She was extremely
pretty; that he had expected. But he had not expected that she--she-
-well, he was not prepared for this sort of a woman at all! He must
go slow here. He--she--Bud--
"I beg your pardon," he interrupted himself to stammer
apologetically, "I didn't catch--you were saying--"
"The trap!" she said, smiling.
"Ah, the trap!" repeated Anthony, inanely.
"Certainly!" she said, with a hint of impatience. Then, as he still
stared, she added quickly: "You're the man from Peterson's? From San
Mateo? You came to fix it, didn't you?"
"Not at all," said Anthony, smiling. "I came from New York."
Light dawned in the girl's eyes. She gave a horrified laugh.
"Well, how stupid of me!" she ejaculated. "Of course, I thought you
were. I'm expecting a man to fix the trap, any day, and you sent no
name. I bought this affair a week ago; there's a coon, or a fox, or
something, that's been coming down from the hills after my pullets;
but it won't work."
"I don't know anything about traps," said Anthony.
He was wondering how he had best introduce himself. The vague
campaign that he had outlined on those restless nights in the train
would be useless here, he had decided. As he spoke, he absently
touched the tangled chains and bolts with his foot.
"Don't do that!" screamed Miss Mix.
At the same second there was a victorious convulsion of metal teeth,
and Anthony found himself frantically jerking at his foot, which was
fast in the trap.
"Oh, you're caught! You are caught!" cried the girl, distressedly.
"Oh, please don't hurt yourself tugging that way--you can't do it!"
Her eyes, full of concern and sympathy, met his for a second; then,
suddenly, she broke into laughter.
"Why, confound the thing!" said Anthony, in pained surprise, as he
struggled and twisted. "How does it open?"
"It DOESN'T!" choked Miss Mix, her mirth quite beyond control, as
she gave various futile little tugs and twitches at the trap.
"That's the trouble! The key never has had the slightest effect. Oh,
I will NOT laugh this way!" she upbraided herself sternly. "Bu--bu--
but you did look so--" She abruptly turned her back upon him for a
moment, facing him again with perfect calm, although with lashes
still wet, and suspicious little dimples about her mouth. "Now, I'll
get you out of it immediately, "she assured him gravely; "and
meanwhile I can't tell you how sorry I am that--just sit on this
box, you'll be more comfortable. I'll run and telephone a plumber,
or some one." She paused in the doorway. "But I don't know your
"Appropriately enough, it's Fox," said he, briefly; "Anthony Fox."
Miss Mix gasped, opened her mouth, shut it without speaking, and
gasped again. Then she sat down heavily on a box.
"Of New York--I see!" said she, but more as if speaking to herself
than to him. "Tony's father; he's written to you, and you've come
all the way from New York to break it off. I see!" Desperation
seemed to seize her. "Oh, my heavenly day!" she ejaculated. "Why
didn't I think of this? This serves me right, you know," she said
seriously, bringing her attention to bear fully upon Anthony; "but
let me tell you, Mr. Fox, that this is about the worst thing you
could have done!"
"The worst!" said Anthony, dully.
He felt utterly stupefied.
"Absolutely," said she, calmly. "You know you only hasten a thing
like this by making an out-and-out fight of it. That's no way to
"Are you Miss Mix?" said Anthony, feebly.
"I am." She nodded impatiently. "Sarah Mix."
"Then you and my son--" Anthony pursued patiently. "Didn't he write?
"Engaged? Certainly we are," admitted the lady, with dignity. "And
it would no more than serve you right if we got married, after all!"
she added, with a sudden smile.
Anthony liked the smile. He smiled broadly in return.
"IF you got married! Do you mean you don't intend to?"
"I see I'll have to tell you," said Miss Mix, suddenly casting
hesitation to the winds. "Then we can talk. Yes, we're engaged, Mr.
Fox. What else could I do? Anthony's twenty; one can't treat him
quite as if he were six. He's absolutely unable to take care of
himself; and I've always liked him--always! How COULD I see a girl
like Mollie Temple--but of course you don't know her. She's with the
'Giddy Middy' company, playing in San Francisco now."
"No, I don't know her," said Mr. Fox, stiffly.
"Well," continued Miss Mix, "her mother lives here in Palo Alto, and
Mollie came home for September. Tony was just what she was looking
for. A secret marriage, a sensational divorce, and alimony--Mollie
asks nothing more of Fate! She made him her slave."
"Lord!" said Anthony.
"Every one was talking about it," continued Miss Mix; "but I never
dreamed of interfering until Thanksgiving, when the Temples planned
a week's house-party in Santa Cruz, and asked Tony to go. That
would have settled it; so I managed to see Tony, and from that day
on I may say I never let go of him. I took him about, I accompanied
him when he sang--just big-sistered him generally! I'm thirty-two,
you know, and I never dreamed he would--but he DID. New Year's
night, Mr. Fox. Well, then I either had to say no, and let him go
again, or say yes, and hold him. So I said yes. I couldn't stop him
from planning, and I never dreamed he'd write you! Now, do you begin
"I see," said Anthony, huskily.
He cleared his throat.
"Meanwhile," pursued Miss Mix, glowing delightedly in the sympathy
of her listener, "I introduced him to the Rogerses and the Peppers,
and lots of jolly people, who are doing him a world of good. He goes
about--he's developing. And now, just as I began to hope that the
time had come when we could quietly break off our engagement, here
YOU are, to make him feel in honor bound to stick to it!"
"Well, I am--" Anthony left it unfinished. "What can I do?" he asked
"We'll find a plan somehow," said Miss Mix, approvingly. "But you
must be got out first!"
"And meanwhile," said Anthony, awkwardly, "I don't really know how
to thank you--"
"Oh, nonsense!" she said lightly. "You forget how fond I am of him!
Now, I'll go up to the house, and--" Her confident voice faltered,
and Anthony was astonished to see a look of dismay cross her face.
"Oh, my goodness gracious heavenly day!" she ejaculated softly.
"Whatever shall we do now? Now we never can get you out!"
"Then I'll stay in," laughed Anthony, philosophically.
Miss Mix echoed his laugh nervously. She glanced across the yard.
"It's that disgusting newspaper contest!" she said.
"Please don't shout!" she begged, sitting down on her box again,
"I'll explain. You see, the San Francisco CALL, one of the big city
dailies, has offered the job of being its local press representative
to the college man who brings in the best newspaper story between
now and the first of May--that's less than ten days. Of course, all
the boys have gone crazy over it. It's a job that a boy could easily
hold down with his regular class work, and it might lead to a
permanent position on the paper's staff after graduation. About ten
boys are working furiously for it, and all their friends are working
for them. Tony's helping Jerry Billings, and Jerry has already taken
in a couple of good stories, and has a good chance. This, of course,
would land it!"
"Why, THIS!" She was laughing again. "Can't you see? Think of the
head-lines! Even your New York papers would play it up. Think of the
chance to get funny! 'Old Fox in a Trap!' 'Goes to Bed with the
Chickens!' 'Iron King Plays Chanticleer!'"
"Thunder!" said Anthony, uncomfortably.
"There'd be no end of it, for you or me," said Miss Mix. "I know
"Yes, you're right!" agreed Anthony. "The idea is for me to sit here
until after the first of May, eh?" he continued uncertainly.
Her eyes danced.
"Oh, we MAY think of some other way!"
"Tony's not to be trusted, you think?"
"No-o! I wouldn't dare. He's simply mad to have Jerry win. He'd let
it out involuntarily."
"The maid can go for a plumber?"
"Statia? She's working for Joe Bates. And both the boys in the
plumber's shop are in college, anyway."
"You might telephone for a plumber from San Francisco?" suggested
"Yes, I could do that." Miss Mix brightened. "No, I can't, either,"
she lamented. "Elsie White, the long-distance operator, is working
for Joe Bates, too." She meditated again for a space, then raised
her head, listening. "They're calling me!" she whispered.
With a gesture for silence, she sprang to the door. Outside, some
"Hello, Tony!" she called hardily, in answer. "Lunch, is it? No,
don't come down! I'm just coming up!"
With a warning glance over her shoulder for Anthony, she closed the
door and was gone.
A long hour followed, the silence broken only by occasional low
comments from the chickens, and by voices and footsteps coming and
going on the side of the chicken house where the street lay.
Anthony, his back against the rough wall, his hands in his pockets,
had fallen into a smiling revery when Miss Mix suddenly returned.
She carried a plate of luncheon, and two files.
"We are safe!" she reassured him. "The boys think I am playing
bridge, and I've locked the gate on the inside. Now, files on
She tucked the filmy skirts of her white frock about her, sat down
on a box, and began to grate away his bonds without an instant's
delay. Her warm, smooth hands he found very charming to watch. Loose
strands of hair fell across her flushed, smooth cheek. Anthony
attacked his lunch with sudden gayety.
"How much we have to talk about!" he said, observing contentedly
that five minutes' filing made almost no impression upon his chains.
She colored suddenly, but met his eyes with charming gravity.
"Haven't we?" she assented simply.
"Why, no, it won't break his heart, Mr. Fox. I think he'll even be a
little relieved to be able to go on serenely with the Peppers and
the Rogerses. He's having lovely times there!"
"Oh, if his mother had lived, of course I should have written to
her; but I knew you were a very busy man, Mr. Fox. Tony hardly ever
speaks of his Aunt Fanny. She's a great club woman, I know. So I had
to do the best I could."
"Why, I didn't think much about it, I suppose. But I certainly
should have said that Tony's father was more than forty-five!"
"Ye-es, I suppose it might. But--but what a very funny subject for
us to get on! I suppose--look at that white hen coming in, Mr. Fox!
She's my prize winner. Isn't she a beauty?"
"Yes, indeed, he's all of that, dear old Tony! And then, as I say,
he reminded me of--of that other, you know, years ago. I was only
nineteen, hardly more than a child, but the memory is very sweet,
and it made me want to be a good friend to Tony!"
"There's the six o'clock bell, and you're all but free! Now, I'll
let you out by this door, on the street side, and you can find your
hotel? Then, when you call this evening, we needn't say anything of
this. It hasn't been such a long afternoon, has it?"
Just after dinner, as Miss Mix and her youthful fiance were sitting
on the porch in the spring twilight, a visitor entered the garden
from the street. At sight of him, the boy sprang to his feet with a
cry of "Dad!"
Miss Mix was introduced, and to young Tony's delight, she and his
father chatted as comfortably as old friends. Presently, when Jerry
Billings appeared with an invitation for the lady to accompany him
to the post office for possible mail, father and son were left alone
Young Anthony beamed at his father's praise of his choice, but his
comments seemed to come more easily on other matters. He told his
father of the Rogers boys, of the Pepper girls, and of tennis and
theatricals, and spoke hopefully of a possible camping trip with
"When did you think of announcing your engagement, Bud?"
The boy shifted in his chair, and laughed uneasily.
"Sally doesn't want to," he temporized, adding shyly, after a
minute's silence, "and I didn't think you'd be in any hurry, dad!"
"But look here, son, you wrote that you planned being married in
There was a pause. Then the boy said:
"I did think so; but now I don't see how we can. Sally sees that,
too. I can't get married until I have a good job, and I've got
another year here. We don't want to tell every one and then have to
wait two or three years, do we, sir?"
"H-m!" said his father. "And yet you don't want to ask me to support
you and your wife for indefinite years, Bud?"
Bud squeezed his father's hand.
"I'll never ask you to do that!" he promised promptly.
A week drifted pleasantly over the college town, and still no
definite step had been taken in the matter that had carried Anthony
Fox over so many weary miles of country. If business matters in the
Eastern city gave him any concern, he gave no sign of it to young
Anthony or Sally, seeming entirely content with the passing moment.
The three were constantly together, except when the boy was in the
class-room. During these intervals Miss Mix piloted her friend's
father over lovely Palo Alto; they visited museum and library
together, took drives and walks. One long evening was spent at the
Peppers', where young Anthony was the centre of a buzzing and
hilarious group, and where Sally, with her black evening gown and
her violin, presented an entirely new phase.
On the evening of a certain glorious day, to young Anthony, sitting
in silence on the porch steps, came Sally, who seated herself beside
"Tony," said she, firmly, "what have we decided about our
Young Anthony eyed her expectantly, almost nervously, but he did not
"We must either announce it or NOT announce it, Tony!"
"Why, you see, Sally," said Anthony, after a pause, "I wanted to, a
while back, but--" "I know you did," she said heartily, to his
"But now, he pursued slowly," it would look pretty funny to the
Rogerses, and the Peppers, and all, you know. JUST now, I mean. I've
been up there all the time, right in things, and I've never said a
"Well, well!" said a voice behind them; and to the unspeakable
confusion of both, Jerry Billings rose from a porch chair and came
down to them.
"I couldn't help hearing," explained that gentleman, joyously. "I
was there first. I wish you joy, children. Miss Sally, here's my
best wishes! I never dreamed you two--and yet I knew SOMETHING had
brought father all the way from New York. But I never dreamed of
this! This ought to land me the Call job, all right! Hasn't that
occurred to either of you? Why, nobody has turned in anything to
touch it!" He looked at his watch. "I had better be getting down
there, too," he said excitedly. "Tomorrow's the first of May, by
George! and I've got to get any stuff in by ten. And there I've been
sitting, cursing my luck for an hour! Here goes!"
"Look here, Jerry," began Sally and Anthony together, "look here--"
"You mean you don't want it announced?" said Mr. Billings, blankly.
A pained look clouded the radiance of his face. "Isn't it TRUE?"
"We don't wish it announced yet," said Sally, feebly, as Anthony was
"I call that pretty mean!" ejaculated Mr. Billings, after a pause.
"It's TRUE," he went on aggrievedly. "I landed it--every old woman
in town will be on to it in a few weeks--it's a corking job for me--
every one's wondering what Mr. Fox is doing here--and now you two
hang back, just because you've not had time to tell your friends!
Aw, be sports," he said ingratiatingly. "PLEASE, Miss Sally! I'd do
as much for you two. You know I may not be able to make it at all,
next year, if I haven't a job! I can have it, can't I? I get it,
don't I, Tony? What do you two care--you've got what YOU want--"
"Oh, take your scoop!" half groaned young Anthony Fox.
Sally began to laugh, but it was curiously shaken laughter. Mr.
Billings wisely seized this moment for a rapid departure. Mr. Fox,
coming to the door a moment later, found the others silent on the
"Now we are in for it!" said Sally, ruefully, as they made room for
him between them. "What shall we do? Jerry's got it for the Call--we
couldn't LIE about it! And, oh, we CAN'T have it in print to-morrow!
Can you--can't you stop it?"
"Too late now!" said young Anthony, with a bad attempt at unconcern.
"Tell me what happened," said his father.
The recent developments were rapidly reviewed, and then Sally,
removing herself and her wide-spreading ruffles to young Anthony's
side of the steps, so that she might from time to time give his hand
an affectionate and enlightening squeeze, confessed the deception of
her engagement to him, and, with her blue eyes very close to his,
asked him meekly to forgive her.
Young Anthony's forgiveness was a compound of boyish hurt and
undisguised relief. It is probable that at no moment of their
friendship had she seemed more dear to him.
"But--there's Jerry!" said Sally, suddenly, smitten with unpleasant
recollection in the midst of this harmonious readjustment. "He--he
heard, you know. And we can't deny THAT, and it means so much to
him! He'll have telephoned up to town by this time, and the Call
will run it anyway--newspaper editors are such beasts about those
And again she and young Anthony drooped, and clung to each other's
"I have been thinking," said the other Anthony, slowly, "that I see
a way out of this. I HOPE I see one! I'd like--I'd like to discuss
it with Miss Sally. If you'll just step down to the--the chicken
yard, Bud, for five minutes, say. We'll call you. And it's just
possible that we can--can arrange matters."
Half an hour later, Jerry Billings succeeded a second time in
getting the city editor of the Call on the long-distance wire.
"Hello, Mr. Watts! Say, about that engagement of young Fox, Mr.
Watts," he began.
"Well, what's the matter with it?" came back the editor's voice,
"Nothing's the matter with it," said Jerry, "only it's better than I
thought! It's--it's old Fox that Miss Mix is going to marry! Old
"Who said so?" snapped the other.
"Yes, sir. He just telephoned to me. Gave me the whole thing. Said
he wanted it to be published straight."
There was a pregnant silence for a few moments, then:
"This is no jolly, Billings? It's big stuff if it's true, you know."
"Oh, it's true enough," said Jerry, trying to control his voice.
"Well, we've got his picture--I'm sure!" said Mr. Watts, calmly.
Then in obedience to Mr. Watts' curt "Hold the wire!" Jerry, with
the receiver pressed to his ear, heard the city editor's voice on
another telephone on his desk talking presumably to the make-up man
on the next floor.
"Hello, Frank!" said Watts. "Tell Mike Williams to run that
suffragette stuff on the third page. I've got a big story. I want
room for a double cut and a column on the front!"
Then: "Hello, Billings! You telephone me six hundred words on this
thing inside of an hour. No frills you understand. Just give me the
straight facts. We'll fix the yarn up here."
"For mercy's sakes, here comes Shandon Waters!" said Jane Dinwoodie,
of the post-office, leaving her pigeonholes to peer through the one
small window of that unpretentious building. "Mother, here's Shandon
Waters driving into town with the baby!" breathed pretty Mary
Dickey, putting an awed face into the sitting-room. "I declare that
looks terrible like Shandon!" ejaculated Johnnie Larabee,
straightening up at her wash-tubs and shading her eyes with her
hand. "Well, what on earth brought her up to town!" said all
Deaneville, crowding to the windows and doorways and halting the
march of the busy Monday morning to watch a mud-spattered cart come
bumping up and down over the holes in the little main street.
The woman--or girl, rather, for she was but twenty--who sat in the
cart was in no way remarkable to the eye. She had a serious, even
sullen face, and a magnificent figure, buttoned just now into a tan
ulster that looked curiously out of keeping with her close, heavy
widow's bonnet and hanging veil. Sprawled luxuriously in her lap,
with one fat, idle little hand playing above her own gauntleted one
on the reins, was a splendid child something less than a year old,
snugly coated and capped against the cool air of a California
February. She watched him closely as she drove, not moving her eyes
from his little face even for a glance at the village street.
Poor Dan Waters had been six months in his grave, now, and this was
the first glimpse Deaneville had had of his widow. For an unbroken
half year she had not once left the solitude of the big ranch down
by the marsh, or spoken to any one except her old Indian woman
servant and the various "hands" in her employ.
She had been, in the words of Deaneville, "sorta nutty" since her
husband's death. Indeed, poor Shandon had been "sorta nutty" all her
life. Motherless at six, and allowed by her big, half civilized
father to grow up as wild as the pink mallow that fringed the home
marshes, she was regarded with mingled horror and pity by the well-
ordered Deaneville matrons. Jane Dinwoodie and Mary Dickey could
well remember the day she was brought into the district school, her
mutinous black eyes gleaming under a shock of rough hair, her clumsy
little apron tripping her with its unaccustomed strings. The lonely
child had been frantic for companionship, and her direct, even
forceful attempts at friendship had repelled and then amused the
Deaneville children. As unfortunate chance would have it, it was
shy, spoiled, adored little Mary Dickey that Shandon instantly
selected for especial worship, and Mary, already bored by
admiration, did not like it. But the little people would have
adjusted matters in their own simple fashion presently had they been
allowed to do so. It was the well-meant interference of the teacher
that went amiss. Miss Larks explained to the trembling little
newcomer that she mustn't smile at Mary, that she mustn't leave her
seat to sit with Mary: it was making poor Mary cry.
Shandon listened to her with rising emotion, a youthful titter or
two from different parts of the room pointing the moral. When the
teacher had finished, she rose with a sudden scream of rage, flung
her new slate violently in one direction, her books in another, and
departed, kicking the stove over with a well-directed foot as she
left. Thus she became a byword to virtuous infancy, and as the years
went by, and her wild beauty and her father's wealth grew apace,
Deaneville grew less and less charitable in its judgment of her.
Shandon lived in a houseful of men, her father's adored companion
and greatly admired by the rough cattle men who came yearly to buy
his famous stock.
When her father died, a little wave of pity swept over Deaneville,
and more than one kind-hearted woman took the five-mile drive down
to the Bell Ranch ready to console and sympathize. But no one saw
her. The girl, eighteen now, clung more to her solitude than ever,
spending whole days and nights in lonely roaming over the marsh and
the low meadows, like some frantic sick animal.
Only Johnnie Larabee, the warm-hearted little wife of the village
hotel keeper, persevered and was rewarded by Shandon's bitter
confidence, given while they rode up to the ridge to look up some
roaming steer, perhaps, or down by the peach-cutting sheds, while
Shandon supervised a hundred "hands." Shandon laughed now when she
recounted the events of those old unhappy childish days, but Johnnie
did not like the laughter. The girl always asked particularly for
Mary Dickey, her admirers, her clothes, her good times.
"No wonder she acts as if there wasn't anybody else on earth but
her!" would be Shandon's dry comment.
It was Johnnie who "talked straight" to Shandon when big Dan Waters
began to haunt the Bell Ranch, and who was the only witness of their
little wedding, and the only woman to kiss the unbride-like bride.
After that even, Johnnie lost sight of her for the twelve happy
months that Big Dan was spared to her. Little Dan came, welcomed by
no more skillful hands than the gentle big ones of his wondering
father and the practised ones of the old Indian. And Shandon bought
hats that were laughed at by all Deaneville, and was tremulously
happy in a clumsy, unused fashion.
And then came the accident that cost Big Dan his life. It was all a
hideous blur to Shandon--a blur that enclosed the terrible, swift
trip to Sacramento, with the blinking little baby in the hollow of
her arm, and the long wait at the strange hospital. It was young
Doctor Lowell, of Deaneville, who decided that only an operation
could save Dan, and Doctor Lowell who performed it. And it was
through him that Shandon learned, in the chill dawn, that the
gallant fight was lost. She did not speak again, but, moving like a
sleepwalker, reached blindly for the baby, pushed aside the hands
that would have detained her, and went stumbling out into the
street. And since that day no one in Deaneville had been able to get
close enough to speak to her. She did not go to Dan's funeral, and
such sympathizers as tried to find her were rewarded by only
desolate glimpses of the tall figure flitting along the edge of the
marshes like a hunted bird. A month old, little Danny accompanied
his mother on these restless wanderings, and many a time his little
mottled hand was strong enough to bring her safely home when no
other would have availed.
Her old Chinese "boy" came into the village once a week, and paid
certain bills punctiliously from a little canvas bag that was
stuffed full of gold pieces; but Fong was not a communicative
person, and Deaneville languished for direct news. Johnnie,
discouraged by fruitless attempts to have a talk with the forlorn
young creature, had to content herself with sending occasional
delicacies from her own kitchen and garden to Shandon, and only a
week before this bright February morning had ventured a note, pinned
to the napkin that wrapped a bowl of cream cheese. The note read:
Don't shorten Danny too early, Shandy. Awful easy for babies to
ketch cold this weather.
Of all the loitering curious men and women at doors and windows and
in the street, Johnnie was the only one who dared speak to her to-
day. Mrs. Larabee was dressed in the overalls and jersey that
simplified both the dressing and the labor of busy Monday mornings;
her sleek black hair arranged fashionably in a "turban swirl." She
ran out to the cart with a little cry of welcome, a smile on her
thin, brown face that well concealed the trepidation this unheard-of
circumstance caused her. "Lord, make me say the right thing!" prayed
Johnnie, fervently. Mrs. Waters saw her coming, stopped the big
horse, and sat waiting. Her eyes were wild with a sort of savage
terror, and she was trembling violently.
"Well, how do, Shandon?" said Mrs. Larabee, cheerfully. Then her
eyes fell on the child, and she gave a dramatic start. "Never you
tell me this is Danny!" said she, sure of her ground now. "Well,
you--old--buster--you! He's IMMENSE, ain't he, Shandon?"
"Isn't he?" stammered Shandon, nervously.
"He's about the biggest feller for nine months I ever saw," said
Mrs. Larabee, generously. "He could eat Thelma for breakfast!"
"Johnnie--and he ain't quite seven yet!" protested Shandon, eagerly.
Mrs. Larabee gave her an astonished look, puckered up her forehead,
"That's right," she said. Then she dragged the wriggling small body
from Shandon's lap and held the wondering, soft little face against
"You come to Aunt Johnnie a minute," said she, "you fat old muggins!
Look at him, Shandon. He knows I'm strange. Yes, 'course you do! He
wants to go back to you, Shandy. Well, what do you know about that?
Say, dearie," continued Mrs. Larabee, in a lower tone, "you've got a
terrible handsome boy, and what's more, he's Dan's image."
Mrs. Waters gathered the child close to her heart. "He's awful like
Dan when he smiles," said she, simply. And for the first time their
eyes met. "Say, thank you, for the redishes and the custard pie and
that cheese, Johnnie," said Shandon, awkwardly, but her eyes thanked
this one friend for much more.
"Aw, shucks!" said Johnnie, gently, as she dislodged a drying clod
of mud from the buggy robe. There was a moment's constrained
silence, then Shandon said suddenly:
"Johnnie, what d'you mean by 'shortening' him?"
"Puttin' him in short clothes, dearie. Thelma's been short since
Gran'ma Larabee come down at Christmas," explained the other,
"I never knew about that," said Mrs. Waters, humbly. "Danny's the
first little kid I ever touched. Lizzie Tom tells me what the
Indians do, and for the rest I just watch him. I toast his feet good
at the fire every night, becuz Dan said his mother useter toast his;
and whenever the sun comes out, I take his clothes off and leave him
sprawl in it, but I guess I miss a good deal." She finished with a
wistful, half-questioning inflection, and Mrs. Larabee did not fail
"Don't ask me, when he's as big and husky as any two of mine!" said
she, reassuringly. "I guess you do jest about right. But, Shandy,
you've got to shorten him."
"Well, what'll I get?" asked Shandon.
Mrs. Larabee, in her element, considered.
"You'll want about eight good, strong calico rompers," she began
authoritatively. Then suddenly she interrupted herself. "Say, why
don't you come over to the hotel with me now," she suggested
enthusiastically. "I'm just finishing my wash, and while I wrench
out the last few things you can feed the baby; than I'll show you
Thelma's things, and we can have lunch. Then him and Thel can take
their naps, and you 'n' me'll go over to Miss Bates's and see what
we can git. You'll want shoes for him, an' a good, strong hat--"
"Oh, honest, Johnnie--" Shandon began to protest hurriedly, in her
hunted manner, and with a miserable glance toward the home road.
"Maybe I'll come up next week, now I know what you meant--"
"Shucks! Next week nobody can talk anything but wedding," said
Johnnie, off guard.
"Whose wedding?" Shandon asked, and Johnnie, who would have
preferred to bite her tongue out, had to answer, "Mary Dickey's."
"Who to?" said Shandon, her face darkening. Johnnie's voice was very
"To the doc', Shandy; to Arnold Lowell."
"Oh!" said Shandon, quietly. "Big wedding, I suppose, and white
dresses, and all the rest?"
"Sure," said Johnnie, relieved at her pleasant interest, and warming
to the subject. "There'll be five generations there. Parker's making
the cake in Sacramento. Five of the girls'll be bridesmaids--Mary
Bell and Carrie and Jane and the two Powell girls. Poor Mrs. Dickey,
she feels real bad. She--"
"She don't want to give Mary up?" said Shandon, in a hard voice. She
began to twist the whip about in its socket. "Well, some people have
everything, it seems. They're pretty, and their folks are crazy
about 'em, and they can stand up and make a fuss over marrying a man
who as good as killed some other woman's husband,--a woman who
didn't have any one else either."
"Shandy," said Johnnie, sharply, "ain't you got Danny?"
Something like shame softened the girl's stern eyes. She dropped her
face until her lips rested upon the little fluffy fringe that marked
the dividing line between Danny's cap and Danny's forehead.
"Sure I have," she said huskily. "But I've--I've always sort of had
it in for Mary Dickey, Johnnie, I suppose becuz she IS so perfect,
and so cool, and treats me like I was dirt--jest barely sees me,
Johnnie answered at random, for she was suddenly horrified to see
Dr. Lowell and Mary Dickey themselves come out of the post-office.
Before she could send them a frantic signal of warning, the doctor
came toward the cart.
"How do you do, Mrs. Waters?" said he, holding out his hand.
Shandon brought her startled eyes from little Danny's face. The
child, with little eager grunts and frowning concentration, was busy
with the clasp of her pocketbook, and her big, gentle hand had been
guarding it from his little, wild ones. The sight of the doctor's
face brought back her bitterest memories with a sick rush, at a
moment when her endurance was strained to the utmost. HE had decreed
that Dan should be operated on, HE had decided that she should not
be with him, HE had come to tell her that the big, protecting arm
and heart were gone forever--and now he had an early buttercup in
his buttonhole, and on his lips the last of the laughter that he had
just been sharing with Mary Dickey! And Mary, the picture of
complacent daintiness, was sauntering on, waiting for him.
Shandon was not a reasonable creature. With a sound between a snarl
and a sob she caught the light driving whip from its socket and
brought the lash fairly across the doctor's smiling face. As he
started back, stung with intolerable pain, she lashed in turn the
nervous horse, and in another moment the cart and its occupants were
racketing down the home road again.
"And now we never WILL git no closer to Shandon Waters!" said
Johnnie Larabee, regretfully, for the hundredth time. It was ten
days later, and Mrs. Larabee and Mrs. Cass Dinwoodie were high up on
the wet hills, gathering cream-colored wild iris for the Dickey
wedding that night.
"And serve her right, too!" said Mrs. Dinwoodie, severely. "A great
girl like that lettin' fly like a child."
"She's--she's jest the kind to go crazy, brooding as she does," Mrs.
Larabee submitted, almost timidly. She had been subtly pleading
Shandon's cause for the past week, but it was no use. The last
outrage had apparently sealed her fate so far as Deaneville was
concerned. Now, straightening her cramped back and looking off
toward the valleys below them, Mrs. Larabee said suddenly:
"That looks like Shandon down there now."
Mrs. Dinwoodie's eyes followed the pointing finger. She could
distinguish a woman's moving figure, a mere speck on the road far
"Sure it is," said she. "Carryin' Dan, too."
"My goo'ness," said Johnnie, uneasily, "I wish she wouldn't take
them crazy walks. I don't suppose she's walking up to town?"
"I don't know why she should," said Mrs. Dinwoodie, dryly, "with the
horses she's got. I don't suppose even Shandon would attempt to
carry that great child that far, cracked as she seems to be!"
"I don't suppose we could drive home down by the marsh road?"
Johnnie asked. Mrs. Dinwoodie looked horrified.
"Johnnie, are you crazy yourself?" she demanded. "Why, child, Mary's
going to be married at half-past seven, and there's the five-o'clock
The older matron made all haste to "hitch up," sending not even
another look into the already shadowy valley. But Johnnie's thoughts
were there all through the drive home, and even when she started
with her beaming husband and her four young children to the wedding
she was still thinking of Shandon Waters.
The Dickey home was all warmth, merriment, and joyous confusion.
Three or four young matrons, their best silk gowns stretched to
bursting over their swelling bosoms, went busily in and out of the
dining-room. In the double parlors guests were gathering with the
laughter and kissing that marked any coming together of these hard-
working folk. Starched and awed little children sat on the laps of
mothers and aunts, blinking at the lamps; the very small babies were
upstairs, some drowsily enjoying a late supper in their mothers'
arms, others already deep in sleep in Mrs. Dickey's bed. The
downstairs rooms and the stairway were decorated with wilting smilax
and early fruit-blossoms.
To Deaneville it seemed quite natural that Dr. Lowell, across whose
face the scar of Shandon Waters' whip still showed a dull crimson,
should wait for his bride at the foot of the hall stairway, and that
Mary's attendants should keep up a continual coming and going
between the room where she was dressing and the top of the stairs,
and should have a great many remarks to make to the young men below.
Presently a little stir announced the clergyman, and a moment later
every one could hear Mary Dickey's thrilling young voice from the
"Arnold, mother says was that Dr. Lacey?"
And every one could hear Dr. Lowell's honest, "Yes, dear, it was,"
and Mary's fluttered, diminishing, "All right!"
Rain began to beat noisily on the roof and the porches. Johnnie
Larabee came downstairs with Grandpa and Grandma Arnold, and
Rosamund Dinwoodie at the piano said audibly, "Now, Johnnie?"
There was expectant silence in the parlors. The whole house was so
silent in that waiting moment that the sound of sudden feet on the
porch and the rough opening of the hall door were a startlingly loud
It was Shandon Waters, who came in with a bitter rush of storm and
wet air. She had little Dan in her arms. Drops of rain glittered on
her hanging braids and on the shawl with which the child was
wrapped, and beyond her the wind snarled and screamed like a
disappointed animal. She went straight through the frightened,
parting group to Mrs. Larabee, and held out the child.
"Johnnie," she said in a voice of agony, utterly oblivious of her
surroundings, "Johnnie, you've always been my friend! Danny's sick!"
"Shandon,--for pity's sake!" ejaculated little Mrs. Larabee,
reaching out her arms for Danny, her face shocked and protesting and
pitying all at once, "Why, Shandy, you should have waited for me
over at the hotel," she said, in a lower tone, with a glance at the
incongruous scene. Then pity for the anguished face gained mastery,
and she added tenderly, "Well, you poor child, you, was this where
you was walking this afternoon? My stars, if I'd only known! Why on
earth didn't you drive?"
"I couldn't wait!" said Shandon, hoarsely. "We were out in the
woods, and Lizzie she gave Danny some mushrooms. And when I looked
he--his little mouth--" she choked. "And then he began to have sorta
cramps, and kinda doubled up, Johnnie, and he cried so queer, and I
jest started up here on a run. He--JOHNNIE!" terror shook her voice
when she saw the other's face, "Johnnie, is he going to die?" she
"Mushrooms!" echoed Mrs. Larabee, gravely, shaking her head. And a
score of other women looking over her shoulder at the child, who lay
breathing heavily with his eyes shut, shook their heads, too.
"You'd better take him right home with me, dearie," Mrs. Larabee
said gently, with a significant glance at the watching circle. "We
oughtn't to lose any time."
Dr. Lowell stepped out beside her and gently took Danny in his arms.
"I hope you'll let me carry him over there for you, Mrs. Waters,"
said he. "There's no question that he's pretty sick. We've got a
hard fight ahead."
There was a little sensation in the room, but Shandon only looked at
him uncomprehendingly. In her eyes there was the dumb thankfulness
of the dog who knows himself safe with friends. She wet her lips and
tried to speak. But before she could do so, the doctor's mother
touched his arm half timidly and said:
"Arnold, you can't very well--surely, it's hardly fair to Mary--"
"Mary--?" he answered her quickly. He raised his eyes to where his
wife-to-be, in a startled group of white-clad attendants, was
standing halfway down the stairway.
She looked straight at Shandon, and perhaps at no moment in their
lives did the two women show a more marked contrast; Shandon muddy,
exhausted, haggard, her sombre eyes sick with dread, Mary's always
fragile beauty more ethereal than ever under the veil her mother had
just caught back with orange blossoms. Shandon involuntarily flung
out her hand toward her in desperate appeal.
"Couldn't you--could you jest wait till he sees Danny?" she
Mary ran down the remaining steps and laid her white hand on
"If it was ten weddings, we'd wait, Shandon!" said she, her voice
thrilling with the fellowship of wifehood and motherhood to come.
"Don't worry, Shandon. Arnold will fix him. Poor little Danny!" said
Mary, bending over him. "He's not awful sick, is he, Arnold?
Mother," she said, turning, royally flushed, to her stupefied
mother, "every one'll have to wait. Johnnie and Arnold are going to
fix up Shandon's baby."
"I don't see the slightest need of traipsing over to the hotel,"
said Mrs. Dickey, almost offended, as at a slight upon her
hospitality. "Take him right up to the spare room, Arnold. There
ain't no noise there, it's in the wing. And one of you chil'ren run
and tell Aggie we want hot water, and--what else? Well, go ahead and
tell her that, anyway."
"Leave me carry him up," said one big, gentle father, who had tucked
his own baby up only an hour ago. "I've got a kimmoner in my bag,"
old Mrs. Lowell said to Shandon. "It's a-plenty big enough for you.
You git dry and comfortable before you hold him." "Shucks! Lloydy
ate a green cherry when he wasn't but four months old," said one
consoling voice to Shandon. "He's got a lot of fight in him," said
another. "My Olive got an inch screw in her throat," contributed a
third. Mrs. Larabee said in a low tone, with her hand tight upon
Shandon's shaking one, "He'll be jest about fagged out when the
doctor's done with him, dearie, and as hungry as a hunter. Don't YOU
git excited, or he'll be sick all over again."
Crowding solicitously about her, the women got her upstairs and into
dry clothing. This was barely accomplished when Mary Dickey came
into the room, in a little blue cotton gown, to take her to Danny.
"Arnold says he's got him crying, and that's a good sign, Shandon,"
said Mary. "And he says that rough walk pro'bly saved him."
Shandon tried to speak again, but failed again, and the two girls
went out together. Mary presently came back alone, and the lessened
but not uncheerful group downstairs settled down to a vigil. Various
reports drifted from the sick-room, but it was almost midnight
before Mrs. Larabee came down with definite news.
"How is he?" echoed Johnnie, sinking into a chair. "Give me a cup of
that coffee, Mary. That's a good girl. Well, say, it looks like you
can't kill no Deaneville child with mushrooms. He's asleep now. But
say, he was a pretty sick kid! Doc' looks like something the cat
brought home, and I'm about dead, but Danny seems to feel real
chipper. And EAT! And of course that poor girl looks like she'd
inherited the earth, as the Scriptures say. The ice is what you
might call broken between the whole crowd of us and Shandon Waters.
She's sitting there holding Danny and smiling softly at any one who
peeks in!" And, her voice thickening suddenly with tears on the last
words, Mrs. Larabee burst out crying and fumbled in her unaccustomed
grandeur for a handkerchief.
Mary Dickey and Arnold Lowell were married just twenty-four hours
later than they had planned, the guests laughing joyously at the
wilted decorations and stale sandwiches. After the ceremony the
bride and bridegroom went softly up stairs, and the doctor had a
last approving look at the convalescent Danny.
Mary, almost oppressed by the sense of her own blessedness on this
day of good wishes and affectionate demonstration, would have gently
detached her husband's arm from her waist as they went to the door,
that Shandon might not be reminded of her own loss and aloneness.
But the doctor, glancing back, knew that in Shandon's thoughts to-
day there was no room for sorrow. Her whole body was curved about
the child as he lay in her lap, and her adoring look was intent upon
him. Danny was smiling up at his mother in a blissful interval, his
soft little hand lying upon her contented heart.
GAYLEY THE TROUBADOUR
Through the tremulous beauty of the California woods, in the silent
April afternoon, came Sammy Peneyre, riding Clown. The horse chose
his own way on the corduroy road, for the rider was lost in dreams.
Clown was a lean old dapple gray so far advanced in years and
ailments that when Doctor Peneyre had bought him, the year before,
the dealer had felt constrained to remark:
"He's better'n he looks, Doc'. You'll get your seven dollars' worth
out of him yet!"
To which the doctor had amiably responded:
"Your saying so makes me wonder if I WILL, Joe. However, I'll have
my boy groom him and feed him, and we'll see!"
But, as Clown had stubbornly refused to respond to grooming and
feeding, he was, like other despised and discarded articles, voted
by the Peneyre family quite good enough for Sammy, and Sammy
accepted him gratefully.
The spirit of spring was affecting them both to-day--a brilliant day
after long weeks of rain. Sammy whistled softly. Clown coquetted
with the bit, danced under the touch of the whip, and finally took
the steep mountain road with such convulsive springs as jolted his
rider violently from dreams.
"Why, you fool, are you trying to run away?" said Sammy, suddenly
alive to the situation. The road here was a mere shelf on the slope
of the mountain, constantly used by descending lumber teams, and
dangerous at all times. A runaway might easily be fatal. Sammy
pulled at the bit; but, at the first hard tug, the old bridle gave
way, and Clown, maddened by a stinging blow from the loose flying
end of the strap, bolted blindly ahead.
Terrified now, Sammy clung to the pommel and shouted. The trees flew
by; great clods of mud were flung up by the horse's feet. From far
up the road could be heard the creaking of a lumber team and the
crack of the lumberman's long whip.
"My Lord!" said Sammy, aloud, in a curious calm, "we'll never pass
And then, like a flash, it was all over. Clown, suddenly freed from
his rider, galloped violently for a moment, stopped, snorted
suspiciously, galloped another twenty feet, and stood still, his
broken bridle dangling rakishly over one eye. Sammy, dragged from
the saddle at the crucial instant to the safety of Anthony Gayley's
arms, as he brought his own horse up beside her, wriggled to the
"That was surely going some!" said Anthony, breathing hard. "Hurt?"
"No-o!" said Sammy. But she leaned against the tall, big fellow, as
he stood beside her, and was glad of his arm about her shoulders.
They had known each other by sight for years, but this was the first
speech between them. Anthony suddenly realized that the doctor's
youngest daughter, with her shy, dark eyes and loosened silky
braids, had grown from an awkward child into a very pretty girl.
Sammy, glancing up, thought--what every other woman in Wheatfield
thought--that Anthony Gayley was the handsomest man she had ever
seen, in his big, loose corduroys, with a sombrero on the back of
his tawny head.
"I was awfully afraid I'd grate against your leg," said the boy,
with his sunny smile; "but I couldn't stop to figure it out. I just
had to hustle!"
"There's a lumber wagon ahead there," Sammy said. "I'm--I'm very
much obliged to you!"
They both laughed. Presently Anthony made the girl mount his own
"Ride Duchess home. I'll take your horse," said he.
"Oh, no, indeed; PLEASE don't bother!" protested Sammy, eagerly.
But Anthony only laughed and gave her a hand up. Sammy settled
herself on the Spanish saddle with a sigh of satisfaction.
"I've always wanted to ride your horse!" said she, delightedly, as
the big muscles moved smoothly under her.
Anthony smiled. "She's the handsomest mare here-abouts," said he. "I
wouldn't take a thousand dollars for her!"
Sammy watched him deftly repair the broken bridle of the now docile
and crestfallen Clown, and spring to the saddle.
"I'm taking you out of your way!" she pleaded, and he answered
"Oh, no; I'll be much happier seeing you safe home."
When they reached her gate, the two changed horses, and Sammy rode
slowly up the dark driveway alone. Even on this brilliant afternoon
the old Peneyre place looked dull and gloomy. Dusty dark pines and
eucalyptus trees grew close about the house. There was no garden,
but here and there an unkempt geranium or rank great bush of
marguerites sprawled in the uncut grass, and rose bushes, long grown
wild, stood in spraying clusters that were higher than a man's head.
Pampas trees, dirty and overgrown, outlined the drive at regular
intervals, their shabby plumes uncut from year to year.
The house was heavy, bay-windowed, three-storied. Ugly, immense,
unfriendly, it struck an inharmonious note in the riotous free
growth of the surrounding woods. The dark entrance-hall was flanked
by a library full of obsolete, unread books, and by double drawing-
rooms, rarely opened now. All the windows on the ground floor were
darkened by the shrubbery outside and by heavy red draperies within.
Sammy, entering a side door, seemed to leave the day's brightness
behind her. The air indoors was chill, flat. A half-hearted little
coal fire flickered in the grate, and Koga was cleaning silver at
the table. Sammy took David Copperfield from the mantel and settled
herself in a great chair.
"Koga, you go fix Clown now," she suggested.
Koga beamed assent. Departing, he wrestled with a remark: "Oh! Nise
day. I sink so."
Sammy agreed. "You don't have weather like this in Japan in April!"
"Oh, yis," said Koga, and, drunk with the joy of speech, he added:
"I sink so. Awe time nise in Jap-pon! I sink so."
"All the time nice in Japan?" echoed Sammy, lazily. "Oh, what a
But Koga was convulsed with innocent mirth. However excruciating the
effort, he had produced a remark in English. He retired, repeating
between spasms of enjoyment: "Oh, I sink so. Awe time nise in Jap-
The day dragged on, to all outward seeming like all of Sammy's days.
Twilight made her close her book and straighten her bent shoulders.
Pong came in to set the table. The slamming of the hall door
announced her father.
Presently Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, came downstairs. Lamps were
lighted; dinner loitered its leisurely way. After it the doctor set
up one of his endless chess problems on the end of the table, and
Sammy returned to David Copperfield.
"Father, you know Anthony Gayley--that young carpenter in Torney's
"I do, my dear."
"Well, Clown ran away to-day, and he really saved me from a bad
A long pause.
"Ha!" said the doctor, presently. "Set this down, will you, Sammy?
Rook to queen's fourth. Check. Now, knight--any move. No--hold on.
Yes. Knight any move. Now, rook--wait a minute!"
His voice fell, his eyes were fixed. Sammy sighed.
At eight she fell to mending the fire with such vigor that her
colorless little face burned. Then her spine felt chilly. Sammy
turned about, trying to toast evenly; but it couldn't be done. She
thought suddenly of her warm bed, put her finger in her book, kissed
her father's bald spot between two yawns, and went upstairs.
The dreams went, too. There was nothing in this neglected, lonely
day, typical of all her days, to check them. It was delicious,
snuggling down in the chilly sheets, to go on dreaming.
Again she was riding alone in the woods. Again Clown was running
away. Again, big gentle Anthony Gayley was galloping behind her.
Again for that breathless moment she was in his arms. Sammy shut her
Her father, coming upstairs, wakened her. She lay smiling in the
dark. What had she been thinking of? Oh, yes! And out came the dream
horses and their riders again....
The next day she rode over the same bit of road again, and the day
after, and the day after that. The rides were absolutely uneventful,
but sweet with dreams.
A week later Sammy teased Mrs. Moore into taking her to the Elks'
concert and dance at the Wheatfield Hall over the post-office. When
Mrs. Moore protested at this unheard-of proceeding, the girl used
her one unfailing threat: "Then I'll tell father I want another
Mrs. Moore hated governesses. There had been no governess at the
doctor's for two years. She looked uneasy. "You've nothing to wear,"
"I'll wear my embroidered linen," said Sammy, "and Mary's spangled
"You oughtn't borrow your sister's things without permission," said
Mrs. Moore, half-heartedly.
"Mary's in New York," said Sammy, recklessly. "She's not been home
for two years, and she may not be back for two more! She won't care.
I'm eighteen, and I've never been to a dance, and I'm GOING--that's
all there is about it!"
And she burst into tears, and presently laughed herself out of them,
and went to her sister's orderly empty room to see what other
treasures besides the spangled scarf Mary had left behind her.
Three months later, on a burning July afternoon, the Wheatfield
"Terrors" played a team from the neighboring town of Copadoro.
Wheatfield's population was reputedly nine hundred, and certainly
almost that number of onlookers had gathered to watch the game. The
free seats were packed with perspiring women in limp summer gowns,
and restless, crimson-faced children; and a shouting, vociferous
line of men fringed the field. But in the "grand stand," where
chairs rented for twenty-five cents, there was still some room.
Three late-comers found seats there when the game was almost over--
Sammy's sister Mary, an extremely handsome young woman in a linen
gown and wide hat, her brother Tom, a correct young man whose
ordinary expression indicated boredom, and their aunt, a magnificent
personage in gray silk, with a gray silk parasol. Their arrival
caused some little stir.
"Well, for pit--!" exclaimed a stout matron seated immediately in
front of them. "If it ain't Mary Peneyre--an' Thomas too! An' Mrs.
Bond--for goodness' sake! Well, say, you folks ARE strangers. When
'jew all get here? Sammy never told me you was coming!"
"How d'you do, Mrs. Pidgeon?" said Sammy's aunt, cordially. "No,
Samantha didn't know it. We came--ah--rather suddenly. Yes, I've not
been in Wheatfield for ten years. We got here on the two o'clock
"Going to stay long, Mary?" said Mrs. Pidgeon, sociably.
"Only a few days," said Miss Peneyre, distantly. ("That's the worst
of growing up in a place," she said to herself. "Every one calls you
'Mary'!") "We are going to take Samantha back to New York with us,"
"Look out you don't find you're a little late," said Mrs. Pidgeon,
with great archness. "I'm surprised you ain't asked me if there's
any news from Sammy. Whole village talking about it."
The three smiles that met her gaze were not so unconcerned as their
wearers fondly hoped. Mrs. Bond ended a tense moment when she
exclaimed, "There's Sammy now!" and indicated to the others the last
row of seats, where a girl in blue, with a blue parasol, was sitting
alone. Mrs. Pidgeon delivered a parting shot. "Sammy might do lots
worse than Anthony Gayley," said she, confidentially. "Carpenter or
no carpenter, he's an elegant fellow. I thought Lizzie Philliber was
ace high, an' then folks talked some of Bootsy White. I guess
Bootsy'd like to do some hair-pulling."
"I dare say it's just a boy-and-girl friendship," said Mrs. Bond,
lightly, but trembling a little and pressing Mary's foot with her
own. When they were climbing over the wooden seats a moment later,
on their way to join Sammy, she added:
"Oh, really, it's insufferable! I'd like to spank that girl!"
"Apparently the whole village is on," contributed Tom, bitterly.
A moment later Sammy saw them; and if her welcome was a little
constrained, it was merely because of shyness. She settled down
radiantly between her sister and aunt, with a hand for each.
"Well, this is FUN!" said Sammy. "Did you get my letter? Were you
surprised? Are you all going to stay until September?"
Her happy fusillade of questions distressed them all. Mary said the
unwise thing, trying to laugh, as she had always laughed, at Sammy:
"DON'T talk as if you were going to be married, Sammy! It's too
awful--you don't know how aunty and I feel about it! Why, darling,
we want you to go back with us to New York! Sammy--"
The firm pressure of her aunt's foot against her own stopped her.
"I knew you would feel that way about it, Mary," said Sammy, very
quietly, but with blazing cheeks; "but I am of age, and father says
that Anthony has as much right to ask for the girl he loves as any
other man, and that's all there is to it!"
"You have it all thought out," said Mary, very white; "but, I must
say, I am surprised that a sister of mine, and a granddaughter of
Judge Peters--a girl who could have EVERYTHING!--is content to marry
an ordinary country carpenter! You won't have grandmother's money
until you're twenty-one; there's three years that you will have to
cook and sweep and get your hands rough, and probably bring up--"