Part 6 out of 7
fastening the sash of her cobwebby black Mandarin robe as she
followed Emma through the passage that joined her suite to the
"Ann, dear--Emma tells me the laundry's on fire?" said she, entering
the big room. "I had no idea of it!"
"Nor had we," the doctor's wife rejoined eagerly. "The first we knew
was from Emma. Jim says there's no danger. Do you think there is?"
"Certainly not, Ann!" Julie laughed. "I'll tell you what we can do,"
she added briskly. "We'll wheel you down the hall here to the
window; you can get a splendid view of the whole thing."
The doctor approving, the ladies took up their station at a wide
hall window that commanded the whole scene.
Outside the velvet blackness and silence of the night were
shattered. The great mill, ugly tongues of flame bursting from the
door and windows at its base, was the centre of a talking, shouting,
shrill-voiced crowd that was momentarily, in the mysterious fashion
of crowds, gathering size.
"Wonderful sight, isn't it, Ann?"
"Wonderful. Does this cut off our water supply, Emma?"
"No, Mrs. Arbuthnot. They're using the little mill for the engines
"What did they use the big mill for, Emma?"
"The laundry, Miss Ives. And there's a sort of flat on the second
floor where the laundry woman and her husband--he's the man that
drives the 'bus--live."
"Good heavens!" said Ann. "I hope they got out!"
"Oh, sure," said the maid, comfortably. "It was all of an hour ago
the fire started. They had lots of time."
The three watched for a while in silence. Ann's eyes began to droop
from the bright monotony of the flames.
"I believe I'll wait until the tank falls, Ju? and then go back to
my comfortable bed--Julie, what is it--!"
Her voice rose, keen with terror. The actress, her hand on her
heart, shook her head without turning her eyes from the mill.
For suddenly above the other clamor there had risen one horrible
scream, and now, following it, there was almost a silence.
"Why--what on earth--" panted Miss Ives, looking to Mrs. Arbuthnot
for explanation after an endless interval in which neither stirred.
But again they were interrupted, this time by such an outbreak of
shouting and cries from the watching crowd about the mill as made
the night fairly ring.
A moment later the entire top of the mill collapsed, sending a gush
of sparks far up into the night. Then at last the faithfully played
hoses began to gain control.
"Do run down and find out what the shouting was, Emma," said Julie.
Emma gladly obeyed.
"She'd come back, if anything had happened," said Julie, some ten
"Who--Emma?" Mrs. Arbuthnot was not alarmed. "Oh, surely!" she
yawned, and drew her wraps about her.
"It's all over now. But I suppose it will burn for hours. I think
I'll turn in again," she said.
"I've had enough, too!" Julie said, not quite easy herself, but glad
to find the other so. "Let's decamp."
She wheeled the invalid carefully back to her room, where both women
were still talking when a bell-boy knocked, bringing a message from
the doctor. A woman had been hurt; he would be busy with her for an
"Who was it?" Julie asked him, but the boy, obviously frantic to
return to the fascinations of the fire, didn't know.
It was more than an hour later that the doctor came in. Julie had
been reading to Ann. She shut the book.
"Jim! What on earth has kept you so long?"
"Frighten you, dear?" The doctor was very pale; he looked, between
the dirt and disorder of his clothes, and the anxiety of his face,
like an old man.
"Some one was hurt?" flashed Julie, solicitous at once.
"Has no one told you about it?" he wondered. "Lord! I should think
it would be all over the place by this time!"
He dropped into an easy chair, and sank his head wearily into his
"Lord--Lord--Lord!" he muttered. Then he looked up at his wife with
the smile that never failed her.
"Jim--no one was killed?"
"Oh, no, dear! No, I'll tell you." He came over and sat beside her
on the bed, patting her hand. The two women watched him with tense,
"When I got there," said the doctor, slowly, "there was quite a
crowd--the lower story of the mill was all aflame--and the firemen
were keeping the people back. They'd a ladder up at the second story
and firemen were pitching things out of the windows as fast as they
could--chairs, rugs, pillows, and so on. Finally the last man came
out, smoke coming after him--it was quick work! Now, remember, dear,
no one was killed--"he stopped to pat his wife's hand reassuringly.
"Well, just then, at the third-story windows--it seems the laundress
"Children!" gasped Miss Ives. "Oh, NO!"
"Yes, four of 'em--the oldest a little fellow of ten, had the baby
in his arms--." The doctor stopped.
"Go ON, Jim!"
"Well, they put the ladder back again, but the sill was aflame then.
No use! Just then the mother and father--poor souls--arrived. They'd
been at a dance in the village. The woman screamed--"
"Ah? The man had to be held, poor fellow! It was--it was--" Again
the doctor stopped, unable to go on. But after a few seconds he
began more briskly: "Well! The mill was connected with this house,
you know, by a little bridge, from the tank floor of the mill to the
roof. No one had thought of it, because every one supposed that
there was no one in the mill. Before the crowd had fairly seen that
there WERE children caged up there, they left the window, and not a
minute later we saw them come up the trap-door by the tank. Lord,
how every one yelled."
"They'd thought of it, the darlings!" half sobbed Mrs. Arbuthnot.
"No, they'd never have thought of it--too terrified, poor little
things. No. We all saw that there was some one--a woman--with them
hurrying them along. I was helping hold the mother or I might have
thought it was the mother. They scampered across that bridge like
little squirrels, the woman with the baby last. By that time the
mill was roaring like a furnace behind them, and the bridge itself
burst into flames at the mill end. She--the woman--must have felt it
tottering, for she flung herself the last few feet--but she couldn't
make it. She threw the baby, by some lucky accident, for she
couldn't have known what she was doing, safe to the others, and
caught at the rail, but the whole thing gave way and came down.... I
got there about the first--she'd only fallen some dozen feet, you
know, on the flat roof of the kitchen, but she was all smashed up,
poor little girl. We carried her into the housekeeper's room--and
then I saw that it was little Miss Carter--your Dancing Girl, Ju!"
"Oh, no! I don't think she'll die. She's badly burned, of course--
face and hands especially--but it's the spine I'm afraid for. We can
tell better to-morrow. We made her as comfortable as we could. I
gave her something that'll make her sleep. Her mother's with her.
But I'm afraid her dancing days are over."
"Think of it--little Miss Carter!" Julie's voice sounded dazed.
"But, Jim," Ann said, "what was she doing in the mill?"
"Why, that's the point," he said. "She wasn't there when the fire
started. She was simply one of the crowd. But when she heard that
the children were there, she ran to the back of the mill, where
there was a straight up-and-down ladder built against the wall
outside, so that the tank could be reached that way. She went up it
like a flash--says she never thought of asking any one else to go.
She broke a window and climbed in--she says the floor was hot to her
feet then--and she and the kids ran up the inside flight to the
trap-door. They obeyed her like little soldiers! But the bridge side
of the mill was the side the fire was on, and the wood was rotten,
you know--almost explosive. Half a minute later and they couldn't
have made it at all."
"How do you ACCOUNT for such courage in a girl like that?" marvelled
"I don't know," he said. "Take it all in all, it was the most
extraordinary thing I ever saw. Apparently she never for one second
thought of herself. She simply ran straight into that hideous
danger--while the rest of us could do nothing but put our hands over
our eyes and pray."
"But she'll live, Jim?" the actress asked, and as he nodded a
thoughtful affirmative, she added: "That's something to be thankful
for, at least!"
"Don't be too sure it is," said Ann.
Ten days later Miss Ives came cheerfully into the sunny, big room
where Marian Carter lay. Bandaged, and strapped, and bound, it was a
sorry little Dancing Girl who turned her serious eyes to the
actress's face. But Julie could be irresistible when she chose, and
she chose to be her most fascinating self to-day. Almost reluctantly
at first, later with something of her old gayety, the Dancing Girl's
laugh rang out. It stirred Julie's heart curiously to hear it, and
made the little patient's mother, listening in the next room, break
silently into tears.
"But this is what I really came to bring you," said the actress,
presently, laying a score or more of newspaper clippings on the bed.
"You see you are famous! I had my press-agent watch for these, and
they're coming in at a great rate every mail. You see, here's a
nattering likeness of you in a New York daily, and here you are
again, in a Chicago paper!"
"Those aren't of ME," said Marian, smiling.
"It SAYS they are," Julie said. "One says you are petite and dark,
and the other that you are a blond Gibson type. You wouldn't have
believed that your wish could come true so quickly, would you, just
the other day?"
"My wish?" stammered the girl.
"Yes. Don't you remember saying that you wished you could do
something big?" pursued Julie. "You've done a thing that makes the
rest of us feel pretty small, you know. Why, while there was any
question of your getting better, there wasn't a dance given at any
of the hotels between here and Surf Point, and all sorts of people
came here with inquiries every day. This place was absolutely
hushed. The maids used to fight for the privilege of carrying your
trays up. None of us thought of anything but 'How is Miss Carter?'
And you'll be 'The young lady who saved those children from the
fire' for the rest of your life wherever you go!"
Miss Carter was watching her gravely.
"You say I got my wish," she said now, her blue eyes brimming with
slow tears, and her lips trembling. "But--but--you see how I AM,
Miss Ives! Dr. Arbuthnot says I MAY be able to walk in a month or
two, but no swimming or riding or dancing for years--perhaps never.
And my face--it'll always be scarred."
Julie laid a gentle hand on the little helpless fingers.
"But that's part of the process, you know, little girl," said the
actress after a little silence. "I pay one way, perhaps, and you pay
another, but we both pay. Don't you suppose," a smile broke through
the seriousness of her face, "don't you suppose I have my scars,
Marian dried her eyes. "Scars?"
"When you are pointed out--as you WILL be, wherever you go--" said
Julie, "you'll think to yourself, 'Ah, yes, this is very lovely and
very flattering, but I'll never dance again--I'll never rush into
the waves again, I'll never spend a whole morning on the tennis
court,' won't you?"
The Dancing Girl nodded, her eyes filling again, her lips trembling.
"And when people stare after me and follow me," said Julie, "I think
to myself--'Oh, this is very flattering, very delightful--but the
young years are gone--the mother who missed me and longed for me is
gone--the little sisters are married, and deep in happy family
cares--they don't need me any more.' I have what I wanted, but I've
paid the price! In a life like mine there's no room for the normal,
wonderful ties of a home and children. Never--" she put her head
back against her chair and shut her eyes--"never that happiness for
me!" She finished, her voice lowered and carefully controlled.
They were both silent awhile. Then Marian stirred her helpless
fingers just enough to deepen their light pressure on Julie's own.
"Thank you," she said shyly. "I see now. I think I begin to
In the sunny morning-room there prevailed an atmosphere of business.
Rosemary, at the desk, was rapidly writing notes and addressing
envelopes. Theodore, a deep wrinkle crossing his forehead, was
struggling to reduce to order a confused heap of crumpled and
illegible papers. Before him lay little heaps of silver and small
gold, which he moved and counted untiringly, referring now and then
to various entries in a large, flat ledger. Mrs. Bancroft,
stepmother of these two, was in a deep chair, with her lap full of
letters. Now and then she quoted aloud from these as she opened and
glanced over them. Lastly, Ann Weatherbee, a neighbor, seated on the
floor with her back against Mrs. Bancroft's knee, was sorting a
large hamperful of silver spoons and crumpled napkins into various
"There!" said Ann, presently. "I've finished the napkins--or nearly!
Tell me, whose are these, Aunt Nell?"
Mrs. Bancroft reached a smooth hand for them and mused over the
"B--B--B--?" she reflected. "Both are B's, aren't they? And
different, too. This is Mrs. Bayne's, anyway--I was with her when
she bought these. But these--? Oh, I know now, Ann! That little
cousin of the Potters',--what was her name, Rosemary?"
"Sutter, madam! Guess again."
"No; but her unmarried name, I mean?"
"Oh, Beatty, of course!" supplied Ann. "Aren't you clever to
remember that! I'll tie them up. Oh, and should there only be eleven
of the Whiteley Greek-borders?" she asked presently.
"One was sent home with a cake, dear,--we had too much cake."
"We always do, somehow," commented Rosemary, absently, and there was
a silence. The last speaker broke it presently, with a long sigh.
"At your next concert, mamma, I shall insist upon having 'please
omit flowers' on the tickets," said Rosemary, severely. "I think I
have thanked forty people for 'your exquisite roses'!"
"Poor, overworked little Rosemary!" laughed her stepmother.
"You can look for a new treasurer, too," said Theodore. "This sort
of thing needs an expert accountant. No ordinary brain...! What with
some of these women rubbing every item out three or four times, and
others using pale green water for ink, nobody could get a balance."
Mrs. Bancroft, smiling serenely, leaned back in her chair,
"Aren't they unkind to me, Ann?" she complained. "They would expect
a poor, forlorn old woman--Now, Rosemary!"
For Rosemary had interrupted her. Seating herself upon the arm of
her stepmother's chair, she laid a firm hand over the speaker's
"Now she will fish, Ann," said Rosemary, calmly.
"Fish!" said Ann, indignantly. "After last night she doesn't have to
"You bet she doesn't," said Theodore, affectionately. "Not she! She
got enough compliments last night to last her a long while."
"_I_ was ashamed of myself," confessed Rosemary, with her slow
smile; "for, after all, WE'RE only her family! But father, Ted, and
I went about the whole evening with broad, complacent grins--as if
WE'D been doing something."
"Oh, _I_ was boasting aloud most of the time that I knew her
intimately," Ann added, laughing. "Just being a neighbor and old
friend shed a sort of glory even on me!"
"Oh, well, it was the dearest concert ever," summarized Rosemary,
contentedly. "The papers this morning say that the flowers were like
an opera first night--though _I_ never saw any opera singer get so
many here--and that hundreds were turned away!"
"'Hundreds'!" repeated Mrs. Bancroft, chuckling at the absurdity of
"Well, mamma, the hall WAS packed," Ted reminded her promptly. He
grinned over some amusing memory. "...Old lady Barnes weeping over
'Nora Creina,'" he added.
"Ann, I didn't tell you that Dad and I met Herr Muller at the gate
this morning," said Rosemary, "shedding tears over the thought of
some of the Franz songs, and blowing his nose on his blue
"And you certainly did look stunning, mamma," contributed Ted.
"Children... children!" protested Mrs. Bancroft. But the pleased
color flooded her cheeks.
Another busy silence was broken by a triumphant exclamation from
Theodore, who turned about from his table to announce:
"Three hundred and seven dollars, ladies, and thirty-five cents,
with old lady Baker still to hear from, and eight dollars to pay for
"WHAT!" said the three women together. Theodore repeated the sum.
"Nonsense!" cried Rosemary. "It CAN'T be so much."
Mrs. Bancroft stared dazedly.
"TWO hundred, Ted...?" she suggested.
"Three hundred!" the boy repeated firmly, beaming sympathetically as
both the young women threw themselves upon Mrs. Bancroft, and
smothered her in ecstatic embraces.
"Oh, Aunt Nell," said Ann, almost tearfully, "I don't know what the
girls will SAY. Why, Rose, it'll all but clear the ward. It's three
times what we thought!"
"Your father will be pleased," said Mrs. Bancroft, winking a little
suspiciously. "He's worried so about you girlies assuming that debt.
I must go tell him." She began to gather her letters together. "Do
you know where he is, Ted? Has he come in from his first round?" she
"She's the dearest...!" said Ann, when the door closed behind her.
"There's nobody quite like your mother."
"Honestly there isn't," assented Rosemary, thoughtfully. "When you
think how unspoiled she is--with that heavenly voice of hers, you
know, and every one so devoted to her. She doesn't do a THING,
whether it's arranging flowers, or apron patterns, or managing the
maids, that people don't admire and copy."
"She can't wait now to tell father the news," commented Theodore,
"He'll be perfectly enchanted," said Rosemary. "He sent her violets
last night, and this morning, when we were taking all her flowers
out of the bathtub, and looking at the cards, she gave me such a
funny little grin and said, 'I'll thank the gentleman for these
myself, Rose!' Ted and I roared at her."
"But that was dear," said Ann, romantically.
"She simply does what she likes with Dad," said Ted, ruminatively.
Rosemary, facing the others over the back of her chair, nodded. Ann
had her arms about her knees. They were all idle.
"She got Dad to give me my horse," the boy went on, "and she'll get
him to let us go off to the Greers' next month--you'll see! I can't
think how she does it."
"I can remember the first day she came here," said Rosemary. She
rested her chin in her hands; her eyes were dreamy.
"George! We were the scared, miserable little rats!" supplemented
Theodore. Rosemary smiled pitifully, as if the mother asleep in her
could feel for the children of that long-passed day.
"I was only six," she said, "and when we heard the wheels we ran--"
"That's right! We ran upstairs," agreed her brother.
"Yes. And she followed us. I can remember the rustling of her
dress.... And she had roses on--she pinned one on Bess's little
black frock. And she carried me down to dinner in her arms, and I
sat in her lap."
"And that year you had a party," said Ann. "I remember that, for I
came. And the playhouse was built for Bess's birthday."
"So it was," said Rosemary, struck afresh. "That was all her doing,
too. She just has to want a thing, and it gets done! I'll never
forget Bess's wedding."
"Nor I," said Ann. "It was the most perfect little wedding I ever
saw. Not a hitch anywhere. And wasn't the house a bower? I never had
so much fun at any wedding in my life. Bess was so fresh and gay,
and she and George helped us until the very last minute--do you
remember?--gathering the roses and wrapping the cake. It was all
"Bess told me the other day," said Rosemary, soberly, and in a
lowered tone, "that on her wedding-day, when she was dressed, you
know, mamma put on her veil, and pinned on the orange blossoms, and
kissed her. And Bess saw the tears in her eyes. And mamma laughed,
and put her arm about her and said: 'It is silly and wrong of me,
dearest, but I was thinking who might have been doing this for you
to-day--of how proud she would have been!' Then they came down, and
Bess was married."
"Wasn't that like her?" said Ann. They were all silent a moment.
Then the visitor jumped up.
"Well, I must trot home to my deserted parent, my children," she
exclaimed briskly. "He rages if he comes in and doesn't find me.
But, if you ask me, I'll be over later to help you, Rose. Every one
in the world will be here for tea. And, meantime, make her rest,
Ted. She looks tired to death."
"I'll see thee home, Mistress," said Ted, gallantly, and Rosemary
was left alone. Her brother, coming in again nearly an hour
afterward, found her still in the same thoughtful attitude, her big
eyes fixed upon space. He knelt, and put his arm about her, and she
drooped her soft, cool little cheek against his, tightening her own
arm about his neck. There was a little silence.
"What is it?" said the boy, presently.
"Nothing, Teddy. But you're SUCH a comfort!"
"Well, but it's SOMETHING, old lady. Out with it!"
Rosemary tumbled his hair with her free hand.
"I was thinking of--mother," she confessed, very low.
His eyes were fast on hers for another short silence.
"Well,"--he spoke as if to a small child--"what were you thinking,
"Oh, I was just thinking, Ted, that it's not fair. It isn't fair,"
said Rosemary, with a little difficulty. "Not only Dad and Bess and
the maids, but you and I, too, we can't help idolizing mamma. And
sometimes we never think of mother--our own mother!--except as tired
and sick and struggling--that's all I remember, anyway. And mamma is
all strength and sweetness and health."
"I--I know it, old lady."
"Oh, and Ted!--to-day, and sometimes before, it's hurt me so! I
can't feel--I don't want to!--anything but what I do to mamma, but
She struggled for composure. Her brother cleared his throat.
"She was so wistful for pretty things and good times, even I can
remember that," said Rosemary, with pitiful recollection. "And she
never had them! SHE would have loved to stand there last night, in
lace and pearls, bowing and smiling to every one. She would have
loved the applause and the flowers. And it stings me to think of us,
you and I, proud to be mamma's stepchildren!"
"Dad worshipped mother," submitted the boy, hesitatingly.
"Yes, of course! But he was working day and night, and they were
poor, and then she was ill. I don't think she managed very well.
Those frightful, sloppy servants we used to have, and smoky fires,
and sticky summer dinners--and three bad little kids crying and
leaving screen doors open, and spilling the syrup! I remember her at
the stove, flushed and hot. You think I don't, but I do!"
"Yes, I do, too," he assented uncomfortably, frowningly.
"And do you remember the Easter eggs, Ted?"
Theodore nodded, wincing.
"She forgot to buy them, you know, and then walked two miles in the
hot spring weather, just to surprise and please us!"
"And then the eggs smashed, didn't they?"
"On the way home, yes. And we cried with fury, little beasts that we
were!" said Rosemary, as if unable to stop the sad little train of
memories. "I can remember that awful Belle that we had, making her
drink some port. I wouldn't kiss her. And she said that she would
see if she couldn't get me another egg the next day. And then Dad
came in, and scolded us all so, and carried her upstairs!"
She suddenly burst out crying, and clung to her brother. And he let
her cry for a while, patting her shoulder and talking to her until
control and even cheerfulness came back, and she could be trusted to
go upstairs and bathe her eyes for lunch.
When the lunch bell rang, Rosemary went downstairs, to find her
stepmother at the wide hall doorway with a yellow telegram in her
"News from Bess," said Mrs. Bancroft, quickly. "Good news, thank
God! George wires that she and the little son are doing well. The
baby came at eleven this morning. Dad's just come in, and he's
telephoning that you and I will come over right after lunch. Think
of it! Think of it!"
"Bess!" said Rosemary, unsteadily. She read the telegram, and clung
a little limply to the firm hand that held it. "Bess's baby!" she
"Bess's darling baby--think of holding it, Aunt Rose!"
Rosemary's sober eyes flashed joyously.
"Oh, I am--so I am! An aunt! DOESN'T it seem queer?"
"It seems very queer to me," said Mrs. Bancroft, as they sat down on
a wide window-seat to revel in the news, "for I went to see your
mother, on just such a morning, when Bess herself was just a day
old--it seems only a year ago! Bless us, how old we get! Your mother
was younger than I, you know, and I remember that SHE seemed to me
mighty young to have a baby! And now here's her baby's baby! Your
mother was like an exquisite child, Rosey-posy, showing off little
Bess. They lived in a little playhouse of a cottage, with blue
curtains, and blue china, and a snubnosed little maid in blue! I
passed it on my way to school,--I had been teaching for seven years
or so, then,--and your mother would call out from the garden and
make me come in, and dance about me like a little witch. She wanted
me to taste jam, or to hold Teddy, or to see her roses--I used to
feel sometimes as if all the sunshine in the world was for Rose!
Your father had boarded with my mother for three years before they
were married, you know, and I was fighting the bitterest sort of
heartache over the fact that I liked him and missed him--not that he
ever dreamed it! Perhaps she did, for she was always generous with
you babies--loaned you to me, and was as sweet to me as she could
be." Mrs. Bancroft crumpled the telegram, smiled, and sighed. "Well,
it all comes back with another baby--all those times when we were
young, and gay, and unhappy, and working together. Bess will look
back at these days sometime, with the same feeling. There is nothing
in life like youth and work, and hard times and good times, when
people love each other, Rose."
Rosemary suddenly leaned over to kiss her. Her eyes were curiously
"I see where the fairness comes in--I see it now," she said
dreamily. But even her stepmother did not catch the whisper or its
In the blazing heat of a July afternoon, Mrs. Cyrus Austin Phelps,
of Boston, arrived unexpectedly at the Yerba Buena rancho in
California. She was the only passenger to leave the train at the
little sun-burned platform that served as a station, and found not
even a freight agent there, of whom to ask the way to Miss Manzanita
Boone's residence. There were a few glittering lizards whisking
about on the dusty boards, and a few buzzards hanging motionless
against the cloudless pale blue of the sky overhead. Otherwise
nothing living was in sight.
The train roared on down the valley, and disappeared. Its last echo
died away. All about was the utter silence of the foot-hills. The
even spires of motionless redwood trees rose, dense and steep, to
meet the sky-line with a shimmer of heat. The sun beat down
mercilessly, there was no shadow anywhere.
Mrs. Phelps, trim, middle-aged, richly and simply dressed, typical
of her native city, was not a woman to be easily disconcerted, but
she felt quite at a loss now. She was already sorry that she had
come at all to Yerba Buena, sorry that, in coming, she had not
written Austin to meet her. She already disliked this wide, silent,
half-savage valley, and already felt out of place here. How could
she possibly imagine that there would not be shops, stables, hotels
at the station? What did other people do when they arrived here?
Mrs. Phelps crisply asked these questions of the unanswering woods
After a while she sat down on her trunk, though with her small back
erect, and her expression uncompromisingly stern. She was sitting
there when Joe Bettancourt, a Portuguese milkman, happened to come
by with his shabby milk wagon, and his lean, shaggy horses, and--
more because Joe, not understanding English, took it calmly for
granted that she wished to drive with him, than because she liked
the arrangement--Mrs. Phelps got him to take her trunk and herself
upon their way. They drove steadily upward, through apple orchards
that stretched in hot zigzag lines, like the spokes of a great
wheel, about them, and through strips of forest, where the corduroy
road was springy beneath the wagon wheels, and past ugly low cow
sheds, where the red-brown cattle were already gathering for the
"You are taking me to Mr. Boone's residence?" Mrs. Phelps would ask,
at two-minute intervals. And Joe, hunched lazily over the reins,
would respond huskily:
"Sure. Thaz th' ole man."
And presently they did turn a corner, and find, in a great gash of
clearing, a low, rambling structure only a little better than the
cow sheds, with wide, unpainted porches all about it, and a
straggling line of out-houses near by. A Chinese cook came out of a
swinging door to stare at the arrival, two or three Portuguese
girls, evidently house-servants, entered into a cheerful, nasal
conversation with Joe Bettancourt, from their seats by the kitchen
door, and a very handsome young woman, whom Mrs. Phelps at first
thought merely another servant came running down to the wagon. This
young creature had a well-rounded figure, clad in faded, crisp blue
linen, slim ankles that showed above her heavy buckled slippers, and
a loosely-braided heavy rope of bright hair. Her eyes were a burning
blue, the lashes curled like a doll's lashes, and the brows as even
and dark as a doll's, too. She was extraordinarily pretty, even Mrs.
Phelps could find no fault with the bright perfection of her face.
"Don't say you're Mother Phelps!" cried this young person,
delightedly, lifting the older woman almost bodily from the wagon.
"But I know you are!" she continued joyously. "Do you know who I am?
I'm Manzanita Boone!"
Mrs. Phelps felt her heart grow sick within her. She had thought
herself steeled for any shock,--but not this! Stricken dumb for a
moment, she was led indoors, and found herself listening to a stream
of gay chatter, and relieved of hat and gloves, and answering
questions briefly and coldly, while all the time an agonized
undercurrent of protest filled her heart: "He cannot--he SHALL NOT
Austin was up at the mine, of course, but Miss Boone despatched a
messenger for him in all haste. The messenger was instructed to say
merely that Manzanita had something she wanted to show him, but the
simple little ruse failed. Austin guessed what the something was,
and before he had fairly dismounted from his wheeling buckskin, his
mother heard his eager voice: "Mater! Where are you! Where's my
He came rushing into the ranch-house, and caught her in his arms,
laughing and eager, half wild with the joy of seeing his mother and
his girl in each other's company, and too radiant to suspect that
his mother's happiness was not as great as his own.
"You got my letter about our engagement, mater? Of course,--and you
came right on to meet my girl yourself, didn't you? Good little
mater, that was perfectly great of you! This is just about the best
thing that ever--and isn't she sweet--do you blame me?" He had his
arm about Manzanita, their eyes were together, his tender and proud,
the girl's laughing and shy,--they did not see Mrs. Phelps's
expression. "And what did you think?" Austin rushed on, "Were you
surprised? Did you tell Cornelia? That's good. Did you tell every
one--have the home papers had it? You know, mother," Austin dropped
his voice confidentially, "I wasn't sure you'd be awfully glad,--
just at first, you know. I knew you would be the minute you saw
Manz'ita; but I was afraid--But now, it's all right,--and it's just
"But I thought Yerba Buena was quite a little village, dear," said
Mrs. Phelps, accusingly.
"What's the difference?" said Austin, cheerfully, much concerned
because Manzanita was silently implying that he should remove his
arm from her waist.
"Why, I thought I could stay at a hotel, or at least a boarding-
house--" began his mother. Miss Boone laughed out. She was a noisy
"We'll 'phone the Waldorf-Astoria," said she.
"Seriously, Austin--" said Mrs. Phelps, looking annoyed.
"Seriously, mater," he met her distress comfortably, "you'll stay
here at the ranch-house. I live here, you know. Manz'ita'll love to
have you, and you'll get the best meals you ever had since you were
born! This was certainly a corking thing for you to do, mother!" he
broke off joyfully. "And you're looking awfully well!"
"I find you changed, Austin," his mother said, with a delicate
inflection that made the words significant. "You're brown, dear, and
bigger, and--heavier, aren't you?"
"Why don't you say fat?" said Manzanita, with a little push for her
affianced husband. "He was an awfully pasty-looking thing when he
came here," she confided to his mother. "But I fed him up, didn't I,
Aus?" And she rubbed her cheek against his head like a little
"And he's going to marry her!" Mrs. Phelps said to herself,
heartsick. She felt suddenly old and discouraged and helpless; out
of their zone of youth and love. But on the heels of despair, her
courage rose up again. She would save Austin while there was yet
time, if human power could do it.
The three were sitting in the parlor, a small, square room, through
whose western windows the sinking sun streamed boldly. Mrs. Phelps
had never seen a room like this before. There was no note of
quaintness here; no high-boy, no heavy old mahogany drop-leaf table,
no braided rugs or small-paned windows. There was not even comfort.
The chairs were as new and shining as chairs could be; there was a
"mission style" rocker, a golden-oak rocker, a cherry rocker,
heavily upholstered. There was a walnut drop-head sewing-machine on
which a pink saucer of some black liquid fly-poison stood. There was
a "body Brussels" rug on the floor. Lastly, there was an oak
sideboard, dusty, pretentious, with its mirror cut into small
sections by little, empty shelves.
It all seemed like a nightmare to poor little Mrs. Phelps, as she
sat listening to the delighted reminiscences of the young people,
who presently reviewed their entire acquaintanceship for her
benefit. It seemed impossible that this was her Austin, this big-
voiced, brown, muscular young man! Austin had always been slender,
and rather silent. Austin had always been so close to her, so quick
to catch her point of view. He had been nearer her even than
Cornelia! Her heart reached Cornelia's name with a homesick throb.
Cornelia would be home from her club or concert or afternoon at
cards now,--Mrs. Phelps did not worry herself with latitude or
longitude,--she would be having tea in the little drawing-room,
under the approving canvases of Copley and Gilbert Stuart. Her
mother could see Cornelia's well-groomed hands busy with the Spode
cups and the heavy old silver spoons; Cornelia's fine, intelligent
face and smooth dark head well set off by a background of rich
hangings and soft lights, polished surfaces, and the dull tones of
"I beg your pardon?" she said, rousing herself.
"I asked you if you didn't have a cat-fit when you realized that Aus
was going to marry a girl you never saw?" Manzanita repeated with
friendly enjoyment. Mrs. Phelps gave her only a few seconds' steady
consideration for answer, and then pointedly addressed her son.
"It sounds very strange to your mother, to have you called anything
but Austin, my son," she said.
"Manz'ita can't spare the time," he explained, adoring eyes on the
girl, whose beauty, in the level light, was quite startling enough
to hold any man's eyes.
"And you young people are very sure of yourselves, I suppose?" the
mother said, lightly, after a little pause. Austin only laughed
comfortably, but Manzanita's eyes came suddenly to meet those of the
older woman, and both knew that the first gun had been fired. A
color that was not of the sunset burned suddenly in the girl's round
cheeks. "She's not glad we're engaged!" thought Manzanita, with a
pang of utter surprise. "She knows why I came!" Mrs. Phelps said
triumphantly to herself.
For Mrs. Phelps was a determined woman, and in some ways a merciless
one. She had been born with Bostonian prejudices strong within her.
She had made her children familiar, in their very nursery days, with
the great names of their ancestors. Cornelia, when a plain,
distinguished-looking child of six, was aware that her nose was "all
Slocumb," and her forehead just like "great-aunt Hannah Maria Rand
Babcock's." Austin learned that he was a Phelps in disposition, but
"the image of the Bonds and the Baldwins." The children often went
to distinguished gatherings composed entirely of their near and
distant kinspeople, ate their porridge from silver bowls a hundred
years old, and even at dancing-school were able to discriminate
against the beruffled and white-clad infants whose parents "mother
didn't know." In due time Austin went to a college in whose archives
the names of his kinsmen bore an honorable part; and Cornelia,
having skated and studied German cheerfully for several years, with
spectacles on her near-sighted eyes, her hair in a club, and a metal
band across her big white teeth, suddenly blossomed into a handsome
and dignified woman, who calmly selected one Taylor Putnam Underwood
as the most eligible of several possible husbands, and proceeded to
set up an irreproachable establishment of her own.
All this was as it should be. Mrs. Phelps, a bustling little figure
in her handsome rich silks, with her crisp black hair severely
arranged, and her crisp voice growing more and more pleasantly
positive as years went by, fitted herself with dignity into the role
of mother-in-law and grandmother. Cornelia had been married several
years. When Austin came home from college, and while taking him
proudly with her on a round of dinners and calls, his mother
naturally cast her eye about her for the pearl of women, who should
become his wife.
Austin, it was understood, was to go into Uncle Hubbard
Frothingham's office. All the young sons and nephews and cousins in
the family started there. When Austin, agreeing in the main to the
proposal, suggested that he be put in the San Francisco branch of
the business, Mrs. Phelps was only mildly disturbed. He had
everything to lose and nothing to gain by going West, she explained,
but if he wanted to, let him try California.
So Austin went, and quite distinguished himself in his new work for
about a year. Then suddenly out of a clear sky came the astounding
news that he had left the firm,--actually resigned from Frothingham,
Curtis, and Frothingham!--and had gone up into the mountains, to
manage a mine for some unknown person named Boone! Mrs. Phelps shut
her lips into a severe line when she heard this news, and for
several weeks she did not write to Austin. But as months went by,
and he seemed always well and busy, and full of plans for a visit
home, she forgave him, and wrote him twice weekly again,--charming,
motherly letters, in which newspaper clippings and concert
programmes likely to interest him were enclosed, and amateur
photographs,--snapshots of Cornelia in her furs, laughing against a
background of snowy Common, snapshots of Cornelia's children with
old Kelly in the motor-car, and of dear Taylor and Cornelia with
Sally Middleton on the yacht. Did Austin remember dear Sally? She
had grown so pretty and had so many admirers.
It was Cornelia who suggested, when the staggering news of Austin's
engagement came to Boston, that her mother should go to California,
stay at some "pretty, quiet farm-house near by," meet this Miss
Manzanita Boone, whoever she was, and quietly effect, as mothers and
sisters have hoped to effect since time began, a change of heart in
And so she had arrived here, to find that there was no such thing in
the entire valley as the colonial farmhouse of her dreams, to find
that, far from estranging Austin from the Boone family, she must
actually be their guest while she stayed at Yerba Buena, to find
that her coming was interpreted by this infatuated pair to be a sign
of her entire sympathy with their plans. And added to all this,
Austin was different, noisier, bigger, younger than she remembered
him: Manzanita was worse than her worst fears, and the rancho,
bounded only by the far-distant mountain ridges, with its canyons,
its river, its wooded valleys and trackless ranges, struck actual
terror to her homesick soul.
"Well, what do you think of her? Isn't she a darling?" demanded
Austin, when he and his mother were alone on the porch, just before
"She's very PRETTY, dear. She's not a college girl, of course?"
"College? Lord, no! Why, she wouldn't even go away to boarding-
school." Austin was evidently proud of her independent spirit. "She
and her brothers went to this little school over here at Eucalyptus,
and I guess Manz'ita ran things pretty much her own way. You'll like
the kids. They have no mother, you know, and old Boone just adores
Manzanita. He's a nice old boy, too."
"Austin, DEAR!" Mrs. Phelps's protest died into a sigh.
"Well, but he is, a fine old fellow," amended Austin.
"And you think she's the sort of woman to make you happy, dear. Is
she musical? Is she fond of books?"
Austin, for the first time, looked troubled.
"Don't you LIKE her, mother?" he asked, astounded.
"Why, I've just met her, dear. I want you to tell me about her."
"Every one here is crazy about her," Austin said half sulkily.
"She's been engaged four times, and she's only twenty-two!"
"And she TOLD you that, dear? Herself?"
The boy flushed quickly.
"Why shouldn't she?" he said uncomfortably. "Every one knows it."
His mother fanned for a moment in silence.
"Can you imagine Cornelia--or Sally--engaged four times, and talking
about it?" she asked gently.
"Things are different here," Austin presently submitted, to which
Mrs. Phelps emphatically assented, "Entirely different!"
There was a pause. From the kitchen region came much slamming of
light wire door, and the sound of hissing and steaming, high-keyed
remarks from the Chinese and the Portuguese girls, and now and then
the ripple of Manzanita's laughter. A farm-hand crossed the yard,
with pails of milk, and presently a dozen or more men came down the
steep trail that led to the mine.
These were ranch-hands, cow-boys, and road-keepers, strong, good-
natured young fellows, who had their own house and their own cook
near the main ranch-house, and who now began a great washing and
splashing, at a bench under some willow trees, where there were
basins and towels. An old Spanish shepherd, with his dogs, came down
from the sheep range; other dogs lounged out from barns and stables;
there was a cheerful stir of reunion and relaxation as the hot day
dropped to its close.
A great hawk flapped across the canyon below the ranch-house, bats
began to wheel in the clear dusk, owls called in the woods. Just
before Manzanita appeared in the kitchen doorway to ring a clamorous
bell for some sixty ear-splitting seconds, her father, an immense
old man on a restless claybank mare, rode into the yard, and the
four brothers, Jose, Marty, Allen, and the little crippled youngest,
eight-year-old Rafael, appeared mysteriously from the shadows, and
announced that they were ready for dinner. Martin Boone, Senior,
gave Mrs. Phelps a vigorous welcome.
"Well, sir! I never thought I'd be glad to see the mother of the
fellow who carried off my girl," said Martin Boone, wringing Mrs.
Phelps's aching fingers, "but you and I married in our day, ma'am,
and it's the youngsters' turn. But he'll have to be a pretty fine
fellow to satisfy Manzanita!" And before the lady could even begin
the spirited retort that rose to her lips, he had led the way to the
long, overloaded dinner-table.
"I am too terribly heartsick to go into details," wrote the poor
little lady, when Manzanita had left her for the night in her bare,
big bedroom and she had opened her writing-case upon a pine table
over which hung, incongruously enough, a large electric light.
"Austin is apparently blind to everything but her beauty, which is
really noticeable, not that it matters. What is mere beauty beside
such refinement as Sally's, for instance, how far will it go with
OUR FRIENDS when they discover that Austin's wife is an untrained,
common little country girl? Even when I tell you that she uses such
words as 'swell,' and 'perfect lady,' and that she asked me who
Phillips Brooks was, and had never heard of William Morris or
Maeterlinck you can really form no idea of her ignorance! And the
dinner,--one shudders at the thought of beginning to teach her of
correct service; hors d'oeuvres, finger-bowls, butter-spreaders,
soup-spoons and salad-forks will all be mysteries to her! And her
clothes! A rowdyish-looking little tight-fitting cotton a servant
would not wear, and openwork hose, and silver bangles! It is
terrible, TERRIBLE. I don't know what we can do. She is very clever.
I think she suspects already that I do not approve, although she
began at once to call me 'Mother Phelps'--with a familiarity that is
quite typical of her. My one hope is to persuade Austin to come home
with me for a visit, and to keep him there until his wretched
infatuation has died a natural death. What possible charm this part
of the world can have for him is a mystery to me. To compare this
barn of a house to your lovely home is enough to make me long to be
there with all my heart. Instead of my beautiful rooms, and Mary's
constant attendance, imagine your mother writing in a room whose
windows have no shades, so that one has the uncomfortable sensation
that any one outside may be looking in. Of course the valley
descends very steeply from the ranch-house, and there are thousands
of acres of silent woods and hills, but I don't like it,
nevertheless, and shall undress in the dark. ...I shall certainly
speak seriously to Austin as soon as possible."
But the right moment for approaching Austin on the subject of his
return to Boston did not immediately present itself, and for several
days Manzanita, delighted at having a woman guest, took Mrs. Phelps
with her all over the countryside.
"I like lady friends," said Manzanita once, a little shyly. "You see
it's 'most always men who visit the rancho, and they're no fun!"
She used to come, uninvited but serene, into her prospective mother-
in-law's room at night, and artlessly confide in her, while she
braided the masses of her glorious hair. She showed Mrs. Phelps the
"swell" pillow she was embroidering to represent an Indian's head,
and which she intended to finish with real beads and real feathers.
She was as eagerly curious as a child about the older woman's dainty
toilet accessories, experimenting with manicure sets and creams and
powders with artless pleasure. "I'm going to have that and do it
that way!" she would announce, when impressed by some particular
little nice touch about Cornelia's letters, or some allusion that
gave her a new idea.
"If you ever come to Boston, you will be expected to know all these
things," Mrs. Phelps said to her once, a little curiously.
"Oh, but I'll never go there!" she responded confidently.
"You will have to," said the other, sharply. "Austin can hardly
spend his whole life here! His friends are there, his family. All
his traditions are there. Those may not mean much to him now, but in
time to come they will mean more."
"We'll make more money than we can spend, right here," Manzanita
said, in a troubled voice.
"Money is not everything, my dear."
"No--" Manzanita's brown fingers went slowly down to the last fine
strands of the braid she was finishing. Then she said, brightening:
"But I AM everything to Aus! I don't care what I don't know, or
can't do, HE thinks I'm fine!"
And she went off to bed in high spirits. She was too entirely normal
a young woman to let anything worry her very long,--too busy to
brood. The visitor soon learned why the ranch-house parlor presented
so dismal an aspect of unuse. It was because Manzanita was never
inside it. The girl's days were packed to the last instant with
duties and pleasures. She needed no parlor. Even her bedroom was as
bare and impersonal as her father's. She was never idle. Mrs. Phelps
more than once saw the new-born child of a rancher's or miner's wife
held in those capable young arms, she saw the children at the mine
gathering about Manzanita, the women leaving their doorways for
eager talk with her. And once, during the Eastern woman's visit,
death came to the Yerba Buena, and Manzanita and young Jose spent
the night in one of the ranch-houses, and walked home, white, tired,
and a little sobered, in the early morning, for breakfast.
Manzanita rode and drove horses of which even her brothers were
afraid; she handled a gun well, she chattered enough Spanish,
Portuguese, Indian, and Italian to make herself understood by the
ranch hands and dairy-men. And when there was a housewarming, or a
new barn to gather in, she danced all night with a passionate
enjoyment. It might be with Austin, or the post-office clerk, or a
young, sleek-haired rancher, or a miner shining from soap and water;
it mattered not to Manzanita, if he could but dance. And when she
and Mrs. Phelps drove, as they often did, to spend the day with the
gentle, keen, capable women on other ranches thereabout, it was
quite the usual thing to have them bring out bolts of silk or
gingham for Manzanita's inspection, and seriously consult her as to
fitting and cutting.
Mrs. Phelps immensely enjoyed these day-long visits, though she
would have denied it; hardly recognized the fact herself. One could
grow well acquainted in a day with the clean, big, bare ranch-
houses, the very old people in the shining kitchens, the three or
four capable companionable women who managed the family; one with a
child at her breast, perhaps another getting ready for her wedding,
a third newly widowed, but all dwelling harmoniously together and
sharing alike the care of menfolk and children. They would all make
the Eastern woman warmly welcome, eager for her talk of the world
beyond their mountains, and when she and Manzanita drove away, it
was with jars of specially chosen preserves and delicious cheeses in
their hands, pumpkins and grapes, late apples and perhaps a jug of
cider in the little wagon body, and a loaf of fresh-baked cake or
bread still warm in a white napkin. Hospitable children, dancing
about the phaeton, would shout generous offers of "bunnies" or
"kitties," Manzanita would hang at a dangerous angle over the wheel
to accept good-by kisses, and perhaps some old, old woman, limping
out to stand blinking in the sunlight, would lay a fine,
transparent, work-worn hand on Mrs. Phelps and ask her to come
again. It was an "impossible" life, of course, and yet, at the
moment, absorbing enough to the new-comer. And it was at least
surprising to find the best of magazines and books everywhere,--"the
advertisements alone seem to keep them in touch with everything
new," wrote Mrs. Phelps.
Her whole attitude toward Manzanita might have softened sometimes,
if long years of custom had not made the little things of life
vitally important to her. A misused or mispronounced word was like a
blow to her; inner forces over which she had no control forced her
to discuss it and correct it. She had a quick, horrified pity for
Manzanita's ignorance on matters which should be part of a lady's
instinctive knowledge. She winced at the girl's cheerful
acknowledgement of that ignorance. No woman in Mrs. Phelps's own
circle at home ever for one instant admitted ignorance of any
important point of any sort; what she did not know she could
superbly imply was not worth knowing. Even though she might be
secretly enjoying the universal, warm hospitality of the rancho,
Mrs. Phelps never lost sight of the fact that Manzanita was not the
wife for Austin, and that the marriage would be the ruin of his
life. She told herself that her opposition was for Manzanita's
happiness as well as for his, and plotted without ceasing against
"I've had a really remarkable letter from Uncle William, dear!" she
said, one afternoon, when by some rare chance she was alone with her
"Good for you!" said Austin, absently, clicking the cock of the gun
he was cleaning. "Give the old boy my love when you write."
"He sends you a message, dear. He wants to know--but you're not
listening," Mrs. Phelps paused. Austin looked up.
"Oh, I'm listening. I hear every word."
"You seem so far from me these days, Austin," said his mother,
plaintively. But--" she brightened, "I hope dear Uncle William's
plan will change all that. He wants you to come home, dear. He
offers you the junior partnership, Austin." She brought it out very
"Offers me the--WHAT?"
"The junior partnership,--yes, dear. Think of it, at your age,
Austin! What would your dear father have said! How proud he would
have been! Yes. Stafford has gone into law, you know, and Keith
Curtis will live abroad when Isabel inherits. So you see!"
"Mighty kind of Uncle William," mused Austin, "but of course there's
nothing in it for me!" He avoided her gaze, and went on cleaning his
gun. "I'm fixed here, you know. This suits me."
"I hope you are not serious, my son." Austin knew that voice. He
braced himself for unpleasantness.
"Manzanita," he said simply. There was a throbbing silence.
"You disappoint one of my lifelong hopes for my only son, Austin,"
his mother said very quietly.
"I know it, mother. I'm sorry."
"For the first time, Austin, I wish I had another son. I am going to
beg you--to beg you to believe that I can see your happiness clearer
than you can just now!" Mrs. Phelps's voice was calm, but she was
trembling with feeling.
"Don't put it that way, mater. Anyway, I never liked office work
much, you know."
"Austin, don't think your old mammy is trying to manage you," Mrs.
Phelps was suddenly mild and affectionate. "But THINK, dear. Taylor
says the salary is not less than fifteen thousand. You could have a
lovely home, near me. Think of the opera, of having a really formal
dinner again, of going to Cousin Robert Stokes's for Christmas, and
yachting with Taylor and Gerry."
Austin was still now, evidently he WAS thinking.
"My idea," his mother went on reasonably, "would be to have you come
on with me now, at once. See Uncle William,--we mustn't keep his
kindness waiting, must we?--get used to the new work, make sure of
yourself. Then come back for Manzanita, or have her come on--" She
paused, her eyes a question.
"I'd hate to leave Yerba Buena--" Austin visibly hesitated.
"But, Austin, you must sooner or later." Mrs. Phelps was framing a
triumphant letter to Cornelia in her mind.
But just then Manzanita came running around the corner of the house,
and seeing them, took the porch steps in two bounds, and came to
lean on Austin's shoulder.
"Austin!" she burst out excitedly. "I want you to ride straight down
to the stock pens,--they've got a thousand steers on the flats there
going through from Portland, and the men say they aren't to leave
the cars to-night! I told them they would HAVE to turn them out and
water them, and they just laughed! Will you go down?" She was
breathing hard like an impatient child, her cheeks two poppies, her
eyes blazing. "Will you? Will you?"
"Sure I will, if you'll do something for me." Austin pulled her
"Well, there!" She gave him a child's impersonal kiss. "You'll make
them water them, won't you, Austin?"
"Oh, yes. I'll 'tend to them." Austin got up, his arm about her.
"Look here," said he. "How'd you like to come and live in Boston?"
Her eyes went quickly from him to his mother.
"I wouldn't!" she said, breathing quickly and defiantly.
"Never, never, never! Unless it was just to visit. Why, Austin--"
her reproachful eyes accused him, "you said we needn't, ever! You
KNOW I couldn't live in a street!"
Austin laughed again. "Well, that settles Uncle William!" he
announced comfortably. "I'll write him to-morrow, mother. Come on,
now, we'll settle this other trouble!"
And he and Manzanita disappeared in the direction of the stable.
Mrs. Phelps sat thinking, deep red spots burning in her cheeks.
Things could not go on this way. Yet she would not give up. She
suddenly determined to try an idea of Cornelia's.
So the word went all over the ranch-house next day that Mrs. Phelps
was ill. The nature of the illness was not specified, but she could
not leave her bed. Austin was all filial sympathy, Manzanita an
untiring nurse. Hong Fat sent up all sorts of kitchen delicacies,
the boys brought trout, and rare ferns, and wild blackberries in
from their daily excursions, for her especial benefit, and before
two days were over, every hour found some distant neighbor at the
rancho with offers of sympathy and assistance. An old doctor came up
from Emville at once, and Jose and Marty accompanied him all the
twenty miles back into town for medicines.
But days went by, and the invalid was no better. She lay, quiet and
uncomplaining, in the airy bedroom, while October walked over the
mountain ranges, and the grapes were gathered, and the apples
brought in. She took the doctor's medicine, and his advice, and
agreed pleasantly with him that she would soon be well enough to go
home, and would be better off there. But she would not try to get
One afternoon, while she was lying with closed eyes, she heard the
rattle of the doctor's old buggy outside, and heard Manzanita greet
him from where she was labelling jelly glasses on the porch. Mrs.
Phelps could trace the old man's panting approach to a porch chair,
and heard Manzanita go into the house with a promise of lemonade and
crullers. In a few minutes she was back again, and the clink of ice
against glass sounded pleasantly in the hot afternoon.
"Well, how is she?" said the doctor, presently, with a long, wet
gasp of satisfaction.
"She's asleep," answered Manzanita. "I just peeked in.--There's more
of that," she added, in apparent reference to the iced drink. And
then, with a change of tone, she added, "What's the matter with her,
anyway, Doc' Jim?"
To which the old doctor with great simplicity responded:
"You've got me, Manz'ita. I can diagnose as good as any one," he
went on after a pause, "when folks have GOT something. If you mashed
your hand in a food cutter, or c't something poisonous, or come down
with scarlet fever, I'd know what to do for ye. But, these rich
"Well, you know, I could prescribe for her, and cure her, too," said
Manzanita. "All I'd do is tell her she'd got to go home right off.
I'd say that this climate was too bracing for her, or something."
"Shucks! I did say that," interrupted the doctor.
"Yes, but you didn't say you thought she'd ought to take her son
along in case of need," the girl added significantly. There was a
"She don't want ye to marry him, hey?" said the doctor, ending it.
Manzanita evidently indicated an assent, for he presently resumed
indignantly: "Who does she want for him--Adelina Patti?" He
marvelled over a third glass. "Well, what do you know about that!"
he murmured. Then, "Well, I'll be a long time prescribing that."
"No, I want you to send her off, and send him with her," said
Manzanita, decidedly, "that's why I'm telling you this. I've thought
it all over. I don't want to be mean about it. She thinks that if he
saw his sister, and his old friends, and his old life, he'd get to
hate the Yerba Buena. At first I laughed at her, and so did Aus.
But, I don't know, Doc' Jim, she may be right!"
"Shucks!" said the doctor, incredulously.
"No, of course she isn't!" the girl said, after a pause. "I know
Aus. But let her take him, and try. Then, if he comes back, she
can't blame me. And--" She laughed. "This is a funny thing," she
said, "for she doesn't like me. But I like her. I have no mother and
no aunts, you know, and I like having an old lady 'round. I always
wanted some one to stay with me, and perhaps, if Aus comes back some
day, she'll get to liking me, too. She'll remember," her tone grew a
little wistful, "that I couldn't help his loving me! And besides--
"and the tone was suddenly confident again--"I AM good--as good as
his sister! And I'm learning things. I learn something new from her
every day! And I'd LIKE to feel that he went away from me--and had
to come back!"
"Don't you be a fool," cautioned the doctor. "A feller gets among
his friends for a year or two, and where are ye? Minnie Ferguson's
feller never come back to her and she was a real pretty, good girl,
"Oh, I think he'll come back," the girl said softly, as if to
"I only hope, if he don't show up on the minute, you'll marry
somebody else so quick it'll make her head spin!" said the doctor,
fervently. Manzanita laughed out, and the sound of it made Mrs.
Phelps wince, and shut her eyes.
"Maybe I will!" the girl said hardily. "You'll suggest his taking
her home, anyway, won't you, Doc' Jim?" she asked.
"Well, durn it, I'd jest as soon," agreed the doctor. "I don't know
as you're so crazy about him!"
"And you'll stay to dinner?" Manzanita instantly changed the
subject. "There's ducks. Of course the season's over, but a string
of them came up to Jose and Marty, and pushed themselves against
their guns--you know how it is."
"Sure, I'll stay," said the doctor. "Go see if she's awake,
Manz'ita, that's a good girl. If she ain't--I'll walk up to the mine
for a spell."
So Manzanita tiptoed to the door of Mrs. Phelps's room and
noiselessly opened it, and smiled when she saw the invalid's open
"Well, have a nice nap?" she asked, coming to put a daughterly
little hand over the older woman's hand. "Want more light? Your
books have come."
"I'm much better, dear," said Mrs. Phelps. The Boston woman's tone
would always be incisive, her words clear. But she kept Manzanita's
hand. "I think I will get up for dinner. I've been lying here
thinking that I've wasted quite enough time, if we are to have a
wedding here before I go home--"
Manzanita stared at her. Then she knelt down beside the bed and
began to cry.
On a certain Thursday afternoon more than a year later, Mrs. Phelps
happened to be alone in her daughter's Boston home. Cornelia was
attending the regular meeting of a small informal club whose reason
for being was the study of American composers. Mrs. Phelps might
have attended this, too, or she might have gone to several other
club meetings, or she might have been playing cards, or making
calls, but she had been a little bit out of humor with all these
things of late, and hence was alone in the great, silent house. The
rain was falling heavily outside, and in the library there was a
great coal fire. Now and then a noiseless maid came in and
Cornelia was always out in the afternoons. She belonged to a great
many clubs, social, literary, musical and civic clubs, and card
clubs. Cornelia was an exceptionally capable young woman. She had
two nice children, in the selection of whose governesses and
companions she exercised very keen judgment, and she had a fine
husband, a Harvard man of course, a silent, sweet-tempered man some
years her senior, whose one passion in life was his yacht, and whose
great desire was that his wife and children should have everything
in life of the very best. Altogether, Cornelia's life was quite
perfect, well-ordered, harmonious, and beautiful. She attended the
funeral of a relative or friend with the same decorous serenity with
which she welcomed her nearest and dearest to a big family dinner at
Christmas or Thanksgiving. She knew what life expected of her, and
she gave it with calm readiness.
The library in her beautiful home, where her mother was sitting now,
was like all the other drawing-rooms Cornelia entered. Its mahogany
reading-table bore a priceless lamp, and was crossed by a strip of
wonderful Chinese embroidery. There were heavy antique brass
candlesticks on the mantel, flanking a great mirror whose carved
frame showed against its gold rare touches of Florentine blue. The
rugs on the floor were a silken blend of Oriental tones, the books
in the cases were bound in full leather. An oil portrait of Taylor
hung where his wife's dutiful eyes would often find it, lovely
pictures of the children filled silver frames on a low book-case.
Eleanor, the ten-year-old, presently came into the room, with
Fraulein Hinz following her. Eleanor was a nice child, and the only
young life in the house since Taylor Junior had been sent off to
"Here you are, grandmother," said she, with a kiss. "Uncle Edward
brought us home. It's horrid out. Several of the girls didn't come
at all to-day."
"And what have you to do now, dear?" Mrs. Phelps knew she had
something to do.
"German for to-morrow. But it's easy. And then Dorothy's coming
over, for mamma is going out. We'll do our history together, and
have dinner upstairs. She's not to go home until eight!"
"That's nice," said Mrs. Phelps, claiming another kiss before the
child went away. She had grown quite used to seeing Eleanor only for
a moment now and then.
When she was alone again, she sat staring dreamily into the fire, a
smile coming and going in her eyes. She had left Manzanita's letter
upstairs, but after all, she knew the ten closely covered pages by
heart. It had come a week ago, and had been read several times a day
since. It was a wonderful letter.
They wanted her--in California. In fact, they had always wanted her,
from the day she came away. She had stayed to see the new house
built, and had stayed for the wedding, and then had come back to
Boston, thinking her duty to Austin done, and herself free to take
up the old life with a clear conscience. But almost the first
letters from the rancho demanded her! Little Rafael had painfully
written to know where he could find this poem and that to which she
had introduced him. Marty had sent her a bird's nest, running over
with ants when it was opened in Cornelia's breakfast-room, but he
never knew that. Jose had written for advice as to seeds for
Manzanita's garden. And Austin had written he missed her, it was
"rotten" not to find mater waiting for them, when they came back
from their honeymoon.
But best of all, Manzanita had written, and, ah, it was sweet to be
wanted as Manzanita wanted her! News of all the neighbors, of the
women at the mine, pressed wildflowers, scraps of new gowns, and
questions of every sort; Manzanita's letters brimmed with them. She
could have her own rooms, her own bath, she could have everything
she liked, but she must come back!
"I am the only woman here at the house," wrote Manzanita, "and it's
no fun. I'd go about ever so much more, if you were here to go with
me. I want to start a club for the women at the mine, but I never
belonged to a club, and I don't know how. Rose Harrison wants you to
come on in time for her wedding, and Alice has a new baby. And old
Mrs. Larabee says to tell you--"
And so on and on. They didn't forget her, on the Yerba Buena, as the
months went by. Mrs. Phelps grew to look eagerly for the letters.
And now came this one, and the greatest news in the world--! And
now, it was as it should be, Manzanita wanted her more than ever!
Cornelia came in upon her happy musing, to kiss her mother, send her
hat and furs upstairs, ring for tea, and turn on the lights, all in
the space of some sixty seconds.
"It was so interesting to-day, mater," reported Cornelia. "Cousin
Emily asked for you, and Edith and the Butlers sent love. Helen is
giving a bridge lunch for Mrs. Marye; she's come up for Frances'
wedding on the tenth. And Anna's mother is better; the nurse says
you can see her on Wednesday. Don't forget the Shaw lecture
Wednesday, though. And there is to be a meeting of this auxiliary of
the political study club,--I don't know what it's all about, but one
feels one must go. I declare," Cornelia poured a second cup, "next
winter I'm going to try to do less. There isn't a single morning or
afternoon that I'm not attending some meeting or going to some
affair. Between pure milk and politics and charities and luncheons,-
-it's just too much! Belle says that women do all the work of the
world, in these days--"
"And yet we don't GET AT anything," said Mrs. Phelps, in her brisk,
impatient little way. "I attend meetings, I listen to reports, I sit
on boards--But what comes of it all! Trained nurses and paid workers
do all the actual work--"
"But mother, dear, a great deal will come of it all," Cornelia was
mildly reproachful. "You couldn't inspect babies and do nursing
yourself, dear! Investigating and tabulating and reporting are very
difficult things to do!"
"Sometimes I think, Cornelia, that the world was much pleasanter for
women when things were more primitive. When they just had households
and babies to look out for, when every one was personally NEEDED."
"Mother, DEAR!" Cornelia protested indulgently. "Then we haven't
progressed at all since MAYFLOWER days?"
"Oh, perhaps we have!" Mrs. Phelps shrugged doubtfully. "But I am
sometimes sorry," she went on, half to herself, "that birth and
wealth and position have kept me all my life from REAL things! I
can't help my friends in sickness or trouble, Cornelia, I don't know
what's coming on my own table for dinner, or what the woman next
door looks like! I can only keep on the surface of things, dressing
a certain way, eating certain things, writing notes, sending
flowers, making calls!"
"All of which our class--the rich and cultivated people of the
world--have been struggling to achieve for generations!" Cornelia
reminded her. "Do you mean you would like to be a laborer's mother,
mater, with all sorts of annoying economies to practice, and all
sorts of inconveniences to contend with?"
"Yes, perhaps I would!" her mother laughed defiantly.
"I can see you've had another letter from California," said
Cornelia, pleasantly, after a puzzled moment. "You are still a
pioneer in spite of the ten generations, mater. Austin's wife is NOT
a lady, Austin is absolutely different from what he was, the people
out there are actually COMMON, and yet, just because they like to
have you, and think you are intelligent and instructive, you want to
go. Go if you want to, but I will think you are mad if you do! A
girl who confused 'La Boheme' with 'The Bohemian Girl,' and wants an
enlarged crayon portrait of Austin in her drawing-room! Really,
it's--well, it's remarkable to me. I don't know what you see in it!"
"Crayon portraits used to be considered quite attractive, and may be
again," said Mrs. Phelps, mildly. "And some day your children will
think Puccini and Strauss as old-fashioned as you think 'Faust' and
Offenbach. But there are other things, like the things that a woman
loves to do, for instance, when her children are grown, and her
husband is dead, that never change!"
Cornelia was silent, frankly puzzled.
"Wouldn't you rather do nothing than take up the stupid routine work
of a woman who has no money, no position, and no education?" she
"I don't believe I would," her mother answered, smiling. "Perhaps
I've changed. Or perhaps I never sat down and seriously thought
things out before. I took it for granted that our way of doing
things was the only way. Of course I don't expect every one to see
it as I do. But it seems to me now that I belong there. When she
first called me 'Mother Phelps,' it made me angry, but what sweeter
thing could she have said, after all? She has no mother. And she
needs one, now. I don't think you have ever needed me in your life,
Cornelia--actually NEEDED me, my hands and my eyes and my brain."
"Oh, you are incorrigible!" said Cornelia, still with an air of
lenience. "Now," she stopped for a kiss, "we're going out to-night,
so I brought you The Patricians to read; it's charming. And you read
it, and be a good mater, and don't think any more about going out to
stay on that awful, uncivilized ranch. Visit there in a year or two,
if you like, but don't strike roots. I'll come in and see you when
And she was gone. But Mrs. Phelps felt satisfied that enough had
been said to make her begin to realize that she was serious, and she
contentedly resumed her dreaming over the fire.
The years, many or few, stretched pleasantly before her. She smiled
into the coals. She was still young enough to enjoy the thought of
service, of healthy fatigue, of busy days and quiet evenings, and
long nights of deep sleep, with slumbering Yerba Buena lying beneath
the moon outside her open window. There would be Austin close beside
her and other friends almost as near, to whom she would be sometimes
necessary, and always welcome.
And there would be Manzanita, and the child,--and after a while,
other children. There would be little bibs to tie, little prayers to
hear, deep consultations over teeth and measles, over morals and
manners. And who but Grandmother could fill Grandmother's place?
Mrs. Phelps leaned back in her chair, and shut her eyes. She saw
visions. After a while a tear slipped from between her lashes.
If only my poor child had a sensible mother," said Mrs. Tressady,
calmly, "I suppose we would get Big Hong's 'carshen' for him, and
that would do perfectly! But I will not have a Chinese man for
Timothy's nurse! It seems all wrong, somehow."
"Big Hong hasn't got a female cousin, I suppose?" said Timothy's
father; "a Chinese woman wouldn't be so bad." "Oh, I think it would
be as bad--nearly," Mrs. Tressady returned with vivacity. "Anyway,
this particular carshen is a man--'My carshen lun floot store'--
that's who it is!"
"Will you kindly explain what 'My carshen lun floot store' means?"
asked a young man who was lying in a hammock that he lazily moved
now and then by means of a white-shod foot. This was Peter Porter,
who, with his wife, completed the little group on the Tressadys'
roomy, shady side porch.
"It means my cousin who runs a fruit store," supplied Mrs. Porter--a
big-boned, superb blonde who was in a deep chair sewing buttons on
Timothy Tressady's new rompers. "Even I can see that--if I'm not a
native of California."
"Yes, that's it," Mrs. Tressady said absently. "Go back and read
those Situations Wanted over again, Jerry," she commanded with a
decisive snip of the elastic she was cunningly inserting into more
new rompers for Timothy.
Jerry Tressady obediently sat up in his steamer chair and flattened
a copy of the Emville Mail upon his knee.
The problem under discussion this morning was that of getting a
nurse for Timothy Tressady, aged two years. Elma, the silent,
undemonstrative Swedish woman who had been with the family since
Timothy's birth, had started back to Stockholm two months ago, and
since then at least a dozen unsatisfactory applicants for her
position had taken their turn at the Rising Water Ranch.
Mrs. Tressady, born and brought up in New York, sometimes sighed as
she thought of her mother's capped and aproned maids; of Aunt Anna's
maids; of her sister Lydia's maids. Sometimes in the hot summer,
when the sun hung directly over the California bungalow for seven
hours every day, and the grass on the low, rolling hills all about
was dry and slippery, when Joe Parlona forgot to drive out from
Emville with ice and mail, and Elma complained that Timmy could not
eat his luncheon on the porch because of buzzing "jellow yackets,"
Molly Tressady found herself thinking other treasonable thoughts--
thoughts of packing, of final telegrams, of the Pullman sleeper, of
Chicago in a blowing mist of rain, of the Grand Central at twilight,
with the lights of taxicabs beginning to move one by one into the
current of Forty-second Street--and her heart grew sick with
longings. And sometimes in winter, when rain splashed all day from
the bungalow eaves, and Beaver Creek rose and flooded its banks and
crept inch by inch toward the garden gate, and when from the late
dawn to the early darkness not a soul came near the ranch--she would
have sudden homesick memories of Fifth Avenue, three thousand miles
away, with its motor-cars and its furred women and its brilliant
tea-rooms. She would suddenly remember the opera-house and the long
line of carriages in the snow, and the boys calling the opera
However, for such moods the quickest cure was a look at Jerry--
strong, brown, vigorous Jerry--tramping the hills, writing his
stories, dreaming over his piano, and sleeping deep and restfully
under the great arch of the stars. Jerry had had a cold four years
ago--"just a mean cold," had been the doctor's cheerful phrase; but
what terror it struck to the hearts that loved Jerry! Molly's eyes,
flashing to his mother's eyes, had said: "Like his father--like his
aunt--like the little sister who died!" And for the first time
Jerry's wife had found herself glad that little Jerry Junior--he who
could barely walk, who had as yet no words--had gone away from them
fearlessly into the great darkness a year before. He might have
grown up to this, too.
So they came to California, and big Jerry's cold did not last very
long in the dry heat of Beaver Creek Valley. He and Molly grew so
strong and brown and happy that they never minded restrictions and
inconveniences, loneliness and strangeness--and when a strong and
brown and happy little Timothy joined the group, Molly renounced
forever all serious thoughts of going home. California became home.
Such friends as chance brought their way must be their only friends;
such comfort as the dry little valley and the brown hills could hold
must suffice them now. Molly exulted in sending her mother snapshots
of Timmy picking roses in December, and in heading July letters: "By
our open fire--for it's really cool to-day."
Indeed it was not all uncomfortable and unlovely. All the summer
nights were fresh and cool and fragrant; there were spring days when
all the valley seemed a ravishing compound of rain-cooled air and
roses, of buttercups in the high, sunflecked grass under the apple-
trees, crossed and recrossed by the flashing blue and brown of
mating jays and larks. It was not a long drive to the deep woods;
and it was but six miles to Emville, where there was always the
pleasant stir and bustle of a small country town; trains puffing in
to disgorge a dozen travelling agents and their bags; the wire door
at the post-office banging and banging; the maid at the Old Original
Imperial Commercial Hotel coming out on the long porch to ring a
wildly clamorous dinner-bell. Molly grew to love Emville.
Then, two or three times a year, such old friends as the Porters,
homeward bound after the Oriental trip, came their way, and there
was delicious talk at the ranch of old days, of the new theatres,
and the new hotels, and the new fashions. The Tressadys stopped
playing double Canfield and polished up their bridge game; and Big
Hong, beaming in his snowy white, served meals that were a joy to
his heart. Hong was a marvellous cook; Hong cared beautifully for
all his domain; and Little Hong took care of the horses, puttered in
the garden, swept, and washed windows. But they needed more help,
for there were times when Molly was busy or headachy or proof-
reading for Jerry or riding with him. Some one must be responsible
every second of the day and night for Timmy. And where to get that
"Aren't they terrors!" said Mrs. Porter in reference to the nurse-
maids that would not come to the ranch on any terms. "What do they
"Oh, they get lonesome," Molly said in discouragement, "and of
course it is lonely! But I should think some middle-aged woman or
some widow with a child even--"
"Molly always returns to that possible widow!" said her husband. "I
think we might try two!"
"I would never think of that!" said the mistress of the ranch
firmly. "Four servants always underfoot!"
"Did you ever think of trying a regular trained nurse, Molly?" Peter
"But then you have them at the table, Peter--and always in the
drawing-room evenings. And no matter how nice they are--"
"That's the worst of that!" agreed Peter.
Jerry Tressady threw the Mail on the floor and sat up.
"Who's this coming up now, Molly?" he asked.
He had lowered his voice, because the white-clad young woman who was
coming composedly up the path between the sunflowers and the
overloaded rose-bushes was already within hearing distance. She was
a heavy, well-developed young person upon closer view, with light-
lashed eyes of a guileless, childlike blue, rosy cheeks, and a mass
of bright, shining hair, protected now only by a parasol. Through
the embroidery insertion of her fresh, stiff dress she showed
glimpses of a snowy bosom, and under her crisp skirt a ruffle of
white petticoat and white-shod feet were visible. She was panting
from her walk and wiped her glowing face with her handkerchief
before she spoke.
"Howdy-do, folks?" said the new-comer, easily, dropping upon the
steps and fanning herself with the limp handkerchief. "I don't
wonder you keep a motor-car; it's something fierce walking down
here! I could of waited," she went on thoughtfully, "and had my
brother brought me down in the machine, but I hadn't no idea it was
so far. I saw your ad in the paper," she went on, addressing Mrs.
Tressady directly, with a sort of trusting simplicity that was
rather pretty, "and I thought you might like me for your girl."
"Well,--" began Molly, entirely at a loss, for until this second no
suspicion of the young woman's errand had occurred to her. She dared
not look at husband or guests; she fixed her eyes seriously upon the
"Of course I wouldn't work for everybody," said the new-comer
hastily and proudly. "I never worked before and mamma thinks I'm
crazy to work now, but I don't think that taking care of a child is
anything to be ashamed of!" The blue eyes flashed dramatically--she
evidently enjoyed this speech. "And what's more, I don't expect any
one of my friends to shun me or treat me any different because I'm a
servant--that is, so long as I act like a lady," she finished in a
lower tone. A sound from the hammock warned Mrs. Tressady; and
suggesting in a somewhat unsteady voice that they talk the matter
over indoors, she led the new maid out of sight.
For some twenty minutes the trio on the porch heard the steady rise
and fall of voices indoors; then Molly appeared and asked her
husband in a rather dissatisfied voice what he thought.
"Why, it's what you think, dear. How's she seem?"
"She's competent enough--seems to know all about children, and I
think she'd be strong and willing. She's clean as a pink, too. And
she'd come for thirty and would be perfectly contented, because she
lives right near here--that house just before you come to Emville
which says Chickens and Carpentering Done Here--don't you know? She
has a widowed sister who would come and stay with her at night when
we're away." Mrs. Tressady summed it up slowly.
"Why not try her then, dear? By the way, what's her name?"
"Tell her I'm English," said Mr. Porter, rapturously, "and that over
there we call servants--"
"No, but Jerry,"--Mrs. Tressady was serious,--"would you? She's so
utterly untrained. That's the one thing against her. She hasn't the
faintest idea of the way a servant should act. She told me she just
loved the way I wore my hair, and she said she wanted me to meet her
friend. Then she asked me, 'Who'd you name him Timothy for?'"
"Oh, you'd tame her fast enough. Just begin by snubbing her every
chance you get--"
"I see it!" laughed Mrs. Porter, for Mrs. Tressady was a woman full
of theories about the sisterhood of woman, about equality, about a
fair chance for every one--and had never been known to hurt any
one's feelings in the entire course of her life.
Just here Belle stepped through one of the drawing-room French
windows, with dewy, delicious Timothy, in faded pale-blue sleeping-
wear, in her arms.
"This darling little feller was crying," said Belle, "and I guess he
wants some din-din--don't you, lover? Shall I step out and tell one
of those Chinese boys to get it? Listen! From now on I'll have mamma
save all the banty eggs for you, Timmy, and some day I'll take you
down there and show you the rabbits, darling. Would you like that?"
Molly glanced helplessly at her husband.
"How soon could you come, Belle?" asked Jerry, and that settled it.
He had interpreted his wife's look and assumed the responsibility.
Molly found herself glad.
Belle came two days later, with every evidence of content. It soon
became evident that she had adopted the family and considered
herself adopted in turn. Her buoyant voice seemed to leap out of
every opened door. She rose above her duties and floated along on a
constant stream of joyous talk.
"We're going to have fried chicken and strawberries--my favorite
dinner!" said Belle when Molly was showing her just how she liked
the table set. After dinner, cheerfully polishing glasses, she
suddenly burst into song as she stood at the open pantry window,
some ten feet from the side porch. The words floated out:
"And the band was bravely playing
The song of the cross and crown--
Nearer, my god, to thee--
As the ship--"
Mrs. Tressady sat up, a stirring shadow among the shadows of the
"I must ask her not to do that," she announced quietly, and
"And I spoke to her about joining in the conversation at dinner,"
she said, returning. "She took it very nicely."
Belle's youthful spirits were too high to succumb to one check,
however. Five minutes later she burst forth again:
"Ring, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, on your telephone--
And ring me up tonight--"
"Soft pedal, Belle!" Jerry called.
"Sure!" she called back. "I forgot."
Presently the bright blot of light that fell from the pantry window
on the little willow trees vanished silently, and they could hear
Belle's voice in the kitchen.
"Good-natured," said Molly.
"Strong," Mrs. Porter said.
"And pretty as a peach!" said Peter Porter.
"Oh, she'll do!" Jerry Tressady said contentedly.
She was good-natured, strong, and pretty indeed, and she did a great
deal. Timmy's little garments fluttered on the clothes-line before
breakfast; Timmy's room was always in order: Timmy was always dainty
and clean. Belle adored him and the baby returned her affection.
They murmured together for hours down on the river bank or on the
shady porch. Belle always seemed cheerful.
Nor could it be said that Belle did not know her place. She revelled
in her title. "This is Mrs. Tressady's maid," Belle would say
mincingly at the telephone, "and she does not allow her servants to
make engagements for her." "My friends want me to enter my name for
a prize for the most popular girl in the Emville bazaar, Mrs.
Tressady; but I thought I would ask your permission first."
But there was a sort of breezy familiarity about her very difficult
to check. On her second day at the ranch she suddenly came behind
Jerry Tressady seated on the piano bench and slipped a sheet of
music before him.
"Won't you just run over that last chorus for me, Mr. Tress'dy?"
asked Belle. "I have to sing that at a party Thursday night and I
can't seem to get it."
No maid between Washington Square and the Bronx Zoo would have asked
this favor. Yes, but Rising Water Ranch was not within those limits,
nor within several thousand miles of them; so Jerry played the last
chorus firmly, swiftly, without comment, and Belle gratefully
withdrew. The Porters, unseen witnesses of this scene, on the porch,
thought this very amusing; but only a day later Mrs. Porter herself
was discovered in the act of buttoning the long line of buttons that
went down the back of one of Belle's immaculate white gowns.
"Well, what could I do? She suddenly backed up before me," Mrs.
Porter said in self-defence. "Could I tell her to let Hong button
After dinner on the same day Peter Porter cleared a space before him
on the table and proceeded to a demonstration involving a fork, a
wedding ring, and a piece of string. While the quartet, laughing,
were absorbed in the mysterious swinging of the suspended ring,
Belle, putting away her clean silver, suddenly joined the group.
"I know a better one than that," said she, putting a glass of water
before Mrs. Tressady. "Here--take your ring again. Now wait--I'll
pull out one of your hairs for you. Now swing it over the water
inside the glass. It'll tell your age."
Entirely absorbed in the experiment, her fresh young face close to
theirs, her arms crossed as she knelt by the table, she had eyes
only for the ring.
"We won't keep you from your dishes, Belle," said Molly.
"Oh, I'm all through," said Belle, cheerfully. "There!" For the ring
was beginning to strike the glass with delicate, even strokes--
"Now do it again," cried Belle, delightedly, "and it'll tell your
Again the ring struck the glass--eight.
"Well, that's very marvellous," said Molly, in genuine surprise; but
when Belle had gone back to her pantry, Mrs. Tressady rose, with a
little sigh, and followed her.
"Call her down?" asked Jerry, an hour later.
"Well, no," the lady admitted, smiling. "No! She was putting away
Timmy's bibs, and she told me that he had seemed a little upset to-
night, she thought; so she gave him just barley gruel and the white
of an egg for supper, and some rhubarb water before he went to bed.
And what could I say? But I will, though!"
During the following week Mrs. Tressady told Belle she must not rush
into a room shouting news--she must enter quietly and wait for an
opportunity to speak; Mrs. Tressady asked her to leave the house by
the side porch and quietly when going out in the evening to drive
with her young man; Mrs. Tressady asked her not to deliver the mail
with the announcement: "Three from New York, an ad from Emville, and
one with a five-cent stamp on it;" she asked her not to shout out
from the drive, "White skirt show?" She said Belle must not ask,
"What's he doing?" when discovering Mr. Tressady deep in a chess
problem; Belle must not drop into a chair when bringing Timmy out to
the porch after his afternoon outing; she must not be heard
exclaiming, "Yankee Doodle!" and "What do you know about that!" when
her broom dislodged a spider or her hair caught on the rose-bushes.
To all of these requests Belle answered, "Sure!" with great
penitence and amiability.
"Sure, Mis' Tress'dy--Say, listen! I can match that insertion I
spilled ink on--in Emville. Isn't that the limit? I can fix it so
it'll never show in the world!"
"I wouldn't stand that girl for--one--minute," said Mrs. Porter to
her husband; but this was some weeks later when the Porters were in
a comfortable Pullman, rushing toward New York.
"I think Molly's afraid of flying in the face of Providence and
discharging her," said Peter Porter--"but praying every day that
This was almost the truth. Belle's loyalty, affection, good nature,
and willingness were beyond price, but Belle's noisiness, her slang,
and her utter lack of training were a sore trial. When November
came, with rains that kept the little household at Rising Water
prisoners indoors, Mrs. Tressady began to think she could not stand
Belle much longer.
"My goodness!" Belle would say loudly when sent for to bring a
filled lamp. "Is that other lamp burned out already? Say, listen!
I'll give you the hall lamp while I fill it." "You oughtn't to touch
pie just after one of your headaches!" she would remind her employer
in a respectful aside at dinner. And sometimes when Molly and her
husband were busy in the study a constant stream of conversation
would reach them from the nursery where Belle was dressing Timothy:
"Now where's the boy that's going to let Belle wash his face? Oh,
my, what a good boy! Now, just a minny--minny--minny--that's all.
Now give Belle a sweet, clean kiss--yes, but give Belle a sweet,
clean kiss--give Belle a kiss--oh, Timmy, do you want Belle to cry?
Well, then, give her a kiss--give Belle a sweet kiss--"
When Molly was bathing the boy Belle would come and take a
comfortable chair near by, ready to spring for powder or pins, but
otherwise studying her fingernails or watching the bath with genial
interest. Molly found herself actually lacking in the strength of
mind to exact that Belle stand silently near on these occasions, and
so listened to a great many of Belle's confidences. Belle at home;
Belle in the high school; Belle trying a position in Robbins's candy
store and not liking it because she was not used to freshness--all
these Belles became familiar to Molly. Grewsome sicknesses, famous
local crimes, gossip, weddings--Belle touched upon them all; and
Molly was ashamed to find it all interesting, it spite of herself.
One day Belle told Molly of Joe Rogers, and Joe figured daily in the
narratives thereafter--Joe, who drove a carriage, a motor, or a hay
wagon, as the occasion required, for his uncle who owned a livery
stable, but whose ambition was to buy out old Scanlon, the local
undertaker, and to marry Belle.
"Joe knows more about embalming than even Owens of Napa does,"
confided Belle. "He's got every plat in the cemetery memorized--and,
his uncle having carriages and horses, it would work real well; but