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Quaint Courtships by Howells & Alden, Editors

Part 3 out of 4

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turned to leave the room, her smile, caressingly including Rose, went
past her and lingered a thought longer--as people's smiles had a way of
doing--with Edith.

"I know you're tired," she added to her smile. "Five hours of train--Get
into something cool and rest. Luncheon isn't until two."

She disappeared, and Rose looked at her sister, who, with her hat in her
hand, was going into her room.

"Well--?" Rose lifted her voice in its faint drawl of interrogation.

Edith looked at her absently. "I don't know," she said, drawing her
straight brows into a puzzled frown. "I'm as far away as ever--I'm so

"Well--you'll _have_ to decide, you know."

Edith shook her head impatiently and went into her room, closing the
door. She hurried out of her dusty travelling things into cool
freshness, and, settled in the most comfortable chair, gave herself up
to an apparently endless fit of musing. She was so physically content
that her mind refused to respond with any vigorous effort; to think at
all was a crumpled rose-leaf.

From the lower hall the clock chimed one with musical vibrations. Edith
leaned forward with her chin on her hand, driving her thoughts into a
definite path. The curtains stirred in a breeze from the out-of-doors
whose domain swept with country greenness and adventitious care away
from the window under the high brilliance of the sun.

Close to the window a writing-table, with blotter, pens, and ink, made a
focal-point for her gaze. At first a mere detail in her line of vision,
it attained by degrees, it seemed, a definite relevancy to her train of
thought. She looked in her portmanteau for her desk, and getting out
some note-paper, went to the table and began to write a letter.

What she had to say seemed difficult to decide. She wrote a line, stared
out of the window with fixity, and then wrote again--a flurry of quick,
decisive strokes as if at determinate pressure. But a sigh struck across
her mood, and almost against her will the puzzled crinkle returned to
her brow. The curtain blew against her face, disarranging her hair, and
as she lifted her hand to put back a straggling lock, the wind tossed
the sheet of the letter she was writing out of the window. Her eyes, as
she sprang up, followed its flight, but it whirled around the corner of
the house and was lost to her desperate gaze.

Neglige, even of the most-becoming description, was not to be thought of
in pursuing the loss, for the silence of the house had stirred to the
sound of gay voices, the movement of feet.

Rose, also in neglige, opened the door between them and found her madly
tearing off her pale-blue kimono. "What's the matter?" She paused,

"Heavens! My shoes--please!--there by the table." She kicked off her
ridiculous blue slippers and pulled on the small colonials her sister in
open wonder handed her. "If you had only been dressed," she almost
wailed, "you might have been able to get it."

"Get what?"

"My letter!" Tragic, in spite of a mouthful of pins--which is a woman's
undoubted preference, no matter how many befrilled pincushions entreat a
division of spoils,--she turned her face with its import of sudden
things to her sister in explanation. "I was writing a letter and it blew
out of the window!"

"Well, if it did--"

"But, don't you see?--I was writing to _Christopher!_ I had been thinking
and thinking, and at last I screwed up my courage to answer his letter.
I had all but signed my name!"

Rose Eversley began to laugh helplessly; heartlessly, her sister

"If you hadn't signed it--" she at last comforted her sister's indignant
face that was reflected from the mirror, where she stood as she fastened
the white stock at her throat and snapped the clasp of her belt.

"Signed it!" She was almost in tears. "What difference will that make
when I claim the letter? I _must_ find it! But of course some one who
knows me will be sure to find it. And _that_ letter, of all letters!"

"If I were you, Edith," Rose advised, calmly, "I shouldn't--"

"Well?"--with her hand on the door-knob.

"--try to find it. It will be impossible to trace it to you, in that

"But _don't_ you see--"

"Wait!" Rose caught and pulled her back. "How _could_ they know? You'll
get in much deeper. What had you written?"

"I said, 'Dear Christopher'--"

Rose laughed. "I'm glad you didn't say 'Dear Mr. Brander.' In that case
you'd have given _him_ away. But 'Christopher' is such an unusual name,
they might--Sherlock Holmes could trace him by it alone."

"You _are_ a Job's comforter--a perfect Eliphaz the Temanite! Oh, oh!"
Her soft crescendo was again tragic.

"In effect you said: 'Dear Christopher, as you have so often entreated,
I have at last decided to be thine. The tinkle of thy shekels, now that
I am so nearly shekelless myself, has done its fatal worst. I am

"Oh, let me go!" Edith cried, in a fury close to tears. "You haven't any
feeling. You are not going to sacrifice _your_self!"

"To a good-looking young man who loves me exceedingly, and to something
over a million? No, I am not!" Rose said, dryly.

"Oh, it's dreadful! Perfectly!" Edith cried, and on her indecision Rose
hung another bit of wisdom:

"Why don't you go down in a leisurely way and investigate? You know the
direction it blew away; follow it. If you meet any one, be admiring the

Again Edith's look deserved the foot-lights, but Rose shrugged her
shoulders and withdrew her detaining hand. Edith caught up her parasol
and ran down the stairs. The big hall was empty. From a room on the
right came a click of billiard-balls.

"Perhaps they are all in the house!" she thought, and drew a small
breath of relief.

On the door-step she paused, with her parasol open, and considered. The
house faced the west; her room was to the south, and the letter had
disappeared to the east. She chose her line of advance carefully

The lawn on the eastern side of the house sloped to an artificial pond,
and near it a vine-covered summer-house made a dim retreat from the June
sun. Look as she would, though, no faintest glimpse of white paper
rewarded her gaze.

She strolled on--daunted, but still persistent, with the wind blowing
her hair out of order--to the door of the summer-house. Within it a
young man was standing, reading her letter. He looked up and took off
his hat hastily, crumpling the letter in his hand. She saw he was quite
ugly, with determined-looking eyes, and the redemption of a pleasant

She hesitated, the words "That is my letter!" absolutely frozen on her
lips. He had been reading it! It seemed impossible for her to claim it,
and so for a moment's silence she stood, with the green vines of the

Half light, half shade--

framing herself and her white umbrella.

"You are looking for a cool spot?"--he deprecatingly took the
initiative. "This is a good choice. There's a wind--"

"Horrid!" she interrupted, so vehemently that she caught his involuntary
surprise. "I don't like the wind," she added.

"'It's an ill wind,' you know, 'that doesn't blow some one good.'"

"I assure you _this_ is an ill wind! It has blown me all of the ill it

"Do come out of it," he begged. "The vines keep it off. It's a half-hour
until luncheon," he added, "unless they've changed since I was here
last." He put up his watch. "We're fellow guests. You came this morning,
didn't you?--while we were out. I came last night."

She seated herself provisionally on the little bench by the door, and
dug the point of her umbrella into the ground. Her mind was busy. He
still held the letter. She had had a forlorn hope that he would throw
down the sheet; but he did not. Was there any strategy, she wondered.
But none suggested itself; and indeed, as if divining her thought, he
put the crumpled sheet in his pocket. Her eyes followed despairingly the
"Dear Christopher," in her clear and, she felt, unfortunately individual
writing, as it disappeared in his capacious blue serge pocket.

Different ideas wildly presented themselves, but none would do. Could
she ask him to climb a tree? Of course in that case he would have to
take off his coat and put it down, and give her the opportunity to
recover the horrible letter from his pocket. But one cannot ask a
stranger to climb a tree simply to exhibit his acrobatic powers. And
trees!--there were none save saplings in a radius of fifty yards! Could
she tumble in the pond? It would be even less desirable, and he would
simply wade in and pull her out, with no need to remove his coat.

"Mrs. Manstey," he was saying, a little tentatively, upholding the
burden of conversation, "sent some of us out riding this morning, and
Ralph Manstey raced us home by a short cut cross country. That is, he
took the short cut. _We_ gave it the cut direct and looked for gaps."

"If I had been out, I'd have taken every fence," she said, boastfully,
and then laughed. He laughed too.

"If I--if you were my sister, I shouldn't let you follow Ralph Manstey
on horseback. He's utterly reckless."

"So am I," she came in, with spirit. "At home I ride anything and jump

"Well, you shouldn't if you were my sister," he repeated, decisively.

"I'm sorry for your sister," she declared.

"Well, you see, I haven't one," he said, gayly, and smiled down at her
lifted face. Remembering the letter, she corrected her expression to
colder lines.

"There's no one to introduce us,"--he broke the pause. "Mayn't I--" He
colored and put his hand into his pocket, and taking out her letter,
folded the blank sheet out and produced a pencil. "It's hard to call
one's own name," he continued. "Suppose we write our names?"

As he was clumsy in finesse, she understood his idea, and her eyes
flashed. But she said nothing as he scribbled and handed the paper to
her. She read, "C.K. Farringdon," and played with the pencil.

"Mr. Farringdon,"--she said it over meditatively. "How plainly you
write! My name's Edith Eversley," she added, tranquilly, and, because
she must, per force, returned the sheet to him. She had a wicked delight
in the defeat of his strategy which she could cleverly conceal.

"I wish," he deprecated, gently, but with persistence, "that you would
write your name here--won't you, as a souvenir?"

But she shook her head and rose--angry, which she hid, but also amused
at his pertinacity.

"I can't write decently with a pencil," she said, carelessly, and her
eyes followed his hand putting the letter back into his pocket. That she
should have actually had the letter in her hand, and had to give it
back! But no quick-witted pretext had occurred to help her. Rose would
think her stupid--utterly lacking in expedients.

She left the summer-house, unfurling her umbrella, and Farringdon
followed instantly, his failure apparently forgotten.

They passed the tennis-court on their way to the house, and--

"Do you play?" he asked.

"A little." Her intonation mocked the formula.

"Might we, then, this afternoon--"

She gave him a side glance. "If you don't mind losing," she suggested.

"But I play to win," he modestly met it, and again they laughed.

Rose Eversley looked with curiosity at her sister when she entered the
dining-room for luncheon, followed by Farringdon, but Edith's face was
non-committal. She was bright and vivacious, and made herself very
pleasant to Farringdon, who sat by her. After luncheon they went to the
tennis-court together.

"A delightful young man," Mrs. St. Cleve commented, putting up her
lorgnette as she stood at the window with Rose, watching their
disappearing figures, "but so far as money is concerned, a hopeless
detrimental. Don't let your pretty sister get interested in him. He
hasn't a cent except what he makes--he's an architect."

"Edith is to be depended upon," Rose said, enigmatically. She was five
years older than her sister, and had drawn the inference of her own
plainness, comparatively, ever since Edith had put on long dresses.

"Have you written to Christopher?" she asked, that night, invading
Edith's room with her hair-brushes.

"No, I haven't," Edith said, thoughtfully. "I tried just now. It
seems--I don't know how, exactly, but I just _can't_ write it over
again! If I had the letter I wrote this morning, I suppose I would send
it; but to write it all over again--it's too horrible!"

"'Horrible'!" Rose repeated. "Very few people would think it that! He's
rich, thoroughly good, and devoted to you."

"You put the least last," Edith said, slowly, "and you're right. I'm not
sure Christopher is so devoted to me, after all. He may only fancy that
I like him, and from his high estate--"

"Nonsense!" Rose said, warmly. "He isn't, as you know, that sort of a
man. I've known him for years--" She paused.

Edith said nothing; she brushed her hair with careful slowness.

"He is so sincere--so straight-forward," Rose went on, in an impersonal
tone; "and as papa has had so much ill luck and our circumstances have
changed--they _are_ changed, you know, though we are still able to keep
up a certain appearance--he has been unchanged. You ought to consider--"

"You consider Christopher's interests altogether," Edith said. "I've
some, too."

"Oh no! You needn't think of them with Christopher," Rose said,
seriously. "That's just it! He would so completely look after _yours!_
It's _his_, in this regard, that need consideration."

"Well--I'll consider Christopher's interests," Edith said, quietly.

She remembered perfectly the letter she had written--which was in an
ugly young man's pocket! It had been

"DEAR CHRISTOPHER,--Do you think you really want me? If you are very
sure, I am willing. I don't care for anybody else, so perhaps I can
learn to care for you.

"The only thing is, you will spoil me, and they've done that at home
already! and Rose says I need a strong hand! So in your interests--" and
then it had blown away!

When Rose, after some desultory talk, went back to her room, Edith wrote
another letter:

"DEAR CHRISTOPHER,--I know you have made a mistake. I don't care for
you--to marry you--a bit, but I like you, oh, a quantity! We have always
been such friends, and we always will be, won't we? but not _that_ way.

"Some day you will be very happy with some one else who will suit you
better. Then you will know how right I am.

With kindest wishes,


She took this letter down the next morning to put in the bag, but the
postman had come and gone. As she stood in the hall holding the letter,
Farringdon came up.

"Good morning," he said. "You've missed the postman? I will be very
happy to post it for you on my way to church."

"Thank you. But if it's on the way to church, I'm going myself, so I
needn't trouble you."

Farringdon merely bowed, without saying anything banal about the absence
of trouble. She was demurely conscious beneath his courtesy of the
effort he was making to see her handwriting, and she wondered if he
thought her refusal rude and a confirmation of his suspicion, or simply

Whatever he thought, it did not prevent the steps as she came out a few
hours later in the freshness of white muslin, with her umbrella,
prayer-book, and an unobtrusive white envelope in her hands.

They were going together down then drive--under his umbrella--before she
quite grasped the situation.

"We seem to be the only ones," she hazarded.

"We are," he nodded.

"Mrs. Manstey has a headache," Edith said, "but the others--"

"The sun is too hot!"--he smiled.

"But you--I shouldn't have thought--" She paused, a little embarrassed.

"Yes?" he helped her. "That I was one of those who go to church, you

"Oh no!" she protested; but it was what she had meant.

"You are right," he said, without heeding the protest, and his ugly but
compellingly attractive face was turned to hers. "I'm not in the least a
scoffer, though; pray believe that. It's just that I--" he hesitated. "Do
you remember a little verse:

'Although I enter not,
Yet round about the spot
Sometimes I hover,
And at the sacred gate
With longing eyes I wait,
Expectant of her.'"

Her face flushed. "But," she reverted, with naivete, "you said you were
going to church--"

"But because I knew you were one of the women who would be sure to go!"
he said, positively.

She rebelled. "I don't look devotional at all!"

"But your eyes do," he declared. "They're suggestive of cathedrals and
beautiful dimness, and a voice going up and up, like the 'Lark' song of
Schubert's, don't you know!"

"No, I _don't!_" she said, wilfully; but she was conscious of his eyes
on her face, and angry that her cheeks flushed.

They both were silent for a little, and when they left Mrs. Manstey's
grounds for the uneven country road, that became shortly, by courtesy,
the village street, they had a view of the little church with its tiny

"The post-office," Farringdon explained, "is at the other end of the
street. Service is beginning, I dare say. Shall we wait until it is
over, or post the letter now?"

"No; after service," she agreed, and inopportunely the letter slipped
from her hand and fell, with the address down, on the grass. She stooped
hurriedly, but he was before her, and picking it up, returned it
scrupulously, with the right side down, as it had fallen. She slipped it
quickly, almost guiltily, into her prayer-book.

The church was small, the congregation smaller, and the clergyman a
little weary of the empty benches. But the two faces in the Manstey pew
were so bright, so vivid with the vigor of youth, that his jaded mind
freshened to meet the interest of new hearers.

But neither Edith nor Farringdon listened attentively to the sermon, for
their minds were busy with other things. He was thinking of the girl
beside him, whose hymnal he was sharing, and whose voice, very sweet and
clear, if of no great compass, blended with his own fine tenor. Her
thoughts could not stray far from the letter and--from other things!

The benediction sent them from the cool dimness into the sunlight, and
she looked down the street toward the post-office.

"It's quite at the other end of the street," Farringdon said, opening
his umbrella and tentatively discouraging the effort. "By the way, your
letter won't leave, I remember, until the seven-o'clock train. The
Brathwaites are leaving by that train; you can send your letter down

She found herself accepting this proposition, for the blaze of the sun
on the length of the dusty street was deterring. They walked back almost
in silence the way they had come; but with his hand on Mrs. Manstey's
gate and the house less than two hundred yards away, Farringdon paused.

"You have been writing to 'Christopher,'" he said, quietly. "I don't
want you to send the letter." He was quite pale, but she did not notice
it or the tensity of his face; his audacity made her for the moment

"You don't want me to--!" She positively gasped. "I never heard of

"Impertinence," he supplied, gravely. "It looks that way, I know, but it
isn't. I can't stand on conventions--I've too much at stake. I don't
mean to lose _you_--as you lost your letter!"

She thought she was furious. "You knew it was my letter!" she accused.

They had paused just within the gate, in the shade of a great
mulberry-tree that stood sentinel.

"Forgive me," he said. "Not at first--but I guessed it. My name," he
added, "is Christopher, too."

He took a crumpled sheet, that had been smoothed and folded carefully,
from his pocket. "Do you remember what you wrote?" he asked, in a low

Her face was crimson.

"It blew to me. Such things don't happen every day." He had taken off
his hat, and, bareheaded, he bent and looked questioningly into her
eyes. "My name is Christopher," he repeated. "I can't--it isn't
possible--that I can let another Christopher have that letter."

Her eyes fell before his.

"I"--he paused--"I play tennis very well, you said. I play to win! What
I give to the interest of a game--"

"Is nothing to what you give to the interests of Christopher!"

As she mockingly spoke, Farringdon caught a glimpse of one or two people
strolling down from the house. "That letter," he hastily said,--"you
can't take it from me! Do you remember that wind? It blew _you_ to _me!_
Dearest, _darling_, don't be angry. You _can't_ take yourself away."

A little smile touched her lips--mutinous, but tremulous, too, and
something in her look made his heart beat fast.

"I didn't--The last letter wasn't like the first," she said,
incoherently, but it seemed he understood.

"I knew you were _you_ as soon as I saw you," he said, idiotically.

"And," she murmured, as they walked perforce to meet the people coming
toward them down the drive, "after all, you _were_ Christopher!"



The stairs were long and dark; they seemed to stretch an interminable
length, and she was too tired to notice the soft carpet and wonder why
Mrs. Wilson had departed from her iron-clad rules and for once
considered the comfort of her lodgers. The rail of the banisters lay
cold but supporting under the pressure of her weary hand, and, at her
own door at last, she fitted the key in the lock. Something was wrong;
it would not turn; she drew it out and tried the handle. The door
opened, and entering, she stood rooted to the spot.

Had her poor little room doubled its size and trebled its furniture? Her
imagination, always active, for one wild moment suggested that old
Grandaunt Crosbie from over the seas had remembered her poor relatives
and worked the miracle; she always had Grandaunt Crosbie as a possible
trump in the hand of fate. And then the dull reality shattered her
foolish castle--she was in the wrong room. All this comfort had a
legitimate possessor, whose Aunt Crosbie did her proper part in life.

She walked mechanically to a window and looked down; yes, there was the
bleak yard she usually found below her, four houses off; she had come
into the wrong door, and now to retrace her useless steps.

She paused a moment, and slowly revolving, made bitter inventory of the
charming interior. Soft, bright stuffs at the windows, on the chairs;
pictures; books; flowers even; a big bunch of holly on the mantelpiece.
A sitting-room--no obnoxious bed behind an inadequate screen, no horrid
white china pitcher in full view! What woman owned all this? She stared
about for characteristic traces. No sewing! Pipes! It belonged to a man.

She must go. She moved toward the door, and dropped her eyes on the
little hard-coal fire in the grate; it tempted her, and, with a sort of
defiance, she moved over to it and warmed her chilled fingers. A piano,
too, and not to teach children on! To play upon, to enjoy! When was her
time to come? Every dog has his day! Where was hers? Here some man was
surrounded with comforts and pleasures, and she slaved all day at her
teaching, and came home at night tired, cold, to a miserable little
half-furnished room--alone.

Resting her arms on the mantelpiece, she dropped her face a moment on
them and rebelled, kicking hard against the pricks; and sunk in that
profitless occupation, heard vaguely the sound of rapid steps and
suddenly realized what they might mean.

She straightened her young form and stared, fascinated, at the door.
Good heavens! What should she do? What should she say? If she appeared
confused, she would be thought a thief; she must have some excuse: she
had come--to--find a lady--was waiting! She sank into a little chair and
tried not to tremble visibly to the most unobservant eye, and the door
opened, shut, and the owner of the room stood before her.

"How do you do?" said Amory, and coming forward, he shook hands warmly.
"Please forgive me for being late, but I could not get away a moment
before. Where" he looked about the room--"where is Mrs. White?"

The girl had risen nervously, and stood with her fingers clasped,
looking at him; she answered, stammering, "She--I--she--couldn't come."

"Couldn't come?" repeated the young man. "I'm awfully sorry. Do sit

She still stood, holding to the back of her chair. "She said she would
come if she could, and I was to--but I had better go."

Amory laughed. "Not a bit of it. Now I've got you, I sha'n't let you go.
It was very brave of you to come alone. You know brothers-in-law are
presumptuous sometimes." He smiled down into the soft, shy, dark eyes
raised to his, and looked at his watch. "You must have waited a
half-hour; I said four o'clock. I'm so sorry."

Her eyes dropped. "I was late, too," she answered, and felt a horrible
weight lifted from her. (They surely could not be coming; she could go
in a moment; he would never know until she was beyond his reach. But she
reckoned without her host.)

"Draw up to the fire," he began, and wheeled up a big armchair, and
gently made her sit in it. "Put your feet on the fender and let's have a
long talk. You know I sha'n't see you before the wedding, and I'd like
to know something of my brother's wife. Tom said I must see you once
before you and he got off to Paris, and I may not be able to get West
for the wedding; so this is the one chance I shall have." He drew his
chair near, and looked down at her with friendly, pleasant eyes.

She must say something. She rested her head on the high back of her
chair, and felt a sensation of bewildered happiness. It was dangerous;
she must get away in a moment; but for a moment she might surely enjoy
this extraordinary situation that fortune had thrust upon her--the charm
of the room, the warmth, and something more wonderful
still--companionship. She looked at him; she must say something.

"You think you can't come to the wedding?" she said, and blushed.

Amory shook his head. "I'm afraid not, though of course I shall try.
Now"--he stared gravely at her--"now tell me how you came to know Tom
and why you like him. I wonder if it is for my reasons or ones of your

He was surprised by the deep blush which answered his words. What a
wonderful wild-rose color on her rather pale cheek!

"Don't you think it very warm in here?" said the girl.

Amory got up, and going to the window, opened it a little; then,
stopping at his desk, picked up a note and brought it to the fire.

"Why, here is a note from Mrs. White," he said. "Why didn't you tell

She had risen, and laid her hand an instant on his arm. "Don't open
it--yet," she said. Her desperation lent her invention; just in this one
way he must not find her out. She gave him a look, half arch, half
pleading. "I'll explain later," she said.

Amory felt a stir of most unnecessary emotion; he understood Tom.

"Of course," he said, dropping it on the mantelpiece,--"just as you
like. Now let's go back to Tom. You see,"--he sat down, and tipping his
chair a little, gave her a rather curious smile,--"Tom and I have been
enigmas to each other always, deeply attached and hopelessly
incomprehensible, and I had my own ideas of what Tom would
marry--and--you are not it;--not in the least!" He leant forward and
brought his puzzled gaze to bear upon her.

She settled deeply into her chair, half to get farther away from those
searching gray eyes, half because she was taking terrible risks, and she
might as well enjoy it; the chair was so comfortable, and the fire so
cheerful, and Amory--it occurred to her with a sort of exhilaration what
it would be to please him. She had pleased other people, why not him?
Her lids drooped; she looked down at her shabby gloves.

"What did you expect?" she said.

He leant back and laughed. "What did I expect? Well, frankly, a silly
little blond thing, all curls and furbelows!"

She raised those heavy lids of hers and gazed straight at him. "Was that
Tom's description?" she asked, and raised her eyebrows. They were
delicately pencilled, and Amory watched her and noted them.

"No," he answered; "he didn't describe you, but I thought that was his
taste. Now, you are neither silly nor little; no blonde; you have no
curls and no furbelows. In fact"--he smiled with something delightfully
intimate in his eyes--"in fact, you are much more the kind of girl _I_
should like to marry."

It gave her an absurd little thrill. She sat up, rebellious. "If _I_
would have liked you," she returned.

Amory laughed and put his hands in his pockets. "Of course," he said;
"but you would, you know!"

"Why?" she demanded, opening her eyes very wide; and again he inwardly
complimented her on her eyebrows, and above them her hair grew in a
charming line on her forehead. The little points are all pretty, he
thought, and it is the details that count in the long run. How much one
could grow to dislike blurry eyebrows and ugly ears, even if a woman had
rosy cheeks and golden hair!

"Why? Because I should bully you into it. I'm an obstinate kind of
creature, and get things by hanging on. Women give in if you worry them
long enough. But tell me more about Tom," he went on. "Did he dance and
shoot his way into your heart? I wish I'd been there to see! You take a
very bad tintype, by the way. Tom sent me that." He got up, and taking a
picture from the mantelpiece, tossed it into her lap, and leaning over
the back of her chair, looked down on it. "Have you a sentiment about
it?" he added, smiling. "It does look like Tom."

She held it and gravely studied it. She colored, and, still looking at
the picture, felt her way suddenly open. "Yes, it does look like him,"
she said, and putting it down, leant forward and looked into the fire.
"Do you want to know why I accepted Tom?" she added, slowly. She was
fully launched on a career of deception now, and felt a desperate

Amory stared at her and nodded.

She kept her eyes on the fire. "I wanted--a home."

Amory sat motionless, then spoke. "Why--why, weren't you happy with your
aunt and uncle?"

She shook her head. "No; and Tom was good and kind and very--"

Amory got up and shook himself. "Oh, but that's an awful mistake," he

"I know," said the girl, and turning, looked at him a moment. "Well,
I've come to tell you that I have--" She hesitated.

Amory slid down into the chair beside her. "Changed your mind?"


"That note of your aunt's?"


He sat back and folded his arms. "I see," he said, and there followed a
long silence.

The girl began buttoning and unbuttoning her glove. She must go; she was
frightened, elated, amused. She did not want to go, but go she must.
Would he ever forgive her?

"Don't--don't hate me!" she said.

Amory awoke from his stunned meditation. "My dear young lady, of course
not," he began; "only, Tom will be terribly broken up. It's the only
thing to do now, I suppose, but why did you do the other?"

She looked at him. As well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, she thought.
"I was unhappy and foolish." She hesitated. "But you needn't be troubled
about Tom. He--" Again she hesitated.

"Not troubled about old Tom!" expostulated Amory.

"Wait." She put up her hand. "He made a mistake, too; he doesn't care so
very much, and he has already flirted--"

Amory laid his hand on her chair. "Tom!"

"Yes," she repeated; "he really is rather a flirt, and--"


She nodded. "Yes; really, it did hurt me a little, only--"


She faced him. "Yes, Tom. What do you think Tom is--blind and deaf and
dumb? Any man worth his salt can flirt."

Amory stared at her. "Oh, he can, can he?"

She nodded. "He was very good and kind, but I saw that he was changing;
and then he met a little fair-haired, blue-eyed--"

Amory interposed. "I told you."

She gave him a curious smile. "Yes, a silly little blond thing, just

But his satisfaction in his perspicacity was short-lived; he walked up
and down the room in his perplexity. "I can't get over it," he murmured.
"I thought it a mad love-match, all done in a few weeks; and to have it
turn out like this! You--"

"Mercenary," she interjected, with a sad little smile.

He looked at her. "Yes; and Tom--"

"Fickle," she ended again.

"Yes, and Tom fickle. Why, it shakes the foundations!"

The girl felt a sudden wave of shame and weariness. She must go. She
hadn't been fair, but it had been so sudden, so difficult. She looked at
him, and getting up, wondered if she would ever see him again.

"I must go," she said. "I came--" She hesitated, and a sudden desire to
have him know her as herself swept over her. It needed only another lie
or two in the beginning, and then some truth would come through to
sustain her. She went on: "I came because I wanted to know what you were
like; Tom had talked so much of you, and I wanted some one to understand
and perhaps explain; and now I must go and leave your warm, delightful
room for the comfortless place I live in. Don't think too hardly of me."

Amory shook his head. "You don't leave me until you have had your tea."
He rang the bell. "But what do you mean by a comfortless home? Does Mrs.
White neglect you?"

She looked at the fire. "I don't live with her--now; I live alone; I
work for my living."

Amory got up as the maid brought in the tea-tray, and setting it beside
them, he poured out her tea; as he handed her the cup, he brought his
brows together sternly, as though making out her very mysterious words.

"You work for your living?" he repeated. "I thought you lived with Mrs.
White, and that they were well off."

"I did, but now I've come back to my real life, which I would have left
had I married Tom."

He nodded. "I see. I had heard awfully little about it all; I was away,
and then it was so quickly done."

"I know," she went on, hurriedly; "but let me tell you, and you will
understand me better later--that is, if you want to understand me."

"Most certainly I do." Amory sustained the strange sad gaze of her
charming, heavy-lidded eyes in a sort of maze. Her mat skin looked
white, now that her blushes were gone, and her delicate, irregular
features a little pinched. He drank his tea and watched her while she

"I teach music," she began; "to do it I left my relations in the country
and came to this horrible great city. I have one dreary, cold room, as
unlike this as two rooms can be. I have tried to make it seem like a
home, but when I saw this I knew how I had failed."

"Poor little girl!" said Amory.

"I have the ordinary feelings of a girl," she went on, "and yet I see
before me the long stretch of a dreary life. I love music; I hear none
but the strumming of children. I like pictures, books, people; I see
none. I like to laugh, to talk; there is no one to laugh with, to talk
to. I am very--unhappy." The last words were spoken very low, but the
misery in them touched Amory deeply.

"Poor little girl!" he said again, and gently laid his hand on the arm
of her chair. "But how can Tom know this and let you go? You are
mistaken in Tom, I am sure, and--"

The girl straightened her slender figure and rose. "Oh no! it is all
right. He doesn't love me, your Tom; and so the world goes--I must go,
too. I--"

"Don't go," said Amory. "Let me--" She shook her head. "You have no more
to do; you have comforted and warmed and fed a hungry wanderer, and she
must make haste home. Thank you for everything; thank you."

Amory felt a pang as she stood up. Not to see her again--why, that was
absurd! Why should he not see her? She had quarrelled with Tom, yes, and
perhaps the family might be hard on her; but he--he understood, and why
should he shake off her acquaintance? She was not for Tom. Well, it was
just as well. How could any one think this girl would suit
Tom--big-bearded, clumsy, excellent fellow that he was?

He put out his hand. "Mary," he said. The girl stared at him with eyes
suddenly wide open; he smiled into them.

"I have a right to call you that," he proceeded, "haven't I? I might
have been your brother." He took her hand, and then laughed a little. "I
am almost glad I am not. You wouldn't have suited Tom, and as a sister,
somehow, you wouldn't have suited me!" He laughed again. "But"--he
hesitated; she still stared straight up at him with her soft, dark eyes,
and he thought them very beautiful--"but why shouldn't I see you--not as
a brother, but an acquaintance--friend? You say you need them. Tell me
where you have this room of yours?"

The vivid beauty of her blush startled him, and she drew her hand
quickly from his.

"Oh no!" she said, hurriedly. "Let things drop between us;

Amory stood before her with an expression which reminded her of his
description of himself--obstinate; yes, he looked it.

"Why?" he urged. "Just because you are not to marry Tom, is there any
reason why we should not like each other--is there? That is--if we do! I
do," he laughed. "Do you?"

Her lids had dropped; she looked very slim, and young, and shy. "Yes,"
she said.

It gave Amory a good deal of pleasure for a monosyllable.

"Well, then, your number?" he said.

She shook her head.

"I'll ask Tom," he retorted. "He will tell me."

He was baffled and curiously charmed by the smile that touched her
sharply curved young mouth.

"Tom may," she said.

"I was ready to accept you as a sister," he persisted, "and you won't
even admit me as a casual visitor!"

She took a step toward the door. "Wait till you hear Tom's story," she

Amory stared curiously at her. "Do you think he will be vindictive,
after all?" he said. "Why should he be, if what you say is just?"

She paused. "Wait till you see Tom and Mrs. White; then if you want to
know me, why--" She was blushing again.

"Well," Amory demanded, "what shall I do?"

She looked up with a sort of childish charm, curling her lip, lighting
her eyes with something of laughter and mischief. "Why, look for me and
you'll find me."

"Find you?" repeated Amory, bewildered.

She nodded. "Yes, if you look. To-morrow will be Sunday; every one will
be going to church, and I with them. Stand on the steps of this house at
10.30 precisely, and look as far as you can, and you will see--me.

"Good night." Amory took her hand. "Let me see you home; it's dark."

She laughed. "You don't lack persistency, do you?" she said, with a
sweetness which gave the words a pleasant twist. "But don't come,
please. I'm used to taking care of myself; but--before I go let me write
my note also." She went to the desk and scratched a line, and folding
it, handed it to him. "There," she said; "read Mrs. White's note and
then that, but wait till you hear the house door bang. Promise not

"Please--" began Amory.

"Promise," she repeated.

"I promise," he said, and again they shook hands for good-by.

"That's three times," thought the girl as she went to the door, and
turning an instant, she smiled at him. "Good-by." The door closed softly
behind her, and Amory waited a moment, then went to it, and opening it,
listened; the house door shut lightly, and seizing his notes, he stood
by the window in the twilight and read them. The first was as follows:

"DEAR MR. AMORY,--Mary and I had to return unexpectedly to Cleveland.
Forgive our missing this chance of meeting you, but Mr. White's note is
urgent, as his sister is very ill. Mary regrets greatly not seeing you
before the wedding.

Yours sincerely,


Amory threw the paper down. "Do I see visions?" he cried, and hastily
unfolded the second; it ran as follows:

"Forgive me; I got into the wrong house, the wrong room. I was very
tired, and my latch-key fitted, and I didn't know until I saw your fire,
and then you came. Don't think me a very bold and horrid girl, and
forgive me. Your fire was so warm and bright, and--you were kind.


Amory stared at the paper a moment; then, catching his hat and flying
down the stairs, opened the outer door.

The night was bitter cold, with a white frost everywhere; but in the
twilight no solitary figure was in view; the long street was empty. He
ran the length of it, then back to his room, and throwing down his hat,
he lit his pipe. It needed thought.



We had ordered our dinners and were sitting in the Turkish room at the
club, waiting to be called, each in his turn, to the dining-room. With
its mixture of Oriental appointments in curtains, cushions, and little
tables of teak-wood the Turkish room expressed rather an adventurous
conception of the Ottoman taste; but it was always a cozy place whether
you found yourself in it with cigars and coffee after dinner, or with
whatever liquid or solid appetizer you preferred in the half-hour or
more that must pass before dinner after you had made out your menu. It
intimated an exclusive possession in the three or four who happened
first to find themselves together in it, and it invited the philosophic
mind to contemplation more than any other spot in the club.

Our rather limited little down-town dining club was almost a celibate
community at most times. A few husbands and fathers joined us at lunch;
but at dinner we were nearly always a company of bachelors, dropping in
an hour or so before we wished to dine, and ordering from a bill of fare
what we liked. Some dozed away the intervening time; some read the
evening papers, or played chess; I preferred the chance society of the
Turkish room. I could be pretty sure of finding Wanhope there in these
sympathetic moments, and where Wanhope was there would probably be
Rulledge, passively willing to listen and agree, and Minver ready to
interrupt and dispute. I myself liked to look in and linger for either
the reasoning or the bickering, as it happened, and now seeing the three
there together, I took a provisional seat behind the painter, who made
no sign of knowing I was present. Rulledge was eating a caviar sandwich,
which he had brought from the afternoon tea-table near by, and he
greedily incited Wanhope to go on, in the polite pause which the
psychologist had let follow on my appearance, with what he was saying. I
was not surprised to find that his talk related to a fact just then
intensely interesting to the few, rapidly becoming the many, who were
privy to it; though Wanhope had the air of stooping to it from a higher
range of thinking.

"I shouldn't have supposed, somehow," he said with a knot of deprecation
between his fine eyes, "that he would have had the pluck."

"Perhaps he hadn't," Minver suggested.

Wanhope waited for a thoughtful moment of censure eventuating in
toleration. "You mean that she--"

"I don't see why you say that, Minver," Rulledge interposed
chivalrously, with his mouth full of sandwich.

"I didn't say it," Minver contradicted.

"You implied it; and I don't think it's fair. It's easy enough to build
up a report of that kind on the half-knowledge of rumor which is all
that any outsider can have in the case."

"So far," Minver said, with unbroken tranquillity, "as any such edifice
has been erected, you are the architect, Rulledge. I shouldn't think you
would like to go round insinuating that sort of thing. Here is Acton,"
and he now acknowledged my presence with a backward twist of his head,
"on the alert for material already. You ought to be more careful where
Acton is, Rulledge."

"It would be great copy if it were true," I owned.

Wanhope regarded us all three, in this play of our qualities, with the
scientific impartiality of a bacteriologist in the study of a culture
offering some peculiar incidents. He took up a point as remote as might
be from the personal appeal. "It is curious how little we know of such
matters, after all the love-making and marrying in life and all the
inquiry of the poets and novelists." He addressed himself in this turn
of his thought, half playful, half earnest, to me, as if I united with
the functions of both a responsibility for their shortcomings.

"Yes," Minver said, facing about toward me. "How do you excuse yourself
for your ignorance in matters where you're always professionally making
such a bluff of knowledge? After all the marriages you have brought
about in literature, can you say positively and specifically how they
are brought about in life?"

"No, I can't," I admitted. "I might say that a writer of fiction is a
good deal like a minister who continually marries people without knowing

"No, you couldn't, my dear fellow," the painter retorted. "It's part of
your swindler to assume that you _do_ know why. You ought to find out."

Wanhope interposed abstractly, or as abstractly as he could: "The
important thing would always be to find which of the lovers the
confession, tacit or explicit, began with."

"Acton ought to go round and collect human documents bearing on the
question. He ought to have got together thousands of specimens from
nature. He ought to have gone to all the married couples he knew, and
asked them just how their passion was confessed; he ought to have sent
out printed circulars, with tabulated questions. Why don't you do it,

I returned, as seriously as could have been expected: "Perhaps it would
be thought rather intimate. People don't like to talk of such things."

"They're ashamed," Minver declared. "The lovers don't either of them, in
a given ease, like to let others know how much the woman had to do with
making the offer, and how little the man."

Minver's point provoked both Wanhope and myself to begin a remark at the
same time. We begged each other's pardon, and Wanhope insisted that I
should go on.

"Oh, merely this," I said. "I don't think they're so much ashamed as
that they have forgotten the different stages. You were going to say?"

"Very much what you said. It's astonishing how people forget the vital
things, and remember trifles. Or perhaps as we advance from stage to
stage what once seemed the vital things turn to trifles. Nothing can be
more vital in the history of a man and a woman than how they became
husband and wife, and yet not merely the details, but the main fact,
would seem to escape record if not recollection. The next generation
knows nothing of it."

"That appears to let Acton out," Minver said. "But how do _you_ know
what you were saying, Wanhope?"

"I've ventured to make some inquiries in that region at one time. Not
directly, of course. At second and third hand. It isn't inconceivable,
if we conceive of a life after this, that a man should forget, in its
more important interests and occupations, just how he quitted this
world, or at least the particulars of the article of death. Of course,
we must suppose a good portion of eternity to have elapsed." Wanhope
continued, dreamily, with a deep breath almost equivalent to something
so unscientific as a sigh: "Women are charming, and in nothing more than
the perpetual challenge they form for us. They are born defying us to
match ourselves with them."

"Do you mean that Miss Hazelwood--" Rulledge began, but Minver's laugh
arrested him.

"Nothing so concrete, I'm afraid," Wanhope gently returned. "I mean, to
match them in graciousness, in loveliness, in all the agile contests of
spirit and plays of fancy. There's something pathetic to see them caught
up into something more serious in that other game, which they are so
good at."

"They seem rather to like it, though, some of them, if you mean the game
of love," Minver said. "Especially when they're not in earnest about

"Oh, there are plenty of spoiled women," Wanhope admitted. "But I don't
mean flirting. I suppose that the average unspoiled woman is rather
frightened than otherwise when she knows that a man is in love with

"Do you suppose she always knows it first?" Rulledge asked.

"You may be sure," Minver answered for Wanhope, "that if she didn't know
it, _he_ never would." Then Wanhope answered for himself:

"I think that generally she sees it coming. In that sort of wireless
telegraphy, that reaching out of two natures through space towards each
other, her more sensitive apparatus probably feels the appeal of his
before he is conscious of having made any appeal."

"And her first impulse is to escape the appeal?" I suggested.

"Yes," Wanhope admitted after a thoughtful reluctance.

"Even when she is half aware of having invited it?"

"If she is not spoiled she is never aware of having invited it. Take the
case in point; we won't mention any names. She is sailing through time,
through youthful space, with her electrical lures, the natural equipment
of every charming woman, all out, and suddenly, somewhere from the
unknown, she feels the shock of a response in the gulfs of air where
there had been no life before. But she can't be said to have knowingly
searched the void for any presence."

"Oh, I'm not sure about that, professor," Minver put in. "Go a little
slower, if you expect me to follow you."

"It's all a mystery, the most beautiful mystery of life," Wanhope
resumed. "I don't believe I could make out the case, as I feel it to

"Braybridge's part of the case is rather plain, isn't it?" I invited

"I'm not sure of that. No man's part of any case is plain, if you look
at it carefully. The most that you can say of Braybridge is that he is
rather a simple nature. But nothing," the psychologist added with one of
his deep breaths, "is so complex as a simple nature."

"Well," Minver contended, "Braybridge is plain, if his case isn't."

"Plain? Is he plain?" Wanhope asked, as if asking himself.

"My dear fellow, you agnostics doubt everything!"

"I should have said picturesque. Picturesque, with the sort of
unbeautifulness that takes the fancy of women more than Greek
proportion. I think it would require a girl peculiarly feminine to feel
the attraction of such a man--the fascination of his being grizzled, and
slovenly, and rugged. She would have to be rather a wild, shy girl to do
that, and it would have to be through her fear of him that she would
divine his fear of her. But what I have heard is that they met under
rather exceptional circumstances. It was at a house in the Adirondacks,
where Braybridge was, somewhat in the quality of a bull in a china-shop.
He was lugged in by the host, as an old friend, and was suffered by the
hostess as a friend quite too old for her. At any rate, as I heard (and
I don't vouch for the facts, all of them), Braybridge found himself at
odds with the gay young people who made up the hostess's end of the
party, and was watching for a chance to--"

Wanhope cast about for the word, and Winver supplied it: "Pull out."

"Yes. But when he had found it Miss Hazelwood took it from him."

"I don't understand," Rulledge said.

"When he came in to breakfast, the third morning, prepared with an
excuse for cutting his week down to the dimensions it had reached, he
saw her sitting alone at the table. She had risen early as a consequence
of having arrived late, the night before; and when Braybridge found
himself in for it, be forgot that he meant to go away, and said
good-morning, as if they knew each other. Their hostess found them
talking over the length of the table in a sort of mutual fright, and
introduced them. But it's rather difficult reporting a lady verbatim at
second hand. I really had the facts from Welkin, who had them from his
wife. The sum of her impressions was that Braybridge and Miss Hazelwood
were getting a kind of comfort out of their mutual terror because one
was as badly frightened as the other. It was a novel experience for
both. Ever seen her?"

We others looked at each other. Minver said: "I never wanted to paint
any one so much. It was at the spring show of the American Artists.
There was a jam of people; but this girl--I've understood it was
she--looked as much alone as if there were nobody else there. She might
have been a startled doe in the North Woods suddenly coming out on a
twenty-thousand-dollar camp, with a lot of twenty-million-dollar people
on the veranda."

"And you wanted to do her as The Startled Doe," I said. "Good selling

"Don't reduce it to the vulgarity of fiction. I admit it would be a
selling name."

"Go on, Wanhope," Rulledge puffed impatiently. "Though I don't see how
there could be another soul in the universe as constitutionally scared
of men as Braybridge is of women."

"In the universe nothing is wasted, I suppose. Everything has its
complement, its response. For every bashful man, there must be a bashful
woman," Wanhope returned.

"Or a bold one," Minver suggested.

"No; the response must be in kind, to be truly complemental. Through the
sense of their reciprocal timidity they divine that they needn't be

"Oh! _That's_ the way you get out of it!"

"Well?" Rulledge urged.

"I'm afraid," Wanhope modestly confessed, "that from this point I shall
have to be largely conjectural. Welkin wasn't able to be very definite,
except as to moments, and he had his data almost altogether from his
wife. Braybridge had told him overnight that he thought of going, and he
had said he mustn't think of it; but he supposed Braybridge had spoken
of it to Mrs. Welkin, and he began by saying to his wife that he hoped
she had refused to hear of Braybridge's going. She said she hadn't heard
of it, but now she would refuse without hearing, and she didn't give
Braybridge any chance to protest. If people went in the middle of their
week, what would become of other people? She was not going to have the
equilibrium of her party disturbed, and that was all about it. Welkin
thought it was odd that Braybridge didn't insist; and he made a long
story of it. But the grain of wheat in his bushel of chaff was that Miss
Hazelwood seemed to be fascinated by Braybridge from the first. When
Mrs. Welkin scared him into saying that he would stay his week out, the
business practically was done. They went picnicking that day in each
other's charge; and after Braybridge left he wrote back to her, as Mrs.
Welkin knew from the letters that passed through her hands, and--Well,
their engagement has come out, and--" Wanhope paused with an air that
was at first indefinite, and then definitive.

"You don't mean," Rulledge burst out in a note of deep wrong, "that
that's all you know about it?"

"Yes, that's all I know," Wanhope confessed, as if somewhat surprised
himself at the fact.


Wanhope tried to offer the only reparation in his power. "I can
conjecture--we can all conjecture--"

He hesitated; then, "Well, go on with your conjecture," Rulledge said

"Why--" Wanhope began again; but at that moment a man who had been
elected the year before, and then gone off on a long absence, put his
head in between the dull-red hangings of the doorway. It was Halson,
whom I did not know very well, but liked better than I knew. His eyes
were dancing with what seemed the inextinguishable gayety of his
temperament, rather than any present occasion, and his smile carried his
little mustache well away from his handsome teeth. "Private?"

"Come in, come in!" Minver called to him. "Thought you were in Japan?"

"My dear fellow," Halson answered, "you must brush up your contemporary
history. It's more than a fortnight since I was in Japan." He shook
hands with me, and I introduced him to Rulledge and Wanhope. He said at
once: "Well, what is it? Question of Braybridge's engagement? It's
humiliating to a man to come back from the antipodes, and find the
nation absorbed in a parochial problem like that. Everybody I've met
here to-night has asked me, the first thing, if I'd heard of it, and if
I knew how it could have happened."

"And do you?" Rulledge asked.

"I can give a pretty good guess," Halson said, running his merry eyes
over our faces.

"Anybody can give a good guess," Rulledge said. "Wanhope is doing it

"Don't let me interrupt." Halson turned to him politely.

"Not at all. I'd rather hear your guess. If you know Braybridge better
than I," Wanhope said.

"Well," Halson compromised, "perhaps I've known him longer." He asked,
with an effect of coming to business, "Where were you?"

"Tell him, Rulledge," Minver ordered, and Rulledge apparently asked
nothing better. He told him in detail, all we knew from any source, down
to the moment of Wanhope's arrested conjecture.

"He did leave you at an anxious point, didn't he?" Halson smiled to the
rest of us at Rulledge's expense, and then said: "Well, I think I can
help you out a little. Any of you know the lady?"

"By sight, Minver does," Rulledge answered for us. "Wants to paint her."
"Of course," Halson said, with intelligence. "But I doubt if he'd find
her as paintable as she looks, at first. She's beautiful, but her charm
is spiritual."

"Sometimes we try for that," the painter interposed.

"And sometimes you get it. But you'll allow it's difficult. That's all I
meant. I've known her--let me see--for twelve years, at least; ever
since I first went West. She was about eleven then, and her father was
bringing her up on the ranche. Her aunt came along, by and by, and took
her to Europe; mother dead before Hazelwood went out there. But the girl
was always homesick for the ranche; she pined for it; and after they had
kept her in Germany three or four years they let her come back, and run
wild again; wild as a flower does, or a vine--not a domesticated

"Go slow, Halson. This is getting too much for the romantic Rulledge."

"Rulledge can bear up against the facts, I guess, Minver," Halson said,
almost austerely. "Her father died two years ago, and then she _had_ to
come East, for her aunt simply _wouldn't_ live on the ranche. She
brought her on, here, and brought her out; I was at the coming-out tea;
but the girl didn't take to the New York thing at all; I could see it
from the start; she wanted to get away from it with me, and talk about
the ranche."

"She felt that she was with the only genuine person among those
conventional people."

Halson laughed at Minver's thrust, and went on amiably: "I don't suppose
that till she met Braybridge she was ever quite at her ease with any man
or woman, for that matter. I imagine, as you've done, that it was his
fear of her that gave her courage. She met him on equal terms. Isn't
that it?"

Wanhope assented to the question referred to him with a nod.

"And when they got lost from the rest of the party at that picnic--"

"Lost?" Rulledge demanded.

"Why, yes. Didn't you know? But I ought to go back. They said there
never was anything prettier than the way she unconsciously went for
Braybridge, the whole day. She wanted him, and she was a child who
wanted things frankly, when she did want them. Then his being ten or
fifteen years older than she was, and so large and simple, made it
natural for a shy girl like her to assort herself with him when all the
rest were assorting themselves, as people do at such things. The
consensus of testimony is that she did it with the most transparent
unconsciousness, and--"

"Who are your authorities?" Minver asked; Rulledge threw himself back on
the divan, and beat the cushions with impatience.

"Is it essential to give them?"

"Oh, no. I merely wondered. Go on."

"The authorities are all right. She had disappeared with him before the
others noticed. It was a thing that happened; there was no design in it;
that would have been out of character. They had got to the end of the
wood-road, and into the thick of the trees where there wasn't even a
trail, and they walked round looking for a way out, till they were
turned completely. They decided that the only way was to keep walking,
and by and by they heard the sound of chopping. It was some Canucks
clearing a piece of the woods, and when she spoke to them in French,
they gave them full directions, and Braybridge soon found the path

Halson paused, and I said, "But that isn't all?"

"Oh, no." He continued thoughtfully silent for a little while before he
resumed. "The amazing thing is that they got lost again, and that when
they tried going back to the Canucks, they couldn't find the way."

"Why didn't they follow the sound of the chopping?" I asked.

"The Canucks had stopped, for the time being. Besides, Braybridge was
rather ashamed, and he thought if they went straight on they would be
sure to come out somewhere. But that was where he made a mistake. They
couldn't go on straight; they went round and round, and came on their
own footsteps--or hers, which he recognized from the narrow tread and
the dint of the little heels in the damp places."

Wanhope roused himself with a kindling eye. "That is very interesting,
the movement in a circle of people who have lost their way. It has often
been observed, but I don't know that it has ever been explained.
Sometimes the circle is smaller, sometimes it is larger; but I believe
it is always a circle."

"Isn't it," I queried, "like any other error in life? We go round and
round; and commit the old sins over again."

"That is very interesting," Wanhope allowed.

"But do lost people really always walk in a vicious circle?" Minver

Rulledge would not let Wanhope answer. "Go on, Halson," he said.

Halson roused himself from the reverie in which he was sitting with
glazed eyes. "Well, what made it a little more anxious was that he had
heard of bears on that mountain, and the green afternoon light among the
trees was perceptibly paling. He suggested shouting, but she wouldn't
let him; she said it would be ridiculous, if the others heard them, and
useless if they didn't. So they tramped on till--till the accident

"The accident!" Rulledge exclaimed in the voice of our joint emotion.

"He stepped on a loose stone and turned his foot," Halson explained. "It
wasn't a sprain, luckily, but it hurt enough. He turned so white that
she noticed it, and asked him what was the matter. Of course that shut
his mouth the closer, but it morally doubled his motive, and he kept
himself from crying out till the sudden pain of the wrench was over. He
said merely that he thought he had heard something, and he had--an awful
ringing in his ears; but he didn't mean that, and he started on again.
The worst was trying to walk without limping, and to talk cheerfully and
encouragingly, with that agony tearing at him. But he managed somehow,
and he was congratulating himself on his success, when he tumbled down
in a dead faint."

"Oh, come, now!" Minver protested.

"It _is_ like an old-fashioned story, where things are operated by
accident instead of motive, isn't it?" Halson smiled with radiant

"Fact will always imitate fiction, if you give her time enough," I said.

"Had they got back to the other picnickers?" Rulledge asked with a tense

"In sound, but not in sight of them. She wasn't going to bring him into
camp in that state; besides she couldn't. She got some water out of the
trout-brook they'd been fishing--more water than trout in it--and
sprinkled his face, and he came to, and got on his legs, just in time to
pull on to the others, who were organizing a search-party to go after
them. From that point on, she dropped Braybridge like a hot coal, and as
there was nothing of the flirt in her, she simply kept with the women,
the older girls, and the tabbies, and left Braybridge to worry along
with the secret of his turned ankle. He doesn't know how he ever got
home alive; but he did somehow manage to reach the wagons that had
brought them to the edge of the woods, and then he was all right till
they got to the house. But still she said nothing about his accident,
and be couldn't; and he pleaded an early start for town the next
morning, and got off to bed, as soon as he could."

"I shouldn't have thought he could have stirred in the morning,"
Rulledge employed Halson's pause to say.

"Well, this beaver _had_ to," Halson said. "He was not the only early
riser. He found Miss Hazelwood at the station before him."

"What!" Rulledge shouted. I confess the fact rather roused me, too; and
Wanhope's eyes kindled with a scientific pleasure.

"She came right towards him. 'Mr. Braybridge,' says she, 'I couldn't let
you go without explaining my very strange behavior. I didn't choose to
have these people laughing at the notion of _my_ having played the part
of your preserver. It was bad enough being lost with you; I couldn't
bring you into ridicule with them by the disproportion they'd have felt
in my efforts for you after you turned your foot. So I simply had to
ignore the incident. Don't you see?' Braybridge glanced at her, and he
had never felt so big and bulky before, or seen her so slender and
little. He said, 'It _would_ have seemed rather absurd,' and he broke
out and laughed, while she broke down and cried, and asked him to
forgive her, and whether it had hurt him very much; and said she knew he
could bear to keep it from the others by the way he had kept it from her
till he fainted. She implied that he was morally as well as physically
gigantic, and it was as much as he could do to keep from taking her in
his arms on the spot."

"It would have been edifying to the groom that had driven her to the
station," Minver cynically suggested.

"Groom nothing!" Halson returned with spirit. "She paddled herself
across the lake, and walked from the boat-landing to the station."

"Jove!" Rulledge exploded in uncontrollable enthusiasm.

"She turned round as soon as she had got through with her hymn of
praise--it made Braybridge feel awfully flat--and ran back through the
bushes to the boat-landing, and--that was the last he saw of her till he
met her in town this fall."

"And when--and when--did he offer himself?" Rulledge entreated
breathlessly. "How--"

"Yes, that's the point, Halson," Minver interposed. "Your story is all
very well, as far as it goes; but Rulledge here has been insinuating
that it was Miss Hazelwood who made the offer, and he wants you to bear
him out."

Rulledge winced at the outrage, but he would not stay Halson's answer
even for the sake of righting himself.

"I _have_ heard," Minver went on, "that Braybridge insisted on paddling
the canoe back to the other shore for her, and that it was on the way
that he offered himself." We others stared at Minver in astonishment.
Halson glanced covertly toward him with his gay eyes. "Then that wasn't

"How did you hear it?" Halson asked.

"Oh, never mind. Is it true?"

"Well, I know there's that version," Halson said evasively. "The
engagement is only just out, as you know. As to the offer--the when and
the how--I don't know that I'm exactly at liberty to say."

"I don't see why," Minver urged. "You might stretch a point for
Rulledge's sake."

Halson looked down, and then he glanced at Minver after a furtive
passage of his eye over Rulledge's intense face. "There was something
rather nice happened after--But really, now!"

"Oh, go on!" Minver called out in contempt of his scruple.

"I haven't the right--Well, I suppose I'm on safe ground here? It won't
go any farther, of course; and it _was_ so pretty! After she had pushed
off in her canoe, you know, Braybridge--he'd followed her down to the
shore of the lake--found her handkerchief in a bush where it had caught,
and he held it up, and called out to her. She looked round and saw it,
and called back: 'Never mind. I can't return for it, now.' Then
Braybridge plucked up his courage, and asked if he might keep it, and
she said 'Yes,' over her shoulder, and then she stopped paddling, and
said 'No, no, you mustn't, you mustn't! You can send it to me.' He asked
where, and she said, 'In New York--in the fall--at the Walholland.'
Braybridge never knew how he dared, but he shouted after her--she was
paddling on again--'May I _bring_ it?' and she called over her shoulder
again, without fully facing him, but her profile was enough, 'If you
can't get any one to bring it for you.' The words barely reached him,
but he'd have caught them if they'd been whispered; and he watched her
across the lake, and into the bushes, and then broke for his train. He
was just in time."

Halson beamed for pleasure upon us, and even Minver said, "Yes, that's
rather nice." After a moment he added, "Rulledge thinks she put it

"You're too bad, Minver," Halson protested. "The charm of the whole
thing was her perfect innocence. She isn't capable of the slightest
finesse. I've known her from a child, and I know what I say."

"That innocence of girlhood," Wanhope said, "is very interesting. It's
astonishing how much experience it survives. Some women carry it into
old age with them. It's never been scientifically studied--"

"Yes," Minver allowed. "There would be a fortune for the novelist who
could work a type of innocence for all it was worth. Here's Acton always
dealing with the most rancid flirtatiousness, and missing the sweetness
and beauty of a girlhood which does the cheekiest things without knowing
what it's about, and fetches down its game whenever it shuts its eyes
and fires at nothing. But I don't see how all this touches the point
that Rulledge makes, or decides which finally made the offer."

"Well, hadn't the offer already been made?"

"But how?"

"Oh, in the usual way."

"What is the usual way?"

"I thought everybody knew _that_. Of course, it was _from_ Braybridge
finally, but I suppose it's always six of one and half a dozen of the
other in these cases, isn't it? I dare say he couldn't get any one to
take her the handkerchief. My dinner?" Halson looked up at the silent
waiter who had stolen upon us and was bowing toward him.

"Look here, Halson," Minver detained him, "how is it none of the rest of
us have heard all those details?"

"_I_ don't know where you've been, Minver. Everybody knows the main
facts," Halson said, escaping.

Wanhope observed musingly: "I suppose he's quite right about the
reciprocality of the offer, as we call it. There's probably, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, a perfect understanding before
there's an explanation. In many cases the offer and the acceptance must
really be tacit."

"Yes," I ventured, "and I don't know why we're so severe with women when
they seem to take the initiative. It's merely, after all, the call of
the maiden bird, and there's nothing lovelier or more endearing in
nature than that."

"Maiden bird is good, Acton," Minver approved. "Why don't you institute
a class of fiction, where the love-making is all done by the maiden
birds, as you call them--or the widow birds? It would be tremendously
popular with both sexes. It would lift a tremendous responsibility off
the birds who've been expected to shoulder it heretofore if it could be
introduced into real life."

Rulledge fetched a long, simple-hearted sigh. "Well, it's a charming
story. How well he told it!"

The waiter came again, and this time signalled to Minver.

"Yes," he said, as he rose. "What a pity you can't believe a word Halson

"Do you mean--" we began simultaneously.

"That be built the whole thing from the ground up, with the start that
we had given him. Why, you poor things! Who could have told him how it
all happened? Braybridge? Or the girl? As Wanhope began by saying,
people don't speak of their love-making, even when they distinctly
remember it."

"Yes, but see here, Minver!" Rulledge said with a dazed look. "If it's
all a fake of his, how came _you_ to have heard of Braybridge paddling
the canoe back for her?"

"That was the fake that tested the fake. When he adopted it, I _knew_ he
was lying, because I was lying myself. And then the cheapness of the
whole thing! I wonder that didn't strike you. It's the stuff that a
thousand summer-girl stories have been spun out of. Acton might have
thought he was writing it!"

He went away, leaving us to a blank silence, till Wanhope managed to
say: "That inventive habit of mind is very curious. It would be
interesting to know just how far it imposes on the inventor himself--how
much he believes of his own fiction."

"I don't see," Rulledge said gloomily, "why they're so long with my
dinner." Then he burst out, "I believe every word Halson said. If
there's any fake in the thing, it's the fake that Minver owned to."



"Chug-chug, chug-chug!"

That was the liner, and it had been saying the same thing for two nights
and two days. Therefore nobody paid any attention to it--except Chalmers
Payne, the moodiest of the passengers, who noticed it and said to
himself that, for his part, it did as well as any other sound, and was
much better than most persons' conversation.

It will be guessed that Mr. Chalmers Payne was in an irritable frame of
mind. He was even retaliative, and to the liner's continued iteration of
its innocent remark he retorted in the words of old Omar:

"Perplext no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow's tangle to the winds resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The cypress-slender Minister of Wine.

"And if the wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in what All begins and ends in--Yes;
Think then you are To-day what Yesterday
You were--To-morrow you shall not be less.

"So when the Angel of the Darker Drink
At last shall find you by the River-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff--you shall not shrink."

To these melancholy mutterings, the liner, insouciant, and not caring a
peg for any philosophy--save that of the open road--shouldered along
through jewel-green waves, and remarked, "Chug-chug, chug-chug!"

Mr. Payne was inclined to quarrel with the Tent-Maker on one score only.
He did not think that he was to-day what he was yesterday.
Yesterday--figuratively speaking--he had hope. He was conscious of his
youth. A fine, buoyant egotism sustained him, and he believed that he
was about to be crowned with a beautiful joy.

He had sauntered up to his joy, so to speak, cocksure, hands in pockets,
and as he smiled with easy assurance, behold the joy turned into a
sorrow. The face of the dryad smiling through the young grape leaves was
that of a withered hag, and the leaves of the vine were dead and flapped
on sapless stems!

Well, well, there was always a sorry fatalism to comfort one in joy's

"Then to the rolling Heav'n itself, I cried,
Asking, 'What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?'"

The answer was old as patience--as old as courage. But to theorize about
it was really superfluous! Why think at all? Why not say chug-chug like
the liner?

"We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go--"

Dinner! Was it possible? The day had been a blur! Well, probably all the
rest of life would be a blur. Anyway, one could still dine, and he
recollected that the puree of tomatoes at last night's dinner had been
rather to his liking. He seated himself deliberately at the board,
congratulating himself that he would be allowed to go through the duty
of eating without interruption. The place at his right had been vacant
ever since they left Southampton. At his left was a gentleman of
uncertain hearing and a bullet-proof frown.

As the seat at his right had been vacant so long, he took the liberty of
laying it his gloves, his sea-glass, a book with uncut leaves, and a
crimson silk neck-scarf.

"I beg your pardon," said the waiter, "but the lady who is to sit here
is coming, sir."

"The devil she is!" thought Payne. "Will the creature expect me to talk?
Will she require me to look after her in the matter of pepper and salt?
Why couldn't I have been left in peace?"

He gathered up his possessions, and arose gravely with an automatic
courtesy, and lifted eyes with a wooden expression to stare at the

He faced the one person in the world whom it was most of pain and
happiness to meet--the woman between whom and himself he meant to put a
good half of the round world; and he read in her troubled gray eyes the
confession that if there was anything or anybody from which she would
willingly have been protected it was he--Chalmers Payne.

Conscious of their neighbors, they bowed. Payne saw her comfortably
seated. He sat down and slowly emptied his glass of ice-water. He
preserved his wooden expression of countenance and turned towards her.

"The old man on my right is deaf," he said.

"So am I," she retorted.

"Not so deaf, I hope, that you won't hear me explain that I had no more
notion of your being on this ship than of Sappho being here!"

"You refer to--the Greek Sappho, Mr. Payne?"

"Assuredly. You told me--'fore Heaven, why are women so
inconsistent?--you told me you were going anywhere rather than to
America--that you were at the beginning of your journeyings--that you
had an engagement with some Mahatmas on the top of the Himal--"

"And you--you were going to South Africa."

"I said nothing of the sort. I--"

"Well, I couldn't go about another day. No matter whether I was
consistent or inconsistent! I was worn out and ill. I've been seeing too

"You told me you could never see enough!"

"Well, never mind all that. I acted impulsively, I confess. My aunt was
shocked. She thought I was ungrateful--particularly when I openly
rejoiced that she was not able to find a chaperon for me."

"It's none of my business, anyway. I was stupid to show my surprise. I
ought never to be surprised at anything you do, I know that. As for me,
I'm tired of imitating the Wandering Jew. Besides, my father's old
partner--mine he is now, I suppose, though I can't get used to that
idea--wants me to come home. He says I'm needed. So I'm rolling up my
sleeves, figuratively speaking. But I should certainly have delayed my
journey if I had guessed you were to be on this boat."

"It's very annoying altogether," she said, with open vexation. "It looks
so silly! What will my aunt say?"

"I don't think she'll say anything. You are on an Atlantic liner, with
nine hundred and ninety-nine souls who are nothing to you, and one who
is less than nothing. I believe that was the expression you used the
other day--less than nothing?"

The girl's delicate face flushed hotly.

"I'm not so strong," she murmured. "It's true that I am worn out, and my
voyage has done nothing so far towards restoring me. On the contrary, I
have been suffering. I fainted again and again yesterday, and it took a
great deal of courage for me to venture out to-day. So you must be
merciful for a little while. Your enemy is down, you see."

"My enemy!" He gave the words an accent at once bitter and humorous.
"I'll not say another personal word," he murmured, contritely. "Tell me
if you feel faint at any moment, and let me help you. Please treat me as
if I were your--your uncle!"

She smiled faintly.

"You are asking a great deal," she couldn't help saying, somewhat
coquettishly, and then he remembered how he had seen her hanging about
her uncle's neck, and he flushed too.

There was quite a long silence. She picked at her food delicately, and
Payne suggested some claret. Her face showed that she would have
preferred not to accept any favor from him, no matter how trifling, but
she evidently considered it puerile to refuse.

"It _is_ mighty awkward for you!" he burst out, suddenly, "my being
here. I suppose you actually find it hard to believe that it was an

"I haven't the least occasion to doubt your word, Mr. Payne. Have I ever
done anything to make you suppose that I didn't respect you?"

"Oh, I didn't mean that! Heavens! what a cad you must think me! I have a
faculty for being stupid when you are around, you know. It's my
misfortune. But--behold my generosity!--I shall have a talk with the
purser, Miss Curtis, and get him to change my place for me. Some
good-natured person will consent to make the alteration"

"You mean you will put some one else here in your place beside me?"

"It's the least I can do, isn't it? Now, whom would you suggest? Pick
out somebody. There's that motherly-looking German woman over there.
She's a baroness--"

"She? She'll tell me twice every meal that American girls are not
brought up with a knowledge of cooking. She will tell me how she has met
them at Kaffeeklatsches, and how they confessed that they didn't cook!
No, no; you must try another one!"

"Well, if you object to her, there's that quiet gentleman who is eating
his ice with the aid of two pairs of spectacles. That gentleman is a
specialist in bacilli. He has little steel-bound bottles in his room
which, if you were to break them among this ship-load of passengers,
would depopulate the ship. I think he is taking home the bacilli of the
bubonic plague as a present to our country. Remember, if you got on the
right side of him, that you would have a vengeance beyond the dreams of
the Borgias at your command!"

"Oh, the terrible creature! Mr. Payne, how could you mention him? What
if he were to take me for a guinea-pig or a rabbit? No, I prefer the
English-looking mummy over there."

"Who? Miss Hull? She's not half bad. She's a great traveller. She has
been almost everywhere, and is now hastening to make it everywhere. She
carries her own tea with her, and steeps it at five exactly every
afternoon. She tells me that once, being shipwrecked, she grasped her
tea-caddy, her alcohol-stove, and a large bottle of alcohol, and
prepared for the worst. They drifted four days on a raft, and she made
five-o'clock tea every day, to the great encouragement of the
unfortunates. Miss Hull is an English spinster, who has a fortune and no
household, and who is going about to see how other folks keep
house--Feejee-Islanders, and Tagals, and Kafirs. She likes them all, I
believe. Indeed, she says she likes everything--except the snug English
village where she was brought up. She says that when she lived there she
did exactly the same thing between sunup and sundown for eight years.
For example, she had the curate to tea every Wednesday evening during
that entire time, and when possible she had periwinkles."

"And nothing came of it?"

"Oh yes, an enormous consumption of tea-biscuits-nothing more. Then it
occurred to her to travel. So she went to the next shire, and liked it
so well that she plunged off to London, then to the Hebrides. After that
there was no stopping her. She likes the islands better than the
continents, and is collecting hats made of sea-grass. She already has
five hundred and forty-two varieties. Really, you would not find her
half so bad."

Helen Curtis finished her coffee, and laid her napkin beside her plate.

"Oh, if it comes to the negative virtues, you haven't been so
disagreeable yourself to-day as you might have been. I'm under
obligations to you. It _was_ rather nice to meet an old acquaintance."

The tone was formal, and put Payne ten thousand leagues away from her.
"Thank you," he said, with mock gratitude. "_I'm_ under obligations for
your courtesy, madam." She dropped her handkerchief as she arose, and he
picked up the trifle and gave it to her. Their fingers met, and he
withdrew his hand with a quick gesture.

"You must allow me to see you safely to your room," he urged. "Or else
to your deck chair."

"Thank you. I'll go on deck, I think, and you may call the boy to go for
my rug."

He put her on the lee side, and wrapped her in a McCallum plaid, and
brought her some magazines from his own stateroom. Then he stood erect
and saluted.

"Madam, have I the honor to be dismissed?"

She looked up and gave a friendly smile in spite of herself.

"You are very good," she said. "I am always remembering that you are
good, and the thought annoys me."

"Oh, it needn't," he responded, in a philosophic tone, looking off
towards the jagged line of the horizon, where the purple waves showed
their changing outline. "If you are wondering why it is that you dislike
me when you find nothing of which to disapprove in my conduct, don't let
that puzzle you any longer. Regard does not depend upon character. The
mystery of attraction has never been solved. Now, I've seen women more
beautiful than you; I know many who are more learned; as for a sense of
justice and fairness, why, I don't think you understand the first
principles. Yet you are the one woman, in the world for me. Now that
you've taken love out of my life, this world is nothing more to me than
a workshop. I shall get up every morning and put myself at my bench, so
to speak, and work till nightfall. Then I shall sleep. It is dull, but
it doesn't matter. I have been at some trouble to convince myself of the
fact that it doesn't matter, and I value the conviction. Life isn't as
disheartening as it would be if it lasted longer.

"'Tis but a Tent where takes his one day's rest
A Sultan to the realms of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest."

Miss Curtis sat up in her chair, and her eyes were flashing indignation.

"I won't listen in silence to the profanity of that old heathen," she

"You refer to my friend Omar?" inquired Paine, quizzically, dropping his
earnestness as soon as she assumed it.

"I consider him one of the most dangerous of men! Once you would have
been above advancing such philosophy! The idea of your talking that
inert fatalism! It's incredible that you should admire what is supine
and cowardly--"

Payne's eyes were twinkling. He lit his pipe with a "By your
permission," and between the puffs chanted:

"Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of Things entire
Would we not shatter it to bits--and then
Remould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!"

"Even that is blasphemous impertinence!" the lady protested, knowing
that she was angry, and rejoicing in the sensation.

"You think so?" cried Payne, not waiting for her to finish. "Why did you
complain, then, of taking up the burden of common things? Do you want to
be reminded of what you told me? You said that the roving life you had
been leading in Europe for the past two years had unsettled you. You
said you wanted to live among the old things and the dreams of old
things. You liked the sense of irresponsible delight, and weren't
prepared to say that you could ever assume the dull domestic round in a
commonplace town. You considered the love of one human creature
altogether too small and banal a thing to make you forego your
intellectual incursions into the lands of delight. You were of the
opinion that you loved many thousand creatures, most of them dead, and
to enjoy their society to the full it was necessary for you to look at
the cathedrals they had builded, to read the books they had written, or
gaze upon the canvases they had painted. You were in a poppy sleep on
the mystic flowers of ancient dreams. Wasn't that it? So I, a mere
practical, every-day fellow, who had shown an unaccountable weakness in
staying away from home a full year longer than I had any business to,
was to go back alone to my work and my empty house, and console myself
with the day's work. You were to go walking along the twilight path
where the half-gods had walked before you, and I was to trudge up a
dusty road fringed with pusley, and ending in a summer kitchen. Isn't
that about it?"

She spread out the folds of her gown and looked down at them in a
somewhat embarrassed manner, seemingly submerged by this flood of
protesting eloquence.

"You were afraid to look anything in the face," he went on, not giving
her time to recover her breath. "You thought you could live in a world
of beauty and never have any hard work. I suppose if you had seen the
gardener wiping the sweat off his brow you would not have picked any of
the roses in that garden at Lucerne. I suppose not! Well, let me assure
you of one thing-there's commonplaceness everywhere. Probably some one
had to wash those white dresses Sappho used to wear when she sat beside
the sea. Maybe Sappho did them up herself, eh?"

He stopped and gave way to his bathos, throwing back his head and
laughing heartily.

"Well, well, I'm through with railing at you. But I left you eating
lotus, hollow-eyed and steeped in dreams. You were listening to the surf
on Calypso's Isle. I was hearing nothing but the sound of your voice.
Now I've stumbled on a soporific philosophy, and am getting all I can
out of the anaesthesia, and you are reproaching me. It's like your
inconsistency, isn't it?"

She put up one hand to stop him, but he went on, recurring once more to
the poet:

"The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes--or it prospers; and anon,
Like snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two, is gone."

She tried to speak, but he lifted his hat and left her, and going to the
other side of the deck, paced up and down there swiftly, and thought of
a number of things. For one thing, he reflected how ludicrous was life!
Here was Helen Curtis, fleeing from the recollection of him; here was
himself, fleeing from the too-sweet actuality of her calm face and
lambent eyes; and they were set down face to face in midocean! Such a
preposterous trick on the part of the Three!

"I suppose happiness is never anything more than a mirage," he said to
himself as he paced. "It is bright at times and then dim, and at
present, for me, it is inverted. The business of the traveller, however,
is to tramp on in the sun and the sand, with an eye to the compass and
giving no heed to evanishing gleams of fairy lakes and plumelike palms.
Tramping on in the sand isn't as bad as it might be, either, when one
gets used to it. The simoon is on me now, but I'll weather it. I've
_got_ to. I _won't be_ downed!"

He put his head up and tried to think he was courageous. The gloom of
the night was about him now, and the strange voices of the sea called
one to the other. He tried to turn his thought to practical things. He
would go home to the vacant old house where he had been born; he would

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