Part 2 out of 7
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
"Well, we are in plenty of time."
We were seated, Dicky and I, in the waiting room of the Long Island
railroad a week after my dinner party that had almost ended in
tragedy. Dicky had bought our tickets to Marvin, the little village
which was to be the starting point of our country ramble, and we were
putting in the time before our train was ready in gazing at the usual
morning scene in a railroad station.
There were not many passengers going out on the island, but scores
of commuters were hurrying through the station on their way to their
offices and other places of employment.
"You don't see many of the commuters up here," Dicky remarked. "There's
a passage direct from the trains to the subway on the lower level, and
most of them take that. Some of the women come up to prink a bit in
the waiting room, and some of the men come through here to get cigars
or papers, but the big crowd is down on the train level."
I hardly heard him, for I was so interested in a girl who had just
come into the waiting room. I had never seen so self-possessed a
creature in my life. She was unusually beautiful, with golden hair
that was so real the most captious person could not suspect that hair
of being dyed. Her eyes were dark, and the unusual combination of eyes
and hair fitted a face with regular features and a fair skin. I had
seen Christmas and Easter cards with faces like hers. But I had never
seen anyone like her in real life, and I am afraid I stared at her as
hard as did everyone else in the waiting room.
"By jove!" Dicky drew in a deep breath. "Isn't she the most ripping
beauty you ever saw?"
His eyes were following her lithe, perfect figure as she walked down
the waiting room. I have never seen a pretty girl appear so utterly
unconscious of the glances directed toward her as she did. But with
a woman's intuition I knew that underneath her calm exterior she was
noticing and appraising every admiring look she received. I could not
have told how I knew this, but I did know it.
She sat down a little distance from us, and Dicky frankly turned quite
around to stare at her.
"I wonder if she's going on our train," he mused. "By George, I never
saw anything like her in my life."
I looked at him in open amazement, tinged not a little with
resentment. He was with me, his bride of less than a month, for our
first day's outing since our marriage, and yet his eyes were
following this other woman with the most open admiration. I felt hurt,
neglected, but I was determined he should not think me jealous.
"Yes, isn't she beautiful," I said as enthusiastically as I could. "I
never have seen just that combination of eyes and hair."
"It's her features and figure that get me. I'd like to get a glimpse
of her hands and feet. Perhaps she will sit near us in the train. If
she does, I promise you I am going to stare at her unmercifully."
As luck would have it, just as we seated ourselves in the train, the
girl we had seen in the railway station came through the door with
the same air of regal unconsciousness of her surroundings that she had
shown while running the gauntlet of the admiring and critical eyes in
the waiting room.
She carried in her hand a small traveling bag, which, while not new,
had received such good care that it was not at all shabby. She spent
no time in selecting a seat, but with an air of taking the first one
available sat down directly opposite Dicky and me, depositing her bag
close to her feet.
As she sat down she calmly crossed her knees, something which I hate
to see a woman do in a public place.
"Gee, she has the hands and the feet all right!"
Dicky has a trick of mumbling beneath his breath, so that no one can
detect that he is talking save the person whose ear is nearest to
him. It is convenient sometimes, but at other times it is most
embarrassing, especially when he is making comments upon people near
"I don't blame her for elevating one foot above the other," Dicky
rattled on. "Not one woman in a thousand can wear those white spats.
She must have mighty small, well-shaped tootsies under them."
The girl sat looking straight ahead of her. The crossing of her knees
revealed a swirl of silken petticoat, and more than a glimpse of filmy
Her shoes were patent leather pumps, utterly unsuitable for a trip to
the country. Over them she wore spats of the kind affected by so many
I had a sudden remembrance of times in my own life when a new pair of
shoes was as impossible to attain as a whole wardrobe. I had a sudden
intuition that the unsuitable pumps were like the rest of her clothes,
left over from some former affluence. She had bravely made the best of
them by covering them with spats, which I knew she could obtain quite
cheaply at some bargain sale.
"Looks like ready money, doesn't she?" mumbled Dicky in my ear.
I did not answer, and suddenly Dicky stared at me.
"A trifle peeved, aren't you?" Dicky's voice was mocking. But he saw
what I could not conceal, that tears were rising to my eyes. I was
able to keep from shedding them, and no one but Dicky could possibly
have guessed I was agitated.
He changed his tone and manner on the instant.
"I know I have been thoughtless, sweetheart," he said earnestly, "but
I keep forgetting that you are not used to my vagaries yet. Tell me
honestly, would you have been so resentful if I had been interested in
some old man with chin whiskers as I was in the beautiful lady?"
A light broke upon me. How foolish I had been. I looked at Dicky
"That she's exactly the model I've been looking for to pose for those
outdoor illustrations Fillmore wants. One of the series is to be a
girl on a step ladder, picking apple blossoms. She is to be on her
knees, and one foot is to be stretched out behind her. The picture
demands a perfect foot and ankle, and this girl has them. Her features
and hair, too, are just the type I want. She would know how to pose,
too. You can see that from her air as she sits there. And that's half
the battle. If they do not have the faculty of posing naturally they
could never be taught."
I felt much humiliated, and I was very angry, but I must remember, I
told myself, that I had married an artist. I foresaw, however, many
complications in our lives together. If every time we took a trip
anywhere, Dicky was to spend his time planning to secure the services
of some possible model I could see very little pleasure for me in our
But I knew an apology was due Dicky, and I gathered courage to make
"I am sorry to have annoyed you, Dicky," I said at last. "But I did
not dream that you were looking at her as a possible model."
"And looked at from any other standpoint it was rather raw of me,"
admitted Dicky. "But let's forget it. She'll probably drop off the
train at Forest Hills or Kew Gardens, she looks like the product of
those suburbs, and I'll never see her again."
But his prediction was not fulfilled.
The conductor shouted the word as the train drew up to one of the most
forlorn looking railroad stations it was ever my lot to see.
Dicky and I rose from our seats, he with subdued excitement, I with
a feeling of depression. For the girl who had claimed so much of our
attention was getting off at Marvin after all.
I remembered the bargain I had made with my conscience.
"What do you know about that?" Dicky exclaimed, as he saw her go down
the aisle ahead of us. "She also is getting off here. I wonder who she
"Listen, Dicky," I said rapidly. "Walk ahead, see in which direction
she goes, and ask the station master if he knows who she is. I know
something which I will tell you when you have done that. Perhaps you
may have her for a model, after all."
Dicky gave me one swift glance of mingled surprise and admiration,
then did as I asked. As I followed him down the aisle and noted the
eagerness with which he was hurrying, I felt a sudden qualm of doubt.
Was I really doing the wisest thing?
I waited quietly on the station platform until Dicky rejoined me.
"Her name's Draper," he said. "The station agent doesn't know much
about her, except that she visits a sister, Mrs. Gorman, here every
summer. He never saw her here in the winter before. I got Mrs.
Gorman's address, 329 Shore Road, called Shore Road because it never
gets anywhere near the shore. Much good the address will do me,
though. Queer she doesn't take the bus. It must be a mile to her
sister's home. She's probably one of those walking bugs."
"She didn't take the bus because she could not afford it," I said
Dicky stared at me in amazement.
"How do you know?" he said finally. "Do you know her? No, of course
you don't. But how in creation--"
"Listen, Dicky," I interrupted. "I've turned too many dresses of my
own not to recognize makeshifts when I see them. Everything that girl
has on except her stockings and gloves has been remodelled from her
old stuff. Her pumps are not suitable at all for walking; they are
evening pumps, of a style two years old at that. But she has covered
them with spats, so that no one will suspect that she wears them from
necessity, not choice."
"Well, I'll be--" Dicky uttered his favorite expletive. "It takes one
woman to dissect another. She looked like the readiest kind of ready
money to me. Why, say, if what you say is true, she ought to be glad
to earn the money I could pay her for posing. I could get her lots of
other work, too."
"Perhaps she wouldn't like to do that sort of thing."
"What sort of thing? What's wrong with it?" Dicky asked belligerently.
"Oh, you mean figure posing! She wouldn't have to do that at all
if she didn't want to. Plenty of good nudes. It's the intangible,
high-bred look and ability to wear clothes well that's hard to get."
We had walked past the unpainted little shack that but for the word
"Marvin" in large letters painted across one end of it would never
have been taken for a railroad station. Without looking where we were
going we found ourselves in front of an immense poster on a large
board back of the station. The letters upon it were visible yards
"Marvin," it read, "the prettiest, quaintest village on the south
shore. Please don't judge the town by the station."
He took my arm and turned me away from the billboard toward a wide,
dusty road winding away from the station to the eastward.
"But, Dicky," I protested. "I thought you wanted to see about securing
that girl as a model."
"Oh, that can wait," said Dicky carelessly.
My heart sang as I slipped my arm in Dicky's. It was going to be an
enjoyable day after all.
"GRACE BY NAME AND GRACE BY NATURE"
"What's the matter, Madge? Got a grouch or something?"
Dicky faced me in the old hall of the deserted Putnam Manor Inn, where
we had expected to find warmth and food and the picturesqueness of a
century back. Instead of these things we had found the place in the
hands of a caretaker. Dicky had asked to go through the house on the
pretence of wishing to rent it.
"I haven't a bit of a grouch." I tried to speak as cheerfully as I
could, for I dreaded Dicky's anger when I told him my feeling upon the
subject of going over the house under false pretences. "But I don't
think it is right for us to go through the rooms. The woman wouldn't
have let us come in if you hadn't said we wished to rent it. It's
deception, and I wish you wouldn't insist upon my going any further. I
can't enjoy seeing the rooms at all."
Dicky stared at me for a moment as if I were some specimen of humanity
he had never seen before. Then he exploded.
"Another one of your scruples, eh? By Jove, I wonder where you keep
them all. You're always ready to trot one out just in time to spoil
any little thing I'm trying to do for your pleasure or mine."
"Please hush, Dicky," I pleaded. I was afraid the woman in the next
room would hear him, he spoke in such loud tones.
"I'll hush when I get good and ready." I longed to shake him, his tone
and words were so much like those of a spoiled child. But he lowered
his tone, nevertheless, and stood for a minute or two in sulky silence
before the empty fireplace.
"Well! Come along," he said at last. "I'm sure there is no pleasure
to me in looking over this place. I've seen it often enough when old
Forsman had it filled with colonial junk, and served the best meals to
be found on Long Island. It's like a coffin now to me. But I thought
you might like to look it over, as you had never seen it. But for
heaven's sake let us respect your scruples!"
I knew better than to make any answer. I wished above everything
else to have this day end happily, this whole day to ourselves in the
country, upon which I had counted so much. I feared Dicky would be
angry enough to return to the city, as he had threatened to do when
he found the inn closed. So it was with much relief that after we had
gone back into the other room I heard him ask the caretaker if there
were some place in the neighborhood where we could obtain a meal.
"Do you know where the Shakespeare House is?" she asked.
"Never heard of it," Dicky answered, "although I've been around here
quite a bit, too."
"It's about six blocks further down toward the bay," she said, still
in the same colorless tone she had used from the first. "It's on Shore
Road. The Germans own it. Mr. Gorman, he's a builder, and he built
an old house over into a copy of Shakespeare's house in England. Mrs.
Gorman is English. She serves tea there on the porch in the summer,
and I've heard she will serve a meal to anybody that happens along
any time of the year, although she doesn't keep a regular restaurant.
That's the only place I know of anywhere near. Of course, down on the
bay there's the Marvin Harbor Hotel. You can get a pretty good meal
"Thank you very much," said Dicky, laying a dollar bill down on the
table near us.
I had a sudden flash of understanding. Dicky meant all the time to
recompense the woman in this way for allowing us to see the house. But
the principle of the thing remained the same. Why could he not have
told her frankly that he wished to look at the house and given her the
dollar in the beginning?
I did not ask the question, however, even after we had left the old
mansion and were walking down the road. I felt like adopting the old
motto and leaving well enough alone.
I did not speak again until we had turned from the street down which
we were walking into a winding thoroughfare labelled "Shore Road."
Then a thought which had come to me during our walk demanded
"Dicky," I said quietly, "wasn't Gorman the name of the woman of whom
the station master told you, and didn't she live on Shore Road?"
Dicky stopped short as if he had been struck.
"Of course it was," he almost shouted. "What a ninny I was not to
remember it. She's the sister of that stunning girl we saw in the
train. Isn't this luck? I may be able to get that girl to pose for me
But I did not echo his sentiments. Secretly I hoped the girl would not
be at her sister's home.
"This surely must be the place, Dicky," I said as we rounded a sudden
turn on Shore Road and caught sight of a quaint structure that seemed
to belong to the 16th century rather than the 20th.
Dicky whistled. "Well! What do you want to know about that?" he
demanded of the horizon in general, for the little brown house with
its balconies projecting from unexpected places and its lattice work
cunningly outlined against its walls was well worth looking at. But
our hunger soon drove us through the gate and up the steps.
A comely Englishwoman of about 40 years answered Dicky's sounding of
the quaintly carved knocker. He lifted his hat with a curtly bow.
"We were told at Putnam Manor that we might be able to get dinner
here," he began. "We came down from the city this morning expecting
that the inn would be open. But we found it closed and we are very
hungry. Would it be possible for you to accommodate us?"
"I think we shall be able to give you a fairly good dinner," she said
with a simple directness that pleased me. "My husband went fishing
yesterday and I have some very good pan fish and some oysters. If you
are very hungry I can give you the oysters almost at once, and it will
not take very long to broil the fish. Then, if you care for anything
like that, we had an old-fashioned chicken pie for our own dinner.
There is plenty of it still hot if you wish to try it."
"Madam," Dicky bowed again, "Chicken pie is our long suit, and we
are also very fond of oysters and fish. Just bring us everything
you happen to have in the house and I can assure you we will do full
justice to it."
She smiled and went to the foot of the staircase, which had a mahogany
stair rail carved exquisitely.
"Grace," she called melodiously. "There are two people here who will
take dinner. Will you show them into my room, so they can lay aside
Without waiting for an answer, she motioned us to the staircase.
"My sister will take care of you," she said, and hurried out of
another door, which we realized must lead to the kitchen.
Dicky and I looked at each other when she had left us.
"The beautiful unknown," Dicky said in a stage whisper. "Try to get on
the good side of her, Madge. If I can get her to pose for that set
of outdoor illustrations Fillmore wants, me fortune's made, and hers,
too," he burlesqued.
I nudged him to stop talking. I have a very quick ear, and I had heard
a light footstep in the hall above us. As we reached the top of the
stairs the girl of whom we were talking met us.
I acknowledged unwillingly to myself that she was even more beautiful
than she had appeared on the train. She was gowned in a white linen
skirt and white "middy," with white tennis shoes and white stockings.
Her dress was most unsuitable for the winter day, although the
house was warm, but with another flash of remembrance of my own past
privations, I realized the reason for her attire. This costume could
be tubbed and ironed if it became soiled. It would stand a good deal
of water. Her other clothing must be kept in good condition for the
times when she must go outside of her home.
But if she had known of Dicky's mission and gowned herself accordingly
she could not have succeeded better in satisfying his artistic eye.
He stared at her open-mouthed as she spoke a conventional word of
greeting and showed us into a bedroom hung with chintzes and bright
with the winter sunshine.
She was as calm, as unconsciously regal, as she had been on the train.
I knew, however, that she was not as indifferent to Dicky's open
admiration as she appeared. The slightest heightening of the color in
her cheek, a quickly-veiled flash of her eyes in his direction--these
things I noticed in the short time she was in the room with us.
Was Dicky too absorbed in his plan or his drawings to see what I had
seen? His words appeared to indicate that he was.
"Gee!" He drew a long breath as we heard Miss Draper--the name I had
heard the 'bus driver give her--going down the stairs. "If I get a
chance to talk to her today I'm going to make her promise to save that
rig to pose in. She's the exact image of what I want. And graceful!
'Grace by name and grace by nature.' The old saw certainly holds good
in her case."
I did not answer him. As I laid aside my furs and removed my hat and
coat I felt a distinct sinking of the heart. I knew it was foolish,
but the presence of this girl in whom Dicky displayed such interest
took all the pleasure out of the day's outing.
"This is what I call eating," said Dicky as he helped himself to
a second portion of the steaming chicken pie which Mrs. Gorman had
placed before us. The oysters and the delicious broiled fish which
had formed the first two courses of our dinner had been removed by her
sister a few moments before.
Dicky had not been so absorbed in his meal, however, as to miss any
graceful movement of Miss Draper's. The admiring glances which he gave
her as she served us with quick, deft motions were not lost upon me.
I knew that she was not oblivious of them either, although her manner
was perfect in its calm, indifferent courtesy.
When it came time for dessert Mrs. Gorman bore the tray in on which it
was served, a cherry roly-poly, covered with a steaming sauce.
"You're in luck," she said with a naive pride in her own culinary
ability, as she served the pudding. "I don't often make this pudding,
and my canned cherries from last summer are getting scarce. But my
sister came home unexpectedly this morning, and this pudding is one
of her favorites. So I made it for dinner. I thought perhaps it would
cheer her up."
Miss Draper who entered at that moment with the coffee and a bit
of English cheese that looked particularly appetizing, appeared
distinctly annoyed at her sister's reference to her. Her cheeks
flushed, and her eyes flashed a warning glance at Mrs. Gorman.
"I am sure this pudding would cheer anybody up," said Dicky genially,
"It is delicious," I said, and, indeed, it was. "I have tasted nothing
like this since I was a child in the country."
Mrs. Gorman beamed at the praise. She evidently was a hospitable soul.
"Would you like the recipe for it?" she asked.
"Indeed she would," Dicky struck in. "If you can teach Katie to make
this," he turned to me, "I'll stand treat to anything you wish."
"What a rash promise," I smiled at Dicky, then turned to Mrs. Gorman.
"I should be very glad to have the recipe," I said.
"Here," Dicky passed a pencil and the back of an envelope over the
So, while Mrs. Gorman dictated the recipe, I dutifully wrote it down.
"Thank you so much, Mrs. Gorman," I said as I finished writing.
"You are very welcome, I am sure," she said heartily. "You are
strangers here, aren't you? I've never seen you around here before."
"This is my wife's first visit to this village," Dicky struck into
the conversation. I realized that he welcomed this opportunity of
beginning a conversation with Mrs. Gorman and her sister, so that he
might lead up to his request for Miss Draper's services as a model.
"I have been in the village frequently," went on Dicky. "I used to
sketch a good deal along the brook to the north of the village."
"Then you are an artist!" We heard Miss Draper's voice for the first
time since she had shown us to the room above. Then her tones had been
cool and indifferent. Now her exclamation was full of emotion of some
"An artist!" echoed Mrs. Gorman, staring at Dicky as if he were the
There was a little strained silence, then Miss Draper picked up the
serving tray and hurried into the kitchen. Mrs. Gorman wiped her eyes
as she saw her sister's departure.
"You mustn't think we're queer," she said at length. "But I suppose
your saying you are an artist brought all her trouble back to Grace,
poor girl." Mrs. Gorman's eyes threatened to overflow again.
"If it wouldn't trouble you too much, tell us about it." Dicky's voice
was gentle, inviting. "Perhaps we could help you."
"I don't think anybody can help." Mrs. Gorman shook her head sadly.
"You see, ever since Grace was a baby, almost, she has wanted to draw
things. I brought her up. I was the oldest and she the youngest of 12
children, and our mother died soon after she was born. I was married
shortly afterward, and from the time she could hold a pencil in her
hand she has drawn pictures on everything she could lay her hands
on. In school she was always at the head of her class in drawing, but
there was no money to give her any lessons, so she didn't get very
far. Since she left school she has been planning every way to save
money enough to go to an art school, but something always hinders."
Mrs. Gorman paused only to take breath. Having broken her reserve she
seemed unable to stop talking.
"She went into a dressmaking shop as soon as she left school--I had
taught her to sew beautifully--thinking she could earn money enough
when she had learned her trade to have a term in an art school. But
her health broke down at the sewing, and I had her home here a year."
I remembered the remarkable appearance of costly attire Miss Draper
had achieved when we saw her in the station. This, then, was the
solution. She had made them all herself.
"Then she got another position--"
Miss Draper came into the room in time to hear Mrs. Gorman's last
words. She walked swiftly to her sister's side, her eyes blazing.
"Kate," she said, her voice low but tense with emotion. "Why are you
troubling these strangers with my affairs?"
Before Mrs. Gorman could answer Dicky interposed.
"Just a minute, please," he said authoritatively. "As it happens, Miss
Draper, I am in a position to make a proposition to you concerning
employment which will provide you with a comfortable income, and at
the same time enable you to pursue your studies."
Mrs. Gorman uttered an ejaculation of joy, but Miss Draper said
nothing, only looked steadily at him. "This girl has had lessons in a
hard school," I said to myself. "She has learned to distrust men and
to doubt any proffered kindness."
"I have been commissioned to do a set of illustrations," Dicky went
on, "in which the central figure is a young girl in the regulation
summer costume, such as you have on. I have been unable to find a
satisfactory model for the picture. If you will allow me to say so,
you are just the type I wish for the drawings. If you will pose for
them I will give you $50 and buy you a monthly commutation ticket from
Marvin, so that you will have no expense coming or going. There are
several artist friends of mine who have been looking for a model of
your type. I think you could safely count upon an income of $40 or $50
a week after you get started. I know there are several other drawings
I have in mind in which I could use you."
Mrs. Gorman had attempted to speak two or three times while Dicky was
explaining his proposition, but Miss Draper had silenced her with
a gesture. Now, however, she would not be denied. "A model!" she
shrilled excitedly. "You're not insulting my sister by asking her to
be a model, are you? Why, I'd rather see her dead than have her do
anything so shameful--"
"Kate, keep quiet. You do not know what you are talking about." Miss
Draper's voice was low and calm, but it quieted her older sister
"I take it you do not mean--figure posing." She hesitated before the
word ever so slightly.
"Oh, no, nothing of the kind," I hastened to reassure her. "It's the
ability to wear clothes well with a certain air, that he especially
"And what do you mean by an opportunity to go on with my studies?"
The girl was really superb as she faced Dicky. With the prospect of
more money than I knew she had ever had before, she yet could stand
and bargain for the thing which to her was far more than money.
"Show me some of your drawings," Dicky spoke abruptly.
She went swiftly upstairs, returning in a moment with two large
portfolios. These she spread out before Dicky on the table, and he
examined the drawings very carefully.
I felt very much alone; out of it. For all Dicky noticed, I might not
have been there.
"Not bad at all," was Dicky's verdict. "Indeed, some of them are
distinctly good. Now I'll tell you what I will do," he said, turning
to Miss Draper. "Until you find out what time you can give to an art
school, I will give you what little help I can in your work. If you
can be quiet, and I think you can, you may work in my studio at odd
times, when you are not posing. What do you think of it?"
"Think of it?" Miss Draper drew a long breath. "I accept your offer
gladly. When shall I begin?"
"I will drop you a postal, notifying you a day or two ahead of time,"
We went out of the house and down the path to the gate before Dicky
"That was awfully decent of you, Madge, to square things with Mrs.
Gorman like that. I appreciate it, I assure you."
"It was nothing," I said dispiritedly. I felt suddenly tired and old.
"But I wish you would do something for me, Dicky."
"Name it, and it is yours," Dicky spoke grandiloquently.
"Take me home. We can see the harbor another time. I really feel too
tired to do any more today."
Dicky opened his mouth, evidently to remind me that my fatigue was of
sudden development, but closed it again, and turned in silence toward
the railroad station.
We had a silent journey back. Neither Dicky nor I spoke, except to
exchange the veriest commonplaces. We reached home about 5 o'clock to
"I'll hurry, get dinner," she said, evidently much flurried.
"We're not very hungry, Katie," I said. "Some cold meat and bread
and butter, those little potato cakes you make so nicely, some sliced
bananas for Mr. Graham and some coffee--that will be sufficient."
For my own part I felt that I never wished to see or hear of food
again. The silent journey home, added to the events of the day, had
brought on one of my ugly morbid moods.
"I OWE YOU TOO MUCH"
"Bad news, Dicky?"
We were seated at the breakfast table, Dicky and I, the morning after
our trip to Marvin, from which I had returned weary of body and sick
of mind. Tacitly we had avoided all discussion of Grace Draper, the
beautiful girl Dicky had discovered there and engaged as a model for
his drawings, promising to help her with her art studies. But because
of my feeling toward Dicky's plans breakfast had been a formal affair.
Then had come a special delivery letter for Dicky. He had read it
twice, and was turning back for a third perusal when my query made him
raise his eyes.
"In a way, yes," he said slowly. Then after a pause. "Read it." He
held out the letter.
It was postmarked Detroit. The writing reminded me of my mother; it
was the hand of a woman of the older generation.
I, too, read the letter twice before making any comment upon it. I
wondered if Dicky's second reading had been for the same purpose as
mine--to gain time to think.
I was stunned by the letter. I had never contemplated the possibility
of Dicky's mother living with us, and here she was calmly inviting
herself to make her home with us. For years she had made her home with
her childless daughter and namesake, Harriet, whose husband was one of
the most brilliant surgeons of the middle West.
I knew that Dicky's mother and sister had spoiled him terribly when
they all had a home together before Dicky's father died. The first
thought that came to me was that Dicky's whims alone were hard enough
to humor, but when I had both him and his mother to consider our home
life would hardly be worth the living.
I knew and resented also the fact that Dicky's mother and sisters
disapproved of his marriage to me. In one of Dicky's careless
confidences I had gleaned that his mother's choice for him had been
made long ago, and that he had disappointed her by not marrying a
friend of his sister.
I felt as if I were in a trap. To have to live and treat with
daughterly deference a woman who I knew so disliked me that she
refused to attend her son's wedding was unthinkable.
In Dicky's voice was a note of doubt as he held out his hand for his
mother's letter. I knew that he was anxiously awaiting my decision as
to the proposition it contained, and I hastened to reassure him.
"Of course there is but one thing to be done," I said, trying hard to
make my tone cordial.
"And that is?" Dicky looked at me curiously. Was it possible that he
did not understand my meaning?
"Why, you must wire her at once to come to us. Be sure you tell her
that she will be most welcome."
I felt a trifle ashamed that the welcoming words were such a sham from
my lips. Dicky's mother was distinctly not welcome as far as I was
concerned. But my thoughts flew swiftly back to my own little mother,
gone forever from me. Suppose she were the one who needed a home? How
would I like to have Dicky's secret thoughts about her welcome the
same as mine were now?
"That's awfully good of you, Madge." Dicky's voice brought me back
from my reverie. "Of course I know you are not particularly keen about
her coming. That wouldn't be natural, but it's bully of you to pretend
just the same."
I opened my mouth to protest, and then thought better of it. There was
no use trying to deceive Dicky. If he was satisfied with my attitude
toward his mother, that was all that was necessary.
I poured myself another cup of coffee, when Dicky had gone to the
studio, drank it mechanically, and touched the bell for Katie to clear
away the breakfast things.
I did not try to disguise to myself the fact that I was extremely
miserable. The day at Marvin, on which I had so counted, had been a
disappointment to me on account of the attention Dicky had paid to
Miss Draper. I reflected bitterly that I might just as well have
spent the afternoon with Mrs. Smith of the Lotus Club, discussing the
history course which she wished me to undertake for the club.
The thought of Mrs. Smith reminded me of the promise I had made her
when leaving for Marvin that I would call her up on my return and tell
her when I could meet her. I resolved to telephone her at once.
I felt a thrill of purely feminine triumph as I turned away from the
telephone. I knew that Mrs. Smith would have declined to see me if she
had consulted only her inclinations. That she still wished me to take
up the leadership of the study course gratified me exceedingly, and
made me thank my stars for the long years of study and teaching which
had given me something of a reputation in the work which the Lotus
Club wished me to undertake.
But when we met at a little luncheon room, Mrs. Smith and I managed to
get through the preliminaries pleasantly.
"Now as to compensation," she said briskly. "I am authorized to offer
you $20 per lecture. I know that it is not what you might get from an
older or richer club, but it is all we can offer."
I was silent for a moment. I did not wish her to know how delighted I
was with the amount of money offered.
"I think that will be satisfactory for this season, at least," I said
"Very well, then. The first meeting, of course, will be merely an
introduction and an outlining of your plan of study, so I will not
need to trouble you again. If you will be at the clubrooms at half
after one the first day, I will meet you, and see that you get started
all right. Here comes our luncheon. Now I can eat in peace."
Her whole manner said: "Now I am through with you."
But I felt that I cared as little for her opinion of me as she
evidently did of mine for her.
Twenty dollars a week was worth a little sacrifice.
Lillian Underwood's raucous voice came to my ears as I rang the bell
of my little apartment. It stopped suddenly at the sound of the bell.
Dicky opened the door and Mrs. Underwood greeted me boisterously.
"I came over to ask you to eat dinner with us Sunday," she said. "Then
we'll think up something to do in the afternoon and evening. We always
dine Sunday at 2 o'clock, a concession to that cook of mine. I'll
never get another like her, and if she only knew it I would have
Sunday dinner at 10 o'clock in the morning rather than lose her. I do
hope you can come."
"There's nothing in the world to hinder as far as I know," said Dicky.
"I am so sorry," I turned to Lillian as I spoke. My dismay was
genuine, for I knew how Dicky would view my answer. "But I could not
possibly come on Sunday. I have a dinner engagement for that day which
I cannot break."
"A dinner engagement!" Dicky ejaculated at last. "Why, Madge, you must
be mistaken. We haven't any dinner engagement for that day."
"You haven't any," I tried to speak as calmly as I could. "There is no
reason why you cannot accept Mrs. Underwood's invitation if you wish.
But do you remember the letter I received a week ago saying an old
friend of mine whom I had not seen for a year would reach the city
next Sunday and wished an engagement for dinner? There is no way in
which I can postpone or get out of the engagement, for there is no way
I can reach my friend before Sunday."
I had purposely avoided using the words "he" or "him," hoping that
Dicky would not say anything to betray the identity of the "friend"
who was returning from the wilds. But I reckoned without Dicky.
Either he was so angry that he recklessly disregarded Mrs. Underwood's
presence or else his friendship with her was so close that it did not
matter to him whether or not she knew of our differences.
"Oh, the gorilla with the mumps!" Dicky gave the short, scornful,
little laugh which I had learned to dread as one of the preliminaries
of a scene. "I had forgotten all about him. And so he really arrives
on Sunday, and you expect to welcome him. How very touching!"
Dicky was fast working himself into a rage. Lillian Gale evidently
knew the signs as well as I did, for she hurriedly began to fasten her
cloak, which she had opened on account of the heat of the room.
"I really must be going," she murmured, starting for the door, but
Dicky adroitly slipped between it and her.
"Talk about your romance, Lil," he sneered, "what do you think about
this one for a best seller?"
"Oh, Dicky!" I gasped, my cheeks scarlet with humiliation at this
scene before Mrs. Underwood, of all people. But Dicky paid no more
attention to me than if I had been the chair in which I was sitting.
"Beautiful highbrow heroine," he went on, "has tearful parting with
gallant hero more noted for his size than his beauty. He's gone a
whole year. Heroine forgets him, marries another man. Now he
comes back, heroine has to meet him and break the news that she is
another's. Isn't it romantic?"
Lillian looked at him steadily for a moment, as if she were debating
some course of action. Then she suddenly squared her shoulders,
and, advancing toward him, took him by the shoulders and shook him
"Look here, my Dicky-bird," she said, and her tones were like icicles.
"I didn't want to listen to this, and I beg your wife's pardon for
being here, but now that you've compelled me to listen to you, you're
going to hear me for a little while."
Dicky looked at her open-mouthed, exactly like a small boy being
reproved by his mother.
"You're getting to be about the limit with this temper of yours," she
began. "Of course I know you were as spoiled a lad as anybody could
be, but that's no reason now that you are a man why you should kick
up a rumpus any time something doesn't go just to suit your royal
"See here, Lil!" Dicky began to speak wrathfully.
"Shut up till I'm through talking," she admonished him roughly.
If I had not been so angry and humiliated I could have laughed aloud
at the promptness with which Dicky closed his mouth.
"You never gave me or the boys a taste of your rages simply because
you knew we wouldn't stand for them. I'll wager you anything you like
that Mrs. Graham never knew of your temper until after you had married
her. But now that you're safely married you think you can say anything
you like. Men are all like that."
She spoke wearily, contemptuously, as if a sudden disagreeable memory
had come to her. She dropped her hands from his shoulders.
"Of course, I've no right to butt in like this," she said, as if
recalled to herself. "I beg pardon of both of you. Good-by," and she
dashed for the door.
But Dicky, with one of his quick changes from wrath to remorse, was
"No you don't, my dear," he said, grasping her arm. "You know I
couldn't get angry with you no matter what you said. I owe you too
much. I know I have a beast of a temper, but you know, too, I'm over
it just as quickly. Look here."
He flopped down on his knees in an exaggerated pose of humility, and
put up his hands first to me and then to Lillian.
"See. I beg Madge's pardon. I beg Lillian's pardon, everybody's
pardon. Please don't kick me when I'm down."
Lillian's face relaxed. She laughed indulgently.
"Oh, I'll forgive you, but I imagine it will take more than that
to make your peace with your wife! It would if you were my husband.
'Phone me about Sunday. Perhaps Mrs. Graham can come over after dinner
and meet you there. Good-by."
She hurried out to the door, this time without Dicky's stopping her.
Dicky came toward me.
"If I say I am very, very sorry, Madge?" he said, smiling
apologetically at me.
"Of course it's all right, Dicky," I forced myself to say.
Curiously enough, after all, my resentment was more against Lillian
than against Dicky. Probably she meant well, but how dared she talk
to my husband as if he were her personal property, and what was it he
"owed her" that made him take such a raking over at her hands?
LOST AND FOUND
It was, after all, a simple thing, this meeting with my cousin-brother
that I had so dreaded. Save for the fact that he took both my hands in
his, any observer of our meeting would have thought that it was but a
casual one, instead of being a reunion after a separation of a year.
But this meeting upset me strangely. I seemed to have stepped back
years in my life. My marriage to Dicky, my life with him, my love for
him, seemed in some curious way to belong to some other woman, even
the permission to meet him in this way, which I had wrested from
Dicky, seemed a need of another. I was again Margaret Spencer, going
with my best friend to the restaurant where we had so often dined
And yet in some way I felt that things were not the same as they used
to be. Jack was the same kindly brother I had always known, and yet
there seemed in his manner a tinge of something different. I did not
know what. I only knew that I felt very nervous and unstrung.
As I sank into the padded seat and began to remove my gloves I was
confronted by a new problem.
My wedding ring, guarded by my engagement solitaire, was upon the
third finger of my left hand. Jack would be sure to see them if I kept
I told myself fiercely that I did not wish Jack to know I was married
until after we had had this dinner together. With my experience of
Dicky's jealousy I had not much hope that Jack and I would ever dine
together in this fashion again.
On the other hand, I had a strong aversion to removing my wedding ring
even for an hour or two. Besides being a silent falsehood, the act
would seem almost an omen of evil. I am not generally superstitious,
but something made me dread doing it.
However, I had to choose quickly. I must either take off the rings or
tell Jack at once that I was married. I was not brave enough to do the
Taking my silver mesh bag from my muff, I opened it under the table,
and, quickly stripping off my gloves, removed my rings, tucked them
into a corner of the bag and put gloves and bag back in my muff. Jack,
man-like, had noticed nothing.
Now to keep the conversation in my own hands, so that Jack should
suspect nothing until we had dined.
The waiter stood at attention with pencil pointed over his order card.
Jack was studying the menu card, and I was studying Jack.
It was the first chance I had had to take a good look at this
cousin-brother of mine after his year's absence. Every time I had
attempted it I had met his eyes fixed upon me with an inscrutable look
that puzzled and embarrassed me. Now, however, he was occupied with
the menu card, and I stared openly at him.
He had changed very little, I told myself. Of course he was terribly
browned by his year in the tropics, but otherwise he was the same
handsome, well-set-up chap I remembered so well.
I knew Jack's favorite dish, fortunately. If he could sit down in
front of just the right kind of steak, thick, juicy, broiled just
right, he was happy.
"How about a steak?" I inquired demurely. "I haven't had a good one in
"I'm sure you're saying that to please me," Jack protested, "but I
haven't the heart to say so. You can imagine the food I've lived on in
South America. But you must order the rest of the meal."
"Surely I will," I said, for I knew the things he liked. "Baked
potatoes, new asparagus, buttered beets, romaine salad, and we'll talk
about the dessert later."
The waiter bowed and hurried away. "You're either clairvoyant,
"Perhaps I, too, have a memory," I returned gayly, and then regretted
the speech as I saw the look that leaped into Jack's eyes.
"I wish I was sure," he began impetuously, then he checked himself. "I
wonder whether we are too early for any music?" he finished lamely.
"I am afraid so," I said.
"It doesn't matter anyway. We want to talk, not to listen. I've got
something to tell you, my dear, that I've been thinking about all this
year I've been gone."
I did not realize the impulse that made me stretch out my hand, lay it
upon his, and ask gently:
"Please, Jack, don't tell me anything important until after dinner. I
feel rather upset anyway. Let's have one of our care-free dinners and
when we've finished we can talk."
Jack gave me a long curious look under which I flushed hot. Then he
said brusquely, "All right, the weather and the price of flour, those
are good safe subjects, we'll stick to them."
The dinner was perfect in every detail. Jack ate heartily, and
although I was too unstrung to eat much I managed to get enough down
to deceive him into thinking I was enjoying the meal also.
The coffee and cheese dispatched, I leaned back and smiled at Jack.
"Now light your cigar," I commanded.
"Not yet. We're going to talk a bit first, you and I."
I felt that same little absurd thrill of apprehension. Jack was
changed in some way. I could not tell just now. He took my fingers in
his big, strong hand.
"Look at me, Margaret."
Jack's voice was low and tense. It held a masterful note I had never
heard. Without realizing that I did so, I obeyed him, and lifted my
eyes to his.
What I read in them made me tremble. This was a new Jack facing
me across the table. The cousin-brother, my best friend since my
childhood, was gone.
I did not admit to myself why, but I wished, oh! so earnestly, that
I had told Jack over the telephone of my marriage during his year's
absence in the South American wilderness, where he could neither send
nor receive letters.
I must not wait another minute, I told myself.
"Jack," I said brokenly, "there is something I want to tell you--I'm
afraid you will be angry, but please don't be, big brother, will you?"
"There is something I'm going to tell you first," Jack smiled tenderly
at me, "and that is that this big brother stuff is done for, as far
as I'm concerned. In fact, I've been just faking the role for two or
three years back, because I knew you didn't care the way I wanted you
to. But this year out in the wilderness has made me realize just what
life would be to me without you. I've been kicking myself all over
South America that I didn't try to make you care. I've just about gone
through Gehenna, too, thinking you might fall in love with somebody
while I was gone. But I saw you didn't wear anybody's ring anyway, so
I said to myself, 'I'm not going to wait another minute to tell her I
love her, love her, love her.'"
Jack's voice, pitched to a low key anyway, so that no one should be
able to hear what he was saying, sank almost to a whisper with the
I sat stunned, helpless, grief-stricken.
To think that I should be the one to bring sorrow to Jack, the
gentlest, kindest friend I had ever known!
"Oh, Jack, don't!" I moaned, and then, to my horror, I began to cry.
I could not control my sobs, although I covered my face with my
"There, there, sweetheart, I'll have you out of this in a jiffy," Jack
was at my side, helping me to rise, getting me into my coat, shielding
me from the curious gaze of the other diners.
"Here!" He threw a bill toward the waiter. "Pay my bill out of that,
get us a taxi quick, and keep the change. Hurry."
"Yes, sir--thank you, sir." The waiter dashed ahead of us. As we
emerged from the door he was standing proudly by the open door of a
"Where to, sir?" The chauffeur touched his cap.
"Anywhere. Central Park." Jack helped me in, sat down beside me, the
door slammed and the taxi rolled away.
The only other time in my life Jack had seen me cry was when my mother
died. Then I had wept my grief out on his shoulder secure in the
knowledge of his brotherly love. As the taxi started, he slipped his
arm around me.
"Whatever it is, dear, cry it out in my arms," he whispered.
But at his touch I shuddered, and drew myself away. I was Dicky's
wife. This situation was intolerable. I must end it at once. With a
mighty effort, I controlled my sobs and, wiping my eyes, sat upright.
"Dear, dear boy," I said. "Please forgive me. I never thought of this
or I would have told you over the telephone."
"Told me what?" Jack's voice was harsh and quick. His arm dropped from
There was no use wasting words in the telling. I took courage in both
"I am married, Jack," I said faintly. "I have been married over a
"God!" The expletive seemed forced from his lips. I heard the name
uttered that way once before, when a man I knew had been told of his
child's death in an automobile accident. It made me realize as nothing
else could what Jack must be suffering.
But he gave no other sign of having heard my words, simply sat erect,
with folded arms, gazing sternly into vacancy, while the taxi rolled
up Fifth avenue.
Huddled miserably in my corner, I waited for him to speak. I had
summoned courage to tell him the truth, but I could not have spoken
to him again while his face held that frozen look. It frightened and
fascinated me at the same time.
A queer little wonder crossed my mind. Suppose I had known of this a
year ago. Would I have married Jack, and never known Dicky? Would I
have been happier so?
Then there rushed over me the realization that nothing in the
world mattered but Dicky. I wanted him, oh how I wanted him! Jack's
suffering, everything else, were but shadows. My love for my husband,
my need of him--these were the only real things.
I turned to Jack wildly.
"Oh, Jack, I must go home!"
"Margaret." Jack's voice was so different from his usual one that I
started almost in fear.
"I don't want you to reproach yourself about this. I understand, dear.
The right man came along, and of course you couldn't wait for me to
come back to give my sanction."
"Oh! Jack! I ought to have waited: I know it. You have been so good to
"I've been good to myself, being with you," he returned tenderly. "But
I almost wish you had told me over the telephone. You would never have
known how I felt, and it would have been better all around"
He bent toward me, and crushed both my hands in his, looking into my
face with a gaze that was in itself a caress.
"Now you must go home, little girl, back to--your--husband." The
words came slowly.
"When shall I see you again, Jack?" I knew the answer even before it
"When you need me, dear girl, if you ever do," he replied. "I can't
be near you without loving you and hating your husband, whoever he may
be, and that is a dangerous state of affairs. But, wherever I am, a
note or a wire to the Hotel Alfred will be forwarded to me, and, if
the impossible should happen and your husband ever fail you, remember,
Jack is waiting, ready to do anything for you."
My tears were falling fast now. Jack laid his hand upon my shoulder.
"Come, Margaret, you must control yourself," he said in his old
brotherly voice. "I want you to tell me your new name and address. I'm
never going to lose track of you, remember that. You won't see me, but
your big brother will be on the job just the same."
I told him, and he wrote it carefully down in his note-book. Then he
looked at me fixedly.
"You would better put your engagement and wedding rings back on," he
said. "Of course I realize now that you must have taken them off when
you removed your gloves in the restaurant, with the thought that you
did not want to spoil my dinner by telling me of your marriage. But
you must have them on when you meet your husband, you know."
How like Jack, putting aside his own suffering to be sure of my
welfare. I put my hand in my muff, drew out my mesh bag and opened it.
"Jack!" I gasped, horror-stricken, "my rings are gone!"
"Impossible!" His face was white. He snatched my mesh bag from my
grasp. "Where did you put them? In here?"
Jack turned the mesh bag inside out. A handkerchief, a small coin
purse, two or three bills of small denominations, an envelope with a
tiny powder puff--these were all.
"Are you sure you put them in here?"
"Yes." I could hardly articulate the word, I was so frightened.
"Have you opened your bag since?"
I thought a moment. Had I? Then a rush of remembrance came to me.
"I took out a handkerchief when I cried in the restaurant."
"You must have drawn them out then, and either dropped them there,
or they may have been caught in the handkerchief and dropped in the
taxi." We searched without success and Jack's face darkened as he
ordered the chauffeur to speed back to Broquin's. "We must hurry,
dear. This is awful. If you have lost those rings, your husband will
have a right to be angry."
Neither of us spoke again until the taxi drew up in front of the
restaurant. Then Jack said almost curtly:
"Wait here. I don't think it will be necessary for you to go inside,
and it might be embarrassing for you."
He fairly ran up the steps and disappeared inside the door.
So anxious was I to know what would be the result of his inquiry that
I leaned far forward in the machine, watching the door of Broquin's
for Jack's return.
I did not realize my imprudence in doing this until I heard my name
"Well! well, Mrs. Graham, I suppose you are on your way to our shack.
Won't you give me the pleasure of riding with you?"
Hat in hand, black eyes dancing in malicious glee, I saw standing
before me, Harry Underwood, of all people!
At that instant Jack came rushing out of the restaurant and up to the
"It's no use, Margaret. They can't find them anywhere."
"Jack, I want you to meet Mr. Underwood, a friend of my husband's," I
said hastily, hoping to save the situation. "Mr. Underwood, my cousin,
The two men shook hands perfunctorily.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Bickett," Harry Underwood said, in his effusive
manner. "Have you lost anything valuable? Can I help in any way?"
"Nothing of any consequence," I interrupted desperately.
"Oh, yes, I see, nothing of any consequence," he replied meaningly.
His eyes were fixed upon my ungloved left hand, which showed only too
plainly the absence of my rings.
"But don't worry," he continued. "Your Uncle Dudley is first cousin to
an oyster. Wish you luck. So long," and lifting his hat he strolled on
up the avenue.
Jack was consulting his note-book. I heard him give the address of my
apartment to the driver. "Drive slowly," he added.
"Who was that man?" he demanded sternly. "He is no one you ought to
"I know, Jack," I said faintly. "I dislike him, I even dread him, but
he and his wife are old friends of Dicky's and I cannot avoid meeting
"He will make trouble for you some day," Jack returned. "I don't like
him, but there is nothing I can do to help you. I've messed things
"What shall I do, Jack?" I wailed. All my vaunted self-reliance was
gone. I felt like the most helpless perfect clinging vine in the
"We're going straight to your home to see your husband," he said.
"You will introduce me to him and then leave us. I shall explain
everything to him."
"Oh, Jack," I said terrified, "he has such an uncertain temper, and,
besides, he isn't at home. He was to take dinner at the Underwoods at
"Well, we must go there, then," returned Jack. "Put on your gloves,
then the absence of the rings won't be noticed until I have a chance
to explain about them."
I picked up the gloves and unfolded them. Something glittering rolled
out of them and dropped into my lap.
"Oh, Jack, my rings!" I fairly shrieked. Then for the first time in
my life I became hysterical, laughing and sobbing uncontrollably.
* * * * *
That night I told Dicky the whole story--not one word did I keep back
from him--and when I came to the loss of my rings and the meeting with
Harry Underwood, there developed a scene that I cannot even now bring
myself to put down on paper. But at last Dicky managed to control
himself enough to ask what I had told Harry Underwood.
"I told him that my rings had not been lost, that my gloves were too
tight and that I had removed them to put on my gloves."
"Good!" Dicky's voice held a note of relenting. "That's one thing
saved, any way. Wonder your conscience would let you tell that much of
His sneer aroused me. I had been speaking in a dreary monotone which
typified my feeling. Now I faced him, indignant.
"See here, Dicky Graham, don't you imagine it would have been easier
for me to lie about all this? I didn't need to tell you anything.
Another thing I want you to understand plainly and that is my reason
for not telling Jack at first that I was married.
"If I had had a real brother, you would have thought it perfectly
natural for me to have waited for his return before I married. Now,
no brother in the world could have been kinder to me than was Jack
Bickett. We were indebted to him for a thousand kindnesses, for
a lifetime of devotion. I never should have married without first
telling him about it. Do you wonder that realizing this I delayed
in every way the story of my marriage until I could find a suitable
opportunity? I give you my word of honor that I did not dream he
cared, and I expect you to believe me."
I walked steadily toward the door of my bedroom. I had not reached
it, however, before Dicky clasped me in his arms, and I felt his hot
kisses on my face.
"I'm seventeen kinds of a jealous brute, I know, sweetheart," he
whispered, "but the thought of that other man, who seems to mean so
much to you, drives me mad. I'm selfish, I know, but I'm mad about
I put my arms around his neck. "Don't you know, foolish Dicky," I
murmured, "that there's nobody else in the world for me but just you,
"IF YOU AREN'T CROSS AND DISPLEASED"
Today my mother-in-law!
That was my thought when I awoke on the morning of the day which was
to bring Dicky's mother to live with us.
I am afraid if I set down my exact thoughts I should have to admit
that I had a distinct feeling of rebellion against the expected visit
of Dicky's mother.
If it were only a visit! There was just the trouble. Then I could have
welcomed my mother-in-law, entertained her royally, kept at top pitch
all the time she was with us, guarded every word and action, and kept
from her knowledge the fact that Dicky and I often quarrelled.
But Dicky's mother, as far as I could see, was to be a member of our
household for the rest of her life. She herself had arranged it in a
letter, the calm phrases of which still irritated me, as I recalled
them. She had taken me so absolutely for granted, as though my opinion
amounted to nothing, and only her wishes and those of her son counted.
But suddenly my cheeks flamed with shame. After all, this woman who
was coming was my husband's mother, an old woman, frail, almost an
invalid. I made up my mind to put away from me all the disagreeable
features of her advent into my home, and to busy myself with plans for
her comfort and happiness.
I hurried through my breakfast, for I wanted plenty of time for the
last preparations before Dicky's mother should arrive. Dicky had gone
to his studio for a while and then would go over to the station in
time to meet her train, which was due at 11:30.
As I started to my room I heard the peal of the doorbell.
"I will answer it, Katie," I called back, and went quickly to the
entrance. A special delivery postman stood there holding out a letter
to me. As I signed his slip, I saw that the handwriting upon the
letter was Jack's.
What could have happened? I dreaded inexpressibly some calamity.
Only something of the utmost importance, I knew, could have induced
my brother-cousin to write to me. He was too careful of my welfare
to excite Dicky's unreasoning jealousy by a letter, unless there was
desperate need for it.
Finally, I sat down in an arm-chair by the window, and breaking the
seal, drew out the letter.
"Dear Cousin Margaret:
"I have decided, suddenly, to go across the pond and get in the big
mix-up. You perhaps remember that I have spoken to you frequently
of my friend, Paul Caillard who has been with me in many a bit of
ticklish work. He was with me in South America, and like me, heard of
the war for the first time when he got out of the wilderness. He is
a Frenchman, you know, and is going back to offer his services to the
"And I am going with him, Margaret. I think I can be of service over
there. Paul Caillard is the best friend I have. As you know you are
the only relative I have in the world, and you are happily and safely
married, so I feel that I am harming no one by my decision.
"We sail tomorrow morning on the Saturn. It will be impossible for
me to come to your home before then. So this is good-by. When I come
back, if I come back, I want to meet your husband and see you in your
"And now I must speak of a little matter of which you are ignorant,
but of which you must be told before I go. Before your mother died, I
had made my will, leaving her everything I possessed, for you and she
were all the family I had ever known. After her death I changed her
name to yours. If anything should happen to me, my attorney, William
Faye, 149 Broadway, will attend to everything for you. He is also my
"Most of what I have, would have come to you by law, anyway, Margaret,
for you are 'my nearest of kin'--isn't that the way the law puts it?
But you might have some unpleasantness from those Pennsylvania cousins
of ours, so I have protected you against such a contingency.
"And now, Margaret, good-by and God bless you.
"Your affectionate cousin, Jack."
I finished the letter with a numb feeling at my heart. It seemed to me
as if one of the foundations of my life had given away.
When Jack had left me after that miserable reunion dinner where he
had been hurt so cruelly by the news of my marriage during his year's
absence, he had said--ah, how well I remembered the words--"I shall
not see you again, dear girl, unless you need me, if you ever do. I
can't be near you without loving you and hating your husband, whoever
he may be, and that is a dangerous state of affairs. But wherever I
am, a note or a wire to the Hotel Alfred will be forwarded to me,
and if the impossible should happen, and your husband, ever fail you,
remember Jack is waiting, ready to do anything for you."
I had not expected to see Jack for months, perhaps years, but the
knowledge of his faithfulness, of his nearness, had been of much
comfort to me. And now he was going away, probably to his death.
The most bitter knowledge of all, was that which forced itself upon
my mind. Jack was going to the war because he was unhappy over my
marriage. He had not said so, of course, in the letter which he knew
my husband must read, but I knew it. The remembrance of his face,
his voice, when I told him of my marriage was enough. I did not need
written words to know that perhaps I was sending him to his death!
I glanced at the clock--11:15. Only three-quarters of an hour till
the train which was bringing my mother-in-law to our home was due! She
would be in the house within three-quarters of an hour! Would I have
time to dress, go after the flowers and cream we needed for luncheon
and be back in time to welcome her?
Common sense whispered to omit the flowers, and send Katie for the
cream. But one of my faults or virtues--I never have been able to
decide which--is the persistence with which I stick to a plan, once
I have decided upon it. I made up my mind to take a chance on getting
back in time.
I made my purchases and on my way back I stepped into the corner drug
store and telephoned Jack. He would not hear of my seeing him sail,
and he would not promise to write me. Then there was a long silence. I
wondered what he was debating with himself.
"I am going to let you in on a little secret," he said at last. "I
have provided myself with the means of knowing how you fare, and I
suppose I ought to let you have the same privilege. You know Mrs.
Stewart, who keeps the boarding house where you and your mother lived
so many years?"
"Well, she and I are going to correspond. Now, understand, Margaret,
I am going to send no messages to you. I want none from you. Remember,
you are married. Your husband objects to your friendship with me. I
will do nothing underhand. But if anything happens to you I shall know
it through Mrs. Stewart, and she will always know where I am and what
I am doing."
"That is some comfort," I returned earnestly. "What time does the
Saturn sail tomorrow?"
"At 10 o'clock. But, Madge, you must not come."
"I know," I returned meekly enough, although a daring plan was just
beginning to creep into my brain. "And I will say good-by now, Jack.
Good-by, dear boy, and good luck."
My voice was trembling, and there was a tremor in the deep voice that
"Good-by, dear little girl. God bless and keep you." The next moment I
was stumbling out of the booth with just one thought, to get home
and bathe my eyes and pull myself together before the arrival of my
I was just outside the drug store, and had realized that I'd left
my purchases in the telephone booth, when I heard my name called
From the window of a taxicab Dicky was gesturing wildly, while beside
him a stately woman sat with a bored look upon her face.
My mother-in-law had arrived!
"Madge! What under the heavens is the matter?"
Dicky sprang out of the taxicab, which had drawn up before the door of
the drug store, and seized my arm.
"Nothing is the matter," I said shortly. "I went out to get some cream
for Katie's pudding and some flowers. I stopped here in the drug store
to get some of my headache tablets, and left the flowers and cream.
Some dust blew in my eyes. I suppose that's what makes you think I
have been crying."
"That's you, all over," Dicky grumbled. "Risk not being at home to
greet mother in order to have a few flowers stuck around. Here, come
on and meet mother, and I'll go in and get your flowers." He took my
arm and made a step toward the taxicab.
"No, no," I said hastily. "I know exactly where I left them. I won't
be a minute."
Luckily the flowers and cream were where I had left them. I detest the
idea of arranging any part of one's toilet in public, but I did not
want the critical eyes of Dicky's mother to see my reddened eyes, and
roughened hair, which had been slightly loosened in my hurry.
There was a mirror near the telephone booth at the back of the store.
I took off my fur cap, smoothed back my hair and put on the cap again.
From my purse I took a tiny powder puff and removed the traces of
tears. Then I fairly snatched my parcels and hurried to the door.
Dicky was just entering the store as I reached it. His face was black.
I saw that he was in one of his rages.
"Look here, Madge," he said, and he made no pretense of lowering his
voice, "do you think my mother enjoys sitting there in that taxicab
waiting for you? She was so fatigued by her journey that she didn't
even want to have her baggage looked after, something unusual for her.
That is the reason we got here so early. And now she is positively
faint for a cup of tea, and you are fiddling around here over a lot of
If he had made no reference to his mother's faintness, I should have
answered him spiritedly. But I remembered my own little mother, and
her longing when fatigued for a cup of hot tea.
"I'm awfully sorry, Dicky," I said meekly. "You see you arrived before
I thought you would. I'll get the tea for her the moment we reach the
But Dicky was not mollified. He stalked moodily ahead of me until
he reached the open door of the taxicab. Then his manner underwent a
sudden change. One would have thought him the most devoted of husbands
to see him draw me forward.
"Mother," he said, and my heart glowed even in its resentment at the
note of pride in his voice, "this is my wife. Madge, my mother."
Mrs. Graham was leaning back against the cushions of the taxicab. If
she had not looked so white and ill I should have resented the look of
displeasure that rested upon her features.
"How do you do?" she said coldly. "You must pardon me, I am afraid, for
not saying the usual things. I have been very much upset."
The studied insolence of the apology was infinitely worse than the
coldness of her manner. I waited for a moment to control myself before
"I am afraid that you are really ill," I said as cordially as I could.
"I am so sorry to have kept you waiting, but I did not expect you
quite so soon, and I had some errands."
"It doesn't matter," she said indifferently. Her manner put me aside
from her consideration as if I had been a child or a servant. She
turned to Dicky.
"Are we almost there, dear?"
The warmth of her tones to him, the love displayed in every
inflection, set out in more bitter contrast the coldness with which
she was treating me.
"Right here now," as the taxi drew up to the door of the apartment
house. There was a peculiar inflection in Dicky's voice. I stole a
glance at him. He was gazing at his mother with a puzzled look. I
fancied I saw also a trace of displeasure. But it vanished in another
minute as he sprang to the ground, paid the driver and helped his
mother and me out.
She leaned heavily on his arm as we went up the stairs to the third
floor upon which our apartment was.
At the door, Katie, who evidently had heard the taxicab, stood smiling
"This is Katie, mother," Dicky said kindly. "She will help take care
"How do you do, Katie?" The words were the same, but the tones were
much kinder than her greeting to me.
Dicky assisted her into the living room. She sank into the armchair,
and Dicky took off her hat and loosened her cloak. She leaned her head
against the back of the chair, and her face looked so drawn and white
that I felt alarmed.
"Katie, prepare a cup of strong tea immediately," I directed, and
Katie vanished. "Is there nothing I can do for you, Mrs. Graham?" I
approached her chair.
"Nothing, thank you. You may save the maid the trouble of preparing
that tea if you will. I could not possibly drink it. I always carry my
own tea with me, and prepare it myself. If it is not too much trouble,
Dicky, will you get me a pot of hot water and some cream? I have
everything else here."
I really felt sorry for Dicky. He caught the tension in the
atmosphere, and looked from his mother to me with a helpless
caught-between-two-fires-expression. With masculine obtuseness he put
his foot in it in his endeavor to remedy matters.
"Why do you call my mother Mrs. Graham, Madge?" he said querulously.
"She is your mother now as well as mine, you know."
"I am nothing of the kind." His mother spoke sharply. "Of all the
idiotic assumptions, that is the worst, that marriage makes close
relatives, and friends of total strangers. Your wife and I may learn
to love each other. Then there will be plenty of time for her to call
me mother. As it is, I am very glad she evidently feels as I do about
it. Now, Dicky, if you will kindly get me that hot water."
"I will attend to it," I said decidedly "Dicky, take your mother to
her room and assist her with her things. I will have the hot water and
cream for her almost at once."
In the shelter of the dining room, where neither Dicky nor his mother
nor Katie could see or hear me, I clenched my hands and spoke aloud.
"Call _her_ mother! Give that ill-tempered, tyrannical old woman the
sacred name that means so much to me. _Never_ as long as I live!"
Dicky met me at the door of the dining room and took the tray I
carried. It held my prettiest teapot filled with boiling water, a tiny
plate of salted crackers, together with cup, saucer, spoon and napkin.
"Say, sweetheart," he whispered, "I want to tell you something. My
mother isn't always like this. She can be very sweet when she wants
to. But when things don't go to suit her she takes these awful icy
'dignity' tantrums, and you can't touch her with a ten-foot pole until
she gets over them. She was tired, from the journey, and the fact that
you kept her waiting in the taxicab made her furious. But she'll get
over it. Just be patient, won't you, darling?"
If the average husband only realized how he could play upon his wife's
heart-strings with a few loving words I believe there would be less
marital unhappiness in the world. A few minutes before I had been
fiercely resentful against Dicky's mother. And my anger had reached
to Dicky, for I felt in some vague way that he must be responsible for
his mother's rudeness.
But the knowledge that he, too, was used to her injustice and that he
resented it when directed against me made all the difference in the
world. I reached up my hand and patted his cheek.
"Dear boy, nothing in the world matters, if _you_ aren't cross and
A QUARREL AND A CRISIS
"Can you give me a few minutes' time, Dicky? I have something to tell
Dicky put down the magazine with a bored air. "What is it?" he asked
Involuntarily my thoughts flew back to the exquisite courtesy which
had always been Dicky's in the days before we were married. There
had been such a delicate reverence in his every tone and action. I
wondered if marriage changed all men as it had changed my husband.
I went to my room and brought the letter back to Dicky. He read it
through, and I saw his face grow blacker with each word. When he came
to the signature, he turned back to the beginning and read the epistle
through again. Then he crumpled it into a ball and threw it violently
across the room.
"See here, my lady," he exploded. "I think it's about time we came to
a show-down over this business. When I found that first letter from
this lad, I asked you if he were a relative, and you said 'No.' Then
you hand me this touching screed with its 'nearest of kin' twaddle,
and speaking of leaving you a fortune. Now what's the answer?"
"Oh, hardly a fortune, Dicky," I returned quietly. "Jack has only a
few thousand at the outside."
I fear I was purposely provoking, but Dicky's sneering, insulting
manner roused every bit of spirit in me.
"A few thousand you'll never touch as long as you are my wife,"
stormed Dicky. "But you are evading my question."
"Oh, no, I'm not," I said coolly. "That real relationship between Jack
and myself is so slight as to be practically nothing. He is the son of
a distant cousin of my mother's. Perhaps you remember that on the day
you made the scene about the letter you had just emphasized your very
close friendship for Mrs. Underwood in a fashion rather embarrassing
to me. I resolved that, to speak vulgarly, 'what was sauce for the
gander,' etc., and that I would put my friendship for Jack upon the
same basis as yours for Mrs. Underwood. So when you asked me whether
or not Jack was a relative I said 'No.'"
"That makes this letter an insult both to you and to me," Dicky said
venomously, his face black with anger.
I sprang to my feet, trembling with anger.
"Be careful," I said icily. "You don't deserve an explanation, but you
shall have one, and that is the last word I shall ever speak to you
on the subject of Jack. His letter is the truth. I am his 'nearest
of kin,' save the cousins in Pennsylvania of whom he speaks. He was
orphaned in his babyhood and my mother's only sister legally adopted
him, and reared him as her own son. We were practically raised
together, for my mother and my aunt always lived near each other. Jack
was the only brother I ever knew. I the only sister he had.
"When my aunt died she left him her little property with the
understanding that he would always look after my mother and myself.
He kept his promise royally. My mother and I owed him many, many
kindnesses. God forbid that I ever am given the opportunity to claim
Jack's property. But if he should be killed"--I choked upon the
word--"I shall take it and try to use it wisely, as he would have me
"Very touching, upon my word," sneered Dicky, "and very
interesting--if true." He almost spat the words out, he was so angry.
"It does not matter to me in the least whether you believe it or not,"
I returned frigidly.
Dicky jumped up with an oath. "I know it doesn't matter to you.
Nothing is of any consequence to you but this"--he ripped out an
offensive epithet. "If he is so near and dear to you, it's a wonder
you don't want to go over and bid him a fond farewell."
I was fighting to keep back the tears. As soon as I could control my
voice I spoke slowly:
"The reason why I did not go is because I thought you might not like
it. God knows, I wanted to go."
I walked steadily to my room, closed the door and locked it and fell
upon the bed, a sobbing heap.
"Where are you going?" Dicky's voice was fairly a snarl as I faced him
a little later in my street costume.
"I do not know," I replied truthfully and coldly. "I am going out
for the rest of the afternoon. Perhaps you will be able to control
yourself when I return."
It was not the most tactful speech in the world. But I was past caring
whether Dicky were angry or pleased. I am not very quick to wrath, but
when it is once roused my anger is intense.
"You know you are lying," he said loudly. "You are going to see this
precious-cousin-brother-lover, whichever he may be."
My fear that Katie or his mother would hear him overcame the primitive
impulse I had to avenge the insolent words with a blow, as a man
"You will apologize for that language to me when I come back," I said
icily. "I do not know whether I shall go to bid Jack good-by or not. I
have no idea what I shall do, save that I must get away from here for
a little while. But if you have any sense of the ordinary decencies
of life you will lower your voice. I do not suppose you care to have
either your mother or Katie overhear this edifying conversation."
"Much you care about what my mother thinks," Dicky rejoined, and this
time his voice was querulous, but decidedly lower. "Fine courteous
treatment you're giving her, leaving her like this when she has been
in the house but a couple of hours."
"Your mother has shown such eagerness for my society that no doubt she
will be heartbroken if she awakens and finds that I am not here."
"That's right, slam my mother. Why didn't you say in the first place
you couldn't bear to have her in the same house with you?"
"Dicky, you are most unjust," I began hotly, and then stopped
"What is the matter, my son?" The incisive voice of my mother-in-law
sounded from the door of her room.
"Go back to bed, mother," Dicky said hastily. "I'm awfully sorry we
"Disturbing me doesn't matter," she said decidedly, "but what you were
saying does. I heard you mention me, and I naturally wish to know if I
am the subject of this very remarkable conversation."
I know now where Dicky gets the sneering tone which sets me wild when
he directs it against me. His mother's inflection is exactly like her
son's. The contemptuous glance with which she swept me nerved me to
speak to her in a manner which I had never dreamed I would use toward
"Mrs. Graham," I said, raising my head and returning her stare with
a look equally cold and steady, "my husband"--I emphasized the words
slightly--"and I are discussing something which cannot possibly
concern you. You were not the subject of conversation, and your name
was brought in by accident. I hope you will be good enough to allow us
to finish our discussion."
My mother-in-law evidently knows when to stop. She eyed me steadily
for a moment.
"Dicky," she said at last, and her manner of sweeping me out of the
universe was superb, "in five minutes I wish to speak to you in my
"All right, mother." Dicky's tone was unsteady, and as his mother's
door closed behind her I prepared myself to face his increased anger.
"How dared you to speak to my mother in that fashion?" he demanded
When I am most angry, a diabolically aggravating spirit seems to
possess me. I could feel it enmeshing me.
"Please don't be melodramatic, Dicky," I said mockingly, "and if you
have quite finished, I will go."
"No, you won't, at least not until I have told you something," he
He sprang to my side, and seized my shoulder in a cruel grip that made
"We'll just have this out once for all," he said. "If you go out of
this door you go out for good. I don't care for the role of complacent
The insult left me deadly cold. I knew, of course, that Dicky was
so blinded by rage and jealousy that he had no idea of what he was
saying. But ungovernable as I knew his temper to be, he had passed the
limits of my forebearance.
"I will answer that speech in 10 minutes," I said and walked into my
For I had come to a decision as startling as it was sudden. I hastily
threw some most necessary things into a bag. Then I put a ten-dollar
bill of the housekeeping money into my purse, resolving to send
it back to Dicky as soon as I could get access to my own tiny bank
account, the remnant of my teaching savings. Into a parcel I placed
the rest of the housekeeping money, my wedding and engagement rings
and the lavalliere which Dicky had given me as a wedding present. I
put them in the back of the top drawer of my dressing table, for I
knew if I handed them to Dicky in his present frame of mind he would
destroy them. Then I walked steadily into the living room, bag in
Dicky was nowhere to be seen, but I heard the murmur of voices in his
mother's room. I went to the door and knocked. Dicky threw it open,
his face still showing the marks of his anger.
"You will find the housekeeping money in the top drawer of my dressing
table," I said calmly. "I will send you my address as soon as I have
one, and you will please have Katie pack up my things and send them to
I turned and went swiftly to the door. As I closed it after me, I
thought I heard Dicky cry out hoarsely. But I did not stop.
"BUT I LOVE YOU"
With my bag in my hand, I fairly fled down the stairs which led from
our third floor apartment to the street. I had no idea where I was
going or what I was going to do. Only one idea possessed me--to put
as much space as possible between me and the apartment which held my
husband and his mother.
Reaching the street, I started to walk along it briskly. But,
trembling as I was from the humiliating scene I had just gone through,
I saw that I could not walk indefinitely, and that I must get to some
place at once where I could be alone and think.
A taxi whose driver evidently had been watching me in the hope of a
fare rolled up beside me.
I dived into it gratefully. At least in its shelter I would be alone
and safe from observation for a few minutes, long enough for me to
decide what to do next.
"Where to, ma'am?"
I searched my memory wildly for a moment. Where to, indeed! But the
"Brooklyn Bridge," I said desperately.
"Very well, ma'am," and in another minute we were speeding swiftly
As I cowered against the cushions of the taxi, with burning cheeks and
crushed spirit, I realized that my marriage with Dicky was not a yoke
that I could wear or not as I pleased. It was still on my shoulders,
heavy just now, but a burden that I realized I loved and could not
And I had thought to end it all when I dashed out of the apartment!
I knew that I could have done nothing else but walk out after Dicky
uttered his humiliating ultimatum. But I also knew Dicky well enough
to realize that when he came to himself he would regret what he had
done and try to find me. I must make it an easy task for him.
So I decided my destination quickly. I would go to my old boarding
place, where my mother and I had lived and where I had first met
Dicky. My kindly old landlady, Mrs. Stewart, was one of my best
friends. Without telling too broad a falsehood, I could make her
believe I had come to spend the night with her. The next day, I hoped,
would solve its own problems.
"This is the bridge entrance, ma'am." The chauffeur's voice broke my
revery. I had made my decision just in time.
How fortunate it was that I had chosen the Brooklyn Bridge
destination! I had only to walk up the stairs to the elevated train
that took me within three squares of Mrs. Stewart's home.
"Bless your heart, child, but I am glad to see you!" was Mrs.
Stewart's hearty greeting. Then she glanced at my bag. I hastened to
"Mr. Graham's mother is with us, so I haven't any scruples about
leaving him alone," I said lightly. "It's so far over here I thought
I would stay the night with you, so that we could have the good long
visit I promised you when I was here last."
"That's splendid," she agreed heartily, "and I'll wager you can't
guess who's here."
My prophetic soul told me the answer even before I saw the tall figure
emerge from an immense easy chair which had effectually concealed him.
I was to bid Jack good-by after all.
Mrs. Stewart closed the door behind her softly as Jack came over to my
"What is the matter, Margaret?" he said tensely.
"Nothing at all." I told the falsehood gallantly, but it did not
"You can't make me believe that, Margaret," he said gravely. "I know
you too well. Tell me, have you quarrelled with your husband?"