Part 5 out of 6
refused him! And why is the letter box always full of duns? Can't you pay
your bills? Why didn't you say so earlier? Would have saved us both a deal
"I didn't tell you I had money."
"You played the part, ordering dresses fit for a Duchess, and things for
the flat. You spent enough on a wedding gift for Peggy--or was it a
promise to spend?--to support a family a month--peace offering because
you'd abused her!--Of course if you'd made the great success everybody
expected, you'd be on the top wave, and so should I. I don't deny I
thought of that. But now--an evening like this--no women worth counting
and a horde of men--well, it's bad enough for me, but it's worse for you.
No one'll say I brought 'em."
"Oh, no," I assented.
"It comes to this, then," she went on at full heat, flushing and fanning
herself still more violently; "either you or I must leave this house, and
"Well, I sha'n't."
And so she did!
Whose fault was it that we were left in such a predicament--that of the
inexperienced girl, or the chaperon's? What is a chaperon for? Mrs.
Whitney has treated me shamefully, shamefully! Here I am all by myself,
and I don't know what to do.
Ah, well, I must play my own hand. She shall regret this night's work, if
I marry rank or money.
It is so strange how every one prospers except poor, baffled, loveless me,
who have the greatest gift of all. I wonder if it is really Nature's law
that the very beautiful must suffer; if this is her way of equalizing the
lot of the poor and plain and lowly; her law of compensation to make the
splendid creatures walk lonely and in sorrow all their days while plain
ones coo and are happy. Was Uncle Tim right about the little brown
If I were superstitious or easily disheartened, I should say--but I am
neither! I shall succeed. I will take my place by right of beauty or die
fighting! If I see Lord Strathay again, he shall marry me within a week.
They shall call it "one of those romantic weddings."
I can't live here alone. I have nothing to fall back upon; nothing but a
father who doesn't answer my letters, and Judge Baker who lectures me in
polysyllables, and John Burke--poor old John; what a good fellow he is!--
who simply loves me; and Mrs. Van Dam, who was my friend as long as she
hoped to rise by my beauty to higher place, but who has headaches now; and
I don't understand her desertion.
Ah--yes, there is another, my constant companion now.
He is an old man, thin and sallow. He lies prone on the floor, staring at
me with dead, sightless eyes. He whispers from muted lips "Delilah!" and
the sound of it is in my ears day and night; day and night!
My God! It will drive me mad!
LETTERS AND SCIENCE.
I've revised my opinion of the newspapers. The Star has done me a good
turn, a great service.
I had tried to borrow money of Cadge, for the third time, and she told me
she had none--which was true, or she would have let me have it. Then she
"Why don't you sell a story to some paper--either something very
scientific, or else, 'Who's the Handsomest Man in New York?' or--"
"I think I ought to get something from them, after all the stuff they've
printed; but how? To whom do I go?"
"Nobody! Heavens!" cried Cadge. "Want to create an earthquake on Park Row?
You're a disturber of traffic. Let me manage. I know the ropes and it
helps me at the office to bring in hot features. They might give you fifty
for it, too."
And I actually did get $50 for digging out of the text books an essay on
Rats as Disseminators of Bubonic Plague; they only used a little of it,
but the pictures and the signature and the nonsense about me as a
scientist were the real thing, Cadge said.
The money, the money, the money was the real thing to me! It has given me
a breathing spell--. that and the hundred for signing a patent medicine
testimonial; but I had to sacrifice more than half I got from both sources
to pacify greedy creditors. And a month between remittances, and so little
when they come! Father _can't_ refuse to mortgage; why doesn't he
write to me?
The day I took the article to Cadge I had a long talk with her and with
Pros. Reid, who spends at the eyrie every hour he can spare. One must have
some society or go crazy, though perhaps they aren't exactly what I'd
choose if my kingdom had opened to me.
Pros. has shrewd eyes that inspire confidence--gray eyes with the tired
night work look in them. He talks amazing slang at times, at others not at
all; and I wish every one might be as kind and thoughtful.
I could think of nothing all the evening but my bills, and at last I was
moved to ask him abruptly:--
"What can a girl do to get money, Pros.?"
"'Pends on the girl."
"This girl; a somewhat educated person; and grasping. One who wants much
money and wants it right now."
"Princesses don't earn money; they have it."
"Suppose the Princess were enchanted--or--or something? Oh, you may not
think me serious, but I really don't know what I shall do, if my ship
doesn't come in pretty soon."
He looked quizzically at me; he thinks I plead poverty as a joke; Cadge
would never tell him how I have tried to borrow.
"'Twould be a hard case, supposing it possible," he said, "because you
would want a good deal of money, and because you'd be a bother to have
'round--too beautiful. You couldn't sell many newspaper stories, because
you'd soon cease to be a novelty as a special, and would get a press
ticket to City Hall Park. Reporting's another coloured horse altogether--
poor pay, and takes training to get it. Beauty's a disadvantage even
there; too much beauty. Tell you what you could do, though, if ever you
_should_ want to earn money--go on the stage."
"Girl I knew," said Cadge, "made a pot of money going round to summer
resorts, giving women lessons, energizing and decomposing; kind of
Delsarte; said it made her 'most die--to see 'em rolling on the floor like
elephants, trying to get lean, and eating 'emselves fat four times a day,
with caramels between--and not be able to laugh. Might try the Barnard
girls. It can't be sure beauty to be up there; I've seen some of 'em. Say
now; that's not so bad--'How to be Helen; in Twenty Lessons.' Or say,
Princess; answer the great question: 'Does Soap Hurt the Skin?'"
She grinned. Cadge fancies, I suppose, that by any mail I may get a big
check from home.
"You display almost human intelligence," said Pros, admiringly; "stage's
"But, Mr. Reid, that's too public."
"Inherited instinct; no more public than--than being a beauty." He gazed
at me with mild audacity,--"Money getting's prosaic, off the stage. Most
girls who want cash become tiddlety-wink typewriters at eight per; bargain
price; fully worth four. Now that isn't your class; if $8 a week would
satisfy you, which it wouldn't, do you suppose there's an office in town
that'd have you? Men won't subject their clerks to the white light of
beauty; wives won't stand for it, either. There are places where no girl
can get work unless she's pulchritudinous. Catch the idea? A pretty London
barmaid can't draw more beer than an ugly one, but draws more custom.
What's a Princess to do with such jobs? You'd be like the man who wouldn't
be fool enough to marry any woman who'd be fool enough to have him--in
getting work, I mean. This is the other side of all that rot about Woman's
Century and Woman's Widening Sphere. Never go into an office, Miss
Winship; my wife won't, when we're married."
"'Cause she'll be in one already," interrupted Cadge; "why, if I had to
mope 'round all day in a flat, I'd be driven to drink--club tea. Imagine
it; Cadge Bryant a clubwoman!"
"Clubwomaning is exciting enough, election time."
"But men get money," I persisted. "Isn't there anything a girl can do?"
"I've a sister," said Reid, "--other sister out in Cincinnati--who wants a
profession; law's the one I'm recommending. It's so harmless. Course
she'll never have any practice; she won't get out and hustle with the
greasy Yahoudis who run the bar now-a-days. No, so long as my sister has
the career fever, I say law, every time. Cadge, why don't you study law?"
"The dear boy does so enjoy talking nonsense," Cadge explained
"In ordinary business," Reid went on, "pretty women are only employed as
lures for men. Swell milliners have 'em to overawe with their great
grieving eyes the Hubbies who're inclined to kick at market rates for
bonnets. Now there's dry goods, chief theme of half the race. You'd think
there'd be a show there for a pretty girl; well, there ain't. It's retail
trade; one girl can sell about as many papers of pins in a day as
"Some pretty cloak and suit models get big wages," said Cadge.
"Yes, in the jobbing houses. That's wholesale trade, and every dicker
counts. Have to corset themselves to death, though."
"It's a fact," Cadge put in. "Many's the filler I've written about it.
Girl has to destroy her beauty to get a living by her beauty."
"Sure! Fashions not made to fit women, but women to fit fashions. Then
those girls have an awful time, if they're careful about their associates.
Why, it's getting so a model is expected to sell goods herself--held
responsible if she doesn't. No sale, no job next week. See the situation,"
Pros. added, "--on the one hand the buyer, a vain man away from home, with
thousands to invest; on the other a girl who must get that money for her
firm. Well, of course it's not so bad as that, but----"
"But _I_ wouldn't corset myself Redfern shape and go into such horrid
places for the world," I cried.
No more than Judge Baker, or Father, or any one else, could Reid see my
situation. What do I care about earning $8 a week--or $80? I must have a
great deal of money, at once; to pay my debts and to live upon. Men get
money quickly--in Wall Street or by inventions or----
"Course not," said Pros. "You're the Princess; and Princesses may be
Honorary Presidents and ask questions and take an interest, but they don't
"Pros. is right about the stage," said Cadge; "that's the best sort of
wholesale business. You sell a chance to look at you to fifteen hundred
people at once; and folks can't paw you over to see how your clothes fit,
either. I'd like it myself, but I'm too--well, after all, I might do; I'm
at least picturesquely ugly."
And so the antiphony of discouragement ended in a laugh.
I wonder--women on the stage do get big sums, and they often graduate from
it to society. If even a music hall singer can become a duchess----
Bellmer's father made his money in sugar, they say. If I had it, I could
storm any position. I suppose Mrs. Terry has shooed him off on that
automobile tour I heard about; but he must come back--and so must
I can't wait long, I'm not safe an hour from human vultures hungry for
money, though I've none to yield them.
I must do something. No sooner had Mrs. Whitney vanished from the flat in
a whirlwind of tears and reproaches than in came the furniture man, as if
he had been watching the house, to threaten that, unless I pay at once, he
will take away everything. He was not rude in words, but oh, so different
from the oily people who sold me the things. His ferret eyes searched the
apartment; he seemed counting every article.
"The furniture's safe," I said; "it won't walk away."
"Of course it's safe," he answered with a suspicion of a sneer; "but
when'll it be paid for?"
"I don't know; go away!" I said. "I've written to my father."
The fellow looked at me with open admiration.
"Better 'tend to this thing; better write again to--your father," he said
and walked off, leaving me cold and tremulous with rage.
I must have imagined the pause, the inflection; but he has me under
surveillance. Like a thief!
I flew to the dining-room and swallowed a glass of sherry, for I was faint
and quivering; but before I had turned from the sideboard Cadge bounced
into the room, tearing through the flat to find me, and stopped to stare,
"Drop that!" she cried.
"Oh, don't preach! I've just been having such a time!"
"Everybody has 'em; I've had fifty a year for fifty years. And I don't
mind your drowning sorrow in the flowing bowl, either. But do it like a
man, in company. Honest now, Helen."
She changed the subject abruptly to the errand that had brought her; but,
before she went away, she looked curiously at the sideboard and said:----
"Helen, you really don't----"
"Mercy, no! Scarcely at table, even. Why I used to be shocked to see how
things to drink are thrust upon women, even in department stores. But
they're not all deadly; there's 'creme de menthe' now--the pep'mint
extract Ma used to give me for stomach-ache."
Cadge laughed with me, but she turned quickly grave again.
"Mind what I tell you, Princess," she said, "and never, never drink even
'pep'mint extract' in the house like that, alone; if you do, I see your
finish; reporters learn a thing or two."
She's right--for ordinary women. But I told her the truth; I don't care
for wine. I've seen girls flushed at dinner, but I know too much of
physiology, and I care too much for my beauty.
Still, in emergencies----
Emergencies--oh! I could have named to her the very day I first tasted
wine. It was here in the Nicaragua, the day Darmstetter----
Well, well,--I mustn't think about that. I can't understand why I don't
hear from Father. Impossible to make him see how different are my present
tastes and pressing needs from those I brought from home. I hope he won't
delay long about the money.
My position is becoming intolerable. I owe the butcher, grocer, furniture
dealer, photographer--and the milliner is the worst of all. The money I
got from the _Star_ is filched from me by people who need it far less
than I. Why, I even owe money to the maids, and I can't discharge either
of them, because I'd have to pay her. But they must somehow be sent away.
I wonder if Father couldn't sell the farm. That would bring more than a
mortgage; but it might take months, and even then I need in a single year
more than all he has in the world.
Will any woman who reads the story of my life--the real story which
sometime I shall write, leaving out the paltry details which now harass
me--will any woman believe that the most beautiful woman in the world in
the wonderful year, of the finding of the Bacillus actually thought of
tramping the streets, looking for work, like a story heroine seeking her
fortune? I shall have to do something--anything!
But I can't work; I'm not calm enough, and it would ruin my beauty.
The luck must change!
Sometimes I see more clearly than the sordidness of this horrible
existence, a big palace with a terraced front and a mile long drive
straight to the park gate, past great trees and turf that is always green;
and long rows of stately ladies looking down on me from their frames on
the lofty wall beside soldiers that have stood silent guard there three
hundred years. I can see a beautiful woman courtesying to a Queen and all
the world reading it in the morning paper; and a big town house with
myriad lights blinking through the fog outside, where shivering wretches
watch the carriages drive up to my door. For twenty--no thirty years--I
might be the one inimitable and wholly adorable being, clothed with rare
garments, blazing with jewels, confidant of statesmen, maker of the men
who make history. History! I should _be_ history!
I could do it all myself--I have never had a chance, never yet the glimmer
of a chance, but I could do anything, conquer anything, achieve anything!
It is so little that I ask--the money to live upon, and a chance, only the
chance--it is maddening to be denied that!--and fair play to live my life
and carry out my destiny.
There was a time when I wanted less, expected less; like Cadge with queer,
devoted Pros. or Kitty Reid, her hair blowing about her face, happy with
her daubs, messing about in the studio. Was I happier when I was like
that? I would not go back to it! I would not barter my beauty for any
other gift on earth. I shall fight and fight to the last ditch. I don't
propose to be a pawn on the chess-board.
If it comes to that, I shall know what to do!
A CHAPERON ON A CATTLE TRAIN.
This has been one of my worst days, and I have for a long time had no days
but bad ones. Three things have happened, either one of which would alone
have been a calamity. Together they crush, they frighten, they humiliate
This morning came this letter from Father:--
Hannibal, May 31.
"I take my pen in hand to tell you that we are all well and hope that you
are the same. It was a very cold winter and we were so put to it to get
water for the stock after the dry fall that I am thinking of putting down
a driven well this summer if I can find the money. Ma has a sprained wrist
which is painful but not serious. John Burke sent home some little items
from the papers. We are glad that you have been having a good time. We
were glad that you had gone to Timothy's house, though John Burke said the
girl you were with before was very nice. But twas right not to stay long
enough to wear out your welcome. I do not see how I can get so much money.
I have sent you all I had by me and we have been pinched a good deal too.
I had a chance of a pass on a cattle train and Ma said why don't you go
east yourself and see Nelly. But I said no school's most done and she'll
be coming home and how can I leave? Shaw said she we can tend to
everything all right so maybe I will come. I have written to Timothy and
will do as he says. I have a feeling Daughter that you need some one by
you in the city. Ma sends her love and asks why you don't write oftener.
We wouldn't scarcely know what you was doing at all if it wasn't for John.
"Your Loving Father,
"EZRA D. WINSHIP." It seems I'm to have a new chaperon. He's a little
stiff in the joints and his face is wrinkled and his talk is not that of
society and he's coming out of the West on a cattle train. Good Lord!
Oh, yes, he'll come. Uncle Timothy'll urge him to take me back to the
I won't go back! As soon as I had read this news I started for the
Imperial Theatre to see the manager. I walked, for I have no more credit
at the livery stable; and I was grimly amused to see in the shop windows
the "Winship hats" and graceful "Winship scarves" that are coining money
for other people while I have scarcely carfare.
The unusual exercise may have tired me, or perhaps it was some lingering
remnant of the old farm superstition against the theatre that made me
slacken my steps as I neared the office. I remembered my father's
tremulous voice cautioning me against play-houses before I started for the
"Now don't ye go near them places," he said, wiping his nose and dodging
about the corners of his eyes. "They're bad for young girls."
Why do I think of these things? If he cares so much for me, why doesn't he
get me the money I asked for; instead of coming here-on a cattle train?
Whatever the reason, Puritanic training or fear of my errand, I walked
slowly back and forth in front of the dingy little office of the theatre
for some time before I conquered my irresolution and went desperately into
They told me the manager was out, but after a little waiting I began to
suspect that this was a dingy white lie, and so it proved; for when I
lifted my veil and blushing like a school-girl, told the people in the
office who I was, at once some one scurried into a little den and
presently came out to say that Mr. Blumenthal had "returned."
Oh, the manager's an important person in his way; he has theatres in every
part of the country and is a busy man. But he was willing enough to see me
when his stupid people had let him know that I was the Miss Winship! Sorry
as was my heart, I felt a thrill of triumph at this new proof of my fame
and the power beauty gives.
When I entered his office, a bald little man turned from a litter of
papers and looked at me with frank, business-like curiosity, as if he had
a perfect right to do so-and indeed he had. I was not there to barter
talent, but to rent my face. I understood that; but perhaps for this very
reason my tongue tripped as it has seldom done of late when I blunderingly
explained my errand.
"Guess we can do something for you," he said promptly. "Of course there's
a horde of applicants, but you're exceptional; you know that."
He smiled good-naturedly, and I felt at once relieved and indignant that
he should treat as an everyday affair the step I had pondered during so
many sleepless nights.
"Must remember though," he added, "on the stage a passably pretty woman
with a good nose, who has command of her features and can summon
expression to them, often appears more beautiful than a goddess-faced
stick. However, it's worth trying. I don't believe you're a stick. Ah,--
would you walk on?"
"I don't understand."
"Stage slang; would you be willing to go on as a minor character--wear
fine clothes and be looked at without saying much--at first, you know?
Or--of course your idea's to star-you got a backer?"
"I don't understand that, either."
"Some one to pay the bills while you're being taught. To hire a company
and a theatre as a gamble."
"Impossible! I want money at once. I supposed that my--my beauty would
command a position on the stage; it's certainly a bar to employment off
"Of course it would; yes, yes, but not immediately. Why, even Mrs.
Farquhar had to have long and expensive training before she made her
debut. And you know what a scandal there had been about her!
"Not that there's been any about you," he added hastily, to my look of
amazement. "But you know--ah--public mention of any sort piques curiosity.
Er--what's your act?"
"Yes; what can you do?"
"Sing a little; nothing else. I thought of opera."
This proposition didn't seem to strike him favourably.
"I don't know--" he hesitated. "You have a wonderful speaking voice, and
you've been advertised to beat the band. Who's your press agent?"
"I don't quite know what a press agent is; but I'm sure I never had any."
"Well, you don't need any. Now that I see you--, but I fancied months ago
that you were probably getting ready for this. Suppose you sing a little
song for me."
We stumbled through dim passages to the stage, half-lighted by a window or
two high overhead. Mr. Blumenthal sat alone in the orchestra, and I
summoned all my resolution, and then, frightened and ashamed and
desperate, I sang the "Sehnsucht," following it with what Cadge calls a
"good yelling song" to show the power of my voice.
Then the rotund little manager rolled silently back to the office, and I
knew as I followed him that I had been judged by a different standard from
that of an applauding drawing-room.
"Well!" said he, when we had regained his room. "You are a marvel! Sing by
all means; but, if you must have immediate results, not in opera. Music
halls get pretty much the most profitable part of the business since they
became so fashionable in London. Tell you what I'll do.--I'll give you a
short trial at--say a hundred a week. You've a wonderful voice and no
training; but any teacher can soon put you in shape to sing a few showy
songs. Give me an option on your services for a longer term at a higher
figure, if you take to the business and it takes to you, and you can start
in next month at the roof garden."
"The roof garden!" I cried out; but then I saw how foolish it would be to
feel affronted at this common man with money who would rank me as an
attraction among acrobats and trick dogs.
"I shouldn't like that," I said more calmly; "people are very foolish, of
course, but I've been told that--that if I were to sing in public, my
appearance would mark a new era in music; now, I wouldn't care to sing in
such a place; I had hoped, too, that I could get more--more salary."
"Would seem so, wouldn't it?" said Mr. Blumenthal. "But it's a fair offer.
Tell you why.
"You'll take with an audience, for a short run, anyhow, if you've got--er--
temperament; but I run the risk that you haven't. I spend considerable
money getting you ready to appear, and then you're on the stage only a few
minutes. Another thing: Most people nowadays are short sighted; you have
to capture 'em in the mass--two Topsies, four Uncle Toms, eight Markses
the lawyers, twenty chorus girls kicking at once-big stage picture, you
know, not the individual. And the individual must have the large manner.
Yes, yes; I use you for bait to draw people, but I need other performers
to amuse 'em after they're here. They want to feel that there's 'something
doing' all the while, something different. Curiosity wouldn't last long;
either you'd turn out an artist and--er--do what a music hall audience
wants done, or you'd fail. In the former case you could command more
money; never so much as people say, though. There's so many liars."
"I--I'll think over your offer," I said. "I wouldn't have to wear--"
"Costumes of approved brevity? No; at least not to start with."
Mr. Blumenthal also had risen. He looked at me, as if aroused to my
ignorance of things theatrical, with a more personal and kindly interest.
"Sorry my offer doesn't strike you favourably," he said. "I'd like mighty
well to bring you out; but if you hold off for opera--that isn't my line,
though--mind you, I don't say it could be done; but if some one were found
to put up the money, would you wait and study? Know what you'd be
undertaking, I suppose--hard work, regular hours, open air, steady habits?
That's the life of a singer. Your health good? No nerves? We might make a
deal, if you mean business. Trouble is, so many beautiful women think
beauty as an asset is worth more than it is; it makes 'em careless about
studying while they're young, and it can't last--"
I never heard the end of that sentence. I flew home and went straight to
my mirror. Sure enough, I fancied I saw a haggard look about the eyes--
My God! This gift of beauty doesn't confer immunity from fatigue,
accident, old age. This loveliness must fade and crack and wrinkle, these
full organ tones must shrivel to a shrill pipe; and I--I! shall one day be
a tottering old woman, bent, gray, hideous!
And all the little disfiguring hurts of life--they frighten me! I never
enter a train that I do not think, with a shudder, of derailment and
bleeding gashes and white scars; or cross a street without looking about
for the waving hoofs of runaway horses that shall beat me down, or for
some bicycle rider who might roll me over in a limp heap on the paving
Yesterday I saw a horrid creature; her face blotched with red by acid
stain or by a birth mark. Why does she not kill herself? Why didn't she
die before I saw her? I shall dream of her for months--of her and
Darmstetter, old and wrinkled as I shall be some day, and dead--with that
same awful look in my fixed eyes!
Ah, what a Nelly I have come to be! Is it possible that I once rode frisky
colts bareback and had no nerves! I mustn't have nerves! They make one
old. Mr. Blumenthal said so. But how to avoid them? Oh, I must be careful;
so careful! How do women dare to ride bicycles?
And this theatrical Napoleon, part of whose business is the appraisement
of beauty--did he suspect that mine was less than perfect? It was perfect
a month ago.
He couldn't have meant that, or he was trying to make a better bargain by
cheapening the wares I brought--
But I can't go upon the stage. How could I have thought of it? I mustn't
subject myself to the late hours, the grease paint, the bad air! Of what
use would be a mint of money, if I lost my beauty?
I steadied my nerves with a tiny glass of Curacoa, and looked again. The
face in the mirror was beautiful, beautiful! There is no other like it!
And gazing upon radiant Her, I might have recovered myself but for the
third untoward event of the day.
It came in the shape of Bellmer.
Perhaps I ought not to have seen him alone, but it is hard for one who has
lived in the free atmosphere of the prairie, and has been a bachelor girl
in New York with Kitty Reid to think about caution. Besides, it was such a
blessed relief to see his full-moon face rise above the darkness of my
troubles! I greeted him with my sweetest smile, and did my very best to
make myself agreeable.
"You've been out of town, haven't you?" I asked when the talk began to
flag, as it soon does with Hughy.
"Aw, yes," he said; "pickin' up a record or two, with my 'mobe;' y' ought
to see it; it's a beauty, gasolene, you know. Awful nuisance, punctures,
though. Cost me thirteen dollars to repair one; vulcanize the tire, y'see.
Tires weigh thirty pounds each; awful lot, ain't it? Stripped one right
off, though, trying to turn in the mud; fastened on with half-inch spikes,
too. Can't I persuade you to--aw--take a spin some day? Where's Mrs.
"Gone to the country; she--she's ill."
"Awful tabby, wa'n't she?"
"Oh, no; I like her very much, but she was in a hurry to leave town."
"So Aunt Terry said. Awf'ly down on you, Aunt Terry is," he drawled with
even more than his usual tactlessness, "but I stand up for you, I assuah
you, Miss Winship. I tell her you're awf'ly sensible an' jolly--lettin' a
fellow come like this, now, and talk to you's jolly, ain't it? An' you
will try my mobe? Awf'ly jolly 'twould be to take a spin."
"Very jolly indeed," I said. I turned my head that I might not see his
shining scalp. Thank heaven, I thought, Hughy doesn't know enough to be
deterred by two rejections, nor even by the gossip about Strathay. I
wished--it was wicked, of course--I wished I were his widow; but I was
determined not to repeat such folly as I had shown about the Earl.
"Very jolly," I repeated, "but you don't know what a coward I am; I
believe I'd be afraid."
"Aw, no, Miss Winship," he remonstrated; "afraid of the mobe? Aw, no; not
with me. I'll teach you how to run it, I do assuah you; awf'ly jolly that
"Why, yes; that would be nice, of course," I said; "but--"
Oh, how shall I tell the rest? I was afraid of the machine; I knew I could
never mount it, with his hand on the lever; I was just trying to refuse
without offending him.
"--I'm such a coward, really," I went on; I smiled painstakingly into his
stupid pink face that seemed suddenly to have grown pinker; and then I
felt my smile stiffen upon my lips, for he had whirled around on the piano
stool on which he was sitting, and he smiled back at me, but not as he
would have done in Mrs. Whitney's presence. He--he leered!
"You wouldn't be afraid, with me, y' know,--" was all he said, but he rose
as if to come nearer me.
"Oh, yes, I should--I should--" I stammered; I couldn't move; I couldn't
look away from him.
I seemed face to face with some foolish, grinning masque of horror. My
heart beat as I think a bird's must when a snake has eyed it; and a cold
moisture broke out upon me.
"Oh, yes, I should!" I cried as I broke loose from the spell of terror,
and made some halting excuse to get rid of him. I didn't dare even wait to
see him leave the room, but fled from it myself, conscious as I went of
his open-mouthed stare, and of his detaining: "Aw, now, Miss Winship--"
To get as far away as possible, I retreated to the kitchen, where I
surprised Nora and Annie in conclave. They seized the opportunity to "give
notice." Nora has a sweetheart and is to be married; Annie has invented
the excuse of an ailing mother, because she dares not stay alone with me.
They are both afraid, now that Mrs. Whitney--selfish creature!--has gone,
and left me helpless against the world.
At any other time the news would have been a fresh calamity--for how can I
pay them, or how get rid of them without paying? But with the memory of
that awful scene in my head, I could think of nothing else. I don't know
what I said in reply.
Bellmer's insult has stayed with me and haunted me. I had bearded a
theatrical manager in his den and had been received with kindness and
courtesy. He had even assumed that some things in the profession about
which I was inquiring might be trying to a tenderly reared girl, and that
he ought to give me advice and warnings. But this Thing bearing a
gentleman's repute; this bat-brained darling of a society that I'm not
thought good enough to enter, had insulted me like a boor under my own
roof; and he would probably boast of it like a boor to others as base as
himself! The poverty of it, the grossness of it!
I'm not ignorant, now. I know there's a way open to me--God knows I never
mean to walk on it--but if ever I do go, open-eyed, into what the world
calls wrong to end my worries, it will be at the invitation of one who has
at least the manner of a gentleman!
Sometimes I wonder if I did right about Ned. If he had known that I loved
him, if I had made it plain, if I were even now to tell him all the
truth.--But he said--
I hate him! The whole world's against me, but I won't be beaten! I won't
go back to the farm with Father. I will not give up the fight!
What shall I do?
A BURST OF SUNLIGHT.
They say the darkest hour comes just before the dawn. It was so with me.
My troubles grew too great to bear, then vanished in an hour.
Fate couldn't forever frown. I knew there must be help; some hand
outstretched in a pitiless world.
Really I am almost happy, for in the most unexpected and yet the most
natural fashion, my perplexities have vanished; and I believe that my life
will not be, after all, a failure.
The hour before the dawn was more than dark. It was dreary. In the morning
I did not care to go out, and no one came except one strange man who
besieged the door--there have been many such here recently, dunning and
dunning and dunning, until my patience was worn to shreds. This was a
decent-looking fellow with a thin face, a mustache dyed black and a
carefully unkeen expression that noticed everything.
"Miss Winship?" he said, and upon my acknowledging the name, he placed a
paper in my hands and went away. I was so relieved because he said nothing
about wanting "a little money on account;" he wasn't even coarsely
insolent, like so many of them. He did look surprised at my appearance; so
surprised that his explanation of his errand died away into an
unintelligible murmur. But I wasn't curious about it.
I tried to read a newspaper, only to gather from some headlines that
Strathay and his cousin were passengers by an out-going steamship. I
wonder if it was all money, money, that kept him from me--or was it more
than half the fear of beauty?
I couldn't read anything else, not even a note from Mrs. Marmaduke; it was
dated from her country place; she hoped to see me--"in the autumn!" Peggy
is in Europe; the General's going if she's not gone already. "May see you
at the wedding of that odd Miss Bryant," ran her last brusque message. "I
begged an invitation; really I like her. But the chances are against my
All gone, I thought; my last hope, all my friends.
There was a note from Mrs. Baker; I compelled myself to glance at that,
and when I had done so, seized my hat and veil. She would call, it said,
With no thought but of escape, I left the house; I cared not where I went,
nor what I did. I knew the Judge had sent Aunt Frank to pry into my
troubles; I walked with feverish haste, I would have liked to fly to avoid
her. My hands shook.
Oh, I was wretched!
As I passed the Park, I saw that spring had leaped to summer and the trees
waved fresh, green branches in the air--just such trees as John and I
walked under, less than a year ago, making great plans for a golden
future; and a golden future there must be, but I had then no hope of it,
no joy in life, no happiness even in my beauty. One only thought spurred
me on, to forget past, present and future; to buy forgetfulness by any
caprice; to win diversion by any adventure.
After some time I saw that I was in a side street whose number seemed
familiar; self-searching at last recalled to me that on this street lived
two rival faith healers, about whose lively competition for clients Cadge
had once told us girls a funny story.
Could there have come to my thought some hope of finding rest from sorrow
in the leading of another mind? Impossible to say. I was near insanity, I
think. I chose the nearer practitioner and rang the bell.
I can smile now at memory of the stuffy little parlour into which I was
ushered, but I did not smile then at it, nor at the middle-aged woman who
received me with a set smile of stereotyped placidity. Her name, I think,
"Have you a conviction of disease, my daughter?" she asked, in a low voice
with a caressing overtone gurgling in its cadences. "You look as radiant
as the morn. You should not think ill."
"I am not ill," I replied; "but the world is harsh."
"The world is the expression of our sense life to the spirit," she cooed.
"We do not live or die, but we pass through the phenomena. Through the
purifying of our thoughts we will gradually become more and more ethereal
until we are translated."
I felt that momentary shiver that folk tales tells us is caused by some
one walking over our graves.
"I'm in no haste to be translated," I said.
"No one need be translated until she is ready--unless she has enemies. Are
you suffering from the errors of others? Has any one felt fear for you?
That would account for what the world calls unhappiness. Is some one
trying to influence your subjective state?"
"I am convinced of it," I said with wasted sarcasm. "But you can do
nothing for me; you can't--can you work on unbelievers?"
"Most assuredly. We are channels through which truth must flow to our
patients. I need not tell you what I myself have done."--Mrs. Mallard
modestly cast down her eyes.--"Mrs. Eddy has healed carous bones and
cancers. I--some of our healers can dissuade the conviction of decayed
teeth. The 'filling,' as the world calls it, is, in such cases, pink and
very durable. If these marvels can be wrought upon the body, why may not
the mind be led toward healing? Confide; confide."
"Heal the world of its hate of me," I cried out. "What you say is all so
vague. Does the mind exist?"
"It Is the only thing that does exist. Without mind man and the universe
would collapse; the winds would weary and the world stand still. Sin-
tossed humanity, expressed in tempest and flood, the divine mind calms and
limits with a word."
I rose hastily to go. Chance alone and weariness of life had led me to
enter the woman's parlor, but there was no forgetfulness in it. Impatience
spurred me to be moving, and I turned to the door, with the polite fiction
that I was leaving town but might soon consult the healer.
"That makes no difference," she persisted, getting between me and the
door. "We treat many cases, of belief in unhappiness by the absent method.
From 9 to 10 A. M. we go into the Silence for our Eastern patients. Our
ten o'clock is nine o'clock for those living in the central time belt. At
11 A. M. it is nine for those in Denver or Rocky Mountain time region.
Thus we are in the Silence during the entire forenoon, but it is always
nine for the patient. Will you not arrange for treatment; you really look
"Not today." I pushed past her.
To my astonishment the woman followed me to the outer door, abruptly
changing her tone.
"I know very well why you don't get healed," she said. "You fill your mind
with antagonistic thoughts by reading papers that are fighting some one on
every page. You want to get into some kind of society where you can pay
$15 or $20 a week and get free healing, and you are disappointed because I
won't give you my time and strength for nothing, so that you can have the
money to go somewhere and have a good time. Oh, I know you society
By degrees her voice had lost its cooing tone and had risen to a shriek. I
was amazed--until I remembered the rival across the street, who was
probably watching me from behind closed blinds.
As I walked away with the woman's angry words ringing after me from the
doorstep, I was divided between amusement and despair; I cannot express it
by any other phrase. And that cynical mingling of feelings was the nearest
approach to contentment that I had known for days.
The feeling died away; reaction came. It was the worst hour of my life.
The thought of suicide--the respite I had always held in reserve against a
day too evil to be borne--pressed upon my mind.
I wandered to a ferry and crossed the East River to some unfamiliar suburb
where saloons were thicker than I had ever before seen them; and all the
way over I looked at the turbid water and knew in my heart that I should
never have the courage to throw my beautiful body into that foul tide.
From the ferry I presently reached a vast, forbidding cemetery, and as I
went among the crowded graves there came floating out from a little chapel
the sound of prayers intoned for the dead. I almost envied them; almost
wished that I, too, might be laid to rest in the little churchyard at
Then I lay down flat upon the turf in a lonely place, and tried to think
of myself as dead. Never had the pulse beat stronger in my veins then at
that moment. There were little living things all around me, joying in the
warm sun; tiny insects that crawled, unrebuked, over my gown, so busy, so
happy in their way, with their petty affairs all prospering, that I
wondered why I should be so out of tune with the world. And then a rain of
tears gushed from my eyes. I do not think that any one who should have
seen me there could have guessed that the prone and weeping woman was the
most beautiful of created things; I do not think I have an enemy so bitter
that she would not have pitied me.
I tried to think, but I was too tired. I had a vision of myself returning
to the narrow round of farm life, to Ma's reproaches, to dreary, grinding
toil that I might win back dollar by dollar the money I had squandered--my
back bent, my face seamed, my hands marred, like Aunt Emily's; and I
shuddered and wept and grovelled before fate.
Then I saw myself remaining in the city, seeking work and finding nothing.
Teach I could not; every door was barred except--I saw myself before the
footlights, coarsened, swallowing greedily the applause of a music hall
audience, taking a husband from that audience perhaps--a brute like
Bellmer! Better die!
But as the vision passed, a great desire of life grew upon me. It seemed
monstrous, hideous, that I should ever die or be unhappy; the fighting
instinct sent the blood galloping. I sat erect.
Then I noticed that the sun was gone, and the evening cool was rapidly
falling. The little people of the grass whose affairs I had idly watched I
could no longer see--gone to their homes maybe; and I turned to mine,
desolate as it was, hungry and chilled and alone.
And that evening John Burke brought the sunshine.
"Helen, you seem tired," John said as I met him at the door--at first I
peeped out from behind it, I remember, as if I feared the bogey-man--"Have
you been too hard at work?"
"I've been out all the afternoon," I said, "and I suppose I am rather
tired, but it was pleasant and warm; and I wore a veil."
There was a little awkward pause after I had ushered him to the reception
room, and then, guiding the talk through channels he thought safe, he
spoke about his law work, the amusing things that happen at the office,
his gratifying progress in his profession.
"Oh," I said, "talking of the law reminds me--some stupid paper was left
I found with some difficulty and handed to him the stiff folded legal cap
the man had brought.
He glanced through it with apprehensive surprise, skipping the long
sentences to the end.
"Why, this is returnable to-morrow," he said; "Nelly, I had no idea you
were in such urgent money troubles; why didn't you send for me at once;
"Oh, if that's all--I've had so many duns that I'm tired of them: tired to
death of them."
"But this isn't a dun," he began in the unnaturally quiet tone of a man
who is trying to keep his temper and isn't going to succeed. "It is a
court order; and people don't ignore court orders unless they want to get
into trouble. This paper calls you to court to-morrow morning in
"I don't know what they are."
"You don't want to know what they are. You mustn't know. It's an ordeal so
terrible that most creditors employ it only as a last resort, especially
against a woman. This plaintiff, being herself a woman, is less merciful."
"Why is it so terrible? I have no money; they can't make me pay what I
haven't got, can they? Is it the Inquisition?"
"Yes, of a sort; it's an inquiry into your ability to pay, and almost no
question that could throw light upon that is barred. You'll be asked about
your business in New York, your income and expenses, your family and your
father's means. It will be a turning inside out of your most intimate
"Why, I should expect all that," I said.
"But, Nelly--" he hesitated. "You're alone here?"
He had not before alluded to Mrs. Whitney, though I suppose he understood
that she had gone; I appreciated his delicacy.
"I'm afraid you'll be asked about that," he went on; "asked, I mean, how a
young woman without money maintains a fine apartment. They'll inquire
about your servants, the daily expenses of your table, your wine bills, if
you ever have any; then they'll question you about your visitors, their
character and number, and try to wring admissions from you, and to give
sinister shades to innocent relations. The reporters will all be there, a
swarm of them. You're a semi-public character, more's the pity, and some
lawyers like to be known for their severity to debtors. What a field day
for the press! The beautiful Miss Winship in supplementary proceedings--
columns of testimony, pages of pictures--! Ugh! In a word, the experience
is so severe that you cannot undergo it."
"I don't see how it's to be helped; is it a crime to live alone?" I said.
"I won't ask Uncle Timothy for money--and have Aunt Frank know about it."
Again he hesitated, then he said more slowly, but plumping out the last
words in a kind of desperation: "I've heard a woman--once--asked if she
had a lover--to pay the money, you know."
I didn't understand at first; then a flush deepened upon my face.
"They wouldn't dare! This woman knows all about me; why, she's Meg Van
Dam's dressmaker; Mrs. Whitney's too--" I said.
"I've heard it done," John repeated patiently. "You must pardon me. I
didn't want to go into this phase of it, but it may explain what, with
your permission, I am about to do. Now, before I go--for I must go at once
to find this attorney, at his house, the Democratic Club, anywhere--I must
be frank with you."
He was already at the door, where he turned and faced me, looking almost
handsome in his sturdy manliness, his colour heightened by excitement.
"I must tell you one thing," he went on very slowly. "I haven't in all the
world a fraction of the money called for by this one bill; but in a way I
have made some success. I am beginning to be known. If I myself offer
terms, so much cash down, so much a month, pledging my word for the
payment, the woman's lawyer will agree. She'll be glad to get the money in
that way, or in any way. But I must guard your reputation. I shall tell
plaintiff's counsel that you are my affianced wife, that I didn't know how
badly you were in debt--both statements are true--and that I assume
payment. I wish to assure you that, in thus asserting our old relation, I
shall not presume upon the liberty I am obliged to take."
I think I have treated John badly; yet he brought me help. And he had no
thought of recompense. Since he has seen how useless it was, he has ceased
to pester me with love making, but has been simply, kindly helpful. And I
have been so lonely, so harassed and tormented.
It was far enough from my thoughts to do such a thing, but as I stood
dumbly looking at him, it flashed upon me that here, after all, was the
man who had always loved me, always helped me, always respected me. I
almost loved him in return. Why not try to reward his devotion, and throw
my distracted self upon his protection?
"I would not have you tell a lie for me, John," said I uncertainly,
holding out my hands and smiling softly into his eyes.
"I don't understand--" he stood irresolute, yet moved, I could see, by my
beauty. "Do you mean--" and he slowly approached, peering from under his
contracted brows as if trying to read my eyes.
"I mean that I have treated you very badly; and that I am sorry," I
whispered, hiding my head with a little sigh upon his shoulder; and after
a time he put his arms about me gently as if half afraid, and was silent.
I felt how good he was, how strong and patient, and was at peace. I knew I
could trust him.
So we stood for a little while at the dividing line between the future and
the past. I do not know what were his thoughts, but I had not been so much
at rest for a long, long time-not since I came from home to New York.
Then with a sigh of quiet content, he said in a low and gentle voice:--
"It's a strange thing to hurry away now, Nelly; but you know I have so
much to do before I can rest tonight. I must speak of this: Now--now that
we are to belong to each other always--I must know exactly about all your
affairs, so that I can arrange them. There are other debts?"
The word grated upon my nerves, I had been so glad to forget.
"Yes, I'm afraid I owe a lot of money, but must we--just to-night?" I
"I'm afraid it's safest. It is not alone that you will be able to forget
the matter sooner if you confide in me now, but how can we know that these
proceedings will not be repeated if I don't attend promptly to everything?
Some one else may bring suit tomorrow, and another the next day, giving
you no peace. I'm sorry, but it is the best way. Tell me everything now,
and I will arrange with them all, and need never mention the subject
again. Then you can be at peace."
"Well, if I must--"
It seemed impossible to go on. Even the thought of how good he was and how
he had taken up my burden when it was too heavy for my own strength made
it harder to face the horrible business.
"--I owe ten dollars to Kitty Reid, and about twenty-five to Cadge," I
admitted. "I didn't mean to borrow of them, but I had to do it, just
"Poor child!" said John, stroking my hand with his big, warm paw, as he
would a baby's. "Poor child!"
"I've bills somewhere for everything else--"
It was like digging among the ruins of my past greatness to pull out the
crumpled papers from my writing desk, reminding me of the gay scenes that
for me were no more; but John quietly took them from me, and began
smoothing them and laying them in methodical piles and making notes of
amounts and names.
"I've refused all these to Uncle Timothy; he's been worrying me with
questions--" I said desperately.
"Three florists, two confectioners," he enumerated, as if he had not heard
"--Women eat sweets by the ton, but lately there have been few of 'em in
this house. Then here are the accounts for newspaper clippings, you know;
Shanks and Romeike; but they're trifles."
"You must have been a good customer," John said, glancing about the
dishevelled flat--I hadn't had the heart to rearrange it since Mrs.
Whitney left. "From the look of the place, I believe you would have bought
a mummy or a heathen god, if anybody had suggested it to you."
"I have a little heathen god--Gautama; alabaster--and a mummied cat."
"And you're very fond of that? But no matter. Shoemaker and milliner and
furniture man; that makes eleven."
He lengthened his list on the margin of a newspaper.
"Well, I never paid Van Nostrand for that painting, and I've even
forgotten how much he said it would be. And there's a photograph bill--a
perfectly scandalous one--and another dressmaker; Mrs. Edgar; I went back
to her after Meg's woman got crusty, but she never'll sue me. And the
Japanese furniture shop and--another photographer--and here's the bill for
bric-a-brac--that's sixteen. The wine account--there is one, but it ought
to be Mrs. Whitney's; for entertaining. I suppose Pa and Ma would say that
was a very wicked bill, now wouldn't they, Schoolmaster?"
"They would indeed, Helen 'Lizy; I'm not sure that I don't agree with
them. By the way, does your father know about all this?"
"Yes, a little. I've begged him for money, but he won't mortgage the farm.
And Judge Baker knows. He wants me to come back to his house, but of
course I won't do it. I guess he's sent for Father; Pa's coming East soon,
on a cattle train pass."
"A cattle train!"
John stabbed the paper viciously, then he said more gently:--
"A cattle train is cold comfort for a substantial farmer at his time of
life; and I don't think we will let him mortgage."
That young man will need discipline; but I imagine he was thinking less
about my poor old father than about--well, I needn't have mentioned the
Baker house, but what does he really know of how I came to leave it?
Perhaps suspicion and bitter memories made my retort more spirited than it
need have been.
"We won't discuss that, please," I said with hauteur; "and we won't be too
emphatic about what is past. It _is_ past. I'll find out what is a
proper scale of expenditure for a young lawyer's wife in New York, and I
shall not exceed it. I've been living very economically for the sphere
that seemed open to me. Perhaps I ought not to have tried it; but I think
you should blame those who lured me into extravagance and then deserted
me. I've had a terrible, terrible experience! Do you know that? And I was
within an ace of becoming an ornament of the British peerage. Did you know
"Yes; I don't blame you for refusing, either; some girls don't seem to
have the necessary strength of mind. No; I'm not blaming anybody for
anything. Nelly, next week it will be a year since our first betrothal; do
you remember? Haven't you, after all, loved me a little, all the time?"
He looked at me wistfully.
"At least," I said, "I didn't love Lord Strathay."
I didn't think it necessary to correct him as to my refusal of the Earl.
"We'll see if Kitty won't take you in again until we can be married," he
said, jabbing the paper again and changing the subject almost brusquely.
"If you don't want to go back to your aunt, that'll be better than a
boarding house, won't it? You pay the girls out of this, and I'll look
after the other bills. There's a good fellow. Now, then what's No. 18?"
I fingered with an odd reluctance the little roll of bills he handed me,
though it was like a life buoy to a drowning sailor.
"You'd better," he said, with quiet decision, cutting short my hesitation.
"The girls won't need to know where it comes from, or that I know anything
about it. It's ever so much nicer that way, don't you think?"
I put the money with my pride into my pocket, and continued sorting out
bills from the rubbish. In all we scheduled over forty before we gave it
up. Besides the Van Nostrand painting and one or two accounts that
probably escaped us, I found that I owed between $4,000 and $5,000.
"That is the whole of my dowry, John," I said.
"I would as willingly accept you as a portionless bride," he declaimed in
theatrical fashion; and then we both broke into hysterical laughter.
"Never mind," he said, at last, wiping his eyes. "I never dreamed that all
this rubbish about you could cost so much; I ought to have had my eyes
open. But now we aren't going to worry one little worry, are we? I'll
straighten it all out in time. And now I really must go."
And so he went away with a parting kiss, leaving me very happy. I don't
know that I love him; or rather I know that I don't--but I shall be good
to him and make him so happy that he'll forget all the trouble I have cost
him. Dear old unselfish, patient John!
And I am more content and less torn by anxiety than I have been for many a
long day. It is such a relief!
And so I'm thinking it over. Even from the selfish standpoint I have not
done so badly. John is developing wonderfully. He is not so destitute of
social finesse as when he came, his language is better, his bearing more
confident. He makes a good figure in evening dress. He will be a famous
success in the law, and, with a beautiful wife to help him, he should go
far. He may be President some day, or Minister to the Court of St. James,
or a Justice of the Supreme Court.
Whatever his career, I shall help him. I have the power to do things in
the world as well as he. And once married, I may almost choose my friends
and his associates. The women will no longer fear me so much. He shall not
regret this night's work.
So that is settled. I am so relieved, and more tired than I have ever
guessed a woman could be. Tired, tired, tired!
I'm sure it is the best thing I could do, now; but--Judge Baker is right!
What was it he said? "A loveless marriage,"--Oh, well, since I broke Ned
Hynes's heart by setting a silly little girl to drive him away, and broke
my own by breaking his, I haven't much cared what becomes of me; only to
be at peace.
It will be a relief to move out of this accursed flat, where I have spent
the gloomiest hours of my life.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING.
(From the Shorthand Notes of John Burke.)
THE DEEDS OF THE FARM.
Sunday, June 13.
In three days it will be a year since Helen promised to marry me, and on
that anniversary she will be my wife.
It is strange how exactly according to my plan things have come about--and
how differently from all that I have dreamed.
She is the most beautiful woman in the world; she is to be my wife sooner
than I dared to hope--and--I must be good to her. I must love her.
Did I ever doubt my love until she claimed it five days ago with such
confidence in my loyalty? In that moment, as I went to her, as I took her
in my arms, as I felt that she needed me and trusted me, with the
suddenness of a revelation I knew--
It was hard to meet Ethel--and Milly and Mrs. Baker afterwards.
To-day, in preparing to move to our new home, I came across the rough
notes I wrote last December, when the marvel of Helen's beauty was fresh
to me. As I read the disjointed and half incredulous words I had set to
paper, I found myself living over again those days of Faery and
Custom has somewhat dulled the shock of her beauty; I have grown quickly
used to her as the most radiantly lovely of created beings; my mind has
been drawn to dwell upon moral problems and to sorrow at seeing her
gradually become the victim of her beauty--her nature, once as fine as the
outward form that clothes it, warped by constant adulation, envy and
But it is a miracle! As unbelievable, as unthinkable as it was on the very
first day when that glowing dream of loveliness made manifest floated
toward me in the little room overlooking Union Square, and I was near
swooning with pure delight of vision.
Beautiful; wonderful! She didn't love me then and she doesn't now; but the
most marvellous woman in the world needs me--and I will not fail her.
I wish I could take her out of the city for a change of mental atmosphere.
She shrinks from her father's suggestion of a summer on the farm. But in
time her wholesome nature must reassert itself; she must become, if not
again the fresh, light-hearted girl I knew a year ago, a sweet and
gracious woman whose sufferings will have added pathos to her charm.
And even now she's not to be judged like other women; before the shining
of her beauty, reproach falls powerless. It is my sacred task to guard
her--to soothe her awakening from all that nightmare of inflated hopes and
vain imaginings. Kitty Reid and---yes, and little Ethel--will help me.
Kitty is a good fellow.
"Why, cert.," she said when I begged her last Wednesday to take care of
Helen. "Married! Did you say married? Oh, Cadge, quit pegging shoes!"
Jumping up from the drawing table, Kitty left streams of India ink making
her beastesses all tigers while she called to Miss Bryant, who was
pounding viciously upon a typewriter:--
"Cadge, did you hear? Cadge! The Princess is going to be married. 'Course
you remember, Mr. Burke, Cadge is going to be married herself Saturday."
"Don't be too sure of it," returned Miss Bryant, "and do let me finish
this sentence. Ten to one Pros. or I'll be grabbed off for an assignment
Saturday evening 'fore we can be married. But the Princess is different;
she has leisure. Burke, shake!"
She sprang up to take my hand, her eyes shining with excitement.
Kitty hurried with me to the Nicaragua, where she pounced upon Helen, her
red curls madly bobbing.
"What a bride you'll make!" she cried fondly. "Going to be married from
the den, aren't you? Oh, I'm up to my eyes in weddings; Cadge simply won't
attend to anything. But what have you been doing to yourself? Come here,
She pushed the proud, pale beauty into a chair, smothering her with kisses
and the piles of cushions that seem to add bliss to women's joys and
soften all their griefs.
"Tired, aren't you?" she purred. "Needed me. Now just you sit and talk
with Mr. Burke and I'll pack up your brittle-brae in three no-times.
Clesta,--where's that imp?"
She called to the little combination maid and model who had accompanied
"Clesta's afraid of you, Helen. 'Why'd ye fetch me 'long?' she whimpers.
'Miss Kitty, why'd ye fetch me 'long?' Huh, I 'member how you used to have
his picture with yours in a white and gold frame!"
Helen scarcely replied to Kitty's raptures. She laid her head back half-
protestingly among her cushions, showing her long, exquisite throat. For
an instant she let her shadowy lashes droop over the everchanging lustre
of her eyes. I couldn't help thinking of a great, glorious bird of heaven
resting with broken wing.
"Poor little Princess!" said Kitty, who hardly comes to Helen's shoulder.
Then we all laughed.
Kitty stayed at the Nicaragua that night, and when I came Thursday
afternoon she stopped me outside the door, to say:--
"I wouldn't let Helen talk too much; she's nervous."
"Can you tell me what is the matter with her?" I asked. "I don't think
"Oh, nothing. You know--she's been worrying." Then loyal Kitty spoke
purposely of commonplaces. "General must have danced her off her feet.
Darmstetter's death upset her terribly, too. She never will speak of it.
But she'll be as right as right with me. Bring her 'round as soon as the
man comes for the trunks. You've only to head up a barrel of dishes,
quick, 'fore Clesta gets in any fine work smashing 'em."
As I passed through the hall, littered with trunks and packing cases, to
the dismantled parlour, Helen looked up from a mass of old letters and
"I'm sorting my--souvenirs," she said.
The face she lifted was white, only the lips richly red, with a shade of
fatigue under the haunting eyes. The graceful figure in its close-fitting
dress looked a trifle less round than it had done earlier in the winter,
and one fair arm, as it escaped from its flowing sleeve, was almost thin.
"Dear," I said wistfully, for something in her drooping attitude smote me
to remorse and inspired me with tenderness; "will you really trust your
life to me?"
She leaned towards me, and beauty breathed about her as a spell. I bent
till my lips caressed her perfumed hair; and then--I saw among the rubbish
on her desk something that made me interrupt the words we might have
"What's that?" I asked. "Not--pawn tickets?"
"For a necklace," she said; "and this--this must be my diamond--"
"Pawned and not paid for!"
She offered me the tickets, only half understanding, her great eyes as
innocent as they were lovely.
"I had forgotten," she said. "I only found them when I came to--"
She brushed the rubbish of her winter's triumphs and disappointments to
the floor, and turned from it with a little, disdainful movement.
"I had to pay the maids," she said simply.
"Nelly, why--why didn't you come to me sooner?"
With a bump against the door, Clesta sidled into the room awestruck and
smutched, bearing a tray.
"Miss Kitty said," she stammered, "as how I should make tea." And as soon
as she had found a resting place for her burden, the frightened girl made
a dash for the door.
Before Helen had finished drinking, there was a stir in the hall, and then
the sound of a familiar voice startled us.
"Wa-al, Helen 'Lizy," it said. "How ye do, John? Don't git up; I can set
till ye're through."
And Mr. Winship himself stood before us, stoop-shouldered, roughly dressed
from the cattle cars, his kindly old eyes twinkling, his good face all
glorified by the honest love and pride shining through its plainness.
"Why, Father!" cried Helen with a start.
She looked at him with a nervous repugnance to his appearance, which she
tried to subdue. He did not seem to notice it.
"Wa'n't lookin' for me yit-a-while, was ye?" he asked. "Kind o' thought
I'd s'prise ye. Did s'prise the man down in the hall. Didn't want to let
me in till I told him who I was. Little gal in the entry says ye're
movin'; ye do look all tore up, for a fac'."
Mr. Winship has grown old within the year. His hair has whitened and his
bushy eyebrows; but the grip of his hand, the sound of his homely speech,
seemed to wake me from some ugly dream. Here we were together again in the
wholesome daylight, Father Winship, little Helen 'Lizy and the
Schoolmaster, and all must yet be well.
Mr. Winship sighed with deep content as he sank into a chair, his eyes
scarcely leaving Helen. He owned himself beat out and glad of a dish of
tea; but when Clesta had served him in her scuttling crab fashion, he
would stop in the middle of a sentence, with saucer half lifted, to gaze
with perplexed, wistful tenderness at his stately daughter.
She is the child of his old age; I think he must be long past sixty, and
fast growing feeble. The instinct of father love has grown in him so
refined that he sees the soul and not the envelope. Grand and beautiful as
she is to others, to him she is still his little Nelly.
He would not even own that he thought her altered.
"I d'know," he said, a shade of anxiety blending with the old fond pride.
"Fust-off, Sis didn't look jes' nat'ral, spite of all the picters she's
sent us; but that was her long-tailed dress, mebbe. W'en she's a young
one, Ma was all for tyin' back her ears and pinchin' her nose with a
clo'espin--to make it straight or so'thin'; but I says to Ma, w'en Helen
'Lizy lef' home, 'don't ye be one mite afeard,' I says, 'but what them
bright eyes'll outshine the peaked city gals.' Guess they have, sort o',
eh, Sis; f'om what John's been writin'?"
"I don't know, Father."
"Don't ye--don't ye want t' hear 'bout the folks? Brought ye heaps o'
messages. Frenchy, now--him that worked for us--druv over f'om the Merriam
place to know 'f 'twas true that city folks made a catouse over ye. He'd
heard the men readin' 'bout ye in the papers.
"'Wa-al,' I says to Frenchy, 'Helen 'Lizy was al'ays han'some.'
"'D'know 'bout zat,' says Frenchy, only he says it in his lingo, 'but she
was one vair cute li'l gal.'
"'Han'some as a picter,' I tol' him; 'an' cutes' little tyke y'ever see.'"
"How is Mother?" asked Helen constrainedly.
"Ma's lottin' on havin' ye home; wants t' hear all 'bout the good times.
School done? All packed and ready for a start, ain't ye? But ye don't seem
to be feeling any too good. Don't New York agree with ye, Sissy? Been
studying too hard?"
"She is a goot organism; New York agrees vit her," I said. "Wasn't that
how poor old Darmstetter put it, Nelly? Mr. Winship, Nelly has overworked,
but with your consent, she is about to let a tyrannical husband take care
At my heedless mention of Darmstetter, Helen's white face grew whiter. Her
trembling hand strayed, seeking support.
"Al'ays s'posed you'n' Sis'd be marryin' some day," said Mr. Winship,
dubiously watching her, while he stroked his beard; "but seems mos's if
ye'd better wait a spell, till Ma's chirked her up some. Han'some place
His eyes examined the luxurious, disordered room.
"These here things ain't yourn, Sis?"
"Not all of them."
"I ain't refusin' to let Sis marry, if ye're both sot on't," he conceded.
Then he caught sight of the Van Nostrand painting, and his slow glance
travelled from it to Helen. "That done for you, Sis? I never helt with
bare necks. Yes, Sis can marry, if she says so, though Ma wants her home.
But she ain't been writin' real cheerful. She--she's asked for money,
that's the size on't. An' here ye are up in arms an' she nigh sick. I
don't want nothing hid away f'om me; how come ye livin' in a place like
He rose laboriously, surveying through the open doorway the beautiful hall
and the dining-room; while I interposed some jesting talk on other
matters, for I had hoped to get Helen out of the Nicaragua before her
father's arrival, and still hoped to spare him knowledge of our worst
"If Sis has been buyin' all this here, I ain't denying that I'll feel the
expense," he said, sticking to the subject; "but I guess we can manage."
Fumbling for his wallet, he drew some papers from it and handed them to
"There, Sis; there they are."
"Money, Father?" she asked with indifference. "I don't believe I need
"Don't ye? Ye wrote 'bout mortgagin'. I didn't want to do it, 'count o'
Ma, partly; but we kep' worryin' an' worryin' 'bout ye. Ma couldn't sleep
o' nights or eat her victuals; an fin'lly--'Ezry,' she says, 'we was
possessed to let Helen 'Lizy, at her age, an' all the chick or child we
got, go off alone to the city. Ezry,' she says, 'you go fetch her home.
Like's not Tim can let ye have the money,' she says; 'his wife bein' an
own cousin, right in the family, y'know.' So I've brought the deeds, Sis,
"What!" cried Helen, starting up. "The deeds of the farm? Let me see!"
She reached out a shaking hand for the papers.
"I'll pay you back!" she cried. "Why didn't you come sooner? How much can
you get? How much money?"
"Not much more'n three thousan', I'm afeared, on a mortgage; cap'tal's
kind o' skeery--but Tim--"
"Three thousand dollars!"
Laughing hysterically, she fell back in her chair.
"I had ought 'a come sooner; an' three thousan' ain't a gre't deal, I
don't suppose, here in the city; but it's been spend, spend--not that I
grutch it--an' things ain't so flourishin' as they was. I'm gittin' too
old to manage, mebbe--"
"Mr. Winship," I said, "Nelly has told you the truth; she doesn't need
"Three thousand will save me!" Helen cried. "I can pay a little to
everybody. I can hold out, I can--"
"Please, Miss--the furniture--"
Behind Clesta appeared two men who gaped at Helen in momentary
forgetfulness of their errand.
Helen's creditors have proved more than reasonable, with the exception of
the furniture people; their demands were such that there seemed no
alternative but to surrender the goods. As the men who came for them
advanced into the room, stammering questions about the articles they were
to remove, Helen struggled to her feet and started to meet them, then
stopped, clutching at a table for support. Their eyes never left her face.
"Are they takin' your things, Sis?" asked Mr. Winship.
Her feverish glance answered him.
"What's to pay?" he inquired.
"Want to keep the stuff, Boss?" asked the head packer.
"Yes," I said, seeing her distress, and resolving desperately to find the
"It ain't none o' your look-out," interposed Mr. Winship. "Sis ain't a-
goin' to be beholden to her husband, not till she's married. Ezry Winship
al'ays has done for his own, an' he proposes to do, jes' as fur's he's
able. Sis'll tell ye I hain't stented her--What's to pay?"
I couldn't see all his savings go for gauds!
"You may take the goods," I said to the men, with sudden revulsion of
feeling. "There's no room for them," I added gruffly to Mr. Winship, "in
our--the rooms--where we are to live."
"All right, Boss," said the head packer; "which gent speaks for the lady?"
"Father!" Helen gasped.
"What's to pay?" insisted Mr. Winship.
"Take the goods," I repeated.
"All right, Boss;" and the two men went about their work, still glancing
at us with sidelong looks of curiosity.
Helen gazed at me with eyes that stabbed. Then slowly her glance dulled.
She dropped on a packing box and sat silent--a bowed figure of despair--
forgetting apparently that she was not alone.
Mr. Winship made no further attempt to interfere with events. He stood by
Helen's side, puzzled and taciturn.
I, too, was silent, reproaching myself for the brutality of my action,
unable to decide what I should have done or ought to do. Helen herself had
suggested that we give up the furniture, and I had not mourned the
necessity, for I hated the stuff, with its reminders of the General and
the Whitney woman and Bellmer and the Earl and all those strange people
that I used to see around her. But I might have known that she could not,
all at once, wean herself from the trumpery.
A minute later Clesta ushered in the man who was to take the trunks, and
when I had given him his directions, I asked:--
"Shall we go, Nelly?"
"If ye ain't reconciled to movin'--" Mr. Winship began.
But Helen answered neither of us. Her eyes were bent upon the floor, and a
look, not now of resentment, but of--was it fear?--had slowly crept upon
her face. Her hands were clenched.
Darmstetter! Instinct--or memory of my careless words spoken but a little
earlier--told me the truth. The growing pallor of her cheek spoke her
thought. How that tragedy haunts her! The face I looked upon was at the
last almost ghastly.
"Nelly--" I said, very gently.
She looked around with the slow bewilderment that I once saw on the face
of a sleep-walker. Her eyes saw through us, and past us, fixed upon some
invisible horror. She was heedless of the familiar scene, the figures
grouped about her. Then there came a sudden flush to her face, a quick
recoil of terror; she shuddered as if waking from a nightmare.
"Why do we stay here?" she cried starting up with sudden, panic strength.
"Let's get out of this horrible place! Let's go! Oh, let's go! Let's go!"
And so it was, in sorrow and with dark forebodings, that we left the gay
rooms where Helen had so passionately enjoyed her little flight in the
The drive through the streets was at first silent. Shutting her eyes, she
leaned back in the carriage. Sometimes she shuddered convulsively.
"Where ye goin'?" Mr. Winship asked at last, peering out at the carriage
window. Indeed the trip to Fourteenth Street seemed interminable to me,
and I didn't wonder at his impatience.
The simple question broke down Helen's reserve.
"Anywhere!" she sobbed, breaking into violent, hysterical tears. "I didn't
want to stay there! I didn't want the furniture! I didn't want it! I don't
want money! Father, you needn't mortgage!"
"We'll talk 'bout that some other time," said Mr. Winship soothingly.
"Nevermind now, Sissy."
"Ye'll take good care of Helen 'Lizy?" he said to Cadge and Kitty when we
had half carried her up the long flights of stairs to the studio. He
seemed to take no notice of the strange furnishings of the loft, but his
furrowed brow smoothed itself as he looked into the hospitable faces of
the two girls.
"Ye'll take good care of her?" he repeated simply. "I'm afeard my daughter
ain't very well."
"We will; we will!" they assured him eagerly; and indeed it seemed that
Helen had found her needed rest, for she bade us good night almost
"You say Winship is around at your place?" asked Judge Baker Friday
morning. I had before told him about the approaching marriage. "The dear
old boy! I am very glad."
"He wants to talk with you about a mortgage," I said bluntly. "Can you
dissuade him? I think the situation in its main features is no secret to
The Judge frowned in surprise. "You don't mean that she--"
"Of course Helen has refused her father's offer. We have so arranged
everything that no help from him is needed, but he may be rather
obstinate, for I'm afraid she wrote to him, suggesting--I mean, she now
regrets it," I added.
"Ah, those regrets! Those regrets!" He sat silent for a moment, thinking
deeply. "That phase of an otherwise rosy situation is unfortunate. I will
do my best with Winship, and you must explain to me your proposed
arrangements; for I claim an uncle's privilege to be of use to Nelly, and
she, with perhaps natural reticence, has acquainted me only partially with
her affairs. I rejoice to hear that she now wishes to spare her father,
but--you will pardon me, Burke?--she was hasty; she was hasty. It is
easier to set forces of love or hate moving than to check them in motion.
Sometimes I think, Burke, that people were in certain ways less reckless
in the good old days when they had perpetually before their eyes the
vision of a hair-trigger God, always cocked and ready to shoot if they
crossed the line of duty. But Nelly is coming bravely through a severe
test of character. May I offer you both my heartiest--"
It was just at that happy moment that the office boy announced Mr. Winship
to share the Judge's kind wishes; and by good luck in came also Mrs.
Baker, but a moment behind him.
"Why, Ezra!" she chirped in a flutter of amazed cordiality at sight of her
husband's visitor. "You in New York? Why, for Nelly's wedding, of course!
John Burke, why've you kept us in the dark these months and months? I'm--
I'm really ashamed of you!"
Her plump gloved hands seized Mr. Winship's, while her small, swift, bird-
like eyes looked reproach at me.
"Patience, Mrs. Baker; patience!" rejoined the Judge. "Is not an engaged
man entitled to his secrets? Has it escaped your memory how, once upon a
time, you and I--."
"There, now, Bake! Stop, can't you?" she interrupted with vehement good
nature; and I ceased to intrude upon the three old friends.
That afternoon, when I sought Helen at the studio, I was more surprised
than I should have been, and wonderfully relieved to discover the result
of their conference.
Ignorant of any quarrel and overflowing with anxiety, Helen's father had
unbosomed his anxieties about her health and accomplished what no
diplomacy could have done. Mrs. Baker had flown with him to the studio,
where, constrained by his presence, Helen had submitted to an incredible
truce with her aunt.
"I told Tim'thy an' Frances we'd eat Sunday dinner with 'em," Mr. Winship
told me; "an' they say you'n' Sis had ought to be married f'om their
house. Good idee, seems to me, though Sis here don't take to it, somehow."
"Oh, I suppose I can endure Aunt Frank," said Helen, making savage dabs at
Cadge's typewriter; "if you wish it--you and John."
She was making a great effort for her father's sake, and I could not
exclaim against her chilly reception of the olive branch.
"It'll please Ma, w'en she comes to hear 'bout it; she thinks a sight of
Frank Baker," urged Mr. Winship.
"'Fraid I'll have to tackle someb'dy else 'bout that money," he went on
after a pause; "Tim'thy says he ain't got a cent loose, jest now. I did
kind o' want to keep it quiet, keep it to the fambly like, but I can git
it; I can git th' money; on'y it'll take time."
"Why, Father, I begged you not to try," said Helen impatiently. "I don't
need money; ask John."
"W'at you've spent can't come on John," declared Mr. Winship; "I'll have
to be inquirin' 'round. But I'm glad to see ye lookin' brighter'n you did
yist'day, Sissy; Tim'thy's wife'll have an eye on ye. She's comin' here
agin to-morrer, she says, to a weddin'. You didn't tell me 'bout any one
gittin' married--not in sich a hurry, not to-morrer. W'ich gal is it?"
"Wouldn't think it was Cadge, would you?" laughed Kitty, staggering into
the room under the weight of a big palm. "Next chum I have, it'll be in
the contract that, in case of emergency, she helps run her own wedding.
'Course Helen's all right with me--or will be, once Caroline Bryant's
In spite of the confusion of the wedding preparations, Helen did do credit
to Kitty's nursing; and last evening, when there came the climax of all
the bustle, she seemed stronger even than on Friday.
It was a night to remember!
The big Indians of the canvasses peeped grimly from ambushes of flowers
and tall ferns, as the studio door opened and Kitty came running to meet
me, her cheeks flushed and her curls in a hurricane.
"'Most time for the minister," she cried breathlessly, "and not a sign of
Cadge! Not a sign! And I want to tell you--Helen's sorry we invited the
General, but she won't come, so that's no matter; but the Bakers--do they
"Like the minister?"
"Like Ned Hynes?" panted Kitty. "When we asked 'em yesterday, I forgot,
but he'll be here. Pros. and he belong to a downtown club--'At the Sign of
the Skull and Crossbones'--or something--"
"Oh, it's all right, but I thought I'd tell you. If only Cadge'd come!
That's what eating me!" Kitty groaned. "But do you see our Princess? All
she needed was me to make her comfy. Shall I get you the least little bit
of colour, out of a box, Helen? Or--no; you're too lovely. But come, you
must have some roses."
As Helen joined us, very pale in her shimmering dress, with her hair like
an aureole about her head, she looked a tall, white Grace, a swaying lily
shining in the dusky place. Almost with the old reverence I whispered:--
"You are the most beautiful of woman!"
"Do I please you, Sir?" she said, smiling as she moved away again with
Kitty. "Won't you see to Father? He's come without his necktie."
"Sho, Sis!" said Mr. Winship; "don't my beard hide it? Declare I clean
Soon Helen returned to pin a flower at my button-hole.
"Where _can_ Cadge be?" she cried gaily; but her hands shook and she
dropped the rose. "Do you suppose she's interviewing a lunatic asylum?"
What had changed her voice and burned fever spots in her cheeks? I wasn't
so indifferent as I had seemed to Kitty's news. Had she told Helen, too,
that Ned Hynes--what was he to my betrothed?
"Can't you rest somewhere and just show for the ceremony?" I said, "Nelly,
you're not strong."
"There's not a place big enough for a mouse. But did you mean it? Do I
really look well to-night? Am I just as beautiful as I was three-four
months ago, or have I--"
"Oh, do slip out and 'phone the _Star_! I can feel my hair
whitening," whispered Kitty, turning to me hastily, as a couple of women
entered. "See, folks are beginning to come."
I went out into the warm and rainy night, but there was no Cadge at the
_Star_ office. By the time I had returned with this information, the
eyry held a considerable gathering. Mrs. Baker had arrived, and her two
daughters; but I had no time to wonder at Milly's coming, for behind me
entered Mrs. Van Dam and then, among a group of strangers, I noticed
Involuntarily, at sight of him, my eyes turned to Helen; but not a muscle
of her face betrayed deeper feeling than polite pleasure as she helped
Kitty receive the wedding guests, greeting the General cordially, Hynes
Kitty's welcome to Mrs. Van Dam would have been irresistibly funny, if I
had had eyes to see the humour.
"Cadge promised to be home early," she sputtered, "but probably she's
telling some one this minute: 'Oh, I'll be there in time; I don't need
much--not much more than the programme.'
"Can't _you_ guess where she is, Pros.?" she implored in an
undertone, as her brother approached us. "If the minister gets here before
Cadge does, I'll cut her off with a shilling."
"What an interesting place!" exclaimed Mrs. Van Dam, examining her
surroundings through her quizzing glasses. "I've heard so much about your
paintings, Miss Reid. And what an astonishing girl, this Miss Bryant!
Where can she be? Helen, you sly girl, I hear news about you."
"Oh, very likely Miss Bryant is out of town," Reid answered for her with a
quiet smile. "She'll show up after the paper goes to press, if not
"On her wedding day! The girl's a genius! And when may that be? When will
the--ah--when will the paper go to press?"
"They take copy up to two o'clock for the second edition. But she maybe
here at any moment."
The General stared at him with amazement.
"Oh, you don't know Cadge," sighed Kitty, "if you think she'd be jarred by
her own wedding. But we must do something. Everybody's here and waiting.
Sing, Helen, won't you? Oh, do sing."
Helen had not joined in the rapid conversation. Now she smiled assent with
stately compliance. Undulating across the studio, she returned with a
mandolin--not the one I remembered, but a pretty bit of workmanship in
inlaid wood. Bending above this, she relieved the wait by merry, lilting
tunes like the music of a bobolink, while Kitty fidgetted in and out, the
puckers in her forehead every minute growing deeper.
While I listened to the gladsome music, my glance strayed to Milly, but
she was almost hidden by the curtains of the tepee; and then to Ned, who
sat with his face turned partly away from us. I noticed that he looked
gaunt, and I found a bitter satisfaction in the thought that, perhaps, in
Helen's "three-four months" he had not seen, until that night, either of
the women with whose lives his own had been entangled.
"Just one more," begged Kitty, when Helen stopped. "You're my only hope;
do sing, Helen."
Dropping the mandolin, Helen began without accompaniment "The King of
"'There stood the old carouser,
And drank the last life glow;
And hurled the hallowed goblet
Into the tide below.
"He saw it plunging and filling,
And sinking deep in the sea;
Then fell his eyelids forever,
And never more drank he!'"
It was the ballad she had sung at Christmas--in what different mood! Then
her voice had been as carefree as a bird's carol, but now it lent to the
limpid simplicity of the air a sobbing, shuddering sweetness--an almost
weird intensity that strangely affected her listeners.
When she had finished, something like a gasp went through the room. With a
heart-breaking coldness I felt that I was her only unmoved auditor, or--
no; Ned seemed studying with weary disapproval the pattern of his shoes.
"Love and death; and at a wedding!" Mrs. Van Dam shivered. "Something more
"Let's go--let's go and eat up Cadge's spread; that'd be cheerful,"
sniffed Kitty, her hot, nervous hand patting Helen's shoulder. "The
Princess's tired. But we must do something."
"Eat the wedding supper before the wedding. Original, I must say!"
But the General willingly enough helped Kitty to marshal us into the
crowded little dining-room; where Helen and I found ourselves beside Mr.
Winship and Ethel. Her father accepted Helen's music with as little
surprise as he had shown at her beauty.
"Comin' home pretty soon, ain't ye," he asked, "to give us some hymn tunes
Sunday evenings? W'at'll I git for ye? Must be hungry after so much
"I'm afraid I wasn't in voice to-night," said she rather wearily.
"Not in voice!" protested Ethel with shy enthusiasm; "why, Nelly, I never
before heard even you sing like that; it was-it was-oh, it was wonderful!"
I dared not look at her, yet I saw every movement of the slight little
figure--saw the blush of eagerness that mounted even to the blonde little
curls about her forehead; and, retreating impatiently, I tried to follow
Mr. Winship's example, as he waited on the company with a quaintly fine
courtesy. Indeed, he made quite a conquest of the General, who presently,
after chatting with him for some time with keen interest, asked
"Why haven't we had him here before? So interesting, such an original!
Room here for you, Milly. Some salad, please, Mr. Hynes."
Hynes's pinched face took colour. With alacrity he obeyed the General's
orders, fetching plates and glasses, and hovering about the group that
included Milly and her mother, until Mrs. Baker's face began to wear a
disturbed flush, though Milly's small, white features remained impassive.
I watched the little drama with dawning comprehension. Then Ned did not--
Helen--it was really Ethel's sister with whom he longed to make peace,
Helen's voice roused me.
"Can't we go into the other room?" she asked. "I'm tired; can't we go and
sit quietly together?"
With the fading of the glow and colour left by the music, she looked
indeed tired, almost haggard. In spite of the regal self possession with
which she rose, drawing Ethel with her, I knew in the face of Milly's
triumph-yes, I had known before--why her restless spirit had spurred her
on to such flights of folly; why she had--she brings no love to me; has
she perhaps offered pity?
We turned together to the door, but there was a sound of hurrying feet,
and Miss Bryant rushed before us, followed by a big bearded giant of a
"Forbear and eat no more till my necessities be served," she declaimed,
advancing to the table. "Food has not passed my lips to-day; or--not much
"Cadge!" gasped Helen with a choking laugh, sinking again upon her chair.
Reid calmly extended a plate of salad to his betrothed, while Kitty
"You mustn't eat now! You mustn't! Where've you been? Look at the state
you're in! _Don't_ eat, Cadge; you must dress this minute!"
"Bridgeport," returned Miss Bryant, grinning benevolently on the wedding
guests, her wet hair clinging about her face, her shirt waist dampened
with the raindrops that trickled from her hatbrim. "Driving an antelope to
a racing sulky. If _I_ bear marks, y'ought to see the antelope;
_and_ the sulky! Seven column picture, Kitty; I've made a lay-out.
You must get right at it--antelope kicking the atmosphere into small
"Cadge," suggested Reid, mildly, "our train leaves at midnight."
"We'll make it; but this story must come out whether or not 'Mrs. Prosper
K. Reid' does. Won't dress, but--say, just you show my wedding gown,
Kitty; not for publication but as an evidence--more salad, Pros."