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The Happy Venture by Edith Ballinger Price

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"Thank you," said Kirk. Then, after a long pause: "Oh, if you knew how
awful it was out there."

"I know," said Mr. Martin.

The _Celestine_ was bowling into Bedford Harbor with a fair wind. Kirk,
in a reefer any number of sizes too large for him, sat on a
hatch-coaming and drank in the flying wonder of the schooner's way. He
was sailing on a great ship! How surprised Ken would be--and envious,
too, for Ken had always longed to sail in a ship. The wind soughed in
the sails and sang in the rigging, and the water flew past the
_Celestine_ and bubbled away behind her in a seething curve of foam. Mr.
Martin stood looking up at the smooth, rounded shape of the main
topsail, and whistling the song about the hat which he had lost and so
miraculously found. He looked more than usually thoughtful and

A fussy tug took the _Celestine_ the last stage of her journey, and
early afternoon found her warped in to the wharf where Ken had seen her
on the eve of her departure. Then, she had been waking to action at the
beginning of a long cruise; now, a battered gull with gray, folded
wings, she lay at the dock, pointing her bowsprit stiffly up to the
dingy street where horses tramped endlessly over the cobblestones. The
crew was jubilant. Some were leaving for other ships; some were going on
shore leave, with months' pay unspent.

"I'm attending to this salvage, sir," said Mr. Martin, to the captain.
"My folks live up Asquam way. I'll take him along with me."

Asquam's languid representative of the telegraph knocked upon the door
of Applegate Farm, which was locked. Then he thrust the yellow envelope
as far under the door as possible and went his way. An hour later, a
tall man and a radiant small boy pushed open the gate on Winterbottom
Road and walked across the yellow grass. Kirk broke away and ran toward
the house, hands outflung.

"Phil! Ken!" he called jubilantly.

His face shadowed as his hands came against the unyielding door of the

"Phil--" he faltered.

"Perhaps they haven't the telegram," Mr. Martin said. "We'll have to
wait around."

"They might be at the Maestro's," Kirk said suddenly. "Come--run
quick--I'll show you the way. There's a hole in the hedge--are you too
big to get through?"

"I think not," said the mate.

In the Maestro's library, Felicia leaned suddenly upon the piano. "Ken,"
she said, breathing hard, "something's going to happen--something!"

"What more can happen?" Ken said gently.

"But--oh, please! _Do_ something--I don't know--"

"Poor child!" murmured the Maestro. "Sit here, Felicia. Help her, Ken."

"I don't need help," said Phil. "Oh, you think I'm mad, I suppose. I'm
not. Ken--please go and look out--go to the house. Oh, Kirk!"

The Maestro shook his head and put a hand on Felicia's shoulder.

"Better go, Ken," he said quietly.

Kenelm stepped upon the terrace. Through the long window, which he left
open behind him, a joyous voice came quite clearly to the library.

"And this is the poor empty pool that I told you about, that never has
had any water in it since then--and aren't we at the terrace steps now?"

Felicia vowed afterward that she didn't faint. Yet she had no clear
recollection of seeing Kirk between the time when she saw him drop the
hand of the tall, strange man and run up the steps, and when they all
were standing around her in the library, looking a little grave.

"Phil--Phil!" Kirk was saying then. "Oh, aren't you glad to see me at
_all_? It's me--oh, _Phil_!"

His eager hands sought her face, to be sure it was she, so strange and

"Just a minute, lamb," she heard Ken say, with a hand on Kirk's
shoulder. "Phil doesn't feel quite right."

Then warm, delicious life rushed over her, and she could move again and
fling her trembling arms around Kirk. She and Ken and the Maestro all
managed to embrace Kirk at once, so that they embraced each other, too.
And Ken was not ashamed of his tears, nor was the Maestro.

The ex-mate of the _Celestine_ stood discreetly on the terrace,
whistling to himself. But he was not whistling the song about his hat.
No, it was a little plaintive air, dimly familiar, Ken thought. Where
had he heard it before? And why was the Maestro straightening with a
stricken face, from Kirk?

[Illustration: "Phil--Phil!" Kirk was saying then.]



"Roses in the moonlight,
To-night all thine."

That was the tune, to be sure! The Maestro was on his feet. He walked
slowly to the open French window.

"What--what right have you to come here whistling--_that_?" he breathed.
He wheeled suddenly on Kirk. "Did you sing it to him?" he demanded. "Is
this--_what_ is this?"

"I didn't," said Kirk, quickly; "Oh, I didn't."

The air seemed tense, burdened with something that hovered there in the
stillness of the waiting garden.

"I can think of no one," said the stranger, slowly, "who has a better
right to whistle it here."

The Maestro grasped the man's arm fiercely.

"Turn around!" he said. "What do you mean? What _can_ you
mean--unless--" He flung his arm suddenly before his eyes, as he met
the other's gaze.

"Martin!" he said, in a voice so low that no one but Kirk heard it. And
they stood there, quite still in the pale September sunset--the Maestro
with his arm across his eyes; the mate of the _Celestine_ with his hands
clasped behind him and his lips still shaping the tune of the song his
father had made for him.

Ken, within the room, swung Kirk into his arms.

"The library door's open," he whispered to Felicia. "_Cut--_as fast as
ever you can!"

The little living-room of Applegate Farm bloomed once more into firelit
warmth. It seemed almost to hold forth, kindly welcoming arms to its
children, together again.

"What shall we talk about first?" Felicia sighed, sinking into the
hearth chair, with Kirk on her lap. "I never _knew_ so many wildly
exciting things to happen all at once!"

It came about, of course, that they talked first of Kirk; but his
adventures went hand in hand with the other adventure, and the talk flew
back and forth between the _Flying Dutchman_ and the _Celestine_, Kirk
and Mr. Martin--or Martin, the Maestro's son.

"And it was the same old _Celestine_!" Ken marveled; "that's the queer
part." He fidgeted with the tongs for a moment and then said, "You
didn't know I once nearly ran away to sea on her, did you?"

Two incredulous voices answered in the negative.

"It was when I was very, very young," said Ken, removed by six months of
hard experience from his escapade, "and very foolish. Never mind about
it. But who'd have thought she'd restore all our friends and relatives
to us in this way! By the way, where's the ill-starred _Dutchman_?"

"Up at Bedford," Kirk said.

"Let her stay there," said Ken. "The season's over here, for the Sturgis
Water Line. And I'm afraid of that boat. When I go up after Mother I'll
try to sell the thing for what I can get."

Mother! There was another topic! Kirk didn't even know she was coming
home! The talk went off on a new angle, and plan followed plan, till
Ken rose and announced that he was fairly starved.

"I'm worn to a wraith," said he. "I haven't had the time or the heart
for a decent dinner since some time in the last century. Bring out the
entire contents of the larder, Phil, and let's have a celebration."

Next morning, while the dew still hung in the hollows, Kirk got up and
dressed himself without waking Ken. He tiptoed out into the new day, and
made his way across the cool, mist-hung meadow to the Maestro's hedge.
For an idea had been troubling him; it had waked with him, and he went
now to make a restoration.

All was quiet in the garden. The first fallen leaves rustled beneath
Kirk's feet as he went up the paved path and halted beside the dry
fountain. He sat down cross-legged on the coping, with his chin in his
hands, and turned his face to the wind's kiss and the gathering warmth
of the sun. Something stirred at the other side of the pool--a blown
leaf, perhaps; but then a voice remarked:

"Morning, shipmate." Kirk sprang up.

"You're just who I wanted to see," he said; "and I thought you _might_
be wanting to take a walk in the garden, early."

"You thought right."

They had come toward each other around the pool's rim, and met now at
the cracked stone bench where two paths joined. Kirk put his hand
through Martin's arm. He always rather liked to touch people while he
talked to them, to be sure that they remained a reality and would not
slip away before he had finished what he wanted to say.

"What brings you out so early, when you only fetched port last night?"
Martin inquired, in his dry voice.

"I wanted to talk to you," Kirk said, "about that song."

"What, about the hat?"

"No, not that one. The birthday one about the roses. You see, the
Maestro gave it to me on my birthday, because he said he thought you
didn't need it any more. But you're here, and you do. It's your song,
and I oughtn't to have it. So I came to give it back to you," said Kirk.
"I see," said Martin.

"So please take it," Kirk pursued, quite as though he had it in his
pocket, "and I'll try to forget it."

"I don't know," said Martin. "The Maestro loves you now just about as
much as he loved me when I was your size. His heart is divided--so let's
divide the song, too. It'll belong to both of us. You--you made it
rather easier for me to come back here; do you know that?"

"Why did you stay away so long?" Kirk asked.

Martin kicked a pebble into the basin of the pool, where it rebounded
with a sharp click.

"I don't know," he said, after a pause. "It was very far away from the
garden--those places down there make you forget a lot. And when the
Maestro gave up his public life and retired, word trickled down to the
tropics after a year or so that he'd died. And there's a lot more that
you wouldn't understand, and I wouldn't tell you if you could."

Another pebble spun into the pool.

"Are you going to stay, now?"

"Yes, I'm going to stay."

"I'm glad," said Kirk. They sat still for some moments, and then Kirk
had a sudden, shy inspiration.

"Do you think," he ventured, "do you think it would be nice if the
fountain could play, now?"

"Eh?" said Martin, waking from brooding thoughts.

"The fountain--it hasn't, you know since you went. And the garden's been
asleep ever since, just like a fairy-tale."

"A fairy-tale! H'm!" said Martin, with a queer laugh. "Well, let's wake
the fountain, then."

They found the device that controlled the water, and wrenched it free.
Kirk ran back down the path to listen, breathless, at the edge of the
pool. There came first the rustle of water through long unused channels,
then the shallow splash against the empty basin. Little by little the
sound became deeper and more musical, till the still morning vibrated
faintly to the mellow leap and ripple of the fountain's jubilant voice.

"Oh!" Kirk cried suddenly. "Oh, I'm happy! Aren't you, Mr. Martin?"

Martin looked down at the eager, joyous face, so expressive in spite of
the blankness behind the eyes. His own face filled suddenly with a new
light, and he put out his hands as if he were about to catch Kirk to
him. But the moment passed; the reserve of long years, which he could
not in an instant push from him, settled again in his angular face. He
clasped his hands behind him.

"Yes," said Martin, briefly, "I'm happy."



Mrs. Sturgis stepped eagerly off the twelve-five train on to the Bedford
Station platform, and stood looking expectantly about her. A few seconds
later Ken came charging through the crowd from the other end of the
platform. They held each other for a moment at arms' length, in the
silent, absorbing welcome when words seem insufficient; then Kenelm
picked up his mother's bag and tucked her hand through his arm.

"Now don't get a cab, or anything," Mrs. Sturgis begged. "I can
perfectly well walk to the street-car--or up to the house, for that
matter. Oh, I'm so much, much better."

"Well," Ken said, "I thought we'd have a little something to eat first,
and then--"

"But we'll have lunch as soon as we get home, dear. What--"

"Well, the fact is," Ken said hastily, "you see we're not at Westover
Street just now. We've been staying in the country for a while, at the
jolliest old place, and, er--they want you to come up there for a while,

Ken had been planning different ways of telling his mother of the
passing of the Westover Street house, all the way down from Asquam. He
could not, now, remember a single word of all those carefully thought
out methods of approach.

"I don't think I quite understand," Mrs. Sturgis said. "Are you staying
with friends? I didn't know we knew any one in the country."

They were in the middle of the street, and Ken chose to focus his
attention on the traffic.

"Let's get to the lunch place," he said. "It's quieter there, to talk."

"Still wearing that old suit, dear?" Mrs. Sturgis said, touching Ken's
sleeve as he hung up his overcoat in the restaurant.

"Er--this is my good suit," Ken murmured. "That is, it's the only suit I
have--that is--"

"See here," said Mrs. Sturgis, whose perceptions were beginning to
quicken as she faced a member of her family again with the barrier of
cautious letters thrown aside; "there's been _enough_ money, hasn't

"Lots," Ken said hastily. "We've been living royally--wait till you see.
Oh, it's really a duck of a place--and Phil's a perfect wonder."

"_What's_ a duck of a place?"

"Applegate Farm. Oh law! Mother dear, I'll have to tell you. It's only
that we decided the old house was too expensive for us to run just for
ourselves, so we got a nice old place in the country and fixed it up."

"You decided--you got a place in the country? Do you mean to say that
you poor, innocent children have had to manage things like _that_?"

"We didn't want you to bother. _Please_ don't worry, now." Ken looked
anxiously across the table at his mother, as though he rather expected
her to go off in a collapse again.

"Nonsense, Ken, I'm perfectly all right! But--but--oh, please begin at
the beginning and unravel all this."

"Wait till we get on the train," Ken said. "I want to arrange my topics.
I didn't mean to spring it on you this way, at all, Mother. I wish Phil
had been doing this job."

But Ken's topics didn't stay arranged. As the train rumbled on toward
Bayside, the tale was drawn from him piecemeal; what he tried to
conceal, his mother soon enough discovered by a little questioning. Her
son dissimulated very poorly, she found to her amusement. And, after
all, she must know the whole, sooner or later. It was only his wish to
spare her any sudden shock which made him hold back now.

"And you mean to tell me that you poor dears have been scraping along on
next to nothing, while selfish Mother has been spending the remnant of
the fortune at Hilltop?"

"Oh, pshaw, Mother!" Ken muttered, "there was plenty. And look at you,
all nice and well for us. It would have been a pretty sight to see _us_
flourishing around with the money while you perished forlorn, wouldn't

"Think of all the wealth we'll have _now_," Mrs. Sturgis suggested, "all
the hundreds and hundreds that Hilltop has been gobbling."

"I'd forgotten that," whistled Ken. "Hi-ya! We'll be bloated
aristocrats, we will! We'll have a steak for dinner!"

"Oh, you poor chicks!" said his mother. She must hear about the Sturgis
Water Line, and hints of the Maestro, and how wonderful Phil had been,
teaching Kirk and all, and how perfectly magnificent Kirk was
altogether--a jumbled rigamarole of salvaged motor-boats, reclaimed
farm-house, music, somebody's son at sea, and dear knows what else, till
Mrs. Sturgis hardly knew whether or not any of this wild dream was
verity. Yet the train--and later, the trolley-car--continued to roll
through unfamiliar country, and Mrs. Sturgis resigned herself trustfully
to her son's keeping.

At the Asquam Station, Hop was drawn up with his antiquated surrey. He
wore a sprig of goldenrod in his buttonhole, and goldenrod bobbed over
the old horse's forelock.

"Proud day, ma'am," said Hop, as Ken helped his mother into the wagon,
"Proud day, I'm sure."

"As if I were a wedding or something," whispered Mrs. Sturgis. "Ken, I'm

She looked all about at the unwinding view up Winterbottom Road--so
familiar to Ken, who was trying to see it all with fresh eyes. They
climbed out at the gate of the farm, and Hop turned his beast and
departed. Half-way up the sere dooryard, Ken touched his wondering
mother's arm and drew her to a standstill. There lay Applegate Farm,
tucked like a big gray boulder between its two orchards. Asters, blue
and white, clustered thick to its threshold, honeysuckle swung buff
trumpets from the vine about the windows. The smoke from the white
chimney rose and drifted lazily away across the russet meadow, which
ended at the once mysterious hedge. The place was silent with the
silence of a happy dream, basking content in the hazy sunlight of the
late September afternoon.

Mrs. Sturgis, with a little sound of surprised delight, was about to
move forward again, when her son checked her once more. For as she
looked, Kirk came to the door. He was carrying a pan and a basket. He
felt for the sill with a sandaled toe, descended to the wide door-stone,
and sat down upon it with the pan on his knees. He then proceeded to
shell Lima beans, his face lifted to the sun, and the wind stirring the
folds of his faded green blouse. As he worked he sang a perfectly
original song about various things.

Mrs. Sturgis could be detained no longer. She ran across the brown
grass and caught Kirk into her arms--tin pan, bean-pods, and all. She
kissed his mouth, and his hair, and his eyes, and murmured ecstatically
to him.

"Mother! _Mother_!" Kirk cried, his hands everywhere at once; and then,
"Phil! _Quick_!"

But Phil was there. When the Sturgis family, breathless, at last sorted
themselves out, every one began talking at once.

"_Don't_ you really think it's a nice place?"

"You came sooner than we expected; we meant to be at the gate."

"Oh, my dear dears!"

"_Mother_, come in now and see everything!" (This from Kirk, anxious to
exhibit what he himself had never seen.)

"Come and take your things off--oh, you _do_ look so well, dear."

"Look at the nice view!"

"Don't you think it looks like a real house, even if we did get it?"

"Oh, children _dear_! let me gather my poor scattered wits."

So Mrs. Sturgis was lovingly pulled and pushed and steered into the
dusky little living-room, where a few pieces of Westover Street
furniture greeted her strangely, and where a most jolly fire burned on
the hearth. Felicia removed her mother's hat; Ken put her into the big
chair and spirited away her bag. Mrs. Sturgis sat gazing about her--at
the white cheese-cloth curtains, the festive bunches of flowers in every
available jug, the kitchen chairs painted a decorative blue, and at the
three radiant faces of her children.

Kirk, who was plainly bursting with some plan, pulled his sister's

"Phil," he whispered loudly, "do you think now would be a good time to
do it!"

"What? _Oh_--yes! Yes, go ahead, to be sure," said Felicia.

Kirk galloped forthwith to the melodeon, which Mrs. Sturgis had so far
failed to identify as a musical instrument, seated himself before it,
and opened it with a bang. He drew forth all the loudest stops--the
trumpet, the diapason--for his paean of welcome.

"It's a triumphal march, in your honor," Felicia whispered hastily to
her mother. "He spent half of yesterday working at it."

Mrs. Sturgis, who had looked sufficiently bewildered became frankly
incredulous. But the room was now filled with the strains of Kirk's
music. The Maestro would not, perhaps, have altogether approved of its
bombastic nature--but triumphant it certainly was, and sincere. And what
the music lacked was amply made up in Kirk's face as he played--an
ineffable expression of mingled joy, devotion, and the solid
satisfaction of a creator in his own handiwork. He finished his
performance with one long-drawn and really superb chord, and then came
to his mother on flying feet.

"I meant it to be much, much nicer," he explained, "like a real one that
the Maestro played. But I made it all for you, Mother, any-way--and the
other was for Napoleon or somebody."

"Oh, you unbelievable old darling!" said Mrs. Sturgis. "As if I wouldn't
rather have that than all the real ones! But, Ken--you didn't tell me
even that he could play do-re-mi-fa!"

"Well, _Mother_!" Ken protested, "I couldn't tell you _everything_."

And Mrs. Sturgis, striving to straighten her tangled wits, admitted the
truth of this remark.

After supper, which was a real feast, including bona fide mutton-chops
and a layer cake, the Sturgis family gathered about the fireside.

"This is _home_ to you," Mrs. Sturgis said. "How strange it seems! But
you've made it home--I can see that. How did you, you surprising people?
And such cookery and all; I don't know you!"

Phil and Ken looked at one another in some amusement.

"The cookery," said Felicia, "I'll admit came by degrees. Do you
remember that very first bread?"

"If I recall rightly, I replaced that loose stone in the well-coping
with it, didn't I?" said Ken, "or did I use it for the _Dutchman's_ bow

"Nothing was wrong with those biscuits, tonight," Mrs. Sturgis said.
"Come and sit here with me, my Kirk."

Felicia blew out the candles that had graced the supper-table, drew the
curtains across the windows where night looked in, and came back to sit
on the hearth at her mother's feet. The contented silence about the fire
was presently broken by a tapping at the outer door, and Ken rose to
admit the Maestro and Martin. The Maestro, after a peep within,
expressed himself loth to disturb such a happy time, but Ken haled him
in without more ado.

"Nonsense, sir," he said. "Why--why you're part of us. Mother wouldn't
have seen half our life here till she'd met you."

So the Maestro seated himself in the circle of firelight, and Martin
retired behind a veil of tobacco-smoke--with permission--in the corner.

"We came," said the Maestro, after a time of other talk, "because we're
going away so soon, and--"

"Going away!" Three blank voices interrupted him. Kirk left even his
mother's arm, to find his way to the Maestro's.

"But I do go away," said the old gentleman, lifting a hand to still all
this protest, "every autumn--to town. And I came partly to ask--to beg
you--that when cold weather seems to grip Applegate Farm too bitterly,
you will come, all of you, to pay an old man a long visit. May I ask it
of you, too, Mrs. Sturgis? My house is so big--Martin and I will find
ourselves lost in one corner of it. And--" he frowned tremendously and
shook Kirk's arm, "I absolutely forbid Kirk to stop his music. How can
he study music without his master? How can he study without coming to
stay with his master, as it was in the good old days of apprenticeship?"

Felicia looked about the little shadow-flecked room.

"I know what you're thinking," said the Maestro, smoothing Kirk's dark
hair. "You're hating the thought of leaving Applegate Farm. But perhaps
the winter wind will sing you a different tune. Do you not think so,
Mrs. Sturgis?"

Mrs. Sturgis nodded. "Their experience doesn't yet embrace all the
phases of this," she said.

"Yes," said the Maestro, "some day before the snows come, you will come
to me. And we'll fill that big house with music, and songs, and
laughing--yes, and work, too. Ah, please!" said the Maestro, quite

Felicia put her hand out to his.

"We _will_ come, dear Maestro," she said, "when this little fire will
not keep us warm any longer."

"Thank you," said the Maestro.

From behind them came murmurous talk of ships--Ken and Martin
discussing the _Celestine_ and her kind, and the magic ports below the
Line. Kirk whispered suddenly to the Maestro, who protested.

"Oh, please!" begged Kirk, his plea becoming audible. "_Really_ it's a
nice thing. I know Ken makes fun of it, but I _have_ learned a lot from
it, haven't I? Please, Maestro!"

"Very well, naughty one," said the musician; "if your mother will
forgive us."

He bowed to her, and then moved with Kirk into the unlit part of the
room where the little organ stood. With a smile of tender amusement, he
sat down at the odd little thing and ran his fingers up and down the
short, yellowed keyboard. Then, with Kirk lost in a dream of rapt
worship and listening ecstasy beside him, he began to play. And his
touch made of the little worn melodeon a singing instrument, glorified
beyond its own powers by the music he played.

The dimly firelit room swam with the exquisite echo of the melody. Ken
and Martin sat quiet in their corner. Felicia gazed at the dear people
in the home she had made: at Ken, who had made it with her--dear old
Ken, the defender of his kindred; at Kirk, for whom they had kept the
joy of living alight; at the Maestro, the beautiful spirit of the place;
at her mother, given back to them at last. Mrs. Sturgis looked
wonderingly at her children in the firelight, but most of all at Kirk,
whose face was lighted, as he leaned beside the Maestro, with a radiance
she had never before seen there.

And without, the silver shape of a waning moon climbed between the
black, sighing boughs of the laden orchard, and stood above the broad,
gray roof of Applegate Farm.

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