Part 2 out of 3
of Minnesota. Exit Sir Galahad! And following his perfidy Marion's
imagination evoked a vision of revenge in which she figured as the
plaintiff in a breach-of-promise suit, and had the fierce yet
melancholy joy of confronting him and his new love face to face before
a sympathizing judge and jury. But her New England conscience and her
sense of humor combined disposed of this vision in a summary fashion,
so that she let Sir Galahad off with the assurance that it was a
happiness to her that he had discovered how little he cared before it
was too late. Then her New England conscience bade her settle down to
her teaching with a grim courage, and be thankful that she had never
been unfaithful to her work. Also her sense of humor told her that she
must not assume all men to be false because Sir Galahad had been. It
was then, when she needed him sorely, that destiny introduced on the
Jimmy was no Sir Galahad. He was a chunky, round-faced school-boy with
brown hair, which, when it had not been cut for a month, blossomed
into close, curly tangles. At first sight Jimmy was dull-eyed, and in
the class his mental processes were so slow that he had already
acquired among his mates the reputation of being stupid. The teacher
who had taught him last confided to Miss Willis that she feared Jimmy
was hopeless. Hopeless! Somehow the word went to Marion's heart. Not
that she was hopeless; far from it, she would have told you. But her
sense of humor did not conceal from her that in spite of her
grin-and-bear-it mien, she was far from happy. At any rate, the
suggestion that Jimmy was hopeless awoke a sympathetic chord in her
breast, so that she looked at him more tenderly on the day after she
had been told. Jimmy was slow of speech and rather dirty as to his
face. There were warts on his hands, and his sphinx-like countenance
was impassive almost to the point of stolidity. Somehow, though, Miss
Willis said to herself, in her zeal to characterize him fairly, the
little thirteen-year-old product of democracy (Jimmy was the son of a
carpenter and a grocer's daughter) suggested power; suggested it as a
block of granite or a bull-dog suggests it. His compact, sturdy frame
and well-poised head, with its close, brown curls, seemed a protest in
themselves against hopelessness. On the third day he smiled; it was in
recess that she detected him at it. An organ-grinder's monkey in the
school-yard called it forth, a sweet, glad smile, which lit up his
dense features as the sun at twilight will pierce through and
illuminate for a few minutes a sullen cloud-bank. Miss Willis saw in a
vision on the spot a refuge from hopelessness. Behind that smile there
must be a winsome soul. That spiritless expression was but a veil or
rind hiding the germs of sensibility and reason. This was discovery
number one. After it came darkness again, so far as outward
manifestation was concerned. Jimmy's attitude toward his lessons
appeared to be one of utter density. He listened with blank but
slightly lowered eyes. When questioned he generally gurgled
inarticulately, as though seeking a response, then broke down.
Occasionally he essayed an answer, which revealed that he had
understood nothing. Oftener he sought refuge in complete silence. But
hope had been stimulated in Miss Willis's breast, and she relaxed
neither scrutiny nor tenderness. One day matters were brought to a
head by the thoughtless jest of a classmate, a flaxen-haired fairy,
who, in the recess following one of Jimmy's least successful gurgles,
crept up behind him and planted upon his curls a brown-paper cap,
across which the little witch had painted "DUNCE" in large capital
Jimmy did not know what had happened. For a moment he thought,
perhaps, that he had been introduced to some new game. But the jeers
of the children checked the rising smile and led him to pluck at his
forehead. As he gazed at the fool's-cap in his hand a roar of
merciless laughter greeted his discovery. Miss Willis had realized the
fairy's deed too late to prevent the catastrophe. The sharp tap of her
ruler on the desk produced a silence interjected with giggles. The
fairy was a successful scholar, and would not have harmed a fly
willingly. It was a case of fun--the rough expression of an
indisputable fact. Jimmy was such a dunce that he ought really to wear
the brand as a notice to the world. What Miss Willis said by way of
reproof to the fairy is immaterial. If Jimmy heard it he gave no sign.
He dropped his head upon his desk and was sobbing audibly. The
bewildered children hearkened to the protest against cruelty with that
elfin look which mischievous youth dares assume, while the culprit
stood with a finger in her mouth, not quite understanding the enormity
of her conduct. In a moment more they were in the school-yard, and
Miss Willis was beside Jimmy's desk patting his tangled head. He wept
as though his heart would break.
"No matter, Jimmy; it was only a thoughtless jest. She didn't mean to
hurt your feelings."
Her words and variations on the same theme called forth successive
bursts of sobs. Only silence diminished their intensity. When at last
they had become only quiverings of his shoulders he looked up and
said, with a wail of fierce despair, but with a grasp upon self which
was a fresh revelation:
"It's true; it's true! She did it because I'm so stupid!"
Thereupon his shoulders shook again convulsively, and he burst into
Marion's arms were about him in an instant. "Jimmy, Jimmy, it is not
true! You are not stupid! You and I will fight it out together! Will
you trust me, Jimmy?"
He sobbed, but she could perceive that he was listening. Had her hope
become his? Surely they were words he had never heard before.
"Jimmy, listen to me. I have found out something, and all owing to
that ridiculous dunce-cap. It is I who have been stupid. I never knew
until now how much you wish to learn and to improve. You are not
stupid, Jimmy. I am sure of it. You are slow, but you and I will put
our heads together and make the best of that. Will you try with me,
The curly head was raised again. His tear-stained eyes looked out at
her shyly, but with a beam of astonished gratitude. From his quivering
lips fell a low but resolute "Yes, ma'am!"
"We will begin to-day. We need each other, Jimmy."
As a work of art grows slowly from confusion and lack of form to
coherence and symmetry to the moral joy of its maker, so her
experience in human plastic enterprise filled the heart of Miss Willis
with a vital happiness. For two years--day in and day out--she never
flagged in her task of giving sight to the eyes and ears to the mind
of the unshaped clay which fate had put into her hands for making or
marring. How patient she had to be! How ingenious, vigilant, and
sympathetic! Through working upon the souls of Jimmy's father and
mother by pathetic appeal she obtained permission to keep him an hour
after school each day and drill him step by step, inch by inch. She
brought her midday meal and shared it with him. In the evening she
framed cunning devices to lure his budding intelligence. And from the
very first she beheld her figure of human ignorance respond to her
gentle moulding. Jimmy's soul was first of all a hot-spring of
ambition; the evidences of which, when once recognized, were ever
paramount. But how blocked and intricate were the passages through
which this yearning for fame sought to express itself! Sometimes it
seemed even to her as though she would never dissipate the fog-bank
which tortured his intelligence. But Jimmy was patient, too, and his
bull-dog features were but the reflex of a grim tenacity of purpose.
At the end of the first year she reported that he was unfit to be
promoted, in order that she need not lose him just when he needed her
most. She was able to make clear to Jimmy that this was not a
disgrace, but a sign of progress. But when the end of the second year
came she passed him on with only the qualm of love parting with its
own. Her task was done. The dull, clouded brow was clear with the
light of eager reason; the still struggling faculties had begun to
understand that in slowness there was the compensation of power, and
were resolute with hope.
"Good-by, Miss Willis. I'm going to be at the head of my class next
year; see if I'm not!"
So said Jimmy as he left her. She hesitated a moment, then stooped and
kissed him. It made her blush, for she had never kissed a pupil
before, nor any one but her mother since Sir Galahad. It made Jimmy
blush, too, for he did not know exactly what to make of it. So they
parted, and Jimmy went up the ladder of knowledge for two years more
at that school. He was not the head of his class; he was number five
the first year and number three the second. When he graduated he
promised to write; but, boylike, he never did, so he vanished into the
open polar world, and was lost to the eyes of the woman who had grown
gray in his service.
Yes, Miss Willis had grown gray. That is, there were more or less
becoming threads of silver in her maiden tresses, and the dignity of
middle age had added inches to her waist and a few interesting lines
to her forehead. There was no new Sir Galahad on the horizon even of
her day-dreams, and her mother was in failing health. Mrs. Willis
continued now to fail for five years--years which taxed her daughter's
strength, though not her affection. Pupils came and went--pupils to
whom she gave herself with the faithfulness of her New England
conscience--but no one exactly like Jimmy. He remained unique, yet
lost in the maze of life. When her mother died she settled down as an
incorrigible old maid, and her daydreams knew no more the vision of a
love coming from the clouds to possess her. Nor did the years bring
with them realization of that other vision--herself enthroned in the
public mind as a wonderful educator to whom the world should bow. She
was only Miss Marion Willis, the next to the oldest and the most
respected teacher of the Glendale grammar-school. So she found herself
at the end of twenty-five years of continuous service. It did occur to
her as a delightful possibility that the authorities or scholars or
somebody would observe this quarter-centennial anniversary in a
suitable manner, and a vision danced before her mind's eye of a
surprise-party bearing a pretty piece of silver or a clock as a
memorial of her life-work. But the date came and passed without
comment from any source, and Marion's sense of humor made the best of
it by drinking her own health on the evening of the day in question,
and congratulating herself that she loved her work and was happy. At
that supper there was no guest save Jimmy's tintype, which she fetched
from the mantelpiece and leaned against the cake-basket on the table.
Jimmy stood now not only for himself, but for a little army of
struggling souls upon whom her patient intelligence had been freely
Of course, Jimmy was found. Miss Willis had always felt sure that he
would be. But ten years more had slipped away before he was brought to
light. One day she discovered his name in the newspaper as a rising
political constellation, and she was convinced, without the least
particle of evidence to support her credulity, that the James in
question was her Jimmy. His name had suddenly become prominent in the
political firmament on account of his resolute conduct as the mayor of
a Western city. The public had been impressed by his strength and
pluck and executive ability, working successfully against a gang of
municipal cutthroats, and his name was being paraded over the country.
"I've half a mind to write to him and discover if it's he," Miss
Willis said to herself. "How surprised he would be to receive a postal
card 'Are you my Jimmy?'" But somehow she refrained. She did not wish
to run the risk of disappointment, though she was sure it was he. She
preferred to wait and to watch him now that she had him under her eye
again. This was an easy thing to do, for Jimmy the mayor became Jimmy
the governor before two years had passed, and one morning Miss Willis
found facing her in the Daily Dispatch a newspaper cut of large
dimensions which set her heart beating as it had not throbbed since
the days of Sir Galahad. It was a portrait of her Jimmy; Jimmy
magnified and grown into a hirsute man, but the same old Jimmy with
the tangled hair, serious brow, and large, pathetic eyes. Miss Willis
laughed and Miss Willis cried, and presently, after she had time to
realize the full meaning of what had happened, she had a vision of
Jimmy in the White House, and herself, a venerable yet hale old woman,
standing beside him in a famous company, and Jimmy was saying before
them all, "I wish to make you acquainted with my dear teacher--the
woman to whom I owe my start in life." The idea tickled her
imagination, and she said to herself that she would keep the secret
until that happy day arrived. What a delightful secret it was, and how
surprised he would be when she said to him, "I suppose you don't
recognize me, Jimmy?" Then, perhaps, he would embrace her before
everybody, and the newspapers would have her picture and give the
particulars of her life.
* * * * *
Jimmy was not elected President until four years later, and in the
meantime Miss Willis kept her secret. When he was nominated, and the
details of his career were eagerly sought for, it was announced by the
press that in early life he had attended the Glendale grammar-school,
and the fact was regarded by the authorities as a feather in the
school's cap, and was commemorated during the campaign by the display
in the exhibition hall of a large picture of the candidate festooned
with an American flag. It was vaguely remembered that he had been
under Miss Willis, among other teachers, but the whole truth was
unknown to anybody, and Marion's New England conscience shrank from
obtaining glory and sympathy through brag. She hugged her secret, and
bore it with her intact when she took her departure for Washington to
attend the inauguration ceremonies. She did not tell the authorities
where she was going when she asked for a short leave of absence--the
first she had ever requested in all her years of service. She was
setting forth on the spree of her life, and her spirit was jubilant at
the thought of Jimmy's amazement when he found out who she was.
A day came at last, after the new chief magistrate had taken the oaths
of office and was in possession of the White House, when the American
public was at liberty to file past their President and shake his hand
in their might as free men and free women. Miss Willis had not been
able to obtain a location near enough to the inauguration proceedings
to distinguish more than the portly figure of a man, or to hear
anything except the roar of the multitude. But now she was to have the
chance to meet Jimmy face to face and overwhelm him with her secret.
Little by little the file of visitors advanced on its passage toward
the nation's representative, and presently Miss Willis caught her
first glimpse of Sir Galahad--her real Sir Galahad. Her heart throbbed
tumultuously. It was he--her Jimmy; he, beyond the shadow of a doubt;
a strong, grave, resolute man; the prototype of human power and
Her Jimmy! She let her eyes fall, for it would soon be her turn, and
her nerves were all tingling with a happy mixture of pride and
diffidence. Her vision, her dearest vision, was about to be realized.
There was no chance for delusion or disappointment now. So it seemed.
Yet, as she stood there waiting, with her New England conscience and
her sense of humor still active, of a sudden her imagination was
seized by a new prospect. Why should she tell her secret? What was the
use? There he stood--her Jimmy--good, great, and successful, and she
had helped to make him so. Nothing could ever deprive her of that. The
truth was hers forever. She was only an elderly spinster. Perhaps he
would have forgotten. He was but fifteen when he left her, and he had
never written to her during all these years. Very likely he did not
realize at all what she had done for him. Nothing which he could do
for her now would add to the joy of her heart. Secret? To share it
with him might spoil all. The chances were it was her secret only;
that only she could understand it.
She was close to the President now, and some one at her ear was asking
her name. Suddenly she heard her name called, and stepping forward she
was face to face with her soul's knight, and he was holding her hand.
"I am very glad to see you, Miss Willis," she heard him say.
She had been stepping shyly, with her eyes lowered. At his words,
spoken in a voice which for all its manliness was still the same, she
looked up into his face and murmured, as she pressed his fingers:
"God bless you, sir!"
She did not even say "Jimmy." Then she passed, and--and her secret was
Six months later Miss Willis was found one morning dead in her bed.
She had died peacefully in her sleep. When her personal effects were
administered there was noticed on the mantelpiece in her sitting-room
a mounted tintype, on the paper back of which were two inscriptions.
Of these the upper, in faded ink, was dated forty years before and
read "From Jimmy." The other, recent and written with the pen of an
elderly person, ran as follows: "Portrait of the President of the
United States as a school-boy."
AN EXCHANGE OF COURTESIES
In the opinion of many persons competent to judge, "The Beaches" was
suffering from an invasion of wealth. Unquestionably it had been
fashionable for a generation; but the people who had established
summer homes there were inhabitants of the large neighboring city
which they forsook during five months in the year to enjoy the ocean
breezes and sylvan scenery, for The Beaches afforded both. Well-to-do
New England families of refinement and taste, they enjoyed in comfort,
without ostentation, their picturesque surroundings. Their cottages
were simple; but each had its charming outlook to sea and a sufficient
number of more or less wooded acres to command privacy and breathing
space. In the early days the land had sold for a song, but it had
risen steadily with the times, as more and more people coveted a
foothold. The last ten years had introduced many changes; the older
houses had been pulled down and replaced by lordly structures with all
the modern conveniences, including spacious stables and farm
buildings. Two clubs had been organized along the six miles of coast
to provide golf and tennis, afternoon teas and bridge whist for the
entertainment of the colony. The scale of living had become more
elaborate, and there had been many newcomers--people of large means
who offered for the finest sites sums which the owners could not
afford to refuse. The prices paid in several instances represented ten
times the original outlay. All the desirable locations were held by
proprietors fully aware of their value, and those bent on purchase
must pay what was asked or go without.
Then had occurred the invasion referred to--the coming to The Beaches
of the foreign contingent, so called: people of fabulous means,
multi-millionaires who were captains in one or another form of
industry and who sought this resort as a Mecca for the social
uplifting of their families and protection against summer heat. At
their advent prices made another jump--one which took the breath away.
Several of the most conservative owners parted with their estates
after naming a figure which they supposed beyond the danger point, and
half a dozen second-rate situations, affording but a paltry glimpse of
the ocean, were snapped up in eager competition by wealthy capitalists
from Chicago, Pittsburg, and St. Louis who had set their hearts on
securing the best there was remaining.
Among the late comers was Daniel Anderson, known as the furniture king
in the jargon of trade, many times a millionaire, and comparatively a
person of leisure through the sale of his large plants to a trust. He
hired for the season, by long-distance telephone, at an amazing
rental, one of the more desirable places which was to let on account
of the purpose of its owners to spend the summer abroad. It was one of
the newer houses, large and commodious; yet its facilities were
severely taxed by the Anderson establishment, which fairly bristled
with complexity. Horses by the score, vehicles manifold, a steam
yacht, and three automobiles were the more striking symbols of a
manifest design to curry favor by force of outdoing the neighborhood.
The family consisted of Mrs. Anderson, who was nominally an invalid,
and a son and daughter of marriageable age. If it be stated that they
were chips of the old block, meaning their father, it must not be
understood that he had reached the moribund stage. On the contrary, he
was still in the prime of his energy, and, with the exception of the
housekeeping details, set in motion and directed the machinery of the
It had been his idea to come to The Beaches; and having found a
foothold there he was determined to make the most of the opportunity
not only for his children but himself. With his private secretary and
typewriter at his elbow he matured his scheme of carrying everything
before him socially as he had done in business. The passport to
success in this new direction he assumed to be lavish expenditure. It
was a favorite maxim of his--trite yet shrewdly entertained--that
money will buy anything, and every man has his price. So he began by
subscribing to everything, when asked, twice as much as any one else,
and seeming to regard it as a privilege. Whoever along The Beaches was
interested in charity had merely to present a subscription list to Mr.
Anderson to obtain a liberal donation. The equivalent was
acquaintance. The man or woman who asked him for money could not very
well neglect to bow the next time they met, and so by the end of the
first summer he was on speaking terms with most of the men and many of
the women. Owing to his generosity, the fund for the building of a new
Episcopal church was completed, although he belonged to a different
denomination. He gave a drinking fountain for horses and dogs, and
when the selectmen begrudged to the summer residents the cost of
rebuilding two miles of road, Daniel Anderson defrayed the expense
from his own pocket. An ardent devotee of golf, and daily on the
links, he presented toward the end of the season superb trophies for
the competition of both men and women, with the promise of others in
succeeding years. In short, he gave the society whose favor he coveted
to understand that it had merely "to press the button" and he would do
Mr. Andersen's nearest neighbors were the Misses Ripley--Miss Rebecca
and Miss Caroline, or Carry, as she was invariably called. They were
among the oldest summer residents, for their father had been among the
first to recognize the attractions of The Beaches, and their childhood
had been passed there. Now they were middle-aged women and their
father was dead; but they continued to occupy season after season
their cottage, the location of which was one of the most picturesque
on the whole shore. The estate commanded a wide ocean view and
included some charming woods on one side and a small, sandy, curving
beach on the other. The only view of the water which the Andersons
possessed was at an angle across this beach. The house they occupied,
though twice the size of the Ripley cottage, was virtually in the rear
of the Ripley domain, which lay tantalizingly between them and a free
sweep of the landscape.
One morning, early in October of the year of Mr. Anderson's advent to
The Beaches, the Ripley sisters, who were sitting on the piazza
enjoying the mellow haze of the autumn sunshine, saw, with some
surprise, Mr. David Walker, the real-estate broker, approaching across
the lawn--surprise because it was late in the year for holidays, and
Mr. Walker invariably went to town by the half-past eight train. Yet a
visit from one of their neighbors was always agreeable to them, and
the one in question lived not more than a quarter of a mile away and
sometimes did drop in at afternoon tea-time. Certain women might have
attempted an apology for their appearance, but Miss Rebecca seemed
rather to glory in the shears which dangled down from her
apron-strings as she rose to greet her visitor; they told so
unmistakably that she had been enjoying herself trimming vines. Miss
Carry--who was still kittenish in spite of her forty years--as she
gave one of her hands to Mr. Walker held out with the other a basket
of seckel pears she had been gathering, and said:
Mr. Walker complied, and, having completed the preliminary
commonplaces, said, as he hurled the core with an energetic sweep of
his arm into the ocean at the base of the little bluff on which the
"There is no place on the shore which quite compares with this."
"We agree with you," said Miss Rebecca with dogged urbanity. "Is any
one of a different opinion?"
"On the contrary, I have come to make you an offer for it. It isn't
usual for real-estate men to crack up the properties they wish to
purchase, but I am not afraid of doing so in this case." He spoke
buoyantly, as though he felt confident that he was in a position to
carry his point.
"An offer?" said Miss Rebecca. "For our place? You know that we have
no wish to sell. We have been invited several times to part with it,
and declined. It was you yourself who brought the last invitation. We
are still in the same frame of mind, aren't we, Carry?"
"Yes, indeed. Where should we get another which we like so well?"
"My principal invites you to name your own figure."
"That is very good of him, I'm sure. Who is he, by the way?"
"I don't mind telling you; it's your neighbor, Daniel Anderson." David
Walker smiled significantly. "He is ready to pay whatever you choose
"Our horses are afraid of his automobiles, and his liveried grooms
have turned the head of one of our maids. Our little place is not in
the market, thank you, Mr. Walker."
The broker's beaming countenance showed no sign of discouragement. He
rearranged the gay blue flower which had almost detached itself from
the lapel of his coat, then said laconically:
"I am authorized by Mr. Anderson to offer you $500,000 for your
"What?" exclaimed Miss Rebecca.
"Half a million dollars for six acres," he added.
"The man must be crazy." Miss Rebecca stepped to the honeysuckle vine
with a detached air and snipped off a straggling tendril with her
shears. "That is a large sum of money," she added.
David Walker enjoyed the effect of his announcement; it was clear that
he had produced an impression.
"Money is no object to him. I told him that you did not wish to sell,
and he said that he would make it worth your while."
"Half a million dollars! We should be nearly rich," let fall Miss
Carry, upon whom the full import of the offer was breaking.
"Yes; and think what good you two ladies could do with all that
money--practical good," continued the broker, pressing his opportunity
and availing himself of his knowledge of their aspirations. "You could
buy elsewhere and have enough left over to endow a professorship at
Bryn Mawr, Miss Rebecca; and you, Miss Carry, would be able to revel
in charitable donations."
Those who knew the Ripley sisters well were aware that plain speaking
never vexed them. Beating about the bush from artificiality or
ignoring a plain issue was the sort of thing they resented.
Consequently, the directness of David Walker's sally did not appear to
them a liberty, but merely a legitimate summing up of the situation.
Miss Rebecca was the spokesman as usual, though her choice was always
governed by what she conceived to be the welfare of her sister, whom
she still looked on as almost a very young person. Sitting upright and
clasping her elbows, as she was apt to do in moments of stress, she
"Money is money, Mr. Walker, and half a million dollars is not to be
discarded lightly. We should be able, as you suggest, to do some good
with so much wealth. But, on the other hand, we don't need it, and we
have no one dependent on us for support. My brother is doing well and
is likely to leave his only child all that is good for her. We love
this place. Caroline may marry some day" (Miss Carry laughed
protestingly at the suggestion and ejaculated, "Not very likely"),
"but I never shall. I expect to come here as long as I live. We love
every inch of the place--the woods, the beach, the sea. Our garden,
which we made ourselves, is our delight. Why should we give up all
this because some one offers us five times what we supposed it to be
worth? My sister is here to speak for herself, but so far as I am
concerned you may tell Mr. Anderson that if our place is worth so much
as that we cannot afford to part with it."
"Oh, no, it wouldn't do at all! Our heartstrings are round the roots
of these trees, Mr. Walker," added the younger sister in gentle echo
of this determination.
"Don't be in a hurry to decide; think it over. It will bear
reflection," said the broker briskly.
"There's nothing to think over. It becomes clearer every minute," said
Miss Rebecca a little tartly. Then she added: "I dare say it will do
him good to find that some one has something which he cannot buy."
"He will be immensely disappointed, for his heart was set on it," said
David Walker gloomily. His emotions were not untinged by personal
dismay, for his commission would have been a large one.
He returned forthwith to his client, who was expecting him, and who
met him at the door.
"Well, Walker, what did the maiden ladies say? Have one of these," he
exclaimed, exhibiting some large cigars elaborately wrapped in gold
foil. "They're something peculiarly choice which a friend of mine--a
Cuban--obtained for me."
"They won't sell, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king frowned. He was a heavily built but compact man who
looked as though he were accustomed to butt his way through life and
sweep away opposition, yet affable and easy-going withal.
"They won't sell? You offered them my price?"
"It struck them as prodigious, but they were not tempted."
"I've got to have it somehow. With this land added to theirs I should
have the finest place on the shore."
The broker disregarded this flamboyant remark, which was merely a
repetition of what he had heard several times already. "I warned you,"
he said, "that they might possibly refuse even this munificent offer.
They told me to tell you that if it was worth so much they could not
afford to sell."
"Is it not enough? They're poor, you told me--poor as church mice."
"Compared with you. But they have enough to live on simply, and--and
to be able to maintain such an establishment as yours, for instance,
would not add in the least degree to their happiness. On the contrary,
it is because they delight in the view and the woods and their little
garden just as they see them that they can't afford to let you have
the place." Now that the chances of a commission were slipping away
David Walker was not averse to convey in delicate language the truth
which Miss Rebecca had set forth.
Mr. Anderson felt his chin meditatively. "I seem to be up against it,"
he murmured. "You think they are not holding out for a higher figure?"
he asked shrewdly.
David shook his head. Yet he added, with the instinct of a business
man ready to nurse a forlorn hope, "There would be no harm in trying.
I don't believe, though, that you have the ghost of a chance."
The furniture king reflected a moment. "I'll walk down there this
afternoon and make their acquaintance."
"A good idea," said Walker, contented to shift the responsibility of a
second offer. "You'll find them charming--real thoroughbreds," he saw
fit to add.
"A bit top-lofty?" queried the millionaire.
"Not in the least. But they have their own standards, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king's progress at The Beaches had been so uninterrupted
on the surface and so apparently satisfactory to himself that no one
would have guessed that he was not altogether content with it. With
all his easy-going optimism, it had not escaped his shrewd
intelligence that his family still lacked the social recognition he
desired. People were civil enough, but there were houses into which
they were never asked in spite of all his spending; and he was
conscious that they were kept at arm's length by polite processes too
subtle to be openly resented. Yet he did resent in his heart the check
to his ambitions, and at the same time he sought eagerly the cause
with an open mind. It had already dawned on him that when he was
interested in a topic his voice was louder than the voices of his new
acquaintances. He had already given orders to his chauffeur that the
automobiles should be driven with some regard for the public safety.
Lately the idea had come to him, and he had imparted it to his son,
that the habit of ignoring impediments did not justify them in driving
golf balls on the links when, the players in front of them were slower
than they liked.
On the way to visit the Misses Ripley later in the day the broker's
remark that they had standards of their own still lingered in his
mind. He preferred to think of them and others along the shore as
stiff and what he called top lofty; yet he intended to observe what he
saw. He had been given to understand that these ladies were almost
paupers from his point of view; and, though when he had asked who they
were, David Walker had described them as representatives of one of the
oldest and most respected families, he knew that they took no active
part in the social life of the colony as he beheld it; they played
neither golf, tennis, nor bridge at the club; they owned no
automobile, and their stable was limited to two horses; they certainly
cut no such figure as seemed to him to become people in their
position, who could afford to refuse $500,000 for six acres.
He was informed by the middle-aged, respectable-looking maid that the
ladies were in the garden behind the house. A narrow gravelled path
bordered with fragrant box led him to this. Its expanse was not large,
but the luxuriance and variety of the old-fashioned summer flowers
attested the devotion bestowed upon them. At the farther end was a
trellised summer-house in which he perceived that the maiden ladies
were taking afternoon tea. There was no sign of hothouse roses or rare
exotic plants, but he noticed a beehive, a quaint sundial with an
inscription, and along the middle path down which he walked were at
intervals little dilapidated busts or figures of stone on
pedestals--some of them lacking tips of noses or ears. It did not
occur to Mr. Anderson that antiquity rather than poverty was
responsible for these ravages. Their existence gave him fresh hope.
"Who can this be?" said Miss Carry with a gentle flutter. An unknown,
middle-aged man was still an object of curiosity to her.
Miss Rebecca raised her eyeglass. "I do believe, my dear, that
it's--yes, it is."
"But who?" queried Miss Carry.
Miss Rebecca rose instead of answering. The stranger was upon them,
walking briskly and hat in hand. His manner was distinctly
breezy--more so than a first meeting would ordinarily seem to her to
"Good afternoon, ladies. Daniel Anderson is my name. My wife wasn't
lucky enough to find you at home when she returned your call, so I
thought I'd be neighborly."
"It's very good of you to come to see us," said Miss Rebecca,
relenting at once. She liked characters--being something of one
herself--and her neighbor's heartiness was taking. "This is my sister,
Miss Caroline Ripley," she added to cement the introduction, "and I am
Rebecca. Sit down, Mr. Anderson; and may I give you a cup of tea?"
Four people were apt to be cosily crowded in the summer-house. Being
only a third person, the furniture king was able to settle himself in
his seat and look around him without fear that his legs would molest
any one. He gripped the arms of his chair and inhaled the fragrance of
"This is a lovely place, ladies," he asserted.
"Those hollyhocks and morning-glories and mignonettes take me back to
old times. Up to my place it's all roses and orchids. But my wife told
me last week that she heard old-fashioned flowers are coming in again.
Seems she was right."
"Oh, but we've had old-fashioned flowers for years! Our garden has
been always just like this--only becoming a little prettier all the
time, we venture to hope," said Miss Carry.
"I want to know!" said Mr. Anderson; and almost immediately he
remembered that both his son and daughter had cautioned him against
the use of this phrase at The Beaches. He received the dainty but
evidently ancient cup from Miss Rebecca, and seeing that the subject
was, so to speak, before the house, he tasted his tea and said:
"It's all pretty here--garden, view, and beach. And I hear you decline
to sell, ladies."
Miss Rebecca had been musing on the subject all day, and a heartfelt
response rose promptly to her lips--spoken with the simple grace of a
"Why should we sell, Mr. Anderson?"
The question was rather a poser to answer categorically; yet the
would-be purchaser felt that he sufficiently conveyed his meaning when
"I thought I might have made it worth your while."
"We are people of small means in the modern sense of the word," Miss
Rebecca continued, thereby expressing more concretely his idea; "yet
we have sufficient for our needs. Our tastes are very simple. The sum
which you offered us is a fortune in itself--but we have no ambition
for great wealth or to change our mode of life. Our associations with
this place are so intimate and tender that money could not induce us
to desecrate them by a sale."
"I see," said Mr. Anderson. Light was indeed breaking on him. At the
same time his appreciation of the merits of the property had been
growing every minute. It was an exquisite autumn afternoon. From where
they sat he could behold the line of shore on either side with its
background of dark green woods. Below the wavelets lapped the shingle
with melodious rhythm. As far as the eye could see lay the bosom of
the ocean unruffled, and lustrous with the sheen of the dying day.
Accustomed to prevail in buying his way, he could not resist saying,
after a moment of silence:
"If I were to increase my offer to a million would it make any
difference in your attitude?"
A suppressed gurgle of mingled surprise and amusement escaped Miss
Miss Rebecca paused a moment by way of politeness to one so generous.
But her tone when she spoke was unequivocal, and a shade sardonic.
"Not the least, Mr. Anderson. To tell the truth, we should scarcely
understand the difference."
One summer afternoon two years later the Ripley sisters were again
drinking tea in their attractive summer-house. In the interval the
peaceful current of their lives had been stirred to its depths by
unlooked-for happenings. Very shortly after their refusal of Mr.
Anderson's offer, their only brother, whose home was on the Hudson
within easy distance of New York, had died suddenly. He was a widower;
and consequently the protection of his only daughter straightway
devolved on them. She was eighteen and good-looking. This they knew
from personal observation at Thanksgiving Day and other family
reunions; but owing to the fact that Mabel Ripley had been quarantined
by scarlet fever during the summer of her sixteenth year, and in
Europe the following summer, they were conscious, prior to her arrival
at The Beaches, that they were very much in the dark as to her
She proved to be the antipodes of what they had hoped for. Their
traditions had depicted a delicate-appearing girl with reserved
manners and a studious or artistic temperament, who would take an
interest in the garden and like nothing better than to read aloud to
them the new books while they did fancy-work. A certain amount of coy
coquetry was to be expected--would be welcomed, in fact, for there
were too many Miss Ripleys already. Proper facilities would be offered
to her admirers, but they took for granted that she would keep them at
a respectful distance as became a gentlewoman. She would be urged to
take suitable exercise; they would provide a horse, if necessary; and
doubtless some of the young people in the neighborhood would invite
her occasionally to play tennis.
Mabel's enthusiasm at the nearness of the sea took precedence over
every other emotion as she stood on the piazza after the embraces were
"How adorably stunning! I must go out sailing the first thing," were
Meanwhile the aunts were observing that she appeared the picture of
health and was tall and athletic-looking. In one hand she had carried
a tennis-racket in its case, in the other, a bag of golf clubs, as she
alighted from the vehicle. These evidently were her household gods.
The domestic vision which they had entertained might need
"You sail, of course?" Mabel asked, noticing, doubtless, that her
exclamation was received in silence.
Aunt Rebecca shook her head. "I haven't been in a sail-boat for twenty
"But whose steam yacht is that?"
"It belongs to Mr. Anderson, a wealthy neighbor."
"Anyhow, a knockabout is more fun--a twenty-footer," the girl
continued, her gaze still fixed on the haven which the indentations of
the coast afforded, along which at intervals groups of yachts, large
and small, floated at their moorings picturesque as sea-gulls on a
"There is an old rowboat in the barn. I daresay that Thomas, the
coachman, will take you out rowing sometimes after he has finished his
work," said Aunt Carry kindly.
"Do you swim?" inquired Aunt Rebecca, failing to note her niece's
"Like a duck. I'm quite as much at home on the water as on land. I've
had a sailboat since I was thirteen, and most of our summers have been
spent at Buzzard's Bay."
"But you're a young lady now," said Aunt Rebecca.
Mabel looked from one to the other as though she were speculating as
to what these new protectors were like. "Am I?" she asked with a
smile. "I must remember that, I suppose; but it will be hard to change
all at once." Thereupon she stepped lightly to the edge of the cliff
that she might enjoy more completely the view while she left them to
digest this qualified surrender.
"'No pent-up Utica contracts her powers,'" murmured Miss Rebecca, who
was fond of classic verse.
"It is evident that we shall have our hands full," answered Miss
Carry. "But she's fresh as a rose, and wide-awake. I'm sure the dear
girl will try to please us."
Mabel did try, and succeeded; but it was a success obtained at the
cost of setting at naught all her aunts' preconceived ideas regarding
the correct deportment of marriageable girls. The knockabout was
forthcoming shortly after she had demonstrated her amphibious
qualities by diving from the rocks and performing water feats which
dazed her anxious guardians. Indeed, she fairly lived in her
bathing-dress until the novelty wore off. Thomas, the coachman, who
had been a fisherman in his day, announced with a grin, after
accompanying her on the trial trip of the hired cat-boat, that he
could teach her nothing about sailing. Henceforth her small craft was
almost daily a distant speck on the horizon, and braved the seas so
successfully under her guidance that presently the aunts forbore to
watch for disaster through a spyglass.
She could play tennis, too, with the best, as she demonstrated on the
courts of The Beaches Club. Her proficiency and spirit speedily made
friends for her among the young people of the colony, who visited her
and invited her to take part in their amusements. She was prepared to
ride on her bicycle wherever the interest of the moment called her,
and deplored the solemnity of the family carryall. When her aunts
declared that a wheel was too undignified a vehicle on which to go out
to luncheon, she compromised on a pony cart as a substitute, for she
could drive almost as well as she could sail. She took comparatively
little interest in the garden, and was not always at home at
five-o'clock tea to read aloud the latest books; but her amiability
and natural gayety were like sunshine in the house. She talked freely
of what she did, and she had an excellent appetite.
"She's as unlike the girls of my day as one could imagine, and I do
wish she wouldn't drive about the country bareheaded, looking like a
colt or a young Indian," said Miss Rebecca pensively one morning, just
after Mabel's departure for the tennis-court. "But I must confess that
she's the life of the place, and we couldn't get on without her now. I
don't think, though, that she has done three hours of solid reading
since she entered the house. I call that deplorable."
"She's a dear," said Aunt Carry. "We haven't been much in the way of
seeing young girls of late, and Mabel doesn't seem to me different
from most of those who visit her. Twenty years ago, you remember,
girls pecked at their food and had to lie down most of the time. Now
they eat it. What I can't get quite used to is the habit of letting
young men call them by their first names on short acquaintance. In my
time," she added with a little sigh, "it would have been regarded as
inconsistent with maidenly reserve. I'm sure I heard the young man who
was here last night say, 'I've known you a week now; may I call you
As to young men, be it stated, the subject of this conversation showed
herself impartially indifferent. Her attitude seemed to be that boys
were good fellows as well as girls, and should be encouraged
accordingly. If they chose to make embarrassing speeches regarding
one's personal appearance and to try to be alone with one as much as
possible, while such favoritism was rather a fillip to existence, it
was to be considered at bottom as an excellent joke. Young men came
and young men went. Mabel attracted her due share. Yet evidently she
seemed to be as glad to see the last comer as any of his predecessors.
Then occurred the second happening in the tranquil existence of the
maiden ladies. One day at the end of the first summer, an easterly
day, when the sky was beginning to be obscured by scud and the sea was
swelling with the approach of a storm, Dan Anderson, the only son of
his father, was knocked overboard by the boom while showing the heels
of his thirty-foot knockabout to the hired boat of his neighbor, Miss
Mabel Ripley. They were not racing, for his craft was unusually fast,
as became a multi-millionaire's plaything. Besides, he and the girl
had merely a bowing acquaintance. The _Firefly_ was simply
bobbing along on the same tack as the _Enchantress_, while the
fair skipper, who had another girl as a companion, tried vainly, at a
respectful distance, to hold her own by skill.
The headway on Dan's yacht was so great that before the two dazed
salts on board realized what had happened their master was far astern.
They bustled to bring the _Enchantress_ about and to come to his
rescue in the dingy. Stunned by the blow of the--spar, he had gone
down like a stone; so, in all probability, they would have been too
late. When he came up the second time it was on the port bow of the
_Firefly_, but completely out of reach. Giving the tiller to her
friend, and stripping off superfluous apparel, Mabel jumped overboard
in time to grasp and hold the drowning youth. There she kept him until
aid reached them. But the unconscious victim did not open his eyes
until after he had been laid on the Misses Ripley's lawn, where, by
virtue of brandy from the medicine-closet and hot-water bottles, the
flickering spark of life was coaxed into a flame.
It was an agitating experience for the aunts. But Mabel was none the
worse for the wetting; and though she naturally made light of her
performance, congratulations on her pluck and presence of mind came
pouring in. David Walker suggested that the Humane Society would be
sure to take the matter up and confer a medal upon the heroine. The
members of the Anderson family came severally to express with emotion
their gratitude and admiration. The father had not been there since
his previous eventful visit, though once or twice he had met his
neighbors on the road and stopped to speak to them, as if to show he
harbored no malice in spite of his disappointment.
Now with a tremulous voice he bore testimony to the greatness of the
mercy which had been vouchsafed him.
The third and last happening might be regarded as a logical sequel to
the second by those who believe that marriages are made in heaven. It
was to ponder it again after having pondered it for twenty-four hours
that the Ripley sisters found themselves in their pleached garden at
the close of the day. That the event was not unforeseen by one of them
was borne out by the words of Miss Carry:
"I remember saying to myself that day on the lawn, Rebecca, that it
would be just like the modern girl if she were to marry him; because
she saved his life, I mean. If he had saved hers, as used to happen,
she would never have looked at him twice. I didn't mention it because
it was only an idea, which might have worried you."
"We have seen it coming, of course," answered Miss Rebecca, who was
clasping the points of her elbows. "And there was nothing to do about
it--even if we desired to. I can't help, though, feeling sorry that
she isn't going to marry some one we know all about--the family, I
"Well," she added with a sigh, "the Andersons will get our place in
the end, after all, and we shall be obliged to associate more or less
with multi-millionaires for the rest of our days. It's depressing
ethically; but there's no use in quarrelling with one's own flesh and
blood, if it is a modern girl, for one would be quarrelling most of
the time. We must make the best of it, Carry, and--and try to like
"He really seems very nice," murmured Miss Carry. "He gives her some
new jewel almost every day."
Miss Rebecca sniffed disdainfully, as though to inquire if love was to
be attested by eighteen-carat gold rather than by summer blooms.
The sound of steps on the gravel path interrupted their confabulation.
"It is Mr. Anderson, _pere_" said Miss Carry laconically.
"He is coming to take possession," responded her sister.
The crunch of the gravel under his solid, firm tread jarred on their
already wearied sensibilities. Nevertheless they knew that it behooved
them to be cordial and to accept the situation with good grace. Their
niece was over head and ears in love with a young man whose personal
character, so far as they knew, was not open to reproach, and who
would be heir to millions. What more was to be said? Indeed, Miss
Rebecca was the first to broach the subject after the greetings were
"Our young people seem to have made up their minds that they cannot
live apart," she said.
"So my son has informed me."
Mr. Anderson spoke gravely and then paused. His habitually confident
manner betrayed signs of nervousness.
"I told him this morning that there could be no engagement until after
I had talked with you," he added.
One could have heard a pin drop. Each of the sisters was tremulous to
know what was coming next. Could he possibly be meditating purse-proud
opposition? The Ripley blue blood simmered at the thought, and Miss
Rebecca, nervous in her turn, tapped the ground lightly with her foot.
"The day I was first here," he resumed, "you ladies taught me a
lesson. I believed then that money could command anything. I
discovered that I was mistaken. It provoked me, but it set me
thinking. I've learned since that the almighty dollar cannot buy
gentle birth and--and the standards which go with it."
Unexpectedly edifying as this admission was, his listeners sought in
vain to connect it with the immediate issue, and consequently forebore
"The only return I can make for opening my eyes to the real truth is
by doing what I guess you would do if you or one of your folk were in
my shoes. I'm a very rich man, as you know. If your niece marries my
son her children will never come to want in their time. He's a good
boy, if I do say it; and I should be mighty proud of her."
Miss Carry breathed a gentle sigh of relief at this last avowal.
"I don't want her to marry him, though, without knowing the truth, and
perhaps when you hear it you'll decide that she must give him up."
Thereupon Mr. Anderson blew his nose by way of gathering his faculties
for the crucial words as a carter rests his horse before mounting the
final hill when the sledding is hard.
"I'm going to tell you how I made my first start. I was a clerk in a
bank and sharp as a needle in forecasting what was going to happen
downtown. I used to say to myself that if I had capital it would be
easy to make money breed money. Well, one day I borrowed from the
bank, without the bank's leave, $3,000 in order to speculate. I won on
that deal and the next and the next. Then I was able to return what
I'd borrowed and to set up in a small way for myself in the furniture
business. That was my start, ladies--the nest-egg of all I've got."
He sat back in his chair and passed his handkerchief across his
forehead like one who has performed with credit an agonizing duty.
There was silence for a moment. Unequivocal as the confession was,
Miss Rebecca, reluctant to believe her ears, asked with characteristic
"You mean that you--er--misappropriated the money?"
"I was an embezzler, strictly speaking."
"Perhaps you wonder why I told you this," he said, bending forward.
"No, we understand," said Miss Rebecca.
"We understand perfectly," exclaimed Miss Carry with gentle warmth.
"It's very honest of you, Mr. Anderson," said Miss Rebecca after a
"I've never been dishonest since then," he remarked naively. "But a
year ago I wouldn't have told you this, though it's been in the back
of my mind as a rankling sore, growing as I grew in wealth and
respectability. I made a bluff at believing that it didn't matter, and
that a thing done has an end. Well, now I've made a clean breast of it
to the ones who have a right to know. I should like you to tell
As he spoke the lovers appeared in the near distance at the edge of
the lawn, coming up from the beach. "But I don't think it will be
necessary to tell my son," he added yearningly.
"Certainly _not_" said Miss Rebecca with emphasis.
The sisters exchanged glances, trying to read each other's thoughts.
"It's a blot in the 'scutcheon, of course," said Miss Rebecca. "It's
for our niece to say." But there was no sternness in her tone.
This gave Miss Carry courage. Her hand shook a little as she put down
her teacup, for she was shy of taking the initiative. "I think I know
what she would say. In our time it would probably have been different,
on account of the family--and heredity; but Mabel is a modern girl.
And a modern girl would say that she isn't to marry the father but the
son. She loves him, so I'm certain she would never give him up.
Therefore is it best to tell her?"
Daniel Anderson's face was illumined with the light of hope, and he
turned to the elder sister, whom he recognized as the final judge.
Miss Rebecca sniffed. Her ideas of everlasting justice were a little
disconcerted. Nevertheless she said firmly after brief hesitation:
"I was taught to believe that the sins of the fathers should be
visited on the children; but I believe, Carry, you're right."
"Bless you for that," exclaimed the furniture king. Then, groping in
the excess of his emotion for some fit expression of gratitude, he
bent forward and, taking Miss Rebecca's hand, pressed his lips upon
her fingers as an act of homage.
Miss Carry would have been justified in reflecting that it would have
been more fitting had he kissed her fingers instead. But she was used
to taking the second place in the household, and the happy expression
of her countenance suggested that her thoughts were otherwise engaged.
ACROSS THE WAY
The news that the late Mr. Cherrington's house on Saville Street had
been let for a school, within a few months after his death, could not
have been a surprise to any one in the neighborhood. Ten years before,
when Mr. Cherrington and those prominent in his generation were in
their heyday, Saville Street had been sacred to private residences
from one end to the other, but the tide of fashion had been drifting
latterly. There was already another school in the same block, and
there were scattered all along on either side of the street a
sprinkling of throat, eye, and ear doctors, a very fashionable
dressmaker or two, an up-town bank, and numerous apartments for
The news could not have been a surprise even to Mr. Homer Ramsay, but
that crusty old bachelor in the seventies brought down his
walking-stick with a vicious thump when he heard it, and remarked that
he would live to be ninety "if only to spite 'em." This threat,
however, had reference, not to Mr. Cherrington's residence, but his
own, which was exactly opposite, and which he had occupied for more
than forty years. It was a conviction of Mr. Ramsay's that there was a
conspiracy on foot to purchase his house, and accordingly he took
every opportunity to declare that he would never part with an inch of
his land while he was in the flesh. A wag in the neighborhood had
expressed the opinion that the old gentleman waxed hale and hearty on
his own bile. He was certainly a churlish individual in his general
bearing toward his fellow-beings, and violent in his prejudices. For
the last ten years his favorite prophecy had been that the country was
going to the devil.
Besides the house on Saville Street, Mr. Ramsay had some bonds and
stock--fifty or sixty thousand dollars in all--which tidy little
property would, in the natural course of events, descend to his next
of kin; in this case, however, only a first cousin once removed. In
the eye of the law a living person has no heir; but blood is thicker
than water, and it was generally taken for granted that Mr. Horace
Barker, whose grandmother had been the sister of Mr. Ramsay's father,
would some day be the owner of the house on Saville Street. At least,
confident expectation that this would come to pass had long restrained
Mr. Barker from letting any one but his better half know that he
regarded his Cousin Homer as an irascible old curmudgeon; and perhaps,
on the other hand, had justified Mr. Ramsay in his own mind for
referring in common parlance to his first cousin once removed as a
stiff nincompoop who had married a sickly doll. Not that Mr. Horace
Barker needed the money, by any means. He was well-to-do already, and
lived in a more fashionable street than Saville Street, where he
occupied a dignified-looking brown-stone house, from the windows of
which his three little people--all girls--peeped and nodded at the
organ-grinder and the street-band.
The name of the person to whom Mr. Cherrington's house had been leased
was Miss Elizabeth Whyte. She was twenty-five, and she was starting a
school because it was necessary for her to earn her own living. She
considered that life, from the point of view of happiness, was over
for her; and yet, though she had made up her mind that she could never
be really happy again, she was resolved neither to mope nor to be a
burden on any one. Mr. Mills, the executor of Mr. Cherrington's
estate, who believed himself to be a judge of human nature withal, had
observed that she seemed a little overwrought, as though she had lived
on her nerves; but, on the other hand, he had been impressed by her
direct, business-like manner, which argued that she was very much in
earnest. Besides, she was vouched for by the best people, and Mrs.
Cyrus Bangs was moving heaven and earth to procure pupils for her. It
was clearly his duty as a business man to let her have the house.
Until within a few months Elizabeth Whyte had lived in a neighboring
town--the seat of a college, where the minds of young men for
successive generations have been cultivated, but sometimes at the
expense of a long-suffering local community. Her father, who at the
time of her birth was a clergyman with a parish, had subsequently
evolved into an agnostic and an invalid without one, and she had been
used to plain living and high thinking from her girlhood. Even parents
who find it difficult to keep the wolf at a respectful distance by
untiring economy will devise some means to make an only daughter look
presentable on her first appearance in society. Fine feathers do not
make fine birds, and yet the consciousness of a becoming gown will
irradiate the cheek of beauty. Elizabeth at eighteen would have been
fetching in any dress, but in each of her three new evening frocks she
looked bewitching. She was a gay, trig little person, with snapping,
dark eyes and an arch expression; a tireless dancer, quick and
audacious at repartee; the very ideal of a college belle. The student
world had fallen prostrate at her feet, and Tom Whittemore most
conspicuously and devotedly of all.
Tom was, perhaps, the most popular man of his day; a Philadelphian of
reputedly superfine stock, fresh-faced and athletic, with a jaunty
walk. There was no one at the college assemblies who whispered so
entrancingly in her ear when she was all alone with him in a corner,
and no one who placed her new fleecy wrap about her shoulders with
such an air of devotion when it was time to go home. She liked him
from the very first; and all her girl friends babbled, "Wouldn't it be
a lovely match?" But Tom's classmates from Philadelphia, when they
became confidential in the small hours of the morning, asked each
other what Tom's mother would say. Tom was a senior, and it was
generally assumed that matters would culminate on Class-day evening,
that evening of all evenings in the collegiate world sacred to
explanation and vows. Elizabeth lay awake all that night, remembering
that she had let Tom have his impetuous say, and that at the end he
had folded her in his arms and kissed her. Not until the next morning,
and then merely as an unimportant fact, did it occur to her that,
though Tom had told her she was dearer to him than all the world
besides, there was no definite engagement between them. It was only
when whispers reached her that Tom, who had gone to Philadelphia to
attend the wedding of a relation, was not coming back to his
Commencement, that she began to think a little. But she never really
doubted until the news came that Tom had been packed off by his mother
on a two years' journey round the world.
What mother in a distant city would be particularly pleased to have
her only son, on whom rested the hopes of an illustrious stock, lose
his heart to a college belle? But Elizabeth can scarcely be blamed for
not having taken the illustrious stock into consideration. She kept
saying to herself, that, if he had only written, she could have
forgiven him; and it was not surprising that the partners with whom
she danced at the college assemblies during the next five years
described her to each other as steely. Indeed, she danced and prattled
with such vivacious energy, and her black eyes shone so like beads,
that college tradition twisted her story until it ran that she had
thrown over Tom Whittemore, the most popular man of his day, and that
she had no more heart than a nether millstone. And all the time, just
to prove to herself that she had not cared for him, she kept the roses
that he had given her on that Class-day evening in the secret drawer
of her work-box. It had been all sheer nonsense, a boy and girl
flirtation. So she had taught herself to argue, knowing that it was
untrue, and knowing that she knew it to be so.
Then had come the deaths of her father and mother within three months
of each other, and she had awakened one morning to the consciousness
that she was alone in the world, and face to face with the necessity
of earning her daily bread. The gentleman who had charge of the few
thousand dollars belonging to her father's estate, in announcing that
her bonds had ceased to pay interest, had added that she was in the
same boat with many of the best people; which ought to have been a
consolation, had she needed any. But this loss of the means of living
had seemed a mere trifle beside her other griefs; indeed, it acted as
a spur rather than a bludgeon. The same pride which had prompted her
to continue to dance bade her bestir herself to make a living. Upon
reflection, the plan of starting a school struck her as the most
practicable. But it should be a school for girls; she had done with
the world of men. She had loved with all her heart, and her heart was
broken; it was withered, like the handful of dried roses in the secret
drawer of her work-box.
* * * * *
Elizabeth was fortunate enough to obtain at the outset the patronage
of some of those same "best people" in the adjacent city, who happened
to know her story. Fashionable favor grows apace. It was only after
hearing that Mrs. Cyrus Bangs had intrusted her little girl to the
tender mercies of Miss Whyte that Mrs. Horace Barker subdued the
visions of scarlet-fever, bad air, and evil communications which
haunted her, sufficiently to be willing to send her own darlings to
the new kindergarten. People intimate with Mrs. Barker were apt to say
that worry over her three little girls, who were exceptionally healthy
children, kept her a nervous invalid.
"I consider Mrs. Cyrus Bangs a very particular woman," she said, with
plaintive impressiveness to her husband. "If she is willing to send
her Gwendolen to Miss Whyte, I am disposed to let Margery, Gladys, and
Dorothy go. Only you must have a very clear understanding with Miss
Whyte, at the outset, as to hours and ventilation and Gladys's hot
milk. We cannot move from the seaside until a fortnight after her term
begins, and it will be utterly impossible for me to get the children
to school in the mornings before half-past nine."
It never occurred to Horace Barker, when one morning about ten
o'clock, some six weeks later, he called at the kindergarten with his
precious trio, that there was any impropriety in breaking in upon Miss
Whyte's occupations an hour after school had begun. What
school-mistress could fail to be proud of the distinction of obtaining
his three daughters as pupils at any hour of the twenty-four when he
saw fit to proffer them? He expected to find a cringing, deferential
young person, who would, in the interest of her own bread and butter,
accede without a murmur to any stipulations which so important a
patroness as Mrs. Horace Barker might see fit to impose. He became
conscious, in the first place, that the school-mistress was a much
more attractive-looking young person than he had anticipated, and
secondly, that she seemed rather amused than otherwise at his
conditions. No man, and least of all a man so consummate as Mr.
Barker--for he was a dapper little person with a closely cropped beard
and irreproachable kid gloves--likes to be laughed at by a woman,
especially by one who is young and moderately good-looking; and he
instinctively drew himself up by way of protest before Elizabeth
"Really, Mr. Barker," she replied, after a few moments of reflection,
"I don't see how it is possible for me to carry out Mrs. Barker's
wishes. To let the children come half an hour later and go home half
an hour earlier than the rest would interfere with the proper conduct
of the school. I will do my best to have the ventilation satisfactory,
and perhaps I can manage to provide some hot milk for the second one,
as her mother desires; but in the matter of the hours, I do not see
how I can accommodate Mrs. Barker. To make such an exception would be
entirely contrary to my principles."
Horace Barker smiled inwardly at the suggestion that a school-mistress
could have principles which an influential parent might not violate.
"When I say to you that it is Mrs. Barker's particular desire that her
preferences regarding hours should be observed, I am sure that you
will interpose no further objection."
Elizabeth gave a strange little laugh, and her eyes, which were still
her most salient feature, snapped noticeably. "It is quite out of the
question, Mr. Barker," she said with decision. "Much as I should like
to have your little girls, I cannot consent to break my rules on their
"Mrs. Barker would be very sorry to be compelled to send her children
elsewhere," he said solemnly, with the air of one who utters a dire
"I should be glad to teach your little girls upon the same terms as I
do my other pupils," said Elizabeth, quietly. "But if my regulations
are unsatisfactory, you had better send them elsewhere."
Horace Barker was a man who prided himself on his deportment. He would
no more have condescended to express himself with irate impetuosity
than he would have permitted his closely cropped beard to exceed the
limits which he imposed upon it. He simply bowed stiffly, and turning
to the Misses Barker, who, under the supervision of a nurse, whom they
had been taught to address by her patronymic Thompson instead of by
her Christian name Bridget, had been open-mouthed listeners to the
dialogue, said, "Come, children."
It so happened that as Mr. Horace Barker and the Misses Barker
descended the steps of the late Mr. Cherrington's house, they came
plump upon Mr. Homer Ramsay, who was taking his morning stroll. The
old gentleman was standing leaning on his cane, glaring across the
street; and, by way of acknowledging that he perceived his first
cousin once removed, he raised the cane, and, pointing in the line of
his scowling gaze, ejaculated:
"This street is going to perdition. As though it weren't enough to
have a school opposite me, a fellow has had the impudence to put his
doctor's sign right next door to my house--an oculist, he calls
himself. In my day, a man who was fit to call himself a doctor could
set a leg, or examine your eyes, or tell what was the matter with your
throat, and not leave you so very much the wiser even then; but now
there's a different kind of quack for every ache and pain in our
"We live in a progressive world, Cousin Homer," said Mr. Barker,
placing his eyeglass astride his nose to examine the obnoxious sign
across the way. "Dr. James Clay, Oculist," he read aloud,
"Progressive fiddlesticks, Cousin Horace. A fig for your oculists and
your dermatologists and all the rest of your specialists! I have
managed to live to be seventy-five, and I never had anybody prescribe
for me but a good old-fashioned doctor, thank Heaven! And I'm not dead
yet, as the speculators who have their eyes on my house and are
waiting for me to die will find out." Mr. Ramsay scowled ferociously;
then casting a sweeping glance from under his eyebrows at the little
girls, he said, "Cousin Horace, if your children don't have better
health than their mother, they might as well be dead. Do they go
there?" he asked, indicating the school-house with his cane.
"I am removing them this morning. Anabel had concluded to send them
there, but I find that the young woman who is the teacher has such
hoity-toity notions that I cannot consent to let my daughters remain
with her. In my opinion, so arbitrary a young person should be
checked; and my belief is that before many days she will find herself
without pupils." Whereupon Mr. Barker proceeded on his way, muttering
to himself, when at a safe distance, "Irrational old idiot!"
Mr. Ramsay stood for some moments mulling over his cousin's answer; by
degrees his countenance brightened and he began to chuckle; and every
now and then, in the course of his progress along Saville Street, he
would stand and look back at the late Mr. Cherrington's house, as
though it had acquired a new interest in his eyes. His daily promenade
was six times up and six times down Saville Street; and he happened to
complete the last lap, so to speak, of his sixth time down at the very
moment when Miss Whyte's little girls came running out on the sidewalk
for recess. Behind them appeared the school-mistress, who stood
looking at her flock from the top of the stone flight.
Elizabeth knew the old gentleman by sight but not by name, and she was
therefore considerably astonished to see him suddenly veer from his
ordinary course, and come slowly up the steps.
"You're the school-mistress?" he asked, with the directness of an old
man who feels that he need not mince his words.
"Yes, sir. I'm Miss Whyte."
"My name's Ramsay; Homer Ramsay. I live opposite, and I've come to
tell you I admire your pluck in not letting my cousin, Hortace Barker,
put you down. I'll stand by you, too; you can tell him that. Break up
your school? I should like to see him do it. Had to take his three
little girls away, did he? Ho, ho! A grand good joke that; a grand
good joke. What was it he asked you to do?"
"Mr. Barker wished me to change some of my rules about hours, and I
was not able to accommodate him, that was all," answered Elizabeth,
who found herself eminently puzzled by the interest in her affairs
displayed by this strange visitor.
"I'll warrant he did. And you wouldn't make the change. A grand good
joke that. I know him; he's my first cousin once removed, and the only
relation I've left. And he is going to try and break up your school.
I'd like to see him do it."
"I don't believe that Mr. Barker would do anything so unjust," said
"Yes, he would. I had it from his own lips. But he shan't; not while
I'm in the flesh. What did you say your name was?"
"And what made you become a school-teacher, I should like to know?"
"I had to earn my living."
"Humph! In my day, girls as pretty as you got married; but now the
rich ones are those who get husbands, and those who are poor have to
tend shop instead of baby."
"I know a number of girls who were poor, who have excellent husbands,"
said Elizabeth quietly, spurred into coming to the rescue of the sex
she despised. "But," she added, "there are many girls nowadays who are
poor who prefer to remain single." She was amused at having been led
into so unusual a discussion with this queer old gentleman.
"Bah! That caps the climax. When pretty girls pretend that they don't
wish to be married, the world is certainly turned upside down. Well, I
like your spirit, though I don't approve of your methods. I just
dropped in to say that if Horace Barker does cause you any trouble,
you've a friend across the way. Good-morning."
And before Elizabeth could bethink herself to say that she was very
much obliged to him, Mr. Ramsay was gone.
That very day after school, while Elizabeth was on her way across the
park which lay between Saville Street and the section of the city
where her rooms were, she dodged the wrong way in a narrow path, so
that she ran plump into the arms of a young man who was walking in the
opposite direction. Most women expect men to look out for them when
they dodge, but Elizabeth's code did not allow her to put herself
under obligations to any man. To tell the truth, she was in such a
brown study over the events of the morning that she had become
practically oblivious of her surroundings. When she recovered
sufficiently from her confusion at her clumsiness to take in the
details of the situation, she realized that the individual in question
was a young man whom she was in the habit of passing daily at this
same hour. Only the day before he had rescued her veil which had been
swept away by a high wind; and here she was again, within twenty-four
hours, forcing herself upon his attention. She, too, of all women, who
had done with men forever!
But Elizabeth's confusion was slight compared with that manifested by
her victim, who, notwithstanding that his hat had been jammed in by
her school-bag (which she had raised as a shield), was so profuse in
the utterance of his apologies and so willing to shoulder all
responsibility, that her own sensibilities were speedily comforted.
She found herself, after they had separated, much more engrossed by
the fact that he had addressed her by name. Although they had been
passing each other daily for over two months, it had never occurred to
her to wonder who he might be. But it was evident that she was not
unknown to him. She remembered now merely that he was a gentleman, and
that he had intelligent eyes and a pleasant, deferential smile. The
recollection of his blushing diffidence made her laugh.
On the following day, when they were about to pass as usual, she was
suddenly confronted in her mind by the alternative whether to
recognize him or not. A glance at him as he approached told her that
he himself was evidently uncertain if she would choose to consider
their experience of the previous day as equivalent to an introduction,
and yet she noticed a certain wistfulness of expression which
suggested the desire to be permitted to doff his hat to her. To
acknowledge by a simple inclination of her head the existence of a man
whom she was likely to pass every day seemed the natural thing to do,
however unconventional; so she bowed.
"Good afternoon, Miss Whyte," he said, lifting his hat with a glad
How completely our lives are often appropriated by incidents which
seem at the time of but slight importance! For the next few months
Elizabeth was buffeted as it were between the persistent persecution
of Mr. Horace Barker and the persistent devotion of Mr. Homer Ramsay.
With Mr. Barker she had no further interview, but not many weeks
elapsed before the influence of malicious strictures and insinuations
circulated by him concerning the hygienic arrangements of her school
began to bear their natural fruit. Parents became querulous and
suspicious; and when calumny was at its height, a case of
scarlet-fever among her pupils threw consternation even into the soul
of Mrs. Cyrus Bangs, her chief patroness. But, on the other hand, she
soon realized that she possessed an ardent, if not altogether
discreet, champion in her enemy's septuagenarian first cousin once
removed, who sang her praises and fought her battles from one end of
Saville Street to the other. Mr. Ramsay no longer railed against
electric cars and specialists; all his fulminations were uttered
against the malicious warfare which his Cousin Horace and that blood
relative's sickly wife were waging against the charming little Miss
Whyte, who had hired Mr. Cherrington's house across the way. What is
more, he paid Elizabeth almost daily visits, during which, after he
had discussed ways and means for confounding his vindictive kinsman,
he was apt to declare that she ought to be married, and that it was a
downright shame so pretty a girl should be condemned to drudgery
because she lacked a dowry. This was a point on which the old
gentleman never ceased to harp; and Elizabeth labored vainly to make
him understand that teaching was a delight to her instead of a
drudgery, and that she had not the remotest desire for a husband. And
by way of proving how indifferent she was to the whole race of men,
she continued to bow to the unknown stranger of her daily walk without
making the slightest effort to discover his name.
Pneumonia, that deadly foe of hale and hearty septuagenarians, carried
Mr. Homer Ramsay off within forty-eight hours in the first week of
May. And very shortly after, Elizabeth received a letter from Mr.
Mills, the lawyer, requesting her to call on a matter of importance.
She supposed that it concerned her lease. Perhaps her enemy had bought
the roof over her head.
Mr. Mills ushered her into his private office. Then opening a
parchment envelope on his desk, he turned to her, and said: "I have
the pleasure to inform you, Miss Whyte, that my client, the late Mr.
Homer Ramsay, has left you the residuary legatee of his entire
property--some fifty or sixty thousand dollars. Perhaps," he added,
observing Elizabeth's bewildered expression, "you would like to read
the will while I attend to a little matter in the other office. It is
quite short, and straight as a string. I drew the instrument, and the
testator knew what he was about just as well as you or I."
Mr. Mills, who, as you may remember, was a student of human nature,
believed that Miss Whyte lived on her nerves, and he had therefore
planned to leave her alone for a few moments to allow any hysterical
tendency to exhaust itself. When he returned, he found her looking
straight before her with the document in her lap.
"Is it all plain?" he asked kindly.
"Yes. But I don't understand exactly why he left it to me."
"Because he liked you, my dear. He had become very fond of you. And if
you will excuse my saying so," he added, with a knowing smile, "he was
very anxious to see you well married. He said that he wished to
provide you with a suitable dowry."
"I see," said Elizabeth, coloring. She reflected for a moment, then
looked up and said, "But I am free to use it as I see fit?"
"Absolutely. I may as well tell you now as any time, however," Mr.
Mills added smoothly, "that Mr. Ramsay's cousin, Mr. Horace Barker,
has expressed an intention to contest the will. He is the next of kin,
though only a first cousin once removed."
Elizabeth started at the name, and drew herself up slightly.
"You need not give yourself the smallest concern in the matter," the
lawyer continued. "If Mr. Barker were in needy circumstances or were a
nearer relative, he might be able to make out a case, but no jury will
hesitate between a first cousin once removed, amply rich in this
world's goods, and a--a--pretty woman. I myself am ready to testify
that Mr. Ramsay was completely in his right mind," he added, with
professional dignity; "and as for the claim of undue influence, it is
Elizabeth sat for a few moments without speaking. She seemed to pay no
heed to several further reassuring remarks which Mr. Mills, who judged
that she was appalled by the idea of a legal contest, hastened to let
fall. At last she looked straight at him, and said with firmness, "I
suppose that I am at liberty not to take this money, if I don't wish
"At liberty? Bless my stars, Miss Whyte, anybody is at liberty to
refuse a gift of fifty thousand dollars. But when you call to see me
again, you will be laughing at the very notion of such a thing. Go
home, my dear young lady, and leave the matter in my hands. Naturally
you are overwrought at the prospect of going into court."
"It isn't that, Mr. Mills. I cannot take this money; I have no right
to it. I am no relation to Mr. Ramsay, and the only reason he left it
to me was--was because he thought it would help me to be married.
Otherwise he would have left it to Mr. Barker. I have no intention of
marrying, and I should not be willing to take a fortune under such
"The will is perfectly legal, my dear. And as to marrying, you are
free to remain single all your days, if you wish to," said Mr. Mills,
with another knowing smile. "Indeed, you are overwrought."
Elizabeth shook her head. "I am sure that I shall never change my
mind," she answered. "I could never take it."
Elizabeth slept little that night; but when she arose in the morning,
she felt doubly certain that she had acted to her own satisfaction.
What real right had she to this money? It was coming to her as the
result of the fancy of an eccentric old man, who, in a moment of
needless pity and passing interest, had made a will in her favor to
the prejudice of his natural heir. Of what odds was it that that heir
had ample means already, or even that he was her bitter enemy? Did not
the very fact that he was her enemy and that she despised him make it
impossible for her to take advantage of an old man's whim so as to rob
him? She would have no lawsuit; he might keep the fifty thousand
dollars, and she would go her way as though Mr. Homer Ramsay and Mr.
Horace Barker had never existed. Mr. Ramsay had left her his money on
the assumption that she would be able to marry. To have taken it
knowing that she intended never to marry would have been to take it
under false pretences.
Mr. Mills consoled himself after much additional expostulation with
the reflection that if a woman is bent on making a fool of herself,
the wisest man in the world is helpless to prevent her. He set himself
at last to prepare the necessary papers which would put Mr. Horace
Barker in possession of his cousin's property; and very shortly the
act of signal folly, as he termed it, was completed. Tongues in the
neighborhood wagged energetically for a few days; but presently the
birth of twins in the next block distracted the public mind, and
Elizabeth was allowed to resume the vocation of an inconspicuous
schoolmistress. From the object of her bounty, Mr. Horace Barker, she
heard nothing directly; but at least he had the grace to discontinue
his persecutions. And parental confidence, which, in spite of
scarlet-fever, had never been wholly lost, was manifested in the form
of numerous applications to take pupils for the coming year. For the
first time for many weeks Elizabeth was in excellent spirits and was
looking forward to the summer vacation, now close at hand; during
which she hoped to be able to fit herself more thoroughly for her
duties after a few weeks of necessary rest.
One evening, about a fortnight before the date when the school was to
close, she noticed that the print of her book seemed blurred; she
turned the page and, perceiving the same effect, realized that her
vision was impaired. On the following morning at school she noticed
the same peculiarity whenever she looked at a book. She concluded that
it was but a passing weakness, the result of having studied too
assiduously at night. Still, recognizing that her eyes were
all-important to her, she decided to consult an oculist at once. It
would be a simple matter to do, for was there not one directly
opposite in the house next to Mr. Ramsay's? The sign, Dr. James Clay,
Oculist, had daily stared her in the face. She resolved to consult him
that very day after school. To be sure she knew nothing about him
individually, but she was aware that only doctors of the best class
were to be found in Saville Street.
She was obliged to wait in an anteroom, as there were three or four
patients ahead of her. When her turn came to be ushered into the
doctor's office, she found herself suddenly in the presence of the
unknown young man whom she was accustomed to meet daily on her way
from school. Her impulse at recognizing him, though she could not have
told why, was to slip away; but before she could move, he looked up
from the table over which he was bent making a memorandum.
"Miss Whyte!" he exclaimed with pleased astonishment and some
confusion, advancing to meet her. "In what way can I be of service to
"Dr. Clay? I should like you to look at my eyes; they have been
troubling me lately."
Elizabeth briefly detailed her symptoms. He listened with gravity, and
then after requesting her to change her seat, he examined her eyes
with absorbed attention. This took some minutes, and when he had
finished there was something in his manner which prompted her to say:
"Of course you will tell me, Dr. Clay, exactly what is the matter."
"I am bound to do so," he said, slowly. "I wished to make perfectly
sure, before saying that your eyes are quite seriously affected--not
that there is danger of a loss of sight, if proper precautions are
taken--but--but it will be absolutely necessary for you to abstain
from using them in order to check the progress of the disease."
"I see," she said, quietly, after a brief silence. "Do you mean that I
cannot teach school? I am a school-teacher."
"I knew that; and knowing it, I thought it best to tell you the whole
truth. No, Miss Whyte; you must not use your eyes for at least a year,
if you do not wish to lose your sight."
"I see," said Elizabeth again, with the hopeless air of one from whom
the impossible is demanded. "I thank you, Dr. Clay, for telling me the
truth," she added, simply. "Have I strained my eyes?"
"You have evidently overtaxed them a little; but the disease is
primarily a disease of the nerves. Will you excuse me for asking if at
any time within the last few years you have suffered a severe shock?"
"A shock?" Elizabeth hesitated an instant, and replied gently: "Yes;
but it was a number of years ago."
"That would account for the case, nevertheless."
A few minutes later Elizabeth was walking along the street, face to
face with despair. She had not been able to obtain permission from the
doctor to use her eyes even during the ten days which remained before
vacation. He had said that every moment of delay would make the cure
more difficult. She must absolutely cease to look at a book for one
whole year. It would be necessary at first for her to visit him for
treatment two or three times a week. He had said--she remembered his
exact words--"I cannot do a very great deal for you; we can rely only
on time for that; but believe me, I shall endeavor to help you so far
as it lies in human power. I hope that you will trust me--and--and
come to me freely." Kind words these, but of what avail were they to
answer the embarrassing question how she was to live? She must give up
her school at least for a year; that seemed inevitable. How was she to
earn her daily bread if she obeyed the doctor's orders? Would it not
be better to use her eyes to the end, and trust to charity to send her
to an infirmary when she became blind? Why had she been foolish enough
to refuse Mr. Ramsay's property? But for a quixotic theory, she would
not now have been at the world's mercy.
It was the sting of shame which this last thought aroused, following
in the train of her bitter reasoning, that caused her to quicken her
pace and clinch her hands. That same pride, which had been her ally
hitherto, had come to her rescue once more. She said to herself that
she had done what she knew was right, and that no force of cruel
circumstances should induce her to regret that she had not acted
differently. She would prove still that she was able to make her own
way without assistance, even though she were obliged to scrub floors.
A shock? The shock of a betrayed faith which had arrayed her soul in
bitterness against mankind. Must she own that she was crushed? Not
while she had an arm to toil and a heart to strive.
The next ten days were bitter ones. Elizabeth, after disbanding her
school, began to plan and contrive for the future. Schemes bright with
prospect suggested themselves, and faded into smoke at the touch of
practicability. She had a few hundred dollars, which would enable her
to live until she had been able to devise a plan, and she determined
that the world should not think that she was discouraged. The world,
and chiefly at the moment Dr. Clay, whose kindness and earnest
attention during the visits which she paid him suggested that he felt
great pity for her. Pity? She wished the pity of no man.
One evening while she was alone in her parlor, wrestling with her
schemes, the maid entered and said that a gentleman wished to see her.
A gentleman? She could think of none who would be likely to call upon
her, but she bade the girl show him in; and a moment later she was
greeting Dr. Clay. Presently, while she was wondering why he had come,
she found herself listening to these words: "I am a stranger to you to
all intents and purposes, but you are none to me. For months I have
dogged your footsteps unknown to you, and haunted this house in my
walks because I knew that you lived here. The memory of your face has
sweetened my dreams, and those brief moments when we have passed each
other daily have been sweeter than any paradise. I know the story of
your struggle with that coward and of your noble act of renunciation.
It cut into my heart like a knife to speak to you those necessary
words the other day, and I have been miserable ever since. I said to
myself at last that I would go to you and tell you that I could not be
happy apart from you; and that your happiness was mine. This seems
presumptuous, intrusive: I wish to be neither. I have merely come to
ask that I may be free to call upon you and to try to make you love
me. I am not rich, but my practice is such that I am able to offer you
a home. Will you allow me to come to see you, at least to be your
The silence which followed this eager question seemed to demand an
answer. Elizabeth, who had been sitting with bent head, looked up
presently and answered with a sweet smile:
"I have no friends, Dr. Clay. I think it would be very pleasant to
A few minutes later when he was gone, Elizabeth sat for some time
without moving, with the same happy smile on her lips. He had asked
nothing more and she had given him no greater assurance. Why was it
that at last she buried her face in her hands and sobbed as though her
bosom would break? Why was it, too, that before she went to bed that
night she took a handful of withered flowers, mere dust and ashes,
from the secret drawer of her work-box, and, wrapping them in the
paper which had enclosed them, held them in the flame of the lamp
until they were consumed? Why? Because love, unwatched for, unbidden
had entered her heart, which she thought sere as the rose-leaves, and
restored light to the sunshine and joy to the world.
Morgan Russell and I were lolling one day on the beach at Rock Ledge
watching the bathers. We had played three sets of tennis, followed by
a dip in the ocean, and were waiting for the luncheon hour. Though
Russell was my junior by four years, we were old friends, and had
prearranged our vacation to renew our intimacy, which the force of
circumstances had interrupted since we were students together at
Harvard. Russell had been a Freshman when I was a Senior, but as we
happened to room in the same entry, this propinquity had resulted in
warm mutual liking. I had been out of college for eight years, had
studied law, and was the managing clerk of a large law firm, and in
receipt of what I then thought a tremendous salary. Russell was still
at Cambridge. He had elected at graduation to pursue post-graduate
courses in chemistry and physics, and had recently accepted a
tutorship. He had not discovered until the beginning of the Junior
year his strong predilection for scientific investigation, but he had
given himself up to it with an ardor which dwarfed everything else on
the horizon of his fancy. It was of his future we were talking, for he
wished to take his old chum into his confidence and to make plain his
ambition. "I recognize of course," he told me, "that I've an uphill
fight ahead of me, but my heart is in it. My heart wouldn't be in it
if I felt that the best years of my life were to be eaten up by mere
teaching. Nowadays a man who's hired to teach is expected to teach
until his daily supply of gray matter has run out, and his original
work has to wait until after he's dead. There's where I'm more
fortunate than some. The fifteen hundred dollars--a veritable
godsend--which I receive annually under the will of my aunt, will keep
the wolf at a respectful distance and enable me to play the
investigator to my heart's content. I'm determined to be thorough,
George. There is no excuse for superficiality in science. But in the
end I intend to find out something new. See if I don't, old man."
"I haven't a doubt you will, Morgan," I replied. "I don't mind letting
on that I ran across Professor Drayson last winter, and he told me you
were the most promising enthusiast he had seen for a long time; that
you were patient and level-headed as well as eager. Drayson doesn't
scatter compliments lightly. But fifteen hundred dollars isn't a very
"It was very good of the old fellow to speak so well of me."
"Suppose you marry?"
"Marry?" Russell looked up from the sea-shells with which he had been
playing, and smiled brightly. He had a thin, slightly delicate face
with an expression which was both animated and amiable, and keen,
strong gray eyes. "I've thought of that. I'm not what is called
contemplating matrimony at the moment; but I've considered the
possibility, and it doesn't appall me."
"On fifteen hundred a year?"
"And why not, George?" he responded a little fiercely. "Think of the
host of teachers, clerks, small tradesmen, and innumerable other
reputable human beings who marry and bring up families on that or
less. Which do you think I would prefer, to amass a fortune in
business and have my town and country house and steam yacht, or to
exist on a pittance and discover before I die something to benefit the
race of man?"
"Knowing you as I do, there's only one answer to that conundrum," said
I. "And you're right, too, theoretically, Morgan. My ancestors in
Westford would have thought fifteen hundred downright comfort, and in
admitting to you that five thousand in New York is genteel poverty, I
merely reveal what greater comforts the ambitious American demands. I
agree with you that from the point of view of real necessity one-half
the increase is sheer materialism. But who's the girl?"
"There is no girl. Probably there never will be. But I'm no crank. I
like a good dinner and a seat at the play and an artistic domestic
hearth as well as the next man. If I were to marry, of course I should
retain the tutorship which I accepted temporarily as a means of
training my own perceptions, though I should try to preserve as at
present a considerable portion of my time free from the grind of
teaching. Then much as I despise the method of rushing into print
prematurely in order to achieve a newspaper scientific reputation, I
should expect to eke out my income by occasional magazine articles and
presently a book. With twenty-five hundred or three thousand a year we
should manage famously."
"It would all depend upon the woman," said I with the definiteness of
"If the savants in England, France, and Germany--the men who have been
content to starve in order to attain immortality--could find wives to
keep them company, surely their counterparts are to be found here
where woman is not the slave but the companion of man and is
encouraged to think not merely about him but think of him." After this
preroration Russell stopped abruptly, then raised himself on one
elbow. Attracted by his sudden interest I turned lazily in the same
direction, and after a moment's scrutiny ejaculated: "It looks just
As it was nearing the luncheon hour, most of the bathers had retired.
Two women, one of them a girl of twenty-five, in the full bloom of
youth and vigor, with an open countenance and a self-reliant, slightly
effusive smile, were on the way to their bath. They were stepping
transversely across the beach from their bath-house at one end in
order to reach the place where the waves were highest, and their
course was taking them within a few yards of where we lay. For some
reason the younger woman had not put on the oil-skin cap designed to
save her abundant hair from getting wet, but carried it dangling from
her fingers, and, just as Russell noticed her, she dropped it on the
beach. After stooping to pick it up, she waited a moment for her
friend to join her, revealing her full face.
"Yes, it's certainly she," I announced. "I spoke to her on the pier in
New York last autumn, when she was returning from Europe, and it's
either she or her double."
"You know her?"
"Yes, the Widow Spaulding."
"Widow? You mean the girl?"
There was just a trace of disappointment in the tone of Russell's
"Yes, I mean the girl. But you needn't dismiss her altogether from
your fastidiously romantic soul merely because she has belonged to
another. There are extenuating circumstances. She married the Rev.
Horace Spaulding, poor fellow, on his deathbed, when he was in the
last stages of consumption, and two days later she was his widow."
"You seem to know a good deal about her."
"I ought to, for she was born and bred in Westford. Edna Knight was
her name--the daughter of Justin Knight, the local attorney,
half-lawyer and half-dreamer. His parents were followers of Emerson,
and there have been plain living and high thinking in that family for
three generations. Look at her," I added, as she breasted a giant wave
and jubilantly threw herself into its embrace, "she takes to the water
like a duck. I never saw a girl so metamorphosed in three years."
"What was she like before?" asked Russell.
"Changed physically, I mean, and--and socially, I suppose it should be
called. Three years ago, at the time of her marriage to Spaulding, she
was a slip of a girl, shy, delicate, and introspective. She and her
lover were brought up in adjacent houses, and the world for her
signified the garden hedge over which they whispered in the gloaming,
and later his prowess at the divinity school and his hope of a parish.
When galloping consumption cut him off she walked about shrouded in
her grief as one dead to the world of men and women. I passed her
occasionally when I returned home to visit my family, and she looked
as though she were going into a decline. That was a year after her
marriage. Solicitous sympathy was unavailing, and the person
responsible for her regaining her grip on life was, curiously enough,
a summer boarder whom old Mrs. Spaulding had taken into her family in
order to make both ends meet. Westford has been saved from rusting out
by the advent in the nick of time of the fashionable summer boarder,
and Mrs. Sidney Dale, whose husband is a New York banker, and who
spent two summers there as a cure for nervous prostration, fascinated
Edna without meaning to and made a new woman of her in the process.
There is the story for you. A year ago Mrs. Dale took her to Europe as
a sort of finishing touch, I suppose. I understand Westford thinks her
affliction has developed her wonderfully, and finds her immensely
improved; which must mean that she has triumphed over her grief, but
has not forgotten, for Westford would never pardon a purely material
"I noticed her at the hotel this morning before you arrived, and
admired the earnestness and ardor of her expression."
"And her good looks presumably. I saw you start when she approached
just now. She may be just the woman for you."
"Introduce me then. And her companion?"
"Will fall to my lot, of course, but I have no clew as to her
Mrs. Spaulding enlightened me on the hotel piazza, after luncheon,
when, as a sequence to this persiflage I brought up my friend. The
stranger proved to be Mrs. Agnes Gay Spinney, a literary person, a
lecturer on history and literature. It transpired later that she and
Edna had become acquainted and intimate at Westford the previous
spring during a few weeks which Mrs. Spinney had spent there in the
preparation of three new lectures for the coming season. She was a
rather serious-looking woman of about forty with a straight figure,
good features, and a pleasant, but infrequent smile, suggesting that
its owner was not susceptible to flippancy. However, she naively
admitted that she had come away for pure recreation and to forget the
responsibilities of life.
Morgan and the widow were conversing with so much animation that I, to
whom this remark was addressed, took upon myself to give youth a free
field; consequently I resigned myself to Mrs. Spinney's dignified
point of view, and, avoiding badinage or irony, evinced such an
amiable interest in drawing her out that by the end of fifteen minutes
she asked leave to show me the catalogue of her lectures, a proof of
which she had just received from the printer. When she had gone to
fetch it, I promptly inquired:
"Why don't you two young people improve this fine afternoon by a round
A gleam of animation over Morgan's face betrayed that he regarded the
suggestion as eminently happy. But it was Edna who spoke first.
"If Mr. Russell will put up with my poor game, I should enjoy playing
immensely. But," she added smiling confidently and regarding him with
her large, steady brown eyes, "I don't intend to remain a duffer at it
long. I see," she continued after a moment, "from your expression, Mr.
Randall, that you doubt this. I could tell from the corners of your
"I must grow a mustache to conceal my thoughts, it seems. I was only
thinking, Mrs. Spaulding, that golf is a difficult game at which to
"Yes, but they say that care and determination and--and keeping the
eye on the ball will work wonders even for a woman. I shall be only a
moment in getting ready, Mr. Russell."
"But what is to become of you, George?" asked Morgan as she
"I noticed that a sensitive conscience kept you tongue-tied. This is
probably one of the most self-sacrificing acts which will be performed
the present summer. But you will remember that Mephistopheles on a
certain occasion was equally good-natured."
"Don't be absurd. Is she very trying?"
"Dame Martha had some humor and no understanding; Mrs. Spinney has
some understanding and no humor. Here she comes with her catalogue of
lectures. There are over fifty of them, and from their scope she must
be almost omniscient. How are you getting on with the widow?"
"Mrs. Spaulding seems to me an interesting woman. She has opinions of
her own, which she expresses clearly and firmly. I like her,"
responded Morgan with a definiteness of manner which suggested that he
was not to be debarred by fear of banter from admitting that he was
It seems that as they strode over the links that afternoon he was
impressed by her fine physical bearing. There were a freedom and an
ease in her movements, essentially womanly and graceful, yet