Part 1 out of 3
THE LILAC GIRL
RALPH HENRY BARBOUR
Author of "Kitty of the Roses," "An Orchard Princess,"
"A Maid in Arcady," "Holly," "My Lady of the Fog," etc.
With Illustrations in Color by CLARENCE F. UNDERWOOD
and Decorations by EDWARD STRATTON HOLLOWAY
[Illustration: OVER THE TIPS OF THE SPRAYS SHE SHOT A GLANCE AT WADE]
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
OVER THE TIPS OF THE SPRAYS SHE SHOT A GLANCE AT WADE
"OH, NO, SIR," REPLIED ZEPHANIA, WITH A SHOCKED, PITYING EXPRESSION
"YOUR HOUSE? THEN--THEN WHERE IS MINE, PLEASE?"
"STERN IN HER ANGER, MR. HERRICK, BUT OF AN AMIABLE AND FORGIVING
"NOW WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY?" HE DEMANDED
THE LILAC GIRL
Two men were sitting beside a camp-fire at Saddle Pass, a shallow notch
in the lower end of the Sangre de Cristo Range in southern Colorado.
Although it was the middle of June and summer had come to the valleys
below, up here in the mountains the evenings were still chill, and the
warmth of the crackling fire felt grateful to tired bodies. Daylight yet
held, although it was fast deepening toward dusk. The sun had been gone
some little time behind the purple grandeur of Sierra Blanca, but
eastward the snowy tips of the Spanish Peaks were still flushed with the
Nearby three ragged burros were cropping the scanty growth. Behind them
the sharp elbow of the mountain ascended, scarred and furrowed and
littered with rocky debris. Before them the hill sloped for a few rods
and levelled into a narrow plateau, across which, eastward and
westward, the railway, tired from its long twisting climb up the
mountain, seemed to pause for a moment and gasp for breath before
beginning its descent. Beyond the tracks a fringe of stunted trees held
precarious foothold on the lower slope of a smaller peak, which reared
its bare cone against the evening sky. There were no buildings at Saddle
Pass save a snow-shed which began where the rails slipped downward
toward the east and, dropping from sight, followed for a quarter of a
mile around the long face of the mountain. It was very still up here on
the Pass, so still that when the Western Slope Limited, two hours and
more late at Eagle Cliff, whistled for the tunnel four miles below the
sound came echoing about them startlingly clear.
"Train coming up from the west," said the elder of the two men. "Must be
the Limited." The other nodded as he drained the last drop in his tin
cup and looked speculatively at the battered coffee pot.
"Any more of the Arbuckle nectar, Ed?" he asked.
"Not a drop, but I can make some."
"No, I've had enough, I reckon. That's the trouble with dining late, Ed;
you have too much appetite."
"We'll have to get some more grub before long," was the reply, "or it'll
be appetite and nothing else with us. I can eat bacon with the next man,
but I don't want to feast on it six days running. What we need, Wade, is
"And plenty of it," sighed the other, stretching his tired legs and
finding a new position. "The fact is, even after this banquet I feel a
"Same here, but I figure we'd better go a little short till we get
nearer town. We ought to strike Bosa Grande to-morrow night."
"Why not hop the train and go down to Aroya? We can find some real grub
"Couldn't get back before to-morrow afternoon. What's the good of
wasting a whole day?"
"Looks to me like we'd wasted about twenty of them already, Ed."
Craig made no reply. He fished a corn-cob pipe and a little sack of
tobacco from his pocket and began to fill the bowl. Wade watched for a
moment in silence. Then, with a protesting groan, he rolled over until
he could get at his own pipe. Craig drew an ember from the edge of the
fire with calloused fingers, held it to his bowl and passed it on to
Wade. Then with grunts of contentment they settled back against the
sagging canvas of their tent and puffed wreaths of acrid smoke into the
The shadows were creeping up the mountain side. Overhead the wide sweep
of sky began to glitter with white stars. A little chill breeze sprang
up in the west and fanned the fire, sending a fairy shower of tiny
lemon-yellow sparks into the air. And borne on the breeze came a hoarse
pounding and drumming that grew momentarily louder and reverberated from
wall to wall. The ground trembled and the grazing burros lifted their
shaggy heads inquiringly.
"She's almost up," said Wade. Craig nodded and replaced his pipe between
his teeth. The noise became multisonous. With the clangor of the
pounding wheels came the stertorous gasping of the engines, the creak
and clatter of protesting metal. The uproar filled the pass deafeningly.
"She's making hard work of it," shouted Craig.
"Probably a heavy train," Wade answered.
Then a path of pale light swept around the elbow of the mountain and the
wheezing, puffing monsters reached the head of the grade. The watchers
could almost hear the sighs of relief from the two big mountain-climbers
as they found the level track beneath them. Their breathing grew easier,
quieter as they clanged slowly across the pass a few rods below the
camp. The burros, having satisfied their curiosity, went back to supper.
The firemen in the cab windows raised their hands in greeting and the
campers waved back. Behind the engines came a baggage and express car,
then a day coach, a diner and a sleeper. Slower and slower moved the
train and finally, with a rasping of brakes and the hissing of released
steam, it stopped.
"What's up?" asked Wade.
"Hot-box on the diner; see it?"
"Yes, and smell it. Let's go down."
But Craig shook his head lazily, and Wade, cinching his loosened belt,
limped with aching legs down the slope. The trainmen were already
pulling the smouldering, evil-smelling waste from the box, and after
watching a minute he loitered along the track beside the car. Several of
the shades were raised and the sight of the gleaming white napery and
silver brought a wistful gleam to his eyes. But there was worse to come.
At the last table a belated diner was still eating. He was a large man
with a double chin, under which he had tucked a corner of his napkin. He
ate leisurely, but with gusto.
"Hot roast beef," groaned Wade, "and asparagus and little green beans!
He suddenly felt very empty, and mechanically tightened his leather belt
another inch. It came over him all at once that he was frightfully
hungry. For the last two days he and his partner had been travelling on
short rations, and to-day they had been on the go since before sun-up.
For a moment the wild idea came to him of jumping on the train and
riding down to Aroya just so he could take a seat in the dining-car and
eat his fill.
"They wouldn't make much out of me at a dollar a throw," he reflected,
with a grin. But it wouldn't be fair to Craig, and he abandoned the idea
in the next breath. He couldn't stand there any longer, though, and see
that man eat. He addressed himself to the closed window before he turned
"I hope it chokes you," he muttered, venomously.
Some of the passengers had descended from the day coach to stretch their
limbs, and with a desire to avoid them Wade walked toward the rear of
the train. Daylight dies hard up here in the mountains, but at last
twilight held the world, a clear, starlit twilight. Overhead the vault
of heaven was hung with deep blue velvet, pricked out with a million
diamonds. Up the slope the camp-fire glowed ruddily. In the west the
smouldering sunset embers had cooled to ashes of dove-gray and steel,
against which Sierra Blanca crouched, a grim, black giant. Wade had
reached the observation platform at the end of the sleeping-car. With a
tired sigh he turned toward the slope and the beckoning fire. But the
sound of a closing door brought his head around and the fire no longer
On the platform, one hand on the knob of the car door as though
meditating retreat, stood the straight, slim figure of a girl. She wore
a light skirt and a white waist, and a bunch of flowers drooped from her
breast. Her head was uncovered and the soft brown hair waved lustrously
away from a face of ivory. The eyes that looked down into his reflected
the stars in their depths, the gently-parted mouth was like a vivid red
rosebud in the dusk. To Wade she seemed the very Spirit of Twilight,
white and slim and ethereal, and so suddenly had the apparition sprung
into his vision that he was startled and bewildered. For a long moment
their looks held. Then, somewhat faintly,
"Why have we stopped?" she asked.
So unreal had she looked that his heart pounded with relief when she
"There's a hot-box," he answered, in the tones of one repeating a lesson
learned. His eyes devoured her face hungrily.
"Oh!" said the girl, softly. "Then--then you aren't a robber, are you?"
Wade merely shook his head. "I heard noises, and then--when I opened the
door--and saw you standing there--." The first alarm was yielding to
curiosity. She glanced at the scarred and stained hand which grasped the
brass railing, and from there to the pleasant, eager, sunburnt face
under the upturned brim of the battered sombrero. "No, I see you're not
that," she went on reflectively. "Are you a miner?"
"No, only a prospector. We're camped up there." He tilted his head
toward the slope without moving his gaze.
"Oh," said the girl. Perhaps she found that steady, unwinking regard of
his disconcerting, for she turned her head away slightly so that her
eyes were hidden from him. But the soft profile of the young face stood
clear against the darkening sky, and Wade gazed enravished.
"You are looking for gold?" she asked.
"And--have you found it?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" There was sympathy in the voice and in the look she
turned upon him, and the boy's heart sang rapturously. Perhaps weariness
and hunger and the girl's radiant twilit beauty combined to make him
light-headed; otherwise how account for his behavior? Or perhaps
starlight as well as moonlight may affect the brain; the theory is at
least plausible. Or perhaps no excuse is needed for him save that he was
twenty-three, and a Southerner! He leaned against the railing and
laughed softly and exultantly.
"I've found no gold," he said, "but I don't care about that now. For
I've found to-night what is a thousand times better!"
"Better than--than gold!" she faltered, trying to meet his gaze. "Why,
"The girl I love!" he whispered up to her.
She gasped, and the hand on the knob began to turn slowly. Even in the
twilight he could see the swift blood staining the ivory of her cheek.
His eyes found hers and held them.
"What is your name?" he asked, softly, imperatively.
Oh, surely there is some quality, some magic power in mountain starlight
undreamed of in our philosophy, for,
"Evelyn," whispered the girl, her wide eyes on his and a strange wonder
on her face.
"Evelyn!" he echoed radiantly. "Evelyn! Evelyn what?"
"Walton," answered the girl obediently. He nodded his head and murmured
the name half aloud to his memory.
"Evelyn Walton. And you live in God's country?"
"In New York." Her breath came fast and one hand crept to her breast
where the flowers drooped.
"I'll remember," he said, "and some day--soon--I'll come for you. I love
you, girl. Don't forget."
There was a quick, impatient blast from the engine. The wheels creaked
against the rails. The train moved forward.
"Good night," he said. His hand reached over the railing and one of hers
fell into it. For a moment it lay hidden there, warm and tremulous. Then
his fingers released it and it fled to join its fellow at her breast.
"Good night--dear," he said again. "Remember!"
Then he dropped from the step. There was a long piercing wail of the
whistle that was smothered as the engine entered the snow-shed. The girl
on the platform stood motionless a moment. Then one of her hands dropped
from her breast, and with it came a faded spray of purple lilac. She
stepped quickly to the rail and tossed it back into the twilight. Wade
sprang forward, snatched it from the track and pressed it to his lips.
When the last car dipped into the mouth of the snow-shed he was still
standing there, gazing after, his hat in hand, a straight, lithe figure
against the starlit sky.
Well down in the southeastern corner of New Hampshire, some twenty miles
inland from the sea, lies Eden Village. Whether the first settlers added
the word Village to differentiate it from the garden of the same name I
can't say. Perhaps when the place first found a name, over two hundred
years ago, it was Eden, plain and simple. Existence there proving
conclusively the dissimilarity between it and the original Eden, the New
England conscience made itself heard in Town Meeting, and insisted on
the addition of the qualifying word Village, lest they appear to be
practising deception toward the world at large. But this is only a
theory. True it is, however, that while Stepping and Tottingham and
Little Maynard and all the other settlements around are content to exist
without explanatory suffixes, Eden maintains and is everywhere accorded
the right to be known as Eden Village. Even as far away as Redding, a
good eight miles distant, where you leave the Boston train, Eden's
prerogative is known and respected.
Wade Herrick discovered this when, five years after our first glimpse of
him, he stepped from the express at Redding, and, bag in hand, crossed
the station platform and addressed himself to a wise-looking,
freckle-faced youth of fourteen occupying the front seat of a rickety
"How far is it to Eden, son?" asked Wade.
"You mean Eden Village?" responded the boy, leisurely.
"I suppose so. Are there two Edens around here?"
"Nope; just Eden Village."
"Well, where is that, how far is it, and how do I get there?"
"About eight miles," answered the boy. "I kin take you there."
Wade viewed the discouraged-looking, flea-bitten gray horse dubiously.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "Have you ever driven that horse eight miles
in one day?"
"Well, I guess! There ain't a better horse in town than he is."
"How long will it take?"
"Oh, about an hour; hour an' a half; two hours--"
"Hold on! That's enough. This isn't exactly a sight-seeing expedition,
son. We'll compromise on an hour and a half; what do you say?"
The boy examined the prospective passenger silently. Then he looked at
the horse. Then he cocked an eye at the sun. Finally he nodded his head.
"All right," he said. Wade deposited his satchel in the carriage and
referred to an address written on the back of a letter.
"Now, where does Mr. Rufus Lightener do business?"
"Over there at the bank."
"Good. And where can I get something to eat?"
"Stand up or sit down?"
"Well, preferably 'sit down.'"
"Railroad Hotel. Back there about a block. Dinner, fifty cents."
"I certainly am glad I found you," said Wade. "I don't know what I'd
have done in this great city without your assistance. Now you take me
over to the bank. After that we'll pay a visit to the hotel. You'd
better get something to eat yourself while I'm partaking of that
An hour later the journey began. Wade, fairly comfortable on the back
seat of the carryall, smoked his after-dinner pipe. The month was June,
there had been recent rains and the winding, dipping country road
presented new beauties to the eyes at every stage. Wade, fresh from the
mountains of Colorado, revelled in the softer and gentler loveliness
about him. The lush, level meadow, the soft contour of the distant
hills, the ever-present murmur and sparkle of running water delighted
him even while they brought homesick memories of his own native
Virginia. It was a relief to get away from the towering mountains, the
eternal blue of unclouded skies, the parched, arid miles of unclothed
mesa, the clang and rattle of ore cars and the incessant grinding of
quartz mills. Yes, it was decidedly pleasant to have a whole summer--if
he wanted it--in which to go where he liked, do what he liked. One might
do much worse, he reflected, than find some such spot as this and idle
to one's heart's content. There would be trout, as like as not, in that
stony brook back there; sunfish, probably, in that lazy stream crossing
the open meadow yonder. It would be jolly to try one's luck on a day
like this; jolly to lie back on the green bank with a rod beside one and
watch the big white clouds sail across the wide blue of the sky. It
would seem almost like being a boy again!
Presently, when, after passing through the sleepy village of Tottingham,
the road crossed a shallow stream, Wade bade the boy drive through it.
"Don't have to," replied unimaginative fourteen. "There's a bridge."
"I know there is," answered Wade, "but my doctor has forbidden bridges.
Drive through the water. I want to hear it gurgle against the wheels."
He closed his eyes, expectantly content, and so did not see the alarmed
look which the boy shot at him. The horse splashed gingerly into the
stream, the wheels grated musically over the little stones, and the
water lapped and gurgled about the spokes. Wade leaned back with closed
eyes and nodded approvingly. "Just the same," he murmured. "It might be
the ford below Major Dabney's. This is surely God's own country again."
Further on they rattled through the quiet streets of East Tottingham, a
typical New England village built around a square, elm-shaded common. It
was all as Ed had described it; the white church with its tall spire
lost behind the high branches, the Town Hall guarded by an ancient black
cannon, the white houses, the green blinds, the lilac hedges, the
toppling hitching-post before each gate. Tottingham Center succeeded
East Tottingham and they eventually reached Eden Village twenty minutes
It was difficult to say where country left off and village began, but
after passing the second modest white residence Wade believed he could
safely consider himself within the corporate limits. Before him
stretched a wide road lined with elms. So closely were they planted that
their far-reaching branches formed a veritable roof overhead, through
which at this time of day the sunlight barely trickled. They were sturdy
trees, many of them larger in the trunk than any hogs-head, and
doubtless some of them were almost as old as the village itself. The
cool green-shadowed road circled slightly, so that as they travelled
along it the vista always terminated in a wall of green, flecked at
intervals with a gleam of white where the sun-bathed front of some house
peeked through. Wade viewed the quaint old place with interest, for here
Ed had lived when a boy, and many a story of Eden Village had Wade
The houses were set, usually, close to the street, with sometimes a
wooden fence, sometimes a hedge of lilacs before them. But more often
yard and sidewalk fraternized. Flowers were not numerous; undoubtedly
the elms threw too much shade to allow of successful floriculture. But
there were lilacs still in bloom, lavender and white, and their perfume
stirred memories. The houses in Eden Village were not crowded; for the
first quarter of a mile they passed hardly more than a dozen. After
that, although they became more neighborly, each held itself well aloof.
Then came a small church with a disproportionately tall spire, a
watering trough, the Town Hall, and "Prout's Store, Zenas Prout 2nd,
Proprietor." Here the gray sidled up to the ancient hitching-post. The
boy tossed the reins over the dashboard and jumped out. "You don't need
to hold him," he said reassuringly. Presently he was back. "It's further
up the street," he announced. "But he says there ain't anybody livin'
there an' the house is locked up."
"I've got the key," answered Wade. "Go ahead."
They went on along the leafy nave. Now and then a road or grass-grown
lane started off from the main highway and wandered back toward the
meadow-lands. Presently the street straightened out, the elms presented
thinner ranks, houses stood farther apart. Then the street divided to
enclose a narrow strip of common adorned with a flagpole greatly in need
of a new coat of white paint. The elms dwindled away and an occasional
maple dotted the common with shade. The driver guided the patient gray
to the left and, near the centre of the common, drew up in front of a
little white house, which, like the picket fence in front of it, the
flagstaff on the common, and so many other things in Eden Village,
seemed to be patiently awaiting the painter.
Inside the fence, thrusting its branches out between the pickets, ran a
head-high hedge of lilac bushes, so that, unless you stood directly in
front of the gate, all you saw of the first story were the tops of the
front door and the close-shuttered windows. Between house and hedge
there was the remains of a tiny formal garden. Rows of box,
winter-killed in spots, circled and angled about grass-grown spaces
which had once been flower-beds. The dozen feet of path from gate to
steps was paved with crumbling red bricks, moss-stained and
weed-embroidered. The front door had side-lights hidden by narrow, green
blinds and a fan-light above. Wade drew forth the key entrusted to him
by the agent and tried to fit it to the lock. But although he struggled
with it for several moments it refused stubbornly to have anything to do
with the keyhole.
"There's a side door around there," advised the boy from the carryall.
"Maybe it's the key to it."
"Maybe it is the key to it," responded Wade, wiping the perspiration
from his forehead. He pushed his way past the drooping branches of an
overgrown syringa, tripped over a box-bush, and passed around the left
of the house, following the remains of a path which led him to a door in
an ell. Back here there were gnarled apple and pear and cherry trees, a
tropical clump of rhubarb, and traces of what had evidently been at one
time a kitchen garden. Old-fashioned perennials blossomed here and
there; lupins and Sweet Williams and other sturdy things which had
resisted the encroachment of the grass. The key fitted readily, scraped
back, and the narrow door swung inward.
Gloom and mustiness were his first reward, but as his eyes became
accustomed to the darkness he saw that he was in the kitchen. There was
the sink with a hand-pump on one side and a drain-board on the other.
Here a table, spread with figured yellow oil-cloth; a range, chairs,
corner-cupboard, a silent, staring clock. His steps beat lonesomely on
the floor. A door, reached by a single step, led to the front of the
house. He pushed it open and groped his way up and in, across to the
nearest window. When the blinds were thrust aside he found himself
confronted by a long mahogany sideboard whose top still held an array of
Sheffield platters, covered dishes, candlesticks. Save for the dust
which lay heavily on every surface and eddied across the sunlight, there
was nothing to suggest desertion. Wade could fancy that the owner had
stepped out of doors for the moment or had gone upstairs. He found
himself listening for the sound of footsteps overhead or on the
staircase or in the darkened hall. But the only sounds were faint sighs
and crepitations doubtless attributable to the air from the open windows
stirring through the long-closed house, but which Wade, letting his
fancy stray, chose to believe came from the Ghosts of Things Past. He
pictured them out there in the hall, peering through the crevice of the
half-open door at the intruder with little, sad, troubled faces. He
could almost hear them whispering amongst themselves. He felt a little
shiver go over him, and threw back his shoulders and laughed softly at
But the feeling that he was an intruder, a trespasser, remained with him
as he passed from room to room, throwing open windows and blinds, and
now and then sneezing as the impalpable dust tickled his nostrils. In
the sitting-room, as in every other apartment, everything looked as
though the occupant had passed out of the room but a moment before.
Wade's face grew grave and tender as he looked about him. On the sewing
machine a shallow basket held sewing materials and a few pairs of coarse
woollen stockings, neatly rolled. The poker was laid straight along the
ledge of the big "base-burner" in the corner. A table with a green cloth
stood in front of a window and bore a few magazines dated almost ten
years before. A set of walnut book-shelves held a few sober-clad
volumes, Bulfinch's "Age of Fable," "Webster's Dictionary," Parker's
"Aids to English Composition," Horace's "Odes" in Latin, "The Singer's
Own Book," "Henry Esmond" and "Vanity Fair," "A Chance Acquaintance,"
two cook-books, a number of yellow-covered "Farmer's Almanacs," and "A
Guide to the City of Boston." A sewing-stand supported a huge family
Bible. The walls were papered in brown and a brown ingrain carpet
covered the floor. There was a couch under the side window and a few
upholstered chairs were scattered about. Now that the windows were open
and the warm sunlight was streaming in, it was a cosy, shabby, homey
Wade opened the door into the hall. Perhaps the Ghosts of Things Past
scampered up the winding stairway; at least, they were not to be seen.
He found the front-door key in the lock and turned the bolt. When the
door swung inward a little thrill touched him. For the first time in his
life he was standing on his own doorsill, looking down his own front
path and through his own front gate!
In every man's nature there is the desire for home-owning. It may lie
dormant for many years, but sooner or later it will stir and call. Wade
heard its voice now, and his heart warmed to it. Fortune had brought him
the power to choose his home where he would, and build an abode far
finer than this little cottage. And yet this place, which had come to
him unexpectedly and through sorrow, seemed suddenly to lay a claim upon
him. It was such a pathetic, down-at-heels, likable little house! It
seemed to Wade as though it were saying to him: "I'm yours now. Don't
turn your back on me. I've been so very, very lonesome for so many
years! But now you've come, and you've opened my doors and windows and
given me the beautiful sunlight again, and I shall be very happy. Stay
with me and love me."
In the carryall the boy was leaning back with his feet on the dasher and
whistling softly through his teeth. The gray was nibbling sleepily at
the decrepit hitching-post. Wade glanced at his watch, and looked again
in surprise. It was later than he had thought. If he meant to get out of
Redding that night it was time he thought of starting back. But after a
moment of hesitation he turned from the door and went on with his
explorations. In the parlor there was light enough from the front door
to show him the long formal room with its white marble centre-table
adorned with a few gilt-topped books and a spindly lamp, the square
piano, the stiff-looking chairs and rockers, the few pictures against
the faded gold paper, the white mantel, set with shells and vases and a
few photographs, the quaint curving-backed sofa between the side
windows. He closed the door again and turned down the hall.
The stairway was narrow and winding, with a mahogany rail set upon white
spindles. It was uncarpeted and his feet sounded eerily on the steps. On
the floor above doors opened to left and right. The first led into what
had evidently been used as a spare bedroom. It was uncarpeted and but
scantily furnished. The door of the opposite room was closed. Wade
opened it reverently and unconsciously tiptoed to the window. When the
sunlight was streaming in he turned and surveyed the apartment with a
catch of his breath. It had been Her room. He had never seen her, yet he
had heard Ed speak of her so much that it seemed that he must have known
her. He tried not to think of the days when, lying there on the old
four-post bed with the knowledge of approaching death for company, she
had waited and waited for her son to come back to her. Ed had never
forgiven himself that, reflected Wade. He had been off in Wyoming at
the time, and when he had returned the two telegrams lay one upon the
other with a month's dust over them, the one apprising him of his
mother's illness and asking him to hurry home, the other tersely
announcing her death. Well, she knew all about it now, reflected Wade.
Ed had told her long before this.
It was a pleasant little room with its sloping ceilings and cheerful
pink paper. The bed was neatly spread with a patchwork quilt, and the
blankets and counterpane were folded and piled upon the foot. The old
mahogany bureau was just as she had left it, doubtless. The little,
knick-knacks still stood upon the brackets, and in the worsted-worked
pincushion a gold brooch was sticking.
He closed the window and returned to the floor below. A door under the
stairway led from the hall to the kitchen. He crossed the latter and
passed out into the yard. Back of the house the ground sloped slightly
to a distant stone wall, which apparently marked the limit there of
Wade's domain. At one time there had been a fence between the orchard
and the meadow beyond, but now only an occasional crumbling post
remained. Trees had grown up here and there in the meadow, a few young
maples, a patch of locusts, and some straggling sumacs. Birds sang in
the trees, and once, when he listened, Wade thought he could hear the
tinkling of a brook.
Toward the centre of the village his ground ran only to a matter of ten
or twelve yards from the kitchen door. There was just room for the
little garden between house and fence. On that side his nearest neighbor
was distant the width of several untenanted lots. On the other side,
however, there was more space. There were some shade-trees here, and
around one of them, an ancient elm, ran a wooden seat, much carved and
lettered. The boundary here was a continuation of the lilac hedge which
fronted the street, and in it was an arched gate leading to the next
yard. But from the gate all Wade could discern was the end of a white
house and a corner of a brick chimney some forty yards distant; trees
and shrubbery hid more of his neighbor's estate.
Wade returned to the front of the house, hands in his pockets, a tune on
his lips. He had taken his valise from the back of the carryall before
the driver, who was half asleep, discovered his presence. He blinked and
dropped his feet from the dashboard.
"You all ready?" he asked.
Wade shook his head.
"I've changed my mind," he said. "I'm going to stay awhile."
That was a stirring afternoon in Eden Village. Wade's advent was like
the dropping of a stone into the centre of a quiet pool. Prout's Store
was the centre of the pool, and it was there that the splash and
upheaval occurred, and from there the waves of commotion circled and
spread to the farthest margins. By supper time it was known from one
length of Main Street to the other that the Craig place was tenanted
again. As to who the tenant was rumor was vague and indefinite. But
before bedtime even that point was definitely settled, Zenas Prout 2nd
having kept the store open a full half-hour later than usual to
accommodate delayed seekers after knowledge.
It was a rather stirring afternoon for Wade, too. First there was a
visit to the store in the carryall for the purchase of supplies. Mr.
Prout, who combined the duties of merchant with those of postmaster and
express agent, was filling out a requisition for postal supplies when
Wade entered. Poking his pen behind his ear, he stepped out from behind
the narrow screen of lock-boxes and greeted the visitor.
"Afternoon, sir. You found the house all right?"
"Yes, thanks." Wade drew forth a pencil and tore off a piece of wrapping
"Sort of out of repairs, of course, seem' it ain't been lived in for
most ten years, not since Mrs. Craig died. Was you considerin'
"Er--no." Wade was writing rapidly on the brown paper. "The fact is, Mr.
Prout, I own the Craig house now."
"You don't say?" exclaimed the store-keeper in genuine surprise. "You
ain't--surely you ain't Ed Craig?"
"No, my name's Herrick. Ed was a good friend of mine. We were partners
in a mining enterprise in Colorado. Ed died almost a year ago now;
"I want to know! Well, well! So Ed Craig's gone, has he? I remember him
when he was 'bout so high. Used to come down here an' I'd set him up on
the counter right where you be now, Mr. Herring, and give him a stick of
candy. I recollect he always wanted the kind with the pink stripes on
it. An' he's dead, you say? We often wondered what had become of Ed.
Folks thought it kind of queer he didn't come home the time his mother
"He was away and didn't learn of her illness until it was too late,"
said Wade. "He felt mighty badly about that, Mr. Prout, and I wish you'd
let the people here know how it happened. Not that it matters much to Ed
now, but he was the best friend I ever had, and I don't want folks who
used to know him to think he deliberately stayed away that time."
"That's so, sir. An' I'm glad to hear the truth of it. Ed didn't seem to
me when I knew him the sort of feller to do a thing like that. Folks'll
be glad to know about it, Mr. Herring."
"Herrick, please. Now just look over that list and check off what you
can let me have, will you? I'm going to stay awhile, and so I will have
to get in a few provisions."
Mr. Prout ran his eye down the list dubiously, checking now and then.
When he laid it down and pushed it across the counter his tone was
"Ain't a great deal there I can sell you, Mr. Herrick. I'm kind of out
of some things. I guess I can get most of 'em for you, though, if you
ain't got to have 'em right away."
Wade looked at the slip.
"You put up what you've got," he said, "and I'll send over to Tottingham
Center for the rest."
"Don't believe you'll get 'em all there," commented Mr. Prout. "Things
like bacon in jars an' canned mushrooms there ain't much call for around
But Wade was busy revising his list, and made no comment. Presently he
went out and despatched the boy to the Center. When he returned to the
store Mr. Prout was weighing out sugar.
"So you come into the Craig place, Mr. Herrick. I suppose you bought
"No, Ed left it to me in his will. Wanted me to come on here and have a
look at it and see that it was all right. He was very fond of that
place. So I came. And--well, it's a pleasant place, Mr. Prout, and it's
a pretty country you have around here, and so I reckon I'll stay awhile
and camp out in the cottage."
"Going to do your own cooking?" asked Mr. Prout.
"Have to, I reckon. It won't be the first time, though."
"Guess you wouldn't have any trouble findin' some one to come in an' do
for you, if you wanted they should," said Mr. Prout. "There's my gal,
now. She's only fifteen, but she's capable an' can cook pretty tolerable
well. Course you know your business best, Mr. Herrick, but--"
"Send her over in the morning," said Wade, promptly. "Is there a mail
out of here to-night?"
"Then let me have a sheet of paper and a stamped envelope, if you
please. I'll write down to Boston and have them send my trunk up."
He met but few persons on his way back to the cottage, but many a
curious gaze followed him from behind curtained windows, and, since the
ripples had not yet widened, he left many excited discussions in his
wake. Back in the cottage he threw off coat and vest, lighted his pipe
and set to work. First of all, up went the parlor windows and shades.
But a dubious examination of that apartment was sufficient. If he should
ever really live here the parlor could be made habitable, but for the
present its demands were too many. He closed the windows again and
abandoned the room to its musty solitude. From the spare room upstairs
he brought bed and bedding and placed it in the sitting room. It
required some ingenuity to convert the latter apartment into a bedroom,
but the difficulty was at last solved by relegating the sewing machine
to the parlor and moving the couch. When the bed was made Wade went out
to the kitchen and looked over the situation there. Closet and
cup-board displayed more dishes and utensils than he would have known
what to do with. He tried the pump and after a moment's vigorous work
was rewarded with a rushing stream of ice-cold water that tasted pure
and fresh. Then he looked for fuel. The lean-to shed, built behind the
kitchen, was locked, and, after a fruitless search for the key, he pried
off the hasp with a screw-driver. The shed held the accumulated rubbish
of many years, but Wade didn't examine it. Fuel was what he wanted and
he found plenty of it. There was a pile of old shingles and several feet
of maple and hickory neatly stowed against the back wall. Near at hand
was a chopping-block, the axe still leaning against it. There was a
saw-horse, too, and a saw hung above it on a nail. But there was no wood
cut in stove size, and so Wade swung the door wide open to let in light,
and set to work with the saw and axe. It felt good to get his muscles
into play again and he was soon whistling merrily. Fifteen minutes later
he was building a fire in the kitchen stove. It was too early for
supper, but the iron kettle looked very lonely without any steam curling
from its impertinent spout. After he had solved the secrets of the
perplexing drafts, and ascertained by the simple expedient of placing a
sooty finger in it that the water was really getting warm, he washed his
hands at the sink and returned to the sitting-room to don vest and coat.
He had done that and was ruminantly filling his pipe when something drew
his gaze to one of the side windows. The pipe fell to the floor and the
tobacco trailed across the carpet.
For a moment, for just the tiny space of time which it took his heart to
charge madly up into his throat, turn over and race back again, the open
casement framed the shoulders and face of a woman. There were greens and
blues in the background, and sunlight everywhere, and a blue shadow fell
athwart the sill. The picture glared with light and color, but for that
brief fragment of time Wade's eyes, half-blinded by the dazzlement,
looked into the woman's. His widened with wonder and dawning
recognition; hers--but the vision passed. The frame was empty again.
Wade passed a hand over his eyes, blinked and asked himself startledly
what it meant. Had he dreamed? He gazed dazedly from the fallen pipe to
the empty window. The sunlight dazzled and hurt, and he closed his eyes
for an instant. And in that instant another vision came.... It was
twilight on Saddle Pass.... Two starlit eyes looked wonderingly down
into his. The mouth beneath was like a crimson bud with parted
petals.... A slim, warm hand was in his and his heart danced on his
lips.... The slender form lessened and softened in the tender darkness
and became only a pale blur far down the track, and he was standing
alone under the cold white stars, with a spray of lilac against his
He opened his eyes with a shiver. It was uncanny. All that had been five
years ago, five years filled to the brim with work and struggle and
final attainment, all making for forgetfulness. The thing was utterly
absurd and impossible! His senses had tricked him! The light had
blinded his eyes and imagination had done the rest! And yet--
He strode to the window and looked out. The garden was empty and still.
Only, under the window, at the edge of the path, lay a spray of purple
"Eh? Yes? What is it?"
Wade sat up in bed and stared stupidly about him. In Heaven's name where
was he? And what was the noise that had awakened him? There it was
_Rat, tat, tat, tat!_
Was he still asleep? What was this room? The stove looked dimly
familiar, and there were his clothes over the back of a green rep
rocker. But where--Then memory routed sleep and he sank back onto the
pillow with a sigh of relief. It was all right. He remembered now. He
was in his own cottage in Eden Village, he had had a fine long sleep and
felt ready for--
_Rat, tat, tat, tat--TAT!_
"Hello! What is it? Who is it? Why in thunder don't you--"
"Please, sir, it's me."
The reply came faintly through the dining room. Some one was knocking at
the kitchen door. The apologetic tones sounded feminine, however, and
Wade was in no costume to receive lady visitors. He looked desperately
around for his dressing-gown and remembered that it was in his trunk and
that his trunk still reposed in the porter's room of a Boston hotel.
"Who--who is 'me'?" he called.
Zephania! Who in thunder was Zephania?
"I'm very sorry, Miss Zephania, but I'm not dressed yet. If you wouldn't
mind calling again in, say, half an hour--"
"Please, sir, I'll wait."
"Oh, well--er--was there something you wanted?"
"Please, sir, I've come to do for you."
To do for him! Wade clasped his knees with his arms and frowned
perplexedly at the big stove. It was distinctly threatening. He wondered
how she intended to accomplish her awful purpose. Perhaps she had
stopped in the woodshed and secured the axe. To do for him! Then he
laughed and sprang out of bed. It was Zenas Prout's girl, and she had
come to get his breakfast.
"Zephania!" he called.
"Yes, sir?" It sounded as though she were sitting on the back doorstep.
"The door is unlocked. Come in. You'll find things to eat on the table
and things to cook with in the closets. I'll be dressed in a few
He heard the door open as he closed his own portal, and in a moment a
stove-lid fell clanging to the floor. After that Zephania's presence in
the house was never for a moment in doubt. Rattle-bang went the poker,
clicketty-click went the shaker, and triumphant over all rose Zephania's
shrill young voice:
"'O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land,
As on thy highest mount I stand;
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me.'"
"She has a cheerful presence," muttered Wade. "I wonder if she does that
all the time."
But Zephania's vocal efforts were forgotten for the moment in the
annoying discovery that he had neglected to provide washing
accommodations. He had intended using the kitchen sink for ablutions,
but with Zephania in possession of that apartment it was out of the
question. It was evident that if he meant to wash in the kitchen he
would have to get up earlier. What time of day was it, anyhow? He looked
at his watch and whistled.
"Twenty minutes of seven!" he ejaculated. "This won't do. I guess I'd
better get my own breakfasts. If there's one thing a chap wants to do in
vacation it's sleep late."
He raised the shades and flung open the front windows. On the lilac
hedge a bird was poised singing his heart out. Wade watched him in
admiration and wondered what kind of a bird he was. To Wade a bird was a
bird as long as it was neither a buzzard nor a crow.
"You're not a buzzard," he told the songster, "nor a crow. You have a
gray breast and brown body and a black cap on your head. Wonder who you
are. Guess you're a sparrow. I believe I'll get a book telling about
birds. They're interesting little devils. Look at him put his head back!
Just as though he meant to crack things wide open. By Jove! I have it!
Your name's Zephania!"
A baker's cart ambled by beyond the hedge, the driver leaning around the
corner of the vehicle to regard the cottage curiously. Out on the common
a bay horse, his halter-rope dragging under his feet, cropped the lush
"You're happy," murmured Wade. "The bird's happy. Zephania's happy. This
must be a happy village." He pondered a moment, gazing contentedly about
the cosy sunlit room. Then, "And I'm happy myself," he added with
conviction. And to prove it he began to whistle merrily while he
finished dressing. Presently there was a knock on the dining-room door.
"Yes?" responded Wade.
"Please, sir, what will you have for breakfast?" Being by this time
decently dressed, Wade opened the door.
"Hello!" he said.
"Good morning," answered Zephania.
If he had not been informed that her age was fifteen Wade would have
supposed Zephania's years to be not over a baker's dozen. She was a
round-faced, smiling-visaged, black-haired, black-eyed, ruddy-cheeked
little mite who simply oozed cheerfulness and energy. She wore a
shapeless pink cotton dress which reached almost to her ankles, and over
that a blue-checked apron which nearly trailed on the floor. Her sleeves
were rolled elbow-high and one little thin hand clutched a dish-cloth as
a badge of office. Wade stared dubiously at Zephania and Zephania smiled
"Look here, my child," said Wade, "how old are you, anyway?"
"Fifteen in March, sir."
"No, sir, last."
"You don't look it."
"No, sir, folks say I'm small for my age," agreed Zephania, cheerfully.
"I agree with them. Do you think you're strong enough to do the work
"Oh, yes, sir. This is a very easy house to look after."
"Well," said Wade, hesitatingly, "you can have a try at it, but it seems
to me you're too young to be doing housework."
"I've always done it," replied Zephania, beamingly. "What'll you have
for breakfast, sir?"
"Coffee--can you make coffee?"
"Yes, sir, three ways."
"Well, one way will do," said Wade, hurriedly. "And you'll find some
eggs there, I believe, and some bread. You might fry the eggs and toast
the bread. I guess that will do for this morning."
"Yes, sir, thank you," answered Zephania, politely. "Wouldn't you rather
have the eggs poached?"
"Er--why, yes, if you can do it."
"I can cook eggs eleven ways," said Zephania, proudly. "Are you going to
eat breakfast in here or in there?" She nodded past Wade at the
"Well, what do you think?"
"It's sunnier in there, sir. I could just clear the end of that table.
There's a fine big tray, sir."
"An excellent idea," replied Wade. "I place myself--and my house--in
your hands, Zephania."
"Thank you, sir," said Zephania.
Breakfast was prepared that morning to the strains of "Jesus, Lover of
My Soul." Wade went out to the kitchen presently to wash hands and face
at the sink and dry them on a roller towel, which Zephania whisked
before him as if by magic. Watching her for a minute or two dispelled
all doubts as to her ability. The way in which she broke the eggs and
slipped them into the boiling water was a revelation of dexterity. And
all the while she sang on uninterruptedly, joyously, like the
gray-breast on the hedge. Wade went out into the garden and breathed in
deep breaths of the cool, moist air. The grass and the shrubs were heavy
with dew and the morning world was redolent of the perfume exhaled from
moist earth and growing things. In the neglected orchard the birds were
chattering and piping, and from a nearby field came the excited cawing
of crows. It was corn-planting time.
Wade ate his breakfast by the open window. He didn't know in which of
the three ways Zephania had prepared his coffee, but it was excellent,
and even the condensed milk couldn't spoil it. The eggs were snowy
cushions of delight on golden tablets of toast, and the butter was hued
like old ivory. Zephania objected to condensed milk, however, and
suggested that she be allowed to bring a quart of "real milk" with her
when she came in the mornings.
"Of course, you won't need a whole quart, unless you drink it, but, if
you like cream in your coffee, it'll be a great deal heavier from a
quart than from a pint. We get six cents for milk."
"By all means, let us have a quart," replied Wade, recklessly. "Such
good coffee as this, Zephania, deserves the best cream to be had."
Zephania blushed with pleasure and beamed down upon him radiantly.
"And maybe, sir, you'd like me to make you some bread?"
"I would. I was about to broach the subject," was the mendacious answer.
"Could you do it?"
"Yes, indeed. Why, when they had the church fair over to The Center last
winter I sent four loaves, and Mrs. Whitely, that's the minister's wife,
sir, said it was just as good as any there."
"I want to know!" said Wade, unconsciously falling into local idiom.
"Yes, sir. I can make two kinds of bread. I'll make the milk bread
first, though, and let you try that. Most folks likes milk bread the
best. Shall I set some to-night?"
"Set some? Oh, yes, please do."
While she was removing the tray Zephania asked: "Which room would you
like to have me clean first, sir?"
"Well, I suppose we ought to clean the whole place up, hadn't we?"
[Illustration: "OH, NO, SIR," REPLIED ZEPHANIA, WITH A SHOCKED, PITYING
"Oh, yes, sir! Everything's just covered with dust. I never did see such
a dirty house. Houses do get that way, though, if they're shut up for
a long time. Maybe I'd just better begin at the top and work down?"
"That seems sensible," said Wade. "You could just sort of sweep the dirt
down the front stairs and right out of the front door, couldn't you?"
"Oh, no, sir," replied Zephania, with a shocked, pitying expression.
"I'd never do that. I'd clean each room separately, sir; sweep and wash
up the floors and around the mop-board and--"
"Whatever way you think best," interrupted Wade. "I leave it all to you,
Zephania, and I'm sure it will be done beautifully."
"Thank you, sir. Mother says I'm a real smart cleaner. Shall I get some
more flowers in this vase, sir? This piece of lilac's dreadfully
"No, Zephania, just let that remain, please. The fact, is, that--that's
a rather particular piece of lilac; something out of the common."
"Out of the common?" echoed Zephania, in faint surprise, surveying as
much of the common as she could see through the window. "You don't mean
"No," answered Wade, gravely, "not our common. That piece of lilac,
Zephania, is a clue; at least, I think it is. Do you know what a clue
"Yes, sir. It's something you find that puts you on the trail of the
murderer." Zephania eyed the lilac interestedly.
"Well, something of that sort. Only in this case there isn't any
"A thief?" asked Zephania, eagerly and hopefully.
"Not even a thief," laughed Wade. "Just--just somebody I want very much
to find. I suppose, Zephania, you know about every one in the village,
"Pretty nearly, I guess."
"Good. Now suppose you tell me something about my neighbors. Every one
ought to know about his neighbors, eh?"
"Yes, sir. After you've been here some time, though, you'll know all
"Yes, but the trouble is I don't want to wait that long. Now, for
instance, who lives over there on my left; the square white house with
the drab blinds?"
"Miss Cousins, sir. She's a maiden lady and has a great deal of money.
They say she owns some of the railroad. She plays the organ in church,
"Youngish, is she, with sort of wavy brown hair and--"
"No, sir," Zephania tittered, "Miss Cousins is kind of old and has real
"Really? On my other side, then, who's my neighbor there? Or haven't I
"Oh, yes, sir," answered Zephania, eagerly. "That's the Walton house,
"The--_what_?" asked Wade, sitting up very suddenly in the green rep
"The Walton house, sir."
"Oh! Hum! And--er--who lives there, Zephania?"
"Miss Walton and Miss Mullett."
"What's this Miss--Miss Walton like? Is she rather stout with quite
black hair, Zephania?"
"Oh, no, Mr. Herring! I guess you saw Mrs. Sampson, the dressmaker. She
lives over there across the common, in the little yellowish house with
the vines; see?"
"Yes, yes, I see. That's where Miss Sampson lives, eh? Well, well! But
we were speaking about Miss Walton, weren't we?"
"Yes, sir. Miss Walton's a young lady and as pretty as--as--" Zephania's
words failed her and she looked about apparently in search of a simile.
"Now let's see what you call pretty," said Wade. "What color is her
"Oh, well, brown hair isn't uncommon."
"No, sir, but hers is kind of wavy and light and I don't believe she
ever has to curl it."
"You don't tell me! And her eyes, now? I suppose they're brown too?"
"Blue, sir. She has beautiful eyes, Mr. Herring, just heavenly!
Sometimes I think I'd just give almost anything if my eyes were like
"Really? But you seem to have a very good pair of your own. Don't
trouble you, do they?"
"They're black," said Zephania, cheerfully. "Black eyes aren't pretty."
"Oh, I wouldn't go as far as that," murmured Wade, politely.
"No, sir, but Miss Walton's are just as blue as--as the sky up there
between those two little white clouds. She's awfully pretty, Mr.
"Complexion dark, I suppose."
"No, sir, not dark at all. It's real light. Some folks say she's too
pale, but I don't think so. And sometimes she has just lots of pink in
her cheeks, like--like a doll I have at home. Folks that think she's too
pale ought to have seen her yesterday afternoon."
"Why is that?'"
"'Cause she was just pink all over," answered Zephania. "I took some
eggs up to her house and just when I was coming out she came up on the
porch. She looked like; she'd been running and her face was just as
pink as--as that lamp-mat!"
The object in question was an excruciating magenta, but Wade let it
"Yesterday was rather a warm day for running, too," observed Wade.
"Yes, sir, and I don't see what made her run, because she had been in
the garden. Maybe a bee or a wasp--"
"How did you know she had been in the garden?"
"Why, 'cause she came from there. She hadn't ought to run like that in
hot weather, and I told her so. I said 'Miss Eve'--What, sir?"
"Nothing," answered Wade, poking industriously at the tobacco in the
bowl of his pipe. "You were saying--"
"I just told her, 'Miss Eve, you hadn't ought to overheat yourself like
that, 'cause if you do you'll have a sunstroke.' There was a man over at
the Center last summer who--"
"And what did she say?" asked Wade.
"She said she'd remember and not do it again. And then Miss Mullett
came out and I went home."
"Who's Miss Mullett, Zephania?"
"She's Miss Walton's friend. They live there together in the Walton
house every summer. Folks say Miss Mullett's very poor and Miss Walton
looks after her."
"Young, is she?"
"Not so very. She's kind of middle-aged, I guess. She's real pleasant.
Miss Walton thinks a lot of her."
"And they're here only in the summer?"
"Yes, sir. They come in June and stay until September. This is the third
summer they've been here. Before that the house was empty for a long,
long time; just like this one."
"Very interesting, Zephania. Thank you. Now don't let me keep you from
your labors any longer."
"No, sir, but don't you want to hear about any one else?"
"Another time, thanks. We'll do it by degrees. If you tell me too much
at once I shan't be able to remember it, you see."
"All right," answered Zephania, cheerfully. "Now I'll wash up the
After she had gone Wade sat for a long while in the green rep rocker,
his eyes on the spray of lilac on the table and his unlighted pipe
dangling from his mouth. From the kitchen came a loud clatter of dishes
and pans and Zephania's voice raised in song:
"'We shall sleep, but not forever,
There will be a glorious dawn;
We shall meet to part, no, never,
On the resurrection morn!'"
When one has spent six years prospecting and mining in Colorado and the
Southwest one has usually ceased to be capable of surprise at any tricks
Fate may spring. Nevertheless Wade was forced to wonder at the chain of
events which had deposited him here in a green rep rocking chair in Eden
Village. That the Western Slope Limited, two hours late and trying to
make up time, should have had a hot-box and, perhaps for the first time
in months, stopped at the top of Saddle Pass and presented Evelyn Walton
to him was one of Fate's simpler vagaries; but that now, after five
years, he should find himself beside her nearly two thousand miles from
their first place of meeting was something to think about. First event
and last were links in a closely-welded chain of circumstance. Looking
back, he saw that one had followed the other as logically as night
follows day. By a set of quite natural, unforced incidents Fate had
achieved the amazing.
Wade no longer had any doubt as to the identity of the person who had
looked in upon him through the window yesterday. The marvellous
resemblance to the face he remembered so well, the dropped lilac spray
were in themselves inconclusive, but the evidence of her name made the
case clear and left but one verdict possible. Chance, Fate, Providence,
what you will, had brought them together again.
It would, I realize, add interest to a dull narrative to say that Wade's
heart beat suffocatingly with passionate longing, and that a wild desire
to go to her possessed him. As a matter of fact his heart behaved itself
quite normally and he showed no disposition to leave his chair. He was
chiefly concerned with wondering whether she had recognized him, whether
she even remembered him at all, and, if she did, what she thought of him
for the idiotic way in which he had acted. Oh, he had been sincere
enough at the moment, but, looked at calmly with the austere eyes of
twenty-eight, his behavior on that occasion had been something--well,
_fierce_! He groaned at the thought of it and almost wished that Fate
had let things alone and spared him a second meeting. Of course there
had been extenuating circumstances. She had stepped suddenly into his
vision out of the twilight, a veritable vision of love and romance, and
his heart, a boy's heart, starved and hungry for those things, had taken
fire on the instant. He had--well, he had lost his head, to put it
charitably. And after a fashion he had lost his heart as well. For a
week he had dreamed of her at night and thought of her by day, had
wondered and longed and built air castles. Doubtless, had he seen her
again within the next year, the romance would have grown and flourished.
But at the end of that first week they had found gold. The intoxication
of success succeeded the intoxication of love, and in the busy months
that followed the vision of Evelyn Walton's face visited him less and
less frequently. At the end of a year she had become a pleasant memory,
a memory that never failed to bring a half-sad, half-joyous little
throb. That he had never actually forgotten her meant little, when you
think how very tiny and unimportant a thing must be to utterly escape
memory. He didn't want to forget her, for she represented the only
sentimental episode that had come to him since school days. He had been
much too busy to seek love affairs, and up in the mountains they don't
lie in wait for one. Therefore at twenty-eight Wade Herrick was
heart-whole. He wondered with a smile how long he was destined to remain
so unless that same meddling Fate removed either him or Evelyn Walton
from Eden Village.
Zephania went through the hall singing, on her way upstairs to
inaugurate her war of extermination against dirt. Wade roused himself
and lighted his pipe. After all, he had done nothing criminal and there
were ninety-nine chances in a hundred that the girl wouldn't connect him
for a moment with the astounding youth who had made violent love to her
for an ecstatic five minutes on the top of Saddle Pass so many years
ago. He got up and looked at himself in the old gold-framed mirror above
"My boy," he muttered, "you're quite safe. You used to be fairly good
looking then, if I do say it myself. But now look at you! You have
day-laborer written all over you! Your hair--I wonder when and why you
ever began to part it away down near your left ear. But that's easily
changed. Your nose--well, you couldn't alter that much, and it's still
fairly straight and respectable. But that scar on the cheek-bone doesn't
help your looks a bit, my boy. Still, you mustn't kick about that, I
reckon, for if that slice of rock had come along an inch or so farther
to the right you'd have been _tuerto_ now. Not that your eyes are
anything to be stuck up about, though; they're neither brown nor green,
nor any other recognized color; just a sort of mixture--like Pedro's
_estofados_. Your mouth, now--you always had a homely sort of mouth, too
big by far. And you were an idiot to shave off your mustache. You might
let it grow again, now that you're where you could have it trimmed once
in awhile, but I suppose it would take a month and look like a
nail-brush in the meanwhile! And then there's your complexion, you poor
ugly _hombre_. I remember when it was like anybody else's and there was
pink in the cheeks. Look at it now! It's like a saddle-flap. And your
He viewed them disdainfully. They were immaculately clean and the nails
were well tended, but two years of pick and shovel had broadened them,
and at the base of each finger a calloused spot still remained. On the
left hand the tip of one finger was missing and another was bent and
disfigured. They were honorable scars, these, like the one on his cheek,
but he looked at them disgustedly and finally shoved them out of sight
in his pockets.
"No, don't you worry about her recognizing you," he said to the
reflection in the mirror. "Even if she did she'd be ashamed to own it!"
Wade, however, was over-critical. Whatever might be said of the
features individually, collectively they were distinctly pleasing. The
impression one received was of a clean, straight-limbed, clear-eyed
fellow, who, if he had worked with his hands, had won with his brain. He
looked a little older than his twenty-eight years warranted, and a
little taller than his scant five-feet-eleven proved. Above all, he
appeared healthful, alert, capable, and kindly. He made friends at sight
with men, children, and dogs and wore his friendships as easily as he
wore his clothes. The West puts an indefinable stamp on a man, and Wade
had it. When presently he donned a cloth cap, torn from the confused
depths of his valise, and passed out of doors he walked like a man who
was used to covering long distances afoot, and with a certain swing of
his broad shoulders that suggested a jovial egotism. And as he made his
way through the orchard and into the meadow beyond his mind was still
busy with Evelyn Walton.
Of course he would meet her sooner or later; he was bound to unless he
pulled up stakes and hiked out at once. And he didn't want to do that.
He was enjoying a totally new sensation, that of householder. And he
liked Eden Village with its big elms and shaded roads, its wide meadows
and encircling green hills. It was all new and delightful after the
bare, primeval grandeur of the mountains. Besides, and Wade laughed
softly to himself, when all was said and done, he really wanted to meet
her. The prospect brought a flutter to his heart and a pleasant
excitement to his mind. He would probably fall in love with her again,
but there was no harm in that since he would be off before the disease
could strike in very deep.
He had reached the stone wall dividing his property from the land
beyond. At a little distance a brook bubbled along its sunken course.
Bushes, ferns, and here and there a small tree lined its banks, and Wade
could follow its journeying with his eyes for some distance. He vaulted
the wall and crossed to the brook, examining it with the curiosity of a
fisherman. It was rather disappointing. He didn't believe any
self-respecting fish would deign to inhabit such meagre quarters. But
it was a fascinating little stream for all of that, and it sang and
purled and had such a jolly good time all to itself that unconsciously
Wade fell into step with it, so to speak, and kept it company through
the meadow. Swallows darted above him and sparrows took flight before
him in mild alarm. Once he disturbed a catbird on her nest and she flew
circling about his head, scolding harshly.
What had he been thinking about a moment before? Oh, yes, he had been
considering the danger of overdoing the falling in love business. Well,
there was a proverb about its being better to have loved and lost than
never to have loved at all. Wade agreed with those sentiments. To go
head over ears in love with some nice girl like--well, like Evelyn
Walton--even if you got turned down was better than nothing. Of course
the girl mustn't know. It wasn't a part of his plan to worry her any. He
was quite certain that if he was careful she needn't even guess his
sentiments. Perhaps--well, what if it was nonsense? A fellow could think
nonsense if he wanted to, couldn't he, on a day like this? Perhaps she
might care for him enough to marry him! There wasn't any reason why he
shouldn't marry. He had plenty of money and would have more; he could
give the woman that married him about as much as the next man. She could
have a house in New York if she wanted it! And servants and--and motors
and--all the things a woman usually wants. Of course he didn't want to
be married for his money, but--well, he wondered whether it would help
if he managed to convey the idea that he was pretty well off, that he
owned more than a controlling interest in one of the richest gold mines
in Colorado. Undoubtedly there were girls who would jump at the chance
to marry the principal owner of a mine like the--
He stopped with a gasp.
Great Scott! she mustn't hear the name of that mine! At least, not
unless things turned out as they never could turn out. He groaned. He
would have to watch himself every minute when he was with her or he
would be blurting it out!
He found himself confronted by a fence, beyond which a wooded hill
sloped upward. Should he return the way he had come, or--no, he could
commit trespass on somebody's wheat field and so in all probability
reach the highway. Five minutes later he found himself on the road and
started back towards the cottage. He rather hoped that Miss Walton would
not be on her front porch as he went by. He wasn't quite ready yet to
show himself. It was a good ten minutes' walk to the end of the common,
but he was so busy with his thoughts that he paid little attention to
time or distance. He only came to himself when he suddenly found the
lilac hedge beside him and the gate hospitably open. He walked up the
steps, dimly conscious that his cottage looked this morning far less
disreputable than it had seemed yesterday, and tried the front door. He
didn't remember whether he had locked it last night. But evidently he
had not, for it swung open and he found himself staring blankly into a
pair of very lovely and much surprised blue eyes.
Somewhere about the house a canary twittered softly. Evelyn Walton,
arrested on the sitting room threshold, a fold of the light portiere
clasped in one hand, gazed at the intruder. Wade, frozen to immobility
just inside the door, one hand still grasping the knob, gazed at the
girl. His mind was a blank. His lips moved mechanically, but no words
issued from them. It seemed to him that whole minutes had passed,
although in reality the old-fashioned clock at the end of the hall had
ticked not more than thrice. He felt the color surging into his face,
and at last sheer desperation loosened his tongue.
"Is there anything I can do--" he began.
But at the very same moment Evelyn Walton's power of speech returned
"You wished to see--some one?" she inquired.
As they spoke absolutely together neither heard the other's question
and each silently awaited an answer.
"_Tick ... tock_" said the old clock, sleepily.
Wade's gaze wandered. He wondered whether it would be unforgivable to
dash quickly out and slam the door behind him. But in the next breath
escape was forgotten and he was looking about him in sheer amazement.
Here was his hallway, but no longer empty. A shield-backed chair stood
beside the parlor door. A settle ran along the wall beyond. A
pink-cheeked moon leered at him from the top of a tall clock.
Bewilderedly he looked toward the sitting-room. There, too, everything
was changed. The floor was painted gray. Rugs took the place of carpet.
Gauzy lace curtains hung at the windows. A canary in a gilt cage sung
above an open window. Oh, plainly he was bewitched or the world was
topsy-turvy! The look he turned on the girl was so helpless, so
entreating that her face, which had begun to set coldly, softened
instantly. The hand clasping the curtain fold fell to her side and she
took a step toward him.
"Can I help you?" she asked, kindly.
Wade passed a hand over his eyes.
"I don't know," he murmured. "Will you please tell me where I am?"
"You're in my house. I am Miss Walton."
"Your house? Then--then where is mine, please?" he asked, helplessly.
"Just beyond here; the next one."
"Oh!" he said. He sought for words with which to explain the situation,
but found none. He backed out, tripped slightly over the sill and found
himself on the top step. He dared one more look into the girl's amused
and sympathetic face and then turned and fled precipitately. At the gate
he brushed against some one, muttered an apology, and plunged through.
Evelyn Walton, following his course of flight from the doorway, laughed
softly. Miss Caroline Mullett, standing on tiptoe in the middle of the
path, strove to see over the hedge, and, failing, turned to the girl
with breathless curiosity.
[Illustration: "YOUR HOUSE? THEN--THEN WHERE IS MINE, PLEASE?"]
"Why, Eve, who was that?"
"He didn't leave his card, dear," replied Eve, with a gurgle of
suppressed laughter, "but there is every reason to believe that his name
"The gentleman who has taken the next house? And what did he want? He
seemed in such a hurry, and so very much excited! You don't think, do
you, that he is going to have a sunstroke? His face was extremely
"No, dear," replied Eve, as she followed Miss Mullett into the
sitting-room, "I don't think he's in danger of sunstroke. You're getting
to be quite as bad as Zephania on that subject. The fact is, dear, that
the ensanguined condition of Mr. Herrick's face was due to his having
mistaken our humble abode for his."
"My dear! How embarrassing!"
"So he seemed to think," laughed Evelyn.
"But I can quite understand it," continued Miss Mullett, laying aside
her hat and smoothing down her hair. Miss Mullett's hair was somewhat of
the shade of beech leaves in fall and was not as thick as it had once
been. She wore it parted in the middle and combed straight down over the
tips of her ears. Such severe framing emphasized the gentleness of her
face. "You know yourself, Eve dear, that the first summer we were here
we often found ourselves entering the wrong gate. The houses are as much
alike as two peas."
"I know. But, oh, Carrie, if you could have seen his expression when it
dawned on him that he was in the wrong house! It's too bad to laugh at
him, but I just have to."
"I hope you didn't laugh while he was here," said Miss Mullett,
"I'm afraid I did--just a little," replied Eve, contritely. "But I don't
think he saw it. He was too--too bewildered and horrified, and terribly
embarrassed. I really pitied him. I don't think I ought to pity him,
either, for he gave me quite a fright when he opened the front door and
walked in just as though he'd come to murder us all."
"Poor man!" sighed Miss Mullett. "He must be feeling awfully about it.
And--and didn't you think him exceedingly nice looking? So big and--and
"Manly?" laughed Eve. "He looked to me more like a very small boy
discovered in the preserve closet!"
"Of course, but I'm afraid you were a little--oh, the least little bit
"Perhaps I was," owned Eve, thoughtfully. "I shouldn't want him to think
"No indeed! Do you think he will call?"
"After this morning? My dear Carrie, did he look to you like a man
coming to call?"
"But in a day or two, perhaps? Don't you think that it is possibly our
duty to convey to him in some delicate manner that he--that we--that his
mistake was quite natural--"
"We might put a personal in the Tottingham _Courier_. 'If the gentleman
who inadvertently called at The Cedars on Tuesday morning will return,
no questions will be asked and all will be forgiven.' How would that
"I'm afraid he would never see the paper unless we lent him our copy,"
replied Miss Mullett, with a smile. "But surely we might convey by our
manner when meeting him on the street that we would be pleased to make
"Why, Caroline Mullett!" gasped Eve, in mock astonishment. "What kind of
behavior is that for two respectable maiden ladies?"
"My dear, I'm an old maid, I know, but you're not. And if you think for
a moment that I'm going to sit here and twiddle my thumbs while there's
a nice-looking bachelor in the next house, you're very much mistaken.
Dear knows, Eve, I love Eden Village from end to end, but I never heard
of an Eden yet that wasn't better for having a man in it!"
"You're right," sighed Eve. "Do you realize, Carrie, that the only
eligible man we know here is Doctor Crimmins? And he's old enough to be
father to both of us."
"The Doctor plays a very good hand of cribbage," replied Miss Mullett,
approvingly. And then triumphantly: "I have it, dear!"
"The Doctor shall call on Mr. Herrick and bring him to see us!"
"Splendid!" laughed Eve. "And he will never know that we schemed and
intrigued to get him. Carrie, I don't see how, with your ability, you
ever missed marriage."
"I never have missed it," replied Miss Mullett, with a sniff. She took
up her hat and started toward the hall. At the door she turned and
seemed about to speak, but evidently thought better of it and
disappeared. Eve smiled. And then Miss Mullett's plain, sweet little
face peered around the corner of the door, and--
"Much," she whispered.
When Wade came to himself he discovered that he was standing with folded
arms staring blankly at the Declaration of Independence which, framed in
walnut and gilt, adorned the wall of the sitting-room. How long he had
been standing there he didn't know. He swung around in sudden uneasiness
and examined the room carefully. Then he gave a deep sigh of relief. It
was all right this time; this was his own house! He sank into the green
rocker and mechanically began to fill his pipe. From the floor above
came the swish of the broom and Zephania's voice raised in joyful song:
"'I was a wand'ring sheep, I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd's voice, I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child, I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father's voice, I loved afar to roam.'"
Wade lighted his pipe, and when he had filled the adjacent atmosphere
with blue smoke he groaned. After that he gazed for a long time at his
hands, turning them this way and that as though he had never really
noticed them before. Then he laughed shortly a laugh seemingly quite
devoid of amusement, and got up to wander aimlessly about the room. At
last he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and walked over to it,
and glared fiercely at the reflection for a full round minute. Twice he
opened his mouth, only to close it again without a sound. At length,
however, the right words came to him. He looked himself witheringly in
"You blundering, God-forsaken ass!" he enunciated.
That seemed to cheer him up quite a bit, for he turned away from the
mirror with a less hopeless expression on his face and began to unpack
his valise and distribute the contents about the room. Later he borrowed
some of Zephania's hot water from the singing kettle and shaved himself.
No matter to what depths of degradation a man may fall, shaving
invariably raises him again to a fair level of self-respect. He ate
luncheon with a good appetite, and then wandered down to Prout's Store,
ostensibly to ask if his trunk had arrived, but in reality to satisfy a
craving for human intercourse. The trunk had not come, Mr. Prout
informed him, but, as Wade couldn't well expect it before the morning,
he wasn't disappointed. He purchased one of Mr. Prout's best
cigars--price one nickel--and sat himself on the counter.
"Yes," said Mr. Prout, "them two houses is a good deal alike. In fact I
guess they're just alike. Anyway, old Colonel Selden Phelps built 'em
alike, an' I guess they ain't been much changed. I recollect my mother
tellin' how the old Colonel had them two houses built. The Colonel lived
over near Redding and folks used to say he was land-crazy. Every cent
the Colonel would get hold of he'd up an' buy another tract of land with
it. Owned more land hereabouts than you could find on the county map,
and they say he never had enough to eat in the house from one year's end
to t'other. Family half starved most of the time, so they used to tell.
The boy, Nathan, he up an' said he couldn't stand it; said he might's
well be a Roman Catholic, because then he would be certain of a full
meal once in awhile, but as it was every day was fast day. So he run
away down to Boston an' became a sailor. The Colonel never saw him
again, because he was lost at sea on his second voyage. That just left
the two girls, Mary and Evelyn. My mother used to say that every one
pitied them two girls mightily. Always looked thin and peaked, they did,
while as for Mrs. Phelps, why, folks said she just starved to death.
Anyway, she died soon after Nathan was drowned. Just to show how pesky
mean the old Colonel was, Mr. Herrick, they tell how one night the women
folks was sewing in the sittin'-room. Seems they was workin' on some
mighty particular duds and Mrs. Phelps had lighted an extra candle; the
Colonel never would allow a lamp in his house. Well, there they was
sittin' with the two candles burnin' when in stomps the Colonel. 'Hey,'
says he, blowin' out one of the candles, 'what's all this blaze of
light? Want to ruin your eyes?
"Folks liked the Colonel, too, spite of his meanness. He was a great
church man, an' more'n half supported the Baptist church over there.
Seemed as if he was willin' to give money to the Lord an' no one else,
not even his own family. Mary was the first of the girls to get married,
she bein' the eldest. She married George Craig, from over Portsmouth
"Craig? Then she was Ed's mother?" interrupted Wade.
"Yes. About a month after the engagement was given out the Colonel drew
up the plans of those two houses. He made the drawin's himself, and then
sot down an' figured out just how much they'd cost; so much for stone
an' masonry; so much for lumber and carpentry; so much for brick an' so
much for paint. Then he went to a carpenter over in Redding an' showed
him the plans with the figures writ on 'em an' asked him if he'd put up
the houses. The carpenter figured an' said he'd be switched if he'd do
it for any such price. So the Colonel he goes to another feller with
like results. They say most every carpenter between here an' Portsmouth
figured on those houses an' wouldn't have anything to do with them.
Then, finally, the Colonel found a man who'd just settled down in
Tottingham and opened a shop there. Came from Biddeford, Maine, I
believe, and thought he was pretty foxy. 'Well,' he says, 'there ain't
any money in it for me at those figures, Colonel, but work's slack an'
I'll take the contract.' You see, he thought he could charge a little
more here an' there an' make something. But he didn't know the Colonel.
Every time he'd talk about things costin' more than he'd thought the
Colonel would flash that contract on him. When the houses was finished
he sued the Colonel for a matter of four hundred dollars, but there was
the contract, plain as day, an' he lost his suit. Just about put him out
of business an' he had to move away. The Colonel gave one of the houses
to Mary--Mrs. Craig she was by that time--and the other to Evelyn when
she married Irv Walton a year afterwards."
"But look here," said Wade. "Do you mean that Ed Craig's mother and Miss
Walton's mother were sisters?"
"Yes, Ed and Eve was first cousins."
"Well, I'll be hanged!" sighed Wade. "I never savvied that. What became
of Mr. Walton, Ed's uncle?"
"Dead. Irv was what you call a genius, a writer chap. Came of a good
family over to Concord, he did, an' had a fine education at Exeter
Academy. He an' his wife never lived much at The Cedars--that's what
they called their place--but used to come here now and then in the
summer. They lived in New York. He had something to do with one of those
magazines published down there. Irv Walton was a fine lookin' man, but
sort of visionary. Made a lot of money at one time in mines out West an'
then lost it all about four years ago. That sort of preyed on his mind,
an' somethin' like a year after that he up an' died."
"And his wife?"
"Oh, she died when Eve was a little girl. An' Ed's mother died about
ten years ago. Miss Eve's the last one of the old Colonel's folks."
Wade sat silent for a minute, puffing hard on his cigar and trying to
arrange his facts.
"Does she know of Ed's death?" he asked.
"Miss Eve? Oh, I guess so. I told Doctor Crimmins myself last night an'
I guess he's been up to The Cedars by this time. I guess Ed's death
wouldn't affect her much, though."
"Why is that?"
"Well, the brothers-in-law never got on very well together in the old
days, an' far as I know Miss Eve never saw Ed except, perhaps, when they
were both babies. Ed went away to school, winters down to Boston, to a
school of tech--tech--well, a place where they taught him engineerin'
an' minin' an' such. Summers he worked in a mill over to Lansing."
"Is Miss Walton well off?"
"Only tolerable, I guess. She's got that house and what little money
was saved out of her father's smash-up."
"Where does she live when she's not here, Mr. Prout?"
"New York. She does some sort of writing work, like her father.
Inherited some of his genius, I guess likely."
Later Wade walked leisurely back to the cottage. The afternoon sunlight
lay in golden ribbons across the deserted street. Up in the high elms
the robins were swaying and singing. An ancient buggy crawled past him
and here and there an open window framed a housewife busy with her
needle. But save for these signs of life, he reflected, he might be
walking through the original Deserted Village. Come to think of it,
Craig's Camp was a busy metropolis compared to Eden Village, only--Wade
paused in front of his garden hedge and peered pleasurably up into the
leafy golden mists above him--only for some reason the absence of human
beings didn't make for loneliness here. Nature was more friendly. There
was jovial comradeship in every mellow note that floated down to him
from the happy songsters up there.
"'The cheerful birds of sundry kind
Do sweet music to delight his mind.'"
Wade swung around with a start and found himself looking over the
hedge-top into a smiling, ruddy, gold-spectacled countenance.
"Spenser, I think, sir," continued the stranger, "but I'll not he
certain. Perhaps you recall the lines?"
"I'm afraid I don't," replied Wade, passing through the gateway.
"No? But like enough the poets aren't as much to a busy, practical man
like you, Mr. Herrick, as they are to me. Even I don't find as much time
to devote to them as I'd like, however. But I haven't introduced myself
nor explained my presence in your garden. My name is Crimmins, Doctor
"Glad to know you, Doctor," replied Wade, as they shook hands. "It was
friendly of you to call, sir."
The Doctor tucked his gold-headed cane under his arm and thrust his
hands into the pockets of his slate-colored trousers, a proceeding which
brought to view the worn satin lining of the old black frock-coat.
"Wait until you know us better, sir, and you'll not speak of it as
kindness. Why, 'tis a positive pleasure, a veritable debauch of
excitement, Mr. Herrick, to greet a newcomer to our mislaid village! The
kindness is on your side, sir, for dropping down upon us like--like--"
"A bolt from the blue," suggested Wade.
"Like a dispensation of Providence, sir."
"That's flattering, Doctor. Won't you come in?"
"Just for a moment." At the sitting-room door the Doctor paused. "Well!
well!" he exclaimed, reverently under his breath. "Nothing changed! It's
ten years ago since I stood here, Mr. Herrick. Dear me! A fine Christian
woman she was, sir. Well! Well! 'Time rolls his ceaseless course.' Bless
me, I believe I'm getting old!" And the Doctor turned his twinkling gray
eyes on Wade with smiling dismay.
"Try the rocking chair, Doctor Crimmins. Let me take your hat and
"No, no, I'll just lay them here beside me. I see you've chosen the best
room for your chamber, sir. You're not one of us, Mr. Herrick, that's
evident. Here we make the best room into a parlor, the next into a
sitting-room, the next into a spare room and sleep in what's left. We
take good care of our souls and let our bodies get along as best they
may. You, I take it, are a Southron."
"From Virginia, Doctor, and, although I've been in the West for some six
years, I hope I haven't entirely forgotten Southern hospitality.
Unfortunately my sideboard isn't stocked yet, and all the hospitality I
can offer is here." He indicated his flask.
"H'm," said the Doctor, placing his finger-tips together and eying the
temptation over his spectacles. "I believe I've heard that it is an
insult to refuse Southern hospitality. But just a moment, Mr. Herrick."
He arose and laid a restraining hand on. Wade's arm. "Let's not fly in
the face of Providence, sir." He guided his host into the dining-room
and softly closed the door, cutting off the view from the front window.
Then he drew a chair up to the table and settled himself comfortably.
"We are a censorious people, Mr. Herrick."
"As bad as that, is it?" laughed Wade as he placed glasses on the cloth
and brought water from the kitchen.
"We are strictly abstemious in Eden Village," replied the Doctor,
gravely, "and only drink in dark corners. Your very good health, sir.
May your visit to our Edenic solitude prove pleasant."
"To our better acquaintance, Doctor."
"Thank you, sir, thank you. Ha! H'm!" And the Doctor smacked his lips
with relish, wiped them carefully on his handkerchief and led the way
back to the sitting-room.
"And now, Mr. Herrick, to come to the second object of my call, the
first being to extend you a welcome. Zenas--I refer to our worthy
Merchant Prince, Mr. Zenas Prout--Zenas informed me last evening that
you had been a close friend of Ed Craig's, had, in fact, been in
partnership with him in some Western mining-enterprise; that Ed had
died and that you had come into his property. That is correct?"
"I brought him into the world. I'm sorry to hear of his death. Well,
well! 'Our birth is nothing but our death begun, as tapers waste that
instant they take fire.' Young's 'Night Thoughts,' Mr. Herrick. Full of
beautiful lines, sir." The Doctor paused a moment while he cleaned his
spectacles with a corner of his coat. "Let me see; ah, yes. I wonder if
you know that you have next door to you Ed's only surviving near
"I learned it only an hour ago, Doctor."
"I see. I felt it my duty to inform Miss Walton of her cousin's death
and called on her at noon. Miss Walton's parents and Ed's were not
intimate when the two were children; some silly misunderstanding in
regard to a division of old Colonel Phelps's property after he died. As
it turned out they might have spared themselves the quarrel, for a later
will was afterwards found leaving his entire estate to churches and
schools. Well, I was going to say that Ed's death was not much of a
grief to Miss Walton because she had really never known him, but,
nevertheless, she would naturally wish to hear the particulars. I came
to suggest that you should give me the honor of allowing me to present
you to Miss Walton, Mr. Herrick."
"I shall be very glad to meet her," replied Wade, "and tell her all I
can about Ed. We were very close friends for several years and a finer
chap never breathed."
"I'm delighted to hear you say so. I've brought a good many into this
world, Mr. Herrick, but very few have ever made me proud of the fact."
"I fear you're a bit of a pessimist, Doctor."
"No, no, I'm only honest. With myself, that is. In my dealings with
others, sir, I'm--just an ordinary New Englander."
"That sounds hard on New Englanders," said Wade with a smile. "Do you
mean to say that they're not honest?"
"New Englanders are honest according to their lights, Mr. Herrick, but
their lights are sometimes dim. Shall we say this evening for our call
on the ladies? Miss Walton has with her a Miss Mullett, a very dear and
estimable girl who resides with her in the role of companion. I say
girl, but you mustn't be deceived. When you get to sixty-odd you'll find
that any lady under fifty is still a girl to you. Miss Mullett, through
regrettable circumstances, was overlooked by the seekers after wives and
is what you would call a maiden lady. She plays a remarkable hand of
cribbage, Mr. Herrick."
"This evening will suit me perfectly, Doctor."
"Then shall we say about half-past seven? We don't keep very late hours
in Eden Village. We sup at six, make our calls at seven or half-past,
and go to bed promptly at ten. A light in a window after ten o'clock
indicates but one thing, illness."
"How about burglars?" laughed Wade.
"Burglars? Bless my soul, we never have 'em, sir. Sometimes a tramp, but
never a burglar. Even tramps don't bother us much." The Doctor chuckled
as he rescued his hat and cane from beside his chair. "Zenas Prout tells
a story to show why Eden Village is exempt. We have a lady here, Mr.
Herrick, who should have been of rights a descendant of old Colonel
Phelps, Ed's grandfather on his mother's side. The old Colonel's name
was synonymous for--let us say self-denial. The lady in question is a
very estimable lady, sir, oh, very estimable, but, while she is probably
our richest citizen, she is extremely careful and saving. Zenas says a
tramp stopped at her door once and asked for food. Miss Cousins--there,
I didn't mean to give her name! But no matter--Miss Cousins brought him
a slice of stale bread thinly spread with butter. Zenas says the tramp
looked from the bread to Miss Cousins, who, I should explain is
extremely thin in face and figure, and back to the bread. Then he held
it out to her. 'Lady,' he said, 'I haven't the heart to take this from
you. You need it more than I do. Eat it yourself!'"
Under cover of Wade's appreciative laughter the Doctor made his adieux,
promising to call again at half-past seven. Wade watched him depart down
the street, very erect and a trifle pompous, his gold-headed stick
serving no other purpose than that of ornament. Then he went indoors and
walked to the mirror.
"Gee!" he muttered, "I wish my trunk were here!"
The parlor at The Cedars was very different from that in the Craig
cottage. It was pretty and comfortable, with lamps that diffused a
cheerful, mellow glow over the lower half of the room and left the upper
in pleasantly mysterious gloom. There was much old-fashioned
furniture--such as the spindle-legged card table at which Miss Mullett
and the Doctor were deeply absorbed in cribbage--but enough comfortable
modern chairs had been provided to render martyrdom unnecessary. The
four windows were hung with bright creton and muslin, and the dull-green
carpet neither stared one out of countenance nor made one fearful to set
foot upon it. It was a jolly, chummy sort of carpet that seemed to say,
"Walk on me all you want to, and don't be afraid to spill your crumbs; I
like crumbs." A very large tortoise-shell cat lay stretched along the
arm of the couch, half asleep, and purred as Eve dipped her fingers in
the long fur. The windows on the side of the room were open and the
draperies swayed gently with the little breeze. Wade, seated at the
other end of the couch from his hostess, was feeling happy and
"I feel quite guilty about this morning," Eve was saying. "I'm afraid I
wasn't very polite. Did I--did I smile?"
"If you didn't, you were a saint," answered Wade. "It's a wonder to me
you didn't howl!"
"It was funny, though, wasn't it? Now that it's all over, I mean; now
that I've apologized and Carrie has apologized for me and you've
apologized. You did look so--so utterly dumfounded!"
"I was!" replied Wade grimly. "For a moment I thought I'd had a
sunstroke or something and was out of my head. At first, when I came in
and saw you standing there, I thought--it was a foolish thing to think,
of course--but I thought you had come to call on me!"
"Again? I'm afraid I don't--"
"Now let's be honest, Mr. Herrick. You did see me the--the first time,
"Just as you wish," laughed Wade. "I did or I didn't."