Part 7 out of 8
The captain pulled his beard and nodded.
"Right as right could be, Mother," he admitted. "Your figgers was
a few hundred thousand out of the way, maybe, but barrin' that you
was perfectly right."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so for once in your life. Albert,"
holding up the envelope, "do you know what this is?"
Albert, much puzzled, admitted that he did not. His grandmother
put down the book, opened the envelope and took from it a slip of
"And can you guess what THIS is?" she asked. Albert could not
"It's a check, that's what it is. It's the first six months'
royalties, that's what they call 'em, on that beautiful book of
yours. And how much do you suppose 'tis?"
Albert shook his head. "Twenty-five dollars?" he suggested
"Twenty-five dollars! It's over twenty-five HUNDRED dollars. It's
twenty-eight hundred and forty-three dollars and sixty-five cents,
that's what it is. Think of it! Almost three thousand dollars!
And Zelotes prophesied that 'twouldn't be more than--"
Her husband held up his hand. "Sh-sh! Sh-sh, Mother," he said.
"Don't get started on what I prophesied or we won't be through till
doomsday. I'll give in right off that I'm the worst prophet since
the feller that h'isted the 'Fair and Dry' signal the day afore
Noah's flood begun. You see," he explained, turning to Albert,
"your grandma figgered out that you'd probably clear about half a
million on that book of poetry, Al. I cal'lated 'twan't likely to
be much more'n a couple of hundred thousand, so--"
"Why, Zelotes Snow! You said--"
"Yes, yes. So I did, Mother, so I did. You was right and I was
wrong. Twenty-eight hundred ain't exactly a million, Al, but it's
a darn sight more than I ever cal'lated you'd make from that book.
Or 'most anybody else ever made from any book, fur's that goes," he
added, with a shake of the head. "I declare, I--I don't understand
it yet. And a poetry book, too! Who in time BUYS 'em all? Eh?"
Albert was looking at the check and the royalty statement.
"So this is why I couldn't get any satisfaction from the publisher,"
he observed. "I wrote him two or three times about my royalties,
and he put me off each time. I began to think there weren't any."
Captain Zelotes smiled. "That's your grandma's doin's," he
observed. "The check came to us a good while ago, when we thought
you was--was--well, when we thought--"
"Yes. Surely, I understand," put in Albert, to help him out.
"Yes. That's when 'twas. And Mother, she was so proud of it,
because you'd earned it, Al, that she kept it and kept it, showin'
it to all hands and--and so on. And then when we found out you
wasn't--that you'd be home some time or other--why, then she
wouldn't let me put it in the bank for you because she wanted to
give it to you herself. That's what she said was the reason. I
presume likely the real one was that she wanted to flap it in my
face every time she crowed over my bad prophesyin', which was about
three times a day and four on Sundays."
"Zelotes Snow, the idea!"
"All right, Mother, all right. Anyhow, she got me to write your
publisher man and ask him not to give you any satisfaction about
those royalties, so's she could be the fust one to paralyze you
with 'em. And," with a frank outburst, "if you ain't paralyzed,
Al, I own up that _I_ am. Three thousand poetry profits beats me.
_I_ don't understand it."
His wife sniffed. "Of course you don't," she declared. "But
Albert does. And so do I, only I think it ought to have been ever
and ever so much more. Don't you, yourself, Albert?"
The author of The Lances of Dawn was still looking at the statement
of its earnings.
"Approximately eighteen thousand sold at fifteen cents royalty," he
observed. "Humph! Well, I'll be hanged!"
"But you said it would be twenty-five cents, not fifteen,"
protested Olive. "In your letter when the book was first talked
about you said so."
Albert smiled. "Did I?" he observed. "Well, I said a good many
things in those days, I'm afraid. Fifteen cents for a first book,
especially a book of verse, is fair enough, I guess. But eighteen
thousand SOLD! That is what gets me."
"You mean you think it ought to be a lot more. So do I, Albert,
and so does Rachel. Why, we like it a lot better than we do David
Harum. That was a nice book, but it wasn't lovely poetry like
yours. And David Harum sold a million. Why shouldn't yours sell
as many? Only eighteen thousand--why are you lookin' at me so
Her grandson rose to his feet. "Let's let well enough alone,
Grandmother," he said. "Eighteen thousand will do, thank you.
I'm like Grandfather, I'm wondering who on earth bought them."
Mrs. Snow was surprised and a little troubled.
"Why, Albert," she said, "you act kind of--kind of queer, seems to
me. You talk as if your poetry wasn't beautiful. You know it is.
You used to say it was, yourself."
He interrupted her. "Did I, Grandmother?" he said. "All right,
then, probably I did. Let's walk about the old place a little. I
want to see it all. By George, I've been dreaming about it long
There were callers that afternoon, friends among the townsfolk, and
more still after supper. It was late--late for South Harniss, that
is--when Albert, standing in the doorway of the bedroom he nor they
had ever expected he would occupy again, bade his grandparents good
night. Olive kissed him again and again and, speech failing her,
hastened away down the hall. Captain Zelotes shook his hand,
opened his mouth to speak, shut it again, repeated both operations,
and at last with a brief, "Well, good night, Al," hurried after his
wife. Albert closed the door, put his lamp upon the bureau, and
sat down in the big rocker.
In a way the night was similar to that upon which he had first
entered that room. It had ceased raining, but the wind, as on that
first night, was howling and whining about the eaves, the shutters
rattled and the old house creaked and groaned rheumatically. It
was not as cold as on that occasion, though by no means warm. He
remembered how bare and comfortless he had thought the room. Now
it looked almost luxurious. And he had been homesick, or fancied
himself in that condition. Compared to the homesickness he had
known during the past eighteen months that youthful seizure seemed
contemptible and quite without excuse. He looked about the room
again, looked long and lovingly. Then, with a sigh of content,
drew from his pocket the two letters which had lain upon the
sitting-room table when he arrived, opened them and began to read.
Madeline wrote, as always, vivaciously and at length. The maternal
censorship having been removed, she wrote exactly as she felt. She
could scarcely believe he was really going to be at home when he
received this, at home in dear, quaint, queer old South Harniss.
Just think, she had not seen the place for ever and ever so long,
not for over two years. How were all the funny, odd people who
lived there all the time? Did he remember how he and she used to
go to church every Sunday and sit through those dreadful, DREADFUL
sermons by that prosy old minister just as an excuse for meeting
each other afterward? She was SO sorry she could not have been
there to welcome her hero when he stepped from the train. If it
hadn't been for Mother's poor nerves she surely would have been.
He knew it, didn't he? Of course he did. But she should see him
soon "because Mother is planning already to come back to New York
in a few weeks and then you are to run over immediately and make us
a LONG visit. And I shall be so PROUD of you. There are lots of
Army fellows down here now, officers for the most part. So we
dance and are very gay--that is, the other girls are; I, being an
engaged young lady, am very circumspect and demure, of course.
Mother carries The Lances about with her wherever she goes, to teas
and such things, and reads aloud from it often. Captain Blanchard,
he is one of the family's officer friends, is crazy about your
poetry, dear. He thinks it WONDERFUL. You know what _I_ think of
it, don't you, and when I think that _I_ actually helped you, or
played at helping you write some of it!
"And I am WILD to see your war cross. Some of the officers here
have them--the crosses, I mean--but not many. Captain Blanchard
has the military medal, and he is almost as modest about it as you
are about your decoration. I don't see how you CAN be so modest.
If _I_ had a Croix de Guerre I should want EVERY ONE to know about
it. At the tea dance the other afternoon there was a British major
And so on. The second letter was really a continuation of the
first. Albert read them both and, after the reading was finished,
sat for some time in the rocking chair, quite regardless of the
time and the cold, thinking. He took from his pocketbook a
photograph, one which Madeline had sent him months before, which
had reached him while he lay in the French hospital after his
removal from the German camp. He looked at the pretty face in the
photograph. She looked just as he remembered her, almost exactly
as she had looked more than two years before, smiling, charming,
carefree. She had not, apparently, grown older, those age-long
months had not changed her. He rose and regarded his own
reflection in the mirror of the bureau. He was surprised, as he
was constantly being surprised, to see that he, too, had not
changed greatly in personal appearance.
He walked about the room. His grandmother had told him that his
room was just as he had left it. "I wouldn't change it, Albert,"
she said, "even when we thought you--you wasn't comin' back. I
couldn't touch it, somehow. I kept thinkin', 'Some day I will.
Pretty soon I MUST.' But I never did, and now I'm so glad."
He wandered back to the bureau and pulled open the upper drawers.
In those drawers were so many things, things which he had kept
there, either deliberately or because he was too indolent to
destroy them. Old dance cards, invitations, and a bundle of
photographs, snapshots. He removed the rubber band from the bundle
and stood looking them over. Photographs of school fellows, of
picnic groups, of girls. Sam Thatcher, Gertie Kendrick--and Helen
Kendall. There were at least a dozen of Helen.
One in particular was very good. From that photograph the face of
Helen as he had known it four years before looked straight up into
his--clear-eyed, honest, a hint of humor and understanding and
common-sense in the gaze and at the corners of the lips. He looked
at the photograph, and the photograph looked up at him. He had not
seen her for so long a time. He wondered if the war had changed
her as it had changed him. Somehow he hoped it had not. Change
did not seem necessary in her case.
There had been no correspondence between them since her letter
written when she heard of his enlistment. He had not replied to
that because he knew Madeline would not wish him to do so. He
wondered if she ever thought of him now, if she remembered their
adventure at High Point light. He had thought of her often enough.
In those days and nights of horror in the prison camp and hospital
he had found a little relief, a little solace in lying with closed
eyes and summoning back from memory the things of home and the
faces of home. And her face had been one of these. Her face and
those of his grandparents and Rachel and Laban, and visions of the
old house and the rooms--they were the substantial things to cling
to and he had clung to them. They WERE home. Madeline--ah! yes,
he had longed for her and dreamed of her, God knew, but Madeline,
of course, was different.
He snapped the rubber band once more about the bundle of photographs,
closed the drawer and prepared for bed.
For the two weeks following his return home he had a thoroughly
good time. It was a tremendous comfort to get up when he pleased,
to eat the things he liked, to do much or little or nothing at his
own sweet will. He walked a good deal, tramping along the beach in
the blustering wind and chilly sunshine and enjoying every breath
of the clean salt air. He thought much during those solitary
walks, and at times, at home in the evenings, he would fall to
musing and sit silent for long periods. His grandmother was
"Don't it seem to you, Zelotes," she asked her husband, "as if
Albert was kind of discontented or unsatisfied these days? He's
so--so sort of fidgety. Talks like the very mischief for ten
minutes and then don't speak for half an hour. Sits still for a
long stretch and then jumps up and starts off walkin' as if he was
crazy. What makes him act so? He's kind of changed from what he
used to be. Don't you think so?"
The captain patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, Mother," he said.
"Al's older than he was and what he's been through has made him
older still. As for the fidgety part of it, the settin' down and
jumpin' up and all that, that's the way they all act, so far as I
can learn. Elisha Warren, over to South Denboro, tells me his
nephew has been that way ever since he got back. Don't fret,
Mother, Al will come round all right."
"I didn't know but he might be anxious to see--to see her, you
"Her? Oh, you mean the Fosdick girl. Well, he'll be goin' to see
her pretty soon, I presume likely. They're due back in New York
'most any time now, I believe. . . . Oh, hum! Why in time
"Couldn't he what, Zelotes?"
"Oh, nothin', nothin'."
The summons came only a day after this conversation. It came in
the form of another letter from Madeline and one from Mrs. Fosdick.
They were, so the latter wrote, back once more in their city home,
her nerves, thank Heaven, were quite strong again, and they were
expecting him, Albert, to come on at once. "We are all dying to
see you," wrote Mrs. Fosdick. "And poor, dear Madeline, of course,
is counting the moments."
"Stay as long as you feel like, Al," said the captain, when told of
the proposed visit. "It's the dull season at the office, anyhow,
and Labe and I can get along first-rate, with Issy to superintend.
Stay as long as you want to, only--"
"Only what, Grandfather?"
"Only don't want to stay too long. That is, don't fall in love
with New York so hard that you forget there is such a place as
Albert smiled. "I've been in places farther away than New York,"
he said, "and I never forgot South Harniss."
"Um-hm. . . . Well, I shouldn't be surprised if that was so. But
you'll have better company in New York than you did in some of
those places. Give my regards to Fosdick. So-long, Al."
The Fosdick car was at the Grand Central Station when the
Knickerbocker Limited pulled in. And Madeline, a wonderfully
furred and veiled and hatted Madeline, was waiting there behind the
rail as he came up the runway from the train. It was amazing the
fact that it was really she. It was more amazing still to kiss her
there in public, to hold her hand without fear that some one might
"Shall I take your bags, sir?"
It was the Fosdick footman who asked it. Albert started guiltily.
Then he laughed, realizing that the hand-holding and the rest were
no longer criminal offenses. He surrendered his luggage to the
man. A few minutes later he and Madeline were in the limousine,
which was moving rapidly up the Avenue. And Madeline was asking
questions and he was answering and--and still it was all a dream.
It COULDN'T be real.
It was even more like a dream when the limousine drew up before the
door of the Fosdick home and they entered that home together. For
there was Mrs. Fosdick, as ever majestic, commanding, awe-inspiring,
the same Mrs. Fosdick who had, in her letter to his grandfather,
written him down a despicable, underhanded sneak, here was that same
Mrs. Fosdick--but not at all the same. For this lady was smiling
and gracious, welcoming him to her home, addressing him by his
Christian name, treating him kindly, with almost motherly tenderness.
Madeline's letters and Mrs. Fosdick's own letters received during
his convalescence abroad had prepared him, or so he had thought, for
some such change. Now he realized that he had not been prepared at
all. The reality was so much more revolutionary than the
anticipation that he simply could not believe it.
But it was not so very wonderful if he had known all the facts and
had been in a frame of mind to calmly analyze them. Mrs. Fletcher
Fosdick was a seasoned veteran, a general who had planned and
fought many hard campaigns upon the political battlegrounds of
women's clubs and societies of various sorts. From the majority of
those campaigns she had emerged victorious, but her experiences in
defeat had taught her that the next best thing to winning is to
lose gracefully, because by so doing much which appears to be lost
may be regained. For Albert Speranza, bookkeeper and would-be poet
of South Harniss, Cape Cod, she had had no use whatever as a
prospective son-in-law. Even toward a living Albert Speranza, hero
and newspaper-made genius, she might have been cold. But when that
hero and genius was, as she and every one else supposed, safely and
satisfactorily dead and out of the way, she had seized the
opportunity to bask in the radiance of his memory. She had talked
Albert Speranza and read Albert Speranza and boasted of Albert
Speranza's engagement to her daughter before the world. Now that
the said Albert Speranza had been inconsiderate enough to "come
alive again," there was but one thing for her to do--that is, to
make the best of it. And when Mrs. Fletcher Fosdick made the best
of anything she made the very best.
"It doesn't make any difference," she told her husband, "whether he
really is a genius or whether he isn't. We have said he is and now
we must keep on saying it. And if he can't earn his salt by his
writings--which he probably can't--then you must fix it in some way
so that he can make-believe earn it by something else. He is
engaged to Madeline, and we have told every one that he is, so he
will have to marry her; at least, I see no way to prevent it."
"Humph!" grunted Fosdick. "And after that I'll have to support
them, I suppose."
"Probably--unless you want your only child to starve."
"Well, I must say, Henrietta--"
"You needn't, for there is nothing more TO say. We're in it and,
whether we like it or not, we must make the best of it. To do
anything now except appear joyful about it would be to make
ourselves perfectly ridiculous. We can't do that, and you know
Her husband still looked everything but contented.
"So far as the young fellow himself goes," he said, "I like him,
rather. I've talked with him only once, of course, and then he and
I weren't agreeing exactly. But I liked him, nevertheless. If he
were anything but a fool poet I should be more reconciled."
He was snubbed immediately. "THAT," declared Mrs. Fosdick, with
decision, "is the only thing that makes him possible."
So Mrs. Fosdick's welcome was whole-handed if not whole-hearted.
And her husband's also was cordial and intimate. The only member
of the Fosdick household who did not regard the guest with favor
was Googoo. That aristocratic bull-pup was still irreconcilably
hostile. When Albert attempted to pet him he appeared to be
planning to devour the caressing hand, and when rebuked by his
mistress retired beneath a davenport, growling ominously. Even
when ignominiously expelled from the room he growled and cast
longing backward glances at the Speranza ankles. No, Googoo did
not dissemble; Albert was perfectly sure of his standing in
Dinner that evening was a trifle more formal than he had expected,
and he was obliged to apologize for the limitations of his
wardrobe. His dress suit of former days he had found much too
dilapidated for use. Besides, he had outgrown it.
"I thought I was thinner," he said, "and I think I am. But I must
have broadened a bit. At any rate, all the coats I left behind
won't do at all. I shall have to do what Captain Snow, my
grandfather, calls 'refit' here in New York. In a day or two I
hope to be more presentable."
Mrs. Fosdick assured him that it was quite all right, really.
Madeline asked why he didn't wear his uniform. "I was dying to see
you in it," she said. "Just think, I never have."
Albert laughed. "You have been spared," he told her. "Mine was
not a triumph, so far as fit was concerned. Of course, I had a
complete new rig when I came out of the hospital, but even that was
not beautiful. It puckered where it should have bulged and bulged
where it should have been smooth."
Madeline professed not to believe him.
"Nonsense!" she declared. "I don't believe it. Why, almost all
the fellows I know have been in uniform for the past two years and
theirs fitted beautifully."
"But they were officers, weren't they, and their uniforms were
"Why, I suppose so. Aren't all uniforms custom made?"
Her father laughed. "Scarcely, Maddie," he said. "The privates
have their custom-made by the mile and cut off in chunks for the
individual. That was about it, wasn't it, Speranza?"
"Just about, sir."
Mrs. Fosdick evidently thought that the conversation was taking a
rather low tone. She elevated it by asking what his thoughts were
when taken prisoner by the Germans. He looked puzzled.
"Thoughts, Mrs. Fosdick?" he repeated. "I don't know that I
understand, exactly. I was only partly conscious and in a good
deal of pain and my thoughts were rather incoherent, I'm afraid."
"But when you regained consciousness, you know. What were your
thoughts then? Did you realize that you had made the great
sacrifice for your country? Risked your life and forfeited your
liberty and all that for the cause? Wasn't it a great satisfaction
to feel that you had done that?"
Albert's laugh was hearty and unaffected. "Why, no," he said. "I
think what I was realizing most just then was that I had made a
miserable mess of the whole business. Failed in doing what I set
out to do and been taken prisoner besides. I remember thinking,
when I was clear-headed enough to think anything, 'You fool, you
spent months getting into this war, and then got yourself out of it
in fifteen minutes.' And it WAS a silly trick, too."
Madeline was horrified.
"What DO you mean?" she cried. "Your going back there to rescue
your comrade a silly trick! The very thing that won you your Croix
"Why, yes, in a way. I didn't save Mike, poor fellow--"
"Mike! Was his name Mike?"
"Yes; Michael Francis Xavier Kelly. A South Boston Mick he was,
and one of the finest, squarest boys that ever drew breath. Well,
poor Mike was dead when I got to him, so my trip had been for
nothing, and if he had been alive I could not have prevented his
being taken. As it was, he was dead and I was a prisoner. So
nothing was gained and, for me, personally, a good deal was lost.
It wasn't a brilliant thing to do. But," he added apologetically,
"a chap doesn't have time to think collectively in such a scrape.
And it was my first real scrap and I was frightened half to death,
"Frightened! Why, I never heard anything so ridiculous! What--"
"One moment, Madeline." It was Mrs. Fosdick who interrupted. "I
want to ask--er--Albert a question. I want to ask him if during
his long imprisonment he composed--wrote, you know. I should have
thought the sights and experiences would have forced one to express
one's self--that is, one to whom the gift of expression was so
generously granted," she added, with a gracious nod.
"Why, at first I did," he said. "When I first was well enough to
think, I used to try to write--verses. I wrote a good many.
Afterwards I tore them up."
"Tore them up!" Both Mrs. and Miss Fosdick uttered this exclamation.
"Why, yes. You see, they were such rot. The things I wanted to
write about, the things _I_ had seen and was seeing, the--the
fellows like Mike and their pluck and all that--well, it was all
too big for me to tackle. My jingles sounded, when I read them
over, like tunes on a street piano. _I_ couldn't do it. A genius
might have been equal to the job, but I wasn't."
Mrs. Fosdick glanced at her husband. There was something of
alarmed apprehension in the glance. Madeline's next remark covered
the situation. It expressed the absolute truth, so much more of
the truth than even the young lady herself realized at the time.
"Why, Albert Speranza," she exclaimed, "I never heard you speak of
yourself and your work in that way before. Always--ALWAYS you have
had such complete, such splendid confidence in yourself. You were
never afraid to attempt ANYTHING. You MUST not talk so. Don't you
intend to write any more?"
Albert looked at her. "Oh, yes, indeed," he said simply. "That is
just what I do intend to do--or try to do."
That evening, alone in the library, he and Madeline had their first
long, intimate talk, the first since those days--to him they seemed
as far away as the last century--when they walked the South Harniss
beach together, walked beneath the rainbows and dreamed. And now
here was their dream coming true.
Madeline, he was realizing it as he looked at her, was prettier
than ever. She had grown a little older, of course, a little more
mature, but surprisingly little. She was still a girl, a very,
very pretty girl and a charming girl. And he--
"What are you thinking about?" she demanded suddenly.
He came to himself. "I was thinking about you," he said. "You are
just as you used to be, just as charming and just as sweet. You
She smiled and then pouted.
"I don't know whether to like that or not," she said. "Did you
expect to find me less--charming and the rest?"
"Why, no, of course not. That was clumsy on my part. What I meant
was that--well, it seems ages, centuries, since we were together
there on the Cape--and yet you have not changed."
She regarded him reflectively.
"You have," she said.
"Changed. You have changed a good deal. I don't know whether I
like it or not. Perhaps I shall be more certain by and by. Now
show me your war cross. At least you have brought that, even if
you haven't brought your uniform."
He had the cross in his pocket-book and he showed it to her. She
enthused over it, of course, and wished he might wear it even when
in citizen's clothes. She didn't see why he couldn't. And it was
SUCH a pity he could not be in uniform. Captain Blanchard had
called the evening before, to see Mother about some war charities
she was interested in, and he was still in uniform and wearing his
decorations, too. Albert suggested that probably Blanchard was
still in service. Yes, she believed he was, but she could not see
why that should make the difference. Albert had BEEN in service.
He laughed at this and attempted to explain. She seemed to resent
the attempt or the tone.
"I do wish," she said almost pettishly, "that you wouldn't be so
He was surprised. "Superior!" he repeated. "Superior! I?
Superiority is the very least of my feelings. I--superior! That's
And, oddly enough, she resented that even more. "Why is it a
joke?" she demanded. "I should think you had the right to feel
superior to almost any one. A hero--and a genius! You ARE
However, the little flurry was but momentary, and she was all
sweetness and smiles when she kissed him good night. He was shown
to his room by a servant and amid its array of comforts--to him,
fresh from France and the camp and his old room at South Harniss,
it was luxuriously magnificent--he sat for some time thinking. His
thoughts should have been happy ones, yet they were not entirely
so. This is a curiously unsatisfactory world, sometimes.
The next day he went shopping. Fosdick had given him a card to his
own tailor and Madeline had given him the names of several shops
where, so she declared, he could buy the right sort of ties and
things. From the tailor's Albert emerged looking a trifle dazed;
after a visit to two of the shops the dazed expression was even
more pronounced. His next visits were at establishments farther
downtown and not as exclusive. He returned to the Fosdick home
feeling fairly well satisfied with the results achieved. Madeline,
however, did not share his satisfaction.
"But Dad sent you to his tailor," she said. "Why in the world
didn't you order your evening clothes there? And Brett has the
most stunning ties. Every one says so. Instead you buy yours at a
department store. Now why?"
He smiled. "My dear girl," he said, "your father's tailor
estimated that he might make me a very passable dress suit for one
hundred and seventy-five dollars. Brett's ties were stunning, just
as you say, but the prices ranged from five to eight dollars, which
was more stunning still. For a young person from the country out
of a job, which is my condition at present, such things may be
looked at but not handled. I can't afford them."
She tossed her head. "What nonsense!" she exclaimed. "You're not
out of a job, as you call it. You are a writer and a famous
writer. You have written one book and you are going to write more.
Besides, you must have made heaps of money from The Lances. Every
one has been reading it."
When he told her the amount of his royalty check she expressed the
opinion that the publisher must have cheated. It ought to have
been ever and ever so much more than that. Such wonderful poems!
The next day she went to Brett's and purchased a half dozen of the
most expensive ties, which she presented to him forthwith.
"There!" she demanded. "Aren't those nicer than the ones you
bought at that old department store? Well, then!"
"But, Madeline, I must not let you buy my ties."
"Why not? It isn't such an unheard-of thing for an engaged girl to
give her fiance a necktie."
"That isn't the idea. I should have bought ties like those myself,
but I couldn't afford them. Now for you to--"
"Nonsense! You talk as if you were a beggar. Don't be so silly."
"Stop! I don't want to hear it."
She rose and went out of the room. She looked as if she were on
the verge of tears. He felt obliged to accept the gift, but he
disliked the principle of the things as much as ever. When she
returned she was very talkative and gay and chatted all through
luncheon. The subject of the ties was not mentioned again by
either of them. He was glad he had not told her that his new dress
suit was ready-made.
While in France, awaiting his return home, he had purchased a ring
and sent it to her. She was wearing it, of course. Compared with
other articles of jewelry which she wore from time to time, his
ring made an extremely modest showing. She seemed quite unaware of
the discrepancy, but he was aware of it.
On an evening later in the week Mrs. Fosdick gave a reception.
"Quite an informal affair," she said, in announcing her intention.
"Just a few intimate friends to meet Mr. Speranza, that is all.
Mostly lovers of literature--discerning people, if I may say so."
The quite informal affair looked quite formidably formal to Albert.
The few intimate friends were many, so it seemed to him. There was
still enough of the former Albert Speranza left in his make-up to
prevent his appearing in the least distressed or ill at ease. He
was, as he had always been when in the public eye, even as far back
as the school dancing-classes with the Misses Bradshaw's young
ladies, perfectly self-possessed, charmingly polite, absolutely
self-assured. And his good looks had not suffered during his years
of imprisonment and suffering. He was no longer a handsome boy,
but he was an extraordinarily attractive and distinguished man.
Mrs. Fosdick marked his manner and appearance and breathed a sigh
of satisfaction. Madeline noted them. Her young friends of the
sex noted them and whispered and looked approval. What the young
men thought does not matter so much, perhaps. One of these was the
Captain Blanchard, of whom Madeline had written and spoken. He was
a tall, athletic chap, who looked well in his uniform, and whose
face was that of a healthy, clean-living and clean-thinking young
American. He and Albert shook hands and looked each other over.
Albert decided he should like Blanchard if he knew him better. The
captain was not talkative; in fact, he seemed rather taciturn.
Maids and matrons gushed when presented to the lion of the evening.
It scarcely seemed possible that they were actually meeting the
author of The Lances of Dawn. That wonderful book! Those wonderful
poems! "How CAN you write them, Mr. Speranza?" "When do your best
inspirations come, Mr. Speranza?" "Oh, if I could write as you do I
should walk on air." The matron who breathed the last-quoted
ecstasy was distinctly weighty; the mental picture of her pedestrian
trip through the atmosphere was interesting. Albert's hand was
patted by the elderly spinsters, young women's eyes lifted soulful
glances to his.
It was the sort of thing he would have revelled in three or four
years earlier. Exactly the sort of thing he had dreamed of when
the majority of the poems they gushed over were written. It was
much the same thing he remembered having seen his father undergo
in the days when he and the opera singer were together. And his
father had, apparently, rather enjoyed it. He realized all this--
and he realized, too, with a queer feeling that it should be so,
that he did not like it at all. It was silly. Nothing he had
written warranted such extravagances. Hadn't these people any
sense of proportion? They bored him to desperation. The sole
relief was the behavior of the men, particularly the middle-aged or
elderly men, obviously present through feminine compulsion. They
seized his hand, moved it up and down with a pumping motion,
uttered some stereotyped prevarications about their pleasure at
meeting him and their having enjoyed his poems very much, and then
slid on in the direction of the refreshment room.
And Albert, as he shook hands, bowed and smiled and was charmingly
affable, found his thoughts wandering until they settled upon
Private Mike Kelly and the picturesque language of the latter when
he, as sergeant, routed him out for guard duty. Mike had not
gushed over him nor called him a genius. He had called him many
things, but not that.
He was glad indeed when he could slip away for a dance with
Madeline. He found her chatting gaily with Captain Blanchard, who
had been her most recent partner. He claimed her from the captain
and as he led her out to the dance floor she whispered that she was
very proud of him. "But I DO wish YOU could wear your war cross,"
The quite informal affair was the first of many quite as informally
formal. Also Mrs. Fosdick's satellites and friends of the literary
clubs and the war work societies seized the opportunity to make
much of the heroic author of The Lances of Dawn. His society was
requested at teas, at afternoon as well as evening gatherings. He
would have refused most of these invitations, but Madeline and her
mother seemed to take his acceptance for granted; in fact, they
accepted for him. A ghastly habit developed of asking him to read
a few of his own poems on these occasions. "PLEASE, Mr. Speranza.
It will be such a treat, and such an HONOR." Usually a particular
request was made that he read "The Greater Love." Now "The Greater
Love" was the poem which, written in those rapturous days when he
and Madeline first became aware of their mutual adoration, was
refused by one editor as a "trifle too syrupy." To read that
sticky effusion over and over again became a torment. There were
occasions when if a man had referred to "The Greater Love," its
author might have howled profanely and offered bodily violence.
But no men ever did refer to "The Greater Love."
On one occasion when a sentimental matron and her gushing daughter
had begged to know if he did not himself adore that poem, if he did
not consider it the best he had ever written, he had answered
frankly. He was satiated with cake and tea and compliments that
evening and recklessly truthful. "You really wish to know my
opinion of that poem?" he asked. Indeed and indeed they really
wished to knew just that thing. "Well, then, I think it's rot," he
declared. "I loathe it."
Of course mother and daughter were indignant. Their comments
reached Madeline's ear. She took him to task.
"But why did you say it?" she demanded. "You know you don't mean
"Yes, I do mean it. It IS rot. Lots of the stuff in that book of
mine is rot. I did not think so once, but I do now. If I had the
book to make over again, that sort wouldn't be included."
She looked at him for a moment as if studying a problem.
"I don't understand you sometimes," she said slowly. "You are
different. And I think what you said to Mrs. Bacon and Marian was
Later when he went to look for her he found her seated with Captain
Blanchard in a corner. They were eating ices and, apparently,
enjoying themselves. He did not disturb them. Instead he hunted
up the offended Bacons and apologized for his outbreak. The
apology, although graciously accepted, had rather wearisome
consequences. Mrs. Bacon declared she knew that he had not really
meant what he said.
"I realize how it must be," she declared. "You people of
temperament, of genius, of aspirations, are never quite satisfied,
you cannot be. You are always trying, always seeking the higher
attainment. Achievements of the past, though to the rest of us
wonderful and sublime, are to you--as you say, 'rot.' That is it,
is it not?" Albert said he guessed it was, and wandered away,
seeking seclusion and solitude. When the affair broke up he found
Madeline and Blanchard still enjoying each other's society. Both
were surprised when told the hour.
So the first three weeks of his proposed month's visit passed and
the fourth began. And more and more his feelings of dissatisfaction
and uneasiness increased. The reasons for those feelings he found
hard to define. The Fosdicks were most certainly doing their best
to make him comfortable and happy. They were kind--yes, more than
kind. Mr. Fosdick he really began to like. Mrs. Fosdick's manner
had a trace of condescension in it, but as the lady treated all
creation with much the same measure of condescension, he was more
amused than resentful. And Madeline--Madeline was sweet and
charming and beautiful. There was in her manner toward him, or so
he fancied, a slight change, perhaps a change a trifle more marked
since the evening when his expressed opinion of "The Greater Love"
had offended her and the Bacons. It seemed to him that she was more
impatient, more capricious, sometimes almost overwhelming him with
attention and tenderness and then appearing to forget him entirely
and to be quite indifferent to his thoughts and opinions. Her moods
varied greatly and there were occasions when he found it almost
impossible to please her. At these times she took offense when no
offense was intended and he found himself apologizing when, to say
the least, the fault, if there was any, was not more than half his.
But she always followed those moods with others of contrition and
penitence and then he was petted and fondled and his forgiveness
These slight changes in her he noticed, but they troubled him
little, principally because he was coming to realize the great
change in himself. More and more that change was forcing itself
upon him. The stories and novels he had read during the first
years of the war, the stories by English writers in which young
men, frivolous and inconsequential, had enlisted and fought and
emerged from the ordeal strong, purposeful and "made-over"--those
stories recurred to him now. He had paid little attention to the
"making-over" idea when he read those tales, but now he was forced
to believe there might be something in it. Certainly something,
the three years or the discipline and training and suffering, or
all combined, had changed him. He was not as he used to be.
Things he liked very much he no longer liked at all. And where,
oh where, was the serene self-satisfaction which once was his?
The change must be quite individual, he decided. All soldiers were
not so affected. Take Blanchard, for instance. Blanchard had seen
service, more and quite as hard fighting as he had seen, but
Blanchard was, to all appearances, as light-hearted and serene and
confident as ever. Blanchard was like Madeline; he was much the
same now as he had been before the war. Blanchard could dance and
talk small talk and laugh and enjoy himself. Well, so could he, on
occasions, for that matter, if that had been all. But it was not
all, or if it was why was he at other times so discontented and
uncomfortable? What was the matter with him, anyway?
He drew more and more into his shell and became more quiet and less
talkative. Madeline, in one of her moods, reproached him for it.
"I do wish you wouldn't be grumpy," she said.
They had been sitting in the library and he had lapsed into a fit
of musing, answering her questions with absentminded monosyllables.
Now he looked up.
"Grumpy?" he repeated. "Was I grumpy? I beg your pardon."
"You should. You answered every word I spoke to you with a grunt
or a growl. I might as well have been talking to a bear."
"I'm awfully sorry, dear. I didn't feel grumpy. I was thinking, I
"Thinking! You are always thinking. Why think, pray? . . . If I
permitted myself to think, I should go insane."
"Madeline, what do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm partially insane now, perhaps. Come, let's go
to the piano. I feel like playing. You don't mind, do you?"
That evening Mrs. Fosdick made a suggestion to her husband.
"Fletcher," she said, "I am inclined to think it is time you and
Albert had a talk concerning the future. A business talk, I mean.
I am a little uneasy about him. From some things he has said to me
recently I gather that he is planning to earn his living with his
"Well, how else did you expect him to earn it; as bookkeeper for
the South Harniss lumber concern?"
"Don't be absurd. What I mean is that he is thinking of devoting
himself to literature exclusively. Don't interrupt me, please.
That is very beautiful and very idealistic, and I honor him for it,
but I cannot see Madeline as an attic poet's wife, can you?"
"I can't, and I told you so in the beginning."
"No. Therefore I should take him to one side and tell him of the
opening in your firm. With that as a means of keeping his feet on
the ground his brain may soar as it likes, the higher the better."
Mr. Fosdick, as usual, obeyed orders and that afternoon Albert and
he had the "business talk." Conversation at dinner was somewhat
strained. Mr. Fosdick was quietly observant and seemed rather
amused about something. His wife was dignified and her manner
toward her guest was inclined to be abrupt. Albert's appetite was
poor. As for Madeline, she did not come down to dinner, having a
She came down later, however. Albert, alone in the library, was
sitting, a book upon his knees and his eyes fixed upon nothing in
particular, when she came in.
"You are thinking again, I see," she said.
He had not heard her enter. Now he rose, the book falling to the
"Why--why, yes," he stammered. "How are you feeling? How is your
"It is no worse. And no better. I have been thinking, too, which
perhaps explains it. Sit down, Albert, please. I want to talk
with you. That is what I have been thinking about, that you and I
She seated herself upon the davenport and he pulled forward a chair
and sat facing her. For a moment she was silent. When she did
speak, however, her question was very much to the point.
"Why did you say 'No' to Father's offer?" she asked. He had been
expecting this very question, or one leading up to it. Nevertheless,
he found answering difficult. He hesitated, and she watched him,
her impatience growing.
"Well?" she asked.
He sighed. "Madeline," he said, "I am afraid you think me very
unreasonable, certainly very ungrateful."
"I don't know what to think about you. That is why I feel we must
have this talk. Tell me, please, just what Father said to you this
"He said--well, the substance of what he said was to offer me a
position in his office, in his firm."
"What sort of a position?"
"Well, I--I scarcely know. I was to have a desk there and--and be
generally--ornamental, I suppose. It was not very definite, the
details of the position, but--"
"The salary was good, wasn't it?"
"Yes; more than good. Much too good for the return I could make
for it, so it seemed to me."
"And your prospects for the future? Wasn't the offer what people
call a good opportunity?"
"Why, yes, I suppose it was. For the right sort of man it would
have been a wonderful opportunity. Your father was most kind, most
generous, Madeline. Please don't think I am not appreciative. I
"Don't. I want to understand it all. He offered you this
opportunity, this partnership in his firm, and you would not
accept it? Why? Don't you like my father?"
"Yes, I like him very much."
"Didn't you," with the slightest possible curl of the lip, "think
the offer worthy of you? . . . Oh, I don't mean that! Please
forgive me. I am trying not to be disagreeable. I--I just want to
understand, Albert, that's all."
He nodded. "I know, Madeline," he said. "You have the right to
ask. It wasn't so much a question of the offer being worthy of me
as of my being worthy the offer. Oh, Madeline, why should you and
I pretend? You know why Mr. Fosdick made me that offer. It wasn't
because I was likely to be worth ten dollars a year to his firm.
In Heaven's name, what use would I be in a stockbroker's office,
with my make-up, with my lack of business ability? He would be
making a place for me there and paying me a high salary for one
reason only, and you know what that is. Now don't you?"
She hesitated now, but only for an instant. She colored a little,
but she answered bravely.
"I suppose I do," she said, "but what of it? It is not unheard of,
is it, the taking one's prospective son-in-law into partnership?"
"No, but-- We're dodging the issue again, Madeline. If I were
likely to be of any help to your father's business, instead of a
hindrance, I might perhaps see it differently. As it is, I
couldn't accept unless I were willing to be an object of charity."
"Did you tell Father that?"
"What did he say?"
"He said a good deal. He was frank enough to say that he did not
expect me to be of great assistance to the firm. But I might be of
SOME use--he didn't put it as baldly as that, of course--and at all
times I could keep on with my writing, with my poetry, you know.
The brokerage business should not interfere with my poetry, he
said; your mother would scalp him if it did that."
She smiled faintly. "That sounds like dad," she commented.
"Yes. Well, we talked and argued for some time on the subject.
He asked me what, supposing I did not accept this offer of his,
my plans for the future might be. I told him they were pretty
unsettled as yet. I meant to write, of course. Not poetry
altogether. I realized, I told him, that I was not a great poet, a
poet of genius."
Madeline interrupted. Her eyes flashed.
"Why do you say that?" she demanded. "I have heard you say it
before. That is, recently. In the old days you were as sure as
I that you were a real poet, or should be some day. You never
doubted it. You used to tell me so and I loved to hear you."
Albert shook his head. "I was sure of so many things then," he
said. "I must have been an insufferable kid."
She stamped her foot. "It was less than three years ago that you
said it," she declared. "You are not so frightfully ancient
now. . . . Well, go on, go on. How did it end, the talk with
Father, I mean?"
"I told him," he continued, "that I meant to write and to earn my
living by writing. I meant to try magazine work--stories, you
know--and, soon, a novel. He asked if earning enough to support a
wife on would not be a long job at that time. I said I was afraid
it might, but that that seemed to me my particular game,
She interrupted again. "Did it occur to you to question whether or
not that determination of yours was quite fair to me?" she asked.
"Why--why, yes, it did. And I don't know that it IS exactly fair
to you. I--"
"Never mind. Go on. Tell me the rest. How did it end?"
"Well, it ended in a sort of flare-up. Mr. Fosdick was just a
little bit sarcastic, and I expressed my feelings rather freely--
too freely, I'm afraid."
"Never mind. I want to know what you said."
"To be absolutely truthful, then, this is what I said: I said that
I appreciated his kindness and was grateful for the offer. But my
mind was made up. I would not live upon his charity and draw a
large salary for doing nothing except be a little, damned tame
house-poet led around in leash and exhibited at his wife's club
meetings. . . . That was about all, I think. We shook hands at
the end. He didn't seem to like me any the less for . . . Why,
Madeline, have I offended you? My language was pretty strong, I
She had bowed her head upon her arms amid the sofa cushions and was
crying. He sprang to his feet and bent over her.
"Why, Madeline," he said again, "I beg your pardon. I'm sorry--"
"Oh, it isn't that," she sobbed. "It isn't that. I don't care
what you said."
"What is it, then?"
She raised her head and looked at him.
"It is you," she cried. "It is myself. It is everything. It is
all wrong. I--I was so happy and--and now I am miserable. Oh--oh,
I wish I were dead!"
She threw herself upon the cushions again and wept hysterically.
He stood above her, stroking her hair, trying to soothe her, to
comfort her, and all the time he felt like a brute, a heartless
beast. At last she ceased crying, sat up and wiped her eyes with
"There!" she exclaimed. "I will not be silly any longer. I won't
be! I WON'T! . . . Now tell me: Why have you changed so?"
He looked down at her and shook his head. He was conscience-
stricken and fully as miserable as she professed to be.
"I don't know," he said. "I am older and--and--and I DON'T see
things as I used to. If that book of mine had appeared three years
ago I have no doubt I should have believed it to be the greatest
thing ever printed. Now, when people tell me it is and I read what
the reviewers said and all that, I--I DON'T believe, I KNOW it
isn't great--that is, the most of it isn't. There is some pretty
good stuff, of course, but-- You see, I think it wasn't the poems
themselves that made it sell; I think it was all the fool tommyrot
the papers printed about me, about my being a hero and all that
rubbish, when they thought I was dead, you know. That--"
She interrupted. "Oh, don't!" she cried. "Don't! I don't care
about the old book. I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking
about you. YOU aren't the same--the same toward me."
"Toward you, Madeline? I don't understand what you mean."
"Yes, you do. Of course you do. If you were the same as you used
to be, you would let Father help you. We used to talk about that
very thing and--and you didn't resent it then."
"Didn't I? Well, perhaps I didn't. But I think I remember our
speaking sometimes of sacrificing everything for each other. We
were to live in poverty, if necessary, and I was to write, you
"Stop! All that was nonsense, nonsense! you know it."
"Yes, I'm afraid it was."
"You know it was. And if you were as you used to be, if you--"
"What? Why did you interrupt me?"
"Because I wanted to ask you a question. Do you think YOU are
exactly the same--as you used to be?"
"What do you mean?"
"Haven't YOU changed a little? Are you as sure as you were then--
as sure of your feeling toward me?"
She gazed at him, wide-eyed. "WHAT do you mean?"
"I mean ARE you sure? It has seemed to me that perhaps--I was out
of your life for a long time, you know, and during a good deal of
that time it seemed certain that I had gone forever. I am not
blaming you, goodness knows, but--Madeline, isn't there-- Well, if
I hadn't come back, mightn't there have been some one--else?"
She turned pale.
"What do--" she stammered, inarticulate. "Why, why--"
"It was Captain Blanchard, wasn't it?"
The color came back to her cheeks with a rush. She blushed
furiously and sprang to her feet.
"How--how can you say such things!" she cried. "What do you mean?
How DARE you say Captain Blanchard took advantage of-- How--how
DARE you say I was not loyal to you? It is not true. It is not
true. I was. I am. There hasn't been a word--a word between us
since--since the news came that you were-- I told him--I said--
And he has been splendid! Splendid! And now you say-- Oh, what
AM I saying? What SHALL I do?"
She collapsed once more among the cushions. He leaned forward.
"My dear girl--" he began, but she broke in.
"I HAVEN'T been disloyal," she cried. "I have tried-- Oh, I have
tried so hard--"
"Hush, Madeline, hush. I understand. I understand perfectly. It
is all right, really it is."
"And I should have kept on trying always--always."
"Yes, dear, yes. But do you think a married life with so much
trying in it likely to be a happy one? It is better to know it
now, isn't it, a great deal better for both of us? Madeline, I am
going to my room. I want you to think, to think over all this, and
then we will talk again. I don't blame you. I don't, dear,
really. I think I realize everything--all of it. Good night,
He stooped and kissed her. She sobbed, but that was all. The next
morning a servant came to his room with a parcel and a letter. The
parcel was a tiny one. It was the ring he had given her, in its
case. The letter was short and much blotted. It read:
I have thought and thought, as you told me to, and I have concluded
that you were right. It IS best to know it now. Forgive me,
please, PLEASE. I feel wicked and horrid and I HATE myself, but I
think this is best. Oh, do forgive me. Good-by.
His reply was longer. At its end he wrote:
Of course I forgive you. In the first place there is nothing to
forgive. The unforgivable thing would have been the sacrifice of
your happiness and your future to a dream and a memory. I hope you
will be very happy. I am sure you will be, for Blanchard is, I
know, a fine fellow. The best of fortune to you both.
The next forenoon he sat once more in the car of the morning train
for Cape Cod, looking out of the window. He had made the journey
from New York by the night boat and had boarded the Cape train at
Middleboro. All the previous day, and in the evening as he tramped
the cold wind-swept deck of the steamer, he had been trying to
collect his thoughts, to readjust them to the new situation, to
comprehend in its entirety the great change that had come in his
life. The vague plans, the happy indefinite dreams, all the
rainbows and roses had gone, shivered to bits like the reflection
in a broken mirror. Madeline, his Madeline, was his no longer.
Nor was he hers. In a way it seemed impossible.
He tried to analyze his feelings. It seemed as if he should have
been crushed, grief-stricken, broken. He was inclined to reproach
himself because he was not. Of course there was a sadness about
it, a regret that the wonder of those days of love and youth had
passed. But the sorrow was not bitter, the regret was but a
wistful longing, the sweet, lingering fragrance of a memory, that
was all. Toward her, Madeline, he felt--and it surprised him, too,
to find that he felt--not the slightest trace of resentment. And
more surprising still he felt none toward Blanchard. He had meant
what he said in his letter, he wished for them both the greatest
And--there was no use attempting to shun the fact--his chief
feeling, as he sat there by the car window looking out at the
familiar landscape, was a great relief, a consciousness of escape
from what might have been a miserable, crushing mistake for him and
for her. And with this a growing sense of freedom, of buoyancy.
It seemed wicked to feel like that. Then it came to him, the
thought that Madeline, doubtless, was experiencing the same
feeling. And he did not mind a bit; he hoped she was, bless her!
A youthful cigar "drummer," on his first Down-East trip, sat down
"Kind of a flat, bare country, ain't it?" observed the drummer,
with a jerk of his head toward the window. "Looks bleak enough to
me. Know anything about this neck of the woods, do you?"
Albert turned to look at him.
"Meaning the Cape?" he asked.
"Indeed I do. I know all about it."
"That so! Say, you sound as if you liked it."
Albert turned back to the window again.
"Like it!" he repeated. "I love it." Then he sighed, a sigh of
satisfaction, and added: "You see, I BELONG here."
His grandparents and Rachel were surprised when he walked into the
house that noon and announced that he hoped dinner was ready,
because he was hungry. But their surprise was more than balanced
by their joy. Captain Zelotes demanded to know how long he was
going to stay.
"As long as you'll have me, Grandfather," was the answer.
"Eh? Well, that would be a consider'ble spell, if you left it to
us, but I cal'late that girl in New York will have somethin' to say
as to time limit, won't she?"
Albert smiled. "I'll tell you about that by and by," he said.
He did not tell them until that evening after supper. It was
Friday evening and Olive was going to prayer-meeting, but she
delayed "putting on her things" to hear the tale. The news that
the engagement was off and that her grandson was not, after all, to
wed the daughter of the Honorable Fletcher Fosdick, shocked and
grieved her not a little.
"Oh, dear!" she sighed. "I suppose you know what's best, Albert,
and maybe, as you say, you wouldn't have been happy, but I DID feel
sort of proud to think my boy was goin' to marry a millionaire's
Captain Zelotes made no comment--then. He asked to be told more
particulars. Albert described the life at the Fosdick home, the
receptions, his enforced exhibitions and readings. At length the
recital reached the point of the interview in Fosdick's office.
"So he offered you to take you into the firm--eh, son?" he
"Humph! Fosdick, Williamson and Hendricks are one of the biggest
brokerage houses goin', so a good many New Yorkers have told me."
"No doubt. But, Grandfather, you've had some experience with me
as a business man; how do you think I would fit into a firm of
Captain Lote's eye twinkled, but he did not answer the question.
Instead he asked:
"Just what did you give Fosdick as your reason for not sayin' yes?"
Albert laughed. "Well, Grandfather," he said, "I'll tell you. I
said that I appreciated his kindness and all that, but that I would
not draw a big salary for doing nothing except to be a little,
damned tame house-poet led around in leash and shown off at his
wife's club meetings."
Mrs. Snow uttered a faint scream. "Oh, Albert!" she exclaimed.
She might have said more, but a shout from her husband prevented
her doing so.
Captain Zelotes had risen and his mighty hand descended with a
stinging slap upon his grandson's shoulder.
"Bully for you, boy!" he cried. Then, turning to Olive, he added,
"Mother, I've always kind of cal'lated that you had one man around
this house. Now, by the Lord A'Mighty, I know you've got TWO!"
Olive rose. "Well," she declared emphatically, "that may be; but
if both those men are goin' to start in swearin' right here in the
sittin' room, I think it's high time SOMEBODY in that family went
So to prayer meeting she went, with Mrs. Ellis as escort, and her
husband and grandson, seated in armchairs before the sitting room
stove, both smoking, talked and talked, of the past and of the
future--not as man to boy, nor as grandparent to grandson, but for
the first time as equals, without reservations, as man to man.
The next morning Albert met old Mr. Kendall. After breakfast
Captain Zelotes had gone, as usual, directly to the office. His
grandson, however, had not accompanied him.
"What are you cal'latin' to do this mornin', Al?" inquired the
"Oh, I don't know exactly, Grandfather. I'm going to look about
the place a bit, write a letter to my publishers, and take a walk,
I think. You will probably see me at the office pretty soon. I'll
look in there by and by."
"Ain't goin' to write one or two of those five hundred dollar
stories before dinner time, are you?"
"I guess not, sir. I'm afraid they won't be written as quickly as
Captain Lote shook his head. "Godfreys!" he exclaimed; "it ain't
the writin' of 'em I'd worry about so much as the gettin' paid for
'em. You're sure that editor man ain't crazy, you say?"
"I hope he isn't. He seemed sane enough when I saw him."
"Well, I don't know. It's live and learn, I suppose, but if
anybody but you had told me that magazine folks paid as much as
five hundred dollars a piece for yarns made up out of a feller's
head without a word of truth in 'em, I'd--well, I should have told
the feller that told me to go to a doctor right off and have HIS
head examined. But--well, as 'tis I cal'late I'd better have my
own looked at. So long, Al. Come in to the office if you get a
He hurried out. Albert walked to the window and watched the sturdy
figure swinging out of the yard. He wondered if, should he live to
his grandfather's age, his step would be as firm and his shoulders
Olive laid a hand on his arm.
"You don't mind his talkin' that way about your writin' those
stories, do you, Albert?" she asked, a trace of anxiety in her
tone. "He don't mean it, you know. He don't understand it--says
he don't himself--but he's awful proud of you, just the same. Why,
last night, after you and he had finished talkin' and he came up to
bed--and the land knows what time of night or mornin' THAT was--he
woke me out of a sound sleep to tell me about that New York
magazine man givin' you a written order to write six stories for
his magazine at five hundred dollars a piece. Zelotes couldn't
seem to get over it. 'Think of it, Mother,' he kept sayin'.
'Think of it! Pretty nigh twice what I pay as good a man as Labe
Keeler for keepin' books a whole year. And Al says he ought to do
a story every forni't. I used to jaw his head off, tellin' him he
was on the road to starvation and all that. Tut, tut, tut!
Mother, I've waited a long time to say it, but it looks as if you
married a fool.' . . . That's the way he talked, but he's a long
ways from bein' a fool, your grandfather is, Albert."
Albert nodded. "No one knows that better than I," he said, with
"There's one thing," she went on, "that kind of troubled me. He
said you was goin' to insist on payin' board here at home. Now you
know this house is yours. And we love to--"
He put his arm about her. "I know it, Grandmother," he broke in,
quickly. "But that is all settled. I am going to try to make my
own living in my own way. I am going to write and see what I am
really worth. I have my royalty money, you know, most of it, and I
have this order for the series of stories. I can afford to pay for
my keep and I shall. You see, as I told Grandfather last night, I
don't propose to live on his charity any more than on Mr. Fosdick's."
"So Zelotes said," she admitted. "He told me no less than three
times that you said it. It seemed to tickle him most to death, for
some reason, and that's queer, too, for he's anything but stingy.
But there, I suppose you can pay board if you want to, though who
you'll pay it to is another thing. _I_ shan't take a cent from the
only grandson I've got in the world."
It was while on his stroll down to the village that Albert met Mr.
Kendall. The reverend gentleman was plodding along carrying a
market basket from the end of which, beneath a fragment of
newspaper, the tail and rear third of a huge codfish drooped. The
basket and its contents must have weighed at least twelve pounds
and the old minister was, as Captain Zelotes would have said,
making heavy weather of it. Albert went to his assistance.
"How do you do, Mr. Kendall," he said; "I'm afraid that basket is
rather heavy, isn't it. Mayn't I help you with it?" Then, seeing
that the old gentleman did not recognize him, he added, "I am
Down went the basket and the codfish and Mr. Kendall seized him by
"Why, of course, of course," he cried. "Of course, of course.
It's our young hero, isn't it. Our poet, our happy warrior. Yes,--
yes, of course. So glad to see you, Albert. . . . Er . . . er . . .
How is your mother?"
"You mean my grandmother? She is very well, thank you."
"Yes--er--yes, your grandmother, of course. . . . Er . . . er. . . .
Did you see my codfish? Isn't it a magnificent one. I am very
fond of codfish and we almost never have it at home. So just now,
I happened to be passing Jonathan Howes'--he is the--er--fishdealer,
you know, and . . . Jonathan is a very regular attendant at my
Sunday morning services. He is--is. . . . Dear me. . . . What
was I about to say?"
Being switched back to the main track by Albert he explained that
he had seen a number of cod in Mr. Howes' possession and had bought
this specimen. Howes had lent him the basket.
"And the newspaper," he explained; adding, with triumph, "I shall
dine on codfish to-day, I am happy to say." Judging by appearances
he might dine and sup and breakfast on codfish and still have a
supply remaining. Albert insisted on carrying the spoil to the
parsonage. He was doing nothing in particular and it would be a
pleasure, he said. Mr. Kendall protested for the first minute or
so but then forgot just what the protest was all about and rambled
garrulously on about affairs in the parish. He had failed in other
faculties, but his flow of language was still unimpeded. They
entered the gate of the parsonage. Albert put the basket on the
"There," he said; "now I must go. Good morning, Mr. Kendall."
"Oh, but you aren't going? You must come in a moment. I want to
give you the manuscript of that sermon of mine on the casting down
of Baal, that is the one in which I liken the military power of
Germany to the brazen idol which. . . . Just a moment, Albert.
The manuscript is in my desk and. . . . Oh, dear me, the door is
locked. . . . Helen, Helen!"
He was shaking the door and shouting his daughter's name. Albert
was surprised and not a little disturbed. It had not occurred to
him that Helen could be at home. It is true that before he left
for New York his grandmother had said that she was planning to
return home to be with her father, but since then he had heard
nothing more concerning her. Neither of his grandparents had
mentioned her name in their letters, nor since his arrival the day
before had they mentioned it. And Mr. Kendall had not spoken of
her during their walk together. Albert was troubled and taken
aback. In one way he would have liked to meet Helen very much
indeed. They had not met since before the war. But he did not,
somehow, wish to meet her just then. He did not wish to meet
anyone who would speak of Madeline, or ask embarrassing questions.
He turned to go.
"Another time, Mr. Kendall," he said. "Good morning."
But he had gone only a few yards when the reverend gentleman was
calling to him to return.
"Albert! Albert!" called Mr. Kendall.
He was obliged to turn back, he could do nothing else, and as he
did so the door opened. It was Helen who opened it and she stood
there upon the threshold and looked down at him. For a moment, a
barely perceptible interval, she looked, then he heard her catch
her breath quickly and saw her put one hand upon the door jamb as
if for support. The next, and she was running down the steps, her
hands outstretched and the light of welcome in her eyes.
"Why, Albert Speranza!" she cried. "Why, ALBERT!"
He seized her hands. "Helen!" he cried, and added involuntarily,
"My, but it's good to see you again!"
She laughed and so did he. All his embarrassment was gone. They
were like two children, like the boy and girl who had known each
other in the old days.
"And when did you get here?" she asked. "And what do you mean by
surprising us like this? I saw your grandfather yesterday morning
and he didn't say a word about your coming."
"He didn't know I was coming. I didn't know it myself until the
day before. And when did you come? Your father didn't tell me you
were here. I didn't know until I heard him call your name."
He was calling it again. Calling it and demanding attention for
his precious codfish.
"Yes, Father, yes, in a minute, " she said. Then to Albert, "Come
in. Oh, of course you'll come in."
"Why, yes, if I won't be interfering with the housekeeping."
"You won't. Yes, Father, yes, I'm coming. Mercy, where did you
get such a wonderful fish? Come in, Albert. As soon as I get
Father's treasure safe in the hands of Maria I'll be back. Father
will keep you company. No, pardon me, I am afraid he won't, he's
gone to the kitchen already. And I shall have to go, too, for just
a minute. I'll hurry."
She hastened to the kitchen, whither Mr. Kendall, tugging the fish
basket, had preceded her. Albert entered the little sitting-room
and sat down in a chair by the window. The room looked just as it
used to look, just as neat, just as homelike, just as well kept.
And when she came back and they began to talk, it seemed to him
that she, too, was just as she used to be. She was a trifle less
girlish, more womanly perhaps, but she was just as good to look at,
just as bright and cheerful and in her conversation she had the
same quietly certain way of dealing directly with the common-sense
realities and not the fuss and feathers. It seemed to him that she
had not changed at all, that she herself was one of the realities,
the wholesome home realities, like Captain Zelotes and Olive and
the old house they lived in. He told her so. She laughed.
"You make me feel as ancient as the pyramids," she said.
He shook his head. "I am the ancient," he declared. "This war
hasn't changed you a particle, Helen, but it has handed me an awful
jolt. At times I feel as if I must have sailed with Noah. And as
if I had wasted most of the time since."
She smiled. "Just what do you mean by that?" she asked.
"I mean--well, I don't know exactly what I do mean, I guess. I
seem to have an unsettled feeling. I'm not satisfied with myself.
And as I remember myself," he added, with a shrug, "that condition
of mind was not usual with me."
She regarded him for a moment without speaking, with the appraising
look in her eyes which he remembered so well, which had always
reminded him of the look in his grandfather's eyes, and which when
a boy he resented so strongly.
"Yes," she said slowly, "I think you have changed. Not because
you say you feel so much older or because you are uneasy and
dissatisfied. So many of the men I talked with at the camp
hospital, the men who had been over there and had been wounded, as
you were, said they felt the same way. That doesn't mean anything,
I think, except that it is dreadfully hard to get readjusted again
and settle down to everyday things. But it seems to me that you
have changed in other ways. You are a little thinner, but broader,
too, aren't you? And you do look older, especially about the eyes.
And, of course--well, of course I think I do miss a little of the
Albert Speranza I used to know, the young chap with the chip on his
shoulder for all creation to knock off."
"Oh, no indeed. He had his good points. But there! we're wasting
time and we have so much to talk about. You--why, what am I
thinking of! I have neglected the most important thing in the
world. And you have just returned from New York, too. Tell me,
how is Madeline Fosdick?"
"She is well. But tell me about yourself. You have been in all
sorts of war work, haven't you. Tell me about it."
"Oh, my work didn't amount to much. At first I 'Red Crossed' in
Boston, then I went to Devens and spent a long time in the camp
"Pretty trying, wasn't it?"
"Why--yes, some of it was. When the 'flu' epidemic was raging and
the poor fellows were having such a dreadful time it was bad
enough. After that I was sent to Eastview. In the hospital there
I met the boys who had been wounded on the other side and who
talked about old age and dissatisfaction and uneasiness, just as
you do. But MY work doesn't count. You are the person to be
talked about. Since I have seen you you have become a famous poet
and a hero and--"
She had been smiling; now she was very serious.
"Forgive me, Albert," she said. "We have been joking, you and I,
but there was a time when we--when your friends did not joke. Oh,
Albert, if you could have seen the Snow place as I saw it then. It
was as if all the hope and joy and everything worth while had been
crushed out of it. Your grandmother, poor little woman, was brave
and quiet, but we all knew she was trying to keep up for Captain
Zelotes' sake. And he--Albert, you can scarcely imagine how the
news of your death changed him. . . . Ah! well, it was a hard
time, a dreadful time for--for every one."
She paused and he, turning to look at her, saw that there were
tears in her eyes. He knew of her affection for his grandparents
and theirs for her. Before he could speak she was smiling again.
"But now that is all over, isn't it?" she said. "And the Snows are
the happiest people in the country, I do believe. AND the proudest,
of course. So now you must tell me all about it, about your
experiences, and about your war cross, and about your literary
work--oh, about everything."
The all-inclusive narrative was not destined to get very far. Old
Mr. Kendall came hurrying in, the sermon on the casting down of
Baal in his hand. Thereafter he led, guided, and to a large extent
monopolized the conversation. His discourse had proceeded perhaps
as far as "Thirdly" when Albert, looking at his watch, was
surprised to find it almost dinner time. Mr. Kendall, still
talking, departed to his study to hunt for another sermon. The
young people said good-by in his absence.
"It has been awfully good to see you again, Helen," declared
Albert. "But I told you that in the beginning, didn't I? You
seem like--well, like a part of home, you know. And home means
something to me nowadays."
"I'm glad to hear you speak of South Harniss as home. Of course I
know you don't mean to make it a permanent home--I imagine Madeline
would have something to say about that--but it is nice to have you
speak as if the old town meant something to you."
He looked about him.
"I love the place," he said simply.
"I am glad. So do I; but then I have lived here all my life. The
next time we talk I want to know more about your plans for the
future--yours and Madeline's, I mean. How proud she must be of
He looked up at her; she was standing upon the upper step and he on
the walk below.
"Madeline and I--" he began. Then he stopped. What was the use?
He did not want to talk about it. He waved his hand and turned
After dinner he went out into the kitchen to talk to Mrs. Ellis,
who was washing dishes. She was doing it as she did all her share
of the housework, with an energy and capability which would have
delighted the soul of a "scientific management" expert. Except
when under the spell of a sympathetic attack Rachel was ever
distinctly on the job.
And of course she was, as always, glad to see her protege, her
Robert Penfold. The proprietary interest which she had always felt
in him was more than ever hers now. Had not she been the sole
person to hint at the possibility of his being alive, when every
one else had given him up for dead? Had not she been the only one
to suggest that he might have been taken prisoner? Had SHE ever
despaired of seeing him again--on this earth and in the flesh?
Indeed, she had not; at least, she had never admitted it, if she
had. So then, hadn't she a RIGHT to feel that she owned a share in
him? No one ventured to dispute that right.
She turned and smiled over one ample shoulder when he entered the
"Hello," she hailed cheerfully. "Come callin', have you, Robert--
Albert, I mean? It would have been a great help to me if you'd
been christened Robert. I call you that so much to myself it comes
almost more natural than the other. On account of you bein' so
just like Robert Penfold in the book, you know," she added.
"Yes, yes, of course, Rachel, I understand," put in Albert hastily.
He was not in the mood to listen to a dissertation on a text taken
from Foul Play. He looked about the room and sighed happily.
"There isn't a speck anywhere, is there?" he observed. "It is just
as it used to be, just as I used to think of it when I was laid up
over there. When I wanted to try and eat a bit, so as to keep what
strength I had, I would think about this kitchen of yours, Rachel.
It didn't do to think of the places where the prison stuff was
cooked. They were not--appetizing."
Mrs. Ellis nodded. "I presume likely not," she observed. "Well,
don't tell me about 'em. I've just scrubbed this kitchen from stem
to stern. If I heard about those prison places, I'd feel like
startin' right in and scrubbin' it all over again, I know I
should. . . . Dirty pigs! I wish I had the scourin' of some of
those Germans! I'd--I don't know as I wouldn't skin 'em alive."
Albert laughed. "Some of them pretty nearly deserved it," he said.
Rachel smiled grimly. "Well, let's talk about nice things," she
said. "Oh, Issy Price was here this forenoon; Cap'n Lote sent him
over from the office on an errand, and he said he saw you and Mr.
Kendall goin' down street together just as he was comin' along. He
hollered at you, but you didn't hear him. 'Cordin' to Issachar's
tell, you was luggin' a basket with Jonah's whale in it, or
somethin' like that."
Albert described his encounter with the minister. Rachel was much
"Oh, so you saw Helen," she said. "Well, I guess she was surprised
to see you."
"Not more than I was to see her. I didn't know she was in town.
Not a soul had mentioned it--you nor Grandfather nor Grandmother."
The housekeeper answered without turning her head. "Guess we had
so many things to talk about we forgot it," she said. "Yes, she's
been here over a week now. High time, from what I hear. The poor
old parson has failed consider'ble and Maria Price's housekeepin'
and cookin' is enough to make a well man sick--or wish he was. But
he'll be looked after now. Helen will look after him. She's the
most capable girl there is in Ostable County. Did she tell you
about what she done in the Red Cross and the hospitals?"
"She said something about it, not very much."
"Um-hm. She wouldn't, bein' Helen Kendall. But the Red Cross
folks said enough, and they're sayin' it yet. Why--"
She went on to tell of Helen's work in the Red Cross depots and in
the camp, and hospitals. It was an inspiring story.
"There they was," said Rachel, "the poor things, just boys most of
'em, dyin' of that dreadful influenza like rats, as you might say.
And, of course it's dreadful catchin', and a good many was more
afraid of it than they would have been of bullets, enough sight.
But Helen Kendall wa'n't afraid--no, siree! Why--"
And so on. Albert listened, hearing most of it, but losing some as
his thoughts wandered back to the Helen he had known as a boy and
the Helen he had met that forenoon. Her face, as she had welcomed
him at the parsonage door--it was surprising how clearly it showed
before his mind's eye. He had thought at first that she had not
changed in appearance. That was not quite true--she had changed a
little, but it was merely the fulfillment of a promise, that was
all. Her eyes, her smile above a hospital bed--he could imagine
what they must have seemed like to a lonely, homesick boy wrestling
with the "flu."
"And, don't talk!" he heard the housekeeper say, as he drifted out
of his reverie, "if she wa'n't popular around that hospital, around
both hospitals, fur's that goes! The patients idolized her, and
the other nurses they loved her, and the doctors--"
"Did they love her, too?" Albert asked, with a smile, as she
She laughed. "Some of 'em did, I cal'late," she answered. "You
see, I got most of my news about it all from Bessie Ryder,
Cornelius Ryder's niece, lives up on the road to the Center; you
used to know her, Albert. Bessie was nursin' in that same
hospital, the one Helen was at first. 'Cordin' to her, there was
some doctor or officer tryin' to shine up to Helen most of the
time. When she was at Eastview, so Bessie heard, there was a real
big-bug in the Army, a sort of Admiral or Commodore amongst the
doctors he was, and HE was trottin' after her, or would have been
if she'd let him. 'Course you have to make some allowances for
Bessie--she wouldn't be a Ryder if she didn't take so many words to
say so little that the truth gets stretched pretty thin afore she
finished--but there must have been SOMETHIN' in it. And all about
her bein' such a wonderful nurse and doin' so much for the Red
Cross I KNOW is true. . . . Eh? Did you say anything, Albert?"
Albert shook his head. "No, Rachel," he replied. "I didn't
"I thought I heard you or somebody say somethin'. I-- Why, Laban
Keeler, what are you doin' away from your desk this time in the
Laban grinned as he entered the kitchen.
"Did I hear you say you thought you heard somebody sayin' somethin',
Rachel?" he inquired. "That's queer, ain't it? Seemed to me _I_
heard somebody sayin' somethin' as I come up the path just now.
Seemed as if they was sayin' it right here in the kitchen, too.
'Twasn't your voice, Albert, and it couldn't have been Rachel's,
'cause she NEVER talks--'specially to you. It's too bad, the
prejudice she's got against you, Albert," he added, with a wink.
"Um-hm, too bad--yes, 'tis--yes, yes."
Mrs. Ellis sniffed.
"And that's what the newspapers in war time used to call--er--er--
oh, dear, what was it?--camel--seems's if 'twas somethin' about a
"Camouflage?" suggested Albert.
"That's it. All that talk about me is just camouflage to save him
answerin' my question. But he's goin' to answer it. What are you
doin' away from the office this time in the afternoon, I want to
Mr. Keeler perched his small figure on the corner of the kitchen
"Well, to tell you the truth, Rachel," he said solemnly. "I'm here
to do what the folks in books call demand an explanation. You and
I, Rachel, are just as good as engaged to be married, ain't we?
I've been keepin' company with you for the last twenty, forty or
sixty years, some such spell as that. Now, just as I'm gettin'
used to it and beginnin' to consider it a settled arrangement, as
you may say, I come into this house and find you shut up in the
kitchen with another man. Now, what--"
The housekeeper advanced toward him with the dripping dishcloth.
"Laban Keeler," she threatened, "if you don't stop your foolishness
and answer my question, I declare I'll--"
Laban slid from his perch and retired behind the table.
"Another man," he repeated. "And SOME folks--not many, of course,
but some--might be crazy enough to say he was a better-lookin' man
than I am. Now, bein' ragin' jealous,-- All right, Rachel, all
right, I surrender. Don't hit me with all those soapsuds. I don't
want to go back to the office foamin' at the mouth. The reason I'm
here is that I had to go down street to see about the sheathin' for
the Red Men's lodge room. Issy took the order, but he wasn't real
sure whether 'twas sheathin' or scantlin' they wanted, so I told
Cap'n Lote I'd run down myself and straighten it out. On the way
back I saw you two through the window and I thought I'd drop in and
worry you. So here I am."
Mrs. Ellis nodded. "Yes," she sniffed. "And all that camel--
camel-- Oh, DEAR, what DOES ail me? All that camel-- No use,
I've forgot it again."
"Never mind, Rachel," said Mr. Keeler consolingly. "All the--er--
menagerie was just that and nothin' more. Oh, by the way, Al," he
added, "speakin' of camels--don't you think I've done pretty well
to go so long without any--er--liquid nourishment? Not a drop
since you and I enlisted together. . . . Oh, she knows about it
now," he added, with a jerk of his head in the housekeeper's
direction. "I felt 'twas fairly safe and settled, so I told her.
I told her. Yes, yes, yes. Um-hm, so I did."
Albert turned to the lady.
"You should be very proud of him, Rachel," he said seriously. "I
think I realize a little something of the fight he has made, and it
is bully. You should be proud of him."
Rachel looked down at the little man.
"I am," she said quietly. "I guess likely he knows it."
Laban smiled. "The folks in Washington are doin' their best to
help me out," he said. "They're goin' to take the stuff away from
everybody so's to make sure _I_ don't get any more. They'll
probably put up a monument to me for startin' the thing; don't you
think they will, Al? Eh? Don't you, now?"
Albert and he walked up the road together. Laban told a little
more of his battle with John Barleycorn.
"I had half a dozen spells when I had to set my teeth, those I've
got left, and hang on," he said. "And the hangin'-on wa'n't as
easy as stickin' to fly-paper, neither. Honest, though, I think
the hardest was when the news came that you was alive, Al. I--I
just wanted to start in and celebrate. Wanted to whoop her up, I
did." He paused a moment and then added, "I tried whoopin' on
sass'parilla and vanilla sody, but 'twa'n't satisfactory. Couldn't
seem to raise a real loud whisper, let alone a whoop. No, I
Albert laughed and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You're all right,
Labe," he declared. "I know you, and I say so."
Laban slowly shook his head. His smile, as he answered, was rather
"I'm a long, long ways from bein' all right, Al," he said. "A long
ways from that, I am. If I'd made my fight thirty year ago, I
might have been nigher to amountin' to somethin'. . . . Oh, well,
for Rachel's sake I'm glad I've made it now. She's stuck to me
when everybody would have praised her for chuckin' me to Tophet. I
was readin' one of Thackeray's books t'other night--Henry Esmond,
'twas; you've read it, Al, of course; I was readin' it t'other
night for the ninety-ninth time or thereabouts, and I run across
the place where it says it's strange what a man can do and a woman
still keep thinkin' he's an angel. That's true, too, Al. Not,"
with the return of the slight smile, "that Rachel ever went so far
as to call me an angel. No, no. There's limits where you can't
stretch her common-sense any farther. Callin' me an angel would be
just past the limit. Yes, yes, yes. I guess SO."
They spoke of Captain Zelotes and Olive and of their grief and
discouragement when the news of Albert's supposed death reached
"Do you know," said Labe, "I believe Helen Kendall's comin' there
for a week did 'em more good than anything else. She got away from
her soldier nursin' somehow--must have been able to pull the
strings consider'ble harder'n the average to do it--and just came
down to the Snow place and sort of took charge along with Rachel.
Course she didn't live there, her father thought she was visitin'
him, I guess likely, but she was with Cap'n Lote and Olive most of
the time. Rachel says she never made a fuss, you understand, just
was there and helped and was quiet and soft-spoken and capable and--
and comfortin', that's about the word, I guess. Rachel always
thought a sight of Helen afore that, but since then she swears by
That evening--or, rather, that night, for they did not leave the
sitting room until after twelve--Mrs. Snow heard her grandson
walking the floor of his room, and called to ask if he was sick.
"I'm all right, Grandmother," he called in reply. "Just taking a
little exercise before turning in, that's all. Sorry if I
The exercise was, as a matter of fact, almost entirely mental, the
pacing up and down merely an unconscious physical accompaniment.
Albert Speranza was indulging in introspection. He was reviewing
and assorting his thoughts and his impulses and trying to determine
just what they were and why they were and whither they were
tending. It was a mental and spiritual picking to pieces and the
result was humiliating and in its turn resulted in a brand-new
Ever since his meeting with Helen, a meeting which had been quite
unpremeditated, he had thought of but little except her. During
his talk with her in the parsonage sitting room he had been--there
was no use pretending to himself that it was otherwise--more
contented with the world, more optimistic, happier, than he had
been for months, it seemed to him for years. Even while he was
speaking to her of his uneasiness and dissatisfaction he was dimly
conscious that at that moment he was less uneasy and less
dissatisfied, conscious that the solid ground was beneath his feet
at last, that here was the haven after the storm, here was--
He pulled up sharply. This line of thought was silly, dangerous,
wicked. What did it mean? Three days before, only three days, he
had left Madeline Fosdick, the girl whom he had worshiped, adored,
and who had loved him. Yes, there was no use pretending there,
either; he and Madeline HAD loved each other. Of course he
realized now that their love had nothing permanently substantial
about it. It was the romance of youth, a dream which they had
shared together and from which, fortunately for both, they had
awakened in time. And of course he realized, too, that the
awakening had begun long, long before the actual parting took
place. But nevertheless only three days had elapsed since that
parting, and now-- What sort of a man was he?
Was he like his father? Was it what Captain Zelotes used to call
the "Portygee streak" which was now cropping out? The opera singer
had been of the butterfly type--in his later years a middle-aged
butterfly whose wings creaked somewhat--but decidedly a flitter
from flower to flower. As a boy, Albert had been aware, in an
uncertain fashion, of his father's fondness for the sex. Now,
older, his judgment of his parent was not as lenient, was clearer,
more discerning. He understood now. Was his own "Portygee
streak," his inherited temperament, responsible for his leaving one
girl on a Tuesday and on Friday finding his thoughts concerned so
deeply with another?
Well, no matter, no matter. One thing was certain--Helen should
never know of that feeling. He would crush it down, he would use
his common-sense. He would be a decent man and not a blackguard.
For he had had his chance and had tossed it away. What would she
think of him now if he came to her after Madeline had thrown him
over--that is what Mrs. Fosdick would say, would take pains that
every one else should say, that Madeline had thrown him over--what
would Helen think of him if he came to her with a second-hand love
And of course she would not think of him as a lover at all. Why
should she? In the boy and girl days she had refused to let him
speak of such a thing. She was his friend, a glorious, a wonderful
friend, but that was all, all she ever dreamed of being.
Well, that was right; that was as it should be. He should be
thankful for such a friend. He was, of course. And he would
concentrate all his energies upon his work, upon his writing.
That was it, that was it. Good, it was settled!