Part 4 out of 4
"Oh, well, a fellow has to be civil to a lot of girls he doesn't
particularly admire. Lucy's not so bad. She's rather pretty--when she's
feeling amiable--and she certainly dresses well."
Jeff's assertion in the matter of Lucy's appearance was proved true.
When Just, on Friday evening, marched across to the other house,
inwardly raging at his fate, he had an agreeable surprise. As he stood
by the fireplace with Charlotte, Lucy came down-stairs and floated in at
the door. Just stopped in the middle of a sentence and stared.
Being really a very pretty girl, and feeling, at the present moment, the
height of fluttering expectation, her face was illumined into an
attractiveness that was quite a revelation to her friends. For the first
time Lucy felt herself to be in the centre of things, and it made
another girl of her. In addition, the evening frock she wore was so
charming in style and colouring that it contributed not a little to the
Altogether, Just experienced quite a revulsion of feeling in regard to
the painful duty before him, and came forward to assist Lucy into her
long coat with considerable alacrity and cheerfulness.
"Oh, I do love parties so," she declared, as they hurried along the
streets. "I'm not used to being so dull as I've been here. It seems to
me that you have mighty few doings for young people. I don't call
candy-pulls and fudge parties real _parties_."
"Probably you won't call this to-night a real party, then. There's never
much that's exciting at Doctor Agnew's. He always has an orchestra
playing, and we walk round and talk, and usually somebody does something
to entertain us--a reading or songs. Maybe you won't think it's as
festive as you expect."
"Oh, well, I reckon it will be a nice change," said she, with quite
unexpected good humour.
In the dressing-room Chester Agnew, the son of the head-master, came up
to Just with an expression of mingled pleasure and chagrin.
"Awfully glad to see you, Birch," he said, "I suppose you noticed that
we have no music going to-night. It's a shame, isn't it? Lindmann's men
have been delayed by a freight wreck on the P. & Q. They were coming
home from a wedding down the line somewhere, and telephoned us they
couldn't get out here before midnight. We've tried to get some other
music, but everything's engaged somewhere."
"Too bad, but it's no great matter," Just replied, comfortably. "We can
worry along without the orchestra."
"No, you can't. Mother's plans for to-night were for a series of
national dances, in costume, by sixteen of the juniors, and that's all
up without the music."
"Why won't the piano do?"
"We haven't a piano in the house. Yes, I know, but it was Helena's, and
when she was married in November she took it with her. Father hasn't
bought a new one yet, because the other girls don't play. Now do you
see? You're in for the stupidest evening you've had this winter, for
it's too late to get anybody here to do any sort of entertaining."
"That is too bad," admitted Just, thinking of Lucy, and finding himself
caring a good deal that she should not think the affair dull. He walked
along the hall with Chester to the point where he should meet Lucy,
thinking about the situation. Then an idea popped into his head.
"Isn't your telephone in that little closet off the dining-room?" he
"Yes. Want to use it?"
"Yes. Take Lucy down, will you? You know her. I've just thought of
Just slipped down to the dining-room. He carefully closed the door of
the closet and called up Doctor Churchill. To him he rapidly explained
the situation and the remedy which had occurred to him. Doctor
Churchill's voice came back to him in a tone of amused surprise.
"Why, Just, do you think we could carry it through decently? We don't
know the music at all. Oh, play our own and make it fit? What sort will
do--ordinary waltzes and two-steps? I shouldn't mind helping them out,
of course, if I thought we could manage it. Better than nothing?
Well--possibly. Better consult Mrs. Agnew before we do anything rash."
Just ran up the rear staircase and down the front one. He found Chester
and whispered his plan. Interrupting Chester's eager gratitude, he asked
for somebody who could tell him what music would be needed.
"Mother's receiving, and so are the girls. Carolyn Houghton will know, I
think. She's been at the rehearsals. I'll get her."
"Well, are you going to leave me to myself much longer?" Lucy inquired,
reproachfully, as Just waited silently beside her for Carolyn.
"Why, I'm awfully sorry," he said, remembering his duties, which in the
excitement of the moment he realised he was forgetting. "I hope you'll
excuse me, but I've got to help the Agnews out if I can." And he
hurriedly told her his plan. She stared at him in astonishment.
"You don't mean you would come and take the place of a hired orchestra
for a reception?" she cried, under her breath.
It was Just's turn to stare. Then he straightened shoulders which were
already pretty square. "Would you mind telling me why not? That is,
provided we can do it well enough."
"I think it's a mighty queer thing to do," insisted Lucy, with
Carolyn Houghton appeared and beckoned Just and Chester out into the
hall. Lucy followed, not liking to be left alone. Everybody seemed to be
forgetting her, although Chester had turned, and said cordially, "That's
right, Miss Lucy! Come and help us plan."
Carolyn lost no time. "It's fine of you," she said eagerly. "Yes, I'm
sure you can do it. Not one person in fifty will know whether the tunes
you play are national or not. Something quaint and queer for the
Hungarian, and jigsy and gay for the Irish. Castanets in the Spanish
dance--have you them?"
"Young Randolph Peyton can work those," began Just, looking at Lucy.
She frowned. "Really, I don't believe you'd better have him in it," she
said, with such an air that Carolyn glanced at her in amazement, and
Chester coughed and turned away.
"Oh, very well!" Just answered, instantly. "You can do 'em yourself,
"All right," said Chester. "There is a big screen of palms and ferns for
the orchestra," he explained, with satisfaction, to Lucy. "Nobody'll
know who's performing, anyhow."
"Oh!" said Lucy.
Carolyn had soon convinced Just that the little home orchestra could
undertake the music without much fear of failure.
"Of course there's a chance that the change may put the dancers out, yet
I don't think so. I noticed it was rather simple music, and they're so
well drilled they're not very dependent on the music. Anyhow, people
will be too interested in the costumes and the steps to notice whether
the music is strictly appropriate. As long as you give them something in
precisely the right time, I don't believe the change will bother them. I
can coach you on that."
"All right," and Just hurried back to the telephone.
Within three-quarters of an hour he had them all there, a laughing crew,
ready for what struck them as a frolic for themselves. Chester Agnew
carried the instruments behind the screen, and managed to slip the
members of the new orchestra one by one from the dining-room doorway to
the shelter of the palms without anybody's being the wiser. In ten
minutes more soft music began to steal through the crowded rooms.
"The orchestra has come, after all," said Mrs. Agnew to her husband, in
the front room. Her voice breathed relief.
He nodded satisfaction. "So I hear. I don't know how they managed it,
but I accept the fact without question."
"Do you think it's always safe to do that?" queried his son Chester,
coming up in time to hear.
"Accept facts without question? What else can you do with facts?"
"But if they should turn out not to be facts?"
"In this case I have the evidence of my ears," returned the learned man,
comfortably, and Chester walked away again, his eyes dancing.
"Nobody can tell you from Lindmann," he whispered, behind the screen,
during an interval.
"That's good. Hope the delusion keeps up. We don't feel much like
Lindmann," returned Churchill, hastily turning over a pile of music.
"Get your crowd to talking as loud as it can--then we're comparatively
safe. Where's the second violin part of 'King Manfred'? Look out,
Just--you hit my elbow twice with your bow-arm last time. These quarters
are a bit--There you are, Charlotte. Now take this thing slow, and look
to your phrasing. All ready!"
The costume dances did not come until after supper. By that time the
Churchills and Birches, behind the screen, had settled down to steady
work. During supper a violin, with the 'cello and bass, carried on the
music, while Doctor Churchill, Celia and Carolyn Houghton planned a
substitute programme for the dances.
In two cases they found the original music familiar; in most of the
others it proved not very difficult to adapt other music. The leaders of
the dances were told that whatever happened they were to carry through
their parts without showing signs of distress.
"It's a pretty big bluff," murmured Jeff, leaning back in his chair and
mopping a perspiring brow. "Phew-w. but it's hot in here! I expect to
see several of those crazy dances go all to pieces on our account. That
Highland Fling! Mind you keep up a ripping time on that. It ought to be
piped, not stringed."
Nevertheless, in spite of a good deal of perturbation on the part of
both dancers and orchestra, the entertainment went off well enough to be
applauded heartily. Certain numbers, notably the South Carolina
breakdown, the Irish jig, and the minuet of Washington's time, "brought
down the house," presumably because the music fitted best and bothered
the dancers least.
When it was over, the musicians expected to escape before they were
found out, thinking the fun Would be the greater if the Agnews did not
learn to whom they were indebted until later. But young Chester Agnew
defeated this. He instructed half-a-dozen of his friends, and as the
final strains were coming to a close, these boys laid hold of the wall
of palms and pulled it to pieces. The musicians, laughing and
protesting, were shown to the entire company.
A great murmur of surprise was followed by a burst of applause and
laughter, in the midst of which Doctor and Mrs. Agnew hurried to the
front, followed by their daughters, who had already discovered the
truth, but had been warned by their brother to keep quiet about it.
"My dear friends!" exclaimed the head-master. "Is it possible that it is
you who have filled the gap so successfully? Well, really, what shall we
say to such kindness?"
"Mrs. Churchill--Doctor Churchill--Miss Birch--all of you," Mrs Agnew
was saying, in her surprise, "what a very lovely thing to do! It has
been too kind of you. We appreciate it more than we can tell you. You
must come out at once and have some supper."
"The evening would have been spoiled without you!" cried Jessica Agnew,
and Isabel said the same thing. Chester was loud in his praises, and
indeed, the orchestra received an ovation which quite overwhelmed it. It
went out to supper presently, escorted by at least twenty young people.
"Here, come and sit by me, Lucy," invited Just, in good humour at the
success of his plan. "You can keep handing me food as I consume it. I
never was so starved in my life. Well, have you had a good time? Sorry I
had to desert you, but I've no doubt the others introduced you round and
saw that you weren't neglected."
"I think Chester Agnew is one of the handsomest boys I ever met,"
whispered Lucy. "Hasn't he the loveliest eyes? He was just devoted to
Just turned, his mouth full of chicken _pate_, and regarded her with
interest. "Yes, his eyes are wonders," he agreed, his own twinkling.
"Full of soul, and all that, you mean? Yes, they are, though I never
noticed it till you pointed it out."
Lucy looked at him suspiciously.
"He liked my dress," she went on.
"Did, eh? Ches must be coming on. Never knew him to notice a girl's
"I saw him looking at it,"--Lucy's tone was impressive--"and asked if he
liked pink. He said it was his favourite colour."
"H'm! I must take lessons of Ches."
"He looked at me so much I was awfully embarrassed," said Lucy, under
her breath, with drooping eyes.
Just favoured her with another curious glance. "Maybe he's never seen
just your kind before," he suggested. "Lucy, by the time you're twenty
you'll be quite an old hand at this society business, won't you?"
"What makes you think so?" she asked, not sure whether to be gratified
"Oh, your small talk is so--well, so--er--interesting. A fellow always
likes to hear about another fellow--about his eyes, and so on."
"Oh, you mustn't be jealous," said Lucy, with a glance which finished
Just. He choked in his napkin, and turned his attention to Carolyn
Houghton, on his other side.
But when he went to bed that night he once more gave vent to his
feelings on the subject of his sister's guest.
"Jeff," said he, "if a girl has absolutely no brains in her head, what
do you suppose occupies the cavity?"
"Give it up," returned Jeff, sleepily.
"I think it must be a substance of about the consistency of a
marshmallow," mused Just, thoughtfully. "I detest marshmallows," he
added, with some resentment.
"Oh, go to bed!" murmured Jeff.
* * * * *
"Nobody at home, eh? Well, I'm sorry. I wanted to see somebody very
much. And there's no one at the other house, either. I'm away so much I
see altogether too little of these people, Mrs. Fields." Thus spoke
Doctor Forester of the city--the old friend and family counselor of both
Birches and Churchills.
His son Frederic--who had managed since his return from study abroad to
see much more of the Birch household than his father--was watching the
conversation on the door-step from his position in the driver's place on
Doctor Forester's big automobile, which stood at the curb. It was a cool
day in May, and a light breeze was blowing.
"I don't know but Miss Evelyn's in the house somewhere," admitted Mrs.
Fields. "But I don't suppose you'd care to see her?"
"Miss Evelyn? Why, certainly I should! Please ask her to come down."
So presently Evelyn was at the door, her slender hand in the big one of
the distinguished gentleman of whom she stood a little in awe.
"All alone, Miss Evelyn?" said Doctor Forester. "Then suppose you get
your hat and a warm jacket and come with us. Fred and I expected to pick
up whomever we found and take them for a little run down to a certain
place on the river."
Such an invitation was not to be resisted. Doctor Churchill and
Charlotte were at the hospital; Randolph was with them, visiting his
friends and proteges among the convalescent boys. Lucy had gone to town
with the Birches, and nobody knew where Jeff and Just might be.
"Suppose you sit back in the tonneau with me," Doctor Forester
suggested. "Fred likes to be the whole thing on the front seat there."
He put Evelyn in and tucked her up. "Wearing a cap? That's good sense.
It spoils my fun to take in a passenger with all sails spread. Hello,
son, what are you stopping for? Oh, I see!"
It was Celia Birch beside whom the motor was bringing up with such a
sudden check to its speed. She had appeared at the corner of the street
and had instantly presented to the quick vision of Mr. Frederic Forester
a good and sufficient reason for coming to a stop.
"Please come with us!" urged that young man, jumping out. "We've been to
the house for you."
Celia put her hand to her head, "Just as I am?" she asked.
"Just as you are. That little _chapeau_ will stay on all right. If it
doesn't I'll lend you my cap. Will you keep me company in front? Father
has appropriated Miss Evelyn behind there."
Celia mounted to the seat, and they were off through the wide streets,
and presently away in the country, spinning along at a rate much faster
than either passenger realised. The machine was a fine one, operating
with so little fuss and fret that the speed it was capable of attaining
was not always appreciated.
"Oh, this is glorious, isn't it, Evelyn?" cried Celia, over her
Doctor Forester glanced from her to the young girl on the seat beside
him, smiling at both. "I'm glad you put your trust in the chauffeur so
implicitly. It took me some time to get used to him, but he proves
worthy of confidence. I wouldn't drive my own machine a block--never
have. Yes, it's delightful to go whirling along over the country in this
way. I suppose you don't know where I'm taking you?"
"I don't think we much care," Celia answered, and Evelyn nodded. Both
were pink-cheeked and bright-eyed with the delight of the motion.
The doctor did not explain where they were going until they had nearly
reached their destination. They had passed many fine country places all
along the way, and had reached a fork in the river. The broad road
leading on up the river was left behind as they turned to the left,
following the windings of the smaller stream.
The character of the houses along the way had changed at once. They had
become comfortable farmhouses, with now and then a place of more modern
"This is the sort of thing I prefer," Doctor Forester announced, with
satisfaction. "I wouldn't give a picayune to own one of those castles,
back there. But down here I'm going to show you my ideal of comfort."
Fred turned in at a gateway and drove on through orchards and grove to a
house behind the trees on the river bank.
"Doesn't that look like home?" exclaimed the doctor, as they alighted.
"Well, it is home! I bought it yesterday, just as it stands. Nothing
fine about it, outside or in. I wanted it to run away to when I'm tired.
I'm not going to tell anybody about it except---"
"Except every one he meets," Fred said, gaily, to Celia, leading her
toward the wide porch overlooking the river, about which the May vines
were beginning to cluster profusely. "He can't keep it a secret. I may
as well warn you he's going to invite you and the whole family out here
for a fortnight in June. So if you don't want to come you have a chance
to be thinking up a reasonable excuse."
"As if we could want one! What a charming plan for us! Does he really
mean to include all of us?"
"Every one, under both roofs. I assure you it's a jolly plan for us, and
I'm holding my breath till I know you'll come."
"What a lovely rest it will be for Charlotte!" murmured Celia, thinking
at once, as usual, of somebody else. "She won't own it, but she's really
had a pretty hard winter."
"So I should imagine, for the first year of one's married life. I'm
afraid I couldn't be as hospitable as she and her husband--not all at
once, you know. Do you think it's paid?"
"What? Having the three through the winter?" Celia glanced at Evelyn,
who at the other end of the long porch with Doctor Forester was gazing
with happy eyes out over the sunlit river. "Oh, I'm sure Charlotte and
Andy would both say so. In Evelyn's case I think there's no doubt about
it. From being a delicate little invalid she's come to be the healthy
girl you see there. Not very vigorous yet, of course, but in a fair way
to become so, Andy thinks."
"Yes, I can see," admitted Forester, thoughtfully. "But those other
Celia laughed. It was easy to think well of everybody out here in this
delicious air and in the company of people she thoroughly liked. Even
Lucy Peyton seemed less of an infliction.
"Little Ran has certainly improved very much," she said, warmly. "And
"Has Lucy improved?" Forester looked at her with a quizzical smile. "The
last time I saw her I thought she was rather going backward. I met her
by accident in town one day. Charlotte was shopping, and Lucy was
waiting. She rushed up to me as to a long lost friend. She practically
invited me to invite herself and Charlotte to lunch with me--she
somewhat grudgingly included Charlotte. I was rather taken off my feet
for an instant. Charlotte heard, and came up. I wish you could have seen
the expression on the face of Mrs. Andrew Churchill! I don't know which
felt the more crushed, Lucy or I. I assure you I was anxious to take
them both to lunch after that, Mrs. Andrew had made it so clearly
"The perversity of human desires," laughed Celia. "Poor Lucy! Charlotte
won't stand the child's absurd affectations."
"Come here, and listen to my plan!" called Doctor Forester, unable to
wait longer to unfold it. So for the next half-hour the plan was
discussed in all its bearings.
Celia proposed at once that they keep it a secret from Charlotte until
the last possible moment, and this was agreed upon. Then Evelyn
suggested, a little shyly, that it also remain unknown to Jeff. He was
to be graduated from college about the middle of June, was very busy and
hurried, and might appreciate the whole thing better when Commencement
was out of the way. It was finally decided that the party should come
down to "The Banks" upon the evening of Jeff's Commencement Day, and
that to him and Charlotte the whole arrangement should be a complete
The date was only three weeks ahead, and Celia and Evelyn, Mrs. Birch
and the others, found plenty to do in getting ready for the outing, to
say nothing of seeing that neither Charlotte nor Jeff made other
engagements for the period.
"No, no, let's not get in our camping so early in the season. It'll be
all over too soon, then," argued Just with his brother. Upon Just
devolved the task of heading Jeff off for those prospective two weeks.
"Besides, I've an idea Lanse may prefer July or August."
"If you'd been boning for examinations the way I have," retorted Jeff,
"your one idea would be to get off into the wilderness just as soon as
your sheepskin was fairly in your hands. I don't see why you argue
against going in June. You were eager enough for it a week ago."
"Oh, not so awfully eager. I----"
"You were in a frenzy to go. And I haven't cooled off, if you have."
"He's hopeless," Just confided to Evelyn. "His granite mind is set on
going camping in June, and I can't get him off it. If you've any little
tricks of persuasiveness all your own now's your time to try 'em on him.
He'll spoil the whole thing."
"Write your brother Lansing to tell Jeff to put it off on his account,"
"That won't do, unfortunately, for Lanse has been uncertain about going
all the time."
"I'll try to think of something," promised Evelyn.
She had a chance before the day was over. Jeff appeared, late in the
afternoon, and invited her to take a walk with him.
"I'll tell you what I want," he said, as they went along. "Let's go down
by the old bridge at the pond, and if there's nobody about I'd like to
have you do me the favour of listening while I spout my class-day
oration. Would you mind?"
"I shall be delighted," answered Evelyn, and this program was carried
out accordingly. Down behind the willows Jeff mounted a prostrate log
and gave vent to a vigorous and sincere discourse.
"Splendid!" cried his audience, as he finished. "If you do it half as
well as that it will be a great success."
"Glad you think so." Jeff descended from the log with a flushed brow and
an air of relief. "I'm not the fellow for class orator, I know, but I'm
it, and I don't want to disgrace the crowd. Pretty down here, isn't it?"
"Beautiful. It makes me very blue to think of leaving it--as if I
oughtn't to be simply thankful I could be here so long. It was lovely of
your sister and brother to insist on my staying when my brother Thorne
had to go to Japan so suddenly."
"You're not going soon?" Jeff looked dismayed.
"Two weeks after your Commencement," said Evelyn. "My brother's ship
should be in port by the last of June, and I want to surprise him by
being at home when he reaches there. I shall leave here the minute he
gets into San Francisco."
"Oh, that's too bad. I'd forgotten there was any such thing as your
going away. You seem--why, you seem one of us, you know!" declared Jeff,
as if there could be no stronger bond of union.
"Oh, thank you--it's good of you to say so. You've all been so kind I
can't half tell you how I appreciate it. We'll have to make the most of
June, I think," said Evelyn, smiling rather wistfully, and looking away
across the little pond.
"I should say so. We'll have every sort of lark we can think of the
minute Commencement's--Oh, I was going camping after that--but I'll put
it off. Just was arguing that way only this morning, but I saw no good
reason for waiting, then. Now, I do."
"I'm sorry to have you put it off," protested Evelyn, with art. "Hadn't
you better go on with your plans, if they're all made? Of course I
should be sorry, but--"
"Oh, I'll put it off!" said Jeff, decidedly, with the very human wish to
do the thing he need not do.
So it was settled. Commencement came rapidly on, bringing with it the
round of festivals peculiar to that season. Jeff insisted on the
presence of his entire family at every event, and for a week, as
Charlotte said, it seemed as if they all lived in flowered organdies and
"I'm really thankful this is the last," sighed Celia, coming over with
her mother and Just to join the party assembling for the final great
occasion on the Churchill's porch. "Evelyn, how dear you look in that
forget-me-not frock! And that hat is a dream."
"Well, people, we must be off. When it's all over, let's come out here
on the porch in the dark and luxuriate." Charlotte drew a long breath as
"That will be a rest," agreed Celia, with a private pinch of Evelyn's
arm, and Lucy and Randolph giggled.
The younger two had been let into the secret only within the last
twenty-four hours, fears being entertained that they might not be safe
repositories of mystery. Celia gave them a warning look as she passed
them, and kept them away from Charlotte during the car ride into the
"How well the dear boy looks!" whispered his family, one to another, as
the class filed into the University chapel in cap and gown. They were in
a front row, where Jeff could look down at them when he should come upon
the stage for his diploma.
There was not the slightest possibility of his looking either there or
anywhere else. His oration had been delivered on class day, and his
remaining part in the exercises of graduation was to listen respectfully
to the distinguished gentlemen who took part, and to watch with
interested eyes the conferring of many higher degrees before it was time
for himself and his class to receive the sonorous Latin address which
ended by bestowing upon them the title of Bachelor of Arts.
It was a proud moment, nevertheless, and many hearts beat high when it
came. Down in that row near the front father and mother, brothers and
sisters and friends, watched a certain erect figure as if there were no
others worth looking at--as all over the hall other affectionate eyes
watched other youthful, manly forms.
Jeff had worked hard for his degree, being not by nature a student, like
his elder brother Lansing, but fonder of active, outdoor life than of
books. He had been incited to deeds of valour in the classroom only by
the grim determination not to disgrace the family traditions or the
scholarly ancestors to whom he had often been pointed back.
"Thank heaven it's over!" exulted Jeff, with his classmates, when, after
the last triumphant speech of the evening, the audience was dismissed to
the strains of a rejoicing orchestra.
"Say, fellows, I'm going to bolt. Hullo, Just! Ask Evelyn for me if she
won't go home flying with me in the Houghton auto--Carolyn's just sent
"That will be just the thing," whispered Celia to Evelyn, when the
message came. "Go with him, but don't let him stop at the Houghtons'.
Whisper it to Carolyn, and see that he's safely on the porch with you
when we get there."
Evelyn nodded and disappeared with Just, who took her to his brother.
"Now we're off," murmured Jeff, as he and Evelyn followed Carolyn and
her brother out through a side entrance. "What a night! What a moon! My,
but it feels good to be out in the open air after that pow-wow in
They had half an hour to themselves in the quiet of the moonlit porch
before the others, coming by electric car, could reach home.
They filled the time by sitting quietly on the top step, Jeff in the
subdued mood of the young graduate who sees, after all, much to regret
in the coming to an end of the years of getting ready for his life-work.
He was, besides, not a little wearied by the final examinations,
preparation for his part in Commencement, and the closing round of
exercises. Evelyn, herself somewhat fatigued, leaned back against the
porch pillar and gladly kept silence.
Before the others came Jeff spoke abruptly. "It isn't everybody who
knows when to let a fellow be an oyster," he said, gratefully. "But I'm
getting over the oyster mood now, and feel like talking. Do you know,
you're going to leave an awful vacancy behind you when you go?"
"Oh, no," Evelyn answered. "There are so many of you, and you have such
good times together, you can't mind much when a stranger goes away."
"Call yourself that?" Jeff laughed. "Well I assure you we don't. You're
too thoroughly one of us--in the way of liking the things we like and
despising the things we despise. Hullo, here come the people! It was
rather stealing a march on them to race home in an auto and let them
follow by car, wasn't it?' Let's go make 'em some lemonade to cheer
"All right." Evelyn was wondering if this would give her the necessary
chance to change her dress, when the big Forester automobile rounded the
corner and rolled up to the curb, just as the party from the car reached
the steps. Behind it followed a second car of still more ample
"I've come to take the whole party for a moonlight drive down the
river!" called Frederic Forester. "Go take off those cobweb frocks and
put on something substantial. I'll give you ten minutes. I've the
prettiest sight to show you you've seen this year."
"I believe I'm too tired and sleepy to go," said Charlotte to Andy, as
he followed her up-stairs. "This week of commencing has about finished
me. Can't you excuse me to Fred? You go with them, if you like."
"I don't like, without you." Doctor Churchill was divesting himself of
white cravat and collar. "I know you're worn out, dear, but I think the
ride will brace you up. It's hot in the house to-night; it will be
blissfully cool out on the river road. Besides, Forester would be
disappointed. It isn't every night he comes for us with a pair of autos.
"If I were going all alone with you in the runabout--" sighed Charlotte,
with a languor unusual to her.
"I know, I'd like that better myself. But you needn't talk on this
trip--there are enough to keep things lively without you. You shall sit
next your big boy, and he'll hold your hand in the dark," urged Doctor
"On that condition, then," and Charlotte rose from among the pillows,
where she had sunk.
There was certainly something very refreshing about the swift motion in
the June air. Leaning against her husband's shoulder, Charlotte began to
It had been a busy week, the heat had been of that first unbearable high
temperature of mid-June with which some seasons assault us, and young
Mrs. Churchill had felt her responsibilities more heavily than ever
before. As the car flew down the river road she shut her eyes.
"Why, where are we turning in?" Charlotte opened her eyes. She had been
almost asleep, soothed by the cool and quiet.
"Look ahead through the trees," Doctor Churchill said in her ear, and
Charlotte sat up.
She saw on the river bank, far ahead, a low house with long porches,
hung thickly with Chinese lanterns. Each window glowed with one of the
swinging globes, and long lines of them stretched off among the trees.
At one side gleamed two white tents, and in front of these burned
"What is it? It must be a lawn party. But we're not dressed for it!"
murmured Charlotte, her eyes wide open now.
Just then a tremendous shout from the automobile in front rang through
the grove. Their own car ran up to the steps, where stood Doctor
Forester and John Lansing Birch under the lanterns, both dressed from
head to foot in white.
"Welcome to 'The Banks!'" the doctor cried. "Charlotte, my dear, why
this expression of amazement? You've only come to my house party, my
woods party, my river party--for a fortnight--all of you. Will you stay,
or are you going to sit staring down at us with those big black eyes
"I think I'll stay," said Charlotte, happily, slipping down from the car
into her brother's outstretched arms. "O Lanse! O Lanse! It's good to
see you. _What_ a surprise!"
* * * * *
Charlotte swung herself up into the runabout as Doctor Churchill paused
for her at the gateway of "The Banks." She had met him here at six
o'clock every day since they came, and this was the seventh day.
It was impossible for him to get through his round of work earlier, but
he was enjoying his evenings and nights in the country with a zest
almost sufficient to make up for the daytime hours he missed.
Charlotte, however, although she joined merrily in all that went on
through the day, was never so happy as when this hour arrived, and
dressed in cool white for the evening, she could slip away and walk
slowly down this winding road through the orchard and the grove to the
gateway. Here she waited in a shady nook for the first puff of the
coming motor. The moment she heard it she sprang out into the roadway,
and stood waving her handkerchief in response to a swinging cap far up
Then came the nearer salutation, the quick climb into the small car,
assisted by the grip of Andy's hand, and the eager greeting of two pairs
"Do you know this outing is doing you a world of good already?" said
Doctor Churchill, noting with approval the fresh colour in Charlotte's
"I know it is. I didn't realise that I needed it a bit until I actually
found myself here, with nothing to do except rest and play. It's doing
everybody good. You should have heard the plans at breakfast to-day.
Although it's been so hot, nobody has been idle a minute. I've been
fishing all day with Lanse and Fred and Celia. Andy, do you know what I
think? I admit I didn't think it till Lanse put it into my head, but I
believe he's right. Fred----"
"Is going to want Celia? Of course. That was a foregone conclusion from
"Andy Churchill, you weren't so discerning as all that, when not even I
thought it was serious with either of them! Celia's had so many
admirers, and turned them all aside so coolly--and Mr. Frederic Forester
is such an accomplished person at paying attentions--how could I think
it meant anything? But Lanse insists Celia is different from what she
ever was before, and I don't know but he's right."
"To be sure he's right. Next to you, I never saw a more attractive young
person than Celia. What a charming colour you have, child! To be sure,
you have burned the tip of that small Greek nose a very little, but I
find even that adorable. Charlotte, stop pinching my arm. If you're half
as glad to have me get here as I am to arrive, you're pretty happy. I
laid stern commands on Mrs. Fields not to telephone, unless it were a
matter of absolute necessity, so I'm pretty sure of not being
They found supper laid on the piazza, and enjoyed it with keen
appetites. Afterward they spent an hour drifting on the river, followed
by a long and delightful evening on the lawn at the river bank. Celia
and Lanse picked the strings of violin and viola, and the others sang.
Doctor Forester, in his white clothes lay stretched on a rustic seat,
and professed himself to be having "the time of his life."
"I don't think the rest of us are far behind you," declared Lanse. "If
you people had been digging away at law in a hot old office you'd think
this was Paradise."
Evelyn, looking out over the moonlit river, drew a little sigh which she
meant nobody to hear, but Jeff divined it, and whispered, under cover of
an extravaganza from Just in regard to the night, the company, and the
occasion, "You're coming again next summer, you know. And all winter
we'll write about it--shall we?"
"Do you think you will have time to write?" she asked.
"Have time! I should say I would make time," he murmured. "Think I'm
going to stand having this sort of thing cut off short? I guess
not--unless--you're the one who hasn't time. And even then I don't think
I could be kept from boring you with letters."
"I shall certainly want to hear what you all are doing," she answered.
She was thinking about this plan when she went up-stairs to bed an hour
later. Jeff had stopped her at the foot of the stairs to say, "I'd just
like a good secure promise from you about that letter-writing. I'll
enjoy the time that's left a lot better if I know it isn't coming to a
regular jumping-off place at the end. Will you promise to write
She paused on the bottom step, where she was just on a level with the
straightforward dark eyes, half boy's, half man's, which met hers with
the clear look of good comradeship. There was no sentimentality in the
gaze, but undeniably strong liking and respect. She answered in Jeff's
"I promise. I really shouldn't know how to do without hearing about your
plans and the things that happen to you. I'm not a very good
letter-writer, but I'll try to tell you things that will interest you."
"Good! I'm no flowery expert myself, but I fancy we can write as we
talk, and that's enough for me. Good-night! Happy dreams."
"Good-night!" she responded, and went on up-stairs, turning to wave at
Jeff from the landing, as he stood in the doorway, preparing to go out
to the tents where he and Just, Doctor Forester, Frederic and Lanse were
spending these dry June nights.
Evelyn went on to the odd old bedroom under the gable, where she and
Lucy were quartered together. She found Lucy lying so still that she
thought her asleep, and so made ready for bed with speed and quiet,
remembering that Lucy had been first to come in, and imagining her tired
with the day's sports.
Evelyn herself did not go at once to sleep. There were too many pleasant
things to think of for that; and although her eyes began to close at
last, she was yet, at the end of half an hour, awake, when Lucy stirred
softly beside her and sat up in bed. After a moment the younger girl
slipped out to the floor, using such care that Evelyn thought her making
unusual and kindly effort not to disturb her bedfellow.
After a little, as Lucy did not return, Evelyn opened her eyes and
looked out into the moonlight. Lucy was dressing, so rapidly and
noiselessly that Evelyn watched her, amazed.
She was on the point of asking if the girl were ill when she observed
that Lucy was putting on the delicate dress and gay ribbons she had worn
during the evening, and was even arranging her hair. Something prompted
Evelyn to lie still, for in all the winter's association she had never
grown quite to trust Lucy or to like her ways.
More than any one else, however, she herself had won the other girl's
liking, and had come to feel a certain responsibility for her. So when
Lucy, after making wholly ready, had stolen to the door, let herself
out, and closed it silently behind her, Evelyn sprang out of bed.
Perhaps Lucy simply could not sleep, she said to herself, and had gone
down to sit on the lower porch, or lie in one of the hammocks swinging
under the trees. The night was exceedingly warm, even the usual cooling
breath from the river being absent.
"That's all there is of it," said Evelyn, reassuringly, to herself,
although at the same time she felt uneasiness enough to send her out
into the hall to a gable window over the porch, which commanded a view
of the camp. Nothing stirring was to be seen, except the dwindling flame
of the evening camp-fire, burned every night for cheer, not for warmth.
Evelyn crept to a side window. As she reached it a white figure could be
seen hurrying away through the orchard.
Back in her room, Evelyn dressed with as much haste as Lucy had done, if
with less care. Instead of the white frock of the evening, however, she
put on a dark blue linen, for she was sure that she must follow Lucy and
discover what this strange departure, stealthily made at midnight, could
She went down to the front door. The moment she opened it a tall figure
started up from one of the long lounging chairs there, and Jeff's voice
said softly, "Charlotte?"
"No, it's Evelyn," she whispered back. "Don't be surprised. I thought
everybody in the camp was asleep."
"I wasn't sleepy, and thought I'd lounge here till I was. What's the
matter? Anybody sick?"
"No. I'm just going for a little walk."
"Walk? At this hour? Can't you sleep? But you mustn't go and walk alone,
you know. I'll go with you."
She did not want to tell him, but she saw no other way.
"It's Lucy," she explained hurriedly. "She's dressed and gone out
somewhere, and I can't think why. It frightened me, and I'm going to
"No, you stay here and I'll follow. Which way did she go? What can she
be up to? That girl's a queer one, and I've thought so from the first."
"No, no! There's some explanation. It may be she walks in her sleep, you
know--though I'm sure she's never done it this winter. Let me go, Jeff;
she'll get too far. She took the path toward the river. Oh, if it
_should_ be sleep-walking----"
"I guess it's not sleep-walking." Jeff's tone was skeptical.
But Evelyn had started away at a run, and Jeff was after her. The two
hastened along with light, noiseless steps. At the bottom of the path,
on the very brink of the river, was an old summer-house, looking out
over the water. It was a favourite retreat, for the boat-house and the
landing were but a rod away, and after a row on the river the shaded
summer-house was a pleasant place in which to linger.
"Hush!" breathed Evelyn, stopping short as they neared the summer-house.
They advanced with caution, and presently, as they drew within speaking
distance of the little structure, they saw a white-clad figure emerge
from it and stand just outside. Jeff drew Evelyn quickly and silently
into the shelter of a cluster of hemlocks.
After a space the dip of oars lightly broke the stillness of the night,
and soon a row-boat pulled quietly into view, with one dark figure
outlined against the gleam of the moonlit water. Evelyn caught a
smothered sound from Jeff, whether of recognition or of displeasure she
could not tell. She felt her own pulses throbbing with excitement and
The stranger pulled in to the landing, noiselessly shipped his oars,
jumped out and made fast. Lucy came cautiously down to the wharf, and
against the radiance of the moonlight on the river the two behind the
trees could see the greeting.
The slight, boyish figure which met Lucy had a familiar look to Jeff,
but he could not tell with any certainty whose it might be. That it was
youthful there could be no question. Even in the dim light the
diffidence of both boy and girl could be plainly observed.
"Young idiots!" exploded Jeff, between his teeth, as the two they were
watching sat down side by side on the steps of the boat-landing, where
only their heads were visible to the watchers--heads decidedly close
together. Then he bent close to Evelyn's ear and whispered, "Come
farther back with me, and we'll decide what to do."
With the utmost caution the two made their retreat. At a safe distance
Jeff halted, and said rapidly, "I think the best thing will be for you
to go back to bed and to sleep--if you can. At any rate, don't let her
know that you hear her come in. I'll come back here and mount guard. I
won't let them see me. I'll take care that Lucy gets safely back to the
house, and I won't interfere unless she attempts to go off in the boat
with him or do some fool thing like that. You needn't worry. They aren't
going to run away and get married. She's just full of sentimental
nonsense, and thinks it romantic and grown-up to steal out in the night
to meet some idiot of a boy--you can see that's all he is by his build.
Probably somebody we know, don't you think that's the best plan?"
"Yes, for to-night," agreed Evelyn, in a troubled whisper. "I feel as if
I ought to talk to her when she comes in, though."
"If you do you'll just make her angry. The thing is to let her go
uncaught until we can think what to do. Little simpleton!"
"I'll do as you say, but--don't be hard on her, Jeff. She's just silly;
she hasn't been brought up like your sisters."
"Or like you," thought Jeff, as he watched the figure before him flit
away toward the house. He followed at a distance, till he saw the door
close on Evelyn; then he went back to his post.
The next morning, as he and Evelyn walked down the road through the
apple-orchard toward the gateway, to open the rural-delivery mail-box,
which stood just outside the gate, Jeff told Evelyn what he had found
"Nothing more serious than a simple case of spoon," he said, with an
expression at which Evelyn might have laughed if she had not felt so
disturbed. "The boy turned out to be our next neighbour here. They've
made another appointment for to-night. He thinks it a great
lark--probably will brag about it to all the boys. He's got to eat his
little dish of humble pie, too. Evelyn, I've a plan. Will you trust me
to carry it out to-night?"
She looked at him. In her face was written a concern for Lucy so tender
that Jeff adored her for it. At the same time he hastened to assure her
that it was needless.
"If you merely talk with her I don't think that will do it," he said,
decidedly. "She's been with you all winter, has seen just how a girl
should behave,"--he did not know what a thrill of happiness this bluntly
sincere compliment gave his hearer--"and she hasn't taken it in a bit.
She needs something to bring her to her senses. I'd rather not tell you
my plan, for if you can assure her afterward that you weren't in it, you
can do her more good than if she's as provoked at you as she's sure to
be at me. But I give you my word of honour I'll not do a thing to
frighten her, or play any fool practical jokes. I'll have to let Just
into the secret, I think, but nobody else. Will you trust me?"
"Of course, I will," said the girl, quickly. "On just one condition,
Jeff. Think of her as if she were your own sister, and don't--don't----"
"Be 'as funny as I can'? No, I won't."
Evelyn observed Lucy all that day with understanding, and found herself
longing to warn the girl that her foolishness was about to meet with its
punishment. She noted with sorrow the strangely excited look in the
young eyes, the light, half-hysterical laugh, the changing colour in the
pretty face. Lucy's promise of beauty had never seemed to her so
characterless, or her words so empty of sense.
She found her in a corner of their room, reading a worn novel by a
certain author whose very name she had been taught to regard as a
synonym for vapidity and sentimentalism of the most highly flavoured
sort, and she could not keep back a quick exclamation at sight of it.
Lucy looked up with a frown and a flush.
"I suppose you think it's terrible to read novels," she said, pettishly
flirting the leaves. "Well, I don't."
"Dear, it's not 'novels' that I've been taught to despise, but the sort
of novel that writer writes. I don't know anything about them myself,
but I saw my brother Thorne once put that one you're reading in the
stove and jam on the cover, as if he were afraid it would get out. Do
you wonder I don't like to see Lucy Peyton reading it?" asked Evelyn
gently, with her cheek against the other girl's.
"He must be a terrible Miss Nancy, then," said Lucy, defiantly. "There's
not a thing in it that couldn't be in a Sunday-school book. The heroine
is the sweetest thing."
"If she is she won't mind your putting her down and coming out for a
walk with me," answered Evelyn, with a smile which might have captivated
Lucy if she had seen it. But the younger girl got up and flung away out
of the room, murmuring that she did not feel like walking, and would
take herself and her book where they would not bother people.
Evelyn looked after her with a little sigh, and owned that Jeff might be
right in thinking that mere gentle argument with Lucy would have scant
effect on a head full of nonsense or a heart whose love for the sweet
and true had had far too little development.
Half an hour before the time set for the rendezvous at the summer-house
that night Jeff and Just walked down the path, shoulder to shoulder,
talking under their breath. Just, being younger, was even more deeply
interested than his brother in the prospective encounter, and received
his final instructions with ill-concealed glee.
"All right!" he gurgled. "I'm to give him a good scare, in the shape of
a lecture--with a thrashing promised if he cuts up any more. He's to
give his word, on pain of a lot of things, not to give any of this
little performance of his away to a soul. Then he's to be forbidden the
premises while Miss Peyton is on them. I understand."
"Well, now, look here," warned Jeff. "I give you leave, but, mind you, I
trust your discretion, too. You never can tell what these Willie-boys
will do. Dignity's your cue. Be stern as an avenging fate, but don't get
to cuffing him round and batting him with language just because you're
"Look here," expostulated Just, aggrieved, "you picked me out for this
job; now leave it to me. I'll have the boy saying 'sir' to me before I
Just ran down to the boat-house, got out a slim craft, launched it, and
was about rowing away when he bethought himself of something. He pulled
in to the landing, made fast his painter, and ran like a deer up to the
house. He was back in five minutes.
"Don't believe I'll go by boat, after all," he whispered to Jeff,
standing in the summer-house door. "It might be simpler not to have a
boat to bother with. I'll just leave the _Butterfly_ tied there, and put
her up when I get back."
He was off before Jeff could reply. Jeff started toward the boat to put
it up, but stopped, considering.
Lucy would think it that of her admirer, and would be all the more sure
to keep her appointment. He left it as it was, swinging lightly on the
water, six feet out. It was a habit of Just's to moor a boat at the
length of her painter, to prevent her bumping against the rough old
Lucy, coming swiftly down the path fifteen minutes later, saw the boat
and hastened her steps. She did not observe that this was a slimmer,
longer craft than the boat George Jarvis was using. She reached the
landing and looked about. Of course he was in the summer-house. She went
to it, her skirts, which she had of late been surreptitiously
lengthening, held daintily in her hand.
As she came close, a figure appeared in the doorway. Before she could be
frightened by the realisation that it was not Jarvis's slender young
frame which confronted her, Jeff accosted her in the mildest tones
"It's only Jefferson Birch. Don't be scared. Fine night, isn't it?"
"Y-yes," stammered Lucy, in dismay. She stood still, her skirts gathered
close, as if she were about to run.
"Don't go. Out for a stroll? So am I," said Jeff, pleasantly, as if
midnight promenades were the accustomed thing at "The Banks." "Won't you
There were seats outside the summer-house as well as within, and he
motioned toward one of them.
"No, thank you. I think I'll go back," said Lucy, and her voice
"Why, you've only just come! Why not stay a while and have a visit with
me? You must have been intending to stay."
"Oh, no!" said Lucy, eagerly, and stopped short, listening. What if
George Jarvis should come round the corner at any moment? She must get
Jeff away with her. "Won't you walk along up to the house with me? I
only came down to see if I'd left something in the summer-house."
Jeff had planned what he would say to her, but at this his disgust got
the better of him. "Lucy," said he--and his voice had changed from
lightness to gravity--"don't you mind a bit _saying what isn't true_?"
* * * * *
"What do you mean, Jefferson Birch, by saying such a thing?" Lucy's tone
was one of mingled anger and fright.
"I mean," said Jeff, coolly, "that if coming down here to meet George
Jarvis were what you were proud of doing, you wouldn't try to cover it
up. Do you know, Lu, I'm tremendously sorry you find any fun in a thing
"Dear me,"--Lucy tried hard to assume her usual self-confident
manner--"Who appointed you guardian of young ladies?"
"The trouble is--well--you're not a young lady yet. You're only a girl.
If you were a real grown-up young lady there'd be nothing I could do
about your stealing out at this late hour to meet a young man except to
laugh and think my own thoughts. But since you're only a girl--"
"You can insult me!" Lucy was very near tears now--angry, mortified
"I don't mean to insult you, and I think you know that. If anybody has
insulted you it's the boy who asked you to meet him here. He must have
been the one to propose it, of course, and you thought it would be fun.
Lu, when I found this out I should have gone straight to my sister
Charlotte and told her to come and meet you here instead of myself, if I
hadn't known how it would disappoint her. She would have taken it to
heart much more seriously than you can realise. She's entertained you
all winter and spring, and the responsibilities of looking after you and
Ran have been heavy on her shoulders. She's tried hard to give you a
good time, too."
Lucy turned and walked deliberately away down the path toward the
"I'm bungling it," thought Jeff, uncomfortably, and stood still,
waiting. "Perhaps I ought to have let Evelyn tackle the business, after
Lucy walked out upon the landing, where the _Butterfly_ swung lazily in
the wash of the current. Suddenly, quite without warning, she ran the
length of the little pier and leaped for the boat. It had looked an easy
distance, but as she made the jump she realised too late that the
interval of water between pier and boat was wider than it had looked in
the moonlight. With a scream and a splash she went down, and an instant
later Jeff, dashing down the pier, saw only a widening circle gleaming
faintly on the water.
He flung off his coat, tore off his low shoes, and waited. The
river-bottom shelved suddenly just where the pier ended, and the depth
was fully twenty feet. Moment after moment went by while he watched
breathlessly for the appearance of the girl at the surface. The current
was strong a few feet out, and his gaze swept the water for some
distance. When he caught sight of the break in the surface which told
him what he wanted, it was even farther down-stream than he had
"I mustn't risk this alone," he thought, quickly, and gave several
ringing shouts for Just, whom he knew to be only two or three hundred
yards up-shore. Then he made his plunge, swimming furiously to get below
the place where the girl's white-clad form had risen, that he might be
at hand when his chance came again.
The current helped him, and so did the moonlight on the water. It was in
the very centre of a glinting spot of light that Lucy came to the
surface the second time. Before she had sunk out of sight Jeff had her
by the skirts, and was working desperately to get her head above water.
She was struggling with all her fierce young strength, crazed with
fright and suffocation, and she continually dragged him under in her
blind attempts to pull herself up by him.
When he could get breath he shouted again, and after what seemed to him
an age, there came a response from two directions. Just running along
the river bank, and Doctor Churchill, plunging down the hill, saw, and
were coming to the rescue.
"Hold on! Hold on! I'm coming!" both shouted as they ran.
Doctor Churchill, having the easier course, reached the bank first.
Being clad only in his pajamas, he was unburdened by superfluous
clothing. With a long leap he was in the water, and with a half-dozen
vigorous strokes he had reached Jeff's elbow.
"Let go! I've got her!" he cried, and Jeff, spluttering and breathing
hard, attempted to let go.
But Lucy still fought so desperately that it was no easy matter to get
her clutch away from Jeff's clothing. By this time, however, Just was
also in the water, and the three soon had the girl under control.
"Keep quiet! You're all right! Let us take you in!" called Doctor
Churchill to the struggling, strangling little figure. So in a minute
more they had her on the bank.
"Why, it's Lucy!" Doctor Churchill cried in astonishment, as he dropped
upon his knees beside her and fell to work.
"Yes, it's Lucy!" panted Jeff.
But there was no chance just then for explanations. For the next ten
minutes he and Just were kept busy obeying peremptory orders. As under
Andy's directions they silently and anxiously worked over the young form
upon the grass, they were feeling intensely grateful that the necessary
skill had been so close at hand. But until the doctor's satisfied "She's
coming out all right!" gave them leave, neither dared draw a good breath
Just was wondering what he and Jeff were to say, but his brother was
heaping reproaches upon himself, and sternly holding Jeff Birch
responsible for the whole unfortunate affair.
By the time Lucy was herself again and able to breathe without distress,
Evelyn had come flying down the path---the only other person roused by
the distant shouts. It had been a day full of active sports, and
everybody was sleeping the sleep of the weary. Even Charlotte had not
been roused by Andy's departure.
Just ran to the house for blankets; Evelyn, at Doctor Churchill's
direction, followed him to prepare a steaming hot drink for Lucy; and
presently they had her in her bed, warm and dry, although much exhausted
by her experience in the waters of the river, which were cold even on a
June night. Doctor Churchill had insisted on calling Charlotte, but
Evelyn had begged him to arouse nobody else, and after one look into her
face he had agreed.
At last, Lucy having dropped off to sleep under the soothing influence
of the hot beverage, the others gathered quietly in a lower room. The
three wet ones had acquired dry if informal garments, and a council had
been asked for by Evelyn.
"It's entirely my fault," began Jeff, promptly, and he plunged into a
brief but graphic account of the accident.
"It's not in the least your fault," Evelyn interrupted, at last, as Jeff
came to a pause with a repetition of his self-condemnation. "It's mine,
if anybody's. I should have taken the whole thing to Mrs. Churchill at
once, instead of trying to keep it quiet."
"My meeting her down there alone was entirely my plan," began Jeff
again; but this time it was his sister Charlotte who interrupted.
"Neither of you is in the least to blame, my dears," she said, smiling
on them both. "You had the best of motives, and the plan might have
worked out well but for the child's sudden mad idea of jumping into that
boat. I suppose she meant to row away."
"She didn't stop to cast off--she couldn't have got away before I should
have been in the boat, too," objected Jeff.
"That simply shows how out of her head with excitement she was. But
that's all over. She mercifully wasn't drowned"--a little involuntary
shiver passed over the speaker--"and we'll hope for no serious
consequences. The thing now is to think how to act when she wakes in the
"I should say treat the whole thing for what it is, a childish escapade.
Show her the silliness of it, and then let it drop," said Doctor
Charlotte looked at him appealingly.
"Lucy and Ran go home next week," she said, slowly. "I hoped--I wanted
so much to send Lucy away with--I can't express it--a little bit higher
ideals than any she has known before. I thought we were succeeding; she
has seemed more considerate and less fault-finding."
"She certainly has," Evelyn agreed quickly, and the two looked at each
other. There was an instant's silence; then Just spoke:
"How do you know but you'll find her quite a different proposition when
she wakes up? A plunge like that is a sobering sort of experience, I
should say, for a girl who can't swim. She may be the meekest thing on
earth after this. If it does her as much good as a lively dressing down
did George Jarvis, she's likely to be a changed girl."
They could not help smiling at the satisfaction in the boy's voice. "He
may be right," admitted Doctor Churchill.
"At any rate, if Lucy isn't ill to-morrow let's tell nobody what has
happened. The poor child certainly doesn't need any more humiliation
just at present, and I'd like to spare her all I can." Charlotte spoke
They agreed to this. Evelyn went to her place beside Lucy, planning an
affectionate greeting when the younger girl should wake; and Charlotte,
when she fell asleep, dreamed of Lucy until morning.
It was quite a different Lucy who met them all in the morning. She
showed no ill effects except a slight languor, and when Charlotte had
established her in a hammock on the porch, she lay there with a quiet,
sober face, which showed that she had been doing some thinking.
When Jeff approached with his most deferential manner to inquire after
her welfare, she astonished him by saying more simply and sweetly than
he had dreamed possible:
"I want to tell you I won't forget what you did for me last night. I was
foolish, I suppose. I--I didn't think what I was doing was any harm, but
She choked a little and felt for her handkerchief. Jeff grasped her
hand. He had a warm heart, and he had not got over the thought of how he
should have felt if he had not been able to rescue the girl he had
attempted to lecture. His answer to Lucy was very gentle:
"We'll never think of it again. I'm awfully thankful it all ended well.
If you'll forgive me for frightening you, I'll say that I'm sure you're
really a sensible little girl, and I shan't lie awake nights worrying
over your taking midnight strolls."
His tone was not priggish, and his smile was so bright that Lucy took
heart of grace, and said, earnestly, "You needn't. I don't want any
more," and buried her face in her pillow.
But it was not to cry, for Evelyn came by. Jeff called to her, and
between them they soon had Lucy smiling. Before the day was over she had
had a little talk with Charlotte, in which the young married woman came
nearer to the heart of the girl that she had ever succeeded in doing
before, and Lucy had learned one or two simple lessons she never forgot.
"But it's the first and last time I ever attempt the education of the
young girl," declared Jeff, solemnly, to Evelyn, that afternoon, as they
gathered armfuls of old-fashioned June roses for the decoration of the
"Don't feel too badly. Lucy is going to value your respect very much
after this, and I think you'll be able to give it to her. A girl who has
no older brother misses a great deal, I think. I don't know what I
should have done without mine," answered Evelyn, reaching up to pull at
a pink cluster far above her head.
"Let me get that for you," and Jeff's long arm easily grasped the spray
and drew it down to her. "Well, I owe a lot to my sisters, that's sure."
With quite a knightly air he cut the fairest bud at hand, and gave it to
her, saying quietly, "You wouldn't like it if I said anything soft and
sentimental, but you won't mind if I tell you that you seem to me a lot
like that bud there--that's going to blossom some day."
He knew it pleased her, for the ready colour told him so. But she
"As yet I'm quite content to be only a bud. Your sister Celia is the
opening rose. Isn't she lovely? Here's one just like her. Take it to her
and tell her I said so, will you?"
She plucked the rose and motioned to where Celia was coming alone along
the orchard road, Frederic Forester having just left her for a hasty
trip to town. Jeff laughed, took the rose and the message, and brought
back Celia's thanks. Evelyn met him with her full basket, and the
rose-picking was over.
"She says to tell you you're a flatterer, but being a woman, she likes
it--and you," said Jeff, taking her basket away.
Doctor Forester's party had lasted eight days now, and his guests were
planning how to make the most of the time remaining, when Doctor
Churchill came spinning out in the middle of a Thursday morning with a
letter. Mrs. Peyton had sent word that Randolph and Lucy were to meet
her in a distant city, thirty-six hours' ride away. From there the trio
were to proceed to their home.
"They will have to leave this evening in order to make it," Doctor
Churchill announced. "This letter has barely allowed time--a little
characteristic of Cousin Lula which I remember of old. She has an idea
that time and tide--if they wait for no man--can sometimes be prevailed
upon to change their schedule on account of a woman."
Upon hearing the news Lucy burst into tears. She did not want to go, she
did not want to go so soon--more than all, she was afraid to go alone.
"Undoubtedly some one can be found who is going the same way," the
letter read, easily, "and in any case, you can put them in charge of the
railroad officials, who will see that they make no mistakes. I cannot
possibly afford to come so far for them."
"Why can't Evelyn go now, too?" pleaded Lucy, as she and Evelyn,
Charlotte and Celia were being conveyed on a rapid run home by Frederic
Forester. It had been decided necessary for all feminine hands to fall
to work, to accomplish the packing in time to get the young people off
at nine that evening.
"Evelyn doesn't go until next Tuesday, and this is only Thursday,"
Charlotte answered, promptly.
"Five days isn't much difference," urged Lucy mournfully. "And when
Evelyn's going right over the same road almost to our home, I should
think she'd like to go when we do, if it did cut off a little. She's
been here all winter."
"So have you, Lu, and you don't want to go," Charlotte reminded her.
She did not say that nobody could bear to think of Evelyn's departure
any sooner than was absolutely necessary, for it was not possible
honestly to say the same about Lucy. But when they reached the house,
and Charlotte had run up to her room to exchange her dress for a working
frock, Evelyn came to her and softly closed the door. Evelyn had
persuaded herself that she ought to accompany the others.
"It isn't as if Lucy were a different sort of girl," she argued--against
her own wishes, for she longed to stay more than she dared to own. "But
nobody knows how she might behave--if anybody tried to get to know
her--somebody she oughtn't to know. And besides, she's afraid. It really
doesn't matter. I can use the extra time getting things ready for
Thorne. Please don't urge me, Mrs. Churchill. It won't be a bit easier
Gentle as she was, Charlotte had learned that when Evelyn made up her
mind that she ought to do a thing, it was as good as done. So presently
Evelyn, too, was packing, her smiles at the remonstrances of Charlotte
and Celia very sweet, her heart very heavy.
"Well, dear, I've telephoned the others at 'The Banks,'" said Charlotte,
coming into Evelyn's room, having just left Lucy in an ecstatic
condition over the decision. "You should have heard the dismay. Jeff and
Just have already started home on their wheels, to prevent your going by
This was literally true. From Doctor Forester down to his youngest guest
had come regret and remonstrance. Finally, however, Doctor Forester,
having called up Evelyn herself, and been persuaded that she was sure
she was right, had fallen to planning what could be done to make the
girl's leave-taking a pleasant one for her to remember.
After a little an idea seized him. He chuckled to himself, and fell to
telephoning again. He had Doctor Churchill on the wire, then Charlotte,
Celia and his son Frederic, who had remained at the Birches', finally
the railway-station, the Pullman office, and a certain official of whom
he was accustomed to ask favours and get them granted.
"Good-by, Mrs. Fields!" said Evelyn Lee, coming out upon the back porch,
where the doctor's housekeeper was resting after a busy days work. "I
shall never forget how good you've been to me, and I hope you won't
"Forget you!" ejaculated Mrs. Fields, her spare, strong hand grasping
tight the slender one held out to her. "Well, there ain't much danger of
that, nor of anybody else's forgetting you. I've been about as pleased
as the doctor and Miss Charlotte to see you pick up. You don't look like
the same girl that came here last fall."
"I'm sure I don't feel much like her. Ever so much of it is certainly
due to your good cooking, Mrs. Fields."
"It's so hard to take leave of you all," said Evelyn, on the porch,
where the others were assembled. "I'd almost like to slip away without a
word--only that would look so ungrateful. And I'm the most grateful girl
"You needn't say good-by to me," said Doctor Forester, "for I'm going as
far as Washington with you." He smiled at the joy which flashed into her
"Oh, are you really?" she cried.
"You needn't say good-by to me, either," said Frederic Forester, as she
turned to him, standing next to his father, "for I'm going, too,"
"I think I'll go along," said Doctor Churchill.
"Will you take me?" Charlotte was smiling at Evelyn's bewildered face.
"If Charlotte goes, I shall, too," supplemented Celia.
Evelyn looked at them. Surely enough, although in the hurry she had not
noticed it before, they were all in travelling dress. She had known they
had meant to go as far as the city station with her; she saw now that
they were fully equipped for the journey. And Washington was nearly
twenty hours away!
"You dear people!" murmured Evelyn, and rather blindly cast herself into
Mrs. Birch's outstretched arms.
There was only one thing lacking to her peace of mind. Jeff had not
appeared to bid her good-by. Charlotte observed that Evelyn's voice
trembled a little when she said, "Where's Jeff? Will you tell him
good-by for me?"
Charlotte answered, "He won't fail, dear. He'll surely be at the
But when they reached the station no Jeff was there. Nobody seemed to
notice, for the men of the party were busy looking after various details
of the trip. Celia was explaining to Evelyn and Lucy how it had all come
"Doctor Forester was so upset and sorry over your going," she said,
"that he went to thinking up excuses to go along. He remembered an
important medical convention in Washington, and persuaded Andy that he
could get away for the three days' session. Then he invited Charlotte
and me, and convinced Mr. Frederic that he ought to go, too. We were
only too willing, so here we are."
"It's the loveliest thing that could happen," said Evelyn, and tried
hard not to let her eyes wander to the doors of the station.
She had not seen Jeff since early in the afternoon, when, after hot
argument, he had at last given up trying to persuade her that she need
not go until the coming Tuesday. To Just only, however, as he carried
her little travelling bag on board the train for her, did she say a
"Please tell Jeff for me," she said in his ear, as he established her in
the designated section of the sleeping-car, "that I felt very badly not
to say good-by to him. But give him my best remembrance, and say that
I'm sure he must have been kept from coming by something he couldn't
"Of course he must have been," agreed Just, heartily, feeling like
pitching into his delinquent brother with both fists for bringing that
hurt little look into the hazel eyes below him. "He'll probably turn up
just as your train gets under headway, and then he'll be the maddest
fellow you ever saw. Hullo, I'll bet that messenger boy is looking for
you!" as he saw Frederic Forester pointing a blue-capped carrier of a
florist's box toward Evelyn. He went forward, claimed the box, and
brought it back to Evelyn.
She peeped within, saw a great cluster of roses, and drew out a card.
"Of course it's Jeff's?" queried Just, anxiously, and he felt immense
relief when Evelyn nodded.
"Well, I'm off!" Just gripped her hand as the train began to move.
"Good-by! I'm mighty sorry to have you go," and with lifted hat, and a
hasty farewell to Lucy and Randolph, he was gone.
Evelyn smiled at him from the window, as he ran down the platform waving
at her, but her heart was still heavy. It was very good of Jeff to send
the flowers, but she would rather have had one hearty grasp of his
friendly hand than all the roses in his Northern state.
* * * * *
"Well, I consider myself pretty lucky to have secured four sections all
together on this train," said Doctor Forester, with satisfaction, as he
and Andrew Churchill and Frederic retired to the smoking-room while
their berths were being made up.
"Why, what are we slowing down for out here?" Frederic glanced out of
the window. "This is West Weston, isn't it? Yes--we're off again. Some
A door slammed and a tall figure hurried through the passage, looked in
at the smoking-room, and turned back. "Hullo!" said a familiar voice,
and Jeff's laughing face beamed in upon them.
"Well, well, did you hold up the train?" they cried.
"Thought you'd come along, too, did you?" asked Doctor Forester. "Good!
Glad to have you. I thought it was odd you weren't round to see us off.
Go and surprise the girls. They're just back there, waiting for their
Jeff hurried eagerly away. A moment later Evelyn, standing in the aisle
beside Charlotte, felt a touch on her arm. She looked up, and met Jeff's
eyes smiling down at her.
"Did you think I'd let you go like that?" he said in her ear.
"I'm afraid I thought you had," she admitted, grown happy in an instant.
"You see, I had an appointment with a man in West Weston on some work
I've been doing for him. After I heard this plan of Doctor Forester's I
had only just time to catch a train and get out there. He kept me so
long I missed the train that would have brought me back in time to see
you off, so I telephoned Chester Agnew to get the flowers for me and
write a card. That was when I was afraid I might not make connections at
all. But when this man I went to see--he's a railroad man--heard what
train I'd wanted to make, he offered to stop it for me. Then it just
came into my mind that I'd join the party, even without an invitation.
Tell me you're not sorry--won't you?"
"Of course I'm not." She allowed him one of her frank looks, and he
smiled back at her.
"We'll have a great day to-morrow," he prophesied. "They'll put on a
Pullman with an observation rear in the morning, and if the weather
holds we'll camp out there for the day. We don't get into Washington
till three in the afternoon, and the scenery all the way down will be
fine. I suppose I'll have to go off now and let you be tucked up. Please
get up bright and early in the morning, will you?"
It was a merry party which entered the dining-car the next morning the
moment the first summons came. The day had risen bright and clear as a
June day could be, and everybody was in a hurry to get out on the
Doctor Forester, sitting opposite Charlotte and Andy at one table,
glanced across at the rest of the party, on the opposite side of the
car, and said in a low voice:
"This is literally a case of speeding the parting guest, isn't it?
Captain John Rayburn got you into something of a scrape when he sent you
that copper inscription over your fireplace, didn't he? He didn't
realise that the 'ornaments' it brought you in November would have to be
conveyed away by force in June. It was the only way to give you an
interval when you should, for the first time in the history of your
married life, have no guests at all."
Charlotte and Andrew were staring at him in amazement.
"Uncle Ray?" cried Charlotte, under her breath. "Was he the one? Did you
know it all the time, Doctor Forester?"
"Yes, I knew it all the time" he owned. "In fact, Captain Rayburn wrote
to me after he had heard of the fireplace. You sent him a photograph of
it, didn't you?"
"So we did," Doctor Churchill answered. "We took it the day the
fireplace was finished, I'd forgotten it completely, but I remember now.
We thought he'd be interested, because something he once said about the
ideal fireplace had put the idea into our heads of collecting the stones
ourselves. So he wrote all the way from Denmark to have that made?"
"He had it made there, and wrote me for the measurements. He expressed
it to me, and I repacked it and sent it to you," chuckled Doctor
Forester. "He was determined to puzzle you completely."
"He certainly succeeded. Did he give you leave to tell at this
"It was left to my discretion after the first six months, provided you
had had any guests. I thought the time was ripe, and you'd earned your
diploma. All that worries me is that you may find a fresh instalment of
ornaments when you get back. The motto strikes me as a sort of uncanny
provider of them." The others laughed. Charlotte glanced across at
"It has paid," she said softly. Andy nodded. "It certainly has. All the
thanks we shall need will be in Thorne Lee's letter, after he has seen
his little sister."
"I rather think it's paid with the others, too," Doctor Forester added.
"Anyhow, you've certainly done your part."
Out on the back of the train Charlotte found Lucy at her elbow. She
looked into the girl's face, and discovered the blue eyes to be full of
tears. "Why, Lu, dear!" she said, softly.
"Mrs. Churchill"--Lucy was almost crying--"I just can't bear to think
it's the last day! I wish--oh, I wish--I lived with you!"
"Do you, dear? That's very pleasant," and Charlotte drew her close,
feeling more warmth toward Lucy than the girl had yet inspired. "But
don't be blue."
"I can't help it. It's almost ten o'clock now, and at three we shall be
going away from you all."
"No, you won't," Charlotte whispered in her ear. "It was to have been a
surprise, but I think you'll enjoy it more to know. Only don't tell
Evelyn. Doctor Forester has telegraphed your mother and received her
answer. You're not to go till to-morrow night at six, and we're to have
twenty-eight hours together in Washington."
"Oh! _Oh_!" Lucy almost screamed, so that the others looked around at
her and smiled. "Oh, I do think Doctor Forester and you are just the
nicest people I ever knew!"
Doctor Forester's secret was not very well kept, after all. Lucy
whispered the good news to Jeff, and he could not forbear telling it to
Evelyn just as the train was drawing out of Baltimore. His own spirits
had been drooping as time went on, but the reprieve of a day sent them
up with a bound.
"The question is what we shall do with our time," said Doctor Forester,
looking round at his party in the hotel parlour, where he had taken
them. "Speak up, everybody. We can divide our forces if necessary. Is
there anybody here who hasn't been here before?"
Lucy and Randolph seemed to be the only ones not more or less familiar
with the capital. On hearing this, Doctor Forester declared that he
should himself take them to as many of the most interesting places as
"Whatever we do to-night, I vote for the trip down the Potomac to Mount
Vernon in the morning," said Doctor Churchill, promptly. "We'll get back
in plenty of time for Evelyn's train, and there certainly isn't a better
way to put in the time than that."
This was heartily agreed upon, and the remainder of the day was used in
various ways, not more than two of which, it may be remarked, were
alike. Charlotte smiled meaningly at her husband as she watched Celia
and Fred Forester, having proceeded half-way across Lafayette Park with
Jeff and Evelyn, leave the two at a cross-path, and walk briskly off by
"That's certainly a sure thing, isn't it?" said he.
"No question of it, I think."
"Are you satisfied?"
"Perfectly. I haven't seen very much of Fred since he--and we--grew up,
but if he's his father's son----"
"He is, I think," said Doctor Churchill, confidently. "And the doctor
likes it, I'm sure. There's satisfaction in his face whenever he looks
at them. In fact, I can't help thinking he planned both the house party
and this trip with a view of bringing them together all he could."
"Dear Celia--if she's just half as happy as she deserves to be----"
"She will be. She loves to travel, hasn't had half enough of it, and
he'll take her round the world. I haven't had a chance to tell you that
he's going to India in the fall, in some important capacity. He received
the appointment just yesterday."
"Really?" Charlotte looked thoughtful. "Celia--in India! Andy----"
"Does that startle you? I don't imagine it's for any long stay, but as a
matter of some scientific investigations. Here, don't go to looking
sober. I shall be sorry I told you."
Charlotte smiled and answered brightly that it was not a thing to look
sober over. Nevertheless, her thoughts were much with her sister. The
next morning, as the party found their places on the little steamer
which was to take them down the river to Mount Vernon, she found herself
watching Celia more closely than she had meant to do, in the anxiety to
discover if the trip to India was really imminent.
"Isn't Mount Vernon a fascinating spot?" asked Evelyn, as she and Jeff
walked up the long, ascending road from pier to house together. "I've
never forgotten my first visit. I lived in Washington's times in my
dreams for weeks afterward. I never saw it at this season of the year.
The garden must be in its prime now."
"Let's go and see it first," responded Jeff, quickly. "I don't remember
much about it. My two visits here have all been spent in the house."
So while the others rambled through the quaint and interesting rooms,
Jeff and Evelyn made their way to the box-bordered paths of Lady
Washington's garden, and wandered about there in the warm June sunshine.
It grew so hot after a while that they betook themselves to the lawn and
banks overlooking the river, and sat there talking, as they watched the
waters of the Potomac.
"What are you going to do when you get home?" asked Jeff, somewhat
"Put our rooms in order," Evelyn responded, promptly.
"All by yourself?"
"We live in the same house with a lovely little woman, the wife of a
former Confederate general. I shall be with her until Thorne comes."
"I suppose you've lots of friends of your own age?" Jeff observed.
"Not as many as I ought to have. You see, I've lived very quietly with
my brother for six years now, except for the time I spent at a girls'
school in Baltimore. Since I came home from there I've not been very
strong, and Thorne has kept me very quiet, until he sent me North to
school last fall."
"You're so well now you'll be going about a lot. Any young people in the
house with you? It's a boarding-house, isn't it?"
"Yes, a small one. There are no young people in it except Mrs.
"How old a fellow?"
"Twenty-one, I believe."
"I suppose you're great friends with him?" said Jeff suspiciously.
Evelyn looked at him quickly and laughed, flushing a little. "Why, we're
naturally very good friends," she said.
"Evelyn," said Jeff, sitting up straight again, "I'm absolutely bursting
to tell you some news, and I can't seem to lead up to it. I've got to
bring it out flat. The only thing I'm anxious about is whether it's
going to be as good news to you as it is to me."
She looked at him with a quickening of her pulses, his expression had
become so very eager. "Please don't keep me in suspense," she begged.
"Well"--Jeff did his best to speak coolly, as if the matter were really
of no great importance, after all--"you know it's been a question with
me all along as to just what I was going to do when I got out of
college. I wanted tremendously to get to work, and a lot of the usual
things didn't seem to appeal to me at all. I haven't enough of a
scientific turn to go into any of the engineering courses. I didn't care
for a mercantile berth. In fact, while my brother Lanse has had his
future cut out for him since he was fourteen, and Just, at sixteen, is
body and soul in for electrical engineering, I've been the family
problem. Father's had the sense not to assert his wishes for a moment.
He saw from the start, I suppose, that the family traditions were not
for me--I could never begin by studying law and end by wearing the
ermine, as a lot of my grandfathers and uncles have done. So--"
Jeff paused and drew a long breath. He had been looking off down the
river as he talked, but now he brought his eyes back to Evelyn's face,
and his spirits leaped exultantly as he saw with what eager attention
she was listening.
"You really care to hear all this, don't you?" he asked, happily, and
went on before she could do more than nod. "Well, the short of it is
that through Doctor Forester I got to know a friend of his who is a
railroad magnate--the real thing--and to please the doctor he seemed to
take an interest in me. He's offered me a position in one of his
offices, provided I take a year to study practical railroading first. Of
course I'm only too glad to do that. And now I'm coming to the point of
the whole thing. When my year is up, that office where I'm to begin to
work up in the railroad business is"--he paused dramatically, watching
his hearer's face, as his own, in spite of himself, broke into a
smile--"in your own city, Evelyn Lee!"
If he had had any lingering doubt that this might not be as good news to
Evelyn as he wanted it to be, his fears were put to rout.
"O Jeff!" she said, quite breathlessly, and the happy colour surged into
her face. "Why, that's almost too good to be true!"
"Is it? You're a trump for saying so. Jupiter! I feel like standing up
and shouting. The thing has been sure since that afternoon I went to
Weston, but I didn't mean to tell you of it in this crazy boy fashion,
but write it to you quite calmly after you got home. But--it wouldn't
"I shouldn't think it would. Besides, it's so much nicer to hear it now,
when it makes it----"
She stopped abruptly, and jumped up. Jeff leaped to his feet also.
"Makes it--what?" he asked, eagerly.
"Why--it's such a pleasant place to hear good news in."
"That wasn't what you were going to say."
"We ought to go back to the house." She began to move slowly away. Jeff
"I'd like to hear the end of that sentence," he urged, as they walked up
the grassy slope to the house in the clear sunlight.
She laughed a little, but shook her head. She was looking very sweet in
her brown travelling dress, her russet hair shaded by a wide brown hat
with captivating curving outlines. Jeff looked at her dainty profile and
realised that the hour for separation was coming fast.
"Anyhow, I know what I _wish_ you were going to say,"--he was striding
close by her side--"and I can certainly say it if you can't. Telling you
that I'm coming to work near you next year makes it easier for me to say
good-by now. And that's--well--that's going to be a bit tough."
Evelyn walked on a few steps in silence. Then she turned and spoke
softly over her shoulder. There was not a touch of coquetry in her
simple manner, yet it had an engaging quality all its own.
"That's what I wanted to say, Jeff."
"Thank you," he responded. "I'll not forget that," and his tone told
that he appreciated the little concession.
It seemed but the briefest possible space of time before they had gone
over the house, had been hurried back to the landing by emphatic toots
from the small excursion steamer, and were off for the city again. The
trip back up the river was finished also before it seemed hardly begun.
All too soon for anybody the three young travellers were on their train,
and Doctor Churchill and Fred Forester had taken leave of them and were
out on the platform, ready to jump off. Jeff had lingered till the last.
"Good-by, Lucy! Good-by, Ran!" he said, and gave each a hearty grip and
smile. Then his hand clasped Evelyn's, his eyes said things his lips
would not have ventured to speak, and his hand wrung hers with a fervour
which made it sting. Then he went away without a backward look, as if he
must get the parting quickly over.
Outside the train, however, he turned with the others, and as the train
rolled slowly out of the station, and Evelyn strained her eyes to see
the group of her friends waving affectionately to her from the platform,
the last face upon which her gaze rested wore the strong, loyal,
eloquent look of Jefferson Birch.
* * * * *
"Home again," said Andrew Churchill, as he set his latch-key in the door
of the brick house four days later. "Fieldsy must be away, or she would
They hurried through the house. It was in absolute order, but empty. On
the office desk was a note in the housekeeper's awkward hand:
"If you should come to-night, I've had to go to take care of a sick
woman, will be back in the morning, you will find everything cooked up."
Doctor Churchill read it with a laugh. "Charlotte, we're actually alone
in our own house. Let's run over to the other house and embrace them all
round, and then come back and see how it feels over here."
So they went across the lawn.
"We shall be delighted to have you stay with us, my dears," said Mrs.
Birch, after the greetings.
"Mother Birch," said her son-in-law, with air affectionate hand on her
shoulder, "not even you can charm us out of our own house to-night. Do
you know that we're all alone--that not even Fieldsy is over there?
Charlotte's going to get dinner, and I'm to help her with the clearing
up, and then we're going to sit on our porch. Of course we shall be
constantly looking down the street for a messenger boy with a telegram
announcing the coming of our next guest, but until he comes--"
Everybody laughed at the expressive breath he drew.
"Go, you dear children," said Mrs. Birch, and the rest joined in warmly.
"I'll sit on our doorstone with a rifle, and pick off the visitors as
they come up the street!" cried Just, as the two went off.
"Don't shoot to kill!" Doctor Churchill called back, gaily. Then the
door closed on the pair.
When the happy little dinner was over, the dishes put away, and
Charlotte had slipped on a cool frock in which to spend the warm summer
evening, she went out to find her husband lying comfortably in the
hammock behind the vines, his hands clasped under his head. The twilight
was just slipping into evening, and the breath of unseen roses was sweet
upon the shadows.
Charlotte drew a chair close to her husband's side and sat down.
"After all, Andy," said she, as they fell to talking of the past year,
"I wouldn't have had it different. One thing is certain--out of our
three guests we entertained at least one angel unawares."
"Yes, and I like to think that perhaps the others are none the worse for
staying with us," Andrew Churchill answered, thoughtfully. "I'm glad we
did it, glad it's over, and shall be glad to have other people come to
see us--by and by. But--I want a good long honeymoon first. Is that your
"Yes," she answered fervently, smiling.