WHERE THERE'S A WILL
MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
I I HAVE A WARNING
II MISS PATTY ARRIVES
III A WILL
IV AND A WAY
V WANTED--AN OWNER
VI THE CONSPIRACY
VII MR. PIERCE ACQUIRES A WIFE
VII AND MR. MOODY INDIGESTION
IX DOLLY, HOW COULD YOU
X ANOTHER COMPLICATION
XI MISS PATTY'S PRINCE
XII WE GET A DOCTOR
XIII THE PRINCE--PRINCIPALLY
XIV PIERCE DISAPPROVES
XV THE PRINCE, WITH APOLOGIES
XVI STOP, THIEF!
XVII A BUNCH OF LETTERS
XVIII MISS COBB'S BURGLAR
XIX NO MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN
XX EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY
XXI THE MUTINY
XXII HOME TO ROOST
XXIII BACK TO NATURE
XIV LIKE DUCKS TO WATER
XXV THE FIRST FRUITS
XXVI OVER THE FENCE IS OUT
XXVII A CUPBOARD FULL OF RYE
XXVIII LOVE, LOVE, LOVE
XXIX A BIG NIGHT TO-NIGHT
XXX LET GOOD DIGESTION
WHERE THERE'S A WILL
I HAVE A WARNING
When it was all over Mr. Sam came out to the spring-house to say
good-by to me before he and Mrs. Sam left. I hated to see him
go, after all we had been through together, and I suppose he saw
it in my face, for he came over close and stood looking down at
me, and smiling. "You saved us, Minnie," he said, "and I needn't
tell you we're grateful; but do you know what I think?" he asked,
pointing his long forefinger at me. "I think you've enjoyed it
even when you were suffering most. Red-haired women are born to
intrigue, as the sparks fly upward."
"Enjoyed it!" I snapped. "I'm an old woman before my time, Mr.
Sam. What with trailing back and forward through the snow
to the shelter-house, and not getting to bed at all some nights,
and my heart going by fits and starts, as you may say, and half
the time my spinal marrow fairly chilled--not to mention putting
on my overshoes every morning from force of habit and having to
take them off again, I'm about all in."
"It's been the making of you, Minnie," he said, eying me, with
his hands in his pockets. "Look at your cheeks! Look at your
disposition! I don't believe you'd stab anybody in the back
(Which was a joke, of course; I never stabbed anybody in the
He sauntered over and dropped a quarter into the slot-machine by
the door, but the thing was frozen up and refused to work. I've
seen the time when Mr. Sam would have kicked it, but he merely
looked at it and then at me.
"Turned virtuous, like everything else around the place. Not
that I don't approve of virtue, Minnie, but I haven't got used to
putting my foot on the brass rail of the bar and ordering a nut
sundae. Hook the money out with a hairpin, Minnie, and buy some
shredded wheat in remembrance of me."
He opened the door and a blast of February wind rattled the
window-frames. Mr. Sam threw out his chest under his sweater and
waved me another good-by.
"Well, I'm off, Minnie," he said. "Take care of yourself and
don't sit too tight on the job; learn to rise a bit in the
"Good-by, Mr. Sam!" I called, putting down Miss Patty's doily and
following him to the door; "good-by; better have something before
you start to keep you warm."
He turned at the corner of the path and grinned back at me.
"All right," he called. "I'll go down to the bar and get a
Then he was gone, and happy as I was, I knew I would miss him
terribly. I got a wire hairpin and went over to the slot-
machine, but when I had finally dug out the money I could hardly
see it for tears.
It began when the old doctor died. I suppose you have heard of
Hope Sanatorium and the mineral spring that made it famous.
Perhaps you have seen the blotter we got out, with a flash-light
interior of the spring-house on it, and me handing the old
doctor a glass of mineral water, and wearing the embroidered
linen waist that Miss Patty Jennings gave me that winter. The
blotters were a great success. Below the picture it said, "Yours
for health," and in the body of the blotter, in red lettering,
"Your system absorbs the health-giving drugs in Hope Springs
water as this blotter soaks up ink."
The "Yours for health" was my idea.
I have been spring-house girl at Hope Springs Sanatorium for
fourteen years. My father had the position before me, but he
took rheumatism, and as the old doctor said, it was bad business
policy to spend thousands of dollars in advertising that Hope
Springs water cured rheumatism, and then have father creaking
like a rusty hinge every time he bent over to fill a glass with
Father gave me one piece of advice the day he turned the spring-
house over to me.
"It's a difficult situation, my girl," he said. "Lots of people
think it's simply a matter of filling a glass with water and
handing it over the railing. Why, I tell you a barkeeper's a
high-priced man mostly, and his job's a snap to this. I'd like
to know how a barkeeper would make out if his customers came
back only once a year and he had to remember whether they wanted
their drinks cold or hot or `chill off'. And another thing: if a
chap comes in with a tale of woe, does the barkeeper have to ask
him what he's doing for it, and listen while he tells how much
weight he lost in a blanket sweat? No, sir; he pushes him a
bottle and lets it go at that."
Father passed away the following winter. He'd been a little bit
delirious, and his last words were: "Yes, sir; hot, with a pinch
of salt, sir?" Poor father! The spring had been his career, you
may say, and I like to think that perhaps even now he is sitting
by some everlasting spring measuring out water with a golden
goblet instead of the old tin dipper. I said that to Mr. Sam
once, and he said he felt quite sure that I was right, and that
where father was the water would be appreciated. He had heard of
Well, for the first year or so I nearly went crazy. Then I found
things were coming my way. I've got the kind of mind that never
forgets a name or face and can combine them properly, which isn't
common. And when folks came back I could call them at once. It
would do your heart good to see some politician, coming up to
rest his stomach from the free bar in the state house at the
capital, enter the spring-house where everybody is playing cards
and drinking water and not caring a rap whether he's the man that
cleans the windows or the secretary of the navy. If he's been
there before, in sixty seconds I have his name on my tongue and a
glass of water in his hand, and have asked him about the
rheumatism in his right knee and how the children are. And in
ten minutes he's sitting in a bridge game and trotting to the
spring to have his glass refilled during his dummy hand, as if
he'd grown up in the place. The old doctor used to say my memory
was an asset to the sanatorium.
He depended on me a good bit--the old doctor did--and that winter
he was pretty feeble. (He was only seventy, but he'd got in the
habit of making it eighty to show that the mineral water kept him
young. Finally he got to BEING eighty, from thinking it, and
he died of senility in the end.)
He was in the habit of coming to the spring-house every day to
get his morning glass of water and read the papers. For a good
many years it had been his custom to sit there, in the winter by
the wood fire and in the summer just inside the open door, and
to read off the headings aloud while I cleaned around the spring
and polished glasses.
"I see the president is going fishing, Minnie," he'd say, or
"Airbrake is up to 133; I wish I'd bought it that time I dreamed
about it. It was you who persuaded me not to, Minnie."
And all that winter, with the papers full of rumors that Miss
Patty Jennings was going to marry a prince, we'd followed it by
the spring-house fire, the old doctor and I, getting angry at the
Austrian emperor for opposing it when we knew how much too good
Miss Patty was for any foreigner, and then getting nervous and
fussed when we read that the prince's mother was in favor of the
match and it might go through. Miss Patty and her father came
every winter to Hope Springs and I couldn't have been more
anxious about it if she had been my own sister.
Well, as I say, it all began the very day the old doctor died.
He stamped out to the spring-house with the morning paper about
nine o'clock, and the wedding seemed to be all off. The paper
said the emperor had definitely refused his consent and had
sent the prince, who was his cousin, for a Japanese cruise,
while the Jennings family was going to Mexico in their private
car. The old doctor was indignant, and I remember how he tramped
up and down the spring-house, muttering that the girl had had a
lucky escape, and what did the emperor expect if beauty and youth
and wealth weren't enough. But he calmed down, and soon he was
reading that the papers were predicting an early spring, and he
said we'd better begin to increase our sulphur percentage in the
I hadn't noticed anything strange in his manner, although we'd
all noticed how feeble he was growing, but when he got up to go
back to the sanatorium and I reached him his cane, it seemed to
me he avoided looking at me. He went to the door and then turned
and spoke to me over his shoulder.
"By the way," he remarked, "Mr. Richard will be along in a day or
so, Minnie. You'd better break it to Mrs. Wiggins."
Since the summer before we'd had to break Mr. Dick's coming to
Mrs. Wiggins the housekeeper, owing to his finding her false
front where it had blown out of a window, having been hung up to
dry, and his wearing it to luncheon as whiskers. Mr. Dick was
the old doctor's grandson.
"Humph!" I said, and he turned around and looked square at me.
"He's a good boy at heart, Minnie," he said. "We've had our
troubles with him, you and I, but everything has been quiet
When I didn't say anything he looked discouraged, but he had a
fine way of keeping on until he gained his point, had the old
"It HAS been quiet, hasn't it?" he demanded.
"I don't know," I said; "I have been deaf since the last
explosion!" And I went down the steps to the spring. I heard
the tap of his cane as he came across the floor, and I knew he
"Confound you, Minnie," he exclaimed, "if I could get along
without you I'd discharge you this minute."
"And if I paid any attention to your discharging me I'd have been
gone a dozen times in the last year," I retorted. "I'm not
objecting to Mr. Dick coming here, am I? Only don't expect me to
burst into song about it. Shut the door behind you when you go
But he didn't go at once. He stood watching me polish glasses
and get the card-tables ready, and I knew he still had something
on his mind.
"Minnie," he said at last, "you're a shrewd young woman--maybe
more head than heart, but that's well enough. And with your
temper under control, you're a CAPABLE young woman."
"What has Mr. Dick been up to now?" I asked, growing suspicious.
"Nothing. But I'm an old man, Minnie, a very old man."
"Stuff and nonsense," I exclaimed, alarmed. "You're only
seventy. That's what comes of saying in the advertising that you
are eighty--to show what the springs have done for you. It's
enough to make a man die of senility to have ten years tacked to
"And if," he went on, "if anything happens to me, Minnie, I'm
counting on you to do what you can for the old place. You've
been here a good many years, Minnie."
"Fourteen years I have been ladling out water at this spring," I
said, trying to keep my lips from trembling. "I wouldn't be at
home any place else, unless it would be in an aquarium. But
don't ask me to stay here and help Mr. Dick sell the old place
for a summer hotel. For that's what he'll do."
"He won't sell it," declared the old doctor grimly. "All I want
is for you to promise to stay."
"Oh, I'll stay," I said. "I won't promise to be agreeable, but
I'll stay. Somebody'll have to look after the spring; I reckon
Mr. Dick thinks it comes out of the earth just as we sell it,
with the whole pharmacopoeia in it."
Well, it made the old doctor happier, and I'm not sorry I
promised, but I've got a joint on my right foot that throbs when
it is going to rain or I am going to have bad luck, and it gave a
jump then. I might have known there was trouble ahead.
MISS PATTY ARRIVES
It was pretty quiet in the spring-house that day after the old
doctor left. It had started to snow and only the regulars came
out. What with the old doctor talking about dying, and Miss
Patty Jennings gone to Mexico, when I'd been looking forward to
her and her cantankerous old father coming to Hope Springs for
February, as they mostly did, I was depressed all day. I got to
the point where Mr. Moody feeding nickels into the slot-machine
with one hand and eating zwieback with the other made me
nervous. After a while he went to sleep over it, and when he had
slipped a nickel in his mouth and tried to put the zwieback in
the machine he muttered something and went up to the house.
I was glad to be alone. I drew a chair in front of the fire and
wondered what I would do if the old doctor died, and what a fool
I'd been not to be a school-teacher, which is what I studied for.
I was thinking to myself bitterly that all that my
experience in the spring fitted me for was to be a mermaid, when
I heard something running down the path, and it turned out to be
Tillie, the diet cook.
She slammed the door behind her and threw the Finleyville evening
paper at me.
"There!" she said, "I've won a cake of toilet soap from Bath-
house Mike. The emperor's consented."
"Nonsense!" I snapped, and snatched the paper. Tillie was right;
the emperor HAD! I sat down and read it through, and there
was Miss Patty's picture in an oval and the prince's in another,
with a turned-up mustache and his hand on the handle of his
sword, and between them both was the Austrian emperor. Tillie
came and looked over my shoulder.
"I'm not keen on the mustache," she said, "but the sword's
beautiful--and, oh, Minnie, isn't he aristocratic? Look at his
But I'm not one to make up my mind in a hurry, and I'd heard
enough talk about foreign marriages in the years I'd been dipping
out mineral water to make me a skeptic, so to speak.
"I'm not so sure," I said slowly. "You can't tell anything by
that kind of a picture. If he was even standing beside a
chair I could get a line on him. He may be only four feet high."
"Then Miss Jennings wouldn't love him," declared Tillie. "How do
you reckon he makes his mustache point up like that?"
"What's love got to do with it?" I demanded. "Don't be a fool,
Tillie. It takes more than two people's pictures in a newspaper
with a red heart around them and an overweight cupid above to
make a love-match. Love's a word that's used to cover a good
many sins and to excuse them all."
"She isn't that kind," said Tillie. "She's--she's as sweet as
she's beautiful, and you're as excited as I am, Minnie Waters,
and if you're not, what have you got the drinking glass she used
last winter put on the top shelf out of reach for?" She went to
the door and slammed it open. "Thank heaven I'm not a dried-up
old maid," she called back over her shoulder, "and when you're
through hugging that paper you can send it up to the house."
Well, I sat there and thought it over, Miss Patty, or Miss
Patricia, being, so to speak, a friend of mine. They'd come to
the Springs every winter for years. Many a time she'd slipped
away from her governess and come down to the spring-house for
a chat with me, and we'd make pop-corn together by my open fire,
and talk about love and clothes, and even the tariff, Miss Patty
being for protection, which was natural, seeing that was the way
her father made his money, and I for free trade, especially in
the winter when my tips fall off considerable.
And when she was younger she would sit back from the fire, with
the corn-popper on her lap and her cheeks as red as cranberries,
and say: "I DON'T know why I tell you all these things,
Minnie, but Aunt Honoria's funny, and I can't talk to Dorothy;
she's too young, you know. Well, HE said--" only every winter
it was a different "he."
In my wash-stand drawer I'd kept all the clippings about her
coming out and the winter she spent in Washington and was
supposed to be engaged to the president's son, and the magazine
article that told how Mr. Jennings had got his money by robbing
widows and orphans, and showed the little frame house where Miss
Patty was born--as if she's had anything to do with it. And so
now I was cutting out the picture of her and the prince and the
article underneath which told how many castles she'd have,
and I don't mind saying I was sniffling a little bit, for I
couldn't get used to the idea. And suddenly the door closed
softly and there was a rustle behind me. When I turned it was
Miss Patty herself. She saw the clipping immediately, and
stopped just inside the door.
"YOU, TOO," she said. "And we've come all this distance to
get away from just that."
"Well, I shan't talk about it," I replied, not holding out my
hand, for with her, so to speak, next door to being a princess--
but she leaned right over and kissed me. I could hardly believe
"Why won't you talk about it?" she insisted, catching me by the
shoulders and holding me off. "Minnie, your eyes are as red as
"I don't approve of it," I said. "You might as well know it now
as later, Miss Patty. I don't believe in mixed marriages. I had
a cousin that married a Jew, and what with him making the
children promise to be good on the Talmud and her trying to raise
them with the Bible, the poor things is that mixed up that it's
She got a little red at that, but she sat down and took up the
"He's much better looking than that, Minnie," she said soberly,
"and he's a good Catholic. But if that's the way you feel we'll
not talk about it. I've had enough trouble at home as it is."
"I guess from that your father isn't crazy about it," I remarked,
getting her a glass of spring water. The papers had been full of
how Mr. Jennings had forbidden the prince the house when he had
been in America the summer before.
"Certainly he's crazy about it--almost insane!" she said, and
smiled at me in her old way over the top of the glass. Then she
put down the glass and came over to me. "Minnie, Minnie," she
said, "if you only knew how I've wanted to get away from the
newspapers and the gossips and come to this smelly little spring-
house and talk things over with a red-haired, sharp-tongued,
mean-dispositioned spring-house girl--!"
And with that I began to blubber, and she came into my arms like
"You're all I've got," I declared, over and over, "and you're
going to live in a country where they harness women with dogs,
and you'll never hear an English word from morning to night."
"Stuff!" She gave me a little shake. "He speaks as good English
as I do. And now we're going to stop talking about him--you're
worse than the newspapers." She took off her things and going
into my closet began to rummage for the pop-corn. "Oh, how glad
I am to get away," she sang out to me. "We're supposed to have
gone to Mexico; even Dorothy doesn't know. Where's the pop-
corner or the corn-popper or whatever you call it?"
She was as happy to have escaped the reporters and the people she
knew as a child, and she sat down on the floor in front of the
fire and began to shell the corn into the popper, as if she'd
done it only the day before.
"I guess you're safe enough here," I said. "It's always slack in
January--only a few chronics and the Saturday-to-Monday husbands,
except a drummer now and then who drives up from Finleyville.
It's too early for drooping society buds, and the chronic livers
don't get around until late March, after the banquet season
closes. It will be pretty quiet for a while."
And at that minute the door was flung open, and Bath-house Mike
"The old doctor!" he gasped. "He's dead, Miss Minnie--died just
now in the hot room in the bathhouse! One minute he was givin'
me the divil for something or other, and the next-- I thought he
Something that had been heavy in my breast all afternoon suddenly
seemed to burst and made me feel faint all over. But I didn't
lose my head.
"Does anybody know yet?" I asked quickly. He shook his head.
"Then he didn't die in the bath-house, Mike," I said firmly. "He
died in his bed, and you know it. If it gets out that he died in
the hot room I'll have the coroner on you."
Miss Patty was standing by the railing of the spring. I got my
shawl and started out after Mike, and she followed.
"If the guests ever get hold of this they'll stampede. Start any
excitement in a sanatorium," I said, "and one and all they'll dip
their thermometers in hot water and swear they've got fever!"
And we hurried to the house together.
Well, we got the poor old doctor moved back to his room, and had
one of the chambermaids find him there, and I wired to Mrs. Van
Alstyne, who was Mr. Dicky Carter's sister, and who was on her
honeymoon in South Carolina. The Van Alstynes came back at once,
in very bad tempers, and we had the funeral from the preacher's
house in Finleyville so as not to harrow up the sanatorium people
any more than necessary. Even as it was a few left, but about
twenty of the chronics stayed, and it looked as if we might be
able to keep going.
Miss Patty sent to town for a black veil for me, and even went to
the funeral. It helped to take my mind off my troubles to think
who it was that was holding my hand and comforting me, and when,
toward the end of the service, she got out her handkerchief and
wiped her eyes I was almost overcome, she being, so to
speak, in the very shadow of a throne.
After it was all over the relatives gathered in the sun parlor of
the sanatorium to hear the will--Mr. Van Alstyne and his wife and
about twenty more who had come up from the city for the funeral
and stayed over--on the house.
Well, the old doctor left me the buttons for his full dress
waistcoat and his favorite copy of Gray's Anatomy. I couldn't
exactly set up housekeeping with my share of the estate, but when
the lawyer read that part of the will aloud and a grin went
around the room I flounced out of my chair.
"Maybe you think I'm disappointed," I said, looking hard at the
family, who weren't making any particular pretense at grief, and
at the house people standing around the door. "Maybe you think
it's funny to see an unmarried woman get a set of waistcoat
buttons and a medical book. Well, that set of buttons was the
set he bought in London on his wedding trip, and the book's the
one he read himself to sleep with every night for twenty years.
I'm proud to get them."
Mr. Van Alstyne touched me on the arm.
"Everybody knows how loyal you've been, Minnie," he assured me.
"Now sit down like a good girl and listen to the rest of the
"While I'm up I might as well get something else off my mind," I
said. "I know what's in that will, but I hadn't anything to do
with it, Mr. Van Alstyne. He took advantage of my being laid up
with influenza last spring."
They thought that was funny, but a few minutes later they weren't
so cheerful. You see the sanatorium was a mighty fine piece of
property, with a deer park and golf links. We'd had plenty of
offers to sell it for a summer hotel, but we'd both been dead
against it. That was one of the reasons for the will.
The whole estate was left to Dicky Carter, who hadn't been able
to come, owing to his being laid up with an attack of mumps. The
family sat up and nodded at one another, or held up its hands,
but when they heard there was a condition they breathed
Beginning with one week after the reading of the will--and not a
day later--Mr. Dick was to take charge of the sanatorium and to
stay there for two months without a day off. If at the end
of that time the place was being successfully conducted and could
show that it hadn't lost money, the entire property became his
for keeps. If he failed it was to be sold and the money given to
You would have to know Richard Carter to understand the
excitement the will caused. Most of us, I reckon, like the sort
of person we've never dared to be ourselves. The old doctor had
gone to bed at ten o'clock all his life and got up at seven, and
so he had a sneaking fondness for the one particular grandson who
often didn't go to bed at all. Twice to my knowledge when he was
in his teens did Dicky Carter run away from school, and twice his
grandfather kept him for a week hidden in the shelter-house on
the golf links. Naturally when Mr. Van Alstyne and I had to hide
him again, which is further on in the story, he went to the old
shelter-house like a dog to its kennel, only this time--but
that's ahead, too.
Well, the family went back to town in a buzz of indignation, and
I carried my waistcoat buttons and my Anatomy out to the
spring-house and had a good cry. There was a man named Thoburn
who was crazy for the property as a summer hotel, and every
time I shut my eyes I could see "Thoburn House" over the veranda
and children sailing paper boats in the mineral spring.
Sure enough, the next afternoon Mr. Thoburn drove out from
Finleyville with a suit case, and before he'd taken off his
overcoat he came out to the spring-house.
"Hello, Minnie," he exclaimed. "Does the old man's ghost come
back to dope the spring, or do you do it?"
"I don't know what you are talking about, Mr. Thoburn," I
retorted sharply. "If you don't know that this spring has its
"In Schmidt's drug store down in Finleyville!" he finished for
me. "Oh, I know all about that spring, Minnie! Don't forget
that my father's cows used to drink that water and liked it. I
leave it to you," he said, sniffing, "if a self-respecting cow
wouldn't die of thirst before she drank that stuff as it is now."
I'd been filling him a glass--it being a matter of habit with
me--and he took it to the window and held it to the light.
"You're getting careless, Minnie," he said, squinting at it.
"Some of those drugs ought to be dissolved first in hot water.
There's a lump of lithia there that has Schmidt's pharmacy label
"Where?" I demanded, and started for it. He laughed at that, and
putting the glass down, he came over and stood smiling at me.
"As ingenuous as a child," he said in his mocking way, "a nice,
little red-haired child! Minnie, how old is this young Carter?"
"An--er--earnest youth? Willing to buckle down to work and make
the old place go? Ready to pat the old ladies on the shoulder
and squeeze the young ones' hands?"
"He's young," I said, "but if you're counting on his being a
"Not at all," he broke in hastily. "If he hasn't too much
character he'll probably succeed. I hope he isn't a fool. If he
isn't, oh, friend Minnie, he'll stand the atmosphere of this
Garden of Souls for about a week, and then he'll kill some of
them and escape. Where is he now?"
"He's been sick," I said. "Mumps!"
"Mumps! Oh, my aunt!" he exclaimed, and fell to laughing. He
was still laughing when he got to the door.
"Mumps!" he repeated, with his hand on the knob. "Minnie, the
old place will be under the hammer in three weeks, and if you
know what's good for you, you'll sign in under the new management
while there's a vacancy. You've been the whole show here for so
long that it will be hard for you to line up in the back row of
"If I were you," I said, looking him straight in the eye, "I
wouldn't pick out any new carpets yet, Mr. Thoburn. I promised
the old doctor I'd help Mr. Dick, and I will."
"So you're actually going to fight it out," he said, grinning.
"Well, the odds are in your favor. You are two to my one."
"I think it's pretty even," I retorted. "We will be hindered, so
to speak, by having certain principles of honor and honesty. You
have no handicap."
He tried to think of a retort, and not finding one he slammed out
of the spring-house in a rage.
Mr. Van Alstyne and his wife came in that same day, just before
dinner, and we played three-handed bridge for half an hour.
As I've said, they'd been on their honeymoon, and they were both
sulky at having to stay at the Springs. It was particularly hard
on Mrs. Van Alstyne, because, with seven trunks of trousseau with
her, she had to put on black. But she used to shut herself up in
her room in the evenings and deck out for Mr. Sam in her best
things. We found it out one evening when Mrs. Biggs set fire to
her bureau cover with her alcohol curling-iron heater, and Mrs.
Sam, who had been going around in a black crepe dress all day,
rushed out in pink satin with crystal trimming, and slippers with
After the first rubber Mrs. Van Alstyne threw her cards on the
floor and said another day like this would finish her.
"Surely Dick is able to come now," she said, like a peevish
child. "Didn't he say the swelling was all gone?"
"Do you expect me to pick up those cards?" Mr. Sam asked angrily,
looking at her.
Mrs. Sam yawned and looked up at him.
"Of course I do," she answered. "If it wasn't for you I'd not
have stayed a moment after the funeral. Isn't it bad enough
to have seven trunks full of clothes I've never worn, and to have
to put on poky old black, without keeping me here in this old
Mr. Sam looked at the cards and then at her.
"I'm not going to pick them up," he declared. "And as to our
staying here, don't you realize that if we don't your precious
brother will never show up here at all, or stay if he does come?
And don't you also realize that this is probably the only chance
he'll ever have in the world to become financially independent of
"You needn't be brutal," she said sharply. "And it isn't so bad
for you here as it is for me. You spend every waking minute
admiring Miss Jennings, while I--there isn't a man in the place
who'll talk anything but his joints or his stomach."
She got up and went to the window, and Mr. Sam followed her.
Nobody pays any attention to me in the spring-house; I'm a part
of it, like the brass rail around the spring, or the clock.
"I'm not admiring Miss Jennings," he corrected, "I'm
sympathizing, dear. She looks too nice a girl to have been stung
by the title bee, that's all."
She turned her back to him, but he pretended to tuck the hair at
the back of her neck up under her comb, and she let him do it.
As I stooped to gather up the cards he kissed the tip of her ear.
"Listen," he said, "there's a scream of a play down at
Finleyville to-night called Sweet Peas. Senator Biggs and the
bishop went down last night, and they say it's the worst in
twenty years. Put on a black veil and let's slip away and see
I think she agreed to do it, but that night after dinner, Amanda
King, who has charge of the news stand, told me the sheriff had
closed the opera-house and that the leading woman was sick at the
"They say she looked funny last night," Amanda finished, "and I
guess she's got the mumps."
My joint gave a throb at that minute.
AND A WAY
Mr. Sam wasn't taking any chances, for the next day he went to
the city himself to bring Mr. Dick up. Everything was quiet that
day and the day after, except that on the second day I had a
difference of opinion with the house doctor and he left.
The story of the will had got out, of course, and the guests were
waiting to see Mr. Dick come and take charge. I got a good bit
of gossip from Miss Cobb, who had had her hair cut short after a
fever and used to come out early in the morning and curl it all
over her head, heating the curler on the fire log. I never smell
burnt hair that I don't think of Miss Cobb trying to do the back
of her neck. She was one of our regulars, and every winter for
ten years she'd read me the letters she had got from an insurance
agent who'd run away with a married woman the day before
the wedding. She kept them in a bundle, tied with lavender
It was on the third day, I think, that Miss Cobb told me that
Miss Patty and her father had had a quarrel the day before. She
got it from one of the chambermaids. Mr. Jennings was a liver
case and not pleasant at any time, but he had been worse than
usual. Annie, the chambermaid, told Miss Cobb that the trouble
was about settlements, and that the more Miss Patty tried to tell
him it was the European custom the worse he got. Miss Patty
hadn't come down to breakfast that day, and Mr. Moody and Senator
Biggs made a wager in the Turkish bath--according to Miss Cobb--
Mr. Moody betting the wedding wouldn't come off at all.
"Of course," Miss Cobb said, wetting her finger and trying the
iron to see if it was hot, "of course, Minnie, they're not
married yet, and if Father Jennings gets ugly and makes any sort
of scandal it's all off. A scandal just now would be fatal.
These royalties are very touchy about other people's
Well, I heard that often enough in the next few days.
Mr. Sam hadn't come back by the morning of the sixth day, but he
wired his wife the day before that Mr. Dick was on the way. But
we met every train with a sleigh, and he didn't come. I was
uneasy, knowing Mr. Dick, and Mrs. Sam was worried, too.
By that time everybody was waiting and watching, and on the early
train on the sixth day came the lawyer, a Mr. Stitt. Mr. Thoburn
was going around with a sort of greasy smile, and if I could have
poisoned him safely I'd have done it.
It had been snowing hard for a day or so, and at eleven o'clock
that day I saw Miss Cobb and Mrs. Biggs coming down the path to
the spring-house, Mrs. Biggs with her crocheting-bag hanging to
the handle of her umbrella. I opened the door, but they wouldn't
"We won't track up your clean floor, Minnie," Mrs. Biggs said--
she was a little woman, almost fifty, who'd gone through life
convinced she'd only lived so long by the care she took of
herself--"but I thought I'd better come and speak to you. Please
don't irritate Mr. Biggs to-day. He's been reading that article
of Upton Sinclair's about fasting, and hasn't had a bite to eat
since noon yesterday."
I noticed then that she looked pale. She was a nervous creature,
although she could drink more spring water than any human being I
ever saw, except one man, and he was a German.
Well, I promised to be careful. I've seen them fast before, and
when a fat man starts to live on his own fat, like a bear, he
gets about the same disposition.
Mrs. Biggs started back, but Miss Cobb waited a moment at the
foot of the steps.
"Mr. Van Alstyne is back," she said, "but he came alone."
"Alone!" I repeated, staring at her in a sort of daze.
"Alone," she said solemnly, "and I heard him ask for Mr. Carter.
It seems he started for here yesterday."
But I'd had time to get myself in hand, and if I had a chill up
my spine she never knew it. As she started after Mrs. Biggs I
saw Mr. Sam hurrying down the path toward the spring-house, and I
knew my joint hadn't throbbed for nothing.
Mr. Sam came in and slammed the door behind him.
"What's this about Mr. Dick not being here?" he shouted.
"Well, he isn't. That's all there is to it, Mr. Van Alstyne," I
said calmly. I am always calm when other people get excited.
For that reason some people think my red hair is a false alarm,
but they soon find out.
"But he MUST be here," said Mr. Van Alstyne. "I put him on
the train myself yesterday, and waited until it started to be
sure he was off."
"The only way to get Mr. Richard anywhere you want him to go," I
said dryly, "is to have him nailed in a crate and labeled."
"Damned young scamp!" said Mr. Van Alstyne, although I have a
sign in the spring-house, "Profanity not allowed."
"EXACTLY what was he doing when you last laid eyes on him?" I
"He was on the train--"
"Was he alone?"
"No, standing. What the deuce, Minnie--"
"Waving out the window to you?"
"Of course not!" exclaimed Mr. Van Alstyne testily. "He was
raising the window for a girl in the next seat."
"Precisely!" I said. "Would you know the girl well enough to
"That's ridiculous, you know," he said trying to be polite. "Out
of a thousand and one things that may have detained him--"
"Only one thing ever detains Mr. Dick, and that always detains
him," I said solemnly. "That's a girl. You're a newcomer in the
family, Mr. Van Alstyne; you don't remember the time he went down
here to the station to see his Aunt Agnes off to the city, and we
found him three weeks later in Oklahoma trying to marry a widow
with five children."
Mr. Van Alstyne dropped into a chair, and through force of habit
I gave him a glass of spring water.
"This was a pretty girl, too," he said dismally.
I sat down on the other side of the fireplace, and it seemed to
me that father's crayon enlargement over the mantel shook its
head at me.
After a minute Mr. Van Alstyne drank the water and got up.
"I'll have to tell my wife," he said. "Who's running the place,
"Not--exactly," I explained, "but, of course, when anything comes
up they consult me. The housekeeper is a fool, and now that the
house doctor's gone--"
"Gone! Who's looking after the patients?"
"Well, most of them have been here before," I explained, "and I
know their treatment--the kind of baths and all that."
"Oh, YOU know the treatment!" he said, eying me. "And why did
the house doctor go?"
"He ordered Mr. Moody to take his spring water hot. Mr. Moody's
spring water has been ordered cold for eleven years, and I
refused to change. It was between the doctor and me, Mr. Van
"Oh, of course," he said, "if it was a matter of principle--" He
stopped, and then something seemed to strike him. "I say," he
said; "about the doctor--that's all right, you know; lots of
doctors and all that. But for heaven's sake, Minnie, don't
discharge the cook."
Now that was queer, for it had been running in my head all
morning that in the slack season it would be cheaper to get a
good woman instead of the chef and let Tillie, the diet cook,
make the pastry
Mr. Sam picked up his hat and looked at his watch.
"Eleven thirty," he said, "and no sign of that puppy yet. I
guess it's up to the police."
"If there was only something to do," I said, with a lump in my
throat, "but to have to sit and do nothing while the old place
dies it's--it's awful, Mr. Van Alstyne."
"We're not dead yet," he replied from the door, "and maybe we'll
need you before the day's over. If anybody can sail the old bark
to shore, you can do it, Minnie. You've been steering it for
years. The old doctor was no navigator, and you and I know it."
It was blowing a blizzard by that time, and Miss Patty was the
only one who came out to the spring-house until after three
o'clock. She shook the snow off her furs and stood by the fire,
looking at me and not saying anything for fully a minute.
"Well," she said finally, "aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
"Why?" I asked, and swallowed hard.
"To be in all this trouble and not let me know. I've just this
minute heard about it. Can't we get the police?"
"Mr. Van Alstyne is trying," I said, "but I don't hope much.
Like as not Mr. Dick will turn up tomorrow and say his calendar
was a day slow."
I gave her a glass of water, and I noticed when she took it how
pale she was. But she held it up and smiled over it at me.
"Here's to everything turning out better than we expect!" she
said, and made a face as she drank the water. I thought that she
was thinking of her own troubles as well as mine, for she put
down the glass and stood looking at her engagement ring, a square
red ruby in an old-fashioned setting. It was a very large ruby,
but I've seen showier rings.
"There isn't anything wrong, Miss Patty, is there?" I asked, and
she dropped her hand and looked at me.
"Oh, no," she said. "That is, nothing much, Minnie. Father is--
I think he's rather ridiculous about some things, but I dare say
he'll come around. I don't mind his fussing with me, but--if it
should get in the papers, Minnie! A breath of unpleasant
notoriety now would be fatal!"
"I don't see why," I said sharply. "The royal families of Europe
have a good bit of unpleasant notoriety themselves occasionally.
I should think they'd fall over themselves to get some good red
American blood. Blue blood's bad blood; you can ask any doctor."
But she only smiled.
"You're like father, Minnie," she said. "You'll never
"I'm not sure I want to," I snapped, and fell to polishing
The storm stopped a little at three and most of the guests waded
down through the snow for bridge and spring water. By that time
the afternoon train was in, and no Mr. Dick. Mr. Sam was keeping
the lawyer, Mr. Stitt, in the billiard room, and by four o'clock
they'd had everything that was in the bar and were inventing new
combinations of their own. And Mrs. Sam had gone to bed with a
Senator Biggs brought the mail down to the spring-house at four,
but there was nothing for me except a note from Mr. Sam, rather
shaky, which said he'd no word yet and that Mr. Stitt had
mixed all the cordials in the bar in a beer glass and had had to
go to bed.
At half past four Mr. Thoburn came out for a minute. He said
there was only one other train from town that night and the
chances were it would be snowed up at the junction.
"Better get on the band wagon before the parade's gone past," he
said in an undertone. But I went into my pantry and shut the
door with a slam, and when I came out he was gone.
I nearly went crazy that afternoon. I put salt in Miss Cobb's
glass when she always drank the water plain. Once I put the
broom in the fire and started to sweep the porch with a fire log
Luckily they were busy with their letters and it went unnoticed,
the smell of burning straw not rising, so to speak, above the
sulphur in the spring.
Senator Biggs went from one table to another telling how well he
felt since he stopped eating, and trying to coax the other men to
starve with him.
It's funny how a man with a theory about his stomach isn't happy
until he has made some other fellow swallow it.
"Well," he said, standing in front of the fire with a glass of
water in his hand, "it's worth while to feel like this. My
head's as clear as a bell. I don't care to eat; I don't want to
eat. The `fast' is the solution."
"Two stages to that solution, Senator," said the bishop; "first,
resolution; last, dissolution."
Then they all began at once. If you have ever heard twenty
people airing their theories on diet you know all about it. One
shouts for Horace Fletcher, and another one swears by the
scraped-beef treatment, and somebody else never touches a thing
but raw eggs and milk, and pretty soon there is a riot of
calories and carbohydrates. It always ends the same way: the man
with the loudest voice wins, and the defeated ones limp over to
the spring and tell their theories to me. They know I'm being
paid to listen.
On this particular afternoon the bishop stopped the riot by
rising and holding up his hand. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said,
"let us not be rancorous. If each of us has a theory, and that
theory works out to his satisfaction, then--why are we all here?"
"Merely to tell one another the good news!" Mr. Jennings said
sourly from his corner.
Honest, it was funny. If some folks were healthy they'd be
But when things had got quiet--except Mr. Moody dropping nickels
into the slot-machine--I happened to look over at Miss Patty, and
I saw there was something wrong. She had a letter open in her
lap not one of the blue ones with the black and gold seal that
every one in the house knew came from the prince but a white one,
and she was staring at it as if she'd seen a ghost.
I have never reproached Miss Patty, but if she had only given me
the letter to read or had told me the whole truth instead of a
part of it, I would have understood, and things would all have
been different. It is all very well for her to say that I looked
worried enough already, and that anyhow it was a family affair.
I SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD.
All she did was to come up to me as I stood in the spring, with
her face perfectly white, and ask me if my Dicky Carter was the
Richard Carter who stayed at the Grosvenor in town.
"He doesn't stay anywhere," I said, with my feet getting cold,
"but that's where he has apartments. What has he been doing
"You're expecting him on the evening train, aren't you?" she
asked. "Don't stare like that: my father's watching."
"He ought to be on the evening train," I said. I wasn't going to
say I expected him. I didn't.
"Listen, Minnie," she said, "you'll have to send him away again
the moment he comes. He must not go into the house."
I stood looking at her, with my mouth open.
"Not go into the house," I repeated, "with everybody waiting for
him for the last six days, and Mr. Stitt here to turn things over
She stood tapping her foot, with her pretty brows knitted.
"The wretch!" she cried, "the hateful creature as if things
weren't bad enough! I suppose he'll have to come, Minnie, but I
must see him before he sees any one else."
Just then the bishop brought his glass over to the spring.
"Hot this time, Minnie," he said. "Do you know, I'm getting the
mineral-water habit, Patty! I'm afraid plain water will have no
attraction for me after this."
He put his hand over hers on the rail. They were old friends,
the bishop and the Jenningses.
"Well, how goes it to-day with the father?" he said in a low
tone, and smiling.
Miss Patty shrugged her shoulders. "Worse, if possible."
"I thought so," he said cheerfully. "If state of mind is any
criterion I should think he has had a relapse. A little salt,
Minnie." Miss Patty stood watching him while he tasted it.
"Bishop," she said suddenly, "will you do something for me?"
"I always have, Patty." He was very fond of Miss Patty, was the
"Then--to-night, not later than eight o'clock, get father to play
cribbage, will you? And keep him in the card-room until nine."
"Another escapade!" he said, pretending to be very serious.
"Patty, Patty, you'll be the death of me yet. Is thy servant a
dog, that he should do this thing?"
"Certainly NOT," said Miss Patty. "Just a dear, slightly
bald, but still very distinguished slave!"
The bishop picked up her left hand and looked at the ring and
from that to her face.
"There will be plenty of slaves to kiss this little hand, where
you are going, my child," he said. "Sometimes I wish that some
nice red-blooded boy here at home--but I dare say it will turn
out surprisingly well as it is."
"Bishop, Bishop!" Mrs. Moody called. "How naughty of you, and
with your bridge hand waiting to be held!"
He carried his glass back to the table, stopping for a moment
beside Mr. Jennings.
"If Patty becomes any more beautiful," he said, "I shall be in
favor of having her wear a mask. How are we young men to protect
"Pretty is as pretty does!" declared Mr. Jennings from behind his
newspaper, and Miss Patty went out with her chin up.
Well, I knew Mr. Dick had been up to some mischief; I had
suspected it all along. But Miss Patty went to bed, and old Mrs.
Hutchins, who's a sort of lady's-maid-companion of hers, said she
mustn't be disturbed. I was pretty nearly sick myself. And when
Mr. Sam came out at five o'clock and said he'd been in the long-
distance telephone booth for an hour and had called everybody who
had ever known Mr. Dick, and that he had dropped right off
the earth, I just about gave up. He had got some detectives, he
said, and there was some sort of a story about his having kept
right on the train to Salem, Ohio, but if he had they'd lost the
trail there, and anyhow, with the railroad service tied up by the
storm there wasn't much chance of his getting to Finleyville in
Luckily Mr. Stitt was in bed with a mustard leaf over his stomach
and ice on his head, and didn't know whether it was night or
morning. But Thoburn was going around with a watch in his hand,
and Mr. Sam was for killing him and burying the body in the snow.
At half past five I just about gave up. I was sitting in front
of the fire wondering why I'd taken influenza the spring before
from getting my feet wet in a shower, when I had been standing in
a mineral spring for so many years that it's a wonder I'm not
web-footed. It was when I had influenza that the old doctor made
the will, you remember. Maybe I was crying, I don't recall.
It was dark outside, and nothing inside but firelight. Suddenly
I seemed to feel somebody looking at the back of my neck and
I turned around. There was a man standing outside one of the
windows, staring in.
My first thought, of course, was that it was Mr. Dick, but just
as the face vanished I saw that it wasn't. It was older by three
or four years than Mr. Dick's and a bit fuller.
I'm not nervous. I've had to hold my own against chronic
grouches too long to have nerves, so I went to the door and
looked out. The man came around the corner just then and I could
see him plainly in the firelight. He was covered with snow, and
he wore a sweater and no overcoat, but he looked like a
"I beg your pardon for spying," he said, "but the fire looked so
snug! I've been trying to get to the hotel over there, but in
the dark I've lost the path."
"That's not a hotel," I snapped, for that touched me on the raw.
"That's Hope Springs Sanatorium, and this is one of the Springs."
"Oh, Hope Springs, internal instead of eternal!" he said.
"That's awfully bad, isn't it? To tell you the truth, I think
I'd better come in and get some; I'm short on hope just now."
I thought that was likely enough, for although his voice was
cheerful and his eyes smiled, there was a drawn look around his
mouth, and he hadn't shaved that day. I wish I had had as much
experience in learning what's right with folks as I have had in
learning what's wrong with them.
"You'd better come in and get warm, anyhow," I told him, "only
don't spring any more gags. I've been `Hebe' for fourteen years
and I've served all the fancy drinks you can name over the brass
railing of that spring. Nowadays, when a fellow gets smart and
asks for a Mamie Taylor, I charge him a Mamie Taylor price."
He shut the door behind him and came over to the fire.
"I'm pretty well frozen," he said. "Don't be astonished if I
melt before your eyes; I've been walking for hours."
Now that I had a better chance to see him I'd sized up that drawn
look around his mouth.
"Missed your luncheon, I suppose," I said, poking the fire log.
He grinned rather sheepishly.
"Well, I haven't had any, and I've certainly missed it," he said.
"Fasting's healthy, you know."
I thought of Senator Biggs, who carried enough fat to nourish him
for months, and then I looked at my visitor, who hadn't an ounce
of extra flesh on him.
"Nothing's healthy that isn't natural," I declared. "If you'd
care for a dish of buttered and salted pop-corn, there's some on
the mantel. It's pretty salty; the idea is to make folks thirsty
so they'll enjoy the mineral water."
"Think of raising a real thirst only to drown it with spring
water!" he said. But he got the pop corn and he ate it all. If
he hadn't had any luncheon he hadn't had much breakfast. The
queer part was--he was a gentleman; his clothes were the right
sort, but he had on patent leather shoes in all that snow and an
I put away the glasses while he ate. Pretty soon he looked up
and the drawn lines were gone. He wasn't like Mr. Dick, but he
was the same type, only taller and heavier built.
"And so it isn't a hotel," he remarked. "Well, I'm sorry. The
caravansary in the village is not to my liking, and I had thought
of engaging a suite up here. My secretary usually attends to
these things, but--don't take away all the glasses, Heb--I beg
pardon--but the thirst is coming."
He filled the glass himself and then he came up and stood in
front of me, with the glass held up in the air.
"To the best woman I have met in many days," he said, not mocking
but serious. "I was about to lie down and let the little birds
cover me with leaves." Then he glanced at the empty dish and
smiled. "To buttered pop-corn! Long may it wave!" he said, and
emptied the glass.
Well, I found a couple of apples in my pantry and brought them
out, and after he ate them he told me what had happened to him.
He had been a little of everything since he left college he was
about twenty-five had crossed the Atlantic in a catboat and gone
with somebody or other into some part of Africa--they got lost
and had to eat each other or lizards, or something like that--and
then he went to the Philippines, and got stuck there and had to
sell books to get home. He had a little money, "enough for a
grub-stake," he said, and all his folks were dead. Then a
college friend of his wrote a rural play called Sweet Peas--
"Great title, don't you think?" he asked--and he put up all
the money. It would have been a hit, he said, but the kid in the
play--the one that unites its parents in the last act just before
he dies of tuberculosis--the kid took the mumps and looked as if,
instead of fading away, he was going to blow up. Everybody was
so afraid of him that they let him die alone for three nights in
the middle of the stage. Then the leading woman took the mumps,
and the sheriff took everything else.
"You city folks seem to know so much," I said, "and yet you bring
a country play to the country! Why don't you bring out a play
with women in low-necked gowns, and champagne suppers, and a
scandal or two? They packed Pike's Opera-House three years ago
with a play called Why Women Sin."
Well, of course, the thing failed, and he lost every dollar he'd
put into it, which was all he had, including what he had in his
"They seized my trunks," he explained, "and I sold my fur-lined
overcoat for eight dollars, which took one of the girls back
home. It's hard for the women. A fellow can always get some
sort of a job--I was coming up here to see if they needed an
extra clerk or a waiter, or chauffeur, or anything that meant
a roof and something to eat--but I suppose they don't need a
"No," I answered, "but I'll tell you what I think they're going
to need. And that's an owner!"
I'm not making any excuses. I did it for the best. In any sort
of crisis there are always folks who stand around and wring their
hands and say, "What shall we do?" And then if it's a fire and
somebody has had enough sense to send for the engines, they say:
"Just look at what the water did!" Although as far as I can see
I'm the only one that suffered any damage.
If Mr. Thoburn had not been there, sitting by to see the old
sanatorium die so it could sprout wings and fly as a summer
hotel, I'd never have thought of it. But I was in despair.
I got up and opened the door, but the Snow came in in a cloud,
and the path was half a foot deep again. It shows on what little
threads big things hang, for when I saw the storm I gave up the
idea of bringing Mr. Sam down to see the young man, and
the breath of fresh air in my face brought me to my senses.
But the angel of providence appeared in the shape of Mike, the
bath man, coming down through the snow in a tearing rage. The
instant I saw Mike I knew it was settled.
"Am I or am I not to give Mr. Moody a needle shower?" he shouted,
almost beside himself. And I saw he had his overcoat over his
bath costume, which is a Turkish towel.
"A needle shower followed by a salt rub," said I. "He's been
having them for eleven years. What's the matter?"
"That fool of a young doctor," shouted Mike, "he told him before
he left that if he'd been taking them for eleven years and wasn't
any better it was time to stop. Ain't business bad enough--only
four people in the house takin' baths regular--without his
"Where's Mr. Moody?"
"In the bath. I've locked up his clothes."
"You give him a needle shower and a salt rub," I ordered, "and if
he makes a fuss just send for me. And, Mike," I said, as he
started out, "ask Mr. Van Alstyne to come out here immediately."
That's the way it was all the time. Everybody brought their
troubles to me, and I guess I thought I was a little tin god on
wheels and the place couldn't get along without me. But it did;
it does. We all think we'll leave a big hole behind us when we
go, but it's just like taking your thumb out of a bowl of soup.
There isn't even a dent.
Mr. Van Alstyne came out on the run, and when he saw Mr. Pierce
by the fire--that was his name, Alan Pierce--he stopped and
stared. Then he said:
"You infernal young scamp!" And with that Mr. Pierce jumped up,
surprised and pretty mad, and Mr. Van Alstyne saw his mistake.
"I'm sure I beg your pardon!" he said. "The fact is, I was
expecting somebody else, and in the firelight--"
"You surprised me, that's all," said Mr. Pierce. "Under the
circumstances, I'm glad I'm not the other chap."
"You may be," assured Mr. Sam grimly. "You're not unlike him, by
the way. A little taller and heavier, but--"
Now it's all very well for Mr. Sam to say I originated the idea
and all that, but as truly as I am writing this, as I watched his
face I saw the same thought come into it. He looked Mr. Pierce
up and down, and then he stared into the fire and puckered his
mouth to whistle, but he didn't. And finally he glanced at me,
but I was looking into the fire, too.
"Just come, haven't you?" he asked. "How did you get up the
"Walked," said Mr. Pierce, smiling. "It took some digging, too.
But I didn't come for my health, unless you think three meals a
day are necessary for health."
Mr. Sam turned and stared at him. "By Jove! you don't mean it!"
"I wish I didn't," Mr. Pierce replied. "One of the hardest
things I've had to remember for the last ten hours was that for
two years I voluntarily ate only two meals a day. A man's a fool
to do a thing like that! It's reckless."
Mr. Sam got up and began to walk the floor, his hands in his
pockets. He tried to get my eye, but still I looked in the fire.
"All traffic's held up, Minnie," he said. "The eight o'clock
train is stalled beyond the junction, in a drift. I've wired the
conductor, and Carter isn't on it."
"Well?" said I.
"If we could only get past to-day," Mr. Sam went on; "if Thoburn
would only choke to death, or--if there was somebody around who
looked like Dick. I dare say, by to-morrow--" He looked at Mr.
Pierce, who smiled and looked at him.
"And I resemble Dick!" said Mr. Pierce. "Well, if he's a moral
and upright young man--"
"He isn't!" Mr. Sam broke in savagely. And then and there he sat
down and told Mr. Pierce the trouble we were in, and what sort of
cheerful idiot Dicky Carter was, and how everybody liked him, but
wished he would grow up before the family good name was gone, and
that now he had a chance to make good and be self-supporting, and
he wasn't around, and if Mr. Sam ever got his hands on him he'd
choke a little sense down his throat.
And then Mr. Pierce told about the play and the mumps, and how he
was stranded. When Mr. Sam asked him outright if he'd take Mr.
Dick's place overnight he agreed at once.
"I haven't anything to lose," he said, "and anyhow I've been on a
diet of Sweet Peas so long that a sanatorium is about what I
"It's like this," explained Mr. Sam, "Old Stitt is pretty
thoroughly jingled--excuse me, Minnie, but it's the fact. I'll
take you to his room, with the lights low, and all you'll need to
do is to shake hands with him. He's going on the early train to-
morrow. Then you needn't mix around much with the guests until
to-morrow, and by that time I hope to have Dick within thrashing
Just as they'd got it arranged that Mr. Pierce was to put on Mr.
Sam's overcoat and walk down to the village so that he could come
up in a sleigh, as if he had driven over from Yorkton--he was
only to walk across the hall in front of the office, with his
collar up, just enough to show himself and then go to his room
with a chill--just as it was all arranged, Mr. Sam thought of
"The house people are waiting for Dick," he said to me, "and
about forty women are crocheting in the lobby, so they'll be sure
to see him. Won't some of them know it isn't Dick?"
I thought pretty fast.
"He hasn't been around much lately," I said. "Nobody would know
except Mrs. Wiggins. She'll never forget him; the last time he
was here he put on her false front like a beard and wore it down
"Then it's all off," he groaned. "She's got as many eyes as a
"And about as much sense," said I. "Fiddlesticks! She's not so
good we can't replace her, and what's the use of swallowing a
camel and then sticking at a housekeeper?"
"You can't get her out of the house in an hour," he objected, but
in a weak voice.
"I can!" I said firmly.
(I did. Inside of an hour she went to the clerk, Mr. Slocum, and
handed in her resignation. She was a touchy person, but I did
NOT say all that was quoted. I did NOT say the kitchen was
filthy; I only said it took away my appetite to look in at the
door. But she left, which is the point.)
Well, I stood in the doorway and watched them disappear in the
darkness, and I felt better than I had all day. It's great to be
able to DO something, even if that something is wrong. But as
I put on my shawl and turned out the lights, I suddenly
remembered. Miss Patty would be waiting in the lobby for Mr.
Dick, and she would not be crocheting!
MR. PIERCE ACQUIRES A WIFE
Whoever has charge of the spring-house at Hope Springs takes the
news stand in the evening. That's an old rule. The news stand
includes tobacco and a circulating library, and is close to the
office, and if I missed any human nature at the spring I got it
there. If you can't tell all about a man by the way he asks for
mineral water and drinks it, by the time you've supplied his
literature and his tobacco and heard him grumbling over his bill
at the office, you've got a line on him and a hook in it.
After I ate my supper I relieved Amanda King, who runs the news
stand in the daytime, when she isn't laid off with the toothache.
Mr. Sam was right. All the women had on their puffs, and they
were sitting in a half-circle on each side of the door.
Mrs. Sam was there, looking frightened and anxious, and standing
near the card-room door was Miss Patty. She was all in white,
with two red spots on her cheeks, and I thought if her prince
could have seen her then he would pretty nearly have eaten her
up. Mr. Thoburn was there, of course, pretending to read the
paper, but every now and then he looked at his watch, and once he
got up and paced off the lobby, putting down the length in his
note-book. I didn't need a mind-reader to tell me he was
figuring the cost of a new hardwood floor and four new rugs.
Mr. Sam came to the news stand, and he was so nervous he could
hardly light a cigarette.
"I've had a message from one of the detectives," he said.
"They've traced him to Salem, Ohio, but they lost him there. If
we can only hold on this evening--! Look at that first-night
"Mr. Pierce is due in three minutes," I told him. "I hope you
told him to kiss his sister."
"Nothing of the sort," he objected. "Why should he kiss her?
Mrs. Van Alstyne is afraid of the whole thing: she won't stand
"I guess she could endure it," I remarked dryly.
"It's astonishing how much of that sort of thing a woman can
He looked at me and grinned.
"By gad," he said, "I wouldn't be as sophisticated as you are for
a good deal. Isn't that the sleigh?"
Everybody had heard it. The women sat up and craned forward to
look at the door: Mrs. Sam was sitting forward clutching the arms
of her chair. She was in white, having laid off her black for
that evening, with a red rose pinned on her so Mr. Pierce would
know her. Miss Patty heard the sleigh-bells also, and she turned
and came toward the door. Her mouth was set hard, and she was
twisting the ruby ring as she always did when she was nervous.
And at the same moment Mr. Sam and I both saw it; she was in
white, too, and she had a red rose tucked in her belt!
Mr. Sam muttered something and rushed at her, but he was too
late. Just as he got to her the door opened and in came Mr.
Pierce, with Mr. Sam's fur coat turned up around his ears and Mr.
Sam's fur cap drawn well down on his head. He stood for an
instant blinking in the light, and Mrs. Van Alstyne got up
nervously. He never even saw her. His eyes lighted on Miss
Patty's face and stayed there. Mr. Sam was there, but what could
he do? Mr. Pierce walked over to Miss Patty, took her hand,
said, "Hello there!" and KISSED HER. It was awful.
Most women will do anything to save a scene, and that helped us,
for she never turned a hair. But when Mr. Sam got him by the arm
and led him toward the stairs, she turned so that the old cats
sitting around could not see her and her face was scarlet. She
went over to the wood fire--our lobby is a sort of big room with
chairs and tables and palms, and an open fire in winter--and sat
down. I don't think she knew herself whether she was most
astonished or angry.
Mrs. Biggs gave a nasty little laugh.
"Your brother didn't see you," she said to Mrs. Van Alstyne. "I
dare say a sister doesn't count much when a future princess is
Mrs. Van Alstyne was still staring up the staircase, but she came
to herself at that. She had some grit in her, if she did look
like a French doll.
"My brother and Miss Jennings are very old friends," she remarked
quietly. I believe that was what she thought, too. I don't
think she had seen the other red rose, and what was she to think
but that Mr. Pierce had known Miss Jennings somewhere? She was
dazed, Mrs. Sam was. But she carried off the situation anyhow,
and gave us time to breathe. We needed it.
"If I were his highness," said Miss Cobb, spreading the Irish
lace collar she was making over her knee and squinting at it, "I
should wish my fiancee to be more er--dignified. Those old
Austrian families are very haughty. They would not understand
our American habit of osculation."
I was pretty mad at that, for anybody could have seen Miss Patty
didn't kiss him.
"If by osculation you mean kissing, Miss Cobb," I said, going
over to her, "I guess you don't remember the Austrian count who
was a head waiter here. If there was anything in the way of
osculation that that member of an old Austrian family didn't
know, I've got to find it out. He could kiss all around any
American I ever saw!"
I went back to my news stand. I was shaking so my knees would
hardly hold me. All I could think of was that they had swallowed
Mr. Pierce, bait and hook, and that for a time we were saved,
although in the electric light Mr. Pierce was a good bit less
like Dicky Carter than he had seemed to be in the spring-house by
Well, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Everybody went to bed early. Mr. Thoburn came over and bought a
cigar on his way up-stairs, and he was as gloomy as he had been
"Well," I said, "I guess you won't put a dancing floor in the
dining-room just yet, Mr. Thoburn."
"I'm not in a hurry," he snapped. "It's only January, and I
don't want the place until May. I'll get it when I'm ready for
it. I had a good look at young Carter, and he's got too square a
jaw to run a successful neurasthenics' home."
I went to the pantry myself at ten o'clock and fixed a tray of
supper for Mr. Pierce. He would need all his strength the next
day, and a man can't travel far on buttered pop-corn. I found
some chicken and got a bottle of the old doctor's wine--I had
kept the key of his wine-cellar since he died --and carried
the tray up to Mr. Pierce's sitting-room. He had the old
The door was open an inch or so, and as I was about to knock I
heard a girl's voice. It was Miss Patty!
"How can you deny it?" she was saying angrily. "I dare say you
will even deny that you ever saw this letter before!"
There was a minute's pause while I suppose he looked at the
"I never did!" he said solemnly.
There had been a queer sound all along, but now I made it out.
Some one else was in the room, sniveling and crying.
"My poor lamb!" it whimpered. And I knew it was Mrs. Hutchins,
Miss Patty's old nurse.
"Perhaps," said Miss Patty, "you also deny that you were in Ohio
the day before yesterday."
"I was in Ohio, but I positively assert--"
"I'll send for the police, that's what I'll do!" Mrs. Hutchins
said, with a burst of rage, and her chair creaked. "How can I
ever tell your father?"
"You'll do nothing of the sort," said Miss Patty. "Do you want
the whole story in the papers? Isn't it awful enough as it
is? Mr. Carter, I have asked my question twice now and I am
waiting for an answer."
"But I don't know the answer!" he said miserably. "I--I assure
you, I'm absolutely in the dark. I don't know what's in the
letter. I--I haven't always done what I should, I dare say, but
my conduct in the state of Ohio during the last few weeks has
been without stain--unless I've forgotten--but if it had been
anything very heinous, I'd remember, don't you think?"
Somebody crossed the room, and a paper rustled.
"Read that!" said Miss Patty's voice. And then silence for a
"Good lord!" exclaimed Mr. Pierce.
"Do you deny that?"
"Absolutely!" he said firmly. "I--I have never even heard of the
Reverend Dwight Johnstone--"
There was a scream from Mrs. Hutchins, and a creak as she fell
into her chair again.
"Your father!" she said, over and over. "What can we say to your
"And that is all you will say?" demanded Miss Patty scornfully.
"`You don't know;' `there's a mistake;' `you never saw the
letter before!' Oh, if I were only a man!"
"I'll tell you what we'll do," Mr. Pierce said, with something
like hope in his voice. "We'll send for Mr. Van Alstyne! That's
the thing, of course. I'll send for--er--Jim."
Mr. Van Alstyne's name is Sam, but nobody noticed.
"Mr. Van Alstyne!" repeated Miss Patty in a dazed way.
I guessed it was about time to make a diversion, so I knocked and
walked in with the tray, and they all glared at me. Mrs.
Hutchins was collapsed in a chair, holding a wet handkerchief to
her eyes, and one side of her cap was loose and hanging down.
Miss Patty was standing by a table, white and angry, and Mr.
Pierce was about a yard from her, with the letter in his hands.
But he was looking at her.
"I've brought your supper, Mr. Carter," I began. Then I stopped
and stared at Miss Patty and Mrs. Hutchins. "Oh," I said.
"Thank you," said Mr. Pierce, very uncomfortable. "Just put it
I stalked across the room and put it on the table. Then I turned
and looked at Mrs. Hutchins.
"I'm sorry," I said, "but it's one of the rules of this house
that guests don't come to these rooms. They're strictly
private. It isn't MY rule, ladies, but if you will step down
to the parlor--"
Mrs. Hutchins' face turned purple. She got up in a hurry.
"I'm here with Miss Jennings on a purely personal matter," she
said furiously. "How dare you turn us out?"
"Nonsense, Minnie!" said Miss Patty. "I'll go when I'm ready."
"Rule of the house," I remarked, and going over to the door I
stood holding it open. There wasn't any such rule, but I had to
get them out; they had Mr. Pierce driven into a corner and
yelling for help.
"There is no such rule and you know it, Minnie!" Miss Patty said
angrily. "Come, Nana! We're not learning anything, and there's
nothing to be done until morning, anyhow. My head's whirling."
Mrs. Hutchins went out first.
"The first thing I'D do if I owned this place, I'd get rid
of that red-haired girl," she snapped to Mr. Pierce. "If you
want to know why there are fewer guests here every year, I'll
tell you. SHE'S the reason!" Then she flounced out with her
(That was pure piffle. The real reason, as every thinking person
knows, is Christian Science. It's cheaper and more handy. And
now that it isn't heresy to say it, the spring being floored
over, I reckon that most mineral springs cure by suggestion.
Also, of course, if a man's drinking four gallons of lithia water
a day, he's so saturated that if he does throw in anything
alcoholic or indigestible, it's too busy swimming for its life to
do any harm.)
Mr. Pierce took a quick step toward Miss Patty and looked down at
"About--what happened down-stairs to-night," he stammered, with
the unhappiest face I ever saw on a man, "I--I've been ready to
knock my fool head off ever since. It was a mistake--a--"
"My letter, please," said Miss Patty coolly, looking back at him
without a blink.
"Please don't look like that!" he begged. "I came in suddenly
out of the darkness, and you--"
"My letter, please!" she said again, raising her eyebrows.
He gave up trying then. He held out the letter and she took it
and went out with her head up and scorn in the very way she
trailed her skirt over the door-sill. But I'm no fool; it didn't
need the way he touched the door-knob where she had been holding
it, when he closed the door after her, to tell me what ailed him.
He was crazy about her from the minute he saw her, and he hadn't
a change of linen or a cent to his name. And she, as you might
say, on the ragged edge of royalty, with queens and princes
sending her stomachers and tiaras until she'd hardly need
clothes! Well, a cat may look at a king.
He went over to the fireplace, where I was putting his coffee to
keep it hot, and looked down at me.
"I've a suspicion, Minnie," he said, "that, to use a vulgar
expression, I've bitten off more than I can chew in this little
undertaking, and that I'm in imminent danger of choking to death.
Do you know anybody, a friend of Miss er--Jennings, named
"She's got a younger sister of that name," I said, with a sort of
chill going over me. "She's in boarding-school now."
"Oh, no, she's not!" he remarked, picking up the coffee-pot. "It
seems that I met her on the train somewhere or other the day
before yesterday, and ran off with her and married her!"
I sat back on the rug speechless.
"You should have warned me, Minnie," he went on, growing more
cheerful over his chicken and coffee. "I came up here to-night,
the proud possessor of a bunch of keys, a patent folding cork-
screw and a pocket, automobile road map. Inside two hours I have
a sanatorium and a wife. At this rate, Minnie, before morning I
may reasonably hope to have a family."
I sat where I was on the floor and stared into the fire. Don't
tell me the way of the wicked is hard; the wicked get all the fun
there is out of life, and as far as I can see, it's the
respectable "in at ten o'clock and up at seven" part of the
wicked's family that has all the trouble and does the worrying.
"If we could only keep it hidden for a few days!" I said.
"But, of course, the papers will get it, and just now, with
columns every day about Miss Patty's clothes--"
"And all the princes of the blood sending presents, and the king
not favoring it very much--"
"What are you talking about?"
"About Miss Jennings' wedding. Don't you read the newspaper?"
He hadn't really known who she was up to that minute. He put
down the tray and got up.
"I--I hadn't connected her with the--the newspaper Miss
Jennings," he said, and lighted a cigarette over the lamp.
Something in his face startled me, I must say.
"You're not going to give up now?" I asked. I got up and put my
hand on his arm, and I think he was shaking. "If you do, I'll--
I'll go out and drown myself, head down, in the spring."
He had been going to run away--I saw it then--but he put a hand
over mine. Then he looked at the door where Miss Patty had gone
out and gave himself a shake.
"I'll stay," he said. "We'll fight it out on this line if it
takes all summer, Minnie." He stood looking into the fire, and
although I'm not fond of men, knowing, as I have explained, a
great deal about their stomachs and livers and very little about
their hearts, there was something about Mr. Pierce that made me
want to go up and pat him on the head like a little boy. "After
all," he said, "what's blue blood to good red blood?"
Which was almost what the bishop had said!
AND MR. MOODY INDIGESTION
Mr. Moody took indigestion that night--not but that he always had
it, but this was worse--and Mrs. Moody came to my room about two
o'clock and knocked at the door.
"You'd better come," she said. "There's no doctor, and he's
awful bad. Blames you, too; he says you made him take a salt
"My land," I snapped, trying to find my bedroom slippers, "I
didn't make him take clam chowder for supper, and that's what's
the matter with him. He's going on a strained rice diet, that's
what he's going to do. I've got to have my sleep."
She was waiting in the hall in her kimono, and holding a candle.
Anybody could see she'd been crying. As she often said to me, of
course she was grateful that Mr. Moody didn't drink--no one knew
his virtues better than she did. But her sister married
a man who went on a terrible bat twice a year, and all the rest
of the time he was humble and affable trying to make up for it.
And sometimes she thought if Mr. Moody would only take a little
whisky when he had these attacks--! I'd rather be the wife of a
cheerful drunkard any time than have to live with a cantankerous
saint. Miss Cobb and I had had many a fight over it, but at that
time there wasn't much likelihood of either of us being called on
Well, we went down to Mr. Moody's room, and he was sitting up in
bed with his knees drawn up to his chin and a hot-water bottle
held to him.
"Look at your work, woman," he said to me when I opened the door.
"You look sick," I said, going over to the bed. It never does to
cross them when they get to the water-bottle stage. "The
pharmacy clerk's gone to a dance over at Trimble's, but I guess I
can find you some whisky."
"Do have some whisky, George," begged Mrs. Moody, remembering her
"I never touch the stuff and you both know it," he snarled. He
had a fresh pain just then and stopped, clutching up the
bottle. "Besides," he finished, when it was over, "I haven't got
Well, to make a long story short, we got him to agree to some
whisky from the pharmacy, with a drop of peppermint in it, if he
could wash it down with spring water so it wouldn't do him any
"There isn't any spring water in the house," I said, losing my
temper a little, "and I'm not going out there in my bedroom
slippers, Mr. Moody. I don't see why your eating what you
shouldn't needs to give me pneumonia."
Mrs. Moody was standing beside the bed, and I saw her double chin
begin to work. If you have ever seen a fat woman, in a short red
kimono holding a candle by, a bed, and crying, you know how
helpless she looks.
"Don't go, Minnie," she sniffled. "It would be too awful. If
you are afraid you could take the poker."
"I'm not going!" I declared firmly. "It's--it's dratted idiocy,
that's all. Plain water would do well enough. There's a lot of
people think whisky is poison with water, anyhow. Where's the
Oh, yes, I went. I put on some stockings of Mrs. Moody's and
a petticoat and a shawl and started. It was when I was in the
pharmacy looking for the peppermint that I first noticed my joint
again. A joint like that's a blessing or a curse, the way you
look at it.
I found the peppermint and some whisky and put them on the
stairs. Then I took my pitcher and lantern and started for the
spring-house. It was still snowing, and part of the time Mrs.
Moody's stockings were up to their knees. The wind was blowing
hard, and when I rounded the corner of the house my lantern went
out. I stood there in the storm, with the shawl flapping,
thanking heaven I was a single woman, and about ready to go back
and tell Mr. Moody what I thought of him when I looked toward the
At first I thought it was afire, then I saw that the light was
coming from the windows. Somebody was inside, with a big fire
and all the lights going.
I'd had tramps sleep all night in the spring-house before, and
once they left a card by the spring: "Water, water everywhere
and not a drop to drink!" So I started out through the snow on a
half run. By the bridge over Hope Springs Creek I slipped
and fell, and I heard the pitcher smash to bits on the ice
below. But as soon as I could move I went on again. That
spring-house had been my home for a good many years, and the
tramp didn't live who could spend the night there if I knew it.
I realized then that I should have taken the poker. I went over
cautiously to one of the windows, wading in deep snow to get
there--and if you have ever done that in a pair of bedroom
slippers you can realize the state of my mind--and looked in.
There were three chairs drawn up in a row in front of the fire,
with my bearskin hearth-rug on them to make a couch, and my
shepherd's plaid shawl folded at one end for a pillow. And
stretched on that with her long sealskin coat laid over her was
Dorothy Jennings, Miss Patty's younger sister! She was alone, as
far as I could see, and she was leaning on her elbow with her
cheek in her hand, staring at the fire. Just then the door into
the pantry opened and out came Mr. Dick himself.
"Were you calling, honey?" he said, coming over and looking down
"You were such a long time!" says she, glancing up under her
lashes at him. "I--I was lonely!"
"Bless you," says Mr. Dick, stooping over her. "What did I ever
do without you?"
I could have told her a few things he did, but by that time it
was coming over me pretty strong that here was the real Dicky
Carter and that I had an extra one on my hands. The minute I