Part 3 out of 7
you and Dick do look alike. I am not the only or the first person who saw
Alan started and frowned.
"Good Lord! Who else?" he demanded.
"The devil she did!" Alan's eyes were vindictive. Then he laughed.
"Commend me to a girl's imagination! This Dick chap seems to be head over
heels in love with you," he added.
"What nonsense!" denied Tony crisply, fashioning a miniature sand
mountain as she spoke.
"No nonsense at all, my dear. Perfectly obvious fact. Don't you suppose I
know how a man looks when he is in love? I ought to. I've been in love
Tony demolished her mountain with a wrathful sweep of her hand.
"And registered all the appropriate emotions before the mirror, I
suppose. You make me sick, Alan. You are all pose. I don't believe there
is a single sincere thing about you."
"Oh, yes, there is--are--two."
"What are they?"
"One is my sincere devotion to yourself, my beautiful. The other--an
equally sincere devotion to--_myself_."
"I grant you the second, at least."
"Don't pose, yourself, my darling. You know I love you. You pretend you
don't believe it, but you do. And way down deep in your heart you love my
love. It makes your heart beat fast just to think of it. See! Did I not
tell you?" He had suddenly put out his hand and laid it over her heart.
"Poor little wild bird! How its wings flutter!"
Tony got up swiftly from the sand, her face scarlet. She was indignant,
self-conscious, betrayed. For her heart had been beating at a fearful
clip and she knew it.
"How dare you touch me like that, Alan Massey? I detest you. I don't see
why I ever listen to you at all, or let you come near me."
Alan Massey, still lounging at her feet, looked up at her as she stood
above him, slim, supple, softly rounded, adorably pretty and feminine in
her black satin bathing suit and vivid, emerald hued cap.
"I know why," he said and rose, too, slowly, with the indolent grace of a
leopard. "So do you, my Tony," he added. "We both know. Will you dance
with me a great deal to-night?"
"How many times?"
"Not at all."
"Indeed! And does his Dick Highmightiness object to your dancing with
"Dick! Of course not. He hasn't anything to do with it. I am not going to
dance with you because you are behaving abominably to-day, and you did
yesterday and the day before that. I think you are nearly always
abominable, in fact."
"Still, I am one of the best dancers in the world. It is a temptation, is
it not, my own?"
He smiled his slow, tantalizing smile and, in spite of herself, Tony
"It is," she admitted. "You are a heavenly dancer, Alan. There is no
denying it. If you were Mephisto himself I think I would dance with
"Once," relented Tony. "There come the others at last." And she ran off
down the yellow sands like a modern Atalanta.
"My, but Tony is pretty to-night!" murmured Carlotta to Alan, who
chanced to be standing near her as her friend fluttered by with Dick.
"She looks like a regular flame in that scarlet chiffon. It is awfully
daring, but she is wonderful in it."
"She is always wonderful," muttered Alan moodily, watching the slender,
graceful figure whirl and trip and flash down the floor like a gay poppy
petal caught in the wind.
Carlotta turned. Something in Alan's tone arrested her attention.
"Alan, I believe, it is real with you at last," she said. Up to that
moment she had considered his affair with Tony as merely another of his
many adventures in romance, albeit possibly a slightly more extravagant
one than usual.
"Of course it is real--real as Hell," he retorted. "I'm mad over her,
Carla. I am going to marry her if I have to kill every man in the path to
get to her," savagely.
"I am sorry, Alan. You must see Tony is not for the like of you. You
can't get to her. I wish you wouldn't try."
Dick and Tony passed close to them again. Tony was smiling up at her
partner and he was looking down at her with a gaze that betrayed his
caring. Neither saw Alan and Carlotta. The savage light gleamed brighter
in Alan's green eyes.
"Carlotta, is there anything between them?" he demanded fiercely.
"Nothing definite. He adores her, of course, and she is very fond of him.
She feels as if he sort of belonged to her, I think. You know the story?"
Briefly Carlotta outlined the tale of how Dick had taken refuge in the
Holiday barn when he had run away from the circus, and how Tony had found
him, sick and exhausted from fatigue, hunger and abuse; how the Holidays
had taken him in and set him on his feet, and Tony had given him her own
middle name of Carson since he had none of his own.
Alan listened intently.
"Did he ever get any clue as to his identity?" he asked as
"Has he asked Tony to marry him?"
"I don't think so. I doubt if he ever does, so long as he doesn't know
who he is. He is very proud and sensitive, and has an almost
superstitious veneration for the Holiday tradition. Being a Holiday in
New England is a little like being of royal blood, you know. I don't
believe you will ever have to make a corpse of poor Dick, Alan."
"I don't mind making corpses. I rather think I should enjoy making one of
him. I detest the long, lean animal."
Had Alan known it, Dick had taken quite as thorough a dislike to his
magnificent self. At that very moment indeed, as he and Tony strolled in
the garden, Dick had remarked that he wished Tony wouldn't dance with
"And why not?" she demanded, always quick to resent dictatorial airs.
"Because he makes you--well--conspicuous. He hasn't any business to dance
with you the way he does. You aren't a professional but he makes you look
"Thanks. A left-hand compliment but still a compliment!"
"It wasn't meant for one," said Dick soberly. "I hate it. Of course you
dance wonderfully yourself. It isn't just dancing with you. It is poetry,
stuff of dreams and all the rest of it. I can see that, and I know it
must be a temptation to have a chance at a partner like that. Lord! Tony!
No man in every day life has a right to dance the way he can. He
out-classes Castle. I hate that kind of a man--half woman."
"There isn't anything of a woman about Alan, Dick. He is the most
virulently male man I ever knew."
Dick fell silent at that. Presently he began again.
"Tony, please don't be offended at what I am going to say. I know it is
none of my business, but I wish you wouldn't keep on with this affair
"Why not?" There was an aggressive sparkle in Tony's eyes.
"People are talking. I heard them last night when you were dancing with
him. It hurts. Alan Massey isn't the kind of a man for a girl like you to
"Stuff and nonsense, Dicky! Any kind of a man is the kind for a girl to
flirt with, if she keeps her head."
"But Tony, honestly, this Massey hasn't a good reputation."
"How do you know?"
"Newspaper men know a great deal. They have to. Besides, Alan Massey is a
celebrity. He is written up in our files."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that if he should die to-morrow all we would have to do would
be to put in the last flip. The biographical data is all on the card
ready to shoot."
"Dear me. That's rather gruesome, isn't it?" shivered Tony. "I'm glad I'm
not a celebrity. I'd hate to be stuck down on your old flies. Will I get
on Alan's card if I keep on flirting with him?"
"Good Lord! I should hope not."
"I suppose I wouldn't be in very good company. I don't mean Alan. I
"Tony! Then you know?"
"About Alan's ladies? Oh, yes. He told me himself."
Dick looked blank. What was a man to do in a case like this, finding his
big bugaboo no bugaboo at all?
"I know a whole lot about Alan Massey, maybe more than is on your old
card. I know his mother was Lucia Vannini, so beautiful and so gifted
that she danced in every court in Europe and was loved by a prince. I
know how Cyril Massey, an American artist, painted her portrait and
loved her and married her. I know how she worshiped him and was
absolutely faithful to him to the day he died, when the very light of
life went out for her."
"She managed to live rather cheerfully afterward, even without light, if
all the stories about her are true," observed Dick, with, for him,
"You don't understand. She had to live."
"There are other ways of living than those she chose."
"Not for her. She knew only two things--love and dancing. She was thrown
from a horse the next year after her husband died. Dancing was over for
her. There was only--her beauty left. Her husband's people wouldn't have
anything to do with her because she had been a dancer and because of the
prince. Old John Massey, Cyril's uncle, turned her and her baby from his
door, and his cousin John and his wife refused even to see her. She said
she would make them hear of her before she died. She did."
"They heard all right. She, and her son too, must have been a thorn in
the flesh of the Masseys. They were all rigid Puritans I understand,
especially old John."
"Serve him right," sniffed Tony. "They were rolling in wealth. They might
have helped her kept her from the other thing they condemned so. She
wanted money only for Alan, especially after he began to show that he had
more than his father's gifts. She earned it in the only way she knew. I
don't blame her."
"I can't help it if I am shocking you, Dick. I can understand why she did
it. She didn't care anything about the lovers. She never cared for anyone
after Cyril died. She gave herself for Alan. Can't you see that there was
something rather fine about it? I can."
Dick grunted. He remembered hearing something about a woman whose sins
were forgiven her because she loved much. But he couldn't reconcile
himself to hearing such stories from Tony Holiday's lips. They were
remote from the clean, sweet, wholesome atmosphere in which she belonged.
"Anyway, Alan was a wonderful success. He studied in Paris and he had
pictures on exhibition in salons over there before he was twenty. He was
feted and courted and flattered and--loved, until he thought the world
was his and everything in it--including the ladies." Tony made a little
face at this. She did not care very-much for that part of Alan's story,
herself. "His mother was afraid he was going to have his head completely
turned and would lose all she had gained so hard for him, so she made him
come back to America and settle down. He did. He made a great name for
himself before he was twenty-five as a portrait painter and he and his
mother lived so happily together. She didn't need any more lovers then.
Alan was all she needed. And then she died, and he went nearly crazy with
grief, went all to pieces, every way. I suppose that part of his career
is what makes you say he isn't fit for me to flirt with."
Dick nodded miserably.
"It isn't very pleasant for me to think of, either," admitted Tony. "I
don't like it any better than you do. But he isn't like that any more.
When old John Massey died without leaving any will Alan got all the
money, because his cousin John and his stuck-up wife had died, too, and
there was nobody else. Alan pulled up stakes and traveled all over the
world, was gone two years and, when he came back, he wasn't dissipated
any more. I don't say he is a saint now. He isn't, I know. But he got
absolutely out of the pit he was in after his mother's death."
"Lucky for him they never found the baby John Massey, who was stolen,"
Dick remarked. "He would have been the heir if he could have appeared to
claim the money instead of Alan Massey, who was only a grand nephew."
"There wasn't any baby," she exclaimed.
"Oh yes, there was. John Massey, Junior, had a son John who was kidnapped
when he was asleep in the park and deserted by his nurse who had gone to
flirt with a policeman. There was a great fuss made about it at the time.
The Masseys offered fabulous sums of money for the return of the child,
but he never turned up. I had to dig up the story a few years ago when
old John died, which is why I know so much about it."
"I don't believe Alan knew about the baby. He didn't tell me anything
"I'll wager he knew, all right. It would be mighty unpleasant for him if
the other Massey turned up now."
"Dick, I believe you would be glad if Alan lost the money,"
"Why no, Tony. It's nothing to me, but I've always been sorry for that
other Massey kid, though he doesn't know what he missed and is probably a
jail-bird or a janitor by this time, not knowing he is heir to one of
the biggest properties in America."
"Sorry to disturb your theories, Mr.--er Carson," remarked Alan Massey,
suddenly appearing on the scene. "My cousin John happens to be neither a
jail-bird nor a janitor, but merely comfortably dead. Lucky John!"
"But Dick said he wasn't dead--at least that nobody knew whether he was
or not," objected Tony.
"Unfortunately your friend is in error. John Massey is entirely dead, I
assure you. And now, if he is quite through with me and my affairs,
perhaps Mr. Carson will excuse you. Come, dear."
Alan laid a hand on Tony's arm with a proprietorial air which made Dick
writhe far more than his insulting manner to himself had done. Tony
looked quickly from one to the other. She hated the way Alan was
behaving, but she did not want to precipitate a scene and yielded,
leaving Dick, with a deprecatory glance, to go with Alan.
"I don't like your manner," she told the latter. "You were abominably
rude just now."
"Forgive me, sweetheart. I apologize. That young man of yours sets my
teeth on edge. I can't abide a predestined parson. I'll wager anything he
has been preaching at you." He smiled ironically as he saw the girl
flush. "So he did preach,--and against me, I suppose."
"He did, and quite right, too. You are not at all a proper person for me
to flirt with, just as he said. Even Miss Lottie told me that and when
Miss Lottie objects to a man it means--"
"That she has failed to hold him herself," said Alan cynically. "Stop,
Tony. I want to say something to you before we go in. I am not a proper
person. I told you that myself. There have been other women in my life--a
good many of them. I told you that, too. But that has absolutely nothing
to do with you and me. I love you. You are the only woman I ever have
loved in the big sense, at least the only one I have ever wanted to
marry. I am like my mother. She had many lesser loves. She had only one
great one. She married him. And I shall marry you."
"Alan, don't. It is foolish--worse than foolish to talk like that. My
people would never let me marry you, even if I wanted to. Dick was
speaking for them just now when he warned me against you."
"He was speaking for himself. Damn him!"
"I beg your pardon, Tony. I'm a brute to-night. I am sorry. I won't
trouble you any more. I won't even keep you to your promise to dance once
with me if you wish to be let off."
The music floated out to them, called insistently to Tony's rhythm-mad
feet and warm young blood.
"Ah, but I do want to dance with you," she sighed. "I don't want to be
let off. Come."
He bent over her, a flash of triumph in his eyes.
"My own!" he exulted. "You are my own. Kiss me, belovedest."
But Tony pulled away from him and he followed her. A moment later the
scarlet flame was in his arms whirling down the hall to the music of the
violins, and Dick, standing apart by the window watching, tasted the
dregs of the bitterest brew life had yet offered him. Better, far better
than Tony Holiday he knew where the scarlet flame was blowing.
His dance with Tony over, Alan retired to the library where he used the
telephone to transmit a wire to Boston, a message addressed to one James
Roberts, a retired circus performer.
AND THERE IS A FLAME
When Alan Massey strayed into the breakfast room, one of the latest
arrivals at that very informal meal, he found a telegram awaiting him. It
was rather an odd message and ran thus, without capitalization or
punctuation. "Town named correct what is up let sleeping dogs lie sick."
Alan frowned as he thrust the yellow envelope into his pocket.
"Does the fool mean he is sick, I wonder," he cogitated. "Lord, I wish I
could let well enough alone. But this sword of Damocles business is
beginning to get on my nerves. I have half a mind to take a run into town
this afternoon and see the old reprobate. I'll bet he doesn't know as
much as he claims to, but I'd like to be sure before he dies."
Just then Tony Holiday entered, clad in a rose hued linen and looking
like a new blown rose herself.
"You are the latest ever," greeted Carlotta.
"On the contrary I have been up since the crack of dawn," denied Tony,
slipping into a seat beside her friend.
Carlotta opened her eyes wide. Then she understood.
"You got up to see Dick off," she announced.
"I did. Please give me some strawberries, Hal, if you don't mean to eat
the whole pyramid yourself. I not only got up, but I went to the
station; not only went to the station, but I walked the whole mile and a
half. Can anybody beat that for a morning record?" Tony challenged as she
deluged her berries with cream.
Alan Massey uttered a kind of a snarling sound such as a lion disturbed
from a nap might have emitted. He had thought he was through with Carson
when the latter had made his farewells the night before, saying
goodnight to Tony before them all. But Tony had gotten up at some
ridiculously early hour to escort him to the station, and did not mind
everybody's knowing it. He subsided into a dense mood of gloom. The
morning had begun badly.
Later he discovered Tony in the rose garden with a big basket on her arm
and a charming drooping sun hat shading her even more charming face. She
waved him away as he approached.
"Go away," she ordered. "I'm busy."
"You mean you have made up your mind to be disagreeable to me," he
retorted, lighting a cigarette and looking as if he meant to fight it out
along that line if it took all summer.
Tony snipped off a rose with her big shears and dropped it into her
basket. It rather looked as if she were meaning to snip off Alan Massey
figuratively in much the same ruthless manner.
"Put it that way, if you like. Only stay away. I mean it."
"Why?" he persisted.
Thus pressed she turned and faced him.
"It is a lovely morning--all blue and gold and clean-washed after last
night's storm--a good morning. I'm feeling good, too. The clean morning
has got inside of me. And when you come near me I feel a pricking in my
thumbs. You don't fit into my present, mood. Please go, Alan. I am
perfectly serious. I don't want to talk to you."
"What have I done? I am no different from what I was yesterday."
"I know. It isn't anything you have done. It isn't you at all. It is I
who am different--or want to be." Tony spoke earnestly. She was perfectly
sincere. She did want to be different. She had not slept well the night
before. She had thought a great deal about Holiday Hill and Uncle Phil
and her brothers and--well, yes--about Dick Carson. They all armed her
against Alan Massey.
Alan threw away his cigarette with an angry gesture.
"You can't play fast and loose with me, Tony Holiday. You have been
leading me on, playing the devil with me for days. You know you have. Now
you are scared, and want to get back to shallow water. It is too late.
You are in deep seas and you've got to stay there--with me."
"I haven't _got_ to do anything, Alan. You are claiming more than you
have any right to claim."
But he came nearer, towered above her, almost menacingly.
"Because that nameless fool of a reporter with his sanctimonious airs and
impeccable morals, has put you against me you want to sack me. You can't
do it. Last night you were ready to go any lengths with me. You know it.
Do you think I am going to be balked by a miserable circus brat--a mere
nobody? Not so long as I am Alan Massey. Count on that."
Tony's dark eyes were ablaze with anger.
"Stop there, Alan. You are saying things that are not true. And I forbid
you ever to speak of Dick like that again to me."
"Indeed! And how are you going to prevent my saying what I please about
your precious protege?" sneered Alan.
"I shall tell Carlotta I won't stay under the same roof with anybody who
insults my friends. You won't have to restrain yourself long in any case.
I am leaving Saturday--perhaps sooner."
"Tony!" The sneer died away from Alan's face, which had suddenly grown
white. "You mustn't go. I can't live without you, my darling. If you knew
how I worshiped you, how I cannot sleep of nights for wanting you, you
wouldn't talk of going away from me. I was brutal just now. I admit it.
It is because I love you so. The thought of your turning from me,
deserting me, maddened me. I am not responsible for what I said. You must
forgive me. But, oh my belovedest, you are mine! Don't try to deny it. We
have belonged to each other for always. You know it. You feel it. I have
seen the knowledge in your eyes, felt it flutter in your heart. Will you
marry me, Tony Holiday? You shall be loved as no woman was ever loved.
You shall be my queen. I will be true to you forever and ever, your
slave, your mate. Tony, Tony, say yes. You must!"
But Tony drew back from him, frightened, repulsed, shocked, by the
storm of his passion which shook him as mighty trees are shaken by
tempests. She shrank from the hungry fires in his eyes, from the
abandon and fierceness of his wooing. It was an alien, disturbing,
dreadful thing to her.
"Don't," she implored. "You mustn't love me like that, Alan. You
"How can I help it, sweetheart? I am no iceberg. I am a man and you are
the one woman in the world for me. I love you--love you. I want you. I'm
going to have you--make you mine--marry you, bell and book, what you
will, so long as you are mine--mine--mine."
Tony set down her basket, clasped her hands behind her and stood looking
straight up into his face.
"Listen, Alan. I cannot marry you. I couldn't, even if I loved you, and
I don't think I do love you, though you fascinate me and, when we are
dancing, I forget all the other things in you that I hate. I have been
very foolish and maybe unkind to let it go on so far. I didn't quite know
what I was doing. Girls don't know. That is why they play with men as
they do. They don't mean to be cruel. They just don't know."
"But you know now, my Tony?" His dark, stormy face was very close to
hers. Tony felt her heart leap but she did not flinch nor pull away
"Yes, Alan, I know, in a way, at least. We mustn't go on like this. It is
bad for us both. I'll tell Carlotta I am going home to-morrow."
"You want--to go away from me?" The haunting music of his voice, more
moving in its hurt than in its mastery of mood, stirred Tony Holiday
profoundly, but she steadied herself by a strong effort of will. She must
not let him sweep her away from her moorings. She must not. She must
remember Holiday Hill very hard.
"I have to, Alan," she said. "I am very sorry if I have hurt you, am
hurting you. But I can't marry you. That is final. The sooner we end
things the better."
"By God! It isn't final. It never will be so long as you and I are both
alive. You will come to me of your own accord. You will love me. You do
love me now. But you are letting the world come in between where it has
no right to come. I tell you you are mine--mine!"
"No, no!" denied Tony.
"And I say yes, my love. You are my love. I have set my seal upon you.
You can go away, back to your Hill, but you will not be happy without me.
You will never forget me for a waking moment. You cannot. You are a part
of me, forever."
There was something solemn, inexorable in Alan's tones. A strange fear
clutched at Tony's heart. Was he right? Could she never forget him?
Would he always be a part of her--forever? No, that was nonsense! How
could it be true? How could he have set his seal upon her when he had
never even kissed her? She would not let him hypnotize her into
believing his prophecy.
She stooped mechanically to pick up her roses and remembered the story
of Persephone gathering lilies in the vale of Enna and suddenly borne
off by the coal black horses of Dis to the dark kingdom of the lower
world. Was she Persephone? Had she eaten of the pomegranate seeds while
she danced night after night in Alan Massey's arms? No, she would not
believe it. She was free. She would exile Alan Massey from her heart and
life. She must.
This resolve was in her eyes as she lifted them to Alan's. The fire had
died out of his now, and his face was gray and drawn in the sunshine. His
mood had changed as his moods so often did swiftly.
"Forgive me, Tony," he said humbly. "I have troubled you, frightened you.
I am sorry. You needn't go away. I will go. I don't want to spoil one
moment of happiness for you. I never shall, except when the devil is in
me. Please try to remember that. Say always, 'Alan loves me. No matter
what he does or says, he loves me. His love is real, if nothing else
about him is.' You do believe that, don't you, dearest?" he pleaded.
"I do, Alan. I have always believed it, I think, ever since that first
night, though I have tried not to. I am very sorry though. Love--your
kind of love is a fearful thing. I am afraid of it."
"It is fearful, but beautiful too--very beautiful--like fire. Did you
ever think what a strange dual element fire is? It consumes--is a force
of destruction. But it also purifies, burns out dross. Love is like
that, my Tony. Mine for you may damn me forever, or it may take me to the
very gate of Heaven. I don't know myself which it will be."
As he spoke there was a strange kind of illumination on his face, a look
almost of spiritual exaltation. It awed Tony, bereft her of words. This
was a new Alan Massey--an Alan Massey she had never seen before, and she
found herself looking up instead of down at him.
He stooped and kissed her hand reverently, as a devotee might pay homage
at the shrine of a saint.
"I shall not see you again until to-night, Tony. I am going into town.
But I shall be back--for one more dance with you, heart's dearest. And
then I promise I will go away and leave you tomorrow. You will dance with
me, Tony--once? We shall have that one perfect thing to remember?"
Tony bowed assent. And in a moment she was alone with her roses.
That afternoon she shut herself in her room to write letters to the home
people whom she had neglected badly of late. Every moment had been so
full since she had come to Carlotta's. There had been so little time to
write and when she had written it had given little of what she was really
living and feeling--just the mere externals and not all of them, as she
was very well aware. They would never understand her relation with Alan.
They would disapprove, just as Dick had disapproved. Perhaps she did not
understand, herself, why she had let herself get so deeply entangled in
something which could not go on, something, which was the profoundest
folly, if nothing worse.
The morning had crystallized her fear of the growing complication of the
situation. She was glad Alan was going away, glad she had had the
strength of will to deny him his will, glad that she could now--after
to-night--come back into undisputed possession of the kingdom of herself.
But in her heart she was gladder that there was to-night and that one
last dance with Alan Massey before life became simple and sane and tame
again, and Alan and his wild love passed out of it forever.
She finished her letters, which were not very satisfactory after all.
How could one write real letters when one's pen was writing one thing
and one's thoughts were darting hither and thither about very different
business? She threw herself in the chaise longue, not yet ready to
dress and go down to join the others. There was nobody there she cared
to talk to, somehow. Alan was not there. Nobody else mattered. It had
come to that.
Idly she picked up a volume of verse that lay beside her on the table and
fluttered its pages, seeking something to meet her restless mood.
Presently in her vagrant seeking she chanced upon a little poem--a poem
she read and reread, twice, three times.
"For there is a flame that has blown too near,
And there is a name that has grown too dear,
And there is a fear.
And to the still hills and cool earth and far sky I make moan.
The heart in my bosom is not my own!
Oh, would I were free as the wind on wing!
Love is a terrible thing!"
Tony laid the book face down upon the table, still open at the little
verse. The shadows were growing long out there in the dusk. The late
afternoon sun was pale honey color. A soft little breeze stirred the
branches of a weeping willow tree and set them to swaying languorously.
Unseen birds twittered happily among the shrubbery. A golden butterfly
poised for a moment above the white holly hocks and then drifted off over
the flaming scarlet poppies and was lost to sight.
It was all so beautiful, so serene. She felt that it should have come
like a benediction, cooling the fever of her tired mind, but it did not.
It could not even drive the words of the poem out of her head.
Oh, would I were free as the wind on wing!
Love is a terrible thing!
From the North Station in Boston Alan Massey directed his course to a
small cigar store on Atlantic Avenue. A black eyed Italian lad in
attendance behind the counter looked up as he entered and surveyed him
with grave scrutiny.
"I am Mr. Massey," announced Alan. "Mr. Roberts is expecting me. I
"Jim's sick," said the boy briefly.
"I am sorry. I hope he is not too sick to see me."
"Naw, he'll see you. He wants to." The speaker motioned Alan to follow
him to the rear of the store. Together they mounted some narrow stairs,
passed through a hallway and into a bedroom, a disorderly, dingy,
obviously man-kept affair. On the bed lay a large framed, exceedingly
ugly looking man. His flesh was yellow and sagged loosely away from his
big bones. The impression he gave was one of huge animal bulk, shriveling
away in an unlovely manner, getting ready to disintegrate entirely. The
man was sick undoubtedly. Possibly dying. He looked it.
The door shut with a soft click. The two men were alone.
"Hello, Jim." Alan approached the bed. "Bad as this? I am sorry." He
spoke with the careless, easy friendliness he could assume when it
The man grinned, faintly, ironically. The grin did not lessen the
ugliness of his face, rather accentuated it.
"It's not so bad," he drawled. "Nothing but death and what's that? I
don't suffer much--not now. It's cancer, keeps gnawing away like a rat in
the wall. By and by it will get up to my heart and then it's good-by Jim.
I shan't care. What's life good for that a chap should cling to it like a
barnacle on a rock?"
"We do though," said Alan Massey.
"Oh, yes, we do. It's the way we're made. We are always clinging to
something, good or bad. Life, love, home, drink, power, money! Always
something we are ready to sell our souls to get or keep. With you and me
it was money. You sold your soul to me to keep money and I took it to
He laughed raucously and Alan winced at the sound and cursed the morbid
curiosity that had brought him to the bedside of this man who for three
years past had held his own future in his dirty hand, or claimed to hold
it. Alan Massey had paid, paid high for the privilege of not knowing
things he did not wish to know.
"What kind of a trail had you struck when you wired me, Massey? I didn't
know you were anxious for details about young John Massey's career I
thought you preferred ignorance. It was what you bought of me."
"I know it was," groaned Alan, dropping into a creaking rocker beside the
bed. "I am a fool. I admit it. But sometimes it seems to me I can't stand
not knowing. I want to squeeze what you know out of you as you would
squeeze a lemon until there was nothing left but bitter pulp. It is
driving me mad."
The sick man eyed the speaker with a leer of malicious satisfaction. It
was meat to his soul to see this lordly young aristocrat racked with
misery and dread, to hold him in his power as a cat holds a mouse, which
it can crush and crunch at any moment if it will. Alan Massey's mood
filled Jim Roberts with exquisite enjoyment, enjoyment such as a gourmand
feels on setting his teeth in some rare morsel of food.
"I know," he nodded. "It works like that often. They say a murderer can't
keep away from the scene of his crime if he is left at large. There is an
irresistible fascination to him about the spot where he damned his
"I'm not a criminal," snarled Alan. "Don't talk to me like that or you
will never see another cent of my money."
"Money!" sneered the sick man. "What's that to me now? I've lost my taste
for money. It is no good to me any more. I've got enough laid by to bury
me and I can't take the rest with me. Your money is nothing to me, Alan
Massey. But you'll pay still, in a different way. I am glad you came. It
is doing me good."
Alan made a gesture of disgust and got to his feet, pacing to and fro,
his face dark, his soul torn, between conflicting emotions.
"I'll be dead soon," went on the malicious, purring voice from the bed.
"Don't begrudge me my last fling. When I am in my grave you will be safe.
Nobody in the living world but me knows young John Massey's alive. You
can keep your money then with perfect ease of mind until you get to where
I am now and then,--maybe you will find out the money will comfort you no
longer, that nothing but having a soul can get you over the river."
The younger man's march came to a halt by the bedside.
"You shan't die until you tell me what you know about John Massey," he
"You're a fool," said James Roberts. "What you don't know you are not
responsible for--you can forget in a way. If you insist on hearing the
whole story you will never be able to get away from it to your dying day.
John Massey as an abstraction is one thing. John Massey as a live human
being, whom you have cheated out of a name and a fortune, is another."
"I never cheated him of a name. You did that."
The man grunted.
"Right. That is on my bill. Lord knows, I wish it wasn't. Little enough
did I ever get out of that particular piece of deviltry. I over-reached
myself, was a darned little bit too smart. I held on to the boy, thinking
I'd get more out of it later, and he slid out of my hands like an eel and
I had nothing to show for it, until you came along and I saw a chance to
make a new deal at your expense. You fell for it like a lamb to the
slaughter. I'll never forget your face when I told you John Massey was
alive and that I could produce him in a minute for the courts. If I had,
your name would have been Dutch, young man. You'd never have gotten a
look in on the money. You had the sense to see that. Old John died
without a will. His grandson and not his grand-nephew was his heir
provided anybody could dig up the fellow, and I was the boy that could do
that. I proved that to you, Alan Massey."
"You proved nothing. You scared me into handing you over a whole lot of
money, you blackmailing rascal, I admit that. But you didn't prove
anything. You showed me the baby clothes you said John Massey wore when
he was stolen. The name might easily enough have been stamped on the
linen later. You showed me a silver rattle marked 'John Massey.' The
inscription might also easily enough have been added later at a crook's
convenience. You showed me some letters purporting to have been written
by the woman who stole the child and was too much frightened by her crime
to get the gains she planned to win from it. The letters, too, might
easily have been forgery. The whole thing might have been a cock and bull
story, fabricated by a rotten, clever mind like yours, to apply the money
screw to me."
"True," chuckled Jim Roberts. "Quite true. I wondered at your credulity
at the time."
"You rat! So it was all a fake, a trap?"
"You would like to believe that, wouldn't you? You would like to have a
dying man's oath that there was nothing but a pack of lies to the whole
thing, blackmail of the crudest, most unsupportable variety?"
Alan bent over the man, shook his fist in the evil, withered old face.
"Damn you, Jim Roberts! Was it a lie or was it not?"
"Keep your hands off me, Alan Massey. It was the truth. Sarah Nelson did
steal the child just as I told you. She gave the child to me when she was
dying a few months later. I'll give my oath on that if you like."
Alan brushed his hand across his forehead, and sat down again limply in
the creaking rocker.
"Oh, you are willing to believe that again now, are you?" mocked Roberts.
"I've got to, I suppose. Go on. Tell me the rest. I've got to know. Did
you really make a circus brat of John Massey and did he really run away
from you? That is all you told me before, you remember."
"It was all you wanted to know. Besides," the man smiled his diabolical
grin again, "there was a reason for going light on the details. At the
time I held you up I hadn't any more idea than you had where John Massey
was, nor whether he was even alive. It was the weak spot in my armor.
But you were so panic stricken at the thought of having to give up your
gentleman's fortune that you never looked at the hollowness of the thing.
You could have bowled over my whole scheme in a minute by being honest
and telling me to bring on your cousin, John Massey. But you didn't. You
were only too afraid I would bring him on before you could buy me off. I
knew I could count on your being blind and rotten. I knew my man."
"Then you don't know now whether John Massey is alive or not?" Alan asked
after a pause during which he let the full irony of the man's confession
sink into his heart and turn there like a knife in a wound.
"That is where you're dead wrong. I do know. I made it my business to
find out. It was too important to have an invulnerable shield not to
patch up the discrepancy as early as possible. It took me a year to get
my facts and it cost a good chink of the filthy, but I got them. I not
only know that John Massey is alive but I know where he is and what he is
doing. I could send for him to-morrow, and cook your goose for you
forever, young man."
He pulled himself up on one elbow to peer into Alan's gloomy face.
"I may do it yet," he added. "You needn't offer me hush money. It's no
good to me, as I told you. I don't want money. I only want to pass the
time until the reaper comes along. You'll grant that it would be amusing
to me to watch the see-saw tip once more, to see you go down and your
cousin John come up."
Alan was on his feet again now, striding nervously from door to window
and back again. He had wanted to know. Now he knew. He had knowledge
bitter as wormwood. The man had lied before. He was not lying now.
"What made you send that wire? Were you on the track, too, trying to
find out on your own where your cousin is?"
"Not exactly. Lord knows I didn't want to know. But I had a queer hunch.
Some coincidences bobbed up under my nose that I didn't like the looks
of. I met a young man a few days ago that was about the age John would
have been, a chap with a past, who had run away from a circus. The thing
stuck in my crop, especially as there was a kind of shadowy resemblance
between us that people noticed."
"That is interesting. And his name?"
"He goes under the name of Carson--Richard Carson."
"The same. Good boy. You have succeeded in finding your cousin.
Congratulations!" he cackled maliciously.
"Then it really is he?"
"Not a doubt of it. He was taken up by a family named Holiday in Dunbury,
Massachusetts. They gave him a home, saw that he got some schooling,
started him on a country newspaper. He was smart, took to books, got
ahead, was promoted from one paper to another. He is on a New York daily
now, making good still, I'm told. Does it tally?"
Alan bowed assent. It tallied all too well. The lad he had insulted,
jeered at, hated with instinctive hate, was his cousin, John Massey, the
third, whom he had told the other was quite dead. John Massey was very
much alive and was the rightful heir to the fortune which Alan Massey was
spending as the heavens had spent rain yesterday.
It was worse than that. If the other was no longer nameless, had the
right to the same fine, old name that Alan himself bore, and had too
often disgraced, the barrier between him and Tony Holiday was swept
away. That was the bitterest drop in the cup. No wonder he hated
Dick--hated him now with a cumulative, almost murderous intensity. He had
mocked at the other, but how should he stand against him in fair field?
It was he--Alan Massey--that was the outcast, his mother a woman of
doubtful fame, himself a follower of false fires, his life ignoble,
wayward, erratic, unclean? Would it not be John rather than Alan Massey
Tony Holiday would choose, if she knew all? This ugly, venomous,
sin-scarred old rascal held his fate in the hollow of his evil old hand.
The other was watching him narrowly, evidently striving to follow
"Well?" he asked. "Going to beat me at my own game, give your
cousin his due?"
"Queer," mused the man. "A month ago I would have understood it. It would
have seemed sensible enough to hold on to the cold cash at any risk. Now
it looks different. Money is filthy stuff, man. It is what they put on
dead eye-lids to keep them down. Sometimes we put it on our own living
lids to keep us from seeing straight. You are sure the money's worth so
much to you, Alan Massey?"
The man's eyes burned livid, like coals. It was a strange and rather
sickening thing, Alan Massey thought, to hear him talk like this after
having lived the rottenest kind of a life, sunk in slime for years.
"The money is nothing to me," he flung back. "Not now. I thought it was
worth considerable when I drove that devilish bargain with you to keep
it. It has been worse than nothing, if you care to know. It killed my
art--the only decent thing about me--the only thing I had a right to take
honest pride in. John Massey might have every penny of it to-morrow for
all I care if that were all there were to it."
"What else is there?" probed the old man.
"None of your business," snarled Alan. Not for worlds would he have
spoken Tony Holiday's name in this spot, under the baleful gleam of those
The man chuckled maliciously.
"You don't need to tell me, I know. There's always a woman in it when a
man takes the path to Hell. Does she want money? Is that why you must
hang on to the filthy stuff?"
"She doesn't want anything except what I can't give her, thanks to you
and myself--the love of a decent man."
"I see. When we meet _the_ woman we wish we'd sowed fewer wild oats. I
went through that myself once. She was a white lily sort of girl and
I--well, I'd gone the pace long before I met her. I wasn't fit to touch
her and I knew it. I went down fast after that--nothing to keep me back.
Old Shakespeare says something somewhere about our pleasant vices beings
whips to goad us with. You and I can understand that, Alan Massey. We've
both felt the lash."
Alan made an impatient gesture. He did not care to be lumped with this
rotten piece of flesh lying there before him.
"I suppose you are wondering what my next move is," went on Roberts.
"I don't care."
"Oh yes, you do. You care a good deal. I can break you, Alan Massey, and
you know it."
"Go ahead and break and be damned if you choose," raged Alan.
"Exactly. As I choose. And I can keep you dancing on some mighty hot
gridirons before I shuffle off. Don't forget that, Alan Massey. And
there will be several months to dance yet, if the doctors aren't off
"Suit yourself. Don't hurry about dying on my account," said Alan with
A few moments later he was on his way back to the station. His universe
reeled. All he was sure was that he loved Tony Holiday and would fight to
the last ditch to win and keep her and that she would be in his arms
to-night for perhaps the last time. The rest was a hideous blur.
The evening was a specially gala occasion, with a dinner dance on, the
last big party before Tony went home to her Hill. The great ball room at
Crest House had been decorated with a network of greenery and crimson
rambler roses. A ruinous-priced, _de luxe_ orchestra had been brought
down from the city. The girls had saved their prettiest gowns and looked
their rainbow loveliest for the crowning event.
Tony was wearing an exquisite white chiffon and silver creation, with
silver slippers and a silver fillet binding her dark hair. Alan had sent
her some wonderful orchids tied with silver ribbon, and these she wore;
but no jewelry whatever, not even a ring. There was something
particularly radiant about her young loveliness that night. The young men
hovered about her like honey bees about a rose and at every dance they
cut in and cut in until her white and silver seemed to be drifting from
one pair of arms to another.
Tony was very gay and bountiful and impartial in her smiles and favors,
but all the time she waited, knowing that presently would come the one
dance to which there would be no cutting in, the dance that would make
the others seem nothing but shadows.
By and by the hour struck. She saw Alan leave his place by the window
where he had been moodily lounging, saw him come toward her, taller
than any man in the room, distinguished--a king among the rest, it
seemed to Tony, waiting, longing for his coming? yet half dreading it,
too. For the sooner he came, the sooner it must all end. She was with
Hal at the moment, waiting for the music to begin, but as Alan
approached she turned to her companion with a quick appeal in her eyes
and a warm flush on her cheeks.
"I am sorry, Hal," she said, low in his ear. "But this is Alan's. He is
going away to-morrow. Forgive me."
Hal turned, stared at Alan Massey, turned back to Tony, bowed and
"Hanged if there isn't something magnificent about the fellow," he
thought. "No matter how you detest him there is something about him that
gets you. I wonder how far he has gone with Tony. Gee! It's a rotten
combination. But Lordy! How they can dance--those two!"
Never as long as she lived was Tony Holiday to forget that dance with
Alan Massey. As a musician pours himself into his violin, as a poet puts
his soul into his sonnet, as a sculptor chisels his dream in marble, so
her companion flung his passion and despair and imploring into his
dancing. They forgot the others, forgot everything but themselves. They
might have been dancing alone on the top of Olympus for all either knew
or cared for the rest of the world.
It was Alan, not Tony, who brought it to an end, however. He whispered
something in the girl's ear and their feet paused. In a moment he was
holding open the French window for her to pass out into the night. The
white and silver vanished like a cloud. Alan Massey followed. The window
swung shut again. The music stopped abruptly as if now its inspiration
had come to an end. A single note of a violin quivered off into silence
after the others, like the breath of beauty itself passing.
Carlotta and her aunt happened to be standing near each other. The girl's
eyes were troubled. She wished Alan had not come back at all from the
city. She hoped he really intended to go away to-morrow as he had told
her. More than all she hoped she was right in believing that Tony had
refused to marry him. Like Dick, Carlotta had reverence for the Holiday
tradition. She could not bear to think of Tony's marrying Alan. She felt
woefully responsible for having brought the two together.
"Did you say he was going to-morrow?" asked her aunt.
"He won't go," prophesied Miss Cressy.
"Oh, yes. I think he will. I don't know for certain but I have an idea
she refused him this morning."
"Ah, but that was this morning. Things look very different by star light.
That child ought not to be out there with him. She is losing her head."
"Aunt Lottie! Alan is a gentleman," demurred Carlotta.
Miss Lottie smiled satirically. Her smile repeated Ted Holiday's verdict
that some gentlemen were rotters.
"You forget, my dear, that I knew Alan Massey when you and Tony were in
short petticoats and pigtails. You can't trust too much to his
"Of course, I know he isn't a saint," admitted Carlotta. "But you don't
understand. It is real with Alan this time. He really cares. It isn't
just--just the one thing."
"It is always the one thing with Alan Massey's kind. I know what I am
talking about, Carlotta. He was a little in love with me once. I dare say
we both thought it was different at the time. It wasn't. It was pretty
much the same thing. Don't cherish any romantic notions about love,
Carlotta. There isn't any love as you mean it."
"Oh yes, there is," denied Carlotta suddenly, a little fiercely.
"There is love, but most of us aren't--aren't worthy of it. It is too
big for us. That is why we get the cheap _little_ stuff. It is all we
are fit for."
Miss Carlotta stared at her niece. But before she could speak Hal
Underwood had claimed the latter for a dance.
"H--m!" she mused looking after the two. "So even Carlotta isn't immune.
I wonder who he was."
Meanwhile, out in the garden Tony and Alan had strayed over to the
fountain, just as they had that first evening after that first dance.
"Tony, belovedest, let me speak. Listen to me just once more. You do love
me. Don't lie to me with your lips when your eyes told me the truth in
there. You are mine, mine, my beautiful, my love--all mine."
He drew her into his arms, not passionately but gently. It was his
gentleness that conquered. A storm of unrestrained emotion would have
driven her away from him, but his sudden quiet strength and tenderness
melted her last reservation. She gave her lips unresisting to his kiss.
And with that kiss, desire of freedom and all fear left her. For the
moment, at least, love was all and enough.
"Tony, my belovedest," he whispered. "Say it just once. Tell me you love
me." It was the old, old plea, but in Tony's ears it was immortally new.
"I love you, Alan. I didn't want to. I have fought it all along as you
know. But it was no use. I do love you."
"My darling! And I love you. You don't know how I love you. It is like
suddenly coming out into sunshine after having lived in a cave all my
life. Will you marry me to-morrow, _carissima_?"
But she drew away from his arms at that.
"Alan, I can't marry you ever. I can only love you."
"Why not? You must, Tony!" The old masterfulness leaped into his voice.
"I cannot, Alan. You know why."
She lifted her eyes to his and in their clear depths he saw reflected his
own willful, stained, undisciplined past. He bowed his head in real shame
and remorse. Nothing stood between himself and Antoinette Holiday but
himself. He had sown the wind. He reaped the whirlwind.
After a moment he looked up again. He made no pretence of
misunderstanding her meaning.
"You couldn't forgive?" he pleaded brokenly. Gone was the royal-willed
Alan Massey. Only a beggar in the dust remained.
"Yes, Alan. I could forgive. I do now. I think I can understand how such
things can be in a man's life though it would break my heart to think Ted
or Larry were like that. But you never had a chance. Nobody ever helped
you to keep your eyes on the stars."
"They are there now," he groaned. "You are my star, Tony, and stars are
very, very far away from the like of me," he echoed Carlotta's phrase.
For almost the first time in his life humility possessed him. Had he
known it, it lifted him higher in Tony's eyes than all his arrogance and
conceit of power had ever done.
Gently she slid her hand into his.
"I don't feel far away, Alan. I feel very near. But I can't marry
you--not now anyway. You will have to prove to them all--to me, too--that
you are a man a Holiday might be proud to marry. I could forget the
past. I think I could persuade Uncle Phil and the rest to forget it, too.
They are none of them self-righteous Puritans. They could understand,
just as I understand, that a man might fall in battle and carry scars of
defeat, but not be really conquered. Alan, tell me something. It isn't
easy to ask but I must. Are the things I have to forget far back in the
past or--nearer? I know they go back to Paris days, the days Miss Lottie
belongs to. Oh, yes," as he started at that. "I guessed that. You mustn't
blame her. She was merely trying to warn me. She meant it for my good,
not to be spiteful and not because she still cares, though I think she
does. And I know there are things that belong to the time after your
mother died, and you didn't care what you did because you were so
unhappy. But are they still nearer? How close are they, Alan?"
He shook his head despairingly.
"I wish I could lie to you, Tony. I can't. They are too close to be
pleasant to remember. But they never will be again. I swear it. Can you
"I shall have to believe it--be convinced of it before I could marry
you. I can't marry you, not being certain of you, just because my heart
beats fast when you come near me, because I love your voice and your
kisses and would rather dance with you than to be sure of going to
Heaven. Marriage is a world without end business. I can't rush into it
blindfold. I won't."
"You don't love me as I love you or you couldn't reason so coldly about
it," he reproached. "You would go blindfold anywhere--to Hell itself
even, with me."
"I don't know, Alan. I could let myself go. While we were dancing in
there I am afraid I would have been willing to go even as far as you say
with you. But out here in the star-light I am back being myself. I want
to make my life into something clean and sweet and fine. I don't want to
let myself be driven to follow weak, selfish, rash impulses and do things
that will hurt other people and myself. I don't want to make my people
sorry. They are dearer than any happiness of my own. They would not let
me marry you now, even if I wished it. If I did what you want and what
maybe something in me wants too--run off and marry you tomorrow without
their consent--it would break their hearts and mine, afterward when I had
waked up to what I had done. Don't ask me, dear. I couldn't do it."
"But what will you do, Tony? Won't you marry me ever?" Alan's tone was
helpless, desolate. He had run up against a power stronger than any he
had ever wielded, a force which left him baffled.
"I don't know. It will depend upon you. A year from now, if you still
want me and I am still free, if you can come to me and tell me you have
lived for twelve months as a man who loves a woman ought to live, I will
marry you if I love you enough; and I think--I am sure, I shall, for I
love you very much this minute."
"A year! Tony, I can't wait a year for you. I want you now." Alan's tone
was sharp with dismay. He was not used to waiting for what he desired. He
had taken it on the instant, as a rule, and as a rule, his takings had
been dust and ashes as soon as they were in his hands.
"You cannot have me, Alan. You can never have me unless you earn the
right to win me--straight. Understand that once for all. I will not marry
a weakling. I will marry--a conquerer--perhaps."
"You mean that, Tony?"
"Then, by God, I'll be a conquerer!" he boasted.
"I hope you will. Oh, my dear, my dear! It will break my heart if you
fail. I love you." And suddenly Tony was clinging to him, just a woman
who cared, who wanted her lover, even as he wanted her. But in a
breath she pulled herself away. "Take me in, Alan, now," she said.
"Kiss me once before we go. I shall not see you in the morning. This
is really good-by."
Later, Carlotta, coming in to say goodnight to Tony, found the latter
sitting in front of the mirror brushing out her abundant red-brown hair
and noticed how very scarlet her friend's cheeks were and what a
tell-tale shining glory there was in her eyes.
"It was a lovely party," announced Tony casually, unaware how much
Carlotta had seen over her shoulder in the mirror.
"Tony, are you in love with Alan Massey?" demanded Carlotta.
Tony whirled around on the stool, her cheeks flying deeper crimson
banners at this unexpected challenge.
"I am afraid I am, Carlotta," she admitted. "It is rather a mess,
Carlotta groaned and dropping into a chaise lounge encircled her knees
with her arms, staring with troubled eyes at her guest.
"A mess? I should say it was--worse than a mess--a catastrophe. You know
what Alan is--isn't--" She floundered off into silence.
"Oh, yes," said Tony, the more tranquil of the two. "I know what he is
and isn't, better than most people, I think. I ought to. But I love him.
I just discovered it to-night, or rather it is the first time I ever let
myself look straight at the fact. I think I have known it from the
"But Tony! You won't marry him. You can't. Your people will never let
you. They oughtn't to let you."
Tony shook back her wavy mane of hair, sent it billowing over her
rose-colored satin kimono.
"It don't matter if the whole world won't let me. If I decide to marry
Alan I shall do it."
There was shocked consternation in Carlotta's tone and Tony relenting
burst into a low, tremulous little laugh.
"Don't worry, Carlotta. I'm not so mad as I sound. I told Alan he would
have to wait a year. He has to prove to me he is--worth loving."
"But you are engaged?" Carlotta was relieved, but not satisfied.
Tony shook her head.
"Absolutely not. We are both free as air--technically. If you were in
love yourself you would know how much that amounts to by way of freedom."
Carlotta's golden head was bowed. She did not answer her friend's
implication that she could not be expected to comprehend the delicate,
invisible, omnipotent shackles of love.
"Don't tell anyone, Carlotta, please. It is our secret--Alan's and mine.
Maybe it will always he a secret unless he--measures up."
"You are not going to tell your uncle?"
"There is nothing to tell yet."
"And I suppose this is the end of poor Dick."
"Don't be silly, Carlotta. Dick never said a word of love to me in
"That doesn't mean he doesn't think 'em. You have convenient eyes, Tony
darling. You see only what you wish to see."
"I didn't want to see Alan's love. I tried dreadfully hard not to. But it
set up a fire in my own house and blazed and smoked until I had to do
something about it. See here, Carlotta. I'd like to ask you a question or
two. You are not really going to marry Herbert Lathrop, are you?"
A queer little shadow, almost like a veil, passed over Carlotta's face at
this counter charge.
"Why not?" she parried.
"You know why not. He is exactly what Hal Underwood calls him, a poor
fish. He is as close to being a nonentity as anything I ever saw."
"Precisely why I selected him," drawled Carlotta. "I've got to marry
somebody and poor Herbert hasn't a vice except his excess of virtue. We
can't have another old maid in the family. Aunt Lottie is a shining
example of what to avoid. I am not going to be 'Lottie the second' I have
decided on that."
"As if you could," protested Tony indignantly.
"Oh, I could. You look at Aunt Lottie's pictures of fifteen years ago.
She was just as pretty as I am. She had loads of lovers but somehow they
all slipped through her fingers. She has been sex-starved. She ought to
have married and had children. I don't want to be a hungry spinster. They
are infernally miserable."
"Carlotta!" Tony was a little shocked at her friend's bluntness, a
little puzzled as to what lay behind her arguments. "You don't have to
be a hungry spinster. There are other men besides Herbert that want to
"Certainly. Some of them want to marry my money. Some of them want to
marry my body. I grant you Herbert is a poor fish in some ways, but at
least he wants to marry me, myself, which is more than the others do."
"That isn't true. Hal Underwood wants to marry you, yourself."
"Oh, Hal!" conceded Carlotta. "I forgot him for a moment. You are right.
He is real--too real. I should hurt him marrying him and not caring
enough. That is why a nonentity is preferable. It doesn't know what it
is missing. Hal would know."
"But there is no reason why you shouldn't wait until you find somebody
you could care for," persisted Tony.
"That is all you know about it, my dear. There is the best reason in the
world. I found him--and lost him."
"Carlotta--is it Phil?"
Carlotta sprang up and went over to the window. She took the rose she had
been wearing, in her hands and deliberately pulled it apart letting the
petals drift one by one out into the night. Then she turned back to Tony.
"Don't ask questions, Tony. I am not going to talk." But she lingered a
moment beside her friend. "You and I, Tony darling, don't seem to have
very much luck in love," she murmured. "I hope you will be happy with
Alan, if you do marry him. But happiness isn't exactly necessary. There
are other things--" She broke off and began again. "There are other
things in a man's life besides love. Somebody said that to me once and I
believe it is true. But there isn't so much besides that matters much to
a woman. I wish there were. I hate love." And pressing a rare kiss on her
friend's cheek Carlotta vanished for the night.
Meanwhile Alan Massey smoked and thought and cursed the past that had him
in its hateful toils. Like the guilty king in Hamlet, his soul,
"struggling to be free" was "but the more engaged." He honestly desired
to be worthy of Tony Holiday, to stand clear in her eyes, but he did not
want it badly enough, to the "teeth and forehead of his faults to give in
evidence." He did not want to bare the one worst plague spot of all and
run the risk not only of losing Tony himself but perhaps also of clearing
the way to her for his cousin, John Massey. Small wonder he smoked gall
and wormwood in his cigarettes that night.
And far away in the heat and grime and din of the great city, Dick Carson
the nameless, who was really John Massey and heir to a great fortune, sat
dreaming over a girl's picture, telling himself that Tony must care a
little to have gotten up in the silver gray of the morning to see him off
so kindly. Happily for the dreamer's peace of mind he had no means of
knowing that that very night, in the starlit garden by the sea, Tony
Holiday had taken upon herself the mad and sad and glad bondage of love.
ON THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE
Tony, getting off the train at Dunbury on Saturday, found her brothers
waiting for her with the car, and the kiddies on the back seat, "for
ballast" as Ted said. With one quick apprizing glance the girl took in
the two young men.
Ted was brown and healthy looking, clear-eyed, steady-nerved, for once,
without the inevitable cigarette in his mouth. He was oddly improved
somehow, his sister thought, considering how short a time she had been
away from the Hill. She noticed also that he drove the car much less
recklessly than was his wont, took no chances on curves, slid by no
vehicles at hair-breadth space, speeded not at all, and though he kept
up a running fire of merry nonsense, had his eye on the road as he
drove. So far so good. That spill out on the Florence road wasn't all
loss, it seemed.
Larry was more baffling. He was always quiet. He was quieter than ever
to-day. There was something in his gray eyes which spelled trouble, Tony
thought. What was it? Was he worried about a case? Was Granny worse? Was
Ted in some scrape? Something there certainly was on his mind. Tony was
sure of that, though she could not conjecture what.
The Holidays had an almost uncanny way of understanding things about each
other, things which sometimes never rose to the surface at all. Perhaps
it was that they were so close together in sympathy that a kind of small
telepathic signal registered automatically when anything was wrong with
any of them. So far as her brothers were concerned Tony's intuition was
all but infallible.
She found the family gift a shade disconcerting, a little later, when
after her uncle kissed her he held her off at arm's length and studied
her face. Tony's eyes fell beneath his questioning gaze. For almost the
first time in her life she had a secret to keep from him if she could.
"What have they been doing to my little girl?" he asked. "They have taken
away her sunshininess."
"Oh, no, they haven't," denied Tony quickly. "It is just that I am tired.
We have been on the go all the time and kept scandalously late hours.
I'll be all right as soon as I have caught up. I feel as if I could sleep
for a century and any prince who has the effrontery to wake me up will
She laughed, but even in her own ears the laughter did not sound quite
natural and she was sure Uncle Phil thought the same, though he asked no
"It is like living in a palace being at Crest House," she went on. "I've
played princess to my heart's content--been waited on and feted and
flirted with until I'm tired to death of it all and want to be just plain
She slid into her uncle's arms with a weary little sigh. It was good--oh
so good--to have him again! She hadn't known she had missed him so until
she felt the comfort of his presence. In his arms Alan Massey and all he
stood for seemed very far away.
"Got letters for you this morning," announced Ted. "I forgot to give them
to you." He fished the aforesaid letters out of his pocket and examined
them before handing them over. "One is from Dick--the other"--he held the
large square envelope off and squinted at it teasingly. "Some scrawl!"
he commented. "Reckless display of ink and flourishes, I call it. Who's
Tony snatched the letters, her face rosy.
"Give me Dick's. I haven't heard from him but once since he went back to
New York and that was just a card. Oh-h! Listen everybody. The Universal
has accepted his story and wants him to do a whole series of them. Oh,
isn't that just wonderful?"
Tony's old sparkles were back now. There were no reservations necessary
here. Everybody knew and loved Dick and would be glad as she was herself
in his success.
"Hail to Dicky Dumas!" she added, gaily waving the letter aloft. "I
always knew he would get there. And that was the very story he read me.
Wasn't it lucky I liked it really? If I hadn't, and it had turned out to
be good, wouldn't it have been awful?"
Everybody laughed at that and perhaps nobody but the doctor noticed that
the other letter in the unfamiliar handwriting was tucked away very
quickly out of sight in her bag and no comments made.
It was not until Tony had gone the rounds of the household and greeted
everyone from Granny down to Max that she read Alan's letter, as she sat
curled up in the cretonned window seat, just as the little girl Tony had
been wont to sit and devour love stories. This was a love story, too--her
own and with a sadly complicated plot at that.
It was the first letter she had had from Alan and she found it very
wonderful and exciting reading. It was brimming over, as might have been
expected, with passionate lover's protests and extravagant endearments
which Tony could not have imagined her Anglo-Saxon relatives or friends
even conceiving, let alone putting on paper. But Alan was different.
These things were no affectation with him, but natural as breathing, part
and parcel of his personality. She could hear him now say "_carissima_"
in that low, deep-cadenced, musical voice of his and the word seemed very
sweet and beautiful to her as it sang in her heart and she read it in the
dashing script upon the paper.
He was desolated without her, he wrote. Nothing was worth while. Nothing
interested him. He was refusing all invitations, went nowhere. He just
sat alone in the studio and dreamed about her or made sketches of her
from memory. She was everywhere, all about him. She filled the studio
with her voice, her laughter, her wonderful eyes. But oh, he was so
lonely, so unutterably lonely without her. Must he really wait a whole
year before he made her his? A year was twelve long, long months.
Anything could happen in a year. One of them might die and the other
would go frustrate and lonely forever, like a sad wind in the night.
Tony caught her breath quickly at that sentence. The poetry of it
captivated her fancy, the dread of what it conjured clutched like cold
hands at her heart. She wanted Alan now, wanted love now. Already those
dear folks downstairs were beginning to seem like ghosts, she and Alan
the only real people. What if he should die, what if something should
happen to keep them forever apart, how could she bear it? How could she?
She turned back to her letter which had turned into an impassioned plea
that she would never forsake him, no matter what happened, never drive
him over the precipice like the Gadderene swine.
"You and your love are the only thing that can save me, dear heart," he
wrote. "Remember that always. Without you I shall go down, down into
blacker pits than I ever sank before. With you I shall come out into the
light. I swear it. But oh, beloved, pray for me, if you know how to pray.
I don't. I never had a god."
There were tears in Tony's eyes as she finished her lover's letter.
His unwonted humility touched her as no arrogance could ever have
done. His appeal to his desperate need moved her profoundly as such
appeals will always move woman. It is an old tale and one oft
repeated. Man crying out at a woman's feet, "Save me! Save me! Myself
I cannot save!" Woman, believing, because she longs to believe it,
that salvation lies in her power, taking on herself the all but
impossible mission for love's high sake.
Tony Holiday believed, as all the million other women have believed since
time began, that she could save her lover, loved him tenfold the more
because he threw himself upon her mercy, came indeed perhaps to truly
love him for the first time now with a kind of consecrated fervor which
belonged all to the spirit even as the love that had come to her while
they danced had belonged rather to the flesh.
* * * * *
And day by day Jim Roberts grew sicker and the gnawing thing crept up
nearer to his heart. Day by day he gloated over the goading whips he
brandished over Alan Massey's head, amused himself with the various
developments it lay in his power to give to the situation as he passed
out of life.
He wrote two letters from his sick bed. The first one was addressed to
Dick Carson, telling the full story of his own and Alan Massey's share in
the deliberate defraudment of that young man of his rightful name and
estate. It pleased him to read and reread this letter and to reflect that
when it was mailed Alan Massey would drink the full cup of disgrace and
exposure while he who was infinitely guiltier would be sleeping very
quietly in a cool grave where hate, nor vengeance, nor even pity could
The other letter, which like the first he kept unmailed, was a less
honest and less incriminating letter, filled with plausible half truths,
telling how he had just become aware at last through coming into
possession of some old letters of the identity of the boy he had once had
in his keeping and who had run away from him, an identity which he now
hastened to reveal in the interests of tardy justice. The letter made no
mention of Alan Massey nor of the unlovely bargain he had driven with
that young man as the price of silence and the bliss of ignorance. It was
addressed to the lawyers who handled the Massey estate.
Roberts had followed up various trails and discovered that Antoinette
Holiday was the girl Massey loved, discovered through the bribing of a
Crest House servant, that the young man they called Carson was also
presumably in love with the girl whose family had befriended him so
generously in his need. It was incredibly good he thought. He could
hardly have thought out a more diabolically clever plot if he had tried.
He could make Alan Massey writhe trebly, knowing these things.
Pursuing his malignant whim he wrote to Alan Massey and told him of the
existence of the two letters, as yet unmailed, in his table drawer. He
made it clear that one of the letters damned Alan Massey utterly while
the other only robbed him of his ill-gotten fortune, made it clear also
that he himself did not know which of the two would be mailed in the end,
possibly he would decide it by a flip of a coin. Massey could only wait
and see what happened.
"I suppose you think the girl is worth going to Hell for, even if the
money isn't," he had written. "Maybe she is. Some women are, perhaps. But
don't forget that if she loves you, you will be dragging her down there
too. Pretty thought, isn't it? I don't mean any future-life business
either. That's rot. I heard enough of that when I was a boy to sicken me
of it forever. It is the here and now Hell a man pays for his sins with,
and that is God's truth, Alan Massey."
And Alan, sitting in his luxurious studio reading the letter, crushed
it in his hands and groaned aloud. He needed no commentary on the "here
and now Hell" from Jim Roberts. He was living it those summer days if
ever a man did.
It wasn't the money now. Alan told himself he no longer cared for that,
hated it in fact. It was Tony now, all Tony, and the horrible fear lest
Roberts betray him and shut the gates of Paradise upon him forever.
Sometimes in his agony of fear he could almost have been glad to end it
all with one shot of the silver-mounted automatic he kept always near, to
beat Jim Roberts to the bliss of oblivion in the easiest way.
But Alan Massey had an incorrigible belief in his luck. Just as he had
hoped, until he had all but believed, that his cousin John was as dead as
he had told that very person he was, so now he hoped against all reason
that he would be saved at the eleventh hour, that Roberts would go to his
death carrying with him the secret that would destroy himself if it
ceased to be a secret.
Those unmailed letters haunted him, however, day and night, so much so,
in fact, that he took a journey to Boston one day and sought out the
little cigar store again. But this time he had not mounted the stairs.
His business was with the black-eyed boy. With one fifty dollar bill he
bought the lad's promise to destroy the letters and the packet in
Robert's drawer in the event of the latter's death; secured also the
promise that if at any time before his death Roberts gave orders that
either letter should be mailed, the boy would send the same not to the
address on the envelope but to Alan Massey. If the boy kept faith with
his pledges there would be another fifty coming to him after the death of
the man. He bought the lad even as Roberts had once bought himself. It
was a sickening transaction but it relieved his mind considerably and
catered in a measure to that incorrigible hope within him.
But he paid a price too. Fifty miles away from Boston was Tony Holiday on
her Heaven kissing hill. He was mad to go to her but dared not, lest this
fresh corruption in some way betray itself to her clear gaze.
So he went back to New York without seeing her and Tony never knew he had
been so near.
And that night Jim Roberts took an unexpected turn for the worse and
died, foiled of that last highly anticipated spice of malice in flipping
the coin that was to decide Alan Massey's fate.
In the end the boy had not had the courage to destroy the letters as he
had promised to do. Instead he sent them both, together with the packet
of evidence as to John Massey's identity, to Alan Massey.
The thing was in Alan's own hands at last. Nothing could save or destroy
him but himself. And by a paradox his salvation depended upon his being
strong enough to bring himself to ruin.
IN WHICH PHIL GETS HIS EYES OPENED
At home on her Hill Tony Holiday settled down more or less happily after
her eventful sally into the great world. To the careless observer she was
quite the same Tony who went down the Hill a few weeks earlier. If at
times she was unusually quiet, had spells of sitting very still with
folded hands and far away dreams in her eyes, if she crept away by
herself to read the long letters that came so often, from many addresses
but always in the same bold, beautiful script and to pen long answers to
these; if she read more poetry than was her wont and sang love songs with
a new, exquisite, but rather heart breaking timbre in her lovely
contralto voice, no one paid much attention to these signs except
possibly Doctor Philip who saw most things. He perceived regretfully that
his little girl was slipping away from him, passing through some
experience that was by no means all joy or contentment and which was
making her grow up all too fast. But he said nothing, quietly bided the
hour of confidence which he felt sure would come sooner or later.
Tony puzzled much over the complexities of life these days, puzzled over
other things beside her own perverse romance. Carlotta too was much on
her mind. She wished she could wave a magic wand and make things come
right for these two friends of hers who were evidently made for each
other as Hal had propounded. She wondered if Phil were as unhappy as
Carlotta was and meant to find out in her own time and way.
She had seen almost nothing of him since her return to the Hill. He was
working very hard in the store and never appeared at any of the little
dances and picnics and teas with which the Dunbury younger set passed
away the summer days and nights, and which Ted and the twins and usually
Tony herself frequented. Larry never did. He hated things of that sort.
But Phil was different. He had always liked fun and parties and had
always been on hand and in great demand hitherto at every social function
from a Ladies' Aid strawberry festival to a grand Masonic ball. It wasn't
natural for Phil to shut himself out of things like that. It was a bad
sign Tony thought.
At any rate she determined to find out for herself how the land lay if
she could. Having occasion to do some shopping she marched down the Hill
and presented herself at Stuart Lambert and Son's, demanding to be served
by no less a person than Philip himself.
"I want a pair of black satin pumps with very frivolous heels," she
announced. "Produce them this instant, slave." She smiled at Phil and he
smiled back. He and Tony had always been the best of chums.
"Cannzy ones?" he laughed. "That's what one of our customers calls them."
And while he knelt before her with an array of shoe boxes around him,
fitting a dainty slipper on Tony's pretty foot, Tony herself looked not
at the slipper but at Philip, studying his face shrewdly. He looked
older, graver. There was less laughter in his blue eyes, a grimmer line
about his young mouth. Poor Phil! Evidently Carlotta wasn't the only one
who was paying the price of too much loving. Tony made up her mind to
rush in, though she knew it might be a case for angel hesitation.
"I've never given you a message Hal Underwood sent you," she observed
Philip looked up surprised.
"Hal Underwood! What message did he send me? I hardly know him."
"He seemed to know you rather well. He told me to tell you to come down
and marry Carlotta, that you were the only man that could keep her in
order. That is too big, Phil. Try a smaller one." The speaker kicked off
the offending slipper. Philip mechanically picked it up and replaced it
in the box.
"That is rather a queer message," he commented. "I had an idea Underwood
wanted to marry Carlotta himself. Try this." He reached for another pump.
His eyes were lowered so Tony could not see them. She wished she could.
"He does," she said. "She won't have him."
"Is--is there--anybody she is likely to have?" The words jerked out as
the young man groped for the shoe horn which was almost beside his hand
but which apparently he did not see at all.
"I am afraid she is likely to take Herbert Lathrop unless somebody
stops her by main force. Why don't you play Lochinvar yourself, Phil?
Philip looked straight up at Tony then, the slipper forgotten in his
"Tony, do you mean that?" he asked.
"I certainly do. Make her marry you, Phil. It is the only way with
"I don't want to _make_ any girl marry me," he said.
"Oh, hang your silly pride, Phil Lambert! Carlotta wants to marry you I
tell you though she would murder me if she knew I did tell you."
"Maybe she does. But she doesn't want to live in Dunbury. I've good
reason to know that. We thrashed it out rather thoroughly on the top of
Mount Tom last June. She hasn't changed her mind."
Tony sighed. She was afraid Phil was right. Carlotta hadn't changed her
mind. Was it because she was afraid she might, that she was determining
to marry Herbert?
"And you can't leave Dunbury?" she asked soberly.
Just at that moment Stuart Lambert approached, a tall fine looking man,
with the same blue eyes and fresh coloring as his son and brown hair only
slightly graying around the temples. He had an air of vigor and ageless
youth. Indeed a stranger might easily have taken the two men for brothers
instead of father and son.
"Hello, Tony, my dear," he greeted cordially. "It is good to see you
round again. We have missed you. This boy of mine getting you what
"He is trying," smiled Tony. "A woman doesn't always know what she wants,
Mr. Lambert. The store is wonderful since it was enlarged and I see lots
of other improvements too." Her eyes swept her surroundings with sincere
"Make your bow to Phil for all that. It is good to get fresh brains into
a business. We old fogies need jerking out of our ruts."
The older man's eyes fell upon Phil's bowed head and Tony realized how
much it meant to him to have his son with him at last, pulling shoulder
"New brains nothing!" protested Phil. "Dad's got me skinned going and
coming for progressiveness. As for old fogies he's the youngest man I
know. Make all your bows to him, Tony. It is where they belong." And Phil
got to his feet and himself made a solemn obeisance in Stuart Lambert's
Mr. Lambert chuckled.
"Phil was always a blarney," he said. "Don't know where he got it.
Don't you believe a word he says, my dear." But Tony saw he was
immensely pleased with Phil's tribute for all that. "How do you like
the sign?" he asked.
"Fine. Looks good to me and I know it does to you, Mr. Lambert."
"Well, rather." The speaker rested his hand on Phil's shoulder a moment.
"I tell you it _is_ good, young lady, to have the son part added, worth
waiting for. I'm mighty proud of that sign. Between you and me, Miss
Tony, I'm proud of my son too."
"Who is blarneying now?" laughed Phil. "Go on with you, Dad. You are
spoiling my sale."
The father chuckled again and moved away. Phil looked down at the girl.
"I think your question is answered. I can't leave Dunbury," he said.
"Then Carlotta ought to come to you."
"There are no oughts in Carlotta's bright lexicon. I don't blame her,
Tony. Dunbury is a dead hole from most points of view. I am afraid she
wouldn't be happy here. You wouldn't be yourself forever. Bet you are
planning to get away right now."
Tony nodded ruefully.
"I suppose I am, Phil. The modern young woman isn't much to pin one's
faith to I am afraid. Do I get another slipper? Or is one enough?"
Phil came back from his mental aberration with a start and a grin at his
"I am afraid I am not a very good salesman today," he apologized.
"Honestly I do better usually but you hit me in a vulnerable spot."
"You do care for Carlotta then?" probed Tony.
"Care! I'm crazy over her. I'd go on my hands and knees to Crest House if
I thought I could get her to marry me by doing it."
"You would much better go by train--the next one. That's my advice. Are
you coming to Sue Emerson's dance? That is why I am buying slippers. You
can dance with 'em if you'll come."
"Sorry. I don't go to dances any more."
"That is nonsense, Phil. It is the worst thing in the world for you to
make a hermit of yourself. No girl's worth it. Besides there are other
girls besides Carlotta."
Phil shook his head as he finished replacing Tony's trim brown oxfords.
"Unfortunately that isn't true for me," he said rising. "At present my
world consists of myself bounded, north, south, east and west by
And Tony passing out under the sign of STUART LAMBERT AND SON a few
minutes later sighed a little. Here was Carlotta with a real man for the
taking and too stubborn and foolish to put out her hand and here was
herself, Tony Holiday, tying herself all up in a strange snarl for the
sake of somebody who wasn't a man at all as Holiday Hill standards ran.
What queer creatures women were!
Other people besides Tony were inclined to score Phil's folly in making a
hermit of himself. His sisters attacked him that very night on the
subject of Sue Emerson's dance and accused him of being a "Grumpy
Grandpa" and a grouch and various other uncomplimentary things when he
announced that he wasn't going to attend the function.
"I'm the authentic T.B.M.," he parried from his perch on the porch
railing. "I've cut out dancing."
"More idiot you!" retorted Charley promptly. "Mums, do tell Phil it is
all nonsense making such an oyster in a shell of himself."
Mrs. Lambert smiled and looked up at her tall young son, looked rather
hard for a moment.
"I think the twins are right, Phil," she said. "You are working too hard.
You don't allow yourself any relaxation."
"Oh, yes I do. Only my idea of relaxation doesn't happen to coincide with
the twins. Dancing in this sort of weather with your collar slumping and
the perspiration rolling in tidal waves down your manly brow doesn't
strike me as being a particularly desirable diversion."
"H-mp!" sniffed Charley. "You didn't object to dancing last summer when
it was twice as hot. You went to a dance almost every night when Carlotta
was visiting Tony. You know you did."
"I wasn't a member of the esteemed firm of Stuart Lambert and Son last
summer. A lily of the field can afford to dance all night. I'm a working
man I'd have you know."
"Well, I think you might come just this once to please us," joined in
Clare, the other twin. "You are a gorgeous dancer, Phil. I'd rather have
a one step with you than any man I know." Clare always beguiled where
Charley bullied, a method much more successful in the long run as Charley
sometimes grudgingly admitted after the fact.
Phil smiled now at pretty Clare and promised to think about it and the
twins flew off across the street to visit with Tony and Ruth whom the
whole Hill adored.
"Phil dear, aren't you happy?" asked Mrs. Lambert. "Have we asked too
much of you expecting you to settle down at home with us?"
"Why yes, Mums. I'm all right." Phil left his post on the rail and
dropped into a chair beside his mother. Perhaps he did it purposely lest
she see too much. "Don't get notions in your head. I like living in
Dunbury. I wouldn't live in a city for anything and I like being with Dad
not to mention the rest of you."
Mrs. Lambert shifted her position also. She wanted to see her son's face;
just as much as he didn't want her to see it.
"Possibly that is all so but you aren't happy for all that. You can't
fool mother eyes, my dear."
Phil looked straight at her then with a little rueful smile.
"I reckon I can't," he admitted. "Very well then. I am not entirely happy
but it is nobody's fault and nothing anybody can help."
"Philip, is it a girl?"
How they dread the _girl_ in their sons' lives--these mothers! The very
possibility of her in the abstract brings a shadow across the path.
"Yes, Mums, it is a girl."
Mrs. Lambert rose and went over to where her son sat, running her fingers
through his hair as she had been wont to do when the little boy Phil was
in trouble of any sort.
"I am very sorry, dear boy," she said. "It won't help to talk about it?"
"I am afraid not. Don't worry, Mums. It is just--well, it hurts a little
just now that's all."
She kissed his forehead and went back to her chair. It hurt her to
know her boy was being hurt, hurt her almost as much to know she could
not help him, she must just let him close the door on his grief and
bear it alone.
Yet she respected his reserve and loved him the better for it. Phil was
like that always. He never cried out when he was hurt. She remembered how
long ago the little boy Phil had come to her with a small finger just
released from a slamming door that had crushed it unmercifully, the
tears streaming down his cheeks but uttering no sound. She recalled
another incident of years later, when the coach had been obliged to put
some one else in Phil's place on the team the last minute because his
sprained ankle had been bothering. She and Stuart had come on for the
game. It had been a bitter disappointment to them all. To the boy it had
been little short of a tragedy. But he had smiled bravely at her in spite
of the trouble in his blue eyes. "Don't mind, Mums. It is all right," he
had said steadily. "We've got to win. We can't risk my darned ankle's
flopping. It's the bleachers for me. The game's the thing."
The game had always been the thing for Phil. Even in his blundering,
willful boyhood he had played hard and played fair and taken defeat like
a man when things had gone against him.
There was a moment's silence. Then Mrs. Lambert spoke again.
"Phil, I wish you would go to the dance with the girls. It will please
them and be good for you. You can't shut yourself away from everything
the way you are doing, if you are going to make Dunbury your home. Your
father never has. He has always given himself freely to it, worked with
it, played with it, made it a real part of himself. You mustn't start out
by building a wall around yourself."
"Am I doing that, Mums?" Phil's voice was sober.
"I am afraid you are, Phil. It troubles your father. He was so
disappointed when you wouldn't serve on the library committee. They were
disappointed too. They didn't expect it of your father's son."
"I--I wasn't interested."
"No, you weren't interested. That was the trouble. You ought to have
been. You have had your college training, the world of books has been
thrown wide open for you. You come back here and aren't interested in
seeing that others less fortunate get the right kind of books into their
hands and heads. I don't want to preach, dear. But education isn't only a
privilege. It is a responsibility."
"Maybe you are right, Mums. I didn't think of it that way. I just
didn't want to bother. I was--well, I was thinking too much about
myself I suppose."
"Youth is apt to. There were other things too. When they asked you to
take charge of the Fourth of July pageant, to dig up Dunbury's past
history and make it live for us again, your father and I both thought you
would enjoy it. He was tremendously excited about it, full of ideas to
help. But the project fell through because nobody would undertake the
leadership. You were too busy. Every one was too busy."
"But, Mums, I was busy," Phil defended himself. "It is no end of a job to
put things like that through properly."
"Most things worth doing are no end of a job. Your father would have
taken it with all the rest he has on his hands and made a success of it.
But he was hurt by your high handed refusal to have anything to do with
it and he let it go, though you know having Fourth of July community
celebrations is one of his dearest hobbies--always has been since he used
to fight so hard to get rid of the old, wretched noise, law breaking and
rowdyism kind of village celebration you and the other young Dunbury
vandals delighted in."
Phil flushed at that. The point went home. He remembered vividly his
boyish self tearing reluctantly from Doctor Holiday's fireworks impelled
by an unbearably guilty conscience to confess to Stuart Lambert that his
own son had been a transgressor against the law. Boy as he was, he had