Part 4 out of 7
gotten out of the interview with his father that night a glimpse into the
ideal citizenship which Stuart Lambert preached and lived and worked for.
He had understood a little then. He understood better now having stood
beside his father man to man.
"I am sorry, Mums. I would have done the thing if I'd known Dad wanted me
to. Why didn't he say so?"
Mrs. Lambert smiled.
"Dad doesn't say much about what he wants. You will have to learn to keep
your eyes open and find out for yourself. I did."
"Any more black marks on my score? I may as well eat the whole darned
pie at once." Phil's smile was humorous but his eyes were troubled. It
was a bit hard when you had been thinking you had played your part
fairly creditably to discover you had been fumbling your cues wretchedly
"Only one other thing. We were both immensely disappointed when you
wouldn't take the scout-mastership they offered you. Father believes
tremendously in the movement. He thinks it is going to be the making of
the next generation of men. He would have liked you to be a Scoutmaster
and when you wouldn't he went on the Scout Troop Committee himself though
he really could not spare the time."
"I see," said Phil. "I guess I've been pretty blind. Funny part of it is
I really wanted to take the Scoutmaster job but I thought Dad would think
it took too much of my time. Anything more?" he asked.
"Not a thing. Haven't you had quite enough of a lecture for once?" his
mother smiled back.
"I reckon I needed it. Thank you, Mums. I'll turn over a new leaf if it
isn't too late. I'll go to the dance and I'll ask them if there is still
a place for me on the library committee and I'll start a troop of Scouts
myself--another bunch I've had my eyes on for some time."
"That will please Dad very much. It pleases me too. Boys are very dear to
my heart. I wonder if you can guess why, Philip, my son?"
"I wish I'd been a better son, Mums. Some chaps never seem to cause
their-mothers any worry or heart ache. I wasn't that kind. I am afraid I
am not even yet."
"No son is, dear, unless there is something wrong with him or the mother.
Mothering means heart ache and worries, plus joy and pride and the joy
and pride more than makes up for the rest. It has for me a hundred times
over even when I had a rather bad little boy on my hands and now I have a
man--a man I am glad and proud to call my son."
A WEDDING RING IT WAS HARD TO REMEMBER
It was a grilling hot August afternoon. The young Holidays were keeping
cool as best they could out in the yard. Ruth lay in the canopied hammock
against a background of a hedge of sweet peas, pink and white and
lavender, looking rather like a dainty, frail little flower herself. Tony
in cool white was seated on a scarlet Navajo blanket, leaning against the
apple tree. Around her was a litter of magazines and an open box of
bonbons. Ted was stretched at his ease on the grass, gazing skyward, a
cigarette in his lips, enjoying well-earned rest after toil. Larry
occupied the green garden bench in the lee, of the hammock. He was
unsolaced either by candy or smoke and looked tired and not particularly
happy. There were dark shadows under his gray eyes which betrayed that he
was not getting the quota of sleep that healthy youth demands. His eyes
were downcast now, apparently absorbed in contemplation of a belated
dandelion at his feet.
"Ruth, why don't you come down to the dance with us tonight?" demanded
Tony suddenly dropping her magazine. "You are well enough now and I
know you would enjoy it. It is lovely down on the island where the
pavilion is--all quiet and pine-woodsy. You needn't dance if you don't
want to. You could just lie in the hammock and listen to the music and
the water. We'd come and talk to you between dances so you wouldn't be
lonesome. Do come."
"Oh, I couldn't." Ruth's voice was dismayed, her blue eyes filled with
alarm at the suggestion.
"Why couldn't you?" persisted Tony. "You aren't going to just hide away
forever are you? It is awfully foolish, isn't it, Larry?" she appealed to
He did not answer, but he did transfer his gaze from the dandelion to
Ruth as if he were considering his sister's proposition.
"Sure, it's foolish," Ted replied for him, sitting up. "Come on down and
dance the first foxtrot with me, sweetness. You'll like it. Honest you
will, when you get started."
"Oh, I couldn't" reiterated Ruth.
"That is nonsense. Of course, you could," objected Tony. "It is just your
notion, Ruthie. You have kept away from people so long you are scared.
But you would get over that in a minute and truly it would be lots better
for you. Tell her it would, Larry. She is your patient."
"I don't know whether it would or not," returned Larry in his deliberate
way, which occasionally exasperated the swift-minded, impulsive Tony.
"Then you are a rotten doctor," she flung back. "I know better than that
myself and Uncle Phil agrees with me. I asked him."
"Ruth's my patient, as you reminded me a moment ago. She isn't Uncle
Phil's." There was an unusual touchiness in the young doctor's voice. He
was not professionally aggressive as a rule.
"Well, I wouldn't be a know-it-all, if she is," snapped Tony. "Maybe
Uncle Phil knows a thing or two more than you do yet. And anyway you are
only a man and I am a girl and I know that girls need people and fun and
dancing. It isn't good for anybody to hide away by herself. I believe you
are keeping Ruth away from everybody on purpose."
The hot weather and other things were setting Tony's nerves a bit on
edge. She felt slightly belligerent and not precisely averse to
picking a quarrel with her aggravatingly quiet brother, if he gave her
half an opening.
Larry flushed and scowled at that and ordered her sharply not to talk
nonsense. Whereupon Ted intervened.
"I'm all on your side, Tony. Of course it is bad for Ruth not to see
anybody but us. Any fool would know that. Dancing may be the very thing
for her anyhow. You can't tell till you try. Maybe when you are
foxtrotting with me, goldilocks, you'll remember how it seemed to have
some other chap's arm around you. It might be like laying a fuse."
"I'm glad you all know so much about my business," said Larry testily.
"You make me tired, both of you."
"Oh," begged Ruth, her blue eyes full of trouble. "Please, please, don't
quarrel about me."
"I beg your pardon," apologized Larry. "See here, would you be willing to
try it, just as an experiment? Would you go down there for a little while
tonight with us?"
The blue eyes met the gray ones.
"If you--wanted me to," faltered the blue-eyes.
"Would you mind it very much?" Larry leaned forward. His voice was low,
solicitous. Tony, listening, resented it a little. She didn't see why
Larry had to keep his good manners for somebody outside the family. He
might have spoken a little more politely to herself, she thought. She had
only been trying to be nice to Ruth.
"Not--if you would take care of me and not let people talk to me too
much," Ruth answered the solicitous tone.
"I will," promised Larry. "You needn't talk to a soul if you don't
want to. I'll ward 'em off. And you can dance if you want to--one
"With me," announced Ted complacently from the grass. "My bid was in
first. Don't you forget, Miss Peaseblossom." Ted had a multitude of pet
names for Ruth. They slipped off his tongue easily, as water falling
over a cliff.
"No, with me," said his brother shortly.
"Gee, I wish I were a doctor! It gives you a hideous advantage."
"But I haven't anything to wear," exclaimed Ruth, coming next to the
really sole and only supreme woman question.
"We'll fix that easy as easy," said Tony, amicable again now. "I've a
darling blue organdy that will look sweet on you--just the color of your
eyes. Don't you worry a minute, honey. Your fairy godmother will see to
all that. All I ask is that you won't let that old ogre of an M.D. change
his mind and say you can't go. It isn't good for Larry to obey him so
meekly. He is getting to be a regular tyrant."
A moment later Doctor Holiday joined the group, dropped on the bench
beside Larry and was informed by Tony that Ruth was to go on an adventure
down the Hill; to Sue Emerson's dance in fact.
"Isn't that great?" she demanded.
"Superb," he teased. Then he smiled approval at Ruth. "Good idea, Larry,"
he added to his nephew. "Glad you thought of it."
"I didn't think of it. Tony did. You really approve?" The gray eyes were
a little anxious. Larry was by no means a know-it-all doctor, as his
sister accused him. He had too little rather than too much confidence in
his own judgment in fact.
"I certainly do. Go to it, little lady. May be the best medicine in the
world for you."
"Now you are talking," exulted Ted. "That's what Tony and I said
and Larry wanted to execute us on the spot for daring to have an
opinion at all."
"Scare you much to think of it?" Doctor Holiday asked Ruth, prudently
ignoring this last sally.
"A good deal," sighed Ruth. "But I'll try not to be too much scared if
Larry will go too and not let people ask questions."
The young doctor had long since become Larry to Ruth. It was too
confusing talking about two Doctor Holidays. Everybody in Dunbury said
Larry or Doctor Larry or at most, respectfully, Doctor Laurence.
"I'll let nobody talk to you but myself," said Larry.
"There you are!" flashed Tony. "You might just as well keep her penned up
here in the yard. You want to keep her all to yourself."
She didn't mean anything in particular, only to be a little disagreeable,
to pay Larry back for being so snappy. But to her amazement Ruth was
suddenly blushing a lovely but startling blush and Larry was bending over
to examine the hammock-hook in obvious confusion.
"Good gracious!" she thought in consternation. "Is that what's up? It
can't be. I'm just imagining it. Larry wouldn't fall in love with any one
who wore a wedding ring. He mustn't."
But she knew in her heart that whether Larry must or must not he had. A
thousand signs betrayed the truth now that her eyes were open. Poor
Larry! No wonder he was cross and unlike himself. And Ruth was so
sweet--just the girl for him. And poor Uncle Phil! She herself was
hurting him dreadfully keeping her secret about Alan and nobody knew what
Ted had up his sleeve under his cloak of incredible virtue. And now here
was Larry with a worse complication still. Oh dear! Would the three of
them ever stop getting into scrapes as long as they lived? It was bad
enough when they were children. It was infinitely worse now they were
grown up and the scrapes were so horribly serious.
"I suppose you can't tear yourself away from your studies to attend a
mere dance?" Doctor Holiday was asking of his younger nephew with a
twinkle in his eyes when Tony recovered enough to listen again.
Ted sent his cigarette stub careening off into the shrubbery and grinned
back at his uncle, a grin half merry, half defiant.
"Like fun, I can't!" he ejaculated. "I'm a union man, I am. I've done my
stunt for the day. If anybody thinks I'm going to stick my nose in
between the covers of a book before nine A.M. tomorrow he has a whole
orchard of brand new little thinks growing up to stub his toes on,
"So the student life doesn't improve with intimate acquaintance?" The
doctor's voice was still teasing, but there was more than teasing behind
his questions. He was really interested in his nephew's psychology.
"Not a da--ahem--darling bit. If I had my way every book in existence
would be placed on a huge funeral pyre and conflagrated instantly.
Moreover, it would be a criminal offence punishable by the death sentence
for any person to bring another of the infernal nuisances into the world.
That is my private opinion publicly expressed." So saying Ted picked
himself up from the grass and sauntered off toward the house.
His uncle chuckled. He was sorry the boy did not take more cordially to
books, since it looked as if there were a good two years of them ahead at
the least. But he liked the honesty that would not pretend to anything
it did not feel, and he liked even better the spirit that had kept the
lad true to his pledge of honest work without a squirm or grumble through
all these weeks of grilling summer weather when sustained effort of any
sort, particularly mental effort, was undoubtedly a weariness and
abomination to flesh and soul, to his restless, volatile, ease-addicted,
liberty loving young ward. The boy had certainly shown more grit and
grace than he had credited him with possessing.
The village clock struck six. Tony sprang up from her blanket and began
to gather up her possessions.
"I never get over a scared, going-to-be-scolded feeling running down my
spine when the clock strikes and I'm not ready for supper," she said.
"Poor dear Granny! She certainly worked hard trying to make truly proper
persons out of us wild Arabs. It isn't her fault if she didn't succeed,
is it Larry?" She smiled at her brother--a smile that meant in Tony
language "I am sorry I was cross. Let's make up."
He smiled back in the same spirit. He rose taking the rug and magazines
from his sister's hand and walked with her toward the house.
Ruth sat up in her hammock and smoothed her disarrayed blonde hair.
"I am glad you are going down the Hill," said the doctor to her. "It is a
fine idea, little lady. Do you lots of good."
"Doctor Holiday, I think I ought to go away," announced Ruth suddenly. "I
am perfectly well now, and there is no reason why I should stay."
"Tired of us?"
"Oh no! I could never be that. I love it here and love all of you. But
after all I am only a stranger."
"Not to us, Ruthie. Listen. I would like to explain how I feel about
this, not from your point of view but from ours."
Tony would be going away soon. They needed a home daughter very much,
needed Ruth particularly as she had such a wonderful way with the
children, who adored her, and because Granny loved her so well, though
she did not love many people who were not Holidays. And he and Larry
needed her good fairy ministrations. They had not been unmindful, though
perhaps manlike they had not expressed their appreciation of the way
fresh flowers found their way to the offices daily, and they were kept
from being snowed under by the newspapers of yester week. In short Doctor
Holiday made it very clear that, if Ruth cared to stay she was wanted and
needed very much in the House on the Hill. And Ruth touched and grateful
and happy promised to remain.
"If you think it is all right--" she added with rather sudden blush, "for
me to stay when I am married or not married and don't know which."
Whereupon Doctor Holiday, who happened not to observe the blush, remarked
that he couldn't see what that had to do with it. Anyway she seemed like
such a child to them that they hardly remembered the wedding ring at all.
Ruth blushed again at that and wished she dared confess that she was
afraid the wedding ring had a good deal to do with the situation in the
eyes of one Holiday at least. But she could not bring herself to speak
the fatal word which might banish her from the dear Hill and from Larry,
who had come to be even dearer.
A dozen times, while she was dressing for the dance later, Ruth felt like
crying out to Tony in the next room that she could not go, that she dared
not face strangers, that it was too hard. But she set her lips firmly
and did nothing of the sort. Larry wanted her to do it. She wouldn't
disappoint him if it killed her.
Oh dear! Why did she always have to do everything as a case, never just
as a girl. She couldn't even be natural as a girl. She had to be maybe
married. She hated the ring which seemed to her a symbol of bondage to a
past that was dead and yet still clutched her with cold hands. She had a
childish impulse to fling the ring out of the window where she could
never--never see it again. If it wasn't for the ring--
She interrupted her own thoughts, blushing hotly again. She knew she had
meant to go on, "If it were not for the ring she could marry Larry
Holiday." She mustn't think about that. She must not forget the ring, nor
let Larry forget it. She must not let him love her. It was a terrible
thing she was doing. He was unhappy--dreadfully unhappy and it was all
her fault. And by and by they would all see it. Tony had seen it today,
she was almost sure. And Doctor Holiday would see it. He saw so much it
was a wonder he had not seen it long before this. They would hate her for
hurting Larry and spoiling his life. She could not bear to have them hate
her when she loved them so and they had been so kind and good to her. She
must go away. She must. Maybe Larry would forget her if she wasn't always
there right under his eyes.
But how could she go? Doctor Philip would think it queer and ungrateful
of her after she had promised to stay. How could she desert him and the
children and dear Granny? And if she went what could she do? What use was
she anyway but to be a trouble and a burden to everybody? It would have
been better, much better, if Larry had left her to die in the wreck.
Why didn't Geoffrey Annersley come and get her, if there was a Geoffrey
Annersley? She knew she would hate him, but she wished he would come for
all that. Anything was better than making Larry suffer, making all the
Holidays suffer through him. Oh why hadn't she died, why hadn't she?
But in her heart Ruth knew she did not want to die. She wanted to live.
She wanted life and love and happiness and Larry Holiday.
And then Tony stood on the threshold, smiling friendly encouragement.
"Ready, hon? Oh, you look sweet! That blue is lovely for you. It never
suited me at all. Blue is angel color and I have too much--well, of the
other thing in my composition to wear it. Come on. The boys have been
whistling impatience for half an hour and I don't want to scare Larry out
of going. It is the first function he has condescended to attend in a
On the porch Ted and Larry waited, two tall, sturdy, well-groomed,
fine-looking youths, bearing the indefinable stamp of good birth and
breeding, the inheritance of a long line of clean strong men and gentle
women--the kind of thing not forged in one generation but in many.
They both rose as the girls appeared. Larry crossed over to Ruth. His
quick gaze took in her nervousness and trouble of mind.
"Are you all right, Ruth? You mustn't let us bully you into going if you
really don't want to."
"No, I am all right. I do want to--with you," she added softly.
"We'll all go over in the launch," announced Ted, but Larry interposed
the fact that he and Ruth were going in the canoe. Ruth would get too
tired if she got into a crowd.
"More professional graft," complained Ted. He was only joking but Tony
with her sharpened sight knew that it was thin ice for Larry and
suspected he had non-professional reasons for wanting Ruth alone in the
canoe with him that night. Poor Larry! It was all a horrible tangle, just
as her affair with Alan was.
It was a night made for lovers, still and starry. Soft little breezes
came tiptoeing along the water from fragrant nooks ashore and stopped
in their course to kiss Ruth's face as she lay content and lovely among
the scarlet cushions, reading the eloquent message of Larry Holiday's
They did not talk much. They were both a little afraid of words. They
felt as if they could go on riding in perfect safety along the edge of
the precipice so long as neither looked over or admitted out loud that
there was a precipice.
A YOUNG MAN IN LOVE
The dance was well in progress when Larry and Ruth arrived. The latter
was greeted cordially and not too impressively by gay little Sue Emerson,
their hostess, and her friends. Ruth was ensconced comfortably in a big
chair where she could watch the dancers and talk as much or little as she
pleased. Everybody was so pleasant and natural and uncurious that she did
not feel frightened or strange at all, and really enjoyed the little
court she held between dances. Pretty girls and pleasant lads came to
talk with her, the latter besieging her with invitations to dance which
she refused so sweetly that they found the little Goldilocks more
charming than ever for her very denial.
They rallied Larry however on his rigorous dragonship and finally Ruth
herself dismissed him to dance with his hostess as a proper guest should.
She never meant he must stick to her every moment anyway. That was
absurd. He rose to obey reluctantly; but paused to ask if she wouldn't
dance with him just once. No, she couldn't--didn't even know whether she
could. He mustn't try to make her. And seeing she was in earnest, Larry
left her. But Ted came skating down the floor to her and he begged for
just one dance.
"Oh, I couldn't, Ted, truly I couldn't," she denied.
But obeying a sudden impulse Ted had swooped down upon her, picked her up
and before she really knew what was happening she had slid into step
with him and was whirling off down the floor in his arms.
"Didn't I tell you, sweetness?" he exulted. "Of course you can dance.
What fairy can't? Tired?" He bent over to ask with the instinctive
gentleness that was in all Holiday men.
Ruth shook her head. She was exhilarated, excited, tense, happy. She
could dance--she could. It was as easy and natural as breathing. She did
not want to stop. She wanted to go on and on. Then suddenly something
snapped. They came opposite Sue and Larry. The former called a gay
greeting and approval. Larry said nothing. His face was dead white, his
gray eyes black with anger. Both Ted and Ruth saw and understood and the
lilt went out of the dance for both of them.
"Oh Lord!" groaned Ted. "Now I've done it. I'm sorry, Ruth. I didn't
suppose the old man would care. Don't see why he should it you are
willing. Come on, just one more round before the music stops and we're
But Ruth shook her head. There was no more joy for her after that one
glimpse of Larry's face.
"Take me to a seat, Ted, please. I'm tired."
He obeyed and she sank down in the chair, white and trembling, utterly
exhausted. She was hurt and aching through and through. How could she?
How could she have done that to Larry when he loved her so? How could she
have let Ted make her dance with him when she had refused to dance with
Larry? No wonder he was angry. It was terrible--cruel.
But he mustn't make a scene with Ted. He mustn't. She cast an
apprehensive glance around the room. Larry was invisible. A forlornness
came over her, a despair such as she had never experienced even in that
dreadful time after the wreck when she realized she had forgotten
everything. She felt as if she were sinking down, down in a fearful
black sea and that there was no help for her anywhere. Larry had deserted
her. Would he never come back?
In a minute Tony and the others were beside her, full of sympathetic
questions. How had it seemed to dance again? Wasn't it great to find she
could still do it? How had she dared to do it while Larry was off guard?
Why wouldn't she, couldn't she dance with this one or that one if she
could dance with Ted Holiday? But they were quick to see she was really
tired and troubled and soon left her alone to Tony's ministrations.
"Ruth, what is the trouble? Where is Larry? And Ted is gone, too. What
happened?" Tony's voice was anxious. She hadn't seen Larry's face, but
she knew Larry and could guess at the rest.
"Ted made me dance with him. I didn't mean to. But when we got started I
couldn't bear to stop, it was so wonderful to do it and to find I could.
I--am afraid Larry didn't like it."
"I presume he didn't," said Larry's sister drily. "Let him be angry if he
wants to be such a silly. It was quite all right, Ruthie. Ted has just as
much right to dance with you as Larry has."
"I am afraid Larry doesn't think so and I don't think so either."
Tony squeezed the other girl's hand.
"Never mind, honey. You mustn't take it like that. You are all of a
tremble. Larry has a fearful temper, but he will hang on to it for your
sake if for no other reason. He won't really quarrel with Ted. He never
does any more. And he won't say a word to you."
"I'd rather he would," sighed Ruth. "You are all so good to me and I--am
making a dreadful lot of trouble for you all the time, though I don't
mean to and I love you so."
"It isn't your fault, Ruthie, not a single speck of it. Oh, yes. I mean
just what you mean. Not simply Larry's being so foolish as to lose his
temper about this little thing, but the whole big thing of your caring
for each other. It is all hard and mixed up and troublesome; but you are
not to blame, and Larry isn't to blame, and it will all come out right
somehow. It has to."
As soon as Ted had assured himself that Ruth was all right in his
sister's charge he had looked about for Larry. Sue was perched on a table
eating marshmallows she had purloined from somewhere with Phil Lambert
beside her, but there was no Larry to be seen.
Ted stepped outside the pavilion. He was honestly sorry his brother was
hurt and angry. He realized too late that maybe he hadn't behaved quite
fairly or wisely in capturing Ruth like that, though he hadn't meant any
harm, and had had not the faintest idea Larry would really care, care
enough to be angry as Ted had not seen him for many a long day. Larry's
temper had once been one of the most active of the family skeletons. It
had not risen easily, but when it did woe betide whatever or whomever it
met in collision. By comparison with Larry's rare outbursts of rage
Tony's frequent ebullitions were as summer zephyrs to whirlwinds.
But that was long past history. Larry had worked manfully to conquer his
familiar demon and had so far succeeded that sunny Ted had all but
forgotten the demon ever existed. But he remembered now, had remembered
with consternation when he saw the black passion in the other's face as
they met on the floor of the dance hall.
Puzzled and anxious he stared down the slope toward the water. Larry was
just stepping into the canoe. Was he going home, leaving Ruth to the
mercies of the rest of them, or was he just going off temporarily by
himself to fight his temper to a finish as he had been accustomed to do
long ago when he had learned to be afraid and ashamed of giving into it?
Ted hesitated a moment, debating whether to call him back and get the row
over, if row there was to be, or to let him get away by himself as he
"Hang it! It's my fault. I can't let him go off like that. It just about
kills him to take it out of himself that way. I'd rather he'd take it
out of me."
With which conclusion Ted shot down the bank whistling softly the old
Holiday Hill call, the one Dick had used that day on the campus to summon
himself to the news that maybe Larry was killed.
Larry did not turn. Ted reached the shore with one stride.
"Larry," he called. "I say, Larry."
No answer. The older lad picked up the paddle, prepared grimly to push
off, deaf, to all intents and purposes to the appeal in the younger
But Ted Holiday was not an easily daunted person. With one flying leap
he landed in the canoe, all but upsetting the craft in his sudden
descent upon it.
The two youths faced each other. Larry was still white, and his sombre
eyes blazed with half subdued fires. He looked anything but hospitable to
advances, however well meant.
"Better quit," he advised slowly in a queer, quiet voice which Ted knew
was quiet only because Larry was making it so by a mighty effort of
will. "I'm not responsible just now. We'll both be sorry if you don't
leave me alone."
"I won't quit, Larry. I can't. It was my fault. Confound it, old man!
Please listen. I didn't mean to make you mad. Come ashore and punch my
fool head if it will make you feel any better."
Still Larry said nothing, just sat hunched in a heap, running his
fingers over the handle of the paddle. He no longer even looked at Ted.
His mouth was set at its stubbornest.
Ted rushed on, desperately in earnest, entirely sincere in his
willingness to undergo any punishment, himself, to help Larry.
"Honest, I didn't mean to make trouble," he pleaded. "I just picked her
up and made her dance on impulse, though she told me she wouldn't and
couldn't. I never thought for a minute you would care. Maybe it was a
mean trick. I can see it might have looked so, but I didn't intend it
that way. Gee, Larry! Say something. Don't swallow it all like that. Get
it out of your system. I'd rather you'd give me a dozen black eyes than
sit still and feel like the devil."
Larry looked up then. His face relaxed its sternness a little. Even the
hottest blaze of wrath could not burn quite so fiercely when exposed to a
generous penitence like his young brother's. He understood Ted was
working hard not only to make peace but to spare himself the sharp battle
with the demon which, as none knew better that Larry Holiday, did,
indeed, half kill.
"Cut it, Ted," he ordered grimly. "'Nough said. I haven't the
slightest desire to give you even one black eye at present, though I
may as well admit if you had been in my hands five minutes ago
something would have smashed."
"Don't I know it?" Ted grinned a little. "Gee, I thought my hour
"What made you come after me then?"
Ted's grin faded.
"You know why I came, old man. You know I'd let you pommel my head off
any time if it could help you anyhow. Besides it was my fault as I told
you. I didn't mean to be mean. I'll do any penance you say."
Larry picked up the paddle.
"Your penance is to let me absolutely alone for fifteen minutes. You had
better go ashore though. You will miss a lot of dances."
"Hang the dances! I'm staying."
Ted settled down among the cushions against which Ruth's blonde head had
nestled a few hours ago. He took out his watch, struck a match, looked at
the time, lit a cigarette with the same match, replaced the watch and
relapsed into silence.
The canoe shot down the lake impelled by long, fierce strokes. Larry was
working off the demon. Far away the rhythmic beat of dance music reached
them faintly. Now and then a fish leaped and splashed or a bull frog
bellowed his hoarse "Better go home" into the silence. Otherwise there
was no sound save the steady ripple of the water under the canoe.
Presently Ted finished his cigarette, sent its still ruddy remains
flashing off into the lake where it fell with a soft hiss, took out his
watch again, lit another match, considered the time, subtracted gravely,
looked up and announced "Time's up, Larry."
Larry laid down the paddle and a slow reluctant smile played around the
corners of his mouth, though there was sharp distress still in his
eyes. He loathed losing his temper like that. It sickened him, filled
him with spiritual nausea, a profound disgust for himself and his
"I've been a fool, kid," he admitted. "I'm all right now. You were a
trump to stand by me. I appreciate it."
"Don't mention it," nonchalantly from Ted "Going back to the pavilion?"
His brother nodded, resumed the paddle and again the canoe shot through
the waters, this time toward the music instead of away from it.
"I suppose you know why your dancing with Ruth made me go savage," said
Larry after a few moments of silence.
"Damned if I do," said Ted cheerfully. "It doesn't matter. I don't need a
glossary and appendix. Suit yourself as to the explanations. I put my
foot in it. I've apologized. That is the end of it so far as I am
concerned unless you want to say something more yourself. You don't have
to you know."
"It was plain, fool movie stuff jealousy. That is the sum and
substance of it. I'm in love with her. I couldn't stand her dancing
with you when she had refused me. I could almost have killed you for a
minute. I am ashamed but I couldn't help it. That is the way it was.
Now--forget it, please."
Ted swallowed hard and pulled his forelock in genuine perturbation.
"Good Lord, Larry!" he blurted. "I--"
His brother held up an imperious warning hand.
"I said 'forget it.' Don't make me want to dump you now, after coming
through the rest."
Ted saluted promptly.
"Ay, ay, sir! It's forgot. Only perhaps you'll let me apologize again,
underscored, now I understand. Honest, I'm no end sorry, Larry."
The other nodded acceptance of the underscored apology and again silence
had its way.
As they landed Ted fastened the canoe and for a moment the two brothers
stood side by side in the starlight. Larry put out his hand. Ted took it.
Their eyes met, said more than any words could have expressed.
"Thank you, Ted. You've been great--helped a lot."
Larry's voice was a little unsteady, his eyes were full of trouble
"Ought to, after starting the conflagration," said Ted. "I'll attend to
the general explanations. You go to Ruth."
More than one person had wondered at the mysterious disappearance of the
two Holidays. It is quite usual, and far from unexpected, when two young
persons of the opposite sex drift off somewhere under the stars on a
summer night without giving any particular account of themselves; but one
scarcely looks for that sort of social--or unsocial--eccentricity from
two youths, especially two brothers. Nobody but Ruth and Tony, and
possibly shrewd-eyed Sue, suspected a quarrel, but everybody was curious
and ready to burst into interrogation upon the simultaneous return of the
two young men which was quite as sudden as their vanishing had been.
"Larry and I had a wager up," announced Ted to Sue in a perfectly clear,
distinct voice which carried across the length of the small hall now that
the music was silent. "He said he could paddle down to the point, current
against him, faster than I could paddle back, current with me. We took a
notion to try it out tonight. Please forgive us, Susanna, my dear. A
Holiday is a creature of impulse you know."
Sue made a little face at the speaker. She was quite sure he was lying
about the wager, but she was a good hostess and played up to his game.
"You don't deserve to be forgiven, either of you," she sniffed.
"Especially Larry who never comes to parties and when he does has to go
off and do a silly thing like that. Who won though? I will ask that." She
smiled at Ted and he grinned back.
"Larry, of course. Give me a dance, Sue. I've got my second wind."
"Bless Ted!" thought Tony, listening to her brother's glib excuses.
"Thank goodness he can lie like that. Larry never could." And as her eyes
met Ted's a moment later when they passed each other in the maze of
dancers he murmured "All right" in her ear and she was well content.
Bless Ted, indeed!
Meanwhile Larry had gone, as Ted bade him, straight to Ruth. He bent over
her tired little white face, an agony of remorse in his own.
"Ruth, forgive me. I'll never forgive myself."
"Don't, Larry. It is I who ought to be sorry and I am--oh so sorry--you
don't know. Ted didn't mean any harm. I ought not to have let him do it.
It was my fault."
"There was nobody at fault except me and my fool temper. I am desperately
ashamed of myself Ruth. I've left you all alone all this time and I
promised I wouldn't. You'll never trust me again and I don't deserve to
be trusted. It doesn't do any good to say I am sorry. It can't undo what
I did. I didn't dare stay and that's the fact. I didn't know what I'd do
to Ted if he got in my way. I felt--murderous."
"I know it sounds awful. It is awful. It is an old battle. I thought I'd
won it, but I haven't. Don't look so scared though. Nothing happened. Ted
came after me like the corking big-hearted kid he is and brought me to,
in half the time I could have done it for myself. It is thanks to him I'm
here now. But never mind that. It is only you that matters. Shall I take
you home? I don't deserve it, but if you will let me it will show you
forgive me a little bit anyway," he finished humbly.
"Don't look so dreadfully unhappy, Larry. It is over now, and of course I
forgive you if you think there is anything to forgive. I'm so thankful
you didn't quarrel with Ted. I was awfully worried and so was Tony. She
watched the door every minute till you came back."
"I suppose so," groaned Larry. "I made one horrible mess of everything
for you all. Are you ready to go?"
"I'd like to dance with you once first, Larry, if--if you would like to."
"Would I like to!" Larry's face lost its mantle of gloom, was sudden
sunshine all over. "Will you really dance with me--after the rotten way
"Of course, I will. I wanted to all the time, but I was afraid. But when
Ted made me it all came back and I loved it, only it was you I wanted to
dance with most. You know that, don't you, Larry, dear?" The last word
was very low, scarcely more than a breath, but Larry heard it and it
nearly undid him. A flood of long-pent endearments trembled on his lips.
But Ruth held up a hand of warning.
"Don't, Larry. We mustn't spoil it. We've got to remember the ring."
"Damn the ring!" he exploded. "I beg your pardon." Larry was genuinely
shocked at his own bad manners. "I don't know why I'm such a brute
tonight. Let's dance."
And to the delight and relief of the younger Holidays, Larry and Ruth
joined the dancers.
The dance over, they made their farewells. Larry guided Ruth down the
slope, his arm around her ostensibly for her support, and helped her into
the canoe. Once more they floated off over the quiet water, under the
quiet stars. But their young hearts were anything but quiet. Their love
was no longer an unacknowledged thing. Neither knew just what was to be
done with it; but there it was in full sight, as both admitted in joy
and trepidation and silence.
As Larry held open the door for her to step inside the quiet hall he bent
over the girl a moment, taking both her hands in his. Then he drew away
abruptly and bolted into the living room, leaving her to grope her way up
stairs in the dark alone.
"I wonder," she murmured to herself later as she stood before her mirror
shaking out her rippling golden locks from their confining net. "I wonder
if it would have been so terrible if he had kissed me just that once.
Sometimes I wish he weren't quite so--so Holidayish."
TWO HOLIDAYS MAKE CONFESSION
The next evening Doctor Holiday listened to a rather elaborate argument
on the part of his older nephew in favor of the latter's leaving Dunbury
immediately in pursuit of his specialist training that he had planned to
go in for eventually.
"You are no longer contented here with me--with us?" questioned the older
man when the younger had ended his exposition.
Larry's quick ear caught the faint hurt in his uncle's voice and hastened
to deny the inference.
"It isn't that, Uncle Phil. I am perfectly satisfied--happier here with
you that I would be anywhere else in the world. You have been wonderful
to me. I am not such an ungrateful idiot as not to understand and
appreciate what a start it has given me to have you and your name and
work behind me. Only--maybe I've been under your wing long enough. Maybe
I ought to stand on my feet."
Doctor Holiday studied the troubled young face opposite him. He was
fairly certain that he wasn't getting the whole or the chief reasons
which were behind this sudden proposition.
"Do you wish to go at once?" he asked. "Or will the first of the year be
Larry flushed and fell to fumbling with a paper knife that lay on the
"I--I meant to go right away," he stammered.
Larry was silent.
"I judge the evidence isn't all in," remarked the older doctor a little
drily. "Am I going to hear the rest of it--the real reason for your
decision to go just now?"
Still silence on Larry's part, the old obstinate set to his lips.
"Very well then. Suppose I take my turn. I think you haven't quite all
the evidence yourself. Do you know Granny is dying?"
The paper knife fell with a click to the floor.
"Uncle Phil! No, I didn't know. Of course I knew it was coming but you
"Yes, Larry, I mean soon. How soon no one can tell, but I should say
three months would be too long to allow."
The boy brushed his hand across his eyes. He loved Granny. He had always
seemed to understand her better than the others had and had been himself
always the favorite. Moreover he was bound to her by a peculiar tie,
having once saved her life, conquering his boyish fear to do so. It was
hard to realize she was really going, that no one could save her now.
"I didn't know," he said again in a low voice.
"Ted will go back to college. I shall let Tony go to New York to study as
she wishes, just as you had your chance. It isn't exactly the time for
you to desert us, my boy."
"I won't, Uncle Phil. I'll stay."
"Thank you, son. I felt sure you wouldn't fail us. You never have. But I
wish you felt as if you could tell me the other reason or reasons for
going which you are keeping back. If it is they are stronger than the one
I have given you for staying it is only fair that I should have them."
Larry's eyes fell. A slow flush swept his face, ran up to his very hair.
"My boy, is it Ruth?"
The gray eyes lifted, met the older man's grave gaze unfalteringly.
"Yes, Uncle Phil, it is Ruth. I thought you must have seen it before
this. It seemed as if I were giving myself away, everything I did or
"I have thought of it occasionally, but dismissed the idea as too
fantastic. It hasn't been so obvious as it seemed to you no doubt. You
have not made love to her?"
"Not in so many words. I might just as well have though. She knows. If it
weren't for the ring--well, I think she would care too."
"I am very sorry, Larry. It looks like a bad business all round. Yet I
can't see that you have much to blame yourself for. I withdraw my
objections to your going away. If it seems best to you to go I haven't a
word to say."
"I don't know whether it is best or not. I go round and round in circles
trying to work it out. It seems cowardly to run away from it,
particularly if I am needed here. A man ought not to pull up stakes just
because things get a little hard. Besides Ruth would think she had driven
me away. I know she would go herself if she guessed I was even thinking
of going. And I couldn't stand that. I'd go to the north pole myself and
stay forever before I would send her away from you all. I was so grateful
to you for asking her to stay and making her feel she was needed. She was
awfully touched and pleased. She told me last night."
The senior doctor considered, thought back to his talk with Ruth. Poor
child! So that was what she had been trying to tell him. She had thought
she ought to go away on Larry's account, just as he was thinking he ought
to go on hers. Poor hapless youngsters caught in the mesh of
circumstances! It was certainly a knotty problem.
"It isn't easy to say what is right and best to do," he said after a
moment. "It is something you will have to decide for yourself. When you
came to me you had decided it was best to go, had you not? Was there a
specially urgent reason?"
Larry flushed again and related briefly the last night's unhappy
"I'm horribly ashamed of the way I acted," he finished. "And the whole
thing showed me I couldn't count on my self-control as I thought I could.
I couldn't sleep last night, and I thought perhaps maybe the thing to do
was to get out quick before I did any real damage. It doesn't matter
about me. It is Ruth."
"Do you think you can stay on and keep a steady head for her sake and
"I can, Uncle Phil. It is up to me to stick and I'll do it. Uncle
Phil, how long must a woman in Ruth's position wait before she can
"Ruth's position is so unique that I doubt if there is any legal
precedent for it. Ordinarily when the husband fails to put in appearance
and the presumption is he is no longer living, the woman is considered
free in the eyes of the law, after a certain number of years, varying I
believe, in different states. With Ruth the affair doesn't seem to be a
case of law at all. She is in a position which requires the utmost
protection from those who love her as we do. The obligation is moral
rather than legal. I wouldn't let my mind run on the marrying aspects of
the case at present my boy."
"I--Uncle Phil, sometimes I think I'll just marry her anyway and let the
rest of it take care of itself. There isn't any proof she is married--not
the slightest shadow of proof," Larry argued with sudden heat.
His uncle's eyebrows went up. "Steady, Larry. A wedding ring is usually
considered presumptive evidence of marriage."
"I don't care," flashed the boy, the tension of the past weeks suddenly
snapping. "She loves me. I don't see what right anything has to come
between us. What is a wedding ceremony when a man and woman belong to
each other as we belong? Hanged if I don't think I'd be justified in
marrying her tomorrow! There is nothing but a ring to prevent."
"There is a good deal more than a ring to prevent," said Doctor Holiday
with some sternness. "What if you did do just that and her husband
appeared in two months or six?"
"I don't believe she has a husband. If she had he would have come after
her before this. We've waited. He's had time."
"You have waited scarcely two months, Larry. That is hardly enough time
upon which to base finalities."
"What of it? I'm half crazy sometimes over the whole thing. I can't see
things straight. I don't want to. I don't want anything but Ruth, whether
she is married or not. I want her. Some day I'll ask her to go off with
me and she will go. She will do anything I ask."
"Hold on, Larry lad. You are saying things you don't mean. You are the
last man in the world to take advantage of a girl's defenseless position
and her love for you to gratify your own selfish desires and perhaps
wreck her life and your own."
Larry bit his lip, wheeled and went over to the window, staring out into
the night. At last he turned back, white, but master of himself again.
"I beg your pardon, Uncle Phil. You are right. I was talking like a fool.
Of course I'll do nothing of the kind. I won't do anything to harm Ruth
anyway. I won't even make love to her--if I can help it," he qualified in
a little lower tone.
"If you can't you had better go at once," said his uncle still a
bit sternly. Then more gently. "I know you don't want to play the
"I won't, Uncle Phil. I promise."
"Very well. I am satisfied with your word. Remember I am ready to
help any way and if it gets too hard I'll make it easy at any time
for you to go. But in the mean time we won't talk about it. The least
said the better."
Larry nodded his assent to that and suddenly switched to another subject,
asking his uncle what he knew about this Alan Massey with whom Tony was
having such an extensive correspondence.
His uncle admitted that he didn't know much of anything about him, except
that he was the inheritor of the rather famous Massey property and an
artist of some repute.
"He has plenty of repute of other kinds," said Larry. "He is a
thorough-going rotter, I infer. I made some inquiries from a chap who
knows him. He has gone the pace and then some. It makes me sick to have
Tony mixed up with a chap like that."
"You haven't said anything to her yourself?"
"No. Don't dare. It would only make it worse for me to tackle her.
Neither she nor Ted will stand any interference from me. We are a cranky
lot I am afraid. We all have what Dad used to call the family devil. So
far as I know you are the only person on record that can manage him."
And Larry smiled rather shame-facedly at his uncle.
"I am afraid you will all three have to learn to manage your own
particular familiar. Devils are rather personal property, Larry."
"Don't I know it? I got into mighty close range with mine last night, and
just now for that matter. Anyway I am not prepared to do any preaching at
anybody at present; but I would be awfully grateful to you if you will
speak to Tony. Somebody has to. And you can do it a million times better
than anyone else."
"Very well. I will see what I can do." And thus quietly Doctor Holiday
accepted another burden on his broad shoulders.
The next day he found Tony on the porch reading one of the long letters
which came to her so frequently in the now familiar, dashing script.
"Got a minute for me, niece o' mine?" he asked.
Tony slid Alan's letter back into its envelope and smiled up at
"Dozens of them, nice uncle," she answered.
"It is getting well along in the summer and high time we decided a few
things. Do you still want to go in for the stage business in the fall?"
"I want to very much, Uncle Phil, if you think it isn't too much like
deserting Granny and the rest of you."
"No, you have earned it. I want you to go. I don't suppose because you
haven't talked about Hempel's offer that it means you have forgotten it?"
"Indeed, I haven't forgotten it. For myself I would much rather get
straight on the stage if I could and learn by doing it, but you would
prefer to have me go to a regular dramatic school, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, Tony, I would. A year of preparation isn't a bit too much to get
your bearings in before you take the grand plunge. I want you to be very
sure that the stage is what you really want."
"I am sure of that already. I've been sure for ages. But I am perfectly
willing to do the thing any way you want and I am more grateful than I
can tell you that you are on my side about it. Are you going to tell
Granny? It will about break her heart I am afraid." Tony's eyes were
troubled. She did hate to hurt Granny; but on the other hand she couldn't
wait forever to begin.
She did not see the shadow that crept over her uncle's face. Well he knew
that long before Tony was before the footlights, Granny would be where
prejudices and misunderstandings were no more; but he had no wish to mar
the girl's happiness by betraying the truth just now.
"I think we are justified in indulging in a little camouflage there," he
said. "We will tell Granny you are going to study art. Art covers a
multitude of sins," he added with a lightness he was far from feeling.
"One thing more, my dear. I have waited a good while to hear something
about the young man who writes these voluminous letters."' He nodded at
the envelope in Tony's lap. "I like his writing; but I should like to
know something about him,--himself."
Tony flushed and averted her eyes for a moment. Then she looked up
"I haven't said anything because I didn't know what to say. He is Alan
Massey, the artist. I met him at Carlotta's. He wants to marry me."
"But you have not already accepted him?"
"No, I couldn't. He--he isn't the kind of man you would want me to marry.
He is trying to be, for my sake though. I think he will succeed. I told
him if he wanted to ask me again next summer I would tell him what my
answer would be."
"He is on probation then?"
"And you care for him?"
"You don't know it?"
"No, Uncle Phil. I don't. He cares so much for me--so terribly much. And
I don't know whether I care enough or not. I should have to care a great
deal to overlook what he has been and done. Maybe it wasn't anything but
midsummer madness and his wonderful dancing. We danced almost every night
until I sent him away. And when we danced we seemed to be just one
person. Aside from his dancing he fascinated me. I couldn't forget him or
ignore him. He was--is--different from any man I ever knew. I feel
differently about him from what I ever felt about any other man. Maybe it
is love. Maybe it isn't. I--I thought it was last month."
Doctor Holiday shook his head dubiously.
"And you are not so sure now?" he questioned.
"Not always," admitted Tony. "I didn't want to love him. I fought it with
all my might. I didn't want to be bothered with love. I wanted to be
happy and free and make a great success of my work. But after Alan came
all those things didn't seem to matter. I am afraid it goes rather deep,
Uncle Phil. Sometimes I think he means more to me than even you and Larry
and Ted do. It is strange. It isn't kind or loyal or decent. But that is
the way it is. I have to be honest, even if it hurts."
Her dark eyes were wistful and beseeched forgiveness as they sought her
uncle's. He did not speak and she went on swiftly, earnestly.
"Please don't ask me to break off with him, Uncle Phil. I couldn't do it,
not only because I care for him too much, but because it would be cruel
to him. He has gotten out of his dark forest. I don't want to drive him
back into it. And that is what it would mean if I deserted him now. I
have to go on, no matter what you or Larry or any one thinks about it."
She had risen now and stood before her uncle earnestly pleading her
lover's cause and her own.
"It isn't fair to condemn a man forever because he has made mistakes back
in the past. We don't any of us know what we would have been like if
things had been different. Larry and Ted are fine. I am proud of their
clean record. It would be horrible if people said things about either of
them such as they say about Alan. But Larry and Ted have every reason to
be fine. They have had you and Dad and Grandfather Holiday and the rest
of them to go by. They have lived all their lives in the Holiday
tradition of what a man should be. Alan has had nobody, nothing. Nobody
ever helped him to see the difference between right and wrong and why it
mattered which you chose. He does see now. He is trying to begin all over
again and begin right. And I'm going to stand by him. I have to--even if
I have to go against you, Uncle Phil."
There was a quiver--almost a sob in Tony's voice Her uncle drew her
into his arms.
"All right, little girl. It is not an easy thing to swallow. I hate to
have your shining whiteness touch pitch even for a minute. No, wait,
dear. I am not going to condemn your lover. If he is sincerely in earnest
in trying to clean the slate, I have only respect for the effort. You are
right about much of it. We can none of us afford to do over much judging.
We are all sinners, more or less. And there are a million things to be
taken into consideration before we may dare to sit in judgment upon any
human being. It takes a God to do that. I am not going to ask you to give
him up, or to stop writing or even seeing him. But I do want you to go
slow. Marriage is a solemn thing. Don't wreck your life from pity or
mistaken devotion. Better a heart-ache now than a life-long regret. Let
your lover prove himself just as you have set him to do. A woman can't
save a man. He has to save himself. But if he will save himself for love
of her the chances are he will stay saved and his love is the real thing.
I shall accept your decision. I shan't fight it in any way, whatever it
is. All I ask is that you will wait the full year before you make any
definite promise of marriage."
"I will," said Tony. "I meant to do that any way. I am not such a foolish
child as maybe you have been thinking I was. I am pretty much grown up,
Uncle Phil. And I have plenty of sense. It I hadn't--I should be married
to Alan this minute."
He smiled a little sadly at that.
"Youth! Youth! Yes, Tony, I believe you have sense. Maybe I have
under-estimated it. Any way I thank the good Lord for it. No more
secrets? Everything clear?"
He lifted her face in his hands and looked down into her eyes with tender
"Not a secret. I am very glad to have you know. We all feel better the
moment we dump all our woes on you," she sighed.
He smiled and stroked her hair.
"I had much rather be a dumping ground than be shut out of the confidence
of any one of you. That hurts. We all have to stand by Larry, just now.
Not in words but in--well, we'll call it moral support. The poor lad
"Oh, Uncle Phil! Did he tell you or did you guess?"
"A little of both. The boy is in a bad hole, Tony. But he will keep out
of the worst of the bog. He has grit and chivalry enough to pull through
somehow. And maybe before many weeks the mystery will be cleared for
better or worse. We can only hope for the best and hold on tight to
Larry, and Ruth too, till they are out of the woods."
A YOUNG MAN NOT FOR SALE
Philip Lambert was rather taken by surprise when Harrison Cressy appeared
at the store one day late in August, announcing that he had come to talk
business and practically commanding the young man to lunch with him that
noon. It was Saturday and Phil had little time for idle conjecture, but
he did wonder every now and then that morning what business Carlotta's
father could possibly have with himself, and if by any chance Carlotta
had sent him.
Later, seated in the dining-room of the Eagle Hotel, Dunbury's one
hostelry, it seemed to Phil that his host was distinctly nervous, with
considerably less than his usual brusque, dogmatic poise of manner.
Having left soup the waiter shuffled away with the congenital air of
discouragement which belongs to his class, and Harrison Cressy got down
to business in regard both to the soup and his mission in Dunbury. He was
starting a branch brokerage concern in a small city just out of Boston.
He needed a smart young man to put at the head of it. The smart young man
would get a salary of five thousand a year, plus his commissions to start
with. If he made good the salary would go up in proportion. In fact the
sky would be the limit. He offered the post to Philip Lambert.
Phil laid down his soup spoon and stared at his companion. After a moment
he remarked that it was rather unusual, to say the least, to offer a
salary like that to an utter greenhorn in a business as technical as
brokerage, and that he was afraid he was not in the least fitted for the
position in question.
"That is my look out," snapped Mr. Cressy. "Do I look like a born fool,
Philip Lambert? You don't suppose I am jumping in the dark do you? I have
gone to some pains to look up your record in college. I found out you
made good no matter what you attempted, on the gridiron, in the
classroom, everywhere else. I've been picking men for years and I've gone
on the principle that a man who makes good in one place will make good in
another if he has sufficient incentive."
"I suppose the five thousand is to be considered in the light of an
incentive," said Phil.
"It is five times the incentive and more than I had when I started out,"
grunted his host. "What more do you want?"
"Nothing. I don't want so much. I couldn't earn it. And in any case I
cannot consider any change at present. I have gone in with my father."
"So I understood. But that is not a hard and fast arrangement. A young
man like you has to look ahead. Your father won't stand in the way of
your bettering yourself." Harrison Cressy spoke with conviction. Well he
might. Though Philip had not known it his companion had spent an hour in
earnest conversation with his father that morning. Harrison Cressy knew
his ground there.
"Go ahead, Mr. Cressy," Stewart Lambert had said at the close of the
interview. "You have my full permission to offer the position to the
boy and he has my full permission to accept it. He is free to go
tomorrow if he cares to. If it is for his happiness it is what his
mother and I want."
But the younger Lambert was yet to be reckoned with.
"It is a hard and fast arrangement so far as I am concerned," he said
quietly now. "Dad can fire me. I shan't fire myself."
Mr. Cressy made a savage lunge at a fly that had ventured to light on the
sugar bowl, not knowing it was for the time being Millionaire Cressy's
sugar bowl. He hated being balked, even temporarily. He had supposed the
hardest sledding would be over when he had won the father's consent. He
had authentic inside information that the son had stakes other than
financial. He counted on youth's imperious urge to happiness. The lad had
done without Carlotta for two months now. It had seemed probable he would
be more amenable to reason in August than he had been in June. But it did
not look like it just now.
"You are a darn fool, my young man," he gnarled.
"Very likely," said Phil Lambert, with the same quietness which had
marked his father's speech earlier in the day. "If you had a son, Mr.
Cressy, wouldn't you want him to be the same kind of a darn fool? Would
you expect him to take French leave the first time somebody offered him
Harrison Cressy snorted, beckoned to the waiter his face purple with
rage. Why in blankety blank blank et cetera, et cetera, didn't he bring
the fish? Did he think they were there for the season? Philip did not
know he had probed an old wound. The one great disappointment of Harrison
Cressy's career was the fact that he had no son, or had had one for such
a brief space of hours that he scarcely counted except as a pathetic
might-have-been And even as Phil had said, so he would have wanted his
son to behave. The boy was a man, every inch of him, just such a man as
Harrison Gressy had coveted for his own.
"Hang the money part." he snapped back at Phil, after the interlude with
the harrassed waiter. "Let's drop it."
"With all my heart," agreed Phil. "Considering the money part hanged what
is left to the offer? Carlotta?"
Mr. Cressy dropped his fork with a resounding clatter to the floor and
swore muttered monotonous oaths at the waiter for not being
instantaneously on the spot to replace the implement.
"Young man," he said to Phil. "You are too devilish smart. Carlotta--is
why I am here."
"So I imagined. Did she send you?"
"Great Scott, no! My life wouldn't be worth a brass nickel if she knew I
"I am glad she didn't. I wouldn't like Carlotta to think I could
"She didn't. Carlotta has perfectly clear impressions as to where you
stand. She gives you entire credit for being the blind, stubborn,
pigheaded jack-ass that you are."
Phil grinned faintly at this accumulation of epithets, but his blue eyes
had no mirth in them. The interview was beginning to be something of a
strain. He wished it were over.
"That's good," he said. "Apparently we all know where we all stand. I
have no illusions about Carlotta's view-point either. There is no reason
I should have. I got it first hand."
"Don't be an idiot," ordered Mr. Cressy. "A woman can have as many
view-points as there are days in the year, counting Sundays double. You
have no more idea this minute where Carlotta stands than--than I have,"
he finished ignominiously, wiping his perspiring forehead with an
imported linen handkerchief.
"Do you mind telling me just why you are here, if Carlotta didn't send
you? I don't flatter myself you automatically selected me for your new
post without some rather definite reason behind it."
"I came because I had a notion you were the best man for another job--a
job that makes the whole brokerage business look like a game of
jack-straws--the job of marrying my daughter Carlotta."
Phil stared. He had not expected Mr. Cressy to take this position. He had
been ready enough to believe Carlotta's prophecy that her parent would
raise a merry little row if she announced to him her intention of
marrying that obscure individual, Philip Lambert, of Dunbury,
Massachusetts. He thought that particular way of behavior on the parent's
part not only probable but more or less justifiable, all things
considered. He saw no reason now why Mr. Cressy should feel otherwise.
Harrison Cressy drained a deep draught of water, once more wiped his
highly shining brow and leaned forward over the table toward his
"You see, Philip," he went on using the young man's first name for the
first time. "Carlotta is in love with you."
Philip flushed and his frank eyes betrayed that this, though not entirely
new news, was not unwelcome to hear.
"In fact," continued Carlotta's father grimly, "she is so much in love
with you she is going to marry another man."
The light went out of Phil's eyes at that, but he said nothing to this
any more than he had to the preceding statement. He waited for the other
man to get at what he wanted to say.
"I can't stand Carlotta's being miserable. I never could. It is why I am
here, to see if I can't fix up a deal with you to straighten things out.
I am in your hands, boy, at your mercy. I have the reputation of being
hard as shingle nails. I'm soft as putty where the girl is concerned. It
kills me by inches to have her unhappy."
"Is she--very unhappy?" Phil's voice was sober. He thought that he too
was soft as putty, or softer where Carlotta was concerned. It made him
sick all over to think of her being unhappy.
"She is--damnably unhappy." Harrison Cressy blew his nose with a sound as
of a trumpet. "Here you," he bellowed at the waiter who was timidly
approaching. "Is that our steak at last? Bring it here, quick and don't
jibber. Are you deaf and dumb as well as paralyzed?"
The host attacked the steak with ferocity, slammed a generous section on
a plate and fairly threw it at the young man opposite. Phil wasn't
interested in steak. He scarcely looked at it. His eyes were on Mr.
Cressy, his thoughts were on that gentleman's only daughter.
"I am sorry she is unhappy," he said. "I don't know how much you know
about it all; but since you know so much I assume you also know that I
care for Carlotta just as much as she cares for me, possibly more. I
would marry her tomorrow if I could."
"For the Lord Harry's sake, do it then. I'll put up the money."
Phil's face hardened.
"That is precisely the rock that Carlotta and I split on, Mr. Cressy. She
wanted to have you put up the money. I love Carlotta but I don't love her
enough to let her or you--buy me."
The old man and the young faced each other across the table. There was a
deadlock between them and both knew it.
"But this offer I've made you is a bona fide one. You'll make good. You
will be worth the five thousand and more in no time. I know your kind. I
told you I was a good picker. It isn't a question of buying. Can the
movie stuff. It's a fair give and take."
"I have refused your offer, Mr. Cressy."
"You refused it before you knew Carlotta was eating her heart out for
you. Doesn't that make any difference to you, my lad? You said you loved
A huge blue-bottle fly buzzed past the table, passed on to the window
where it fluttered about aimlessly, bumping itself against the pane here
and there. Mechanically Phil watched its gyrations. It was one of the
hardest moments of his life.
"In one way it makes a great difference, Mr. Cressy," he answered slowly.
"It breaks my heart to have her unhappy. But it wouldn't make her happy
to have me do something I know isn't right or fair or wise. I know
Carlotta. Maybe I know her better than you do; I know she doesn't want me
"But you can't expect her to live in a hole like this, on a yearly
income that is probably less than she spends in one month just for
"I don't expect it," explained Phil patiently. "I've never blamed
Carlotta for deciding against it. But there is no use going over it all.
She and I had it out together. It is our affair, not yours, Mr. Cressy."
"Philip Lambert, did you ever see Carlotta cry?"
Phil winced. The shot went home.
"No. I'd hate to," he admitted.
"You would," seconded Harrison Cressy. "I hated it like the devil myself.
She cried all over my new dress suit the other night."
Phil's heart was one gigantic ache. The thought of Carlotta in tears was
almost unbearable. Carlotta--his Carlotta--was all sunshine and laughter.
"It was like this," went on Carlotta's parent. "Her aunt told me she was
going to marry young Lathrop--old skin-flint tea-and-coffee Lathrop's
son. I couldn't quite stomach it. The fellow's an ass, an unobjectionable
ass, it is true, but with all the ear marks. I tackled Carlotta about it.
She said she wasn't engaged but might be any minute. I said some fool
thing about wanting her to be happy, and the next thing I knew she was in
my arms crying like anything. I haven't seen her cry since she was a
little tot. She has laughed her way through life always up to now. I
couldn't bear it. I can't bear it now, even remembering it. I squeezed
the story out of her, drop at a time, till I got pretty much the whole
bucket full. I tell you, Phil Lambert, you've got to give in. I can't
have her heart broken. You can't have her heart broken. God, man, it's
your funeral too."
Phil felt very much as if it were his own funeral. But he did not speak.
He couldn't. The other forged on, his big, mumbling bass mingled with the
buzz of the blue-bottle in the window.
"I made up my mind something had to be done and done quick. I wasn't
going to have my little girl run her head into the noose by marrying
Lathrop when it was you she loved. I got busy, made inquiries about you
as I said. I had to before I offered you the job naturally, but it was
more than that. I had to find out whether you were the kind of man I
wanted my Carlotta to marry. I found out, and came up here to put the
proposition to you. I talked to your father first, by the way, and got
his consent to go ahead with my plans."
"You went to my father!" There was concern and a trace of indignation in
"Naturally I was playing to win. I had to hold all the trumps. I wanted
your father on my side--had to have him in fact. He came without a
murmur. He is a good sport. Said all he wanted was your happiness, same
as all I wanted was Carlotta's. We quite understood each other."
Phil sat silent with down cast eyes on his almost untasted salad. He
couldn't bear to think of his father's being attacked like that, hit with
a lightning bolt out of a clear sky. The more he thought about it the
more he resented it. Of course Dad would agree. He was a good sport as
Mr. Cressy said. Rut that didn't make the thing any easier or more
"Your father is willing. I want it. Carlotta wants it. You want it,
yourself. Lord, boy, be honest. You know you do. You'll never regret
giving in. Remember it is for Carlotta's happiness we are both looking
for." There was an almost pleading note in Harrison Cressy's voice--a
note few men had heard. He was more used to command than to sue for what
Phil rose from the table. His face was a little white as he stood there,
tall, quiet, perfectly master of himself and the situation. Even before
the young man spoke Harrison Cressy knew he had failed.
"I am sorry, Mr. Cressy. If Carlotta wants happiness with me I am afraid
she will have to come to Dunbury."
"You won't reconsider?"
"There is nothing to reconsider. There never was any question. I am sorry
you even raised one in Dad's mind. You shouldn't have gone to him in the
first place. You should have come to me. It was for me to settle."
"Highty, tighty!" fumed the exasperated magnate. "People don't tell me
what I should and should not do. They do what I tell 'em."
"I don't," said Philip Lambert in much the same tone he had once said to
Carlotta, "You can't have this." "I am sorry, Mr. Cressy. I don't want to
be rude, or unkind or obstinate; but there are some things no man can
decide for me. And there are some things I won't do even to win
Harrison Cressy's head drooped for a moment. He was beaten for
once--beaten by a lad of twenty-three whose will was quite as strong as
his own. The worst of it was he had never liked any young man in his
life so well as he liked Philip Lambert at this minute, never so coveted
any thing for his daughter Carlotta as he coveted her marriage with
"That is final, I suppose," he asked after a moment, looking up at the
"Absolutely, Mr. Cressy. I am sorry."
Harrison Cressy lumbered to his feet.
"I am sorry too," he said, "damnably sorry for Carlotta and for
myself. Will you shake hands with me, Philip? It is good to meet a man
now and then."
HARRISON CRESSY REVERTS
Left to himself, Harrison Cressy discovered to his annoyance that there
was no train out of Dunbury for two hours. That was the worst of these
little one-horse towns. You might as well be dead as alive in 'em. By the
time he had smoked his after-dinner cigar he felt as if he might as well
be dead himself. He felt suddenly heavy, old, almost decrepit, though
that morning when he had left Boston he had considered himself in the
prime of life and vigor. Hang it! He was sixty-nine. A man was about done
for at sixty-nine, all but ready to turn into his grave. And he without
son or grandson. Lord! What a swindle life was anyway!
Well, there was no use sitting still groaning. He would get up and take a
little walk until train time. Maybe it was his liver that made him feel
so confoundedly rotten and no count. A little exercise would do him good.
Absentmindedly he noted, as he strolled down the elm-shaded streets, the
neatness of the lawns, the gay flower beds, the hammocks and swings out
under the trees as if people really lived out of doors here. There were
animate evidences of the fact everywhere. Children played here and there
in shady spaces under big trees. Pretty girls on wide, hospitable-looking
porches chatted and drank lemonade and knitted. A lithe, red-haired lass
in white played tennis on a smooth dirt court with a tall, clean looking
youth. As Mr. Cressy passed the girl cried out, "Love all" and the
millionaire smiled. It occurred to him it was not so hard to love all in
a village like this. It was only in cities that you hated your neighbor
and did him first lest you be done yourself.
He hadn't been loose in a country town like this for years. He had almost
forgotten what they were like when you didn't shoot through them in a
motor car, rushing always to get somewhere else. His casual saunter down
the quiet street was oddly soothing to his nerves, awoke happy, yet
He had met and loved Carlotta's mother in a country town. The lilacs had
been in bloom and the orioles had stood sponsor for his first Sunday
call. They had become engaged by the time the asters were out. The next
lilac time they had been married. A third spring and the little Carlotta
had come. They had both been disappointed at its not being a boy, but the
little girl was a wonder, with hair as gold as buttercups, eyes like wood
violets and a laugh that lilted and gurgled like the little brook down in
And then, two years later, the boy had come, come and drifted off to some
far place. It had been a bitter blow to Rose as well as to Harrison
Cressy, especially as they said there never could be any more children.
Rose grew frail, did not rally or regain her strength. They advised a
sanitarium in the Adirondacks for her. She had gone, but it had been of
no use. By the time they brought in the first gentians Rose had drifted
off after her little son. Carlotta and her father were alone.
By this time Harrison Cressy had begun to show the authentic Midas
touch. Only the little Carlotta stood between him and sheer, sordid
money grubbing. And even she was an excuse for the getting of always
more and more wealth. He told himself Carlotta should be a veritable
princess, should go always clad in the finest, have of the best, be
surrounded always by the most beautiful. She should know only joy and
light and laughter.
Thinking these thoughts, Carlotta's father sighed. For now at last
Carlotta wanted something he could not give her, was learning after
twenty-two years of cloudless joy the bitter way of tears. Why hadn't
that stubborn boy surrendered?
For that matter why didn't Carlotta surrender? This was a new idea to
Harrison Cressy. All the time he had been talking to Philip Lambert he
had been seeing Carlotta only in relation to Crest House and the Beacon
Street mansion. But just now he had been recalling her mother under very
different associations. Rose had been content with a tiny little cottage
set in a green yard gay with bright old fashioned flowers. He and Rose
had nested as happily as the orioles in the maples, especially after the
gold-haired baby came. Was Carlotta so different from Rose? Was her
happiness such a different kind of thing? Were women not pretty much
alike at heart? Did they not want about the same things?
Carlotta loved this lad of hers as Rose had loved himself. Was it her own
father who was cheating her out of happiness because he had taught her to
believe that money and limousines and great houses and many servants and
silken robes are happiness? If he had talked to her of other things, told
her about her mother and the happy old days among the lilacs and orioles,
with little but love to nest with, couldn't he have made her see things
more truly, shown her that love was the main thing, that money could not
buy happiness? One could not buy much of anything that was worth buying
Harrison Cressy thought. One could purchase only the worthless. That was
the everlasting failure of money.
He remembered the boy's, "I love Carlotta. But I don't love her enough to
let her or you buy me." It was true. Neither he nor his daughter had been
able to purchase the lad's integrity, his good faith, his ideals. And
Harrison Cressy was thankful from the bottom of his heart that it was so.
He turned his steps back to the village and as he did so an oriole
flashed out of the shrubbery near him, and passed like a flame out of
sight among the trees. This was a good sign. Orioles had nested every
year in the maple tree by the little white house where Carlotta had been
born. Carlotta herself had always loved them. "Pretty, pretty, birdie!"
she had been wont to call out. "Come, daddy, let's follow him and see
where he goes."
He would go home and tell Carlotta all this, make her see that her
happiness was in her own hands. No, it was the boy's story. If Carlotta
would not follow the orioles and her own heart for Philip Lambert she
would not for any argument of his.
By this time a distant puff of smoke gave evidence that the Boston train
was already on its way, leaving Harrison Cressy in Dunbury. Not that he
cared. He had business still to transact ere he departed, a new battle to
fight. He walked with the firm elastic step of a youth back to town. What
did it matter if you were sixty-nine when the best things of life were
still ahead of you?
Accordingly Phil was a second time that day surprised by the unheralded
arrival of Carlotta's father, a rather dusty, weary and limp-looking
gentleman this time, but exuding a sort of benignant serenity that had
not been there early in the day.
"Hello," greeted the millionaire blandly. "Missed my train--got to
browsing round the town like an old billy goat. Not sorry though. It is a
nice little town. Mind if I sit down? I'm a bit blown." And dropping on a
stool Mr. Cressy fanned himself with his panama and grinned at Philip, a
grin the young man could not quite fathom. What new trick had the clever
old financier at the bottom of his mind? Phil hoped he had not got to go
through the thing again. Once had been quite enough for one day.
"Let me send out for something cool to drink, Mr. Cressy. You must be
horribly hot. It is warm in here, even with all the fans going. Hi,
there, Tommy!" Philip summoned a freckled, red-haired youth from
somewhere in the background. "Run over to Greene's and get a lemonade for
this gentleman, will you?"
"Right, Mr. Phil." The boy saluted--an odd salute, Mr. Cressy noted. It
was rendered with the right hand, the three middle fingers held up, the
thumb bent over touching the nail of the little finger. The saluter stood
very straight as he went through the ceremony and looked very serious
about it. "Queer!" thought the onlooker. The messenger boys he knew did
not behave like that when you gave them an order.
Philip excused himself to attend to a customer and in a moment the
red-haired lad was back with a tall glass of lemonade clinking
delightfully with ice. Mr. Cressy took it and set it down on the counter
while he fumbled for his wallet and produced a dollar bill.
To his amazement the boy's grin faded, and he drew himself up with
"No, thank you, sir," he said to the proffered greenback. "I'm a Scout
and Scouts don't take tips."
"What!" gasped Harrison Cressy. In all his life he did not recall meeting
a boy who ever refused money before. He began to think there was
something uncanny about this town of Dunbury. First a young man who could
not be bought at any price. And now a boy who wouldn't take a tip for
"I said I was a Scout," repeated the lad patiently. "And Scouts don't
take tips. We are supposed to do one good turn every day, anyway, and I
hadn't gotten mine in before. I'm only a Tenderfoot but I'm most ready
for my second class tests. Mr. Phil's going to try me out in first aid as
soon as he gets time."
"Mr. Phil! What's he got to do with it?" inquired Mr. Cressy, after a
long, satisfying swig of lemonade.
"He is our Scout-master and a peach of a one too. He is going to take us
on a hike tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? Tomorrow is Sunday, young man." The Methodist in Harrison
Cressy rose to the surface.
"I know. We all go to church and Sunday school in the morning. Mr. Phil
won't take us unless we do. But in the afternoon he thinks it is all
right to go on a hike. We don't practise signaling and things like that,
but we get in a lot of nature study. I can identify all my ten trees now
and a whole lot more besides, and I've got a bird list of over sixty."
"You don't say so?" Harrison Cressy was plainly impressed. "So your Mr.
Phil gives a good deal of time to that sort of thing, does he?" he added,
his eyes seeking Philip Lambert in the distance.
"Should say he did. I guess he gives about all the time he has outside
of the store. He's a dandy Scout-master. What he says goes, you betcher."
Remembering the scene at the luncheon table that day, Harrison Cressy
thought it quite probable. What Philip had said had gone "you betcher" on
that occasion with a vengeance. So young Lambert gave his off hours to
business of this sort. Most of Carlotta's male friends gave most of
theirs to polo, jazz, and chorus girls. He began to covet Philip more
than ever for a possible, and he hoped probable, son-in-law.
It played into his purposes excellently that Philip on returning invited
him to supper on the Hill that night. He wanted to meet the boy's people,
especially the mother. Carlotta had told him once that Philip's mother
was the most wonderful person in the world.
Seated at the long table in the Lambert dining-room Harrison Cressy
enjoyed a meal such as his chef-ridden soul had almost forgotten could
exist--a meal so simple yet so delectable that he dreamed of it for days
But the food, excellent as it was, was only a small part of the
significance of the occasion. It was a revelation to the millionaire to
know that a family could gather around the board like this and have such
a thoroughly delightful time all round. There was gay talk and ready
laughter, a fine flavor of old-fashioned courtesy and hospitality and
good will in everything that was said or done.
The Lambert girls--the pretty twins and the younger, slim slip of a
lassie, Elinor--were charming, fresh, natural, unspoiled, very different
from and far more to his taste than most of the young women who came to
Crest House--hot-house products, over-sophisticated, cynical, too
familiar with rouge and cigarettes and the game of love and lure,
huntresses more or less, the whole pack of them. It seemed girls could
still be plain girls on this enchanted Hill--girls who would make
wonderful wives some day for some lucky men.
But the mother! She was the secret of it all, quite as remarkable as
Carlotta had said. She was extraordinarily well read, talked well on a
dozen subjects as to which he was himself but vaguely informed, and she
was evidently even more extraordinarily busy. There was talk of a Better
Babies movement in which she was interested, of a Red Cross Chapter at
which she had spent the afternoon, of a committee meeting of the local
Woman's Club which was bringing a noted English poet-lecturer to town.
There were Chatauqua plans in view, and a new children's reading room in
the public library with a story-telling hour of which Clare was to be in
charge. A hundred things indicated that Mrs. Lambert was by no means
confined to the four walls of her home for interests and activities. Yet
her home was exquisitely kept and she was a mother first of all. One
could see that every moment. It was "Mums, this" and "Mums, that" from
them all. The life of the home clearly pivoted about her.
Harrison Cressy found himself wishing that Carlotta could have known a
motherhood like that. Rose had gone so soon. Carlotta had never known
what she missed. Perhaps Mr. Cressy himself had not known until he saw
Mrs. Lambert and realized what a mother might be. Poor Carlotta! He had
given her a great deal. At least, until this, afternoon, he had thought
he had. But he had never given her anything at all comparable to what
this quiet village store-keeper and his wife had given to their son and
daughters. He hadn't had it to give. He had been poor, after all, all
along. Though he hadn't suspected it until now.
After supper Stuart Lambert had slipped quickly away, bidding his son
stay up on the Hill a little longer with their guest. Phil had demurred,
but had been quietly overruled and had acquiesced perforce. Poor Dad!
There had not been a moment all day to relieve his mind about Mr.
Cressy's offer. Not once had the father and son been alone. Phil was
afraid his father was taking the thing a good deal to heart, and it
worried him. He had counted on talking it over together as they went back
to the store but his father had willed otherwise.
It was with Carlotta's father instead of his own that Philip talked first
"See here, Philip," began Mr. Cressy as they descended the Hill in
"Lizzie." "I went at this all wrong. So did Carlotta. I understand
better now. I've been back in the past this afternoon, remembering what
it means to live in the country and love and mate there in the good
old-fashioned way as Carlotta's mother and I did. It is what I want her
to do with you. Do you get that, boy? I want her to come to Dunbury. I
want her to have a piece of your mother. Carlotta never knew what it was
to have a mother. It is mostly my fault she doesn't see any clearer. You
mustn't blame her, lad."
"I don't," said Phil. "I love her."
"I know you do. And she loves you. Go to her. Make her see. Make her
marry you and be happy."
Phil was silent, not because he was not moved by the older man's plea but
because he was almost too moved to speak. It rather took his breath away
to have Harrison Cressy on his side like this. It was almost too
incredible, and yet there was no mistaking the sincerity in the other's
words or on his face. Carlotta's father did want Carlotta to come to him
on his Hill.
But would Carlotta want it? That was the question. For himself he
sought no higher road to follow than the one where his father and
mother had blazed the trail through fair weather and stormy these many
years. But would Carlotta be content to travel so with him? He did not
know. At any rate he could ask her, try once more to make her see, as
her father put it.
He turned to his companion with a sober smile at this point in his
"Thank you, Mr. Cressy. I will try again and I know it is going to make a
great deal of difference to Carlotta--and to me--to have you on my side.
Perhaps she will see it differently this time. I--hope so."
"Lord, boy, so do I!" groaned Mr. Cressy. "You will come back to Crest
House tomorrow with me?"
Phil hesitated, considered, shook his head.
"I'll come next Saturday. I can't get away tomorrow," he said.
"Why not? For the Lord's sake, boy, get it over!"
Phil smiled but shook his head. He too wanted to get it over. He could
hardly wait to get to Carlotta, would have started that moment if he
could have done so. But there were clear-cut reasons why he could not go
tomorrow, obligations that held him fast in Dunbury.
"I can't go tomorrow because I have promised my boys a hike," he
Harrison Cressy nearly exploded.
"Heavens, man! What does a parcel of kids amount to when it comes to
getting you a wife? You can call off your hike, can't you?"
"I could, but it would be hard on a good many of them. They count on it a
good deal. Some of them have given up other pleasures they might have had
on account of it. Tommy has, for instance. His uncle asked him to go to
Worcester with him in his car, and he refused because of his date with
me. They are all bribed to church and Sunday School by the means. One of
the things Scouting stands for is sticking to your job and your word. I
don't think it is exactly up to the Scoutmaster to dodge his
responsibilities when he preaches the other kind of thing. Of course, if
it were a life and death matter, it would be different. It isn't. I have
waited a good many weeks to see Carlotta. I can wait one more."
Harrison Cressy grunted. He hardly knew whether to fly into a rage with
this extraordinary young man or to clap him on the back and tell him he
liked him better and better every minute. He contented himself by
repeating a remark he had made earlier in the day.
"You are a darn fool, young man." Then he added, half against his will,
"But I like your darnfoolness, hang me if I don't!"
Phil had a strenuous two hours in the store with never a minute to get at
his father. It was not until the last customer had departed, the last
clerk fled away and the clock striking eleven that the father and son
Philip came over to where the older man stood. His heart smote him when
he saw how utterly worn and weary the other looked, as if he had suddenly
added a full ten years to his age since morning. His characteristic
buoyancy seemed to have deserted him for once.
"Dad, I've not had a minute alone with you all day. I am sorry Mr. Cressy
bothered you about that blue sky proposition of his. I never would have
let him if I had known. Of course there was nothing in it. I didn't
consider it for a minute."
Stuart Lambert smiled wearily and sat down on the counter.
"I am afraid you have given up more than we realized, Philip, in coming
into the store. Mr. Cressy gave me a glimpse into things that I knew
nothing about. You should have told us."
"There was nothing to tell. I've given up nothing that was mine. I told
Carlotta all along she would have to come to me. I couldn't come to her.
My whole life is here with you. It is what I have wanted ever since I had
the sense to want anything but to enjoy my fool self. But even then I
didn't appreciate what it would be like to be here with you. I couldn't,
till I had tried it and found out first hand what kind of a man my dad
was. I am absolutely satisfied. If Mr. Cressy had offered me a million a
year I wouldn't have taken it. It wouldn't have been the slightest
temptation even--" he smiled a little sadly--"even with Carlotta thrown
in. I don't want to get Carlotta that way."
"You say you are satisfied, Philip. Maybe that is so. But you are
"I wasn't, just at first. I was a fool. I let the thing swamp me for
awhile. Mums helped pull me out of the slough and since then I've been
finding out that happiness is--well, a kind of by-product. Like the
kingdom of heaven it doesn't come for observation. I have had about as
much happiness here with you, and with Mums and the girls at home, and
with my Scouts in the woods, as I deserve, maybe more. I'm going to try
to get Carlotta. I haven't given up hope. I'm going down to Sea View next
week to ask her again and maybe things will be different this time. Her
father is on my side now, which is a great help. He has got the Holiday
Hill viewpoint all at once. He wants Carlotta to come to me--us. So do I,
with all my heart. But whether she does or doesn't, I am here with you as
long as you want me, first last and all the time and glad to be. Please
believe that, Dad, always."
Stuart Lambert rose.
"Philip, you don't know what it means to me to hear you say this." There
was a little break in the older man's voice, the suggestion of pent
emotion. "It nearly killed me to think I ought to give you up. You are
sure you are not making too much of a sacrifice?"
"Dad! Please don't say that word to me. There isn't any sacrifice. It is
what I want. I haven't been a very good son always. Even this summer I am
afraid I haven't come up to all you expected of me, especially just at
first when I was wrapped up in myself and my own concerns too much to see
that doing a good job in the store was only a small part of what I was
here in Dunbury to do. But anyway I am prouder than I can tell you to be
your son and I am going to try my darndest to live up to the sign if you
will let me stay on being the minor part of it."
He held out his hand and his father took it. There were tears in the
older man's eyes. A moment later the store was dark as the two passed out
shoulder to shoulder beneath the sign of STUART LAMBERT AND SON.
THE DUNBURY CURE
Harrison Cressy awoke next morning to the cheerful chirrup of robins and
the pleasant far-off sound of church bells. He liked the bells. They
sounded different in the country he thought. You couldn't hear them in
the city anyway. There were too many noises to distract you. There was no
Sabbath stillness in the city. For that matter there wasn't much Sabbath.
He got up out of bed and went and looked out of the window. There was a
heavenly hush everywhere. It was still very early. It had been the
Catholic bells ringing for mass that he had heard. The dew was a-dazzle
on every grass blade. The robins hopped briskly about at their business
of worm-gathering. The morning glories all in fresh bloom climbed
cheerfully over the picket fence. He hadn't seen a morning glory in
years. It set him dreaming again, took him back to his boyhood days.
If only Carlotta would be sensible and yield to the boy's wooing. Dunbury
had cast a kind of spell upon him. He wanted his daughter to live here.
He wanted to come here to visit her. In his imagination he saw himself
coming to Carlotta's home--not too big a home--just big enough to live
and grow in and raise babies in. He saw himself playing with Carlotta's
little golden-haired violet-eyed daughters, and walking hand in hand with
her small son Harrison, just such a sturdy, good-looking, wide-awake
youngster as Philip Lambert had no doubt been. Harrison Cressy's mind
dwelt fondly upon this grandson of his. That was a boy indeed!
Carlotta's son should not be permitted to grow up a money grubber. There
would be money of course. One couldn't very well avoid that under the
circumstances. The boy would be trained to the responsibilities of being
Harrison Cressy's heir. But he should be taught to see things in their
true values and proportions. He must not grow up money-blinded like
Carlotta. He should know that money was good--very good. But he should
know it was not the chief good, was never for an instant to be classed
with the abiding things--the real things, not to be purchased at a price.
Mr. Cressy sighed a little at that point and crept back to bed. It
occurred to him he would have to leave this latter part of his grandson's
education to the Lambert side of the family. That was their business,
just as the money part was his.
He fell asleep again and presently re-awoke in a kind of shivering panic.
What if Carlotta would not marry Philip after all? What if it was too
late already? What if his grandson turned out to be a second Herbert
Lathrop, an unobjectionable, possibly even an objectionable ass.
Perspiration beaded on the millionaire's brow. Why was that young idiot