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Her Weight in Gold
by George Barr McCutcheon
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But that one glimpse was his undoing.

All those years of constancy to his original inclination were blotted out as if by magic. His primeval affection was uprooted, turned over, and then jolted unceremoniously out of existence. One divided glimpse had restored vigour to his waning passion and it flamed with all the fury of coals that have smouldered long and lazily. The one distressing condition attached to this pleasant and refreshing restoration was the fact that he succumbed not to one, but to both of the Misses Frost—succumbed heartily and bodily, without the faintest hope of discrimination. He was in love with both at first sight. For the life of him he could not tell which he had seen first.

That very evening at the dinner hour he rode up and down in the elevator no less than a dozen times, and each time as he passed the second floor he hopefully but surreptitiously peered forth at the Gladdings' door. Once the car stopped to take some one on at this floor, and his dear old heart gave an enormous throb of anticipation, turning to disappointment an instant later when a messenger-boy slouched in.

"Find 'em at home?" asked the elevator-boy.

"Sure. Say, dey're wonders, ain't dey, dese society girls? I don't blame people for sendin' 'em violets."

Mr. Hamshaw could have slain No. 329 for his familiarity, but lost the opportunity in wondering what the young ladies would think if they received 10,000 violets from an unnamed sender. For days, be it said in all solemnity, Mr. Hamshaw waited and watched for glimpses of the young ladies—princesses he was calling them down in the neighbourhood of his rejuvenated heart. He neglected his business, ate at the most irregular hours, and finally gave himself up to the astonishing habit of walking up and down five flights of stairs. Sago and Ellen, united in worrying over these idiosyncrasies, were troubled deep down in their consciences.

The master took to standing out in front of the main entrance on bitterly cold days, smoking cigar after cigar. He said, in explanation, that it was unhealthy to smoke indoors. Twice in as many weeks he had glimpses of the young ladies. On both occasions they walked briskly past him with their pretty noses in the air. It was evident that they disdained carriages and street cars, for they struck off downtown with the stride of athletes.

"By Jove, they're fine specimens!" murmured Mr. Hamshaw, admiring their bonny figures from the doorway.

It is quite natural that he should have kept his secret from Sago and Ellen. Sooner would he have died than permit these staunch guardians to grasp the whole truth concerning his—he even felt guilty enough to call it "foolish"—infatuation. If the Misses Frost received frequent offerings of rare violets from an unmentioned source they were not so puzzled that they could find no one to thank even though it surprised the innocent young man in the extreme. If they took notice of the stout, bald old gentleman who shuffled his feet and looked conscious when they strode past it was not for him to know at that stage of the game. He felt so small after the weary weeks of watching that he went and had himself weighed, devoutly certain that he shrunk respectably. He even went in for a savage system of training, calculated to reduce his avoirdupois.

One day, while he was swinging along through the park, a mile and a half from home, trying to take off a few of the pounds that made him impossible to the willowy Misses Frost, he unexpectedly came upon his dual affinity. In his agitation he narrowly escaped being run down by a base and unsympathetic cab operated by a profane person who seldom shaved. As it was, he lost his hat. The wind whirled it over the ground much faster than he could sprint, with all his training, and brought it up against a bush in front of the young women. One of them sprang forward and snatched it up before it could resume its flight. Mr. Hamshaw came up puffing and confused, but radiant.

"Thank you, thank you, ever so much!" he panted. "Never mind the dust. It's been dusty before. Besides, it's an old one. I have a better one at home, and a silk—"

He brought himself up with a jerk, realising that he was jabbering like a fool. The young women were polite and respectful. Not a sign of derision appeared in their faces.

"Fierce wind, isn't it?" asked one of them, and it dawned instantly upon him that she was the one he loved. He jammed his hat far down upon his head, glancing, as he did so, at the other girl. She was smiling genially, her face rosy from the wind her sister condemned, and, with ruthless inconstancy, Mr. Hamshaw at once changed his mind. She was the one.

"Pardon me for the liberty," he said, "but I am Mr. Hamshaw. We are neighbours, you know. Live in the same building."

"Oh, is that so?" asked the taller of the two, and, to his dismay, he saw that her surprise was genuine.

"Yes; you are on the second—I am on the sixth."

"Where the Jap is?" asked the shorter one.

"He's my valet."

"Funny little thing, isn't it?"

"An excellent servant, Miss—"

"Look out, there goes your lid again! I'll get it—my legs are swifter than yours!" cried the tall athlete in petticoats, and off she sailed in pursuit.

"You need some one to chase your hat for you, Mr. Hamshaw," said the short one airily.

"Are you going our way?" asked the other, with a smile that could have led him to perdition.

"To the end of the earth," he murmured gallantly.

For the next ten minutes he walked on air. His heart was so light that it bobbed up and down like a fisherman's cork. He was not long in discovering that the tall one was Mame and the short one Lou—short for Marie and Louise, they explained on request!

"I see a good many boxes of flowers going up to your apartment," ventured Mr. Hamshaw, quite out of breath.

"Every day, and sometimes in between," said Marie.

"Ah, it's so nice to be popular!" he chirped. "And—and you can't blame the men, either, you know."

"You can't thank them, either, if they don't enclose their cards. Nearly every day there is a guessing match in the back parlour. It's poor form to send flowers without a card."

"By George, they're fine girls!" reflected Mr. Hamshaw. "Healthy, vigorous, full of life, and not a bit spoiled. Hang it all, I'm an ass to act like this! But I can't help it. A man is never too old to learn or to love. I'll play hob with some of these young dandies before I get through. Hamshaw, you've got to win one of these girls. But which one? There's the rub! It's awfully annoying!"

But it grew to be quite romantic. Mr. Hamshaw came to look upon himself as an up-to-date Romeo. The young ladies did not offer him any inducement to call upon them in their own home, but they frequently walked with him in the park of afternoons, and were astonishingly agreeable about candy, soda-water and matinees. Their reluctance to lunch or dine with him downtown stamped them in his mind as something most admirable. He quite understood. And their devotion to their sick friend was truly beautiful. He never saw them but they were going to visit her. Miss Louise naively informed him that they gave her some of the violets he sent to them, but that she knew he wouldn't mind.

"Do you think she'd like it if I sent her some good books to read?" asked he, quite delighted.

"Sure," replied Miss Marie.

"How very unconventional," beamed Mr. Hamshaw to himself. "Hang it all, I wish I could decide between them! I think I'd look better with the short one, but—"

One day his nephew, young Jimmy Sprang, met him on the street and proceeded to twit him about his second childhood.

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded Mr. Hamshaw with great dignity and a sinking heart.

"Who are the fairies you're trotting—"

"Stop, sir!" thundered Mr. Hamshaw. "Not another word, sir! They are ladies, and not to be discussed by such a bounder as you."

At last Mr. Hamshaw decided to take Louise. "I'll tell her tomorrow," he said to himself, quite sure that it was only necessary to tell and not to ask. But that evening, just after returning from the club, he saw something that troubled and harassed him not a little. He saw and heard Sago talking to the Misses Frost—not only talking but in a manner so familiar that it must have been extremely nauseating to the cultured young women. The three were standing under the electric light at the corner, and the young women instead of appearing annoyed at the heathen's twaddle, seemed to be highly amused. Only the greatest exercise of self-restraint kept Mr. Hamshaw from kicking Sago into the middle of the next block.

Mr. Hamshaw was on the point of intervening when, to his utter consternation, the two young women started off up the street with Sago. To add to his misery, Sago did not come in at all that night. In response to Mr. Hamshaw's savage inquiry, Ellen, who attended him the next morning, said that Sago had gone to a dance on the West Side and had not turned up. Mr. Hamshaw sat bolt upright in bed and then collapsed.

The next afternoon he went home early, haggard and with a headache. His confidence was not gone, however. After arranging himself carefully—he refused to call for Sago—he boldly descended to the second floor. Then he lost his nerve. Instead of ringing the Gladding door-bell he walked on downstairs and out into the open air. At the corner he came plump upon Mr. Gladding himself, the step-father of the two girls.

"How are you, Mr. Hamshaw? Fine weather we're having," greeted the man from the second floor.

"I've just been to your flat," said Mr. Hamshaw.

"Indeed! Any one at home?"

"I don't know—that is, I didn't go in. You see—are you going home now, Gladding, or downtown?"

"Home, of course. I've been downtown all day. Anything you wanted to see me about, Mr. Hamshaw?"

"Oh, no—nothing important."

"Well, won't you come up with me now? By the way, I'd like you to meet my wife and her daughters."

"I know your daughters, I believe."

"Ah!"

"It is about one of them that I wish to speak with you, sir." They were on the second-floor landing by this time. "May I come in?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Gladding.

Mr. Hamshaw sat stiff and uncomfortable on the divan while Mr. Gladding rang for a maid. He also called down the hall to ask Mrs. Gladding and the young ladies to come in and greet Mr. Hamshaw.

"Before they come," began the latter, fidgeting nervously, "I want to say that I expect to marry Miss Frost. It's been hard work to choose between them—"

"What are you talking about?" gasped the father.

"I know I've done a most reprehensible thing in courting them—I mean her—in this manner, but, you see—"

At this juncture Mrs. Gladding entered the room, followed by two strange young women—sleepy, tired, scrawny young women, who looked at Mr. Hamshaw as if he were a sofa-cushion and nothing more.

"My wife—er—Mr. Hamshaw, and the Misses Frost," mumbled Mr. Gladding, bowled over completely.

"What's that?" shouted Mr. Hamshaw, coming to his feet and toppling over backward again. The others stared at him as if he were mad. "How —how many have you—I mean, how many daughters are there?"

"Two!" exclaimed Mrs. Gladding, freezing up immediately. The society young women relaxed into a giggle.

"Then—who—is this a joke?" gasped Mr. Hamshaw, perspiration starting in torrents.

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded Mr. Gladding.

"Where are Marie and Louise?" murmured Mr. Hamshaw.

Just then a trim maid appeared in the doorway—white-capped and aproned.

"Did you ring, Ma'am?—Good Heavens!"

It was Marie!

Mr. Hamshaw fainted without more ado, and the apartment was in an uproar. Everybody thought he was dead, and the Misses Frost promptly duplicated his swooning act.

When Mr. Hamshaw opened his eyes, Marie was standing near by with ammonia and wet towels.

"Where is Louise?" he asked weakly.

"She's went and married that awful little Jap of yours last night. Here, take another sniff at this. Go on; don't be afraid of it. I've give it to the young ladies regular for the last five years. What's that, sir?"

"Nothing—nothing," he whispered.

"You said something, sir."

"And you're not Miss Frost?"

"One of them scrawny—I beg pardon, sir! Did you think I was—"

"Well, if that's the case, I can tell you what I said a moment ago. I said 'D—n it all!' Where am I?"

"At Mr. Gladding's, sir."

"Is Sago upstairs?"

"No, sir; they've gone to the matinee on their wedding trip, Mr. Hamshaw."

"Oh!"

It was not what Mr. Hamshaw said but the way he said it.



THE GREEN RUBY

He was a very good-looking chap—this Cannable who lived in the civilised city of New Orleans. It is quite true that he came from an island in the sea, but as that island is known to geographers, great and small, as England, it is scarcely worth while to mention his migration as an achievement of civilisation. Moreover, it was known that he had eaten of human flesh, but it was not with the gusto of those ancient Fijis who banqueted on salubrious sailors and munchable ministers whenever they had the simultaneous chance and appetite.

He was one of three survivors of the ill-fated Graceby polar expedition, and as such he had been obliged to subsist for some days on whatsoever was set before him by the cook, a discreet but overpowering person who certainly would have been the sole survivor if the relief expedition had been delayed a few days longer. But that portion of Mr. Cannable's history sounds much better in whispers and it does not look pretty in print. He never repeated it of his own accord. The newspapers told it for him when he was too weak and exhausted to deny or affirm.

His uncle, Sir John Bolingbroke, sent him out from London soon after his return from the frozen North to represent great financial interests on the Cotton Exchange at New Orleans. For two years the young man stuck manfully to his post in the southern city, but it was an irksome restraint to one whose heart was turbulent with the love of travel and adventure. Just at the time when he was ready to resign his position and hie himself into the jungles of the Amazon on an exploring expedition two things happened, either of which was in itself sufficient to stay him for the while. In the first place, his uncle died and left him two hundred thousand pounds in good English money, and in the second place he met Agatha Holmes.

The two hundred thousand pounds, it is but just to say, might not have kept him from the equator, but it is doubtful if all, much less any specific portion of the globe, could have induced him to leave Agatha Holmes. And so it was that Mr. James Cannable—for short "Jimmy"— remained in New Orleans for many months, estimably employed in the business of evolving a plan that might permit him to journey to the world's end with two hundred thousand pounds in one hand and a certain girl's future in the other.

The months and the plans were profitable, it seems, for one splendid evening saw him at the altar-rail beside the fairest girl in all the Southland, the queen of a thousand hearts. Agatha Holmes became Mrs. Cannable, and thereby hangs a tale. It would appear, from all the current but unpublished records of social Louisiana, that Agatha had gone about shattering hearts in a most unintentional but effective fashion up to the time Mr. Jimmy Cannable refused to be routed. Certainly it is no blot upon this fair young coquette's fame to admit that she had plighted herself to at least four ardent suitors in days gone by, and it was equally her own affair if she took every woman's privilege of shifting her fancy before she was ready to marry.

Unluckily for Agatha, however, she neglected to disengage herself properly from the most recent suitor next before Mr. Cannable. So far as that worthy was concerned the engagement still obtained, for he, poor chap, was down in Patagonia somewhere surveying for railroads and did not have the slightest means of ascertaining her change of affection. How was he to know that she had married Jimmy Cannable, and how was he to know that she had forgotten his very existence without a single pang of remorse? He only knew that he had starved himself to give her a diamond ring, to say nothing of the wonderful old ruby heirloom that had been in the family for centuries.

He told her at parting that no power on earth could keep him from some day reclaiming the heirloom and with it the hand of the girl who was to wear it all her life.

One day, out of the past and up from the wilds, came the word that Harry Green was on his way home after an absence of three years. Agatha Holmes had been Mrs. Cannable for three months and she had forgotten young Mr. Green as completely as if he never had been a part of her memory. A cablegram addressed to Agatha Holmes one day was delivered to Agatha Cannable. It simply said: "Am coming back at last for the ruby. Harry," and it was sent from London. She found herself wondering what he was doing in England and how long it would be before he could reach New Orleans, but it did not dawn upon her for three full days that he still imagined himself to be her tardy but accepted fiance. Then in the fulness of her joy she sat down and laughed over his amazement—perhaps his chagrin—when he learned that she was another man's wife.

At first thought she decided to tell Jimmy the news, permitting him to enjoy the fun as well, but the discretion which shapes woman's ends forestalled the impulse. There was much she could not explain in justice to herself, to say nothing of the other man who had gone away with her in his heart. True, it may not have been difficult to hold her immaculate in a heart surrounded by Patagonians, but there was something disturbing in the fact that he had been constant, after all. She recalled, with a slight shiver (which grew with time, by the way), that she had sworn to kill herself rather than to marry any one but Harry Green. It also came back to her memory that the hot-blooded Harry had promised faithfully, though fiercely, that he would accomplish that end for her in case she violated her oath.

It is sufficient to say that she was the most wretched young woman in New Orleans by the time Harry Green landed in New York. He telegraphed to her, announcing his arrival and his hasty departure for the Southern metropolis. Somehow the slip of paper read like a death- warrant to her peace of mind.

"How annoying it is to have an old affair revived like this," she wailed to herself. "Why couldn't he, too, have married some one else? How, in Heaven's name, will it end?" She thought of a thousand subterfuges through which she might avoid seeing him, but put them all aside with the recollection of his indomitable will. He would see her sooner or later; the inevitable could not be avoided.

She finally took to her bed with daily headaches, distractedly but stealthily studying a railroad time-table.

"He's leaving New York by this time. Good Heaven, he'll be in Mobile by one o'clock tomorrow, Pass Christian a few minutes later—oh, dear, I wonder if he will be terribly violent! Jimmy is noticing, too. He says I'm ill. He wants to take me to California, but I don't dare—I don't dare! Harry Green would be sure to follow. I know him—oh, how well I know him! He would—"

A servant came in to announce that Miss Carrithers was down stairs.

"Ask her to come up," sighed Agatha. "I'll tell her myself that I don't want to see her, but it won't mean anything to Betty. She'll stay all morning."

"Yes, ma'am," agreed the maid as she hurried away. A moment later Miss Carrithers fairly bounded into the darkened bed-chamber, her face full of excitement.

"Have you heard?" she gasped, dropping upon the side of the bed. "Harry Green's coming home. He's in New York now. Joe Pierce had a telegram."

"Yes, I know," said Agatha drearily.

"Have you heard from him—you?" demanded Miss Betty in amazement—and some little concern.

"Of course, Betty; why shouldn't I?" irritably.

"Oh, I suppose it's all right," said the other dubiously. "I was only thinking of the—of the old days."

"Betty," said Mrs. Cannable, sitting up suddenly and grasping her friend's hand, "I'm the most wretched creature on earth. I don't know what I'm to do."

"Is it about—about Harry Green?" "Yes. You see, dear, he—he doesn't know I'm married."

"Goodness, Agatha! You don't mean he—he still thinks you are engaged to marry him?"

"That's just it, Betty. I didn't tell him—in fact, I had forgotten all about him, away down there in Patagonia, wherever it is. He—"

"And, oh, he was so terribly in love with you—and you with him, too!"

"No, no; don't say that. It was so foolish. Besides, he's been gone nearly three years. How could he expect me to wait all that time? I haven't had a letter from him for more than a year. I counted it up today."

"Does Jimmy Cannable know about—him?"

"I don't know and I'm afraid to ask."

"Harry's a frightfully determined person," mused Betty Carrithers reflectively.

"He swore I should be his wife if we waited a thousand years."

"That's the one thing in your favour. When they swear such things as that they can't possibly mean all they say," said Miss Betty sagely. She was the prettiest and most popular girl in town, but she was a wise body for all that. Her trim little figure was surcharged with a magnetism that thrilled one to the very core; her brown eyes danced ruthlessly through one's most stubborn defences; her smile and her frown were the thermometers by which masculine emotions could be gauged at a glance. "It will be rather difficult to face him, won't it?"

"Betty, it's simply impossible! Think of Harry Green waiting all these years, believing in me, as constant as the sun—and then to find I've married some one else. You know I love Jimmy Cannable with all my heart. I can't bear the thought of what might happen if he and Harry quarrelled about—about those old days."

"Don't cry—don't be a goose! It's the commonest thing in the world. Every girl has had dozens of affairs."

"I know, but not just like this one. My husband wants to take me to California. I wish—oh, how I wish I could go! But Harry would follow —I know he'll be merciless."

Miss Carrithers was thoughtful for several minutes, paying slight heed to the doleful sobs from the bed.

"I'll tell you what, Agatha," she said at last; "I believe this affair can be managed easily enough if you will just leave town."

"Oh, Betty!" sitting up and looking at her friend hopefully.

"Of course, I never had a chance at Harry Green. You monopolised him. I liked him immensely—from a distance. You go away, and let me explain the situation to him."

It was the straw that the drowning person grasps, and Mrs. Cannable clutched it with a shriek of delight. She poured her story into the ears of her too loyal friend, who smiled confidently in response to her apprehensions.

Miss Carrithers did not exchange confidences, however; she merely gave promises to do her best. She was shrewd enough to know that if she confessed to Agatha that she had cared for Harry Green—from a distance—that capricious and perverse young person would have declined to retire from the field of strife. After all, Betty admitted to herself, it was not wholly a service of sacrifice she was granting her friend. There was something of a selfish motive in her loyalty.

"I'll love you forever if you will explain everything and send him away," said Agatha in the end.

"At least, I shall explain everything," agreed Betty complacently. Agatha blushed consciously as she drew a small diamond from among those on her fingers.

"I didn't know his address, so you see I couldn't send it back to him," she explained. "And, Betty, if you'll hand me my jewel box I'll ask you to return that—er—you remember my old ruby pendant!"

"Was—that—did he give it to you?"

"Yes. You don't know how I hate to give it up. Isn't it beautiful?" She reluctantly let the ruby slip from her fingers into those of her friend.

"Perfectly gorgeous," said Betty, fastening it about her neck and surveying herself in the cheval glass. "I'd give anything if it belonged to me."

"Now, excuse me a minute, dear. I'll telephone to Jimmy and tell him we'll start for California tonight. Harry gets here tomorrow at 4:45 on the limited."

"You can be well out of the way by that time," said pretty Miss Carrithers with a smile.

"And now, Betty, you will send him back to Patagonia, won't you?"

"I'll keep him away from California, my dear, that's all."

Miss Carrithers sat in her carriage outside the railroad station, waiting for the train that was to bring Harry Green into New Orleans. Outwardly she was cool, placid; inwardly she was a fever of emotions. He had telegraphed the time of his arrival to Agatha; Betty received and read the message. Mr. and Mrs. Cannable were miles westward, hurrying to California. It was one thing to say she would take certain responsibilities off the hands of the bride; it was altogether another proposition to sit there and wait for the man she had admired for four or five years with a constancy that surprised even herself. Her reflections at this specific hour were scarcely definable. Chief among them was a doubt—this doubt: Would Harry Green remember her? It seemed such an absurd doubt that she laughed at it—and yet cultivated it with distracting persistency.

The train was ten minutes late. A newsboy had made two trips to the train-board in quest of information. When the big locomotive finally thundered and hissed its way to a stand-still near the gates, Canal Street seemed to have become a maze of indefinite avenues, so dizzy had she grown of a sudden. Her eyes searched the throng that swept through the .gates; at last she saw him approaching.

She had expected a tired, worn man, unfashionably dressed, eager-eyed and wistful. Instead, the tall fellow who came forth was attired in the most modern English garments; he was brown, fresh-faced, keen-eyed and prosperous looking. The same old Harry Green grown stronger, handsomer, more polished. His black eyes were sweeping the street anxiously as if in search of some one. He did not see Betty Carrithers, and her heart sank.

Behind him stalked two gigantic negroes. They were the centre of all observation. People stared at the blacks who carried Harry Green's bags as if they were looking upon creatures just out of an Arabian Night's tale. Nearly seven feet tall and of Herculean proportions were these giants. It is no wonder that the crowd gaped and felt something like awe mingling with curiosity.

Mr. Green, erstwhile Patagonian surveyor, started at the sound of a soft voice close at hand, a voice in which grateful surprise was uppermost.

"Why, Harry Green! How do you do!" He turned and beheld Miss Carrithers. She was leaning forward in her carriage, her little gloved hand extended toward him impulsively. She was amazed to see a look of relief flash in his eyes. His smile was broad and wholesome as he gripped the little hand in a mighty brown one.

"Betty Carrithers!" he exclaimed. "Now, this is like home! By George, you haven't changed a bit."

"Don't you think so!" She flushed. "It's been several years, you know. A woman can change terribly in—"

"Ah, but you've just changed into a woman."

"And what a man you've grown to be," admiringly.

"I hope so. Patagonia would make a man of any one. Are you expecting some one?"

"I was; but I see every one has come out. Won't you let me take you up town? Goodness, who are those awful giants that stand over there all the time like guards?"

"They're from Patagonia. Call them anything you like; they don't understand English. They are my men of all work. Thanks, I will ride up with you. Tell him to stop at the St. Charles." Then he turned and spoke to the giants, who solemnly nodded their heads and climbed into a cab close by. Green seated himself beside Miss Carrithers. There was a hunted look in his eyes and a nervous tremor in his voice. "A sort of bodyguard, as it were, Betty. By the way, you haven't seen Agatha Holmes, have you? I telegraphed to her."

Miss Carrithers had braced herself for this question and she also had prepared an answer. She could not look at his face, however, despite her determination.

"Agatha Holmes! Is it possible you haven't heard? Don't you know that —that she is married?"

She knew in her heart it was a cruel blow, but it was the best way, after all. Instinctively she felt that he had ceased breathing, that his body was stiffening under the shock, that his eyes were staring at her unbelievingly. Imagine her surprise, even consternation, when, after a breathless moment, his tremendous sigh of relief was followed by the most cheerful of remarks.

"Good Lord!" he fairly gasped, "that simplifies matters!"

She turned like a flash and found his face radiant with joy. It was hard for her to believe her own senses. He actually was rejoicing; she had expected him to groan with despair. It is no wonder that her plan of action was demolished on the instant; it is not surprising that every vestige of resourcefulness was swept away by this amazing reverse. She stared at him so pathetically, so helplessly, that he laughed aloud.

"I know what you're thinking," he said, and there was no mistaking the lightness of his heart. "I don't blame you for being shocked if you thought I had come back to such a fate as you evidently pictured. Betty, by Jove, you'll never know how happy you've made me!"

"I—I am surprised. Agatha told me that you—you—"

"And she's really married? Never mind what she told you. It doesn't matter now. Is she happy?"

"She adores her husband—young Jimmy Cannable. You know him. She will be crazy with joy, Harry, when she finds out that you, too, are happy. She was half mad with remorse and all that. It will—"

"Heavens, Betty, I thought I was the remorseful one. By George, I love you for telling me this!"

A shocking suspicion hurtled through her brain.

"You mean, there is—another woman?" she said with a brave effort. She even smiled accusingly.

"Some day I'll tell you all about it," he said evasively. "I—I suppose it would be all right for me to go round and call on Agatha this evening."

"She is not in town. California," said Betty.

"Great Scott! In California?" The dismay in his face was even greater than the relief of the moment before.

"Not exactly. She's on her way."

"By George, I wonder if I can catch her by wire? I must—I really must see her." He was so agitated that she observed beads of perspiration starting on his brow. She was mystified beyond description. Was he, after all, she found herself wondering, playing a part? Was it in his crafty heart to follow and kill Agatha Holmes!"

"Oh, no,—you can't do that," she protested quickly. "Won't you—come out to dinner tonight?" she added somewhat confusedly. "We can talk over old times."

"Thanks, Betty, but I can't." At the same time he glanced uneasily at a cab which drove along close behind them.

"You were going to call upon Agatha," she pouted.

"But not at dinner-time," he said, mopping his brow. "I'll come up about nine, if I may."

He came at nine, a trifle out of breath and uneasy in his manner. The great Green ruby hung from the chain that encircled Betty's slim, pretty neck. Its soft red eye glowed like a coal against the white skin, but if she thought to surprise him with it, she was to be disappointed. He did not look at it.

She did not know at the time that a giant Patagonian stood beneath the gas lamp at the corner above the Carrithers mansion in St. Charles Avenue. His gaunt, dark face was turned toward her doorway and his fierce eyes seemed to bore holes through the solid oak.

"I can't stay very late," he said almost as he responded to the greeting. "Confounded business engagement. Where is Agatha to stay in California?"

"I don't know. It wasn't decided. Perhaps they'll go to Japan."

"Good Lord!"

"You seem terribly interested, for a man who doesn't care," she said.

"I should say I am interested—but not in the way you think." After a moment's reflection, as he stood looking down upon her, he went on excitedly, "I'll tell you something, Betty. You're a good sort, and you can keep a secret as long as any woman—which isn't long, of course. But it will be long enough for me to get out of town first. I must go to California tomorrow. Wait! Don't look like that! I'm not going to annoy Agatha. She'll understand when she hears what I have to say. Have you ever noticed the ruby pendant that she wears—or wore, perhaps?"

"The big one she called her 'coal of fire' because it burned her conscience so terribly? Yes."

"Well, I gave it to her. I've just got to have it back. That's the whole story. That's what I'm here for. That's why that awful black devil is standing out there on the corner. See him? Under the gas lamp?" He drew the curtains aside and she peeped out. "He's waiting for me."

"What does it mean?" she cried, with a nameless dread creeping over her.

"He is there in the interest of my father-in-law," said Mr. Green.

"You—-your father-in-law?" she gasped, staring at him wildly.

"Yes—my wife's father," he said somewhat plaintively. He sat down near her, a nervous unsettled look in his eyes. She felt her heart turn cold; something seemed to be tightening about her throat. The light of hope that had been fanning began to flicker its way to extinction.

"You are married?" came from her stiff lips.

"Yes," he replied doggedly. "A year ago, Betty. I—I did not write to Agatha about it because I—I hoped that she'd never know how false I was to my promise. But, she's done the same thing; that takes a terrible load off my mind. I feared that I might find her waiting, you know. It would have been hard to break it to her, don't you see?"

To his amazement, she laughed shrilly, almost hysterically. In the flash of a moment's time, her feeling toward Harry Green began to undergo a change. It was not due to the realisation that she had lost all hope of having him for her own; it was, instead, the discovery that her small girlish love for him had been the most trivial of infatuations and not real passion. She laughed because she had pitied Agatha and Green and herself; she laughed, moreover, in memory of her deliberate eagerness to assume Agatha's burdens for purely selfish reasons.

"I know it's amusing to you," he agreed with a wry smile. "Everything amused you, as I remember, Betty. Do you remember that night in Condit's conservatory when you and I were hiding from—"

"Don't, please!" she objected, catching her breath painfully. "I was a foolish girl then, Harry. But tell me all about your—your wife. I am crazy to know."

He looked involuntarily toward the window before replying; she observed the hunted look in his eyes and wondered.

"There isn't much to tell. She lives in Patagonia," he said, somewhat sullenly. Then he glanced at his watch.

"What! Is she a—a native?" she cried.

"She was born there, but—Good Lord, you don't think she's black?"

"Or even a giantess," she smiled.

"She's white, of course, and she's no bigger than you, Betty. She isn't as pretty, I'll have to say that. But let's talk about something else. How am I to catch Agatha? It's imperative. 'Gad, it's life or death, Betty."

"What do you mean?" she asked, startled.

He swallowed painfully two or three times as he scraped the edge of the rug with his foot, looking down all the while.

"Well, you see, it's this way. I've married into a rather queer family. My—my wife's most damnably jealous."

"That isn't very queer, is it?"

"She has a queer way of being jealous, that's all. Somehow she's got it into her head that there's another woman up here in North America."

"Oh, I begin to see. And, of course, there isn't?"

"Certainly not. I love my wife."

"Good for you, Harry. I didn't think it of you," she said with a smile which he did not understand.

"Oh, I say, Betty, you are making fun of me."

"On the contrary, I'm just beginning to treat you seriously."

"I suppose I owe some sort of an explanation in connection with my remark about jealousy. It's due my wife."

"May I ask where she is at present?"

"She's on the range in Patagonia. I—I couldn't bring her here, you know. Betty, I want you to help me with Agatha. She's got that ruby and I simply have to get it back again. I'll tell you all about—about my marriage. Perhaps you'll understand. You see, I meant to be true to Agatha. But it was so cursed lonesome down there—worse than Siberia or mid-ocean. We were surveying near the west coast—rotten country— and I met her at her father's place. You see, they raise cattle and all that sort of thing there. Her old man—I should say Mr. Grimes—is the cattle king of Patagonia. He's worth a couple of millions easy. Well, to make a long story short, we all fell in love with Pansy—the whole engineering corps—and I won out. She's the only child and she's motherless. The old man idolises her. She's fairly good-looking and— well, she's being educated by private tutors from Buenos Aires. I'm not a cad to tell you. She's pure gold in spite of her environment."

"No doubt, if she's surrounded by millions."

"Don't be sarcastic. Some day she'll come in for the old man's money. She'll be educated by that time and as good as anybody. Then we'll come back to the States and she'll—well, you'll see. The only trouble is that she thinks there's a woman up here that I loved before I loved her. One day, shortly after we were married, she found a photograph of Agatha which I'd always carried around in my trunk. It was the picture in which she wore the Green ruby. Don't you remember it? "Well, you can't imagine how she carried on. She acted like a sav—but I won't say it. She has had no advantages—yet, and she's a bit untrained in the ways of the world. Of course, she hated Agatha's face because it was beautiful. She complained to the old man. The worst of it all is that I had already shown her a picture of the ruby, taken from that eastern magazine, and she recognised it as the one on Agatha's neck. "Well, you should have heard the old—my father-in-law! Phew!"

"What did he say?" asked Betty, pitying him.

"I can't repeat it. He went on at a fearful rate about fellows of my stripe having wives in other parts of the world, and he was in a condition to commit murder before he got through. It all ended with a monstrous demand from my wife. She commanded me to produce the pendant. By George, Betty, I was in a frightful mess!

"I could only say it was in New Orleans. The old man looked holes through me and said he'd give me four months in which to produce it. Anything that Pansy demanded he'd see that she got it, if he had to shoot his way to it. You ought to see him! And, incidentally, she can shoot like Buffalo Bill herself. She shot a gaucho through the neck half a mile away."

"A gaucho?"

"Yes—a cowherder. Hang it, everybody carries a gun down there. Now you know why I'm here. The old man said if I didn't bring that ruby to my wife in a given time he'd find me and shoot me full of holes. She loves me, but she said she'd do the same thing. I've just got to have that ruby. They mean it."

"You poor boy," said Betty scornfully. "And I was feeling so sorry for you because of Agatha."

"It's no joke, Betty. These big blacks are my servants for appearance's sake only. They are in reality my keepers. The old man sent them along to see that I did come back, one way or another. They'd just as soon throttle me as eat."

"It would be easy to lose them up here, I should say."

"Well, I reckon you don't know a Patagonian. They can scent like a bloodhound and they never give up. Those fellows are here to attend to me, and they'll do it, never fear. Either one of them could thrash half the police in New Orleans. They are terrible! There's no escape from them. I'd thought of something desperate but—but Grimes himself is to be reckoned with. Sometimes I—I almost wish I hadn't won out."

"But think of the millions."

"The only thing I can think of, Betty, is that miserable ruby. I've got to recover it and sail for South America inside of ten days. And she's in California! Did you ever hear of such luck?"

Betty Carrithers walked over and looked from the window. The giant black was still under the street lamp and she could not repress a shudder as she glanced from time to time to the man on the couch. A feeling of pity arose in her breast. Harry Green was unworthy, after all. He was not what he had seemed to be to her in those days of her teens. He was no longer an idol; her worshipful hours were ended. Instead, he was a weak, cringing being in the guise of a strong attractive man; he had been even more false than Agatha, and he had not the excuse of love to offer in extenuation. Pity and loathing fought for supremacy. Something was shattered, and she felt lonely yet relieved. Strangely, she seemed content in the discovery.

He was leaning forward, staring blankly at the rug, when she turned to resume her seat. A haggard face was raised to hers and his hand trembled as he jerked out his watch for the fourth time since entering the room.

"I'm a bit nervous," said he. "Time flies."

"Do you remember the fairy princesses of your childhood books?" she asked suddenly. "What would you say if one should quickly appear in real life?"

"What do you mean?"

"Outside stands the terrible ogre, ready to eat you up. Permit me to appear before you as the fairy princess. I can save you from death. My only regret is that I can not provide you with an enchanted tapestry, to waft you back to your lady love in the beautiful land of Patagonia. Here, behold! I restore to you the wonderful ruby!"

She unclasped the chain and dropped the great jewel into his shaking hand. He turned deathly white and then leaped up with a shout of incredulous joy. A hundred questions flew to his lips, faster than she could answer. She allowed him to babble on disjointedly for some time.

"Isn't it sufficient that I restore it to you? Why ask questions? It was my commission to do this thing. I'll confess it hasn't happened just as I anticipated, but what of that? Doubtless you recall this ring also. I think it signified an engagement. Take it. There may come a day when it will be ornamental as well as useful to your wife." He accepted the solitaire which she drew from her finger. His face was a study.

"Betty," he said, puzzled and helpless, "it—it isn't possible that it was you instead of Agatha that I gave these things to? I had typhoid fever down there. There are a lot of things I don't remember since then. It wasn't you, of course."

She laughed in his perplexed face—a good-humoured, buoyant laugh.

"If you can't remember, Harry, I shan't enlighten you. You have the ruby, isn't that enough?"

Ten minutes later he said good-bye to her and sallied forth into the night. She stood in the window and watched the huge sentinel stride off behind him like a gaunt shadow which could not be shaken off. That figure and another like it were to cling to his heels until he came to his journey's end. She smiled and shook her head pityingly as Harry Green passed out of her life at the corner below.

In her own room shortly afterward she took an old photograph from a drawer, looked at it a moment with a smile on her lips, and then tore it into many pieces.

"The strangest part of it is that I don't seem to mind," she said to herself, and that night she slept peacefully.



THE GLOAMING GHOSTS

PART I

Gloaming had been the home of the Gloames for two centuries at least. Late in the seventeenth century one of the forebears acquired the picturesque acres in Virginia and they have not been without a Gloame as master since that time. At the time when the incidents to be related in this story transpired, Colonel Cassady Gloame was the owner of the famous old estate and he was lord of the countryside. The power of the ancient Gloames was not confined to the rural parts of that vast district in southern Virginia; it was dominant in the county seats for miles around. But that is neither here nor there. The reader knows the traditional influence of every old Virginia family. It is like the royal household of an eastern monarchy. It leads, dominates, and sets the pace for all its little universe. No one cares to learn that the Gloames were the first family of them all; it does not matter especially that old Sir Henry settled there nearly a hundred years before the Revolution; it is simple history that some of the Gloames who followed after him fought like tigers for the country in one war and just as hard against it in another. Let it be understood that Gloaming was two centuries old and that there was no fairer, prouder name in all Virginia than that which had been handed down to Colonel Cassady Gloame, the last of the race.

The rambling old house that faced the river was known from one end of the state to the other, not only for its age, but for its hospitality. The Gloames, whether wild or sedate, had always been famous for the warmth of their hearts. The blood was blue and the hearts were true, is what the world said of the Gloames. The years had made but little change in the seat of the Gloames. The mansion, except for the repairs that time demanded, was virtually the same as in the days of old Sir Henry. Nine generations of Gloames had begun life in the picturesque old house and it had been the pride of each. It had borne good Americans and blue Virginians. The architecture, like its children, seemed perennial. Time made few inroads upon the character of its lines. Its furnishings and its treasures were almost as antique. Decrepit age alone was responsible for the retirement of historic bits of furniture. The plate was as old as the hills, the service as venerable. Gloaming looked to be the great-great-grand-parent of every other habitation in the valley.

Colonel Cassady Gloame was the last of the long and illustrious race. He was going to the grave childless; the name would end with him. True, he would doubtless leave a widow, but what is a widow when one figures on the perpetuation of a name? The Colonel was far past sixty, his wife barely twenty-five. He loved her devotedly and it is only just to say that she esteemed him more highly than any other man in all the world. But there would be no children.

Mrs. Gloame, beautiful, cultured, gay as a butterfly, was the daughter of Judge Garrison of New York. She had been married for five years and she was not yet tired of the yoke. Her youth was cheerfully, loyally given over to the task of making age a joy instead of a burden to this gallant old Virginian. She was a veritable queen in this little Virginia kingdom. Though she was from the North, they loved her in the South; they loved her for the same reason that inspired old Colonel Gloame to give his heart and honour to her keeping—because they could not help it.

The Christmas holidays were always a season of great merriment at Gloaming. There never had been a Christmas Eve without festivities in the good old home of the Gloames. Sometimes, in the long array of years, there may have been sorrow and grief and trouble in the hearts of the inmates, but all such was dissipated when the Christmas bells began to ring. Even that terrible tragedy in the winter of 1769 lifted its shadow long enough to permit the usual happiness to shine through all the last week of the dying year.

There was always a genial house party in holiday times, and Gloaming rang free with the pleasures of the light-hearted. The Colonel himself was the merriest of the merry-makers, second only in enthusiasm to the sunny young wife from the North. The night of December 24, 1897, found the old mansion crowded with guests, most of whom were spending the week with the Gloames. There had been dancing and music and games, and eleven o'clock brought fatigue for even the liveliest of the guests. It was then that pretty Louise Kelly, of the Major Kellys of Richmond, peremptorily commanded the Colonel to tell the oft-told tale of the Gloaming Ghosts.

"Come to order," she cried to the guests in the double parlours. "Colonel Gloame is going to tell us about those dear old ghosts."

"Now, my dear Louise, I've told that story times without number to every soul in this house," remonstrated the Colonel. "You, to my certain knowledge have been an attentive listener for one hundred and nine times. Even though it brings upon my head the weight of your wrath, I must positively decline to—"

"You have nothing to say about it, Colonel Gloame," declared Miss Kelly definitely. "The first thing required of a soldier is duty. It is your duty to obey when commanded by the officer of the night. In the first place, you've not told the story to every one here. Lieutenant King has just confessed that he never has heard of the Gloaming Ghosts and, furthermore, he laughed when I told him that you boasted of real, live ghosts more than a hundred years old."

"Oh, we are very proud of our ghosts, Lieutenant King," cried Mrs. Gloame.

"I imagined that people lived in some terror of ghosts," ventured King, a young West Pointer.

"You couldn't drag the Colonel into the south wing up-stairs with a whole regiment of cavalry horses," said old Mr. Gordon, the Colonel's best friend.

"Tush," remonstrated the Colonel.

"There's a real ghost, a white lady who walks on air, who spends her time in the room whose windows look out over the low lands along the river," piped up little Miss Gordon, a grand-daughter in very short dresses.

"How romantic," laughed the Lieutenant.

The Colonel, despite his customary remonstrances, would not have missed telling the story for worlds. He liked to be coaxed. He was in his element when the score or more of eager guests, old and young, crowded into the room about him and implored him to go on with the tale.

"It's a mighty threadbare sort of a ghost we have here, my dear Lieutenant," he admitted at last, and there was a sigh of contentment from the lips of many. They knew the story would be forthcoming. "Poor old thing, I've told about her so often I'm afraid she'll refuse to come and visit us any more."

At this juncture, young Mr. Gates Garrison strolled leisurely into the room, coming from the dining-room where he had lingered with the apples and cider and doughnuts. He was a tall, fair young fellow of twenty-four, a year younger than his sister, the pretty Mrs. Gloame, and a senior in Columbia College. The Colonel stood with his back to the blazing grate, confronting the crowd of eager listeners, who had dragged chairs and settees and cushions from all parts of the house to prepare the auditorium.

"Come here, Gates, and hear the ghost story," cried his sister, making room between herself and Miss Kelly.

"Same old story?" inquired the law student, stifling a yawn.

"Of course; come and sit between us."

"Oh, I'm not afraid of ghosts," replied Gates indifferently.

Miss Kelly looked daggers through her tender blue eyes.

"I wonder what that boy has on his mind?" murmured Mrs. Gloame anxiously.

"Nothing," responded Miss Kelly, sweetly. But the Colonel was beginning.

"Whatever you may think of this story," he began, "I can assure you that there is a very deep mystery attached to Gloaming and as I cannot offer the faintest explanation except to call your attention to the supernatural conditions which exist, I am obliged to admit that I, for one, firmly believe the house is haunted. For several generations the Gloame family, to an individual, has believed in the ghost of the south wing and our faith cannot be shaken. We have the evidence of our ears, our eyes, and of all who have undertaken to explode the theory. I'll be just as brief as possible, Major Harper, so you need not look at your wife's watch. My great-great-grandfather, Godfrey Gloame, was born in this house and he brought a beautiful bride here when he was married twenty-five years afterward. He was, as are all the Gloames, a Virginian of the old type, and he was a fire-eater, so the family records say. When he was married it was to a young lady of wealth and position in the North—a very gay and, if I must say it, a particularly—ah!—unsatisfactory mistress of a home." "What could you expect of a Yankee wife?" asked young Garrison, tantalisingly.

"They were different in those days," responded the grey old narrator, with a smile for his wife. "My great-great-grandmother was a beautiful woman, and she was well aware of that fact. Her husband was a jealous devil, as unreasonable as a jackass, and as stubborn as an ox. To make a long story short, after they had been married five years and had seen enough of the connubial hell to drive them both out of mind, he took a sudden fancy that she was false to him. A young Virginian, in fact, the very man who stood up with him at the wedding, was a frequent visitor at this house and was a decided favourite with my maternal ancestor. Godfrey went to drinking rather heavily, simply because he found it impossible to discover anything wrong in his wife's conduct—I may say that he had watched her, too, ladies and gentlemen. Being too honourable to accuse her of infidelity without having actual proof, he suffered in silence and his cups, all the time allowing the gap between them to grow wider and wider. One night he came home from Richmond late and saw his friend, Harry Heminway, leaving the place on horseback. Inflamed by jealousy, and drink, too, I reckon, he dashed up to his wife's room. I do not know what followed, for no one ever knew, but the next mornin' they found her dead on the bed, her throat cut from ear to ear in a most dreadful manner. He was dead on the floor, the same knife sticking in his breast. Their son, my great-grand-father, the famous General George W. Gloame, then a child of three, was lying on the bed with his mother, asleep."

"What beautiful nerves that kid must have had," muttered Gates.

"And did they never hang the murderer?" asked Lieutenant King.

"Good heavens, no! Didn't I say he had jabbed the knife into his own heart? How could they hang him? Well, all this happened in that room at the far end of the south wing—it's always locked now and has been for a hundred and thirty years. The furniture stands just as it was when that pair occupied the apartment. Now comes the strange part of the story."

"Ugh!" interrupted Miss Kelly, with a shudder. "Just hear how the wind whistles around the house. It positively gives me the shivers."

"Well, within a week after the murder queer things began to happen in that room," the Colonel went on. "Odd noises were to be heard, muffled screams came from behind the closed doors, and finally the people who lived here saw the white, ghostly form of my great-great-grandmother moving about in the room and in the halls. Ever since that time her spirit can be seen up there, for it comes around once in a while to see if anybody desecrates the room by trying to sleep in it. With my own eyes I have seen it—dozens of times. Since my marriage it has not been here, but I expect it almost any night."

George Washington appeared suddenly in the hall door and his stentorian though eminently respectable tones startled the entire assemblage, the Colonel included. There were a dozen little feminine shrieks and more than one man caught his breath sharply. George Washington was the butler at Gloaming.

"Majah Harpeh's kerridge, sah," he announced obsequiously.

"Oh, I'm so glad," gasped Miss Kelly, mightily relieved. Then, in confusion: "I mean, Mrs. Harper, that I'm glad it isn't the ghost, you know."

Half an hour later the parlours were deserted, except for the presence of a tall young man with a far-away, dissatisfied look in his eyes. In all the spare bed chambers guests were preparing for bed. Young Garrison had said good night to all of them and remained below stairs to commune with himself at the midnight hour.

For many minutes he sat before the fireplace, staring moodily at the flames. Gates Garrison admitted reluctantly that it was all very nice at Gloaming, that it was "a bully place to spend the holidays and all that, you know," but for a very well-defined reason he was wishing they were over and he was back in New York once more. He was in love. It is not unusual for a young man of his age to be desperately in love and it is by no means unusual that he should be in love with the most impossible of persons. Gates Garrison's affections at this period of his life were the property in fee simple of a very pretty and decidedly popular member of the chorus at Weber & Field's. After convincing himself that he was quite alone in the huge old parlour, the hopeless Mr. Garrison guiltily drew from the inside pocket of his coat a thick and scrawly letter. Then he did things to this letter that in after years he would blush to acknowledge, if they remained a part of his memory. He kissed the scribble—undeniably. Then, with rapt eyes, he reread the lengthy missive from "Dolly." It had come in the morning mail and he had read it a dozen times. The reader is left to conjecture just what the letter contained. Mr. Garrison's thoughts were running something like this:

"Lord, if my sister knew about you, Dolly, she'd have so many fits that you couldn't count them. They think I'm an absolute stick when it comes to girls. If they only knew! What the deuce did I do with that photograph—ah, here it is. Inside vest pocket, left-hand side—just where it belongs."

He pulled a small photograph from his vest pocket and sat gazing at it rapturously. It was the portrait of the fair Dolly in tights. After a long scrutiny of this rather picturesque product of nature and the photographer, he arose and, with a sigh, turned off all the lights in the room, still holding the picture in his hand. The fire in the grate was now the only means of illumination in the parlour and the halls were dark. Reconsidering his impulse to go to bed, he threw himself in a chair before the grate, his elbow resting on the mahogany table at its right. There he devoted himself to—dreams. A wave of cold air crossing his back brought him from dreamland.

"Some one must have left a door open," he grumbled. He looked up and down the hall and then resumed his seat before the fire. A moment later the chilly draft struck him again. "Confound it! There's a devil of a draft from somewhere. It goes clean through me. Must be a crack in the floor. That's the trouble with these shacks that somebody's grandfather built before the flood." He vigorously poked up the fire and drew his chair a little closer to the circle of warmth.

Had he turned his head for an instant as he sat down he could have seen that he was not alone in the room. A tall, shadowy woman in white was standing in the hall door, looking pensively in upon him. For a full minute she stood there, hesitating between modesty and curiosity, and then turned as if to glide away.

Reconsidering, she smiled defiantly and more or less nervously, and then turned back into the room. Of course, he did not hear her as she approached. The mere fact that her filmy white dress was of the fashion in vogue before the Revolution should prove her identity to the reader. She was the Gloaming Ghost.

Gates Garrison was softly, tenderly addressing the photograph of the airy but not ethereal Dolly. The words were not for the ears of others. Even the infatuated lover would have despised the strain of softness in his tones had he known there was a hearer.

"If you could but speak to me," he was saying to the picture, "you'd make me happy, I know. You'd tell me that you love me. You'd tell me that you hate that meddlesome old man Ellison. You've got it just as bad as I have, haven't you, Dolly?"

"What a real woman she seems to be," exclaimed a soft silvery voice at his shoulder. Garrison whirled and looked up into the beautiful face of the ghost.

"Great Heaven!" he gasped, struggling to his feet, his eyes riveted to the face of the wraith.

"Only a part of it, my dear sir," corrected the ghost, with a rare smile in which courage struggled with diffidence. "Dear me, why do you stare at me so rudely?"

She was standing directly before him now, tall and straight. He was hanging to the mantelpiece, almost speechless.

"Who—what in Heaven's name are you?" he cried.

"Why, don't you know me? I am Mrs. Godfrey Gloame," she replied, a touch of resentment in her voice.

"The—the ghost?"

"That's what they call me," she admitted sadly. "It's such a horrid thing to be called, too. In reality, I'm merely a visitor from another world. There are many more of my kind in this room at this instant, sir, but you cannot see them. They are visible to me, however. If it interests you in the least, I can tell you that you are surrounded by ghosts. Please don't run! They can not hurt you. Why should they, even if they could? What a big, strong man you are to be afraid of such perfectly harmless, docile beings as we. Over in that corner, looking from the window, stands my daughter-in-law, Mrs. George Gloame. I saw her husband, my son, sitting in the hallway as I came through. Judging from their attitudes, they've had another of those horrid quarrels. I hope you'll pardon me for disturbing you. You looked so lonely I couldn't resist the desire to come in and see. you as I was passing."

Gates was regaining his composure rapidly. The first uncanny shock was wearing off and he was confessing to himself that there was nothing to fear in the spectral bit of loveliness.

"I—I'm sure I appreciate the honour," he said, bowing low.

"Permit me to introduce myself," she went on, and he marvelled at her charm of manner. "I am the great-great-grandmother of Cassady Gloame, and the daughter of Van Rensselaer Brevoort, of New York. He is a millionaire."

"He must be a pretty old millionaire by this time, isn't he?"

"Oh, poor papa has been dead for a hundred and one years."

"Indeed? He isn't here, is he? I'm getting so I don't mind you in the least but I'd rather not meet any male—er—ghosts, if you please." Mrs. Godfrey Gloame laughed unrestrainedly.

"Don't you know that we are nothing but spectral air?" she cried derisively.

"Ah, since you speak of it, I did feel your draft when you came in," he said. "But, if you will pardon me, Mrs. Gloame, there is something uncanny about you just the same. You'll admit that, I'm sure. How would you have felt when you were in the flesh to have had a horrible ghost suddenly walk in upon you?" "Oh, I am horrible, am I?" she said as she leaned toward him with an entrancing smile.

"Heavens, no!" he retracted. "You are a marvel of beauty. I don't wonder that your husband was jealous." She did not appear to have heard the last remark.

"How I used to live in terror of ghosts," she cried, looking about apprehensively. "Would you believe it, sir, up to the time I was married I could not bear the thought of being left alone in the house for a single minute of the night. The darkness, the mystic flicker of the lights, the stillness seemed to swarm with spirits—Oh, you don't know how I suffered with the fear of them."

"And after you got married—what then?"

"I soon had material spirits to contend with."

"How so?"

"That is an extremely personal inquiry, sir."

"I beg pardon if I have overstepped the bounds of politeness."

"I may as well tell you that my husband drank terribly. It's all over the country anyhow, I hear."

"The Gloame pedigree says that you drove him to it."

"I know that is what the Gloames claim, but it is a shameless slander. My poor, dear husband has told me since that he was wrong and he would give all he has on earth to set me aright in that hateful old pedigree. The poor fellow killed himself, you doubtless know. I was never so shocked in my life as when I heard that he had committed such a brutal act." Mrs. Gloame was looking sadly, reminiscently into the fire and there was a trace of tears in her voice.

"But, my dear madam, didn't he begin by slaying you?" exclaimed Gates in surprise.

"To be sure, he did destroy me first or I might have kept him from committing the awful crime of suicide," she said, despondently.

PART II

"But murder is so much worse than suicide," expostulated Garrison. "We hang men for murder, you know."

"I've a notion that it would be difficult to hang them for suicide. But you are quite wrong in your estimation of the crime. You do not know what it is to be murdered, I presume."

"Well, hardly."

"Nor what it is to commit suicide? Well, let me advise you, judging from what I know of the hereafter, get murdered in preference to committing suicide. I'd even suggest that you commit murder, if you are determined to do anything rash."

"And be hanged for it!" laughed Gates.

"You can be hanged or be d——d, just as you like," she said meaningly. "I wish you could talk to my husband if you are thinking of doing anything of the kind. I'm sure your young love affairs must be getting to the suicide stage by this time."

"But I don't want to kill anybody, much less myself. Oh, I beg your pardon," he cried suddenly. "Pray have a chair, Mrs. Gloame. It was unpardonable in me to let you remain standing so long. I've been a trifle knocked out, I mean disconcerted. That's my only excuse."

"You are not expected to know anything about ghost etiquette," she said sweetly, dropping into a chair at the side of the table farthest from the fire. Garrison had some fear that her vapoury figure might sink through the chair, but he was agreeably surprised to find that it did not. Mrs. Gloame leaned back with a sigh of contentment and deliberately crossed her pretty feet on the fender.

"Won't you sit nearer to the fire?" lie asked. "It's very cold tonight and you must be chilled to the bone. You are not dressed for cold weather." She was attired in a low-necked and sleeveless gown.

"I'm not at all cold and, besides, I did not bring my bones with me." He resumed his seat at the opposite side of the table. "Have you come far tonight?"

"From the graveyard a mile down the river. It is a beautiful cemetery, isn't it?"

"I am quite a stranger in these parts. Besides, I'm not partial to graveyards."

"Oh, dear me," she cried, in confusion. "The idea of my sitting here talking to a total stranger all this time. You must think me extremely bold."

"I am the bold one, madam. It's my first experience, you know, and I think I'm doing pretty well, don't you? By the way, Mrs. Gloame, my name is Gates Garrison, of New York, and my sister is the present Mrs. Gloame."

"The pretty young thing with the old Gloame husband?"

"Can't say she's pretty, you. know. She's my sister."

"I passed her in the hall tonight."

"The dev—the deuce you did!" cried Gates, coming to his feet in alarm. "Then she must be lying out there in a dead faint." He was starting for the door when she recalled him.

"Oh, she did not see me. She merely shivered and asked a servant to close the door. An ill wind seems to be a north wind, so far as ghosts are concerned," she concluded pathetically. "So you are from New York. Dear New York; I haven't been there in a hundred and thirty-five years, I dare say. One in my position rather loses count of the years, you know. I suppose the place is greatly changed. And your lady-love lives there, too, I see."

"My lady-love?" demanded Gates, taken back.

"Yes, the girl who is so well dressed from her shoulders up," with a tantalising smile.

"You mean—this?" he asked, turning a fiery red as he tried to slip the picture of Dolly under a book.

"Let me see it, please. Who is she?" He was ashamed, but he held out the picture. A poorly disguised look of disgust crossed the startled features of Mrs. Godfrey Gloame.

"She's—a friend of the Colonel's," said Gates promptly.

"I should think his wife would do well to be on her guard. This is the first time I ever saw such a costume. In my day a woman would not have dared to do such a thing. Don't you know her?"

"Oh, casually," answered he, looking away.

"I'm glad to hear that. She is nothing to you, then?"

He shook his head in fine disdain.

"I don't care much for you men in these days, Mr. Garrison," she said.

"You're not complimentary."

"When I compare the men of my day—men like Godfrey—with the men of today, I thank Heaven I had the honour to be killed by a gentleman. You don't know how many unhappy wives I meet in the cemetery."

"Well, there are no women like you in this day, either. You are beautiful, glorious," he cried, leaning toward her eagerly. She shrank back with a laugh, holding her hands between his face and her own.

"How lovely," she sighed. "But keep away, please."

"Well, I should say," he exclaimed, his teeth almost chattering, so cold was the air that fanned his face. "I never got such a frost from a woman in all my life."

"If my husband had heard your words of flattery he would have created a terrible disturbance. He was fearfully jealous—a perfect devil when the spell came over him."

"A devil then and a devil now, I may infer."

"Oh, no; you do him an injustice. Godfrey really was an angel, and if he had not killed himself I think he would not now be in such an uncertain position. He is still on probation, you see."

"Between two fires, as it were."

"I think not. The last time I saw him he was shivering."

"I don't wonder," said Gates, ruefully, recalling the chill of a moment since. "Does he ever come here?"

"Not often. There are so many unpleasant associations, he says. It was here that the funeral took place and he has expressed very strong exceptions to the sermon of a minister who alluded to him as an unfortunate victim of his own folly. The idea! It would have been folly, indeed, for Godfrey to have lived after I was dead. Every woman in Virginia would have been crazy to marry him. And then one of the pall-bearers did not suit him. He had cheated Godfrey in a horse trade, I think."

"I should like to have known Godfrey Gloame."

"You would have admired him. He was the best pistol shot, the bravest man in all Virginia. Three times he fought duels, coming off victorious each time. He would have been an ideal husband if he had not been so indolent, so dissipated, and so absurdly jealous of Harry Heminway. I shall never forgive him for killing me on account of poor Harry."

"Is that why he killed you?" asked Gates eagerly.

"He said so at the time, but he was sorry for it afterward. That is usually the way with jealous men."

"Whew!" exclaimed the man, starting up. "There's another draft, didn't you feel it?"

"It is my husband coming, I know his footstep," she said delightedly, looking toward the door.

"Holy smoke!" cried Gates, in alarm.

"Don't let him hear you speak of smoke. He is very touchy about it just now. Ah, come in, Godfrey, dear."

She crossed to the door to meet the tall, grey young man in the eighteenth century costume, Garrison looking on with open mouth, and rising hair.

Godfrey Gloame was a handsome fellow, albeit he was as transparent as glass. His hair was powdered with all the care of a dandy and his garments hung properly upon his frame. He kissed his wife and then glared at young Mr. Garrison.

"Who is this man, Beatrice?" he demanded, his hand going to his sword hilt. Mrs. Gloame caught the hand and there was passionate entreaty in her eyes. "Speak, woman! What are you doing here with him at this time of night?"

"Now, don't he cross, Godfrey," she pleaded. "It's only Mr. Garrison."

"And who the devil is Mr. Garrison?"

"What a very disagreeable ghost," muttered Gates, remembering that ghosts are harmless.

Mrs. Gloame led the unruly Godfrey up to the table and, in a delightfully old-fashioned way, introduced the two gentlemen.

"Mr. Garrison is the brother of my successor, the present mistress of Gloaming," she said.

"And a devilish pretty woman, too. I've seen her frequently. By the way, I stopped in her bedchamber as I came through. But that's neither here or there. What are you doing here with this young whipper- snapper, Beatrice?"

"Let me explain, Mr. Gloame," began Gates hastily.

"I desire no explanation from you, sah," interposed Godfrey, towering with dignity. "You would explain just as all men do under like circumstances. Beatrice, I demand satisfaction."

"Be rational, Godfrey, for once in your life. It is beneath my dignity to respond to your insult," said Mrs. Gloame proudly.

"Good for you, Mrs. Gloame," cried Garrison approvingly. "You would be a bully actress."

"Sah, you insult my wife by that remark," roared Godfrey Gloame, and this time the sword was unsheathed.

"Oh, I'm not afraid of you, old chap," said Gates bravely. "You're nothing but wind, you know. Be calm and have a chair by the fire. Your wife says you have chills."

"I do not require an invitation to sit down in my own house, sah. I am Godfrey Gloame, sah, of Gloaming, sah."

"You mean you were—you are now his shade," said Gates. "Ah, that's the word I've been trying to think of—shade! You are shades—that's it—shades, not ghosts. Yes, Mr. Gloame, I've heard all about your taking off and I am sure that you were a bit too hasty. You had no license to be jealous of your wife—she assures me of it, and from what I've seen of her I'd be willing to believe anything she says."

"Ah, too true, too true! I always was and always will be a fool. It was she who should have slain me. Will you ever forgive me, Beatrice, forgive me fully?" said Godfrey, in deep penitence.

"I can forgive everything but the fact that you were so shockingly drunk the night you killed us," said she, taking his hands in hers.

"Oh, that was an awful spree! My head aches to think of it."

"It was not the murder I condemn so much as the condition you were in when you did it," she complained. "Mr. Garrison, you do not know how humiliating it is to be killed by a man who is too drunk to know where the jugular vein is located. My neck was slashed—oh, shockingly!"

"Yes, my dear sah, if I must admit it, I did it in a most bungling mannah," admitted her husband. "Usually I am very careful in matters of importance, and I am only able to attribute the really indecent butchery to the last few sups I took from General Bannard's demijohn. My hand was very unsteady, wasn't it, dearest?"

"Miserably so. See, Mr. Garrison, on my neck you can see the five scars, indications of his ruthlessness. One stroke should have been sufficient, a doctor told me afterwards. This one, the last,—do you see it? Well, it was the only capable stroke of them all. Just think of having to go through eternity with these awful scars on my neck. And it was beautiful, too, wasn't it, Godfrey?"

Garrison thought it must have been the prettiest neck ever given to woman.

"Divine!" cried Mr. Gloame warmly. "My dear sah, there never lived a woman who had the arms, the neck, and shoulders that my wife possessed. I speak reservedly, too, sah, for since my demise I have seen thousands. A shade has some privileges, you know."

"Godfrey Gloame!" cried his wife, suspiciously. "What have you been doing? Have you been snooping into the privacy of—"

"Now, my dear girl, do not be too hasty in your conclusions. You'll observe, Mr. Garrison, that I am not the only jealous one. I have merely seen some shoulders. Very ordinary ones, too, I'll say. Oh, I am again reminded that I want an explanation for your damnably improper conduct tonight, madam. This thing of meeting a man here at twelve o'clock is—"

"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Gloame anxiously. "It is not twelve, is it! I must hasten away by a quarter after twelve."

"It lacks considerable of that hour," said Gates. Turning to Godfrey Gloame, who was leaning against the mantel, he went on to explain: "You see, sir, I was reading here and your wife dropped in—blew in, I might say—all without my knowledge, very much as you did. She had had no invitation, we had made no date—I mean arrangement—and I was paralysed at first. Your wife is a perfect stranger to me. There is a disparity in our ages that ought to protect her. I am twenty-four and she is at least a hundred and fifty."

"Sir! I am but twenty-five!" exclaimed Mrs. Gloame indignantly.

"Madam, I must remind you that you have a great-great-grandson in Colonel Gloame the present, who, by the way, is very proud of his ancestry. But pardon my jesting, please. Would you like a little brandy or a glass of wine? It is a cold night, even for shades. Let me prepare a toddy—it won't take a minute, and I know how to get up a cracker-jack. New thing in all of the New York clubs."

After a moment of indecision the two Gloames sank into chairs beside the table. Godfrey waved his hand pleasantly, courteously, to the young New Yorker.

"My dear sah," he said, "your explanation of this rather unaccountable situation is entirely acceptable. I see the position clearly, just as it is, and I humbly apologise for afflicting you with an insinuation. Beatrice, I crave your forgiveness again. Your proffer of the toddy, Mr. Garrison, is timely and I should be happy to place my approval upon your particular concoction."

"Godfrey," cried his wife in distress, "you swore you would never drink another drop."

"But this shall be the last," he pleaded, "so help me—so help me— Moses."

Garrison set to work with the Colonel's decanters, concocting a brew over the spirit lamp, the two wraiths looking on in silent admiration.

"How like you Mr. Garrison is, Godfrey," said Mrs. Gloame.

"Except the water, my dear," agreed Godfrey, taking it for granted that she referred to his ability to mix drinks. "Do you use the water to cleanse the goblet, Mr. Garrison?"

"Chief ingredient, Mr. Gloame," explained Gates, and Godfrey's heart sank heavily.

"By the way, have a cigarette while I am busy with this."

He tossed his cigarette case to Godfrey, who inspected it and the contents curiously.

"Are they to smoke, sah?"

"Certainly, light up, if Mrs. Gloame doesn't object."

"It used to be we had nothing but tobacco to smoke," said Godfrey Gloame, lighting a cigarette from a coal in the grate.

"Will it make him ill?" asked Mrs. Gloame. "He has a very frail stomach."

"I think the smoke will mix very nicely with his stomach," said Gates. "For want of something better to say, I'll ask you how you spent the summer."

"For my part, I stayed at home with the old complaint: nothing to wear," said Mrs. Gloame. "I am curious to know where my husband was, however."

"Well, I didn't need anything to wear," said he, naively. "My summer was spent a long way from heaven, and I have just this much to say to you mortals: you did not know what you were talking about when you said that the past summer was hotter than—excuse me, Beatrice; I almost uttered a word that I never use in the presence of a lady."

"You don't mean to say you have gone to—to—oh, you poor boy!" cried Mrs. Gloame, throwing her arms about her husband's neck.

"Not yet, dearest," said Godfrey consolingly. "I was merely spending a season with an old friend, Harry Heminway. He asked about you and I told him you were so far above him that he ought to be ashamed to utter your name. Ah, Mr. Garrison has finished the toddy."

Garrison ceremoniously filled the goblets and handed them to his guests. Godfrey Gloame arose grandly, holding his glass aloft.

"Well, Mr. Garrison," he said, "I can only say to you that I am glad to have met you and that I am sincerely sorry we have not been friends before. You have given us a very pleasant evening, quite unexpectedly, and I drink to your very good health." "Hold, sir!" cried Gates. "I am sure you will allow me to suggest an amendment. Let us drink to the everlasting joy of the fair woman who is your wife. May her shadow never grow less."

"Thank you," said she, "I bid you drink, gentlemen, and share the joy with me. Ah!" as she set the goblet down, "that is delicious."

"Superb!" cried her husband. "My dear sah, it thrills me, it sends a warmth through me that I have not experienced in a hundred and thirty- five years. How long do you expect to remain at Gloaming?"

"One week longer."

"I shall come again if you will but prepare another like this."

"You swore that this would be your last, Godfrey; are you as vacillating as ever!" cried his wife.

"I—oh, dearest, a few of these won't hurt me—you know they won't," came earnestly from the other wraith.

"If you touch another I shall despise you forever and forever," she cried firmly. "Take your choice, Godfrey Gloame."

"It's plain that I am doomed to eternal punishment, whichever way you put it," mourned poor Godfrey. "Take away the glasses, Mr. Garrison. I'll no more of it if my wife so disposes."

"Noble fellow," said Gates. "Have another cigarette!"

"Stay! I have heard that they are worse than liquor," objected Mrs. Gloame.

"I don't know but you are right," supplemented Gates.

"But I must have some sort of a vice, dear," pleaded poor Godfrey.

"Vice may be fashionable on earth, but if that's the case it was fashion that ruined us, you'll remember, Godfrey," she reminded him.

"That's worth thinking about," mused Garrison. "There is something deep in that observation. You spooks are—"

"'Spooks!" cried the Gloames, arising in deep resentment.

"I mean shades," apologised Gates. "You do say—"

"Pardon me," interrupted Godfrey, nervously, "but can you tell me what time it is?"

"Ten minutes after twelve, sir." "Oh, we must be going," cried Mrs. Gloame.

"What's the rush?" demanded Gates.

"We cannot stay out after twelve-fifteen, sah. We get an extra fifteen minutes on Christmas Eve, you know," explained Godfrey.

"We are led to believe that you stay out till the cock crows," said Gates.

"Oh, these absurd superstitions," cried Mrs. Gloame merrily. "How ignorant the people are. Are you going my way, Godfrey?"

"Yes, dear, and I care not what the direction may be. Good-night, Mr. Garrison."

"Good-night," added the beautiful Mrs. Gloame," and a Merry Christmas. I sincerely hope we have not annoyed you."

"I have never enjoyed anything so hugely. No one will believe me when I tell this story at the club. Merry Christmas to both of you. You'll come again, won't you?"

They were at the door and looking back at him.

"If you care to come to the room in the south wing, you will find me there at most any time, Mr. Garrison," was her parting invitation. Gates was positive he heard Godfrey swear softly as they glided away in the darkness.

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