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His Family
by Ernest Poole
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When Betsy and George had gone to bed, Roger put down his paper.

"Look here, Edith," he proposed, "how'd you like me to read aloud while you sew?" She looked up with a smile of pleased surprise.

"Why, father dear, I'd love it." At once, she bent over her needle again, so that if there were any awkwardness attending this small change in their lives it did not reveal itself in her pretty countenance. "What shall we read?" she affably asked.

"I've got a capital book," he replied. "It's about travel in Japan."

"I'd like nothing better," Edith replied. And with a slight glow of pride in himself Roger took his book in hand. The experiment was a decided success. He read again the next night and the next, while Edith sat at her sewing. And so this hour's companionship, from nine to ten in the evening, became a regular custom—just one hour and no more, which Roger spent with his daughter, intimately and pleasantly. Yes, life was certainly smoothing out.

Edith's three older children had been reinstated in school. And although at first, when deprived of their aid, she had found it nearly impossible to keep her two small boys amused and give them besides the four hours a day of fresh air they required, she had soon met this trouble by the same simple process as before. Of her few possessions still unsold, she had disposed of nearly all, and with a small fund thus secured she had sent for Hannah to return. The house was running beautifully.

Christmas, too, was drawing near. And though Roger knew that in Edith's heart was a cold dread of this season, she bravely kept it to herself; and she set about so determinedly to make a merry holiday, that her father admiring her pluck drew closer still to his daughter. He entered into her Christmas plans and into all the conspiracies which were whispered about the house. Great secrets, anxious consultations, found in him a ready listener.

So passed three blessed quiet weeks, and he had high hopes for the winter.



CHAPTER XXXI

If there were any cloud upon his horizon, it was the thought of Laura. She had barely been to the house since Edith had come back to town; and at times, especially in the days when things had looked dark for Roger, he had caught himself reproaching this giddy-gaddy youngest child, so engrossed in her small "menage" that apparently she could not spare a thought for her widowed sister. Laura on her return from abroad had brought as a gift for Edith a mourning gown from Paris, a most alluring creation—so much so, in fact, that Edith had felt it simply indecent, insulting, and had returned it to her sister with a stilted note of thanks. But Roger did not know of this. There were so many ways, he thought, in which Laura might have been nice to Edith. She had a gorgeous limousine in which she might so easily have come and taken her sister off on little trips uptown. But no, she kept her car to herself. And from her small apartment, where a maid whom she had brought from Rome dressed her several times each day, that limousine rushed her noiselessly forth, gay and wild as ever, immaculate and elegant, radiant and very rich. To what places did she go? What new friends was she making? What was Laura up to?

He did not like her manner, one evening when she came to the house. As he helped her off with her cloak, a sleek supple leopard skin which fitted her figure like a glove, he asked,

"Where's Hal this evening?" And she answered lightly,

"Oh, don't ask me what he does with himself."

"You mean, I suppose," said Edith, with quiet disapproval, "that he is rushed to death this year with all this business from the war."

"Yes, it's business," Laura replied, as she deftly smoothed and patted her soft, abundant, reddish hair. "And it's war, too," she added.

"What do you mean?" her father asked. He knew what she meant, war with her husband. But before Laura could answer him, Edith cut in hastily, for two of her children were present. At dinner she turned the talk to the war. But even on this topic, Laura's remarks were disturbing. She did not consider the war wholly bad—by no means, it had many good points. It was clearing away a lot of old rubbish, customs, superstitions and institutions out of date. "Musty old relics," she called them. She spoke as though repeating what someone else had told her. Laura with her chicken's mind could never have thought it all out by herself. When asked what she meant, she was smilingly vague, with a glance at Edith's youngsters. But she threw out hints about the church and even Christianity, as though it were falling to pieces. She spoke of a second Renaissance, "a glorious pagan era" coming. And then she exploded a little bomb by inquiring of Edith.

"What do you think the girls over there are going to do for husbands, with half the marriageable men either killed or hopelessly damaged? They're not going to be nuns all their lives!"

Again her sister cut her off, and the rest of the brief evening was decidedly awkward. Yes, she was changing, growing fast. And Roger did not like it. Here she was spending money like water, absorbed in her pleasures, having no baby, apparently at loose ends with her husband, and through it all so cocksure of herself and her outrageous views about war, and smiling about them with such an air, and in her whole manner, such a tone of amused superiority. She talked about a world for the strong, bits of gabble from Nietzsche and that sort of rot; she spoke blithely of a Rome reborn, the "Wings of the Eagles" heard again. This part of it she had taken, no doubt, from her new Italian friend, her husband's shrapnel partner.

Pshaw! What was Laura up to?

But that was only one evening. It was not repeated, another month went quickly by, and Roger had soon shaken it from him, for he had troubles enough at home. One daughter at a time, he had thought. And as the dark clouds close above him had cleared, the other cloud too had drifted away, until it was small, just on the horizon, far away from Roger's house. What was Laura up to? He barely ever thought of that now.

* * * * *

But one night when he came home, Edith, who sat in the living room reading aloud to her smaller boys, gave him a significant look which warned him something had happened. And turning to take off his overcoat, in the hall he almost stumbled upon a pile of hand luggage, two smart patent leather bags, a hat trunk and a sable cloak.

"Hello," he exclaimed. "What's this? Who's here?"

"Laura," Edith answered. "She's up in Deborah's room, I think—they've been up there for over an hour." Roger looked indignantly in at his daughter.

"What has happened?" he asked.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you," Edith replied. "They didn't seem to need me. They made it rather plain, in fact. Another quarrel, I presume. She came into the house like a whirlwind, asked at once for Deborah and flew up to Deborah's room."

"Pshaw!" Roger heavily mounted the stairs. He at least did not feel like flying. A whirlwind, eh—a nice evening ahead!

* * * * *

Meanwhile, in her room upstairs Deborah sat motionless, sternly holding her feelings down, while in a tone now kindly but more often full of a sharp dismay, she threw out question after question to Laura who was walking the floor in a quick, feverish sort of way, with gestures half hysterical, her voice bursting with emotions of mingled fright and rage.

"No, this time it's divorce!" she declared, at the end of her first outburst, in which she had told in fragments of her husband's double life. "I've stood it long enough! I'm through!"

"You mean you don't care for him," Deborah said. She was fighting for time to think it out. "You want a divorce. Very well, Laura dear—but how do you think you are going to get it? The laws are rather strict in this state. They allow but one cause. Have you any proofs?"

"No, I haven't—but I don't need any proofs! He wants it as badly as I do! Wait—I'll give you his very words!" Laura's face grew white with fury. "'It's entirely up to you, Sweetie'—the beast!—'You can have any kind of divorce you like. You can let me bring suit on the quiet or you can try to fight me in court, climb up into the witness chair in front of the reporters and tell them all about yourself!'"

"Your husband is to bring suit against you?" Deborah's voice was loud and harsh. "For God's sake, Laura, what do you mean?"

"Mean? I mean that he has proofs! He has used a detective, the mean little cur, and he's treating me like the dirt under his feet! Just as though it were one thing for a man, and another—quite—for a woman! He even had the nerve to be mad, to get on a high horse, call me names! Turn me!—turn me out on the street!" Deborah winced as though from a blow. "Oh, it was funny, funny!" Laura was almost sobbing now.

"Stop, this minute!" Deborah said. "You say that you've been doing—what he has?" she demanded.

"Why shouldn't I? What do you know about it? Are you going to turn against me, too?"

"I am—pretty nearly—"

"Oh, good God!" Laura tossed up her hands and went on with her walking.

"Quiet! Please try to be clear and explain."

"Explain—to you? How can I? You don't understand—you know nothing about it—all you know about is schools! You're simply a nun when it comes to this. I see it now—I didn't before—I thought you a modern woman—with your mind open to new ideas. But it isn't, it seems, when it comes to a pinch—it's shut as tight as Edith's is—"

"Yes, tight!"

"Thank you very much! Then for the love of Heaven will you kindly leave me alone! I'll have a talk with father!"

"You will not have a talk with father—"

"I most certainly will—and he'll understand! He's a man, at least—and he led a man's life before he was married!"

"Laura!"

"You can't see it in him—but I can!"

"You'll say not a word to him, not one word! He has had enough this year as it is!"

"Has he? Then I'm sorry! If you were any help to me—instead of acting like a nun—"

"Will you please stop talking like a fool?"

"I'm not! I'm speaking the truth and you know it! You know no more about love like mine than a nun of the middle ages! You needn't tell me about Allan Baird. You think you're in love with him, don't you? Well then, I'll tell you that you're not—your love is the kind that can wait for years—because it's cold, it's cold, it's cold—it's all in your mind and your reason! And so I say you're no help to me now! Here—look at yourself in the glass over there! You're just plain angry—frightened!"

"Yes—I am—I'm frightened." While she strove to think clearly, to form some plan, she let her young sister talk rapidly on:

"I know you are! And you can't be fair! You're like nearly all American women—married or single, young or old—you're all of you scared to death about sex—just as your Puritan mothers were! And you leave it alone—you keep it down—you never give it a chance—you're afraid! But I'm not afraid—and I'm living my life! And let me tell you I'm not alone! There are hundreds and thousands doing the same—right here in New York City to-night! It's been so abroad for years and years—in Rome and Berlin, in Paris and London—and now, thank God, it has come over here! If our husbands can do it, why can't we? And we are—we're starting—it's come with the war! You think war is hell and nothing else, don't you—but you're wrong! It's not only killing men—it's killing a lot of hypocrisies too—it's giving a jolt to marriage! You'll see what the women will do soon enough—when there aren't enough men any longer—"

"Suppose you stop this tirade and tell me exactly what you've done," Deborah interrupted. A simple course of action had just flashed into her mind.

"All right, I will. I'm not ashamed. I've given you this 'tirade' to show you exactly how I feel—that it's not any question of sin or guilt or any musty old rubbish like that! I know I'm right! I know just what I'm doing!"

"Who's the man? That Italian?"

"Yes."

"Where is he?"

"Right here in New York."

"Does he mean to stand by you?"

"Of course he does."

"Will he marry you, Laura?"

"Yes, he will—the minute I'm free from my beast of a husband!"

"And your husband will keep his suit quiet, you said, if you agree not to fight him."

"Yes."

Deborah rose abruptly.

"Then will you stay right here to-night, and leave this matter to me?" she asked.

"What do you mean to do?"

"See your husband."

"What for? When?"

"To-night, if I can. I want to be sure."

Laura looked for the moment nonplussed.

"And what of my wishes?" she inquired.

"Your wishes," said Deborah steadily. "You want a divorce, don't you—so do I. And you want it quiet—and so do I. I want it so hard that I want to make sure." Deborah's tone was kinder now, and she came over close to her sister. "Look here, Laura, if I've been hard, forgive me—please—and let me help. I'm not so narrow as you think. I've been through a good deal of this before—downtown, I mean, with girls in my school. They come to me, we have long talks. Maybe I am a nun—as you say—but I'm one with a confessional. Not for sins," she added, as Laura looked up angrily. "Sins don't interest me very much. But troubles do. And heaven knows that marriage is one," she said with a curious bitterness. "And when it has failed and there's no love left—as in your case—I'm for divorce. Only—" her wide sensitive lips quivered just a little, "I'm sorry it had to come like this. But I love you, dear, and I want to help, I want to see you safely through. And while I'm doing it, if we can, I want to keep dad out of it—at least until it's settled." She paused a moment. "So if you agree, I'll go to your husband. I want to be sure, absolutely, just what we can count on. And until I come back, stay here in my room. You don't want to talk to father and Edith—"

"Most certainly not!" Laura muttered.

"Good. Then stay here until I return. I'll send you up some supper."

"I don't want any, thank you."

Laura went and threw herself on the bed, while her sister finished dressing.

"It's decent of you, Deborah." Her voice was muffled and relaxed. "I wasn't fair," she added. "I'm sorry for some of the things I said."

"About me and marriage?" Deborah looked at herself in the glass in a peculiar searching way. A slight spasm crossed her features. "I'm not sure but that you were right. At times I feel far from certain," she said. Laura lifted her head from the pillow, watched her sister a moment, dropped back.

"Don't let this affect you, Deborah."

"Oh, don't worry, dearie." And Deborah moved toward the door. "My affair is just mine, you see, and this won't make any difference."

But in her heart she knew it would. What an utter loathing she had to-night for all that people meant by sex! Suddenly she was quivering, her limbs and her whole body hot.

"You say I'm cold," she was thinking. "Cold toward Allan, calm and cool, nothing but mind and reason! You say it means little to me, all that! But if I had had trouble with Allan, would I have come running home to talk? Wouldn't I have hugged it tight? And isn't that love? What do you know of me and the life I've led? Do you know how it feels to want to work, to be something yourself, without any man? And can't that be a passion? Have you had to live with Edith here and see what motherhood can be, what it can do to a woman? And now you come with another side, just as narrow as hers, devouring everything else in sight! And because I'm a little afraid of that, for myself and all I want to do, you say I don't know what love is! But I do! And my love's worth more than yours! It's deeper, richer, it will last!... Then why do I loathe it all to-night?... But I don't, I only loathe your side!... But yours is the very heart of it!... All right, then what am I going to do?"

She was going slowly down the stairs. She stopped for a moment, frowning.



CHAPTER XXXII

On the floor below she met her father, who was coming out of his room. He looked at her keenly:

"What's the trouble?"

"Laura's here," she answered. "Trouble again with her husband. Better leave her alone for the present—she's going to stay in my room for a while."

"Very well," her father grunted, and they went down to dinner. There Deborah was silent, and Edith did most of the talking. Edith, quite aware of the fact that Laura and all Laura's ways were in disgrace for the moment, and that she and her ways with her children shone by the comparison, was bright and sweet and tactful. Roger glanced at her more than once, with approval and with gratitude for the effort she was making to smooth over the situation. Deborah rose before they had finished.

"Where are you off to?" Roger asked.

"Oh, there's something I have to attend to—"

"School again this evening, dear?" inquired Edith cheerfully, but her sister was already out of the room. She looked at her father with quiet concern. "I'm sorry she has to be out to-night—to-night of all nights," she murmured.

"Humph!" ejaculated her father. This eternal school business of Deborah's was beginning to get on his nerves. Yes, just a little on his nerves! Why couldn't she give up one evening, just one, and get Laura out of this snarl she was in? He heard her at the telephone, and presently she came back to them.

"Oh, Edith," she said casually, "don't send any supper up to Laura. She says she doesn't want any to-night. And ask Hannah to put a cot in my room. Will you?"

"Yes, dear, I'll attend to it."

"Thanks." And again she left them. In silence, when the front door closed, Edith looked at her father. This must be rather serious, Roger thought excitedly. So Laura was to stay all night, while Deborah gallivanted off to those infernal schools of hers! He had little joy in his paper that night. The news of the world had such a trick of suddenly receding a million miles away from a man the minute he was in trouble. And Roger was in trouble. With each slow tick of the clock in the hall he grew more certain and more disturbed. An hour passed. The clock struck nine. With a snort he tossed his paper aside.

"Well, Edith," he said glumly, "how about some chess this evening?" In answer she gave him a quick smile of understanding and sympathy.

"All right, father dear." And she fetched the board. But they had played only a short time when Deborah's latchkey was heard in the door. Roger gave an angry hitch to his chair. Soon she appeared in the doorway.

"May I talk to you, father?" she asked.

"I suppose so." Roger scowled.

"You'll excuse us, Edith?" she added.

"Oh, assuredly, dear." And Edith rose, looking very much hurt. "Of course, if I'm not needed—"

At this her father scowled again. Why couldn't Deborah show her sister a little consideration?

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Suppose we go into the study," she said.

He followed her there and shut the door.

* * * * *

"Well?" he asked, from his big leather chair. Deborah had remained standing.

"I've got some bad news," she began.

"What is it?" he snapped. "School burnt down?" Savagely he bit off a cigar.

"I've just had a talk with Harold," she told him. He shot a glance of surprise and dismay.

"Have, eh—what's it all about?"

"It's about a divorce," she answered.

The lighted match dropped from Roger's hand. He snatched it up before it was out and lit his cigar, and puffing smoke in a vigilant way again he eyed his daughter.

"I've done what I could," she said painfully, "but they seem to have made up their minds."

"Then they'll unmake 'em," he replied, and he leaned forward heavily. "They'll unmake 'em," he repeated, in a thick unnatural tone. "I'm not a'goin' to hear to it!" In a curious manner his voice had changed. It sounded like that of a man in the mountains, where he had been born and raised. This thought flashed into Deborah's mind and her wide resolute mouth set hard. It would be very difficult.

"I'm afraid this won't do, father dear. Whether you give your consent or not—"

"Wun't, wun't it! You wait and see if it wun't!" Deborah came close to him.

"Suppose you wait till you understand," she admonished sternly.

"All right, I'm waiting," he replied. She felt herself trembling deep inside. She did not want him to understand, any more than she must to induce him to keep out of this affair.

"To begin with," she said steadily, "you will soon see yourself, I think, that they fairly loathe the sight of each other—that there is no real marriage left."

"That's fiddlesticks!" snapped Roger. "Just modern talk and new ideas—ideas you're to blame for! Yes, you are—you put 'em in her head—you and your gabble about woman's rights!" He was angry now. He was glad he was angry. He'd just begun!

"If you want me to leave her alone," his daughter cut in sharply, "just say so! I'll leave it all to you!" And she saw him flinch a little. "What would be your idea?" she asked.

"My idea? She's to go straight home and make up with him!"

She hesitated. Then she said:

"Suppose there's another woman."

"Then he's a beast," growled Roger.

"And yet you want her to live with him?"

He scowled, he felt baffled, his mind in a whirl. And a wave of exasperation suddenly swept over him.

"Well, why shouldn't she?" he cried. "Other wives have done it—millions! Made a devilish good success of it, too—made new men of their husbands! Let her show him she's ready to forgive! That's only Christian, ain't it? Hard? Of course it's hard on her! But can you tell me one hard thing she has ever had to do in her life? Hasn't it been pleasure, pleasure from the word go? Can't she stand something hard? Don't we all of us have to? I do—God knows—with all of you!" And he puffed his cigar in a fury. His daughter smiled. She saw her chance.

"Father," she said, in a low clear voice, "You've had so many troubles. Why not leave this one to me? You can't help—no matter how hard you try—you'll only make it worse and worse. And you've been through so much this year—you've earned the right to be quiet. And that's what they want, both of them—they both want it quiet, without any scandal." Her father glared, for he knew about scandal, he handled it in his office each day. "Let me manage this—please," she said. And her offer tempted him. He struggled for a moment.

"No, I won't!" he burst out in reply. "I want quiet right enough, but not at the price of her peace with her God!" This sounded foolish, he felt that it did, and he flushed and grew the angrier. "No, I won't," he said stubbornly. "She'll go back to him if I take her myself. And what's more," he added, rising, "she's to go straight back to-night!"

"She is not going back to-night, my dear." And Deborah caught her father's arm. "Sit down, please—"

"I've heard enough!"

"I'm afraid you haven't," she replied.

"Very well." His smile was caustic. "Give me some more of it," he said.

"Her husband won't have her," said Deborah bluntly. "He told me so himself—to-night."

"Did, eh—then I'll talk to him!"

"He thinks," she went on in a desperate tone, "that Laura has been leading—'her own little life'—as he put it to me."

"Eh?"

"He is bringing suit himself."

"Oh! He is!" cried Roger hoarsely. "Then I will talk to this young man!" But she put out a restraining hand:

"Father! Don't try to fight this suit!"

"You watch me!" he snarled. Tears showed in her eyes:

"Think! Oh, please! Think what you're doing! Have you ever seen a divorce-court—here, in New York? Do you know what it's like? What it can be like?"

"Yes," Roger panted. He did know, and the picture came vividly into his mind—a mass of eager devouring eyes fixed on a girl in a witness chair. "To-morrow I see a lawyer!" he said.

"No—you won't do that, my dear," Deborah told him sadly. "Laura's husband has got proofs."

Her father looked up slowly and glared into his daughter's face.

"I've seen them myself," she added. "And Laura has admitted it, too."

Still for a moment he stared at her. Then slowly he settled back in his chair, his eyes dropped in their sockets, and very carefully, with a hand which was trembling visibly, he lifted his cigar to his lips. It had gone nearly out, but he drew on it hard until it began to glow again.

"Well," he asked simply, "what shall we do?"

Sharply Deborah turned away. To be quiet, to be matter of fact, to act as though nothing had happened at all—she knew this was what he wanted now, what he was silently begging her to be for his sake, for the family's sake. For he had been raised in New England. And so, when she turned back to him, her voice was flat and commonplace.

"Keep her here," she said. "Let him do what he likes. There'll be nothing noisy, he promised me that. But keep her here till it's over."

Roger smoked for a moment, and said,

"There's Edith and her children."

"The children needn't know anything—and Edith only part of it."

"The less, the better," he grunted.

"Of course." She looked at him anxiously. This tractable mood of his might not last. "Why not go up and see her now—and get it all over—so you can sleep."

Over Roger's set heavy visage flitted a smile of grim relish at that. Sleep! Deborah was funny. Resolutely he rose from his chair.

"You'll be careful, of course," she admonished him, and he nodded in reply. At the door he turned back:

"Where's the other chap?"

"I don't know," she answered. "Surely you don't want to see him—." Her father snorted his contempt:

"See him? No. Nor she neither. She's not to see him. Understand?"

"I wouldn't tell her that to-night."

"Look here." Roger eyed his daughter a moment.

"You've done well. I've no complaint. But don't try to manage everything."

He went out and slowly climbed the stairs. Outside the bedroom door he paused. When had he stood like this before? In a moment he remembered. One evening some two years ago, the night before Laura's wedding, when they had had that other talk. And so it had come to this, had it. Well, there was no use making a scene. Again, with a sigh of weariness, Laura's father knocked at her door.

"Come in, Deborah," she said.

"It isn't Deborah, it's I." There was a little silence.

"Very well, father, come in, please." Her voice sounded tired and lifeless. He opened the door and found the room dark. "I'm over on the bed," she said. "I've had a headache this evening."

He came over to the bedside and he could just see her there, a long shadow upon the white. She had not taken off her clothes. He stood a moment helplessly.

"Please don't you talk to me!" His daughter fiercely whispered. "I can't stand any more to-night!"

"I won't," he answered. "It's too late." Again there was a pause.

"What time is it?" she asked him. But he did not answer.

"Well, Laura," he said presently, "your sister has told me everything. She has seen your husband—it's all arranged—and you're to stay here till it's over ... You want to stay here, don't you?"

"Yes."

"Then it's settled," he went on. "There's only one thing—the other man. I don't know who he is and I don't want to know. And I don't want you to know him again. You're not to see him. Understand?" For a moment Laura was silent.

"I'm going to marry him, father," she said. And standing in the darkened room Roger stiffened sharply.

"Well," he answered, after a pause, "that's your affair. You're no longer a child. I wish you were," he added.

Suddenly in the darkness Laura's hand came out clutching for his. But he had already turned to the door.

"Good-night," he said, and left her.

In the hallway below he met Deborah, and to her questioning look he replied, "All right, I guess. Now I'm going to bed." He went into his room and closed the door.

As soon as Roger was alone, he knew this was the hardest part—to be here by himself in this intimate room, with this worn blue rug, these pictures and this old mahogany bed. For he had promised Judith his wife to keep close to the children. What would she think of him if she knew?

Judith had been a broad-minded woman, sensible, big-hearted. But she never would have stood for this. Once, he recollected, she had helped a girl friend to divorce her husband, a drunkard who ran after chorus girls. But that had been quite different. There the wife had been innocent and had done it for her children. Laura was guilty, she hadn't a child, she was already planning to marry again. And then what, he asked himself. "From bad to worse, very likely. A woman can't stop when she's started downhill." His eye was caught by the picture directly before him on the wall—the one his wife had given him—two herdsmen with their cattle high up on a shoulder of a sweeping mountain side, tiny blue figures against the dawn. It had been like a symbol of their lives, always beginning clean glorious days. What was Laura beginning?

"Well," he demanded angrily, as he began to jerk off his clothes, "what can I do about it? Try to keep her from re-marrying, eh? And suppose I succeeded, how long would it last? She wouldn't stay here and I couldn't keep her. She'll be independent now—her looks will be her bank account. There'd be some other chap in no time, and he might not even marry her!" He tugged ferociously at his boots. "No, let well enough alone!"

He finished undressing, opened the window, turned out the gas and got into bed. Wearily he closed his eyes. But after a time he opened them and stared long through the window up at the beetling cliff of a building close by, with its tier upon tier of lighted apartments, a huge garish hive of homes. Yes, the town was crowding down on him to-night, on his house and on his family. He realized it had never stopped, and that his three grown children, each one of them a part of himself, had been struggling with it all the time. Laura—wasn't she part of himself? Hadn't he, too, had his little fling, back in his early twenties? "You will live on in our children's lives." She was a part of him gone wild. She gave it free rein, took chances. God, what a chance she had taken this time! The picture of that court he had seen, with the girl in the witness chair and those many rows of eyes avidly fixed upon her, came back to his mind so vividly they seemed for a moment right here in the room, these eyes of the town boring into his house. Angrily he shut out the scene. And alone in the darkness, Roger said to his daughter all the ugly furious things he had not said to her upstairs—until at last he was weary of it.

"Why am I working myself all up? I've got to take this. It's my medicine."



CHAPTER XXXIII

But as he watched Laura in the house, Roger's first emotions were complicated more and more by a feeling of bewilderment. At dinner the next evening he noticed with astonishment that she appeared like her natural self. "She's acting," he decided. But this explanation he soon dismissed. No, it was something deeper. She was actually unashamed, unafraid. That first display of feelings, the night of her arrival, had been only the scare of an hour. Within a few days she was back on her feet; and her cure for her trouble, if trouble she felt, was not less but more pleasure, as always. She went out nearly every evening now; and when she had spent what money she had, she sold a part of her jewelry to the little old Galician Jew in the shop around the corner. Yes, she was her natural self. And she was as before to her father. Her attitude said plainly,

"It isn't fair to you, poor dear, to expect you to fully understand how right I am in this affair. And considering your point of view, you're acting very nicely."

Often as she talked to him a note of good-humored forgiveness crept into his daughter's voice. And looking at her grimly out of the corner of his eye, he saw that she looked down on him, far, far down from heights above.

"Yes," he thought, "this is modern." Then he grew angry all at once. "No," he added, "this is wrong! You can't fool me, young woman, you know it as well as I do myself! You're not going to carry this off with an air—not with your father! No, by George!"

And he would grow abrupt and stern. But days would pass and in spite of himself into their talks would creep a natural friendly tone. Again he found himself friends with her—friends as though nothing whatever had happened! Could it be that a woman who had so sinned could go right on? Here was Laura, serenely unconscious of guilt, and smiling into her future, dreaming still of happiness, quite plainly sure of it, in fact! With a curious dismayed relief Roger would scowl at this daughter of his—a radiant enigma in his quiet sober house.

But Edith was not at all perplexed. When she learned from Deborah that there was soon to be a divorce, she came at once to her father. Her face was like a thundercloud.

"A nice example for my children!" she indignantly exclaimed.

"I'm sorry, my dear. But what can I do?"

"You can make her go back to her husband, can't you?"

"No, I can't," he flatly replied.

"Then I'd better try it myself!"

"You'll do no such thing!" he retorted. "I've gone clear to the bottom of this—and I say you're to leave her alone!"

"Very well," she answered. And she did leave her sister alone, so severely that Laura soon avoided being home for lunch or dinner. She had taken the room which George had occupied ever since John had been turned out, and there she breakfasted late in bed, until Edith put a stop to it. They barely spoke to each other now. Laura still smiled defiance.

Days passed. Christmas came at last, and despite Edith's glum resolution to make it a happy time for the children, the happiness soon petered out. After the tree in the morning, the day hung heavy on the house. Roger buried himself in his study. Laura had motored off into the country with a gay party of her friends. Or was this just a ruse, he wondered, and was she spending the day with her lover? Well, what if she was? Could he lock her in?

About twilight he thought he heard her return, and later from his bedroom he heard her voice and Edith's. Both voices sounded angry, but he would not interfere.

At the Christmas dinner that evening Laura did not put in an appearance, but Edith sat stiff and silent there; and despite the obvious efforts which Deborah and Allan made to be genial with the children, the very air in the room was charged with the feeling of trouble close ahead. Again Roger retreated into his den, and presently Laura came to him.

"Good-night—I'm going out," she said, and she pressed her cheek lightly to his own. "What a dear you've been to me, dad," she murmured. And then she was gone.

A few minutes later Edith came in. She held a small note in her hand, which Roger saw was addressed to himself.

"Well, father, I learned this afternoon what you've been keeping from me," she said. Roger gave her a steady look.

"You did, eh—Laura told you?"

"Yes, she did!" his daughter exclaimed. "And I can't help wondering, father—"

"Why did she tell you? Have you been at her again to-day?"

"Again? Not at all," she answered. "I've done as you asked me to, let her alone. But to-day—mother's day—I got thinking of her."

"Leave your mother out of it, please. What did you say to Laura?"

"I tried to make her go back, of course—"

"And she told you—"

"He wouldn't have her! And then in a perfect tantrum she went on to tell me why!" Edith's eyes were cold with disgust. "And I'm wondering why you let her stay here—in the same house with my children!"

Roger reached out his hand.

"Give me that note," he commanded. He read it quickly and handed it back. The note was from Laura, a hasty good-bye.

"Edith will explain," she wrote, "and you will see I cannot stay any longer. It is simply too impossible. I am going to the man I love—and in a few days we shall sail for Naples. I know you will not interfere. It will make the divorce even simpler and everything easier all round. Please don't worry about me. We shall soon be married over there. You have been so dear and sensible and I do so love you for it." Then came her name scrawled hastily. And at the bottom of the page: "I have paid every bill I can think of."

Edith read it in silence, her color slowly mounting.

"All right," said her father, "your children are safe." She gave him a quick angry look, burst into tears and ran out of the room.

Roger sat without moving, his heavy face impassive. And so he remained for a long time. Well, Laura was gone—no mistake about that—and this time she was gone for good. She was going to live in Rome. Try to stop her? No. What good would it do? Wings of the Eagles, Rome reborn. That was it, she had hit it, struck the keynote of this new age. Rome reborn, all clean, old-fashioned Christian living swept away by millions of men at each others' throats like so many wolves. And at last quite openly to himself Roger admitted that he felt old. Old and beaten, out of date. Moments passed, and hours—he took little note of time. Nor did he see on the mantle the dark visage of "The Thinker" there, resting on the huge clinched fist and brooding down upon him. Lower, imperceptibly, he sank into his leather chair.

Quiet had returned to his house.



CHAPTER XXXIV

But the quiet was dark to Roger now. Each night he spent in his study alone, for instinctively he felt the need of being by himself for a while, of keeping away from his children—out of whose lives he divined that other events would soon come forth to use up the last of the strength that was in him.

And Roger grew angry with the world. Why couldn't it let a man alone, an old man in a silent house alive for him with memories? Repeatedly in such hours his mind would go groping backward into the years behind him. What a long and winding road, half buried in the jungle, dim, almost impenetrable, made up of millions of small events, small worries, plans and dazzling dreams, with which his days had all been filled. But the more he recalled the more certain he grew that he was right. Life had never been like this: the world had never come smashing into his house, his very family, with its dirty teeming tenements, its schools, its prisons, electric chairs, its feverish rush for money, its luxuries, its scandals. These things had existed in the world, but remote and never real, mere things which he had read about. War? Did he not remember wars that had come and gone in Europe? But they hadn't come into his home like this, first making him poor when he needed money for Edith and her children, then plunging Deborah into a struggle which might very probably ruin her life, and now taking Laura and filling her mind with thoughts of pagan living. Why was every man, woman and child, these days, bound up in the whole life of the world? What would come of it all? A new day out of this deafening night? Maybe so. But for him it would come too late.

"What have I left to live for?"

One night with a sigh he went to his desk, lit a cigar and laid his hand upon a pile of letters which had been mounting steadily. It was made up of Laura's bills, the ones she had not remembered. Send them after her to Rome for that Italian fellow to pay? No, it could not be thought of. Roger turned to his dwindling bank account. He was not yet making money, he was still losing a little each week. But he would not cut expenses. To the few who were left in his employ, to be turned away would mean dire need. And angrily he determined that they should not starve to pay Laura's bills. "The world for the strong, eh? Not in my office!" In Rome or Berlin or Vienna, all right! But not over here!

Grimly, when he had made out the checks, Roger eyed his balance. By spring he would be penniless. And he had no one to turn to now, no rich young son-in-law who could aid.

He set himself doggedly to the task of forcing up his business, and meanwhile in the evenings he tried with Edith to get back upon their former footing. To do this was not easy at first, for his bitterness still rankled deep: "When you were in trouble I took you in, but when she was in trouble you turned her out, as you turned out John before her." In the room again vacated, young George had been reinstalled. One night Edith found her father there looking in through the open doorway, and the look on his massive face was hard.

"Better have the room disinfected again," he muttered when he saw her. He turned and went slowly down the stairs. And she was late for dinner that night.

But Edith had her children. And as he watched her night by night hearing their lessons patiently, reading them fairy stories and holding them smilingly in her arms, the old appeal of her motherhood regained its hold upon him. One evening when the clock struck nine, putting down his paper he suggested gruffly,

"Well, daughter, how about some chess?"

Edith flushed a little:

"Why, yes, dear, I'd be glad to."

She rose and went to get the board. So the games were resumed, and part at least of their old affection came to life. But only a part. It could never be quite the same again.

And though he saw little of Deborah, slowly, almost unawares to them both, she assumed the old place she had had in his home—as the one who had been right here in the house through all the years since her mother had died, the one who had helped and never asked help, keeping her own troubles to herself. He fell back into his habit of going before dinner to his daughter's bedroom door to ask whether she would be home that night. At one such time, getting no response and thinking Deborah was not there, he opened the door part way to make sure. And he saw her at her dresser, staring at herself in the glass, rigid as though in a trance. Later in the dining room he heard her step upon the stairs. She came in quietly and sat down; and as soon as dinner was over, she said her good-nights and left the house. But when she came home at midnight, he was waiting up for her. He had foraged in the kitchen, and on his study table he had set out some supper. While she sat there eating, her father watched her from his chair.

"Things going badly in school?" he inquired.

"Yes," she replied. There was silence.

"What's wrong?"

"To-night we had a line of mothers reaching out into the street. They had come for food and coal—but we had to send most of them home empty-handed. Some of them cried—and one of them fainted. She's to have a baby soon."

"Can't you get any money uptown?" he asked.

"I have," she answered grimly. "I've been a beggar—heaven knows—on every friend I can think of. And I've kept a press agent hard at work trying to make the public see that Belgium is right here in New York." She stopped and went on with her supper. "But it's a bad time for work like mine," she continued presently. "If we're to keep it going we must above all keep it cheap. That's the keynote these days, keep everything cheap—at any cost—so that men can expensively kill one another." Her voice had a bitter ring to it. "You try to talk peace and they bowl you over, with facts on the need of preparedness—for the defence of your country. And that doesn't appeal to me very much. I want a bigger preparedness—for the defence of the whole world—for democracy, and human rights, no matter who the people are! I'd like to train every child to that!"

"What do you mean?" her father asked.

"To teach him what his life can be!" she replied in a hard quivering tone. "A fight? Oh yes! So long as he lives—and even with guns if it must be so! But a fight for all the people on earth!—and a world so full of happy lives that men will think hard—before ever again letting themselves be led by the nose—into war and death—for a place in the sun!" She rose from her chair, with a weary smile: "Here I am making a speech again. I've made so many lately it's become a habit. I'm tired out, dad, I'm going to bed." Her father looked at her anxiously.

"You're seeing things out of proportion," he said. "You've worked so hard you're getting stale. You ought to get out of it for a while."

"I can't!" she answered sharply. "You don't know—you don't even guess—how it takes every hour—all the demands!"

"Where's Allan these days?"

"Working," was her harsh reply. "Trying to keep his hospital going with half its staff. The woman who was backing him is giving her money to Belgium instead."

"Do you see much of him?"

"Every day. Let's drop it. Shall we?"

"All right, my dear—"

And they said good-night ...

* * * * *

In the meantime, in the house, Edith had tried to scrimp and save, but it was very difficult. Her children had so many needs, they were all growing up so fast. Each month brought fresh demands on her purse, and the fund from the sale of her belongings had been used up long ago. Her sole resource was the modest allowance her father gave her for running the house, and she had not asked him for more. She had put off trouble from month to month. But one evening early in March, when he gave her the regular monthly check, she said hesitatingly:

"I'm very sorry, father dear, but I'm afraid we'll need more money this month." He glanced up from his paper:

"What's the matter?" She gave him a forced little smile, and her father noticed the gray in her hair.

"Oh, nothing in particular. Goodness knows I've tried to keep down expenses, but—well, we're a pretty large household, you know—"

"Yes," said Roger kindly, "I know. Are the month's bills in?"

"Yes."

"Let me see them." She brought him the bills and he looked relieved. "Not so many," he ventured.

"No, but they're large."

"Why, look here, Edith," he said abruptly, "these are bills for two months—some for three, even four!"

"I know—that's just the trouble. I couldn't meet them at the time."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Laura was here—and I didn't want to bother you—you had enough on your mind as it was. I've done the best I could, father dear—I've sold everything, you know—but I've about come to the end of my rope." And her manner said clearly, "I've done my part. I'm only a woman. I'll have to leave the rest to you."

"I see—I see." And Roger knitted his heavy brows. "I presume I can get it somehow." This would play the very devil with things!

"Father." Edith's voice was low. "Why don't you let Deborah help you? She does very little, it seems to me—compared to the size of her salary."

"She can't do any more than she's doing now," was his decisive answer. Edith looked at him, her color high. She hesitated, then burst out:

"I saw her check book the other day, she had left it on the table! She's spending thousands—every month!"

"That's not her own money," Roger said.

"No—it's money she gets for her fads—her work for those tenement children! She can get money enough for them!" He flung out his hand:

"Leave her out of this, please!"

"Very well, father, just as you say." And she sat there hurt and silent while again he looked slowly through the bills. He jotted down figures and added them up. They came to a bit over nine hundred dollars. Soon Deborah's key was heard in the door, and Roger scowled the deeper. She came into the room, but he did not look up. He heard her voice:

"What's the matter, Edith?"

"Bills for the house."

"Oh." And Deborah came to her father. "May I see what's the trouble, dear?"

"I'd rather you wouldn't. It's nothing," he growled. He wanted her to keep out of this.

"Why shouldn't she see?" Edith tartly inquired. "Deborah is living here—and before I came she ran the house. In her place I should certainly want to know."

Deborah was already glancing rapidly over the bills.

"Why, Edith," she exclaimed, "most of these bills go back for months. Why didn't you pay them when they were due?"

"Simply because I hadn't the money!"

"You've had the regular monthly amount."

"That didn't last long—"

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"Laura was here."

Deborah gave a shrug of impatience, and Roger saw how tired she was, her nerves on edge from her long day.

"Never mind about it now," he put in.

"What a pity," Deborah muttered. "If we had been told, we could have cut down."

"I don't agree with you!" Edith rejoined. "I have already done that myself! I've done nothing else!"

"Have the servants been paid?" her sister asked.

"No, they haven't-"

"Since when?"

"Three months!"

Roger got up and walked the room. Deborah tried to speak quietly:

"I can't quite see where the money has gone."

"Can't you? Then look at my check book." And Edith produced it with a glare. Her sister turned over a few of the stubs.

"What's this item?"

"Where?"

"Here. A hundred and twenty-two dollars."

"The dentist," Edith answered. "Not extravagant, is it—for five children?"

"I see," said Deborah. "And this?"

"Bedding," was Edith's sharp response. "A mattress and more blankets. I found there weren't half enough in the house."

"You burned John's, didn't you?"

"Naturally!"

All at once both grew ashamed.

"Let's be sensible," Deborah said. "We must do something, Edith—and we can't till we're certain where we stand."

"Very well—"

They went on more calmly and took up the items one by one. Deborah finished and was silent.

"Well, father, what's to be done?" she asked.

"I don't know," he answered shortly.

"Somehow or other," Deborah said, "we've got to cut our expenses down."

"I'm afraid that's impossible," Edith rejoined. "I've already cut as much as I can."

"So did I, in my school," said her sister. "And when I thought I had reached the end, I called in an expert. And he showed me ways of saving I had never dreamed of."

"What kind of expert would you advise here?" Edith's small lip curled in scorn.

"Domestic science, naturally—I have a woman who does nothing else. She shows women in their homes just how to make money count the most."

"What women? And what homes? Tenements?"

"Yes. She's one of my teachers."

"Thank you!" said Edith indignantly. "But I don't care to have my children brought down to tenement standards!"

"I didn't mean to have them! But I know she could show you a great many things you can buy for less!"

"I'm afraid I shouldn't agree with her!"

"Why not, Edith?"

"Because she knows only tenement children—nothing of children bred like mine!"

Deborah drew a quick short breath, her brows drew tight and she looked away. She bit her lip, controlled herself:

"Very well, I'll try again. This house is plenty large enough so that by a little crowding we could make room for somebody else. And I know a teacher in one of my schools who'd be only too glad—"

"Take a boarder, you mean?"

"Yes, I do! We've got to do something!"

"No!"

Deborah threw up her hands:

"All right, Edith, I'm through," she said. "Now what do you propose?"

"I can try to do without Hannah again—"

"That will be hard—on all of us. But I guess you'll have to."

"So it seems."

"But unfortunately that won't he enough."

Edith's face grew tenser:

"I'm afraid it will have to be—just now—I've had about all I can stand for one night!"

"I'm sorry," Deborah answered. For a moment they confronted each other. And Edith's look said to Deborah plainly, "You're spending thousands, thousands, on those tenement children! You can get money enough for them, but you won't raise a hand to help with mine!" And as plainly Deborah answered, "My children are starving, shivering, freezing! What do yours know about being poor?" Two mothers, each with a family, and each one baffled, brought to bay. There was something so insatiable in each angry mother's eyes.

"I think you'd better leave this to me," said Roger very huskily. And both his daughters turned with a start, as though in their bitter absorption they had forgotten his presence there. Both flushed, and now the glances of all three in that room avoided each other. For they felt how sordid it had been. Deborah turned to her sister.

"I'm sorry, Edith," she said again, and this time there were tears in her eyes.

"So am I," said Edith unsteadily, and in a moment she left the room. Deborah stood watching her father.

"I'm ashamed of myself," she said. "Well? Shall we talk it over?"

"No," he replied. "I can manage it somehow, Deborah, and I prefer that you leave it to me."

Roger went into his study and sank grimly into his chair. Yes, it had been pretty bad; it had been ugly, ominous. He took paper and pencil and set to work. How he had come to hate this job of wrestling with figures. Of the five thousand dollars borrowed in August he had barely a thousand left. The first semi-annual interest was due next week and must be paid. The balance would carry them through March and on well into April. By that time he hoped to be making money, for business was better every week. But what of this nine hundred dollars in debts? Half at least must be paid at once. Lower and lower he sank in his chair. But a few moments later, his blunt heavy visage cleared, and with a little sigh of relief he put away his papers, turned out the lights and went upstairs. The dark house felt friendly and comforting now.

In his room he opened the safe in the corner where his collection of curious rings had lain unnoticed for many months. He drew out a tray, sat down by the light and began to look them over. At first only small inanimate objects, gradually as from tray after tray they glittered duskily up at him, they began to yield their riches as they had so often done before. Spanish, French, Italian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Russian and Arabian, rings small and rings enormous, religious rings and magic rings, poison rings, some black with age for all his careful polishing—again they stole deep into Roger's imagination with suggestions of the many hands that had worn them through the centuries, of women kneeling in old churches, couples in dark crooked streets, adventures, love, hate, jealousy. Youth and fire, dreams and passion....

At last he remembered why he was here. He thought of possible purchasers. He knew so many dealers, but he knew, too, that the war had played the devil with them as with everyone else. Still, he thought of several who would find it hard to resist the temptation. He would see them to-morrow, one by one, and get them bidding, haggling. Roger frowned disgustedly.

No help for it, though, and it was a relief. It would bring a truce in his house for a time.

* * * * *

But the truce was brief.

On the afternoon when he sold his collection Roger came home all out of sorts. He had been forced to haggle long; it had been a mean inglorious day; one of the brightest paths in his life had ended in a pigstie. But at least he had bought some peace in his home! Women, women, women! He shut the front door with a slam and went up to his room for a little rest, a little of what he had paid for! On the stairs he passed young Betsy, and he startled the girl by the sudden glare of reproach he bestowed upon her. Savagely he told himself he was no "feminist" that night!

The brief talk he had with Edith was far from reassuring. With no Deborah there to wound her pride, Edith quickly showed herself friendly to her father; but when he advised her to keep her nurse, she at once refused to consider it.

"I want you to," he persisted, with an anxious note in his voice. He had tried life without Hannah here and he did not care to try it again.

"It is already settled, father, I sent her away this morning."

"Then you get her right back!" he exclaimed. But Edith's face grew obstinate.

"I don't care to give Deborah," she replied, "another chance to talk as she did."

Roger looked at her gloomily. "You will, though," he was thinking. "You two have only just begun. Let any little point arise, which a couple of men would settle offhand, and you two will get together and go it! There'll be no living in the house!"

With deepening displeasure he watched the struggle between them go on. Sometimes it seemed to Roger there was not a topic he could bring up which would not in some way bring on a clash. One night in desperation he proposed the theatre.

"I'm afraid we can't afford it," said Edith, glancing at Deborah. And she had the same answer, again and again, for the requests her children made, if they involved but the smallest expense. "No, dear, I'm afraid we can't afford that," she would say gently, with a sigh. And under this constant pressure, these nightly little thrusts and jabs, Deborah would grow rigid with annoyance and impatience.

"For Heaven's sake, Edith," she burst out, one night when the children had gone to their lessons, "can you think of nothing on earth, except your own little family?"

"Here it comes again," thought Roger, scowling into his paper. He heard Edith's curt reply:

"No, I can't, not nowadays. Nobody else seems to think of them."

"You mean that I don't!"

"Do you?"

"Yes! I'm thinking of George! Do you want him killed in the trenches—in a war with Germany or Japan?"

"Are you utterly mad?" demanded Edith.

"No, I'm awake—my eyes are open! But yours are shut so tight, my dear, you can't see what has happened! You know this war has made us poor and your own life harder, but that's all. The big thing it has done you know nothing about!"

"Suppose you teach me," Edith said, with a prim provoking little smile. Deborah turned on her angrily:

"It has shown that all such mothers as you are out of date and have got to change! That we're bound together—all over the world—whether we like it or whether we don't! And that if we want to keep out of war, we've got to do it by coming right out of our own little homes—and thinking, Edith, thinking!"

"Votes for women," Edith said. Deborah looked at her, rose with a shrug.

"All right, Edith, I give up."

"Thank you. I'm not worth it. You'd better go back to your office now and go on with your work of saving the world. And use every hour of your time and every dollar you possess. I'll stay here and look after my children."

Deborah had gone into the hall. Roger, buried deep in his paper, heard the heavy street door close. He looked up with a feverish sigh—and saw at the open door of his study George and Betsy standing, curious, solemn and wide eyed. How long had they been listening?



CHAPTER XXXV

There came a season of sleet and rain when the smaller children were shut indoors and it was hard to keep them amused. They did not look well, and Edith was worried. She had always dreaded the spring, and to carry her family safely through she had taken them, in former years, to Atlantic City for two weeks. That of course was impossible now. Trouble was bound to come, she thought. And it was not long in coming. Bobby, who was ten years old and went to school with his brother George, caught a wretched cold one day. Edith popped him into bed, but despite her many precautions he gave his cold to Bruce and Tad.

"Suppose I ask Allan Baird to come," Deborah suggested. "He's wonderful with children, you know."

Edith curtly accepted his services. She felt he had been sent for to prevent her getting Doctor Lake. But she said nothing. She would wait. Through long hard days and longer nights she slaved upstairs. All Deborah's proffers of aid she declined. She kept Elizabeth home from school to help her with the many meals, the medicines and the endless task of keeping her lively patients in bed. She herself played with them by the hour, while the ache in her head was a torment. At night she was up at the slightest sound. Heavy circles came under her eyes. Within a few days her baby, Bruce, had developed pneumonia.

That evening after dinner, while Deborah was sitting with Roger in the living room, she heard her sister coming downstairs. She listened acutely, and glancing around she saw that Roger was listening, too. Edith passed the doorway and went on down the hall, where they heard her voice at the telephone. She came back and looked in at the door.

"I've called Doctor Lake," she said. "I've just taken Bruce's temperature. It's a hundred and five and two fifths." Deborah glanced up with a start.

"Oh, Edith!" she said softly. Her sister turned and looked at her.

"I ought to have had him before," she said. "When he comes, please bring him right up to the room." And she hurried upstairs.

"Pshaw!" breathed Roger anxiously. He had seen Bruce an hour ago; and the sight of the tiny boy, so exhausted and so still, had given him a sudden scare. Could it be that this would happen? Roger rose and walked the floor. Edith was right, he told himself, they should have had Lake long before. And they would have, by George, if it had not been for Deborah's interference! He glanced at her indignantly. Bringing in Baird to save money, eh? Well, it was just about time they stopped saving money on their own flesh and blood! What had Bruce to do with tenement babies? But he had had tenement treatment, just that! Deborah had had her way at last with Edith's children, and one of them might have to pay with its life! Again Roger glared at his silent daughter. And now, even in his excited state, he noticed how still and rigid she was, how unnatural the look she bent on the book held tightly in her hands.

Still Deborah said nothing. She could feel her father's anger. Both he and Edith held her to blame. She felt herself in a position where she could not move a hand. She was stunned, and could not think clearly. A vivid picture was in her mind, vivid as a burning flame which left everything else in darkness. It was of Bruce, one adorable baby, fighting for breath. "What would I do if he were mine?"

When the doctor arrived she took him upstairs and then came down to her father.

"Well?" he demanded.

"I don't know. We'll have to wait." And they both sat silent. At last they heard a door open and close, and presently steps coming down the stairs. Roger went out into the hall:

"Come right in here, doctor, won't you? I want to hear about this myself."

"Very well, sir." And Lake entered the room, with Edith close behind him. He took no notice of anyone else. "Write this down," he said to her. "And give it to the nurse when she comes." A heavy man of middle age, with curious dark impassive eyes that at times showed an ironic light, Lake was a despot in a world of mothers to whom his word was law. He was busy to-night, with no time to waste, and his low harsh voice now rattled out orders which Edith wrote down in feverish haste—an hourly schedule, night and day. He named a long list of things needed at once. "Night nurse will be here in an hour," he ended. "Day nurse, to-morrow, eight a.m. Get sleep yourself and plenty of it. As it is you're not fit to take care of a cat." Abruptly he turned and left the room. Edith followed. The street door closed, and in a moment after that his motor was off with a muffled roar. Edith came back, picked up her directions and turned to her sister:

"Will you go up and sit with Bruce? I'll telephone the druggist," she said.

Deborah went to the sick room. Bruce's small face, peaked and gray in the soft dim light, turned as she entered and came to the bed.

"Well, dear?" she whispered. The small boy's eyes, large and heavy with fever, looked straight into hers.

"Sick," said the baby hoarsely. The next instant he tossed up his hands and went through a spasm, trying to breathe. It passed, he relaxed a little, and again stared solemnly at his aunt. "Sick," he repeated. "Wery sick."

Deborah sat silent. The child had another fight for his breath; and this time as he did so, Deborah's body contracted, too. A few moments later Edith came in. Deborah returned downstairs, and for over an hour she sat by herself. Roger was in his study, Betsy and George had gone to bed. The night nurse arrived and was taken upstairs. Still Deborah's mind felt numb and cold. Instinctively again and again it kept groping toward one point: "If I had a baby as sick as that, what would I do? What would I do?"

When the doorbell rang again, she frowned, rose quickly and went to the door. It was Allan.

"Allan—come in here, will you?" she said, and he followed her into the living room.

"What is it?" he inquired.

"Bruce is worse."

"Oh—I'm sorry. Why didn't Edith let me know?"

"She had Lake to-night," said Deborah. He knitted his brows in annoyance, then smiled.

"Well, I don't mind that," he replied. "I'm rather glad. She'll feel easier now. What did he tell her?"

"He seemed to consider it serious—by the number of things he ordered."

"Two nurses, of course—"

"Yes, day and night." Deborah was silent a moment.

"I may be wrong," she continued, "but I still feel sure the child will live. But I know it means a long hard fight. The expense of it all will be heavy."

"Well?"

"Whatever it is, I'll meet it," she said. "Father can't, he has reached the end. But even if he could help still, it wouldn't make much difference in what I've been deciding. Because when I was with Bruce to-night, I saw as clear as I see you now that if I had a child like that—as sick as that—I'd sacrifice anything—everything—schools, tenement children, thousands! I'd use the money which should have been theirs, and the time and the attention! I'd shut them all out, they could starve if they liked! I'd be like Edith—exactly! I'd center on this one child of mine!"

Deborah turned her eyes to his, stern and gleaming with her pain. And she continued sharply:

"But I don't mean to shut those children out! And so it's clear as day to me that I can't ever marry you! That baby to-night was the finishing stroke!"

She made a quick restless movement. Baird leaned slowly forward. Her hands in her lap were clenched together. He took them both and held them hard.

"No, this isn't clear," he said. "I can feel it in your hands. This is nerves. This is the child upstairs. This is Edith in the house. This is school, the end of the long winter's strain."

"No, it's what I've decided!"

"But this is the wrong decision," Allan answered steadily.

"It's made!"

"Not yet, it isn't, not to-night. We won't talk of it now, you're in no condition." Deborah's wide sensitive lips began to quiver suddenly:

"We will talk of it now, or never at all! I want it settled—done with! I've had enough—it's killing me!"

"No," was Allan's firm reply, "in a few days things will change. Edith's child will be out of danger, your other troubles will clear away!"

"But what of next winter, and the next? What of Edith's children? Can't you see what a load they are on my father? Can't you see he's ageing fast?"

"Suppose he dies," Baird answered. "It will leave them on your hands. You'll have these children, won't you, whether you marry or whether you don't! And so will I! I'm their guardian!"

"That won't be the same," she cried, "as having children of our own—"

"Look into my eyes."

"I'm looking—" Her own eyes were bright with tears.

"Why are you always so afraid of becoming a mother?" Allan asked. In his gruff low voice was a fierce appeal. "It's this obsession in your mind that you'll be a mother like Edith. And that's absurd! You never will! You say you're afraid of not keeping school the first thing in your life! But you always do and you always will! You're putting it ahead of me now!"

"Yes, I can put it ahead of you! But I couldn't put it ahead of my child!" He winced at this and she noticed it. "Because you are strong, and the child would be weak! The child would be like Bruce to-night!"

"Are you sure if you marry you must have a child?"

"Yes," she answered huskily, "if I married you I'd want a child. And that want in me would grow and grow until it made both of us wretched. I'm that kind of a woman. That's why my work has succeeded so far—because I've a passion for children! They're not my work, they're my very life!" She bowed her head, her mouth set hard. "But so are you," she whispered. "And since this is settled, Allan, what do you think? Shall we try to go on—working together side by side—seeing each other every day as we have been doing all these months? Rather hard on both of us, don't you think? I do, I feel that way," she said. Again her features quivered. "The kind of feeling I have—for you—would make that rather—difficult!"

His grip tightened on her hands.

"I won't give you up," he said. "Later you will change your mind."

He left the room and went out of the house. Deborah sat rigid. She trembled and the tears came. She brushed them angrily away. Struggling to control herself, presently she grew quieter. Frowning, with her clear gray eyes intently staring before her, she did not see her father come into the doorway. He stopped with a jerk at sight of her face.

"What's the matter?" he asked. She started.

"Nothing's the matter! How is Bruce?"

"I don't know. Who went out a few minutes ago?"

"Allan Baird," she answered.

"Oh. You explained to him, of course, about Lake—"

"Yes, he understands," she said. "He won't come here after this—"

Roger looked at her sharply, wondering just what she meant. He hesitated. No, he would wait.

"Good-night," he said, and went upstairs.



CHAPTER XXXVI

On the morrow Bruce did not grow better. If anything, the child grew worse. But by the next morning the crisis had passed. In the house the tension relaxed, and Roger suddenly felt so weak that he went to see his own physician. They had a long and serious talk. Later he went to his office, but he gave little heed to his work. Sitting there at his desk, he stared through the window far out over the city. A plan was forming in his mind.

At home that night, at dinner, he kept watching Deborah, who looked tired and pale and rather relaxed. And as soon as she was out of the house he telephoned Allan to come at once.

"It's something which can't wait," he urged.

"Very well, I'll come right up."

When Baird arrived a little later, Roger opened the door himself, and they went back into his study.

"Sit down," he said. "Smoke, Allan?"

"No, thanks." Baird looked doubly tall and lean, his face had a gaunt appearance; and as he sat down, his lithe supple right hand slowly closed on the arm of his chair.

"Now then," began Roger, "there are two things we want to get clear on. The first is about yourself and Deborah. There has been trouble, hasn't there?"

"Yes."

"She has made up her mind not to marry you."

"Yes."

"I guessed as much." And Roger paused. "Do you mind my asking questions?

"No—"

"Are you still in love with her, Allan?"

"I am."

"And she with you?"

"I think so."

"Then it's the same old trouble."

"Yes." And he told a part of what she had said. As he talked in clear, terse, even tones, Baird's steady eyes had a tortured light, the look of a man who has almost reached the end of his endurance. Roger smoked in silence.

"What do you propose to do?"

"Wait," said Allan, "a few days more. Then try again. If I fail I'm through." Roger shot a quick look at him.

"I don't think you'll fail, my boy—and what's more I think I can help you. This is a large house, Allan—there's more in it than you know. My second point concerns myself. I'm going to die within a year."

As Baird turned on him suddenly, Roger grimly smiled and said, "We won't go into the details, but I've been examined lately and I have quite positive knowledge of what I've suspected for some time. So far, I have told no one but you. And I'm telling you only because of the bearing it has on Deborah." Roger leaned forward heavily. "She's the one of my daughters who means the most, now that I'm so near the end. When I die next year that may be all—I may simply end—a blank, a grave—I am not sure. But I've made up my mind above everything else to see Deborah happy before I go. And I mean to do it by setting her free—so free I think it will frighten her."

Roger went on to explain his plan, and they talked together for some time.

* * * * *

Another week had soon gone by. Bruce still recovered rapidly, and the other sick children were up and about. Deborah, in the meantime, had barely been in the house at all. But late on Saturday evening Roger found her in her room. She was working. He came behind her.

"What is it, dad?"

"Busy, eh?" He hesitated, and laid his hand on her shoulder with a little affectionate pressure. "You've kept so busy lately," he said, "I haven't had time to see anything of you. How's your work going?"

"Much better, thanks—now that the winter is over."

He questioned her about her schools. And then after a brief pause,

"Well, daughter," he said, "it has been a great fight, and I'm proud of you for it. And if I've got anything to say—" his hand was still on her shoulder, and he felt her tighten suddenly—"it isn't by way of criticism—please be sure of that ahead. In this damnable war my faith in men has been badly shaken up. Humanity seems to me still a child—a child who needs to go to school. God knows we need men and women like you—and I'm proud of all you've accomplished, I'd be the last man to hold you back. I only want to help you go on—by seeing to it that you are free—from anything which can hinder you." He stopped again for a moment.

"To begin with," he said, "I understand you're not going to marry Allan Baird." She stirred slightly:

"Did he tell you so?"

"Yes—I asked him," Roger replied. "I had Allan here a few nights ago, and he told me you had decided to give up your happiness for the sake of all those children in that big family of yours. You felt you must keep yourself free for them. Very well, if that is your decision I propose to clear the way." She looked intently up at his face. "You're not free now," he continued. "We have Edith and her children here. And I'm growing old—that has got to be thought of—I don't want to leave them on your hands. So as soon as the baby is well enough, I'm going to move them up to the mountains—not only for the summer—they are to stay the whole year 'round. From this time on they're to make it their home."

"Father! But they can't do that! Think of the winters!" Deborah cried.

"It's already settled," he answered. "I've talked to Edith and she has agreed. She has always loved the farm, and it will be good for her children. In the meantime I've been talking to George. 'George,' I told him, 'I'm going to talk to you, man to man, about a man's job I want you to tackle.'"

"The farm? But, dearie! He's only a boy!"

"He's nearly seventeen," said Roger, "and a young moose for his age. And old Dave Royce will still be there. It's the work George has been dreaming about ever since he was a child. You should have seen how he was thrilled by the scheme. I told him we'd spend the summer together up there laying all our plans, investing our money carefully to make every dollar count."

"What money?" Deborah sharply asked. But her father was talking steadily on:

"We already have a fine lot of cattle. We'll add to it and enlarge the barn and put in some new equipment. In short, we'll put it in fine shape, make it a first class dairy farm. 'And then, George,' I said to him, 'I'm going to turn it over to you. I shall give the farm to your mother, and the rest of the money I have I mean to invest in her name down here, so that she'll have a small income until you can make your dairy pay.'"

"What money are you speaking of?" Deborah's voice was thick and hard, her sensitive lips were parted and she was breathing quickly.

"I've sold the house," he told her. Convulsively she gripped his arms:

"Then tell me where you mean to live!"

"I'm not going to live—I'm going to die—very soon—I have definite knowledge."

Without speaking Deborah rose; her face went white. Her father kept tight hold of her hands, and he felt them trembling, growing cold.

"You're soon to be free of everyone," he continued painfully. "I know this is hurting you, but I see so plain, so plain, my child, just what it is I've got to do. I'm trying to clear the way for you to make a simple definite choice—a choice which is going to settle your life one way or the other. I want to make sure you see what you're doing. Because you mean so much to me. We're flesh and blood—eh, my daughter?—and in this family of ours we've been the closest ones of all!" She seemed to sway a little.

"You're not going to die!" she whispered.

"So it hurts you to lose me," he replied. "It will be hard to be so free. Would you rather not have had me at all? I've been quite a load on your back, you know. A fearful job you had of it, dragging me up when I was down. And since then Edith and Bruce and the rest, what burdens they have been at times. What sharp worries, heavy sorrows, days and nights you and I have gone through, when we should have been quietly resting—free—to keep up our strength for our next day's work. Suppose you had missed them, lived alone, would you have worked better? You don't know. But you will know soon, you're to give it a trial. For I've cleared the way—so that if you throw over Baird to be free you shall get the freedom you feel you need!"

"Father! Please! Is this fair? Is this kind?" She asked in a harsh frightened tone. Her eyes were wet with angry tears.

"This isn't a time to be kind, my dear." His voice was quivering like her own. "I'm bungling it—I'm bungling it—but you must let me stumble along and try to show you what I mean. You will have your work, your crowded schools, to which you'll be able to give your life. But I look ahead, I who know you—and I don't see you happy, I don't even see you whole. For you there will be no family. None of the intimate sorrows and joys that have been in this house will come to you. I look back and I see them all—for a man who has come so near the end gets a larger vision." He shut his eyes, his jaw set tight. "I look into my family back and back, and I see how it has been made of many generations. Certain figures stand out in my mind—they cover over a hundred years. And I see how much they've meant to me. I see that I've been one of them—a link in a long chain of lives—all inter-bound and reaching on. In my life they have all been here—as I shall be in lives to come.

"And this is what I want for you." He held her close a moment. The tears were rolling down her cheeks. "Until now you have been one of us, too. You have never once been free. You have been the one in this house to step in and take hold and try to decide what's best to be done. I'm not putting you up on a pedestal, I don't say you've made no mistakes—but I say you're the kind of a woman who craves what's in a family. You're the one of my daughters who has loved this house the most!"

"Yes," she said, "I've loved this house—"

"But now for you all this will stop—quite suddenly," he told her. "This house of ours will soon be sold. And within a few months I shall be dead, and your family will have dropped out of your life."

"Stop! Can't you? Stop! It's brutal! It isn't true about you!" she cried. "I won't believe it!" Her voice broke.

"Go and see my physician," he said.

"How long have you known it? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because we had troubles enough as it was, other things to think of. But there's only one thing now, this freedom you are facing."

"Please! Please!" she cried imploringly. "I don't want to talk of myself but of you! This physician—"

"No," he answered with stern pain, "you'll have to hear me out, my child. We're talking of you—of you alone when I am gone. How will it be? Are you quite sure? You will have your work, that vision of yours, and I know how close it has been to you, vivid and warm, almost like a friend. But so was my business once like that, when I was as young as you. And the business grew and it got cold—impersonal, a mere machine. Thank God I had a family. Isn't your work growing too? Are you sure it won't become a machine? And won't you lose touch with the children then, unless you have a child of your own? Friends won't be enough, you'll find, they're not bound up into yourself. The world may reach a stage at last where we shall live on in the lives of all—we may all be one big family. But that time is still far off—we hold to our own flesh and blood. And so I'm sure it will be with you. You see you have been young, my dear, and your spirit has been fresh and new. But how are you going to keep it so, without the ties you've always had?" He felt the violent clutch of her hand.

"You won't die!" she whispered. But he went on relentlessly:

"And what will you do without Allan Baird? For you see you have not even worked alone. You have had this man who has loved you there. I've seen how much he has helped you—how you have grown and he has grown since you two got together. And if you throw him over now, it seems to me you are not only losing what has done the most for your work, but you're running away from life as well. You've never won by doing that, you've always won by meeting life, never evading it, taking it all, living it full, taking chances! If you marry Baird, I see you both go on together in your work, while in your home you struggle through the troubles, tangles, joys and griefs which most of us mortals know so well! I see you in a world of children, but with children, too, of your own—to keep your spirit always young! Living on in your children's lives!"

Roger stopped abruptly. He groped for something more to say.

"On the one side, all that," he muttered, "and on the other, a lonely life which will soon grow old."

There fell a dangerous silence. And sharply without warning, the influence, deep and invisible, of many generations of stolid folk in New England made itself felt in each of them. Father and daughter grew awkward, both. The talk had been too emotional. Each made, as by an instinct, a quick strong effort at self-control, and felt about for some way to get back upon their old easy footing. Roger turned to his daughter. Her head was still bent, her hands clasped tight, but she was frowning down at them now, although her face was still wet with tears. She drew a deep unsteady breath.

"Well, Deborah," he said simply, "here I've gone stumbling on like a fool. I don't know what I've said or how you have listened."

"I've listened," she said thickly.

"I have tried," he went on in a steadier tone, "to give you some feeling of what is ahead—and to speak for your mother as well as myself. And more than that—much more than that—for the world has changed since she was here. God knows I've tried to be modern." A humorous glint came into his eyes, "Downright modern," he declared. "Have I asked you to give up your career? Not at all, I've asked you to marry Baird, and go right on with him in your work. And if you can't marry Allan Baird, after what he has done for you, how in God's name can you modern women ever marry anyone? Now what do you say? Will you marry him? Don't laugh at me! I'm serious! Talk!"

But Deborah was laughing—although her father felt her hands still cold and trembling in his. Her gray eyes, bright and luminous, were shining up into his own.

"What a time you've been having, haven't you, dear!" his daughter cried unsteadily. "Fairly lying awake at night and racking your brains for everything modern I've ever said—to turn it and twist it and use it against me!"

"Well?" he demanded. "How does it twist?"

"It twists hard, thank you," she declared. "You've turned and twisted me about till I barely see how I can live at all!"

"You can, though! Marry Allan Baird!"

"I'll think it over—later on."

"What is there left to think about? Can you point to one hole in all I've said?"

"Yes, a good many—and one right off."

"Out with it!"

"You're not dying," Deborah told him calmly, "I feel quite certain you'll live for years."

"Oh, you do, eh—then see my physician!"

"I will, I'll see him to-morrow. How long did you give yourself? Just a few months?"

"No, he said it might be more," admitted Roger grudgingly. "If I had no worries to wear me out—"

"Me, you mean."

"Exactly."

"Well, you've worried quite enough. You're going to leave it to me to decide."

"Very well," he agreed. He looked at her. "You have listened—hard?" he gruffly asked.

"Yes, dear." Her hands slowly tightened on his. "But don't speak of this again. You're to leave it to me. You promise?"

"Yes."

And Roger left her.

He went to bed but he could not sleep. With a sudden sag in his spirits he felt what a bungler he had been. He was not used to these solemn talks, he told himself irately. What a fool to try it! And how had Deborah taken it all? He did not mind her laughter, nor that lighter tone of hers. It was only her way of ending the talk, an easy way out for both of them. But what had she thought underneath? Had his points gone home? He tried to remember them. Pshaw! He had been too excited, and he could recall scarcely anything. He had not meant to speak of Baird—he had meant to leave him out! Yes, how he must have bungled it! Doubtless she was smiling still. Even the news about himself she had not taken seriously.

But as he thought about that news, Roger's mood completely changed. The talk of the evening grew remote, his family no longer real, mere little figures, shadowy, receding swiftly far away.... Much quieter now, he lay a long time listening to the life of the house, the occasional sounds from the various rooms. From the nursery adjoining came little Bruce's piping laugh, and Roger could hear the nurse moving about. Afterwards for a long time he could hear only creaks and breathings. Never had the old house seemed so like a living creature. For nearly forty years it had held all that he had loved and known, all he had been sure of. Outside of it was the strange, the new, the uncertain, the vast unknown, stretching away to infinity....

Again he heard Bruce's gay little laugh. What did it remind him of? He puzzled. Then he had it. Edith had been a baby here. Her cradle had been in this very room, close by the bed. And how she had laughed! What gurgles and ripples of bursting glee! The first child in his family....



CHAPTER XXXVII

On the next day, which was Sunday, Deborah made an appointment with her father's physician, and had a long talk with him at his house. Upon her return she went to her room and stayed there until evening, but when she came down to supper her manner was as usual. At the table she joined in the talk of Edith and the children, already deep in their preparations for the move up to the farm. George could hardly wait to start. That life would be a change indeed in Edith's plans for her family, and as they talked about it now the tension of hostility which had so long existed between the two sisters passed away. Each knew the clash had come to an end, that they would live together no more; and as though in remorse they drew close, Deborah with her suggestions, Edith in her friendly way of taking and discussing each one. Then Deborah went again to her room. Her room was just over Roger's, and waking several times in the night he heard his daughter walking the floor.

The next day she was up early and off to her school before he came down. It was a fine spring morning, Roger had had a good night's sleep, and as he walked to his office he was buoyed up by a feeling both of hope for his daughter and of solid satisfaction in himself as he remembered all that he had said to her. Curiously enough he could recall every word of it now. Every point which he had made rose up before him vividly. How clear he had been, how simple and true, and yet with what a tremendous effect he had piled the points one on the other. "By George," he thought with a little glow, "for a fellow who's never been in a pulpit I put up a devilish strong appeal." And he added sagely, "Let it work on the girl, give it a chance. She'll come out of this all right. This idea some fellows have, that every woman is born a fool, isn't fair, it isn't true. Just let a line of argument be presented to her strong and clear—straight from the shoulder—by some man—"

And again with a tingle of pleasure his mind recurred to his sermon. His pleasures had been few of late, so he dwelt on this little glow of pride and made the most of it while it was here.

At the office, as he entered his room, he stopped with a slight shock of surprise. John, standing on his crutches in front of a large table, had been going through the morning's mail, sorting out the routine letters Roger did not need to see. To-day he had just finished and was staring at the window. The light fell full on his sallow face and showed an amazing happiness. At Roger's step he started.

"Well, Johnny, how goes it this morning?"

"Fine, thank you," was the prompt reply. And John hobbled briskly over to his typewriter in the corner. Roger sat down at his desk. As he did so he glanced again at the cripple and felt a little pang of regret. "What will become of him," he asked, "when I close out my business?" He still thought of him as a mere boy, for looking at the small crooked form it was difficult to remember that John was twenty years of age. The lad had worked like a Trojan of late. Even Roger, engrossed as he had been in family anxieties, had noticed it in the last few weeks. He would have to make some provision for John. Deborah would see to it.... Roger went slowly through his mail. One letter was from the real estate firm through whom he was to sell the house. The deal had not been closed as yet, there were certain points still to be settled. So Roger called John to his desk and dictated a reply. When he finished there was a brief pause.

"That's all," said Roger gruffly.

"So you're sellin' the house," John ventured.

"Yes."

The lad limped back to his corner and went to work at his machine. But presently he came over again and stood waiting awkwardly.

"What is it, Johnny?" Roger inquired, without looking up.

"Say, Mr. Gale," the boy began, in a carefully casual tone, "would you mind talking business a minute or two?"

"No. Fire ahead."

"Well, sir, you've had your own troubles lately, you haven't had much time for things here. The last time you went over the books was nearly a couple of weeks ago."

John paused and his look was portentous.

"Well," asked Roger, "what about it? Business been picking up any since then?"

"Yes, sir!" was the answer. "We didn't lose a cent last week! We made money! Fifteen dollars!"

"Good Lord, Johnny, we're getting rich."

"But that's nothing," John continued. "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Gale, I have been working lately on a new line I thought of. And now it's got agoing so fast it's getting clean away from me!" Again he stopped, and swallowed hard.

"Out with it, then," said Roger.

"I got it from the war," said John. "The papers are still half full of war news, and that's what's keeping our business down—because we ain't adopting ourselves to the new war conditions. So I figured it like this. Say there are a million people over here in America who've got either friends or relations in the armies over there. Say that all of 'em want to get news—not just this stuff about battles, but real live news of what's happened to Bill. Has Bill still got his legs and arms? Can he hold down a job when he gets home? News which counts for something! See? A big new market! Business for us! So I tried to see what I could do!" John excitedly shifted his crutches. Roger was watching intently.

"Go on, Johnny."

"Sure, I'll go on! One night I went to a library where they have English papers. I went over their files for about a month. I took one Canadian regiment—see?—and traced it through, and I got quite a story. Then I used some of the money I've saved and bought a whole bunch of papers. I piled 'em up in the room where I sleep and went through 'em nights. I hired two kids to help me. Well, Mr. Gale, the thing worked fine! In less than a week I had any amount of little bunches of clippings. See how I mean? Each bunch was the story of one regiment for a month. So I knew we could deliver the goods!

"Well, this was about ten days ago. And then I went after the market. I went to a man I met last year in an advertising office, and for fifty dollars we put an 'ad' in the Sunday Times. After that there was nothing to do but wait. The next day—nothing doing! I was here at seven-thirty and I went through every mail. Not a single answer to my 'ad'—and I thought I was busted! But Tuesday morning there were three, with five dollar checks inside of 'em! In the afternoon there were two more and the next day eleven! By the end of last week we'd had forty-six! Friday I put in another 'ad' and there've been over seventy more since then! That makes a hundred and twenty in all—six hundred dollars! And I'm swamped! I ain't done nothing yet—I've just kept 'em all for you to see!"

He went quickly to the table, gathered a pile of letters there and brought them over to Roger's desk. Roger glanced over a few of them, dazed. He looked around into John's shrewd face, where mingled devotion and triumph and business zeal were shining.

"Johnny," he said huskily, "you've adopted my business and no mistake." John swallowed again and scowled with joy.

"Let's figure it out!" he proposed.

"We will!"

They were at it all day, laying their plans, "adopting" the work of the office to the new conditions. They found they would need a larger force, including a French and a German translator. They placed other "ads" in the papers. They forgot to have lunch and worked steadily on, till the outer rooms were empty and still. At last they were through. Roger wearily put on his cuffs, and went and got his coat and hat.

"Say, Mr. Gale," John asked him, "how about this letter—the one you dictated this morning to that firm about your house?" Roger turned and looked at him.

"Throw it into the basket," he said. "We'll write 'em another to-morrow and tell 'em we have changed our minds." He paused for just a moment, and then he added brusquely, "If this goes through as I hope it will, I guess you'd better come into the firm."

And he left the room abruptly. Behind him there was not a sound.

* * * * *

At home in his study, that evening, he made some more calculations. In a few weeks he would have money enough to start Edith and her family in their new life on the farm. For the present at least, the house was safe.

"Why, father." Edith came into the room. "I didn't know you had come home. What kept you so long at the office?"

"Oh, business, my dear—"

"Have you had any supper?"

"No, and I'd like some," he replied.

"I'll see to it myself," she said. Edith was good at this sort of thing, and the supper she brought was delicious. He ate it with keen relish. Then he went back to his study and picked up a book, an old favorite. He started to read, but presently dozed. The book dropped from his hands and he fell asleep.

He awakened with a start, and saw Deborah looking down at him. For a moment he stared up, as he came to his senses, and in his daughter's clear gray eyes he thought he saw a happiness which set his heart to beating fast.

"Well?" he questioned huskily.

"We're to be married right away."

He stared a moment longer; "Oh, I'm so glad, so glad, my dear. I was afraid you—" he stopped short. Deborah bent close to him, and he felt her squeeze his arm:

"I've been over and over all you said," she told him, in a low sweet voice. "I had a good many ups and downs. But I'm all through now—I'm sure you were right." And she pressed her cheek to his. "Oh, dad, dad—it's such a relief! And I'm so happy!... Thank you, dear."

"Where is Allan?" he asked presently.

"I'll get him," she said. She left the room, and in a moment Allan's tall ungainly form appeared in the doorway.

"Well, Allan, my boy," Roger cried.

"Oh, Roger Gale," said Allan softly. He was wringing Roger's hand.

"So she decided to risk you, eh," Roger said unsteadily. "Well, Baird, you look like a devilish risk for a woman like her—who has the whole world on her back as it is—"

"I know—I know—and how rash she has been! Only two years and her mind was made up!"

"But that's like her—that's our Deborah—always acting like a flash—"

"Stop acting like children!" Deborah cried. "And be sensible and listen to me! We're to be married to-morrow morning—"

"Why to-morrow?" Roger asked.

"Because," she said decidedly, "there has been enough fuss over this affair. So we'll just be married and have it done. And when Edith and the children go up next week to the mountains, we want to move right into this house."

"This house?" exclaimed her father.

"I know—it's sold," she answered. "But we're going to get a lease. We'll see the new owner and talk him around."

"Then you'll have to talk your father around—"

"You around?" And Deborah stared. "You mean to say you're not going to sell?"

"I do," said Roger blithely. He told them the story of John's new scheme. "And if things turn out in the office as I hope they will," he ended, "we'll clear the mortgage on the house and then make it your wedding gift—from the new firm to the new family."

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