"You're pretty tired, ain't ye?" he asked with strong sympathy. "It do sorter seem as if you had more'n your share sometimes, Lucy—it do, certain sure!"
"I'd just give up if 'twa'n't for you and Marry," she returned wearily, crouching in a forlorn heap, with elbows on knees and chin in palms. "It's hard enough for women that's got their own young ones, and can mind 'em and make 'em mind. I can't do nothing with ours, and when I go to pa he just gets cross and lights out. And then he comes home—well, you know how. He hit me with a stick, last night."
Nate's strong teeth came together with a click.
"He did? The old——" His sentence ended in a mutter.
"Oh, you can curse him"—she laughed drearily—"but what good does it do? It don't take the ache out o' that welt on my arm and back any. The skin's broke and it smarts."
She began to cry in a slow, patient way.
"It's queer I don't get used to it," she said presently, for Nate had not tried to answer, but was puffing like a locomotive over wet rails at his stub of a pipe. "I ought to by this time, but I don't. I s'pose it's because when pa's good he's real good, and so kind it makes it hurt all the more when he's off. Oh dear!" She gave a long sigh, pitifully unyouthful in its depth of misery. "I was 'most glad when ma got through with it all, and could rest and look so sort of peaceful in her coffin. But I dunno. She kept more offen me than I knew of, I guess, and it's growin' worse all the time."
Nate started up, letting his chair fall back with such force as to threaten total extinction to its legs.
"It's a sin and shame, and I know it!" he said in his deepest voice. "But you keep up your courage, Lucy. When things 'gets to the bottom they're bound to go up again, for they never stand still."
He stood up and knocked his pipe clean against the wooden chair seat with vigorous thumps that seemed to relieve him, and started towards the street.
"Where you going?" asked Lucy remonstrantly. "I didn't mean to nag at you, Nate."
"Don't I know it? And what if you did? Guess I'm big enough to stand it. You just talk to me all you feel like; but see here, little girl, I wouldn't be talkin' to nobody else—I wouldn't."
"Not to Marry?"
"Oh well, that French woman don't so much matter, 'cause most folks wouldn't understand even if she tried to tattle, and I guess she don't. But not to Mis' Hemphill—she's a most su'prisin' gossip, ye know—nor to the Murfrees, nor Flahertys, nor nobody. These is fam'ly affairs, Lucy, and they ain't for public ears. I'm going down to Lon's now, and your pa'll get home soon—very soon. I'll see to that," grimly. "Now, good night, and don't you shed another tear, will ye?"
He patted her shoulder kindly as he stepped past her, and Lucy looked up with grateful eyes.
"If he's off, Nate, will you come with him?" she whispered fearfully.
"Bet yer life!" was the emphatic answer as he lumbered away on great clumping shoes, true knight as any that used to ride away on a horse just as clumsily arrayed in armor, and perhaps that romantic rider was no better equipped in mind or heart than this glass-blower of the nineteenth century.
There never was a truth more tersely expressed than in the vulgar old proverb, "Money makes the mare go." Before Joyce's energy and Joyce's dollars work progressed with rapid strides, and Littleton, as seen on a certain June morning of that year, would never have suggested the bare, ugly collection of buildings she had visited the March before. They had turned the flat sandy plain into a grassy park, with little cottages of picturesque exterior set down all over it at random, apparently, for they faced in all directions; while the green-bordered highways wound in and out among them, like satin ribbon with a velvet edge. Even the Works, themselves, were in the midst of a level lawn, and that part which had been seamed and gullied with footpaths winding about among heaps of sand, or unsightly refuse of fruit and broken glass, was now neatly paved wherever there was no opportunity for verdure to grow.
The two long rows of ugly houses were no more. They had been disintegrated, so to speak; some turned this way, some that, and some removed altogether. On those retained for use additions had been built, verandas added, windows enlarged, and many conveniences planned within doors. Trees and vines had also been planted outside, and the inevitable grass-seed sown broadcast. The men had a joke among themselves that young Early had been obliged to take a seed-store on a debt, and was thus disposing of his stock. The "flat-iron," once watched with a wondering hope, had become a park in truth, the young trees growing healthily in the open space upon which the houses looked, while flower-beds were all abloom. Here and there were benches by the broad walks, and at the narrower end a light wire fence guarded a considerable space, over which was set the sign,
Here the turf could not be so well kept, for there were swings, teeters, small man-power merry-go-rounds, and an enticing pond of wading depth, where fleets might be sailed in summer, skates made to glide in winter.
At one side a great archway opened into a long and wide covered way, or viaduct in its original sense, where were more swings and trapeze bars, and here the little ones could play on rainy days. This arched tunnel led from the park to a school-house, so pleasant in appearance that every bright window and graceful stairway seemed to extend an invitation to the passing child.
Within were tinted walls with tempting lengths of blackboard, charming colored prints hung up in artistic disarray, with globes in the corners, modeling tables in convenient lights, a piano near the rostrum, and the neatest of chairs and desks.
Rufie and Tilly sat in each of these separately, and declared, "if it wasn't for the studying they'd like to live there right along." Mrs. Hemphill, Rachel's mother, also perambulating through with great curiosity, and three small children clinging to her skirts, pronounced it "fine enough, goodness knows, but wait till you see them teachers!" This rather damped the children's enthusiasm, for by Mrs. Hemphill's manner one would have imagined those teachers little less than monsters.
What caused greatest comment, however, was a stately building just opposite the point of the flat-iron, which brought it very close to the center of the town, and but a stone's-throw from the little church, which was the embodied dream of Gus Peters, turning pain into beauty, and making the scars of his burned arms and hands only a record of glorious days and heavenly nights, because at last he had been enabled to put to practical use the talent that was in him.
As the plaintive song of the teakettle may have been but the wail of imprisoned power, until Watts set it free to work out its glorious destiny, so the boy's surly ways had been his own protest against a destiny that seemed enchaining him to an uncongenial work, for which he brought neither love nor patience. In more congenial labor his soul had broadened, his heart grown warmer, his very looks had improved—But we were talking of the great house near the church. This stately pile, with broad halls from which lofty rooms opened on either side, might be a private dwelling on a large scale, to be sure; yet, instead of chambers above, there was one very large apartment with two or three smaller rooms off, that were being fitted up as a kitchen and dressing-rooms. This building proved a puzzle to these work-people. They could not find any use for it, as they strolled by twos and fours through its unfinished expanse. Nate Tierney suggested that young Early was coming here to live, and that this great upper chamber was to be his ball-room, where he could have his routs and banquets, the kitchen being in handy proximity. Most of the villagers accepted this explanation, as nothing better offered, and commented either in pious disdain, or honest envy.
"He'd have to give big parties, to fill this," remarked Hapgood, slipping clumsily about on the polished floor, "and what's he got that stage at t'other end for?"
"Why, the musicianers, of course," declared Nate. "Jim! but it's fine, ain't it?"
"Umph! How some folks can fling theirselves. It makes you feel 't ain't much use of tryin', don't it?"
"Tryin' for what?" laughed Nate. "Big parties? They're welcome to all the fun they can get out en them, Bill. How'd you and I look slidin' and stumblin' around over that floor of glass, anyhow? No siree! Give me that neat little porch you've got, with Lucy's vine a-growin' 'round it. It'll beat this all hollow!"
"Oh well, that ain't bad, to be sure," allowed Hapgood with some reluctance.
"Bad! I should say not."
"Well, I'll own up, Nate, it is an improvement, and Lucy is as chipper over it as can be. To have a settin'-room, too, besides the kitchen, tickles her most to death. But what gets me is the 'lectric lights and no extry charge."
Hapgood's face, which always reddened easily, was now a dazzling hue. He went on excitedly,
"You jest turn 'em on, so—and there you are, light as day and no charges—same old rent and lights flung in!"
"And heatin' too, Bill. You'll sense the meaning o' that more, next winter. Think of nateral gas for us fellows, and cute little stoves and grates; where you can jest turn it on and off with a thumbscrew. No wood splittin' and sawin', no luggin' baskets of coal, no dust, no smoke, no charges. My! Bill, it's 'most too good to b'lieve."
"Look out we don't crow too soon, Nate. It's less'n a month sense we've had it that way, and you don't know; they may tuck it onto us——"
"Dalton says not."
"Perhaps he don't know. Did you ask him?"
"Yes, and he said the new boss was a—a philandroper, or something. He seemed kind of tickled over it, too, as if he thought it was a kind of tomfoolery, or joke, that mightn't last."
"If it's a freak, no more it will."
"Oh well, we'll get the good of it while it does. You can't live any more'n a day to a time, so what's the use worryin'? Summer's here, and the place is gettin' purtier every day, and it just does a feller's heart good to watch them youngsters racin' and shoutin' in that old flat-iron—'member how we felt it never could be a park, and for us? But you see 'tis, and a special place for the young'uns, too. That ought to clinch the thing, I'm sure!"
So they wondered, questioned, and commented, but never thought of connecting these sunny marvels with the handsome girl, who was occasionally seen strolling about, either with the older woman, who had been ticketed as her old-maid aunt, or with Mr. Dalton, supposed by all to be some distant relative. Joyce had been very careful to act through agents, and though the workmen sometimes thought she showed a "heap of curiosity," they never imagined that it was her little head which planned and originated every detail of the work they carried on. Not that Joyce could really make a plan—that was beyond her. But she and Madame Bonnivel, together, instructed the intelligent architects employed, even down to the minute contrivances for saving work and time, that were introduced into the cottages.
Even Gus Peters had never fathomed the mystery of his own surprising good fortune. Before night had fallen, on the day he was burned, an elderly woman of serene visage had appeared in his bachelor den, and declaring herself a nurse sent by friends, had proceeded to make him more comfortable than he had believed possible, with those aching members touching up every nerve to torture.
She had served him with delicate food and drink, dressed his burns with softest touch, given him some soothing potion, and prepared a daintily clean bed for him to rest in. When he awoke, after the first refreshing sleep in many hours, she was still there, and the room seemed like another place, so restfully clean and orderly had she made it. Gus looked around with contented eyes, which finally fell upon her and lingered there. For the minute he half suspected it was still a dream, and feared to really waken. But, catching his gaze, she smiled and said in an unmistakably wide-awake voice,
"You had a good sleep, didn't you? The worst is over now, and you'll soon mend. It won't be long now to the itching stage."
She laughed pleasantly and went on with her work in a placid way. Gus discovered, with a little shock of surprised delight, that she was darning a sock—could it be his sock? He asked the question with an eagerness that amused her.
"Of course. Why. Are you afraid I'll spoil it?"
The humor of this made him laugh also, for the idea of spoiling socks that were little but holes would make any one smile who felt warm, rested, and free from pain.
"How did you happen to come?" he asked again, a bit timidly.
"I was sent," she returned. "It's my business—to nurse those who are not rich. It makes a different profession of it, where one must often be house-keeper and cook, as well as attendant on the sick, you see."
"Yes, indeed. You're good at keeping house, I reckon. It must have looked a mountain to you to get order out of the mess here."
"I've seen worse places. Now, it's about five o'clock and I'll give you some breakfast, and dress your arms. Then, if you feel comfortable, I'll take a nap myself."
"To be sure. And are you going to stay all day?" wistfully.
"Of course, and to-morrow too, perhaps."
She folded her work in deft fashion, putting thimble and thread away in a bag which, in time, became something of a marvel to Gus, who declared a man never wanted anything but she'd find it in that bag; then went about preparing breakfast, and soon Gus was sipping what seemed like nectar to the poor fellow, who was used to decoctions that might have a name, but neither looked nor tasted like any known drink.
"Well, that is coffee!" he cried gratefully. "Say, Mrs.——"
"Keep," she interposed quietly.
"Mrs. Keep, I don't like to be prying, but—but, you understand, I'm poor? I can't pay much, and you're way up in your business, I see. Perhaps——"
She smiled in motherly fashion.
"Don't bother your head about that. I am paid, and well paid. You are simply to take things as they come, and hurry to get well. I'm glad to see you can eat."
"Eat? It would be a queer man that couldn't with such a breakfast before him! I guess some fairy must have blessed my cradle when I was born. I never knew, before, I was heir to good luck. Well, there might be worse things than burned hands. Now do me up in fresh rags, Mother Keep, and you shall have as long a nap as you like. I won't even sneeze if you say not."
Mother Keep stayed a week, and left Gus well on the way to a perfect cure, with no scars remaining as a record of his awkwardness. She often talked with the lad, finding it easy to probe him. He talked ardently of his one love, the study of architecture, showing her many plans, and explaining how he saved every penny to spend it in lessons at the Institute, and in materials for this absorbing work. One of these plans—that of a small church, simple in design, yet with real elegance of outline and convenience of arrangement, impressed her greatly.
"I wish you would let me take this away with me," she said. "I will return it after a little."
Gus, who would have almost taken off one of the fast-healing arms for her, had she asked it, assented at once, inwardly hoping she would not soil the beautiful drawing, nor, womanlike, forget all about returning it. When she left, it went with her, and Gus missed both the woman and the drawing that evening. He might indeed have been really melancholy, but some of the boys came in and rather drove away the gentler thoughts of the past few days in their noisy mirth and games.
Still, something of that gentle influence lingered. Gus tempted Rufie with a penny, and coaxed her into brushing up the floor now and then, while he took to hanging up his discarded garments, rather than dropping them in a heap. It was a few evenings later, and he had begun using the least burned hand to some purpose, when a strange man called, and asked if he ever submitted plans in competition. Peters rather mournfully confessed that he had, but with little success, except in one instance, when he had taken a prize in an amateur competition. After a talk on such matters the stranger mentioned, as if incidentally, that plans were requested for a small church about to be built in Littleton; why did not Peters compete? Instantly the young man's thought flew to his drawings, now in Mother Keep's possession. If he had those he might venture. But could he not reproduce them? Oh! if his hands were only well. If Mother Keep would but remember what was of so little consequence to her, but so much to him.
He lay awake long, that night, dreaming dreams of future success, but awoke to a disheartening sense of pain and impotence. There were no letter-carriers in the village, and Gus seldom had reason for frequenting the post-office unless on a bright day, to meet the girls. As he should not begin work to-day, however, he thought he would stroll in that direction. The office, a mere box in one corner of a provision store, was presided over by a woman in spectacles, the wife of the store-keeper. As Gus stood leaning against the side of the door, one arm still in bandages and a sling, a figure entered, passing him quickly by, as if intent on business. He recognized Miss Lavillotte, who had been so kind to him the day he was burned, and waited patiently till she should turn from the little office window, and give him greeting.
Presently she did turn; then, after a quick, intent look, advanced smilingly.
"You are much better?" She asked eagerly. "You look almost well."
"I am, thank you! I had fine care, you see."
"Did you? That was good!"
"I should say! The queer thing is, I don't know where she came from, nor where she's gone to."
"Mother Keep—as I call her. She was fine! She'd cure anything, I reckon."
Joyce laughed, her eyes shining.
"And she really saved you some suffering?"
"She made me almost enjoy it!" laughing blithely. "I wish she'd write to me. I'd like to know her address."
"Perhaps she has. Have you inquired?"
"Goodness! no. I never thought to. Do you suppose she would?"
"I'm not supposed to know much about her, but if, as you say, she was kind I should think she'd feel enough interested to write and ask how you are getting along without her. Shouldn't you?"
"Possibly. I'm going to inquire, anyhow. Say, Mrs. Blake, got anything for Augustus F. Peters this morning?"
The woman slid a small package of letters through her fingers, as she answered,
"Yes, two things if I ain't mistaken. Here's the letter, and I'll find the roll in a minute."
"Aha! Good! I was afraid she'd forget that. It must be my drawings."
"Your drawings?" asked Joyce interestedly. "Are you an artist, then?"
"No. But I'd like to be an architect. They are some plans of a little church that I've been working on a long time. I never expected to make anything out of them, only practice, but——"
He hesitated and Joyce looked up, inquiring and sympathetic. He gave a little choke and continued:
"Well, they say young Early means to build a church here and has called for plans and specifications. Guess it's advertised in some of the papers, but I don't take any. So I thought I'd submit mine—though it won't be any use, I presume. Still, it's worth trying."
"It's always worth trying. I certainly should. And, do you know, I'm a bit interested in the study of architecture myself, and have some books. Wouldn't you like to look them over, now you're unable to work? You're welcome to them for as long as you like to study them."
"Wouldn't I like them! If you knew how I've wanted to get hold of such things, but they cost awfully. I'll be careful, Miss Lavillotte, and put strong paper covers on them. You're sure you'd just as soon let me have them?"
He was like a boy in his enthusiastic joy.
"Perfectly sure. Will you come around, or shall I send them? Come to think, I'll do the latter when Gilbert has the carriage out, this afternoon. They are large and heavy. And don't fail to send in your plans; I shall be anxious to hear if you succeed."
She tripped out, while Gus watched her, an odd expression on his face. Then turning to the woman who was holding out the precious roll, he said bluntly,
"It don't cost a thing to give a man a kind and hopeful word, but how many girls like that would do it? She's a lady!"
He walked away as if on air. He was no longer the awkward lout, stolidly working at uncongenial toil. He had a hope, a purpose, a plan, and his sometimes sullen face was transformed into manly alertness and strength.
From that time on he forgot his burns, and Nature took them in hand, healing the broken flesh in her most clean cut fashion. Scarcely a scar remained, and on the day he received the brief notice that his plans were accepted it seemed as if the scars fell from his soul also, leaving it cleaner, stronger, better. He had found his rightful work, and that is inspiration to any man.
Factory hours were over, and Dan Price issued from the heated place, his old coat over his arm, and his neck bared to what little breeze there was, as he turned his moist face in the direction of home. There was no loitering among the boys, no waiting for any special girl.
Dan had no boon companions, no home ties, no courting to carry on. He "kept company" with no one but himself. The one room he called home was in one of the houses still untouched by the changes going on, a remnant of the once ugly row, now largely broken into, but not wholly destroyed.
For, with that perversity of inanimate things which attends every large enterprise to retard in every possible manner, through bad weather, the non-arrival of needed materials, loss, breakage, accident, and the "soldiering" of the workmen, many hindrances had arisen, and while wonders had been accomplished much remained to be done. But what had tried Joyce almost beyond endurance was to find that her greatest opposition came from the people she was trying to benefit. Often she found herself, through her builders, butting against a wall of human perversity and stupidity fairly insurmountable.
More than one family, and these in the poorest homes, utterly refused to allow of any improvements, resisting the entrance of the workmen, as if this were an armed incursion of some enemy. In vain Dalton explained that it was only to make them more comfortable, that it should not cost them a penny, that the discomforts of a week, a month, would change their barracks into modern homes. They sullenly defied him to interfere, and would none of these "new-fangled notions" he tried to describe in glowing terms.
"'Tain't fair, boss, and we ain't going to stand it!" shouted one man from his door-step, rotting from the misdirected leakage of the roof. "If we keep the rent paid up you've no right to disturb us in our own homes. If we want changes, or improvements, we'll let you know quick enough. Till we do just let us alone, can't ye? It's all we ask."
Even Dalton, between the Scylla of Joyce's determination and the Charybdis of her people's perversity, sometimes lost his temper entirely, and could do nothing but anathematize them for a "pesky set of fools" right to their faces. So a part of the old buildings still remained, and in Bachelor's Row, where the rooms were mostly let to men without families, lived Dan, forlornest of all in the block. It seemed, to-day, as if the bare, paintless shanties looked worse than ever, by contrast with their improved surroundings, while an air of neglect and disheartenment lingered about them, impalpable but as plainly perceived as an odor. Naked, shutterless, porchless, and hot, they stood in the blazing afternoon sunshine, as obtrusive as the wart on a man's nose, and as ugly. When Dan's dark gaze was uplifted to them he scowled fiercely, and muttered,
"Out of the frying-pan into the fire! I can never stand it inside, to-night. Guess I'll take to the woods."
He stepped from the small front platform directly into a room which smelled strongly of leather and tobacco, where two oldish men with grizzled beards were sitting—one in an apron, cobbling shoes on the bench by the one window; the other, evidently a caller, close by the open door, reading something from a newspaper and gesticulating rather wildly. A sardonic gleam flashed across Dan's handsome face as he passed them with a nod, and disappeared in the room beyond. This was his own, where he stinted himself in other ways that he might keep it unshared, thus insuring the strict privacy he courted.
It was very small and its boards were bare, but he had saved space by making himself a bunk, in lieu of a bed, which, hung on hinges, could be hooked up out of the way when not in use. For the rest, a couple of chairs, a chest of drawers, and a table with a little oil stove for cooking purposes composed the meagre furnishings. But each bit of wall space was occupied in a manner that astonished one at first glance, for up to the height of four feet were shelves partly filled with books and magazines, while above them, reaching to the ceiling, were fastened pine cases protected by glass, in which were collections of butterflies and beetles arranged in a manner that awoke admiration even in those who knew nothing of entomology. But to-day the room was stifling, and even the stiff beetles on their pins seemed to droop in the fierce glare of the sunshine streaming in.
With an impatient "Whew-w!" Dan went hastily about, selecting such things as he needed for his impromptu camp of a night, and soon was ready; a blanket tightly rolled around net and tackle, and some food in his dinner-pail.
Coming out into the yard through the rear door, he stepped under a rough lean-to of a shed, and soon emerged with his wheel, which, being geared to suit his peculiar form, made him look almost like a caricature when mounted. He fastened his paraphernalia in place, steered it around in front and was just mounting when the man with the newspaper issued from the cobbler's room, talking loudly,
"I tell you, it's no good! Toil and moil every day from your first breath to your last, and what good does it bring you? Independence? Humph! You are as much a slave as any nigger bought for cash. Comfort? A heap of that! You'd be better housed and fed in any county-house. Respect? Get yourself charged with a crime and see whether it's any good to have been an honest, hard-working man. I tell you——"
He stopped and Dan, who had buckled his last strap, looked up to see why. He divined instantly, and that same sardonic smile passed over his face once more. Mr. Dalton was approaching, and the speaker, but now climbing the heights of oratory with the paper flourished like a standard before him, shrank suddenly into himself and seemed to fall away, as if he would annihilate himself if he could. Finding that impossible he sank into his chair and began a vague remark about the shoe his host was half-soling, all which the latter took as a matter-of-course, not seeming to notice, even.
Dan pedaled away, laughing harshly.
"Fool!" he muttered. "One would think, to hear him, he was the only one not a coward amongst us, when the truth is he's the biggest one of all. Old Tonguey Murfree would cringe to the devil for ten cents worth of patronage, and then cheat him out of half of it, if he could."
He made his wheel fly in a sort of frenzy of disgust, but the fresh wind, sweeping his hot face like the besom of peace, soon drove away this temporary chagrin, bringing to him the best comfort life gave in those days—the gentle influence of Nature. For, just in proportion as Dan shunned humanity he courted her, and though he felt her relentlessness through every fibre of his suffering being, he felt her charm as well, and could not quite resist it.
He rode fast and far, till the level road, through a turn or two, brought him into a well-wooded tract where bluffs and willow clumps suggested running streams. He left the road and, dismounting, guided his wheel between projecting roots and stumps, down through a winding cow-path which led to a lick below. Here, discarding shoes and stockings he waded the stream, and entered a charming dell where nature had been lavish of adornment. In fact, one might almost have thought time and human ingenuity had assisted nature, for a wild grapevine was so linked from bough to bough between two tall trees as to form a perfect bower, and as if to protect the opening from intrusive onlookers, a sort of chevaux-de-frise of tall ferns waved their graceful banners up to meet the drooping lengths of vine waving from the tree.
Toward this bower Dan bent accustomed steps, sliding his wheel into a copse of young oaks that hid it completely, then parting the growing ferns, as if he needed no guide to tell him just where the well-concealed opening might be. As he, stooping, entered, the graceful fronds sprang back to position, like sentinels who have separated an instant to let the master pass, but quickly resume place to guard his hidden presence well.
Inside, Dan glanced about and saw with pleased eyes the undisturbed, familiar aspect of the spot. In one corner was a large heap of dry leaves, which might have drifted there last Fall, but did not, and in any case made an excellent bed for a camper. In another, an innocent-looking tree-root projected from the earth. With a quick jerk Dan dislodged it, showing an excavation below, which had been neatly walled in with stones. Removing the largest one, at the bottom, he disclosed a rough box sunken in the soil, from the compartments of which he drew forth all the articles he needed for his simple supper—an old coffee-pot, an alcohol lamp with its attendant rubber-corked bottle, a frying-pan of small dimensions, a can of shaved bacon, salt, pepper, and so on.
By this time a look of peace, yes, even a sort of tame joy, had replaced Dan's gloomy expression, and one could see that, in a way, he was happy. Getting out his fishing-rod from its enveloping blanket he presently emerged, recrossed the stream, and soon could be seen pushing out into the midst of it, poling an old punt up stream. Anchoring presently in a small cove where the water was deep and cool, he sat in silent watchfulness, occasionally jerking out a perch bass, sometimes a pickerel, but for the most part so still he might have been the occupant of a "painted boat upon a painted" stream. Yet all the time the soft influences of the hour and place were weaving their spell about him. The sun was now only a great half-round of red upon the horizon's line, and way up to the zenith tiny clouds that were like sheep in a meadow caught here and there its scarlet tinge. It was very still, yet all alive with woodsy sounds. Now a belated cicada swung his rattle as if in a fright, next a bull-frog, with hoarse kerchug! took a header for his evening bath. Once, later on, when the shadows were falling, a sleepy thrush settled upon a twig near by, and sang his good-night in sweetest tones. About this time he heard a farm-boy calling anxiously through the neighboring wood for the lost Sukey of the herd, and at times a dusty rumble announced a wagon jolting homeward over the unseen road away to his right. Dan's sense of satisfaction was possibly heightened by this mingling of nearness and remoteness. He had all life at his ear, so to speak, yet held it back by his will, as one might listen at the receiver of a telephone and yet refuse to yield up one's own presence by opening the lips in response. And here there was no "central" to cut him off, though he held the situation long.
At last, in the soft dusk, which wrapped him like a mother's arms, he poled noiselessly down stream, secured the punt, dressed his fish with the dexterity of a practised woodsman, and washing them neatly in the river, waded back to his camp. Again the root handle was lifted, the alcohol lamp filled and lighted, and while the coffee boiled over that, the fish, laid on the slices of bacon, were set to sizzle comfortably over a tiny fire of sticks and leaves built in the stony hollow. Dan was hungry and ate with keen relish. He had produced knife, fork and spoon from his sunken cupboard, but his frying-pan served for both plate and platter, and the cover of his dinner-pail for cup. The bread and doughnuts he had brought from home helped out the repast, which had all the relish and wholesomeness of the out-door meal which has been foraged for by personal effort.
Oddly enough in these tobacco-ridden days, Dan did not smoke. When he had neatly cleaned away the remnants of his feast and replaced root and stone, he spread his blanket out under the stars, and tucking one rolled-up corner under his head for a pillow, lay long into the night, gazing up into the heavens which formed his only roof.
It was a moonlighted evening, and the fleecy clouds we have noted moved in and out of her path in a stately dance, with winning grace, as eastern Nautch girls might dance their way into the favor of a haughty sheik.
Dan at first saw all, but reflected nothing of this beauty in his thought. His animal nature satisfied, he craved nothing as yet. But presently memory and remorse knocked for admittance—the twain were seldom long banished. They sat like skeletons at every banquet. At a bound thought flew back to that day when his brother had fallen before his eyes.
Dan groaned as the awful vision loomed before him. He saw again the trickling blood, the strange, astonished protest on that dying face, with its eyes turned up to his. That was what he could not bear—that Will should have believed he did it, even in carelessness. If the unspoken reproach of that last minute could be removed Dan felt he would be a free man once more. But that hung over him like a curse.
"I didn't do it, Will!" he moaned half aloud. "I wasn't even fooling with the trigger, as you thought. If I'd been careless in that way—but I wasn't. I never see a gun without thinking it may be loaded, and though we both believed that one wasn't still I was careful. But it caught either in your sleeve or mine—nobody will ever know, and it killed you and left me to live on. Who did it, Will? It wasn't you; it wasn't me. Was it the devil, or was it God himself? What is that awful Something that makes things happen just when you're guarding against 'em? For that's what I was doing. I had just looked up to caution you when you pressed so close, and then came the stroke!" He groaned again, as if in physical pain, then presently went on in a moaning voice: "Oh, Will, if you can hear me, believe me and not what other folks may say. They all believe it was me, but that I was so crazy over it I couldn't bear to own up; and the doctor bid them let me alone or I should go mad. But Will, it is not true. You must hear me, wherever you are. It is not true!"
He broke into a passion of sobs, and rolling over, muffled his face in the blanket's folds. Even in that solitude some living being might hear, and the thought that anyone should ever witness this agony of soul, should ever lay the lightest touch upon that sacred wound, was torture to him.
Poverty, orphanage, and physical weakness had always set him apart, but while Will lived he had not greatly minded. He had kept in touch with his world through its greatest favorite, that handsome, witty brother; and it had been the same when Will was praised, or courted, as if it had been himself. Death had torn from him the best part of himself, and as if this loss were not cruel enough simply as a loss, it had left behind the conviction that in dying that worshiped brother believed the one who would gladly have died for him to be his slayer. No wonder Dan moaned and writhed, incapable of comfort. He wonder he shunned everybody, knowing what they believed of him.
No wonder he groped in black despair and could not yet look up, or listen to the voices of consolation that might have come to him in different moods.
It was night for Dan in more senses than one.
AT THE BONNIVELS'.
The Bonnivels were at dinner, one evening, somewhat before the events related in the past few pages, and were discussing in lively tones a long letter which had come from Leon that day—Leon Bonnivel, the absent son and brother who was in a ship of war off the South Atlantic coast. He had just been advanced to a first lieutenancy, and the family were jubilant in consequence.
For the Bonnivels had known hard times in their southern home, when Dorette and Leon were little, and his appointment to the Naval school had been the first lightening of their fortunes, Dorette's marriage to an honest young fellow in a good situation the second.
That Madame Bonnivel and Camille were never allowed to feel their dependence upon Mr. and Mrs. Larrimer Driscoll took from its bitterness, yet it was to Leon both looked as the family's true head, by whose advancement all would certainly be gainers. They loved the spirited young soldier-sailor as helpless women do love their braves, who go out from them to fight the battles of life, and they watched his career with their hearts' pendulums swinging between pride and dread—joy and alarm.
Madame Bonnivel's face was now radiant, while her sightless eyes sparkle with enthusiasm. Dorette looked placidly pleased, Larry kindly sympathetic, while Camille showed her delight in her rattling tongue and eager gestures. "We must tell Joyce," she cried, squeezing Dodo's arm in a vain effort to express all she felt. "She is as fond of him as we are. Maman, how old was she when the Earlys came to board with us?"
"About two, and the dearest baby!" answered Madame with readiness, for next to talking of Leon she loved to talk of Joyce. "Her poor mother even then was marked for death, and when she passed away, during one of her husband's frequent absences, I took her baby right into my arms and heart."
"And Leon must have been about five then?"
"Half-past five, as he used to say, and Dorette here was seven. Such a houseful of babies!"
"Luckily I had not appeared on the scene then," laughed Camille. "I'm afraid I was not a welcome guest."
Her mother turned fond, reproving eyes upon her, while Dodo broke in between big mouthfuls of oatmeal and milk,
"But me was dere, jus' de same. Me 'members all about it."
"Oh, you remember more than the rest of us have forgotten!" cried her auntie, catching the child's chubby arm and shaking little trills of merriment out of her, at which the young father exclaimed with mock savagery.
"Will you never leave that child alone, Gypsy? You're always squeezing or pinching her."
"But I lubs her so!" with a shower of pats and punchings. "I could eat her up."
"Better stick to your dinner—it's a good one! My wife is chef of this establishment."
Dorette's soft eyes met his in a fond, merry glance.
"Thank you, Larry! You always appreciate good things."
"Don't I, though! But go on, mother. You were telling us about the babies."
"You know it all as well as I. We loved little Joyce as our very own, and when her father took her away—for somehow he never liked us, I think because I once spoke too plainly about his neglect of his delicate wife—when he took her to a woman he had engaged to look after her, she moaned and cried in the most pitiful way, refusing all food and begging day and night for 'ma mere,' as she had learned to call me. Nothing would pacify her, and at length in desperation he brought her back. We were poor then, but I did not receive her because of the board money he would pay——"
"Did you keep it in a ginger-jar, Mother?" put in Larry, with a chuckle. She caught his meaning quickly, and returned at once,
"I was about to add, because I knew from past experience there would be little of it to hoard, even in a ginger-jar. James Early was not as prompt a payer as collector," dryly. "No, I took back my baby because we all missed her so, especially Leon, who had wailed all day and half the night, calling on 'Doyce! Doyce!' even in his dreams, poor little man! It was the end of the second day when Mr. Early, looking decidedly sheepish, reappeared with his little daughter—about this time, in fact. I can see, even now, the look of perfect rest and happiness upon her tear-stained little face as she nestled into my arms that evening, while Leon and you, Dorette, fairly radiant with joy, bent above her. I never saw one of you show one moment's jealousy, which was a bit odd, for Joyce was an imperious baby, and exacted a great deal of my attention. But how charming was her good-nature! That night she sat throned on my knees, like a little princess, and patty-caked, threw kisses, went to mill and to meeting, and said over her whole short vocabulary of French and English words, so gracious and lovely that even your studious father pushed back his books and papers to join the frolic. We were wonderfully happy that night! I think the child is magnetic. She gives out her own happiness like electric sparks. She never can bottle it up and enjoy it selfishly."
"And she stayed till she was fifteen?"
"Yes. Then her father began to make money, and he made it——"
"Hand-over-fist," interposed Larry.
"Exactly. And I never saw one so puffed up with pride and vain-glory. It would have been funny, only that he made us feel it so tragically. He tore Joyce away—the word is not an exaggeration for she fought him at every point and only yielded to positive compulsion. He put her into a fashionable school and bade her have nothing more to do with those 'down-at-the-heel Bonnivels.' It was a trifle hard after the love and care we had lavished upon her."
"It was beastly!" muttered Larry between his shut teeth. "Did he never give you even gratitude, let alone money?"
"No. He measured out a niggardly sum for her board, and gave it over with the air of munificently rewarding me. I would have refused to accept it, but your father was gone, then, and I nearly blind. I could not let my little ones suffer to gratify my own pride. I took it, but I dared not speak for fear I should say too much. I simply bowed my head in acknowledgment, and thanked God when he was gone, because I had been able to control myself!"
"But Joyce did not see that?" put in Dorette.
"No, I am glad to say she did not. The scene with her had ended with her passionate rush to the carriage, where she was lying back on the seat half fainting amid her tears."
"Oh, how cruel!" cried Camille, almost in tears herself.
"And when you had gone blind through your constant embroidering to keep your little tribe together—Joyce and all!"
"Never mind, dear! Larry came then and saved us all."
She turned a sweet glance upon her son-in-law, which made him flush with pleasure.
"I don't know about that saving process, mother. I've pretty often declared in my own mind that Dorette and you came along just in the nick of time to save me."
"Me too," put in Dodo, insistent on general principles.
"And me!" added Camille, laughing and squeezing the baby afresh, her moods as quick to change as those of capricious April, always.
"Yes, the whole shirackety of you," returned Larry, folding his napkin. "And Joyce has made amends since, I'm sure."
"Indeed she has, dear child!"
"But mother, even Joyce has never given——"
"Hush, Camille! Don't say it. Joyce knows we are entirely comfortable, and she has large plans to carry out. She gives us unstinted love and gratitude. Joyce has never failed me yet."
Camille was silenced. She caught Dodo out of her high chair, and made the movement from table general.
They had scarcely reached the homelike living-room when the doorbell sounded a quick peal that rang through the house. It made the Madame exclaim,
"Why, that sounds like her now!" and, sure enough, in a moment Joyce stood, laughing, in their midst.
"Are you glad to see me?" she cried merrily, passing her greetings about, but returning to the mother's side directly. "I had Gilbert bring me over, for I've something to talk about; and may I stay all night?"
A universal cry of assent having answered her, she turned, with her brightest smile, to Larry.
"Will the honorable householder dismiss my coachman, then?" and as, with an exaggerated bow and flourish, he disappeared to execute the commission, she turned swiftly upon Madame Bonnivel. "Ma mere, aren't you paler than you should be? What is the matter?"
"I've had just a trifle of a headache, cherie, nothing worth mentioning."
"I don't like those headaches—do see Dodo! Her eyes are falling asleep while she is running about; if she stops one instant she'll be a goner!"
All laughed as the child opened her drooping lids to their widest, and declared she "was dest as wide awake as a hen," but papa, who had re-entered, caught her regardless of protests.
"I'll put her to bed, Dorette. You stay and visit, but don't, Joyce, tell quite all you know till I get back. Come, Sleepyhead! Papa'll tell about the little red hen"—aside to Joyce—"It's my stock yarn. Couldn't tell another to save my head, and studied that out, word for word, on purpose. But luckily she wants it every time. I should be bankrupt if she didn't. Come now, say good-night to all like a lady, Toddlekins."
"Oh, don't bother her, Larry. Joyce can take the ceremony for granted," put in the affectionate aunt, who could not bear that any should tease baby except herself.
"Yes, there's my kiss," throwing it, "and don't get her roused up, Larry. I've things to discuss."
"All right. We go, but I return. Au revoir. And talk woman's foolishness till I get back—do! I want to be here when you get off the latest fallals."
But she began tamely enough.
"I saw something in the paper the other day that I want to ask about. Is it your house here that is advertised for sale?"
Madame Bonnivel nodded, and Dorette answered,
"Yes, isn't it too bad? The owner has died and the estate is to be turned into money wherever possible. We can stay until it is sold, or can leave by giving a fortnight's notice at any time, if we prefer."
"And then where will you go?"
"Oh, we haven't planned that far," said Camille. "I say, let it be in the suburbs. I hate to think of an apartment, again."
"But, my dear, there are far pleasanter ones than we used to know," put in her mother gently. "I do regret leaving here, though. It will be difficult to find another place, within our means, where we will find so much room out-doors and in. Poor Dodo will miss the grassy yard."
"And Dodo's grandmother, too," added Camille. "You ought to see how chummy they are, Joyce, out under our one maple."
Joyce was looking at that spiritual woman with an expression that arrested the girl's thought and words. It was the look of one who longs, hopes, yet fears, and mingled withal was that adoring fondness she often showed this mother of her heart.
"I see, ma mere. You cannot go into an apartment. It would mean imprisonment for you. And so—and so—oh! I don't know just how to get it out, but—I have had two of the houses at Littleton especially fitted up, and they are close together in what will soon be a great lawn. They are very much alike, but altogether different—that is, they are just different enough not to be tiresomely similar and—where was I?"
All broke into laughter. Joyce's confusion was too funny.
"I think you were in either a maze of syntax, or of building-lots; I scarcely know which," remarked the Madame, evidently overflowing.
"Well, there are two houses—that is sure. One is for me, and the other"—she looked all about with a beautiful smile, nodded brightly at Larry who appeared opportunely in the doorway, and laid a tender hand on Madame's knee—"the other is for ma mere, if she will only be good enough to live close beside her naughty baby, and help her along in life."
"Oh, Joyce! Joyce," cried that lady, catching the hand between her own, while with a sharp little sound Camille sprang to her feet, Dorette meanwhile breaking into a laugh almost like Dodo's for innocent joy.
"I knew you, Joyce!" said she, and Madame, caressing the girl's hand, added tremulously, "My dear, dear child!"
"And so I'm no longer to be proprietor and boss," cried Larry, coming forward. "Oh, I've heard you plotting and planning. Mother Bonnivel, are you going to turn us Driscolls out of doors, now you've come into your palace?"
"Oh dear, no palace! Just a comfortable home with room enough to swing all Dodo's kittens in," laughed Joyce, to keep back the tears, for the dear mother's joy upset her.
"I should dread a palace, cherie," said the latter, then turned to the young husband of her daughter, whom she loved as a son. "We've had no mine and thine so far, Larrimer, and we won't begin now."
"Oh!" was Camille's outburst, "how perfectly charming it is to have it come from Joyce. If it was anybody else mother could never be induced to take it. Do tell us more, Joycey love—how far out is Littleton by rail? Could Larry live there and go in to his work? Could I go on with my music and cadet teaching?"
"It is forty minutes ride by rail. You saw the town before anything was done and in early spring. You would not know it now. It is green where it was brown, clean where it was dirty, trim where it was shabby. It begins to look like a great park, and the cottages are really ornamental, as well as comfortable. Our homes are to overlook the town and face the park at its broad end—you know it is triangular in shape—and they are already at the decorating stage. I did not want to go further without letting the rest of you have your say."
"Oh, delicious!" cried Camille. "I do think planning out pretty rooms is perfectly fascinating. Can't you tell us something how they are built?"
Joyce laughed, and took from her pocket a large sheet of letter paper, looking meanwhile with half suffused eyes towards Madame.
"Do you remember, ma mere," she said tenderly, "how we used to sew and plan together in those old days when we were so poor in money and so rich in dreams?"
"Indeed I do, Joyce."
"And, one winter's day, when the house was so cold we had to huddle close around the old wood stove and shiver, do you remember telling how we would have our home if we could, and how perfectly it should be warmed in winter and cooled in summer? We all got enthusiastic over it; there were you and Dorette and I, while Camille lay fast asleep in her cradle; and first one, then another, would propose some convenience, until we forgot the cold entirely. Finally you cried gaily, 'Wait, I'll draw a plan. These are good ideas for somebody, if not for us. Give me a pencil and paper Joyce,' and presently you showed us what you had drawn."
"Oh, yes! The pretty house with the dumb waiter going from cellar to attic, and the soiled clothes dump from the upper floors to the laundry, and the store-room down-stairs for trunks and heavy furniture, and—"
"And the long drawers under the deep window-seats for best gowns," broke in Dorette with unusual excitement, "and the little cedar closet for furs, and the elegant lighted closets. I remember the plan perfectly. But that—is that it, Joyce?"
"This is the very self-same drawing," said the latter merrily.
"I had wondered what became of it, then forgot it entirely," laughed the Madame. "So you have had it all the time?"
"Yes, I stole it. And, ma mere, the house is built. There are the very little nooks, sunny and warm, that you planned in the library for reading and writing; the pretty Dutch kitchen with its long low window, and the central hall with its wide fireplace. They are all real now, not a dream any more. And they are yours. You have only to take possession, after giving a few orders to the decorators about colors, and so forth. If you say so, Gilbert shall drive us out to-morrow. We can take Dodo, and carry a luncheon to picnic by the wayside. It will be a lovely outing. Won't we, everybody?"
But somehow words came tardily just then. Larry had caught Joyce's hand, and was pumping it up and down somewhat wildly, while his lips quivered under his mustache; Madame Bonnivel had a trembling grasp upon the other hand, while Dorette and Camille were each kissing an ear, or an eye—they could not see for tears and did not care anyhow, so long as it was a bit of Joyce. Till, flinging her arms about them all, she broke out into a sudden passionate, "Oh, dear people! My people! Let's cling together. I've nobody in all the world but you!" At which heart-breaking cry the mother quickly responded,
"Why, child, you are a part of us. We have had you always when we could. Do you suppose we would ever let you go?"
So Joyce turned her giving into begging, and in assuring her of the love and loyalty she longed for, all forgot their words of thanks till Larry said whimsically, "I'm afraid things are getting a little mixed here, and I'm not quite certain, now, whether we're to be grateful to Joyce for a beautiful home, or she to us for deigning to live beside her."
This set Camille off into a near approach to hysterics, and let them all gently down to earth once more.
Presently the Madame began in her tender voice, which could never seem to interrupt,
"We haven't told our news yet, Joyce. It pales a little before your grand tidings, but I think it will interest you still. Leon has been promoted."
Joyce turned quickly, her face all aglow, her eyes like stars.
"Oh, is it true? Then he is first lieutenant?"
"Yes, with special work in the engineering department, and such kind words from his higher officers in their congratulations! We had thought our cup of joy quite full when you came in; now it has overflowed."
"And mother was telling all about you and Leon when you were little," put in Camille in so oblivious a tone that Larry, catching some fun in the situation, laughed outright.
"What a giggler you are, Larry! Just like a school-boy," admonished the gypsy-maid, frowning at him. "What she said about their childish devotion was very touching, I thought, and not at all funny."
Even Madame Bonnivel joined in his hearty laugh, now, and poor Joyce, to hide her burning cheeks, broke out,
"Come, Camille, where's your mandolin? I haven't heard you play for an age. 'Do let's play and be cheerful!'"
"Just what Leon always used to say! All right, I'll give you my last serenade; it's awfully sweet. Turn down the lights, Larry. Now, you must all imagine you are on the water in Venice, and that I'm stealing by in my gondola to call up my lady, love from sleep. She's up in the tower-room of that dingy old castle yonder. Hus-sh all!"
They were silent in the dim room, but Joyce's heart was still beating hard. Would Leon be as pleased as they? She hoped they would tell him in just the right way, he was so proud, and on the dainty "tinkle-tinkle-tum" of the stringed instrument her thoughts floated outward over the broad sea, to find her childhood's mate again.
THE SOCIAL HOUSE.
The large building which had caused so much comment was at length finished, and the mystery solved. It was indeed a mansion, with rooms for recreation and study, but it was neither for young Early, nor any other one person. It was, instead, the joint property of all the village, and to be known as the Littleton Social House. On the lower floor was a library, with well-lighted nooks, to be used as reading-rooms; beyond that were the art-rooms one for modeling in clay, one for sketching, and a third inner, sky-lighted, place for photography. On the other side of the great hall was a large music-room with a canvas floor, containing a piano and cabinet organ, also shelves for music numbers, and a raised dais for art orchestra. Beyond was a pleasant parlor, from which opened a small apartment provided with conveniences for quiet table games; and all these were neatly fitted with strong easy chairs, tables, and cabinets, the walls being beautified with many good photographs from paintings of masters, both old and new.
The supposed "ball-room," above, developed into a gymnasium and entertainment hall, with a rostrum and curtains, where lectures, concerts, pictured views, and little dramas might be given; and surrounding this were roof balconies, with palms, vines, and potted plants, making them into bowers of beauty and coolness. Here were seats and tables where the warm and weary might stray for a cooling drink of lemonade, or an ice, served at a price within the means of the very poor. A trim little widow, whose husband when living had been a trusted employee, and who was trying her best to raise her young family without him, had been set up in this restaurant, apparently by Mr. Dalton, and provided with the necessary outfit, for which she was to pay a living rental during the summer months. The chance seemed heaven-sent to the poor young creature, who had nearly succumbed before her heavy toil at the washtub, for she was too delicately formed for such labors.
The janitorship of the whole large building brought independence to another family where the capable mother dying had left a crippled husband and two young girls to struggle on as best they could. With the youthful help of these sturdy girls he could undertake the office of caretaker, and, as pretty living rooms were furnished them in the high, airy basement, the family felt almost as if they had been transported to Paradise after the terrible experiences of the past winter, with a mere shed for shelter, the coal running short at too frequent intervals, and meat only compassed as a rare luxury on the "lucky" days when one or the other could pick up an extra nickel, or two, by some special good fortune.
To all the questions and conjectures over this miracle of a house Mr. Dalton opposed an impassive front. "It is none of my doing," he averred brusquely. "I never should have thought of it, and wouldn't have built it if I had, no matter who furnished the money, for I don't believe you'll appreciate it, or take care of it. But all I've got to say is, if any one of you do abuse it, and go to spitting on the floor, or hacking up the woodwork, or pulling things out of shape in any way, you'll be lower than any truck that I care to have around, and you'll have me to deal with when I'm at my ugliest—you understand what that means!"
The men, who had been grouped in the yard after hours, talking it over, and whose hail for information as he passed by had brought out his vigorous remarks, looked at each other and grinned half sheepishly. Then one spoke up sturdily:
"I guess we know good manners when we see 'em, boss! We ain't pigs, nor tramps."
Dalton laughed in his curt fashion.
"You know well enough, but you don't care pretty often. If young Early is decent enough to give you boys a chance at some pleasure, you want to show you appreciate it—that's all. And when you get your invite to the house-warming, you'll be expected to show up as the gentlemen you can be when you try."
Billy May, once a sailor, straightened up and touched his cap.
"Ay, ay, sir!" he bellowed, as if receiving orders in a towering gale, at which all laughed and Dalton, smiling in spite of himself, passed on.
The invitations came in good time, and were in a somewhat comprehensive form, each being addressed to the householder in person, with the words, "and whole family" added. No family was forgotten, but as the building could not accommodate the whole village, two evenings were set for the reception and opening, all the names up to N, in alphabetical order, being chosen for Tuesday evening and the rest for Wednesday, while different hours were mentioned that there need be no crowding, though it was discovered later that no matter at which hour one arrived, the most of them staid till the very latest mentioned, loth even then to leave the, to them, novel scene.
A day or two before this pleasant event, which had set the whole town into a delightful turmoil of expectation and comment, a couple of families quietly moved into the two neat, but by no means sumptuous dwellings, lately built on the little knoll over against the broad end of the park, and facing it. You will remember that the school-house was at one side, the church near by, while the Social house fronted the narrow point, with a street between. Thus the two homes overlooked park and buildings, exactly facing the Social house, though at a distance, while the Works at the other extreme of the village were half hidden by intervening buildings, and soon would be quite overshadowed by the many trees lately set out.
These were the homes which Joyce had built for herself and the Bonnivels. Both of them, though fitted with many conveniences and finished with taste, were of moderate cost, there being not one extravagance, and only the modicum of room actually needed for refined living, in either. Many a rich woman has thought nothing of putting more expense into the fitting of one room, even, than Joyce had laid out on her whole house. Indeed that reserved for Madame was much the costlier of the two. Yet, with the pretty outlook across the green triangle before the doors, the high situation, the soft roll of the lawns surrounding them, and the majesty of the one immense maple which stood between the buildings, and had grown for a quarter of a century in lordly majesty, appropriating to itself all the juices of the soil for yards around, until it was the famed landmark of that region, these places were more attractive than many more palatial which fairly daunt the stranger with their cold magnificence. These smiled in one's face with a hospitable welcome.
Moving was not a difficult operation for Joyce, as she had little heavy furniture to take from the hotel; and it had been a labor of love and jollity to run about with Dorette and Camille, selecting and arranging, first submitting everything to Madame's superior and almost faultless judgment. And here the girl's passion for sharing—she liked the word better than giving—often asserted itself. Obstinately declaring that she should be wretched in a home where everything "smelled of its newness," she had coaxed and cajoled her friends until, almost without their realizing it, there had been such a division of the old Bonnivel effects and the new Lavillotte purchases that both houses presented a pretty equal mingling of the ancient and modern. For instance, Joyce begged the small round table with claw legs from their dining-room, to send in its place one of the handsomest large mahogany rounds she could procure. So Ellen's room was neatly furnished with Madame Bonnivel's square heavy set, stately if not graceful, while the latter's bloomed out with pier-glass and satinwood of the daintiest. The Bonnivels' worn cane chairs somehow found places on Joyce's veranda, while a new half-dozen rockers, of quaint and comfortable shape, took their places through the pretty living rooms next door.
"I feel," said Joyce gaily, "so much more respectable than if my things were all new. These good old plantation souvenirs give to my indefinite outlines a deep rich background that brings me out in stronger colors."
For, with all her wealth and power, Joyce often felt this "indefiniteness," as she called it. She knew people were wont to ask, "Who is she? Where is her family?" and to look with some misgiving on a girl too rich to pass unnoticed, yet too poor to own a family and a past about which she was free to babble. She found that riches set one out from the crowd as does the search-light which cannot be dodged nor dimmed, and sometimes she would have flung every dollar away, and given up all her pet schemes, just to have crept into the safe shelter of the Bonnivel home as a real child of that house, to become as happily obscure as Dorette, or Camille.
The Tuesday night of the first house-warming fortunately fell upon a cool evening, when no one could much mind the occasional sprinkle of rain, so glad were they of a change from the fierce heat and drought of the past fortnight. As it was, the clouds brooded low, and the breeze held the freshness of showers near by, while now and then the moon peered through a rift and lit up the hushed darkness, which was like that of a chamber where sleep comes after pain.
The Social house, gleaming with electric lights to the very summit of the flag-staff above its roof, from which the stars and stripes waved in languid contentment, was not only near the center of the town, geographically, but also in aim and interest, to-night. The half-world which was not invited till to-morrow was anxious to see how the other half would look in gala costume, to-night; and a stranger, suddenly dropped into the neighboring streets, would have had to look twice to convince himself these neat-looking females, tripping that way, were the wives and daughters of artisans who worked for a few shillings a day. Fortunately summer dress-goods cost little, and there were but few of the girls who had not compassed a new six-cent muslin, or at least "done up" an old one into crisp freshness. The men were equally disguised by soap, water, and shaving, with coats instead of shirt-sleeves, but these could not simulate the fine gentleman so readily as could their daughters the fine lady.
Among these self-respecting Americanized families there was occasionally seen a sprinkling of those who disdained any approach to dudishness, or had not yet grasped it as anything that could possibly pertain to themselves, and these—mostly new importations from Poland or Italy—strode dauntlessly up to the wide-open doors in the deep Grecian portico, the men in clumping shoes and the women in little head shawls, jabbering noisily with wonder and curiosity.
Mr. Dalton, under sealed orders, had placed himself, with his aunt, near the outer doorway of the broad entrance hall to receive the guests, and when Joyce's party appeared all were welcomed exactly as had been the other arrivals.
Their entrance was rather imposing, though, despite precautions, for first came Larry with Madame, then Dorette with Joyce, and lastly Camille leading Dodo, with Ellen stalking at their side, the very picture of a duenna. Somewhat in the rear Gilbert and two other maids, Kate and Thyrza—this latter from the Bonnivel house—followed with dubious looks, feeling probably that they were neither "fish flesh, nor good red herring," in this motley assemblage, which offered no such companionship as they were accustomed to.
Joyce's eyes shone like stars, and even in her plain white Suisse gown, without an ornament except the rings upon her fingers, there was a sort of regal splendor about her that made every eye turn to watch her as she entered. After Mrs. Phelps had greeted them all with evident pleasure at having them for neighbors, they found an easy-chair for Madame, where she might listen and feel the happy surging of the crowd about her. As soon as seated she gently pushed Joyce away.
"Go," she whispered. "You want to see and talk with as many as possible. I shall do nicely alone. All of you go, and then you can tell me more when you come back. It will be fun to compare experiences. Who has Dodo?"
"I have her just this minute," said Camille, "but she has sighted Larry and I can't hold her. He is talking to two men in the window at your left, and looking handsome as a picture! There, for goodness' sake, go, if you must! I do believe the little tyke has torn my new dimity, clutching at it so. Come, Joyce, let's go and speak to those girls. They look positively wretched in their best clothes, poor things!"
"You go," said Joyce. "I see my old friend Mrs. Hemphill—Rachel's mother, you know. See her, there with the three children? We must make the most of ourselves, and you can jolly up the girls better than I. I'm going to bring some of the interesting people to you, ma mere. You'll know how to talk to all of them, but you shan't be bored!"
"We need no special vocabulary to be kind," smiled Madame. "I will soon make friends right here, and I'm not afraid of being bored. People always talk to the blind, and smile on the deaf. Run along!"
Joyce gave her a love-pat, and hurried after Mrs. Hemphill who, with a strong grasp on her little ones, was stemming the tide of humanity with a somewhat defiant mien, while her head was swinging around as if on a pivot, so determined was she not to miss the sight of a single decoration or picture, nor the passing of a single guest. She stopped to speak to a much wrinkled dame in a real Irish bonnet, with a flapping frill, who was smiling so broadly as to display with reckless abandon her toothless gums.
"Purty foin, ain't it?" this one laughed, as they stopped abreast of each other so suddenly that the babies nearly fell over backward. "And say," lowering her voice so that Joyce barely caught the words, "they do be tellin' they's to be sand-whiches, an' coffee, an' rale ice-crame byme-by. Does ye b'lave it?"
"Umph! It gets me what to b'lieve, these days," muttered Mrs. Hemphill, with a backward slap at one of the children who, upon hearing the enumeration of goodies, began to tease for some. "What's ailin' you now?" she cried fiercely. "Want somepin to eat, you say? You want a trouncin', that's what you want!" lifting the little thing with a motion tenderer than her words. "Ain't it all the craziest doin's? But say, Mis' Flaherty, they tells me you won't go into one of the new houses, nohow."
"And why should I, tell me thot!" began Mrs. Flaherty on a high key, just as Joyce stepped graciously forward, with the words,
"Isn't this the Mrs. Hemphill I remember?"
The latter turned quickly.
"Hey? Oh, why yes, I do mind you now. Let's see, you come to sell a washin' machine, didn't you? Or was it a story-paper? Oh! no, now I know," darting suspicious glances over the head of the child in her arms, "you was talkin' about schools and tryin' to get one up."
"Well, partly," answered Joyce, rather crestfallen, and glanced up to meet the dancing eyes of Larry, who was passing by and caught the high-keyed sentence. "But you know I have come here to live now, and I assure you I am not a teacher—just a private citizen."
"Do tell! Well, I thought you was something or other—they's sech a raft of agents along; though my Mary tells me 'tain't a circumstance to the city—Mate works out in the city. Let me make you acquainted with Mis' Flaherty. She's the lady what lives in Bachelor's Row and takes in boarders and washin's—now, Johnny, you stop a-tuggin' at my skirts, will ye? You've started the gethers a'ready.—She ain't exactly a bachelor herself, but she's next to it—a widder woman. He! he!"
Mrs. Hemphill's laughter was so much like the "crackling of thorns under a pot" as to be far from pleasant. Joyce hastened to speak.
"But I can't see why you preferred not to move, Mrs. Flaherty. Don't you like the new houses?" she asked, a bit anxiously, looking from one to the other and feeling decidedly wet-blanketed.
"Oh, they'll do," nodding the cap frills vigorously. "It ain't fur the loikes o' me to be sayin' anythin' agin 'em, but I never did take to these new-fangled doin's, 'm. I've heered tell how them water pipes'll be afther busting up with the first frost, just like an old gun, and I don't want any sich doin's on my premises. No sir! I ain't so old but I can pump water out of a well yet, and it's handy enough.' 'Tain't more'n just across the strate, and whin 'tain't dusty, nur snowy, nur muddy, it's all right enough."
"Well, I don't carry water when I can make it run by turning a stopple—not much I don't!" cried Mrs. Hemphill vigorously, meanwhile tilting back and forth on heels and toes with a jolting motion which was gradually producing drowsiness in the infant she held. "And my man says it can't freeze in them pipes 'cause the nateral gas is goin' to run day and night and keep 'em hot. And Nate Tierney, he says 't water an' heat an' lightin' is goin' to be jest as free, in our town, as sunshine an' air is everywhere. That's what Nate says, and if it's true it's a mighty big load off 'n us poor folks, and that's certain!"
"But we're goin' to be taxed for 'em," put in another woman, joining the group—a lanky creature with washed-out eyes, and lips that she seemed in danger of swallowing, so sunken were they.
"How's that?" cried Mrs. Hemphill, sharply.
"It's to be some way put onto the men in their drink and tobacco—so my man says—and it'll make it a cent more on a glass and a plug. My man says everybody what brings any into this town's got to pay somethin' fur the privilege, and that goes into the heatin' and lightin' fund. And he says it's a blamed shame, and the men won't stand it, either! Fur's that's concerned, what do they care whether we're warm or cold, so 't they gits their dram?"
Just here Rachel Hemphill came rapidly towards them.
"Mother," she began, then looked askance at Joyce, whose eyes, now somewhat troubled, turned eagerly to meet her glance.
"Well, what is it now?" asked the mother crossly, for, though she liked nothing better than to sit and praise Rachel by the hour, she always kept her belligerent attitude toward her family, as if afraid she might relent too much if she once gave way an inch.
"I was going to say," the girl continued excitedly, with another glance at Joyce, "you'll miss the concert, if you don't hurry. It's upstairs in the big room, and they're all hustling for seats. And mother," dropping to a whisper, "our Kip is to sing!"
"Kip? You don't say! Who told you? Let's hurry! Johnny, come along and stop dragging your feet. I'll lay the babby down some'ers and go right up; he's sound fur an hour or two, I hope. You're coming, Rache?"
"Yes, in a minute," for Joyce had stepped towards her with outstretched hand, partly barring her way.
"My name is Lavillotte," she said, "and I have seen you several times. The Bonnivels and I have just moved into the two houses at the other end of the park, and we want to get acquainted with our neighbors."
Rachel's cool fingers dropped into Joyce's eager jeweled ones, and fell away again.
"You will find but a small set of your kind of people here, Miss Lavillotte. There's the doctor's family, Mr. Dalton's, and one or two others. I'm just one of the working girls," and before Joyce could speak to protest she had turned away with a proud look, and hastened after her mother.
Joyce had never been used to rebuffs. Feeling like a child who has had its gift of sweeties flung back into its face she turned slowly to retrace her steps towards Madame Bonnivel, and even in the short circuit of the crowded rooms she more than once caught words of criticism and unfriendly comment. One man, who was gesticulating largely with his somewhat grimy hands, uttered these words while she slid and sidled through the unyielding group about him, almost like one trying to avoid a blow—
"Generous! Who says he's generous? Don't you fool yourselves. We'll have to pay for it somehow, you mark my words. Young Early's like his father, only 'cuter. He's going to work things up till he makes folks think this town's a little Eden and then, when more workers wants to come here because it's sort o' neat and pretty, he'll begin to squeeze us on the wages, and if we dare to kick he'll say coolly, 'Go, if you don't like it. There's plenty ready and waiting to take your place.' Oh, I know 'em, root and branch, and we ain't no more'n just a pack o' cards in their hands. They shuffle us, and deal us round where we can help 'em to rake in the most chips, and when they're done with us—pouf! away we go into the fire, for all they care."
Joyce, fairly stung, made a quick movement towards him, then, remembering herself drew back, while the man, turning at the minute, smiled and made way for her. She was only a pretty girl to him, and he had not Rachel's discerning eyes, to observe that she was out of her class here, and never for an instant imagined what his tirade had meant to her.
When Joyce reached the Madame she was trembling a little, and pressed herself against that lady's chair, longing for comfort. Yet, in reply to the Madame's greeting she answered with but one word. She was afraid to trust herself with more. The blind woman's keen instinct divined that something was amiss. She had been talking placidly with many, and had also heard all sorts of comments and conjectures, so could imagine the feelings of this warm-hearted girl who had been giving so freely, and who longed for some little expression of appreciation and gratitude in return. But fearing themselves surrounded she could not speak quite freely, so she clasped Joyce's trembling fingers warmly while she quoted with an arch, smiling face.
"Perhaps it was well to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me down-stairs?"
Joyce had to laugh heartily amid her gloom, and felt better for the outburst.
"It's what I want to know, myself!" she cried warmly. "Have I quite deserved it all?"
"It's the way of the world, my dear. But I've something to tell you, on my side. I have just been talking to a young girl—I think they call her Lucy—and she is so glad and happy over this house and its possibilities! I wish you could have heard her talk. She says her mother is dead, and she is busy all day with the housework and babies. But to-night some good friend she called Nate, as I remember, who is not invited till to-morrow evening, said he would sit with the children and she should come with her father. It's the first party she was ever at, and she has a new muslin for it, and some dear Marry, as she called her, gave her a bit of nice lace for the neck, and it has been all bliss and rapture! Her voice was fairly tremulous with happiness, Joyce."
"O!" cried the latter, feeling better and better, "It must have been Lucy Hapgood. I wish I could have seen her, myself. Which way did she go?"
"I don't know, dear. Who is near us now? No one very close, is there?"
"No—at least all are busy with their own affairs."
"Then I will say this; remember always that you are not doing these things for gratitude, nor praise. That has always been understood, hasn't it?"
"Yes, yes, of course. But—but it's hard to have abuse, ma mere!"
"They don't mean it for you, cherie. Are they not all nice to you, personally?"
"They treat me well enough, yes. But not as if they really care for me."
"And why should they, on so short acquaintance! Remember, they do not dream who their good fairy really is. And you must always tell yourself it is not you they repulse. You simply stand for the class that has oppressed and cheated them. They denounce "young Early" to-night, simply for the sake of what has gone before. They cannot believe in real friendliness all at once, and they look coolly on you, imagining you have no interests in common with them. They look across a gulf of suffering and privation at you, who seem never to suffer, and their eyes grow hard and stony. Can you wonder? You should not be either surprised, or hurt."
"But they don't treat you so, mother. And you are of my class, as you call it."
"Am I? Well, granting all that, you forget I am blind. My affliction brings me more in touch with them. I would have no feeling of superiority—I could not; so they come nearer to me, perhaps. Or else I have fallen among pleasanter people. Look your sweetest now, and try once more. I'm sure you will find some warmer currents in this frozen stream, if you sound it well."
Joyce smilingly pressed the gentle hand that caressed her own.
"I'll make another plunge," she said more hopefully. "Ah! here's Mr. Dalton. I think he looks a bit triste, too. Good evening again, Mr. Dalton. I want to ask you a question, please. Can you tell me who is that man with the brown hair and bristling red beard, over in that group by the door—there, he is just moving on."
"That? Oh yes, I see. Why, his name is Hapgood—Bill Hapgood, as we all call him. His girl Lucy is here somewhere—a good child, sadly overworked. He's no good, though; always quarreling with his bread and butter, and much too fond of the saloon."
"Lucy Hapgood's father!" exclaimed Joyce under her breath, turning surprised eyes upon Madame Bonnivel, as if that lady could meet her speaking glance.
And so she could in spirit, for her perceptions amounted almost to mind-reading. A smile of amusement lit up her sweet face, as she cried merrily,
"Father and daughter, are they? What a coincidence!"
Dalton looked from one to the other, uncomprehending.
Then his gaze lingered on Joyce's flushing cheek. As she made no effort to explain he said, presently, "I thought Mrs. Bonnivel might like some refreshments, and I told Mr. Driscoll, if he would take his wife and sister I would come for you two ladies. But he said they had gone home with the baby."
"Have they? And what has become of Mrs. Phelps?" asked Joyce, feeling somewhat forsaken by her clan.
"She went in with the doctor some time ago. I rather think she has left, too. She had a headache, or something."
Joyce glanced around her with a dissatisfied expression.
"No," she said, "this won't do! We might as well all have stayed at home as to come here just for a supercilious glance or two, while we huddle together. And yet—whom can I ask to take me?"
Dalton, with his eyes upon her, wondered. Had she been at a ball, among her own kind, who would not have wanted her? Even had no hint of possessions gone abroad, she was peerless in beauty and brightness. He made a queer little sound which Madame caught, and laughed softly.
"You could ask anybody to take me," she said with evident amusement, "and possibly, if Mr. Dalton tries hard, he may find somebody even to take you, Joyce. I scarcely think they would refuse him."
He evidently appreciated her fine sarcasm.
"I could try hard," he returned, "provided I am too good for the office, myself. Let me see. I suppose Miss Lavillotte will not be satisfied unless I bring somebody as unattractive as possible—wait, I have it!"
With a quick "Excuse me!" he hurried away, soon to return with a grizzled man of uncertain age, who certainly was not attractive, though so greatly improved by clean linen and a stiff collar that Dalton had noticed the change at once. He was, in fact, the very man whom Dan so often heard haranguing in the cobbler's shop, and knew as Tonguey Murfree, though when voting he registered as Joseph H.
With an air of exaggerated courtesy Dalton led him up and introduced him.
"Mrs. Bonnivel, Miss Lavillotte, let me present Mr. Murfree, well known of all in Littleton because of his eloquence. I'm sure he will be glad to take you out to supper, and give you his latest views on—well, say anarchy."
The man winced a little, and his florid face took on an added color. In his embarrassment he giggled like a bashful boy, and scraped one foot behind him in a low obeisance.
"Glad to please the lady, I'm sure," he muttered, quite at his wits' end what to do next.
Joyce rather resented the hint of derision in all this, and stepping forth a bit proudly, said at once,
"Thank you. If you'll just pilot me through to the refreshment room, Mr. Murfree—that is, if you know the way."
"Bet I do, 'm, and had a taste and sup myself, but I'm not backward to go again. The coffee's rare good, 'm, an the san'wiches very satisfying. But"—in a confidential tone, as they moved slowly through the throng—"whoever's a-doing of all this has made one big mistake, ma'am, and that's a fact."
"Indeed! How is that?"
"Well, it's on the drinks, 'm. He might at least have give us ginger-beer, or pop, if he's teetotal, as they say. It 'ud seem more nateral, somehow, to be drinking stuff outen a glass. But take it all together it's a pretty decent show, and the pictures and funnygraph, up in the big room, was fine. But if it's jest a scheme to play some new game on us they needn't try it. We've got our eyes peeled, and we don't get tooken in again. Old Early played it up pretty cute once, or twice, and we bit like suckers, only to wake up with a strong hook in our gills; but this young feller hasn't got the old one's experyunce, and he'll make a mess of it, if he tries any dodges. You jest set that down, 'fore you forgit it!"
"I don't see what dodge there can be in opening a pleasant house to you and giving you a nice party," returned Joyce, trying to keep her tone free of resentment.
"Oh well, we can't tell, yet. But maybe you ain't heard that they're going to have fees, and tax the liquors, and all that? Well, I have, and I say 'tain't fair, and he'd better not try it on us! We know our rights, and we're going to have 'em."
He made a flourish with his hands that nearly knocked the hat from a girl in the path they were slowly treading, and the young owner turned suddenly. It was Lucy Hapgood.
"Look out there, you"—she began, then catching sight of Joyce she blushed a little, ducked a courtesy, and turned once more to the man.
"What's the matter with you now, Tonguey Murfree? Ain't this good enough for you? You'd blow if you was in a palace, sitting on a throne, I do believe. You'd find some trick about it, some'ers."
Joyce met her laughing eyes and felt a hearty liking for her.
"You and I aren't looking for tricks, are we?" she said. "Have you had a good time?"
"Boss! and I hate to go, but I ought to, 'cause poor Nate'll be sleepy, and he has to get to work early mornings. He stayed with the young 'uns for me."
"And you have seen everything, Lucy?"
"Guess I didn't miss much," laughing happily, "My! but the supper was good. I only wished I could eat more, or else take some of it home. I ain't much on the cooking yet."
"You'll soon learn," encouraged Joyce. "How would you enjoy joining a cooking class, and learning how to do it all?"
The girl's honest gray eyes twinkled under the the long dark lashes, which gave them such pretty shadows.
"Would they let you sample the truck they cooked? Guess I could stand it, then! But I don't get much time for folderols."
Joyce saw that her escort was uneasy at the delay, so said good-night cheerily and followed him. But her fastidious ideas received a shock at the scene which met them before the refreshment-rooms. Two of the parlors had been fitted up with chairs, ranged closely around the walls, and a table heaped with cups and plates, in the center. About sixty could be accommodated in each, but three times that number were scrambling for admittance outside.
The attendants appointed at these doors seemed powerless to keep order, and Larry had planted himself before one and was trying to pacify the hungry crowd, and promote harmony. For the shoving, pushing and swearing were not all good-natured, though largely so.
"Hold on there!" he called to a bull-headed Pole, who had just thrust aside a little girl so roughly she cried out with pain, "Hold on! There's enough to eat, and time enough to eat it in, but nobody gets inside here unless he brings his manners with him. This isn't pay-day, nor the menagerie, nor a bread riot; it's just a party of ladies and gentlemen, and we've all got to brace up and remember it. Ladies first, now, and stand aside there to let these folks out, or there can't anybody get in. No hurry! No hurry! the cooks will keep the coffee hot, and the sandwiches haven't even begun to give out. Hello, Joyce! Do you want to come now?"
"No, no, we'll wait," nodding gaily. "Let these others in who have waited longer."
The Pole turned to look at her, while he stood stolidly in the path, as close to the door as he could crowd, and his expression startled her. The gaunt eyes gleamed like those of a wolf, and over the high bones above the sunken cheeks the skin glistened, as if so tightly stretched as to be in danger of bursting. She felt that the man had been in desperate straits, and while recoiling before the evil sullenness of his look, she felt a deep pity for the pain in it. She turned to Murfree. "Who is that?" she had it on her tongue's end to ask, but the look in his face drove the query out of her mind. With hands clenched at his side, eyes staring through his glasses, and lips curled fiercely back from his set teeth, yellowed horribly with tobacco, the man was also gazing at the Pole, too intent to remember her presence.
Joyce watched him a moment, fascinated. Presently he drew a long breath, and the tense features relaxed. He seemed gathering himself, together, and after a short interval of silence, during which she pretended to be absorbed in the crowd which was streaming through the door, he said in a low, husky voice:
"Say 'm, if you don't mind, and seeing's your ma is right here"—he referred to Madame Bonnivel who was slowly approaching on Mr. Dalton's arm—"I guess I'd better git out o' this crowd and go home, I ain't feeling very well and—good-night!"
He slipped aside without more ado, ducked his shock head, and, before she had time to collect her surprised senses, had melted away in the thinning swirls of humanity, and was gone.
"What! Deserted already?" laughed Mr. Dalton with malicious satisfaction, as he caught the expression on her face; but, softening instantly, he added, "Well, you're lucky! What I had expected was that you would never be rid of him till he had talked you bl—" He checked the word on his lips, remembering, his companion's affliction.
She laughed out merrily.
"How can one talk another blind? We should say deaf, I think. The blind always enjoy the merry clatter of tongues. Why did he leave, Joyce?"
"I don't just understand. He didn't feel well, he said."
"Oh, you overpowered him, Miss Lavillotte! He is not used to beauty and grandeur. I am a little afraid of it myself!" His own audacity, which surprised himself it was so unlike him, made George Dalton color like a girl, and he fairly shrank behind the Madame's tall figure to conceal his rising color. But Joyce did not notice. She was so intent on what she had just seen, as to be oblivious now. She took the dear lady's arm with a delightful sense of security, and observed in as matter-of-fact a way as she could assume:
"We'll have to wait, anyhow, for the people seem actually ravenous, poor things! I drew back to let them by, and thought we would go home——"
"No, you can come," cried Larry, bustling up to them. "Everybody is seated and I've found some extra chairs and a retired corner for you ladies, where you can see without being seen. Dalton and I will wait on you. Follow me."
He led them across a screened corner and seated them within one of the eating-rooms, nearly hidden behind the well-heaped table, which had been pushed back into an angle of the wall. As Joyce looked about her the Pole was nearly opposite, and sat gorging the large sandwich, handed him upon his plate, in a greedy manner that fairly horrified her. There was something animal-like, ghoulish even, in his clutching haste; yet it was pitiable, too.