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Lady Betty Across the Water
by Charles Norris Williamson and Alice Muriel Williamson
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"I never felt he wanted me, really," I said, "although he was always proposing."

"Oh, yes, he did want you. Perhaps he wasn't truly in love at first, though he always admired you, deah. There was an actress that he was crazy about last winter—a nice girl, too, and he would have married her if it hadn't been for Katherine, who was wild over it, said such a mesalliance in the family would ruin her as well as him, and contrived to break it off somehow. Potter never cared for anyone else so much. The girl seemed to understand his temper exactly, and though he was heart and soul for winning you, after the race was begun, I shouldn't wonder a bit—now he's lost you—if that affair didn't come on again some day. He might do worse."

"I wish the girl joy of him," said I. "But how was it you went away from Newport?"

"Oh, I told Kath what I thought of her for trying to trap you. It was that, and nothing else. And she didn't like it. She almost asked me to go, and though I knew it was to get me out of the way, I had to do it. I wish you could have met Mrs. Hale in Chicago. She is the nicest, quaintest woman. You saw her happy family? Well, she's so kind-hearted that when her horses are out at grass, she has a big sunbonnet made for each one. You would laugh to see them prancing about with their bonnets flapping. And she stops cab horses in the street to give them sugar. But after all, it's better for you to be here—with the Trowbridges."

"Mr. Brett has been a saint to me," said I.

Sally smiled her three-cornered smile.

"I think from what you tell me of some of the things you've said to him, and some of the things which have happened, that he has been a saint—more of a saint than you know."

"You mean I've tried his temper?" I asked anxiously.

"Not exactly his temper. But never mind. I'll talk to you about myself now."

So she did. And it seems that this invalid widow, Mrs. Randal, whom she's come to nurse, is the mother of the man she told me about in the Park—the man who turned monk because he loved her, and thought she didn't care.

"I come once or twice a year, even when she's well," said Sally, with the soft voice and eyes which she has for this one subject of all in the world. "It's the best of the few pleasures I have, to be with her and—talk of him; of him when he was a little boy; of him when he was a young man, happy in the thought of the future—not knowing what was to come. I found this little place for her, years ago now. She wasn't happy in Kentucky, for there were relatives there who were not congenial, and used to say things—of her son's religion—which distressed her. But she is old now, and very delicate. She knows I would never forgive her if she didn't have her little maid telegraph for me when she is suffering. I always come at once, and would, no matter where I was. You see, I've no mother of my own; and she is his mother; it's almost the same as if she were mine. But don't look so sad, dear. I'm not sad. She's going to get well. We've been glancing over old photographs of his this evening. She has quite forgiven me for the past."

"I should think so!" I couldn't help exclaiming. "You were the one who suffered most."

"Not more than his mother, child! But she's old, as I said, and thank heaven I'm beginning to grow old, too. Each day is one less before we meet—he and I. That's what I'm looking forward to now, and I'm not a bit sad, so kiss me, and tell me just what you think of those dear things, the Trowbridges."

Going home, Mr. Brett and I walked along the road until we'd passed the cow meadow; then we took to the short cuts again. A lovely blue darkness was just touched with the faint radiance of a new moon, as if the lid of a box had snapped shut on the sun; and the moment the light was gone, the fields lit up with thousands and thousands of tiny, pulsing, flitting sparks.

"What is it?" I asked, astonished.

"Fireflies," said he. "Did you never see any before?"

"Never. How wonderful. They are the most exquisite, magical little things!"

"Then I'm glad you're seeing them for the first time with me," he said.

I stopped, and made him stop, to look at the enchanted rain of tiny lights. We stood in a billowy meadow, with the pale gray-green of the stacked oats dimly silvered by the baby moon, that was hurrying down the west after the sun. The bundles of grain made pointed, gothic arches, and through these, back and forth, in and out, threaded the fireflies, like fairies with lanterns searching for lost members of their band.

What a pity they never come to England to search!

When we got home the stars were pricking out in the sky, and Patty and Ide were down by the gate, counting them. It seems, if you can count seven stars for seven nights, then the first man who touches your hand afterwards you're bound to marry. I counted my first seven, and I do hope it won't rain for a week.

Although I had been so longing for tea, I hadn't been hungry, and had scarcely eaten anything when we had it. Now, I was beginning to be starved. We all sat on the verandah, and Mr. Trowbridge told us things about astronomy, in which he seems as learned as in everything else. By-and-by it was ten o'clock, and Mrs. Trowbridge asked if I weren't tired, and wouldn't like to go to bed. Then I knew the worst. There wasn't going to be any supper.

We all bade each other good-night.

"What time is breakfast?" I asked Mrs. Trowbridge, expecting something abnormal in the way of earliness, but my eyes did open when she said half-past six.

"You don't need to get up unless you want," she went on. "Patty or Ide will carry you up something."

I wouldn't hear of that, though. I said I would prefer to do what everybody else did, and I saw that this pleased Mr. Trowbridge, who had perhaps feared I would show symptoms of the pampered aristocrat. But he little knows what small pampering I get at home!

By-and-by I stood at my window, watching the fireflies and envying them because they could get their own supper. Just then among the trees there was a bigger, yellower light than their tiny lanterns. A faint smell of good tobacco smoke came up.

"Lady Betty, is that you?" asked Mr. Brett's voice.

"Yes," I answered, pushing up the frame with the mosquito netting, and leaning over the window sill.

"I've got something for you. Have you a box or basket you can let down with string, if I toss a ball of it up to you?"

"There's a small waste-paper basket," I said, quite excited.

He tossed, and I caught—Stan taught me how, long ago. Then I made the basket ready and sent it down.

"Now," he called after a minute. I hauled the basket up carefully.

"Good-night," said he. "There's a note in it, among other things. Now, pull down your mosquito net, or you'll have trouble."

It was fun opening the basket. There were two chicken sandwiches in it, in a napkin, a piece of jelly cake, a peach, and an ice-cold bottle of milk.

The note was just a few lines scribbled with pencil on a sheet torn from a memorandum book.

"I've been feeling wretchedly guilty about you," it began, "almost as much of a brute as if you were some innocent, helpless creature I'd killed, and buried under the leaves in the woods. No tea this afternoon, and you an English girl! When they say 'tea' here they mean the evening meal—the last one. I, like a beast, didn't notice that you ate nothing; not that I wasn't thinking of you, for I was. I didn't even have the sense to realise that you were being sent perishing to bed. It was Patty who saw all, but was too shy to speak to you. This humble offering is her thought. You shan't be starved after to-night. There was a question of mine you didn't answer this afternoon. I've got a grudge against that black and white steer."

I couldn't think what he meant at first. Then I remembered how he had been asking my opinion about the love affairs of Mohunsleigh's millionaire friend. I don't see, though, why he should care so much what I think of them. It would be lots more interesting if he would ask me questions about himself.



XVIII

ABOUT SOME COUNTRY FOLK, AND WALKER'S EMPORIUM

The day after I came to Valley Farm was one of the longest days of my life. Not that it wasn't pleasant, for it was. But when you get up before six, and finish breakfast at seven, it does give you a good many hours to do what you like with.

I wasn't allowed to help Mrs. Trowbridge and the girls with their work; Mr. Brett went off directly after breakfast with Mr. Trowbridge and the two mysterious young men, to get in hay or do something useful and farmy, so I sat in the maple grove with Vivace (who is a great favourite in the household) and wrote down all my experiences since Chicago. We had an enormous dinner at twelve, which made me feel very odd, as I'm not used to it; but when we were called to "tea" I knew better than I did yesterday what to expect.

Now, I've been a boarder at the Trowbridges' (I pay four dollars a week, about as much, I suppose, as is spent on one person's food at each meal at Mrs. Ess Kay's!) for eight days, and I'm perfectly happy. I can't bear to think of the time coming when I must go home. It will come, of course, for they will have to send for me whether they really want me back or not, and then I will never see any of these dear people again. Probably I shall never even see Mr. Brett. He says he must go West again soon, that there are things which call him there. That will be the end. I wish one didn't get to depend on other people so much. I should like to be quite cold hearted, and not care for anyone; then it wouldn't matter when you had to part. But there's no use in thinking about horrid things just yet.

I've written home, of course. I wrote the day after I arrived. At first, I felt I ought to cable; but if I did, they might send at once, and on second thoughts I decided it wasn't necessary to go to the expense. So I just wrote to Mother to say I couldn't stand it with Mrs. Ess Kay on account of her brother, and I'd left suddenly to join Sally Woodburn in the country, where I was boarding quite close to her. I wrote to Mrs. Ess Kay, too, and said the same thing, asking her to kindly send on my boxes. I didn't mention Mr. Brett, because she wouldn't have remembered who he was, or if she did by any chance, she would only disapprove of his daring to exist still, and perhaps write or wire something rude.

She sent the boxes by what they call "express," but didn't answer my letter, which rather astonished me, as I had thought she would scold, and had dreaded it. But when I told Sally, she wasn't as much surprised as I was. She knew already everything that happened after I ran away from The Moorings, and told me all about it, which interested me a great deal. Mrs. Ess Kay had written her some things, and Mrs. Pitchley (whose maid is an intimate friend of Mrs. Ess Kay's Louise) had supplied all the missing details.

It seems that the day after the Pink Ball Mrs. Ess Kay had one of her headaches—and no wonder. Feeling very ill, she didn't take much interest in me, and took it for granted when Louise said I wasn't out of my room, that I wanted to sleep till luncheon.

Potter had been so furious that he thought to punish me for my sins by sulking. Mrs. Ess Kay did not appear at luncheon, and Potter went out somewhere. But when I didn't show myself, or even ring, the servants began to think it odd, and spoke to Louise. She knocked at my door, and when after rapping several times there was no answer, she opened it to find the room empty, the bed smooth, my boxes packed, and all Mrs. Ess Kay's presents to me spread out on a sofa.

By that time it was after two; and if only they had known, I was leaving the Waldorf-Astoria to take the train for Chicago with Mr. Brett.

Mrs. Ess Kay was so nervous with her headache and the reaction after all her work in getting up the Great Affair, that when she was told I was nowhere to be found, she had hysterics, and slapped Louise.

Potter was sent for to the Casino, and came home in a rage. They talked things over, and made up their minds that I had either caught a ship sailing for home, or else had gone to Chicago to join Sally. If it hadn't been that they were afraid of a scandal coming out in some horrid society paper, they would have applied to the police for help, but as it was they didn't dare, and Potter said he could manage everything himself.

A ship really had sailed that day, so as well as telegraphing to Sally, Potter went to the offices, then to the docks, and made all sorts of enquiries. From what he heard about some people who had engaged berths at the last minute, he couldn't be quite sure I wasn't one of them, having gone under an assumed name. To add to the trouble, no answer came from Sally. Mrs. Hale, according to instructions, had opened the telegram, and knowing something of the story from Sally, wasn't anxious to relieve Mrs. Ess Kay's mind about me, in too much of a hurry. Instead of having the message wired again, she enclosed it in an envelope, and sent it on to Sally by post, so there was another delay; and they knew nothing for certain until a letter from Sally and one from me arrived at about the same time.

Sally's opinion was and is, that Mrs. Ess Kay has something up her sleeve; that she won't write to me because she wants to show how hurt and scandalised she is by my ungracious conduct, but that she has some idea for getting even with me sooner or later. If she hadn't that to keep her up, Sally thinks she couldn't have resisted answering my letter with a tirade. Fortunately she can't claw me away from the Trowbridges and make me marry Potter—even if he would have me now, after all my badness—otherwise she would perhaps have tried to act at once. And she can't have me put in prison on bread and water and solitary confinement, as no doubt she would like to do. Still, I don't feel quite easy in my mind about her silence, lest Sally may be right about some disagreeable plan she's hatching. However, as long as Mr. Brett is here, I feel as if he would contrive not to let anything very dreadful happen to me.

I've found out everything about all the members of the family at Valley Farm, now; and I've got acquainted with most of the neighbours. They call them neighbours if they live anywhere within twelve or fifteen miles, and a good many are related to each other, or connected by marriage, while even those who are not have mostly known each other ever since they were children; probably went to school together at a funny little white-painted, wooden building on a hill, which is the "district school." It must be rather fun to teach in it, because if some American stories I've read since I came here are true to life, you board first at one house and then another, giving good advice and helping everyone; and all the young men in the country round about fall in love with you. I thought, if Mother should be too angry with me for refusing Potter Parker and running away, to let me come home again, I might apply for such a situation; but it seems that nowadays you have to know a great deal, and I should never be taken on, because, unfortunately, I have to do the multiplication table on my fingers.

Mr. Trowbridge, although a farmer who works in his own fields, is an "Honourable." I was surprised when I heard that, as I didn't suppose people had titles in America. But he's a senator or something in his own State, which is very important, so he is called Honourable officially—and on letters, as one is at home if that's all one can scrape up by way of a courtesy title.

The two young men who come in to eat with us, but are never seen about the house at any other time, are "farm hands," though they are not treated at all like servants, and Mr. Trowbridge lends them the newest books and magazines (of which he has quantities) to read in the evening.

One, whose name is Elisha, was in love with Patty, but she didn't care for him, so he is very melancholy and won't talk at the table. But he has cheered up a little lately, and has bought tall collars like Mr. Brett's, instead of wearing turned-over ones which showed far down his neck; and he has sent me flowers through Ide, several times. I tried to thank him for the first ones, but he blushed so much that his forehead got damp, and immediately afterwards he went away and hid for hours, which kept him from his supper; so I thought it better to say nothing about the next.

The other young man, Albert, is paying attention to Ide. Nobody knows whether they are engaged yet, although they go to the apple orchard regularly every evening and sit together in a boat swing which is there, or if it rains they sit on the front porch, until quite late. They don't seem to have much to say to each other, though, for one of my windows is directly over that porch, but I never hear a sound—not even a laugh. But it seems that in this part of the country it is the thing for a girl and a young man to be left alone together as much as possible while they are making up their minds whether or not they like each other well enough to be engaged.

It is very strange about Patty and Ide. Though Patty is so quiet, almost meek in her ways, and dresses so plainly, and is quite contented to work in the hot kitchen, cooking and washing dishes, it turns out that she is a very rich girl; or will be. She is an orphan, and her grandfather, although a farmer, has more than a million dollars (which sounds tremendous, but wouldn't be as impressive, I suppose, if one did it in pounds); and when he dies, as he must before long, as he is very old, Patty will have all his money.

Young people get on his nerves, so Patty lives with the Trowbridges, who are friends of his, and helps Mrs. Trowbridge with her work. She is so pretty and has such sweet ways that she might make a success anywhere, and it struck me as a pity that she should perhaps marry some young farmer in the neighbourhood, and never know any other life than this. I remarked something of the sort to Mr. Brett when he told me about Patty, and he looked suddenly miserable as if what I'd said had hurt.

"I thought you felt you could be happy among such people as these," he answered, rather irrelevantly.

Then I fancied that I understood a little, for he seems to think that he is like the men here, but he isn't a bit, oh, not the least bit in the world, though he says he was brought up on a farm as a little boy, before he ran away and went far out West, and that it's only an "accident of fate" he isn't an Albert or an Elisha. As if he could ever have been like one of them! I have never known a man as interesting as he.

Ide really is a sort of servant, but she would go away instantly if anybody called her that; and she is so afraid someone may think she is inferior to the others in the house because she is paid wages for her work, that she does her hair elaborately, wears smarter dresses than the rest, and puts herself rather forward with strangers so as to impress them. She wouldn't even like to be called a "help," but says that she "obliges" Mrs. Trowbridge, and she wouldn't stop long enough to draw another breath if she were not treated better, if anything, than Patty.

Even in the East, in very grand houses, I thought some of the servants were rather offhand and queer, though they did consent to have their meals in the servants' hall or somewhere, and not sit in the drawing room. I suppose the reason why they are so different with us, and so polite and well trained, is because at home they are willing to go on being servants all their lives, whereas, in America, it's only a phase in a person's career. You may be a parlour maid one year; the next you may keep a hotel; and the next you may be a millionairess travelling in Europe. There's nothing to prevent, if it's in you, and naturally you always hope it is.

The Trowbridges' neighbours are almost as nice as they are. After I had been here two or three days I was feeding the chickens with Mr. Trowbridge after "tea," when a man and woman came up the avenue. They were countrified looking and rather awkward, I thought at first glance, which was the only one I took, as I at once left Mr. Trowbridge to talk with the newcomers and went away. It wasn't Ide's time yet to sit with Albert, so I found an apple, and sat and rocked in the boat swing with a book I'd left there earlier in the afternoon. Presently, however, down ran Patty to ask if I would mind coming back to the house, as Mr. and Mrs. Engelhorn had come especially to see me.

"To see me?" I repeated. "What for?"

"Oh, I suppose they thought it would be polite to call," said Patty. "They're such nice people. They have the farm with the low house opposite this. Mrs. Engelhorn was a city girl. Her father is the best jeweller in Arcona, and her brother has the biggest steam cleaning establishment there. She's been beautifully educated, and he's very intelligent. I guess you'll like them."

"Oh, I'll come, of course," I said. "I didn't dream they wanted to see me." But I would much rather have stopped where I was and read the book. Of course it's only prejudice, and the way one has been brought up which makes one feel as if it were odd to meet tradespeople, and it's nonsense, too; for as soon as they get horribly rich nobody seems to mind nowadays, which shows how little sense there is in the idea. Still, I did want to laugh, though I was ashamed of myself; but a picture of Mother being called on formally by a steam cleaner would come up before me.

Mr. and Mrs. Engelhorn had put on their best clothes, and they were dears. I was as agreeable as I knew how to be, and after I had been with them a little while, I felt that it was they who were superior. They talked about the most interesting and learned things, just as Mr. Trowbridge does, and in the same simple, modest way. We went into the parlour, where Mrs. Engelhorn played as well as a professional, and sang exquisitely, in a cultivated contralto voice. I could have cried to see how work-worn her hands looked, as they flew so cleverly over the keys of Mrs. Trowbridge's splendid Steinway Grand piano, which is much finer and in better condition than ours at home. After they had gone, Mr. Trowbridge told me that Mr. Engelhorn is the greatest authority on geology in the State of Ohio, that he knows just as much about botany, and is a fine Greek and Latin scholar, having picked up all his knowledge himself without any University training. Americans are wonderful!

Other people just as interesting in different ways have been, since, and there was only one I didn't like. He came yesterday, and is a dissenting parson, a Congregationalist, I think, though I don't know what that means, or how it's different from a Methodist or a Presbyterian. He and his wife arrived to noon dinner, and I had to be civil because the Trowbridges respect them very much; but it was difficult when the man said that England was the most immoral and decaying country in the world, and his wife echoed him. He is a smug old fellow with a fringe of grey fluff growing out all round under his chin; and his upper lip, very long and shaved, is like the straight cover you see on mantelpieces in country hotels.

I summoned courage to stand up for England, and the wife—a fat, sallow creature with three chins and a dissenting-looking chignon—glared at me as if she expected white bears to crawl out from under the table and gobble me up.

"Why do you think England is such a wicked country?" I asked.

"Because, to mention only one reason [as if the others were too bad to tell] your clergymen are put into their places by patronage, without any regard to their qualifications as teachers of religion."

"At least they're gentlemen," I snapped.

"Superficially, they may be," he admitted, as if to pry under the surface would be worse than "scratching a Russian to find a Tartar." "But they are Puppets and Sycophants."

Unluckily I don't know what a sycophant is exactly, so it would have been dangerous to argue; and anyway, before I could get out another word he had gone on again.

"Mrs. Panter and myself had a chance to go to Great Britain last year," he said. "Our congregation offered us the trip with Cook's tickets, for ten weeks, to show their appreciation of my services. But after reflection, we decided not to undertake the tour. I have no wish to see England as it is to-day. Such illusions as are left to me I would rather keep. It would depress me to visit a country which is going down hill as Britain is, morally, financially and intellectually. Trade is leaving her, and coming to us. We are getting her shipping, we are taking away her steel and iron market for all the world, and she deserves to have lost what she is losing; still, London must be a sad sight to those who have eyes to see, and——"

"I don't think you'd find that grass has begun to grow in Bond Street yet," said I. "And if you fancy that our finances are in such a bad way, you had better read the Blue Book."

I did think this was smart of me, for I hardly know the Blue Book from a Book of Beauty, but I've heard Stan say that you're obliged to believe it, and that it proves England to be increasing every year in prosperity. So I was glad I remembered to speak of it, and catching Mr. Brett's eyes I saw such a twinkling smile in them that I hurried to look away, or I should have laughed and spoiled everything.

There couldn't be a greater contrast between two men than between the Reverend Jonas Panter and the great Whit Walker of the Emporium at Hermann's Corners. We drove to Mr. Walker's after the Panters had gone, as we all felt (though nobody put it precisely into words) that we wanted some enlivening.

We didn't start until after "tea," as the Emporium is always open till half past nine, and there was going to be an "ice cream festival" there that night. I didn't know what an ice cream festival meant, but Mr. Trowbridge said I should see for myself, and it would probably be different from anything I had yet experienced.

Everybody from the farm went except Elisha, who didn't wish to, as he is not quite happy yet, and is practising the flute of evenings. Mr. Trowbridge and Mr. Brett and I all drove in the buggy. It was rather a squeeze in one seat, but it was fun, and we were very merry. I like buggies, though they do sound almost improper to an English ear, and it makes it seem more amusing, somehow, because they talk about going for "a ride" instead of a drive.

The rest all squashed into a big wagon, and sat on the hay. I would have gone in that way too, but Mr. Trowbridge wanted me to try his horse; and we could hear the others laughing every minute as they came jolting on behind us.

It was about seven miles to Hermann's Corners, and after a lovely drive through charming, peaceful country we arrived just as it was beginning to be dusk.

I couldn't have imagined such a place as the Emporium, and when I was in the thick of it I said to myself that it would be worth one's while coming over to the States just to visit it, if nothing else. If I had to choose between, I believe I'd rather see it than Niagara Falls; for one knows Niagara Falls from biographs and things, and nothing short of actually seeing could give one the slightest idea of Mr. Whit Walker and his Emporium.

My first impression of the Emporium was a huge, rambling wooden building rather like a vast barn with a dozen smaller barns tacked on to it, and windows let in. It is painted pea-green, and has a rough verandah running partly round it—a high verandah with no steps, or if any, at such long intervals that you must search for them. But as there's no pavement we just scrambled out of the buggy and cart onto the verandah, and there we were landed among the most extraordinary collection of things I ever dreamed of. The stock in the Emporium having overflowed from the inside onto the verandah, we stumbled about among boxes of eggs, sewing machines, crates of dishes, garden tools, brooms, rocking chairs, perambulators, boots, "canned" fruit, children's toys, luggage, green vegetables, ice cream freezers, bales of calico, men's suits, piled-up books, clothes lines, and a thousand other "goods."

A number of young men were sitting about on the biggest of the boxes, and on chicken coops, wherever they could clear a space, and had the air of being in a club. Our party knew them, almost all, and they exchanged "how do you do's." Mr. Brett seemed the only stranger; but as he told me, he hasn't often visited his cousins.

From the open doors and windows of the Emporium streamed out the strangely mingled smells of all the things in the world which happened to be missing on the verandah, and most of those that were there. As a fragrance it was indescribable, but it was nice, and rather exciting, I don't know why, unless there was a quantity of spice in it.

Just as we threaded our way through the groups of young men, who looked at us a good deal, people were lighting the gas in the Emporium. It was incandescent, and blazed up suddenly with a fierce light as if it were a volcano having an eruption. All the women inside (there was quite a crowd of them, bareheaded, or in perfectly fascinating frilled sunbonnets), shrieked and then giggled. A man who was surrounded by girls said something we couldn't hear, which made everybody laugh; and Mr. Trowbridge exclaimed:

"That's Whit, sure, holding court. Couldn't be anybody else."

"And I guess that's the Honourable," said the voice we had heard—such a nice voice; it was enough to make you laugh with pleasure just to hear it—and the head we could see towering over the sunbonnets began to move towards us. The girls edged away good-naturedly, and there was a man almost as fine-looking as Mr. Brett, smiling at us, and holding out his big hand.

Everything was big about him; his voice, his brown throat, his shoulders, and his good white smile, shining with kindness and two rows of perfect teeth; his nature, too, as you could see by his beaming, humorous grey eyes, and the generous dimple in his square chin.

"Whit, this is the little English ladyship I've told you about, who's staying over at our house," said Mr. Trowbridge. So we were introduced, and the great Whit shook my hand with a vigorous magnetism which made me feel I would like to clap, and give him three cheers.

He is the sort of man I should try to make President of the United States, if I were an American; and I'm sure he would get lots of votes from his part of the country if he were nominated.

"I'm real pleased to meet you," said he, "and I'm honoured to have you visit my store. Say, I guess some of our American leading ladies will have to get a hustle on if they want to save themselves now you're over here. I didn't know they made 'em like that on your side. I tell you what it is, Honourable, I won't have much use for some of our fellows if they let her go back, eh? Now, ma'am, you just tell me what handle I'm to put to your name, so I won't make any fool mistake, and then we can get ahead like a house on fire."

"I'm usually called Lady Betty," I said, feeling an idiot, as everyone was standing round in a ring.

"What, at the first go? No, ma'am, I couldn't do it. I haven't got the cool, ingrowing nerve. Couldn't I make it Countess, to show my respect?"

"But I'm not a Countess," I laughed.

"Well, I guess I'll just go one better and raise you to Princess, then. It's the best I can do, having been reared with plain Misses and Mississes. You look like a Princess, anyhow, and the Queen might be proud to have you for a cousin. Now we've fixed that up, maybe you'll let me show you around the premises, and you can tell me if the Emporium bears any resemblance to your London stores."

"Very well, Prince, I shall be delighted," said I, and he laughed a nice, mellow roar.

It was a great thing, I soon found, for a visitor to be escorted by the proprietor of the Emporium. Never was such a popular and much-sought-for man as he. He was wanted everywhere by everybody. People felt aggrieved if they had to go away without at least a hearty "How do you do?" from Whit. There were several attendants, quite dashing young men, but they were mere ciphers compared to the "boss."

Accompanied by Mr. Walker and Patty, whom he chose as the companion of our explorations, we went upstairs and downstairs, and left no corner of the Emporium unvisited.

"Aren't you afraid to leave so many things outside on the verandah?" I asked. "Suppose they should be stolen?"

The great man only laughed, but a lanky customer who overheard drawled out:

"What, steal from Whit Walker of Hermann's Corners? Wa'al, I guess the skunk mean enough to do that would get himself lynched by every decent chap in this darned county."

"I've got one friend, you see, Princess," chuckled my king of the Emporium.

"You've got two," said I.

"Well, now, that's mighty pretty of you. Say, do you mean it, honour bright?"

"Honour bright," I repeated.

"Then I wonder if I might ask a little favour of you?"

"Of course. What is it?"

"I'll tell you before we part. But come on down now, girls. I want you should both choose a present to take home."

We picked our way down the steep stairs, littered with the overflow from shelves and counters. In the principal "show room," if one could call it that, he pressed us to accept some jewellery—poor stuff, but the best he had, and he ingenuously admired it. We steadfastly refused, however, and Patty took a Japanese fan, while I selected several choice specimens of chewing gum, as being novel and characteristic.

By this time the "ice cream festival" was beginning. It was held in a vacant lot behind the Emporium, and a canvas awning had been put up over two or three dozen bare tables on the grass. Several employees of the "store"—extra hands, perhaps—were kept frantically busy ladling out from huge freezers into earthenware saucers big slabs of frozen custard. All the gallant young beaux of the neighbourhood "treated" the girls they wished to favour, and spent ten cents a saucer for the "ice cream," with a big sugared "cooky" thrown in. The great Whit himself invited me to sit down with him, so Mr. Brett who had been coming up to ask Patty and me both, perhaps, whisked Patty away, leaving me to Mr. Walker.

"Now, I'll tell you that favour I want," said he. "I hope you won't think I'm presuming too much on a short acquaintance, but it's a mighty important thing for me. It's about that little gal over there."

"Patty?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Nobody else. There ain't anybody else, so far as I'm concerned; meaning no disrespect to you, Princess. My old friend the Honourable says she just worships you, and would lie down and let you walk over her if you wanted."

"I didn't know," I said.

"Well, it's gospel truth, I guess, and I don't blame her. If you——"

"She has been sweet to me," I interrupted. "Why, what do you think she did, when I mentioned that the huge bells on Mr. Jacobsen's cows kept me awake nights? You know how that one field of Mr. Jacobsen's, which he won't sell, comes into Mr. Trowbridge's farm, and he keeps his cows there to be disagreeable? Well, Patty got up in the night, and climbed on the fence and caught the cows by offering them salt. Then she held on by their ears, and tied rags over their bells—horrid, loud bells—so they could make no noise. Only fancy, and some of those cows are awfully fierce. The rags have stopped on ever since; that was the way I found out, for she didn't tell for days."

"It's just like that pretty, quiet little thing," said Mr. Walker. "I wish she'd be that sweet to me. I want her mighty bad to have me, Princess, but she's read novels, I guess, and anyhow, she doesn't think I'm romantic enough. I was always kind of afraid there was somebody else. Now I shouldn't wonder if it ain't that good-looking young cousin of the Trowbridges. Couldn't you find out for me, as she thinks such a lot of you? And if she hasn't got her heart too much set on anybody else, could you try to use your influence for me? You see, you're a travelled lady, though you're so young, and if you could say I was a man, in your opinion, it might make all the difference."

"You can depend on me to do my best," I said. But I didn't feel amused and full of fun any more, as I looked over at Patty and Mr. Brett. If she admires him—and how could she help it?—there's no reason why he shouldn't admire her, when one comes to think of it. She is pretty and sweet, a perfect little lady, and an heiress.

I can't get used to the idea. The cowbells didn't ring at all last night, but I couldn't sleep for thinking of it, and for telling myself that perhaps this is why Mr. Brett looked queer when I spoke of Patty marrying a farmer.



XIX

ABOUT GETTING ENGAGED

I felt when I got up this morning that I was in a dreadfully embarrassing and uncomfortable position about Patty and my promise to Mr. Walker. If I kept it, and tried to use my influence with her, it might be that I would be working against Mr. Brett. It would be hateful to do that, as we are such friends; but I was afraid there must be something rather catty in my nature, (though I never thought so before) because I could not approve of a marriage between him and Patty. My private opinion was that Patty wasn't at all the sort of girl to make him happy; but I didn't dare to depend too much on the wisdom of my opinion, lest it should be biassed by prejudice. It is so hard when you have a friend who has been all yours, to see that some other girl may be more congenial to him than you are, and that the best thing for him would be to fall in love with her.

Mr. Brett has known Patty for a long time, and though he hasn't been here often, he has made flying visits sometimes, I know; and even Patty and Ide both call him "Jim"; never Mr. Brett. I reminded myself as I thought it all over, that probably one reason why he wanted to stay with his cousins now was to see Patty again, not in the least because of his friendship with me, which is quite a recent thing compared to his acquaintance with Patty. I had to admit that though we have been such friends, all he has done for me could easily be accounted for by that American chivalry to women, on which the men over here are so keen as a nation, rather than any particular liking for me as a girl. And I must have a horrid, exacting disposition, because discovering this made me feel absolutely ill. I was so jealous of Patty, because she could perhaps take away my best friend and have him for her lover, that all her pretty little ways and looks quite annoyed me, and I felt I could have slapped her.

Such feelings made me hate myself, for it is so unpleasant finding out suddenly that you are a brute; yet I would not indulge my wicked heart by telling Patty that she ought to marry Mr. Walker. I could scarcely eat any breakfast or dinner, and early in the afternoon I crept out of doors, very miserable. I felt that Vivace was the only being on earth who really cared for me, and even he was more interested at the time in a rabbit hole he had found than in my society. He wouldn't come away from it when I called, so I bundled him under my arm, and walked off with him to the sugar camp, where I could be alone, and think things over, without having people say I looked pale, and ask whether the ice cream festival at Hermann's Corners had given me a headache.

Patty and Ide had decided to make maple candy and "chocolate fudge" after dinner, so that we could have it to eat in the evening, and Mr. Brett and I had promised to help. American girls always seem to make candy if they have nothing else more interesting to do, and usually I think it very entertaining. Carolyn Pitchley's often went wrong, and she would keep several servants busy clearing away plates and spoons, bringing fresh ones, and cleaning out the chafing dish which she had burnt. But Patty and Ide are cleverer; they do everything for themselves; and I should have enjoyed helping, if I had been in a different mood. As it was, I would have realised that I was an outsider, and that maybe they would be gayer without me, though they are always so polite. I had slipped away without speaking to anyone, and as I was pretty sure that no one would come to the sugar camp at this time of day, I could let myself be as gloomy as I liked.

I sat there in the deep green shade of the maples, on the log where Mr. Brett and I had talked the first day I came to the Valley Farm. All the disagreeable things that ever happened to me since I was a child took this opportunity to stir in their graves and come to life again. Then they sat down in front of me in a dreary semicircle, staring me in the face until I couldn't stand it any longer, and began to cry. Vivace was very much surprised, and jumped up with his paws in my lap, as if he were saying, "What is the matter?" This was a comfort, and I put my head down on his, with my arms round his neck, and cried more.

If you once let yourself go, like that, you can't stop. Hearing your own little chokes and gasps makes you pity yourself so much that your heart nearly breaks. I was sobbing out loud, presently, which made Vivace whine, and I had almost begun to enjoy my utter forlornness and the distinction of being the most miserable person in the whole world when a distracted voice exclaimed:

"Why, Lady Betty, Lady Betty, for heaven's sake what's happened?"

I looked up all teary and flushed, and there was Mr. Brett, staring at me with horrified eyes, and his face as desperate as if he had found me struck by lightning or gored by the black and white bull.

I was so ashamed and confused that I couldn't speak, but just sat there gazing up helplessly at him with tears running down my cheeks, and my lips trembling. The most awful look came into his eyes, and he went as pale as I was red.

"My precious one, my darling!" he stammered, and dropping down on one knee by the big log, he put his arms round me.

"Oh!" I said. And then my head was nestling down into his neck, and instead of being wretched I was perfectly happy.

"Who has dared to make you cry?" he asked, holding me close.

"You," I answered.

"I?"

"I thought you were only being kind to me because—because you're an American and it's your duty to a foreigner."

He laughed at that—an excited, happy laugh, with a queer break in it.

"I've been half out of my mind with love for you, ever since the first day I saw you looking down at me in the steerage. Am I quite out of it now, or can it be true that you care for me—just a little, little bit?"

"I care for you, dreadfully," said I. "Why, this isn't friendship, is it? It's being in love."

"I should think it was—with me," he said. "It's all of me, heart, soul and body, drowning in love."

"Don't drown," I whispered to him. "I—can't spare you."

After that we didn't say a word, but I hadn't supposed it was possible for any human creature to feel so seraphically happy as I did. I don't know how long a time passed before we even spoke, but it seemed only a minute—a minute stolen straight out of heaven. And he was so handsome and dear that I would have kept that minute forever if I could, for it was impossible to believe that another could be so perfect.

But by and by it did merge into sister minutes, just as good, and we began to talk and tell each other things.

He told me again how he'd loved me from the very first instant, and I told him that after the day on the dock, if not before, I'd never quite had him out of my thoughts for a moment.

"There has always been a sort of undertone of you," I went on, "no matter what else I was thinking of, just as Sally says, when you are near the sea you hear it through every other sound."

He liked having me say that, and his eyes are too glorious when he likes things that I say.

"I loved you so much," he answered, "that I felt my love must have some power over your heart; it couldn't go for nothing. I knew I wasn't worthy of you, but the love was, for no man in your own world could offer you a greater one. That's my justification for asking you to put your hand in mine. But am I asking too much? Are you sure you won't regret anything you may have to give up?"

"There's nothing I wouldn't give up to be with you always," I assured him. "But I don't see that I shall have to give up much that I really care for. We shall be poor, of course, but I shan't mind that a bit—with you. We can live in a sweet little cottage somewhere, can't we? Or if you have to be in a town, we shall have a wee, wee flat, and it will be such fun looking after it, just like having a doll's house, only a hundred times better. I've never been rich, you know; it's always been rather a struggle, and ever so many of my dresses have been made out of Mother's or Victoria's. I shall learn to cook and sew."

"If I were so poor as all that, darling, I shouldn't be asking you to marry me," said Jim. "I'm better off than you think, for as I told you, I've been doing fairly well lately, and I guess if one of us two ever has to cook it will be I. We might have to do that sometimes, but it will only be if we're camping somewhere."

"I do hope so. It would be glorious!" I exclaimed.

"We can have the cottage or the flat all right, or maybe even both if things go on as well as they're going now," he said, "and there's nothing on God's earth I won't do to make you happy. Heavens! I should think so, after what you're doing for me—trusting me, without knowing any more of me than you've seen in these few weeks——"

"I'd have trusted you to the world's end, after the day you jumped overboard and saved the little boy. Besides, you were you; and I'd have trusted you just the same if you hadn't."

"Bless you, my angel. But think of the marriages you might have made."

"I couldn't have made more than one, at least I hope not," said I, flippantly. "I could never have married anyone but you, so I should have had to be an old maid if you hadn't asked me, and think how awful that would have been. You don't regret asking me, do you?"

"Regret? Well—it doesn't bear talking of. I suppose I ought to be able to say that I'd meant to keep my love to myself, and it only sprang out on an ungovernable impulse. But it wouldn't be true if I did. I always meant to ask you, from the very first—though I had little enough hope, even up to to-day, that it would be anything more than friendship on your part. But oh, how hard I did mean to try for you. My one virtue was to wait until you had seen enough of other men—men of a different sort—for you to be sure you didn't prefer one of them. And when accident had put you very near me, I did manage not to lose my head and speak, while you were, in a way, under my protection, for that would have been brutal. But Heaven knows—and Miss Woodburn knows—that I came mighty near it once or twice. I'm thankful I didn't. Now you know the best and worst of the other sort of man, and the best and worst of me. You see the kind of people whose blood runs in my veins, and still you are ready to say that my people shall be your people. I'm not afraid of anything that can happen now."

"You needn't be," I said, slipping my other hand into his—for he had one of them already. "Mother may be vexed with me for going against her wishes, but she will have to forgive me—or even if she doesn't, I shall have you."

"I think she will forgive you, darling," said Jim. "I will make her forgive you."

"I believe you could make anybody do anything!" I cried. "Sally will be glad about this, I know. I can see now that she must always have hoped for it to happen, though I didn't realise what she meant at the time. But we had such a talk in the Park the day we met you, about marrying for love. And she advised me that it was the only thing to do. Oh, I am sorry for everybody who isn't in love, aren't you? And that reminds me, I must try and make dear little Patty in love with Mr. Walker. You'll help me, won't you?"

The rest of the day was perfectly divine, and it is almost as delightful to live it over again as I am doing now, in writing the story of it, after we have said good-night.

We forgot all about going back to the house, until some one came out and rang the bell for tea in the field, where we couldn't help hearing. Then we told the cousins our news, and they were immensely pleased. They seemed to think that Jim and I were made for each other, and Mrs. Trowbridge said she had seen that it was coming, all along.

After tea we walked over to call on Sally, and she was just as glad as I thought she would be.

"You are going to marry one of the finest fellows on earth, I believe," said she, "and I congratulate you as well as him."

I do love Sally!



XX

ABOUT JIM AND THE DUKE

It was a very different waking up the next day. My first thought was: "Can it be really true or is it only a dream that I'm engaged to Jim?" And I almost cried for joy when I was quite sure it was true.

We both wrote letters to my mother, and so did Sally. I didn't see theirs, but I could guess what they said, and I could trust Sally to praise Jim. Still, all the praises in the world wouldn't reconcile Mother to what I was going to do. I could hear her saying: "Who is he?" And I was sure she would add, "How much has he got?" But whatever happened, we were not going to give each other up.

Jim had promised Mr. Trowbridge to pronounce judgment on a horse which he thought of buying, and the man who wanted to sell the creature brought it to the farm about eleven o'clock. Sally had come, to tell about the letter she had just posted to Mother, and Jim was in the sitting room writing his. I think he had forgotten about the horse, until Mr. Trowbridge appeared, looking rather excited.

"Say, Jim," he exclaimed, "Jake Jacobsen's here with the horse. He's round by the barn now, and you might as well have a look at it; but it's an awful brute, and I ain't going to take it, at any price."

"What's the matter with the horse?" asked Jim, sealing up his letter, and looking interested.

"It's mad crazy, that's all; but it's enough for me. I thought there must be something wrong for Jake to be offering it at the price he did. He led it here, and you just ought to have seen the brute dance and make ugly eyes when first Albert and then I tried to get astride of it. Jake swears the only reason he'll sell cheap is because his wife has taken a dislike to the horse, and what she says, goes with him. He's ready to bet anything the animal's as mild as a lamb, only a bit frisky, and certainly it's as handsome a beast as I ever laid eyes on. But he'll have to get rid of it at the fair."

"I'll come," said Jim, getting up.

I jumped up too.

"Oh, please don't have anything to do with such a vicious creature," I begged. "You might be killed."

Jim laughed. "The horse isn't sired that could kill me, I reckon. I know them too well. Why, little girl, I was brought up among horses. You can trust me not to run too big risks, now I've got something to make life worth living."

Stan has often told me that men hate girls to fuss over them, so I bit my lip and didn't tease any more, but I was far from happy. I didn't like the look in his eyes.

"May Sally and I go and see the horse with you?" I meekly asked.

"I'll ride him up to the house, if I find he's worth your seeing," Jim said. "But you mustn't worry if we don't come this way for awhile. I may have to work with him a bit before he's ready to show himself off to ladies."

With that he got his hat and went out with Mr. Trowbridge, who was waiting with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Oh, dear, I feel as if something horrid was going to happen!" I said to Sally, when they had gone.

"Pooh!" said she. "I should be sorry for the animal who tried to play tricks with that young man. You'll find you haven't known him, till you see him on a horse."

"I daresay I'm silly," I admitted. "But I have a presentiment of something. Let's go and sit out on the verandah and watch. We can't see the barn, but if they come out in the farm road we shall catch sight of them."

"All right," said Sally. "The sun's hot on the verandah; but that's a detail."

Already Jim and Mr. Trowbridge had disappeared, but as we were choosing the coolest place for our chairs, we saw a dusty, nondescript old vehicle rattling up the maple avenue, and just about to turn into the narrow road which leads round the side of the house. The hood was up to protect the passengers from the sun, so at first we could see only the driver, and gather an indistinct impression that there were two figures in the back seat.

"Visitors," said I. "I didn't know Mrs. Trowbridge was expecting——" Then I broke off with a little gasp.

"Oh, Sally, it's——"

"The Duke and Katherine!" she gurgled.

All my blood raced up to my head, as if I were going to have a sunstroke.

"No wonder I had a presentiment," I groaned, forgetting my fright about the horse, for a moment. "Do stand by me."

"I will," said Sally.

Mrs. Trowbridge and the girls were busy in the kitchen, making peach jam; so when the wretched old chaise drew up close to the verandah, Sally and I were alone to receive it.

If my sense of humour hadn't been trampled upon by various emotions which were all jumping about at the same time, I should have had hard work not to laugh when Stan and Mrs. Ess Kay scrambled out from under the lumbering old hood, which was like a great coal scuttle turned over their heads. Their hair was grey with dust, their faces purple with heat, and evidently they were both in towering tempers.

Stan looked at me the way he did once when I was small and spoiled his favourite cricket bat by digging up worms with it;—as if he could have shaken me well and boxed my ears, and would if I weren't a girl. As for Mrs. Ess Kay, she smiled; but her smile meant worse things than Stan's frown.

"Hullo, dear boy," I chirped, nervously. "How do you do, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox?"

Sally murmured something, too, and Stan had the grace to claw off his hat, showing how damp his poor hair was on his crimson forehead, but he didn't even pretend to smile.

"A nice dance you've led us," said he. "By Jove, I wouldn't have thought it of you, Betty."

"Maybe you don't understand yet," said I. "Wait till I've explained, and I'm sure you won't be cross, because you always were a dear."

"It's no good wheedling," he grumbled. "I'm not going to wait for anything. We've come to take you home, and the quicker you pack up and get ready the better."

"What do you mean by home?" I enquired.

"To Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox's house in New York, where she says she'll be good enough to put us up till the next decent ship sails for England."

"I'm not going back to Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox's," said I. "She knows why it's impossible."

"Rot," said Stan. "She's jolly kind to have you, after the way you've acted. Anybody'd think you were eight, instead of eighteen. You deserve to be put on bread and water for making me come three thousand miles to fetch you home."

"I didn't ask you to come," said I, "and you needn't have bothered. Is Vic engaged yet?"

"Yes, she is; the day before I started. What's that got to do with it?"

"A good deal, according to her," I replied. "I'm engaged, too."

"The dickens you are!" exclaimed Stan, getting redder than ever, while Mrs. Ess Kay gave a little start and glared at Sally.

My blood was up now, and I didn't care what I said. The sooner Stan knew everything just as it was, the better.

"Yes, the dickens I am," I echoed, defiantly, "and I don't intend to be treated like a naughty child, by anyone. I've done nothing wrong, or underhand. We've only been engaged since yesterday, though we both fell in love at first sight on shipboard, and we've written to mother and you, this very morning."

"Engaged to a man you met on shipboard!" repeated Stan, looking flabbergasted, and turning from me to Mrs. Ess Kay.

"Tom Doremus!" she gasped. "Yet no, that's impossible. He's in Newport. But there was no one else. I was particularly careful."

"I am engaged to marry Mr. James Brett," I said. "He is——"

"There was no such man on the ship," she broke in, sharply.

Then, suddenly, she almost jumped.

"Goodness gracious!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Duke, this is too awful. I remember there was a person in the steerage. But this is madness. It can't be——"

"He did cross in the steerage," I said. "What of it? He is the best, and handsomest man I ever saw, and there's no finer gentleman than he; you can ask Sally if there is, for she knows him."

"And thoroughly approves of him," Sally finished, taking my hand. "Duke, I assure you Betty is to be congratulated. I understand that the Duchess was not averse to her marrying an American, and the one she has chosen is of the very best type."

"I beg your pardon, Miss Woodburn, but hang the type," said Stan, who never did get on with Sally. "It's absolutely impossible that my sister should marry such a person, and you ought to have known better than to encourage her. This is a hundred times worse than I thought when I flung up the best shoot of the season to come and fetch you, Betty. You and I were always by way of being pals, but I agree with the Mater now; you've behaved disgracefully, and as for the man, whoever he is——"

"Here he comes to speak for himself," cut in Sally, squeezing my hand hard.

There was a sound in the distance; voices shouting, but not the voice I loved. We all looked, and a black horse with a man on his back sprang into sight, like a rocket gone wrong. It was Jim, looking more beautiful than any picture of a man ever painted, his face transported with the joy of battle and triumph, and that fiend in horse shape under him doing all he knew to kill.

It was a terrible and yet a splendid thing to see, that struggle. I hadn't known how I adored Jim, and how I admired him, till I saw him with that smile on his face, sitting the black devil as if he were one with him in spite of the brute's murderous plunges.

The two shot past the house like a streak of lightning, then wheeled back again, the horse clearing a ditch and a five-barred fence from one meadow into another; but he didn't jump in spite of Jim; rather was it in spite of himself. Then there was a series of mad buck jumpings, leaps into the air, and downward plunges. The beast sat on his haunches, and then reared up with a great bound, to waltz on his hind legs and paw the air, snorting. But still Jim smiled and kept his seat without the least apparent effort.



"Jove! that fellow can ride," muttered Stan, taken out of himself by his man's admiration for a man.

"It's Jim Brett, my Jim Brett," I cried. "What do you think of him now?"

But it didn't occur to Stan to answer. I don't suppose he even heard; he was far too deeply absorbed in the passing drama; and in a minute more Jim and the black horse were out of sight again.

But I was not at all afraid for him now. I was only proud, and sure—as sure as I was of life—that he would conquer.

Nobody spoke. Mr. Trowbridge, and Mr. Jacobsen, the disagreeable cowbell man who owned the horse, ran by as fast as they could go, too excited to glance at the house, and Albert and Elisha followed. Mrs. Trowbridge and the girls had come out from the kitchen and were hanging over the nearest fence. Patty was whimpering a little, so I guessed all in a flash that she had cared for Jim. (But she is so sweet she will get over it now he is mine; and already I've made her realise thoroughly what a fine fellow the great Whit is.)

We stood still in our places and watched. I could hear my heart beat, and it had not time to calm down before Jim came riding back on the black horse—a changed black horse, all winning airs and graces, to cover shamed penitence now.

The creature pirouetted up the side road, and Jim stopped him at the verandah, patting the throbbing black neck. "Well? I believe I'll buy him myself," he said smiling to me; and then he saw Mrs. Ess Kay and my brother.

"By Jove, Harborough!" said Stan. "It is you, isn't it? Surely it isn't your double?"

"Harborough it is," said Jim, while I listened, dumb with wonder. "How are you, Duke? I was rather expecting you might turn up; but I cabled to you last night to Boodles', and wrote you this morning on the chance you hadn't started."

"Well, I'm blowed," remarked Stan, most inelegantly. "Are you Brett, or is Brett you, or is he somebody else?"

"My name is James Brett Harborough; perhaps you didn't know, or had forgotten," said Jim; and then, jumping off the horse and throwing the lines to Mr. Jacobsen, who had just trotted anxiously up, he came to me.

"Will you forgive me?" he asked.

"I don't know yet what it's all about," I said, dully.

"Miss Woodburn knows; and Mohunsleigh knew. You see, he and I were old pals, so I told him I was in love with his cousin, and was going to try hard to win her, in my own way. You remember Mohunsleigh's friend Harborough. You said the other day you were sorry for him, and—you wished him joy of his love affair."

"Oh, is that the reason you pretended to be only Jim Brett?"

"I am Jim Brett. But now you understand, will you forgive me?"

"I don't understand yet, except that you must have been afraid I might care more for your money than for you, if I knew. Oh, how could you think such a thing of me? But about the steerage——"

"That was beforehand. It had nothing to do with you, though everything that was to come, came from it. I was abroad for a couple of years, and a friend I knocked up against in Paris last June bet me a thousand dollars that in spite of all my queer experiences, I wouldn't have the pluck to rough it in the steerage of a big ocean liner. I took the bet, and won it. If it hadn't been for seeing you, I should have gone West almost at once after landing in New York, but I had seen you, so I stayed. Luckily for me, I'd met Miss Woodburn often in San Francisco and once here. She recognised me in my steerage get-up and was the only one who did; but her tact kept her from spoiling sport. She guessed there must be a game on, and said not a word to anyone. She wouldn't, even if I hadn't managed to send her a note, which I did. I had a conversation with her on board, too, the day before getting in, and—we talked about you. Even then I felt sure you couldn't be the sort of girl to care about money, but——"

"It was partly my fault, Betty," Sally broke in when he paused. "To be quite, quite frank, I knew that the Duchess had fallen in with some ideas of Katherine's, and I couldn't tell how far your bringing up mightn't have influenced your nature, so I encouraged Mr. Harborough to test you by keeping up the story that he was a poor young fellow named Jim Brett. It handicapped him, and kept him away from you; but you were interested in him to start with, and I did my best to keep up the romance. I thought he wouldn't lose by it in the end, and he hasn't. There was the morning in the Park; I managed that; and I got Katherine to send him an invitation to her big party. He was playing a waiting game, because he wanted you to care in spite of every drawback, or else he wouldn't want you to care at all; and then, before he was ready for any coup, Fate stepped in and did the rest."

"In the best way it could have been done, I think," said Jim. "Now, little girl, do you understand, and have you forgiven me?"

"I'd like to think you could have trusted me from the very first, without playing at all," I answered. "Still—it is romantic, isn't it? And besides, even if I were very angry, I—I'm afraid I'd forgive you anything after seeing you ride that horse."

"I'm hanged if I couldn't, too," said Stan. And laughing, the two shook hands.

"And I suppose I shall have to, as well," purred Mrs. Ess Kay, quite kittenish, "if only somebody would introduce Mr. Harborough to me."

(As if anyone cared whether she forgave him or not!)

"What about the Duchess?" asked Sally.

"Oh, when I tell her that Betty's engaged to marry a chap I've met and liked in town—a thorough sportsman, too, it will be all right," said Stan.

I was glad he didn't refer to Jim's money, even though that is the thing which will appeal most to Mother. As for me, I am almost sorry he isn't poor, if there's room in my heart to be sorry about anything. But I don't believe there is. It's such a beautiful world, and I shall have two homes in it now; one on each side the water.

THE END

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