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Miss Gibbie Gault
by Kate Langley Bosher
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She sat up and took the sheet of paper out of its envelope. "Three pages! Used to write a book. I think John must be crazy. He'd better send nothing than a measly little thing with nothing in it, like that! And going to Norway in August! Mentions it as if it were around the corner." Her face clouded and her brow ridged perplexedly. "I don't understand John. He didn't ask me a thing about it—what I thought of it, or say how long he'd be away, or anything. And Norway is such a long way off."



Chapter XVIII

PICTURES IN THE FIRE

Peggy looked up into the face laughing down into hers, and the big brown eyes blinked.

"You've got red apples in your cheeks this mornin', Miss Mary, and your eyes is just as shinin' as them ocean waves we saw last summer, when the sun made 'em sparkle in silver splashes. Just as blue, too. I ain't ever seen such blue eyes and long lashes as you've got, but you don't often have real red apples in your cheeks."

"It's the weather. Who could help having red apples in stinging air like this? And who isn't glad to be living when every single tree is dressed in green and gold, or brown and tan, or yellow and red, and the sun is just laughing at you, and dancing for joy? It's such a nice world, Peggy, this world is, if we'll just keep our eyes open to the pretty things in it, and our hearts to its good things. Of course we have to see the ugly ones; if we didn't we might bump into them, and get hurt or soiled or something. But seeing and keeping on looking are very different things. Wait a minute, Peggy! Let's stop and take a good breath now we're at the top of the hill. Isn't it lovely up here, and isn't the air delicious? It's good to be living to-day!"

Peggy put her hands on her hips in imitation of the girl by her side, and tried to draw in a deep breath as slowly as she did, but her first effort was not successful, and the exhalation was abrupt. Mary Cary laughed.

"You'll have to practise, Peggy. It isn't easy at first, but our lungs deserve a bath as surely as our bodies, and this is such grand air in which to give it to them. Did you get any chincapins yesterday?"

"Wash and Jeff's hats full. We strung five strings last night and ate the rest. I took Araminta Winters one string. I don't like Araminta. She's a whiney little pussy cat, and sly as a fox, but she's sick and can't go after nuts or anything, and I thought you'd like her to have one. I didn't want her to have it. She told a story on me once and I ain't ever forgot it. I reckon 'twould be a good thing if she was to die."

"Good gracious, Peggy! You sound like a vivisectionist. Araminta's mother wouldn't agree with you. She loves Araminta, if you don't."

"No'm, she don't—that is, she ain't any way crazy 'bout her. Mothers feel bound to love what they've borned, I reckon, but Araminta ain't anything to be dyin' anxious to have around. She's ugly as sin and got sore eyes, and when you see her comin' you run if you see her before she sees you. There's a lot of folks like that, ain't there, Miss Mary? Muther say there is."

"Oh, I don't know. If you didn't see the funny side you might run, but I nearly always see the funny side, and all kinds of people interest me."

Peggy shook her head. "All folks ain't got a funny side to see. They're just naturally nasty. Always seein' what's wrong and talkin' about it. Muther says some folks is born to poke for rubbish, and if they can't find a thing mean to say they'll say it anyhow. Crittersizers, I believe she calls 'em. Some who ain't good at anything else is great at that, she says."

"Very true, my solemn Peggy, but you shouldn't know it." Mary Cary laughed. "And if we don't like 'crittersizers,' then don't let's criticise. It was my besetting sin, Peggy, and it took me a long time to learn we all have rubbish in us, and it wasn't a bit hard to see the ugly things in people. And unless we can rake the rubbish out and get rid of it, it doesn't do much good to talk about it. People used to make me so /mad!/"

"Just like they make me now?"

"Do they?" Mary Cary looked down in the sober little face. "Then cut it out, Peggy. If you don't like some people or the things they do and can't change them, then keep out of their way. Don't be nice to their faces and ugly behind their backs. That's the most rubbishy thing in the world. There's plenty of room to stay apart."

"That's what you do, ain't it?"

"I?" The surprise in her voice was genuine. "Why, no. I don't stay away from people."

"You didn't go to Mrs. Deford's party Wednesday."

Mary Cary turned to the child beside her. "Who told you I didn't go to Mrs. Deford's party Wednesday?"

"Susie heard Miss Lizzie Bettie Pryor and Miss Puss Jenkins talkin' about it in the store yesterday. Susie says they think she's just air, and the way they lay out people when they're lookin' at hats frightens her. They said they didn't blame you, for Mrs. Deford had never let up on you since you been back. They said she's so crazy for Miss Lily to marry Mr. John Maxwell that she's got him skeered to death, and they believed that's the reason he went to Europe this summer, and they reckon he's hidin' yet, as he ain't been down here lately, not since last May, and this is the last of October."

"He's coming—" Mary Cary stopped abruptly, then she laughed. "It's too splendid to talk about ugly things to-day, Peggy. Let's run to the bottom of the hill and to the big sycamore-tree and then we'll turn in the Calverton road and go home. You are going to stay with me to dinner, and to-night Miss Gibbie is coming to tea, and to-morrow—" She reached up and pulled a branch of scarlet leaves from a maple-tree and shook them gayly in the air. "Oh, to-morrow there's lots of things to be done. Here, give me your hand. When I say three, we'll start."

Laughing, panting, glowing, they reached the foot of the hill and then the sycamore-tree, and this time Peggy's face was as full of color as Mary Cary's. For a moment they stood in the radiant sunshine and let the air, crisp and fresh with the sting of autumn, blow on them; then, still hand in hand, went singing down the road and on to Tree Hill.

Some hours later Peggy was gone, and before the crackling logs on the andirons in the library Mary Cary, on her knees, held out her hands to their blaze and nodded to the dancing flames.

"It's so nice to have you, Fire. I love you! You are so warm and cheerful and such good company. And you're such a good thing to dream in and see pictures in and tell fairy tales to. You tell fairy tales yourself. You can be very nice, Fire—but oh, your ashes!"

With the tongs she turned over a log, and out of the willow basket on the hearth took another and laid it carefully on the top. As it sputtered and crackled she sat down on the rug and clasped her hands over her knees, looking with half-shut eyes in the dancing flames, unmindful of their heat or the burning of her face.

Presently she turned and looked around the room. Twilight had fallen, and only the glint of firelight touched here and there familiar objects, rested a moment lovingly on bit of brass, or flirted hastily away from picture or chair; and as she watched its gleams dart in and out she smiled softly to herself.

"Kisses!" she said. "You dear room! I love you, too!" Into space she kissed her hand, then laughed at her childishness.

"Isn't it nice each season has its own things?" she said, talking to the flames. "In the spring the apple blossoms were so lovely they almost hurt. The trees, the birds, the flowers, everything was so beautiful that I behaved as if I'd never seen a spring before. That's the nice part of spring. It brings its newness every time, and I'm just as surprised as if it were the very, very first. But I believe I love the fall best. It makes you tingle so to do things; everything is worth while, everything is worth doing, everybody is worth helping, and you couldn't help enough to save your life!

"I'm so glad, too, the house is all fixed for the winter. Doesn't it look pretty?" She glanced at rugs and curtains and chintz-covered chair; at the bowls of brilliantly colored leaves of the top of book-shelves and tables, and sniffed the pungent winter pinks, step-sisters to the proud chrysanthemums in the hall, and again she nodded her head.

"What a happy creature you ought to be, Mary Cary! You've got so much; the chance to work, a dear home—"

"Dreaming! In front of the fire and dreaming again! Not the politest of ways to meet your guests, and the front door open as usual. Perhaps you don't know it, but in cold weather doors should be shut!"

"Heigho, Miss Gibbie!" From the rug Mary Cary scrambled to her feet and threw her arms around her visitor's neck, giving her a sounding kiss and a hearty hug. "I'm so glad you've come! You rode, of course, but the wind has bitten you cheeks, and they've got apples in them as red as mine were this morning. Hasn't it been a grand day? Peggy came home with me and we took a long walk, and—"

"If you will stop talking and ring for Hedwig to take my things I'll think more of your manners. You're getting as bad as Buzzie Tate. Some of these days your breath will be lost. What's that I smell is here? Winter pinks? Bless my soul if they're not the same kind I used to pull as a child when I spent the day with Grandmother Bloodgood!" She walked over to the desk and sniffed the flowers upon it. "The very same. Down by the sun-dial they used to be—"

"That's where they are now. I love them. They are so plain and unpretentious. Not a bit like chrysanthemums."

She helped Miss Gibbie off with her coat, untied the strings to her bonnet, and took her gloves; then she examined the coat critically.

"You need a new one, Miss Gibbie. This one is downright shabby. When you order your dresses in January you certainly must get a new coat."

"I'll do nothing of the kind. I've only had that coat nine years and it's got to last ten. I have two others, one heavier and one lighter weight, and I seldom wear this. Have no idea of getting another."

"But velvet rubs so, and you don't want people to talk as if—"

"Don't I?" Miss Gibbie sat down in the big chair Mary Cary had pushed for her near the fire, and spread out the full folds of her black silk skirt with deliberate precision. "How do you know what I want people to do? My dear Miss Cary, only dead people don't talk. What we say and what we do, what we wear and where we go, is cause for comment in exact proportion to what we do not say and what we do not do, what we do not wear and where we do not go, with those people who do us the honor of spending their time in discussing us. Just eighteen years ago this November my brain grasped the importance of fully realizing this and the advantage of pleasing one person in this world. To please all is impossible. I would deny no one the pleasure of talking about me."

"It depends on what they say. I don't like people to say things about me that aren't nice." She handed Hedwig Miss Gibbie's wraps. "I mean if they aren't true."

"When I here things said about me that are not nice and are not true I take a lawyer and go to see the person who has said them and call for proofs. When not forthcoming I take away with me a piece of paper testifying that said person has lied. I have two or three little affidavits of that kind in my desk. Things said about me that are not nice and yet are true I let alone, but the other kind—" She waved her hand. "Were there fewer cowards in the world there would be fewer gossips. But what's the matter with my coat? It isn't worn out, and if I got a new one it would be of the same material and the same shape. Not going to get a new one!"

"Are you always going to wear the same shape clothes?" Mary Cary put a log of wood on the fire, then sat down on the rug at Miss Gibbie's feet and smiled in her face. "Aren't you ever going to change?"

"Never! Why should I change? Brain cells weren't meant to be worn out trying to decide between pink and blue or princesse and polonaise. We have to wear clothes, a requirement of custom, but more time, temper, character, and peace of mind, not to mention money, have been sacrificed to them than to any other altar on this green earth, and for what? Most women look like freaks. Their garments are travesties on grace and comfort, and when not a pretence in quality are usually a bad imitation of a senseless style. An old sheep dressed lamb-fashion, especially if the old sheep is fat and over fifty, is hard to forgive. When I was fifty I came to my senses, decided on a certain pattern for my clothes, and have been wearing the same kind ever since. In January and June I write to the dressmaker for what I want. One hour twice a year and the work is done. What's the matter with me? Don't I look nice?"

"Very nice. I like those full skirts gathered on to a fitted waist, with your throat open and elbow sleeves. But you can wear velvet and silk and beautiful lace, and fill the front of your dress with tulle. Everybody can't. It takes—"

"Sense and system. You mean money; but the sloppiest-dressed woman in town spends more than I do on clothes, very probably. Wastes it in trash. I get a velvet dress once in five years. Two silks a year, a few muslins, and there I am. Lace lasts forever, and nothing is lost on trimmings. Lack of sense, lack of sense—" she waved her beaded bag in the air—"is what's the matter with the world. Women are slaves of custom; their most despairing quality is their cowardly devotion to the usual and their sheepy following of silly fashions. Woman's vanity and man's pampering of it are the cause of more trouble in most homes than fires and pestilence. Man is to blame for it. Through the ages he's been woman's dictator, and being too sensible to wear petticoats and pink ribbons himself, but liking to see them worn, he put them on woman and told her she was pretty in them. That was enough. To please men is what some women think they were made for, and to do it they're content. Women are such fools! What were you dreaming about when I came in? Seeing pictures in the fire, of course. What were they?"

"Guess!" Mary Cary put her arms on Miss Gibbie's knees and laughed in the keen gray eyes. "But you'd never guess! I was thinking how dear everything is here and how I love it. There isn't but one thing more I'd like in the house. Just one. And I was wondering if you'd mind if I had it. You knew poor little Mrs. Trueheart was dead, didn't you?"

"Yes, but you don't want her ghost, do you?" Miss Gibbie nodded toward the face which had nodded toward hers. "Do you want a spook in the house?"

"No—a baby—she left one five weeks old. Can I adopt it, Miss Gibbie? Would you mind? Sometimes I get so lonely—I mean, I just love a little baby, and this poor little thing hasn't any mother, and its father drinks, and the oldest girl has more than she can do for the other children." She gave a deep, eager breath. "I'd love a little baby so, Miss Gibbie. I'd rather hold one in my arms and rock it to sleep than dance all night, and I like to dance. I never did understand how mothers could let nurses put their babies to bed. I just love to hold them and squeeze them /tight!/ She pressed her arms close to her bosom and, bending, kissed the hollow which they made; then looked up again. "Would you mind if I took this little Trueheart baby? Hedwig and I could take care of it and—"

Miss Gibbie leaned back in her chair; her eyes closed in hopeless resignation, and her hands fell limp in her lap.

"Wants—to—adopt—a—baby! Trueheart baby—mother dead of consumption and father death-proof—an alcohol inoculate! What sense the Lord saw fit to give you, Mary, He seems at times to take away. I thought time would help you, but you're still a child—still a child."

Mary Cary shook her head. "I'm not a child; I'm a woman. But why can't I have it? The cost wouldn't be much and I can afford it, and I'd just love to have it." She held out her arms. "See," she said, "they were meant to hold a baby, and they ache for one sometimes. This is such a delicate little thing—it's a little girl. And I—once there wasn't anybody to take care of me, and I had to be an—I don't understand why you'd mind—"

"You don't, and I'm not going to try to make you. Some things are not to be explained. Did you say we were to have tea? I always have my tea at four, and it's nearly six. Where's Hedwig? She at least can understand when I say I want Tea!"



Chapter XIX

THE TESTIMONY PARTY

"In the name of love and charity!" Miss Gibbie turned to the door behind her. "What is it? Can't a person have one hour undisturbed in this world? I'm not half through what I had to say, though evidently through all I'll have a chance to say. What on earth! Is it Christmas or the Fourth of July or—"

Mary Cary got out of the chair in which she had been sitting since supper and went over to the window. "I don't know what it is. I thought this was the twenty-ninth." She put her hands to her eyes shielding them from the light, and looked through the pane of glass. "There's a big covered wagon coming up the drive; it's at the steps." She threw back her head and laughed. "Come quick and look! They're piling out like rats from a trap. Did you ever! What in the world is it? They're on the porch now. Hedwig has opened the door and—if there isn't Mrs. McDougal with a great big something in her hands, and Mr. Milligan, and Peggy, and Mr. and Mrs. Jernigan, and Jamie, and little Minna Haskins, and Mr. Flournoy. What do you suppose it is?"

Miss Gibbie got up and stood by the table in the middle of the room. "The gods couldn't guess if Mrs. McDougal has anything to do with it. Are they coming in?"

The question was answered by the tread of feet in the hall, and the procession, headed by Mrs. McDougal, began to enter the library door. On the threshold she stopped, bowing and smiling, in her hands a large glass salver, on the top of which was an even larger cake elaborately decorated in pink icing, in whose centre was stuck one tall white candle which sputtered and blinked in the changing draughts. Behind her a row of men and women, with a child occasionally between, stretched to the hall door and into the porch, and for the first time in her life Mary Cary could find nothing to say. She knew suddenly what it meant.

Mrs. McDougal advanced and, with arms extended, made a profound bow. "Miss Mary Cary, Our Friend! And Miss Gibbie Gault, Her Friend! Good-evening!"

The precious burden was laid on the table, the candle straightened, and also her hat; then she turned to the crowd behind with a hospitable wave of her hand. "Come in, people! Come in! Those what can't sit, must stand. Take this chair, Mis' Jernigan; she's been sick, you know"—with a nod to Miss Gibbie—"and if you'll be excusin' of my sayin' so for you, Miss Mary, I'll just say, make yourselves to home the best you can while we say what we come for. Make yourselves to home!"

"Oh, of course!" Mary Cary caught her breath. "Please pardon me. I was so surprised to see you—and I'm so glad. Do sit down, Mrs. Jernigan." She pushed the latter in a low easy-chair. "Bring some more chairs, Hedwig. Get them anywhere. I'm so glad to see all of you. How do you do, Mr. Milligan—and Minna." She stooped and kissed the child holding tight a folded paper in her hand. "Did they let you come, too? Isn't it nice?

"Ain't ever been out at night before since I was an orphan." Minna gave a squeal of happy joy. "But I used to go to parties and thayters and balls. I remember every one of them." She turned to Mrs. McDougal excitedly. "Must I give it to her now?"

"No, you mustn't!" Mrs. McDougal grabbed the hand the child was about to extend and held it tight. "'Tain't time yet, Minna; 'tain't time yet. Mr. Milligan is master of ceremony and he'll tell you. You keep quiet if you can. Here, Peggy, hold on to Minna; she'll pop if you don't. How you do, Miss Gibbie? How you do?"

Miss Gibbie's hand was shaken heartily, but she was not permitted to say how she did, for Mrs. McDougal had more to say herself, and with a wink she went on: "We knew you was goin' to be here. Peggy told us. I certainly am glad of it." She put her hand to her mouth and made effort to whisper. "I ain't a fool, if I ain't edjicated. Brains don't know whether they're high born or low, or whether they're male or female, and they can take in more'n you think without bein' told. I'm not forty, and mine ain't set yet. But set yourself down, Miss Gibbie; set yourself down, while I go see if they're all in."

They were all in, twenty or more of them, and as Mrs. McDougal stood in the centre of the room, counting with extended forefinger, Miss Gibbie took her seat, and from her beaded bag took out surreptitiously a small bottle of salts and hid it in her handkerchief. The room was crowded and would soon be close, but an open window could not be asked for. The salts must do.

For most of the unexpected guests chairs had been hastily provided by Hedwig, and the few men standing were doing so from choice. As she finished counting, Mrs. McDougal stepped back and stood by Mary Cary's side.

"We are all here," she said. "Not a one was spilt out the wagon, but 'twas so crowded I was 'fraid some might be jolted off the ends. We come in Mr. Chinn's undertakin' wagon." She nodded explanatorily to Miss Gibbie. "He lent it to us, but not bein' built for picnics, 'twa'n't the best in the world to pack twenty-three shovin' people in, bein' meant for just one still one; but my grandmother always told me a lot of life was a makeshift, and if you couldn't do what you'd like, then like what you had to do; and we had a lot of fun comin' out. Just like Congressmen goin' to a funeral. But I reckon you wonder what we come for?" This time she turned to Mary Cary. "We come to tell you something. Mr. Milligan, he's goin' to preside, but before he begins I just want to say that this is a sort o' birthday for Yorkburg, and that's why the cake is here." She turned to it proudly, and her right hand made a wide sweep. "We all help give it, and a lot more would have helped if they'd known, but we didn't have time to tell everybody, and if feelin's are hurt we can't help it. Never was a party somebody's feelin's didn't get hurt."

She stopped and made a bow. "Miss Mary Cary and Miss Gibbie Gault, maybe you don't know it, but this is the twenty-ninth day of October, and just one year ago to-day you came back here to live permanent, which is why there's one candle on the cake. It's been a good year for Yorkburg and a better one for some of the people in it, and that ain't always the case when returners come back, for most folks who live in a place ain't much use to it, and the day after the funeral is forgot. And knowin' there's a lot of hard licks in life, and no matter how much you try to do for people they'll do you if they get a chance, and say mean things about you—for there ain't nobody what escapes the havin' of misjudgin' things said if they've got a mind of their own and the will to do their way—we thought we would like to come out here and tell you before you was dead that we sure do love you and we thank you hearty for comin' back. You've done a lot for us, Miss Mary, by just rememberin' we was livin' and comin' to see us like we was folks, and like it was really true the Lord died for us as well as others. Some don't seem to think so. You've helped us take hold of ourselves, and though some of us ain't much to take hold of, still a lot of people die slow of discouragement, and a cheerin' word beats the best pill on earth. I ain't much on oratory, and not well acquainted with fine speech. Plain English is all I can use, and the plain English of all of us is we love you, and we thank you and we want you to know it. My grandmother always told me if you had anything like that to say, to say it while the person you think it about could hear. Dead people can't. And 'tain't much use cryin' and handin' out their good qualities after they're gone, like they was their clothes, for which they ain't got any more need, because 'tis too late. And you can't sleep good when you think of the things what's too late.

"But I ain't here to make a speech, just to bear testimony. This ain't a party exactly, unless it's a testimony party, and if I don't set down my tongue will run all night, bein' loose-jointed and good for goin' all the time like most women's, and so I take my seat and turn the meetin' over to Mr. Milligan. He's Irish, and an Irishman can talk a cabbage into a rose any day. And when he's got a rose to talk about"—her hand made a wide sweep—"his own tongue couldn't tell what it might say after it starts. Mr. Milligan will come forward and begin the presidin'."

To loud applause Mrs. McDougal took her seat, and Mr. Milligan, in obedience to orders, advanced and bowed, first to Mary Cary, then to Miss Gibbie, and then to the room at large.

"It's the truth she's said, Miss Mary," he began, smilingly, "for she's gone and expressed what I was going to say, and my tongue must tell of something else. A man oughtn't ever to let a woman speak first. She'll steal his thunder and leave nothing for him to say. He can't help her speaking last. No law could prevent that, but first and last ain't fair. She has told you why we're here, and I am only going to add that anybody who takes a weed out of a place and puts in a flower ain't lived in vain, and anybody who shows you where the sunshine comes from and how to get it is the kind of helper the world is looking for, and the person who can hearten you is the one who finds an open door in any house. And you've done every one of them things, every one. Mrs. McDougal has told you how the Mill-ites and the Factory-ites and the Sick-ites and the Tired-ites and the—"

"Orphan-ites." It was Minna's shrill little voice that filled Mr. Milligan's pause as he hesitated for another ite, and she shook the paper at him excitedly.

"The Orphan-ites." He bowed toward the quivering child. "Mrs. McDougal has told you what these feel, and thanked you for all the them, and I am here as a member of Yorkburg's council to thank you again for what you have done for the town in stirring of us up. Everything you jolted us about is coming on well, and the public baths at Milltown, the gift of your unknown friend, will make for godliness next summer, if they don't do much in cold weather. And if we can get hot water they may help the cause of righteousness this winter. We hope we are going to keep you here forever, but as there ain't many marrying men to match you in these parts it ain't impossible that in time you may go away, and if that time should come 'twould be a sorrowful day for many in this town. But if it should please you to stay single and live with us we'll thank God for an old maid like you, and pray Him to make more of your kind. The world needs 'em. And now Mr. Jernigan will speak for the mill, and his son Jamie for the children, and Minna Haskins for the orphans. Mr. Jernigan, ladies and gentlemen!"

As Mr. Jernigan came forward Mrs. McDougal pulled Mary Cary from the table upon which she had been half sitting into the chair at her side. "Set down, Miss Mary," she said in a half-whisper. "You look like a pink peony turnin' purple. Anybody would think you warn't even a sinner saved by grace, you're that abject. You ain't doin' nothin' sinful. Set up and take your posies like a lady. You look like you're takin' punishment, that you do!"

Mr. Jernigan's speech was largely lost between the clearing of his throat and the blowing of his nose, and more time than words was used in its delivery. But he managed to bring greetings from his fellow-workmen, and, as he sat down, Miss Gibbie led the vigorous applause which followed, and nodded encouragingly to his wife, who had hung proudly and anxiously upon his disconnected sentences.

Next came Jamie, lame Jamie, who hobbled bravely forward on his crutches, his little white face pinched by pain, full for once with happy glow, and, as he placed them against the table, irresistibly Mary Cary's hand went out to his and she held it tight.

"An original poem by Master James Jernigan," announced Mrs. McDougal, half rising from her seat and waving her hand in Jamie's direction. "Made up and writ by himself."

Jamie's head bowed, then he looked at his mother, flushed and eager, whose lips were already making the movements of the words he was to utter, then at the girl by his side, and, with another bow, began:

"I'm just a little boy who's lame, And couldn't used to walk a step. But now I can, and I will tell How me and my fine crutches met.

'Twas on a clear day and the bells they were ringing, And I in my bed could hear the birds singing. But I couldn't to church or to anywhere go, For my legs couldn't walk, not to save my life.

And then Miss Mary she came in, And said, 'Why, Jamie, 'tis a sin You can't go out like other boys. I'll go and get you some new toys.'

And when she came back the toys they were crutches And a chair I could wheel myself in. And now maybe I can play like other boys some day. 'Cause the pain is near 'bout well, and I can holler when they play.

And for all little children who ain't here to say They think she's just grand and a dear, I will just say for all, if she marries at all, We'll kill him if of her he don't take good care."

A stamping of feet and loud clapping of hands greeted this first effort of a youthful poet, and, as he started to go back to his seat, Mary Cary drew him to her and made him share her chair.

"Oh, Jamie, Jamie," she whispered, her face hidden behind the tumbled brown curls, "how could you write such fairy tales! They were beautiful verses, Jamie, but you know they were not true. They—"

"Yes'm, they was." Jamie's head nodded affirmatively. "They was true as truth. Look there—that little Minna Haskins is goin' to speak."

Minna's time had come at last. In Peggy's lap she had been wriggling through the other speeches, shutting her eyes at intervals and repeating under her breath the words she was to say, and when her name was called she ran forward joyously, holding tight in her hands the precious document with which she had been intrusted. Arms at her sides and heels together, she bowed, then shook the paper in the air.

"It's on here," she said, "what I'm going to say. A committee wrote it. Three of the girls they learned it to me. And it's to be yours, Miss Mary, forever and ever, because it's res'lutions." She held out the paper, then drew it back. "I forgot—I wasn't to give it to you till I was through. I'll begin." And like water out of a pitcher the words poured forth:

"Whereas, it has pleased Almighty God to put in our midst a beautiful young lady who once lived here herself and has never forgot about it, and loves little children and does all she can to make them happy, and don't like ugly clothes and the same kind of food and monot'nous living, but believes orphans are just like other children inside and out except they haven't fathers and mothers and anybody much, and she knows how that feels, and,

"Whereas, she came back to this very old town, most all history and some factories, and has helped a lot and got some things changed, and gives parties and picnics now and then, and,

"Whereas—" She stopped suddenly and her voice fell. "Whereas oughtn't to come there. There ain't but three whereases, because Sallie Green copied them out of a paper when Mr. Joynes died, just changing to suit a live person, and the last one comes way down. Wait a minute!" She shut her eyes tight and mumbled rapidly to herself, then looked up triumphantly. "And give picnics now and then and makes us feel like human beings though she's right managing at times and don't allow impertence, and,

"Whereas, we love her fit to die,

"Therefore, be it resolved that we will tell her so and tell her she'll never know how much, and we thank her and thank her and thank her.

"And a copy of these res'lutions is ordered to be spread on paper and on her heart, and we will spread them on ours.

"Kitty Mountcastle "Jessie Royall "Margaret Potts "And Me."

The last two words were emphasized by a low bow, then, turning, she ran into Mary Cary's outstretched arms, and threw hers around her neck.

"Oh, Miss Mary, I'm so glad I've said it, and I didn't miss but once. Here they are!" The paper was thrust in her hand. "I didn't help write these, but I wrote some once when my grandfather died. I remember just as well—"

"Minna, Minna!" Mary Cary lifted the excited little face from her shoulder and kissed her lips. "Your grandfather died before you were born, but you remembered splendidly to-night. I don't see—"

"Pooh! That wasn't anything!" Minna's eyes were raised to the ceiling. "All I've got to do is to hear a thing and I can say it. I can say Shakespeare if you want me to."

Mary Cary got up. "Mercy, no! Don't say anything else if you love me. Run back to Peggy and keep still for just a minute more." She stood at the table, looking at Mrs. McDougal speaking to Hedwig, who a moment later came back with a large knife and handed it to her, and, as she took it, Mary Cary dropped back into her chair.

Flourishing the knife, Mrs. McDougal advanced to the cake, then turned to the others sitting stiff and upright in their chairs, and bowed again. "The ceremonies is over and the cake will be cut. And then maybe you'll open your mouths and say something. You're settin' like you're at a funeral. Then resolutions sounded like it, but you mustn't mind them, Miss Mary"—she turned to the latter in a whisper—"they didn't have much time to make up anything, and I asked Miss Samson just to let 'em say something from their hearts, and they thought resolutions was more dignified than plain every-day speech, and more respectful. I asked for a testimony and for Minna Haskins to say it. She's such a little devil and so fond of you. Maybe now you'd like to say something yourself?" She rapped on the table for silence. "Miss Cary would like to say something, and when she's through we'll eat."

For half a moment Mary Cary leaned against the library table, her hands behind her clasping it with an intensity of which she was not conscious, and for a moment more words would not come. Slowly the hot color died out of her face and her lips quivered.

"No," she said, presently. "No. I can't say anything. When we feel much we can say little, and I couldn't tell you how you have—have humbled me; but I do thank you for your kind, kind words. It is not I you should thank, however. I have done so little. I could have done nothing had it not been for Yorkburg's friend. I had nothing to give but—"

"Love, which is what few have, judging by the sparse way it's handed out." Mrs. McDougal stuck the knife in the cake and left it there, then waved her hand. "Go on! Go on!"

"I had only—love to give when I came back, and love by itself can't do what it would. It needs money to help. Money without love may not be much, but love with money—" Her voice broke.

"Is hard to beat. Just tell you friend we thank him hearty, or her if it's a her. When love and money married get, their children will be great, you bet." Mrs. McDougal threw back her head, and her hearty laugh was joined in by none more heartily than Miss Gibbie, who used the opportunity to put her handkerchief to her nose and keep it there awhile. "Bless my soul, if I ain't made a rhyme! Thirty-seven and never did it before! Luck and accidents come to all, my grandmother used to say, and when I speaks poetry on the spot it's both together. I'm real proud of myself, that I am! That's all right, Miss Mary; don't you try to say nothin'. We understand you, and we just want you to understand us." She pulled her by the sleeve. "There's Miss Hedwig standin' in the door lookin' at you. Goodness gracious! If she ain't gone and set a spread on the dining-room table, and me ready to cut the cake this minute! Looks like we're goin' to have a party, after all. Miss Mary, you blow out this candle, and I'll light it again when we get in the dining-room." She dropped her voice. "Here, get behind me and wipe your eyes if you want to. Got a handkerchief? Ain't our eyes funny? Trickle when there ain't a bit of sense in it. Are you through?" She lifted the cake triumphantly. "My! but I'm glad I'm livin'! If there's anything I do love in life 'tis a party, and I ain't been to one since I married McDougal, and that's more'n nineteen years ago!"



Chapter XX

A SUDDEN CHANGE

Dull gray skies, a sobbing wind, and rain falling in monotonous regularity greeted the day following the testimony party. The contrast in temperature and condition was not cheerful, and as Mary Cary stood upon the porch looking down the road which led to Yorkburg she shivered in the damp, cold air, then breathed deeply that her lungs might have their bath.

"It's between the twenty-four hours that all the changes in life come, I suppose, but a change like this makes yesterday seem ages ago. Was it really /yesterday/ Peggy and I ran like the King of France down hill and up again? and just last night we had that dear, queer, precious party?"

She sighed happily and began it walk up and down the porch. "It's too bad John and Mr. Fielding should happen to be here together. John despises Mr. Fielding. I don't wonder. When he shakes hands with me I'm so afraid he'll hear me shiver I hold my breath. And yet he's a very generous man. If I'd allow him he'd give me any amount needed for any object. I'd as soon allow him to give me poison as a check for library, or baths, or the asylum, or anything else in Yorkburg. I'm sorry he's here, but I couldn't prevent his coming, not knowing he intended doing so until he arrived. And John just wrote day before yesterday he'd be here to-day. I haven't been very polite to Mr. Fielding, but he has no reason to expect me to be polite. I've told him I would never marry him and there wasn't the slightest use in coming here, but I might as well talk to the wind. If for him there's to be transmigration, he'll be a rubber ball next time. He's as persistent as John—that is, as John used to be. For nearly six months John has forgotten he ever wanted to marry me. I understand he and Lily Deford have become great friends. Mrs. Deford never loses an opportunity of telling me so."

She threw back her head and laughed. "Lily Deford! What on earth does he talk to her about? Hand embroidery and silk stockings are Lily's specialties, and she rarely gets beyond either in words or deeds. She's a pretty little powder puff, and I'd feel sorry for her if she wasn't so ma-ridden and spineless. But if John enjoys her—" She shut her eyes tight, a trick caught unconsciously from Miss Gibbie, then turned and went indoors. And in the hall Hedwig heard her humming cheerfully as she put on raincoat and overshoes and made ready for a walk to town.

An hour later the meeting called in Mr. Moon's office to settle certain matters relating to the recent planting of trees was over, and, leaving the mills, Mary Cary turned into King Street. The driving rain of the morning had slackened somewhat, but the street was deserted, the hour being that of Yorkburg's dinner, and as she neared the upper end nothing was in sight but a stray dog whose wet tail flapped in dejected appeal for the door before which he stood to be opened.

"You poor thing!" She stooped and patted the shivering creature, "I've felt sometimes like you look, but I hope I'll never look like you feel." The door was opened, and with an extra flourish of tail and a yelp of gratitude the dog disappeared, and again she started up the street.

Only the drip of the rain, the trickle of water in the gutters, and the flap of the torn awning in front of the drug store broke the sullen stillness, and then some distance ahead she saw a man and a woman, under an umbrella held close to their heads, coming slowly toward her. The slowness of their walk caught her attention, but the intentness of their talk made them unconscious of her approach, and not until she was quite near them was the umbrella held by the man lifted so that she could see who he was. She stopped suddenly as if hit, and in her face the color surged so hotly that the damp air stung.

"Why, Mary!" John Maxwell's umbrella dropped to the ground, and with hat in his left hand he extended his right in frank joy at seeing her. "What in the world are you doing out on a day like this?"

"Enjoying myself." The hand held eagerly toward her was barely touched. "How do you do, Lily? Are you out for fun, too?"

"Oh no! I'm out for—" She turned helplessly to the man beside her. In his face the color had leaped as swiftly as it had in Mary's, but in his it died as quickly as it came, and her cool greeting whitened it. "I came out to get some embroidery cotton number thirty-six from Simcoe's and met Mr. Maxwell coming from the inn. He was—"

"Fortunate to meet you. When did you get in, John? She asked the question as if for the time of day, opened her bag, took from it her handkerchief, and wiped her face. "I believe my umbrella leaks. My face is actually wet."

"I got in yesterday afternoon. I went by to see Miss Gibbie and heard she was spending the evening with you."

"So he came to see us. Wasn't it good of him?" And Lily, whose slow brain was confused by an undefined something she could not understand, looked first at one and then the other. "I wanted mam-ma to send for Mr. Brickhouse so we could play cards, but she wouldn't do it and went to bed by nine o'clock. Mam-ma never will play cards with Mr. Maxwell; says he's too good a player. But won't you come in some evening while he's here, Mary, and play with us? I'll get five more people and that will make two tables. Mr. Maxwell is going to stay some time."

"Is he?" Mary Cary fastened the buttons of her left glove, then held her umbrella straight, as if to go on. "I'm sorry I can't come in for cards while he's here, but I don't care for cards." She laughed lightly and nodded. "Too bad I've kept you standing in the rain. Good-bye!" and she started off.

"Hold on a minute, Mary!" Hat still in hand, John handed the umbrella to Lily Deford and took a few steps behind her. "What time are you going out this afternoon? I'll come by for you. May I stay to tea? I must see you this evening."

"Must you?" She shook the rain off her umbrella. "I'm sorry, but I have an engagement this evening."

He looked at her as if not understanding. "You mean I can't come?" His face flushed, and a quick frown swept over it.

Her shoulders shrugged slightly, a movement she knew he disliked. "If you perfer to so put it—that is what I mean."

His clear gray eyes were searching hers as if what he had heard was unbelievable. "Your engagements must be very imperative. I have not seen you for nearly six months and naturally my time here must be short."

Mary Cary looked up, and the smile on her face was one he did not know. "Short? I understood Lily to say a minute ago you would be here some time."

"Lily knows nothing about it."

"No?" Again her eyebrows lifted. "She seemed to speak with authority. But whether she did or not, it is hardly kind to keep her standing in the rain. Don't you think you had better go back to her?"

"I think I had." He looked down, and then again in her baffling eyes. "You haven't on your overshoes. Your feet are soaking wet."

She too looked down. "I started out with them. Guess I left them in Mr. Moon's office. Are you sure Lily has on hers?"

"I don't know whether she has or not. Lily can take care of her own feet."

"And I of mine. Standing on wet ground isn't good for them. Good-bye!" And with a half-nod she walked on up the street.

What was it? What was the matter with her? Her blood was pounding through heart and brain, and the damp air on her face only added to its burning. In her eyes was an angry light, and she bit her lips lest they make movements of the words which sprang to them.

"Got here yesterday! Didn't come out, didn't telephone, spent the evening at the Defords', and with Lily the first thing this morning. Wants to see me this evening!" Her head went up. "I guess not. His time will probably be short. With me it will certainly be short. What did he come for if only to stay a little while?" In her face indignation faded into incredulity and her lips curved. "To see the little powder puff, I suppose! Well, he can see her. I'll certainly not take his time. For nearly six months it has pleased him to stay away, to write scraps of letters at long intervals, to send nothing, do nothing that he used to do. And now he comes back and expects me to receive him with outstretched arms. He expects wrong!"

She reached the Moon's gate, hesitated, and walked on. Lunch was to be taken with them, but the sudden transition from expected sensations to the unexpected made it best to stay in the cold air a while longer, and without a look toward the house she passed it hurriedly.

What was the matter with John? For ten years he had been the friend who never failed—the friend to whom she could always turn and know what to find; the one to whom subconsciously all things were referred, and who, without always agreeing with her, always stood by her. What was the matter with him?

Walking as if to catch a train, and yet without looking where she was going, she turned into Pelham Place and neared Miss Gibbie's house. Her eyes were upon it in indecision, and not seeing the puddle of water ahead, she stepped into it and splashed well with mud the low shoes and thin stockings she was wearing. The sudden chill provoked her, and she looked down at her wet feet.

"Of course he saw I had on no overshoes. He always sees the things I leave off and don't do and thinks I'm nothing but a child. Suppose I am! What business is it of his whether I wear overshoes or not? What business is it of his what I do or where I go or what I say? We are nothing to each other!"

The thought stopped her. For a moment she shivered in the damp, penetrating wind, then hurriedly passed Miss Gibbie's house. She would not go in. No one must see her until she grew calmer. But what was she angry about? She didn't know, only—only for weeks she had been looking forward to John's coming. She had expected him the first of October, but the month passed and he had not come. Then came a hurried note merely saying he would reach Yorkburg on the thirtieth, and the vague unrest of past days faded. She hadn't been as nice to John as she ought to have been, had taken too much as a matter of course perhaps, but this time she was going to be really very good. There were many things to talk over, and she wanted, too, to hear about his trip. She had visited Norway, but the stay was short, and she would like to go again. She had honestly intended to be very nice, and only a few hours ago she had talked with Hedwig about supper, deciding on the things John liked best. And now—

She laughed, and for the first time in her life her laughter had a bitter tinge.

"Good-morning! The girl worth while is the girl who can smile, when the rain—"

She looked up. The man in front of her was blocking her way. He touched his hat, but did not lift it, and at sight of him she frowned. There were times when she loathed Horatio Fielding.

"Good-morning!" Her tone was short, then, a sudden thought occurring, she changed it. "You evidently like to walk in the rain as much as I do. Suppose you come out to tea to-night. I was going to telephone, but this will save time." She started to pass on. "We have tea at seven."

"I'll be there. In front of your fire is the place for me. But can't I walk with you? You seem in an awful hurry this morning."

"I am. Have an engagement. Will see you to-night." And as if to escape what was unendurable she hurried on, and again turned into King Street.

"Two stories in half an hour is doing well for one who hates a lie as nothing on earth is hated," she said under her breath, holding the umbrella close down over her head. "A little more time and you may lie without effort. You told John you had an engagement. I thought I did, with him. And you had no more idea of telephoning Mr. Fielding before you saw him than of telephoning the—I'd much rather telephone the latter. He'd certainly be more entertaining and far more polished. It isn't Mr. Fielding's dulness that is so unpardonable, but his horrible cocksureness and insufferable assurance. He doesn't eat with his knife, but only from obvious restraint, and in an unguarded moment he'll do it yet. He could never be convinced that if a woman had fine clothes and carriages and bejewelled fingers and throat that she could wish for something else. To him a woman is property." She drew in her breath. "After a visit from him I need prayers and want incense. And I've asked him to eat John's supper to-night!"

The wind had changed, and the rain, coming down in heavy, shifting sheets, beat upon her umbrella with such force that only with difficulty could it be held. Her feet were wet, loose strands of hair, damp and breeze-blown, brushed in irritating tappings across her face, and as she again neared Mrs. Moon's house she knew she must go in.

Sarah Sue had seen her coming, and the door was opened when she reached it. "What in the world made you go by here half an hour ago instead of coming in?" she asked, taking the umbrella and helping off with the raincoat. "I knocked on the window and called you, but you didn't hear. Aren't your shoes wet? Soaking! Come right on up to my room and put your feet on my fender and get them good and hot. My slippers and stockings are too big, but you can keep them on until yours are dry. I don't understand why you didn't come in first."

Sarah Sue led the way up-stairs, followed by Mary Cary, who had submitted to comments and questions and the off-taking of wraps without reply, but halfway up the steps she stopped and turned back.

"A package was left here for you just now," she said. "I'd better give it to you before I forget." She took up the bundle on the hall-table and came back with it.

"What is it?" Mary's voice was indifferent as she broke the wrapping; then as she saw the writing on it she frowned. "It's nothing—just my overshoes." She threw them down the steps and under the table from which Sarah Sue had taken them.



Chapter XXI

THE RELEASE

On the fifteenth of each October the turkey-wing fan, rarely out of Miss Gibbie's hands in warm weather, was put away in camphor, and on that evening knitting-needles and white Shetland wool were brought out. In a basket of rare weaving these materials now lay on the library table near which Miss Gibbie sat, but as yet they were untouched, for before the open fire her hands lay idle in her lap. Every now and then she lifted first one foot and then the other and put it on the fender, and presently she drew closer the tall screen with its framed square of tapestried lambs and shepherdess wrought by her grandmother's fingers many years ago. Placing it so that her face might be protected from the scorching heat of the dancing flames, she tilted it at the right angle, and then tilted her head also.

"No use blistering my face because young people prefer to be fools!" she said, presently. "And what fools! You might have known, Gibbie Gault, you'd make a mess of it if you put your finger in a lovers' pie. If life has taught you nothing else it has taught you to let people do their own paddling, and yet at your age you tried to steer a man in a way he didn't want to go. You thought it was the wisest way, and in the end would bring him to the promised land, but your mistake lay in not letting him fall overboard the way he preferred to fall. A man would rather fail according to his own ideas than succeed according to another's. And you certainly can't say this little arrangement of yours concerning John and Mary has proven a brilliant one. Of the three simpletons, just at present, you deserve what's coming to you more than the other two, for better than they you understand that women is an unknown quantity. Even her Maker couldn't anticipate her behavior, and when she wills to torment a man she has seemingly neither soul not sense. In your wise and worldly advice to John you forgot Mary's possibilities of denseness, and your meddlesome medicine has had the wrong effect."

She sighed queerly and changed the left foot on the fender to the right, and again tapped the arms of her chair with the tips of her delicately pointed fingers. "What a silly, sensitive little thing this self-love, this pride of ours, is! And it's Mary's hardiest sin. She wouldn't let the angels of heaven take her up to-day and put her down to-morrow, and while she laughs at much in life, there are certain things she doesn't smile at. A friend who fails in her eyes isn't even in a class with toads. She has an idea that John is no longer the friend of old. She does not say so, has apparently forgotten he's living, rarely mentions his name, and doesn't know that my old eyes see clearly how gayly miserable she is. I have pretended to be blind, and have encouraged the idea that John was interested in that pink-and-white offspring of Snobby Deford. What a bunch of idiots we all have been, and I the biggest of all—the biggest of all!"

At the library door Celia stood, hand on knob. "Mr. Maxwell is here, Miss Gibbie. Will you see him?"

"I will." Miss Gibbie leaned back in her chair, put her feet on the stool in front of it, and crossed her hands in her lap. "And bring in tea at once."

"It is good of you to let me see you." John Maxwell bent over the beautiful hand held out to him, but the boyish banter of other days was gone. Before Miss Gibbie was no pretence, and his face was that of a man who no longer has time to waste or the will for wasting.

"Not good at all. If you hadn't come I should have sent for you." She tilted the screen at a different angle. "Sit down, and sit where I can see you. But first put that table a little closer to me. Here's Celia with the tea."

The table was moved and the large silver tray with its little silver legs was placed upon it, the lamp under the kettle lighted, and Celia waved out, and again Miss Gibbie leaned back.

"What day did you get here?" she asked. "Time has such a somersault way of passing, one can't keep up with it. How long have you been here?"

"Ten days. I came on the twenty-ninth, and this is the eighth of November."

"When are you going away?"

"I don't know." John crossed his right leg over his left, shifted his position and shaded his eyes with his hand.

Miss Gibbie took up the tea-caddy. "Do you think you've accomplished great things by coming? Judging by your manner of late, not to mention your looks, you haven't been drunk with happiness since you reached this town of historic importance and modern inconsequence. But of course—" she tilted the spout of the kettle into the teapot—"my suggestion that you stay where you belong was a mere woman's, and you saw fit to ignore it. Men like to bring blessings on their head—and my friend John Maxwell is most verily a man."

"You seem to forget it." He got up and began to walk backward and forward the length of the room. "I wonder if I am sometimes. When I see that round, red, moon-faced pig driving around town with Mary, taking long horseback rides with her, and going to see her whenever he pleases, I don't know how I keep from killing him. He isn't fit to be in the same town with her. I know the man, went to school with him. He's a cad and a coward and a big fat fool. He has some money— that is, his father has—and a smearing of education, but he's coarse and common and not to be trusted. Van Orm was a gentleman at least, and if Mary wanted—"

"Does Mary know as much of your friend Mr. Fielding as you do?" Miss Gibbie handed him a cup of tea, but he waved it back.

"If she doesn't it's because she's trying to be blind and deaf. I have seen practically nothing of her since I came down. You think I shouldn't have come. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I'm here, and for the present am going to stay. For six months I've held off, but through them we've been generally friendly, and I was hoping it might work, the thing you suggested. I stayed away as long as I could. But I had to come. I had to see for myself—see how she was, even if I came through hell."

"A trip through hell might help many men. The trouble is they might not be able to pass though. Ten days of it—"

"Is more than man is meant to stand. You are quite right." He stopped and looked down at her. "What is it? What is the matter with Mary? she is horribly polite, but were I a leper she could not hold herself more aloof. Morning, noon, and night she has engagements, and frequently with that brass-coated mine-owner of the Middle West. Do you think"—his face darkened, fear had unnerved him—"do you think she has any idea of marrying him?"

Miss Gibbie's head turned. The cup on its way to her lips was held back and her left eye closed.

"Marrying whom? That Fielding person?" The tea was blown into bubbles. "He uses a toothpick in public. Do you think Mary would marry a thing of that kind?"

He laughed begrudgingly. "I can't imagine it, but neither can I imagine why she is doing what she does—why she treats me as if I were the most incidental acquaintance."

Miss Gibbie put down her cup, and pushed her chair a little farther from the fire. "You don't have to, John. There are some things God doesn't expect of a man. One is to see through a woman. He knows the limitations of the male, and won't hold you responsible. Sit down!" She waved to the chair in front of her. "I can't talk to any one I can't see."

With a half-smile, half-frown John took his seat, and again shaded his eyes with his hand. "Being that dense creature, a man, I would appreciate the opinion of an illuminating lady on the tactics of her sex. What have I done to bring this nonsense to pass? I make no pretence of understanding any sort of woman, much less Mary's sort, but why this charming indifference at one time, this indignant curtness at another? I'm in the air, I admit, but I'm here to stay as long as that familiar-mannered individual stays. I'd like Mary to understand it, whether she wishes to or not. Would you mind making the intimation? She doesn't give me the chance."

Miss Gibbie tapped her lips with the tips of her fingers, blew through them for a few seconds, then she tilted the stool over and kicked it aside.

"For a person of ordinary sense you are extraordinarily dull at times." She looked at him long and searchingly, then she leaned forward. "Tell me," she said, "are you honestly in earnest when you say you don't know what is the matter with Mary?"

"With God as witness—"

"You're such a fool! Don't you see she's just found out—she loves you?"

Half a moment he stared as if not hearing. In the glow of firelight she saw his face whiten; then he got up and walked to the window behind her. For some time he stayed there, looking through it with eyes that saw not, and only the crackling logs broke the stillness of the room. Celia came in to turn on lights and take away the tea-tray, but Miss Gibbie waved her back. "I want the firelight," she said. "When I need you I'll ring."

A few minutes more she watched the dancing flames and, watching them, her face grew pale and strangely gentle. Into it came memories of the days that were for her no more. Presently, without turning, she called:

"John!"

"Well."

"I have something to tell you."

Slowly he came toward her. In his face was the look she had seen in the long ago, and suddenly hers was buried in her hands.

He stood beside her. "For the love of God"—his voice was not yet steady—"don't tell me what you have just said—is not true."

With effort her hands were opened, and again she leaned back in her chair, but she did not look up. "I shall tell you nothing that is not true," she said, wearily. "Mary loves you, but she is as stubborn as you were blind. It has pleased you to put hope in Mrs. Deford's heart, pleased you to be attentive to her little make-believe of a daughter. Mary has seen and heard things that have led her to imagine you were in love with Lily."

John sat down suddenly, limp with incredulity. "In love with Lily— Lily Deford? did she think I was a—"

"She did. She felt about you very much as really fine women would feel could they look down from the battlements of heaven and see the sort of things their husbands frequently bring home to take their place. You have been seen with Lily morning, noon, and night when she wasn't with that Pugh boy, who they say is in love with her, and—"

"I was with her as a bluff. Billy Pugh is a friend of mine, and a good, clean fellow. Having troubles of my own, I felt sorry for him, and was standing by; that was all. He's not responsible for his father's or grandfather's business. They were in it before he was born, and it's been honestly conducted always, which, unfortunately, is more than Lily's father's was. Lily's father was a rascal, if he is the husband of his wife. I'm not telling you what you don't know; only why I have no patience with this rotten pride of Mrs. Deford. I've been Lily's dump. Into my ears she's poured oceans of lamentations, and I've let her babble on because it gave her such tearful satisfaction. I like Billy, and stand ready to help any time he can squeeze out courage to take things in his own hands."

"And you've been party to these secret meetings, have you? Been thinking so much of Lily's happiness you forgot other people's. You'd help them run away, I suppose?"

"I would. I believe in all respect being paid parents, believe their consent to marriage should always be asked, their approval desired. But if for any fool ancestral reasons consent and approval are denied, then were I one of the parties I should invite the parents to the wedding, but let them understand that whether they came or not the bells would ring. Were I Billy Pugh and loved his little Lily I'd marry her to-morrow. If he had a million Mrs. Deford would forget he didn't have recorded forefathers. The trouble with Billy is he's not yet rich. I told him a week ago I was ready to help."

His face suddenly changed and he leaned forward. "Do you mean that Mary has actually, seriously imagined I was interested in Lily Deford?" With a hard grip his hands interclasped as he looked in the dancing flames, and when he next spoke his voice was again unsteady. "It is not given to many men to love as I love Mary. I could speak of this to no one else, for words are not for love like mine. But having known her, having in my life but one thought, one hope—Why didn't you tell her? Why did you let her think I was such a fool?"

"Why?" Miss Gibbie sat upright. "I thought you were one myself. Your unremitting attendance upon Lily was carrying my suggestions rather far. In matters of compromise a man is a master. He'd fall in love with anything if there was nothing else to fall in love with. Mary has been something of a trail, and how did I know your vanity had not surrendered to the soothing balm of adoration? A bit of encouragement and Lily would have swung incense. She's that kind. Many a man marries a woman because of her admiration for him. Many a woman marries her husband because no to her man asked her. Only occasionally do we find either man or woman who carries through life one image alone in the heart. When you came down here you went first to the Defords.

"And why? You were with Mary, and for important matters of business discussion. I would have been in the way. I walked out to Tree Hill and back, had a fight with myself about coming in, but knew I shouldn't. I came down purposely on the twenty ninth, the anniversary of Mary's return to Yorkburg, but—"

"Have you told Mary this?"

"Told her? I've told her nothing. She gives me no chance."

"Gives? A man who doesn't /take/ his chance doesn't deserve it! For the love of Heaven, stop being so considerate and remember a woman has to be mastered every now the then!"

She pulled up her silk skirt and held the tips of her velvet slippers to the fire.

"Put on a fresh log, will you? Not even backlogs have backbone any more. When I was young, men had red blood, and color and flavor went with love-making. Nowadays people are afraid of emotion, and courtship is a milk-and-mush affair. What time is it?"

John took out his watch. "Quarter to six."

"Time to go home, boy. You are going to the Porters' party, I suppose? I understand the little pot and big pot will be put on to-night. They'll live on herrings for breakfast and cheese for supper the rest of the winter, doubtless, but Josephine Porter is bound to blow out once a year. Those decorations of her grandfather, by royalty bestowed, must be kept in remembrance. With whom are you going?"

"I asked Mary, and am going with Lily." John smiled grimly. "I got an invitation for Billy and will hand her over as soon as her mother is out of the way. I can't understand why Billy doesn't assert himself."

"You can't? Queer!" Miss Gibbie looked in the fire. "Mary is going to the party with that Fielding person, I believe. To-morrow night she spends here. At supper I have some things to talk over with her; so you can't come to supper. You might come in about eight-thirty. I'm reading a French novel that Mary objects to. She read it, and told me I mustn't. Unless some one talks to her she'll talk to me. Would you mind dropping in so I can get at the book?"

She held out her hand. "Our bargain," he said, gravely. "I can no longer hold to it. Do you release me?"

"Release you?" She strangled the sudden sob in her throat. "Love has released you. Don't you see—Mary is awake?"



Chapter XXII

THE NEWS

The basket in Mrs. McDougal's hands was dropped as if its every egg were a coal of living fire.

"Kingdom come and glory be! Kingdom come—and—glory be!" She clapped first her right hand on her left and then her left on her right and stared into Mr. Blick's beaming black eyes as if through them rather than his mouth the information just received was to be confirmed. Then she sat down on a soap-box and rocked in unqualified delight.

"Kingdom come and glory be! What 'd you tell me a thing like that for when I was a-standin' up? I might have sat down in that bucket of lard 'stead of on a keg of herrings—or is it soap?" She looked down with sudden anxiety on the seat she had taken without thought. "I been long a-hopin' somethin' like this would happen, but I wasn't expectin' of it to come this way. Kingdom come and glory be!"

Again Mrs. McDougal rocked backward and forward, her arms this time tightly clasped as if hugging a cherished possession. Presently she threw back her head and laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Can't help it, Mr. Blick—can't help it! To think of Pa Pugh and Ma Deford in the course of nature being grandparents of the same unsuspectin' infant! One and the same! I've never heard tell that the devil was much on laughin', but he's a good grinner, and he'll be just enjoyin' of himself to-day. That he will. And so will I. Bein' human, I chuckle when I gets a chance. Kingdom come and glory be!"

From a mysterious arrangement in the back of her skirt Mrs. McDougal pulled out a handkerchief, made from the remains of an old sheet, and wiped her eyes with it. Then she got up and leaned upon the counter behind which Mr. Blick stood waiting for a chance to speak; his round, red cheeks redder than usual, and his beady little eyes blinking with importance.

"Tell me about it," she said. "I must have been dead and buried not to have heard no speculations. Now I come to think of it, I did hear the children say they seen Mr. Billy Pugh and Miss Lily Deford sneakin' along in the shank of the evenin', all alone by themselves. But I ain't paid no attention to it. Mrs. Deford don't think people like the Pughs is fitten to spit on, but she owes Mr. Pugh this minute a bill, I bet you, for carriage rides, what's bigger than she will ever pay. Maybe now he won't press her for it, bein' they're so close connected from henceforth and forever on." And once more Mrs. McDougal's hands came together with a resounding smack.

"But tell me about it." She leaned farther over the counter. "When did it happen, and where did they go, and how did the news come? Do pray shake your tongue, Mr. Blick, and say something. You're as bad as McDougal, and slower 'n molasses in winter runnin' down a hill. Is she come to yet? Now, if 'twas just death, I could go by and leave my sympathies. Even mill folks is counted then, for people like to say poor people come and shed tears. It sounds hopeful for heaven. But in marriage it's different. Congratulations is presumptuous, lessen they come from kinfolks and friends, I reckon, and Mrs. Deford wouldn't care to get the kind I'd like to give. Pride is a sure destroyer, and as for haughty spirits!—I ain't no student of history, but I've watched Yorkburg and I've seen right many different kinds of falls. I don't make no pretence of bein' a Miss Mary Cary kind of Christian. I'm just a church kind, who goes regular when I got the clothes, and talks mean about my fellow-members when they make me mad. 'Tain't no set of people which talks more about each other than church members. Seems like 'tis their chief delight. It's a heap easier and more soothin' to go to church and feel you kind of got a permit to say what you oughtn't than to try to live like Christ. But if you ain't a-goin' to tell me about the runaway I'll just leave my eggs and step over and see Miss Puss Jenkins. Miss Puss will talk to anybody, anywhere, day or night. All you got to do is to ask your first question and take your seat. If 'n you ain't got nothin' to say—"

"How can I say it if you don't let a word get in noway, nohow?" Mr. Blick was huffy. He had much to say, and thus far had been forced to dumbness. "Don't anybody know anything much. They was both at the party last night, and Mrs. Porter says that's what comes of givin' folks like the Pughs an inch. Mr. John Maxwell asked her for an invitation for Billy, and she gave it, being it was Mr. Maxwell who asked, and the result was he run off and married—"

"Miss Lily! That he did! Bein' plain, he took an ell. Bein' proud, she'll give him hell!—Mrs. Deford will. Just listen at that! I'm gettin' to be a regular rhymer. Swell people certainly do have advantage over humble ones. I tell you now, when I get to heaven I ain't a-goin' to be in no particular hurry to be a saint with a halo. I want first to be privileged to say unto others what they've said unto us. But I don't want to do that till get through with Eve. She's the first person I'm goin' to make a bee-line to. If ever a woman did need shakin', it's Eve. As for Adam—" She waved her hand. "A man what hides behind a woman's petticoats, or whatever she's wearin' at the time, and says 'she made me do it,' I got my opinion of. Bein' a Bible character, I don't speak of him in public often, but I ain't never felt no call to be proud of him for a first father. It do look, though, as if all men since Adam has been makin' of women an excuse. She's always handy to blame things on. Reckon somebody will be sayin' next Miss Lily made Mr. Billy fall in love with her."

"They say Mrs. Deford is holding of Miss Mary Cary responsible for the running away." Mr. Blick began to weigh out certain orders which had been delayed by the coming of Mrs. McDougal. "Miss Puss Jenkins was in here this morning before breakfast and she says Mrs. Deford is as near crazy as a lady like her could be. It seems Mr. Maxwell took Miss Lily to the party last night, and, while her ma was there, too, she slipped home and changed her dress and got her valise. Billy Pugh did the same thing. Mr. Maxwell helped, though they say they didn't tell him anything about it until last night, and he had to wear his dress clothes. They caught the ten-ten train and went as far as Vinita, where the preacher was waiting, Billy having gotten the license from the county clerk during the day. Mr. Maxwell went with them and was them married and caught the twelve-twenty train back, bringing with his a note for Mrs. Deford."

"I reckon she's been swoonin' ever since, ain't she?" Mrs. McDougal took up a handful of dried peaches and ran them through her fingers. "She don't look like a swooner. She'd do better at swearin', I reckon, and yet faintin' is always considered a high-class sign."

"Fainting!" Mr. Blick patted the butter in the scale and took a pinch off. "Miss Puss Jenkins says she walked the floor the rest of the night, and is walking yet. What she hasn't said about Mr. John Maxwell ain't in human speech, but this morning she began on Miss Mary Cary and is holding of her responsible just now. The hotter she got with Mr. Maxwell, the cooler he got, Miss Puss says. She was with her when he came back with the note, and if he was the kind that got scared he'd be shaking yet. But he ain't that kind. He told her they'd made up their minds to get married and when she calmed down she'd be much obliged to him for going with them and seeing it was well done. She was too raging for him to say much, and he didn't stay long, so I was told."

Mrs. McDougal wiped her mouth. "Well, sir, I felt somethin' in the air when I waked up this mornin', and I could tell by my bones Yorkburg was shook by somethin'. It don't take much to make Yorkburg shake, and it ain't had nothin' to talk about lately. This will give it somethin'. Miss Lily Deford and Mr. Billy Pugh married! Whom the Lord loveth He chaseth! He sure must be fond of Mrs. Deford! Well, all I've got to say is I hope they'll stay away until the thunder and lightning is over. A caterpillar has about as much chance to stand up straight as Miss Lily to meet her ma in argument. I tell you now I wouldn't like that longnet thing she puts to her eye to stare at me if I was alone with her." She took up her basket. "Is the eggs out? I don't know what I come for. My breath and brains is clean gone this mornin'. I wonder if Miss Puss Jenkins is home? I think I'll just step up the street and ask her if she's got any more of them missionary aprons to sell." She winked at Mr. Blick. "Ain't folks funny? And don't we have to make believe a lot in life? Miss Puss has told so many people she makes aprons for her missionary money that she believes it sure enough. I make out I believe it, too. It helps her feelin's and pays your bills. She says she has so much time and so little to do that she makes aprons. Well, good-bye, Mr. Blick. Much obliged to you for telling what you know, but my grandmother always told me to go to females when wantin' details. A man ain't much on trimmin's. Good-bye!" And with a wave of her hand she was gone.

* * * * *

An hour later John Maxwell, walking up and down in Mrs. Deford's parlor, stood for a moment in front of the mirror between the windows and smiled grimly at the face reflected in it. "Moral!" he said. "When doing unto others as you'd have them do to you, be sure there's no mother-in-law in it. I'm as innocent as a lamb, and, like the lamb, am getting it in the neck, all right. I thought to do a kindness, and am called a criminal. Poor creature! She was as crazy last night as any March hare that ever hopped. When she was through with me I was, let me see"—he counted on his fingers—"I was an instigator, an abetter, a thief, a rascal, a double-dealer and hypocrite, a deceiver and destroyer, a traitor and a flirt, a socialist and anarchist. I was everything but a man."

He whistled softly and looked toward the door. "I'd give fifteen cents if I could smoke during the coming interview. It's a gentleman's only way of relieving his feelings when a lady is taking his head off. I held in last night after stating facts, and stood the storm, but I don't promise to do it again. I'm tired of this nonsense. If there are high horses this morning, the tragedy queen must mount and rant alone."

A noise as of deep breathing made him turn. In the doorway Mrs. Deford stood tense, rigid, erect. A trailing black wrapper replaced the low-cut shabby satin gown of the evening before. The pallor of her face was heightened by a liberal use of powder which ended under her eyes, where pencil-marks had been added to their usual lines to give emphasis to the shock. And as she slowly advanced she measured each step as though unequal to another.

With an inclination of the head John waited until she had taken her seat. Her tactics had changed. So had his. For a brief moment he stood in front of her, then spoke, and his voice and manner made her look up as she had not intended to look.

"You have sent for me," he said. "I will be obliged if you will say quickly what you have to say." He took out his watch. "I have an engagement in less than fifteen minutes—"

"You have!" She half rose. His words were as match to tinder. "I have an engagement for the rest of my life with shame and disgrace and disappointment. You have helped to bring them on me and you tell me to hurry—to /hurry!/ Her right hand flew out with tragic eloquence. "That I receive you in my house is beyond my understanding."

"And mine, madam. Shall I leave?" He smiled and started toward the door.

"You shall not!" With frantic energy her arm was waved. "Have you no heart in your bosom that you can so treat the agony in my breast! My child who has in her veins the best blood in the State married to a—to a—what?"

A clean, honest man, who loves her. Your daughter is very fortunate, Mrs. Deford."

"Fortunate!" Her voice was a half-shriek. "She is disgraced and so am I. Who are his people?" She shuddered. "From what does he come?"

"As the ceremony is over, the important question just now is where is he going? His salary in the bank here is exactly eighty-three dollars thirty-three and one-third cents per month. A bank in which I am a director in New York is looking for a certain kind of young man. I wired to-day to hold the place for Billy. I think it can be managed. The salary is three thousand a year. There is nothing to bring Lily back to Yorkburg. I understood last night you would never recognize her husband. Pity! New York is rather a nice place to visit. Mother can find them a suitable apartment, and Billy is not apt to worry you about coming on. I wrote mother last night to make it pleasant for them and turn over my man and the machine until I get back." He again took out his watch. "Is there anything else? My time is up."

"Mine isn't, and you are not to go!" Her arm waved up and down. "Do you think /lending/ your automobile a few days will make up for our walking the rest of our lives? Do you think I expected Lily and myself to /walk/ through life? I tell you /no!/ I expected to ride! And what is three thousand a year when there might have been thirty! But the suffering of a mother's heart is not to be understood by a selfish man. You have been a traitor! In the darkness of the night you helped my daughter marry a man whose father has hitched up horses for me to ride behind. A man by the name of P-u-g-h!" She blew out the word by letters, her lips trembling on each. Again she repeated it—"P-u-g-h!"

He looked at the writhing, twisting woman steadily, and out of his eyes went all pity and patience. "The name of Pugh is a very honest one," he said presently. "And a man who takes good care of horses is worthier than he who takes no care of his family. If there is nothing else, I must bid you good-morning."

"There is something else." She rose from the sofa on which she had been sitting and, baffled, threw prudence to the wind. She could bring from him neither regret nor sympathy, neither explanation nor apology. Frankly the night before he had told his part. Clearly this morning he had not changed his mind. No. She was not through.

"And why, may I ask, was this interest in my daughter's affairs taken so suddenly? I understand you alone were not interested, but by another beguiled into this traitorous help. To get Lily out of the way fits well into the scheming plans of your helper. As a woman, I have been ashamed to see how you have been pursued by one who had no mother to direct her. She has thrown herself at your head, at your feet, has given you no chance to escape, and now I suppose is triumphant—"

John turned. "Of whom are you speaking?"

"Of whom? You know very well of whom. Since childhood Mary Cary has—"

"Don't you dare!" His hand went out as if to hold back further words. "Don't you dare call her name in this room." He went over to a window and opened it, letting the cold air in with a rush. "Miss Cary is the one woman in the world I want for my wife. She is the only woman I've ever given a thought to, and if she does not marry me I do not marry. A dozen times I have asked her. A dozen times she has refused. She does not enter into this discussion. Whatever else you forget, you are to remember that. Am I understood in regard to Miss Cary?"

Mrs. Deford's shoulders shrugged, then her eyes grew glassy. Suddenly she fell back upon the sofa as if faint, then suddenly again her mind was changed and her finger pointed toward the door.

"Go!" she said. "I consider you have insulted me. Go!"



Chapter XXIII

THE GUILD AGAIN

The Needlework Guild was again meeting with Mrs. Tate. Since its adjournment in May no meetings had been called by Mrs. Pryor, its president, and October had passed with nothing done.

Six months of retirement from her usual round of activities had seemed to Mrs. Pryor the proper allotment of time for a widow to absent herself from all places of a semi-public nature; and in adherence to her views she was waiting for six months to pass. Rumors of restlessness reaching her, however, she had called a meeting for November, which meeting, held on the morning following the Porter's party, had an attendance that would have been gratifying had its cause not been well understood.

Every chair was taken when Miss Honoria Brockenborough, who rarely honored the guild by her presence, came in, and Mrs. Tate, jumping up, offered her seat, then stepped into the hall and called the maid.

"Run over to Mrs. Corbin's and get me three or four of her dining-room chairs," she said, in a half-whisper, easily heard through the open door. "Both of those you brought out of my room are broken, and you'll have to take them out as soon as you come back. Tell her girl to help you, and do, pray, hurry! Don't stand looking at me like that, with your lip hanging down like a split gizzard. Go on! bring six, and for goodness' sake don't stop and talk! Soon as you come in put some more coal on the fire. Mittie Muncaster look blue already."

Incessant chatter had preceded the calling of the meeting to order, and only by restraint were the opening exercises endured, reports heard, and suggestions for the winter's work discussed. These over, with a sigh of expectancy or anxiety, according to temperament, the ladies settled down to their sewing, and chairs were drawn closer to the fire.

"I certainly am glad it isn't raining or hailing or snowing this morning," began Mrs. Tate, shaking out the gown of unbleached cotton on which she had been supposedly sewing during the past season. "What is the matter with this thing, anyhow? I believe I've gone and put a sleeve in the neck. Everybody knows I could never sew. Mr. Tate knew it when I married him, for I told him I'd rather handle a pitchfork than a needle. I might hold a pitchfork, but a needle I can't. What 'd I tell you! Mine's gone already!"

Triumphantly she looked at Mrs. Webb, who had taken the twisted garment from her hands and was ripping the sleeve from the neck. According to Mrs. Webb's ideas, it had been basted in. According to Mrs. Tate's, it had been sewed, but as there was no argument, and the needle was indeed gone, Mrs. Tate got up and went over to the fire. Punching it, she made the coals crackle and blaze cheerily, and, pulling up her skirt, she leaned against the mantel and looked happily around the well-filled room.

"You certainly ought to feel complimented, Mrs. Pryor," she said, nodding toward that lady's back. "I don't believe we've had a meeting like this since you've been president. I thought everybody would be so tired after the party we wouldn't have anybody at all, but everything in Yorkburg is wide-awake this morning. There'll be a lot of visits paid to-day. I wonder if Miss Gibbie Gault will be here?"

"Of course she won't! Miss Gibbie never comes unless she has something to say." Mrs. Pryor's long black veil was thrown back over her bonnet, and, standing by the table on which were yards of cottons to be cut into gowns, she took up her scissors and ran her fingers carefully down their edge. "I understand Laura Deford has sent for Miss Gibbie. She has something to say to her this morning."

"Then she'll have to go to her and say it." Mrs. Webb looked up, and for a moment her fingers stopped their rapid sewing. "You don't suppose Miss Gibbie is going to Mrs. Deford's just because Mrs. Deford sent for her, do you? If Laura knows what's good for her, and what she's doing, she will let Miss Gibbie alone."

"But that's what she don't know." Miss Lizzie Bettie Pryor's voice was as blunt as usual. "If ever there was a wild woman it's Laura Deford this minute. I've been with her all the morning, and she don't know salt from seaweed. She sent for John Maxwell and says he told her not to dare call Mary Cary's name in his presence, and that he never expects to marry any woman on earth."

"I don't believe it!" Mrs. Moon sat upright. "Mrs. Deford must be insane."

"She is." Miss Lizzie Bettie bit off a strand of cotton. "She'll cool down after a while, but just at present she don't know what she's talking about. If ever a woman wanted a man for a son-in-law she wanted John Maxwell. The flesh-pots of his Egypt are after her heart. I feel sorry for her, but she had no business behaving as she's done for months past."

"I don't wonder John helped the runaways." Mrs. Corbin threaded her needle at arm's-length. "Safety lay in flight of some sort, and as he will never fly as long as Mary Cary is here, the sensible thing was to help shoo Lily off. Mrs. Deford will have to let him alone now. Poor thing! It does seem strange how the cup that's bitterest is the one we always have to drink. I don't suppose any of us would scramble or push to get in the Pugh family, but Mr. Corbin says young Pugh is one of the finest young men in town, and he thinks Lily is lucky to get him. Of course, Mr. Corbin's opinion is just a man's, but Lily's best friend couldn't think she had any more sense than she needed, and she's the kind that fades before thirty. She's got a pretty complexion and lovely hair, but her nose—A girl with a nose like Lily's ought to be thankful to marry anybody, Mr. Corbin says."

"That's what I say!" Mrs. Tate's right foot was held out to the blazing coals, and her hands held tightly the rumpled shirt. "I tell you we have to follow the fashion, and it's the fashion now to forget what we used to remember. The Pughs certainly are plain, and that oldest girl, the fat, married one, must be hard to swallow, but they say that young one, Kitty I believe is her name, is going to marry Jim McFarlane. The McFarlanes are as good as the Defords any day, if Jim is as lazy and good-for-nothing as he's good-looking. Jim is my cousin, and I ought to know."

"So you will be connected with the Pughs also?" Mrs. Pryor turned, scissors in hand, and looked significantly at Mrs. Tate. "The Pughs will believe themselves in society after a while; will try, no doubt, to find a family tree."

"It could be a horse-chestnut." Mrs. Tate nodded at Mrs. Pryor. I always did say a person wasn't responsible for their kin, and pride and shame in them don't speak much for yourself. I'm glad Aylette didn't marry Billy Pugh, but if she had I wouldn't be ranting around like Laura Deford is doing this minute. I guess I'd have given her a piece of my mind, and gone out and gotten her some wedding clothes. A girl certainly ought to have pretty things when she gets married, even if you don't think much of her taste in men. When Aylette was married I ran more ribbon in her clothes—pink and blue and lavender. I told her she might be a widow, and it was well to be ready. She didn't want lavender, but I love it, and I would put some in. I don't suppose a girl ever does marry just the kind of man her mother would like her to. I wouldn't want Aylette to know it, but I never have understood what she saw in Mr. Penhurst to fall in love with. He's from Worcester, Massachusetts." Mrs. Tate's hand went up and her eyes rolled ceilingward. "What he thinks of this part of the world wouldn't do to be written out!"

"And what we think of his wouldn't, either!" Miss Lizzie Bettie Pryor's head nodded so emphatically at Mrs. Tate that the latter sat down. "All I ask of people from his section of the world is to stay away from ours. I wish I could make a law forbidding people north of Mason and Dixon's line to come to Yorkburg. We don't want to know anything about them—what they think or what they say or what they do. If I could I'd put a glass top on Yorkburg and keep it always as the one spot in Virginia that remembers the past and is true to it."

"I'm mighty glad you can't make laws or put on glass tops." Mrs. Moon smiled good-naturedly. "If it wasn't for the people north of Mason and Dixon's line the woolen-mills would have to close and there'd be no butter for my bread. A good many other things would be affected also, and Yorkburg would waste away were it not for your unloved friends beyond the line. Certainly the inn would have to close, and the Colonial Arms and—"

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