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The Gay Rebellion
by Robert W. Chambers
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"Dear," she sobbed, "I—I have l-loved you ever since your lithographs were displayed during the election! Only speak to me! Only open those beloved eyes! I don't care whether they are near-sighted! Oh, please, please wake up!" she cried brokenly. "I'll give you back your papers. What do I care about that old bill? I'm p-perfectly willing to do all those things! Oh, oh, oh! How conscience does make Haus-fraus of us all!"

His meanness now became contemptible; he felt her trembling hands on his brow; the fragrant, tearful face nearer, nearer, until her hot, flushed cheeks and quivering lips touched his. And yet, incredible as it seems, and to the everlasting shame of all his sex, he kept eyes and mouth shut until a lively knocking on the door brought him bolt upright.

She uttered a little cry and shrank away from him on her knees, the tears glimmering in her startled and wide open eyes.

"Good heavens, darling!" he said seriously; "how on earth are we going to explain this?"

They scrambled hastily to their feet and gazed at each other while kicks and blows began to rain on the door.

"I believe it's Dill," he whispered; "and I seem to hear the Mayor's voice, too."

"Help! Help! For heaven's sake!" screamed the Mayor, "let us in, George! There's a mob of suffragettes coming up the stairs!"

The Governor unlocked the door and jerked it open, just as several unusually beautiful girls seized Mr. Dill and the Military Secretary.

The Mayor, however, rushed blindly into the room, his turban-swirl was over one eye, his skirt was missing, his apron hung by one pin.

He ran headlong for a sofa and tried to scramble under it, but lovely and vigorous arms seized his shins and drew him triumphantly forth.

"Hurrah!" they cried delightedly, "we have carried the entire ticket!"

"Hurrah!" echoed a sweet but tremulous voice, and a firm young arm was slipped through the Governor's.

He turned to meet her beautiful, level gaze.

"Check!" she said.

"Make it check-mate," he said steadily.

"Mate you?"

"Will you?"

She bent her superb head a moment, then lifted her splendid eyes to his.

"Of course I will," she said, as steadily as her quickening heart permitted. "Why do you suppose I ran after you?"

"Why?" whispered that infatuated man.

"Because," she said, naively, "I was afraid some other girl would get you. . . . A girl never can be sure what another girl might do to a man. . . . And I wanted you for myself."

"Thank God," he said, "that six-foot Professor Challis will never get me, anyway."

She bent her adorable face close to his.

"Your excellency," she murmured, "I am Professor Challis!"

At that instant a pretty and excited suffragette dashed up the stairs and saluted.

"Professor," she cried, "all over the city desirable young men are being pursued and married by the thousands! We have swept the State, with Brooklyn and West Point yet to hear from!" Her glance fell upon the Governor; she laughed glee-fully.

"Shall I call a taxi, Professor?" she asked.

An exquisite and modest pride transformed the features of Professor Betty Challis to a beauty almost celestial.

"Let George do it," she said tenderly.



XVII

A FEW minutes later, amid a hideous scene of riot, where young men were fleeing distractedly in every direction, where excited young girls were dragging them, struggling and screaming, into cabs, where even the police were rushing hither and thither in desperate search for a place to hide in, the Governor of New York and Professor Elizabeth Challis might have been seen whirling downtown in a taxicab toward the marriage license bureau.

Her golden head lay close to his; his moustache rested against her delicately flushed cheek. A moment later she sat up straight in dire consternation.

"Oh, those papers! The draft of the bill!" she exclaimed. "Where is it?"

"Did you want it, Betty?" he asked, surprised.

"Why—why, no. Didn't you want it, George?"

"I? Not at all."

"Then why on earth did you keep me imprisoned in that room so long if you didn't want those papers?"

He said slowly: "Why didn't you give them up to me if you didn't really want them, Betty?"

She shook her pretty head. "I don't know. . . . But I'm afraid it was only partly obstinacy."

"It was only partly that with me," he said.

They smiled.

"I just wanted to detain you, I suppose," he admitted.

"George, you wouldn't expect me to match that horrid confession—would you?"

"No, I wouldn't ask it of you."

He laid his cheek against hers and whispered: "Darling, do you think our great love justifies our concealing my myopia?"

"George," she murmured, "I think it does. . . . Besides, I'm dreadfully near-sighted myself."

"You!"

"Dear, every one of us has got something the matter with her. Miss Vining, who caught the Mayor, wears a rat herself. . . . Do you mean to say that men believe there ever was a perfect woman?"

He kissed her slowly. "I believe it," he said.



XVIII

AS the extremes of fashionable feminine costume appear first on Fifth Avenue in late November, and in early December are imitated in Harlem, and finally in January pervade the metropolitan purlieus, so all the great cities of the Union, writhing in the throes of a fashionable suffragette revolution, presently inoculated the towns; and the towns infected the villages, and the villages the hamlets, and the hamlets passed the contagion along into the open country, where isolated farms and dicky-birds alone remained uninfected and receptive.

It was even asserted by enthusiastic suffragettes that flocks of feminine dicky-birds had begun to assault masculine birds of the same variety; and that the American landscape was full of agitated male birds, lacking rear plumage, flying distractedly in every direction or squatting disconsolately in lonely trees, counting their tail feathers.

Mr. Borroughs and our late great President were excitedly inclined to believe it, but the most famous and calm of explorers, who had recently returned from exile to his camp on top of Mt. McKinley, warned the scientific world on a type-writer not to credit anything that anybody said until he had corroborated it in the magazines. And he left that week for another trip to the pole to find out what the attitude of the polecats might be concerning the matter in question.

Meanwhile the cities were full of trouble and forcibly selected bridegrooms. From 60,000 marriages recorded in New York City for the twelve months of the previous year, in the few months of the eugenic revolution the number of weddings had reached the enormous figures of 180,000, not including Flatbush.

Thousands and thousands of marriageable young men were hiding in their clubs or in the shrubbery of Central Park, waiting for a chance to make their escape to the country and remain incognito in hay lofts until the eugenic revolution had ended itself in a dazzling display of divorce.

Westchester, the Catskills, and even the country farther north were full of young business men and professional men fleeing headlong from their jobs in Wall Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue, and hiring out to farmers and boarding house keepers under assumed names. One could jump a young man out of almost any likely thicket north of the Bronx; they were as plentiful and as shy as deer in the Catskills; corn field, scrub, marsh, and almost any patch of woods in the State, if carefully beaten up, would have yielded at least one or two flocks of skulking young men.

Now, as there was no close season, and marriageable youths in New York City became scarcer, those militant suffragettes devoted to eugenic principles began to make excursions into the suburbs in search of bevies and singles—which had escaped the exciting days of the great Long Acre drive and the bachelors' St. Bartholomew. And, as the April days turned into May days, and the May days into June days, parties of pretty, laughing, athletic girls penetrated farther and farther into the country, joyously rummaging the woods and routing out and scattering into flight the lurking denizens. For every den had its denizen, and Diana roamed the earth once more.

There was excellent sport to be had along the Hudson. Some young ladies went in automobiles; some in yachts; some by train, to points north, where the landscape looked more promising and wilder—but probably not as wild as the startled masculine countenances peering furtively from hillside thickets as some gay camping party of distractingly pretty girls appeared, carrying as excess baggage one clergywoman and a bundle of marriage licenses, with the bridegroom's name represented only by a question mark.

It was on an unusually beautiful day in early June that two briar-mangled and weather-beaten young men, bearing every evidence of Wall Street and excessive fright, might have been seen sitting up like a brace of startled rabbits in a patch of ferns which grew along the edges of a brook at the foot of a charmingly wooded slope among the Westchester hills. In every direction stretched hills, woods, and Italians. The calm remote sky was blue and unvexed by anything except factory smoke; not a sound was visible, not a noise was to be seen.

Bacon was frying unctuously in a pan on the coals beside them; their suit-cases lay near. They sat up in the fern patch, coffee cups suspended, eyes wild, listening intently.

"Brown," whispered Vance, "did you hear anything except the hum of automobiles?"

"I sure did," nodded Brown, craning his neck like a turkey in a briar-patch and glaring around.

"If—if they've got dogs," said Vance, "they'll flush us before—hark! Great guns! Look at that bench show!"

Brown's hair rose on end. "They have got dogs," he whispered, "a toy bull, a Mexican, a Chow, two Pomms—and, by Jupiter! they've got a marmoset! Look at 'em! Hark! You can hear those unnatural girls laughing! Me for a quick getaway. Come on!"

"They—they may come from some college," faltered Vance; "they may run us down. Shall we trust to our protective colouring and squat close?"

"Do you want to stay here until that miserable Chow comes poking his orange-coloured head into the ferns and laughs at us with his blue tongue?"

Vance wrung his hands, hurling coffee all over Brown in his agonised indecision.

"Good heavens!" he moaned. "I don't want to be married! I can't afford it! Do you think those girls can outrun us?"

"If they can," said Brown, "they'll want me more than I want my liberty. Look out! There's their bat-eared bull! See him sniff! The wretched mutt has winded the bacon! We've got to make a break for it now! Come on! Beat it, son!"

Up out of the covert crashed the two young fellows, and went prancing away through the woods, suit-cases in hand. A chorus of excited yelps and barks greeted the racket they made in their flight; a shrill whistle rang out, then a pretty and excited voice:

"Mark! Quick, Gladys! There are two of them! Mark left!"

"Are they any good?" cried Gladys. "Oh, where are they, dear?"

"I only caught a glimpse of them. They looked like fine ones, in splendid condition. Millicent! Quick, where are you?"

"Here!" came a third voice. "Oh, Constance! one is too perfectly splendid for anything! Chow-Chow is at his heels! Look out! Mark right!"

"Run!" panted Constance, leaping a fallen log.

The lovely June woodland was now echoing with the happy cries of the chase, the ki-yi of excited lap-dogs, the breathless voices of the young girls, the heavy crashing racket of stampeding young men rushing headlong through bramble and thicket with a noise like a hurricane amid dead leaves.

Vance's legs, terror weakened, wobbled as he fled; and after ten minutes he took to a tree with a despairing scream.

Brown, looking back from the edge of a mountain pasture, saw the dogs leaping frantically at his friend's legs as he shinned rapidly up the trunk, and disappeared into the clustering foliage; saw three flushed young girls come running up with cries of innocent delight; saw one of them release a slender, black, furry, spidery thing which immediately ran up the tree; heard distracted yells from Vance:

"For heaven's sake, take away that marmoset! I can't bear 'em—I hate 'em, ladies! Ouch! He's all over me! He's trying to get into my pocket! Take him away, for the love of Mike, and I'll come down!"

But Brown waited to hear no more. Horror now lent him her infernal wings; he fairly fluttered across the mountain side, sailed down the farther slope, and into a lonely country road. Along this he cantered, observed only by surprised cattle, until, exhausted, he slackened his pace to a walk.

Rickety fences and the remains of old stone walls flanked him on either hand; the clearings were few, the cultivated patches fewer. He encountered no houses. On a distant hillside stood a weather-beaten barn, the sky shining blue through its roof rafters.

Beyond this the road forked; one branch narrowed to a grassy cattle path and presently ended at a pair of bars. Inside the bars was a stone barn; beside the barn a house of the century before last—a low, square stone house, half stripped of its ancient stucco skin, a high-roofed one-story affair, with sagging dormers peering from the slates and little oblong loop-holes under the eaves, from which the straw of birds' nests fluttered in the breeze.

Surely this ancient place, even if inhabited—as he saw it was—must be sufficiently remote from the outer world to insure his safety. For here the mountain road ended at the barn-yard bars; here the low wooded hills walled in this little world of house, barn, and orchard, making a silent, sunny place under the blue sky, sweet with late lilac bloom and the hum of bees. No factory smoke was visible, no Italians.

He looked at the aged house. A black cat sat on the porch thoughtfully polishing her countenance with the back of one paw. Three diminutive parti-coloured kittens frisked and rolled and toddled around her; and occasionally she seized one and washed it energetically against the grain.

Brown looked at the door with its iron knocker, at the delicately spread fan-light over it, at the side-lights, at the half-pillars with their Ionic capitals, at the ancient clumps of lilacs flanking the stone step—great, heavy-stemmed and gnarled old bushes now all hung with perfumed clusters of palest lavender bloom.

Leaning there on the picket fence he inhaled their freshness, gazing up into the sunny foliage of the ancient trees, elms, maples, and one oak so aged and so magnificent that, awed, his eyes turned uneasily again toward the house to reassure himself that it was still inhabited.

Cat and kittens were comfortable evidence, also a hen or two loitering near, and the pleasant sound from a dozen bee-hives, and a wild rose in a china bowl, dimly visible on an inner window-sill.

There were two characters he might assume; he might go to the back door and request a job; he might bang on the front door with that iron knocker, shaped like a mermaid, and ask for country board.

Of one thing, somehow or other, he was convincing himself; this crumbling house and its occupants knew as much about the recent high-jinks in New York as did the man who built it in the days when loop-holes were an essential part of local architecture, and the painted Sagamore passed like a spectre through the flanking forests.

So Brown, carrying his suit-case, opened the gate, walked up the path, seized the knocker, and announced himself with resolution.



XIX

WHILE he waited the cat looked up at him, curiously but pleasantly. "Hello, old lady," he said; and she arched her back and rubbed lightly against his nigh leg while the kittens tumbled over his shoes and played frantically with the frayed bottoms of his trousers.

This preliminary welcome seemed to comfort him out of all proportion to its significance; he gazed complacently about at the trees and flowers, drew in deep breaths of the lilac's fragrance, and waited, listening contentedly for the coming foot-fall.

He had not heard it when the door opened and a young girl appeared on the threshold, standing with one hand resting on the inner knob; the other touching the pocket of her apron, in which was a ball of yarn stuck through with two needles.

She was slim and red-haired and slightly freckled, and her mouth was perhaps a shade large, and it curled slightly at the corners; and her eyes were quite perfectly made, except that one was hazel-brown and the other hazel-grey.

Hat in hand, Brown bowed; and then she did a thing which interested him; she lifted the edges of her apron between slender white thumbs and forefingers and dropped him the prettiest courtesy he had ever seen off the stage.

"I came to inquire," he said, "whether you ever take summer boarders."

"What are boarders?" she asked. "I never heard of them except in naval battles."

"Thank heaven," he thought; "this is remote, all right; and I have discovered pristine innocence in the nest."

"Modern boarders," he explained politely, "are unpleasant people who come from the city to enjoy the country, and who, having no real homes, pay farmers to lodge and feed them for a few days of vacation and dyspepsia."

"You mean is this a tavern?" she asked, unsmiling.

"No, I don't. I mean, will you let me live here a little while as though I were a guest, and then permit me to settle my reckoning in accordance with your own views upon the subject?"

She hesitated as though perplexed.

"Suppose you ask your father or mother," he suggested.

"They are absent."

"Will they return this morning?"

"I don't know exactly when they expect to return."

"Well, couldn't you assume the responsibility?" he asked, smiling.

She looked at him for a few moments, and it seemed to him as though, in the fearless gravity of her regard, somehow, somewhere, perhaps in the curled corners of her lips, perhaps in her pretty and unusual eyes, there lurked a little demon of laughter. Yet it could not be so; there were only serenity and a child's direct sweetness in the gaze.

"What is your name?" she asked.

"John Brown 4th."

"Mine is Elizabeth Tennant. Where do you live?"

"In—New York," he admitted, watching her furtively.

"I was there once—at a ball—many years ago," she observed.

"Not very many years ago, I imagine," he said, smiling at her youthful reminiscence.

"Many, many years ago," she said thoughtfully. "I shall go again some day."

"Of course," he murmured politely, "it's a thing to do and get done—like going abroad."

She looked up at him quickly.

"Years ago I knew a boy—with your easy humour and your trick of speech. He resembled you otherwise; and he wore your name becomingly."

He tried to recall knowing her in his extreme youth, but made no definite connection.

"You wouldn't remember," she said gravely; "but I think I know you now. Who is your father?"

"My father?" he repeated, surprised and smiling. "My father is John Brown 3rd."

"And his father?"

"My grandfather?" he asked, very much amused. "Oh, he was John Brown 2nd. And his father was Captain John Brown of Westchester; but I don't want to talk D. A. R. talk to you about my great grandfather——"

"He fought at Pound Ridge," said the girl, slowly.

"Yes," said Brown, astonished.

"Tarleton's cavalry—the brutal hussars of the legion—killed him on the Stamford Road," she said; "and he lay there in the field all day with one dead arm over his face and his broken pistol in his hand, and the terrible galloping fight drove past down the stony New Canaan road—and the smoke from the meeting house afire rolled blacker and blacker and redder and redder——"

With a quickly drawn breath she covered her face with both hands and stood a moment silent; and Brown stared at her, astonished, doubting his eyes and ears.

The next moment she dropped her hands and looked at him with a tremulous smile.

"What in the world can you be thinking of me?" she said. "Alone in this old house, here among the remoter hills of Westchester. I live so vividly in the past that these almost forgotten tragedies seem very real to me and touch me closely. To me the present is only a shadow; the past is life itself. Can you understand?"

"I see," he said, intensely relieved concerning her mental stability; "you are a Daughter of the American Revolution or a Society of Colonial Wars or—er—something equally—er—interesting and desirable——"

"I am a Daughter of the American Revolution," she said proudly.

"Exactly," he smiled with an inward shudder. "A—a very interesting—er—and—exceedingly—and—all that sort of thing," he nodded amiably. "Don't take much interest in it myself—being a broker and rather busy——"

"I am sorry."

He looked up quickly and met her strange eyes, one hazel-grey, one hazel-brown.

"I—I'll be delighted to take an interest in anything you—in—er—this Revolutionary business if you—if you don't mind telling me about it," he stammered. "Evenings, now, if you have time to spare——"

She smiled, opened the door wider, and looked humorously down at him where he stood fidgeting on the step.

"Will you come in?" she asked serenely.



XX

HE went, first depositing his suit-case on the step outside by the cats, and followed her into a large, comfortable sitting room.

"By jove," he said, "you know this is really mighty pretty! What a corking collection of old furniture! Where in the world did you find—or perhaps this is the original furniture of the place?"

She said, looking around the room as though slightly perplexed: "This furniture was made to order for me in Boston."

"Then it isn't genuine," he said, disappointed. "But it's a very clever imitation of antique colonial. It is really a wonderful copy."

"I don't think it is a copy."

"It certainly doesn't look like it; but it must be if it was made in Boston for you. They're ingenious fellows, these modern makers of colonial furniture. Every antique shop in New York is loaded up with excellent copies of this sort—only not nearly as well done."

She assented, apparently with no very clear understanding of what he meant.

"What a charming setting this old house makes for such things," he said.

She nodded, looking doubtfully at the rag carpet.

"The Manor House was much finer," she observed. "Come to the window and I'll show you where it stood. They were fine folk, the Lockwoods, Hunts, and Fanchers."

They rose and she laid one pretty hand on his sleeve and guided him into a corner of the window, where he could see.

"Hello," he said uneasily, "there is a main travelled road! I thought that here we were at the very ends of civilisation!"

"That is the Bedford road," she said. "Over there, beyond those chestnuts, is the Stamford road. Can you see those tall old poplars? Beyond the elms I mean—there—where the crows are flying?"

"Yes. Eight tall poplars."

"The Manor House stood there. Tarleton burnt it—set it afire with all its beautiful furniture and silver and linen! His hussars ran through it, setting it afire and shooting at the mirrors and slashing the silks and pictures! And when the Major's young wife entered the smoking doorway to try to save a pitiful little trinket or two, an officer—never mind who, for his descendants may be living to-day in England—struck her with the flat of his sword and cut her and struck her to her knees! That is the truth!"

He said politely: "You are intensely interested in—er—colonial and revolutionary history."

"Yes. What else have I to think of—here?"

"I suppose many interesting memories of those times cluster around this old place," he said, violently stifling a yawn. He had risen early and run far. Hunger and slumber contended for his mastery.

"Many," she said simply. "Just by the gate yonder they captured young Alsop Hunt and sent him away to the Provost Prison in New York. In the road below John Buckhout, one of our dragoons, was trying to get away from one of Tarleton's dragoons of the 17th Regiment; and the British trooper shouted, 'Surrender, you damned rebel, or I'll blow your brains out!' and the next moment he fired a bullet through Buckhout's helmet. 'There,' said the dragoon, 'you damned rebel, a little more and I should have blown your brains out!' 'Yes, damn you,' replied John, 'and a little more and you wouldn't have touched me!'"

Brown looked at her amused and astonished to hear such free words slip so eagerly from a mouth which, as he looked at it, seemed to him the sweet mouth of a child.

"Where did you ever hear such details?" he asked.

"People told me. Besides, the house is full of New York newspapers. You may read them if you wish. I often do. Many details of the fight are there."

"Reading such things out of old newspapers published at the time certainly must bring those events very vividly before you."

"Yes. . . . It is painful, too. The surprise and rout of Sheldon's 2nd dragoons—the loss of their standard; the capture, wounding, and death of more than two score—and—oh! that young death there in the wheat! the boy lying in the sun with one arm across his face and the broken pistol in his hand! and his wife—the wife of a month—dragging him back to this house—with the sunset light on his dead face!"

"To this house?"

She dropped her hand lightly on his shoulder and pointed.

"Tarleton's troopers came stamping and cursing in by that very door after they had burned Judge Lockwood's and the meeting house—but they left her alone with her dead, here on the floor where you and I are standing. . . . She was only seventeen; she died a few months later in child-birth. God dealt very gently with her."

He looked around him in the pleasant light of the room, striving to comprehend that such things had happened in such a sleepy, peaceful place. Sunlight fell through the curtains, casting the wild roses' shadow across the sill; the scent of lilacs filled the silence.

"It's curious—and sad," he said in a low voice. "How odd that I should come here to the very spot where that old ancestor of mine died——"

"He was only twenty when he died," she interrupted.

"I know. But somehow a fellow seems to think of any ancestor as a snuffy old codger——"

"He was very handsome," she said, flushing up.

There was a silence; then she looked around at him with a glint of humour in her pretty eyes—one hazel-brown, one hazel tinged with grey; and the delicious mouth no longer drooped.

"Can't you imagine him as young as you are? gay, humorous, full of mischievous life, and the love of life? something of a dandy in his uniform—and his queue tied smartly a la Francaise!—gallant—oh, gallant and brave in the dragoon's helmet and jack-boots of Sheldon's Horse! Why, he used to come jingling and clattering into this room and catch his young wife and plague and banter and caress her till she fled for refuge, and he after her, like a pair of school children released—through the bed-rooms, out by the kitchen, and into the garden, till he caught her again in the orchard yonder and held her tight and made her press her palms together and recite:

I love thee I love thee Through all the week and Sunday

—until for laughing and folly—I—they——"

To his amazement her voice broke; into her strange eyes sprang tears, and she turned swiftly away and went and stood by the curtained window.

"Well, by gad!" he thought, "of all morbid little things! affected to tears by what happened to somebody else a hundred and thirty odd years ago! Women are sure the limit!"

And in more suitable terms he asked her why she should make herself unhappy.

She said: "I am happy. It is only when I am here that I am lonely and the dead past lives again among these wooded hills."

"Are you not—usually—here?" he asked, surprised. "I thought you lived here."

"No. I live elsewhere, usually. I am too unhappy here. I never remain very long."

"Then why do you ever come here?" he asked, amused.

"I don't know. I am very happy elsewhere. But—I come. Women do such things."

"I don't exactly understand why."

"A woman's thoughts return eternally to one place and one person. One memory is her ruling passion."

"What is that memory?"

"The Place and the Man."

"I don't know what you mean."

"I mean that a woman, in spirit, journeys eternally to the old, old rendezvous with love; makes, with her soul, the eternal pilgrimage back to the spot where Love and she were first acquainted. And, moreover, a woman may even leave the man with whom she is happy to go all alone for a while back to the spot where first she knew happiness because of him. . . . You don't understand, do you?"

Brown was a broker. He did not understand.

She looked at him, smiling, sighing a little—and, in spite of her fresh and slender youth—and she was certainly not yet twenty—he felt curiously young and crude under the gentle mockery of her unmatched eyes—one hazel-brown, one hazel tinged with grey.

Then, still smiling wisely, intimately to herself, she went away into an inner room; and through the doorway he saw her slim young figure moving hither and thither, busy at shelf and cupboard. Presently she came back carrying an old silver tray on which stood a decanter and a plate of curious little cakes. He took it from her and placed it on a tip-table. Then she seated herself on the ancient sofa, and summoned him to a place beside her.

"Currant wine," she said laughingly; "and old-fashioned cake. Will you accept—under this roof of mine?"

He was dreadfully hungry; the wine was mild and delicious, the crisp cakes heavenly, and he ate and ate in a kind of ecstasy, not perfectly certain what was thrilling him most deeply, the wine or the cakes or this slender maid's fresh young beauty.

On one rounded cheek a bar of sunlight lay, gilding the delicate skin and turning the curling strands of hair to coils of fire.

He thought to himself, with his mouth a trifle fuller than convention expects, that he would not wish to resist falling in love with a girl like this. She would never have to chase him very far. . . . In fact, he was perfectly ready to be captured and led blushing to the altar.

Once, as he munched away, he remembered the miserable fate of his late companion Vance, and shuddered; but, looking around at the young girl beside him, his fascinated eyes became happily enthralled, and matrimony no longer resembled doom.

"What are these strange happenings in New York of which I hear vague rumours?" she enquired, folding her hands in her lap and looking innocently at him.

His jaw fell.

"Have you heard about—what is going on in town?" he asked. "I thought you didn't know."

"They say that the women there are ambitious to govern the country and are even resolved to choose their own husbands."

"Something of that sort," he muttered uneasily.

"That is a very strange condition of affairs," she murmured, brooding eyes remote.

"It's a darned sight worse than strange!" he blurted out—then asked pardon for his inelegant vehemence; but she only smiled dreamily and sipped her currant wine in the sunshine.

"Shall we talk of something pleasanter?" he said, still uneasy, "—er—about those jolly old colonial days. . . . That's rather an odd gown you wear—er—pretty you know—but—is it not in the style of—er—those days of—of yore—and all that?"

"It was made then."

"A genuine antique!" he exclaimed. "I suppose you found it in the garret. There must be a lot of interesting things up there behind those flat loop-holes."

"Chests full," she nodded. "We save everything."

He said: "You look wonderfully charming in the costume of those days. It suits you so perfectly that—as a matter of fact, I didn't even notice your dress when I first saw you—but it's a wonder!"

"Men seldom notice women's clothes, do they?"

"That is true. Still, it's curious I didn't notice such a gown as that."

"Is it very gay and fine?" she asked, colouring deliciously. "I love these clothes."

"They are the garments of perfection—robing it!"

"Oh, what a gallant thing to say to me. . . . Do you truly find me so—so agreeable?"

"Agreeable! You—I don't think I'd better say it——"

"Oh, I beg you!"

"May I?"



Her cheeks and lips were brilliant, her eyes sparkling; she leaned a trifle toward him, frail glass in hand.

"May not a pretty woman listen without offense if a gallant man praises her beauty?"

"You are exactly that—a beauty!" he said excitedly. "The most bewitching, exquisite, matchless——"

"Oh, I beg of you, be moderate," she laughed—and picked up a fan from somewhere and spread it, laughing at him over its painted edge.

"Pray, observe my unmatched eyes before you speak again of me as matchless."

"Your eyes are matchlessly beautiful!—more wonderfully beautiful than any others in all the world!" he cried.

Yet the currant wine was very, very mild.

"Such eyes," he continued excitedly, "are the most strangely lovely eyes I ever saw or ever shall see. Nobody in all the world, except you, has such eyes. I—I am going quite mad about them—about you—about everything. . . . I—the plain fact is that I love—such eyes—and—and every harmonious and lovely feature that—that b-b-belongs to them—and to—to you!"

She closed her painted fan slowly, slowly left her seat, took from the blue bowl on the window-sill the wild rose blooming there, turned and looked back at him, half smiling, waiting.

He sprang to his feet, scarcely knowing now what he was about; she waited, tall, slender, and fresh as the lovely flower she held.

Then, as he came close to her, she drew the wild rose through the lapel of his coat, and he bent his head and touched his lips to the blossom.

"When she and you—and Love—shall meet at last, you will first know her by her eyes," she began; and the next instant the smile froze on her face and she caught his arm in both hands and clung there, white to the lips.



XXI

"LISTEN!" she whispered; "did you hear that?"

"What?" he asked, dazed.

"On the Bedford road! do you hear the horses? Do you hear them running?"

"W-what horses?"

"Tarleton's!" she gasped, pressing her white face between her hands. "Can't you hear their iron scabbards rattle? Can't you hear their bugle horn? Where is Jack? Where is Jack?"

A flurry of mellow music burst out among the trees, followed by a loud report.

"Oh, God!" she whispered, "the British!"

Brown stared at her.

"Why, that's only an automobile horn—and their tire just blew out," he began, astonished.

But she sprang past him, calling, "Jack! Jack! Where are you?" and he heard the door fly open and her childish cry of terror outside in the sunshine.

The next second he followed her, running through the hall and out through the door to the porch; and at the same moment a big red touring car came to a standstill before the house; the chauffeur descended to put on a new tire, and a young girl in motor duster and hood sprang lightly from the tonneau to the tangled grass. As she turned to look at the house she caught sight of him.

Brown took an uncertain step forward; and she came straight toward him.

Neither spoke as they met face to face. He looked at her, passed his hand over his eyes, bewildered, and looked again.

She was slim and red-haired and slightly freckled, and her mouth was perhaps a shade large, and it curled slightly at the corners, and her eyes were quite perfectly made except that one was hazel-brown and the other a hazel-grey.

She looked at him, and it seemed to him as though, in the fearless gravity of her regard, somewhere, somehow—perhaps in the curled corners of her lips, perhaps in her pretty and unusual eyes—there lurked a little demon of laughter. Yet it could not be so—there were only serenity and a child's direct sweetness in her gaze.

"I suppose you have come to look at this old-time place?" she said. "People often come. You are perfectly welcome."

And, as he made no answer:

"If you care to see the inside of the house I will be very glad to show it to you," she added pleasantly.

"Is—is it yours?" he managed to say, "or—or your sister's?"

She smiled. "You mistake me for somebody else. I have no sister. This is the old Brown place—a very, very old house. It belonged to my great grandmother. If you are interested I will be glad to show you the interior. I brought the key with me."

"But people—relatives of yours—are living there now," he stammered.

"Oh, no," she said, smiling, "the house is empty. We are thinking of putting it in shape again. If you care to come in I can show you the quaint old fireplaces and wainscoting—if you don't mind dust."

She mounted the step lightly and, fitting the key and unlocking the door—which he thought he had left open—entered.

"Come in," she called to him in a friendly manner.

He crossed the threshold to her side and halted, stunned. An empty house, silent, shadowy, desolate, confronted him.

The girl beside him shook out her skirts and glanced at her dusty gloves.

"A vacuum cleaner is what this place requires," she said. "But isn't it a quaint old house?"

He pressed his shaking hands to his closed eyes, then forced them to open upon the terrible desolation where she had stood a moment since—and saw bare boards under foot, bare walls, cobwebs, dust.

The girl was tiptoeing around the four walls examining the condition of the woodwork.

"It only needs electric lights and a furnace in the cellar and some kalsomine and pretty wall paper——"

She turned to glance back at him, and stood so, regarding him with amused curiosity—for he had dropped on his knees in the dust, groping in an odd blind way for a flower that had just fallen from his coat.

"There are millions of them by the roadside," she said as he stumbled to his feet and drew the frail blossom through his buttonhole with unsteady fingers.

"Yes," he said, "there are other roses in the world." Then he drew a deep, quiet breath and smiled at her.

She smiled, too.

"This was her room," she explained, "the room where she first met her husband, the room into which she came a bride, the room where she died, poor thing. Oh, I forgot that you don't know who she was!"

"Elizabeth Tennant," he answered calmly.

"Why—how did you know?"

"God knows," he said; and bent his head, touching the petals of the wild rose with his lips. Then he looked up straight into her eyes—one was hazel-brown, one hazel tinged with grey.



XXII

AS they left the house an hour later, walking down the path slowly, shoulder to shoulder, she said:

"Mr. Brown, I want you to like that house."

A sudden and subtly hideous idea glided into his brain.

"You don't believe in suffragettes, do you?" he said, forcing a hollow laugh.

"Why, I am one. Didn't you know it?"

"You!"

"Certainly. Goodness! how you did run! But," she added with innocent satisfaction, "I think I have secured every bit as good a one as the one Gladys chased out of a tree with her horrid marmoset."



XXIII

THE Eugenic Revolution might fairly be said to have begun with the ignominious weddings of Messrs. Reginald Willett, James Carrick, De Lancy Smith, and Alphonso W. Green.

Its crisis culminated in the Long Acre riots. But the great suffragette revolution was now coming to its abrupt and predestined end; the reaction, already long overdue, gathered force with incredible rapidity and exploded from Yonkers to Coney Island, in a furious counter-revolution. The revolt of the Unfit was on at last.

Mobs of maddened spinsters paraded the streets of the five boroughs demanding spouses. Maidens of uncertain age and attractions who, in the hysterical enthusiasm of the eugenic revolution, had offered themselves the pleasures of martyrdom by vowing celibacy and by standing aside while physically perfect sister suffragettes pounced upon and married all flawless specimens of the opposite sex, now began to demand for themselves the leavings among the mature, thin-shanked, and bald-headed.

In vain their beautiful comrades attempted to explain the eugenistic principles—to point out that the very essence of the entire cult lay in non-reproduction by the physically unfit, and in the ultimate extinction of the thin, bald, and meagre among the human race.

But thousands and thousands of the love-maddened rose up and denounced the Beauty Trust, demanded a return to the former conditions of fair competition in the open shop of matrimony.

They were timidly encouraged by thousands of middle-aged gentlemen who denied that either excessive meagreness or baldness was hereditary; they even dared to assert that the suffragette revolution had been a mistake, and pointed out that only an average of one in every hundred women had taken the trouble to exercise her privilege at the polls in the recent election, and that ninety per cent. of those who voted marked their ballots wrong or forgot to mark them at all, or else invalidated them by writing suggestions to the candidates on the backs of the ballots.

A week of terrible confusion ensued, and, in the very midst of it, news came from London that Miss Pondora Bottomly, who, after throwing bricks all day through the back windows of Windsor Castle, had been arrested by a very thin Scotch policeman, had suddenly seized the policeman and married him in spite of his terrified cries.

A shout of protest arose from every human man in the civilised world; a groan of dismay burst from every human woman. It was the beginning of the end; the old order of things was already in sight; men, long hidden, reappeared in public places; wives shyly began to respond to the cautious "good-mornings" of their long ignored husbands, the wealthy and socially desirable but otherwise unattractive plucked up spirits; florists, caterers, modistes, ministers came out of seclusion and began to prowl around the debris of their ruined professions with a view to starting out again in business; and here and there the forgotten art of flirting was furtively resurrected and resumed in the awaking metropolis.

"Perfection," said America's greatest orator on the floor of the Senate, "is endurable only because unattainable. The only things on earth that make this world interesting are its sporting chances, its misfortunes, and its mutts!"

And within a month after the delivery of this classic the American nation had resumed its normal, haphazard aspect. The revolution, the riots on Fifth Avenue and Long Acre, the bachelors' St. Bartholomew were all forgotten; Tammany Hall and the Republican State Organization yawned, stretched, rubbed their eyes, awoke, and sat up licking their hungry chops; the gentlemen in charge of the Bureau of Special Privileges opened the long-locked drawers of that piece of furniture, and looked over the ledgers; trusts, monopolies, systems came out of their cyclone cellars; turf associations dredged the dump-docks for charters, whither a feminine municipal administration had consigned them; all-night cafes, dance-halls, gambling houses reopened, and the electric lights sparkled once more on painted cheeks and tinted lips.

The good old days of yore were returning fast on the heels of the retreat of woman; capital shook hands with privilege; the prices of staples soared; joints, dives, and hospitals were fast filling up; jails and prisons and asylums looked forward to full houses. It was the same old world again—the same dear old interesting, exciting, grafting, murdering, diseased planet, spinning along through space—just as far as usual from other worlds and probably so arranged in order that other worlds might not suffer from its aroma.

And over it its special, man-designed god was expected to keep watch and deal out hell or paradise as the man-made regulations which governed the deity and his abode required.

So once again the golden days of yore began; congregations worshipped in Fifth Avenue churches and children starved on Avenue A; splendid hospitals were erected, palatial villas were built in the country; and department stores paid Mamie and Maud seven dollars a week—but competed in vain, sometimes, with smiling and considerate individuals who offered them more, including enough to eat.

The world's god was back in his heaven; the world would, therefore, go very well; and woman, at last, was returning to her own sphere to mind her own business—and a gifted husband, especially created as her physical and mental lord and master by a deity universally regarded as masculine in sex.



LEFT OVER

XXIV

SHE knew so little about the metropolis that, on her first visit, a year before, she had asked the driver of the taxicab to recommend a respectable hotel for a lady travelling alone; and he had driven her to the Hotel Aurora Borealis—that great, gay palace of Indiana limestone and plate glass towering above the maelstrom of Long Acre.

When, her business transacted, she returned to the Westchester farm, still timid, perplexed, and partly stunned by the glitter and noise of her recent metropolitan abode, she determined never again to stop at that hotel.

But when the time came for her to go again the long list of hotels confused her. She did not know one from the other; she shrank from experimenting; and, at least, she knew something about the Aurora Borealis and she would not feel like an utter stranger there.

That was the only reason she went back there that time. And the next time she came to town that was the principal reason she returned to the Aurora Borealis. But the next time, she made up her mind to go elsewhere; and in the roaring street she turned coward, and went to the only place she knew. And the time after that she fought a fierce little combat with herself all the way down in the train; and, with flushed cheeks, hating herself, ordered the cabman to take her to the Hotel Aurora Borealis.

But it was not until several trips after that one—on a rainy morning in May—that she found courage to say to the maid at the cloak-room door:

"Who is that young man? I always see him in the lobby when I come here."

The maid cast an intelligent glance toward a tall, well-built young fellow who stood pulling on his gloves near the desk.

"Huh!" she sniffed; "he ain't much."

"What do you mean?" asked the girl.

"Why, he's a capper, mem."

"A—a what?"

"A capper—a gambler."

The girl flushed scarlet. The maid handed her a check for her rain-coat and said: "They hang around swell hotels, they do, and pick up acquaintance with likely looking and lonely boobs. Then the first thing the lonely boob knows he's had a good dinner with a new acquaintance and is strolling into a quiet but elegant looking house in the West Forties or Fifties." And the maid laughed, continuing her deft offices in the dressing-room, and the girl looked into the glass at her own crimson cheeks and sickened eyes.

At luncheon he sat at a little table by a window, alone, indolently preoccupied with a newspaper and a fruit salad. She, across the room, kept her troubled eyes away. Yet it was as though she saw him—perhaps the mental embodiment of him was the more vivid for her resolutely averted head.

Every detail of his appearance was painfully familiar to her—his dark eyes, his smooth face which always seemed a trifle sun-tanned, the fastidious and perfect taste of his dress in harmony with his boyish charm and quiet distinction—and the youth of him—the wholesome and self-possessed youth—that seemed to her the most dreadful thing about him in the new light of her knowledge. For he could scarcely be twenty-five.

Every movement he made had long since fascinated her; his unconscious grace had been, to her, the unstudied assurance of a man of the world bred to a social environment about which she knew only through reading.

Never had she seen him but straightway she began to wonder who and what exalted person in the unknown metropolitan social circle he might be.

She had often wondered, speculated; sometimes dreamily she had endowed him with name and position—with qualities, too—ideal qualities suggested by his air of personal distinction—delightful qualities suggested by his dark, pleasant eyes, and by the slight suspicion of humour lurking so often on the edges of his smoothly shaven lips.

He was so clean-looking, so nice—and he had the shoulders and the hands and the features of good breeding! And, after all—after all, he was a gambler!—a derelict whose sinister living was gained by his wits; a trailer and haunter and bleeder of men! Worse—a decoy sent out by others!

She had little appetite for luncheon; he seemed to have less. But she remembered that she had never seen him eat very much—and never drink anything stronger than tea.

"At least," she thought with a mental quiver, "he has that to his credit."

The quiver surprised her; she was scarcely prepared for any emotion concerning him except the natural shock of disillusion and the natural pity of a young girl for anything ignoble and hopelessly unworthy.

Hopelessly? She wondered. Was it possible that God could ever find the means of grace for such a man? It could be done, of course; it were a sin for her to doubt it. Yet she could not see how.

Still, he was young enough to have parents living somewhere; unmarred enough to invite confidence if he cared to. . . . And suddenly it struck her that to invite confidence was part of his business; his charm part of his terrible equipment.

She sat there breathing faster, thinking.

His charm was part of his equipment—an infernal weapon! She understood it now. Long since, innocently speculating, she had from the very beginning and without even thinking, conceded to him her confidence in his worthiness. And—the man was a gambler!

For a few moments she hated him hotly. After a while there was more sorrow than heat in her hatred, more contempt for his profession than for him. . . . And somebody had led him astray; that was certain, because no man of his age—and appearance—could have deliberately and of his own initiative gone so dreadfully and cruelly wrong in the world.

Would God pity him? Would some means be found for his salvation? Would salvation come? It must; she could not doubt it—after she had lifted her eyes once more and looked at him where he sat immersed in his newspaper, a pleasant smile on his lips.

A bar of sunlight fell across his head, striping his shoulder; the scarlet flowers on the table were becoming to him. And, oh! he seemed so harmless—so delightfully decent; there where the sunlight fell across his shoulder and spread in a golden net across the white cloth under his elbows.

She rose, curiously weary; a lassitude lay upon her as she left the room and went out into the city about her business—which was to see her lawyer concerning the few remaining details of her inheritance.

The inheritance was the big, prosperous Westchester farm where she lived—had always lived with her grandfather since her parents' death. It was turning out to be very valuable because of the mania of the wealthy for Westchester acreage and a revival in a hundred villages of the magnificence of the old Patroons.

Outside of her own house and farm she had land to sell to the landed and republican gentry; and she sold it and they bought it with an avidity that placed her financial independence beyond doubt.

All the morning she transacted business downtown with the lawyer. In the afternoon she went to a matinee all by herself, and would have had a most blissful day had it not been for the unquiet memory of a young man who, she had learned that morning, was fairly certain of eternal damnation.

That evening she went back to Westchester absent-minded and depressed.



XXV

IT was in early June when she arrived in town again. He was in the lobby as usual; he lunched at the table by the window as usual. There seemed to be nothing changed about him except that he was a handsomer man than she had supposed him.

She ate very little luncheon. As usual, he glanced at her once—a perfectly pleasant and inoffensive glance—and resumed his luncheon and his newspaper. He was always quiet, always alone. There seemed to be a curious sort of stillness which radiated from him, laying a spell upon his environment for a few paces on every side of him. She had felt this; she felt it now.

Downtown her business was finally transacted; she went to a matinee all by herself, and found herself staring beyond the painted curtain and the mummers—beyond the bedizened scenery—out into the world somewhere and into two dark, boyish eyes that looked so pleasantly back at her. And suddenly her own eyes filled; she bent her head and touched them with her handkerchief.

No, she must never again come to the Hotel Aurora Borealis. There were reasons. Besides, it was no longer necessary for her to come to town at all. She must not come any more. . . . And yet, if she could only know what became of him—whether salvation ever found him——

The curtain fell; she rose and pinned on her hat, gathered her trifles, and moved out with the others into the afternoon sunshine of Broadway.

That evening she dined in her room. She had brought no luggage. About ten o'clock the cab was announced.

As she walked through the nearly deserted lobby she looked around for him. He stood near the door, talking to the hotel detective.

Halting a moment to button her gloves, she heard the detective say:

"Never mind the whys and whats! You fade away! Understand?"

"By what authority do you forbid me entrance to this hotel?" asked the young man coolly.

"Well, it's good enough for you that I tell you to keep out!"

"I can not comply with your suggestion. I have an appointment here in half an hour."

"Now you go along quietly," said the detective. "We've had our eyes on you. We know all about you. And when the hotel gets wise to a guy like you we tip him off and he beats it!"

"We can discuss that to-morrow; I tell you I have an appointment——"

"G'wan out o' here!" growled the detective.

The young man quietly fell into step beside him, but on the sidewalk he turned on him, white and desperate.

"I tell you I've got to keep that appointment." He stood aside as the girl passed him, head lowered, and halted to wait for her cab. "I tell you I've got to go back——"

"Here, you!" The detective seized his arm as he attempted to pass; the young man wheeled and flung him aside, and the next instant reeled back as the detective struck him again with his billy, knocking him halfway into the street.

"You damned dead-beat!" he panted, "I'll show you!"

The young man stood swaying, his hands against his head; porters, cabmen, and the detective saw him stagger and fall heavily. And the next moment the girl was kneeling beside him.

"Let him alone, lady," said somebody. "That bum isn't hurt."

The "bum," in fact, was getting to his feet, groping for some support; and the girl's arm was offered and he leaned on it a moment, clearing his eyes with a gloved hand. Suddenly he made a movement so quick that she never understood how she wrenched the short, dull-blue weapon from his hand.

"Pick up your hat!" she gasped. "Do what I tell you!"

He looked at her, dazed, then the blood blotted his dark eyes again. She stooped swiftly, caught up his hat, and, holding tightly to his arm, opened the other door of the taxicab.

"They'll kill you here," she whispered. "Come with me. I've got to talk to you!"

"Lady—are you crazy?" demanded the tall head-porter, aghast.

But she had got him into the cab. "Drive on," she said through clenched teeth. And the chauffeur laughed and started east.

In the swaying cab the man beside her sat bent over, his face in his hands, blood striping the fingers of his gloves. With a shudder she placed the automatic weapon on the cushion beside her and shrank back, staring at him.

But his senses seemed to be returning, for presently he sat up, found his handkerchief, staunched the rather insignificant abrasion, and settled back into his corner. Without looking at her he said:

"Would you mind if I thank you? You have been very kind."

She could not utter a word.

Presently he turned; and as he looked at her for the first time a faint flicker of humour seemed to touch his eyes.

"Where are we going—if you don't mind?" he said pleasantly.

Then the breathless words came, haltingly.

"I've got to tell you something; I've got to! I can't stand aside—I can't pass by on the other side!"

"Thank you," he said, smiling, "but Lazarus is all right now."

"I mean—something else!" Her voice fell to a whisper. "I must speak!"

He looked pleasantly perplexed, smiling.

"Is there anything—except a broken head—that could possibly permit me the opportunity of listening to you?"

"I—have seen you before."

"And I you."

She leaned against her window, head resting on her hand, her heart a chaos.

"Where are you going when—when I leave you?" she said.

He did not answer.

"Where?" She turned to look at him. "Are you going back to that hotel?" And, as he made no reply: "Do you wish to become a murderer, too?" she said tremulously. "I have your pistol. I ask you not to go back there."

After a moment he said: "No, I won't go back. . . . Where is the pistol?"

"You shall not have it."

"I think perhaps it would be safer with me."

"No!"

"Very well."

"And—I—I ask you to keep away from that man!" She grew unconsciously dramatic. "I ask you—if you have any memory which you hold sacred—to promise me on that memory not to—to——"

"I won't shoot him," he said, watching her curiously. "Is that what you mean?"

"Y-yes."

"Then I promise—on my most sacred memory—the memory of a young girl who saved me from committing—what I meant to do. . . . And I thank her very deeply."

She said: "I did save you from—that!"

"You did—God knows." He himself was trembling a little; his face had turned very white.

"Then—then——" she forced her courage—lifted her frightened eyes, braving mockery and misconstruction—"then—is there a chance of my—helping you—further?"

For a moment her flushed face and timid question perplexed him; then the quick blood reddened his face, and he stared at her in silence.

"I—I can't help it," she faltered. "I believe in you—and in—salvation. . . . Please don't say anything to—hurt me."

"No," he said, still staring, "no, of course not. And—and thank you. You are very kind. . . . You are very kind. . . . I suppose you heard somebody say—what I am."

"Yes. . . . But that was long ago."

"Oh, you knew—you have known—for some time?"

"Yes."

He sat thinking for a while.

Presently they both noticed that the cab had stopped—had probably been standing for some time in front of the station; and that several red-capped porters were watching them.

"My name is Lily Hollis," she said, "and I live at Whitebrook Farm, Westchester. . . . I am not coming to New York again—and never again to that hotel. . . . But I would like to talk to you—a little."

He thought a moment.

"Do you want a gambler to call on you, Miss Hollis?"

"Yes," she said.

"Then he will do it. When?"

"To-morrow."

He passed his hand over his marred young face.

"Yes," he said quietly, "to-morrow."

He looked up and met her eyes, smiled, opened the door, and stepped to the sidewalk. Then he went with her to her train. She turned at the gates and held out her hand to him; and, hat in hand, he bent his battered head and touched her gloves with twitching lips.

"To-morrow?"

"Certainly."

She said, wistfully: "May I trust in you?"

"Yes. Tell me that you trust me."

"I trust you," she said; and laid the pistol in his hands.

His face altered subtly. "I did not mean in that way," he said.

"How could I trust you more?"

"With—yourself."

"That is a—lesser trust," she said faintly. "It is for you that I have been afraid."

He saw the colour deepen in her cheeks, looked, bit his lip in silence.

"To-morrow?" she said under her breath.

"Yes."

"Good-bye till then."

"Good-bye."



XXVI

THE next day he didn't appear, but a letter did.

"I merely lied to you," he wrote. "All gamblers are liars. You should have passed by on the other side."

Yes, that is what she should have done; she realised it now alone there in the sunny parlour with his letter.

There was no chance for him; or, if there was, she had not been chosen as the instrument of his salvation.

Slowly she turned her head and looked around her at her preparations—the pitiful little preparations for him—the childish stage setting for the scene of his salvation.

The spotless parlour had been re-dusted, cleaned, rubbed to its old-time polish. Bible and prayer-book on the mahogany centre-table had been arranged and re-arranged so many times that she no longer knew whether or not her art concealed art, and was innocently fearful that he might suspect the mise-en-scene and fight shy of her preparations for his regeneration.

Again and again she had re-arranged the flowers and books and rumpled the un-read morning newspaper to give to the scene a careless and casual every-day allure; again and again she had straightened the rugs, then tried them in less symmetrical fashion. She let the kitten in to give a more home-like air to the room, but it squalled to go out, and she had to release it.

Also, from the best spare room she had brought Holman Hunt's "Shadow of the Cross"—and it had taxed her slender strength to hang it in place of the old French mezzotint of Bacchus and Ariadne.

But the most difficult task was to disseminate among the stiff pieces of furniture and the four duplicate sofa cushions an atmosphere of pleasant and casual disorder—as though guests had left them where they were—as though the rigid chairs were accustomed to much and intimate usage.

But the effect troubled her; every formal bit of furniture seemed to be arranged as for an ambuscade; the cushions on the carved sofa sat in a row, like dwarfs waiting; the secretary watched, every diamond pane a glittering eye. And on the wall the four portraits of her parents and grand-parents were behaving strangely, for she seemed never to be out of range of their unwinking painted eyes.

From other rooms she had brought in ornaments, books, little odds and ends—and the unaccustomed concentration of household gods caused her much doubt and uncertainty, so fearful was she that his wise dark eyes might smilingly detect her effort.

There had been much to do in the short time pending his arrival—the gravel path to be raked, the lawn to be rolled and cut, the carefully weeded flower beds to be searched for the tiniest spear of green which did not belong there, the veranda to be swept again, and all the potted plants to be re-arranged and the dead leaves and blossoms to be removed.

Then there were great sheafs of iris to gather; and that, and the cutting of peonies and June roses, were matters to go about with thought and discretion, so that no unsightly spaces in bloom and foliage should be apparent to those dark, wise eyes of his that had looked on so many things in life—so many, many things of which she knew nothing.

Also she was to offer him tea; and the baking of old-fashioned biscuits and sweets was a matter for prayerful consideration. And Hetty, the hired girl, had spent all the morning on her grand-mother's silver, and William Pillsbury, executor of chores, had washed the doorstep and polished the windows and swept the maple-pods and poplar silk from the roof-gutters, and was now down on his knees with shears, trimming the grass under the picket-fence.

And he was not coming after all. He was never coming.

For a little while she failed to realise it; there was a numb sensation in her breast, a dull confusion in her mind. She sat alone in the parlour, in her pretty new gown, looking straight ahead of her, seeing nothing—not even his letter in her hand.

And she sat there for a long while; the numbness became painful; the tension a dull endurance. Fatigue came, too; she rested her head wearily on the back of the chair and closed her eyes. But the tall clocks ticking slowly became unendurable—and the odour of the roses hurt her.

Suddenly, through and through her shot a pang of fright; she had just remembered that she had given him back his pistol.

On her feet now, startled as though listening, she stood, lips slightly parted, and the soft colour gone from them. Then she went to the window and looked down the road; and came back to stand by the centre-table, her clasped hands resting on the Bible.

For a while fear had its way with her; the silent shock of it whitened her face and left her with fair head bowed above her clasped hands.

Once or twice she opened the Bible and tried to understand, choosing what she cared for most—reading of Lazarus, too. And she read about miracles—those symbolic superfluities attributed to a life which in itself was the greatest of all miracles.

And ever through the word of God glittered the memory of the pistol till fear made her faint, and she rose, her hands against her breast, and walked unsteadily out under the trees.

A bird or two had begun its sunset carol; the tree-trunks were stained with the level crimson light. Far away her gaze rested on the blue hills. Beyond them lay the accursed city.

The dull reiteration in her brain throbbed on unceasingly; she had given him his pistol; he had lied to her; she had trusted him; he had lied; and the accursed city lay beyond those hills—and he was there—with his pistol; and he had lied to her—lied! lied! God help them both!

Across her clover fields the ruddy sunlight lay in broad undulating bands, gilding blossom and curling trefoil. On every side of her the farm stretched away over a rolling country set with woods; sweet came the freshening air from the hills; she heard her collie barking at the cattle along the pasture brook; a robin carolled loudly from the orchard; orioles answered; gusts of twittering martins swept and soared and circled the chimneys.

Erect, anguished hands clenched, she stood there, wide eyes seeing nothing, and in her shrinking ears only the terrible reiteration of her growing fears.

Then the level sun struck her body with a bar of light; all the world around her smouldered rose and crimson. But after a little the shadows fell through the fading light; and she turned her head, shivering, and went back to the house—back to the room she had prepared for him, and sat there watching the shapes of dusk invade it; the vague grey ghosts that came crawling from corners and alcoves to gather at her feet and wait and wait there with her for him who would never come into her life again.



XXVII

"MISS LILY?"

She lifted her head from the sofa cushion in the dark, dazzled by the sudden lamp-light.

"What is it?" she asked, averting her face.

"There's a gentleman says he'd like to see you——"

The girl turned, still dully confused; then, rigid, sat bolt upright.

"Who?"

"A gentleman—said you don't know his name. Shall I show him in?"

She managed to nod; her heart was beating so violently that she pressed her hand over it.

He saw her sitting that way when he entered.

She did not rise; pain and happiness, mingled, confusing her for a moment; and he was already seated near her, looking at her with an intentness almost expressionless.

"You see," he said, "what the honour of a gambler is worth. I have lied to you twice already."

His words brought her to her senses. She rose with an effort and, as he stood up, she gave him her hand.

"Don't think me rude," she said. "I was resting—not expecting you—and the lamp and—your coming—confused me."

"You were not expecting me," he said, retaining her hand an instant. Then she withdrew it; they seated themselves.

"I don't know," she said, "perhaps I was expecting you—and didn't realise it."

"Had you thought—much about it?"

"Yes," she said.

Then it seemed as though something sealed her lips, and that nothing could ever again unseal them. All that she had to say to him vanished from her mind; she could not recall a single phrase she had prepared to lead up to all she must somehow say to him.

He talked quietly to her for a while about nothing in particular. Once she saw him turn and look around the room; and a moment afterward he spoke of the old-time charm of the place and the pretty setting such a room made for the old-fashioned flowers.

He spoke about gardens as though he had known many; he spoke of trees and of land and of stock; and, as he spoke in his pleasant, grave young voice, he noticed the portraits on the wall; and he spoke of pictures as though he had known many, and he spoke of foreign cities, and of old-world scenes. And she listened in silence and in such content that the happiness of it seemed to invade her utterly and leave her physically numb.

From time to time his dark eyes wandered from her to the objects in the room; they rested for a moment on the centre-table with its Book, lingered, passed on. For a little while he did not look at her—as though first it were necessary to come to a conclusion. Whatever the conclusion might have been, it seemed to make his eyes and mouth alternately grave and amused—but only very faintly amused—as though the subject he was considering held him closely attentive.

And at last he looked up at her, gently, not all the curiosity yet quenched.

"You are kind enough to wish to know about me; and too well bred to ask—now that the time is come. Shall I speak of myself?"

Her voiceless lips found a word.

"Then—It began in college—after my uncle died and left nothing for me to go on with. . . . I worked my way through—by my wits. . . . Up to that time it was only luck and card-sense—and luck again—the ability to hold the best cards at the best time—hold them honestly, I mean. It happens—I don't know why or what laws govern it. Some men hold them—always hold them—with intervals of bad fortune—but only intervals."

He gazed thoughtfully at the rag carpet, passed a well-shaped hand over his forehead.

"Yes, it is the truth. . . . And so, Fortune linked arms with me . . . and I drifted into it—gradually—not all at once . . . lower—always a little lower—until—what you saw occurred."

She would not meet his eyes, perhaps with an idea of sparing him.

He said: "You know nothing of such things, of course. . . . I am—on a commission basis for doing what—they threw me out of that hotel for doing. . . . Of course, a man can fall lower—but not much lower. . . . The business from which I receive commissions is not honest—a square game, as they say. Some games may be square for a while; no games are perfectly square all the time. . . . I have heard of honest gamblers; I never saw one. . . . There may be some; but I'm afraid they're like good Indians. . . . And that is the way in which Life and I are situated."

After a while she managed to look at him.

"Could you tell me—are you—your circumstances——"

"I am not in want," he said gently.

"Then it is not—not necessity——"

"No. It is easier and more interesting than for me to earn a decent living."

"Is that the only reason?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Have you no—regrets?"

"Sometimes. . . . I am not immune to shame. . . . I wonder whether you know what it cost me to come here."

A dull flush mounted to his forehead, but he faced her steadily enough.

"You saw me kicked out of a hotel by an Irish servant because I was not fit to be tolerated among reputable people. . . . And you did not pass by on the other side. . . . Under your clear eyes my spirit died a thousand shameful deaths while I went with you to your destination. . . . The contempt of the whole world burnt me; and your compassion drove every flame into me——" He checked himself, swallowed, forced a smile, and went on in his low, pleasant voice: "I am afraid I have been dramatic. . . . All I meant to say is that my humiliation, witnessed by you, is a heavier price to pay—a more painful reckoning with Fate, than I had really ever looked for."

"I—I had no contempt for you," she faltered.

"You could not escape it; but it is kind of you to say that."

"You don't understand. I had no contempt. I was—it—the dread of harm to you—frightened me. . . . And afterward I was only so sorry for you—and wanted to—to help——"

He nodded. "The larger charity," he said. "You may read all about it there in that Bible, but—the world takes it out in reading about it. . . . I do not mean to speak bitterly. . . . There is nothing wrong with me as far as the world goes—I mean my world. . . . Only—in the other and real world there is—you. . . . You, who did not pass by on the other side; and to whom the Scriptures there are merely the manual which you practice—for the sake of Christ."

"You think me better—far better than I am."

"I know what you are. I know what it cost you to even let me lean on you, there in the glare of the electric light—there where men stood leering and sneering and misjudging you!—and my blood on your pretty gown——"

"Oh—I did not think—care about that—or the men——"

"You cared about them. It is a growing torture to you. Even in the generous flush of mercy you thought of it; you said you would never go back to that hotel. I knew why you said it. I knew what, even then, you suffered—what of fear and shame and outraged modesty. I know what you stood for, there in the street with a half-senseless crook hanging to your arm—tugging for a weapon which would have sent two more mongrels to hell——"

"You shall not say that!" she cried, white and trembling. "You did not know what you were doing——"

He interrupted: "'For they know not what they do.' . . . You are right. . . . We don't really know, any of us. But few, except such as you, believe it—few except such as you—and the Master who taught you. . . . And that is all, I think. . . . I can't thank you; I can't even try. . . . It is too close to melodrama now—not on your side, dear little lady!"

He rose.

"Are you—going?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

He turned unconsciously and looked through the windows into the southern darkness.

"I—want you to stay," she said.

He turned and bent toward her with his youthful and engaging manner.

"It is sweet and good of you; but you know it is best that I go."

"Why?"

"Because—it might be that some of your friends would know me. . . . It is for your sake I am going."

"I wish you to stay."

"I know it. It makes me wonderfully happy."

"Won't you?"

"I must not."

"What are you going to do in the city?"

There was a silence; then: "The same?" she faltered.

"I am afraid so."

"Why?"

"What else is there?"

"Everything. . . . And I—ask it of you."

He looked at her with troubled eyes.

"I'm afraid you don't know what you are asking——"

"I do know! I ask—your soul of God!"

For a long while he stood there as though turned to stone. Then, as though rousing from a dream, he walked slowly to the window, looked long into the south. At last he turned.

She sat on the edge of the sofa, her face in her hands, deathly silent, waiting.

"Tell me," she whispered, not looking up as he bent over her.

"About that matter of a stray soul?" he said pleasantly. "It's all right—if you care to—bother with it. . . ."

Her hands dropped, and when she looked up he saw the tears standing in her grey eyes.

"Do you mean it?" she asked, trembling.

"God knows what I mean," he said unsteadily; "and I shall never know unless you tell me."

And he sat down beside her, resting his elbows on his knees and his head between his hands, wondering what he could do with life and with the young soul already in his dark keeping. And, after a while, the anxiety of responsibility, being totally new, wearied him; perplexed, he lifted his head, seeking her eyes; and saw the compassion in her face and the slow smile trembling on her lips. And suddenly he understood which of them was better fitted for a keeper of souls.

"Will you be patient?" he said.

"Can you ask?"

He shook his head, looking vacantly at the lamp-light.

"Because I've gone all wrong somehow . . . since I was a boy. . . . You will be patient with me—won't you?"

"Yes," she said.



ENVOI

In all Romances And poet's fancies Where Cupid prances, Embowered in flowers, The tale advances 'Mid circumstances That check love's chances Through tragic hours.

The reader's doleful now, The lover's soulful now, At least a bowlful now Of tears are poured. The villain makes a hit, The reader throws a fit, The author grins a bit And draws his sword!

Strikes down Fate's lances, Avoids mischances, And deftly cans his Loquacious lore 'Mid ardent glances And lover's trances And wedding dances Forevermore.

THE END

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