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The Lady Doc
by Caroline Lockhart
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In the old days when Crowheart was a blacksmith shop and the stamping ground of "Snow-shoe" Brown, whose log cabin hung on the edge of the bench overlooking the stream like a crow's nest in a cottonwood tree, "Snow-shoe" Brown had yelled in vain, one spring day, at a man and woman on the seat of a covered wagon who were preparing to ford the stream at the usual crossing. But the sullen roar of the water drowned his warning that it was swimming depth, and, even while he ran for his horse and uncoiled his saddle rope, the current was sweeping the wagon and the struggling horses down stream. He followed along the bank until the horse's feet came up and the wagon went down, while there floated from the open end, among other things, something that looked to his astonished eyes like a wooden cradle. He threw his rope, and threw again, with the skill which long practice in roping mavericks had given him; and gently, gently, with a success which seemed miraculous even to "Snow-shoe" Brown, he had drawn the bobbing cradle gradually to shore. Inside, a baby smiled up at him with the bluest eyes he ever had seen. There was a picture primer tucked beneath the flannel coverlet and it contained the single clue to her identity. "Esther Tisdale" was written on the fly-leaf with a recent date.

"Snow-shoe" Brown said she was a maverick and unblushingly declared that he claimed all mavericks that he had had his rope on; therefore "Esther Tisdale" belonged to him. He left her in the care of the wife of a cattleman who hoped thereby to purchase immunity from "Snow-shoe's" activities, which he did, though that person rustled elsewhere with renewed energy, since he said he had a family to keep. So she learned to ride and shoot as straight as "Snow-shoe" himself and even as a child gave promise of a winsome, lovely girlhood. The unique relationship ended when her guardian died in his boots in the little cowtown over beyond the Limestone Rim. A hard winter and the inroads of sheep "broke" the cattleman who sold out and moved away, while Esther Tisdale shifted for herself that she might not be a burden. She was nearly twenty now, and, in the democratic community never had felt or been made to feel that her position was subservient or inferior. Therefore when her work was done and she bounded up the stairs to Dr. Harpe's door she felt sure of a welcome.

"It's only Essie Tisdale," she said in her merry voice as she rapped and peered into the room.

"Come in, Essie; I'm lonesome as the deuce!"

It was some time later that Mrs. Terriberry sailing through the corridor in her dressing-sacque and petticoat, with her feet scuffling in Mr. Terriberry's carpet-slippers, had the stone-china water-pitcher dashed from her hand as she turned a corner.

"Why, Essie!"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Terriberry!"

"What's the matter?" She looked wonderingly at the girl's crimson face.

"Don't ask me! but don't expect me to be friends with that woman again!"

"Have you had words—have you quarrelled with Dr. Harpe?"

"Yes—yes; we quarrelled! But don't ask me any more! I won't—I can't tell you!" the girl replied fiercely as she rushed on and slammed the door of her room behind her.

In her office, Dr. Harpe was sitting by the window panic-stricken, sick with the fear of the one thing in the world of which she was most afraid, namely, Public Opinion.

She was deaf to the night sounds of the town; to the thick, argumentative voices beneath her window; to the scratched phonograph squeaking an ancient air in the office of the Terriberry House; to the banging of an erratic piano in the saloon two doors above; to the sleepy wails of the butcher's urchin in the tar-paper shack one door below, and to a heap of snarling dogs fighting in the deep, white dust of the street.

She glanced through the window and saw without seeing, the deputy-sheriff escorting an unsteady prisoner down the street followed by a boisterous crowd. In a way she was dimly conscious that there was something familiar in the prisoner's appearance, but the impression was not strong enough to rouse her from her preoccupation, and she turned to walk the floor without being cognizant of the fact that she was walking.

She suddenly threw both hands aloft.

"I've got it!" she cried exultingly. "The very thing to counteract her story. It'll work—it always does—and I know that I can do it!"

In her relief she laughed, a queer, cackling laugh which came strangely from the lips of a woman barely thirty. The laughter was still on her lips when a sound reached her ears which killed it as quickly as it came.

Addio mia bella Napoli, addio, addio! La tua soave imagine chi mai, chi mai scordar potra! Del ciel l'auzzurro fulgido, la placida marina, Qual core non imebria, non bea non bea divolutta! In tela terra el 'aura favellano d'amore; Te sola al mio dolore conforto io sognero Oh! addio mia bella Napoli, addio, addio! Addio care memorie del tempo ah! che fuggi!

The voice rang out like a golden bell, vibrating, as sweetly penetrating. The strange words fell like the notes of the meadow lark in spring, easy, liquid, yet with the sureness of knowledge.

The incoherent argument beneath the window ceased, the piano and the phonograph were silenced, the wailing urchin dried its tears and all the raw little town of Crowheart seemed to hold its breath as the wonderful tenor voice rose and fell on the soft June night.

Adieu, my own dear Napoli! Adieu to thee, Adieu to thee! Thy wondrous pictures in the sea, will ever fill my memory! Thy skies of deepest, brightest blue, thy placid waves so soft and clear; With heaving sigh and bitter tear, I bid a last, a sad adieu! Adieu the fragrant orange grove, the scented air that breathes of love Shall charm my heart with one bright ray, in dreams, wher'er I stray; Oh, adieu, my own dear Napoli! Adieu to thee, Adieu to thee! Adieu each soul-felt memory, of happy days long passed away!

The old street-song of Italy, the song of its people, never held a stranger audience in thraldom. If the song had been without words the result would have been the same, almost, for it was the voice which reached through liquor befuddled brains to find and stir remote and hidden recesses in natures long since hardened to sentiment. Rough speeches, ribald words and oaths died on the lips of those who crowded the doorway of saloons, and they stood spell-bound by the song which was sung as they felt dimly the angels must sing up there in that shadowy land back of the stars in which vaguely they believed.

Only those who have lived in isolated places can understand what music means to those who year after year are without it. Any sound that is not an actual discord becomes music then and the least gentle listen with pathetic eagerness. A worn phonograph screeching the popular songs of a past decade holds the rapt attention of such. It reminds them of that world they left long ago, a world which in the perspective of waning years looks all song and laughter, good company, good clothes, good food, and green things everywhere.

Therefore it is little wonder that this voice of marvellous sweetness and power rising unexpectedly out of the moonlit night should lay an awed hush upon the music-starved town. To some it brought a flood of memories and lumps in aching throats while many a weather-beaten face was lifted from mediocrity by a momentary exultation that was of the soul.

That a human voice unaided by a visible personality could throw such a spell upon the listeners seems rather a tax upon credulity; but the singer himself appeared to have no misgivings. His face wore a look of smiling, mocking confidence as he stood with one hand on his hip, the other grasping a bar of the iron grating which covered the single window of Crowheart's calaboose, pouring forth the golden notes with an occasional imperious toss of his head and a flash of his black eyes which made him look like a royal prisoner.

When the last note had died away, Dr. Harpe breathed an ejaculation.

"The Dago Duke!"

"He sings like an angel," said "Slivers," a barkeep.

"And fights like a devil," replied Dan Treu, the deputy-sheriff. "He turned a knife in Tinhorn's shoulder."



VI

"THE CHURCH RACKET"

Dr. Harpe went downstairs the next morning with her straight upper lip stretched in the set smile with which she met a crisis. "Hank" Terriberry passed through the hall as she descended the stairs and she watched him breathlessly.

"Mornin', Doc." He nodded in friendly nonchalance and her heart leaped in relief.

He knew nothing of the quarrel!

"Wait a minute, Mr. Terriberry," she called, and he stopped. "Say, what church do you belong to? What are you?"

Mr. Terriberry suffered from pyorrhea, and the row of upper teeth which he now displayed in a genial grin looked like a garden-rake, due to his shrinking gums.

"I'm a Presbyterian, Doc, but I don't work at it. Why?"

"Let's get together and build a church. I'll go around with a subscription paper myself and raise the money. I feel lost without a church, I honestly do. It's downright heathenish."

"That's so," Mr. Terriberry agreed heartily, "there's something damned respectable about a church. It makes a good impression upon strangers to come into a town and hear a church bell ringin', even if nobody goes. Doc, you're all right," he patted her shoulder approvingly; "you're a rough diamond; you can put me down for $50."

When Mr. Terriberry had gone his pious way, Dr. Harpe smiled and reiterated mentally: "There's nothing like the church racket; it always works."

She passed on into the dining-room where the Dago Duke who had sung himself out of the calaboose sprang to his feet and, laying his hand upon his heart, bowed low in a burlesqued bow of deference.

"A tribute to your skill and learning, madam."

She stared at him stonily and his white teeth flashed.

How she hated him! yet she felt helpless before his impudence and audacity. He had "presence," poise, and she knew instinctively that to whatever lengths she might go in retaliation he would go further. She would only bring upon herself discomfiture by such a course. She knew that she had forfeited his respect; more than that, she felt that she had incurred a deep and lasting enmity which seemed to her out of all proportion to the cause.

His horseback companion of the previous day was breakfasting beside him and she found the young man's cold, impersonal scrutiny as hard to bear as the Dago Duke's frank impudence as she swaggered to her seat at the end of the long dining-room and faced them. He was as different in his way from the men about him as the Dago Duke, yet he differed, too, from that conspicuous person. He seemed self-contained, reserved to the point of reticence, but with a quiet assurance of manner as pronounced as the other's effrontery. He was dressed in a blue flannel shirt and worn corduroys. His face was tanned but it was the sunburned face of an invalid. There were hollows in his cheeks and a tired look in his gray eyes. Having critically examined her, Dr. Harpe observed that he seemed to forget her.

Essie Tisdale passed her without a glance, but Mrs. Terriberry came behind with the breakfast of fried potatoes and the thin, fried beefsteak on the platter which served also as a plate, from which menu the Terriberry House never deviated by so much as a mutton chop.

"I'm sorry you and Essie fell out," said Mrs. Terriberry apologetically as she placed the dishes before her. "But she seems awful set on not waitin' on you."

Dr. Harpe dropped her eyes for an instant.

"It's up to her."

"She's as good-natured as anybody I ever saw but she's high-strung, too; she's got a temper."

Dr. Harpe lifted a shoulder.

"She'd better have my friendship than my enmity, even if she has a temper."

"Essie's mighty well liked here," Mrs. Terriberry returned quickly.

"Popularity is a mighty uncertain asset in a small town."

"Don't forget that yourself, Doc," returned Mrs. Terriberry, nettled by her tone.

Dr. Harpe laughed good-naturedly; she had no desire to antagonize Mrs. Terriberry.

She watched the Dago Duke hold up a warning finger as Essie placed the heavy hotel dishes before him.

"Be careful, Miss, be very careful not to nick this fragile ware. As a lover of ceramic art, it would pain me to see it injured."

The girl dimpled, and, in spite of herself, burst into a trill of laughter which was so merry and contagious that the grave stranger beside him looked up at her with an interested and amused smile as though seeing her for the first time.

"Breakfasting at the Terriberry House was a pleasure which seemed a long way off last night," observed the Dago Duke without embarrassment. "You heard the imprisoned bird singing for his liberty? Music to soothe the savage breast of your sheriff. When I am myself I can converse in five languages; when I am drunk it is my misfortune to be able only to sing or holler. Your jail is a disgrace to Crowheart; I've never been in a worse one. The mattress is lumpy and the pillow hard; I was voicing my protest."

"I don't care why you sing so long as you sing," said Essie, dimpling again. "It was beautiful, but isn't it bad for your health to get so—drunk?"

"Not at all," returned the Dago Duke airily. "Look at me—fresh as a rock-rose with the dew on it!"

Again the grave stranger smiled but rather at Essie Tisdale's laughter than his companion's brazen humor.

He interested Dr. Harpe, this other stranger, and as soon as her breakfast was finished she looked for his name upon the register.

"Ogden Van Lennop," she read, and his address was a little town in the county. She shook her head and said to herself: "He never came from this neck of the woods. Another black sheep, I wonder?"

Dr. Harpe lost no time in agitating the subject of a church and it tickled Crowheart's risibilities, since she was the last person to be suspected of spiritual yearnings—her personality seeming incongruous with religious fervor. But while they laughed it was with good-nature and approval for it merely confirmed them in their opinion that with all her idiosyncrasies she was at heart what she liked to be considered, "a rough diamond," sympathetic and kind of heart underneath her blunt candor. That she had never been known to refuse a drink to the knowledge of any inhabitant was one of the stock jokes of the town, yet it was never urged against her. Already she had come to be pointed out to strangers with a kind of affectionate pride as a local celebrity—a "character." She had a strong attraction for the women of Crowheart—an attraction that amounted to fascination. Her stronger personality overshadowed theirs as her stronger will dominated them. She quickly became a leader among them, and her leadership aroused no jealousy. They quoted her rude speeches as characteristic bits of wit and laughed at her uncouth manners. Her callousness passed for the confidence of knowledge.

"She's so different," they told each other. "She's a law unto herself." Yet the most timid among them had less fear of Public Opinion than Dr. Harpe to whom it was always a menacing juggernaut.

She returned at the end of the day tired but content in the knowledge that her efforts had produced exactly the effect she desired. She had raised enough money to insure the erection of a modest mission church, but the important thing was that in so doing she had built a stout bulwark about herself which would long withstand any explanation that Essie Tisdale might make as to the cause of the mysterious break between them.

While she congratulated herself upon the success of this inspired move on her part, circumstances due to other than her own efforts were conspiring to eliminate the girl as a dangerous factor in her life.

She retired early and, consequently, was in ignorance of the receipt of a telegram by Sylvanus Starr announcing the return of Andy P. Symes and the complete success of his eastern mission. So when she was awakened the next morning by a conflict of sounds which resembled the efforts of a Chinese orchestra and raised the shade to see the newly organized Cowboy band making superhuman endeavors to march and yet produce a sufficiently correct number of notes from the score of "A Hot Time in the Old Town" to make that American warcry recognizable, she knew that something unusual had developed in the interim of her long sleep.

It was like Andy P. Symes to announce his coming that he might extract all the glory possible from his arrival and he knew that he could depend upon Sylvanus Starr to make the most of the occasion.

The editor issued an "Extra" of dodger-like appearance, and it is doubtful if he would have used larger type to announce an anticipated visit of the President. He called upon every citizen with a spark of civic pride to turn out and give Andy P. Symes a fitting welcome; to do homage to the man who was to Crowheart what the patron saints are to the cities of the Old World.

The matutinal "Hot Time in the Old Town" and a majority of the population waiting on the cinders about the red water tank were the results of his impassioned plea.

Tears of gratified vanity stood in the eyes of Andy P. Symes as from the front platform of the passenger coach he saw his neighbors assembled to greet him. It seemed an eminently fitting and proper tribute to the great-grandson of the man who had been a personal friend of Alexander Hamilton's. He viewed the welcoming throng through misty eyes as, with an entire appreciation of the imposing figure he presented, he bared his massive head in deference to Mrs. Terriberry, Mrs. Percy Parrott, Mrs. Starr and her two lovely daughters whose shrill shrieks were audible above the grinding of the car-wheels upon the rusty track.

Sylvanus Starr with many sweeping gestures of a hand which suggested a prehensile, well-inked claw, welcomed him in an outburst of oratory, iridescent with adjectives which gushed from him like a volume of water from a fire-plug, that made Crowheart's jaw drop. While Symes may have felt that the editor was going it rather strong when he compared him to the financial geniuses of the world beginning with Croesus and ending with the Guggenheims, he made no protest.

Behind Mr. Symes, wide-eyed and solemn, and transformed nearly past recognition by a hobble skirt and "kimona" sleeves, stood Mrs. Symes with the growing feeling of complacent aloofness which comes from being the wife of a great man.

In contrast to Sylvanus Starr's fluency Symes's response seemed halting and slow, but it gained thereby in impressiveness. When he clenched his huge fist and struck at the air, declaring for the third time that "it was good to be home!" nobody doubted him. And they need not have doubted him, for, since his salary did not begin until his return to Crowheart, and the offerings of night-lunch carts are taxing upon the digestion, it was indeed "good to be home!"



VII

THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS

Andy P. Symes decided to emphasize further his return to Crowheart by issuing invitations for a dinner to be given in the Terriberry House, reserving the announcement of his future plans for this occasion; and, although Crowheart did not realize it at the time, this dinner was an epoch-making function. It was not until the printed invitations worded with such elegance by Sylvanus Starr were issued, that Crowheart dimly suspected there were sheep and goats, and this was the initial step toward separating them.

The making up of a social list in any frontier town is not without its puzzling features and Mr. Symes in this instance found it particularly difficult once he began to discriminate.

First there came the awkward question of his relatives by marriage. At first glance it would have seemed rather necessary to head the list with Grandmother Kunkel, but the fact that she was also the hotel laundress at the time made it a subject for debate. Once, just once, he was willing to test the social possibilities of his brother-in-law, so Symes magnanimously gave him his chance and the name of Adolph Kunkel headed the list.

The Percy Parrotts, of course, went through the sieve, and the Starrs, and Dr. Emma Harpe, but there was the embarrassing question of Mrs. Alva Jackson who had but lately sold her dance hall, goodwill, and fixtures, to marry Alva Jackson, a prosperous cattleman—too prosperous, Mr. Symes finally decided, to ignore. Would the presence of the sprightly Faro Nell give a touch of piquancy to the occasion or lower its tone? Could rich, old Edouard Dubois be induced to change his shirt if invited? The clairvoyant milliner was barred owing to the fact that she was "in trade," but "Tinhorn Frank," who no longer sat drunk and collarless in his dirt-floored saloon fumbling a deck of cards thick with grime, went down upon the list as "Mr. Rhodes," the citizens of Crowheart learning his name for the first time when it appeared on the sign above the door of his new real estate office.

When the difficult undertaking was complete Mrs. Symes looked over his shoulder and read the list.

"You haven't Essie Tisdale's name."

Mr. Symes laughed good-humoredly—

"Oh, she'll be there; she'll wait on the table."

"You don't mean to ask Essie Tisdale?" Mrs. Symes's eyes opened.

Symes shook his head.

"That seems awfully mean," insisted Mrs. Symes in feeble protest; "she's always been so nice to me at dances and things."

"My dear," Symes replied impatiently, "we can't invite all the people who have been nice to us. Won't you ever understand that society must draw the line somewhere?"

Mrs. Symes pondered this new thought a long time.

When the invitations were out and the news of the dinner spread it became the chief topic of conversation. The fact that the dinner was at seven instead of twelve o'clock, noon, occasioned much hilarity among the uninvited while the invited guests were more than delighted at the fashionable hour. A tinge of acerbity was noticeable in the comments of those who were unaccustomed to the sensation of being excluded, among them Mrs. Abe Tutts, whose quick recognition of slights led one to believe she had received a great many of them. Mrs. Tutts, who was personally distasteful to Mr. Symes, went so far as to inquire belligerently of Mrs. Symes why she had not been invited.

"I don't know," stammered Mrs. Symes who was still truthful rather than tactful, "but I'll ask Phidias."

"You find out and lemme know," said Mrs. Tutts menacingly. "They can't nobody in this town hand me nothin'!"

Since Mrs. Tutts's sensitiveness appeared always to show itself in a desire to do the offender bodily harm, Andy P. Symes took care not to commit himself.

Until the very last Essie Tisdale could not believe that she had been intentionally omitted. She was among the first thought of when any gathering was planned and in her naive way was as sure of her popularity as Symes himself, so she had pressed the wrinkles from her simple gown and cleaned once more the white slippers which were among her dearest treasures.

As a matter of course Mrs. Terriberry had engaged other help for the occasion and all the afternoon of the day set Essie Tisdale waited for the tardy invitation which she told herself was an oversight. She could not believe that Augusta Kunkel, who was indebted to her for more good times than she ever had had in her uneventful life, could find it in her heart to slight her.

But the afternoon waned and no belated invitation came, so when the hour had arrived for her to go below she hung her cheap little frock upon its nail and replaced the cherished slippers in their box, hurt and heavy hearted and still unaware that the day when she had tripped in them as the acknowledged belle of Crowheart was done and the old regime of charity and democratic, unpretentious hospitality was gone never to return.

Her shapely head was erect and her eyes bright with the pain of hurt pride when she knocked upon Mrs. Terriberry's door. That lady thrust a floured face through the crack.

"You needn't get anyone to take my place to-night," she said bravely, "I'm not invited."

"What!"

In the white expanse Mrs. Terriberry's mouth looked like a crack in a glacier.

Essie Tisdale shook her head.

"Come in." Mrs. Terriberry sank upon the bed which sagged like a hammock with her weight. "What do you 'spose is the reason?"

"I haven't the least idea in the world." Essie's chin quivered in spite of her.

"For half a cent I wouldn't budge!" Mrs. Terriberry shook a warlike coiffure. "Folks like that ought to be learned something."

"Oh, yes, you must go."

"If I do it'll be only to see what they wear and how they act; I don't expect to enjoy myself a bit after hearin' this. I've lost interest in it."

With a zest somewhat at variance with her words Mrs. Terriberry began to manipulate a pair of curling tongs which had been heating in the lamp.

A sizzling sound followed and a cloud of smoke rose in the air.

"There! I've burnt off my scoldin' locks." Mrs. Terriberry viewed the damage with dismay. "I'm just so upset I don't know what I'm doin'. Essie, if you don't want to wait on 'em you needn't."

"I won't mind much—after the first. It will be hard at first. Thank you, though."

"If I ever git me another pair of these 'pinch-ins'," panted Mrs. Terriberry, "you'll know it. Take holt and lay back on them strings, will you? They got to come closter than that or that skirt won't meet on me by an inch—and to think twenty-fours was loose on me onct! Wait a minute!" A startled look came in Mrs. Terriberry's bulging eyes. "I thought I felt somethin' give inside of me—don't take much to cave a rib in sometimes."

"More?"

"Yep; these things have gotta meet if I have to hitch the 'bus team onto 'em."

When she was finally encased in a steel-colored satin bodice her plump shoulders appeared to start directly beneath her ears, and her hands were not only purple, but slightly numb.

"How do I look, child?"

"How do you feel?" asked Essie evasively.

"As well as anybody could with their in'ards crowded up under their chin," replied Mrs. Terriberry grimly. "I hope the house don't ketch fire while we're eatin', for I sure aims to slide these slippers off onct we're set down, and there's one thing certain," Mrs. Terriberry continued savagely, "I'm sufferin' enough to git some good out of it."

As Essie turned away Mrs. Terriberry kissed her cheek kindly.

"Keep a stiff upper lip, Essie, don't let them see."

"I can do that," the girl replied proudly.

Innovations are nearly always attended by difficulties and embarrassments but even Andy P. Symes had not anticipated that his effort to establish a local aristocracy would entail so many awkward moments and painful situations.

If the printed invitations and the unusual hour had filled his guests with awe, the formalities of the dinner itself had the effect of temporarily paralyzing their faculties. In lieu of the merry scramble characteristic of Crowheart's festivities, there was a kind of a Death March into the dining-room from which Mrs. Terriberry had unceremoniously "fanned" the regular boarders.

The procession was headed by Andy P. Symes bearing Mrs. Starr, tittering hysterically, upon his arm. Mrs. Symes's newly acquired savoir-faire deserted her; her hands grew clammy and Sylvanus Starr's desperate conversational efforts evoked no other response than "Yes, sir—No, sir." Mrs. Terriberry, red and flustered, found herself engaged in a wrestling match with little Alva Jackson, which lasted all the way from the door of the dining-room to the long table at the end. Mr. Jackson in his panic was determined to take Mrs. Terriberry's arm, whereas she was equally determined that she would take his, having furtively observed her host gallantly offering support to Mrs. Starr.

A sure indication of the importance attached to the affair was the number of new boots and shoes purchased for the occasion. Now, thick-soled, lustrous, in the frozen silence of the procession, these boots and shoes clumping across the bare floor called attention to themselves in voices which seemed to shriek and with the fiendishness of inanimate objects screamed the louder at their owners' gingerly steps. A function of the Commune when Madame Guillotine presided must have been a frothy and frivolous affair compared to the beginning of this dinner.

Adolph Kunkel, who had attached himself to Dr. Harpe to the extent of walking within four feet of her side, darted from line and pulled out the nearest chair at the table. Observing too late that the other guests were still standing, he sprang to his feet and looked wildly about to see if he had been noticed. He had. Alva Jackson covered his mouth with his handkerchief and giggled.

There was a frozen smile upon the faces of the ladies who, sitting bolt upright, twisted their fingers under the kindly shelter of the table-cloth. Each trivial observation, humorous or otherwise, was greeted with a burst of laughter and the person brave enough to venture a remark seemed immediately appalled by the sound of his own voice. Adolph Kunkel, to show that he was perfectly at ease, stretched his arms behind his neighbor's chair and yawned.

In spite of the efforts which brought beads of perspiration out on the broad forehead of their host, Essie Tisdale appeared with the first course mid a ghastly silence.

"I hardly ever drink tea," observed Mr. Rhodes, for the purpose, merely, of making conversation.

"Oh, my Gawd, Tinhorn, that ain't tea, it's bullion!" Mrs. Terriberry's loud whisper was heard the length of the table as she tore the sugar bowl from his hand, but the warning came too late, for Mr. Rhodes already had sweetened his consomme.

The guests displayed their tact by assuming a wooden expression, and turning their heads away secretly relieved that they had not committed the faux pas themselves. Only Alva Jackson stared at Mr. Rhodes's embarrassment in unconcealed delight.

"Let Essie bring you another cup," suggested Mr. Symes.

"Oh, no! not at all; I take sweetenin' in everything," declared Mr. Rhodes.

There was a distinct relaxation of tension all around when Andy P. Symes took the initiative in the matter of spoons.

"This here soup makes me think of the time I had mountain fever and et it stiddy for three weeks." Adolph Kunkel whispered the reminiscence behind the back of his hand.

"My real favorite is bean soup," admitted Mr. Terriberry, and Mrs. Terriberry looked mortified at this confession of her husband's vulgar preferences.

"It's very nourishing," declared Mrs. Starr tremulously.

"And delicious, too, when properly served." Mrs. Percy Parrott curled her little finger elegantly and toyed with a spoon.

"It's a pretty good article in camp," said Mr. Symes desperately to keep the ball rolling.

The guests shrieked with mirthless laughter at the suggestion of rough camp life.

"Gosh! me and Gus was weaned and raised on bean soup—and liverwurst," interjected Adolph Kunkel in the lull which followed, and immediately squirmed under Mrs. Symes's blazing eyes. "Of course," he added lamely, "we et other things, too—mush and headcheese."

During these trying moments Dr. Harpe settled back in her chair with folded arms regarding the scene with the impersonal amusement with which she would have sat through a staged comedy. No sense of obligation toward her host and hostess impelled her to do her share toward lessening the strain, and Andy P. Symes felt a growing irritation at the faint smile of superiority upon her face. She was the one person present who might have helped him through the uncomfortable affair.

Formality was the keynote of the occasion. Ladies who had been at each other's back door a few hours previous borrowing starch or sugar now addressed each other in strained and distant tones while the men were frankly dumb. It was a relief to everybody when a heaping platter of fried chicken appeared upon the table followed by mounds of mashed potatoes and giblet gravy which made the guests' eyes gleam like bird-dogs gaunt from a run.

Fried chicken is only fried chicken to those who dwell in the country where chickens scratch in every backyard, but to those who dwell where they reckon time from the occasion when they last ate an egg, fried chicken bears the same relation to other food that nightingales' tongues bore to other dishes at epicurean Roman feasts. As a further evidence of Symes's prodigality there was champagne in hollow-stemmed glasses brought from the East.

It was a glorious feast with cold storage chicken expressed from the Main Line and potatoes freighted up from the Mormon settlement a hundred miles below.

"It's a durn shame," said Adolph Kunkel as he surreptitiously removed an olive, "that the plums is spiled, for this is the best supper I ever flopped my lip over."

Symes suppressed a groan.

Each guest devoted himself to his food with an abandon and singleness of purpose which left no doubt as to his enjoyment, and the effort of old Edouard Dubois to scrape the last vestige of potato from his plate brought out a suggestion from Adolph Kunkel to leave the gilt design on the bottom. And when tiny after-dinner coffee cups appeared, the guests felt that a new and valuable experience was being added to their lives.

"Holy smoke—but that's stout!" hinted Mr. Terriberry after looking the table over for the customary pitcher of tinned milk. But before Mr. Symes could act upon the hint his brother-in-law's eyes began to water and bulge. He groped for his napkin while he compressed his lips in an heroic effort to retain the hot and bitter coffee, but instead he grabbed the hanging edge of the table-cloth. His pitiful eyes were fixed upon the coldly disapproving face of Andy P. Symes, but there is a limit to human endurance and Adolph Kunkel quickly reached it. Simultaneous with a spurt of coffee Adolph rose and fled, upsetting his chair as he went, disgraced upon his only appearance in that exclusive set from which he was henceforth and forever barred.

He coughed significantly under the window to remind Mr. Symes that he might be induced to return, but the hint passed unheeded, for regret would not have been among Mr. Symes's emotions if his brother-in-law's removal had been complete and permanent.

Over the coffee and a superior brand of cigars to which Mr. Symes called particular attention, the conversation of his guests began to contain some degree of naturalness and their painful self-consciousness gradually vanished. When they seemed in a mellow and receptive mood he began to rehearse his achievements in the East and unfold his plans. As he talked, their imaginations stimulated by wine, they saw the future of Crowheart pass before them like a panorama.

The army of laborers who were to be employed upon this enormous ditch would spend their wages in Crowheart. The huge payroll would be a benefit to every citizen. The price of horses would jump to war-time values and every onery cayuse on the range would be hauling a scraper. Alfalfa and timothy would sell for $18 a ton in the stack and there would be work for every able-bodied man who applied. The grocery bills of the commissary would make the grocers rich and Crowheart would boom right. When the water was running swift and deep in the ditch the land-hungry homeseekers would fight for ground. And it was only a step from settlement to trolley cars, electric lights, sandstone business blocks and cement pavements, together with lawns growing real grass! Under the spell of his magnetic presence and convincing eloquence nothing seemed more plausible or possible than the fulfilment of these prophecies. And all this was to be brought about through the efforts of Andy P. Symes, who intimated that not one million but millions had been placed at his disposal by eager and trusting capitalists to be used by him if necessary in making the desert bloom like the rose.

Mr. Rhodes saw himself selling corner lots at twenty thousand each while space rates rose in the mind of Sylvanus Starr in leaps and bounds. The Percy Parrots saw themselves lolling in a rubber-tired vehicle while the vulgar populace on the curb identified them by pointing with their grimy fingers. Each guest looked forward to the fulfilment of some cherished dream and Dr. Emma Harpe saw a picture, too, as she gazed at Symes with speculative, contemplative eyes.

He looked the embodiment of prosperity and success, did Symes, and if he subtly intimated that the road to prosperity lay through loyalty to him, that his friendship, support and approval were the steps by which they could best climb, they were willing to give it without quibbling. They were content to shine in his reflected glory, and they dispersed at a late hour feeling that they had been tacitly set apart—a chosen people.

The next issue of the Crowheart Courier referred to the dinner as a three-course banquet, and published the menu. If the description of the guests' costumes made Crowheart's eyes pop and none more than the wearers, the latter did not mention it.

Pleased but bewildered, Mrs. Terriberry read of herself as "queenly in gray satin and diamonds," being unable to place the diamonds until she recalled the rhinestone comb in her back hair which sparkled with the doubtful brilliancy of a row of alum cubes.

Mrs. Percy Parrott had some difficulty in recognizing herself as "ravishing in shot silk garnished with pearls," since the plaid taffeta which had come in a barrel from home with the collar tab pinned flat with a moonstone pin bore little resemblance to the elegance suggested in the paragraph.

And if the editor chose to refer to the pineapple pattern, No. 60 cotton, collarette which Mrs. Jackson had crocheted between beers in the good old Dance Hall days as an "exquisite effect in point lace," certainly Mrs. Jackson was not the lady to contradict him.

But this was merely the warming up exercise of the editor's vocabulary. When he really cut loose on Andy P. Symes the graves of dead and buried adjectives opened to do him honor. In the lurid lexicon of his eloquence there was no such word as obsolete and no known synonym failed to pay tribute to this "mental and physical colossus." In his shirt sleeves, minus his cuffs, with his brain in a lather, one might say, Sylvanus Starr painted a picture of the coming Utopia, experiencing in so doing such joys of creation as he had not known since his removal from the obituary department.

And reading, the citizens of Crowheart rejoiced or envied according to their individual natures.



VIII

"THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME"

Dr. Harpe was still young enough to be piqued by Ogden Van Lennop's utter indifference to herself. He was now established in the hotel, apparently for an indefinite stay, and they met frequently in the corridors and on the stairs. His attitude of impassive politeness nettled her far more than the alert hostility of the Dago Duke whom she saw occasionally.

The slight overtures she made met no response and she minded it the more that he made no attempt to disguise his liking for Essie Tisdale, whose laughing good-nature and quaint humor had penetrated the reserve which was in his manner toward every one else. He seemed even to have no desire to take advantage of the patronizing advances of Andy P. Symes and was content enough to spend a portion of each day reading books with mystifying titles and to ride away into the hills to be gone for hours at a time. He still wore the regalia of the country, the Stetson hat, flannel shirt and corduroys that were too common to attract attention, but the hollows in his cheeks were filling out and the tired look was going from his eyes.

When he had been a month in Crowheart and had made not the smallest effort to "get a job" he began to be regarded with some suspicion. The fact that he seemed always to have money for which he did not work inspired distrust. Then, too, as Mr. Rhodes shrewdly pointed out, he had the long white hands of a high-toned crook. As a result of the various theories advanced, Ogden Van Lennop came gradually to be looked at askance—a fact of which he seemed totally oblivious. And when the clairvoyant milliner went into a trance and declared that a desperado was in their midst planning a raid on Crowheart the finger of suspicion pointed straight at the uncommunicative stranger, and the Iowa Notion Store installed a riot gun.

Dr. Harpe wondered with the rest but she did not share their ignorant mistrust, for she had sufficient worldly wisdom to recognize the nicety of his speech and the reticence of his manners as belonging to a gentleman—a gentleman under a cloud mayhap but still born a gentleman. She was intensely curious regarding his antecedents, and one day she had her curiosity gratified. A letter which came in the morning mail from a schoolmate in the East, read:

DEAR EMMY:

I have just learned through the papers here that Ogden Van Lennop is "roughing it" in your country and I thought I'd write and give you a hint in case you come across him. Grab him, my dear, if you have the ghost of a show, for he is the most eligible man in seven states. Money, family, social position—it makes me green to think of your chance, it's the chance of a lifetime—for I'd never meet him in my humble sphere in a thousand years. He's an awfully decent sort, too, they say. He overworked after he came out of college and he's there getting his health back. Good luck to you and I hope you appreciate my tip.

Lovingly, ADELE

Dr. Harpe folded the letter and put it away.

"Don't I though?" she said grimly.

She frowned as Van Lennop's low, amused laugh, mingling with Essie Tisdale's merry trill, reached her through the open window.

"The presumptuous little upstart! The biscuit-shooter!" Dr. Harpe's face was not pleasant to see.

She took care to keep to herself what she had learned for when they met, as she was now determined that they should, she wished the friendship she meant to proffer to seem above all else disinterested. While she realized that she had his prejudice to overcome, she believed that she could overcome it and she would wait now with eagerness for the opportunity to insert the opening wedge.

Heretofore the dubious compliment "a good fellow," from the men with whom she smoked and drank, had pleased and satisfied her. She had no desire to appeal to them in any other way; but this was different because Ogden Van Lennop was different, being the first really eligible man who had ever come within the circle to which she had been limited by her always straitened circumstances. She looked upon Van Lennop in the light of an exceptional business chance, and with a conceit oddly at variance with her eminently practical nature, she believed she had only to set about exerting herself in earnest to arouse his interest and attach him to herself.

Van Lennop found himself still smiling at Essie Tisdale's sallies as he came up the stairs. Her droll originality amused him as he had not been amused in a long time, and he found himself unbending to a degree which often surprised himself; besides, with her frankness, her naturalness and perfect unconsciousness of any social barrier, she seemed to him a perfect western type. He prized the novel friendship, for it had become that, and would have regretted keenly anything which might have interrupted it.

Her realistic descriptions of the episodes of a small town were irresistible and Van Lennop never found himself more genuinely entertained than when after a certain set form of greeting which they went through daily with the greatest gravity, he would inquire—

"Well, Miss Tisdale, what are the developments in the world to-day?" And with her quick, dimpling smile she would respond with some item of local news which took its humor chiefly from the telling.

When a sign on the tar-paper shack which bore the legend "Warshing" was replaced by "Plane Sewing Done," she reported the change and, again, the fact that he was aware of Mrs. Abe Tutts's existence was due to Essie Tisdale's graphic account of the outburst of temper in which that erratic lady, while rehearsing the role of a duchess in an amateur production, kicked, not figuratively but literally, the duke—a role essayed by the talented plasterer—down the stairs of Odd Fellow's Hall over the General Merchandise Store. The girl enjoyed life and its small incidents with the zest of exuberant youth and Van Lennop often declared himself as anxious that Mrs. Percy Parrott should accumulate enough from the sale of milk to buy screens before flytime as that lady herself since Essie sustained his interest by daily account of the addition to the screen fund. He was still thinking of the combative Mrs. Tutts when he opened a book and sat down by the open window.

A murmur of voices which began shortly underneath his window did not disturb him, though subconsciously he was aware that one of them belonged to Essie Tisdale. It was not until he heard his own name that he lifted his eyes from the interesting pages before him.

"You lak him I t'ink—dat loafer—dat fellow Van Lennop?"

Van Lennop recognized the thick, gutteral voice of old Edouard Dubois.

"Like him? Of course I like him, and"—there was asperity in Essie's tone now—"he isn't a loafer."

"Hold-up, then," substituted Dubois.

"Nor a hold-up."

"What you t'ink he is?"

"Something you would never recognize," she answered sharply; "a gentleman."

Van Lennop smiled, for in his mind's eye he could see the tense aggressiveness of her slim figure.

"Chentleman!" was the contemptuous snort. "Chentleman—and never buy de drinks for nobody all de time he is in Crowheart. Fine chentleman dat!"

"When do you buy any?" was the pointed inquiry.

"I haf to work for my money; his comes easy," he replied significantly.

"You said that before." The voice was growing shriller. "How do you know?"

"Robbin's easy."

"I must believe it if you say so."

"Why you get mad? Why you stick up for him so hard?" persisted the Frenchman stubbornly.

"Why wouldn't I stick up for him? He's a friend of mine."

"Fine fren—dat lazy cheap-skate!" There was real venom in the voice.

Van Lennop heard the stamp of Essie Tisdale's small foot upon the hard-trodden dooryard.

"You needn't think you'll advance your own interests by calling him such names as that! Let me tell you I wouldn't marry you if you asked me a million, million times!"

Van Lennop started. So he was asking Essie Tisdale to marry him—this old Edouard Dubois with the bullet-shaped head and the brutal face that Van Lennop had found so objectionable upon each occasion that he had been his vis-a-vis in the dining-room?

"Oh, you wouldn't marry me?"—the guttural voice was ugly now—"I offer you good home, good clothes, ze chance to travel when you lak and hear ze good music zat you love and you wouldn't marry me if I ask you million times? Maybe some time, Mees Teesdale, you be glad to marry me when I ask you once!"

"Maybe I will," the angry young voice flung back, "but that time hasn't come yet, Mr. Dubois!"

"And God forbid that it ever should," breathed Van Lennop to himself at the window above. His eyes had grown a little moist at this exhibition of her loyalty and somehow the genuineness of it made him glow, the more perhaps that he was never without a lurking suspicion of the disinterestedness of women's friendship for the reasons which Dr. Harpe, for instance, knew.

What Van Lennop had learned through his unintentional eavesdropping was something of a revelation. In his mild conjectures as to Crowheart's opinion of him it never had occurred to him that it considered him anything more interesting than an impecunious semi-invalid or possibly a homeseeker taking his own time to locate. But a hold-up! a loafer! a lazy cheap-skate! Van Lennop shook with silent laughter. A skinflint too mean to buy a drink! He had no notion of enlightening Crowheart in regard to himself because of the illuminating conversation he had overheard. The situation afforded him too much amusement and since Essie Tisdale liked him for himself and trusted him in the face of what was evidently Crowheart's opinion, nothing else mattered. The only result then was to give him a more minute interest in his surroundings. Heretofore he had viewed the life about him in the impersonal fashion in which persons of large interests and wide experience regard unimportant people doing unimportant things. In the light of what he had learned he placed a new interpretation upon the curious stares, averted faces, frankly disapproving looks or challenging insolence of glances such as he received from Mr. Rhodes's bold eyes. He smiled often in keen enjoyment of his shady reputation and kept adding to his unpopularity by steadfastly refusing to be drawn into poker games which bore evidence of having been arranged for his benefit.

The experience of being avoided by the respectably inclined and sought after by those who had no respectability to lose was a new experience to Van Lennop, who had been accustomed from infancy to the deference which is tacitly accorded those of unusual wealth; but even had he found the antagonistic atmosphere which he encountered frequently now annoying, he would have felt more than compensated by the knowledge that he had discovered in the little belle of Crowheart a friend whose loyalty was strong enough to stand the difficult test of public opinion.

Essie Tisdale had no notion that Van Lennop had overheard her quarrel with the Frenchman, but her quick perceptions recognized an added friendliness in his manner—a kind of unbending gentleness which was new—and she needed it for she daily felt the growing lack of it in people whom she had called her friends.

In the days which followed, Van Lennop sometimes asked himself if anything had gone wrong with Essie Tisdale. Her shapely head had a proud uplift which was new and in unguarded moments her red, sensitive lips had a droop that he had not noticed before.

Essie Tisdale was not, in her feelings, unlike a frolicsome puppy that has received its first vicious kick. She was digesting the new knowledge that there were people who could hurt others deliberately, cruelly, and so far as she knew, without provocation; that there were people whom she had counted her friends that were capable of hurting her—who could wound her like enemies. And, like the puppy who runs from him who has inflicted his first pain and turns to look with bewilderment and reproach in his soft puppy eyes, Essie felt no resentment yet, only surprise and the pain of the blow together with a great and growing wonder as to what she had done.

The ordeal of the dinner had been greater even than she had anticipated. For the first time in her life she had been treated like an inferior—a situation which Essie Tisdale did not know how to meet. But it had remained for Andy P. Symes who but a few months previous had pressed her hand and called her the prettiest girl in Crowheart to inflict the blow that hurt most.

The guests were leaving when she had found a chance to whisper, "You look so well to-night, Gussie," and Andy P. Symes had interrupted coldly, "Mrs. Symes, if you please, Essie."

Her cheeks grew scarlet when she thought of it. She had meant to tell them in that way that the slight had not altered her friendship and Andy P. Symes had told her in his way that they did not want her friendship.

She did not understand yet, she only felt, and felt so keenly, that she could not bring herself to speak of it, even to Ogden Van Lennop, who still supposed that she had gone as an invited guest.



IX

THE WAYS OF POLITE SOCIETY

The change which a marcelled pompadour, kimona sleeves, a peach-basket hat, and a hobble skirt wrought in the appearance of Mrs. Andy P. Symes, nee Kunkel, was a source of amazement to Crowheart. Her apologetic diffidence was now replaced by an air of complacency arising from the fact that since her return she began to regard herself as a travelled lady who had seen much of life. The occasions upon which she had sat blushing and stammering in the presence of her husband's friends were fast fading from mind in the agreeable experience of finding herself treated with deference by those who formerly had seemed rather to tolerate than desire her society. Until her return to Crowheart she had not in the least realized what a difference her marriage was to make in her life.

In that other environment she had felt like a servant girl taken red-handed and heavy-footed from the kitchen and suddenly placed in the drawing-room upon terms of equality with her mistress and her mistresses's friends, but she had profited by her opportunities and now brought back with her something of the air and manner of speech and dress of those who had embarrassed her. While Crowheart laughed a little behind her back it was nevertheless impressed by the mild affectations.

It is no exaggeration to say that Crowheart's eyes protruded when Mrs. Symes returned the neighborly visits of the ladies who had "just run in to see how she was gettin' on," by a series of formal afternoon calls. No such fashionable sight ever had been witnessed in the town as Mrs. Symes presented when, in a pair of white kid gloves and a veil, she picked her way with ostentatious daintiness across several vacant lots still encumbered with cactus and sagebrush, to the log residence of Mr. and Mrs. Alva Jackson.

There was a pair of eyes staring unabashed at every front window in the neighborhood when Mrs. Symes stood on Mrs. Jackson's "stoop" and removed a piece of baling wire from the lace frill of her petticoat before she wrapped her handkerchief around her hand to protect her white kid knuckles and knocked with lady-like gentleness upon Mrs. Jackson's door.

Mrs. Jackson, who had been peering through the foliage of a potted geranium on the window-sill, was pinning frantically at her scolding locks, but retained sufficient presence of mind to let a proper length of time elapse before opening the door. When she did, it was with an elaborate bow from the waistline and a surprised—

"Why, how do you do, Mis' Symes!"

Mrs. Symes smiled in prim sweetness, and noting that Mrs. Jackson's hands looked reasonably clean, extended one of the first two white kid gloves in Crowheart which Mrs. Jackson shook with heartiness before bouncing back and inquiring—

"Won't you come in, Mis' Symes?"

"Thanks." Mrs. Symes took a pinch of the front breadth of her skirt between her thumb and finger and stepped daintily over the door-sill.

"Set down," urged Mrs. Jackson making a dash at a blue plush rocking-chair which she rolled into the centre of the room with great energy.

When the chair tipped and sent Mrs. Symes's feet into the air Mrs. Jackson's burst of laughter was heard distinctly by Mrs. Tutts across the street.

"Trash!" exclaimed that person in unfathomable contempt.

Mrs. Jackson had two missing front teeth which she had lost upon an occasion to which she no longer referred, also a voice strained and husky from the many midnight choruses in which she had joined before she sold her goodwill and fixtures. She now rested her outspread fingers upon each knee and wildly ransacked her brain for something light and airy in the way of conversation.

Mrs. Symes, sitting bolt upright on the edge of the plush rocking-chair with her long, flat feet pressed tightly together, tweaked at the only veil in Crowheart and cleared her throat with subdued and lady-like restraint before she inquired—

"Isn't it a lovely day?"

"Oh, lovely!" Mrs. Jackson answered with husky vivacity. "Perfeckly lovely!"

Another silence followed and something of Mrs. Jackson's mental state could be read in her dilated pupils and excited, restless eyes. Finally she said in a desperate voice—

"It's a grand climate anyhow."

"If it wasn't for the wind; it's one drawback."

Another burst of laughter from Mrs. Jackson who covered her mouth with her hand after the manner of those who have been unfortunate in the matter of front teeth.

"Cats!" hissed Mrs. Tutts across the street. "I'll bet they are laffin' at me!"

"We had charming weather while we were gone," continued Mrs. Symes easily. The word was new to her vocabulary and its elegance did not escape Mrs. Jackson.

"That's good."

"The change was so beneficial to me. One so soon exhausts a small town, don't you think so, Mrs. Jackson?"

Mrs. Jackson could not truthfully say that she ever had felt that she had exhausted Crowheart, but she agreed weakly—

"Uh-huh."

"I had so many new and delightful experiences, too." Mrs. Symes smiled a sweetly reminiscent smile.

"You musta had."

"Going out in the train we had cantelope with cracked ice in it. You must try it sometimes, Mrs. Jackson—it's delicious."

"I can't say when I've et a cantelope but, Oh Lord, I has a hankerin' for eggs! I tell Jackson the next time he ships he's gotta take me along, for I want to git out where I can git my mitt on a pair of eggs."

"We became quite surfeited with eggs, Phidias and I," observed Mrs. Symes with an air of ennui.

Mrs. Jackson blinked.

"I can't go 'em onless they're plumb fresh," she replied non-committally.

"I've had such a pleasant call." Mrs. Symes rose.

"Run in agin." Mrs. Jackson's eyes were glued upon the leather card-case from which Mrs. Symes was endeavoring to extract a card with fingers which she was unable to bend.

"Thanks. I've been so busy getting settled and all but now I mean to keep a servant and shall have more time."

Mrs. Jackson had read of ladies who kept servants but never had hoped to know one.

"Where you goin' to git—it? From Omyhaw or K. C.?"

"Grandmother has promised to come to me," said Mrs. Symes languidly.

Mrs. Jackson's jaw dropped.

"Gramma Kunkel ain't a servant, is she? she's 'help.'"

"'Help' are servants," explained Mrs. Symes with gentle patience as she laid her printed visiting card upon the centre table.

"Gosh! that strikes me funny." Mrs. Jackson was natural at last.

"Not at all," replied Mrs. Symes with hauteur. "She must work, so why not for me? She's strong and very, very capable."

"Oh, she's capable all right, but," persisted Mrs. Jackson unconvinced, "it strikes me funny. Say, is Essie Tisdale a servant, too?"

Mrs. Symes smiled ever so slightly as she fumbled with her visiting card and laid it in a more conspicuous place.

"Certainly."

"Was that why she wasn't ast to the banquet?"

Again Mrs. Symes smiled the slow, deprecating smile which she was assiduously cultivating.

"Society must draw the line somewhere, Mrs. Jackson."

Mrs. Jackson gulped with a clicking sound, and at the door shook hands with Mrs. Symes, wearing the dazed expression of one who has bumped his head on a shelf corner. Through the potted geranium she watched Mrs. Symes picking her way across another vacant lot to the dwelling of the Sylvanus Starr's.

Mrs. Abe Tutts with her blue flannel yachting cap set at an aggressive angle over one eye paddled across the street and was upon Mrs. Jackson before that person was aware of her presence.

"Has that guttersnipe gone?" A quite superfluous question, as Mrs. Jackson was well aware.

"Of who are you speakin'?" inquired Mrs. Jackson coldly.

"Who would I be speakin' of but Gus Kunkel?" demanded Mrs. Tutts belligerently.

"Look here, Mis' Tutts, I don't want to have no words with you, but——"

"What's that?" interrupted Mrs. Tutts eyeing the visiting card which Mrs. Jackson had been studying intently. "Is she leavin' tickets for somethin'?"

"Oh, no," replied. Mrs. Jackson in a blase tone, "this is merely her callin' card."

"Callin' card! You was to home, wasn't you?"

"It's the new style to leave your callin' card whether they're to home or not," explained Mrs. Jackson, hazarding a guess.

Mrs. Jackson's air of familiarity with social mysteries was most exasperating to Mrs. Tutts.

"What's the sense of that? Lemme see it."

Mrs. Tutts read laboriously and with unmitigated scorn:

MRS. ANDREW PHIDIAS SYMES At Home Thursday 2-4

She sank cautiously into the blue rocking-chair and removed a hatpin which skewered her yachting cap to a knob of hair.

"That beats me! 'Mrs. Andrew Phidias Symes!'" Mrs. Tutts saw no reason to slight the letter p and pronounced it distinctly. "At home Thursdays between two and four! What of it? Ain't we all generally home Thursdays between two and four?"

"Gussie has improved wonderful," replied Mrs. Jackson pacifically.

"Improved! If you call goin' around passin' of them up that she's knowed well 'improved' why then she has improved wonderful. Snip!"

"I don't think she really aimed to pass you up."

"I wasn't thinkin' of myself," replied Mrs. Tutts hotly, "I was thinking of Essie Tisdale. I hope Mis' Symes don't come around to call on me—I'm kind of perticular who I entertain."

Mrs. Jackson's hard blue eyes began to shine, but Mrs. Jackson had been something of a warrior herself in her day and knew a warrior when she saw one. She had no desire to engage in a hand to hand conflict with Mrs. Tutts, whose fierceness she was well aware was more than surface deep, and she read in that person's alert pose a disconcerting readiness for action. It was a critical moment, one which required tact, for a single injudicious word would precipitate a fray of which Mrs. Jackson could not be altogether sure of the result. Besides, poised as she was like a winged Mercury on the threshold of Society, she could not afford any low scene with Mrs. Tutts. Conquering her resentment, Mrs. Jackson said conciliatingly—

"Yes, of course, now we 're married it's different—we have to be perticular who we entertain. As Mis' Symes says—'Society must draw the line somewhere!'"

Mrs. Tutts searched her face in quick suspicion.

"Who'd she say it about?"

"Promise me that this won't go no further—hope to die?—but to tell the truth we was speakin' of Essie Tisdale."

Mrs. Tutts looked mystified.

"What's she done?"

In unconscious imitation of Mrs. Symes, Mrs. Jackson curled her little finger and smiled a slow, deprecating smile—

"You see she works out—she's really a servant."

Mrs. Tutts nodded in entire comprehension.

"I know; back East in Dakoty we always looked down on them more or less as was out'n out hired girls. But out here I've aimed to treat everybody the same."

"I'll say that for you, Mis' Tutts," declared Mrs. Jackson generously, "you've never showed no diffrunce to nobody."

"I'm glad you think so," said Mrs. Tutts modestly, "and I don't mean to pass Essie Tisdale up altogether."

"Ner me," declared Mrs. Jackson, "she's a perfeckly good girl so far as I know."

"Where do you suppose Mis' Symes got them cards printed?" inquired Mrs. Tutts. "I gotta git Tutts to git to work and git me some."

"Over to the Courier office I should think," Mrs. Jackson added. "It's lucky I got some in the house since they've started in usin' em."

There was a moment's silence in which Mrs. Tutts eyed Mrs. Jackson with unfriendly eyes. It seemed very plain to her that her neighbor was trying to "put it over her." The temptation against which she struggled was too strong and she inquired pointedly while she discreetly arose to go—

"Business cards, Mis' Jackson—some you had left over?"

Diplomacy was scattered to the four winds.

"No; not business cards, Mis' Tutts! Callin' cards. I'll show you one since I've no notion you ever saw one back there in that beer garden where you cracked your voice singin'!"

Mrs. Tutts put on her yachting cap and pulling it down on her head until her hair was well covered, advanced menacingly.

"You gotta eat them words, Mis' Jackson," she said with ominous calm.

Mrs. Jackson retreated until the marble-topped centre table formed a protecting barrier.

"Don't you start no rough-house here, Mis' Tutts."

Mrs. Tutts continued to advance and her lips had contracted as though an invisible gathering string had been jerked violently.

"You gotta eat them words, Mis' Jackson." Unwavering purpose was in her voice.

"I'll have the law on you if you begin a ruckus here." Mrs. Jackson moved to the opposite side of the table.

"The law's nothin' to me." Mrs. Tutts went around the table.

"I haven't forgot I'm a lady!" Mrs. Jackson quickened her gait.

"Everybody else has." Mrs. Tutts also accelerated her pace.

"Don't you dast lay hands on me!" Mrs. Jackson broke into a trot.

"Not if I can stomp on you," declared Mrs. Tutts as the back fulness of Mrs. Jackson's skirt slipped through her fingers.

"What's the use of this? I don't want to fight, Mis' Tutts." Mrs. Jackson was galloping and slightly dizzy.

"You will onct you git into it," encouraged Mrs. Tutts, grimly measuring the distance between them with her eye.

"You ought to have your brains beat out for this!" On the thirteenth lap around the table Mrs. Jackson was panting audibly.

"Couldn't reach yours th'out cuttin' your feet off!" responded Mrs. Tutts, in whose eyes gleamed what sporting writers describe as "the joy of battle."

The strength of the hunted hostess was waning visibly.

"I've got heart trouble, Mis' Tutts," she gasped in desperation, "and I'm liable to drop dead any jump!"

"No such luck." Mrs. Tutts made a pass at her across the table.

"This is perfeckly ridic'lous; do you at all realize what you're doin'?"

"I won't," Mrs. Tutts spoke with full knowledge of the deadly insult; "I won't until I git a few handfuls of your red hair!"

Mrs. Jackson stopped in her tracks and fear fell from her. Her roving eye searched the room for a weapon and her glance fell upon the potted geranium. Mrs. Tutts already had possessed herself of the scissors.

"My hair may be red, Mis' Tutts," her shrill voice whistled through the space left by her missing teeth, as she stood with the geranium poised aloft, "but it's my own!"

Mrs. Tutts staggered under the crash of pottery and the thud of packed dirt upon her head. She sank to the floor, but rose again, dazed and blinking, her warlike spirit temporarily crushed.

"There's the door, Mis' Tutts." Mrs. Jackson drew herself up with regal hauteur and pointed. "Now get the hell out of here!"



X

ESSIE TISDALE'S ENFORCED ABNEGATION

There was one place at least where the popularity of the little belle of Crowheart showed no signs of diminution and this was in the menagerie of domestic animals which occupied quarters in the rear of the large backyard of the hotel. The phlegmatic black omnibus and dray horses neighed for sugar at her coming, the calf she had weaned from the wild range cow bawled at sight of her, while various useless dogs leaped about her in ecstasy, and a mere glimpse of her skirt through the kitchen doorway was sufficient to start such a duet from the two excessively vital and omniverous mammals whom Essie had ironically named Alphonse and Gaston that Van Lennop, who had the full benefit of this chorus, often wished the time had arrived for Alphonse and Gaston to fulfil their destiny. Yet he found diversion, too, in her efforts to instil into their minds the importance of politeness and unselfishness and frequently he laughed aloud at the fragments of conversation which reached him when he heard her laboring with them in the interest of their manners.

A loud and persistent squealing caused Van Lennop to raise his eyes from his book and look out upon the pole corral wherein the vociferous Alphonse and Gaston were confined. Essie Tisdale was perched upon the top pole, seemingly deaf to their shrill importunities; depression was in every line of her slim figure, despondency in the droop of her head. Her attitude held his attention and set him wondering, for he thought of her always as the embodiment of laughter, good-humor, and exuberant youth. Of all the women he ever had known, either well or casually, she had seemed the farthest from moods or nerves or anything even dimly suggestive of the neurasthenic.

Moved by an impulse Van Lennop laid down his book and went below.

"Air-castles, Miss Tisdale?" he asked as he sauntered toward her. He still insisted upon the whimsical formality of "Miss Tisdale," although to all Crowheart, naturally, she was "Essie."

The girl lifted her sombre eyes at the sound of his voice and the shadow in them gave them the look of deep blue velvet, Van Lennop thought.

"You only build air-castles when you are happy, don't you? and hopeful?"

"And are you not happy and hopeful, Miss Tisdale?" Amusement glimmered in his eyes. "I thought you were quite the happiest person I know, and to be happy is to be hopeful."

"What have I to make me happy?" she demanded with an intensity which startled him. "What have I to hope for?"

"Fishing, Miss Tisdale?" He still smiled at her.

"For what? To be told that I'm pretty?"

"And young," Van Lennop supplemented. "I know women who would give a king's ransom to be young and pretty. Isn't that enough to make one person happy?"

"And what good will being either ever do me?" she demanded bitterly; "me, a biscuit-shooter!" Her musical voice was almost harsh in its bitterness. She turned upon him fiercely. "I've been happy because I was ignorant, but I've been enlightened; I've been made to see; I've been shown my place!"

That was it then; some one had hurt her, some one had found it in his heart to hurt Essie Tisdale whose friendliness was as impartial and as boundless as the sunshine itself. He looked at her inquiringly and she went on—

"Don't you think I see what's ahead of me? It's as plain as though it had happened and there's nothing else possible for me."

"And what is it?" he asked gently.

"There'll come a day when I'm tired and discouraged and utterly, utterly hopeless that some cowpuncher will ask me to marry him and I'll say yes. Then he'll file on a homestead away off somewhere in the foothills where the range is good and there's no sheep and it's fifty miles to a neighbor and a two days' trip to town." She stared straight ahead as though visualizing the picture. "He'll build a log house with a slat bunk in one end and set up a camp-stove with cracked lids in the other. There'll be a home-made table with a red oilcloth table cover and a bench and a home-made rocking chair with a woven bottom of cowhide for me. He'll buy a little bunch of yearlings with his savings and what he can borrow and in the spring I'll herd them off the poison while he breaks ground to put in a little crop of alfalfa. I'll get wrinkles at the corners of my eyes from squinting in the sun and a weather-beaten skin from riding in the wind and lines about my mouth from worrying over paying interest on our loan.

"In the winter we'll be snowed up for weeks at a time and spend the hours looking at the pictures in a mail order catalogue and threshing the affairs of our acquaintances threadbare. Twice a year we'll go to town in a second-hand Studebaker. I'll be dressed in the clothes I wore before I was married and he'll wear overalls and boots with run-over heels. A dollar will look a shade smaller than a full moon and I'll cry for joy when I get a clothes-wringer or a washing machine for a Christmas present. That," she concluded laconically, "is my finish."

Van Lennop did not smile, instead he shook his head gravely.

"No, Essie Tisdale, I can't just see you in any such setting as that."

"Why not? I've seen it happen to others."

"But," he spoke decisively, "you're different."

"Yes," she cried with a vehemence which sent the color flying under her fair skin, "I am different! If I wasn't I wouldn't mind. But I care for things that the girls who have married like that do not care for, and I can't help it. They save their money to buy useful things and I spend all mine buying books. Perhaps it's wrong, for that may be the reason of my shrinking from a life such as I've described since books have taught me there's something else outside. Being different only makes it all the harder."

"And yet," said Van Lennop, "I'm somehow glad you are. But what has happened? Who has hurt you? Did something go wrong at this wonderful dinner of which you told me? Were you not after all quite the prettiest girl there?"

"I wasn't asked!"

Van Lennop's eyes widened.

"You were not? Why, I thought the belle of Crowheart was always asked."

"Not now; I'm a biscuit-shooter; I work—and—'Society must draw the line somewhere.'"

"Who said that?" Amazement was in Van Lennop's tone.

"Mr. Symes said it to Mrs. Symes, Mrs. Symes said it to Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Jackson said it to Mrs. Tutts, Mrs. Tutts said it to me."

"Of whom?"

"Of me."

"But what society?" Van Lennop's face still wore a puzzled look.

"Crowheart society."

A light broke over his face; then he laughed aloud, such a shout of unadulterated glee that Alphonse and Gaston ceased to squeal and fixed their twinkling eyes upon him in momentary wonder.

"When I told you I was going I thought of course they would ask me. I thought the tardy invitation was just an oversight, but now I know"—her chin quivered suddenly like a hurt child's—"that they never meant to ask me."

Van Lennop's face had quickly sobered.

"You are sure he really said that—this Andy P. Symes?"

"I think there's no mistake. It was the easiest way to rid themselves of my friendship." She told him then of the reproof Symes had administered.

An unwonted shine came into Van Lennop's calm eyes as he listened. This put a different face upon the affair, this intentional injury to the feelings of his stanch little champion, it somehow made it a more personal matter. The "social line" amused him merely, though, in a way, it held a sociological interest for him, too. It was, he told himself, like being privileged to witness the awakening of social ambitions in a tribe of bushmen.

Van Lennop was silent, but the girl felt his unspoken sympathy, and it was balm to her sore little heart.

"This—society?" she asked after a time. "What is it? We've never had it before. Everybody knows everybody else out here and there are so few of us that we've always had our good times together and we have never left anybody out. The very last thing we wanted to do was to hurt anyone else's feelings in that way."

"You have left those halycon days behind, I'm afraid," Van Lennop replied. "The first instinct of a certain class of people is to hurt the feelings of others. It's the only way they know to proclaim their superiority, a superiority of which they are not at all sure, themselves. Just what 'society' is, is an old and threadbare subject and has been threshed out over and over again without greatly altering anybody's individual point of view. Good breeding, brains and money are generally conceded to be the essentials required by that complex institution and certainly one or all of them are necessary for any great social success."

Van Lennop watched her troubled face and waited.

"Then that's why old Edouard Dubois was asked, though he never speaks, and Alva Jackson, who is uncouth and ignorant? They represent money."

Van Lennop smiled.

"Undoubtedly."

"And the Starrs are brains."

He laughed outright now.

"The power of the press! Correct, Miss Tisdale."

"And Andy P. Symes——" Van Lennop supplied dryly—"is family. He had a great-grandfather, I believe."

Van Lennop returned the persistent, pleading stare of Alphonse and Gaston while Essie pondered this bewildering subject.

"But out here it's mostly money that counts, or rather will count in the future."

"Yes, with a man of Symes's type it would be nearly the only qualification necessary. If you had been the 'rich Miss Tisdale' you undoubtedly would have been the guest of honor."

"Then," she said chokingly, "my good times are over, for I'm—nobody knows who—just Essie Tisdale—a biscuit-shooter whose friendship counts for nothing."

With feminine intuition she grasped Crowheart's new point of view, and Van Lennop, because he knew human nature, could not contradict her, but in the security of his own position he could not fully understand how much it all meant to her in her small world.

"You mustn't take this to heart," he said gently, conscious of a strong desire to comfort her. "If the cost of an invitation were a single tear it would be too high a price to pay. In explaining to you what the world recognizes in a general way as 'Society,' I had no thought of Crowheart in my mind. There can be no 'Society' in Crowheart with its present material. What it is obvious this man Symes means to attempt, is only an absurd imitation of something he can never hope to attain. The effort resembles the attempts of a group of amateurs to present a Boucicault comedy, while 'in front' the world laughs at them, not with them. It is a dangerous experiment to pretend to be anything other than what you are. It means loss of dignity, for you are merely absurd when you attempt to play a part which by birth and training and temperament you are nowise fitted to play. You become a target for the people whom you care most to impress.

"When one begins to imitate he loses his individuality and his individuality is the westerner's chief charm. Be yourself, Essie Tisdale, be simple, sincere, and you can never be absurd.

"I am sorry for what you have told me, since, if what seems threatening comes to pass, Crowheart will be only a middle class, commonplace town of which it has a thousand prototypes. Its strongest attraction now is its western flavor, the lingering atmosphere of the frontier. This must pass with time, of course, but it seems a shame that the change should be forced prematurely by the efforts of this man Symes. Really I feel a distinct sense of personal injury at his innovations." Van Lennop laughed slightly. "The old way was the best way for a long time to come, it seems to me. That was real democracy—a Utopian condition that had of necessity to go with the town's growth, but certainly not at this stage. In larger communities it is natural enough that those of similar tastes should seek each other, but, in a place like Crowheart where the interests and the mental calibre of its inhabitants are practically the same, the man who seeks to establish an 'aristocracy' proclaims himself a petty-minded, silly ass. Be a philosopher, Miss Tisdale."

But Essie Tisdale was not a philosopher; the experience was still too new and bewildering for philosophy to prove an instant remedy. She found Van Lennop's sympathy far more comforting than his logic, but through her heavy-heartedness there was creeping a growing appreciation of the superiority of this stranger in worn corduroys to his surroundings, a clearer conception of his calm mental poise.

Van Lennop himself was a living contradiction of the fallacious statement that all men are equal, and now, moved by her unhappiness, she caught a glimpse of that lying beneath the impregnable reserve of a polite and agreeable exterior which made the distinction. She realized more strongly than before that he lived upon a different plane from that of any man she ever had known.

"Do you know who I think must have been like you?" she asked him unexpectedly.

He shook his head smilingly.

"I can't imagine."

"Robert Louis Stevenson."

He flushed a little.

"You surely flatter me; there is no one whom I admire more." He looked at her in something of pleased surprise. "You read Stevenson—you like him?"

Her face lighted with enthusiasm.

"So very, very much. He seems so wise and so—human. I have all that he has written—his published letters, everything."

He continued to look at her oddly. Yes, Essie Tisdale was "different" and somehow he was glad. The personal conversation had shown him unexpected phases of her character. He saw beneath her youthful unworldliness the latent ambitions, undeveloped, immature desires and something of the underlying strength concealed by her ordinarily light-hearted exuberance. While the readjustment of Crowheart's social affairs was hurting her on the raw he saw the sensitiveness of her nature, the quick pride and perceptions which he might otherwise have been long in discovering. Previously she had amused and interested him, now she awakened in him a real anxiety as to her future.

"Be brave," he said, "and keep on smiling, Essie Tisdale. You must work out your own salvation as must we all. This will pass and be forgotten; there will be triumphs with your failures, don't forget that, and the long years ahead of you which you so dread may hold better things than you dare dream. In some way that I don't see now I may be able to lend you a helping hand."

"Your friendship and your sympathy are enough," she said gratefully.

"You have them both," he answered, and on the strength of ten years' difference in their ages he patted her slim fingers with a quite paternal hand, in ignorance of the malevolent pair of eyes watching him from the window at the end of the upper corridor.



XI

THE OPENING WEDGE

It was with mixed feelings that Dr. Harpe saw Van Lennop ride briskly from the livery stable leading a saddle horse behind his own. It was for Essie Tisdale, she surmised, and her conjecture was confirmed when she saw them gallop away.

While the sight galled her it pleased her, too, for it lent color to the impression she was discreetly but persistently endeavoring to spread in the community that the open rupture between herself and the girl was of her making and was necessitated by reasons which she could but did not care to make public. She made no definite charge, but with a deprecatory shrug of her shoulder and a casual observation that "it was a pity Essie Tisdale was making such a fool of herself and allowing a perfect stranger to make such a fool of her" she was gradually achieving the result she desired. The newcomers seized upon her insinuations with avidity, but the old settlers were loath to believe, though upon each, in the end, it had its effect, for Dr. Harpe was now firmly established in Crowheart's esteem. She had, she felt sure, safeguarded herself so far as Essie Tisdale was concerned, yet she was not satisfied, for she seemed no nearer overcoming Van Lennop's prejudice than the day she had aroused it. He distinctly avoided her, and she did not believe in forcing issues. Time, she often averred, would bring nearly every desired result, and she could wait; but she did not wait patiently, fretting more and more as the days drifted by without bringing to her the desired opportunity.

"I hate to be thwarted! I hate it! I hate it!" she often said angrily to herself, but she was helpless in the face of Van Lennop's cool avoidance.

In the meantime the bugbear of her existence was making history in his own way. The Dago Duke was no inconspicuous figure in Crowheart, for his daily life was punctuated with escapades which constantly furnished fresh topics of conversation to the populace. He fluctuated between periods of abject poverty and briefer periods of princely affluence, the latter seldom lasting longer than a night. He engaged in disputes over money where the sum involved rarely exceeded a dollar, with a night in the calaboose and a fine as a result, after which it was his wont to present his disfigured opponent with a munificent gift as a token of his esteem. Who or what he was and why he chose to honor Crowheart with his presence were questions which he showed no desire to answer. He was duly considered as a social possibility by Andy P. Symes, but rejected owing to the fact that he was seldom if ever sober, and, furthermore, in spite of his undeniably polished manners, showed a marked preference for the companionship of the element who were unmistakably goats in the social division.

At last there came a time when the Dago Duke was unable to raise a cup of coffee to his lips without scalding himself. He had no desire for food, his eyes were bloodshot, and his favorite bartender tied his scarf for him mornings. He moved from saloon to saloon haranguing the patrons upon the curse of wealth, encouraged in his socialistic views by the professional gamblers who presided over the poker games and roulette wheels. In view of their interest there seemed no likelihood that the curse would rest upon him long.

Then one night, or morning, to be exact, after the Dago Duke had been assisted to retire by his friend the bartender, and the washstand by actual count had chased the bureau sixty-two times around the room, the Dago Duke noticed a lizard on the wall. He was not entirely convinced that it was a lizard until he sat up in bed and noticed that there were two lizards.

He crept out and picked up his shoe for a weapon.

"Now if I can paste that first one," he told himself optimistically, "I know the other will leave."

He struck at it with the heel of his shoe, and it darted to the ceiling, whence it looked down upon him with a peculiarly tantalizing smile.

The Dago Duke stood on the bureau and endeavored to reach it, but it was surprisingly agile; besides other lizards were now appearing. They came from every crack and corner. They swarmed. Lizards though harmless are unpleasant and the perspiration stood out on the Dago Duke's brow as he watched their number grow. He struck a mighty blow at the lizard on the ceiling and the bureau toppled. He found himself uninjured, but the breaking of the glass made something of a crash. The floor was all but covered with lizards, so he decided to return to his bed before he was obliged to step on them. He was shaking as with a chill and his teeth clicked. They were on his bed! They were under his pillow! Then he laughed aloud when he discovered it was only a roll of banknotes he had placed there before his friend the bartender had blown out the light. But the rest were lizards, there was no doubt about that, and he would tell Terriberry in the morning what he thought of him and his hotel! They were darting over the walls and ceiling and wiggling over the floor.

"I can stand it to-night," he muttered, "but to-morrow——"

What was that in the corner? He had only to look twice to know. He had seen Gila monsters in Arizona! He had seen a cowpuncher ride into town with one biting his thumb in two. The puncher went crazy later. Yes, he knew a Gila monster when he saw one and this was plain enough; there were the orange and black markings, the wicked head, the beady, evil eyes—and this one was growing! It would soon be as big as a sea-turtle and it was blinking at him with malicious purpose in its fixed gaze.

The Dago Duke's hands and feet were like ice, while the cold sweat stood in beads on his forehead. Then he screamed. He had not intended to scream, but the monster had moved toward him, hypnotizing him with its stare. He could see clearly the poisonous vapor which it was said to exhale! He screamed again and a man's scream is a sound not to be forgotten. The Dago Duke "had them," as Crowheart phrased it, and "had them" right.

The bartender was the first to arrive and Van Lennop was not far behind, while others, hastily dressed, followed.

The Dago Duke gripped Van Lennop's hand in dreadful terror.

"Don't let it come across that seam in the carpet! Don't let it come!"

"I'll not; it shan't touch you; don't be afraid, old man." There was something wonderfully soothing in Van Lennop's quiet voice.

"I'll tell the lady doc to bounce out," said the bartender. "He's got 'em bad. I had 'em twict myself and took the cure. It's fierce. He's gotta have some dope—a shot o' hop will fix him."

The bartender hurried away on his kindly mission, while the Dago Duke clung to Van Lennop like a horrified child to its mother.

Dr. Harpe came quickly, her hair loose about her shoulders, looking younger and more girlish in a soft negligee than Van Lennop had ever seen her. She saw the faint shade of prejudice cross his face as she entered, but satisfaction was in her own. Her chance had come at last in this unexpected way.

"Snakes," she said laconically.

"Yes," Van Lennop replied with equal brevity.

"I'll have to quiet him. Will you stay with him?" She addressed Van Lennop.

"Certainly."

"Look here," protested the bartender in an injured voice. "He's my best friend and havin' had snakes myself——"

"Aw—clear out—all of you. We'll take care of him."

"Folks that has snakes likes their bes' friends around 'em," declared the bartender stubbornly. "They has influence——"

"Get out," reiterated Dr. Harpe curtly, and he finally went with the rest.

"I'll give him a hypodermic," she said when the room was cleared, and hastened back to her office for the needle.

Together they watched the morphine do its work and sat in silence while the wrecked and jangling nerves relaxed and sleep came to the unregenerate Dago Duke.

Dr. Harpe's impassive face gave no indication of the activity of her mind. Now that the opportunity to "square herself," to use her own words, had arrived, she had no notion of letting it pass.

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