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The Younger Set
by Robert W. Chambers
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"My value," he said, "is what you care to make it."

"Then nobody can afford to take you away from me, Captain Selwyn."

He flushed with pleasure: "That is the prettiest thing a woman ever admitted to a man," he said.

"You have said nicer things to me. That is your reward. I wonder if you remember any of the nice things you say to me? Oh, don't look so hurt and astonished—because I don't believe you do. . . . Isn't it jolly to sit here and let life drift past us? Out there in the world"—she nodded backward toward the open—"out yonder all that 'progress' is whirling around the world, and here we sit—just you and I—quite happily, swinging our feet in perfect content and talking nonsense. . . . What more is there after all than a companionship that admits both sense and nonsense?"

She laughed, turning her chin on her shoulder to glance at him; and when the laugh had died out she still sat lightly poised, chin nestling in the hollow of her shoulder, considering him out of friendly beautiful eyes in which no mockery remained.

"What more is there than our confidence in each other and our content?" she said.

And, as he did not respond: "I wonder if you realise how perfectly lovely you have been to me since you have come into my life? Do you? Do you remember the first day—the very first—how I sent word to you that I wished you to see my first real dinner gown? Smile if you wish—Ah, but you don't, you don't understand, my poor friend, how much you became to me in that little interview. . . . Men's kindness is a strange thing; they may try and try, and a girl may know they are trying and, in her turn, try to be grateful. But it is all effort on both sides. Then—with a word—an impulse born of chance or instinct—a man may say and do that which a woman can never forget—and would not if she could."

"Have I done—that?"

"Yes. Didn't you understand? Do you suppose any other man in the world could have what you have had of me—of my real self? Do you suppose for one instant that any other man than you could ever obtain from me the confidence I offer you unasked? Do I not tell you everything that enters my head and heart? Do you not know that I care for you more than for anybody alive?"

"Gerald—"

She looked him straight in the eyes; her breath caught, but she steadied her voice:

"I've got to be truthful," she said; "I care for you more than for Gerald."

"And I for you more than anybody living," he said.

"Is it true?"

"It is the truth, Eileen."

"You—you make me very happy, Captain Selwyn."

"But—did you not know it before I told you?"

"I—y-yes; I hoped so." In the exultant reaction from the delicious tension of avowal she laughed lightly, not knowing why.

"The pleasure in it," she said, "is the certainty that I am capable of making you happy. You have no idea how I desire to do it. I've wanted to ever since I knew you—I've wanted to be capable of doing it. And you tell me that I do; and I am utterly and foolishly happy." The quick mischievous sparkle of gaminerie flashed up, transforming her for an instant—"Ah, yes; and I can make you unhappy, too, it seems, by talking of marriage! That, too, is something—a delightful power—but"—the malice dying to a spark in her brilliant eyes—"I shall not torment you, Captain Selwyn. Will it make you happier if I say, 'No; I shall never marry as long as I have you'? Will it really? Then I say it; never, never will I marry as long as I have your confidence and friendship. . . . But I want it all!—every bit, please. And if ever there is another woman—if ever you fall in love!—crack!—away I go"—she snapped her white fingers—"like that!" she added, "only quicker! Well, then! Be very, very careful, my friend! . . . I wish there were some place here where I could curl up indefinitely and listen to your views on life. You brought a book to read, didn't you?"

He gave her a funny embarrassed glance: "Yes; I brought a sort of a book."

"Then I'm all ready to be read to, thank you. . . . Please steady me while I try to stand up on this log—one hand will do—"

Scarcely in contact with him she crossed the log, sprang blithely to the ground, and, lifting the hem of her summer gown an inch or two, picked her way toward the bank above.

"We can see Nina when she signals us from the lawn to come to luncheon," she said, gazing out across the upland toward the silvery tinted hillside where Silverside stood, every pane glittering with the white eastern sunlight.

In the dry, sweet grass she found a place for a nest, and settled into it, head prone on a heap of scented bay leaves, elbows skyward, and fingers linked across her chin. One foot was hidden, the knee, doubled, making a tent of her white skirt, from an edge of which a russet shoe projected, revealing the contour of a slim ankle.

"What book did you bring?" she asked dreamily.

He turned red: "It's—it's just a chapter from a little book I'm trying to write—a—a sort of suggestion for the establishment of native regiments in the Philippines. I thought, perhaps, you might not mind listening—"

Her delighted surprise and quick cordiality quite overwhelmed him, so, sitting flat on the grass, hat off and the hill wind furrowing his bright crisp hair, he began, naively, like a schoolboy; and Eileen lay watching him, touched and amused at his eager interest in reading aloud to her this mass of co-ordinated fact and detail.

There was, in her, one quality to which he had never appealed in vain—her loyalty. Confident of that, and of her intelligence, he wasted no words in preliminary explanation, but began at once his argument in favour of a native military establishment erected on the general lines of the British organisation in India.

He wrote simply and without self-consciousness; loyalty aroused her interest, intelligence sustained it; and when the end came, it came too quickly for her, and she said so frankly, which delighted him.

At her invitation he outlined for her the succeeding chapters with terse military accuracy; and what she liked best and best understood was avoidance of that false modesty which condescends, turning technicality into pabulum.

Lying there in the fragrant verdure, blue eyes skyward or slanting sideways to watch his face, she listened, answered, questioned, or responded by turns; until their voices grew lazy and the light reaction from things serious awakened the gaiety always latent when they were together.

"Proceed," she smiled; "Arma virumque—a noble theme, Captain Selwyn. Sing on!"

He shook his head, quoting from "The Dedication":

"Arms and the Man! A noble theme I ween! Alas! I cannot sing of these, Eileen; Only of maids and men and meadow-grass, Of sea and tree and woodlands where I pass— Nothing but these I know, Eileen—alas!

* * * * *

Clear eyes, that lifted up to me Free heart and soul of vanity; Blue eyes, that speak so wistfully— Nothing but these I know, alas!"

She laughed her acknowledgment, and lying there, face to the sky, began to sing to herself, under her breath, fragments of that ancient war-song:

"Le bon Roi Dagobert Avait un grand sabre de fer; Le grand Saint Eloi Lui dit: 'O mon Roi Votre Majeste Pourrait se blesser!' 'C'est vrai,' lui dit le Roi, 'Qu'on me donne un sabre de bois!'"

"In that verse," observed Selwyn, smiling, "lies the true key to the millennium—international disarmament and moral suasion."

"Nonsense," she said lazily; "the millennium will arrive when the false balance between man and woman is properly adjusted—not before. And that means universal education. . . . Did you ever hear that old, old song, written two centuries ago—the 'Education of Phyllis'? No? Listen then and be ashamed."

And lying there, the back of one hand above her eyes, she sang in a sweet, childish, mocking voice, tremulous with hidden laughter, the song of Phyllis the shepherdess and Sylvandre the shepherd—how Phyllis, more avaricious than sentimental, made Sylvandre pay her thirty sheep for one kiss; how, next day, the price shifted to one sheep for thirty kisses; and then the dreadful demoralisation of Phyllis:

"Le lendemain, Philis, plus tendre Fut trop heureuse de lui rendre Trente moutons pour un baiser!

* * * * *

Le lendemain, Philis, peu sage, Aurait donne moutons et chien Pour un baiser que le volage A Lisette donnait pour rien!"

"And there we are," said Eileen, sitting up abruptly and levelling the pink-tipped finger of accusation at him—"there, if you please, lies the woe of the world—not in the armaments of nations! That old French poet understood in half a second more than your Hague tribunal could comprehend in its first Cathayan cycle! There lies the hope of your millennium—in the higher education of the modern Phyllis."

"And the up-to-date Sylvandre," added Selwyn.

"He knows too much already," she retorted, delicate nose in the air. . . . "Hark! Ear to the ground! My atavistic and wilder instincts warn me that somebody is coming!"

"Boots and Drina," said Selwyn; and he hailed them as they came into view above. Then he sprang to his feet, calling out: "And Gerald, too! Hello, old fellow! This is perfectly fine! When did you arrive?"

"Oh, Gerald!" cried Eileen, both hands outstretched—"it's splendid of you to come! Dear fellow! have you seen Nina and Austin? And were they not delighted? And you've come to stay, haven't you? There, I won't begin to urge you. . . . Look, Gerald—look, Boots—and Drina, too—only look at those beautiful big plump trout in Captain Selwyn's creel!"

"Oh, I say!" exclaimed Gerald, "you didn't take those in that little brook—did you, Philip? Well, wouldn't that snare you! I'm coming down here after luncheon; I sure am."

"You will, too, won't you?" asked Drina, jealous lest Boots, her idol, miss his due share of piscatorial glory. "If you'll wait until I finish my French I'll come with you."

"Of course I will," said Lansing reproachfully; "you don't suppose there's any fun anywhere for me without you, do you?"

"No," said Drina simply, "I don't."

"Another Phyllis in embryo," murmured Eileen to Selwyn. "Alas! for education!"

Selwyn laughed and turned to Gerald. "I hunted high and low for you before I came to Silverside. You found my note?"

"Yes; I—I'll explain later," said the boy, colouring. "Come ahead, Eily; Boots and I will take you on at tennis—and Philip, too. We've an hour or so before luncheon. Is it a go?"

"Certainly," replied his sister, unaware of Selwyn's proficiency, but loyal even in doubt. And the five, walking abreast, moved off across the uplands toward the green lawns of Silverside, where, under a gay lawn parasol, Nina sat, a "Nature book" in hand, the centre of an attentive gathering composed of dogs, children, and the cat, Kit-Ki, blinking her topaz-tinted eyes in the sunshine.

The young mother looked up happily as the quintet came strolling across the lawn: "Please don't wander away again before luncheon," she said; "Gerald, I suppose you are starved, but you've only an hour to wait—Oh, Phil! what wonderful trout! Children, kindly arise and admire the surpassing skill of your frivolous uncle!" And, as the children and dogs came crowding around the opened fish-basket she said to her brother in a low, contented voice: "Gerald has quite made it up with Austin, dear; I think we have to thank you, haven't we?"

"Has he really squared matters with Austin? That's good—that's fine! Oh, no, I had nothing to do with it—practically nothing. The boy is sound at the core—that's what did it." And to Gerald, who was hailing him from the veranda, "Yes, I've plenty of tennis-shoes. Help yourself, old chap."

Eileen had gone to her room to don a shorter skirt and rubber-soled shoes; Lansing followed her example; and Selwyn, entering his own room, found Gerald trying on a pair of white foot-gear.

The boy looked up, smiled, and, crossing one knee, began to tie the laces:

"I told Austin that I meant to slow down," he said. "We're on terms again. He was fairly decent."

"Good business!" commented Selwyn vigorously.

"And I'm cutting out cards and cocktails," continued the boy, eager as a little lad who tells how good he has been all day—"I made it plain to the fellows that there was nothing in it for me. And, Philip, I'm boning down like thunder at the office—I'm horribly in debt and I'm hustling to pay up and make a clean start. You," he added, colouring, "will come first—"

"At your convenience," said Selwyn, smiling.

"Not at all! Yours is the first account to be squared; then Neergard—"

"Do you owe him, Gerald?"

"Do I? Oh, Lord! But he's a patient soul—really, Philip, I wish you didn't dislike him so thoroughly, because he's good company and besides that he's a very able man. . . . Well, we won't talk about him, then. Come on; I'll lick the very life out of you over the net!"

A few moments later the white balls were flying over the white net, and active white-flannelled figures were moving swiftly over the velvet turf.

Drina, aloft on the umpire's perch, calmly scored and decided each point impartially, though her little heart was beating fast in desire for her idol's supremacy; and it was all her official composure could endure to see how Eileen at the net beat down his defence, driving him with her volleys to the service line.

Selwyn's game proved to be steady, old-fashioned, but logical; Eileen, sleeves at her elbows, red-gold hair in splendid disorder, carried the game through Boots straight at her brother—and the contest was really a brilliant duel between them, Lansing and Selwyn assisting when a rare chance came their way. The pace was too fast for them, however; they were in a different class and they knew it; and after two terrific sets had gone against Gerald and Boots, the latter, signalling Selwyn, dropped out and climbed up beside Drina to watch a furious single between Eileen and Gerald.

"Oh, Boots, Boots!" said Drina, "why didn't you stay forward and kill her drives and make her lob? I just know you could do it if you had only thought to play forward! What on earth was the matter?"

"Age," said Mr. Lansing serenely—"decrepitude, Drina. I am a Was, sweetheart, but Eileen still remains an Is."

"I won't let you say it! You are not a Was!" said the child fiercely. "After luncheon you can take me on for practice. Then you can just give it to her!"

"It would gratify me to hand a few swift ones to somebody," he said. "Look at that demon girl, yonder! She's hammering Gerald to the service line! Oh, my, oh, me! I'm only fit for hat-ball with Billy or cat's-cradle with Kit-Ki. Drina, do you realise that I am nearly thirty?"

"Pooh! I'm past thirteen. In five years I'll be eighteen. I expect to marry you at eighteen. You promised."

"Sure thing," admitted Boots; "I've bought the house, you know."

"I know it," said the child gravely.

Boots looked down at her; she smiled and laid her head, with its clustering curls, against his shoulder, watching the game below with the quiet composure of possession.

Their relations, hers and Lansing's, afforded infinite amusement to the Gerards. It had been a desperate case from the very first; and the child took it so seriously, and considered her claim on Boots so absolute, that neither that young man nor anybody else dared make a jest of the affair within her hearing.

From a dimple-kneed, despotic, strenuous youngster, ruling the nursery with a small hand of iron, in half a year Drina had grown into a rather slim, long-legged, coolly active child; and though her hair had not been put up, her skirts had been lowered, and shoes and stockings substituted for half-hose and sandals.

Weighted with this new dignity she had put away dolls, officially. Unofficially she still dressed, caressed, forgave, or spanked Rosalinda and Beatrice—but she excluded the younger children from the nursery when she did it.

However, the inborn necessity for mimicry and romance remained; and she satisfied it by writing stories—marvellous ones—which she read to Boots. Otherwise she was the same active, sociable, wholesome, intelligent child, charmingly casual and inconsistent; and the list of her youthful admirers at dancing-school and parties required the alphabetical classification of Mr. Lansing.

But Boots was her own particular possession; he was her chattel, her thing; and he and other people knew that it was no light affair to meddle with the personal property of Drina Gerard.

Her curly head resting against his arm, she was now planning his future movements for the day:

"You may do what you please while I'm having French," she said graciously; "after that we will go fishing in Brier Water; then I'll come home to practice, while you sit on the veranda and listen; then I'll take you on at tennis, and by that time the horses will be brought around and we'll ride to the Falcon. You won't forget any of this, will you? Come on; Eileen and Gerald have finished and there's Dawson to announce luncheon!" And to Gerald, as she climbed down to the ground: "Oh, what a muff! to let Eileen beat you six—five, six—three! . . . Where's my hat? . . . Oh, the dogs have got it and are tearing it to rags!"

And she dashed in among the dogs, slapping right and left, while a facetious dachshund seized the tattered bit of lace and muslin and fled at top speed.

"That is pleasant," observed Nina; "it's her best hat, too—worn to-day in your honour, Boots. . . . Children! Hands and faces! There is Bridget waiting! Come, Phil; there's no law against talking at table, and there's no use trying to run an establishment if you make a mockery of the kitchen."

Eileen, one bare arm around her brother's shoulders, strolled houseward across the lawn, switching the shaven sod with her tennis-bat.

"What are you doing this afternoon?" she said to Selwyn. "Gerald"—she touched her brother's smooth cheek—"means to fish; Boots and Drina are keen on it, too; and Nina is driving to Wyossett with the children."

"And you?" he asked, smiling.

"Whatever you wish"—confident that he wanted her, whatever he had on hand.

"I ought to walk over to Storm Head," he said, "and get things straightened out."

"Your laboratory?" asked Gerald. "Austin told me when I saw him in town that you were going to have the cottage on Storm Head to make powder in."

"Only in minute quantities, Gerald," explained Selwyn; "I just want to try a few things. . . . And if they turn out all right, what do you say to taking a look in—if Austin approves?"

"Oh, please, Gerald," whispered his sister.

"Do you really believe there is anything in it?" asked the boy. "Because, if you are sure—"

"There certainly is if I can prove that my powder is able to resist heat, cold, and moisture. The Lawn people stand ready to talk matters over as soon as I am satisfied. . . . There's plenty of time—but keep the suggestion in the back of your head, Gerald."

The boy smiled, nodded importantly, and went off to remove the stains of tennis from his person; and Eileen went, too, turning around to look back at Selwyn:

"Thank you for asking Gerald! I'm sure he will love to go into anything you think safe."

"Will you join us, too?" he called back, smilingly—"we may need capital!"

"I'll remember that!" she said; and, turning once more as she reached the landing: "Good-bye—until luncheon!" And touched her lips with the tips of her fingers, flinging him a gay salute.

In parting and meeting—even after the briefest of intervals—it was always the same with her; always she had for him some informal hint of the formality of parting; always some recognition of their meeting—in the light touching of hands as though the symbol of ceremony, at least, was due to him, to herself, and to the occasion.

Luncheon at Silverside was anything but a function—with the children at table and the dogs in a semicircle, and the nurses tying bibs and admonishing the restless or belligerent, and the wide French windows open, and the sea wind lifting the curtains and stirring the cluster of wild flowers in the centre of the table.

Kit-Ki's voice was gently raised at intervals; at intervals some grinning puppy, unable to longer endure the nourishing odours, lost self-control and yapped, then lowered his head, momentarily overcome with mortification.

All the children talked continuously, unlimited conversation being permitted until it led to hostilities or puppy-play. The elders conducted such social intercourse as was possible under the conditions, but luncheon was the children's hour at Silverside.

Nina and Eileen talked garden talk—they both were quite mad about their fruit-trees and flower-beds; Selwyn, Gerald, and Boots discussed stables, golf links, and finally the new business which Selwyn hoped to develop.

Afterward, when the children had been excused, and Drina had pulled her chair close to Lansing's to listen—and after that, on the veranda, when the men sat smoking and Drina was talking French, and Nina and Eileen had gone off with baskets, trowels, and pruning-shears—Selwyn still continued in conference with Boots and Gerald; and it was plain that his concise, modest explanation of what he had accomplished in his experiments with Chaosite seriously impressed the other men.

Boots frankly admitted it: "Besides," he said, "if the Lawn people are so anxious for you to give them first say in the matter I don't see why we shouldn't have faith in it—enough, I mean, to be good to ourselves by offering to be good to you, Phil."

"Wait until Austin comes down—and until I've tried one or two new ideas," said Selwyn. "Nothing on earth would finish me quicker than to get anybody who trusted me into a worthless thing."

"It's plain," observed Boots, "that although you may have been an army captain you're no captain of industry—you're not even a non-com.!"

Selwyn laughed: "Do you really believe that ordinary decency is uncommon?"

"Look at Long Island," returned Boots. "Where does the boom of worthless acreage and paper cities land investors when it explodes?"

Gerald had flushed up at the turn in the conversation; and Selwyn steered Lansing into other and safer channels until Gerald went away to find a rod.

And, as Drina had finished her French lesson, she and Lansing presently departed, brandishing fishing-rods adorned with the gaudiest of flies.

* * * * *

The house and garden at Silverside seemed to be logical parts of a landscape, which included uplands, headlands, sky, and water—a silvery harmonious ensemble, where the artificial portion was neither officiously intrusive nor, on the other hand, meagre and insignificant.

The house, a long two-storied affair with white shutters and pillared veranda, was built of gray stone; the garden was walled with it—a precaution against no rougher intruder than the wind, which would have whipped unsheltered flowers and fruit-trees into ribbons.

Walks of hardened earth, to which green mould clung in patches, wound through the grounds and threaded the three little groves of oak, chestnut, and locust, in the centres of which, set in circular lawns, were the three axes of interest—the stone-edged fish-pond, the spouting fountain, and the ancient ship's figurehead—a wind-worn, sea-battered mermaid cuddling a tiny, finny sea-child between breast and lips.

Whoever the unknown wood-carver had been he had been an artist, too, and a good one; and when the big China trader, the First Born, went to pieces off Frigate Light, fifty years ago, this figurehead had been cast up from the sea.

Wandering into the garden, following the first path at random, Selwyn chanced upon it, and stood, pipe in his mouth, hands in his pockets, surprised and charmed.

Plunkitt, the head gardener, came along, trundling a mowing-machine.

"Ain't it kind 'er nice," he said, lingering. "When I pass here moonlight nights, it seems like that baby was a-smilin' right up into his mamma's face, an' that there fish-tailed girl was laughin' back at him. Come here some night when there's a moon, Cap'in Selwyn."

Selwyn stood for a while listening to the musical click of the machine, watching the green shower flying into the sunshine, and enjoying the raw perfume of juicy, new-cut grass; then he wandered on in quest of Miss Erroll.

Tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, and other bulbs were entirely out of bloom, but the earlier herbaceous borders had come into flower, and he passed through masses of pink and ivory-tinted peonies—huge, heavy, double blossoms, fragrant and delicate as roses. Patches of late iris still lifted crested heads above pale sword-bladed leaves; sheets of golden pansies gilded spaces steeped in warm transparent shade, but larkspur and early rocket were as yet only scarcely budded promises; the phlox-beds but green carpets; and zinnia, calendula, poppy, and coreopsis were symphonies in shades of green against the dropping pink of bleeding-hearts or the nascent azure of flax and spiderwort.

In the rose garden, and along that section of the wall included in it, the rich, dry, porous soil glimmered like gold under the sun; and here Selwyn discovered Nina and Eileen busily solicitous over the tender shoots of favourite bushes. A few long-stemmed early rosebuds lay in their baskets; Selwyn drew one through his buttonhole and sat down on a wheelbarrow, amiably disposed to look on and let the others work.

"Not much!" said Nina. "You can start in and 'pinch back' this prairie climber—do you hear, Phil? I won't let you dawdle around and yawn while I'm pricking my fingers every instant! Make him move, Eileen."

Eileen came over to him, fingers doubled into her palm and small thumb extended.

"Thorns and prickles, please," she said; and he took her hand in his and proceeded to extract them while she looked down at her almost invisible wounds, tenderly amused at his fear of hurting her.

"Do you know," she said, "that people are beginning to open their houses yonder?" She nodded toward the west: "The Minsters are on the way to Brookminster, the Orchils have already arrived at Hitherwood House, and the coachmen and horses were housed at Southlawn last night. I rather dread the dinners and country formality that always interfere with the jolly times we have; but it will be rather good fun at the bathing-beach. . . . Do you swim well? But of course you do."

"Pretty well; do you?"

"I'm a fish. Gladys Orchil and I would never leave the surf if they didn't literally drag us home. . . . You know Gladys Orchil? . . . She's very nice; so is Sheila Minster; you'll like her better in the country than you do in town. Kathleen Lawn is nice, too. Alas! I see many a morning where Drina and I twirl our respective thumbs while you and Boots are off with a gayer set. . . . Oh, don't interrupt! No mortal man is proof against Sheila and Gladys and Kathleen—and you're not a demi-god—are you? . . . Thank you for your surgery upon my thumb—" She naively placed the tip of it between her lips and looked at him, standing there like a schoolgirl in her fresh gown, burnished hair loosened and curling in riotous beauty across cheeks and ears.

He had seated himself on the wheelbarrow again; she stood looking down at him, hands now bracketed on her narrow hips—so close that the fresh fragrance of her grew faintly perceptible—a delicate atmosphere of youth mingling with the perfume of the young garden.

Nina, basket on her arm, snipping away with her garden shears, glanced over her shoulder—and went on, snipping. They did not notice how far away her agricultural ardour led her—did not notice when she stood a moment at the gate looking back at them, or when she passed out, pretty head bent thoughtfully, the shears swinging loose at her girdle.

The prairie rosebuds in Eileen's basket exhaled their wild, sweet odour; and Selwyn, breathing it, removed his hat like one who faces a cooling breeze, and looked up at the young girl standing before him as though she were the source of all things sweet and freshening in this opening of the youngest year of his life.

She said, smiling absently at his question: "Certainly one can grow younger; and you have done it in a day, here with me."

She looked down at his hair; it was bright and inclined to wave a little, but whether the lighter colour at the temples was really silvered or only a paler tint she was not sure.

"You are very like a boy, sometimes," she said—"as young as Gerald, I often think—especially when your hat is off. You always look so perfectly groomed: I wonder—I wonder what you would look like if your hair were rumpled?"

"Try it," he suggested lazily.

"I? I don't think I dare—" She raised her hand, hesitated, the gay daring in her eyes deepening to audacity. "Shall I?"

"Why not?"

"T-touch your hair?—rumple it?—as I would Gerald's! . . . I'm tempted to—only—only—"

"What?"

"I don't know; I couldn't. I—it was only the temptation of a second—" She laughed uncertainly. The suggestion of the intimacy tinted her cheeks with its reaction; she took a short step backward; instinct, blindly stirring, sobered her; and as the smile faded from eye and lip, his face changed, too. And far, very far away in the silent cells of his heart a distant pulse awoke.

She turned to her roses again, moving at random among the bushes, disciplining with middle-finger and thumb a translucent, amber-tinted shoot here and there. And when the silence had lasted too long, she broke it without turning toward him:

"After all, if it were left to me, I had rather be merciful to these soft little buds and sprays, and let the sun and the showers take charge. A whole cluster of blossoms left free to grow as Fate fashions them!—Why not? It is certainly very officious of me to strip a stem of its hopes just for the sake of one pampered blossom. . . . Non-interference is a safe creed, isn't it?"

But she continued moving along among the bushes, pinching back here, snipping, trimming, clipping there; and after a while she had wandered quite beyond speaking distance; and, at leisurely intervals she straightened up and turned to look back across the roses at him—quiet, unsmiling gaze in exchange for his unchanging eyes, which never left her.

She was at the farther edge of the rose garden now where a boy knelt, weeding; and Selwyn saw her speak to him and give him her basket and shears; and saw the boy start away toward the house, leaving her leaning idly above the sun-dial, elbows on the weather-beaten stone, studying the carved figures of the dial. And every line and contour and curve of her figure—even the lowered head, now resting between both hands—summoned him.

She heard his step, but did not move; and when he leaned above the dial, resting on his elbows, beside her, she laid her finger on the shadow of the dial.

"Time," she said, "is trying to frighten me. It pretends to be nearly five o'clock; do you believe it?"

"Time is running very fast with me," he said.

"With me, too; I don't wish it to; I don't care for third speed forward all the time."

He was bending closer above the stone dial, striving to decipher the inscription on it:

"Under blue skies My shadow lies. Under gray skies My shadow dies.

"If over me Two Lovers leaning Would solve my Mystery And read my Meaning, —Or clear, or overcast the Skies— The Answer always lies within their Eyes. Look long! Look long! For there, and there alone Time solves the Riddle graven on this Stone!"

Elbows almost touching they leaned at ease, idly reading the almost obliterated lines engraved there.

"I never understood it," she observed, lightly scornful. "What occult meaning has a sun-dial for the spooney? I'm sure I don't want to read riddles in a strange gentleman's optics."

"The verses," he explained, "are evidently addressed to the spooney, so why should you resent them?"

"I don't. . . . I can be spoons, too, for that matter; I mean I could once."

"But you're past spooning now," he concluded.

"Am I? I rather resent your saying it—your calmly excluding me from anything I might choose to do," she said. "If I cared—if I chose—if I really wanted to—"

"You could still spoon? Impossible! At your age? Nonsense!"

"It isn't at all impossible. Wait until there's a moon, and a canoe, and a nice boy who is young enough to be frightened easily!"

"And I," he retorted, "am too old to be frightened; so there's no moon, no canoe, no pretty girl, no spooning for me. Is that it, Eileen?"

"Oh, Gladys and Sheila will attend to you, Captain Selwyn."

"Why Gladys Orchil? Why Sheila Minster? And why not Eileen Erroll?"

"Spoon? With you!"

"You are quite right," he said, smiling; "it would be poor sport."

There had been no change in his amused eyes, in his voice; yet, sensitive to the imperceptible, the girl looked up quickly. He laughed and straightened up; and presently his eyes grew absent and his sun-burned hand sought his moustache.

"Have you misunderstood me?" she asked in a low voice.

"How, child?"

"I don't know. . . . Shall we walk a little?"

When they came to the stone fish-pond she seated herself for a moment on a marble bench, then, curiously restless, rose again; and again they moved forward at hazard, past the spouting fountain, which was a driven well, out of which a crystal column of water rose, geyser-like, dazzling in the westering sun rays.

"Nina tells me that this water rises in the Connecticut hills," he said, "and flows as a subterranean sheet under the Sound, spouting up here on Long Island when you drive a well."

She looked at the column of flashing water, nodding silent assent.

They moved on, the girl curiously reserved, non-communicative, head slightly lowered; the man vague-eyed, thoughtful, pacing slowly at her side. Behind them their long shadows trailed across the brilliant grass.

Traversing the grove which encircled the newly clipped lawn, now fragrant with sun-crisped grass-tips left in the wake of the mower, he glanced up at the pretty mermaid mother cuddling her tiny offspring against her throat. Across her face a bar of pink sunlight fell, making its contour exquisite.

"Plunkitt tells me that they really laugh at each other in the moonlight," he said.

She glanced up; then away from him:

"You seem to be enamoured of the moonlight," she said.

"I like to prowl in it."

"Alone?"

"Sometimes."

"And—at other times?"

He laughed: "Oh, I'm past that, as you reminded me a moment ago."

"Then you did misunderstand me!"

"Why, no—"

"Yes, you did! But I supposed you knew."

"Knew what, Eileen?" "What I meant."

"You meant that I am hors de concours."

"I didn't!"

"But I am, child. I was, long ago."

She looked up: "Do you really think that, Captain Selwyn? If you do—I am glad."

He laughed outright. "You are glad that I'm safely past the spooning age?" he inquired, moving forward.

She halted: "Yes. Because I'm quite sure of you if you are; I mean that I can always keep you for myself. Can't I?"

She was smiling and her eyes were clear and fearless, but there was a wild-rose tint on her cheeks which deepened a little as he turned short in his tracks, gazing straight at her.

"You wish to keep me—for yourself?" he repeated, laughing.

"Yes, Captain Selwyn."

"Until you marry. Is that it, Eileen?"

"Yes, until I marry."

"And then we'll let each other go; is that it?"

"Yes. But I think I told you that I would never marry. Didn't I?"

"Oh! Then ours is to be a lifelong and anti-sentimental contract!"

"Yes, unless you marry."

"I promise not to," he said, "unless you do."

"I promise not to," she said gaily, "unless you do."

"There remains," he observed, "but one way for you and I ever to marry anybody. And as I'm hors de concours, even that hope is ended."

She flushed; her lips parted, but she checked what she had meant to say, and they walked forward together in silence for a while until she had made up her mind what to say and how to express it:

"Captain Selwyn, there are two things that you do which seem to me unfair. You still have, at times, that far-away, absent expression which excludes me; and when I venture to break the silence, you have a way of answering, 'Yes, child,' and 'No, child'—as though you were inattentive, and I had not yet become an adult. That is my first complaint! . . . What are you laughing at? It is true; and it confuses and hurts me; because I know I am intelligent enough and old enough to—to be treated as a woman!—a woman attractive enough to be reckoned with! But I never seem to be wholly so to you."

The laugh died out as she ended; for a moment they stood there, confronting one another.

"Do you imagine," he said in a low voice, "that I do not know all that?"

"I don't know whether you do. For all your friendship—for all your liking and your kindness to me—somehow—I—I don't seem to stand with you as other women do; I don't seem to stand their chances."

"What chances?"

"The—the consideration; you don't call any other woman 'child,' do you? You don't constantly remind other women of the difference in your ages, do you? You don't feel with other women that you are—as you please to call it—hors de concours—out of the running. And somehow, with me, it humiliates. Because even if I—if I am the sort of a girl who never means to marry, you—your attitude seems to take away the possibility of my changing my mind; it dictates to me, giving me no choice, no liberty, no personal freedom in the matter. . . . It's as though you considered me somehow utterly out of the question—radically unthinkable as a woman. And you assume to take for granted that I also regard you as—as hors de concours. . . . Those are my grievances, Captain Selwyn. . . . And I don't regard you so. And I—and it troubles me to be excluded—to be found wanting, inadequate in anything that a woman should be. I know that you and I have no desire to marry each other—but—but please don't make the reason for it either your age or my physical immaturity or intellectual inexperience."

Another of those weather-stained seats of Georgia marble stood embedded under the trees near where she had halted; and she seated herself, outwardly composed, and inwardly a little frightened at what she had said.

As for Selwyn, he remained where he had been standing on the lawn's velvet edge; and, raising her eyes again, her heart misgave her that she had wantonly strained a friendship which had been all but perfect; and now he was moving across the path toward her—a curious look in his face which she could not interpret. She looked up as he approached and stretched out her hand:

"Forgive me, Captain Selwyn," she said. "I am a child—a spoiled one; and I have proved it to you. Will you sit here beside me and tell me very gently what a fool I am to risk straining the friendship dearest to me in the whole world? And will you fix my penance?"

"You have fixed it yourself," he said.

"How?"

"By the challenge of your womanhood."

"I did not challenge—"

"No; you defended. You are right. The girl I cared for—the girl who was there with me on Brier Water—so many, many centuries ago—the girl who, years ago, leaned there beside me on the sun-dial—has become a memory."

"What do you mean?" she asked faintly.

"Shall I tell you?"

"Yes."

"You will not be unhappy if I tell you?"

"N-no."

"Have you any idea what I am going to say, Eileen?"

She looked up quickly, frightened at the tremor in his voice:

"Don't—don't say it, Captain Selwyn!"

"Will you listen—as a penance?"

"I—no, I cannot—"

He said quietly: "I was afraid you could not listen. You see, Eileen, that, after all, a man does know when he is done for—"

"Captain Selwyn!" She turned and caught his hands in both of hers, her eyes bright with tears: "Is that the penalty for what I said? Did you think I invited this—"

"Invited! No, child," he said gently. "I was fool enough to believe in myself; that is all. I have always been on the edge of loving you. Only in dreams did I ever dare set foot across that frontier. Now I have dared. I love you. That is all; and it must not distress you."

"But it does not," she said; "I have always loved you—dearly, dearly. . . . Not in that way. . . . I don't know how. . . . Must it be in that way, Captain Selwyn? Can we not go on in the other way—that dear way which I—I have—almost spoiled? Must we be like other people—must sentiment turn it all to commonplace? . . . Listen to me; I do love you; it is perfectly easy and simple to say it. But it is not emotional, it is not sentimental. Can't you see that in little things—in my ways with you? I—if I were sentimental about you I would call you Ph—by your first name, I suppose. But I can't; I've tried to—and it's very, very hard—and makes me self-conscious. It is an effort, you see—and so would it be for me to think of you sentimentally. Oh, I couldn't! I couldn't!—you, so much of a man, so strong and generous and experienced and clever—so perfectly the embodiment of everything I care for in a man! I love you dearly; but—you saw! I could—could not bring myself to touch even your hair—even in pure mischief. . . . And—sentiment chills me; I—there are times when it would be unendurable—I could not use an endearing term—nor suffer a—a caress. . . . So you see—don't you? And won't you take me for what I am?—and as I am?—a girl—still young, devoted to you with all her soul—happy with you, believing implicitly in you, deeply, deeply sensible of your goodness and sweetness and loyalty to her. I am not a woman; I was a fool to say so. But you—you are so overwhelmingly a man that if it were in me to love—in that way—it would be you! . . . Do you understand me? Or have I lost a friend? Will you forgive my foolish boast? Can you still keep me first in your heart—as you are in mine? And pardon in me all that I am not? Can you do these things because I ask you?"

"Yes," he said.



CHAPTER IX

A NOVICE

Gerald came to Silverside two or three times during the early summer, arriving usually on Friday and remaining until the following Monday morning.

All his youthful admiration and friendship for Selwyn had returned; that was plainly evident—and with it something less of callow self-sufficiency. He did not appear to be as cock-sure of himself and the world as he had been; there was less bumptiousness about him, less aggressive complacency. Somewhere and somehow somebody or something had come into collision with him; but who or what this had been he did not offer to confide in Selwyn; and the older man, dreading to disturb the existing accord between them, forbore to question him or invite, even indirectly, any confidence not offered.

Selwyn had slowly become conscious of this change in Gerald. In the boy's manner toward others there seemed to be hints of that seriousness which maturity or the first pressure of responsibility brings, even to the more thoughtless. Plainly enough some experience, not wholly agreeable, was teaching him the elements of consideration for others; he was less impulsive, more tolerant; yet, at times, Selwyn and Eileen also noticed that he became very restless toward the end of his visits at Silverside; as though something in the city awaited him—some duty, or responsibility not entirely pleasant.

There was, too, something of soberness, amounting, at moments, to discontented listlessness—not solitary brooding; for at such moments he stuck to Selwyn, following him about and remaining rather close to him, as though the elder man's mere presence was a comfort—even a protection.

At such intervals Selwyn longed to invite the boy's confidence, knowing that he had some phase of life to face for which his experience was evidently inadequate. But Gerald gave no sign of invitation; and Selwyn dared not speak lest he undo what time and his forbearance were slowly repairing.

So their relations remained during the early summer; and everybody supposed that Gerald's two weeks' vacation would be spent there at Silverside. Apparently the boy himself thought so, too, for he made some plans ahead, and Austin sent down a very handsome new motor-boat for him.

Then, at the last minute, a telegram arrived, saying that he had sailed for Newport on Neergard's big yacht! And for two weeks no word was received from him at Silverside.

Late in August, however, he wrote a rather colourless letter to Selwyn, saying that he was tired and would be down for the week-end.

He came, thinner than usual, with the city pallor showing through traces of the sea tan. And it appeared that he was really tired; for he seemed inclined to lounge on the veranda, satisfied as long as Selwyn remained in sight. But, when Selwyn moved, he got up and followed.

So subdued, so listless, so gentle in manner and speech had he become that somebody, in his temporary absence, wondered whether the boy were perfectly well—which voiced the general doubt hitherto unexpressed.

But Austin laughed and said that the boy was merely finding himself; and everybody acquiesced, much relieved at the explanation, though to Selwyn the explanation was not at all satisfactory.

There was trouble somewhere, stress of doubt, pressure of apprehension, the gravity of immaturity half realising its own inexperience. And one day in September he wrote Gerald, asking him to bring Edgerton Lawn and come down to Silverside for the purpose of witnessing some experiments with the new smokeless explosive, Chaosite.

Young Lawn came by the first train; Gerald wired that he would arrive the following morning.

He did arrive, unusually pallid, almost haggard; and Selwyn, who met him at the station and drove him over from Wyossett, ventured at last to give the boy a chance.

But Gerald remained utterly unresponsive—stolidly so—and the other instantly relinquished the hope of any confidence at that time—shifting the conversation at once to the object and reason of Gerald's coming, and gaily expressing his belief that the time was very near at hand when Chaosite would figure heavily in the world's list of commercially valuable explosives.

It was early in August that Selwyn had come to the conclusion that his Chaosite was likely to prove a commercial success. And now, in September, his experiments had advanced so far that he had ventured to invite Austin, Gerald, Lansing, and Edgerton Lawn, of the Lawn Nitro-Powder Company, to witness a few tests at his cottage laboratory on Storm Head; but at the same time he informed them with characteristic modesty that he was not yet prepared to guarantee the explosive.

About noon his guests arrived before the cottage in a solemn file, halted, and did not appear overanxious to enter the laboratory on Storm Head. Also they carefully cast away their cigars when they did enter, and seated themselves in a nervous circle in the largest room of the cottage. Here their eyes instantly became glued to a great bowl which was piled high with small rose-tinted cubes of some substance which resembled symmetrical and translucent crystals of pink quartz. That was Chaosite enough to blow the entire cliff into smithereens; and they were aware of it, and they eyed it with respect.

First of all Selwyn laid a cubic crystal on an anvil, and struck it sharply and repeatedly with a hammer. Austin's thin hair rose, and Edgerton Lawn swallowed nothing several times; but nobody went to heaven, and the little cube merely crumbled into a flaky pink powder.

Then Selwyn took three cubes, dropped them into boiling milk, fished them out again, twisted them into a waxy taper, placed it in a candle-stick, and set fire to it. The taper burned with a flaring brilliancy but without odour.

Then Selwyn placed several cubes in a mortar, pounded them to powder with an iron pestle, and, measuring out the tiniest pinch—scarcely enough to cover the point of a penknife, placed a few grains in several paper cartridges. Two wads followed the powder, then an ounce and a half of shot, then a wad, and then the crimping.

The guests stepped gratefully outside; Selwyn, using a light fowling-piece, made pattern after pattern for them; and then they all trooped solemnly indoors again; and Selwyn froze Chaosite and boiled it and baked it and melted it and took all sorts of hair-raising liberties with it; and after that he ground it to powder, placed a few generous pinches in a small hand-grenade, and affixed a primer, the secret composition of which he alone knew. That was the key to the secret—the composition of the primer charge.

"I used to play base-ball in college," he observed smiling—"and I used to be a pretty good shot with a snowball."

They followed him to the cliff's edge, always with great respect for the awful stuff he handled with such apparent carelessness. There was a black sea-soaked rock jutting out above the waves; Selwyn pointed at it, poised himself, and, with the long, overhand, straight throw of a trained ball player, sent the grenade like a bullet at the rock.

There came a blinding flash, a stunning, clean-cut report—but what the others took to be a vast column of black smoke was really a pillar of dust—all that was left of the rock. And this slowly floated, settling like mist over the waves, leaving nothing where the rock had been.

"I think," said Edgerton Lawn, wiping the starting perspiration from his forehead, "that you have made good, Captain Selwyn. Dense or bulk, your Chaosite and impact primer seem to do the business; and I think I may say that the Lawn Nitro-Powder Company is ready to do business, too. Can you come to town to-morrow? It's merely a matter of figures and signatures now, if you say so. It is entirely up to you."

But Selwyn only laughed. He looked at Austin.

"I suppose," said Edgerton Lawn good-naturedly, "that you intend to make us sit up and beg; or do you mean to absorb us?"

But Selwyn said: "I want more time on this thing. I want to know what it does to the interior of loaded shells and in fixed ammunition when it is stored for a year. I want to know whether it is necessary to use a solvent after firing it in big guns. As a bursting charge I'm practically satisfied with it; but time is required to know how it acts on steel in storage or on the bores of guns when exploded as a propelling charge. Meanwhile," turning to Lawn, "I'm tremendously obliged to you for coming—and for your offer. You see how it is, don't you? I couldn't risk taking money for a thing which might, at the end, prove dear at any price."

"I cheerfully accept that risk," insisted young Lawn; "I am quite ready to do all the worrying, Captain Selwyn."

But Selwyn merely shook his head, repeating: "You see how it is, don't you?"

"I see that you possess a highly developed conscience," said Edgerton Lawn, laughing; "and when I tell you that we are more than willing to take every chance of failure—"

But Selwyn shook his head: "Not yet," he said; "don't worry; I need the money, and I'll waste no time when a square deal is possible. But I ought to tell you this: that first of all I must offer it to the Government. That is only decent, you see—"

"Who ever heard of the Government's gratitude?" broke in Austin. "Nonsense, Phil; you are wasting time!"

"I've got to do it," said Selwyn; "you must see that, of course."

"But I don't see it," began Lawn—"because you are not in the Government service now—"

"Besides," added Austin, "you were not a West Pointer; you never were under obligations to the Government!"

"Are we not all under obligation?" asked Selwyn so simply that Austin flushed.

"Oh, of course—patriotism and all that—naturally—Confound it, I don't suppose you'd go and offer it to Germany or Japan before our own Government had the usual chance to turn it down and break your heart. But why can't the Government make arrangements with Lawn's Company—if it desires to?"

"A man can't exploit his own Government; you all know that as well as I do," returned Selwyn, smiling. "Pro aris et focis, you know—ex necessitate rei."

"When the inventor goes to the Government," said Austin, with a shrug—"vestigia nulla retrorsum."

"Spero meliora," retorted Selwyn, laughing; but there remained the obstinate squareness of jaw, and his amused eyes were clear and steady. Young Lawn looked into them and the hope in him flickered; Austin looked, and shrugged; but as they all turned away to retrace their steps across the moors in the direction of Silverside, Lansing lightly hooked his arm into Selwyn's; and Gerald, walking thoughtfully on the other side, turned over and over in his mind the proposition offered him—the spectacle of a modern and needy man to whom money appeared to be the last consideration in a plain matter of business. Also he turned over other matters in his mind; and moved closer to Selwyn, walking beside him with grave eyes bent on the ground.

* * * * *

The matter of business arrangements apparently ended then and there; Lawn's company sent several men to Selwyn and wrote him a great many letters—unlike the Government, which had not replied to his briefly tentative suggestion that Chaosite be conditionally examined, tested, and considered.

So the matter remained in abeyance, and Selwyn employed two extra men and continued storage tests and experimented with rifled and smooth-bore tubes, watchfully uncertain yet as to the necessity of inventing a solvent to neutralise possible corrosion after a propelling charge had been exploded.

Everybody in the vicinity had heard about his experiments; everybody pretended interest, but few were sincere; and of the sincere, few were unselfishly interested—his sister, Eileen, Drina, and Lansing—and maybe one or two others.

However, the younger set, now predominant from Wyossett to Wonder Head, made up parties to visit Selwyn's cottage, which had become known as The Chrysalis; and Selwyn good-naturedly exploded a pinch or two of the stuff for their amusement, and never betrayed the slightest annoyance or boredom. In fact, he behaved so amiably during gratuitous interruptions that he won the hearts of the younger set, who presently came to the unanimous conclusion that there was Romance in the air. And they sniffed it with delicate noses uptilted and liked the aroma.

Kathleen Lawn, a big, leisurely, blond-skinned girl, who showed her teeth when she laughed and shook hands like a man, declared him "adorable" but "unsatisfactory," which started one of the Dresden-china twins, Dorothy Minster, and she, in turn, ventured the innocent opinion that Selwyn was misunderstood by most people—an inference that she herself understood him. And she smiled to herself when she made this observation, up to her neck in the surf; and Eileen, hearing the remark, smiled to herself, too. But she felt the slightest bit uncomfortable when that animated brunette Gladys Orchil, climbing up dripping on to the anchored float beyond the breakers, frankly confessed that the tinge of mystery enveloping Selwyn's career made him not only adorable, but agreeably "unfathomable"; and that she meant to experiment with him at every opportunity.

Sheila Minster, seated on the raft's edge, swinging her stockinged legs in the green swells that swept steadily shoreward, modestly admitted that Selwyn was "sweet," particularly in a canoe on a moonlight night—in spite of her weighty mother heavily afloat in the vicinity.

"He's nice every minute," she said—"every fibre of him is nice in the nicest sense. He never talks 'down' at you—like an insufferable undergraduate; and he is so much of a man—such a real man!—that I like him," she added naively; "and I'm quite sure he likes me, because he said so."

"I like him," said Gladys Orchil, "because he has a sense of humour and stands straight. I like a sense of humour and—good shoulders. He's an enigma; and I like that, too. . . . I'm going to investigate him every chance I get."

Dorothy Minster liked him, too: "He's such a regular boy at times," she explained; "I do love to see him without his hat sauntering along beside me—and not talking every minute when you don't wish to talk. Friends," she added—"true friends are most eloquent in their mutual silence. Ahem!"

Eileen Erroll, standing near on the pitching raft, listened intently, but curiously enough said nothing either in praise or blame.

"He is exactly the right age," insisted Gladys—as though somebody had said he was not—"the age when a man is most interesting."

The Minster twins twiddled their legs and looked sentimentally at the ocean. They were a pair of pink and white little things with china-blue eyes and the fairest of hair, and they were very impressionable; and when they thought of Selwyn they looked unutterable things at the Atlantic Ocean.

One man, often the least suitable, is usually the unanimous choice of the younger sort where, in the disconcerting summer time, the youthful congregate in garrulous segregation.

Their choice they expressed frankly and innocently; they admitted cheerfully that Selwyn was their idol. But that gentleman remained totally unconscious that he had been set up by them upon the shores of the summer sea.

In leisure moments he often came down to the bathing-beach at the hour made fashionable; he conducted himself amiably with dowager and chaperon, with portly father and nimble brother, with the late debutantes of the younger set and the younger matrons, individually, collectively, impartially.

He and Gerald usually challenged the rollers in a sponson canoe when Gerald was there for the week-end; or, when Lansing came down, the two took long swims seaward or cruised about in Gerald's dory, clad in their swimming-suits; and Selwyn's youth became renewed in a manner almost ridiculous, so that the fine lines which had threatened the corners of his mouth and eyes disappeared, and the clear sun tan of the tropics, which had never wholly faded, came back over a smooth skin as clear as a boy's, though not as smoothly rounded. His hair, too, crisped and grew lighter under the burning sun, which revealed, at the temples, the slightest hint of silver. And this deepened the fascination of the younger sort for the idol they had set up upon the sands of Silverside.

Gladys was still eloquent on the subject, lying flat on the raft where all were now gathered in a wet row, indulging in sunshine and the two minutes of gossip which always preceded their return swim to the beach.

"It is partly his hair," she said gravely, "that makes him so distinguished in his appearance—just that touch of silver; and you keep looking and looking until you scarcely know whether it's really beginning to turn a little gray or whether it's only a lighter colour at the temples. How insipid is a mere boy after such a man as Captain Selwyn! . . . I have dreamed of such a man—several times."

The Minster twins gazed soulfully at the Atlantic; Eileen Erroll bit her under lip and stood up suddenly. "Come on," she said; joined her hands skyward, poised, and plunged. One after another the others followed and, rising to the surface, struck out shoreward.

On the sunlit sands dozens of young people were hurling tennis-balls at each other. Above the beach, under the long pavilions, sat mothers and chaperons. Motors, beach-carts, and victorias were still arriving to discharge gaily dressed fashionables—for the hour was early—and up and down the inclined wooden walk leading from the bathing-pavilion to the sands, a constant procession of bathers passed with nod and gesture of laughing salutation, some already retiring to the showers after a brief ocean plunge, the majority running down to the shore, eager for the first frosty and aromatic embrace of the surf rolling in under a cloudless sky of blue.

As Eileen Erroll emerged from the surf and came wading shoreward through the seething shallows, she caught sight of Selwyn sauntering across the sands toward the water, and halted, knee-deep, smilingly expectant, certain that he had seen her.

Gladys Orchil, passing her, saw Selwyn at the same moment, and her clear, ringing salute and slender arm aloft, arrested his attention; and the next moment they were off together, swimming toward the sponson canoe which Gerald had just launched with the assistance of Sandon Craig and Scott Innis.

For a moment Eileen stood there, motionless. Knee-high the flat ebb boiled and hissed, dragging at her stockinged feet as though to draw her seaward with the others. Yesterday she would have gone, without a thought, to join the others; but yesterday is yesterday. It seemed to her, as she stood there, that something disquieting had suddenly come into the world; something unpleasant—but indefinite—yet sufficient to leave her vaguely apprehensive.

The saner emotions which have their birth in reason she was not ignorant of; emotion arising from nothing at all disconcerted her—nor could she comprehend the slight quickening of her heart-beats as she waded to the beach, while every receding film of water tugged at her limbs as though to draw her backward in the wake of her unquiet thoughts.

Somebody threw a tennis-ball at her; she caught it and hurled it in return; and for a few minutes the white, felt-covered balls flew back and forth from scores of graceful, eager hands. A moment or two passed when no balls came her way; she turned and walked to the foot of a dune and seated herself cross-legged on the hot sand.

Sometimes she watched the ball players, sometimes she exchanged a word of amiable commonplace with people who passed or halted to greet her. But she invited nobody to remain, and nobody ventured to, not even several very young and ardent gentlemen who had acquired only the rudiments of social sense. For there was a sweet but distant look in her dark-blue eyes and a certain reserved preoccupation in her acknowledgment of salutations. And these kept the would-be adorer moving—wistful, lagging, but still moving along the edge of that invisible barrier set between her and the world with her absent-minded greeting, and her serious, beautiful eyes fixed so steadily on a distant white spot—the sponson canoe where Gladys and Selwyn sat, their paddle blades flashing in the sun.

How far away they were. . . . Gerald was with them. . . . Curious that Selwyn had not seen her waiting for him, knee-deep in the surf—curious that he had seen Gladys instead. . . . True, Gladys had called to him and signalled him, white arm upflung. . . . Gladys was very pretty—with her heavy, dark hair and melting, Spanish eyes, and her softly rounded, olive-skinned figure. . . . Gladys had called to him, and she had not. . . . That was true; and lately—for the last few days—or perhaps more—she herself had been a trifle less impulsive in her greeting of Selwyn—a little less sans-facon with him. . . . After all, a man comes when it pleases him. Why should a girl call him?—unless she—unless—unless—

Perplexed, her grave eyes fixed on the sea where now the white canoe pitched nearer, she dropped both hands to the sand—those once wonderfully white hands, now creamed with sun tan; and her arms, too, were tinted from shoulder to finger-tip. Then she straightened her legs, crossed her feet, and leaned a trifle forward, balancing her body on both palms flat on the sand. The sun beat down on her; she loosened her hair to dry it, and as she shook her delicate head the superb red-gold mass came tumbling about her face and shoulders. Under its glimmering splendour, and through it, she stared seaward out of wide, preoccupied eyes; and in her breast, stirring uneasily, a pulse, intermittent yet dully importunate, persisted.

The canoe, drifting toward the surf, was close in, now. Gerald rose and dived; Gladys, steadying herself by a slim hand on Selwyn's shoulder, stood up on the bow, ready to plunge clear when the canoe capsized.

How wonderfully pretty she was, balanced there, her hand on his shoulder, ready for a leap, lest the heavy canoe, rolling over in the froth, strike her under the smother of foam and water. . . . How marvellously pretty she was. . . . Her hand on his shoulder. . . .

Miss Erroll sat very still; but the pulse within her was not still.

When the canoe suddenly capsized, Gladys jumped, but Selwyn went with it, boat and man tumbling into the tumult over and over; and the usual laughter from the onlookers rang out, and a dozen young people rushed into the surf to right the canoe and push it out into the surf again and clamber into it.

Gerald was among the number; Gladys swam toward it, beckoning imperiously to Selwyn; but he had his back to the sea and was moving slowly out through the flat swirling ebb. And as Eileen looked, she saw a dark streak leap across his face—saw him stoop and wash it off and stand, looking blindly about, while again the sudden dark line criss-crossed his face from temple to chin, and spread wider like a stain.

"Philip!" she called, springing to her feet and scarcely knowing that she had spoken.

He heard her, and came toward her in a halting, dazed way, stopping twice to cleanse his face of the bright blood that streaked it.

"It's nothing," he said—"the infernal thing hit me. . . . Oh, don't use that!" as she drenched her kerchief in cold sea-water and held it toward him with both hands.

"Take it!—I—I beg of you," she stammered. "Is it s-serious?"

"Why, no," he said, his senses clearing; "it was only a rap on the head—and this blood is merely a nuisance. . . . Thank you, I will use your kerchief if you insist. . . . It'll stop in a moment, anyway."

"Please sit here," she said—"here where I've been sitting."

He did so, muttering: "What a nuisance. It will stop in a second. . . . You needn't remain here with me, you know. Go in; it is simply glorious."

"I've been in; I was drying my hair."

He glanced up, smiling; then, as the wet kerchief against his forehead reddened, he started to rise, but she took it from his fingers, hastened to the water's edge, rinsed it, and brought it back cold and wet.

"Please sit perfectly still," she said; "a girl likes to do this sort of thing for a man."

"If I'd known that," he laughed, "I'd have had it happen frequently."

She only shook her head, watching him unsmiling. But the pulse in her had become very quiet again.

"It's no end of fun in that canoe," he observed. "Gladys Orchil and I work it beautifully."

"I saw you did," she nodded.

"Oh! Where were you? Why didn't you come?"

"I don't know. Gladys called you. I was waiting for you—expecting you. Then Gladys called you."

"I didn't see you," he said.

"I didn't call you," she observed serenely. And, after a moment: "Do you see only those who hail you, Captain Selwyn?"

He laughed: "In this life's cruise a good sailor always answers a friendly hail."

"So do I," she said. "Please hail me after this—because I don't care to take the initiative. If you neglect to do it, don't count on my hailing you . . . any more."

The stain spread on the kerchief; once more she went to the water's edge, rinsed it, and returned with it.

"I think it has almost stopped bleeding," she remarked as he laid the cloth against his forehead. "You frightened me, Captain Selwyn. I am not easily frightened."

"I know it."

"Did you know I was frightened?"

"Of course I did."

"Oh," she said, vexed, "how could you know it? I didn't do anything silly, did I?"

"No; you very sensibly called me Philip. That's how I knew you were frightened."

A slow bright colour stained face and neck.

"So I was silly, after all," she said, biting at her under lip and trying to meet his humorous gray eyes with unconcern. But her face was burning now, and, aware of it, she turned her gaze resolutely on the sea. Also, to her further annoyance, her heart awoke, beating unwarrantably, absurdly, until the dreadful idea seized her that he could hear it. Disconcerted, she stood up—a straight youthful figure against the sea. The wind blowing her dishevelled hair across her cheeks and shoulders, fluttered her clinging skirts as she rested both hands on her hips and slowly walked toward the water's edge.

"Shall we swim?" he asked her.

She half turned and looked around and down at him.

"I'm all right; it's stopped bleeding. Shall we?" he inquired, looking up at her. "You've got to wash your hair again, anyhow."

She said, feeling suddenly stupid and childish, and knowing she was speaking stupidly: "Would you not rather join Gladys again? I thought that—that—"

"Thought what?"

"Nothing," she said, furious at herself; "I am going to the showers. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," he said, troubled—"unless we walk to the pavilion together—"

"But you are going in again; are you not?"

"Not unless you do."

"W-what have I to do with it, Captain Selwyn?"

"It's a big ocean—and rather lonely without you," he said so seriously that she looked around again and laughed.

"It's full of pretty girls just now. Plunge in, my melancholy friend. The whole ocean is a dream of fair women to-day."

"'If they be not fair to me, what care I how fair they be,'" he paraphrased, springing to his feet and keeping step beside her.

"Really, that won't do," she said; "much moonlight and Gladys and the Minster twins convict you. Do you remember that I told you one day in early summer—that Sheila and Dorothy and Gladys would mark you for their own? Oh, my inconstant courtier, they are yonder!—And I absolve you. Adieu!"

"Do you remember what I told you—one day in early summer?" he returned coolly.

Her heart began its absurd beating again—but now there was no trace of pain in it—nothing of apprehension in the echo of the pulse either.

"You protested so many things, Captain Selwyn—"

"Yes; and one thing in particular. You've forgotten it, I see." And he looked her in the eye.

"No," she said, "you are wrong. I have not forgotten."

"Nor I."

He halted, looking out over the shining breakers. "I'm glad you have not forgotten what I said; because, you see, I'm forbidden to repeat it. So I shall be quite helpless to aid you in case your memory fails."

"I don't think it will fail," she said, looking at the flashing sea. A curious tingling sensation of fright had seized her—something entirely unknown to her heretofore. She spoke again because frightened; the heavy, hard pulse in breast and throat played tricks with her voice and she swallowed and attempted to steady it: "I—if—if I ever forget, you will know it as soon as I do—"

Her throat seemed to close in a quick, unsteady breath; she halted, both small hands clinched:

"Don't talk this way!" she said, exasperated under a rush of sensations utterly incomprehensible—stinging, confused emotions that beat chaotic time to the clamour of her pulses. "Why d-do you speak of such things?" she repeated with a fierce little indrawn breath—"why do you?—when you know—when I said—explained everything?" She looked at him fearfully: "You are somehow spoiling our friendship," she said; "and I don't exactly know how you are doing it, but something of the comfort of it is being taken away from me—and don't! don't! don't do it!"

She covered her eyes with her clinched hands, stood a moment, motionless; then her arms dropped, and she turned sharply with a gesture which left him standing there and walked rapidly across the beach to the pavilion.

After a little while he followed, pursuing his way very leisurely to his own quarters. Half an hour later when she emerged with her maid, Selwyn was not waiting for her as usual; and, scarcely understanding that she was finding an excuse for lingering, she stood for ten minutes on the step of the Orchils' touring-car, talking to Gladys about the lantern fete and dance to be given that night at Hitherwood House.

Evidently Selwyn had already gone home. Gerald came lagging up with Sheila Minster; but his sister did not ask him whether Selwyn had gone. Yesterday she would have done so; but to-day had brought to her the strangest sensation of her young life—a sudden and overpowering fear of a friend; and yet, strangest of all, the very friend she feared she was waiting for—contriving to find excuses to wait for. Surely he could not have finished dressing and have gone. He had never before done that. Why did he not come? It was late; people were leaving the pavilion; victorias and beach-phaetons were trundling off loaded to the water-line with fat dowagers; gay groups passed, hailing her or waving adieux; Drina drove up in her village-cart, calling out: "Are you coming, Eileen, or are you going to walk over? Hurry up! I'm hungry."

"I'll go with you," she said, nodding adieu to Gladys; and she swung off the step and crossed the shell road.

"Jump in," urged the child; "I'm in a dreadful hurry, and Odin can't trot very fast."

"I'd prefer to drive slowly," said Miss Erroll in a colourless voice; and seated herself in the village-cart.

"Why must I drive slowly?" demanded the child. "I'm hungry; besides, I haven't seen Boots this morning. I don't want to drive slowly; must I?"

"Which are you most in a hurry for?" asked Eileen curiously; "luncheon or Boots?"

"Both—I don't know. What a silly question. Boots of course! But I'm starving, too."

"Boots? Of course?"

"Certainly. He always comes first—just like Captain Selwyn with you."

"Like Captain Selwyn with me," she repeated absently; "certainly; Captain Selwyn should be first, everything else second. But how did you find out that, Drina?"

"Why, anybody can see that," said the child contemptuously; "you are as fast friends with Uncle Philip as I am with Boots. And why you don't marry him I can't see—unless you're not old enough. Are you?"

"Yes. . . . I am old enough, dear."

"Then why don't you? If I was old enough to marry Boots I'd do it. Why don't you?"

"I don't know," said Miss Erroll, as though speaking to herself.

Drina glanced at her, then flourished her be-ribboned whip, which whistling threat had no perceptible effect on the fat, red, Norwegian pony.

"I'll tell you what," said the child, "if you don't ask Uncle Philip pretty soon somebody will ask him first, and you'll be too late. As soon as I saw Boots I knew that I wanted him for myself, and I told him so. He said he was very glad I had spoken, because he was expecting a proposal by wireless from the young Sultana-elect of Leyte. Now," added the child with satisfaction, "she can't have him. It's better to be in time, you see."

Eileen nodded: "Yes, it is better to be in plenty of time. You can't tell what Sultana may forestall you."

"So you'll tell him, won't you?" inquired Drina with business-like briskness.

Miss Erroll looked absently at her: "Tell who what?"

"Uncle Philip—that you're going to marry him when you're old enough."

"Yes—when I'm old enough—I'll tell him, Drina."

"Oh, no; I mean you'll marry him when you're old enough, but you'd better tell him right away."

"I see; I'd better speak immediately. Thank you, dear, for suggesting it."

"You're quite welcome," said the child seriously; "and I hope you'll be as happy as I am."

"I hope so," said Eileen as the pony-cart drew up by the veranda and a groom took the pony's head.

Luncheon being the children's hour, Miss Erroll's silence remained unnoticed in the jolly uproar; besides, Gerald and Boots were discussing the huge house-party, lantern fete, and dance which the Orchils were giving that night for the younger sets; and Selwyn, too, seemed to take unusual interest in the discussion, though Eileen's part in the conference was limited to an occasional nod or monosyllable.

Drina was wild to go and furious at not having been asked, but when Boots offered to stay home, she resolutely refused to accept the sacrifice.

"No," she said; "they are pigs not to ask girls of my age, but you may go, Boots, and I'll promise not to be unhappy." And she leaned over and added in a whisper to Eileen: "You see how sensible it is to make arrangements beforehand! Because somebody, grown-up, might take him away at this very party. That's the reason why it is best to speak promptly. Please pass me another peach, Eileen."

"What are you two children whispering about?" inquired Selwyn, glancing at Eileen.

"Oho!" exclaimed Drina; "you may know before long! May he not, Eileen? It's about you," she said; "something splendid that somebody is going to do to you! Isn't it, Eileen?"

Miss Erroll looked smilingly at Selwyn, a gay jest on her lips; but the sudden clamour of pulses in her throat closed her lips, cutting the phrase in two, and the same strange fright seized her—an utterly unreasoning fear of him.

At the same moment Mrs. Gerard gave the rising signal, and Selwyn was swept away in the rushing herd of children, out on to the veranda, where for a while he smoked and drew pictures for the younger Gerards. Later, some of the children were packed off for a nap; Billy with his assorted puppies went away with Drina and Boots, ever hopeful of a fox or rabbit; Nina Gerard curled herself up in a hammock, and Selwyn seated himself beside her, an uncut magazine on his knees. Eileen had disappeared.

For a while Nina swung there in silence, her pretty eyes fixed on her brother. He had nearly finished cutting the leaves of the magazine before she spoke, mentioning the fact of Rosamund Fane's arrival at the Minsters' house, Brookminster.

The slightest frown gathered and passed from her brother's sun-bronzed forehead, but he made no comment.

"Mr. Neergard is a guest, too," she observed.

"What?" exclaimed Selwyn, in disgust.

"Yes; he came ashore with the Fanes."

Selwyn flushed a little but went on cutting the pages of the magazine. When he had finished he flattened the pages between both covers, and said, without raising his eyes:

"I'm sorry that crowd is to be in evidence."

"They always are and always will be," smiled his sister.

He looked up at her: "Do you mean that anybody else is a guest at Brookminster?"

"Yes, Phil."

"Alixe?"

"Yes."

He looked down at the book on his knees and began to furrow the pages absently.

"Phil," she said, "have you heard anything this summer—lately—about the Ruthvens?"

"No."

"Nothing at all?"

"Not a word."

"You knew they were at Newport as usual."

"I took it for granted."

"And you have heard no rumours?—no gossip concerning them? Nothing about a yacht?"

"Where was I to hear it? What gossip? What yacht?"

His sister said very seriously: "Alixe has been very careless."

"Everybody is. What of it?"

"It is understood that she and Jack Ruthven have separated."

He looked up quickly: "Who told you that?"

"A woman wrote me from Newport. . . . And Alixe is here and Jack Ruthven is in New York. Several people have—I have heard about it from several sources. I'm afraid it's true, Phil."

They looked into each other's troubled eyes; and he said: "If she has done this it is the worse of two evils she has chosen. To live with him was bad enough, but this is the limit."

"I know it. She cannot afford to do such a thing again. . . . Phil, what is the matter with her? She simply cannot be sane and do such a thing—can she?"

"I don't know," he said.

"Well, I do. She is not sane. She has made herself horridly conspicuous among conspicuous people; she has been indiscreet to the outer edge of effrontery. Even that set won't stand it always—especially as their men folk are quite crazy about her, and she leads a train of them about wherever she goes—the little fool!

"And now, if it's true, that there's to be a separation—what on earth will become of her? I ask you, Phil, for I don't know. But men know what becomes eventually of women who slap the world across the face with over-ringed fingers.

"If—if there's any talk about it—if there's newspaper talk—if there's a divorce—who will ask her to their houses? Who will condone this thing? Who will tolerate it, or her? Men—and men only—the odious sort that fawn on her now and follow her about half-sneeringly. They'll tolerate it; but their wives won't; and the kind of women who will receive and tolerate her are not included in my personal experience. What a fool she has been!—good heavens, what a fool!"

A trifle paler than usual, he said: "There is no real harm in her. I know there is not."

"You are very generous, Phil—"

"No, I am trying to be truthful. And I say there is no harm in her. I have made up my mind on that score." He leaned nearer his sister and laid one hand on hers where it lay across the hammock's edge:

"Nina; no woman could have done what she has done, and continue to do what she does, and be mentally sound. This, at last, is my conclusion."

"It has long been my conclusion," she said under her breath.

He stared at the floor out of gray eyes grown dull and hopeless.

"Phil," whispered his sister, "suppose—suppose—what happened to her father—"

"I know."

She said again: "It was slow at first, a brilliant eccentricity—that gradually became—something else less pleasant. Oh, Phil! Phil!"

"It was softening of the brain," he said, "was it not?"

"Yes—he entertained a delusion of conspiracy against him—also a complacent conviction of the mental instability of others. Yet, at intervals he remained clever and witty and charming."

"And then?"

"Phil—he became violent at times."

"Yes. And the end?" he asked quietly.

"A little child again—quite happy and content—playing with toys—very gentle, very pitiable—" The hot tears filled her eyes. "Oh, Phil!" she sobbed and hid her face on his shoulder.

Over the soft, faintly fragrant hair he stared stupidly, lips apart, chin loose.

A little later, Nina sat up in the hammock, daintily effacing the traces of tears. Selwyn was saying: "If this is so, that Ruthven man has got to stand by her. Where could she go—if such trouble is to come upon her? To whom can she turn if not to him? He is responsible for her—doubly so, if her condition is to be—that! By every law of manhood he is bound to stand by her now; by every law of decency and humanity he cannot desert her now. If she does these—these indiscreet things—and if he knows she is not altogether mentally responsible—he cannot fail to stand by her! How can he, in God's name!"

"Phil," she said, "you speak like a man, but she has no man to stand loyally by her in the direst need a human soul may know. He is only a thing—no man at all—only a loathsome accident of animated decadence."

He looked up quickly, amazed at her sudden bitterness; and she looked back at him almost fiercely.

"I may as well tell you what I've heard," she said; "I was not going to, at first; but it will be all around town sooner or later. Rosamund told me. She learned—as she manages to learn everything a little before anybody else hears of it—that Jack Ruthven found out that Alixe was behaving very carelessly with some man—some silly, callow, and probably harmless youth. But there was a disgraceful scene on Mr. Neergard's yacht, the Niobrara. I don't know who the people were, but Ruthven acted abominably. . . . The Niobrara anchored in Widgeon Bay yesterday; and Alixe is aboard, and her husband is in New York, and Rosamund says he means to divorce her in one way or another! Ugh! the horrible little man with his rings and bangles!"

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