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Title:      Jennie Gerhardt (1911)
Author:     Theodore Dreiser
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300701.txt
Language:   English
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Jennie Gerhardt (1911)
Author:     Theodore Dreiser





CHAPTER I


One morning, in the fall of 1880, a middle-aged woman, accompanied
by a young girl of eighteen, presented herself at the clerk's desk
of the principal hotel in Columbus, Ohio, and made inquiry as to
whether there was anything about the place that she could do.  She
was of a helpless, fleshy build, with a frank, open countenance and
an innocent, diffident manner.  Her eyes were large and patient,
and in them dwelt such a shadow of distress as only those who have
looked sympathetically into the countenances of the distraught and
helpless poor know anything about.  Any one could see where the
daughter behind her got the timidity and shamefacedness which now
caused her to stand back and look indifferently away.  She was a
product of the fancy, the feeling, the innate affection of the
untutored but poetic mind of her mother combined with the gravity
and poise which were characteristic of her father.  Poverty was
driving them.  Together they presented so appealing a picture of
honest necessity that even the clerk was affected.

"What is it you would like to do?" he said.

"Maybe you have some cleaning or scrubbing," she replied, timidly.
"I could wash the floors."

The daughter, hearing the statement, turned uneasily, not because
it irritated her to work, but because she hated people to guess at
the poverty that made it necessary.  The clerk, manlike, was
affected by the evidence of beauty in distress.  The innocent
helplessness of the daughter made their lot seem hard indeed.

"Wait a moment," he said; and, stepping into a back office, he
called the head housekeeper.

There was work to be done.  The main staircase and parlour hall
were unswept because of the absence of the regular scrub-woman.

"Is that her daughter with her?" asked the housekeeper, who could
see them from where she was standing.

"Yes, I believe so."

"She might come this afternoon if she wants to.  The girl helps
her, I suppose?"

"You go see the housekeeper," said the clerk, pleasantly, as he
came back to the desk.  "Right through there"--pointing to a near-
by door.  "She'll arrange with you about it."

A succession of misfortunes, of which this little scene might have
been called the tragic culmination, had taken place in the life and
family of William Gerhardt, a glass-blower by trade.  Having
suffered the reverses so common in the lower walks of life, this
man was forced to see his wife, his six children, and himself
dependent for the necessaries of life upon whatever windfall of
fortune the morning of each recurring day might bring.  He himself
was sick in bed.  His oldest boy, Sebastian, or "Bass," as his
associates transformed it, worked as an apprentice to a local
freight-car builder, but received only four dollars a week.
Genevieve, the oldest of the girls, was past eighteen, but had not
as yet been trained to any special work.  The other children,
George, aged fourteen; Martha, twelve; William, ten, and Veronica,
eight, were too young to do anything, and only made the problem of
existence the more complicated.  Their one mainstay was the home,
which, barring a six-hundred-dollar mortgage, the father owned.  He
had borrowed this money at a time when, having saved enough to buy
the house, he desired to add three rooms and a porch, and so make
it large enough for them to live in.  A few years were still to run
on the mortgage, but times had been so bad that he had been forced
to use up not only the little he had saved to pay off the
principal, but the annual interest also.  Gerhardt was helpless,
and the consciousness of his precarious situation--the doctor's
bill, the interest due upon the mortgage, together with the sums
owed butcher and baker, who, through knowing him to be absolutely
honest, had trusted him until they could trust no longer--all these
perplexities weighed upon his mind and racked him so nervously as
to delay his recovery.

Mrs. Gerhardt was no weakling.  For a time she took in washing,
what little she could get, devoting the intermediate hours to
dressing the children, cooking, seeing that they got off to school,
mending their clothes, waiting on her husband, and occasionally
weeping.  Not infrequently she went personally to some new grocer,
each time farther and farther away, and, starting an account with a
little cash, would receive credit until other grocers warned the
philanthropist of his folly.  Corn was cheap.  Sometimes she would
make a kettle of lye hominy, and this would last, with scarcely
anything else, for an entire week.  Corn-meal also, when made into
mush, was better than nothing, and this, with a little milk, made
almost a feast.  Potatoes fried was the nearest they ever came to
luxurious food, and coffee was an infrequent treat.  Coal was got
by picking it up in buckets and baskets along the maze of tracks
in the near-by railroad yard.  Wood, by similar journeys to
surrounding lumber-yards.  Thus they lived from day to day, each
hour hoping that the father would get well and that the glass-works
would soon start up.  But as the winter approached Gerhardt began
to feel desperate.

"I must get out of this now pretty soon," was the sturdy German's
regular comment, and his anxiety found but weak expression in the
modest quality of his voice.

To add to all this trouble little Veronica took the measles, and,
for a few days, it was thought that she would die.  The mother
neglected everything else to hover over her and pray for the best.
Doctor Ellwanger came every day, out of purely human sympathy, and
gravely examined the child.  The Lutheran minister, Pastor Wundt,
called to offer the consolation of the Church.  Both of these men
brought an atmosphere of grim ecclesiasticism into the house.  They
were the black-garbed, sanctimonious emissaries of superior forces.
Mrs. Gerhardt felt as if she were going to lose her child, and
watched sorrowfully by the cot-side.  After three days the worst
was over, but there was no bread in the house.  Sebastian's wages
had been spent for medicine.  Only coal was free for the picking,
and several times the children had been scared from the railroad
yards.  Mrs. Gerhardt thought of all the places to which she might
apply, and despairingly hit upon the hotel.  Now, by a miracle, she
had her chance.

"How much do you charge?" the housekeeper asked her.

Mrs. Gerhardt had not thought this would be left to her, but need
emboldened her.

"Would a dollar a day be too much?"

"No," said the housekeeper; "there is only about three days work to
do every week.  If you would come every afternoon you could do it."

"Very well," said the applicant.  "Shall we start to-day?"

"Yes; if you'll come with me now I'll show you where the cleaning
things are."

The hotel, into which they were thus summarily introduced, was a
rather remarkable specimen for the time and place.  Columbus, being
the State capital, and having a population of fifty thousand and a
fair passenger traffic, was a good field for the hotel business,
and the opportunity had been improved; so at least the Columbus
people proudly thought.  The structure, five stories in height, and
of imposing proportions, stood at one corner of the central public
square, where were the Capitol building and principal stores.  The
lobby was large and had been recently redecorated.  Both floor and
wainscot were of white marble, kept shiny by frequent polishing.
There was an imposing staircase with hand-rails of walnut and toe-
strips of brass.  An inviting corner was devoted to a news and
cigar-stand.  Where the staircase curved upward the clerk's desk
and offices had been located, all done in hardwood and ornamented
by novel gas-fixtures.  One could see through a door at one end of
the lobby to the barber-shop, with its chairs and array of shaving-
mugs.  Outside were usually two or three buses, arriving or
departing, in accordance with the movement of the trains.

To this caravanserai came the best of the political and social
patronage of the State.  Several Governors had made it their
permanent abiding place during their terms of office.  The two
United States Senators, whenever business called them to Columbus,
invariably maintained parlour chambers at the hotel.  One of them,
Senator Brander, was looked upon by the proprietor as more or less
of a permanent guest, because he was not only a resident of the
city, but an otherwise homeless bachelor.  Other and more transient
guests included Congressmen, State legislators and lobbyists,
merchants, professional men, and, after them, the whole raft of
indescribables who, coming and going, make up the glow and stir of
this kaleidoscopic world.

Mother and daughter, suddenly flung into this realm of superior
brightness, felt immeasurably overawed.  They went about too timid
to touch anything for fear of giving offence.  The great red-
carpeted hallway, which they were set to sweep, had for them all
the magnificence of a palace; they kept their eyes down and spoke
in their lowest tones.  When it came to scrubbing the steps and
polishing the brass-work of the splendid stairs both needed to
steel themselves, the mother against her timidity, the daughter
against the shame at so public an exposure.  Wide beneath lay the
imposing lobby, and men, lounging, smoking, passing constantly in
and out, could see them both.

"Isn't it fine?" whispered Genevieve, and started nervously at the
sound of her own voice.

"Yes," returned her mother, who, upon her knees, was wringing out
her cloth with earnest but clumsy hands.

"It must cost a good deal to live here, don't you think?"

"Yes," said her mother.  "Don't forget to rub into these little
corners.  Look here what you've left."

Jennie, mortified by this correction, fell earnestly to her task,
and polished vigorously, without again daring to lift her eyes.

With painstaking diligence they worked downward until about five
o'clock; it was dark outside, and all the lobby was brightly
lighted.  Now they were very near the bottom of the stairway.

Through the big swinging doors there entered from the chilly world
without a tall, distinguished, middle-aged gentleman, whose silk
hat and loose military cape-coat marked him at once, among the
crowd of general idlers, as some one of importance.  His face was
of a dark and solemn cast, but broad and sympathetic in its lines,
and his bright eyes were heavily shaded with thick, bushy, black
eyebrows.  Passing to the desk he picked up the key that had
already been laid out for him, and coming to the staircase, started
up.

The middle-aged woman, scrubbing at his feet, he acknowledged not
only by walking around her, but by graciously waving his hand, as
much as to say, "Don't move for me."

The daughter, however, caught his eye by standing up, her troubled
glance showing that she feared she was in his way.

He bowed and smiled pleasantly.

"You shouldn't have troubled yourself," he said,

Jennie only smiled.

When he had reached the upper landing an impulsive sidewise glance
assured him, more clearly than before, of her uncommonly
prepossessing appearance.  He noted the high, white forehead, with
its smoothly parted and plaited hair.  The eyes he saw were blue
and the complexion fair.  He had even time to admire the mouth and
the full cheeks--above all, the well-rounded, graceful form, full
of youth, health, and that hopeful expectancy which to the middle-
aged is so suggestive of all that is worth begging of Providence.
Without another look he went dignifiedly upon his way, but the
impression of her charming personality went with him.  This was the
Hon. George Sylvester Brander, junior Senator.

"Wasn't that a fine-looking man who went up just now?" observed
Jennie a few moments later.

"Yes, he was," said her mother.

"He had a gold-headed cane."

"You mustn't stare at people when they pass," cautioned her mother,
wisely.  "It isn't nice."

"I didn't stare at him," returned Jennie, innocently.  "He bowed to
me."

"Well, don't you pay any attention to anybody," said her mother.
"They may not like it."

Jennie fell to her task in silence, but the glamour of the great
world was having its effect upon her senses.  She could not help
giving ear to the sounds, the brightness, the buzz of conversation
and laughter surrounding her.  In one section of the parlour floor
was the dining-room, and from the clink of dishes one could tell
that supper was being prepared.  In another was the parlour proper,
and there some one came to play on the piano.  That feeling of rest
and relaxation which comes before the evening meal pervaded the
place.  It touched the heart of the innocent working-girl with
hope, for hers were the years, and poverty could not as yet fill
her young mind with cares.  She rubbed diligently always, and
sometimes forgot the troubled mother at her side, whose kindly eyes
were becoming invested with crows' feet, and whose lips half
repeated the hundred cares of the day.  She could only think that
all of this was very fascinating, and wish that a portion of it
might come to her.

At half-past five, the housekeeper, remembering them, came and
told them that they might go.  The fully finished stairway was
relinquished by both with a sigh of relief, and, after putting
their implements away, they hastened homeward, the mother, at
least, pleased to think that at last she had something to do.

As they passed several fine houses Jennie was again touched by that
half-defined emotion which the unwonted novelty of the hotel life
had engendered in her consciousness.

"Isn't it fine to be rich?" she said.

"Yes," answered her mother, who was thinking of the suffering
Veronica.

"Did you see what a big dining-room they had there?"

"Yes."

They went on past the low cottages and among the dead leaves of the
year.

"I wish we were rich," murmured Jennie, half to herself.

"I don't know just what to do," confided her mother with a long-
drawn sigh.  "I don't believe there's a thing to eat in the house."

"Let's stop and see Mr. Bauman again," exclaimed Jennie, her
natural sympathies restored by the hopeless note in her mother's
voice.

"Do you think he would trust us any more?"

"Let's tell him where we're working.  I will."

"Well," said her mother, wearily.

Into the small, dimly lighted grocery store, which was two blocks
from their house, they ventured nervously.  Mrs. Gerhardt was about
to begin, but Jennie spoke first.

"Will you let us have some bread to-night, and a little bacon?
We're working now at the Columbus House, and we'll be sure to pay
you Saturday."

"Yes," added Mrs. Gerhardt, "I have something to do."

Bauman, who had long supplied them before illness and trouble
began, knew that they told the truth.

"How long have you been working there?" he asked.

"Just this afternoon."

"You know, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said, "how it is with me.  I don't
want to refuse you.  Mr. Gerhardt is good for it, but I am poor,
too.  Times are hard," he explained further, "I have my family to
keep."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, weakly.

Her old shoddy shawl hid her rough hands, red from the day's work,
but they were working nervously.  Jennie stood by in strained
silence.

"Well," concluded Mr. Bauman, "I guess it's all right this time.
Do what you can for me Saturday."

He wrapped up the bread and bacon, and, handing Jennie the parcel,
he added, with a touch of cynicism:

"When you get money again I guess you'll go and trade somewhere
else."

"No," returned Mrs. Gerhardt; "you know better than that."  But she
was too nervous to parley long.

They went out into the shadowy street, and on past the low cottages
to their own home.

"I wonder," said the mother, wearily, when they neared the door,
"if they've got any coal?"

"Don't worry," said Jennie.  "If they haven't I'll go."

"A man run us away," was almost the first greeting that the
perturbed George offered when the mother made her inquiry about the
coal.  "I got a little, though," he added.  "I threw it off a car."

Mrs. Gerhardt only smiled, but Jennie laughed.

"How is Veronica?" she inquired.

"She seems to be sleeping," said the father.  "I gave her medicine
again at five."

While the scanty meal was being prepared the mother went to the
sick child's bedside, taking up another long night's vigil quite as
a matter of course.

While the supper was being eaten Sebastian offered a suggestion,
and his larger experience in social and commercial matters made
his proposition worth considering.  Though only a car-builder's
apprentice, without any education except such as pertained to
Lutheran doctrine, to which he objected very strongly, he was
imbued with American colour and energy.  His transformed name of
Bass suited him exactly.  Tall, athletic, and well-featured for his
age, he was a typical stripling of the town.  Already he had
formulated a philosophy of life.  To succeed one must do something--
one must associate, or at least seem to associate, with those who
were foremost in the world of appearances.

For this reason the young boy loved to hang about the Columbus
House.  It seemed to him that this hotel was the centre and
circumference of all that was worth while in the social sense.  He
would go downtown evenings, when he first secured money enough to
buy a decent suit of clothes, and stand around the hotel entrance
with his friends, kicking his heels, smoking a two-for-five-cent
cigar, preening himself on his stylish appearance, and looking
after the girls.  Others were there with him--town dandies and
nobodies, young men who came there to get shaved or to drink a
glass of whisky.  And all of these he admired and sought to
emulate.  Clothes were the main touchstone.  If men wore nice
clothes and had rings and pins, whatever they did seemed
appropriate.  He wanted to be like them and to act like them, and
so his experience of the more pointless forms of life rapidly
broadened.

"Why don't you get some of those hotel fellows to give you their
laundry?" he asked of Jennie after she had related the afternoon's
experiences.  "It would be better than scrubbing the stairs."

"How do you get it?" she replied.

"Why, ask the clerk, of course."

This plan struck Jennie as very much worth while.

"Don't you ever speak to me if you meet me around there," he
cautioned her a little later, privately.  "Don't you let on that
you know me."

"Why?" she asked, innocently.

"Well, you know why," he answered, having indicated before that
when they looked so poor he did not want to be disgraced by having
to own them as relatives.  "Just you go on by.  Do you hear?"

"All right," she returned, meekly, for although this youth was not
much over a year her senior, his superior will dominated.

The next day on their way to the hotel she spoke of it to her
mother.

"Bass said we might get some of the laundry of the men at the hotel
to do."

Mrs. Gerhardt, whose mind had been straining all night at the
problem of adding something to the three dollars which her six
afternoons would bring her, approved of the idea.

"So we might," she said.  "I'll ask that clerk."

When they reached the hotel, however, no immediate opportunity
presented itself.  They worked on until late in the afternoon.
Then, as fortune would have it, the housekeeper sent them in to
scrub up the floor behind the clerk's desk.  That important
individual felt very kindly toward mother and daughter.  He liked
the former's sweetly troubled countenance and the latter's pretty
face.  So he listened graciously when Mrs. Gerhardt ventured meekly
to put the question which she had been revolving in her mind all
the afternoon.

"Is there any gentleman here," she said, "who would give me his
washing to do?  I'd be so very much obliged for it."

The clerk looked at her, and again recognised that absolute want
was written all over her anxious face.

"Let's see," he answered, thinking of Senator Brander and Marshall
Hopkins.  Both were charitable men, who would be more than glad to
aid a poor woman.  "You go up and see Senator Brander," he
continued.  "He's in twenty-two.  Here," he added, writing out the
number, "you go up and tell him I sent you."

Mrs. Gerhardt took the card with a tremour of gratefulness.  Her
eyes looked the words she could not say.

"That's all right," said the clerk, observing her emotion.  "You go
right up.  You'll find him in his room now."

With the greatest diffidence Mrs. Gerhardt knocked at number
twenty-two.  Jennie stood silently at her side.

After a moment the door was opened, and in the full radiance of the
bright room stood the Senator.  Attired in a handsome smoking-coat,
he looked younger than at their first meeting.

"Well, madam," he said, recognising the couple, and particularly
the daughter, "what can I do for you?"

Very much abashed, the mother hesitated in her reply.

"We would like to know if you have any washing you could let us
have to do?"

"Washing?" he repeated after her, in a voice which had a peculiarly
resonant quality.  "Washing?  Come right in.  Let me see."

He stepped aside with much grace, waved them in and closed the
door.  "Let me see," he repeated, opening and closing drawer after
drawer of the massive black-walnut bureau.  Jennie studied the room
with interest.  Such an array of nicknacks and pretty things on
mantel and dressing-table she had never seen before.  The Senator's
easy-chair, with a green-shaded lamp beside it, the rich heavy
carpet and the fine rugs upon the floor--what comfort, what luxury!

"Sit down; take those two chairs there," said the Senator
graciously, disappearing into a closet.

Still overawed, mother and daughter thought it more polite to
decline, but now the Senator had completed his researches and he
reiterated his invitation.  Very uncomfortably they yielded and
took chairs.

"Is this your daughter?" he continued, with a smile at Jennie.

"Yes, sir," said the mother; "she's my oldest girl."

"Is your husband alive?"

"What is his name?"

"Where does he live?"

To all of these questions Mrs. Gerhardt very humbly answered.

"How many children have you?" he went on.

"Six," said Mrs. Gerhardt.

"Well," he returned, "that's quite a family.  You've certainly done
your duty to the nation."

"Yes, sir," returned Mrs. Gerhardt, who was touched by his genial
and interesting manner.

"And you say this is your oldest daughter?"

"Yes, sir."

"What does your husband do?"

"He's a glass-blower.  But he's sick now."

During the colloquy Jennie's large blue eyes were wide with
interest.  Whenever he looked at her she turned upon him such a
frank, unsophisticated gaze, and smiled in such a vague, sweet way,
that he could not keep his eyes off of her for more than a minute
of the time.

"Well," he continued, sympathetically, "that is too bad!  I have
some washing here--not very much--but you are welcome to it.  Next
week there may be more."

He went about now, stuffing articles of apparel into a blue cotton
bag with a pretty design on the side.

"Do you want these any certain day?" questioned Mrs. Gerhardt.

"No," he said, reflectively, "any day next week will do."

She thanked him with a simple phrase, and started to go.

"Let me see," he said, stepping ahead of them and opening the door,
"you may bring them back Monday!"

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Gerhardt.  "Thank you."

They went out and the Senator returned to his reading, but it was
with a peculiarly disturbed mind.

"Too bad," he said, closing his volume.  "There's something very
pathetic about those people."  Jennie's spirit of wonder and
appreciation was abroad in the room.

Mrs. Gerhardt and Jennie made their way anew through the shadowy
streets.  They felt immeasurably encouraged by this fortunate
venture.

"Didn't he have a fine room?" whispered Jennie.

"Yes," answered the mother; "he's a great man."

"He's a senator, isn't he?" continued the daughter.

"Yes."

"It must be nice to be famous," said the girl, softly.



CHAPTER II


The spirit of Jennie--who shall express it?  This daughter of
poverty, who was now to fetch and carry the laundry of this
distinguished citizen of Columbus, was a creature of a mellowness
of temperament which words can but vaguely suggest.  There are
natures born to the inheritance of flesh that come without
understanding, and that go again without seeming to have wondered
why.  Life, so long as they endure it, is a true wonderland, a
thing of infinite beauty, which could they but wander into it
wonderingly, would be heaven enough.  Opening their eyes, they see
a comfortable and perfect world.  Trees, flowers, the world of
sound and the world of colour.  These are the valued inheritance of
their state.  If no one said to them "Mine" they would wander
radiantly forth, singing the song which all the earth may some day
hope to hear.  It is the song of goodness.

Caged in the world of the material, however, such a nature is
almost invariably an anomaly.  That other world of flesh into which
has been woven pride and greed looks askance at the idealist, the
dreamer.  If one says it is sweet to look at the clouds, the answer
is a warning against idleness.  If one seeks to give ear to the
winds, it shall be well with his soul, but they will seize upon his
possessions.  If all the world of the so-called inanimate delay
one, calling with tenderness in sounds that seem to be too perfect
to be less than understanding, it shall be ill with the body.  The
hands of the actual are forever reaching toward such as these--
forever seizing greedily upon them.  It is of such that the bond
servants are made.

In the world of the actual, Jennie was such a spirit.  From her
earliest youth goodness and mercy had moulded her every impulse.
Did Sebastian fall and injure himself, it was she who struggled
with straining anxiety, carried him safely to his mother.  Did
George complain that he was hungry, she gave him all of her bread.
Many were the hours in which she had rocked her younger brothers
and sisters to sleep, singing whole-heartedly betimes and dreaming
far dreams.  Since her earliest walking period she had been as the
right hand of her mother.  What scrubbing, baking, errand-running,
and nursing there had been to do she did.  No one had ever heard
her rudely complain, though she often thought of the hardness of
her lot.  She knew that there were other girls whose lives were
infinitely freer and fuller, but, it never occurred to her to be
meanly envious; her heart might be lonely, but her lips continued
to sing.  When the days were fair she looked out of her kitchen
window and longed to go where the meadows were.  Nature's fine
curves and shadows touched her as a song itself.  There were times
when she had gone with George and the others, leading them away to
where a patch of hickory-trees flourished, because there were open
fields, with shade for comfort and a brook of living water.  No
artist in the formulating of conceptions, her soul still responded
to these things, and every sound and every sigh were welcome to her
because of their beauty.

When the soft, low call of the wood-doves, those spirits of the
summer, came out of the distance, she would incline her head and
listen, the whole spiritual quality of it dropping like silver
bubbles into her own great heart.

Where the sunlight was warm and the shadows flecked with its
splendid radiance she delighted to wonder at the pattern of it, to
walk where it was most golden, and follow with instinctive
appreciation the holy corridors of the trees.

Colour was not lost upon her.  That wonderful radiance which fills
the western sky at evening touched and unburdened her heart.

"I wonder," she said once with girlish simplicity, "how it would
feel to float away off there among those clouds."

She had discovered a natural swing of a wild grape-vine, and was
sitting in it with Martha and George.

"Oh, wouldn't it be nice if you had a boat up there," said George.

She was looking with uplifted face at a far-off cloud, a red island
in a sea of silver.

"Just supposing," she said, "people could live on an island like
that."

Her soul was already up there, and its elysian paths knew the
lightness of her feet.

"There goes a bee," said George, noting a bumbler winging by.

"Yes," she said, dreamily, "it's going home."

"Does everything have a home?" asked Martha.

"Nearly everything," she answered.

"Do the birds go home?" questioned George.

"Yes," she said, deeply feeling the poetry of it herself, "the
birds go home."

"Do the bees go home?" urged Martha.

"Yes, the bees go home."

"Do the dogs go home?" said George, who saw one travelling
lonesomely along the nearby road.

"Why, of course," she said, "you know that dogs go home."

"Do the gnats?" he persisted, seeing one of those curious spirals
of minute insects turning energetically in the waning light.

"Yes," she said, half believing her remark.  "Listen!"

"Oho," exclaimed George, incredulously, "I wonder what kind of
houses they live in."

"Listen!" she persisted, putting out her hand to still him.

It was that halcyon hour when the Angelus falls like a benediction
upon the waning day.  Far off the notes were sounding gently, and
nature, now that she listened, seemed to have paused also.  A
scarlet-breasted robin was hopping in short spaces upon the grass
before her.  A humming bee hummed, a cow-bell tinkled, while some
suspicious cracklings told of a secretly reconnoitering squirrel.
Keeping her pretty hand weighed in the air, she listened until the
long, soft notes spread and faded and her heart could hold no more.
Then she arose.

"Oh," she said, clenching her fingers in an agony of poetic
feeling.  There were crystal tears overflowing in her eyes.  The
wondrous sea of feeling in her had stormed its banks.  Of such was
the spirit of Jennie.



CHAPTER III


The junior Senator, George Sylvester Brander, was a man of peculiar
mould.  In him there were joined, to a remarkable degree, the
wisdom of the opportunist and the sympathetic nature of the true
representative of the people.  Born a native of southern Ohio, he
had been raised and educated there, if one might except the two
years in which he had studied law at Columbia University.  He knew
common and criminal law, perhaps, as well as any citizen of his
State, but he had never practised with that assiduity which makes
for pre-eminent success at the bar.  He had made money, and had had
splendid opportunities to make a great deal more if he had been
willing to stultify his conscience, but that he had never been able
to do.  And yet his integrity had not been at all times proof
against the claims of friendship.  Only in the last presidential
election he had thrown his support to a man for Governor who, he
well knew, had no claim which strictly honourable conscience could
have recognised.

In the same way, he had been guilty of some very questionable,
and one or two actually unsavory, appointments.  Whenever his
conscience pricked him too keenly he would endeavour to hearten
himself with his pet phrase, "All in a lifetime."  Thinking over
things quite alone in his easy-chair, he would sometimes rise up
with these words on his lips, and smile sheepishly as he did so.
Conscience was not by any means dead in him.  His sympathies, if
anything, were keener than ever.

This man, three times Congressman from the district of which
Columbus was a part, and twice United States Senator, had never
married.  In his youth he had had a serious love affair, but there
was nothing discreditable to him in the fact that it came to
nothing.  The lady found it inconvenient to wait for him.  He was
too long in earning a competence upon which they might subsist.

Tall, straight-shouldered, neither lean nor stout, he was to-day an
imposing figure.  Having received his hard knocks and endured his
losses, there was that about him which touched and awakened the
sympathies of the imaginative.  People thought him naturally
agreeable, and his senatorial peers looked upon him as not any too
heavy mentally, but personally a fine man.

His presence in Columbus at this particular time was due to the
fact that his political fences needed careful repairing.  The
general election had weakened his party in the State Legislature.
There were enough votes to re-elect him, but it would require the
most careful political manipulation to hold them together.  Other
men were ambitious.  There were a half-dozen available candidates,
any one of whom would have rejoiced to step into his shoes.  He
realised the exigencies of the occasion.  They could not well beat
him, he thought; but even if this should happen, surely the
President could be induced to give him a ministry abroad.

Yes, he might be called a successful man, but for all that Senator
Brander felt that he had missed something.  He had wanted to do so
many things.  Here he was, fifty-two years of age, clean,
honourable, highly distinguished, as the world takes it, but
single.  He could not help looking about him now and then and
speculating upon the fact that he had no one to care for him.  His
chamber seemed strangely hollow at times--his own personality
exceedingly disagreeable.

"Fifty!" he often thought to himself.  "Alone--absolutely alone."

Sitting in his chamber that Saturday afternoon, a rap at his door
aroused him.  He had been speculating upon the futility of his
political energy in the light of the impermanence of life and fame.

"What a great fight we make to sustain ourselves?" he thought.
"How little difference it will make to me a few years hence?"

He arose, and opening wide his door, perceived Jennie.  She had
come, as she had suggested to her mother, at this time, instead of
on Monday, in order to give a more favourable impression of
promptness.

"Come right in," said the Senator; and, as on the first occasion,
he graciously made way for her.

Jennie passed in, momentarily expecting some compliment upon the
promptitude with which the washing had been done.  The Senator
never noticed it at all.

"Well, my young lady," he said when she had put the bundle down,
"how do you find yourself this evening?"

"Very well," replied Jennie.  "We thought we'd better bring your
clothes to-day instead of Monday."

"Oh, that would not have made any difference," replied Brander
lightly.  "Just leave them on the chair."

Jennie, without considering the fact that she had been offered no
payment for the service rendered, was about to retire, had not the
Senator detained her.

"How is your mother?" he asked pleasantly.

"She's very well," said Jennie simply.

"And your little sister?  Is she any better?"

"The doctor thinks so," she replied.

"Sit down," he continued graciously.  "I want to talk to you."

Moving to a near-by chair, the young girl seated herself.

"Hem!" he went on, clearing his throat lightly.  "What seems to be
the matter with her?"

"She has the measles," returned Jennie.  "We thought once that she
was going to die."

Brander studied her face as she said this, and he thought he saw
something exceedingly pathetic there.  The girl's poor clothes and
her wondering admiration for his exalted station in life affected
him.  It made him feel almost ashamed of the comfort and luxury
that surrounded him.  How high up he was in the world, indeed!

"I am glad she is better now," he said kindly.  "How old is your
father?"

"Fifty-seven."

"And is he any better?"

"Oh yes, sir; he's around now, although he can't go out just yet."

"I believe your mother said he was a glass-blower by trade?"

"Yes, sir."

Brander well knew the depressed local conditions in this branch of
manufacture.  It had been part of the political issue in the last
campaign.  They must be in a bad way truly.

"Do all of the children go to school?" he inquired.

"Why, yes, sir," returned Jennie, stammering.  She was too
shamefaced to own that one of the children had been obliged to
leave school for the lack of shoes.  The utterance of the falsehood
troubled her.

He reflected awhile; then realising that he had no good excuse for
further detaining her, he arose and came over to her.  From his
pocket he took a thin layer of bills, and removing one, handed it
to her.

"You take that," he said, "and tell your mother that I said she
should use it for whatever she wants."

Jennie accepted the money with mingled feelings; it did not occur
to her to look and see how much it was.  The great man was so near
her, the wonderful chamber in which he dwelt so impressive, that
she scarcely realised what she was doing.

"Thank you," she said.  "Is there any day you want your washing
called for?" she added.

"Oh yes," he answered; "Monday--Monday evenings."

She went away, and in a half reverie he closed the door behind her.
The interest that he felt in these people was unusual.  Poverty and
beauty certainly made up an affecting combination.  He sat down in
his chair and gave himself over to the pleasant speculations which
her coming had aroused.  Why should he not help them?

"I'll find out where they live," he finally resolved.

In the days that followed Jennie regularly came for the clothes.
Senator Brander found himself more and more interested in her, and
in time he managed to remove from her mind that timidity and fear
which had made her feel uncomfortable in his presence.  One thing
which helped toward this was his calling her by her first name.
This began with her third visit, and thereafter he used it with
almost unconscious frequency.

It could scarcely be said that he did this in a fatherly spirit,
for he had little of that attitude toward any one.  He felt
exceedingly young as he talked to this girl, and he often wondered
whether it were not possible for her to perceive and appreciate him
on his youthful side.

As for Jennie, she was immensely taken with the comfort and luxury
surrounding this man, and subconsciously with the man himself, the
most attractive she had ever known.  Everything he had was fine,
everything he did was gentle, distinguished, and considerate.  From
some far source, perhaps some old German ancestors, she had
inherited an understanding and appreciation of all this.  Life
ought to be lived as he lived it; the privilege of being generous
particularly appealed to her.

Part of her attitude was due to that of her mother, in whose mind
sympathy was always a more potent factor than reason.  For
instance, when she brought to her the ten dollars Mrs. Gerhardt was
transported with joy.

"Oh," said Jennie, "I didn't know until I got outside that it was
so much.  He said I should give it to you."

Mrs. Gerhardt took it, and holding it loosely in her folded hands,
saw distinctly before her the tall Senator with his fine manners.

"What a fine man he is!" she said.  "He has a good heart."

Frequently throughout the evening and the next day Mrs. Gerhardt
commented upon this wonderful treasure-trove, repeating again and
again how good he must be or how large must be his heart.  When it
came to washing his clothes she almost rubbed them to pieces,
feeling that whatever she did she could scarcely do enough.
Gerhardt was not to know.  He had such stern views about accepting
money without earning it that even in their distress, she would
have experienced some difficulty in getting him to take it.
Consequently she said nothing, but used it to buy bread and meat,
and going as it did such a little way, the sudden windfall was
never noticed.

Jennie from now on, reflected this attitude toward the Senator,
and, feeling so grateful toward him, she began to talk more freely.
They came to be on such good terms that he gave her a little
leather picture-case from his dresser which he had observed her
admiring.  Every time she came he found excuse to detain her, and
soon discovered that, for all her soft girlishness, there lay deep-
seated in her a conscious deprecation of poverty and a shame of
having to own any need.  He honestly admired her for this, and,
seeing that her clothes were poor and her shoes worn, he began to
wonder how he could help her without offending.

Not infrequently he thought to follow her some evening, and see for
himself what the condition of the family might be.  He was a United
States Senator, however.  The neighbourhood they lived in must be
very poor.  He stopped to consider, and for the time the counsels
of prudence prevailed.  Consequently the contemplated visit was put
off.

Early in December, Senator Brander returned to Washington for three
weeks, and both Mrs. Gerhardt and Jennie were surprised to learn
one day that he had gone.  Never had he given them less than two
dollars a week for his washing, and several times it had been five.
He had not realised, perhaps, what a breach his absence would make
in their finances.  But there was nothing to do about it; they
managed to pinch along.  Gerhardt, now better, searched for work at
the various mills, and finding nothing, procured a saw-buck and
saw, and going from door to door, sought for the privilege of
sawing wood.  There was not a great deal of this to do, but he
managed by the most earnest labour to earn two, and sometimes
three, dollars a week.  This added to what his wife earned and what
Sebastian gave was enough to keep bread in their mouths, but
scarcely more.

It was at the opening of the joyous Christmas-time that the
bitterness of their poverty affected them most.  The Germans love
to make a great display at Christmas.  It is the one season of the
year when the fullness of their large family affection manifests
itself.  Warm in the appreciation of the joys of childhood, they
love to see the little ones enjoy their toys and games.  Father
Gerhardt at his saw-buck during the weeks before Christmas thought
of this very often.  What would little Veronica not deserve after
her long illness!  How he would have liked to give each of the
children a stout pair of shoes, the boys a warm cap, the girls a
pretty hood.  Toys and games and candy they always had had before.
He hated to think of the snow-covered Christmas morning and no
table richly piled with what their young hearts would most desire.

As for Mrs. Gerhardt, one could better imagine than describe her
feelings.  She felt so keenly about it that she could hardly bring
herself to speak of the dreaded hour to her husband.  She had
managed to lay aside three dollars in the hope of getting enough to
buy a ton of coal, and so put an end to poor George's daily
pilgrimage to the coalyard, but now as the Christmas week drew near
she decided to use it for gifts.  Father Gerhardt was also
secreting two dollars without the knowledge of his wife, thinking
that on Christmas Eve he could produce it at a critical moment, and
so relieve her maternal anxiety.

When the actual time arrived, however, there was very little to be
said for the comfort that they got out of the occasion.  The whole
city was rife with Christmas atmosphere.  Grocery stores and meat
markets were strung with holly.  The toy shops and candy stores
were radiant with fine displays of everything that a self-
respecting Santa Claus should have about him.  Both parents and
children observed it all--the former with serious thoughts of need
and anxiety, the latter with wild fancy and only partially
suppressed longings.

Frequently had Gerhardt said in their presence:

"Kriss Kringle is very poor this year.  He hasn't so very much to
give."

But no child, however poverty-stricken, could be made to believe
this.  Every time after so saying he looked into their eyes, but in
spite of the warning, expectation flamed in them undiminished.

Christmas coming on Tuesday, the Monday before there was no school.
Before going to the hotel Mrs. Gerhardt had cautioned George that
he must bring enough coal from the yards to last over Christmas
day.  The latter went at once with his two younger sisters, but
there being a dearth of good picking, it took them a long time to
fill their baskets, and by night they had gathered only a scanty
supply.

"Did you go for the coal?" asked Mrs. Gerhardt the first thing when
she returned from the hotel that evening.

"Yes," said George.

"Did you get enough for to-morrow?"

"Yes," he replied, "I guess so."

"Well, now, I'll go and look," she replied.  Taking the lamp, they
went out into the woodshed where the coal was deposited.

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed when she saw it; "why, that isn't near
enough.  You must go right off and get some more.

"Oh," said George, pouting his lips, "I don't want to go.  Let Bass
go."

Bass, who had returned promptly at a quarter-past six, was already
busy in the back bedroom washing and dressing preparatory to going
downtown.

"No," said Mrs. Gerhardt.  "Bass has worked hard all day.  You must
go."

"I don't want to," pouted George.

"All right," said Mrs. Gerhardt, "maybe to-morrow you'll be without
a fire, and then what?"

They went back to the house, but George's conscience was too
troubled to allow him to consider the case as closed.

"Bass, you come too," he called to his elder brother when he was
inside.

"Go where?" said Bass.

"To get some coal."

"No," said the former, "I guess not.  What do you take me for?"

"Well, then, I'll not," said George, with an obstinate jerk of his
head.

"Why didn't you get it up this afternoon?" questioned his brother
sharply; "you've had all day to do it."

"Aw, I did try," said George.  "We couldn't find enough.  I can't
get any when there ain't any, can I?"

"I guess you didn't try very hard," said the dandy.

"What's the matter now?" asked Jennie, who, coming in after having
stopped at the grocer's for her mother, saw George with a solemn
pout on his face.

"Oh, Bass won't go with me to get any coal?"

"Didn't you get any this afternoon?"

"Yes," said George, "but ma says I didn't get enough."

"I'll go with you," said his sister.  "Bass will you come along?"

"No," said the young man, indifferently, "I won't."  He was
adjusting his necktie and felt irritated.

"There ain't any," said George, "unless we get it off the cars.
There wasn't any cars where I was."

"There are, too," exclaimed Bass.

"There ain't," said George.

"Oh don't quarrel," said Jennie.  "Get the baskets and let's go
right now before it gets too late."

The other children, who had a fondness for their big sister got out
the implements of supply--Veronica a basket, Martha and William
buckets, and George a big clothes-basket, which he and Jennie were
to fill and carry between them.  Bass, moved by his sister's
willingness and the little regard he still maintained for her, now
made a suggestion.

"I'll tell you what you do, Jen," he said.  "You go over there with
the kids to Eighth Street and wait around those cars.  I'll be
along in a minute.  When I come by don't any of you pretend to know
me.  Just you say, 'Mister won't you please throw us some coal
down?' and then I'll get up on the cars and pitch off enough to
fill the baskets.  D'ye understand?"

"All right," said Jennie, very much pleased.

Out into the snowy night they went, and made their way to the
railroad tracks.  At the intersection of the street and the broad
railroad yard were many heavily laden cars of bituminous coal newly
backed in.  All of the children gathered within the shadow of one.
While they were standing there, waiting the arrival of their
brother, the Washington Special arrived, a long, fine train with
several of the new style drawing-room cars, the big plate-glass
windows shining and the passengers looking out from the depths of
their comfortable chairs.  The children instinctively drew back as
it thundered past.

"Oh, wasn't it long?" said George.

"Wouldn't I like to be a brakeman, though," sighed William.

Jennie, alone, kept silent, but to her particularly the suggestion
of travel and comfort had appealed.  How beautiful life must be for
the rich!

Sebastian now appeared in the distance, a mannish spring in his
stride, and with every evidence that he took himself seriously.  He
was of that peculiar stubbornness and determination that had the
children failed to carry out his plan of procedure he would have
gone deliberately by and refused to help them at all.

Martha, however, took the situation as it needed to be taken, and
piped out childishly, "Mister, won't you please throw us down some
coal?"

Sebastian stopped abruptly, and looked sharply at them as though he
were really a stranger, exclaimed "Why, certainly," and proceeded
to climb up on the car, from whence he cast down with remarkable
celerity more than enough chunks to fill their baskets.  Then as
though not caring to linger any longer amid such plebeian company,
he hastened across the network of tracks and was lost to view.

On their way home they encountered another gentleman, this time a
real one, with high hat and distinguished cape coat, whom Jennie
immediately recognised.  This was the honourable Senator himself,
newly returned from Washington, and anticipating a very unprofitable
Christmas.  He had arrived upon the express which had enlisted
the attention of the children, and was carrying his light grip
for the pleasure of it to the hotel.  As he passed he thought
that he recognised Jennie.

"Is that you, Jennie?" he said, and paused to be more certain.

The latter, who had discovered him even more quickly than he had
her, exclaimed, "Oh, there is Mr. Brander!"  Then, dropping her end
of the basket, with a caution to the children to take it right
home, she hurried away in the opposite direction.

The Senator followed, vainly calling three or four times "Jennie!
Jennie!"  Losing hope of overtaking her, and suddenly recognising,
and thereupon respecting, her simple, girlish shame, he stopped,
and turning back, decided to follow the children.  Again he felt
that same sensation which he seemed always to get from this girl--
the far cry between her estate and his.  It was something to be a
Senator to-night, here where these children were picking coal.
What could the joyous holiday of the morrow hold for them?  He
tramped along sympathetically, an honest lightness coming into his
step, and soon he saw them enter the gateway of the low cottage.
Crossing the street, he stood in the weak shade of the snow-laden
trees.  The light was burning with a yellow glow in a rear window.
All about was the white snow.  In the woodshed he could hear the
voices of the children, and once he thought he detected the form of
Mrs. Gerhardt.  After a time another form came shadowlike through
the side gate.  He knew who it was.  It touched him to the quick,
and he bit his lip sharply to suppress any further show of emotion.
Then he turned vigorously on his heel and walked away.

The chief grocery of the city was conducted by one Manning, a
stanch adherent of Brander, and one who felt honoured by the
Senator's acquaintance.  To him at his busy desk came the Senator
this same night.

"Manning," he said, "could I get you to undertake a little work for
me this evening?"

"Why, certainly, Senator, certainly," said the grocery-man.  "When
did you get back?  Glad to see you.  Certainly."

"I want you to get everything together that would make a nice
Christmas for a family of eight--father and mother and six
children--Christmas tree, groceries, toys--you know what I mean."

"Certainly, certainly, Senator."

"Never mind the cost now.  Send plenty of everything.  I'll give
you the address," and he picked up a note-book to write it.

"Why, I'll be delighted, Senator," went on Mr. Manning, rather
affected himself.  "I'll be delighted.  You always were generous."

"Here you are, Manning," said the Senator, grimly, from the mere
necessity of preserving his senatorial dignity.  "Send everything
at once, and the bill to me."

"I'll be delighted," was all the astonished and approving grocery-
man could say.

The Senator passed out, but remembering the old people, visited a
clothier and shoe man, and, finding that he could only guess at
what sizes might be required, ordered the several articles with the
privilege of exchange.  When his labours were over, he returned to
his room.

"Carrying coal," he thought, over and over.  "Really, it was very
thoughtless in me.  I mustn't forget them any more."



CHAPTER IV


The desire to flee which Jennie experienced upon seeing the Senator
again was attributable to what she considered the disgrace of her
position.  She was ashamed to think that he, who thought so well of
her, should discover her doing so common a thing.  Girl-like, she
was inclined to imagine that his interest in her depended upon
something else than her mere personality.

When she reached home Mrs. Gerhardt had heard of her flight from
the other children.

"What was the matter with you, anyway?" asked George, when she came
in.

"Oh, nothing," she answered, but immediately turned to her mother
and said, "Mr. Brander came by and saw us."

"Oh, did he?" softly exclaimed her mother.  "He's back then.  What
made you run, though, you foolish girl?"

"Well, I didn't want him to see me."

"Well, maybe he didn't know you, anyhow," she said, with a certain
sympathy for her daughter's predicament.

"Oh yes, he did, too," whispered Jennie.  "He called after me three
or four times."

Mrs. Gerhardt shook her head.

"What is it?" said Gerhardt, who had been hearing the conversation
from the adjoining room, and now came out.

"Oh, nothing," said the mother, who hated to explain the
significance which the Senator's personality had come to have in
their lives.  "A man frightened them when they were bringing the
coal."

The arrival of the Christmas presents later in the evening threw
the household into an uproar of excitement.  Neither Gerhardt nor
the mother could believe their eyes when a grocery wagon halted in
front of their cottage and a lusty clerk began to carry in the
gifts.  After failing to persuade the clerk that he had made a
mistake, the large assortment of good things was looked over with
very human glee.

"Just you never mind," was the clerk's authoritative words.  "I
know what I'm about.  Gerhardt, isn't it?  Well, you're the
people."

Mrs. Gerhardt moved about, rubbing her hands in her excitement, and
giving vent to an occasional "Well, isn't that nice now!"

Gerhardt himself was melted at the thought of the generosity of the
unknown benefactor, and was inclined to lay it all to the goodness
of a great local mill owner, who knew him and wished him well.
Mrs. Gerhardt tearfully suspected the source, but said nothing.
Jennie knew, by instinct, the author of it all.

The afternoon of the day after Christmas Brander encountered the
mother in the hotel, Jennie having been left at home to look after
the house.

"How do you do, Mrs. Gerhardt," he exclaimed genially extending his
hand.  "How did you enjoy your Christmas?"

Poor Mrs. Gerhardt took it nervously; her eyes filled rapidly with
tears.

"There, there," he said, patting her on the shoulder.  "Don't cry.
You mustn't forget to get my laundry to-day."

"Oh no, sir," she returned, and would have said more had he not
walked away.

From this on, Gerhardt heard continually of the fine Senator at the
hotel, how pleasant he was, and how much he paid for his washing.
With the simplicity of a German working man, he was easily
persuaded that Mr. Brander must be a very great and a very good
man.

Jennie, whose feelings needed no encouragement in this direction,
was more than ever prejudiced in his favour.

There was developing in her that perfection of womanhood, the full
mould of form, which could not help but attract any man.  Already
she was well built, and tall for a girl.  Had she been dressing in
the trailing skirts of a woman of fashion she would have made a
fitting companion for a man the height of the Senator.  Her eyes
were wondrously clear and bright, her skin fair, and her teeth
white and even.  She was clever, too, in a sensible way, and by no
means deficient in observation.  All that she lacked was training
and the assurance of which the knowledge of utter dependency
despoils one.  But the carrying of washing and the compulsion to
acknowledge almost anything as a favour put her at a disadvantage.

Nowadays when she came to the hotel upon her semi-weekly errand
Senator Brander took her presence with easy grace, and to this she
responded.  He often gave her little presents for herself, or for
her brothers and sisters, and he talked to her so unaffectedly that
finally the overawing sense of the great difference between them
was brushed away, and she looked upon him more as a generous friend
than as a distinguished Senator.  He asked her once how she would
like to go to a seminary, thinking all the while how attractive she
would be when she came out.  Finally, one evening, he called her to
his side.

"Come over here, Jennie," he said, "and stand by me."

She came, and, moved by a sudden impulse, he took her hand.

"Well, Jennie," he said, studying her face in a quizzical,
interrogative way, "what do you think of me, anyhow?"

"Oh," she answered, looking consciously away, "I don't know.  What
makes you ask me that?"

"Oh yes, you do," he returned.  "You have some opinion of me.  Tell
me now, what is it?"

"No, I haven't," she said, innocently.

"Oh yes, you have," he went on, pleasantly, interested by her
transparent evasiveness.  "You must think something of me.  Now,
what is it?"

"Do you mean do I like you?" she asked, frankly, looking down at
the big mop of black hair well streaked with grey, which hung about
his forehead, and gave an almost leonine cast to his fine face.

"Well, yes," he said, with a sense of disappointment.  She was
barren of the art of the coquette.

"Why, of course I like you," she replied, prettily.

"Haven't you ever thought anything else about me?" he went on.

"I think you're very kind," she went on, even more bashfully; she
realised now that he was still holding her hand.

"Is that all?" he asked.

"Well," she said, with fluttering eyelids, "isn't that enough?"

He looked at her, and the playful, companionable directness of her
answering gaze thrilled him through and through.  He studied her
face in silence while she turned and twisted, feeling, but scarcely
understanding, the deep import of his scrutiny.

"Well," he said at last, "I think you're a fine girl.  Don't you
think I'm a pretty nice man?"

"Yes," said Jennie, promptly.

He leaned back in his chair and laughed at the unconscious drollery
of her reply.  She looked at him curiously and smiled.

"What made you laugh?" she inquired.

"Oh, your answer," he returned.  "I really ought not to laugh,
though.  You don't appreciate me in the least.  I don't believe you
like me at all."

"But I do, though," she replied, earnestly.  "I think you're so
good."  Her eyes showed very plainly that she felt what she was
saying.

"Well," he said, drawing her gently down to him; then, at the same
instant he pressed his lips to her cheek.

"Oh!" she cried, straightening up, at once startled and frightened.

It was a new note in their relationship.  The senatorial quality
vanished in an instant.  She recognised in him something that she
had not felt before.  He seemed younger, too.  She was a woman to
him, and he was playing the part of a lover.  She hesitated, but
not knowing just what to do, did nothing at all.

"Well," he said, "did I frighten you?"

She looked at him, but moved by her underlying respect for this
great man, she said, with a smile, "Yes, you did."

"I did it because I like you so much."

She meditated upon this a moment, and then said, "I think I'd
better be going."

"Now then," he pleaded, "are you going to run away because of
that?"

"No," she said, moved by a curious feeling of ingratitude; "but I
ought to be going.  They'll be wondering where I am."

"You're sure you're not angry about it?"

"No," she replied, and with more of a womanly air than she had ever
shown before.  It was a novel experience to be in so authoritative
a position.  It was so remarkable that it was somewhat confusing to
both of them.

"You're my girl, anyhow," the Senator said, rising.  "I'm going to
take care of you in the future."

Jennie heard this, and it pleased her.  He was so well fitted, she
thought, to do wondrous things; he was nothing less than a
veritable magician.  She looked about her, and the thought of
coming into such a life and such an atmosphere was heavenly.  Not
that she fully understood his meaning, however.  He meant to be
good and generous, and to give her fine things.  Naturally she was
happy.  She took up the package that she had come for, not seeing
or feeling the incongruity of her position, while he felt it as a
direct reproof.

"She ought not to carry that," he thought.  A great wave of
sympathy swept over him.  He took her cheeks between his hands,
this time in a superior and more generous way.  "Never mind, little
girl," he said.  "You won't have to do this always.  I'll see what
I can do."

The outcome of this was simply a more sympathetic relationship
between them.  He did not hesitate to ask her to sit beside him on
the arm of his chair the next time she came, and to question her
intimately about the family's condition and her own desires.
Several times he noticed that she was evading his questions,
particularly in regard to what her father was doing.  She was
ashamed to own that he was sawing wood.  Fearing lest something
more serious was impending, he decided to go out some day and see
for himself.

This he did when a convenient morning presented itself and his
other duties did not press upon him.  It was three days before the
great fight in the Legislature began which ended in his defeat.
Nothing could be done in these few remaining days.  So he took his
cane and strolled forth, coming to the cottage in the course of a
half hour, and knocked boldly at the door.

Mrs. Gerhardt opened it.

"Good-morning," he said, cheerily; then, seeing her hesitate he
added, "May I come in?"

The good mother, who was all but overcome by his astonishing
presence, wiped her hands furtively upon her much-mended apron,
and, seeing that he waited for a reply, said:

"Oh yes.  Come right in."

She hurried forward, forgetting to close the door, and, offering
him a chair, asked him to be seated.

Brander, feeling sorry that he was the occasion of so much
confusion, said:  "Don't trouble yourself, Mrs. Gerhardt.  I was
passing and thought I'd come in.  How is your husband?"

"He's well, thank you," returned the mother.  "He's out working to-
day."

"Then he has found employment?"

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Gerhardt, who hesitated, like Jennie to say
what it was.

"The children are all well now, and in school I hope?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Gerhardt.  She had now unfastened her apron,
and was nervously turning it in her lap.

"That's good, and where is Jennie!"

The latter, who had been ironing, had abandoned the board and had
concealed herself in the bedroom, where she was busy tidying
herself in the fear that her mother would not have the forethought
to say that she was out, and so let her have a chance for escape.

"She's here," returned the mother.  "I'll call her."

"What did you tell him I was here for?" said Jennie, weakly.

"What could I do?" asked the mother.

Together they hesitated while the Senator surveyed the room.  He
felt sorry to think that such deserving people must suffer so; he
intended, in a vague way, to ameliorate their condition if
possible.

"Good-morning," the Senator said to Jennie, when finally she came
hesitatingly into the room.  "How do you do to-day?"

Jennie came forward, extending her hand and blushing.  She found
herself so much disturbed by this visit that she could hardly find
tongue to answer his questions.

"I thought," he said, "I'd come out and find where you live.  This
is a quite comfortable house.  How many rooms have you?"

"Five," said Jennie.  "You'll have to excuse the looks this
morning.  We've been ironing, and it's all upset."

"I know," said Brander, gently.  "Don't you think I understand,
Jennie?  You mustn't feel nervous about me."

She noticed the comforting, personal tone he always used with her
when she was at his room, and it helped to subdue her flustered
senses.

"You mustn't think it anything if I come here occasionally, I
intend to come.  I want to meet your father."

"Oh," said Jennie, "he's out to-day."

While they were talking however, the honest wood-cutter was coming
in at the gate with his buck and saw.  Brander saw him, and at once
recognised him by a slight resemblance to his daughter.

"There he is now, I believe," he said.

"Oh, is he?" said Jennie looking out.

Gerhardt, who was given to speculation these days, passed by the
window without looking up.  He put his wooden buck down, and,
hanging his saw on a nail on the side of the house, came in.

"Mother," he called, in German, and, then not seeing her, he came
to the door of the front room and looked in.

Brander arose and extended his hand.  The knotted and weather-
beaten German came forward, and took it with a very questioning
expression of countenance.

"This is my father, Mr. Brander," said Jennie, all her diffidence
dissolved by sympathy.  "This is the gentleman from the hotel,
papa, Mr. Brander."

"What's the name?" said the German, turning his head.

"Brander," said the Senator.

"Oh yes," he said, with a considerable German accent.  "Since I had
the fever I don't hear good.  My wife, she spoke to me of you."

"Yes," said the Senator, "I thought I'd come out and make your
acquaintance.  You have quite a family."

"Yes," said the father, who was conscious of his very poor garments
and anxious to get away.  "I have six children--all young.  She's
the oldest girl."

Mrs. Gerhardt now came back, and Gerhardt, seeing his chance, said
hurriedly:

"Well, if you'll excuse me, I'll go.  I broke my saw, and so I had
to stop work."

"Certainly," said Brander, graciously, realising now why Jennie had
never wanted to explain.  He half wished that she were courageous
enough not to conceal anything.

"Well, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said, when the mother was stiffly seated,
"I want to tell you that you mustn't look on me as a stranger.
Hereafter I want you to keep me informed of how things are going
with you.  Jennie won't always do it."

Jennie smiled quietly.  Mrs. Gerhardt only rubbed her hands.

"Yes," she answered, humbly grateful.

They talked for a few minutes, and then the Senator rose.  "Tell
your husband," he said, "to come and see me next Monday at my
office in the hotel.  I want to do something for him."

"Thank you," faltered Mrs. Gerhardt.

"I'll not stay any longer now," he added.  "Don't forget to have
him come."

"Oh, he'll come," she returned.

Adjusting a glove on one hand, he extended the other to Jennie.

"Here is your finest treasure, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said.  "I think
I'll take her."

"Well, I don't know," said the mother, "whether I could spare her
or not."

"Well," said the Senator, going toward the door, and giving Mrs.
Gerhardt his hand, "good-morning."

He nodded and walked out, while a half-dozen neighbours, who had
observe his entrance, peeked from behind curtains and drawn blinds
at the astonishing sight.

"Who can that be, anyhow?" was the general query.

"See what he gave me," said the innocent mother to her daughter the
moment he had closed the door.

It was a ten-dollar bill.  He had placed it softly in her hand as
he said good-bye.



CHAPTER V


Having been led by circumstances into an attitude of obligation
toward the Senator, it was not unnatural that Jennie should become
imbued with a most generous spirit of appreciation for everything
he had done and now continued to do.  The Senator gave her father a
letter to a local mill owner, who saw that he received something to
do.  It was not much, to be sure, a mere job as night-watchman, but
it helped, and old Gerhardt's gratitude was extravagant.  Never was
there such a great, such a good man!

Nor was Mrs. Gerhardt overlooked.  Once Brander sent her a dress,
and at another time a shawl.  All these benefactions were made in a
spirit of mingled charity and self-gratification, but to Mrs.
Gerhardt they glowed with but one motive.  Senator Brander was
good-hearted.

As for Jennie, he drew nearer to her in every possible way, so
that at last she came to see him in a light which would require
considerable analysis to make clear.  This fresh, young soul,
however, had too much innocence and buoyancy to consider for a
moment the world's point of view.  Since that one notable and
halcyon visit upon which he had robbed her of her original shyness,
and implanted a tender kiss upon her cheek, they had lived in a
different atmosphere.  Jennie was his companion now, and as he more
and more unbended, and even joyously flung aside the habiliments of
his dignity, her perception of him grew clearer.  They laughed and
chatted in a natural way, and he keenly enjoyed this new entrance
into the radiant world of youthful happiness.

One thing that disturbed him, however, was the occasional thought,
which he could not repress, that he was not doing right.  Other
people must soon discover that he was not confining himself
strictly to conventional relations, with this washer-woman's
daughter.  He suspected that the housekeeper was not without
knowledge that Jennie almost invariably lingered from a quarter to
three-quarters of an hour whenever she came for or returned his
laundry.  He knew that it might come to the ears of the hotel
clerks, and so, in a general way, get about town and work serious
injury, but the reflection did not cause him to modify his conduct.
Sometimes he consoled himself with the thought that he was not
doing her any actual harm, and at other times he would argue that
he could not put this one delightful tenderness out of his life.
Did he not wish honestly to do her much good?

He thought of these things occasionally, and decided that he could
not stop.  The self-approval which such a resolution might bring
him was hardly worth the inevitable pain of the abnegation.  He had
not so very many more years to live.  Why die unsatisfied?

One evening he put his arm around her and strained her to his
breast.  Another time he drew her to his knee, and told her of his
life at Washington.  Always now he had a caress and a kiss for her,
but it was still in a tentative, uncertain way.  He did not want to
reach for her soul too deeply.

Jennie enjoyed it all innocently.  Elements of fancy and novelty
entered into her life.  She was an unsophisticated creature,
emotional, totally inexperienced in the matter of the affections,
and yet mature enough mentally to enjoy the attentions of this
great man who had thus bowed from his high position to make friends
with her.

One evening she pushed his hair back from his forehead as she stood
by his chair, and, finding nothing else to do, took out his watch.
The great man thrilled as he looked at her pretty innocence.

"Would you like to have a watch, too?" he asked.

"Yes, indeed, I would," said Jennie with a deep breath.

The next day he stopped as he was passing a jewellery store and
bought one.  It was gold, and had pretty ornamented hands.

"Jennie," he said, when she came the next time, "I want to show you
something.  See what time it is by my watch."

Jennie drew out the watch from his waistcoat pocket and started in
surprise.

"This isn't your watch!" she exclaimed, her face full of innocent
wonder.

"No," he said, delighted with his little deception.  "It's yours."

"Mine!" exclaimed Jennie.  "Mine!  Oh, isn't it lovely!"

"Do you think so?" he said.

Her delight touched and pleased him immensely.  Her face shone with
light and her eyes fairly danced.

"That's yours," he said.  "See that you wear it now, and don't lose
it."

"You're so good!" she exclaimed.

"No," he said, but he held her at arm's length by the waist to make
up his mind what his reward should be.  Slowly he drew her toward
him until, when very close, she put her arms about his neck, and
laid her cheek in gratitude against his own.  This was the
quintessence of pleasure for him.  He felt as he had been longing
to feel for years.

The progress of his idyl suffered a check when the great senatorial
fight came on in the Legislature.  Attacked by a combination of
rivals, Brander was given the fight of his life.  To his amazement
he discovered that a great railroad corporation, which had always
been friendly, was secretly throwing its strength in behalf of an
already too powerful candidate.  Shocked by this defection, he was
thrown alternately into the deepest gloom and into paroxysms of
wrath.  These slings of fortune, however lightly he pretended to
receive them, never failed to lacerate him.  It had been long since
he had suffered a defeat--too long.

During this period Jennie received her earliest lesson in the
vagaries of man.  For two weeks she did not even see him, and one
evening, after an extremely comfortless conference with his leader,
he met her with the most chilling formality.  When she knocked at
his door he only troubled to open it a foot, exclaiming almost
harshly:  "I can't bother about the clothes to-night.  Come to-
morrow."

Jennie retreated, shocked and surprised by this reception.  She did
not know what to think of it.  He was restored on the instant to
his far-off, mighty throne, and left to rule in peace.  Why should
he not withdraw the light of his countenance if it pleased him.
But why--

A day or two later he repented mildly, but had no time to readjust
matters.  His washing was taken and delivered with considerable
formality, and he went on toiling forgetfully, until at last he was
miserably defeated by two votes.  Astounded by this result, he
lapsed into gloomy dejection of soul.  What was he to do now?

Into this atmosphere came Jennie, bringing with her the lightness
and comfort of her own hopeful disposition.  Nagged to desperation
by his thoughts, Brander first talked to her to amuse himself; but
soon his distress imperceptibly took flight; he found himself
actually smiling.

"Ah, Jennie," he said, speaking to her as he might have done to a
child, "youth is on your side.  You possess the most valuable thing
in life."

"Do I?"

"Yes, but you don't realise it.  You never will until it is too
late."

"I love that girl," he thought to himself that night.  "I wish I
could have her with me always."

But fortune had another fling for him to endure.  It got about the
hotel that Jennie was, to use the mildest expression, conducting
herself strangely.  A girl who carries washing must expect
criticism if anything not befitting her station is observed in her
apparel.  Jennie was seen wearing the gold watch.  Her mother was
informed by the housekeeper of the state of things.

"I thought I'd speak to you about it," she said.  "People are
talking.  You'd better not let your daughter go to his room for the
laundry."

Mrs. Gerhardt was too astonished and hurt for utterance.  Jennie
had told her nothing, but even now she did not believe there was
anything to tell.  The watch had been both approved of and admired
by her.  She had not thought that it was endangering her daughter's
reputation.

Going home she worried almost incessantly, and talked with Jennie
about it.  The latter did not admit the implication that things had
gone too far.  In fact, she did not look at it in that light.  She
did not own, it is true, what really had happened while she was
visiting the Senator.

"It's so terrible that people should begin to talk!" said her
mother.  "Did you really stay so long in the room?"

"I don't know," returned Jennie, compelled by her conscience to
admit at least part of the truth.  "Perhaps I did."

"He has never said anything out of the way to you, has he?"

"No," answered her daughter, who did not attach any suspicion of
evil to what had passed between them.

If the mother had only gone a little bit further she might have
learned more, but she was only too glad, for her own peace of mind,
to hush the matter up.  People were slandering a good man, that she
knew.  Jennie had been the least bit indiscreet.  People were
always so ready to talk.  How could the poor girl, amid such
unfortunate circumstances, do otherwise than she did.  It made her
cry to think of it.

The result of it all was that she decided to get the washing
herself.

She came to his door the next Monday after this decision.  Brander,
who was expecting Jennie, was both surprised and disappointed.

"Why," he said to her, "what has become of Jennie?"

Having hoped that he would not notice, or, at least, not comment
upon the change, Mrs. Gerhardt did not know what to say.  She
looked up at him weakly in her innocent, motherly way, and said,
"She couldn't come to-night."

"Not ill, is she?" he inquired.

"No."

"I'm glad to hear that," he said resignedly.  "How have you been?"

Mrs. Gerhardt answered his kindly inquiries and departed.  After
she had gone he got to thinking the matter over, and wondered what
could have happened.  It seemed rather odd that he should be
wondering over it.

On Saturday, however, when she returned the clothes he felt that
there must be something wrong.

"What's the matter, Mrs. Gerhardt?" he inquired.  "Has anything
happened to your daughter?"

"No, sir," she returned, too troubled to wish to deceive him.

"Isn't she coming for the laundry any more?"

"I--I--" ventured the mother, stammering in her perturbation; "she--
they have been talking about her," she at last forced herself to
say.

"Who has been talking?" he asked gravely.

"The people here in the hotel."

"Who, what people?" he interrupted, a touch of annoyance showing in
his voice.

"The housekeeper."

"The housekeeper, eh!" he exclaimed.  "What has she got to say?"

The mother related to him her experience.

"And she told you that, did she?" he remarked in wrath.  "She
ventures to trouble herself about my affairs, does she?  I wonder
people can't mind their own business without interfering with mine.
Your daughter, Mrs. Gerhardt, is perfectly safe with me.  I have no
intention of doing her an injury.  It's a shame," he added
indignantly, "that a girl can't come to my room in this hotel
without having her motive questioned.  I'll look into this matter."

"I hope you don't think that I have anything to do with it," said
the mother apologetically.  "I know you like Jennie and wouldn't
injure her.  You've done so much for her and all of us, Mr.
Brander, I feel ashamed to keep her away."

"That's all right, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said quietly.  "You did
perfectly right.  I don't blame you in the least.  It is the lying
accusation passed about in this hotel that I object to.  We'll see
about that."

Mrs. Gerhardt stood there, pale with excitement.  She was afraid
she had deeply offended this man who had done so much for them.  If
she could only say something, she thought, that would clear this
matter up and make him feel that she was no tattler.  Scandal was
distressing to her.

"I thought I was doing everything for the best," she said at last.

"So you were," he replied.  "I like Jennie very much.  I have
always enjoyed her coming here.  It is my intention to do well by
her, but perhaps it will be better to keep her away, at least for
the present."

Again that evening the Senator sat in his easy-chair and brooded
over this new development.  Jennie was really much more precious to
him than he had thought.  Now that he had no hope of seeing her
there any more, he began to realise how much these little visits of
hers had meant.  He thought the matter over very carefully,
realised instantly that there was nothing to be done so far as the
hotel gossip was concerned, and concluded that he had really placed
the girl in a very unsatisfactory position.

"Perhaps I had better end this little affair," he thought.  "It
isn't a wise thing to pursue."

On the strength of this conclusion he went to Washington and
finished his term.  Then he returned to Columbus to await the
friendly recognition from the President which was to send him upon
some ministry abroad.  Jennie had not been forgotten in the least.
The longer he stayed away the more eager he was to get back.  When
he was again permanently settled in his old quarters he took up his
cane one morning, and strolled out in the direction of the cottage.
Arriving there, he made up his mind to go in, and knocking at the
door, he was greeted by Mrs. Gerhardt and her daughter with
astonished and diffident smiles.  He explained vaguely that he had
been away, and mentioned his laundry as if that were the object of
his visit.  Then, when chance gave him a few moments with Jennie
alone, he plunged in boldly.

"How would you like to take a drive with me to-morrow evening?" he
asked.

"I'd like it," said Jennie, to whom the proposition was a glorious
novelty.

He smiled and patted her cheek, foolishly happy to see her again.
Every day seemed to add to her beauty.  Graced with her clean white
apron, her shapely head crowned by the glory of her simply plaited
hair, she was a pleasing sight for any man to look upon.

He waited until Mrs. Gerhardt returned, and then, having
accomplished the purpose of his visit, he arose.

"I'm going to take your daughter out riding to-morrow evening," he
explained.  "I want to talk to her about her future."

"Won't that be nice?" said the mother.  She saw nothing incongruous
in the proposal.  They parted with smiles and much handshaking.

"That man has the best heart," commented Mrs. Gerhardt.  "Doesn't
he always speak so nicely of you?  He may help you to an education.
You ought to be proud."

"I am," said Jennie frankly.

"I don't know whether we had better tell your father or not,"
concluded Mrs. Gerhardt.  "He doesn't like for you to be out
evenings."

Finally they decided not to tell him.  He might not understand.

Jennie was ready when he called.  He could see by the weak-flamed,
unpretentious parlour-lamp that she was dressed for him, and that
the occasion had called out the best she had.  A pale lavender
gingham, starched and ironed, until it was a model of laundering,
set off her pretty figure to perfection.  There were little lace-
edged cuffs and a rather high collar attached to it.  She had no
gloves nor any jewellery, nor yet a jacket good enough to wear, but
her hair was done up in such a dainty way that it set off her well-
shaped head better than any hat, and the few ringlets that could
escape crowned her as with a halo.  When Brander suggested that she
should wear a jacket she hesitated a moment; then she went in and
borrowed her mother's cape, a plain grey woollen one.  Brander
realised now that she had no jacket, and suffered keenly to think
that she had contemplated going without one.

"She would have endured the raw night air," he thought, "and said
nothing of it."

He looked at her and shook his head reflectively.  Then they
started, and he quickly forgot everything but the great fact that
she was at his side.  She talked with freedom and with a gentle
girlish enthusiasm that he found irresistibly charming.

"Why, Jennie," he said, when she had called upon him to notice how
soft the trees looked, where, outlined dimly against the new rising
moon, they were touched with its yellow light, "you're a great one.
I believe you would write poetry if you were schooled a little."

"Do you suppose I could?" she asked innocently.

"Do I suppose, little girl?" he said, taking her hand.  "Do I
suppose?  Why, I know.  You're the dearest little day-dreamer in
the world.  Of course you could write poetry.  You live it.  You
are poetry, my dear.  Don't you worry about writing any."

This eulogy touched her as nothing else possibly could have done.
He was always saying such nice things.  No one ever seemed to like
or to appreciate her half as much as he did.  And how good he was!
Everybody said that.  Her own father.

They rode still farther, until suddenly remembering, he said:  "I
wonder what time it is.  Perhaps we had better be turning back.
Have you your watch?"

Jennie started, for this watch had been the one thing of which she
had hoped he would not speak.  Ever since he had returned it had
been on her mind.

In his absence the family finances had become so strained that she
had been compelled to pawn it.  Martha had got to that place in the
matter of apparel where she could no longer go to school unless
something new were provided for her.  And so, after much
discussion, it was decided that the watch must go.

Bass took it, and after much argument with the local pawnbroker, he
had been able to bring home ten dollars.  Mrs. Gerhardt expended
the money upon her children, and heaved a sigh of relief.  Martha
looked very much better.  Naturally, Jennie was glad.

Now, however, when the Senator spoke of it, her hour of retribution
seemed at hand.  She actually trembled, and he noticed her
discomfiture.

"Why, Jennie," he said gently, "what made you start like that?"

"Nothing," she answered.

"Haven't you your watch?"

She paused, for it seemed impossible to tell a deliberate
falsehood.  There was a strained silence; then she said, with a
voice that had too much of a sob in it for him not to suspect the
truth, "No, sir."  He persisted, and she confessed everything.

"Well," he said, "dearest, don't feel badly about it.  There never
was such another girl.  I'll get your watch for you.  Hereafter
when you need anything I want you to come to me.  Do you hear?  I
want you to promise me that.  If I'm not here, I want you to write
me.  I'll always be in touch with you from now on.  You will have
my address.  Just let me know, and I'll help you.  Do you
understand?"

"Yes," said Jennie.

"You'll promise to do that now, will you?"

"Yes," she replied.

For a moment neither of them spoke.

"Jennie," he said at last, the spring-like quality of the night
moving him to a burst of feeling, "I've about decided that I can't
do without you.  Do you think you could make up your mind to live
with me from now on?"

Jennie looked away, not clearly understanding his words as he meant
them.

"I don't know," she said vaguely.

"Well, you think about it," he said pleasantly.  "I'm serious.
Would you be willing to marry me, and let me put you away in a
seminary for a few years?"

"Go away to school?"

"Yes, after you marry me."

"I guess so," she replied.  Her mother came into her mind.  Maybe
she could help the family.

He looked around at her, and tried to make out the expression on
her face.  It was not dark.  The moon was now above the trees in
the east, and already the vast host of stars were paling before it.

"Don't you care for me at all, Jennie?" he asked.

"Yes!"

"You never come for my laundry any more, though," he returned
pathetically.  It touched her to hear him say this.

"I didn't do that," she answered.  "I couldn't help it; Mother
thought it was best."

"So it was," he assented.  "Don't feel badly.  I was only joking
with you.  You'd be glad to come if you could, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, I would," she answered frankly.

He took her hand and pressed it so feelingly that all his kindly
words seemed doubly emphasised to her.  Reaching up impulsively,
she put her arms about him.  "You're so good to me," she said with
the loving tone of a daughter.

"You're my girl, Jennie," he said with deep feeling.  "I'd do
anything in the world for you."



CHAPTER VI


The father of this unfortunate family, William Gerhardt, was a man
of considerable interest on his personal side.  Born in the kingdom
of Saxony, he had had character enough to oppose the army
conscription iniquity, and to flee in his eighteenth year, to
Paris.  From there he had set forth for America, the land of
promise.

Arrived in this country, he had made his way, by slow stages from
New York to Philadelphia, and thence westward, working for a time
in the various glass factories in Pennsylvania.  In one romantic
village of this new world he had found his heart's ideal.  With
her, a simple American girl of German extraction, he had removed to
Youngstown, and thence to Columbus, each time following a glass
manufacturer by the name of Hammond, whose business prospered and
waned by turns.

Gerhardt was an honest man, and he liked to think that others
appreciated his integrity.  "William," his employer used to say to
him, "I want you because I can trust you," and this, to him, was
more than silver and gold.

This honesty, like his religious convictions, was wholly due to
inheritance.  He had never reasoned about it.  Father and
grandfather before him were sturdy German artisans, who had never
cheated anybody out of a dollar, and this honesty of intention came
into his veins undiminished.

His Lutheran proclivities had been strengthened by years of church-
going and the religious observances of home life.  In his father's
cottage the influence of the Lutheran minister had been all-
powerful; he had inherited the feeling that the Lutheran Church was
a perfect institution, and that its teachings were of all-
importance when it came to the issue of the future life.  His wife,
nominally of the Mennonite faith, was quite willing to accept her
husband's creed.  And so his household became a God-fearing one;
wherever they went their first public step was to ally themselves
with the local Lutheran church, and the minister was always a
welcome guest in the Gerhardt home.

Pastor Wundt, the shepherd of the Columbus church, was a sincere
and ardent Christian, but his bigotry and hard-and-fast orthodoxy
made him intolerant.  He considered that the members of his flock
were jeopardising their eternal salvation if they danced, played
cards, or went to theatres, and he did not hesitate to declare
vociferously that hell was yawning for those who disobeyed his
injunctions.  Drinking, even temperately, was a sin.  Smoking--
well, he smoked himself.  Right conduct in marriage, however, and
innocence before that state were absolute essentials of Christian
living.  Let no one talk of salvation, he had said, for a daughter
who had failed to keep her chastity unstained, or for the parents
who, by negligence, had permitted her to fall.  Hell was yawning
for all such.  You must walk the straight and narrow way if you
would escape eternal punishment, and a just God was angry with
sinners every day.

Gerhardt and his wife, and also Jennie, accepted the doctrines of
their Church as expounded by Mr. Wundt without reserve.  With
Jennie, however, the assent was little more than nominal.  Religion
had as yet no striking hold upon her.  It was a pleasant thing to
know that there was a heaven, a fearsome one to realise that there
was a hell.  Young girls and boys ought to be good and obey their
parents.  Otherwise the whole religious problem was badly jumbled
in her mind.

Gerhardt was convinced that everything spoken from the pulpit of
his church was literally true.  Death and the future life were
realities to him.

Now that the years were slipping away and the problem of the world
was becoming more and more inexplicable, he clung with pathetic
anxiety to the doctrines which contained a solution.  Oh, if he
could only be so honest and upright that the Lord might have no
excuse for ruling him out.  He trembled not only for himself, but
for his wife and children.  Would he not some day be held
responsible for them?  Would not his own laxity and lack of system
in inculcating the laws of eternal life to them end in his and
their damnation?  He pictured to himself the torments of hell, and
wondered how it would be with him and his in the final hour.

Naturally, such a deep religious feeling made him stern with his
children.  He was prone to scan with a narrow eye the pleasures and
foibles of youthful desire.  Jennie was never to have a lover if
her father had any voice in the matter.  Any flirtation with the
youths she might meet upon the streets of Columbus could have no
continuation in her home.  Gerhardt forgot that he was once young
himself, and looked only to the welfare of her spirit.  So the
Senator was a novel factor in her life.

When he first began to be a part of their family affairs the
conventional standards of Father Gerhardt proved untrustworthy.  He
had no means of judging such a character.  This was no ordinary
person coquetting with his pretty daughter.  The manner in which
the Senator entered the family life was so original and so
plausible that he became an active part before any one thought
anything about it.  Gerhardt himself was deceived, and, expecting
nothing but honour and profit to flow to the family from such a
source, accepted the interest and the service, and plodded
peacefully on.  His wife did not tell him of the many presents
which had come before and since the wonderful Christmas.

But one morning as Gerhardt was coming home from his night work a
neighbour named Otto Weaver accosted him.

"Gerhardt," he said, "I want to speak a word with you.  As a friend
of yours, I want to tell you what I hear.  The neighbours, you
know, they talk now about the man who comes to see your daughter."

"My daughter?" said Gerhardt, more puzzled and pained by this
abrupt attack than mere words could indicate.  "Whom do you mean?
I don't know of any one who comes to see my daughter."

"No?" inquired Weaver, nearly as much astonished as the recipient
of his confidences.  "The middle-aged man, with grey hair.  He
carries a cane sometimes.  You don't know him?"

Gerhardt racked his memory with a puzzled face.

"They say he was a senator once," went on Weaver, doubtful of what
he had got into; "I don't know."

"Ah," returned Gerhardt, measurably relieved.  "Senator Brander.
Yes.  He has come sometimes--so.  Well, what of it?"

"It is nothing," returned the neighbour, "only they talk.  He is no
longer a young man, you know.  Your daughter, she goes out with him
now a few times.  These people, they see that, and now they talk
about her.  I thought you might want to know."

Gerhardt was shocked to the depths of his being by these terrible
words.  People must have a reason for saying such things.  Jennie
and her mother were seriously at fault.  Still he did not hesitate
to defend his daughter.

"He is a friend of the family," he said confusedly.  "People should
not talk until they know.  My daughter has done nothing."

"That is so.  It is nothing," continued Weaver.  "People talk
before they have any grounds.  You and I are old friends.  I
thought you might want to know."

Gerhardt stood there motionless another minute or so, his jaw
fallen and a strange helplessness upon him.  The world was such a
grim thing to have antagonistic to you.  Its opinions and good
favour were so essential.  How hard he had tried to live up to its
rules!  Why should it not be satisfied and let him alone?

"I am glad you told me," he murmured as he started homeward.  "I
will see about it.  Good-bye."

Gerhardt took the first opportunity to question his wife.

"What is this about Senator Brander coming out to call on Jennie?"
he asked in German.  "The neighbours are talking about it."

"Why, nothing," answered Mrs. Gerhardt, in the same language.  She
was decidedly taken aback at his question.  "He did call two or
three times."

"You didn't tell me that," he returned, a sense of her frailty in
tolerating and shielding such weakness in one of their children
irritating him.

"No," she replied, absolutely nonplussed.  "He has only been here
two or three times."

"Two or three times," exclaimed Gerhardt, the German tendency to
talk loud coming upon him.  "Two or three times!  The whole
neighbourhood talks about it.  What is this, then?"

"He only called two or three times," Mrs. Gerhardt repeated weakly.

"Weaver comes to me on the street," continued Gerhardt, "and tells
me that my neighbours are talking of the man my daughter is going
with.  I didn't know anything about it.  There I stood.  I didn't
know what to say.  What kind of a way is that?  What must the man
think of me?"

"There is nothing the matter," declared the mother, using an
effective German idiom.  "Jennie has gone walking with him once or
twice.  He has called here at the house.  What is there now in that
for the people to talk about?  Can't the girl have any pleasure at
all?"

"But he is an old man," returned Gerhardt, voicing the words of
Weaver.  "He is a public citizen.  What should he want to call on a
girl like Jennie for?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, defensively.  "He comes here to
the house.  I don't know anything but good about the man.  Can I
tell him not to come?"

Gerhardt paused at this.  All that he knew of the Senator was
excellent.  What was there now that was so terrible about it?

"The neighbours are so ready to talk.  They haven't got anything
else to talk about now, so they talk about Jennie.  You know
whether she is a good girl or not.  Why should they say such
things?" and tears came into the soft little mother's eyes.

"That is all right," grumbled Gerhardt, "but he ought not to want
to come around and take a girl of her age out walking.  It looks
bad, even if he don't mean any harm."

At this moment Jennie came in.  She had heard the talking in the
front bedroom, where she slept with one of the children, but had
not suspected its import.  Now her mother turned her back and bent
over the table where she was making biscuit, in order that her
daughter might not see her red eyes.

"What's the matter?" she inquired, vaguely troubled by the tense
stillness in the attitude of both her parents.

"Nothing," said Gerhardt firmly.

Mrs. Gerhardt made no sign, but her very immobility told something.
Jennie went over to her and quickly discovered that she had been
weeping.

"What's the matter?" she repeated wonderingly, gazing at her
father.

Gerhardt only stood there, his daughter's innocence dominating his
terror of evil.

"What's the matter?" she urged softly of her mother.

"Oh, it's the neighbours," returned the mother brokenly.  "They're
always ready to talk about something they don't know anything
about."

"Is it me again?" inquired Jennie, her face flushing faintly.

"You see," observed Gerhardt, apparently addressing the world in
general, "she knows.  Now, why didn't you tell me that he was
coming here?  The neighbours talk, and I hear nothing about it
until to-day.  What kind of a way is that, anyhow?"

"Oh," exclaimed Jennie, out of the purest sympathy for her mother,
"what difference does it make?"

"What difference?" cried Gerhardt, still talking in German,
although Jennie answered in English.  "Is it no difference that men
stop me on the street and speak of it?  You should be ashamed of
yourself to say that.  I always thought well of this man, but now,
since you don't tell me about him, and the neighbours talk, I don't
know what to think.  Must I get my knowledge of what is going on in
my own home from my neighbours?"

Mother and daughter paused.  Jennie had already begun to think that
their error was serious.

"I didn't keep anything from you because it was evil," she said.
"Why, he only took me out riding once."

"Yes, but you didn't tell me that," answered her father.

"You know you don't like me to go out after dark," replied Jennie.
"That's why I didn't.  There wasn't anything else to hide about
it."

"He shouldn't want you to go out after dark with him," observed
Gerhardt, always mindful of the world outside.  "What can he want
with you.  Why does he come here?  He is too old, anyhow.  I don't
think you ought to have anything to do with him--such a young girl
as you are."

"He doesn't want to do anything except help me," murmured Jennie.
"He wants to marry me."

"Marry you?  Ha!  Why doesn't he tell me that!" exclaimed Gerhardt.
"I shall look into this.  I won't have him running around with my
daughter, and the neighbours talking.  Besides, he is too old.  I
shall tell him that.  He ought to know better than to put a girl
where she gets talked about.  It is better he should stay away
altogether."

This threat of Gerhardt's, that he would tell Brander to stay away,
seemed simply terrible to Jennie and to her mother.  What good
could come of any such attitude?  Why must they be degraded before
him?  Of course Brander did call again, while Gerhardt was away at
work, and they trembled lest the father should hear of it.  A few
days later the Senator came and took Jennie for a long walk.
Neither she nor her mother said anything to Gerhardt.  But he was
not to be put off the scent for long.

"Has Jennie been out again with that man?" he inquired of Mrs.
Gerhardt the next evening.

"He was here last night," returned the mother, evasively.

"Did she tell him he shouldn't come any more?"

"I don't know.  I don't think so."

"Well, now, I will see for myself once whether this thing will be
stopped or not," said the determined father.  "I shall talk with
him.  Wait till he comes again."

In accordance with this, he took occasion to come up from his
factory on three different evenings, each time carefully surveying
the house, in order to discover whether any visitor was being
entertained.  On the fourth evening Brander came, and inquiring for
Jennie, who was exceedingly nervous, he took her out for a walk.
She was afraid of her father, lest some unseemly things should
happen, but did not know exactly what to do.

Gerhardt, who was on his way to the house at the time, observed her
departure.  That was enough for him.  Walking deliberately in upon
his wife, he said:

"Where is Jennie?"

"She is out somewhere," said her mother.

"Yes, I know where," said Gerhardt.  "I saw her.  Now wait till she
comes home.  I will tell him."

He sat down calmly, reading a German paper and keeping an eye upon
his wife, until, at last, the gate clicked, and the front door
opened.  Then he got up.

"Where have you been?" he exclaimed in German.

Brander, who had not suspected that any trouble of this character
was pending, felt irritated and uncomfortable.  Jennie was covered
with confusion.  Her mother was suffering an agony of torment in
the kitchen.

"Why, I have been out for a walk," she answered confusedly.

"Didn't I tell you not to go out any more after dark?" said
Gerhardt, utterly ignoring Brander.

Jennie coloured furiously, unable to speak a word.

"What is the trouble?" inquired Brander gravely.  "Why should you
talk to her like that?"

"She should not go out after dark," returned the father rudely.  "I
have told her two or three times now.  I don't think you ought to
come here any more, either."

"And why?" asked the Senator, pausing to consider and choose his
words.  "Isn't this rather peculiar?  What has your daughter done?"

"What has she done!" exclaimed Gerhardt, his excitement growing
under the strain he was enduring, and speaking almost unaccented
English in consequence.  "She is running around the streets at
night when she oughtn't to be.  I don't want my daughter taken out
after dark by a man of your age.  What do you want with her anyway?
She is only a child yet."

"Want?" said the Senator, straining to regain his ruffled dignity.
"I want to talk with her, of course.  She is old enough to be
interesting to me.  I want to marry her if she will have me."

"I want you to go out of here and stay out of here," returned the
father losing all sense of logic, and descending to the ordinary
level of parental compulsion.  "I don't want you to come around my
house any more.  I have enough trouble without my daughter being
taken out and given a bad name."

"I tell you frankly," said the Senator, drawing himself up to his
full height, "that you will have to make clear your meaning.  I
have done nothing that I am ashamed of.  Your daughter has not come
to any harm through me.  Now, I want to know what you mean by
conducting yourself in this manner."

"I mean," said Gerhardt, excitedly repeating himself, "I mean, I
mean that the whole neighbourhood talks about how you come around
here, and have buggy-rides and walks with my daughter when I am not
here--that's what I mean.  I mean that you are no man of honourable
intentions, or you would not come taking up with a little girl who
is only old enough to be your daughter.  People tell me well enough
what you are.  Just you go and leave my daughter alone."

"People!" said the Senator.  "Well, I care nothing for your people.
I love your daughter, and I am here to see her because I do love
her.  It is my intention to marry her, and if your neighbours have
anything to say to that, let them say it.  There is no reason why
you should conduct yourself in this manner before you know what my
intentions are."

Unnerved by this unexpected and terrible altercation, Jennie had
backed away to the door leading out into the dining-room, and her
mother, seeing her, came forward.

"Oh," said the latter, breathing excitedly, "he came home when you
were away.  What shall we do?"  They clung together, as women do,
and wept silently.  The dispute continued.

"Marry, eh," exclaimed the father.  "Is that it?"

"Yes," said the Senator, "marry, that is exactly it.  Your daughter
is eighteen years of age and can decide for herself.  You have
insulted me and outraged your daughter's feelings.  Now, I wish you
to know that it cannot stop here.  If you have any cause to say
anything against me outside of mere hearsay I wish you to say it."

The Senator stood before him, a very citadel of righteousness.  He
was neither loud-voiced nor angry-mannered, but there was a
tightness about his lips which bespoke the man of force and
determination.

"I don't want to talk to you any more," returned Gerhardt, who was
checked but not overawed.  "My daughter is my daughter.  I am the
one who will say whether she shall go out at night, or whether she
shall marry you, either.  I know what you politicians are.  When I
first met you I thought you were a fine man, but now, since I see
the way you conduct yourself with my daughter, I don't want
anything more to do with you.  Just you go and stay away from here.
That's all I ask of you."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Gerhardt," said Brander, turning deliberately
away from the angry father, "to have had such an argument in your
home.  I had no idea that your husband was opposed to my visits.
However, I will leave the matter as it stands for the present.  You
must not take all this as badly as it seems."

Gerhardt looked on in astonishment at his coolness.

"I will go now," he said, again addressing Gerhardt, "but you
mustn't think that I am leaving this matter for good.  You have
made a serious mistake this evening.  I hope you will realise that.
I bid you good-night."  He bowed slightly and went out.

Gerhardt closed the door firmly.  "Now," he said, turning to his
daughter and wife, "we will see whether we are rid of him or not.
I will show you how to go after night upon the streets when
everybody is talking already."

In so far as words were concerned, the argument ceased, but looks
and feelings ran strong and deep, and for days thereafter scarcely
a word was spoken in the little cottage.  Gerhardt began to brood
over the fact that he had accepted his place from the Senator and
decided to give it up.  He made it known that no more of the
Senator's washing was to be done in their house, and if he had not
been sure that Mrs. Gerhardt's hotel work was due to her own
efforts in finding it he would have stopped that.  No good would
come out of it, anyway.  If she had never gone to the hotel all
this talk would never have come upon them.

As for the Senator, he went away decidedly ruffled by this crude
occurrence.  Neighbourhood slanders are bad enough on their own
plane, but for a man of his standing to descend and become involved
in one struck him now as being a little bit unworthy.  He did not
know what to do about the situation, and while he was trying to
come to some decision several days went by.  Then he was called to
Washington, and he went away without having seen Jennie again.

In the meantime the Gerhardt family struggled along as before.
They were poor, indeed, but Gerhardt was willing to face poverty if
only it could be endured with honour.  The grocery bills were of
the same size, however.  The children's clothing was steadily
wearing out.  Economy had to be practised, and payments stopped on
old bills that Gerhardt was trying to adjust.

Then came a day when the annual interest on the mortgage was due,
and yet another when two different grocery-men met Gerhardt on the
street and asked about their little bills.  He did not hesitate to
explain just what the situation was, and to tell them with
convincing honesty that he would try hard and do the best he could.
But his spirit was unstrung by his misfortunes.  He prayed for the
favour of Heaven while at his labour, and did not hesitate to use
the daylight hours that he should have had for sleeping to go
about--either looking for a more remunerative position or to obtain
such little jobs as he could now and then pick up.  One of them was
that of cutting grass.

Mrs. Gerhardt protested that he was killing himself, but he
explained his procedure by pointing to their necessity.

"When people stop me on the street and ask me for money I have no
time to sleep."

It was a distressing situation for all of them.

To cap it all, Sebastian got in jail.  It was that old coal-
stealing ruse of his practised once too often.  He got up on a car
one evening while Jennie and the children waited for him, and a
railroad detective arrested him.  There had been a good deal of
coal stealing during the past two years, but so long as it was
confined to moderate quantities the railroad took no notice.  When,
however, customers of shippers complained that cars from the
Pennsylvania fields lost thousands of pounds in transit to
Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and other points, detectives were
set to work.  Gerhardt's children were not the only ones who preyed
upon the railroad in this way.  Other families in Columbus--many of
them--were constantly doing the same thing, but Sebastian happened
to be seized upon as the Columbus example.

"You come off that car now," said the detective, suddenly appearing
out of the shadows.  Jennie and the other children dropped their
baskets and buckets and fled for their lives.  Sebastian's first
impulse was to jump and run, but when he tried it the detective
grabbed him by the coat.

"Hold on here," he exclaimed.  "I want you."

"Aw, let go," said Sebastian savagely, for he was no weakling.
There was nerve and determination in him, as well as a keen sense
of his awkward predicament.

"Let go, I tell you," he reiterated, and giving a jerk, he almost
upset his captor.

"Come here now," said the detective, pulling him viciously in an
effort to establish his authority.

Sebastian came, but it was with a blow which staggered his
adversary.

There was more struggling, and then a passing railroad hand came to
the detective's assistance.  Together they hurried him toward the
depot, and there discovering the local officer, turned him over.
It was with a torn coat, scarred hands and face, and a black eye
that Sebastian was locked up for the night.

When the children came home they could not say what had happened to
their brother, but as nine o'clock struck, and then ten and eleven,
and Sebastian did not return, Mrs. Gerhardt was beside herself.  He
had stayed out many a night as late as twelve and one, but his
mother had a foreboding of something terrible to-night.  When half-
past one arrived, and no Sebastian, she began to cry.

"Some one ought to go up and tell your father," she said.  "He may
be in jail."

Jennie volunteered, but George, who was soundly sleeping, was
awakened to go along with her.

"What!" said Gerhardt, astonished to see his two children.

"Bass hasn't come yet," said Jennie, and then told the story of the
evening's adventure in explanation.

Gerhardt left his work at once, walking back with his two children
to a point where he could turn off to go to the jail.  He guessed
what had happened, and his heart was troubled.

"Is that so, now!" he repeated nervously, rubbing his clumsy hands
across his wet forehead.

Arrived at the station-house, the sergeant in charge told him
curtly that Bass was under arrest.

"Sebastian Gerhardt?" he said, looking over his blotter; "yes, here
he is.  Stealing coal and resisting an officer.  Is he your boy?"

"Oh, my!" said Gerhardt, "Ach Gott!"  He actually wrung his hands
in distress.

"Want to see him?" asked the sergeant.

"Yes, yes," said the father.

"Take him back, Fred," said the other to the old watchman in
charge, "and let him see the boy."

When Gerhardt stood in the back room, and Sebastian was brought out
all marked and tousled, he broke down and began to cry.  No word
could cross his lips because of his emotion.

"Don't cry, pop," said Sebastian bravely.  "I couldn't help it.
It's all right.  I'll be out in the morning."

Gerhardt only shook with his grief.

"Don't cry," continued Sebastian, doing his very best to restrain
his own tears.  "I'll be all right.  What's the use of crying?"

"I know, I know," said the grey-headed parent brokenly, "but I
can't help it.  It is my fault that I should let you do that."

"No, no, it isn't," said Sebastian.  "You couldn't help it.  Does
mother know anything about it?"

"Yes, she knows," he returned.  "Jennie and George just came up
where I was and told me.  I didn't know anything about it until
just now," and he began to cry again.

"Well, don't you feel badly," went on Bass, the finest part of his
nature coming to the surface.  "I'll be all right.  Just you go
back to work now, and don't worry.  I'll be all right."

"How did you hurt your eye?" asked the father, looking at him with
red eyes.

"Oh, I had a little wrestling match with the man who nabbed me,"
said the boy, smiling bravely.  "I thought I could get away."

"You shouldn't do that, Sebastian," said the father.  "It may go
harder with you on that account.  When does your case come up?"

"In the morning, they told me," said Bass.  "Nine o'clock."

Gerhardt stayed with his son for some time, and discussed the
question of bail, fine, and the dire possibility of a jail sentence
without arriving at any definite conclusion.  Finally he was
persuaded by Bass to go away, but the departure was the occasion
for another outburst of feeling; he was led away shaking and broken
with emotion.

"It's pretty tough," said Bass to himself as he was led back to his
cell.  He was thinking solely of his father.  "I wonder what ma
will think."

The thought of this touched him tenderly.  "I wish I'd knocked the
dub over the first crack," he said.  "What a fool I was not to get
away."



CHAPTER VII


Gerhardt was in despair; he did not know any one to whom he could
appeal between the hours of two and nine o'clock in the morning.
He went back to talk with his wife, and then to his post of duty.
What was to be done?  He could think of only one friend who was
able, or possibly willing to do anything.  This was the glass
manufacturer, Hammond; but he was not in the city.  Gerhardt did
not know this, however.

When nine o'clock came, he went alone to the court, for it was
thought advisable that the others should stay away.  Mrs. Gerhardt
was to hear immediately what happened.  He would come right back.

When Sebastian was lined up inside the dock he had to wait a long
time, for there were several prisoners ahead of him.  Finally his
name was called, and the boy was pushed forward to the bar.
"Stealing coal, Your Honour, and resisting arrest," explained the
officer who had arrested him.

The magistrate looked at Sebastian closely; he was unfavourably
impressed by the lad's scratched and wounded face.

"Well, young man," he said, "what have you to say for yourself?
How did you get your black eye?"

Sebastian looked at the judge, but did not answer.

"I arrested him," said the detective.  "He was on one of the
company's cars.  He tried to break away from me, and when I held
him he assaulted me.  This man here was a witness," he added,
turning to the railroad hand who had helped him.

"Is that where he struck you?" asked the Court, observing the
detective's swollen jaw.

"Yes, sir," he returned, glad of an opportunity to be further
revenged.

"If you please," put in Gerhardt, leaning forward, "he is my boy.
He was sent to get the coal.  He--"

"We don't mind what they pick up around the yard," interrupted the
detective, "but he was throwing it off the cars to half a dozen
others."

"Can't you earn enough to keep from taking coal off the coal cars?"
asked the Court; but before either father or son had time to answer
he added, "What is your business?"

"Car builder," said Sebastian.

"And what do you do?" he questioned, addressing Gerhardt.

"I am watchman at Miller's furniture factory."

"Um," said the court, feeling that Sebastian's attitude remained
sullen and contentious.  "Well, this young man might be let off on
the coal-stealing charge, but he seems to be somewhat too free with
his fists.  Columbus is altogether too rich in that sort of thing.
Ten dollars."

"If you please," began Gerhardt, but the court officer was already
pushing him away.

"I don't want to hear any more about it," said the judge.  "He's
stubborn, anyhow.  What's the next case?"

Gerhardt made his way over to his boy, abashed and yet very glad it
was no worse.  Somehow, he thought, he could raise the money.
Sebastian looked at him solicitously as he came forward.

"It's all right," said Bass soothingly.  "He didn't give me half a
chance to say anything."

"I'm only glad it wasn't more," said Gerhardt nervously.  "We will
try and get the money."

Going home to his wife, Gerhardt informed the troubled household of
the result.  Mrs. Gerhardt stood white and yet relieved, for ten
dollars seemed something that might be had.  Jennie heard the whole
story with open mouth and wide eyes.  It was a terrible blow to
her.  Poor Bass!  He was always so lively and good-natured.  It
seemed awful that he should be in jail.

Gerhardt went hurriedly to Hammond's fine residence, but he was not
in the city.  He thought then of a lawyer by the name of Jenkins,
whom he knew in a casual way, but Jenkins was not at his office.
There were several grocers and coal merchants whom he knew well
enough, but he owed them money.  Pastor Wundt might let him have
it, but the agony such a disclosure to that worthy would entail
held him back.  He did call on one or two acquaintances, but these,
surprised at the unusual and peculiar request, excused themselves.
At four o'clock he returned home, weary and exhausted.

"I don't know what to do," he said despairingly.  "If I could only
think."

Jennie thought of Brander, but the situation had not accentuated
her desperation to the point where she could brave her father's
opposition and his terrible insult to the Senator, so keenly
remembered, to go and ask.  Her watch had been pawned a second
time, and she had no other means of obtaining money.

The family council lasted until half-past ten, but still there was
nothing decided.  Mrs. Gerhardt persistently and monotonously
turned one hand over in the other and stared at the floor.
Gerhardt ran his hand through his reddish brown hair distractedly.
"It's no use," he said at last.  "I can't think of anything."

"Go to bed, Jennie," said her mother solicitously; "get the others
to go.  There's no use their sitting up.  I may think of something.
You go to bed."

Jennie went to her room, but the very thought of repose was
insupportable.  She had read in the paper, shortly after her
father's quarrel with the Senator, that the latter had departed for
Washington.  There had been no notice of his return.  Still he
might be in the city.  She stood before a short, narrow mirror that
surmounted a shabby bureau, thinking.  Her sister Veronica, with
whom she slept, was already composing herself to dreams.  Finally a
grim resolution fixed itself in her consciousness.  She would go
and see Senator Brander.  If HE were in town he would help Bass.
Why shouldn't she--he loved her.  He had asked over and over to
marry her.  Why should she not go and ask him for help?

She hesitated a little while, then hearing Veronica breathing
regularly, she put on her hat and jacket, and noiselessly opened
the door into the sitting-room to see if any one were stirring.

There was no sound save that of Gerhardt rocking nervously to and
fro in the kitchen.  There was no light save that of her own small
room-lamp and a gleam from under the kitchen door.  She turned and
blew the former out--then slipped quietly to the front door, opened
it and stepped out into the night.

A waning moon was shining, and a hushed sense of growing life
filled the air, for it was nearing spring again.  As Jennie hurried
along the shadowy streets--the arc light had not yet been invented--
she had a sinking sense of fear; what was this rash thing she was
about to do?  How would the Senator receive her?  What would he
think?  She stood stock-still, wavering and doubtful; then the
recollection of Bass in his night cell came over her again, and she
hurried on.

The character of the Capitol Hotel was such that it was not
difficult for a woman to find ingress through the ladies' entrance
to the various floors of the hotel at any hour of the night.  The
hotel, not unlike many others of the time, was in no sense loosely
conducted, but its method of supervision in places was lax.  Any
person could enter, and, by applying at a rear entrance to the
lobby, gain the attention of the clerk.  Otherwise not much notice
was taken of those who came and went.

When she came to the door it was dark save for a low light burning
in the entry-way.  The distance to the Senator's room was only a
short way along the hall of the second floor.  She hurried up the
steps, nervous and pale, but giving no other outward sign of the
storm that was surging within her.  When she came to his familiar
door she paused; she feared that she might not find him in his
room; she trembled again to think that he might be there.  A light
shone through the transom, and, summoning all her courage, she
knocked.  A man coughed and bestirred himself.

His surprise as he opened the door knew no bounds.  "Why, Jennie!"
he exclaimed.  "How delightful!  I was thinking of you.  Come in--
come in."

He welcomed her with an eager embrace.

"I was coming out to see you, believe me, I was.  I was thinking
all along how I could straighten this matter out.  And now you
come.  But what's the trouble?"

He held her at arm's length and studied her distressed face.  The
fresh beauty of her seemed to him like cut lilies wet with dew.

He felt a great surge of tenderness.

"I have something to ask you," she at last brought herself to say.
"My brother is in jail.  We need ten dollars to get him out, and I
didn't know where else to go."

"My poor child!" he said, chafing her hands.  "Where else should
you go?  Haven't I told you always to come to me?  Don't you know,
Jennie, I would do anything in the world for you?"

"Yes," she gasped.

"Well, then, don't worry about that any more.  But won't fate ever
cease striking at you, poor child?  How did your brother come to
get in jail?"

"They caught him throwing coal down from the cars," she replied.

"Ah!" he replied, his sympathies touched and awakened.  Here was
this boy arrested and fined for what fate was practically driving
him to do.  Here was this girl pleading with him at night, in his
room, for what to her was a great necessity--ten dollars; to him,
a mere nothing.  "I will arrange about your brother," he said
quickly.  "Don't worry.  I can get him out in half an hour.  You
sit here now and be comfortable until I return."

He waved her to his easy-chair beside a large lamp, and hurried out
of the room.

Brander knew the sheriff who had personal supervision of the county
jail.  He knew the judge who had administered the fine.  It was but
a five minutes' task to write a note to the judge asking him to
revoke the fine, for the sake of the boy's character, and send it
by a messenger to his home.  Another ten minutes' task to go
personally to the jail and ask his friend, the sheriff, to release
the boy then and there.

"Here is the money," he said.  "If the fine is revoked you can
return it to me.  Let him go now."

The sheriff was only too glad to comply.  He hastened below to
personally supervise the task, and Bass, a very much astonished
boy, was set free.  No explanations were vouchsafed him.

"That's all right now," said the turnkey.  "You're at liberty.  Run
along home and don't let them catch you at anything like that
again."

Bass went his way wondering, and the ex-Senator returned to his
hotel trying to decide just how this delicate situation should be
handled.  Obviously Jennie had not told her father of her mission.
She had come as a last resource.  She was now waiting for him in
his room.

There are crises in all men's lives when they waver between the
strict fulfilment of justice and duty and the great possibilities
for personal happiness which another line of conduct seems to
assure.  And the dividing line is not always marked and clear.  He
knew that the issue of taking her, even as his wife, was made
difficult by the senseless opposition of her father.  The opinion
of the world brought up still another complication.  Supposing he
should take her openly, what would the world say?  She was a
significant type emotionally, that he knew.  There was something
there--artistically, temperamentally, which was far and beyond the
keenest suspicion of the herd.  He did not know himself quite what
it was, but he felt a largeness of feeling not altogether squared
with intellect, or perhaps better yet, experience, which was worthy
of any man's desire.  "This remarkable girl," he thought, seeing
her clearly in his mind's eye.

Meditating as to what he should do, he returned to his hotel, and
the room.  As he entered he was struck anew with her beauty, and
with the irresistible appeal of her personality.  In the glow of
the shaded lamp she seemed a figure of marvellous potentiality.

"Well," he said, endeavouring to appear calm, "I have looked after
your brother.  He is out."

She rose.

"Oh," she exclaimed, clasping her hands and stretching her arms out
toward him.  There were tears of gratefulness in her eyes.

He saw them and stepped close to her.  "Jennie, for heaven's sake
don't cry," he entreated.  "You angel!  You sister of mercy!  To
think you should have to add tears to your other sacrifices."

He drew her to him, and then all the caution of years deserted him.
There was a sense both of need and of fulfilment in his mood.  At
last, in spite of other losses, fate had brought him what he most
desired--love, a woman whom he could love.  He took her in his
arms, and kissed her again and again.

The English Jefferies has told us that it requires a hundred and
fifty years to make a perfect maiden.  "From all enchanted things
of earth and air, this preciousness has been drawn.  From the south
wind that breathed a century and a half over the green wheat; from
the perfume of the growing grasses waving over heavy-laden clover
and laughing veronica, hiding the green-finches, baffling the bee;
from rose-lined hedge, woodbine, and cornflower, azure blue, where
yellowing wheat stalks crowd up under the shadow of green firs.
All the devious brooklets' sweetness where the iris stays the
sunlight; all the wild woods hold of beauty; all the broad hills of
thyme and freedom--thrice a hundred years repeated.

"A hundred years of cowslips, bluebells, violets; purple spring and
golden autumn; sunshine, shower, and dewy mornings; the night
immortal; all the rhythm of time unrolling.  A chronicle unwritten
and past all power of writing; who shall preserve a record of the
petals that fell from the roses a century ago?  The swallows to the
house-tops three hundred times--think of that!  Thence she sprang,
and the world yearns toward her beauty as to flowers that are past.
The loveliness of seventeen is centuries old.  That is why passion
is almost sad."

If you have understood and appreciated the beauty of harebells
three hundred times repeated; if the quality of the roses, of the
music, of the ruddy mornings and evenings of the world has ever
touched your heart; if all beauty were passing, and you were given
these things to hold in your arms before the world slipped away,
would you give them up?



CHAPTER VIII


The significance of the material and spiritual changes which
sometimes overtake us are not very clear at the time.  A sense of
shock, a sense of danger, and then apparently we subside to old
ways, but the change has come.  Never again, here or elsewhere,
will we be the same.  Jennie, pondering after the subtle emotional
turn which her evening's sympathetic expedition had taken, was lost
in a vague confusion of emotions.  She had no definite realisation
of what social and physical changes this new relationship to the
Senator might entail.  She was not conscious as yet of that shock
which the possibility of maternity, even under the most favourable
conditions, must bring to the average woman.  Her present attitude
was one of surprise, wonder, uncertainty; and at the same time she
experienced a genuine feeling of quiet happiness.  Brander was a
good man; now he was closer to her than ever.  He loved her.
Because of this new relationship a change in her social condition
was to inevitably follow.  Life was to be radically different from
now on--was different at this moment.  Brander assured her over and
over of his enduring affection.

"I tell you, Jennie," he repeated, as she was leaving, "I don't
want you to worry.  This emotion of mine got the best of me, but
I'll marry you.  I've been carried off my feet, but I'll make it up
to you.  Go home and say nothing at all.  Caution your brother, if
it isn't too late.  Keep your own counsel, and I will marry you and
take you away.  I can't do it right now.  I don't want to do it
here.  But I'm going to Washington, and I'll send for you.  And
here"--he reached for his purse and took from it a hundred dollars,
practically all he had with him, "take that.  I'll send you more
to-morrow.  You're my girl now--remember that.  You belong to me."

He embraced her tenderly.

She went out into the night, thinking.  No doubt he would do as he
said.  She dwelt, in imagination, upon the possibilities of a new
and fascinating existence.  Of course he would marry her.  Think of
it!  She would go to Washington--that far-off place.  And her
father and mother--they would not need to work so hard any more.
And Bass, and Martha--she fairly glowed as she recounted to herself
the many ways in which she could help them all.

A block away she waited for Brander, who accompanied her to her own
gate, and waited while she made a cautious reconnaissance.  She
slipped up the steps and tried the door.  It was open.  She paused
a moment to indicate to her lover that she was safe, and entered.
All was silent within.  She slipped to her own room and heard
Veronica breathing.  She went quietly to where Bass slept with
George.  He was in bed, stretched out as if asleep.  When she
entered he asked, "Is that you, Jennie?"

"Yes."

"Where have you been?"

"Listen," she whispered.  "Have you seen papa and mamma?"

"Yes."

"Did they know I had gone out?"

"Ma did.  She told me not to ask after you.  Where have you been?"

"I went to see Senator Brander for you."

"Oh, that was it.  They didn't say why they let me out."

"Don't tell any one," she pleaded.  "I don't want any one to know.
You know how papa feels about him."

"All right," he replied.  But he was curious as to what the ex-
Senator thought, what he had done, and how she had appealed to him.
She explained briefly, then she heard her mother come to the door.

"Jennie," she whispered.

Jennie went out.

"Oh, why did you go?" she asked.

"I couldn't help it, ma," she replied.  "I thought I must do
something."

"Why did you stay so long?"

"He wanted to talk to me," she answered evasively.

Her mother looked at her nervously, wanly.

"I have been so afraid, oh, so afraid.  Your father went to your
room, but I said you were asleep.  He locked the front door, but I
opened it again.  When Bass came in he wanted to call you, but I
persuaded him to wait until morning."

Again she looked wistfully at her daughter.

"I'm all right, mamma," said Jennie encouragingly.  "I'll tell you
all about it to-morrow.  Go to bed.  How does he think Bass got
out?"

"He doesn't know.  He thought maybe they just let him go because he
couldn't pay the fine."

Jennie laid her hand lovingly on her mother's shoulder.

"Go to bed," she said.

She was already years older in thought and act.  She felt as though
she must help her mother now as well as herself.

The days which followed were ones of dreamy uncertainty to Jennie.
She went over in her mind these dramatic events time and time and
time and again.  It was not such a difficult matter to tell her
mother that the Senator had talked again of marriage, that he
proposed to come and get her after his next trip to Washington,
that he had given her a hundred dollars and intended to give her
more, but of that other matter--the one all-important thing, she
could not bring herself to speak.  It was too sacred.  The balance
of the money that he had promised her arrived by messenger the
following day, four hundred dollars in bills, with the admonition
that she should put it in a local bank.  The ex-Senator explained
that he was already on his way to Washington, but that he would
come back or send for her.  "Keep a stout heart," he wrote.  "There
are better days in store for you."

Brander was gone, and Jennie's fate was really in the balance.
But her mind still retained all of the heart-innocence, and
unsophistication of her youth; a certain gentle wistfulness was the
only outward change in her demeanour.  He would surely send for
her.  There was the mirage of a distant country and wondrous scenes
looming up in her mind.  She had a little fortune in the bank, more
than she had ever dreamed of, with which to help her mother.  There
were natural, girlish anticipations of good still holding over,
which made her less apprehensive than she could otherwise possibly
have been.  All nature, life, possibility was in the balance.  It
might turn good, or ill, but with so inexperienced a soul it would
not be entirely evil until it was so.

How a mind under such uncertain circumstances could retain so
comparatively placid a vein is one of those marvels which find
their explanation in the inherent trustfulness of the spirit of
youth.  It is not often that the minds of men retain the
perceptions of their younger days.  The marvel is not that one
should thus retain, but that any should ever lose them.  Go the
world over, and after you have put away the wonder and tenderness
of youth what is there left?  The few sprigs of green that
sometimes invade the barrenness of your materialism, the few
glimpses of summer which flash past the eye of the wintry soul, the
half hours off during the long tedium of burrowing, these reveal to
the hardened earth-seeker the universe which the youthful mind has
with it always.  No fear and no favour; the open fields and the
light upon the hills; morning, noon, night; stars, the bird-calls,
the water's purl--these are the natural inheritance of the mind of
the child.  Men call it poetic, those who are hardened fanciful.
In the days of their youth it was natural, but the receptiveness of
youth has departed, and they cannot see.

How this worked out in her personal actions was to be seen only in
a slightly accentuated wistfulness, a touch of which was in every
task.  Sometimes she would wonder that no letter came, but at the
same time she would recall the fact that he had specified a few
weeks, and hence the six that actually elapsed did not seem so
long.

In the meanwhile the distinguished ex-Senator had gone light-
heartedly to his conference with the President, he had joined in a
pleasant round of social calls, and he was about to pay a short
country visit to some friends in Maryland, when he was seized with
a slight attack of fever, which confined him to his room for a few
days.  He felt a little irritated that he should be laid up just at
this time, but never suspected that there was anything serious in
his indisposition.  Then the doctor discovered that he was
suffering from a virulent form of typhoid, the ravages of which
took away his senses for a time and left him very weak.  He was
thought to be convalescing, however, when just six weeks after he
had last parted with Jennie, he was seized with a sudden attack of
heart failure and never regained consciousness.  Jennie remained
blissfully ignorant of his illness, and did not even see the heavy-
typed headlines of the announcement of his death until Bass came
home that evening.

"Look here, Jennie," he said excitedly, "Brander's dead!"

He held up the newspaper, on the first column of which was printed
in heavy block type:


                  DEATH OF EX-SENATOR BRANDER

           Sudden Passing of Ohio's Distinguished Son.
         Succumbs to Heart Failure at the Arlington, in
                          Washington.


Recent attack of typhoid, from which he was thought to be
recovering, proves fatal.  Notable phases of a remarkable career.


Jennie looked at it in blank amazement.  "Dead?" she exclaimed.

"There it is in the paper," returned Bass, his tone being that of
one who is imparting a very interesting piece of news.  "He died at
ten o'clock this morning."



CHAPTER IX


Jennie took the paper with but ill-concealed trembling, and went
into the adjoining room.  There she stood by the front window and
looked at it again, a sickening sensation of dread holding her as
though in a trance.

"He is dead," was all that her mind could formulate for the time,
and as she stood there the voice of Bass recounting the fact to
Gerhardt in the adjoining room sounded in her ears.  "Yes, he is
dead," she heard him say; and once again she tried to get some
conception of what it meant to her.  But her mind seemed a blank.

A moment later Mrs. Gerhardt joined her.  She had heard Bass's
announcement, and had seen Jennie leave the room, but her trouble
with Gerhardt over the Senator had caused her to be careful of any
display of emotion.  No conception of the real state of affairs
ever having crossed her mind, she was only interested in seeing how
Jennie would take this sudden annihilation of her hopes.

"Isn't it too bad?" she said, with real sorrow.  "To think that he
should have to die just when he was going to do so much for you--
for us all."

She paused, expecting some word of agreement, but Jennie remained
unwontedly dumb.

"I wouldn't feel badly," continued Mrs. Gerhardt.  "It can't be
helped.  He meant to do a good deal, but you mustn't think of that
now.  It's all over, and it can't be helped, you know."

She paused again, and still Jennie remained motionless and mute.
Mrs. Gerhardt, seeing how useless her words were, concluded that
Jennie wished to be alone, and she went away.

Still Jennie stood there, and now, as the real significance of the
news began to formulate itself into consecutive thought, she began
to realise the wretchedness of her position, its helplessness.  She
went into her bedroom and sat down upon the side of the bed, from
which position she saw a very pale, distraught face staring at her
from out of the small mirror.  She looked at it uncertainly; could
that really be her own countenance?  "I'll have to go away," she
thought, and began, with the courage of despair, to wonder what
refuge would be open to her.

In the meantime the evening meal was announced, and, to maintain
appearances, she went out and joined the family; the naturalness of
her part was very difficult to sustain.  Gerhardt observed her
subdued condition without guessing the depth of emotion which it
covered.  Bass was too much interested in his own affairs to pay
particular attention to anybody.

During the days that followed Jennie pondered over the difficulties
of her position and wondered what she should do.  Money she had, it
was true; but no friends, no experience, no place to go.  She had
always lived with her family.  She began to feel unaccountable
sinkings of spirit, nameless and formless fears seemed to surround
and haunt her.  Once when she arose in the morning she felt an
uncontrollable desire to cry, and frequently thereafter this
feeling would seize upon her at the most inopportune times.  Mrs.
Gerhardt began to note her moods, and one afternoon she resolved to
question her daughter.

"Now you must tell me what's the matter with you," she said
quietly.  "Jennie, you must tell your mother everything."

Jennie, to whom confession had seemed impossible, under the
sympathetic persistence of her mother, broke down at last and made
the fatal confession.  Mrs. Gerhardt stood there, too dumb with
misery to give vent to a word.

"Oh!" she said at last, a great wave of self-accusation sweeping
over her, "it is all my fault.  I might have known.  But we'll do
what we can."  She broke down and sobbed aloud.

After a time she went back to the washing she had to do, and stood
over her tub rubbing and crying.  The tears ran down her cheeks and
dropped into the suds.  Once in a while she stopped and tried to
dry her eyes with her apron, but they soon filled again.

Now that the first shock had passed, there came the vivid
consciousness of ever-present danger.  What would Gerhardt do if he
learned the truth?  He had often said that if ever one of his
daughters should act like some of those he knew he would turn her
out of doors.  "She should not stay under my roof!" he had
exclaimed.

"I'm so afraid of your father," Mrs. Gerhardt often said to Jennie
in this intermediate period.  "I don't know what he'll say."

"Perhaps I'd better go away," suggested her daughter.

"No," she said; "he needn't know just yet.  Wait awhile."  But in
her heart of hearts she knew that the evil day could not be long
postponed.

One day, when her own suspense had reached such a pitch that it
could no longer be endured, Mrs. Gerhardt sent Jennie away with the
children, hoping to be able to tell her husband before they
returned.  All the morning she fidgeted about, dreading the
opportune moment and letting him retire to his slumber without
speaking.  When afternoon came she did not go out to work, because
she could not leave with her painful duty unfulfilled.  Gerhardt
arose at four, and still she hesitated, knowing full well that
Jennie would soon return and that the specially prepared occasion
would then be lost.  It is almost certain that she would not have
had the courage to say anything if he himself had not brought up
the subject of Jennie's appearance.

"She doesn't look well," he said.  "There seems to be something the
matter with her."

"Oh," began Mrs. Gerhardt, visibly struggling with her fears, and
moved to make an end of it at any cost, "Jennie is in trouble.  I
don't know what to do.  She--"

Gerhardt, who had unscrewed a door-lock and was trying to mend it,
looked up sharply from his work.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

Mrs. Gerhardt had her apron in her hands at the time, her nervous
tendency to roll it coming upon her.  She tried to summon
sufficient courage to explain, but fear mastered her completely;
she lifted the apron to her eyes and began to cry.

Gerhardt looked at her and rose.  He was a man with the Calvin type
of face, rather spare, with skin sallow and discoloured as the
result of age and work in the wind and rain.  When he was surprised
or angry sparks of light glittered in his eyes.  He frequently
pushed his hair back when he was troubled, and almost invariably
walked the floor; just now he looked alert and dangerous.

"What is that you say?" he inquired in German, his voice straining
to a hard note.  "In trouble--has some one--"  He paused and flung
his hand upward.  "Why don't you speak?" he demanded.

"I never thought," went on Mrs. Gerhardt, frightened, and yet
following her own train of thought, "that anything like that would
happen to her.  She was such a good girl.  Oh!" she concluded, "to
think he should ruin Jennie."

"By thunder!" shouted Gerhardt, giving way to a fury of feeling, "I
thought so!  Brander!  Ha!  Your fine man!  That comes of letting
her go running around at nights, buggy-riding, walking the streets.
I thought so.  God in heaven!--"

He broke from his dramatic attitude and struck out in a fierce
stride across the narrow chamber, turning like a caged animal.

"Ruined!" he exclaimed.  "Ruined!  Ha!  So he has ruined her, has
he?"

Suddenly he stopped like an image jerked by a string.  He was
directly in front of Mrs. Gerhardt, who had retired to the table at
the side of the wall, and was standing there pale with fear.

"He is dead now!" he shouted, as if this fact had now first
occurred to him.  "He is dead!"

He put both hands to his temples, as if he feared his brain would
give way, and stood looking at her, the mocking irony of the
situation seeming to burn in his brain like fire.

"Dead!" he repeated, and Mrs. Gerhardt, fearing for the reason of
the man, shrank still farther away, her wits taken up rather with
the tragedy of the figure he presented than with the actual
substance of his woe.

"He intended to marry her," she pleaded nervously.  "He would have
married her if he had not died."

"Would have!" shouted Gerhardt, coming out of his trance at the
sound of her voice.  "Would have!  That's a fine thing to talk
about now.  Would have!  The hound!  May his soul burn in hell--the
dog!  Ah, God, I hope--I hope--If I were not a Christian--"  He
clenched his hands, the awfulness of his passion shaking him like a
leaf.

Mrs. Gerhardt burst into tears, and her husband turned away, his
own feelings far too intense for him to have any sympathy with her.
He walked to and fro, his heavy step shaking the kitchen floor.
After a time he came back, a new phase of the dread calamity having
offered itself to his mind.

"When did this happen?" he demanded.

"I don't know," returned Mrs. Gerhardt, too terror-stricken to tell
the truth.  "I only found it out the other day."

"You lie!" he exclaimed in his excitement.  "You were always
shielding her.  It is your fault that she is where she is.  If you
had let me have my way there would have been no cause for our
trouble to-night.

"A fine ending," he went on to himself.  "A fine ending.  My boy
gets into jail; my daughter walks the streets and gets herself
talked about; the neighbours come to me with open remarks about my
children; and now this scoundrel ruins her.  By the God in heaven,
I don't know what has got into my children!

"I don't know how it is," he went on, unconsciously commiserating
himself.  "I try, I try!  Every night I pray that the Lord will let
me do right, but it is no use.  I might work and work.  My hands--
look at them--are rough with work.  All my life I have tried to be
an honest man.  Now--now--"  His voice broke, and it seemed for a
moment as if he would give way to tears.  Suddenly he turned on his
wife, the major passion of anger possessing him.

"You are the cause of this," he exclaimed.  "You are the sole
cause.  If you had done as I told you to do this would not have
happened.  No, you wouldn't do that.  She must go out! out!! out!!!
She has become a street-walker, that's what she has become.  She
has set herself right to go to hell.  Let her go.  I wash my hands
of the whole thing.  This is enough for me."

He made as if to go off to his little bedroom, but he had no sooner
reached the door than he came back.

"She shall get out!" he said electrically.  "She shall not stay
under my roof!  To-night!  At once!  I will not let her enter my
door again.  I will show her whether she will disgrace me or not!"

"You mustn't turn her out on the streets to-night," pleaded Mrs.
Gerhardt.  "She has no place to go."

"To-night!" he repeated.  "This very minute!  Let her find a home.
She did not want this one.  Let her get out now.  We will see how
the world treats her."  He walked out of the room, inflexible
resolution fixed upon his rugged features.

At half-past five, when Mrs. Gerhardt was tearfully going about the
duty of getting supper, Jennie returned.  Her mother started when
she heard the door open, for now she knew the storm would burst
afresh.  Her father met her on the threshold.

"Get out of my sight!" he said savagely.  "You shall not stay
another hour in my house.  I don't want to see you any more.  Get
out!"

Jennie stood before him, pale, trembling a little, and silent.  The
children she had brought home with her crowded about in frightened
amazement.  Veronica and Martha, who loved her dearly, began to
cry.

"What's the matter?" George asked, his mouth open in wonder.

"She shall get out," reiterated Gerhardt.  "I don't want her under
my roof.  If she wants to be a street-walker, let her be one, but
she shall not stay here.  Pack your things," he added, staring at
her.

Jennie had no word to say, but the children cried loudly.

"Be still," said Gerhardt.  "Go into the kitchen."

He drove them all out and followed stubbornly himself.

Jennie went quietly to her room.  She gathered up her few little
belongings and began, with tears, to put them into a valise her
mother brought her.  The little girlish trinkets that she had
accumulated from time to time she did not take.  She saw them, but
thought of her younger sisters, and let them stay.  Martha and
Veronica would have assisted her, but their father forbade them to
go.

At six o'clock Bass came in, and seeing the nervous assembly in the
kitchen, inquired what the trouble was.

Gerhardt looked at him grimly, but did not answer.

"What's the trouble?" insisted Bass.  "What are you all sitting
around for?"

"He is driving Jennie away," whispered Mrs. Gerhardt tearfully.

"What for?" asked Bass, opening his eyes in astonishment.

"I shall tell you what for," broke in Gerhardt, still speaking in
German.  "Because she's a street walker, that's what for.  She goes
and gets herself ruined by a man thirty years older than she is, a
man old enough to be her father.  Let her get out of this.  She
shall not stay here another minute."

Bass looked about him, and the children opened their eyes.  All
felt clearly that something terrible had happened, even the little
ones.  None but Bass understood.

"What do you want to send her out to-night for?" he inquired.
"This is no time to send a girl out on the streets.  Can't she stay
here until morning?"

"No," said Gerhardt.

"He oughtn't to do that," put in the mother.

"She goes now," said Gerhardt.  "Let that be an end of it."

"Where is she going to go?" insisted Bass.

"I don't know," Mrs. Gerhardt interpolated weakly.

Bass looked around, but did nothing until Mrs. Gerhardt motioned
him toward the front door when her husband was not looking.

"Go in!  Go in!" was the import of her gesture.

Bass went in, and then Mrs. Gerhardt dared to leave her work and
follow.  The children stayed awhile, but, one by one, even they
slipped away, leaving Gerhardt alone.  When he thought that time
enough had elapsed he arose.

In the interval Jennie had been hastily coached by her mother.

Jennie should go to a private boarding-house somewhere and send
back her address.  Bass should not accompany her, but she should
wait a little way up the street, and he would follow.  When her
father was away the mother might get to see her, or Jennie could
come home.  All else must be postponed until they could meet again.

While the discussion was still going on, Gerhardt came in.

"Is she going?" he asked harshly.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Gerhardt, with her first and only note of
defiance.

Bass said, "What's the hurry?"  But Gerhardt frowned too mightily
for him to venture on any further remonstrances.

Jennie entered, wearing her one good dress and carrying her valise.
There was fear in her eyes, for she saw passing through a fiery
ordeal, but she had become a woman.  The strength of love was with
her, the support of patience and the ruling sweetness of sacrifice.
Silently she kissed her mother while tears fell fast.  Then she
turned, and the door closed upon her as she went forth to a new
life.



CHAPTER X


The world into which Jennie was thus unduly thrust forth was that
in which virtue has always vainly struggled since time immemorial;
for virtue is the wishing well and the doing well unto others.
Virtue is that quality of generosity which offers itself willingly
for another's service, and, being this, it is held by society to be
nearly worthless.  Sell yourself cheaply and you shall be used
lightly and trampled under foot.  Hold yourself dearly, however
unworthily, and you will be respected.  Society in the mass, lacks
woefully in the matter of discrimination.  Its one criterion is the
opinion of others.  Its one test that of self-preservation.  Has he
preserved his fortune?  Has she preserved her purity?  Only in rare
instances and with rare individuals does there seem to be any
guiding light from within.

Jennie had not sought to hold herself dear.  Innate feeling in her
made for self-sacrifice.  She could not be readily corrupted by the
world's selfish lessons on how to preserve oneself from the evil to
come.

It is in such supreme moments that growth is greatest.  It comes as
with a vast surge, this feeling of strength and sufficiency.  We
may still tremble, the fear of doing wretchedly may linger, but we
grow.  Flashes of inspiration come to guide the soul.  In nature
there is no outside.  When we are cast from a group or a condition
we have still the companionship of all that is.  Nature is not
ungenerous.  Its winds and stars are fellows with you.  Let the
soul be but gentle and receptive, and this vast truth will come
home--not in set phrases, perhaps, but as a feeling, a comfort,
which, after all, is the last essence of knowledge.  In the
universe peace is wisdom.

Jennie had hardly turned from the door when she was overtaken by
Bass.  "Give me your grip," he said; and then seeing that she was
dumb with unutterable feeling, he added, "I think I know where I
can get you a room."

He led the way to the southern part of the city, where they were
not known, and up to the door of an old lady whose parlour clock
had been recently purchased from the instalment firm by whom he was
now employed.  She was not well off, he knew, and had a room to
rent.

"Is that room of yours still vacant?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, looking at Jennie.

"I wish you'd let my sister have it.  We're moving away, and she
can't go yet."

The old lady expressed her willingness, and Jennie was soon
temporarily installed.

"Don't worry now," said Bass, who felt rather sorry for her.
"This'll blow over.  Ma said I should tell you not to worry.  Come
up to-morrow when he's gone."

Jennie said she would, and, after giving her further oral
encouragement, he arranged with the old lady about board, and took
his leave.

"It's all right now," he said encouragingly as he went out.
"You'll come out all right.  Don't worry.  I've got to go back, but
I'll come around in the morning."

He went away, and the bitter stress of it blew lightly over his
head, for he was thinking that Jennie had made a mistake.  This was
shown by the manner in which he had asked her questions as they had
walked together, and that in the face of her sad and doubtful mood.

"What'd you want to do that for?" and "Didn't you ever think what
you were doing?" he persisted.

"Please don't ask me to-night," Jennie had said, which put an end
to the sharpest form of his queries.  She had no excuse to offer
and no complaint to make.  If any blame attached, very likely it
was hers.  His own misfortune and the family's and her sacrifice
were alike forgotten.

Left alone in her strange abode, Jennie gave way to her saddened
feelings.  The shock and shame of being banished from her home
overcame her, and she wept.  Although of a naturally long-suffering
and uncomplaining disposition, the catastrophic wind-up of all her
hopes was too much for her.  What was this element in life that
could seize and overwhelm one as does a great wind?  Why this
sudden intrusion of death to shatter all that had seemed most
promising in life?

As she thought over the past, a very clear recollection of the
details of her long relationship with Brander came back to her, and
for all her suffering she could only feel a loving affection for
him.  After all, he had not deliberately willed her any harm.  His
kindness, his generosity--these things had been real.  He had been
essentially a good man, and she was sorry--more for his sake than
for her own--that his end had been so untimely.

These cogitations, while not at all reassuring, at least served to
pass the night away, and the next morning Bass stopped on his way
to work to say that Mrs. Gerhardt wished her to come home that same
evening.  Gerhardt would not be present, and they could talk it
over.  She spent the day lonesomely enough, but when night fell her
spirits brightened, and at a quarter of eight she set out.

There was not much of comforting news to tell her.  Gerhardt was
still in a direfully angry and outraged mood.  He had already
decided to throw up his place on the following Saturday and go to
Youngstown.  Any place was better than Columbus after this; he
could never expect to hold up his head here again.  Its memories
were odious.  He would go away now, and if he succeeded in finding
work the family should follow, a decision which meant the
abandoning of the little home.  He was not going to try to meet the
mortgage on the house--he could not hope to.

At the end of the week Gerhardt took his leave, Jennie returned
home, and for a time at least there was a restoration of the old
order, a condition which, of course, could not endure.

Bass saw it.  Jennie's trouble and its possible consequences
weighed upon him disagreeably.  Columbus was no place to stay.
Youngstown was no place to go.  If they should all move away to
some larger city it would be much better.

He pondered over the situation, and hearing that a manufacturing
boom was on in Cleveland, he thought it might be wise to try his
luck there.  If he succeeded, the others might follow.  If Gerhardt
still worked on in Youngstown, as he was now doing, and the family
came to Cleveland, it would save Jennie from being turned out in
the streets.

Bass waited a little while before making up his mind, but finally
announced his purpose.

"I believe I'll go up to Cleveland," he said to his mother one
evening as she was getting supper.

"Why?" she asked, looking up uncertainly.  She was rather afraid
that Bass would desert her.

"I think I can get work there," he returned.  "We oughtn't to stay
in this darned old town."

"Don't swear," she returned reprovingly.

"Oh, I know," he said, "but it's enough to make any one swear.
We've never had anything but rotten luck here.  I'm going to go,
and maybe if I get anything we can all move.  We'd be better off if
we'd get some place where people don't know us.  We can't be
anything here."

Mrs. Gerhardt listened with a strong hope for a betterment of their
miserable life creeping into her heart.  If Bass would only do
this.  If he would go and get work, and come to her rescue, as a
strong bright young son might, what a thing it would be!  They were
in the rapids of a life which was moving toward a dreadful
calamity.  If only something would happen.

"Do you think you could get something to do?" she asked
interestedly.

"I ought to," he said.  "I've never looked for a place yet that I
didn't get it.  Other fellows have gone up there and done all
right.  Look at the Millers."

He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked out the window.

"Do you think you could get along until I try my hand up there?" he
asked.

"I guess we could," she replied.  "Papa's at work now and we have
some money that, that--" she hesitated to name the source, so
ashamed was she of their predicament.

"Yes, I know," said Bass, grimly.

"We won't have to pay any rent here before fall and then we'll have
to give it up anyhow," she added.

She was referring to the mortgage on the house, which fell due the
next September and which unquestionably could not be met.  "If we
could move away from here before then, I guess we could get along."

"I'll do it," said Bass determinedly.  "I'll go."

Accordingly, he threw up his place at the end of the month, and the
day after he left for Cleveland.



CHAPTER XI


The incidents of the days that followed, relating as they did
peculiarly to Jennie, were of an order which the morality of our
day has agreed to taboo.

Certain processes of the all-mother, the great artificing wisdom of
the power that works and weaves in silence and in darkness, when
viewed in the light of the established opinion of some of the
little individuals created by it, are considered very vile.  We
turn our faces away from the creation of life as if that were the
last thing that man should dare to interest himself in, openly.

It is curious that a feeling of this sort should spring up in a
world whose very essence is generative, the vast process dual, and
where wind, water, soil, and light alike minister to the fruition
of that which is all that we are.  Although the whole earth, not we
alone, is moved by passions hymeneal, and everything terrestrial
has come into being by the one common road, yet there is that
ridiculous tendency to close the eyes and turn away the head as if
there were something unclean in nature itself.  "Conceived in
iniquity and born in sin," is the unnatural interpretation put upon
the process by the extreme religionist, and the world, by its
silence, gives assent to a judgment so marvellously warped.

Surely there is something radically wrong in this attitude.  The
teachings of philosophy and the deductions of biology should find
more practical applications in the daily reasoning of man.  No
process is vile, no condition is unnatural.  The accidental
variation from a given social practice does not necessarily entail
sin.  No poor little earthling, caught in the enormous grip of
chance, and so swerved from the established customs of men, could
possibly be guilty of that depth of vileness which the attitude of
the world would seem to predicate so inevitably.

Jennie was now to witness the unjust interpretation of that wonder
of nature, which, but for Brander's death, might have been
consecrated and hallowed as one of the ideal functions of life.
Although herself unable to distinguish the separateness of this
from every other normal process of life, yet was she made to feel,
by the actions of all about her, that degradation was her portion
and sin the foundation as well as the condition of her state.
Almost, not quite, it was sought to extinguish the affection, the
consideration, the care which, afterward, the world would demand of
her, for her child.  Almost, not quite, was the budding and
essential love looked upon as evil.  Although her punishment was
neither the gibbet nor the jail of a few hundred years before, yet
the ignorance and immobility of the human beings about her made it
impossible for them to see anything in her present condition, but a
vile and premeditated infraction of the social code, the punishment
of which was ostracism.  All she could do now was to shun the
scornful gaze of men, and to bear in silence the great change that
was coming upon her.  Strangely enough, she felt no useless
remorse, no vain regrets.  Her heart was pure, and she was
conscious that it was filled with peace.  Sorrow there was, it is
true, but only a mellow phase of it, a vague uncertainty and
wonder, which would sometimes cause her eyes to fill with tears.

You have heard the wood-dove calling in the lone stillness of the
summertime; you have found the unheeded brooklet singing and
babbling where no ear comes to hear.  Under dead leaves and snow-
banks the delicate arbutus unfolds its simple blossom, answering
some heavenly call for colour.  So, too, this other flower of
womanhood.

Jennie was left alone, but, like the wood-dove, she was a voice of
sweetness in the summertime.  Going about her household duties, she
was content to wait, without a murmur, the fulfilment of that
process for which, after all, she was but the sacrificial
implement.  When her duties were lightest she was content to sit in
quiet meditation, the marvel of life holding her as in a trance.
When she was hardest pressed to aid her mother, she would sometimes
find herself quietly singing, the pleasure of work lifting her out
of herself.  Always she was content to face the future with a
serene and unfaltering courage.  It is not so with all women.
Nature is unkind in permitting the minor type to bear a child at
all.  The larger natures in their maturity welcome motherhood, see
in it the immense possibilities of racial fulfilment, and find joy
and satisfaction in being the hand-maiden of so immense a purpose.

Jennie, a child in years, was potentially a woman physically and
mentally, but not yet come into rounded conclusions as to life and
her place in it.  The great situation which had forced her into
this anomalous position was from one point of view a tribute to her
individual capacity.  It proved her courage, the largeness of her
sympathy, her willingness to sacrifice for what she considered a
worthy cause.  That it resulted in an unexpected consequence which
placed upon her a larger and more complicated burden, was due to
the fact that her sense of self-protection had not been commensurate
with her emotions.  There were times when the prospective coming
of the child gave her a sense of fear and confusion, because she
did not know, but that the child might eventually reproach her;
but there was always that saving sense of eternal justice in life
which would not permit her to be utterly crushed.  To her way of
thinking, people were not intentionally cruel.  Vague thoughts of
sympathy and divine goodness permeated her soul.  Life at worst or
best was beautiful--had always been so.

These thoughts did not come to her all at once, but through the
months during which she watched and waited.  It was a wonderful
thing to be a mother, even under these untoward conditions.  She
felt that she would love this child, would be a good mother to it
if life permitted.  That was the problem--what would life permit?

There were many things to be done--clothes to be made; certain
provisions of hygiene and diet to be observed.  One of her fears
was that Gerhardt might unexpectedly return, but he did not.  The
old family doctor who had nursed the various members of the
Gerhardt family through their multitudinous ailments--Doctor
Ellwanger--was taken into consultation, and he gave sound and
practical advice.  Despite his Lutheran upbringing, the practice of
medicine in a large and kindly way had led him to the conclusion
that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of
in our philosophies and in our small neighbourhood relationships.
"So it is," he observed to Mrs. Gerhardt when she confided to him
nervously what the trouble was.  "Well, you mustn't worry.  These
things happen in more places than you think.  If you knew as much
about life as I do, and about your neighbours, you would not cry.
Your girl will be all right.  She is very healthy.  She can go away
somewhere afterward, and people will never know.  Why should you
worry about what your neighbours think.  It is not so uncommon as
you imagine."

Mrs. Gerhardt marvelled.  He was such a wise man.  It gave her a
little courage.  As for Jennie, she listened to his advice with
interest and without fear.  She wanted things not so much for
herself as for her child, and she was anxious to do whatever she
was told.  The doctor was curious to know who the father was; when
informed he lifted his eyes.  "Indeed," he commented.  "That ought
to be a bright baby."

There came the final hour when the child was ushered into the
world.  It was Doctor Ellwanger who presided, assisted by the
mother, who, having brought forth six herself, knew exactly what to
do.  There was no difficulty, and at the first cry of the new-born
infant there awakened in Jennie a tremendous yearning toward it.
This was HER child!  It was weak and feeble--a little girl, and it
needed her care.  She took it to her breast, when it had been
bathed and swaddled, with a tremendous sense of satisfaction and
joy.  This was her child, her little girl.  She wanted to live to
be able to work for it, and rejoiced, even in her weakness, that
she was so strong.  Doctor Ellwanger predicted a quick recovery.
He thought two weeks would be the outside limit of her need to stay
in bed.  As a matter of fact, in ten days she was up and about, as
vigorous and healthy as ever.  She had been born with strength and
with that nurturing quality which makes the ideal mother.

The great crisis had passed, and now life went on much as before.
The children, outside of Bass, were too young to understand fully,
and had been deceived by the story that Jennie was married to
Senator Brander, who had died.  They did not know that a child was
coming until it was there.  The neighbours were feared by Mrs.
Gerhardt, for they were ever watchful and really knew all.  Jennie
would never have braved this local atmosphere except for the advice
of Bass, who, having secured a place in Cleveland some time before,
had written that he thought when she was well enough it would be
advisable for the whole family to seek a new start in Cleveland.
Things were flourishing there.  Once away they would never hear of
their present neighbours and Jennie could find something to do.  So
she stayed at home.



CHAPTER XII


Bass was no sooner in Cleveland than the marvel of that growing
city was sufficient to completely restore his equanimity of soul
and to stir up new illusions as to the possibility of rehabilitation
for himself and his family.  "If only they could come here," he
thought.  "If only they could all get work and do right."  Here was
no evidence of any of their recent troubles, no acquaintance who
could suggest by their mere presence the troubles of the past.  All
was business, all activity.  The very turning of the corner seemed
to rid one of old times and crimes.  It was as if a new world
existed in every block.

He soon found a place in a cigar store, and, after working a few
weeks, he began to write home the cheering ideas he had in mind.
Jennie ought to come as soon as she was able, and then, if she
found something to do, the others might follow.  There was plenty
of work for girls of her age.  She could live in the same house
with him temporarily; or maybe they could take one of the fifteen-
dollar-a-month cottages that were for rent.  There were big general
furnishing houses, where one could buy everything needful for a
small house on very easy monthly terms.  His mother could come and
keep house for them.  They would be in a clean, new atmosphere,
unknown and untalked about.  They could start life all over again;
they could be decent, honourable, prosperous.

Filled with this hope and the glamour which new scenes and new
environment invariably throw over the unsophisticated mind, he
wrote a final letter, in which he suggested that Jennie should come
at once.  This was when the baby was six months old.  There were
theatres here, he said, and beautiful streets.  Vessels from the
lakes came into the heart of the city.  It was a wonderful city,
and growing very fast.  It was thus that the new life appealed to
him.

The effect which all this had upon Mrs. Gerhardt, Jennie, and the
rest of the family was phenomenal.  Mrs. Gerhardt, long weighed
upon by the misery which Jennie's error had entailed, was for
taking measures for carrying out this plan at once.  So buoyant was
her natural temperament that she was completely carried away by the
glory of Cleveland, and already saw fulfilled therein not only her
own desires for a nice home, but the prosperous advancement of her
children.  "Of course they could get work," she said.  Bass was
right.  She had always wanted Gerhardt to go to some large city,
but he would not.  Now it was necessary, and they would go and
become better off than they ever had been.

And Gerhardt did take this view of the situation.  In answer to his
wife's letter he wrote that it was not advisable for him to leave
his place, but if Bass saw a way for them, it might be a good thing
to go.  He was the more ready to acquiesce in the plan for the
simple reason that he was half distracted with the worry of
supporting the family and of paying the debts already outstanding.
Every week he laid by five dollars out of his salary, which he sent
in the form of a postal order to Mrs. Gerhardt.  Three dollars he
paid for board, and fifty cents he kept for spending money, church
dues, a little tobacco and occasionally a glass of beer.  Every
week he put a dollar and a half in a little iron bank against a
rainy day.  His room was a bare corner in the topmost loft of the
mill.  To this he would ascend after sitting alone on the doorstep
of the mill in this lonely, forsaken neighbourhood, until nine
o'clock of an evening; and here, amid the odour of machinery wafted
up from the floor below, by the light of a single tallow candle, he
would conclude his solitary day, reading his German paper, folding
his hands and thinking, kneeling by an open window in the shadow of
the night, to say his prayers, and silently stretching himself to
rest.  Long were the days, dreary the prospect.  Still he lifted
his hands in utmost faith to God, praying that his sins might be
forgiven and that he might be vouchsafed a few more years of
comfort and of happy family life.

So the momentous question was finally decided.  There was the
greatest longing and impatience among the children, and Mrs.
Gerhardt shared their emotions in a suppressed way.  Jennie was to
go first, as Bass had suggested; later on they would all follow.

When the hour came for Jennie's departure there was great
excitement in the household.

"How long you going to be 'fore you send for us?" was Martha's
inquiry, several times repeated.

"Tell Bass to hurry up," said the eager George.

"I want to go to Cleveland, I want to go to Cleveland," Veronica
was caught singing to herself.

"Listen to her," exclaimed George, sarcastically.

"Aw, you hush up," was her displeased rejoinder.

When the final hour came, however, it required all of Jennie's
strength to go through with the farewells.  Though everything was
being done in order to bring them together again under better
conditions, she could not help feeling depressed.  Her little one,
now six months old, was being left behind.  The great world was to
her one undiscovered bourne.  It frightened her.

"You mustn't worry, Ma," she found courage enough to say.  "I'll be
all right.  I'll write you just as soon as I get there.  It won't
be so very long."

But when it came to bending over her baby for the last time her
courage went out like a blown lamp.  Stooping over the cradle in
which the little one was resting, she looked into its face with
passionate, motherly yearning.

"Is it going to be a good little girl?" she cooed.

Then she caught it up into her arms, and hugging it closely to her
neck and bosom, she buried her face against its little body.  Mrs.
Gerhardt saw that she was trembling.

"Come now," she said, coaxingly, "you mustn't carry on so.  She
will be all right with me.  I'll take care of her.  If you're going
to act this way, you'd better not try to go at all."

Jennie lifted her head, her blue eyes wet with tears, and handed
the little one to her mother.

"I can't help it," she said, half crying, half smiling.

Quickly she kissed her mother and the children; then she hurried
out.

As she went down the street with George she looked back and bravely
waved her hand.  Mrs. Gerhardt responded, noticing how much more
like a woman she looked.  It had been necessary to invest some of
her money in new clothes to wear on the train.  She had selected a
neat, ready-made suit of brown, which fitted her nicely.  She wore
the skirt of this with a white shirtwaist, and a sailor hat with a
white veil wound around it in such fashion that it could be easily
drawn over her face.  As she went farther and farther away Mrs.
Gerhardt followed her lovingly with her glance; and when she
disappeared from view she said tenderly, through her own tears:

"I'm glad she looked so nice, anyhow."



CHAPTER XIII


Bass met Jennie at the depot in Cleveland and talked hopefully of
the prospects.  "The first thing is to get work," he began while
the jingling sounds and the changing odors which the city thrust
upon her were confusing and almost benumbing her senses.  "Get
something to do.  It doesn't matter what, so long as you get
something.  If you don't get more than three or four dollars a
week, it will pay the rent.  Then, with what George can earn, when
he comes, and what Pop sends, we can get along all right.  It'll be
better than being down in that hole," he concluded.

"Yes," said Jennie, vaguely, her mind so hypnotised by the new
display of life about her that she could not bring it forcibly to
bear upon the topic under discussion.  "I know what you mean.  I'll
get something."

She was much older now, in understanding if not in years.  The
ordeal through which she had so recently passed had aroused in her
a clearer conception of the responsibilities of life.  Her mother
was always in her mind, her mother and the children.  In particular
Martha and Veronica must have a better opportunity to do for
themselves than she had had.  They should be dressed better; they
ought to be kept longer in school; they must have more companionship,
more opportunity to broaden their lives.

Cleveland, like every other growing city at this time, was crowded
with those who were seeking employment.  New enterprises were
constantly springing up, but those who were seeking to fulfil the
duties they provided were invariably in excess of the demand.  A
stranger coming to the city might walk into a small position of
almost any kind on the very day he arrived; and he might as readily
wander in search of employment for weeks and even months.  Bass
suggested the shops and department stores as a first field in which
to inquire.  The factories and other avenues of employment were to
be her second choice.

"Don't pass a place, though," he had cautioned her, "if you think
there's any chance of getting anything to do.  Go right in."

"What must I say?" asked Jennie, nervously.

"Tell them you want work.  You don't care what you do to begin
with."

In compliance with this advice, Jennie set out the very first day,
and was rewarded by some very chilly experiences.  Wherever
she went, no one seemed to want any help.  She applied at the
stores, the factories, the little shops that lined the outlying
thoroughfares, but was always met by a rebuff.  As a last resource
she turned to housework, although she had hoped to avoid that; and,
studying the want columns, she selected four which seemed more
promising than the others.  To these she decided to apply.  One had
already been filled when she arrived, but the lady who came to the
door was so taken by her appearance that she invited her in and
questioned her as to her ability.

"I wish you had come a little earlier," she said.  "I like you
better than I do the girl I have taken.  Leave me your address,
anyhow."

Jennie went away, smiling at her reception.  She was not quite so
youthful looking as she had been before her recent trouble, but
the thinner cheeks and the slightly deeper eyes added to the
pensiveness and delicacy of her countenance.  She was a model of
neatness.  Her clothes, all newly cleaned and ironed before leaving
home, gave her a fresh and inviting appearance.  There was growth
coming to her in the matter of height, but already in appearance
and intelligence she looked to be a young woman of twenty.  Best of
all, she was of that naturally sunny disposition, which, in spite
of toil and privation kept her always cheerful.  Any one in need of
a servant-girl or house companion would have been delighted to have
had her.

The second place at which she applied was a large residence in
Euclid Avenue; it seemed far too imposing for anything she might
have to offer in the way of services, but having come so far she
decided to make the attempt.  The servant who met her at the door
directed her to wait a few moments, and finally ushered her into
the boudoir of the mistress of the house on the second floor.  The
latter, a Mrs. Bracebridge, a prepossessing brunette of the
conventionally fashionable type, had a keen eye for feminine values
and was impressed rather favourably with Jennie.  She talked with
her a little while, and finally decided to try her in the general
capacity of maid.

"I will give you four dollars a week, and you can sleep here if you
wish," said Mrs. Bracebridge.

Jennie explained that she was living with her brother, and would
soon have her family with her.

"Oh, very well," replied her mistress.  "Do as you like about that.
Only I expect you to be here promptly."

She wished her to remain for the day and to begin her duties at
once, and Jennie agreed.  Mrs. Bracebridge provided her a dainty
cap and apron, and then spent some little time in instructing her
in her duties.  Her principal work would be to wait on her
mistress, to brush her hair and to help her dress.  She was also to
answer the bell, wait on the table if need be, and do any other
errand which her mistress might indicate.  Mrs. Bracebridge seemed
a little hard and formal to her prospective servant, but for all
that Jennie admired the dash and go and the obvious executive
capacity of her employer.

At eight o'clock that evening Jennie was dismissed for the day.
She wondered if she could be of any use in such a household, and
marvelled that she had got along as well as she had.  Her mistress
had set her to cleaning her jewellery and boudoir ornaments as an
opening task, and though she had worked steadily and diligently,
she had not finished by the time she left.  She hurried away to her
brother's apartment delighted to be able to report that she had
found a situation.  Now her mother could come to Cleveland.  Now
she could have her baby with her.  Now they could really begin that
new life which was to be so much better and finer and sweeter than
anything they had ever had before.

At Bass's suggestion Jennie wrote her mother to come at once, and a
week or so later a suitable house was found and rented.  Mrs.
Gerhardt, with the aid of the children, packed up the simple
belongings of the family, including a single vanload of furniture,
and at the end of a fortnight they were on their way to the new
home.

Mrs. Gerhardt always had had a keen desire for a really comfortable
home.  Solid furniture, upholstered and trimmed, a thick soft
carpet of some warm, pleasing colour, plenty of chairs, settees,
pictures, a lounge, and a piano--she had wanted these nice things
all her life, but her circumstances had never been good enough for
her hopes to be realised.  Still she did not despair.  Some day,
maybe before she died these things would be added to her, and she
would be happy.  Perhaps her chance was coming now.

Arrived at Cleveland, this feeling of optimism was encouraged by
the sight of Jennie's cheerful face.  Bass assured her that they
would get along all right.  He took them out to the house, and
George was shown the way to go back to the depot and have the
freight looked after.  Mrs. Gerhardt had still fifty dollars left
out of the money which Senator Brander had sent to Jennie, and with
this a way of getting a little extra furniture on the instalment
plan was provided.  Bass had already paid the first month's rent,
and Jennie had spent her evenings for the last few days in washing
the windows and floors of this new house and in getting it into a
state of perfect cleanliness.  Now, when the first night fell, they
had two new mattresses and comfortables spread upon a clean floor;
a new lamp, purchased from one of the near-by stores, a single box,
borrowed by Jennie from a grocery store, for cleaning purposes,
upon which Mrs. Gerhardt could sit, and some sausages and bread to
stay them until morning.  They talked and planned for the future
until nine o'clock came, when all but Jennie and her mother
retired.  These two talked on, the burden of responsibilities
resting on the daughter.  Mrs. Gerhardt had come to feel in a way
dependent upon her.

In the course of a week the entire cottage was in order, with a
half-dozen pieces of new furniture, a new carpet, and some
necessary kitchen utensils.  The most disturbing thing was the need
of a new cooking-stove, the cost of which added greatly to the
bill.  The younger children were entered at the public school, but
it was decided that George must find some employment.  Both Jennie
and her mother felt the injustice of this keenly, but knew no way
of preventing the sacrifice.

"We will let him go to school next year if we can," said Jennie.

Auspiciously as the new life seemed to have begun, the closeness
with which their expenses were matching their income was an
ever-present menace.  Bass, originally very generous in his
propositions, soon announced that he felt four dollars a week for
his room and board to be a sufficient contribution from himself.
Jennie gave everything she earned and protested that she did not
stand in need of anything, so long as the baby was properly taken
care of.  George secured a place as an overgrown cash-boy, and
brought in two dollars and fifty cents a week, all of which, at
first, he gladly contributed.  Later on he was allowed the fifty
cents for himself as being meet and just.  Gerhardt, from his
lonely post of labour, contributed five dollars by mail, always
arguing that a little money ought to be saved in order that his
honest debts back in Columbus might be paid.  Out of this total
income of fifteen dollars a week all of these individuals had to be
fed and clothed, the rent paid, coal purchased, and the regular
monthly instalment of three dollars paid on the outstanding
furniture bill of fifty dollars.

How it was done, those comfortable individuals, who frequently
discuss the social aspects of poverty, might well trouble to inform
themselves.  Rent, coal, and light alone consumed the goodly sum of
twenty dollars a month; food, another unfortunately necessary item,
used up twenty-five more; clothes, instalments, dues, occasional
items of medicine and the like, were met out of the remaining
eleven dollars--how, the ardent imagination of the comfortable
reader can guess.  It was done, however, and for a time the hopeful
members considered that they were doing fairly well.

During this period the little family presented a picture of
honourable and patient toil, which was interesting to contemplate.
Every day Mrs. Gerhardt, who worked like a servant and who received
absolutely no compensation either in clothes, amusements, or
anything else, arose in the morning while the others slept, and
built the fire.  Then she took up the task of getting the
breakfast.  Often as she moved about noiselessly in her thin, worn
slippers, cushioned with pieces of newspaper to make them fit, she
looked in on Jennie, Bass, and George, wrapped in their heavy
slumbers, and with that divine sympathy which is born in heaven she
wished that they did not need to rise so early or to work so hard.
Sometimes she would pause before touching her beloved Jennie, gaze
at her white face, so calm in sleep, and lament that life had not
dealt more kindly with her.  Then she would lay her hand gently
upon her shoulder and whisper, "Jennie, Jennie," until the weary
sleeper would wake.

When they arose breakfast was always ready.  When they returned at
night supper was waiting.  Each of the children received a due
share of Mrs. Gerhardt's attention.  The little baby was closely
looked after by her.  She protested that she needed neither clothes
nor shoes so long as one of the children would run errands for her.

Jennie, of all the children, fully understood her mother; she alone
strove, with the fullness of a perfect affection, to ease her
burden.

"Ma, you let me do this."

"Now, ma, I'll 'tend to that."

"You go sit down, ma."

These were the every-day expressions of the enduring affection that
existed between them.  Always there was perfect understanding
between Jennie and her mother, and as the days passed this
naturally widened and deepened.  Jennie could not bear to think of
her as being always confined to the house.  Daily she thought as
she worked of that humble home where her mother was watching and
waiting.  How she longed to give her those comforts which she had
always craved!



CHAPTER XIV


The days spent in the employ of the Bracebridge household were of a
broadening character.  This great house was a school to Jennie, not
only in the matter of dress and manners, but as formulating a
theory of existence.  Mrs. Bracebridge and her husband were the
last word in the matter of self-sufficiency, taste in the matter of
appointments, care in the matter of dress, good form in the matter
of reception, entertainment, and the various usages of social life.
Now and then, apropos of nothing save her own mood, Mrs.
Bracebridge would indicate her philosophy of life in an epigram.

"Life is a battle, my dear.  If you gain anything you will have to
fight for it."

"In my judgment it is silly not to take advantage of any aid which
will help you to be what you want to be."  (This while applying a
faint suggestion of rouge.)

"Most people are born silly.  They are exactly what they are
capable of being.  I despise lack of taste; it is the worst crime."

Most of these worldly-wise counsels were not given directly to
Jennie.  She overheard them, but to her quiet and reflective mind
they had their import.  Like seeds fallen upon good ground, they
took root and grew.  She began to get a faint perception of
hierarchies and powers.  They were not for her, perhaps, but they
were in the world, and if fortune were kind one might better one's
state.  She worked on, wondering, however, just how better fortune
might come to her.  Who would have her to wife knowing her history?
How could she ever explain the existence of her child?

Her child, her child, the one transcendent, gripping theme of joy
and fear.  If she could only do something for it--sometime somehow!

For the first winter things went smoothly enough.  By the closest
economy the children were clothed and kept in school, the rent
paid, and the instalments met.  Once it looked as though there
might be some difficulty about the continuance of the home life,
and that was when Gerhardt wrote that he would be home for
Christmas.  The mill was to close down for a short period at that
time.  He was naturally anxious to see what the new life of his
family at Cleveland was like.

Mrs. Gerhardt would have welcomed his return with unalloyed
pleasure had it not been for the fear she entertained of his
creating a scene.  Jennie talked it over with her mother, and Mrs.
Gerhardt in turn spoke of it to Bass, whose advice was to brave it
out.

"Don't worry," he said; "he won't do anything about it.  I'll talk
to him if he says anything."

The scene did occur, but it was not so unpleasant as Mrs. Gerhardt
had feared.  Gerhardt came home during the afternoon, while Bass,
Jennie, and George were at work.  Two of the younger children went
to the train to meet him.  When he entered Mrs. Gerhardt greeted
him affectionately, but she trembled for the discovery which was
sure to come.  Her suspense was not for long.  Gerhardt opened the
front bedroom door only a few minutes after he arrived.  On the
white counterpane of the bed was a pretty child, sleeping.  He
could not but know on the instant whose it was, but he pretended
ignorance.

"Whose child is that?" he questioned.

"It's Jennie's," said Mrs. Gerhardt, weakly.

"When did that come here?"

"Not so very long ago," answered the mother, nervously.

"I guess she is here, too," he declared, contemptuously, refusing
to pronounce her name, a fact which he had already anticipated.

"She's working in a family," returned his wife in a pleading tone.
"She's doing so well now.  She had no place to go.  Let her alone."

Gerhardt had received a light since he had been away.  Certain
inexplicable thoughts and feelings had come to him in his religious
meditations.  In his prayers he had admitted to the All-seeing that
he might have done differently by his daughter.  Yet he could not
make up his mind how to treat her for the future.  She had
committed a great sin; it was impossible to get away from that.

When Jennie came home that night a meeting was unavoidable.
Gerhardt saw her coming, and pretended to be deeply engaged in a
newspaper.  Mrs. Gerhardt, who had begged him not to ignore Jennie
entirely, trembled for fear he would say or do something which
would hurt her feelings.

"She is coming now," she said, crossing to the door of the front
room, where he was sitting; but Gerhardt refused to look up.
"Speak to her, anyhow," was her last appeal before the door opened;
but he made no reply.

When Jennie came in her mother whispered, "He is in the front
room."

Jennie paled, put her thumb to her lip and stood irresolute, not
knowing how to meet the situation.

"Has he seen?"

Jennie paused as she realised from her mother's face and nod that
Gerhardt knew of the child's existence.

"Go ahead," said Mrs. Gerhardt; "it's all right.  He won't say
anything."

Jennie finally went to the door, and, seeing her father, his brow
wrinkled as if in serious but not unkindly thought, she hesitated,
but made her way forward.

"Papa," she said, unable to formulate a definite sentence.

Gerhardt looked up, his greyish-brown eyes a study under their
heavy sandy lashes.  At the sight of his daughter he weakened
internally; but with the self-adjusted armour of resolve about him
he showed no sign of pleasure at seeing her.  All the forces of
his conventional understanding of morality and his naturally
sympathetic and fatherly disposition were battling within him, but,
as in so many cases where the average mind is concerned, convention
was temporarily the victor.

"Yes," he said.

"Won't you forgive me, Papa?"

"I do," he returned grimly.

She hesitated a moment, and then stepped forward, for what purpose
he well understood.

"There," he said, pushing her gently away, as her lips barely
touched his grizzled cheek.

It had been a frigid meeting.

When Jennie went out into the kitchen after this very trying ordeal
she lifted her eyes to her waiting mother and tried to make it seem
as though all had been well, but her emotional disposition got the
better of her.

"Did he make up to you?" her mother was about to ask; but the words
were only half out of her mouth before her daughter sank down into
one of the chairs close to the kitchen table and, laying her head
on her arm, burst forth into soft, convulsive, inaudible sobs.

"Now, now," said Mrs. Gerhardt.  "There now, don't cry.  What did
he say?"

It was some time before Jennie recovered herself sufficiently to
answer.  Her mother tried to treat the situation lightly.

"I wouldn't feel bad," she said.  "He'll get over it.  It's his
way."



CHAPTER XV


The return of Gerhardt brought forward the child question in all
its bearings.  He could not help considering it from the standpoint
of a grandparent, particularly since it was a human being possessed
of a soul.  He wondered if it had been baptised.  Then he inquired.

"No, not yet," said his wife, who had not forgotten this duty, but
had been uncertain whether the little one would be welcome in the
faith.

"No, of course not," sneered Gerhardt, whose opinion of his wife's
religious devotion was not any too great.  "Such carelessness!
Such irreligion!  That is a fine thing."

He thought it over a few moments, and felt that this evil should be
corrected at once.

"It should be baptised," he said.  "Why don't she take it and have
it baptised?"

Mrs. Gerhardt reminded him that some one would have to stand
godfather to the child and there was no way to have the ceremony
performed without confessing the fact that it was without a
legitimate father.

Gerhardt listened to this, and it quieted him for a few moments,
but his religion was something which he could not see put in the
background by any such difficulty.  How would the Lord look upon
quibbling like this?  It was not Christian, and it was his duty to
attend to the matter.  It must be taken, forthwith, to the church,
Jennie, himself, and his wife accompanying it as sponsors; or, if
he did not choose to condescend thus far to his daughter, he must
see that it was baptised when she was not present.  He brooded over
this difficulty, and finally decided that the ceremony should take
place on one of these week-days, between Christmas and New Year's,
when Jennie would be at her work.  This proposal he broached to his
wife, and, receiving her approval, he made his next announcement.
"It has no name," he said.

Jennie and her mother had talked over this very matter, and Jennie
had expressed a preference for Vesta.  Now her mother made bold to
suggest it as her own choice.

"How would Vesta do?"

Gerhardt heard this with indifference.  Secretly he had settled the
question in his own mind.  He had a name in store, left over from
the halcyon period of his youth, and never opportunely available in
the case of his own children--Wilhelmina.  Of course he had no idea
of unbending in the least toward his small granddaughter.  He
merely liked the name, and the child ought to be grateful to get
it.  With a far-off, gingery air he brought forward this first
offering upon the altar of natural affection, for offering it was,
after all.

"That is nice," he said, forgetting his indifference.  "But how
would Wilhelmina do?"

Mrs. Gerhardt did not dare cross him when he was thus unconsciously
weakening.  Her woman's tact came to the rescue.

"We might give her both names," she compromised.

"It makes no difference to me," he replied, drawing back into the
shell of opposition from which he had been inadvertently drawn.
"Just so she is baptised."

Jennie heard of this with pleasure, for she was anxious that the
child should have every advantage, religious or otherwise, that it
was possible to obtain.  She took great pains to starch and iron
the clothes it was to wear on the appointed day.

Gerhardt sought out the minister of the nearest Lutheran church, a
round-headed, thick-set theologian of the most formal type to whom
he stated his errand.

"Your grandchild?" inquired the minister.

"Yes," said Gerhardt, "her father is not here."

"So," replied the minister, looking at him curiously.

Gerhardt was not to be disturbed in his purpose.  He explained that
he and his wife would bring her.  The minister, realising the
probable difficulty, did not question him further.

"The church cannot refuse to baptise her so long as you, as
grandparent, are willing to stand sponsor for her," he said.

Gerhardt came away, hurt by the shadow of disgrace in which he felt
himself involved, but satisfied that he had done his duty.  Now he
would take the child and have it baptised and when that was over
his present responsibility would cease.

When it came to the hour of the baptism, however, he found that
another influence was working to guide him into greater interest
and responsibility.  The stern religion with which he was
enraptured, its insistence upon a higher law, was there, and he
heard again the precepts which had helped to bind him to his own
children.

"Is it your intention to educate this child in the knowledge and
love of the gospel?" asked the black-gowned minister, as they stood
before him in the silent little church whither they had brought the
infant; he was reading from the form provided for such occasions.
Gerhardt answered, "Yes," and Mrs. Gerhardt added her affirmative.

"Do you engage to use all necessary care and diligence, by
prayerful instruction, admonition, example, and discipline that
this child may renounce and avoid everything that is evil and that
she may keep God's will and commandments as declared in His sacred
word?"

A thought flashed through Gerhardt's mind as the words were uttered
of how it had fared with his own children.  They, too, had been
thus sponsored.  They too, had heard his solemn pledge to care for
their spiritual welfare.  He was silent.

"We do," prompted the minister.

"We do," repeated Gerhardt and his wife weakly.

"Do you now dedicate this child by the rite of baptism unto the
Lord, who brought it."

"We do."

"And, finally, if you can conscientiously declare before God that
the faith to which you have assented is your faith, and that the
solemn promises you have made are the serious resolutions of your
heart, please to announce the same in the presence of God, by
saying 'Yes.'"

"Yes," they replied.

"I baptise thee, Wilhelmina Vesta," concluded the minister,
stretching out his hand over her, "in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Let us pray."

Gerhardt bent his grey head and followed with humble reverence the
beautiful invocation which followed:

"Almighty and everlasting God! we adore Thee as the great Parent of
the children of men, as the Father of our spirits and the Former of
our bodies.  We praise Thee for giving existence to this infant and
for preserving her until this day.  We bless Thee that she is
called to virtue and glory, that she has now been dedicated to
Thee, and brought within the pale of the Christian Church.  We
thank Thee that by the Gospel of the Son she is furnished with
everything necessary to her spiritual happiness; that it supplies
light for her mind and comfort for her heart, encouragement and
power to discharge her duty, and the precious hope of mercy and
immortality to sustain and make her faithful.  And we beseech Thee,
O most merciful God, that this child may be enlightened and
sanctified from her early years by the Holy Spirit, and be
everlastingly saved by Thy mercy.  Direct and bless Thy servants
who are intrusted with the care of her in the momentous work of her
education.  Inspire them with just conception of the absolute
necessity of religious instruction and principles.  Forbid that
they should ever forget that this offspring belongs to Thee, and
that, if through their criminal neglect or bad example Thy
reasonable creature be lost, Thou wilt require it at their hands.
Give them a deep sense of the divinity of her nature, of the worth
of her soul, of the dangers to which she will be exposed, of the
honour and felicity to which she is capable of ascending with Thy
blessing, and of the ruin in this world and the misery in the world
to come which springs from wicked passion and conduct.  Give them
grace to check the first risings of forbidden inclinations in her
breast, to be her defence against the temptations incident to
childhood and youth, and, as she grows up, to enlarge her
understanding and to lead her to an acquaintance with Thee and with
Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.  Give them grace to cultivate in
her heart a supreme reverence and love for Thee, a grateful
attachment to the Gospel of Thy Son, her Saviour, a due regard for
all its ordinances and institutions, a temper of kindness and good-
will to all mankind, and an invincible love of sincerity and truth.
Help them to watch continually over her with tender solicitude, to
be studious, that by their conversation and deportment her heart
may not be corrupted, and at all times to set before her such an
example that she may safely tread in their footsteps.  If it please
Thee to prolong her days on earth, grant that she may prove an
honour and a comfort to her parents and friends, be useful in the
world, and find in Thy Providence an unfailing defence and support.
Whether she live, let her live to Thee; or whether she die, let her
die to Thee.  And, at the great day of account, may she and her
parents meet each other with rapture and rejoice together in Thy
redeeming love, through Jesus Christ, forever and ever, Amen."

As this solemn admonition was read a feeling of obligation
descended upon the grandfather of this little outcast; a feeling
that he was bound to give the tiny creature lying on his wife's arm
the care and attention which God in His sacrament had commanded.
He bowed his head in utmost reverence, and when the service was
concluded and they left the silent church he was without words to
express his feelings.  Religion was a consuming thing with him.
God was a person, a dominant reality.  Religion was not a thing of
mere words or of interesting ideas to be listened to on Sunday, but
a strong, vital expression of the Divine Will handed down from a
time when men were in personal contact with God.  Its fulfilment
was a matter of joy and salvation with him, the one consolation of
a creature sent to wander in a vale whose explanation was not here
but in heaven.  Slowly Gerhardt walked on, and as he brooded on the
words and the duties which the sacrament involved the shade of
lingering disgust that had possessed him when he had taken the
child to church disappeared and a feeling of natural affection took
its place.  However much the daughter had sinned, the infant was
not to blame.  It was a helpless, puling, tender thing, demanding
his sympathy and his love.  Gerhardt felt his heart go out to the
little child, and yet he could not yield his position all in a
moment.

"That is a nice man," he said of the minister to his wife as they
walked along, rapidly softening in his conception of his duty.

"Yes, he was," agreed Mrs. Gerhardt timidly.

"It's a good-sized little church," he continued.

"Yes."

Gerhardt looked around him, at the street, the houses, the show of
brisk life on this sunshiny, winter's day, and then finally at the
child that his wife was carrying.

"She must be heavy," he said, in his characteristic German.  "Let
me take her."

Mrs. Gerhardt, who was rather weary, did not refuse.

"There!" he said, as he looked at her and then fixed her
comfortably upon his shoulder.  "Let us hope she proves worthy of
all that has been done to-day."

Mrs. Gerhardt listened, and the meaning in his voice interpreted
itself plainly enough.  The presence of the child in the house
might be the cause of recurring spells of depression and unkind
words, but there would be another and greater influence restraining
him.  There would always be her soul to consider.  He would never
again be utterly unconscious of her soul.



CHAPTER XVI


During the remainder of Gerhardt's stay he was shy in Jennie's
presence and endeavoured to act as though he were unconscious of
her existence.  When the time came for parting, he even went away
without bidding her good-bye, telling his wife she might do that
for him; but after he was actually on his way back to Youngstown he
regretted the omission.  "I might have bade her good-bye," he
thought to himself as the train rumbled heavily along.  But it was
too late.

For the time being the affairs of the Gerhardt family drifted.
Jennie continued her work with Mrs. Bracebridge.  Sebastian fixed
himself firmly in his clerkship in the cigar store.  George was
promoted to the noble sum of three dollars, and then three-fifty.
It was a narrow, humdrum life the family led.  Coal, groceries,
shoes, and clothing were the uppermost topics of their conversation;
every one felt the stress and strain of trying to make ends meet.

That which worried Jennie most, and there were many things which
weighed upon her sensitive soul, was the outcome of her own life--
not so much for herself as for her baby and the family.  She could
not really see where she fitted in.  "Who would have me?" she asked
herself over and over.  "How was she to dispose of Vesta in the
event of a new love affair?"  Such a contingency was quite
possible.  She was young, good-looking, and men were inclined to
flirt with her, or rather to attempt it.  The Bracebridges
entertained many masculine guests, and some of them had made
unpleasant overtures to her.

"My dear, you're a very pretty girl," said one old rake of fifty-
odd when she knocked at his door one morning to give him a message
from his hostess.

"I beg your pardon," she said, confusedly, and coloured.

"Indeed, you're quite sweet.  And you needn't beg my pardon.  I'd
like to talk to you some time."

He attempted to chuck her under the chin, but Jennie hurried away.
She would have reported the matter to her mistress but a nervous
shame deterred her.  "Why would men always be doing this?" she
thought.  Could it be because there was something innately bad
about her, an inward corruption that attracted its like?

It is a curious characteristic of the non-defensive disposition
that it is like a honey-jar to flies.  Nothing is brought to it and
much is taken away.  Around a soft, yielding, unselfish disposition
men swarm naturally.  They sense this generosity, this non-
protective attitude from afar.  A girl like Jennie is like a
comfortable fire to the average masculine mind; they gravitate to
it, seek its sympathy, yearn to possess it.  Hence she was annoyed
by many unwelcome attentions.

One day there arrived from Cincinnati a certain Lester Kane, the
son of a wholesale carriage builder of great trade distinction in
that city and elsewhere throughout the country, who was wont to
visit this house frequently in a social way.  He was a friend of
Mrs. Bracebridge more than of her husband, for the former had been
raised in Cincinnati and as a girl had visited at his father's
house.  She knew his mother, his brother and sisters and to all
intents and purposes socially had always been considered one of the
family.

"Lester's coming to-morrow, Henry," Jennie heard Mrs. Bracebridge
tell her husband.  "I had a wire from him this noon.  He's such a
scamp.  I'm going to give him the big east front room upstairs.  Be
sociable and pay him some attention.  His father was so good to
me."

"I know it," said her husband calmly.  "I like Lester.  He's the
biggest one in that family.  But he's too indifferent.  He doesn't
care enough."

"I know, but he's so nice.  I do think he's one of the nicest men I
ever knew."

"I'll be decent to him.  Don't I always do pretty well by your
people?"

"Yes, pretty well."

"Oh, I don't know about that," he replied dryly.

When this notable person arrived Jennie was prepared to see some
one of more than ordinary importance, and she was not disappointed.
There came into the reception-hall to greet her mistress a man of
perhaps thirty-six years of age, above the medium in height, clear-
eyed, firm-jawed, athletic, direct, and vigorous.  He had a deep,
resonant voice that carried clearly everywhere; people somehow used
to stop and listen whether they knew him or not.  He was simple and
abrupt in his speech.

"Oh, there you are," he began.  "I'm glad to see you again.  How's
Mr. Bracebridge?  How's Fannie?"

He asked his questions forcefully, whole-heartedly, and his hostess
answered with an equal warmth.  "I'm glad to see you, Lester," she
said.  "George will take your things upstairs.  Come up into my
room.  It's more comfy.  How are grandpa and Louise?"

He followed her up the stairs, and Jennie, who had been standing at
the head of the stairs listening, felt the magnetic charm of his
personality.  It seemed, why she could hardly say, that a real
personage had arrived.  The house was cheerier.  The attitude of
her mistress was much more complaisant.  Everybody seemed to feel
that something must be done for this man.

Jennie went about her work, but the impression persisted; his name
ran in her mind.  Lester Kane.  And he was from Cincinnati.  She
looked at him now and then on the sly, and felt, for the first time
in her life, an interest in a man on his own account.  He was so
big, so handsome, so forceful.  She wondered what his business was.
At the same time she felt a little dread of him.  Once she caught
him looking at her with a steady, incisive stare.  She quailed
inwardly, and took the first opportunity to get out of his
presence.  Another time he tried to address a few remarks to her,
but she pretended that her duties called her away.  She knew that
often his eyes were on her when her back was turned, and it made
her nervous.  She wanted to run away from him, although there was
no very definite reason why she should do so.

As a matter of fact, this man, so superior to Jennie in wealth,
education, and social position, felt an instinctive interest in her
unusual personality.  Like the others, he was attracted by the
peculiar softness of her disposition and her pre-eminent
femininity.  There was that about her which suggested the luxury of
love.  He felt as if somehow she could be reached--why, he could
not have said.  She did not bear any outward marks of her previous
experience.  There were no evidences of coquetry about her, but
still he "felt that he might."  He was inclined to make the venture
on his first visit, but business called him away; he left after
four days and was absent from Cleveland for three weeks.  Jennie
thought he was gone for good, and she experienced a queer sense of
relief as well as of regret.  Then, suddenly, he returned.  He came
apparently unexpectedly, explaining to Mrs. Bracebridge that
business interests again demanded his presence in Cleveland.  As he
spoke he looked at Jennie sharply, and she felt as if somehow his
presence might also concern her a little.

On this second visit she had various opportunities of seeing him,
at breakfast, where she sometimes served, at dinner, when she could
see the guests at the table from the parlour or sitting-room, and
at odd times when he came to Mrs. Bracebridge's boudoir to talk
things over.  They were very friendly.

"Why don't you settle down, Lester, and get married?" Jennie heard
her say to him the second day he was there.  "You know it's time."

"I know," he replied, "but I'm in no mood for that.  I want to
browse around a little while yet."

"Yes, I know about your browsing.  You ought to be ashamed of
yourself.  Your father is really worried."

He chuckled amusedly.  "Father doesn't worry much about me.  He has
got all he can attend to to look after the business."

Jennie looked at him curiously.  She scarcely understood what she
was thinking, but this man drew her.  If she had realised in what
way she would have fled his presence then and there.

Now he was more insistent in his observation of her--addressed an
occasional remark to her--engaged her in brief, magnetic
conversations.  She could not help answering him--he was pleasing
to her.  Once he came across her in the hall on the second floor
searching in a locker for some linen.  They were all alone, Mrs.
Bracebridge having gone out to do some morning shopping and the
other servants being below stairs.  On this occasion he made short
work of the business.  He approached her in a commanding,
unhesitating, and thoroughly determined way.

"I want to talk to you," he said.  "Where do you live?"

"I--I--" she stammered, and blanched perceptibly.  "I live out on
Lorrie Street."

"What number?" he questioned, as though she were compelled to tell
him.

She quailed and shook inwardly.  "Thirteen fourteen," she replied
mechanically.

He looked into her big, soft-blue eyes with his dark, vigorous
brown ones.  A flash that was hypnotic, significant, insistent
passed between them.

"You belong to me," he said.  "I've been looking for you.  When can
I see you?"

"Oh, you mustn't," she said, her fingers going nervously to her
lips.  "I can't see you--I--I--"

"Oh, I mustn't, mustn't I?  Look here"--he took her arm and drew
her slightly closer--"you and I might as well understand each other
right now.  I like you.  Do you like me?  Say?"

She looked at him, her eyes wide, filled with wonder, with fear,
with a growing terror.

"I don't know," she gasped, her lips dry.

"Do you?"  He fixed her grimly, firmly with his eyes.

"I don't know."

"Look at me," he said.

"Yes," she replied.

He pulled her to him quickly.  "I'll talk to you later," he said,
and put his lips masterfully to hers.

She was horrified, stunned, like a bird in the grasp of a cat; but
through it all something tremendously vital and insistent was
speaking to her.  He released her with a short laugh.  "We won't do
any more of this here, but, remember, you belong to me," he said,
as he turned and walked nonchalantly down the hall.  Jennie, in
sheer panic, ran to her mistress's room and locked the door behind
her.



CHAPTER XVII


The shock of this sudden encounter was so great to Jennie that she
was hours in recovering herself.  At first she did not understand
clearly just what had happened.  Out of clear sky, as it were, this
astonishing thing had taken place.  She had yielded herself to
another man.  Why?  Why? she asked herself, and yet within her own
consciousness there was an answer.  Though she could not explain
her own emotions, she belonged to him temperamentally and he
belonged to her.

There is a fate in love and a fate in fight.  This strong,
intellectual bear of a man, son of a wealthy manufacturer,
stationed, so far as material conditions were concerned, in a
world immensely superior to that in which Jennie moved, was,
nevertheless, instinctively, magnetically, and chemically drawn to
this poor serving-maid.  She was his natural affinity, though he
did not know it--the one woman who answered somehow the biggest
need of his nature.  Lester Kane had known all sorts of women, rich
and poor, the highly bred maidens of his own class, the daughters
of the proletariat, but he had never yet found one who seemed to
combine for him the traits of an ideal woman--sympathy, kindliness
of judgment, youth, and beauty.  Yet this ideal remained fixedly
seated in the back of his brain--when the right woman appeared he
intended to take her.  He had the notion that, for purposes of
marriage, he ought perhaps to find this woman on his own plane.
For purposes of temporary happiness he might take her from
anywhere, leaving marriage, of course, out of the question.  He had
no idea of making anything like a serious proposal to a servant-
girl.  But Jennie was different.  He had never seen a servant quite
like her.  And she was lady-like and lovely without appearing to
know it.  Why, this girl was a rare flower.  Why shouldn't he try
to seize her?  Let us be just to Lester Kane; let us try to
understand him and his position.  Not every mind is to be estimated
by the weight of a single folly; not every personality is to be
judged by the drag of a single passion.  We live in an age in which
the impact of materialised forces is well-nigh irresistible: the
spiritual nature is overwhelmed by the shock.  The tremendous and
complicated development of our material civilisation, the
multiplicity, and variety of our social forms, the depth,
subtlety, and sophistry of our imaginative impressions, gathered,
remultiplied, and disseminated by such agencies as the railroad,
the express and the post office, the telephone, the telegraph,
the newspaper, and, in short, the whole machinery of social
intercourse--these elements of existence combine to produce what
may be termed a kaleidoscopic glitter, a dazzling and confusing
phantasmagoria of life that wearies and stultifies the mental and
moral nature.  It induces a sort of intellectual fatigue through
which we see the ranks of the victims of insomnia, melancholia, and
insanity constantly recruited.  Our modern brain-pan does not seem
capable as yet of receiving, sorting, and storing the vast army of
facts and impressions which present themselves daily.  The white
light of publicity is too white.  We are weighed upon by too many
things.  It is as if the wisdom of the infinite were struggling to
beat itself into finite and cup-big minds.

Lester Kane was the natural product of these untoward conditions.
His was a naturally observing mind, Rabelaisian in its strength and
tendencies, but confused by the multiplicity of things, the
vastness of the panorama of life, the glitter of its details, the
unsubstantial nature of its forms, the uncertainty of their
justification.  Born a Catholic, he was no longer a believer in the
divine inspiration of Catholicism; raised a member of the social
elect, he had ceased to accept the fetish that birth and station
presuppose any innate superiority; brought up as the heir to a
comfortable fortune and expected to marry in his own sphere, he was
by no means sure that he wanted marriage on any terms.  Of course
the conjugal state was an institution.  It was established.  Yes,
certainly.  But what of it?  The whole nation believed in it.
True, but other nations believed in polygamy.  There were other
questions that bothered him--such questions as the belief in a
single deity or ruler of the universe, and whether a republican,
monarchial, or aristocratic form of government were best.  In
short, the whole body of things material, social, and spiritual had
come under the knife of his mental surgery and had been left but
half dissected.  Life was not proved to him.  Not a single idea of
his, unless it were the need of being honest, was finally settled.
In all other things he wavered, questioned, procrastinated, leaving
to time and to the powers back of the universe the solution of the
problem that vexed him.  Yes, Lester Kane was the natural product
of a combination of elements--religious, commercial, social--
modified by that pervading atmosphere of liberty in our national
life which is productive of almost uncounted freedom of thought and
action.  Thirty-six years of age, and apparently a man of vigorous,
aggressive, and sound personality, he was, nevertheless, an
essentially animal-man, pleasantly veneered by education and
environment.  Like the hundreds of thousands of Irishmen who in his
father's day had worked on the railroad tracks, dug in the mines,
picked and shovelled in the ditches, and carried up bricks and
mortar on the endless structures of a new land, he was strong,
hairy, axiomatic, and witty.

"Do you want me to come back here next year?" he had asked of
Brother Ambrose, when, in his seventeenth year, that ecclesiastical
member was about to chastise him for some school-boy misdemeanour.

The other stared at him in astonishment.  "Your father will have to
look after that," he replied.

"Well, my father won't look after it," Lester returned.  "If you
touch me with that whip I'll take things into my own hands.  I'm
not committing any punishable offences, and I'm not going to be
knocked around any more."

Words, unfortunately, did not avail in this case, but a good
vigorous Irish-American wrestle did, in which the whip was broken
and the discipline of the school so far impaired that he was
compelled to take his clothes and leave.  After that he looked his
father in the eye and told him that he was not going to school any
more.

"I'm perfectly willing to jump in and work," he explained.
"There's nothing in a classical education for me.  Let me go into
the office, and I guess I'll pick up enough to carry me through."

Old Archibald Kane, keen, single-minded, of unsullied commercial
honour, admired his son's determination, and did not attempt to
coerce him.

"Come down to the office," he said; "perhaps there is something you
can do."

Entering upon a business life at the age of eighteen, Lester had
worked faithfully, rising in his father's estimation, until now he
had come to be, in a way, his personal representative.  Whenever
there was a contract to be entered upon, an important move to be
decided, or a representative of the manufactory to be sent anywhere
to consumate a deal, Lester was the agent selected.  His father
trusted him implicitly, and so diplomatic and earnest was he in the
fulfilment of his duties that this trust had never been impaired.

"Business is business," was a favourite axiom with him, and the
very tone in which he pronounced the words was a reflex of his
character and personality.

There were molten forces in him, flames which burst forth now and
then in spite of the fact that he was sure that he had them under
control.  One of these impulses was a taste for liquor, of which he
was perfectly sure he had the upper hand.  He drank but very
little, he thought, and only, in a social way, among friends; never
to excess.  Another weakness lay in his sensual nature; but here
again he believed he was the master.  If he chose to have irregular
relations with women, he was capable of deciding where the danger
point lay.  If men were only guided by a sense of the brevity
inherent in all such relationships there would not be so many
troublesome consequences growing out of them.  Finally, he
flattered himself that he had a grasp upon a right method of
living, a method which was nothing more than a quiet acceptance of
social conditions as they were, tempered by a little personal
judgment as to the right and wrong of individual conduct.  Not to
fuss and fume, not to cry out about anything, not to be mawkishly
sentimental; to be vigorous and sustain your personality intact--
such was his theory of life, and he was satisfied that it was a
good one.

As to Jennie, his original object in approaching her had been
purely selfish.  But now that he had asserted his masculine
prerogatives, and she had yielded, at least in part, he began to
realise that she was no common girl, no toy of the passing hour.
There is a time in some men's lives when they unconsciously begin
to view feminine youth and beauty not so much in relation to the
ideal happiness, but rather with regard to the social conventions
by which they are environed.

"Must it be?" they ask themselves, in speculating concerning the
possibility of taking a maiden to wife, "that I shall be compelled
to swallow the whole social code, make a covenant with society,
sign a pledge of abstinence, and give to another a life interest in
all my affairs, when I know too well that I am but taking to my
arms a variable creature like myself, whose wishes are apt to
become insistent and burdensome in proportion to the decrease of
her beauty and interest?"  These are the men, who, unwilling to
risk the manifold contingencies of an authorised connection, are
led to consider the advantages of a less-binding union, a temporary
companionship.  They seek to seize the happiness of life without
paying the cost of their indulgence.  Later on, they think, the
more definite and conventional relationship may be established
without reproach or the necessity of radical readjustment.

Lester Kane was past the youthful love period, and he knew it.  The
innocence and unsophistication of younger ideals had gone.  He
wanted the comfort of feminine companionship, but he was more and
more disinclined to give up his personal liberty in order to obtain
it.  He would not wear the social shackles if it were possible to
satisfy the needs of his heart and nature and still remain free and
unfettered.  Of course he must find the right woman, and in Jennie
he believed that he had discovered her.  She appealed to him on
every side; he had never known anybody quite like her.  Marriage
was not only impossible but unnecessary.  He had only to say "Come"
and she must obey; it was her destiny.

Lester thought the matter over calmly, dispassionately.  He
strolled out to the shabby street where she lived; he looked at the
humble roof that sheltered her.  Her poverty, her narrow and
straightened environment touched his heart.  Ought he not to treat
her generously, fairly, honourably?  Then the remembrance of her
marvellous beauty swept over him and changed his mood.  No, he must
possess her if he could--to-day, quickly, as soon as possible.  It
was in that frame of mind that he returned to Mrs. Bracebridge's
home from his visit to Lorrie Street.



CHAPTER XVIII


Jennie was now going through the agony of one who has a varied and
complicated problem to confront.  Her baby, her father, her
brothers, and her sisters all rose up to confront her.  What was
this thing that she was doing?  Was she allowing herself to slip
into another wretched, unsanctified relationship?  How was she to
explain to her family about this man?  He would not marry her, that
was sure, if he knew all about her.  He would not marry her,
anyhow, a man of his station and position.  Yet here she was
parleying with him.  What ought she to do?  She pondered over the
problem until evening, deciding first that it was best to run away,
but remembering painfully that she had told him where she lived.
Then she resolved that she would summon up her courage and refuse
him--tell him she couldn't, wouldn't have anything to do with him.
This last solution of the difficulty seemed simple enough--in his
absence.  And she would find work where he could not follow her up
so easily.  It all seemed simple enough as she put on her things in
the evening to go home.

Her aggressive lover, however, was not without his own conclusion
in this matter.  Since leaving Jennie he had thought concisely and
to the point.  He came to the decision that he must act at once.
She might tell her family, she might tell Mrs. Bracebridge, she
might leave the city.  He wanted to know more of the conditions
which surrounded her, and there was only one way to do that--talk
to her.  He must persuade her to come and live with him.  She
would, he thought.  She admitted that she liked him.  That soft,
yielding note in her character which had originally attracted him
seemed to presage that he could win her without much difficulty, if
he wished to try.  He decided to do so, anyhow, for truly he
desired her greatly.

At half-past five he returned to the Bracebridge home to see if she
were still there.  At six he had an opportunity to say to her,
unobserved, "I am going to walk home with you.  Wait for me at the
next corner, will you?"

"Yes," she said, a sense of compulsion to do his bidding seizing
her.  She explained to herself afterward that she ought to talk to
him, that she must tell him finally of her decision not to see him
again, and this was as good an opportunity as any.  At half-past
six he left the house on a pretext--a forgotten engagement--and a
little after seven he was waiting for her in a closed carriage near
the appointed spot.  He was calm, absolutely satisfied as to the
result, and curiously elated beneath a sturdy, shock-proof
exterior.  It was as if he breathed some fragrant perfume, soft,
grateful, entrancing.

A few minutes after eight he saw Jennie coming along.  The flare of
the gas-lamp was not strong, but it gave sufficient light for his
eyes to make her out.  A wave of sympathy passed over him, for
there was a great appeal in her personality.  He stepped out as she
neared the corner and confronted her.  "Come," he said, "and get in
this carriage with me.  I'll take you home."

"No," she replied.  "I don't think I ought to."

"Come with me.  I'll take you home.  It's a better way to talk."

Once more that sense of dominance on his part, that power of
compulsion.  She yielded, feeling all the time that she should not;
he called out to the cabman, "Anywhere for a little while."  When
she was seated beside him he began at once.

"Listen to me, Jennie, I want you.  Tell me something about
yourself."

"I have to talk to you," she replied, trying to stick to her
original line of defence.

"About what?" he inquired, seeking to fathom her expression in the
half light.

"I can't go on this way," she murmured nervously.  "I can't act
this way.  You don't know how it all is.  I shouldn't have done
what I did this morning.  I mustn't see you any more.  Really I
mustn't."

"You didn't do what you did this morning," he remarked, 
paradoxically, seizing on that one particular expression.  "I did
that.  And as for seeing me any more, I'm going to see you."  He
seized her hand.  "You don't know me, but I like you.  I'm crazy
about you, that's all.  You belong to me.  Now listen.  I'm going
to have you.  Are you going to come to me?"

"No, no, no!" she replied in an agonised voice.  "I can't do
anything like that, Mr. Kane.  Please listen to me.  It can't be.
You don't know.  Oh, you don't know.  I can't do what you want.  I
don't want to.  I couldn't, even if I wanted to.  You don't know
how things are.  But I don't want to do anything wrong.  I mustn't.
I can't.  I won't.  Oh, no! no!! no!!!  Please let me go home."

He listened to this troubled, feverish outburst with sympathy, with
even a little pity.

"What do you mean by you can't?" he asked, curiously.

"Oh, I can't tell you," she replied.  "Please don't ask me.  You
oughtn't to know.  But I mustn't see you any more.  It won't do any
good."

"But you like me," he retorted.

"Oh yes, yes, I do.  I can't help that.  But you mustn't come near
me any more.  Please don't."

He turned his proposition over in his mind with the solemnity of a
judge.  He knew that this girl liked him--loved him really, brief
as their contact had been.  And he was drawn to her, perhaps not
irrevocably, but with exceeding strength.  What prevented her from
yielding, especially since she wanted to?  He was curious.

"See here, Jennie," he replied.  "I hear what you say.  I don't
know what you mean by 'can't' if you want to.  You say you like me.
Why can't you come to me?  You're my sort.  We will get along
beautifully together.  You're suited to me temperamentally.  I'd
like to have you with me.  What makes you say you can't come?"

"I can't," she replied.  "I can't.  I don't want to.  I oughtn't.
Oh, please don't ask me any more.  You don't know.  I can't tell
you why."  She was thinking of her baby.

The man had a keen sense of justice and fair play.  Above all
things he wanted to be decent in his treatment of people.  In this
case he intended to be tender and considerate, and yet he must win
her.  He turned this over in his mind.

"Listen to me," he said finally, still holding her hand.  "I may
not want you to do anything immediately.  I want you to think it
over.  But you belong to me.  You say you care for me.  You
admitted that this morning.  I know you do.  Now why should you
stand out against me?  I like you, and I can do a lot of things for
you.  Why not let us be good friends now?  Then we can talk the
rest of this over later."

"But I mustn't do anything wrong," she insisted.  "I don't want to.
Please don't come near me any more.  I can't do what you want."

"Now, look here," he said.  "You don't mean that.  Why did you say
you liked me?  Have you changed your mind?  Look at me."  (She had
lowered her eyes.)  "Look at me!  You haven't, have you?"

"Oh no, no, no," she half sobbed, swept by some force beyond her
control.

"Well, then, why stand out against me?  I love you, I tell you--I'm
crazy about you.  That's why I came back this time.  It was to see
you!"

"Was it?" asked Jennie, surprised.

"Yes, it was.  And I would have come again and again if necessary.
I tell you I'm crazy about you.  I've got to have you.  Now tell me
you'll come with me."

"No, no, no," she pleaded.  "I can't.  I must work.  I want to
work.  I don't want to do anything wrong.  Please don't ask me.
You mustn't.  You must let me go.  Really you must.  I can't do
what you want."

"Tell me, Jennie," he said, changing the subject.  "What does your
father do?"

"He's a glass-blower."

"Here in Cleveland?"

"No, he works in Youngstown."

"Is your mother alive?"

"Yes, sir."

"You live with her?"

"Yes, sir."

He smiled at the "sir."

"Don't say 'sir' to me, sweet!" he pleaded in his gruff way.  "And
don't insist on the MR. Kane.  I'm not 'mister' to you any more.
You belong to me, little girl, me."  And he pulled her close to
him.

"Please don't, Mr. Kane," she pleaded.  "Oh, please don't.  I
can't!  I can't!  You mustn't."

But he sealed her lips with his own.

"Listen to me, Jennie," he repeated, using his favourite expression.
"I tell you you belong to me.  I like you better every moment.  I
haven't had a chance to know you.  I'm not going to give you up.
You've got to come to me eventually.  And I'm not going to have you
working as a lady's maid.  You can't stay in that place except for
a little while.  I'm going to take you somewhere else. And I'm
going to leave you some money, do you hear?  You have to take it."

At the word money she quailed and withdrew her hand.

"No, no, no!" she repeated.  "No, I won't take it."

"Yes, you will.  Give it to your mother.  I'm not trying to buy
you.  I know what you think.  But I'm not.  I want to help you.  I
want to help your family.  I know where you live.  I saw the place
to-day.  How many are there of you?"

"Six," she answered faintly.

"The families of the poor," he thought.

"Well, you take this from me," he insisted, drawing a purse from
his coat.  "And I'll see you very soon again.  There's no escape,
sweet."

"No, no," she protested.  "I won't.  I don't need it.  No, you
mustn't ask me."

He insisted further, but she was firm, and finally he put the money
away.

"One thing is sure, Jennie, you're not going to escape me," he said
soberly.  "You'll have to come to me eventually.  Don't you know
you will?  Your own attitude shows that.  I'm not going to leave
you alone."

"Oh, if you knew the trouble you're causing me."

"I'm not causing you any real trouble, am I?" he asked.  "Surely
not."

"Yes.  I can never do what you want."

"You will!  You will!" he exclaimed eagerly, the bare thought of
this prize escaping him heightening his passion.  "You'll come to
me."  And he drew her close in spite of all her protests.

"There," he said when, after the struggle, that mystic something
between them spoke again, and she relaxed.  Tears were in her eyes,
but he did not see them.  "Don't you see how it is?  You like me
too."

"I can't," she repeated, with a sob.

Her evident distress touched him.  "You're not crying, little girl,
are you?" he asked.

She made no answer.

"I'm sorry," he went on.  "I'll not say anything more to-night.
We're almost at your home.  I'm leaving tomorrow, but I'll see you
again.  Yes, I will, sweet.  I can't give you up now.  I'll do
anything in reason to make it easy for you, but I can't, do you
hear?"

She shook her head.

"Here's where you get out," he said, as the carriage drew up near
the corner.  He could see the evening lamp gleaming behind the
Gerhardt cottage curtains.

"Good-bye," he said as she stepped out.

"Good-bye," she murmured.

"Remember," he said, "this is just the beginning."

"Oh no, no!" she pleaded.

He looked after her as she walked away.

"The beauty!" he exclaimed.

Jennie stepped into the house weary, discouraged, ashamed.  What
had she done?  There was no denying that she had compromised
herself irretrievably.  He would come back.

He would come back.  And he had offered her money.  That was the
worst of all.



CHAPTER XIX


The inconclusive nature of this interview, exciting as it was, did
not leave any doubt in either Lester Kane's or Jennie's mind;
certainly this was not the end of the affair.  Kane knew that he
was deeply fascinated.  This girl was lovely.  She was sweeter than
he had had any idea of.  Her hesitancy, her repeated protests, her
gentle "no, no, no" moved him as music might.  Depend upon it, this
girl was for him, and he would get her.  She was too sweet to let
go.  What did he care about what his family or the world might
think?

It was curious that Kane held the well-founded idea that in time
Jennie would yield to him physically, as she had already done
spiritually.  Just why he could not say.  Something about her--a
warm womanhood, a guileless expression of countenance--intimated a
sympathy toward sex relationship which had nothing to do with hard,
brutal immorality.  She was the kind of a woman who was made for a
man--one man.  All her attitude toward sex was bound up with love,
tenderness, service.  When the one man arrived she would love him
and she would go to him.  That was Jennie as Lester understood her.
He felt it.  She would yield to him because he was the one man.

On Jennie's part there was a great sense of complication and of
possible disaster.  If he followed her of course he would learn
all.  She had not told him about Brander, because she was still
under the vague illusion that, in the end, she might escape.  When
she left him she knew that he would come back.  She knew, in spite
of herself that she wanted him to do so.  Yet she felt that she
must not yield, she must go on leading her straitened, humdrum
life.  This was her punishment for having made a mistake.  She had
made her bed, and she must lie on it.

The Kane family mansion at Cincinnati to which Lester returned
after leaving Jennie was an imposing establishment, which
contrasted strangely with the Gerhardt home.  It was a great,
rambling, two-storey affair, done after the manner of the French
chateaux, but in red brick and brownstone.  It was set down, among
flowers and trees, in an almost park-like enclosure, and its very
stones spoke of a splendid dignity and of a refined luxury.  Old
Archibald Kane, the father, had amassed a tremendous fortune, not
by grabbing and brow-beating and unfair methods, but by seeing a
big need and filling it.  Early in life he had realised that
America was a growing country.  There was going to be a big demand
for vehicles--wagons, carriages, drays--and he knew that some one
would have to supply them.  Having founded a small wagon industry,
he had built it up into a great business; he made good wagons, and
he sold them at a good profit.  It was his theory that most men
were honest; he believed that at bottom they wanted honest things,
and if you gave them these they would buy of you, and come back and
buy again and again, until you were an influential and rich man.
He believed in the measure "heaped full and running over."  All
through his life and now in his old age he enjoyed the respect and
approval of every one who knew him.  "Archibald Kane," you would
hear his competitors say, "Ah, there is a fine man.  Shrewd, but
honest.  He's a big man."

This man was the father of two sons and three daughters, all
healthy, all good-looking, all blessed with exceptional minds, but
none of them so generous and forceful as their long-living and big-
hearted sire.  Robert, the eldest, a man forty years of age, was
his father's right-hand man in financial matters, having a certain
hard incisiveness which fitted him for the somewhat sordid details
of business life.  He was of medium height, of a rather spare
build, with a high-forehead, slightly inclined to baldness, bright,
liquid-blue eyes, an eagle nose, and thin, firm, even lips.  He was
a man of few words, rather slow to action and of deep thought.  He
sat close to his father as vice-president of the big company which
occupied two whole blocks in an outlying section of the city.  He
was a strong man--a coming man, as his father well knew.

Lester, the second boy, was his father's favourite.  He was not by
any means the financier that Robert was, but he had a larger vision
of the subtleties that underlie life.  He was softer, more human,
more good-natured about everything.  And, strangely enough, old
Archibald admired and trusted him.  He knew he had the bigger
vision.  Perhaps he turned to Robert when it was a question of some
intricate financial problem, but Lester was the most loved as a
son.

Then there was Amy, thirty-two years of age, married, handsome, the
mother of one child--a boy; Imogene, twenty-eight, also married,
but as yet without children, and Louise, twenty-five, single, the
best-looking of the girls, but also the coldest and most critical.
She was the most eager of all for social distinction, the most
vigorous of all in her love of family prestige, the most desirous
that the Kane family should outshine every other.  She was proud to
think that the family was so well placed socially, and carried
herself with an air and a hauteur which was sometimes amusing,
sometimes irritating to Lester!  He liked her--in a way she was his
favourite sister--but he thought she might take herself with a
little less seriousness and not do the family standing any harm.

Mrs. Kane, the mother, was a quiet, refined woman, sixty years of
age, who, having come up from comparative poverty with her husband,
cared but little for social life.  But she loved her children and
her husband, and was naively proud of their position and
attainments.  It was enough for her to shine only in their
reflected glory.  A good woman, a good wife, and a good mother.

Lester arrived at Cincinnati early in the evening, and drove at
once to his home.  An old Irish servitor met him at the door.

"Ah, Mr. Lester," he began, joyously, "sure I'm glad to see you
back.  I'll take your coat.  Yes, yes, it's been fine weather we're
having.  Yes, yes, the family's all well.  Sure your sister Amy is
just after leavin' the house with the boy.  Your mother's upstairs
in her room.  Yes, yes."

Lester smiled cheerily and went up to his mother's room.  In this,
which was done in white and gold and overlooked the garden to the
south and east, sat Mrs. Kane, a subdued, graceful, quiet woman,
with smoothly laid grey hair.  She looked up when the door opened,
laid down the volume that she had been reading, and rose to greet
him.

"There you are, Mother," he said, putting his arms around her and
kissing her.  "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm just about the same, Lester.  How have you been?"

"Fine.  I was up with the Bracebridges for a few days again.  I had
to stop off in Cleveland to see Parsons.  They all asked after
you."

"How is Minnie?"

"Just the same.  She doesn't change any that I can see.  She's just
as interested in entertaining as she ever was."

"She's a bright girl," remarked his mother, recalling Mrs.
Bracebridge as a girl in Cincinnati, "I always liked her.  She's so
sensible."

"She hasn't lost any of that, I can tell you," replied Lester
significantly.  Mrs. Kane smiled and went on to speak of various
family happenings.  Imogene's husband was leaving for St. Louis on
some errand.  Robert's wife was sick with a cold.  Old Zwingle, the
yard watchman at the factory, who had been with Mr. Kane for over
forty years, had died.  Her husband was going to the funeral.
Lester listened dutifully, albeit a trifle absently.

Lester, as he walked down the hall, encountered Louise.  "Smart,"
was the word for her.  She was dressed in a beaded black silk
dress, fitting close to her form, with a burst of rubies at her
throat which contrasted effectively with her dark complexion and
black hair.  Her eyes were black and piercing.

"Oh, there you are, Lester," she exclaimed.  "When did you get in?
Be careful how you kiss me.  I'm going out, and I'm all fixed, even
to the powder on my nose.  Oh, you bear!"  Lester had gripped her
firmly and kissed her soundly.  She pushed him away with her strong
hands.

"I didn't brush much of it off," he said.  "You can always dust
more on with that puff of yours."  He passed on to his own room to
dress for dinner.  Dressing for dinner was a custom that had been
adopted by the Kane family in the last few years.  Guests had
become so common that in a way it was a necessity, and Louise, in
particular, made a point of it.  To-night Robert was coming, and
Mr. and Mrs. Burnett, old friends of his father and mother, and so,
of course, the meal would be a formal one.  Lester knew that his
father was around somewhere, but he did not trouble to look him up
now.  He was thinking of his last two days in Cleveland and
wondering when he would see Jennie again.



CHAPTER XX


As Lester came downstairs after making his toilet he found his
father in the library reading.

"Hello, Lester," he said, looking up from his paper over the top of
his glasses and extending his hand.  "Where do you come from?"

"Cleveland," replied his son, shaking hands heartily, and smiling.

"Robert tells me you've been to New York."

"Yes, I was there."

"How did you find my old friend Arnold?"

"Just about the same," returned Lester.  "He doesn't look any
older."

"I suppose not," said Archibald Kane genially, as if the report
were a compliment to his own hardy condition.  "He's been a
temperate man.  A fine old gentleman."

He led the way back to the sitting-room where they chatted over
business and home news until the chime of the clock in the hall
warned the guests upstairs that dinner had been served.  Lester sat
down in great comfort amid the splendours of the great Louis Quinze
dining-room.  He liked this homey home atmosphere--his mother and
father and his sisters--the old family friends.  So he smiled and
was exceedingly genial.

Louise announced that the Leverings were going to give a dance on
Tuesday, and inquired whether he intended to go.

"You know I don't dance," he returned dryly.  "Why should I go?"

"Don't dance.  Won't dance, you mean.  You're getting too lazy to
move.  If Robert is willing to dance occasionally I think you
might."

"Robert's got it on me in lightness," Lester replied, airily.

"And politeness," retorted Louise.

"Be that as it may," said Lester.

"Don't try to stir up a fight, Louise," observed Robert, sagely.

After dinner they adjourned to the library, and Robert talked with
his brother a little on business.  There were some contracts coming
up for revision.  He wanted to see what suggestions Lester had to
make.  Louise was going to a party, and the carriage was now
announced.  "So you are not coming?" she asked, a trifle
complainingly.

"Too tired," said Lester lightly.  "Make my excuses to Mrs.
Knowles."

"Letty Pace asked about you the other night," Louise called back
from the door.

"Kind," replied Lester.  "I'm greatly obliged."

"She's a nice girl, Lester," put in his father, who was standing
near the open fire.  "I only wish you would marry her and settle
down.  You'd have a good wife in her."

"She's charming," testified Mrs. Kane.

"What is this?" asked Lester jocularly--"a conspiracy?  You know
I'm not strong on the matrimonial business."

"And I well know it," replied his mother semi-seriously.  "I wish
you were."

Lester changed the subject.  He really could not stand for this
sort of thing any more, he told himself.  And as he thought his
mind wandered back to Jennie and her peculiar "Oh no, no!"  There
was some one that appealed to him.  That was a type of womanhood
worth while.  Not sophisticated, not self-seeking, not watched over
and set like a man-trap in the path of men, but a sweet little
girl--sweet as a flower, who was without anybody, apparently, to
watch over her.  That night in his room he composed a letter, which
he dated a week later, because he did not want to appear too urgent
and because he could not again leave Cincinnati for at least two
weeks.


"MY DEAR JENNIE,

"Although it has been a week, and I have said nothing, I have not
forgotten you--believe me.  Was the impression I gave of myself
very bad?  I will make it better from now on, for I love you,
little girl--I really do.  There is a flower on my table which
reminds me of you very much--white, delicate, beautiful.  Your
personality, lingering with me, is just that.  You are the essence
of everything beautiful to me.  It is in your power to strew
flowers in my path if you will.

"But what I want to say here is that I shall be in Cleveland on the
18th, and I shall expect to see you.  I arrive Thursday night, and
I want you to meet me in the ladies' parlour of the Dornton at noon
Friday.  Will you?  You can lunch with me.

"You see, I respect your suggestion that I should not call.  (I
will not--on condition.)  These separations are dangerous to good
friendship.  Write me that you will.  I throw myself on your
generosity.  But I can't take 'no' for an answer, not now.

"With a world of affection.

"LESTER KANE."


He sealed the letter and addressed it.  "She's a remarkable girl in
her way," he thought.  "She really is."



CHAPTER XXI


The arrival of this letter, coming after a week of silence and
after she had had a chance to think, moved Jennie deeply.  What did
she want to do?  What ought she to do?  How did she truly feel
about this man?  Did she sincerely wish to answer his letter?  If
she did so, what should she say?  Heretofore all her movements,
even the one in which she had sought to sacrifice herself for the
sake of Bass in Columbus, had not seemed to involve any one but
herself.  Now, there seemed to be others to consider--her family,
above all, her child.  The little Vesta was now eighteen months of
age; she was an interesting child; her large, blue eyes and light
hair giving promise of a comeliness which would closely approximate
that of her mother, while her mential traits indicated a clear and
intelligent mind.  Mrs. Gerhardt had become very fond of her.
Gerhardt had unbended so gradually that his interest was not even
yet clearly discernible, but he had a distinct feeling of
kindliness toward her.  And this readjustment of her father's
attitude had aroused in Jennie an ardent desire to so conduct
herself that no pain should ever come to him again.  Any new folly
on her part would not only be base ingratitude to her father, but
would tend to injure the prospects of her little one.  Her life was
a failure, she fancied, but Vesta's was a thing apart; she must do
nothing to spoil it.  She wondered whether it would not be better
to write Lester and explain everything.  She had told him that she
did not wish to do wrong.  Suppose she went on to inform him that
she had a child, and beg him to leave her in peace.  Would he obey
her?  She doubted it.  Did she really want him to take her at her
word?

The need of making this confession was a painful thing to Jennie.
It caused her to hesitate, to start a letter in which she tried to
explain, and then to tear it up.  Finally, fate intervened in the
sudden home-coming of her father, who had been seriously injured by
an accident at the glass-works in Youngstown where he worked.

It was on a Wednesday afternoon, in the latter part of August, when
a letter came from Gerhardt.  But instead of the customary fatherly
communication, written in German and enclosing the regular weekly
remittance of five dollars, there was only a brief note, written by
another hand, and explaining that the day before Gerhardt had
received a severe burn on both hands, due to the accidental
overturning of a dipper of molten glass.  The letter added that he
would be home the next morning.

"What do you think of that?" exclaimed William, his mouth wide
open.

"Poor papa!" said Veronica, tears welling up in her eyes.

Mrs. Gerhardt sat down, clasped her hands in her lap, and stared at
the floor.  "Now, what to do?" she nervously exclaimed.  The
possibility that Gerhardt was disabled for life opened long vistas
of difficulties which she had not the courage to contemplate.

Bass came home at half-past six and Jennie at eight.  The former
heard the news with an astonished face.

"Gee! that's tough, isn't it?" he exclaimed.  "Did the letter say
how bad he was hurt?"

"No," replied Mrs. Gerhardt.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it," said Bass easily.  "It won't do
any good.  We'll get along somehow.  I wouldn't worry like that if
I were you."

The truth was, he wouldn't, because his nature was wholly
different.  Life did not rest heavily upon his shoulders.  His
brain was not large enough to grasp the significance and weigh the
results of things.

"I know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, endeavouring to recover herself.  "I
can't help it, though.  To think that just when we were getting
along fairly well this new calamity should be added.  It seems
sometimes as if we were under a curse.  We have so much bad luck."

When Jennie came her mother turned to her instinctively; here was
her one stay.

"What's the matter, ma?" asked Jennie as she opened the door and
observed her mother's face.  "What have you been crying about?"

Mrs. Gerhardt looked at her, and then turned half away.

"Pa's had his hands burned," put in Bass solemnly.  "He'll be home
to-morrow."

Jennie turned and stared at him.  "His hands burned!" she
exclaimed.

"Yes," said Bass.

"How did it happen?"

"A pot of glass was turned over."

Jennie looked at her mother, and her eyes dimmed with tears.
Instinctively she ran to her and put her arms around her.

"Now, don't you cry, ma," she said, barely able to control herself.
"Don't you worry.  I know how you feel, but we'll get along.  Don't
cry now."  Then her own lips lost their evenness, and she struggled
long before she could pluck up courage to contemplate this new
disaster.  And now without volition upon her part there leaped into
her consciousness a new and subtly persistent thought.  What about
Lester's offer of assistance now?  What about his declaration of
love?  Somehow it came back to her--his affection, his personality,
his desire to help her, his sympathy, so like that which Brander
had shown when Bass was in jail.  Was she doomed to a second
sacrifice?  Did it really make any difference?  Wasn't her life a
failure already?  She thought this over as she looked at her mother
sitting there so silent, haggard, and distraught.  "What a pity,"
she thought, "that her mother must always suffer!  Wasn't it a
shame that she could never have any real happiness?"

"I wouldn't feel so badly," she said, after a time.  "Maybe pa
isn't burned so badly as we think.  Did the letter say he'd be home
in the morning?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Gerhardt, recovering herself.

They talked more quietly from now on, and gradually, as the details
were exhausted, a kind of dumb peace settled down upon the
household.

"One of us ought to go to the train to meet him in the morning,"
said Jennie to Bass.  "I will.  I guess Mrs. Bracebridge won't
mind."

"No," said Bass gloomily, "you mustn't.  I can go."

He was sour at this new fling of fate, and he looked his feelings;
he stalked off gloomily to his room and shut himself in.  Jennie
and her mother saw the others off to bed, and then sat out in the
kitchen talking.

"I don't see what's to become of us now," said Mrs. Gerhardt at
last, completely overcome by the financial complications which this
new calamity had brought about.  She looked so weak and helpless
that Jennie could hardly contain herself.

"Don't worry, mamma dear," she said, softly, a peculiar resolve
coming into her heart.  The world was wide.  There was comfort and
ease in it scattered by others with a lavish hand.  Surely, surely
misfortune could not press so sharply but that they could live!

She sat down with her mother, the difficulties of the future
seeming to approach with audible and ghastly steps.

"What do you suppose will become of us now?" repeated her mother,
who saw how her fanciful conception of this Cleveland home had
crumbled before her eyes.

"Why," said Jennie, who saw clearly and knew what could be done,
"it will be all right.  I wouldn't worry about it.  Something will
happen.  We'll get something."

She realised, as she sat there, that fate had shifted the burden of
the situation to her.  She must sacrifice herself; there was no
other way.

Bass met his father at the railway station in the morning.  He
looked very pale, and seemed to have suffered a great deal.  His
cheeks were slightly sunken and his bony profile appeared rather
gaunt.  His hands were heavily bandaged, and altogether he
presented such a picture of distress that many stopped to look at
him on the way home from the station.

"By chops," he said to Bass, "that was a burn I got.  I thought
once I couldn't stand the pain any longer.  Such pain I had!  Such
pain!  By chops!  I will never forget it."

He related just how the accident had occurred, and said that he did
not know whether he would ever be able to use his hands again.  The
thumb on his right hand and the first two fingers on the left had
been burned to the bone.  The latter had been amputated at the
first joint--the thumb he might save, but his hands would be in
danger of being stiff.

"By chops!" he added, "just at the time when I needed the money
most.  Too bad!  Too bad!"

When they reached the house, and Mrs. Gerhardt opened the door, the
old mill-worker, conscious of her voiceless sympathy, began to cry.
Mrs. Gerhardt sobbed also.  Even Bass lost control of himself for a
moment or two, but quickly recovered.  The other children wept,
until Bass called a halt on all of them.

"Don't cry now," he said cheeringly.  "What's the use of crying?
It isn't so bad as all that.  You'll be all right again.  We can
get along."

Bass's words had a soothing effect, temporarily, and, now that her
husband was home, Mrs. Gerhardt recovered her composure.  Though
his hands were bandaged, the mere fact that he could walk and was
not otherwise injured was some consolation.  He might recover the
use of his hands and be able to undertake light work again.
Anyway, they would hope for the best.

When Jennie came home that night she wanted to run to her father
and lay the treasury of her services and affection at his feet, but
she trembled lest he might be as cold to her as formerly.

Gerhardt, too, was troubled.  Never had he completely recovered
from the shame which his daughter had brought upon him.  Although
he wanted to be kindly, his feelings were so tangled that he hardly
knew what to say or do.

"Papa," said Jennie, approaching him timidly.

Gerhardt looked confused and tried to say something natural, but it
was unavailing.  The thought of his helplessness, the knowledge of
her sorrow and of his own responsiveness to her affection--it was
all too much for him; he broke down again and cried helplessly.

"Forgive me, papa," she pleaded, "I'm so sorry.  Oh, I'm so sorry."

He did not attempt to look at her, but in the swirl of feeling that
their meeting created he thought that he could forgive, and he did.

"I have prayed," he said brokenly.  "It is all right."

When he recovered himself he felt ashamed of his emotion, but a new
relationship of sympathy and of understanding had been established.
From that time, although there was always a great reserve between
them, Gerhardt tried not to ignore her completely, and she
endeavoured to show him the simple affection of a daughter, just as
in the old days.

But while the household was again at peace, there were other cares
and burdens to be faced.  How were they to get along now with five
dollars taken from the weekly budget, and with the cost of
Gerhardt's presence added?  Bass might have contributed more of his
weekly earnings, but he did not feel called upon to do it.  And so
the small sum of nine dollars weekly must meet as best it could the
current expenses of rent, food, and coal, to say nothing of
incidentals, which now began to press very heavily.  Gerhardt had
to go to a doctor to have his hands dressed daily.  George needed a
new pair of shoes.  Either more money must come from some source or
the family must beg for credit and suffer the old tortures of want.
The situation crystallised the half-formed resolve in Jennie's
mind.

Lester's letter had been left unanswered.  The day was drawing
near.  Should she write?  He would help them.  Had he not tried to
force money on her?  She finally decided that it was her duty to
avail herself of this proffered assistance.  She sat down and wrote
him a brief note.  She would meet him as he had requested, but he
would please not come to the house.  She mailed the letter, and
then waited, with mingled feelings of trepidation and thrilling
expectancy, the arrival of the fateful day.



CHAPTER XXII


The fatal Friday came, and Jennie stood face to face with this new
and overwhelming complication in her modest scheme of existence.
There was really no alternative, she thought.  Her own life was a
failure.  Why go on fighting?  If she could make her family happy,
if she could give Vesta a good education, if she could conceal the
true nature of this older story and keep Vesta in the background--
perhaps, perhaps--well, rich men had married poor girls before
this, and Lester was very kind, he certainly liked her.  At seven
o'clock she went to Mrs. Bracebridge's; at noon she excused herself
on the pretext of some work for her mother and left the house for
the hotel.

Lester, leaving Cincinnati a few days earlier than he expected, had
failed to receive her reply; he arrived at Cleveland feeling sadly
out of tune with the world.  He had a lingering hope that a letter
from Jennie might be awaiting him at the hotel, but there was no
word from her.  He was a man not easily wrought up, but to-night he
felt depressed, and so went gloomily up to his room and changed his
linen.  After supper he proceeded to drown his dissatisfaction in a
game of billiards with some friends, from whom he did not part
until he had taken very much more than his usual amount of
alcoholic stimulant.  The next morning he arose with a vague idea
of abandoning the whole affair, but as the hours elapsed and the
time of his appointment drew near he decided that it might not be
unwise to give her one last chance.  She might come.  Accordingly,
when it still lacked a quarter of an hour of the time, he went down
into the parlour.  Great was his delight when he beheld her sitting
in a chair and waiting--the outcome of her acquiescence.  He walked
briskly up, a satisfied, gratified smile on his face.

"So you did come after all," he said, gazing at her with the look
of one who has lost and recovered a prize.  "What do you mean by
not writing me?  I thought from the way you neglected me that you
had made up your mind not to come at all."

"I did write," she replied.

"Where?"

"To the address you gave me.  I wrote three days ago."

"That explains it.  It came too late.  You should have written me
before.  How have you been?"

"Oh, all right," she replied.

"You don't look it!" he said.  "You look worried.  What's the
trouble, Jennie?  Nothing gone wrong out at your house, has there?"

It was a fortuitous question.  He hardly knew why he had asked it.
Yet it opened the door to what she wanted to say.

"My father's sick," she replied.

"What's happened to him?"

"He burned his hands at the glass-works.  We've been terribly
worried.  It looks as though he would not be able to use them any
more."

She paused, looking the distress she felt, and he saw plainly that
she was facing a crisis.

"That's too bad," he said.  "That certainly is.  When did this
happen?"

"Oh, almost three weeks ago now."

"It certainly is bad.  Come into lunch, though.  I want to talk
with you.  I've been wanting to get a better understanding of your
family affairs ever since I left."  He led the way into the dining-
room and selected a secluded table.  He tried to divert her mind by
asking her to order the luncheon, but she was too worried and too
shy to do so and he had to make out the menu by himself.  Then he
turned to her with a cheering air.  "Now, Jennie," he said, "I want
you to tell me all about your family.  I got a little something of
it last time, but I want to get it straight.  Your father, you
said, was a glass-blower by trade.  Now he can't work any more at
that, that's obvious."

"Yes," she said.

"How many other children are there?"

"Six."

"Are you the oldest?"

"No, my brother Sebastian is.  He's twenty-two."

"And what does he do?"

"He's a clerk in a cigar store."

"Do you know how much he makes?"

"I think it's twelve dollars," she replied thoughtfully.

"And the other children?"

"Martha and Veronica don't do anything yet.  They're too young.  My
brother George works at Wilson's.  He's a cash-boy.  He gets three
dollars and a half."

"And how much do you make?"

"I make four."

He stopped, figuring up mentally just what they had to live on.
"How much rent do you pay?" he continued.

"Twelve dollars."

"How old is your mother?"

"She's nearly fifty now."

He turned a fork in his hands back and forth; he was thinking
earnestly.

"To tell you the honest truth, I fancied it was something like
that, Jennie," he said.  "I've been thinking about you a lot.  Now,
I know.  There's only one answer to your problem, and it isn't such
a bad one, if you'll only believe me."  He paused for an inquiry,
but she made none.  Her mind was running on her own difficulties.

"Don't you want to know?" he inquired.

"Yes," she answered mechanically.

"It's me," he replied.  "You have to let me help you.  I wanted to
last time.  Now you have to; do you hear?"

"I thought I wouldn't," she said simply.

"I knew what you thought," he replied.  "That's all over now.  I'm
going to 'tend to that family of yours.  And I'll do it right now
while I think of it."

He drew out his purse and extracted several ten and twenty-dollar
bills--two hundred and fifty dollars in all.  "I want you to take
this," he said.  "It's just the beginning.  I will see that your
family is provided for from now on.  Here, give me your hand."

"Oh no," she said.  "Not so much.  Don't give me all that."

"Yes," he replied.  "Don't argue.  Here.  Give me your hand."

She put it out in answer to the summons of his eyes, and he shut
her fingers on the money, pressing them gently at the same time.
"I want you to have it, sweet.  I love you, little girl.  I'm not
going to see you suffer, nor any one belonging to you."

Her eyes looked a dumb thankfulness, and she bit her lips.

"I don't know how to thank you," she said.

"You don't need to," he replied.  "The thanks are all the other
way--believe me."

He paused and looked at her, the beauty of her face holding him.
She looked at the table, wondering what would come next.

"How would you like to leave what you're doing and stay at home?"
he asked.  "That would give you your freedom day times."

"I couldn't do that," she replied.  "Papa wouldn't allow it.  He
knows I ought to work."

"That's true enough," he said.  "But there's so little in what
you're doing.  Good heavens!  Four dollars a week!  I would be glad
to give you fifty times that sum if I thought there was any way in
which you could use it."  He idly thrummed the cloth with his
fingers.

"I couldn't," she said.  "I hardly know how to use this.  They'll
suspect.  I'll have to tell mamma."

From the way she said it he judged there must be some bond of
sympathy between her and her mother which would permit of a
confidence such as this.  He was by no means a hard man, and the
thought touched him.  But he would not relinquish his purpose.

"There's only one thing to be done, as far as I can see," he went
on very gently.  "You're not suited for the kind of work you're
doing.  You're too refined.  I object to it.  Give it up and come
with me down to New York; I'll take good care of you.  I love you
and want you.  As far as your family is concerned, you won't have
to worry about them any more.  You can take a nice home for them
and furnish it in any style you please.  Wouldn't you like that?"

He paused, and Jennie's thoughts reverted quickly to her mother,
her dear mother.  All her life long Mrs. Gerhardt had been talking
of this very thing--a nice home.  If they could just have a larger
house, with good furniture and a yard filled with trees, how happy
she would be.  In such a home she would be free of the care of
rent, the discomfort of poor furniture, the wretchedness of
poverty; she would be so happy.  She hesitated there while his keen
eye followed her in spirit, and he saw what a power he had set in
motion.  It had been a happy inspiration--the suggestion of a
decent home for the family.  He waited a few minutes longer, and
then said:

"Well, wouldn't you better let me do that?"

"It would be very nice," she said, "but it can't be done now.  I
couldn't leave home.  Papa would want to know all about where I was
going.  I wouldn't know what to say."

"Why couldn't you pretend that you are going down to New York with
Mrs. Bracebridge?" he suggested.  "There couldn't be any objection
to that, could there?"

"Not if they didn't find out," she said, her eyes opening in
amazement.  "But if they should!"

"They won't," he replied calmly.  "They're not watching Mrs.
Bracebridge's affairs.  Plenty of mistresses take their maids on
long trips.  Why not simply tell them you're invited to go--have to
go--and then go?"

"Do you think I could?" she inquired.

"Certainly," he replied.  "What is there peculiar about that?"

She thought it over, and the plan did seem feasible.  Then she
looked at this man and realised that relationship with him meant
possible motherhood for her again.  The tragedy of giving birth to
a child--ah, she could not go through that a second time, at least
under the same conditions.  She could not bring herself to tell him
about Vesta, but she must voice this insurmountable objection.

"I--" she said, formulating the first word of her sentence, and
then stopping.

"Yes," he said.  "I--what?"

"I--"  She paused again.

He loved her shy ways, her sweet, hesitating lips.

"What is it, Jennie?" he asked helpfully.  "You're so delicious.
Can't you tell me?"

Her hand was on the table.  He reached over and laid his strong
brown one on top of it.

"I couldn't have a baby," she said, finally, and looked down.

He gazed at her, and the charm of her frankness, her innate decency
under conditions so anomalous, her simple unaffected recognition of
the primal facts of life lifted her to a plane in his esteem which
she had not occupied until that moment.

"You're a great girl, Jennie," he said.  "You're wonderful.  But
don't worry about that.  It can be arranged.  You don't need to
have a child unless you want to, and I don't want you to."

He saw the question written in her wondering, shamed face.

"It's so," he said.  "You believe me, don't you?  You think I know,
don't you?"

"Yes," she faltered.

"Well, I do.  But anyway, I wouldn't let any trouble come to you.
I'll take you away.  Besides, I don't want any children.  There
wouldn't be any satisfaction in that proposition for me at this
time.  I'd rather wait.  But there won't be--don't worry."

"Yes," she said faintly.  Not for worlds could she have met his
eyes.

"Look here, Jennie," he said, after a time.  "You care for me,
don't you?  You don't think I'd sit here and plead with you if I
didn't care for you?  I'm crazy about you, and that's the literal
truth.  You're like wine to me.  I want you to come with me.  I
want you to do it quickly.  I know how difficult this family
business is, but you can arrange it.  Come with me down to New
York.  We'll work out something later.  I'll meet your family.
We'll pretend a courtship, anything you like--only come now."

"You don't mean right away, do you?" she asked, startled.

"Yes, to-morrow if possible.  Monday sure.  You can arrange it.
Why, if Mrs. Bracebridge asked you you'd go fast enough, and no one
would think anything about it.  Isn't that so?"

"Yes," she admitted slowly.

"Well, then, why not now?"

"It's always so much harder to work out a falsehood," she replied
thoughtfully.

"I know it, but you can come.  Won't you?"

"Won't you wait a little while?" she pleaded.  "It's so very
sudden.  I'm afraid."

"Not a day, sweet, that I can help.  Can't you see how I feel?
Look in my eyes.  Will you?"

"Yes," she replied sorrowfully, and yet with a strange thrill of
affection.  "I will."



CHAPTER XXIII


The business of arranging for this sudden departure was really not
so difficult as it first appeared.  Jennie proposed to tell her
mother the whole truth, and there was nothing to say to her father
except that she was going with Mrs. Bracebridge at the latter's
request.  He might question her, but he really could not doubt.
Before going home that afternoon she accompanied Lester to a
department store, where she was fitted out with a trunk, a suit-
case, and a travelling suit and hat.  Lester was very proud of his
prize.  "When we get to New York I am going to get you some real
things," he told her.  "I am going to show you what you can be made
to look like."  He had all the purchased articles packed in the
trunk and sent to his hotel.  Then he arranged to have Jennie come
there and dress Monday for the trip which began in the afternoon.

When she came home Mrs. Gerhardt, who was in the kitchen, received
her with her usual affectionate greeting.  "Have you been working
very hard?" she asked.  "You look tired."

"No," she said, "I'm not tired.  It isn't that.  I just don't feel
good."

"What's the trouble?"

"Oh, I have to tell you something, mamma.  It's so hard."  She
paused, looking inquiringly at her mother, and then away.

"Why, what is it?" asked her mother nervously.  So many things had
happened in the past that she was always on the alert for some new
calamity.  "You haven't lost your place, have you?"

"No," replied Jennie, with an effort to maintain her mental poise,
"but I'm going to leave it."

"No!" exclaimed her mother.  "Why?"

"I'm going to New York."

Her mother's eyes opened widely.  "Why, when did you decide to do
that?" she inquired.

"To-day."

"You don't mean it!"

"Yes, I do, mamma.  Listen.  I've got something I want to tell you.
You know how poor we are.  There isn't any way we can make things
come out right.  I have found some one who wants to help us.  He
says he loves me, and he wants me to go to New York with him
Monday.  I've decided to go."

"Oh, Jennie!" exclaimed her mother.  "Surely not!  You wouldn't do
anything like that after all that's happened.  Think of your
father."

"I've thought it all out," went on Jennie, firmly.  "It's really
for the best.  He's a good man.  I know he is.  He has lots of
money.  He wants me to go with him, and I'd better go.  He will
take a new house for us when we come back and help us to get along.
No one will ever have me as a wife--you know that.  It might as
well be this way.  He loves me.  And I love him.  Why shouldn't I
go?"

"Does he know about Vesta?" asked her mother cautiously.

"No," said Jennie guiltily.  "I thought I'd better not tell him
about her.  She oughtn't to be brought into it if I can help it."

"I'm afraid you're storing up trouble for yourself, Jennie," said
her mother.  "Don't you think he is sure to find it out some time?"

"I thought maybe that she could be kept here," suggested Jennie,
"until she's old enough to go to school.  Then maybe I could send
her somewhere."

"She might," assented her mother; "but don't you think it would be
better to tell him now?  He won't think any the worse of you."

"It isn't that.  It's her," said Jennie passionately.  "I don't
want her to be brought into it."

Her mother shook her head.  "Where did you meet him?" she inquired.

"At Mrs. Bracebridge's."

"How long ago?"

"Oh, it's been almost two months now."

"And you never said anything about him," protested Mrs. Gerhardt
reproachfully.

"I didn't know that he cared for me this way," said Jennie
defensively.

"Why didn't you wait and let him come out here first?" asked her
mother.  "It will make things so much easier.  You can't go and not
have your father find out."

"I thought I'd say I was going with Mrs. Bracebridge.  Papa can't
object to my going with her."

"No," agreed her mother thoughtfully.

The two looked at each other in silence.  Mrs. Gerhardt, with her
imaginative nature, endeavoured to formulate some picture of this
new and wonderful personality that had come into Jennie's life.  He
was wealthy; he wanted to take Jennie; he wanted to give them a
good home.  What a story!

"And he gave me this," put in Jennie, who, with some instinctive
psychic faculty, had been following her mother's mood.  She opened
her dress at the neck, and took out the two hundred and fifty
dollars; she placed the money in her mother's hands.

The latter stared at it wide-eyed.  Here was the relief for all her
woes--food, clothes, rent, coal--all done up in one small package
of green and yellow bills.  If there were plenty of money in the
house Gerhardt need not worry about his burned hands; George and
Martha and Veronica could be clothed in comfort and made happy.
Jennie could dress better; there would be a future education for
Vesta.

"Do you think he might ever want to marry you?" asked her mother
finally.

"I don't know," replied Jennie, "he might.  I know he loves me."

"Well," said her mother after a long pause, "if you're going to
tell your father you'd better do it right away.  He'll think it's
strange as it is."

Jennie realised that she had won.  Her mother had acquiesced from
sheer force of circumstances.  She was sorry, but somehow it seemed
to be for the best.  "I'll help you out with it," her mother had
concluded, with a little sigh.

The difficulty of telling this lie was very great for Mrs.
Gerhardt, but she went through the falsehood with a seeming
nonchalance which allayed Gerhardt's suspicions.  The children were
also told, and when, after the general discussion, Jennie repeated
the falsehood to her father it seemed natural enough.

"How long do you think you'll be gone?" he inquired.

"About two or three weeks," she replied.

"That's a nice trip," he said.  "I came through New York in 1844.
It was a small place then compared to what it is now."

Secretly he was pleased that Jennie should have this fine chance.
Her employer must like her.

When Monday came Jennie bade her parents good-bye and left early,
going straight to the Dornton, where Lester awaited her.

"So you came," he said gaily, greeting her as she entered the
ladies' parlour.

"Yes," she said simply.

"You are my niece," he went on.  "I have engaged a room for you
near mine.  I'll call for the key, and you go dress.  When you're
ready I'll have the trunk sent to the depot.  The train leaves at
one o'clock."

She went to her room and dressed, while he fidgeted about, read,
smoked, and finally knocked at her door.

She replied by opening to him, fully clad.

"You look charming," he said with a smile.

She looked down, for she was nervous and distraught.  The whole
process of planning, lying, nerving herself to carry out her part
had been hard on her.  She looked tired and worried.

"Not grieving, are you?" he asked, seeing how things stood.

"No-o," she replied.

"Come now, sweet.  You mustn't feel this way.  It's coming out all
right."  He took her in his arms and kissed her, and they strolled
down the hall.  He was astonished to see how well she looked in
even these simple clothes--the best she had ever had.

They reached the depot after a short carriage ride.  The
accommodations had been arranged for before hand, and Kane had
allowed just enough time to make the train.  When they settled
themselves in a Pullman state-room it was with a keen sense of
satisfaction on his part.  Life looked rosy.  Jennie was beside
him.  He had succeeded in what he had started out to do.  So might
it always be.

As the train rolled out of the depot and the long reaches of the
fields succeeded Jennie studied them wistfully.  There were the
forests, leafless and bare; the wide, brown fields, wet with the
rains of winter; the low farm-houses sitting amid flat stretches of
prairie, their low roofs making them look as if they were hugging
the ground.  The train roared past little hamlets, with cottages of
white and yellow and drab, their roofs blackened by frost and rain.
Jennie noted one in particular which seemed to recall the old
neighbourhood where they used to live at Columbus; she put her
handkerchief to her eyes and began silently to cry.

"I hope you're not crying, are you, Jennie?" said Lester, looking
up suddenly from the letter he had been reading.  "Come, come," he
went on as he saw a faint tremor shaking her.  "This won't do.  You
have to do better than this.  You'll never get along if you act
that way."

She made no reply, and the depth of her silent grief filled him
with strange sympathies.

"Don't cry," he continued soothingly; "everything will be all
right.  I told you that.  You needn't worry about anything."

Jennie made a great effort to recover herself, and began to dry her
eyes.

"You don't want to give way like that," he continued.  "It doesn't
do you any good.  I know how you feel about leaving home, but tears
won't help it any.  It isn't as if you were going away for good,
you know.  Besides, you'll be going back shortly.  You care for me,
don't you, sweet?  I'm something?"

"Yes," she said, and managed to smile back at him.  Lester returned
to his correspondence and Jennie fell to thinking of Vesta.  It
troubled her to realise that she was keeping this secret from one
who was already very dear to her.  She knew that she ought to tell
Lester about the child, but she shrank from the painful necessity.
Perhaps later on she might find the courage to do it.

"I'll have to tell him something," she thought with a sudden
upwelling of feeling as regarded the seriousness of this duty.  "If
I don't do it soon and I should go and live with him and he should
find it out he would never forgive me.  He might turn me out, and
then where would I go?  I have no home now.  What would I do with
Vesta?"

She turned to contemplate him, a premonitory wave of terror
sweeping over her, but she only saw that imposing and comfort-
loving soul quietly reading his letters, his smoothly shaved red
cheek and comfortable head and body looking anything but militant
or like an avenging Nemesis.  She was just withdrawing her gaze
when he looked up.

"Well, have you washed all your sins away?" he inquired merrily.

She smiled faintly at the allusion.  The touch of fact in it made
it slightly piquant.

"I expect so," she replied.

He turned to some other topic, while she looked out of the window,
the realisation that one impulse to tell him had proved unavailing
dwelling in her mind.  "I'll have to do it shortly," she thought,
and consoled herself with the idea that she would surely find
courage before long.



Their arrival in New York the next day raised the important
question in Lester's mind as to where he should stop.  New York was
a very large place, and he was not in much danger of encountering
people who would know him, but he thought it just as well not to
take chances.  Accordingly he had the cabman drive them to one of
the more exclusive apartment hotels, where he engaged a suite of
rooms; and they settled themselves for a stay of two or three
weeks.

This atmosphere into which Jennie was now plunged was so wonderful,
so illuminating, that she could scarcely believe this was the same
world that she had inhabited before.  Kane was no lover of vulgar
display.  The appointments with which he surrounded himself were
always simple and elegant.  He knew at a glance what Jennie needed,
and bought for her with discrimination and care.  And Jennie, a
woman, took a keen pleasure in the handsome gowns and pretty
fripperies that he lavished upon her.  Could this be really Jennie
Gerhardt, the washerwoman's daughter, she asked herself, as she
gazed in her mirror at the figure of a girl clad in blue velvet,
with yellow French lace at her throat and upon her arms?  Could
these be her feet, clad in soft shapely shoes at ten dollars a
pair, these her hands adorned with flashing jewels?  What wonderful
good fortune she was enjoying!  And Lester had promised that her
mother would share in it.  Tears sprang to her eyes at the thought.
The dear mother, how she loved her!

It was Lester's pleasure in these days to see what he could do to
make her look like some one truly worthy of him.  He exercised his
most careful judgment, and the result surprised even himself.
People turned in the halls, in the dining-rooms, and on the street
to gaze at Jennie.

"A stunning woman that man has with him," was a frequent comment.

Despite her altered state Jennie did not lose her judgment of life
or her sense of perspective or proportion.  She felt as though life
were tentatively loaning her something which would be taken away
after a time.  There was no pretty vanity in her bosom.  Lester
realised this as he watched her.  "You're a big woman, in your
way," he said.  "You'll amount to something.  Life hasn't given you
much of a deal up to now."

He wondered how he could justify this new relationship to his
family, should they chance to hear about it.  If he should decide
to take a home in Chicago or St. Louis (there was such a thought
running in his mind) could he maintain it secretly?  Did he want
to?  He was half persuaded that he really, truly loved her.

As the time drew near for their return he began to counsel her as
to her future course of action.  "You ought to find some way of
introducing me, as an acquaintance, to your father," he said.  "It
will ease matters up.  I think I'll call.  Then if you tell him
you're going to marry me he'll think nothing of it."  Jennie
thought of Vesta, and trembled inwardly.  But perhaps her father
could be induced to remain silent.

Lester had made the wise suggestion that she should retain the
clothes she had worn in Cleveland in order that she might wear them
home when she reached there.  "There won't be any trouble about
this other stuff," he said.  "I'll have it cared for until we make
some other arrangement."  It was all very simple and easy; he was a
master strategist.

Jennie had written her mother almost daily since she had been East.
She had enclosed little separate notes to be read by Mrs. Gerhardt
only.  In one she explained Lester's desire to call, and urged her
mother to prepare the way by telling her father that she had met
some one who liked her.  She spoke of the difficulty concerning
Vesta, and her mother at once began to plan a campaign to have
Gerhardt hold his peace.  There must be no hitch now.  Jennie must
be given an opportunity to better herself.  When she returned there
was great rejoicing.  Of course she could not go back to her work,
but Mrs. Gerhardt explained that Mrs. Bracebridge had given Jennie
a few weeks' vacation in order that she might look for something
better, something at which she could make more money.



CHAPTER XXIV


The problem of the Gerhardt family and its relationship to himself
comparatively settled, Kane betook himself to Cincinnati and to his
business duties.  He was heartily interested in the immense plant,
which occupied two whole blocks in the outskirts of the city, and
its conduct and development was as much a problem and a pleasure to
him as to either his father or his brother.  He liked to feel that
he was a vital part of this great and growing industry.  When he
saw freight cars going by on the railroads labelled "The Kane
Manufacturing Company--Cincinnati" or chanced to notice displays of
the company's products in the windows of carriage sales companies
in the different cities he was conscious of a warm glow of
satisfaction.  It was something to be a factor in an institution so
stable, so distinguished, so honestly worth while.  This was all
very well, but now Kane was entering upon a new phase of his
personal existence--in a word, there was Jennie.  He was conscious
as he rode toward his home city that he was entering on a
relationship which might involve disagreeable consequences.  He was
a little afraid of his father's attitude; above all, there was his
brother Robert.

Robert was cold and conventional in character; an excellent
business man; irreproachable in both his public and in his private
life.  Never overstepping the strict boundaries of legal
righteousness, he was neither warm-hearted nor generous--in fact,
he would turn any trick which could be speciously, or at best
necessitously, recommended to his conscience.  How he reasoned
Lester did not know--he could not follow the ramifications of a
logic which could combine hard business tactics with moral
rigidity, but somehow his brother managed to do it.  "He's got a
Scotch Presbyterian conscience mixed with an Asiatic perception of
the main chance," Lester once told somebody, and he had the
situation accurately measured.  Nevertheless he could not rout his
brother from his positions nor defy him, for he had the public
conscience with him.  He was in line with convention practically,
and perhaps sophisticatedly.

The two brothers were outwardly friendly; inwardly they were far
apart.  Robert liked Lester well enough personally, but he did not
trust his financial judgment, and, temperamentally, they did not
agree as to how life and its affairs should be conducted.  Lester
had a secret contempt for his brother's chill, persistent chase of
the almighty dollar.  Robert was sure that Lester's easy-going ways
were reprehensible, and bound to create trouble sooner or later.
In the business they did not quarrel much--there was not so much
chance with the old gentleman still in charge--but there were
certain minor differences constantly cropping up which showed which
way the wind blew.  Lester was for building up trade through
friendly relationship, concessions, personal contact, and favours.
Robert was for pulling everything tight, cutting down the cost of
production, and offering such financial inducements as would
throttle competition.

The old manufacturer always did his best to pour oil on these
troubled waters, but he foresaw an eventual clash.  One or the
other would have to get out or perhaps both.  "If only you two boys
could agree!" he used to say.

Another thing which disturbed Lester was his father's attitude on
the subject of marriage--Lester's marriage, to be specific.
Archibald Kane never ceased to insist on the fact that Lester ought
to get married, and that he was making a big mistake in putting it
off.  All the other children, save Louise, were safely married.
Why not his favourite son?  It was doing him injury morally,
socially, commercially, that he was sure of.

"The world expects it of a man in your position," his father had
argued from time to time.  "It makes for social solidity and
prestige.  You ought to pick out a good woman and raise a family.
Where will you be when you get to my time of life if you haven't
any children, any home?"

"Well, if the right woman came along," said Lester, "I suppose I'd
marry her.  But she hasn't come along.  What do you want me to do?
Take anybody?"

"No, not anybody, of course, but there are lots of good women.  You
can surely find some one if you try.  There's that Pace girl.  What
about her?  You used to like her.  I wouldn't drift on this way,
Lester; it can't come to any good."

His son would only smile.  "There, father, let it go now.  I'll
come around some time, no doubt.  I've got to be thirsty when I'm
led to water."

The old gentleman gave over, time and again, but it was a sore
point with him.  He wanted his son to settle down and be a real man
of affairs.

The fact that such a situation as this might militate against any
permanent arrangement with Jennie was obvious even to Lester at
this time.  He thought out his course of action carefully.  Of
course he would not give Jennie up, whatever the possible
consequences.  But he must be cautious; he must take no unnecessary
risks.  Could he bring her to Cincinnati?  What a scandal if it
were ever found out!  Could he install her in a nice home somewhere
near the city?  The family would probably eventually suspect
something.  Could he take her along on his numerous business
journeys?  This first one to New York had been successful.  Would
it always be so?  He turned the question over in his mind.  The
very difficulty gave it zest.  Perhaps St. Louis, or Pittsburg, or
Chicago would be best after all.  He went to these places
frequently, and particularly to Chicago.  He decided finally that
it should be Chicago if he could arrange it.  He could always make
excuses to run up there, and it was only a night's ride.  Yes,
Chicago was best.  The very size and activity of the city made
concealment easy.  After two weeks' stay at Cincinnati, Lester
wrote Jennie that he was coming to Cleveland soon, and she answered
that she thought it would be all right for him to call and see her.
Her father had been told about him.  She had felt it unwise to stay
about the house, and so had secured a position in a store at four
dollars a week.  He smiled as he thought of her working, and yet
the decency and energy of it appealed to him.  "She's all right,"
he said.  "She's the best I've come across yet."

He ran up to Cleveland the following Saturday, and, calling at her
place of business, he made an appointment to see her that evening.
He was anxious that his introduction, as her beau, should be gotten
over with as quickly as possible.  When he did call the shabbiness
of the house and the manifest poverty of the family rather
disgusted him, but somehow Jennie seemed as sweet to him as ever.
Gerhardt came in the front-room, after he had been there a few
minutes, and shook hands with him, as did also Mrs. Gerhardt, but
Lester paid little attention to them.  The old German appeared to
him to be merely commonplace--the sort of man who was hired by
hundreds in common capacities in his father's factory.  After some
desultory conversation Lester suggested to Jennie that they should
go for a drive.  Jennie put on her hat, and together they departed.
As a matter of fact, they went to an apartment which he had hired
for the storage of her clothes.  When she returned at eight in the
evening the family considered it nothing amiss.



CHAPTER XXV


A month later Jennie was able to announce that Lester intended to
marry her.  His visits had of course paved the way for this, and it
seemed natural enough.  Only Gerhardt seemed a little doubtful.  He
did not know just how this might be.  Perhaps it was all right.
Lester seemed a fine enough man in all conscience, and really,
after Brander, why not?  If a United States Senator could fall in
love with Jennie, why not a business man?  There was just one
thing--the child.  "Has she told him about Vesta?" he asked his
wife.

"No," said Mrs. Gerhardt, "not yet."

"Not yet, not yet.  Always something underhanded.  Do you think he
wants her if he knows?  That's what comes of such conduct in the
first place.  Now she has to slip around like a thief.  The child
cannot even have an honest name."

Gerhardt went back to his newspaper reading and brooding.  His life
seemed a complete failure to him and he was only waiting to get
well enough to hunt up another job as watchman.  He wanted to get
out of this mess of deception and dishonesty.

A week or two later Jennie confided to her mother that Lester had
written her to join him in Chicago.  He was not feeling well, and
could not come to Cleveland.  The two women explained to Gerhardt
that Jennie was going away to be married to Mr. Kane.  Gerhardt
flared up at this, and his suspicions were again aroused.  But he
could do nothing but grumble over the situation; it would lead to
no good end, of that he was sure.

When the day came for Jennie's departure she had to go without
saying farewell to her father.  He was out looking for work until
late in the afternoon, and before he had returned she had been
obliged to leave for the station.  "I will write a note to him when
I get there," she said.  She kissed her baby over and over.
"Lester will take a better house for us soon," she went on
hopefully.  "He wants us to move."  The night train bore her to
Chicago; the old life had ended and the new one had begun.

The curious fact should be recorded here that, although Lester's
generosity had relieved the stress upon the family finances, the
children and Gerhardt were actually none the wiser.  It was easy
for Mrs. Gerhardt to deceive her husband as to the purchase of
necessities and she had not as yet indulged in any of the fancies
which an enlarged purse permitted.  Fear deterred her.  But, after
Jennie had been in Chicago for a few days, she wrote to her mother
saying that Lester wanted them to take a new home.  This letter was
shown to Gerhardt, who had been merely biding her return to make
a scene.  He frowned, but somehow it seemed an evidence of
regularity.  If he had not married her why should he want to help
them?  Perhaps Jennie was well married after all.  Perhaps she
really had been lifted to a high station in life, and was now able
to help the family.  Gerhardt almost concluded to forgive her
everything once and for all.

The end of it was that a new house was decided upon, and Jennie
returned to Cleveland to help her mother move.  Together they
searched the streets for a nice, quiet neighbourhood, and finally
found one.  A house of nine rooms, with a yard, which rented for
thirty dollars, was secured and suitably furnished.  There were
comfortable fittings for the dining-room and sitting-room, a
handsome parlour set and bedroom sets complete for each room.  The
kitchen was supplied with every convenience, and there was even a
bathroom, a luxury the Gerhardts had never enjoyed before.
Altogether the house was attractive, though plain, and Jennie was
happy to know that her family could be comfortable in it.

When the time came for the actual moving Mrs. Gerhardt was fairly
beside herself with joy, for was not this the realisation of her
dreams?  All through the long years of her life she had been
waiting, and now it had come.  A new house, new furniture, plenty
of room--things finer than she had ever even imagined--think of it!
Her eyes shone as she looked at the new beds and tables and bureaus
and whatnots.  "Dear, dear, isn't this nice!" she exclaimed.
"Isn't it beautiful!"  Jennie smiled and tried to pretend
satisfaction without emotion, but there were tears in her eyes.
She was so glad for her mother's sake.  She could have kissed
Lester's feet for his goodness to her family.

The day the furniture was moved in Mrs. Gerhardt, Martha, and
Veronica were on hand to clean and arrange things.  At the sight of
the large rooms and pretty yard, bare enough in winter, but giving
promise of a delightful greenness in spring, and the array of new
furniture standing about in excelsior, the whole family fell into a
fever of delight.  Such beauty, such spaciousness!  George rubbed
his feet over the new carpets and Bass examined the quality of the
furniture critically.  "Swell," was his comment.  Mrs. Gerhardt
roved to and fro like a person in a dream.  She could not believe
that these bright bedrooms, this beautiful parlour, this handsome
dining-room were actually hers.

Gerhardt came last of all.  Although he tried hard not to show it,
he, too, could scarcely refrain from enthusiastic comment.  The
sight of an opal-globed chandelier over the dining-room table was
the finishing touch.

"Gas, yet!" he said.

He looked grimly around, under his shaggy eyebrows, at the new
carpets under his feet, the long oak extension table covered with a
white cloth and set with new dishes, at the pictures on the walls,
the bright, clean kitchen.  He shook his head.  "By chops, it's
fine!" he said.  "It's very nice.  Yes, it's very nice.  We want to
be careful now not to break anything.  It's so easy to scratch
things up, and then it's all over."

Yes, even Gerhardt was satisfied.



CHAPTER XXVI


It would be useless to chronicle the events of the three years that
followed--events and experiences by which the family grew from an
abject condition of want to a state of comparative self-reliance,
based, of course, on the obvious prosperity of Jennie and the
generosity (through her) of her distant husband.  Lester was seen
now and then, a significant figure, visiting Cleveland, and
sometimes coming out to the house where he occupied with Jennie the
two best rooms of the second floor.  There were hurried trips on
her part--in answer to telegraph messages--to Chicago, to St.
Louis, to New York.  One of his favourite pastimes was to engage
quarters at the great resorts--Hot Springs, Mt. Clemens, Saratoga--
and for a period of a week or two at a stretch enjoy the luxury of
living with Jennie as his wife.  There were other times when he
would pass through Cleveland only for the privilege of seeing her
for a day.  All the time he was aware that he was throwing on her
the real burden of a rather difficult situation, but he did not see
how he could remedy it at this time.  He was not sure as yet that
he really wanted to.  They were getting along fairly well.

The attitude of the Gerhardt family toward this condition of
affairs was peculiar.  At first, in spite of the irregularity of
it, it seemed natural enough.  Jennie said she was married.  No one
had seen her marriage certificate, but she said so, and she seemed
to carry herself with the air of one who holds that relationship.
Still, she never went to Cincinnati, where his family lived, and
none of his relatives ever came near her.  Then, too, his attitude,
in spite of the money which had first blinded them, was peculiar.
He really did not carry himself like a married man.  He was so
indifferent.  There were weeks in which she appeared to receive
only perfunctory notes.  There were times when she would only go
away for a few days to meet him.  Then there were the long periods
in which she absented herself--the only worthwhile testimony toward
a real relationship, and that, in a way, unnatural.

Bass, who had grown to be a young man of twenty-five, with some
business judgment and a desire to get out in the world, was
suspicious.  He had come to have a pretty keen knowledge of life,
and intuitively he felt that things were not right.  George,
nineteen, who had gained a slight foothold in a wall-paper factory
and was looking forward to a career in that field, was also
restless.  He felt that something was wrong.  Martha, seventeen,
was still in school, as were William and Veronica.  Each was
offered an opportunity to study indefinitely; but there was unrest
with life.  They knew about Jennie's child.  The neighbours were
obviously drawing conclusions for themselves.  They had few
friends.  Gerhardt himself finally concluded that there was
something wrong, but he had let himself into this situation, and
was not in much of a position now to raise an argument.  He wanted
to ask her at times--proposed to make her do better if he could--
but the worst had already been done.  It depended on the man now,
he knew that.

Things were gradually nearing a state where a general upheaval
would have taken place had not life stepped in with one of its
fortuitous solutions.  Mrs. Gerhardt's health failed.  Although
stout and formerly of a fairly active disposition, she had of late
years become decidedly sedentary in her habits and grown weak,
which, coupled with a mind naturally given to worry, and weighed
upon as it had been by a number of serious and disturbing ills,
seemed now to culminate in a slow but very certain case of systemic
poisoning.  She became decidedly sluggish in her motions, wearied
more quickly at the few tasks left for her to do, and finally
complained to Jennie that it was very hard for her to climb stairs.
"I'm not feeling well," she said.  "I think I'm going to be sick."

Jennie now took alarm and proposed to take her to some near-by
watering-place, but Mrs. Gerhardt wouldn't go.  "I don't think it
would do any good," she said.  She sat about or went driving with
her daughter, but the fading autumn scenery depressed her.  "I
don't like to get sick in the fall," she said.  "The leaves coming
down make me think I am never going to get well."

"Oh, ma, how you talk!" said Jennie; but she felt frightened,
nevertheless.

How much the average home depends upon the mother was seen when it
was feared the end was near.  Bass, who had thought of getting
married and getting out of this atmosphere, abandoned the idea
temporarily.  Gerhardt, shocked and greatly depressed, hung about
like one expectant of and greatly awed by the possibility of
disaster.  Jennie, too inexperienced in death to feel that she
could possibly lose her mother, felt as if somehow her living
depended on her.  Hoping in spite of all opposing circumstances,
she hung about, a white figure of patience, waiting and serving.

The end came one morning after a month of illness and several days
of unconsciousness, during which silence reigned in the house and
all the family went about on tiptoe.  Mrs. Gerhardt passed away
with her dying gaze fastened on Jennie's face for the last few
minutes of consciousness that life vouchsafed her.  Jennie stared
into her eyes with a yearning horror.  "Oh, mamma! mamma!" she
cried.  "Oh, no, no!"

Gerhardt came running in from the yard, and, throwing himself down
by the bedside, wrung his bony hands in anguish.  "I should have
gone first!" he cried.  "I should have gone first!"

The death of Mrs. Gerhardt hastened the final breaking up of the
family.  Bass was bent on getting married at once, having had a
girl in town for some time.  Martha, whose views of life had
broadened and hardened, was anxious to get out also.  She felt that
a sort of stigma attached to the home--to herself, in fact, so long
as she remained there.  Martha looked to the public schools as a
source of income; she was going to be a teacher.  Gerhardt alone
scarcely knew which way to turn.  He was again at work as a night
watchman.  Jennie found him crying one day alone in the kitchen,
and immediately burst into tears herself.  "Now, papa!" she
pleaded, "it isn't as bad as that.  You will always have a home--
you know that--as long as I have anything.  You can come with me."

"No, no," he protested.  He really did not want to go with her.
"It isn't that," he continued.  "My whole life comes to nothing."

It was some little time before Bass, George and Martha finally
left, but, one by one, they got out, leaving Jennie, her father,
Veronica, and William, and one other--Jennie's child.  Of course
Lester knew nothing of Vesta's parentage, and curiously enough he
had never seen the little girl.  During the short periods in which
he deigned to visit the house--two or three days at most--Mrs.
Gerhardt took care that Vesta was kept in the background.  There
was a playroom on the top floor, and also a bedroom there, and
concealment was easy.  Lester rarely left his rooms, he even had
his meals served to him in what might have been called the living-
room of the suite.  He was not at all inquisitive or anxious to
meet any one of the other members of the family.  He was perfectly
willing to shake hands with them or to exchange a few perfunctory
words, but perfunctory words only.  It was generally understood
that the child must not appear, and so it did not.

There is an inexplicable sympathy between old age and childhood, an
affinity which is as lovely as it is pathetic.  During that first
year in Lorrie Street, when no one was looking, Gerhardt often
carried Vesta about on his shoulders and pinched her soft, red
cheeks.  When she got old enough to walk he it was who, with a
towel fastened securely under her arms, led her patiently around
the room until she was able to take a few steps of her own accord.
When she actually reached the point where she could walk he was the
one who coaxed her to the effort, shyly, grimly, but always
lovingly.  By some strange leading of fate this stigma on his
family's honour, this blotch on conventional morality, had twined
its helpless baby fingers about the tendons of his heart.  He loved
this little outcast ardently, hopefully.  She was the one bright
ray in a narrow, gloomy life, and Gerhardt early took upon himself
the responsibility of her education in religious matters.  Was it
not he who had insisted that the infant should be baptised?

"Say, 'Our Father,'" he used to demand of the lisping infant when
he had her alone with him.

"'Ow Fowvaw,'" was her vowel-like interpretation of his words.

"'Who art in heaven.'"

"'OOh ah in aven,'" repeated the child.

"Why do you teach her so early?" pleaded Mrs. Gerhardt, overhearing
the little one's struggles with stubborn consonants and vowels.

"Because I want she should learn the Christian faith," returned
Gerhardt determinedly.  "She ought to know her prayers.  If she
don't begin now she never will know them."

Mrs. Gerhardt smiled.  Many of her husband's religious idiosyncrasies
were amusing to her.  At the same time she liked to see this
sympathetic interest he was taking in the child's upbringing.  If
he were only not so hard, so narrow at times.  He made himself a
torment to himself and to every one else.

On the earliest bright morning of returning spring he was wont to
take her for her first little journeys in the world.  "Come, now,"
he would say, "we will go for a little walk."

"Walk," chirped Vesta.

"Yes, walk," echoed Gerhardt.

Mrs. Gerhardt would fasten on one of her little hoods, for in these
days Jennie kept Vesta's wardrobe beautifully replete.  Taking her
by the hand, Gerhardt would issue forth, satisfied to drag first
one foot and then the other in order to accommodate his gait to her
toddling steps.

One beautiful May day, when Vesta was four years old, they started
on one of their walks.  Everywhere nature was budding and
bourgeoning; the birds twittering their arrival from the south; the
insects making the best of their brief span of life.  Sparrows
chirped in the road; robins strutted upon the grass; bluebirds
built in the eaves of the cottages.  Gerhardt took a keen delight
in pointing out the wonders of nature to Vesta, and she was quick
to respond.  Every new sight and sound interested her.

"Ooh!--ooh!" exclaimed Vesta, catching sight of a low, flashing
touch of red as a robin lighted upon a twig nearby.  Her hand was
up, and her eyes were wide open.

"Yes," said Gerhardt, as happy as if he himself had but newly
discovered this marvellous creature.  "Robin.  Bird.  Robin.  Say
robin."

"Wobin," said Vesta.

"Yes, robin," he answered.  "It is going to look for a worm now.
We will see if we cannot find its nest.  I think I saw a nest in
one of these trees."

He plodded peacefully on, seeking to rediscover an old abandoned
nest that he had observed on a former walk.  "Here it is," he said
at last, coming to a small and leafless tree, in which a winter-
beaten remnant of a home was still clinging.  "Here, come now,
see," and he lifted the baby up at arm's length.

"See," said Gerhardt, indicating the wisp of dead grasses with his
free hand, "nest.  That is a bird's nest.  See!"

"Ooh!" repeated Vesta, imitating his pointing finger with one of
her own.  "Ness--ooh!"

"Yes," said Gerhardt, putting her down again.  "That was a WREN'S
nest.  They have all gone now.  They will not come any more."

Still further they plodded, he unfolding the simple facts of life,
she wondering with the wide wonder of a child.  When they had gone
a block or two he turned slowly about as if the end of the world
had been reached.

"We must be going back!" he said.

And so she had come to her fifth year, growing in sweetness,
intelligence, and vivacity.  Gerhardt was fascinated by the
questions she asked, the puzzles she pronounced.  "Such a girl!" he
would exclaim to his wife.  "What is it she doesn't want to know?
'Where is God?  What does He do?  Where does He keep His feet?' she
asks me.  I gotta laugh sometimes."  From rising in the morning, to
dress her to laying her down at night after she had said her
prayers, she came to be the chief solace and comfort of his days.
Without Vesta, Gerhardt would have found his life hard indeed to
bear.



CHAPTER XXVII


For three years now Lester had been happy in the companionship of
Jennie.  Irregular as the connection might be in the eyes of the
church and of society, it had brought him peace and comfort, and he
was perfectly satisfied with the outcome of the experiment.  His
interest in the social affairs of Cincinnati was now practically
nil, and he had consistently refused to consider any matrimonial
proposition which had himself as the object.  He looked on his
father's business organisation as offering a real chance for
himself if he could get control of it; but he saw no way of doing
so.  Robert's interests were always in the way, and, if anything,
the two brothers were farther apart than ever in their ideas and
aims.  Lester had thought once or twice of entering some other line
of business or of allying himself with another carriage company,
but he did not feel that he could conscientiously do this.  Lester
had his salary--fifteen thousand a year as secretary and treasurer
of the company (his brother was vice-president)--and about five
thousand from some outside investments.  He had not been so lucky
or so shrewd in speculation as Robert had been; aside from the
principal which yielded his five thousand, he had nothing.  Robert,
on the other hand, was unquestionably worth between three and four
hundred thousand dollars, in addition to his future interest in the
business, which both brothers shrewdly suspected would be divided
somewhat in their favour.  Robert and Lester would get a fourth
each, they thought; their sisters a sixth.  It seemed natural that
Kane senior should take this view, seeing that the brothers were
actually in control and doing the work.  Still, there was no
certainty.  The old gentleman might do anything or nothing.  The
probabilities were that he would be very fair and liberal.  At the
same time, Robert was obviously beating Lester in the game of life.
What did Lester intend to do about it?

There comes a time in every thinking man's life when he pauses and
"takes stock" of his condition; when he asks himself how it fares
with his individuality as a whole, mental, moral, physical,
material.  This time comes after the first heedless flights of
youth have passed, when the initiative and more powerful efforts
have been made, and he begins to feel the uncertainty of results
and final values which attaches itself to everything.  There is a
deadening thought of uselessness which creeps into many men's
minds--the thought which has been best expressed by the Preacher in
Ecclesiastes.

Yet Lester strove to be philosophical.  "What difference does it
make?" he used to say to himself, "whether I live at the White
House, or here at home, or at the Grand Pacific?"  But in the very
question was the implication that there were achievements in life
which he had failed to realise in his own career.  The White House
represented the rise and success of a great public character.  His
home and the Grand Pacific were what had come to him without
effort.

He decided for the time being--it was about the period of the death
of Jennie's mother--that he would make some effort to rehabilitate
himself.  He would cut out idling--these numerous trips with Jennie
had cost him considerable time.  He would make some outside
investments.  If his brother could find avenues of financial
profit, so could he.  He would endeavour to assert his authority--
he would try to make himself of more importance in the business,
rather than let Robert gradually absorb everything.  Should he
forsake Jennie?--that thought also came to him.  She had no claim
on him.  She could make no protest.  Somehow he did not see how it
could be done.  It seemed cruel, useless; above all (though he
disliked to admit it) it would be uncomfortable for himself.  He
liked her--loved her, perhaps, in a selfish way.  He didn't see how
he could desert her very well.

Just at this time he had a really serious difference with Robert.
His brother wanted to sever relations with an old and well
established paint company in New York, which had manufactured
paints especially for the house, and invest in a new concern in
Chicago, which was growing and had a promising future.  Lester,
knowing the members of the Eastern firm, their reliability, their
long and friendly relations with the house, was in opposition.  His
father at first seemed to agree with Lester.  But Robert argued out
the question in his cold, logical way, his blue eyes fixed
uncompromisingly upon his brother's face.  "We can't go on
forever," he said, "standing by old friends, just because father
here has dealt with them, or you like them.  We must have a change.
The business must be stiffened up; we're going to have more and
stronger competition."

"It's just as father feels about it," said Lester at last.  "I have
no deep feeling in the matter.  It won't hurt me one way or the
other.  You say the house is going to profit eventually.  I've
stated the arguments on the other side."

"I'm inclined to think Robert is right," said Archibald Kane
calmly.  "Most of the things he has suggested so far have worked
out."

Lester coloured.  "Well, we won't have any more discussion about it
then," he said.  He rose and strolled out of the office.

The shock of this defeat, coming at a time when he was considering
pulling himself together, depressed Lester considerably.  It wasn't
much but it was a straw, and his father's remark about his
brother's business acumen was even more irritating.  He was
beginning to wonder whether his father would discriminate in any
way in the distribution of the property.  Had he heard anything
about his entanglement with Jennie?  Had he resented the long
vacations he had taken from business?  It did not appear to Lester
that he could be justly chargeable with either incapacity or
indifference, so far as the company was concerned.  He had done his
work well.  He was still the investigator of propositions put up to
the house, the student of contracts, the trusted adviser of his
father and mother--but he was being worsted.  Where would it end?
He thought about this, but could reach no conclusion.

Later in this same year Robert came forward with a plan for
reorganisation in the executive department of the business.  He
proposed that they should build an immense exhibition and storage
warehouse on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and transfer a portion of
their completed stock there.  Chicago was more central than
Cincinnati.  Buyers from the West and country merchants could be
more easily reached and dealt with there.  It would be a big
advertisement for the house, a magnificent evidence of its standing
and prosperity.  Kane senior and Lester immediately approved of
this.  Both saw its advantages.  Robert suggested that Lester
should undertake the construction of the new buildings.  It would
probably be advisable for him to reside in Chicago a part of the
time.

The idea appealed to Lester, even though it took him away from
Cincinnati, largely if not entirely.  It was dignified and not
unrepresentative of his standing in the company.  He could live in
Chicago and he could have Jennie with him.  The scheme he had for
taking an apartment could now be arranged without difficulty.  He
voted yes.  Robert smiled.  "I'm sure we'll get good results from
this all around," he said.

As construction work was soon to begin, Lester decided to move to
Chicago immediately.  He sent word for Jennie to meet him, and
together they selected an apartment on the North Side, a very
comfortable suite of rooms on a side street near the lake, and he
had it fitted up to suit his taste.  He figured that living in
Chicago he could pose as a bachelor.  He would never need to invite
his friends to his rooms.  There were his offices, where he could
always be found, his clubs and the hotels.  To his way of thinking
the arrangement was practically ideal.

Of course Jennie's departure from Cleveland brought the affairs of
the Gerhardt family to a climax.  Probably the home would be broken
up, but Gerhardt himself took the matter philosophically.  He was
an old man, and it did not matter much where he lived.  Bass,
Martha, and George were already taking care of themselves.
Veronica and William were still in school, but some provision could
be made for boarding them with a neighbour.  The one real concern
of Jennie and Gerhardt was Vesta.  It was Gerhardt's natural
thought that Jennie must take the child with her.  What else should
a mother do?

"Have you told him yet?" he asked her, when the day of her
contemplated departure had been set.

"No; but I'm going to soon," she assured him.

"Always soon," he said.

He shook his head.  His throat swelled.

"It's too bad," he went on.  "It's a great sin.  God will punish
you, I'm afraid.  The child needs some one.  I'm getting old--
otherwise I would keep her.  There is no one here all day now to
look after her right, as she should be."  Again he shook his head.

"I know," said Jennie weakly.  "I'm going to fix it now.  I'm going
to have her live with me soon.  I won't neglect her--you know
that."

"But the child's name," he insisted.  "She should have a name.
Soon in another year she goes to school.  People will want to know
who she is.  It can't go on forever like this."

Jennie understood well enough that it couldn't.  She was crazy
about her baby.  The heaviest cross she had to bear was the
constant separations and the silence she was obliged to maintain
about Vesta's very existence.  It did seem unfair to the child, and
yet Jennie did not see clearly how she could have acted otherwise.
Vesta had good clothes, everything she needed.  She was at least
comfortable.  Jennie hoped to give her a good education.  If only
she had told the truth to Lester in the first place.  Now it was
almost too late, and yet she felt that she had acted for the best.
Finally she decided to find some good woman or family in Chicago
who would take charge of Vesta for a consideration.  In a Swedish
colony to the west of La Salle Avenue she came across an old lady
who seemed to embody all the virtues she required--cleanliness,
simplicity, honesty.  She was a widow, doing work by the day, but
she was glad to make an arrangement by which she should give her
whole time to Vesta.  The latter was to go to kindergarten when a
suitable one should be found.  She was to have toys and kindly
attention, and Mrs. Olsen was to inform Jennie of any change in the
child's health.  Jennie proposed to call every day, and she thought
that sometimes, when Lester was out of town, Vesta might be brought
to the apartment.  She had had her with her at Cleveland, and he
had never found out anything.

The arrangements completed, Jennie returned at the first
opportunity to Cleveland to take Vesta away.  Gerhardt, who had
been brooding over his approaching loss, appeared most solicitous
about her future.  "She should grow up to be a fine girl," he said.
"You should give her a good education--she is so smart."  He spoke
of the advisability of sending her to a Lutheran school and church,
but Jennie was not so sure of that.  Time and association with
Lester had led her to think that perhaps the public school was
better than any private institution.  She had no particular
objection to the church, but she no longer depended upon its
teachings as a guide in the affairs of life.  Why should she?

The next day it was necessary for Jennie to return to Chicago.
Vesta, excited and eager, was made ready for the journey.  Gerhardt
had been wandering about, restless as a lost spirit, while the
process of dressing was going on; now that the hour had actually
struck he was doing his best to control his feelings.  He could see
that the five-year-old child had no conception of what it meant to
him.  She was happy and self-interested, chattering about the ride
and the train.

"Be a good little girl," he said, lifting her up and kissing her.
"See that you study your catechism and say your prayers.  And you
won't forget the grandpa--what?--"  He tried to go on, but his
voice failed him.

Jennie, whose heart ached for her father, choked back her emotion.
"There," she said, "if I'd thought you were going to act like
that--"  She stopped.

"Go," said Gerhardt, manfully, "go.  It is best this way."  And he
stood solemnly by as they went out of the door.  Then he turned
back to his favourite haunt, the kitchen, and stood there staring
at the floor.  One by one they were leaving him--Mrs. Gerhardt,
Bass, Martha, Jennie, Vesta.  He clasped his hands together, after
his old-time fashion, and shook his head again and again.  "So it
is!  So it is!" he repeated.  "They all leave me.  All my life goes
to pieces."



CHAPTER XXVIII


During the three years in which Jennie and Lester had been
associated there had grown up between them a strong feeling of
mutual sympathy and understanding.  Lester truly loved her in his
own way.  It was a strong, self-satisfying, determined kind of way,
based solidly on a big natural foundation, but rising to a plane of
genuine spiritual affinity.  The yielding sweetness of her
character both attracted and held him.  She was true, and good, and
womanly to the very centre of her being; he had learned to trust
her, to depend upon her, and the feeling had but deepened with the
passing of the years.

On her part Jennie had sincerely, deeply, truly learned to love
this man.  At first when he had swept her off her feet, overawed
her soul, and used her necessity as a chain wherewith to bind her
to him, she was a little doubtful, a little afraid of him, although
she had always liked him.  Now, however, by living with him, by
knowing him better, by watching his moods, she had come to love
him.  He was so big, so vocal, so handsome.  His point of view and
opinions of anything and everything were so positive.  His pet
motto, "Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may," had
clung in her brain as something immensely characteristic.
Apparently he was not afraid of anything--God, man, or devil.  He
used to look at her, holding her chin between the thumb and fingers
of his big brown hand, and say:  "You're sweet, all right, but you
need courage and defiance.  You haven't enough of those things."
And her eyes would meet his in dumb appeal.  "Never mind," he would
add, "you have other things."  And then he would kiss her.

One of the most appealing things to Lester was the simple way in
which she tried to avoid exposure of her various social and
educational shortcomings.  She could not write very well, and once
he found a list of words he had used written out on a piece of
paper with the meanings opposite.  He smiled, but he liked her
better for it.  Another time in the Southern hotel in St. Louis he
watched her pretending a loss of appetite because she thought that
her lack of table manners was being observed by near-by diners.
She could not always be sure of the right forks and knives, and the
strange-looking dishes bothered her; how did one eat asparagus and
artichokes.

"Why don't you eat something?" he asked good-naturedly.  "You're
hungry, aren't you?"

"Not very."

"You must be.  Listen, Jennie.  I know what it is.  You mustn't
feel that way.  Your manners are all right.  I wouldn't bring you
here if they weren't.  Your instincts are all right.  Don't be
uneasy.  I'd tell you quick enough when there was anything wrong."
His brown eyes held a friendly gleam.

She smiled gratefully.  "I do feel a little nervous at times," she
admitted.

"Don't," he repeated.  "You're all right.  Don't worry.  I'll show
you."  And he did.

By degrees Jennie grew into an understanding of the usages and
customs of comfortable existence.  All that the Gerhardt family had
ever had were the bare necessities of life.  Now she was surrounded
with whatever she wanted--trunks, clothes, toilet articles, the
whole varied equipment of comfort--and while she liked it all, it
did not upset her sense of proportion and her sense of the fitness
of things.  There was no element of vanity in her, only a sense of
joy in privilege and opportunity.  She was grateful to Lester for
all that he had done and was doing for her.  If only she could hold
him--always!

The details of getting Vesta established once adjusted, Jennie
settled down into the routine of home life.  Lester, busy about his
multitudinous affairs, was in and out.  He had a suite of rooms
reserved for himself at the Grand Pacific, which was then the
exclusive hotel of Chicago, and this was his ostensible residence.
His luncheon and evening appointments were kept at the Union Club.
An early patron of the telephone, he had one installed in the
apartment, so that he could reach Jennie quickly and at any time.
He was home two or three nights a week, sometimes oftener.  He
insisted at first on Jennie having a girl of general housework, but
acquiesced in the more sensible arrangement which she suggested
later of letting some one come in to do the cleaning.  She liked to
work around her own home.  Her natural industry and love of order
prompted this feeling.

Lester liked his breakfast promptly at eight in the morning.  He
wanted dinner served nicely at seven.  Silverware, cut glass,
imported china--all the little luxuries of life appealed to him.
He kept his trunks and wardrobe at the apartment.

During the first few months everything went smoothly.  He was in
the habit of taking Jennie to the theatre now and then, and if he
chanced to run across an acquaintance he always introduced her as
Miss Gerhardt.  When he registered her as his wife it was usually
under an assumed name; where there was no danger of detection he
did not mind using his own signature.  Thus far there had been no
difficulty or unpleasantness of any kind.

The trouble with this situation was that it was criss-crossed with
the danger and consequent worry which the deception in regard to
Vesta had entailed, as well as with Jennie's natural anxiety about
her father and the disorganised home.  Jennie feared, as Veronica
hinted, that she and William would go to live with Martha, who was
installed in a boarding-house in Cleveland, and that Gerhardt would
be left alone.  He was such a pathetic figure to her, with his
injured hands and his one ability--that of being a watchman--that
she was hurt to think of his being left alone.  Would he come to
her?  She knew that he would not--feeling as he did at present.
Would Lester have him--she was not sure of that.  If he came Vesta
would have to be accounted for.  So she worried.

The situation in regard to Vesta was really complicated.  Owing to
the feeling that she was doing her daughter a great injustice,
Jennie was particularly sensitive in regard to her, anxious to do a
thousand things to make up for the one great duty that she could
not perform.  She daily paid a visit to the home of Mrs. Olsen,
always taking with her toys, candy, or whatever came into her mind
as being likely to interest and please the child.  She liked to sit
with Vesta and tell her stories of fairy and giant, which kept the
little girl wide-eyed.  At last she went so far as to bring her to
the apartment, when Lester was away visiting his parents, and she
soon found it possible, during his several absences, to do this
regularly.  After that, as time went on and she began to know his
habits, she became more bold--although bold is scarcely the word to
use in connection with Jennie.  She became venturesome much as a
mouse might; she would risk Vesta's presence on the assurance of
even short absences--two or three days.  She even got into the
habit of keeping a few of Vesta's toys at the apartment, so that
she could have something to play with when she came.

During these several visits from her child Jennie could not but
realise the lovely thing life would be were she only an honoured
wife and a happy mother.  Vesta was a most observant little girl.
She could by her innocent childish questions give a hundred turns
to the dagger of self-reproach which was already planted deeply in
Jennie's heart.

"Can I come to live with you?" was one of her simplest and most
frequently repeated questions.  Jennie would reply that mamma could
not have her just yet, but that very soon now, just as soon as she
possibly could, Vesta should come to stay always.

"Don't you know just when?" Vesta would ask.

"No, dearest, not just when.  Very soon now.  You won't mind
waiting a little while.  Don't you like Mrs. Olsen?"

"Yes," replied Vesta; "but then she ain't got any nice things now.
She's just got old things."  And Jennie, stricken to the heart,
would take Vesta to the toy shop, and load her down with a new
assortment of playthings.

Of course Lester was not in the least suspicious.  His observation
of things relating to the home were rather casual.  He went about
his work and his pleasures believing Jennie to be the soul of
sincerity and good-natured service, and it never occurred to him
that there was anything underhanded in her actions.  Once he did
come home sick in the afternoon and found her absent--an absence
which endured from two o'clock to five.  He was a little irritated
and grumbled on her return, but his annoyance was as nothing to her
astonishment and fright when she found him there.  She blanched at
the thought of his suspecting something, and explained as best she
could.  She had gone to see her washerwoman.  She was slow about
her marketing.  She didn't dream he was there.  She was sorry, too,
that her absence had lost her an opportunity to serve him.  It
showed her what a mess she was likely to make of it all.

It happened that about three weeks after the above occurrence
Lester had occasion to return to Cincinnati for a week, and during
this time Jennie again brought Vesta to the flat; for four days
there was the happiest goings on between the mother and child.

Nothing would have come of this little reunion had it not been for
an oversight on Jennie's part, the far-reaching effects of which
she could only afterward regret.  This was the leaving of a little
toy lamb under the large leather divan in the front room, where
Lester was wont to lie and smoke.  A little bell held by a thread
of blue ribbon was fastened about its neck, and this tinkled feebly
whenever it was shaken.  Vesta, with the unaccountable freakishness
of children had deliberately dropped it behind the divan, an action
which Jennie did not notice at the time.  When she gathered up the
various playthings after Vesta's departure she overlooked it
entirely, and there it rested, its innocent eyes still staring upon
the sunlit regions of toyland, when Lester returned.

That same evening, when he was lying on the divan, quietly enjoying
his cigar and his newspaper, he chanced to drop the former, fully
lighted.  Wishing to recover it before it should do any damage, he
leaned over and looked under the divan.  The cigar was not in
sight, so he rose and pulled the lounge out, a move which revealed
to him the little lamb still standing where Vesta had dropped it.
He picked it up, turning it over and over, and wondering how it had
come there.

A lamb!  It must belong to some neighbour's child in whom Jennie
had taken an interest, he thought.  He would have to go and tease
her about this.

Accordingly he held the toy jovially before him, and, coming out
into the dining-room, where Jennie was working at the sideboard, he
exclaimed in a mock solemn voice, "Where did this come from?"

Jennie, who was totally unconscious of the existence of this
evidence of her duplicity, turned, and was instantly possessed with
the idea that he had suspected all and was about to visit his just
wrath upon her.  Instantly the blood flamed in her cheeks and as
quickly left them.

"Why, why!" she stuttered, "it's a little toy I bought."

"I see it is," he returned genially, her guilty tremor not escaping
his observation, but having at the same time no explicable
significance to him.  "It's frisking around a mighty lone
sheepfold."

He touched the little bell at its throat, while Jennie stood there,
unable to speak.  It tinkled feebly, and then he looked at her
again.  His manner was so humorous that she could tell he suspected
nothing.  However, it was almost impossible for her to recover her
self-possession.

"What's ailing you?" he asked.

"Nothing," she replied.

"You look as though a lamb was a terrible shock to you."

"I forgot to take it out from there, that was all," she went on
blindly.

"It looks as though it has been played with enough," he added more
seriously, and then seeing that the discussion was evidently
painful to her, he dropped it.  The lamb had not furnished him the
amusement that he had expected.

Lester went back into the front room, stretched himself out and
thought it over.  Why was she nervous?  What was there about a toy
to make her grow pale?  Surely there was no harm in her harbouring
some youngster of the neighbourhood when she was alone--having it
come in and play.  Why should she be so nervous?  He thought it
over, but could come to no conclusion.

Nothing more was said about the incident of the toy lamb.  Time
might have wholly effaced the impression from Lester's memory had
nothing else intervened to arouse his suspicions; but a mishap of
any kind seems invariably to be linked with others which follow
close upon its heels.

One evening when Lester happened to be lingering about the flat
later than usual the door bell rang, and, Jennie being busy in the
kitchen, Lester went himself to open the door.  He was greeted by a
middle-aged lady, who frowned very nervously upon him, and inquired
in broken Swedish accents for Jennie.

"Wait a moment," said Lester; and stepping to the rear door he
called her.

Jennie came, and seeing who the visitor was, she stepped nervously
out in the hall and closed the door after her.  The action
instantly struck Lester as suspicious.  He frowned and determined
to inquire thoroughly into the matter.  A moment later Jennie
reappeared.  Her face was white and her fingers seemed to be
nervously seeking something to seize upon.

"What's the trouble?" he inquired, the irritation he had felt the
moment before giving his voice a touch of gruffness.

"I've to go out for a little while," she at last managed to reply.

"Very well," he assented unwillingly.  "But you can tell me what's
the trouble with you, can't you?  Where do you have to go?"

"I--I," began Jennie, stammering.  "I--have--"

"Yes," he said grimly.

"I have to go on an errand," she stumbled on.  "I--I can't wait.
I'll tell you when I come back, Lester.  Please don't ask me now."

She looked vainly at him, her troubled countenance still marked by
preoccupation and anxiety to get away, and Lester, who had never
seen this look of intense responsibility in her before, was moved
and irritated by it.

"That's all right," he said, "but what's the use of all this
secrecy?  Why can't you come out and tell what's the matter with
you?  What's the use of this whispering behind doors?  Where do you
have to go?"

He paused, checked by his own harshness, and Jennie who was
intensely wrought up by the information she had received, as well
as the unwonted verbal castigation she was now enduring, rose to an
emotional state never reached by her before.

"I will, Lester, I will," she exclaimed.  "Only not now.  I haven't
time.  I'll tell you everything when I come back.  Please don't
stop me now."

She hurried to the adjoining chamber to get her wraps, and Lester,
who had even yet no clear conception of what it all meant, followed
her stubbornly to the door.

"See here," he exclaimed in his vigorous, brutal way, "you're not
acting right.  What's the matter with you?  I want to know."

He stood in the doorway, his whole frame exhibiting the pugnacity
and settled determination of a man who is bound to be obeyed.
Jennie, troubled and driven to bay, turned at last.

"It's my child, Lester," she exclaimed.  "It's dying.  I haven't
time to talk.  Oh, please don't stop me.  I'll tell you everything
when I come back."

"Your child!" he exclaimed.  "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I couldn't help it," she returned.  "I was afraid--I should have
told you long ago.  I meant to only--only--Oh, let me go now, and
I'll tell you all when I come back!"

He stared at her in amazement; then he stepped aside, unwilling to
force her any further for the present.  "Well, go ahead," he said
quietly.  "Don't you want some one to go along with you?"

"No," she replied.  "Mrs. Olsen is right here.  I'll go with her."

She hurried forth, white-faced, and he stood there, pondering.
Could this be the woman he had thought he knew?  Why, she had been
deceiving him for years.  Jennie!  The white-faced!  The simple.

He choked a little as he muttered:

"Well, I'll be damned!"



CHAPTER XXIX


The reason why Jennie had been called was nothing more than one of
those infantile seizures the coming and result of which no man can
predict two hours beforehand.  Vesta had been seriously taken with
membranous croup only a few hours before, and the development since
had been so rapid that the poor old Swedish mother was half
frightened to death herself, and hastily despatched a neighbour to
say that Vesta was very ill and Mrs. Kane was to come at once.
This message, delivered as it was in a very nervous manner by one
whose only object was to bring her, and induced the soul-racking
fear of death in Jennie and caused her to brave the discovery of
Lester in the manner described.  Jennie hurried on anxiously, her
one thought being to reach her child before the arm of death could
interfere and snatch it from her, her mind weighed upon by a legion
of fears.  What if it should already be too late when she got
there; what if Vesta already should be no more.  Instinctively she
quickened her pace and as the street lamps came and receded in the
gloom she forgot all the sting of Lester's words, all fear that he
might turn her out and leave her alone in a great city with a
little child to care for, and remembered only the fact that her
Vesta was very ill, possibly dying, and that she was the direct
cause of the child's absence from her; that perhaps but for the
want of her care and attention Vesta might be well to-night.

"If I can only get there," she kept saying to herself; and then,
with that frantic unreason which is the chief characteristic of the
instinct-driven mother:  "I might have known that God would punish
me for my unnatural conduct.  I might have known--I might have
known."

When she reached the gate she fairly sped up the little walk and
into the house, where Vesta was lying pale, quiet, and weak, but
considerably better.  Several Swedish neighbours and a middle-aged
physician were in attendance, all of whom looked at her curiously
as she dropped beside the child's bed and spoke to her.

Jennie's mind had been made up.  She had sinned, and sinned
grievously, against her daughter, but now she would make amends so
far as possible.  Lester was very dear to her, but she would no
longer attempt to deceive him in anything, even if he left her--she
felt an agonised stab, a pain at the thought--she must still do the
one right thing.  Vesta must not be an outcast any longer.  Her
mother must give her a home.  Where Jennie was, there must Vesta
be.

Sitting by the bedside in this humble Swedish cottage, Jennie
realised the fruitlessness of her deception, the trouble and pain
it had created in her home, the months of suffering it had given
her with Lester, the agony it had heaped upon her this night--and
to what end?  The truth had been discovered anyhow.  She sat there
and meditated, not knowing what next was to happen, while Vesta
quieted down, and then went soundly to sleep.

Lester, after recovering from the first heavy import of this
discovery, asked himself some perfectly natural questions.  "Who
was the father of the child?  How old was it?  How did it chance to
be in Chicago, and who was taking care of it?"  He could ask, but
he could not answer; he knew absolutely nothing.

Curiously, now, as he thought, his first meeting with Jennie at
Mrs. Bracebridge's came back to him.  What was it about her then
that had attracted him?  What made him think, after a few hours'
observation, that he could seduce her to his will?  What was it--
moral looseness, or weakness, or what?  There must have been art in
the sorry affair, the practised art of the cheat, and, in deceiving
such a confiding nature as his, she had done even more than
practise deception--she had been ungrateful.

Now the quality of ingratitude was a very objectionable thing to
Lester--the last and most offensive trait of a debased nature, and
to be able to discover a trace of it in Jennie was very disturbing.
It is true that she had not exhibited it in any other way before--
quite to the contrary--but nevertheless he saw strong evidences of
it now, and it made him very bitter in his feeling toward her.  How
could she be guilty of any such conduct toward him?  Had he not
picked her up out of nothing, so to speak, and befriended her?

He moved from his chair in this silent room and began to pace
slowly to and fro, the weightiness of this subject exercising to
the full his power of decision.  She was guilty of a misdeed which
he felt able to condemn.  The original concealment was evil; the
continued deception more.  Lastly, there was the thought that her
love after all had been divided, part for him, part for the child,
a discovery which no man in his position could contemplate with
serenity.  He moved irritably as he thought of it, shoved his hands
in his pockets and walked to and fro across the floor.

That a man of Lester's temperament should consider himself wronged
by Jennie merely because she had concealed a child whose existence
was due to conduct no more irregular than was involved later in the
yielding of herself to him was an example of those inexplicable
perversions of judgment to which the human mind, in its capacity of
keeper of the honour of others, seems permanently committed.
Lester, aside from his own personal conduct (for men seldom judge
with that in the balance), had faith in the ideal that a woman
should reveal herself completely to the one man with whom she is in
love; and the fact that she had not done so was a grief to him.  He
had asked her once tentatively about her past.  She begged him not
to press her.  That was the time she should have spoken of any
child.  Now--he shook his head.

His first impulse, after he had thought the thing over, was to walk
out and leave her.  At the same time he was curious to hear the end
of this business.  He did put on his hat and coat, however, and
went out, stopping at the first convenient saloon to get a drink.
He took a car and went down to the club, strolling about the
different rooms and chatting with several people whom he
encountered.  He was restless and irritated; and finally, after
three hours of meditation, he took a cab and returned to his
apartment.

The distraught Jennie, sitting by her sleeping child, was at last
made to realise, by its peaceful breathing that all danger was
over.  There was nothing more that she could do for Vesta, and now
the claims of the home that she had deserted began to reassert
themselves, the promise to Lester and the need of being loyal to
her duties unto the very end.  Lester might possibly be waiting for
her.  It was just probable that he wished to hear the remainder of
her story before breaking with her entirely.  Although anguished
and frightened by the certainty, as she deemed it, of his forsaking
her, she nevertheless felt that it was no more than she deserved--a
just punishment for all her misdoings.

When Jennie arrived at the flat it was after eleven, and the hall
light was already out.  She first tried the door, and then inserted
her key.  No one stirred, however, and, opening the door, she
entered in the expectation of seeing Lester sternly confronting
her.  He was not there, however.  The burning gas had merely been
an oversight on his part.  She glanced quickly about, but seeing
only the empty room, she came instantly to the other conclusion,
that he had forsaken her--and so stood there, a meditative,
helpless figure.

"Gone!" she thought.

At this moment his footsteps sounded on the stairs.  He came in
with his derby hat pulled low over his broad forehead, close to his
sandy eyebrows, and with his overcoat buttoned up closely about his
neck.  He took off the coat without looking at Jennie and hung it
on the rack.  Then he deliberately took off his hat and hung that
up also.  When he was through he turned to where she was watching
him with wide eyes.

"I want to know about this thing now from beginning to end," he
began.  "Whose child is that?"

Jennie wavered a moment, as one who might be going to take a leap
in the dark, then opened her lips mechanically and confessed:

"It's Senator Brander's."

"Senator Brander!" echoed Lester, the familiar name of the dead but
still famous statesman ringing with shocking and unexpected force
in his ears.  "How did you come to know him?"

"We used to do his washing for him," she rejoined simply--"my
mother and I."

Lester paused, the baldness of the statements issuing from her
sobering even his rancorous mood.  "Senator Brander's child," he
thought to himself.  So that great representative of the interests
of the common people was the undoer of her--a self-confessed
washerwoman's daughter.  A fine tragedy of low life all this was.

"How long ago was this?" he demanded, his face the picture of a
darkling mood.

"It's been nearly six years now," she returned.

He calculated the time that had elapsed since he had known her, and
then continued:

"How old is the child?"

"She's a little over five."

Lester moved a little.  The need for serious thought made his tone
more peremptory but less bitter.

"Where have you been keeping her all this time?"

"She was at home until you went to Cincinnati last spring.  I went
down and brought her then."

"Was she there the times I came to Cleveland?"

"Yes," said Jennie; "but I didn't let her come out anywhere where
you could see her."

"I thought you said you told your people that you were married," he
exclaimed, wondering how this relationship of the child to the
family could have been adjusted.

"I did," she replied, "but I didn't want to tell you about her.
They thought all the time I intended to."

"Well, why didn't you?"

"Because I was afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"I didn't know what was going to become of me when I went with you,
Lester.  I didn't want to do her any harm if I could help it.  I
was ashamed, afterward; when you said you didn't like children I
was afraid."

"Afraid I'd leave you?"

"Yes."

He stopped, the simplicity of her answers removing a part of the
suspicion of artful duplicity which had originally weighed upon
him.  After all, there was not so much of that in it as mere
wretchedness of circumstance and cowardice of morals.  What a
family she must have!  What queer non-moral natures they must have
to have brooked any such a combination of affairs!  "Didn't you
know that you'd be found out in the long run?" he at last demanded.
"Surely you might have seen that you couldn't raise her that way.
Why didn't you tell me in the first place?  I wouldn't have thought
anything of it then."

"I know," she said.  "I wanted to protect her."

"Where is she now?" he asked.

Jennie explained.

She stood there, the contradictory aspect of these questions and of
his attitude puzzling even herself.  She did try to explain them
after a time, but all Lester could gain was that she had blundered
along without any artifice at all--a condition that was so manifest
that, had he been in any other position than that he was, he might
have pitied her.  As it was, the revelation concerning Brander was
hanging over him, and he finally returned to that.

"You say your mother used to do washing for him.  How did you come
to get in with him?"

Jennie, who until now had borne his questions with unmoving pain,
winced at this.  He was now encroaching upon the period that was by
far the most distressing memory of her life.  What he had just
asked seemed to be a demand upon her to make everything clear.

"I was so young, Lester," she pleaded.  "I was only eighteen.  I
didn't know.  I used to go to the hotel where he was stopping and
get his laundry, and at the end of the week I'd take it to him
again."

She paused, and as he took a chair, looking as if he expected to
hear the whole story, she continued:  "We were so poor.  He used to
give me money to give to my mother.  I didn't know."

She paused again, totally unable to go on, and he, seeing that it
would be impossible for her to explain without prompting, took up
his questioning again--eliciting by degrees the whole pitiful
story.  Brander had intended to marry her.  He had written to her,
but before he could come to her he died.

The confession was complete.  It was followed by a period of five
minutes, in which Lester said nothing at all; he put his arm on the
mantel and stared at the wall, while Jennie waited, not knowing
what would follow--not wishing to make a single plea.  The clock
ticked audibly.  Lester's face betrayed no sign of either thought
or feeling.  He was now quite calm, quite sober, wondering what he
should do.  Jennie was before him as the criminal at the bar.  He,
the righteous, the moral, the pure of heart, was in the judgment
seat.  Now to sentence her--to make up his mind what course of
action he should pursue.

It was a disagreeable tangle, to be sure, something that a man of
his position and wealth really ought not to have anything to do
with.  This child, the actuality of it, put an almost unbearable
face upon the whole matter--and yet he was not quite prepared to
speak.  He turned after a time, the silvery tinkle of the French
clock on the mantel striking three and causing him to become aware
of Jennie, pale, uncertain, still standing as she had stood all
this while.

"Better go to bed," he said at last, and fell again to pondering
this difficult problem.

But Jennie continued to stand there wide-eyed, expectant, ready to
hear at any moment his decision as to her fate.  She waited in
vain, however.  After a long time of musing he turned and went to
the clothes-rack near the door.

"Better go to bed," he said, indifferently.  "I'm going out."

She turned instinctively, feeling that even in this crisis there
was some little service that she might render, but he did not see
her.  He went out, vouchsafing no further speech.

She looked after him, and as his footsteps sounded on the stair she
felt as if she were doomed and hearing her own death-knell.  What
had she done?  What would he do now?  She stood there a dissonance
of despair, and when the lower door clicked moved her hand out of
the agony of her suppressed hopelessness.

"Gone!" she thought.  "Gone!"

In the light of a late dawn she was still sitting there pondering,
her state far too urgent for idle tears.



CHAPTER XXX


The sullen, philosophic Lester was not so determined upon his
future course of action as he appeared to be.  Stern as was his
mood, he did not see, after all, exactly what grounds he had for
complaint.  And yet the child's existence complicated matters
considerably.  He did not like to see the evidence of Jennie's
previous misdeeds walking about in the shape of a human being; but,
as a matter of fact, he admitted to himself that long ago he might
have forced Jennie's story out of her if he had gone about it in
earnest.  She would not have lied, he knew that.  At the very
outset he might have demanded the history of her past.  He had not
done so; well, now it was too late.  The one thing it did fix in
his mind was that it would be useless to ever think of marrying
her.  It couldn't be done, not by a man in his position.  The best
solution of the problem was to make reasonable provision for Jennie
and then leave her.  He went to his hotel with his mind made up,
but he did not actually say to himself that he would do it at once.

It is an easy thing for a man to theorise in a situation of this
kind, quite another to act.  Our comforts, appetites and passions
grow with usage, and Jennie was not only a comfort, but an
appetite, with him.  Almost four years of constant association had
taught him so much about her and himself that he was not prepared
to let go easily or quickly.  It was too much of a wrench.  He
could think of it bustling about the work of a great organisation
during the daytime, but when night came it was a different matter.
He could be lonely, too, he discovered much to his surprise, and it
disturbed him.

One of the things that interested him in this situation was
Jennie's early theory that the intermingling of Vesta with him and
her in this new relationship would injure the child.  Just how did
she come by that feeling, he wanted to know?  His place in the
world was better than hers, yet it dawned on him after a time that
there might have been something in her point of view.  She did not
know who he was or what he would do with her.  He might leave her
shortly.  Being uncertain, she wished to protect her baby.  That
wasn't so bad.  Then again, he was curious to know what the child
was like.  The daughter of a man like Senator Brander might be
somewhat of an infant.  He was a brilliant man and Jennie was a
charming woman.  He thought of this, and while it irritated him, it
aroused his curiosity.  He ought to go back and see the child--he
was really entitled to a view of it--but he hesitated because of
his own attitude in the beginning.  It seemed to him that he really
ought to quit, and here he was parleying with himself.

The truth was that he couldn't.  These years of living with Jennie
had made him curiously dependent upon her.  Who had ever been so
close to him before?  His mother loved him, but her attitude toward
him had not so much to do with real love as with ambition.  His
father--well, his father was a man, like himself.  All of his
sisters were distinctly wrapped up in their own affairs; Robert and
he were temperamentally uncongenial.  With Jennie he had really
been happy, he had truly lived.  She was necessary to him; the
longer he stayed away from her the more he wanted her.  He finally
decided to have a straight-out talk with her, to arrive at some
sort of understanding.  She ought to get the child and take care of
it.  She must understand that he might eventually want to quit.
She ought to be made to feel that a definite change had taken
place, though no immediate break might occur.  That same evening he
went out to the apartment.  Jennie heard him enter, and her heart
began to flutter.  Then she took her courage in both hands, and
went to meet him.

"There's just one thing to be done about this as far as I can see,"
began Lester, with characteristic directness.  "Get the child and
bring her here where you can take care of her.  There's no use
leaving her in the hands of strangers."

"I will, Lester," said Jennie submissively.  "I always wanted to."

"Very well, then, you'd better do it at once."  He took an evening
newspaper out of his pocket and strolled toward one of the front
windows; then he turned to her.  "You and I might as well
understand each other, Jennie," he went on.  "I can see how this
thing came about.  It was a piece of foolishness on my part not to
have asked you before, and made you tell me.  It was silly for you
to conceal it, even if you didn't want the child's life mixed with
mine.  You might have known that it couldn't be done.  That's
neither here nor there, though, now.  The thing that I want to
point out is that one can't live and hold a relationship such as
ours without confidence.  You and I had that, I thought.  I don't
see my way clear to ever hold more than a tentative relationship
with you on this basis.  The thing is too tangled.  There's too
much cause for scandal."

"I know," said Jennie.

"Now, I don't propose to do anything hasty.  For my part I don't
see why things can't go on about as they are--certainly for the
present--but I want you to look the facts in the face."

Jennie sighed.  "I know, Lester," she said, "I know."

He went to the window and stared out.  There were some trees in the
yard, where the darkness was settling.  He wondered how this would
really come out, for he liked a home atmosphere.  Should he leave
the apartment and go to his club?

"You'd better get the dinner," he suggested, after a time, turning
toward her irritably; but he did not feel so distant as he looked.
It was a shame that life could not be more decently organised.  He
strolled back to his lounge, and Jennie went about her duties.  She
was thinking of Vesta, of her ungrateful attitude toward Lester, of
his final decision never to marry her.  So that was how one dream
had been wrecked by folly.

She spread the table, lighted the pretty silver candles, made his
favourite biscuit, put a small leg of lamb in the oven to roast,
and washed some lettuce-leaves for a salad.  She had been a
diligent student of a cook-book for some time, and she had learned
a good deal from her mother.  All the time she was wondering how
the situation would work out.  He would leave her eventually--no
doubt of that.  He would go away and marry some one else.

"Oh, well," she thought finally, "he is not going to leave me right
away--that is something.  And I can bring Vesta here."  She sighed
as she carried the things to the table.  If life would only give
her Lester and Vesta together--but that hope was over.



CHAPTER XXXI


There was peace and quiet for some time after this storm.  Jennie
went the next day and brought Vesta away with her.  The joy of the
reunion between mother and child made up for many other worries.
"Now I can do by her as I ought," she thought; and three or four
times during the day she found herself humming a little song.

Lester came only occasionally at first.  He was trying to make
himself believe that he ought to do something toward reforming his
life--toward bringing about that eventual separation which he had
suggested.  He did not like the idea of a child being in this
apartment--particularly that particular child.  He fought his way
through a period of calculated neglect, and then began to return to
the apartment more regularly.  In spite of all its drawbacks, it
was a place of quiet, peace, and very notable personal comfort.

During the first days of Lester's return it was difficult for
Jennie to adjust matters so as to keep the playful, nervous, almost
uncontrollable child from annoying the staid, emphatic, commercial-
minded man.  Jennie gave Vesta a severe talking to the first night
Lester telephoned that he was coming, telling her that he was a
very bad-tempered man who didn't like children, and that she
mustn't go near him.  "You mustn't talk," she said.  "You mustn't
ask questions.  Let mamma ask you what you want.  And don't reach,
ever."

Vesta agreed solemnly, but her childish mind hardly grasped the
full significance of the warning.

Lester came at seven.  Jennie, who had taken great pains to array
Vesta as attractively as possible, had gone into her bedroom to
give her own toilet a last touch.  Vesta was supposedly in the
kitchen.  As a matter of fact, she had followed her mother to the
door of the sitting-room, where now she could be plainly seen.
Lester hung up his hat and coat, then, turning, he caught his first
glimpse.  The child looked very sweet--he admitted that at a
glance.  She was arrayed in a blue-dotted, white flannel dress,
with a soft roll collar and cuffs, and the costume was completed by
white stockings and shoes.  Her corn-coloured ringlets hung gaily
about her face.  Blue eyes, rosy lips, rosy cheeks completed the
picture.  Lester stared, almost inclined to say something, but
restrained himself.  Vesta shyly retreated.

When Jennie came out he commented on the fact that Vesta had
arrived.  "Rather sweet-looking child," he said.  "Do you have much
trouble in making her mind?"

"Not much," she returned.

Jennie went on to the dining-room, and Lester overheard a scrap of
their conversation.

"Who are he?" asked Vesta.

"Sh!  That's your Uncle Lester.  Didn't I tell you you mustn't
talk?"

"Are he your uncle?"

"No, dear.  Don't talk now.  Run into the kitchen."

"Are he only my uncle?"

"Yes.  Now run along."

"All right."

In spite of himself Lester had to smile.

What might have followed if the child had been homely, misshapen,
peevish, or all three, can scarcely be conjectured.  Had Jennie
been less tactful, even in the beginning, he might have obtained a
disagreeable impression.  As it was, the natural beauty of the
child, combined with the mother's gentle diplomacy in keeping her
in the background, served to give him that fleeting glimpse of
innocence and youth which is always pleasant.  The thought struck
him that Jennie had been the mother of a child all these years; she
had been separated from it for months at a time; she had never even
hinted at its existence, and yet her affection for Vesta was
obviously great.  "It's queer," he said.  "She's a peculiar woman."

One morning Lester was sitting in the parlour reading his paper
when he thought he heard something stir.  He turned, and was
surprised to see a large blue eye fixed upon him through the crack
of a neighbouring door--the effect was most disconcerting.  It was
not like the ordinary eye, which, under such embarrassing
circumstances, would have been immediately withdrawn; it kept its
position with deliberate boldness.  He turned his paper solemnly
and looked again.  There was the eye.  He turned it again.  Still
was the eye present.  He crossed his legs and looked again.  Now
the eye was gone.

This little episode, unimportant in itself, was yet informed with
the saving grace of comedy, a thing to which Lester was especially
responsive.  Although not in the least inclined to relax his
attitude of aloofness, he found his mind, in the minutest degree,
tickled by the mysterious appearance; the corners of his mouth were
animated by a desire to turn up.  He did not give way to the
feeling, and stuck by his paper, but the incident remained very
clearly in his mind.  The young wayfarer had made her first really
important impression upon him.

Not long after this Lester was sitting one morning at breakfast,
calmly eating his chop and conning his newspaper, when he was
aroused by another visitation--this time not quite so simple.
Jennie had given Vesta her breakfast, and set her to amuse herself
alone until Lester should leave the house.  Jennie was seated at
the table, pouring out the coffee, when Vesta suddenly appeared,
very business-like in manner, and marched through the room.  Lester
looked up, and Jennie coloured and arose.

"What is it, Vesta?" she inquired, following her.

By this time, however, Vesta had reached the kitchen, secured a
little broom, and returned, a droll determination lighting her
face.

"I want my little broom," she exclaimed and marched sedately past,
at which manifestation of spirit Lester again twitched internally,
this time allowing the slightest suggestion of a smile to play
across his mouth.

The final effect of this intercourse was gradually to break down
the feeling of distaste Lester had for the child, and to establish
in its place a sort of tolerant recognition of her possibilities as
a human being.

The developments of the next six months were of a kind to further
relax the strain of opposition which still existed in Lester's
mind.  Although not at all resigned to the somewhat tainted
atmosphere in which he was living, he yet found himself so
comfortable that he could not persuade himself to give it up.  It
was too much like a bed of down.  Jennie was too worshipful.  The
condition of unquestioned liberty, so far as all his old social
relationships were concerned, coupled with the privilege of quiet,
simplicity, and affection in the home was too inviting.  He
lingered on, and began to feel that perhaps it would be just as
well to let matters rest as they were.

During this period his friendly relations with the little Vesta
insensibly strengthened.  He discovered that there was a real
flavour of humour about Vesta's doings, and so came to watch for
its development.  She was forever doing something interesting, and
although Jennie watched over her with a care that was in itself a
revelation to him, nevertheless Vesta managed to elude every effort
to suppress her and came straight home with her remarks.  Once, for
example, she was sawing away at a small piece of meat upon her
large plate with her big knife, when Lester remarked to Jennie that
it might be advisable to get her a little breakfast set.

"She can hardly handle these knives."

"Yes," said Vesta instantly.  "I need a little knife.  My hand is
just so very little."

She held it up.  Jennie, who never could tell what was to follow,
reached over and put it down, while Lester with difficulty
restrained a desire to laugh.

Another morning, not long after, she was watching Jennie put the
lumps of sugar in Lester's cup, when she broke in with, "I want two
lumps in mine, mamma."

"No, dearest," replied Jennie, "you don't need any in yours.  You
have milk to drink."

"Uncle Lester has two," she protested.

"Yes," returned Jennie; "but you're only a little girl.  Besides
you mustn't say anything like that at the table.  It isn't nice."

"Uncle Lester eats too much sugar," was her immediate rejoinder, at
which that fine gourmet smiled broadly.

"I don't know about that," he put in, for the first time deigning
to answer her directly.  "That sounds like the fox and grapes to
me."  Vesta smiled back at him, and now that the ice was broken she
chattered on unrestrainedly.  One thing led to another, and at last
Lester felt as though, in a way, the little girl belonged to him;
he was willing even that she should share in such opportunities as
his position and wealth might make possible--provided, of course,
that he stayed with Jennie, and that they worked out some
arrangement which would not put him hopelessly out of touch with
the world which was back of him, and which he had to keep
constantly in mind.



CHAPTER XXXII


The following spring the show-rooms and warehouse were completed,
and Lester removed his office to the new building.  Heretofore, he
had been transacting all his business affairs at the Grand Pacific
and the club.  From now on he felt himself to be firmly established
in Chicago--as if that was to be his future home.  A large number
of details were thrown upon him--the control of a considerable
office force, and the handling of various important transactions.
It took away from him the need of travelling, that duty going to
Amy's husband, under the direction of Robert.  The latter was doing
his best to push his personal interests, not only through the
influence he was bringing to bear upon his sisters, but through his
reorganisation of the factory.  Several men whom Lester was
personally fond of were in danger of elimination.  But Lester did
not hear of this, and Kane senior was inclined to give Robert a
free hand.  Age was telling on him.  He was glad to see some one
with a strong policy come up and take charge.  Lester did not seem
to mind.  Apparently he and Robert were on better terms than ever
before.

Matters might have gone on smoothly enough were it not for the fact
that Lester's private life with Jennie was not a matter which could
be permanently kept under cover.  At times he was seen driving with
her by people who knew him in a social and commercial way.  He was
for brazening it out on the ground that he was a single man, and at
liberty to associate with anybody he pleased.  Jennie might be any
young woman of good family in whom he was interested.  He did not
propose to introduce her to anybody if he could help it, and he
always made it a point to be a fast traveller in driving, in order
that others might not attempt to detain and talk to him.  At the
theatre, as has been said, she was simply "Miss Gerhardt."

The trouble was that many of his friends were also keen observers
of life.  They had no quarrel to pick with Lester's conduct.  Only
he had been seen in other cities, in times past, with this same
woman.  She must be some one whom he was maintaining irregularly.
Well, what of it?  Wealth and youthful spirits must have their
fling.  Rumours came to Robert, who, however, kept his own counsel.
If Lester wanted to do this sort of thing, well and good.  But
there must come a time when there would be a show-down.

This came about in one form about a year and a half after Lester
and Jennie had been living in the north side apartment.  It so
happened that, during a stretch of inclement weather in the fall,
Lester was seized with a mild form of grip.  When he felt the first
symptoms he thought that his indisposition would be a matter of
short duration, and tried to overcome it by taking a hot bath and a
liberal dose of quinine.  But the infection was stronger than he
counted on; by morning he was flat on his back, with a severe fever
and a splitting headache.

His long period of association with Jennie had made him incautious.
Policy would have dictated that he should betake himself to his
hotel and endure his sickness alone.  As a matter of fact, he was
very glad to be in the house with her.  He had to call up the
office to say that he was indisposed and would not be down for a
day or so; then he yielded himself comfortably to her patient
ministrations.

Jennie, of course, was delighted to have Lester with her, sick or
well.  She persuaded him to see a doctor and have him prescribe.
She brought him potions of hot lemonade, and bathed his face and
hands in cold water over and over.  Later, when he was recovering,
she made him appetising cups of beef-tea or gruel.

It was during this illness that the first real contretemps
occurred.  Lester's sister Louise, who had been visiting friends in
St. Paul, and who had written him that she might stop off to see
him on her way, decided upon an earlier return than she had
originally planned.  While Lester was sick at his apartment she
arrived in Chicago.  Calling up the office, and finding that he was
not there and would not be down for several days, she asked where
he could be reached.

"I think he is at his rooms in the Grand Pacific," said an
incautious secretary.  "He's not feeling well."  Louise, a little
disturbed, telephoned to the Grand Pacific, and was told that Mr.
Kane had not been there for several days--did not, as a matter of
fact, occupy his rooms more than one or two days a week.  Piqued by
this, she telephoned his club.

It so happened that at the club there was a telephone boy who had
called up the apartment a number of times for Lester himself.  He
had not been cautioned not to give its number--as a matter of fact,
it had never been asked for by any one else.  When Louise stated
that she was Lester's sister, and was anxious to find him, the boy
replied, "I think he lives at 19, Schiller Place."

"Whose address is that you're giving?" inquired a passing clerk.

"Mr. Kane's."

"Well, don't be giving out addresses.  Don't you know that yet?"

The boy apologised, but Louise had hung up the receiver and was
gone.

About an hour later, curious as to this third residence of her
brother, Louise arrived at Schiller Place.  Ascending the steps--it
was a two-apartment house--she saw the name of Kane on the door
leading to the second floor.  Ringing the bell, she was opened to
by Jennie, who was surprised to see so fashionably attired a young
woman.

"This is Mr. Kane's apartment, I believe," began Louise,
condescendingly, as she looked in at the open door behind Jennie.
She was a little surprised to meet a young woman, but her
suspicions were as yet only vaguely aroused.

"Yes," replied Jennie.

"He's sick, I believe.  I'm his sister.  May I come in?"

Jennie, had she had time to collect her thoughts, would have tried
to make some excuse, but Louise, with the audacity of her birth and
station, swept past before Jennie could say a word.  Once inside
Louise looked about her inquiringly.  She found herself in the
sitting-room, which gave into the bedroom where Lester was lying.
Vesta happened to be playing in one corner of the room, and stood
up to eye the new-comer.  The open bedroom showed Lester quite
plainly lying in bed, a window to the left of him, his eyes closed.

"Oh, there you are, old fellow!" exclaimed Louise.  "What's ailing
you?" she hurried on.

Lester, who at the sound of her voice had opened his eyes, realised
in an instant how things were.  He pulled himself up on one elbow,
but words failed him.

"Why, hello, Louise," he finally forced himself to say, "Where did
you come from?"

"St. Paul.  I came back sooner than I thought," she answered
lamely, a sense of something wrong irritating her.  "I had a hard
time finding you, too.  Who's your--" she was about to say "pretty
housekeeper," but turned to find Jennie dazedly gathering up
certain articles in the adjoining room and looking dreadfully
distraught.

Lester cleared his throat hopelessly.

His sister swept the place with an observing eye.  It took in the
home atmosphere, which was both pleasing and suggestive.  There was
a dress of Jennie's lying across a chair, in a familiar way, which
caused Miss Kane to draw herself up warily.  She looked at her
brother, who had a rather curious expression in his eyes--he seemed
slightly nonplussed, but cool and defiant.

"You shouldn't have come out here," said Lester finally, before
Louise could give vent to the rising question in her mind.

"Why shouldn't I?" she exclaimed, angered at the brazen confession.
"You're my brother, aren't you?  Why should you have any place that
I couldn't come.  Well, I like that--and from you to me."

"Listen, Louise," went on Lester, drawing himself up further on one
elbow.  "You know as much about life as I do.  There is no need of
our getting into an argument.  I didn't know you were coming, or I
would have made other arrangements."

"Other arrangements, indeed," she sneered.  "I should think as
much.  The idea!"

She was greatly irritated to think that she had fallen into this
trap; it was really disgraceful of Lester.

"I wouldn't be so haughty about it," he declared, his colour
rising.  "I'm not apologising to you for my conduct.  I'm saying I
would have made other arrangements, which is a very different thing
from begging your pardon.  If you don't want to be civil, you
needn't."

"Why, Lester Kane!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flaming.  "I thought
better of you, honestly I did.  I should think you would be ashamed
of yourself living here in open--" she paused without using the
word--"and our friends scattered all over the city.  It's terrible!
I thought you had more sense of decency and consideration."

"Decency nothing," he flared.  "I tell you I'm not apologising to
you.  If you don't like this you know what you can do."

"Oh!" she exclaimed.  "This from my own brother!  And for the sake
of that creature!  Whose child is that?" she demanded, savagely and
yet curiously.

"Never mind, it's not mine.  If it were it wouldn't make any
difference.  I wish you wouldn't busy yourself about my affairs."

Jennie, who had been moving about the dining-room beyond the
sitting-room, heard the cutting references to herself.  She winced
with pain.

"Don't flatter yourself.  I won't any more," retorted Louise.  "I
should think, though, that you, of all men, would be above anything
like this--and that with a woman so obviously beneath you.  Why, I
thought she was--" she was again going to add "your housekeeper,"
but she was interrupted by Lester, who was angry to the point of
brutality.

"Never mind what you thought she was," he growled.  "She's better
than some who do the so-called superior thinking.  I know what you
think.  It's neither here nor there, I tell you.  I'm doing this,
and I don't care what you think.  I have to take the blame.  Don't
bother about me."

"Well, I won't, I assure you," she flung back.  "It's quite plain
that your family means nothing to you.  But if you had any sense of
decency, Lester Kane, you would never let your sister be trapped
into coming into a place like this.  I'm disgusted, that's all, and
so will the others be when they hear of it."

She turned on her heel and walked scornfully out, a withering look
being reserved for Jennie, who had unfortunately stepped near the
door of the dining-room.  Vesta had disappeared.  Jennie came in a
little while later and closed the door.  She knew of nothing to
say.  Lester, his thick hair pushed back from his vigorous face,
leaned back moodily on his pillow.  "What a devilish trick of
fortune," he thought.  Now she would go home and tell it to the
family.  His father would know, and his mother.  Robert, Imogene,
Amy--all would hear.  He would have no explanation to make--she had
seen.  He stared at the wall meditatively.

Meanwhile Jennie, moving about her duties, also found food for
reflection.  So this was her real position in another woman's eyes.
Now she could see what the world thought.  This family was as aloof
from her as if it lived on another planet.  To his sisters and
brothers, his father and mother, she was a bad woman, a creature
far beneath him socially, far beneath him mentally and morally, a
creature of the streets.  And she had hoped somehow to rehabilitate
herself in the eyes of the world.  It cut her as nothing before had
ever done.  The thought tore a great, gaping wound in her
sensibilities.  She was really low and vile in her--Louise's--eyes,
in the world's eyes, basically so in Lester's eyes.  How could it
be otherwise?  She went about numb and still, but the ache of
defeat and disgrace was under it all.  Oh, if she could only see
some way to make herself right with the world, to live honourably,
to be decent.  How could that possibly be brought about?  It ought
to be--she knew that.  But how?



CHAPTER XXXIII


Outraged in her family pride, Louise lost no time in returning to
Cincinnati, where she told the story of her discovery, embellished
with many details.  According to her, she was met at the door by a
"silly-looking, white-faced woman," who did not even offer to
invite her in when she announced her name, but stood there "looking
just as guilty as a person possibly could."  Lester also had acted
shamefully, having outbrazened the matter to her face.  When she
had demanded to know whose the child was he had refused to tell
her.  "It isn't mine," was all he would say.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Kane, who was the first to hear
the story.  "My son, my Lester!  How could he have done it!"

"And such a creature!" exclaimed Louise emphatically, as though the
words needed to be reiterated to give them any shadow of reality.

"I went there solely because I thought I could help him," continued
Louise.  "I thought when they said he was indisposed that he might
be seriously ill.  How should I have known?"

"Poor Lester!" exclaimed her mother.  "To think he would come to
anything like that!"

Mrs. Kane turned the difficult problem over in her mind and, having
no previous experiences whereby to measure it, telephoned for old
Archibald, who came out from the factory and sat through the
discussion with a solemn countenance.  So Lester was living openly
with a woman of whom they had never heard.  He would probably be as
defiant and indifferent as his nature was strong.  The standpoint
of parental authority was impossible.  Lester was a centralised
authority in himself, and if any overtures for a change of conduct
were to be made, they would have to be very diplomatically
executed.

Archibald Kane returned to the manufactory sore and disgusted, but
determined that something ought to be done.  He held a consultation
with Robert, who confessed that he had heard disturbing rumours
from time to time, but had not wanted to say anything.  Mrs. Kane
suggested that Robert might go to Chicago, and have a talk with
Lester.

"He ought to see that this thing, if continued, is going to do him
irreparable damage," said Mr. Kane.  "He cannot hope to carry it
off successfully.  Nobody can.  He ought to marry her or he ought
to quit.  I want you to tell him that for me."

"All well and good," said Robert, "but who's going to convince him?
I'm sure I don't want the job."

"I hope to," said old Archibald, "eventually; but you'd better go
up and try, anyhow.  It can't do any harm.  He might come to his
senses."

"I don't believe it," replied Robert.  "He's a strong man.  You see
how much good talk does down here.  Still, I'll go if it will
relieve your feelings any.  Mother wants it."

"Yes, yes," said his father distractedly, "better go."

Accordingly Robert went.  Without allowing himself to anticipate
any particular measure of success in this venture, he rode
pleasantly into Chicago confident in the reflection that he had all
the powers of morality and justice on his side.

Upon Robert's arrival, the third morning after Louise's interview,
he called up the warerooms, but Lester was not there.  He then
telephoned to the house, and tactfully made an appointment.  Lester
was still indisposed, but he preferred to come down to the office,
and he did.  He met Robert in his cheerful, nonchalant way, and
together they talked business for a time.  Then followed a pregnant
silence.

"Well, I suppose you know what brought me up here," began Robert
tentatively.

"I think I could make a guess at it," Lester replied.

"They were all very much worried over the fact that you were sick--
mother particularly.  You're not in any danger of having a relapse,
are you?"

"I think not."

"Louise said there was some sort of a peculiar menage she ran into
up here.  You're not married, are you?"

"No."

"The young woman Louise saw is just--"  Robert waved his hand
expressively.

Lester nodded.

"I don't want to be inquisitive, Lester.  I didn't come up for
that.  I'm simply here because the family felt that I ought to
come.  Mother was so very much distressed that I couldn't do less
than see you for her sake--" he paused, and Lester, touched by the
fairness and respect of his attitude, felt that mere courtesy at
least made some explanation due.

"I don't know that anything I can say will help matters much," he
replied thoughtfully.  "There's really nothing to be said.  I have
the woman and the family has its objections.  The chief difficulty
about the thing seems to be the bad luck in being found out."

He stopped, and Robert turned over the substance of this worldly
reasoning in his mind.  Lester was very calm about it.  He seemed,
as usual, to be most convincingly sane.

"You're not contemplating marrying her, are you?" queried Robert
hesitatingly.

"I hadn't come to that," answered Lester coolly.

They looked at each other quietly for a moment, and then Robert
turned his glance to the distant scene of the city.

"It's useless to ask whether you are seriously in love with her, I
suppose," ventured Robert.

"I don't know whether I'd be able to discuss that divine afflatus
with you or not," returned Lester, with a touch of grim humour.  "I
have never experienced the sensation myself.  All I know is that
the lady is very pleasing to me."

"Well, it's all a question of your own well-being and the family's,
Lester," went on Robert, after another pause.  "Morality doesn't
seem to figure in it anyway--at least you and I can't discuss that
together.  Your feelings on that score naturally relate to you
alone.  But the matter of your own personal welfare seems to me to
be substantial enough ground to base a plea on.  The family's
feelings and pride are also fairly important.  Father's the kind of
a man who sets more store by the honour of his family than most
men.  You know that as well as I do, of course."

"I know how father feels about it," returned Lester.  "The whole
business is as clear to me as it is to any of you, though off-hand
I don't see just what's to be done about it.  These matters aren't
always of a day's growth, and they can't be settled in a day.  The
girl's here.  To a certain extent I'm responsible that she is here.
While I'm not willing to go into details, there's always more in
these affairs than appears on the court calendar."

"Of course I don't know what your relations with her have been,"
returned Robert, "and I'm not curious to know, but it does look
like a bit of injustice all around, don't you think--unless you
intend to marry her?"  This last was put forth as a feeler.

"I might be willing to agree to that, too," was Lester's baffling
reply, "if anything were to be gained by it.  The point is, the
woman is here, and the family is in possession of the fact.  Now if
there is anything to be done I have to do it.  There isn't anybody
else who can act for me in this matter."

Lester lapsed into a silence, and Robert rose and paced the floor,
coming back after a time to say:  "You say you haven't any idea of
marrying her--or rather you haven't come to it.  I wouldn't,
Lester.  It seems to me you would be making the mistake of your
life, from every point of view.  I don't want to orate, but a man
of your position has so much to lose; you can't afford to do it.
Aside from family considerations, you have too much at stake.
You'd be simply throwing your life away--"

He paused, with his right hand held out before him, as was
customary when he was deeply in earnest, and Lester felt the
candour and simplicity of this appeal.  Robert was not criticising
him now.  He was making an appeal to him, and this was somewhat
different.

The appeal passed without comment, however, and then Robert began
on a new tack, this time picturing old Archibald's fondness for
Lester and the hope he had always entertained that he would marry
some well-to-do Cincinnati girl, Catholic, if agreeable to him, but
at least worthy of his station.  And Mrs. Kane felt the same way;
surely Lester must realise that.

"I know just how all of them feel about it," Lester interrupted at
last, "but I don't see that anything's to be done right now."

"You mean that you don't think it would be policy for you to give
her up just at present?"

"I mean that she's been exceptionally good to me, and that I'm
morally under obligations to do the best I can by her.  What that
may be, I can't tell."

"To live with her?" inquired Robert coolly.

"Certainly not to turn her out bag and baggage if she has been
accustomed to live with me," replied Lester.  Robert sat down
again, as if he considered his recent appeal futile.

"Can't family reasons persuade you to make some amicable
arrangements with her and let her go?"

"Not without due consideration of the matter; no."

"You don't think you could hold out some hope that the thing will
end quickly--something that would give me a reasonable excuse for
softening down the pain of it to the family?"

"I would be perfectly willing to do anything which would take away
the edge of this thing for the family, but the truth's the truth,
and I can't see any room for equivocation between you and me.  As
I've said before, these relationships are involved with things
which make it impossible to discuss them--unfair to me, unfair to
the woman.  No one can see how they are to be handled, except the
people that are in them, and even they can't always see.  I'd be a
damned dog to stand up here and give you my word to do anything
except the best I can."

Lester stopped, and now Robert rose and paced the floor again, only
to come back after a time and say, "You don't think there's
anything to be done just at present?"

"Not at present."

"Very well, then, I expect I might as well be going.  I don't know
that there's anything else we can talk about."

"Won't you stay and take lunch with me?  I think I might manage to
get down to the hotel if you'll stay."

"No, thank you," answered Robert.  "I believe I can make that one
o'clock train for Cincinnati.  I'll try, anyhow."

They stood before each other now, Lester pale and rather flaccid,
Robert, clear, wax-like, well-knit, and shrewd, and one could see
the difference time had already made.  Robert was the clean,
decisive man, Lester the man of doubts.  Robert was the spirit of
business energy and integrity embodied, Lester the spirit of
commercial self-sufficiency, looking at life with an uncertain eye.
Together they made a striking picture, which was none the less
powerful for the thoughts that were now running through their
minds.

"Well," said the older brother, after a time, "I don't suppose
there is anything more I can say.  I had hoped to make you feel
just as we do about this thing, but of course you are your own best
judge of this.  If you don't see it now, nothing I could say would
make you.  It strikes me as a very bad move on your part though."

Lester listened.  He said nothing, but his face expressed an
unchanged purpose.

Robert turned for his hat, and they walked to the office door
together.

"I'll put the best face I can on it," said Robert, and walked out.



CHAPTER XXXIV


In this world of ours the activities of animal life seem to be
limited to a plane or circle, as if that were an inherent necessity
to the creatures of a planet which is perforce compelled to swing
about the sun.  A fish, for instance, may not pass out of the
circle of the seas without courting annihilation; a bird may not
enter the domain of the fishes without paying for it dearly.  From
the parasites of the flowers to the monsters of the jungle and the
deep we see clearly the circumscribed nature of their movements--
the emphatic manner in which life has limited them to a sphere; and
we are content to note the ludicrous and invariably fatal results
which attend any effort on their part to depart from their
environment.

In the case of man, however, the operation of this theory of
limitations has not as yet been so clearly observed.  The laws
governing our social life are not so clearly understood as to
permit of a clear generalisation.  Still, the opinions, pleas, and
judgments of society serve as boundaries which are none the less
real for being intangible.  When men or women err--that is, pass
out from the sphere in which they are accustomed to move--it is not
as if the bird had intruded itself into the water, or the wild
animal into the haunts of man.  Annihilation is not the immediate
result.  People may do no more than elevate their eyebrows in
astonishment, laugh sarcastically, lift up their hands in protest.
And yet so well defined is the sphere of social activity that he
who departs from it is doomed.  Born and bred in this environment,
the individual is practically unfitted for any other state.  He is
like a bird accustomed to a certain density of atmosphere, and
which cannot live comfortably at either higher or lower level.

Lester sat down in his easy-chair by the window after his brother
had gone and gazed ruminatively out over the flourishing city.
Yonder was spread out before him, life with its concomitant phases
of energy, hope, prosperity, and pleasure, and here he was suddenly
struck by a wind of misfortune and blown aside for the time being--
his prospects and purposes dissipated.  Could he continue as
cheerily in the paths he had hitherto pursued?  Would not his
relations with Jennie be necessarily affected by this sudden tide
of opposition?  Was not his own home now a thing of the past so far
as his old easy-going relationship was concerned?  All the
atmosphere of unstained affection would be gone out of it now.
That hearty look of approval which used to dwell in his father's
eye--would it be there any longer?  Robert, his relations with the
manufactory, everything that was a part of his old life, had been
affected by this sudden intrusion of Louise.

"It's unfortunate," was all that he thought to himself, and
therewith turned from what he considered senseless brooding to the
consideration of what, if anything, was to be done.

"I'm thinking I'd take a run up to Mt. Clemens to-morrow, or
Thursday anyhow, if I feel strong enough," he said to Jennie after
he had returned.  "I'm not feeling as well as I might.  A few days
will do me good."  He wanted to get off by himself and think.
Jennie packed his bag for him at the given time, and he departed,
but he was in a sullen, meditative mood.

During the week that followed he had ample time to think it all
over, the result of his cogitations being that there was no need of
making a decisive move at present.  A few weeks more, one way or
the other, could not make any practical difference.  Neither Robert
nor any other member of the family was at all likely to seek
another conference with him.  His business relations would
necessarily go on as usual, since they were coupled with the
welfare of the manufactory; certainly no attempt to coerce him
would be attempted.  But the consciousness that he was at hopeless
variance with his family weighed upon him.  "Bad business," he
meditated--"bad business."  But he did not change.

For the period of a whole year this unsatisfactory state of affairs
continued.  Lester did not go home for six months; then an
important business conference demanding his presence, he appeared
and carried it off quite as though nothing important had happened.
His mother kissed him affectionately, if a little sadly; his father
gave him his customary greeting, a hearty handshake; Robert,
Louise, Amy, Imogene, concertedly, though without any verbal
understanding, agreed to ignore the one real issue.  But the
feeling of estrangement was there, and it persisted.  Hereafter his
visits to Cincinnati were as few and far between as he could
possibly make them.



CHAPTER XXXV


In the meantime Jennie had been going through a moral crisis of her
own.  For the first time in her life, aside from the family
attitude, which had afflicted her greatly, she realised what the
world thought of her.  She was bad--she knew that.  She had yielded
on two occasions to the force of circumstances which might have
been fought out differently.  If only she had had more courage!  If
she did not always have this haunting sense of fear!  If she could
only make up her mind to do the right thing!  Lester would never
marry her.  Why should he?  She loved him, but she could leave him,
and it would be better for him.  Probably her father would live
with her if she went back to Cleveland.  He would honour her for at
last taking a decent stand.  Yet the thought of leaving Lester was
a terrible one to her--he had been so good.  As for her father, she
was not sure whether he would receive her or not.

After the tragic visit of Louise she began to think of saving a
little money, laying it aside as best she could from her allowance.
Lester was generous and she had been able to send home regularly
fifteen dollars a week to maintain the family--as much as they had
lived on before, without any help from the outside.  She spent
twenty dollars to maintain the table, for Lester required the best
of everything--fruit, meats, desserts, liquors, and what not.  The
rent was fifty-five dollars, with clothes and extras a varying sum.
Lester gave her fifty dollars a week, but somehow it had all gone.
She thought how she might economise but this seemed wrong.  Better
go without taking anything, if she were going, was the thought that
came to her.  It was the only decent thing to do.

She thought over this week after week, after the advent of Louise,
trying to nerve herself to the point where she could speak or act.
Lester was consistently generous and kind, but she felt at times
that he himself might wish it.  He was thoughtful, abstracted.
Since the scene with Louise it seemed to her that he had been a
little different.  If she could only say to him that she was not
satisfied with the way she was living, and then leave.  But he
himself had plainly indicated after his discovery of Vesta that her
feelings on that score could not matter so very much to him, since
he thought the presence of the child would definitely interfere
with his ever marrying her.  It was her presence he wanted on
another basis.  And he was so forceful, she could not argue with
him very well.  She decided if she went it would be best to write a
letter and tell him why.  Then maybe when he knew how she felt he
would forgive her and think nothing more about it.

The condition of the Gerhardt family was not improving.  Since
Jennie had left Martha had married.  After several years of
teaching in the public schools of Cleveland she had met a young
architect, and they were united after a short engagement.  Martha
had been always a little ashamed of her family, and now, when this
new life dawned, she was anxious to keep the connection as slight
as possible.  She barely notified the members of the family of the
approaching marriage--Jennie not at all--and to the actual ceremony
she invited only Bass and George.  Gerhardt, Veronica, and William
resented the slight.  Gerhardt ventured upon no comment.  He had
had too many rebuffs.  But Veronica was angry.  She hoped that life
would give her an opportunity to pay her sister off.  William, of
course, did not mind particularly.  He was interested in the
possibilities of becoming an electrical engineer, a career which
one of his school-teachers had pointed out to him as being
attractive and promising.

Jennie heard of Martha's marriage after it was all over, a note
from Veronica giving her the main details.  She was glad from one
point of view, but realised that her brothers and sisters were
drifting away from her.

A little while after Martha's marriage Veronica and William went to
reside with George, a break which was brought about by the attitude
of Gerhardt himself.  Ever since his wife's death and the departure
of the other children he had been subject to moods of profound
gloom, from which he was not easily aroused.  Life, it seemed, was
drawing to a close for him, although he was only sixty-five years
of age.  The earthly ambitions he had once cherished were gone for
ever.  He saw Sebastian, Martha, and George out in the world
practically ignoring him, contributing nothing at all to a home
which should never have taken a dollar from Jennie.  Veronica and
William were restless.  They objected to leaving school and going
to work, apparently preferring to live on money which Gerhardt had
long since concluded was not being come by honestly.  He was now
pretty well satisfied as to the true relations of Jennie and
Lester.  At first he had believed them to be married, but the way
Lester had neglected Jennie for long periods, the humbleness with
which she ran at his beck and call, her fear of telling him about
Vesta--somehow it all pointed to the same thing.  She had not been
married at home.  Gerhardt had never had sight of her marriage
certificate.  Since she was away she might have been married, but
he did not believe it.

The real trouble was that Gerhardt had grown intensely morose and
crotchety, and it was becoming impossible for young people to live
with him.  Veronica and William felt it.  They resented the way in
which he took charge of the expenditures after Martha left.  He
accused them of spending too much on clothes and amusements, he
insisted that a smaller house should be taken, and he regularly
sequestered a part of the money which Jennie sent, for what purpose
they could hardly guess.  As a matter of fact, Gerhardt was saving
as much as possible in order to repay Jennie eventually.  He
thought it was sinful to go on in this way, and this was his one
method, outside of his meagre earnings, to redeem himself.  If his
other children had acted rightly by him he felt that he would not
now be left in his old age the recipient of charity from one, who,
despite her other good qualities, was certainly not leading a
righteous life.  So they quarrelled.

It ended one winter month when George agreed to receive his
complaining brother and sister on condition that they should get
something to do.  Gerhardt was nonplussed for a moment, but invited
them to take the furniture and go their way.  His generosity shamed
them for the moment; they even tentatively invited him to come and
live with them, but this he would not do.  He would ask the foreman
of the mill he watched for the privilege of sleeping in some out-
of-the-way garret.  He was always liked and trusted.  And this
would save him a little money.

So in a fit of pique he did this, and there was seen the spectacle
of an old man watching through a dreary season of nights, in a
lonely trafficless neighbourhood while the city pursued its gaiety
elsewhere.  He had a wee small corner in the topmost loft of a
warehouse away from the tear and grind of the factory proper.  Here
Gerhardt slept by day.  In the afternoon he would take a little
walk, strolling toward the business centre, or out along the banks
of the Cuyahoga, or the lake.  As a rule his hands were below his
back, his brow bent in meditation.  He would even talk to himself a
little--an occasional "By chops!" or "So it is" being indicative of
his dreary mood.  At dusk he would return, taking his stand at the
lonely gate which was his post of duty.  His meals he secured at a
nearby workingmen's boarding-house, such as he felt he must have.

The nature of the old German's reflections at this time were of a
peculiarly subtle and sombre character.  What was this thing--life?
What did it all come to after the struggle, and the worry, and the
grieving?  Where does it all go to?  People die; you hear nothing
more from them.  His wife, now, she had gone.  Where had her spirit
taken its flight?

Yet he continued to hold some strongly dogmatic convictions.  He
believed there was a hell, and that people who sinned would go
there.  How about Mrs. Gerhardt?  How about Jennie?  He believed
that both had sinned woefully.  He believed that the just would be
rewarded in heaven.  But who were the just?  Mrs. Gerhardt had not
had a bad heart.  Jennie was the soul of generosity.  Take his son
Sebastian.  Sebastian was a good boy, but he was cold, and
certainly indifferent to his father.  Take Martha--she was
ambitious, but obviously selfish.  Somehow the children outside of
Jennie, seemed self-centred.  Bass walked off when he got married,
and did nothing more for anybody.  Martha insisted that she needed
all she made to live on.  George had contributed for a little
while, but had finally refused to help out.  Veronica and William
had been content to live on Jennie's money so long as he would
allow it, and yet they knew it was not right.  His very existence,
was it not a commentary on the selfishness of his children?  And he
was getting so old.  He shook his head.  Mystery of mysteries.
Life was truly strange, and dark, and uncertain.  Still he did not
want to go and live with any of his children.  Actually they were
not worthy of him--none but Jennie, and she was not good.  So he
grieved.

This woeful condition of affairs was not made known to Jennie for
some time.  She had been sending her letters to Martha, but, on her
leaving, Jennie had been writing directly to Gerhardt.  After
Veronica's departure Gerhardt wrote to Jennie saying that there was
no need of sending any more money.  Veronica and William were going
to live with George.  He himself had a good place in a factory, and
would live there a little while.  He returned her a moderate sum
that he had saved--one hundred and fifteen dollars--with the word
that he would not need it.

Jennie did not understand, but as the others did not write, she was
not sure but what it might be all right--her father was so
determined.  But by degrees, however, a sense of what it really
must mean overtook her--a sense of something wrong, and she
worried, hesitating between leaving Lester and going to see about
her father, whether she left him or not.  Would he come with her?
Not here certainly.  If she were married, yes, possibly.  If she
were alone--probably.  Yet if she did not get some work which paid
well they would have a difficult time.  It was the same old
problem.  What could she do?  Nevertheless, she decided to act.  If
she could get five or six dollars a week they could live.  This
hundred and fifteen dollars which Gerhardt had saved would tide
them over the worst difficulties perhaps.



CHAPTER XXXVI


The trouble with Jennie's plan was that it did not definitely take
into consideration Lester's attitude.  He did care for her in an
elemental way, but he was hedged about by the ideas of the
conventional world in which he had been reared.  To say that he
loved her well enough to take her for better or worse--to legalise
her anomalous position and to face the world bravely with the fact
that he had chosen a wife who suited him--was perhaps going a
little too far, but he did really care for her, and he was not in a
mood, at this particular time, to contemplate parting with her for
good.

Lester was getting along to that time of life when his ideas of
womanhood were fixed and not subject to change.  Thus far, on his
own plane and within the circle of his own associates, he had met
no one who appealed to him as did Jennie.  She was gentle,
intelligent, gracious, a handmaiden to his every need; and he had
taught her the little customs of polite society, until she was as
agreeable a companion as he cared to have.  He was comfortable, he
was satisfied--why seek further?

But Jennie's restlessness increased day by day.  She tried writing
out her views, and started a half dozen letters before she finally
worded one which seemed, partially at least, to express her
feelings.  It was a long letter for her, and it ran as follows:


"LESTER DEAR,

"When you get this I won't be here, and I want you not to think
harshly of me until you have read it all.  I am taking Vesta and
leaving, and I think it is really better that I should.  Lester, I
ought to do it.  You know when you met me we were very poor, and my
condition was such that I didn't think any good man would ever want
me.  When you came along and told me you loved me I was hardly able
to think just what I ought to do.  You made me love you, Lester, in
spite of myself.

"You know I told you that I oughtn't to do anything wrong any more
and that I wasn't good, but somehow when you were near me I
couldn't think just right, and I didn't see just how I was to get
away from you.  Papa was sick at home that time, and there was
hardly anything in the house to eat.  We were all doing so poorly.
My brother George didn't have good shoes, and mamma was so worried.
I have often thought, Lester, if mamma had not been compelled to
worry so much she might be alive to-day.  I thought if you liked me
and I really liked you--I love you, Lester--maybe it wouldn't make
so much difference about me.  You know you told me right away you
would like to help my family, and I felt that maybe that would be
the right thing to do.  We were so terribly poor.

"Lester, dear, I am ashamed to leave you this way; it seems so
mean, but if you knew how I have been feeling these days you would
forgive me.  Oh, I love you, Lester, I do, I do.  But for months
past--ever since your sister came--I felt that I was doing wrong,
and that I oughtn't to go on doing it, for I know how terribly
wrong it is.  It was wrong for me ever to have anything to do with
Senator Brander, but I was such a girl then--I hardly knew what I
was doing.  It was wrong of me not to tell you about Vesta when I
first met you, though I thought I was doing right when I did it.
It was terribly wrong of me to keep her here all that time
concealed, Lester, but I was afraid of you then--afraid of what you
would say and do.  When your sister Louise came it all came over me
somehow, clearly, and I have never been able to think right about
it since.  It can't be right, Lester, but I don't blame you.  I
blame myself.

"I don't ask you to marry me, Lester.  I know how you feel about me
and how you feel about your family, and I don't think it would be
right.  They would never want you to do it, and it isn't right that
I should ask you.  At the same time I know I oughtn't to go on
living this way.  Vesta is getting along where she understands
everything.  She thinks you are her really truly uncle.  I have
thought of it all so much.  I have thought a number of times that I
would try to talk to you about it, but you frighten me when you get
serious, and I don't seem to be able to say what I want to.  So I
thought if I could just write you this and then go you would
understand.  You do, Lester, don't you?  You won't be angry with
me?  I know it's for the best for you and for me.  I ought to do
it.  Please forgive me, Lester, please; and don't think of me any
more.  I will get along.  But I love you--oh yes, I do--and I will
never be grateful enough for all you have done for me.  I wish you
all the luck that can come to you.  Please forgive me, Lester.  I
love you, yes I do.  I love you.

"Jennie.

"P.S.  I expect to go to Cleveland with papa.  He needs me.  He is
all alone.  But don't come for me, Lester.  It's best that you
shouldn't."


She put this in an envelope, sealed it, and, having hidden it in
her bosom, for the time being, awaited the hour when she could
conveniently take her departure.

It was several days before she could bring herself to the actual
execution of the plan, but one afternoon, Lester, having telephoned
that he would not be home for a day or two, she packed some
necessary garments for herself and Vesta in several trunks, and
sent for an expressman.  She thought of telegraphing her father
that she was coming; but, seeing he had no home, she thought it
would be just as well to go and find him.  George and Veronica had
not taken all the furniture.  The major portion of it was in
storage--so Gerhardt had written.  She might take that and furnish
a little home or flat.  She was ready for the end, waiting for the
expressman, when the door opened and in walked Lester.

For some unforeseen reason he had changed his mind.  He was not in
the least psychic or intuitional, but on this occasion his feelings
had served him a peculiar turn.  He had thought of going for a
day's duck-shooting with some friends in the Kankakee Marshes south
of Chicago, but had finally changed his mind; he even decided to go
out to the house early.  What prompted this he could not have said.

As he neared the house he felt a little peculiar about coming home
so early; then at the sight of the two trunks standing in the
middle of the room he stood dumbfounded.  What did it mean--Jennie
dressed and ready to depart?  And Vesta in a similar condition?  He
stared in amazement, his brown eyes keen in inquiry.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Why--why--" she began, falling back.  "I was going away."

"Where to?"

"I thought I would go to Cleveland," she replied.

"What for?"

"Why--why--I meant to tell you, Lester, that I didn't think I ought
to stay here any longer this way.  I didn't think it was right.  I
thought I'd tell you, but I couldn't.  I wrote you a letter."

"A letter," he exclaimed.  "What the deuce are you talking about?
Where is the letter?"

"There," she said, mechanically pointing to a small centre-table
where the letter lay conspicuous on a large book.

"And you were really going to leave me, Jennie, with just a
letter?" said Lester, his voice hardening a little as he spoke.  "I
swear to heaven you are beyond me.  What's the point?"  He tore
open the envelope and looked at the beginning.  "Better send Vesta
from the room," he suggested.

She obeyed.  Then she came back and stood there pale and wide-eyed,
looking at the wall, at the trunks, and at him.  Lester read the
letter thoughtfully.  He shifted his position once or twice, then
dropped the paper on the floor.

"Well, I'll tell you, Jennie," he said finally, looking at her
curiously and wondering just what he was going to say.  Here again
was his chance to end this relationship if he wished.  He couldn't
feel that he did wish it, seeing how peacefully things were
running.  They had gone so far together it seemed ridiculous to
quit now.  He truly loved her--there was no doubt of that.  Still
he did not want to marry her--could not very well.  She knew that.
Her letter said as much.  "You have this thing wrong," he went on
slowly.  "I don't know what comes over you at times, but you don't
view the situation right.  I've told you before that I can't marry
you--not now, anyhow.  There are too many big things involved in
this, which you don't know anything about.  I love you, you know
that.  But my family has to be taken into consideration, and the
business.  You can't see the difficulties raised on these scores,
but I can.  Now I don't want you to leave me.  I care too much
about you.  I can't prevent you, of course.  You can go if you want
to.  But I don't think you ought to want to.  You don't really, do
you?  Sit down a minute."

Jennie, who had been counting on getting away without being seen,
was now thoroughly nonplussed.  To have him begin a quiet argument--
a plea as it were.  It hurt her.  He, Lester, pleading with her,
and she loved him so.  She went over to him, and he took her hand.
"Now, listen," he said.  "There's really nothing to be gained by
your leaving me at present.  Where did you say you were going?"

"To Cleveland," she replied.

"Well, how did you expect to get along?"

"I thought I'd take papa, if he'd come with me--he's alone now--and
get something to do, maybe."

"Well, what can you do, Jennie, different from what you ever have
done?  You wouldn't expect to be a lady's maid again, would you?
Or clerk in a store?"

"I thought I might get some place as a housekeeper," she suggested.
She had been counting up her possibilities, and this was the most
promising idea that had occurred to her.

"No, no," he grumbled, shaking his head.  "There's nothing to that.
There's nothing in this whole move of yours except a notion.  Why,
you won't be any better off morally than you are right now.  You
can't undo the past.  It doesn't make any difference, anyhow.  I
can't marry you now.  I might in the future, but I can't tell
anything about that, and I don't want to promise anything.  You're
not going to leave me though with my consent, and if you were going
I wouldn't have you dropping back into any such thing as you're
contemplating.  I'll make some provision for you.  You don't really
want to leave me, do you, Jennie?"

Against Lester's strong personality and vigorous protest Jennie's
own conclusions and decisions went to pieces.  Just the pressure of
his hand was enough to upset her.  Now she began to cry.

"Don't cry, Jennie," he said.  "This thing may work out better than
you think.  Let it rest for a while.  Take off your things.  You're
not going to leave me any more, are you?"

"No-o-o!" she sobbed.

He took her in his lap.  "Let things rest as they are," he went on.
"It's a curious world.  Things can't be adjusted in a minute.  They
may work out.  I'm putting up with some things myself that I
ordinarily wouldn't stand for."

He finally saw her restored to comparative calmness, smiling sadly
through her tears.

"Now you put those things away," he said genially, pointing to the
trunks.  "Besides, I want you to promise me one thing."

"What's that?" asked Jennie.

"No more concealment of anything, do you hear?  No more thinking
out things for yourself, and acting without my knowing anything
about it.  If you have anything on your mind, I want you to come
out with it.  I'm not going to eat you!  Talk to me about whatever
is troubling you.  I'll help you solve it, or, if I can't, at least
there won't be any concealment between us."

"I know, Lester," she said earnestly, looking him straight in the
eyes.  "I promise I'll never conceal anything any more--truly I
won't.  I've been afraid, but I won't be now.  You can trust me."

"That sounds like what you ought to be," he replied.  "I know you
will."  And he let her go.

A few days later, and in consequence of this agreement, the future
of Gerhardt came up for discussion.  Jennie had been worrying about
him for several days; now it occurred to her that this was
something to talk over with Lester.  Accordingly, she explained one
night at dinner what had happened in Cleveland.  "I know he is very
unhappy there all alone," she said, "and I hate to think of it.  I
was going to get him if I went back to Cleveland.  Now I don't know
what to do about it."

"Why don't you send him some money?" he inquired.

"He won't take any more money from me, Lester," she explained.  "He
thinks I'm not good--not acting right.  He doesn't believe I'm
married."

"He has pretty good reason, hasn't he?" said Lester calmly.

"I hate to think of him sleeping in a factory.  He's so old and
lonely."

"What's the matter with the rest of the family in Cleveland?  Won't
they do anything for him?  Where's your brother Bass?"

"I think maybe they don't want him, he's so cross," she said
simply.

"I hardly know what to suggest in that case," smiled Lester.  "The
old gentleman oughtn't to be so fussy."

"I know," she said, "but he's old now, and he has had so much
trouble."

Lester ruminated for a while, toying with his fork.  "I'll tell you
what I've been thinking, Jennie," he said finally.  "There's no use
living this way any longer, if we're going to stick it out.  I've
been thinking that we might take a house out in Hyde Park.  It's
something of a run from the office, but I'm not much for this
apartment life.  You and Vesta would be better off for a yard.  In
that case you might bring your father on to live with us.  He
couldn't do any harm pottering about; indeed, he might help keep
things straight."

"Oh, that would just suit papa, if he'd come," she replied.  "He
loves to fix things, and he'd cut the grass and look after the
furnace.  But he won't come unless he's sure I'm married."

"I don't know how that could be arranged unless you could show the
old gentleman a marriage certificate.  He seems to want something
that can't be produced very well.  A steady job he'd have running
the furnace of a country house," he added meditatively.

Jennie did not notice the grimness of the jest.  She was too busy
thinking what a tangle she had made of her life.  Gerhardt would
not come now, even if they had a lovely home to share with him.
And yet he ought to be with Vesta again.  She would make him happy.

She remained lost in a sad abstraction, until Lester, following the
drift of her thoughts, said:  "I don't see how it can be arranged.
Marriage certificate blanks aren't easily procurable.  It's bad
business--a criminal offence to forge one, I believe.  I wouldn't
want to be mixed up in that sort of thing."

"Oh, I don't want you to do anything like that, Lester.  I'm just
sorry papa is so stubborn.  When he gets a notion you can't change
him."

"Suppose we wait until we get settled after moving," he suggested.
"Then you can go to Cleveland and talk to him personally.  You
might be able to persuade him."  He liked her attitude toward her
father.  It was so decent that he rather wished he could help her
carry out her scheme.  While not very interesting, Gerhardt was not
objectionable to Lester, and if the old man wanted to do the odd
jobs around a big place, why not?



CHAPTER XXXVII    


The plan for a residence in Hyde Park was not long in taking shape.
After several weeks had passed, and things had quieted down again,
Lester invited Jennie to go with him to South Hyde Park to look for
a house.  On the first trip they found something which seemed to
suit admirably--an old-time home of eleven large rooms, set in a
lawn fully two hundred feet square and shaded by trees which had
been planted when the city was young.  It was ornate, homelike,
peaceful.  Jennie was fascinated by the sense of space and country,
although depressed by the reflection that she was not entering her
new home under the right auspices.  She had vaguely hoped that in
planning to go away she was bringing about a condition under which
Lester might have come after her and married her.  Now all that was
over.  She had promised to stay, and she would have to make the
best of it.  She suggested that they would never know what to do
with so much room, but he waved that aside.  "We will very likely
have people in now and then," he said.  "We can furnish it up
anyhow, and see how it looks."  He had the agent make out a five-
year lease, with an option for renewal, and set at once the forces
to work to put the establishment in order.

The house was painted and decorated, the lawn put in order, and
everything done to give the place a trim and satisfactory
appearance.  There was a large, comfortable library and sitting-
room, a big dining-room, a handsome reception hall, a parlour, a
large kitchen, serving-room, and in fact, all the ground-floor
essentials of a comfortable home.  On the second floor were
bedrooms, baths, and the maid's room.  It was all very comfortable
and harmonious, and Jennie took an immense pride and pleasure in
getting things in order.

Immediately after moving in, Jennie, with Lester's permission,
wrote to her father asking him to come to her.  She did not say
that she was married, but left it to be inferred.  She descanted on
the beauty of the neighbourhood, the size of the yard, and the
manifold conveniences of the establishment.  "It is so very nice,"
she added, "you would like it, papa.  Vesta is here and goes to
school every day.  Won't you come and stay with us?  It's so much
better than living in a factory.  And I would like to have you so."

Gerhardt read this letter with a solemn countenance.  Was it really
true?  Would they be taking a larger house if they were not
permanently united?  After all these years and all this lying?
Could he have been mistaken?  Well, it was high time--but should he
go?  He had lived alone this long time now--should he go to Chicago
and live with Jennie?  Her appeal did touch him, but somehow he
decided against it.  That would be too generous an acknowledgment
of the fact that there had been fault on his side as well as on
hers.

Jennie was disappointed at Gerhardt's refusal.  She talked it over
with Lester, and decided that she would go on to Cleveland and see
him.  Accordingly, she made the trip, hunted up the factory, a
great rumbling furniture concern in one of the poorest sections of
the city, and inquired at the office for her father.  The clerk
directed her to a distant warehouse, and Gerhardt was informed that
a lady wished to see him.  He crawled out of his humble cot and
came down, curious as to who it could be.  When Jennie saw him in
his dusty, baggy clothes, his hair grey, his eyebrows shaggy,
coming out of the dark door, a keen sense of the pathetic moved her
again.  "Poor papa!" she thought.  He came toward her, his
inquisitorial eye softened a little by his consciousness of the
affection that had inspired her visit.  "What are you come for?" he
asked cautiously.

"I want you to come home with me, papa," she pleaded yearningly.
"I don't want you to stay here any more.  I can't think of you
living alone any longer."

"So," he said, nonplussed, "that brings you?"

"Yes," she replied; "Won't you?  Don't stay here."

"I have a good bed," he explained by way of apology for his state.

"I know," she replied, "but we have a good home now and Vesta is
there.  Won't you come?  Lester wants you to."

"Tell me one thing," he demanded.  "Are you married?"

"Yes," she replied, lying hopelessly.  "I have been married a long
time.  You can ask Lester when you come."  She could scarcely look
him in the face, but she managed somehow, and he believed her.

"Well," he said, "it is time."

"Won't you come, papa?" she pleaded.

He threw out his hands after his characteristic manner.  The
urgency of her appeal touched him to the quick.  "Yes, I come," he
said, and turned; but she saw by his shoulders what was happening.
He was crying.

"Now, papa?" she pleaded.

For answer he walked back into the dark warehouse to get his
things.



CHAPTER XXXVIII


Gerhardt, having become an inmate of the Hyde Park home, at once
bestirred himself about the labours which he felt instinctively
concerned him.  He took charge of the furnace and the yard,
outraged at the thought that good money should be paid to any
outsider when he had nothing to do.  The trees, he declared to
Jennie, were in a dreadful condition.  If Lester would get him a
pruning knife and a saw he would attend to them in the spring.  In
Germany they knew how to care for such things, but these Americans
were so shiftless.  Then he wanted tools and nails, and in time all
the closets and shelves were put in order.  He found a Lutheran
Church almost two miles away, and declared that it was better than
the one in Cleveland.  The pastor, of course, was a heaven-sent son
of divinity.  And nothing would do but that Vesta must go to church
with him regularly.

Jennie and Lester settled down into the new order of living with
some misgivings; certain difficulties were sure to arise.  On the
North Side it had been easy for Jennie to shun neighbours and say
nothing.  Now they were occupying a house of some pretensions;
their immediate neighbours would feel it their duty to call, and
Jennie would have to play the part of an experienced hostess.  She
and Lester had talked this situation over.  It might as well be
understood here, he said, that they were husband and wife.  Vesta
was to be introduced as Jennie's daughter by her first marriage,
her husband, a Mr. Stover (her mother's maiden name), having died
immediately after the child's birth.  Lester, of course, was the
stepfather.  This particular neighbourhood was so far from the
fashionable heart of Chicago that Lester did not expect to run into
many of his friends.  He explained to Jennie the ordinary
formalities of social intercourse, so that when the first visitor
called Jennie might be prepared to receive her.  Within a fortnight
this first visitor arrived in the person of Mrs. Jacob Stendahl, a
woman of considerable importance in this particular section.  She
lived five doors from Jennie--the houses of the neighbourhood were
all set in spacious lawns--and drove up in her carriage, on her
return from her shopping, one afternoon.

"Is Mrs. Kane in?" she asked of Jeannette, the new maid.

"I think so, mam," answered the girl.  "Won't you let me have your
card?"

The card was given and taken to Jennie, who looked at it curiously.

When Jennie came into the parlour Mrs. Stendahl, a tall dark,
inquisitive-looking woman, greeted her most cordially.

"I thought I would take the liberty of intruding on you," she said
most winningly.  "I am one of your neighbours.  I live on the other
side of the street, some few doors up.  Perhaps you have seen the
house--the one with the white stone gate-posts."

"Oh, yes indeed," replied Jennie.  "I know it well.  Mr. Kane and I
were admiring it the first day we came out here."

"I know of your husband, of course, by reputation.  My husband is
connected with the Wilkes Frog and Switch Company."

Jennie bowed her head.  She knew that the latter concern must be
something important and profitable from the way in which Mrs.
Stendahl spoke of it.

"We have lived here quite a number of years, and I know how you
must feel coming as a total stranger to a new section of the city.
I hope you will find time to come in and see me some afternoon.  I
shall be most pleased.  My regular reception day is Thursday."

"Indeed I shall," answered Jennie, a little nervously, for the
ordeal was a trying one.  "I appreciate your goodness in calling.
Mr. Kane is very busy as a rule, but when he is at home I am sure
he would be most pleased to meet you and your husband."

"You must both come over some evening," replied Mrs. Stendahl.  "We
lead a very quiet life.  My husband is not much for social
gatherings.  But we enjoy our neighbourhood friends."

Jennie smiled her assurances of good-will.  She accompanied Mrs.
Stendahl to the door, and shook hands with her.  "I'm so glad to
find you so charming," observed Mrs. Stendahl frankly.

"Oh, thank you," said Jennie flushing a little.  "I'm sure I don't
deserve so much praise."

"Well, now I will expect you some afternoon.  Good-bye," and she
waved a gracious farewell.

"That wasn't so bad," thought Jennie as she watched Mrs. Stendahl
drive away.  "She is very nice, I think.  I'll tell Lester about
her."

Among the other callers were a Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael Burke, a
Mrs. Hanson Field, and a Mrs. Timothy Ballinger--all of whom left
cards, or stayed to chat a few minutes.  Jennie found herself taken
quite seriously as a woman of importance, and she did her best to
support the dignity of her position.  And, indeed, she did
exceptionally well.  She was most hospitable and gracious.  She had
a kindly smile and a manner wholly natural; she succeeded in making
a most favourable impression.  She explained to her guests that she
had been living on the North Side until recently, that HER HUSBAND,
Mr. Kane, had long wanted to have a home in Hyde Park, that her
father and daughter were living here, and that Lester was the
child's stepfather.  She said she hoped to repay all these nice
attentions and to be a good neighbour.

Lester heard about these calls in the evening, for he did not care
to meet these people.  Jennie came to enjoy it in a mild way.  She
liked making new friends, and she was hoping that something
definite could be worked out here which would make Lester look upon
her as a good wife and an ideal companion.  Perhaps, some day, he
might really want to marry her.

First impressions are not always permanent, as Jennie was soon to
discover.  The neighbourhood had accepted her perhaps a little too
hastily, and now rumours began to fly about.  A Mrs. Sommerville,
calling on Mrs. Craig, one of Jennie's near neighbours, intimated
that she knew who Lester was--"oh, yes, indeed.  You know, my
dear," she went on, "his reputation is just a little--" she raised
her eyebrows and her hand at the same time.

"You don't say!" commented her friend curiously.  "He looks like
such a staid, conservative person."

"Oh, no doubt, in a way, he is," went on Mrs. Sommerville.  "His
family is of the very best.  There was some young woman he went
with--so my husband tells me.  I don't know whether this is the one
or not, but she was introduced as a Miss Gorwood, or some such name
as that, when they were living together as husband and wife on the
North Side."

"Tst!  Tst!  Tst!" clicked Mrs. Craig with her tongue at this
astonishing news.  "You don't tell me!  Come to think of it, it
must be the same woman.  Her father's name is Gerhardt."

"Gerhardt!" exclaimed Mrs. Sommerville.  "Yes, that's the name.  It
seems to me that there was some earlier scandal in connection with
her--at least there was a child.  Whether he married her afterward
or not, I don't know.  Anyhow, I understand his family will not
have anything to do with her."

"How very interesting!" exclaimed Mrs. Craig.  "And to think he
should have married her afterward, if he really did.  I'm sure you
can't tell with whom you're coming in contact these days, can you?"

"It's so true.  Life does get badly mixed at times.  She appears to
be a charming woman."

"Delightful!" exclaimed Mrs. Craig.  "Quite naive.  I was really
taken with her."

"Well, it may be," went on her guest, "that this isn't the same
woman after all.  I may be mistaken."

"Oh, I hardly think so.  Gerhardt!  She told me they had been
living on the North Side."

"Then I'm sure it's the same person.  How curious that you should
speak of her!"

"It is, indeed," went on Mrs. Craig, who was speculating as to what
her attitude toward Jennie should be in the future.

Other rumours came from other sources.  There were people who had
seen Jennie and Lester out driving on the North Side, who had been
introduced to her as Miss Gerhardt, who knew what the Kane family
thought.  Of course her present position, the handsome house, the
wealth of Lester, the beauty of Vesta--all these things helped to
soften the situation.  She was apparently too circumspect, too much
the good wife and mother, too really nice to be angry with; but she
had a past, and that had to be taken into consideration.

An opening bolt of the coming storm fell upon Jennie one day when
Vesta, returning from school, suddenly asked:  "Mamma, who was my
papa?"

"His name was Stover, dear," replied her mother, struck at once by
the thought that there might have been some criticism--that some
one must have been saying something.  "Why do you ask?"

"Where was I born?" continued Vesta, ignoring the last inquiry, and
interested in clearing up her own identity.

"In Columbus, Ohio, pet.  Why?"

"Anita Ballinger said I didn't have any papa, and that you weren't
ever married when you had me.  She said I wasn't a really, truly
girl at all--just a nobody.  She made me so mad I slapped her."

Jennie's face grew rigid.  She sat staring straight before her.
Mrs. Ballinger had called, and Jennie had thought her peculiarly
gracious and helpful in her offer of assistance, and now her little
daughter had said this to Vesta.  Where did the child hear it?

"You mustn't pay any attention to her, dearie," said Jennie at
last.  "She doesn't know.  Your papa was Mr. Stover, and you were
born in Columbus.  You mustn't fight other little girls.  Of course
they say nasty things when they fight--sometimes things they don't
really mean.  Just let her alone and don't go near her any more.
Then she won't say anything to you."

It was a lame explanation, but it satisfied Vesta for the time
being.  "I'll slap her if she tries to slap me," she persisted.

"You mustn't go near her, pet, do you hear?  Then she can't try to
slap you," returned her mother.  "Just go about your studies, and
don't mind her.  She can't quarrel with you if you don't let her."

Vesta went away leaving Jennie brooding over her words.  The
neighbours were talking.  Her history was becoming gossip.  How had
they found out.

It is one thing to nurse a single thrust, another to have the wound
opened from time to time by additional stabs.  One day Jennie,
having gone to call on Mrs. Hanson Field, who was her immediate
neighbour, met a Mrs. Williston Baker, who was there taking tea.
Mrs. Baker knew of the Kanes, of Jennie's history on the North
Side, and the attitude of the Kane family.  She was a thin,
vigorous, intellectual woman, somewhat on the order of Mrs.
Bracebridge, and very careful of her social connections.  She
had always considered Mrs. Field a woman of the same rigid
circumspectness of attitude, and when she found Jennie calling
there she was outwardly calm but inwardly irritated.  "This is Mrs.
Kane, Mrs. Baker," said Mrs. Field, introducing her guests with a
smiling countenance.  Mrs. Baker looked at Jennie ominously.

"Mrs. Lester Kane?" she inquired.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Field

"Indeed," she went on freezingly.  "I've heard a great deal about
Mrs.--" accenting the word--"Mrs. Lester Kane."

She turned to Mrs. Field, ignoring Jennie completely, and started
an intimate conversation in which Jennie could have no possible
share.  Jennie stood helplessly by, unable to formulate a thought
which would be suitable to so trying a situation.  Mrs. Baker soon
announced her departure, although she had intended to stay longer.
"I can't remain another minute," she said; "I promised Mrs. Neil
that I would step in to see her to-day.  I'm sure I've bored you
enough already as it is."

She walked to the door, not troubling to look at Jennie until she
was nearly out of the room.  Then she looked in her direction, and
gave her a frigid nod.

"We meet such curious people now and again," she observed finally
to her hostess as she swept away.

Mrs. Field did not feel able to defend Jennie, for she herself was
in no notable social position, and was endeavouring, like every
other middle-class woman of means, to get along.  She did not care
to offend Mrs. Williston Baker, who was socially so much more
important than Jennie.  She came back to where Jennie was sitting,
smiling apologetically, but she was a little bit flustered.  Jennie
was out of countenance, of course.  Presently she excused herself
and went home.  She had been cut deeply by the slight offered her,
and she felt that Mrs. Field realised that she had made a mistake
in ever taking her up.  There would be no additional exchange of
visits there--that she knew.  The old hopeless feeling came over
her that her life was a failure.  It couldn't be made right, if it
could, it wouldn't be.  Lester was not inclined to marry her and
put her right.

Time went on and matters remained very much as they were.  To look
at this large house, with its smooth lawn and well-grown trees, its
vines clambering about the pillars of the veranda and interlacing
themselves into a transparent veil of green; to see Gerhardt
pottering about the yard, Vesta coming home from school, Lester
leaving in the morning in his smart trap--one would have said that
here is peace and plenty, no shadow of unhappiness hangs over this
charming home.

And as a matter of fact existence with Lester and Jennie did run
smoothly.  It is true that the neighbours did not call any more, or
only a very few of them, and there was no social life to speak of;
but the deprivation was hardly noticed; there was so much in the
home life to please and interest.  Vesta was learning to play the
piano, and to play quite well.  She had a good ear for music.
Jennie was a charming figure in blue, lavender, and olive-green
house-gowns as she went about her affairs, sewing, dusting, getting
Vesta off to school, and seeing that things generally were put to
rights.  Gerhardt busied himself about his multitudinous duties,
for he was not satisfied unless he had his hands into all the
domestic economies of the household.  One of his self-imposed tasks
was to go about the house after Lester, or the servants, turning
out the gas-jets or electric-light bulbs which might accidentally
have been left burning.  That was a sinful extravagance.

Again, Lester's expensive clothes, which he carelessly threw aside
after a few month's use, were a source of woe to the thrifty old
German.  Moreover, he grieved over splendid shoes discarded because
of a few wrinkles in the leather or a slightly run down heel or
sole.  Gerhardt was for having them repaired, but Lester answered
the old man's querulous inquiry as to what was wrong "with them
shoes" by saying that they weren't comfortable any more.

"Such extravagance!" Gerhardt complained to Jennie.  "Such waste!
No good can come of anything like that.  It will mean want one of
these days."

"He can't help it, papa," Jennie excused.  "That's the way he was
raised."

"Ha!  A fine way to be raised.  These Americans, they know nothing
of economy.  They ought to live in Germany awhile.  Then they would
know what a dollar can do."

Lester heard something of this through Jennie, but he only smiled.
Gerhardt was amusing to him.

Another grievance was Lester's extravagant use of matches.  He had
the habit of striking a match, holding it while he talked, instead
of lighting his cigar, and then throwing it away.  Sometimes he
would begin to light a cigar two or three minutes before he would
actually do so, tossing aside match after match.  There was a place
out in one corner of the veranda where he liked to sit of a spring
or summer evening, smoking and throwing away half-burned matches.
Jennie would sit with him, and a vast number of matches would be
lit and flung out on the lawn.  At one time, while engaged in
cutting the grass, Gerhardt found, to his horror, not a handful,
but literally boxes of half-burned match-sticks lying unconsumed
and decaying under the fallen blades.  He was discouraged, to say
the least.  He gathered up this damning evidence in a newspaper and
carried it back into the sitting-room where Jennie was sewing.

"See here, what I find!" he demanded.  "Just look at that!  That
man, he has no more sense of economy than a--than a--" the right
term failed him.  "He sits and smokes, and this is the way he uses
matches.  Five cents a box they cost--five cents.  How can a man
hope to do well and carry on like that, I like to know.  Look at
them."

Jennie looked.  She shook her head.  "Lester is extravagant," she
said.

Gerhardt carried them to the basement.  At least they should be
burned in the furnace.  He would have used them as lighters for his
own pipe, sticking them in the fire to catch a blaze, only old
newspapers were better, and he had stacks of these--another
evidence of his lord and master's wretched, spendthrift disposition.
It was a sad world to work in.  Almost everything was against him.
Still he fought as valiantly as he could against waste and shameless
extravagance.  His own economies were rigid.  He would wear the
same suit of black--cut down from one of Lester's expensive
investments of years before--every Sunday for a couple of years.
Lester's shoes, by a little stretch of the imagination, could be
made to seem to fit, and these he wore.  His old ties also--the
black ones--they were fine.  If he could have cut down Lester's
shirts he would have done so; he did make over the underwear, with
the friendly aid of the cook's needle.  Lester's socks, of course,
were just right. There was never any expense for Gerhardt's
clothing.

The remaining stock of Lester's discarded clothing--shoes, shirts,
collars, suits, ties, and what not--he would store away for weeks
and months, and then, in a sad and gloomy frame of mind, he would
call in a tailor, or an old-shoe man, or a ragman, and dispose of
the lot at the best price he could.  He learned that all second-
hand clothes men were sharks; that there was no use in putting the
least faith in the protests of any rag dealer or old-shoe man.
They all lied.  They all claimed to be very poor, when as a matter
of fact they were actually rolling in wealth.  Gerhardt had
investigated these stories; he had followed them up; he had seen
what they were doing with the things he sold them.

"Scoundrels!" he declared.  "They offer me ten cents for a pair of
shoes, and then I see them hanging out in front of their places
marked two dollars.  Such robbery!  My God!  They could afford to
give me a dollar."

Jennie smiled.  It was only to her that he complained, for he could
expect no sympathy from Lester.  So far as his own meagre store of
money was concerned, he gave the most of it to his beloved church,
where he was considered to be a model of propriety, honesty, faith--
in fact, the embodiment of all the virtues.

And so, for all the ill winds that were beginning to blow socially,
Jennie was now leading the dream years of her existence.  Lester,
in spite of the doubts which assailed him at times as to the wisdom
of his career, was invariably kind and considerate, and he seemed
to enjoy his home life.

"Everything all right?" she would ask when he came in of an
evening.

"Sure!" he would answer, and pinch her chin or cheek.

She would follow him in while Jeannette, always alert, would take
his coat and hat.  In the winter-time they would sit in the library
before the big grate-fire.  In the spring, summer, or fall Lester
preferred to walk out on the porch, one corner of which commanded a
sweeping view of the lawn and the distant street, and light his
before-dinner cigar.  Jennie would sit on the side of his chair and
stroke his head.  "Your hair is not getting the least bit thin,
Lester; aren't you glad?" she would say; or, "Oh, see how your brow
is wrinkled now.  You mustn't do that.  You didn't change your tie,
mister, this morning.  Why didn't you?  I laid one out for you."

"Oh, I forgot," he would answer, or he would cause the wrinkles to
disappear, or laughingly predict that he would soon be getting bald
if he wasn't so now.

In the drawing-room or library, before Vesta and Gerhardt, she was
not less loving, though a little more circumspect.  She loved odd
puzzles like pigs in clover, the spider's hole, baby billiards, and
the like.  Lester shared in these simple amusements.  He would work
by the hour, if necessary, to make a difficult puzzle come right.
Jennie was clever at solving these mechanical problems.  Sometimes
she would have to show him the right method, and then she would be
immensely pleased with herself.  At other times she would stand
behind him watching, her chin on his shoulder, her arms about his
neck.  He seemed not to mind--indeed, he was happy in the wealth of
affection she bestowed.  Her cleverness, her gentleness, her tact
created an atmosphere which was immensely pleasing; above all her
youth and beauty appealed to him.  It made him feel young, and if
there was one thing Lester objected to, it was the thought of
drying up into an aimless old age.  "I want to keep young, or die
young," was one of his pet remarks; and Jennie came to understand.
She was glad that she was so much younger now for his sake.

Another pleasant feature of the home life was Lester's steadily
increasing affection for Vesta.  The child would sit at the big
table in the library in the evening conning her books, while Jennie
would sew, and Gerhardt would read his interminable list of German
Lutheran papers.  It grieved the old man that Vesta should not be
allowed to go to a German Lutheran parochial school, but Lester
would listen to nothing of the sort.  "We'll not have any thick-
headed German training in this," he said to Jennie, when she
suggested that Gerhardt had complained.  "The public schools are
good enough for any child.  You tell him to let her alone."

There were really some delightful hours among the four.  Lester
liked to take the little seven-year-old school-girl between his
knees and tease her.  He liked to invert the so-called facts of
life, to propound its paradoxes, and watch how the child's budding
mind took them.  "What's water?" he would ask; and being informed
that it was "what we drink," he would stare and say, "That's so,
but what is it?  Don't they teach you any better than that?"

"Well, it is what we drink, isn't it?" persisted Vesta.

"The fact that we drink it doesn't explain what it is," he would
retort.  "You ask your teacher what water is"; and then he would
leave her with this irritating problem troubling her young soul.

Food, china, her dress, anything was apt to be brought back to its
chemical constituents, and he would leave her to struggle with
these dark suggestions of something else back of the superficial
appearance of things until she was actually in awe of him.  She had
a way of showing him how nice she looked before she started to
school in the morning, a habit that arose because of his constant
criticism of her appearance.  He wanted her to look smart, he
insisted on a big bow of blue ribbon for her hair, he demanded that
her shoes be changed from low quarter to high boots with the
changing character of the seasons and that her clothing be carried
out on a colour scheme suited to her complexion and disposition.

"That child's light and gay by disposition.  Don't put anything
sombre on her," he once remarked.

Jennie had come to realise that he must be consulted in this, and
would say, "Run to your papa and show him how you look."

Vesta would come and turn briskly around before him, saying, "See."

"Yes.  You're all right.  Go on"; and on she would go.

He grew so proud of her that on Sundays and some weekdays when they
drove he would always have her in between them.  He insisted that
Jennie send her to dancing-school, and Gerhardt was beside himself
with rage and grief.  "Such irreligion!" he complained to Jennie.
"Such devil's fol-de-rol.  Now she goes to dance.  What for?  To
make a no-good out of her--a creature to be ashamed of?"

"Oh, no, papa," replied Jennie.  "It isn't as bad as that.  This is
an awful nice school.  Lester says she has to go."

"Lester, Lester; that man!  A fine lot he knows about what is good
for a child.  A card-player, a whisky-drinker!"

"Now, hush, papa; I won't have you talk like that," Jennie would
reply warmly.  "He's a good man, and you know it."

"Yes, yes, a good man.  In some things, maybe.  Not in this.  No."

He went away groaning.  When Lester was near he said nothing, and
Vesta could wind him around her finger.

"Oh you," she would say, pulling at his arm or rubbing his grizzled
cheek.  There was no more fight in Gerhardt when Vesta did this.
He lost control of himself--something welled up and choked his
throat.  "Yes, I know how you do," he would exclaim.

Vesta would tweak his ear.

"Stop now!" he would say.  "That is enough."

It was noticeable, however, that she did not have to stop unless
she herself willed it.  Gerhardt adored the child, and she could do
anything with him; he was always her devoted servitor.



CHAPTER XXXIX


During this period the dissatisfaction of the Kane family with
Lester's irregular habit of life grew steadily stronger.  That it
could not help but become an open scandal, in the course of time,
was sufficiently obvious to them.  Rumours were already going
about.  People seemed to understand in a wise way, though nothing
was ever said directly.  Kane senior could scarcely imagine what
possessed his son to fly in the face of conventions in this manner.
If the woman had been some one of distinction--some sorceress of
the stage, or of the world of art, or letters, his action would
have been explicable if not commendable, but with this creature of
very ordinary capabilities, as Louise had described her, this
putty-faced nobody--he could not possibly understand it.

Lester was his son, his favourite son; it was too bad that he had
not settled down in the ordinary way.  Look at the women in
Cincinnati who knew him and liked him.  Take Letty Pace, for
instance.  Why in the name of common sense had he not married her?
She was good looking, sympathetic, talented.  The old man grieved
bitterly, and then, by degrees, he began to harden.  It seemed a
shame that Lester should treat him so.  It wasn't natural, or
justifiable, or decent.  Archibald Kane brooded over it until he
felt that some change ought to be enforced, but just what it should
be he could not say.  Lester was his own boss, and he would resent
any criticism of his actions.  Apparently, nothing could be done.

Certain changes helped along an approaching denouement.  Louise
married not many months after her very disturbing visit to Chicago,
and then the home property was fairly empty except for visiting
grandchildren.  Lester did not attend the wedding, though he was
invited.  For another thing, Mrs. Kane died, making a readjustment
of the family will necessary.  Lester came home on this occasion,
grieved to think he had lately seen so little of his mother--that
he had caused her so much pain--but he had no explanation to make.
His father thought at the time of talking to him, but put it off
because of his obvious gloom.  He went back to Chicago, and there
were more months of silence.

After Mrs. Kane's death and Louise's marriage, the father went to
live with Robert, for his three grandchildren afforded him his
greatest pleasure in his old age.  The business, except for the
final adjustment which would come after his death, was in Robert's
hands.  The latter was consistently agreeable to his sisters and
their husbands and to his father, in view of the eventual control
he hoped to obtain.  He was not a sycophant in any sense of the
word, but a shrewd, cold business man, far shrewder than his
brother gave him credit for.  He was already richer than any two of
the other children put together, but he chose to keep his counsel
and to pretend modesty of fortune.  He realised the danger of envy,
and preferred a Spartan form of existence, putting all the emphasis
on inconspicuous but very ready and very hard cash.  While Lester
was drifting Robert was working--working all the time.

Robert's scheme for eliminating his brother from participation in
the control of the business was really not very essential, for
his father, after long brooding over the details of the Chicago
situation, had come to the definite conclusion that any large
share of his property ought not to go to Lester.  Obviously,
Lester was not so strong a man as he had thought him to be.  Of
the two brothers, Lester might be the bigger intellectually or
sympathetically--artistically and socially there was no comparison--
but Robert got commercial results in a silent, effective way.  If
Lester was not going to pull himself together at this stage of the
game, when would he?  Better leave his property to those who would
take care of it.  Archibald Kane thought seriously of having his
lawyer revise his will in such a way that, unless Lester should
reform, he would be cut off with only a nominal income.  But he
decided to give Lester one more chance--to make a plea, in fact,
that he should abandon his false way of living, and put himself on
a sound basis before the world.  It wasn't too late.  He really had
a great future.  Would he deliberately choose to throw it away?
Old Archibald wrote Lester that he would like to have a talk with
him at his convenience, and within the lapse of thirty-six hours
Lester was in Cincinnati.

"I thought I'd have one more talk with you, Lester, on a subject
that's rather difficult for me to bring up," began the elder Kane.
"You know what I'm referring to?"

"Yes, I know," replied Lester, calmly.

"I used to think, when I was much younger, that my son's
matrimonial ventures would never concern me, but I changed my views
on that score when I got a little farther along.  I began to see
through my business connections how much the right sort of a
marriage helps a man, and then I got rather anxious that my boys
should marry well.  I used to worry about you, Lester, and I'm
worrying yet.  This recent connection you've made has caused me no
end of trouble.  It worried your mother up to the very last.  It
was her one great sorrow.  Don't you think you have gone far enough
with it?  The scandal has reached down here.  What it is in Chicago
I don't know, but it can't be a secret.  That can't help the house
in business there.  It certainly can't help you.  The whole thing
has gone on so long that you have injured your prospects all
around, and yet you continue.  Why do you?"

"I suppose because I love her," Lester replied.

"You can't be serious in that," said his father.  "If you had loved
her, you'd have married her in the first place.  Surely you
wouldn't take a woman and live with her as you have with this woman
for years, disgracing her and yourself, and still claim that you
love her.  You may have a passion for her, but it isn't love."

"How do you know I haven't married her?" inquired Lester coolly.
He wanted to see how his father would take to that idea.

"You're not serious!"  The old gentleman propped himself up on his
arms and looked at him.

"No, I'm not," replied Lester, "but I might be.  I might marry
her."

"Impossible!" exclaimed his father vigorously.  "I can't believe
it.  I can't believe a man of your intelligence would do a thing
like that, Lester.  Where is your judgment?  Why, you've lived in
open adultery with her for years, and now you talk of marrying her.
Why, in heaven's name, if you were going to do anything like that,
didn't you do it in the first place?  Disgrace your parents, break
your mother's heart, injure the business, become a public scandal,
and then marry the cause of it?  I don't believe it."

Old Archibald got up.

"Don't get excited, father," said Lester quickly.  "We won't get
anywhere that way.  I say I might marry her.  She's not a bad
woman, and I wish you wouldn't talk about her as you do.  You've
never seen her.  You know nothing about her.

"I know enough," insisted old Archibald, determinedly.  "I know
that no good woman would act as she has done.  Why, man, she's
after your money.  What else could she want?  It's as plain as the
nose on your face."

"Father," said Lester, his voice lowering ominously, "why do you
talk like that?  You never saw the woman.  You wouldn't know her
from Adam's off ox.  Louise comes down here and gives an excited
report, and you people swallow it whole.  She isn't as bad as you
think she is, and I wouldn't use the language you're using about
her if I were you.  You're doing a good woman an injustice, and you
won't, for some reason, be fair."

"Fair!  Fair!" interrupted Archibald.  "Talk about being fair.  Is
it fair to me, to your family, to your dead mother to take a woman
of the streets and live with her?  Is it--"

"Stop now, father," exclaimed Lester, putting up his hand.  "I warn
you.  I won't listen to talk like that.  You're talking about the
woman that I'm living with--that I may marry.  I love you, but I
won't have you saying things that aren't so.  She isn't a woman of
the streets.  You know, as well as you know anything, that I
wouldn't take up with a woman of that kind.  We'll have to discuss
this in a calmer mood, or I won't stay here.  I'm sorry.  I'm
awfully sorry.  But I won't listen to any such language as that."

Old Archibald quieted himself.  In spite of his opposition, he
respected his son's point of view.  He sat back in his chair and
stared at the floor.  "How was he to handle this thing?" he asked
himself.

"Are you living in the same place?" he finally inquired.

"No, we've moved out to Hyde Park.  I've taken a house out there."

"I hear there's a child.  Is that yours?"

"No."

"Have you any children of your own?"

"No."

"Well, that's a God's blessing."

Lester merely scratched his chin.

"And you insist you will marry her?" Archibald went on.

"I didn't say that," replied his son.  "I said I might."

"Might!  Might!" exclaimed his father, his anger bubbling again.
"What a tragedy!  You with your prospects!  Your outlook!  How do
you suppose I can seriously contemplate entrusting any share of my
fortune to a man who has so little regard for what the world
considers as right and proper?  Why, Lester, this carriage
business, your family, your personal reputation appear to be as
nothing at all to you.  I can't understand what has happened to
your pride.  It seems like some wild, impossible fancy."

"It's pretty hard to explain, father, and I can't do it very well.
I simply know that I'm in this affair, and that I'm bound to see it
through.  It may come out all right.  I may not marry her--I may.
I'm not prepared now to say what I'll do.  You'll have to wait.
I'll do the best I can."

Old Archibald merely shook his head disapprovingly.

"You've made a bad mess of this, Lester," he said finally.  "Surely
you have.  But I suppose you are determined to go your way.
Nothing that I have said appears to move you."

"Not now, father.  I'm sorry."

"Well, I warn you, then, that, unless you show some consideration
for the dignity of your family and the honour of your position it
will make a difference in my will.  I can't go on countenancing
this thing, and not be a party to it morally and every other way.
I won't do it.  You can leave her, or you can marry her.  You
certainly ought to do one or the other.  If you leave her,
everything will be all right.  You can make any provision for her
you like.  I have no objection to that.  I'll gladly pay whatever
you agree to.  You will share with the rest of the children, just
as I had planned.  If you marry her it will make a difference.  Now
do as you please.  But don't blame me.  I love you.  I'm your
father.  I'm doing what I think is my bounden duty.  Now you think
that over and let me know."

Lester sighed.  He saw how hopeless this argument was.  He felt
that his father probably meant what he said, but how could he leave
Jennie, and justify himself to himself?  Would his father really
cut him off?  Surely not.  The old gentleman loved him even now--he
could see it.  Lester felt troubled and distressed; this attempt at
coercion irritated him.  The idea--he, Lester Kane, being made to
do such a thing--to throw Jennie down.  He stared at the floor.

Old Archibald saw that he had let fly a telling bullet.

"Well," said Lester finally, "there's no use of our discussing it
any further now--that's certain, isn't it?  I can't say what I'll
do.  I'll have to take time and think.  I can't decide this
offhand."

The two looked at each other.  Lester was sorry for the world's
attitude and for his father's keen feeling about the affair.  Kane
senior was sorry for his son, but he was determined to see the
thing through.  He wasn't sure whether he had converted Lester or
not, but he was hopeful.  Maybe he would come around yet.

"Good-bye, father," said Lester, holding out his hand.  "I think
I'll try and make that two-ten train.  There isn't anything else
you wanted to see me about?"

"No."

The old man sat there after Lester had gone, thinking deeply.  What
a twisted career!  What an end to great possibilities?  What a
foolhardy persistence in evil and error!  He shook his head.
Robert was wiser.  He was the one to control a business.  He was
cool and conservative.  If Lester were only like that.  He thought
and thought.  It was a long time before he stirred.  And still, in
the bottom of his heart, his erring son continued to appeal to him.



CHAPTER XL


Lester returned to Chicago.  He realised that he had offended his
father seriously, how seriously he could not say.  In all his
personal relations with old Archibald he had never seen him so
worked up.  But even now Lester did not feel that the breach was
irreparable; he hardly realised that it was necessary for him to
act decisively if he hoped to retain his father's affection and
confidence.  As for the world at large, what did it matter how much
people talked or what they said.  He was big enough to stand alone.
But was he?  People turn so quickly from weakness or the shadow of
it.  To get away from failure--even the mere suspicion of it--that
seems to be a subconscious feeling with the average man and woman;
we all avoid non-success as though we fear that it may prove
contagious.  Lester was soon to feel the force of this prejudice.

One day Lester happened to run across Berry Dodge, the millionaire
head of Dodge, Holbrook & Kingsbury, a firm that stood in the dry-
goods world, where the Kane Company stood in the carriage world.
Dodge had been one of Lester's best friends.  He knew him as
intimately as he knew Henry Bracebridge, of Cleveland, and George
Knowles, of Cincinnati.  He visited at his handsome home on the
North Shore Drive, and they met constantly in a business and social
way.  But since Lester had moved out to Hyde Park, the old intimacy
had lapsed.  Now they came face to face on Michigan Avenue near the
Kane building.

"Why, Lester, I'm glad to see you again," said Dodge.  He extended
a formal hand, and seemed just a little cool.  "I hear you've gone
and married since I saw you."

"No, nothing like that," replied Lester, easily, with the air of
one who prefers to be understood in the way of the world sense.

"Why so secret about it, if you have?" asked Dodge, attempting to
smile, but with a wry twist to the corners of his mouth.  He was
trying to be nice, and to go through a difficult situation
gracefully.  "We fellows usually make a fuss about that sort of
thing.  You ought to let your friends know."

"Well," said Lester, feeling the edge of the social blade that was
being driven into him, "I thought I'd do it in a new way.  I'm not
much for excitement in that direction, anyhow."

"It is a matter of taste, isn't it?" said Dodge a little absently.
"You're living in the city, of course?"

"In Hyde Park."

"That's a pleasant territory.  How are things otherwise?"  And he
deftly changed the subject before waving him a perfunctory
farewell.

Lester missed at once the inquiries which a man like Dodge would
have made if he had really believed that he was married.  Under
ordinary circumstances his friend would have wanted to know a great
deal about the new Mrs. Kane.  There would have been all those
little familiar touches common to people living on the same social
plane.  Dodge would have asked Lester to bring his wife over to see
them, would have definitely promised to call.  Nothing of the sort
happened, and Lester noticed the significant omission.

It was the same with the Burnham Moores, the Henry Aldriches, and a
score of other people whom he knew equally well.  Apparently they
all thought that he had married and settled down.  They were
interested to know where he was living, and they were rather
disposed to joke him about being so very secretive on the subject,
but they were not willing to discuss the supposed Mrs. Kane.  He
was beginning to see that this move of his was going to tell
against him notably.

One of the worst stabs--it was the cruellest because, in a way, it
was the most unintentional--he received from an old acquaintance,
Will Whitney, at the Union Club.  Lester was dining there one
evening, and Whitney met him in the main reading-room as he was
crossing from the cloak-room to the cigar-stand.  The latter was a
typical society figure, tall, lean, smooth-faced, immaculately
garbed, a little cynical, and tonight a little the worse for
liquor.  "Hi, Lester!" he called out, "what's this talk about a
menage of yours out in Hyde Park?  Say, you're going some.  How are
you going to explain all this to your wife when you get married?"

"I don't have to explain it," replied Lester irritably.  "Why
should you be so interested in my affairs?  You're not living in a
stone house, are you?"

"Say, ha! ha! that's pretty good now, isn't it?  You didn't marry
that little beauty you used to travel around with on the North
Side, did you?  Eh, now!  Ha, ha!  Well, I swear.  You married!
You didn't, now, did you?"

"Cut it out, Whitney," said Lester roughly.  "You're talking wild."

"Pardon, Lester," said the other aimlessly, but sobering.  "I beg
your pardon.  Remember, I'm just a little warm.  Eight whisky-sours
straight in the other room there.  Pardon.  I'll talk to you some
time when I'm all right.  See, Lester?  Eh!  Ha! ha!  I'm a little
loose, that's right.  Well, so long!  Ha! ha!"

Lester could not get over that cacophonous "ha! ha!"  It cut him,
even though it came from a drunken man's mouth.  "That little
beauty you used to travel with on the North Side.  You didn't marry
her, did you?"  He quoted Whitney's impertinences resentfully.
George!  But this was getting a little rough!  He had never endured
anything like this before--he, Lester Kane.  It set him thinking.
Certainly he was paying dearly for trying to do the kind thing by
Jennie.



CHAPTER XLI


But worse was to follow.  The American public likes gossip about
well-known people, and the Kanes were wealthy and socially
prominent.  The report was that Lester, one of its principal heirs,
had married a servant girl.  He, an heir to millions!  Could it be
possible?  What a piquant morsel for the newspapers!  Very soon the
paragraphs began to appear.  A small society paper, called the
South Side Budget, referred to him anonymously as "the son of a
famous and wealthy carriage manufacturer of Cincinnati," and
outlined briefly what it knew of the story.  "Of Mrs. ----" it went
on, sagely, "not so much is known, except that she once worked in a
well-known Cleveland society family as a maid and was, before that,
a working-girl in Columbus, Ohio.  After such a picturesque love-
affair in high society who shall say that romance is dead?"

Lester saw this item.  He did not take the paper, but some kind
soul took good care to see that a copy was marked and mailed to
him.  It irritated him greatly, for he suspected at once that it
was a scheme to blackmail him.  But he did not know exactly what to
do about it.  He preferred, of course, that such comments should
cease, but he also thought that if he made any effort to have
them stopped he might make matters worse.  So he did nothing.
Naturally, the paragraph in the Budget attracted the attention of
other newspapers.  It sounded like a good story, and one Sunday
editor, more enterprising than the others, conceived the notion of
having this romance written up.  A full-page Sunday story with a
scare-head such as "Sacrifices Millions for His Servant Girl Love,"
pictures of Lester, Jennie, the house at Hyde Park, the Kane
manufactory at Cincinnati, the warehouse on Michigan Avenue--
certainly, such a display would make a sensation.  The Kane Company
was not an advertiser in any daily or Sunday paper.  The newspaper
owed him nothing.  If Lester had been forewarned he might have put
a stop to the whole business by putting an advertisement in the
paper or appealing to the publisher.  He did not know, however, and
so was without power to prevent the publication.  The editor made a
thorough job of the business.  Local newspaper men in Cincinnati,
Cleveland, and Columbus were instructed to report by wire whether
anything of Jennie's history was known in their city.  The
Bracebridge family in Cleveland was asked whether Jennie had ever
worked there.  A garbled history of the Gerhardts was obtained from
Columbus.  Jennie's residence on the North Side, for several years
prior to her supposed marriage, was discovered and so the whole
story was nicely pieced together.  It was not the idea of the
newspaper editor to be cruel or critical, but rather complimentary.
All the bitter things, such as the probable illegitimacy of Vesta,
the suspected immorality of Lester and Jennie in residing together
as man and wife, the real grounds of the well-known objections of
his family to the match, were ignored.  The idea was to frame up a
Romeo and Juliet story in which Lester should appear as an ardent,
self-sacrificing lover, and Jennie as a poor and lovely working-
girl, lifted to great financial and social heights by the devotion
of her millionaire lover.  An exceptional newspaper artist was
engaged to make scenes depicting the various steps of the romance
and the whole thing was handled in the most approved yellow-journal
style.  There was a picture of Lester obtained from his Cincinnati
photographer for a consideration; Jennie had been surreptitiously
"snapped" by a staff artist while she was out walking.

And so, apparently out of a clear sky, the story appeared--highly
complimentary, running over with sugary phrases, but with all the
dark, sad facts looming up in the background.  Jennie did not see
it at first.  Lester came across the page accidentally, and tore it
out.  He was stunned and chagrined beyond words.  "To think the
damned newspaper would do that to a private citizen who was quietly
minding his own business!" he thought.  He went out of the house,
the better to conceal his deep inward mortification.  He avoided
the more populous parts of the town, particularly the downtown
section, and rode far out on Cottage Grove Avenue to the open
prairie.  He wondered, as the trolley-car rumbled along, what his
friends were thinking--Dodge, and Burnham Moore, and Henry Aldrich,
and the others.  This was a smash, indeed.  The best he could do
was to put a brave face on it and say nothing, or else wave it off
with an indifferent motion of the hand.  One thing was sure--he
would prevent further comment.  He returned to the house calmer,
his self-poise restored, but he was eager for Monday to come in
order that he might get in touch with his lawyer, Mr. Watson.  But
when he did see Mr. Watson it was soon agreed between the two men
that it would be foolish to take any legal action.  It was the part
of wisdom to let the matter drop.  "But I won't stand for anything
more," concluded Lester.

"I'll attend to that," said the lawyer, consolingly.

Lester got up.  "It's amazing--this damned country of ours!" he
exclaimed.  "A man with a little money hasn't any more privacy than
a public monument."

"A man with a little money," said Mr. Watson, "is just like a cat
with a bell around its neck.  Every rat knows exactly where it is
and what it is doing."

"That's an apt simile," assented Lester, bitterly.

Jennie knew nothing of this newspaper story for several days.
Lester felt that he could not talk it over, and Gerhardt never
read the wicked Sunday newspapers.  Finally, one of Jennie's
neighbourhood friends, less tactful than the others, called her
attention to the fact of its appearance by announcing that she had
seen it.  Jennie did not understand at first.  "A story about me?"
she exclaimed.

"You and Mr. Kane, yes," replied her guest.  "Your love romance."

Jennie coloured swiftly.  "Why, I hadn't seen it," she said.  "Are
you sure it was about us?"

"Why, of course," laughed Mrs. Stendahl.  "How could I be mistaken?
I have the paper over at the house.  I'll send Marie over with it
when I get back.  You look very sweet in your picture."

Jennie winced.

"I wish you would," she said, weakly.

She was wondering where they had secured her picture, what the
article said.  Above all, she was dismayed to think of its effect
upon Lester.  Had he seen the article?  Why had he not spoken to
her about it?

The neighbour's daughter brought over the paper, and Jennie's heart
stood still as she glanced at the title-page.  There it all was--
uncompromising and direct.  How dreadfully conspicuous the
headline--"This Millionaire Fell in Love With This Lady's Maid,"
which ran between a picture of Lester on the left and Jennie on the
right.  There was an additional caption which explained how Lester,
son of the famous carriage family of Cincinnati, had sacrificed
great social opportunity and distinction to marry his heart's
desire.  Below were scattered a number of other pictures--Lester
addressing Jennie in the mansion of Mrs. Bracebridge, Lester
standing with her before an imposing and conventional-looking
parson, Lester driving with her in a handsome victoria, Jennie
standing beside the window of an imposing mansion (the fact that it
was a mansion being indicated by most sumptuous-looking hangings)
and gazing out on a very modest working-man's cottage pictured in
the distance.  Jennie felt as though she must die for very shame.
She did not so much mind what it meant to her, but Lester, Lester,
how must he feel?  And his family?  Now they would have another
club with which to strike him and her.  She tried to keep calm
about it, to exert emotional control, but again the tears would
rise, only this time they were tears of opposition to defeat.  She
did not want to be hounded this way.  She wanted to be let alone.
She was trying to do right now.  Why couldn't the world help her,
instead of seeking to push her down?



CHAPTER XLII


The fact that Lester had seen this page was made perfectly clear
to Jennie that evening, for he brought it home himself, having
concluded, after mature deliberation, that he ought to.  He had
told her once that there was to be no concealment between them,
and this thing, coming so brutally to disturb their peace, was
nevertheless a case in point.  He had decided to tell her not to
think anything of it--that it did not make much difference, though
to him it made all the difference in the world.  The effect of this
chill history could never be undone.  The wise--and they included
all his social world and many who were not of it--could see just
how he had been living.  The article which accompanied the pictures
told how he had followed Jennie from Cleveland to Chicago, how she
had been coy and distant and that he had to court her a long time
to win her consent.  This was to explain their living together on
the North Side.  Lester realised that this was an asinine attempt
to sugar-coat the true story and it made him angry.  Still he
preferred to have it that way rather than in some more brutal vein.
He took the paper out of his pocket when he arrived at the house,
spreading it on the library table.  Jennie, who was close by,
watched him, for she knew what was coming.

"Here's something that will interest you, Jennie," he said dryly,
pointing to the array of text and pictures.

"I've already seen it, Lester," she said wearily.  "Mrs. Stendahl
showed it to me this afternoon.  I was wondering whether you had."

"Rather high-flown description of my attitude, isn't it?  I didn't
know I was such an ardent Romeo."

"I'm awfully sorry, Lester," said Jennie, reading behind the dry
face of humour the serious import of this affair to him.  She had
long since learned that Lester did not express his real feeling,
his big ills in words.  He was inclined to jest and make light of
the inevitable, the inexorable.  This light comment merely meant
"this matter cannot be helped, so we will make the best of it."

"Oh, don't feel badly about it," he went on.  "It isn't anything
which can be adjusted now.  They probably meant well enough.  We
just happen to be in the limelight."

"I understand," said Jennie, coming over to him.  "I'm sorry,
though, anyway."  Dinner was announced a moment later and the
incident was closed.

But Lester could not dismiss the thought that matters were getting
in a bad way.  His father had pointed it out to him rather plainly
at the last interview, and now this newspaper notoriety had capped
the climax.  He might as well abandon his pretension to intimacy
with his old world.  It would have none of him, or at least the
more conservative part of it would not.  There were a few
bachelors, a few gay married men, some sophisticated women, single
and married, who saw through it all and liked him just the same,
but they did not make society.  He was virtually an outcast, and
nothing could save him but to reform his ways; in other words, he
must give up Jennie once and for all.

But he did not want to do this.  The thought was painful to him--
objectionable in every way.  Jennie was growing in mental acumen.
She was beginning to see things quite as clearly as he did.  She
was not a cheap, ambitious, climbing creature.  She was a big woman
and a good one.  It would be a shame to throw her down, and besides
she was good-looking.  He was forty-six and she was twenty-nine;
and she looked twenty-four or five.  It is an exceptional thing to
find beauty, youth, compatibility, intelligence, your own point of
view--softened and charmingly emotionalised--in another.  He had
made his bed, as his father had said.  He had better lie on it.

It was only a little while after this disagreeable newspaper
incident that Lester had word that his father was quite ill and
failing; it might be necessary for him to go to Cincinnati at any
moment.  Pressure of work was holding him pretty close when the
news came that his father was dead.  Lester, of course, was
greatly shocked and grieved, and he returned to Cincinnati in a
retrospective and sorrowful mood.  His father had been a great
character to him--a fine and interesting old gentleman entirely
aside from his relationship to him as his son.  He remembered him
now dandling him upon his knee as a child, telling him stories of
his early life in Ireland, and of his subsequent commercial
struggle when he was a little older, impressing the maxims of his
business career and his commercial wisdom on him as he grew to
manhood.  Old Archibald had been radically honest.  It was to him
that Lester owed his instincts for plain speech and direct
statement of fact.  "Never lie," was Archibald's constant,
reiterated statement.  "Never try to make a thing look different
from what it is to you.  It's the breath of life--truth--it's the
basis of real worth, while commercial success--it will make a
notable character of any one who will stick to it."  Lester
believed this.  He admired his father intensely for his rigid
insistence on truth, and now that he was really gone he felt sorry.
He wished he might have been spared to be reconciled to him.  He
half fancied that old Archibald would have liked Jennie if he had
known her.  He did not imagine that he would ever have had the
opportunity to straighten things out, although he still felt that
Archibald would have liked her.

When he reached Cincinnati it was snowing, a windy, blustery snow.
The flakes were coming down thick and fast.  The traffic of the
city had a muffled sound.  When he stepped down from the train he
was met by Amy, who was glad to see him in spite of all their past
differences.  Of all the girls she was the most tolerant.  Lester
put his arms about her, and kissed her.

"It seems like old times to see you, Amy," he said, "your coming to
meet me this way.  How's the family?  I suppose they're all here.
Well, poor father, his time had to come.  Still, he lived to see
everything that he wanted to see.  I guess he was pretty well
satisfied with the outcome of his efforts."

"Yes," replied Amy, "and since mother died he was very lonely."

They rode up to the house in kindly good feeling, chatting of old
times and places.  All the members of the immediate family, and the
various relatives, were gathered in the old family mansion.  Lester
exchanged the customary condolences with the others, realising all
the while that his father had lived long enough.  He had had a
successful life, and had fallen like a ripe apple from the tree.
Lester looked at him where he lay in the great parlour, in his
black coffin, and a feeling of the old-time affection swept over
him.  He smiled at the clean-cut, determined, conscientious face.

"The old gentleman was a big man all the way through," he said to
Robert, who was present.  "We won't find a better figure of a man
soon."

"We will not," said his brother, solemnly.

After the funeral it was decided to read the will at once.
Louise's husband was anxious to return to Buffalo; Lester was
compelled to be in Chicago.  A conference of the various members of
the family was called for the second day after the funeral, to be
held at the offices of Messrs. Knight, Keatley and O'Brien,
counsellors of the late manufacturer.

As Lester rode to the meeting he had the feeling that his father
had not acted in any way prejudicial to his interests.  It had not
been so very long since they had had their last conversation; he
had been taking his time to think about things, and his father had
given him time.  He always felt that he had stood well with the old
gentleman, except for his alliance with Jennie.  His business
judgment had been valuable to the company.  Why should there be any
discrimination against him?  He really did not think it possible.

When they reached the offices of the law firm, Mr. O'Brien, a
short, fussy, albeit comfortable-looking little person, greeted all
the members of the family and the various heirs and assigns with a
hearty handshake.  He had been personal counsel to Archibald Kane
for twenty years.  He knew his whims and idiosyncrasies, and
considered himself very much in the light of a father confessor.
He liked all the children, Lester especially.

"Now I believe we are all here," he said, finally, extracting a
pair of large horn reading-glasses from his coat pocket and looking
sagely about.  "Very well.  We might as well proceed to business.
I will just read the will without any preliminary remarks."

He turned to his desk, picked up a paper lying upon it, cleared his
throat, and began.

It was a peculiar document, in some respects, for it began with all
the minor bequests; first, small sums to old employees, servants,
and friends.  It then took up a few institutional bequests, and
finally came to the immediate family, beginning with the girls.
Imogene, as a faithful and loving daughter was left a sixth of the
stock of the carriage company and a fourth of the remaining
properties of the deceased, which roughly aggregated (the estate--
not her share) about eight hundred thousand dollars.  Amy and
Louise were provided for in exactly the same proportion.  The
grandchildren were given certain little bonuses for good conduct,
when they should come of age.  Then it took up the cases of Robert
and Lester.


"Owing to certain complications which have arisen in the affairs of
my son Lester," it began, "I deem it my duty to make certain
conditions which shall govern the distribution of the remainder of
my property, to wit:  One-fourth of the stock of the Kane
Manufacturing Company and one-fourth of the remainder of my various
properties, real, personal, moneys, stocks and bonds, to go to my
beloved son Robert, in recognition of the faithful performance of
his duty, and one-fourth of the stock of the Kane Manufacturing
Company and the remaining fourth of my various properties, real,
personal, moneys, stocks and bonds, to be held in trust by him for
the benefit of his brother Lester, until such time as such
conditions as may hereinafter be set forth shall have been complied
with.  And it is my wish and desire that my children shall concur
in his direction of the Kane Manufacturing Company, and of such
other interests as are entrusted to him, until such time as he
shall voluntarily relinquish such control, or shall indicate
another arrangement which shall be better."


Lester swore under his breath.  His cheeks changed colour, but he
did not move.  He was not inclined to make a show.  It appeared
that he was not even mentioned separately.

The conditions "hereinafter set forth" dealt very fully with his
case, however, though they were not read aloud to the family at the
time, Mr. O'Brien stating that this was in accordance with their
father's wish.  Lester learned immediately afterward that he was to
have ten thousand a year for three years, during which time he had
the choice of doing either one of two things:  First, he was to
leave Jennie, if he had not already married her, and so bring his
life into moral conformity with the wishes of his father.  In this
event Lester's share of the estate was to be immediately turned
over to him.  Secondly, he might elect to marry Jennie, if he had
not already done so, in which case the ten thousand a year,
specifically set aside to him for three years, was to be continued
for life--but for his life only.  Jennie was not to have anything
of it after his death.  The ten thousand in question represented
the annual interest on two hundred shares of L.S. and M.S. stock
which were also to be held in trust until his decision had been
reached and their final disposition effected.  If Lester refused to
marry Jennie, or to leave her, he was to have nothing at all after
the three years were up.  At Lester's death the stock on which his
interest was drawn was to be divided pro rata among the surviving
members of the family.  If any heir or assign contested the will,
his or her share was thereby forfeited entirely.

It was astonishing to Lester to see how thoroughly his father had
taken his case into consideration.  He half suspected, on reading
these conditions, that his brother Robert had had something to do
with the framing of them, but of course he could not be sure.
Robert had not given any direct evidence of enmity.

"Who drew this will?" he demanded of O'Brien, a little later.

"Well, we all had a hand in it," replied O'Brien, a little
shamefacedly.  "It was a very difficult document to draw up.  You
know, Mr. Kane, there was no budging your father.  He was adamant.
He has come very near defeating his own wishes in some of these
clauses.  Of course, you know, we had nothing to do with its
spirit.  That was between you and him.  I hated very much to have
to do it."

"Oh, I understand all that!" said Lester.  "Don't let that worry
you."

Mr. O'Brien was very grateful.

During the reading of the will Lester had sat as stolid as an ox.

He got up after a time, as did the others, assuming an air of
nonchalance.  Robert, Amy, Louise and Imogene all felt shocked, but
not exactly, not unqualifiedly regretful.  Certainly Lester had
acted very badly.  He had given his father great provocation.

"I think the old gentleman has been a little rough in this," said
Robert, who had been sitting next him.  "I certainly did not expect
him to go as far as that.  So far as I am concerned some other
arrangement would have been satisfactory."

Lester smiled grimly.  "It doesn't matter," he said.

Imogene, Amy, and Louise were anxious to be consolatory, but they
did not know what to say.  Lester had brought it all on himself.
"I don't think papa acted quite right, Lester," ventured Amy, but
Lester waved her away almost gruffly.

"I can stand it," he said.

He figured out, as he stood there, what his income would be in case
he refused to comply with his father's wishes.  Two hundred shares
of L.S. and M.S., in open market, were worth a little over one
thousand each.  They yielded from five to six per cent., sometimes
more, sometimes less.  At this rate he would have ten thousand a
year, not more.

The family gathering broke up, each going his way, and Lester
returned to his sister's house.  He wanted to get out of the city
quickly, gave business as an excuse to avoid lunching with any one,
and caught the earliest train back to Chicago.  As he rode he
meditated.

So this was how much his father really cared for him!  Could it
really be so?  He, Lester Kane, ten thousand a year, for only three
years, and then longer only on condition that he married Jennie! "Ten 
thousand a year," he thought, "and that for three years!  Good
Lord!  Any smart clerk can earn that.  To think he should have done
that to me!"



CHAPTER XLIII


This attempt at coercion was the one thing which would definitely
set Lester in opposition to his family, at least for the time
being.  He had realised clearly enough of late that he had made a
big mistake; first in not having married Jennie, thus avoiding
scandal; and in the second place in not having accepted her
proposition at the time when she wanted to leave him.  There were
no two ways about it, he had made a mess of this business.  He
could not afford to lose his fortune entirely.  He did not have
enough money of his own.  Jennie was unhappy, he could see that.
Why shouldn't she be?  He was unhappy.  Did he want to accept the
shabby ten thousand a year, even if he were willing to marry her?
Finally, did he want to lose Jennie, to have her go out of his life
once and for all?  He could not make up his mind; the problem was
too complicated.

When Lester returned to his home, after the funeral, Jennie saw at
once that something was amiss with him, something beyond a son's
natural grief for his father's death was weighing upon his spirits.
What was it, she wondered.  She tried to draw near to him
sympathetically, but his wounded spirit could not be healed so
easily.  When hurt in his pride he was savage and sullen--he could
have struck any man who irritated him.  She watched him interestedly,
wishing to do something for him, but he would not give her his
confidence.  He grieved, and she could only grieve with him.

Days passed, and now the financial situation which had been created
by his father's death came up for careful consideration.  The
factory management had to be reorganised.  Robert would have to be
made president, as his father wished.  Lester's own relationship to
the business would have to come up for adjudication.  Unless he
changed his mind about Jennie, he was not a stockholder.  As a
matter of fact, he was not anything.  To continue to be secretary
and treasurer, it was necessary that he should own at least one
share of the company's stock.  Would Robert give him any?  Would
Amy, Louise, or Imogene?  Would they sell him any?  Would the other
members of the family care to do anything which would infringe on
Robert's prerogatives under the will?  They were all rather
unfriendly to Lester at present, and he realised that he was facing
a ticklish situation.  The solution was--to get rid of Jennie.  If
he did that he would not need to be begging for stock.  If he
didn't, he was flying in the face of his father's last will and
testament.  He turned the matter over in his mind slowly and
deliberately.  He could quite see how things were coming out.  He
must abandon either Jennie or his prospects in life.  What a
dilemma!

Despite Robert's assertion, that so far as he was concerned another
arrangement would have been satisfactory, he was really very well
pleased with the situation; his dreams were slowly nearing
completion.  Robert had long had his plans perfected, not only for
a thorough reorganisation of the company proper, but for an
extension of the business in the direction of a combination of
carriage companies.  If he could get two or three of the larger
organisations in the East and West to join with him, selling costs
could be reduced, over-production would be avoided, and the general
expenses could be materially scaled down.  Through a New York
representative, he had been picking up stock in outside carriage
companies for some time and he was almost ready to act.  In the
first place he would have himself elected president of the Kane
Company, and since Lester was no longer a factor, he could select
Amy's husband as vice-president, and possibly some one other than
Lester as secretary and treasurer.  Under the conditions of the
will, the stock and other properties set aside temporarily for
Lester, in the hope that he would come to his senses, were to be
managed and voted by Robert.  His father had meant, obviously, that
he, Robert, should help him coerce his brother.  He did not want to
appear mean, but this was such an easy way.  It gave him a
righteous duty to perform.  Lester must come to his senses or he
must let Robert run the business to suit himself.

Lester, attending to his branch duties in Chicago, foresaw the
drift of things.  He realised now that he was permanently out of
the company, a branch manager at his brother's sufferance, and the
thought irritated him greatly.  Nothing had been said by Robert to
indicate that such a change had taken place--things went on very
much as before--but Robert's suggestions were now obviously law.
Lester was really his brother's employee at so much a year.  It
sickened his soul.

There came a time, after a few weeks, when he felt as if he could
not stand this any longer.  Hitherto he had been a free and
independent agent.  The approaching annual stockholder's meeting
which hitherto had been a one-man affair and a formality, his
father doing all the voting, would be now a combination of voters,
his brother presiding, his sisters very likely represented by their
husbands, and he not there at all.  It was going to be a great
come-down, but as Robert had not said anything about offering to
give or sell him any stock which would entitle him to sit as a
director or hold any official position in the company, he decided
to write and resign.  That would bring matters to a crisis.  It
would show his brother that he felt no desire to be under
obligations to him in any way or to retain anything which was not
his--and gladly so--by right of ability and the desire of those
with whom he was associated.  If he wanted to move back into the
company by deserting Jennie he would come in a very different
capacity from that of branch manager.  He dictated a simple,
straightforward business letter, saying:


"DEAR ROBERT,

"I know the time is drawing near when the company must be
reorganised under your direction.  Not having any stock, I am not
entitled to sit as a director, or to hold the joint position of
secretary and treasurer.  I want you to accept this letter as
formal notice of my resignation from both positions, and I want to
have your directors consider what disposition should be made of
this position and my services.  I am not anxious to retain the
branch-managership as a branch-managership merely; at the same time
I do not want to do anything which will embarrass you in your plans
for the future.  You see by this that I am not ready to accept the
proposition laid down in father's will--at least, not at present.
I would like a definite understanding of how you feel in this
matter.  Will you write and let me know?

"Yours,

"LESTER."


Robert, sitting in his office at Cincinnati, considered this letter
gravely.  It was like his brother to come down to "brass tacks."
If Lester were only as cautious as he was straightforward and
direct, what a man he would be!  But there was no guile in the man--
no subtlety.  He would never do a snaky thing--and Robert knew, in
his own soul, that to succeed greatly one must.  "You have to be
ruthless at times--you have to be subtle," Robert would say to
himself.  "Why not face the facts to yourself when you are playing
for big stakes?"  He would, for one, and he did.

Robert felt that although Lester was a tremendously decent fellow
and his brother, he wasn't pliable enough to suit his needs.  He
was too outspoken, too inclined to take issue.  If Lester yielded
to his father's wishes, and took possession of his share of the
estate, he would become, necessarily, an active partner in the
affairs of the company.  Lester would be a barrier in Robert's
path.  Did Robert want this?  Decidedly he did not.  He much
preferred that Lester should hold fast to Jennie, for the present
at least, and so be quietly shelved by his own act.

After long consideration, Robert dictated a politic letter.  He
hadn't made up his mind yet just what he wanted to do.  He did not
know what his sisters' husbands would like.  A consultation would
have to be held.  For his part, he would be very glad to have
Lester remain as secretary and treasurer, if it could be arranged.
Perhaps it would be better to let the matter rest for the present.

Lester cursed.  What did Robert mean by beating around the bush?
He knew well enough how it could be arranged.  One share of stock
would be enough for Lester to qualify.  Robert was afraid of him--
that was the basic fact.  Well, he would not retain any branch-
managership, depend on that.  He would resign at once.  Lester
accordingly wrote back, saying that he had considered all sides,
and had decided to look after some interests of his own, for the
time being.  If Robert could arrange it, he would like to have some
one come on to Chicago and take over the branch agency.  Thirty
days would be time enough.  In a few days came a regretful reply,
saying that Robert was awfully sorry, but that if Lester was
determined he did not want to interfere with any plans he might
have in view.  Imogene's husband, Jefferson Midgely, had long
thought he would like to reside in Chicago.  He would undertake the
work for the time being.

Lester smiled.  Evidently Robert was making the best of a very
subtle situation.  Robert knew that he, Lester, could sue and tie
things up, and also that he would be very loath to do so.  The
newspapers would get hold of the whole story.  This matter of his
relationship to Jennie was in the air, anyhow.  He could best solve
the problem by leaving her.  So it all came back to that.



CHAPTER XLIV


For a man of Lester's years--he was now forty-six--to be tossed out
in the world without a definite connection, even though he did have
a present income (including this new ten thousand) of fifteen
thousand a year, was a disturbing and discouraging thing.  He
realised now that, unless he made some very fortunate and
profitable arrangements in the near future, his career was
virtually at an end.  Of course he could marry Jennie.  That would
give him the ten thousand for the rest of his life, but it would
also end his chance of getting his legitimate share of the Kane
estate.  Again, he might sell out the seventy-five thousand
dollars' worth of moderate interest-bearing stocks, which now
yielded him about five thousand, and try a practical investment of
some kind--say a rival carriage company.  But did he want to jump
in, at this stage of the game, and begin a running fight on his
father's old organisation?  Moreover, it would be a hard row to
hoe.  There was the keenest rivalry for business as it was, with
the Kane Company very much in the lead.  Lester's only available
capital was his seventy-five thousand dollars.  Did he want to
begin in a picayune, obscure way?  It took money to get a foothold
in the carriage business as things were now.

The trouble with Lester was that, while blessed with a fine
imagination and considerable insight, he lacked the ruthless,
narrow-minded insistence on his individual superiority which is a
necessary element in almost every great business success.  To be a
forceful figure in the business world means, as a rule, that you
must be an individual of one idea, and that idea the God-given one
that life has destined you for a tremendous future in the
particular field you have chosen.  It means that one thing, a cake
of soap, a new can-opener, a safety razor, or speed-accelerator,
must seize on your imagination with tremendous force, burn as a
raging flame, and make itself the be-all and end-all of your
existence.  As a rule, a man needs poverty to help him to this
enthusiasm, and youth.  The thing he has discovered, and with which
he is going to busy himself, must be the door to a thousand
opportunities and a thousand joys.  Happiness must be beyond or the
fire will not burn as brightly as it might--the urge will not be
great enough to make a great success.

Lester did not possess this indispensable quality of enthusiasm.
Life had already shown him the greater part of its so-called joys.
He saw through the illusions that are so often and so noisily
labelled pleasure.  Money, of course, was essential, and he had
already had money--enough to keep him comfortably.  Did he want to
risk it?  He looked about him thoughtfully.  Perhaps he did.
Certainly he could not comfortably contemplate the thought of
sitting by and watching other people work for the rest of his days.

In the end he decided that he would bestir himself and look into
things.  He was, as he said to himself, in no hurry; he was not
going to make a mistake.  He would first give the trade, the people
who were identified with the manufacture and sale of carriages,
time to realise that he was out of the Kane Company, for the time
being, anyhow, and open to other connections.  So he announced that
he was leaving the Kane Company and going to Europe, ostensibly for
a rest.  He had never been abroad, and Jennie, too, would enjoy it.
Vesta could be left at home with Gerhardt and a maid, and he and
Jennie would travel around a bit, seeing what Europe had to show.
He wanted to visit Venice and Baden-Baden, and the great watering-
places that had been recommended to him.  Cairo and Luxor and the
Parthenon had always appealed to his imagination.  After he had had
his outing he could come back and seriously gather up the threads
of his intentions.

The spring after his father died, he put his plan into execution.
He had wound up the work of the warerooms and with a pleasant
deliberation had studied out a tour.  He made Jennie his
confidante, and now, having gathered together their travelling
comforts they took a steamer from New York to Liverpool.  After a
few weeks in the British Isles they went to Egypt.  From there they
came back, through Greece and Italy, into Austria and Switzerland,
and then later, through France and Paris, to Germany and Berlin.
Lester was diverted by the novelty of the experience and yet he had
an uncomfortable feeling that he was wasting his time.  Great
business enterprises were not built by travellers, and he was not
looking for health.

Jennie on the other hand, was transported by what she saw, and
enjoyed the new life to the full.  Before Luxor and Karnak--places
which Jennie had never dreamed existed--she learned of an older
civilisation, powerful, complex, complete.  Millions of people had
lived and died here, believing in other gods, other forms of
government, other conditions of existence.  For the first time in
her life Jennie gained a clear idea of how vast the world is.  Now
from this point of view--of decayed Greece, of fallen Rome, of
forgotten Egypt, she saw how pointless are our minor difficulties,
our minor beliefs.  Her father's Lutheranism--it did not seem so
significant any more; and the social economy of Columbus, Ohio--
rather pointless, perhaps.  Her mother had worried so of what
people--her neighbours--thought, but here were dead worlds of
people, some bad, some good.  Lester explained that their
differences in standards of morals were due sometimes to climate,
sometimes to religious beliefs, and sometimes to the rise of
peculiar personalities like Mohammed.  Lester liked to point out
how small conventions bulked in this, the larger world, and vaguely
she began to see.  Admitting that she had been bad--locally it was
important, perhaps, but in the sum of civilisation, in the sum of
big forces, what did it all amount to?  They would be dead after a
little while, she and Lester and all these people.  Did anything
matter except goodness--goodness of heart?  What else was there
that was real?



CHAPTER XLV


It was while travelling abroad that Lester came across, first at
the Carlton in London and later at Shepheards in Cairo, the one
girl, before Jennie, whom it might have been said he truly admired--
Letty Pace.  He had not seen her for a long time, and she had been
Mrs. Malcolm Gerald for nearly four years, and a charming widow for
nearly two years more.  Malcolm Gerald had been a wealthy man,
having amassed a fortune in banking and stock-brokering in
Cincinnati, and he had left Mrs. Malcolm Gerald very well off.  She
was the mother of one child, a little girl, who was safely in
charge of a nurse and maid at all times, and she was invariably the
picturesque centre of a group of admirers recruited from every
capital of the civilised world.  Letty Gerald was a talented woman,
beautiful, graceful, artistic, a writer of verse, an omnivorous
reader, a student of art, and a sincere and ardent admirer of
Lester Kane.

In her day she had truly loved him, for she had been a wise
observer of men and affairs, and Lester had always appealed to her
as a real man.  He was so sane, she thought, so calm.  He was
always intolerant of sham, and she liked him for it.  He was
inclined to wave aside the petty little frivolities of common
society conversation, and to talk of simple and homely things.
Many and many a time, in years past, they had deserted a dance to
sit out on a balcony somewhere, and talk while Lester smoked.  He
had argued philosophy with her, discussed books, described
political and social conditions in other cities--in a word, he had
treated her like a sensible human being, and she had hoped and
hoped and hoped that he would propose to her.  More than once she
had looked at his big, solid head with its short growth of hardy
brown hair, and wished that she could stroke it.  It was a hard
blow to her when he finally moved away to Chicago; at that time she
knew nothing of Jennie, but she felt instinctively that her chance
of winning him was gone.

Then Malcolm Gerald, always an ardent admirer, proposed for
something like the sixty-fifth time, and she took him.  She did not
love him, but she was getting along, and she had to marry some one.
He was forty-four when he married her, and he lived only four
years--just long enough to realise that he had married a charming,
tolerant, broad-minded woman.  Then he died of pneumonia and Mrs.
Gerald was a rich widow, sympathetic, attractive, delightful in her
knowledge of the world, and with nothing to do except to live and
to spend her money.

She was not inclined to do either indifferently.  She had long
since had her ideal of a man established by Lester.  These whipper-
snappers of counts, earls, lords, barons, whom she met in one
social world and another (for her friendship and connections had
broadened notably with the years), did not interest her a particle.
She was terribly weary of the superficial veneer of the titled
fortune-hunter whom she met abroad.  A good judge of character, a
student of men and manners, a natural reasoner along sociologic
and psychologic lines, she saw through them and through the
civilisation which they represented.  "I could have been happy in a
cottage with a man I once knew out in Cincinnati," she told one of
her titled women friends who had been an American before her
marriage.  "He was the biggest, cleanest, sanest fellow.  If he had
proposed to me I would have married him if I had had to work for a
living myself."

"Was he so poor?" asked her friend.

"Indeed he wasn't.  He was comfortably rich, but that did not make
any difference to me.  It was the man I wanted."

"It would have made a difference in the long run," said the other.

"You misjudge me," replied Mrs. Gerald.  "I waited for him for a
number of years, and I know."

Lester had always retained pleasant impressions and kindly memories
of Letty Pace, or Mrs. Gerald, as she was now.  He had been fond of
her in a way, very fond.  Why hadn't he married her?  He had asked
himself that question time and again.  She would have made him an
ideal wife, his father would have been pleased, everybody would
have been delighted.  Instead he had drifted and drifted, and then
he had met Jennie; and somehow, after that, he did not want her any
more.  Now after six years of separation he met her again.  He knew
she was married.  She was vaguely aware he had had some sort of an
affair--she had heard that he had subsequently married the woman
and was living on the South Side.  She did not know of the loss of
his fortune.  She ran across him first in the Carlton one June
evening.  The windows were open, and the flowers were blooming
everywhere, odorous, with that sense of new life in the air which
runs through the world when spring comes back.  For the moment she
was a little beside herself. Something choked in her throat; but
she collected herself and extended a graceful arm and hand.

"Why, Lester Kane," she exclaimed.  "How DO you do!  I am so glad.
And this is Mrs. Kane?  Charmed, I'm sure.  It seems truly like a
breath of spring to see you again.  I hope you'll excuse me, Mrs.
Kane, but I'm delighted to see your husband.  I'm ashamed to say
how many years it is, Lester, since I saw you last!  I feel quite
old when I think of it.  Why, Lester, think; it's been all of six
or seven years!  And I've been married and had a child, and poor
Mr. Gerald has died, and oh, dear, I don't know what all hasn't
happened to me."

"You don't look it," commented Lester, smiling.  He was pleased to
see her again, for they had been good friends.  She liked him
still--that was evident, and he truly liked her.

Jennie smiled.  She was glad to see this old friend of Lester's.
This woman, trailing a magnificent yellow lace train over pale,
mother-of-pearl satin, her round, smooth arms bare to the shoulder,
her corsage cut low and a dark red rose blowing at her waist,
seemed to her the ideal of what a woman should be.  She liked
looking at lovely women quite as much as Lester; she enjoyed
calling his attention to them, and teasing him, in the mildest way,
about their charms.  "Wouldn't you like to run and talk to her,
Lester, instead of to me?" she would ask when some particularly
striking or beautiful woman chanced to attract her attention.
Lester would examine her choice critically, for he had come to know
that her judge of feminine charms was excellent.  "Oh, I'm pretty
well off where I am," he would retort, looking into her eyes; or,
jestingly, "I'm not as young as I used to be, or I'd get in tow of
that."

"Run on," was her comment.  "I'll wait for you."

"What would you do if I really should?"

"Why, Lester, I wouldn't do anything.  You'd come back to me,
maybe."

"Wouldn't you care?"

"You know I'd care.  But if you felt that you wanted to, I wouldn't
try to stop you.  I wouldn't expect to be all in all to one man,
unless he wanted me to be."

"Where do you get those ideas, Jennie?" he asked her once, curious
to test the breadth of her philosophy.

"Oh, I don't know, why?"

"They're so broad, so good-natured, so charitable.  They're not
common, that's sure."

"Why, I don't think we ought to be selfish, Lester.  I don't know
why.  Some women think differently, I know, but a man and a woman
ought to want to live together, or they ought not to--don't you
think?  It doesn't make so much difference if a man goes off for a
little while--just so long as he doesn't stay--if he wants to come
back at all."

Lester smiled, but he respected her for the sweetness of her point
of view--he had to.

To-night, when she saw this woman so eager to talk to Lester, she
realised at once that they must have a great deal in common to talk
over; whereupon she did a characteristic thing.  "Won't you excuse
me for a little while?" she asked, smiling.  "I left some things
uncared for in our rooms.  I'll be back."

She went away, remaining in her room as long as she reasonably
could, and Lester and Letty fell to discussing old times in
earnest.  He recounted as much of his experiences as he deemed
wise, and Letty brought the history of her life up to date.  "Now
that you're safely married, Lester," she said daringly, "I'll
confess to you that you were the one man I always wanted to have
propose to me--and you never did."

"Maybe I never dared," he said, gazing into her superb black eyes,
and thinking that perhaps she might know that he was not married.
He felt that she had grown more beautiful in every way.  She seemed
to him now to be an ideal society figure--perfection itself--
gracious, natural, witty, the type of woman who mixes and mingles
well, meeting each new-comer upon the plane best suited to him or
her.

"Yes, you thought!  I know what you thought.  Your real thought
just left the table."

"Tut, tut, my dear.  Not so fast.  You don't know what I thought."

"Anyhow, I allow you some credit.  She's charming."

"Jennie has her good points," he replied simply.

"And are you happy?"

"Oh, fairly so.  Yes, I suppose I'm happy--as happy as any one can
be who sees life as it is.  You know I'm not troubled with many
illusions."

"Not any, I think, kind sir, if I know you."

"Very likely, not any, Letty; but sometimes I wish I had a few.  I
think I would be happier."

"And I, too, Lester.  Really I look on my life as a kind of
failure, you know, in spite of the fact that I'm almost as rich as
Croesus--not quite.  I think he had some more than I have."

"What talk from you--you, with your beauty and talent, and money--
good heavens!"

"And what can I do with it?  Travel, talk, shoo away silly fortune-
hunters.  Oh, dear, sometimes I get so tired!"

Letty looked at Lester.  In spite of Jennie, the old feeling came
back.  Why should she have been cheated of him?  They were as
comfortable together as old married people, or young lovers.
Jennie had had no better claim.  She looked at him, and her eyes
fairly spoke.  He smiled a little sadly.

"Here comes my wife," he said.  "We'll have to brace up and talk of
other things.  You'll find her interesting--really."

"Yes, I know," she replied, and turned on Jennie a radiant smile.

Jennie felt a faint sense of misgiving.  She thought vaguely that
this might be one of Lester's old flames.  This was the kind of
woman he should have chosen--not her.  She was suited to his
station in life, and he would have been as happy--perhaps happier.
Was he beginning to realise it?  Then she put away the uncomfortable
thought; pretty soon she would be getting jealous, and that would
be contemptible.

Mrs. Gerald continued to be most agreeable in her attitude toward
the Kanes.  She invited them the next day to join her on a drive
through Rotten Row.  There was a dinner later at Claridge's, and
then she was compelled to keep some engagement which was taking her
to Paris.  She bade them both an affectionate farewell, and hoped
that they would soon meet again.  She was envious, in a sad way, of
Jennie's good fortune.  Lester had lost none of his charm for her.
If anything, he seemed nicer, more considerate, more wholesome.
She wished sincerely that he were free.  And Lester--subconsciously
perhaps--was thinking the same thing.

No doubt because of the fact that she was thinking of it, he had
been led over mentally all of the things which might have happened
if he had married her.  They were so congenial now, philosophically,
artistically, practically.  There was a natural flow of conversation
between them all the time, like two old comrades among men.  She
knew everybody in his social sphere, which was equally hers, but
Jennie did not.  They could talk of certain subtle characteristics
of life in a way which was not possible between him and Jennie,
for the latter did not have the vocabulary.  Her ideas did not flow
as fast as those of Mrs. Gerald.  Jennie had actually the deeper,
more comprehensive, sympathetic, and emotional note in her nature,
but she could not show it in light conversation.  Actually she was
living the thing she was, and that was perhaps the thing which
drew Lester to her.  Just now, and often in situations of this
kind, she seemed at a disadvantage, and she was.  It seemed to
Lester for the time being as if Mrs. Gerald would perhaps have
been a better choice after all--certainly as good, and he would
not now have this distressing thought as to his future.

They did not see Mrs. Gerald again until they reached Cairo.  In
the gardens about the hotel they suddenly encountered her, or
rather Lester did, for he was alone at the time, strolling and
smoking.

"Well, this is good luck," he exclaimed.  "Where do you come from?"

"Madrid, if you please.  I didn't know I was coming until last
Thursday.  The Ellicotts are here.  I came over with them.  You
know I wondered where you might be.  Then I remembered that you
said you were going to Egypt.  Where is your wife?"

"In her bath, I fancy, at this moment.  This warm weather makes
Jennie take to water.  I was thinking of a plunge myself."

They strolled about for a time.  Letty was in light blue silk, with
a blue and white parasol held daintily over her shoulder, and
looked very pretty.  "Oh, dear!" she suddenly ejaculated, "I wonder
sometimes what I am to do with myself.  I can't loaf always this
way.  I think I'll go back to the States to live."

"Why don't you?"

"What good would it do me?  I don't want to get married.  I haven't
any one to marry now--that I want."  She glanced at Lester
significantly, then looked away.

"Oh, you'll find some one eventually," he said, somewhat awkwardly.
"You can't escape for long--not with your looks and money."

"Oh, Lester, hush!"

"All right!  Have it otherwise, if you want.  I'm telling you."

"Do you still dance?" she inquired lightly, thinking of a ball
which was to be given at the hotel that evening.  He had danced so
well a few years before.

"Do I look it?"

"Now, Lester, you don't mean to say that you have gone and
abandoned that last charming art.  I still love to dance.  Doesn't
Mrs. Kane?"

"No, she doesn't care to.  At least she hasn't taken it up.  Come
to think of it, I suppose that is my fault.  I haven't thought of
dancing in some time."

It occurred to him that he hadn't been going to functions of any
kind much for some time.  The opposition his entanglement had
generated had put a stop to that.

"Come and dance with me to-night.  Your wife won't object.  It's a
splendid floor.  I saw it this morning."

"I'll have to think about that," replied Lester.  "I'm not much in
practice.  Dancing will probably go hard with me at my time of
life."

"Oh, hush, Lester," replied Mrs. Gerald.  "You make me feel old.
Don't talk so sedately.  Mercy alive, you'd think you were an old
man!"

"I am in experience, my dear."

"Pshaw, that simply makes us more attractive," replied his old
flame.



CHAPTER XLVI


That night after dinner the music was already sounding in the ball-
room of the great hotel adjacent to the palm-gardens when Mrs.
Gerald found Lester smoking on one of the verandas with Jennie by
his side.  The latter was in white satin and white slippers, her
hair lying a heavy, enticing mass about her forehead and ears.
Lester was brooding over the history of Egypt, its successive tides
or waves of rather weak-bodied people; the thin, narrow strip of
soil along either side of the Nile that had given these successive
waves of population sustenance; the wonder of heat and tropic life,
and this hotel with its modern conveniences and fashionable crowd
set down among ancient, soul-weary, almost despairing conditions.
He and Jennie had looked this morning on the pyramids.  They had
taken a trolley to the Sphinx!  They had watched swarms of ragged,
half-clad, curiously costumed men and boys moving through narrow,
smelly, albeit brightly coloured, lanes and alleys.

"It all seems such a mess to me," Jennie had said at one place.
"They are so dirty and oily.  I like it, but somehow they seem
tangled up, like a lot of worms."

Lester chuckled.  "You're almost right.  But climate does it.
Heat.  The tropics.  Life is always mushy and sensual under these
conditions.  They can't help it."

"Oh, I know that.  I don't blame them.  They're just queer."

To-night he was brooding over this, the moon shining down into the
grounds with an exuberant, sensuous luster.

"Well, at last I've found you!" Mrs. Gerald exclaimed.  "I couldn't
get down to dinner, after all.  Our party was so late getting back.
I've made your husband agree to dance with me, Mrs. Kane," she went
on smilingly.  She, like Lester and Jennie, was under the sensuous
influence of the warmth, the spring, the moonlight.  There were
rich odours abroad, floating subtly from groves and gardens; from
the remote distance camel-bells were sounding and exotic cries,
"Ayah!" and "oosh! oosh!" as though a drove of strange animals were
being rounded up and driven through the crowded streets.

"You're welcome to him," replied Jennie pleasantly.  "He ought to
dance.  I sometimes wish I did."

"You ought to take lessons right away then," replied Lester
genially.  "I'll do my best to keep you company.  I'm not as light
on my feet as I was once, but I guess I can get around."

"Oh, I don't want to dance that badly," smiled Jennie.  "But you
two go on, I'm going upstairs in a little while, anyway."

"Why don't you come sit in the ball-room?  I can't do more than a
few rounds.  Then we can watch the others," said Lester rising.

"No.  I think I'll stay here.  It's so pleasant.  You go.  Take
him, Mrs. Gerald."

Lester and Letty strolled away.  They made a striking pair--Mrs.
Gerald in dark wine-coloured silk, covered with glistening black
beads, her shapely arms and neck bare, and a flashing diamond of
great size set just above her forehead in her dark hair.  Her lips
were red, and she had an engaging smile, showing an even row of
white teeth between wide, full, friendly lips.  Lester's strong,
vigorous figure was well set off by his evening clothes, he looked
distinguished.

"That is the woman he should have married," said Jennie to herself
as he disappeared.  She fell into a reverie, going over the steps
of her past life.  Sometimes it seemed to her now as if she had
been living in a dream.  At other times she felt as though she were
in that dream yet.  Life sounded in her ears much as this night
did.  She heard its cries.  She knew its large-mass features.  But
back of it were subtleties that shaded and changed one into the
other like the shifting of dreams.  Why had she been so attractive
to men?  Why had Lester been so eager to follow her?  Could she
have prevented him?  She thought of her life in Columbus, when she
carried coal; to-night she was in Egypt, at this great hotel, the
chatelaine of a suite of rooms, surrounded by every luxury, Lester
still devoted to her.  He had endured so many things for her!  Why?
Was she so wonderful?  Brander had said so.  Lester had told her
so.  Still she felt humble, out of place, holding handfuls of
jewels that did not belong to her.  Again she experienced that
peculiar feeling which had come over her the first time she went to
New York with Lester--namely, that this fairy existence could not
endure.  Her life was fated.  Something would happen.  She would go
back to simple things, to a side street, a poor cottage, to old
clothes.

And then as she thought of her home in Chicago, and the attitude of
his friends, she knew it must be so.  She would never be received,
even if he married her.  And she could understand why.  She could
look into the charming, smiling face of this woman who was now with
Lester, and see that she considered her very nice, perhaps, but not
of Lester's class.  She was saying to herself now no doubt as she
danced with Lester that he needed some one like her.  He needed
some one who had been raised in the atmosphere of the things to
which he had been accustomed.  He couldn't very well expect to find
in her, Jennie, the familiarity with, the appreciation of the
niceties to, which he had always been accustomed.  She understood
what they were.  Her mind had awakened rapidly to details of
furniture, clothing, arrangement, decorations, manner, forms,
customs, but--she was not to the manner born.

If she went away Lester would return to his old world, the world of
the attractive, well-bred, clever woman who now hung upon his arm.
The tears came into Jennie's eyes; she wished, for the moment,
that she might die.  It would be better so.  Meanwhile Lester was
dancing with Mrs. Gerald, or sitting out between the waltzes talking
over old times, old places, and old friends.  As he looked at Letty
he marvelled at her youth and beauty.  She was more developed than
formerly, but still as slender and shapely as Diana.  She had
strength, too, in this smooth body of hers, and her black eyes were
liquid and lusterful.

"I swear, Letty," he said impulsively, "you're really more
beautiful than ever.  You're exquisite.  You've grown younger
instead of older."

"You think so?" she smiled, looking up into his face.

"You know I do, or I wouldn't say so.  I'm not much on
philandering."

"Oh, Lester, you bear, can't you allow a woman just a little
coyness?  Don't you know we all love to sip our praise, and not be
compelled to swallow it in one great mouthful?"

"What's the point?" he asked.  "What did I say?"

"Oh, nothing.  You're such a bear.  You're such a big, determined,
straightforward boy.  But never mind.  I like you.  That's enough,
isn't it?"

"It surely is," he said.

They strolled into the garden as the music ceased, and he squeezed
her arm softly.  He couldn't help it; she made him feel as if he
owned her.  She wanted him to feel that way.  She said to herself,
as they sat looking at the lanterns in the gardens, that if ever he
were free, and would come to her, she would take him.  She was
almost ready to take him anyhow--only he probably wouldn't.  He was
so straight-laced, so considerate.  He wouldn't, like so many other
men she knew, do a mean thing.  He couldn't.  Finally Lester rose
and excused himself.  He and Jennie were going farther up the Nile
in the morning--toward Karnak and Thebes and the water-washed
temples at Phylae.  They would have to start at an unearthly early
hour, and he must get to bed.

"When are you going home?" asked Mrs. Gerald, ruefully.

"In September."

"Have you engaged your passage?"

"Yes; we sail from Hamburg on the ninth--the Fulda."

"I may be going back in the fall," laughed Letty.  "Don't be
surprised if I crowd in on the same boat with you.  I'm very
unsettled in my mind."

"Come along, for goodness sake," replied Lester.  "I hope you
do. . . .  I'll see you to-morrow before we leave."  He paused,
and she looked at him wistfully.

"Cheer up," he said, taking her hand.  "You never can tell what
life will do.  We sometimes find ourselves right when we thought we
were all wrong."

He was thinking that she was sorry to lose him, and he was sorry
that she was not in a position to have what she wanted.  As for
himself, he was saying that here was one solution that probably he
would never accept; yet it was a solution.  Why had he not seen
this years before?

"And yet she wasn't as beautiful then as she is now, nor as wise,
nor as wealthy."  Maybe!  Maybe!  But he couldn't be unfaithful to
Jennie nor wish her any bad luck.  She had had enough without his
willing, and had borne it bravely.



CHAPTER XLVII


The trip home did bring another week with Mrs. Gerald, for after
mature consideration she had decided to venture to America for a
while.  Chicago and Cincinnati were her destinations, and she hoped
to see more of Lester.  Her presence was a good deal of a surprise
to Jennie, and it started her thinking again.  She could see what
the point was.  If she were out of the way Mrs. Gerald would marry
Lester; that was certain.  As it was--well, the question was a
complicated one.  Letty was Lester's natural mate, so far as birth,
breeding, and position went.  And yet Jennie felt instinctively
that, on the large human side, Lester preferred her.  Perhaps time
would solve the problem; in the meantime the little party of three
continued to remain excellent friends.  When they reached Chicago
Mrs. Gerald went her way, and Jennie and Lester took up the
customary thread of their existence.

On his return from Europe Lester set to work in earnest to find a
business opening.  None of the big companies made him any
overtures, principally because he was considered a strong man who
was looking for a control in anything he touched.  The nature of
his altered fortunes had not been made public.  All the little
companies that he investigated were having a hand-to-mouth
existence, or manufacturing a product which was not satisfactory to
him.  He did find one company in a small town in northern Indiana
which looked as though it might have a future.  It was controlled
by a practical builder of wagons and carriages--such as Lester's
father had been in his day--who, however, was not a good business
man.  He was making some small money on an investment of fifteen
thousand dollars and a plant worth, say, twenty-five thousand.
Lester felt that something could be done here if proper methods
were pursued and business acumen exercised.  It would be slow work.
There would never be a great fortune in it.  Not in his lifetime.
He was thinking of making an offer to the small manufacturer when
the first rumours of a carriage trust reached him.

Robert had gone ahead rapidly with his scheme for reorganising the
carriage trade.  He showed his competitors how much greater profits
could be made through consolidation than through a mutually
destructive rivalry.  So convincing were his arguments that one by
one the big carriage manufacturing companies fell into line.
Within a few months the deal had been pushed through, and Robert
found himself president of the United Carriage and Wagon
Manufacturers' Association, with a capital stock of ten million
dollars, and with assets aggregating nearly three-fourths of that
sum at a forced sale.  He was a happy man.

While all this was going forward Lester was completely in the dark.
His trip to Europe prevented him from seeing three or four minor
notices in the newspapers of some of the efforts that were being
made to unite the various carriage and wagon manufactories.  He
returned to Chicago to learn that Jefferson Midgely, Imogene's
husband, was still in full charge of the branch and living in
Evanston, but because of his quarrel with his family he was in no
position to get the news direct.  Accident brought it fast enough,
however, and that rather irritatingly.

The individual who conveyed this information was none other than
Mr. Henry Bracebridge, of Cleveland, into whom he ran at the Union
Club one evening after he had been in the city a month.

"I hear you're out of the old company," Bracebridge remarked,
smiling blandly.

"Yes," said Lester, "I'm out."

"What are you up to now?"

"Oh, I have a deal of my own under consideration.  I'm thinking
something of handling an independent concern."

"Surely you won't run counter to your brother?  He has a pretty
good thing in that combination of his."

"Combination!  I hadn't heard of it," said Lester.  "I've just got
back from Europe."

"Well, you want to wake up, Lester," replied Bracebridge.  "He's
got the biggest thing in your line.  I thought you knew all about
it.  The Lyman-Winthrop Company, the Myer-Brooks Company, the Woods
Company--in fact, five or six of the big companies are all in.
Your brother was elected president of the new concern.  I dare say
he cleaned up a couple of millions out of the deal."

Lester stared.  His glance hardened a little.

"Well, that's fine for Robert.  I'm glad of it."

Bracebridge could see that he had given him a vital stab.

"Well, so long, old man," he exclaimed.  "When you're in Cleveland
look us up.  You know how fond my wife is of you."

"I know," replied Lester.  "By-by."

He strolled away to the smoking-room, but the news took all the
zest out of his private venture.  Where would he be with a shabby
little wagon company and his brother president of a carriage trust?
Good heavens!  Robert could put him out of business in a year.
Why, he himself had dreamed of such a combination as this.  Now his
brother had done it.

It is one thing to have youth, courage, and a fighting spirit to
meet the blows with which fortune often afflicts the talented.  It
is quite another to see middle age coming on, your principal
fortune possibly gone, and avenue after avenue of opportunity being
sealed to you on various sides.  Jennie's obvious social
insufficiency, the quality of newspaper reputation which had now
become attached to her, his father's opposition and death, the loss
of his fortune, the loss of his connection with the company, his
brother's attitude, this trust, all combined in a way to dishearten
and discourage him.  He tried to keep a brave face--and he had
succeeded thus far, he thought, admirably, but this last blow
appeared for the time being a little too much.  He went home, the
same evening that he heard the news, sorely disheartened.  Jennie
saw it.  She realised it, as a matter of fact, all during the
evening that he was away.  She felt blue and despondent herself.
When he came home she saw what it was--something had happened to
him.  Her first impulse was to say, "What is the matter, Lester?"
but her next and sounder one was to ignore it until he was ready to
speak, if ever.  She tried not to let him see that she saw, coming
as near as she might affectionately without disturbing him.

"Vesta is so delighted with herself to-day," she volunteered by way
of diversion.  "She has got such nice marks in school."

"That's good," he replied solemnly.

"And she dances beautifully these days.  She showed me some of her
new dances to-night.  You haven't any idea how sweet she looks."

"I'm glad of it," he grumbled.  "I always wanted her to be perfect
in that.  It's time she was going into some good girl's school, I
think."

"And papa gets in such a rage.  I have to laugh.  She teases him
about it--the little imp.  She offered to teach him to dance to-
night.  If he didn't love her so he'd box her ears."

"I can see that," said Lester, smiling.  "Him dancing!  That's
pretty good!"

"She's not the least bit disturbed by his storming, either."

"Good for her," said Lester.  He was very fond of Vesta, who was
now quite a girl.

So Jennie tripped on until his mood was modified a little, and then
some inkling of what had happened came out.  It was when they were
retiring for the night.  "Robert's formulated a pretty big thing in
a financial way since we've been away," he volunteered.

"What is it?" asked Jennie, all ears.

"Oh, he's gotten up a carriage trust.  It's something which will
take in every manufactory of any importance in the country.
Bracebridge was telling me that Robert was made president, and that
they have nearly eight millions in capital."

"You don't say!" replied Jennie.  "Well, then you won't want to do
much with your new company, will you?"

"No; there's nothing in that, just now," he said.  "Later on I
fancy it may be all right.  I'll wait and see how this thing comes
out.  You never can tell what a trust like that will do."

Jennie was intensely sorry.  She had never heard Lester complain
before.  It was a new note.  She wished sincerely that she might do
something to comfort him, but she knew that her efforts were
useless.  "Oh, well," she said, "there are so many interesting
things in this world.  If I were you I wouldn't be in a hurry to do
anything, Lester.  You have so much time."

She didn't trust herself to say anything more, and he felt that it
was useless to worry.  Why should he?  After all, he had an ample
income that was absolutely secure for two years yet.  He could have
more if he wanted it.  Only his brother was moving so dazzlingly
onward, while he was standing still--perhaps "drifting" would be
the better word.  It did seem a pity; worst of all, he was
beginning to feel a little uncertain of himself.



CHAPTER XLVIII


Lester had been doing some pretty hard thinking, but so far he had
been unable to formulate any feasible plan for his re-entrance into
active life.  The successful organisation of Robert's carriage
trade trust had knocked in the head any further thought on his part
of taking an interest in the small Indiana wagon manufactory.  He
could not be expected to sink his sense of pride and place, and
enter a petty campaign for business success with a man who was so
obviously his financial superior.  He had looked up the details of
the combination, and he found that Bracebridge had barely indicated
how wonderfully complete it was.  There were millions in the
combine.  It would have every little manufacturer by the throat.
Should he begin now in a small way and "pike along" in the shadow
of his giant brother?  He couldn't see it.  It was too ignominious.
He would be running around the country trying to fight a new trust,
with his own brother as his tolerant rival and his own rightful
capital arrayed against him.  It couldn't be done.  Better sit
still for the time being.  Something else might show up.  If not--
well, he had his independent income and the right to come back into
the Kane Company if he wished.  Did he wish?  The question was
always with him.

It was while Lester was in this mood, drifting, that he received a
visit from Samuel M. Ross, a real estate dealer, whose great,
wooden signs might be seen everywhere on the windy stretches of
prairie about the city.  Lester had seen Ross once or twice at the
Union Club, where he had been pointed out as a daring and
successful real estate speculator, and he had noticed his rather
conspicuous offices at La Salle and Washington Streets.  Ross was a
magnetic-looking person of about fifty-years of age, tall, black-
bearded, black-eyed, an arched, wide-nostrilled nose, and hair that
curled naturally, almost electrically.  Lester was impressed with
his lithe, cat-like figure, and his long, thin, impressive white
hands.

Mr. Ross had a real estate proposition to lay before Mr. Kane.  Of
course Mr. Kane knew who he was.  And Mr. Ross admitted fully that
he knew all about Mr. Kane.  Recently, in conjunction with Mr.
Norman Yale, of the wholesale grocery firm of Yale, Simpson & Rice,
he had developed "Yalewood."  Mr. Kane knew of that?

Yes, Mr. Kane knew of that.

Only within six weeks the last lots in the Ridgewood section of
"Yalewood" had been closed out at a total profit of forty-two per
cent.  He went over a list of other deals in real estate which he
had put through, all well-known properties.  He admitted frankly
that there were failures in the business; he had had one or two
himself.  But the successes far out numbered the bad speculations,
as every one knew.  Now Lester was no longer connected with the
Kane Company.  He was probably looking for a good investment, and
Mr. Ross had a proposition to lay before him.  Lester consented to
listen, and Mr. Ross blinked his cat-like eyes and started in.

The idea was that he and Lester should enter into a one-deal
partnership, covering the purchase and development of a forty-acre
tract of land lying between Fifty-fifth, Seventy-first, Halstead
Streets, and Ashland Avenue, on the south-west side.  There were
indications of a genuine real estate boom there--healthy, natural,
and permanent.  The city was about to pave Fifty-fifth Street.
There was a plan to extend the Halstead Street car line far below
its present terminus.  The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which ran
near there, would be glad to put a passenger station on the
property.  The initial cost of the land would be forty thousand
dollars which they would share equally.  Grading, paving, lighting,
tree planting, surveying would cost, roughly, an additional twenty-
five thousand.  There would be expenses for advertising--say ten
per cent. of the total investment for two years, or perhaps three--
a total of nineteen thousand five hundred or twenty thousand
dollars.  All told, they would stand to invest jointly the sum of
ninety-five thousand, or possibly one hundred thousand dollars, of
which Lester's share would be fifty thousand.  Then Mr. Ross began
to figure on the profits.

The character of the land, its saleability, and the likelihood of a
rise in value could be judged by the property adjacent, the sales
that had been made north of Fifty-fifth Street and east of
Halstead.  Take, for instance, the Mortimer plot, at Halstead and
Fifty-fifth Streets, on the south-east corner.  Here was a piece of
land that in 1882 was held at forty-five dollars an acre.  In 1886
it had risen to five hundred dollars an acre, as attested by its
sale to a Mr. John L. Slosson at that time.  In 1889, three years
later, it had been sold to Mr. Mortimer for one thousand per acre,
precisely the figure at which this tract was now offered.  It could
be parcelled out into lots fifty by one hundred feet at five
hundred dollars per lot.  Was there any profit in that?

Lester admitted that there was.

Ross went on, somewhat boastfully, to explain just how real estate
profits were made.  It was useless for any outsider to rush into
the game, and imagine that he could do in a few weeks or years what
trained real estate speculators like himself had been working on
for a quarter of a century.  There was something in prestige,
something in taste, something in psychic apprehension.  Supposing
that they went into the deal, he, Ross, would be the presiding
genius.  He had a trained staff, he controlled giant contractors,
he had friends in the tax office, in the water office, and in the
various other city departments which made or marred city
improvements.  If Lester would come in with him he would make him
some money--how much he would not say exactly--fifty thousand
dollars at the lowest--one hundred and fifty to two hundred
thousand in all likelihood.  Would Lester let him go into details,
and explain just how the scheme could be worked out?  After a few
days of quiet cogitation, Lester decided to accede to Mr. Ross's
request; he would look into this thing.



CHAPTER XLIX


The peculiarity of this particular proposition was that it had the
basic elements of success.  Mr. Ross had the experience and the
judgment which were quite capable of making a success of almost
anything he undertook.  He was in a field which was entirely
familiar.  He could convince almost any able man if he could get
his ear sufficiently long to lay his facts before him.

Lester was not convinced at first, although, generally speaking, he
was interested in real estate propositions.  He liked land.  He
considered it a sound investment providing you did not get too much
of it.  He had never invested in any, or scarcely any, solely
because he had not been in a realm where real estate propositions
were talked of.  As it was he was landless and, in a way, jobless.

He rather liked Mr. Ross and his way of doing business.  It was
easy to verify his statements, and he did verify them in several
particulars.  There were his signs out on the prairie stretches,
and here were his ads in the daily papers.  It seemed not a bad
way at all in his idleness to start and make some money.

The trouble with Lester was that he had reached the time where he
was not as keen for details as he had formerly been.  All his work
in recent years--in fact, from the very beginning--had been with
large propositions, the purchasing of great quantities of supplies,
the placing of large orders, the discussion of things which were
wholesale and which had very little to do with the minor details
which make up the special interests of the smaller traders of the
world.  In the factory his brother Robert had figured the pennies
and nickels of labour-cost, had seen to it that all the little
leaks were shut off.  Lester had been left to deal with larger
things, and he had consistently done so.  When it came to this
particular proposition his interest was in the wholesale phases of
it, not the petty details of selling.  He could not help seeing
that Chicago was a growing city, and that land values must rise.
What was now far-out prairie property would soon, in the course of
a few years, be well built-up suburban residence territory.
Scarcely any land that could be purchased now would fall in value.
It might drag in sales or increase, but it couldn't fall.  Ross
convinced him of this.  He knew it of his own judgment to be true.

The several things on which he did not speculate sufficiently were
the life or health of Mr. Ross; the chance that some obnoxious
neighbourhood growth would affect the territory he had selected as
residence territory; the fact that difficult money situations might
reduce real estate values--in fact, bring about a flurry of real
estate liquidation which would send prices crashing down and cause
the failure of strong promoters, even such promoters for instance,
as Mr. Samuel E. Ross.

For several months he studied the situation as presented by his new
guide and mentor, and then, having satisfied himself that he was
reasonably safe, decided to sell some of the holdings which were
netting him a beggarly six per cent. and invest in this new
proposition.  The first cash outlay was twenty thousand dollars for
the land, which was taken over under an operative agreement between
himself and Ross; this was run indefinitely--so long as there was
any of this land left to sell.  The next thing was to raise twelve
thousand five hundred dollars for improvements, which he did, and
then to furnish some twenty-five hundred dollars more for taxes and
unconsidered expenses, items which had come up in carrying out the
improvement work which had been planned.  It seemed that hard and
soft earth made a difference in grading costs, that trees would not
always flourish as expected, that certain members of the city water
and gas departments had to be "seen" and "fixed" before certain
other improvements could be effected.  Mr. Ross attended to all
this, but the cost of the proceedings was something which had to be
discussed, and Lester heard it all.

After the land was put in shape, about a year after the original
conversation, it was necessary to wait until spring for the proper
advertising and booming of the new section; and this advertising
began to call at once for the third payment.  Lester disposed of an
additional fifteen thousand dollars worth of securities in order to
follow this venture to its logical and profitable conclusion.

Up to this time he was rather pleased with his venture.  Ross had
certainly been thorough and business-like in his handling of the
various details.  The land was put in excellent shape.  It was
given a rather attractive title--"Inwood," although, as Lester
noted, there was precious little wood anywhere around there.  But
Ross assured him that people looking for a suburban residence would
be attracted by the name; seeing the vigorous efforts in tree-
planting that had been made to provide for shade in the future,
they would take the will for the deed.  Lester smiled.

The first chill wind that blew upon the infant project came in the
form of a rumour that the International Packing Company, one of the
big constituent members of the packing house combination at
Halstead and Thirty-ninth Streets, had determined to desert the old
group and lay out a new packing area for itself.  The papers
explained that the company intended to go farther south, probably
below Fifty-fifth Street and west of Ashland Avenue.  This was the
territory that was located due west of Lester's property, and the
mere suspicion that the packing company might invade the territory
was sufficient to blight the prospects of any budding real estate
deal.

Ross was beside himself with rage.  He decided, after quick
deliberation, that the best thing to do would be to boom the
property heavily, by means of newspaper advertising, and see if it
could not be disposed of before any additional damage was likely to
be done to it.  He laid the matter before Lester, who agreed that
this would be advisable.  They had already expended six thousand
dollars in advertising, and now the additional sum of three
thousand dollars was spent in ten days, to make it appear that
"Inwood" was an ideal residence section, equipped with every modern
convenience for the home-lover, and destined to be one of the most
exclusive and beautiful suburbs of the city.  It was "no go."  A
few lots were sold, but the rumour that the International Packing
Company might come was persistent and deadly; from any point of
view, save that of a foreign population neighbourhood, the
enterprise was a failure.

To say that Lester was greatly disheartened by this blow is to put
it mildly.  Practically fifty thousand dollars, two-thirds of all
his earthly possessions, outside of his stipulated annual income,
was tied up here; and there were taxes to pay, repairs to maintain,
actual depreciation in value to face.  He suggested to Ross that
the area might be sold at its cost value, or a loan raised on it,
and the whole enterprise abandoned; but that experienced real
estate dealer was not so sanguine.  He had had one or two failures
of this kind before.  He was superstitious about anything which did
not go smoothly from the beginning.  If it didn't go it was a
hoodoo--a black shadow--and he wanted no more to do with it.  Other
real estate men, as he knew to his cost, were of the same opinion.

Some three years later the property was sold under the sheriff's
hammer.  Lester, having put in fifty thousand dollars all told,
recovered a trifle more than eighteen thousand; and some of his
wise friends assured him that he was lucky in getting off so
easily.



CHAPTER L


While the real estate deal was in progress Mrs. Gerald decided to
move to Chicago.  She had been staying in Cincinnati for a few
months, and had learned a great deal as to the real facts of
Lester's irregular mode of life.  The question whether or not he
was really married to Jennie remained an open one.  The garbled
details of Jennie's early years, the fact that a Chicago paper had
written him up as a young millionaire who was sacrificing his
fortune for love of her, the certainty that Robert had practically
eliminated him from any voice in the Kane Company, all came to her
ears.  She hated to think that Lester was making such a sacrifice
of himself.  He had let nearly a year slip by without doing
anything.  In two more years his chance would be gone.  He had said
to her in London that he was without many illusions.  Was Jennie
one?  Did he really love her, or was he just sorry for her?  Letty
wanted very much to find out for sure.

The house that Mrs. Gerald leased in Chicago was a most imposing
one on Drexel Boulevard.  "I'm going to take a house in your town
this winter, and I hope to see a lot of you," she wrote to Lester.
"I'm awfully bored with life here in Cincinnati.  After Europe it's
so--well, you know.  I saw Mrs. Knowles on Saturday.  She asked
after you.  You ought to know that you have a loving friend in her.
Her daughter is going to marry Jimmy Severance in the spring."

Lester thought of her coming with mingled feelings of pleasure and
uncertainty.  She would be entertaining largely, of course.  Would
she foolishly begin by attempting to invite him and Jennie?  Surely
not.  She must know the truth by this time.  Her letter indicated
as much.  She spoke of seeing a lot of him.  That meant that Jennie
would have to be eliminated.  He would have to make a clean breast
of the whole affair to Letty.  Then she could do as she pleased
about their future intimacy.  Seated in Letty's comfortable boudoir
one afternoon, facing a vision of loveliness in pale yellow, he
decided that he might as well have it out with her.  She would
understand.  Just at this time he was beginning to doubt the
outcome of the real estate deal, and consequently he was feeling a
little blue, and, as a concomitant, a little confidential.  He
could not as yet talk to Jennie about his troubles.

"You know, Lester," said Letty, by way of helping him to his
confession--the maid had brought tea for her and some brandy and
soda for him, and departed--"that I have been hearing a lot of
things about you since I've been back in this country.  Aren't you
going to tell me all about yourself?  You know I have your real
interests at heart."

"What have you been hearing, Letty?" he asked, quietly.

"Oh, about your father's will for one thing, and the fact that
you're out of the company, and some gossip about Mrs. Kane which
doesn't interest me very much.  You know what I mean.  Aren't you
going to straighten things out, so that you can have what
rightfully belongs to you?  It seems to me such a great sacrifice,
Lester, unless, of course, you are very much in love.  Are you?"
she asked archly.

Lester paused and deliberated before replying.  "I really don't
know how to answer that last question, Letty," he said.  "Sometimes
I think that I love her; sometimes I wonder whether I do or not.
I'm going to be perfectly frank with you.  I was never in such a
curious position in my life before.  You like me so much, and I--
well, I don't say what I think of you," he smiled.  "But, anyhow, I
can talk to you frankly.  I'm not married."

"I thought as much," she said, as he paused.

"And I'm not married because I have never been able to make up my
mind just what to do about it.  When I first met Jennie I thought
her the most entrancing girl I had ever laid eyes on."

"That speaks volumes for my charms at that time," interrupted his
vis-a-vis.

"Don't interrupt me if you want to hear this," he smiled.

"Tell me one thing," she questioned, "and then I won't.  Was that
in Cleveland?"

"Yes."

"So I heard," she assented.

"There was something about her so--"

"Love at first sight," again interpolated Letty foolishly.  Her
heart was hurting her.  "I know."

"Are you going to let me tell this?"

"Pardon me, Lester.  I can't help a twinge or two."

"Well, anyhow, I lost my head.  I thought she was the most perfect
thing under the sun, even if she was a little out of my world.
This is a democratic country.  I thought that I could just take
her, and then--well, you know.  That is where I made my mistake.  I
didn't think that would prove as serious as it did.  I never cared
for any other woman but you before and--I'll be frank--I didn't
know whether I wanted to marry you.  I thought I didn't want to
marry any woman.  I said to myself that I could just take Jennie,
and then, after a while, when things had quieted down some, we
could separate.  She would be well provided for.  I wouldn't care
very much.  She wouldn't care.  You understand."

"Yes, I understand," replied his confessor.

"Well, you see, Letty, it hasn't worked out that way.  She's a
woman of a curious temperament.  She possesses a world of feeling
and emotion.  She's not educated in the sense in which we
understand that word, but she has natural refinement and tact.
She's a good housekeeper.  She's an ideal mother.  She's the most
affectionate creature under the sun.  Her devotion to her mother
and father was beyond words.  Her love for her daughter--she's
hers, not mine--is perfect.  She hasn't any of the graces of the
smart society woman.  She isn't quick at repartee.  She can't join
in any rapid-fire conversation.  She thinks rather slowly, I
imagine.  Some of her big thoughts never come to the surface at
all, but you can feel that she is thinking and that she is
feeling."

"You pay her a lovely tribute, Lester," said Letty.

"I ought to," he replied.  "She's a good woman, Letty; but, for all
that I have said, I sometimes think that it's only sympathy that's
holding me."

"Don't be too sure," she said warningly.

"Yes, but I've gone through with a great deal.  The thing for me to
have done was to have married her in the first place.  There have
been so many entanglements since, so much rowing and discussion,
that I've rather lost my bearings.  This will of father's
complicates matters.  I stand to lose eight hundred thousand if I
marry her--really, a great deal more, now that the company has been
organised into a trust.  I might better say two millions.  If I
don't marry her, I lose everything outright in about two more
years.  Of course, I might pretend that I have separated from her,
but I don't care to lie.  I can't work it out that way without
hurting her feelings, and she's been the soul of devotion.  Right
down in my heart, at this minute, I don't know whether I want to
give her up.  Honestly, I don't know what the devil to do."

Lester looked, lit a cigar in a far-off, speculative fashion, and
looked out of the window.

"Was there ever such a problem?" questioned Letty, staring at the
floor.  She rose, after a few moments of silence, and put her hands
on his round, solid head.  Her yellow, silken house-gown, faintly
scented, touched his shoulders.  "Poor Lester," she said.  "You
certainly have tied yourself up in a knot.  But it's a Gordian
knot, my dear, and it will have to be cut.  Why don't you discuss
this whole thing with her, just as you have with me, and see how
she feels about it?"

"It seems such an unkind thing to do," he replied.

"You must take some action, Lester dear," she insisted.  "You can't
just drift.  You are doing yourself such a great injustice.
Frankly, I can't advise you to marry her; and I'm not speaking for
myself in that, though I'll take you gladly, even if you did
forsake me in the first place.  I'll be perfectly honest--whether
you ever come to me or not--I love you, and always shall love you."

"I know it," said Lester, getting up.  He took her hands in his,
and studied her face curiously.  Then he turned away.  Letty paused
to get her breath.  His action discomposed her.

"But you're too big a man, Lester, to settle down on ten thousand a
year," she continued.  "You're too much of a social figure to
drift.  You ought to get back into the social and financial world
where you belong.  All that's happened won't injure you, if you
reclaim your interest in the company.  You can dictate your own
terms.  And if you tell her the truth she won't object, I'm sure.
If she cares for you, as you think she does, she will be glad to
make this sacrifice.  I'm positive of that.  You can provide for
her handsomely, of course."

"It isn't the money that Jennie wants," said Lester gloomily.

"Well, even if it isn't, she can live without you; and she can live
better for having an ample income."

"She will never want if I can help it," he said solemnly.

"You must leave her," she urged, with a new touch of decisiveness.
"You must.  Every day is precious with you, Lester!  Why don't you
make up your mind to act at once--to-day, for that matter?  Why
not?"

"Not so fast," he protested.  "This is a ticklish business.  To
tell you the truth, I hate to do it.  It seems so brutal--so
unfair.  I'm not one to run around and discuss my affairs with
other people.  I've refused to talk about this to any one
heretofore--my father, my mother, any one.  But somehow you have
always seemed closer to me than any one else, and, since I met you
this time, I have felt as though I ought to explain--I have really
wanted to.  I care for you.  I don't know whether you understand
how that can be under the circumstances.  But I do.  You're nearer
to me intellectually and emotionally than I thought you were.
Don't frown.  You want the truth, don't you?  Well, there you have
it.  Now explain me to myself, if you can."

"I don't want to argue with you, Lester," she said softly, laying
her hand on his arm.  "I merely want to love you.  I understand
quite well how it has all come about.  I'm sorry for myself.  I'm
sorry for you.  I'm sorry--" she hesitated--"for Mrs. Kane.  She's
a charming woman.  I like her.  I really do.  But she isn't the
woman for you, Lester; she really isn't.  You need another type.
It seems so unfair for us two to discuss her in this way, but
really it isn't.  We all have to stand on our merits.  And I'm
satisfied, if the facts in this case were put before her, as you
have put them before me, she would see just how it all is, and
agree.  She can't want to harm you.  Why, Lester, if I were in her
position I would let you go.  I would, truly.  I think you know
that I would.  Any good woman would.  It would hurt me, but I'd do
it.  It will hurt her, but she'll do it.  Now, mark you my words,
she will.  I think I understand her as well as you do--better--for
I am a woman.  Oh," she said, pausing, "I wish I were in a position
to talk to her.  I could make her understand."

Lester looked at Letty, wondering at her eagerness.  She was
beautiful, magnetic, immensely worth while.

"Not so fast," he repeated.  "I want to think about this.  I have
some time yet."

She paused, a little crestfallen but determined.

"This is the time to act," she repeated, her whole soul in her
eyes.  She wanted this man, and she was not ashamed to let him see
that she wanted him.

"Well, I'll think of it," he said uneasily, then, rather hastily,
he bade her good-bye and went away.



CHAPTER LI


Lester had thought of his predicament earnestly enough, and he
would have been satisfied to act soon if it had not been that one
of those disrupting influences which sometimes complicate our
affairs entered into his Hyde Park domicile.  Gerhardt's health
began rapidly to fail.

Little by little he had been obliged to give up his various duties
about the place; finally he was obliged to take to his bed.  He lay
in his room, devotedly attended by Jennie and visited constantly by
Vesta, and occasionally by Lester.  There was a window not far from
his bed, which commanded a charming view of the lawn and one of the
surrounding streets, and through this he would gaze by the hour,
wondering how the world was getting on without him.  He suspected
that Woods, the coachman, was not looking after the horses and
harnesses as well as he should, that the newspaper carrier was
getting negligent in his delivery of the papers, that the furnace
man was wasting coal, or was not giving them enough heat.  A score
of little petty worries, which were nevertheless real enough to
him.  He knew how a house should be kept.  He was always rigid in
his performance of his self-appointed duties, and he was so afraid
that things would not go right.  Jennie made for him a most
imposing and sumptuous dressing-gown of basted wool, covered with
dark-blue silk, and bought him a pair of soft, thick, wool slippers
to match, but he did not wear them often.  He preferred to lie in
bed, read his Bible and the Lutheran papers, and ask Jennie how
things were getting along.

"I want you should go down in the basement and see what that feller
is doing.  He's not giving us any heat," he would complain.  "I bet
I know what he does.  He sits down there and reads, and then he
forgets what the fire is doing until it is almost out.  The beer is
right there where he can take it.  You should lock it up.  You
don't know what kind of a man he is.  He may be no good."

Jennie would protest that the house was fairly comfortable, that
the man was a nice, quiet, respectable-looking American--that if he
did drink a little beer it would not matter.  Gerhardt would
immediately become incensed.

"That is always the way," he declared vigorously.  "You have no
sense of economy.  You are always so ready to let things go if I am
not there.  He is a nice man!  How do you know he is a nice man?
Does he keep the fire up?  No!  Does he keep the walks clean?  If
you don't watch him he will be just like the others, no good.  You
should go around and see how things are for yourself."

"All right, papa," she would reply in a genial effort to soothe
him, "I will.  Please don't worry.  I'll lock up the beer.  Don't
you want a cup of coffee now and some toast?"

"No," Gerhardt would sign immediately, "my stomach it don't do
right.  I don't know how I am going to come out of this."

Dr. Makin, the leading physician of the vicinity, and a man of
considerable experience and ability, called at Jennie's request and
suggested a few simple things--hot milk, a wine tonic, rest, but he
told Jennie that she must not expect too much.  "You know he is
quite well along in years now.  He is quite feeble.  If he were
twenty years younger we might do a great deal for him.  As it is he
is quite well off where he is.  He may live for some time.  He may
get up and be around again, and then he may not.  We must all
expect these things.  I have never any care as to what may happen
to me.  I am too old myself."

Jennie felt sorry to think that her father might die, but she was
pleased to think that if he must it was going to be under such
comfortable circumstances.  Here at least he could have every care.

It soon became evident that this was Gerhardt's last illness, and
Jennie thought it her duty to communicate with her brothers and
sisters.  She wrote Bass that his father was not well, and had a
letter from him saying that he was very busy and couldn't come on
unless the danger was an immediate one.  He went on to say that
George was in Rochester, working for a wholesale wallpaper house--
the Sheff-Jefferson Company, he thought.  Martha and her husband
had gone to Boston.  Her address was a little suburb named Belmont,
just outside the city.  William was in Omaha, working for a local
electric company.  Veronica was married to a man named Albert
Sheridan, who was connected with a wholesale drug company in
Cleveland.  "She never comes to see me," complained Bass, "but I'll
let her know."  Jennie wrote each one personally.  From Veronica
and Martha she received brief replies.  They were very sorry, and
would she let them know if anything happened.  George wrote that he
could not think of coming to Chicago unless his father was very ill
indeed, but that he would like to be informed from time to time how
he was getting along.  William, as he told Jennie some time
afterward, did not get her letter.

The progress of the old German's malady toward final dissolution
preyed greatly on Jennie's mind; for, in spite of the fact that
they had been so far apart in times past, they had now grown very
close together.  Gerhardt had come to realise clearly that his
outcast daughter was goodness itself--at least, so far as he was
concerned.  She never quarrelled with him, never crossed him in any
way.  Now that he was sick, she was in and out of his room a dozen
times in an evening or an afternoon, seeing whether he was "all
right," asking how he liked his breakfast, or his lunch, or his
dinner.  As he grew weaker she would sit by him and read, or do her
sewing in his room.  One day when she was straightening his pillow
he took her hand and kissed it.  He was feeling very weak--and
despondent.  She looked up in astonishment, a lump in her throat.
There were tears in his eyes.

"You're a good girl, Jennie," he said brokenly.  "You've been good
to me.  I've been hard and cross, but I'm an old man.  You forgive
me, don't you?"

"Oh, papa, please don't," she pleaded, tears welling from her eyes.
"You know I have nothing to forgive.  I'm the one who has been all
wrong."

"No, no," he said; and she sank down on her knees beside him and
cried.  He put his thin, yellow hand on her hair.  "There, there,"
he said brokenly, "I understand a lot of things I didn't.  We get
wiser as we get older."

She left the room, ostensibly to wash her face and hands, and cried
her eyes out.  Was he really forgiving her at last?  And she had
lied to him so!  She tried to be more attentive, but that was
impossible.  But after this reconciliation he seemed happier and
more contented, and they spent a number of happy hours together,
just talking.  Once he said to her, "You know I feel just like I
did when I was a boy.  If it wasn't for my bones I could get up and
dance on the grass."

Jennie fairly smiled and sobbed in one breath.  "You'll get
stronger, papa," she said.  "You're going to get well.  Then I'll
take you out driving."  She was so glad she had been able to make
him comfortable these last few years.

As for Lester, he was affectionate and considerate.

"Well, how is it to-night?" he would ask the moment he entered the
house, and he would always drop in for a few minutes before dinner
to see how the old man was getting along.  "He looks pretty well,"
he would tell Jennie.  "He's apt to live some time yet.  I wouldn't
worry."

Vesta also spent much time with her grandfather, for she had come
to love him dearly.  She would bring her books, if it didn't
disturb him too much, and recite some of her lessons, or she would
leave his door open, and play for him on the piano.  Lester had
bought her a handsome music-box also, which she would sometimes
carry to his room and play for him.  At times he wearied of
everything and everybody save Jennie; he wanted to be alone with
her.  She would sit beside him quite still and sew.  She could see
plainly that the end was only a little way off.

Gerhardt, true to his nature, took into consideration all the
various arrangements contingent upon his death.  He wished to be
buried in the little Lutheran cemetery, which was several miles
farther out on the South Side, and he wanted the beloved minister
of his church to officiate.

"I want everything plain," he said.  "Just my black suit and those
Sunday shoes of mine, and that black string tie.  I don't want
anything else.  I will be all right."

Jennie begged him not to talk of it, but he would.  One day at four
o'clock he had a sudden sinking spell, and at five he was dead.
Jennie held his hands, watching his laboured breathing; once or
twice he opened his eyes to smile at her.  "I don't mind going," he
said, in this final hour.  "I've done what I could."

"Don't talk of dying, papa," she pleaded.

"It's the end," he said.  "You've been good to me.  You're a good
woman."

She heard no other words from his lips.

The finish which time thus put to this troubled life affected
Jennie deeply.  Strong in her kindly, emotional relationships,
Gerhardt had appealed to her not only as her father, but as a
friend and counsellor.  She saw him now in his true perspective, a
hard-working, honest, sincere old German, who had done his best to
raise a troublesome family and lead an honest life.  Truly she had
been his one great burden, and she had never really dealt
truthfully with him to the end.  She wondered now if where he was
he could see that she had lied.  And would he forgive her?  He had
called her a good woman.

Telegrams were sent to all the children.  Bass wired that he was
coming, and arrived the next day.  The others wired that they could
not come, but asked for details, which Jennie wrote.  The Lutheran
minister was called in to say prayers and fix the time of the
burial service.  A fat, smug undertaker was commissioned to arrange
all the details.  Some few neighbourhood friends called--those who
had remained most faithful--and on the second morning following his
death the services were held.  Lester accompanied Jennie and Vesta
and Bass to the little red brick Lutheran church, and sat stolidly
through the rather dry services.  He listened wearily to the long
discourse on the beauties and rewards of a future life and stirred
irritably when reference was made to a hell.  Bass was rather
bored, but considerate.  He looked upon his father now much as he
would on any other man.  Only Jennie wept sympathetically.  She saw
her father in perspective, the long years of trouble he had had,
the days in which he had had to saw wood for a living, the days in
which he had lived in a factory loft, the little shabby house they
had been compelled to live in in Thirteenth Street, the terrible
days of suffering they had spent in Lorrie Street, in Cleveland,
his grief over her, his grief over Mrs. Gerhardt, his love and care
of Vesta, and finally these last days.

"Oh, he was a good man," she thought.  "He meant so well."  They
sang a hymn.  "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and then she sobbed.

Lester pulled at her arm.  He was moved to the danger-line himself
by her grief.  "You'll have to do better than this," he whispered.
"My God, I can't stand it.  I'll have to get up and get out."
Jennie quieted a little, but the fact that the last visible ties
were being broken between her and her father was almost too much.

At the grave in the Cemetery of the Redeemer, where Lester had
immediately arranged to purchase a lot, they saw the plain coffin
lowered and the earth shovelled in.  Lester looked curiously at the
bare trees, the brown dead grass, and the brown soil of the prairie
turned up at this simple graveside.  There was no distinction to
this burial plot.  It was commonplace and shabby, a working-man's
resting-place, but so long as he wanted it, it was all right.  He
studied Bass's keen, lean face, wondering what sort of a career he
was cutting out for himself.  Bass looked to him like some one who
would run a cigar store successfully.  He watched Jennie wiping her
red eyes, and then he said to himself again, "Well, there is
something to her."  The woman's emotion was so deep, so real.
"There's no explaining a good woman," he said to himself.

On the way home, through the wind-swept, dusty streets, he talked
of life in general, Bass and Vesta being present.  "Jennie takes
things too seriously," he said.  "She's inclined to be morbid.
Life isn't as bad as she makes out with her sensitive feelings.  We
all have our troubles, and we all have to stand them, some more,
some less.  We can't assume that any one is so much better or worse
off than any one else.  We all have our share of troubles."

"I can't help it," said Jennie.  "I feel so sorry for some people."

"Jennie always was a little gloomy," put in Bass.  He was thinking
what a fine figure of a man Lester was, how beautifully they lived,
how Jennie had come up in the world.  He was thinking that there
must be a lot more to her than he had originally thought.  Life
surely did turn out queer.  At one time he thought Jennie was a
hopeless failure and no good.

"You ought to try to steel yourself to take things as they come
without going to pieces this way," said Lester finally.

Bass thought so too.

Jennie stared thoughtfully out of the carriage window.  There was
the old house now, large and silent without Gerhardt.  Just think,
she would never see him any more.  They finally turned into the
drive and entered the library.  Jeannette, nervous and sympathetic,
served tea.  Jennie went to look after various details.  She
wondered curiously where she would be when she died.



CHAPTER LII


The fact that Gerhardt was dead made no particular difference to
Lester, except as it affected Jennie.  He had liked the old German
for his many sterling qualities, but beyond that he thought nothing
of him one way or the other.  He took Jennie to a watering-place
for ten days to help her recover her spirits, and it was soon after
this that he decided to tell her just how things stood with him; he
would put the problem plainly before her.  It would be easier now,
for Jennie had been informed of the disastrous prospects of the
real-estate deal.  She was also aware of his continued interest in
Mrs. Gerald.  Lester did not hesitate to let Jennie know that he
was on very friendly terms with her.  Mrs. Gerald had, at first,
formally requested him to bring Jennie to see her, but she never
had called herself, and Jennie understood quite clearly that it was
not to be.  Now that her father was dead, she was beginning to
wonder what was going to become of her; she was afraid that Lester
might not marry her.  Certainly he showed no signs of intending to
do so.

By one of those curious coincidences of thought, Robert also had
reached the conclusion that something should be done.  He did not,
for one moment, imagine that he could directly work upon Lester--he
did not care to try--but he did think that some influence might be
brought to bear on Jennie.  She was probably amenable to reason.
If Lester had not married her already, she must realise full well
that he did not intend to do so.  Suppose that some responsible
third person were to approach her, and explain how things were,
including, of course, the offer of an independent income?  Might
she not be willing to leave Lester, and end all this trouble?
After all, Lester was his brother, and he ought not to lose his
fortune.  Robert had things very much in his own hands now, and
could afford to be generous.  He finally decided that Mr. O'Brien,
of Knight, Keatley & O'Brien, would be the proper intermediary, for
O'Brien was suave, good-natured, and well-meaning, even if he was a
lawyer.  He might explain to Jennie very delicately just how the
family felt, and how much Lester stood to lose if he continued to
maintain his connection with her.  If Lester had married Jennie,
O'Brien would find it out.  A liberal provision would be made for
her--say fifty or one hundred thousand, or even one hundred and
fifty thousand dollars.  He sent for Mr. O'Brien and gave him his
instructions.  As one of the executors of Archibald Kane's estate,
it was really the lawyer's duty to look into the matter of Lester's
ultimate decision.

Mr. O'Brien journeyed to Chicago.  On reaching the city, he called
up Lester, and found out to his satisfaction that he was out of
town for the day.  He went out to the house in Hyde Park, and sent
in his card to Jennie.  She came downstairs in a few minutes quite
unconscious of the import of his message; he greeted her most
blandly.

"This is Mrs. Kane?" he asked, with an interlocutory jerk of his
head.

"Yes," replied Jennie.

"I am, as you see by my card, Mr. O'Brien, of Knight, Keatley &
O'Brien," he began.  "We are the attorneys and executors of the
late Mr. Kane, your--ah--Mr. Kane's father.  You'll think it's
rather curious, my coming to you, but under your husband's father's
will there were certain conditions stipulated which affect you and
Mr. Kane very materially.  These provisions are so important that I
think you ought to know about them--that is if Mr. Kane hasn't
already told you.  I--pardon me--but the peculiar nature of them
makes me conclude that--possibly--he hasn't."  He paused, a very
question-mark of a man--every feature of his face an interrogation.

"I don't quite understand," said Jennie.  "I don't know anything
about the will.  If there's anything that I ought to know, I
suppose Mr. Kane will tell me.  He hasn't told me anything as yet."

"Ah!" breathed Mr. O'Brien, highly gratified.  "Just as I thought.
Now, if you will allow me I'll go into the matter briefly.  Then
you can judge for yourself whether you wish to hear the full
particulars.  Won't you sit down?"  They had both been standing.
Jennie seated herself, and Mr. O'Brien pulled up a chair near to
hers.

"Now to begin," he said.  "I need not say to you, of course, that
there was considerable opposition on the part of Mr. Kane's father,
to this--ah--union between yourself and his son."

"I know--" Jennie started to say, but checked herself.  She was
puzzled, disturbed, and a little apprehensive.

"Before Mr. Kane senior died," he went on, "he indicated to your--
ah--to Mr. Lester Kane, that he felt this way.  In his will he made
certain conditions governing the distribution of his property which
made it rather hard for his son, your--ah--husband, to come into
his rightful share.  Ordinarily, he would have inherited one-fourth
of the Kane Manufacturing Company, worth to-day in the neighbourhood
of a million dollars, perhaps more; also one-fourth of the other
properties, which now aggregate something like five hundred thousand
dollars.  I believe Mr. Kane senior was really very anxious that
his son should inherit this property.  But owing to the conditions
which your--ah--which Mr. Kane's father made, Mr. Lester Kane
cannot possibly obtain his share, except by complying with a--with
a--certain wish which his father had expressed."

Mr. O'Brien paused, his eyes moving back and forth sidewise in
their sockets.  In spite of the natural prejudice of the situation,
he was considerably impressed with Jennie's pleasing appearance.
He could see quite plainly why Lester might cling to her in the
face of all opposition.  He continued to study her furtively as he
sat there waiting for her to speak.

"And what was that wish?" she finally asked, her nerves becoming
just a little tense under the strain of the silence.

"I am glad you were kind enough to ask me that," he went on.  "The
subject is a very difficult one for me to introduce--very
difficult.  I come as an emissary of the estate, I might say as one
of the executors under the will of Mr. Kane's father.  I know how
keenly your--ah--how keenly Mr. Kane feels about it.  I know how
keenly you will probably feel about it.  But it is one of those
very difficult things which cannot be helped--which must be got
over somehow.  And while I hesitate very much to say so, I must
tell you that Mr. Kane senior stipulated in his will that unless,
unless"--again his eyes were moving sidewise to and fro--"he saw
fit to separate from--ah--you"--he paused to get breath--"he could
not inherit this or any other sum--or, at least, only a very minor
income of ten thousand a year; and that only on condition that he
should marry you."  He paused again.  "I should add," he went on,
"that under the will he was given three years in which to indicate
his intentions.  That time is now drawing to a close."

He paused, half expecting some outburst of feeling from Jennie, but
she only looked at him fixedly, her eyes clouded with surprise,
distress, unhappiness.  Now she understood.  Lester was sacrificing
his fortune for her.  His recent commercial venture was an effort
to rehabilitate himself, to put himself in an independent position.
The recent periods of preoccupation, of subtle unrest, and of
dissatisfaction over which she had grieved were now explained.  He
was unhappy, he was brooding over this prospective loss, and he had
never told her.  So his father had really disinherited him!

Mr. O'Brien sat before her, troubled himself.  He was very sorry
for her, now that he saw the expression of her face.  Still the
truth had to come out.  She ought to know.

"I'm sorry," he said, when he saw that she was not going to make
any immediate reply, "that I have been the bearer of such
unfortunate news.  It is a very painful situation that I find
myself in at this moment, I assure you.  I bear you no ill will
personally--of course you understand that.  The family really bears
you no ill will now--I hope you believe that.  As I told your--ah--
as I told Mr. Kane, at the time the will was read, I considered it
most unfair, but, of course, as a mere executive under it and
counsel for his father, I could do nothing.  I really think it best
that you should know how things stand, in order that you may help
your--your husband"--he paused, significantly--"if possible, to
some solution.  It seems a pity to me, as it does to the various
other members of his family, that he should lose all this money."

Jennie had turned her head away and was staring at the floor.  She
faced him now steadily.  "He mustn't lose it," she said; "it isn't
fair that he should."

"I am most delighted to hear you say that, Mrs.--Mrs. Kane," he
went on, using for the first time her improbable title as Lester's
wife, without hesitation.  "I may as well be very frank with you,
and say that I feared you might take this information in quite
another spirit.  Of course you know to begin with that the Kane
family is very clannish.  Mrs. Kane, your--ah--your husband's
mother, was a very proud and rather distant woman, and his sisters
and brothers are rather set in their notions as to what constitute
proper family connections.  They look upon his relationship to you
as irregular, and--pardon me if I appear to be a little cruel--as
not generally satisfactory.  As you know, there had been so much
talk in the last few years that Mr. Kane senior did not believe
that the situation could ever be nicely adjusted, so far as the
family was concerned.  He felt that his son had not gone about it
right in the first place.  One of the conditions of his will was
that if your husband--pardon me--if his son did not accept the
proposition in regard to separating from you and taking up his
rightful share of the estate, then to inherit anything at all--the
mere ten thousand a year I mentioned before--he must--ah--he must
pardon me, I seem a little brutal, but not intentionally so--marry
you."

Jennie winced.  It was such a cruel thing to say this to her face.
This whole attempt to live together illegally had proved disastrous
at every step.  There was only one solution to the unfortunate
business--she could see that plainly.  She must leave him, or he
must leave her.  There was no other alternative.  Lester living on
ten thousand dollars a year!  It seemed silly.

Mr. O'Brien was watching her curiously.  He was thinking that
Lester both had and had not made a mistake.  Why had he not married
her in the first place?  She was charming.

"There is just one other point which I wish to make in this
connection, Mrs. Kane," he went on softly and easily.  "I see now
that it will not make any difference to you, but I am commissioned
and in a way constrained to make it.  I hope you will take it in
the manner in which it is given.  I don't know whether you are
familiar with your husband's commercial interests or not?"

"No," said Jennie simply.

"Well, in order to simplify matters, and to make it easier for you,
should you decide to assist your husband to a solution of this very
difficult situation--frankly, in case you might possibly decide to
leave on your own account, and maintain a separate establishment of
your own--I am delighted to say that--ah--any sum, say--ah--"

Jennie rose and walked dazedly to one of the windows, clasping her
hands as she went.  Mr. O'Brien rose also.

"Well, be that as it may.  In the event of your deciding to end the
connection it has been suggested that any reasonable sum you might
name, fifty, seventy-five, a hundred thousand dollars"--Mr. O'Brien
was feeling very generous toward her--"would be gladly set aside
for your benefit--put in trust, as it were, so that you would have
it whenever you needed it.  You would never want for anything."

"Please don't," said Jennie, hurt beyond the power to express
herself, unable mentally and physically to listen to another word.
"Please don't say any more.  Please go away.  Let me alone now,
please.  I can go away.  I will.  It will be arranged.  But please
don't talk to me any more, will you?"

"I understand how you feel, Mrs. Kane," went on Mr. O'Brien, coming
to a keen realisation of her sufferings.  "I know exactly, believe
me.  I have said all I intend to say.  It has been very hard for me
to do this--very hard.  I regret the necessity.  You have my card.
Please note the name.  I will come any time you suggest, or you can
write me.  I will not detain you any longer.  I am sorry.  I hope
you will see fit to say nothing to your husband of my visit--it
will be advisable that you should keep your own counsel in the
matter.  I value his friendship very highly, and I am sincerely
sorry."

Jennie only stared at the floor.

Mr. O'Brien went out into the hall to get his coat.  Jennie touched
the electric button to summon the maid, and Jeannette came.  Jennie
went back into the library, and Mr. O'Brien paced briskly down the
front walk.  When she was really alone she put her doubled hands to
her chin, and stared at the floor, the queer design of the silken
Turkish rug resolving itself into some curious picture.  She saw
herself in a small cottage somewhere, alone with Vesta; she saw
Lester living in another world, and beside him Mrs. Gerald.  She
saw this house vacant, and then a long stretch of time, and then--

"Oh," she sighed, choking back a desire to cry.  With her hands she
brushed away a hot tear from each eye.  Then she got up.

"It must be," she said to herself in thought.  "It must be.  It
should have been so long ago."  And then--"Oh, thank God that papa
is dead!  Anyhow, he did not live to see this."



CHAPTER LIII


The explanation which Lester had concluded to be inevitable,
whether it led to separation or legalisation of their hitherto
banal condition, followed quickly upon the appearance of Mr.
O'Brien.  On the day Mr. O'Brien called he had gone on a journey to
Hegewisch, a small manufacturing town in Wisconsin, where he had
been invited to witness the trial of a new motor intended to
operate elevators--with a view to possible investment.  When he
came out to the house, interested to tell Jennie something about it
even in spite of the fact that he was thinking of leaving her, he
felt a sense of depression everywhere, for Jennie, in spite of the
serious and sensible conclusion she had reached, was not one who
could conceal her feelings easily.  She was brooding sadly over her
proposed action, realising that it was best to leave but finding it
hard to summon the courage which would let her talk to him about
it.  She could not go without telling him what she thought.  He
ought to want to leave her.  She was absolutely convinced that this
one course of action--separation--was necessary and advisable.  She
could not think of him as daring to make a sacrifice of such
proportions for her sake even if he wanted to.  It was impossible.
It was astonishing to her that he had let things go along as
dangerously and silently as he had.  When he came in Jennie did her
best to greet him with her accustomed smile, but it was a pretty
poor imitation.

"Everything all right?" she asked, using her customary phrase of
inquiry.

"Quite," he answered.  "How are things with you?"

"Oh, just the same."  She walked with him to the library, and he
poked at the open fire with a long-handled poker before turning
around to survey the room generally.  It was five o'clock of a
January afternoon.  Jennie had gone to one of the windows to lower
the shade.  As she came back he looked at her critically.  "You're
not quite your usual self, are you?" he asked, sensing something
out of the common in her attitude.

"Why, yes, I feel all right," she replied, but there was a peculiar
uneven motion to the movement of her lips--a rippling tremor which
was unmistakable to him.

"I think I know better than that," he said, still gazing at her
steadily.  "What's the trouble?  Anything happened?"

She turned away from him a moment to get her breath and collect her
senses.  Then she faced him again.  "There is something," she
managed to say.  "I have to tell you something."

"I know you have," he agreed, half smiling, but with a feeling that
there was much of grave import back of this.  "What is it?"

She was silent for a moment, biting her lips.  She did not quite
know how to begin.  Finally she broke the spell with:  "There was a
man here yesterday--a Mr. O'Brien, of Cincinnati.  Do you know
him?"

"Yes, I know him.  What did he want?"

"He came to talk to me about you and your father's will."

She paused, for his face clouded immediately.  "Why the devil
should he be talking to you about my father's will!" he exclaimed.
"What did he have to say?"

"Please don't get angry, Lester," said Jennie calmly, for she
realised that she must remain absolute mistress of herself if
anything were to be accomplished toward the resolution of her
problem.  "He wanted to tell me what a sacrifice you are making,"
she went on.  "He wished to show me that there was only a little
time left before you would lose your inheritance.  Don't you want
to act pretty soon?  Don't you want to leave me?"

"Damn him!" said Lester fiercely.  "What the devil does he mean by
putting his nose in my private affairs?  Can't they let me alone?"
He shook himself angrily.  "Damn them!" he exclaimed again.  "This
is some of Robert's work.  Why should Knight, Keatley & O'Brien be
meddling in my affairs?  This whole business is getting to be a
nuisance!"  He was in a boiling rage in a moment, as was shown by
his darkening skin and sulphurous eyes.

Jennie trembled before his anger.  She did not know what to say.

He came to himself sufficiently after a time to add:

"Well.  Just what did he tell you?"

"He said that if you married me you would only get ten thousand a
year.  That if you didn't and still lived with me you would get
nothing at all.  If you would leave me, or I would leave you, you
would get all of a million and a half.  Don't you think you had
better leave me now?"

She had not intended to propound this leading question so quickly,
but it came out as a natural climax to the situation.  She realised
instantly that if he were really in love with her he would answer
with an emphatic "no."  If he didn't care, he would hesitate, he
would delay, he would seek to put off the evil day of reckoning.

"I don't see that," he retorted irritably.  "I don't see that
there's any need for either interference or hasty action.  What I
object to is their coming here and mixing in my private affairs."

Jennie was cut to the quick by his indifference, his wrath instead
of affection.  To her the main point at issue was her leaving him
or his leaving her.  To him this recent interference was obviously
the chief matter for discussion and consideration.  The meddling of
others before he was ready to act was the terrible thing.  She had
hoped, in spite of what she had seen, that possibly, because of the
long time they had lived together and the things which (in a way)
they had endured together, he might have come to care for her
deeply--that she had stirred some emotion in him which would never
brook real separation, though some seeming separation might be
necessary.  He had not married her, of course, but then there had
been so many things against them.  Now, in this final hour, anyhow,
he might have shown that he cared deeply, even if he had deemed it
necessary to let her go.  She felt for the time being as if, for
all that she had lived with him so long, she did not understand
him, and yet, in spite of this feeling, she knew also that she
did.  He cared, in his way.  He could not care for any one 
enthusiastically and demonstratively.  He could care enough to
seize her and take her to himself as he had, but he could not care
enough to keep her if something more important appeared.  He was
debating her fate now.  She was in a quandary, hurt, bleeding, but
for once in her life, determined.  Whether he wanted to or not, she
must not let him make this sacrifice.  She must leave him--if he
would not leave her.  It was not important enough that she should
stay.  There might be but one answer.  But might he not show
affection?

"Don't you think you had better act soon?" she continued, hoping
that some word of feeling would come from him.  "There is only a
little time left, isn't there?"

Jennie nervously pushed a book to and fro on the table, her fear
that she would not be able to keep up appearances troubling her
greatly.  It was hard for her to know what to do or say.  Lester
was so terrible when he became angry.  Still it ought not to be so
hard for him to go, now that he had Mrs. Gerald, if he only wished
to do so--and he ought to.  His fortune was so much more important
to him than anything she could be.

"Don't worry about that," he replied stubbornly, his wrath at his
brother, and his family, and O'Brien still holding him.  "There's
time enough.  I don't know what I want to do yet.  I like the
effrontery of these people!  But I won't talk any more about it;
isn't dinner nearly ready?"  He was so injured in his pride that he
scarcely took the trouble to be civil.  He was forgetting all about
her and what she was feeling.  He hated his brother Robert for this
affront.  He would have enjoyed wringing the necks of Messrs.
Knight, Keatley & O'Brien, singly and collectively.

The question could not be dropped for good and all, and it came up
again at dinner, after Jennie had done her best to collect her
thoughts and quiet her nerves.  They could not talk very freely
because of Vesta and Jeannette, but she managed to get in a word or
two.

"I could take a little cottage somewhere," she suggested softly,
hoping to find him in a modified mood.  "I would not want to stay
here.  I would not know what to do with a big house like this
alone."

"I wish you wouldn't discuss this business any longer, Jennie," he
persisted.  "I'm in no mood for it.  I don't know that I'm going to
do anything of the sort.  I don't know what I'm going to do."  He
was so sour and obstinate, because of O'Brien, that she finally
gave it up.  Vesta was astonished to see her stepfather, usually so
courteous, in so grim a mood.

Jennie felt a curious sense that she might hold him if she would,
for he was doubting; but she knew also that she should not wish.
It was not fair to him.  It was not fair to herself, or kind, or
decent.

"Oh yes, Lester, you must," she pleaded, at a later time.  "I won't
talk about it any more, but you must.  I won't let you do anything
else."

There were hours when it came up afterward--every day, in fact--in
their boudoir, in the library, in the dining-room, at breakfast,
but not always in words.  Jennie was worried.  She was looking the
worry she felt.  She was sure that he should be made to act.  Since
he was showing more kindly consideration for her, she was all the
more certain that he should act soon.  Just how to go about it she
did not know, but she looked at him longingly, trying to help him
make up his mind.  She would be happy, she assured herself--she
would be happy thinking that he was happy once she was away from
him.  He was a good man, most delightful in everything, perhaps,
save his gift of love.  He really did not love her--could not
perhaps, after all that had happened, even though she loved him
most earnestly.  But his family had been most brutal in their
opposition, and this had affected his attitude.  She could
understand that, too.  She could see now how his big, strong brain
might be working in a circle.  He was too decent to be absolutely
brutal about this thing and leave her, too really considerate to
look sharply after his own interests as he should, or hers--but he
ought to.

"You must decide, Lester," she kept saying to him, from time to
time.  "You must let me go.  What difference does it make?  I will
be all right.  Maybe, when this thing is all over you might want to
come back to me.  If you do, I will be there."

"I'm not ready to come to a decision," was his invariable reply.
"I don't know that I want to leave you.  This money is important,
of course, but money isn't everything.  I can live on ten thousand
a year if necessary.  I've done it in the past."

"Oh, but you're so much more placed in the world now, Lester," she
argued.  "You can't do it.  Look how much it costs to run this
house alone.  And a million and a half of dollars--why, I wouldn't
let you think of losing that.  I'll go myself first."

"Where would you think of going if it came to that?" he asked
curiously.

"Oh, I'd find some place.  Do you remember that little town of
Sandwood, this side of Kenosha?  I have often thought it would be a
pleasant place to live."

"I don't like to think of this," he said finally in an outburst of
frankness.  "It doesn't seem fair.  The conditions have all been
against this union of ours.  I suppose I should have married you in
the first place.  I'm sorry now that I didn't."

Jennie choked in her throat, but said nothing.

"Anyhow, this won't be the last of it, if I can help it," he
concluded.  He was thinking that the storm might blow over; once he
had the money, and then--but he hated compromises and subterfuges.

It came by degrees to be understood that, toward the end of
February, she should look around at Sandwood and see what she could
find.  She was to have ample means, he told her, everything that
she wanted.  After a time he might come out and visit her
occasionally.  And he was determined in his heart that he would
make some people pay for the trouble they had caused him.  He
decided to send for Mr. O'Brien shortly and talk things over.  He
wanted for his personal satisfaction to tell him what he thought of
him.

At the same time, in the background of his mind, moved the shadowy
figure of Mrs. Gerald--charming, sophisticated, well placed in
every sense of the word.  He did not want to give her the broad
reality of full thought, but she was always there.  He thought and
thought.  "Perhaps I'd better," he half concluded.  When February
came he was ready to act.



CHAPTER LIV


The little town of Sandwood, "this side of Kenosha," as Jennie had
expressed it, was only a short distance from Chicago, an hour and
fifteen minutes by the local train.  It had a population of some
three hundred families, dwelling in small cottages, which were
scattered over a pleasant area of lake-shore property.  They were
not rich people.  The houses were not worth more than from three to
five thousand dollars each, but, in most cases, they were
harmoniously constructed, and the surrounding trees, green for the
entire year, gave them a pleasing summery appearance.  Jennie, at
the time they had passed by there--it was an outing taken behind a
pair of fast horses--had admired the look of a little white church
steeple, set down among the green trees, and the gentle rocking of
the boats upon the summer water.

"I should like to live in a place like this some time," she had
said to Lester, and he had made the comment that it was a little
too peaceful for him.  "I can imagine getting to the place where I
might like this, but not now.  It's too withdrawn."

Jennie thought of that expression afterward.  It came to her when
she thought that the world was trying.  If she had to be alone ever
and could afford it she would like to live in a place like
Sandwood.  There she would have a little garden, some chickens,
perhaps, a tall pole with a pretty bird-house on it, and flowers
and trees and green grass everywhere about.  If she could have a
little cottage in a place like this which commanded a view of the
lake she could sit of a summer evening and sew.  Vesta could play
about or come home from school.  She might have a few friends, or
not any.  She was beginning to think that she could do very well
living alone if it were not for Vesta's social needs.  Books were
pleasant things--she was finding that out--books like Irving's
Sketch Book, Lamb's Elia, and Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales.  Vesta
was coming to be quite a musician in her way, having a keen sense
of the delicate and refined in musical composition.  She had a
natural sense of harmony and a love for those songs and instrumental
compositions which reflect sentimental and passionate moods, and
she could sing and play quite well.  Her voice was, of course,
quite untrained--she was only fourteen--but it was pleasant to
listen to.  She was beginning to show the combined traits of her
mother and father--Jennie's gentle, speculative turn of mind,
combined with Brander's vivacity of spirit and innate executive
capacity.  She could talk to her mother in a sensible way about
things, nature, books, dress, love, and from her developing
tendencies Jennie caught keen glimpses of the new worlds which
Vesta was to explore.  The nature of modern school life, its
consideration of various divisions of knowledge, music, science,
all came to Jennie watching her daughter take up new themes.  Vesta
was evidently going to be a woman of considerable ability--not
irritably aggressive, but self-constructive.  She would be able to
take care of herself.  All this pleased Jennie and gave her great
hopes for Vesta's future.

The cottage which was finally secured at Sandwood was only a storey
and a half in height, but it was raised upon red brick piers
between which were set green lattices and about which ran a
veranda.  The house was long and narrow, its full length--some five
rooms in a row--facing the lake.  There was a dining-room with
windows opening even with the floor, a large library with built-in
shelves for books, and a parlour whose three large windows afforded
air and sunshine at all times.  The plot of ground in which this
cottage stood was one hundred feet square and ornamented with a few
trees.  The former owner had laid out flower-beds, and arranged
green hardwood tubs for the reception of various hardy plants and
vines.  The house was painted white, with green shutters and green
shingles.

It had been Lester's idea, since this thing must be, that Jennie
might keep the house in Hyde Park just as it was, but she did not
want to do that.  She could not think of living there alone.  The
place was too full of memories.  At first, she did not think she
would take anything much with her, but she finally saw that it was
advisable to do as Lester suggested--to fit out the new place with
a selection of silverware, hangings, and furniture from the Hyde
Park house.

"You have no idea what you will or may want," he said.  "Take
everything.  I certainly don't want any of it."

A lease of the cottage was taken for two years, together with an
option for an additional five years, including the privilege of
purchase.  So long as he was letting her go, Lester wanted to be
generous.  He could not think of her as wanting for anything, and
he did not propose that she should.  His one troublesome thought
was, what explanation was to be made to Vesta.  He liked her very
much and wanted her life kept free of complications.

"Why not send her off to a boarding-school until spring?" he
suggested once; but owing to the lateness of the season this was
abandoned as inadvisable.  Later they agreed that business affairs
made it necessary for him to travel and for Jennie to move.  Later
Vesta could be told that Jennie had left him for any reason she
chose to give.  It was a trying situation, all the more bitter to
Jennie because she realised that in spite of the wisdom of it
indifference to her was involved.  He really did not care ENOUGH,
as much as he cared.

The relationship of man and woman which we study so passionately in
the hope of finding heaven knows what key to the mystery of
existence holds no more difficult or trying situation than this of
mutual compatibility broken or disrupted by untoward conditions
which in themselves have so little to do with the real force and
beauty of the relationship itself.  These days of final dissolution
in which this household, so charmingly arranged, the scene of so
many pleasant activities, was literally going to pieces was a
period of great trial to both Jennie and Lester.  On her part it
was one of intense suffering, for she was of that stable nature
that rejoices to fix itself in a serviceable and harmonious
relationship, and then stay so.  For her life was made up of those
mystic chords of sympathy and memory which bind up the transient
elements of nature into a harmonious and enduring scene.  One of
those chords--this home was her home, united and made beautiful by
her affection and consideration for each person and every object.
Now the time had come when it must cease.

If she had ever had anything before in her life which had been like
this it might have been easier to part with it now, though, as she
had proved, Jennie's affections were not based in any way upon
material considerations.  Her love of life and of personality were
free from the taint of selfishness.  She went about among these
various rooms selecting this rug, that set of furniture, this and
that ornament, wishing all the time with all her heart and soul
that it need not be.  Just to think, in a little while Lester would
not come any more of an evening!  She would not need to get up
first of a morning and see that coffee was made for her lord, that
the table in the dining-room looked just so.  It had been a habit
of hers to arrange a bouquet for the table out of the richest
blooming flowers of the conservatory, and she had always felt in
doing it that it was particularly for him.  Now it would not be
necessary any more--not for him.  When one is accustomed to wait
for the sound of a certain carriage-wheel of an evening grating
upon your carriage drive, when one is used to listen at eleven,
twelve, and one, waking naturally and joyfully to the echo of a
certain step on the stair, the separation, the ending of these
things, is keen with pain.  These were the thoughts that were
running through Jennie's brain hour after hour and day after day.

Lester on his part was suffering in another fashion.  His was not
the sorrow of lacerated affection, of discarded and despised love,
but of that painful sense of unfairness which comes to one who
knows that he is making a sacrifice of the virtues--kindness,
loyalty, affection--to policy.  Policy was dictating a very
splendid course of action from one point of view.  Free of Jennie,
providing for her admirably, he was free to go his way, taking to
himself the mass of affairs which come naturally with great wealth.
He could not help thinking of the thousand and one little things
which Jennie had been accustomed to do for him, the hundred and one
comfortable and pleasant and delightful things she meant to him.
The virtues which she possessed were quite dear to his mind.  He
had gone over them time and again.  Now he was compelled to go over
them finally, to see that she was suffering without making a sign.
Her manner and attitude toward him in these last days were quite
the same as they had always been--no more, no less.  She was not
indulging in private hysterics, as another woman might have done;
she was not pretending a fortitude in suffering she did not feel,
showing him one face while wishing him to see another behind it.
She was calm, gentle, considerate--thoughtful of him--where he
would go and what he would do, without irritating him by her
inquiries.  He was struck quite favourably by her ability to take a
large situation largely, and he admired her.  There was something
to this woman, let the world think what it might.  It was a shame
that her life was passed under such a troubled star.  Still a great
world was calling him.  The sound of its voice was in his ears.  It
had on occasion shown him its bared teeth.  Did he really dare to
hesitate?

The last hour came, when having made excuses to this and that
neighbour, when having spread the information that they were going
abroad, when Lester had engaged rooms at the Auditorium, and the
mass of furniture which could not be used had gone to storage, that
it was necessary to say farewell to this Hyde Park domicile.
Jennie had visited Sandwood in company with Lester several times.
He had carefully examined the character of the place.  He was
satisfied that it was nice but lonely.  Spring was at hand, the
flowers would be something.  She was going to keep a gardener and
man of all work.  Vesta would be with her.

"Very well," he said, "only I want you to be comfortable."

In the meantime Lester had been arranging his personal affairs.  He
had notified Messrs. Knight, Keatley & O'Brien through his own
attorney, Mr. Watson, that he would expect them to deliver his
share of his father's securities on a given date.  He had made up
his mind that as long as he was compelled by circumstances to do
this thing he would do a number of other things equally ruthless.
He would probably marry Mrs. Gerald.  He would sit as a director in
the United Carriage Company--with his share of the stock it would
be impossible to keep him out.  If he had Mrs. Gerald's money he
would become a controlling factor in the United Traction of
Cincinnati, in which his brother was heavily interested, and in the
Western Steel Works, of which his brother was now the leading
adviser.  What a different figure he would be now from that which
he had been during the past few years!

Jennie was depressed to the point of despair.  She was tremendously
lonely.  This home had meant so much to her.  When she first came
here and neighbours had begun to drop in she had imagined herself
on the threshold of a great career, that some day, possibly, Lester
would marry her.  Now, blow after blow had been delivered, and the
home and dream were a ruin.  Gerhardt was gone.  Jeannette, Harry
Ward, and Mrs. Frissell had been discharged, the furniture for a
good part was in storage, and for her, practically, Lester was no
more.  She realised clearly that he would not come back.  If he
could do this thing now, even considerately, he could do much more
when he was free and away later.  Immersed in his great affairs, he
would forget, of course.  And why not?  She did not fit in.  Had
not everything--everything illustrated that to her?  Love was not
enough in this world--that was so plain.  One needed education,
wealth, training, the ability to fight and scheme.  She did not
want to do that.  She could not.

The day came when the house was finally closed and the old life was
at an end.  Lester travelled with Jennie to Sandwood.  He spent
some little while in the house trying to get her used to the idea
of change--it was not so bad.  He intimated that he would come
again soon, but he went away, and all his words were as nothing
against the fact of the actual and spiritual separation.  When
Jennie saw him going down the brick walk that afternoon, his solid,
conservative figure clad in a new tweed suit, his overcoat on his
arm, self-reliance and prosperity written all over him, she thought
that she would die.  She had kissed Lester good-bye and had wished
him joy, prosperity, peace; then she made an excuse to go to her
bedroom.  Vesta came after a time to seek her, but now her eyes
were quite dry; everything had subsided to a dull ache.  The new
life was actually begun for her--a life without Lester, without
Gerhardt, without any one save Vesta.

"What curious things have happened to me!" she thought, as she went
into the kitchen, for she had determined to do at least some of her
own work.  She needed the distraction.  She did not want to think.
If it were not for Vesta she would have sought some regular outside
employment.  Anything to keep from brooding, for in that direction
lay madness.



CHAPTER LV


The social and business worlds of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland,
and other cities saw, during the year or two which followed the
breaking of his relationship with Jennie, a curious rejuvenation in
the social and business spirit of Lester Kane.  He had become
rather distant and indifferent to certain personages and affairs
while he was living with her, but now he suddenly appeared again,
armed with authority from a number of sources, looking into this
and that matter with the air of one who has the privilege of power,
and showing himself to be quite a personage from the point of view
of finance and commerce.  He was older of course.  It must be
admitted that he was in some respects a mentally altered Lester.
Up to the time he had met Jennie he was full of the assurance of
the man who has never known defeat.  To have been reared in luxury
as he had been, to have seen only the pleasant side of society,
which is so persistent and so deluding where money is concerned, to
have been in the run of big affairs not because one has created
them, but because one is a part of them and because they are one's
birthright, like the air one breathes, could not help but create
one of those illusions of solidarity which is apt to befog the
clearest brain.  It is so hard for us to know what we have not
seen.  It is so difficult for us to feel what we have not
experienced.  Like this world of ours, which seems so solid and
persistent solely because we have no knowledge of the power which
creates it, Lester's world seemed solid and persistent and real
enough to him.  It was only when the storms set in and the winds of
adversity blew and he found himself facing the armed forces of
convention that he realised he might be mistaken as to the value of
his personality, that his private desires and opinions were as
nothing in the face of a public conviction; that he was wrong.  The
race spirit, or social avatar, the "Zeitgeist" as the Germans term
it, manifested itself as something having a system in charge, and
the organisation of society began to show itself to him as
something based on possibly a spiritual, or, at least, superhuman
counterpart.  He could not fly in the face of it.  He could not
deliberately ignore its mandates.  The people of his time believed
that some particular form of social arrangement was necessary, and
unless he complied with that he could, as he saw, readily become a
social outcast.  His own father and mother had turned on him--his
brother and sisters, society, his friends.  Dear heaven, what a to-
do this action of his had created!  Why, even the fates seemed
adverse.  His real estate venture was one of the most fortuitously
unlucky things he had ever heard of.  Why?  Were the gods battling
on the side of a to him unimportant social arrangement?  Apparently.
Anyhow, he had been compelled to quit, and here he was, vigorous,
determined, somewhat battered by the experience, but still forceful
and worth while.

And it was a part of the penalty that he had become measurably
soured by what had occurred.  He was feeling that he had been
compelled to do the first ugly, brutal thing of his life.  Jennie
deserved better of him.  It was a shame to forsake her after all
the devotion she had manifested.  Truly she had played a finer part
than he.  Worst of all, his deed could not be excused on the
grounds of necessity.  He could have lived on ten thousand a year;
he could have done without the million and more which was now his.
He could have done without the society, the pleasures of which had
always been a lure.  He could have, but he had not, and he had
complicated it all with the thought of another woman.

Was she as good as Jennie?  That was the question which always rose
before him.  Was she as kindly?  Wasn't she deliberately scheming
under his very eyes to win him away from the woman who was as good
as his wife?  Was that admirable?  Was it the thing a truly big
woman would do?  Was she good enough for him after all?  Ought he
to marry her?  Ought he to marry any one seeing that he really owed
a spiritual if not a legal allegiance to Jennie?  Was it worth
while for any woman to marry him?  These things turned in his
brain.  They haunted him.  He could not shut out the fact that he
was doing a cruel and unlovely thing.

Material error in the first place was now being complicated with
spiritual error.  He was attempting to right the first by
committing the second.  Could it be done TO HIS OWN SATISFACTION?
Would it pay mentally and spiritually?  Would it bring him peace of
mind?  He was thinking, thinking, all the while he was readjusting
his life to the old (or perhaps better yet, new) conditions, and he
was not feeling any happier.  As a matter of fact he was feeling
worse--grim, revengeful.  If he married Letty he thought at times
it would be to use her fortune as a club to knock other enemies
over the head, and he hated to think he was marrying her for that.
He took up his abode at the Auditorium, visited Cincinnati in a
distant and aggressive spirit, sat in council with the board of
directors, wishing that he was more at peace with himself, more
interested in life.  But he did not change his policy in regard to
Jennie.

Of course Mrs. Gerald had been vitally interested in Lester's
rehabilitation.  She waited tactfully some little time before
sending him any word; finally she ventured to write to him at the
Hyde Park address (as if she did not know where he was), asking,
"Where are you?"  By this time Lester had become slightly
accustomed to the change in his life.  He was saying to himself
that he needed sympathetic companionship, the companionship of a
woman, of course.  Social invitations had begun to come to him now
that he was alone and that his financial connections were so
obviously restored.  He had made his appearance, accompanied only
by a Japanese valet, at several country houses, the best sign that
he was once more a single man.  No reference was made by any one to
the past.

On receiving Mrs. Gerald's note he decided that he ought to go and
see her.  He had treated her rather shabbily.  For months preceding
his separation from Jennie he had not gone near her.  Even now he
waited until time brought a 'phoned invitation to dinner.  This he
accepted.

Mrs. Gerald was at her best as a hostess at her perfectly appointed
dinner-table.  Alboni, the pianist, was there on this occasion,
together with Adam Rascavage, the sculptor, a visiting scientist
from England, Sir Nelson Keyes, and, curiously enough, Mr. and Mrs.
Berry Dodge, whom Lester had not met socially in several years.
Mrs. Gerald and Lester exchanged the joyful greetings of those who
understand each other thoroughly and are happy in each other's
company.  "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, sir," she said to him
when he made his appearance, "to treat me so indifferently?  You
are going to be punished for this."

"What's the damage?" he smiled.  "I've been extremely rushed.  I
suppose something like ninety stripes will serve me about right."

"Ninety stripes, indeed!" she retorted.  "You're letting yourself
off easy.  What is it they do to evildoers in Siam?"

"Boil them in oil, I suppose."

"Well, anyhow, that's more like.  I'm thinking of something
terrible."

"Be sure and tell me when you decide," he laughed, and passed on to
be presented to distinguished strangers by Mrs. De Lincum who aided
Mrs. Gerald in receiving.  The talk was stimulating.  Lester was
always at his ease intellectually, and this mental atmosphere
revived him.  Presently he turned to greet Berry Dodge, who was
standing at his elbow.

Dodge was all cordiality.  "Where are you now?" he asked.  "We
haven't seen you in--oh, when?  Mrs. Dodge is waiting to have a
word with you."  Lester noticed the change in Dodge's attitude.

"Some time, that's sure," he replied easily.  "I'm living at the
Auditorium."

"I was asking after you the other day.  You know Jackson Du Bois?
Of course you do.  We were thinking of running up into Canada for
some hunting.  Why don't you join us?"

"I can't," replied Lester.  "Too many things on hand just now.
Later, surely."

Dodge was anxious to continue.  He had seen Lester's election as a
director of the C. H. & D.  Obviously he was coming back into the
world.  But dinner was announced and Lester sat at Mrs. Gerald's
right hand.

"Aren't you coming to pay me a dinner call some afternoon after
this?" asked Mrs. Gerald confidentially when the conversation was
brisk at the other end of the table.

"I am, indeed," he replied, "and shortly.  Seriously, I've been
wanting to look you up.  You understand though how things are now?"

"I do.  I've heard a great deal.  That's why I want you to come.
We need to talk together."

Ten days later he did call.  He felt as if he must talk with her;
he was feeling bored and lonely; his long home life with Jennie had
made hotel life objectionable.  He felt as though he must find a
sympathetic, intelligent ear, and where better than here?  Letty
was all ears for his troubles.  She would have pillowed his solid
head upon her breast in a moment if that had been possible.

"Well," he said, when the usual fencing preliminaries were over,
"what will you have me say in explanation?"

"Have you burned your bridges behind you?" she asked.

"I'm not so sure," he replied gravely.  "And I can't say that I'm
feeling any too joyous about the matter as a whole."

"I thought as much," she replied.  "I knew how it would be with
you.  I can see you wading through this mentally, Lester.  I have
been watching you, every step of the way, wishing you peace of
mind.  These things are always so difficult, but don't you know I
am still sure it's for the best.  It never was right the other way.
It never could be.  You couldn't afford to sink back into a mere
shell-fish life.  You are not organised temperamentally for that
any more than I am.  You may regret what you are doing now, but you
would have regretted the other thing quite as much and more.  You
couldn't work your life out that way--now, could you?"

"I don't know about that, Letty.  Really, I don't.  I've wanted to
come and see you for a long time, but I didn't think that I ought
to.  The fight was outside--you know what I mean."

"Yes, indeed, I do," she said soothingly.

"It's still inside.  I haven't gotten over it.  I don't know
whether this financial business binds me sufficiently or not.  I'll
be frank and tell you that I can't say I love her entirely; but I'm
sorry, and that's something."

"She's comfortably provided for, of course," she commented rather
than inquired.

"Everything she wants.  Jennie is of a peculiar disposition.  She
doesn't want much.  She's retiring by nature and doesn't care for
show.  I've taken a cottage for her at Sandwood, a little place
north of here on the lake; and there's plenty of money in trust,
but, of course, she knows she can live anywhere she pleases."

"I understand exactly how she feels, Lester.  I know how you feel.
She is going to suffer very keenly for a while--we all do when we
have to give up the thing we love.  But we can get over it, and we
do.  At least, we can live.  She will.  It will go hard at first,
but after a while she will see how it is, and she won't feel any
the worse toward you."

"Jennie will never reproach me, I know that," he replied.  "I'm the
one who will do the reproaching.  I'll be abusing myself for some
time.  The trouble is with my particular turn of mind.  I can't
tell, for the life of me, how much of this disturbing feeling of
mine is habit--the condition that I'm accustomed to--and how much
is sympathy.  I sometimes think I'm the most pointless individual
in the world.  I think too much."

"Poor Lester!" she said tenderly.  "Well, I understand for one.
You're lonely living where you are, aren't you?"

"I am that," he replied.

"Why not come and spend a few days down at West Baden?  I'm going
there."

"When?" he inquired.

"Next Tuesday."

"Let me see," he replied.  "I'm not sure that I can."  He consulted
his notebook.  "I could come Thursday, for a few days."

"Why not do that?  You need company.  We can walk and talk things
out down there.  Will you?"

"Yes, I will," he replied.

She came toward him, trailing a lavender lounging robe.  "You're
such a solemn philosopher, sir," she observed comfortably, "working
through all the ramifications of things.  Why do you?  You were
always like that."

"I can't help it," he replied.  "It's my nature to think."

"Well, one thing I know--" and she tweaked his ear gently.  "You're
not going to make another mistake through sympathy if I can help
it," she said daringly.  "You're going to stay disentangled long
enough to give yourself a chance to think out what you want to do.
You must.  And I wish for one thing you'd take over the management
of my affairs.  You could advise me so much better than my lawyer."

He arose and walked to the window, turning to look back at her
solemnly.  "I know what you want," he said doggedly.

"And why shouldn't I?" she demanded, again approaching him.  She
looked at him pleadingly, defiantly.  "Yes, why shouldn't I?"

"You don't know what you're doing," he grumbled; but he kept on
looking at her; she stood there, attractive as a woman of her age
could be, wise, considerate, full of friendship and affection.

"Letty," he said.  "You ought not to want to marry me.  I'm not
worth it.  Really I'm not.  I'm too cynical.  Too indifferent.  It
won't be worth anything in the long run."

"It will be worth something to me," she insisted.  "I know what you
are.  Anyhow, I don't care.  I want you!"

He took her hands, then her arms.  Finally he drew her to him, and
put his arms about her waist.  "Poor Letty!" he said; "I'm not
worth it.  You'll be sorry."

"No, I'll not," she replied.  "I know what I'm doing.  I don't care
what you think you are worth."  She laid her cheek on his shoulder.
"I want you."

"If you keep on I venture to say you'll have me," he returned.  He
bent and kissed her.

"Oh," she exclaimed, and hid her hot face against his breast.

"This is bad business," he thought, even as he held her within the
circle of his arms.  "It isn't what I ought to be doing."

Still he held her, and now when she offered her lips coaxingly he
kissed her again and again.



CHAPTER LVI


It is difficult to say whether Lester might not have returned to
Jennie after all but for certain influential factors.  After a
time, with his control of his portion of the estate firmly settled
in his hands and the storm of original feeling forgotten, he was
well aware that diplomacy--if he ignored his natural tendency to
fulfil even implied obligations--could readily bring about an
arrangement whereby he and Jennie could be together.  But he was
haunted by the sense of what might be called an important social
opportunity in the form of Mrs. Gerald.  He was compelled to set
over against his natural tendency toward Jennie a consciousness of
what he was ignoring in the personality and fortunes of her rival,
who was one of the most significant and interesting figures on the
social horizon.  For think as he would, these two women were now
persistently opposed in his consciousness.  The one polished,
sympathetic, philosophic--schooled in all the niceties of polite
society, and with the means to gratify her every wish; the other
natural, sympathetic, emotional with no schooling in the ways of
polite society, but with a feeling for the beauty of life and the
lovely things in human relationship which made her beyond any
question an exceptional woman.  Mrs. Gerald saw it and admitted it.
Her criticism of Lester's relationship with Jennie was not that she
was not worth while, but that conditions made it impolitic.  On the
other hand, union with her was an ideal climax for his social
aspirations.  This would bring everything out right.  He would be
as happy with her as he would be with Jennie--almost--and he would
have the satisfaction of knowing that this Western social and
financial world held no more significant figure than himself.  It
was not wise to delay either this latter excellent solution of his
material problems, and after thinking it over long and seriously he
finally concluded that he would not.  He had already done Jennie
the irreparable wrong of leaving her.  What difference did it make
if he did this also?  She was possessed of everything she could
possibly want outside of himself.  She had herself deemed it
advisable for him to leave.  By such figments of the brain, in the
face of unsettled and disturbing conditions, he was becoming used
to the idea of a new alliance.

The thing which prevented an eventual resumption of relationship in
some form with Jennie was the constant presence of Mrs. Gerald.
Circumstances conspired to make her the logical solution of his
mental quandary at this time.  Alone he could do nothing save to
make visits here and there, and he did not care to do that.  He was
too indifferent mentally to gather about him as a bachelor that
atmosphere which he enjoyed and which a woman like Mrs. Gerald
could so readily provide.  United with her it was simple enough.
Their home then, wherever it was, would be full of clever people.
He would need to do little save to appear and enjoy it.  She
understood quite as well as any one how he liked to live.  She
enjoyed to meet the people he enjoyed meeting.  There were so many
things they could do together nicely.  He visited West Baden at the
same time she did, as she suggested.  He gave himself over to her
in Chicago for dinners, parties, drives.  Her house was quite as
much his own as hers--she made him feel so.  She talked to him
about her affairs, showing him exactly how they stood and why she
wished him to intervene in this and that matter.  She did not wish
him to be much alone.  She did not want him to think or regret.
She came to represent to him comfort, forgetfulness, rest from
care.  With the others he visited at her house occasionally, and it
gradually became rumoured about that he would marry her.  Because
of the fact that there had been so much discussion of his previous
relationship, Letty decided that if ever this occurred it should be
a quiet affair.  She wanted a simple explanation in the papers of
how it had come about, and then afterwards, when things were normal
again and gossip had subsided, she would enter on a dazzling social
display for his sake.

"Why not let us get married in April and go abroad for the summer?"
she asked once, after they had reached a silent understanding that
marriage would eventually follow.  "Let's go to Japan.  Then we can
come back in the fall, and take a house on the Drive."

Lester had been away from Jennie so long now that the first severe
wave of self-reproach had passed.  He was still doubtful, but he
preferred to stifle his misgivings.  "Very well," he replied,
almost jokingly.  "Only don't let there be any fuss about it."

"Do you really mean that, sweet?" she exclaimed, looking over at
him; they had been spending the evening together quietly reading
and chatting.

"I've thought about it a long while," he replied.  "I don't see why
not."

She came over to him and sat on his knee, putting her arms upon his
shoulders.

"I can scarcely believe you said that," she said, looking at him
curiously.

"Shall I take it back?" he asked.

"No, no.  It's agreed for April now.  And we'll go to Japan.  You
can't change your mind.  There won't be any fuss.  But my, what a
trousseau I will prepare!"

He smiled a little constrainedly as she tousled his head; there was
a missing note somewhere in this gamut of happiness; perhaps it was
because he was getting old.



CHAPTER LVII


In the meantime Jennie was going her way, settling herself in the
markedly different world in which henceforth she was to move.  It
seemed a terrible thing at first--this life without Lester.
Despite her own strong individuality, her ways had become so
involved with his that there seemed to be no possibility of
disentangling them.  Constantly she was with him in thought and
action, just as though they had never separated.  Where was he now?
What was he doing?  What was he saying?  How was he looking?  In
the mornings when she woke it was with the sense that he must be
beside her.  At night as if she could not go to bed alone.  He
would come after a while surely--ah, no, of course he would not
come.  Dear heaven, think of that!  Never any more.  And she wanted
him so.

Again there were so many little trying things to adjust, for a
change of this nature is too radical to be passed over lightly.
The explanation she had to make to Vesta was of all the most
important.  This little girl, who was old enough now to see and
think for herself, was not without her surmises and misgivings.
Vesta recalled that her mother had been accused of not being
married to her father when she was born.  She had seen the article
about Jennie and Lester in the Sunday paper at the time it had
appeared--it had been shown to her at school--but she had had sense
enough to say nothing about it, feeling somehow that Jennie would
not like it.  Lester's disappearance was a complete surprise; but
she had learned in the last two or three years that her mother was
very sensitive, and that she could hurt her in unexpected ways.
Jennie was finally compelled to tell Vesta that Lester's fortune
had been dependent on his leaving her solely because she was not of
his station.  Vesta listened soberly and half suspected the truth.
She felt terribly sorry for her mother, and, because of Jennie's
obvious distress, she was trebly gay and courageous.  She refused
outright the suggestion of going to a boarding-school and kept as
close to her mother as she could.  She found interesting books to
read with her, insisted that they go to see plays together, played
to her on the piano, and asked for her mother's criticisms on her
drawing and modelling.  She found a few friends in the excellent
Sandwood school, and brought them home of an evening to add
lightness and gaiety to the cottage life.  Jennie, through her
growing appreciation of Vesta's fine character, became more and
more drawn toward her.  Lester was gone, but at least she had
Vesta.  That prop would probably sustain her in the face of a
waning existence.

There was also her history to account for to the residents of
Sandwood.  In many cases where one is content to lead a secluded
life it is not necessary to say much of one's past, but as a rule
something must be said.  People have the habit of inquiring--if
they are no more than butchers and bakers.  By degrees one must
account for this and that fact, and it was so here.  She could not
say that her husband was dead.  Lester might come back.  She had to
say that she had left him--to give the impression that it would be
she, if any one, who would permit him to return.  This put her in
an interesting and sympathetic light in the neighbourhood.  It was
the most sensible thing to do.  She then settled down to a quiet
routine of existence, waiting what denouement to her life she could
not guess.

Sandwood life was not without its charms for a lover of nature, and
this, with the devotion of Vesta, offered some slight solace.
There was the beauty of the lake, which, with its passing boats,
was a never-ending source of joy, and there were many charming
drives in the surrounding country.  Jenny had her own horse and
carryall--one of the horses of the pair they had used in Hyde Park.
Other household pets appeared in due course of time, including a
collie, that Vesta named Rats; she had brought him from Chicago as
a puppy, and he had grown to be a sterling watch-dog, sensible and
affectionate.  There was also a cat, Jimmy Woods, so called after a
boy Vesta knew, and to whom she insisted the cat bore a marked
resemblance.  There was a singing thrush, guarded carefully against
a roving desire for bird-food on the part of Jimmy Woods, and a jar
of goldfish.  So this little household drifted along quietly and
dreamily indeed, but always with the undercurrent of feeling which
ran so still because it was so deep.

There was no word from Lester for the first few weeks following his
departure; he was too busy following up the threads of his new
commercial connections and too considerate to wish to keep Jennie
in a state of mental turmoil over communications which, under the
present circumstances, could mean nothing.  He preferred to let
matters rest for the time being; then a little later he would write
her sanely and calmly of how things were going.  He did this after
the silence of a month, saying that he had been pretty well pressed
by commercial affairs, that he had been in and out of the city
frequently (which was the truth), and that he would probably be
away from Chicago a large part of the time in the future.  He
inquired after Vesta and the condition of affairs generally at
Sandwood.  "I may get up there one of these days," he suggested,
but he really did not mean to come, and Jennie knew that he did
not.

Another month passed, and then there was a second letter from him,
not so long as the first one.  Jennie had written him frankly and
fully, telling him just how things stood with her.  She concealed
entirely her own feelings in the matter, saying that she liked the
life very much, and that she was glad to be at Sandwood.  She
expressed the hope that now everything was coming out for the best
for him, and tried to show him that she was really glad matters had
been settled.  "You mustn't think of me as being unhappy," she said
in one place, "for I'm not.  I am sure it ought to be just as it
is, and I wouldn't be happy if it were any other way.  Lay out your
life so as to give yourself the greatest happiness, Lester," she
added.  "You deserve it.  Whatever you do will be just right for
me.  I won't mind."  She had Mrs. Gerald in mind, and he suspected
as much, but he felt that her generosity must be tinged greatly
with self-sacrifice and secret unhappiness.  It was the one thing
which made him hesitate about taking that final step.

The written word and the hidden thought--how they conflict!  After
six months the correspondence was more or less perfunctory on his
part, and at eight it had ceased temporarily.

One morning, as she was glancing over the daily paper, she saw
among the society notes the following item:


The engagement of Mrs. Malcolm Gerald of 4044 Drexel Boulevard, to
Lester Kane, second son of the late Archibald Kane, of Cincinnati,
was formally announced at a party given by the prospective bride on
Tuesday to a circle of her immediate friends.  The wedding will
take place in April.


The paper fell from her hands.  For a few minutes she sat perfectly
still, looking straight ahead of her.  Could this thing be so? she
asked herself.  Had it really come at last?  She had known that it
must come, and yet--and yet she had always hoped that it would not.
Why had she hoped?  Had not she herself sent him away?  Had not she
herself suggested this very thing in a roundabout way?  It had come
now.  What must she do?  Stay here as a pensioner?  The idea was
objectionable to her.  And yet he had set aside a goodly sum to be
hers absolutely.  In the hands of a trust company in La Salle
Street were railway certificates aggregating seventy-five thousand
dollars, which yielded four thousand five hundred annually, the
income being paid to her direct.  Could she refuse to receive this
money?  There was Vesta to be considered.

Jennie felt hurt through and through by this denouement, and yet as
she sat there she realised that it was foolish to be angry.  Life
was always doing this sort of a thing to her.  It would go on doing
so.  She was sure of it.  If she went out in the world and earned
her own living what difference would it make to him?  What
difference would it make to Mrs. Gerald?  Here she was walled in
this little place, leading an obscure existence, and there was he
out in the great world enjoying life in its fullest and freest
sense.  It was too bad.  But why cry?  Why?

Her eyes indeed were dry, but her very soul seemed to be torn in
pieces within her.  She rose carefully, hid the newspaper at the
bottom of a trunk, and turned the key upon it.



CHAPTER LVIII


Now that his engagement to Mrs. Gerald was an accomplished fact,
Lester found no particular difficulty in reconciling himself to the
new order of things; undoubtedly it was all for the best.  He was
sorry for Jennie--very sorry.  So was Mrs. Gerald; but there was a
practical unguent to her grief in the thought that it was best for
both Lester and the girl.  He would be happier--was so now.  And
Jennie would eventually realise that she had done a wise and kindly
thing; she would be glad in the consciousness that she had acted so
unselfishly.  As for Mrs. Gerald, because of her indifference to
the late Malcolm Gerald, and because she was realising the dreams
of her youth in getting Lester at last--even though a little late--
she was intensely happy.  She could think of nothing finer than
this daily life with him--the places they would go, the things they
would see.  Her first season in Chicago as Mrs. Lester Kane the
following winter was going to be something worth remembering.  And
as for Japan--that was almost too good to be true.

Lester wrote to Jennie of his coming marriage to Mrs. Gerald.  He
said that he had no explanation to make.  It wouldn't be worth
anything if he did make it.  He thought he ought to marry Mrs.
Gerald.  He thought he ought to let her (Jennie) know.  He hoped
she was well.  He wanted her always to feel that he had her real
interests at heart.  He would do anything in his power to make life
as pleasant and agreeable for her as possible.  He hoped she would
forgive him.  And would she remember him affectionately to Vesta?
She ought to be sent to a finishing school.

Jennie understood the situation perfectly.  She knew that Lester
had been drawn to Mrs. Gerald from the time he met her at the
Carlton in London.  She had been angling for him.  Now she had him.
It was all right.  She hoped he would be happy.  She was glad to
write and tell him so, explaining that she had seen the announcement
in the papers.  Lester read her letter thoughtfully; there was more
between the lines than the written words conveyed. Her fortitude
was a charm to him even in this hour.  In spite of all he had done
and what he was now going to do, he realised that he still cared
for Jennie in a way.  She was a noble and a charming woman.  If
everything else had been all right he would not be going to marry
Mrs. Gerald at all.  And yet he did marry her.

The ceremony was performed on April fifteenth, at the residence of
Mrs. Gerald, a Roman Catholic priest officiating.  Lester was a
poor example of the faith he occasionally professed.  He was an
agnostic, but because he had been reared in the church he felt that
he might as well be married in it.  Some fifty guests, intimate
friends, had been invited.  The ceremony went off with perfect
smoothness.  There were jubilant congratulations and showers of
rice and confetti.  While the guests were still eating and drinking
Lester and Letty managed to escape by a side entrance into a closed
carriage, and were off.  Fifteen minutes later there was pursuit
pell-mell on the part of the guests to the Chicago, Rock Island and
Pacific depot; but by that time the happy couple were in their
private car, and the arrival of the rice throwers made no
difference.  More champagne was opened; then the starting of the
train ended all excitement, and the newly wedded pair were at last
safely off.

"Well, now you have me," said Lester, cheerfully pulling Letty down
beside him into a seat, "what of it?"

"This of it," she exclaimed, and hugged him close, kissing him
fervently.  In four days they were in San Francisco, and two days
later on board a fast steamship bound for the land of the Mikado.

In the meanwhile Jennie was left to brood.  The original
announcement in the newspapers had said that he was to be married
in April, and she had kept close watch for additional information.
Finally she learned that the wedding would take place on April
fifteenth, at the residence of the prospective bride, the hour
being high noon.  In spite of her feeling of resignation, Jennie
followed it all hopelessly, like a child, hungry and forlorn,
looking into a lighted window at Christmas time.

On the day of the wedding she waited miserably for twelve o'clock
to strike; it seemed as though she were really present--and looking
on.  She could see in her mind's eye the handsome residence, the
carriages, the guests, the feast, the merriment, the ceremony--all.
Telepathically and psychologically she received impressions of the
private car and of the joyous journey they were going to take.  The
papers had stated that they would spend their honeymoon in Japan.
Their honeymoon!  Her Lester!  And Mrs. Gerald was so attractive.
She could see her now--the new Mrs. Kane--the only MRS. Kane that
ever was, lying in his arms.  He had held her so once.  He had
loved her.  Yes, he had!  There was a solid lump in her throat as
she thought of this.  Oh, dear!  She sighed to herself, and clasped
her hands forcefully; but it did no good.  She was just as
miserable as before.

When the day was over she was actually relieved; anyway, the deed
was done and nothing could change it.  Vesta was sympathetically
aware of what was happening, but kept silent.  She too had seen the
report in the newspaper.  When the first and second day after had
passed Jennie was much calmer mentally, for now she was face to
face with the inevitable.  But it was weeks before the sharp pain
dulled to the old familiar ache.  Then there were months before
they would be back again, though, of course, that made no
difference now.  Only Japan seemed so far off, and somehow she had
liked the thought that Lester was near her--somewhere in the city.

The spring and summer passed, and now it was early in October.  One
chilly day Vesta came home from school complaining of a headache.
When Jennie had given her hot milk--a favourite remedy of her
mother's--and had advised a cold towel for the back of her head,
Vesta went to her room and lay down.  The following morning she had
a slight fever.  This lingered while the local physician, Dr.
Emory, treated her tentatively, suspecting that it might be
typhoid, of which there were several cases in the village.  This
doctor told Jennie that Vesta was probably strong enough
constitutionally to shake it off, but it might be that she would
have a severe siege.  Mistrusting her own skill in so delicate a
situation, Jennie sent to Chicago for a trained nurse, and then
began a period of watchfulness which was a combination of fear,
longing, hope, and courage.

Now there could be no doubt; the disease was typhoid.  Jennie
hesitated about communicating with Lester, who was supposed to be
in New York; the papers had said that he intended to spend the
winter there.  But when the doctor, after watching the case for a
week, pronounced it severe, she thought she ought to write anyhow,
for no one could tell what would happen.  Lester had been so fond
of Vesta.  He would probably want to know.

The letter sent to him did not reach him, for at the time it
arrived he was on his way to the West Indies.  Jennie was compelled
to watch alone by Vesta's sick-bed, for although sympathetic
neighbours, realising the pathos of the situation were attentive,
they could not supply the spiritual consolation which only those
who truly love us can give.  There was a period when Vesta appeared
to be rallying, and both the physician and the nurse were hopeful;
but afterwards she became weaker.  It was said by Dr. Emory that
her heart and kidneys had become affected.

There came a time when the fact had to be faced that death was
imminent.  The doctor's face was grave, the nurse was non-committal
in her opinion.  Jennie hovered about, praying the only prayer that
is prayer--the fervent desire of her heart concentrated on the one
issue--that Vesta should get well.  The child had come so close to
her during the last few years!  She understood her mother.  She was
beginning to realise clearly what her life had been.  And Jennie,
through her, had grown to a broad understanding of responsibility.
She knew now what it meant to be a good mother and to have
children.  If Lester had not objected to it, and she had been truly
married, she would have been glad to have others.  Again, she had
always felt that she owed Vesta so much--at least a long and happy
life to make up to her for the ignominy of her birth and rearing.
Jennie had been so happy during the past few years to see Vesta
growing into beautiful, graceful, intelligent womanhood.  And now
she was dying.  Dr. Emory finally sent to Chicago for a physician
friend of his, who came to consider the case with him.  He was an
old man, grave, sympathetic, understanding.  He shook his head.
"The treatment has been correct," he said.  "Her system does not
appear to be strong enough to endure the strain.  Some physiques
are more susceptible to this malady than others."  It was agreed
that if within three days a change for the better did not come the
end was close at hand.

No one can conceive the strain to which Jennie's spirit was
subjected by this intelligence, for it was deemed best that she
should know.  She hovered about white-faced--feeling intensely, but
scarcely thinking.  She seemed to vibrate consciously with Vesta's
altering states.  If there was the least improvement she felt it
physically.  If there was a decline her barometric temperament
registered the fact.

There was a Mrs. Davis, a fine, motherly soul of fifty, stout and
sympathetic, who lived four doors from Jennie, and who understood
quite well how she was feeling.  She had co-operated with the nurse
and doctor from the start to keep Jennie's mental state as nearly
normal as possible.

"Now, you just go to your room and lie down, Mrs. Kane," she would
say to Jennie when she found her watching helplessly at the bedside
or wandering to and fro, wondering what to do.  "I'll take charge
of everything.  I'll do just what you would do.  Lord bless you,
don't you think I know?  I've been the mother of seven and lost
three.  Don't you think I understand?"  Jennie put her head on her
big, warm shoulder one day and cried.  Mrs. Davis cried with her.
"I understand," she said.  "There, there, you poor dear.  Now you
come with me."  And she led her to her sleeping-room.

Jennie could not be away long.  She came back after a few minutes
unrested and unrefreshed.  Finally one midnight, when the nurse had
persuaded her that all would be well until morning anyhow, there
came a hurried stirring in the sickroom.  Jennie was lying down for
a few minutes on her bed in the adjoining room.  She heard it and
arose.  Mrs. Davis had come in, and she and the nurse were
conferring as to Vesta's condition--standing close beside her.

Jennie understood.  She came up and looked at her daughter keenly.
Vesta's pale, waxen face told the story.  She was breathing
faintly, her eyes closed.  "She's very weak," whispered the nurse.
Mrs. Davis took Jennie's hand.

The moments passed, and after a time the clock in the hall struck
one.  Miss Murfree, the nurse, moved to the medicine-table several
times, wetting a soft piece of cotton cloth with alcohol and
bathing Vesta's lips.  At the striking of the half-hour there was a
stir of the weak body--a profound sigh.  Jennie bent forward
eagerly, but Mrs. Davis drew her back.  The nurse came and motioned
them away.  Respiration had ceased.

Mrs. Davis seized Jennie firmly.  "There, there, you poor dear,"
she whispered when she began to shake.  "It can't be helped.  Don't
cry."

Jennie sank on her knees beside the bed and caressed Vesta's still
warm hand.  "Oh no, Vesta," she pleaded.  "Not you!  Not you!"

"There, dear, come now," soothed the voice of Mrs. Davis.  "Can't
you leave it all in God's hands?  Can't you believe that everything
is for the best?"

Jennie felt as if the earth had fallen.  All ties were broken.
There was no light anywhere in the immense darkness of her
existence.



CHAPTER LIX


This added blow from inconsiderate fortune was quite enough to
throw Jennie back into that state of hyper-melancholia from which
she had been drawn with difficulty during the few years of comfort
and affection which she had enjoyed with Lester in Hyde Park.  It
was really weeks before she could realise that Vesta was gone.  The
emaciated figure which she saw for a day or two after the end did
not seem like Vesta.  Where was the joy and lightness, the
quickness of motion, the subtle radiance of health?  All gone.
Only this pale, lily-hued shell--and silence.  Jennie had no tears
to shed; only a deep, insistent pain to feel.  If only some
counsellor of eternal wisdom could have whispered to her that
obvious and convincing truth--there are no dead.

Miss Murfree, Dr. Emory, Mrs. Davis, and some others among the
neighbours were most sympathetic and considerate.  Mrs. Davis sent
a telegram to Lester saying that Vesta was dead, but, being absent,
there was no response.  The house was looked after with scrupulous
care by others, for Jennie was incapable of attending to it
herself.  She walked about looking at things which Vesta had owned
or liked--things which Lester or she had given her--sighing over
the fact that Vesta would not need or use them any more.  She gave
instructions that the body should be taken to Chicago and buried in
the Cemetery of the Redeemer, for Lester, at the time of Gerhardt's
death, had purchased a small plot of ground there.  She also
expressed her wish that the minister of the little Lutheran church
in Cottage Grove Avenue, where Gerhardt had attended, should be
requested to say a few words at the grave.  There were the usual
preliminary services at the house.  The local Methodist minister
read a portion of the first epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians,
and a body of Vesta's classmates sang "Nearer My God to Thee."
There were flowers, a white coffin, a world of sympathetic
expressions, and then Vesta was taken away.  The coffin was
properly incased for transportation, put on the train, and finally
delivered at the Lutheran cemetery in Chicago.

Jennie moved as one in a dream.  She was dazed, almost to the point
of insensibility.  Five of her neighbourhood friends, at the
solicitation of Mrs. Davis, were kind enough to accompany her.  At
the grave-side when the body was finally lowered, she looked at it,
one might have thought indifferently, for she was numb from
suffering.  She returned to Sandwood after it was all over, saying
that she would not stay long.  She wanted to come back to Chicago,
where she could be near Vesta and Gerhardt.

After the funeral Jennie tried to think of her future.  She fixed
her mind on the need of doing something, even though she did not
need to.  She thought that she might like to try nursing, and could
start at once to obtain the training which was required.  She also
thought of William.  He was unmarried, and perhaps he might be
willing to come and live with her.  Only she did not know where he
was, and Bass was also in ignorance of his whereabouts.  She
finally concluded that she would try to get work in a store.  Her
disposition was against idleness.  She could not live alone here,
and she could not have her neighbours sympathetically worrying over
what was to become of her.  Miserable as she was, she would be less
miserable stopping in a hotel in Chicago, and looking for something
to do, or living in a cottage somewhere near the Cemetery of the
Redeemer.  It also occurred to her that she might adopt a homeless
child.  There were a number of orphan asylums in the city.


Some three weeks after Vesta's death Lester returned to Chicago
with his wife, and discovered the first letter, the telegram, and
an additional note telling him that Vesta was dead.  He was truly
grieved, for his affection for the girl had been real.  He was very
sorry for Jennie, and he told his wife that he would have to go out
and see her.  He was wondering what she would do.  She could not
live alone.  Perhaps he could suggest something which would help
her.  He took the train to Sandwood, but Jennie had gone to the
Hotel Tremont in Chicago.  He went there, but Jennie had gone to
her daughter's grave; later he called again and found her in.  When
the boy presented his card she suffered an upwelling of feeling--a
wave that was more intense than that with which she had received
him in the olden days, for now her need of him was greater.

Lester, in spite of the glamour of his new affection and the
restoration of his wealth, power, and dignities, had had time to
think deeply of what he had done.  His original feeling of doubt
and dissatisfaction with himself had never wholly quieted.  It did
not ease him any to know that he had left Jennie comfortably fixed,
for it was always so plain to him that money was not the point at
issue with her.  Affection was what she craved.  Without it she was
like a rudderless boat on an endless sea, and he knew it.  She
needed him, and he was ashamed to think that his charity had not
outweighed his sense of self-preservation and his desire for
material advantage.  To-day as the elevator carried him up to her
room he was really sorry, though he knew now that no act of his
could make things right.  He had been to blame from the very
beginning, first for taking her, then for failing to stick by a bad
bargain.  Well, it could not be helped now.  The best thing he
could do was to be fair, to counsel with her, to give her the best
of his sympathy and advice.

"Hello, Jennie," he said familiarly as she opened the door to him
in her hotel room, his glance taking in the ravages which death and
suffering had wrought.  She was thinner, her face quite drawn and
colourless, her eyes larger by contrast.  "I'm awfully sorry about
Vesta," he said a little awkwardly.  "I never dreamed anything like
that could happen."

It was the first word of comfort which had meant anything to her
since Vesta died--since Lester had left her, in fact.  It touched
her that he had come to sympathise; for the moment she could not
speak.  Tears welled over her eyelids and down upon her cheeks.

"Don't cry, Jennie," he said, putting his arm around her and
holding her head to his shoulder.  "I'm sorry.  I've been sorry for
a good many things that can't be helped now.  I'm intensely sorry
for this.  Where did you bury her?"

"Beside papa," she said, sobbing.

"Too bad," he murmured, and held her in silence.  She finally
gained control of herself sufficiently to step away from him; then
wiping her eyes with her handkerchief, she asked him to sit down.

"I'm so sorry," he went on, "that this should have happened while
I was away.  I would have been with you if I had been here.
I suppose you won't want to live out at Sandwood now?"

"I can't, Lester," she replied.  "I couldn't stand it."

"Where are you thinking of going?"

"Oh, I don't know yet.  I didn't want to be a bother to those
people out there.  I thought I'd get a little house somewhere and
adopt a baby maybe, or get something to do.  I don't like to be
alone."

"That isn't a bad idea," he said, "that of adopting a baby.  It
would be a lot of company for you.  You know how to go about
getting one?"

"You just ask at one of these asylums, don't you?"

"I think there's something more than that," he replied thoughtfully.
"There are some formalities--I don't know what they are.  They try
to keep control of the child in some way.  You had better consult
with Watson and get him to help you.  Pick out your baby, and then
let him do the rest.  I'll speak to him about it."

Lester saw that she needed companionship badly.  "Where is your
brother George?" he asked.

"He's in Rochester, but he couldn't come.  Bass said he was
married," she added.

"There isn't any other member of the family you could persuade to
come and live with you?"

"I might get William, but I don't know where he is."

"Why not try that new section west of Jackson Park," he suggested,
"if you want a house here in Chicago?  I see some nice cottages out
that way.  You needn't buy.  Just rent until you see how well
you're satisfied."

Jennie thought this good advice because it came from Lester.  It
was good of him to take this much interest in her affairs.  She
wasn't entirely separated from him after all.  He cared a little.
She asked him how his wife was, whether he had had a pleasant trip,
whether he was going to stay in Chicago.  All the while he was
thinking that he had treated her badly.  He went to the window and
looked down into Dearborn Street, the world of traffic below
holding his attention.  The great mass of trucks and vehicles, the
counter streams of hurrying pedestrians, seemed like a puzzle.  So
shadows march in a dream.  It was growing dusk, and lights were
springing up here and there.

"I want to tell you something, Jennie," said Lester, finally
rousing himself from his fit of abstraction.  "I may seem peculiar
to you, after all that has happened, but I still care for you--in
my way.  I've thought of you right along since I left.  I thought
it good business to leave you--the way things were.  I thought I
liked Letty well enough to marry her.  From one point of view it
still seems best, but I'm not so much happier.  I was just as happy
with you as I ever will be.  It isn't myself that's important in
this transaction apparently; the individual doesn't count much in
the situation.  I don't know whether you see what I'm driving at,
but all of us are more or less pawns.  We're moved about like
chessmen by circumstances over which we have no control."

"I understand, Lester," she answered.  "I'm not complaining.  I
know it's for the best."

"After all, life is more or less of a farce," he went on a little
bitterly.  "It's a silly show.  The best we can do is to hold our
personality intact.  It doesn't appear that integrity has much to
do with it."

Jennie did not quite grasp what he was talking about, but she knew
it meant that he was not entirely satisfied with himself and was
sorry for her.

"Don't worry over me, Lester," she consoled.  "I'm all right; I'll
get along.  It did seem terrible to me for a while--getting used to
being alone.  I'll be all right now.  I'll get along."

"I want you to feel that my attitude hasn't changed," he continued
eagerly.  "I'm interested in what concerns you.  Mrs.--Letty
understands that.  She knows just how I feel.  When you get settled
I'll come in and see how you're fixed.  I'll come around here again
in a few days.  You understand how I feel, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," she said.

He took her hand, turning it sympathetically in his own.  "Don't
worry," he said.  "I don't want you to do that.  I'll do the best I
can.  You're still Jennie to me, if you don't mind.  I'm pretty
bad, but I'm not all bad."

"It's all right, Lester.  I wanted you to do as you did.  It's for
the best.  You probably are happy since--"

"Now, Jennie," he interrupted; then he pressed affectionately her
hand, her arm, her shoulder.  "Want to kiss me for old times'
sake?" he smiled.

She put her hands over his shoulders, looked long into his eyes,
then kissed him.  When their lips met she trembled.  Lester also
felt unsteady.  Jennie saw his agitation, and tried hard to speak.

"You'd better go now," she said firmly.  "It's getting dark."

He went away, and yet he knew that he wanted above all things to
remain; she was still the one woman in the world for him.  And
Jennie felt comforted even though the separation still existed in
all its finality.  She did not endeavour to explain or adjust the
moral and ethical entanglements of the situation.  She was not,
like so many, endeavouring to put the ocean into a tea-cup, or to
tie up the shifting universe in a mess of strings called law.
Lester still cared for her a little.  He cared for Letty too.  That
was all right.  She had hoped once that he might want her only.
Since he did not, was his affection worth nothing?  She could not
think, she could not feel that.  And neither could he.



CHAPTER LX


The drift of events for a period of five years carried Lester and
Jennie still farther apart; they settled naturally into their
respective spheres, without the renewal of the old time relationship
which their several meetings at the Tremont at first seemed to
foreshadow.  Lester was in the thick of social and commercial
affairs; he walked in paths to which Jennie's retiring soul had
never aspired.  Jennie's own existence was quiet and uneventful.
There was a simple cottage in a very respectable but not showy
neighbourhood near Jackson Park, on the South Side, where she lived
in retirement with a little foster-child--a chestnut-haired girl
taken from the Western Home for the Friendless--as her sole
companion.  Here she was known as Mrs. J. G. Stover, for she had
deemed it best to abandon the name of Kane.  Mr. and Mrs. Lester
Kane when resident in Chicago were the occupants of a handsome
mansion on the Lake Shore Drive, where parties, balls, receptions,
dinners were given in rapid and at times almost pyrotechnic
succession.

Lester, however, had become in his way a lover of a peaceful and
well-entertained existence.  He had cut from his list of
acquaintances and associates a number of people who had been a
little doubtful or overfamiliar or indifferent or talkative during
a certain period which to him was a memory merely.  He was a
director, and in several cases the chairman of a board of
directors, in nine of the most important financial and commercial
organisations of the West--The United Traction Company of
Cincinnati, The Western Crucible Company, The United Carriage
Company, The Second National Bank of Chicago, the First National
Bank of Cincinnati, and several others of equal importance.  He was
never a personal factor in the affairs of The United Carriage
Company, preferring to be represented by counsel--Mr. Dwight L.
Watson, but he took a keen interest in its affairs.  He had not
seen his brother Robert to speak to him in seven years.  He had not
seen Imogene, who lived in Chicago, in three.  Louise, Amy, their
husbands, and some of their closest acquaintances were practically
strangers.  The firm of Knight, Keatley & O'Brien had nothing
whatever to do with his affairs.

The truth was that Lester, in addition to becoming a little
phlegmatic, was becoming decidedly critical in his outlook on life.
He could not make out what it was all about.  In distant ages a
queer thing had come to pass.  There had started on its way in the
form of evolution a minute cellular organism which had apparently
reproduced itself by division, had early learned to combine itself
with others, to organise itself into bodies, strange forms of fish,
animals, and birds, and had finally learned to organise itself into
man.  Man, on his part, composed as he was of self-organising
cells, was pushing himself forward into comfort and different
aspects of existence by means of union and organisation with other
men.  Why?  Heaven only knew.  Here he was endowed with a peculiar
brain and a certain amount of talent, and he had inherited a
certain amount of wealth which he now scarcely believed he
deserved, only luck had favoured him.  But he could not see that
any one else might be said to deserve this wealth any more than
himself, seeing that his use of it was as conservative and
constructive and practical as the next one's.  He might have been
born poor, in which case he would have been as well satisfied as
the next one--not more so.  Why should he complain, why worry, why
speculate?--the world was going steadily forward of its own
volition, whether he would or no.  Truly it was.  And was there any
need for him to disturb himself about it?  There was not.  He
fancied at times that it might as well never have been started at
all.  "The one divine, far-off event" of the poet did not appeal to
him as having any basis in fact.  Mrs. Lester Kane was of very much
the same opinion.

Jennie, living on the South Side with her adopted child, Rose
Perpetua, was of no fixed conclusion as to the meaning of life.
She had not the incisive reasoning capacity of either Mr. or Mrs.
Lester Kane.  She had seen a great deal, suffered a great deal, and
had read some in a desultory way.  Her mind had never grasped the
nature and character of specialised knowledge.  History, physics,
chemistry, botany, geology, and sociology were not fixed
departments in her brain as they were in Lester's and Letty's.
Instead there was the feeling that the world moved in some strange,
unstable way.  Apparently no one knew clearly what it was all
about.  People were born and died.  Some believed that the world
had been made six thousand years before; some that it was millions
of years old.  Was it all blind chance, or was there some guiding
intelligence--a God?  Almost in spite of herself she felt there
must be something--a higher power which produced all the beautiful
things--the flowers, the stars, the trees, the grass.  Nature was
so beautiful!  If at times life seemed cruel, yet this beauty still
persisted.  The thought comforted her; she fed upon it in her hours
of secret loneliness.

It has been said that Jennie was naturally of an industrious turn.
She liked to be employed, though she thought constantly as she
worked.  She was of matronly proportions in these days--not
disagreeably large, but full-bodied, shapely, and smooth faced, in
spite of her cares.  Her eyes were grey and appealing.  Her hair
was still of a rich brown, but there were traces of grey in it.
Her neighbours spoke of her as sweet-tempered, kindly, and
hospitable.  They knew nothing of her history, except that she had
formerly resided in Sandwood, and before that in Cleveland.  She
was very reticent as to her past.

Jennie had fancied, because of her natural aptitude for taking care
of sick people, that she might get to be a trained nurse.  But she
was obliged to abandon that idea, for she found that only young
people were wanted.  She also thought that some charitable
organisation might employ her, but she did not understand the new
theory of charity which was then coming into general acceptance and
practice--namely, only to help others to help themselves.  She
believed in giving, and was not inclined to look too closely into
the credentials of those who asked for help; consequently her timid
inquiry at one relief agency after another met with indifference,
if not unqualified rebuke.  She finally decided to adopt another
child for Rose Perpetua's sake; she succeeded in securing a boy,
four years old, who was known as Henry--Henry Stover.  Her support
was assured, for her income was paid to her through a trust
company.  She had no desire for speculation or for the devious ways
of trade.  The care of flowers, the nature of children, the
ordering of a home were more in her province.

One of the interesting things in connection with this separation
once it had been firmly established related to Robert and Lester,
for these two since the reading of the will a number of years
before had never met.  Robert had thought of his brother often.  He
had followed his success, since he had left Jennie, with interest.
He read of his marriage to Mrs. Gerald with pleasure; he had always
considered her an ideal companion for his brother.  He knew by many
signs and tokens that his brother, since the unfortunate
termination of their father's attitude and his own peculiar
movements to gain control of the Kane Company, did not like him.
Still they had never been so far apart mentally--certainly not in
commercial judgment.  Lester was prosperous now.  He could afford
to be generous.  He could afford to make up.  And after all, he had
done his best to aid his brother to come to his senses--and with
the best intentions.  There were mutual interests they could share
financially if they were friends.  He wondered from time to time if
Lester would not be friendly with him.

Time passed, and then once, when he was in Chicago, he made the
friends with whom he was driving purposely turn into the North
Shore in order to see the splendid mansion which the Kanes
occupied.  He knew its location from hearsay and description.

When he saw it a touch of the old Kane home atmosphere came back to
him.  Lester in revising the property after purchase had had a
conservatory built on one side not unlike the one at home in
Cincinnati.  That same night he sat down and wrote Lester asking if
he would not like to dine with him at the Union Club.  He was only
in town for a day or two, and he would like to see him again.
There was some feeling, he knew, but there was a proposition he
would like to talk to him about.  Would he come, say, on Thursday?

On the receipt of this letter Lester frowned and fell into a brown
study.  He had never really been healed of the wound that his
father had given him.  He had never been comfortable in his mind
since Robert had deserted him so summarily.  He realised now that
the stakes his brother had been playing for were big.  But, after
all, he had been his brother, and if he had been in Robert's place
at the time, he would not have done as he had done; at least he
hoped not.  Now Robert wanted to see him.

He thought once of not answering at all.  Then he thought he would
write and say no.  But a curious desire to see Robert again, to
hear what he had to say, to listen to the proposition he had to
offer, came over him; he decided to write yes.  It could do no
harm.  He knew it could do no good.  They might agree to let
bygones be bygones, but the damage had been done.  Could a broken
bowl be mended and called whole?  It might be CALLED whole, but
what of it?  Was it not broken and mended?  He wrote and intimated
that he would come.

On the Thursday in question Robert called up from the Auditorium to
remind him of the engagement.  Lester listened curiously to the
sound of his voice.  "All right," he said, "I'll be with you."  At
noon he went downtown, and there, within the exclusive precincts of
the Union Club, the two brothers met and looked at each other
again.  Robert was thinner than when Lester had seen him last, and
a little greyer.  His eyes were bright and steely, but there were
crow's-feet on either side.  His manner was quick, keen, dynamic.
Lester was noticeably of another type--solid, brusque, and
indifferent.  Men spoke of Lester these days as a little hard.
Robert's keen blue eyes did not disturb him in the least--did not
affect him in any way.  He saw his brother just as he was, for he
had the larger philosophic and interpretative insight; but Robert
could not place Lester exactly.  He could not fathom just what had
happened to him in these years.  Lester was stouter, not grey, for
some reason, but sandy and ruddy, looking like a man who was fairly
well satisfied to take life as he found it.  Lester looked at his
brother with a keen, steady eye.  The latter shifted a little, for
he was restless.  He could see that there was no loss of that
mental force and courage which had always been predominant
characteristics in Lester's make-up.

"I thought I'd like to see you again, Lester," Robert remarked,
after they had clasped hands in the customary grip.  "It's been a
long time now--nearly eight years, hasn't it?"

"About that," replied Lester.  "How are things with you?"

"Oh, about the same.  You've been fairly well, I see."

"Never sick," said Lester.  "A little cold now and then.  I don't
often go to bed with anything.  How's your wife?"

"Oh, Margaret's fine."

"And the children?"

"We don't see much of Ralph and Berenice since they married, but
the others are around more or less.  I suppose your wife is all
right," he said hesitatingly.  It was difficult ground for Robert.

Lester eyed him without a change of expression.

"Yes," he replied.  "She enjoys pretty fair health.  She's quite
well at present."

They drifted mentally for a few moments, while Lester inquired
after the business, and Amy, Louise, and Imogene.  He admitted
frankly that he neither saw nor heard from them nowadays.  Robert
told him what he could.

"The thing that I was thinking of in connection with you, Lester,"
said Robert finally, "is this matter of the Western Crucible Steel
Company.  You haven't been sitting there as a director in person I
notice, but your attorney, Watson, has been acting for you.  Clever
man, that.  The management isn't right--we all know that.  We need
a practical steel man at the head of it, if the thing is ever going
to pay properly.  I have voted my stock with yours right along
because the propositions made by Watson have been right.  He agrees
with me that things ought to be changed.  Now I have a chance to
buy seventy shares held by Rossiter's widow.  That with yours and
mine would give us control of the company.  I would like to have
you take them, though it doesn't make a bit of difference so long
as it's in the family.  You can put any one you please in for
president, and we'll make the thing come out right."

Lester smiled.  It was a pleasant proposition.  Watson had told him
that Robert's interests were co-operating with him.  Lester had
long suspected that Robert would like to make up.  This was the
olive branch--the control of a property worth in the neighbourhood
of a million and a half.

"That's very nice of you," said Lester solemnly.  "It's a rather
liberal thing to do.  What makes you want to do it now?"

"Well, to tell you the honest truth, Lester," replied Robert, "I
never did feel right about that will business.  I never did feel
right about that secretary-treasurership and some other things that
have happened.  I don't want to rake up the past--you smile at
that--but I can't help telling you how I feel.  I've been pretty
ambitious in the past.  I was pretty ambitious just about the time
that father died to get this United Carriage scheme under way, and
I was afraid you might not like it.  I have thought since that I
ought not to have done it, but I did.  I suppose you're not anxious
to hear any more about that old affair.  This other thing though--"

"Might be handed out as a sort of compensation," put in Lester
quietly.

"Not exactly that, Lester--though it may have something of that in
it.  I know these things don't matter very much to you now.  I know
that the time to do things was years ago--not now.  Still I thought
sincerely that you might be interested in this proposition.  It
might lead to other things.  Frankly, I thought it might patch up
matters between us.  We're brothers after all."

"Yes," said Lester, "we're brothers."

He was thinking as he said this of the irony of the situation.  How
much had this sense of brotherhood been worth in the past?  Robert
had practically forced him into his present relationship, and while
Jennie had been really the only one to suffer, he could not help
feeling angry.  It was true that Robert had not cut him out of his
one-fourth of his father's estate, but certainly he had not helped
him to get it, and now Robert was thinking that this offer of his
might mend things.  It hurt him--Lester--a little.  It irritated
him.  Life was strange.

"I can't see it, Robert," he said finally and determinedly.  "I can
appreciate the motive that prompts you to make this offer.  But I
can't see the wisdom of my taking it.  Your opportunity is your
opportunity.  I don't want it.  We can make all the changes you
suggest if you take the stock.  I'm rich enough anyhow.  Bygones
are bygones.  I'm perfectly willing to talk with you from time to
time.  That's all you want.  This other thing is simply a sop, with
which to plaster an old wound.  You want my friendship and so far
as I'm concerned you have that.  I don't hold any grudge against
you.  I won't."

Robert looked at him fixedly.  He half smiled.  He admired Lester
in spite of all that he had done to him--in spite of all that
Lester was doing to him now.

"I don't know but what you're right, Lester," he admitted finally.
"I didn't make this offer in any petty spirit though.  I wanted to
patch up this matter of feeling between us.  I won't say anything
more about it.  You're not coming down to Cincinnati soon, are
you?"

"I don't expect to," replied Lester.

"If you do I'd like to have you come and stay with us.  Bring your
wife.  We could talk over old times."

Lester smiled an enigmatic smile.

"I'll be glad to," he said, without emotion.  But he remembered
that in the days of Jennie it was different.  They would never have
receded from their position regarding her.  "Well," he thought,
"perhaps I can't blame them.  Let it go."

They talked on about other things.  Finally Lester remembered an
appointment.  "I'll have to leave you soon," he said, looking at
his watch.

"I ought to go, too," said Robert.  They rose.  "Well, anyhow," he
added, as they walked toward the cloakroom, "we won't be absolute
strangers in the future, will we?"

"Certainly not," said Lester.  "I'll see you from time to time."
They shook hands and separated amicably.  There was a sense of
unsatisfied obligation and some remorse in Robert's mind as he saw
his brother walking briskly away.  Lester was an able man.  Why was
it that there was so much feeling between them--had been even
before Jennie had appeared?  Then he remembered his old thoughts
about "snaky deeds."  That was what his brother lacked, and that
only.  He was not crafty; not darkly cruel, hence.  "What a world!"
he thought.

On his part Lester went away feeling a slight sense of opposition
to, but also of sympathy for, his brother.  He was not so terribly
bad--not different from other men.  Why criticise?  What would he
have done if he had been in Robert's place?  Robert was getting
along.  So was he.  He could see now how it all came about--why he
had been made the victim, why his brother had been made the keeper
of the great fortune.  "It's the way the world runs," he thought,
"What difference does it make?  I have enough to live on.  Why not
let it go at that?"



CHAPTER LXI


The days of man under the old dispensation, or, rather, according
to that supposedly biblical formula, which persists, are threescore
years and ten.  It is so ingrained in the race-consciousness by
mouth-to-mouth utterance that it seems the profoundest of truths.
As a matter of fact, man, even under his mortal illusion, is
organically built to live five times the period of his maturity,
and would do so if he but knew that it is spirit which endures,
that age is an illusion, and that there is no death.  Yet the race-
thought, gained from what dream of materialism we know not,
persists, and the death of man under the mathematical formula so
fearfully accepted is daily registered.

Lester was one of those who believed in this formula.  He was
nearing sixty.  He thought he had, say, twenty years more at the
utmost to live--perhaps not so long.  Well, he had lived
comfortably.  He felt that he could not complain.  If death was
coming, let it come.  He was ready at any time.  No complaint or
resistance would issue from him.  Life, in most of its aspects, was
a silly show anyhow.

He admitted that it was mostly illusion--easily proved to be so.
That it might all be one he sometimes suspected.  It was very much
like a dream in its composition truly--sometimes like a very bad
dream.  All he had to sustain him in his acceptance of its reality
from hour to hour and day to day was apparent contact with this
material proposition and that--people, meetings of boards of
directors, individuals and organisations planning to do this and
that, his wife's social functions.  Letty loved him as a fine,
grizzled example of a philosopher.  She admired, as Jennie had, his
solid, determined, phlegmatic attitude in the face of troubled
circumstance.  All the winds of fortune or misfortune could not
apparently excite or disturb Lester.  He refused to be frightened.
He refused to budge from his beliefs and feelings, and usually had
to be pushed away from them, still believing, if he were gotten
away at all.  He refused to do anything save as he always said,
"Look the facts in the face" and fight.  He could be made to fight
easily enough if imposed upon, but only in a stubborn, resisting
way.  His plan was to resist every effort to coerce him to the last
ditch.  If he had to let go in the end he would when compelled, but
his views as to the value of not letting go were quite the same
even when he had let go under compulsion.

His views of living were still decidedly material, grounded in
creature comforts, and he had always insisted upon having the best
of everything.  If the furnishings of his home became the least
dingy he was for having them torn out and sold and the house done
over.  If he travelled, money must go ahead of him and smooth the
way.  He did not want argument, useless talk, or silly palaver as
he called it.  Every one must discuss interesting topics with him
or not talk at all.  Letty understood him thoroughly.  She would
chuck him under the chin mornings, or shake his solid head between
her hands, telling him he was a brute, but a nice kind of brute.
"Yes, yes," he would growl.  "I know.  I'm an animal, I suppose.
You're a seraphic suggestion of attenuated thought."

"No; you hush," she would reply, for at times he could cut like a
knife without really meaning to be unkind.  Then he would pet her a
little, for, in spite of her vigorous conception of life, he
realised that she was more or less dependent upon him.  It was
always so plain to her that he could get along without her.  For
reasons of kindliness he was trying to conceal this, to pretend the
necessity of her presence, but it was so obvious that he really
could dispense with her easily enough.  Now Letty did depend upon
Lester.  It was something, in so shifty and uncertain a world, to
be near so fixed and determined a quantity as this bear-man.  It
was like being close to a warmly glowing lamp in the dark or a
bright burning fire in the cold.  Lester was not afraid of
anything.  He felt that he knew how to live and to die.

It was natural that a temperament of this kind should have its
solid, material manifestation at every point.  Having his financial
affairs well in hand, most of his holding being shares of big
companies, where boards of solemn directors merely approved the
strenuous efforts of ambitious executives to "make good," he had
leisure for living.  He and Letty were fond of visiting the various
American and European watering-places.  He gambled a little, for he
found that there was considerable diversion in risking interesting
sums on the spin of a wheel or the fortuitous roll of a ball; and
he took more and more to drinking, not in the sense that a drunkard
takes to it, but as a high liver, socially, and with all his
friends.  He was inclined to drink the rich drinks when he did not
take straight whiskey--champagne, sparkling Burgundy, the expensive
and effervescent white wines.  When he drank he could drink a great
deal, and he ate in proportion.  Nothing must be served but the
best--soup, fish, entree, roast, game, dessert--everything that
made up a showy dinner--and he had long since determined that only
a high-priced chef was worth while.  They had found an old cordon
bleu, Louis Berdot, who had served in the house of one of the great
dry goods princes, and this man he engaged.  He cost Lester a
hundred dollars a week, but his reply to any question was that he
only had one life to live.

The trouble with this attitude was that it adjusted nothing,
improved nothing, left everything to drift on toward an indefinite
end.  If Lester had married Jennie and accepted the comparatively
meagre income of ten thousand a year he would have maintained the
same attitude to the end.  It would have led him to a stolid
indifference to the social world of which now necessarily he was a
part.  He would have drifted on with a few mentally compatible
cronies who would have accepted him for what he was--a good fellow--
and Jennie in the end would not have been so much better off than
she was now.

One of the changes which was interesting was that the Kanes
transferred their residence to New York.  Mrs. Kane had become very
intimate with a group of clever women in the Eastern four hundred,
or nine hundred, and had been advised and urged to transfer the
scene of her activities to New York.  She finally did so, leasing a
house in Seventy-eighth Street, near Madison Avenue.  She installed
a novelty for her, a complete staff of liveried servants, after the
English fashion, and had the rooms of her house done in correlative
periods.  Lester smiled at her vanity and love of show.

"You talk about your democracy," he grunted one day.  "You have as
much democracy as I have religion, and that's none at all."

"Why, how you talk!" she denied.  "I am democratic.  We all run in
classes.  You do.  I'm merely accepting the logic of the
situation."

"The logic of your grandmother!  Do you call a butler and doorman
in red velvet a part of the necessity of the occasion?"

"I certainly do," she replied.  "Maybe not the necessity exactly,
but the spirit surely.  Why should you quarrel?  You're the first
one to insist on perfection--to quarrel if there is any flaw in the
order of things."

"You never heard me quarrel."

"Oh, I don't mean that literally.  But you demand perfection--the
exact spirit of the occasion, and you know it."

"Maybe I do, but what has that to do with your democracy?"

"I am democratic.  I insist on it.  I'm as democratic in spirit as
any woman.  Only I see things as they are, and conform as much as
possible for comfort's sake, and so do you.  Don't you throw rocks
at my glass house, Mister Master.  Yours is so transparent I can
see every move you make inside."

"I'm democratic and you're not," he teased; but he approved
thoroughly of everything she did.  She was, he sometimes fancied, a
better executive in her world than he was in his.

Drifting in this fashion, wining, dining, drinking the waters of
this curative spring and that, travelling in luxurious ease and
taking no physical exercise, finally altered his body from a
vigorous, quick-moving, well-balanced organism into one where
plethora of substance was clogging every essential function.  His
liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas--every organ, in fact--had been
overtaxed for some time to keep up the process of digestion and
elimination.  In the past seven years he had become uncomfortably
heavy.  His kidneys were weak, and so were the arteries of his
brain.  By dieting, proper exercise, the right mental attitude, he
might have lived to be eighty or ninety.  As a matter of fact, he
was allowing himself to drift into a physical state in which even a
slight malady might prove dangerous.  The result was inevitable,
and it came.

It so happened that he and Letty had gone to the North Cape on a
cruise with a party of friends.  Lester, in order to attend to some
important business, decided to return to Chicago late in November;
he arranged to have his wife meet him in New York just before the
Christmas holidays.  He wrote Watson to expect him, and engaged
rooms at the Auditorium, for he had sold the Chicago residence some
two years before and was now living permanently in New York.

One late November day, after having attended to a number of details
and cleared up his affairs very materially, Lester was seized with
what the doctor who was called to attend him described as a cold in
the intestines--a disturbance usually symptomatic of some other
weakness, either of the blood or of some organ.  He suffered great
pain, and the usual remedies in that case were applied.  There were
bandages of red flannel with a mustard dressing, and specifics were
also administered.  He experienced some relief, but he was troubled
with a sense of impending disaster.  He had Watson cable his wife--
there was nothing serious about it, but he was ill.  A trained
nurse was in attendance and his valet stood guard at the door to
prevent annoyance of any kind.  It was plain that Letty could not
reach Chicago under three weeks.  He had the feeling that he would
not see her again.

Curiously enough, not only because he was in Chicago, but because
he had never been spiritually separated from Jennie, he was
thinking about her constantly at this time.  He had intended to go
out and see her just as soon as he was through with his business
engagements and before he left the city.  He had asked Watson how
she was getting along, and had been informed that everything was
well with her.  She was living quietly and looking in good health,
so Watson said.  Lester wished he could see her.

This thought grew as the days passed and he grew no better.  He was
suffering from time to time with severe attacks of griping pains
that seemed to tie his viscera into knots and left him very weak.
Several times the physician administered cocaine with a needle in
order to relieve him of useless pain.

After one of the severe attacks he called Watson to his side, told
him to send the nurse away, and then said:  "Watson, I'd like to
have you do me a favour.  Ask Mrs. Stover if she won't come here to
see me.  You'd better go and get her.  Just send the nurse and Kozo
(the valet) away for the afternoon, or while she's here.  If she
comes at any other time I'd like to have her admitted."

Watson understood.  He liked this expression of sentiment.  He was
sorry for Jennie.  He was sorry for Lester.  He wondered what the
world would think if it could know of this bit of romance in
connection with so prominent a man.  Lester was decent.  He had
made Watson prosperous.  The latter was only too glad to serve him
in any way.

He called a carriage and rode out to Jennie's residence.  He found
her watering some plants; her face expressed her surprise at his
unusual presence.

"I come on a rather troublesome errand, Mrs. Stover," he said,
using her assumed name.  "Your--that is, Mr. Kane is quite sick at
the Auditorium.  His wife is in Europe, and he wanted to know if I
wouldn't come out here and ask you to come and see him.  He wanted
me to bring you, if possible.  Could you come with me now?"

"Why yes," said Jennie, her face a study.  The children were in
school.  An old Swedish housekeeper was in the kitchen.  She could
go as well as not.  But there was coming back to her in detail a
dream she had had several nights before.  It had seemed to her that
she was out on a dark, mystic body of water over which was hanging
something like a fog, or a pall of smoke.  She heard the water
ripple, or stir faintly, and then out of the surrounding darkness a
boat appeared.  It was a little boat, oarless, or not visibly
propelled, and in it were her mother, and Vesta, and some one whom
she could not make out.  Her mother's face was pale and sad, very
much as she had often seen it in life.  She looked at Jennie
solemnly, sympathetically, and then suddenly Jennie realised that
the third occupant of the boat was Lester.  He looked at her
gloomily--an expression she had never seen on his face before--and
then her mother remarked, "Well, we must go now."  The boat began
to move, a great sense of loss came over her, and she cried, "Oh,
don't leave me, mamma!"

But her mother only looked at her out of deep, sad, still eyes, and
the boat was gone.

She woke with a start, half fancying that Lester was beside her.
She stretched out her hand to touch his arm; then she drew herself
up in the dark and rubbed her eyes, realising that she was alone.
A great sense of depression remained with her, and for two days it
haunted her.  Then, when it seemed as if it were nothing, Mr.
Watson appeared with his ominous message.

She went to dress, and reappeared, looking as troubled as were her
thoughts.  She was very pleasing in her appearance yet, a sweet,
kindly woman, well dressed and shapely.  She had never been
separated mentally from Lester, just as he had never grown entirely
away from her.  She was always with him in thought, just as in the
years when they were together.  Her fondest memories were of the
days when he first courted her in Cleveland--the days when he had
carried her off, much as the cave-man seized his mate--by force.
Now she longed to do what she could for him.  For this call was as
much a testimony as a shock.  He loved her--he loved her, after
all.  The carriage rolled briskly through the long streets into the
smoky downtown district.  It arrived at the Auditorium, and Jennie
was escorted to Lester's room.  Watson had been considerate.  He
had talked little, leaving her to her thoughts.  In this great
hotel she felt diffident after so long a period of complete
retirement.  As she entered the room she looked at Lester with
large, grey, sympathetic eyes.  He was lying propped up on two
pillows, his solid head with its growth of once dark brown hair
slightly greyed.  He looked at her curiously out of his wise old
eyes, a light of sympathy and affection shining in them--weary as
they were.  Jennie was greatly distressed.  His pale face, slightly
drawn from suffering, cut her like a knife.  She took his hand,
which was outside the coverlet, and pressed it.  She leaned over
and kissed his lips.

"I'm so sorry, Lester," she murmured.  "I'm so sorry.  You're not
very sick though, are you?  You must get well, Lester--and soon!"
She patted his hand gently.

"Yes, Jennie, but I'm pretty bad," he said.  "I don't feel right
about this business.  I don't seem able to shake it off.  But tell
me, how have you been?"

"Oh, just the same, dear," she replied.  "I'm all right.  You
mustn't talk like that, though.  You're going to be all right very
soon now."

He smiled grimly.  "Do you think so?"  He shook his head, for he
thought differently.  "Sit down, dear," he went on, "I'm not
worrying about that.  I want to talk to you again.  I want you near
me."  He sighed and shut his eyes for a minute.

She drew up a chair close beside the bed, her face toward his, and
took his hand.  It seemed such a beautiful thing that he should
send for her.  Her eyes showed the mingled sympathy, affection, and
gratitude of her heart.  At the same time fear gripped her; how ill
he looked!

"I can't tell what may happen," he went on.  "Letty is in Europe.
I've wanted to see you again for some time.  I was coming out this
trip.  We are living in New York, you know.  You're a little
stouter, Jennie."

"Yes, I'm getting old, Lester," she smiled.

"Oh, that doesn't make any difference," he replied, looking at her
fixedly.  "Age doesn't count.  We are all in that boat.  It's how
we feel about life."

He stopped and stared at the ceiling.  A slight twinge of pain
reminded him of the vigorous seizures he had been through.  He
couldn't stand many more paroxysms like the last one.

"I couldn't go, Jennie, without seeing you again," he observed,
when the slight twinge ceased and he was free to think again; "I've
always wanted to say to you, Jennie," he went on, "that I haven't
been satisfied with the way we parted.  It wasn't the right thing,
after all.  I haven't been any happier.  I'm sorry.  I wish now,
for my own peace of mind, that I hadn't done it."

"Don't say that, Lester," she demurred, going over in her mind all
that had been between them.  This was such a testimony to their
real union--their real spiritual compatibility.  "It's all right.
It doesn't make any difference.  You've been very good to me.  I
wouldn't have been satisfied to have you lose your fortune.  It
couldn't be that way.  I've been a lot better satisfied as it is.
It's been hard, but, dear, everything is hard at times."  She
paused.

"No," he said.  "It wasn't right.  The thing wasn't worked out
right from the start; but that wasn't your fault.  I'm sorry.  I
wanted to tell you that.  I'm glad I'm here to do it."

"Don't talk that way, Lester--please don't," she pleaded.  "It's
all right.  You needn't be sorry.  There's nothing to be sorry for.
You have always been so good to me.  Why, when I think--" she
stopped, for it was hard for her to speak.  She was choking with
affection and sympathy.  She pressed his hands.  She was recalling
the house he took for her family in Cleveland, his generous
treatment of Gerhardt, all the long ago tokens of love and
kindness.

"Well, I've told you now, and I feel better.  You're a good woman,
Jennie, and you're kind to come to me this way.  I loved you.  I
love you now.  I want to tell you that.  It seems strange, but
you're the only woman I ever did love truly.  We should never have
parted."

Jennie caught her breath.  It was the one thing she had waited for
all these years--this testimony.  It was the one thing that could
make everything right--this confession of spiritual if not material
union.  Now she could live happily.  Now die so.  "Oh, Lester," she
exclaimed with a sob, and pressed his hand.  He returned the
pressure.  There was a little silence.  Then he spoke again.

"How are the two orphans?" he asked.

"Oh, they're lovely," she answered, entering upon a detailed
description of her diminutive personalities.  He listened
comfortably, for her voice was soothing to him.  Her whole
personality was grateful to him.  When it came time for her to go
he seemed desirous of keeping her.

"Going, Jennie?"

"I can stay just as well as not, Lester," she volunteered.  "I'll
take a room.  I can send a note out to Mrs. Swenson.  It will be
all right."

"You needn't do that," he said, but she could see that he wanted
her, that he did not want to be alone.

From that time on until the hour of his death she was not out of
the hotel.



CHAPTER LXII


The end came after four days during which Jennie was by his bedside
almost constantly.  The nurse in charge welcomed her at first as a
relief and company, but the physician was inclined to object.
Lester, however, was stubborn.  "This is my death," he said, with a
touch of grim humour.  "If I'm dying I ought to be allowed to die
in my own way."

Watson smiled at the man's unfaltering courage.  He had never seen
anything like it before.

There were cards of sympathy, calls of inquiry, notices in the
newspaper.  Robert saw an item in the Inquirer, and decided to go
to Chicago.  Imogene called with her husband and they were admitted
to Lester's room for a few minutes after Jennie had gone to hers.
Lester had little to say.  The nurse cautioned them that he was not
to be talked to much.  When they were gone Lester said to Jennie,
"Imogene has changed a good deal."  He made no other comment.

Mrs. Kane was on the Atlantic three days out from New York the
afternoon Lester died.  He had been meditating whether anything
more could be done for Jennie, but he could not make up his mind
about it.  Certainly it was useless to leave her more money.  She
did not want it.  He had been wondering where Letty was and how
near her actual arrival might be when he was seized with a
tremendous paroxysm of pain.  Before relief could be administered
in the shape of an anaesthetic he was dead.  It developed afterward
that it was not the intestinal trouble which killed him, but a
lesion of a major blood-vessel in the brain.

Jennie, who had been strongly wrought up by watching and worrying,
was beside herself with grief.  He had been a part of her thought
and feeling so long that it seemed now as though a part of herself
had died.  She had loved him as she had fancied she could never
love any one, and he had always shown that he cared for her--at
least in some degree.  She could not feel the emotion that
expresses itself in tears--only a dull ache, a numbness which
seemed to make her insensible to pain.  He looked so strong--her
Lester--lying there still in death.  His expression was unchanged--
defiant, determined, albeit peaceful.  Word had come from Mrs. Kane
that she would arrive on the Wednesday following.  It was decided
to hold the body.  Jennie learned from Mr. Watson that it was to be
transferred to Cincinnati, where the Paces had a vault.  Because of
the arrival of various members of the family, Jennie withdrew to
her own home; she could do nothing more.

The final ceremonies presented a peculiar commentary on the
anomalies of existence.  It was arranged with Mrs. Kane by wire
that the body should be transferred to Imogene's residence, and the
funeral held from there.  Robert, who arrived the night Lester
died; Berry Dodge, Imogene's husband; Mr. Midgely, and three other
citizens of prominence were selected as pall-bearers.  Louise and
her husband came from Buffalo; Amy and her husband from Cincinnati.
The house was full to overflowing with citizens who either
sincerely wished or felt it expedient to call.  Because of the fact
that Lester and his family were tentatively Catholic, a Catholic
priest was called in and the ritual of that Church was carried out.
It was curious to see him lying in the parlour of this alien
residence, candles at his head and feet, burning sepulchrally, a
silver cross upon his breast, caressed by his waxen fingers.  He
would have smiled if he could have seen himself, but the Kane
family was too conventional, too set in its convictions, to find
anything strange in this.  The Church made no objection, of course.
The family was distinguished.  What more could be desired?

On Wednesday Mrs. Kane arrived.  She was greatly distraught, for
her love, like Jennie's, was sincere.  She left her room that night
when all was silent and leaned over the coffin, studying by the
light of the burning candles Lester's beloved features.  Tears
trickled down her cheeks, for she had been happy with him.  She
caressed his cold cheeks and hands.  "Poor, dear Lester!" she
whispered.  "Poor, brave soul!"  No one told her that he had sent
for Jennie.  The Kane family did not know.

Meanwhile in the house on South Park Avenue sat a woman who was
enduring alone the pain, the anguish of an irreparable loss.
Through all these years the subtle hope had persisted, in spite of
every circumstance, that somehow life might bring him back to her.
He had come, it is true--he really had in death--but he had gone
again.  Where?  Whither her mother, whither Gerhardt, whither Vesta
had gone?  She could not hope to see him again, for the papers had
informed her of his removal to Mrs. Midgely's residence, and of the
fact that he was to be taken from Chicago to Cincinnati for burial.
The last ceremonies in Chicago were to be held in one of the
wealthy Roman Catholic churches of the South Side, St. Michael's,
of which the Midgely's were members.

Jennie felt deeply about this.  She would have liked so much to
have had him buried in Chicago, where she could go to the grave
occasionally, but this was not to be.  She was never a master of
her fate.  Others invariable controlled.  She thought of him as
being taken from her finally by the removal of the body to
Cincinnati, as though distance made any difference.  She decided at
last to veil herself heavily and attend the funeral at the church.
The paper had explained that the services would be at two in the
afternoon.  Then at four the body would be taken to the depot, and
transferred to the train; the members of the family would accompany
it to Cincinnati.  She thought of this as another opportunity.  She
might go to the depot.

A little before the time for the funeral cortege to arrive at the
church there appeared at one of its subsidiary entrances a woman in
black, heavily veiled, who took a seat in an inconspicuous corner.
She was a little nervous at first, for, seeing that the church was
dark and empty, she feared lest she had mistaken the time and
place; but after ten minutes of painful suspense a bell in the
church tower began to toll solemnly.  Shortly thereafter an acolyte
in black gown and white surplice appeared and lighted groups of
candles on either side of the altar.  A hushed stirring of feet in
the choir-loft indicated that the service was to be accompanied by
music.  Some loiterers, attracted by the bell, some idle strangers,
a few acquaintances and citizens not directly invited appeared and
took seats.

Jennie watched all this with wondering eyes.  Never in her life had
she been inside a Catholic church.  The gloom, the beauty of the
windows, the whiteness of the altar, the golden flames of the
candles impressed her.  She was suffused with a sense of sorrow,
loss, beauty, and mystery.  Life in all its vagueness and
uncertainty seemed typified by this scene.

As the bell tolled there came from the sacristy a procession of
altar-boys.  The smallest, an angelic youth of eleven, came first,
bearing aloft a magnificent silver cross.  In the hands of each
subsequent pair of servitors was held a tall, lighted candle.  The
priest, in black cloth and lace, attended by an acolyte on either
hand, followed.  The procession passed out the entrance into the
vestibule of the church, and was not seen again until the choir
began a mournful, responsive chant, the Latin supplication for
mercy and peace.

Then, at this sound the solemn procession made its reappearance.
There came the silver cross, the candles, the dark-faced priest,
reading dramatically to himself as he walked, and the body of
Lester in a great black coffin, with silver handles, carried by the
pall-bearers, who kept an even pace.  Jennie stiffened perceptibly,
her nerves responding as though to a shock from an electric
current.  She did not know any of these men.  She did not know
Robert.  She had never seen Mr. Midgely.  Of the long company of
notables who followed two by two she recognised only three, whom
Lester had pointed out to her in times past.  Mrs. Kane she saw, of
course, for she was directly behind the coffin, leaning on the arm
of a stranger; behind her walked Mr. Watson, solemn, gracious.  He
gave a quick glance to either side, evidently expecting to see her
somewhere; but not finding her, he turned his eyes gravely forward
and walked on.  Jennie looked with all her eyes, her heart gripped
by pain.  She seemed so much a part of this solemn ritual, and yet
infinitely removed from it all.

The procession reached the altar rail, and the coffin was put down.
A white shroud bearing the insignia of suffering, a black cross,
was put over it, and the great candles were set beside it.  There
were the chanted invocations and responses, the sprinkling of the
coffin with holy water, the lighting and swinging of the censer and
then the mumbled responses of the auditors to the Lord's Prayer and
to its Catholic addition, the invocation to the Blessed Virgin.
Jennie was overawed and amazed, but no show of form colorful,
impression imperial, could take away the sting of death, the sense
of infinite loss.  To Jennie the candles, the incense, the holy
song were beautiful.  They touched the deep chord of melancholy in
her, and made it vibrate through the depths of her being.  She was
as a house filled with mournful melody and the presence of death.
She cried and cried.  She could see, curiously, that Mrs. Kane was
sobbing convulsively also.

When it was all over the carriages were entered and the body was
borne to the station.  All the guests and strangers departed, and
finally, when all was silent, she arose.  Now she would go to the
depot also, for she was hopeful of seeing his body put on the
train.  They would have to bring it out on the platform, just as
they did in Vesta's case.  She took a car, and a little later she
entered the waiting-room of the depot.  She lingered about, first
in the concourse, where the great iron fence separated the
passengers from the tracks, and then in the waiting-room, hoping to
discover the order of proceedings.  She finally observed the group
of immediate relatives waiting--Mrs. Kane, Robert, Mrs. Midgely,
Louise, Amy, Imogene, and the others.  She actually succeeded in
identifying most of them, though it was not knowledge in this case,
but pure instinct and intuition.

No one had noticed it in the stress of excitement, but it was
Thanksgiving Eve.  Throughout the great railroad station there was
a hum of anticipation, that curious ebullition of fancy which
springs from the thought of pleasures to come.  People were going
away for the holiday.  Carriages were at the station entries.
Announcers were calling in stentorian voices the destination of
each new train as the time of its departure drew near.  Jennie
heard with a desperate ache the description of a route which she
and Lester had taken more than once, slowly and melodiously
emphasised.  "Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, and New York."
There were cries of trains for "Fort Wayne, Columbus, Pittsburg,
Philadelphia, and points East," and then finally for "Indianapolis,
Louisville, Columbus, Cincinnati, and points South."  The hour had
struck.

Several times Jennie had gone to the concourse between the waiting-
room and the tracks to see if through the iron grating which
separated her from her beloved she could get one last look at the
coffin, or the great wooden box which held it, before it was put on
the train.  Now she saw it coming.  There was a baggage porter
pushing a truck into position near the place where the baggage car
would stop.  On it was Lester, that last shadow of his substance,
incased in the honours of wood, and cloth, and silver.  There was
no thought on the part of the porter of the agony of loss which was
represented here.  He could not see how wealth and position in this
hour were typified to her mind as a great fence, a wall, which
divided her eternally from her beloved.  Had it not always been so?
Was not her life a patchwork of conditions made and affected by
these things which she saw--wealth and force--which had found her
unfit?  She had evidently been born to yield, not seek.  This
panoply of power had been paraded before her since childhood.  What
could she do now but stare vaguely after it as it marched
triumphantly by?  Lester had been of it.  Him it respected.  Of her
it knew nothing.  She looked through the grating, and once more
there came the cry of "Indianapolis, Louisville, Columbus,
Cincinnati, and points South."  A long red train, brilliantly
lighted, composed of baggage cars, day coaches, a dining-car, set
with white linen and silver, and a half dozen comfortable Pullmans,
rolled in and stopped.  A great black engine, puffing and glowing,
had it all safely in tow.

As the baggage car drew near the waiting truck a train-hand in
blue, looking out of the car, called to some one within.

"Hey, Jack!  Give us a hand here.  There's a stiff outside!"

Jennie could not hear.

All she could see was the great box that was so soon to disappear.
All she could feel was that this train would start presently, and
then it would all be over.  The gates opened, the passengers poured
out.  There were Robert, and Amy, and Louise, and Midgely--all
making for the Pullman cars in the rear.  They had said their
farewells to their friends.  No need to repeat them.  A trio of
assistants "gave a hand" at getting the great wooden case into the
car.  Jennie saw it disappear with an acute physical wrench at her
heart.

There were many trunks to be put aboard, and then the door of the
baggage car half closed, but not before the warning bell of the
engine sounded.  There was the insistent calling of "all aboard"
from this quarter and that; then slowly the great locomotive began
to move.  Its bell was ringing, its steam hissing, its smoke-stack
throwing aloft a great black plume of smoke that fell back over the
cars like a pall.  The fireman, conscious of the heavy load behind,
flung open a flaming furnace door to throw in coal.  Its light
glowed like a golden eye.

Jennie stood rigid, staring into the wonder of this picture, her
face white, her eyes wide, her hands unconsciously clasped, but one
thought in her mind--they were taking his body away.  A leaden
November sky was ahead, almost dark.  She looked, and looked
until the last glimmer of the red lamp on the receding sleeper
disappeared in the maze of smoke and haze overhanging the tracks
of the far-stretching yard.

"Yes," said the voice of a passing stranger, gay with the
anticipation of coming pleasures.  "We're going to have a great
time down there.  Remember Annie?  Uncle Jim is coming and Aunt
Ella."

Jennie did not hear that or anything else of the chatter and bustle
around her.  Before her was stretching a vista of lonely years down
which she was steadily gazing.  Now what?  She was not so old yet.
There were those two orphan children to raise.  They would marry
and leave after a while, and then what?  Days and days in endless
reiteration, and then--?



THE END




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