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Title: White Banners (1936)
Author: Lloyd C. Douglas
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eBook No.: 0608861.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

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Title: White Banners (1936)
Author: Lloyd C. Douglas







THIS BOOK TREATS OF PRIVATE VALOUR
IT IS APPROPRIATELY DEDICATED TO
BETTY DOUGLAS WILSON




CHAPTER I


After so long a pause that Marcia felt sure whoever it was must
have gone away, the front door bell rang again, a courteously brief
"still waiting".

It would be a neighbour child on the way home from school with a
handful of basketball tickets.  Or an agent tardily taking orders
for cheap and gaudy Christmas cards.

The trip down to the door would be laborious.  Doctor Bowen had
wanted her to avoid the stairs as much as possible from now on.
But the diffident summons sounded very plaintive in its competition
with the savage swish of sleet against the windows.

Raising herself heavily on her elbows, Marcia tried to squeeze a
prompt decision out of her tousled blonde head with the tips of
slim fingers.  The mirror of the vanity table ventured a comforting
comment on the girlish cornflower fringe that Paul always said
brought out the blue in her eyes.  She pressed her palms hard on
the yellow curls, debating whether to make the effort.  In any
event she would have to go down soon, for the luncheon table was
standing exactly as they had left it, and Paul would be returning
in half an hour.

Edging clumsily to the side of the bed, she sat up, momentarily
swept with vertigo, and fumbled with her stockinged toes for the
shapeless slippers in which she had awkwardly paddled about through
two previous campaigns in behalf of humanity's perpetuity.  When
done with them, this time, Marcia expected to throw the slippers
away.

Roberta eagerly reached up both chubby arms and bounced
ecstatically at the approach of the outstretched hands.  Wallie
scrambled up out of his blocks and detonated an ominously sloppy
sneeze.  "Hanky," he requested, with husky solemnity.

"Well--I should say so," agreed Marcia.  "Please don't tell me
you've been taking cold again."

Wallie denied the accusation with a vigorous shake of his head,
whooped hoarsely, and began slowly pacing the intermittent clatter
of their procession down the dingy stairway, the flat of his small
hand squeaking on the cold rail of the ugly yellow banister.

The bulky figure of a woman was silhouetted on the frosted glass
panels of the street door.  Wallie, with a wobbly index finger in
his nose, halted to reconnoitre as they neared the bottom of the
stairs, and his mother gave him a gentle push forward.  They were
in the front hall now, Marcia irresolutely considering whether to
brave the blizzard.  Wallie decided this matter by inquiring who it
was in a penetrating treble, reinforcing his desire to know by
twisting the knob with ineffective hands.  Marcia shifted Roberta
into the crook of her other arm and opened the door to a breath-
taking swirl of stinging snow, the first real storm of the season.

Outlandish in a shabby plush coat much too large for her--though
she was by no means a small person--and an equally frowsy old fur
hat drawn down over her brows, the caller displayed a large red
apple from which an incredibly long peeling dangled.  Obviously
expecting her pantomime to speak for itself, the woman--heavy-eyed,
pale--silently produced another inch or two of apple-skin tape
projected through the slot of an ingenious little knife firmly
clutched in a blue-chapped, shivering fist.

"But I mustn't stand here in this storm," protested Marcia.
"You'll have to step inside.  And please shut the door quickly,"
she added over her shoulder as she retreated into the comparative
warmth of the living-room, the apple-person following with Wallie
reeling alongside, gazing up at her inquisitively.

"Sorry to have bothered you," regretted the pedlar.  It was a
singularly low-pitched voice registering the last extremity of
weariness, perhaps something of battered refinement too.  The grey
eyes were cloudy and seemed reluctant to draw a clear focus, though
this might be attributed to fatigue rather than a calculated
evasiveness.

Murmuring a non-committal acceptance of the apology, Marcia eased
Roberta's undependable feet on to the sewing-machine table and
stretched out a hand towards the magical tool.

"How much is it?"

"A quarter."

"I'll take one," said Marcia, glancing up to meet the grey eyes
squarely for the first time.  Then she added, "Please", with a
slight inclination of her head which seemed to invest the trivial
transaction with something like dignity.  She was a little
surprised at her suddenly altered attitude towards this taciturn
woman with the pallid face, the puzzling eyes, and the impossible
clothes.  It had been habitual with Marcia to make short work of
door-to-door canvassers.

Politely but without effusion the pedlar produced a barely audible
"Thank you", and began rummaging--rather ineffectually, for her
hands were stiff with cold--in the depths of a capacious old
shopping-bag bulging with demonstration apples, while Marcia
studied the impassive face at close range.  It appeared to mask a
personality intended for and probably accustomed to better things
than the house-to-house vending of a cheap kitchen gadget.  Or
perhaps it had a secret to conceal.  The woman was a curious bundle
of inconsistencies, the dowdy old hat and the rough hands being so
shockingly unrelated to the disciplined voice and eyes which
testified to a well-furnished mind.

"I shall have to go upstairs for the money," said Marcia, when the
merchandise had changed hands.  "Will you watch my baby?"

The cryptic eyes lifted, lighted, and a smile nervously twitched
the corners of the drooping mouth.  Muttering something about the
snow on her coat, the woman unbuttoned the ill-fitting garment and
tossed it aside.  The uncouth hat was tugged off also, dishevelling
a thick mop of well-cared-for, blue-black hair and releasing a
crackle of electricity.  Without the hat and coat she was only
forty, perhaps a little less than that if she were entirely well
and contented.

"But I don't like to have you climb those steep stairs for me," she
protested.  "Perhaps you'd better not."

"I really shouldn't," confided Marcia.  Then, impulsively, "Would
you mind?  It's on my dressing-table, a brown leather purse, first
door to the right at the head of the stairs."  She slipped her
hands under Roberta's arms to reclaim her, but the caller ignored
the gesture and cuddled the baby closer to her abundant breast.
The grey eyes searched Marcia's youthful face for a moment
disconcertingly.

"Do you think," inquired the gently reproving voice, "that you
ought to let a stranger ramble about through your house hunting for
your pocket-book?"

Marcia flushed a little and felt very young and foolish.

"It does sound reckless, when you put it that way," she admitted,
adding with a navet that brought a puckery smile to the visitor's
lips, "What are we going to do about it?"  Then, suddenly inspired,
"My husband will be here in a little while.  Could you wait?"

"Gladly," sighed the caller.  "I have been on my feet all day."
She sank into the nearest chair and softly rubbed her white chin
against the top of Roberta's silky head.

"It's chilly in here."  Marcia stooped over the wood-basket and
dragged the metal screen aside from the cold grate.  "The furnace
runs low at this time in the afternoon, and I can't do anything
about it."

"Let me make that fire for you.  I'm bigger than you are."  Again
little Roberta was transferred and the stranger knelt before the
grate.

"Nobody could be bigger than I am," murmured Marcia.  She sat
interestedly surveying the slow but competent movements of her
mysterious guest.  The shoes were badly worn, but they had once
been good--expensively good.  Whoever had wanted that hat had not
bought those shoes.  Marcia felt that the shoes were authentic.  So
was the black crpe frock.  It was old, but it fitted.  The fire
blazed, and with much difficulty the weary woman rose to her feet,
clutching the mantel for support.  Marcia tried to keep the pity
out of her tone when she said cordially, "Now draw up a chair close
to it.  You must be half-frozen."

There was silence between them for some time, the stranger leaning
forward with her elbows on her knees and her chin cupped in both
hands, staring into the crackling flames.  Presently she
straightened, and turning towards Marcia asked wistfully if she
might hold the baby again.

Silently complying, Marcia went through the double doorway into the
dining-room and began to clear the table.  Wallie hovering close.
"Mum-mee!" he wheedled shrilly.  "Can I have a piece o' bread-n-
butter-n-sugar?"

Marcia led the way into the diminutive pantry.  Wallie gleefully
chirping redundant comments on his good fortune while his mother
laid out the makings of a snack.  Suddenly his improvised refrain
was broken off short.  At the same instant Marcia sensed another
presence, and glancing around was startled to see her strange
visitor standing in the passage.  She had Roberta closely nestled
in her arms.  Her pale lips were parted, revealing sound white
teeth tightly locked.  The grey eyes were importunate--and ashamed.

"Perhaps you would like some too."  Marcia tried to make the
invitation sound half-playful, hoping to safeguard the woman's self-
respect if she could.

"Oh--please!  If you would."  The deep-pitched voice was husky.  "I
haven't had anything to eat since morning and I'm not so very long
out of the hospital."

"You should have told me," chided Marcia gently.  "Do help yourself--
and there's some cold tongue in the refrigerator.  I'll make you a
cup of tea.  Not much wonder you're fagged.  Was it an operation?"
Proceeding into the cold kitchen, she lighted the gas under the
kettle.

"I don't know," replied the half-starved woman indifferently,
surrendering Roberta and taking up the bread-knife in a shaky hand.
"Maybe they do call it an operation."  She began eating ravenously.

Shocked by the exhibition of such hunger as she had never seen so
candidly displayed, Marcia retreated a step, fumbling at her beads
with agitated fingers.  She felt rebuffed too, for surely her
solicitous query had deserved a better reply than this casual
impertinence.

"I mean," explained the woman, her articulation muffled by the food
she was wolfing, "is it an operation when you have a baby?  I
know," she continued, between spasmodic swallowings, "that it's an
operation when you have something unhealthy that has to be cut out
of you, but having a baby is the most natural thing in the world,
or at least it would seem so, seeing how long it was going on
before there were any surgeons or hospitals."

Indisposed to debate whether childbirth should be considered as an
institution or an operation, but personally interested in babies as
individuals, Marcia inquired, "What did you do with it?"

"He's at the hospital.  They said he could be adopted."

"Have you no friends?"

"No, that is--not here."

"Relatives?"

"Well, none wanting a baby."  She turned to cut another slice of
bread.

"That's too bad," sympathized Marcia.  "There's your tea on the
kitchen table.  Come, Wallie.  You run in now and sit by the fire.
Go on--quickly.  Do as Mother tells you."

"I don't want to," squeaked Wallie.  "I want to watch the lady
eat."

Marcia was devastated with chagrin, wondering whether an apology on
behalf of her unfortunate offspring would ease the strain, when the
problem was solved for her by a good-natured laugh and a mumbled "I
don't wonder".

Unable to think of anything appropriate to say, Marcia smiled
faintly and led her reluctant child into the living-room, where she
lowered Roberta into the perambulator and returned to her task at
the dining-table, for some moments mechanically moving the dishes
about, wishing this awkward situation had not arisen.  She hoped
the woman would go soon.  Surely she had enough to worry her
without adding anything more.  Paul would be here at any moment.
He would go popping through the kitchen immediately on his way to
the furnace.  He would discover this famished woman and interest
himself in her predicament.  Anyone could see at a glance that she
shouldn't be turned out into the storm.  And it would be quite
right and proper to ask her to stay if they could afford it, or had
a suitable place for her.  Paul would think they had.  He was so
hopelessly impractical, so heart-breakingly in debt, so childishly
indifferent to their plight.  And in a month there was to be the
hospital and the nurses and the doctor--without the slightest
vestige of a plan for these imperative expenses.  Poor Paul.  He
should have married someone who knew how to manage. . . .  No--she
would have to see to it that the unhappy creature was out of the
house before Paul arrived.  For the moment Marcia quite forgot the
real reason for the woman's tarrying.

Resolutely she gathered up a double handful of dishes and carried
them to the kitchen sink.  The stranger promptly joined her there,
turned back her sleeves, and began drawing hot water into the
dishpan.

"You'll not need to help," said Marcia crisply.  "There aren't
many.  I can easily do them alone.  Thanks--just the same."  She
tried to make the dismissal significant without being unkind.

"Where do you keep the aprons?" inquired the woman, unimpressed by
Marcia's rather stiff repudiation of her proffered services.

"But--really--"  Marcia was being very firm now.  "I prefer to do
them myself."

She accented every word, secretly reproaching herself for having to
offend the grateful tramp.

Pretending not to realize this sudden shift of mood, the stranger
smiled indulgently and began washing the dishes.  The food had
braced her up and every motion testified to an amazingly prompt
revival of latent energy.  Marcia decided to make a last stand.
Time was passing rapidly.  On the verge of tearful exasperation,
she said:  "You have your own work to do, and I'm keeping you from
it.  I'll go and get your money for you at once.  My husband might
be delayed.  And it is getting dark.  I mustn't detain you."

Flicking the hot suds from her hands, the woman followed as far as
the dining-room without comment and stacked up the rest of the
dishes.  Marcia made an impatient little gesture of bafflement, her
knuckles digging into her forehead.  Weak in the knees, she slumped
into a chair by the grate, hoping to recover her strength for the
painful trip upstairs.  Minutes passed.  The energetic clatter of
dishes had subsided now and now the unwelcome volunteer in the
kitchen could be heard walking about.  She was coming quietly into
the living-room.  Marcia glanced up dully, relieved to see the
woman take up the frumpy old coat and the mangy hat and the
preposterous shopping-bag from the chair where they had sprawled in
an untidy pile.

"I'm going up for the money now," said Marcia weakly.  "Thank you
for doing the dishes."

"I'll be in the kitchen," replied the woman, draping her effects
over her arm.

That was ever so good, thought Marcia.  The poor dear had caught
the idea that she must go and was planning to leave by the back
door to avoid a collision with the man of the house.  Perhaps she
had divined that she was expected to be gone when he came.  Pulling
herself together, Marcia dragged her burdensome body up the stairs
and down again, wincing at every step of the return trip.  There
was a mighty stamping of snowy feet on the front porch as she
hurried through the dining-room.  Perhaps the worrying incident
could be closed in the nick of time.

At the kitchen doorway she stopped and speechlessly surveyed a
dismaying scene.  In apparent contentment, the woman was seated in
the corner with a pan in her lap, peeling her experimental apples
with one of her patent knives.  She looked up brightly and smiled.

"Pie," she explained--and then added irrelevantly, "My name is
Hannah."

                        *  *  *  *  *

For quite fifteen minutes Hannah had the kitchen to herself.  She
was much perplexed.  The girlish blonde had been so pleasantly kind--
and then had suddenly gone into a panic of desire to get her out
of the house.  That would be because her husband was a brute.  The
pretty thing was clearly frightened about something, and
undoubtedly that was it.  Hannah thoughtfully stroked her chin with
the back of her hand and wondered what she ought to do--stay and
help get dinner and put the disordered kitchen to rights, in
payment for her food, or take her quarter and vanish.

While she debated, half-intelligible wisps of conversation drifted
through from the living-room where the nervous and distraught girl-
wife was pouring out her story.  Occasionally his soft voice
offered a soothing comment.  He wasn't a brute.  Hannah continued
to peel her apples.  The situation was clearing up.  She smiled and
shook her head a little, compassionately, eavesdropping without
compunction on the private talk, occasional phrases of which were
becoming audible.  They were stony-broke, their credit was
exhausted, they were going to have another baby, they couldn't take
on any more obligations--all this in the harassed voice of the
lovely blonde--and here was this hungry person out in the kitchen
peeling her own apples with the unquestionable expectation that her
services would be recognized and rewarded.

"But"--the man was saying reassuringly--"you need help, Marcia, and
if she wants to do something for you, in return for your kindness,
why not let her?"

"But we can't afford it, Paul."

"Why can't we?  We've been in tight corners before."

Now they were just going around and around, getting nowhere.  The
apples were all peeled.  Having intruded this far into their family
complications, Hannah felt that a little more impudence on her part
would not be likely to alter her status very much, so she decided
to go to the basement and do something about the fire before it
went out, if indeed it had not already done so.  Then, if they were
agreed that she mustn't stay and help, in return for the food she
had eaten, they could say so--and she would go.  She sincerely
hoped they would not insist on this, for it was plain to be seen
that the young woman was almost at the end of her physical
resources.

The first door she tried unlatched with much difficulty, but when
it did consent to let go it was generous enough, unexpectedly
disgorging a great many of the larger articles which the shallow
closet contained--an ironing-board, two brooms, a mop, and the long
handle of a carpet-sweeper bounding violently out to assault her,
attended by a covey of dust-cloths.  The eruption caused a deal of
racket and for a little while there was no sound of talk in the
house.  Then his father called Wallie to come back here, and Hannah
coaxed the things into their lair again, all but the umbrella which
had opened in flight and couldn't be closed without risk of a
compound rib fracture.

She tried the other door.  The stairs to the basement, now that
Hannah had located them, were pitch-dark at the top, though a
feeble yellow light glowed from one of the rooms in the cavern
below.  Just inside the door there was an electric bulb which did
not respond when she turned the button.  Groping her way cautiously
down the narrow steps she found the furnace-room by the aid of the
almost extinct lamp which presumably had been burning all day.  The
coal supply was low, but there was plenty of everything else in the
dingy room.  Hannah vigorously shook down the ashes and clinkers,
opened the draughts and shovelled in a small quantity of coal,
thinking it indiscreet to offer the fire very much nourishment
until it was feeling better.  While she waited for signs of its
resuscitation there was time to glance about.  She shook her head
and whispered, "Tsch, tsch".

It was none of her business, of course, but there was a battered
trunk with no lock, no hasps and one handle, a broken chair, a pile
of magazines, a bicycle with two flat tyres and a mildewed seat, a
roll of old rugs and strips of carpet, a three-legged card-table, a
hobby-horse with one ear, one rocker and no tail, a tall filing-
cabinet, and a serviceable but very grimy office desk on which
reposed two high stacks of old books covered with soot, a pile of
folded chintz draperies, a gilt clock, a half-dozen flowerpots with
earth in them, an unstrung tennis racquet, one roller-skate, and a
cracked cut-glass berry-bowl containing three hickory nuts, a bunch
of rusty keys, a doorknob, a spool of white silk thread, a
monogrammed belt-buckle, five dominoes, a box of fish-food, a tooth-
brush, and a small gift copy of Sartor Resartus.  Hannah threw in
another shovelful of coal and wondered what they would be thinking
overhead when they heard all the noise she was making.

Retracing her steps upstairs, she decided to carry on with the pie.
Pulling open the flour-bin in the kitchen cabinet, she was pleased
to find it nearly half full.  It contained also the flour-sifter, a
couple of little tin dies for cutting cookies, a rolling-pin, and a
lead pencil which must have got in by accident.  Hoping to be
equally successful in locating the other ingredients for the pie,
Hannah went to the refrigerator, taking pains to avoid the sluggish
stream which ambled aimlessly across the pantry floor and whose
headwaters, she knew, had their origin in an overflowing pan
beneath the icebox.

Opening the door she found a tin bucket filled with lard.
Excellent luck, thought Hannah.  There was a plentiful supply of
almost everything.  The refrigerator was stuffed to capacity; four
quart milk-bottles, all partly used, but one which was empty, a
highly ornamental glass jar with a few slices of cold tongue, the
skeleton of a rib roast from which most of the choice meat had been
cut, two asparagus tips in a saucer, a few stalks of discouraged
celery, one candied sweet potato holding forth alone in a large
bowl with the smugness of an old settler, three half-used glasses
of jelly, and, side by side, a pound of unwrapped butter and a
slice of Roquefort cheese.  Hannah removed the cheese.

There was also a neat paper parcel.  She argued with herself for a
moment and opened it--four French lamb chops.  Then she took the
can of lard to the kitchen-cabinet where operations were resumed on
behalf of the apple pie.  She was stooping over to light the gas in
the oven when masculine footsteps commanded her attention.  The man
was in his middle thirties, slender, a little over average height,
and very good-looking.

"How do you do," he said pleasantly.  "Mrs Ward tells me--I am her
husband, by the way--"

"I thought you might be," replied Hannah, unperturbed.  "I knew she
was expecting you."

"Mrs Ward has been just a bit upset.  You see--"  He hesitated for
an instant.

"Yes, I know," assisted Hannah companionably.  "It's her condition.
What with two little children on her hands and nobody to help her
and another baby expected soon, she naturally would be nervous."

"Of course," he agreed.  "But the point is that Mrs Ward feels
embarrassed over your remaining here to offer your services in this
way.  She says you have been earning your living by selling
something and we are keeping you from it.  We both appreciate your
kindness, but--to put the matter frankly--Mrs Ward doesn't want you
to do anything further.  She feels that we cannot afford to have
kitchen help just now."

"If you don't mind, Mr Ward," rejoined Hannah, plying the rolling-
pin energetically, "I'll keep right on with this pastry, so it
won't get tough.  Pardon me for interrupting."

"Well--that was about all I had meant to say.  We are greatly
obliged for what you have done, and if we were able we should
gladly keep you on, but--as I have tried to point out--we can't
afford it."

Hannah pinched the pie all the way around with an experienced thumb
and, holding it on a level with her eyes, deftly trimmed the edge.

"I know you can't," she said, and then added, lowering her voice
confidentially, "and I know why."

He bridled a little at that, lighted a cigarette with an impatient
gesture, and replied, clipping his words, "At least--it's no
responsibility of yours."

"I'm not so sure about that," countered Hannah.  "I got into your
mess by accident and through no fault of mine.  I was blown into
your house by the blizzard.  Your wife was very kind to me.  I've
been awfully knocked about lately, Mr Ward, and she seemed to
realize it.  She is a darling.  And then I found myself out here in
your kitchen--and I just can't leave her in this dreadful state.  I
should worry myself to death about her."

"Dreadful state?" he echoed woodenly.

Hannah pursed her lips and smiled a maternal reproof.

"Don't pretend you didn't know.  This hand-to-mouth way you people
live--everything at loose ends--spending so much and getting so
little for it."  Hannah felt that she had burned most of her
bridges now and might as well speak her mind plainly.  "That sweet
girl ought to be having good care--especially now.  She shouldn't
be doing her own work--and she's doing it the hardest way there is.
I don't wonder she's discouraged and nervous, the way this house is
run.  I hope I haven't offended you, but it's true."

He had been scowling darkly through Hannah's speech, but her last
conciliatory remark was so genuinely sympathetic that his face
cleared a little.

"I know," he admitted, with a rueful sigh, "we aren't very good at
it."

Hannah teased him with a sisterly grin.

"I'll bet you mean," she drawled, "that your wife isn't very good
at it.  Men always think that.  But you left the furnace lamp on
all day, I notice, and you've been buying kindling all tied up in
cute little bundles when the basement is running over with loose
boards and broken boxes enough to supply you for the winter.  It
isn't all her fault, I can tell you."

"Did I say it was?" he grumbled.

Hannah made no reply to that, being occupied at the moment by her
task of regulating the oven.  He sauntered to the door and stood
there indecisively.

"Wouldn't you like to empty that refrigerator pan while you're
here?" asked Hannah, as if he were fifteen and she was his mother.
"That's really a man's job, you know.  It's heavy."

He complied good-naturedly enough, dragging the loathsome thing out
and slopping a great puddle of slimy water on the floor.  Hannah
had anticipated this and was already at his elbow with the mop.

"Sorry," he muttered, trying to balance his burden on the way to
the sink.  "It's always full, no matter how often you empty it."

"You could remedy that in half an hour if you wanted to," scoffed
Hannah, unwrapping the expensive chops.  "Bore a hole in the floor,
put in a tin funnel, and run a piece of hose down to a big bucket
in the cellar."

"And then the bucket would always be running over down there."

Hannah glanced up and chuckled as she replied, "Well--I don't think
that would matter much.  You aren't very particular how the cellar
looks."  She raised her eyebrows so drollishly when she added, "I
was down there," that he laughed a little in spite of his
determination to be firm with her.  The sound of it brought Marcia
to the doorway, her wide, blue eyes full of inquiry.

"If it's something funny--" she began, with as much dignity as she
could muster.

"If you will set the table now, Mrs Ward," interjected Hannah,
quite unruffled, "I'll have your dinner ready in a few minutes."

Marcia turned away frankly annoyed, followed by Paul, who said,
when they had reached the dining-room:  "She isn't a bad sort,
dear.  Bit of a character, I should say.  No end amusing.  Why not
let her help you to-night if she wants to?  To-morrow you can tell
her to go."

"To-morrow?  You mean she is to stay here all night?"

"Why not?  She doesn't seem dangerous.  And there's a bed.  She's
probably clean--don't you think?"  He grinned broadly.  "I gather
that she's almost as fastidious as we are, judging from some
comments she made about our cellar."

"She didn't dare!" spluttered Marcia.

"Dare?  You don't know our Hannah very well.  She as much as said--"

"That I was the worst housekeeper in the world, I suppose."

"No, no, darling; nothing about you.  She thinks you're wonderful."

"Yes--aren't I?" muttered Marcia derisively.  "So--she's to sleep
in the guest-room.  I suppose.  In that case, I'd better lay a
place for her at the table."  She began taking the silver from the
buffet.

Hannah, who had been significantly rattling dishes in the pantry,
came in at this juncture with a trayful, and, noting the
preparations for three places, inquired, "Does little Wallie eat at
the table?"

"In his high-chair," replied Marcia, still grim.

"Then we'll not need these," said Hannah, restoring the extra
silver to the buffet-drawer.  "I shall be serving the table."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Marcia had gone early to bed after showing Hannah where she was to
sleep--"just for to-night"--and taking pains to specify that their
hospitality was offered because of the very bad weather.  She had
admitted to herself--and, a bit reluctantly, to Paul also--that it
was a welcome relief to be temporarily free from kitchen drudgery.
Now that her burdens had been eased for a few hours, she realized
the weight of them.

Having finished his pipe and the newspaper, and observing that a
light still burned in the kitchen, Paul strolled out to see what
Hannah was up to now.  She had been reorganizing the contents of
the refrigerator with a view to their consolidation.  The
neighbouring cupboard ledge bore evidence to the number and variety
of articles which she seemed to consider superfluous.  He watched
her for a while in interested silence as she sat squatting on her
heels intent on her occupation.

"A refrigerator," he said at length in the declamatory tone of one
reciting the Commandments, "is a nasty thing."

Hannah looked up over her shoulder and nodded approval of this
sentiment.  "It seems to me," she said slowly, "that whoever
thought up a refrigerator might have had brains enough to give the
thing legs, so you wouldn't have to sit on the floor or stand on
your head to see what's in it."

"Funny nobody ever thought of that," ruminated Paul, reloading his
pipe.

"Pooh--I'll bet every woman has.  It's plain to see that it was a
man planned it.  It's too bad women aren't able to invent things."
Hannah's regret over the uninventiveness of her sex sounded
sincere, and Paul puffed thoughtfully as he considered this curious
biological fact.  She rose with a wince from her tiresome posture
and showed that she had something on her mind.  "If you are at
liberty for a few minutes, Mr Ward, I wish you would go down in the
basement for me.  I want to do something about that to-morrow."

"I thought you were going away to-morrow," he reminded her gently.

"That's why we have to decide to-night what ought to be done down
there."

He could think of no reasonable objection to this, so they
descended the dark stairs, Hannah remarking en route that the
electric lamp in the unfurnished storeroom on the second floor
would be of more service than there, and Paul consenting, not very
convincingly, that he would see to it.

"How long has it been," she inquired, "since you used that desk?"

Welcoming any distraction from the threat of an unpleasant job, Mr
Ward scratched his head thoughtfully for the exact date while
Hannah's fingers flexed restlessly.  His averted eyes and oblique
mouth predicted a reminiscence.

"Must have been 1908.  It has been idle since we came here.  My
uncle gave me the desk when I received my doctorate."

"Doctor it?"

"The degree, you know.  Doctor of Philosophy."

"Oh--do they have to doctor philosophy?  I don't know much about
such things."

He eyed her narrowly for an instant and then nodded slowly, feeling
that the query, whether asked in playful satire or honest
ignorance, could properly be answered in the affirmative.  Then he
added, "The desk is of no use to us.  My office at the university
is equipped with everything."

"Is that what you do?" inquired Hannah compassionately.  "You're a
professor?"

He nodded, tugging at the spluttering pipe.

"Well--I guess you know I'm sorry," she said penitently, "for
talking to you the way I did.  I was a little annoyed with you for
being so helpless, but of course I didn't know what your business
was.  You'll excuse me, won't you?"

Paul laughed heartily and said she was priceless, but Hannah
remained so contritely straight-faced that his laughter sounded to
himself as if it had just a trace of incipient madness in it, and
he suddenly sobered, blinking rapidly.  If this woman was ragging
him, she was making a good job of it, he reflected.  He had visions
of himself reporting the incident at luncheon to-morrow at the
University Club.  Then it occurred to him that it would be an
awkward sort of story to tell--even to Fritz Manheim or Sandy
Laughton.  They wouldn't understand.

"So--you probably wouldn't miss the desk," Hannah was saying, "if
you came down some morning and it wasn't here."  And when he
admitted that this might easily be the case, Hannah pointed to the
bicycle.  "Ever ride it?" she asked.  He shook his head.  "It isn't
in bad condition," she observed, "if the tyres were mended.  It's
too good to sit here and rust.  How about that filing-case?"

"I'll not be using it any more--at least so far as I know."

"Well--that's far enough," drawled Hannah, "when you're cleaning
junk out of a cellar.  I suppose it's full of old papers and
letters and things."

Paul said he shared that supposition and promised to go through it,
one of these days, when he had a spare minute; should have done so,
he confessed, long ago.

Hannah shook her head and regarded him with one of her unanswerable
grins.  "You--and your spare minutes," she scoffed.  "What's the
matter with right now?  You're not doing anything else, are you?"
Then, while he was trying to contrive an excuse for postponement of
the unpleasant job, she told him to go up and find a couple of good
lamps.  Returning, rather glumly, he found that she had cleared a
space around the cabinet and was wiping off the soot.

"It's just as we thought," she announced, as if the two of them
were conspirators engaged in dealing with the disorderly clutter of
a house they had unfortunately fallen heir to; "the thing is full.
Better empty all the drawers into that big clothes-basket,
Professor, and then you can sort out the stuff--and decide how much
you want to keep."

"I'd rather you didn't call me 'Professor'," he said testily,
dumping the contents of the top drawer into the basket.

"Sorry," murmured Hannah.  "I didn't know you were sensitive about
it."

He had felt himself growing more and more surly over the nasty task
she had badgered him into, but Hannah's ingenuous remark was quite
too absurd to be received irascibly.  He laughed in spite of his
irritation and pursued the disgusting assignment without further
grousing.  In sober truth, these things should have been attended
to long ago.  If this odd creature wanted to help, why not humour
her?

"Better see if the desk isn't full, too," advised Hannah.  "I've a
notion, from all that's on top of it, there wasn't any room left
inside. . . .  Are those rugs worth keeping? . . .  Does this lawn-
mower work? . . .  Is that garden hose any good? . . .  Then what's
the wheelbarrow for, if you haven't a garden?  You easily could
have a nice garden, you know."

It was long after midnight when they finished classifying the
basement's grimy hoard.  The few papers which Paul thought might
have some future value had been tied up in neat packages for
temporary storage in a box Hannah had found in the attic.  Every
scrap of paper that had been rejected she had stowed in a big
burlap bag along with the old magazines.  "It won't bring very
much," she admitted, "but it's better business to sell it than to
hire somebody to cart it away."

"You'd better go to bed now," suggested Paul wearily.  "You must be
very tired."

"Bet your life I'm tired!"  She rubbed back her damp, disordered
hair with her forearm.  "And I never was so dirty before."

He scowled a little at that and reminded her that nobody had asked
her to do it.  "In fact," he pursued stiffly, "I can't understand
why you did.  You certainly don't owe us anything."

"I owe the town something," said Hannah.  "I have been a charity
case in the University Hospital for three weeks."

"That isn't owing the town," growled Paul punctiliously.  "That's
the state."

"It's about the same thing.  I don't even live in the state--if it
comes to that.  You are citizens and pay taxes.  Perhaps I can
square up a little if I do something for you. . . .  I'm going to
bed now.  What time do you want your breakfast, and how do you like
your eggs?"

"Er--poached, please, about half-past seven; but, look here, do you
want me to believe that you actually feel under some sort of
obligation to the town--or the state?  Almost nobody does, you
know.  I'm mighty sure I don't!"

"Why not?  The government of the town and the state is made up of
the people, isn't it?  I'm owing people.  It's the same as any
other debt, isn't it?"  Hannah had one foot on the lower step,
poised to go.

"Ummm--so you're paying back your debt to the state by helping the
Ward family out of a scrape.  Suppose the Ward family doesn't want
you to.  What then?"

She was thoughtful for a moment and a sudden inspiration came to
the rescue.  "But the hospital did a lot of things to me that I
didn't like either; though I suppose it was for my good."

"So, you're intending to help us whether we like it or not.  Is
that it?  You're just a little bit crazy, aren't you?"

"Perhaps," confessed Hannah, mounting the stairs.  "You ought to
know."  This last comment sounded saucier than she had intended, so
she added respectfully, "--You being a professor," which still left
the colloquy lacking a satisfactory last line.  To remedy this she
said "Good night" almost tenderly.

When she was at the top he called to her in a voice full of
amusement under heavy compression.

"Hannah--would it be too much bother if you tried to sell this old
stuff to a second-hand man?  I don't know much about such
business."

"Yes, sir--I had expected to, to-morrow.  You didn't think I'd go
to all this trouble and then not finish it, did you?"

"I suppose," he reflected, "you could get more for it than I."

Hannah chuckled a little, and then, suddenly deferential, replied,
"Yes, sir.  I know that."

"Well--you may sell it for us on one condition."  Paul was quite
the man of the house, now, taking no nonsense from anybody.  "You
are to keep ten per cent for your own.  That is no more than fair.
If you do not want to handle this job on these terms, you are not
to do it at all.  Understand?  We are temporarily hard pressed
here, but we are not paupers."

"Thanks--and may I spend the ninety per cent on the house?  I'm
pretty good at making a dollar go a long way."

"I dare say you are.  Do what you please with it--in consultation
with Mrs Ward, of course."

"Yes, sir.  Don't forget to turn out the lights before you come
up."

Paul regarded his grimy hands with distaste and snapped off one of
the lights.  Then he turned it on again and ambled over to the
empty fruit-cellar.  For a long time he stood looking up at the raw
joists under the pantry floor, speculating on a spot where a hole
might be bored to let the seepage through from the icebox.  What a
clumsy arrangement; what an unsanitary, thoroughly objectionable
apparatus it would be at its very best.

Why did people consent to the housing of such an abomination as a
refrigerator, anyway?  He fell into a brown study then and leaned
against the wall, disregarding its coating of soot.  After a while
he sat down on a dusty box and slowly refilled his pipe.

The big packing-houses made their own ice: why shouldn't it be
possible for private homes to have their own refrigeration plants?
It might be worth looking into.

Stiff in every joint and dirty beyond description, he went up to
bed at two o'clock, his head whirling with a new idea.  This was
the best hunch he'd ever had.  He was determined to have a go at
it, anyway.  If it amounted to nothing--well, he wouldn't be any
worse off, would he?



CHAPTER II


Marcia roused at nine with an oppressive sense of guilt such as a
sentry might feel when caught asleep at his post.  But no one came
to reproach her.  The house was very quiet.

She always depended on the children to waken her early.  This
morning there hadn't been a peep out of them.  They must have been
stealthily whisked away before they had had a chance to make a
noise.  That, she reflected, would be some more of this mysterious
Hannah's doings.  Hannah, for some unknown reason, had determined
to make herself indispensable, though why she had decided it might
be to her advantage to share their plight was a riddle that would
take a lot of explaining.

Marcia sleepily conceded that if it really was the woman's ambition
to become so useful they couldn't part with her, she was already
well on the way towards success.  One might try valiantly to be
indignant over Hannah's obstinate generosity, but it was a sweet
relief to know that somebody--no matter who or why--had temporarily
shouldered the irksome load.

That the canny creature had managed to take Paul into camp was to
have been expected.  Marcia hoped Hannah would not consider this a
feather in her cap, seeing how easily Paul could be taken in by
almost anybody.  Under her direction, doubtless--Marcia could
reconstruct the self-assured tone in which the calm orders had been
issued--Paul had slipped quietly out of the house to his eight-
fifty class in Elizabethan Drama, after having breakfasted without
haste or confusion.  Paul would like that, nor was he the sort to
worry over the future consequences of putting himself this much
deeper into Hannah's debt.

Marcia interlaced her fingers behind her curly head and stared wide-
eyed at the dingy ceiling.  It wasn't exactly as if Paul was
insensitive to debt.  The humiliations of it hurt him.  He was
always very much subdued after a telephone conversation in which
some impatient credit manager ruthlessly raked him over the coals.
But after a pensive half-hour he would bob up like a cork.  Knowing
he was worried and wounded, she would go to him and sit on the arm
of his chair.  And he would look up brightly smiling, rub his cheek
fondly against her arm, and say, "Listen--I'll read you something
funny."  She wished she had the same capacity for such prompt and
painless recovery from a raw insult.  There wasn't, she reflected
with a deep sigh, very much bounce left in her.  Paul was certainly
a marvel of resilience, or else he was a master at concealing his
thoughts, and she didn't think he was the latter.  In fact, he was
almost childishly frank.  You could read him like a book.  He was
transparent as glass.

The oddest feature of his character was his undefeatable hope that
things would soon be better for them.  He had been nourishing
himself on that faith ever since they were married.  He had always
talked about their predicament as if it was some sort of unforeseen
emergency which ought to ease up by the tenth of the month at the
latest.  Every day since their honeymoon--on borrowed money, as she
discovered six months later when he was savagely dunned for it--
Paul had been counselling her to be patient and of good cheer.
They wouldn't always be poor, no, sir-ee!  Something would turn up.
Once, ostensibly in jest but privately a little annoyed by his
frequent use of this classic phrase, she had ventured to hint at
the similarity between his optimism and that of Mr Wilkins
Micawber.  After that, he usually beat a hasty retreat when he
found himself about to recite this article of his creed, but he was
apt at devising the equivalents of it.  Something would turn up.
He believed that with a faith as bland as it was foolish and as
dangerous as it was pathetic.

It wasn't as if he had just sat there serenely waiting for some
benevolent angel to hand him a cornucopia.  He had tried to do
something to encourage Fortune to consider his need, rigged a
little workshop in the attic, spent weary hours over clumsy models
laboriously whittled out with flimsy tools.  Sometimes Marcia would
go up to show her interest.  He would be humped over the bench,
intently squinting at his product as if he had now arrived at the
strategic moment, far too absorbed to stop even to value her good
wishes.  He would smile absently and wave her away--and she would
answer his smile as courageously as possible.  Then she would
tiptoe down the attic stairs and cry her eyes out for him.  Her
throat ached now at the remembrance.  Some days he would come home
from the library with an armful of books about patents and sit up
to all hours with them.  He would abandon one project for another,
casually dismissing the task he had toiled over for weeks and
bravely taking on a fresh one with a cheerfulness that simply broke
one's heart.  Marcia wiped her eyes with the corner of the sheet.
It was a darned shame!  That's what it was!  And things were never
going to be any different.  Paul's salary would never be very much
larger than it was now.

Grimacing ironically at the mirror, Marcia sat at her vanity table
and spent more than the usually allotted time with her hair.  It
was about the only thing she had left now to remind her of what she
ought to look like, and she found comfort in concentrating her
attention on it for a while, sweeping the brush through its spun
gold almost caressingly.  Paul had always been so proud of it.

And then, because she was playing the grand lady this morning, she
drew on the pink nglig that he had given her on her birthday in
June.  They hadn't been able to pay the grocery bill in full that
month or any part of the butcher's bill, but she couldn't summon
the courage to chide him.  Every time she had worn it, Marcia had
experienced an uncomfortable feeling that the expensive garment
wasn't really hers.  It probably belonged by rights to the butcher,
because she invariably thought of him whenever she looked at it.
This would be an appropriate occasion to put it on.  The voluntary
assistance she was receiving wasn't rightfully hers either.  She
knew they would have all that to pay for sooner or later.  High-
grade service like this didn't just fall into your lap by magic.
In the long run, the most expensive way to acquire anything was to
get it for nothing.  She pinned up her yellow hair and went
leisurely down the stairs.

Wallie, with his hair wetted and sleeked back off his forehead,
giving him a detestable smart-alecky expression, was sitting at his
little table by the fire so industriously engaged with his crayons
that he barely glanced up when he mumbled, "'Lo, Mummy", in
preoccupied response to his mother's twice-repeated greeting.  And
how was her little boy's cold this morning? Marcia wondered, a
query he answered promptly and fully with a resounding sneeze.
Roberta was asleep in her perambulator on the other side of the
grate, her thumb in her little rosebud of a mouth, as usual.

As she passed through the dining-room, Marcia noted that her place
at the table was laid.  It was a strange sensation to be cared for
so thoroughly, somewhat perplexing but undeniably enjoyable.  It
was too good to be true, certainly too good to last very long.

Hannah had mounted the ironing-board on the backs of two kitchen
chairs and was taking much pains with one of Roberta's little
dresses.  She smiled a salute.

"Sorry I overslept," apologized Marcia.  "Someone should have
called me."  She realized, in her unpremeditated choice of
"someone", that she was still bracing herself against an admission
of Hannah into the household.

"Are you ready for your breakfast, ma'am?" asked Hannah pleasantly.

"I'll get it.  All I want is a cup of coffee and a piece of
toast . . .  You're taking more trouble than I do with Roberta's
clothes."

"You would if you had the time, ma'am.  What a sweet baby she is!"

"I wish I could make her stop sucking her thumb."

"All babies do, more or less, don't they?" inquired Hannah
serenely.  "Perhaps they have some good reason for it, ma'am."

"What--for instance?" Marcia wondered.  The woman was so capable.
She might have an explanation.  "And I wish," added Marcia kindly
enough, "you wouldn't tag all your remarks to me with 'ma'am'.  I'm
not accustomed to it.  If you're going to do my ironing without
wages, I don't care to be cast for the part of the duchess."

"Thank you, ma'am," stammered Hannah.  "As for Roberta's thumb, it
has been so long since I was a baby that I've forgotten.  But I
think that Nature knows what she's up to, most of the time."

"I wonder," doubted Marcia.  "I see Wallie's cold is no better.  I
must telephone Doctor Bowen to come and look at him."

Hannah peeled Roberta's fluffy white dress off the ironing-board
and patted it down smoothly in a fresh place.

"Didn't he ever have a cold before?" she asked casually.

"Dozens!  One right after another.  Spring, summer, fall, and
winter.  He has been known to have two or three at the same time."

"You always have the doctor?" inquired Hannah, amused.

"Of course!  A cold is dangerous if you let it run on.  You can't
depend much on your wise old Mother Nature."

"What does the doctor prescribe?"

"Oh, he doesn't usually give Wallie any medicine; tells me to keep
him warm and see that he has plenty of liquids."

"Well, can't we do that?" asked Hannah placidly.  "Not much use
hiring the doctor to come here and say it over again.  That four
dollars would go a long way towards a ton of coal, if we're to keep
the child warm.  We are about out, you know."

It was an odd thing, thought Marcia, what shocking impertinencies
this woman could commit without leaving you the slightest loophole
for a suitable retort.  And it was always done with a disarming
smile that made it difficult for you to become indignant.

"Yes," said Marcia, subdued, "I must order some coal this morning."
Her face was perplexed.  She wondered whether their coal-dealer
would consent to send out any more until they had paid something on
their old bill.  Paul had said he would talk to him about it.  It
would be unpleasant.  He always postponed such humiliations as long
as possible.

"You needn't worry about Wallie.  He will be all right.  I gave him
a big dose of castor oil awhile ago."  Hannah's calm report replied
that any thought about sending for the doctor could now be
prudently dropped.

"Did you have much trouble getting him to take it?" asked Marcia,
pouring her coffee.  "He does hate it so terribly."

Hannah smiled reminiscently and admitted that there had been "quite
a struggle".  Marcia knitted her brows and pictured the little
fellow frightened and overpowered by this domineering creature who
seemed bent on having her own way with all of them.  "But I
wouldn't give much," Hannah went on, "for a child who would take
castor oil without some sort of fight.  I'd expect him to wind up
in a house for the feeble-minded."

"I hope you didn't have to be rough with him," said Marcia.  "He's
very sensitive.  Did you hold his hands?  Did he cry?"

For some time Hannah was much occupied with her ironing and the
tardiness of her reply brought a deepening expression of concern
into Marcia's eyes.

"No," she said at length, "he didn't cry and I didn't have to hold
his hands.  When I saw how much he objected to the nasty stuff, I
stood him up here on the table and talked to him about you.  I told
him how sweet you were to him--and to everybody--and how you were
so very tired that we mustn't make a noise, and if he didn't get
over his cold you would have to sit up at night with him when you
were sick yourself and ought to be in bed--and a lot more things
like that."  There was a long pause.  "And so"--Hannah's voice
lowered--"he took it."

Marcia's eyes grew misty.

"I didn't see him take it," continued Hannah, bending over her
task.  "I put a big spoonful in orange juice and set the glass down
on the table, and I said, 'There it is, Wallie.  Hannah's not going
to make you take it--and Hannah's not even going to watch you do
it.'"  The iron kept on making deft little jabs into the ruffles,
Hannah's eyes intent on her work.  "And then I left him alone, and
pretty soon I came back--and he had taken it."

"And what would you have done if he hadn't?" inquired Marcia,
frankly stirred by the report of her son's bravery.

"Oh--I would have started all over again, I suppose, and promised
to bake him some animal cookies, or some such bribe as that.  I'm
glad I didn't have to.  It's so--so glorious, don't you think, when
you find they've good, sound stuff in them?"

Marcia's pride shone in her eyes.  She was quiet for a moment and
then remarked, with a little perplexity, "But you just said a child
was probably feeble-minded who would consent to take castor oil
without a struggle.  I hope you don't think Wallie is."

"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, Mrs Ward.  I told you there
was a battle.  Wallie put up a big fight, no doubt about that, but
it was on the inside, where all fights ought to take place. . . .
No"--she went on, half in soliloquy--"Wallie gave himself a dose of
something more important than castor oil.  He's a very stout little
fellow."

"And now you're going to make him the cookies," said Marcia
childishly.

"Not to-day," confided Hannah.  "It's ever so much better if he can
learn to fight battles without promises of pay."  She tipped the
iron up on its stern, and with one plump bare arm akimbo, proceeded
to elucidate her theory.  "That's what ails so many people, Mrs
Ward.  When they were little tots they took their castor oil
because somebody was going to make animal cookies for them.  And
then, later on, every time they do something fine and big and
nobody comes running up the next minute with animal cookies, they
go into tantrums and say, 'I say!  What's the good taking nasty
medicine if there aren't any animal cookies?'" . . .  Hannah took
up the iron again.  "No--we mustn't spoil this lad if we can help
it.  He's a thoroughbred, you know.  And they take a lot of
handling."

"You're funny," observed Marcia, rather surprised to find that she
had made the thought audible.

"So they tell me," admitted Hannah, "but"--she hung Roberta's dress
on the drying-rack and reached into the basket for another tiny
garment--"but, anyway, Wallie got his castor oil, and that's the
main thing."  She hesitated, as if waiting for some rejoinder, and
added, "Isn't it?"

"No," replied Marcia thoughtfully, "I don't think that's the main
thing at all.  And neither do you.  I agree about the importance of
playing the game without bribes.  I know I've been peevish, plenty
of times, because I wasn't paid off promptly for some little
voluntary hardship."

"You do pretty well, Mrs Ward--if I may say so."

Marcia flushed a little and was annoyed at the very considerable
pleasure she was experiencing in having been commended by her new
maid.  She knew she had no business being affected, one way or the
other, by Hannah's opinions.  It was impertinent of the woman to
offer comments of this kind.  Nevertheless, it was comforting.  And
on what grounds could Marcia Ward predict any snobbishness?

"Thank you, Hannah," she said gratefully.  "You have been very kind
to us.  I can't quite understand it.  Just why?"

Hannah ironed diligently for some time, and then replied as from a
distance, "You took me in, Mrs Ward, when I was a--when you didn't
know me, or really want me."

"I'm afraid I didn't do it very graciously.  Certainly nothing I
have done for you entitles me to any--any animal cookies."  They
both laughed a little, and Marcia was rather glad now that she
hadn't told Paul about Hannah's baby.  At least she had been able
to do that much for her: she had kept her secret.  She wondered if
it might not ease Hannah's mind to know that.  Rather childishly
she ventured upon the topic while it was fresh in her mind.  "By
the way--I've been meaning to tell you that I haven't said anything
to Mr Ward about your baby."

Hannah plied her iron industriously for a while and then inquired
without looking up, "Why didn't you?"

Marcia was slightly nettled.  She declared to herself that she had
never met anyone who could so utterly destroy a conversation and
leave you sitting with the wreck of it in your hands--and no place
to put it.  She had a notion to say "Because I feared it might
embarrass you to know that Mr Ward knew."  But this would imply
that Hannah really ought to be embarrassed, no matter who did or
didn't know about the baby.  After sparring mentally with several
tentative replies, and finding something the matter with all of
them, she said feebly, "I just didn't--that's all."  And left the
room.

                        *  *  *  *  *

After luncheon--Paul did not come home on Tuesdays--Hannah came
upstairs to say that Mr Ward had given her permission to dispose of
some old furniture in the basement.  She had telephoned to a second-
hand dealer who would be there about three.

"I'm going down now to give the desk and the filing-cabinet a good
polishing before the man comes.  That's where I'll be if you want
anything."

"Seems to me you're putting yourself to unnecessary bother," said
Marcia.  "The man will know what the furniture is worth, even if it
is a little dusty."

"Yes--that's the trouble.  If the furniture is dusty, the man will
know what it's worth TO US and he'll offer a price to fit.  But if
it's clean and looks as if we thought something of it ourselves,
the offer will be several dollars more."

"Hannah," said Marcia, laughing, "I certainly shouldn't want to do
any bargaining with you."

"I was just coming to that, Mrs Ward.  How would you like to let me
stay--at least until the baby arrives and you are well again?  You
need me, and I like it here."

"I wish we could, Hannah.  You've been such a help.  But--as I told
you--we haven't the money.  How do you suppose it would make us
feel--having you work for us without wages?  No, we shouldn't
consider it for a minute."

"But if I figured some way," persisted Hannah, "so that you could
pay me wages without spending any more money, would you let me
stay?  How much do you think it costs you a month for food?"

Marcia gave herself to some mental calculation and surmised that it
might be about sixty-five dollars.  "Or seventy, at the outside,"
she added prudently.

"If you let me have sixty dollars, I'll run the table and pay
myself fair wages. . . .  And I'll guarantee that we shall all have
plenty to eat too."

"It's a bargain," declared Marcia.  "I hope you can do it.  I'm
sure I shouldn't be able to."

An hour later there was a considerable stir in the basement, sound
of voices, Hannah's and a man's.  After much animated parley there
was the screech and bump of furniture being dragged about.  Marcia
went to the window and watched a truck taking the load.

Hannah came up now attired in her ridiculous street outfit.  "We
did pretty well, Mrs Ward.  Thirty-nine dollars.  I'm going down to
the market if you can spare me for a while."

"But can't you use the telephone and save yourself a trip?  It's
snowing again."

"My kind of shopping can't be done on the telephone, Mrs Ward.  I
arranged for some coal to be here in a couple of hours.  I asked
this man where he bought his coal, and he said there was a car in
the railroad yards.  People who are willing to go down there and
shovel it out--"

"Hannah!  Don't tell me you're going to do that!"  Marcia sat up in
bed, wide-eyed.

"Of course not."  Hannah laughed heartily, almost girlishly,
abandoning her reserve for an instant.  Then, remembering the
considerable difference in their status, she sobered and went on:
"If people shovel it out and haul it away themselves, it's about
half-price.  I told him to bring us two tons.  We pay him well for
the trucking.  I guess we'll save enough on that coal to cover
about all I'm likely to spend to-day at the market."

At five, Hannah came back staggering under the weight of a large
basket.  Marcia, full of curiosity, went to the kitchen, found her
sitting there panting, and reproached her for carrying such a load.

"It was only a block from the street-car," defended Hannah.  "There
were some good bargains to-day.  I didn't want to let them go.  I
ordered enough at one place to have it delivered free--parsnips,
potatoes, apples, and such things.  There's a good storage-room in
the cellar.  I'll have some sand hauled in to keep the roots in
fine condition."

"What on earth, Hannah!" Marcia lifted the paper cover and looked
into the basket.

"It's a hog's head.  It cost seventy cents.  A lot of meat on it.
Very tasty, too, if you know how to make it up.  There's almost
everything in a hog's head--lard, sausage, mincemeat, scrapple--"

Marcia's serious interest in this recital was so amusing to Hannah
that she added a few more by-products, "Chops, bacon, ham."

"And eggs, I dare say," assisted Marcia.  "But what are we going to
do with all this canned corn?"

"Don't you like corn?"

"Yes--but here is a whole dozen--and a dozen tomatoes!"

"Well," drawled Hannah, "we shan't try to eat it all up to-day.  It
will be nice to have a few things on hand.  These tomatoes cost
eighty-four cents; exactly the same tomatoes that you buy on the
telephone for a dollar-forty, except the label isn't quite so
fancy.  And there isn't much you can do with a lovely tin-can but
pay a man to haul it away. . . .  I think you'll be satisfied with
the food I'm going to give you, Mrs Ward.  There won't be any
French chops with pink panties and a little bite of meat about the
size of a peppermint lozenge, for we can't afford that, but we'll
have things that stick to the ribs.  Next week I'm going to buy a
breast of mutton and let you see what can be done with another
cheap cut."

Marcia helped to put away the supply on the pantry shelves, finding
herself quite enthusiastic over the prospect of these substantial
economies.

"This will relieve my husband," she confided impulsively.  "I know
he worries--though he doesn't talk much about it."

"It isn't any of my business, Mrs Ward," ventured Hannah,
encouraged by this unpremeditated remark, "but what does your
husband make up in that room in the attic?  I saw a lot of tools
and funny bottles when I was up there hunting for a basket.
There's a little lathe, too."

"That's his workshop.  He can't go up there in cold weather.  It's
a pity, too," regretted Marcia, "for it is the only recreation he
has."

"Well, all he needs is a half-dozen two-by-fours and some beaver-
board to make a partition, and a small oil-stove.  He could be snug
and warm.  But what's he trying to do?  Little pieces of furniture,
maybe?"

"No--it's an invention--or something," said Marcia vaguely.  "He
hasn't really worked at it for a long time.  Perhaps he has given
it up.  I haven't heard him say--not for weeks."

Hannah began preparations for dinner.

"Maybe we can get him at it again," she suggested.  "Maybe he has
got something.  You never can tell.  But--I wouldn't have thought
Mr Ward was mechanical.  He seems so sort o' helpless, and gentle.
But then"--she repeated, half to herself--"you never can tell."

Marcia said she presumed that was true and left to look after the
children.

"It isn't something that's going to make perpetual motion, is it?"
called Hannah.

"No," replied Marcia.  "I don't understand it, but I know it isn't
that. . . .  Something in chemistry, more likely."

"Well," said Hannah, in a tone of relief, "that's good news,
anyway.  We couldn't afford to buy him a stove if he had anything
like perpetual motion up his sleeve."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Paul was in gay spirits at dinner.  Marcia could not remember when
he had been so unaccountably incandescent, certainly not for a year
or more, and strongly hinted that she would be glad to rejoice with
him if she knew what it was about.  He seemed to be hugging a
secret.  It was not an unprecedented mood.  Usually, as Christmas
or her birthday approached, he slyly made pretence of torturing her
curiosity with suppressed tidings of great joy, a boyish whimsy she
tried to play up to with protestations that it wasn't fair, but
privately alarmed for fear some preposterous extravagance, indulged
in for her delight, would bring down on their hapless house a
dismaying epidemic of bill-collectors representing the merchants
whose monthly statements lay in her desk with a rubber band around
them and a lot of menace in them.

And so often--how she despised herself for thinking this, but, my
Sainted Uncle! wasn't it true?--the extravagant gifts were things
utterly unusable.  The fitted over-night bag, a-sparkle with silver-
plated trinkets: how long had it been since she had had occasion to
carry an over-night bag!  The electric egg-boiler on a Sheffield
tray!  The morocco-cased traveller's clock!  And the black velvet
evening wrap with cheap white fur fuzzing.  She had actually
laughed at that: an evening wrap.  She hadn't had an evening gown
since her wedding.  She pictured herself at a party, doffing her
new black velvet coat and letting her hostess see what she had on
under it.  She laughed, and cried, after she had told Paul it was
exactly what she had been wanting.  Surely whatever old fellow it
was had written in the Bible, "Love beareth and endureth all
things", must have had a pretty good head--for a prophet.

Unfortunately, Paul would have to go back to the university to-
night.  Dean Oliver had been ill--Marcia knew this was true--and
had been farming out his schedule of student interviews among the
members of the staff.  Not that Paul resented it.  Indeed, he had
found it rather pleasant to sit in the dean's chair for a couple of
hours and play he was God for a procession of shame-faced athletes
who had been a bit nonchalant in their attitude towards the Faerie
Queen or had thought erroneously, when they had registered for it,
that Anglo-Saxon was "a pipe".  But he would be back as soon as
possible, and they would play a few games of Russian bank if Marcia
was still up.

He had warmly felicitated Hannah on her successful merchandising,
making no reservations in the sincere appreciation he felt.
Fearing perhaps that he had not shown this plainly enough, he
sauntered out to the kitchen and said, generously but just a bit
condescendingly:  "It pleases us very much, Hannah, that you have
decided to stay here.  I hope we may make it worth your while--if
not immediately, some day before too long."  His eyes were dreamily
averted as he added, rather mysteriously, "We might not always be
so hard up."

Hannah, who was now eating her own dinner on the porcelain table,
looked him over appraisingly.  Yes, that was it, all right: he was
inventing something, poor devil.  And spending the money already,
no doubt.  Giving her some of it.  Probably arranging an annuity
for her comfort in her old age.

Marcia, unfastening Wallie's bib and helping him down, involuntarily
closed her eyes for a moment, as in prayer, and wished he wouldn't.
This Hannah, who could see you through a stone wall and count the
buttons on your coat, would probably grin when she had a chance.
Really--you had to love someone very much indeed to put up with
this sort of thing.  Hannah could hardly be expected to view it
sympathetically.  For a moment, Marcia wished this woman had never
come to look in on their grown-up playhouse; that's what it was.

Hannah smiled, rather grimly, and went on eating her dinner,
listening, but taking stock of him as he stood there, his feet a
little too wide apart for a professor.  Excellent fellow--she liked
him.  But this was no time for him to be counting his chickens.  Or
hinting at what he was about to catch a pailful of at the end of a
rainbow.  And she didn't quite relish this air of benevolence with
which he was filling her hands with the earnings of his dreams.
She honestly hated to do it, but it would be good for him to get
himself back on the ground again.

"How soon do you have to go?" she asked irrelevantly, in her
throaty contralto.

He pursed his lips, dragged out his watch, studied it for a moment
out of the tail of his eye, and said it would be almost half an
hour.

"If you'll go upstairs and take off those trousers," she said, in
the tone of sixty talking to six, "I'll press 'em for you.  They
look sort o' jumpy, if you know what I mean.  We've got to keep up
appearances, you know," she added, with one of her unanswerable
smiles.

He stood for a moment, uncertain whether to be offended or
grateful; then slowly turned and started on his errand.  As he
passed through the living-room, Marcia glanced up inquisitively,
sensitive to a sudden change in his mood.

"Must you?" she asked gently.

"Not for a few minutes.  She's going to press my pants."  Hoping to
give the episode a touch of drollery to save himself from abject
abasement, he whispered behind his hand, "She says they're jumpy--
if you know what I mean."

Marcia was tempted to laugh, but, divining the humiliation under
his not very effective mask of clownishness, a wave of loyalty and
compassion suddenly sobered her.

"Hannah had no business to say that to you."

"Well--it's true, isn't it?" he growled, with a reluctant grin.
"They haven't been pressed for weeks.  Hannah's impudent as the
devil, I grant you, but she's right about the pants."

He tossed the baggy trousers over the banister and Marcia carried
them to the kitchen where Hannah was ready with the ironing-board.
In a few minutes they were on him again, and he was leaving with
his old grey felt hat set at a jaunty angle, his self-assurance
entirely recovered.  Hannah was clearing the table.

"Thank you, Hannah," he called jovially.  "I'll do as much or you
some time."  Then he kissed Marcia with more ardour than was
customary at the hall door and left boyishly whistling.

Undoubtedly he was manoeuvring himself into a grand state of
expectation with a bitter disappointment waiting to smite the
lustre out of his eyes, but it was difficult to resist the
contagion of enthusiasm.  Marcia returned to her needlework with a
lighter heart than she had carried for months.  After all--wasn't
it better, she asked herself, to tarry for an hour occasionally in
a Fool's Paradise, and pretend to enjoy it, than dwell perpetually
in the more rational Valley of Baghdad which seemed to be their
manifest destiny?

When the children had been put to bed, Marcia strolled out to the
kitchen where Hannah was busy with the hog's head.  It was
interesting to watch her.  Apparently she knew exactly what use was
to be made of every particle: very competent, no matter what she
endeavoured to do.  Never before had Marcia felt quite so helpless
and inexperienced as in the presence of this resourceful woman.  It
annoyed her a little, and it annoyed her even more to realize that
she had permitted it to annoy her.  She had fully realized her own
incompetency in dealing with the problems of home management, but
it had never been so startlingly called to her attention.  It
wasn't simply that she didn't know how to buy economically, didn't
know how to utilize food efficiently when it was sent to her,
didn't know how to organize her time: she was not resourceful.
That was the one word that told the whole story.  Hannah knew how
to convert worthless cellar junk into money, she knew how to get
coal at half-price, she knew how to press trousers so they'd look
like new, she could fabricate three dollars' worth of meat from a
seventy-cent hog's head.  Marcia admired, her, envied her,
respected her--and disliked her for being so capable.

And yet, in all honesty, she reflected, Hannah really hadn't put on
a show of superior knowledge.  She had been deferential enough.
But the fact remained that she--Marcia Wallace Ward, A.B.--fell
very far short of being as capable as this enigma that had drifted
in from God knew where.

"What's your other name, Hannah?" she inquired, after several
minutes of silence between them.  "I don't remember your telling
us."

"My family's name is Parmalee."

"They don't live in this part of the country?"

"No. . . .  Some people like the brains, too.  Shall I prepare some
for breakfast?"

Marcia said she should do as she pleased.  They could try it,
anyway, though somehow it didn't sound very good.  Hannah agreed to
this, adding that if they didn't like it, she would fry some
sausage.

"Mr Ward will probably like the brains," speculated Marcia.

"I expect so," said Hannah.  "Men are always able to eat things
like that.  I think they just do it to show they're brave."

"That sounds a little as if you might be a man-hater, Hannah,"
ventured Marcia, with a chuckle to prove it was said in play.

"There's nothing wrong about bravery," declared Hannah dryly.
"Everybody wants to be.  Trouble with the average man is he doesn't
get much chance to show his muscle, living in the city and working
at a desk.  That's what makes 'em have tough spells at home and
roar, 'Who the hell's hid my pipe?'  And his wife feels hurt.
Doesn't realize that he's just out trotting his manliness around to
see if it's still working.  I think it's a pretty good thing to
feed a man brains, once in a while, and say, 'I really don't see
how you can do it!' while he's eating.  And kidneys, too.  He
should be fed kidneys and feet and tails and snouts and garter-
snakes and praise--heaping spoonfuls of praise!"

"I suppose so," said Marcia thoughtfully, wondering whether Hannah
wasn't trying to give her a little indirect advice on how to manage
a husband.  "I try to practise that, though perhaps I'm not very
good at it.  I think we all do better if we're encouraged."

Hannah agreed to this so heartily that Marcia wished the supple-
minded woman might find something in her worth a word of
commendation.  As she mentally called the roll of the brief
conflicts of opinion they had had, one little episode invited
debate.

"Hannah," she said reminiscently, "when you didn't want me to climb
the stairs yesterday, I asked you to go up and get my purse, and
you thought me very foolish.  But--wouldn't you have done that
yourself under the same circumstances?"

Hannah hacked hard with the cleaver and resumed her skilful
operations with the butcher-knife.  "Yes," she said at length, "I
would have--but that's a different matter."

"You mean it would have been all right for you to do it, but not
for me?"  Marcia's grin was slightly derisive.  "I think that's an
odd thing for you to say."

"I shouldn't have said it," admitted Hannah, "though I meant no
offence, ma'am."

"Just what did you mean, then?" Marcia challenged stiffly.

"I meant," explained Hannah, quite undisturbed, "that you would
have done it without stopping to think it over--just on impulse,
you know--and it might have turned out badly--and then you would
have had nothing to show for it."

"On impulse!" echoed Marcia.  "Well--how would you have done it, if
not impulsively?  Or perhaps it's a fixed habit with YOU to let
people take advantage of you."

Hannah nodded her head demurely.  "I'm afraid I do," she confessed,
"but I wouldn't recommend the habit--that is, not generally.  It
costs more than most people would care to pay."

Marcia moved towards the door, making no effort to conceal the fact
that she was considerably ruffled.  It was insufferable to be
treated like a child.  And anyway--what the woman had been saying
was stuff and nonsense.  She paused in the doorway.

"Now, look here, Hannah--"  Marcia didactically laid down a slim
index finger in the exact centre of her other palm.  "Let's get
this straight.  You said that if I allowed a stranger to go to my
room for my purse, I would be doing it on impulse; and that if the
stranger imposed on me, I would have nothing to show for it.
Granted.  I think that's correct.  Well--suppose that you, who, it
seems, do this sort of thing by habit and according to a programme,
should allow a stranger the same privilege and she imposed on you,
what would you have to show for it?--I'd like to know."

Hannah seemed so intent on her occupation for a while that there
was no opportunity to talk.  Presently she sat down with the large
wooden bowl in her lap and began cutting up the meat into very
small pieces.  Glancing up at Marcia, still waiting, she gave her a
tender little smile.

"Sorry I brought it up," she said quietly.  "I'm afraid I can't
explain it very well.  If I told you everything I believe, you
might think I was out of my mind."

She had spoken so gently and seriously that Marcia forgot her
indignation.

"I think," she ventured, "that I understand you now.  You trust
everyone.  Isn't that it?  Once in a while you are disappointed and
defrauded, but you can afford to take the loss because--because it
usually turns out all right, and balances up.  Isn't that it?"

"Not quite.  Not at all, in fact.  No--that isn't it.  When you
trust somebody and he lets you down, YOU'VE SOMETHING TO SHOW FOR
THAT, TOO.  I don't understand it myself, Mrs Ward, and it sounds
very silly, but it's true."

Marcia felt she had had about all of this that was good for her.
She nodded briefly, non-committally.  Hannah might interpret it to
be a mildly indifferent assent either to the truth or silliness of
what she had been saying.  Patting a yawn, she said she would go to
bed now, and proceeded to the living-room, where she sat for some
time looking into the fire.  Then she went back to the kitchen.
Hannah smiled inquiringly.  Marcia searched her uplifted grey eyes.

"Try to tell me, Hannah.  Maybe I'm not as dumb as I look.  If you
had sent me for your purse, and I had bolted out of the house with
it, you wouldn't have tried to catch me, because--you'd have had
something to show for your trustfulness.  How do you mean?  WHAT
WOULD YOU HAVE HAD?"

"More strength," replied Hannah determinedly.

"It sounds a little like some kind of religion," Marcia observed,
"but if it was, you would probably be trying to bully me into
believing it, whether I wanted to or not; so--it must be something
else.  And you won't tell me what you get out of it?"  Marcia was
more than a little annoyed.  "I don't suppose it would work for
anyone as dull as I am, anyhow.  So it would hardly be worth while
telling me."

Hannah continued at her work with downcast eyes.

"I'm not good enough, perhaps," goaded Marcia.

Hannah looked up, smiled, sighed, and bent again over her task.

"Sorry," muttered Marcia.  "I had no business to say that."

"Oh--I don't mind," said Hannah tranquilly.  "Once I would have
said the same thing.  I told you I couldn't make you see it.
That's true.  It's not because you're too dumb to understand.  It's
because I'm too dumb to explain.  All that I know about it is this:
if you find that you're related to people--all kinds of people--so
closely that if you make war on them you're fighting yourself--and
if you don't trust them you're not trusting yourself--there's a
strange power that begins to give you more than you had lost by
being defrauded, now and then.  If you walk quietly and trustfully--
you have something to show for it."

"You mean--satisfaction; spiritual satisfaction; that sort of
thing?"  Marcia's little flick of the fingers dismissed the whole
business.  "That's old stuff.  They used to sing about it in Sunday
School--when I was only so high."

"Not by a jugful they didn't!" protested Hannah, so swiftly and
sternly that the denial made Marcia blink in amazement.

"Nobody sings about THIS, I can tell you!  This thing I'm talking
about isn't easy to do.  It's not baby-play.  If you want to find
out whether it's something you can set to a Sunday-school tune, YOU
JUST TRY IT!  Make some experiments with it!"  Hannah put the
wooden mixing-bowl on the table and stood erect, her grey eyes
lighted with an animation that held Marcia rigidly at attention.
"You make a resolution that when people revile you, and persecute
you, and defraud you, you'll simply smile back and take it on the
chin--and make that the fixed rule of your life--and refuse to
quarrel or fight, no matter what they do to you--and you'll soon
discover that you've tackled something with more teeth in it than a
Sunday-school ditty?"  She sat down again, took the bowl between
her knees, rather abashed over the very long speech she had made.

"Why, Hannah!"  Marcia's voice was half-frightened.  "Who'd ever
have thought you could get stirred up like that."

"I didn't mean to, ma'am, I don't--very often.  You see--it has
cost me a lot, and I didn't like to see it mixed up with something
that people sleep over on Sunday mornings."

"Do you think I ought to try it?" asked Marcia childishly.

There was a long silence.

"That would be for you to decide.  If you want to know anything
more about it than I've told you, you may have to discover it for
yourself."  Hannah paused so long that Marcia, thinking the strange
talk ended, turned away.  "But--when you do discover it," finished
Hannah impressively, "something will happen to you that you're not
looking for, I can tell you that much. . . .  AND YOU'LL BE
SURPRISED!"

"I don't think I understand," murmured Marcia, mystified.

"How many senses have you?" asked Hannah, in a low voice.

"Five--I've always believed," answered Marcia, smiling.

"Well--you make an honest trial of this thing we've been talking
about," said Hannah meaningly, "and you'll have six."

"What a funny thing to say!"

"Yes--isn't it? . . .  And when you get it--the sixth one--and I
can promise you it won't be an easy thing to do--you'll be"--Hannah
waited and groped, with questing eyes, for the right word, and
failing to find it, she lamely fell back on what she had said
before--"YOU'LL BE SURPRISED!"



CHAPTER III


It was the hottest summer anybody could recall.  In the country the
corn parched in its husks, the wheat curled up and gladly died.
Little was left stirring in the whole Mid-West but raucous
political clamour and an unprecedented pest of grasshoppers.

The only comfortable place in the house was the basement.  Marcia
had said she wished she, too, could think of something important to
do down there, and Paul had absently replied that there was plenty
to be done, all right, if she had anything constructive to suggest.
But he had not specified the nature of his dilemma or confided the
objective of his relentless labour.  Had the Wards been penniless
they might have contrived to borrow enough money to rent a cottage
at some near-by lake, as they had always done in the days of their
heart-breaking insolvency.  Now that they were for the first time
in their married life (thanks to Hannah) out of the wood
financially, it seemed imprudent to incur this unnecessary expense.

Their other reason for remaining in town during the summer vacation
was Paul's intense application to his new project.  He was
inventing something again--something that was under construction in
the basement, where he toiled for the greater part of every day
with a zeal at once amazing and pathetic, for it was absurd to hope
that a professor of English Literature could accomplish very much
with a plumber's wrench.  Even he, serious as he was over it, had
ventured a little joke about the novelty of converting the lamp of
learning into an acetylene torch.

Paul Ward had matured perceptibly in the past six months.  It was a
new and comforting sensation to be free of bill-collectors.  The
nervous flicker of the parasitical smile that had ineffectually
draped his chagrin and foreboding was no longer in evidence.  And
when he had occasion to answer the telephone, you would have
thought him another person than the half-frightened, half-furtive
apologizer and time-beggar who had abased himself before the raw
impudence of brassy whippersnappers in the credit departments of
the stores and the utilities.

"Oh, yes--well--I'll be taking care of that on the tenth of the
month," he had been accustomed to saying, deferentially.

"Tenth of WHAT month?  That's what we want to know.  And let me
tell you sumpin more!--"  And then the surly dunner would tell him
"sumpin more", while the sensitive, tortured fellow ground his
teeth in helpless humiliation.  That was all over now and Paul was
showing the effects of his emancipation.

Whatever satisfaction Hannah had experienced in her successful
management of the household's business affairs, her greatest
happiness was derived from the splendid flowering of Paul's
disencumbered personality.  Of course she enjoyed watching the
beautiful Marcia's achievement of radiance and poise, but the more
spectacular change had occurred in the spirit of Paul.  Hannah had
grown to like him with an honest affection so disarmingly
forthright in its protectiveness that Marcia, observing it, was
moved rather to gratitude than jealousy.  It delighted Hannah to
see the gradual straightening of Paul's broad shoulders which gave
him the effect of added height, the new pick-up to his words that
had disposed of the old indecisive drawl.  She had been amused a
little, too, over his boyish glee in discovering how much more
value there was in the same old dollar, now that his credit had
been restored.

"We are always two months behind in our rent," she had said in
March.  "This time you can pay up one of them.  First of May we
will take up the other.  Then we are going to ask Mr Chalmers for
fresh wallpaper in the bedroom, repairs on the front steps, and a
complete overhauling of the furnace."

When, in May, they were on an even keel, Mr Chalmers came in
breezily one afternoon to have them go through the usual
formalities of renewing their lease.  Hannah was invited to
participate in the interview.  We need some repairs, she said.  The
front steps were falling down.  The upstairs rooms required new
paper.  The furnace was wasteful and must have a heavier fire-pot
and new grates.  But Mr Chalmers drew a long face.  He was barely
paying his way on this property.  If he made these repairs, he
would have to increase the rent.

"But," said Hannah, "aren't you making a pretty good thing out of
this investment?  At least twelve per cent, I should say."

Mr Chalmers was amazed.  He even chuckled a little over the utter
ludicrousness of Hannah's remark.  The property was worth thirteen
thousand dollars!  And there were the frightful taxes!

"You people who rent don't realize," spluttered Mr Chalmers.

"Let's be calm, please," said Hannah gently.  "I looked it all up
in the tax reports.  This house is assessed at fifty-eight hundred
dollars.  I know what taxes you pay."  Having serenely dropped this
bomb, she excused herself and returned to the kitchen.  Paul
following her shortly after.

"Hannah," he whispered, with a childish concern that made her
laugh, "what did you run away for?"

"I thought we'd better let that soak in for a minute or two before
we rub on any more.  It's a pretty tough hide, but we don't want to
raise a blister.  You go back and tell him we're moving on the last
day of August."

"But suppose he consents to the improvements."

"Well--even at that, let's tell him there's no hurry about
renewing.  And if he says he has another family anxious to take it--
which is, of course, the first thing he will think of to use as a
club--you tell him to go ahead and let the other people have it."

"But what if he should let someone else take the house?  We can't
move now, Hannah.  I've some very important experiments to do
here."  He lowered his voice impressively.  "You don't know just
how important it is."

"That's true, I don't.  I've often wondered.  Maybe you have, too.
This will be a good way to find out.  If it happens that we are to
stay, we can be encouraged to hope that--"

"If I were that superstitious, I'd--"

Hannah shook her head.

"It isn't superstition.  It's just trying the thing a little to see
how much it weighs.  If it's too flimsy to stand a simple test like
this, maybe you'd better not spend any more time on it.  You go
back and tell Mr Chalmers we're moving out."

Paul hesitated, then a light came into his eyes.

"Hannah," he said solemnly, "you have forgotten your pet theory.
We mustn't argue, or quarrel, or haggle, or go to battle with
anyone--including, of course, Mr Chalmers."

"Well--we're not fighting, in this case.  We're just retreating."

Paul returned to the living-room where Mr Chalmers had the new
lease spread out on the table.

"Right there, Professor."  Mr Chalmers handed him the pen.  "And
I'll be running along."

"We're not renewing the lease, Mr Chalmers.  You can't afford to
make the improvements, and we can't afford a higher rent.  So--we
will be moving, end of August."

Mr Chalmers was astounded, wounded, admonitory.  They would have
trouble finding another place.  Houses were scarce.  It was always
expensive to move.  But Professor Ward gently mumbled that this
would be their own look-out.

"Now, see here," entreated Mr Chalmers, "let's go over this matter
again.  I certainly don't want you fine people to be put to a lot
of inconvenience.  Just what is it that you've got to have?"

"I'll call Hannah," said Paul, somewhat to Mr Chalmers' dismay.

The lease was signed half an hour later.  Hannah had suggested that
the specifications for improvements should be drawn up and signed
too; the front steps, the furnace, the wallpaper, a new porcelain
sink, repair of the hot-water machine, kalsomining in the kitchen,
and new screens upstairs.

"But I see no reason for a signed statement," objected Mr Chalmers.
"I keep my word."

"So do we," said Hannah, "but you wanted us to sign your lease."

Mr Chalmers boisterously disdained the thought that he wasn't
trusting them.  "Just a formal matter," he declared with a gesture
that made a very small thing of it.  "Simply for purposes of--of
record."  But he complied with Hannah's wish for a memorandum of
all he was to do for them.  At the front door he tarried, and,
jerking a fat thumb over his shoulder towards the general direction
of the disappearing Hannah, he growled, "Who is that lady?"

Paul grinned amiably and replied, "That's Hannah."

"Relative?"

"No--the maid."

"Do you let your maid attend to your business?"

"Yes.  Does it fairly well, don't you think?"

"I'll say," muttered Mr Chalmers.  "She's a-wasting herself doin'
housework."

They both chuckled a little, and Paul went back to his work,
pausing in the kitchen to say, "You got more out of that chap than
you had planned on, didn't you?"

"No," said Hannah.  "If you don't raise your voice and holler or
put on a big bluster, but just sit tight and wait, you usually come
out on top of the heap.  If you simply refuse to fight, you get
what's coming to you, maybe not right away, but in time.  Once in a
while it's hard to do, but you'll find it pays.  Here we were
refused the wallpaper and the new steps and the furnace, and we
admitted we were licked.  After that we got it all handed to us,
plus the hot-water thing, the kitchen paint, the screens, and the
new sink.  The sink I really hadn't counted on, Mr Ward," she
confided.  "I shouldn't have been much disappointed if that hadn't
come through."

"But, Hannah," accused Paul, with mock piety, "you always trust
everyone, and you made poor Mr Chalmers sign a paper.  How could
you?"

"Oh--THAT!"  She busied herself for a moment with the bread she was
kneading, rolling it furiously.  "Well--you see, we had caught Mr
Chalmers cheating, and it wouldn't be a bit kind to him to
encourage him to do it again."

"Yes, I see that," laughed Paul.  "You just wanted to protect him
against doing himself a bad turn."

"Yes, sir," agreed Hannah, diving again into her dough--"something
like that . . . and we really did need the new sink," she added,
half to herself, as if she might be entertaining some lingering
misgivings on the subject.

"I'll do as you say hereafter," promised Paul, amused by her
frustration.  "You're always right--really, you are."

She straightened, with both fists deep in the dough, and facing him
squarely, said, "I ought to make you sign a paper too.  'Hannah is
always right.'"  Her lips were significantly tight, after she had
delivered this challenge, though there was a companionable twinkle
in her eyes.

He knew what she meant.  They had had several brisk arguments
recently.  About the rug, for instance.  It had suddenly occurred
to him that the living-room rug was shabby.  Without consulting
Marcia's taste or Hannah's budget, he had dropped in at a
department store and bought an atrociously ugly magenta rug.

"If you don't mind my saying so," Hannah had remarked, "you'd be a
happier man if you didn't have these buying spells.  That rug!
First one you saw, I expect.  You should have had Mrs Ward along."

"I'll not buy anything more, Hannah," he had promised.  But he did.
It wasn't a week before he had appeared in a new grey suit, despite
Hannah's injunctions that there mustn't be any further spending
that month.

Privately Hannah forgave him for getting the new clothes.  They had
set back his clock five years.  There was also a new red tie and a
grey felt hat.  He was stunning.  So was the bill.

Hannah didn't want to scold, but they were such an improvident
pair.  Mrs Ward never bought anything for herself, but she was for
ever making suggestions for unnecessary expenditure on the table.

"Hannah"--a typical remark--"we've had breast of lamb three times
in the past two weeks.  I'm afraid Mr Ward will tire of it."

"Sorry," said Hannah.  I'll have a pot roast to-morrow."

"How about a steak?"

"We'll have to wait, Mrs Ward, until we get squared away.  We're
running a little behind, this month."

                        *  *  *  *  *

"Look, Daddy, what a man gave me!" shouted Wallie, from half-way
down the stairs.  "And Hannah says I mustn't wear it.  Can't I,
Daddy?  Why can't I?"

Paul reluctantly tugged his eyes away from the mechanism he was
working on, and said absently, "What y' got there?  Oh--you're a
Bull Moose, are you?"

Wallie set the gaudy little cap at a rakish angle and hopped up and
down, shouting gleefully, "I'm a Bulmus!  I'm a Bulmus!"

"You're worse than that.  You're a pest.  Run along now and play."

"But Hannah says I mustn't wear it."

"Then do as Hannah says."

The lad went sniffling up the stairs and for some minutes could be
heard shrilly badgering Hannah.  Then the racket subsided,
indicating that some sort of agreement had been arrived at.  The
incident really amounted to nothing, but it excited Paul's
curiosity to the extent that he presently found himself wanting a
drink of water.  National politics had never given him much
concern, but he had to admit to himself that this was a bit
different.  There was a good deal of the sporting in it.

"Hannah," he said, setting down the empty glass on the table where
she was at work, "I gather you're not a Bull Mooser."

"Just between us, Mr Ward," she said in an undertone, "I think I
am.  But we're university, you know, and the large majority of the
regents are standpatters.  I've been reading that in the papers."

"Well--we've got a right to our private opinions, haven't we?"

"So long as they're private, yes.  You can go to the ballot-box in
November and do whatever you like.  But when your little boy romps
up and down the street with a campaign cap on, there's nothing very
private about that, is there?"

"Don't you believe in a man's having the courage of his
convictions?" asked Paul, making elaborate pretence of moral
indignation.

"If you have any--yes.  But isn't this just a brawl among rival
cliques?  We may as well keep out of it, don't you think?"

"But, Hannah!" protested Paul, "you believe in good government?"

"Quite so.  But you can't make me believe that anything good can
come of organizations that scream at the people and call each other
bad names and try to drown out every calm word with a big noise.
They're all doing that, which means that they're all wrong.  If any
one of them was right, it wouldn't have to be done that way."

Paul seated himself astride a chair and lighted a cigarette,
squinting against the smoke.

"You're so nearly always right, Hannah, that I don't like to leave
you in this deplorable condition.  Suppose a group of people who
actually knew their theories of government were right and just, and
disliked racket, were to sit with folded hands and permit the noise-
makers to run the country anyhow they pleased, would you say that
was very patriotic?"

"Well--if you ask ME, Mr Ward, I think that word 'patriotic' has
had a pretty rough time of it.  Perhaps you know exactly what it
means.  I don't.  But I do know this: whenever you hear a great lot
of noise--bands playing, rockets shooting, and fat men yelling
through megaphones, you want to look out, for they're trying to put
something over on you.  I claim that anybody who really IS right
and honest can live his whole lifetime without ever raising his
voice above the tone of ordinary conversation.  When the Truth
begins to screech and whack the desk with its fist, it always makes
me think of Little Red Ridinghood's long-eared grandmother."

"You may be all wrong this time, Hannah, but you're consistent.
I'll say that for you.  You're always for non-resistance."

She knew he was teasing her, but ignored his spoofing and carried
on as if their talk was wholly serious.  "I don't like that word,"
she said thoughtfully.  "Maybe that's what ails this idea--just the
dull title the people have for it.  You can't blame them much.
Nobody should be expected to take much interest in a kind of power
whose name begins with 'Non'."

Paul took a turn up and down the little kitchen before replying.
"No matter what you call it, Hannah, the name won't help it.  It's
a dreadfully silly theory.  It might seem to work once in a blue
moon, but you'd soon be utterly crushed out if you tried to apply
it as a principle in business or politics."

She parted her lips to answer, but Paul raised a hand and went on--
quite seriously now.

"I know, I know--you have a visionary notion that the meek are
going to inherit the earth.  It's a pretty thought, especially for
the people who haven't very much, like you and me.  And perhaps it
will all come to pass sometime, but not now; somewhere, but not
here.  It isn't practical."

Hannah grinned slyly.

"I don't think I'm impractical, Mr Ward.  Or, if I am, someone else
had better accuse me of it besides you.  Fancy YOU calling ME
impractical!"  They both laughed.  It wasn't often that Hannah let
herself go in this manner.  Customarily her remarks to Paul were
phrased in terms of the respect due him as her superior.
Occasionally they waived the conventions, by common consent, and
indulged in some man-to-man talk.  Paul quite liked it.

"And I'm not the sort that sees visions, either," continued Hannah.
"I don't take any stock in such things.  But I believe that after
all the big noises are over, and the pushers and slappers and
pounders have mauled one another to a pulp, the meek will inherit
the--whatever is left to inherit.  But if this idea of waiting in
quietness and hope until the things we really ought to have are put
into our hands"--there was a momentary pause during which her grey
eyes widened and travelled past him as she tried to attach words to
her thoughts--"if this idea really has the sort of stuff in it to
make it win in the long run, I believe it must have enough
soundness in it to work pretty well NOW for the people who think
it's true.  My own experiments with it don't amount to much,
because I have so little to lose if it doesn't work for me."

"Say that last again, Hannah.  I didn't get it."

"I mean--if I had a million, and somebody tried to take it away
from me, and I gave in rather than fight, it's natural that I
should have more to show for it--if this thing works at all--than I
should if someone had stolen my umbrella or my pocket-book which
has about nine dollars in it."

"Hannah--that's the biggest lot of nonsense I ever saw heaped up in
one pile."

"I think most men would feel that way about it," she admitted.
"It's harder for men to let go of things--property, money.  Men
think of themselves as successful if they have lots of THINGS.
Women are always thinking of success as something that makes them
admired and liked as PERSONS.  That's natural.  You watch two small
children playing at make-believe.  Along comes a stylish woman on a
thoroughbred horse.  The boys say, 'That's MINE!'--meaning the
horse; but his little sister says, 'That's ME!'--meaning the lady.
And as long as they live, he is always saying 'Mine!' and she is
saying 'Me!'  It isn't much wonder if more women than men catch
this idea--this idea about--"

"About personality being more important than property?" suggested
Paul, when she seemed to be mired.

"I guess so."  Hannah's brows contracted studiously while the
blueberries she was cleaning ran for a moment uninspected through
her fingers.  "I don't know that I ever thought about it just that
way.  But women are always tinkering with their faces, trying to
make themselves over into something more beautiful, because it's a
woman's self, after all, that she sets the most store by.  A man
doesn't try to prettify himself very much, or make himself over to
look different.  He wants to be important for owning something
rather than being something. . . .  I'm afraid I'm not saying this
very well. . . .  But, seeing that's the way we're made, it must be
pretty hard for a man to let go his grip on things.  I've often
wondered if farmers didn't hate to bury their good corn and wheat
in the dirt when it was always a gamble how much they'd get back."

"Yes"--broke in Paul--"but that is quite a different matter from
letting someone make off with your property because you haven't
courage enough to press your rightful claim to it.  This soft
theory that invites a second slap in the face, and hands over its
overcoat to the extortioner who has already taken one's coat--it's
really too silly to be talked about seriously by rational people.
I'm rather surprised that you do it, Hannah.  You're so sensible on
most matters."

"Thanks," said Hannah dryly.  "To be crazy on only one subject
isn't such a bad score. . . .  But I object to your saying that the
people who hold to this idea haven't any courage.  If you ever try
it out, you'll find that it's something the nervous and easily
scared had better keep away from.  It calls for a kind of reckless
bravery that isn't necessary in a fight.  When you fight there's a
lot of excitement, and even if you're getting the worst of it, you
at least can be hitting back.  They say a pestered worm will do
that.  But just to sit still and take it, believing that if you do
you will come out of the mess better off than if you had fought--
well, that isn't easy to do.  If you want to make fun of it because
it's foolhardy, I shan't contradict you.  But if you say it's
cowardly, then I'm afraid you don't understand. . . .  But you'd
better let me make this cake. . . .  How's your new toy coming
along to-day?"

"Oh--not too badly," sighed Paul, stretching his long arms to full
torsion.  "But I fear that the thing--even if it does what I want
it to do, which isn't any too sure--is going to make a terrible
noise."

"Can't you box it up so the racket will all stay in the basement?"

"That's what I'm trying to do.  I say"--he added, with a perplexed
scowl--"what makes you think I expect to operate this machine in
the basement?  That's just my workshop, you know.  Because the
weather's hot."

Hannah nodded, winked rather disquietingly, resumed her dignity,
and remarked, "Well, be that as it may, I think you've got a good
idea there, Mr Ward."

It was the first time she had expressed herself seriously about his
mysterious job in the cellar.  He paused, en route to the door, and
said, "You mean that?"

"Of course I do," replied Hannah confidentially.  "I believe you're
going to put it over.  I've thought so all along."

Paul strolled back to the table, his eyes bright with interest in
her comment.

"Why didn't you say so?" he demanded almost crossly.  "It would
have helped."

"Partly because it was none of my business," retorted Hannah
archly, "but mostly because I thought you'd work better if nobody
else messed into it with an opinion."

"Then why are you telling me now?"

"Because my opinions are no good.  You just said that the biggest
idea I have is too silly to talk about.  So--I can say almost
anything now without upsetting you."

"Now you ARE being silly," reproved Paul.  "Hannah--if you're right
about this little invention of mine, and it succeeds, I'm going to--
to--"  He paused to contrive something important enough to be
worth a promise.

"You'll then believe me right about the other idea: was that what
you were trying to say?  Well--I can tell you this much: it will be
a whole lot easier for you to invent that new refrigerator--"

"What's that?"  Paul's voice was a guttural growl as he barged into
her words.  "How did you know that's what I'm trying to make?"

Hannah touched the tips of her fingers to her puckered lips, and
whispered, "I won't tell anybody."

"Well--I'll be damned!" he muttered.

"I wouldn't count very much on that if I were you," commented
Hannah judicially.  "The Devil's pretty busy, from all reports, and
it isn't likely he has time to make that big a fuss over everybody.
But--as I was saying--it will be much easier for you to make this--
P-s-s-t!--this thing you are making than to understand that it
takes more courage to wait and hope for your wishes to come true
when almost everybody else is getting what he wants by clawing it
out of other people's hands. . . .  Now if you want any blueberry
cake, you'd better get out of my way."

At the door he flung back at her boyishly, "Hannah, you're a
peach!"

"And a nut," she snapped.  "I guess I must be living a double
life."

Regularly every other Thursday, rain or shine, Hannah left
immediately after the breakfast work was finished and did not
return until late in the evening.  This had been her custom for
months, beginning about the time Marcia was up and resuming her
usual activities after the arrival of little Sally.

They had made no secret of what Hannah had meant to them during
Marcia's absence in the hospital and the longer period of her
convalescence at home.  Hannah had been everything--cook, nurse,
housekeeper, treasurer, purchasing agent, attorney, anchor,
propeller, and pilot, all rolled into one.  Indeed, it was through
those days that she quietly assumed the complete management of the
Ward family's affairs, handling them with such ease and skill that
they were quite content to permit it.  Sometimes they explained
again to each other how they had happened to lean so heavily on
Hannah, implying that if it hadn't been for Marcia's six weeks off
duty they would never have come to rely on their maid for advice
about everything.

It never occurred to the Wards to question the woman's right to
keep her own counsel in regard to the use she made of these bi-
weekly days off, but there was no denying the curiosity they felt.
Marcia had ingenuously opened the way for any confidence Hannah
might wish to extend, several times elaborately setting up
conversational machinery well adapted to this purpose, devices
which the intended victim examined with an exasperating
leisureliness before turning away.  Sometimes, after Hannah had
quietly nibbled all the bait off a particularly attractive lure and
drifted nonchalantly out of reach, Marcia found herself wondering
whether the canny creature might not have laughed about it a little
in private.  It wasn't always easy to tell, from the expression on
Hannah's face, whether she was serious or spoofing.

On the third occasion of her late arrival home after having been
gone since early morning, they were still up and reading in the
living-room as she passed through.

"Did you have a pleasant day?" asked Marcia, brightly expectant.
And Paul had lowered his book as if to say he would be glad to hear
all about it.

Hannah had smiled, nodded graciously enough, and said, "Thanks, Mrs
Ward. . . .  We will be having buckwheat cakes in the morning."

After that, Marcia quite gave up hinting.  It was simply taken for
granted that the inexplicable Hannah, who had discouraged all
inquiries about her past and this particular feature of her
present, would disappear on alternate Thursdays as completely as if
the earth had swallowed her up.

She permitted herself no extravagances--had nothing to be
extravagant with, indeed--but when spring came Hannah had found a
very becoming little hat and had made a light coat on Marcia's
machine.  They were surprised to see how pretty she was in her new
outfit, in striking contrast to her pathetic dowdiness in the old
plush coat and the frighteningly ugly hat of the winter.  There was
something very attractive about Hannah.  She was shapely and
carried herself with a confident air.  The casual passer-by
wouldn't have picked her for the role in which she was cast.  It
would be natural enough if, on these unexplained excursions, she
met some man friend.  Marcia often wondered if this were not so,
out of her imagination fabricating long stories which never had a
very happy ending, for they couldn't spare Hannah now, even to
serve the interests of a delayed romance.

Once, when a kitchen conversation had drifted into the vicinity of
matrimony in general, Marcia had said, half playfully, but alert to
the effect of it, "You'll be married yourself, some day, Hannah"--
which earned the non-committal rejoinder, "Think so, Mrs Ward?"--
after which the talk suddenly veered off in another direction.

The fact was that Hannah, in that brief pause before replying, had
impulsively considered saying, "What makes you think I haven't been
married?"  But that would inevitably have demanded the telling of
her story.  There was nothing discreditable about it, but it was
painful to remember.  And Hannah was not in the market for pity.
Sometimes she entertained misgivings over her own calm indifference
to Marcia's friendly curiosity.  Perhaps, if an occasion had
invited it, she might have been able to tell Paul.  He would have
said, "That's tough, Hannah"--after which he would appear to have
forgotten all about it.  But Marcia would be bringing it up and
wishing something might be done about it.

So--Hannah's days off remained a mystery, and after a few months
all inquisitiveness on the subject subsided.  If she didn't want to
tell them where she went, surely it was her right to keep her
affairs a secret.

Only once had there been any variation of her routine.  Late one
Thursday night in August she had called up to say it would be
difficult for her to return until Sunday.  She offered no
explanations either then or afterwards.  On Sunday night, Paul
decided, rather impulsively, to take the ten-forty that night for
Chicago and spend the next day in the refrigeration department at
Armour's.

When the train thundered in, screeching to an impatient stop, Paul
walked past the day coaches towards his Pullman.  Among the
disembarking passengers he recognized Hannah.  It was quite plain
that she had been crying, for her eyes were red and swollen.  It
was dismaying, almost frightening, to see the well-poised Hannah in
this state.  She seemed on the point of hurrying away, though their
eyes had met.  Apparently thinking better of it, she paused,
nodded, and tried a not very successful smile.

"Why, Hannah!" he exclaimed.  "You've been out of town?"

"Yes, sir."  She made a valiant effort to steady her voice.

He studied her face anxiously for an instant and she averted her
swimming eyes.  Impetuously taking her arm, he said, "Hannah--is
there anything I can do?"

She shook her head, gratefully pressed her fingers against the hand
he had laid on her arm, and murmured, "Thank you, Mr Ward."

"B-o-a-r-d!" shouted a trainman.

"I'm awfully sorry, Hannah."

"Yes, sir--I know.  Good night, Mr Ward."



CHAPTER IV


Marcia experienced no disappointment and expressed no surprise when
Paul bluntly announced, late one Sunday night in November, that he
was now definitely done with mechanical inventions; that he would
never again--so help him--fritter away precious time trying to do
something for which he had neither training nor talent; that he
wasn't cut out for any such business and had been a blithering
idiot ever to have thought he was.

Having long since arrived at this conclusion herself, Marcia drew a
discreetly inaudible sigh of satisfaction and privately hoped her
husband might remain faithful to this resolve, though her relief
was disturbingly conditioned by the mounting threat that Paul
already bore in his bonnet the larva for another bee which might
turn out to be as time-destroying and unproductive as any of its
futile predecessors.  The signs were unmistakable.  During his
hours at home he was restless, remotely inattentive, moody, sure
symptoms that the embryonic idea--whatever it was--had passed
through most of its metamorphoses and could be counted upon to
begin buzzing at almost any time now.

It was clear that the decision he had just declared was in response
both to a push and a pull.  As for the push, he had made no
substantial progress on his affair in the basement for quite two
months, in spite of the fact that he had doggedly continued to
spend his days there almost to the very moment of the university's
re-opening in mid-September.

His zeal had gradually ebbed as the momentum previously generated
by his ecstatic hope declined through the successive stages of a
katabasis which had reduced it from the stratosphere of hysterical
hallelujahs to the more modest level of sanguine expectations,
after which it had stepped down through a period of mere wistful
hankering to fretful day-dreams featuring the prospect of some
accidental discovery--popping up out of nowhere--to reward his
patient toil.  But no miraculous discovery had popped.  No amiable
angel had suggested a gas at once non-inflammable and non-poisonous
which might be used in the compressor, and no fairy's wand had
pointed to an airtight joint between a stationary and a moving part
in the machine that now lay neglected on his work-bench.

As for the pull, a distraction had arrived in the form of an
unexpected invitation to read a paper at the first monthly round-up
of the University Club.  It pleased Paul to have been thus
honoured.  Seeing he was chiefly concerned vocationally with the
life and works of the late (or early, rather) Edmund Spenser--for
had he not won his doctorate at Columbia with a thesis on The
Shepheardes Calendar?--it was natural that he should turn to his
authentic trade for the makings of this important speech.

The assignment to display one's wit and wisdom before the bored and
brittle membership of the University Club was always taken very
seriously, not only by the younger fry on the faculty who hoped to
win the favourable attention of their critical overlords, but by
these grizzled oldsters themselves who, though they were
practically guaranteed a glutton's helping of applause because of
their influential seniority, nevertheless considered these exacting
occasions worth an extra effort and prepared for them with a
cleverness and cunning out of all proportion to their activities in
the class-room where it was considered unprofessional to be
interesting.

Indeed, this sentiment which exalted the dignity of dullness was so
generally accepted that any sparkling pedagogue whose lectures
proved entertaining enough to require the migration of his classes
to a more spacious hall was covertly referred to as "a boundah".
On all other words containing r, the faculty--mostly Western-
tongued--bore down on this guttural with the savagery of a bulldog
disturbed at his dinner, but when any one of them classified an
ambitious colleague whose happy bons mots had won acclaim on the
campus, it was customary to call him "a boundah", probably out of
respect for the word's more frequent British usage.  And it was to
ensure against being reviled with the unpleasant designation which
lacked an r that many a professor, who might have enjoyed the
exercise of an adroit and piquant wit, abstained from it in his
class-room as he avoided oysters in months similarly distinguished.

This inhibition made it all the more imperative that when a faculty
man was invited to speak before his peers at the University Club,
where he was at liberty to let himself go in the indulgence of
button-popping persiflage, he must take pains to do a good job.  It
was just as important for him to be funny on such occasions as to
be unfunny while engaged in quenching the undergraduate thirst for
knowledge.  Well-to-do alumni, booked as sacrificial victims to the
endowment fund or the projected stadium, were sometimes asked to
attend these functions; and, recalling with what glassy eyes and
distended throats they had swallowed one prodigious yawn after
another while lounging in their chairs utterly stupefied by the
apathetic mumble of these learned men, were now amazed that so much
effulgence could be radiated from stars commonly supposed by them
to be extinct.

Sensitive to the peculiar nature of his task, Paul had turned to
the composition of his essay with a concentration that had driven
what was left of his hope for the home manufacture of ice into an
eclipse not only total, but probably permanent.  He enjoyed banter
and relished repartee, but it had not previously occurred to him in
digging up the bones of Spenser that he might strike a mine of
merriment.  It was a new and stimulating sensation.  Night after
night he sat at Marcia's desk in the living-room, chuckling over
neatly tipped-up phrases which, he felt, should be good for a
genial haw-haw.  Occasionally he broke forth into open laughter at
some delicious bit which might even evoke an appreciative hear-
hear!  He imagined he heard the eminent satirist Wembel
condescending to say, after adjournment, "That was jolly good,
Ward.  You'll be doing a book on Spenser, some time.  Put me down
for one."

To-night, having sat for some minutes meditatively tapping his
front teeth with the top of his pen, Paul slowly pushed back his
chair, regarded Marcia as an object of great interest and, clearing
his throat, solemnly abjured invention--his recent invention in
particular and all inventions in general.  It wasn't his job.  He
would never attempt it again.

"I can't say I blame you much, dear, for deciding to give it up.
After all, you could hardly have expected--"  Marcia had tried to
put just the right degree of approval into her remarks, knowing
that if she joined too heartily in his own pooh-poohing of his
experiment he was likely to attempt a defence of them.  And fearing
she had already begun a comment which might involve her in an
argument, she dropped it suddenly, en route, as being a bit too hot
to hold, and gave herself to a diligent recovery of a lost stitch
in the sweater she was knitting for Wallie.

"Do you know--Marcia--"  Paul rose, thrust his hands deep into his
pockets of his smoking-jacket, and leaned against the mantel.  "You
know--" he repeated dreamily.  Marcia could see it coming--the new
idea!  It was galloping towards her with harness a-jingle and hoofs
a-pounding and red nostrils distended.  Always when Paul was about
to plunge into some fresh adventure, he thus gave her due notice.
With the unfocused, opalescent eye of the enraptured he would begin--
after an impressive pause, "Do you know--Marcia--"

"Marcia--something tells me there's a great chance here for a
biographical novel.  Nobody has ever done a Spenser for popular
consumption.  I doubt if more than one out of a hundred knew who he
was."

"One out of a hundred what?" inquired Marcia, unwilling to assist
in the reckless inflation of his already turgid bubble.  "College
professors, maybe?"

"There really could be made of it," he soliloquized, disregarding
her query, "a great story".

"But don't you have to presuppose a certain amount of general
interest before you can hope to popularize a character?  I should
think a book on Spenser frankly intended for literary workers might
do better."

"Now that's where you're wrong, Marcia."  Paul was kind, but
unbudgeable.  "You've always insisted that I should stick to my job
as a teacher and try to make something big out of that.  It can't
be done.  Suppose I keep on doing what I'm doing.  Suppose I do it
a little better every year.  When I'm fifty my salary will have
been increased by a few hundreds; granted.  But Marcia, darling,
there's so much we want to do that can never be done unless I make
some money--much more money than my position will ever provide."

"I know, dear," sympathized Marcia gently, "and I want you to, of
course."

"So we can travel. . . .  By the way"--he chuckled a little to
signify that this needn't be taken too seriously, but his eyes
showed he could easily be serious enough about it if given the
slightest encouragement--"I looked in at the railway station to-day
and picked up some cruise literature."

"Paul!  How silly!" laughed Marcia.  "Fancy us planning a cruise."

"I don't know that it's so silly," he said half-petulantly.  "It
certainly can't do any harm to talk about it.  We've just got to do
it, some day!"

Marcia unfolded the gaudy advertising and studied the pictures of
familiar European scenes.

"It would be wonderful if we could, Paul," she agreed softly.  "I
do hope, for your sake, that we're able to.  You've always been so
keen on it."

He reloaded his pipe and paced up and down the room for a while
quite lost in his dreams.

"Do you know--Marcia"--he paused to say impressively--"if I can get
this thing done by the middle of May--and I don't see why not, for
I have all the stuff in hand with practically no research to do--
the book might be accepted for publication within a month--"

"Oh--do you think they would bring it out that soon?"

"I said 'accepted'," explained Paul, waving his pipe impatiently.
"As soon as it's accepted, we should be entirely justified in
raising some cash on the strength of what would be coming to us, or
perhaps they might make me a liberal advance.  I understand that's
done, sometimes, if the book is sure-fire.  Well--if that came to
pass, we could--"  He broke off to do a little mental arithmetic.
"Let's see.  We should know by the middle of June.  We could have
made our boat reservations.  Then we could plan to sail early in
July for at least a two-months' trip.  Hannah would look after the
children.  You know that.  I'll show you.  Look--sail to
Southampton, up to London same day.  Think what it would all mean
to me; literary shrines in London, Stratford.  Oxford.  Think what
it would mean to me to be able to ramble about in old East
Smithfield--where Spenser was born, you know, and of course we
should want to see Cambridge where he went to school.  Think of it,
Marcia, three centuries and an half ago! . . .  It would certainly
do me a lot of good in my work," he added, hopeful that this
practical feature of the trip might stimulate Marcia's interest to
the point where she would forget to be prudent.

"Well--you write your book, dear," she said, in the tone she used
when recommending spinach to Roberta, "and you know I'll be glad
enough to take the trip with you.  I'll keep the house as quiet as
I can while you're working."

"That's the way to talk!  We'll plan on it!  Dream of a lifetime!
You better have a little chat with Hannah.  Tell her what we're
going to do."

"There'll be plenty of time for that, dear.  Let's make a little
secret of it--and not tell anybody."

"I don't believe you're as confident as I am," said Paul, a bit
disappointed.  "You've got to have a will to make things happen.
That's the way to succeed."

"Sounds like Hannah," observed Marcia, amused.

"Well--you notice that Hannah generally gets what she wants.  You
tell her what we have in mind, and see if she doesn't think it a
good idea."

                        *  *  *  *  *

It was not a good idea, at all.  Flushed with plaudits--for the
speech at the University Club was a distinct success--Paul gave
himself to the new book with a devotion that deserved a high
reward.  Impatient to take off a trial balance on his account with
fame and fortune, he asked permission of a publisher to send on the
first half of his work (that was about the middle of February) and
having had a favourable response he posted the manuscript, after
which it was difficult to write, his nervous eagerness for a reply
from the East having distracted his attention.  In this pitiful
state of anxiety he waited for six weeks, at first regarding the
postman as an angel of light who would one day bring him a
certificate to the new freedom, but eventually coming to consider
the chap as a venomously unscrupulous churl.

One day a letter came, on April 1st it was, as if to add a neat
touch of derision to the casual unconcern with which the publisher
doubted whether a work of this sort could expect to be commercially
practical.

It was a heavy blow, and Paul was in poor condition to meet it, for
his wanton day-dreaming over the favourable reply he had so blandly
anticipated had already dulled his capacity for earnest work.
Marcia had sensed this danger, one day saying to him, playfully,
but with conviction, "You'd better stop spending that money now--
and carry on with the book."

Unable to reconcile himself to the catastrophe, he girded up his
loins after a week of heavy sulking, revised the early part of his
manuscript and sent it off again to another publisher.  It was easy
enough to understand how the judgment of one house might not
coincide with another.  Had not Ben-Hur knocked about the country
for a whole year before it found a firm far-sighted enough to
appreciate its merit?

The next rejection was more prompt and more briefly stated.  They
were grateful for his courtesy in wanting them to see his book, but
it did not fit into their publication programme.

After that, the manuscript journeyed to three more publishers, the
last of whom replied, "We have examined so much of the work as you
have sent us--"  Ah--perhaps that was the trouble, thought Paul.
They didn't want to pass on a mere fragment of a book.  He would
complete it!

And he did complete it by working zealously all summer, autumn, and
into early winter.  It was sent the rounds of the front-rank
publishers.  Not until the next May did Paul decide that he had
added another failure to the rather formidable array of defeats
which had terminated the various projects of recent years.  He did
not trust himself to talk much about it to Marcia; and she, aware
how deep was his hurt, and herself devastated with pity for him,
tried to beguile his attention from this latest and most painful of
his disillusions.

Foster, who had charge of the University Extension lectures, asked
him one day if he would like to go out, occasionally, to near-by
towns for evening addresses.  There was a small fee attached to
these excursions--averaging about twenty dollars.  Paul assented,
and in February he was sent out twice, once to Milburn and again to
Deshler, where he was quite royally entertained and his lectures
were handsomely received, especially in Deshler, the local paper
covering his appearance with a flattering column that put more lime
in his spine than anything that had ever happened to him.  Marcia
was rejoiced at his expansive mood.  That night, after he had read
the account of his triumph at Deshler for the dozenth time (he had
not realized until now to what extent he had covered himself with
glory on that occasion), he sat gazing at the ceiling for a long
time, and then, in the awed huskiness of one making an astounding
discovery, he said, "Do you know--Marcia--"

She put down The Woman Thou Gavest Me, which everybody was talking
about, and gave him her full attention, thinking she knew what was
on his mind.  "Yes, dear," she said invitingly.

"Marcia--do you know there's a lot of money to be made by lecturing
for the chautauquas?  I've had a little taste of it now and I know
I could do it.  I mean to ask Foster to-morrow how one breaks into
this game.  They can't very well pay you less than fifty dollars a
day and you are booked for a five-day week all summer."  He
scribbled some figures on the back of an envelope.  "There would be
probably eight weeks of it.  Expenses very small.  Country towns
mostly.  Short jumps.  Not much paid out for travel.  Ought to net
fifteen-sixteen hundred dollars.  Put it away in the savings bank
and the interest on eight months would be--let's see--forty-two
dollars more."

In spite of her resolution to see this through with comradely
seriousness, Marcia grinned.

"Well--every little helps, doesn't it?  That forty-two dollars
would be just as good to us as to anybody.  It would come nearly
staking us to a week's board and lodging in London, if we thought
we had to be frugal.  I'm going in for it, darling.  Here's one
thing I know I can do--for I've done it!  I'm going on the lecture
platform."  He pursed his mouth and grew confidential, lowering his
tone as against possible eavesdropping.  "And some of those boys
get fees running into big figures, after they've been properly
publicized.  It might turn out to be a great thing for us."

But it didn't.  Foster explaining that a man had to bring, even to
so unexacting an institution as the chautauqua circuit, a platform
reputation of more ample dimensions than Paul could boast.  He said
it kindly enough and promised to give his ambitious colleague some
more extension dates next winter.  By the time winter had come,
however, all Europe was in the grip of war and there was not much
of a market for lectures on the life and times and works of Edmund
Spenser or anyone else with whose history Paul was conversant.

                        *  *  *  *  *

He did not confide the stories of his successive misadventures to
Hannah, but she knew without being told that he had been ruthlessly
victimized by his own enthusiasms.  Her heart ached for him.  She
wasn't quite sure whether she suffered more on his behalf when he
was deep in the doldrums of despair or during the hilarious periods
when he was rigging up the machinery for the production of his
assorted tragedies; for it was obvious that the higher he flew his
various kites, the more painful was his chagrin when they came
careening down, a handful of broken sticks.

Paul's state of mind in respect to the almost incredible disaster
in Europe puzzled Hannah.  He had always seemed so eager to go over
there and see for himself the tombs and shrines and monuments which
represented the best things we ourselves had fallen heir to--laws,
letters, manners, arts, ideals.  To hear him talk you would have
thought that nothing we had ever accomplished over here was worth
comparison to the greatness and glory of the achievements across
the sea.  The war somehow didn't take hold of him.  True, he was
interested in the newspapers.  And he had pinned up a map on the
living-room wall with a row of brass tacks across it to indicate
the long crooked line of battle.  Every day he moved the tacks,
seeming much gratified when the side he thought he was cheering for
had made a little indentation.  But that was as far as his interest
seemed to go.  The war was just a row of brass-headed tacks making
ugly holes in the plaster.

"Awful!  Isn't it?" he would say.  But the tone of it was about the
same as it would have been if someone had remarked that it was a
mighty hot day.

To Hannah, through those tragic years, the world was smashing up
everything that was good.  It was of no satisfaction to her when
reports came of victories for the Allies.  What mattered is which
side had shed more blood in yesterday's "big push"?

"Cheer up, Hannah!" Paul would say.  "We're making some good gains
now."

"No good gains ever came that way, Mr Ward," she would reply sadly.
"They're all wrong.  They'll all lose.  There will be no gains for
anybody."

Sometimes Hannah wondered--reproaching herself for this thought--
whether the dear chap wasn't unconsciously getting a certain
satisfaction out of it all.  He had made such a muddle of his own
affairs and had been so depressed over his defeats that the
exciting reports of other people's more serious difficulties had
diminished the gravity of his own.  It was not that he took any
pleasure in the war; rather that the war had made his little losses
insignificant.  He didn't fret now about being poor.  The daily
stories of starvation in Belgium had made his own food more
appreciated.  Perhaps he would have been indignant if anyone had
said as much to him.  One evening at dinner Wallie--nine now--had
helped himself to a larger ration of candied sweet potatoes than he
could eat, and his father said, "Some small boy in Belgium would
probably be glad to have what you've left there, Wallie," to which
the child replied, after a moment's thought, "But if I had eaten
it, then he wouldn't have it either, would he?"  Paul laughed.  And
Marcia laughed.  It made Hannah sick that they could laugh at that--
or anything.  On his birthday, they gave Wallie an air-gun.  He
proudly showed it to Hannah.  She closed her eyes tightly, shook
her head, and with a blindly groping gesture motioned him away.

"But Daddy gave it to me," explained Wallie, quite hurt.

"I don't like guns," said Hannah.

"This is only an air-gun."

"Could you kill anything with it?"

"Birds, maybe, or a squirrel."

"Then I don't like air-guns."

As the months passed, all mention of the war was scrupulously
avoided in Hannah's presence.  She was so unhappy that her sorrow
seemed to permeate the whole establishment.  In midsummer of '16
Paul suggested to Marcia that it was time their faithful Hannah had
a vacation.  They would send her to the country for a week.  It was
obvious she needed a bit of relief from the long-continued devotion
to her job.  Incidentally, he remarked, it would be good for all of
them.

Pretending gratitude, Hannah had gone, half aware that the Wards
would also be taking a vacation in her absence.  She resolved to
control her feelings, realizing that she had been at fault in
permitting the gloominess of her heart to shadow their house.  On
her return, she seemed almost cheerful.

"That's exactly what she needed," said Paul.  "She had stuck too
close to it here.  We must insist on her taking a little more time
off."  And having expressed this belief to Marcia he went to the
kitchen where Hannah was ironing, and repeated it--in altered
phrasing--to her.

"Yes, sir," she agreed pleasantly, "a change of--of scenery is good
for everybody.  You can work at one thing too long.  I was just
thinking to-day about your--about what you were working on in the
basement for many weeks."

"I certainly did waste a great lot of time on that thing," he
grumbled with sour distaste for the subject.

"Well--of course that's up to you," she murmured without looking up
from her work.

"Up to me?"

"Yes--whether it was wasted time or not.  You've had a good rest
now.  If you go at it again, fresh like, you might succeed.  And
then the time you have spent on it wouldn't be wasted.  Isn't that
so?  I mean, it isn't decided yet whether you wasted your time.  If
you finished the job, everything you did on it before would have
been time well spent. . . .  Of course," she added ruefully, "as
the matter stands now, you did waste a lot of time--and a lot of
yourself, too."

"Myself?"

"Yes.  A disappointment like that is pretty bad for a person, don't
you think?  That is, if he doesn't make some good use of it."

"Good use of a disappointment?"  Paul sat down on the edge of a
chair and lighted a cigarette.  "I can't see what use you could
make of a disappointment.  If you can, I'd be glad to hear about
it.  I've had a plenty."

"Well--a disappointment," ventured Hannah, feeling her way,
cautiously, conscious of his half-derisive grin--"sometimes a
disappointment closes a door in a person's face, and then he looks
about for some other door, and opens it, and gets something better
than he had been hunting for the first time."

"I tried several," said Paul glumly.  "I think I tried 'em all."

"I know," Hannah reinforced her remembrance with a half-dozen quick
little consolatory nods.  "I know you did, Mr Ward."  Her voice
lowered until it was barely more than a whisper.  "I could have
cried for you.  I think I did, sometimes."

"Oh--well--"  He affected a jaunty tone that dismissed his many
failures en bloc.  "I tried some things that weren't in my line.
This one--for instance," jerking his head towards the despicable
refrigerator.  "I had no training for it.  Involved a lot of
chemistry.  I didn't know enough--though I really did do three
years of it at college.  But it wasn't sufficient for this job."

"That's one reason I always thought you might be able to do it,"
remarked Hannah irrationally.  "I hoped may be it was going to be
handed to you, like.  Sort of a gift from--from the outside."

"Outside?" echoed Paul, screwing up his face.

"Yes."  Hannah ironed industriously for some minutes and then
admitted, rather flustered, that it was of course "a funny way to
say it"--Paul continued to regard her with a puzzled gaze that she
found quite embarrassing.

"I know you don't believe in such things," she went on diffidently.
"The other day--at my friend's house where I spent my vacation--she
has a large library, left her by her husband--I was reading about
the discovery of--of the law of--of--"  Findin' herself bogged,
Hannah tipped the iron up on end, rested both outspread hands on
the table, intently searching Paul's eyes for assistance.  "You
know.  About the peas--so many white and so many yellow and so many
tall and so many dwarfs--"

"Oh--you mean the law of heredity--the Mendelian scheme for
figuring out the results of scientific mating."

"Yes--something like that.  Well--do you know that this Mr Mendel
was a monk who found out all about it in his little garden in the
monastery.  He'd never been trained to be a scientist."

"I see what you're driving at now, Hannah," laughed Paul.  "Mendel
was illuminated; is that it?  Had a vision from On High, or
something of that sort; is that what you mean?  Well--why shouldn't
he, being a monk?  If Heaven doesn't look after the monks--"
Noting from the hurt look in her eyes that his teasing was ill-
timed, he broke off and mumbled an apology.

"The book told about another case," proceeded Hannah, apparently
uninjured.  "There was a man named Michael Faraday."

"Famous English chemist--I know--invented the dynamo, too; didn't
he?  Well--did he get his from the--from the 'outside'?"  Paul had
resolved not to do any more spoofing, but the temptation was too
strong.  He grinned and waited for Hannah's rejoinder.

"I don't know," she replied seriously.  "His father wanted him to
be a blacksmith, but he didn't like it and got a job as a
bookbinder.  Maybe that is a good way to train for discovering a
dynamo, but it doesn't sound as if it was.  And he wasn't a monk.
But the book said he did believe that there was something OUTSIDE."

"I'm afraid I'll never get anything that way," said Paul,
suppressing a yawn.  "That's out of my line, too. . . .  So--young
lady--that's what you were doing on your vacation, eh?  Here we
send you away for some fresh air and a little playtime, and you
sneak off into a corner to post yourself on the Mendelian theory of
genetics and the early life of Faraday.  Well--you'll never cease
being a surprise to me, Hannah."

"That wasn't all I found out, Mr Ward."  She smiled cryptically as
to say she had a super-secret which might have to be tortured out
of her.  "I had whole days--and nights, too--for reading, and the
shelves were full of books on chemistry.  I heard you say, one
time, that you had to find a gas that wouldn't poison anybody and
wouldn't take fire, and I just kept leafing through those books
until I found one.  I really did," she added confidentially.  "You
may think it was silly of me to be looking--me not knowing a
blessed thing about it--but--"

Paul was touched.

"No," he muttered, "I don't think it was silly.  I think it was
splendid of you, Hannah.  I don't deserve that kind of fidelity.
It was a wonderful thing for you to do for me.  I can't tell you
just how I feel about it.  You are certainly a good friend."

There was a long pause in their talk.  Then he rose, patted Hannah
on the shoulder, and walked towards the door.

"Don't you want to know," asked Hannah, "what I found?"

"Well--you see--"  Paul fumbled for words that wouldn't hurt too
much.  "You see, Hannah, it wasn't just finding a gas that wouldn't
poison anyone and wasn't inflammable.  I expect there are a hundred
gases like that.  There's a lot more to it, my dear, than you
thought.  But I do honestly appreciate your trying.  It was mighty
fine of you."

Hannah drew a slip of paper from the pocket of her apron and handed
it to him.  "There's the name of it," she said, with a little sigh.
"It may be no good, but the book said it was not poisonous and
wouldn't burn--and there's something else about it that I copied
there.  I didn't understand, but I thought you would."

Indulgently Paul took the crumpled paper and read, "Sulphur dioxide
. . . not corrosive on copper or iron."  Then he stood for a long
time flicking the paper against his thumb, his eyes narrowing.  He
walked to the window and stood looking out, drumming with his
fingers against the casement.  After a while he turned and said,
"Were you talking to anybody about this, Hannah?"

She shook her head and continued ironing.

"You know I wouldn't have done that, Mr Ward," she said.

"And you don't know anything about chemistry, at all?"

"No, Mr Ward.  Of course not.  How could I?"

"You just accidentally stumbled on to this while leafing through a
textbook you found in somebody's library?"

"Yes, Mr. Ward."

"Well, by God, I believe YOU have been getting hunches from the
'outside'?  I don't see how it could be explained any other way."
In the doorway he paused, regarded her with serious scrutiny for a
moment, and said, "Now let's get this straight, Hannah.  You were
simply browsing around among these books, and--"

"Yes, sir.  It's just as I told you.  I don't think it was an
accident.  I was really hunting for it, you know.  Do you believe,"
she asked wistfully, "that perhaps I found something?"

"Either that--or, as you say, you were HANDED something."

Hannah nodded, her eyes shining.

"I would much rather you thought that, Mr Ward."



CHAPTER V


When it was nearing time for Peter to start to the public school
kindergarten--he would be five in November--the two women he
erroneously believed to be his mother and his aunt debated for an
hour one afternoon in latter August what name he should bear.

The discussion was entirely amicable, as befitted the talk of
intimate friends, and was carried on in prudent undertones, because
the object of their interest was playing in his small tent only a
few feet from where they sat, slowly swaying in the garden swing,
shaded by a thick mesh of maple.

This question had not been at issue before.  The child had never
needed any other name than Peter.  Lydia could not recall that he
had ever inquired.  But it was imperative now that the boy should
be specifically identified.  Whatever name he carried to school
would be permanent.  A mistake at this juncture might be regretted
in the days to come.

Of course the easiest way to handle the problem (and the way they
did handle it when the time came) was to enroll the little chap as
Peter Edmunds.  It would spare them a lot of explaining.  So far as
the neighbours knew, Peter was the only child of Mrs Lydia Edmunds,
who had lately bought the old Conklin home at the corner of Birch
and Lincoln.  There wasn't a birch within two hundred miles, but
the memorabilia of Lincoln was everywhere about.

It was nearly four years since Mrs Edmunds had acquired the stately
house whose white columns and broad verandas gave the place an air
of dignity and self-assurance, which even the nervous fussiness of
a busy scroll-saw had been unable to dispute.  In almost any mid-
western town a four years' residence would be ample to establish a
well-behaved citizen's solid position in the esteem of the
neighbours, but there were about five blocks on Lincoln Avenue
where one might live for a decade and still be considered a
newcomer.

Lydia had grinned and written back to Carrie in Virginia, "If
you've a notion it is easy to make friends out here in the corn
belt, I suggest you come to Waterloo and try slapping a few backs
on Lincoln Avenue."  Not that Lydia resented the exclusiveness of
her neighbours, for she was not much of a back-slapper herself.

Waterloo knew nothing about Mrs Edmunds except that she was a
comely and prudent widow in her early forties who paid cash, drove
her own small car, grew expensive dahlias, repainted the green
shutters and white portico pillars of her solemn brick house every
spring, attended the diminutive Episcopal Church on Sunday
mornings, and effortlessly minded her own business.  She carried a
respectable balance in her current and savings accounts at the
Citizens' National Bank and maintained a safety deposit-box there
which she occasionally visited.  Mr Jennings, the president, had
negotiated the purchase of conservative bonds for her on a few
occasions, and Mrs Jennings had called in company with Mrs Morris,
the doctor's wife.  And several other ladies of excellent social
standing had come to see her, though their calls usually turned out
to be errands of solicitation for various philanthropic projects in
the town.

But Lydia was not lonely.  The standoffishness of Lincoln Avenue
did not worry her.  The days were well filled with the care of her
little boy, her flower-garden, and the upkeep of the old brick
house, where the famous Senator Conklin had lived up to his
distinction and a little beyond his means, leaving at eighty a
maiden daughter to whose insolvence the bank and the merchants were
lenient while she quietly went to seed, considerately passing away
before their patience had been overtaxed.

Lydia had never bothered to explain to any of her new acquaintances
in Waterloo that little Peter was not of her own flesh and blood.
A few casual friends in Rattoon, two hours away by train, could
have recalled the circumstances of the child's acceptance into the
Edmunds' home, remembering Mrs Edmonds's grave illness when her own
baby had died at birth, and her return from the University
Hospital, thirty miles distant, with an infant obviously intended
for adoption.

The fact that this baby had not been adopted by Mr and Mrs Edmunds
would have been of little interest to anyone in Rattoon.  The
Edmundses had not lived there long enough for their domestic
affairs to stir very much curiosity.  Jasper Edmunds, as a
competent chemical engineer, had been employed on many widely
spaced projects.  The few immobile relatives they had left in
Virginia and New Jersey were not in close contact with migratory
Jasper and Lydia.  Except for infrequent and increasingly sketchy
letters from Lydia, now in Nevada, now in Guatemala, Oregon,
Brazil, Wyoming--all equally remote in the provincial mind of her
sister Carrie and her brother Henry and the smug little huddle of
stiff-corseted cousins--the Edmunds pair were remembered back home
much as they are recalled who are not expected to return at all.

So when Jasper Edmunds, the ungregarious, had been suddenly snuffed
out in a laboratory explosion, shortly after coming on to the
chemical engineering staff at the big glass works in Rattoon, there
were very few to be inquisitive about the future plans of his widow
when she departed a month later for Waterloo.

The three women who for humanity's sake as well as the sheer look
of it had expressed an interest in her, as they sat on the edge of
their chairs in the funerary reek of fading roses which Lydia
hadn't wanted to throw away, were told that she thought of moving
to some quiet residential community where the taxes were low and a
desirable house might be had at a bargain.  The trio of glass wives--
Alicia Colton, Maude Frazer, and Ella Osborne, whose husbands were
respectively Sales, Purchasing, and Publicity--consoled Lydia the
best they could, deeming her lucky to have been left so securely
provided for, the rumour having drifted about that Jasper had
carried a sizeable life insurance.  And while no one of them
directly mentioned the fact that the manner of the taciturn
chemist's departure had doubled the insurance his widow would have
received in the event of his having died less news-worthily, Mrs
Osborne remarked that it was certainly better, if a person's time
had come, for him to be spared the tedium of a protracted illness.

Maude and Alicia, a bit shocked by this bland confession of Ella's
envy (Fred Osborne had been living at his club for months), hastily
rectified her covetous comment by conceding that it was a serious
blow, nevertheless, to have a loved one take himself off with such
dispatch.  But it was easy to see that the general concensus was
that Lydia might have met any number of calamities more severe than
the involuntary exchange of the stolid and uncommunicative Jasper
for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in cash.  Whereupon the
cloying scent of Ce Soir ou Jamais that always tagged along after
Ella gradually disentangled itself from the withering roses that
remained to certify to Jasper's recent decease, and Lydia returned
to her stuffy cupboards (it was August) to prepare for the
Salvation Army in its quest of cast-off clothing.

In becoming black, but not in weeds, the widow drove to Waterloo,
with little Peter beside her on his knees reporting the progress of
the big moving-vans careening along behind them, their husky crews
still reekingly wet from handling the huge boxes of books; for
Lydia had resolved not to part with Jasper's professional library,
a quite magnanimous decision when one reflected that it had
occupied much more of his time and thought than had Lydia herself.
And after that Rattoon, a nervous and noisy town of rapidly
shifting population, quickly resumed its former contour almost as
if the Edmundses had never lived there at all.

It is possible that Lydia might have returned to her ancestral home
in Virginia, where Carrie lived in the old house and Henry dwelt
hard by.  She had thought of it just a little, until her brother
had insisted upon it with an urgency out of all proportion to his
normal interest in her welfare.  Henry's suggestion that he might
be of some assistance in the prudent investment of her considerable
windfall brought Lydia to a prompt decision.  But the chief reason
for her wanting to remain in the general vicinity of the university
town was her attachment to an all-but-indispensable friend she had
found during her convalescence at the University Hospital.  In
Waterloo, she would be close enough to her friend for frequent
meetings.

Anybody but Lydia herself might have thought that she and her new
comrade were miles apart socially, but in respect to congeniality
they might have been sisters.  Lydia was the elder by three years,
appearing older than that, for her hair had turned quite grey.  It
was an unusual friendship, not only because of their mutual
affection but because Lydia's cherished friend was little Peter's
mother.

"Of course the time might come," conceded Lydia, guarding her
voice, "when he would prefer to be known by his rightful name,
though I can't think of any possible advantage it could ever be to
him.  It isn't likely," she went on, a bit reluctantly--for her
remark was going to be painful--"it isn't likely that Peter will
lose any property by not being a Bradford, now that his father has
another wife.  You've never pressed a claim for yourself or the
boy, and by the time Peter is old enough to do it on his own
account--"

"But he wouldn't!"

"I know, dear.  I was just thinking of the possibilities, not the
probabilities."

Lonely for their attention, Peter came towards them, dragging his
little red cart filled with sand.

"Don't spill it on the grass, son," said Lydia gently.  "Take it
over there closer to the box.  That's a good boy."

"But I don't want you to talk any more," he remonstrated, wrinkling
up his freckled face into a lugubrious expression of outraged
patience.  "Why can't Aunt Hannah come and play with me?  You said
you would, an awful long time ago."

Lydia watched them with brooding affection, Hannah sitting on the
grass with a shapely arm hooked over the board that boxed the
sandpile on three sides, listening attentively to her child's
chatter about the plight of a beleagured party of wooden
clothespins who were hiding in a cave fearful of an attack from the
formidable bandit-troupe of chess pieces, four of whom were mounted
and ready to go into action.

"I do wish," remarked Hannah over her shoulder, "that Peter would
play at something besides battles."

"You don't want him to be a milk-sop, do you?" murmured Lydia,
adding, with sly satisfaction, "not that there's much danger of it,
the little ruffian."

                        *  *  *  *  *

While they played, Lydia, bending over her needlework, drifted into
the favoured reminiscence which so often occupied her mind, living
over again the days when she had first met Hannah because of Peter.

"Look, Mrs Edmunds," the nurse was saying.  "Isn't he cunning?"
Lydia had been sitting apathetically in the hospital solarium, her
inert hands empty as her cloudy eyes, not caring much whether she
lived or died.  In response to the girl's voice she had looked up,
slowly.  Had she been asked if she wanted to see a pretty baby she
would have shaken her head.  Baby?  After having lost her own, less
than a month ago?  Certainly not.  But here was the tiny fellow at
arm's reach.

"I've an errand on this floor," said the nurse.  "Want to hold him
until I come back?"  Without waiting for consent, she had deposited
the warm little bundle in Lydia's lap.  "This," she announced,
affecting a formal introduction, "is Master Peter Parmalee
Bradford, whose mother isn't quite ready to take charge of him and
whose other parent is--is out of town."

"So they weren't married, then," Lydia couldn't help saying.  She
had always considered it desirable for a child's existence to be
properly organized by the state.

"Oh, yes.  Parentage all straight.  I saw the certificate.  The
mother is a darling.  I suppose she picked a lemon. . . .  Isn't he
the best looking little thing you ever saw?"

Next day Lydia had asked to see Peter's mother, and Hannah came, on
her first day off, straightforward, sincere, sensible, gratified
that her baby's welfare was assured.  As soon as she was earning
anything she would pay what she could toward the child's care,
hopeful of reclaiming him when her circumstances permitted.  Lydia
liked her honesty.  It was pleasant now to recall those days when
the doctors and nurses were amazed over their difficult patient's
rapid recovery.

Then came Hannah's fortnightly visits; to Rattoon first, where,
when Jasper died, Lydia had leaned full weight against her
resourceful new friend for a couple of days when the first impact
of the blow was dizzying--and then to quiet little Waterloo.  In
fragments, and with no intent to tell the story of her life
chronologically, Hannah had reviewed enough of her past to
interpret her present.  She had remembered almost nothing of her
native Surrey and only an episode or two of the steerage voyage
with her parents and three brothers, all older.  There still swam
vaguely before her eyes the kaleidoscope that had been New York in
1880, not quite so noisy and tremendous as it was to be later, but
confusing enough to bewilder a shy little tot from the English
countryside.

Thence to the large estate of the Raymonds on the North Shore in
New England to which Dan Parmalee had come--all the way from
Reigate in Surrey--to be the head gardener in an expensive
fairyland of lilacs and laurel, tulips and rhododendrons, hawthorn
and azaleas, with acres of green velvet bounded by weathered stone
walls and shaded by magnificent elms.

There had been no rancour in Hannah's memories of her childhood;
and a wonder it was, too, Lydia often thought, for old Dan's family
discipline must have been a frightfully cruel regimentation of
their home.  Proudly she stressed her industrious father's honesty,
loyalty, obedience, but there was no doubt that Dan was hard, so
hard that little Dannie had run away at thirteen.  No--they never
heard from him.  Perhaps he went to Vancouver: he had often asked
questions about the Canadian North-west.  The other boys--James and
William--when half-grown had gone back to England, working their
passage on a freighter.  It was easy to gather that Hannah's
patience and poise dated back to her enforced self-containment as a
child sitting calmly at the table of irascible old Dan, waiting to
speak until she was spoken to, and outwardly conducting herself
with a fair imitation of her mousy little mother's experienced
docility.

The next phase of Hannah's life was worth a book.  Lydia had never
heard a story so tender.  They had known each other a long time
before Hannah ventured upon it, one rainy Sunday afternoon, during
a week's vacation in Waterloo.

As a young girl she had seen very little of Philip, the Raymonds'
only child.  Either he was abroad with his mother or in a boys'
school in Andover.  Hannah met him occasionally on summer days, and
sometimes he would stop and talk to her briefly, kindly, always
amused over the little curtsies she made when shyly replying to his
friendly questions.

"You don't have to bob like that when you talk to me," Philip had
teased.  "All men are created equal in this country."

"Yes, sir," Hannah had replied, dipping a curtsy.  "Thank you,
sir."

"But it makes me nervous!" protested Philip.  "Stop it!"

"Yes, sir," agreed Hannah, bobbing.  And then Philip had laughed
until the embarrassed little girl's tears came.

"I'm sorry, Hannah," he said contritely.  "I didn't mean to hurt
your feelings."  They had both smiled and Hannah had murmured, "No,
sir.  Thank you, sir," with a final jerk of her round little knees.

As they grew up, Philip's attitude, on the infrequent occasions of
their meeting-in-the-garden or elsewhere on the grounds, always
conveyed the impression that there wasn't very much difference in
their social stations, but Hannah had never humoured him in this.
It had been rubbed into her very bones that she belonged to the
servant class and would be at her best while keeping that fact
steadily in mind.  Remembering your place had been part of old
Dan's religion.  And Hannah's too.

Once when they were talking about the life of a servant, Lydia had
said, "I've often wondered if it wasn't rather debasing to have to
wear a uniform."

"I never felt that way about it," Hannah replied with spirit, "and
I don't believe the king does, either."

Lydia had smilingly reminded her that there was a world of
difference between the two liveries, but Hannah shook her head
decisively.  "Not if the king and the housemaid are both doing
their duty," she said, "and keeping in their rightful place."

At sixteen--Hannah had not ventured to tell Lydia that she had been
an uncommonly pretty girl, but had shown her an old group
photograph including an attractive young brunette with a shy smile
and promising curves--she had been asked to come to the big house
as a parlour-maid.  She had gone willingly enough, though rather
regretful to be done with school, where she had been happy, partly
because she wanted an education, but mostly for the freedom from
the stultifying exactions at home.  Work at the big house (she
still called it that) was not heavy.  For months on end only the
servants were in possession.  In summers it swarmed with guests and
social events.  In the winter there was almost nothing to do, and
Hannah had spent most of her uncharted time in the well-stocked
library.

"I was so glad afterwards," she told Lydia, "for it helped me to
understand so many of the things he wanted to talk about."

She couldn't remember exactly when she began worshipping Philip.
Looking back on it all from this distance Hannah thought it must
have dated from the time when she was a spindle-shanked, pigtailed,
ratty little thing of twelve, secretly admiring the handsome
fifteen-year-old boy in white flannels on the tennis court.  "I
know my feeling for Philip kept me from being silly over other
boys," she said.  "Doubtless I should be thankful for that."

"I wonder," Lydia had replied.  "You might have had a happier life
if you had married one of your schoolmates."

Hannah had doubted that, proceeding with the story of her
difficulty in concealing her love for Philip when, after she had
gone to work in the big house, they would occasionally meet in the
hall or she would have some small service to do for him.

"Once the housekeeper sent me to his room to gather up his linen.
I thought he had gone away for the day and went into his room
without knocking.  'I'm sorry,' I said, when I ran into him with
his hair wet and tousled and himself all muffled up in a big
Turkish bathrobe.  And he said, 'What have you got to be sorry
about?  You don't look as if you were ever sorry in your life.'  Of
course he was just trying to put me at ease.  But I couldn't forget
what he had said.  Perhaps he really did think I looked like that.
So I always tried to look that way for him--as if I'd never been
sorry.  I suppose it was awfully silly. . . .  Sometimes when the
house was full of company I helped serve the table.  It seemed that
no matter how many guests there were, or how much help we had, I
always was assigned to serve Philip.  My hand would tremble until I
was afraid he might notice it.  But I'm sure he didn't.  I don't
think he ever once looked me squarely in the eyes until he was
sick.  Probably he didn't know I was there at all--not until then."

During the Christmas holidays of his junior year at Harvard, Philip
had been visited by some college friends.  They had spent almost
every daylight hour for a week in the snow.  He had taken a severe
cold.  It had developed into a serious pleurisy.

Hannah had not seen him often, and then only for brief glimpses
when she was sent to his room with messages to one or the other of
the nurses, until warm spring days came.  Once, while the nurse had
gone in to bring his lunch out to the garden where he sat in his
wheel-chair, they had sent her out with the morning paper, which
had just arrived.

"And how have you been, Hannah?" he had inquired kindly.  "I
haven't seen you for a long time.  Want to stay a bit and read me
the news?  The sun dazzles my eyes."

She had sat down on the stone bench near his chair to read to him
in a voice that she remembered was very unsteady.  He was so pale
and his long hands were so thin.  Presently she faltered in the
middle of a sentence, and he said:  "You mustn't do that, Hannah.
It's because you always seem so happy that I want you to read to
me.  Don't disappoint me, please."

And she had rubbed her fists hard into her wet eyes, smiling the
best she could.  "I'm sorry," she had murmured thickly.  "The sun
is awfully bright to-day."

Hannah believed it had been this remark of hers that had made
Philip want to keep her with him.  The family had been so
depressed.  He was hoping to find someone who wouldn't cry.  He had
smiled into her eyes and said, "After you've had your lunch I wish
you would come out here again and read me this book."  Hannah
remembered what it was--The Flute and Violin, by James Lane Allen,
which had just been published.

Well--that was the real beginning of it, not counting the way she
had felt towards him before.  Hannah was a bit self-conscious, at
first, over all the attention she was receiving.  Apparently the
whole household realized that she was becoming important to
Philip's welfare and deferred to her as they did to the nurses.
She wasn't asked to do anything after nine in the morning, so that
she would be at liberty to read to Philip if he wanted her, which
he always did on pleasant days and sometimes on rainy ones too, in
his room.

That had been a memorable summer.  Hannah had read to Philip a full
score of the current books that people were discussing.  She would
call up the Old Corner Book Store, and because the people knew
there about Philip's illness they would hasten the deliveries.  She
recalled the names of some of the books they read: The Master of
Ballantrae, which Philip liked, she thought, mostly because it had
been written by a sick man almost as badly off as himself; A Hazard
of New Fortunes, which he admired for its superb composition and
she disliked because it seemed to make him pensive and restless;
The Light That Failed, a story she felt wasn't a bit good for him;
and The Little Minister, in the very middle of which he had stopped
her to say, "You could do a very good Babbie yourself, Hannah." But
it wasn't often he said anything like that.  Not that first summer.

"I never knew just why he said that to me," Hannah had reflected.
"Babbie was such an impudent little piece."

"And were you still bobbing curtsies to Philip, through those
days?" Lydia had inquired, to which Hannah had replied, with a
puckery little smile:  "No--he didn't want me to.  But I was very
respectful."

When winter came, Mrs Raymond had taken him to Arizona.  The house
seemed very large and empty.  Mr Raymond was living at an hotel in
town and did not come out.  The snow was deep and there was little
to do but read.  Hannah had made good use of her leisure, hoping to
be an acceptable companion to Philip on his return.  The days
seemed very long, but eventually they all passed.

The Arizona sun had tanned him brown, parchment brown, but the
sharply defined bones in his hands and the keen outlines of his
face made one wonder whether the baking had done him very much
good.  Hannah had thought it best not to put in an appearance at
once upon his arrival.  He might not want her.  It would be more
prudent to wait until she was sent for.  They had come at noon.  At
three, she was called.  Mr Philip was out in the garden, said the
nurse, and wanted to speak to her.  Hannah's heart was in her
mouth.  She hoped Philip and his mother, who stood beside him
holding a flower-basket half filled with iris, would not notice how
flustered she was.  Philip had smiled, the smile full of tiny
little wrinkles, millions of them, in semi-circles about his mouth,
and had reached out a sadly emaciated hand.

"Hello," he said, almost as if they had not been separated at all.
And Hannah had taken the lean hand and said, "Hello", without
meaning to be so forward.  But Mrs Raymond hadn't seemed to resent
the liberty.  She had smiled.  "I think Philip will be wanting you
to read to him again, Hannah," she said.  It was the first time Mrs
Raymond had ever referred to Philip in Hannah's presence without
the 'Mr'.

"And what did Mrs Raymond think of Philip's having you with him so
much?" Lydia had asked.

"I don't know.  She seemed anxious that he should be humoured in
every way."

"Didn't she suspect you were in love with him?"

"No," said Hannah assuredly.  "Not then."

"But you were--then?"

"I would have died for him," whispered Hannah.

They had talked more than they read, that summer.  Philip was much
more serious than he had been.  It wasn't as if he had lost all
interest in current news and contemporary books, but he had the
mood of one who, as Hannah expressed it, had "backed off a long way
to look at things through a telescope."  He wanted her to read
history to him, especially English history dating from Restoration
days, and France of the period when America was just beginning to
be ambitious for a national life of her own.

But she would no more than get started on the tale of another
costly conflict before Philip would say:

"Now there it is again, Hannah.  Every time they fought they came
out of it with more problems on their hands than they'd had before,
plus the loss of the best and bravest people.  More problems, and
fewer brains left to deal with them."

And then he would discuss this odd idea that seemed to be
influencing his thoughts about everything, his queer belief that
any sort of conflict was unprofitable.

"I thought at first that his illness was making him religious,"
Hannah had reflected.  "But I don't believe that had much to do
with it.  He didn't talk about the evil of fighting; just the
uselessness of it.  Perhaps it was because I loved him so dearly
that everything he said sounded reasonable," she would admit.

"One day he remarked, 'If I have to back up my opinions with a
club, it's not much of a compliment to my opinions.  It really
means that my opinions aren't good enough to stand on their own
merits.  I don't even trust them myself when I lay in a supply of
gunpowder to anticipate somebody else's disbelief in them.  When
people fight, they give their whole case away.  I think they fight
because they have no case.'"

"Did you remind him," Lydia had ventured, "that slavery would still
be a legalized institution in this country if we hadn't fought it
out?"

"Philip said we could more profitably have bought it out."

"Well, naturally," Lydia had laughed.  "I think that too, being a
Virginian.  But isn't it generally believed that there were some
principles involved beyond the mere commercial part of it?"

Hannah had shaken her head vigorously.  "Philip thought all wars
were avoidable, including that one.  The worst of all the bad
things about war, he believed, was the humiliation of defeat.  He
used to talk much, that summer, about saving face.  You know--the
Chinese idea.  He felt that the bravest thing you could do, in any
conflict, was to help your enemy save his self-respect.  So long as
he hadn't lost face, he was likely to act with dignity and remember
that he was a gentleman.  But if you demolished that, you made a
brute of him; and you really couldn't blame him much if, after
having lost his self-respect, he turned on you and forced you, too,
into using your teeth and claws.  Philip said, 'If you ever want to
know how much distance we've put between ourselves and the animals,
force your enemy to admit that he is no longer a free creature.'"

Lydia's brows contracted studiously, and then she smiled a little
over her remembrance of Hannah's zealous but amusing efforts to
interpret the more difficult articles of young Philip Raymond's
strange creed.  Sometimes she had been tempted to remark, "Perhaps
the dear fellow's frail health may have influenced his opinions."
But she never actually said it.  Hannah would have resented the
implication that her hero disbelieved in fighting because he
himself was not physically up to it.

 "It's a nice enough theory, Lydia had conceded politely.

"Only you do not take any stock in it yourself; do you?"

"What _I_ think, Hannah, is beside the point.  Nobody has made war
on me and I have no cause to do battle.  My opinion is worthless.
But, honestly, we wouldn't have had any progress at all, would we,
if our ancestors had not fought for their rights?  Hasn't our
history been just one long string of battles--from the very
beginning of things?"

And then Hannah would try to repeat what Philip had said about
that, though it wasn't easy to do.  Lydia grinned as she wondered
what Hannah's Professor Ward might have thought of their ill-
informed discussion.  She herself was no historian, much less a
philosopher, for all her reading and the lectures she had heard in
the finishing school in Baltimore.  And Hannah's vocabulary in this
field was limited to a little handful of Philip's phrases which
sounded strange indeed when sprinkled through her simple speech.

"Philip said it was never the fighting that produced progress,"
insisted Hannah, feeling her way cautiously.  "He said that all our
progress had come about through adaptation."

"Adaptation?"

"Yes--to circumstances, conditions, environment."

Then they had both laughed.  "Adaptation" and "environment" were
quite a mouthful for Hannah.  She tried her best to explain,
realizing that she was making a poor job of it but eager to justify
Philip's odd ideas.  In her own words--and with many long pauses
for reorganization of her argument--Hannah had proceeded to her
task, employing the illustrations he had used.

It was this way, she said.  When the people of one tribe had worn
out their soil, fished out their streams, and frightened away the
game, they could do one of two things: make war on a neighbouring
prosperous tribe, or migrate to a new locality.  The usual thing
was to make war.  If victorious, they captured the land and
enslaved the people.  The slaves were forced to do the work while
their new masters grew fat, lazy and stupid.  Presently another
army of invaders would come in and repeat the story.  History was
uncertain about many things but quite sure on this point: to
acquire property by capture endangered the life of the victors.
THE POSSESSION OF ANYTHING YOU HADN'T EARNED WAS A CONSTANT MENACE.

Or the restless tribe could migrate to an undeveloped country and
claim it for their own without contesting for it.  In the strange
land they would meet unfamiliar conditions.  Perhaps the climate
would be colder, requiring heavier clothing.  They would learn to
trap for furs.  They wove firmer cloth on stronger looms with more
skilful hands, taking pride in their craft and inventing artistic
designs to distinguish their fabrics.  The new foods were
cultivated with better tools and cooked in a better pottery.  Soon
the people were creating art-forms in clay.  Every new condition
drove the tribe forward mentally.  Swifter rivers demanded tougher
boats.  Hard woods dulled the old axes.  Minds became more supple
under the daily challenge.  And so the people moved forward into
greatness, not by looting and enslaving, but by yielding,
conforming, adapting themselves to difficult circumstances.

"Of course I see that," Lydia had agreed.  "Naturally it's better
to work out something for oneself than to twist things out of other
people's fingers.  But--look here!  Suppose some greedy tribe makes
war on YOU.  Are you supposed to sit there and let them hack you
into cat's meat, or are you to drop everything you own and run away--
so's to avoid a fight?"

Hannah had admitted that this was indeed, the hard part of Philip's
theory.  He had sat for hours thinking about it.  Sometimes he
would speak fragments of his thoughts, as if Hannah had been
following his thoughts and knew exactly where he was in his
speculations.

"Almost anyone would say it wasn't common sense, I think," Philip
would confess.  "And it isn't.  People with common sense, when
their property is threatened, fight back just as furiously as they
can.  Maybe they are defeated and lose all.  Maybe they are
victorious, after having been maimed, impoverished, and loaded with
debt.  But the common-sense thing to do is to fight back, and
protect your rights.  Besides--it's the brave thing to do and
you're probably hissed if you don't.  Only a little minority could
be expected to stand out against public sentiment and display the
uncommon sense of handing everything over, after which they could
be free to move out into a new country--new set of conditions.
Speaking of courage, Hannah, this programme of living would test a
man's valour more severely than any mere war.  Only a few would be
able to venture upon it.  Fewer would be able to see it through.
The rank and file wouldn't have the stuff in them to obey its hard
demands, and probably shouldn't be asked to undertake it.  But--I
wonder if this isn't the way men become great.

"Imagine the case of a man who had used all his ingenuity to build
up something for himself, and after he had succeeded to the point
of being able to sit down and enjoy the rewards of his work some
circumstance stripped him of everything he had, requiring him to
take up the struggle again in a different field.  Wouldn't he be
much more valuable to himself--and society--for having had such an
experience?  Suppose a man consented to give up everything and make
a new place for himself under conditions that forced him into new
habits of mind, wouldn't it be a wonderful developer?"

Really, it was about all that Philip wanted to discuss as the
summer days lazily passed.  Hannah said the thing had taken such a
grip on him that it was impossible not to be affected by it, even
if the whole theory was so difficult that it seemed--on first
hearing--to be mere nonsense.  "It's funny," Hannah had reflected,
"how an idea will grow on you if you give it enough room.  The time
came when I believed it myself."

"That was because you were in love with Philip," Lydia had remarked
gently.  "If he had said the moon is made of green cheese, you
would have believed it."

"I suppose so," confessed Hannah.  "And for all I know," she added,
"maybe it is."

                        *  *  *  *  *

"I want an ice-cream soda, Aunt Hannah, a chocolate one," Peter was
saying.

"Very well, darling.  We'll ask mother."  Hannah was struggling to
her feet.  "Want to go with us, Lydia?"

"You take Peter.  I'll stay and see what Susie is having for
dinner.  Run along, you two, and have a good time."  She would have
been glad to go, but felt that Hannah had a right to be alone with
her child as much as possible.

The beloved pair moved towards the house, probably to put Peter
into a clean suit and brush Hannah's tangled hair.  Lydia's needle
lagged as she watched them cross the shaded lawn, Peter shrilly
impatient to be off at once on their important errand.  She glanced
down at her chatelaine watch.  It was only four-thirty.  The swing
swayed gently.  The slim needle gathered up another loop of white
silk. . . .

And so it was October again, and Philip was to return to Arizona
with his mother, leaving in a few days.  Mrs Raymond had called
Hannah into the library that morning and closed the door.

"Hannah," she began, "we have a very sick boy.  I am afraid he is
not going to be with us long.  Anything he wants, he should have.
Now he thinks you should go along to Arizona and help entertain him
this winter.  He finds your company congenial.  I believe, too,
that you are good for him.  Would you like to go?"

"Yes, ma'am--if you both want me to, ma'am."

Philip's mother had found it difficult to continue with what she
felt was necessary to be said.  After a long pause, during which
she absently rearranged the various writing materials on the desk,
she glanced up, and searching the girl's eyes, said:  "You seem to
be an understanding person, Hannah.  We must have an honest talk.
If you go with us to Arizona you will not be a nurse or a maid, but
neither will you be a part of the family.  Let us have all that
understood.  Philip likes you very much and has found you a great
comfort.  He may even be a little bit in love with you.  I don't
know . . . do you?"

Hannah shook her head and knew that her cheeks were scarlet.  "He
has never talked to me about such things, ma'am. . . .  He likes me
to be with him--to read and talk . . . I think that's all."

"And you?" asked Mrs Raymond, seriously but kindly.  "Is that all--
with you?"

Lydia, remembering how deeply affected Hannah had been when she
told this part of the story, felt that it must have been a very
touching moment.

Mrs Raymond had risen from her chair and walked across the room,
facing the perplexed girl, who, for answer to the candid question,
had cupped her face in both hands and suddenly given way to a long,
sobbing intake of breath.

Putting her arm around Hannah she murmured, "That's what I was
afraid of, dear.  You're going to be dreadfully hurt."

"I didn't want anybody ever to know," confided Hannah, when she
could speak.  "I tried not to, Mrs Raymond--honestly, I did!"

"You are telling the truth, Hannah.  I believe you.  This is a very
hard position we have made for you.  And considering how you feel
towards Philip, I think you have done very well."

"Of course, Mrs Raymond," said Hannah, trying to control her voice,
"I knew I never could have him.  I'm not good enough for him.  But--
I couldn't help loving him; could I?"

And then Mrs Raymond had drawn Hannah into her arms and said
thickly:  "You needn't be ashamed of your love, dear.  It's quite
high grade, I should say.  I'm glad you were willing to tell me."
Hannah had pressed her forehead hard against the older woman's
shoulder, reluctant to turn away.

"Please, Mrs Raymond," she whispered, "I think you're--wonderful.
I'll promise you--I won't ever let him know."

"I'm not quite sure," said Mrs Raymond, slowly, "that I want you to
make such a promise.  We are all going to do everything we can to
make Philip happy."  She tightened her embrace of Hannah's girlish
figure, while her tears ran unchecked.  "And if it brightens one
single day for him to know that he has your affection, you may tell
him.  You will not do it unless he asks.  And keep it in mind that
your love for my son--whether he lives or dies--is quite hopeless.
It's too bad the world is organized that way, but--but that's the
way it is organized, and you know it."

For a moment longer they clung to each other in silence.  Then Mrs
Raymond suddenly disengaged herself, dabbed the tears out of her
eyes, walked dignifiedly to her desk, consulted her engagement pad,
and said in a crisp, business-like tone, "You will accompany me
into town to-morrow.  I shall get you some suitable clothes and a
trunk.  We will start at nine."

"Thank you, ma'am," replied Hannah, deferentially at attention.

"We leave on Thursday noon for the West.  I have spoken to your
father.  You will be in readiness for the trip.  I need hardly say
that you are not to discuss this with any of the other servants.
Meantime, you are relieved of your usual duties."

"Yes, ma'am."  Hannah made a prim little curtsy.

"That will be all, then.  You may go."

"Yes, ma'am."  Hannah turned and walked quickly towards the door.

"Hannah!"  Mrs Raymond's voice was military.

"Yes, ma'am."  The girl straightened and waited.

"Very well done!"

"Thank you, ma'am.  The same to you, please, if I may say so."

                        *  *  *  *  *

And so they went to Arizona, where Philip sat all day in the sun
with Hannah beside him, reading, talking, listening mostly.  One
afternoon he said to her, after an extended silence, "You know I'm
not going to be here much longer, don't you?"

"Please, Philip," she begged.

"It's not that I care greatly," he went on, listlessly.  "Life, the
way I've been living it, isn't much of a treat.  I would have liked
to have had a real go at it, Hannah.  Just between us, I wanted to
see if that little idea of mine was sound."

"Want me to try it, Philip? . . . in case--you can't?"

His face was puzzled, and for some time he did not reply.

"No, dear.  It might make life very hard for you.  I wouldn't want
you to do that.  I'm too fond of you."

"But I really believe in it, Philip."

Then he had reached out a pathetically slim hand which she took in
both of hers and held tightly against her high, youthful breasts.

"I love you, Hannah," he said softly.

With the utmost resolution Hannah had replied, as if she considered
his love but a dear comradeship, "Isn't it sweet, Philip, that we
do like each other so much . . .  And we always will--won't we?"

And so Philip Raymond had been brought home again, weaker by far
but rallying emotionally to the summons of a New England spring
that strained at its leash with an impatience almost articulate.
It was the gayest, brightest of springs.  It recklessly splashed
every conceivable variant of adolescent green and waxy yellow on a
palette of woods and gardens bounded by the hills and the sea,
coaxing many a discouraged, frozen, brittle thing to rise from the
seeming dead with a gallant resolve to bring forth foliage and
flowers.  Philip was almost merry, those afternoons in latter May
and June, so responsive to the revitalizing urge that Hannah often
wondered--with her heart more than her head--if he might not really
renew his strength.

Surely it was a valorous last stand that he made in defence of his
youth and its natural urges, as Nature posted her demand for the
resurrection of everything that held the faintest pulse.  Hannah
had thought it the most heart-breaking thing of all--Philip's
sending for his tailor and standing dizzily to be measured for
natty sports clothes.  He even ordered a new pair of riding-boots,
and stroked their softness with gaunt fingers.

Late one afternoon--she had been reading Whitman's Leaves of Grass,
rather wishing Philip had asked for something else--he laid a white
hand on the open pages, his signal that he wanted to make a remark,
and said huskily, "Hannah, dear, IF I should get well--"

"You must say 'when', Philip.  You're ever so much better."

"Would you, darling?" he entreated.

Hannah's training steadied her and counselled prudence.

"I'm not of your class, dear," she said gently.

"And I'm the mere shadow of a man.  Let's resolve to forget all
that and obey good old Walt's challenge.  You forget your silly
notions about caste and I'll forget I'm sick."  He took up the book
from her lap and in a wobbly scrawl wrote in the wide margin
opposite the brave declaration, "From this hour freedom!  From this
hour I ordain myself loosed of limits!"--"June twenty-third--1892--
this is our resolve.  Philip Raymond."  He handed the book back to
her, and the pen, and she wrote underneath his name, "Hannah
Parmalee."

"And if that meant we were engaged," Hannah had said to Lydia, "I
suppose we were engaged."

"I don't see what else," Lydia had replied.  And it was all true
enough.  Lydia had seen it in the book.  The ink was faded, but the
joint declaration was clear, significant.

But as the pastures browned and the locusts came and the blue smoke
of burning leaves was scattered into greyish wisps by October
rains, Philip gave up the brave fight, not conscious of any
particular art of surrender or wittingly determined to quit; but,
without meaning to do so, he quietly withdrew from the institution
he had called Life.  There was nothing dramatic about his actual
departure.  It was on a raw, sleety afternoon of November, while
the first surly swish of winter lashed the windows.  Sleet, ever
afterwards, Hannah had said, swept her courage all away.  It became
the sign of defeat, sign of everything lost.

Philip had been unconscious for two days.  Mr Raymond sat with his
head in his hands by the bed.  Mrs Raymond came and went softly,
knowing that her boy had already pushed out to sea and would not be
back.  Hannah was not needed and no one seemed to remember.  It was
just as well.  She was incapable of any more suffering, and there
was nothing she could do for the quiet form that gradually melted
away.  When the starched nurse came down to the kitchen and said,
"Well--it's all over--at last", Hannah had no tears left to shed.
She went home to the rather grim cottage of Dan Parmalee, took a
book from under her pillow, and on the margin, above Philip's name,
opposite the courageous line "From this hour, freedom!" Hannah
wrote, "Five p.m.  November nineteenth, 1892."

Lydia had thought it very unfortunate indeed that Mrs Raymond had
died a few months afterwards, for no one else knew certainly how
much Philip had cared for Hannah.

"Unfortunate for her, yes," agreed Hannah.  "But, for me, no.  They
would have been embarrassed to have me on their hands.  I did not
belong to them--and yet they would have felt under some sort of
obligation to me, I suppose.  Mr Raymond may not have known
anything about it.  I fear they had become just a little bit
estranged.  He was always very courteous, but there was a thick
wall between them.  I don't believe I would have felt right about
taking anything from Mr Raymond . . .  It was all for the best, so
far as I was concerned.  Mrs Raymond didn't have anything more to
do--so she died.  It would be nice if Nature was always that kind
and showed as much good taste."

Lydia had smiled over that, and Hannah had defended her droll
remark seriously.  "Why not, indeed?" she insisted.  "Haven't we a
right to expect that Nature will exhibit some good taste?"

"Pish!" Lydia had replied.  "I wouldn't give three cents for a
double cord of wise books that try to give a mind and feelings to
Nature . . .  Good taste!  Pooh!  Nature?  Good taste?  Nonsense!"

And so, after that, the big house was sold.  Hannah stayed on.
When the new people, the Coopers, came, she was employed as
housekeeper.  Adele, seventeen, was given the room Philip had
occupied.  Every morning Hannah filled a tall vase with flowers and
took it to Adele's room.  And the girl said, "Thank you, Hannah.
It is sweet of you to do that.  Is there anything nice that I can
do for you?"

"No, Miss Adele.  I have everything I want."

But the girl was always giving Hannah presents; expensive silk
lingerie, books, bags, ornaments.  Hannah would show reluctance,
but Adele would seem hurt if she did not accept them.  Once when
Adele was in town for the day and not expected until night she came
home early and found Hannah sitting beside her bed, her face buried
in her hands.

The girl had drawn the embarrassed Hannah to her feet and said,
"Tell me!  You've got to!  I want to know!  If there's anything--
anything FUNNY about you, I'm going to know it!  Let's have it!
Why are you mooning in my room?"

And Hannah had told her--very briefly--very softly.

"You won't tell anyone, please?"

And Adele had buried her face on Hannah's shoulder and shaken her
head and whispered, "No dear . . .  God!--I'm sorry for you,
Hannah. . . .  But it must have been wonderful to have loved anyone--
that much."

                        *  *  *  *  *

There was an expensive wedding when Adele was twenty-three.  Hannah
had doubted the success of the match, for Martin Moore was quite a
dozen years her senior and a century older in point of worldly
experience.  The best you could say for it was that it was "a
desirable match".  Hannah understood that phrase to mean an
alliance between a rich and jaded old bachelor and a young girl who
had been induced to believe that the things you could buy were more
worth having than the fulfilment of a romantic dream.  And perhaps
the fact that they were going to live in Paris may have added a
touch of greatly needed glamour to the sacrifice.  Martin had
business there, representing an American bank.

Adele had taught Hannah how to dress, and had turned her own
modiste loose on the supple and graceful form of her friend.
Hannah's black crpe uniforms with white piping fitted like an
expensive glove.  "Don't be foolish," Adele would exclaim when
Hannah protested about the costly elegance of the frocks she wore
every day.  "Wouldn't you rather look the way God made you than
wear some dowdy thing that deforms you?  I've a lot of satisfaction
looking at you in gowns that fit."

So Hannah had felt well dressed at the wedding of her dear Adele,
which was really the last event she ever attended that was worth
thinking about; for old Dan Parmalee had a stroke, that winter, and
as her mother was too frail for the necessary lifting of the big
fellow, Hannah was obliged to go back to the cottage.

For a time it seemed that Dan, now definitely out of the picture so
far as any further usefulness was concerned, would soon die--if not
of apoplexy, of querulousness and surly sulking.  Meek little
Mother Parmalee broke a hip, and thus added one more good reason
for Hannah's remaining at home.  With surprising tenacity of life,
the fragile Emma Parmalee shakily drank her tea and knitted woollen
socks for Dan, over a period of more than two years before
pneumonia carried her off.  Dan stayed on, alternately playing the
role of spoiled baby and pensioned giant.

Lydia had said to Hannah:  "It is a pity your father couldn't have
gone when your mother passed away.  It would have set you free.
Everything since might have been different."

"But then--I mightn't have had Peter."

                        *  *  *  *  *

They were coming now, down the back steps from the kitchen, the
little fellow clutching a big handful of lettuce, Hannah closely
following him.  Lydia waved to them.

"The rabbits," called Hannah, as they proceeded towards the far
corner of the spacious yard.  "Want to see them eat their dinner?"

"When I've reached a good stopping-place," said Lydia. . . .

So, then, Adele had come home, that next summer.  Within an hour
after her arrival she had appeared at the Parmalee cottage,
breezily affectionate, but frankly disturbed to find Hannah so
inexorably tied to her uninteresting responsibility.

"Maybe I've come back to stay," confided Adele with the old
impulsive candour.  "It isn't decided yet. . . .  But, Hannah,
you've simply got to get away for a little while.  This isn't
right.  I'll tell you what!" Adele exclaimed.  "I want to go with
you.  We'll go to Bar Harbour."

"I couldn't," declared Hannah.  "It's sweet of you--but I mustn't
do that.  Unless you want to take me as your maid."

"How about going as my companion?"

"What does a companion have to do?" Hannah asked.  "I never
noticed."

"I'm not quite sure myself," confessed Adele, "for I never had one.
I think, though, that a companion is just a person with better
manners and more sense, who goes along to buy the tickets and read
the papers to her mistress and take the dog out for short walks,
and is willing to be snubbed when the old lady wants to show off a
little."

"Sounds like a pleasant job," observed Hannah.

"That's settled, then.  And you'll be wanting some nice clothes.
I'll see to it."  Adele was full of enthusiasm over her new scheme.

"I don't think a companion is expected to be very modish," Hannah
said, to which Adele whimsically replied, "This one is.  I'm not
old enough yet to demand my companion's looking a frump just to set
off my fine feathers."

So they went to Bar Harbour, where Thomas Bradford joined them on a
morning stroll, the second day.  When he left them Adele muttered,
"There's something the world could get along without."

Hannah laughed, but privately rose to his defence, for he had been
pleasantly attentive to her, and it had been a long time since any
man had regarded her with an appraising interest.

"Too much mother," explained Adele.  "Thomas has paddled along
beside that old girl's beach chair ever since he left college
fifteen years ago.  If all the fools in the world would have a
convention, I feel sure she would be nominated by acclamation to
swing the gavel--and Thomas," she added as an afterthought, "would
stand beside her and hold it for her while she wasn't swinging it."

And Hannah laughed again, but couldn't help remembering that he had
looked her squarely in the eyes with an expression of pleasure and
interest.  That afternoon Adele had slept and Hannah had walked and
Thomas had fallen into step with her.  Perhaps his charge slept
also, temporarily freeing him to admire the shapely and genteel
companion of feather-headed Adele Cooper--"What's her married
name?" he asked.  "I never knew the chap . . .  But no matter.
Tell me all about YOU--and where you've been all my life.  Let's
sit down here."

The tide was out and the sea was unusually quiet.  They lounged in
the sand and talked, but not much about Hannah, which pleased her,
for there wasn't much to tell, and Thomas was delightfully
entertaining.  He had been everywhere.  Hannah reclined on an elbow
and looked far out into the blue where it seemed to rise to meet a
grey sky, quite intoxicated with the reminiscent voice of the
widely travelled Thomas.

"Blue, yes, and very lovely, as you say.  But you'll never know how
blue the bluest blue can be until you've seen a sunrise on the Bay
of Naples, from Capri, preferably . . . I could wish I might be the
one to show it to you, and watch the wonder in your eyes."

THAT sort of thing.  And--when Hannah had confessed how very much
she wished to travel, but first wanted to see the Surrey of her
fathers--

"You will, of course," answered Thomas confidently.  "I would like
to be along with you when you stroll down the garden paths.  It
would be like walking in a dream, wouldn't it?"

It was an important afternoon for Hannah.  Thomas luxuriated in his
recollective excursions, always insisting, either directly or by
implication, that they were reviewing these enchanted scenes
together, with something like a veiled suggestion that they might
do it in reality one of these days--who knew?  And Hannah was
enjoying herself far too much to banish the illusion.  She listened
dreamily, and made no effort to check Thomas as he prattled on,
increasingly reckless with his use of "we", and "us", and "our",
until it was almost as if they were actually planning a trip
together.

She had loved Philip with an undying devotion; but it was, she
knew, a protective love that experienced a kind of curious ecstasy
while performing tender little ministries to his weakness Thomas
was hinting--whether in earnest or merely to entertain himself--at
a relationship which, if it ever came to pass, would make her the
protected, nourished, indulged.  It was a new sensation, and highly
enjoyable, even if nothing ever came of it.  They walked back to
the Gables together, saying little on the return trip.  Thomas
smiled down into her uplifted eyes, as they parted.

"To-morrow?" he inquired.  "About the same time?"

"If you want to," said Hannah.

                        *  *  *  *  *

"I certainly am not going to interfere the least bit with your
amusement, Hannah," Adele had remarked, a few days afterwards.
"It's your vacation, and God knows you've little fun coming to you.
But I do hope you're not planning to burn your fingers."

Hannah had slumped down into a low chair beside Adele's bed.  "I'm
afraid I've already done it," she murmured.  "He thinks he's in
love with me."

"Well, maybe he is.  And maybe you're infatuated with him.  It
certainly looks like it.  But I'd hate to see you get tangled up
with that mess.  Thomas doesn't know whether his life's his own.
Until the old lady is nice enough to die--"

"He has had an awfully hard life," defended Hannah.

"Now, HASN'T he!" scoffed Adele.  "Lounging on the Riviera all
winter and sprawling in the sun up here all summer like a lizard.
However, it must have been a rough job, at that.  Does he think he
wants to marry you?"

Hannah nodded, with averted eyes.  "I couldn't now, of course.  Not
while Father lives."

"Well, that's encouraging.  Let's hope your father lives to be a
hundred.  Or you'll find yourself on the other side of the old
gal's wheel-chair with about as much liberty as her little chow."

"Do you think I would be much worse off than I am now?" asked
Hannah.  "It won't be very exciting for me just to sit there, in
that little cottage, and knit--all the rest of my life."  She was
on the verge of tears, but Adele refused to be sympathetic.

"No, that wouldn't be very exciting, Hannah, but at least you could
knit when and what you wanted to, without asking permission of a
vain old tyrant."

Hannah had been quite right about Thomas's feeling towards her.  He
had been almost independent of his mother for the two whole
afternoons and evenings before they parted.  Adele, with heavy
misgivings over this turn of affairs, was insisting that they
return.  Reluctantly, Hannah resumed her dull and thankless task.
But Thomas, with nothing much else to do, enlivened her routine
with letters, letters, and more letters.  Seeing it was the only
avocation he had, he pursued it in a manner that idealized and
glorified him in the imagination of the lonely and love-starved
Hannah.

When the gusty, slanting, autumn rains began to splash the fading
shrubbery, Adele one day impetuously decided to go back to Martin
Moore, or back to Paris rather, which was putting it less
unattractively, she said.  Her final words to Hannah, who had
accompanied her as far as the South Station, were:

"Good-bye, dear, and please don't be a damned fool!  There are too
many of us now.  One more would be crowding."

In September, old Dan suffered another stroke and was gracious
enough to everyone--including himself--to regard it as final.  And
to the utter amazement of all who had known him, Thomas Bradford--
after a serious quarrel with his mother, who had gone a few steps
too far, even for him, in making him feel a fool--wired Hannah to
meet him in New York, where they were married, after which he
defiantly led her into the old lady's sumptuous apartment and
exhibited her with a truculent air of boastful disobedience on
parade.

"She even stopped payment on the cheque she had just given him for
that month's allowance," said Hannah, when Lydia had inquired about
their resources.  "I had about five hundred dollars.  Thomas had
almost nothing but his clothes and golf-sticks."

They thought it would be better to get quite out of hearing of the
tempest that Mother Bradford had stirred up, leaving for Chicago,
where Thomas thought he had some friends who might think of
something he could do.  The friends were mildly glad to see him
until he stammered out the truth about his need.

Unused to seeing how far a dollar could be spun out--never having
earned one--Thomas quickly disposed of the little money they had.
With his weak little show of self-reliance wasting to a mere glassy-
eyed resignation, he wired to his mother, and she telegraphed him a
ticket and instructions to come and see her--alone.  He left Hannah
nearly penniless in a shabby hotel room and obeyed his mother's
command.  She waited for three weeks, expecting word from him.  It
came, then, addressed from Reno.  The letter was fourteen pages
long, contrite, abject, disgustingly but very properly self-
loathing.  He had no other recourse, he said.  He didn't know how
to do anything.  His mother would take him back only on condition
that he get a divorce.  Would Hannah understand the whole pitiful
mess, and let him go free?

Hannah did not protest, nor did she assert her rightful claims,
though she had just confirmed her mounting fear that her problem
was to be still further complicated.

"It seemed to me, through those days," Hannah had confided, "that
Philip was very near to me.  No--I don't mean anything spooky.  But
the things Philip had said sounded in my ears as plainly as if he
had just spoken them."

"But Philip had not expected you to live by his queer theories,"
Lydia had reflected.  "Surely you had a right to ask for your
living expenses while you were having that baby.  I think that was
carrying things a bit too far."

"Maybe so," Hannah conceded, "but it was a great satisfaction to
feel that I was doing something Philip would have thought brave."

At first it wasn't hard to find a good position as a maid, but the
time came when they said they would have to let her go.  They said
they were sorry, and doubtless they were, Hannah thought.  She
couldn't blame them much.

The doctor at the free clinic thought she would be better off at
the University Hospital, and sent her down there.  When it was all
over and done with, she went out to meet the winter that had
arrived in the meantime.  Her clothing was insufficient.  With the
last few dollars she had left--

"Why didn't you tell me, dear?" Lydia had cried.  "How gladly I
would have done something about it if I had known."

With the last of her small resources Hannah visited a near-by used-
clothes shop and bought the only heavy coat they had.  It was too
big for her and she despised it.  Seeing there was no pride left,
she also bought the old plush hat.  Sitting in the railway station
to be protected from the cold, for her vitality was low, she
studied the advertisements in the Morning Star.  There was nothing
but a chance to sell some little kitchen tool on commission. . . .

They were calling Lydia now, and rising from the swing she
sauntered over to the far corner of the garden and joined them.

"How are the rabbits?" she asked.

"Stuffed," said Hannah.

"But I'M not!" piped Peter.

"Very well, son," Lydia and Hannah exchanged smiles.  "Mother will
go in and see if dinner isn't nearly ready."



CHAPTER VI


In his first blind fury over the ruinous telegram reporting the
theft of his invention by the unscrupulous Ellises, Paul Ward went
completely berserk.  Absurdly miscast for so hectic an exhibition
of emotional stampede, he was a shocking spectacle.

All his previous disappointments had been accepted quietly.  He had
even been able to draw a tilted smile on these frequent occasions
of failure, admitting that he hadn't counted much on the success of
the thing anyway and would hope for better luck next time.  With a
seemingly boundless capacity for taking it on the chin, he had seen
one scheme after another go the way of all their predecessors, and
presently had bobbed up to invite Fate to rap him again.

But now, with fortune and freedom practically in his pocket, the
Ellis message from Pittsburgh had driven him into a rip-roaring
frenzy that stunned and stilled everyone in the house--except
little Sally, who, terrified by this incredible storm, wept
inconsolably and threw up two chocolate bars and a maple nut sundae
purchased out of the recently established weekly allowance of
spending money which she had not yet attempted to budget.

At the onset of Paul's purple rage, Marcia had ineffectively tried
to do something about it, tagging him from room to room, dodging
his eloquent gestures, and begging, "Please dear!  Oh--please
don't?"  But when it became evident that he wasn't hearing or
seeing her, she went to a window in the dining-room and turned her
back on the sorry scene, the knuckles of both hands pressed hard
against her ears.  Roberta's slim, sallow face was pasty with
horror.  Wallie, who had imprudently ventured a soothing comment,
stood straight and snug in a corner, wearing the blinking surprise
of the unexpected slapped.  Even Hannah, who thought she knew Paul
Ward in all his moods, stared at this wild-eyed stranger in utter
consternation.  And when she heard him in the basement smashing to
bits the machinery that was to have made him rich, she made no
effort to dissuade him, though every crash of the hammer was as
painful as if she herself had been struck.

The racket subsided after a while, and then there was complete
silence.  Apparently the tempest had spent itself.  Hannah decided
to reconnoitre.  In the living-room she paused to suggest to Wallie
and Roberta that they had better go for a walk and come back in an
hour.

"And don't worry," she added, complacently.  "Your father has had
good reasons for being terribly upset.  He'll be all right again
soon."

Tiptoeing upstairs, Hannah peeked through the partly open door and
saw Marcia at full length on her bed, face down, with Sally cuddled
close beside her.  Quietly retracting her steps to the kitchen, she
began the concoction of a pitcher of lemonade.  At the door of the
refrigerator she paused, meditated for a moment, shook her head
slowly, and abandoned the lemonade project.  She wasn't quite sure
what was needed in this case, but obviously it wasn't anything
involving ice.

There was a bottle of brandy upstairs in the medicine cabinet.
Hannah poured a liberal libation into a small glass and carried it
down to the basement, her heart pounding hard.  She didn't believe
Paul would have gone to the length of destroying himself, but you
couldn't tell what a person might do in such a fit of passion.  It
took quite a little courage to venture into the gloomy cubicle
where she knew she would find him.  He was sitting on the edge of
the grimy workbench, slumped over in an attitude of hopeless
dejection, his face white and drawn, his hands limply dangling.
One of them had been hurt and was bleeding.

Paul did not glance up when Hannah approached.  She stepped towards
him and silently held the brandy within range of his downcast eyes,
but he made no move to accept it.  Putting the glass down on the
bench beside him, she went upstairs again, returning presently with
a basin of warm water, a towel, a bottle of iodine, and the makings
of a simple bandage.  Paul had not stirred.

He permitted her to take up the bloody hand and dully watched her
sponge it.  After a while he slowly raised his head and their
serious eyes met in an exchange of unspoken inquiry.  Paul's were
suddenly suffused with tears, and Hannah bent energetically over
her task, half-blinded by her own.  She knew he would not thank her
for any display of pity, but it was very difficult not to offer
some tender proof of her feeling for him in this quite desperate
emergency.  With a brave show of casualness she proceeded very
practically with the necessary repairs.

When the bandage had been secured with adhesive tape, Hannah
renewed her offer of the brandy, which her patient drank at one
swallow.  Gasping over the fiery dose, he restored the glass.  Then
their eyes met again, Hannah's moist, but holding the faintest
suggestion of a gently reproving twinkle that matched the little
pucker of her expressive lips.  He had been--her look said--a very
naughty boy, but she was definitely on his side and he could count
on her, no matter how badly he behaved.

Paul laid his good hand on her shoulder, tightening his fingers on
it slightly as if to say that he appreciated her understanding of
his need.  Although she well knew the exact value of this grateful
caress and accepted it for what it was worth, the warmth of his
impulsive grasp raced Hannah's heart-beats for a moment.  It meant
a great deal to her, this spontaneous evidence of sincere
friendship.  She had long been aware of Paul's deep regard for her
as a loyal employee who had been largely responsible for
establishing the family's affairs on a sound basis.  To-day she had
been promoted to the rank of comrade.  His hand on her shoulder, in
this moment of grave emergency, had conferred the degree.

Not a word had been spoken.  It was ever so much better that way.
She was glad he hadn't tried either to defend or deplore his
conduct.  And she was glad to have avoided the natural temptation
to murmur some sympathetic platitude.

Quietly gathering up the things she had brought, Hannah moved
towards the doorway, and giving him a swift, reassuring, backward
glance slowly groped her way up the dingy basement stairs, her eyes
swimming with uncontrollable tears.

                        *  *  *  *  *

It was two o'clock Wednesday afternoon.  Mrs Ward hadn't wanted
luncheon and was up in her room, probably in bed with her face
buried in the pillows.  The children were at school.  Paul was
downtown in conference with his attorney.  He had restlessly roamed
the house most of the night, and had eaten almost nothing.  The
prevailing gloom couldn't have been heavier if some member of the
family lay dead in a coffin.

Hannah was ironing.  She could always think more clearly when she
ironed, and there was much need for clear thinking in this house to-
day.  Besides, she always ironed on Wednesday.  Reaching into the
basket, she drew out Roberta's dimity and patted it smoothly on to
the board.  The simple little dress didn't seem to belong to
Roberta.  It was intended for an eight-year-old, which was, of
course, Roberta's age: eight and a half; only she was ever so much
older than that--older than Wallie, by far.  Hannah had never known
a child like her; reserved, almost as if she were a guest rather
than a member of the household; serious when others smiled, smiling
when others laughed, courteous but plainly annoyed over
demonstrations of affection.  Even as a mere tot of four, when
taken up to be cuddled Roberta would submit to it only for an
instant.  "Too tight!" she would say, and wriggle out of the
embrace.

The only doll she had ever taken any interest in was a Chinese
coolie with a pair of little baskets dependent from a shoulder-
yoke.  And it wasn't as if she was precocious.  Roberta's marks in
school weren't especially good, except in drawing; and even there
the teacher's disapproval of her tendency to take liberties in
copying the patterns was frequently recorded in red ink on the
margins of her sketches.

"I never saw a cat like that," Hannah had playfully remarked one
day, glancing over the child's shoulder as she sat by the kitchen
window, doubled over her drawing-board.

"Didn't you?" mumbled Roberta absently, which was exactly the sort
of reply you might expect.  She wouldn't go to the bother of
defending the cat.  Nor would she have volunteered a criticism of
your cat, had you been drawing one.  Very odd child, elfish,
remote.  Mrs Ward had been baffled over her strange ways and,
unable to think of anything better to do in the straightening out
of Roberta's queer kinks, had dosed her with cod liver oil until
the sulky little enigma fairly gagged at the bare mention of the
nasty stuff.

Hannah carefully hung up Roberta's dress on the rack and drew out
of the basket a grey blouse of Wallie's, and if they weren't very
careful they were going to spoil Wallie, which would be a pity; for
he was a fine lad, so ridiculously like his father that his
unconscious imitations of Paul's tricks of gesture and posture made
you laugh.  They were so much alike, indeed, that they didn't
always get along very well.  Doubtless that was because it got on
to Paul's nerves sometimes to have this small mirror following him
about, unintentionally grotesqueing the little pomposities which
Paul could have done very nicely without.  And whenever Mrs Ward
wanted to dust off her husband a little, she attended to it by
brushing Wallie, who would rise to his own defence by offering
sound precedent for whatever he happened to have been doing, thus
putting his father to the necessity of repudiating the flattery,
which would hurt the boy's feelings so badly that he would leave
the table, everyone wondering who had started the row, anyway.
However, the tiffs never lasted very long.  Wallie, like his
father, had a short memory.  Lovable boy.  She wished he didn't
have these awful colds.  They frightened her.

Hannah's mobile lips curved in a tender smile as she stretched
Sally's little pyjama suit out on the padded board.  It was
natural, perhaps, that she loved Sally best of all, for Peter was
almost of the same age, and Sally had been born when Hannah was
desperately longing for her own baby.  But that didn't quite
explain all of her feeling for this child.  Sally was going to be a
beauty, and sweet as she was pretty.  Hannah had some misgivings
about Sally's undisguised affection for her, much as the little
girl's ardent attentions warmed her heart.  Home from school, Sally
would come racing through the house shouting:  "Hannah!  Hannah--
see what I did!  Hannah--look what I've got!"  If Sally fell down
and bumped her knee, she ran to Hannah.  If something happened to
hurt her feelings, she told Hannah.

"Better go and tell Mother, too, hadn't you?" Hannah would say, to
ease her own conscience.  And she could feel the round little gold
head nodding obediently against her breast.  But Hannah was always
told first.  Sometimes Sally would be so anxious to resume her play
that she would leave her summer luncheon almost untasted.  Her
mother would insist.  Sally would protest.

"Hannah," Mrs Ward would say, "don't you think it would be better
for Sally if she ate her rice?"

So, really, Mrs Ward couldn't blame Hannah too much if Sally was
more prompt to obey her than her mother.  She had made an open bid
for that dilemma--if it was a dilemma; Hannah often wondered if it
might not turn out to be a dilemma, some day.  Oh, well--you could
deal with that when the time came.  There were plenty of things,
much more important than that, to fret about now.

She picked up a dainty handkerchief edged with lace.  How many
times a day, this past half-dozen years, had Hannah said to herself
that it really wasn't any of her business; that she hadn't the
slightest right to judge her or criticize her, even in her own
private thoughts.  Mrs Ward--funny how she always thought of her as
'Mrs Ward', when Mr Ward was invariably 'Paul', probably because
his wife spoke his name so frequently, while he usually called her
'Darling', or some other term of endearment--Mrs Ward was doing the
very best she could.  Now--let that settle it, once and for all!
She's a sweet girl who never grew up, and if she isn't quite able
to be of any help in a mess like this, it isn't her fault!  Hannah
took particular pains with the handkerchief.  The lace was breaking
a little, and she resolved to mend it.  But--wasn't it too bad
about yesterday's performance; utterly helpless, running up to her
room to have a private cry when he needed something or somebody to
lean against.  Maybe he hadn't missed her.  Maybe he had been so
frantic over his calamity that he hadn't given a thought about her
slipping away, shy and scared and ashamed, at the moment when she
might have shown a little strength.  Perhaps she was really afraid
of him.  If so, that was too bad, for it might have killed
something in her that could never be revived.  Perhaps she was as
much disappointed as Paul over the loss of their promised fortune
and had gone to bed lamenting it.

But, no--Mrs Ward wouldn't be caring so much about that.  She
wasn't the least bit greedy for money.  No--her concern was for
Paul.  But what a way to show it!  She'd lose him if she wasn't
careful.  All she had was her girlish beauty, and she wasn't even
going to have that if she didn't stop fretting herself into a state
of swollen-eyed, tear-smeared, red-nosed dejection.  She wasn't the
type that could do that without damage.  Florid, peaches-and-cream
blondes weren't intended for long hauls of worry.  If they missed a
couple of meals and cried themselves to sleep for a night or two
they did their looks more harm than an olive-skinned brunette would
suffer by a month's continuous grilling.  Adele Cooper had once
delivered a few remarks on this subject, and Hannah had never
forgotten them.  Adele was always making up odd rules like that,
stating them so convincingly that you almost had to believe her,
even while you were thinking, "How silly!"

Hannah tugged a shirt out of the basket.  There were some brown
blotches on the sleeves, stains made by chemicals.  She hadn't been
able to wash out the spots.  But--no matter; it was an old working
shirt, anyway.  Perhaps he would never wear it again.  And if he
didn't pull himself together pretty soon he would get in wrong at
the University.  Two whole days now he had missed all of his
classes; sent word he was sick.  Well--that was nearly enough to
the truth, counting from yesterday afternoon.  Who would ever have
thought of him going into such a violent tantrum!

He had been waiting more than two weeks for word from that Mr
Ellis.  A couple of times he had phoned home between classes,
asking Mrs Ward if there had been any news--wires or letters.  And
Mrs Ward would reply:  "Sorry, Paul.  Not a thing.  You'll surely
hear to-morrow."  Then, more often than not, Mrs Ward would come on
out to the kitchen and say, "Dear, dear--if he doesn't have some
word from Mr Ellis very soon, I don't know what we're going to do
with him."

Paul had not talked to Hannah about it at all, which was strange.
Not very much had happened in the course of his work on the new
refrigerator that she hadn't known about.  All but this unfortunate
affair with Mr Ellis.  The little she knew about this was what Mrs
Ward had said.  It was the morning after Hannah's customary day
off.  She had gone to Waterloo as usual to see Lydia and little
Peter.  Paul had been in gay spirits at breakfast.  Something very
important was in the air.  When he had left the house, Mrs Ward had
strolled out to the kitchen, bright-eyed and full of happy
excitement.

"Well, Hannah," she began, impressively and just a bit
condescendingly, "it will not be long now.  Mr Ellis--you know, the
man who built the motor for Paul's invention--was here yesterday to
see the machine in operation.  His brother has a big manufacturing
plant in Pittsburgh and is practically certain they will want to
put Paul's refrigerator on the market.  So our Mr Ellis is going at
once to explain it all to his brother, and they can be making their
plans for the promotion and production while Paul is doing the
tedious business of securing the patent.  That way they can save
months of time, Mr Ellis says, and naturally Paul is anxious to get
something out of it at the earliest possible moment."

Of course.  You wouldn't have expected anything else from Paul.
Now that the machine had actually worked, the next move was to find
a producer who would begin at once to turn them out by the
thousand.  Hannah had experienced her joy over the promptness of
this offer, adding, as a cautious afterthought, "I suppose this Mr
Ellis is reliable."

"Oh, yes, indeed," Mrs Ward had replied confidently.  "Paul says
there isn't an abler mechanic this side of Chicago."

"That wasn't quite what I meant," explained Hannah.  "I was just
wondering about his honesty."

Mrs Ward had laughed, teasingly.

"Fancy your raising that question, Hannah; you who believe in
trusting everybody."

And Hannah had said nothing more, except that she certainly hoped
it would turn out happily.  It had worried her more than a little,
as the days passed.  She hoped that her own beliefs hadn't
influenced Paul to be inexcusably foolhardy.  But not--Paul
wouldn't have given her ideas on that matter an instant's thought.
Nevertheless, Hannah had some serious moments, through those days
of waiting, in which she re-examined her own philosophy and cross-
questioned it earnestly.  It would be a quite dreadful thing if
Paul were to be disappointed now when the reward for all his hard
work was in sight.

That had been a wonderful day--that memorable Wednesday when the
success of the machine was demonstrated for the first time.  Paul
had cut all of his classes on Tuesday and worked until far into the
night.  Hannah had taken a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and
toast down to the basement at one o'clock.  He had mumbled his
thanks, but seemed anxious not to be bothered.  Early in the
forenoon he had started the motor and had come bounding upstairs
with the expression of one who had seen a bright vision.  Dragging
up a chair to the open door of the refrigerator he had sat silently
watching the coils.  Hannah had held her breath.  Something very
important, she felt, was about to happen.  The minutes ticked by.
Presently Paul turned and glanced up at her over his shoulder.

"Come here, Hannah," he had said huskily.  "Touch that pipe!  Do
you know what that means?  I'VE DONE IT!"

"Wonderful!" she had murmured.  "I'm so glad!"

And then he had run out of the room to find Mrs Ward.  She had come
quickly.  The three of them had gathered about the refrigerator,
almost speechless with amazement and happiness.  Paul had gone
upstairs after a while, and hastily changed to his street clothes.
With nothing but a cup of coffee for breakfast he had left the
house, doubtless to go down to the Eureka Tool and Machine Company.
And the next day Mr Ellis had come while Hannah was away.

That had been a little over two weeks ago.  When the noisy storm
had broken over them yesterday, nobody had bothered to tell Hannah
exactly what was in the devastating telegram, but she could guess.
In Paul's frenzied raving, he had snarled out enough of it to
explain it all.

"Oh, yes!" he growled, between clenched teeth.  "They had been
working on the same project--and were all ready to promote it!
Like hell they had!  I'll show them whether they'll steal it from
me!  By God--I'll let them see whether they can get away with it,
the low-lived thieves!  Wait till I get my finger-nails into the
neck of that double-crossing, lying--"  Hannah had tried not to
hear the rest of it.  She didn't like to know that Paul could use
such vulgar phrases, even in this stress; sorry to learn that he
had access to them.

And to-day he was making plans to see Mr Ellis and Mr Ellis's
rascally brother.  He was downtown talking to a lawyer about it.
He wouldn't stop to ask who was the best lawyer in town, but would
plunge into the first office he came to and splutter his story.
And the lawyer would take the case, of course.  And the Pittsburgh
Ellis, who would have a smarter lawyer, would win it.  What a
beastly shame!  He had counted on it with so much confidence, and
had worked so long, and hoped so bravely.  But that was Paul's
trouble--he couldn't wait; just had to see his invention on the
market immediately, so the money would begin to flow in.  He had
begun spending it already.  Mr Chalmers had driven them out to see
the new house he was building on Edgewood Road, and Mrs Ward had
been asked to make suggestions about the decorations.

"I told him," Mrs Ward had remarked upon their return, "that we
weren't sure yet about our ability to buy a home, and he said, 'But
the house has to be decorated, anyway, and I'll trust your taste.'"
She had taken a frightful cold out there in that unheated house.
And now Wallie had it, too; had complained of a sore throat this
morning.  Hannah thought he was running a bit of a temperature and
had advised against his going to school to-day, but there was to be
a big rally this afternoon to encourage the basketball team for the
Thanksgiving night game, and he mustn't miss it.  If she could only
persuade him to stay in bed for a day or two.

Mr Chalmers had called up again this morning, but Hannah had said
that neither Mr or Mrs Ward could come to the phone now.  He
wouldn't be quite so attentive--his voice had sounded so sugary--
when he learned that the Wards had given up the idea of buying a
house.  Poor Paul.  He not only wasn't going to have a new home; he
was arranging matters so as to lose even the little savings deposit
at the bank.  The lawyer would want that--all that and a promissory
note for more.

They shouldn't have begun spending their fortune yet.  How foolish
of them to have encouraged the children to talk about a car.  And
the weekly allowance.  Imagine!--little Sally!  An allowance!

Hannah drew a long sigh.  She had five irresponsible children on
her hands--not counting her own.  She smiled complacently at the
precious remembrance.  At least, she didn't have to worry about
dear little Peter.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Wallie was definitely sick to-night, and they were all anxious.
Yesterday had been Thanksgiving Day, and he had been so keen on
going to the game that he had kept himself up, stoutly denying that
he felt badly.  He was so hoarse he could hardly speak, but
insisted he had "sprained" his voice by yelling so much at the
rally.  Hannah had suggested the clinical thermometer, to which he
objected with such a noisy display of annoyance that she desisted,
with many misgivings.  Paul was sulky and remote seemingly taking
no interest in anything, not even in Wallie's imprudence, and Mrs
Ward was too bothered about Paul's mood to give full attention to
any other worry; so the boy had gone to the game, returning at ten,
fairly on fire with fever.

Hannah had dosed him with hot drinks and the simple household
remedies which he made a feint of resisting, probably because he
still wanted to defend his decision to go to the game in the face
of her urgent protest.  When she went into his room to look at him
about five o'clock, Hannah was frightened.  Doctor Bowen came at
eight and again at four.  Mrs Ward wondered if they should have a
nurse, and the doctor said they would see in the morning.  Wallie
would have to be watched carefully to-night.  Hannah had sat in his
room from ten to midnight, Mrs Ward relieving her then.

It had been a trying day, and Hannah thought she would be the
better for a cup of tea.  In the kitchen she found Paul munching a
snack of cheese and crackers.

"How is he now?"

"Asleep, but restless," Hannah said.  "He's a sick boy."

"You mean"--Paul's eyes widened with sudden apprehension--"you're
seriously worried about him?  Wallie has been through this again
and again, you know."

"We usually have been able to check it earlier.  He kept going too
long when he should have been in bed."

"Yes--and part of that was my fault," growled Paul remorsefully.
"I was too much occupied with my own troubles."  He regarded her
with contracted brows.  "But where were you, Hannah?  Why didn't
you do something about it?  You knew Mrs Ward and I were at our
wits' end . . . didn't you?"

Hannah nodded, but made no reply.

"Don't you realize that I'm ruined?"

"Well," replied Hannah thoughtfully, "I don't think you're ruined
yet, but I'm awfully afraid you're planning on it."

"Now just what does that mean?" he rasped.

"You're arranging to fight back, aren't you?"

"Still harping on that silly idea of yours, eh?"

"We can easily change the subject," said Hannah gently.  "I am
sorry if I neglected Wallie.  I did try my best to keep him in,
but--"

"But what?  Why weren't you firm with him?"

Remembering the tension of Paul's nerves and the reasons he had for
being irritable, Hannah ventured no response to this, though she
thought of several things she might have said if she had felt it
necessary to defend herself.  Her failure to reply annoyed him.

"I suppose your silence means that you are practising your sweet
gospel of non-resistance again.  I'd much rather you talked, even
if you scolded.  I hate sulking."

Hannah poured two cups of tea.  He drew his chair up to the table,
and shakily fumbled in the sugar-bowl.

"Sit down," he commanded gruffly.  "I want to tell you about it;
should have done so before.  On the surface it looks as if we're
demolished, but there's the ghost of a chance that we can bring
these Ellis people to time.  I talked to Barney Harrison about it.
He has taken the case, and means to push it to the limit.  I intend
to fight 'em with every nickel I can raise!"

Hannah drew a long sigh, and shook her head.

"You think," snapped Paul, "I haven't a fighting chance?"

"I think," replied Hannah, "you haven't a chance--fighting."

"I suppose"--Pauls' tone was bitter--"I suppose you would just sit
here and say nothing and let them defraud you . . . wouldn't you?"
he added, challengingly, when the pause had lengthened.

"No," said Hannah, without raising her eyes.  "I wouldn't fight,
but neither would I just sit here and do nothing about it.  The
choice of things one might do isn't quite that narrow.  First, I
should decide not to fight back.  And then"--there was a long pause--
"I would hope that--somehow--"

"An angel from heaven would stroll in," assisted Paul, with
elaborate mockery, "and hand you full directions for recovering
your property by magic."

Hannah smiled a little, the same smile he had often seen on her
lips in acknowledgment of some babyish remark of Sally's.  "That
would be very pleasant," she agreed obligingly.  "May I pour you
another cup of tea?"

"Well--I don't believe in magic," he muttered, pushing his cup
towards her.

"Nor do I.  But it's a very convenient word to use when something
happens that we can't understand.  I suppose there are sound laws
and rules for everything that occurs--or ever occurred."

"Now that's much more sensible, Hannah," approved Paul, in a tone
that tried to imitate her recent humouring of him as if he were a
child.  "I thought you believed in miracles, and all manner of
hocus-pocus.  So--you don't take any stock in angels, after all."

"I never saw one," admitted Hannah.  "Of course," she added
prudently, "that does not mean there aren't any.  I never saw
mountains on the moon, either."

"Yes, yes, I know; and you never saw any spots on the sun, though
they are there and everybody knows it . . . but, seriously, you
have something in the back of your head, Hannah, that you've been
hinting at.  No matter how foolish it is, I'll promise to listen."

"Perhaps I'll try to tell you some day, after you have tried
everything else--if you ask me nicely."

"Have I been so rude to you?"

"What do YOU think?"

"I'm sorry . . .  I say, Hannah, tell me what's in your mind.  What
would you do if you were in my place?"

"I would"--she was meditative for a long minute, her eyes averted,
her full lips puckered with indecision--"I would drink that cup of
tea while it is still hot, and go to bed, and try to get a couple
of hours' sleep.  You might relieve Mrs Ward about two o'clock.  No
use of everybody's sitting up."

"How about you?"

"I'm not sleepy."

"Hannah, forgive me for being snappish with you.  I've hardly been
myself for days."  He pushed back his chair and rose.

"I think I had noticed that," she said, amiably enough.

Paul paused in the doorway, not quite satisfied with the close of
their conversation.

"You're a deep one, Hannah," he drawled.  "I'd give a great deal of
money to examine the inside of your head."

Hannah was facing the porcelain sink, pouring hot water over the
tea dishes, and without turning replied, "You'll not have any money
to spend on things that are only to be looked at--and not used.
Your Mr Harrison will be wanting your money."

Paul made no reply, but continued to wait in the doorway.  Suddenly
penitent over having nagged him when he was wretched with worry,
Hannah glanced towards him and added gently:  "But I'll be thinking
about you, Mr Ward.  And if there's any way I can help, I'll do
it."

"I know that, Hannah," he said warmly.  "I had hoped we might soon
be in a position to show you how much we have valued your service--
and your loyalty.  I intended to do something for you."

She allowed a whole minute to pass before she said quietly, "Money--
you mean?"

"Yes--and freedom from hard work."

Hannah faced him now with serious eyes.

"I haven't minded the work, Mr Ward.  And I'm not particularly
anxious to have more money.  But I do very much want us all to be
happy, and I'm afraid--I'm afraid we aren't going to be.  The track
we seem to be on now doesn't point in that direction."

Paul made an impatient gesture with a flick of his fingers.

"If you think you have a better plan than mine for seeing us out of
this mess, why not tell me what it is?"

Leaning back against the edge of the sink, Hannah folded her arms
and stared at the floor with studious eyes.  Presently she raised
her head and with parted lips waited for the right words to
organize themselves.

"It isn't a bit easy to talk about," she began hesitatingly.  "It's
something that has to be built up gradually by trying it out and
thinking it over.  I am sure you couldn't get anywhere with it
unless you had some reason for believing and hoping it might
succeed.  I'm afraid it would sound very foolish to anyone who
hadn't experimented with it, at least a little."  Hannah's low
voice carried a note of entreaty as she continued, still groping
for her words.

"Let me try to tell you what I mean, Mr Ward.  If--if some person,
a few years ago, had ordered you to build a refrigerator that made
its own ice, and had wanted it delivered at his house within a
month, you would have laughed at him.  Your invention didn't come
that way.  I wonder how many hours and miles you tramped back and
forth, back and forth, down in that little room in our basement,
trying to figure this thing out.  And how many times you gave it
all up and quit, disgusted.  And then went at it again because
something kept telling you that it was not impossible.

"Well--here is another job for you.  If anyone tried to tell you
what results you might expect from it when it is finished, you
would probably laugh.  But if you thought seriously about it for a
while, and made a few experiments, it might not seem so silly."
She walked slowly towards the doorway, where he stood listening
with a patient but not very encouraging smile.  "Would you be
willing to make a little adventure?" she asked earnestly.

"Blindfolded?"

"Something almost like that," admitted Hannah.  "I'll tell you what
you want to know, but first you must invest a little interest in
it, or it will seem ridiculous.  If you will go downtown in the
morning and inform Mr Harrison not to do anything more about the
suit against Mr Ellis until he hears from you further--I'LL TELL
YOU!"

"Perhaps you'd better tell me first, and if it's a good idea I can
easily stop Harrison."

Hannah shook her head obdurately.

"No--if you haven't enough confidence in me to do that much in
advance, my idea wouldn't seem worth bothering about.  This will be
no easy thing to do, I can tell you, even if you believed in it
with all your heart."

Paul shifted his position uneasily and lighted a cigarette.

"You're making all this sound dreadfully mysterious, Hannah . . .
I think we had better understand each other.  If I am expected to
do some preliminary spade-work, preparatory to a grand display of
faith, you're--you're putting your money on the wrong horse," he
finished lamely, aware that he would have laughed over such a
sentence if a student had executed it in an essay.

"We'll just forget it, then," said Hannah quietly.  "I'll call you
about two o'clock."  She turned and went back to her dishes.  Paul
remained standing there for a while; then with a long sigh of
fatigue and perplexity he moved off through the dining-room,
tarried uncertainly for some minutes in the living-room, and slowly
mounted the stairs.

Hannah listened attentively to his receding footsteps and tried to
interpret them.  She had hoped, when they hesitated, that Paul
might return and say:  "Very well then.  I'll try it."  Perhaps she
should have reminded him of the occasions when he had accepted her
"hunches"--as he called them--and had found them useful.  Maybe
Paul would think of that himself.

But suppose she did contrive to win his consent to make the
adventure.  It would be risky business.  She had never tried out
her theory on anything so important as this.  What if Paul
experimented with it--just to humour her--and failed?

                        *  *  *  *  *

Doctor Bowen had arrived in the morning as Roberta and Sally were
leaving for school.  After five minutes upstairs he had telephoned
for a nurse, who came very soon in a taxi.  Hannah, who had been
anxiously on the alert, admitted her before she had a chance to
ring.

"Gregory," barked the nurse, handing Hannah her suitcase.  She was
forty, tall, lean, grim, and businesslike.

Hannah led the way to her own room and Miss Gregory began changing
into her uniform, indicating by the careful timing of a sniff and a
shrug that she disliked the idea of sharing the maid's quarters,
even briefly.  Promptly aware that nothing was wanted of her but
her departure, Hannah went quietly downstairs and tried to busy
herself with the usual morning's work.  Her hands trembled.

Presently Paul came through, attended to the furnace, and said,
"I'm going down to a pharmacy to have some prescriptions filled."

"How is he?" asked Hannah, trying to steady her voice.  Paul did
not reply.  She followed him to the hall door and held his
overcoat.  He avoided her eyes.  She softly closed the door behind
him and watched his uneven, half-shuffling steps as he hurried
jerkily towards the corner where he would take the street-car.

Mrs Ward came down for a spoon.  She had been crying.  Hannah saw
that she did not wish to be queried.

Then Doctor Bowen drove away, returning in a half-hour with another
doctor.  Miss Gregory came down with a handful of instruments and
boiled them in a pan.  Unable any longer to restrain her anxiety,
Hannah asked, in a half-whisper, "Is it pneumonia?"

Without turning, Miss Gregory replied crisply, "Doctor Bowen will
probably tell Mr and Mrs Ward whatever he thinks they ought to know
about the case."

So--that was that, and now we knew exactly where we stood.  Hannah
felt a moment's resentment, but after a while she thought
differently about Miss Gregory's surliness.  The nurse wasn't here
to express her own opinions, certainly not to an inquisitive maid-
of-all-work who might try to be chummy unless promptly squelched.
And Miss Gregory couldn't be expected to know the peculiar relation
which this one maid sustained to the family.  Of course, reflected
Hannah, it could have been done a little less unkindly.  Miss
Gregory probably had no personal sentiments about face-saving.  Or,
perhaps she had lost face herself, and was hoping to get it back by
making other people lose theirs.

Miss Gregory called for a towel, and supporting the hot pan in it
she left the kitchen, intent on her occupation and without a
backward glance.  After a while Doctor Bowen left, but the younger
doctor remained.  Miss Gregory came down then and said:  "I want a
cup of strong coffee, a poached egg, and a piece of toast."  Hannah
complied quickly, laying a place at the dining-table while the
coffee was brewing.

"Never mind--I'll have it right here in the kitchen--standing."

Hannah hoped Miss Gregory was as competent as she was impolite.
Too bad that poor little Wallie had to be nursed by a person with
such bad manners, though he probably wouldn't notice, at least not
to-day.  She poured the coffee and arranged the other things on the
porcelain table.

"Thanks," said Miss Gregory.

Mrs Ward came into the kitchen.

"Having lunch?" she asked, a bit annoyed.

"Breakfast," replied Miss Gregory.

"Oh.  You didn't have your breakfast?"

"There wasn't time.  I was just going off night duty when Doctor
Bowen called, and--there wasn't time."

Hannah brightened a little.  Miss Gregory had good reasons for
being snappish.  She was worn out.  Perhaps she was a decent sort
when properly treated.  Stepping to the range after Mrs Ward had
left the room, Hannah said companionably:  "I'm going to fix you
another egg.  It will be ready in a minute."

"Thanks," replied Miss Gregory, slightly thawed.

"Too bad you had to go so long without your coffee."  Hannah's tone
was genuinely sympathetic.

Miss Gregory nodded.

"Too bad for you, too," she remarked dryly.  "I'm mean as hell when
I'm tired and hungry."

Hannah regarded her with one of the puckery little smiles which she
often employed in condoning the small blunders of the children, and
Miss Gregory, glancing up, interpreted it.

"What's your name?" she asked, with a brief grin.

"Hannah."

"Is that all?"

"Usually."

Miss Gregory's grin broadened a little.

"Been here long?"

"Since Wallie was about four."

"Well, in that case you have a right to know that he is a very very
sick boy.  It looks bad.  We're going to know more about it before
to-morrow morning, I think.  Doctor Rogers gave him a serum.  We
can't do much but wait."

"Thanks for telling me," murmured Hannah, rubbing away the tears.

"There's another nurse relieving me presently.  Where do I sleep?
I must have some rest--if I'm to be of any use to-night."

"You're not going away, then?"  Hannah's voice carried so much
spontaneous gratitude that Miss Gregory sensed it.

"No--I am going to see it through."

"May I make up my bed for you?  It's really all we have to offer."

"Please.  You look tired too, Hannah.  How long since you slept?"

"I'm quite all right, Miss Gregory."  Hannah tried to prove it by
straightening her shoulders.

"Don't want any pity, eh?"  Then, after a pause, "Are you somehow
related to--to these people?"

Hannah shook her head.

"Just the maid?" pursued Miss Gregory.

"That's all."

Regarding Hannah for a moment with studious interest, and seeming
about to venture a comment which, on second thoughts, she vetoed,
Miss Gregory stretched her arms to full length, gave way to an
undisguised yawn, smiled, shook her head slowly, and murmured a
mystified little "Humm-humm--humm," deep in her throat, inflected
as if she were saying, "Funny world".

Hannah had carefully tiptoed up and down the stairs a half dozen
times between ten and eleven, but because there was nothing she
could do she had resolved to remain in the kitchen now and try to
be patient.  The long strain was beginning to tell on her strength.
Her heart-beats bumped in her dry throat.

Doctor Bowen was in with Wallie, and Miss Gregory too.  Paul and
Mrs Ward were in their own room with the door ajar.  Doubtless the
doctor had advised them to remain outside the sick room.  Roberta,
pale and frightened but composed, had consented to go to bed.
Sally had sobbed herself to sleep at nine.  The ominous sound of
Wallie's laboured breathing tugged at Hannah's chest and made her
draw long, deep breaths in his behalf.  Occasionally there was a
little stir upstairs--the tinkle of ice in a glass, the moving of a
chair, the creak of a door-hinge; but mostly it was quiet--except
for Wallie's mounting battle with the Thing.  His disease had taken
on something like personality, in Hannah's overwrought mind.  The
Thing had Wallie by the throat and was trying to strangle him.  You
wanted to rush in to the room and tug the Thing's talons out of the
slim, throbbing neck.  Hannah clenched her agitated hands into
white-knuckled fists, closed her eyes tightly, and tried to endure.

A little before midnight Paul came down.  Hannah recognized his
steps on the stairs and met him in the kitchen doorway.  He had
eaten nothing all day but a brief breakfast of coffee and toast,
and looked indescribably fagged.  When he spoke, the words came
wearily, woodenly.

"The doctor gave Mrs Ward a sedative and she's having a little
sleep . . .  I don't see how my boy can stand this strain much
longer.  His heart, you know."

Hannah could not trust herself to offer any comment.  Lighting the
gas in the range, she began to prepare a lunch for him.

"Perhaps Dr. Bowen and Miss Gregory would like something to eat,
too," she said.

Paul shook his head.

"I asked them and they said 'No--not now'."  He took Hannah's chair
at the kitchen table and sat in silence while she went about her
task.  Presently, as she stood waiting for the coffee, he faced her
with an odd expression as if he had something to say that required
resolution.

"Hannah--"  Paul's voice sounded remote and spent but the tone
predicted an important announcement.  "Hannah--I have been doing a
great deal of thinking to-night . . . emergency thinking . . . I've
never taken much interest in the idea that the things we do and the
things we believe can--influence, in any way, whatever powers there
may be--outside and beyond ourselves . . . and I'm not sure, even
now, that I have any faith to offer.  My mind is upset, and I know
I'm not using it according to its habits.  But so many people have
believed--and do believe.  I've been groping about to see if I
could do it too.  I have even tried to pray--but it has seemed an
awfully caddish thing for me to do."

"Not when you were doing it for Wallie," suggested Hannah softly.
"You weren't asking anything for yourself."

"Of course I was," he contradicted.  "I want my boy to live--more
than I want to live myself . . . but I couldn't pray.  Not with the
slightest hope that anything might come of it . . . And then it
occurred to me that I might at least DO something . . .  So--I have
decided, Hannah, that if Wallie gets well I'll drop the whole
business of suing the Ellises . . .  That's a definite PROMISE!"

Hannah's eyes widened with an apprehension that was almost terror.

"Oh!" she pleaded, "you mustn't do that!"  She stepped towards him
and clutched his shoulder.  "Oh, Paul, please don't say that
again!"  Her words tumbled over each other breathlessly.  "I'm so
afraid!  Oh--don't do that!  You mustn't!  It's dangerous!  We
might lose him!"

As she stood there shaken with convulsive sobs, Paul stared up at
her with an expression of utter amazement.  He rose, and tugging
her hands from her eyes, muttered, "What do you mean?  What have I
done?  Tell me!"

Hannah made a brave effort to recover her composure.

"Do you think They would let you drive a bargain with Them?" she
said, huskily.

"They?" echoed Paul.

Hannah made a little gesture of impatience.

"They--or He--or It--or Whoever.  I don't know anything about it--
except--I know you mustn't trifle with Them!  Risky business!"

She was a new Hannah, with whom Paul had had no previous
acquaintance.  He had never seen her stirred before.  Her hands
were trembling and her harassed eyes looked suddenly old--in years,
experience, prescience.

"But--Hannah!" he asked, perplexed.  "Isn't that what you have been
wanting me to do?"

"Oh, yes--but not THAT WAY!  You mustn't try to bring your offering
TO MARKET! . . .  If you want to make this adventure you will have
to come the whole way with it!"

"Meaning--I'll not sue--no matter what happens to Wallie?"

"Exactly that!  SAY IT!  SWEAR IT!"  Hannah reached out her hand.
There was a long moment of waiting.

"Very well, Hannah," said Paul, steadying his voice.  "I give you
my hand on it.  If anybody knows about these things, I believe you
do.  I promise.  Whatever may happen to my boy--I'll do nothing
more to get my property back from the Ellises."

She searched his face with shining eyes.

"I'm glad," she whispered, clinging to his hand.

"You honestly believe in this--DON'T you?"

"Yes."

"I wish I could--as you do."

Hannah's forehead lined with perplexity, and a moment passed before
she replied.

"I don't think that matters so much.  You might have had plenty of
belief that didn't cost you anything.  But now you have pledged
yourself to something that may cost you thousands.  You might have
fought this Mr Ellis and won the case.  And you might have filled
your pockets with money.  You have given that up.  Why shouldn't
They respect what you have done? . . .  But how are you going to
feel"--she hesitated, her questing eyes searching his at close
range--"and how are you going to act--IF THEY DON'T?"

"I'll try not to complain, Hannah, and I intend to keep my word . . .
Honestly--do you think They will let us keep Wallie?"

She closed her tired eyes, unable to meet his challenge with the
kind of assurance he sought.  What had she done to her friend?  Out
of her agony and wistfulness she had suggested the surrender of his
only hope to salvage a long-cherished dream.  And who was she--old
Dan Parmalee's daughter, maid-of-all-work, with almost no education--
who was she to be committing a university professor to a test that
might fail?  What right had she to be talking so confidently about
what They might do?  What did she know about the mysterious ways of
Them--or Him--or Whoever-it-is?  She didn't even go to church on
Sundays.

"I hope so, Paul," she said earnestly.  "But I do not know."

He turned away and went back to his post of waiting.  Hannah sank
into the chair and listened to his footsteps ascending the stairs,
wondering whether it was merely her own imagination that made them
sound like the steady stride of a hopeful spirit.  The echoes of
the strange conversation lingered . . .  Well--it was now up to
Them!  How would They feel about this unusual transaction?  So far
as this present adventure was concerned, it wouldn't make much
difference how Paul felt about it.  The question was:  What would
THEY think?

                        *  *  *  *  *

The talk with Hannah had done something with him.  The new
sensation was difficult to define.  Of course, he reflected, at a
time like this one's mind could be expected to cut some queer
capers.  You couldn't subject yourself to the neural strains and
drains of the past few days and expect to remain normal.  He had
been ploughed and harrowed in all directions, up and down and
crisscross.  He sat in Marcia's boudoir chair and gazed out into
the night, amazed that the darkness did not depress him.

This strange feeling of calmness was probably an hallucination.
Hannah's faith had acted hypnotically on him at a moment when he
was too far spent, neurally, to offer any resistance or point out
any of the fallacies in her philosophy.  But the most remarkable
phenomenon of this curious emotional experience was the sheet fact
that he found it comforting.  His mind had been in a tumult.  Now
it was at peace.  And the "peace" was not the mere inertia and
indifference of exhaustion: rather was it in the nature of a
dynamic, a stimulant!  It wasn't as if he had simply lost his
spirit of stormy revolt against a sinister Fate that had robbed him
of his right to a fortune and was now burning up his child.  It
wasn't a mere surrender.  No--it was a POSITIVE thing!  This new
sensation seemed to have been produced not by the letting go of
anything but by the laying hold on something!  The inexplicable
"peace"--if that was the word--was not in the nature of a
resignation: it was an ACCRETION!  Not an abdication, but an
ACCESSION!

From the moment he had given Hannah the promise, this peculiar
experience had begun to operate.  The fiddle-string tension of his
nerves had relaxed.  The sense of foreboding and fear and dejection
had been put to rest as if by some benign narcotic.

For a little while he tried to analyse his mood; but he soon
discovered that he was content to accept the new "peace" on its own
terms without examining it too closely, fearing he might rationalize
it away.

As he passed the open door of Wallie's room, the sickish feeling of
fear that had come to him when, an hour ago, he had looked in on
the flushed swollen, almost unrecognizable face of his boy, did not
recur.

Marcia was still asleep.  He sat quietly in the low chair by the
window.  Doubtless this feeling would pass presently.  It had
arisen out of extraordinary circumstances and when the immediate
problem had been solved--one way or the other--he might expect this
remarkable experience to come to an end, perhaps never to be
recaptured.

Some day, a month from now, he might resume his passionate wish for
the retrieve of the fortune he had lost.  At the moment, the loss
was of no consequence at all.  Doubtless he would again find
himself hating and despising the Ellises with a contempt that
embittered his very food, but he did not hate them now.  It was a
relief to ease this strain and unload this burden.  He had not
realized what an amount of energy had been required to sustain that
galling weight.

It would pass, of course.  It was a mere phantom.  But for the hour
it offered a healing for his spirit.

                        *  *  *  *  *

At three o'clock Miss Gregory came down.  Hannah, who had been
sound asleep with her head on her arms, roused at the sound of the
competent steps.  Something in the Gregory manner speeded Hannah's
pulse.  She glanced up inquiringly.

"He's--he's a little better?" she asked, entreaty in her eyes.

"By God--the boy may put it over.  He's perspiring."  Miss Gregory
dragged the kettle over the gas-flame and signalled Hannah not to
rise.  "Now--don't get me wrong," she cautioned, suddenly blunt.
"Wallie has a chance--that's all.  He is a stout young fellow.
It's a good pump he has.  Maybe it will pull him through.  That--
and the serum.  He seems to be responding to the serum."

Hannah stared up at her with parted lips and wide eyes swimming
with tears.  A mysterious smile slowly lighted her face.

"Serum?" she repeated, hardly above a whisper.

"The antitoxin.  It works about once in a blue moon.  Where do you
keep the coffee?"



CHAPTER VII


Christmas was more tender than merry.  Wallie's convalescence had
proceeded slowly.  For a full week after the acute crisis of his
pneumonia had been reached, his recovery was still in doubt.  Paul
went to no classes.  The doctor came twice a day.  Miss Gregory was
constantly on the alert.  The family moved about softly, silently,
haggard with worry.

It was a great day when Doctor Bowen said Wallie might sit up for a
while, and a greater one when his father carried him downstairs and
carefully deposited him in a big leather chair by the grate, where
they all clustered about him with a wide-eyed devotion that made
him grin self-consciously.  Embarrassed, the boy broke the silence
by swallowing noisily, deep in his thin, white neck, and saying in
a weak voice, "Well--here we all are," which made them laugh
through their tears.  Hannah promptly retired to the kitchen,
followed by Miss Gregory.  Sally went also, returning presently
with a hot doughnut generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.  She
put it in Wallie's bony hand.

"Of all things, Sally!" said their mother gently.  "A doughnut--for
a sick man!"

"You ought to see your face," giggled Wallie, pointing a shaky
finger.  Then they all laughed at Sally, with powdered sugar on her
plump cheeks, her round chin, and the tip of her nose.  Even
Roberta laughed, and detaching herself from the group wound up the
gramophone for some Christmas hymns and carols.  And when Trinity
Choir sang Unto Us a Son is Given, Marcia, deeply moved, groped for
Paul's hand.

A little later in the kitchen she said to Hannah, who was cutting
out cookies in shapes of stars and trees and angels, "We could very
well get along without any other Christmas gifts this year, now
that Wallie is safe."  And Hannah rather wished they might all feel
that way about it, for expenses had been high and it would be
difficult to meet their current bills in full, even if no more
money was spent for presents.

But Paul seemed to think that Wallie's recovery deserved a special
celebration.  The child had been through a harrowing experience,
and this Christmas should be made a joyful occasion for him.  If it
cost a little more than they might have spent under normal
circumstances, so be it.  It was no time to count nickels.

And if Wallie was to have nice presents, the others should have
them too.  Indeed, they all merited gifts, after the long strain
they had endured.  It had been a frightful milling, reiterated
Paul, and they were going to make something of Christmas this time,
and the expenses, he continued, could be damned.  All this to
Hannah, on the day Wallie sat up for the first time.  She hadn't
the courage to caution him, and promptly surprised both Paul and
herself by conceding the point, adding, however, that she wished
the expenses could realize that they were damned, to which he
laughingly replied that she was priceless.  She then gave him one
of those half-teasing, puckery smiles which always left him
guessing what retort she had resolved not to make.  "It's a good
thing I am priceless," thought Hannah, "if we are to have a grand
spree of spending."

"I've got Wallie the best bicycle to be had in town," said Paul.

"He'll love that," Hannah heard herself saying.  "I hope it will be
an early spring, so he won't have to wait too long to enjoy it."

"You know, Hannah"--Paul's face was perplexed--"I hadn't thought of
that.  However"--he brightened quickly--"he'll have fun owning it--
and it will be something to look forward to."

Hannah nodded.  "Just like the doll perambulator," she observed.

"It's a wonder I didn't think of that," regretted Paul.  "But Sally
can play with the doll, at least.  It's quite a novelty, you know."

And so it was.  It was a talking doll.  Paul had made a great event
of showing it to Mrs Ward and Hannah.  He had stored it in the
attic.  Hannah thought she knew why he had asked them to view it
together.  Mrs Ward had not been consulted about these expensive
gifts for the children; had had no part in selecting them.  Hannah
knew exactly how it had come about.  Paul had been downtown on an
errand the day Wallie had sat up for the first time.  Beside
himself with joy and relief, he had impulsively decided on a
noteworthy Christmas celebration.  Of course it would have to be
arranged for at once, on the spot, without a moment's further
consideration.  It wouldn't occur to him until afterward that this
was a selfish, childish, silly thing to do.  Anyone else in the
whole wide world, reflected Hannah, would have paused to wonder if
these extravagant gifts might not make Mrs Ward's discreet
purchases for the children seem cheap and beggarly by comparison.
Now that Paul had done it, perhaps he was a little bit ashamed.

So that was why, with much hush-hushing, he had tiptoed Mrs Ward
and Hannah to the attic, after the children were in bed, to see the
talking doll in a perambulator, big and sturdy enough for a live
baby.  He knew Hannah wouldn't chide him for the expense--not when
the three of them were together.  And he knew Mrs Ward wouldn't be
able to inquire, in Hannah's presence, why he hadn't asked his wife
to lend a hand in this adventure.

They shivered in the cold, exhaling spouts of steam, while he
unwrapped the bulky parcel.  They looked and listened.  In an
impassive face, the doll's mouth gasped like an expiring fish, and
from somewhere in its abdomen a series of mechanical squawks was
audible.  By the use of a little imagination, one suspected that
the doll said "Papa--Mamma--Baby".

"She hasn't been talking long," Paul observed wittily, when the
silence had begun to pile up.

Hannah was so full of unrelieved laughter that her sides ached.
She couldn't risk opening her mouth to offer a comment, and hoped
Mrs Ward would have something to say very soon, which she did.

"No--she hasn't a very wide vocabulary, has she?"

To this crisp observation Paul replied defensively that he thought
the doll did very well to be able to talk at all.  Then they looked
at the expensive outfit of artists' supplies which were to be
Roberta's, and Mrs Ward remarked that a professional portrait
painter would be happy to have it.  It was too cold to linger very
long, so they clattered down the narrow attic stairs, and by the
time they were on the first floor Mrs Ward had resumed her good
nature.  Hannah was glad.  You had to forgive this fellow.  After
all, he was a grand person, if you knew how to take him.  Mrs Ward
was behaving very well, Hannah thought, especially when she
remarked that the paints and brushes would be quite an inspiration
to Roberta.

After she had returned to her room, Paul came out to the kitchen
with a beautifully ornamented round box and said it was the gift he
had bought for Mrs Ward.  Hannah was afraid it was a hat, at first,
but it turned out to be a dozen Cauldon service plates.

"Worth twelve dollars apiece," said Paul impressively.  "Had them
for eight because Bowker's was a bit overstocked.  The man said
they were really an extraordinary buy."

"Yes," agreed Hannah, "I think that too."

Paul beamed on her appreciatively.  "Beautiful, aren't they?" he
demanded.

"Exquisite!" breathed Hannah.

He had never heard her use the word before, and admiration shone in
his eyes, maybe because she had pronounced it correctly.  He didn't
think much of the mentality of women who said "exQUISite".  He
always told the freshmen, early in the year, that a woman who would
say "exQUISite" always had an untidy mind, and was likely to begin
every other paragraph with "Well--anyway".

"You think she will like them?" insisted Paul, more confidently.

"Of course.  Why not?  They're lovely."

After a moment more of silent admiration, Paul carefully stowed the
plates in the silk-lined box.  Drawing out his worn wallet, he
extracted two tens and a five.  Hannah could not help noticing that
it left the pocket-book flat.

"For you," he said gently.  "I wish it was more."

"Thank you, Mr Ward.  You are all very kind to me."  Hannah's voice
was tender.  She looked up into his eyes and smiled.  He returned
the smile, and then they shook hands, wondering a little why they
were doing so.  Upon the bestowal of gifts, in the Ward household,
it was customary for the beneficiary to kiss the donor.  Maybe that
was why they were shaking hands, Hannah thought.  She could have
kissed him, she knew, without affecting their relation the least
bit; but perhaps it was better to shake hands.  On second thoughts,
it was ever so much better.

"We are all going to have a merry Christmas, aren't we?" she said,
slipping the money into her apron pocket.  He nodded, and made
quite a ceremony over the lighting of a cigarette.  Hannah poured
him a glass of milk and cut a slice of cake.  There would be an
after-Christmas sale of canned vegetables at the stores.  One could
do a great deal with twenty-five dollars.  It would relieve the
strain of the next monthly statements.

"Funny thing," said Paul, putting down the empty glass, "I never
felt just this way about Christmas before.  The spirit of it, you
know.  I feel as if I knew what it is all about, this time.  It's
Wallie, of course.  But the goodwill part of it--that never struck
me so forcibly.  Peace and goodwill toward men--and all that sort
of thing.  I don't even despise the Ellisses."

"You know why, don't you?" said Hannah gently.

"Well, I know what you're thinking, of course.  I promised not to
fight them.  But that didn't mean I was going to stop hating them.
Just now it doesn't seem to matter much.  I can't quite understand
my own feelings, though I've tried to analyse them.  Some of the
factors to the problem are clear enough.  The emotional part of it
is simple: Wallie's recovery.  My home has suddenly become the most
important fact in the world.  And that's not hard to see through.
I was defeated on the outside, and have been driven back.  I'm in
the position of the prodigal who, having lost his fortune, hurried
home and found it a more interesting institution than it ever was
before.

"You know, Hannah," he went on, choosing his words with a view to
their simplicity, "back in the Middle Ages a feudal lord would
build a huge wall around everything he owned: houses, barns, shops,
mills, fields, orchards, groves--everything.  Then he would
dig a deep ditch around his estate and run it full of water.
Occasionally he would organize his men and go out to stage a big
fight.  Whether he won or lost, there was always a home-base to
return to.  Whenever he had had enough of fighting he could go
back, pull up the sturdy old drawbridge, and thumb his nose at the
whole world.  Everything he really needed was snug inside the wall.
Well, that's the way I feel now.  I made an excursion, and I've
been licked.  Now I'm home again.  It's a good place to be."

Hannah had been listening with wide-eyed interest.  A great deal of
what Paul had been saying stirred memories of Philip's frequent
references to modes of life long, long ago.  She made no comment,
realizing that Paul hadn't finished what he wanted to say.  She
nodded encouragingly, and waited.

"But here is the thing that mystifies me, Hannah.  Why did I stop
hating the Ellises?  The reason for my hating them has not changed
in the slightest degree.  They stole my only chance to set myself
free and live a privileged life.  They have not given my property
back.  And I have promised not to exercise my lawful right to it.
But I don't care.  I'm entirely satisfied."

Hannah's eyes sparkled.

"That's the best news I've heard for a long time.  I don't think
there is anything so mysterious about it.  You loathed and despised
the Ellises because you felt they had beaten you.  Now you've left
off hating them.  Can't you understand what that means?  Down
inside yourself, somewhere, you have decided that the Ellises have
not beaten you.  That's the explanation of this feeling of safety,
security, same as the lord behind the high wall and the what-you-
may-call-it.  Philip used to talk about it."

"Moat," supplied Paul, with a grin.  "Who was Philip?  I never
heard you speak of him before. . . .  But--look here!  You aren't
meaning to imply that I have got the better of the Ellises just
because I've stopped wanting to bite them?"

Hannah's face had suddenly sobered.

"I'll tell you all about Philip--some time.  It's a long story.
Maybe you would be interested . . .  I'm not sure just how you have
overcome the Ellises.  It's enough to know that you really have.
It will all come out, I suppose, and then we'll know.  This much is
sure: when a person makes a costly giving-up, he gets something for
it.  I don't pretend to understand it.  I just know that one gets a
new power to--to deal with things."

Paul regarded her with fresh interest and curiosity for some
minutes, then paced slowly back and forth, hands deep in his coat
pockets.

"Hannah"--he stopped and faced her with a severity of a prosecutor--
"I'm going to ask you a direct question.  Do you honestly believe
that my decision, that night, accounted for Wallie's recovery?"

"I do not know," replied Hannah, so softly that the words were
barely audible.  "But I think it had everything to do with yours."

"Was I sick, too?"

"Very."

"Well--be that as it may."  Paul seemed impatient to settle the
case of Wallie's rescue.  "The doctor and the nurse think the serum
saved my boy's life.  What do you think?"

"It might have been the serum," conceded Hannah.  "They ought to
know."

"Yes, but didn't you get yourself all stirred up when you thought I
was dickering with Them--or Him--or It?  Don't you remember?"

"I didn't want you to take the risk of doing Wallie some damage,"
explained Hannah weakly.

"Ah--there you are!"  Paul leaned over the table and searched her
eyes.  "The wrong way to have done it might have hurt Wallie.  That
means that the right way to have done it might have helped Wallie.
And now you admit that you don't know."

"That's because I am trying to be honest," declared Hannah,
accenting her words.  "We're dealing with something here that
nobody knows very much about.  I'm sure I don't.  I hoped you might
do Wallie some good.  He was so very sick that anything was worth
trying.  We tried it--and Wallie got well.  Wallie also had fine
care, all the way through his sickness, and there was the serum.
Why should I be asked to say whether I thought the serum had
anything to do with Wallie's getting well?  How could I know?
Perhaps I have some private ideas on the subject--but maybe they're
not worth much.  I'm not a doctor."

Paul nodded his head several times and pursed his lips tightly.

"So you think it may have been the serum, after all, now that we're
calm enough to look at the affair unemotionally."

"Yes--it might have been the serum that cured Wallie but--my
friend"--Hannah's voice took on a confident note--"it was something
else than serum that cured YOU!  You hated the Ellis brothers
because they had power over you.  Now you've stopped hating them
because YOU have been given power.  I haven't the faintest idea
what you're going to do with it, but it's there to be used for
something--if you want to.  I'm quite sure of that."

"Now, Hannah, you're getting beyond my depth again," growled Paul.

"I mean, you've been given something that makes you feel secure
again.  Perhaps you could put this power to work on some other big
problem."

Paul shrugged a shoulder and muttered that he supposed she meant he
could do something about his debts.  Hannah shook her head.
"Nonsense!" she exclaimed.  "We paid the debts before.  We can do
it again.  That's simple enough.  I'm thinking about something
IMPORTANT!"

"Another invention, may be," scoffed Paul.  "Well, let me tell you
something, Hannah.  It's beyond hope that I'll ever think up
another invention--and see it through to the end."

Hannah rubbed her temples hard with her strong fingers and after a
long silence replied, as from a distance, "Maybe you didn't see
this one through to the end."

"It made ice, didn't it?  That's all it was for--wasn't it?"
Paul's voice rose a little, half testily.  "I never thought it
would shovel snow, or mow the lawn, or answer the door-bell.  How
do you mean, I didn't see it through to the end?"

She motioned to him to sit down.

"I'm going to tell you about Philip Raymond, Paul."  Her voice was
very low and the words came slowly.  "When I was a young girl I was
very much in love with a boy who was sick.  He was the son of the
people I worked for.  He liked me and I often read to him.  And he
used to talk to me.  In fact, everything I believe that is worth
believing I owe to Philip.  He knew he was going to die.  Things
close at hand didn't interest him."

"Thinking about the future?" asked Paul, wanting to seem
interested.

"Not the least bit.  He was always talking about the past, same as
you were a while ago.  Sometimes he would ramble on for a whole
afternoon about the history of ancient people; how they would be
driven from one country to another by fierce tribes.  And every
time they had to face the hard conditions of living in a new land
they became more powerful."

"Of course!  'Root, hog--or die!'"

"Yes.  Came to a country where there were no natural caves to live
in and the rocks were too heavy to lift.  So--one of them invented
a pulley.  And--after that--they could lift anything they pleased,
no matter how big it was.  Philip said they never could have done
it if they hadn't been driven out of the safe and pleasant country
they had owned.  They had to give up everything they possessed for
that pulley, but it was the pulley that made it possible for them
to erect great buildings and monuments.  And it was these buildings
and monuments that gave them a feeling of natural pride.

"And then the windlass.  And when their stone chisels were too soft
for dealing with such great blocks of granite, a man made a heavier
tool of metal.  Philip said they never would have discovered the
use of metal back in the old country where their food grew wild on
the trees and the days were never cold.  And then there was always
a new sense of freedom when they were forced to leave everything
and run for their lives.  You see, they would have gathered up a
great lot of things that held them fast; herds of cattle to be fed,
sheep to be sheared, corn to be harvested, furniture and pottery to
be guarded against thieves.  The things they owned had made slaves
of them.  And then they would be lashed and slapped and kicked out
of their country by invaders with nothing but their knapsacks,
leaving all their property behind.  Everything they had would be
lost--but they would have come into a new freedom.  It was the very
things they had owned that had kept them from coming into new
power.  They found their lives by losing them."

Paul drew a long sigh and chuckled.

"That's all very well, Hannah, as an explanation of dawn-man
development.  I'm afraid your Philip would have had a rough time
trying to apply it to our own affairs to-day."

Hannah's eyes lighted.

"But that's what Philip was trying to get at, you see!  He said
that if a man, to-day, would resolve to disarm and let the greedy
people rob him of everything he owned, occasionally, forcing him to
adopt new habits and new methods of work, he might expect to become
great!  The same difficult conditions that led to the invention of
the needle and the compass and the saw and the lever, Philip
thought, would develop a man NOW!"

"Of course I see what you're trying to say, Hannah," said Paul
cannily.  "The Ellises steal my invention and strip me of a fortune
that was all but in hand.  My job now is to leave it, without
protest, and build something else--spider fashion.  There's nothing
new about that doctrine.  Children have been speaking pieces about
it on Friday afternoons at school for five thousand years."

Hannah was quiet for a moment, and then remarked dryly that if
people had been teaching this to their children for five thousand
years perhaps there was some truth in it.  This made Paul laugh.
He rose, stretched his long arms, and signified that the lengthy
discussion--so far as he was concerned--had reached the time for
adjournment.

"Very well, Hannah," he said drollishly.  "The Ellises having
cleaned me out I'll take up my bag and pilgrim's staff and seek a
new country . . .  But--I really can't think of anything more to be
done to the refrigerator."

"Maybe not," replied Hannah.  "Somebody will.  Why not you?"

Something had been cautioning Hannah that it was all too good to be
true; that a reaction would set in; that this calm spirit of Paul's
might be expected to boil over one of these days.

Wallie had gone back to school on the tenth, and the customary
routine of the house was resumed almost as if nothing had ever
happened to disturb it.  Perhaps all the attention he had received
for five weeks had given him some odd ideas about his relation to
the other objects of creation.  If so, what else could you expect?
He was only a boy, and at a period of life when being a boy was a
difficult job, even if the conditions were entirely normal.

There was quite a spirited discussion at the table on Saturday
noon, Wallie having announced that he was going skating with Billy
Prentice, and his father having forbidden it because there had been
a thaw.

"But the ice is three feet thick, Dad," pursued Wallie.

"I don't believe it.  And you're not to go.  We've had all the
worry about you that the traffic will stand.  You mustn't give us
any more of it--not for a while."

Paul's voice was hard.  But then, he had had a rough morning--going
through his bills.  There wasn't much he could do about them, but
there they were.  It wasn't a suitable time for Wallie to rub him
the wrong way.  Hannah wished she might get the boy off in a corner
and give him a word or two on the subject.

"It wasn't my fault if I took sick--and pretty near died, was it?"
demanded Wallie, still capitalizing the seriousness of his recent
disability, and rather surprised that so grave a matter could be
viewed otherwise than with the greatest tenderness.

"I'm not so sure," muttered Paul.  Marcia broke in to inquire if he
wanted a little Worcester sauce for his Spanish omelet, but he
merely shook his head in the general direction of her distracting
inquiry.  "You would go to that basketball game, in spite of
everything that was done to dissuade you.  You knew that I was in a
serious business difficulty, and had no time or thought for
anything but that.  So you defied everybody and went to the game
when you were sick and should have been in bed."

Roberta said, "Excuse me, please," and began edging off her chair.

"Better finish your luncheon, dear," advised Marcia, in a low
voice.  "You'll be hungry after a while."

"Let her go," growled Paul.  "If Roberta is too sensitive to bear
with her father while he announces a few simple truths, let her go.
She'll have more fun sulking than eating. . . .  What I am trying
to say, Wallie, is that you are not to go skating this afternoon.
It's much too risky.  You take a chance on coming home drenched to
the skin, or drowned, maybe."

"I have some work to do," mumbled Roberta, leaving the table.

"Never mind, Daddy, I'll stick," promised Sally amiably.  "I love
quarrelling, so long's I'm not in it."  She passed her plate.  "A
little more please . . .  Now, Wallie, you say, 'But Billy's father
is letting HIM go.'"

"You shut up," snarled Wallie.  "And stop being so darn cute."

"Oh--children!" pleaded Marcia.

Paul dealt severely with an incipient grin, and gave Sally a
private wink along with another helping of the omelet.

"I saw you do that," grumbled Wallie.

"Bright eyes," remarked Sally, to her plate.

"That will be all," decided Paul.  "Wallie, you may plan to amuse
yourself some other way this afternoon."  His voice softened.  "We
can't have you sick any more, you know."

With her palms upturned idly in her lap Marcia gazed woodenly out
at the dazzling sunshine, her impassive face registering quiet,
resigned disgust for the whole affair.  She couldn't think where
the children had derived their snappishness.  Certainly not from
her.  Nor her people.  As she had often said, the Wallace home was
a peaceful haven.  By unspoken agreement they rose and left the
table, Marcia going up to her room.  Wallie left by the front door,
which he closed after him with a significant emphasis.  Sally
joined Hannah in the kitchen.

"They're all so funny," she said, munching a cookie.

"You shouldn't laugh at people when they're disturbed about
something," admonished Hannah.

"You said sometimes a laugh would stop a quarrel, Hannah.  You know
you did," defended Sally, trying to play at being misunderstood.

"It's better to make a little joke about yourself, dear, and have
them laugh at YOU."

"But I don't know any jokes on myself," protested Sally.

"Then you should find some.  People who can't remember at least a
few good jokes on themselves aren't very well-to-do--inside."

Their talk was interrupted by Paul's passing through the kitchen to
look at the furnace.  His face was gloomy.  He closed the door
after him at the top of the stairs, as if to say he'd enough family
and wished to put the whole outfit behind him for an interval.

He had always despised Saturdays, even as a lad.  Always there were
unpleasant chores to be done.  Sunday was dull enough, but you
didn't have to chop kindling or sort spotty apples.  Out in rural
Iowa they had always remembered the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
He had remembered it ever since, Sunday for its holiness.  Saturday
was a day to be remembered too--for its grubbiness.

It occurred to him that he might run over to the University Club
and play billiards.  But that would mean tea and cakes.  The bills
were plenty large.  It was high time he was economizing.  He
stirred the furnace savagely and a huge puff of smarting smoke
belched forth.  Not very good coal, this time.  Some of Hannah's
doings, probably.  Trying to save money.  He threw in two
shovelfuls of coal and banged the hot door shut with his foot.

At the entrance of the little fruit-cellar he paused.  The wreck of
his motor lay exactly where he had left it.  Leaning a shoulder
against the door-jamb, he regarded the thing with sour reproach.
No new thoughts occurred to him in respect to this smashed machine.
He could face it now without loathing.  It was no longer the
pitiful corpse of a cherished dream, but the dried skeleton.  His
interest in it seemed remote, impersonal.

After all, there wasn't much to live for when you came to look at
human existence rationally.  You began with the idea that you were,
potentially, a very remarkable fellow.  At twelve, you recited
Excelsior, and learned your syntax by performing anatomical
dissections of classic prose inviting you to make a better
mousetrap.  When you graduated from high school, you made a speech
largely compiled from the advices of inspirational authors and
wound up at the end with a hoarse sentence from the Message to
Garcia.  The old man who talked at your college Commencement dared
you to go out and run circles around the whole bunch, both ancient
and contemporary.  So, you let them dazzle you with that kind of
prattle from the time you were able to blow your own nose until the
drudgeries of daily work completely swamped you.

You went into the groove-shop and looked them all over carefully
and picked out a nice smooth groove that you thought was about your
size.  Then you sat yourself neatly into it and started on your
ring-around-a-rosy, making the groove a little deeper with every
revolution until the sleek walls of it began to compress your
elbows against your ribs.  That was the worst part of it--the
surrender of elbow-room.  You felt stifled.  Your wife was devoted
and you adored her, but she clung to you like the drowning,
shutting off your air, so it was impossible for you to rescue
either her or yourself.  Your children acquired longer legs and
worse manners.  They used you for a beast of burden and ridiculed
you for putting up with it.  Your monthly bills--Good God!

There were footsteps on the stairs.  That would be Hannah, coming
down on one pretext or another to satisfy her curiosity about him.
Hannah had done wonders for them, and it would be caddish to resent
her affectionate interest, but even Hannah occasionally smothered
him with too much attention.  He glanced at her over his shoulder,
observing that she carried a basket full of empty cans and bottles
presumably intended for the big box where such accumulations were
deposited.

"Speaking of rubbish"--he gave her a cynical smile and jerked his
head towards the wrecked motor--"next time the man comes you'd
better have him cart this thing away."

"Isn't any part of it worth saving?"  Hannah stood beside him,
viewing the machine appraisingly.  "Perhaps it would bring a little
more than just that much scrap-iron."

She was taking it mighty coolly, he thought.  Considering how much
grief the whole thing had caused him, it was rather casual to be
discussing whether the symbol of his disaster should be sold for
junk or hauled to the city dump.

"It wasn't a very good job, anyhow.  I think Ellis cheated me when
he made it.  I might have known what sort of person he was.  People
like that ought to be shown up for what they are.  I'm not sure but
it's a public duty."  Paul found this new thought absorbing.  Odd
it hadn't struck him before.  "You're something of an authority on
morals.  Hannah.  Doesn't it look as if I were an accessory to
Ellis's grand larceny when I know all about it and do nothing?"

She grinned understandingly.

"That's YOUR affair," she replied, unhelpfully.  "MINE is to keep
myself from being mixed up with a much bigger crime."

His eyes inquired what she meant, though it was difficult for him
to dissemble when dealing with Hannah.

"You're wanting me to encourage you in the breaking of your
promise; isn't that it?  Suppose we talk about that a little."

"Very well--go ahead!" rasped Paul.  "You're the one who engineered
that promise, so you probably know the most about it."

"You mustn't be unkind," murmured Hannah.  "We can talk about it
calmly--can't we?  It isn't as if you had promised ME.  If it had
only been to me, I could let you off."

"You mean--"  Paul raised his eyes and pointed a finger skyward.
"You mean Them--or It--or Him--or--or What?"  He chuckled dryly.

She nodded.  "And you were quite in earnest about it too.  It
wasn't a bit funny when you did it."  Her words were spoken gently
but very soberly.  "I'd be afraid."

Paul made a gesture of impatience.

"Now that kind of talk, Hannah, is all very well for people who
honestly believe in such things.  I know you do and I respect you
for it.  But it leaves me cold.  I don't accept it.  I haven't any
room in my thinking for ghosts--not even a Holy Ghost.  That's my
calm, considered opinion in broad daylight.  Of course, when a man
is at the tip-end of his resources and emotionally upset, you can't
blame him for grabbing at any idea, however irrational.  It's like
a drowning man clutching at a straw.  He doesn't clutch the straw
because he thinks highly of it as a life-preserver.  He doesn't
think about it at all!  His brains aren't working."

"Maybe so," sighed Hannah.  "But, all the same, I don't believe you
would ever feel right about it if you broke that promise.  You say
you doubt whether there is"--she hesitated for an instant and then
pointed upward as Paul had done--"anything Up There.  But that
doesn't quite let you out.  There's something DOWN HERE--"  Hannah
tapped him lightly on his chest.  "Maybe THEY are not real--but YOU
are!  If you want to break your promise to me, I'll forgive you and
understand.  And if you want to break the promise you made to Him
or Them, because you don't believe there is any such thing, maybe
you can do it and never hear from it again.  But if you break the
promise you made to YOURSELF--well, that's another matter.  You'll
be sorry!"

Hannah slowly turned away and walked to the foot of the stairs,
where she stood for a moment abstractedly swinging her empty
basket, not at all satisfied with the manner in which their talk
had ended.  The echo of her final remark lingered unpleasantly in
her ears.

Returning, she found Paul seated on the dusty workbench in a
posture of deep concentration.  Laying her hand on his arm she said
contritely, "I didn't mean to be impudent.  I'm sorry."

"That's all right, Hannah," he muttered.  "No offence."  His tone
conveyed an obvious dismissal, but she made no move to go.  There
was an extended silence.

"You've had so many serious losses, Paul.  I couldn't bear to see
you have the greatest one of all--the giving up of your pride."  He
glanced up, and their eyes met in a long look of mutual appraisal.

"And is that so valuable?" he queried.  "Seems to me a good deal
has been said, from time to time, about the damaging effects of
pride."  His lips twisted in a rather surly grin.  "If you want to
know how highly pride is esteemed by the people who are supposed to
pass on such matters you might look in the Bible."

"Maybe it means something else in the Bible.  Pride, to me, isn't
showing off.  Pride is what makes me feel comfortable when I'm by
myself.  There are plenty of things I wouldn't do, not because I'm
too proud to do them.  All I want is the approval of myself."  She
paused, smiled, and added, "That's why I came back.  I didn't quite
approve of what I had said to you."

"It was all true enough," confessed Paul, glumly.  "We both know
that."

"I'll go now," said Hannah.

"And leave me to stew in my own juice, eh?"

"I'm afraid so."  Her tone was tender, almost maternal.  "It
distresses me when you are unhappy.  You've had a great deal to
bear.  I can't think of your doing this cruel thing to yourself."

Impulsively he rose from the bench and reached out his hand.  "Very
well, Hannah," he declared firmly.  "I shall stick to my bargain.
You win."

She took his hand in both of hers and clasped it tightly, her eyes
shining.  She shook her head slightly.

"No, Paul, it's YOU who've won!  And it is a very important
victory."

"Victory?  Nonsense!  It's just a final giving up; that's all.
Just the swan song.  I've been doing nothing lately but run up
white flags."

"No--not white flags, Paul.  WHITE BANNERS!"  Hannah's voice was
vibrant with emotion.  "You haven't surrendered.  You have just
taken a new position.  You'll be able to see your way--from here.
I'm not going to worry about you any more."



CHAPTER VIII


Paul was unable immediately to recapture his former interest in his
profession.  The assorted distractions of many months were no
longer claiming his time and mind, but it was not easy to
concentrate on classroom lectures, student interviews, quiz-papers,
and seminars after so long a period of perfunctory obedience to the
mere letter of the law respecting his university obligations.

It was only after weeks of honest diligence that he regained enough
sincere regard for his job to realise the extent of his abandonment
of it.  Occasionally he flushed with chagrin as the fact dawned on
him that but for Dean Oliver's patience he might have been asked to
quit altogether.

By the close of the second semester the old habits of work had been
resumed and something like enthusiasm had developed.  His chief
ambition now was to show good old Oliver how much he appreciated
the forbearance exercised in his behalf.  They had had no
conversation about the matter, but Paul observed, from the
approving twinkle in the Dean's eye, that these earnest efforts to
reinstate himself in the esteem of his chief had been duly noted.

As an additional testimony that he was again at his post of duty
and meant business, Paul commenced work on a solid biography of
Spenser intended for scholars.  When he composed the preface his
mood was that of a man writing a personal letter to Dean Oliver.
And the Dean, when he had read the first three chapters, said
warmly, "Now you have struck your stride, Ward.  This book will do
you good, perhaps not in cash but in professional advancement."

That same night Mrs Oliver called up Marcia to invite them to the
dinner they were giving on the twenty-third for Springer of
Cambridge, who had just arrived as an exchange lecturer.

From that time forward Paul sensed a new attitude towards him on
the part of his colleagues.  More and more frequently did the Dean
call him in for conference on minor administrational problems.  And
when Commencement impended, half of his evenings were spent at the
office, to the improvement of his next salary cheque by seventy-
five dollars.  At one o'clock on Commencement Day he went home with
his soggy, black gown over his arm, hot and weary but pleased to
believe that he had amply atoned for a long period of slackness and
inattention by giving the University full measure, now that he was
back in the running.
                        *  *  *  *  *

The new Ellis refrigerator appeared on the market backed by an
expensively vivid campaign of publicity.  Paul was gratified that
the announcement caused him so little distress.  Marcia had laid
the magazine on his desk, open at the page.  He pursed his lips,
glanced briefly at the picture, ran his eye over the text, grinned
sourly, and pushed the offending thing off the end of the table
into the waste-basket.  Then he took up his pen and finished the
sentence he was composing.  Marcia observed, "You certainly have
yourself well in hand, dear."  And this made Paul glow with
satisfaction.  He had never thought of himself that way.  It made
him ambitious to achieve poise, balance, ballast.

Marcia took the children to the lake cottage where they had spent
other summers, leaving Hannah to run the house.  Paul joined the
family at week-ends and for a fortnight in August.

The book was having a marked effect on Paul.  It was steadying him.
For seven hours every day his potential audience gathered about his
desk; post-graduates, for the most part, their imagined presence
influencing his rhetorical style.  A sprinkling of the faculty was
in this fancied audience, with Dean Oliver in the middle of the
front row, his head tipped a little to one side as if he might be
doubting the accuracy of the current statement.

It was not Paul's nature to dramatize himself, but he was becoming
aware of his new acquisition.  He observed that he was walking with
a more regular and deliberate step.  His gestures were fewer.  His
decisions, even in small matters, were carefully considered and
calmly spoken.  The book might not shed much new light on Edmund
Spenser, but it was illuminating the unevaluated stability of Paul
Ward.

Hannah remarked this change in his tempo from a volatile six-eight
to a ponderous four-four, and wasn't quite sure that she approved.
Whatever might have been the liabilities of his effervescent
temperament--his proneness to go off at half-cock, his sudden,
gusty, unpredictable seizures of irritability and forthright
rudeness, followed by brief remorses--he was certainly more
interesting than this solemn owl who tramped about the house with
the impressive tread of a Major Prophet.  Hannah would have
welcomed a wild outcry from the bathroom, addressed to nobody in
particular, "What in hell has become of my razor-blades?"

And, speaking of razor-blades, it was observed that the professor
had not shaved for a week.  Jockeying a conversation about his
tireless diligence to a point where he might say he had been too
busy to shave, Hannah was alarmed to learn that he contemplated a
Van Dyke.  She was serving breakfast when he dryly offered this
information and glanced up to note its reception.

"You'll never be able to run any more," declared Hannah, in a tone
of warning.

"Perhaps I don't want to run," replied Paul, stroking his bristles.
"I think a little dignity would be to my advantage."

"At times--yes," she agreed reminiscently.  "It would be nice if
you had a dignified beard with wires on it--to be hooked over your
ears.  And then, whenever you felt you were sort of spluttery--"

Paul rewarded her persiflage with a feeble grin.  Really, Hannah
went a bit too far sometimes with her impudence; meant it as a
little pleasantry, of course, but shouldn't be encouraged in it.
He reflected, however, there was no sense or justice in hurting her
feelings.

"Quite a fantastic idea, Hannah," he admitted.

"And you could take it off when you wanted to play."

Paul said "Umm" rather inattentively, and Hannah vouchsafed a few
remarks on personality.  It didn't do people much good to try to
alter themselves into something else.

"A red-headed woman," she continued, "can say and do things that
make her charming, but if a black-haired woman dyes her hair red
and then tries to say and do red-headed things, she is sure to fail
because, after all, she hasn't a red-headed character.  You can't
dye a personality."

"I presume what you're trying to get at, Hannah," observed Paul
crisply, "is that I haven't a Van Dyke personality."

"If I may say so, I think you would tire of it."

"Well, now that you have said so, I think you may say so.  If I
don't like it I can take it off."

"Not so well," objected Hannah.  "When you put it on, people will
think you did it because you weren't pleased with yourself.  They
will suppose you have found something the matter with yourself and
have decided to try to look like someone else.  That's risky
enough.  But if you take it off again, it's the same as saying
you're still displeased with yourself and that the remedy you tried
was no good."  She was so sober about it that Paul laughed.

The next morning he appeared at breakfast with his face clean and
pink.

"That's better," approved Hannah, pouring his coffee.  "Now you can
dance jigs--and everything."

With the opening of the autumn semester, Paul found himself booked
for a considerable number of University Extension lectures, most of
the dates in larger towns, one in Chicago.  It was being
demonstrated that his new devotion to his duties had earned him
this bonus.

One Thursday night in early November he lectured in Waterloo.
There was a large and genial audience out to hear him and he was at
his best.  In high spirits and well satisfied with what he had
done, he went to the train, walking with an elastic step.  Life,
he reflected, might be worse.  He had foozled some of his
opportunities, but the future still held out a promise of fair
reward for zealous application to his job.  His trouble had been
that he had tried to accomplish something in another field than his
own.  He would make it a point to avoid a repetition of such time-
wasting excursions.  He would never be rich, but he would be
increasingly recognized as a sound workman in his profession.

Not many were waiting at the small brick station.  Paul sauntered
up and down the platform, the best periods of his lecture still
echoing pleasantly in his memory.  To interpret an ancient bard and
reconstruct an almost forgotten era was worth doing.  To make the
versatile Spenser live anew was a feat comparable to an act of
resurrection.  Then he got to thinking about the reality of
resurrection and wondered if a well-turned phrase, pivoting on this
concept, might not brighten one sentence of the preface for his new
book.

Presently he saw Hannah.  She was in company with a woman slightly
older than herself and a sturdy little boy of seven or eight.  For
a moment it occurred to him that Hannah, consistently secretive
about her movements when off duty, might not wish to be recognized,
and he had decided not to approach her when she glanced in his
direction and their eyes met.  Hannah smiled an unmistakable
welcome and he advanced to speak.  Unflustered, she presented her
friend, Mrs Edmunds, who graciously accepted Professor Ward's
acquaintance, but gave no sign whether the name meant anything to
her.

"And this is Peter," added Hannah.

Paul greeted them amiably, exchanged the inevitables with the
comely Mrs Edmunds, whom he promptly appraised as a person of
undoubtable refinement, and, when the preliminary amenities had
been attended to, turned his attention to the lad.  He had a
strong, determined face; quite an arresting face, indeed, for a
child of his years.  You weren't sure what manner of approach to
make, but it was reasonably certain you should not try talking down
to him.

"You know my Aunt Hannah?" asked Peter quietly.

"Very well--but I did not know she was your Aunt Hannah."  Paul
wished he knew just where he stood in this matter.  Hannah's well-
balanced, non-committal smile offered no aid.  One fact was fairly
evident.  The boy knew nothing of Hannah's employment.  This Mrs
Edmunds knew, of course, or Hannah would not have risked a possible
bean-spilling by inviting him to speak to them.  He glanced into
Mrs Edmunds's disciplined eyes for a clue to this little mystery,
but she did not oblige him.

"Are you a really-truly professor?" Peter's uplifted eyes squinted
incredulously.

Paul laughed merrily, partly because he was amused, partly to
assure the lad's mother--who would probably be distressed--that her
child's innocent impudence had not annoyed him.  But Mrs Edmunds,
not in the least abashed, laughed too.  Hannah, with a half-
apologetic smile, said, "Why, Peter--whatever made you ask that
question?"

Aware that he had blundered, the boy replied defensively, "I
thought professors were old men."

"Nice recovery, Peter," approved Paul.  "You've the makings of a
statesman."

"No"--drawled Mrs Edmunds--"I think Peter was entirely honest."

"Thanks, then"--said Paul--"to both of you."

At this Hannah smiled her relief over the pleasant termination of
an awkward moment.  It was rather odd, thought Paul.  Hannah had
seemed to feel more responsibility for the lad's remark than had
his mother.  It was easy to see how deep was her devotion to this
boy.  He was on the point of saying, "You must come and spend a day
with your Aunt Hannah, Peter"--but decided against it.  Something
told him there was a little riddle here.

The noisy arrival of the train ended their conversation.  Paul had
expected to find a seat in the parlour-car, but when Hannah stopped
at the steps of the day coach he decided to join her.  She seemed
calmly undisturbed by their chance meeting and made room for him
beside her on the seat as if it were quite natural for them to be
travelling together.

"So--THIS is where you come--on your days off," he observed; adding
slyly, "You've always been so mysterious about your holidays that I
wondered if--"  He hesitated.

"You wondered if I was up to something I was ashamed of?" assisted
Hannah.  "Well--now you know."  She faced him with steady, smiling
eyes.

"Exceptionally attractive boy--young Peter," said Paul warmly.
"What does his father do?"

"Mr Edmunds is dead; died when Peter was too little to remember him
clearly.  He is a great comfort to Lydia."

"You're related to her--some way?"

"No--just very close friends.  It's a long story.  Mr Edmunds was a
chemist.  He was killed in an accident.  Lydia's relatives live in
the East.  Circumstances threw us together.  I had no family within
easy reach.  Naturally, we became friends."  Hannah busied herself,
during this recital, with a search in her handbag for her ticket,
though the conductor had not yet appeared.  "That's about all there
is to be told."

"Pleasant for both of you, I'm sure," commented Paul.  "No
necessity for any secrecy.  You should assure Mrs Edmunds that she
is very welcome at our house whenever she wishes to come and see
you."

"Well--it's better, I think, that she doesn't," said Hannah,
measuring her words.  "It doesn't bother Lydia that I am a servant,
but she has her own social position to think of.  No one in
Waterloo knows how or where I am employed.  It's better so."

Paul nodded understandingly.

"I see," he agreed.  "And that's why you kept it a secret."

"Yes. . . .  Not even Peter knows.  He thinks I'm his aunt."

"So I noticed.  You're very fond of him."

"Naturally--he was a mere infant when I first saw him."

The conductor came then and caused a brief interruption in their
talk.

"Edmunds, Edmunds," muttered Paul, searching his memory.  "Seems to
me I recall the case of a chemist--"

"That's the one," said Hannah.  "He was killed in an explosion at
the glass works in Rattoon."

Paul's eyes suddenly lighted.

"I suppose he left quite a few books on chemistry."

"Yes--Lydia kept them all."

"So that's where you--"

Hannah nodded.

"Lydia thought I was quite foolish."

"I don't wonder.  By any normal rule of reckoning, it was utterly
silly.  The discovery you made was sheer accident."

Hannah drew a long sigh and said "Maybe".  Then, shifting her
position so she might face Paul more directly, she proceeded, with
considerable animation, to relate the day's adventures.  She and
Lydia and Peter had gone downtown, bought him a new suit, a pair of
roller-skates, "and ice-cream, of course," she added.

Paul chuckled.  "I'm surprised," he said dryly, "your being a party
to the outright purchase of ice-cream.  You're for ever making it
at home in that clumsy old freezer.  I've always maintained it was
cheaper to buy it."

"You need the exercise, Mr Ward.  Turning that crank is good for
you.  Besides--it's ever so much better when you make it at home."

"Don't you want little Peter to have good ice-cream?" Paul searched
her eyes.

Hannah stroked the fingers of her gloves and did not at once reply.

"I agree," she said, at length, "there really ought to be an easier
way to make ice-cream at home.  I'll not ask you to do it, any
more.  I thought--"  There was a long pause.  "You'll forgive me,
won't you, Mr Ward, but I've kept hoping that if you were faced,
now and then, with this ice problem, maybe you would--maybe you
would do something about it."

"I'm not in the ice business, not any more," growled Paul.

"That's the pity of it," rejoined Hannah.  "Why aren't you?"

                        *  *  *  *  *

It was a busy winter for Marcia Ward.  Paul's conspicuous zeal at
the University was earning them rewards in the form of invitations
to teas, dinners, and receptions.

Beyond doubt, the marked attentions shown them by Dean and Mrs
Oliver had everything to do with it.  The Dean had announced that
Paul would be officially appointed his assistant at the end of the
year, which meant nothing else than that Paul's succession to the
deanship, upon the retirement or resignation of Oliver, was
practically assured.

The importance of rank at the University was of a seriousness
unmatched even in the army.  It was no trivial matter to be made an
assistant dean under any circumstance, but to be assistant to
fagged old Oliver, who frankly fretted under the onerous duties of
his office and wished himself well out of it, was a weighty
responsibility carrying with it a deal of power over the
professional welfare of many faculty men.  Naturally the "Lits"
began to view Professor Ward with a new respect.  It was important
to keep in his good graces, and one easy and pleasant way to
achieve this end was by showing social courtesies to his wife.

Marcia was dressing with more care and carried herself with a new
confidence.  For the first time in her life she was realizing that
she possessed social gifts.  Presently she ventured upon a
programme of discharging the obligations incurred by their
acceptance of favours.  As a hostess she was a surprising success.
Paul was proud of her; proud also of the admiration she won by her
beauty and charm.  But however delightfully exciting was the new
life on which they had embarked--or, more correctly, into which
they had been thrust--it was playing the deuce with the family
budget.  Their creditors were not quite so rude as in the days of
their utter obscurity, but eventually arrangements would have to be
made to catch up with their bills.

Paul remarked one evening in April as he and Marcia discussed their
perplexities, "The butcher will not call up to dun us for filet
mignons, as he would for pot roasts, but one of these days he will
want us to pay the bill."

When another Commencement had come and relaxation had set in, the
restless fellow began to be so acutely distressed over the
situation that he found it very difficult to concentrate on his
book.  He could easily finish it, this vacation, if his mind were
free of worry, but now--instead of facing an imaginary audience of
specialists in Early English, as he sat at his desk--the little
amphitheatre was filled entirely with tradesmen who would
occasionally yelp out, in the very middle of a learned remark from
the rostrum, "That's all very well, perfessor, but how about paying
me fer that coal?"  And sometimes a voice from the audience would
snarl, "Nobody's going to buy yer dry book.  Why don't yuh write
sumpin snappy?  Then yuh c'd pay yer honest debts!"

Again Marcia and the children were at the modest lake cottage, Paul
asserting that they could live more economically there than in
town, what with Wallie's daily catches of perch and the easy access
they had to inexpensive farm products.  It wasn't true, but it was
comforting to say it.  Anyway, the children's clatter would be out
of the house.  He would be able to pursue his writing without
distraction.

But it was very slow going, this summer.  Paul walked the floor,
smoked until his throat was raw, gazed unseeing out at the windows.
Spenser--in mid-July--was approximately at the same place where he
had paused to rest on Independence Day.

One forenoon, when things were practically at a standstill, Paul
went out to the kitchen to have a word with Hannah.  She inquired,
interestedly, how the book was going to-day, though the query was
superfluous, as they both knew.  The book wasn't going, at all.

"For a long time I have been wondering," said Hannah thoughtfully,
"why you've made no effort to claim your rights in that
refrigerator business."

Paul regarded her with speechless astonishment, unable to believe
his own ears.  What indeed had come over Hannah?

"That's an odd thing for you to say," he muttered.  "It was you who
badgered me into letting the whole thing slip through my fingers.
Are you suggesting that I press a suit against these people now?"

"Oh--by no means!  But when you let them carry off your property
without a fight, you had a right to expect some manner of reward
for your investment.  So far as I know you have never tried to use
the power that is surely in your hands.  When the Ellises stole
your invention, what really happened was this: they set you free to
do something more important.  Why haven't you done it?  I think
your case is just like that of the people who had their land and
herds and houses taken from them, and instead of fighting went out
to a new country and made themselves great.  It wasn't as if they
were going out entirely empty-handed.  They had lost their land,
but they could find other land.  They had lost their houses, but
they could build better houses.  Nobody could steal their
experience or their knowing how to do things.  In the new country
they could improve on all the work they had done before.  Losing
the old stuff was fine for them.  It set them free to do bigger
things."

Paul nodded, absently, and said it was an interesting thought,
adding that he distinctly recalled her having gone over all this
moonshiny argument once before.

"Yes, but why don't you experiment with it?" entreated Hannah.
"They've stolen your goods and set you free to go out and put your
experience to work in a new and better way.  All you've done is to
give up everything.  You have been set free, but you've never
stirred hand or foot to use your freedom.  I've so often wondered."

"I suppose you mean that I could now make a better refrigerator
than the one they stole from me.  Is that it?"  Paul's tone was
slightly ironical, but betrayed a good deal of interest.  "What
more do you think I could do to it?"

"I don't know," admitted Hannah.  "I have had you turning the
handle of that heavy old freezer every few days for a long time,
hoping you might sweat out an idea."

"Oh--I have gone into all that," said Paul, annoyed to have been
considered stupid.  "It would be too expensive.  Nobody would want
one.  The cost of a machine for the exclusive purpose of freezing
ice-cream in a private home would more than equal the expense of
buying ice-cream to be served three times a day for the rest of
their natural lives.  No, no--that idea is foolish.  Not meaning"--
he added, genially--"that I don't appreciate your motive.  It's
mighty good of you to be thinking about my welfare."

"Well--would it cost so frightfully much if it was combined with
the other refrigerator, the one that keeps things merely cool?"

Paul shook his head.

"That wouldn't work.  You couldn't have two temperatures in there,
and the process that would freeze the ice-cream and sherbets would
also freeze your milk and fruit."  His eyes widened, stared, and
then narrowed.  "Unless--of course--perhaps--" he mumbled, half-
incoherently.

Hannah smiled and left him sitting there astride a kitchen chair.
Paul did not see her go.  She went upstairs and on his bed she
placed two long discarded garments--a neatly folded shirt with
elbow sleeves bearing the indelible stains of chemicals, and a worn
but clean pair of khaki trousers.  Returning, she found Paul
standing before his desk in the living-room, squaring up the loose
pages of his book manuscript.

"Want a box for that?" asked Hannah, pausing beside him and looking
up companionably into his eyes.

"If you have one--thanks," assented Paul casually.

Hannah quite liked the dialogue of this little drama.  A momentous
decision had been arrived at, but it was accomplished without
hysteria.  That, she felt, was the proper way to accept a high
moment--with quietness.  She brought a strong pasteboard box and a
long piece of express cord and laid them on the desk.  Paul
chuckled a little.

"I'm surprised you didn't bring a padlock," he drawled.

                        *  *  *  *  *

The steadying effect of the work Paul had done on Edmund Spenser
proved to his advantage as he deliberately laid out plans for the
new refrigerator.  The two projects were not of the same category,
but were similar in their demand for patient precision.  There was
no wasteful haste and a minimum of lost motion.  But because he had
been over a great deal of this ground before, the task went forward
with so little delay that within two weeks he was almost up to the
point where he had been when the unscrupulous Ellis had viewed the
device and made off with its secret.  The motor had not been built
yet.  Paul was still casting about for the best place to have it
made.

One afternoon Hannah heard her name called peremptorily and made
haste to the stuffy little workshop in the fruit-cellar.  Paul,
with the light of an unexpected triumph in his eyes, motioned to
her to come in.

"Hannah!" he shouted jubilantly.  "I'm going to put the whole
damned thing in one box--motor and all!"

"That's great!  How did you ever happen to think of it?"

"Well--I was just wishing I had a better place to work, and then I
said to myself, 'Why am I planning to put the motor in the cellar,
anyhow?  It would be more effective if it was built right into the
refrigerator.'  I think we HAVE something now?"

"And we wouldn't have had it, would we," reflected Hannah, "if the
other one hadn't been stolen.  The Ellises set you free to do a
finished job."

"Hannah," said Paul, in a troubled tone, "there is something
worrying me a little.  Naturally I am using the same chemical
formula as in the first one.  The Ellises are unquestionably using
that solution.  Suppose they claim I've no right to it.  I don't
believe they would risk suing me in the face of all the facts--but
what if they did?  You think it would be quite right for me to
defend myself, don't you?"

She shook her head emphatically.  "No, sir," she declared, "if they
won't let you use that formula, YOU'LL FIND A BETTER ONE!  I tell
you, my friend, you've been forced out into a new country.  They're
not able to compete with you now!  You know everything they know,
plus the advantage of the freedom they gave you!  I'm not sure but
you really owe them something for stealing your other invention."

"I suppose you think this vindicates your Philip," said Paul
soberly.  "And if you think that--well--you've certainly good
ground for it.  It's a very fair and reasonable demonstration.  You
can depend on it, Hannah, I'll never debate this matter with you
again."

"You believe it--then?" she asked hopefully.

He was silent for some time.

"It's very mysterious," he admitted.  "It's quite beyond me.  I
just know that I have hit upon a big idea after having given up a
little idea.  And I presume that it was necessary to give up the
little one before I was eligible to have the big one. . . .  Or
something like that," he concluded vaguely.

Hannah drew a cryptic smile, and when Paul's eyes had queried her
for its meaning, she replied, "I don't think of myself as a
religious person, but something you just said, and the way you said
it, reminded me of a story in the Bible about a man who was
magically cured of blindness.  They asked him all manner of
questions and tried to talk him out of it, and all he would say
was, 'I know only one thing about it: I was blind, and now I can
see.'"

"Yes," said Paul, "I remember that story.  Do you believe it, may I
inquire?"

"I think--" Hannah hesitated for a long moment.  "I think I do--
now.  But I never did before.  I see no reason, now, for not
believing it--not after what has just happened to YOU."

Paul gave a little gesture of dismissal to the matter and began
tossing his tools into a basket.

"I'm going to move my trinkets upstairs, Hannah.  We're done
working in the basement."

"To the attic, you mean?  Won't it be hot up there?"

"We'll open the windows and run a fan.  There's more room--and,
besides, I don't care to take any chances on this secret getting
away from me."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Marcia received the news of Paul's resumed activities on the
refrigerator with dismay.  This, she said to herself, was really
too, too much!

For years on end she had been a little nobody while Paul Ward had
fiddled with one invention after another.  And she had kept hoping
that some day he would stop trying to do the impossible and make
something of himself at the University.

Now he had done so, and with such success as she had hardly
anticipated.  Life for Marcia had expanded immeasurably.  It was
pleasant to bask in the reflected light of Paul's new distinctions.
They promised an increasing security.  She had quietly,
inarticulately envied the few faculty wives whose husbands had
arrived at positions of influence.  Sometimes, when she and Paul
went to the University auditorium to attend a concert or a lecture,
and there was a genial buzz of admiration and interest when the
deans and their wives came in, and the ranking professors of large
renown attended by well-gowned spouses, Marcia would wonder how it
might feel to be the object of such attention.

It had now begun to look as if all this might some time come to
pass.  Paul had it in him, and he had been lucky enough to put
himself in line for advancement.  And it wasn't, Marcia kept
telling herself, that she merely wanted to gratify her own vanity
and cuddle the thrill of these flattering preferments.  No; she
coveted them for the children's sake.  It was no small matter, the
social advantages accruing to the families of distinguished
professors.  There was Roberta, for instance.  Sally, no doubt,
would contrive to make friends, but Roberta would be all the better
off for some sort of propulsion.

Seated on the veranda of the cottage, with a writing-pad on her
knee, Marcia was in the very act of telling Paul again how happy
she was over the fine place he had been making for himself--and all
of them.  She pictured him, she wrote, sitting at his desk in the
living-room (which she did hope was not too uncomfortable on these
hot days) doing the book that was to give him another boost in the
esteem of the University.

At that juncture, Wallie, who had been down to the village post-
office, rode up across the brown lawn on his bicycle, expertly
tossed a letter in her lap, and resumed his progress towards the
dusty road.  The letter was brief.  Edmund Spenser had been
carefully stowed away for the present.  And work had been started
again on the refrigerator.

Now we were to have all this misery to endure, once more.  It would
be the same old story, of course.  Something would happen to make a
fizzle of it.  The whole summer would be squandered, the book would
be left unfinished, Paul would be plunged into a fit of moody
sulking.  He would go into the autumn semester tired, beaten,
uninterested.

Marcia started her letter again.

"I DO MOST SINCERELY wish you well, Paul," she began, "but what a
lot of agony you have had in trying to do something you have
admitted you did not know how to do!  And what a lot of agony we
have ALL had in waiting and watching while you used yourself up
with schemes that NEVER CAME TO ANYTHING!  I know, dear, that
you're trying to make us rich--but THIS ISN'T THE WAY!  You've been
doing SO WELL at the University.  Now--well--I just hate to think
of going through all this again!  It really isn't fair to you!  And
if you don't mind my saying so, IT ISN'T FAIR TO ME!" . . .  And a
great deal more like that.

The letter was far too long.  Composed in haste, it carried many
redundant passages, disclosing the untidiness of Marcia's thoughts,
and had a tendency to be somewhat shrill in spots.

When Paul received it, next morning at eleven, in the attic where
he was cutting threads on the end of a short section of copper
pipe, he hastily read all but the last three pages, merely leafing
them through with the feeling that their contents--judging from the
plenitude of underscoring and exclamation points--were but some
more of the same thing, in crescendo.  He folded the bulky letter,
rather mussily, and tried to thrust it into his shirt-pocket.
Failing to find suitable accommodation for it there, he tossed it
towards a table which it missed.

Hannah, tarrying to learn his wishes about luncheon, if any--for he
didn't always stop to eat--noted the short work he made of the
letter and noted also the dark frown.

"Can't say that I blame her," muttered Paul, as if Hannah knew.

"No--you really can't," she said intuitively.  "Mrs Ward has been
very patient."

"She thinks I'm just wasting my time again.  A bit upset, I fear."
He gave the heavy wrench another vigorous twist.  "I don't believe
I'll bother her with any more talk about it until it's done.  It
won't be long now."

"How about a cold roast beef sandwich?  You can eat that without
stopping your work."

"I don't blame her a damn' bit!  She can't be expected to
understand."

"Sandwich?" repeated Hannah, retreating to the head of the stairs.

"Of course--if it's time . . .  No, no--I don't want any now."

Hannah returned to the kitchen slowly.  For a little while she
debated the advisability of writing Mrs Ward a letter expressing
her own enthusiasm over what he was doing; but decided against it.
No matter how prudently the letter was written, Mrs Ward might
suspect Paul had confided something about her feelings on the
subject, in which case it would probably have exactly the wrong
effect.

The little episode, seemingly unimportant when viewed by itself,
distressed Hannah greatly.  It wasn't that she had the slightest
fear of Paul's suddenly barging out to find--in something or
somebody--the equivalent of the stimulating encouragement which Mrs
Ward had not provided.  Hannah's anxiety was for the future.  Paul
Ward was now probably on the way to a kind of success that would
make him very well-to-do.  It would increase his liberty and his
leisure.  If Marcia Ward had the good judgment to keep abreast of
him and go with him, hand in hand, into their new privileges, she
might easily keep his devotion.  But if she was going to write him
any more scratchy letters, at a time when he was on a tension and
fairly killing himself with hard work--well--it might turn out
badly.

At all events, she herself could stand by and see that he was fed.
He hadn't noticed that she had stayed on without taking her
customary Thursdays.  The days were all alike to Paul.  He didn't
know when Thursday came, or Sunday either.

On a Wednesday night in mid-August, Paul came down to the kitchen
at ten, and announced that he was leaving the next night for
Chicago to consult a patent lawyer who had been strongly
recommended to him.  He might be gone for two or three days.

"It's all done, then?" asked Hannah, wide-eyed with interest.

"Almost. . . .  Far enough. . . .  I know that I've done it.  The
rest is very simple--mere details concerning the design of the
cabinet."

"How long would it take to finish the whole job?"

"Oh, a week, maybe."

"Why don't you finish it?" entreated Hannah.  "You remember what
happened when you grew impatient before.  It would be simply awful
if anything happened to it, this time!"

She was putting things on the porcelain table--sliced ham, cheese,
fruit--and the coffee-pot was bubbling.

"Please!" she begged.

"Oh, very well," consented Paul, half annoyed, but drawing a grin.
"After all--you're mostly right about things, Hannah."

"Would you mind very much if I took my day off to-morrow?" asked
Hannah, after he had stowed away a few mouthfuls.

"Of course not.  Run along--and have a good time.  How is Peter, by
the way?"

"I haven't seen him for a month."

"You mean--you've not had a day off for a month?"  Paul's face
wrinkled into an amusing expression of incredulity.  Hannah
laughed.

"I thought I'd stay by the works," she said gently.

"Well, Hannah," declared Paul, with a dramatic gesture, "when the
roll is called up yonder, you'll be there!"

"Thanks," she replied dryly.  "You too, I hope."  Her lips curved
into the well-known puckery smile.  "Now that you know how to make
your own ice, I don't suppose you need care much where your name is
called."

                        *  *  *  *  *

She did not go to Waterloo that day.  Unexpected, Hannah arrived at
the lake cottage shortly before noon, having travelled eighty miles
by train and ten by bus, carrying along a capacious basket
containing a baked ham, a jar of pickled peaches, and several
glasses of newly made jelly.

The children were overjoyed to see her, and Mrs Ward, rather
mystified over this visitation, waited with considerable impatience
for an opportune moment to ease her natural curiosity.  When
luncheon was over and the children had gone to the beach, Marcia
said, "Do tell me why you came, Hannah.  I know you have some
special reason."

They went out on the veranda and Marcia took up the little tapestry
that busied her restless fingers through these days of waiting and
wondering.

"Mrs Ward," began Hannah soberly, "I am always poking my nose into
other people's business.  That's probably because I haven't any of
my own.  Mr Ward does not know I have come here to-day.  It's about
him."

Marcia stiffened perceptibly, and a slow flush crept up her cheek.

"Indeed?" she said, not very encouragingly.  "I hope it isn't
anything you shouldn't be telling me."

Hannah smiled briefly, confusedly, and replied:  "Yes--I hope that,
too.  You see--Mr Ward has practically completed his big invention.
Only a few more days of it and he will be going to Chicago to begin
business on his patent."

"You don't tell me, Hannah!" exclaimed Marcia.  "Is it actually
going to work?"

"Yes.  No doubt about it.  He has been keeping it a sort of--
surprise for you."

"Then why are you telling me?" demanded Marcia.  "He'll not like
that."

"Oh--I don't think he'll mind.  He has worked very hard.  Every
day, and day and night, sometimes.  It has been a wonderful
experience.  He has hardly been out of the house for weeks."

"The poor dear," murmured Marcia.  "He didn't tell me he was
working so hard."

"And quite lonesome, too.  No one to talk with but me."  Hannah
brightened and edged her chair a little closer.  "It just occurred
to me last night, Mrs Ward, how fine it would be for him if you
were there--even for a day--to be with him and make an awful big
fuss over him--when he puts the last finishing touch on this
thing. . . .  That's why I came."

Marcia coolly studied Hannah's eyes for a long moment.

"Are you trying to say to me that I've neglected my duty?" she
asked, stressing her words.

And Hannah amazed both Marcia and herself by replying, evenly, "Yes--
Mrs Ward--that's what I'm trying to say."

"You're--you're--taking a good deal of liberty; don't you think?"
Marcia's voice was unsteady.

"I know, Mrs Ward.  I thought of that.  Perhaps you'll not be
wanting me, any more.  But--I thought I ought to tell you.  I see
that I've just bungled things--but I meant it all right."

There was a long silence.

"Thanks, Hannah," said Marcia thickly.  "I'll go back with you."

"No--if you don't mind my saying so, Mrs Ward, you'd better let me
go first.  You can come to-morrow.  I think it would be better if
you just dropped in--as a surprise, you know."

"That's good.  We were coming in next week, anyway.  We'll pack up
and go home to-morrow."

Hannah shook her head.

"No--you come--alone.  Surprise him.  Without the children."

"But I can't leave them here alone!"

"You can send me out to take care of them.  You get there at noon
and tell me to start at once.  I can be here by dinner-time.  Then
you can get Mr Ward's meals for a couple of days and let him tell
you all about everything he has been doing."

"Thanks, Hannah," said Marcia, softly.  "And forgive me, please,
for not understanding.  You are a good friend."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Paul was on his knees, fitting the lower door-hinge when there were
steps on the attic stairs.  He did not turn from his work, but
asked absently, "Time to eat again, Hannah?"

Marcia put down the tray on the table, tiptoed across the room, and
put both hands over his eyes.

He reached for them, kissed them, and turning about rose and took
her in his arms.

"Darling!" he whispered.  "You came!"

"I couldn't stay away any longer, dear," murmured Marcia.

"Did you bring the children?"

"No--I have sent Hannah out to look after them."

"I've done it, Marcia!  It's a great thing!  We'll be rich!"

"I'm glad, dear.  But all I want now is YOU!"

"And we'll travel--and do all the things we've ever wanted to do."

"It's wonderful, Paul!"  She drew him more tightly to her.  "But--
just now--I can't think about anything but the happiness of seeing
YOU!"

"And we'll be FREE!"

Marcia snuggled close and sought his lips again.

"I'm so glad to be back with you," she whispered.

"From now on, darling," said Paul firmly, "you can have anything
you want."



CHAPTER IX


When, on the eleventh day of December, negotiations had been
completed, Paul and Marcia made a solemn agreement not to commit
any more extravagances until the money was actually in hand.  The
manufacturing firm's name was on the dotted line, but they had been
fooled once and were not to be taken in again.

This pledge they made to each other over their champagne glasses in
a high-class speak-easy in Chicago.  It was an unaccustomed
beverage, esteemed for its ability to inspire optimism and relieve
anxiety.  But it had not produced that effect on Marcia.  She
glowed, but it was with the glow of love for her husband who must
be protected from any more of the worries that had made his life
hard to bear.  And Paul, also pleasantly jingled, was in a mood to
gratify any wish of his uncommonly attractive wife who had never
seemed so desirable as now.  So they softly touched glasses across
the dinner-table and swore by their love for each other that there
would be no unnecessary spending until they could pay cash on the
spot.

It didn't occur to either of them that there was anything funny
about such a promise made at a little tte--tte dinner where the
cheque totalled twenty-three dollars and seventy-five cents, for
this event in their fretted lives deserved celebration.

Paul had left home on Friday night.  Because he had no classes on
Saturday he could conscientiously spend the day in Chicago
transacting his important business.  And when it was discovered
that Monday, too, would be needed for the completion of the deal,
he had wired Marcia to meet him.

Long ago they had resolved that come what may they would never
jeopardize Paul's life insurance by borrowing against it.  On this
occasion, however, it seemed imperative--and safe enough.  In fact,
it was the only way he could raise the thousand dollars required to
pay the attorneys' fees and other expenses involved in the securing
of his patent rights.  While he was about it, Paul made the amount
of the loan twelve hundred dollars, to leave a comfortable margin
for whatever other costs bobbed up in connection with the momentous
affair.  In this state of affluence, he wired, she came, and, the
business having been concluded at four, the honeymooners dined,
communed, pledged, and were immensely satisfied with themselves.

It was just a bit difficult to go back home and take up things
where they had put them down.  Marcia had insisted--and very
properly, Paul thought--that there should be a minimum of talk
before the children on the subject of their good fortune.  But the
topic was hard to avoid.  The youngsters could easily remember how
nearly the family had come to an achievement of wealth four years
ago, and their instinct informed them that this time the thing had
been actually accomplished.  Indeed, Paul had frankly admitted to
them that he had succeeded in his project, warning them it would be
"a long time yet" before there would be anything in the nature of a
reward.  They were not to talk about it.  But the delightful
mystery was on their minds, nevertheless.

"When are you going down to look at that car, Dad?" Wallie was
inquiring in an impatient tone that made Roberta snicker, for
whenever Wallie was exasperated his voice, then in the embarrassing
stage of registering in a lower clef, had a tendency to skid.  Such
minor misfortunes always amused Roberta, whose sense of humour was
slightly acidulous.

"No hurry about that, my boy," Paul would reply with patriarchal
calm, "and it would please me if you stopped haunting the
automobile show-rooms.  The dealers are becoming very persistent.
It seems that they are under the impression we are in the market
for a car, which is entirely incorrect.  I hope you will keep this
in mind."

Marcia faithfully kept her end of the bargain in respect to the
normal pursuit of their programme of frugality, but her trips into
the shopping district were more frequent.  Her bed, daytimes, was
strewn with illustrated magazines devoted to period furniture and
interior decorating.  Sometimes she would ask Roberta, whose eye
for art was precociously experienced, "How do you like those
drapes?  Isn't that a gorgeous chair?  What do you think of the
lamp?"  And Roberta, hovering over the pictures, would express an
opinion, though it didn't often coincide with her mother's.  "When
is all this going to happen?" she would inquire, to which Marcia
would reply, absently, "Oh--sometime--maybe."

Hannah was not very much surprised over their reticence to confide
in her concerning their prospects.  Paul had briefly told her that
the manufacturing rights had been assigned, also that they were to
receive an advance payment on February eleventh, after which there
was to be a royalty.  But he did not tell her how much.  She was
not displeased or hurt.  There was almost nothing about Paul Ward
that she did not understand.  When he was worried or beaten, she
could depend on his coming to her for counsel and comfort.  When
again confident and contented, he didn't need her, and it became
him to conduct himself with a master-of-the-house dignity in his
attitude towards their maid-of-all-work.  It wasn't the first time
she had sustained that sort of relation to an employer.  She
remembered how Mrs Raymond, in a moment of complete let-down over
Philip's sorry plight, would cling to her and weep; an hour
afterward resuming their mistress-maid relationship, with a little
added crispness to assure them both that business was now carrying
on as usual.  Hannah did not resent it; she thrilled under it.
That was the way things ought to be.  Otherwise, you couldn't
expect to have any discipline in your house, at all.  No--Paul Ward
didn't owe her a full explanation of his private affairs.  He would
tell her some time, no doubt; especially if it didn't work out.

But it was becoming more and more evident that the Wards were about
to assume a new mode of living.  Mrs Ward moved about with the self-
contained air of a woman satisfactorily related to all her
engagements, and, while Paul exhibited no bumptious arrogance, his
eyes were now those of a man who could look anybody in the world
squarely in the face and suggest a suitable destination.  Hannah
hoped the children would not be spoiled and was pleased to note
that their prospects hadn't altered their habits, so far.  Sally
had said, one day after school, "We're going to have a bigger
house, some day soon.  Won't that be fun?"

"I hope so," Hannah had replied guardedly.  "But I like this one
very well, don't you?"

"No--I want a big yard with trees and lots of flowers and a room of
my own.  We'll have to get more help, won't we, Hannah?  I asked
Mother, and she said she supposed so.  And I asked her if you would
still cook, and she said perhaps not.  And I asked her if you would
be the housekeeper and she said maybe you wouldn't feel like trying
to manage a big house.  But you'd know how; wouldn't you, Hannah?"

"We can figure that all out, dear, when the time comes," replied
Hannah, after a reminiscent pause.

"Mother says I mustn't talk to anyone about it, but it's hard not
to, 'specially when somebody comes to school with a new dress.  I
always want to say, 'Pooh!--you just wait!'"

"Yes," sighed Hannah, "that's the main trouble with having money.
It makes people want to say 'Pooh'.  And mostly they're a little
too decent to say it, but they keep thinking it and wanting to say
it until their mouths and noses get a sort of poohy expression."

"I'm not poohy yet, am I, Hannah?"

"Come here--and I'll look."

Sally obediently crossed the room and leaned against the arm of
Hannah's chair.

"No, dear, there's no sign of it yet."  Hannah made the
announcement deliberately, after pretending a serious examination.
She smiled, and Sally kissed her on the cheek.

"Will you tell me, Hannah, if you ever see one coming on?"

"That's not so easy as it sounds, Sally.  People can do a great
deal to avoid these poohs, but once they come, they're hard to
cure."

Sally was meditative for a while and helped herself to another warm
cooky.

"But you really have to be very rich, don't you, before you can
pooh enough for people to notice it?  Maybe we won't have that
much."

"No," replied Hannah, after some consideration, "you can pooh
without having any money at all.  There are several different
kinds.  I don't know that I ever thought much about this before,
but wouldn't you say that a man who is big and strong might be
tempted to pooh at men not so tall and well-muscled?  That might be
called 'muscle-pooh'."

"And there's 'college-pooh,'" laughed Sally, pleased to assist
promptly.  "You get that when you know a lot more than anybody
else."

"Exactly," agreed Hannah, "and the 'clever-pooh', when you're very
quick and witty.  When you begin talking about how stupid almost
everybody else is, then you're soon going to have a 'clever-pooh'
fastened on your nose for keeps.  I think we've named them all now,
dear, and if you eat any more of those cookies you're going to
spoil your dinner."

"You've forgotten the 'I'm-very-good' pooh, Hannah.  That's the
worst one, isn't it--the 'being-good' pooh?"

"If it is," teased Hannah, "YOU won't need to worry about it."

"I know what you're wanting to say, Hannah.  Something about the
'pretty-pooh'."

Hannah chuckled dryly.

"You won't need to fret about that one either, Sally, if whoever
borrowed your nailbrush doesn't return it very soon."

"That hurts my feelings, Hannah."  Sally pretended a pout.

"You'd better take them upstairs, then, and give them a good
scrubbing, and put a nice clean dress on them.  You're dirty as a
little pig."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Paul couldn't remember ever having had quite so interesting an
experience as on the day when he deposited his big cheque in his
current account at the Farmers and Mechanics Bank.

He hadn't actually overdrawn his account for all of six months,
having been so sharply reprimanded for it the last time that he had
determined never to let it happen again.  But his balance, when he
deposited his monthly cheques, was always so small it made him
ashamed.  He hated to go to the bank.  He began to feel wormy and
shabby and wretched even before he pushed open the heavy door.  The
cashier, Mr Wexler--a lean, stooped, steely-eyed fellow--never
quite snubbed him, but his salutation was so dry it crackled.

This February morning Paul entered the bank conscious of an
accelerated pulse, carefully on guard against displaying any change
in his habitual demeanour, trying to feel and, therefore, look as
small and worthless as usual.  The illusion was not so difficult to
execute; there had been a heavy thaw, and his soggy, burdensome
galoshes gave him the heel-dragging shamble of one taking his place
at the end of the bread-line.  He went to the second of the tall
lobby-desks, helped himself to a deposit-slip, wrote the date, his
name, and--opposite the tabulation for cheques--"25,000.00".  Then
he endorsed his deposit and carried the slip and the cheque, one in
each hand, to Mr Wexler's window; put them down, fished in his
pocket for his passbook, and waited interestedly for something to
happen.

He had lived through this moment many times, of late, in
anticipation.  It was entirely possible the cashier might say,
"Well, well, indeed!  And what have we here?  Congratulations,
Professor Ward, I'm sure!  Well, well!"--and push two fingers under
the bars for whatever shaking might be done.  And Paul had
determined not to be cajoled by any of this tardy cordiality.  They
had made him suffer and cringe and feel like a skunk.  All very
well.  But if they had a notion they could mend their insults by
soft-soaping him now that he had some money, they had another guess
coming.  It had occurred to him that Mr Wexley might say, "If you
have the time, Mr Ward, let me take you back to Mr Trimble's
office.  I know he will want to shake hands."  And then Paul meant
to drag out his watch and beg to be excused.  "Some other time," he
would remark indifferently.

Now he had put down his big cheque and the slip and the passbook.

Mr Wexler picked up the cheque, turned it over, turned it back
again, whacked it with a rubber-stamp, and impaled it on a long,
sharp spike.

"'Morning, Mr Ward," he rasped, while spiking the cheque.  "Wet
day."

"And a cheque-book, please," said Paul.

Mr Wexler tossed one out, and remarked dryly, "Better not begin
drawing on this until it's cleared, Mr Ward."

Paul flushed angrily.  "If you think there's something the matter
with it," he growled, "give it back to me.  And I'll not put you to
any further anxiety."

"Sorry, Mr Ward," crackled Mr Wexler.  "The bank has received it
for collection."

"Then I'll thank you, sir, to close my account, and give me the
bank's cheque for what I have in here.  I don't like your
attitude."

"I'm afraid you'll have to wait, Mr Ward," drawled Wexler, "until
this paper has gone through the clearing-house.  If you insist, I
can hand you back what you already had in your account here.
Please wait a moment."  The cashier left his cage and sauntered
back to the bookkeeping department, while Paul drummed impatiently
on the window-ledge, scowling darkly.  Presently he returned,
punctiliously wrote out a receipt, pushed it through the wicket,
offered a pen, and Paul scrawled his name on the bottom line
certifying that he had drawn out his previous balance in full.  And
Mr Wexler, having pushed several levers on his money-machine,
handing his irate customer seven dollars and eighty-six cents.

"Thanks," snarled Paul, turning away.

"Better leave your passbook," said Mr Wexler.  "We will mail you
the proceeds of this Chicago cheque when we get it.  Good-day,
sir."

"Damned shabby treatment," protested Paul, his voice a bit
unsteady.

"I'm sorry, Mr Ward.  Business is business.  Regret to lose your
account, but--you asked for your money back.  And I gave it to
you."

By this time three or four customers were growing interested while
they waited their turn, and Paul, observing their curiosity, left
the window and walked out of the place in a grand state of wrath.
So--business was business, eh? . . .  And then it began to occur to
him that this was really the first time in his life he had ever
DONE any business.  The little exchanges of money for food and
clothes--that sort of thing wasn't business.  Trotting shamefacedly
to the bank on the first of every month to deposit a salary of
$188.33, and then checking it all out but a handful of small change
by the tenth of the month--that wasn't business as the insufferable
Wexler thought of "business".  Paul began to wonder if he hadn't
been an ass.  He was really going to be in business now, and should
be deporting himself like a business man.  Wexler would probably
tell the story of his large indignation to his banker friends, and
they would laugh.

After he had walked the half-dozen blocks to the post-office, where
he laid in a supply of stamps, Paul retraced his steps to the bank,
waited his turn at the cashier's window, and said grimly:  "Mr
Wexler, I made a little mistake here a while ago.  I fear I was
rude.  I beg your pardon.  I've never had occasion to do very much
business.  Perhaps I'll learn.  I would like to continue my account
here, please."

Mr Wexler's thin lips twisted into a fair imitation of a grin.  He
pushed a couple of fingers under the grating.

"Attaboy," he drawled.

Paul squeezed the Wexler knuckles and walked out of the bank
glowing with an immense satisfaction.  He was now a business man in
good and regular standing.  It did not occur to him that if Wexler
meant to tell the story at all, it was a still better one than it
had been fifteen minutes earlier.  Walking through the slush was
difficult, but Paul decided not to take a street-car.  Ordinarily
he rode.  As he plodded along, four street-cars passed him, all
going in his direction.  It was fun to walk when you knew you had
money enough in the bank to buy a dozen of their damned little
street-cars, if you wanted to.  He tried to examine his own
attitude in respect to this matter.

For instance, he needed a new hat.  Marcia had been telling him to
buy one.  If he had been strapped, the chances were he would have
bought a hat to-day.  Now that he could have all the hats in town,
the old one was plenty good, for the present.  He wondered if
having money made a man stingy and careless about his appearance.

Marcia met him at the door, her face smilingly inquisitive.  He
kissed her warmly.

"Well--what did they think at the snooty old bank when you turned
up with TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS?"  Marcia stressed the words
as impressively as if she were saying "a million".

Paul chuckled, tossed the old hat aside, peeled off his overcoat,
and slipped an arm around Marcia's waist.

"You ought to have seen 'em," he said, in a tone implying that all
the mean little indignities of the past had now been amply avenged.
"Old Wexler poked his fingers through the bars and said 'Attaboy!'--
just like that."

                        *  *  *  *  *

They were amazed at the speed with which negotiations were
completed for the new home at Marcellus Avenue.  Buying a house had
always seemed an adventure to be approached with caution and after
wide investigation.  When the time came for them to buy, they would
look at every desirable house in town, weigh and balance them
against one another, and arrive at a deliberate decision.  Marcia
had called up Mr Chalmers.  She tried to make her query sound
diffident to ensure against an excess of zeal and anticipation on
the part of the realtor, but there was enough confidence in her
tone, if not in her actual words, to fetch Mr Chalmers out in his
shiny new car immediately after lunch.

Paul had classes that afternoon, but he could see the house later,
Mr Chalmers said.  He wanted Mrs Ward to inspect it at once because
it was really a wonderful buy and would not remain on the market
very long.  The Haywoods had owned it only a year.  Now they had
been required to move to Chicago.  It was declared Mr Chalmers,
just the thing for the Wards; eleven-room colonial, four baths, two-
car garage, spacious grounds, ornamental shrubbery, exquisite
interior decoration practically new.  Softly purring the inventory
of this remarkable property, Mr Chalmers conveyed Marcia to it,
driving more slowly as they entered Marcellus Avenue, directing her
attention to the quality of the neighbourhood.

The snow was melted now, except for dirty patches of it on the cold
side of walls and trees.  Marcia could visualize the beauty of the
lawn, the lilacs, the laurel.  A little tremor of delight swept her
while Mr Chalmers was fumbling with his huge bunch of keys.  The
front entrance was most imposing.  It was easy to picture Paul and
herself greeting their guests in this impressive hallway.  She
strolled about through the house, her heels echoing on the well-
waxed hardwood floors.  With her finger-tips pressed thoughtfully
against her lips she stood on the second-floor landing, facing the
open doors to commodious bedchambers, assigning them to the various
members of the family.  A guest-room, too.  Doubtless they would be
having guests frequently now.

"I suppose it's more than we can pay," reflected Marcia.  "We had
not planned on such a large house."  It wasn't true.  They had
idealized the big house they meant to have, some day, until it was
at least the size of the Administration Building at the University.
"I'm afraid to have you tell me how much it costs," added Marcia,
hoping this apprehension of hers might move Mr Chalmers to be
merciful.

Of course you couldn't expect to own a house like this unless you
had some money, Mr Chalmers admitted; but once you owned it you
would really HAVE something.  The steady expense of minor repairs,
which one had expected in a cheap, jerry-built house, usually ate
up the first-cost difference between a good house and a bad one.
Take this plumbing, for example, and this heating plant; take the
extra half-ton of mineral wool in the walls--all these things cost
money, to be sure, but once you had them in your house, you were
spared the bother and expense of repairs.

"Yes," said Marcia, "I see that.  How much is it?"

He kept her dangling a little longer and finally announced it was
to be had for twenty-three thousand, half of which must be paid in
cash.  Mr Haywood needed the money.  That's why the price was low.
Somebody would be wanting it promptly at that ridiculous figure.

Marcia frowned, shook her head, turned a hopeless little smile
towards Mr Chalmers, but continued her excursion, mentally placing
furniture--most of which would be new--and planning window-drapes
to match the paper.  After that she spent a long time opening
drawers and cabinets in the kitchen and butler's pantry.

"We'll have to wait and see what Mr Ward thinks of it," said
Marcia.  "I'm almost sure he will say it is more than we should try
to invest."  She wasn't sure of any such thing.  In fact, she was
quite confident Paul would want to buy the house on the spot.  It
never took him long to come to a conclusion.

Next day, Paul having enthused over the purchase, they signed the
papers, drew the cheque, and were driven home in a high state of
exultation.  Now that it was all over and Mr Chalmers couldn't
boost the price, there was no occasion for further dissembling:
they were almost hysterically gay.

"I have a little surprise for you, Marcia," said Paul, in a low
tone, when they were back in their room.  "I've bought a sedan."

"How wonderful!  But can we do it all--house, furniture, car?"

"Why not?  We'll be having more money in a few months.  Might as
well make some good use of it.  We've waited plenty long."

That night Paul strolled out to the kitchen for a word with Hannah.
He had postponed this talk from day to day until he was having some
misgivings over his tardiness to confide in her.  The stark truth
was that Hannah had had a very important part in providing them
with their new fortune.  Surely she had a right to know something
about their plans.

Hannah welcomed him to her domain without a trace of rebuke in her
tone or manner, even offering him a hand over the stile by
remarking, "I haven't seen much of you lately, Mr Ward, but I know
it's because you have been awfully busy.  Are things going all
right?"

Once he had decided to tell Hannah where they stood and what they
intended to do, he left nothing undisclosed, reporting on the
purchase of the new house and the automobile, adding, "And of
course we will have to buy new furniture."

Hannah put down her knitting when he came to a full stop, and said:
"I think it's fine for you to have these things.  You've surely
earned them.  They will bring you a great deal of pleasure,
provided--"

Paul glanced up anxiously and waited for the proviso.

"Provided you do not let yourself in for a lot of expenses that
will worry you.  It has often occurred to me," continued Hannah,
meditatively, "that people ought to decide exactly what bracket
they think they're in, financially, and then try to--to work in
that bracket.  For example, if I want to buy some new spring
clothes, and have only twenty dollars to invest, I'd better not
spend twelve dollars for a new hat and five dollars for shoes which
would leave me only three dollars for a dress.  A three-dollar hat
might set off a twelve-dollar dress very nicely.  But an expensive
hat worn with a cheap dress not only makes the dress dowdy, but
makes the hat look silly too.  Do you see what I mean?"

Paul thought he saw what she meant and nodded approval.

"If this new home," Hannah went on judiciously, "is to cost twenty-
three thousand, then the stuff that goes into it will have to be of
the same general quality if you're going to be happy in it.  You
can't fill your house with cheap things.  And if you have a large
flower-garden and a big lawn, you'll have to plan on extra expenses
for water and work, or it will shame you."

"You're on the trail of a good idea, Hannah."  Paul smiled
indulgently.  "You think people should adopt a definite scale of
living and not let an extravagant hat play the deuce with a cheap
pair of shoes."

"Precisely--only I'm not thinking quite so much about what the hat
does to the shoes as I am about what the shoes do to the hat--
making it look ridiculous.  People wouldn't grin when they looked
at the shoes.  It's the HAT that would amuse them."

"Think we shouldn't have bought the sedan?"  Paul's face was sober.

"No--I don't think that.  But seventeen hundred and fifty dollars
was a good deal to pay for it.  I suppose you were right though.
You couldn't very well leave a cheap car sitting out in front of a
fine house. . . .  What worries me is:  Are you going to have
enough money left, after buying all these things, to pay for the
cost of running them?  Maybe you are.  I hope so.  But--I'd keep it
in mind if I were you."

Paul kept it in mind for a day or two, but realized that he was now
riding a tiger and had better try to stay on.  Marcia was having
the time of her life, shopping for the new equipment of the
wonderful house.  He couldn't summon the courage to caution her.
After all--you really couldn't blame her for wanting to furnish the
house tastefully, consistently.  Even Hannah thought that, and she
was a veritable authority on thrift.  Of course Hannah would have
started with a less expensive house and then trimmed things to fit.
Hannah had evolved an interesting philosophy on this subject.  Paul
had thought it quite obvious that a fifteen-dollar chair, flanking
a three-hundred-dollar davenport, would look absurd.  In Hannah's
opinion it was the DAVENPORT that would look absurd.  New idea.
Very like Hannah to have such a whimsy.  She had even pointed her
views on this matter by adding, "If a man talks much about high
ideals, and then shows shabby conduct, it isn't his conduct that
draws a sour laugh from his friends: it's his IDEALS."

                        *  *  *  *  *

They moved into the new house in May.  Many of the things had to be
ordered, involving delays, and the drapes and broadloom rugs took
time.  In spite of all the distractions, Paul was attentive to his
University obligations.  He had wondered a little whether his
windfall would alter his relations to his friends of the faculty.
They seemed singularly unimpressed, joked him about it briefly,
Sandy Laughton observing dryly, "Now you can have a pair of
suspenders for every pair of pants."  The remark, inconsequential
as it was, deterred Paul from ordering more than one spring suit.
He resolved that there would be no change in his personal mode of
living.  And it was easy to see, by the attitude of his friends,
that his good sense and good taste had been noted.

Now they were making plans for the summer.  Marcia had determined
to send Roberta to a girls' camp in the Adirondacs.  Lucy Trimble
was returning to the camp this season, and Roberta, exhilarated
with Lucy's report of last year's experiences, talked of little
else than her wish to join the camp.  Marcia had ventured to
call up Mrs Trimble and was delighted over the cordiality of the
bank president's wife, Mrs Trimble assuring her that there could
be no better place for a thirteen-year-old girl than Camp
Minnewonkapotamie.

There was so much talk about this that Wallie also became
interested in the camp project and was soon booked to go with a
score of well-to-do Mid-Western youngsters to a lake in Minnesota.
The rates were steep, Paul thought, but Marcia believed Wallie
would be in safer company in a camp that cost a little more--a
theory which sounded plausible enough, but in fact didn't have a
leg to stand on, as they were to discover later.

Paul had already promised his manufacturers that he would spend the
first two weeks of July in consultation with their engineers and it
was understood that Marcia would accompany him to Chicago.

Sally, quite carried away with the early results of her planting in
the small flower-garden staked off as her exclusive plot, had shown
no interest in joining a camping party, considerably to her
father's relief; for if they didn't look out there would soon be no
money left.  It was amazing how rapidly you could dispose of twenty-
five thousand dollars if you went about it heartily and had plenty
of zealous operation on the part of your family.

After everyone had gone away but Sally and Hannah, the house was
going to be deliciously quiet.  Marcia had experienced no qualms
about leaving her youngest in such competent hands.  Her sense of
maternal obligation, however, prompted her to offer Sally a large
portion of last-minute counsel.

The train did not go until ten, which gave her an opportunity to
see her baby safely tucked in for the night.  Seated on the edge of
the bed, energetically stroking the fingers of her new grey sude
gloves, Marcia redundantly enjoined Sally to be a good child, to
mind Hannah, and not play with children she didn't know.  Sally
yawned a promise of obedience and remarked that her mother's new
silk suit was stunning, which was a fact.

Paul put down the bags he was carrying, entered the room, stooped
over the bed; and Sally, having half-strangled him with a farewell
caress, begged to go down to the door and see them off.  The
parental decision on this matter being fifty-fifty, Sally cast the
effective ballot, hopped out of bed, tugged on her dressing-gown,
and scurried after them, the honk of the taxi having warned the
travellers to bestir themselves.  Transportation on the banister
had been strongly discouraged, but in this emergency Sally felt it
was justified.  Her prompt arrival in the lower hall coincided
embarrassingly with the entrance of the taxi-driver, who had come
in for the baggage.  Hannah, who had opened the door, endeavoured
to rebuke her with a not very convincing frown.  Marcia was
annoyed.

Taking Sally by the sleeve, she led her into the spacious living-
room and said firmly, "I hope you will remember that in our absence
you are the mistress of this house and are to act like a lady."

Then there were hasty kisses, the taxi sputtered away, and Sally
dignifiedly climbed the stairs.  She was mistress of this house--
and a lady.  It was a pretty tall order, but she liked the novelty
of it and went to sleep planning a programme of behaviour
consistent with the new role she had undertaken.

When the bell rang next morning Sally rose with unaccustomed
alacrity and dressed with unprecedented care.  Hannah, having heard
the child moving about for twenty minutes, wondered what was up and
called to her from the foot of the stairs, but Sally did not reply.
It was, she felt, unbecoming of a lady to shout that she would be
there in a minute.  Besides, it wouldn't be true; for she wasn't
ready.

It had been Sally's intention to put on her very best dress, but on
further deliberation this seemed rather affected, so early in the
day.  Rummaging in the closets she came upon a dress of Roberta's
which hadn't been considered good enough to take along.  Surveying
herself in this more mature garment, Sally was pleased to note the
effect of added height, though honesty compelled her to admit that
the lines around the neck left something to be desired.  She
corrected this by putting on a large white jabot of her mother's.
While finding the jabot, she had come upon a pair of long imitation-
jade eardrops which, she felt, would also do quite nicely to set
off the ensemble.

With her small tongue bulging one cheek, Sally consulted the mirror
for a report on the progress she was making in the adjustment of
this jewellery, nervously hastening now, for Hannah had called
again and would be popping up here presently to investigate.

With much dignity Sally proceeded down the stairs and out into the
dining-room where Hannah was in the act of putting down at her
place the customary oatmeal, buttered toast, and chocolate.  Wide-
eyed with speechless amazement, Hannah drew back the chair, Sally
stiffly accepting this attention with averted eyes, and sitting
very straight.

"Good morning, ma'am," said Hannah, in a muffled tone that stirred
Sally's apprehensions.

Turning her head slightly, she said, "Good morning, Hannah," kindly
enough but remotely.  With a deliberate gesture, suitable to her
new calling, she took up her spoon.  Feeling that it might be
indiscreet to risk dribbling the oatmeal on her mother's jabot, she
bent over her dish and one of the eardrops fell in.

Hannah, who had bitten her lip almost to the blood, was determined
to play her part in the drama if it killed her, but the
misadventure of the insensitive eardrop hadn't been counted on.
She retired hastily to the kitchen, aware that if she remained for
another instant in Sally's presence there would be an explosion.
No matter how well you thought you had yourself in hand, there were
a few things that human flesh could not stand without a complete
collapse.

Closing the swinging door, Hannah leaned limply against the wall,
both hands pressed hard against her ribs, and laughed until the
tears ran down her cheeks.

The table-bell tinkled.  Resolutely pulling herself together,
Hannah attended the summons.  Sally glanced up briefly and said, in
a low tone astonishingly like her mother's, "A small dish, Hannah,
if you please."

Hannah said, "Yes, ma'am," very respectfully and brought the dish
into which Sally scooped a large spoonful of oatmeal-and-eardrop.
Then she looked up again, directly into Hannah's eyes this time,
for one really couldn't go on like this for ever without making
sure how people felt about it.

Their eyes having met, Hannah did the best she could, but the
affair had now reached such proportions that she couldn't cope with
it.

"Oh, Sally, forgive me, darling," moaned Hannah, when she could
speak.  "I wanted to help you play it, dear, but--"  She went off
into another hysterical gale of laughter.

Sally put her spoon down slowly and blinked back the tears.  Then a
self-conscious smile reluctantly curved her lips.  And then, to
Hannah's joyful relief, the embarrassed little girl chuckled.

"Come here, baby," murmured Hannah, sinking into a chair.  Sally
slipped over into Hannah's lap.  "You ARE a lady, dear.  And
Hannah's dreadfully sorry to have laughed."

"It was awfully silly, wasn't it?" said Sally meekly.  "Funny, too,
I guess.  Let me go, Hannah."

In a few minutes she was downstairs again, wearing the brown
overalls and floppy straw hat which served her as a garden costume.
As she passed through the kitchen, she found Hannah deeply absorbed
in a letter she had just received.

"How do I look NOW?" demanded Sally, pausing for inspection, but
Hannah did not reply.  Her face was troubled and her hands
trembled.  Perplexed, Sally went down the back steps and out to her
garden.  She hoped nothing unpleasant had happened to Hannah.

The disturbing letter had come by special delivery.  It was from
Lydia, who rarely had occasion to write.  Hannah wondered if
anything could be the matter with Peter.


You will be surprised (began Lydia) to know that I have just heard
from your friend, Mrs Adele Cooper Moore.  Her husband died last
winter in Paris and Mrs Moore has been in York New for two months.
She has somehow managed to trace you to the University Hospital.
The hospital people reported the birth of Peter and the fact that I
took him, but they were unable to say what had become of YOU.  She
wants me to tell her where you are.  Hints that she hopes you are
free to come and be with her.  She also speaks of a long cruise:
perhaps she wants you as companion.  At all events, she requests
wired information about you.  The letter is rather spluttery and
seems to have been written in much excitement.  What do you want me
to say to her?  Wish we could talk this over.  Are you coming down
Thursday?  Peter is well.  He and some other boys have a cave in
the vacant lot back of the Wyman home.  Spends most of his time
there and comes in dirty beyond description.

                                                     Love,

                                                         LYDIA.


Hannah carried the letter about from room to room, pausing to re-
read it, her forehead wrinkled with perplexity.  ADELE--after all
these years.  And how had she contrived to follow her movements as
far as the hospital?  Who could have provided any of that
information except Thomas?  Her last letter to him had been posted
from the Newcomb residence on Lake Shore Drive where she was
working as a parlourmaid.  Had Adele been talking to Thomas?

Considerably shaken, Hannah went out through the kitchen, down the
back steps, and slowly crossed the rear lawn to the far corner
where Sally, in her brown overalls, was energetically wielding a
small hoe.

"Why do weeds grow faster than flowers, Hannah?"  Sally's yellow
curls were damp and her nose had taken on a fresh consignment of
freckles.

"Do they?" asked Hannah absently.  "You mustn't work out here too
long at a time, dear.  You're SO hot! . . .  Sally, I've just had a
letter from a friend of mine in Waterloo telling me something that
makes me want to see her.  I really ought to go there tomorrow.
And, of course, I can't leave you here alone.  Would you like to go
with me?"

Sally dropped the hoe and fanned her sunburned face with the floppy
straw hat.

"Sure--I'll go.  It would be fun.  Would we stay all night?  Are we
going on a train?  Do you think Mother will care?"

                        *  *  *  *  *

After the excitement of boarding the train had subsided, Sally
fired a volley of questions to which Hannah replied, measuring her
words with deliberation.

"Her name is Mrs Lydia Edmunds, Sally, and she lives in a big brick
house on a shady street.  There is a large yard full of tall trees.
You will like it, I think.  Mrs Edmunds has lovely flowers.  And
you will see Peter Edmunds, who is about your age."

Sally's nose elevated slightly.

"This Peter--does he pull hair and make fun of the way you throw a
ball?"  Sally hoped this would sound amusing, but it was easy to
see that the introduction of Peter into the day's adventures was
viewed with some anxiety.  "What kind of a boy is he, Hannah?  Does
he carry toads in his pocket?"

"I'm afraid so, Sally," regretted Hannah.  "However, you'll not
need to play with him if you don't want to.  I'm told he is very
busy most of the day now, in a cave with some other boys."

"A real for-sure cave?"  Sally's interest was genuine.

"One they dug."

"Will he let me see it?"

"I don't know, dear. . . .  Boys are funny."

"You mean--Peter wouldn't want a girl around?"

"I think he plays mostly with boys," admitted Hannah, "and Gyp, of
course.  Gyp's his dog."

"I'll bet you mean he just despises girls," reflected Sally hotly.
"Well--I won't bother him."

Hannah was silent for a while and then said, "Peter may not pay
very much attention to you, but you'll probably like him, Sally."

"Why?"

"Oh--for that reason, mostly," drawled Hannah.  "Women are made
that way."

Sally giggled a little as she pooh-poohed the idea of being rated a
woman, but showed by her eyes that she enjoyed the sensation.

"You're so funny, Hannah."

"I'm quite in earnest, dear.  We women are all alike, that way.  If
a man refuses to pay any attention to us, we've simply got to find
out the reason."

"Pooh!" said Sally, shrugging.  "I wouldn't care."

Mrs Edmunds met them at the train, Hannah having telephoned they
were coming.  Sally was much impressed by the ease with which Mrs
Edmunds, who was very pretty and smelled good, handled her car.

"You sit in the middle, Sally," said Mrs Edmunds, in a very soft,
drawly voice.  "We'll all three ride in one seat."

"And where is Peter?" wondered Hannah.

"The cave--as usual.  He'll probably spare you a minute or two for
a greeting--if he can find the time.  I understand they're
rehearsing for some initiation ceremonies to-day.  The Owens boy is
to be received into membership presently.  He was black-balled
earlier in the season for being a sissy, but his grandmother has
just sent him a fine archery outfit and an Indian suit which seems
to have improved his standing in the community. . . .  I had to get
Peter an Indian suit too, Hannah.  It pulls down the corners of his
mouth quite a bit and narrows his eyes, but I think you'll
recognize him."

Sally grinned, and decided to like Mrs Edmunds even if she didn't
wish to meet her unsociable child.  Mrs Edmunds said funny things
so soberly and smelled so good.  Sally was always attracted by nice
perfume--not very much, of course, but expensive.

"Did you enjoy the ride on the train, Sally?" asked Mrs Edmunds, to
which Sally replied affirmatively but crisply, resenting the baby-
talk tone of the query.  And then, feeling she had been curt, she
attempted to mend it by asking a question.  But it would not be a
baby question.

"I am told," she said thoughtfully, "that your son has a dog."

Mrs Edmunds laughed merrily and exchanged amused glances with
Hannah.

"Oh, very much so, Sally," she replied.  "You'll see him."

"What kind of a dog is he?"

"Well--that's not an easy question to answer, dear.  We never
learned much about his family.  Sometimes I think he would have
been a collie--if he'd had any choice in the matter.  At present--
now that we're spending so much time in the cave, I think the best
way one can describe him is to say that he is a very, very dirty
dog."

"But not much dirtier," conjectured Hannah, "than his master."

They had pulled up in front of the house now, a large, square house
with a row of beautiful white pillars and white steps.  It smelled
cool inside and everything was very still.  Mrs Edmunds took them
upstairs to a big bedroom with yellow curtains and a very high
ceiling and a bed with tall posts where they laid their hats and
coats.  Then they went down again and Mrs Edmunds gave Sally a
little tapestry pattern in a wooden frame.  The stencilled picture
was a basket of flowers and there was a yarn in a half-dozen
colours.

"Hannah and I will have to be talking--about business--for a little
while, Sally.  You won't mind.  You may go out into the garden if
you wish.  There is a swing.  Come--I'll show you."

                        *  *  *  *  *

This would be that horrid Peter coming now.  He was in an Indian
suit, his face smeared with some copperish paint, and had just
tossed himself over the fence near the rabbit-pen, followed by the
dog.  Sally had been much interested in the rabbits and would
gladly have remained to watch their clumsy limping about--as if
they were nursing a sprained ankle--but felt that Mrs Edmunds
rather expected her to sit in the swing and do the needlework.  She
was glad now that the terrible boy hadn't found her looking at his
rabbits.

Having upended himself expertly over the fence, Peter ran a few
steps as one in a great hurry to perform an errand and return to
more urgent affairs.  The dog, sighting Sally, abandoned Peter and
galloped towards the swing, where he stood panting with a large red
smile.  Peter whistled, but Gyp was still curious about the
newcomer who had acknowledged his attentions with a few soft little
noises that sounded like the kisses you really didn't have time to
give to relatives when starting for school in the morning.

Then Sally wished she had encouraged the dog to obey his master,
for Peter, tugging off his hot, gaily-feathered head-dress, was
strolling carelessly in her direction.

"Hello," he growled.

Sally drew a parsimonious smile and said "Hello", and, because she
was very much occupied with the threading of a needle, she had time
only to glance fleetingly in his direction.

"Your name Sally?" accused the Indian.

She conceded this point by nodding, her lips pursed a little.

"You came with my Aunt Hannah?"  Peter leaned heavily against the
frame of the two-seater swing, bumping it rhythmically with his
knee.

"Yes.  But I didn't know she was your aunt."

Encouraged to believe that he might now accept the stranger as a
guest in good standing, Gyp put a paw up on the seat beside Sally,
who drew away uneasily.

"He won't hurt you," scoffed Peter.  "Don't be scared."

"I'm not scared," retorted Sally.  "His feet are dirty."

Peter admitted this gruffly.  Sally grinned slightly without
raising her eyes.

"I suppose you think I'm dirty, too," he added.

"Well"--said Sally, after a pause--"if you are"--she looked him
squarely in the eyes and smiled--"I'm sure you must be wanting to
go and wash.  Your hands, anyway," she added, displaying her
dimples.

Peter grinned amiably and tousled Gyp's ears to cover his
confusion.  Then he ventured to glance at Sally again.  She was
bent over her little tapestry, still smiling.

"We've been digging a cave," explained Peter.  "You gotta get dirty--
digging a cave."

"I suppose so.  Are you going to let me see it?" she asked coyly.

"It isn't much."  Peter's eyes registered perplexity as he gave
himself to some rapid thinking.  "I'll tell you what: we'll wait
until the kids are all at home for dinner.  Then I'll show it to
you."  He turned and started slowly towards the house.  "I'll be
back," he promised over his shoulder.  "Got to see Aunt Hannah--and
wash my hands."

"If I were you--" counselled Sally.

"Yeah--I know," shouted Peter.  "You'd wash FIRST."

He ran up the kitchen steps with a great clatter and disappeared in
the house.  Sally drew a long breath, smiled contentedly, and
resumed her needlework, feeling very grown-up indeed.  It was, she
mused, a lovely day.  And Mrs Edmunds had the most beautiful roses
she had ever seen.  Mrs Edmunds was so sweet.  It was odd how a
woman as dainty as Mrs Edmunds could have such a roughneck for a
child.  She wondered what he would look like if he were clean and
nicely dressed.

Once inside the house, Peter suddenly calmed.  Tiptoeing up the
back stairs, he went to his room, divested himself of the Indian
suit; and, locking himself in the bathroom, took the first
voluntary bath he had ever undertaken.  Then he returned to his
room and arrayed himself in the white suit he had never worn but
once--and then under protest.  There was a moment's indecision
between the red tie and the blue one.  He chose the red, knotted it
with much care, and in this glorified state descended the main
stairway.

"That you, Peter?" called Lydia.  "We're in the library, dear.
Come in.  Aunt Hannah's here."

Peter hesitated for a moment.  It had not occurred to him until
this instant that his altered appearance before his relatives might
excite their curiosity and possibly evoke smiles.  However, it was
too late now.  He had cut off his retreat.

When he appeared in the doorway, both women looked up and regarded
him with a blinking astonishment that twisted his face into a grin.
Hannah saved the day for him.

"Why, Peter!" she exclaimed.  "I think this is the sweetest thing
for you to clean yourself up so nicely for your Aunt Hannah!  Come
here, dear, and let me look at you.  What a lovely suit!  It fits
wonderfully!"

"Yeah--I was pretty dirty, Aunt Hannah," explained Peter,
permitting himself to be kissed.  She retied the red scarf, Lydia
looking on with amazement.  Peter always hated to be fussed with.

"There!" said Hannah, patting him.  "It's perfect!"

"Peter," said Lydia, "you remember I told you that Aunt Hannah was
to bring little Sally Ward along.  She's out in the swing.  Perhaps
you'd better run out and make her acquaintance.  I don't suppose
you saw her--by any chance--when you came in."

Pretending reluctance to leave, Peter sidled towards the door.

When he was out of earshot, Hannah said, "I don't think that was
quite fair, Lydia."  They both laughed.

"Wouldn't it be funny--?" suggested Lydia, in an undertone.

Hannah's face was suddenly serious.

"MUCH too funny!" she replied.

"But, Hannah!  Why shouldn't these children like each other, if
they want to?  Sally's a dear little thing.  Her friendship would
be good for Peter.  It's easy to see what she has done to him
already."

"No, dear," protested Hannah, pressing her palm hard against her
troubled forehead.  "We've plenty of complications now, without
bidding for any more.  I want Peter to have a fair chance at life.
Now that Adele is determined to locate me, it will be only a
question of time until she succeeds.  Peter mustn't know that his
mother is a servant.  That's a secret I mean to keep from him at
all costs. . . .  But if he and Sally strike up a friendship, it
will be almost impossible. . . .  Oh, Lydia--how very foolish I was
to bring the child here!"



CHAPTER X


A dozen years had wrought many changes at Bar Harbour.  The Gables
seemed smaller, duller, stuffier, and had fallen into genteel
disrepair.  The beach extended much farther to the sea.  The sand
you had to wade was deeper and softer.  The tides seemed always to
be out, and when you firmly took them to task for it, they
apathetically ambled in with almost nothing of the old gaiety.

If you really wanted to find out how old you were, reflected Adele,
you should revisit some spot you hadn't seen since you were up on
your toes searching for adventure.  Then you could see not only
what had happened to the cherished old haunt, but to yourself as
well.

Once Adele had known everybody who was anybody at all in The
Gables' summer colony.  Now the list of acquaintances had been
pared down to a frost-bitten little group you could count on your
fingers.  The men were grizzled--my word! how grey and lean Bob
Winthrop was--and the lines in the women's faces were deep.  That
first afternoon Adele gave herself to a ruthlessly honest
inspection in the mirror, wondering if she looked as battered as
Rosalie Parr, wondering if her own bobbed hair made her look as
silly as Marie Bryce's, wondering whether it was better sense to
meet middle-age on its own terms or squabble with it to the
probable amusement of the flappers.

Sympathetic friends among the expatriates in Paris had condoled
with her over the "readjustments" she would be obliged to make, now
that Martin had passed on; but, in sober truth, there hadn't been
much readjusting that she was conscious of.  Martin had been
thirteen years her senior, world-weary, frail, drifting about from
one sanatorium to another, sometimes with and sometimes without
her, eternally muttering about his defaulting viscera and wishing
himself dead, which he was, to all useful purposes.  The funeral
was not an occasion for poignant grief; rather in the nature of a
memorial as if it might have been the anniversary of a demise
accomplished years ago.  No hypocrite, whatever her other
weaknesses, Adele hadn't pretended to be devastated with sorrow.

Accompanied by Cynthia Bradford she had gone out next morning to
Pre la Chaise, and arranged for an inscription on the slab.  It
had been Martin's wish to put in here when the time came, and Adele
had cheerfully fulfilled his instructions, feeling that he would be
in fairly good company, his resting-place reasonably well ensured
against any molestation, at least while she lived.  Already Martin
seemed very remote.

Cynthia had been quite attentive.  Her divorce from Thomas had been
granted six months ago; and, the luminous novelty of her new
freedom having worn through to the iron, she was in the market for
diversion.  Adele's bereavement provided her a chance to exercise a
talent for comradeliness which had become anmic through disuse.
In this mood she had confided more of her own story than might have
been possible under any other circumstances.

Part of the serio-comic tale of Cynthia's life with the Bradfords
was already known to Adele.  It was common talk.  Madame Bradford
had herself picked Cynthia Rollins as an acceptable daughter-in-
law, shortly after Thomas's summary disposal of Hannah, the old
lady feeling that if her son really insisted upon marriage, she
would arrange it for him as she had arranged everything from his
infancy.  The Rollins's fortune having evaporated, Cynthia had
accepted Thomas much as she might have accepted an annuity.  And
she had earned it--every dime!  Thomas had fallen in with the plan
complacently, and the jaded trio pursued the established Bradford
programme--October in Paris, the winter in Cannes, April in Paris,
May in London, June in New York (during which time attention would
be given to consultations with bankers, brokers, and attorneys),
summer at Bar Harbour, October in Paris, winter in Cannes, ad
libitum, ad vitam, ad infinitum.

At length--it was June--the old lady had died in the New York
apartment they had expensively maintained and seldom occupied.
Cynthia announced to her sister, an hour afterwards, that she was
leaving for Paris on an extended vacation.

"I am going immediately, Hortense," she declared, "and I have no
plans for coming back--that is, not very soon."

"You'll wait until after the funeral, I hope," admonished Hortense,
who liked to see things done in good form.

"Of course.  I wouldn't miss that.  I've been looking forward to it
for nearly ten years."

Thomas hadn't protested.  Indeed, he had shared her belief that
Cynthia needed a long vacation, and while he was much too suave to
add that he also could do with a few months by himself, he implied
it by refraining to dwell on his probable loneliness during his
wife's absence.  Pursuant to habit he proceeded to Bar Harbour,
settled into a sea-facing second-floor suite at The Gables, and,
when apprised of Cynthia's decision to free herself of her
matrimonial bondage, picked up the detective story he had put down
upon arrival of her letter, and didn't realize what time it was
until the bell rang for luncheon.

Cynthia told all, through those days of her girlhood friend's fresh
sorrow; and Adele, who had known enough of it to be able to guess
at the rest, listened with more patience than interest.  Only one
new fact about Thomas was disclosed by Cynthia's voluminous
confidences.  Adele's eyes widened with genuine surprise when she
heard it.  You would never have suspected that the torpid Thomas
entertained any aspiration at all--much less this one!  He wanted
children, if you can imagine such a thing!  Except for this single
regret, he lived as unemotionally as a three-toed sloth.

Sometimes it was almost pitiable, declared Cynthia--Thomas's shyly
wistful attitude towards the tots they occasionally encountered.
And it was quite amazing, too, the way young children responded to
his diffident overtures.  He would greet some little chap of six
with the same reserve that might have been exhibited by another lad
of the same age.  Cynthia believed it was his very shyness in the
presence of small children that encouraged them to share
responsibility for the promotion of acquaintance.  Thomas would not
be seated on a park bench very long before there would be a child
or two beside him.

"Of course," Cynthia had gone on, in that monotonously flat voice
of hers that wore you out, "when you can't produce a child, it's
silly to offer any other reason why you didn't have one, but I was
always glad I hadn't brought some unfortunate little thing into the
world to live our life, with no home, no permanent friends, no
amusement but to trail along after an insufferable old lady.  It
wouldn't have been right."

One day Adele had decided rather impetuously, to return to the
States.  Oh, yes--she would probably be back in the autumn.
Cynthia hinted that she might be persuaded to join forces with
Adele on this excursion, but, lacking any encouragement, gave up
the idea.  Sometimes she suspected, from Adele's frank inattention,
that their comradeship had relaxed into a merely casual
acquaintance.  Reluctant to see this happen--for she was no end
lonely--Cynthia had all but invited herself to go along.  She saw
Adele off at the Gare du Nord, saying, "Do come back soon dear," to
which Adele had replied, non-committally, "Don't look for me until
you see me.  I might find me a man over there."

"You can't be in earnest," said Cynthia, a bit piqued by the
inference that Adele had failed to confide the real purpose of her
journey.

"You'll see," teased Adele, enjoying Cynthia's astonishment.

                        *  *  *  *  *

The nervous scurry of New York had increased.  Crowds like swollen
rivers funnelled through station exits and swirled fanwise at
intersections.  The life of the city had been regimented to the
point of absurdity and yet its people hurled themselves forward
pell-mell as if each was behind his schedule and would surely be
reprimanded or fired when he arrived.

Adele suspected that a great deal of this stampede was a mere pose.
Men had to pretend they were driven almost to desperation by their
tasks.  To confess that you weren't hard pushed for time was almost
equivalent to admitting you were on the skids.

More than ever, business men (and women, too) were impressed by the
mechanical toys they had invented to serve the new god Efficiency.
You wanted to talk to Mr Andrews about that property you owned on
192nd Street.  Mr Andrews was on the seventeenth floor of a new
skyscraper.  Bewildered by the racket and confusion in the main
foyer, you took the express elevator by mistake and were shot like
a rocket to the fortieth story, returning presently on a local.
The girl at the information desk said Mr Andrews was still in
conference.  When you finally got to him, the interview was
constantly punctuated with bells, buzzers, and every manner of
electrified plaything requiring his attention.  Earnest-faced
secretaries popped in to lay a sheaf of papers on the desk and
popped out carrying other papers hastily grabbed up.  Adele knew
they were bluffing, trying to impress you with the urgency of their
large affairs.  Old Andrews was attempting to keep up with the
pandemonium, but it had made him as jittery as a caged monkey.  She
tried to tease him a little, but he wouldn't have it.

The odd thing about it was that, although you were confident of
your belief that about fifty per cent of this pressure was faked,
you yourself soon fell into the feverish trot, pushing and rushing
along with the rest.  Adele had been away from this madhouse long
enough to have forgotten how wearing it was, and in the meantime
its rattle and clash, its hurry and worry, had accelerated until it
fairly dizzied her.

One day, quite on impulse, she took a late afternoon boat to
Boston, hired a car in the morning, and was driven up to the old
home on the North Shore.  It was for sale again; by a bank, this
time.  The caretaker was friendly after she had explained who she
was and why she had come.  She did not enter the house, but
sauntered through the gardens and followed the path to the half-
timbered cottage where she had so often gone to have a glimpse of
Hannah.  There had been few changes.  It was as if she had been
here yesterday.  Memories of the thoughtful, deferential, competent
Hannah came surging back to fill Adele with an intense longing to
see her.  What had become of Hannah?  Wouldn't it be marvellous if
Hannah were free to come to her as a companion?  They could travel.
Hannah had been so keen on travel.  Indeed, it had been Thomas
Bradford's enticing offer of foreign sightseeing that had swept the
lonely girl off her feet and into disaster.  Adele made a prompt
resolve.  She would try to find Hannah!

Back in New York by train next day, Adele telephoned the Bradford
apartment and was gratified to learn that Thomas was in town.  Yes--
he would be glad to talk to her.  So they lunched together in a
relatively calm restaurant on Fifty-third Street, Thomas--stouter,
greyer, nattier--amiably inquiring about Cynthia in the dutiful
tone of one asking expected questions concerning the health of
one's maiden aunt, and Adele telling him everything she thought he
ought to know of his late wife's prosaic life.

"Yeah," drawled Thomas, "it was a lucky day for Cynthia when she
got rid o' me."

"WASN'T it, though?" agreed Adele heartily, which made Thomas
laugh.  "Lucky for Hannah Parmalee, too, I always thought," added
Adele.  "By the way--I'm meaning to find Hannah if possible.  Could
you help me?"

By long training in the endurance of embarrassing situations,
Thomas had developed a fairly thick crust, but he winced a little
under Adele's candid contempt.  Defensively he explained that a few
weeks after the divorce he had sent Hannah a cheque for five
hundred dollars--the amount of her own money he had used--but the
letter had come back marked "Address Unknown".  It had been sent to
her latest Chicago address, a residence on Lake Shore Drive.  Yes--
he still had it, if Adele thought there was any use trying again.

"You gave it up, after that one attempt?  Never made another effort
to find out whether Hannah was alive or dead, sick or well?  She
might have starved."

Thomas shook his head.

"No, Hannah wasn't the kind to starve.  She would make her way, all
right.  Probably married again.  I certainly hope so.  I admit I
treated her badly, but she would have been treated worse if she had
tried to live with me--under the circumstances."  He faced Adele
now with a bit of challenge lighting his pale blue eyes.  "But,
speaking of indifference and neglect, YOU didn't go to much bother
about her, either, until now--now that you need her."

"I'll grant your point, Thomas," confessed Adele.  "I had my own
troubles to fret about.  I hope it isn't too late."

"If you find out anything, will you let me know?"

"Perhaps.  It depends on what I find out."

"If she is in need, will you let me know?"

"Not likely.  Hannah wouldn't want you to do anything about it."

"That's true," agreed Thomas glumly.  "Hannah was proud."

                        *  *  *  *  *

The Newcombs still lived at the Lake Shore Drive address.  Mrs
Newcomb, replying to Adele's letter, remembered Hannah very well,
and had taken the trouble to inquire of their family physician.

"I was ill myself when Hannah left," she wrote, "or I would have
shown more interest.  Doctor Phelps saw her a few times after we
let her go; then sent her to a free clinic.  He thinks she went to
the University Hospital to have her baby.  That is all we know
about it."

Ten days later, Adele had a report from the University Hospital.
Hannah Parmalee Bradford, present address unknown, had borne a son
there.  The child had been taken, likely for later adoption (though
they had no record of that), by another patient, Mrs Jasper Edmunds
of Rattoon. . . .  Now we were really getting somewhere, exulted
Adele.  She wrote to Mrs Edmunds, careful to request a return of
the letter if not delivered in three days.  It did not come back.
Impatiently she waited for a reply.  New York was stifling.
Everyone who could do so had gone away for the summer.  Unable any
longer to endure the heat and noise and loneliness, Adele had
packed up hastily and taken herself up to Bar Harbour, resolved
that if she did not hear from this Mrs Edmunds very soon, she would
make the trip West and do a bit of sleuthing.

After she had been there three days, Thomas Bradford arrived.  He
had padded softly into the cool dining-room on rubber soles,
passing her table without seeing her, the head waiter preceding him
with the attentiveness due a guest of long standing.  He nodded to
the occupants of several tables, paused to shake hands with the
Winthrops and the Parrs; and, when seated, exchanged a smile of
recognition with Adele.  After luncheon they met in the lounge.

"Heard anything?" asked Thomas, waiving a formal greeting.

Adele swiftly debated a reply and shook her head, Thomas searching
her eyes afterwards as if not quite sure what her momentary
hesitation signified.  Then Bob Winthrop came downstairs in his
golf togs and lazily called, "See you out front," and Thomas had
moved away, presumably to dress for the links.

The afternoon mail came.  THERE WAS A LETTER FROM HANNAH.


DEAR MISS ADELE:

My friend Mrs Edmunds gave me your letter to her.  It is surely
good to have word from you after so many years.  I have often
wondered where you were and if I should ever see you again.  You
were always very good to me.

I see that you know about my little boy.  His name is Peter, and he
is eleven years old.  Some ways he seems older.  He is going to be
tall and big like his grandfather Parmalee, I think.  I see him
often, but he does not know I am his mother.  Of course this hurts
me very much, but I am anxious for him to grow up to be somebody.
I don't want him to be held back by his mother's being of the
servant class.  Not that I am ashamed of it myself, but it would
stand in his way at college and after.  He has a good home with Mrs
Edmunds and thinks she is his mother.  Sometimes it has been hard
to stand by and watch him make over her.  But I want him to have
his chance, as I said.  I know you won't tell anyone.  Peter calls
me "Aunt Hannah".

Ever since he was born I have worked in the home of Professor Ward.
They have been good to me.  They have three children, the youngest
born after I came here.  They were poor then, but now they live
very well.  I cannot leave.  These people need me now more than
ever.  Besides, I must stay where I can visit Peter.  He will never
be mine, but it helps a little to be able to see him.  I hope this
finds you well.  Would you please send me your picture?

                                        Respectfully yours,

                                                HANNAH PARMALEE.


Adele was pensive.  She sat for a long time with the open letter in
her hands wondering just how much heart-break would be involved in
the sort of sacrifice Hannah was making for her child.

It was odd, but true enough.  Here we were in a democratic country
that had always blown itself purple in the face over its "equality"
and its derision of social caste, but the facts were that Hannah
was right when she believed her boy would have a better chance to
succeed if it were never known that his mother had worked in
somebody's kitchen.

And, speaking of Peter's chance, when and how was he going to get
it?  Certainly not in a sleepy little town in the corn-belt,
brought up by a kindly disposed widow who had probably never been
anywhere in her life.  Peter would attend the high school, fall in
love with a classmate, spend four years in college, and settle down
in Waterloo, likely, to be a country lawyer or a bank-teller or
something like that.  And Hannah, hoping all the time that Peter
would make a name for himself, and going through who knew how much
sacrificial agony to speed him on to greatness.

"I won't have it!" declared Adele.  "If it's costing this much to
give Peter a chance, I'll come in on it--and help!"

The letter she sent to Hannah was recomposed three times before she
was entirely pleased with it.  She agreed with Hannah in every
particular about the liberty Peter should have and felicitated her
on the bravery of her decision to keep herself in the background,
no matter at what cost of maternal suffering.

"But, really, Hannah," continued Adele, shaping the words with her
lips as she wrote, "if this boy is to do the things necessary to
justify your painful investment in him, he should soon have a
little wider view of the world than he is likely to get in that
small town.  No reflection on your Mrs Edmunds at all.  A fine
woman, doubtless.  But Peter needs more room to grow up in. . . .
Now I want to make you a proposal.  It would please me very much--
I'm really frightfully lonesome, Hannah--if you would let Peter
come and spend August here with me.  I can be an aunt he never saw.
He's too young to make many inquiries about that.  I'll come to
Chicago and meet him.  Mrs Edmunds can bring him that far.  I'll
show the dear little chap the sea and teach him to swim and find
him some pleasant company among the youngsters here.  The Winthrops
have their grandchildren along. . . .  Do humour me in this,
Hannah.  I'm quite eager about it."

Mrs Ward had promised herself to return to Chicago in mid-August
for the opera season at Rivinia Park.  Paul's consultation work in
Chicago was taking him there again.  They would be leaving in a
week.

Hannah read Adele's special through, voting all of her stock
against the project; read it again, still doubtful but interested;
read it a third time.  The sea, the Winthrops, Adele.

Sally came in for a drink of water.

"Hannah," she said coaxingly.

"Yes, dear."  Hannah's voice sounded very far away.

"We're going to be alone again."

"I know, Sally.  You will take good care of me, won't you?"

"Will you be wanting to go down to Waterloo again--to see Mrs
Edmunds?  If you do, please will you take me?"

"We'll see," postponed Hannah absently.

After Sally had gone out to the garden, Hannah sat for a long time
in earnest thought, her chin cupped in an unsteady hand.  In
September, when school began again, there would be no occasion for
Sally to go along to Waterloo.  To refuse to take her there again
would unquestionably stir her curiosity.  She wouldn't be able to
understand.  If it was all right--and her mother had agreed it was--
to be taken to see Mrs Edmunds and Peter in July, why not in
August?  Had she done something amiss to make Hannah refuse her
another invitation?

These questions were bound to arise.  Sally's feelings mustn't be
hurt and her curiosity should not be aroused.  How natural if she
confided her perplexity to her mother, who would wonder even more
about it herself.

Besides--it would be a great experience for Peter, as Adele had
said.  Adele probably knew what she was talking about.  The more
she considered it, the more attractive the plan seemed to Hannah.
Next day--Sally having been invited to go on a picnic party with
the Olivers' grandchildren--Hannah went to Waterloo on an early
train and canvassed the whole situation with Lydia, her chief
talking-point being the fine experience for Peter.

Lydia listened quietly, not quite prepared to express an opinion,
and Hannah rather reluctantly presented the other angle of the
case.  She didn't want Peter and Sally to be seeing any more of
each other.  It was very plain, wasn't it, that these children were
unusually congenial?  Lydia nodded and smiled.

"He talks about her every day," she said, "and keeps asking when
you're going to bring her again."

"You see?" demanded Hannah.  "I knew it!  We can't have it!"

"Well," sighed Lydia, "after all, dear, he's your boy.  And I must
say you've made very few suggestions about the way you wanted him
brought up.  If you really think we should let him go, I see no
reason why not.  I'll arrange to take him to Chicago.  We had
better wire to Mrs Moore at once."

"Thanks, Lydia, you're very good."  Hannah's satisfaction and
relief were so genuine that Lydia was glad she had acquiesced
promptly.

"Shall I tell him now?" she asked.

"No," replied Hannah, "I'll leave you to tell Peter anything you
like about his mysterious Aunt Adele.  It shouldn't be difficult.
She has lived abroad more years than he is old.  And he has often
heard us speak of her.  Peter will be so excited about the trip
that he probably won't ask many puzzling questions."  She paused
thoughtfully, her eyes troubled.  "I don't like to have Peter
deceived, even for his own good, but apparently we can't do this
any other way."

Lydia sighed gently and said she didn't like that part of it
either.

"But for his sake," she added, "we have already left so much untold
that one more small deceit won't matter.  It would be quite
different if we were planning something that might hurt him.  I'm
afraid the telling of the literal and complete truth to Peter, at
this stage, would be a very shabby act."

"That's true enough," agreed Hannah, "but plenty of good people
would say we were doing the wrong thing.  I'm sure of that."

"Plenty of good people," reflected Lydia, "are over-generous with
their opinions about problems they don't understand very well.
We'll see it through, I shall telegraph Mrs Moore that Peter and I
will meet her at the train she intends to take for her return East.
In the confusion of setting off on his big adventure, he will not
notice that his mother and his Aunt Adele are not as well
acquainted as relatives ought to be.  I shall leave him with her
and hurry away.  The rest of it will be up to her.  That sounds
practical, doesn't it?"

"I hope so, dear," said Hannah.  "Thanks for being willing to do it
for us.  You have been very good to me, Lydia."

                        *  *  *  *  *

After an hour they went forward to the dining-car, Peter gallantly
opening the doors and keeping a weather-eye out for his charming
Aunt Adele as they made their way through the aisles of the
lurching train.

It had been an exciting morning.  Such chuff-chuffing of engines
and clanging of bells and rattling of baggage-trucks and people
rushing into trains and out of trains!  Peter had been so occupied
by this complication of new sights and sounds that he had barely
realized his mother was gone and his pretty Aunt Adele was in
charge of him until they were gliding out of the gloomy station-
shed.

For a half-hour they had slipped smoothly past rows and rows of
ugly brick houses that looked very much alike, the track presently
rising to a level of the second-storey windows.  And they had
passed several swift trains, so close it made you blink when the
big Pullman cars flicked by, whispering a soft little "Fsst, fsst,
fsst, fsst".

And then came dozens of railroad crossings where the heavy wheels
of your train pounded the other tracks, shouting, "FLAT-on-your-
back!  FLAT-on-your-back!  FLAT-on-your-back!"  Now there were
occasional open spaces with brown-grass stubble where the hay had
been cut.  Peter hadn't wanted to talk.  And Aunt Adele hadn't
bothered him with any attentions.  It was open country and the
train was going very fast.  Peter turned from the window and for
the first time recognized his duty to show a polite interest in his
stylishly dressed companion.

"I'm hungry, Peter," she said, and he knew he was going to like
her.  His experience with women had led him to believe that they
never really were hungry; that when they ate it was mostly to
accommodate others.  If this beautiful woman was the sort to get
hungry and was honest enough to say so frequently, he felt that
they could easily be friends.  Moreover, she hadn't tried to kiss
him or hold his hand or smooth his cowlick with a wet finger.  He
looked up at her amiably and partly closed one eye to let her know
that the remark she had made coincided fully with his own feelings.
Perhaps, if he had given more thought to it, the wink might have
seemed not quite appropriate to the occasion--seeing how recently
they had met for the first time--but now that he had done it, Peter
knew, from the happy amusement on her face, that his reply had
pleased her.  Indeed, she seemed so pleased that he half-feared she
might put her arm around him or pat him on the knee, but she
didn't.  It made him feel quite grown-up. . . .  The doors were
heavy and hard to pull open, especially the first one they came to
at the end of their own car.  He tugged with almost full strength,
his new Aunt Adele waiting behind him.  Now she'd be saying, "Wait
a minute, Peter.  I'll help you."  But she didn't say anything;
just stood and waited.  He had braced himself firmly then and
pulled the door open.  And she hadn't said, "That's a big, strong
boy!"  He knew now that he and Aunt Adele were going to get along
together.  He liked her.  He liked the way she walked.  He liked
her name.  Aunt Adele.  He hadn't called her that yet.

Seated now at the table for two, Peter had a chance to inspect his
attractive new relative with a sincere frankness that Adele found
slightly disconcerting.  He made no attempt to disguise his
approval of her outward appearance, his sentiments on that subject
being fully expressed in the steady grey eyes (Hannah's) and
flatteringly confirmed by the puckery little smile (also Hannah's)
that lightly pursed his mobile lips.

Adele tried to see as little as possible of Thomas Bradford in this
interesting young face, though there was something in the sidelong
glance when, gazing out at the window, he unexpectedly let you have
it without turning his head--there was something in that half-shy,
half-defensive, inquiring glance that was Thomas--Thomas to the
life!  The shapely ears, too, snugged uncommonly close to the head.
That was Thomas.  However, Thomas had a very good head--at least on
the outside--and Peter might have done worse than to fall heir to
it.  The forward curve of the hairline on the temples--Thomas
again.  It would be the same blondish brown hair, too, when it had
darkened a little more in maturity.

"What would you like to have, Peter?" asked Adele casually,
training her lorgnette on the menu-card.

"I'd rather you would say, please," said Peter.

"'Aunt Adele,'" she prompted gently, in the same key.

He grinned companionably and repeated the words after her as her
tone had suggested.  There was a little caress in it that warmed
her heart.

"I hope you're going to like your Aunt Adele, Peter."  Her eyes
were intent on the menu so as not to seem too urgent with her
proffer of affection.

"I do!"  His declaration was so prompt and sincere that Adele's
eyes were misty.  Quick to observe the alarming effect of his
reply, Peter added prudently, "I like ALL my aunts."

Adele intuitively understood the nature of this qualifying
afterthought.

"That's the way it ought to be, of course," she commented, "though
aunts can be a great trial."

"I've never seen but two of mine--Aunt Hannah and you."

"Your Aunt Hannah is a darling."  Here, thought Adele, was a
reasonably safe topic.  She hoped that if Peter had any questions
to ask about family relationships, they might pivot on Hannah.  "We
used to have such fun together when we were girls," she added
truthfully.

"Why didn't you come and see her?"

"There wasn't time, Peter.  I was anxious to take you on your
vacation at once, for you will have to be back in school presently.
I'll try to see Hannah when we return. . . .  Do you think you
would like an omelet--or some fish?"

Peter's voice was reminiscently obedient.  "My mother said I should
let you choose what I'm to eat."

She couldn't resist teasing him a little with a suggestion that the
milk-toast was generally very nice on trains and, noting the
slightly apprehensive look in his eyes, added, "Of course, you
needn't have it if you prefer something else."

"Are YOU?" he asked, wrinkling his face in astonishment.

"Certainly not!" scoffed Adele.  "I'm having lamb chops, creamed
potatoes, asparagus, salad, pie, ice-cream,--almost everything!"

Peter drew a long breath.

"That will be all right for me, too," he agreed complacently.

"You're very polite, Peter."  She was beginning to write their
order now, and having put down two corn soups, two lamb chops, and
two peas, she seemed to have difficulty with the lorgnette.  "Will
you fill out the rest of it, dear!"  She pushed the order-pad and
pencil towards him; and Peter, aglow over his responsibility,
followed the pattern she had set for him.

"You want coffee, I expect," he said, without looking up.

"Chocolate, please."

So, on the last line, Peter wrote two chocolates, rather pleased
she hadn't wanted coffee, for he knew he wasn't considered old
enough, and it would have made him feel like a baby to have taken
chocolate.  This made it all right--Aunt Adele's having it, too.
He handed back the order, and she signed to the waiter that it was
ready for him, without so much as glancing at it to see if it had
been filled out properly.  Peter's shoulders straightened.  He gave
her an earnest look with a query behind it and her pretty brows
raised slightly in anticipation.

"Did you ever have a boy--Aunt Adele?"

"No, Peter."

There was a moment's pause.

"That's too bad," he said gently.

She briefly nodded her appreciation of this spontaneous solicitude,
and, observing that Peter wasn't quite finished with what he was
trying to say, she asked, "Why?"--in such a low voice that if he
hadn't read the word on her lips he might not have heard it.  He
contemplated a prudent reply, his grey eyes narrowing.

"Because--well--I expect you wanted one."

"That's true, Peter," she assented softly; and, after a pause,
"What made you think so?"

He lightly traced a nervous pattern on the tablecloth with his
butter-knife and chuckled self-consciously.

"Oh--I don't know," he ventured, at length.  "Anyway--it would have
been pretty nice--for the boy."

"How very sweet of you, Peter!"

He flushed slightly under this candid tribute, and considered the
wisdom of changing the conversation.  However, the soup had come
now to relieve the tension.

"If I could have had a boy," pursued Adele tenderly, "I would have
wanted one just like you."

Somewhat disturbed by this endearment, Peter hastened to defend his
right to be a problem to his mother, and presently was telling her
all about the cave, the club, and the manly sports which occupied
so much of his attention.

"I take it that you don't play very much with girls," observed
Adele.  "Perhaps you don't care for them."

Peter was almost on the point of admitting that this was true when
it suddenly occurred to him that Aunt Adele might be offended, for
she had been a girl herself and--some ways--seemed a good deal like
a girl even now, so he replied, "Oh--they're all right," after
which he renewed his interest in the soup, trusting that he had
squared himself.

"You'll think so some day," laughed Adele.  "Girls get much nicer
as they grow up.  I don't think they're very interesting--at
eleven."

The waiter had carried away the soup-plates, leaving Peter without
occupation at a moment when he would have appreciated some
distraction.  Aunt Adele seemed to know exactly what you were
thinking.  He hoped she wasn't guessing about his thoughts now.  He
wondered about this for a moment; and, raising his eyes,
encountered hers.  They were smiling, teasingly.  He looked away
quickly and felt a sudden warmth creeping up his cheeks.

"Peter," she accused him playfully, "you're holding out on me."

He shook his head guiltily, but would not meet her eyes.

"Funny thing about that," observed Adele, almost as if she were
talking to herself.  "Boys and girls are perfect pests to each
other when they're your age--all except one."

"Yes--that IS funny," agreed Peter absently.

The lamb chops had come now and the other things.  Very hungry,
Peter applied himself diligently, noting, after a while, that his
Aunt Adele was more interested in him than her luncheon.

"What's her name, Peter?" she asked softly.

"Sally."

"Neighbour--I suppose."

"No--she lives with Aunt Hannah.  Sally Ward."

"So--you like Sally, do you?"

"Well--she's different.  You won't tell, will you?"

"No--but I expect Hannah knows.  Hannah knows almost everything."

Peter shook his head.

"Not about that--she doesn't," declared Peter, a bit brusquely.
"When do we get to Bar Harbour, Aunt Adele?"

"About Friday, I think.  We're not going there directly.  We will
stop in Boston for a couple of days.  I have some errands there.
And I want you to see a few things that will make school a little
more interesting this autumn.  Would you like to do that, Peter?"
Observing that he was only mildly enthusiastic, she went on, "We
will hire a car and drive out over the road that Paul Revere took,
when he stirred up the farmers to fight the British.  Do you
remember?"

Peter remembered, and thought this would be a wonderful thing to
do.  "Aunt Hannah doesn't believe in fighting," he added.  "She
doesn't even want to talk about it."

Adele had forgotten Hannah's odd quirk on the subject of war.  Now
it all came back to her memory, the frequency of Hannah's comments
on combat--all manner of combat, national and individual, public
and private.  It had been nothing short of an obsession.  Doubtless
her strange convictions had deepened as she hugged them more
tightly through the passing years. . . .  And so, Hannah had filled
this lad's head with her own queer ideas.  It would be interesting
to know his reaction to a philosophy so utterly impractical.

"I can't think that Hannah would object to your looking at the
Bunker Hill Monument, Peter, or driving out to see Paul Revere's
road.  After all--that's the way we got our American independence."

"Aunt Hannah doesn't think so," rejoined Peter firmly.  "She says
any kind of fighting is wrong, no matter who does it."

"And what do you think?" Adele couldn't help asking.

Peter was sober for a moment, apparently struggling between loyalty
to his Aunt Hannah and the necessity to state his own boyish
feelings.

"I think," he said slowly, "a fellow's got to fight sometimes,
whether he wants to or not.  You can't let 'em run over you.  Aunt
Hannah's wonderful, but I'll bet she'd find it pretty tough to do
that if she was a boy.  Don't you think so Aunt Adele?"

She dodged this neatly by reminding Peter that she never had been a
boy, and couldn't say just what she would do.

"That's just it," approved Peter, pleased with her confession of
feminine immunity.  "Men don't want women to fight."

Adele drew a disturbingly ironical smile.

"Now you've said something, my lad!  Men like to harness themselves
in shiny leather straps with plenty of bright buttons and go
strutting down the street behind the band.  They love the way they
look in their uniforms--so big and straight and strong.  They don't
want their women to show off their bravery.  They expect the women
to stay at home and fret and lie awake nights and wonder where
their children's next meal is coming from."

"You talk like Aunt Hannah," said Peter, wishing now that the
subject hadn't come up--"except she doesn't make fun of the belts
and things. . . .  But--anyway--a fellow's got to protect himself,
don't you think?"

"Yes, Peter, I do think that.  Making war is one thing, and
defending yourself is another."

"Aunt Hannah doesn't think so.  It's all the same thing, she says.
I never let her know when I've been in a fight."

"What does your mother say about it?"

"When I've been fighting?"  Peter grinned reminiscently.  "She just
asks me how it came out."

Adele couldn't help smiling over that, and Peter felt she was on
his side, even if she didn't say so.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Thomas had taken a late afternoon dip in the surf and was sprawled
at full length on the sand.  He had been obliged to spend a week in
New York attending to certain stupid matters of business which, he
felt, might as easily have been handled by mail.  The return trip
to Bar Harbour had been hot, dirty, tedious.  It was refreshing to
be back.  Shutting his eyes against the sunlight, he luxuriated in
the comforting breeze and the sedative lisp of an outgoing tide.

Most of the bathers had left the beach, passing him as he had come
out.  Parents were shouting injunctions to their children to come
now and get ready for dinner.  Drowsily outstretched, he heard the
youngsters' prattle receding.  Presently he, too, would plod back
to the bathhouse, de-sand himself in the shower, and dress.  It was
very quiet.  Thomas opened his eyes, sat up, yawned, and met the
gaze of a boy who stood a little way off, feet wide apart, hands on
hips, regarding him with interest.

"Hello," said Thomas pleasantly.  "Were you waiting for me?"

"You were so still," said the boy, "and the rest of them were all
gone.  I thought something was the matter.  I beg your pardon,
sir."

"It was quite the right thing to do, I think.  We water-spaniels
have to take care of each other.  No telling what might happen to
us.  Besides--any sort of flotsam or jetsam lying on the beach is
likely to be interesting."  Thomas drew up his knees and folded his
arms on them, and the boy dropped down beside him.

"What's flotsam?" he inquired, looking up earnestly into Thomas's
face.

"Well--you can't have any flotsam unless you have some jetsam.
They always go together like--like cakes and syrup, and each and
every, and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Now, technically"--Thomas assumed a
tone of gravity--"technically, flotsam is almost anything that
washes in from a wreck--and jetsam is stuff the sailors throw
overboard just before the wreck--but it all comes to the same
thing."

"Yes, I see," assented the boy, nodding his head politely.  "Thank
you."

Thomas grinned, partly over his own silly speech, partly over the
seriousness with which it had been received.  The boy drew a brief
smile and quickly sobered, his grey eyes intent on a candid survey
of his new friend.  Thomas returned the scrutiny, a bit mystified
over the lad's artless inspection of him.  Then they both smiled,
and Thomas said, "What's your name?"

"Peter Edmunds."

"Stopping at the Gables, Peter?"

"Yes, sir.  I came Thursday.  I'm visiting my aunt."

"Who is your aunt?  Maybe I know her."

"Mrs Moore.  She came to Chicago for me."

"Oh--so you live in Chicago?"

"No, sir--in Waterloo.  My mother brought me to Chicago to meet
Aunt Adele."

"Thank you for telling me about yourself, Peter.  I am glad to know
you.  I am Mr Bradford."

"How do you do, Mr Bradford?" said Peter respectfully.  "Do you
know my Aunt Adele?"

"Yes, she's a good friend of mine."  There was a considerable
pause.  "How old are you, Peter?"

"Eleven.  Twelve pretty soon."

There was another extended silence.

"When?" inquired Thomas quietly.

"November second."

Thomas's eyes looked far out to sea, meditatively, and he softly
rubbed his thumb against the tips of his fingers, almost as if he
were counting--eeny, meeny, miny, mo.  Peter watched him
interestedly.

"Shall we go now?" asked Thomas.  "It will soon be dinnertime."

Peter rose and measured long steps.  They did not talk much on the
way back.  When they parted, Thomas said, "I'll be seeing you," and
Peter replied, "Thank you, Mr. Bradford.  I'd like to."



CHAPTER XI


That was an eventful winter for the Wards.  The new refrigerator
had caught on instantly, effortlessly.  The public had been waiting
a long time for it.  Salesmen needed only to be order-takers.  At
the factory production had been speeded up to three shifts per day.
Paul's rewards were exceeding his most lavish expectations.

Hannah's fears that an overstuffed optimism might involve them all
in a financial disaster were gradually allayed.  For no accountable
reason, Paul Ward's luck had turned.  Everything he touched ran
smoothly.  Hannah could well remember the occasion, six years ago,
when he had been badgered by an unscrupulous local man to buy a
hundred dollars' worth of stock in the Parker Manufacturing
Company, engaged in making pumps.  He couldn't spare the money.
But the chap who had come to see him had pictured such prompt and
huge profits that Paul had yielded.  The next afternoon's papers
reported that the concern had gone into bankruptcy.  The very next
afternoon!  The people who sold him the stock knew the company was
broke, knew they were stealing his money.  Even Mr Parker himself,
president of the organization, had assisted in making the stock
sale.  It wasn't much, of course, but Mr Parker--with his back to
the wall--was willing to take what little he could lay his hands
on, not caring much how he got it.

Now that Paul's income was ample to take care of every reasonable
wish, all his investments proved profitable.  Part of this success
was attributable to the good advice he received from Sam Trimble,
with whom he had become chummy.

Sometimes Paul chuckled about it.  He would come to the dinner-
table with the evening paper in his hands, folded at the financial
page, and say, "Well, Marcia, we made six hundred dollars to-day."

"Why--PAUL!" she would exclaim.  "How wonderful!  What are you
going to do with it?"

And Paul would reply idly, "We'll just leave it there to grow a
little more--and then you can buy yourself a new apron, or a new
axe, or something."  He was proud of her chance to be indolent.

One would have thought that after the long steady pinch of poverty,
he might have become vain, silly, and pompous over what his fortune
could do for him personally.  Hannah was pleased to observe that
this had not happened.  He was as indifferent to his swollen income
as he had been formerly to his predicaments.  An hour's fretting
over some humiliation would see him through it, in the old days,
after which he would resume his careless attitude towards expenses
and obligations alike.  Now, true to his nature, Paul would rejoice
for a little while over some unexpected increment and then settle
quickly again into his normal state of mind.

The new venture had absorbed so much of his time and attention that
Hannah often wondered whether he would be able to retain enough
interest in his professorship to ensure his position at the
University.  She had so hoped he wouldn't let his new money make a
loafer of him.  To her delight, September twelfth found him eager
to be back in his class-room, and for several days preceding he had
been diligent in the Dean's office.  Hannah was proud of him when
she discovered that his money wasn't likely to spoil him.

It was going to be a bit different with Mrs Ward.  Of course it was
not much to be wondered at if this extraordinary pretty creature,
having waded through drudgery, penury, worry, boredom, and
dowdiness for all of fifteen years, would now let herself out.  Her
horizon had been expanded immeasurably, and she couldn't be blamed
for wanting to stir about a little and see what was going on in a
world of larger privileges.

So she was making up for lost time.  There was a second maid now--
one Bertha--a trim little thing who promptly proved her value by
relieving Hannah of the extra work which the new house demanded.
Bertha was going to be quite a comfort.  Hannah liked her, and felt
that the girl heartily reciprocated.  At least she acted as it she
did.  The children were becoming more and more self-reliant.
Wallie had his own interests outside.  Afternoon and evening
absences from home were vaguely attributed to basketball practice
and school activities.  Roberta didn't need or want very many
friends, and spent much time in her room, presumably writing and
drawing, an odd youngster who belonged to the tribe mostly by sheer
residence.  Sally was blossoming; still a little girl but beginning
to show signs of an early development into a rare type of Saxonish
loveliness.  She was much interested in making exquisite costumes
for her dolls; but, having completed a new dress, the thought of
mothering the doll seemed tiresome.  It would not be long now,
reflected Hannah, until Sally would have to put her cherished brood
up in the attic store-room.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Marcia Ward had a genuine talent for bridge, and seeing how few
gifts she possessed other than her personal appearance, she had
gone in for it with an absorption that was only a little northeast
of frenzy.

She had also bobbed her hair--one of the earliest in town to
venture upon this audacity--and talked about it and fussed with it
a good deal, partly because she realized it was amazingly becoming
to her girlish type, and partly in self-defence, for the time had
not yet arrived when a Mid-Western matron of thirty-nine could do
it with impunity.  Until very recently the only adult women with
bobbed hair, at least in the hog-and-corn zone, were either
invalids, inmates of lunatic asylums or out-and-out hussies.  The
University wives not only had long hair, but wore switches, mostly
of earlier vintage to prove they hadn't always been grey.  Mrs
Adams even wore a rat around which a huge sprayless comber curled
as if poised to break.

So--all of these conditions being as they were--what time Marcia
wasn't talking bridge she was talking hair.  And if she didn't look
out, thought Hannah, her conversation would presently become rather
irksome to her husband, who had not shown himself to be keenly
interested in either of these issues.

Eleanor Trimble was now Marcia's closest friend.  Eleanor was the
authentic leader of the best social dozen in town besides holding
an excellent position in the esteem of the better faculty wives.
It was a tricky relationship, too, for the tie-up between town and
gown was as sensitive as a dancer's corn.  On occasions--not very
lately, however--the animosity had blazed until lines had been
stretched for the protection of bystanders.  For the past three
or four years there had been no explosions or terrifying
conflagrations, but the old feud continued to smoulder like a
malodorous spring bonfire nearing extinction.

All the circumstances of Eleanor's life happily conspired to give
her the social precedence she needed for this delicate job of
pasturing lions and lambs in one serene enclosure.  Sam Trimble, as
president of the bank where practically everybody connected with
the University cleared his pittance, was a good man to know,
especially when you hadn't saved enough money for your summer
vacation and must negotiate a loan with little collateral beyond
friendship.  Indeed, you would strain a point and consent to attend
almost any sort of party at Sam's house, for prudential reasons,
even if you knew you would have to meet people with whom you shared
very few interests or experiences aside from the elementary fact
that you all breathed prairie air at approximately the same number
of respirations per minute.

But Eleanor Trimble had not come by her social leadership through
mere duress.  She was born to it.  There was no question in
anyone's mind about that.  She had not been party to the celebrated
fights.  Her Saturday nights were planned with craft and executed
with skill.  She would gather up a coterie of top-notch merchants
and industrialists and their spouses, and a flock of influential
professors, and mash them all together into an outwardly harmonious
compound, blandly indifferent to the fact that many a pair of these
elements--if left alone together--would have blown off the roof.

Eleanor always knew the right thing to say.  Aware that every woman
she knew nursed some private vanity, some pet anxiety, some lambent
hope, she ministered artfully and effectively to all comers.  She
was not pretty, but you frequently heard people saying they thought
she was.  It was because they liked her.  She did something to them
that made them like themselves.  If you analysed her and then
totted her up, item by item, the total was surprisingly short of
the aggregate you had previously guessed at.  Eleanor was
considerably under average height.  It required her to gaze up at
you, which gave you the satisfaction of looking down.  So nobody
blamed her for that.  It made the women feel important, and as for
the men, the distance Eleanor had to look when she gazed up at them
made her long-lashed brown eyes wink rapidly and tipped her head
back so far that it parted her lips into an expression of child-
like adoration.  Her eyes and lips were about all she had of
physical attractiveness, but they were a-plenty.

When Mrs Hastings arrived on a Saturday night in a new lace gown
cut to add seven years to her age and four inches to her girth,
Eleanor stood on tiptoe to whisper "LOVELY!" She was a little liar,
but she honestly believed that of such little liars is the kingdom
of heaven.

To Mrs James Blodgett whose son Charles--he had never been worth
the powder it would have taken--was reported to have landed a job
on the Star, Eleanor said, "My dear, what a wonderful chance for
that boy!  I always knew he would make you proud, when he struck
his stride."

Even when you knew that what she was saying was utterly silly, you
took it and licked the spoon.  She had gone to the length of saying
to Marcia, "What a charming girl your Roberta is coming to be!  So
gracious!  So lovely!"  This was really carrying things a bit too
far, and for an instant Marcia had eyed her narrowly to see if she
might detect the slightest bulge in her lightly rouged cheek; but,
noting no such symptom of insincerity, purred softly and thought
Eleanor a darling, which wasn't far from the truth.

It was beyond all thought that she who was so gifted in the arts of
comradeship could content herself with the little conquests she
made with her woman friends.  Eleanor wasn't above planting a
murmured word or two of laud, honour, praise, and glory into the
hairy ear of almost any broad-shouldered male.  She always timed
and placed her seasons of worship in such a manner that the idol
could hardly fail to appreciate her offering.  If it was supposed
to be a private matter, she would reach up and detain Bill by the
sleeve just long enough to whisper, out of the corner of her
expressive mouth, "I heard what a killing you made in cotton,
Little One.  Nice work!"  Or, she would capitalize a brief lull in
conversation by calling half-way down the long table, "Timmy, if
you haven't given that seventy-four-stroke ball away, I'd like it,
please, initialled."  And Timmy would reply, with a booming laugh,
"O.K.  Shall I put 'love and kisses' on it?"  And then Eleanor
would let him have a half-shy wink as she replied, "Thank you,
Timmy."

It was fun and she enjoyed it.  She enjoyed it so much that
sometimes she was utterly foolhardy, as when she said to clumsy old
Claude Miner, who owned more stock in the Farmers and Mechanics
Bank than anyone else in town except Sam himself, "CLAUD!  You
don't mean to tell me you've worn your TEETH!"  She winked rapidly
in happy surprise.  "Lovely!" she murmured.  It was a classic joke
that old Claude wore his upper plate only when attending funerals
in his Knights Templar uniform, on all other occasions presenting a
mouth reminiscent of the widely spaced monoliths at Stonehenge.
Sam had said to her that night while they were undressing, "Some
time you're going to make a pass like that at a fellow who isn't
feeble-minded and he'll sock you in the noodle."  And then Sam
laughed again until he had another touch of his asthma and had to
help himself to a stiff slug of Scotch.  Eleanor smiled knowingly
and remarked, "Claude liked it."  And then added, half to herself,
as she patted the cold cream on her pretty throat, "They ALL like
it.  YOU like it. . . .  _I_ like it."

Claude, who had gone north next day for the deer season, expressed
them a quarter of venison, a week later.  The tag read "MRS Samuel
J. Trimble".

"You see?" teased Eleanor.  "It pays to be nice to people."

And so it did.  Eleanor was becoming increasingly resourceful in
winning friends.  It was an amusing game to play; more exacting
than bridge, more exciting than golf, more rewarding than either.
It wasn't that she merely enjoyed the sensation of conquest.
Sometimes her eyes were very sober when she remembered the effect
she had produced with certain adroit encouragements and flatteries;
for example, the pathetically wistful expression on frail little
Mrs Morris's face when Eleanor told her how very well she was
looking.  Mrs Morris was worrying her heart out over that cancer.

Sometimes, of course, you couldn't help chuckling when you thought
of the way the eminent Professor Wemble had turned out to be a
cunning little kitten when you had dragged him off into a corner to
button his sleeve-link.  No matter what was being talked of, the
Professor was for ever sure to be reminded of something that Hegel
or Fichte had said, but at this moment he had just breathed heavily
and made strange jungle-noises in his larynx.  Eleanor thought it
was fun.

And so it was--all of it--only fun, until that night when she and
Paul Ward had their sudden, unpredictable unaccountable collision
of eyes.  There hadn't been the slightest occasion for it.  She had
looked up at him with exactly the same gaily beaming, friendly,
flattering brown eyes that had been radiantly lifted a full half-
dozen times into other eyes in the course of the past two hours.
This time she found it difficult to get away from the curious
mesmerism of Paul's sober, steady gaze.  She felt a sudden glow, a
hard bump-bump in her heart, and wondered what it was all about.

The evening had drawn to a close.  Eleanor had asked Paul to help
gather up the tally-cards.  Then they had gone into the library to
inspect the scores.  Laying the cards out on the desk, they had
bent over them, touching elbows.

"Alice Patterson, apparently," said Eleanor.  "I'm glad of that.
She's had wretched luck lately."

"It seems Sam has the best score for the men," said Paul.

"Sam won't want to take a prize.  He hates it, when he's the host."

"I know--but it's customary, isn't it?  Whoever wins it, gets it,
even if he did have to pay for it himself."  They laughed--a little
more than the pleasantry was worth.

"Very well," conceded Eleanor.  "Let poor old Sam win a prize
once."  She gathered up the cards, one by one.

"I don't feel that Sam is in need of any sympathy," said Paul
quietly.  "He has always been quite lucky--at everything."

Eleanor glanced up, smiled brightly, suddenly sobered, dropped her
eyes, looked up again, became conscious of a little tremor on her
lips, flushed slightly, and then said in a throaty undertone, "You
shouldn't look at people--that way.  You'll--you might break
somebody's--"

Mr Blodgett chose that instant to barge into the library.

"I say, Mrs Trimble, they're calling for you."

"Righto!  We've finished.  We'll be there instantly."

Blodgett retired, leaving them standing a little way apart, facing
each other.  For a moment they waited in a mutual constraint.  Then
she smiled and tucked a trembling hand under his arm companionably.

"We must go," she said.

"Of course," assented Paul, rather unsteadily.

Just within the door she paused, looked up into his eyes again, and
said, "It's odd--isn't it?"

"Yes," he replied, "It is."

She was in radiant spirits again by the time they rejoined the
others.

When the last of them had gone home, she said to Sam, "Mind if I
toddle off to bed?  I'm tired."

Seated at her dressing-table, Eleanor studied her eyes.  Always,
after a party, it was fun to remember the things one had said and
done to make people pleased with themselves.  This experience to-
night was something different.  It hadn't been fun.  It was too
serious.

Reviewing the little episode, moment by moment, she wondered just
what she had done, what she had said, how she looked, to provoke
this flashing change in their casual acquaintance.  What they had
been saying to each other was nothing, mere banter and chaff.  What
Paul had implied when he referred to Sam was all of a piece with
the playful compliments he had often bestowed, same sort of
pleasantry all the other men liked to think they were good at.
What had happened?  They had exchanged a look that had given them a
strange reaction.

"It's odd--isn't it?" she heard herself saying.  Why had she said
that?  Trying to be frank, perhaps.  It was the wrong thing to have
said.  And Paul had agreed, soberly, that it was indeed "odd".  But
what else could she say?  He couldn't very well blurt out clumsily,
"WHAT'S odd?"  It was probably all her own fault.  Now they would
either be stiff and suspicious of each other, or let themselves go
again and take the chance of making themselves very restless and
unhappy.  She had despised these nasty little affairs with all her
heart.

Taking up her brush, Eleanor swept it through her black hair
several times, almost savagely.  She had been a fool.  There
wouldn't be any more of it, she could promise you THAT!  She would
take pains not to see Paul Ward alone, ever again.

The strokes of the brush were lighter.  She laid it down, propped
her elbows on the table, laced her fingers under her chin, stared
into the glass; and, living it all through once more, frowned
witheringly at herself, sighed deeply, closed her eyes, and smiled.

                        *  *  *  *  *

After that they seemed always to be bumping into each other at
every corner, though this could be easily explained, Paul thought,
by the fact that each of them had become acutely conscious of the
other.

Eleanor was valiantly trying to put things to rights by being
especially attentive to Marcia, who, gladly reciprocating these
pleasant hospitalities, was planning all of her social events so
that the Trimbles would be not only front-rank guests, but
obviously of the inner circle.  The two women quickly arrived at an
intimacy which coupled their names in the guest-lists of every
hostess in their social set.  If either was asked to pour at a tea,
both of them poured.

Marcia, fighting a hard bridge battle with doughty opponents--the
last hand of the evening--would say confidentially to Eleanor,
whose hand had been laid out on an adjoining table, "Would you
mind, dear--telling Hannah to serve now?"  And Eleanor would go to
the kitchen, where she was almost as much at home as in her own
house, and start things going.  It had become that sort of
relationship.

As this intimacy tightened, Eleanor saw more and more of the
competent, respectful, observant Hannah.  Sometimes she surprised
herself with the efforts she made to win favour in the esteem of
this resourceful servant of the Wards.  She never felt quite
comfortable, much less superior, in Hannah's presence.

It wasn't that the quietly efficient woman had ever said or done
anything implying a rebuke, a rebuff, or a disapproval of her
mistress's closest friend.  Indeed, Hannah always had a gracious
smile for her and responded with cheerful alacrity to any little
suggestion offered when Eleanor was playing assistant hostess at
Marcia's teas and dinners.  But immediately back of that smile
there was always a look of inquiry--anxious inquiry.  Eleanor often
asked herself whether this was purely imaginary, founded on nothing
more substantial than her own sensitiveness to the delicate
situation, or whether Hannah had really noticed.

As the winter wore on, the increasingly close contact of the Wards
and the Trimbles encouraged all manner of comradely familiarities.
Their friends, recognizing this intimacy, never thought of inviting
one pair without the other, no matter how few guests were bidden.
They constituted an inseparable foursome at the theatre, at the
games, at the City Club.  On Sam's birthday dinner at the Wards' he
had kissed Marcia when she presented him with the droll, wooden
penguin--a sequel to some little joke between them--and Marcia had
seemed no more stirred by his boisterous bumblebee caress that she
might have been if he were eighty and she was eight.

"Tut, tut!" admonished Paul, to which Eleanor added, "Now, now!"
And then they had stolen a glance of each other, exchanging an
enigmatic smile, realizing that while the cousinly kiss of Sam and
Marcia was accomplished without any emotion at all the cryptic look
that they themselves exchanged had almost the value of an embrace.

But, beyond these fleeting intercommunications implying a wealth of
undemonstrated tenderness, their relation was impeccably discreet.
They made no effort to see each other alone.  By common consent
they had gone to much pains to avoid such opportunities.

A half-hour after the birthday kiss--it was mid-May and they had
moved out on to the broad veranda for their coffee and cigarettes--
Eleanor had expressed a wish to hear a new orchestral record that
Marcia had spoken about with much enthusiasm.  Paul cheerfully
acceded and went into the living-room, Eleanor following.  Together
they bent over the album of records, looking for the one she
wanted.

"All things considered," remarked Paul, in an even undertone, "I
think we've done pretty damn' well, don't you?"

Eleanor smiled and nodded without looking up.

"And we're going to keep on doing pretty damn' well," she replied,
matching his intonation. . . .  "I love this thing."  She hummed a
few bars of an aria from 'Madame Butterfly' . . . "AREN'T we?"

"Of course," assented Paul, rummaging in the table-drawer for a
fresh needle.

"I'm quite proud of us, really," she pursued softly.

"Yep," he agreed, trying to be casually unsentimental, "we're a
remarkable pair, Eleanor.  But"--his voice lowered--"I don't
believe you'd better risk giving me anything for MY birthday."

"When is it?" she ventured, eyes still intent on the record-album.

"I won't tell you.  Here's that Sibelius you were looking for."

"Afraid?" she teased.

"Certainly," drawled Paul.  "Now we'd better talk about something
else."

To his considerable surprise, Eleanor glanced up, regarded him with
brooding eyes, and murmured, "IS there anything else?"  A moment
later she was reproaching herself for it, aware that the memory of
her audacious remark would haunt her later.

Paul despised people who went in for martyrdoms, but it pleased
him to reflect that his attitude towards Eleanor, in the face of
all the circumstances, had been distinguished for its good
sportsmanship.  It had not been an easy role to play.  Eleanor was
provocative and desirable.  Sometimes he wondered if she fully
realized that her so frequently obvious efforts to avoid a chance
contact with him were simply confessions of a wish.  Doubtless she
felt the same way about his own studied stoicism.  It was as if
they kept saying to each other, "Don't touch me, please.  I can
play the game through, barring accidents, but--mind your step.  I'm
as human as you are!"

Now and again, perhaps unwittingly, Eleanor had made it just a bit
difficult.  Maybe it wasn't her fault; for, after all, Sam seemed
bent on pairing them together in moments when they had been better
off a little farther apart; at the theatre, for instance, where
Eleanor was invariably seated next to Paul.  There was no wilful
touching of hands in the dark.  He tried honestly enough to keep
his distance, but the seats were close and he was broad-shouldered.
He could sense the warmth of her through his sleeve, keenly aware
of her every movement, her breathing, her heart-beats.  Not
infrequently they shared a long, deep half-sigh, almost as if they
had planned it, timed it, and found it comforting.

Now it was June.  The children, except Sally, were on their way to
their summer camps.  Paul and Marcia were sailing on Saturday for
the long-intended trip to England.  Sam and Eleanor had given them
a gay and noisy going-away party at the Country Club on Wednesday
night, and now--Thursday afternoon--they had driven over to say
good-bye, for they had a dinner engagement and the trippers were
leaving for the East at eight.

The four of them had wandered about for a while in the grounds, Sam
and Marcia loitering at the far end of the garden to admire Sally's
flowers.  She had gone in for roses, ever since the splendid
success Mrs Edmunds had had with them.

Paul had been talking about a travel-book on England, remarking on
its quaint woodcuts.

"You would love them, Eleanor," put in Marcia.  "Why don't you show
them to her, Paul?"

So they had sauntered to the house and into the library, where he
found the book, opened it on the table and leafed to the pictures
he had found most amusing.  Presently he tossed the book aside and
they stood facing each other at close range.

"I'll be missing you, Eleanor," he said, his eyes tender.

"You know I'll be thinking about you, Paul, every day--every
minute."  She laid both hands on his arms and he drew her slightly
towards him.  "Good-bye," she whispered, smiling up into his eyes.

At this instant, Hannah appeared in the doorway with a tray of tall
glasses, stood for a moment with a baffled expression on her face,
and quietly retreated.

They drew apart, Paul considerably shaken.

"I'd much rather that hadn't happened," he muttered huskily.
"Hannah probably thinks I was on the point of kissing you."

"Well," she laughed, nervously--"weren't you?"

                        *  *  *  *  *

Hannah lay awake most of the night fretting over the situation she
had blundered into by accident.

If Bertha, bearing a tray of lemonade to the library, had returned
to say she had seen Mr Ward about to kiss Mrs Trimble, Hannah would
have been disappointed, but not surprised.  But it was a distinct
shock to have had a close-up view of this traitorous conduct.

Her intuition, supported by occasional bits of inferential
evidence, had informed Hannah, many months ago, of the strong bond
that existed between these two.  She knew the situation was charged
with high explosives, but something told her that Paul and Eleanor
were playing the game courageously.  And she loved them both for
it.  There wasn't anything so glorious as sound self-control.

More than a little anxious, Hannah had been particularly observant
of their attitude towards each other, noting with satisfaction that
they never capitalized a chance to be alone together.  In fact, it
had been their careful avoidance of each other's hands that first
stirred her curiosity.  But sometimes there was an exchange of
glances--briefly, inquiring, responding, tenderly cautioning,
gently reassuring.

It had made Hannah admire them.  This was the sort of fortitude she
liked.  Any exhibition of calm, purposeful restraint stirred her to
the depths.  It was no small matter, she felt, for these people to
be infatuated with each other--hurled into one another's presence
day after day by conditions over which they now had but little
control--yet enduring it all without yielding to its temptations.
Apparently they had resolved to give no quarter to their feelings.
They had a hard job to do and they meant to do it!  It thrilled
Hannah's soul.

On first sight, she had catalogued Eleanor Trimble as a superficial,
socially ambitious restless little butterfly.  And she might have
kept on thinking that for ever had it not been for her gradual
discovery of the secret.  Eleanor Trimble had good sound stuff in
her.  So had Paul.  She was proud of him.  But prouder of Eleanor;
for, after all, it was the woman who always carried most of the
responsibility in such situations.  About eighty-five per cent of
this job was Eleanor's rightful share, thought Hannah.

Now they had broken over.  It was understandable, for they were to
be separated for months.  Doubtless they had yielded to it on
impulse.

Hannah tried to view the matter sensibly, sympathetically.  She
hadn't lived in day-by-day contact with Marcia Ward for a dozen
years without arriving at a few conclusions about her.  So very
often Mrs Ward had just missed being on the right spot at a moment
when she was most needed.  How frequently she had voiced a doubt
when she might have pretended, at least, to express a hope.  And
sometimes she had ventured a half-hearted hope when the moment had
come to declare her indubitable faith.  Many a time she had gone up
to her room to cry when some emergency downstairs demanded her
presence.  Hannah distrusted the enheartening value of a damp
handkerchief.

Of course, Paul wouldn't have held it against Marcia, then or now.
He simply did not expect anything better of his pretty wife.  He
would have defended her to the utmost, on the ground that it wasn't
in Marcia's line to lift or pull or come running up to say and do
the needful thing.  She wasn't to be blamed.  It wasn't in her.

Now that Paul had taken his meteoric flight into a success his
pretty wife had not foreseen, or had the slightest faith in, or
contributed to in any manner whatsoever, Marcia was glad enough to
accommodate herself to their new privileges, but remained
consistently disinterested in the business that had made them rich.
Paul had often tried to tell her what he was doing in co-operation
with the manufacturing company's engineers, and she would parry
with a dimpled smile that all such things were beyond her--as
indeed they were.  Sometimes, after dinner, he would come out
to the kitchen and talk with Hannah about his affairs.  That
wasn't the way it ought to be.  One of these days some strong,
wide-awake, attractive woman of his own class would listen to him
comprehendingly--and then what?

If the woman wanted to she could absorb Paul's attention; and he,
pardonably flattered by it, might be led into some shabby romance.

From the very first days of the Ward-Trimble chumminess, Hannah
believed that Eleanor was entirely eligible for this part, and
gratefully admired her when it was clear that she had no notion of
making off with Paul.  It was a situation loaded with danger,
however.

Eleanor would say, at one of their frequent foursome dinners, "I
see copper's up again to-day, Paul.  If the bulls carry on with it,
will that raise the price of your refrigerator?"

And Marcia would remark, shrilly, airily, "Fancy your knowing about
things like that, Eleanor!"

And then Sam would say dryly--though you could see he was proud of
her--"Yeah, Eleanor knows the big board better'n any other man in
town.  Whenever she says 'Sell', you'd better get to a telephone
and do something about it pronto if you don't want to lose your
shirt."

Eleanor could talk about anything.  She was wise, witty, well-
informed, clever in repartee.  And, plus all that, she was
deliciously feminine.  It wasn't much wonder that Paul liked her.

But--dear, dear--what were we to do now?

                        *  *  *  *  *

A murky dawn, colour of ashes, was threatening to present another
sultry day.  Jaded by a long night of sleeplessness and worry,
Hannah sat up in bed and rubbed her hot eyes.  Then she shook her
head and made a little gesture of despair.  No--there was nothing
she could do.  Somebody ought to talk to Mrs Trimble, but that
somebody wasn't Hannah.  She had a reputation for doing audacious
things.  She was well aware that the close friends of the Wards
considered her a unique character and were amused over the many
stories, which Paul often told with delight, of Hannah's odd
relation to his household.  Sometimes, in her presence, he or Mrs
Ward would make a playful allusion to the high-handed manner in
which she had bossed them all for years.  The Trimbles had often
joined in this friendly teasing.  Maybe she could presume a little
on that.  But no--this was too delicate a matter.

On first thought Hannah felt it might possibly be risked.  She had
imagined herself going to Mrs Trimble and saying:  "Please don't
break up the only home I have.  I am very much alone in the world.
You have your home.  Let us keep ours."  Of course, she would try
to say it kindly and tactfully.  But was there any way to do such
an impudent thing as that--kindly and tactfully?  No--Eleanor
Trimble couldn't be counted on to listen patiently to an
impertinence so unpardonable, not even from a person like Hannah
who enjoyed some unusual privileges of speech and action in the
Ward home.

For a while she had figured on the probable effect if she went to
Mrs Trimble with a little gift-basket containing a jar of consomm,
a bottle of home-made grape-juice, and a few glasses of jelly.  And
Mrs Trimble would say, "Why, Hannah--did you think I was sick?"
And then she could reply, "Yes, Mrs Trimble, that was the only way
I could account for it."  And then Mrs Trimble would let her talk
about it.  But, no--that wouldn't do.  Eleanor Trimble was a very
gracious person, but she wouldn't consent to a rebuke from Hannah,
no matter how richly deserved or how artfully brought to her
attention.  Hannah drew a long sigh, stood at the open window for a
little while, mechanically dressed for the day's work, and went
softly down the back stairs.  After all, that was where she
belonged, wasn't it?  How silly even to have dreamed of a heart-to-
heart with the banker's wife?

                        *  *  *  *  *

At three that afternoon Mrs Trimble breezed in to recover her copy
of the Wards' itinerary and mailing addresses.  She was rather
noisily amiable, causing Hannah to wonder whether the errand hadn't
been invented.  It was a little like the old story about the
murderer who returns to the scene of his crime.

"I left it on the desk in the library, Hannah," she said.  "May I
look for it?"

"Certainly, Mrs Trimble.  Shall I help you?"

"I know where it is, Hannah.  Thanks."  She disappeared through the
library door, returning in a moment to say she had found it and
that it had been stupid of her to have forgotten it.  She had
avoided Hannah's eyes upon her arrival, but now gave her a direct
smile.  "I must say, Hannah," she declared, in the friendliest of
tones, "Mr and Mrs Ward are certainly fortunate to be able to pack
up whenever they like and leave their home knowing it will be in
such good hands as yours.  Really, you're a treasure, Hannah!  How
is little Sally?"

"Thank you, Mrs Trimble.  Sally is out in her garden.  Would you
like me to call her?  I know she would be happy to see you.  The
child has been lonely to-day."

"I'll go out where she is, Hannah.  I can stop only a minute.  How
nice for you that Sally is to be at home this summer.  She's such a
dear."  Mrs Trimble seemed in no hurry to go, after all, and
tentatively seated herself on the arm of the davenport.  "I suppose
she seems almost like your own, you've had so much to do with
bringing her up--from her babyhood.  I know how much you mean to
Sally.  It's a very beautiful relationship, Hannah.  You've been
just like a mother to these children--almost as good as having some
of your own."

Hannah smiled and said:  "Thank you, Mrs Trimble.  I am fond of all
the family.  They have been very good to me."

"Yes, of course," said Mrs Trimble, adding, "that's as it should
be.  Very pleasant for you all."  This comment was made with a
casualness suggesting that enough had now been said on this matter,
and Hannah expected Mrs Trimble would rise and proceed to the
garden, but she remained where she was, tentatively swinging one
small white-shod foot as if waiting for something.

One thing seemed fairly certain.  Mrs Trimble was here on a little
mission of conciliation.  Clearly she wanted very much to know
where she stood in Hannah's regard.  Perhaps if Hannah showed
herself to be friendly, that would mean that she hadn't been too
much upset by yesterday's little misadventure and would be disposed
to forget it.  Mrs Trimble might be wondering whether a bit of
coldness and stiffness on Hannah's part, carried forward into the
future, would stir Mrs Ward's curiosity to the point of inquiring
why she disliked their friend.

And wasn't it a little strange--Mrs Trimble's telling Hannah she
had been such a good mother to the Ward children?  But not so
strange, though.  Mrs Trimble was for ever saying pleasant things
to people, piling it on almost too thickly for comfort sometimes.
And hadn't she often said almost the same things to Hannah--about
her usefulness and how fortunate the Wards were to have her?  But
even so--might there not be, in the back of that canny little head,
a wish that Hannah might express, by a word or an inflection, what
she really thought of Mrs Ward as an incompetent mother--probably
also a doubtful success as a wife.  If Hannah could be made to give
her thoughts away, by so much as a cryptic pucker of the lips, then
Eleanor Trimble could feel comforted in her belief that Hannah--if
not exactly on her side--would at least condone the affair as
thoroughly understandable.

While these queries raced through Hannah's mind, Mrs Trimble sat
negligently swinging a shapely leg and toying with the latch of her
white leather handbag.

"I must be on my way," she decided abruptly.  "If there is anything
we can do for you, Hannah, you'll call up, won't you?"

"Yes, Mrs Trimble, thank you."  Hannah smiled gratefully,
interested to see the genuine relief expressed on Mrs Trimble's
face as she turned to go.  Presently she heard Sally's voice
answering from the garden.  Sally would be glad to receive this
little attention.  She had been quite demure all day.

Now Hannah was more worried than ever.  Not only had she no plans
for doing something that seemed to need doing, but she had been
unable to avoid an implied approval of Mrs Trimble.  The woman had
given her every possible chance to disclose how she felt to-day
about the thing that had occurred yesterday, and Hannah hadn't been
the slightest mite disturbed; cordial, respectful, genial.  It was
exactly as if she had said to Mrs Trimble, "You know what I saw,
but I don't really care.  It's your business and I wish you joy of
it."  Hannah was not quite content to leave the matter stand that
way.

She wondered if it wouldn't be a little more honest, and hopeful
too, if she should ask Eleanor Trimble back into the house, after
she was through talking to Sally, and say frankly:  "I have seen
you and Mr Ward wishing you could be something more than friends.
It has been going on for a long time, and I've been so very proud
of you both.  You were simply wonderful!  Yesterday you both
slipped a little, but that's easy to understand.  He was going
away.  I know that when they come back, you'll see to it that
nothing happens again.  Please, Mrs Trimble.  You've been so fine.
I like you so much.  Don't hurt us.  You won't, will you?"

Mrs Trimble might consent to be talked to in that spirit.  And
again, she might not.  It was a risky thing to try.  She was going
now, crossing the rear lawn diagonally.  She would not come back
into the house.  Her car was standing at the kerb in front.
Hannah's heart was in her mouth as she went down the rear steps
into the garden, shading her eyes against the sun.

"Good-bye, Hannah!"  Mrs Trimble waved a hand, hesitated, was about
to go on.

"I made some red raspberry jam to-day, Mrs Trimble.  If you wait a
minute I'll give you a glass to take to Mr Trimble.  He likes it so
well."

"Thanks so much, Hannah.  Shall I come in?"

"Please. . . .  It's cooler inside."

Eleanor followed, wondering just how much cooler it was going to be
inside.  Well--she'd asked for it, hadn't she?

Hannah preceded her into the spotlessly clean, white enamelled
kitchen.

"There!" raid Hannah, holding up the glass jar to the light.
"Isn't that pretty?"

"Lovely!  You're a darling, Hannah, to want me to have it.  If
there's any little thing I ever can do for you--will you tell me?"

Hannah tapped meditatively on the white porcelain table with her
fingers, her head bent in earnest thought.  There was a moment's
quite stressful silence.

"Say it, Hannah!" demanded Eleanor.  "I'll listen.  Don't be
afraid."

Lifting her misty eyes slowly, Hannah smiled compassionately and
murmured, "Oh--Mrs Trimble--you had always been so fine!"

Eleanor tugged off her hat and rubbed the back of her hand across
her forehead.

"That's the hell of it, Hannah," she growled.  "Please tell me why--
you keep on making--people--SO DAMNED FINE!"

They faced each other--almost challengingly.

"Want to talk about it?" said Hannah quietly.

"Yes!" snapped Eleanor.  "Go right ahead!  Get it off your chest!"

"I haven't anything else to say, Mrs Trimble--really!"

"Yes you have, too!" declared Eleanor fiercely.  "You're disgusted--
and disappointed."

Hannah smiled companionably.

"It's not becoming for a person of my station to speak her mind
about anything like that."

"Well--we'll forget about your station, now.  This is to be
strictly man-to-man talk."

Hannah shook her head.

"I really haven't anything to say, Mrs Trimble, except"--she
hesitated for a moment--"except--I had been so proud of you; so
very proud of you."



CHAPTER XII


It was something of a shock to Peter when he learned that his Aunt
Hannah was a servant.

After the manner of other normal children, he had taken a great
many things for granted without inquiring into them at all.  For
example, it had never occurred to him to ask why his Aunt Hannah
lived in the home of Professor Ward or what relation she sustained
to that household.  Obviously she lived with the Wards for much the
same reason that he lived with his mother.  People had to live
somewhere, and Aunt Hannah lived with the Wards.  There was nothing
odd or questionable about that.

Now that he had discovered she was the Wards' maid, he had a
perplexed feeling about her.  He resented the idea.  It puzzled
him, grieved him, and--to be truthful--it shamed him.  And that was
because all he knew about domestic servants had been deduced for
his observation of Susie Stoup, who had been with them ever since
he could remember.

There wasn't the slightest trace of snobbery in Lydia Edmunds.  If
Peter had ever inquired of her whether Susie was as good as they
were, Lydia would have replied promptly in the affirmative.  OF
COURSE Susie Stoup was their equal, at least in the sight of God
and the preamble to the Constitution.  But, let all that be as it
might, Peter would have recognized a sizeable difference between
his mother's relation to the neighbourhood and Susie's.

Albeit faithful and obedient, Susie Stoup possessed about as much
initiative as one of Peter's white rabbits.  She didn't have nearly
as much personality as Gyp, who had just missed being a collie.
Susie had no wit, no style, and almost no education.  She kept the
house clean and was a good, plain cook.  Now and then her friend
Emma, employed in a neighbouring home, would drop in and help her
do the dishes so they could go to the movies.  Emma was a clumsy,
dowdy creature, admirably suited to be Susie's chum.  To the best
of Peter's knowledge, these two were typical domestics.  And now
his Aunt Hannah had turned out to be one herself.

He wished it had been someone else who had been appointed to break
this bad news to him.  Of course Sally had done it innocently
enough and by sheer accident, and she had been prompt in her
efforts to make repairs when she saw what had happened.  He did not
hold it against Sally.

Aunt Adele had asked to take him again to Bar Harbour for the
summer, and his mother had consented.  They were to leave for
Chicago on Friday to meet this adorable woman, of whom he had
chattered almost too much throughout the year.  And at Bar Harbour
he would undoubtedly be seeing his marvellous friend Mr Bradford,
who, in his esteem, was a close second to Aunt Adele.

And now--as if he wasn't happy enough--Aunt Hannah had telephoned
that she was coming down to-day to say good-bye to him, and was
bringing Sally Ward along!  He could hardly contain himself.

Lydia indulgently consented to drive to the station twenty minutes
before the train was due, so urgent was Peter's impatience.  And
when Sally actually appeared in the vestibule of the train and
descended the steps, Peter's heart pounded hard.  He had tried to
remember how she looked last summer, but he realized now that he
hadn't done her justice; her gold hair, her blue eyes, her dimples--
the dimples were ever so much deeper than he had thought.

Aunt Hannah kissed him and his mother, and then his mother kissed
Sally.  Peter wasn't quite sure what was expected of him in his
greeting to Sally, but it seemed fairly clear that a kiss was not
in order.  He hated to shake hands with people.  Fortunately Sally
was carrying a small basket; he took it from her, and they
exchanged a smile.

"Hello, Sally," "Hello, Peter," they said.  She had the loveliest
voice.  And Peter liked her coral dress.

"How tall you're growing!" she observed, as they followed along
towards the car.  "If you keep on, you'll--"

"You grew, too," interposed Peter magnanimously, when it had become
evident that Sally hadn't really any definite plans for him in the
event of his being taller.  It wasn't exactly what he wanted to
say.  He wished he had the courage to tell her how pretty she was.
Without turning his head, he glanced at her out of the tail of his
eye, a distinguishing trick of his that people often thought was
drollishly grown-up, and Sally laughed a little.

"You haven't changed much, though," she said judiciously.  "How are
the rabbits?"

It didn't seem to matter much how they were, for his mother was
telling Sally to sit beside her, and he and Aunt Hannah were
getting into the seat behind them.  Now that he could look at
Sally without being caught at it, he comforted himself with a
comprehensive view of her neck, her curls, her coral beads, her
jaunty straw hat.

"And how are you this fine morning?" Aunt Hannah was inquiring,
affectionately patting his knee.

"Yes, it is, isn't it?" agreed Peter, from afar.  Hannah's face was
troubled.  Here she was, again involving herself in the risk of
throwing these children together.  She had done everything she
could to forestall it, but Peter's letter to Sally had made it very
difficult.

So far as she knew, neither of the children had made much of an
effort to further their acquaintance.  Sally had received two
postcards from Peter during his vacation a year ago, one from
Boston and another from Bar Harbour.  She had shown them to Hannah
without any shyness, and had betrayed no alarming symptoms when
Hannah had read her Peter's brief letters.

On Christmas they had exchanged greeting-cards.  Sally had kept
hers in plain sight on her little desk long after all the other
Christmas cards had been put away; but there was nothing
sentimental about it--picture of a Scottie, tousling a stocking on
a rug strewn with candy.  Sally might have kept it because she
thought the picture amusing.

When it had been decided that Peter was to go East again with Adele
he had written to Sally.

"Why didn't you tell me, Hannah, about Peter's going away?" she
queried.  "Can't we see him before he leaves?  You want to, don't
you?"

No excuses sounded convincing.  The fact was that she did want to
see Peter before he left.  It was quite impossible to satisfy Sally
with some flimsy reason why they couldn't go to Waterloo.  So, with
much reluctance, Hannah had consented, hoping that Peter would be
so much occupied with his own affairs that he would find little
time for Sally.

And now here he was, meeting them at the train, and so utterly
carried away by Sally that he seemed in a trance.  Hannah knew now
that she should have been firm in her decision not to let them see
each other any more.  The thought grieved her.  How happy she would
have been, she reflected, to see these two--beloved by her above
all others--finding themselves more and more closely drawn
together.  What might have been a promise had now become a threat.
If they persisted in their boy-and-girl friendship, it wouldn't be
long until Peter would be coming to see Sally, or inquiring why he
couldn't.  And if he did, he would promptly learn that his Aunt
Hannah was something other than he had thought.  And on top of
that, there was the risk of his discovering that she was his
mother.  Mrs Ward would ask questions.  She might even suspect
there was a slight resemblance.

Sometimes Hannah had moments when she devoutly wished she had never
ventured upon this difficult programme of trying to ensure Peter's
social position.  Occasionally she wondered whether it would not be
a relief to tell the Wards all about it, and to tell Peter, too.
And then she would remember how she had spent her life fagging for
other people--"Yes, ma'am", "No, ma'am", "Thank you, ma'am", "Very
good, ma'am; if I may say so".  Of course there had been plenty of
happiness, too.  She was bound to admit that.  But Peter must be
kept free of this handicap.  Peter must go to college and fit
himself for something important.  He must have influential friends.
And--above all--he must never be put to the pain and chagrin of
having it known that his mother was not of his own station.

As she watched her boy's intent concentration on Sally's pretty
head, Hannah began searching her mind for some excuse to take the
late afternoon train for home instead of waiting until night.  It
would shorten the time, shorten the hazard.

"They've made two tennis courts on the school grounds, Sally,"
Peter was saying.  "Want to play this afternoon?"

Sally turned to smile radiantly and nodded a vigorous assent that
shook her curls; then, suddenly remembering, she said:  "But I have
no tennis shoes.  I could have brought them."

Relieved by the prospect of a game of tennis for them, instead of a
dangerous tte--tte in the garden, Hannah quickly suggested:
"Perhaps you might borrow a pair.  Patty Wyman's, maybe."

"Huh!" scoffed Peter.  "HER big feet!"

Lydia laughed merrily, but Hannah drew a little sigh.  Peter was so
infatuated with Sally that he was slightly out of his head.  Feet,
indeed!  And since when had Sally such remarkably small feet?

"They don't cost very much," Sally was saying.  "I'll buy some new
ones if you'll lend me the money, Hannah."

Funny, thought Peter, how Sally always called his Aunt Hannah by
her first name.

But first, before they went downtown to get the tennis shoes, Sally
wanted to see Gyp and the rabbits and the roses; so they strolled
across the rear lawn on a tour of inspection.

Conversation lagged a little in the rose arbour, and Peter said:
"I wish you were going to Bar Harbour.  We'd have fun."

Sally nodded and said she supposed they would.  And then, for a
moment, there didn't seem to be anything else to say.  Peter opened
his knife and carefully whittled the soft bark from a maple twig.

"We'd better go, maybe," suggested Sally.  "Hannah will be waiting
for us."

"Has my Aunt Hannah lived at your house always?" asked Peter
irrelevantly.

"All MY life," said Sally, stooping to bury her nose in a salmon-
pink Pandora.  "She came to work for us just before I was born."

"To WORK for you!" echoed Peter, incredulously.

And then Sally realised that she had said the wrong thing.  Peter
didn't know!  It suddenly swept over her that she had wondered a
little at the difference there was in Hannah at home and Hannah
here in Waterloo.  Dear, dear--what had she done?

"Well not really WORK," she amended hastily.  "It's almost as if
she was a relation of ours.  I love her same as if she was a member
of the family.  We all think of her that way."

"What does she do--at your house?" persisted Peter.

"Oh, a little of everything--just like people do, you know.  She
helps mother.  Really, we couldn't get along without her.  Daddy
often says that."

"Does she cook?"

Sally brightened, and exclaimed that Hannah was the most marvellous
cook in the world.  That was why they let her do the cooking, she
supposed, because no one else in the family could do it so well.
Peter tried to smile a response to this compliment to his Aunt
Hannah's culinary skill, but it quickly faded.  He nervously
whittled the stick to bits, eyes moodily intent on his occupation.

"Does she eat with you at the table?" he demanded, suddenly
searching her face.

For a second Sally contemplated a lie, but Peter's steady gaze
disconcerted her.  She reluctantly shook her head.

"But she could if she wanted to," declared Sally stoutly.  "She
just got into the habit of not eating with us when we were little,
and she would be taking care of us while Daddy and Mother--"

"Huh!" growled Peter.  "You mean she works for you, same as our
Susie works for us.  You'd better not say anything about that to my
mother.  She wouldn't like it.  And you'd better not let Aunt
Hannah know you told me."

"I'm awfully sorry, Peter."  Sally's cheeks were red.  "I thought
you knew.  I didn't suppose it was a secret.  How could your mother
help knowing?"

"Maybe she does," muttered Peter, wondering if they had conspired
to keep him in the dark.

"But I don't see why it should make any difference," insisted Sally
comfortingly.  "Almost everybody works at something.  Perhaps
Hannah wanted to.  She likes us; I know she does.  It isn't a bit
as if she was our maid, Peter.  Really!"

"Well--maybe not," consented Peter half-heartedly.

"I'm sorry I made you unhappy."  Sally's tone was entreating as she
winked back the tears.

He smiled a little at that and assured her it was all right.  At
the moment he felt, himself, that he had made too much of the
matter.  They sauntered towards the house and entered by the back
door.  Hannah was in the kitchen, talking to Susie.  Of course she
had often done so and Peter had not given it a second thought.  It
was just the same as when his mother talked to Susie.  But it
wasn't quite the same now.

Presently they all got into the car and drove down to Baumgardner's
Department Store for the tennis shoes.  Peter tried to think of
some amiable contribution to the talk, but nothing occurred to him.
He lacked the courage to look up into Aunt Hannah's eyes, fearing
she might notice that something was the matter.  Aunt Hannah was
very quick to see such things.  She covered his hand with hers
gently and he gave her fingers a little squeeze.  It was too bad
about Aunt Hannah.  He pitied her.  She seemed a different person.

Hannah's thoughts were busy, too.  Intuitively she sensed that
something had gone amiss.  Perhaps Peter and Sally had had a tiff.
She stole a sidelong glance at her boy's sober face.  The past year
had matured him.  Last summer's experience with Adele had made many
changes in his disposition; more self-reliant, less childish.  She
wished she might have a long talk with Adele about him and his
future.  Adele had been so strongly convinced that Peter needed to
be "brought out".  It seemed so silly to talk about a mere child
that way, as one might about an eighteen-year-old ready for
college.  Perhaps Adele was right.  Peter was growing up.  Maybe
something should be done about it.  Hannah wished she might express
herself to Adele more clearly in a letter.  Letters always sounded
so stiff; at least hers did.  She could manage to make herself
understood in conversation, she believed, but whenever she took up
a pen she instantly tightened up and the ink fairly froze as it
ran.

Once she had almost decided to ask Adele to come on down to
Waterloo this time, and meet Peter here; but that would be too, too
risky.  Adele was such a featherhead.  She might ask the wrong
questions, say the wrong things, arouse the boy's suspicions.  No--
she mustn't be seeing Adele in Peter's presence.  Plenty of
problems now without angling for new ones.

Peter did not go with them into the shoes department, but loitered
along the jewellery cases in the forward part of the store.  The
day hadn't turned out as it had promised.  However, he was resolved
to make the best of it, remembering that sometimes a bad worry just
cured itself after a day or two.  Maybe this one would do that.  He
hoped so.  He kept repeating to himself the various little
consolations Sally had offered.  It wasn't as if Aunt Hannah really
worked for Sally's people.  Or, if she did, it was because she
wanted to, because she loved them, and if she worked--well, almost
everybody worked at something.  Maybe Aunt Hannah liked it.  If she
cooked for them, perhaps it was--as Sally had said--because she was
far and away the best cook in the house.  Why not, then?  Peter
reviewed Sally's arguments and breathed more easily.

Presently they rejoined him at the front door.  Sally carrying her
purchase under her arm.  She smiled, and Peter responded in a way
that gratified her immensely.  He had never seen deeper dimples.
At luncheon he found himself trying to think of amusing things to
say, so the dimples would have a chance to show what they could do.

On the tennis court, his spirits rose.  Sally played quite a snappy
game for a girl, and kept Peter dancing.  He exulted in her swift
service, and was proud of her when it became evident that he would
not have to temper his bombardment of her for courtesy's sake.

Sometimes, when she leaped to reach a high one, there was a candid
display of round, pink bare knees--like a baby's.  It made him feel
very tender towards Sally.  He felt very much older than she, and
thought of her protectively.  The idea lingered in his mind
afterwards.  Often he day-dreamed about saving her from some
danger; drowning, usually, now that he had become a good swimmer.
In the months that immediately followed, Peter rescued Sally from
all manner of aquatic accidents in which she stumbled off wharves,
tumbled out of canoes, and on one momentous occasion--from which he
woke perspiring--fell overboard from a ship in the middle of the
ocean.  It had been a big job to save Sally that time, but he had
done it.

At the station she said, "Are you going to send me a post-card when
you get there?"

"Sure," promised Peter.  "I'll write you a letter."

"Maybe you won't have time to do that," murmured the Eternal Woman
in Sally, coyly presenting the ancient combination of pensive eyes
and a provocative smile.

The train was coming now.  Lydia kissed Sally and Hannah, too, for
she had just decided to go to Virginia in a week, for a visit with
Carrie and Henry while Peter was away.  Peter shook hands with
Sally and said, "Will you write, too?"  Hannah kissed him tenderly,
and he responded to it with so much more warmth than usual that her
heart bounded and her eyes were wet with happy tears.  Peter did
not try to explain to himself why he had kissed Aunt Hannah so
lovingly.  He did so hate to be pawed over, and felt that female
relatives should be firmly discouraged from lavish demonstrations
of affection.  Lydia, smilingly observant, was delighted over the
little incident.  It would mean so much to Hannah.  She also had a
fleeting thought that perhaps Hannah had received a vicarious kiss
that Peter would have been pleased to bestow on Sally.

The fact was that Peter felt sorry for his Aunt Hannah.  He had
been ashamed at first.  It was a very uncomfortable sensation--
being ashamed of Aunt Hannah.  Now he was just sorry.  But if she
had to cook for other people, he was glad she cooked for Sally.
Indeed he couldn't blame her much for wanting to live close to
Sally where she could see her every day.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Adele had not taken Peter directly to Bar Harbour.  They had gone
to New York for a week, where he had been turned loose to amuse
himself daytimes as he pleased.  With a natural talent for self-
reliance, Peter found his way to the Battery, the Metropolitan
Museum, the Zoo, and even made an unaccompanied trip to the Statue
of Liberty.  In the late afternoon he would show up at the hotel
and escort his attractive aunt to dinner and the theatre.  Urbanity
came easily and naturally to Peter.  Adele was delighted with his
promptness in adjusting himself to new circumstances.  In her
opinion this gift was of inestimable value to anyone's successful
and satisfying relation to society savoir-faire--that's what Peter
had.  He always knew instinctively what to do.

Thomas Bradford's welcome to Peter at Bar Harbour was so warm and
tender that Adele was deeply touched by it, and no less by Peter's
affectionate response.  Almost every day Thomas had the boy with
him on all sorts of excursions.  They went fishing, sailing,
hiking, Adele consumed with curiosity to know what they talked
about, but feeling reasonably sure that the most important subject
had not come up, or Peter would surely have given her some evidence
of it.

One morning Thomas approached Adele in the lounge and said he
wanted to have a chat with her alone.  They strolled to the
swimming-pool, proceeded for some distance away from the bathers,
and sat.

"Adele," he said, "I think the time has come now to talk about it,
don't you?"

"Why NOW?" she queried.  "Have you just discovered something?"

Thomas shook his head.

"I knew Peter was mine the first day I saw him.  There seemed
nothing to be done about it.  I tried to persuade myself that my
best course was to let things stand as they were."

"And now you've changed your mind?"

"Yes.  I'm determined to claim my boy."  Thomas regarded her
soberly, with something almost like entreaty in his eyes.
"Everyone will agree, I suppose, that I have no right to him after
the way his mother was treated.  But--I'VE GOT TO HAVE THAT BOY!"

"It's possible," remarked Adele quietly, "that his mother feels the
same way towards Peter."

"But she doesn't have him, you know.  He thinks this Mrs Edmunds is
his mother."

"I hope you haven't informed him to the contrary, Thomas."

"No--and I haven't questioned him much about his home.  Whatever he
has told me has been of his own volition.  I can assure you I've
done no prying."

"I believe you, of course.  Now let me tell you the whole story,
Thomas, or as much of it as I know.  I think you've a right to
that, anyway.  Whether you've a right to claim Peter is another
question."

For the better part of an hour, Adele recited all she knew of
Hannah's story, and Lydia Edmunds's story, too, Thomas listening
attentively.  She made no effort to spare him as she reviewed
Hannah's plight when, sick and penniless, she had applied for work
at the home of the Ward family.  And Thomas's eyes were cloudy with
remorse when Adele pictured his boy as a baby in the University
Hospital.  "A waif!" she declared.

"I didn't know," he muttered, self-defensively.

"Nor care," accused Adele.  "Now you turn up, after all these
years, bent on doing your duty.  I think your duty is to keep out
of it."

Thomas shifted his position, faced her directly, and filled his
pipe.  "May I talk awhile now?" he ventured.

Adele smiled dryly and agreed it was his turn.

"Let's assume"--began Thomas, in a tone that promised a carefully
planned speech--"we'll assume that everything you have charged me
with is a true bill.  I've been a piker, rotter, cad--whatever you
like.  You have said it is too late to do anything about that now,
so let's consider it a closed incident and think about the
situation as it exists at the moment.

"Fair enough," consented Adele.  "Go on."

"The fact is that Peter--however he may have come by it--is a
remarkable boy.  One in a thousand!  He has a bright future.  His
mother hasn't made much of her life and, as you say, is determined
now that Peter shall have a chance to make something of himself.
And to ensure this, she has concealed her relationship so as not to
embarrass him; a great sacrifice, no doubt."

Adele's lips had twisted into a half-derisive grin.  Thomas paused
and gave her a chance to comment.

"I was just thinking," she drawled, "when you said that Hannah
hadn't accomplished very much with her own life, that this was a
rather odd remark--coming from YOU.  Have you done anything very
showy with YOURS?"

"Thanks," growled Thomas.  "All the more reason why I, too might
want the boy to be and do something, don't you think?"

"Very well put, I should say."

"We're together on that, then.  But it isn't quite enough for both
Hannah and me to stand off at a distance and take no hand in this
boy's training.  Hannah mustn't let him know she is his mother,
because she is a servant.  I mustn't let him know I'm his father,
because I neglected them.  For the sake of perpetuating this hoax
about his belonging to the Edmunds people, I'm expected to say
nothing, do nothing, and watch this splendid young fellow grow up
without advantages."

"Oh--I'm not so sure about that, Thomas," countered Adele.  "I've a
little money to spend on him.  Mrs Edmunds is not poor.  Hannah has
been accumulating some savings.  It isn't as if Peter would have no
chance--if you didn't come to the rescue."

There was a long silence while Thomas digested this.  Then he
asked:  "Well--what are your plans for him?"

"I don't think it's up to me to make plans for him.  After all,
Peter doesn't belong to me, much as I care for him.  I presume he
will attend the high school in Waterloo, and then go to college
some place out there.  That would be natural, wouldn't you think?"

"I don't want him to do that," said Thomas.

Adele pointed an accusing finger close to his nose, and gave him a
knowing smile.

"No--what you want, Thomas Bradford, is easy access to this boy.
I'll bet you've figured it all out: how you're going to take him
with you on long summer vacations--to France, maybe, and Italy.
You want to be the one to show him everything.  You want the warm
sensation of having him come to you for favours and advice."

"Exactly!" confessed Thomas impulsively.  "He's my own flesh and
blood."  He raised stiffly from his lounging posture.  "And--by God--
I MEAN TO HAVE HIM!"

"How are you going about it?" asked Adele quietly.  "I hope you
aren't planning to tell Peter you're his father."

"I haven't thought that far through it yet."

Peter had sighted them and was coming their way, smiling.

"I hope," said Adele, "you'll not say anything to him this summer.
Give it a little more thought, won't you?  There's a good deal at
stake, you know."

"How about your writing to Hannah?  Sound her out.  Tell her I'm
prepared to give Peter EVERYTHING."

"Well--Hannah has enough on her mind, I should say.  I had a letter
from her yesterday.  The Ward boy, Wallie, has been sent home from
camp, for breaking rules or something, and she doesn't know quite
what to do with him.  His parents are abroad.  I gather that he's a
handful.  Try to be patient, won't you?"

"I've spoken for that dory, Mr Bradford," called Peter, from a
little distance, "and the bait."

"Very good, Peter," replied Thomas.  "We'll start about two.  You
may ask Bobby Winthrop to go along, if you like."

Peter's face registered a lack of interest in this addition to the
party.

"I'd rather we went alone, sir; that is, if you don't care.  We'd
have more fun by ourselves."

"Quite all right, Peter."  Thomas's voice was joyous.  He turned to
Adele as the boy trotted away.  His eyes said, "You see?"

Adele drew a little sigh and laughed.

"It is rather a pity," she said softly, "that things are as they
are.  There's no question about your belonging to each other."

Hannah had always disliked the whimpering old adage, It never rains
but it pours.  She couldn't remember ever having said it herself.
But there was no question about the extraordinary amount of wet
weather she had been experiencing of late.

The first downpour to dampen her spirits, after Peter's departure
for Bar Harbour and Lydia's for Virginia, was a long and gloomy
letter from Roberta reporting that she and Lucy Trimble had had a
falling-out.  This was probably a serious matter, for Roberta had
no talent for making friends, and without the support of Lucy she
would be quite wretched.  And she must have taken the quarrel to
heart, for she was not one to confide.  When things went wrong with
Roberta, she had always taken it out in sulking.  Judging from the
temper of this letter, Roberta's self-pity had developed a case of
desperate homesickness.

With much care Hannah composed a reply in which she counselled the
sullen child to do her utmost to patch the rift, even if she felt
sure that Lucy was to blame.


When there's spilt milk (she wrote), it never pays to argue very
long whether the person was to blame who dropped the pan, or the
person who bumped the elbow.  The only thing really worth doing, in
that case, is to mop up the mess.  And always it's the strong one
that has it to do.  Weak people stick up for their rights.  They
know how weak they are inside and are afraid others will notice it,
so they defend themselves and worry for fear somebody will take
advantage of them.  The strong people don't go to much bother about
defending themselves or their "rights".  When the milk is spilt,
and they're getting the blame for it, and feel sure it wasn't their
own fault, they find the mop and say to themselves:  "I'm bigger,
I'm stronger, I'm quicker.  I'll do it.  I'll not be doing it
because I'm to blame, but because the others aren't strong enough.
It has to be done by somebody.  I'll do it myself."

Now, maybe you'll say that this is a conceited thing for anyone to
think--"I'm stronger."  And perhaps both you and Lucy have been
holding back because neither one of you wants to seem stronger than
the other.  But, after all, dear, some people ARE stronger than
others, not because they've made themselves so, but because they've
been made so.  And usually when the stronger one goes at it to mop
up the mess, the weaker one is willing to help.  And then
everything is all right again.  Sometimes it is even better than it
was before.  Smallpox is a dreadful thing, but if you have it hard
and get over it you'll never have it any more; and then, if some
good friend of yours should get it, you can safely be the nurse and
maybe help save a life.  I think it's wonderful, don't you, to have
had something very painful that you know you are never going to
have again, and be sure you can expose yourself to it without
danger?

It would be pleasant to have you here again at home, Roberta.  If
you really want to come, we will make things pleasant for you.  Of
course it is pretty hot here now, and we haven't any mountain
breezes, and the grass is brown, and there isn't much to do because
almost everybody is out of town.  I'm a little afraid that if you
come back you wouldn't feel good to remember that you and Lucy had
parted on bad terms.  If you decide to come home, please be sure to
fix that all up with her first, for the nights are sultry and it is
not easy to go to sleep here even if one's mind is at rest--and of
course yours wouldn't be if you had come home with something
unpleasant to fret about.


The next morning Wallie arrived unannounced, in gay spirits, too,
until he tried to account for his unexpected return.  The
explanation was confused and spluttery, and the noise it made
increased as it grew more and more unconvincing.

It seemed that some of the boys from a neighbouring camp--a rival
institution--were thought to have damaged one of the canoes
belonging to Wallie's camp, and some of the boys from Wallie's camp
had gone over and sprinkled oil and tar on the other boys' beach.
And so the master of the camp had picked on Wallie and sent him
home, and here he was--stormy, persecuted, outraged.  Hannah had to
repress a smile when she observed the uncanny likeness of the boy's
tantrum to Paul Ward's dramatic scene when the Ellises had stolen
his refrigerator.

"Well--we're glad you wanted to come home, anyhow," said Hannah.
"Home's the best place in the world.  Much more fun than being at a
lake with a lot of rough boys and a cruel camp superintendent.
You'll have a better time here, playing with Sally."

Apparently this was the wrong thing for Hannah to have said, for
Wallie began an earnest defence of camp life.  As for Mr Feakins,
the head master, he had wanted Wallie to go over with the other
culprits to the neighbouring camp and make it right about the tar--
that was all.  He wasn't mean about it, and Hannah--he declared--
was silly to think of Mr Feakins as cruel.

"Anyway," defended Hannah, "I think those big boys are too rough
for you."

"They aren't any bigger than I am," growled Wallie.

"Maybe you'd better telegraph to Mr Feakins, then, and tell him
you're coming back to play the game with them."

"Not on your sweet life I won't!"  Wallie was tuning for another
grand pandemonium.

"Perhaps," admonished Hannah, "you'd better lower your voice.  The
neighbours might think someone had been spanking you."

"I'd like to see 'em!  Spanking me!  Not so's you could notice it!"


One afternoon a week later, while Wallie roamed restlessly about
the grounds and deviled the life out of Sally, Hannah was plunged
into the depths by a letter from Adele--a long one--reporting the
conversation she had just had with Thomas.


And really, Hannah (Adele was saying on page eight), it seems a
pity that Peter should be deprived of his inheritance.  Thomas is
thoroughly honest in his wish to make whatever amends he can.  He
not only wants to see Peter through college and a professional
school, but will take him abroad on vacations, and give him the
experience that is so necessary to a man if he is to deal with the
people who operate our world.

Of course I see your point too, and am entirely sympathetic,
especially after all the unselfish loneliness you have endured to
keep your secret safe.  It was for Peter's sake that you have gone
through all this heartbreak.  Now I'm wondering if you shouldn't
yield--for Peter's sake.  I'm not begging you to do it, Hannah, but
I think you should give it serious consideration.  You've hoped
that your boy might have a chance.  Well--perhaps this is the way
to give it to him.  Do think it over.


Hannah went to her room and sat on the edge of her bed, staring
dully at the wall.  She felt utterly desolated.  Adele had gone
over to the other side.  Lydia was out of reach.

After an hour she pulled herself together and went to the
telephone.  Mrs Trimble presently responded.

"I am in serious trouble, Mrs Trimble," said Hannah unsteadily.
"Could I come over to-morrow forenoon and get some advice?"

"Try to come to-night, Hannah.  I am driving over to Springfield in
the morning to visit some friends, and don't expect to be back
until Monday.  Mr Trimble is out of town.  No one will disturb
us. . . .  That's good.  I shall look for you a little after eight."

But Eleanor Trimble did not drive over to Springfield next morning,
for she was on the train all day, en route to Bar Harbour.



CHAPTER XIII


It was a drowsy midsummer Sunday afternoon.  Almost everybody had
driven up to the cove for better observation of the yacht race,
leaving The Gables practically deserted.

Fluffy pearl-white clouds, their heads tucked under their wings,
slept motionless in a blue sky.  Slanting sunshine glinted from
lazy sails outside the harbour.  On the horizon a south-bound
coastal steamer slothed under a plume of smoke.  Even the ocean was
sprawled in a siesta at the turn of the tide, her long-drawn
respirations seemingly born of indolence rather than fatigue.

Adele's new book lay open, face down, on the flat granite rock
where she had tossed it a half-hour ago.  It was a meagrely plotted
controversial novel wordily dealing with world politics--past,
present, and pending--and she had been deeply interested last night
by its discussions, especially by the profound deliverances of one
Senator Chester Allaman, who had piled credible facts upon
confirmed facts until he had run out of facts, after which he had
dogmatized and moralized over the boundless muddle with all the
assurance of the apostles of old who spoke as they were moved by
the Holy Ghost.

Last night, reading in her room, Adele had been stirred, alarmed,
appalled, horrified.  The world was quite evidently coming to an
end; over-populated, underfed, the last frontier occupied;
eugenically deteriorating, its racial colours clashing, its
nationalistic greeds mounting, its mind upset, its emotions
unstable, its nerves frazzled.  Adele herself would undoubtedly be
alive--in terror and tatters--when the ultimate explosion was
touched off.

But out here under this serene sky, on this huge durable rock
facing a tranquil sea, with no evidence that the universe was in
any manner perturbed and every indication that it was not only
solvent but of conscience clear enough to be somnolent, Adele
yawned into the crook of her bare elbow, pitched the book away, and
remarked to herself that the Honourable Chester Allaman was
probably a bag of wind.

She sank back on her leather pillow and gazed hard at the skyline
with narrowed, contemplative eyes.  After all, wasn't it one's best
business in life to be at peace with one's world?  Wasn't it at
once our most valuable heritage from life and our richest bequest
to life--this sense of confidence in the integrity of the Plan?
And weren't the old mandarins right when, confronting some sudden
declivity in the inevitable ups-and-downs of their pilgrimage, they
calmly faced the new vicissitude with their classic phrase, "This,
too, shall pass"?

Tipping back her head, Adele drew the translucent masses of clouds
closer.  She invoked their serenity, wishing she might hold it and
abide in it--for ever.  Peace!  Not as any single era gives it, in
grudged handfuls during an armistice, but the permanent peace of
the spirit, the peace that is not established by treaty, the peace
that nobody ever could define or describe to anybody else because
it surpassed all understanding.

How fortunate were the peace-lovers of all generations who had
believed in it as confidently and effortlessly as they believed in
breathing; and the peacemakers who contrived to live outside the
dizzying whirlpool of frets and despairs, ifs and might-have-beens,
remorses and revenges--how blest were they!

A few people seemed to have a talent for it.  Perhaps it was a gift
rather than an achievement.  Obviously the wrong way to get it was
to struggle for it.

Her thoughts turned to Hannah Parmalee.  How often she had chuckled
over Hannah's philosophy of non-combativeness.  But wasn't Hannah
right, in the long run? . . .  Or was she?

Suppose everybody tried to live that way.  Suppose everybody from
the beginning had tried to live that way.  What kind of world would
we have had by now?  Hadn't civilization developed through
striving, overcoming, mastering?  It was all very pleasant and
restful to lie here on this sunny seashore under these luminous
white clouds and sleepily cast one's vote for the non-resistant
life.  Perhaps the sea-gulls lived it after the manner of the fowls
of the air who, without sowing, reaping, gathering into barns, or
fretting over their economics, managed to get along somehow.  But
even they had their little tiffs.  And who wanted to live the life
of a sea-gull, anyway?  No--there had to be striving in the world.
Certain audacious and courageous people simply had to quarrel with
life as they found it.

But what were these worried Mr Fixits getting for their pains?  The
Honourable Chester Allaman, for example, who talked all the way
through a novel written to scare people out of their senses--what
reward was his? . . .  Or theirs who consented to be frightened?
Take the whole basketful of admonitory prophets--antique and
contemporary: mightn't it be found that there was just a trace of
the sadistic in their dire forebodings?  The noisy evangelist,
ranting about a future life in hell and despising the economist for
his grubby materialism, and the dismayed economist, presaging
disaster to the present life on earth and despising the evangelist
for his frantic imbecilities--weren't they both getting a neat
little wallop out of their experience in terrorizing enfeebled
minds?  And was there so very much difference in the psychological
repercussions of a burly parent whipping his half-grown daughter,
and the emotional titillation of the pessimistic prophet flogging a
bewildered public?  Of course the heavy father was doing it for his
child's good and the prophets were ordained to arouse and alarm the
people.  They usually insisted that it hurt them worse than they
who were meeting the hot end of the paddle, but they had probably
lied without meaning to.  Wasn't Senator Allaman enjoying the same
sweetly painful little spasms of unholy pity for the public's
terror that had unquestionably compensated Jonah and Calvin and
Cromwell and Edwards for their dour austerities?  Senator Allaman,
reflected Adele, might spend a profitable hour munching on this
nasty probability.

She sighed luxuriously, gazed with wide unfocused eyes into the
deep blue above, and marvelled that so great a quantity of
admonition on the part of the world's savants and seers had
contained so little counsel on the desirability of a peaceful life--
if not for the turbulent masses, at least for the individual.
Hannah Parmalee knew more about the terms and conditions of peace
than all the reformers and crusaders put together.  They talked
about it; she HAD it.  They formulated resolutions about it; she
quietly accepted it.

Surely it was a pretty sad commentary on our ethical and spiritual
leadership if one had to run away from the clatter of their
mechanisms and the jingle of their cash collections and the clamour
of their fears, to seek peace in communion with the sky and the
sea.

The trouble was that you couldn't lie here for ever on the warm
rocks, consulting the clouds, for the comfort and peace of your
soul; and perhaps this soothing experience was a bit deceptive
because it floated in a sedative solution of languor and laziness.
If the world was to advance, some people had to be up and doing.
Some people had to think new thoughts and see to it that the new
thoughts were made effective.  And the old thoughts had to be dug
up and out to make room.  Moral and spiritual leaders were, in this
respect, engaged in surgery.  But were they skilled surgeons?  Good
surgery left a scar, of course, but not a festering wound.  Too
many of the moral and political and economic surgeons, though swift
and fearless and competent operators, left their patients with a
high fever.  Maybe they worked too fast.  Maybe their hands were
not clean.  They said to the public:  "Here, you!  Let me cut out
what ails you, and you'll be all right!"  So--they cut out what
ailed 'em, but they weren't all right.  There was no more happiness
or health or peace for anybody than there had been before.  What
the people needed most was a long rest from the racket and
confusion of the forces that had volunteered to save their minds
and souls and occupations and homes.  Peace--that was what the
people needed.  And to get it they had to go out alone and commune
with the silent sky after the manner of the ancient pagans.

Maybe . . .  Perhaps . . .  But Adele now decided she had given
enough time to this matter and quietly went to sleep, with the calm
expectation that everything would hold together somehow until she
woke up.  In spite of the dismal forecasts, the show would carry
on; new plots, new props, new faces, new masks, new lines--but
essentially the same old show.  And by no means an uninteresting
old show, either, if you didn't let the harsh voices of the
prompters annoy you too much.


When she roused, Adele discovered that she was not alone.  Some
twenty feet away sat the attractive woman who had appeared in the
dining-room at luncheon--obviously a newcomer, for no one seemed to
be acquainted with her.

The stranger turned her head as Adele sat up rubbing her eyes, and
smiled amiably.  She was not pretty, but her face was engagingly
alive.  She was simply, modishly dressed in white silk with a
loosely knotted blue scarf.  A white parasol with little blue polka
dots lay on the rock beside her.

"Quiet day," drawled Adele, feeling that this unattached person
expected a gesture of recognition.

"Too quiet," agreed Eleanor.  "I'm lonesome.  May I join you?"

Adele replied, not untruthfully, that it would be a pleasure.  For
a little while they sat side by side exchanging inconsequentials
and blandly taking each other's measure.  They spoke their names,
and Adele casually asked questions ostensibly for courtesy's sake,
though her curiosity had been slightly stirred.  Had Mrs Trimble
ever been here before?  She had not.  Did she know anyone at The
Gables?  Not a soul.  There was a pause, while Adele tried to think
of a pleasant way to inquire why in the world Mrs Trimble had come
here, for surely there were plenty of summer places where she might
find old friends.

"I came to see YOU," said Eleanor quietly, smiling into Adele's
widening eyes.  "About Hannah, you know."

"Hannah?"  Adele's brows contracted.

"Yes--Hannah and Thomas and Peter."

"And how are you related to Hannah?"

"About the same way you are, I suppose.  Friendly interest.  Want
me to tell you about it?"

"Please.  Oddly enough I was just thinking about Hannah.  It was so
restful here, and quiet.  Same kind of quietness that Hannah seems
to carry about with her.  I never knew so calm a person."

Eleanor smiled a little.  "She wasn't so calm when I saw her last.
Quite stirred up, in fact.  That's why I came.  Hannah's afraid she
is going to lose her boy.  He's all she has, you know."

"But Hannah has already lost her boy, hasn't she?  I mean, so far
as their mother-and-son relationship is concerned.  If she isn't
intending to be his mother, why--"

"Yes--I see your point, Mrs Moore," interposed Eleanor.  "But if
Thomas Bradford insists on telling Peter he is his father, then
Hannah necessarily comes into the picture--and she wants to avoid
that.  Undoubtedly you know how Hannah feels about her own
position, and the reason she has for--"

"And it's a rather silly reason, I think," said Adele dryly.  "I've
tried to put myself in her place and be sympathetic.  She was
brought up to believe in the high fences that separate castes.  She
doesn't want to detain or embarrass Peter.  And if Thomas hadn't
shown such an earnest interest in the boy, perhaps her sacrifice
might have been justified."  She paused thoughtfully.  "I suppose
Hannah feels that I am her enemy."

"No," replied Eleanor, "you're not her enemy, but I think she would
like to have her case presented with a little more--"

"Enthusiasm," assisted Adele.  "So she asked you to help."

Eleanor shook her head.  "I volunteered to come, Mrs Moore.  I hope
I'm not impertinent in taking a hand in this unusual game.  It's a
serious matter, I think--or I shouldn't have bothered.  Of course,
knowing Hannah's queer ideas as you do, you will understand how
much she needs support.  She wouldn't try to defend herself.
Thomas could make off with Peter, and Hannah wouldn't fight or
press her claims.  All the more reason, then, why somebody should
speak in her behalf.  It began to appear that it was my job."  She
smiled companionably.  "I beg you to believe that I'm not naturally
a meddlesome person.  I should have preferred to keep out of it."

Adele said she felt sure of that and appreciated her loyalty to
Hannah, adding, "I'll see that you have a chance to talk it over
with Thomas, Mrs Trimble."

"Do you think he'll resent my intrusion?"

"Well--if he does he'll not tell you so.  You may count on his
being polite.  Thomas will listen respectfully to everything you
have to say.  But it won't do a speck of good.  This is the only
thing he has ever really wanted.  I suppose Hannah has told you
about his life and how listlessly he went trudging about taking
orders without having any personal interests of his own.  He's
quite a different fellow since young Peter gave him a new reason
for living."

Eleanor smiled and said she would like to talk with him anyway.
She felt she owed that much to Hannah.

                        *  *  *  *  *

They met in the lounge next morning.  Adele introduced them,
presenting Peter also, who seemed disappointed when Thomas said he
wouldn't be able to go sailing as he had promised.  Clearly it was
this new Mrs Trimble who had upset their plans for the day.  Peter
dutifully attempted to respond to her smile, but it was a feeble
effort.  Presently he mumbled an "Excuse me, please", and left
them.

Adele's explanation was brief.  Mrs Trimble was a close friend of
Professor and Mrs Ward, in whose home Hannah had lived for so many
years.  In the absence of the Wards, Hannah had confided her
anxieties about Peter to Mrs Trimble, and here she was to ask some
questions in Hannah's behalf.

"I suppose it's almost inexcusable--my interference, as a total
stranger to you," said Eleanor, smiling up into Thomas's eyes with
all the guilelessness of a little child.  "If you'd prefer not to
talk about it, Mr Bradford, I'll not insist."

Adele, directly facing Thomas, over the top of Eleanor's well-
groomed bobbed head, drew a slightly ironical smile intended for
his eye, but he was too much occupied to notice it.

"By no means," declared Thomas.  "We shall be grateful for any
light you can throw on this matter, Mrs Trimble.  I am glad you
came.  Shall we take a walk?  You'll join us, Adele?"

After a slight hesitation, Adele said she believed they would do as
well without her, and Thomas did not press the invitation.  The
petite Trimble, reflected Adele, really should be given a sporting
chance.  Thomas would have his way, no doubt, but the Trimble lady
would not make it a bit easy for him.  Thomas was just a big boy.
All men were just big boys; so important, so sufficient, until a
pair of curly-lashed entreating eyes looked up rather dazed over
the opportunity to solicit a pleasant word from Olympus.  Men were
all alike.  A woman didn't have to carry a very big bag of tricks
to achieve her purpose.  And as for Mrs Trimble, she was admirably
equipped to disarm Thomas.  It was easy to see that he liked the
molasses which she was so abundantly prepared to administer.  Adele
grinned and turned away.

They walked far up the beach and sat, conversation on the way
having been restricted to Thomas's queries and Eleanor's replies
about life in the university town, their diversions, their
occasional pleasure tours.

Seated comfortably, they talked of the Wards and of Hannah, of
Lydia Edmunds--and Peter.

"It would be an entirely different matter," Thomas was saying, "if
this Mrs Edmunds had adopted Peter.  As the case stands, she is
under no legal obligation to him.  I appreciate all she has done
for the boy.  But suppose she married; suppose she died.  Peter has
no claim on her estate--her relatives would see to that.  Hannah is
not in a position to do anything for him."

"But there is Mrs Moore, of course," observed Eleanor.  "She would
gladly come to Peter's rescue."

"Yes, yes, I know," countered Thomas.  "But Adele Moore's
circumstances are as unstable as the other lady's.  Adele might pop
off and be married.  I'm surprised she hasn't by this time.  She is
full of whims and hobbies and impetuosities.  Besides, Adele is
under no obligation to do anything for Peter.  Nor is she a rich
woman.  And moreover--"

Eleanor leaned towards him and smiled impishly.

"Moreover," she repeated, "YOU WANT HIM.  Isn't that what it all
comes to?"

Thomas made a faint gesture of defending his argument, but she
laughed.  It was a silvery, girlish, comradely laugh, and Thomas
finding it decidedly engaging, capitulated with an unwilling grin.

"Very well, then--"  He pretended to be gruff.  "Let's assume that
my best argument is located at that point.  I want my boy.  I want
to provide for him and make him my heir."

"I know," said Eleanor gently.  "Now let's talk about Hannah."

"Of course.  Why not?"  Thomas tried to be casual.

"Hannah will not contest your claim to Peter.  It will upset
everything she has had in mind for him and mock all the sacrifice
she has made, through the years; but she will accept it.  That's
part of her religion or her philosophy or whatever it is."  Eleanor
paused for a moment and then continued slowly, as in a soliloquy:
"That will make it a bit awkward; having one's own way at such a
cost to someone else who refuses to contend."

"I suppose she'll hate me for it."

Eleanor shook her head.

"No--that's just the trouble.  If you could feel that even in her
heart Hannah was silently despising you as an enemy, it might be
easier to press your claim.  She will not do that.  And she will
keep on hoping, to the very last minute, that you will be generous
enough to let things be as they are.  Do you know what Hannah said
to me the other night when she was telling me about all this?  She
said that she believed the love you had found for Peter would make
you very tender.  Somewhere she had been reading about the
unusually hard rains that fell last spring in the desert, and how
certain flowers bloomed that nobody could remember ever having seen
before.  The life-germ of them had been buried so deep in the dry
ground, and so much windswept sand had been piled over them, that
what little water there was couldn't reach down to give them
nourishment.  And then came this great flood of rain that renewed
their strength.  But they hadn't been dead; just dormant.  Hannah
thinks of you that way.  And she believes and hopes that Peter's
coming into your life will make something bloom in you--something
that was always there, but hadn't been given a chance . . .  I hope
this doesn't sound too terribly sentimental.  I'm afraid I'm not
doing Hannah's little allegory full justice.  To appreciate it, you
would have to hear her say it.  But I think it's quite an inspiring
idea.  Don't you?"

Thomas recalled himself from his reverie, and sighed.

"Well"--his voice was husky--"suppose something fine did bloom in
me, what then?  What should I do?  Has Hannah a suggestion?  Or
have you?"

Eleanor's eyes brightened.  The opportunity she had been angling
for seemed to have arrived.

"Why don't you do everything for Peter that you would have done in
the event of claiming him as your own?  Let him continue to be
Peter Edmunds.  Arrange with Mrs Edmunds for his allowance.
Counsel with her about his schooling.  And learn Hannah's wishes,
too.  I think they will both want to conform to your ideas about
that.  It seems to me it would be such a fine, sporting thing to
do.  It really stirs me quite deeply to imagine how it would be.  A
genuine sacrifice for you, no doubt, but something that will make
you proud of yourself, every day of your life."

Thomas toyed with his blond moustache and grinned, a little self-
consciously, at this imputation of nobility, but it was plain to
see that her tribute to his magnanimity was a pleasant and novel
experience.  People hadn't ever thought of him as belonging to that
category.

"And it would make Peter so proud of you, too," continued Eleanor
in an exalted tone.  "The boy has been brought up to think so
highly of good sportsmanship."

"But he would never know!"  Thomas's hands tossed this appeal aside
with an impatient gesture.  "How could he be proud of me for doing
something for him in secret?  As for his sportsmanship, I've
noticed that, of course.  I suppose we have this Mrs Edmunds to
thank for his ideas on that subject.  It isn't likely that Hannah,
with her peculiar views on the advisability of sitting still and
letting people run over you--"

"Now that's where you misunderstand Hannah, Mr Bradford," declared
Eleanor impressively.  "Hannah is a living example of the very
highest sportsmanship there is!  Private courage!  I can't see that
there would be anything so very brave and fine about your claiming
your son, whom you love and admire.  But if you were to give him
everything you would have given him as his acknowledged father, and
do it without his ever knowing, THAT IS THE KIND OF SPORTSMANSHIP
Hannah likes best.  If she has managed to fill Peter's head with
such ideas, you should be glad of it."

Thomas ungrudgingly nodded his consent to this.  "Of course, of
course.  Lofty thought.  'He best deserves a knightly crest,' and
so forth.  Everybody agrees to that, I think.  At least everybody
agrees it's good poetry and makes a pretty legend.  But, getting
back to earth again where, after all, my own residence is
maintained--"

"Don't be sarcastic, please," interposed Eleanor with a reproving
smile.  "I dislike satire, especially that kind.  It's so damned
insincere--and unfriendly."

"Sorry.  Excuse it, please.  What I was trying to say is:  You
think such a programme, carried out by me, would make Peter proud
of me.  Now just what do you mean?  The essence of this plan is its
secretiveness.  I'm to do something Peter will never know about,
and my doing it will make him proud of me.  Doesn't that sound a
little bit silly to you?"  Thomas chuckled.

"Perhaps," concluded Eleanor, "but it doesn't make quite so much
difference how this idea sounds to ME.  I'm not presenting my own
case or my own views.  It's Hannah's affair.  I have been telling
you, as well as I know how, what Hannah believes."

"Very good, then," said Thomas encouragingly.  "How do you think
Hannah would explain this dilemma?"  His teasing warned her that
she had moved into a difficult position.

"Hannah would say," replied Eleanor gropingly, "that while Peter
would never know exactly what you had done to make you great in his
eyes, he would be aware that something had happened to make you a
very important person."

"You mean--it would do something to me, on the inside; something
that would flavour all my thoughts and actions?"  Thomas had
dropped his bantering mood, and his tone was respectful.

"Exactly!  You've said it!  Hannah thinks it is the secret
renunciation, the giving-up, the letting-go, the sacrifice that
nobody understands but the person who does it--Hannah thinks this
generates inside you a peculiar power to--"

"To do what?" queried Thomas sceptically, when she hesitated.

"To do almost anything you like," replied Eleanor.

"But you yourself," challenged Thomas, "don't believe a word of it,
and privately you think it's a great lot of nonsense.  What
interests me is:  How did you and Hannah ever get to talking in
this vein?  She is a domestic in the home of your friends.  You're
not in the habit of discussing philosophy and mysticism with the
servants in your neighbourhood.  I'm pretty sure of that."

"True enough.  But Hannah came to tell me her anxiety about Peter."

"Yes, I know; but it seems odd that a discussion of this matter
about Peter should involve so much talk concerning renunciation and
its power to make you over into something grand and noble.  Do you
mean to say that Hannah expected you to tell me all this in the
hope of making an important person of ME?  It sounds very
implausible."

Eleanor did not at once respond to the question but sat with moody
eyes intent on the lace handkerchief she was folding and refolding
into prim squares.  After a long silence she looked up into his
eyes, regarded him with a slow, reluctant smile, and said, "No--
you're right--Hannah wasn't trying to make an important person of
you, but ME.  When she said these things about renunciation and
giving up and letting go--and the glory of private courage--she was
advising ME."

"And you sat and took it--from a servant!"  Thomas's voice was
incredulous.

"I sat and took it from a servant," echoed Eleanor in the same
tone, "and something tells me it's the truth.  I don't know yet."
Her voice lowered until her words were barely audible.  "I've
promised myself to try it.  But the occasion for experimenting with
it hasn't arisen."  She glanced up and smiled briefly.  "It's one
thing to make a good resolution, and quite another thing to enforce
it."

"I don't suppose your problem is anything on the order of mine,"
hinted Thomas.  "It couldn't be, of course."

"No."

"You wouldn't want to tell me?"

"No."

"Apparently you've been doing a lot of tall thinking about this,"
drawled Thomas.

"Yes--it really is an intriguing idea.  Naturally, everybody is
stirred by stories of secret heroisms performed without any promise
of reward, but I don't believe very many people consider what sort
of effect such acts would have on the adventurers themselves, I
think Hannah knows that it works.  I'm not sure that I'll ever
know.  I'm going to try."

"Good luck, then," said Thomas companionably.  "I don't suppose
I'll ever know whether you succeeded."

"Probably not."

"I should have said that you had been succeeding at it already . . .
You really have something, you know . . . you're different."  He
laughed a little as her eyes widened with surprise.  "You are so
thoroughly urbane, sophisticated, experienced.  I hope you don't
mind my saying it has sounded deucedly queer--your serious talk
about these things.  They aren't discussed in your world--or mine.
You know that.  If anybody of our sort was to have overheard what
we've been chattering about for the past half hour they'd think we
were mentally unhooked.  People like us don't take any stock in
such theories."

"I know," admitted Eleanor, "and I wonder why they don't.  People
who live in your social world and mine, a world of privilege and
opportunity and easy access to all forms of culture--why shouldn't
we be the very ones to see the reality and value of these spiritual
forces?  Just look at us!  We have a chance to develop our emotions
on a very high plane.  Grand opera, symphony orchestras, world-wide
travel.  Everything that can exalt the spirit is ours--dawns in the
mountains, sunsets on the sea, great paintings, great sculpture,
great drama.  Aren't we the people, after all, who should be the
quickest to understand the possibilities of our hearts and
recognize the power of these mysterious appeals to our emotions?
If there is to be any nobility in human life, surely people of your
advantages and mine are better equipped to know what it is all
about than the underprivileged who have so few chances to be
stirred and thrilled."

"You mean we have to pay for our sunsets in the South Seas by doing
something sacrificial," said Thomas, amused over her long speech.

"Why not?"  Eleanor ignored the flippancy of his comment.  "Why
not?" she repeated, seriously.  "Don't you think it is really bad
for us to experience these gripping emotional appeals and never do
anything to justify our right to receive them?  Here we go, you and
I, stirred by other people's fortitude, moved by other people's
renunciations, learning about life at second-hand, and never once
trying it out to see what it might make of us!"

Thomas stretched both of his long arms to full length and drew a
deep breath.

"Are you trying to sell this idea to me--or to yourself?" he
queried, amiably teasing.

"To both of us; especially me."  Eleanor rose.

"Well--I suppose one either believes it, or one doesn't," drawled
Thomas, falling into step beside her.  "Either you accept it or you
don't.  If you do, you aren't required to sell it to yourself any
more."

"Not the theory--no.  As for the practice, that's another matter.
I was amused at something Hannah said about that.  She has her
droll moments, you know."  Eleanor laughed reminiscently.  "Hannah
says people sometimes come plop up against a challenge to their
skill in bravery and they can't do anything much about it because
they had never experimented.  She says, 'It looks quite easy when a
juggler keeps three tennis balls, a frying-pan, and a hatchet in
the air at the same time, but I expect he began practising the act
with only a couple of tennis balls.'"

                        *  *  *  *  *

When he had come down to earth again after his big surprise, Peter
wanted to tell somebody who didn't know about it yet, so he went to
his room early that night and wrote Sally.  Perhaps Aunt Hannah had
told Sally, but he didn't think so.  Aunt Hannah wouldn't really
like the new plan very well, and maybe wouldn't want to talk about
it to anyone.  She hadn't objected to it, but why should she if his
mother was agreed?


Dear Sally (he wrote): I said I would write to you.  It is funny to
talk about being busy in a place like this but you eat breakfast
and then it is time for dinner or somebody wants you to sail.  I
told you about Mr Bradford.  Well, it is funny but I spend most of
the time with him.  There is a lagoon near here where we catch
flounders.  An old man with whiskers rows us in his boat and cuts
bait.  A flounder is round, not like a ball but a pie in case you
never saw one or even if you did.  And we play tennis and Uncle
Thomas--he wants me to call him that and I do too--plays a fast
game for two sets and then his wind gives out, from cigarettes he
says and he does smoke a good many.  Sally Ive some news for you.
I am going to a military school in Virginia for boys on Sept. 13.
Uncle Thomas went to school there when he was my age.  I am coming
home next week alone because Aunt Adele is going to Paris the next
day.  Maybe I will see you before school begins.  Ask Aunt Hannah
to bring you.  Im afraid she wont like me in a uniform but my
Mother will though and Aunt Adele and Uncle Thomas says he thinks
it will be bully.  He is coming to see me sometimes for he knows
the headmaster.  How is your tennis now Sally you are pretty good
for a girl I think.  Ask Aunt Hannah if you can come down with her.
Uncle Thomas is taking me on a hike to-morrow.  Last time we saw a
red fox.  It stood still a long time looking at us before it ran
and then not very fast and it looked back once to see if we were
coming and Uncle Thomas laughed.  Maybe we will see one this time
or a deer for there are some.  Good-bye for this time.  See if Aunt
Hannah wont let you come with her.

                                               Your friend

                                                        PETER.

P.S.--Pleas excuse the blots.  Ive a blister on my thumb from
bowling.  So has Uncle Thomas.



CHAPTER XIV


The breach between Lucy Trimble and Roberta, dating from more than
two years ago when they were nearing fifteen, had never healed
properly.  When their misunderstanding had arisen at the Adirondack
summer camp, Roberta had taken it too seriously and had sulked over
it too long.

With a fair imitation of her mother's accomplishments in repairing
damaged feelings, Lucy had cooed affectionate little entreaties in
all the dulcet tones of the maternal gamut.  But Roberta, morbidly
relishing this flattering solicitude far too well to deprive
herself of it by a prompt conciliation, continued to brood
pensively over her wounds until her brightly buoyant friend grew
bored and impatient.

It is possible that their comradeship might have become tiresome to
Lucy even if it had not experienced this acute stress.  Inheriting
Sam Trimble's sunny and equable disposition and Eleanor's talent
for making herself agreeable in any company, Lucy's gay gregarious
spirit was already chafed by the exactions of Roberta's jealously
possessive devotion.  Now that this monopolistic adoration had
assumed a dourly reproachful air of injury, it was an insupportable
burden.

There was no one particular day when Lucy enforced a resolution to
let Roberta Ward paddle her own social canoe.  Perhaps it would
have been a more humane act if an amputation had been performed.
In that event Roberta, definitely aware of what had happened to
her, might have made an effort to cultivate some promising
friendships in other quarters.  Instead, she persevered in her
morose longing that the fracture might be nursed back to health.

On the surface, relations were amiable enough as the two girls made
the journey home together, that September, to enter upon their
second year in high school.  But the salt of their friendship had
lost its savour.  Whatever may have been Lucy's brief misgivings
over this situation, to Roberta the affair was in the nature of a
tragedy.  Lacking any gifts for making friends, the quiet
withdrawal of Lucy's interest left her in a perilous position
socially.  It began to be obvious to the unhappy girl that Lucy's
patronage had accounted for the place she had occupied, and she was
tortured with the thought that nobody had ever really wanted her;
that she had been accepted only because of Lucy's ardent loyalty--
on a "Love me, love my dog" basis.

It turned out to be an embittering year for Roberta.  Always, even
from early childhood, a recluse and introvert, she went her own
way, becoming less and less communicative at home and more and more
distrustful of her rating in the opinion of her acquaintances at
school.  If the girls were casual in their greetings, Roberta
interpreted their attitude as frosty indifference.  If they were
cordial, she accounted for it as an effort of theirs to show how
much they pitied her.  She was still invited to the more inclusive
parties, but there were plenty of things going on in the inner
circle of a dozen or more.  These affairs she learned about after
they had occurred.  She felt utterly outcast.

Once--it was the day school resumed after the Christmas holidays--
Roberta had pocketed her pride and asked Lucy why she hadn't been
invited to Betsy Partridge's birthday dinner.

"I didn't know you weren't," Lucy had replied, making a brave
attempt to look dismayed.  "I noticed you weren't there, but I
supposed something had turned up to--to keep you away."

"No, you didn't," protested Roberta, sullenly.  "You couldn't have
helped knowing that I wasn't asked."

"Well, after all"--Lucy shrugged slightly--"it wasn't my party.  I
asked you to mine, didn't I?"

Roberta grinned feebly and commented, "Yes--the skating party for
the whole class; everybody in town."  She winked back the angry
tears.

"Betsy's mother arranged that little dinner as a surprise,
Roberta," explained Lucy gently.  "Almost any sort of slip can
happen in an affair like that.  I wouldn't fret about it if I were
you."

"You wouldn't have to," murmured Roberta.  "Everybody likes you."

The bell rescued Lucy from the necessity of any further dissembling
in Roberta's behalf.  The constraint between them, now that it had
been mutually discussed, was an established fact.  Neither of them
knew how to deal with it.  Lucy was sorry enough, but what could
you do with a person like Roberta?  "Now I ASK you!" she said to
herself in exasperation.

As the year wore on, Roberta drew more snugly into her shell,
comforting herself with her drawing, and taking but scant interest
in the few social events to which she was invited.

Marcia worried about it, but lacked the capacity for finding a
remedy.  She suggested a Valentine party for Roberta, here at home,
or at the City Club, or wherever she wished.  Roberta had no
interest in the plan, so they gave it up.  Marcia was at her wits'
end.  The fact was that she herself had been accustomed to beating
a retreat when events became too complicated for her.  Her
favourite method of dealing with a predicament was to go to her
room, bury her face deep in the pillows, and cry until she had a
red nose and a headache.  With a disposition like that she was at a
disadvantage in her efforts to counsel Roberta to be of good cheer
and tackle her problem with a courageous smile.

"I'm terribly anxious about Roberta," she confided to Eleanor.
"She feels so--so out of things, this year; has it in her head that
the girls don't like her; thinks Lucy isn't friendly."

"Nonsense!" scoffed Eleanor.  "Some childish disagreement, maybe.
You remember how such things used to go when we were of that age.
Whatever it is, you can depend on its blowing over presently.  Why,
Roberta was at our house only yesterday."

"She was there on an errand," said Marcia obdurately.  "It has been
a good while since Lucy was over here.  I know Roberta is too
sensitive and reticent--but really--"

"Well, do you want me to speak to Lucy about it?"  Eleanor's tone
hinted that this procedure might be considered as a risky last
resort not to be highly recommended.

"No, no, no!"  Marcia shook her head vigorously.  "I'm sure Roberta
wouldn't want THAT!  If she can't have Lucy's friendship of her own
free will--"

Eleanor drew her chair closer and lowered her voice confidentially.

"These children," she began, "are all too preoccupied with their
own affairs to have the least bit of sympathy or understanding for
each other's peculiarities.  I suppose we were that way too at
fifteen.  My Lucy is a heedless youngster who just lives from
moment to moment in a grand state of excitement.  Your Roberta is
inclined to be aloof and unaggressive.  Temperamentally they are as
opposite as the Poles.  Your Sally is like Lucy--impetuous and full
of ginger.  Those two, if they were of an age, would hit it off.
We'll just have to make up our minds, that Lucy and Roberta
represent different types."

The speech had promised more comfort than it was able to deliver,
and when it was concluded there was a moment's silence.

"I suppose so," murmured Marcia at length, drawing a deep sigh.
"Sometimes I think we should send Roberta away to school; give her
a chance to make friends in another environment."

"It's a good thought," agreed Eleanor quickly.  "A change like that
might solve the whole problem for her."  But they both knew, and
each of them was aware that the other knew, how difficult it was
going to be for Roberta to find contentment, no matter where she
lived.

Most of the children who came to the Wards were Sally's friends.
It seemed to Roberta that the place was constantly jammed with
noisy girls who clattered up and down the stairs, invading the
pantry, banging the piano, slamming the doors--obnoxious creatures
sticky with perspiration and for ever smelling like apples and
butter.  Nor were they any too considerate of Roberta's thin-
skinned sensitivity when they encountered her, perhaps because she
made no bones about her distaste for them; and, besides--though
Roberta was too taken up with her own sorrows to make any
reasonable allowance for this--they were at that abominable phase
of dishevelled, rattle-headed, muddy-footed adolescence in which no
normal child is distinguished for reverence.

Sometimes Sally felt sorry for Roberta and made awkward little
excursions into her moody sister's confidence, where she had always
been unwelcome.  Late on Saturday afternoon, she was likely to tear
loose from the fudge-making bedlam in the kitchen and go plunging
up to Roberta's sanctuary with an exuberant invitation to come down
and share in the fun.

"Now WOULDN'T that be jolly?" Roberta would reply scornfully.
"With that bunch of animals!"

Each member of the family, in his own way, was distressed about
Roberta.  Wallie, who had never drawn any prizes for altruism
either inside the house or out of it, had long since given up
trying to be gracious to her and rarely had anything more winsome
to say than "Aw, snap out of it, can't you?"  But he had his
moments when he would have been glad enough to think of something
he might do, without too much effort, towards the reconditioning of
his sister's broken spirit.  Privately it had annoyed him when
Roberta and Lucy Trimble were no longer intimately associated; for
he greatly admired Lucy, and missed her visits more than he cared
to admit.  Paul, now loaded with extra responsibilities since his
elevation to the deanship, had nothing constructive to offer.
Always volatile as a weathervane, with an amazing capacity for
bouncing from the Slough of Despond to the Heights of Pisgah
without any intermediate stop for refuelling, he could hardly be
expected to understand his daughter's chronic dejection.  Sometimes
he pitied her from the bottom of his heart and resolved to leave no
stone unturned in an effort to divert her, but when he approached
her with his suggestions she exasperated him with her stubborn
refusal to consent or even to appreciate his generosity.  One day
he would try to impute some grace to her by commending her on being
such a thoughtful, quiet, dutiful daughter; the next day he would
be likely to inquire acidly, at breakfast, whether friends were
being requested to omit flowers.  As for Marcia, she cried about it
for hours on end, and then drove downtown to a beauty shop for
repairs.

None of them gave as much consecutive thought to the case as
Hannah.  Her worry was somewhat complicated by her misgivings, for
it troubled her to remember that she had never given Roberta the
affection she had bestowed on Wallie and Sally.  Of course, she
told herself, the spiritless child had always resented her
overtures of friendship, but, even so, she might have made her
preference for Sally a little less conspicuous.  Through that
winter and spring Hannah fairly racked her brain trying to think of
something she might say or do to enliven Roberta, went to endless
bother to plan the meals with Roberta's tastes in mind, catered to
every little whim, and made special efforts to dignity and defer to
her infrequent comments.  But you positively couldn't do anything
for Roberta.

She was nearing seventeen now, and her isolation was becoming
increasingly difficult to bear in the face of the inevitable
pairing of her high-school classmates.  Roberta thought them
sickeningly silly, and said so with such withering contempt that
nobody any longer bothered about inviting her to anything.

Her drawing now served to compensate for her social losses.  There
was no question at all about Roberta's artistic talent.  Her themes
were decidedly unpleasant, but she handled them with astonishing
skill and fidelity.  By way of her father's influence she contrived
to engage for private instruction at the hands of Andr Gallet,
head of the Art Department at the University, who promptly reported
that Roberta--if she applied herself might be expected to go far.

It was a pleasant relief to have these good tidings about Roberta.
The family was unanimous in applauding her.  She was as cloistral
and touchy as ever, but these unhappy distinctions could now be
readily understood and condoned.  As a genius, Roberta was to be
pardoned for her eccentricities.  The household was cheered, and
much pains were taken to see that the artist was shielded from
unnecessary shocks, jolts, abrasions--and intrusions upon the
privacy which had become more and more insular.

Twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from four to
six, Roberta sat at the feet of M. Gallet, her deep melancholy eyes
intent on his impulsive gestures, her drooping lips parted a little
in admiration.  She worked for Gallet as she never worked at
anything before.  And because she was the most gifted and
indefatigable student he had ever taken on, he gave her the best he
had to offer, now yelling at her until the big dark eyes swam with
tears, now repentantly healing the bruise with encouraging little
pats on her shoulder which made her habitually sluggish heart thump
hard against her boyish chest.

One day she slipped quietly out of the house, returning two hours
later to announce casually to her mother that she had visited a
tailor.  Marcia was both amazed and delighted that Roberta, who had
been so appallingly indifferent to her appearance for nearly two
years, had actually taken the initiative in improving herself.  In
a few days the suit was delivered, a most severe brown whipcord,
with highly built shoulders and plenty of mannish pockets.  There
was also a brown hat which a boy might have worn without
explanation, and flat-heeled snub-nosed russet shoes.  That
afternoon she wore the rather startling ensemble to her session
with Professor Gallet, who tactfully felicitated her on having
adopted a costume at once as chic, so distingu, so--tout  vous;
and Roberta, colouring a little, shyly murmured, "Merci".

She had hoped he would approve.  The family, of course, could
be counted on to deride her.  That's what families were for--
to frustrate originality and offer special premiums for
conventionalized dullness.

When she arrived home shortly before dinner, Roberta encountered
them all, one by one.  Paul grinned as he appraised her in the new
rig and drawled, "We'll make a man of you yet."  Sally gaily
shouted, "Lookit!"  Wallie, meeting her in the upper hall, laid the
back of his hand against his forehead, reeled weakly, and said,
very deferentially, "How do you do, sir?"  Thoroughly frenzied,
Roberta told him where he could go, after which she turned angrily
to her room and banged the door in his face.  Her savage retort
made Wallie laugh; and she, interpreting it as further ridicule of
her revolutionary garb, refused to come down to dinner.

Hannah went up with a tray, but was not admitted.

Roberta was something of a problem.

                        *  *  *  *  *

There was nothing unusual about the crush.  Neglected at school and
misunderstood at home, Roberta devoted all her pent-up affection to
Professor Gallet.  He was too warm-hearted to snub her, too canny
to make capital of her infatuation.  Whatever moral scruples he may
have had or lacked, he was not disposed to jeopardize his job by
giving any encouragement to this sort of thing.

Roberta's starry-eyed adoration became rather embarrassing to the
arty Gaul, who, twice her age and comfortably domesticated with a
roly-poly wife and four attractive children, had no notion of
taking advantage of Professor Ward's prematurely neurotic daughter.

She brought him flowers, an incomprehensible modernistic etching,
and a couple of tall thin vellum-bound volumes of lowercase poetry
composed under high emotional pressure by a frustrated soul who
disapproved of the universe, denying the existence of God on one
page and blaming Him on the next for having done a bad job.

He thanked her pleasantly for the poems, and promised he would read
them; and, when cornered a few days later for an appraisal,
remarked shrilly that they were "tripe".  Professor Gallet was
proud of his American slang.  Roberta wept, and accused him of not
liking her any more, which was true.

"It is the artistic temperament," consoled Professor Gallet.  "We
both have it!  We suffer.  Shall we now proceed to our work?" he
added more practically.

They proceeded to their work.  The lessons were continued.  But
Roberta had lost a little more of her moral underpinning, and
became quite a pitiable object as her self-confidence was drained
of its few remaining red corpuscles.

In this state of mental torture, she began to feel acutely
unfriendly towards people who seemed happily adjusted to their
environment.  The chief object of her envy was Sally.  Sally had
everything.  She was remarkably pretty.  At fifteen she was
flowering early into a vital maidenhood.  Everybody loved her.  She
knew what to say, what to do, how to dress.  She was athletic,
clever, well balanced.

Ever since Peter Edmunds had gone away to school, a correspondence
had been maintained.  At first it had dealt mostly with school
affairs.  Sally had written about the high-school sports and games.
Peter had sent her his picture in uniform.  Sally had hidden it.
She had never resented the family's friendly chaffing about the
local boys who showed her their shy and clumsy attentions, but she
didn't want to take the risk of being teased about Peter.  Bland
and open about all her friendships and social engagements, her
feeling for Peter Edmunds was a different matter.  Nobody knew of
it but Hannah, and it was not now a frequent topic of discussion,
even between them.  And when, rarely, Peter's name was mentioned,
Sally realized that Hannah--so comradely on all other occasions--
was increasingly distrait and eager to have done with the subject,
almost as if she thought Sally had no right to talk about him.

At first this had given Sally some anxious moments.  It was so
evident that Hannah quietly but firmly resented the friendship and
wanted it discontinued.  She searched the record of her own conduct
to see if she could recall something she had said or done to bring
this about.  Had Peter reported to his mother that Sally had
inadvertently let it slip--about Hannah's being their servant?
Would this account for Hannah's attitude?  Or was it something
else?

If Hannah heard from Peter, it was through the letters she received
from his mother.  These letters from Waterloo came frequently, and
Hannah seemed always on the look-out for mail.  But so did Roberta,
if it came to that.  Sometimes there seemed to be a race on,
between Hannah and Roberta, who should meet the postman.

One day Sally wrote to Peter that she hoped to come East next
autumn, to a preparatory school in Northampton.  He would like
that, she believed.  It took more than a little courage to tell
him, and she awaited the reply with a nervous impatience that
slightly slowed her rackety gallop up the stairs.  And as the days
passed, she refused a second helping at the table.  Weeks went by--
and there was no letter from Peter.

At Christmas-time, Mrs Edmunds went to Virginia to visit her
relatives and Peter.  This much Sally extracted from Hannah.  The
lovely Christmas card she had sent to Peter (it had been selected
with much care and had cost a dollar) brought no response.  After
two weeks had gone by, Sally ventured to tell Hannah of her
perplexity.  She tried to make it sound casual, and chuckled a
little, as if it didn't matter much, but her unsteady voice gave
her away.  Hannah seemed rather touched over it as she replied:
"I'm sure I don't know, dear.  Boys of that age are very careless.
I expect he's pretty busy."

In March, Sally's mother noticed her listlessness and Doctor Bowen
ordered her to take halibut liver oil, a tablespoonful of which was
dutifully poured into the wash-basin every night before retiring.
Sally made a resolute effort to be gay, but it was hard to do.
Sometimes her pride had its innings for a few days, especially when
they were rehearsing for the class play and the extra work
distracted her mind.  When that was over, she drifted again into
the unaccountable periods of abstraction and inattention which
everybody in the house knew "weren't a bit like Sally".

The postman for the Marcellus Avenue district began his morning
route at the corner only three houses away.  He usually rang the
bell while the Wards were eating breakfast.  Some time ago, Roberta
had developed the habit of meeting him at the door.  Hannah would
start from the kitchen, but Roberta usually intercepted her.

Once Wallie had remarked, as Roberta laid her napkin aside and
hurriedly pushed back her chair, "I don't see why you've got to
break your neck every morning to grab the mail.  You never get any,
do you?"

Paul remarked that this was an unnecessarily discourteous speech,
and added that we could jolly well get along without such comments.
Marcia sighed deeply.  Sally's finely modelled brows contracted a
little.  A very unpleasant thought occurred to her, but she
instantly dismissed it.  Roberta was a difficult person to live
with, but she wouldn't do a thing like that . . . and--of course--
Hannah wouldn't! . . .  No--Peter had found someone he liked
better.  He had been willing to write her an occasional letter so
long as she was a thousand miles away, but when she had threatened
to come East to school he had thought it high time to drop their
friendship before it became embarrassing--and made some demands
upon him.

Hannah felt that SHE needed some halibut liver oil too.  She had
never been confronted with the apparent necessity for showing
disloyalty to someone she loved, in the hope of serving what she
believed to be a worthy cause.  It was going to be better for Peter--
and Sally, too--if their friendship was not allowed to develop
into affection.  She had devoutly hoped it might be broken off
before it became serious.  If something intervened between them
now, they would get over it.

But she felt very uncomfortable.  Peter would write inquiring how
Sally was.  Sally would ask shy questions about Peter.  Once, when
Sally was particularly inquisitive, Hannah was all but on the point
of tossing the whole case away, for she was carrying in her apron
pocket a letter containing some pathetically wistful queries.  How
Sally's blue eyes would have sparkled, thought Hannah, if she had
known the depth of Peter's continuing interest in her.  But Hannah
had gone through too much heart-breaking sacrifice on Peter's
behalf to risk jeopardizing it all now for the sake of humouring
Sally in her girlish fondness for this boy.  Doubtless she would
recover.  She would forget it.  In any event, Hannah had firmly
decided to do nothing to aid them in promoting their friendship.
There was too much at stake.

                        *  *  *  *  *

The past twenty months, in spite of anxieties about Roberta--and
Wallie, too, for he was not doing a bit well in the university and
spent most of his time tinkering with a decrepit motor chassis--had
brought at least two great satisfactions to Hannah.  She had half
dreaded to see Paul come home from Europe.  As for Eleanor
Trimble's probable attitude towards the problem of their
relationship, Hannah believed she would make every effort to re-
establish their friendship on a sound and safe footing.  But there
was still Paul's feeling to be reckoned with.

In her imagination Hannah had followed Paul and Marcia on their
tour.  Marcia would not be a very comfortable travelling companion.
She had indulged herself at home in indolent habits, rarely
breakfasting before ten, and had developed her natural talent for
wasting time until the log of her journey through a typical day,
had it been honestly set down in ink, would have made the laziest
dog laugh.  Marcia would be a ball-and-chain to Paul on a sight-
seeing tour.

Of course it wasn't quite fair to think of Mrs Ward as an
unintelligent person, for she had had college training, and her
associations were mostly with people whose interests required them
to keep abreast of serious thought, but it surely must have
irritated Paul sometimes to note the inattention in her bird's-egg
blue eyes when conversations of importance were actively astir.
Hannah could easily picture her toddling along beside Paul through
the spacious and venerable halls of Oxford, and occasionally saying
"Really!" but wishing it were time to take the train back to
London.

So far as the Paul-Eleanor problem was concerned, it would be much
more simple, reflected Hannah, if he had gone abroad by himself.
Returning, he would be so pleased to see his wife that nobody else,
not even Eleanor Trimble, would have counted for very much.  He
would have idealized the pretty creature during his absence.  His
home-coming would be quite another matter with a weary and fretful
Marcia in tow.

But whether Eleanor Trimble's firm grip on her own emotions was so
compelling as to be contagious, or whether Paul had resolutely
determined on his own account to stay on the reservation at all
costs to his personal feelings, Hannah was delighted to see what
promised to be the happy outcome of an affair that had been
brimming with danger.

She often wondered whether the two of them had contrived to find a
little time by themselves for an honest appraisal of their mutual
attraction and a resolve to make it serve them rather than ruin
them.  This much Hannah never knew, though she strongly suspected
that Paul and Eleanor must have talked it all over deliberately,
judging from the considerable constraint between them on the
occasion of their first evening together and the easy freedom of
their contacts afterward.

Of course, the chief reason for Hannah's happiness over this matter
was undeniably practical.  Now there would be no menace hanging
over the Ward-Trimble friendship and no threat of scandals and
separations.  But--these considerations aside--it thrilled her to
the very marrow as she watched the drama skilfully staged.  After
all was said that could possibly be said about the few outstanding
acts and events which had a flavour of nobility, the most stirring
experience anybody could expect to have in the course of a lifetime
was the serene satisfaction of exerting a complete self-control
under circumstances demanding that no outward sign be given of
one's inner struggle.

It was one kind of fortitude to grit one's teeth and silently sweat
while the surgeon plied his trade.  That sort of courage was good,
and blessed were all they who had it.  But the type of heroism that
sent deliciously chilly little quivers twitching up and down
Hannah's spine was the apparently effortless and tranquil demeanour
of people who could endure hardness as good soldiers without
turning a hair.  Her admiration for Eleanor Trimble was so intense
that she had difficulty in restraining it.  And as for Paul, Hannah
was of the opinion that there were very few people in the world
like him, and impulsively told him so at midnight one Sunday when
he came out to the kitchen after the Trimbles had left for home.

"Thanks, Hannah," he had replied, a bit surprised by her frank
remark.  "But what made you say that?"

"You know very well," she said, without looking up.

"I came out for a box of matches," he explained.

She reached a damp hand into the cupboard, and gave him a match-
box.  He lingered for an instant, and Hannah smiled into his
inquisitive eyes.

"I'm proud of you!" she said, barely above a whisper.

A little embarrassed over this impetuous tribute, Paul filled his
pipe to provide himself some occupation while sparring for an
appropriate rejoinder.  Presently he said, "Hannah, you're a
remarkable woman."

"Well--if I am--some of it's your fault."

Paul patted her on the shoulder affectionately and turned towards
the door.  Tarrying, he drew a slightly diffident grin and drawled,
"You see almost everything, don't you?"

Hannah said she was glad she couldn't.

"It's rather odd," he remarked reflectively.  "You have always
known so much about me--and I have known so very little about you."

"I'll tell you some day," replied Hannah soberly, "if you really
want me to."

"Truly?"

"Truly!"

"Now?"  He sauntered back.

"No--not now.  It's a long story . . . it can wait."

                        *  *  *  *  *

One of the most trying experiences of Hannah's life had arisen when
it became evident that--in spite of her own wishes--Peter was to be
sent to a military academy.  If there was a principle worth
sacrificing for above another it was the everlasting rightness of
non-combative living.  It had cost her heavily to practise that
belief.  If she had any one pet aspiration for her boy it was the
hope that he might want to live without fighting.  Now we were
going to send him to a place that gave you scientific training for
war.  Lydia had calmly said that Colonel Livingstone, the head of
the academy, was reputed to be a hard-boiled professional soldier
of the old school.  Hannah had seen his picture in the catalogue;
stern, steely-eyed, a long scar on one bronzed cheek and a deep
crease in the other where an early dimple had turned out to be a
scowl--and jaws like a fox-trap.

"Rather cross-looking, isn't he?" observed Hannah.

"I'll wager," said Lydia calmly, "that this gentleman could bite
the head right off of a hammer and puff it clear across the
Rappahannock."  Hannah had been demure and unreconcilable for an
hour, and Lydia had hoped to say something droll enough to beguile
a pensive smile.

Hannah had made an earnest effort not to be resentful, but it did
seem as if Thomas had wilfully done the one thing to their boy that
she would have avoided at any price.  She had tried to be
understanding, but surely Thomas might have been a little more
considerate of her feelings.  Of course there were extenuating
circumstances.  Thomas and this Colonel Livingstone had prepared
together at this academy when they were youngsters, forming an
acquaintance that had outlasted the years.  Later the colonel had
gone to West Point and Thomas to Yale, but they had not forgotten
their early days together in Virginia.  It was natural, of course,
that Thomas should want his boy to go there.  Hannah had grieved
when she saw her tall son in a cadet uniform, but there was nothing
she could do about it.

Thomas had promised he would not tell Peter about their
relationship, at least until he was out on his own.  He would
furnish ample funds for Peter's education, to be deposited to
Lydia's account and administered by her, with the proviso that
Peter was to attend the preparatory school and college which Thomas
chose.  Whatever information Lydia cared to pass along to Hannah
concerning plans for Peter was to be considered her own business,
and if Hannah wished to offer suggestions she might do so through
Lydia.

Occasionally Thomas wrote to Lydia, when posting remittances,
offering such reports of Peter's progress as he had learned through
Colonel Livingstone.

One Thursday morning in March, Hannah was met at the door in
Waterloo by a very exuberant Lydia.

"Lots of news for you," she exclaimed.  "Just arrived.  Fat letter
from Thomas.  Peter's been very bad.  They've had to punish him.
I'll tell you all about it.  It's wonderful!  You'll love it!  I'm
so thrilled!  Take off your coat.  Come out to the library."

Thoroughly mystified, Hannah had followed Lydia, sinking weakly
into a big leather chair and murmuring:  "Don't tell me anything
serious has happened to our boy.  Oh--we shouldn't have let him go
there, Lydia.  Tell me--what has he done?"

"It's a long story.  Thomas says Peter let some other youngsters
copy from his paper in a trig examination, and when Peter was
brought up for it he told the professor he didn't know the other
chap was copying.  But unfortunately the culprit, in confessing,
had declared that Peter knew all about it and had pushed the papers
under his nose so he could see them better."

"I suppose Peter wanted to do his friend a good turn," said Hannah,
rising to his defence.  "I'm glad he wasn't a tattle-tale."

"Of course--but it was against the rules, and our Peter seems to
have lied a little.  So they cancelled his privileges--whatever
that means--for ten days.  One of the features of his punishment
was that he was not to leave his barracks for any reason during
that period."

"But he wouldn't!"  Hannah's face was troubled.

"But he did!  You see, Thomas was having a birthday.  And he had
written to Peter to meet him that next Saturday night, in Richmond.
They would have dinner together and go to a show and Peter could
return to school on the midnight train.  And Peter didn't want to
confess to Thomas that he was under punishment.  So he sneaked out
late that afternoon, in the face of orders not to leave the campus,
and went to Richmond, where he spent the evening with Thomas, never
breathing a word to him about the dreadful thing he had done."

"Oh, Lydia!  What did they do to him?" moaned Hannah.

"Now don't hurry me, please.  I'll tell you everything.  He got
back to the campus a little before two and hung about in the
shadows of the trees until the sentry had passed, and then he edged
his way along the buildings until he came to the Administration
Hall.  And there he smelled smoke.  He looked into a basement
window and saw a blaze."

"How awful for him!" interposed Hannah.  "I suppose he turned in an
alarm and then they found out that he had been away."

"No, he broke the window and let himself down into the basement,
found the fire furiously burning, and while putting it out he
singed his clothes and burned his hands severely.  Then, instead of
going to the hospital, he went to his room and tried to do
something for his injuries by himself."

"Lydia!  How badly was he hurt?"

"Badly enough so that explanations were in order.  Next morning
they discovered all the evidences of the fire, and found Peter's
fountain-pen, and when he came to class they saw his bandaged
hands.  So, naturally, he was brought before Colonel Livingstone.
Here is the letter that the Colonel wrote to Thomas, and also the
report of his interview with Peter.  You can read it for yourself."
Lydia handed over the papers and sat gently rocking, as she waited
with expectant eyes.


Dear Thomas (wrote the Colonel):  I have been obliged to demote
that young rapscallion Edmunds of whom you think so highly.  I hope
his punishment and humiliation will do him some good.  He is a very
headstrong youngster.  I enclose a copy of the official
stenographic report of my conference with him.


Hannah turned to the impressive document with nervous fingers.


Peter Edmunds, Major General in Company G, was then called:

Colonel Livingstone: "Sergeant Edmunds, I understand you were under
orders not to leave your barracks under any circumstances on the
night of March thirteenth.  Is that correct?"

Edmunds: "Yes, sir."

"Where were you on the night of March thirteenth?"

"In Richmond, sir."

"What were you doing there?"

"Spending the evening with Mr Thomas Bradford, sir."

"You knew you were violating a command of a superior officer?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did Mr Bradford know you were absent without leave?"

"No, sir."

"You knew the penalty for such conduct, did you not?"

"Yes, sir."

"It becomes my duty, then, to enforce the regulations.  You lose
your standing as a junior officer and are reduced to the ranks.
You also forfeit all campus privileges for thirty days.  You will
also spend five days in the guardhouse, effective upon the
adjournment of this conference.  Is there anything you wish to
say?"

"No, sir."

"That will do, then.  You may go."

"Yes, sir."

"Just a moment: what is the matter with your hands?"

"I burned them, sir."

"I have had a report of that incident.  Do you wish to make a
statement about it?"

"No, sir."

"I am informed that on the night of March thirteenth you single-
handedly extinguished a fire that might have destroyed this
building.  Is that true?"

"I do not know, sir."

"You do not know WHAT?"

"Whether the fire would have destroyed the building, sir."

"But you put it out?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you been nourishing the hope that your gallantry or your
injuries might give you immunity from punishment for your
disobedience?"

"No, sir."

"Private Edmunds, when you have learned to obey orders you will
probably make a good soldier."

"Thank you, sir."

"The Academy is deeply in your debt for a courageous act."

"Thank you, sir."

"I personally like you very much."

"Thank you, sir."

"Is there anything further you wish to say?"

"Yes, sir.  I like you very much too, sir."

"That will be all, then, Private Edwards.  You may report
immediately at the guardhouse."


Hannah's face was shining as she winked back the hot tears.  Then,
when she could speak, she said exultantly:  "Lydia, I'll take back
everything I've said about that place.  Colonel Livingstone is
wonderful!  And PETER!  My dear--I'm so proud!  I've been repaid
for everything--everything!"

"And you won't fret any more about Peter's being in a school where
they teach boys how to fight?"

"Not if they teach that kind of fighting, Lydia."  Hannah's wet
eyes were radiant.  "THAT'S THE KIND OF FIGHTING I BELIEVE IN!"

                        *  *  *  *  *

The whole country was passing through a phase of unprecedented
prosperity.  Factories were running three shifts.  Speculative
stocks had fattened until their own grandmothers wouldn't have
recognized them.  The refrigerator business was booming.  Paul Ward
was well-to-do.  He had been very successful in his adventures with
the market.

For some time it had been occurring to him that Hannah looked tired
and drawn.  One day late in May he said to her:  "You need a
vacation--not two weeks, this time, but a couple of months.  How
would you like to take an ocean voyage?  Go back to England.  Visit
your relatives.  See your old home.  You've had this coming to you
for a long time."

Hannah tried to think of many reasons why she couldn't do it, but
was overruled.  Marcia, who had worried a little about Hannah's
health, joined Paul in pressing the project.  In a few days they
had talked her into it, and now Paul was going downtown to arrange
for her ship accommodations.

"June sixteenth--the Jefferson.  How's that?" he asked, hat in
hand.

Sally was in the kitchen chatting with Hannah when her father
stepped in to make his inquiry.

"Thanks, Mr Ward," said Hannah.  "That will be fine."

"We'll miss you dreadfully," said Sally.

"I'll miss you too, dear.  I wish you were going along.  I know it
will be a lonesome trip."

Paul stroked his jaw thoughtfully.

"Well," he said impulsively, "why not take Sally along?"

"Do you mean it, Daddy?" she shouted, clutching at his sleeve.
"Really?  Could I, Daddy?  Oh, would you, Hannah?  Please!"

Marcia drifted in to see what all the excitement was about.  It
wasn't a bad idea, she reflected.  Perhaps Roberta could be handled
more easily if she had her alone for a few weeks.  And Roberta had
been making things so difficult for Sally lately.  Hannah would
take care of the child, no question about that.  Marcia approved
the suggestion without debate.  The whole affair was settled in
fifteen minutes.  Hannah's happiness shining in her eyes.

Sally was so beside herself with joy that she ran up to tell
Roberta.  "I wish you were going too," she exclaimed, realizing as
she said it that it wasn't quite true.

"When I go abroad," sniffed Roberta dryly, "I'll hope to have more
pleasant company than the family cook."

"How can you say such things?" demanded Sally hotly.

Roberta shrugged deeper into the pillows of her chaise longue and
grinned contemptuously.  She always enjoyed the sensation of
getting a rise out of her amiable sister.

"Well, it's so, isn't it?" she muttered.  "Hannah is our cook,
isn't she?  Go along with her, if that's your idea of a congenial
travelling companion."

Wallie, who had a talent for earing-in on choice bits like this,
laughed raucously from the hallway outside her open bedroom door
and called:  "Speaking of congenial travelling companions, I'd pity
whoever went with YOU."

Roberta scrambled to her feet.  Sally, assuming the door was now to
be vigorously closed against Wallie's badgering, decided that her
absence was probably desired and left the room.  At Wallie's door
she paused.

"You mustn't yell things like that at Roberta."

"Why should you care?" growled Wallie.  "She's certainly been mean
enough to you."

"Cross, maybe," Sally admitted.  "Not mean--any other way."

Wallie elevated one eyebrow mysteriously.

"She's jealous of you."  He lowered his tone to a confidential
warning.  "I wouldn't trust that gal around the corner with a bag
of peanuts.  Not any more."

Sally stood for a moment with troubled eyes pondering this remark
and was about to ask Wallie just what he meant.  Then, deciding not
to pursue the painful subject further, she turned slowly away and
went downstairs hoping to revive her spirits with Hannah.

                        *  *  *  *  *

She was counting the days now.  School was out.  Two weeks from
Saturday was to be the great day!  It was hard to wait.

One morning Hannah seemed much disturbed about something.  She had
had a letter.  Sally sincerely hoped it wasn't anything that might
interfere with their plans.  She lingered in the kitchen and
followed Hannah about through the house hoping to learn what was
up, but no confidences were forthcoming.

As the days passed, Hannah's abstracted manner persisted.  Sally
would endeavour by her own exuberance to re-enlist enthusiasm for
the delightful voyage; and Hannah, rallying, would go through all
the emotions of ecstatic anticipation from which nothing was
lacking--but genuineness.

Hannah would have given much to have been able to cancel the trip,
but couldn't get the consent of her own mind to disappoint Sally.
Besides, she was not in a position to offer a satisfactory
explanation.  The letter that had perplexed her was from Lydia,
enclosing one she had just received from Peter.  "Uncle" Thomas was
taking him abroad for the summer.  They were going to France first
for a couple of weeks but would spend most of their time in
England.  They were sailing on the Faversham on the twelfth.

Hannah was glad enough that her boy was to have this interesting
experience, but it troubled her to consider the possibility of a
chance encounter over there.  She did not want to see Thomas.

Above all, she did not want to meet Thomas in company with their
son.  The situation would be more than she could deal with.

And she didn't want Peter and Sally to find each other.

During their brief married life Thomas had often encouraged her to
talk of her childhood home near Reigate in Surrey.  What if Thomas
should decide to tour with Peter in that neighbourhood?  It was
unlikely that he would want to do that, but it was hard to predict
what Thomas might want to do.  She went to Waterloo and talked it
over with Lydia, who laughed at her apprehensions.

"Don't be foolish, Hannah.  There isn't a chance in a thousand that
you will meet them.  And why should Thomas think of taking Peter to
visit your old home?  He has promised to keep your secret and I
believe you can trust him.  He hasn't told Peter anything--about
their relationship, or yours."

"Are you quite sure of that, Lydia?" urged Hannah for the dozenth
time.  "How can you know?"

"For the simple reason that Peter has never asked any questions.
Do you suppose that boy would carry on as usual, saying nothing to
me about it, if Thomas had confided?"

"Then you think I'm entirely safe to go--and take Sally Ward with
me?"

"Of course!"  Lydia dismissed Hannah's fears with a toss of her
hand.  "We needn't tell Peter you are going over.  He'll not be
looking for you.  I wouldn't give it another minute's thought."

                        *  *  *  *  *

There were plenty of young people aboard the Jefferson, most of
them in touring parties directed by teachers.  Sally was instantly
drawn into their deck sports and social affairs.  But there was
also much time for leisurely chats with Hannah.  It pleased her to
see that there was a marked change in their relationship since
leaving home for this voyage.  Hannah wasn't treating her as if she
were a child.  Sally had been a bit anxious about that.  It was
comforting to feel that she had grown up.

One afternoon, seated in their deck chairs reading, Sally glanced
across to say, "Did you see Peter last week, when you were in
Waterloo?"

Hannah shook her head and after a little pause explained that Peter
hadn't come home from school.

"Did you write him that I was going to England with you?"

"No, dear--I don't believe I did."

Sally pretended to read another page.

"I wonder why you didn't," she remarked softly, half to herself.

Hannah reminded her that her decision to come along on the trip had
been arrived at suddenly.  "There were so many things to think
about," she added.

"Oh, well," said Sally, her eyes returning to the novel, "it
probably wouldn't have interested him.  I haven't heard from Peter
for ever so long, you know."

For a little while Hannah privately debated whether to let the
matter drop without risking further discussion.  But this seemed a
rather cold-blooded attitude to take, in view of the singularly
close comradeship they sustained.

"Peter doesn't write to his Aunt Hannah very often, either," she
replied quietly.  "Their hours at the Military Academy are well
filled, I suppose."

"With doing what?" Sally wondered, half-querulously.  "Marching and
dressing-up and playing at being soldiers.  Or maybe he doesn't
tell you much about it."  She laughed a little, teasingly.  "He
wouldn't want to annoy you with talk about such things, knowing how
you feel about fighting.  You didn't want him to go there, did you,
Hannah?"

"No--not at first."

Sally's eyes widened, and suddenly sitting up very straight in her
steamer chair she said, "You mean--you approve of it now?"

"Well"--Hannah faltered, not finding it easy to define her
sentiments--"I could have wished that Peter was some place else
than in a military school, and I still dislike fighting as much as
ever, but I'm grateful for the discipline he's getting.  People
have to train carefully to keep themselves well in hand--if they're
to live without fighting--and I think Peter is getting that kind of
experience."

Sally laughed.

"That's funny," she declared.  "I never thought of boys going to a
military school to learn how to keep from fighting."

Hannah was silently thoughtful for some time.  Then she laid her
hand on Sally's and said:

"I'm going to tell you a little story, dear, so you'll understand
what I mean.  I don't want you to think that I have changed my mind
about war or the things that lead to war.  But it is important, I
think, that people should learn early how to control their feelings
and take their medicine.  This story is about something that
happened to Peter last spring."

Sally's eyes brightened attentively.

Hannah told it slowly and in detail and when she came to the point
of the formal interview between Colonel Livingstone and Peter she
unlatched her handbag and handed Sally the much-folded document,
silently observing the girl's increasingly serious face as she
followed the typed lines.  Presently Sally's eyes swam with tears.

"Wasn't he marvellous?" she murmured, deeply moved.

"Wonderful man," assented Hannah.

"I mean Peter!" declared Sally.  "Colonel Livingstone was an old
meanie."

"No--not a meanie.  Peter's performance was grand, of course, but I
don't think he would or could have done that the first day he was
there in school.  He had to learn that kind of control by
associating with men who believed in it.  It's a great thing for
Peter just to be able to see Colonel Livingstone every day, and
breathe the same air."

There was a long pause.

"Did Peter write to you about it?" asked Sally.

"Not a line," replied Hannah proudly, "nor to his mother.  We found
out about it through his--uncle."

"Don't you suppose he was pleased with himself, though, over the
way he carried on?  I should have thought he would want you to know
all about it--and his mother, too."

"That's just it!" declared Hannah.  "That's where the fineness of
the whole thing comes in!  Somehow they've managed to teach Peter
the importance of private bravery--bravery that isn't bragged
about.  Sally, the greatest thing anybody can do is to build
himself up strongly ON THE INSIDE.  The trouble with most people is
that they don't think enough of the value of their own inner
selves.  If they do something courageous, they want credit for it,
want to be flattered, want to tell it to others.  And then, you
see, the real value of it to themselves is gone."

"You mean--because they've collected all their pay for it in their
family's oh's and ah's?"

"Exactly!  They get all their reward from the outside instead of
privately storing it up on the INSIDE!  It means a great deal,
Sally, to have a lot of strength under lock and key, strength that
nobody knows about but YOU--ONLY YOU."

Sally sighed and smiled wistfully.

"I expect," she ventured, groping for the words, "that people who
go about with a lot of proud secrets about themselves, all locked
up on the inside, are awfully lonely."

Hannah shook her head decisively.

"They're the people who are NEVER lonely!  Their memories are good
company.  It's the people who have no proud memories who are
lonely, dear.  They don't like to be by themselves because--well,
there's nothing interesting there.  The place is empty.  THEY HAVE
TOLD EVERYTHING AWAY!"



CHAPTER XV


Cynthia Bradford had become a very restless and discontented woman.
Considering with what reptilious patience she had waited for the
bright day when she might legally detach herself from Thomas
without jeopardizing the bequest promised by her crotchety old
mother-in-law, it was unfortunate that her freedom had not afforded
her a higher degree of satisfaction.

For years Cynthia had been envious of women friends who, finding
life with their husbands irksome or upsetting, had "taken the cure"
in some liberal-minded court.  But no sooner was she herself at
full liberty to do exactly as she pleased than it dismayed her to
discover that she did not know exactly what it would be her
pleasure to do.

After six months of it, she heartily wished she was still Thomas
Bradford's wife.  He did not love her and never had, nor did she
love him, but he had been considerate of her comfort, amiable,
courteous, kind.  And now she was missing him more than she had
previously longed to be free of him.  Every scrap of news about his
movements was interesting.  At Christmas-time and on his birthday
she sent greetings to which he graciously but briefly responded,
with a remote formality not calculated to encourage a renewal of
their broken ties.

Always a nomad, Cynthia's mileage had soared to dizzying figures.
Had she been a de luxe motor-car, she would have been junked by
now.  She had gone to India and stayed until it was too rainy, and
on to China until it was too dusty.  She knew more about Egypt than
the Egyptians.  Sometimes she would spend a month in Florence and
sometimes she would visit old friends in Cannes.  She liked spring
in England and autumn in Sorrento.  But eventually she always came
back to Paris.  If you were obliged to live alone, said Cynthia,
Paris was the least undesirable place in the world to do it in.

There had been a brief period after the death of Martin Moore when
it seemed that Adele might become a confidential comrade.  But
their intimacy had not lasted very long.  Adele became inattentive
to Cynthia's self-piteous chatter, and felt under no obligation to
be the confidant for her tangled heart affairs.  They did not
quarrel; they just drifted apart.  Whenever Cynthia returned to
Paris after an extended absence she would call up Adele and they
would have luncheon together.  And that would be all for a while.
Adele found these infrequent reunions difficult to handle.  A
couple of years ago, returning from a summer in the States, she had
imprudently remarked that she had seen a little of Thomas at Bar
Harbour.  Cynthia confessed that she wished she had the courage to
spend some time there, but couldn't take the risk of having her
friends think she was sparring for a reconciliation.

Yesterday, as they had sat together at Prunier's, Adele, weary unto
death of Cynthia's monotonous prattle about Thomas, reflected that
if she wanted to she could give her tiresome friend some amazing
news.  She wondered what manner of fit Cynthia might have if it
were suddenly blurted out that Thomas was now spending the best of
his time and thought on the education of his idolized son.  They
ate their fillet of sole Margury with a little bottle of Barsac
and promised to see each other again very soon, privately aware
that their next engagement would probably not occur for months.

Adele was a bit annoyed, therefore, when she heard Cynthia's voice
on the telephone next morning.

"Have you seen to-day's Matin?" inquired Cynthia excitedly.

"No.  What about it?"

"Thomas is here--at the Ritz."

"Really?"

"And his nephew is with him--a Peter Edmunds.  Thomas has no
nephew.  What do you make of it?"

Adele wished she had a little more time to organize a reply.
Surely Thomas had been indiscreet in bringing Peter to Paris.
Perhaps he hadn't realized the depth of Cynthia's interest in his
movements.  "Well," she drawled, "I suppose it is just one of those
mistakes that newspapers insist on making."

"Will you be seeing him?"

"That depends on Thomas."

"You aren't going to call him up?"

"Why should I?"

                        *  *  *  *  *

Cynthia's curiosity was rapidly devouring her.  She telephoned the
Ritz for a reservation, packed a couple of wardrobe cases, summoned
a taxi, and within an hour was giving herself little errands in the
lobby, at the information desk, in the lounge, all over the place,
indeed, changing her mind about lunching in the grill after she had
had a careful look at it, and proceeding to the more imposing
dining-salon, where she ate without appetite, her eyes attentive to
the door.

As for Adele, her interest had been stirred too by the news of
Peter's presence in town.  Doubtless Thomas would want to bring
them together for a brief visit.  Thomas knew where she lived--at
the Crillon; or did he?  Perhaps he had wanted to locate her, but
had forgotten her address.  She decided not to take the chance of
missing a glimpse of Peter.


Dear Boy (she wrote):  I see you are here with Uncle Thomas.  For
how long, and am I going to see you?

                                              Lovingly,

                                                   AUNT ADELE.


Calling a messenger, she dispatched the note, and was much excited
when the reply came at seven while she was dressing for dinner.
Peter was anxious to see her.  They had arrived only yesterday.
Uncle Thomas hoped she could dine with them to-morrow evening.

Three hours later Thomas telephoned to confirm the invitation.  He
was cordial, but it was easy to see that he had something
perplexing on his mind.

"I hadn't counted on seeing Cynthia," he remarked in a tone that
gave away his anxiety.  "It's just a bit awkward.  She is here at
the Ritz.  We encountered her in the lobby this evening.  Naturally
I had to introduce Peter.  I'm not at all keen on their knowing
each other.  They're both fairly good at asking questions, you
know.  Perhaps it would be more sensible if Peter and I pushed
along to London.  I should like to have a little chat with you
about it."

"Why don't you run over here now?" suggested Adele.  "I'm quite at
liberty."

Thomas said he would do so.  Tapping on Peter's adjacent door, he
told him he would be out on an errand for a while.  Peter had been
tramping about all day at Versailles, and was glad enough not to
have been included in whatever it was Uncle Thomas wanted to do.  A
few minutes after he had been left alone, he decided to go down and
buy some French magazines to pass the time.

There he met this Cynthia person again.  Uncle Thomas hadn't said
her last name; or, if he had, Peter had muffed it.  She was
extremely affable as she plied him with the usual questions asked
of newcomers.  How was he liking Paris, and was this his first
time? . . .  And where did he live, and was Mr Bradford really his
uncle?

Cynthia quite took Peter's breath away with the volume and velocity
of her queries.  They were expressed, however, in a rather
disarming manner.  It was obvious that this lady was eager to talk
with almost anyone from her native land, and doubtless this was
just her way of showing a friendly interest.  She suggested--moving
towards the lounge as she did so--that they sit down and have a
little chat if Peter wasn't rushing off to do something else--and
he couldn't think of any good reason for declining.  In fact, it
was difficult to disoblige her.  Apparently she was the kind of a
woman who took things in her own hands and merely permitted you to
watch while she had her own way.  So they strolled into the almost
deserted red and gold lounge and sat together on a divan.

Deciding that there was no occasion to be secretive with this
lonesome woman who wanted to talk, Peter briefly replied to her
questions, told her where he lived, where he went to school, how he
had met Mr Bradford, who, having no family, had taken an interest
in him probably because his own father was dead.

"What an interesting story!" commented Cynthia.  "I suppose Mr
Bradford really seems like an uncle, now that you've seen so much
of each other."

Peter smiled and admitted that this was true.  Cynthia laughed a
little and gnawed her lip, her cryptic expression hinting that she
might be about to impart some interesting sidelights on this
matter.

"Well," she continued, after a meditative pause, "if Mr Bradford is
almost your Uncle Thomas, I think I could be considered almost your
Aunt Cynthia.  Perhaps you don't know that I was your Uncle
Thomas's wife, once upon a time."  She laughed again, rather
nervously, and studied his face with amusement.

"N-no," admitted Peter, slightly flustered.  "But he never talks
much about himself."

"Perhaps I shouldn't have told you.  Maybe he didn't want you to
know, though I can't see why not.  There isn't anything private
about it."

Peter was finding it a warm evening, and patted the perspiration on
his forehead with his handkerchief, Cynthia regarding him
attentively.  She chuckled, and laid a light hand on his arm.

"You love him very much, don't you?" she said gently.  "You've
picked up so many of his little tricks."  She leaned forward as if
about to rise, noting that Peter was growing restless and quite at
a loss for suitable rejoinders to her personal comments.  "Well,
now you've an Aunt Cynthia, so perhaps you'll let me call you
Peter."

He smiled briefly and nodded.  It occurred to him that if he wasn't
to be considered absolutely tongue-tied, it would be to his
advantage to make some sort of remark.

"Thanks," he said, with an effort to be pleasant.  "One can always
make room for another aunt."

"Sounds as though you had quite an assortment," she observed
invitingly.

For a split second Peter was on the point of mentioning Aunt Adele,
but his intuition warned him that this might lead to complications,
for Aunt Adele lived here in Paris.  Maybe Uncle Thomas might have
some reasons for keeping his Cynthia out of their affairs.  He
decided not to say anything about Aunt Adele.

"Yes," he replied--adding gallantly, "and they're all very nice."

Cynthia rose.

"Perhaps it would be just as well if you didn't say anything to Mr
Bradford about our talk, Peter.  I can't think of any reason why he
wouldn't want you to know about me, but maybe it would be better to
let him tell you when he gets around to it.  Agreed?"

Peter was prompt to oblige her with a promise.  Indeed, he had
fully decided not to mention the incident.  After all, it was none
of his business, and it occurred to him to say so now, without
realizing that his remark really implied a reproof to Cynthia for
being so free with her chatter.

"No, I'll not tell.  Anyhow, it doesn't concern ME."

Cynthia blinked rapidly a few times and flushed a little under her
rouge.  It had irritated her more than she was disposed to admit to
herself that Thomas's indifference to their former relation was so
bland he hadn't even troubled to mention her name to Peter.

"Of course not," she replied crisply.  "Thomas wouldn't bother to
speak to you of his wives."

Peter's brow arched a little, inquisitively, but he did not ask for
any further light.  They were retracing their steps to the lobby
now, Cynthia with the uncomfortable sensation that the handsome
young fellow's silence--after her last catty comment--had left her
holding the conversational bag in the awkwardest possible manner.

"There were two of us," she continued, hotly, clipping her words.
"There was a Hannah somebody before me.  Hannah Parmalee, or some
such name . . .  Well--I hope you have a good time here, Peter.  I
may not be seeing you again.  I'm leaving in the morning."  She
extended her hand, and Peter took it mechanically.

"Good night," he said, with eyes averted.  Then he turned away
towards the lift, forgetting that he wanted the magazines.

He did not see Uncle Thomas again that night.  Uncle Thomas had
come in late, and hearing no stir in the adjoining room had
probably decided that Peter was asleep.

For a long time he sat by the window, his thoughts in a grand state
of confusion.  It was difficult to know where to begin in this
almost unbelievable tangle of relationships.  This Cynthia was
really a quite terrible person, bent on having some kind of
revenge.  If she had been married to Uncle Thomas, which was
probably true, he had done very well to be rid of her.  Now she was
going to get even with him by attempting to prejudice Peter against
him.  So much for that.

But AUNT HANNAH?  Was this the reason why Uncle Thomas had taken so
much interest in him?  Because, once upon a time, Aunt Hannah had
been his wife?  Why, if this were true, Uncle Thomas really WAS his
uncle!  Peter grinned and then chuckled a little.  This explained a
great many things.  Maybe Uncle Thomas felt badly about it and
wanted to make it up to Aunt Hannah; had decided to be good to her
nephew.

And then he fell to thinking about Aunt Hannah's being a servant.
Was it possible that Uncle Thomas--so generous and tender-hearted--
would leave her in such a plight?  Maybe he had wanted to help her
and she wouldn't accept it.  There never had been a person as
independent as Aunt Hannah.  The whole affair was very baffling
indeed.  He wished he dared talk to Aunt Adele about it, but that
wouldn't be quite loyal to Uncle Thomas.  Obviously, Uncle Thomas
didn't want him to know anything about it, or he would have told
him.  But there had never been any secret about Aunt Hannah's being
his aunt; why should there be a mystery about Uncle Thomas?  Why
hadn't they told him?

Peter undressed and got into bed, but he was not sleepy.  The
intricate web refused to disentangle itself.  The more he thought
about it, the more perplexing it was.  Well, he would have to wait
until somebody who knew all about it was ready to tell him.  He
wasn't going to make Uncle Thomas unhappy with questions.  Uncle
Thomas was the grandest man alive, and he wouldn't annoy him.
Their affections mustn't have the slightest strain put on it.  It
was too precious.

And if Aunt Hannah hadn't wanted him to know about Uncle Thomas,
that was her own business.  She must have had some reason, and it
wouldn't be anything to the discredit of either of them; he knew
that.

He finally dropped off to sleep wondering what Sally would think if
she knew that his Uncle Thomas, of whom he had so often spoke and
written, was indeed his real uncle.  How her blue eyes would open
in surprise!  And why had Sally stopped writing to him?  He wished
he knew.  Of course it couldn't have been because she had
discovered some secret that disturbed her.  That was nonsense.
Sally had seen another boy that she liked better, and had forgotten
him.

                        *  *  *  *  *

They went down to Reigate in a motor-bus.  London was just another
great city to Hannah.  She couldn't remember anything about it.
But as they neared Reigate her childhood memories were stirred.
Sally thought it better not to bother her with too many questions,
for Hannah seemed wholly occupied with the attempted recovery of
impressions received when a little girl.

Howard Hall, where Dan Parmalee had learned about trees and shrubs
and flowers, was on the easterly lip of the picturesque Holmsdale
Hollow valley, within easy sight of Reigate.  The high-road that
served the massive old pile of weatherbeaten stone was an authentic
strip of the storied Pilgrims' Way.

Before they had left home, Sally's father had given her a book
about Canterbury and the pilgrimages, knowing that Hannah would be
taking her down to Reigate.

"Maybe I had better read the Canterbury Tales too," said Sally.

"That will hardly be necessary," advised Paul.  "Not much in that
book about Canterbury--or the pilgrims, either."

They alighted from the motor-bus at the great wrought-iron gates of
Howard Hall, and Hannah made inquiries of the lodge-keepers' wife.

"Is anyone working here now," she asked, "named Parmalee?"

"Yes," said the woman.  "James Parmalee is the head gardener.  And
his daughter Hannah is a maid at the hall.  And young James works
in the garden, too."

Sally was bright-eyed and excited.  Imagine!  Hannah had a namesake
she had never seen.  Wouldn't it be fun to see their meeting?
Hannah explained their errand, and the lodge-keeper's wife told
them to follow the drive.  James would probably be found in the
rose garden.

"Does it look natural, Hannah?" asked Sally.  "Won't it be
interesting to see the little house you lived in?  And Peter's
mother, too.  She was a little girl here, wasn't she?"

"No, dear.  Peter's mother is just a very good friend of mine.  She
never lived here."

"Then you're not Peter's aunt?"

Hannah, wholly occupied with the familiar old scenes, replied
absently, "No--we just taught Peter to call me aunt."

"And you're no relation at all?"

"See, Sally!  There's the rose garden, and some men working.  I
think we'd better inquire of them."

They were regarded with interest as they approached.  An older man,
standing a little apart from the others, walked towards them
slowly.

"I am looking for James Parmalee," said Hannah.  Her voice was
unsteady.  Sally wondered if this was not he, and whether Hannah
didn't suspect it.

"I am James Parmalee, ma'am."  He was a tall man, with huge
shoulders and big hands and deep-set grey eyes.

"I am your sister Hannah."  The words were spoken quietly.

James Parmalee's face was a study in mystification.  Then he drew a
smile that established their relationship beyond all question.  He
advanced, rubbing a large hand on his brown smock, and offered it.
"Glad you've come, Hannah.  Is this your little girl, maybe?"

Hannah explained Sally briefly.

"I hear you have a Hannah, too, James.  We will want to see her."

"Yes, we'll be finding her.  Here's my boy."  He beckoned to the
youngest of his crew.  "Come here, James."

Sally's heart thumped as he approached.  HE LOOKED LIKE PETER!  If
they had been brothers they couldn't have resembled each other any
more closely!

It was an eventful afternoon, with tea at the cottage.  Hannah
hadn't been able to remember Mrs James, whose people had lived down
in Tunbridge Wells, but they were not long in getting acquainted.
The girl Hannah resembled her mother.  Sally was made much of by
the family.  She was delighted over the friendly way they accepted
her into the party.  It was difficult for her to keep from showing
too much curiosity about young James.  After a while he seemed to
realize that Sally was checking him up with unusual interest, and
the half-shy glance he gave her made him look more than ever like
Peter.

They spent the night at the cottage, and returned to London the
next afternoon.  After they were well started, Sally roused Hannah
from a reverie by saying, "Isn't it funny how much James looks like
Peter?"

Hannah regarded her soberly for a moment and then said, with a
smile, "Peter seems to be much on your mind, Sally . . .  But--
James really is a very handsome boy."

They rode in silence for a while.

"Hannah, did you ever wish you had children?" asked Sally
irrelevantly.

"Well, I have YOU, Sally.  You're almost like my own."  Hannah's
tone was tender.

"And Peter," assisted Sally.

Hannah turned her face towards the window again and nodded.  Then
they were busy with their own thoughts, not speaking to each other
again until they were slowing down for London.  Sally couldn't help
feeling that she had stumbled into a mystery.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Once Peter had determined not to pester his Uncle Thomas with any
questions based on the impertinent assault that had been made on
him by the awful Cynthia person, it was not a difficult matter to
view his hero with the same feeling of admiration he had had
before.  How much of it was true he didn't know and had no means of
finding out.  He would forget it.  Above all other objectionable
organisms in the natural world, Peter loathed a tattler.  Uncle
Thomas had often said that tattlers were always cowards at heart,
and invariably liars to boot.  Perhaps that's what this Cynthia
was.  Uncle Thomas should have the benefit of all the doubts.

The dinner with Aunt Adele hadn't been quite as much fun as he had
anticipated, mostly because Uncle Thomas was very quiet and seemed
preoccupied.  As soon as they had left Paris he cheered up and was
quite himself again.  Peter was much pleased.

Uncle Thomas knew London so well that he never had to inquire his
way.  Day after day he thought up new excursions, and he seemed to
take delight in watching Peter's enthusiastic reactions to
everything he was experiencing for the first time.  They wandered
along the Embankment searching for the old Water Gate.  They spent
hours in the Abbey.  They went by underground miles and miles to
bob up in fantastic old-worldish suburbs, each crowded with relics
of important historical significance.  They made short work of the
famous art galleries and a long job of inspecting the Tower.

One afternoon they went, in carnival mood, to the Regent Park Zoo.
Uncle Thomas had been postponing this pleasure on the ground that
monkey cages in midsummer were something he could jolly well do
without, but he finally yielded to Peter's importunities,
specifying that he himself would spend most of his time out of
doors communing with the penguins.

Peter was in an hilarious mood that day.  When they came to the
fenced enclosure where a patient elephant sleepily plodded around a
half-acre circle carrying loads of sightseers for a sixpence, he
dared Uncle Thomas to take a ride with him.

"You may," consented Uncle Thomas indulgently, "but I've quite
passed the time of life when people do such things."

So Peter lined up in the queue and waited his turn.  Uncle Thomas
strolling on towards the penguin pool, where, he said, he would
meet Peter when he was through with his silly adventure.  Most of
the passengers standing in line were younger than Peter, but he
didn't much mind that.  Presently he climbed the steps, took his
seat on the wooden housing, and was soon being bobbed along on the
elephant, feeling rather foolish as he looked down into the amused
faces of the spectators.

When they were half-way around the circle, his heart almost stood
still.  Sauntering along the path were Sally and Aunt Hannah!  He
called "Sally!" and the English lad on the bench beside him glanced
up with an expression suggesting that this wasn't the way well-
behaved people acted in London when they rode on elephants.  He
would have to wait until the stupid old monstrosity completed the
journey back to the little mounting platform.

The business of unloading was exasperatingly tedious, something
like docking a steamship.  At length Peter was on the ground again,
pushing through the crowd.

Hurrying around the enclosure to the place where he had seen Aunt
Hannah and Sally, he stood for some minutes anxiously looking both
ways.  Then he joined the crowd moving in the direction they had
taken, eagerly scanning faces and trying to see over the tops of
people's heads.  With mounting panic, he carried on, debating his
course where paths diverged, and finally bringing up at the penguin
pool, where he found Uncle Thomas sitting on a bench.

"Well.  Judging by the heat you have stirred up," observed Uncle
Thomas, "it looks as if the elephant might have been riding YOU!
What's all the excitement?"

"I'm looking for Aunt Hannah," said Peter breathlessly, "and Sally.
I saw them.  Will you wait here, please, while I find them?"

Uncle Thomas seemed suddenly perplexed.

"I'd rather you didn't, Peter," he said soberly.  "Your Aunt Hannah
may find it embarrassing."

"But Uncle Thomas, I JUST HAVE TO SEE SALLY!"



CHAPTER XVI


So now Peter wasn't going to amount to anything, after all.  Life
had poured out some very bitter medicine, probably good for what
ailed you at the moment, but this particular dose seemed
unnecessarily distasteful.

For twenty years no personal desire had seriously engaged Hannah's
attention but the one constant hope for Peter's future.  At all
costs, this dear boy must be given a chance to make an honoured
place for himself in a world for which his mother had obsequiously
fetched and carried ever since she was a little girl.

Hannah hadn't asked Life to grant her more than that, the assurance
that her son's path might be cleared of obstacles.  And to her
Spartan mind, the chief obstacle to be cleared away was herself.
It had not been easy to do, but she had done it.

She was ill-prepared, this morning, to brace her disciplined
emotions against this sickening blow.  The letter from Lydia found
her thoroughly exhausted and in mental turmoil.  For the past five
days, Paul Ward's critical condition, as he lay broken to bits and
half delirious in the University Hospital, had worried her into a
state of utter collapse.  It was an unfortunate hour for the
receipt of bad news.

Now the dream that had sustained her for so long, through all
weathers, had vanished.  It would be almost impossible, she felt,
to carry on any further without the girding of that one bright
hope.  The whole world had suddenly lost its meaning.  The thing
Hannah had lived for had been destroyed: Peter was not going to
amount to anything, after all.

The pages of Lydia's letter--and Thomas's--rattled in Hannah's
agitated fingers as she re-read them.  How could Lydia bring
herself to the point of writing calmly of a disaster so complete
and overwhelming?  Thomas was arranging that Peter should be a
genteel loafer like himself.  He had planned it with crafty care.


As I am intending to make Peter my heir (Thomas had written to
Lydia), he will have no occasion to work.  Now, at the close of his
sophomore year, he faces a decision on this matter.  As you know,
Peter has always been interested in chemistry and has done very
well indeed with his elementary study of it.  He has talked much
about his ambition to pursue this subject seriously and with a view
to the practice of chemical engineering as a profession.

But it isn't important that every man should undertake a
profession.  The few who find themselves able to live without a
gainful occupation ought to be contented with their destiny and
grateful for their freedom from toil.  I have tried to explain to
Peter that it isn't very good cricket for a man of independent
means--as he will be if he follows my suggestions--to insist on
elbowing some less fortunate fellow out of a chance to earn his
living.  Every time a well-to-do trains himself for a remunerative
job, he is taking bread out of the mouths of people who need that
work and would gladly perform it if they had a chance.  This, in my
opinion, is decidedly unethical.

For some time I have been seriously considering the purchase of a
sea-going yacht.  It would give me an enormous amount of pleasure
to have Peter with me on an extended cruise.  We would be gone two
years, probably.  On our return, if Peter wishes to resume college
work either here or abroad, for leisurely study of history,
sthetics, the humanities, philosophy, and other subjects which
embellish a gentleman's life, I shall be quite agreed to his doing
so.  But I am firmly opposed to his entering upon a grubby
experience of the noxious stews and stinks of a chemical
laboratory, with nothing to come of it but hard work in some job
that he doesn't need--and by rights shouldn't ask for.  Aside from
my personal wishes for Peter, there is a little matter of morals
involved here which I hope will impress you--and Hannah, too.


Hannah read this part of it dully.  Her mind was too tired to
consider it with any degree of fair judgment.  She could think of
no immediate arguments to refute Thomas's theories about the
immorality of work performed by people who didn't have to.  All she
could see in this dismaying proposal of Thomas's was the ugly,
stark-naked fact that he was planning to make a worthless nobody of
their son.  She closed her hot eyes, hung her head, and let the
whole tragedy engulf her like a tidal wave.

She had never given way to self-pity, and in the course of the
long, difficult years she had shed very few tears on her own
behalf.  But really, wasn't this impending calamity too serious to
be borne without putting up an uncompromising struggle?  Was there
any merit in sitting quietly and silently while this crime was
committed?  Was it for a disappointment like this that she had
given up her child in his babyhood and waived all rights to his
affection?  And was it for this that she had practised all manner
of little deceits to spare his pride and speed his way towards an
honourable and respected career?

The house was very quiet.  Occasionally Hannah caught the sound of
Mrs Ward's soothing tones as she tried to console Wallie, who had
been lucky enough to come through his motor crash with no worse
injuries than a fractured arm and a few clean gashes made by broken
glass.  It wasn't Wallie's physical hurts that distressed him: he
would get over them in a couple of weeks.  Wallie's aches now were
in his heart, an apparently sincere regret over the reckless, smart-
alecky driving that had put his father's life in jeopardy.  Hannah
couldn't remember ever having seen Wallie candidly repentant over
any of his blunders.  This one seemed to have sobered him.

His mother was up there in his room now, telling him for the
hundredth time that he mustn't brood over this any more; that he
wasn't to blame; that he didn't mean to do it; that he hadn't
realized how fast he was going; that it wasn't his fault if the
tyre was defective.

Hannah wondered whether that sort of consolation was constructive.
She doubted if it was even kind.  If Wallie was having a thoughtful
hour, observing himself as a heedless menace to other people's
lives, surely his painful injuries had brought him a right to
whatever benefit he might now derive from his self-inspection.
Doubtless Marcia Ward was getting a measure of comfort out of the
sweetly maternal murmurs she was bestowing.  "There, there!" she
was cooing, gently.  "Now, now!"  But what Wallie needed most was a
chance to look himself over in private.  The fact was that the
comfort Marcia offered him wasn't effective because it wasn't true.
Wallie always drove too fast and had liked to brag about it in the
face of admonitions, police warnings, arrests; and on one
humiliating occasion a whole night in gaol at Kankakee, where he
had been gathered in too late for bail to be arranged.

Tinkering up old cars and driving them like a demon had been so
much more interesting than the University that he had dropped out
in the middle of his senior year, and hadn't done anything
profitable since, to Paul's chagrin, disgust, and sorrow.  They had
had many bitter words about it.

"Leaving your own future out of it, that doesn't interest you,"
Paul had stormed, "how do you suppose it makes ME look--a
university dean--enforcing discipline on refractory students?  I
try to tell some impudent youngster that he is a worthless cub who
deserves a spanking, and I know he is grinning inside and wishing
he dared to say to me, 'Maybe you'd better trot off home and give
your own cub a licking!'"

Hannah sat inert, conscious of the endearing tones of Marcia's
voice absolving Wallie of all blame and bidding him stop his
worrying over something he couldn't help.  She wished she had a
right to say to Mrs Ward, "If Wallie is having a little session
with himself, why interfere with it?"  And for a while she pondered
the subject.  If Paul wanted to forgive Wallie and say, "That's all
right, my boy.  Don't fret any more.  We'll both forget it now," he
had every right to do so; but did Marcia have the right to step in
between Wallie and his remorse?  It was a nice little point and
deserved a lot of thinking about.  There was a good deal of that
going on.  So many people thought they were doing a service by
saying to their remorseful friends in some crisis of their own
concocting:  "Do quit worrying about it!  You couldn't help it!
Don't torture yourself any further!"  But what right had THEY to be
offering absolution so cheerfully and cheaply?  Wouldn't it be ever
so much better to let people torture themselves into some valorous
decision to make things right, if possible?  Take Wallie's case,
for example.  The catastrophe he had caused might almost pay for
itself if it demanded that he mend his ways and make a decisive
right-about-face into a useful life.

"A useful life!" whispered Hannah.  "Dear Peter, I wish I could do
something for YOU! . . .  But maybe"--she reflected--"maybe Peter
will be strong enough to resist this temptation."  Then she shook
her head hopelessly.  What could you expect of a twenty-year-old
boy confronted with an alluring offer like that?

She returned to Thomas's letter.


Of course (he was saying now) I haven't said to Peter that he must
choose between a fortune and a profession.  I haven't cared to put
it that way.  But the fact remains that if Peter proposes to earn
his own living, there seems no good reason why he should inherit a
legacy.  If he wants to provide for his own future, that is his
privilege.  In that case, however, I should be disposed to leave my
money to some worthy institution.  I should not take such action to
compensate for my own disappointment, or to penalize Peter for
failing to conform to my wishes; I should be doing it because I
think it would be the right and just thing to do under the
circumstances.  Peter now has this momentous matter under
consideration.  Naturally he is a bit upset over the necessity for
making a decision.  I do not wish to press him too urgently, but
the fact is that I am not growing any younger, and if we are to
take this cruise we should do it now.

Peter may or may not solicit your counsel.  After all, it is a
personal matter; and regardless of whatever influences are brought
to bear on him, the decision will be more satisfactory to him in
the long run if it is made without too much help.  I do not intend
to coax him.  I have stated my proposition.  It is now up to him to
accept or decline.  I have given him until June first to scrap it
out with himself.  It has occurred to me that it was only fair and
sportsmanlike for me to give you this information.


Hannah reviewed Lydia's letter.  It said:


I'm afraid you're going to be disturbed about this, Hannah.  You've
always been so keen on Peter's making a great name for himself.
But really, if he had this fortune he might do more actual good
with it than he could by working in chemistry.  Anyhow, it seems a
pretty big thing for a young fellow to throw away, doesn't it?  Do
write and tell me how you feel about it.


It was easy to see how Lydia felt about it.  Hannah could hardly
hope for any assistance from that quarter.  Was there anything she
could do?

Sally had been so fond of Peter.  What would she be likely to think
of the problem he was facing?  Perhaps she wouldn't care very much
now.  She never talked about him any more.  Of course that didn't
mean that Sally had left off thinking about him.  There had not
been much opportunity for a confidential chat with Sally recently--
not since she had gone East to college.

Hannah often wondered whether she had done the right thing that day
at Regent's Park when, glimpsing Peter on the elephant, she had
impulsively decided to hustle Sally away before she too saw him.
It was a cruel thing to do, but what else could she have done?  She
dared not risk a meeting that would involve not only a renewal of
Peter's and Sally's friendship but an inevitable collision with
Thomas also.  No--too much heartache had already been invested in
this dilemma.  Hannah had cried herself to sleep that night.  She
had so longed to see Peter.  She had felt traitorous, running away
from him.

It was noon now.  Sally would be coming back presently.  She had
been over at the University Hospital since early morning.  There
was nothing she could do but sit in the tiny lounge a few feet from
her father's door and anxiously watch the faces of the white-robed
people who went through it.  They would smile sympathetically into
Sally's worried eyes as they passed.  The young students would
probably have errands in that neighbourhood, hopeful of an
introduction.  Sally was growing more beautiful every day.  Her
childish chubbiness was gone, and the round little face had
ovalled, but the wide blue eyes and the yellow-gold hair and the
deep dimples remained to remind Hannah of those enchanted days
when, yearning for her own child, she had cuddled Sally close to
her breast.

Pauls' serious condition had been very hard on Sally.  She had been
summoned home from Northampton by an inexcusably frantic telegram.
Mrs Ward had dictated it over the 'phone, and it was as shrilly
hysterical as she herself.  So Sally had gone through all the
agonies of losing her father, that night, on her lonesome journey.

Hannah glanced at the kitchen clock.  Sally had telephoned at
eleven to say there was no change.  She would come home for
luncheon, she said, though she wasn't hungry.  Hannah had received
the message and relayed it to Mrs Ward, who, having found it
impossible to sit over there and be stared at when there wasn't
anything she could do, had decided to give her time to Wallie this
morning.  Wallie, she declared, needed her more, just now, than
Paul.

The front door opened, and Sally came in softly and went on through
to the kitchen.  Hannah glanced up inquiringly.  Even in her worry
and weariness Sally was, she thought, the most charming creature
she had ever seen.

"Doctor Lansing says it's about fifty-fifty, Hannah.  But oh, he
looks so tired and drawn--and so little, too, as if he'd been sick
for years."  Sally laid her pale cheek against Hannah's.  "I'm
awfully afraid.  I don't see how he can possibly get well."

"Your father," said Hannah, steadying her voice, "has always been a
very strong man, with a remarkable power to pull himself through
all sorts of trouble."

"But that's just it!  He isn't pulling!  He's too badly hurt to
try."  Sally's voice was breaking.  "Even when he's fully conscious
he acts as if he didn't care.  I said that to Doctor Lansing and he
thought so too.  He said it would certainly help if Daddy had any
interest in getting well.  I tried to be cheerful--and encouraging--
but he just smiled a little and shook his head.  I'm afraid he has
given it up.  It's so unlike him, Hannah.  That's what frightens
me."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Mrs Ward and Sally had driven over to the hospital at about two-
thirty.  Hannah had promised she would go up to Wallie's room
occasionally and see if he wanted anything.  At three, she had
taken him a glass of iced pineapple juice and some freshly made
ginger-snaps.  Wallie had been lying with his face to the wall, but
turned his head disinterestedly when Hannah came in.

"Something to drink, eh?" he muttered, trying to be gracious.  "Put
it down there, Hannah.  I don't believe I want anything now."

"Rather not talk?"

Wallie shook his head.

"There isn't much to talk about, is there?" he said dully.
"Feeling pretty wormy to-day, Hannah."

"That's encouraging," remarked Hannah dryly.

Wallie drew a sour grin and muttered that she was a great comfort,
to which Hannah replied, "I think I COULD be, if I had a chance."

This seemed to stir his curiosity slightly, and he sat up in bed,
wincing as he protected his broken arm.  Hannah helped him stack up
the pillows, and handed him the cold glass.

"Very well," he said, after he had drained it.  "If you've
something you want to say, Hannah, say it.  You've a chance now.
Perhaps you're wanting to tell me I'm no good.  If that's it,
you'll be wasting your time--for I know it."

Hannah sat down on the edge of the bed and faced him with sober
eyes.

"I'd like to tell you a story, Wallie," she said, in the same tone
she had often used when he was a child.  "It's about yourself when
you were a small boy."

"That ought to be diverting.  I was very good, I think, and showed
a great deal of promise--when I was a boy."

"Well, not always, and certainly not on the occasion I am thinking
about."  Hannah's eyes strayed to the window, and her reminiscence
took on the mood of a soliloquy.  "You had insisted on keeping up
when you should have been in bed.  It was one of the very bad colds
you used to have.  You were determined to go to a basketball game--"

"Yeah, I remember; and had pneumonia and nearly died.  I wish to
God I had!"

Hannah nodded a tentative agreement to this statement.

"I've wondered, too," she said, reflectively, "several times,
during this past year, whether the costly investment your father
made in you, the night of the crisis in your pneumonia, was really
worth all the thousands of dollars he was willing to risk on you;
for you were so very sick that--"

Wallie's dull eyes widened and his lips parted inquiringly.

"I don't think I heard about that," he growled.  "Father didn't
have thousands of dollars to risk on anything then, did he?"

"Well, I'll tell you all about it.  It's time you knew.  You should
have been told before.  It might have saved your father's life--if
you had known.  Of course I don't know how much effect it might
have had on you, but it might have been worth trying."

"Well," said Wallie, frowning impatiently, "carry on!"

Hannah quietly carried on.  She told it all.  There was no effort
to dramatize it, no necessity for dramatizing it; the strange
chronicle furnished its own dramatics.  And it was a long story,
too, prefaced by a prologue that recited Paul's desperate struggle
to help himself out of debt, his discouraging work with the
refrigerator, his happy completion of his task, his frantic rage
when his rights to it were stolen.  And then came the stirring tale
of that night when, with his little boy's life hanging by a fragile
thread, he had promised to give up his sole remaining chance to
save his fortune in the hope that some power beyond himself might
save his son.

Wallie's eyes were cloudy when Hannah paused.

"I don't believe in such stuff," he muttered.

"Neither did he," said Hannah gently.  "That, I think, was the
brave part of it.  He didn't put any faith in it.  But your life
was so precious that he--he took a chance--anyway."

There was a long silence.

"He never told me," said Wallie.

"No, he wouldn't . . .  It isn't the sort of thing people talk
about very much--especially when they're well and everything is
running normally."

Wallie leaned forward attentively on his good elbow.

"Do you think my father believes that his final success with his
refrigerator was related to that affair?"

"I don't know, Wallie."

"But you do think he got some sort of--what you call 'power' out of
it that helped him to his success?"

Hannah nodded.

Wallie was thoughtful for a while.  Then, his own part in the whole
wretched tragedy sweeping over him, he closed his eyes tightly and
shook his head as when a swimmer shakes the water out of his hair.
Suddenly his eyes were suffused with tears.

"Do you think he still has it?" he asked earnestly.

"I don't know, dear.  If he has, he may be too far gone to lay hold
on it."

"Why don't you go over there and talk to him, Hannah?"  Wallie's
tone was firm, commanding.  "You know more about it than anyone
else.  You two understand each other.  Go there and tell him he has
simply got to take hold!  Tell him!"

Hannah shook her head slowly; then, looking him steadily in the
eyes, she said:  "I'm not the one to tell him.  Wallie.  It
wouldn't rouse him, coming from me."

Impetuously, and for all the world like Paul's impulsiveness in
moments of stress, Wallie swept back the sheet with his sound arm,
thrust a well-muscled leg over the edge of the bed, his face
twisted with emotion.

"Then, by God, I'LL go and tell him!" he shouted.  "Get me my
clothes."

Hannah had hastily risen to clear the way for this unexpected
outburst.  Standing before him, she laid an outspread hand firmly
on his forehead, tipped it back, and searched his agitated eyes
with a look that stilled him.

"WHAT are you going to tell him?" she demanded huskily.  "What do
YOU know about the power your father found?  Do you think it would
help him for you to gallop into his room and make a scene, when you
wouldn't know what to say to him, and wouldn't know what you were
talking about?"

Wallie's shoulders slumped and he hung his head dejectedly.

"You're right, Hannah," he muttered.  "It would be nothing but
noisy impudence.  I'm not the one to do it."

Hannah sat down on the bed beside him and took his good hand in
both of hers.

"Whatever is said to your father, Wallie, must be spoken very
quietly.  This power we have been talking about is not boisterous.
You don't shout it at people.  He wouldn't recognize it if you
brought it to him that way."

There was a long pause.

"I wonder"--Wallie turned to face Hannah contritely--"I wonder if
it would do any good if I went over there and said, quietly, so as
not to upset him, 'If you'll only get well, I'll go back to school
and--and try to pay up for what you did for me when _I_ was sick'."

Hannah's sudden intake of breath sounded like a sob.

"I think he'd like that, Wallie," she said brokenly.

"That would make him know I was in earnest--about wanting him to
get well, wouldn't it?"

"Yes--and it would be a comfort to him."  Hannah hesitated for a
moment.  "Now, if you were able to go just one step farther with
that, you might make him think of his power."

"Tell me, Hannah, I'll do ANYTHING!"

"Well--don't dicker with Them.  They might not like it.  Come the
whole way with your promise.  Burn all your bridges!  He did that
for YOU!"

Wallie's fingers tightened on her hand.

"Very well, Hannah," he said firmly, "I'll tell him that no matter
what happens I'm going back to college, and I'm going to play the
game straight with him from now on--whether he lives to see me do
it, or not!"

Hannah lifted his hand and pressed it hard against her breast, then
laid her wet cheek against it caressingly.  There was a long moment
of silence.  Then, dashing the tears from her eyes, she rose,
walked steadily to the wardrobe, opened the door, and turning,
said, "What suit do you want to wear?"

"You mean you want me to go?"

"Yes," said Hannah.  "You're the one to tell him."

"You think he'll know what I'm talking about?"

"Yes--and he'll know that YOU KNOW what you're talking about."

                        *  *  *  *  *

Sally was starting back to Northampton on the eleven o'clock train.
It was eight now.  Hannah had been helping her with the packing.
The door stood open.  Mrs Ward, tenderly solicitous, fluttered in
occasionally to show her interest, and restlessly fluttered out
again to keep company with Wallie in his room across the hall.

Upon each of her returns to him, Wallie dutifully put aside his
mathematics and the drawing-board--he was working hard to take a
calculus examination that he had flunked while in process of
completing his education two years ago--and greeted her with an
amiable smile.

Marcia couldn't quite make Wallie out.  Of course it was to be
expected that Paul's definite improvement would take a heavy load
off Wallie's heart.  He had been so remorseful.  Indeed Marcia had
worried more than she liked to admit to herself over the ghastly
possibility of his impulsively destroying himself.  Now that his
father had taken a new lease on life, Wallie's dour mood would be
lifted.  Doubtless in a day or two he would resume his normal
habits of thought, a half-cynical, half-flippant attitude which,
while it exasperated her at times, was ever so much better than his
recent state of sullen self-scourging.

But the Wallie who had risen from his sackcloth and ashes upon the
announcement that his father would recover was a new Wallie with
whom Marcia had had no previous acquaintance.  The adolescent
cockiness and bravado seemed to have been suddenly outgrown.  Her
pampered boy had become a man.

The kinks in Marcia's world were straightening out.  Paul was going
to get well.  Wallie was going back to school.  In spite of her
satisfaction, however, the Paul she had recovered seemed changed
somehow; and as for Wallie, she was almost shy in his presence.
Suddenly remembering something she must do, Marcia would leave his
room, presently darting back again to see if she knew him any
better.

As for the interview Wallie had had with his father, she knew
nothing more than that the boy had made some promises and Paul had
reacted favourably to them.  Now Paul wanted to be well again, and
Wallie wanted to mend his conduct.  All this was natural enough.
But it had done something to both of them that wasn't quite
explained by the simple facts in the case.  They both seemed so
thoughtful, so uncannily alike in their quiet seriousness.  Marcia
wondered if they were going to remain that way; and if so, whether
she was going to understand them and like them as much as before.
It was as if they had seen the same ghost, and it had laid the same
tranquillizing finger on their lips.

"Is your calculus interesting?" asked Marcia.

"No," admitted Wallie, "I can't say that it is.  I'm not studying
it because I like it, but because I have to pass an examination in
it."

"I think colleges are silly," said Marcia sympathetically.  "The
idea of making people learn things they don't want to know--just to
accumulate a required number of credits!"

Wallie grinned.

"Hannah says a little drudgery is good for you," he drawled.

"Well, Hannah ought to know," observed Marcia, daintily dealing
with a yawn.  "She's had plenty of it.  You and Hannah," she added,
after a pause, "have become quite well acquainted lately.  Whatever
do you find to talk about--her hobby, maybe?"

"Peace, and that sort of thing, you mean?"

"Yes--letting people use you for a doormat."

"Quite the contrary.  Hannah likes to talk about good, hard, stern
discipline.  She's an odd number, Mother.  She thinks people ought
to deal very gently with everybody but themselves.  I rather fancy
she wears a hair shirt herself."

"Maybe.  She never told me.  Hannah keeps her own counsel better
than anyone I ever met.  I know little more about her past than she
told me the first afternoon she came to us--when you were four.
Perhaps she has told your father about herself.  I don't know.
They have always seemed to understand each other--rather better, I
have sometimes felt, than I have understood either of them."

"I guess you and Dad understand each other, all right," consoled
Wallie.  "I think I understand him, too, a little better than ever
before.  He's a wonderful person, you know.  There's a lot to him
that doesn't show up on the surface.  But of course you know that."

Marcia nodded, and wondered what Wallie was talking about.  Paul
was an open book.  You could read his thoughts at a thousand yards.
That had been one of his troubles, his inability to keep his plans
to himself.  She smiled.

"Well," she remarked knowingly, "I never thought of your father as
a deeply secretive person.  He mighty nearly ruined himself one
time, offering confidences to a man who was almost a stranger--that
Ellis person--the one who stole his first refrigerator . . . and
then he just backed down and let the fellow make off with it.
There wasn't anything very deep about that.  No--one of your
father's chief charms has been his boyish enthusiasms.  They have
got him into trouble a few times, but I'd much rather see him that
way than--than mysterious."

"Hannah thinks it's a pretty good thing for a person to have a few
little tricks tucked away."

Marcia chuckled, and pursed her lips half derisively.

"Like the smart fellow in the advertisement who studied French
privately and amazed his girl by parley-vousing glibly at a
restaurant?"

Wallie laughed.  "Hannah would have the fellow study French
privately, I think, and then do all his parley-vousing without an
audience."

"I call that smug selfishness," said Marcia impatiently.

"Well, Hannah believes in selfishness--of a sort.  She thinks it's
more important to be concerned about your relation to yourself than
your relation to anyone else."

"Including members of your own household, I presume."

"Yes," agreed Wallie, "including them, too."

Marcia smiled a bit reproachfully into Wallie's eyes.

"I hope you're not going to adopt that programme.  Wallie, and--and
leave ME out."  Marcia wished she hadn't said it.  She had implied
her observation of a change in his general attitude, and now had
solicited an explanation which he might not wish to make.  She
hoped it would not cause any constraint between them.  Wallie had
made no response.  So, finding the conversation perilously perched
high and dry, with the tide going out, Marcia said she would run
over and see how Sally was getting on with her packing.  Finding
the door closed, she went on downstairs slowly, feeling suddenly
lonesome.  Strolling to the kitchen, she halved a large grapefruit,
painstakingly dug out the seeds, found two plates and spoons, and
returned to Wallie, resolved to avoid the theme that had closed,
unsatisfactorily, on a diminished seventh.  As she passed Sally's
door she heard the quiet murmur of Hannah's voice, and wished she
knew what they were talking about.

"Brought you something, darling," she said brightly.

"Thanks, Marcia."  Once in a great while he called her that and it
made her almost foolishly happy.

"I'll kiss you for that," she said--and did.

"You're very pretty," said Wallie softly, which made everything all
right again for Marcia.  Wallie hadn't escaped her, after all.

                        *  *  *  *  *

"You needn't have bothered to press that old foulard, Hannah,"
Sally was saying.  "I haven't been wearing it anywhere but in my
room."

"I love this new white satin gown.  It's exquisite."  Hannah
caressed it with finger-tips that were slightly dismayed over their
roughness.

"So do I, Hannah," Sally's tone was very tender.  "Special
reasons," she added, giving Hannah a comradely wink.

"Wore it to a party, I suppose, where you found a very nice boy.
Is that what you're trying to say?  Want to tell me about him--or
is it too sweet a secret?"

Sally strolled across to the door and quietly closed it.

"Yes, it really is too sweet a secret, and I want to tell you about
him.  First of all, he is a sophomore at New Haven."  Sally paused
and met Hannah's eyes soberly enough, but inwardly amused a little
over her expression of sudden interest.  "He has dark hair that
must have been quite curly when he was a little boy, and rather
deep-set grey eyes.  He is tall and athletic.  There is a deep
cleft between his lower lip and his chin, and when he smiles his
lips have a funny little pucker as if he had thought of something
more than he didn't intend you to know.  And when he looks at you
sideways--like this--quite seriously, you wonder if he approves of
you, and just as you're beginning to feel a little annoyed over
this frank examination, and maybe are about to say, 'So what?' as
saucily as you can, his lips pucker into that smile again that does
things to your breathing.  And the worst part of it is that you
can't keep him from knowing about it.  At least you feel that he
does, and that doesn't help you any.  But we haven't said a word."

"Why, Sally!" murmured Hannah.  "Imagine your falling in love.
You're only a child."  She sat down in a low chair, still holding
the party dress folded across her arms.  "I thought it was odd your
bringing this gown along when there wouldn't be any use for it.
Wanted to be able to look at it occasionally; was that it?"

Sally nodded, and sank down on the cushion beside Hannah's chair.

"Partly," she confessed shyly.  "And partly because I wanted to
show it to you."  She slowly traced a pattern on Hannah's knee.

"That's sweet," said Hannah unsteadily.  "I suppose this boy will
be seeing you now, every chance he gets."

Sally's eyes were downcast as she continued to follow the little
design on Hannah's dress with a nervous forefinger.

"I'm afraid not," she said demurely.  "I think he means to go away--
to be gone for a long time."

Hannah swallowed hard and hoped her heart wasn't pounding so Sally
could feel the beat of it.

"Have you seen him often?" she asked huskily

"Yes."

"And now he's going away?"

"He says he's afraid he can't do otherwise."

"And you think he loves you?"

"No," said Sally slowly, "I don't think he does--or he wouldn't go"

"But of course you couldn't say that to him."

"No--certainly NOT!  He hasn't said anything that would give me a
right to object to his going--clear to Timbuctoo--and staying for
ever!"  Sally laid her cheek against Hannah's knee.

Marcia tapped lightly on the door now, and came in to inquire how
they were getting on, and could she do anything?  It was nearly
time for Sally to go.

Hannah went downstairs to call a taxi, and Sally presently joined
her in the kitchen.  She seemed to have something important on her
mind.  Slipping an arm around Hannah, she said confidentially, "Do
you know that Peter was in London when we were, and saw us at
Regent's Park, and lost us in the crowd?"

For an instant Hannah hesitated, debating a reply.

"Peter was riding the elephant," Sally went on.  "He saw us and as
soon as he could he set out to find us.  Hannah, I remember how
flustered you were, and how anxious you seemed to get away from
there.  Tell me truly--did you see Peter?"

Hannah nodded, without looking up.

"Why did you do that, Hannah?"  Sally's tone was very serious.

"Because--because I thought it ever so much better if you and Peter
didn't see each other any more."

"Why?"

"I'm afraid I can't tell you."

There was a momentary silence.

"I've always felt that you would rather we kept apart, and I've
often wondered why.  You are so fond of Peter, and I think you are
of me, too."

"Maybe that's the reason, Sally."

There was another pause.

"But it wasn't you who kept Peter's letters from me; I know that,
Hannah . . .  Please tell me it wasn't you."

"No, dear."

"You're not offended--my asking?"

"No, I'm glad you asked, so I could tell you."  Hannah drew Sally
close to her, and lowering her voice almost to a whisper said:  "If
I were you, I would try now to forget all about Peter.  He's a dear
boy, and I don't blame you for liking him, but--Sally, you mustn't
count on him now."

"How do you mean, Hannah--I mustn't count on him?"

"Well, it's just a bit hard to say, for I love him very much, but
I'm afraid that Peter isn't going to amount to anything after all."



CHAPTER XVII


It was an unexpectedly gorgeous Sunday morning in mid-May, the
first really warm day of the season.  Yesterday there had been a
chilly rain and Peter had feared their visit would have to occur
indoors where there might be small opportunity for the confidential
talk he wanted to have with Sally.  This morning's blue sky and
sunshine furnished a pleasant surprise.

The sporty grey coup which Uncle Thomas had given him on his last
birthday industriously but quietly devoured the miles, levelled the
hills, and straightened the curves on the scenic road to
Northampton, where, in a little downtown park, Sally would be
waiting at noon sharp for his arrival.  It had been a month since
he had seen her.

A sudden inspiration had descended on Peter.  It was an ideal day
for a picnic.  That would be ever so much more fun than a dingy
booth in some wayside halt swarming with holiday motorists.  There
were a few things on his mind which could be discussed more
satisfyingly out in the open.  It had been difficult to have an
uninterrupted talk with Sally.

Pausing at a delicatessen shop in Hartford, he picked up the
makings of an out-of-doors lunch.  Sally would probably laugh when
she unwrapped the things he had bought--the leather-bound edition
of a roasted chicken, a dismaying quantity of big dill pickles, a
huge bag of potato-chips, and a bottle of olives which he suspected
would have to be opened like champagne as the christening of a
ship.

Stowing his purchases, Peter resumed his journey, the balmy breeze
swirling about him in the open car and tipping up the flat brim of
his soft grey hat after the manner of Napoleon's.  But he did not
feel much like Napoleon.  His perplexities of the past few weeks
had done something to his spirits.  He was aware that this was a
golden day and he knew he ought to be very happy, for he was going
to see Sally, but he wished he might meet her in a less perturbed
state of mind.  It might be the last time they would meet for a
couple of years, and who knew what might happen in the meantime?
Certainly he was in no position to put in a claim to Sally, but to
take the risk of letting someone else make off with her, while he
was indolently ship-ahoying on the other side of the globe, was
unthinkable.  He had already tossed and fretted enough at night,
worrying over his present problems, to realize what life would
amount to, in far-away waters, brooding over the probability that
he had lost her.

It wasn't quite fair to be confronted, at his age, with the fateful
decision Uncle Thomas had asked him to make.  The majority of his
classmates had no definite ideas about the professional courses
they might elect and felt under no compulsion to declare what roads
they meant to travel.  Uncle Thomas wanted him to say, within the
next six weeks, whether his proposal would be accepted.  Begging
for more time, Peter had wangled a small concession out of him, as
to the date, but it mustn't be later than July first; for the yacht
was ready, the crew already signed up, and Uncle Thomas restlessly
pacing about, tugging his short moustache, and watching for the
postman.

Of course, Uncle Thomas had meant it all in the kindest possible
way, and for that affection and generosity one must be deeply
grateful.  He had counted on this round-the-world voyage with such
earnest expectation that it would be almost a crime to disappoint
him.  Uncle Thomas was the sort of person you wanted to humour in
all his whims.  He was such a helpless, pathetically lonesome
creature, with not one interest in life except his devotion to
Peter.  It did no good to reflect hotly that Uncle Thomas was
taking altogether too much for granted when he bought that yacht
for the express purpose of the cruise, without consulting Peter's
wishes.  No--Uncle Thomas mustn't be hurt.  You simply had to do
what he wanted even if it ran counter to your own best interests.

Examining his motives, Peter honestly believed it was this sense of
duty to requite Uncle Thomas for his devotion that was driving him
to an acceptance of the proposal.  To be sure, it was--as his
mother had written--no small matter to throw away a fortune.  But
he felt very sure that it would have been easier to forgo the
promised legacy than endure the thought that he had proved himself
ungrateful and inconsiderate of Uncle Thomas's feelings.

The grey coup insisted on passing a big truck on a hill; then,
thinking better of it, lagged behind and loitered all the way up
until the crest was reached and the coast was clear.  Peter,
suddenly free to speed on his way, wished the visibility on his
problem would similarly lengthen and show him the road.  That was
the trouble: you couldn't estimate the future possibilities of your
choice in this thing, no matter how you chose.  Had it been a clean-
cut decision between pleasure and duty, it might be easier to
handle.  But the duty part of it was not very urgent.  He felt
under no strong obligation to prepare himself for chemical
engineering.  Nobody had asked him to, not even his mother.  She
would be pleased, for sentimental reasons.  But the fact that his
father, whom he couldn't remember, had been a chemist, did not
demand his taking to the same profession.  And he wasn't even sure
that he had any marked talent for it.  He liked chemistry above all
other subjects, but one might work in a laboratory for a lifetime
without accomplishing anything very important.  No--it was just one
of those awkward problems that you couldn't deal with spiritedly.
It offered no challenge, either one way or the other.

Peter glanced at the clock and reduced his speed to forty-five.
There was plenty of time.  But it was difficult to idle along.  One
felt oneself under severe time-pressure, these days.  You had a
decision to make promptly--promptly!

Naturally, Sally would think it quite dreadful for him to quit
college now.  There had been no chance to talk about it seriously.
He had told her of Uncle Thomas's proposed cruise, and she had
simply said, "How interesting!"  Brought up in a professor's
family, Sally would undoubtedly feel that a failure to finish one's
course was next thing to a tragedy; or would she?  It might be
interesting to find out how strongly she felt on the subject.

He devoutly wished he knew exactly where he stood with Sally.  That
might help him to a decision.  It was clear enough that she liked
him.  They were thoroughly congenial.  But, so far as he could see,
their warm comradeship--in her own regard--was nothing more than a
continuation of the childhood friendliness that had lapsed through
no fault of their own.

If only she hadn't been so blandly, guilelessly forthright in her
attitude towards him!  When she introduced him to her friends, you
would have thought he was her brother.  Even on the occasion of
that first meeting, after they had been separated for so long--that
purely accidental meeting at the tennis tournament in Boston--she
had held his hand tightly in both of hers and, smiling up into his
eyes, had exclaimed, "PETER!  I thought I would never see you or
hear from you again."  There hadn't been anything coy or shy about
it.

Late that afternoon she had insisted on his joining her party of
half a dozen, presenting him to them without the slightest trace of
bashfulness or diffidence, and when she left--the Northamptonians
were taking an early evening train--she said, "Will you answer my
letters now, Peter, if I write to you?"

"I like THAT," he had countered, "after the way you let me down."

"You mean--you did write to me, Peter?" she asked soberly.

"Of course!  Dozens!  You didn't get them?"

"Sorry, Peter."

"But they were sent to your home address, Sally."

And then Peter had been on the point of inquiring if anyone was
living there who might not want them to write to each other, but
decided that this wasn't the time or place to introduce so delicate
a subject.  Besides, it was time for her to go.

Next day he had written to her.  It was the beginning of a
correspondence that had delighted him, and perplexed him, too; for
Sally's candid interest in him was so open and above-board that he
felt she would be amazed if she knew his own sensations in regard
to her.  She was his grown-up playmate; that was all.

Then there had been the sophomore party at Northampton, with Sally
showing him off to her friends, her arm slipped through his
companionably, her fingers tightening on his sleeve, her wide blue
eyes beaming up at him as artlessly as if she were his twin sister!
She couldn't have the slightest speck of romantic affection for him--
and do that!

Thinking it all over, late that night, he pictured himself taking
Sally out of the crowd and saying tenderly, "I think you're a
darling!  I think you're the most wonderful girl in the world!"
And then Sally would unquestionably reply, without a bit of
restraint, "I'm so glad, Peter.  I think you're wonderful, too.
Isn't it fun to be together?"

Then there had been another party when he had actually contrived a
moment alone with her, conscious that his heart was beating loud
enough to be heard and finding his voice unsteady when he spoke to
her.

"You look simply stunning to-night, Sally," he had said, and she
had replied instantly, "I hoped you would like me in this dress,
Peter.  It's the nicest one I ever had.  Makes me look tall, don't
you think?"

It did make her look tall, but that wasn't half of it.  The white
satin gown modelled every lovely curve adorably.  Sally didn't seem
to know that.

"I like my new shoes, too," she added, navely inviting his
inspection as if he might have been her mother.  THAT, reflected
Peter, later, was the hell of it.  She was so deucedly innocent and
ingenuous.  She took him for granted.  Their relationship was the
same as when they had played the hotly contested game of tennis on
the school court in Waterloo.  To Sally, he was still that boy with
the friendly dog and the limping rabbits.

Sometimes he grinned when he thought of the astonishment she might
display in her startled eyes if he were to blurt out, suddenly,
"You belong to me and I want you!  Do you understand?  I want you
for mine--for ever!"  That would be something different, something
that had never crossed her mind.  He would not be surprised if she
winced, and pressed the backs of her fingers hard against her
pretty mouth, and replied thickly, "Oh, Peter--you've spoiled
everything!  Why, my DEAR, I never thought of you that way!"

                        *  *  *  *  *

She ran out to the kerb, slammed the door that he had opened for
her, slipped over very close beside him, and said softly, "Isn't it
going to be a lark?"

"It's worse than that," warned Peter, with a sidelong wink.  "We're
having a picnic."

"On what?"

"I brought some stuff along."

"How wonderful!"

"Better wait till you see it. . . .  How did you leave your
father?"

"He's getting well.  It will take some time.  Wallie's going back
to the University has bucked him up a lot.  Daddy's so elated.  But
I wrote you that.  Thanks for all the nice letters. . . .  I know
just the place for our picnic, Peter.  Carry on until I tell you
where to turn."

"How was Aunt Hannah?"

"Fit as a fiddle--except she doesn't want you to go cruising.  She
is fretting about it, a little.  You know she takes a tremendous
interest in everything you do.  She wishes you wouldn't give up
college."

"I know--but she doesn't understand.  Aunt Hannah"--Peter
hesitated, not quite sure what he had intended to say--"doesn't
understand."

"Well--I don't suppose you need to worry about what she thinks,"
said Sally comfortingly.  "It's your own affair.  It isn't quite
the same as if she were your really truly aunt.  In that case--"

"But she is, you know," contradicted Peter, eyes steadily on the
busy road.  "What made you think she wasn't?"

"Because she told me," said Sally casually, "and I don't think she
meant it as a secret.  She said that she and your mother had just
taught you to call her 'aunt' when you were a child.  I should have
thought you knew, by this time."

The grey coup had slackened speed until it was barely moving.
Peter turned to face Sally with bewildered eyes.

"But that can't be true!" he declared soberly.  "You see, it's her
being my aunt that explains everything about Uncle Thomas--and what
he is doing for me."  Peter drew the car to the side of the road,
turned off the motor, and proceeded with his story.  "I had
expected to tell you all this, anyway.  It clears up a lot of
things.  It will help you understand how I'm fixed.  When I was in
Paris, I learned accidentally that Uncle Thomas really IS my uncle.
And that accounts for everything he wants to do for me.  My Aunt
Hannah, once upon a time, was his WIFE."

"Peter!  Are you sure?  Did you ask him?"

"No," he muttered, rather reluctantly.  "Uncle Thomas hadn't told
me about it and I didn't like to worry him with questions.  He
isn't the sort of person you feel free to examine about his own
business."

"You could have asked your mother," suggested Sally, in a tone of
gentle reproof.  "Surely she would tell you anything you want to
know about it."

"Yes--I suppose you would think that, Sally."  Peter's face
registered uncertainty about the reasonableness of what he was
going to say.  "But it's this way.  Ever since I can remember, my
mother and my Aunt Hannah have had a lot to talk about that
apparently didn't concern me, at all.  When I was a little boy,
they used to sit and talk by the hour in low tones.  I never
thought there was anything strange about it.  It was grown-up
conversation that I wouldn't understand.  In fact, I think it
pleased me that my mother and my aunt were so devoted to each
other, and I knew they were to me.  There were plenty of things
that adults had to say to one another that small children weren't
expected to know.  If Aunt Hannah and Mother had secrets, there
wasn't anything unnatural about that."

"And so you never asked any questions," observed Sally
comprehendingly.

Peter gave a little shrug and grinned.

"There weren't any I wanted to ask, really.  I think the first time
I ever felt any curiosity about Aunt Hannah was when I found out
that she worked at your house."

"And I told you that," murmured Sally self-reproachfully.  "I was
awfully sorry, Peter.  I'm always talking first--and thinking
afterwards.  And now I've done it again to-day, it seems.  But I
don't see why you should be kept in the dark about your own family
relationships.  That isn't quite fair!"

"Maybe not.  But it is just as I told you, Sally.  I was brought up
in an atmosphere pretty heavily charged with secrets.  I assumed
that the same thing was true with all children.  I was discouraged
from asking questions.  And even now I hesitate to prod into my
Aunt Hannah's story.  There seems to be no doubt about her having
been the wife of Uncle Thomas.  They separated and he married
again.  It was his second wife who told me."

Sally wondered how she had happened to do that, and Peter told her
the circumstances in considerable detail.

"What a horrible woman!" exclaimed Sally.  "She must have had a lot
of brass."

"That's one reason I couldn't get up the courage to say anything to
Uncle Thomas about the incident.  I felt he'd probably had enough
trouble with her.  I didn't want to worry him with any mention of
her--a quite killable creature."

"Perhaps what she told you was untrue."

"I think--"  Peter deliberated for an instant.  "I think I wanted
to believe her--after the first shock of it, for it cleared up
Uncle Thomas's affectionate interest in me.  I gathered that he
hoped to square with Aunt Hannah by befriending her nephew--his
nephew, too, by marriage. . . .  And now it seems that I'm not his
nephew, or Aunt Hannah's, either.  The whole thing is very queer."

Sally impulsively laid a hand on his arm and gave it a playful
little push.

"Then I think we had better forget it and have our picnic," she
advised maternally.  "It's this next country road to the left,
Peter.  There's a lovely pond and a grove, and maybe we will find
some trilliums.  Let's stop fretting about your Aunt Hannah."

"But she isn't my Aunt Hannah, after all.  That puts everything
groggy again."  Peter mechanically snapped the ignition on, spun
the engine, and slipped in the gears.  "What business has Uncle
Thomas--making me his heir--if Aunt Hannah is no relation of mine?"

"Maybe he likes you," suggested Sally gently.  "I don't see how he
could help it, really."

Peter regarded her fleetingly with one of his oddly pursed smiles.

"You like to spoof me, don't you?"

"I'm not spoofing.  If I were a man, like Uncle Thomas, and had no
dependants and a million dollars, I'd give it all to you, Peter--
just because you're so nice."

"Thanks, Sally," he said dryly, expectant of some whimsical
rejoinder.  Upon her failure to reply to this, he glanced towards
her with a half-reproving smile and encountered eyes that seemed
sincere.  "Poker face!" he grumbled.  "You ought to grin when you
say things like that."  He chuckled a little, and pretended a
warning look.  "Some time you'll tease me and I'll--I might take
you seriously."

"And then what?" inquired Sally lightly.  "Box my ears?"

"Which way do we go from here?" asked Peter, slowing down as a fork
in the road approached.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Sally, half to herself.  Then,
suddenly attentive, "Oh--it's the one to the right, Peter.  Not
very far now.  Over this little hill. . . .  Don't be so serious,
old owl.  We're going on a picnic."

"Was I so serious?" growled Peter.

Sally nodded.

"And funny, too," she added cryptically.

"You don't mean--witty."

"No," said Sally--"just funny."

They drove on in silence for a little while, Peter attentive to the
narrow road which had deteriorated to a mere grassy lane.

"Cute hat," remarked Peter, after a brief appraising glance.  "The
pink ribbon brings out the blue in your eyes."

"You're growing quite observing, little one," remarked Sally.
"Fancy your knowing I have blue eyes!"

"I like the pink sweater too," he continued courageously.  "It fits
you so well.  I mean," he amended quickly--"it suits you exactly."

"Then I'll wear it--always," she declared, "just for you."

"Better remember what I told you," warned Peter, "about teasing me--
with a straight face."

"There it is, Peter!  Isn't that lovely?"  The placid little lake
had suddenly come into view.  "And only two cars.  We'll have the
place almost to ourselves."

"Will you like that?" Peter heard himself saying, a bit unsteadily.

"Of course!  What a silly question!"

Peter drew a deep sigh, gave her what he felt was a good imitation
of a brotherly smile, and drawled, "Yes--it was, rather; wasn't
it?"

                        *  *  *  *  *

He sat, arms clasping his knees; and, at her request, making no
move to help her unwrap the packages containing their luncheon.
Seated there beside her on the steamer-rug, Peter was stirred to a
feeling of inexpressible tenderness for Sally as she busied herself
with the occupation that accented her womanhood, her potential
wifehood.  As he watched her pretty hands competently preparing the
food he had brought, the act seemed to symbolize a natural bond
between them.  Peter wondered if such a thought had occurred to
her, too, but doubted it.

"Had you any plans," she asked, "for demobilizing this chicken?"

"Let's be savages," said Peter, "and tear it to pieces with our
bare hands."

She passed it to him.

"You do it, Peter.  You're much more savage than I am."

"Was I cross?" he asked, proceeding to dismember the chicken.

"N-no--just glum--and remote."

"I was thinking, Sally.  I've a lot to think about.  I'm going
away."

"Well--you're not going to-day.  Let's enjoy ourselves together,
this once more.  Do tell me all about this cruise, Peter."

Half-heartedly, he repeated what Uncle Thomas had said about their
voyage, south to the Canal and into the Pacific; south, again,
touching at Guayaquil, Callao, Iquique, Valparaiso, and on to
Desolation Island--

"Desolation Island sounds quite jolly.  I suppose you'll be
desolating there about the time of the tennis match in Forest
Hills.  We'll miss you, Peter. . . .  Well--please go on.  Then,
from Desolation Island you sail to--"

"New Zealand.  It's a long haul, too, forty-five hundred miles; and
then to Sydney, and then down to Tasmania--"

"I don't like your going to Tasmania, Peter.  I've heard the girls
down there are so forward.  By the way, how do you happen to be
missing Tahiti?  If I were a boy with nothing to do but cruise
around with my uncle, I'd--"

Peter gave her a reproachful look.

"You're saying it the worst way, aren't you?"

"What would you like to have me do, Peter?"  She lifted sober eyes,
and then smiled a little.  "You aren't hoping I'll try to make your
trip sound glamorous, are you?  That would seem as if I really
wanted you to go."

"And you don't?" he asked, so wistfully that it made Sally laugh.

"Of course not, stupid!"  Then, suddenly serious, she added
pensively:  "I'll be quite lost without you, Peter.  We've been
friends so long.  Even when we were not hearing from each other, I
knew we should meet again some time and play together.  But now
you're going so far and to be gone so long.  I'll be awfully
lonely."

He glanced up to study her face.  There was no question about the
sincerity of what she was saying, but--"PLAY together."  That was
her thought.  They wouldn't be able to play together any more.
Just good chums, that's what they were.

"So many things might happen, Peter, in two years," she was
continuing.

"I know," he ventured.  "You might fall in love with somebody and
be married.  And then we couldn't play together any more, without
dragging the other fellow along."  He tried to make this sound
amusing, but Sally's smile was not spontaneous.

"Peter, dear"--her voice was self-consciously unsteady--"I AM in
love."

For an instant her confession fairly sickened him.  It was as if he
had been struck a sudden blow.  Then, realizing the implications of
any delay to felicitate her, he attempted a comradely smile, and
said, "I'm glad you wanted to tell me, Sally."

"I didn't want to really," she admitted, with averted eyes.  "It
wasn't easy to do."

"It shouldn't have been so hard to tell ME," muttered Peter.
"Almost like telling your brother. . . .  College fellow, I
suppose."

Sally nodded, and began gathering up the fragments of their
luncheon.

"Just finishing," she said, casually enough.

"But he'll let you complete your course, won't he?" demanded Peter,
his tone imputing a large selfishness to this unworthy beggar,
whoever he was.

"Oh, yes," said Sally, without looking up.  "We haven't begun to
think about marriage.  He's not in a position to make any plans."

"You mean--money?"

Sally nodded; then, swiftly abandoning her reflective mood, she
glanced up, smiled, scrambled to her feet, and said, "Enough on
that, Peter!  Let's run down to the lake and pretend it's a finger-
bowl."

                        *  *  *  *  *

The trip back to Northampton was distinguished for the long pauses
in their conversation.  Most of the talk was done by Peter who
seemed anxious to justify himself in Sally's eyes.

One little incident, as they were leaving their picnic ground, had
temporarily confused them both.  It had been a full five minutes
afterwards before either of them could think of anything
sufficiently casual to disguise the emotion suddenly stirred.

The air was growing chilly.  Peter had asked Sally, when they were
making ready to start, if she was warm enough, and she had
confessed a wish that she had brought a coat.  Unlocking the back
deck of the coup, Peter drew out a camel's hair overcoat and
invited her to slip into it.  She turned, held out her arms, and he
put it on her.  His hands touched her neck and lingered there for a
moment.  Then, without releasing her, he drew her around until she
faced him.  For a moment he held the lapels of the coat close to
her throat, with a pressure that couldn't possibly have been
mistaken for anything but a caress.  Sally looked up steadily into
his eyes, and smiled.  And he smiled into hers.  His heart speeded.
He had never been so close to Sally before.  Her lips were parted,
as if she might be about to ask a question.

"I'm afraid," he said rather huskily, "the sleeves are going to be
a little long."

She held them up, shook her hands free, and laid them gently on
Peter's forearms.  He proceeded to button the coat, seemingly
reluctant to have done with his task.

"It feels good, Peter," she said softly.  "I'm glad you thought of
it."

There was a momentary pause, Peter's eyes narrowing a little as he
regarded her indecisively.  The pink tip of Sally's tongue
moistened her lips, as she looked up with almost childish inquiry.
"It has been such fun," she said.

"Yes," replied Peter, with a deep-drawn breath.  "Shall we go now?"

They had been very quiet for nearly a mile.  Then Peter wanted to
talk again about Uncle Thomas.  You see--it was THIS way.  Uncle
Thomas mustn't be hurt.  Whether he was a real uncle or not didn't
alter the case very much now.  The fact was that he had invested
heavily in the yacht for the express purpose of this voyage with
Peter.

"He should have asked you first, I think," commented Sally.

"Of course--but that isn't the way Uncle Thomas does things.  He
assumes that everybody else likes what he likes.  It was to be a
wonderful surprise--don't you see?  Uncle Thomas never dreamed that
I might have some opinions on the subject."

"And--when you come back," said Sally, "I suppose there will be
another plan made for you--another voyage, maybe.  Will you like
that sort of life?"

"Perhaps not," admitted Peter glumly.  "But it might be regarded as
an education--of a sort.  And there's nothing to keep me here.  I
mean"--he added--"I've no obligations.  My mother is independent.
And I've no other ties."

They had agreed that it would be more prudent if Sally were dropped
in the downtown district.  Drawing up in front of the favourite
hotel, Peter reluctantly opened the car door.  Sally slipped out of
the coat and laid it on the seat.

"Good-bye," she said.  "I suppose we shall not be seeing each other
again.  Examinations--and everything."

Peter joined her on the pavement, signing to the doorman that he
was not stopping.  A small group of loungers regarded them with
mild interest.

"I don't like to say good-bye, Sally."  Peter's tone was tender.
"I'll be thinking about you--every day.  I'll send you my
addresses, if you don't think this bird of yours will object to
your writing."

"He won't care."

"Maybe you'll not let him know," suggested Peter, hopeful of
compounding a small intrigue to preserve their comradeship.

Sally tipped her head in doubt about the fairness of this
duplicity.  "I'm afraid he'll have to know," she said dutifully.

Peter reached out his hand and drew a dour little smile.

"Seems a very formal way to part," he muttered.

"Isn't it?" she agreed--"with everybody looking at us."

He grew suddenly reckless.

"I almost kissed you," he growled, "when I helped you on with my
coat."

Sally's eyes wavered for an instant.

"Yes," she said softly, "I know."

"What would you have thought?"

Sally laughed.

"It might not have done me any good to think," she answered
quietly.  "You're ever so much bigger and stronger than I am. . . .
'Bye, Peter!  Don't forget me!"

                        *  *  *  *  *

Wallie met her at the train when she arrived home the second Friday
afternoon in June.  He had Lucy Trimble with him.  The girls
greeted each other amiably.  Sally was surprised and amused over
Wallie's proprietary attitude towards Lucy.  There seemed to be a
great deal of understanding between them.

"You children," said Sally, while her baggage was being stowed in
the car, "seem to have become very well acquainted since I saw you
last."

"You don't know NOTHIN'," declared Wallie mysteriously.

"In that case," drawled Sally, "I'll sit in the back seat with the
freight, and you two cooing doves can hold hands."

"You can see that college has broadened her experience, Wallie."
Lucy turned around to bestow a companionable wink on her pert young
friend.

They teased each other pleasantly all the way home, with brief
intervals for Sally's queries about the household.  Her father was
coming home from the hospital next week; spending most of his time
now in the solarium, growing more and more restless to be up and
doing.  Roberta wasn't returning this summer.  Yes--Mother was well
and playing an enviable game of golf.  Hannah?--well, Hannah hadn't
been quite up to the mark lately; losing weight: something the
matter.

"She needs another vacation," thought Wallie.

Sally made no comment.  Poor Hannah--fretting her heart out over
Peter's going away, and leaving college.  But why should she let it
trouble her so?  After all--she wasn't responsible for Peter.  And
it wasn't quite like Hannah to be dismal very long about anything.

Marcia was waiting for them at the door, bright-eyed with
happiness.  Sally gave her a bear-hug and they exchanged the
murmured endearments customary at reunions, after which Marcia
automatically patted her yellow curls back into their proper
places.

"Where's Hannah?"

"We don't know," said Marcia, a little concerned.  "She left the
house shortly after luncheon.  Always tells us when she goes away.
Hannah has not been very well.  I'm rather anxious about her."

"If she hasn't shown up by dinner-time," said Wallie, "I'll do a
little scouting for her--though I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to
look.  Hannah isn't very garrulous about her goings and comings."

"She may have gone to see a doctor," suggested Lucy.

"I don't think it's that," said Marcia.  "She's worrying about
something."

"Well--don't people worry about their health?" demanded Wallie.
"How about calling the hospital?  She might have gone to the
clinic."

"Here she comes NOW," exclaimed Sally, who was facing the open door
to the street.  "I don't see there's much the matter with her."

Hannah was coming up the walk with a steady stride, a smile on her
face, chin up, shoulders high.

"Well, I'll be damned," muttered Wallie.  "Whatever it was that
ailed her, she's got rid of it."

"And I don't think it was at the hospital," observed Sally.

                        *  *  *  *  *

Hannah's decision to visit Paul had not been arrived at on impulse.
She had been debating the matter for days.  Something must be done
to save Peter; and if so, it must be done promptly, for he was
coming home on the twelfth to bid Lydia good-bye.  He would be
returning East within a week.

There was no question about the renewed grip on life and hope and
happiness that had come to Paul Ward.  Wallie's report of his
interview with his father--one of the most touching and stirring
experiences Hannah had ever heard of--assured her that Paul had
invited and received some revitalizing energy not in the keeping of
medical science.

And at the same time that Paul was renewing his courage and his
health, Hannah's spiritual resources had run low.  The goal she had
pursued was now quite inaccessible.  Everything she had worked for
and sacrificed for had been destroyed by forces beyond her control.
How often, through the years, Paul Ward had leaned full weight
against her in his various predicaments.  Now HE had the strength.
She wondered if she might warm her chilling faith at his
reinvigorated fire.  It would be a comfort to talk with him.

Hannah hoped for a private interview.  It was not going to be an
easy matter to arrange.  You never knew when Mrs Ward or Wallie
would drop in at the hospital for a visit; not infrequently two or
three times a day.

This afternoon she could account for their movements.  Mrs Ward
would remain at home waiting Sally's arrival.  Wallie had the car
and was over at the Trimbles' for luncheon.  This seemed to be the
occasion she had been waiting for.  Slipping quietly out of the
house, she walked to the street-car and made the long, jolting trip
to the hospital.  There she had asked to see Professor Ward, and
apparently his consent had been phrased enthusiastically; for,
instead of a mere nod from the desk, Hannah was personally escorted
to the door of Paul's room.

"Hannah!" he cried.  "I'm so glad you came!"

She stood by his bedside, holding his hand tightly, intently
studying his face.  His experience had aged him, she thought; not
into feebleness, though; into stability; into a new phase of--of
refinement.

"I have thought so much about you since I've been here," he said.
"Thank you, Hannah, for putting my boy on his feet again--and his
father, too.  I have had an interesting demonstration of 'the will
to power'. . . .  Do sit down.  Tell me about yourself.  I'm afraid
you're looking a bit fagged.  Are you well?"

"That's what I came to tell you, Paul.  I am in trouble."  She drew
up a chair and tugged off her gloves.  It wasn't going to be easy
to tell him, for she intended, this time to tell him EVERYTHING--or
almost everything.  She couldn't bring herself to report the
friendship of their children.  It would have involved a violation
of Sally's confidence.

"It's about Peter," she began.  "You remember, don't you, the boy
you met, many years ago, the time we rode home together on the
train from Waterloo?"

"Certainly.  What's he doing now?  Must be of college age.  Fine
lad, he was.  He called you 'aunt', I remember.  Isn't his mother
able to handle him?"

"No," said Hannah, "she isn't."

"But why are you fretting about it?"

There was a long pause.

"Because _I_ am his mother."

Paul stared into her heavy eyes and muttered an ejaculation of
amazement.

"Well--I'm bound to say you've done a very good job of keeping this
a secret for twenty years.  Go on, Hannah.  Tell me all about it.
Why didn't you want people to know?  He's legitimate, isn't he?
You told me you were married.  Why didn't you own him?"

The nurse came in then and Paul told her he was not to be disturbed
for any reason whatsoever until he sent for her.

"It's a long story," said Hannah.  "I hope I'll not wear you out.
But I've carried it as far as I can.  I must confide it to someone
very much stronger than I am, and get some help.  That's why I came
to you."

Paul settled back into his pillows and signed to her to continue.
She began in Surrey and told it all.  Some of it went rapidly,
sketchily; some of it brought tears, as when Philip died, and some
of it brought smiles--Adele's comments on the risk involved in
marrying Thomas.  Paul's eyes were indignant when Thomas left her
stranded in Chicago, and he muttered, "The cad!"

"But I cannot join you in calling him that," said Hannah.  "He was
weak, self-indulgent, spineless, but--not a cad.  At heart, a
pretty fine fellow."

The story proceeded; the visits to Waterloo, the decision to have
the boy brought up as "Peter Edmunds", the circumstances of Adele's
return to the extraordinary drama, Thomas's quick identification of
his son at Bar Harbour and the promise Eleanor had wrung from him
that he would not disclose his relationship to Peter.

"Do you mean to tell me that Mrs Trimble has known all about this?
How did she happen to get into it?"

And then Hannah related that part of the story, rather diffidently,
for it was a delicate subject.  Paul's eyes were averted.

When she paused, he cleared his throat, and said huskily, "Eleanor
told me she felt deeply indebted to you, Hannah.  And for the same
reason--so should I."

"It was the other way about," insisted Hannah, shaking her head.
"Mrs Trimble was a valuable friend to me."

But now it must be made clear that young Peter was no weakling.
Proudly, Hannah reported the little episodes which testified to the
sort of boy he was.  It gratified her immensely to tell Paul about
the time Peter took his punishment gallantly at the Military
Academy, and she showed him the cherished paper containing the
interview with Colonel Livingstone.

"A youngster like that is well worth saving," agreed Paul stoutly.

So now we had come to the root of the matter.  Hannah went into
full details about Thomas's proposal, which would wreck every
ambition she had nourished for her boy, so moved by the
distressfulness of it that she often had to stop and collect
herself before proceeding.

"And now I've come to you, Paul, because I think you have laid
fresh hold upon the power that I'm very much afraid I've lost.  I
still believe in it, but I'm not strong enough to use it."

"Hannah"--Paul sat upright and laid his hand on hers.  "Are you
willing to make a little investment?"

She smiled through her tears.

"I persuaded you to do that, once, didn't I?" she remembered.

"And it worked.  Now you've a notion that I have regained some
energy from 'the Outside'.  Are you willing to let me try to deal
with your problem--and not ask me how I'm going about it--or ask
me, afterwards, what I did?"

"You mean--you're going to talk to Thomas?"

"You're not to ask questions," repeated Paul firmly.  "Are you
willing to trust me?"

Hannah regarded him soberly for a moment; then her eyes brightened,
and she smiled.

"Will you stop fretting about it?" he persisted.

"Yes, Paul," she murmured.  "I think"--Hannah drew a deep sigh--"I
think I feel relieved--already.  But--how are you going to get to
Thomas--in your condition?"

"That's my affair!" growled Paul, "and I'll thank you to keep your
promise--now and hereafter."

Hannah drew a puckery smile.

"Remember the day you tried to break YOURS?"

"Yes--and you didn't let me.  Keep that in mind.  I can be hard,
too!"

She rose, and drew on her gloves.

"Put up your right hand!" demanded Paul.  "Repeat after me:  'I
believe that Peter will fulfil my dreams for him'."

With uplifted face, and eyes that took no account of Paul, Hannah
raised her hand and said, almost exultantly, "I believe that Peter
will fulfil my dreams for him!"

"'I am not going to worry about him--any more!'"

"I am not going to worry about him--any more."

Paul sank back and closed his eyes.  "There!" he muttered.  "Now go--
and see that you keep your word!  It won't make much difference if
you break your promise to ME.  I'll forgive you.  But see to it
that you keep your word with THEM!--or Him--or It!  I'm sure you
know more about that part of it than I do."



CHAPTER XVIII


Peter had driven home.  He would leave the coup in Waterloo for
his mother to use or sell as she liked.  Then he would return by
rail to New York and join Uncle Thomas for the cruise.

Lydia noted many changes in him.  The boyish sparkle and enthusiasm
seemed stifled.  It wasn't that Peter had taken on an air of gloom
or grimness, nor was he inattentive or taciturn; but what he had to
say lacked spontaneity.

He talked freely about the contemplated voyage; exhibited maps,
pictures, and the detailed shore itineraries which Uncle Thomas had
toiled over with the expert assistance of the National Geographic
people and other seasoned travellers.

"He must have gone to endless trouble," reflected Lydia.

"I think it was mostly the bother and expense he has invested,"
said Peter, "that finally brought me to a decision.  I couldn't let
him down."

"But you really do want to go, don't you, Peter?"  Lydia put down
the group of pictures of Tamatave in Madagascar, lowered her
lorgnette, and regarded him earnestly.  "You're not doing this just
to please Uncle Thomas, are you?"

Peter toyed with his watch-chain and meditated a fair reply.

"Well--that weighs heavily.  Why shouldn't it?  Perhaps, if I were
entirely free to consult my own wishes, I might have postponed this
trip until later.  Naturally, Uncle Thomas feels that if we put it
off until I have finished college, he might be too old to do it
without fatigue, or I might find myself absorbed in my work--and
not care to go, or--"

"Or you might fall in love," assisted Lydia, smiling.  "Maybe you
have," she added.  "I don't want to pry, but something tells me
there's another reason for your tardiness in deciding to go.
Almost any young fellow would grab at the chance, I should think."

"No--it isn't that, Mother."  Peter dismissed the suggestion with a
brief gesture.  "I don't mind telling you there is a girl who might
have detained me, but--well--she's spoken for."

"You met her in the East, I suppose?"

Peter nodded, feeling that it was near enough to the truth.

"I used to think you were fond of the pretty Ward girl.  What was
her name--Sally?"  Lydia was trying too hard to make this sound
casual and had overdone it a little, as she immediately suspected
from the puzzled look Peter gave her.

"I'm surprised you had any trouble recalling her name," he said
meaningly.  "Surely Aunt Hannah has talked enough about her to
you."

"Forgive me, Peter.  I'm afraid it really was a leading question.
But you can't blame your mother for being interested."  She laughed
softly.  "Anyway--that's about all a woman has to think about."

"I don't mind telling you," said Peter impulsively.  "I am fond of
Sally; have been always; but she is in love with someone else.  I
should have thought Aunt Hannah knew.  Sally has always been so
confidential with her."

"I've been led to believe," said Lydia slowly, "that Sally Ward
likes you tremendously.  Your Aunt Hannah says she is always
talking about you."

"That's the trouble," muttered Peter.  "She's just a mighty good
friend--on a sort of 'pal' basis.  Brother-'n'-sister kind of
business."

"Your Aunt Hannah, Peter--"

"By the way, Mother"--Peter's voice was unsteady--"there's a
question I should like to ask you."

Lydia suddenly tipped her head to listen, rose quickly, and started
towards the kitchen, explaining, as she went, "Sorry, Peter,
something's boiling over out here."

Peter listened, but couldn't hear anything.  He grinned, rose,
sauntered out into the hallway, lighted a cigarette.  The old-
fashioned front doorbell raised a loud clamour.  He answered it,
and took in a special-delivery letter addressed to himself and
marked "Personal".  It was brief, succinct, mysterious, dated from
the University Hospital, but written on official University
stationery.


DEAR MR EDMUNDS:

I wish to have a private talk with you on an urgent matter of
mutual concern.  I would come to see you but am unable to travel.
May I suggest that upon receipt of this you come to me at your
earliest convenience, informing no one.  If this letter seems
strange, be assured that it is no more unusual for you to be in
receipt of it than for me to be writing it.

                                          Very truly yours,

                                                     PAUL WARD.


Peter's heart raced.  What could Sally's father possibly want with
him?  Would it be something about Sally?  He thrust the letter back
into its envelope and into his pocket, retraced his steps to the
library.

"Didn't I hear the bell?" asked Lydia, who had again busied herself
with the cruise pictures.

"You just imagine you're hearing things this morning, Mother,"
drawled Peter.  He gave her a slow, knowing wink, but she blandly
refused to be flustered.  A very well-balanced woman, he thought.

"I suppose you'll be prowling back into the jungle--in Madagascar,"
she said, intent upon a photograph of natives in fantastic
barbarity.

Peter's eyes brightened.

"That reminds me--I've to take some typhoid shots.  Might as well
run over to the University Hospital and have one to-day; get the
business over with.  Haven't any shopping you want to do, have you?
I'll take you along."

She studied him for a moment with brooding eyes, and shook her
head.

"I must stay here and supervise dinner," she said.  "The Wymans are
coming, you know.  Don't be late."

"Very well--I'll start now, if you don't mind."

Lydia went to the window and watched him go.  From the same window,
a few minutes before, she had watched the grey uniform of a postal
employee receding down the street shortly after the doorbell had
rung.  Typhoid shots!  Surely Peter was ingenious, and mighty quick
on the trigger.  The letter was from Sally, no doubt.  She chuckled
softly.  Sally was going to give him some typhoid shots.

Patty Wyman drove slowly by the house, looking very lovely in the
green ensemble that matched her swanky little roadster.  She had
called Peter on the telephone yesterday and he had said, "I'll be
seeing you."  But he hadn't--yet.  Patty would be looking for him
this afternoon, doubtless.  Lydia sighed, smiled, drew the lace
curtains together, went out through the kitchen into the garden,
and clipped a basketful of roses.  She wondered whether Peter would
give himself away when he returned.  Probably not.  He was pretty
deep.  She would say, "I hope they didn't hurt you."  And he would
rub his arm, and wince a little, maybe, and reply, "Not very much".
And she would say, with a wink, "I hope you'll be able to eat your
dinner, son."  But he probably wouldn't tell her what she wanted to
know.  Well--why should he?  She'd always had secrets from HIM!

                        *  *  *  *  *

Peter felt that he would have recognized Professor Ward, but he had
certainly changed a great deal.  Of course, his recent illness
would account for much of that.  The Professor Ward he had met and
instantly liked when he was a small boy seemed so youthful.  It had
been difficult to think of him as a professor.  The greying man in
the wheeled chair was the same person, frosted.  The eyes were as
friendly, the mouth as mobile, the dimple in the chin--Sally had
one, too--was as deep.

The greeting was without constraint.

"Sit down, won't you?  Thanks for coming.  Much water has gone over
the dam since I saw you last.  You've grown to be quite a stalwart
fellow."

"I hope you're nearly well, sir.  It was good of you to ask me in.
If there's anything I can do for you, I'll be glad."

"Peter, I am about to intrude upon your private affairs.  It is not
my custom, and I am not quite sure where to begin.  But if you will
be patient, I'll try to be brief."

"Take your time, sir. . . .  And thanks for your interest in me.
I'm sure it will be to my advantage."

"I hope so. . . .  Some twenty years ago there appeared at my home
a woman in distress.  She had just been discharged from this
hospital where she had borne a child.  I was not informed of that
fact at the time, though my wife knew.  Perhaps she felt it might
make some difference in my attitude towards our new maid if I were
told.  At all events, I did not know; nor would I have cared had I
known; for the woman was capable, honest, clean, and extraordinarily
kind."

"My Aunt Hannah," said Peter.

Paul Ward smiled, bowed slightly, and went on.

"Hannah found us poor as church-mice; poorer, for church-mice do
not borrow money they cannot pay, and aren't humiliated with
monthly bills they aren't able to meet.  This remarkable woman took
us all in hand, helped us organize our home on a self-sustaining
basis, saw us through every conceivable predicament; and, in short,
made herself so indispensable that to have lost her would have been
little short of a tragedy.  Now she is in trouble, and it amounts
almost to a personal grief to me.  I thought you ought to know
about it.  Perhaps you might think of something we could do."

"Anything, sir," declared Peter.  "I'm very fond of my Aunt Hannah.
What's the difficulty, please?"

"It's this boy.  You see--it was quite impossible for her to keep
him, so he was given to other people."

"And they have treated him badly?"

"No--no, that isn't it."  Paul shook his head, gazed for some time
out at the window, and then returned to his narrative.  "Perhaps I
should say--though you unquestionably know this--that Hannah
Parmalee was brought up with the most inflexible ideas on the
subject of social caste.  Her father was a gardener.  She had spent
her early life as parlourmaid, housekeeper, general servant.  I
don't think she ever rebelled against it, but it was her earnest
hope that her child might grow up to take a less difficult place in
the scheme of things.  I think this is about the only ambition she
has ever cherished, the hope that her boy would achieve rank,
position, honour."

Peter was listening attentively, his lips parted a little.  He
leaned forward in his chair, resting his weight on his elbows.
Paul lifted a hand with outspread white fingers, as to say he was
not quite ready for questions.

"And so--she never disclosed herself as the boy's mother, feeling
that if the relationship were known, it might prove to be an
obstacle to his social and business success. . . .  Now--neither
you nor I are in a position to realize just what manner of
heartbreaking sacrifice this would entail, because we have never
been mothers, and aren't going to be.  There has been omitted from
our nature all the machinery for understanding that sort of mental
anguish.  But I think we have enough imagination to guess what it
must have meant to Hannah, all through the years, to see her boy
caressed by and caressing another mother, while she stood by,
wistful, silent, hopeful--"

"How do you mean--'stood by'?"  Peter's voice was husky.  "Was she
able to see him?" Paul nodded.

"And he never knew?"

"No--not until now."

Peter stared hard at the floor, swallowed convulsively, and
muttered, "Incredible!"

"It IS, rather."

"But--but--"  Peter shook his head decisively.  "You see, sir, this
can't possibly be true.  I know who my mother is.  There really
couldn't be any mistake about THAT, you know!"

"All the more credit to Hannah for the way she kept the faith with
you."

Peter lifted almost indignant eyes.  "Why are you telling me this--
if she didn't want me to know?"

"Because, you see, Hannah has dreamed for all the years of your
amounting to something important.  It was for this she gave you up;
for this she sacrificed her rights as a mother.  She does not know
I am telling you, and I strongly suspect she would feel I had done
her and you a grave injury.  But you've a right to know what it has
cost your mother to see you grow up to a point where you might live
a useful, perhaps eminent life--and what unutterable grief it has
caused her to see you throw that opportunity away!"

Peter dug his finger-tips hard into his temples.

"Aunt Hannah is MY MOTHER!" he muttered.  "Uncle Thomas is MY
FATHER!  So--THAT accounts for it!  It's true! . . .  GOD!"

"It is a severe shock, naturally," agreed Paul, after a little
silence.  "But it might be ever so much worse, you know.  You're
not making the discovery that you are illegitimate, nor are you
confronted with a bad heritage.  I know almost nothing about your
father, beyond the fact that he is a person of large wealth, wide
travel, and university training.  But any young fellow who would be
ashamed of having a woman like Hannah for his mother wouldn't
deserve to have any relatives.  Peter--of all the people I have
known intimately, your mother is one of the bravest, one of the
wisest."

"I know she is all of that, sir," Peter assented in a barely
audible voice.  "It isn't that I have any wish to disown the
relationship.  But--it does bowl one over a bit."

"Obviously--and it will take a little time before you can be
expected to accommodate yourself to the idea."

Peter glanced at his watch.

"I suppose I should go and see her at once.  Is that your wish,
sir?"

"No, no, Peter!  This is something that needs to be thought through
with care.  I learned about it only yesterday.  I have had no time
to give the problem my considered judgment, whatever that might be
worth.  But I doubt the wisdom of your rushing off to see Hannah."

"Did she come here to tell you the story?"

"Yes.  Hannah had carried her burden of perplexity as far as she
could bear it.  She came to me because--well, there wasn't anybody
else available.  She was reluctant to begin it; but, once fairly
launched, she told it all."

Peter found himself wondering how much discussion there had been on
his friendship with Sally, but decided not to inquire.  "Did she
tell you how I happened to meet Uncle--my father?  Did my Aunt
Adele take me to Bar Harbour purposely to bring us together?"

"No, that was an accident.  And, by the way, Mrs Adele Moore is not
your aunt.  Your mother was employed in the home of her people when
they were both young women."

"Aunt Adele is no relation to me?"  Peter's face was a study in
mystification.  "Then why did she bother with me at all?"

"The most interesting part of your mother's career, Peter, is the
quality of her friendships and the lasting impression she has made
on the lives of many people presumably not of her station.  Did you
ever hear of Philip Raymond?"

Peter vaguely remembered the name as one of his Aunt Hannah's
childhood friends.

"Perhaps I had better tell you a little about that," said Paul.
"It helps to an understanding of Hannah.  You know all about her
peculiar views on non-combativeness, non-resistance, and everything
that goes with that state of mind."

Peter smiled a little.

"And she means it, too," he commented.  "It hasn't been a mere
academic theory with her."

"She means it," echoed Paul seriously, "and she has some very
excellent reasons for believing that her theory is sound.  Perhaps
that is why she has felt so utterly forsaken over your plan to be a
person of leisure.  Hannah always knew that if she didn't fight
back, didn't enforce her rights, she would ultimately get what she
wanted--and more--through the personal power generated by this
passive attitude towards antagonisms.  The one great reward she
sought was to be realized through YOU!  And now it had begun to
appear that this reward would not be granted.  The disappointment
was breaking down the very structure and digging up the foundation
of the faith upon which she had based every action of her life!  It
wasn't only that YOU were doomed to be a failure--according to her
estimate of success; it was going to be a demonstration that her
whole philosophy of life was an indefensible sophistry."

"And this Philip Raymond?"

"That's what I mean to tell you.  Philip Raymond was responsible
for Hannah's views.  She loved him devotedly, believed everything
he said, ordered her whole life after that pattern.  It's a tender
story, and I think you ought to hear it."

Paul Ward had been deeply touched by Hannah's narration of that
idyllic romance and its pathetic dnouement.  Quietly, but
impressively, he recited the little epic while Peter listened with
brooding eyes.  When it was finished, they both sat silently for a
moment.  Then Paul said, "The question you are facing now, Peter,
seems to be reduced to the simple proposition: which one of your
parents are you going to disappoint?  It is obvious that you must
disappoint one of them."

Peter slowly nodded his head, without looking up.

"You will have to balance the importance of your father's prospect
of a cruise with you," continued Paul soberly, "against the
importance of your mother's twenty years of sacrifice for you."

"I see that," muttered Peter defencelessly.

"You have your mother's faith to look out for, too, my boy.  That's
decidedly important, I think."

"To HER, yes--of course," agreed Peter.

"It might become important to you, too," declared Paul.  "It's an
odd thing, but--you know Hannah has something, don't you?  It is
infectious.  Once you've experimented with it, a little, you'll
discover that it's by no means a mere theory!"

Peter lifted his eyes and searched Paul Ward's pallid face.

"You don't mean," he demanded, "that YOU believe in it!"

"Yes!  I believe in it!  I am not a mystic, Peter.  I do not
consider myself a religious person.  I know nothing about theology.
I haven't any convictions on the subject of Deity--as to how He,
They, or It subsist.  But it has been definitely proved to me--
thanks to Hannah--that there is a peculiar power available to those
who are willing to accept it--and make use of it."

Peter drew a long breath--and smiled.

"I'm--I'm surprised," he said, after a little delay.

"Well--if you ever have urgent occasion to try this out, and do it
honestly, making some genuine investment as a suitable certificate
of your sincerity, you'll be STILL MORE SURPRISED!"

"If you don't mind my asking, sir--did you ever get what you wanted--
by this process?"

"Yes!"

"It's hard to believe, sir.  My mind doesn't behave that way at
all.  Everything in me simply bristles at the thought of any
practical reliance on the supernatural."

"So did mine, Peter.  I thought it was a mess of precious
nonsense."

Peter rose, thrust his hands deep in his pockets, and paced the
length of the room.

"Well--be that as it may--I must not let my--my mother down.  I'll
tell her I'm going back to college in the autumn.  I may never
amount to much, but I can try."

Paul had a sudden impulse to reach out his hand and congratulate
Peter on his decision; then thought better of it.  Peter was not
the sort to relish applause.  He was Hannah's boy.

"I presumed you would adopt that course," said Paul.  "However--if
you are agreeable to the suggestion, be in no hurry to talk to your
mother.  It occurs to me that Hannah might be seriously embarrassed
if you went to her with an open acknowledgment of your relationship.
Indeed, that will be exactly what she does NOT want!  She has gone
through a great deal to keep her secret; she thinks it would be to
your disadvantage if it were known she is your mother.  I think you
would far better let it remain a secret, for her sake.  Convey the
information to her, any way you like, that you have decided to
continue your college course and your professional training; but
don't upset Hannah by telling her you know you are her son.  I'm
afraid that would spoil it all!  She doesn't want you to know.
Better respect her wishes."

"Perhaps that's wise, sir," admitted Peter.

"Don't tell ANYBODY," urged Paul.

"Not even my mother?"

"Meaning your foster-mother?  No--not even Mrs Edmunds.  Hannah
kept this costly secret for your sake.  Now you continue to keep it--
for her sake."

"I'll do as you say, sir, at least for the present."

"I think this is all going to work out very happily, Peter."

"I hope so, sir.  I'll go now.  My mother has guests this evening.
She will be expecting me home."

"You'll be entering Sheffield, this autumn?"

"Yes, sir--majoring in Chemistry."

"Your mother said that was your pet interest.  I wish you well,
Peter."

There was a tap on the door, and it was pushed open a little way.
Paul glanced up, frowning slightly.

"Come!" he said, not very hospitably.

She had never looked so thoroughly adorable in her life.  It was a
very simple, girlish, white frock, the blue scarf matching her
eyes.

Hesitating in the doorway, she glanced from one to the other
mystifiedly.

"Oh, it's you, Sally," said Paul.  "Come on in, dear.  Perhaps you
remember Peter Edmunds.  I think you played with him, a time or
two, when you went with Hannah to Waterloo.  Mr Edmunds has been
talking to me about his college course--this autumn."

For a moment Sally stood staring at Peter.  Then her lips parted in
a radiant smile.  She walked towards him, holding out both hands.

"Peter!" she said softly.

He extended his hands to hers, but she did not take them.  Instead,
with outspread fingers she reached up and laid them on his
shoulders.  Putting his arms around her, he drew Sally very close.
She looked up earnestly into his face.

"You're not going away?" she murmured, shaking her head childishly.

Peter's hands were trembling, as they tightened their hold.

Paul Ward watched the strange tableau with open mouth and
astonished eyes.  They had forgotten his presence.

"I didn't suppose you cared that much, dear," said Peter huskily.

Sally's arms encircled his neck.

"Care?" she whispered.  "Oh--Peter!"

He gathered her tightly to him and kissed her--a kiss that
threatened to become permanent.  Then, flushed and breathless Sally
drew away, and suddenly became conscious of her father.  She
glanced towards him, the tears sparkling in her eyes; and Peter,
considerably flustered, turned to face him, wondering what manner
of explanation was in order.

Paul grinned, and scratched his head.

"Well"--he drawled, "I'm glad I had the forethought to introduce
you to each other."

Then they laughed, almost hysterically.

"Come here, baby," said Paul.

Sally stooped and kissed him.  Peter standing by with her hand
clasped tightly in his, wondered what her father might be thinking
about all this.  It was one thing for Professor Ward to extol his
housekeeper as a woman of courage and wisdom; it would be quite
another thing for Professor Ward to welcome the housekeeper's son
into his family circle.  Peter wished that Sally's father might
have been given a chance to digest this a little.  It seemed like
taking him at a disadvantage.

With one arm around Sally, Paul Ward extended his hand to Peter,
looking him squarely in the eyes.

"I believe you can be trusted," he said firmly, "to take good care
of my girl."

Peter's heart bounded with gratitude.  It was not going to make any
difference to Sally's father that he was Hannah's son.  His eyes
lighted with happiness.

"Thank you, sir!" he exclaimed.  "I'll do my best."

Paul sank back into his pillows, smiling wearily.

"Now, you two had better run along," he said, in a voice that
betrayed his weakness.  "I've had about all of you that I can stand--
for one session."

"Sally, what are you doing, for the rest of the day?" asked Peter
impulsively.

"Whatever you say, dear."

"How about driving home with me for dinner?  I want my mother to
know.  I'll bring you back afterwards."

"May I, Daddy?"

"Of course," consented Paul.  "Quite the thing to do.  Peter's
mother will be glad to know you are both happy.  Will this be a
surprise to her?"

"Very much so," said Peter.  "It was to me, too, sir.  You see,
Sally and I have been close friends for a long time, but I didn't
know she cared--not the way _I_ cared."

"Daddy, he's the stupidest boy in the whole world," Sally slipped
her arm through Peter's and teased him with an impish smile.  "Will
you tell Wallie, when he comes to pick me up, that I'm provided
for? . . .  Peter, perhaps we should drive around by our house and
let me get my coat, if we're to be out late.  Mother will want to
see you, too, I know."

Peter's brows contracted a little.

"You may wear mine, if it's chilly.  I think I'd rather meet your
mother when there's more time.  Is that all right?"

Sally nodded.

"EVERYTHING," she replied softly, "is all right--now."

                        *  *  *  *  *

There was a light in the kitchen when Sally quietly entered the
house shortly after midnight.  It would be Hannah waiting up for
her.  She meant to confide her great happiness to Hannah, of
course, but had hoped she might be allowed to go directly to her
room to-night without encountering anyone.  The joy of this moment
was too tenderly sweet to be shared.

She expected to remember every detail of that evening's experience
as long as she lived.

They had left the hospital at four, decorously avoiding each
other's eyes and hands until out of the building and safe in
Peter's coup.

"It's wonderful, darling!" murmured Peter.  "I can't believe it!"
He took her hand in both of his and searched her eyes.

"Come, Peter," she had said gently.  "Push that little button and
start your engine.  Let's not do anything silly in plain sight of
all these windows."

They had carried themselves with great dignity until the town had
been left behind and the open road was before them.  Sally slipped
over very close beside him.

"I'll bet you haven't had a glimpse of Lincoln Lake since you've
got home," said Peter.  "It isn't far out of the way."

"Sure we shan't keep your mother's dinner waiting?" wondered Sally
dreamily.

They had followed the gravel road then to the lake, stopping in the
shade of a clump of maples.  He had drawn her into his arms.

"Darling," she had said, after a long sigh of contentment, "tell me
about it.  How did you happen to decide not to go away?  Why did
you come to see Daddy?"

Peter had been silent for a moment, apparently trying to make up
his mind how much to confide.

"Sally, dear," he said, measuring his words, "it seems that my
whole life has been a tangle of secrets that have been kept from
me, for one reason and another.  But there aren't going to be any
secrets between US!  Your father sent for me to-day.  He wanted to
tell me why he thought I should carry on with college and try to
make something of myself."

"I wonder if Hannah had been talking to him."

"Yes--she had."  Peter's voice was unsteady.

"That was odd.  I'm awfully glad she did, Peter, dear."  Sally had
laid her palm caressingly against his cheek.  "But--really--she
didn't have a right to interfere in your affairs."

Peter nodded his head.

"Yes--she had a right to, Sally.  She is my mother."

Sally knew she would never forget that moment; Peter's faraway
look, her own sense of having been stunned to speechlessness.  She
had looked up into his sober face with astonished eyes.  "Who told
you?" she whispered.

"Your father."

"So--that's why your Uncle Thomas--"

"Yes--that's why he wanted me to be with him."

"I can't believe it, Peter.  How did Hannah ever manage to keep
this a secret?"

"Well--the circumstances all seemed to conspire.  My mother took me
when her own baby died."

Sally had smiled sympathetically.

"Mrs Edmunds is still your mother, I see."

"Yes--we decided to-day that it would be better not to let Aunt
Hannah know that I have been told.  Your father thinks it would
make her unhappy.  Do you think you can carry it off, with Aunt
Hannah, and treat her the same as ever, Sally?"

"I'll try.  It won't be too difficult.  Hannah has always seemed
like another mother to me, dear."

"And you're not disappointed--now that you know?"

Sally had tightened her arm around his neck.

"No, Peter.  It won't make any difference.  I'm glad you told me.
And--I'll keep your secret.  Shall I tell Daddy that I know?"

"As you like, darling."

"Perhaps I'd better wait until he brings it up."

"Maybe that would be better."

"I don't believe I'll tell my mother, Peter.  She might find it
difficult to avoid letting Hannah know.  It might spoil
everything."

"Maybe.  You ought to know.  Perhaps you're right."

"Do you see what time it is?  We must go."  Sally had sat up
straight, patting her tousled hair.  "Your mother will think me a
fright, Peter."

"You can blame it on me.  Shall we forget everything now, except
that we have each other?"

And so--they had forgotten everything, except that they had each
other.  Peter had driven the rest of the way to Waterloo at a speed
that did not encourage conversation.  They had arrived a little
late.  Mrs Edmunds had met them at the door.

"Sally Ward, Mother," said Peter.  "You remember, don't you?"  He
stopped and kissed her; then whispered something in her ear.  Mrs
Edmunds had seemed very happy about it.  She had kissed Sally
tenderly.

"Peter has always wanted you, dear," she said softly.  "I'm very
glad for you both."  She smiled into their eyes.  "You make a
handsome pair.  There can be no doubt about that. . . .  Come, now.
The Wymans are here.  Dinner is waiting.  Peter, show Sally up to
my room."

"I'd forgotten," said Peter, as they ran upstairs arm in arm.
"Patty Wyman's here.  Be specially nice to her, darling."

"Is she the girl you once said had big feet?" laughed Sally.

"You remember everything, don't you?"

"Perhaps Patty would have preferred I hadn't come."

Peter dismissed Patty with a shrug and a flick of the fingers, and
they went down to the old-fashioned parlour where introductions
were had.  Mrs Edmunds announcing, quietly:  "Sally Ward--Peter's
fiance."  They had all been very cordial, Patty almost
boisterously so.

"Why, Peter!" she exclaimed.  "How mean of you--not even to have
told the neighbours!"

And then Peter had grinned and confessed.  "I've only known it,
myself since about four o'clock."  How amazed they had been!

She couldn't remember much about what they had had to eat.  Peter
had carved the roast and had done it expertly.  She had sat at the
other end of the table beside Mrs Edmunds, who had leaned close
enough to say, while Susie was brushing crumbs:  "It will be sweet
to have a daughter."  And Sally had tried hard not to think about
what she had heard, fearing her puzzlement might show in her face.

The drive home--how tender!  She wanted now to slip up to her room
and be alone with the day's ecstasies.

But Hannah would know she had come and would think it very queer if
she went up without pausing to speak.  Her heart raced a little.
Hannah was such a knowing person.  She always guessed what you were
thinking about.  You didn't have to tell her.  She knew.

"Not gone to bed yet?" called Sally, from the kitchen doorway.

Hannah put down her book on the table and smiled a welcome.

"Wallie said you had gone away with somebody--for dinner.  I was a
bit anxious about you, dear.  It's late."

"You can't imagine where I've been.  I accidentally ran into Peter.
He'd driven over on an errand--something for his mother.  Then he
wanted me to go home with him for dinner."

Hannah's eyes widened with surprise.

"How was Peter?" she asked, trying hard to keep her voice steady.

"Wonderful!"  Sally leaned on the back of Hannah's chair; and,
bending forward, laid her flushed cheek against Hannah's ear.  "Got
something to tell you, darling," she murmured childishly.  "Give
you three guesses."

She could feel a little tremor run over Hannah, a succession of
stifled sobs.

"You--and--Peter?" asked Hannah thickly.

Sally pressed her face hard against Hannah's and nodded her head.

Then Hannah turned, put an arm around Sally, looked up in
perplexity, and said:  "But--Peter can't take care of you, dear.
He's--going away."

"Peter has changed his mind, Hannah.  He's not going.  He expects
to carry on in college--and be a chemist--and everything, just the
way you'd hoped."

Hannah drew a deep, shuddering sigh that seemed to throw off an
insupportable weight.  Then she clutched Sally's hands hard.

"Did he decide that--because--because he didn't want to leave YOU?"

"Well"--Sally smiled archly--"perhaps that did have something to do
with it."

Hannah rose, clasped one hand rightly with the other, and slowly
paced the room, apparently anxious to control her pent-up emotion.

"I wanted Daddy to see Peter.  I had expected to go to the
hospital, anyway, you know."

Hannah leaned a hand against the wall and went suddenly pale.

"Well," she said hoarsely.  "Did your father see him?"

"Daddy's crazy about him!"

"Does he know you and Peter are engaged?"

"Yes--we told him.  He's glad."

Retracing her steps unsteadily to the table, Hannah sat down and
cupped her face with both hands.  She was deeply moved.

"Aren't you pleased, Hannah?"

"Yes, dear; I'm pleased.  I'm glad you told your father."

"He was wonderful about it."

"Your father," said Hannah fervently, "IS A WONDERFUL MAN!"




CHAPTER XIX


It had turned quite cold in the night, and when Lydia was roused at
seven by the exasperating racket Susie was making at the furnace, a
powdery snow was being driven aimlessly about by a crazy gale.

She stood by the window for a moment, shivering and depressed; then
went back to bed to wait until the heat should begin to come up
attended by the inevitable whiff of noxious coal gas.

So--winter had come again, dismayingly prompt with its sullen grey
sky.  The winters, reflected Lydia, were growing longer; arriving
earlier--this was only the thirteenth of November--and hanging on
tiresomely through what had used to be spring.  She wished this
might have been a bright morning.  A streak of genial sunshine
would have lightened her mood.  She felt old, and a bit terrified.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Jennings had seemed so pessimistic about the
country's financial condition.  It hadn't been so much what Mr
Jennings actually said as the spent manner in which he betrayed his
forebodings with the beaten eyes and jerky gestures of an old man
who has just missed the last train.

"Are things as bad," she had asked, "as the papers have been
saying?"  And Mr Jennings had scowled grimly, rubbed his chin hard
with shaky fingers and replied:  "Well--it hasn't reached the
proportions of a panic yet; except, of course, for people who had
been playing the market."

Lydia had tried to be comforted by that, even in the face of the
banker's gloom, for she hadn't played the market.  She wouldn't
have known how.  The whole business was as incomprehensible to her
as the jargon of polo.

"It's just a Wall Street mishap, then?" she had observed brightly.

Mr Jennings had pulled an indulgent grin.

"A Wall Street mishap, Mrs Edmunds," he solemnly replied, in the
tone of the committal service, "is always an inconvenience to large
numbers of people.  And so far as playing the market is concerned,
that has not been distinctly a New York recreation.  Almost
everybody is involved in it."

"I didn't know," Lydia had confessed.

"Of course not--and it's to your credit.  You see, Mrs Edmunds, the
whole country has been spending money that had no existence in
fact.  Wages have been good, credit has been easy.  It has become a
settled habit, with all sorts of people, to be pleased and
contented with possessions on which they had paid a mere pittance.
Almost nobody owned anything outright.  Most of the nation's
business was done on paper.  Everybody had his safety-deposit
locker stuffed with pretty pictures of large sums of money.  Now
that the bottom has dropped out of this picture business, they're
all scared.  Credit has suddenly closed up like a steel trap."

"Are my bonds--all right?" she had inquired anxiously.

"For the present--yes.  You are fortunate not to have owned any
speculative stocks."

Mr Jennings had been called to the telephone then and she had taken
a rather unceremonious leave when it became obvious that he had
said everything he was likely to say to her and had more important
problems on his distracted mind.

She had left the bank then, mentally calling the roll of the people
who were probably wondering what was to become of them.  Hannah had
often spoken of the Trimbles' keen interest in the ups-and-downs of
stock speculation.  They had lived extravagantly.  It would be
difficult for them to alter their habits.  And there was Thomas
Bradford!  Peter had often remarked that Uncle Thomas grew very
fidgety if the market was cutting capers.  It would be too bad if
Thomas lost his money, for he didn't have much else.  She wondered
if her brother Henry--but no; it wasn't likely that Henry would be
involved.  Henry didn't even carry coins loose in his pocket, but
kept his change in a little purse.  Before he spent a nickel, he
had to unbutton the flap on his hip-pocket to get to the purse.
She felt satisfied about Henry's immunity from the disaster that
had overtaken the gamblers.

Then Lydia had paid the gas and electric-light bills and walked
home, haunted by the first sensation of insecurity that she had
faced in her whole lifetime.  At the old home, when she was a girl,
they had rigidly economized, but she couldn't remember that they
had ever been frightened.  Jasper had turned a few sharp corners,
early in their married life, but if he had fretted seriously over
it he hadn't let her know.  As a widow, there had never been a
moment's concern about money.  Sometimes when she was lonely and
blue she would comfort herself with the assurance that at least
there would always be a good living.  Life wasn't always so rich
and full as she might have wished, but she would be sheltered and
fed and comfortable if she lived to be a hundred.

Arriving home at three-thirty she had found a letter from Peter.
He was well, happy in his work, and grateful for the cheque.  He
hoped her affairs were in good condition.  Everyone was worried
about the crash.  How did she feel about her funds?  Perhaps she
had better plan an economy programme.  "I can do with much less
than you have been sending me," he had continued.  "I have been
very frugal lately; quite miserly, indeed, now that I've opened a
savings account."

Lydia had smiled at that.  Peter was thinking of marriage.


I am unhappy about Uncle Thomas (he went on).  He has lost heavily.
Of course, it won't be poverty.  I mean--Uncle Thomas will still
eat, and buy two tickets so he can travel in a Pullman drawing-
room.  But he has lost enough to make him sick.  He wasn't very
well, anyway.  I didn't want to worry you, so said nothing much
about it at the time, but Uncle Thomas was dreadfully let down by
my refusal to go with him on the cruise.  He wasn't cross or
indignant; just inconsolably hurt.  Maybe I did not handle it
considerately enough.  I was so hilarious over Sally that I fear I
talked more about my own happiness than his disappointment.  Then
came this crack-up in the stock market.  He seemed dazed,
incredulous.  It will be hard for him to reorganize his habits.

I have a letter from him to-day.  He is at Asheville for what he
calls "a little recuperation".  But it's more serious than that,
for he writes from a sanatorium, and I know you couldn't drag him
into that sort of place unless there was something the matter.  I'm
undecided what part I ought to play.  If I go down there to see
him, I know he will be embarrassed.  It will only add to his
discomfort if I leave my work to go popping in on him with my pity
when there's really nothing I can do.  But he has been so kind, and
I have seemed so ungrateful.  What do you think?  Shall I go to
him?


Lydia sat for a long time gazing dully at the letter, wondering
what would become of Thomas.  People who had nothing but money were
in a very awkward position if they lost much of it.  But the last
thing Thomas Bradford would want was anyone's pity--Peter's least
of all.  It would make him feel old and helpless.

She was glad now that Peter did not know just how deeply he was
indebted to Thomas.  For years the monthly cheque had arrived early
to be deposited to the account set aside for Peter.  The June
remittance had been the last one.  Thomas had not written to
explain that there wouldn't be any more, doubtless taking it for
granted that Lydia would understand.

Well--it wasn't as if Peter would have to leave college because
Thomas had stopped paying for it.  Lydia knew she would not be able
to continue remittances in the same figures, but she could give him
all he actually required.  It comforted her to note Peter's
suggestion, about a reduction of his allowance.  She had been
wondering how she was going to tell him.

The bedroom was warming now and Lydia dressed to go down.  The
ground was white.  It was Hannah's customary day to come.  Perhaps
she would change her mind when she saw the weather.  But maybe not.
Hannah had taken on new energy ever since Peter had decided to go
back to school.  It was amazing; she was a different woman.  And
she had seemed so unaccountably elated over the engagement of Sally
and Peter.  That was odd, for Hannah had never enthused over the
prospect of the match; not that she didn't like Sally, but she
wanted Peter kept away from the Wards.  And now that Peter had done
the very thing Hannah had been at such pains to forestall, she was
fairly sitting on top of the world!  Lydia had quizzed her about
it, half-playfully, and Hannah--a little flustered--had said:  "I
suppose it was destined to happen, and we may as well make the best
of it"--but she didn't have the appearance of a person resigning
herself submissively to an inexorable fate.  She was bubbling over
with joy!  There was something more, behind all this, believed
Lydia, that she herself hadn't learned.

Hannah came in briskly at eleven, rosy and out of breath.  Susie
was ordered to make a pot of coffee and give the furnace another
punch.

"I surely needed you, dear," said Lydia, stirring the grate fire.
"I feared you might not come."

"Why not?  It's a very bracing day."

"I'm glad somebody thinks so."

Hannah laid a hand on Lydia's shoulder.

"What is it, dear?" she asked gently.  "Money--maybe?"

"Not mine.  It seems to be safe enough.  But so many people are in
trouble, friends of ours."

"Who--for instance?"

"Well, there's Thomas, for one.  I don't suppose it's part of my
job to worry over Thomas, but--"  Lydia paused.

"What about him?" demanded Hannah.  "Tell me."


The porter had made several trips to the vestibule, staggering
through the swaying car with heavy bags and cases.  It had begun to
look as if almost everybody on the train would be getting off at
Asheville.  He had come now for Hannah's baggage.  There wasn't
much of it--a suitcase and an overnight bag.  The porter insisted
on rubbing her shoes, and when she inquired nervously whether they
were almost there, he said:  "Yas'm; in five minutes."  Hannah's
query was entirely superfluous, for the passengers were pulling on
their coats; but she had wanted to try out her voice to see if it
would sound as hollow and indecisive as she had feared.  And it
fulfilled her forebodings, sounding as if she were guilty of some
crime and expected to be met by the police at the station.

Ever since wakening, long before daylight, Hannah had been growing
more and more stampeded by the thought of her errand.  When the
conductor stopped to return the unused portion of her ticket, she
would have been very glad if he had said:  "Sorry, madam, but
you're on the wrong train.  Your ticket reads to Asheville, and
we're not going there."

It wasn't as if her decision to see Thomas had been arrived at
impetuously.  The idea of going to him had not begun to take on
tangible form until she was on the way home from her day with
Lydia.  Peter had wondered, in his letter, whether he ought to
visit his Uncle Thomas.  Lydia and Hannah had both agreed with him
that this might have the wrong effect.  It might only add to
Thomas's humiliation and sense of defeat if Peter, who had so
idolized him, made a journey to witness his hero's collapse.

But SOMEONE should have a friendly talk with Thomas.  He was sick,
worried, lonely.  It was not right to neglect him.  Gradually the
conviction deepened in Hannah's mind that she herself should go.
The fact that Thomas had once neglected her at a time of her most
urgent need of him was quite beside the point and could be
forgotten.

Next morning, Hannah had sought a word with Paul.  She found him in
the library studiously intent upon the paper which he had carried
with him from the breakfast table contrary to his usual custom.
Briefly she had confided her dilemma while he listened only half
attentively.

"By all means," he had urged, with businesslike promptness that
discouraged any extended debate.  "By all means go, Hannah.  It
will be a great satisfaction to you both.  Thomas's illness
provides a very good reason for a friendly interview."  His eyes
wandered again to the newspaper.  "You should plan to go at once."

"I'm not quite sure," Hannah replied uncertainly.  "It isn't enough
to go there in a friendly attitude.  I ought to have something
helpful to say to him.  I should like to be able to do something
for him."

Aware now that Hannah was seriously pressing for advice rather than
his mere consent to her journey, Paul had put down the paper,
carefully polished his glasses, and deliberated.

"You might not be able to do anything--directly," he announced
judicially.  "But in the face of your efforts to conciliate, Thomas
may be able to do something for HIMSELF.  Obviously, what he needs
now is a restoration of his self-confidence, his self-esteem.
Doubtless the memory of his bad treatment of you has been a very
sore and sensitive spot in his mind all through the years.  You're
the only person who can help him heal that old lesion."

"Is it so very important that the old lesion be healed NOW?
Perhaps it doesn't bother him any more.  It has been a long time."

"Yes--but there have been plenty of distractions.  Now that Thomas
has ample time for reviewing his mistakes, the thing he did to you
will loom large and hurt very painfully . . .  Hannah, it might be
interesting to inquire"--Paul's eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he
paused to find the right words for a new idea--"It might be
interesting to inquire whether the person who has been dreadfully
wronged, injured, defrauded, is not morally obliged to assist the
other fellow in relieving himself of his intolerable remorse."

Hannah nodded an agreement to this, adding, in a tone barely
audible, that not many people would find it easy to do.

"No, not easy--but far easier than for the aggressor to make peace
with the person he has wronged.  This is part of your own
philosophy, Hannah, and that philosophy is sound.  See here!  You
have always maintained that the person who, having been injured or
defrauded, makes no effort to avenge himself or reclaim his losses,
achieves a peculiar strength of spirit.  That is a demonstrable
fact.  You and I both know it's true.  Now!--isn't it just as
logical that the person who has perpetrated that fraud and
inflicted that injury--and has been permitted to do it without
hindrance or threat of redress--is WEAKENED in spirit?  And, if so,
is it not the duty of the strong one to come to the rescue?"

Hannah found herself deeply stirred.

"Oh, Paul," she exclaimed, "that's magnificent!"

He tipped back in his chair, interlaced his fingers behind his head
and, smiling, into her eyes said slowly:  "I suppose that this
might be called the highest, the costliest, the final degree in the
practise of personal disarmament, personal peace, private courage.
You can do it, of course, for you've trained yourself in that
school.  Go to Thomas, Hannah.  Then--I think you can feel that
you've--GRADUATED?"

There was a considerable silence.  Hannah rose and walked towards
the door, where, with her hand on the knob, she turned to say:
"That was quite distressing news, wasn't it?"

Paul's brows contracted into a dark frown.  He tapped the paper
with his glasses.

"I suppose you mean--about Ellis's financial smash--and attempted
suicide?"

Hannah nodded.

"Well?" growled Paul, deep in his throat.

Hannah drew a puckery little smile.

"Got what was coming to him, didn't he?" demanded Paul gruffly.

"I was just wondering," said Hannah gently.  "Perhaps YOU might
earn one of those diplomas, too."


For the first few moments they hardly realised what they were
saying to each other, so occupied were they in their candid
appraisals of the greying hair and the deeply chiselled lines which
mapped the long journey they had made through the years since the
day of their separation.

Hannah would have known him anywhere.  The things she had admired
most had remained practically unchanged--the quadrant of spider-
webbish crow's feet that had always added a touch of maturity and
something almost like sagacity to the sidelong look he gave you;
the rugged temples, where, under the pallor, a blue vein now pulsed
ominously; the square chin that had always lied a little when
presenting Thomas as a man of determination; the close-set ears,
finely modelled, patrician--the ears he had bequeathed to Peter in
such an unmistakably identifiable manner that Hannah had sometimes
wondered if the ears wouldn't some day tell the secret of their
relationship to the most indifferent observer; the soft, drawling
voice that seemed always to be saying, no matter by what words
"After all, what's the difference. . . .  Why bother? . . .  Forget
it. . . .  Take the cash and let the credit go."  There had been
times when it had seemed a very comforting voice.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Hannah," Thomas was saying evenly.
"I wish I were in a position to show you about.  It is quite
beautiful here.  I shall arrange some drives for you--if you will
allow me."

It wasn't going to be easy to talk about the things that really
mattered.  Thomas quietly, courteously directed the conversation
for an hour, avoiding any mention of his misfortunes.  The years,
he declared pleasantly, had been very kind to Hannah, adding:
"Some people have a talent for combating Time," and when she smiled
her appreciation, he continued playfully:  "I observe that your
theory of non-resistance did not rest on your submission to the
ravages of oncoming age."

Hannah was growing a bit restless.  Thomas was taking pains to see
that none of his inconsequential remarks tossed her a cue for some
serious comment.  Besides, there were plenty of interruptions which
Thomas apparently welcomed.  The nurse came and went on trivial
errands, almost as if she had had instructions to do so.  The
doctor came, and Hannah was amiably presented as a long-time friend
"practically a member of our family".  The daily papers came.  The
librarian came.  The chauffeur came.  The mail came, followed
presently by a special-delivery letter.  Thomas asked to be
pardoned while he read it.  Hannah was beginning to feel
superfluous.

"I mustn't tire you," she said, when there was a brief undisturbed
interval.  "I had thought we might both be glad for a quiet talk.
We parted under circumstances that made us sorry.  I felt that it
might ease our minds if we met again and assured each other of our
friendship."

Thomas, with a gentle gesture, dismissed any suggestion that there
had been ill-feeling between them.

"It is fine of you, Hannah," he declared companionably.  "Surely
you have no cause to regret your own attitude.  It was most
magnanimous. . . .  As for me--well--"  He shrugged a shoulder
slightly.  "Perhaps it's too late to talk about it.  I've always
been sorry."

"I didn't come to discuss that," said Hannah reassuringly.  "I
understood the predicament you were in--when you left me.  I have
not harboured any resentment.  It gives me pleasure to tell you
that.  I thought you might be glad to know it, now that you aren't
very well and have need of a peaceful mind. . . .  There's really
nothing," she continued, after a pause which Thomas hadn't been
disposed to make use of--"there's nothing to compare with a
peaceful mind, particularly when one is alone--or ill."

Thomas's face clouded.

"You're right," he said crisply.  "That's my trouble now.  I'm not
sleeping.  I can crowd the daytime with little distractions, but at
night, when everything is quiet, my mind is a riot.  All the people
who have taken me in come to taunt me.  I've been robbed by men I
trusted, men I'd known for years.  I get to hating them--at night."
He nervously slipped a hand under the sheet and fumbled in the
vicinity of his heart.  "It isn't good for me.  But, somehow, I
can't stop it."

"Must you let them keep on robbing you?"

"No," snapped Thomas obtusely, "they can't take anything else.
I've been practically cleaned out."

"Of money--you mean?"

"Money--of course!" he growled, in an impatient tone that charged
Hannah with stupidity.  Then, suddenly sorry for his rudeness, he
added less irascibly:  "There's nothing left now to steal."

"Except your peace," said Hannah quietly.  "You couldn't help their
taking your money.  Now that they've got it, let them have it.  But--
please, Thomas--don't let them hurt you any more."

He stirred restlessly.  The nurse came in and he dismissed her with
a jerk of his head towards the door.  "See that we're not bothered
for a while," he said, as she went out.

"It's easy enough to say, Hannah.  Perhaps it might even be easy
enough to do--for a person of your fine calibre.  But--"

Hannah leaned forward, resting her elbow on the arms of her chair,
and regarded Thomas compassionately.

"May I tell you a strange story, about the man in whose home I have
been employed for many years?"

"Case like mine, I presume," surmised Thomas.

She made no effort to speed or abridge her narrative.  For a time
it was evident that Thomas was listening for sheer courtesy's sake.
But when the invention was ruthlessly stolen, after Paul's hope had
been so radiantly illumined and a fortune was all but in his hand,
it was gratifying to see Thomas growing keenly attentive.
Thrusting a bent arm under his head, he followed her lips with
absorbed eyes.

"And then," continued Hannah, "the poor fellow went literally
crazy, hacked his machine to fragments, and yelled to heaven that
he would get even if it took his last cent."

"And not much wonder!" approved Thomas.  "He could have put them
all behind the bars for a rascally job like that.  I hope he did."

"He didn't," said Hannah serenely.  "And that has to be explained
by another story. . . .  Am I wearying you, Thomas?"

"Not at all.  Go right on.  What did Ward do about it?"

"Well--before I tell you that--"  And then Hannah proceeded to the
almost incredible incident of Paul's promise made at the time of
Wallie's desperate illness.

"Religious fellow, eh?" commented Thomas dryly, at the end of it.

"No--not the least bit."

"Umm--perhaps not in the conventional way--but he did believe in a
faith-cure."

"No--I don't think he had any faith at all.  But he loved his child
and was willing to gamble on MY faith."

"You really believed in it, I suppose. . . .  Of course, I can see
that you did."  Thomas grimaced.  "Ward put up the votive offering
of money, and you put up your faith and together you worked a
miracle: is that it?"

Hannah refused to be disturbed.  She smiled indulgently, and went
on.

"That's one way of saying it.  But Mr Ward didn't actually 'put up
the money'.  It had already been stolen from him, you see.  He
simply consented to let them have it--and not fight back.  The
curious thing about it was that he didn't even hate the Ellises any
more.  He seemed to have possessed himself of some new energy to do
things he had never been able to manage before.  He became more
important at the University, did twice the work with half the
effort, and then--one day--he resumed his interest in the old
invention and made another machine that completely surpassed the
one they'd stolen.  It made him very well-to-do."

Thomas laughed unpleasantly.

"And so--his God paid him off in cash.  That was nice of Him. . . .
Forgive me, Hannah," he added, quickly sobering when he saw the
pain in her eyes.  "I'm afraid that wasn't very courteous."

"Oh--that's all right, Thomas.  I'd much rather you'd be honest
than polite.  Paul did become wealthy, but that was only
incidental.  The really important reward he received was the gift
of PERSONAL PEACE.  From the day he decided not to make war on the
Ellis brothers, he left off hating them.  They did not trouble him
any more--at night.  He couldn't have bought that--not for a
million!"

"But he had to invest something to get it," observed Thomas
thoughtfully.  "I assume that you've been telling me all this
because you think my case is similar.  Perhaps it is.  But I'm
quite empty-handed, Hannah.  Ward had something to offer--when his
boy needed it."

"I was just about to speak of that, Thomas."  Hannah's voice was
very tender.  "Paul Ward was prepared to make almost any sort of
sacrifice for his son.  All that was to his credit, of course.  But
when he did it he knew that if his adventure was successful, he
would have his boy restored to him.  You and I both know what it
means to give up something for the sake of a child--and never to
experience the happiness of actually claiming him as our own.  You
say you have nothing to offer.  My dear, you have already made your
offering.  Year after year, you have hidden your identity as
Peter's father, permitting his foster-mother to take full credit
for giving him his education, travel, luxuries, advantages of all
sorts.  You asked nothing in return.  I think you deserve something
for this investment."

Thomas's eyes softened.

"How about YOU, Hannah?" he said gently.  "Surely your sacrifice
was greater than mine."

"I've had my pay," said Hannah.

"In--in what you call--PERSONAL PEACE--you mean?"

"Yes."  She laid her hand gently on his and smiled into his eyes.
"May I not share it with you, Thomas?"

They regarded each other silently for a little while.  Then with a
deep sigh, Thomas shook his head doubtfully.

"You've earned it, you know," persisted Hannah softly.  "It's there--
waiting for you--whenever you want to claim it."

He smiled his appreciation of her solicitude, but gave no sign of
belief in what she had been saying.  Presently he reached up for
the cord that dangled at the head of his bed and pressed the
button.  The nurse appeared.

"Kindly serve luncheon here--for two," he said.  And when the door
had closed again, he remarked animatedly:  "Hannah, it has been
immensely good of you to come.  How long can you stay?"

"Until to-night.  I'm leaving at ten.  I've my work to do.  I shall
go home much happier for having talked with you."


It was nine o'clock.  Hannah had dropped in for a moment to say
good-bye, and had left in high spirits.  The nurse was busying
herself with the customary duties of preparing her difficult
patient for another restless night.

"You have had a very active day, Mr Bradford," she remarked half-
testily.  "Much too much excitement."

Thomas made no reply.

"Well--how about it?  Shall I give you a sleeping-powder or do you
want your detective story?"

"Neither," said Thomas, as from a considerable distance.

"You'll ring--if you want me?"

"I'll not be wanting you.  Turn off the light, please."



CHAPTER XX


Sally tossed the flowers down towards the uplifted white arms of
her bridesmaids, blew them a kiss, and continued up the stairs,
Peter following closely.

In the upper hall she tightened her fingers on his arm and
whispered:  "Let's go down the back way, darling, and find Hannah."
It was dark in the narrow passage that led to the kitchen.  For a
long moment they paused before opening the door, and were a little
breathless when they emerged into the crowded service quarters
where Hannah was calmly supervising the swarm of extra help.  They
waved a hand to her and she came quickly to meet them, her eyes
shining.

"Thanks for everything, Hannah," said Sally.  "The dinner was
simply perfect!  The only thing lacking was you.  We wanted you--
sitting beside us.  I wish you had been willing to do it, dear.  We
must run now.  We came down to say good-bye."

"And we love you--very much," added Peter, slipping an arm about
her.  He lowered his tone and bent to murmur into her ear:  "We'll
be thinking about you--always."

"I'm so proud of you both."  Hannah's voice was unsteady.  They
came into a tight little circle, entwining their arms.

"Will you take good care of Sally, Peter?"

"You know I will, Aunt Hannah.  And when we're settled in
Schenectady, you're to be out first guest.  Promise?  We've
definitely planned on that.  Haven't we, Sally?"

"And you're to stay as long as you can stand the rations."

"We must be off now," said Peter.  He drew Hannah into his arms and
kissed her tenderly.  She reached up both hands, pressed her palms
against his cheeks, searched his eyes earnestly and whispered:  "Oh--
my boy--I'm so happy for you!"

Hot tears welled up into Sally's eyes.

"We'll be writing you, darling," she promised.

Hannah clung to them for another moment.

"You both--belong to me," she said brokenly.  "I'll be awfully
lonesome."  Then resolutely brightening:  "Run along, now.  Be good
to each other."  She followed them to the door, nervously stroking
Peter's sleeve.


Marcia, never more stunningly beautiful, turned to Mrs Edmunds.

"Did you ever see a more handsome pair?  We may as well admit it,
just between us, my dear.  They are absolutely incomparable!  I
think Peter is really the most divine-looking thing I ever saw;
and, of course, I think that Sally--"

"Is adorably lovely," agreed Lydia.  "But why shouldn't she be, if
you don't mind my saying it to your face."

Marcia didn't mind.

"I'll be calling you Lydia now, may I?  We'll be wanting to see
much of you.  Not just because we're related--but because we really
want you."

Lydia smiled her thanks.  Marcia glanced towards the hallway, noted
that the crowd was moving out on to the veranda, and turned to say:
"I think I'll run up and see if I can do anything for Sally."

"They'll have to hurry, won't they?" said Lydia.


Wallie gave Lucy Trimble's hand an affectionate squeeze as he
passed her, and called to Roberta, slim and slinky in black satin:
"Better get your coat, young fellow.  You haven't enough on.  It
will be chilly down there."

"I'm not going," drawled Roberta.  "There'll be enough of a mob
without me."

Wallie screwed up his face reprovingly.  Roberta grinned and
nonchalantly patted an elaborately sleek black curl that circled
the huge red eardrop, withdrew the long red cigarette-holder, and
blew a leisurely exhalation into Wallie's eyes.

"But what will Sally think?" he muttered.

Roberta shrugged an angular shoulder.

"Sally," she replied dryly, "won't be thinking."


Sam Trimble, playing a next-of-kin role, gave the belated messenger
boy a quarter and signed for the telegram.

"Guess I'll read it," he remarked.  "Make sure it isn't something
that might upset anybody."  He winked to Adele wickedly, and opened
the message.  "Ah--it's from Peter's Uncle Thomas.  Congratulations--
and so forth. . . .  Well--as I was saying, Mrs Moore, it's the
utilities that's going to get a sock in the jaw."

"You mean--another bigger sock?" queried Adele complacently.

"Sure!"  Sam hooked an elbow over the banister and prepared to
elucidate.  "You see--it's this way--"

"Give me a light first, won't you?  This sounds as if it's going to
be hard."


There was a commotion above, and Peter and Sally, hand in hand,
came racing down in their going away clothes.  The congestion about
the front door eased to let them pass.

Lydia opened her arms as Peter neared her and was gathered into an
affectionate embrace.  Then he kissed Marcia, a bit shyly, all but
muffing it in the jostling pack.  Sally hugged her parents.  Paul
slapped Peter on the back.

"Come on!" commanded Wallie.  "You'll miss your train!"

They scurried out.  Car doors slammed.  Lights gleamed.  Motors
churned.  Marcia and Lydia joined the racket outside and were
showered with confetti.

Hannah slipped quietly, quickly up the stairs.

Paul and Eleanor, in the front doorway, followed her with their
eyes; then exchanged an inquiring glance.

"Run along up with her," said Eleanor soberly.  "She ought to have
someone with her.  It's damned pitiful--if you ask me."

"Why don't YOU go?"  Paul studied her eyes.  "You know all about
it."

"About WHAT?"

"About EVERYTHING."

Eleanor's lips slowly parted in astonishment.

"Do YOU?" she whispered.

Paul nodded.

"Are you sure?--EVERYTHING?"

"EVERYTHING!  And it isn't pitiful at all.  And Hannah will prefer
to be alone--to watch them go.  She'll see it through.  You can
depend on that.  Hannah is at her very best when there's a demand
for--for private courage. . . .  Well--there they go.  God bless
'em!"


Hannah turned off the light in Sally's disordered bedroom and ran
to one of the front windows.  She drew aside the curtain, her heart
pounding hard.  The cars were moving down the driveway and out into
the street.

She pressed her knuckles deeply into her trembling lips, dabbed at
her eyes with the corner of her white apron, drew a whimpering
little sob, bowed her head, and leaned limply for a moment against
the casing.

Then she straightened, wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, squared
her shoulders--and smiled.


THE END




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