Grace Livingston Hill
Part 6 out of 6
"Well, it's my duty to tell you that you'd probably be throwing your life
away, for there's only a chance that he won't die."
"Not throwing it away if I made him suffer a little less. And you said
there was a chance. If I didn't stay he might miss that chance, mightn't
"Can I do anything to help or ease him?"
"Then I stay. I should stay anyway until some one came. I couldn't leave
"Very well, then. I'm proud to know a man like you. There's plenty to be
done. Let's get to work."
The hour that followed was filled with instructions and labor. Michael had
no time to think what would become of his work, or anything. He only knew
that this was the present duty and he went forward in it step by step.
Before the doctor left he vaccinated Michael, and gave him careful
directions how to take all necessary precautions for his own safety; but
he knew from the lofty look in the young man's face, that these were mere
secondary considerations with him. If the need came for the sake of the
patient, all precautions would be flung aside as not mattering one whit.
The doctor roused the servants and told them what had happened, and tried
to persuade them to stay quietly in their places, and he would see that
they ran no risks if they obeyed his directions. But to a man and a woman
they were panic stricken; gathering their effects, they, like the Arabs
of old, folded their tents and silently stole away in the night. Before
morning dawned Michael and his patient were in sole possession of the
Early in the morning there came a call from the doctor. He had not been
able to secure the nurse he hoped to get. Could Michael hold the fort a
few hours longer? He would relieve him sooner if possible, but experienced
nurses for contagious cases were hard to get just now. There was a great
deal of sickness. He might be able to get one this morning but it was
doubtful. He had telephoned everywhere.
Of course Michael would hold the fort.
The doctor gave explicit directions, asked a number of questions, and
promised to call as soon as possible.
Michael, alone in the great silence that the occasional babble of a
delirious person emphasizes in an otherwise empty house, began to think of
things that must be done. Fortunately there was a telephone in the room.
He would not have to leave his patient alone. He called up Will French and
told him in a few words what had happened; laughed pleasantly at Will's
fears for him; asked him to look after the alley work and to attend to one
or two little matters connected with his office work which could not be put
off. Then he called up Sam at the farm, for Michael had long ago found it
necessary to have a telephone put in at Old Orchard.
The sound of Sam's voice cheered his heart, when, after Michael's brief
simple explanation of his present position as trained nurse for the head
of the house of Endicott who lay sick of smallpox, Sam responded with a
dismayed "Fer de lub o' Mike!"
When Michael had finished all his directions to Sam, and received his
partner's promise to do everything just as Michael would have done it, Sam
broke out with:
"Say, does dat ike know what he's takin' off'n you?"
"Who? Mr. Endicott? No, Sam, he doesn't know anything. He's delirious."
"Ummm!" grunted Sam deeply troubled. "Well, he better fin' out wen he gets
hisself agin er there'll be sompin' comin' to him."
"He's done a great deal for me, Sam."
"Ummm! Well, you're gettin' it back on him sure thing now, all right. Say,
you t' care o' yer'se'f, Mikky! We-all can't do nothin' w'th'ut yer. You
lemme know every day how you be."
"Sure Sam!" responded Michael deeply touched by the choking sound of Sam's
voice. "Don't you worry. I'm sound as a nut. Nothing'll happen to me. The
doctor vaccinated me, and I'll not catch it. You look after things for me
and I'll be on deck again some day all the better for the rest."
Michael sat back in the chair after hanging up the receiver, his eyes
glistening with moisture. To think the day had come when Sam should care
like that! It was a miracle.
Michael went back again to the bed to look after his patient, and after he
had done everything that the doctor had said, he decided to reconnoitre for
some breakfast. There must be something in the house to eat even if the
servants had all departed, and he ought to eat so that his strength should
be equal to his task.
It was late in the morning, nearly half-past ten. The young man hurried
downstairs and began to ransack the pantry. He did not want to be long away
from the upper room. Once, as he was stooping to search the refrigerator
for butter and milk he paused in his work and thought he heard a sound
at the front door, but then all seemed still, and he hurriedly put a few
things on a tray and carried them upstairs. He might not be able to come
down again for several hours. But when he reached the top of the stairs he
heard a voice, not his patient's, but a woman's voice, sweet and clear and
"Daddy! Oh, daddy dear! Why don't you speak to your little girl? What is
the matter? Can't you understand me? Your face and your poor hands are so
hot, they burn me. Daddy, daddy dear!"
It was Starr's voice and Michael's heart stood still with the thrill of it,
and the instant horror of it. Starr was in there in the room of death with
her father. She was exposed to the terrible contagion; she, the beautiful,
frail treasure of his heart!
He set the tray down quickly on the hall table and went swiftly to the
She sat on the side of the bed, her arms about her father's unconscious
form and her head buried in his neck, sobbing.
For an instant Michael was frozen to the spot with horror at her dangerous
situation. If she had wanted to take the disease she could not have found a
more sure way of exposing herself.
The next instant Michael's senses came back and without stopping to think
he sprang forward and caught her up in his arms, bearing her from the room
and setting her down at the bath-room door.
"Oh, Starr! what have you done!" he said, a catch in his voice like a sob,
for he did not know what he was saying.
Starr, frightened, struggling, sobbing, turned and looked at him.
"Michael! How did you come to be here? Oh, what is the matter with my
"Go wash your hands and face quickly with this antiseptic soap," he
commanded, all on the alert now, and dealing out the things the doctor
had given him for his own safety, "and here! rinse your mouth with this
quickly, and gargle your throat! Then go and change your things as quick as
you can. Your father has the smallpox and you have been in there close to
"Hurry!" commanded Michael, handing her the soap and turning on the hot
Starr obeyed him because when Michael spoke in that tone people always did
obey, but her frightened eyes kept seeking his face for some reassurance.
"The smallpox! Oh, Michael! How dreadful! But how do you know? Has the
doctor been here? And how did you happen to be here?"
"I was passing last night when your father came home and he asked me to
help him in. Yes, the doctor was here, and will soon come again and bring a
nurse. Now hurry! You must get away from the vicinity of this room!"
"But I'm not going away!" said Starr stubbornly. "I'm going to stay by my
father. He'll want me."
"Your father would be distressed beyond measure if he knew that you were
exposed to such terrible danger. I know that he would far rather have you
go away at once. Besides, he is delirious, and your presence cannot do him
any good now. You must take care of yourself, so that when he gets well you
will be well too, and able to help him get back into health again."
"But you are staying."
"It does not matter about me," said Michael, "there is no one to care.
Besides, I am a man, and perfectly strong. I do not think I will take
the disease. Now please take off those things you wore in there and get
something clean that has not been in the room and go away from here as
quickly as you can."
Michael had barely persuaded her to take precautions when the doctor
arrived with a nurse and the promise of another before night.
He scolded Starr thoroughly for her foolhardiness in going into her
father's room. He had been the family physician ever since she was born,
knew her well; and took the privilege of scolding when he liked. Starr
meekly succumbed. There was just one thing she would not do, and that was
to go away out of the house while her father remained in so critical a
condition. The doctor frowned and scolded, but finally agreed to let her
stay. And indeed it seemed as if perhaps it was the only thing that could
be done; for she had undoubtedly been exposed to the disease, and was
subject to quarantine. There seemed to be no place to which she could
safely go, where she could be comfortable, and the house was amply large
enough for two or three parties to remain in quarantine in several
There was another question to be considered. The nurses would have their
hands full with their patient. Some one must stay in the house and look
after things, see that they needed nothing, and get some kind of meals.
Starr, of course, knew absolutely nothing about cooking, and Michael's
experience was limited to roasting sweet potatoes around a bonfire at
college, and cooking eggs and coffee at the fireplace on the farm. But a
good cook to stay in a plague-stricken dwelling would be a thing of time,
if procurable at all; so the doctor decided to accept the willing services
of these two. Starr was established in her own room upstairs, which could
be shut away from the front part of the house by a short passage-way and
two doors, with access to the lower floor by means of the back stairs; and
Michael made a bed of the soft couch in the tiny reception room where he
had twice passed through trying experiences. Great curtains kept constantly
wet with antiseptics shut away the sick room and adjoining apartments from
the rest of the house.
It was arranged that Michael should place such supplies as were needed at
the head of the stairs, just outside the guarding curtains, and the nurses
should pass all dishes through an antiseptic bath before sending them
downstairs again. The electric bells and telephones with which the house
was well supplied made it possible for them to communicate with one another
without danger of infection.
Starr was at once vaccinated and the two young people received many
precautions, and injunctions, with medicine and a strict régime; and even
then the old doctor shook his head dubiously. If those two beautiful faces
should have to pass through the ordeal of that dread disease his old heart
would be quite broken. All that skill and science could do to prevent it
should be done.
So the house settled down to the quiet of a daily routine; the busy city
humming and thundering outside, but no more a part of them than if they
had been living in a tomb. The card of warning on the door sent all the
neighbors in the block scurrying off in a panic to Palm Beach or Europe;
and even the strangers passed by on the other side. The grocery boy and
the milkman left their orders hurriedly on the front steps and Michael and
Starr might almost have used the street for an exercise ground if they had
chosen, so deserted had it become.
But there was no need for them to go farther than the door in front, for
there was a lovely side and back yard, screened from the street by a high
wall, where they might walk at will when they were not too busy with their
work; which for their unskilled hands was hard and laborious. Nevertheless,
their orders were strict, and every day they were out for a couple of hours
at least. To keep from getting chilled, Michael invented all sorts of games
when they grew tired of just walking; and twice after a new fall of snow
they went out and had a game of snowballing, coming in with glowing faces
and shining eyes, to change wet garments and hurry back to their kitchen
work. But this was after the first few serious days were passed, and the
doctor had given them hope that if all went well there was a good chance of
the patient pulling through.
They settled into their new life like two children who had known each other
a long time. All the years between were as if they had not been. They made
their blunders; were merry over their work; and grew into each other's
companionship charmingly. Their ideas of cooking were most primitive and
had it not been possible to order things sent in from caterers they and the
nurses might have been in danger of starving to death. But as it was, what
with telephoning to the nurses for directions, and what with studying the
recipes on the outside of boxes of cornstarch and farina and oatmeal and
the like that they found in the pantry, they were learning day by day to do
a little more.
And then, one blessed day, the dear nurse Morton walked in and took off
her things and stayed. Morton had been on a long-delayed visit to her old
father in Scotland that winter; but when she saw in the papers the notice
of the calamity that had befallen the house of her old employer, she packed
her trunk and took the first steamer back to America. Her baby, and her
baby's father needed her, and nothing could keep Morton away after that.
Her coming relieved the situation very materially, for though she had never
been a fancy cook, she knew all about good old-fashioned Scotch dishes, and
from the first hour took up her station in the kitchen. Immediately comfort
and orderliness began to reign, and Starr and Michael had time on their
hands that was not spent in either eating, sleeping, working or exercise.
It was then that they began to read together, for the library was filled
with all the treasures of literature, to many of which Michael had never
had access save through the public libraries, which of course was not as
satisfactory as having books at hand when one had a bit of leisure in a
busy life. Starr had been reading more than ever before this winter while
with her aunt, and entered into the pleasant companionship of a book
together with zest.
Then there were hours when Starr played softly, and sang, for the piano was
far from the sick room and could not be heard upstairs. Indeed, if it had
not been for the anxious struggle going on upstairs, these two would have
been having a beautiful time.
For all unknowing to themselves they were growing daily into a dear delight
in the mere presence of one another. Even Michael, who had long ago laid
down the lines between which he must walk through life, and never expected
to be more to Starr than a friend and protector, did not realize whither
this intimate companionship was tending. When he thought of it at all he
thought that it was a precious solace for his years of loneliness; a time
that must be enjoyed to the full, and treasured in memory for the days of
barrenness that must surely follow.
Upstairs the fight went on day after day, until at last one morning the
doctor told them that it had been won, that the patient, though very much
enfeebled, would live and slowly get back his strength.
That was a happy morning. The two caught each, other's hands and whirled
joyously round the dining-room when they heard it; and Morton came in with
her sleeves rolled up, and her eyes like two blue lakes all blurred with
raindrops in the sunlight. Her face seemed like a rainbow.
The next morning the doctor looked the two over before he went upstairs and
set a limit to their quarantine. If they kept on doing well they would be
reasonably safe from taking the disease. It would be a miracle, almost, if
neither of them took it; but it began to look as if they were going to be
Now these two had been so absorbed in one another that they had thought
very little about the danger of their taking the disease themselves. If
either had been alone in the house with nothing to do but brood it would
have probably been the sole topic of thought, but their healthy busy hours
had helped the good work on, and so they were coming safely out from under
It was one bright morning when they were waiting for the doctor to come
that Michael was glancing over the morning paper, and Starr trying a new
song she had sent for that had just come in the mail the evening before.
She wanted to be able to play it for Michael to sing.
Suddenly Michael gave a little exclamation of dismay, and Starr, turning on
the piano stool, saw that his face was white and he was staring out of the
window with a drawn, sad look about his mouth and eyes.
"What is it?" she asked in quick, eager tones of sympathy, and Michael
turning to look at her vivid beauty, his heart thrilling with the sound of
her voice, suddenly felt the wide gulf that had always been between them,
for what he had read in the paper had shaken him from his happy dream and
brought him back to a sudden realization of what he was.
The item in the paper that had brought about this rude awakening was an
account of how Buck had broken jail and escaped. Michael's great heart
was filled with trouble about Buck; and instantly he remembered that he
belonged to the same class with Buck; and not at all in the charmed circle
where Starr moved.
He looked at the girl with grave, tender eyes, that yet seemed to be less
intimate than they had been all these weeks. Her sensitive nature felt the
difference at once.
He let her read the little item.
Starr's face softened with ready sympathy, and a mingling of indignation.
"He was one of those people in your tenements you have been trying to
help?" she questioned, trying to understand his look. "He ought to have
been ashamed to get into jail after you had been helping him. Wasn't he a
sort of a worthless fellow?"
"No," said Michael in quick defense, "he never had a chance. And he was not
just one of those people, he was _the_ one. He was the boy who took care of
me when I was a little fellow, and who shared everything he had, hard crust
or warm cellar door, with me. I think he loved me--"
There was something in Michael's face and voice that warned Starr these
were sacred precincts, where she must tread lightly if she did not wish to
"Tell me about him," she breathed softly.
So Michael, his eyes tender, his voice gentle, because she had cared to
know, told her eloquently of Buck, till when he had finished her eyes were
wet with tears; and she looked so sweet that he had to turn his own eyes
away to keep from taking the lovely vision into his arms and kissing her.
It was a strange wild impulse he had to do this, and it frightened him.
Suppose some day he should forget himself, and let her see how he had dared
to love her? That must never be. He must put a watch upon himself. This
sweet friendship she had vouchsafed him must never be broken by word, look
or action of his.
And from that morning there came upon his manner a change, subtle,
intangible,--but a change.
They read and talked together, and Michael opened his heart to her as he
had not yet done, about his work in the alley, his farm colony, and his
hopes for his people; Starr listened and entered eagerly into his plans,
yet felt the change that had come upon him, and her troubled spirit knew
not what it was.
All this while Michael had been in daily communication with Sam, as well as
with Will French, who with Hester's help had kept the rooms in the alley
going, though they reported that the head had been sorely missed.
Sam had reported daily progress with the house and about two weeks before
Michael's release from quarantine announced that everything was done, even
to the papering of the walls and oiling of the floors.
A fire had been burning in the furnace and fireplaces for several weeks, so
the plaster was thoroughly dry, and it was Michael's plan that Starr and
her father were to go straight down to the farm as soon as they were free
to leave the house.
To this end Hester and Will had been given daily commissions to purchase
this and that needful article of furniture, until now at last Michael felt
that the house would be habitable for Starr and her precious invalid.
During the entire winter Michael had pleased himself in purchasing rugs
here and there, and charming, fitting, furniture for the house he was
building. A great many things,--the important things,--had already been
selected, and Michael knew he could trust Hester's taste for the rest. For
some reason he had never said much to Starr about either Hester or Will,
perhaps because they had always seemed to him to belong to one another, and
thus were somewhat set apart from his own life.
But one morning, Starr, coming into the library where Michael was
telephoning Hester about some last purchases she was making, overheard
these words: "All right Hester, you'll know best of course, but I think you
better make it a dozen instead of a half. It's better to have too many than
too few; and we might have company, you know."
Now, of course, Starr couldn't possibly be supposed to know that it was a
question of dishes that was being discussed so intimately. In fact, she did
not stop to think what they were talking about; she only knew that he had
called this other girl "Hester"; and she suddenly became aware that during
all these weeks of pleasant intercourse, although she had addressed him as
Michael, he had carefully avoided using any name at all for her, except on
one or two occasions, substituting pronouns wherever possible. She had
not noticed this before, but when she heard that "Hester" in his pleasant
tones, her heart, brought the fact before her at once for invoice. Who was
this girl Hester? And why was she Hestered so carelessly as though he had
a right? Could it be possible that Michael was engaged to her? Why had she
never thought of it before? Of course it would be perfectly natural. This
other girl had been down in his dear alley, working shoulder to shoulder
with him all these years, and it was a matter of course that he must love
her, Starr's bright morning that but a moment before had been filled with
so much sunshine seemed suddenly to cloud over with a blackness that
blotted out all the joy; and though she strove to hide it even from
herself, her spirit was heavy with something she did not understand.
That evening Michael came into the library unexpectedly. He had been out in
the kitchen helping Morton to open a box that was refractory. He found the
room entirely dark, and thought he heard a soft sound like sobbing in one
corner of the room.
"Starr!" he said. "Starr, is that you?" nor knew that he had called her by
her name, though she knew it very well indeed. She kept quite still for an
instant, and then she rose from the little crumpled heap in the corner of
the leather couch where she had dropped for a minute in the dark to cry out
the strange ache of her heart when she thought Michael was safely in the
kitchen for a while.
"Why, yes, Michael!" she said, and her voice sounded choky, though she was
struggling to make it natural.
Michael stepped to the doorway and turned on the hall lights so that he
could dimly see her little figure standing in the shadow. Then he came over
toward her, his whole heart yearning over her, but a mighty control set
"What is the matter--dear?" He breathed the last word almost under his
breath. He actually did not realize that he had spoken it aloud. It seemed
to envelope her with a deep tenderness. It broke her partial self-control
entirely and she sobbed again for a minute before she could speak.
Oh, if he but dared to take that dear form into his aims and comfort her!
If he but dared! But he had no right!
Michael stood still and struggled with his heart, standing quite near her,
yet not touching her.
"Oh, my dear!" he breathed to himself, in an agony of love and
self-restraint. But she did not hear the breath. She was engaged in a
struggle of her own, and she seemed to remember that Hester-girl, and know
her duty. She must not let him see how she felt, not for anything in the
world. He was kind and tender. He had always been. He had denied himself
and come here to stay with them in their need because of his gratitude
toward her father for all he had done for him; and he had breathed that
"dear" as he would have done to any little child of the tenement whom he
found in trouble. Oh, she understood, even while she let the word comfort
her lonely heart. Why, oh why had she been left to trifle with a handsome
scoundrel? Why hadn't she been worthy to have won the love of a great man
like this one?
These thoughts rushed through her brain so rapidly that they were not
formulated at all. Not until hours afterward did she know they had been
thought; but afterwards she sorted them out and put them in array before
her troubled heart.
A minute she struggled with her tears, and then in a sweet little voice,
like a tired, naughty child she broke out:
"Oh, Michael, you've been so good to me--to us, I mean--staying here all
these weeks and not showing a bit of impatience when you had all that great
work in the world to do--and I've just been thinking how perfectly horrid
I was to you last winter--the things I said and wrote to you--and how I
treated you when you were trying to save me from an awful fate! I'm so
ashamed, and so thankful! It all came over me to-night what I owed you, and
I can't ever thank you. Can you forgive me for the horrid way I acted, and
for passing you on the street that Sunday without speaking to you--I'm so
ashamed! Will you forgive me?"
She put out her little hands with a pathetic motion toward him in the half
light of the room, and he took them in both his great warm ones and held
them in his firm grasp, his whole frame thrilling with her sweet touch.
"Forgive you, little Starr!" he breathed--"I never blamed you--" And there
is no telling what might not have happened if the doctor had not just then
unexpectedly arrived to perfect the arrangements for their going to the
When Michael returned from letting the doctor out, Starr had fled upstairs
to her room; when they met the next morning it was with the bustle of
preparation upon them; and each cast shy smiling glances toward the other.
Starr knew that she was forgiven, but she also knew that there was a wall
reared between them that had not been there before, and her heart ached
with the knowledge. Nevertheless, it was a happy morning, and one could not
be absolutely miserable in the company of Michael, with a father who was
recovering rapidly, and the prospect of seeing him and going with him into
the beautiful out-of-doors within a few hours.
Michael went about the work of preparing to go with a look of solemn joy.
Solemn because he felt that the wonderful companionship he had had alone
with Starr was so soon to end. Joyful because he could be with her still
and know she had passed through the danger of the terrible disease and come
safely out of the shadow with her beauty as vivid as ever. Besides, he
might always serve her, and they were friends now, not enemies--that was a
The little world of Old Orchard stood on tiptoe that lovely spring morning
when the party came down. The winding road that led to the cottage was
arched all over with bursting bloom, for the apple trees had done their
best at decorating for the occasion and made a wondrous canopy of pink and
white for Starr to see as she passed under.
Not a soul was in sight as they drove up to the cottage save Sam, standing
respectfully to receive them in front of the piazza, and Lizzie, vanishing
around the corner of the cottage with her pretty boy toddling after--for
Lizzie had come down to be a waitress at Rose Cottage for the summer;--but
every soul on the farm was watching at a safe distance. For Sam, without
breathing a word, had managed to convey to them all the knowledge that
those who were coming as their guests were beloved of Michael, their
angel-hearted man. As though it had been a great ceremony they stood in
silent, adoring groups behind a row of thick hedges and watched them
arrive, each one glorying in the beauty of her whom in their hearts they
called "the boss's girl."
The room stood wide and inviting to receive them. There was a fire of logs
on the great hearth, and a deep leather chair drawn up before it, with a
smaller rocker at one side, and a sumptuous leather coach for the invalid
just to the side of the fireplace, where the light of the flames would not
strike the eyes, yet the warmth would reach him. Soft greens and browns
were blended in the silk pillows that were piled on the couch and on the
seats that appeared here and there about the walls as if they grew by
nature. The book-case was filled with Michael's favorites, Will French
had seen to this, and a few were scattered on the big table where a green
shaded lamp of unique design, a freshly cut magazine, and a chair drawn at
just the right angle suggested a pleasant hour in the evening. There were
two or three pictures--these Michael had selected at intervals as he
learned to know more about art from his study at the exhibitions.
"Oh!" breathed Starr. "How lovely! It is a real home!" and the thought
struck her that it would probably be Michael's and Hester's some day.
However, she would not let shadows come spoiling her good time now, for it
_was_ her good time and she had a right to it; and she too was happy in the
thought that she and Michael were friends, the kind of friends that can
never be enemies again.
The invalid sank into the cushions of the couch with a pleased light in his
eyes and said: "Son, this is all right. I'm glad you bought the farm," and
Michael turned with a look of love to the man who had been the only father
he had ever known. It was good, good to be reconciled with him, and to know
that he was on the road to health once more.
The doctor who had come down with them looked about with satisfaction.
"I don't see but you are fixed," he said to Endicott. "I wouldn't mind
being in your shoes myself. Wish I could stay and help you enjoy yourself.
If I had a pair of children like those I'd give up work and come buy a farm
alongside, and settle down for life."
The days at the farm passed in a sort of charmed existence for Starr and
her father. Everything they needed seemed to come as if by magic. Every
wish of Starr's was anticipated, and she was waited upon devotedly by
Lizzie, who never by so much as a look tried to win recognition. Starr,
however, always keen in her remembrances, knew and appreciated this.
After the first two days Michael was back and forth in the city. His
business, which had been steadily growing before his temporary retirement
from the world, had piled up and was awaiting his attention. His work in
the alley called loudly for him every night, yet he managed to come down to
the farm often and spent all his Sundays there.
It was one Saturday evening about three weeks after their arrival at the
farm, when they were all seated cosily in the living room of the cottage,
the invalid resting on the couch in the shadow, Starr seated close beside
him, the firelight glowing on her face, her hand in her father's; and
Michael by the table with, a fresh magazine which he was about to read to
them, that a knock came at the door.
Opening the door, Michael found Sam standing on the piazza, and another
dark form huddled behind Him.
"Come out here, can't yer, Buck's here!"' whispered Sam.
"Buck!" Michael spoke the word with a joyful ring that thrilled Starr's
heart with sympathy as she sat listening, her ears alert with interest.
"I'm so glad! So glad!" said Michael's voice again, vibrant with real
welcome. "Come in, Buck, I've a friend in here who knows all about you. No,
don't be afraid. You're perfectly safe. What? Through the windows? Well,
we'll turn the light out and sit in the firelight. You can go over in that
corner by the fireplace. No one will see you. The shades are down."
Michael's voice was low, and he stood within the doorway, but Starr,
because she understood the need, heard every word.
There was dissent in a low whisper outside, and then Sam's voice growled,
"Go on in, Buck, ef he says so." and Buck reluctantly entered, followed by
Buck was respectably dressed in an old suit of Sam's, with his hands and
face carefully washed and his hair combed. Sam had imbibed ideas and was
not slow to impart them. But Buck stood dark and frowning against the
closed door, his hunted eyes like black coals in a setting of snow, went
furtively around the room in restless vigilance. His body wore the habitual
air of crouching alertness. He started slightly when anyone moved or spoke
to him. Michael went quickly over to the table and turned down the lamp.
"You won't mind sitting in the firelight, will you?" he said to Starr in a
low tone, and her eyes told him that she understood.
"Come over here, Buck," said Michael motioning toward the sheltered corner
on the other side of the fireplace from where Starr was sitting. "This is
one of my friends, Miss Endicott, Mr. Endicott. Will you excuse us if we
sit here and talk a few minutes? Miss Endicott, you remember my telling you
Starr with sudden inspiration born of the moment, got up and went over to
where the dark-browed Buck stood frowning and embarrassed in the chimney
corner and put out her little roseleaf of a hand to him. Buck looked at it
in dismay and did not stir.
"Why don't yer shake?" whispered Sam.
Then with a grunt of astonishment Buck put out his rough hand and underwent
the unique experience of holding a lady's hand in his. The hunted eyes
looked up startled to Starr's and like a flash he saw a thought. It was as
if her eyes knew Browning's poem and could express his thought to Buck in
language he could understand:
"All I could never be,
All men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped."
Somehow, Starr, with her smile and her eyes, and her gentle manner,
unknowingly conveyed that thought to Buck! Poor, neglected, sinful Buck!
And Michael, looking on, knew what she had done, and blessed her in his
Buck sat down in the chimney corner, half in shadow with the lights from
the great log flaring over his face. The shades were all drawn down, the
doors were closed He was surrounded by friendly faces. For a few minutes
the hunted eyes ceased their roving round the room, and rested on Starr's
sweet face as she sat quietly, holding her father's hand. It was a sight
such as poor Buck's eyes had never rested upon in the whole of his
checkered existence, and for the moment he let the sweet wonder of it
filter into his dark, scarred soul, with blessed healing. Then he looked
from Starr to Michael's fine face near by, tender with the joy of Buck's
coming, anxious with what might be the outcome; and for a moment the heavy
lines in forehead and brow that Buck had worn since babyhood softened with
a tender look. Perhaps 'tis given, once to even the dullest soul to see, no
matter how low fallen, just what he might have been.
They had been sitting thus for about fifteen minutes, quietly talking.
Michael intended to take Buck upstairs soon and question him, but, first he
wanted time to think what he must do. Then suddenly a loud knock startled
them all, and as Michael rose to go to the door there followed him the
resounding clatter of the tongs falling on the hearth.
A voice with a knife edge to it cut through the room and made them all
"Good evening, Mr. Endicott!" it said. "I'm sorry to trouble you, but I've
come on a most unpleasant errand. We're after an escaped criminal, and
he was seen to enter your door a few minutes ago. Of course I know your
goodness of heart. You take 'em all in, but this one is a jail bird! You'll
excuse me if I take him off your hands. I'll try to do it as quietly and
neatly as possible."
The big, blustery voice ceased and Michael, looking at the sinister gleam
of dull metal in the hands of the men who accompanied the county sheriff,
knew that the crisis was upon him. The man, impatient, was already pushing
past him into the room. It was of no sort of use to resist. He flung the
door wide and turned with the saddest look Starr thought she ever had seen
on the face of a man:
"I know," he said, and his voice was filled with sorrow, "I know--but--he
was one whom I loved!"
"Wasted love! Mr. Endicott. Wasted love. Not one of 'em worth it!"
blustered the big man walking in.
Then Michael turned and faced the group around the fireplace and looking
from one to another turned white with amazement, for Buck was not among
Starr sat beside her father in just the same attitude she had held
throughout the last fifteen minutes, his hand in hers, her face turned,
startled, toward the door, and something inscrutable in her eyes. Sam stood
close beside the fireplace, the tongs which he had just picked up in his
hands, and a look of sullen rage upon his face. Nowhere in the whole wide
room was there a sign of Buck, and there seemed no spot where he could
hide. The door into the dining-room was on the opposite wall, and behind
it the cheerful clatter of the clearing off of the table could be plainly
heard. If Buck had escaped that way there would have been an outcry from
Morton or the maid. Every window had its shade closely drawn.
The sheriff looked suspiciously at Michael whose blank face plainly showed
he had no part in making way with the outlaw. The men behind him looked
sharply round and finished with a curious gaze at Starr. Starr, rightly
interpreting the scene, rose to the occasion.
"Would they like to look behind this couch?" she said moving quickly to the
other side of the fireplace over toward the window, with a warning glance
Then while the men began a fruitless search around the room, looking in the
chimney closet, and behind the furniture, she took up her stand beside the
It had been Michael's thoughtfulness that had arranged that all the windows
should have springs worked by the pressing of a button like some car
windows, so that a touch would send them up at will.
Only Sam saw Starr's hand slide under the curtain a second, and unfasten
the catch at the top; then quickly down and touch the button in the window
sill. The window went up without a noise, and in a moment more the curtain
was moving out gently puffed by the soft spring breeze, and Starr had gone
back to her father's side. "I cannot understand it," said Michael, "he was
here a moment ago!"
The sheriff who had been nosing about the fireplace turned and came over
to the window, sliding up the shade with a motion and looking out into the
"H'm! That's where he went, boys," he said. "After him quick! We ought to
have had a watch at each window as well as at the back. Thank you, Mr.
Endicott! Sorry to have troubled you. Good night!" and the sheriff
clattered after his men.
Sam quickly pulled down the window, fastening it, and turned a look of
almost worshipful understanding on Starr.
"Isn't that fire getting pretty hot for such a warm night?" said Starr
pushing back the hair from her forehead and bright cheeks. "Sam, suppose
you get a little water and pour over that log. I think we will not need any
more fire to-night anyway."
And Sam, quickly hastened to obey, his mouth stretching in a broad grin as
he went out the door.
"She'd make a peach of a burglar," he remarked to himself as he filled a
bucket with water and hurried back with it to the fire.
Michael, in his strait betwixt law and love, was deeply troubled and had
followed the men out into the dark orchard.
"Daddy, I think you'd better get up to your room. This excitement has been
too much for you," said Starr decidedly.
But Mr. Endicott demurred. He had been interested in the little drama that
had been enacted before him, and he wanted to sit up and see the end of it.
He was inclined to blame Michael for bringing such a fellow into Starr's
But Starr laughingly bundled him off to bed and sat for an hour reading
to him, her heart all the time in a flutter to know how things came out,
wondering if Sam surely understood, and put out the fire; and if it would
be safe for her to give him any broader hint.
At midnight, Michael lay broad awake with troubled spirit, wondering over
and over if there was anything he might have done for Buck if he had only
done it in time--anything that would have been right to do.
Softly, cautiously a man stole out of the darkness of the orchard until he
came and stood close to the old chimney, and then, softly stealing on the
midnight summer air there came a peculiar sibilant sound, clear, piercing,
yet blending with the night, and leaving no trace behind of its origin. One
couldn't tell from whence it came. But Michael, keeping vigil, heard, and
rose upon his elbow, alert, listening. Was that Buck calling him? It came
again, softer this time, but distinct. Michael sprang from his bed
and began hastily throwing on his garments. That call should never go
Stealthily, in the light of the low, late moon, a dark figure stole forth
from the old chimney top, climbed down on the ladder that had been silently
tilted against it, helped to lay the ladder back innocently in the deep
grass again, and joining the figure on the ground crept away toward the
river where waited a boat.
Buck lay down, in the bottom of the boat, covered with a piece of sacking,
and Sam took up the oars, when a long, sibilant whistle like a night bird
floated keenly through the air. Buck started up and turned suspicious eyes
"It's Mikky, I reckon," said Sam softly, reverently. "He couldn't sleep.
He's huntin' yer!"
Buck lay down with a sound that was almost a moan and the boat took up its
silent glide toward safety.
"It's fierce ter leave him this 'a'way!" muttered Buck, "Yous tell him,
won't yer, an' her--she's a ly-dy, she is. She's all white! Tell her
Buck'll do ez much fer her some day ef he ever gits the chanct."
"In doin' fer her you'd be doin' fer him, I spekullate," said Sam after a
"So?" said Buck
"So," answered Sam. And that was the way Sam told Buck of the identity of
Now Starr, from her darkened window beside the great chimney, had watched
the whole thing. She waited until she saw Michael come slowly, sadly back
from his fruitless search through the mist before the dawning, alone, with
bowed head; and her heart ached for the problem that was filling him with
Starr was coming up to the city for a little shopping on the early morning
train with Michael. The summer was almost upon her and she had not prepared
her apparel. Besides, she was going away in a few days to be bridesmaid at
the wedding of an old school friend who lived away out West; and secretly
she told herself she wanted the pleasure of this little trip to town with
She was treasuring every one of these beautiful days filled with precious
experiences, like jewels to be strung on memory's chain, with a vague
unrest lest some close-drawing future was to snatch them from her forever.
She wished with all her heart that she had given a decided refusal to her
friend's pleading, but the friend had put off the wedding on her account
to wait until she could leave her father; and her father had joined his
insistance that she should go away and have the rest and change after the
ordeal of the winter. So Starr seemed to have to go, much as she would
rather have remained. She had made a secret vow to herself that she would
return at once after the wedding in spite of all urgings to remain with
the family who had invited her to stay all summer with them. Starr had a
feeling that the days of her companionship with Michael might be short.
She must make the most of them. It might never be the same again after her
going away. She was not sure even that her father would consent to remain
all summer at the farm as Michael urged.
And on this lovely morning she was very happy at the thought of going with
Michael. The sea seemed sparkling with a thousand gems as the train swept
along its shore, and Michael told her of his first coming down to see the
farm, called her attention to the flowers along the way: and she assured
him Old Orchard was far prettier than any of them, now that the roses were
all beginning to bud. It would soon be Rose Cottage indeed!
Then the talk fell on Buck and his brief passing.
"I wonder where he can be and what he is doing," sighed Michael. "If he
only could have stayed, long enough for me to have a talk with him. I
believe I could have persuaded him to a better way. It is the greatest
mystery in the world how he got away with those men watching the house. I
cannot understand it."
Starr, her cheeks rosy, her eyes shining mischievously, looked up at him.
"Haven't you the least suspicion where he was hiding?" she asked.
Michael looked down at her with a sudden start, and smiled into her lovely
"Why, no. Have you?" he said, and could not keep the worship from his gaze.
"Of course. I knew all the time. Do you think it was very dreadful for me
not to tell? I couldn't bear to have him caught that way before you'd had a
chance to help him; and when he used to be so good to you as a little boy;
besides, I saw his face, that terrible, hunted look; there wasn't anything
really wrong in my opening that window and throwing them off the track, was
"Did you open the window?"
Starr nodded saucily. "Yes, and Sam saw me do it. Sam knew all about it.
Buck went up the chimney right through that hot fire. Didn't you hear the
tongs fall down? He went like a flash before you opened the door, and one
foot was still in sight when that sheriff came in. I was so afraid he'd see
it. Was it wrong?"
"I suppose it was," he said sadly. "The law must be maintained. It can't be
set aside for one fellow who has touched one's heart by some childhood's
action. But right or wrong I can't help being glad that you cared to do
something for poor Buck."
"I think I did it mostly for--you?" she said softly, her eyes still down.
For answer, Michael reached out his hand and took her little gloved one
that lay in her lap in a close pressure for just an instant. Then, as if a
mighty power were forcing him, he laid it gently down again and drew his
Starr felt the pressure of that strong hand and the message that it gave
through long days afterward, and more than once it gave her strength and
courage and good cheer. Come what might, she had a friend--a friend strong
and true as an angel.
They spoke no more till the train swept into the station and they had
hurried through the crowd and were standing on the front of the ferryboat,
with the water sparkling before their onward gliding and the whole, great,
wicked, stirring city spread before their gaze, the light from the cross on
Trinity Church steeple flinging its glory in their faces.
"Look!" said Michael pointing. "Do you remember the poem we were reading
the other night: Wordsworth's 'Upon Westminster Bridge.' Doesn't it fit
this scene perfectly? I've often thought of it when I was coming across in
the mornings. To look over there at the beauty one would never dream of all
the horror and wickedness and suffering that lies within those streets. It
is beautiful now. Listen! Do you remember it?
"'Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
"'The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
"'Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
"'The river glideth at its own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!'"
Starr looked long at the picture before her, and then at the face of her
companion speaking the beautiful lines word by word as one draws in the
outlines of a well-loved picture.
Michael's hat was off and the beauty of the morning lay in sunlight on his
hair and cheek and brow. Her heart swelled within her as she looked and
great tears filled her eyes. She dared not look longer lest she show her
deep emotion. The look of him, the words he spoke, and the whole wonderful
scene would linger in her memory as long as life should last.
Two days later Starr started West, and life seemed empty for Michael. She
was gone from him, but still she would come back. Or, would she come back
after all? How long could he hope to keep her if she did? Sad foreboding
filled him and he went about his work with set, strained nerves; for now
he knew that right or wrong she was heart of his heart, part of his
consciousness. He loved her better than himself; and he saw no hope for
himself at all in trying to forget. Yet, never, never, would he ask her to
share the dishonor of his heritage.
The day before Starr was expected to come back to Old Orchard Michael took
up the morning paper and with rising horror read:
BANDIT WOUNDED AS FOUR HOLD UP TRAIN.
Express Messenger Protects Cash During Desperate Revolver Duel in Car.
Fort Smith, Ark.--Four bandits bungled the hold-up of a Kansas City
passenger train, between Hatfield and Mena, Ark., early to-day. One was
probably fatally wounded and captured and the others escaped after a
battle with the Express Messenger in which the messenger exhausted his
ammunition and was badly beaten.
When the other robbers escaped the wounded bandit eluded the conductor,
and made his way into the sleeper, where he climbed into an empty
berth. But he was soon traced by the drops of blood from his wound. The
conductor and a brakeman hauled him out and battled with him in the
aisle amid the screams of passengers.
The bandit aimed his revolver at the conductor and fired, but a sudden
unsteady turn of his wrist sent the bullet into himself instead of the
conductor. The wounded bandit received the bullet in his left breast
near the heart and will probably die. The Express Messenger is in the
hospital at Mena and may recover.
Had the bullet of the bandit gone as intended it would more than likely
have wounded one or two women passengers, who at the sound of trouble
had jumped from their berths into the aisle and were directly in the
path of the bullet.
There is some likelihood that the captured bandit may prove to be the
escaped convict, named "Buck," who was serving long sentence in the
state penitentiary, and for whom the police have been searching in vain
for the last three months.
Michael was white and trembling when he had finished reading this account.
And was this then to be the end of Buck. Must he die a death like that?
Disgrace and sin and death, and no chance to make good? Michael groaned
aloud and bowed his head upon the table before him, his heart too heavy
even to try to think it out.
That evening a telegram reached him from Arkansas.
"A man named 'Buck' is dying here, and calls incessantly for you. If you
wish to see him alive come at once."
Michael took the midnight train. Starr had telegraphed her father she would
reach Old Orchard in the morning. It was hard to have to go when, she was
just returning. Michael wondered if it would always be so now.
Buck roused at Michael's coming and smiled feebly.
"Mikky! I knowed you'd come!" he whispered feebly. "I'm done for, pardner.
I ain't long fer here, but I couldn't go 'thout you knowin'. I'd meant to
git jes' this one haul an' git away to some other country where it was
safe, 'nen I was goin' to try'n keep straight like you would want. I
would a'got trough all right, but I seen her,--the pretty lady,--your
girl,--standing in the aisle right ahin' the c'ndct'r, jes' es I wuz
pullin' the trigger knowed her right off, 'ith her eyes shinin' like two
stars; an' I couldn't run no resks. I ain't never bin no bungler at my
trade, but I hed to bungle this time 'cause I couldn't shoot your girl! So
I turned it jes' in time an' took it mese'f. She seen how 'twas 'ith me
that time at your house, an' she he'ped me git away. I sent her word I'd do
the same fer her some day, bless her--an' now--you tell her we're square!
I done the bunglin' fer her sake, but I done it fer you too, pard--little
"Oh, Buck!" Michael knelt beside the poor bed and buried his face in the
coverlet. "Oh, Buck! If you'd only had my chance!" he moaned.
"Never you mind, Mikky! I ain't squealin'. I knows how to take my dose. An'
mebbe, they'll be some kind of a collidge whar I'm goin', at I kin get a
try at yet--don't you fret, little pard--ef I git my chancet I'll take it
fer your sake!"
The life breath seemed to be spent with the effort and Buck sank slowly
into unconsciousness and so passed out of a life that had been all against
Michael after doing all the last little things that were permitted him,
sadly took his way home again.
He reached the city in the morning and spent several hours putting to
rights his business affairs; but by noon he found himself so unutterably
weary that he took the two o'clock train down to the farm. Sam met him at
the station. Sam somehow seemed to have an intuition when to meet him,
and the two gripped hands and walked home together across the salt grass,
Michael telling in low, halting tones all that Buck had said. Sam kept his
face turned the other way, but once Michael got a view of it and he was
sure there were tears on his cheeks. To think of Sam having tears for
Arrived at the cottage Sam told him he thought that Mr. Endicott was taking
his afternoon nap upstairs, and that Miss Endicott had gone to ride with
"some kind of a fancy woman in a auto" who had called to see her.
Being very weary and yet unwilling to run the risk of waking Mr. Endicott
by going upstairs, Michael asked Sam to bolt the dining-room door and give
orders that he should not be disturbed for an hour; then he lay down on the
leather couch in the living-room.
The windows were open all around and the sweet breath of the opening roses
stole in with the summer breeze, while the drone of bees and the pure notes
of a song sparrow lulled him to sleep.
Michael had slept perhaps an hour when he was roused by the sound of
voices, a sharp, hateful one with an unpleasant memory in it, and a sweet,
dear one that went to his very soul.
"Sit down here, Aunt Frances. There is no one about: Papa is asleep and
Michael has not yet returned from a trip out West. You can talk without
fear of being heard."
"Michael, Michael!" sniffed the voice. "Well, that's what I came to talk
to you about. I didn't want to say anything out there where the chauffeur
could hear; he is altogether too curious and might talk with the servants
about it. I wouldn't have it get out for the world. Your mother would have
been mortified to death about all this, and I can't see what your father
is thinking about. He never did seem to have much sense where you were
"Well, I can't help it. He doesn't. Now take this matter of your being down
here, and the very thought of you're calling that fellow Michael,--as if he
were a cousin or something! Why, it's simply disgusting! I hoped you
were going to stay out West until your father was well enough to go away
somewhere with you; but now that you have come back I think you ought to
leave here at once. People will begin to talk, and I don't like it. Why,
the fellow will be presuming on it to be intimate with you--"'
Michael was suddenly roused to the fact that he was listening to a
conversation not intended for his ears, and yet he had no way of getting
out of hearing without passing the door in the front of which the two women
were seated. Both the dining-room, door and the stairs were on the other
side of the room from him and he would have to run the risk of being seen,
by either or both of them if he attempted to cross to them. The windows
were screened by wire nailed over the whole length, so he could not hope to
get successfully out of any of them. There was nothing for it but to lie
still, and pretend to be asleep if they discovered him afterwards. It was
an embarrassing situation but it was none of his choosing.
There was a slight stir outside, Starr had risen, and was standing with her
back to the doorway.
"Aunt Frances! What do you mean? Michael is our honored and respected
friend, our protector--our--host. Think what he did for papa! Risked his
"Stuff and nonsense! Risked his life. He took the risk for perfectly good
reasons. He knew how to worm himself into the family again--"
"Aunt Frances! I will not hear you say such dreadful things. Michael is a
gentleman, well-educated, with the highest ideals and principles. If you
knew how self-sacrificing and kind he is!"
"Kind, yes kind!" sniffed the aunt, "and what will you think about it when
he asks you to marry him? Will you think he is kind to offer you a share in
the inheritance of a nobody--a charity--dependent--a child of the slums? If
you persist in your foolishness of staying here you will presently have all
New York gossiping about you, and then when you are in disgrace--I suppose
you will turn to me to help you out of it."
"Stop!" cried Starr. "I will not listen to another word. What do you mean
by disgrace? There could be no disgrace in marrying Michael. The girl who
marries him will be the happiest woman in the whole world. He is good and
true and unselfish to the heart's core. There isn't the slightest danger of
his ever asking me to marry him, Aunt Frances, because I am very sure he
loves another girl and is engaged to marry her; and she is a nice girl too.
But if it were different, if he were free and asked me to marry him I would
feel as proud and glad as if a prince of the highest realm had asked me to
share his throne with him. I would rather marry Michael than any man I ever
met, and I don't care in the least whether he is a child of the slums or a
child of a king. I know what he is, and he is a prince among men."
"Oh, really! Has it come to this? Then you are in love with him already and
my warning comes too late, does it? Answer me! Do you fancy yourself in
love with him."
"Aunt Frances, you have no right to ask me that question," said Starr
steadily, her cheeks very red and her eyes very bright.
Michael was sitting bolt upright on the couch now, utterly forgetful of
the dishonor of eavesdropping, fairly holding his breath to listen and
straining his ears that he might lose no slightest word. He was devouring
the dear, straight, little form in the doorway with his eyes, and her every
word fell on his tired heart like raindrops in a thirsty land, making the
flowers of hope spring forth and burst into lovely bloom.
"Well, I do ask it!" snapped the aunt hatefully. "Come, answer me, do you
"That, Aunt Frances, I shall never answer to anybody but Michael. I must
refuse to hear another word on this subject."
"Oh, very well, good-bye. I'll leave you to your silly fate, but don't
expect me to help you out of trouble if you get into it. I've warned you
and I wash my hands of you," and the angry woman flouted out to her waiting
car, but the girl stood still in the doorway and said with dignity:
"Good afternoon, Aunt Frances. I shall never ask your help in any way."
Starr watched the car out of sight, great tears welling into her eyes and
rolling down her cheeks. Michael sat breathless on the couch and tried to
think what he ought to do; while his very being was rippling with the joy
of the words she had spoken.
Then she turned and saw him, and he stood up and held out his arms.
"Starr, my little Starr! My darling! Did you mean all you said? Would you
really marry me? I've loved you always, Starr, since first I saw you a tiny
little child; I've loved your soft baby kisses and those others you gave me
later when you were a little girl and I an awkward boy. You never knew how
dear they were, nor how I used to go to sleep at night dreaming over and
over again, those kisses on my face. Oh, Starr! answer me? Did you mean it
all? And could you ever love me? You said you would answer that question to
no one else but me. Will you answer it now, darling?"
For answer she came and stood within his arms, her eyes down-drooped, her
face all tears and smiles, and he folded her within his strong clasp and
stooping, whispered softly:
"Starr, little darling--my life--my love--my--_wife_!"
And then he laid his lips against hers and held her close.
* * * * *
Three weeks later when the roses were all aburst of bloom over the porch at
Rose Cottage and June was everywhere with her richness and perfection of
beauty, Starr and Michael were married on the piazza under an arch of
roses; and a favored few of society's cream motored down to Old Orchard to
witness the ceremony. In spite of all her disagreeable predictions and ugly
threats Aunt Frances was among them, smiling and dominating.
"Yes, so sensible of her not to make a fuss with her wedding just now, when
her father is getting his strength back again. Of course she could have
come to my house and been married. I begged her to--naturally she shrank
from another wedding in connection with the old home you know--but her
father seemed to dread coming into town and so I advised her to go ahead
and be married here. Isn't it a charming place? So rustic you know, and
quite simple and artistic too in its way. Michael has done it all, planned
the house and everything, of course with Starr's help. You know it's quite
a large estate, belonged to Michael's great grandfather once, several
hundred acres, and he has used part of it for charitable purposes; has a
farm school or something for poor slum people, and is really teaching them
to be quite decent. I'm sure I hope they'll be duly grateful. See those
roses? Aren't they perfectly _dear_?"
It was so she chattered to those in the car with her all the way down to
the farm; and to see her going about among the guests and smiling and
posing to Michael when he happened to come near her, you would have thought
the match all of her making, and never have dreamed that it was only
because Michael's great forgiving heart had said: "Oh, forgive her and ask
her down. She is your mother's sister, you know, and you'll be glad you did
it afterwards. Never mind what she says. She can't help her notions. It was
her unfortunate upbringing, and she's as much to be pitied as I for my slum
The pretty ceremony under the roses was over, and Starr had gone upstairs
to change the simple embroidered muslin for her travelling frock and motor
coat, for Michael and Starr were to take their honeymoon in their own new
car, a wedding gift from their father; and Endicott himself was to go to
his sister's by rail in the company of Will French, to stay during their
absence and be picked up by them on their homeward route.
Michael stood among his friends on the piazza giving last directions to
French who was to look after his law business also during his absence,
and who was eager to tell his friend how he and Hester had planned to be
married early in the fall and were to go to housekeeping in a five-roomed
flat that might have been a palace from the light in Will's eyes. Hester
was talking with Lizzie who had edged near the porch with her pretty
boy hiding shyly behind her, but the smile that Hester threw in Will's
direction now and then showed she well knew what was his subject of
All the little colony had been gathered in the orchard in front of the rose
arch, to watch the wedding ceremony, and many of them still lingered there
to see the departure of the beloved bride and groom. Aunt Frances levelled
her lorgnette at them with all the airs of her departed sister, and
exclaimed "Aren't they picturesque? It's quite like the old country to have
so many servants and retainers gathered about adoring, now isn't it!" And a
young and eager debutante who was a distant cousin of Starr's. replied:
"I think it's perfectly peachy, Aunt Frances."
Suddenly in one of Will's eager perorations about the flat and its outlook
Michael noticed the shy, eager look of Sam's face as he waited hungrily for
"Excuse me, Will, I must see Sam a minute," said Michael hurrying over to
where the man stood.
"Say, Mikky," said Sam shyly, grasping Michael's hand convulsively, "me an'
Lizzie sort o' made it up as how we'd get tied, an' we thought we'd do it
now whiles everybody's at it, an' things is all fixed Lizzie she wanted me
to ask you ef you 'sposed _she'd_ mind, ef we'uns stood thur on the verandy
whur yous did, arter you was gone?" Sam looked at him anxiously as though
he had asked the half of Michael's kingdom and scarcely expected to get it,
but Michael's face was filled with glory as he clasped the small hard hand
of his comrade and gripped it with his mighty hearty grip.
"Mind! She'd be delighted, Sam! Go ahead. I'm sorry we didn't know it
before. We'd have liked to give you a present, but I'll send you the deed
of the little white cottage at the head of the lane, the one that looks
toward the river and the sunset, you know. Will you two like to live
Sam's eyes grew large with happiness, and a mist came over them as he held
tight to the great hand that enclosed his own, and choked and tried to
Amid a shower of roses and cheers Michael and Starr rode into the sweet
June afternoon, alone together at last. And when they had gone beyond the
little town, and were on a stretch of quiet woodsy road, Michael stopped
the car and took his bride into his arms.
"Dear," he said as he tenderly kissed her, "I've just been realizing what
might have happened if Buck hadn't seen you in time and taken the shot
himself that I might have you, my life, my dear, precious wife!"
Then Starr looked up with her eyes all dewy with tears and said, "Michael,
we must try to save a lot of others for his sake." And Michael smiled and
pressed his lips to hers again, with deep, sweet understanding.
Then, when they were riding along again Michael told her of what Sam had
asked, and how another wedding was to follow theirs.
"Oh, Michael!" said Starr, all eagerness at once, "Why didn't you tell me
sooner! I would have liked to stay and see them married. Couldn't we turn
around now and get there in time if you put on high speed?"
"We'll try," said Michael reversing the car; and in an instant more it was
shooting back to Old Orchard, arriving on the scene just as Sam and Lizzie
were shyly taking their place, hand in hand, under the roses, in as near
imitation of Michael and Starr as their unaccustomedness could compass.
It was Jim who discovered the car coming up the orchard lane.
"For de lub o' Mike!" he exclaimed aloud. "Ef here don't come Mikky
hisse'f, and _her_! Hold up dar, Mister preacher. Don't tie de knot till
dey gits here!"
And a cheer arose loud and long and echoed through the trees and over the
river to the sea. Three cheers for the love of Michael!
Sam and Lizzie bloomed forth with smiles, and the ceremony went forward
with, alacrity now that the real audience was present.
An hour later, having done their part to make the wedding festivities as
joyous as their own had been, Michael and Starr started out again into the
waning day, a light on their faces and joy in their hearts.
Starr, her heart very full, laid her hand upon Michael's and said with
"Michael, do you know, I found a name for you. Listen: 'And at that time
shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of
thy people: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that
shall be found written in the book.' Michael, you are _my prince_!"
And Michael as he stooped and kissed her, murmured, "My Starr."
Back to Full Books