Phebe, Her Profession
Anna Chapin Ray
Part 4 out of 4
conduct the orchestra, you know. I have sent for Mrs. Farrington to come
down and bring Miss Cicely, and--I wondered--do you suppose--at least,
could you make time to run over and join them in my box?"
Phebe clasped her hands rapturously.
"Oh, Mr. Barrett! Could I? I should like nothing better. How good you are
to ask me! I shall be so glad of the chance to see Teddy again."
When the night of the twelfth came, Theodora and Phebe and Cicely were in
the box set apart for Mr. Barrett's use. Eager and happy as a child,
dressed in rose-pink and with a great bunch of pink roses in her hand,
Phebe was looking her very best. Unconscious of the envious eyes which
watched her, she talked to the young composer with the same girlish
frankness she had shown, that day in the park. Theodora looked at her in
surprise. This was a new Phebe to her, gentler, infinitely more lovable;
yet she smiled now and then as she saw the utter unconcern with which
her young sister was receiving the attentions of the hero of the evening.
The symphony over and the aria, Gifford Barrett left them and, a moment
later, came forward to the conductor's desk. Applause, a hush, then the
orchestra gave out the low, ominous chords of the introduction before the
violins took up the opening theme which repeated itself, met another
theme, paused to play with it for a space, then in slow, majestic growth
passed on and up to a climax which left the audience breathless, so much
moved that it needed time to rally before bursting into the well-won
applause. The _Alan Breck Overture_ was surpassed, and Gifford Barrett's
name was in every mouth; but Phebe, while she watched him, tried in vain
to realize that the man now bowing before the footlights was the man she
had capsized upon Bannock Hill, that the right arm which had swayed the
orchestra, now banging their approval on their racks, was the arm she had
broken, once upon a time, and then tugged back into place.
Gifford Barrett came back into the box, trailing after him a huge
wreath. He laid it down at Phebe's side.
"What in the world is that for?" she demanded. "I didn't write your
music for you."
"No" he answered, with a queer little smile; "but perhaps you
helped it on."
"Billy, I am low in my mind."
"You look it, Ted; but cheer up. What's the matter?"
"Plus a publisher; minus a maid," she answered enigmatically.
"I shouldn't think I needed to. The bare fact is sufficient."
"Yes; but I am dense."
"Well, you knew Hannah had given warning, and now Delia is going, and I
expect to take to the kitchen for a space."
"If that isn't man all over! Patrick is a treasure and good for almost
everything in the line of work; but I never discovered that he could cook
succulently. I should live through that crisis, William; but there is a
worse one. Mr. Gilwyn is going to lecture here, next week, and he will
expect us to entertain him."
"What of it? We can buy things."
"Yes, William, and we must also cook things. He has never been here, and
much depends upon the impression I create on his inner man. My book will
be ready to send in before long; and, if I give him dyspepsia in his
stomach, it will surely mount to his brain and lead him to reject my
"Your which? Cicely, can you translate her remarks?"
"Ask Melchisedek. He devoured Allyn's Latin grammar, day before
yesterday," Cicely responded from the farther side of the room where she
was feeding the dog chocolate peppermints, in a futile endeavor to teach
him that vertebrae were meant to assist him in sitting up.
"But it is no joke, really," Theodora went on. "I can cook, or I can
entertain; but I can't do both."
"Then go out into the highways and hedges and hire somebody," her husband
"I have. I started with a long list of people who had been recommended to
me; but they all are engaged for that day. One would think the town was
going into wholesale banquetings. For some people, I wouldn't mind; but
Mr. Gilwyn is a pompous, gouty old soul, and moreover, he holds my
fortunes in the hollow of his hand."
"How do you know he is coming?"
"A note, this morning. He hopes to see me at his lecture, and so on."
"Let's shut up the house and run down to New York, for a day or two,"
Billy said hospitably.
"No use. I should feel guilty to the end of my days, and embody my guilt
in my next book. No; I can't afford to have my 'healthy tone'
demoralized. I shall face my duty, even if I have to ask him to sit by
the kitchen hob, as Cicely calls it, while I prepare his simple meal."
Cicely gave the last of the peppermint to Melchisedek who bolted it with
an ill-advised greed that brought the tears to his eyes, for the
peppermint was a hot one.
"Cousin Ted," she remarked, as she came forward and perched herself on
the arm of Theodora's chair; "I have a bright idea."
"Not really?" This from Billy.
"Yes, really. Patrick is no use, and you can't get anybody. Borrow old
Susan from The Savins. She isn't good for much but staple commodities,
roast beef and things; but I'll help her out. I know something about
cooking, not much, but better than nothing; and then I'll serve it."
"Cis, you sha'n't."
"I'd like no better fun. Your man has never heard of me; you don't know
what a stunning maid I'd look in a cap and pinafore. I always did love
dressing up, and this will be such fun. May't I, please?"
She took Theodora by the chin and turned her face upward; and Theodora as
she looked into the merry eyes above her, weakly gave her consent. It was
not easy to face a domestic crisis; it was still less easy to face Cicely
when her dimples were coming and going and her eyes as full of fun as
they were now.
"Allyn," Cicely said breathlessly, as she dashed into the library at The
Savins, half an hour later; "you are invited to a dinner party at our
house, this day week."
"Thanks. I'll come, and please have lots of sticky jelly things."
"But you aren't invited to eat. I want you in the kitchen to help me."
"Not much! I'm going somewhere else, that night."
"You can't beg off. I must have you to help me navigate things to the
table. I have agreed to act as assistant cook and head waitress, and I
want you as second butler." And she unfolded the details of her plan.
Late one afternoon, a week afterwards, a trim maid in cap and apron was
peering out from between the curtains of Mrs. Farrington's front window.
Allyn was beside her, and both the young faces wore an air of merry
mystery, while there was an evident good-fellowship between them that was
out of all harmony with their seeming difference in social rank.
"Oh, Allyn, say a prayer for the success of the salad!" the maid said
wearily, as she settled her cap and pulled out the great bows of her
"'Twill be all right. I sampled the dressing, as I came in. Isn't it time
they were here?"
"Unless the train is late. Poor Cousin Ted! She has worked all the
morning. I do hope things will be good."
"Yes, Cousin Will."
"Do you happen to know where Ted keeps her keys? I want to get
something out of that box of old trumpery of mine in the attic, and
the thing is locked."
"I'll see if I can find them." And Cicely vanished, followed by a cry
"Here they are, Cis, and here he is! Great Caesar, what a pelican of the
wilderness! Poor Ted! She can't live up to such a man."
Seated at the dinner table, the publisher was very large, very ruddy,
very imposing. He had a trick of imbibing his food solemnly, with a
judicial air which sent apprehensive chills coursing down Cicely's spine,
as she watched him pursing up his lips over the salad and nibbling
daintily at the macaroni. The dinner was good, as far as it went. Of so
much she was certain, for Susan was an expert in plain cookery, and, in
her own cooking class, Cicely had shown herself past master in the art of
entrees. It only remained to be seen whether or not she could succeed in
getting the supplies to and from the table without losing off her cap or
dropping too many of the forks. Just outside the door, Allyn was toiling
handily in her behalf; and, strange to say, she was free from the
obstacle she had most feared, that Melchisedek would get under her feet
at some critical moment, and project her headlong, roast and all, upon
the smooth bald pate of Mr. Gilwyn. To her relief, the dog had
mysteriously vanished. She was too glad to be rid of him to care whence
or wherefore he had gone.
Little by little, she entered into the spirit of her part. At first, she
had been a little frightened at what she had undertaken. She feared a
break, either of ceremony or china. Then, as she had time to watch the
guest and accustom herself to his ways and his appetite, she devoted her
energy to plying him with goodies, bending beside him with grave and
deferential mien, then straightening up again to pass through a dumb show
of mirth above his august head. Theodora was talking away valiantly,
sternly resolved to do what credit she could to the family; but Billy, at
the foot of the table, was sorely taxed to keep up his dignity.
Suddenly Theodora turned to the maid.
"Cicely dear," she said; "I wish you would give me another spoon."
Above Mr. Gilwyn's head, Cicely shook her fist at Theodora.
"Yes, ma'am," she said respectfully.
Mr. Gilwyn looked surprised. He had known eccentric authors in his day;
moreover, he was aware that many housekeepers were women of theories in
regard to the proper relation between mistress and maid. Still, he had
never supposed that the spirit of domestic regeneration included a system
of public endearments. He pondered upon the matter while he was eating
his pudding, and it rendered him inattentive to Theodora's views on the
origin of totem poles. Theodora saw his inattention, and, with the tact
of the true hostess, she promptly changed the subject to one which should
be less ponderous and more interesting. Leaving the totem poles, she
began to talk of Quantuck and the vagaries of Mac. Quantuck proved to be
an old vacation ground for Mr. Gilwyn, and he and Billy vied with each
other in stories of the days when golf links were not, and the post
office was still of the peripatetic variety, while Cicely kept close
guard on her lips, lest she should involuntarily be drawn into adding her
share to the conversation. Then all at once, Billy fell from grace, even
as Theodora had done.
"Oh, Cis, old girl," he said jovially; "wake up and bring me some
This time, Mr. Gilwyn's lower jaw dropped in amazement. There was a
sudden awful silence, while, behind the guest's chair, Cicely's shoulders
were shaking. In her mind, Theodora rapidly summed up the situation and
judged it best to make a clean breast of the whole matter. Mr. Gilwyn
looked as if his sense of humor were somewhat deficient; but he was a
married man, and it was barely possible that his wife had not always
escaped from similar experiences. Accordingly, she put on her most
brilliant smile and leaned forward slightly in her chair.
"Mr. Gilwyn,"--she was beginning.
"Grrrrr! Grrrrr! Grrrrr! Woo--woo--woof!"
There was a sudden patter of tiny feet, a scamper, a rush, a succession
of ecstatic little growls followed by a still more ecstatic yelp of
rapture and glee. Melchisedek had emerged from his temporary retirement
and come prancing upon the scene. He bore something in his mouth,
something long and flexible and brown; and he danced up and down the
room, worrying it and growling, worrying it again and yelping. Unhappily
Mr. Gilwyn disliked small dogs, especially small dogs of frisky habits,
and he showed his dislike quite frankly.
"Cicely, can you catch him?" Theodora demanded.
Dropping her tray into the nearest chair, Cicely made a snatch at
Melchisedek as he shot past her. He eluded her, and, happy that at last
he was to have a companion in his sport, he took refuge under Mr.
Gilwyn's chair where he mounted guard over his plaything and snarled
invitingly whenever Cicely tried to seize him. The situation reacted upon
the nerves of the guest and caused him to spill a portion of his coffee.
Ever curious, ever greedy, Melchisedek scampered out to sniff at the
coffee, and Cicely made a dash at his abandoned booty.
"What is it, Cicely?" Theodora asked.
"Something he oughtn't to have, ma'am," she answered quickly, her finger
on her lip.
But Billy missed the signal.
"Let's see it," he demanded.
For an instant, Cicely hesitated. Long before this, Allyn had told her of
the girlish fit of temper which had led Theodora to cut off her own hair,
and she had a shrewd suspicion of the history of Melchisedek's trophy.
"Let's see it," Billy repeated, while Melchisedek on appealing hindlegs
walked around and around her, praying that his own might be restored to
him. Cicely hesitated for a minute longer. Then the spirit of mischief
triumphed, and she held out to Billy a long, soft braid of silky brown
hair, tied at either end with a bow of scarlet ribbon.
"Here it is, sir," she said demurely.
"Billy!" Theodora's voice was sharp with exclamation points.
"I know it."
"Where did it come from, at this day?"
"My box in the garret. I was up there, this afternoon, and I must have
left it open."
"And you've had it all this time?"
"You silly old boy!"
Her face had grown scarlet and her eyes were shining. Then she turned to
her mystified guest.
"Excuse this family by-play, Mr. Gilwyn; but that was a lock of hair I
cut off, in the early days of our acquaintance, and my husband has kept
it ever since. You see a small dog in the family is rather destructive to
When the carriage was announced, Theodora was upstairs, putting on her
hat. Mr. Gilwyn came down the stairs and marched straight to the
dining-room where Cicely, divested of her cap and encased in a gingham
apron, was busy clearing the table. In his hand was a book, and his face
had suddenly lost all its pomposity and grown genial and merry.
"I found this on the table in my room," he said without preface; "and it
isn't a very common name."
As he spoke, he opened to the flyleaf and pointed to the two lines
"Cicely Everard," it said; "with the love of Cousin Theodora."
"I've a daughter of my own," he added; and Theodora, when she came in
search of her guest, found the guest and the maid laughing uproariously.
"Come down here."
"Can't. I'm busy."
"What are you doing?"
"Washing Melchisedek. He hunted an hypothetical rat all over the coal
cellar, and came out looking like a chimney sweep."
"Well, hurry up. I have something to tell you, something exciting."
"I can't. It is a work of time to get him bleached out again. Come up and
talk to me while I scrub."
Allyn clattered up the stairs. He found Cicely kneeling before a pail in
which Melchisedek stood upright, a picture of sooty dolefulness, with
water trickling from every sodden spike of his coat. The corners of his
mouth drooped dejectedly, whether from Cicely's chidings or from the
taste of the soap it would be hard to say.
"Pretty little dear; isn't he, Allyn?" she asked, while she scoured away
at the tiny paws. "Just my ideal of a dainty lap dog. Melchisedek mustn't
go into the coal. No, no!"
Melchisedek make a futile attempt to waggle his dripping tail; it only
splattered sadly against the top of the pail, and he gave up that effort
in favor of one to climb into Cicely's lap.
"No; Melchisedek must stand on own footies. What is your news, Allyn?"
"Mr. Barrett is here. Called, last night."
"On the whole family."
"It was meant for Babe, though," Cicely said conclusively. "But it
strikes me he doesn't waste much time."
"About putting in an appearance here. Babe has only been at home for
"You think it is Babe, then?"
"Who else? You didn't see them in New York, Allyn. I did." Cicely
emphasized her rhetoric by rubbing Melchisedek so violently that he
howled. "There! Poor little boy! Stand still!" she added.
"But Babe doesn't care two pins for him."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Wait and see."
"Of course she doesn't. Fancy Babe in love!" He giggled derisively
at the idea.
"Fancy Melchisedek neat and dressed up in a pink bow!" she retorted. "It
seems impossible now; but it will occur in time. Allyn, what do you
suppose sent Babe into medicine?"
"She won't stay there."
"Maybe. But I think Babe really wants to do something," he added, with
sudden gravity. "You know papa isn't very rich, to say the least, and
Babe is an independent mortal that wouldn't want to be supported all
"I wonder if that did have anything to do with it," Cicely said musingly.
"It must be horrid to have to think about money things."
"Don't you ever do it?"
"No. Papa attends to all that, and he has all he wants. Oh, but won't it
be good to see him!"
"Are you glad you're going, Cis?" Allyn's tone showed that he was hurt at
"No," she said flatly. "I have missed papa terribly, more than you can
even imagine; but I have had a very happy year here, and I shall be
sorry to go away. You've all made it pleasant for me, Allyn; you and
Cousin Ted more than any of the rest."
"I--I'm glad if we have. It doesn't seem so. But what am I going to do
without you, Cis?"
"Take to Jamie Lyman," she said merrily. "He won't fight with you as I
do. Tell me about Mr. Barrett, Allyn. How long is he going to stay?"
"Till the day before Christmas."
"I hope he will call here. I'd like to see him," she said, as she gave
Melchisedek a final polish and set him down on the floor. "Oh, Allyn, I
am so glad I am to have one jolly Christmas here. Papa and I have been by
ourselves lately, and it will be great fun to have a whole large family
to play with."
That very day, she had started her Christmas gift on its way to her
father and, that same evening, she sat alone over the library fire, so
absorbed in planning her gifts for the McAlisters that she paid no heed
when Theodora and Billy came into the next room. She felt very
comfortable as she sat there, very content with what fate offered her.
Early in the new year, her father was to sail for home, and she was to
join him in New York again. Meanwhile, she was to spend the holidays
here, and, as she glanced about the cozy, luxurious room, lighted only
with the flickering fire, she realized how dear to her this adopted home
had become. Next to their own beautiful house in New York, this was the
dearest spot in the world to her, and there would be some regret mingled
with her happiness in her return to the city once more. In the meantime,
she did wish she knew what Allyn wanted for Christmas, good old Allyn
whose squabbles with her were largely in the past.
Suddenly she roused herself.
"Do you think it is necessary to tell her?" Theodora was asking.
"She will see it," Billy answered.
"No; she never half reads the papers. Burn this one, and she will
never miss it."
"But she will have to know."
"Yes; but wait and let her father tell her."
"Poor Harry! It will be a blow to him. I wonder if he knew it was
Cicely stepped out from the dusky library and stood before them. Her
eyes, dazzled by the sudden glare of light, had a strained, frightened
expression; but there was no suggestion of faltering in her bearing and
in the poise of her head.
"What is it, Cousin Theodora?" she asked. "You were talking about papa
and me; weren't you?"
Surprised at her sudden appearing, both Billy and Theodora were silent.
Then Theodora put her arm around Cicely's waist and drew the girl down on
the arm of her chair. The motion was womanly and gentle and protecting;
but it was not enough to satisfy Cicely. She must have the truth.
"Please tell me," she said again with a ring of authority in her voice.
"I'm not a baby; and, whatever it is, I ought to know it."
"To-night's paper reports the failure of Everard and Clark," Billy said
quietly. "It may be an error, Cis, and it may not be a bad failure. I
wouldn't worry till I knew the truth of it."
She looked straight into his face, and her own face grew white; but she
neither exclaimed nor bewailed. There was a short hush. Then she said
"Let me see the paper, please."
Silently Billy handed her the paper. Silently she read to the end the
sensational account of the failure of the well-known banking firm.
"Is anybody to blame?" she demanded then.
Billy read her secret fear, and was glad that he could answer it with
"No, Cis. The trouble all came from outside the firm. You needn't worry
"I'm glad," she said slowly, as she rose. "No; don't come, Cousin Ted. I
want to think it over."
But Theodora did come. Up in the dark in Cicely's room, they talked it
all over, crying a little now and then, then rousing themselves to make
brave plans for the future and for the meeting between Cicely and her
father. His home-coming now must mean a return to anxiety and business
care, and to the sharp mortification of finding the firm whose reputation
had been made by his sagacity and skill, fallen into bankruptcy during
his one short year of absence.
"Oh, it was cruel for him to be ill," Cicely said forlornly. "They say it
would never have come, if he had only been here to manage things. He
couldn't help having pneumonia and going away; but I do wish they had
left that out. It's like throwing the blame on him for something he
couldn't help. He isn't the man to shirk things, Cousin Theodora."
"They didn't mean that, dear," Theodora said gently. "They were only
trying to show how much he had done in past years. You've no reason to be
ashamed of your father, Cicely."
"Ashamed of him!" Cicely's tone was hard and resonant, free from all
suspicion of tears. "You don't know my father, Cousin Ted. He couldn't do
anything, anything in the world, that would make me ashamed of him. He's
not that kind of a man."
Two days later, Gifford Barrett came to call. Cicely received him alone.
She was pale; but a bright red spot burned in either cheek, as she
offered him her hand.
"Cousin Theodora is out, Mr. Barrett. I knew she wouldn't be here, and I
asked you to come now on purpose, because I wanted to see you alone." She
paused and restlessly pushed back her hair from her forehead. Then she
went on rapidly, "Have you heard of papa's failure?"
The young man's face showed his distress.
"Yes, I have." His reply was almost inaudible. "I am very sorry."
"Thank you," she said. "I knew you would be; but please don't say so,
for it--I can't stand being pitied. You know what I mean." Brave as was
her smile, it was appealing. "Now I want to talk business. Have you
time for it?"
"Of course. I wish I could be of some use," he said eagerly. He liked
Cicely, and he was surprised at the sudden womanliness that had come into
her manner. For the hour, they met, not as man and child, but on
precisely equal terms.
"It is going to take everything we have," she said hurriedly. "Papa will
want to pay all he can, and it will leave us poor. I don't mean to have
him do all the work; I must help what I can, and I've been wondering
whether my music would be good for anything. I have taken lessons for
years and from good teachers. Are you willing to hear me play, and to
tell me honestly whether I could teach beginners?"
He wondered at her steady bravery, at the gallant courage with which she
was starting into the battle, her colors flying. A moment later, he
wondered again, for Cicely played well. He had braced himself for the
girlish, amateurish performance, had braced himself for the inevitable
fibs he must tell, the specious promises he must make. Instead of that,
as she ended a Dvorak dance, he contented himself with one short
exclamation which was more eloquent than many words.
"Good!" he said, and Cicely was satisfied; but she only said,--
"Wait, and let me try once more."
She turned back to the piano and, after a random chord or two, she played
the _Alan Breck Overture_, played it so well that even its creator was
pleased, as he listened. Then she rose, shut the piano and crossed the
room to the fireside.
"Mr. Barrett," she said, and her voice never betrayed the fact that this
moment was the hardest she had ever known; "when you go back to New
York, will you try to find me some little girls to teach? I'll do the
best I can for them, and perhaps I can help along a little in making
both ends meet."
The snow drifts were piled high about The Savins. The fences were buried,
great heaps of snow lay on the broad east terrace and the path to the
front door had become a species of tunnel. Christmas was close at hand
and the earth, as if to make ready for the sweetest festival of the year,
had wrapped itself in a thick, soft blanket, dazzling and pure as the
stars shining in the eastern sky above.
Christmas was always a high day at The Savins. Ever since Theodora was a
little child, the family tradition had been unbroken, the family rite
unchanged. Around the Christmas basket and before the Christmas fire, the
young McAlisters had gathered for their childish revels. Now, grown to
manhood and womanhood, they still gathered there and, for one night in
the year at least, they were children still, and their revel had lost
none of its old charm.
"I am embarrassed in my mind," Cicely said, one day just before
Christmas. "Half my presents were bought before I was a pauper, half
of them not till later. It makes it look as if I were partial; but I'm
not. It's poverty not partiality that ails me, and you mustn't any of
"Isn't Cicely wonderful?" Hubert said, when she had gone. "Her pluck is
beyond anything I have ever seen. I didn't suppose she had it in her."
"I did," Allyn responded loyally. "There's more stuff to Cis than shows
on the surface, and you never catch her crying over spilt milk."
Two hours later, however, he did find her in tears. She was alone in
the house, and he discovered her in the library, her face buried in the
"Oh, please don't tell," she sobbed. "I didn't suppose you would find me.
I don't mean to be a baby; but it is going to be so horrid to be poor and
not have things, and I did want to give you something lovely for
Allyn was a boy, and, boylike he was not prone to sentiment. He
"Don't worry your head about that, Cis. You've given me a good deal more
than you know, this last year."
Surprised, she sat up and stared at him.
"Me? I? I've not given you a thing, Allyn, only those cuff buttons, your
He looked at her steadily for a moment, Then he said,--
"Maybe not. I thought you had, though."
Suddenly Cicely understood him.
"There is no sort of sense in your going away, Cis," Billy said to her,
as soon as he heard of her talk with Gifford Barrett. "Your Cousin
Theodora and I both would be delighted to have you stay here for the
present. The fact is, child, we shall miss you awfully, and can't stand
it to have you go. You will stay with us; won't you?"
"I wish I could; but it wouldn't be fair. Papa needs me."
"You can't do any good, Cis. You're better off here."
"To live on you, and leave papa alone to stand things, the best way he
can? That's not my way, Cousin Will."
"But if you can't help him?"
"I can. If I couldn't do anything else, I could make a little corner of
home for him, and he will need it. He needs me. We have been together
always, till just this last year when he had to go away, and now I'm not
going to leave him to shift for himself."
"Do you know what you are undertaking, Cicely?" he asked her gravely.
"I think I do," she answered quite as gravely. "We shall have to go into
a horrid little flat, somewhere in the wrong end of town, and pinch and
scrimp to get along. I hate it, hate the very idea of it, and I wish I
could stay here; but it is all out of the question. If papa ever needed
the good of a daughter, it's now, and I must meet him when he lands. I
must go, Cousin Will, so please don't make it any harder for me than it
And Billy, as he watched her face and heard her words, forbore to urge,
even though he dreaded for Cicely the future of which she spoke so
bravely. The crash had been more disastrous and final than he had been
led to suppose from the earlier reports. Both he and Theodora would
have been only too glad to keep Cicely in their home; but they knew the
girl was right, her place was with her father. Accordingly, they ceased
to oppose; and only did their best to make the rest of her stay with
them as happy as possible and to help her in her plans for her future
home. Together with the McAlisters, they chose their Christmas gifts
for her carefully, wisely, even merrily, for fun had a large share in
Christmas at The Savins; but only Theodora knew that Billy had bought a
small annuity for Cicely, and that the papers were to be given to her,
not in the basket on Christmas eve, but when she was quite alone, on
"I've a good deal more than we are likely to use," Billy had said rather
apologetically, one night; "and even if it doesn't support her, it may as
well help along a little. Cicely is a good girl, and I wish there were
more like her."
And Theodora's assent was a hearty one.
"Phebe, how long is Mr. Barrett going to stay up here?" Theodora asked, a
day or two before Christmas.
"I don't know."
"I thought he was going, to-morrow morning."
"Well, is he?"
"Probably not, inasmuch as I heard him ask you to go to drive with him,
in the afternoon"
"Well, what difference does it make? He's free to stay at the hotel as
long as he likes; isn't he?"
"Yes, if he doesn't starve in the meantime. But it seems to me it
would be well to ask him here to Christmas dinner, if he is going to
be in town."
"Why not?" Theodora asked, in some surprise.
"Christmas is no day to ask strangers here."
"But Mr. Barrett isn't a stranger. Besides, he has been so good to Cicely
that I think we owe him a little hospitality."
"You must do as you like, then," Phebe said curtly, and she marched away
out of the room, leaving Theodora to knit her brows m anxious perplexity.
However, the next afternoon, the snow was falling heavily, and Phebe's
drive was out of the question. At the appointed hour, she glanced out of
the window to see Gifford Barrett wading up the path to the front door,
and she vanished to her own room.
"Come in," she said, in answer to her mother's knock.
"Mr. Barrett is here, Phebe."
"Yes, he has asked for you."
"But I'm busy."
"Never mind, Babe. Please hurry down, for I am too busy to stay with him,
and I don't like to leave him alone."
"Oh, I really don't think he would steal the spoons," Phebe said
languidly, as she rose. "Well, if I must, I suppose I must. I'll be down
She turned to her closet and took down a dark red gown which had just
come home from the dressmaker. It was the most becoming gown she had ever
owned, and Phebe was quite aware of the fact. She laid it on the bed and
stood looking at it for a minute or two. Then she shut her lips
resolutely, hung it up again, picked a loose thread or two from the plain
blue gown she wore, and marched down the stairs.
Mr. Barrett rose to greet her, as she came stalking into the room. His
manner was boyishly eager, his eyes brimming with mischief, as he took
her hand and then offered her a small round package wrapped in dainty
"Merry Christmas, Miss McAlister! Wasn't it too bad of the snow to spoil
"I like a white Christmas," Phebe said perversely. "What's this?"
"A little offering for the season's greeting," he said, laughing. "It is
really only a case of returning your own to you."
She took the package in her hands, and, as her fingers closed over it,
she began to laugh in her turn.
"Oh, it's my skull," she said. "I'm so glad to have it again. I shall
want it when I go back to Philadelphia."
His face fell.
"I thought you weren't going back."
"Of course I shall go back."
"But if you are homesick?"
"I shall get over it."
"And the clinics?"
"Nobody ever died of a clinic--except the patient," she said grimly.
He stood looking at her steadily, and any one but Phebe would have known
the meaning of his expression; but she was examining the skull intently.
"You are sure you don't want it any longer?" she asked.
"No; I think there are some other things I would rather have," he
She shook her head.
"It is a good one, Mr. Barrett, small and quite perfect, and it is yours
by right of possession."
"Phebe," he said, as he came a step nearer her; "my ancestors were
Yankees and I inherit all their love of a trade. You take the skull and
give me--" and he took it as he spoke; "your hand, dear."
She drew her hand away sharply and turned to face him. Then the color
fled from her cheeks, only to rush back again and mount to the roots
of her hair.
"Oh, Gifford," she said brokenly; "I'd like to ever so much, only--do
you really think we'd better?"
An hour later, the two young people sat side by side on the sofa, talking
over and over the wonderful thing that had happened to them.
"I must go back to New York, the day after Christmas," Mr. Barrett said;
"but you will write to me often; won't you, Phebe?"
"If I have anything to tell," she answered; "but I never could write
letters, you know."
"You could once."
"How do you know?"
For his only answer, he opened his cardcase and took out a folded scrap
"How about this?" he asked, as he handed it to her.
She took it curiously and unfolded it. Then she turned scarlet as she
read the four lines written there.
"THis mOney iis to pey to P ay for you r wheel anD yoour docors bill WE
are sorrry y u fel loff a and We hooppe you will be butTER sooon A
"I owe you some money," he added, when she had finished reading it. "But
what moved you to send it?"
"My conscience. I supposed you were a poor, struggling musician, and I
was really afraid you would starve to death if I didn't help you out, so
I borrowed Teddy's typewriter and went to work."
"Give it back to me," he commanded; but she was too quick for him, and a
dozen scraps of paper fluttered into the fire.
"It's the end of that old story," she announced briefly.
"And the beginning of our new one," he added, as the door swung open and
Dr. McAlister came into the room.
Christmas day dawned, clear and crisp and bracing, and The Savins was gay
with Christmas wreaths, with holly and mistletoe boughs. The rooms were
in their annual state of disorder, for Christmas gifts and Christmas
jokes were piled on all the tables and chairs. Gifford Barrett had been
included in the revel of the evening before, and now, at the Christmas
dinner, he sat in the place of honor, next Mrs. McAlister. In all its
history, The Savins had never held a merrier party, and Dr. McAlister's
face was quite content as he glanced down one side of the table where
Phebe, radiant but shamefaced, was trying to conceal something of her
rapture under a show of severity, then down the other where Allyn's open
content with life was matched by Cicely's brave courage in facing
whatever the coming year might have in store for her. Then, as he looked
past and beyond them all to his wife, he threw back his handsome,
iron-grey head proudly.
"It is a good Christmas," he said, in the sudden hush which fell upon the
table; "a good Christmas and a merry one. Bess, we'll change the dear old
toast, and say, Here's to our good health, and our family's and may we
all live long--and prosper!"
Theodora was in her usual seat beside her father. Now she leaned forward
and laid her hand on his.
"Selah!" she said devoutly.
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