The Brown Study
Grace S. Richmond
Part 2 out of 3
threshold and spoke pantingly, without regard to the company assembled:
"Mr. Brown, sor! The baby's dyin--the sthranger child. It was took all of
a suddint. Would ye moind comin' to say a bit of a prayer over him?
Father McCarty's away, or I wouldn't ask it."
She was gone with the words. With the first sentence Brown had sprung to
his feet. As Mary Kelcey vanished he turned to Doctor Brainard.
"Come, Doctor," he said, with a beckoning hand. "While I say the bit of a
prayer you try what you can do to keep the baby here!"
The eminent physician rose rather slowly to his feet. "It's probably no
use," he demurred. "The woman knows."
"The Lord knows, too," declared Brown, with a propelling hand on his
friend's arm: "knows that you're here to give the child a chance.
The two went out. Doctor Brainard would have stayed for his hat and
overcoat, but Brown would brook no delay.
Left behind, the party by the fire looked at one another with faces
sobered. Hugh Breckenridge consulted his watch.
"It's time we were off," he declared. "The Doctor's going to stay anyway,
and it's no use waiting for Don to come back."
"That's right," agreed Webb Atchison. "I came up here once before,
about six months ago, and I saw then enough of the way things went here
to know that he lives at the beck and call of every man, woman, and
child in this district--and they call him, too. He'd just finished
sobering up a drunkard that night, or scant attention I'd have had.
Well, I'll walk down to the hotel and send back Rogers and the car. Be
ready in ten minutes?"
They said they would be ready. But in Brown's little bedroom, donning
furry wraps, Helena Forrest spoke in Sue Breckenridge's ear:
"I can't bear to go till we know how it comes out."
Sue stared at her. "You don't mean to say you care? Why--it's just a
forlorn little foundling--better dead than alive. I saw it when I was
here two weeks ago. It has nothing to live for, dear. Don't think of
"But he cared--your brother cared," said Helena Forrest.
"Oh, Don cares about everything. I never saw such a soft heart. Of course
I think it's lovely of him, though I don't understand how he can be so
absorbed in such a class of people."
Miss Forrest went to the one window of the room. She lifted the plain
shade which covered it and looked out into the night.
Ten yards away she saw a brightly lighted, uncurtained window, beyond
which were figures, plainly discernible. The figures were moving, one
bringing a pail, another stooping--the scene was not one of still waiting
but of tense action. She caught a glimpse of Doctor Brainard's tall form
bending above something at one side, then she saw Brown himself cross the
room in haste.
Mrs. Brainard and Sue went back to the outer room to stand before the
fire with the purpose of accumulating all the bodily heat possible before
the long, cold drive. Miss Forrest, unheeding them, remained by the
window in the unlighted bedroom. Minutes passed. Hugh Breckenridge had
fallen to examining the larger room's eighteenth century features--he was
something of a connoisseur in antiques.
Helena, turning from the window for a moment, scanned the shadowy room in
which she stood. It was very scantily furnished with the bare essentials.
Upon the plain chest of drawers which held Brown's bachelor belongings
stood a few simply framed photographs; an old set of hanging bookshelves
was crammed full of books, with more overflowing upon the floor.
Suddenly, as she stood there, an outer door banged; swift footsteps
crossed the floor. Helena turned to see Donald Brown himself rushing into
the room. He ran to the chest of drawers, pulled one open, searched a
minute, withdrew something, and was hurrying out of the room again, when
he caught sight of the figure at the window. Involuntarily he halted for
"Can you save it?" Helena cried, under her breath.
"I don't know--Brainard's got his coat off. Pray for us, will you?"
He was gone again.
Beside the narrow bed on which he lay every night, there dropped upon
its knees a figure in sumptuous furs; a face such as men vow themselves
ready to die for was pressed into the hard little pillow. Helena Forrest
breathed a prayer of beseeching for a life she had never seen, and when
she had done lifted eyes wet with tears.
As Hugh Breckenridge, protesting at the lateness of the hour, marshalled
his friends into the great car at the door, Doctor Brainard came out of
Mrs. Kelcey's house and ran across to the curb.
"Don wants me to tell you that the baby's pulled through. It's gone off
to sleep with his finger in its fist, and he won't leave it. He says
'good-night' to you."
"Was it the prayer or the potion that saved it, Doctor?" questioned
Breckenridge in his caustic tone.
"I don't know," said the doctor--and there was something new and gentle
in his voice. "It was very nearly beyond potions--I'm inclined to think
it was the prayer." An hour afterward, Doctor Brainard, sitting
wide-awake and thoughtful before Brown's fire, was aware of the quiet
entrance of the younger man. He looked up, and a radiant smile met him.
"Still doing well, I see, Don."
Brown nodded. He sank down into the chair opposite the doctor and ran his
hand through his hair. In spite of the brightness of his face the gesture
Doctor Brainard got up. He went over to the corner where his overcoat
hung upon a peg in the wall, and took from a pocket a small instrument
composed mostly of tubes. He inserted certain earpieces in his ears and
returned to the fire.
"Sit up and let me get at you," he commanded.
Brown glanced round, saw the doctor's grotesque appearance with the
stethoscope in position, and shook his head. "That's not fair. I was
up rather early, and it's been a fairly full day--and night. Take me in
"I'll take you right now, when you're tired enough to show up whatever's
there. Coat off, please."
He made his examination painstakingly, omitting no detail of his inquiry
into the state of both heart and lungs.
"What would you say if I told you you were in a bad way?" he asked.
Brown smiled. "I shouldn't believe you. I know you too well. You can't
disguise the fact that you find nothing new, and the old things improved.
I know I'm stronger than I was a year ago. Why shouldn't I be--with
nothing to do but take care of myself?"
The doctor whistled. "How do you make that out, that 'nothing to do?'"
"With the demands of a great parish off my shoulders the little I do
here is child's play."
"After I left you with the baby," said the doctor, "Mrs. Kelcey followed
me into the other room and told me a few things. In your old parish you
had your sleep o' nights. In your new one I should say you spend the
sleeping hours in activity."
"In my old parish," said Brown, studying the fire with an odd twist at
the corners of his lips, "I lay awake nights worrying over my
problems. Here, I'm asleep the minute my head touches the pillow.
Isn't that a gain?"
"Too weary to do anything else, I suppose. Well, I shall have to admit
that you are improved--surprisingly so. You are practically well. But
what I can't understand is how a man of your calibre, your tastes, your
fineness of make-up, can stand consorting with these people. Be honest,
now. After such a visit as you've had to-night with the old friends,
don't you feel a bit like giving in and coming back to us?"
Brown lifted his head. "Doctor," said he, slowly, and with a peculiar
emphasis which made his friend study his face closely, "if the Devil
wanted to put temptation in my way, just as I have decided on my future
course, he did it by sending you and the others down here to-night. If I
could have jumped into that car with the rest of you, and by that one act
put myself back in the old place, I would have done it--but for one
thing. And that's the sure knowledge that soft living makes me soft. I
love the good things of this life so that they unfit me for real service.
Do you know what was the matter with my heart when I came away? I do. It
was high living. It was sitting with my legs under the mahogany of my
millionaire parishioners' tables, driving in their limousines, drinking
afternoon tea with their wives, letting them send me to Europe whenever I
looked a bit pale. Soft! I was a down pillow, a lump of putty. I, who was
supposed to be a fighter for the Lord!"
"Nonsense, man!" cried the doctor, now thoroughly aroused. "You were the
hardest worker in the city. Your organizations--your charities--"
"My organizations, my charities!" The words came in a tone of contempt.
"They were all in fine working order when I came to them. They continued
to work, with no help from me. They are working quite as well now in my
absence as they did in my presence. St. Timothy's is a great, strong
society of the rich, and the man they engage to preach to them on Sundays
has mighty little to do that any figurehead couldn't do as well. Down
here--well, there is something to do which won't get done unless I do it.
And if this neighbourhood, or any other similar one, needs me, there's no
question that still more do I need the neighbourhood."
"In other words," said the doctor, "Mrs. Kelcey can do more for you than
The look which met his frown was comprehending. "Doctor," said Brown,
"every man knows his own weakness. I like the society of Bruce Brainard
so well that when I'm in it I can forget all the pain and sorrow in the
world. When I'm with Mrs. Kelcey I have to remember the hurt, and the
grind, and the hardness of life--and it's good for me. It helps me, as
St. Paul said, to '_keep under my body and bring it into subjection_.'"
"That's monkish doctrine."
"No, it's St. Paul's, I tell you. Remember the rest of it?--_'lest that
by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a
"You! A castaway!" The doctor laughed.
Brown nodded, rising. "You can see a long way into a man's body, Doctor,
but not so far into his soul. There's been a pretty rotten place in
mine.... Come, shall we go to bed? It's almost two."
The doctor assented, and Brown went into his bedroom to make it ready for
his guest. Closing the drawers he had opened in such haste two hours
before, his eye was caught by something unfamiliar. Against one of the
framed photographs which stood upon the top of the chest leaned a new
picture, unframed. By the light of the small lamp he had brought into the
room he examined it. As the face before him was presented to his gaze he
stopped breathing for the space of several thudding heartbeats.
Out of the veiling brown mists of the picture looked a pair of eyes at
which one glance had long been of more moment to him than the chance to
look long and steadily into other eyes. The exquisite lines of a face
which, having seen, men did not forget, were there before him, in his
possession. It was the face of the woman, young and rich with beauty and
with worldly wealth, who had, three years before, refused to marry
"How did this come here? Did Sue leave it? Or did _you_?" He questioned
the photograph in his mind, staring at it with eager eyes. "Wasn't it
enough for you to come here to-night, to make me realize how far apart we
are? You like to play with men's hearts--so they say. Don't you think
it's a bit cruel to play with mine--now?"
But he looked and looked at the enchanting face. And even as he looked
Doctor Brainard called out from the other room:
"By the way, Don, I suppose you've noticed that Atchison seems to be
getting on with his suit. Everybody thinks it's either an engagement or
likely to be one soon. Pretty fine match, eh?"
It was a full minute before the answer came. When it did it sounded a
little as if the speaker had his head in the clothespress which opened
from the small bedroom, albeit the tone was gay enough:
"Webb's one of the best men I know. He deserves to win whatever he wants.
Do you like a hard pillow or a soft, Doctor?"
BROWN'S OLD WORLD
On a certain morning in February, Mrs. Hugh Breckenridge alighted in
haste from her limousine in front of a stately apartment house in the
best quarter of a great city. She hurried through the entrance hall to
the lift and was taken up with smooth speed to the seventh story. In a
minute more she was eagerly pressing the button at the door of a familiar
suite of rooms into which she had not had occasion to enter for more than
a year, for the very good reason that they had been closed and unoccupied
in the absence of their tenant.
The returned tenant himself opened the door to her, a tall figure looming
in the dusk of an unlighted corridor--a tall figure infinitely dear to
"O Don!" cried the visitor in an accusing tone. "How could you come back
without letting us know?"
"I've been back only an hour," explained Donald Brown, submitting to and
warmly returning his sister's embrace. "How in the world did you hear of
it so soon? Did Brainard--"
She nodded. "Mrs. Brainard called me up at once, of course. She knew you
couldn't be serious in trying to keep people from knowing you were here,
least of all your sister!"
"I was intending to come to you before luncheon; I only meant to surprise
you. As for the rest--I should be glad if they needn't know; at least
until I'm ready to leave."
"To leave! Don! You're not going to persist in going back! It can't be
true! You won't give up this apartment--tell me you won't!"
His sister's tone was anguished. Before he answered Brown led her into
the library of the suite, the room in which he had been occupied when her
ring came, and put her into a big arm-chair, taking from her her wrap and
furs. Then he sat down upon the edge of a massive mahogany writing-table
near by, crossing his long legs and folding his arms, while she mutely
waited for him to speak.
"Sue," he said--and his face had in it a sort of reflection of the pain
in hers--"you may be sure I haven't come to this decision without a deal
of thought. But I've made it, and I'm going to stick to it because I
believe it's the thing for me to do. I assure you that since I came into
these rooms they have been beseeching me, as loudly as inanimate things
can not to desert them. I'm going to find it the hardest task of my life
to take leave of them."
"Don't take leave of them! Lock them up for another year, if you must
persist in your experiment, but don't, _don't_ burn your bridges behind
you! Oh, how can you think of leaving your splendid church and going off
to consign yourself to oblivion, living with poor people the rest of
your days? You--_you_--Don!--I can't believe it of you!"
His face, in his effort at repression, grew stern. His folded arms became
tense in the muscles.
"Don't make it harder for me than it is. I can't discuss it with you,
because though I argued till I was dumb I could never make you see what I
see. Accept my decision, Sue dear, and don't try my soul by pleading with
me.... I have a lot to do. I should like your help. See here, would you
care to have any of my things? Look about you. This is rather a good rug
under your feet. Will you have it--and any others you fancy?"
She looked down at the heavy Eastern rug, exquisite in its softness and
richness of colouring.
It was one of which, knowing its value, she had long envied her
brother the possession. She put up her hand and brushed away the mist
from her eyes.
"Aren't you going to take _any_ comfortable things with you? Are you
going to go on living on pine chairs and rag carpets--you, who were
brought up on rugs like this?"
He nodded. "For the most part. I've been wondering if I might indulge
myself in one big easy chair, just for old times. But I'm afraid it
"Oh, mercy, Don! Why _not_?"
"How should I explain its presence, opposite my red-cushioned rocker?
Give it a good look, Sue, that chair, and tell me honestly if I can
afford to introduce such an incongruous note into my plain bachelor house
She surveyed the chair in question, a luxurious and costly type standing
for the last word in masculine comfort and taste. It was one which had
been given to Brown by Webb Atchison, and had long been a favourite.
"Oh, I don't know," she said hopelessly, shaking her head. "I can't
decide for any monk what he shall take into his cell."
Brown flushed, a peculiar dull red creeping up under his dark skin. He
smothered the retort on his lips, however, and when he did speak it was
with entire control, though there was, nevertheless, an uncompromising
quality in his inflection which for the moment silenced his sister as if
he had laid his hand upon her mouth.
"Understand me, once for all, Sue--if you can. I am going into no
monastery. To such a man as I naturally am, I am going out of what has
been a sheltered life into one in the open. You think of me as retiring
from the world. Instead of that, I am just getting into the fight. And to
fight well--I must go stripped."
She shook her head again and walked over to the window, struggling with
very real emotion. At once he was beside her, and his arm was about her
shoulders. He spoke very gently now.
"Don't take it so hard, dear girl. I'm not going to be so far away that I
can never come back. You will see me from time to time. I couldn't get on
without my one sister--with father and mother gone, and the brothers at
the other side of the world. Come, cheer up, and help me decide what
disposal to make of my stuff. Will you take the most of it?"
She turned about, presently, dried her eyes determinedly, and surveyed
the room. It was a beautiful room, the sombre hues of its book-lined
walls relieved by the rich and mellow tones of its rugs and draperies,
the distinguished furnishings of the writing-table, and the subdued gleam
of a wonderful reading-lamp of wrought copper which had been given to
Brown by Sue herself.
"If you will let me," she said, "I'll give up one room to your things and
put all these into it. Aren't you even going to take your books?"
"I must--a couple of hundred, at least. I can't give up such old friends
"A couple of hundred--out of a couple of thousand!"
"There are five thousand in this room," said Brown cheerfully. "But two
hundred will give me a very good selection of favourites, and I can
change them from time to time. I have sixty or seventy already with
me.... Hello! Who can that be? Has Brainard been giving me away right
He answered the ring, and admitted Webb Atchison, rosy of cheek and
rather lordly of appearance, as always. The bachelor came in,
frowning even as he smiled, and bringing to Donald Brown a vivid
suggestion of old days.
"Caught!" he cried, shaking hands. "Thought you could sneak in and out
of town like a thief in the night, did you? It can't be done, old man."
He was in a hurry and could stay but ten minutes. Five of those he
devoted to telling Brown what he thought of the news he had heard, by
which he understood that St. Timothy's was to lose permanently the man
whom it had expected soon to have back. Brown listened with head a little
down-bent, arms folded again, lips set in lines of determination. He had
been fully prepared for the onslaughts of his friends, but that fact
hardly seemed to make it easier to meet them. When Atchison had delivered
himself uninterrupted, Brown lifted his head with a smile.
"Through, Webb?" he asked.
"No, I'm not through, by a long shot, but it's all I have time for now,
for I came on a different matter. Since I heard you were here I've been
telephoning around, and I've got together a little dinner-party for
to-night that you won't evade if you have a particle of real affection
for me. I'm not going to be cheated out of it. It'll be a hastily
arranged affair, but there may be something decent to eat and drink.
Brainard tells me you're not going to linger in town an hour after your
business is done, so I thought best to lose no time. You'll come, of
course? The way you're looking just now I don't know but you're equal to
refusing me even such a small favour as this one!"
Brown crossed the room, to lay his hands on Atchison's shoulders. His
eyes were dark with suppressed feeling.
"My dear old friend," said he affectionately, "I wish you wouldn't take
the thing this way. I'm not dealing blows at those I love; if I'm dealing
them at anybody it's at myself. I can't possibly tell you what it means
to me--this crisis. I can only ask you not to think hardly of me. As for
the dinner, if it will please you to have me agree to it I will, only--I
should a little rather have you stand me up against a wall and take a
shot at me!"
"For a deserter?"
Atchison spoke out of his grief and anger, not from belief in the motive
he imputed. When he saw Donald Brown turn white and clench the hands he
dropped from his friend's shoulders, Atchison realized what he had done.
He winced under the sting of the quick and imperious command which
"Take that back, Webb!"
"I do--and apologize," said the other man instantly, and tears smarted
under his eyelids. "You know I didn't mean it, Don. But--hang it
all!--I'm bitterly disappointed and I can't help showing it."
"Disappointed in me--or in my act?" Brown was still stern.
"In your act, of course. I'm bound to acknowledge that it must take a
brave man to cut cables the way you're doing--a mighty brave man."
"I don't care about being considered brave, but I won't be called
"I thought," said Atchison, trying to smile, "there was something in your
Bible about turning the other cheek."
"There is," said Brown steadily. "And I do it when I come to your dinner.
But between now and then I'll knock you down if you insult the course
I've laid out for myself."
The two men gazed at each other, the one the thorough man of the world
with every sign of its prospering touch upon him, the other looking
somehow more like a lean and hardened young soldier of the army than a
student of theology. Both pairs of eyes softened. But it was Atchison's
which gave way first.
"Confound you, Don--it's because of that splendidly human streak in you
that we love you here. You've always seemed to have enough personal
acquaintance with the Devil and his works to make you understand the rest
of us, and refrain from being too hard on us."
At which Sue Breckenridge--who had been listening with tense-strung
nerves to the interview taking place in her presence--laughed, with an
hysterical little sob shaking her. Both men looked at her.
"Poor Sue," said Brown. "She doesn't like to have you quarrel with me,
yet it's all she can do to keep from quarrelling with me herself! Between
you, if you don't undermine my purpose, it will be only because I've been
preparing my defenses for a good while and have strong patrols out at the
"I give you fair warning, I'll undermine it yet if I can," and Atchison
gripped Brown's hand with fervor before he went away, charging Sue
Breckenridge with the responsibility of bringing her brother to the
dinner to be given that evening.
"Now, what"--said Brown, turning to his writing-table when Atchison had
gone, and absently picking up a bronze paper-weight which lay
there--"put it into his head to fire a dinner at me the moment he knew I
"We all have a suspicion," said Sue, watching him as she spoke, "that he
and Helena are ready to announce their engagement. It may have popped
into his head that with you here it was just the time to do it. Of
course," she went on hurriedly, in answer to something she thought she
saw leap into her brother's face, "we don't absolutely know that they're
engaged. He's been devoted for a good while, and since he's never been
much that sort with women it looks as if it meant something."
"It looks it on his part," said Brown, opening a drawer in the table and
appearing to search therein. "Does it look it on hers?"
"Not markedly so. But Helena's getting on--she must be twenty-six or
seven--and she always seems happy with him. Of course that's no evidence,
for she has such a charmingly clever way with men you never can tell when
she's bored--and certainly they can't. It's just that it seems such a
splendidly fitting match we're confident there's ground for our
"I see. Altogether, that dinner promises well for sensations--of one sort
or another. Meanwhile, shall we pitch into business?"
Together they went through Brown's apartment, which was a large one, and
comprised everything which he had once considered necessary to the
comfort of a bachelor establishment. As he looked over that portion of
the place pertaining to the cooking and serving of food he smiled rather
grimly at the contrast it inevitably brought to his mind. Standing before
the well-filled shelves in the butler's pantry he eyed a certain
cherished set of Sèvres china, thinking of the cheap blue-and-white ware
which now filled all his needs, and recalling with a sense of amusement
the days, not so long past, when he would have considered himself ill
served had his breakfast appeared in such dishes.
"It's all in the way you look at it, Sue," he exclaimed, opening the
doors of leaded glass and taking down a particularly choice example of
the ceramic art in the shape of a large Satsuma plate. "Look at that,
now! Why should a chop taste any better off that plate than off the one I
ate from this morning at daybreak? It tastes no better--I vow it doesn't
taste as good. I've a keener appetite now than last year, when Sing Lee,
my Chinese cook, was cudgelling his Asiatic brains to tempt me."
"That's not the way I look at it," Sue answered mournfully. "To me it
makes all the difference in the world how food is served, not to mention
how it is cooked. Do you ever have anything but bacon and eggs at that
dreadful place of yours?"
"Bless your heart, yes! I don't deny myself good food, child--get that
out of your mind. Why, just night before last Jennings and I had an
oyster roast, on the half-shell, over the coals in my fireplace. My word,
but they were good! If Webb can give us anything better than that
to-night he'll surprise me."
"Who is Jennings? A laundryman or a policeman?"
"Neither. Jennings is a clerk in the office of a great wholesale hardware
house. He was down on his luck, a while back, but he's pulled out of his
trouble. When his wife's called out of town, as she often is by the old
people back home, he keeps me company. He's particularly fond of roasted
oysters, is Jennings, since a certain night when I introduced them to his
unaccustomed palate. It's great fun to see him devour them."
Sue shook her head again. She could seem to do little else these days,
being in a perpetual state of wonder and regret over that which she could
not understand--quite as her brother had said. He sent her away an hour
before luncheon time, telling her that he would follow when he had
attended to certain matters in which she could not help. Having put her
into her car, he waved a cheery hand at her as she drove away, and
returned to his apartment. He lingered a little at the lift to ask after
the welfare of the young man who operated it, whom he had known in past
days; but presently he was in his library again with the door locked
behind him. And here for a brief space business was suspended.
Before the big leather chair he fell upon his knees, burying his head
in his arms.
"_Oh, good Father_,'" said Brown, just above his breath, "_only Thou
canst help me through this thing. It's even harder than I thought it
would be. I want the old life, I want the old love--my heart is weak
within me at the thought of giving them up.... I know the temptation
comes not from without but from within. It's my own weak self that is my
enemy, not the lure of the life I'm giving up.... Give me
strength--fighting strength.... Help me--'not to give in while I can
stand and see_.'"
Presently he rose to his feet. He was pale, but in his face showed the
renewed strength of purpose he had asked for. He set about the task of
packing the few things he meant to take with him, working with a certain
unhurried efficiency which accomplished no small amount in that hour
before luncheon. Then he descended to find his sister's car waiting for
him, and was whirled away.
BROWN'S TRIAL BY FLOOD
At nine o'clock that night, feeling a little as if he were in some sort
of familiar dream, Brown, wearing evening dress for the first time in
more than a year, sat looking about him. He was at Mrs. Brainard's right
hand, in the post of the guest of honour, for Mrs. Brainard was playing
hostess for her bachelor friend, Webb Atchison, in the apartment of the
princely up-town hotel which was his more or less permanent home.
About the great round table were gathered a goodly company--the company
of Brown's old friends among the rich and eminent of the city. Not only
men of great wealth, but men distinguished in their professions, noted
for their achievements, and honoured for their public services, were
among those hurriedly asked to do this man honour. They had all been
more or less constant members of his congregation during the years when
he was making a name as the most forceful and fearless young preacher who
ever ventured to tell the people of aristocratic St. Timothy's what he
thought of them.
And they were gathered to-night to tell him what they thought of him.
They were sparing no pains to do so. More than once, while he parried
their attacks upon his resolution to leave them permanently, parried them
with a smiling face, with a resolute quiet voice, with the quickness of
return thrust for which he was famous in debate, he was inwardly sending
up one oft-repeated, pregnant petition: "_Lord, help me through this--for
They were not men alone who combined against him with every pressure of
argument; there were women present who used upon him every art of
persuasion. Not that of speech alone, but that subtler witchery of look
and smile with which such women well know how to make their soft blows
tell more surely than harder ones from other hands. Among these, all of
whom were women of charm and distinction after one fashion or another,
was one who alone, though she seemed to be making no direct attack, was
waging the heaviest war of all against Donald Brown's determination.
Atchison, in arranging the places of his guests, had put Helena Forrest
at Brown's right, at the sacrifice of his own pleasure, for by this
concession she was farthest from himself. Whether or not he understood
how peculiarly deadly was the weapon he thus used against his friend, he
knew that Helena was capable of exerting a powerful influence upon any
man--how should he himself not know it, who was at her feet? He had no
compunction in bringing that influence to bear upon Brown at this moment,
when the actual word of withdrawal had not yet been spoken.
Yet as from time to time Atchison looked toward these two of his guests
he wondered if Helena were doing all she could in the cause in which he
had enlisted her. She was saying little to Brown, he could see that; and
Brown was saying even less to her. Each seemed more occupied with the
neighbour upon the farther side than with the other. Just what this meant
Atchison could not be sure.
The dinner, an affair of surprising magnificence considering the brief
hours of its preparation, drew at length to its close. It seemed to Brown
that he had been sitting at that table, in the midst of the old
environment in which he had once been carelessly happy and assured, for
hours upon end, before the signal came at last for the departure of the
women. And even then he knew that after they had gone the worst was
probably to come. It came. Left alone with him, the men of the party
redoubled their attacks. With every argument, renewed and recast, they
assaulted him. He withstood them, refusing at the last to argue, merely
lifting his head with a characteristic gesture of determination, smiling
wearily, and saying with unshaken purpose: "It's no use, gentlemen. I've
made up my mind. I'm sorry you think I'm wrong, but I can't help that,
since I believe I'm right."
They could not credit their own failure, these men of power, so
accustomed to having things go their way that they were unable to
understand even the possibility of being defeated. And they were being
defeated by a man whom they had never admired more--and they had made
him, as Sue Breckenridge had said, the idol of the great church--than now
when he refused them. But they, quite naturally, did not show him that.
They showed him disappointment, chagrin, cynicism, disbelief in his
judgment, everything that could make his heart beat hard and painfully
with the weight of their displeasure.
Suddenly he rose to his feet. A hush fell, for they thought he was going
to speak to them. He was silent for a minute, looking down at these old
friends who were so fond of him; then he opened his mouth. But not to
It was a powerful asset of Donald Brown's, and it had never been more
powerful than now, this voice which had been given him of heaven. They
had often heard him before but now, under these strange circumstances,
they listened with fresh amazement to the beauty of his tones. Every word
fell clean-cut upon their ears, every note was rich with feeling, as
Brown in this strange fashion made his plea, took his stand with George
Matheson's deathless words of passionate loyalty:
"Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life's alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thy arms,
And strong shall be my hand."
When they looked up, these men, they saw that the women of the party had
come back to the doors, drawn by an irresistible force.
In a strange silence, broken only by low-spoken words, the whole company
returned to the living-rooms of the apartment. Here Brown himself broke
the spell he had laid upon them.
Speaking in the ringing voice they knew of old, and with a gesture of
both arms outflung as if he threw himself upon their friendship, he
"Ah, give me a good time now, dear people! Let me play I'm yours and you
are mine again--just for to-night."
That settled it. Webb Atchison brought his hand down upon his victim's
shoulder with a resounding friendly blow, calling:
"He's right. We've given him a bad two hours of it. Let's make it up to
him, and let him have the right sort of send-off--since he will go. He
will--there's no possible question of that. So let's part friends."
"I don't know," said Brown, smiling in the midst of the faces which now
gave him back his smile, "but that if you are kind to me you'll test my
endurance still more heavily. But--we'll risk it."
The scene now became a gay one--gay, at least, upon the surface. Brown
was his old self again, the one they had known, and he was the centre of
the good-fellowship which now reigned. So, for a time. Then came the
supreme test of his life--as unexpectedly as such tests come, when a man
thinks he has won through to the thin edge of the struggle.
BROWN'S TRIAL BY FIRE
He had gone alone into a den of Atchison's, where was kept a medley of
books and pipes and weapons, a bachelor collection of trophies of all
sorts. He was in search of a certain loving-cup which had been mentioned
and asked for, and Atchison himself had for the moment left the apartment
to see an insistent caller below. The den was at some distance from the
place where the company was assembled, and Brown could hear their voices
only in the remote distance as he searched. Suddenly a light sound as
of the movement of silken draperies fell upon his ear, and at the same
instant a low voice spoke. He swung about, to see a figure before him at
sight of which, alone as he had been with it for months, he felt his
unsubdued heart leap in his breast. By her face he knew she had followed
him for a purpose. He let her speak.
"Donald Brown," she said--and she spoke fast and breathlessly, as if she
feared, as he did, instant interruption and this were her only
chance--"what you have said to-night makes me forget everything but what
I want you to know."
Quite evidently her heart was beating synchronously with his, for he
could see how it shook her. He stared at her, at the lovely line and
colour of cheek and chin, at the wonderful shadowed eyes, at the soft
darkness of her heavy hair. She was wearing misty white to-night, with
one great red rose upon her breast; she was such a sight as might well
blind a man, even if he were not already blind with love of her. The
fragrance of the rose was in his nostrils--it assailed his senses as if
it were a part of her, its fragrance hers. But he did not speak.
"You asked me something once," she went on, with an evident effort.
"Would you mind telling me if--if--"
But he would not help her. He could not believe he understood what she
meant to say.
"You make it very hard for me," she murmured. "Yet I believe I understand
why, if this thing is ever said at all, I must be the one to say it. Do
"_O God_!" he cried in his heart. "_O God! Couldn't You have spared
But aloud, after an instant, he said, a little thickly, "I think you know
without asking. I shall never stop caring."
She lifted her eyes. "Then--" and she waited.
He must speak. She had done her part. His head swam with the sudden
astounding revelation that she was his for the taking, if--Ah, but the
_if_! He knew too well what that must mean.
"Are you tempting me, too?" he asked, with sudden fierceness. "Do you
mean--like all the rest--I may have you if--I give up my purpose and
Mutely her eyes searched his. Dumb with the agony of it his searched hers
in return. He turned away.
"Don!" Her voice was all low music. The words vibrated appealingly; she
had seen what it meant to him. She put out one hand as if to touch
him--and drew it back. "Listen to me, please. I know--I know--what a
wonderful sacrifice you are making. I admire and honour you for it--I do.
But--think once more. This great parish--surely there is work for you
here, wonderful work. Won't you do it--_with me_?"
He looked at her with sudden decision on his course.
"You left that photograph?" He spoke huskily.
"You left it there, in my poor house. I've cherished it there. It hasn't
suffered. You wouldn't suffer. Will you live--and work--with
"Oh!" She drew back. "How can you--Do you realize what you ask?"
"I don't ask it expecting to receive it. I know it's impossible--from
your viewpoint. But--it's--all I have to ask--"
He broke off, fighting savagely with the desire to seize her in his arms
that was all but overmastering him.
She moved away a step in her turn, standing, with down-bent head, the
partial line of her profile, the curve of her neck and beautiful
shoulder, presenting an even greater appeal to the devouring flame of his
longing than her eyes had done. It seemed to him that he would give the
heart out of his body even to press his lips upon that fair flesh just
below the low-drooping masses of her hair, flesh exquisite as a child's
in contrast with the dark locks above it. All the long months of his
exile pressed upon him with mighty force to urge him to assuage his
loneliness with this divine balm.
Suddenly she spoke, just above a whisper. "I wonder," she said, "if any
woman ever humiliated herself--like this--to be so refused."
He answered that with swift, eager words: "It is the most womanly, the
most wonderful thing, any woman could do for a man. I shall never forget
it, or cease to honour you for it. I love you--_love you_--for it--ten
thousand times more than I loved you before, if that can be. I _must_ say
it. I must put it into words that you and I can both remember, or I think
my heart will burst. But--Helena--I have vowed this vow to my God. I have
put my hand to this plow. I can't turn back--not even for you. No man,
having done that, '_and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God_.' He
isn't fit for the kingdoms of earth, either. He isn't fit for--hell!"
Very slowly she moved away from him, her head still drooping. At the
door she did not pause and look back, actress-like, to try him with one
more look. She went like a wounded thing. And at the sight, the wild
impulse to rush after her and cry to her that nothing in the wide
universe mattered, so that she should lift that head and lay it on his
breast, gripped him and wrung him, till drops of moisture started out
upon his forehead, and he turned sick. Then she was out of sight, and he
stood grasping the back of a chair, fighting for control. This was a
dinner-party--a dinner-party! Kind God in heaven! And he and she must go
back to those other people and smile and talk, must somehow cover it all
up. How was it conceivably to be done?
She could do it, perhaps. After all, it could not be the soul-stirring
thing to her that it was to him. She loved him enough to be his
wife--under the old conditions. She did not love him enough to go with
him as his wife into the new conditions. Then she could not be suffering
as he was suffering. Wounded pride--she was feeling that, no doubt of
it--wounded pride is not a pleasant thing to feel. She loved him
somewhat, loved him enough to take the initiative in this scene to-night.
But real love--she could not know what that was, or she would follow him
to the ends of the earth. It was the woman's part to follow, not the
man's. Hers to give up her preference for his duty. Since she could not
do this, she did not really love him. This was the bitterest drop in the
whole bitter cup!
Footsteps came rapidly along the corridor, Webb Atchison appeared in the
doorway. At the first sound of his return Brown had wheeled and was found
standing before a cabinet, in which behind glass doors was kept a choice
collection of curios from all parts of the world. He was trying to summon
words to explain that he was looking for a certain loving-cup--_a
loving-cup_--when one had just been presented, full to overflowing, to
his thirsty lips, and he had refused to drink!
But Atchison was full of his message.
"Don, I've done my best to put the fellow off, but he will see you. Hang
it!--to-night of all nights! I don't know why that following of yours
should pursue you to this place. I suspect it will be considerable of a
jolt to that chap to see you in an expanse of white shirt-front. But it
seems somebody has been taken worse since you left, and insists on seeing
you. Why in thunder did you leave an address for them to find you at?"
By the time Atchison had delivered himself of all this Brown had hold of
himself, could turn and speak naturally. The news had been like a dash of
cold water in the face of a fainting man.
"Who is worse--Mr. Benson?"
"Think that was the name--an old man. The messenger's waiting, though I
told him you certainly couldn't go back to-night."
"I certainly shall go back to-night. Where is he?"
Expostulating uselessly, Atchison led the way. Brown found Andrew
Murdison standing with a look of dogged determination on his face, which
changed to one of relief when he saw Brown. Old Benson, the watchmaker,
who had been convalescing from illness when Brown came away, had suffered
a relapse and had probably but few hours to live.
With a brief leave-taking, in the course of which Brown held for an
instant the hand of Helena Forrest and found it cold as ice in his grasp,
he went away. As the train bore him swiftly back to the place he had left
so recently, certain words came to him and stayed by him, fitting
themselves curiously to the rhythmic roar of the train:
"_God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye
are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye
may be able to bear it_."
And the car wheels, as they turned, seemed to be saying, mile after mile:
"_A way to escape--a way to escape--a way to escape_!"
BROWN'S BROWN STUDY
Standing in his kitchen doorway, Brown looked out into his back yard.
It was, in one way, an unusual back yard for that quarter of the city,
and in that one way it differed from the back yards of his neighbours.
While theirs were bounded on all sides by high and ugly board fences,
his was encompassed by a stone wall standing even higher, and enclosing
the small area of possibly forty feet by thirty in a privacy quite
unknown elsewhere in the district. This stone wall had been laid by the
Englishman who had built the house, his idea of having things to himself
being the product of his early life in a country where not only is every
man's house his castle, but the surrounding ground thereof, as well, his
domain, from which he would keep out every curious eye.
It was an evening in mid-April. Brown had opened the big oak door to let
the late western light of the spring day flood his kitchen, while he
washed and put away the dishes lately used for his supper--and for that
of a forlorn and ill-used specimen of tramp humanity who had arrived as
he was sitting down.
He was presently to address a gathering of factory girls in a near-by
schoolhouse; and he was trying, as he stood in the door, with the soft
spring air touching gratefully his face, to gather his thoughts
together for the coming talk. But he was weary with a long day's
labours, and somehow his eyes could summon no vision of the faces he
was to see. Instead--
"There ought to be a garden back here," he said to himself. "If I'm to
stay here for the coming year--as it looks as if I must--I should
cultivate this little patch and make it smile a bit. As it is, it's doing
no good to anybody, not even Bim. He's pretty careless about his bones
out here, and leaves them around instead of burying 'em decently. I must
teach him better. This would be a good place to bring the children into,
if it had some flowers in it."
The notion cheered him a little, as the thought of flowers in the spring
has a way of doing. He made a rough plan of the garden, in his mind,
laying out beds of sturdy bloom, training vines to cover the bleak
expanse of stone, even planting a small tree or two of rapid growth--for
the benefit of whomever should follow him as a tenant of the old house.
Presently he closed the door with some sense of refreshment, mental and
physical, and forced his thoughts into the channel it was now imperative
they should occupy.
He took his way to the meeting in the schoolhouse, however, with a step
less rapid than was usually his. It might have been the enervating
influence of the mild spring air; it might have been the pressure of
certain recollections which he had not yet succeeded, in the two months
which had passed since the farewell dinner at Webb Atchison's, in so
putting aside that they should not often depress and at times even
dominate his spirit. Though he had left the old life completely behind
him, and had settled into the new with all the conviction and purpose he
could summon, he was subject, especially when physically weary, as
to-night, to a heaviness of heart which would not be mastered.
"But I must--_I must_--stiffen my back," he said sternly to himself, as
he neared the dingy schoolhouse toward which, from all directions, he
could see his audience making its way. It was not the first time he had
addressed these girls and women, in so informal and unostentatious a
manner that no one of his hearers had so much as suspected his
profession, but had taken him for one of their own class. "He's got a way
with him," they put it, "that makes you feel like you could listen to him
all night." The sight of them now provided the stimulus he needed, and as
he smiled and nodded at two or three whom he had personally met he felt
the old interest in his task coming to his aid.
And in a brief space he was standing before them telling them the things
he had come to tell. It was not his message he had lacked--that had been
made ready long before the hour--it was only the peculiar power and
magnetism of speech and manner which had been the treasure of St.
Timothy's, that he had felt himself unable to summon as he came to this
humble audience. But now, as almost always, he was able to use every art
at his command to capture their attention, to hold it, to carry it from
point to point, and finally to drive his message home with appealing
force. And this message was, as always, the simple message of belief in
the things which make for righteousness.
Not all his auditors could arrive on time; they were obliged to come when
they could. Brown's talks had to be subject to constant though
painstakingly muffled interruptions, as one after another stole into the
room. His attraction for his hearers, however, once he was fairly
launched, was so great that there were few wandering eyes or minds.
Therefore, to-night, when he had been speaking for a quarter of an hour,
the quiet entrance of two figures which found places near the door at the
back of the room disturbed nobody, and caused only a few heads to turn in
Those who did note the arrivals saw that they were strangers to the
assembly. They saw something else, also, though they could not have told
what it was. The two women, one young, one of middle age, were plainly
dressed in cheap suits of dark serge, such as many of the working-women
were wearing. Their hats were of the simplest and most inexpensive
design, though lacking any of the commonplace finery to be seen
everywhere throughout the room. But there was about the pair an
undeniable since unconcealable air of difference, of refinement if it
were only in the manner in which they slipped into their seats and fixed
their eyes upon the speaker, with no glances to right or left. The eyes
which noted them noted also that both were possessed of faces such as
need no accessories of environment to make them hold the gaze of all
"Settlement folks," guessed one girl to another, with a slight curl
of the lip.
"_Sh-h--_! Who cares what they are when _he's_ talkin'?" gave back the
other--and settled again to listening.
Brown had seen the newcomers, but they were far back in the room, which
was by no means brilliantly lighted, and beneath the shadows of their
hats there was for him no hint of acquaintance. He therefore proceeded,
untrammelled by a knowledge which would surely have been his undoing had
he possessed it at that stage of the evening. He went on interesting,
touching, appealing to his listeners, waging war upon their hearts with
all the skill known to the valiant, forceful speaker. Yet such was his
apparent simplicity of method that he seemed to all but two of those who
heard him to be merely talking with them about the things which
His was not the ordinary effort of the amateur social worker--such though
he felt himself to be. He had not a word to say to his hearers about
"conditions"; he gave them no impression of having studied them and their
environment till he knew more about it all than they did--or thought he
did. He brought to them only what they felt, consciously or
unconsciously, to be an intimate understanding of the human heart,
whether it were found beating under the coarse garments of the factory
hand or the silken ones of the "swells up-town." Gently but searchingly
he showed them their own hearts, showed them the ugly things, the strange
things, the wonderful things, of their own hearts--and then, when he had
those hearts beating heavily and painfully before him, applied the
healing balm of his message. Hard eyes grew soft, weary faces
brightened, despairing mouths set with new resolve, and when the hour
ended there seemed a clearer atmosphere, a different spirit, in the
crowded room, than that which earlier had pervaded it.
"Say, ain't he what I told you?" One girl, passing near the two strangers
as the company dispersed, inquired of another. "Don't it seem like he
knows what you don't know yourself about how you're feelin'?"
"You can't be so down in the mouth when you're listenin' to him," was
another comment which reached ears strained to attention. "You feel like
there was some good livin', after all. Did Liz come, d'ye know? She needs
somethin' to make her buck up. If she'd jest hear him--"
Brown remained in the room till almost the last were gone. The two
strangers waited at the door, their backs turned to the room, as if in
conference. Several women stayed to speak with the man who had talked to
them, and the waiting ones could hear his low tones, the same friendly,
comprehending, interested tones to which St. Timothy's had grown so
happily accustomed. At length the last lingerer passed the two by the
door, and Brown, approaching, spoke to them.
"Did you want to see me? Is there anything I can do?" he began--and the
two strangers turned.
His astonished gaze fell first upon Mrs. Brainard, her fine and glowing
eyes fixed upon him with both mirth and tenderness in their look. She had
been deeply touched by the sights and sounds of the hour just passed, yet
the surprise she had in store for her friend, Donald Brown, was moving
her also, and her smile at him from under the plain little hat she wore
was a brilliant one. But he stared at her for a full ten seconds before
he could believe the testimony of his eyes. Was this--could this possibly
be--the lady of the distinguished dress and bearing, who stood before him
in her cheap suit of serge, with a little gray cotton glove upon the hand
she held out to him?
He seized the hand and wrung it, as if the very contact was much to him.
His face broke into a smile of joy as he said fervently, "I don't know
how this happens, but it's enough for me that it does."
"I'm not the only one present, Don," said the lady, laughing, and turned
to her companion.
If he had given the second figure a thought as he recognized his old
friend, it was to suppose her some working-girl who had conducted the
stranger to the place. But now he looked, and saw Helena Forrest.
"_You_!" he breathed, and stood transfixed.
Miss Forrest had always been, though never conspicuously dressed, such a
figure of quiet elegance that one who knew her could almost recognize her
with her face quite out of sight. Now, without a single accessory of the
sort which stands for high-bred fashion, her beauty flashed at Brown like
that of one bright star in a sky of midnight gloom. She was not smiling,
she was looking straight at him with her wonderful eyes, and in them was
a strange and bewildering appeal.
For a moment he could not speak--he, who had been so eloquent within her
hearing for the hour past. He looked at her, and looked again at Mrs.
Brainard, and back at Helena again, and then he stammered, "I
can't--quite--believe it is you--either of you!" and laughed at his own
confusion, his face flushing darkly under the skin, clear to the roots of
the heavy locks on his forehead.
"But you see it is," said Helena's low voice. "We are confident of that
ourselves, for the journey has seemed a long one, under two smothering
veils. And we hadn't the easiest time finding you."
Brown recovered himself. "You didn't motor over this time, then?"
"The last time we were here," Mrs. Brainard reminded him, "you told us
quite frankly that you didn't care to have your friends arrive in
limousines, or in velvet and sables. So--we have left both behind."
"I see you have. It was wonderfully kind of you, though the disguise is
by no means a perfect one. I wonder if you can possibly think, either of
you, that you looked like the rest of my audience!"
"Did you know us when we came in?" questioned Mrs. Brainard, with a merry
glance. "I think you did not, Mr. Donald Brown!"
"How long have you been here?"
"We must have come in near the beginning of your talk. You didn't even
see us then, did you?"
"I saw two figures which looked strange to me--but--the lights--"
"Oh, yes," agreed the lady, gayly, "the lights were poor. And you saw
two working-women who were merely strangers to you, so you didn't
"I'm glad I didn't recognize you."
"Why? We rather hoped you would--didn't we, dear?"
She looked at her companion, who nodded, smiling.
"We both hoped and feared, I think," Helena said.
"I couldn't have gone stumbling on," Brown explained. "I should have had
to dismiss the meeting, telling them I had a rush of blood to the
head--or to the heart!"
At this moment he was helped out by the abrupt opening of the door
beside him. A grimy-faced janitor looked in, wearing an expression of
surly dissatisfaction. When he saw Brown the expression softened
slightly, as if he knew a friend when he beheld him, but he did not
withdraw. Brown rallied his absorbed faculties to appreciate what late
hours meant to that busy janitor.
"Just leaving, Mr. Simpson," he said cheerfully, and led his visitors out
into the school's anteroom.
"Are you at a hotel?" he asked, with eagerness, of Mrs. Brainard. "How
can I--where can I--"
"We ran away," explained that lady promptly. "Not a soul knows where we
are. We did not register at a hotel, for this is a secret expedition. We
take the eleven-fifteen train back. Meanwhile, Don, am I not an
acceptable chaperon? And won't my presence make it entirely proper for us
to break a bit of bread with you in your bachelor home? We had only
afternoon tea before we left. We are very hungry--or I am!"
"Oh, if you will only do that!" he said with an inflection of great
pleasure. "I shall be so tremendously honoured I shall hardly know how to
express it. I hope I have something for you fit to eat. If I haven't--"
"Bacon and eggs," said Mrs. Brainard, with twinkling eyes, "are what your
sister Sue insists you live on. Never in my life did I have such a
longing for bacon and eggs!"
"Then you shall have them--or an omelet garnished with bacon. And the
corner grocery has some lettuce and radishes. I believe I can even
achieve a salad."
Brown led the way through the ill-lighted streets, not talking as he
might have done in another quarter of the city, but hurrying them past
places he could not bear to have them see, and making one detour to avoid
taking them through the poorest part of the neighbourhood. It was by no
means a dangerous neighbourhood, but somehow he felt with these two rare
women on his hands, as if he must guard them even from the ordinary
sights to be had in the districts of the working class. And as he walked
by their side it came upon him, as it had never done with such force
before, that he could never seriously ask any woman from his own world to
come and face such a life as the one he had chosen for the active years
of his own.
Yet--he had also a curious feeling that he must not let that thought
spoil for him the wonder of this visit. The hour was his, let him make
the most of it. He had not so many happy hours that he could afford to
lose one because it could be only one. He would not lose it.
BROWN'S NEW WORLD
So the house was reached--it was a dark and stern-looking little abode
at this hour, with its windows unlighted, though usually the cheeriest on
the square. Brown threw open the door and Bim sprang to meet him--turning
aside, however, at sight of the strangers. Only a few embers glowed on
the hearth, and the room was in darkness.
Brown closed the door behind them all. "Stand still, please," he said,
"while I light up."
He threw some kindlings from a basket upon the fire, and they leaped into
flame before he could light the lamp on his table. The room became a
pleasant place at once, as any room must in fire- and lamp-light, so that
it contain such few essentials of living as did Brown's--the
red-cushioned chair by the hearth, the books and magazines upon the
table, the two fine portraits on the wall.
"Now, please make yourselves comfortable," Brown urged, indicating the
austere little bedroom his friends remembered. "And if you'll do that
I'll go at the joyous task of getting you some supper."
"You must let us help you," Mrs. Brainard offered.
"Never! What could you do, either of you, in a bachelor's kitchen?"
"But we want to see the bachelor at work there."
"Your presence might upset me," he called back, laughing, as he
Two minutes later, after an inspection of his larder, he was rushing up
the street to the corner grocery, having escaped by way of the back
door. If any of his friends of this quarter had happened to meet him
under one of the scanty street lamps, they might have noted that the
dark face, in these days usually so sober, to-night was alight with
eagerness. Donald Brown's eyes were glowing, there was a touch of clear,
excited colour on his cheek. His lips were all but smiling as he strode
along. One hand was already in his pocket, feeling critically of the
probable contents of the purse he longed to empty, to make a little
feast for his so-welcome guests.
Arrived at Jim Burke's small store, the customer scanned the place
anxiously, and it seemed to him that its supplies had never been so
meagre. He succeeded in buying his lettuce, however, and a bottle of
salad oil, and, remembering a can of asparagus tips on his own shelves,
congratulated himself upon the attainment of his salad. Some eggs which
the grocer swore were above reproach, and some small bakery cakes,
completed the possibilities of the place for quick consumption. Brown ran
back to the house again, his arms full of parcels, his mind struggling
with the incredible fact that under his roof was housed, if only for an
hour or two, the one being whom he would give all but his soul to keep.
Entering his kitchen by its outer door he stopped short upon the
threshold. A figure in a white blouse, blue serge skirt, and little
white, beruffled apron, was arranging his table. The table had been
drawn into the middle of the room, his simple supplies of linen and
silver had been discovered, and the preparations were nearly complete.
In the middle of the table in a glass bowl was a huge bunch of violets,
come from he could not have guessed where, even if he had given any
thought to the attempt.
But he gave no thought to anything but the figure before him. If Helena
Forrest, in the silks and laces of her usual evening attire, had been
always one of extraordinary charm, in her present dress and setting she
was infinitely more enchanting to the man who stood regarding her with
his heart leaping into his throat. The whole picture she presented was
one of such engaging domesticity that no bachelor who had suffered the
loneliness this one had known so many months could fail to appreciate
it. He dropped his parcels and came forward. Mrs. Brainard was not
in the room, and the door was closed between the kitchen and the
living-room--by accident, or intention? The pulses in his temples were
suddenly beating hard.
Helena did not turn. She stood by the table, trifling with some little
detail of spoon or napkin, and her down-bent profile was presented to
Brown's gaze. As he stared at it a sudden vivid wave of colour swept over
her cheek, such an evidence of inner feeling as he had seldom observed in
her before, who usually had herself so well in hand.
He came close and stood looking down at that rich-hued cheek, the soft
waves of her dusky hair drooping toward it.
"What does this mean?" he said, unsteadily and very low. "This can't be
just to make me go mad with longing. For that's what I shall do if I
look long at you like this, here in my home--_you_ looking as if--as
if--you belonged here!"
He saw her hand tremble as it touched the violets in the bowl, arranging
them. It was a very beautiful hand, as he well knew, and he saw with
fresh wonder that there were no rings upon it, where rare and costly ones
were wont to be.
There was silence for an instant before her reply. Then she turned and
looked up, full into his face.
"May I belong here?" she said, very gently.
"Do you want to?"
"You are willing to leave it all--for me?"
"Ought I to let you?" His questions had been rapid, breathless, his
eyes were searching hers deeply. He was very near, but he had not put out
a hand to touch her. Yet no woman, seeing him as he stood there, could
feel herself the one who wooed, even though she led him on.
She looked away for an instant, while her lips broke into a little
smile of wonder at his control of himself. No need to tell her how she
drew him--she knew it with every fibre of her. Then she let him have
her eyes again.
"Do you think you can help letting me?" she said, and lifted her face
with that adorable, irresistible movement which tells its own story of
its own desire.
"No!" His voice shook. "Thank God, I don't have to try any longer."
It was no passive creature he took then into his eager arms, it was one
who raised her own with the rush of self-abandonment which made his joy
complete. Long as he had loved her he had not dreamed of her as ever
giving herself to any lover so splendidly. If he had dreamed--he realized
with a strange feeling at the heart--he could never have withstood....
It was to be hoped that Mrs. Brainard, in the other room, had found a
book upon the table which interested her or, hungry for food as she had
professed herself to be, she must inevitably have found the time pass
slowly before she was summoned to her promised supper.
Out in the old, dark, oak-walled kitchen, Brown was still putting
questions. He had placed his lady in a chair, and he sat on a little
old-fashioned "cricket" before her, one that he had found in the house
when he came and had carefully preserved for its oddity. It brought him
just where he could look up into her eyes. One of her hands was in both
his; he lifted it now and then to his lips as he talked. The packages of
eggs and lettuce and bakery cakes stood untouched and forgotten on the
table. If Helena remembered to be hungry, it was not worth the spoiling
of this hour to demand to be fed.
"Can I possibly make you comfortable here?" was one of his questions.
"Don't you think I look as if I might help you make us both
comfortable?" was her answer.
Brown looked at the plain little white blouse, at the simple blue serge
skirt, then on down to the foot which showed below the hem of the skirt.
"Is this the sort of shoe that working-women wear?" he inquired
Helena laughed. "Neither Mrs. Brainard nor I could bring ourselves to
that," she owned. "And since you and I are only to play at being poor--"
"We can afford to keep you in fine shoe feather? Yes, I think we can. But
you are going to miss a world of things you are used to, my queen--and
not only a world of things--the world itself."
"I know. But--I tried living in my world without you--and I failed."
He made an inarticulate exclamation, expressive of great joy, and
followed it with the age-old demand: "Tell me when you became willing to
come to mine."
"The night you were in town."
"What? Not at Atchison's dinner?"
"Yes. I would have come with you then. I would have come with you from
the singing of that song."
"But you--you let me think you wanted me to come back!"
"I am only human. I wanted you to come back. But--I wanted you to refuse
to come! If you hadn't refused--"
"You wouldn't have towered as high for me as you do now. I might have
loved you, but--perhaps--I shouldn't have--adored you!"
The last words came in a whisper, and again the wonderful colour poured
itself over her face. Brown, at the sight, bent his head upon her hand,
and she put her other hand upon his heavy hair and gently caressed it.
When he lifted his head his eyes were wet.
"Oh, but I don't deserve that," he murmured brokenly, and put up his arms
and drew her down to him. Soon he spoke with solemnity.
"Darling, you are not making this great sacrifice wholly for me?
You love--the One I try to serve? You will be glad to serve Him,
too, with me?"
"Yes, Donald. But I love Him, I think, through you. I hope to reach your
heights some day, but you will have to lead me there."
They remembered Mrs. Brainard at last, and they remembered that Helena,
also, had had nothing at all to eat since the hour for afternoon tea.
Brown flung open the door into his living-room, his face aglow, and stood
laughing at the sight of Mrs. Brainard's posture in his red
rocking-chair. As if exhausted by the tortures of fatigue and starvation
she lay back in an attitude of utter abandonment to her fate, and only
the gleam of her eyes and the smile on her lips belied the dejection of
her pose. "It's a shame!" he cried, coming to her side. "Or would be
if--you hadn't aided and abetted it all."
"Are you happy, Donald dear?" asked the lady, sitting up and reaching up
both hands to him. "Ah, yes; I only need to look at you!"
"So happy I don't know what I'm doing, you kind, wise friend."
"Wise? I wonder if I am. What will they all say to me, I wonder, when
they know the part I've played? Never mind! Is Helena happy, too? I hope
so, for the poor girl has been through the depths, bless her!"
"Come and see!" And with his arm about her, Donald led her out into
Helena came forward. "Dearest lady, will you stay and have supper with
us?" said she with quite the air of the proud young housewife, and Brown
laughed in his delight.
"Had I better stay?" inquired Mrs. Brainard, laughing with the man at her
side, while both regarded the figure before them with eyes which missed
no note in the appeal of her presence in that place.
"Oh, yes, indeed. We've plenty and to spare. Donald paid a visit to the
corner grocery not long ago, and we've new-laid eggs, and radishes and
all. Do stay!"
"I think I will." And Mrs. Brainard took the radiant face between her
soft, white, ringless hands and kissed it as a mother might.
In no time at all the hour had come for the visitors to go to their
train. In spite of their protests Brown would have a cab come for them,
though it took him some minutes to get one in a quarter of the city where
such luxury was rare.
"Time enough for self-denial," said he as he took his place facing them.
"Let me play I'm a man of affluence again--just for to-night."
"I'm afraid, Don, you'll always be tempted to call cabs for your wife,"
Mrs. Brainard said, and suppressed a bit of a sigh; for, after all, she
knew what the future must cost them both, and she herself would miss them
sadly from her world.
But it was Helena who silenced her. "When he walks, I'll walk," said she.
"Haven't I been in training for a year--even though I didn't know why I
"I think we've both been in training for the year," said Brown.
"Even though we didn't know--God knew--and when He trains--then the
end is sure!"
When he had put them in their car, and had taken leave of them with a
look which he found it hard to tear away, plain and unpretentious
travellers though they were that night, he went striding back through
the April midnight to the little old house the Englishman had built
so long ago.
As he let himself in, Bim came tearing to meet him. The firelight was
still bright upon the hearth, and Brown sat down before it, leaning
forward to look into the glowing coals with eyes which saw there splendid
things. The dog came close and laid his head on Brown's knee and received
the absent-minded but friendly caress he longed for. Also, with the need
for speech, Bim's master told him something of what he was thinking.
"The look of her, Bim, boy, in those simple clothes--why, she was never
half so beautiful in the most costly things she ever wore. And she's
mine--mine! She's coming here--next month, Bim, to be my wife! Can you
believe it? I can't--not more than half. And yet, when I
"And it seemed hard to me, Bim--all this year--my life here. I thought I
was an exile--I, with this coming to me! _O God--but You are good to
me--good_! How I will work--how we will work--_we_--"
He got up, presently, and as he stood on the hearth-rug, about to leave
it for his bed, a whimsical, wonderful thought struck him.
"I'll never have to borrow little Norah Kelcey any more, for the want of
something to get my arms about. Instead--some day--perhaps--_O God, but
You are good_!"
* * * * *
THE TIME OF HIS LIFE
"Dot, do you remember Kirke Waldron?"
Dorothy Broughton, daintily manipulating her breakfast grapefruit, her
shapely young arm showing interesting curves through the muslin and lace
of her morning gown--made by her own clever fingers--looked up at her
brother Julius. He was keeping her company at her late and solitary
breakfast, sitting casually on the arm of his brother-in-law's empty
chair, his long legs crossed, his arms folded upon his chest. His bright
eyes surveyed his sister as he spoke, from the crown of her carefully
ordered hair to the tips of her white shoes--he could see them from his
position at one side, and he observed that they were as white and as
fresh as her gown. That was one of the things Julius heartily approved of
in his pretty sister--her fastidiousness in such matters. He was
fastidious himself to a degree; nothing more correct in its way than his
own morning attire could have been imagined.
"Waldron?" Dorothy repeated. "That tall, solemn boy who used to stumble
over himself on his way to the blackboard?"
"And then had the rest of the class looking like a set of dough-heads
while he covered the blackboard with neat little figures that always
came out right; a perfect shark at 'math.' Yes, he's the one. Five
classes ahead of us then--fifteen now. We aren't in it, any of us, with
Kirkie Waldron these days."
"I've never heard nor thought of him since then," averred his sister. "Do
you mean he's made something of himself? I should never have thought it."
"No, you'd never have thought it, because he stumbled over his own feet
when he was a kid. Well, let me tell you it's the only thing he's ever
stumbled over. He's just been taken into the office of Haynes and
Ardmore, consulting mining engineers, and everybody says that'll mean a
partnership some day. And that brings me to my point. He hasn't taken a
day's vacation for two years. Day after to-morrow he sails for South
America to stay six months, looking after the development of a new mine
down there in Colombia. He can take to-morrow for a holiday, and I've
asked him out--with Bud's permission. And I want you to help me give him
the time of his life."
"Me?" Dorothy opened her brown eyes. "Oh, but I can't give you to-morrow!
The bridal party's going on an all-day motor trip."
Julius ran his hand through the crisp, half-curly locks of his black
hair. "Cut it out. You don't need to be on every last one of their
junketings. Get 'em to let you off for to-morrow."
"I can't possibly. I'm to be maid of honour, you know. Irene would never
forgive me, nor--some of the others."
Julius frowned. "See here, you're not letting Ridge Jordan get any
headway with you, are you? If you are you'd certainly better make him
take a day off while you see what a real man is like. After you've had a
good look at Kirke Waldron you'll be ready to let Tom Wendell and Ridge
Jordan and the rest of those bridal party men go to thunder. I don't
suppose Waldron was ever an usher or best man at a wedding in his life,
but I tell you he'll make every one of those little society men look like
copper cents, just the same."
Dorothy rose from her chair. Her brown eyes surveyed her brother from
between heavy chestnut lashes, and just now they were very haughty eyes.
Her curving, crimson lips were scornful. "I find it difficult to
believe," she observed, "that a boy whom I particularly detested, one of
the most awkward, solemn-faced, uninteresting boys I ever saw in my life,
can have blossomed into such a wonder. As for Ridgeway Jordan, I like him
very much. He may be a society man--which is no crime, I believe--but he
is also making quite as good, in his way, as your friend, Mr. Waldron.
And I certainly am not going to throw over an engagement as binding as
this one to give anybody 'the time of his life.'"
She walked out of the room, cancelling the effect of her haughtiness by
turning to throw back a smile at her brother, as ravishing a smile as if
he were no brother at all.
Her sister, Mrs. Jack Elliot, entering in time to glance curiously
from Dorothy's smile to Julius's scowl, inquired of Julius what might
be the matter.
He shook his head. "I don't like the symptoms. She takes it more and more
seriously when I hit Ridge Jordan in any way. I like Ridge myself, but I
wouldn't see Dot marry him for a good deal."
"I don't believe there is the least danger," his elder sister replied.
She looked a mere girl herself. She was immolating herself just now, as
was everybody else in the suburban town, on the altar of the
Clifford-Jordan bridal party. That the dinners and dances, drives and
luncheons might proceed without hindrance many family schedules were
being upset. Mrs. Jack's one anxiety at present was to have her charming
sister's bloom remain unworn by fatigue. Thus far Dorothy was holding
out better than any of the other bridesmaids. "Her colour was just as
good as ever, wasn't it?" Mrs. Jack murmured absently, preparing to
remove Dorothy's fruit plate. "I don't believe she ate a thing but
fruit," she murmured.
"Best thing she could do. After the stuff she undoubtedly got away with
at midnight her only salvation's a light breakfast. As to her colour, I
enriched it," he explained grimly, "by mentioning my feeling about Ridge.
If I thought, after all the attentions that girl has had, that she'd take
Ridge Jordan--with all his money! Dot's no girl to care such a lot about
money. It's this crazy bridal-party business that's upset her, I'll go
you! The thing's contagious. Lord Harry! I don't know that I could look
long at Irene and Harold myself without getting a touch of it."
"A touch! You and Sally?" Mrs. Jack smiled.
"Oh, well; that's different." Her brother thrust his hands into his
pockets and walked over to the window. "Entirely different. Sally and I
were intended for each other from the beginning; everybody knows that.
But now--what in thunder am I going to do with Waldron? Tell me that.
I've got him to come down here expressly to meet Dot. Of course I didn't
tell him so; he's not that sort. And now she's off for all to-morrow with
that confounded bridal party."
"Can't he come some other time?"
"I should say not; certainly not for months. He's off to South America
for a long stay--has this one day to himself. You see it wasn't till I
met him yesterday that I realized what the fellow had become; and then it
came over me all at once what it might mean to have him meet Dot just
now. I'm no matchmaker--"
"I should say that is just what you are!"
"No; but--'There is a tide,' you know. And Dot certainly has me worried
to death over Ridge Jordan."
"But, Julius"--Mrs. Jack's voice took on a tinge of anxiety--"we've
always thought well of Ridge. I don't just see--"
"I know you don't. He's not the man for Dot. I want a real man for her.
I've got him. Wait till you see Kirke!"
"You seem to think it's very simple--"
"By George, I think it is! I know how he felt about her when she was a
youngster: adored the ground she walked on. She never looked at him. I
tell you she'll look at him now; he's worth looking at."
"If he's so fine looking he may be engaged to some other girl."
"He's not. I made sure of that," declared Julius, audacity gleaming in
his eyes as usual. "Besides, I tell you, he's not that sort. He's no
matinee idol for looks; maybe you wouldn't even call him good looking.
I do; he's got the goods in his face, handsome or not. I tell you he's
a real man. Dot hasn't seen one yet. I'll make her see Kirke--somehow.
He marched away, head up, eyes thoughtful, lips pursed in a whistle.
Next morning, when three luxurious motor cars stopped at Mrs. Jack's
door, Julius was lounging on the porch. It was his Senior vacation; he
could be forgiven for lounging. In his flannels, hands in pockets, he
strolled down the steps with his sister to see her off, though Ridgeway
Jordan was escorting her devotedly. He surveyed her, as he followed her,
with brotherly pride.
"That sister of mine has all the rest of them beaten at the
quarter-mile," was his inward reflection. "Not much money to do it on,
but she certainly knows how to get herself up to look as if she'd just
walked out of a tailor's box and a milliner's bandbox. Made that stunner
of a hat herself, I'll wager. Fresh as a peach, her face, too. The others
look a bit jaded."
Along with these inner comments he was keeping up a running fire of
talk with two of the bridesmaids, whom he knew well. His bright black
eyes, however, noted that Dorothy's place in the first car was next
that of Ridgeway Jordan, and that the face of that young man was
soberer than usual.
"Bad sign," he reflected as he turned away, after a hot-and-heavy
exchange of banter with certain of the men as the car prepared to start.
"When a chap begins to look solemn, sitting beside a girl you know he's
in love with, you can be sure he has it on his mind to have it out with
her before the day is over. If I could have just got Kirke to her
yesterday! Ridge may do it any time now; I can see it in his eye--and she
may take him. I don't know what's got into Dot. A month ago she'd have
laughed at the idea of marrying him; but now I can't be sure of her.
It's this idiotic bridal hysteria that's got her in its grip. By George,
she _shan't_ take him!"
An hour later, in his brother-in-law's trap, Julius drove to the station
to meet his guest. Kirke Waldron, descending from the train, found his
old schoolmate, younger than himself, but well remembered as the imp of
the High School, waiting for him on the station platform.
"Mighty glad to be sure of you," Julius declared, shaking hands. "Until I
actually caught sight of you I was still expecting a wire saying you
couldn't afford even the one day."
"The coast is clear," Waldron answered, returning the grip with equal
vigor. "I closed every account at midnight and have my one day as
free as air."
"The question is," Julius lost no time in beginning, as the two walked
along the trim, flower-bordered suburban platform toward the waiting
trap, "what sort of a day do you want? Outdoors, of course; no question
of that in hot weather. But--with people or away from them? I can take
you to my sister's for luncheon; to tell the truth, she's counting on
that. But afterward I have a little plan to carry you up into the
mountains to a place I know for an all-afternoon tramp and a dinner at
the best little inn in the country. Back in the late evening, a dash down
to our river and a swim by moonlight. How does that programme suit you?"
"It's great," agreed Kirke Waldron decidedly. "Nothing could suit me
better. Vacation, to me, means outdoors always. And it's a long time
since I've done any tramping in the home State."
"I knew you weren't one of the hammock-and-novel vacation sort," Julius
said as he put his new-old friend into the trap. "I'm not myself.
Though"--he confessed with honesty--"I have been known to sit with my
heels in the air for a longer consecutive period than you've ever done if
all your sittings were lumped together."
"What do you know as to where I've kept my heels?"
"On the ground, planting one before the other without rest, day in and
day out, ever since I first knew you. That's why you're where you are;
it doesn't take a soothsayer to tell that."
Waldron laughed. "You're a flatterer," he said.
Julius shook his head. "Not a bit of it. It's written all over you. If I
got caught in the middle of an earthquake anywhere, and the ground
stopped shaking and I looked around me to find out what to do next, and
my eye fell on you out of hundreds bunched around me, I should
simply--follow you out of the mess!"
"That's a great tribute," Waldron admitted, "from a fellow whom I used to
know as the cleverest at getting himself out of scrapes of all the boys
who were resourceful in getting into them."
"Having exchanged large-sized bouquets," Julius observed with sudden
gravity, "we will now drive home. Do you know I'm mighty sorry my sister
Dorothy isn't there? You remember her, do you?--or maybe you don't. She
was just a 'kid' with a couple of long tails of hair down her back. My
second sister, Barbara--we call her 'Bud'--was in your class, I believe.
She remembers you all right; says she was tremendously impressed by the
way you slew the fractions on the blackboard. Bud married Jack Elliot, as
I told you yesterday; and a great old boy he is, too, for a
Discoursing of his family, with occasional mention of his sister Dorothy,
Julius took his friend to the Elliot home. Mrs. Jack, fresh and charming,
made them welcome. Jack himself, by some happy chance, had been able to
come out for luncheon, and the three men found each other thoroughly
After luncheon Julius contrived a chance to exchange a brief colloquy
with Mrs. Jack on the subject of the guest.
"What do you think of him, Bud? Pretty fine sort to have developed from
the grub who did the stunts with fractions, with his freckled face
turning lobster colour because you girls were looking at him?"
"I can't believe he's the same," Mrs. Jack whispered, looking through the
open window at the figure on the porch outside, its side turned toward
her. "I haven't seen a man in a long time with so much character in his
face. He's not exactly handsome, but--yes, I certainly do like his face
very much. I wish--I really wish Dot were here."
"Oh, no, not at all!" Julius objected. "Dot's satisfied with Ridge
Jordan, or thinks she is. So are you."
"I have always liked Ridge," Mrs. Jack insisted; "but--well, Mr. Waldron
is quite another type."
"Yes, quite another," Julius murmured, and returned to the porch.
Before the two took the train for the mountains Julius managed to let
Waldron see a photograph of Dorothy. As a matter of fact; photographs of
Dorothy were all about the house, but in Julius's own room hung one which
the brother considered the gem of them all. It showed one of those
straight-out-of-the-picture faces which are sometimes so attractive, the
eyebrows level above the wonderful eyes, the lips serious and sweet, the
head well poised upon the lovely neck, the whole aspect one of youth
unconscious of its charm, yet feeling a subtle power of its own.
Waldron, his attention called to the photograph, surveyed it with a quiet
comment: "I should have known she would look like this when she grew
up"; and turned away without undue lingering. Yet Julius was satisfied
that Waldron would know the face again when he saw it, as it was intended
that he should.
It was a journey of an hour and a half by rail up into the mountain
resort where, by certain artfully veiled investigations, Julius had
ascertained that the bridal party would stop for dinner. Scheming
joyously, he led his companion from the train at a station several miles
from Saxifrage Inn, alighting at a mere flag station in the midst of a
semi-wilderness. The promised tramp began without the knowledge of the
guest as to where it was to end or hint as to what might be found there.
Coats over their arms, the two young men swung away upon the trail--a
wide, much-used trail, which could be followed without difficulty. The
warm summer air was fragrant with the scent of balsam, pine, and fern;
pine needles carpeted the path; faint forest sounds came to their
ears--the call of a loon from a distant lake, the whirr of a partridge,
the chatter of a squirrel, the splash of falling water. Waldron took off
his straw hat and tucked it under his arm, baring his forehead to the
spice-laden breeze that now and then filtered through the forest,
stirring languid leaves to motion.
"Ah, but I'd like to be just setting out on a fortnight of this!" he
breathed. "Dressed for the part, a pack on my back--or a canoe. When I
was a boy I used to go on long canoeing trips, following our river to its
mouth. I don't like the tropics as well as I do the temperate zones."
"If you weren't such a tremendous grind you would do it now," Julius
offered. "A fellow needs a vacation, now and then, if he's to keep
Waldron glanced at him, smiling. "So he does. But somehow I've managed to
keep in shape. I inherit from my father a fairly tough constitution, and
also the love of work, the seeing my job through to the finish without
loss of time. I suspect that's what keeps me going."
They fell into talk about Waldron's work.
In answer to Julius's questions Waldron told him a good deal about the
work itself--little, as Julius afterward realized, of his own part in it.
The miles fell away beneath their steadily marching feet, and in due
season, by Julius's management, they emerged from the trail at a certain
rocky bluff overlooking the distant country, upon which was perched the
small but county-famous inn where they were to have dinner.
A string of automobiles stood along the driveway, and among them Julius
readily recognized the three with which he was familiar as those which
had been conveying the Clifford-Jordan bridal party to and from its
places of entertainment for the last fortnight. No sign of the party
itself was to be seen upon the side piazzas which encompassed the inn.
But this was easily understood. From some distance away the sounds
proceeding from a shrubbery-screened point upon the bluff before the
inn betrayed the presence of a company of revellers. This was as it
should be. Even Julius Broughton's audacity was not to be carried to
the point of forcing himself and his friend, uninvited, upon a set of
young people already carefully selected and for the time being rigidly
separated from the rest of mankind by metaphorical white ribbons
stretched to insure privacy.
Julius left Waldron upon the porch and went into the inn to ascertain, if
might be, from the management where the bridal party would be dining.
Learning, as he had expected, that a private apartment was devoted to
their use, he went to the public dining room and selected a table. Being
early he was able to secure one in an alcove, looking out through an open
window upon the path along which the bridal party, returning from the
bluff, would be sure to approach. To this he presently led Waldron and
seated him so that he faced the path outside, the vista of distant
countryside beyond. The young people of the Clifford-Jordan party were to
dine at eight, and it lacked only a few minutes of this hour when they
appeared down the path.
Julius had just given his order and leaned comfortably back in his chair
when he caught sight of them. "By George!" he ejaculated. "Well, well! so
_this_ is where they've come! Been mighty mysterious about where they
meant to spend the day, but we've caught 'em. Started in the opposite
direction this morning, too--just for a blind. You see there are a lot of
practical jokers among Clifford's friends, and their attentions haven't
been confined to the hour of the wedding itself. I say, recognize the
girl in the lead with the bride's brother, that light-haired fellow?"
Drawing back so that he was concealed by the curtains of the window
Waldron looked out at the approaching bevy of young people. Up the path
they came, talking, laughing, shifting like a pattern in a kaleidoscope,
gay, handsome, sophisticated, modishly dressed, unconventionally
mannered, yet showing, most of them, the traces of that youthful ennui so
often betrayed in these modern days by those who of all the world should
feel it least.
Julius's brotherly eye rested upon his sister, as it had done that
morning, with cool satisfaction. Some of the girls looked in disarray,
hair tumbled, frocks rumpled, faces burned. Dorothy's simple white serge
suit was unmussed, her hair was trim under her plain white hat with its
black velvet band, her colour was even, her dark eyes clear. Although
Ridgeway Jordan was bestowing upon her the most devoted attentions, his
eyes constantly seeking--but seldom finding--hers, she was showing no
consciousness of it beyond the little, curving, half-smile with which she
was answering him. In a word, her brother felt, Dot was sweet--strong
and sweet and unspoiled--fascinating, too, being a woman and not without
guile. Didn't she know--of course she did--that it was just that
noncommittal attitude of hers, amused and pleased and interested, but
unimpressed by their regard, that drew the men like a magnet?
Behind Dorothy and young Jordan one of the bridesmaids, an
extraordinarily pretty girl, was laughing hysterically, clutching at her
attendant's sleeve and then pushing him away. He was laughing with
her--and at her--and his eyes, all the time, were following Dorothy
Broughton. It seemed to Julius, as the party came on, that most of the
girls were behaving foolishly--and quite all the men. Perhaps it was
because they had all seen so much of each other during these days and
nights of merry-making that they had reached the borders of a dangerous
familiarity. A little tired of one another most of them had become, it
was more than probable. Against this background Dorothy showed easily
the most distinction of them all; she looked in her simple attire,
contrasted with the elaborate costumes of the other bridesmaids, like a
young princess reigning over a too frivolous suite.
Kirke Waldron looked, unperceived, out of his window, and Julius, turning
his eyes from the picture before him, observed his friend. Waldron's face
was not what might be called an expressive one; it was the face of a man
who had learned not to show what he might be feeling. There was no mask
there; only cool and balanced control, coupled with the keenest
observation. But Julius imagined that Waldron's close-set lips relaxed a
little as he stared at Dorothy.
The party came on into the inn; the sound of their voices and laughter
died away. Some young people at a table near, who also had been
looking out of a window, made various comments to which Julius listened
"Swell-looking lot. Wonder who they are."
"Must be the bridal party they have here to-night. Dining privately."
"Awfully pretty girls," was one young woman's opinion; "better looking
than the men. Why are the men in bridal parties never as good looking as
"Bridegroom doesn't want himself cut out. He has no advantage of a veil
and train; he has to stand out in his raw black and white and compete
with the other men on his own merits."
"I wonder if that was the bride, that prettiest girl in front."
"Don't know. Probably. If she is, the chap's lucky who gets her."
Julius felt a desire to get up and explain that his sister was nobody's
bride, and wasn't going to be anybody's until the right man came along.
Instead he sat still and stared at his plate. As he had watched his
sister coming toward him, with Ridgeway Jordan beside her looking into
her face with that look of eager hopefulness, he had experienced a
powerful longing to go out and lead Ridge away to some secluded spot and
explain to him that he wasn't good enough. It wasn't as if there were
anything against young Jordan; there was certainly nothing specific.
Julius found himself wishing there were.
Upon the bluff in the cool darkness the two young men spent the following
hour, enjoying to the full the refreshing, woods-laden breath of the
night air, their pipes sending up clouds of fragrant smoke and keeping
them free from the onslaughts of the insects which otherwise at that
hour would have been very annoying. From time to time Julius lighted
matches and consulted the unrelenting face of his watch. They did not
talk much; it was a time for silence and the comradeship of silence.
The station at which the tram would stop was not a dozen rods from the
hotel. Until the last minute, therefore, they could linger. But at half
after nine Julius sprang up.
"Let's go back to the hotel and wait on the porch," he proposed.
The two paced back to the porch, which hummed with talk. The whole small
company of the inn's few permanent guests was gathered there, obviously
to see the bridal party when it should appear and take to its motors.
There was not much to amuse hotel guests up here in the mountains; they
could not afford to miss so interesting a departure.
From not far in the distance suddenly a whistle pierced the night air.
"I say, that's too bad!" cried Julius low to his friend. "I hoped they'd
come out before you had to go and you could meet Dot. Just our luck!"
"We'd better be off," said Waldron, and he led the way. It was a flag
station, as he had learned, and he could not afford to lose the train. It
would be after midnight before he could get back to the city as it was,
and he was to leave the city at nine in the morning for his long absence.
Someone was waving a lantern as they approached the station. The forest
hid the track in both directions, but the roar of the nearing train could
now be plainly heard.
Walking fast, a trifle in advance, Waldron suddenly turned and spoke over
his shoulder: "I suppose my ears deceive me, but that certainly sounds as
if it were coming from the wrong direction."
"Your ears do deceive you, of course," Julius responded. "All sounds
are queer in the night. Still--by George! it certainly does seem to
The train, puffing and panting from its pull up the grade, now showed its
headlight through the trees. There was no question about it, it was
coming from the wrong direction, and therefore, unquestionably, was going
in the wrong direction.
"Must be two trains pass here," cried Julius, and he ran ahead to the
hotel hand who was still waving his lantern, although the train was
slowing to a standstill. "There's another train to-night?" he questioned.
"No, sir. This one's all the' is to-night."
Julius turned and looked at his friend. "Well, I certainly have got you
into a nice scrape," he said solemnly.
"It looks like it," Waldron answered shortly. "The thing is now, how to
get out of it. We must hire something and drive back--or to a station
They debated the question. They hurried back to the office and
interviewed the management, which shook its head dubiously. The little
mountain resort was far from stations where trains could be had for the
city fifty miles away. The inn had no conveyance to offer except one work
team of horses and a wagon, guests invariably coming by train or motor.
There were three automobiles out on the driveway, but they belonged to
the bridal party. There had been other automobiles, but they had all left
soon after dinner, their passengers having come for the dinner only, and
proceeding on their way in time to make some other stopping place by
bedtime. There seemed to be no way to get Waldron back except to ask a
favour of Ridgeway Jordan.
Kirke Waldron knit his brows when Julius made this suggestion as a last
resort. "I certainly hate to ask such a favour in the circumstances," he
said. "But it's a case of 'must.' I wouldn't miss that ship to-morrow
morning for any sum you could name; I can't miss it."
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