The Foolish Virgin
Part 1 out of 6
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THE FOOLISH VIRGIN
by THOMAS DIXON
WITH GRATITUDE AND ADMIRATION
I. A FRIENDLY WARNING
IV. DOUBTS AND FEARS
V. WINGS OF STEEL
VI. BESIDE THE SEA
VII. A VAIN APPEAL
VIII. JIM'S TRIAL
IX. ELLA'S SECRET
X. THE WEDDING
XI. "UNTIL DEATH"
XII. THE LOTOS-EATERS
XIII. THE REAL MAN
XIV. UNWELCOME GUESTS
XV. A LITTLE BLACK BAG
XVI. THE AWAKENING
XVII. THE SURRENDER
XVIII. TO THE NEW GOD
XIX. NANCE'S STOREHOUSE
XXI. THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE
XXIII. THE DOCTOR
XXIV. THE CALL DIVINE
XXV. THE MOTHER
XXVI. A SOUL IS BORN
XXVII. THE BABY
XXVIII. WHAT IS LOVE?
XXIX. THE NEW MAN
LEADING CHARACTERS OF THE STORY
MARY ADAMS, An Old-Fashioned Girl.
JIM ANTHONY, A Modern Youth.
JANE ANDERSON, An Artist.
ELLA, A Scrubwoman.
NANCE OWENS, Jim Anthony's Mother.
A DOCTOR, Whose Call was Divine.
THE BABY, A Mascot.
THE FOOLISH VIRGIN
A FRIENDLY WARNING
Mary Adams, you're a fool!"
The single dimple in a smooth red cheek smiled in
"You're repeating yourself, Jane----"
"You won't give him one hour's time for just three
"Not a second for one sitting----"
Mary smiled provokingly, her white teeth gleaming
in obstinate good humor.
"He's the most distinguished artist in America----"
"I've heard so."
"It would be a liberal education for a girl of your
training to know such a man----"
"I'll omit that course of instruction."
The younger woman was silent a moment, and a flush
of anger slowly mounted her temples. The blue eyes
were fixed reproachfully on her friend.
"You really thought that I would pose?"
"I hoped so."
"Alone with a man in his studio for hours?"
Jane Anderson lifted her dark brows.
"Why, no, I hardly expected that! I'm sure he
would take his easel and palette out into the square in
front of the Plaza Hotel and let you sit on the base of
the Sherman monument. The crowds would cheer and
inspire him--bah! Can't you have a little common-
sense? There are a few brutes among artists, as there
are in all professions--even among the superintendents
of your schools. Gordon's a great creative genius. If
you'd try to flirt with him, he'd stop his work and
send you home. You'd be as safe in his studio as in
your mother's nursery. I've known him for ten years.
He's the gentlest, truest man I've ever met. He's
doing a canvas on which he has set his whole heart."
"He can get professional models."
"For his usual work, yes--but this is the head of
the Madonna. He saw you walking with me in the Park
last week and has been to my studio a half-dozen times
begging me to take you to see him. Please, Mary dear,
do this for my sake. I owe Gordon a debt I can never
pay. He gave me the cue to the work that set me on
my feet. He was big and generous and helpful when I
needed a friend. He asked nothing in return but the
privilege of helping me again if I ever needed it. You
can do me an enormous favor--please."
Mary Adams rose with a gesture of impatience,
walked to her window and gazed on the torrent of
humanity pouring through Twenty-third Street from the
beehives of industry that have changed this quarter of
New York so rapidly in the last five years. She turned
suddenly and confronted her friend.
"How could you think that I would stoop to such a
"Yes," she snapped, "--pose for an artist! I'd as
soon think of rushing stark naked through Twenty-third
Street at noon!"
The older woman looked at her flushed face,
suppressed a sharp answer, broke into a fit of laughter
and threw her arms around Mary's neck.
"Honey, you're such a hopeless little fool, you're
delicious! You know that I love you--don't you?"
The pretty lips quivered.
"Could I possibly ask you to do a thing that would
harm a single brown hair of your head?"
The firm hand of the older girl touched a
rebellious lock with tenderness.
"Of course not, from your point of view, Jane
dear," the stubborn lips persisted. "But you see it's
not my point of view. You're older than I----"
"Hoity toity, Miss! I'm just twenty-eight and
you're twenty-four. Age is not measured by calendars
"I didn't mean that," the girl apologized. "But
you're an artist. You're established and
distinguished. You belong to a different world."
Jane Anderson laid her hand softly on her friend's.
"That's just it, dear. I do belong to a different
world--a big new world of whose existence you are not
quite conscious. You are living in the old, old world
in which women have groped for thousands of years. I
don't mind confessing that I undertook this job of
getting you to pose for Gordon for a double purpose. I
wished to do something to repay the debt I owe him--but
I wished far more to be of help to you. You're living
in the Dark Ages, and it's a dangerous thing for a
pretty girl to live in the Dark Ages and date her
letters from New York to-day----"
"I don't understand you in the least."
"And I'm afraid you never will."
She paused suddenly and changed her tone.
"Tell me now, are you happy in your work?"
"I'm earning sixty dollars a month--my position is
"But are you happy in it?"
"I don't expect to teach school all my life," was
the vague answer.
"Exactly. You loathe the sight of a school-room.
You do the task they set you because your father's a
clergyman and can't support his big family. You're
waiting and longing for the day of your deliverance--
isn't it so?"
"And that day of deliverance?"
"Will come when I meet my Fate!"
"You'll meet him, too!"
Jane Anderson shook her fine head.
"And may the Lord have mercy on your poor little
soul when you do!"
"And why, pray?"
"Because you're the most helpless and defenseless
of all the things He created."
"I've managed to take pretty good care of myself
"And you will--until the thunderbolt falls."
"Until you meet your Fate."
"I'll have someone to look after me then."
"We'll hope so anyhow," was the quick retort.
"But can't you see, Jane dear, that we look at life
from such utterly different angles. You glory in your
work. It's your inspiration--the breath you breathe.
I don't believe in women working for money. I don't
believe God ever meant us to work when He made us
women. He made us women for something more wonderful.
I don't see anything good or glorious in the fact that
half the torrent of humanity you see down there pouring
through the street from those factories and offices is
made up of women. They are wage-earners--so much the
worse. They are forcing the scale of wages for men
lower and lower. They are paying for it in weakened
bodies and sickly, hopeless children. We should not
shout for joy; we should cry. God never meant for
woman to be a wage-earner!"
A sob caught her voice and she paused.
The artist watched her emotion with keen
"Neither do I believe that God means to force woman
at last to do the tasks of man. But she's doing them,
dear--and it must be so until a brighter day dawns for
humanity. The new world that opens before us will
never abolish marriage, but it has opened our eyes to
know what it means. You refuse to open yours. You
refuse to see this new world about you. I've begged
you to join one of my clubs. You refuse. I beg you to
meet and know such men of genius as Gordon----"
"As an artist's model!"
"It's the only way on earth you can meet him. You
stick to your narrow, hide-bound conventional life and
dream of the Knight who will suddenly appear some day
out of the mists and clouds. You dream of the Fate God
has prepared for you in His mysterious Providence.
It's funny how that idea persists even today in novels.
As a matter of fact we know that the old-fashioned girl
met her Fate because her shrewd mother planned the
meeting--planned it with cunning and stratagem. You're
alone in a great modern city, with all the conditions
of the life of the old regime reversed or blotted out.
Your mother is not here. And if she were, her schemes
to bring about the mysterious meeting of the Fates
would be impossible. You outgrew the limits of your
village life. Your highly trained mind landed you in
New York. You've fought your way to a competent living
in five years and kept yourself clean and unspotted
from the world. Granted. But how many men have you
met who are your equals in culture and character?"
Jane paused and held Mary's gaze with steady
"None as yet," she confessed.
"But you live in the one fond, imperishable hope!
It's the only thing that keeps you alive and going--
this idea of your Fate. It's an obsession--this
mysterious Knight somewhere in the future riding to
"I'll find him, never fear," the girl laughed.
"Of course you will. You'll make him out of whole
cloth if it's necessary. Our ideals are really the
same when you come to analyze my wider outlook."
The artist paused and laughed softly.
"The same?" the girl asked incredulously.
"Certainly. Mine is based on intelligence,
however--yours on blind instinct perverted and twisted
by the idiotic fiction you read morning, noon and
"I don't see it," Mary answered emphatically.
"Your ideal is fame, achievement, the applause of the
world--mine just a home and a baby----"
Jane laughed softly.
"And that's all you know about me?"
"Isn't it true?"
"You've been in this room five years, haven't you?"
the older girl asked musingly.
"And though you've kept your lamp trimmed and
burning, you haven't yet seen a man whom you could
recognize as your equal."
"I'm only twenty-four."
"In these five years I've met a hundred men my
"And smashed the conventions of Society whenever
you saw fit."
"Without breaking a single law of reason or common-
sense. In the meantime I've met two men who have
really made love to me. I thought I loved one of
them--until I met the other. The second proved himself
to be an unprincipled scoundrel. If I had held your
views of life and hated my work, I would have married
this man and lived to awake in a prison whose only door
was Death. But I loved my work. Life meant more than
one man who was not worth an hour's tears. I turned
to my studio and he slipped back into the gutter where
he belonged. I'll meet MY Fate some day, too,
dear. I'm waiting and watching--but with clear eyes
and unafraid. I'll know mine when he comes, I shall
not be blinded by passion or the fear of drudgery.
Can't you see this bigger world of realities?"
The dimple flashed again in the smooth red cheek.
"It's not for me, Jane. I'm just a modest little
home body. I'll bide my time----"
"And eat your foolish heart out here between the
narrow walls of this cell you've built for yourself. I
should think you'd die living here alone."
The girl flushed.
"I'm not lonely----"
"Don't fib! I know better. Your birds and kitten
occupy daily about thirty minutes of the time that's
your own. What do you do with the rest of it?"
"Sit by my window, watch the crowds stream through
the streets below, read and dream and think----"
"Yes--read love stories and dream about your
"It's morbid and unhealthy. You've hedged
yourself about with the old conventions and imagine
you're safe--and you are--until you meet HIM!"
"I'll know how to behave--never fear."
"You mean you'll know how instantly to blindfold,
halter and lead him to the Little Church Around the
Mary moved uneasily.
"And what else should I do with him?"
"Compare him with other men. Weigh him in the
balances of a remorseless common-sense. Study him
under a microscope and keep your reason clear. The
girl who rushes into marriage in a great city under the
conditions in which you and I live is a fool. More
girls are ruined in New York by marriage than by any
other process. The thunderbolt out of the blue hasn't
struck you yet, but when it does----"
"I'll tell you, Jane."
"Will you, honestly?"
The question was asked with wistful tenderness.
"I promise. And you mustn't think I don't
appreciate this visit and the chance you've given again
to enter the `big world' you're always telling me
about. I just can't do it, dear. It's not my world."
"All right, my little foolish virgin, have it your
own way. When you're lonely, run up to my studio
to see me. I won't ask you to pose or meet any of the
dangerous men of my circle. We'll lock the doors and
have a snug time all by ourselves."
The clock in the Metropolitan Tower chimed the hour
of five, and Jane Anderson rose with a quick, business-
"Don't hurry," Mary protested. "I know I've been
stubborn, but I've been so happy in your coming. I do
get lonely--frightfully lonely, sometimes--don't think
"You're dangerously beautiful, child," the artist
said, with enthusiasm. "And remember that I love you--
no matter how silly you are--good-by."
"You won't stay for a cup of tea? I meant to ask
you an hour ago."
"No, I've an engagement with a dreadful man whom
I've no idea of ever marrying. I'm going to dinner
with him--just to study the animal at dose range."
With a jolly laugh and quick, firm step she was
Mary snatched the kitten from his snug bed between
the pillows of the window-seat and pressed his fuzzy
head under her chin.
"She tempted us terribly, Kitty darling, but we
didn't let her find out--did we? You know deep down in
your cat's soul that I was just dying to meet the
distinguished Gordon--but such high honors are not for
home bodies like you and me----"
She dropped on the seat and closed her eyes for a
long time. The kitten watched her wonderingly sure of
a sudden outbreak with each passing moment. Two soft
paws at last touched her cheeks and two bright eyes
sought in vain for hers. The little nose pressed
closer and kissed the drooping eyelids until they
opened. He curled himself on her bosom and began to
sing a gentle lullaby. For a long while she lay and
listened to the music of love with which her pet sought
to soothe the ache within.
The clock in the tower chimed six.
She lifted her body and placed her head on a pillow
beside the window. The human torrent below was now at
its flood. Two streams of humanity flowed eastward
along each broad sidewalk. Hundreds were pouring in
endless procession across Madison Square. The cars in
Broadway north and South were jammed. Every day she
watched this crowd hurrying, hurrying away into the
twilight--and among all its hundreds of thousands not
an eye was ever lifted to hers--not one man or
woman among them cared whether she lived or died.
It was horrible, this loneliness of the desert in
an ocean of humanity! For the past year it had become
an increasing horror to look into the silent faces of
this crowd of men and women and never feel the touch of
a friendly hand or hear the sound of a human voice in
And yet this endless procession held for her a
supreme fascination. Somewhere among its myriads of
tramping feet, walked the one man created for her. She
no more doubted this than she doubted God Himself. It
was His law. He had ordained it so. She had grown so
used to the throngs below her window and so loved the
little park with its splashing fountain that she had
refused to follow her landlady uptown when the
brownstone boarding-house facing the Square had been
turned into a studio building.
Instead of moving she had wheedled the landlord
into allowing her to cut off a small space from her
room for a private bath and kitchenette, built a box
couch across the window large enough for a three-
quarter mattress and covered it with velour. For five
dollars a week she had thus secured a little home in
which was combined a sitting-room, bed-room, bath and
It had its drawbacks, of course. The Professor
downstairs who taught music sometimes gave a special
lesson at night, and the Italian sculptor who worked on
the top floor used a hammer at the most impossible
hours. But on the whole she liked it better than the
tiresome routine of boarding. She was not afraid at
night. The stamp-and-coin man who occupied the first
floor, lived with his wife and baby in the rear. The
janitress had a room on the floor above hers. Two
elderly women workers of ability in the mechanical arts
occupied the rear of her floor, and a dear little fat
woman of fifty who drew designs for the New England
weavers of cotton goods lived in the room adjoining
She had never spoken to any of these people, but
Ella, the janitress, who cleaned up her place every
morning, had told her their history. Ella was a
sociable soul, her face an eternal study and an
inscrutable mystery. She spoke both German and English
and yet never a word of her own life's history passed
her lips. She had loved Mary from the moment she
cocked her queer drawn face to one side and looked at
her with the one good eye she possessed. She was
always doing little things for her comfort--and never
asked tips for it. If Mary offered to pay she smiled
quietly and spoke in the softest drawl: "Oh,
that's nothing, child-- Ach, Gott im Himmel--nein!"
This one-eyed, homely woman who cleaned up her room
for three dollars a month, and Jane Anderson, were the
only friends she had among the six million people whose
lives centered on Manhattan Island.
Man had yet to darken her door. The little room
had been carefully fitted, however, to receive her
Knight when the great event of his coming should be at
The box couch was built of hard wood paneling and
was covered with pillows of soft leather and silk. The
bed-clothes were carefully stored in the locker beneath
the mattress cushion. No one would ever suspect its
use as a bed. The bathroom was fitted with a bureau
and no signs of a sleeping apartment disfigured the
effect of her one library, parlor, and reception-room.
A desk and bookcase stood at either end of the box
couch. The bookcase was filled with fiction--love
A large birdcage swung from a staple in the window
and two canaries peered cautiously from their perches
at the kitten in her lap. She had trained him to
ignore this cage.
The crowds below were thinning down. A light
snow was falling. The girl lifted her pet and kissed
his cold nose.
"We must get our own dinner tonight, Mr.
Thomascat--it's snowing outside. And did you hear what
she said, Kitty dear--`More girls are ruined by
marriage in New York than by any other process!' A
good joke, Kitty!--You and I know better than that if
we do live in our own tiny world! We'll risk it some
day, anyhow, won't we?"
The kitten purred his assent and Mary bustled over
the little gas stove humming an old love song her
mother had taught her in a far-off village in Kentucky.
Her kitchenette was a model of order and cleanliness.
The carpenter who built its neat cupboard and fitted
the drawers beneath the tiny gas range, had outdone
himself in its construction. He had given the wood-
work four coats of immaculate white paint without extra
charge. Mary had insisted on paying for it, but he
waved the proffered money aside with a gesture that
spoke louder than words:
"Pooh! That's nothing to what I'd like to do for
She was not surprised when he called the following
Saturday and stood at her door awkwardly fumbling his
hat, trying to ask her to spend the afternoon and
evening at Coney Island with him. There was no
mistaking the manner in which he made this request.
She had refused him as gently as possible--a big,
awkward, good-natured, ignorant boy he was, with
the eyes of a St. Bernard dog. He apologized for his
presumption and never repeated the offense.
Somehow her conquests had all been in this class.
The tall, blushing German youth from the butcher's
around the corner had been slipping extra cuts into her
bundle and making awkward advances until she caught him
red-handed with a pound of lamb chops which he failed
to explain. She read him a lecture on honesty that
discouraged him. It was not so much what she said, as
the way she said it, that wounded his sensitive nature.
The ice man she had not yet entirely subdued. Tony
Bonelli had the advantage of pretending not to
understand her orders of dismissal. He merely smiled
in his sad Italian way and continued to pack her ice-
box so full the lid would never close.
She was reminded at every turn tonight of these
futile conquests of the impossible. They all smelled
of the back stairs and the kitchen. Her people had
been slaveholders in the old regime of southern
Kentucky. A kindly tolerant contempt for the
pretensions of a servant class was bred in the bone of
And yet their tribute to her beauty had its
compensations. It was the promise of triumph when he
for whom she waited should step from the throng and
lift his hat. Just how he was going to do this without
a breach of the proprieties of life, she couldn't see.
It would come. It must come. It was Fate.
In twenty minutes her coffee-pot was boiling, the
lamb chops broiled to perfection and she was seated
before the dainty, snow-white table, the kitten softly
begging at her feet. Half an hour later, every dish
and pot and pan was back in its place in perfect order.
She prided herself on her mastery of the details of
cooking and the most economical administration of every
dollar devoted to housekeeping. She studied cooking in
the best schools the city afforded. She meant to show
her Knight a thing or two in this line when the time
came. His wife would not be an ignorant slattern, the
victim of incompetent servants. No servant could fool
her. She would know the business of the house down to
its minutest detail.
Not that she loved dish-washing and pot-polishing
and scrubbing. It was simply a part of the Game of
Life she must play in the ideal home she would build.
There was no drudgery in it for this reason. She was a
soldier on the drill grounds preparing for the battle
on the successful issue of which hung her happiness and
the happiness of the one of whom she dreamed. She
might miss some of the dangerous fun which Jane
Anderson could enjoy without a scratch, but she would
make sure of the fundamental things which Jane would
never stop to consider.
She threw herself on the couch in her favorite
position against the pillows, drew the kitten into her
arms and hugged him violently.
"It's all right, Mr. Thomascat; we'll show them,"
she purred softly. "We'll see who wins at last, the
eagle who soars or the little wren in the hedge close
beside the garden wall--we'll see, Kitty--we'll see!"
The room was still, the noise of the street-cars
below muffled with the first soft blanket of snow. The
street lamps flickered in the wind with a pale subdued
light that scarcely brought out the furnishings of her
nest. She was in the habit of dreaming in this window
for hours with only the light from the lamps on the
The Square, deserted by its tramp lovers, lay white
and still and cold. The old battle with the Blue
Devils was on again within. The fight with Jane had
been easy. She had always found it easy to face
temptation in the concrete. The moment Satan appeared
in human shape she was up in arms and ready for the
fray. It was this silent hour she dreaded when the
defenses of the soul were down.
There was no use to lie to herself. She was
utterly lonely and heartsick.
She had guarded the portals of life with religious
care--with a care altogether unnecessary as events had
proved. There had been no crush of rude men to assault
her. Only an awkward carpenter, a butcher's boy and
the ice man! It was incredible. Of all the men whose
restless feet pressed the pavements of New York, not
one, save these three, had apparently cared whether she
lived or died.
The men whom she met in her duties in the
schoolroom she had found utterly devoid of imagination
and beneath contempt. They had each been obviously on
guard against the machinations of the female of the
species. They had, each of them, shown plainly their
fear and hatred of women teachers. The feeling was
mutual. God knows she had no desire to encroach on
their domain any longer than absolutely necessary.
Perhaps she was making a mistake. The thought was
strangling. Only the girl who waived conventions in
the rushing tide of the modern city's life seemed to
live at all. The others merely existed. Jane
Anderson lived! There could be no mistake about that.
She had mastered the ugly mob. Its cruel loneliness
was to her a thing unknown. But Jane was an
exception--the one woman in a thousand who could defy
conventions and yet keep her soul and body clean.
The offer she had made had proved a terrible
temptation. The artist who had asked with such
eagerness to use her head for his portrait of the
Madonna on the canvas he was executing for the new
cathedral, had long appealed to her vivid imagination.
Two prints of his famous work hung on her walls. She
had always wished to know him. He had married a
That was just the point--he WAS married!
No girl could afford to be shut up alone in a
studio with a fascinating married man for three hours--
or half an hour. What if she should fall in love with
him at first sight! Such things had happened. They
could happen again. Only tragedy could be the end of
such an event. It was too dangerous to consider for a
She would have consented had it been possible for
Jane to chaperon her. That would have been obviously
ridiculous. No artist with any self-respect would
tolerate such a reflection on his honesty. No girl
could afford to confess her fears in this brazen
The necessity for her refusal had depressed her
beyond any experience she had passed through in the
dreary desert of the past five years.
She lifted the sleeping kitten and whispered
"Am I a silly fool, Kitty? Am I?"
The tears came at last. She lay back on the
pillows and let them pour down her cheeks without
protest or effort at self-control. Every nerve of her
strong, healthy body ached for the love and
companionship of men which she had denied herself with
an iron will. At nineteen it had been easy. The sheer
animal joy in life had been enough. With the growth of
each year the ache within had become more and more
insistent. With each ripening season of body and mind,
the hunger of love had grown more and more maddening.
How long could she keep up this battle with every
instinct of her being?
She rose at last, determined to go to Jane, confess
that she had been a fool, and step out into the new
world, New York's world, and begin to live.
She seized her hat and furs and put them on with
"God knows it's time I began--I'll be an old maid
in another year and dry up--ugh!"
She looked in the quaint oval mirror that hung
beside her door and lifted her head with a touch of
She had reached the street and started for the
Broadway car before she suddenly remembered that Jane
was "dining with a dangerous man."
She couldn't turn back to that little room tonight
without new courage. Her decision was instantaneous.
She couldn't surrender to the flesh and the devil by
yielding to Jane.
She would go to prayer-meeting!
Religion had always been a very real thing in her
life. Her father was a Methodist presiding elder. She
would have gone to the meeting tonight in the first
place but for the snow. Dr. Craddock, the new
sensational pastor of the Temple, was giving a series
of Wednesday-night talks that had aroused wide interest
and drawn immense crowds.
His theme tonight was one that promised all sorts
of sensations--"The Woman of the Future." The only
trouble with the Doctor was that the substance of his
discourses sometimes failed to make good the startling
suggestions of his titles. No matter--she would go.
She felt a sense of righteous pride infighting her
way to the church through the first storm of the
In spite of the snow the church was crowded. The
subject announced had evidently touched a vital spot in
modern life. More people were thinking about "The
Woman of the Future" than she had suspected. The crowd
sat with eager, upturned faces.
The first half-hour's prayer and song service had
just begun. Mary joined in the singing of the stirring
evangelistic hymns with enthusiasm. Something in their
battle-cry melody caught her spirit instantly tonight
and her whole being responded. In ten minutes she was
a good shouting Methodist and supremely happy without
knowing why. She never paused to ask. Her nature was
profoundly religious and she had been born and bred in
the atmosphere of revivals. Her father was an
aggressive evangelist both in his character and methods
of work, and she was his own daughter--a child of
The individuals in the eager crowd which packed the
popular church meant nothing to her personally. They
had passed before her unseeing eyes Sunday after Sunday
the past five years as mere shadows of an unknown world
which swallowed them up the moment they reached the
street. She had never seen the inside of one of their
homes. Not one of them had drawn close enough to her
to venture an invitation.
Two of the stewards she knew personally--one a
bricklayer, the other a baker on Eighth Avenue. The
preacher she had met in a purely formal way as the
bishop of the flock. She liked Dr. Craddock. He was
known in the ministry as a live wire. He was a man of
vigorous physique--just turning fifty, magnetic,
eloquent and popular with the masses.
Mary was curious tonight as to what the preacher
would say on "The Woman of the Future." The Methodist
Church had been a pioneer in the modern Feminist
movement, having long ago admitted women to the full
ordination of the ministry. Craddock, however, had
been known for his conservatism in the woman movement.
He abhorred the idea of woman's suffrage as a dangerous
revolution and the fact that he consented to treat the
topic at all was a reluctant confession of its menacing
With keen interest, the girl saw him rise at last.
A breathless hush fell on the crowd. He walked
deliberately to the edge of the platform and gazed into
the faces of the people.
"I have often been asked," he slowly began, "where
I get my sermons." He paused and laughed. "I'll be
perfectly honest with you. Sometimes I get them from
the Bible--sometimes from the book of life. The
genesis of this talk tonight is very definite. I found
it in the liquid depths of a little girl's eyes. She
asked a simple question that set me thinking--not only
about the subject of her query but on the vaster issues
that grew out of it. She looked up into my face the
other night after my call for volunteers for the new
mission we are beginning in the slums of the East Side,
and asked me if the girls were not going to be given
the chance to do something worth while in this church's
"I couldn't honestly answer her off-hand and in my
groping I forgot the child and her question. I saw a
vision--a vision of that broader, nobler future toward
which human civilization is now swiftly moving.
"I say deliberately that it is swiftly moving,
because the progress of the world during the last fifty
years has been greater than in any five hundred years
of the past.
"The older I grow the stronger becomes my
conviction that the problems of the age in which we now
live cannot be solved by masculine brain and brawn
alone. The problems of the city and the nation and the
great fundamental social questions that involve the
foundations of modern life will find no solution until
the heart and brain of woman are poured into the
crucible of our test.
"They talk about a woman's sphere
As though it had a limit:
There's not a place in earth or heaven,
There's not a task to mankind given,
There's not a blessing or a woe,
There's not a whisper yes or no,
There's not a life, or death, or birth
That has a feather's weight of worth
Without a woman in it!
"The difference between a man and a woman is one
that makes them the complementary parts of a perfect
unit. God made man in His own image--male and female.
The person of God therefore combines these two elements
unseparated. The mind of God is both male and female.
In man we have the strength which lifts and tugs and
fights the elements. This is the aspect turned
primarily toward matter. In woman we have the finer
qualities of the Spirit turned toward the source of all
spirit in God. The idea of a masculine deity is a
false assumption of the Dark Ages. God is both male
"I used to wonder why Jesus Christ was a man, until
I realized that the Incarnation expressed the depth of
human need. God stooped lower in assuming the form of
man. The form of the divine revelation through Jesus
Christ was determined solely by this depth of human
For half an hour in impetuous eloquence, in telling
incidents wet with tears and winged with hope, he held
his listeners in a spell. It was not until the burst
of applause which greeted his closing sentence had died
away that Mary Adams realized that another landmark had
toppled before the onrushing flood of modern Feminism.
The conservatism of Doctor Craddock had yielded at last
to the inevitable. He, too, had joined the ranks of
the prophets who preach of a Woman's Day of
And yet it never occurred to her that this fact had
the slightest bearing on her personal outlook on life.
On the contrary she felt in the spiritual elation of
the triumphant eloquence of her favorite preacher a
renewal of her simple religious faith. At the bottom
of that religion lay the foundation of life itself--her
conception of marriage as the supreme and only
expression of woman's power in the world.
She walked back to her home on the Square, in a
glow of ecstatic emotion.
Surely God had miraculously saved her this night
from the wiles of the Devil! No matter what this
eloquent discourse had meant to others, it had renewed
her faith in the old-fashioned woman and the old-
fashioned ways of the old-fashioned home. Her vision
was once more clear. She was glad Jane Anderson had
come to put her to the test. She had been tried in the
fires of hell and came forth unscorched.
She stood beside her window dreaming again of the
home she would build when her Knight should stand
before her revealed in beauty no words could describe.
The moon was shining now in solemn glory on the white-
shrouded Square. Temptation had only strengthened the
fiber of her soul. She knelt in the moonlight beside
her couch and prayed that God should ever keep her
faith serene. She rose with a sense of peace and joy.
God would hear and answer the cry of her heart. The
City might be the Desert--it was still God's world and
not a sparrow that twittered in those bare trees or
chattered on her window-ledge in the morning could fall
to the ground without His knowledge. God had put this
deathless passion in her heart; He could not deny
it expression. She could bide His time. If the day of
her deliverance were near, it was good. If God should
choose to try her faith in loneliness and tears, it was
His way to make the revelation of glory the more
dazzling when it came.
She drew the covering about her warm young body
with the firm faith that her hour was close at hand,
and fell asleep to dream of her Knight.
Mary waked next morning with the delicious sense of
impending happiness. A wonderful dream had come to
thrill her half-conscious moments, repeating itself in
increasing vividness and beauty with each awakening.
The vision had been interrupted by the unusual noise of
the snow machines on the car tracks, and yet she had
fallen asleep after each break and picked up the
rapturous scene at the exact moment of its
She was married and madly in love with her husband.
His face she could never see quite clearly. His
business kept him away from home on long trips. But
his baby was always there--a laughing, wonderful boy
whose chubby hands persisted in pulling her hair down
into her face each time she bent over his cradle to
Ella was chattering in German to someone on the
stairs. She wondered again for the hundredth time
how this poor, slovenly, one-eyed, ill-kempt creature,
scrub-woman and janitress, could speak two languages
with such ease. Her English, except in excitement,
seemed equally fluent with her German. How did such a
woman fall so low? She was industrious and untiring in
her work. She never touched liquor or drugs. She was
kind and thoughtful and watched over her tenants with a
motherly care for which no landlord could pay in
dollars and cents. She was on her knees on the stairs
now, scrubbing down the steps to be crowded again with
muddy feet from the street below.
Mary lay for half an hour snuggling under the warm
blankets, weaving a romance about Ella's life. A great
love for some heroic man who died and left her in
poverty could alone explain the mystery that hung about
her. She never spoke of her life or people. Mary had
ventured once to ask her. A wan smile flitted across
the haggard face for a moment, and she answered in low
tones that closed the subject.
"I haven't any people, dear," she said slowly.
"They are dead long ago."
The girl wondered if it were really true. In her
joy this morning she felt her heart go out to the
pathetic, drooping figure on the stairs. She
wished that every living creature might share the
secret joy that filled her soul.
She drew the kitten from his nest beside her pillow
and rubbed her cheek against his little cold nose. He
always waked her with a kiss on her eyelids and then
coiled himself back for a tiny cat-nap until she could
make up her mind to rise.
She sprang from the couch with sudden energy and
stretched her dainty figure with a prodigious yawn.
"Gracious, Kitty, we must hurry!" she cried,
thrusting her bare feet into a pair of embroidered
slippers and throwing her blue flannel kimono on over
The coffee-pot was boiling busily when she had
bathed and dressed. Each detail of her domestic
schedule was given an extra care this morning. The
stove was carefully polished, each pot and pan placed
in its rack with a precision that spoke an unusual joy
within the heart of the housewife.
And through it all she hummed a lullaby that
haunted her from the memories of a happy childhood.
Breakfast over, the kitten fed, the birds given
their bath, their sand and seed, she couldn't stop
until the whole place had been thoroughly cleaned
and dusted. Exactly why she had done this on Thursday
morning it was impossible to say. Some hidden force
within had impelled her.
Then back into the dream world her mind flew on
joyous wings. It was a sign from God in answer to
prayer. Why not? The Bible was full of such
revelations in ancient times. God was not dead because
the world was modern and we had steam and electricity.
The routine of school was no longer dull. Around each
commonplace child hung a halo of romance. They were
love-children today. She wove a dream of tenderness,
of chivalry, and heroic deeds about them all. She
searched each face for some line of beauty caught in
the vision of her own baby who had looked into her
heart from the mists of eternity.
Three days passed in a sort of trance. Never had
she felt surer of life and the full fruition of every
hope and faith. Just how this marvelous blossoming
would come, she could not guess. Her chances of
meeting her Fate were no better than at any moment of
the past years of drab disillusionment, and yet, for
some reason, her foolish heart kept singing.
There could be but one answer. The event was
impending. Such things could be felt--not reasoned
She applied herself to her teaching with a new
energy and thoroughness. She must do this work well
and carry into the real life that must soon begin the
consciousness of every duty faithfully performed.
A boy asked her a question about a little flower
which grew in a warm crevice of the stone wall on which
the iron fence of the school yard rested. She blushed
at her failure to enlighten him and promised to tell
him on Monday.
Botany was not one of her tasks but she felt the
tribute to her personality in his question, and she
would take pains to make her answer full and
Saturday afternoon she hurried to the Public
Library, on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, to
look up every reference to this flower.
The boulevard of the Metropolis was thronged with
eager thousands. Handsome men and beautifully dressed
women passed each other in endless procession on its
crowded pavements. The cabs and automobiles, two
abreast on either side, moved at a snail's pace, so
dense were the throngs at each crossing. Her fancy was
busy weaving about each throbbing tonneau and
limousine a story of love. Not a wheel was turning in
all that long line of shining vehicles that didn't
carry a woman or was hurrying to do a woman's bidding.
Her hero was coming, too, somewhere in the crowd
with his gloved hand on one of those wheels. She could
feel his breath on her cheek as he handed her into the
seat by his side and then the sudden leap of the car
into space and away on the wings of lightning into the
She ascended the broad steps of the majestic
building with quick, springing strength. She loved
this glorious library, with its lofty, arched ceilings.
The sense of eternity that brooded over it and filled
the stately rooms rested and inspired her.
Besides, she forgot her poverty in this temple of
all time. Within its walls she belonged to the great
aristocracy of brains and culture of which this palace
was the supreme expression. And it was hers. Andrew
Carnegie had given the millions to build it and the
city of New York granted the site on land that was
worth many millions more. But it was all built for her
convenience, her comfort and inspiration. Every volume
of its vast and priceless collection was hers--hers to
hold in her hands, read and ponder and enjoy. Every
officer and manager in its inclosure was her
servant--to come at her beck and call and do her
bidding. The little room on Twenty-third Street was
the symbol of the future. This magnificent building
was the realization of the present.
She smiled pleasantly to the polite assistant who
received her order slip, and took her seat on the
waiting line until her books were delivered.
This magnificent room with its lofty ceilings of
golden panels and drifting clouds had always brought to
her a peculiar sense of restful power. The
consciousness of its ownership had from the first been
most intimate. No man can own what he cannot
appreciate. He may possess it by legal documents, but
he cannot own it unless he has eyes to see, ears to
hear, and a heart to feel its charm. This appreciation
Mary Adams possessed by inheritance from her student
father who devoured books with an insatiate hunger.
Nowhere in all New York's labyrinth did she feel as
perfectly at home as in this reading-room. The quiet
which reigned without apparent sign or warning seemed
to belong to the atmosphere of the place. It was
unthinkable that any man or woman should be rude or
thoughtless enough to break it by a loud word.
This room was hers day or night, winter or
summer, always heated and lighted, and a hundred
swift, silent servants at hand to do her bidding.
Around the room on serried shelves, dressed in leather
aprons, stood twenty-five thousand more servants of the
centuries of the past ready to answer any question her
heart or brain might ask of the world's life since the
dawn of Time.
In the stack-room below, on sixty-three miles of
shelves, stood a million others ready to come at her
slightest nod. She loved to dream here of the future,
in the moments she must wait for these messengers she
had summoned. In this magic room the past ceased to
be. These myriads of volumes made the past a myth. It
was all the living, throbbing present--with only the
golden future to be explored.
Her number flashed in red letters on the electric
She rose and carried her books to the seat number
assigned her near the center of the southern division
of the room on the extreme left beside the bookcases
containing the dictionaries of all languages.
Her seat was on the aisle which skirted the
shelves. She found the full description of the flower
in which she was interested, made her notes and
closed the volume with a lazy movement of her slender,
She lifted her eyes and they rested on a
remarkable-looking young man about her own age who
stood gazing in an embarrassed, helpless sort of way at
the row of ponderous volumes marked "The Century
He was evidently a newcomer. By his embarrassment
she could easily tell that it was the first time he had
ever ventured into this room.
He looked at the books, apparently puzzled by their
number. He raised his hand and ran his fingers
nervously through the short, thick, red hair which
covered his well-shaped head.
The girl's attention was first fixed by the strange
contrast between his massive jaw and short neck which
spoke the physical strength of an ox, and the slender
gracefully tapering fingers of his small hand. The
wrist was small, the fingers almost feminine in their
He caught her look of curious interest and to her
horror, smiled and walked straight to her seat.
There was no mistaking his determination to speak.
It was useless to drop her eyes or turn aside. He
would certainly follow.
She blushed and gazed at him in a timid,
helpless fashion while he bent over her seat and
"You look kind and obliging, miss--could you help
me a little?"
His tone was so genuine in its appeal, so
distressed and hesitating, it was impossible to resent
"If I can--yes," was the prompt answer.
"You won't mind?" he asked, fumbling his hat.
"No--what is it?"
Mary had recovered her composure as his distress
had increased and looked steadily into his steel blue
"You see," he went on, in low hurried tones, "I'm
all worked up about the mountains of North Carolina--
thinkin' o' goin' down there to Asheville in a car, an'
I want to look the bloomin' place up and kind o' get my
bearin's before I start. A lawyer friend o' mine told
me to come here and I'd find all the maps in the
Century Dictionary. The man at the desk out there told
me to come in this room and look in the shelves on the
left and take it right out. Gee, the place is so big,
I get all rattled. I found the Century Dictionary on
He paused and smiled helplessly.
"I thought a dictionary was one book--there's a
dozen of 'em marked alike. I'm afraid to pull 'em all
down an' I don't know where to begin-- COULD you
"Certainly, with pleasure," she answered, quickly
rising and leading the way back to the shelf at which
he had been gazing.
"You want the atlas volume," she explained, drawing
the book from the shelf and returning to the seat.
He followed promptly and bent over her shoulder
while she pointed out the map of North Carolina, the
position of Asheville and the probable route he must
follow to get there.
"Thanks!" he exclaimed gratefully.
"Not at all," she replied simply. "I'm only too
glad to be of service to you."
Her answer emboldened him to ask another question.
"You don't happen to know anything about that
country down there, do you?"
"Why, yes. I know a great deal about it----"
"I've been through Asheville many times and spent a
summer there once."
His tones implied that he plainly regarded her
as a prodigy of knowledge. His whole attitude
suggested at once the mind of an alert, interested boy
asking his teacher for information on a subject near to
his heart. It was impossible to resist his appeal.
"Why, yes," Mary went on in low, rapid tones. "My
people live in the Kentucky mountains."
He bent low and gently touched her arm.
"Say, we can't talk in here--I'm afraid. Would it
be asking too much of you to come out in the park, sit
down on a bench and tell me about it? I'll never know
how to thank you, if you will?"
It was absurd, of course, such a request, and yet
his interest was so keen, his deference to her superior
knowledge so humble and appealing, to refuse seemed
ungracious. She hesitated and rose abruptly.
"Just a moment--I'll return my books and then we'll
go. You can replace this volume on the shelf where we
"Thank yoo, miss," he responded gratefully.
"You're awfully kind."
"Don't mention it," she laughed.
In a moment she was walking by his side down the
smooth marble stairs and out through the grand entrance
into Fifth Avenue. The strange part about it was, she
was not in the least excited over a very unconventional
situation. She had allowed a handsomely groomed,
young, red-haired adventurer to pick her up without the
formality of an introduction, in the Public Library.
She hadn't the remotest idea of his name--nor had he of
hers--yet there was something about him that seemed
oddly familiar. They must have known one another
somewhere in childhood and forgotten each other's
The sun was shining in clear, steady brilliancy in
a cloudless sky. The snow had quickly melted and it
was unusually warm for early December. They turned
into the throng of Fifth Avenue and at the corner of
Forty-second Street he paused and hesitated and looked
at her timidly:
"Say," he began haltingly, "there's an awful crowd
of bums on those seats in the Square behind the
building--you know Central Park, don't you?"
"Quite well--I've spent many happy hours in its
"You know that place the other side of the Mall--
that ragged hill covered with rocks and trees and
"I've been there often."
"Would you mind going there where it's quiet--I've
such a lot o' things I want to ask you--you won't mind
the walk, will you?"
"Certainly not--we'll go there," Mary responded in
even, business-like tones.
"Because, if you don't want to walk I'll call a
cab, if you'll let me----"
"Not at all," was the quick answer. "I love to
It was impossible for the girl to repress a smile
at her ridiculous situation! If any human being had
told her yesterday that she, Mary Adams, an old-
fashioned girl with old-fashioned ideas of the
proprieties of life, would have allowed herself to be
picked up by an utter stranger in this unceremonious
way, she would have resented the assertion as a
personal insult--yet the preposterous and impossible
thing had happened and she was growing each moment more
and more deeply interested in the study of the
remarkable youth by her side.
He was not handsome in the conventional sense. His
features were too strong for that. An enemy might have
called them coarse. Their first impression was of
enormous strength and exhaustless vitality. He walked
with a quick, military precision and planted his small
feet on the pavement with a soft, sure tread that
suggested the strength of a young tiger.
The one feature that puzzled her was the size of
his hands and feet. They were remarkably small and
remarkable for their slender, graceful lines.
His eyes were another interesting feature. The
lids drooped with a careless Oriental languor, as
though he would shut out the glare of the full
daylight, and yet the pupils flashed with a cold steel-
blue fire. One look into his eyes and there could be
no doubt that the man behind them was an interesting
She wondered what his business could be. Not a
lawyer or doctor or teacher certainly. His timidity in
handling books was clear proof on that point. He was
well groomed. His clothes were made by a first-class
Her heart thumped with a sudden fear. Perhaps he
was some sort of criminal. His questions may have been
a trick to lure her away. . . .
They had just crossed the broad plaza at Fifty-
ninth Street and entered the walkway that leads to the
She stopped suddenly.
"It's too far to the hill beyond the Mall," she
began hesitatingly. "We'll find a seat in one of the
little rustic houses along the Fifty-ninth Street
"Sure, if you say so," he agreed.
He accepted the suggestion so simply, she regretted
her suspicions, instantly changed her mind and said,
"No, we'll go on where we started. The long walk
will do me good."
"All right," he laughed; "whatever you say's the
law. I'm the little boy that does just what his
She blushed and shot him a surprised look.
"Who told you that I was a teacher?" she asked,
with a smile.
"Lord, nobody! I had no idea of such a thing. It
never popped into my head that you do anything at all.
You know, I was awful scared when I spoke to you?"
"Were you?" she laughed.
"Surest thing you know! I'd 'a' never screwed up
my courage to do it if you hadn't 'a' looked so kind
and gentle and sweet. I just knew you couldn't turn me
There was no mistaking the genuineness of the
apology for his presumption. She smiled a gracious
answer, and threw the last ugly suspicion to the winds.
He broke into a laugh and lifted his hand in the
sudden gesture of a traffic policeman commanding a
"What is it?" she asked.
"You know I was so excited I clean forgot to
introduce myself! What do you think o' that? You'll
excuse me, won't you? My name's Jim Anthony. I'm
sorry I can't give you any references to my folks. I
haven't any--I'm a lost sheep in New York--no father or
mother. That's why I'm so excited about this trip I'm
plannin' down South. I hear I've got some people down
He stopped suddenly as if absorbed in the thought.
Her heart went out to him in sympathy for this
confession of his orphaned life.
"I'm Mary Adams," she smiled in answer. "I'm a
teacher in the public schools."
"Gee--that accounts for it! I thought you looked
like you knew everything in those books. And you've
been to Asheville, too?"
"Suppose it's not as big a burg as New York?"
"Hardly--it's just a hustling mountain town of
about twenty-five thousand people."
"Lot o' swells from around New York live down
there, they tell me."
"Yes, the Vanderbilts have a beautiful castle just
"Some mountains near Asheville?"
"Hundreds of square miles."
"Mountains in every direction?"
"As far as the eye can reach, one blue range piled
above another until they're lost in the dim skies on
"Gee, it may be pretty hard to find your folks if
they just live in the mountains near Asheville?"
"Unless your directions are more explicit--I should
"You know, I thought the mountains near Asheville
was a bunch o' hills off one side like the Palisades,
that you couldn't miss if you tried. I've never been
outside of New York--since I can remember. I'd love to
see real mountains."
The last sentence was spoken in a wistful pathos
that touched Mary with its irresistible appeal. Her
mother instincts responded to it in quick sympathy.
"You've missed a lot," she answered gravely.
"I'll bet I have. It's a rotten old town, this New
He paused, and a queer light flashed from his steel
"Until you get your hand on its throat," he added,
bringing his square jaws together.
Mary lifted her face with keen interest.
"And you've got it by the throat?"
"That's just what--little girl!" he cried, with a
ring of pride. "You see, I'm an inventor and I won a
little pile on my first trick. I've got a machine-shop
in a room eight-by-ten over on the East Side."
"A machine-shop all your own?"
"I'd like to see it some day."
He shook his head emphatically.
"It's too dirty. I couldn't let a pretty girl like
you in such a place." He paused and resumed the tone
of his narrative where she interrupted him. "You see,
I've just put a new crimp in a carburetor for the
automobile folks. They're tickled to death over it and
I've got automobiles to burn. Will you go to ride with
The teacher broke into a joyous laugh.
"Why do you laugh?" he asked awkwardly.
"Well, in the language of New York, that would be
going some, wouldn't it?"
"And why not, I'd like to know?" he cried with
scorn. "Who's to tell us we can't? You've no kids to
bother you tomorrow. I'm my own boss. You've seen
Asheville, but you've never seen New York until you sit
down beside me in a big six-cylinder racing car I'm
handlin' next week. Let me show it to you. I'll swing
her around to your door at eight o'clock. In twenty-
five minutes we'll clear the Bronx and shoot into New
Rochelle. There'll be no cops out to bother us, and
not a wheel in sight. It'll do you good. Let me take
you! I owe you that much for bein' so nice to me
today. Will you go with me?"
"I'll think it over and let you know."
"Got a telephone?"
"Then you'll have to tell me before I go--won't
"I suppose so," she answered demurely.
They passed the big fountain beyond the Mall and
skirted the lake to the bridge, crossed, walked along
the water's edge to the laurel-covered crags and found
a seat alone in the summer house that hides among the
trees on its highest point.
The roar of the city was dim and far away. The
only sounds to break the stillness were the laughter of
lovers along the walks below and the distant cry of
steamers in the harbor and rivers.
"You'd almost think you're in the mountains up
here, now wouldn't you?" he asked, after a moment's
"Yes. I call this park my country estate. It
costs me nothing to keep it in perfect order. The city
pays for it all. But I own it. Every tree and shrub
and flower and blade of grass, every statue and bird
and animal in it is mine. I couldn't get more joy out
of them if I had them inclosed behind an iron fence,
and the deed to the land in my pocket--not half as
much, for I'd be lonely and miserable without someone
to see and enjoy it all with me."
"Gee, that's so, ain't it? I never looked at it
like that before."
He gazed at her a long time in silent admiration,
and then spoke briskly.
"Now tell me about this North Carolina and all
those miles and square miles of mountains."
"You've a piece of paper and pencil?"
He lifted his hand school-boy fashion:
"Johnny on the spot, teacher!"
A blank-book and pencil he threw in her lap and
"Tear the leaves out, if you like."
"No, I'll just draw the maps on the pages and leave
them for you to study."
With deft touch she outlined in rough on the first
page, the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Virginia and North Carolina, tracing his possible route
by Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Dover, Norfolk
and Raleigh, or by Washington, Richmond, and Danville
"Either route you see," she said softly, "leads to
Salisbury, where you strike the foothills of the
mountains. It's about two hundred miles from there to
Asheville and `The Land of the Sky.'"
For two hours she answered his eager, boyish
questions about the country and its people, his eyes
wide with admiration at her knowledge.
The sun was sinking in a sea of scarlet and purple
clouds behind the tall buildings beside the Park before
she realized that they had been talking for more than
She sprang to her feet, blushing and confused.
"Mercy, I had no idea it was so late."
"Why--is it late?" he asked incredulously.
"We must hurry----"
She brushed the stray ringlets of hair from her
forehead, laughed and hurried down the pathway.
They crossed the Park and took the Madison Avenue
line to Twenty-third Street. They were silent in the
car. The roar of the traffic was deafening after the
quiet of the summer house among the trees.
"I can see you home?" he inquired appealingly.
"We get off at Twenty-third Street."
They stood on the steps at her door beside the
Square and there was a moment's awkward silence.
He lifted his hat with a little chivalrous bow.
"Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock in my car?"
She smiled and hesitated.
"You'll have a bully time!"
"It's Sunday," she stammered.
"Sure, that's why I asked you."
"I don't like to miss my church."
"You go to church every Sunday?" he asked in
"Well, just this once then. It'll do you good.
And I'll drive as careful as a farmer."
"All right," she said in low tones, and extended
"Good night, teacher!" he responded with a
boyish wave of his slender hand and quickly
disappeared in the crowd.
She rushed up the stairs, her cheeks aflame, her
heart beating a tattoo of foolish joy.
She snatched the kitten from sleep and whispered in
his tiny ear:
"Oh, Kitty dear, I've had such an adventure! I've
spent the happiest, silliest afternoon of my life! I'm
going to have a more wonderful day tomorrow. I just
feel it. In a big racing automobile if you please, Mr.
Thomascat! Sorry I can't take you but the dust would
blind you, Kitty dear. I'm sorry to tell you that
you'll have to stay at home all day alone and keep
house. It's too bad. But I'll fix your milk and bread
before I go and you must promise me on your sacred
Persian cat's honor not to look at my birds!"
She hugged him violently and he purred his soft
answer in song.
"Oh, Kitty, I'm so happy--so foolishly happy!"
DOUBTS AND FEARS
Mary attempted no analysis of her emotions. It was all
too sudden, too stunning. She was content to feel and
enjoy the first overwhelming experience of life. Hour
after hour she lay among the pillows of her couch in
the dim light of the street lamps and lazily watched
the passing Saturday evening crowds.
The world was beautiful.
She undressed at last and went to bed, only to toss
wide-eyed for hours.
A hundred times she reenacted the scene in the
Library and recalled her first impression of Jim's
personality. What could such an utterly unforeseen and
extraordinary meeting mean except that it was her Fate?
Certainly he could not have planned it. Certainly she
had not foreseen such an event. It had never occurred
to her in the wildest flights of fancy that she could
meet and speak to a man under such conditions, to say
nothing of the walk in the Park and the hours she
spent in the little summer house.
And the strangest part of it all was that she could
see nothing wrong in it from beginning to end. It had
happened in the simplest and most natural way
imaginable. By the standards of conventional propriety
her act was the maddest folly; and yet she was still
happy over it.
There was one disquieting trait about him that made
her a little uneasy. He used the catch-words of the
street gamins of New York without any consciousness of
incongruity. She thought at first that he did this as
the Southern boy of culture and refinement
unconsciously drops into the tones and dialect of the
negro, by daily association. His constant use of the
expressive and characteristic "Gee" was startling, to
say the least. And yet it came from his lips in such a
boyish way she felt sure that it was due to his
embarrassment in the unusual position in which he had
found himself with her.
His helplessness with the dictionary was proof, of
course, that he was no scholar. And yet a boy might
have a fair education in the schools of today and be
unfamiliar with this ponderous and dignified
encyclopedia of words. It was impossible to believe
that he was illiterate. His clothes, his carriage,
even his manners made such an idea preposterous.
Besides, no inventor could be really illiterate.
He may have been forced to work and only attended night
schools. But if he were a mechanic, capable of making
a successful improvement on one of the most delicate
and important parts of an automobile, he must have
studied the principles involved in his inventions.
His choice of a profession appealed to her
imagination, too. It showed independence and
initiative. It opened boundless possibilities. He
might be an obscure and poorly educated boy today. In
five years he could be a millionaire and the head of
some huge business whose interests circled the world.
The tired brain wore itself out at last in eager
speculations, and she fell into a fitful stupor. The
roar of the street-cars waked her at daylight, and
further sleep was out of the question. She rose,
dressed quickly and got her breakfast in a quiver of
nervous excitement over the adventure of the coming
As the hour of eight drew nearer, her doubts of the
propriety of going became more acute.
"What on earth has come over me in the past twenty-
four hours?" she asked of herself. "I've known
this man but a day. I don't KNOW him at all, and
yet I'm going to put my life in his hands in that
racing machine. Have I gone crazy?"
She was not in the least afraid of him. His face
and voice and personality all seemed familiar. Her
brain and common-sense told her that such a trip with
an utter stranger was dangerous and foolish beyond
words. In his automobile, unaccompanied by a human
soul and unacquainted with the roads over which they
would travel, she would be absolutely in his power.
She set her teeth firmly at last, her mind made up.
"It's too mad a risk. I was crazy to promise. I
She had scarcely spoken her resolution when the
soft call of the auto-horn echoed below. She stood
irresolute for a moment, and the call was repeated in
plaintive, appealing notes.
She tried to hold fast to her resolutions, but the
impulse to open the window and look out was resistless.
She turned the old-fashioned brass knob, swung her
windows wide on their hinges and leaned out.
His keen eyes were watching. He lifted his cap and
waved. She answered with the flutter of her
handkerchief--and all resolutions were off.
"Of course, I'll go," she cried, with a laugh.
"It's a glorious day--I may never have such a chance
WINGS OF STEEL
She threw on her furs and hurried downstairs. Her
surrender was too sudden to realize that she was being
driven by a power that obscured reason and crushed her
Reason made one more vain cry as she paused at the
door below to draw on her gloves.
"You have refused every invitation to see or know
the unconventional world into which thousands of women
in New York, clear-eyed and unafraid, enter daily.
You'd sooner die than pose an hour in Gordon's studio,
and on a Sabbath morning you cut your church and go on
a day's wild ride with a man you have known but fifteen
And the voice inside quickly answered:
"But that's different! Gordon's a married man. My
chevalier is not! I have the right to go, and he has
It was settled anyhow before this little
controversy arose at the street door, but the ready
answer she gave eased her conscience and cleared
the way for a happy, exciting trip.
He leaped from the big, ugly racer to help her in,
stopped and looked at her light clothing.
"That's your heaviest coat?"
"Yes. It isn't cold."
"I've one for you."
He drew an enormous fur coat from the car and held
it up for her arms.
"You think I'll need that?" she asked.
His white teeth gleamed in a friendly smile.
"Take it from me, Kiddo, you certainly will!"
She winced just a little at the common expression,
but he said it with such a quick, boyish enthusiasm,
she wondered whether he were quoting the expression
from the Bowery boy's vocabulary or using it in a
facetious personal way.
"I knew you'd need it. So I brought it for you,"
he added genially.
"Thanks," she murmured, lifting her arms and
drawing the coat about her trim figure.
He helped her into the car and drew from his pocket
a light pair of goggles.
"Now these, and you're all hunky-dory!"
"Will I need these, too?" she asked incredulously.
"Will you!" he cried. "You wouldn't ask
that question if you knew the horse we've got
hitched to this benzine buggy today. He's got wings--
believe me! It's all I can do to hold him on the
"You'll drive carefully?" she faltered.
He lifted his hand.
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