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Full text of "The Ollivant orphans"

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THE 
OLLIVANT ORPHANS 



BY 

INEZ HAYNES GILLMORE 

Author of "Phoebe and Ernest," "Phoebe, Ernest, and Cupid/' Etc. 



FRONTISPIECE BY 

JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG 



} * j > * > i * * , 



METHUEN & CO., LTD. 

36 ESSEX STREET, W.C 
LONDON 



Copyright, 1913, 1914, 19x5, 

BY 

THE METROPOLITAN MAGAZINE COMPANY 
Copyright, 1915, 

BY 
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 



Published October, 1915 



PBINTED IN THE U. S. A. 



TO 
KATIE AND JULIA 



414924 



CONTENTS 



:hapter 
I 


The Home Coming . 


PAGE 
I 


II 


Standing By ... 


• 2 3 


III 


Ann Takes Charge . 


49 


IV 


Lainey's Gift .... 


7i 


V 


Roland's Friend 


95 


VI 


Beckie's Job .... 


■ ii7 


VII 


Ann's New Set .... 


141 


rai 


Lainey and the Eternal Mascu 






line 


, 166 


IX 


Roly Comes Through 


191 


X 


Matt Looks upon the Wine . 


217 


XI 


Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voici 


: 247 


XII 


The Pleasure of Your Company . 


281 



THE OLLIVANT ORPHANS 

CHAPTER I 
THE HOME COMING 

THEY had expected to. return as they came, 
Ed, Matt, Beckie and Lainey in the first 
carriage, Ann and Roland with the aunts in the 
second carriage. But at the last moment, shattered 
by a fresh outbreak of weeping, Ann had thrown 
herself between her sisters; and Roland, in what 
was palpably panic at the thought of segregation, 
had leaped in behind her. Now they sat huddled 
close, the three girls facing the horses, the three 
boys riding backwards. Ann's head, almost buried 
under the rich disarray of her hair, lay on Lainey's 
shoulder. They clung so close that they might have 
been a sculptured group, Ann passionately relaxed, 
Lainey tense and drawn. When the sobs burst from 
Ann's writhing mouth, they seemed to run noise- 
lessly up the long line of Lainey's translucent throat 
until they died on her delicate lips. Roland had 
settled back in the corner as though asleep, but his 
swollen lids did not conceal the moist glitter that 
oozed between his inky lashes. 

" I don't want to go back to the house," Ann 
burst out after the long silence which had been 
interrupted only by her grief. " I don't want to 



The Home Coming 

go back there — I can't bear it." Ann's slim figure 
shook as though her words were bullets, and 
Lainey's slim figure vibrated to each shock. 

" Would you like to go home with Aunt Ella? " 
asked Beckie. Beckie did not give way although her 
voice was harsh with strain, her face stiff with effort. 
Her eyes alone showed havoc; they gleamed with 
the frenzied protest of the wild creature on whom 
life has unexpectedly thrust cataclysm. 

" Oh no, no, no! )y protested Ann. "I couldn't 
do that. I don't love Aunt Ella. I want to stay 
with you. I'm afraid somebody'll die if I go away. 
But I don't want to go back to the house — I don't 
want to. I can't bear it." 

" We've got to go back, Ann," Ed Ollivant said. 
He withdrew his gaze from the spot in the door- 
glass on which, from the beginning of the home- 
ward journey, it had been fixed; it went to Ann 
for an instant. Ed had not shed a tear. His 
regular blonde face was as ever freshly-colored 
and smoothly-handsome, but it looked frozen. 
Only the lips, under his little golden mustache, 
pressed so close that they seamed a straight gash 
across his face. " You wouldn't like to go to a hotel, 
would you? " 

" Oh no!" Ann shuddered; and her shudder 
overflowed into Lainey's tense body. " But I wish I 
could go away forever. I can't feel that the house 
is home any longer. I can't bear to think of living 
there without mother. I know I shall never go 
into mother's room without seeing the coffin there 
and that dreadful black fur rug and those horrible 
tuberoses Uncle Joshua sent." 

"We'll lock up mother's room, Ann dear," 



The Home Coming 3 

Lainey promised. " We won't go into it again for 
years and years and years." 

" But that won't make any difference to me," 
sobbed Ann. " Every time I go by the door, I'll 
remember I can't endure to think of seeing it." 

" We can go in by the back way, Ann," Matt 
Ollivant said. " And if you go to bed up the back 
stairs, you won't have to see mother's room to- 
night." Matt was not so composed as his elder 
brother. His skin was splotched; the clear red of 
his cheeks had spread and mottled. His eyes were 
puffed; the blue of the pupil seemed to have run 
into the white. All the sparkle had gone from his 
crest of red hair. " Don't cry any more, Ann," 
he begged. " It makes us all feel so much worse." 
Matt's voice came close to the breaking-point. 

" I won't cry another minute," Ann said. " I 
promise I won't." Nevertheless, she burst into the 
fiercest paroxysm yet. But immediately she sat up 
and began to straighten her hair. Weeping had 
discolored and misshapen her face; but it was to 
be seen that, normally, she was a pretty girl with 
huge eyes of a burning gold, and hair chestnut 
bright at the surface, but so shadowy in the depths 
that it made incredible the whiteness of her skin. 

For a long while nobody spoke. Ed's frigid gaze 
went back to the door-glass. Roland continued to 
try to look as though he were asleep. Matt folded 
his arms, sank his chin onto his chest, fixed his 
dull eyes on the little window in the back of the 
carriage. The three girls sagged in various atti- 
tudes of apathy. The horses began gradually to 
take a smarter pace. Outside, a country landscape, 
colored ardently by the fall, whirled past. The 



4 The Home Coming 

houses began to come closer together; they passec 
through a town: again the streets melted away and 
it was almost country again. Presently the houses 
pressed in close and closer, changed to apartment 
buildings. The clang of the trolley began to accom- 
pany them now: they were riding through house- 
packed suburb streets. The driver was openly 
urging the horses on. 

11 We'll be home in fifteen minutes/' Beckie of- 
fered to their preoccupation. 

The six pairs of eyes listlessly watched the fa- 
miliar landmarks slide into view. " Here's Mar- 
lowe Place," Beckie said after another long silence. 

" Remember," Ann ordered, her hysteria visibly 
returning. " Remember to go in the back way." 

" We won't forget, Ann," Ed reassured her. 
The carriage turned, slowed. Ed tapped on the 
window; the wheel ground against the curb. Ed 
opened the door, leaped out, held his hand up to 
Ann. 

Marlowe Place began in a narrow, alley-like en- 
trance and then broadened into a horseshoe-shaped 
inclosure which ran around a little elm-encircled 
park. Half a dozen houses looked onto this park. 
None of them were old, but they were all oldish 
in a pleasant, ample, mid- Victorian fashion. The 
Ollivant house was the least conspicuous : it was the 
most bromidic. The front elevation was A-shaped; 
it was elaborately bay-windowed and it was colored 
an ugly dark maroon with white trimmings. Sy- 
ringa and lilacs grew untended in the scrap of 
front yard. A board-walk, some of the boards 
gone, many of them rotting, and most of them 
loose, led to a big back yard. There a huge wood- 



The Home Coming 5 

bine, doing its best to conceal the need of repainting, 
cascaded over two sides of the house and along the 
ell. Everything looked old and shabby and neg- 
lected; the unkempt vine waving its autumn tatters, 
the flower-plots with their few sticks of starved 
plants; even the little summer-house standing be- 
tween the lilac and the syringa and the elaborate 
bird-house on the top of a pole. The Ollivants, in 
their improvised funeral-black, filed down this walk, 
Ed at the head, Ann bringing up the rear. Ed 
unlocked the door. Beckie stepped in first. The 
others followed her, crowding. But once over the 
threshold, they all stopped stock-still as though they 
had entered a strange house. 

But Beckie took charge. She tiptoed over to the 
stove and lifted the cover. " Oh, the fire's still 
going," she commented. " That's good." 

Beckie's words were commonplace enough. But 
she whispered. 

Mechanically Beckie began to draw the pins from 
her hat. Mechanically the two girls mimicked her. 
The boys removed their coats, tugged off the stiff, 
cheap black gloves, beginning already to pull white 
in the seams. Then they all stood still as though 
waiting. 

" How neat it looks here," Beckie said in a dis- 
jointed way and still in a whisper. " Everything's 
back in place. Somebody's been cleaning up. My 

hair must look like " She turned and made as 

though to examine herself in the smoky mirror over 
the kitchen sink, but her eyes passed unseeingly 
across its surface. u We might as well put our 
things in the dining-room." 

" Yes," said Ed. " Sure ! " He too spoke in a 



6 The Home Coming 

low tone. But nobody moved. After a while, with 
a convulsive jerk, Ed started into the back hall. 
The little procession, hesitating, followed. The 
door of the dining-room was open. 

It was a big, plain room, palpably half living- 
room and half dining-room. The carpeted floor, 
the meager hair-cloth couch, the two morris- 
chairs in oak, a combination-piece of desk, book- 
case, and plate-rack, also in oak, contributed to its 
living-room aspect. The pictures, still life in pastel, 
the big oval table with its darned table-cloth and its 
heterogeneous china, the ponderous sideboard of 
black walnut carved with unnatural grapes, and cov- 
ered with china, salts and peppers, glass vinegar 
and oil cruets, a tarnished silver cake-basket, and 
a big silver ice-water pitcher, brought it up to the 
dining-room level again. 

" How nice it looks here ! M Lainey said. " Every- 
thing's dusted and put back into place. The table's 
set. There's a fire going in the stove too. Some- 
body's been working hard since we left. We must 
find out who and thank her." Lainey spoke in quick 
gasps, but she whispered too. 

" The first thing to do now," Beckie explained, 
articulating carefully, " is to get something to eat. 
I'm going to cook dinner. I've ordered a steak. 
I told them not to deliver it till we got back. I 

didn't know how long it would take to I'll 

make a big potful of coffee. We'll feel a great deal 
better as soon as we've got something hot in us. 1 

"That's right," approved Ed. "Want am 
help, Beckie?" 

14 Yes," said Beckie. " But first I want Roly t( 
lie down and take a little nap. He looks tired-t( 



The Home Coming 7 

death. I'll wake you up just as soon as dinner's 
ready, Roly." 

Roland's eyes had steadily grown heavier and 
heavier during the long drive. Now he stood star- 
ing about him in the bewilderment of a child who 
has been punished for the first time. He sat down 
on the couch at once, however, and apathetically 
watched Beckie mass the pillows. She had hardly 
covered him with the ragged afghan before his 
breathing dropped an octave. 

"Now, Ed," Beckie went on in 'whispered com- 
mand, " you go downstairs and get me some coal. 
Matt, you go out into the woodshed and chop a 
little kindling for to-morrow morning. And, Lainey, 
you and Ann go upstairs and wash up. Then you 
come down and I'll put you to work." 

The five Ollivants followed her instructions im- 
plicitly. The death-like stillness in the house broke. 
From the cellar came — muffled — the sound of coal 
shoveled into the hod; from the woodshed came — 
subdued — the sound of wood smashing on the 
block; from the kitchen came — muted — the clatter 
of pans, the opening and shutting of drawers. But 
all these sounds stopped dead at intervals and then 
went on with an increasing effort towards quiet. 

Lainey and Ann went into the big, back room on 
the second floor which they had shared ever since 
they were little girls. It had every earmark of the 
chamber that is trying to be a living-room. Two 
couches, coming together in a corner, covered with 
bagdads and heaped with cushions, made a strenuous 
effort not to look like beds. A table with big 
drawers that, after use, swallowed up all the articles 



8 The Home Coming 

of the toilet, did its best not to look like a dresser. 
A high screen at one corner concealed the washing 
arrangements. A little spindly, slant-top maple 
desk, over-furnished with writing utensils, lay open. 
Its top was covered with framed photographs; they 
had overflowed in such numbers onto the broad 
marble mantel that it was like a shrine to friend- 
ship. The walls were covered with pictures, pretty 
girls from magazine covers and magazine illustra- 
tions, all passe-partouted. 

Lainey went behind the screen, poured the bowl 
full of water. " You wash first, Ann," she directed. 
11 And I want you to take off that dress and put 
on something white. I hate you in black." 

" All right," Ann agreed docilely. " I hate it 
too. But," she burst into a sudden passion, " I 
shall wear black for a while. I wouldn't for the 
world have anybody think that I was lacking in 
respect to my mother." 

" Nobody will think that," Lainey protested in- 
dignantly, unhooking Ann. " If they do, they're no 

friends of ours. Everybody knows how we " 

She did not attempt to finish. After a while, she 
turned her back on her sister and Ann, with fum- 
bling fingers, unfastened Lainey's dress. 

"Why!" Ann exclaimed in almost a natural 
voice a few moments later, emerging from behind 
the screen, "what's become of the tea-table?" 

Lainey turned from the mirror, her tiny sticks of 
arms uplifted to her head. She had taken her hair 
down; her little white face showed only as a cres- 
cent under its long thick golden shower. "Why, 
that's so! I don't know where it is. But the house 
has been so upset. Perhaps they needed it during 






The Home Coming 9 

the — it's probably downstairs in moth " Again 

she did not finish. 

They still talked in whispers. 

A door on the floor above opened softly. M Say, 
Lainey," Ed's hushed voice floated down, M do 
you know what's become of the bookcases in our 
room? Somebody's taken them away and my 
clothes are all on the bed. Matt says he doesn't 
know where they are." 

" I don't know, I'm sure, Ed," Lainey answered, 
her voice lowered too. " They may have needed 
them downstairs during the — it's probably in 
moth though I can't think what for." 

11 Well, I'll hunt them up later." Ed's whispered 
tones were now carefully business-like. " It doesn't 
make any difference. I only used them to hang my 
trousers in. I only wondered " 

Ann was now combing her hair in front of the 
mirror. Ann's hair was very different from 
Lainey's vapory mane; crisper, coarser, it made 
halfway to her waist a bolt of solid shadow. Over 
each ear, however, a lock of hair pulled free, 
whirled into a flat spiral, lay like a bit of carved 
jet on the white temple. Lainey had padded her hair 
flat to her neck after a few careless passes with the 
comb; but Ann's hairdressing, even at this moment, 
was not construction, it was architecture. Ann was 
younger than Lainey, but she was not so small or 
so slim. There was an incipient peach-like round- 
ness to her contours which matched the peach-like 
bloom of her colors and the peach-like softness of 
her surfaces. The cold water had removed the 
stains of weeping. Only the deep droop of her 
wide red mouth remained. She pulled on a skirt 



io The Home Coming 

of white duck, unskilfully starched to a crackling 
cylindrical stiffness. Over that came a middy- 
blouse ; she knotted a black tie below the triangle oi 
velvety neck. 

Lainey's faded, flat-chested muslin had come oi 
too. And now the hair that she had so relentlessb 
smoothed down began, by means of flying wefts an< 
strays, to form the natural halo which always floated 
about her head. That soft tendrilly hair was 
Lainey's only beauty. Her skin was a little pasty, 
her features nondescript; her eyes so small and 
colorless and deep-set that it was only in conversa- 
tion that you noticed them. But if she were talking 
you noticed them all the time. 

Although the boys' room was the biggest one 
in the house, it made no effort to look like anything 
else; it was unmistakably only a place to sleep in. 
Both carpet and wallpaper had faded to a dreary 
innocuousness. The chamber-set — drab, ornamented 
with panels of sky-blue, in turn decorated with 
bunches of pink roses — had been eked out with 
derelicts from other rooms; an easy-chair from 
the hair-cloth set, a broken spring protruding 
through the seat; a tumble-down mahogany etagere 
bearing the dusty minerals that Matt had so pains- 
takingly collected in his young boyhood, a swinging 
book-shelf covered with the cups that Matt had won 
at tennis. A few rusty guns and swords, revolving 
about a canteen, made a pretense of filling one wall- 
space ; another showed faded areas the exact shapes 
of the missing bookcases. Small framed pictures 
in ugly, haphazard frames, High School diplomas, 
class-groups, Ed's hunting-crowd, his first deer, hung 



The Home Coming n 

at awkward intervals on the gaunt walls. Matt's 
football regalia, his baseball mask, his class pennant 
tried unavailingly to give character to the room. 

Ed had come upstairs first. He had washed at 
the little rickety washstand. Now he was changing 
his suit. He stood in front of the only modern piece 
the room contained, a tall slim light-colored chif- 
fonier spread with toilet articles in ebonized wood, 
elaborately monogramed. Matt had ascended from 
the woodshed after an interval. He too had washed 
at the little rickety washstand. Now he was 
shaving. He stood before the drab-blue-rose bu- 
reau whose glass rippled like a small pond, sift- 
ing shaving powder onto his brush. As yet no 
word had passed between the brothers. 

" Looks like good weather for the World Series," 
Ed dropped without expression after a while. 

Matt cleared his throat. " Yes. I see Callahan 
favors the Red Sox." 

11 Well, I guess he's bound to stand by the Amer- 
ican League," Ed suggested. 

11 Sure ! " Matt's ripost came prompt on the 
tail of Ed's comment. " Smoky Joe looks pretty 
good to me," he hurried on. 

11 Yes." Ed pulled his suspenders over his 
shoulders by means of two contortions of his lithe 
frame. He seized a brush in each hand and at- 
tacked his head as though it were a wild beast. At 
intervals he stopped short; then he slapped at it 
again. "Yes, but he's up against Matty." This 
came out with abruptness, as though he had sud- 
denly remembered that there was a conversation to 
sustain. 



tt 



12 The Home Coming 

" Yes, of course, Matty's a great pitcher," Matt 
interpolated quickly, " but they all get old som( 
time." He lathered his face. 

"That's right," agreed Ed. He dropped th< 
brushes. 

There came a pause. And into that pause drifte< 
silence, a profound silence, a silence which took on 
all the significance of noise and went echoing and re- 
echoing through the stark house. 

Matt stared at his reflection in the wavy mirror. 
Stared back at him a white clown's face of which 
the blue eyes were turned to black buttons and the 
white teeth to yellow fangs by the snowy lather. 
14 Do you think the Giants are faster in the paths than 
the Red Sox?" that clown asked. His words, in 
the terrible silence, crashed like bombs exploding 
in an air-shaft. 

Ed looked as though he were waiting for the 
echoes to die down. M When a man goes faster 
than Hooper, he's going some." 

Matt slashed swiftly through the lather. 
11 McGraw says that Carrigan's arm is weak" 

" Well, for a poor old cripple — " Ed stopped 
and with a nice precision selected a tie from the wad 
which hung over the arm of the gas-jet. It seemed 
an endless time that he crossed and recrossed it. 
" — he can still throw out quite a number at second. 
He doesn't let his arm out unless he has to." 

They still talked in husky murmurs. 

" Now let's go down and see what we can do to 
help Beck," Ann said. 

Hand in hand, the sisters left the room, walked 
along the front hall. Ann's foot was on the top 






The Home Coming 13 

stair when Lainey said: "Oh, but, Ann, I forgot. 
You don't want to pass mother's room." 

" Oh no! " There came a recurrence of Ann's 
shudder. "I don't. But look, the door's open! 
Ed must close it — and — and — and lock it. But 
what's that?" She pointed. 

The wall opposite the open door of Mrs. Olli- 
vant's room showed a reflection which rioted up- 
wards in many shreds of red light. 

14 Why, there must be a fire in the stove," Ann 
continued. " But that wouldn't make such a blaze. 
Why, what can it be? The house isn't on fire, is it? 
Oh, Lainey, I'm afraid." 

" I'm not," Lainey said in a resolute voice. And 
dropping Ann's hand, she ran swiftly down the 
stairs, crossed the hall, reached the doorway. A 
moment she stood staring, her soft lips breaking 
away from each other like the petals of an opening 
flower. " Oh, Ann ! " she breathed. And her " Oh, 
Ann ! " was an exclamation of delight. " Oh, Ann, 
how lovely it looks ! Why, I can almost remember 
when — Oh, Ann, come down! It's beautiful! 
Come down ! Come down ! " 

Ann did not hesitate ; she flew to her sister's side, 
peered over her shoulder. " Oh, Lainey! " she said 
in a wondering tone. And her tone was glad too. 
"Oh! Oh! It's lovely! Who did it?" Suddenly 
she raised her voice in a vibrating call. " Beck, 
Beck, do come here! Something beautiful! Ed, 
come down! Matt! Matt! Roly, wake up! Do 
come, all of you ! Do come ! " 

They came. Ollivants poured from all directions, 
Beckie with a big kitchen-spoon in her hand, Ed in 
his shirt-sleeves, Matt with a shaving-towel still 



14 The Home Coming 

tucked into his neck, Roly with the briery thatch 
his inky hair standing up in all directions, his eyes 
still heavy with sleep. " What is it? " they all asked 
as they crowded into the doorway. " What is it, 
Ann?" But their own eyes answered their ques- 
tion and there followed an instant of paralysis. 
Then they broke into another clamor and in it their 
voices all went up or came down to a natural pitch. 
" It's Aunt Lottie," said Beckie. " There's our 
bookcases ! " This was from Ed. And " There's 
the tea-table ! " That was from Ann. " How'd they 
do it so quickly? " Matt asked. 

The big front room — originally it had been the 
parlor, but for years now it had been the 
scene of Mrs. Ollivant's uncomplaining invalidism 
— had undergone metamorphosis. The big double 
black walnut bed had gone. The black walnut bu- 
reau, the big black walnut table, the little black 
walnut table, with their depressing marble slabs, had 
gone. The glasses, the bottles, the powders — all 
the paraphernalia of a chronic illness — had gone. 
The tiny stove which supplemented their recalci- 
trant old-fashioned furnace had vanished. The 
night-lamp had disappeared. And in their places — 

The fireplace had been reopened; all the brass 
hearth ornaments had been reinstated; the lire-dogs, 
the fire-screen, the shovel, tongs, poker, even the 
old trivet, had been shined until they glittered. The 
fireplace was piled with blazing logs that flirted 
fan-shaped volleys of sparks. Over the mantel 
hung the portrait of General Milliken, their great- 
uncle. And on one side of General Milliken was 
a picture of their mother in her warmly-tinted, 
ripely-curved, blonde bridehood, and on the other a 



The Home Coming 15 

picture of their father in his magnificently-colored 
virile prime. Mrs. Ollivant wore a slim, many- 
buttoned gown of pale blue silk, trimmed with 
ruffles of thread lace. She carried the fan of pale 
rose-colored feathers and mother-of-pearl sticks 
which the family still cherished as a souvenir of 
her wedding-trip to Paris. Mr. Ollivant wore a 
suit of fawn-colored broadcloth, the coat long and 
full-skirted, the trousers wide. On the table beside 
him lay a pair of fawn-colored gloves and a shining 
fawn-colored beaver hat. He carried in his hand 
the slender stick which the family still cherished as 
a souvenir of the London part of the wedding-trip. 
On the mantel, in place of the bottles, were a pair 
of brass candelabra with prism pendants, two pairs 
of mid- Victorian vases, and the little Parian marble 
bust of Clytie. These were all that remained of 
Mrs. Ollivant's wedding-gifts. The big broad, low 
sofa — its wine-colored upholstery faded and moth- 
eaten — had been brought down from the garret, 
heaped with cushions and drawn up to the fire. At 
one end, within reaching distance, glittered Ann's 
tea-table. Pushed close to its back, also within 
reaching distance, the big mahogany center-table, 
opened to its full width, was piled with magazines 
and with novels. An evening paper lay on top. On 
either side of the mantel towered the tall old book- 
cases that Ed had missed. All the old sets — Scott, 
Dickens, Thackeray, Bulwer-Lytton, Cooper — had 
returned to their shelves. The piano — it ran slant- 
wise across the bay-window — wore a brilliant scarf 
of Roman silk. For many months the piano had 
stayed closed. Now it was open. A book of music, 
open too, stood on the rack. Big puffy faded old 



1 6 The Home Coming 

chairs, long ago banished to the attic, had resumed 
their places; old pictures, much tarnished as to elab- 
orate gold frame and much spotted as to broad 
white mat, had gone up on the wall. 

" It is Aunt Lottie, of course," Beckie said as the 
others still stood staring. 

" Hark! What's that? " Ann asked suddenly. 

Somewhere in the room a bell tinkled, continued 
to emit a tiny chime. 

Ann dropped to the floor, lifted the valance of 
the couch. " Well, of all things! " she said. Half 
of her disappeared for an instant. "A kitten!" 
she called in a muffled tone, " with a bell on its col- 
lar." She emerged holding a microscopic bunch of 
gray fur, all terrified round eyes and terrified fat tail. 
It spit vigorously at the assembled company. " Did 
you ever see such a tiny one and so homely and such 
an ugly little tyke — isn't it cunning, though." Ann 
struggled to hold her prey. u Why, what's this? " 

From the kitten's red leather collar hung a string 
that ran to the couch leg. As Ann straightened up, 
a big, square envelope tied to the string fluttered 
from under the valance. " It's Aunt Lot's hand- 
writing," Ann said. " ' To Ed and Matt and Beckie 
and Lainey and Ann and Roly,' " she read. She tore 
the envelope off the string, pulled the flap open. 

The Ollivants still stood huddled in the doorway. 

" It's a long letter," Ann explained. " Oh, may 
I read it aloud? " she begged. 

" We'd better sit down ! " Beckie said. 

The Ollivants filed into the room, seated them- 
selves about the fire. 

"Here, Lainey, you take the kitty!" Ann or- 
dered. Lainey obediently lifted the spitting bunch 






The Home Coming 17 

of fluff to her shoulder. After preliminary prod- 
dings with a pair of vicious little claws, he fell asleep 
there. 

" ' My poor little chicks, 1 the letter began, ' I think 
you must have wondered why I did not go to Mount 
Holly with you. But if you did, you know the rea- 
son why now. I stayed behind only to do what I 
solemnly promised your dear mother I would do. 
She and I have had many long talks in the last few 
months, and she told me things that, for fear of 
breaking your hearts, she could never talk over with 
you. She made me promise that when the time 
came I would stay at home and make the parlor 
look as it used to look before she lost her health. 
She said to me, " Lot, I can't bear to think of the 
children coming home to this bleak room. Unless 
it is changed immediately, they will always asso- 
ciate my sickness with it. They may even grow td 
hate it and the house. And I want them to love 
the place where I have spent the happiest years of 
my life." ' " 

Ann stopped a moment. But she gathered her- 
self together and went on. 

" ' And so the instant you had gone, I took Eliza 
and Ellen over, we went from cellar to attic picking 
out the things that used to be in the parlor and put- 
ting them back in their places. I knew them all and 
just where they belonged. I cannot tell you how 
much happier I felt when the room began to look 
like itself again. You know, for I have told you 
often enough, that I called on your mother the day 
after she came out to this house a bride and that we 
have been dear, dear friends ever since. I have 
spent some of the gayest hours of my life in that 



1 8 The Home Coming 

room. Often in the last few months she has said to 
me, " Lot, I want 'you to tell them all the funny 
things that have happened. Ed and Beckie and 
Matt will remember some of them, Lainey a few, 
perhaps, but Ann and Roly won't recall any. 
And I want my two babies to know how happy my 
life with their father was." ' " 

At the word " babies," Ann's voice faltered, but 
she controlled it. Roland gulped too, but he fol- 
lowed Ann's example. 

" * And indeed, funny things did happen. Your 
mother and I have laughed over them even in these 
last sad weeks. You see your mother and father 
were happy because they loved each other genuinely. 
And, oh, how they loved you ! Your mother wanted 
all her children. That is the reason, I sometimes 
think, that you are so beautiful and happy and well. 
And, oh, she was always so proud of you. " I never 
had a homely baby," she used to say. And it was 
true ; you were all lovely babies. And so well ! All 
except Ed — and he was, just as soon as they dis- 
covered they were not giving him enough to eat. I 
know what kind of babies you were, for I helped to 
take care of all of you. Many a winter morning 
I've given Ed his bath in a little tin tub in front 
of the fire in the parlor. How he did splash! 
Your mother used to say she would rather wash an 
eel. Your mother was a beautiful woman in those 
days. She was the picture of health and she had 
such high spirits ! She always ran upstairs ; nobody 
could induce her to walk and she always sang when 
she was alone. One night we were playing whist 
in the parlor, your mother and father, old Professor 
Marshall and myself. Suddenly your mother ex- 






The Home Coming 19 

cused herself and went upstairs and your Aunt 
Martha took her place. We heard the door open 
and shut several times, but nobody paid any atten- 
tion to that. It was such a lively house in those days ; 
company was always coming and going. But about 
midnight, down came old Nursey Simmons. She 
marched up to your father and said, " Mr. Ollivant, 
Mrs. Ollivant begs me to announce to you that at last 
you are the father of a little daughter." It was 
Beckie who broke up that whist-party. How old 
Professor Marshall used to laugh about it.' " 

11 Why, I never heard that story," exclaimed 
Beckie. And for the first time that day she smiled. 

" ' Your mother was crazy with delight to have a 
girl after two boys. She was just as tickled when 
Lainey came. She used to worry, though, because 
Lainey was such a quiet child. M It doesn't seem nat- 
ural for her to be so good," she said again and again. 
Heaven knows Ann and Roly made up for it when 
they came ; they were so mischievous they had to be 
watched all the time. I've been going through my 
letters in the last two or three days. We used to 
be separated — your mother and I — in the summer; 
but she used to write me beautiful letters. She was 
one of those people who like to write letters and she 
told me just the things I wanted to know. I have a 
great many of them; they're almost like a diary. I 
came across all kinds of things inclosed in them: 
locks of hair (oh, Matt had such wonderful red 
curls; your mother cried when they cut them off), 
bits of lace that she had learned to do (she always 
made her baby clothes, herself), samples of dresses 
she was going to have (she was an awfully dressy 



20 The Home Coming 

woman, you know) . I inclose a picture that I don't 
believe you've ever seen. I had forgotten all about 
it myself.' '* 

Ann shook the letter. " Where is it? " she said. 

II Oh, I guess it's in the envelope. Oh, here it is." 
She pulled out a small photograph, a tall slender 
woman seated, a little girl standing beside her on 
a chair. M Ann at three years and ten months," was 
written underneath. 

The Ollivants clustered about it. " Oh, isn't that 
sweet of mother ! " Beckie exclaimed. " Mother 
was a pippin, all right! " Matt remarked. "What 
a quaint dress ! " commented Lainey. " I remem- 
ber that dress," said Ed. " It was green." 
"Wasn't I a cunning little girl?" Ann looked 
pleased and she laughed a little self-conscious laugh. 

II I never saw that picture. Don't I look cross, 
though?" 

The Ollivants returned to their seats. Ann re- 
turned to the letter. 

" ' I want to call your attention to the look on 
Ann's face. You see the photographer told her to 
watch the end of the camera to see the little bird 
fly out. They always told lies to children in order 
to keep them quiet; the exposure was longer in those 
days. But in Ann's case, the photographer over- 
reached himself. Ann insisted on seeing the bird 
first. The photographer tried to take her mind off 
the bird by showing her other things. Your mother 
sang to her and told her stories. But it was no use. 
See that bird, she would. She got sulkier and sul 
kier. Finally, they had to take the picture with that 
little mad look on her face. Your mother was aw- 
fully disappointed. But afterwards she said she 



The Home Coming 21 

liked it better that way because Ann was always so 
cunning when she was naughty. 1 " 

" You were cunning then," said Beckie, laughing. 
" I remember perfectly. You were an awfully mis- 
chievous baby." 

" ' Now,' " the letter concluded, " ' if you will let 
me, I would like to come over to-night and have 
dinner with you. I have the dinner cooking here — 
a pair of chickens, some hot biscuits, jelly, piccalilly, 
cake, and a freezerful of ice-cream. Eliza and 
Ellen will bring the things over. And then, after 
dinner, we'll sit together in the parlor and I'll read 
your mother's letters to you. I've hunted up all the 
pictures I have of the family and I'll bring them 
over too. Perhaps you will prefer to stay alone, 
but I think you will want to do this when I tell you 
your dear mother planned it with me. When you 
are ready for me, lift the curtain and I'll start over. 
Until then, good-by, my chicks.' " 

" Oh! " said Ann in a soft, round voice, " Oh! " 
Her face sparkled like a dewdrop. The others sat, 
voiceless, moveless. But Lainey's sunken wanness 
had begun to color and fire. The dazed perplexity 
was dying out of Roland's eyes. Beckie and Matt 
stared hard at the fire as though a succession of pic- 
tures out of the happy past were painting themselves 
there. Ed alone showed no change. He arose and 
went over to the window. 

And then, with his hand still on the raised curtain, 
Ed's frozen rigidity broke. His head dropped into 
the crook of his elbow; his elbow went up against the 
wall: he shook. 

For a moment not a sound stirred the stillness: 
the Ollivants stared terrified. 



22 



The Home Coming 



Then a log dropped, scattering spluttery rainbow 
spume. The kitten leaped to the floor in tinkling 
protest against this anarchy. The bell rang. 

Ed lifted his head from his arm, hurried buoy- 
antly to the door. 



CHAPTER II 
STANDING BY 

"TT 7ELL, I found it," Mrs. MacVeagh called 

W from upstairs. "I spent the whole morn- 
ing and the whole afternoon at it, and just as I was 
about to give up I happened on the peachiest propo- 
sition." 

14 1 hope you didn't tire yourself out," Ed Ollivant 
called back to her. " It's pretty stiff work going 
about looking at apartments, Rita." 

" Oh no ! I had the car, of course ! " The voice 
was descending; it was accompanied by a brilliant 
feminine flutter on the stairway. " And there were 
elevators almost everywhere." Rita had now 
crossed the hall to the doorway. Standing there, 
she swept a profound curtsy. This was one of her 
tricks when she wore an evening-gown. If she were 
in walking costume, her hand went to her hat in 
military salute. Now, arms outstretched, she held 
the pose for a moment. " Do I look tired? " she 
demanded. 

Ed Ollivant's eyes lingered for the whole of that 
moment on the drooping figure of which the slender 
bust, bare-armed, bare-necked, bare-shouldered, 
emerged from the center of a petal-like satin skirt 
and the oval face, pendent to a mass of bronzed- 
brown hair, almost touched one uplifted satin knee. 
11 No, you don't look tired, Rita," he answered. 

23 



24 Standing By 

u You can't imagine what the places were like 
that the agent showed me. I never was so dis- 
couraged in my life. And then I ran into Myra 
Crosby and she told me about a place in the — 
where do you suppose? " 

11 Give it up," admitted Ed. 

" The Channing Building," announced Rita tri- 
umphantly. 

"The Channing Building," Ed repeated. He 
whistled. 

" It's not anything like so expensive as you think. 
Now listen. It's only a part of an apartment, any- 
way. People by the name of Peyton rented the 
whole apartment. Then both their children went 
and got married on them. They had rafts of 
rooms they did not know what to do with; so they 
separated three from the bunch and are letting them. 
Of course their place is not connected in any wai 
with yours — I mean that you have your own ei 
trance. And you can get it for thirty-five dollars 
a month. They particularly wanted to rent it to 
man." 

Ed whistled again. " Lord, that sounds too goo< 
to be true. I'm afraid it'll go before I have 
chance to see it.* 

" I was too foxy for that. I cinched it. Thei 
were going to be away to-day; but I said you'd come 
over to-morrow night to see it. It's exactly whal 
you want. One big room for a living room, a be< 
room, a kitchenette, and a bath. And a lovely 
view over the Fenway. Wait a moment ! I drew 
a plan of it the moment I got home, so that I could 
plan where the furniture would go. It's upstairs. 
Rita flashed out of the room and fluttered bri] 



Standing By 25 

liantly up the stairs. M If there is anything I love 
to do, it's to plan furnishings and things," she 
threw this over the banisters. " I did this house, 
you know," she called this from the second floor. 

Sitting alone, Ed looked about him as though 
from a new point of view. The big room — it 
was all dull grays and Gobelin blues — was more 
solidly than artistically furnished. The broad- 
seated, cushioned couches, the wide-armed, cush- 
ioned chairs, the big tables heaped with books and 
magazines, the small tables that offered smokes 
and drinks, the low bookcases with their foreign 
litter, the few distinguished pictures; it not only had 
the masculine touch, it had all the ease of a man's 
club. But, in addition, it had its feminine aspect, 
bushy-headed golden chrysanthemums in tall opaque 
vases, long-stemmed violets in low transparent 
bowls, goldfish, that exactly matched the fruit of 
the dwarf orange-trees in the window-boxes, in a 
big bubble of glass on the piano, a tea-wagon which 
glittered and steamed that the butler had just 
wheeled in, a smoke-colored Angora kitten with a 
smashing orange bow who made dashes from time 
to time at inoffensive shadows. Everywhere was 
the repose of big unencumbered spaces and vistas, 
exquisite cleanliness, freshness, comfort, beauty — 
but above all warmth — luscious, voluptuous warmth. 
A fire crackled behind the glass screen which cov- 
ered the big fireplace. But from some invisible 
source heated air, constantly freshened by the breeze 
from the open window and constantly laden with the 
perfume of the flowers, flowed in volumes upon him. 

With a sudden gesture of impatience that seemed 



26 Standing By 

to accent a sudden reminiscent scowl on his face, Ed 
seized a cigarette, lighted it. 

" It took me some time to find it! " This came 
from upstairs. Again came the brilliant feminine 
flutter on the stairway, accompanied by the clear 
lightness of Rita's voice. " The wallpapers are 
simply stunnning, by the way." Rita dashed into the 
room, papers and pencil in one hand, another Angora 
kitten, orange-colored and with a smashing blue 
bow, over the other arm. " This is the way I doped 
it out." Lustrous, apricot-colored gown, sparkling 
slipper-tips, slim, gleamy shoulders, delicate odor of 
violets, she deposited herself beside him on the 
couch. Her big, white hands — she wore rings of 
diamonds and emeralds — made a swift, vivid panic 
among the papers. " There, this is the living- 
room. My idea is awfully simple furnishings, but 
awfully manny. Low bookcases like mine built in 
on each side of the fireplace and a big couch pulled 
up in front of it — oh, a couch as big as this — you'll 
have to have that made to order, but it's the only 
expensive thing. A desk, a table, two or three 
chairs — I'd get those hour-glass East Indian ones — 
they're cheap but they have plenty of class. For the 
bedroom, double white-iron beds in case you want 
to entertain a guest. In an emergency, you can use 
the big couch in the living-room. Didn't you tell me 
you had a chiffonier? " 

11 Yes," answered Ed, " curly maple." 
" You'll need a big, wide dresser. We can easily 
match it. And a chair or two. Oh, I meant to ask 
you! Have you anything else of your own? I 
mean your share of your mother's furniture. Was 
there, for instance, any nice old mahogany?" 









Standing By 27 

Rita was bending over the paper. Ed was bend- 
ing over her. He stirred as though uneasily. Be- 
fore he replied, he blew a volley of smoke-rings over 
his hostess's head. "Well, of course, I suppose 
there is a share of the household furniture coming 
to me if I wanted to claim it. And some of it is 
awfully good. I mean there's one beautiful desk 
and some portraits. But I wouldn't like to take 
any of it away. It puts it up to the rest of the fam- 
ily to replace it. And at the same time, I'd rather 
like to have some new, up-to-date modern stuff. 
Lord, you don't know how I long for the con- 
veniences of life." 

" Oh yes, I do. I know exactly how you long for 
them. I was brought up in a family mausoleum In 
West Roxbury, furnished in the black walnut and 
hair-cloth period. There wasn't a door in that 
house smaller than a half-acre, or a window lower 
than Bunker Hill Monument, and you could only see 
the ceilings with the aid of an opera-glass. We had 
to hire a derrick to move the furniture. It was 
furnished with every mortuary hideosity of the 
home, including waxed funeral wreaths. The at- 
mosphere was almost as cheerful as a receiving- 
tomb. Maybe I didn't yearn for new, modern 
things. When I married Big Chief and he handed 
me the largest check I ever saw and said, ' Go as far 
as you like, Chicken,' I all but took the first train 
out to Grand Rapids. Maybe I didn't make a hole 
in that check. But, of course, it didn't take me long 
to realize that antiques are the smart thing now. 
I'm going to refurnish entirely in Jacobean another 
year. By the way, have you told your sisters that 
you are going to leave yet? " 



itanding By 

Ed stirred again. And again, before he spoke, 
he sent a volley of smoke-rings over his hostess's 
head. "No, I thought I wouldn't until the thing 
was settled. You see " 

11 Oh, I got this furniture catalogue from Daintry 
while I was downtown," Rita interrupted. " I 
thought you could look it over to-day. Do you sup- 
pose they'll feel very bad about it? 

"Well — of course — I suppose they — at least, it 
would be only natural " Ed was not stammer- 
ing. He was only starting up successive squirrel 
tracks, translating his own ideas to himself. " But 
it isn't as if it was going to make any difference 
financially," he went on, beginning again. He was 
voluble enough now and he was addressing Rita. 
" I'll send Beckie a check every week. And you 
see three of them are independent: Beckie and Ma1 
and Lainey." 

" Lainey's the teacher, isn't she?" Rita asked. 
" What's her real name? " 

" Elaine. My mother was very romantic. She 
took it out on every other child. Rebecca, 
Matthew, and Ann are all family names, but she 
named Elaine after Tennyson's poems, and Roland 
after — search me — Byron, I guess. And me — Lord, 
how ashamed I used to be of it — after Ravenswood. 
My real name's Edgar. And many's the fellow's 
block I've knocked off for calling me it. Y< 
Lainey's been teaching about two months." 

"Is she pretty?" 

" I don't know. I never thought of it." 

"Blonde or brunette?" 

" Blonde, I should say," Ed answered after 
interval of wrinkled concentration. " Lainey's 



" 




Standing By 29 

strange girl. I don't understand her." Ed's calm 
broke into an interval of sheer perplexity. " She's 
quiet and serious — very absent-minded — I suppose 
you'd call her dreamy. She studies all the time — 
reads Plato and Browning, and high-brow stuff like 
that. She's the easiest one in the family to manage 
six days out of the seven — then, suddenly you'll 
strike an obstinate streak and nothing can move her 
— I don't understand her." 

11 The two younger ones are in High School, 
aren't they? " Rita went on. 

" Yes," said Ed. 

" Len Lorrimer pointed Ann out to me on the 
street the other day," said Rita. " She's awfully 
pretty, isn't she?" 

"Yes," Ed admitted reluctantly, "but she's aw- 
fully hard to manage. She's one of those girls 
who want everything she sees. She's smart though 
— smart as a whip — makes her own clothes, trims her 
own hats, and mixes the finest salad dressing I ever 
tasted." Ed conceded these facts with pride. 

" I'm glad," Rita said, " that you've noticed how 
pretty she is, for others will notice it soon enough, 
let me tell you. Len Lorrimer got it all right. 
She's pretty enough to eat. And perhaps you'll be 
interested to know she's a brunette. That way she 
does her hair is awfully picturesque. I tried it 
after I got home, but it was very unbecoming. 
What's the other sister like? What does she do? " 

" She's in a dentist's office," Ed answered. " She 
seems to be secretary " 

11 Is she pretty?" 

" Not exactly," Ed answered. " But Beckie is 
very " He paused and did not finish. A film- 



30 Standing By 

ing stiffness came into his tone, a shadowing hard- 
ness into his face. It was as though he began to 
chafe at these interrogatories. 

Mrs. MacVeagh changed the subject immedi- 
ately. " There, this is the kind of desk I want you 
to get. It's a standard pattern; but it's big and 
simple and convenient without suggesting a roll-top. 
You can go to-morrow evening to look at the apart- 
ment, can't you? " 

" Yes." 

14 And I think you'd better tell your sisters pret 



14 Yes, I will," said Ed. 






"Where are you going, Ed?" Beckie asked the 
next night. Freshly-shaven, very elegant in his 
correct evening-clothes, very handsome in his regu- 
lar blonde featuring, Ed had just descended from 
his eyrie chamber. 

44 Out," Ed answered briefly. Beckie alway 
asked Ed where he was going and Ed always an 
swered, 44 Out." In fact, Beckie never waited for 
the answer. Lainey and Ann would never have 
presumed to ask. 

44 There's something I want to talk to you about.' 
Beckie lowered her voice, looked about her. ' 
don't want anybody to hear us. The boys are up 
stairs and the girls are doing the dishes. Come into 
the parlor." 

Ed followed Beckie. The big, front room was 
dusty and neglected-looking. There was no fire in 
the fireplace. The furnace fire had gone out in th 
afternoon. Matt had rebuilt it, but the house stil 
held the cold in corners — an icy, hollow, paralyzin 



Standing By 31 

cold. The girls had worn blazers to the table, the 
boys sweaters. They had eaten with silver that 
chilled their hands and from plates that might have 
been disks of ice. Ed fastened his gray-silk muffler 
about his neck, seated himself in one of the straight- 
backed chairs, his hat and stick in one gloved hand. 

Beckie took the couch. " You look stunning, 
Ed," she said admiringly; " just like a picture in a 
book." Beckie looked far from " stunning." She 
was the least attractive of the handsome Ollivant 
orphans. She had pulled the yellow-and-brown 
worsted afghan about her shoulders; its wooly tat- 
ters offered no mitigation to the tired creases in 
her dark, high-cheekboned face. Her serge office 
dress, worn and ready-made, offered no mitigation 
to the straight lines of her square, flat-chested figure. 
" It's about Roly," she went on as her brother 
frowned her compliment to oblivion. " I think he's 
playing truant right along." 

" What makes you think so? " Ed asked. 

"Sh— sh— sh!" exclaimed Beckie. "I don't 
want the girls to hear." 

The folding-doors which separated the parlor 
from the living-room were open. Lainey and Ann 
had come in from the kitchen for the dessert-dishes. 

" — the dance the Tuesday afternoon girls are 
giving, and so this morning her aunt went to Boston 
and got her another dress." This was Ann's round 
note. " Edwina showed it to me this afternoon. 
Oh, Lainey, it's a darling and so smart. That 
makes four evening-dresses that Edwina Allen has. 
Oh, I feel so poverty-stricken and so out of it. I'm 
ashamed to wear that old plaid dress again. Some- 
times I think I'd do almost anything for some of 



32 Standing By 

the pretty things I've always wanted. I'm sure I'd 
steal if I could be certain I wouldn't be found out." 
Ann's discontent rasped in her voice. 

" But, Ann," this was Lainey's soft, clear accent, 
" what do you care when everybody says you're the 
prettiest girl in Brookline? " 

11 Well, of course, I'm not pretty," Ann protested. 
" My mouth is too big and there's something about 
the left side of my profile that I positively hate. But 
supposing I was pretty, then it seems to me I have 
all the more right to some pretty clothes once in a 
while." 

" You're the prettiest girl I ever saw in my life," 
said Lainey, her flute-like tones filling to a volume as 
robust as her conviction. " Your eyes are like 

melted gold, and your complexion You're so 

pretty it doesn't make a particle of difference what 
you wear. Edwina Allen never saw the day she 
could compare with you. And no matter hov 
shabby your clothes are, they always look differen 
from other girls', you know how to wear them." 

The kitchen door cut off the tail of this discus- 
sion. 

Beckie tiptoed to the folding-doors and drew them 
softly together. " Two days ago," she began, turn 
ing, u Miss Black in the office took her lunch-hour 
early. When she got back, she told me she'd met 
Roly — she knows him by sight, because he's come 
into the office once in a while. I thought it was 
mighty queer Roly's being on Washington Street at 
twelve o'clock. English High doesn't let out until 
two. Well, when I came to question her, she wasn' 
quite sure it was Roly; and so I let the whole thin 
slip my mind. But to-day, as I was standing in th 



Standing By 33 

window, I saw Roly go by on the other side of the 
street with two boys. That Dink Hardy was one of 
them. I didn't know who the other one was. 
Well, it wasn't a holiday because, if it was, Ann 
would have had one. I haven't said anything to him 
yet, because I thought you'd better. He'd pay some 
attention to you." 

" All right," said Ed, rising with an obvious im- 
patience to get off. " I'll talk to him to-morrow 
morning. But don't worry about this, Beck. All 
boys hook jack, you know." 

" Oh yes," Beckie replied, " I know that. I used 
to play hookey myself. It doesn't worry me any. 
Only if he's going to do it right along, he might 
just as well leave school and go to work. It does 
seem so queer — neither Roly nor Ann take the least 
interest in their studies. Ann's teacher sent her 
home the other day because she refused to write a 
composition on * The Soliloquy of an Umbrella.' 
Ann says she can't write — not to save her life. Oh, 
I'm so glad you're here to cope with this. I 
couldn't. Good-night, Ed." 

" Oh, this is great, Rita," Ed was saying an hour 
later. " This big living-room gets my game. It's 
a corker. And those wide windows looking off on- 
to that view. And the window-seats and the par- 
quet floors and the papers and the paint — and that 
fireplace. I feel like a grand duke. I can give 
some pretty classy little parties up here. You've 
got to chaperon them all, you know, Rita." 

'* Sure," laughed Rita. " That's my graft. I'm 
going to run this joint. I've planned a house-warm- 
ing that will be the prettiest party you ever saw. I 



34 Standing By 

tell you what. Just as soon as it gets warm enough 
we can use the roof. Let's give a tango party up 
there. Want to see it? " 

" Crazy to," smiled Ed. He followed her out 
into the hall and up a narrow stairway. Another 
moment and they were leaning against the coping, 
gazing alternately up at the sky and down on the 
world. Above the stars lay fine and thick, like piles 
of silver seeds. Below the city lamps grew large and 
lush, like strange tropical flowers. 

" The automobiles look like beetles, don't they?" 
Rita commented. " See how fast that limousine is 
going. Oh, that reminds me. You'd better warn 
that brother of yours — not the kid — the red-headed 
one 

41 Matt," Ed suggested. 

" That's the one — he's awfully good-looking, isn' 
he? What does he do?" 

" He's with the Chapman Automobile Company 
salesman," Ed answered. " What were you goin 
to say about him? " 

" That he'll be arrested for speeding if he doesn' 
look out. We met him last night in Newton — Le 
Lorrimer and myself. I didn't know him, of course, 
but Len did. They were going at a great clip. 
Newton's full of traps, you know.' 

Ed frowned. " If I've warned him once, I've 
warned him a dozen times. He runs with a man 
named Walton who has never yet recognized the 
existence of the speed laws. He'll lose his license 
if he isn't careful. I'll talk to Matt to-night." 

" How do you like Len Lorrimer? " asked Rita 
idly. She gave a quick side-glance at her compan- 
ion's face ; her glance held a tinge of mischief. 






Standing By 35 

" Not at all," Ed answered briefly. 

M Don't you?" Rita flashed a second side- 
glance; this one held a tinge of complacency. "I 
think he's great fun." 

Ed made no comment. 

" What kind of a boy is your younger brother? " 
Rita asked. "Roland?" 

M Just kid," Ed answered briefly. " Always wear- 
ing my ties and thinking I don't know it." 

11 Then you're not disappointed in this place ? " 
Rita went on. 

"Disappointed!" Ed exclaimed. U I feel as if 
it were the beginning of something I'd never known 
before. It's awfully tough on a man to have to live 
with his family, you know. As long as mother was 
alive, I considered that it was up to me to stay. But 
of course I've never been able to entertain at all, or 
to do anything I wanted. They wouldn't mix with 
my friends any more than I'd mix with theirs. You 
always feel as if you ought to tell them where you're 
going every time you leave the house. Not that I 
ever do. That is, mother had given up asking me. 
But, at the same time, you " 

" Oh, don't apologize," Rita said. " I under- 
stand perfectly. When I tell you that my mother 
was president of a woman's club, that one sister was 
an anti-suffragist and the- other an anti-vivisectionist, 
perhaps you get the dope on my home atmosphere. 
I had too many red corpuscles in me for that high- 
brow atmosphere. I had about made up my mind 
that I'd quit, even if I had to earn my own living. 
Then Big Chief came along and rescued me. Oh, 
by the way," she turned her face up to his as she 
pulled the collar of her leopard-coat closer about 



36 Standing By 

her throat; her shining head — to-night she wore 
her hair banded close — lifted like a seal's from 
water, " have you told your sisters yet?" 
11 Not yet," Ed said. " I forgot it last night." 
u I think you'd better tell them." Rita smiled. 
Her white teeth made a brilliant sally into the shad- 
owed softness of her face. " They may change 
their plans a little if they know you're not going to 
be with them." 

When Ed let himself into the house that night, 
the light was still burning in the parlor. 

" Oh, Ed!" Beckie exclaimed, starting up. 
11 Thank heavens, you've come ! " 

" What's up? " Ed asked. " What's the matter 
With you, Ann? " 

Ann, lying face downward on the couch, was torn 
by spasms of weeping. She sobbed aloud. And 
Lainey, seated near, the tears standing in great 
drops at the tips of her long lashes, panted and 
quivered in sympathy. 

" Matt's been arrested for speeding," Beckie ex- 
plained. " He telephoned from the police-station 
for you to come down and bail him out. That was 
at ten. We've been waiting here for you ever 
since." 

14 The damn fool ! " said Ed. " The damn — -" 
And suddenly Ed's smooth brow corrugated with 
fury. " Everybody has told him that he'd get 
pinched. I've warned him a dozen times myself. 
Where's Walton?" 

11 Out of town — Matt didn't know where. I 
was afraid to call up the Walton house because 
Dave had lent him his car without telling his folks. 



Standing By 37 

Do hurry down there, Ed. He didn't happen to 
have any money with him. He hasn't had any 
dinner yet." 

" And he won't get any breakfast either," said 
Ed. " At least not until late to-morrow morning. 
I'm not going to bail him out to-night. Why, he told 
me only last week that that park policeman — the 
fat, good-natured one — had stopped him twice and 
told him he'd pinch him unless he cut it out. I'm 
glad they jugged him. It will be a good lesson to 
him. One night in a cell with a fine of ten dollars 
in the morning will take the speed out of him 
quicker than anything I know." 

" Oh, Ed," Ann broke into another volley of sobs, 
" how can you treat him so? I cannot bear to think 
of Matt in a little narrow, smelly cell. And such 
a hard bed. And oh, what a terrible disgrace. It 
will be in all the papers, * Items about Boston.' " 

Even Ed's brow relaxed. " Speeding is not a 
hanging matter, Ann. People are received in the 
best society even after a third offense." 

11 Ed, I think you're just too mean for words," 
Lainey said, the flash in her eyes dissipating the 
dew on their lashes. " If I only knew anybody who 
would bail him out, I'd appeal to him even at this 
hour." 

11 I'm very glad you don't, Lainey," Ed said 
grimly, u because I'm determined to give the sport 
of the family the lesson of his young life." 

11 But don't you think you're rather hard on him, 
Ed?" Beckie said placatingly. " He's been there 
four hours now. We telephoned everywhere for 
you, Ed. Where were you? " 

11 Calling," Ed answered tersely. 



38 Standing By 

" And four hours ought to take all the spunk 
out of him." Beckie stopped and consulted her 
brother's face. Apparently she gathered no hope 
from what she saw there ; for she said in a resigned 
tone, " Come to bed, girls. It's no use trying to 
argue with Ed when he looks like that. Besides, I 
must be up by six to get breakfast. I'm tired as a 
dog." 

Becjcie looked tired. The hollows under her 
bright dark eyes were so deep they might have been 
gouged out. All the lines of her face sagged in 
harmony with the droop of her shoulders. 

The three girls followed their brother upstairs. 
M I shan't close my eyes to-night," whimpered Ann. 
" I shall keep seeing poor Matt in prison stripes 
with his face pressed against the bars of his cell." 

II Well, I shan't sleep either, but it's because I'i 
so mad," sputtered Lainey. 

II I don't know but what you're right, Ed," 
Beckie said after the girls' door had slammed shut 
11 It will be a lesson to him. I'm so glad you cam< 
home to-night. I was so worried — I don't kno^ 
what I would have done without you. I do hop< 
the girls get some sleep, but I'm afraid they won'l 
I'm so tired — I could sleep standing up." 

But, in point of fact, Ann fell immediately into 
the soft thick kitten-like slumber which she could 
command at any time. Lainey followed her, al- 
most as quickly, into a dreamland as light and clear 
and gay as the fairy country of her childhood. Ed 
tossed and turned for a protracted fifteen minutes 
and then, after a muttered curse or two, dropped 
into that well of oblivion to which ordinarily his 
closed eyes immediately admitted him. But Beckie 



Standing By 39 

after lying silent and moveless for three or four 
hours, arose. Seating herself at the window, she 
watched until the sunrise began to gild the little 
Place with scanty winter gold. 

" I'm glad you decided the way you did," Rita 
said, three or four days later as they sped in her 
limousine up Boylston Street. " Of course, the other 
desk would have done. At the same time, I don't 
think you ever would have been satisfied with it after 
seeing the more expensive one. There's no economy 
in buying a thing you don't want. My poor rela- 
tions have houses filled with lemons that I've bought 
when I had an economy bug. Now I always get 
the thing I want — and do the economizing after- 
wards." 

11 Oh yes, there was nothing to it," agreed Ed. 
" After I saw that mahogany one, it was all off with 
the oak." 

" I think we've been doing pretty well with this 
shopping," Rita went on, " considering that we've 
only had your lunch-hour." 

u I should say we had," said Ed with conviction, 
11 but of course it's all you. I never could have done 
it so well without your help. I never can repay 
you." 

" How about all those free eats you've been giv- 
ing me?" said Rita. "Anyway, you don't have to 
repay me. I've loved every moment of it. Have 
you told your sisters yet? " she asked after a pause. 

" No, I haven't," admitted Ed. 

" I really think you ought to tell them," said Rita. 

" I suppose I should have," said Ed slowly, " but 
I don't want to take any definite step until every- 



: 



40 Standing By- 
thing is fixed up. For if there was any hitch, it 
would be just as well " 

11 But what hitch could there be " A rising 

note of alarm reached a crescendo on Rita's last 
word. " You're going to sign the lease for th 
apartment to-morrow noon." 

" None that I can see," answered Ed. " I'll tel 
them to-night." 

" No more shopping this noon," decided Rita, 
14 or you won't get back at two. Just time for a 
little spin in the Fenway." She snuggled back into 
her opulent sables. " Isn't it a beautiful day? And 
isn't it great to be young? Somehow I feel so gay." 
She turned her eyes up to Ed's. " Ed, do you know 
you're a good-looking thing? And just think you're 
going to have rooms of your own." 

Ed turned, gazed at his companion. Rita wa 
physically brilliant, but she was a cold type. She was 
like a light which gives illumination without heat. 
Now an extraordinary animation — an animation 
pointed by triumph — gave her a misleading effect 
of warmth. Her ivory cheeks glowed, her hazel- 
yellow eyes glistened, her bronze-brown hair glit- 
tered; it seemed almost to crackle. The wind 
whipped her lips to a brilliant crimson. " You're 
something of a looker yourself, Rita," Ed said. 
"I can gaze at you without straining my eye muscles 
any. Yes," he added, as though her look held some 
voiceless question, " I'll tell them at dinner." 

"Where's Ann?" Ed asked that night when h( 
seated himself at the table. 

11 Why, I don't know," Beckie answered. " Sh< 
went into Boston to do some errands for me. . 



I 



Standing By 41' 

can't guess what could keep her as late as 
this." Beckie articulated with difficulty; she was 
hoarse. 

" Where'd you get that cold, Beckie? " Ed asked. 

" Oh, the other night," Beckie said evasively. 

" Well, now that we're all together," Ed began 
in an awkward voice, " I want to tell you that 
to-day I " 

" Oh! " Lainey exclaimed, as though Ed's words 
had hit an unexpected mark in her own thoughts, 
" that reminds me I bought something to-day." 
Lainey was obviously happy over her purchase. 
" What do you suppose it was? " 

" What was it?" Beckie asked. 

" A man came round to all the teachers in the 
school," Lainey began in her preoccupied, circum- 
locutionary way, " selling the most remarkable bar- 
gains in books on the instalment plan. They're 
beautifully illustrated; but as they're in paper 
covers, they only cost fifty cents apiece. The man 
pointed out that you could get them bound for a 
song. I engaged to take three a month." Lainey's 
eyes overflowed with that blue light which in mo- 
ments of enthusiasm rescued them from oblivion. 

" How many volumes are there? " asked Roland. 

11 Forty-five," Lainey answered, with the triumph 
of those who bargain well. 

" Forty-five ! " exclaimed Matt. It was the first 
sign of real vivacity from the chastened Matt who 
had emerged from a prison cell. 

11 Forty-five ! " croaked Beckie. " Why it will 
take fifteen months to pay for them." 

1 Yes; but I shan't notice it," said Lainey sweetly. 
"The man said I wouldn't." 



42 Standing By 

" Whose works are they? " Ed asked. 

14 Longfellow's," answered Lainey triumphantly 

11 Longfellow in forty-five volumes ! " exclaimec 
Ed. "Oh, my ft*/" 

" Oh, Lainey dear ! " said Beckie in a misery tha 
pierced her hoarseness. M Forty-five volumes a 
fifty cents. That's nearly twenty-three dollars 
Why did you do it? Why didn't you wait and asl 
our advice." 

"Well, I thought of doing that," Lainey ex 
plained, " but the man seemed to want me to decid : 
right away. And then he was so awfully nice. H : 
went to the greatest trouble to explain it all oui . 
And after he talked for a half an hour, I sort of fe' : 
obliged — I can really give you no idea how accon • 
modating he was. He seemed to think it would h< 
me so much in my teaching. He said that he ha< 
set in his own home and his children simply woi 
not read anything else." 

Ed groaned. M Lainey," he said, " you've g( 
against a game that you'll be up against for the 
of your life. Business men are visited every he 
of the day by agents who want to sell them 
thing from a corkscrew to an aeroplane. Teache 
in especial, are their marks because you're the e; 
est people in the world. Now probably those boc 
are illustrated from plates left over from some 
tion of Longfellow brought out before the 
And think of having forty-five volumes of any oi 
poet! At that rate, you'd have to hire Mechanic ;' 
Hall for your library. You'll be stung every we 
if you don't look out. The only thing for a pers< i 
as dopey as you to do is simply to refuse to ta 
to the agents. Once you begin to listen " 



Standing By 43 

This, at six forty-five, was the beginning of a long 
harangue of advice. It was interrupted by the en- 
trance of Ann at seven. 

"What makes you so late, Ann?" Beckie de- 
manded in a peremptory accent. Perhaps Beckie 
wanted to draw attention from Lainey's crushed 
condition. 

M I've had the loveliest time." Ann was excited. 
She was all light and warmth. Her great eyes 
were blazing golden moons. Her round cheeks 
were burning rose velvet. Everything else about 
her shone or shimmered. Her very teeth, between 
the full scarlet of her lips, made a soft flash like 
silver. " No, don't help me to any stew, Ed. I 
couldn't eat a thing. What do you think — I've been 
out to tea. At the Plaza. Oh, wasn't it pretty. 
Such smart clothes. And such pippins of girls! 
Lainey, there was a girl there who wore a green 
broadcloth, trimmed with moleskin, that was the 
loveliest thing I ever — And a lot of Harvard men 
at a table in the corner. Wasn't it a shame that 
I didn't have on my other hat! But I went into 
the Ladies' Room and fixed up my hair. Oh, such 
a lovely place — they had all kinds of cosmetics 
there. One girl made her face up right before my 
eyes and another was smoking a cigarette — I saw it 
hidden behind her hand." 

"But who took you? " asked Beckie. 

14 Len Lorrimer," said Ann, " and, oh, he was 
just perfectly lovely to " 

"Len Lorrimer!" Ed exclaimed electrically. 
M What do you mean, Ann? " 

"Why!" Ann exclaimed. " Why— why— what 
do I mean? I don't know what you mean. I met 



44 Standing By 






, 



Mr. Lorrimer on Boylston Street and he asked me 
to go to tea and I went." 

" You went to tea with Len Lorrimer? " Ed ar- 
raigned her sternly. " Don't you know he's, a mar- 
ried man? " 

11 Why, yes," said Ann. " Of course I do. Every- 
body knows it. But he's separated from his wife 
and everybody knows that too." 

" But he's not divorced from her," said Ed, " and 
he never will be. He can't get a divorce. He 
knows, as everybody knows — Don't let me ever hear 
of your going anywhere with him again." 

Ann tossed her head. " I don't see why I 
shouldn't," she said rebelliously. " He's been sep- 
arated from her so long nobody looks upon him 
as married." 

" Nevertheless," Ed ordered crisply, " he is ma 
ried. Don't let me hear of you going anywhere 
with him again." I I 

The gaiety melted out of Ann's face, taking the 
light with it. It hardened as it darkened. " He 
invited me to go to the matinee with him next wee 
Now why shouldn't I go? I want to." 

11 Simply because," Ed said in a tone iron wi 
command, " unmarried people can't go about wi 
married people without making talk." 

"Well, then," Ann flashed triumphantly, "ho 
about you and Mrs. MacVeagh? I saw you comi 
out of the Touraine with her once during the te 
hour. And I don't know how many times Laine; 
and I have seen you riding alone with her in he 
automobile. If it's all right for you to go place 
alone with Mrs. MacVeagh, why isn't it all righ 
for me to go alone with Mr. Lorrimer? " 



Standing By 45 

A brickish-red flush rose slowly over Ed's smooth 
face; it flowed turgidly under his golden hair. But 
he held Ann with the steady gaze of his frigid blue 
eyes. " That's quite a different matter, Ann," he 
said. " In the first place, I am quite as much 
Mr. MacVeagh's, as Mrs. MacVeagh's, friend. It 
would be impossible for me to compromise Mrs. 
MacVeagh; it would be presumption for me to 
think so. Her social position is absolutely estab- 
lished; her character above reproach. I am only 
one of half a dozen men to whom she is equally 
hospitable. She has absolutely nothing to lose by 
accepting my escort when her husband is away; and 
I have a great deal to gain. Lorrimer, on the other 
hand, is the kind of man I don't want my sister to 
be seen with. He will lose nothing, of course, by 
taking you about; but it will hurt you with every- 
body who knows him. If it is necessary, Ann, I 
will tell you everything I know about Lorrimer. 
But you won't want to discuss the subject very 
long." 

11 Still," Lainey broke in stormily, " after all the 
principle is the same. And you wouldn't let Ann 
go about with Len Lorrimer, even if his wife liked 
it. I cannot see that it is any more right for you 
than for her." 

Of all the Ollivants, Lainey seemed superficially 
the most silent, colorless, and uncharacterized. But 
she had the knack of asking perturbing questions. 
Ed, for instance, was often nonplused by her 
queries. Now a look — obviously it was bafflement 
— came into his face. " It all depends on circum- 
stances, Lainey," he said. " And these two cases 
could never be parallel." 



Standing By 

But Ed did not bring up the matter of leaving 
the family roof during dinner. Perhaps he did not 
wish to introduce the name of MacVeagh into the 
conversation again. After dinner, Matt and Roland 
disappeared in the direction of their various inter- 
ests. Lainey and Ann received Edwina Allen 
and Dottie Franklin; the quartette vanished behind 
the closed doors of their bedroom. Nothing came 
from their direction but giggles. Beckie built a fire 
in the parlor, seated herself on the couch there. She 
drew the big darning-basket to her side, gave the 
kitten an empty spool to play with, and fell to work. 
Her cold bothered her; she did not seem inclined 
to talk. Ed wandered from the living-room 
to the dining-room, from the dining-room to the 
kitchen, from the kitchen to the living-room again, 
his head bent, his brow moody with wrinkles. 

Once, " Oh, Ed," Beckie croaked, " what would 
I have done about Ann if you hadn't been here 
She's so headstrong, I can't make her toe the mark 
And I hate that Len Lorrimer; he's a snake in th 
grass." 

A deep silence followed. Ed resumed his lone 
pacing. 

Suddenly he dashed out of the house. At a ru 
he made for the drug-store on the corner, pantec 
into the telephone box. " Give me Back Bay 8786,' 
he said: and at the end of an interval in which h< 
stared frigidly into space, " Is this you, Rita? Say 
Rita, I've called you up to tell you it's all off abou 
the apartment — Yes, I know, but it can't be helpec 
— Yes, I understand, but it's impossible — Yes 
you're perfectly right, but it's out of the question- 
Yes, that's true, but it can't be done — Yes, I get al 



Standing By 47 

that, but I can dispose of it in some way — All right, 
I'll explain when I see you." 

Ed sauntered leisurely back to the house, let him- 
self leisurely in. Beckie's darning still absorbed 
her. After an interval, she turned to her basket, 
fumbled a moment among its mending miscellanies. 
A letter eddied up from among the spools and 
darning-cotton, came to the surface of the stockings. 

"Why!" Ed exclaimed, "that's Aunt Mar- 
garet's handwriting, isn't it?" 

" Yes," said Beckie. She dropped her eyes and, 
as though involuntarily, pushed the letter under the 
stockings. 

" Why, I didn't know you'd heard from her," 
Ed said in a surprised tone. " What's she got to 
say?" 

"Nothing." Even with her hoarseness, it was 
to be seen that Beckie's manner was offhand. 

"Well— can I read it?" Ed's tone was a little 
nonplused. 

" Oh, there's nothing in it, I— I " Beckie 

was stammering — quick, curt, decisive Beckie. " It 
wouldn't interest you." 

"Beckie, what's the answer to all this?" Ed 
demanded. " Don't you want me to see that 
letter?" 

For answer, Beckie held it out to him. He pulled 
a closely-written sheet out of the envelope : 

My dear Niece: 

Your dear mother has been dead for three months now 
and I think the family must be in good running order by 
this time. Perhaps what I am going to say in this letter may 
sound premature; but as I must say it sooner or later, I 



48 Standing By 






might just as well say it now. You know that you were 
named after my mother; and you also know, for I have told 
you often enough, that you are my favorite niece. Of course 
we have all known for several years that your mother's days 
were numbered. I made up my mind some years ago that 
when the time came, I would ask you to come and live with 
me. I am often very lonely and I should like your com- 
panionship very much. In that case, I should discharge 
Matty, but although you and I would do the housewori 
together, I should insist upon paying you what I pay her — 
eight dollars a week. I am sure that is more than youi 
present salary — minus your contribution to the householc 
expenses — amounts to. And of course, when I die, my little 
house and what I have in the bank will go to you. If 
however, you cannot see your way clear to accept this offer 
I shall make no changes in my present will, which divide 
my money equally among my living relatives. Please let 1 
know as soon as possible what your decision is. 
Your affectionate aunt, 

Margaret Foster. 

11 Good Lord, Beckie ! " exclaimed Ed, " whe 
did you get this? November eighteen. Last Mon 
day. You must say yes to that, Beckie. It's a grea 
opportunity. When are you going to answer it? 

" I have answered it," said Beckie. " I refused 
She resumed her tranquil darning. 

" Beckie," Ed broke the silence after a Ion 
while, " what made you refuse? " 

11 Because I wouldn't leave you alone with all th 
responsibility, Ed," said Beckie. 

Ed mused an instant, his frigid gaze on the dis 
tance. "Well, Beckie," he said at last, "y 
can be sure of one thing. Til never leave you." 



CHAPTER III 
ANN TAKES CHARGE 

"TF there's anything in this world that I hate, it's 
X housework. There isn't one single thing about 
it that I like — except ironing pretty things and 
making desserts and salads. Washing I detest, 
sweeping I despise, dusting I abominate, doing 
dishes I loathe, and as for getting up as early as 
this I — Just as soon as I'm twenty-one, I'm going 
on the stage. I think I'd like to go into musical 
comedy. I can sing a little and I pick up dancing- 
steps just as easy. I know as well as I know my 
name I'm not domestic. I've altogether too much 
temperament. Len Lorrimer told me that the day 
I went out to tea with him. I just hate the kind of 
life I lead here." 

This was the end of a long matutinal harangue 
from Ann. Now she stopped an instant, but it was 
obviously only to catch her breath. She sat in one 
of the kitchen chairs, tilted back against the wall, 
her big hands clasped behind her head, one foot 
under her, and the other swinging a shabby buckled 
shoe from its tip. She wore a little kimono of 
dimity, delicately-figured and lace-edged, a boudoir 
cap of a coarse-meshed imitation Cluny trimmed 
with pink ribbons. The kimono showed a V of vel- 
vet neck; the cap unloosed great, rich scallops of 
shining hair. Her snowy arms came out of her wide 

49 



5<d Ann Takes Charge 

sleeves, round with a giiTs soft shapeliness, yet 
potential somehow of a boy's muscular strength. 
A flush, deeper than her normal rose-pink, hung 
heavy behind her skin. Her big eyes threw sparks 
that were not entirely the effect of the light on her 
golden irises. 

It was cheerless within and without. The fire had 
begun to crackle, but the little kitchen had not 
warmed up yet. The frosty window-panes gave 
fore-shortened, wabbly glimpses of a back yard 
swathed in snow and dotted with shapeless bushes. 
Last night's dishes were heaped in the sink. A 
big pot of something green and odorous was be- 
ginning to stew on the stove. Lines of high, green 
glass jars stood on the table. Beckie — a long-sleeved 
apron concealing all but the hem of her blue-serge 
dress — pattered from sink to stove and from stove 
to table. Lainey stood irresolutely about, managing 
only in every effort to efface herself, to get in some- 
body's way. I 

11 1 can't think who could have been such an idiot 
as to put in so much salt," Lainey remarked, obvi- 
ously turning the subject. 

11 It must have been you, Ann," said Beckie, with- 
out turning. " I salted it once myself and I salted 
it according to rule." 

" I didn't," Ann contradicted her sister instantly. 

Beckie's back became rigid. " You must have," 
she said in a stony voice. 

" I know I didn't," Ann asseverated. 

" Probably I did it," Lainey said with obvious 
pacific intent; " you know what an idiot I am." 

" You! " said Ann contemptuously, " as if we'd 
let you go near anything that was cooking. I don't 



Ann Takes Charge 5 

care who did it; I know I didn't. And whoever it 
was," she cast a defiant glance at Beckie's granite 
profile, " I don't thank her for it. Having to get 
up at five o'clock in the morning to boil piccalilli 
over — on Saturday morning, too, when I ought to 
be allowed to sleep late." 

She paused and gazed at Beckie's back. That 
back was moveless, although Beckie's hand moved 
swiftly, stirring the pot. Beckie did not speak. 

44 It's out of the question," Ann went on, " our 
trying to have such things — jellies and preserves and 
piccalilli and chili sauce. It's altogether too hard 
work and it all falls on us girls. And who eats 
them? The boys! Faster almost than we can 
make them. And would they lift a finger to help 
us? Not in a hundred years." 

Again she defied Beckie's unyielding back. 
Beckie's hand had stopped stirring. She was so 
still, she seemed not even to breathe. 

14 As for me," Ann continued, 44 I'd rather go 
without than work like this to have them. I " 

44 Lainey," Beckie interrupted suddenly, 44 open 
the door ! " Her voice was without expression, 
but her words came like stones hurled from a sling. 

Lainey obeyed her. 

Beckie lifted the big kettle from the stove, stag- 
gered with it across the kitchen, through the wood- 
shed to the yard. The two girls froze where they 
stood, watching her in a growing panic. Beckie 
struck the cover from the garbage-pail, lifted the 
kettle, poured the contents into it. 44 When you 
want any more piccalilli," she said, returning, " make 
it yourself." She marched into the dining-room, 
seated herself by the fire, took up the morning paper. 



52 Ann Takes Charge 






For a moment, Lainey and Ann stared at each 
other terrified. Then, moving on tiptoe and han- 
dling pots and pans as though they were muffled in 
cotton-wool, they began noiselessly and speechlessly 
to prepare breakfast. They halved oranges, cooked 
oatmeal, fried eggs and bacon ; but during the process 
they did not speak a word. 

Ed was the first of the brothers to appear. Hand- 
some, elegant, immaculate, he might have come 
from the hands of a valet. " I wish one of you girls 
would darn my stockings," he began. " I put on 
the only whole pair I had left last night." 

" Oh, Ed," Lainey said remorsefully, helping 
Ann to bring in the breakfast. " That's too bad. 

We've been so busy lately with the picca " She 

cut this word off with a frightened snap of her 
jaw and an involuntary glance of terror in 
Beckie's direction. M Ann and I will darn them all 
to-night." 

11 Also I wish you'd go through my underwear," 
Ed continued, " and put the buttons on. As a but- 
ton-remover, that laundry is a wonder." 

The four Ollivants drew up to the table. Ed 
took up the paper that Beckie threw down. They 
ate their fruit in silence. 

" Talk about crab-apples. I should call these 
crab-oranges, from the size," Ed remarked. 

Nobody answered. 

11 Ah, the familiar burnt taste ! " he continued, 
tasting the oatmeal to which Lainey helped him. 
"Why do you girls bother to cook any oatmeal if 
you can't cook it right? " 

Again nobody answered. 

" Kindly help me to one of those ossified eggs." 



Ann Takes Charge 53 

Ed seemed to enjoy this jocose vein. " I should 
think they had been cooked in a fireless cooker." 

Still nobody answered. 

" Not very long on conversation this morning, are 
you? " Ed added with the tact of brothers. 

For the fourth time nobody answered. 

" ' Then silence like a poultice came/ " Ed 
was beginning, when, " Hello, Matt, been pulled 
lately? " he interrupted himself to greet his brother. 

" No," Matt answered lightly, " Wednesday is 
my day for getting pinched." Matt had arisen in 
his customary spirits. The thatch of his red hair 
glittered like a sun and the blue of his eyes shone 
like a sea; he whistled as he helped himself to the 
glazed bacon and the petrified eggs. He took up 
the paper when Ed rejected it, turned at once to the 
comic section, began to laugh at the first picture, 
nearly rolled out of his seat before he finished the 
series. 

" Matt," Ann began in exasperation, " how can 
you laugh like that so early in the morning " 

" Oh, say, girls," Matt exclaimed, ignoring Ann, 
" I met Lory Mack on the street yesterday. He's 
in town from Worcester. Can I invite him here to 
spend Sunday with me ? " 

Beckie came suddenly to life. " No ! " she ex- 
ploded, " you can't. I'm tired enough working all 
the wefck long for this ungrateful family without 
slaving all day Sunday for strangers." 

"All right," said Matt equably. "You don't 
have to get red-headed about it. I do wish I had 
some place I could take a fellow to," he added im- 
patiently. " Well, we'll have to go off somewhere 
together." He returned light-heartedly to his pa- 









54 Ann Takes Charge 

per ; in another instant he was writhing with delight 
over the drawing of a comic-section dog. 

Presently Beckie arose, jerked on her little square, 
squat, unbecoming jacket, her little round, flat, unbe- 
coming hat, said nothing, and vanished. Ed arose, 
drew leisurely onto his tall, muscular, graceful fig- 
ure his smart ulster and his correct hat, dropped a 
careless " Good-by, sisters ! " and disappeared. 
Matt arose, telescoped his jaunty body with a 
large-checked raglan, tossed his plush Alpine hat into 
the air, caught it dexterously on his head, called, 
11 Or revolver, girls," and departed, whistling. 
Lainey arose, pulled herself into her baggy, mangy 
fur coat and her stiff felt hat. 

14 I'll be back from that meeting just as soon as 
I can, Ann/' she said, her voice still low and her 
eyes still frightened. u It was mean of them to put 
it on Saturday morning — I don't care if Monday 
is a holiday." She shut the door softly. 

For a long time Ann sat at the table. She did 
not move. Her eyes were fixed on a spot in the 
frosted pane. 

" Say, Ann! Ann! What time is it? " a voice 
called from upstairs. 

Ann started. " Nine o'clock!" she answered, 
glancing at the clock. 

" If I'd known it was early as that, I'd slept two 
hours more," the voice continued. Roland Ollivant 
lounged down the stairs and came into the dining- 
room. His eyes were swollen, his complexion 
mottled from too much sleep. But he was hand- 
some in a vivid olive way; his smile was dazzling; 
he would have looked a Latin if he had not been 
so heavy in expression, so athletic in shape. Ann 



Ann Takes Charge 55 

did not speak or move. He examined the table, 
walked out into the kitchen, returned to the dining- 
room. Still Ann did not speak or move. 

" Say, Ann," Roland asked in a sulky tone, 
"aren't you going to get me any breakfast? 
[There's only two eggs left." 

" No," declared Ann airily, " I'm not. Besides 
two eggs are enough." 

" Not for me," Roland said. 

11 Then you'll go hungry," Ann announced sweetly. 
" I'm not the cook for this family." 

" Who said you were? " Roland asked in a furious 
voice. 

11 Nobody," Ann answered. She added with a 
soft nonchalance, " Nobody would dare, I guess. 
I'm just stating my position." 

" Well, lucky for us you aren't the cook," Roland 
remarked with the heavy-handed sarcasm of boy- 
hood, " putting most a bag of salt in the picca- 
lilli." 

For the effect of this remark, Roland might have 
thrown a stick of dynamite on the fire. u I didn't 
do any such thing," Ann said, " and you know it. 
If you " 

" Yes, you did too," Roland retorted, seating him- 
self at the table. u I saw you. Last night while 
Beckie was out here in the dining-room." 

A frightened expression ran across Ann's face — 
the look of consternation with which one suddenly 
remembers a compromising fact. For an instant, 
her mouth opened wide. Then, " If ever you say 
the words salt or piccalilli again in my presence," 
she burst out, " I'll run away from this family and 
— and — and — go on the stage and be a chorus-girl." 






56 Ann Takes Charge 

14 Humph," grunted Roland, u swell chance you'd 
have on the stage! You with ankles like bologna 
sausages! " 

44 Roland Ollivant, you — liar! " Ann whispered 
this accusation. Involuntarily she pulled up her 
skirt and surveyed the trim ankle it revealed. Re- 
assurance, however, brought only a more violent 
rage. 44 I shall never speak to you again as long 
as I live." 

Ann flashed out of the dining-room — slammed the 
door, flashed into the kitchen — slammed the door. 
She fell on the dishes heaped in the sink as upon 
an invading army, neither paused nor stopped until 
she had ranged them, clean and shining, on the 
kitchen table. From the sink, she transferred her 
rage to the pantry. She took everything off the 
shelves, washed them, rearranged the dishes and 
groceries. From the pantry, she moved to the 
stove; she shoveled out the ashes, blacked it, pol- 
ished it until it made the dull old mirror hanging 
over the sink look like a square of black cambric. 

In the meantime, Roland had set himself seriously 
to the business of breakfasting. He ate an orange, 
devoured what was left of the oatmeal, finished what 
remained of the bacon and eggs, rummaged in the 
black walnut sideboard, found and devoured two 
bananas, split and blackened, found and devoured a 
bag of lady-fingers broken and stale. Perceptibly 
his spirits arose during this toothsome process. He 
was whistling when he went downstairs to the cellar. 
He attacked the wood-pile with an alacrity that he 
rarely brought to it. Standing between a mountain 
of ashes and a rapidly-growing heap of kindling, 
he chopped and chopped, varying his shrill whistling 



Ann Takes Charge 57 

with bass singing and his bass singing with tenor 
yodeling. 

"Will you kindly permit me to pass?" an icy 
voice demanded suddenly. 

Roland turned. Ann stood close, an empty coal- 
hod in each hand. 

11 1 thought you weren't going to speak to me 
again as long as you lived," Roland gibed. 

This was a fatal reminder. 

The sparks that all the morning had been flashing 
intermittently in Ann's eyes burst into tiny sheets 
of flame. A deep rose-colored flush hanging behind 
her white skin burst through, made a purple-red 
mask of her face. Her lips snapped into two rigid 
lines. Involuntarily she dropped the coal-hods. 
Her shoulders squared. Her arms came up to posi- 
tion. Above the elbow they began to bulge 
with muscle; below the elbow they merged with 
hard, strong-looking fists. She glared at her 
brother. 

Roland dropped his ax and squared off. His 
head sank between his hunched shoulders. His 
fists began to make preliminary rotary movements. 
His feet engaged in little dancing-steps forward 
and back, sideways and back. He glared at his 
sister. 

And then suddenly, even as her fist shot forward, 
Ann's face changed. A look of uncertainty ex- 
tinguished the tiny sheets of flame in her eyes. A 
look of perplexity loosened the rigid vise of her 
lips. Her fists fell to her sides, unclasped. An in- 
stant, she swayed irresolutely; then she turned on 
her heel, made in the direction of the stairway. 

Roland watched her, stupefied. 



I 



58 Ann Takes Charge 

On her way out, Ann passed the preserve-closet. 
She paused in front of the door, an amateur affair 
of thin boards, hanging from leather hinges. Here, 
it was as though another frenzy seized her, almost 
whirled her about. But she did not turn. Instead 
— suddenly her right arm swung with a powerful 
lunge straight from her shoulder to the door. It 
smashed the middle plank to splintery ruin. When 
she withdrew her hand, her knuckles ran blood 

But something had gone out of Ann. 

She walked with her customary decision acros 
the floor and up the stairs, but she moved in quiet 
and with dignity. She shut the cellar door noise- 
lessly. 

For an interval, Roland stared after his sister. 
His fists still held themselves up, but after a while 
they fell of their own weight. He walked over 
to the preserve-closet, examined the smashed door 
with a look mingled of rage, surprise, pride, and 
admiration. Then he returned to his ax and wen 
at the wood-pile again. He did not stop until th 
last log had been chopped. He whistled; but 
"whistled low, through his teeth. And after he ha 
finished with the wood, he attacked the mountain o 
ashes, transferred it by means of the coal-hod 
the row of empty ash-barrels in the yard. Wh< 
the last load had been removed, he filled the ho< 
with coal, took them up to the kitchen. By tl 
time he was whistling in his highest voice and 
his greatest speed. He walked jauntily out of th 
house. 

Ann went straight to her room, lay down o 
the still unmade bed. She sat there for a Ion 



Ann Takes Charge 59 

time, her hands clasped under her head, her eyes 
staring at the ceiling. 

Ann's father had been dead for ten years, her 
mother for three months. For the five years pre- 
vious to her death, Mrs. Ollivant had been bedrid- 
den. The period of Mrs. Ollivant's sickness had 
not made for smooth sailing, as far as the house- 
keeping was concerned; but because the children 
were devoted to their mother, it had a heavenly 
calm, compared with the troubled period that fol- 
lowed her death. Before, all roughness had been 
smoothed away by Mrs. Ollivant's gentle firmness; 
now everything seemed topsy-turvy, helter-skelter, 
hit-or-miss. Beckie arose at six and prepared break- 
fast. Lainey and Ann did the dishes. Immediately 
the entire family scattered for the day, Ed, Matt, 
and Beckie to their work, Ann and Roland to High 
School, Lainey to her teaching. Ann and Lainey 
cooked the dinner, did the dishes again. The boys 
of course performed household chores. All day 
Sunday, the girls cleaned house, mended, and 
cooked; Beckie planned the program of the week's 
eating. 

This was the way things went when the schedule 
worked perfectly. 

But often the schedule did not work well and 
sometimes it did not work at all; for the Ollivants 
were young and had other interests. Beckie was 
constantly going out of town for a night. Lainey 
accepted occasional week-end invitations. Ann was 
subject to all the temptations that out-of-doors of- 
fered her eighteen years and her tireless activity. 
Moreover, with nobody at home during the day- 
time, it was hard to keep the furnace going. Often, 



: 



6o Ann Takes Charge 

in spite of their care, they came back at night to 
freezing house. 

All this was the more depressing because the 
were traditions in the Ollivant family. M 
Ollivant was able and magnetic, an extraor 
nary combination of character and personali 
Mrs. Ollivant was beautiful, original, high-spirited, 
vivacious. They were dowered almost equally with 
the social gift. In the early years of their married 
life, the Ollivants entertained constantly and la 
ishly, but with intelligence and originality. Pictu 
esque masquerades, gay sleighing parties, wonder- 
fully cooked dinners, delicious, late suppers, read- 
ings, theatricals, tableaux — their first decade was 
charged with a vivid social conspicuosity. It was a 
proud family exercise to name over the famous pe 
pie who had slept under their roof. But Mr. Oil 
vant's fortune declined in middle life; he died sue 
denly and before he was old. Mrs. Ollivant, phy 
ically never the same woman after her husband 
death, developed unexpected powers of self-reliance 
She manipulated the family funds like a Napoleon 
but they dwindled steadily; she came to know th 
gray obscurity of genteel poverty. Through it al 
however, she was a companion to her children; th 
family life was happy. Her. sickness struck a mor 
tal blow at that happiness. Her death destroyed 
utterly. With all their remarkable health, theii 
splendid spirit, their notable comeliness, the Ollivant 
still lived as under a cloud. 

Perhaps visions of the family splendor — she mus 
often have heard it discussed — passed througl 
Ann's mind. Sometimes she smiled, but oftener he 
lips quivered. Once two big round tears rolle< 



Ann Takes Charge 61 

down her velvety cheek, splashed unchecked onto 
the pillow. 

After a long while, Ann arose. Moving slowly, 
and stopping to study every room, she made a tour 
of the house, starting at the top. The attic was a 
mere lumber-room, lying obscured under the dust 
and cobwebs of years. What there was in it — be- 
cause of its crowded condition — it was almost im- 
possible to see. On the third floor were two big 
bedrooms, formerly the nurseries. Ed and Matt 
shared one, Roland occupied the other. All the 
run-down, broken, lamed household furniture had ac- 
cumulated in the boys' rooms as if in protest against 
their wrongs. Here, in addition, was every evi- 
dence of the careless housekeeping inevitable to the 
Ollivants' present haphazard system. The walls 
clamored to be repapered, the ceilings to be replas- 
tered, the wood to be repainted. Everything was 
dusty, the rugs needed shaking. Torn carpets of- 
fered stumbling traps. The mirrors in the bureaus 
were covered with water-spots where the boys had 
slapped with brushes at their wet hair. 

On the next floor were four rooms: Beckie's big 
chamber, a hall bedroom, the one that Lainey 
shared with Ann, an unfinished garret running over 
the kitchen. On the lower floor were parlor, dining- 
room, kitchen. As Ann descended the aspect be- 
came more fair. The girls' rooms showed the in- 
evitable feminine effort towards decoration. The 
living-room was at least comfortable, though shabby, 
the kitchen invitingly warm and neat. The dining- 
room alone seemed shabby and stark; it had 
something of the bare coldness of an institution 
hall. 



62 Ann Takes Charge 

Her leisurely tour of inspection finished, Ann fe 
to work with the suddenness of a cyclone. She we 
over all the floors with a carpet-sweeper, duste 
made the beds, rearranged much of the furnitur 
Until she reached the dining-room, her efforts we 
mainly in the line of conservation; there it amounte 
almost to revolution. She removed all the tabl 
utilities from the black walnut sideboard, covered i 
mortuary marble slab with an embroidered gues 
towel, stood up some bright-colored plates and pla 
ters against its back, polished the silver cake-bask 
and the silver water-pitcher. 

Then she attacked the table. 

First, she took off the cloth and threw it into th 
laundry-basket. Then she stood off and surveyed 
it critically. Finally, she removed one leaf, placed 
a blue Wedgwood pitcher in the center on a darne 
and faded embroidered doily. Followed a period i 
which she obviously cast about her — baffled. F 
nally, she went to the window and looked out. Some- 
thing she saw there brightened her eyes. Bare- 
headed, she ran out of doors, swept away the sno 
from the Japanese barberry, picked a few branche 
to which some brilliant red berries still clung, spe 
five minutes arranging them droopingly in th' 
Wedgwood pitcher. 

Halfway through the process of setting the tabl 
another series of iconoclastic ideas struck her. Sh 
took all the silver into the kitchen, polished it. She 
gathered all the drinking-glasses, washed them a 
second time, rubbing them until they were almost 
as clear as the air itself. 

By this time it was one o'clock. 

Immediately after lunch — she ate it with a lool 



d 

i 



Ann Takes Charge 63 

of resolution crystallizing slowly on her face — she 
went upstairs, a silver table-knife in her hand. She 
reached up to the top shelf of her closet, brought 
down a little iron bank, shaped like an apple and 
painted red. Half an hour's work with the knife, 
and she had removed the last coin from its interior; 
eighty-nine pennies, one fifty-cent piece, two quar- 
ters, three dimes, a nickel, and a Canadian piece. 
With this money clutched in her hand, she visited 
the corner grocery. She returned in a few moments 
followed by a grocery-boy loaded with cans of to- 
matoes. 

Two hours later, she was hauling down from the 
top shelf of the closet the tall green glass jars which 
five hours before she had so neatly piled there. 

" Oh, don't you look sweet!" Lainey exclaimed 
when she got home at halfpast five that night. " I'm 
going right upstairs and dress up too." 

Ann wore one of her summer muslins, exquisitely 
laundered, a broad rose-colored velvet ribbon tied 
about her hair. The big curls which lay flat to her 
skin just above her ears shone like satin; her eyes, 
like golden crescent moons, rocked with suppressed 
excitement. Her fatigue showed itself only in the 
increased bloom of her velvety cheeks. 

" I want you to dress up, Lainey," Ann said, " for 
a particular reason. I've been fixing up the house 
to-day and everything looks so nice." 

"What's the matter with your hand?" Lainey 
asked. 

" Oh, nothing," Ann answered carelessly, " I 
bruised it in the cellar. I've been working like a 
Trojan all day long." 



64 Ann Takes Charge 

" I should say you had been working," Laine 
said a half an hour later. " Doesn't our room loo 
clean — and a fire in the parlor. And, oh, Ann, thi 
dining-room is simply swell with the bare table an 
the sideboard fixed up. And I love it with the fol 
ing-doors open that way. Let's always eat wi 
them open — it seems so sort of spacious and opulen 
It makes me feel as if I was being entertained b 
royalty." 

" Well, we will — when we have a fire," Ann con 
ceded. 

Lainey stopped transfixed at the kitchen door 
11 Who made that chili sauce?" she demanded 
" Ann Ollivant, you didn't do it all alone by your 
self?" 

" Yes, I did," Ann said, her eyes dancing. " 
looked up the recipe in Mrs. Farmer's and I bough 
the tomatoes with my own money. It's a surpris 
for Beck. We'll have some of it with the beans 
I've got a salad and I made a floating island for 
dessert — Roly is so crazy about it. And, Lainey, I'm 
going to serve the things in courses to-night, 
want you to help me." 

11 Here, Ann," Beckie said a few moments later 
u I bought you some silk stockings to-day. I hear 
you say the other day that you wanted a pair." Sh 
tossed the little white-tissue bundle into her sister" 
lap without looking at her. 

"Oh, Beck!" Ann bubbled ecstatically, " gree 
ones! You angel! I've been simply crazy for a 
pair. I was saving up for a maline ruff or I'd have 
bought them myself. And, Beckie, I did put the salt 
in the piccalilli and I'm awfully sorry I was so hor 



nor- 



Ann Takes Charge 65 

rid this morning. I didn't remember it until Roly 

told me just when But let me show you what 

I've been doing all day." 

" My undying gratitude to whoever washed my 
brush and comb," said Ed, when they sat down to 
dinner, and " Say, who's been sprucing up our 
room? " 

" I did." Ann's tone was meek, but her eyes 
were more than ever like rocking crescent moons. 

" For the love of Mike," Matt exclaimed, seizing 
the dish that Lainey placed on the table, " chili 
sauce! I'm for that! " 

" I would like to ask, Matt," Ed remarked sar- 
donically, watching his brother, " whether you con- 
sider you eat chili sauce on your beans or beans in 
your chili sauce?" But Ed's disgust was palpably 
forced to cover pleasure — as forced as his choler 
later when over the floating island pudding he re- 
marked to Roland, " Why don't you put all four 
paws in the trough? You can get it quicker that 
way." 

" Roly is going to have what's left in the dish," 
said Ann sweetly. " Here it is, Roly. And 
now," she went on in a stately tone, " when you have 
finished, I want you all to gather in the parlor. I 
have something very important to say to you." 

" Now, Ann," Ed asked later, clipping the end of 
his cigar, " what's that proposition you were go- 
ing to put to us? We're ready to hear it. Fire 
away! " 

Ann had apparently prepared her address. It 
flowed from her without hesitation, the instant her 
lips parted. 



66 Ann Takes Charge 

"Well," she said, "it's this. After you'd all 
gone this morning, I went through this house from 
top to bottom into every nook and cranny and hole 
and corner and closet, from the attic to the 
cellar. I tried to look at it as if I was a stranger, 
and I came to the conclusion it was the dustiest, 
coldest, bleakest, most unhome-like place I ever saw 
in my life." 

" Right so far," agreed Ed, lighting his cigar. 
"Go on!" 

" Then I laid down — lay down, I mean — on my 
bed and tried to think why it was so and if it had 
to be so and if there wasn't some way that it could 
be different. I thought for a long time before the 
answer came to me. But when it did come to me, I 
knew I was right." Ann paused. 

II What's the answer, Ann? " Ed asked. % 

" It's for me to leave school and run the house,' 
Ann threw at them. 

Every Ollivant started and all of them, excep 
Roland, protested by word or look or gesture. 

" Can't be done," decided Ed. 

"Why, Ann," added Beckie, "I couldn't hea 
of such a thing. You'll graduate next year and I 
want you to finish your High School course. We've 
all had High School educations at least, although it 
would break poor father's heart if he had thought 
that was all we were going to get." 

II I knew this was what you'd say," Ann went on 
cheerfully. " But it doesn't change me," she con- 
tinued inflexibly. " I know I'm right and I'm going 
to prove it to you. In the first place, I hate school. 
I never did enjoy studying and I loathe all my 
teachers. They are the kind of people I simply 






Ann Takes Charge 67 

can't stand — so old and frumpy and behind the 
times. And Mr. Osborne " 

"Well, Ann," Ed interposed mildly, "if you 
think a man's qualifications for teaching de- 
pend " 

" I know what you're going to say, Ed Ollivant," 
Ann interrupted, " and you needn't say it. I've 
heard it all and it never has convinced me and never 
will. ' Clothes do not make the man,' ' It's not 
what people do but what they are,' ' A man's a man 
for a' that,' ' Kind hearts are more than coronets,' 
and all that old stuff. People make a hit with me by 
the way they look and dress and how up-to-date they 
are. Take Mr. Osborne : if you think a man with 
red eyelids and an Adam's apple and a mustache like 
a walrus, who wears an old frock-coat when cutaways 
are the thing, could ever teach me anything, you 
are entirely mistaken. I simply wouldn't learn from 
him because he never could put it over with me that 
he knew anything." 

" Why, Ann, I never listened to such a " But 

it was obvious that Ed was out of breath, words, 
argument. 

" What's more to the point, my reports are get- 
ting worse and worse," Ann went on still cheerfully. 
" And I don't care. I hate that school, I hate the 
studies and I hate the teachers. Miss Merrick 
warned me the other day that if I didn't improve, I 
would not pass into the Senior Class. I won't im- 
prove, I can tell you that, for I don't want to get 
into the Senior Class; nobody can open my skull and 
put things in it, so you might just as well let me leave 
school now. One reason why I had such a fierce 
grouch this morning at breakfast was because I had 



68 Ann Takes Charge 



I 



a row with that old cat of a Miss Norton yesterday. 
Gee, if I could only go up to school Monday and 
tell her I'm leaving for good, she'd get a fierce sour- 
ball herself, just to think she wouldn't have me to 
blame for everything." 

14 Cut out the muckraking, Ann, and get down to 
cases," Ed commanded. " What's your plan? " 

44 Well," Ann went on eagerly, quieting at once. 
41 1 plan to run the house and to do all the cooking. 
It's too much for Beckie to get up at six o'clock every 
morning and then work all day. She's tired out now 
and I don't know what she'll be before spring. 
And then there's a lot of waste, this way. I think I 
can save enough out of the household money for 
you to pay me what you'd pay a maid." 

" Is that all?" Ed asked sardonically. 

44 No. I thought out a whole lot more. And 
I've come to the conclusion that this house ought to 
be fixed up. It looks like the very old scratch and 
I'm ashamed every time a stranger comes in. Of 
course what I'd like to do is to make it swell and 
high-brow like Mrs. Damon's place — gold paper, 
Japanese prints, and Japanese bric-a-brac. I 
know we can't afford anything like that. But we 
can do loads of things to it that won't cost so very 
much, especially if we do them gradually. I'd like 
to get some new furniture in green wicker, some 
Navajo rugs, and loads of copper and brass. For 
instance, the dining-room ought to be repapered in 
something new and light and modern. I want to 
get rid of that fierce old ark of a black walnut side- 
board and have shelves painted white put up in its 
place. Then gradually, taking the rooms one at a 
time, I want to fix them up in colors — a pink room 






Ann Takes Charge 69 

for me, a blue room for Lainey, a red room for 
Beckie, and blue and green rooms for the boys. I 
think you boys ought to pay for any changes in your 
own rooms, all except Roly, of course. He isn't 
earning money." 

"Well," Beckie broke in, "I agree with all 
you're saying now, Ann. I was thinking, after I got 
to work to-day, how Matt couldn't bring Lory Mack 
here over Sunday because we had no place to enter- 
tain him. And I've decided that it's a pity to use 
that great elegant room of mine for a bedroom — 
just think, it's as big as the parlor. I'm going to 
fix it all over for a sort of a den where the boys 
can take their company and w T hen they don't want 
us girls around. Then I thought I'd go into the 
little garret over the kitchen." 

" No, Beckie, you shan't," Lainey burst in, her 
eyes flaming blue with excitement, " I tell you what 
you do. You take our room and Ann and I will 
go into the attic. I'd love it, Ann, wouldn't you? " 

" Lainey, it would be great! " exclaimed Ann. 
For an instant she lost interest in her major thesis. 
" We can make it sort of bohemian or like a studio 
— unframed things tacked up on the wall. And 
really, being over the kitchen, it's the warmest room 
in the house." 

" Then," Beckie went on, " I'm going to give 
Matt Roly's room, so that Ed can have a room to 
himself. And Roly can come down into the little 
hall bedroom next to my room. You'd like that, 
wouldn't you? " 

" Sure Mike ! " answered Roly. " I'd rather be 
downstairs. It's warmer." 

" Only," Beckie said, " I'm afraid, boys, that den 



70 Ann Takes Charge 

won't be so very pretty, because we haven't any nice 
furniture." 

" Well," remarked Ann, " one thing I'm going to 
do some day is to go through the attic and see i 
there isn't something up there that we can use." 

" Ann," exclaimed Lainey, still shiny-eyed, " won' 
we have fun fixing up our garret? Right away 
can think of a whole lot of things we can do." 

11 We'll call it the Studio," Ann said. u And re 
member all of you to call the * parlor ' the * living- 
room ' — nobody says parlor nowadays. After 
this, you'll come home to a warm house every nigh 
— I don't intend to let the furnace fire go out 
There'll be a fire in the parlor too — I mean living 
room. And also we're going to have a course din 
ner every night — Lainey and I are going to manag 
that. But, listen, I don't care what you say, I'm no 
going back to school Monday. I've quit for good.' 

Beckie's brow wrinkled and Ed's brow creased, 
but beyond Ed's evasive, " Well, we'll see about 
that! " nobody offered remonstrance. 

But undoubtedly Ann felt her triumph surging in 
the atmosphere. Her eyes widened until they 
seemed like patches of gold inlaid on her white skin 
Her teeth made silver glitter in her wide red mouth 

" Well," she said briskly to her sisters, later when 
they trooped upstairs together, " there's one thing 
I've made up my mind to. If there's anything in 
this world I love, it's housework. I adore to sweep 
and I'm wild about dusting, I'm crazy about arrang- 
ing things and I'm mad about setting a table. Some 
people haven't the slightest knack that way — but it 
seems as if it was just born in me. I'm domestic 
by nature, I guess." 



CHAPTER IV 

LAINEY'S GIFT 

u TT'S the very first day of December," said Lainey 
X. Ollivant. M It's not so very cold yet; there's 
quite a little Indian summer left. And yet, already, 
I can taste Christmas and smell it. The air always 
gets so crispy in the holiday season. It feels differ- 
ent too. I guess it's because the spirit of Christmas 
is about." 

Lainey had been walking restlessly about the 
room, darting now and then to the window and once 
secretly opening it to sniff the air. She was very 
different from the every-day, go-to-school, school- 
teacher Lainey; she was more like some small inno- 
cent forest creature who feels within himself the 
first troubled stir of the spring running. White- 
complexioned, dull-eyed, uncharacterized normally; 
at times Lainey was " fey." Which is to say, exalta- 
tions of the spirit swooped on her, lifted her high. 
Even physically, these seizures made her a different 
person. The hair which ordinarily floated about 
her brow now bristled like wire ; her slim drooping 
figure had turned tense ; it quivered and jerked elec- 
trically. 

None of the Ollivants shared her excitement. 
iThe Sunday calm lay over the household. They 
sat about the big, fire-warmed living-room engaged 
in their weekly struggle with the Sunday paper. 

71 



72 Lainey's Gift 

That sprawling octopus had been subjected to the 
usual indignities. Falling upon it first — the proud 
privilege of his seniority — Ed had torn the sporting 
page from its vitals. Matt — heir-apparent to this 
alluring sheet, one impatient eye nailed to Ed's dal 
lyings — managed somehow to read the comic supple- 
ment. Roland — heir-presumptive and visibly lan- 
guishing under the strain of waiting for two brother 
— had sought Lethe in the magazine section. Beckie 
studied recipes on the woman's page ; Ann, gowns in 
the pictorial section. 

" Oh, that reminds me," said Ed. He dropped 
the sporting page. Immediately with the lithe, 
clean pounce of a panther Matt was on it. " How 
about Christmas? I shan't be at home this year. 
I've accepted an invitation to go with a house-party 
down on the Cape." 

14 Same here ! " At the sound of Matt's voice, 
Roland leaped out of his serial; but Matt still 
gripped the sporting page. " Lory Mack asked me 
up to Worcester to spend Christmas with him. 
We're going tramping. I thought as long as 
mother " 

11 Well, isn't it queer that we all got invitations? " 
commented Beckie. " Aunt Margaret is having 
some of Uncle Hi's relatives down from Fitchburg. 
And she wrote if I hadn't anything else to do, I 
might as well come out there. And I thought as 
long as it was the first Christmas after mother's 
death — perhaps it wouldn't seem quite so hard — if 
we took no notice of it." 

" I hate Christmas," Ann said in a sulky tone. 
Discontent always brought out a sulphurous element 
in Ann's beauty. Now the rose-red underlip dragged 



Lainey's Gift 73 

sullenly away from the flashing teeth; the leaf-brown 
lashes pulled the thick lids half over the golden 
eyes. " Talk about the joyous Yuletide. I don't 
see that it differs so much from Thanksgiving and 
that's .the most God-forsaken holiday of the whole 
calendar." 

M Well, Christmas will be much better this year," 
remarked Roland, " if you have hard sauce for 
the pudding instead of that sweetened glue you 
sprung on us last year. And don't forget to order 
the raisins — the way you did at Thanksgiving." 

M Roly," said Ann in an intense voice, and the 
lightning in her eyes almost set her lashes afire, 
" sometimes I think you'll die young — you're so 
spiritual-minded." 

" And I don't want stockings for a Christmas 
present," Roly growled further, ignoring his sister's 
gibe. 

" 1 agree with you there," Ann said with convic- 
tion, " unless they're silk ones. If there's anything 
I hate, it's a useful present. Handkerchiefs ! Un- 
derwear ! Gloves ! My idea of a present is some- 
thing you never could afford to buy yourself. But 
if any one's determined to give me a useful gift, 
please slip me the money and let me select it myself. 
I always know exactly what I want. When other 
people pick things out for me, they get them wrong 
in some important detail; and I always think of it 
when I wear it." 

Lainey contemplated her sister in admiration. 
Lainey was one of those who stare dumbly when 
asked what they want for Christmas. Lainey could 
never think of anything she wanted. Lainey liked 
everything that had ever been given to her. 



74 Lainey's Gift 

" Lainey, l^t's you and I go to the theater Christ 
mas Eve," Ann went on. " I think that's the bes 
way to spend holiday nights." 

But before she answered this, " What sort of a 
Christmas did father and mother have?" Lainey 
asked. She addressed the three older Ollivants 
u I mean when you were children." 

14 Oh, it was wonderful," answered Beckie. A 
far-away look put out the light that continually scin 
tillated in her eyes and then it was to be seen tha 
they were a soft, greeny-brown hazel. " I can re 
member it perfectly. Mother loved Christmas jus 
the way you do, Lainey. She worked fo 
weeks and weeks beforehand, getting every 
thing ready. There was always a tree- 
tremendous big one, it seemed to me — but per 
haps that was because I was so small — just ablaz 
with candles. Father was Santa Claus and, oh 
how handsome he looked and how witty he was, dis 
tributing the presents. People were in gales o 
laughter all the time. That was Christmas mornin 
and only the family and the old, old friends wer 
there — like Auntie Jennison and Uncle Larry anc 
Lila — and Aunt Lottie and Cousin Emlen and th 
Murrays. But the rest of the day they kept ope 
house ; people were coming all day long. Wheneve 
I hear the sound of sleigh-bells, I always think o 
those times because so many people drove up ir 
cutters. Father always mixed a punch and mothei 
made a huge Christmas cake. Christmas dinnei 
was simply gorgeous. How beautiful the tablt 
looked! Do you remember it, Ed? " 

" Yes," Ed answered, " the whole house, for tha 
matter — the parlor was " 



Lainey's Gift 75 

11 The thing I remember," Matt's coppery crest 
— glittering — raised suddenly above the sporting 
page and his sea-blue gaze — gleaming — went straight 
into the past, " is the Christmas pudding. Old Joe 
used to bring it into the room, all blazing up, and 
father made a point of helping everybody while it 
was still burning. I used to think that was the most 
wonderful sight — when I was too little to have 
pudding — to see people eating food that was on 
Sre." 

Lainey's eyes suddenly changed. Lainey's eyes 
were strange; you did not look deep down into 
them; you looked a long way through them; not 
wells but tunnels. Now they seemed to snap from 
their far-away recesses forward to the surface of her 
face; or was it that they filled suddenly with blue 
light? "How beautiful that must have been," 
she breathed dreamily, " like living in a story- 
book!" 

11 Just think," Ann said sulkily, " we never had a 
Christmas tree — Lainey and Roly and me — we 
never had a real Christmas. I wish I could remem- 
ber some of the nice part of the family history. It 
seems like something unreal when I hear you talk 
about it. Mother was sick so long and we had to 
be so quiet that I can't think of Christmas as a holi- 
day — only that you get presents that you don't like 
and want to throw away and give others that you'd 
like yourself but can't afford. But I suppose you 
had such a good time because we were a real family 
then and entertained and did things together. Some- 
how I never feel as if I belonged to a family like 
Edwina or Dottie or Louise." 

" I don't think belonging to a family has anything 



s 



76 Lainey's Gift 

to do with Christmas," Lainey remarked, 
don't know that I believe in families at all. Some 
times I think they're as much of a hindrance as 
help." 

This was typical of Lainey; she was always mak- 
ing strange vague statements — not only vague an< 
strange, but a little mad — which the Ollivants, n< 
comprehending, ignored or ridiculed. And Lainey, 
who seemed equally deficient in humor and in sen 
sitiveness, accepted their valuation of herself; ac 
cepted it with a submissiveness so gentle and so un 
questioning that it went far towards making fo 
those important qualities. 

11 And I don't think that presents have anythin 
to do with it," Lainey went on. " Anyway, I lov 
everything about Christmas — Christmas trees am 
Christmas waits and Christmas puddings. I lov 
Santa Claus and his sleigh and his pack. I lov 
holly and mistletoe. I adore stories about Chrisl 
mas. To this day, I remember one that I rea 
years ago in an old, old Wide Awake called ' Bj 
bouska,' and as for Louise's Christmas in ' Eac 

and All ' And every December of m 

life w Lainey had the air of one who look 

back from high snowy nonagenarian peaks to son 
far-away blossomy valley of youth. " I've rea 
Dickens's ' Christmas Carol,' the essays about Chris - 
mas in Washington Irving's ' Sketch-Book,' and tl 
Christmas chapters in ' Trilby.' I love the sto: 7 
of the shepherds who watched their flocks by nig 
and the wise men and the manger and the chapte 
,about it in ' Ben Hur.' I love to read Philli 
Brooks's poem, ' Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem.' 
gives me a thrill just to say, Noel, and as for ' 'T\* 



Lainey's Gift 77 

the night before Christmas and all through the 
house ' — oh, I think I love it better than Gray's 
'Elegy.'" 

" Well!" Ed exclaimed, " quite a little oration! " 
His voice held its finest satiric note, but his 
eyes showed the puzzled expression that always 
filled them when, in argument, he came to grips with 
Lainey. " For my part, I hate Christmas. It's a 
nuisance and a bore. It's a child's holiday anyway. 
Grown people should cut it out." 

" You're wrong there, Ed," Lainey said pleas- 
antly. She was the only one in the family who 
argued with Ed; the others stood a little in awe of 
him. Having corrected her brother, she' imme- 
diately lost herself in her idea. Her lids came 
down over her eyes so that the lashes made soft 
blurred stars of their blue light. " Christmas is a 
spiritual ideal — I've worked it all out. It's the only 
time in the whole year that we really give ourselves 
up to thoughts of others. If it weren't for Christ- 
mas, I don't believe anybody would ever make a 
present from one year's end to the other. But 
Christmas pulls us up sharp and compels us to be 
unselfish. It's a bother and a trouble — that's why 
everybody hates it — especially men. But we ought 
to be bothered and troubled — especially men. The 
Christmas ideal is to give and receive. The chil- 
dren's Christmas is to receive, the grown people's — 
to give. Only I suppose it isn't necessarily giving 
things." 

Lainey enunciated this philosophy with the same 
dogmatic succinctness with which she would have 
demonstrated a theorem in geometry. The others 
paid no attention to her ; Ed alone continued to listen 



78 Lainey's Gift 

with his smile of satiric amusement, his look oi 
speculative wonder. 

This was the first week in December. Gradual! 
the last sip of the Indian summer honey went out o 
the air; and millions of microscopic ice-crystals too 
its place. The haze melted out of the street vistas 
a sharp clearness filled them. The wind began to 
draw gray cloud curtains over the blue sky, to tie 
glistening frost gossamers over the green earth 
Every day now the tail dropped off the day anc 
pieced itself onto the night. 

Some time during the second week in December 
Lainey remarked casually at dinner, " By the way, 
I've decided that I'm going to have a Christmas 
tree this year — on Christmas Eve." 

" A Christmas tree ! " exclaimed Ed. u A Christ- 
mas tree! Well, of all What a foolishness 

You're not a child any longer, Lainey. Besides 
Beckie and Matt and I are going away for Christ- 



mas." 



" I know," retorted Lainey, "but Ann and Roly 
and I aren't. And we never had a tree." 

" It will be an awful lot of trouble, Lainey,' 
Beckie warned her sister. " You have no idea how 
many things it takes to cover a Christmas tree and 
make it look well. I guess you don't realize how 
expensive it will be." 

11 1 suppose I don't," Lainey agreed meekly. 
11 Still I intend to have one." 

11 1 think it's perfect nonsense, Lainey," com- 
mented Ann. " Lots of the things that you can't 
buy have to be made for a Christmas tree. You 
don't know how much work there is in it." 



Lainey's Gift 79 

11 Probably I don't,' ' said Lainey, " but as I intend 
to do it all myself, what difference does it make? " 

" Anyway," Ann asserted wilfully, " I'm going 
to the theater Christmas Eve, if I go alone." 

" Don't let it leak out, Lainey," Matt cautioned 
his sister, " that you're going to have a tree all by 
yourself or people will think you're nutty." 

" Well," Lainey continued with her soft-voiced, 
inflexible obstinacy, " if there's one thing I never 
bother my head about — it's what people think." 

" Well, don't ask me to help you with it," Roly 
warned her, taking his cue from the others. " I 
never heard of such a footless thing in my life. 
Anyway, I'm going to a show with Dink Hardy that 
night." 

By this time, there were two round pink disks in 
the center of Lainey's white cheeks. M No, Roly," 
she promised, " I won't ask you- to help me — or 
anybody. And you needn't feel obliged — one of 
you — to come to it. But I'm twenty-two years old 
and this is the first time I've earned money of my 
own. I've always wanted a Christmas tree ever 
since I can remember. I'm going to have it this 
year if I have it all alone by myself, and it takes two 
months' salary." Her emotion melted slowly. u I 
do hope," she ended dreamily, " that it's a nice cold 
Christmas." 

This was the second week in December. It was 
a dying world now. The wind had sealed up sun 
and sky, it had riveted down earth and water. 
Above was a gray hardness; below a brown dead- 
ness. Between, in a space hollow as a drum, the 
air lay rigid and frigid. 



80 Lainey's Gift 

One night during the third week, coming in late, 
Lainey sat down at dinner to a plate piled with let- 
ters. 

" What is all that mail about, Lainey? " Ann de- 
manded. " I've been almust crazy with curiosity. 
Once or twice, I nearly opened them. ,, 

Lainey was slitting the envelope flaps with her 
knife. Without answering, she plunged from one 
letter to the other until she had read them all. 
11 Oh, everybody's accepted," she said at last, 
happy lilt in her voice. 

"Who's everybody?" came from Beckie. ** Ac- 
cepted for what? " shot simultaneously from 
Ann. 

" I guess I didn't tell you," Lainey went on gaily. 
" I thought it was going to be a pretty lonesom 
business having a Christmas tree all by myself. So 

I invited Auntie Jennison and Uncle Larry and Lila 
— the three Murrays and Cousin Emlen. And 
they're all coming." 

" Good Lord!" exclaimed Ed, " did you really 
mean that noise about the Christmas tree? I 
thought it was just one of your spells. I haven't 
thought of it from that day to this." 

" They've written such lovely letters," Lainey 
went on, not even noticing this splash of cold water, 

II all about how well they remember when they used 
to come here every year. Lila says she can see the 
Christmas pudding coming in all blazing up and old 
Joe's black face grinning above it. Betsy says she 
recalls particularly how full of green the house was. 
Yesterday I stopped in and invited Aunt Lottie — i 
she was so delighted that she cried." 

" I never heard anything so absurd in my life." 



Lainey's Gift 81 

Beckie's tone was deep with disapproval. " You'll 
have to give them something to eat and you can't any 
more afford it, Lainey." 

But Lainey was not listening. " Oh, I do so hope 
we'll have a snowstorm," she bubbled happily. 
" Christmas won't seem like Christmas unless every- 
thing is white and sparkly." 

This was the third week of December. The sky 
was iron now, the earth lead, the air ice. But 
somewhere in that frozen void, unseen but felt, 
hung a stirring — an unease — a brooding — a striving 
— a discontent. 

The night of the twenty-first the door-bell rang 
just as the Ollivants sat down to dinner. u Oh, 
there it is ! " Lainey exclaimed and jumped, as 
though the bell had pulled her with wires from her 
chair. 

"What is? " Ed questioned. 

" The Christmas tree," Lainey — now halfway 
to the door — threw over her shoulder. She disap- 
peared. 

The Ollivants dropped knives and forks, stared 
at each other. Then, with one impulse, they stam- 
peded to the hall. The door was wide open. 
Lainey was standing in the opening. For an in- 
stant, the clear, cold wind of December roared in. 
Then an amorphous mass of green filled the 
opening. Lainey moved back. " I guess you'll 
have to open the other half of the door," she 
said to somebody outside, " it's a pretty wide 
tree." 

" All right ! " a man's voice answered. A hairy 
hand reached down between the branches, unlatched 



82 Lainey's Gift 

the other half of the door, swung it back. The 
hand withdrew; the amorphous mass of green, as 
though impelled by an invisible force, advanced 
slowly into the house, slanting the pictures, upset- 
ting the hat-rack. A crisp pungent smell mounted 
the breeze, flowed in great waves down the hallway. 

" Right in " Lainey began, turning. " You all 

go straight back to the table," she ordered her fam- 
ily sternly, " this is my tree." 

The Ollivants slunk to their places. But ripplinj 
on ahead of them, filling the hall, filling the dininj 
room, filling the whole house invisible, impalpable, 
but odorous, like a tidal wave from the forest, 
surged 

"Lord, how that takes me back!" Ed com 
mented in a low tone. He drew a deep lungfi 
of air. " Fifteen years, all right." 

" I used to catch the smell of the tree," Ma 
said excitedly, " the instant mother opened the nurs 
ery door and said we could go down. Do you 
remember how wild we used to get that last fifteen 
minutes?" 

" I guess I do! " exclaimed Beckie. " And when 
I first looked at the tree — one blaze of candles 
from top to bottom — I used to feel — as if — I used 

to think that — as though " She stopped short. 

Beckie possessed her kind of articulateness ; crisp, 
terse, forthright it was shot and illuminated with a 
brilliant mother-wit. But now, apparently, her self- 
analysis required terms too deft and subtle for her 
vocabulary. " I felt as if the house was under a 
magic spell — as if there was a ghost here — or an 
angel — or a fairy." 

" Oh, I do wish I could go in there ! " exclaimec 






Lainey's Gift 83 

5\nn, and she almost whimpered. " I think it's 
mean of Lainey. I wonder where they're put- 
ting it. Can you guess, Roly?" 

" In the big window, I think," Roland said, listen- 
ing attentively. 

Involuntarily all the Ollivants listened. Sound 
came from the other room, many sounds, different 
sounds — but muted, but muffled — smothered shuf- 
flings as of branches brushing carpets, crackly 
scratchings as of twig-tips clutching walls, musical 
tinklings as of fir-needles tapping glass — a man's 
hoarse voice, lowered, " Yes, there's the place, lady. 
But you'll have to make a stand for it — just whittle 

a hole in a soap-box " Lainey's voice, breathy, 

eager, " Yes, it's lovely there. I spent two hours 
looking at Christmas trees this afternoon and this 
was the most beautiful one I could find. I wanted 
one that was — — " 

After a while, the front door closed; Lainey re- 
turned ; the Ollivants fell, with convulsive unanimity, 
on their food. Lainey said nothing and, after a 
while, they conversed of other things. 

" Say, Lainey," Roland offered after the others 
had gone, " if you want me to make a stand for your 
tree I can do it easily. I've got some old boards 
in the cellar. And say, Lainey, I'm coming to your 
tree. Dink Hardy says his mother wants him to 
stay at home Christmas Eve." 

11 I'm awfully glad, Roly," Lainey replied. " Yes, 
it would be a great help if you would make the 
stand." 

This was the twenty-first. On the afternoon of 
the twenty-second, when Lainey returned from 



84 Lainey's Gift 

teaching, Ann, who had obviously been waiting for 
her, opened the door before Lainey could get her 
key out. " Come right out into the kitchen," she 
commanded. " I've got a surprise for you." Her 
cheeks flaming with what was undue bloom even for 
them, Ann marched straight ahead. " There ! " she 
exclaimed triumphantly, pointing. 

" Oh, Ann ! " exclaimed Lainey. " You ducky 
darling! That's the greatest help. I did so want 
them, and yet I couldn't see where I was going 
to find the time. I did think of hiring somebody. 
Wasn't it awfully hot work? " 

11 Well," said Ann, " the cranberries strung up 
fast enough. But I bet my right arm will be out 
of commission to-morrow from shaking that corn- 
popper, and I think I actually got sunburned from 
bending over the fire. But somehow — it's the 
queerest thing — you don't mind hard work when 
it's for Christmas. And Lainey dear, of course I'm 
coming to your tree. That was all nonsense about 
my going to the theater. I wouldn't leave you for 
anything. And besides I think it will be great fun 
having a party of our very own. Just think, we've 
never had one." 

That night, after the others had dispersed to 
their various engagements, Matt came pussy-foot- 
ing into Lainey's room. He was carrying a big, 
white paper bundle; he placed it on the bed. 
" Lainey," he began eagerly, after he had closed 
and locked the door, " I got something for your 
Christmas tree to-day. It's the one thing I par- 
ticularly remember about — Mother always used to 
have one hanging from the top of the tree. I 
guess I went to a dozen places, and where do you 






Lainey's Gift 85 

suppose I finally found it? In a little dago joint 
at the North End." 

Lainey was doing her hair; she dropped her 
brush, came over to the bed. Matt carefully untied 
the bundle. It was wrapped first in brown paper, 
then in tissue, then in excelsior; but there finally 
plumped out — 

" Isn't that a dandy?" demanded Matt. 

" Matt," Lainey said ecstatically, and with an 
unaccustomed use of slang, " it's a corker ! And 
isn't it darling-looking? It's a brunette." 

" I suppose that's because it's a ginney," ex- 
plained Matt. 

A little silence fell. Lainey resumed her place at 
the glass; her brush swished back and forth over 
her hair, mowing it flat. As fast as it passed from 
her brow, however, her filmy halo immediately flut- 
tered up, dropped its golden shadow onto her little 
face. Matt watched her, shuffled, wet his lips, 
swallowed, turned towards the door, said: 

" Oh, by the way, Lainey, I'm awfully sorry I 
can't be home for the Christmas tree. If I'd have 
known in time, I wouldn't have made that engage- 
ment." 

" I'm sorry too, Matt," said Lainey. 

This was the twenty-second. The morning of the 
twenty-third, Beckie came into Lainey's room. She 
held a pasteboard box in her hand. It was early; 
Lainey was still in bed; Beckie still wore nightgown 
and bed shoes. Downstairs, Ann wrestled with the 
stove. " Say, Lainey," Beckie began in a low 
voice, slipping into bed beside her sister, " I've got 
something to say to you I don't want Ann to 



86 Lainey's Gift 

hear. To-day I bought something for your tree. 
Mother used to have them on hers. Where she 
got them I don't know. IVe never seen them any- 
where else. I remember them perfectly well be- 
cause when I was a teeny-weeny tot, I was always 
trying to, get at them. I did manage to pull one 
off once and they yanked it away from me just 
as I was starting to bite it. Well, I got the idea 
into my head to-day that I wanted to get some for 
your tree. I traipsed way downtown and spent 
my entire noon-hour hunting for them. And where 
do you suppose I finally found them — in that little 
queer toy-shop kept by the German round the 
corner from Dr. Pierson's office — you remember, 
I took you in there one day." She lifted the cover 
from the box. 

" Oh, Beckie! " said Lainey, " aren't they lovely f 
I never saw anything so beautiful ! " 

11 You hang them," Beckie's enthusiasm still 
flowed fluently, " from the very tips of the 
branches. " You can't imagine how they glisten 
and glitter — they look exactly like ice. And, Lainey, 
I can't tell you how sorry I am that I can't be at 
your tree — but you see — I sort of feel obliged — 
I accepted Aunt Margaret's invitation — and she's 

such a queer lonely old thing " Beckie finally 

got to the end of her stumbles. 

" I'm sorry too, Beckie," Lainey said. 

When Lainey came down into the dining-room 
that morning, she found Ed, unwontedly early, ex- 
amining his paper. Ann was still staving vigor- 
ously about the kitchen. 

"Why, Ed!" she exclaimed. " How'd you 
happen " 



Lainey's Gift 87 

Ed's finger went to his lips. " I just wanted to 
tell you, Lainey," he said in a low tone, " that I 

left an order yesterday " The kitchen door 

opened; Ed's voice lowered automatically — "I'll 
tell you what mother used to do with it. She put 

bunches " The kitchen door shut; Ed's voice 

automatically rose. " — I left word that it was to 
be delivered to-day sometime between four and 
five, when I knew you would be here and could take 
care of it." 

" Oh, Ed! Thank you so much," exclaimed 
Lainey. 

" I'm sorry that I made that week-end en- 
gagement," Ed went on, and for the instant Ed stag- 
gered verbally — suave, controlled, self-possessed 
Ed — " or else I'd sure come to your tree." 

" I'm sorry too," Lainey said. 

" It looks as if you were going to have the snow 
you wanted," Ed proceeded, smoothly changing the 
subject as Ann entered. " Old Prob prophesies 
falling temperature and heavy storms." 

This was the twenty-second. That night the un- 
ease in the air exploded. The twenty-third broke in 
a whirl of white. " This will be a one-session day 
all right," exclaimed Lainey joyously, as she looked 
out the window. " I'm so glad. That will give me 
the whole afternoon to work on the tree." 

It snowed all that night. It continued to snow all 
the next day. At noon the storm ceased. When 
Lainey returned, it was to a house swathed in white, 
the roof smoothly piled, the sides symmetrically 
beveled, to a yard filled with cotton-wool bushes and 
trees. The sharp hard wind had silvered and crys- 



88 Lainey's Gift 

tailed and diamonded the snow; it had changed the 
iron sky to a sheet of polished steel; it had filled 
the air with frozen flame. 

"Can't I help trim the tree, Lainey?" Ann 
entreated. 

"No," said Lainey inexorably; " until it's fin- 
ished, nobody's going to see that tree but me." 

And so, boxes and bundles in her arms, boxes an< 
bundles dangling from her fingers, boxes and bundh 
hanging from all over her, Lainey shut herself int( 
the living-room and, though Ann sulked and R0I3 
languished, spent the rest of the afternoon solitary 
her task. 

At eight o'clock that night, Ann and Lainey, ai 
rayed in their makeshift evening-dresses, Ann wil 
a coronet of holly in her brown hair, Lainey with 
spray of mistletoe at her white neck, awaited theii 
guests. Roland — even now his boy's taste balance< 
delicately between Ed's correct elegance and Matt' 
flamboyant picturesqueness — wore his best suit, hi 
freshest tie. Lainey sat still as a statue ; at interval* 
her little rocker gave a convulsive quiver; but Ai 
and Roland almost rattled with restlessness. 

" I don't think anybody's coming," Ann burst 01 
at last, striking the lowest note of pessimism. 

" Well, Ann," Lainey answered, a hysteric ril 
in her voice betraying frazzled nerves, " gr 
them time. I told them the tree would be a 
nine." 

" One hour more," Ann groaned. " This is th 
worst about having company — waiting for them t 
come." 

" What time do you want the ice-cream served? 
Rolarfd asked. 



Lainey's Gift 89 

"About eleven," answered Lainey. "There, 
there's the bell." 

" I bet it's Aunt Lot," said Ann, brightening. 

" I don't think so," answered Lainey. " It's too 
early." She ran to the door. 

14 An unexpected guest," she announced, return- 
ing, stars forming in the depths of her eyes. She 
stood aside to usher in — 

44 Beckie Ollivant! " Ann exclaimed. 

14 1 got as far as Watertown," Beckie explained 
volubly. u And there — All the week, I've been 
feeling that I didn't want to go to Aunt Margaret's 
and leave you children all alone here. Still, I didn't 
want to disappoint Aunt Margaret. But when I 
got into the Watertown car, it all came over me. 
Here was Aunt Margaret with plenty of money 
and entertaining a half-dozen of Uncle Hi's rela- 
tions. What did they care about me or me about 
them? So I just hopped out of the car at the 
transfer-station, called Aunt Margaret up on the 
'phone, and explained how you three would be all 
alone and — She said, of course, to go right home 
and here I am. You needn't do anything about 

those " she added mysteriously, addressing 

Ann. " I mean what's in my closet. I'll attend to 
them myself." 

"Lainey said the tree would be at nine," Ann 
greeted Beckie's gift-laden return from upstairs. 
44 1 tell her that was too late. I feel as though I'd 
been waiting ever since noon." 

44 Well, of course Vm glad she put it late," 
Beckie said with emphasis, handing her bundles to 
Lainey. "There, there's the bell! They've come, 
I guess." 



90 Lainey's Gift 

Again Lainey flew to the door. 

" Another unexpected guest," she announced, tf 
turning. The stars in her eyes were pricking 
through their irises. She stood aside to usher in 

" Matt! M the others called in chorus. 

11 Where did you come from? " Beckie exclaime 
" When I cajled you up at six, you were starting f 
Worcester. Didn't you go?" 

11 Part way," Matt confessed. " But at the last 
moment, Lory decided to give up that walking-tri 
— and — I didn't want to sit round for two da 
with Lory's folks. Still, I suppose I'd have ke 
the engagement — but just beyond Natick we got 
stalled for half an hour — snow on the track. I got 
so sick of waiting that I just got out and cut across 
to the trolley. That was about seven. I've been 
all this time getting here." 

" Well, I'm so glad you're here, Matt," approvec 
Beckie. " Now, if only Ed— What time is it? " 

11 Quarter to nine," said Lainey. " Oh, her 
comes Auntie Jennison. I can hear her voice." 

Fifteen minutes later, they were all assembled 
Auntie Jennison, little, silver-haired, strung or 
wires, with tiny, clearly-shining gray eyes set in « 
face like carved ivory; Uncle Larry, snowy-haired 
rosy-faced, bluff, hearty; Lila — Beckie's age — wit! 
some of her father's comfortable comeliness an< 
her mother's enduring spirit; the Murrays — als> 
Beckie's age — beautiful, debonair, golden-blond 
Betsy; dark, quiet, strong-featured Martha; silen' 
unassertive, pepper-and-salt Bob; slim-waisted, slin 
wristed, slim-ankled Aunt Lottie, brisk and viv; 
cious; tall, grizzled Cousin Emlen, soldierly an 1 



LSt 

i 



Lainey's Gift 91 

impassive. They sat with their laps heaped high 
with packages. 

" Now," said Lainey, u it's just nine o'clock. 
We'll go into the living-room at once." Her hand 
went to the seam of the folding-door, faltered in- 
explicably there an instant. 

14 Why, there's the bell again ! " exclaimed Beckie. 
44 Who can that be?" 

Lainey flew to the door. She returned, the stars 
set in dewdrops hanging from the tips of her 
lashes; ushered in — calm, handsome, immaculately- 
elegant in his evening-clothes — 

44 Ed! " everybody exclaimed. 

44 1 got out of my week-end engagement at the 
last moment," Ed explained from the midst of the 
women, who immediately swarmed about him. His 
words came in spurts, jounced from his lips by vio- 
lent huggings. 44 — to start to-morrow — train — ex- 
pected taken off — stayed to dinner — saw them off — 
North Station — Did you bring down — bottom — 
closet— Ann? All right." 

Now the doors, moving at Lainey's touch, parted 
slowly, slid into the walls. And suddenly they were 
looking into the heart of the holiday. Christmas 
green garlanded the woodwork, framed the pic- 
tures, looped from the chandelier to the ceiling. 
Directly in front, the tree filled the big window. 
Over it, like a spray thrown from a fountain, hung 
the Christmas mist of silver and gold. About it 
wound strings of cranberries and popcorn. On 
every spot that offered coign of vantage glistened 
and glimmered, or glittered and gleamed, or 
sparkled and shone, or shimmered and sheened, a 



92 Lainey's Gift 

rainbow toy. From its top, very pink-tinted as t( 
plump plaster body, very expansive as to blue-and- 
gilt wings, very brunette as to black-painted hair, 
swung a Christmas angel. At its foot, bunche< 
masses of crimson-berried holly and white-berriei 
mistletoe. From every branch-tip dropped long, thin, 
glass icicles. ♦ 

"Lainey!" Beckie exclaimed, " where did yoi 
get that angel? Mother always had one — only hen 
was blonde." 

And— 

" Lainey! " Ed exclaimed. " Are those the same 
glass icicles that mother used to have on her tree 
Where have they been all these years? Remembei 
the time you tried to bite one, Beckie? " 

And— 

" Lainey ! " Matt exclaimed. " How did yoi 
know that mother always put holly and mistletoe 
round the bottom of her tree? " 

11 It's time to begin," Lainey said importantly, 
answering no one of them. " Ed, you are to b< 
Santa Claus." 

An hour later, they sat in separate nests of con- 
fusion; heavy brown wrapping paper, thin browi 
wrapping paper, thinner white wrapping paper, 
thinnest white tissue paper, wooden boxes, cardboard 
boxes, cotton-wool, excelsior, string, cord, ribbon, 
rope. Everybody was saying, M Oh, look at this ! 
Isn't it lovely? " And nobody was looking or listen- 
ing. Everybody was trying to thank everybody else 
and nobody was succeeding. Everybody was play- 
ing with the grotesque toys, of which Matt was the 
donor, or adorning himself with the Brobdingnagiar 



Lainey's Gift 93 

brummagem jewelry, of which Ed had apparently 
bought a job lot. 

"Well, Ed," Auntie Jennison said, withdrawing 
with Aunt Lottie from the racket, " I can't tell you 
how glad I am that you children decided to have 
this tree. For years, life has been pretty hard 
on you. But you're all grown up now, and you're 
going to pull out of it. But you'll get away much 
quicker by pulling together than pulling separately. 
A party like this makes you feel as though you 
were a family again. Don't you think so, Lottie? " 

" It's exactly what I've been saying," Aunt Lottie 
agreed eagerly. " Nothing would delight their 
mother more. It's just as if the old days had come 
back. Why, I suppose I've been to a dozen Christ- 
mas trees in this very room. Don't you remember 
how Jennie used to decorate her father's and 
mother's pictures? How little she thought that 
some day these children would be decorating hers! " 

They looked in silence for a instant at Mrs. 
Ollivant's portrait. Robustly slim, richly blonde, 
sweetness and ardor dwelt in her misty blue eyes, 
humor and firmness in her curved pink lips. She 
smiled back at her two old friends from the frame 
of evergreen that inclosed her. 

" Lord, what a gay creature she was ! " Auntie 
Jennison exclaimed. 

" I've never seen her like," Aunt Lottie answered 
simply. " Ann's most like her. Sometimes there'll 
be tones in her voice or a sudden motion — land, 
how it takes me back ! " 

" Lainey's most like her father," Aunt Jennison 
added. " Lainey and you, Ed. It's queer, too, when 
you're both blondes." 



94 Lainey's Gift 

They looked at Mr. Ollivant's picture. Olive 
skinned, jet-haired, gray-eyed, he surveyed the 
with his keen, amused glance. 

" Beckie looks like him too," Aunt Jennison con 
eluded. 

" Oh yes. Beckie favors the Ollivants and 
Roly," Aunt Lottie added, " but somehow you and 
Lainey, Ed, are more like him. My land, what 
a host he was. He could make a success of an 
party." 

" Matt's the odd one," Auntie Jennison com 
mented, " but he's more like Jen's folks than you 
father's." > 

Unconscious, apparently, of the excitement swirl- 
ing about her, Lainey had spent the whole hour 
hovering about the tree, attending it as though it 
were a bride. Now she stood still, dreamily look- 
ing up at the plaster angel. 

Ed had collected her presents as fast as he came 
across them. Now he spread them out in a big box 
cover, crossed the room to Lainey's side. 

" Your gifts, Mademoiselle Noel," he said. 

Lainey looked vaguely down. The box-covei 
offered every high-colored allurement of Christmas 
mystery; boxes, most of them, and obviously jew- 
eler's some ; all wrapped with bright-colored Christ- 
mas paper, tied with lustrous Christmas ribbon, fas- 
tened with gay-hued Christmas seals, decorated with 
red-berried Christmas sprigs. Then she looked up 
again. Twin Christmas trees — tiny — lay reflected 
in her eyes. 

" Ed," Lainey said, meeting her brother's com- 
prehending look, " I really don't deserve any 
Christmas gifts. I've had mine." 



CHAPTER V 

ROLAND'S FRIEND 

"QAY, Beck," said Roland Ollivant with an al- 
lj most too careful display of carelessness, " can 
I bring a friend of mine here to Sunday dinner — a 
girl?" 

Roland watched Beckie as, with quick dashing 
clutches, she picked the glasses from the hot dish- 
water. He stood, one hand on the door-knob, 
superficially degage but visibly poised for flight. 
He wore his other suit, which meant that he was 
going out; and he wore his most debonair aspect, 
which meant that the affair was important. Al- 
though he was the youngest of the family, his 
swart coloring made him seem older than Lainey, 
and Lainey was older than Ann. He was as pic- 
turesque as Ann, but there was an alien Latin olive 
quality to his coloring. Ann was not olive, she was 
brown; and she looked like an American. 

"What's her name?" Beckie inquired before 
she answered. She stopped now, the dish-mop 
poised in one hand, the soap-shaker in the other, 
and stared through the rising steam at her brother. 
Beckie, who knew that Ann had a fastidious dis- 
taste to putting her hands in hot water, had insisted 
on washing the dishes herself. She had, however, 
brought the pan onto the bared dining-room table. 
She wore the long enveloping apron and the white 

95 



96 Roland's Friend 

sweeping cap that with her always predicted house- 
work. Ann and Lainey stood with drying towels 
in their hands, Ann trim, erect, yet softly curved 
under her crisply-starched white middy suit; Lainey 
in a muslin that hung limp and crushed over the 
right angles of her little figure. They stared at 
Roland too. 

11 Barton," Roland answered nonchalantly, "Bird 
Barton." 

" Bird! " Beckie repeated. " What a name ! " 

14 It's a nickname/' Roland interposed quickly, 
" her real name's Gertrude." 

" Where'd you meet her?" Beckie went on, drop- 
ping the soap-shaker into the water and frothing 
up a whirlpool of suds. 

" Oh — out somewhere," Roland answered 
vaguely. 

" Where does she live? " 

" In Boston — but she's not been here very long. 
She's a New York girl." 

" Yes — of course you can," Beckie answered at 
last, inserting the dish-mop under the silver and 
making with it a brisk clatter. 

"New York!" Ann repeated simultaneously. 
"What kind of a looking girl is she?" she de- 
manded with interest. 

" Oh, she's a peach looker all right — a pippin," 
Roland answered promptly and enthusiastically. 

" Blonde or brunette?" Ann continued to probe. 

11 Gee, I don't know, I never noticed." 

11 If that isn't just like you, Roly Ollivant," Ann 
said in despair, " not to notice whether a girl's a 
blonde or a brunette ! Are her eyes blue or brown 
or black? " 



Roland's Friend 97 

" Search me," Roland answered hopelessly, after 
a visible plunge into memory. " Like Lainey's, I 
think. What color are yours, Lainey?" 

"Pink!" Ann answered scathingly. "How old 
is she ? " she went on in the same relentless tone. 

Roland shifted from one foot to the other. " Oh, 
about eighteen, I guess." 

" That means she's twenty-three at least," Ann 
decided. 

"What does she do?" Lainey, soft-voiced, pur- 
sued the investigation. 

M Don't know," Roland answered, " never asked 
her. She's a smart girl all right. Knows an awful 
lot. Talks high-brow stuff sometimes. And Lord, 
the books she's read." 

" I think she must be very interesting," Lainey 
said with conviction. 

u I'm going to see her to-night," Roland went 
on. " I'll invite her." 

11 Well, she's a queer kind of a girl, Roly, if she'd 
come on your invitation," Ann remarked in a supe- 
rior tone. "Wait, I'll write her a note." 

Ann dropped her dish-towel, ran over to the 
big old desk in the living-room. She drew from 
one pigeonhole a huge sheet of yellow paper, peb- 
bled like a thin layer of granite, a green monogram 
in the lower right-hand corner; drew from another 
a massive square envelope with a green monogram 
in the upper left-hand corner, plucked from one 
drawer her special stub pen, from another her green 
ink, from another her sealing-wax paraphernalia. 
She wrote swiftly in a big broad-stroked hand which, 
with a superficial effect of clearness, was almost 
illegible. "There," she said at last in a tone of 



98 Roland's Friend 

satisfaction, " I'll read it. * My dear Miss Barton 
My sisters and I will be delighted if you will dine 
informally with us Sunday the eighteenth. Dinner 
is served at two o'clock. Very sincerely yours, Ann 
Ollivant.' How's that?" 

" Just right," Lainey approved. 

" I like that informally," Ann said. " It sounds 
so swell — as if sometimes we gave formal dinners. 
Oh, how I adore anything formal. I'd just love to 
give a formal function some time, wouldn't you, 
Beck?" 

" No," said Beckie with instant decision, " I'd 
hate it; I wouldn't have a good time." 

11 Well, you're not supposed to have a good time 
at a formal function," Ann said impatiently. " You'd 
like to give formal things, wouldn't you, Lainey?" 
Ann looked pleadingly at her sister for sympathy 
with this high social ideal. 

14 Well, I'd be a little scared, I think," Lainey 
answered weakly. 

" Nothing of a social nature would ever scare 
me," Ann said in a superior tone. "Where does 
she live, Roly?" She folded the massive sheet, 
slipped it into the massive envelope, rummaged in 
the desk for the one-cent stamps, whose green went 
better with her yellow paper than the two-cent red, 
addressed it at her brother's dictation, scorning ab- 
breviation even to Massachusetts, sealed it with a 
fat green seal on the rectangular envelope flap. 
" There, now I guess she'll know we're nice people," 
she said with satisfaction, handing it to her brother. 
11 Mail it at once, Roly. Don't wait until it gets 
all dirty and smells of cigarettes. I'm dying to see 
what Roly calls a pippin," she announced gaily 



Roland's Friend 99 

when the front door closed. " I bet she's a scream. 
Men have such funny ideas of what's a pretty 
girl." 

" Roly has very good taste, though, in other 
things," Lainey said. " I've often noticed it." 

" Yes," Ann conceded, " I really like his ties much 
better than Ed's or Matt's. I always borrow from 
Roly." 

On Sunday she was far and away the most ex- 
cited of the three girls. She dusted the living-room 
carefully, rearranging the furniture for the third 
time since she had taken charge of the house. She 
brought out the few family treasures of china and 
silver for the dining-room. She dressed with par- 
ticular care as to green silk stockings and mani- 
cured nails. She did her hair in three new ways, 
but reverted finally to her favorite fashion; a 
braided knob, glossy as a bunch of grapes, mound- 
ing behind each shell-pink ear, a scalloping claw, 
filmy as a burnished shadow, clutching each peach- 
blow cheek. She did not actually station herself at 
the window, but she kept casting furtive glances up 
the empty, brightly-silent Sunday street. When 
the door-bell finally pealed a quick vigorous signal, 
she held Roland back for a proper interval. And, 
" How do you do, Miss Barton?" she said in a 
formal tone when finally, Roland at her elbow, she 
opened the door. 

u How do you do? " came to Beckie and Lainey in 
a voice quite as formal as Ann's. It was a cool, 
clear, silvery-white voice. Indeed, in contrast, it 
gave Ann's notes an effect of a deep color, of a rich 
duskiness, of a soft warmth. " Oh, how do you do, 
Roland," it went on, "now which sister is this? 



ioo Roland's Friend 

Ann? I thought so, although you don't look the 
least bit the way I expected you to. You never told 
me she was so pretty," she reproached Roland. 

" Well, Roly told me just exactly how pretty you 
were," Ann replied with an unexpected touch of 
gallantry. 

"Oh, did he?" The clear voice broke into 
clearer laughter. " I bet he couldn't tell you what 
color my eyes were." The light tones continued to 
weave in and out of Ann's fuller ones: " Oh, 
Roly's the youngest!" "He's only sixteen!" 
14 Good heaven. I knew he was young but — isn't he 
an amusing kid? " Both voices floated out of hear- 
ing upstairs. All Beckie and Lainey got was a 
glimpse of a slim black pony-coat and a little black 
pony-cap. 

Roland returned to the living-room, fidgeted, sat 
down, fidgeted, got up, fidgeted, lay on the couch, 
fidgeted, arose, fidgeted. After a long interval, 
the two girls descended the stairs. Ann introduced 
their guest. 

" It's very nice of you," Miss Barton said with 
composure, addressing herself to Beckie, " to invite 
me over here to-day. I haven't been in Boston so 
very long and this is the first real meal I've had in 
anybody's house. You do get so tired of boarding- 
houses and restaurants." 

" I should think you would," Beckie said mechan- 
ically. 

And, " You must come to see us often," Lainey 
mechanically reinforced her. 

" Thank you." Coolly Miss Barton looked about 
the living-room. " Isn't this charming? This is 
exactly my idea of a Boston household. It looks 



Rolapcfs Friiervd; 101 

like an illustration for a magazine story of New- 
England. I feel as if I had jumped into ' Little 
Women.' " Her eyes flashed from detail to detail. 
" Nice old furniture ! Dickens and Thackeray and 
Scott in faded old-fashioned sets! A Landseer, a 
picture of Scott, a picture of Washington ! And old 
family portraits! " She stopped in front of one of 
them. 

" That's my great-uncle, General Milliken," Ann 
said in a tone which, in vain, she tried to render 
casual. 

u Curious ! " their visitor murmured, as if to her- 
self. " Generals and admirals all look alike — at 
least they always have that same air. I have al- 
ways wondered if it's the expression of greatness 

or " She pulled herself up and went on. " I 

can't tell you how I have enjoyed the thought of 
seeing a real Boston household. You get so tired 
of boarding-house furniture." 

" I should think you would," Beckie echoed her- 
self mechanically. 

And, " You must come to see us often," again 
Lainey mechanically reinforced her. 

" Thank you. Boston is an awfully dead little 
town, isn't it? Absolutely nothing doing evenings, is 
there? Of course, there's the theatre, but I saw all 
the shows that are here now last winter in New 
York. What do you do evenings? Go to Night 
School? It's really a very lonely city for a stranger 
to come to." 

" Yes, I should think it would be," Beckie me- 
chanically repeated. 

And, " You must come to see us often," Lainey 
mechanically reiterated. 



102 Round's Friend 

It was quite apparent, though, that neither of the 
girls knew what she was saying. Ann tried to cove] 
their abstraction by rushing in with many contemptu- 
ous general statements about the New York thai 
she had never seen and secretly burned to know. 
And while she talked, the others looked their fill 
at Miss Bird Barton. 

Miss Barton was as slenderly figured and as 
daintily featured as though she had been cut from 
alabaster with a penknife. A reposeful classicism 
of contour was shot by a perturbing piquancy of ex- 
pression. In repose, she might have been a face 01 
a Greek coin, in laughter on a French poster; so 
perfect was her combination of straight incisive 
lines and soft vanishing dimples. Her hair hung like 
a cloud of smoke about her face. Her long blacl 
lashes curled away from her gray eyes in such man- 
ner as to push her starry gaze forward. Her flex- 
ible lips curved up from her little teeth in such man- 
ner as to set her smile deep. Light played in an< 
out of her dimples, ran under and over her eye- 
lashes, flashed back and forth from teeth to lips. 
With this combination a very white skin and vei 
red lips seemed necessary; Miss Barton's skin was 
strangely white, her lips strikingly red. 

After some preliminary greetings she paid no 
more attention to Roland than as though he had 
not been in the room. But she continued to do much 
of the talking. First she discussed New York and 
Boston with Ann, laughing at Ann's stringent asper- 
sions of the metropolis but not bothering to contra- 
dict them. Then she discussed books with Lainey. 
who lived mentally in a misty world of fiction anc 
poetry. Next she discussed chafing-dish recipe; 



Roland's Friend 103 

with Beckie, who had the born cook's interest in 
food combinations. Just before dinner, Matt came 
in and, though obviously dumfounded at the sight 
of her, managed to acknowledge the introduction. 
She discussed football, baseball, automobiles, and 
flying-machines with Matt. 

But all through this impersonal chatter her com- 
ment returned again and again to the house and its 
furnishings. She commented on the Sheraton desk, 
their great treasure, the roomy shabby old-fashioned 
davenport, the shelves painted white which, in the 
dining-room, had taken the place of the old black 
walnut sideboard, the blue Canton plates which were 
all that were left of Mrs. Ollivant's wedding china, 
the beautiful old knives and forks with their silver 
blades and pearl handles which were all that were 
left of her silver. And again and again her look 
came in interested question to the severe expres- 
sion of General Milliken. 

After dinner, she continued to hold the conversa- 
tional reins, but her talk grew a little more auto- 
biographical. In New York, she had done many 
things. She had been manicure-girl in a smart Fifth 
Avenue beauty-parlor and telephone-girl in a smart 
Fifth Avenue hotel. Then she had given up both 
these positions because she did not like them. Then 
she had taken the maid's part in a Broadway pro- 
duction; she had worked as a reporter on a news- 
paper. She had lost both these jobs because she 
failed to make good. Then, for a while, she had 

i posed for a group of illustrators. She had aban- 
doned this occupation, for reasons she did not state. 

i She had come to Boston on impulse. Here her con- 

! fidences ceased. 



104 Roland's Friend 

Other details came out. Lainey complimente< 
her on her simple black gown with its edging oi 
fur — she had made it, dyeing herself an old white 
china silk. Ann spoke of her piquant little fur ca] 
— she had made that, cutting the material from hei 
pony-coat which at first was too long. Beckie spok< 
of a little, woven, bead watch-chain — she had mad( 
that also, crocheting it from some beads her mothei 
had left her. 

When Beckie asked her about her manicure an< 
telephone work, she said it was often interestinj 
but not always pleasant. When Ann asked hei 
about the stage, she said that it was always pleasant 
but not always interesting. When Lainey asked hei 
about newspaper-men, she said that they were gooc 
scouts, but all drunks; when Matt asked her about 
illustrators, she said they were good Indians, but 
all crazy. 

" My eye ! " she exclaimed suddenly. " You've 
given me such a good time that I'd almost forgot- 
ten my deadly habit." She opened the little bag 
that hung at her side, fished leisurely in the bottom, 
brought out a cigarette. "A light, please," she 
said to the astounded Matt. And while Matt 
searched wildly for a match, she fished deeper ir 
the bag. She brought out first a tiny mirror whicl 
she propped up on the table, brought out next : 
diminutive powder-puff, with which measurably sh 
increased that white tone which her type demanded 
brought out last a slender lip-stick with which mea? 
urably she increased the contrasting red which 
also required. 

" I had the hardest time getting the right li 
salve," she said casually, still staring into the tir 



Roland's Friend 105 

mirror. " Have you ever noticed that most of them 
make your teeth look yellow? I guess I sampled 
fifty-seven varieties before I found this." She lifted 
her mouth for their inspection, flashed a smile of 
pearl from its lake of crimson. But before either 
of the girls could speak, Matt rasped a match 
alight, held it down to her; she drew in a long 
breath, blew out the match with the exhalation. It 
was on this picture that Ed came when he opened 
the door — an Ed frock-coated, silken-hatted, 
gloved and carrying a stick, returning from a round 
of Sunday afternoon calls. 

When Roland returned from seeing Miss Barton 
home, the girls had gone to bed; but Ed was reading 
in the living-room. 

11 Come in here a moment, Roly," Ed called 
curtly. " I want to speak to you. Shut the door! " 
he added. And as Roland, obeying him, turned 
a surprised face in his direction, Ed continued. 
" For Heaven's sake what do you mean by bringing 
that girl home ? Where'd you pick her up ? Don't 
you know a chip when you see one? Don't you 
realize the difference between the girls you can know 
on the outside and those you introduce to your 
sisters?" 

It was as though he had struck Roland successive 
blows on an undefended face; the look of resent- 
ment that came into it was dark, like a bruise. 
"What do you mean — chip?" he demanded. 
" She isn't a chip. She's as nice a girl as I ever met 
— and a damn smart one." 

M Oh yes," Ed coincided sarcastically, " painted 
and powdered and smoking cigarettes — actorine, 



io6 Roland's Friend 

model, hello-girl, manicure — What the deuce is she 
doing now for a living? You'll tell me next she's 
got a rich uncle somewhere who gives her an allow- 
ance. Roland, you don't know enough to come in 
when it rains. Now, until you cut your eye teeth, 
don't bring any more girls home ! Play round with 
them as much as you want, but keep them where 
they belong. I'll see that this one doesn't come here 
again. But she won't want to. She knew I got her 
number when I asked her those hundred-odd ques- 
tions." 

All Roly's sixteen-year-old pride flared in his 
heavy blush. He emitted a low growl, half defi- 
ance, half embarrassment, all perplexity. " Well, 
I don't care what you say — she's a nice girl and I 
like her." 

"Were you introduced to her?" Ed demanded. 

" No," Roly admitted. " But I don't believe any- 
thing you say about her is true. And I'm going to 
see her to-morrow night." 

" See her all you want," Ed snapped at the 
height of his exasperation, " and as long as you want 
and where you want except in your own home — you 
damn young fool, you. You'll pal round with that 
kind for a while; then you'll cut them out." He 
dropped his head into his book. 

After an instant of rebellion, silent and irresolute, 
Roland went upstairs to bed. 

" Well," Lainey said, coming in late the next night 
at dinner, " I'm so glad you brought that Bird Barton 
home, Roly! I think she's an intensely interesting 
girl. And so beautiful. I want to know her bet- 
ter. I took a great fancy to her and she seemed 



Roland's Friend 107 

to like me. I got a special delivery letter from her 
at the school to-day, asking me if I'd come to din- 
ner with her to-night. I didn't do that — but I 
met her after work and walked home with her — 
that's why I'm so late. She's invited me to come 
and spend overnight with her next Friday, and I've 
invited her to come over here and spend Saturday 
night with us." 

Roland, still a little haggard after a troubled 
night, dropped his eyes to his grapefruit. But 
Ed — never had his clean-cut blondness seemed 
more pink and white — raised his look from his 
paper. 

u You'll do nothing of the sort, Lainey," he or- 
dered explicitly. " You're not to have anything more 
to do with that girl." 

Lainey stiffened. She turned directly to her 
brother. All the vagueness went out of her eyes. 
They seemed to shoot forward to the front of the 
deep tunnels in which they were set. They became 
clear, hard, polished like tiny mirrors. " Why 
not? " she asked. 

" Because I don't consider her the kind of 
girl you ought to know," Ed replied in a rigid 
voice, " making up and smoking cigarettes and 
drifting round from place to place the way she 
does." 

" I'm sorry to disagree with you, Ed," Lainey 
said with composure, M but I do. About the making- 
up and cigarette-smoking I've nothing to say. I 
consider that nobody's business but her own. As 
for the drifting around, as you call it, I admire her 
unspeakably for that. She told me that as long 
as she couldn't afford to travel, she was going to 



108 Roland's Friend 

work her way gradually from city to city until she 1 
been all over the United States." 

"Well, she'll have no difficulty," Ed prophesie 
grimly, " in finding work." 

" What do you mean by that, Ed? " There w 
an icy edge on Lainey' s soft voice. 

" I mean, I think she's a questionable girl." 

" You lie ! " exclaimed Roland, jumping to hi 
feet. 

" Shut up, you ! " Ed shot at his younger brother 

" I think you're mistaken, Ed," Lainey said, wit 
no diminution of her courage. " But as long a 
you made this charge, I'll ask you to substantiat 
it with some facts." 

But before Ed could speak, " I do not wish to 
hear them," Ann said virtuously. 

Neither Ed nor Lainey paid any attention t 
Ann. But Ed's golden eyelashes fluttered, 
have no facts," he admitted, " except Roly say 
that he was never introduced to her, that he picked 
her up." 

11 1 didn't," Roly contradicted miserably. " A 
least it wasn't what I call a pick-up. It was on th 
Nantasket boat in the fall; we were both lookin 
over the rail, and when we passed Nix's Mate she 
asked me what it was. I told her and then we 
began to talk and " 

" A method that first came into vogue in the 
Garden of Eden," Ed interrupted sarcastically. 

" All right," said Lainey, M I'm a questionable 
girl too. Last Saturday, when I went out to Cousir 
Edith's, I asked the young man next to me when 
Echo Bridge was. We got into conversation anc 
we talked all the time I was in the car. I alway 









Roland's Friend 109 

ask men questions If I want any information. If 
that's picking up, I must have picked up a hundred 
men." 

The look of exasperation in Ed's face changed to 
the bewilderment that so often came into it when he 
talked with Lainey. " It isn't a practice that I rec- 
ommend to you," he said coldly. " Some man will 
misinterpret it some day." 

11 All right." Lainey compressed her lips. " Let 
him! I'm waiting for him/ 9 

Ed smiled in spite of himself. " Any man would 
know you were a good girl. He's only got to look 
at you." 

" You mean that I'm not pretty and that I'm 
dowdy," Lainey conjectured shrewdly. " I guess 
you're not paying me a compliment exactly." 

" Lainey," Ed said impatiently, " you're talking 
nonsense and you know you are. However, I don't 
want that girl in the house and I won't have her 
here." 

11 All right," said Lainey, " you don't have to. 
I don't consider, though, that you've proved any- 
thing against her. I'll tell you right here that it 
doesn't make any difference to me if she's what 
you call a questionable girl or not, except " — she 
stopped and chose her words carefully — u if she 
were a questionable girl and she really wanted my 
friendship I'd give it to her. I don't see how I 
could do anything else and pretend to be a Chris- 
tian. I consider it my duty as a woman to try to 
make up to those women for the injuries that you 
men inflict upon them. However, I know this girl 
is what you call a ' nice ' girl. How I know I can't 
tell — but I do. Now, if you don't want her here> 



no Roland's Friend 






you don't have to have her, but I shall go there 
next Friday night just the same." 

" Lainey." Ed's tone was slightly baffled. " Show 
some common sense. A woman can't live on air. 
What does she do for a living? " 

44 She's a shop-girl," Lainey answered directly. 
" She calls it store-girl. She's in Morgan Rector's 
book department. She told me last night when I 
was helping her on with her things." 

14 Well," Ed demanded, though this had given 
him palpable pause, u do you want to associate with 
store-girls? " 

14 1 want to associate with any girl who's as in- 
teresting as Bird," Lainey said without an instant's 
hesitation. " She's the most lovely creature I've 
seen in a long time." 

44 What do you think about it? " Ed turned to his 
other sisters, his tone definitely nonplused. 

Beckie and Ann had been following this contest 
with interest. At the beginning unmistakably thei 
took Ed's side. Later unmistakably they veere< 
to Lainey's. Now, unmistakable again, they pivote< 
back to Ed. 

Ann spoke. " I don't think I care to associate witl 
shop-girls. People judge you by the kind ol 
people you go with. And we've always been nice 
people." 

14 What do you mean by nice people?" Lainey 
clemanded. It was strange to hear Lainey use that 
steely tone to Ann. 

"Why," Ann exclaimed in a surprised tone, 
44 what a question ! You know as well as I do what 
nice people are — people who have always owned 
their own house and had a carriage — the way father 



Roland's Friend m 

and mother used to. And entertained other nice 
people and did things in style." 

II Oh." Lainey's inflection made Ann stare. " I 
must be very different from you, Ann. I can't see 
why we're any nicer than anybody else — Bird, for 
instance." 

"Well, I'll tell you, Lainey," Ann said confi- 
dentially, " we're nicer than the Ralstons, for in- 
stance, but we aren't so nice as the Meridens. You 
see, although the Ralstons have always owned their 
house, they've never kept a carriage — and we have 
— years ago, of course. But the Meridens not only 
own their house and keep a carriage, but they've 
always had a man-servant. And the children were 
never allowed to go to public school. They always 
had governesses. Oh, how I wish we'd had gov- 
ernesses ! And I do think a man-servant is awfully 
classy. But that's the difference." 

II I see. Perfectly clear." Lainey laughed. It 
was a strange laugh — dry, harsh, short. " Do you 
also think we're nice people, Beckie ? " 

11 Why, of course I do," Beckie said roundly. 
11 Our ancestors fought in the Revolution. There's 
always been somebody or other in the Legislature. 
And we've had a general in the family." 

" Of course," Lainey remarked in a voice acidly 
interrogative, " you don't mention Uncle Sam Talbot 
who did time — he was a noble article. And then 
there was mother's cousin, Sally Rand — she was a 
sweet thing." 

" Lainey," Ed remonstrated with a shocked air, 
" don't refer to family affairs that you don't know 
anything about." 

" Oh, I know all about Sally Rand," Lainey de- 






H2 Roland's Friend 

clared, " I always have. Mary Tully told me all 
about her years ago. And then you must remember 
that some of our Legislature relatives have been the 
best little grafters the State has ever produced. I'm 
wondering whether Bird Barton can afford to asso- 
ciate with us" 

44 I didn't know Uncle Sam ever went to the pen," 
said Roly with great interest. " What was he in 
for?" 

" Embezzlement," Lainey answered immediately 
— " a peculiarly unpleasant case." 

" I think it's perfectly awful to refer to such 
things," Ann asserted. " I believe in forgetting 
them." 

u We all believe in forgetting them when it's our 
own family," Lainey retorted. 

" Still, Lainey," Beckie took it up, " it's perfectly 
useless for you to deny that we are nice people. 
Our ancestors fought at Concord and Bunker Hill 
and some of them signed the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. Why, we're eligible to join the D. A. R. 
All my life I've felt the equal of everybody. I con- 
sider I'm as good as anybody in the United States." 

" Perhaps Bird does," Lainey suggested drily. 

44 Well," Ann said with great conviction, " I 
doubt that very much. Of course, she's a beauty. 
Arid she knows how to dress. But somehow I don't 
think she has that air that nice people have. You 
can always tell it — it's as if you didn't care a darn 
for anybody." 

14 Well, Ann," Lainey said thoughtfully, and she 
surveyed her sister as from a new point of view, ,4 1 
don't think you have that air — and I'm glad of it 
And, of course, neither Beckie nor I have it — what 



Roland's Friend 113 

ever it is. I don't know what you're talking about, 
anyway." 

" Why, we've all three got it," Ann insisted. 
" Anybody could tell we were different from shop- 
girls, just to look at us." 

" Another thing." Ed flashed into the conversa- 
tion again. " Perhaps there's nothing wrong mor- 
ally with Miss Barton. We'll drop that side of the 
discussion. Apparently she has no real ambition or 
stick-to-itiveness. And she's a drifter. Why does 
she prefer to work in a shop? " 

" I'll tell you," Lainey said unexpectedly. She 
rose from the table with the air of one who has 
made a decision. " She told me herself to-day. 
She said that in every other thing that she got into 
— on the stage, posing, manicuring — she was both- 
ered to death by men wanting to take her out to 
lunch or to dinner or to the theater. Of course, with 
her beauty — I gathered often that they were not 
gentlemen and their attitude towards her was very 
unpleasant. She said she wants to find a job where 
her position does not depend on her having to be 
cordial to the kind of men that she would naturally 
hate and abhor." Lainey took her fur coat from 
the chair, pulled it on with two vigorous movements. 
44 She said to-day that nothing so lovely had ever 
happened to her in her life as the way we took her 
right into the, family without any question. Because — 
she said — it isn't any fun really working in a depart- 
ment store when you feel you could do something 
more intellectual if you could only find out what it 
was." Lainey, without looking in the glass, pulled 
on her little shabby hat. 

For a long instant nobody spoke. Then, M Where 



ii4 Roland's Friend 

are you going? " Ed asked. His tone was surl 
and there was a little panic in it. 

The mirror-like clearness of Lainey's little, deep- 
set, blue-gray eyes broke into flame. " I'm going 
in to Boston to join the Socialist Party. I don't 
know anything about Socialism, but I want to insure 
myself one place where I can be certain I shall never 
have to listen to such talk as I've just heard." She 
departed in a dead silence. 

" God! " Ed said as the door slammed. " A So- 
cialist in the family. There's nothing left for the 
Ollivants to do now but murder." 

" Well," said Lainey a month later, " Bird 
joined the party last night. She's been going regu- 
larly with me to my local. She says Socialism is the 
only thing that answers all the questions she's been 
asking herself all these years. We've decided to 
read Karl Marx together and a whole lot of things. 
We're going to all the meetings that we can get in 
this winter, and if we can possibly manage it we're 
going on to New York the first of May and parade. 
Oh, I do so enjoy Bird ! She's got such a fine mind. 
And she reads so much. And she's so beautiful. 
She said last night that she wasn't going to paint and 
powder any more. She said the only reason she 
ever did it was because an artist told her once that, 
with her type, she ought to make her skin as white 
as possible and her lips as red. Besides, Bird says 
everybody does it in New York. You don't notice 
it there. But she feels awfully conspicuous in Bos- 
ton. I think she's much lovelier without make-up and 
I told her so. Anyway, we've both decided that 
in the past women have given too much thought to 



Roland's Friend 115 

dress and we're going to see if we can't simplify 
the problem for ourselves. Bird and I are going to 
try to design some sort of working uniform." 

Ann arose to this. " I suppose you've got to be 
a Socialist, Lainey Ollivant, if you want to, and go 
about with queer people, though how you stand it 
is more than I can see. But if you have any idea 
you are going to wear queer clothes you might as 
well pass it up. I will never submit to it." 

" Oh, Ann," Lainey exclaimed in a placating tone, 
" Bird and I agreed that we wouldn't actually do 
anything without consulting you first." 

" Well, I guess you'd better," Ann remarked. <c I 
can see what you'd look like if I let you alone, now 
that you've got that equality bug. There! there's 
the bell. I guess that's Bird." 

It was Bird. 

They heard Lainey and Bird start the ceaseless 
chatter which inevitably accompanied their associa- 
tion. Bird's hat and coat came off. Then, their 
arms around each other, the two girls appeared in 
the doorway, sauntered through the living-room 
towards the dining-room. The firelight poured over 
Lainey's filmy halo, struck through the bridge of 
her little nose; it found the stars in Bird's gray 
eyes, the pearls in her deep-set smile. They stopped 
halfway; Bird's look arrested itself on the portrait 
of old General Milliken. 

11 Ah," she said suddenly in a swelling voice, " I 
have it! Socialism has translated it to me. It's 
not the expression of character, nor of a great 
mental force. That look in his face was in my 
uncle's face — Admiral Murdock. My uncle's por- 
trait hung in our living-room — until the bad times 



n6 Roland's Friend 

came and all our things were sold. I used to think 
that he was probably the greatest man that ever 
lived. But I see now that it was not the look of a 
great man. It's pride-in-power — it's militarism." 

" You're right, Bird," Lainey agreed in a tone 
equally thrilled. " It's the expression of oppression 
— the look of paid dominance." The two girls 
gazed for a disillusioned second on General Milli- 
ken's beefy, watery-eyed, iron-jawed face. 

11 Admiral Murdock," asked Ed, " the commander 
of the Oklahoma — the one who said " 

" Yes," Bird answered in a resigned tone. " The 
same! Only he didn't say it. A clever reporter 
said it for him." 

11 Oh, Bird ! " Lainey exclaimed. " That reminds 
me. I bought two volumes of Karl Marx to-day. 
Come up to my room. I want to show them to you." 

Still arm and arm, still chattering, they drifted 
up the stairs. 

11 Admiral Murdock," Ed repeated in a surprised 
tone. " Why, they're awful swells. I've heard Mrs. 
MacVeagh tell about them. Bird must belong to 
a very good old family. I suppose he was her 
mother's brother." 

" Well," Ann said, " it's no surprise to me. You 
can always tell nice people when you see them. 
They always have an air. I knew from the start 
that there was something different about Bird. She 
has what I call a really swell manner, sort of indif- 
ferent to people." 

11 Well, for Heaven's sake don't let Lainey hear 
you say that," Ed remarked sardonically, " or she'll 
go over to-night and join the anarchists." 



CHAPTER VI 
BECKIE'S JOB 

* T CALCULATE I've earned a rest," Dr. Pier- 

X son was saying. " I was seventy-five my last 
birthday — and Henry wants that I should join him 
in Los Angeles. I'd like to see something of 
the world before I die. These long cold winters do 
take it out of me so nowadays and Henry writes 
about nothing but sunshine and roses." 

Dr. Pierson had to scream to make himself heard; 
for the canaries were shrilling so loud that their 
breast feathers vibrated. The squirrel was revolv- 
ing with a metallic clatter on his tiny treadmill; his 
body had, indeed, lengthened to a gray streak in 
which two points of light, his little black shoe-button 
eyes, gleamed. 

"You're quite right, Dr. Pierson," Beckie screamed 
in answer. " And I'm glad for you — just as glad 
as I can be. California seems such a story-book 
place. I shall love to think of you out there just 
surrounded by geraniums and calla lilies and palms 
and all those old Missions — and everything." 

Beckie was standing before the mirror in Dr. 
Pierson's office. Mechanically she stood there and 
mechanically she looked into it. She tugged her hat 
— in shape and color it could not possibly have been 
more unbecoming — down over her ears. She did 
not see the harsh line that the crown made, coalescing 

117 



ii8 Beckie's Job 

perfectly with the seam of forehead and hair; for 
Beckie never saw herself when she looked into the 
glass. And now, in addition, a blurr dimmed the 
brightness of her gaze; she was desperately afraid 
that that blurr might grow, might run down her 
cheek. 

" YouVe been a good faithful girl, Beckie, " Dr. 
Pierson went on in his fatherly tones, " and so quick 
and smart. I don't know what I should have done 
without you. YouVe always taken such an interest 
in my work and it's been such a help — your remem- 
bering everybody's telephone number the way you 
do." His long withered fingers fumbled for a mo- 
ment in the pocket of his formal black waistcoat. 
14 1 want that you should accept this as a sort of 
little present from me ; for I haven't really given you 
any chance to look around." 

"This" was three ten-dollar gold pieces, only 
one of which comprised her week's pay. To 
Beckie's moist vision, they shone from little nests of 
rainbow ruffles; she accepted the gift with the sim- 
plicity with which she would have offered it. " Oh, 
thank you ever so much, Dr. Pierson. It's awfully 
good of you. I do appreciate it." 

" And if there's ever anything I can do," Dr. 
Pierson concluded, " you write to me at once at 
Henry's address — 2354 Acacia Avenue. Now I 
must be getting over to see Cousin Martha." 

Beckie waited until the outer door shut. She 
watched the thin, tall, old figure pass the window. 
It was so frail that it looked like an empty suit of 
clothes with a head at the top. And the face was 
like a glassblower's product; the skin had the wa: 
transparency, the eyes the soft luminousness of age. 



Beckie's Job 119 

Only his teeth, still professionally white and regu- 
lar, made him human. Through her sense of a 
material loss, a sharp pang suddenly tore Beckie. 
Would he live to get to Los Angeles? she wondered. 

Then she put on her new spring coat — the shape- 
less, hueless garment, so scorned of Ann. Now the 
blurr in her eyes had precipitated and crystallized. 
Her eyes swam as she gazed about the little office. 
How often had she dusted and arranged the back- 
number magazines, how often changed the water in 
the aquarium, refoddered the birds, scrubbed the 
squirrel cage, pruned the geraniums and trained the 
ivy which, starting at the mantel, had crept halfway 
round the room ! Dr. Pierson, who subsisted spirit- 
ually on a gentle philosophy of home manufacture, 
believed that these growing organisms in some mys- 
terious way helped his patients to bear their agonies. 
The little cabinet of dental instruments and supplies 
had been Beckie's particular pride; it sparkled with 
a neatness and a system that was all her own. She 
was even indulgent of the shabby, wine-velvet chair 
from which had emerged so many groans of pain or 
sighs of relief. As for the old dentist himself — 
part of Beckie's pride in her work was that he leaned 
so hard on her. 

She did not tell the family about the change in her 
fortunes that night; for they were particularly gay. 
Ann was sending out cards for the modest tea which 
she and Lainey had decided to give the following 
Saturday; she brimmed and bristled with excitement. 

"Beckie, what's Jane Forester's address? Oh 
yes, of course, 59 Linden Place " — " Do you 
think two kinds of sandwiches will be enough, 
Lainey? " — " Ed, what does Mrs. MacVeagh serve 



120 Beckie's Job 

at her teas?" — " Oh, of course, you men never 
notice anything important." — ■ What's Isabelle 
Fay's address, Beck?" — M Oh, of course, 98 Lee. 
Aren't you a wonder about remembering numbers! " 
— " I wish I could make up my mind about the cake, 
Lainey. I don't want it frosted or gooey. If 
there's anything I hate it's to handle mushy stuff 
when I've got gloves on." — "What's Joe Jordan's 
address, Beckie? " — u I know what I'm going to do, 
Lainey. I'm going to ask Aunt Lottie if she'll lend 
us her ferns. They're awfully thick now and they'll 
look pretty swell massed in the bay-window." — " Oh, 
Beck, what is Elizabeth John's address? This is 
the last I'll ask. It's such a bore looking it up in 
the address-book." — "That's right. Thanks. You 
certainly are a wizard." 

" I'll tell them to-morrow at breakfast," Beckie 
said to herself. But when to-morrow came, some 
unanalyzable instinct kept her silent. She left the 
house, however, at the usual hour and she carried 
with her the morning paper. Perhaps she carried 
with her also the echo of Ann's last words; for 
breakfast closed in a spirited debate between them 

" I do wish, Beckie," Ann said, " that you'd 
rid of that hat. When I think that you paid 
dollars for it, I could bite the banisters! Do y( 
want to know what it looks like? " Beckie did 
want to know but Ann told her. " It looks like 
bean-pot trimmed with an egg-beater. And as fc 
that coat and dress — well, I haven't the words 1 > 
describe them." 

" Well, Ann," Beckie answered in her usual bri; c 
way, " it doesn't make any difference what a home y 
girl wears. She's bound to look like the dicker ;, 



Beckie's Job 121 

no matter what she puts on. If there's anything 
makes me tired, it's to see a woman with a face like 
a meat-ax all dolled up. What do you want me to 
wear — a poke-bonnet trimmed with pink roses and a 
chin-strap? " 

" No, Beckie," Ann said with her succinct sar- 
casm, " you're not old enough yet to try to look as 
young as that. Only old hens of about fifty go 
in for poke-bonnets and chin-straps. And you're all 
wrong about it's not making any difference what a 
homely girl wears. It doesn't make any difference 
what a pretty girl wears." 

" I suppose half what you say is right," Beckie 
admitted, surveying appreciatively her sister's 
golden-brown beauty. " You could wear a meal-sack 
for a dress and a waste-basket for a hat and all any- 
body'd say would be how cute you looked." 

11 And," Ann went on, ignoring this placating trib- 
ute, " you make a great mistake in taking it for 
granted that you're homely. You're not a beauty, 
of course, but there's something about you " 

" Oh yes, I know," Beckie thrust in scornfully, 
11 4 while not exactly pretty, the bride has an ex- 
pression of great intelligence and good nature ' " 

" What I mean is," Ann went on without pause, 
14 is that you grow better-looking the longer people 
know you. You're the kind of person that every- 
thing depends on what they wear. And you always 
look like the old scratch. You could be so much 
more attractive if you only wore the right colors 
and the right lines. That terrible brown that you've 
got on now — it's so hard and so hot at the same time 
— it's the only brown you can't wear. And, of 
course, being short-waisted, you had it made with 



122 Beckie's Job 

a belt a yard wide. If you'd only let me design 
your things. You see what Bird Barton and I have 
done for Lainey. She looks like a Poiret manikin 
nowadays. Then, the way you do your hair would 
make Billy Burke look a sight — strained back from 
your forehead into that queer knob on the top of 
your head. But the first thing you've got to get out 
of your head is the idea that you're so homely." 

"I suppose I could forget it," Beckie admitted 
without rancor, " if I could smash all the mirrors in 
the world." 

Beckie Ollivant was certainly not a pretty girl, 
but she was certainly not a homely one. She was 
a marked physical contrast to Ann who had the lush 
golden-brown beauty of a girl-odalisk plus a dash 
of American piquancy, or of Lainey who, though 
vaguely colored, had the nervous chiseling of a 
Tanagra figurine. Beckie was almost an Indian 
type. Her features were so pronounced in their ir- 
regularity that the first effect of her appearance was 
of strength. Later, you discovered that hers was a 
comely ugliness, latest that it developed a kind of 
splendor. Her eyes, quite as deep-set as Lainey's 
and much more brilliant than Ann's, sparkled with 
a temperamental optimism. Her skin, a clean 
brown dappled with freckles, glowed with health. 
Her hair, a real mahogany crisped with copper, 
would have broken into waves if her relentless hair- 
dressing had permitted it. Her figure was more 
strong than shapely, but in action it had a certain 
compelling vigor; she moved with the quickness, not 
of a deer but an elk. 

Beckie's face grew grave, as she ran over th< 
want advertisements, sitting on a bench that ovei 



Beckie's Job 123 

looked the Frog Pond on the Common. But she fell 
to work at once, marking promising-looking ads in 
pencil and cutting them out with the little manicure- 
scissors which she carried in her bag. 

11 Say, Matt, who's the new skirt in your office? " 
Ed demanded with interest that night. 

" Which one? " Matt asked languidly. 

" The strawberry blonde over in the corner," 
Ed answered. " Pippin ! I didn't notice her until 
I came out." 

u Oh, her name's Riley — Theresa Riley — she's 
been there a week," Matt said. u Flivver tool 
The old man engaged her. The old man's a mark 
for any pretty girl. And I must say he's never made 
a mistake yet — they're all lookers. But they're go- 
ing and coming all the time. More than half of 
them haven't got nut enough to fill the eye of a 
needle, but he won't have a homely girl round. No 
use for anything but a peach applying for a job in 
our joint." 

M It's my experience that it isn't much use for a 
homely girl to apply anywhere," Ed said cynically. 
" There's nothing for a homely girl to do, anyway, 
but make way with herself — far as I can see. Well, 
I'm for old Johnson's system myself. If I was 
running a business, I'd have lookers. Nothing 
but! Oh, say, Beck, what's Cliff Conroy's tele- 
phone number? I want to call him up." 

" Lord, what would we do without Beckie to re- 
member all the numbers of things for us?" Lainey 
said. " That reminds me. When does Bessie 
Week's birthday come, Beck? It's somewhere along 
here, I know, and I want to send her a card." 



124 Beckie's Job 

Three weeks went by. That day was the first 
of many days equally fatiguing and disheartening. 
The impulse not to tell her bad news hardened to a 
resolution. Beckie bore her burden and her anxiety 
alone. The only change in her routine from the 
family point of view was that, on the pretext that 
she was tired of restaurant food, she took a lunch. 
She left the house every morning at halfpast eight; 
she returned every night at halfpast five. She 
went in good weather immediately to her favorite 
seat on the Common overlooking the Frog Pond and 
in bad weather she stayed in the Subway until nine. 
There she studied the advertisements, cut out those 
that seemed promising. At nine she went to the 
rest-room of one of the department stores and re- 
plied by letter to those ads which demanded cor- 
respondence. The rest of her collection of ads she 
answered in person. 

Beckie had had no previous experience job-hunt- 
ing. Her position with Dr. Pierson had been her 
first; it had come to her through a friend. There 
were one or two traps of the advertising game into 
which she immediately fell. The work at one place 
was delightfully easy — merely to fold circulars. 
Here her strength and quickness stood her in good 
stead; it promised a fair salary. The first day 
she folded twice as many circulars as the speed 
champion of the establishment. But when she dis- 
covered that she was expected to contribute two 
weeks of work before she drew any pay, she balked. 
She did not return the next morning. In another 
place the work was almost equally simple and 
mechanical — coloring photographs. But when she 
learned that she must first buy the tools of the tra( 



trade 



Beckie's Job 125 

at the price of three weeks' salary, she balked again. 
She did not return that afternoon. She spent three 
days learning to set type in a dimly-lighted, foully- 
dirty establishment, presided over by a proprietor 
from whose every look and word she shrank. The 
fourth day, appearing on the scene too drunk to 
work, he swore scurrilously at her. Beckie left at 
once. 

After a while, her native shrewdness taught her 
what advertisements to answer and what to ignore. 
Unconsciously, she began to sift and classify them. 
But although she applied at " the above address " 
wherever it seemed promising, her application was 
invariably unsuccessful. There were always"plenty 
of pretty girls in the group of applicants ; girls who, 
because of their beauty, wore their clothes with grace 
and their manners with authority. Beckie used to 
study them furtively but closely; there was no envy 
in her look, only a wistful appreciativeness. 

After two weeks, Beckie instituted a system of 
her own. She ransacked the neighborhood into 
which her first application took her, shop after shop, 
office after office, floor after floor, just as they hap- 
pened to come. This process brought her all kinds 
of experiences. She was refused politely, refused 
brutally, refused with excuses or without them, 
ignored utterly. Men received her with their hats 
on, their coats off, their cigars in their mouth, their 
feet on the desk. Some of them did not look up at her 
when they talked to her; others looked too hard. 
One gentleman, exercising what promised to be 
genuine courtesy of his sort, delayed speaking while 
he spat into a cuspidor. But when he did speak it 
was only to inform her that she was too damned 



126 Beckie's Job 

homely for his business. After this last encounter, 
Beckie retreated to the Common and sat looking 
dully over the Frog Pond until it was time to go 
home. 

But although Beckie's experiences continued to 
pile up an increasing load of discouragement, always 
in the morning, she left the house with the quick, 
strong step and the straight, bright glance of 
her unconquerable optimism. And if occasionally 
Lainey said at dinner, " Beckie dear, it does seem 
to me that you look awfully tired when you get 
home nights. Are you working especially hard?" 
Ann was quite as likely to cap it the next morning 
with, " Beckie, I never saw anything like how cheer- 
fully you go to that old office. I can't imagine any- 
thing that I'd hate more. Listening to people yowl- 
ing all the time. And as for Dr. Pierson — oh, of 
course, I realize he's a fine man and all that, but 
he looks so like a dentist. He has what I call 
dental smile. And just the fact that he wears 
Prince Albert — it certainly must be ten years since 
people have been wearing Prince Alberts. And his 
collars, turned down with those long points and that 
funny old. narrow, black tie with the pointed ends 
Then, I hate goldfish and squirrels, and, oh, ho^ 
those canaries would get on my nerves screeching 
so!" 

And even the fox-minded Ann never realized thai 
Beckie no longer offered any ripost to these thrusts. 

Beckie was appreciating now some of the incoi 
veniences of the double life. She had to avoid the 
vicinity of Tremont and Washington Streets during 
the lunch-hours for fear of running into Ed 01 
Matt. And she was always turning abruptly intc 



Beckie's Job 127 

side-streets to avoid friends whom she saw bearing 
down upon her. Saturday was always a nerve-rack- 
ing day; for the school-teacher Lainey spent much of 
her holiday in town shopping with Ann. Beckie's 
Sundays had become days in which she studied the 
Sunday papers with a desperate but secret avidity. 

11 Isn't there something I can do? Beckie asked 
herself again and again in those early hours of the 
night when her tired memory marshaled and re- 
viewed the day's experiences. " Let alone having 
an art or a profession or a business, if I only had a 
trade like a boy! If there was only something I 
could tell them I could do! " 

Regularly every Saturday evening, she turned 
over to Ann the five dollars, half her salary, which 
was her share of the family expenses. Beckie never 
saved money; car-fares and the occasional hot 
chocolate, to which she resorted as a means of cheer, 
had eaten into her reserve fund. Of Dr. Pierson's 
thirty dollars, she had left a little over ten. When 
that was gone — Not that Beckie's situation was des- 
perate, although to a girl of her sturdy independence 
it had its desperate side. They lived — the six orphan 
Ollivants — on the cooperative system. Ed, the old- 
est, gave, as fitted his larger salary, the biggest 
weekly sum to Ann, the family housekeeper and 
treasurer. Matt, Lainey, and Beckie paid equal 
amounts, but Beckie looked after sixteen-year-old 
Roland, who was still in High School, and Lainey 
took care of eighteen-year-old Ann, who ran the 
house. They were all pleasure-loving and extrava- 
gant; Ed often borrowed from Beckie and Matt 
from Lainey. Somebody was always in debt to 
somebody else. Of course, Beckie would always 



128 Beckie's Job 

have a home — a roof over her head and her three 
meals a day — but she did not want to be an object 
of chanty in it. 

And so in spite of herself — and Beckie's soul was 
compact of courage and steadfastness — the grind of 
continual refusal was beginning to corrode. Often 
now she had to walk up and down the sidewalk 
before she could pump up the courage to go into 
the office and emit her stereotyped " I've come here 
to apply for work," to meet that stereotyped " What 
can you do? " And now some of the sturdiness had 
gone out of her bearing. She drooped a little, 
sometimes from fatigue, sometimes from hunger, 
but more often from disheartenment. She looked 
at the uninterested and impassive gentleman to 
whom she put her plea with altogether too much 
entreaty in her deep eyes — the first qualification for 
getting a job being, as everybody knows, not to 
seem to need it. And though she took as much 
care of her personal appearance as formerly, three 
weeks of tramping in all kinds of weather had not 
improved her clothes. The bean-pot hat had gone 
the roughened way of all cheap velvet; the baggy 
coat had proved to be of a cloth that faded and 
pulled. But her face always shone from the soap 
with which she polished it, her shoes were always 
freshly shined, her shabby gloves carefully mended. 

One Saturday, coming in town from Roxbury, a 
shred of conversation caught her ear. 

"And so I just told him that he could have his 
old job. I wasn't gonna stand for anything like 
that. I don't have to." 

"Well, what do you know about that! " anoth< 



Beckie's Job 129 

voice commented admiringly, M what did he say, 
May? " 

Beckie looked round. Two girls were talking: 
one little dark, coarsely plain; the other — out of 
the lethargy of her despair, Beckie stared admir- 
ingly. May was a slim, pale-gold blonde, all 
pearly colorings, all curving contours. Her hair 
wound about her head like a helmet of thin metal, 
faintly polished. Under it came a three-cornered 
expanse of brow; eyes deeply blue, softly shadowed, 
blackly fringed; a profile frail as a flower; tiny fea- 
tures, tiny teeth, tiny dimples; lips curved, scarlet, 
voluptuous. 

11 Oh, he spilled a lot of talk! He said I didn't 
have to take it that way — that he didn't mean 
to be gay. But I says to him, I says, * I don't 
care what you meant,' I says, * you've gotta find 
another fall-guy for this job.' " 

11 Well, what do you know " her friend put 

in admiringly. u Still, May, don't you think you 
was foolish? It isn't so easy getting a job these 
days." * 

" I never have any trouble," May replied, with 
the languor of conscious power. She removed 
from her hand-bag a little mirror and a tiny powder- 
puff; with the latter she filmed her face with an 
impalpable gauze. " I never am out of work more 
than two days. I can always get a job somewhere. 
Besides, you know I can go on the stage any time. 
Morris Freidenstein says he can get me a place in 
the chorus. I've only gotta say the word. My 
mother don't want me to go on the stage, though — 
and I don't wanna — and I won't unless I get so sick 
of waiting on customers that I can't stand it any 



130 Beckie's Job 

more. My feet ache me something fierce when I get 
home nights. But I'm not trying for anything to- 
day; I'm going to lay off for a while. Sometimes 

I wish I didn't get work so easy." 

Beckie left the car, retreated to her familiar 
roost on the Common. She stayed there all the 
afternoon. " I guess I'm about at the end of my 
rope," she said once. And she said it aloud. 
Nobody heard her, however. A squirrel studied 
her for a disapproving instant before he turned his 
plumed tail on her and dove into oblivion. 

The keynote of that conversation was struck 
again in her own home Sunday night. 

" Oh say, Bird," Ann asked, " I've always meant 
to ask you how did you come to leave Morgan 
Rector's to get that swell job you're holding down." 

41 It came about in the queerest way," Bird an- 
swered. " A man named Lewis used to come in 
to Morgan Rector's occasionally, and one day we 
got to talking about the books. He seemed very 
much surprised — at least he said he was — that I'd 
read so much. And one day he told me that if I'< 
like a position with the book firm, Robertsoi 
Reynolds, he thought he could get me one. Oi 
course I was delighted, said so, and in a week 
got a note from him telling me they would like t< 
see me." 

"Just handed you on a gold platter," Ann sai< 

II Well, that's the advantage of looking like a gi] 
on a magazine cover." 

"Well, you needn't talk," Lainey said, "even 
body's always offering you a job. It began, Bin 
when we were children, when a man stopped us 01 
the street to ask Ann if she'd like to take the litth 



Beckie's Job 131 

boy's part in a revival of * Rosedale.' And I don't 
wonder! Oh, Bird, Ann was such a wonderful- 
looking little girl — with her thick long mop of goldy- 
brown curls, her great, big goldy-brown eyes and 
cheeks like Baldwin apples. Well, it's kept up ever 
since. Before old Mr. Snell got that new secretary 
he asked her if she didn't want the job. Of 
course, Ann is awfully able and efficient, just as you 
are, Bird, but I'm sure neither of you would get work 
so easy if it weren't for your looks." 

"Oh slush!" Bird said. 

" Oh pickles ! " Ann said. 

Beckie said nothing. 

" Oh say, Beck," Bird asked lazily, " what's Allie 
Dean's street number? I've got to write her a letter 
to-night." 

But early Monday morning she was back again in- 
vading the business section with a kind of desperate 
fury. In the middle of the afternoon she opened 
the door of the Renaissance Art Company — opened 
the door and stood for an amazed and an abashed 
second on the threshold. 

It was a big vague room into which Beckie looked 
— and it was filled with shadows. Heavy curtains of 
a dull reseda-green velvet, hanging in stately folds, 
shrouded the windows. Gray monk's cloth, divided 
into squares by a dull wood, covered the walls. 
Here and there a red print framed in an old green- 
gold, or a bust carved and colored as from old 
wood, gleamed from these squares. The furniture 
emitted a muted copper glow. Slim vases of bubbly 
and iridescent glass, or broad bowls of an opaque 
and lusterless porcelain, held foliage of a subdued 



132 Beckie's Job 

bronze. There were three presiding genii in the 
place. One was a coppery, heroic-size classic 
blonde who exactly matched the furniture. A sec- 
ond was a lithe, smoky-olive pre-Raphaelite bru- 
nette who exactly matched the hangings. The third 
was a short piquant post-impressionist nondescript 
who contrasted with everything. The art atmos- 
phere was so thick and their loose draperies so thin 
that when they moved they seemed to float. And 
when they came to rest, it was in a sinuous, curved 
attitude which displayed, by means of a flexed knee, 
a heelless leather shoe or, by a hand lifted to the 
breast, a curveless Burne-Jones wrist. 

Three pairs of frigid eyes turned to survey the 
short, squat figure suspended in the midst of the 
meal-sack coat in the doorway. Three pairs of deli- 
cate eyebrows flew to their highest altitude. 

" Will you tell me, please," Beckie asked timidly, 
" where I go to apply for a place here? " 

The smoky-olive brunette answered. "Well, I 
don't know as they want any girl here. I haven't 
heard anything about it. There's the office, though." 
An exquisite pre-Raphaelite gesture indicated a 
flight of stairs leading to a mezzanine balcony. 

Beckie timidly attacked the stairs. She walked 
around three sides of the balcony until she came to 
an office, glassed-in part way, to the ceiling, which 
bore the name Willard Pray. She knocked on the 
door. There was no answer. She turned the knob ; 
the door opened ; she went in. Inside two men wer< 
talking. One, his back towards her, Beckie coul< 
not see. The other was sitting in a swivel-chan 
before a business-like-looking roll-top desk, the vul- 
garly-utilitarian appurtenances of which contrastet 



Beckie's Job 133 

strikingly with the exquisite aestheticism below. He 
first blotted out the roar of the street by shutting the 
window, then turned on Beckie a thunderous brow 
and a sudden barked, " Well, what do you want? " 

" I've come to apply for a position here," Beckie 
said. 

The thunderous aspect of his face, instead of in- 
creasing, melted a little. Beckie's heart gave a leap. 
" What can you do? " he demanded. 

11 Anything," Beckie lied desperately. 

"What, for instance?" the man demanded. 

11 Everything," Beckie lied recklessly. 

The man bellowed. " Stenographer, typewriter, 
cashier, bookkeeper — quick! What can you do? " 

"Nothing!" Beckie told the truth despairingly. 

The man surveyed her for a disgusted instant. 
And Beckie surveyed him for an entreating one. 
He was short, stocky, strong-looking, with an ir- 
regular pugnacious face, healthily colored. His eye- 
lashes were surprisingly long and curly and his 
square chin was divided by a clean cleft. " We 
don't need any help," he snapped. He jerked about 
in his chair in a manner that unmistakably closed 
the interview. 

Beckie shut the door quietly. She made auto- 
matically in the direction of the stairway. But for 
the first time her courage threatened to break. 
She knew that she must not cry; she held her jaw 
tight with one hand, the other hung clenched at her 
side. It seemed a long time before she got to the 
stairs. Finally she stopped and peered about. She 
had walked past the stairway, made the square of 
the balcony, and came to the office again. Evidently 
the window had not again been raised. The 



134 Beckie's Job 

two men were talking; their words came clear to 
Beckie. 

11 — looked kinder pathetic to me," the other 
man said. 

" Yes," answered Mr. Pray, " but I see a dozen 
like her every day. I have to have good-lookers, 
Chet. And, Lord, wasn't she homely? " 

u Yes, she was homely," Chet answered, " aching 
homely. And yet " 

Again Beckie made in the direction of the stair- 
way — blindly this time. And now her courage had 
definitely broken; it poured in streams over her 
cheeks. She could not descend to face the three 
successful houris below. She waited, struggling 
with gasps that tried to turn into sobs. Presently 
she became conscious that " Chet " had come out 
of the office and, gazing leisurely at the pictures on 
the walls, had passed on the other side of the 
balcony, was disappearing down the stairs. Beckie 
watched him out of sight. Suddenly her tears 
stopped. She lifted her head and threw hei 
shoulders back. With a decisive hardening of hei 
expression, she turned, not in the direction of th< 
stairs but of the office. Mr. Pray looked up froi 
his work when she opened the door, but obvioush 
he was too surprised to speak. 

" I've come back to ask your advice, Mr. Pray," 
Beckie said. M I suppose you're too busy to tal 
with me. But you've got to. I don't care whal 
happens to me. The worst you can do is to senc 
for the police and have me thrown out of your office 
and I shan't care much if you do. But if you wil 
listen to me, I would like you to advise me jus 



Beckie's Job 135" 

as you would your sister or any girl you know;, for 
I don't know where to turn next. I'm desperate. 
I've been nearly a month trying to get a job and 
I haven't landed one yet, although I've answered 
dozens and dozens of ads and applied at hundreds 
of places on the chance that they might need some- 
body. When I came out of your office a little while 
ago, I got mixed up so on that balcony that I came 
back here by accident. I heard you and that gentle- 
man that's just gone out discussing me. I heard 
you tell him that you couldn't give me a job because 
I was so homely. That didn't surprise me or hurt 
me — so very much. For nobody knows that I'm 
homely better than I do. I've always known it. 
I've got accustomed to it. But what I want to ask 
you is, what is a homely girl going to do? It isn't 
my fault that I'm not pretty. I'd do anything in 
this world if I could make myself over. Nobody 
enjoys beauty more than I. I adore it. I can 
watch a pretty girl for hours. And yet, ever since 
I can remember, I've had to stand aside and see 
pretty girls take with the utmost ease all the things 
that I have to half kill myself to get. I don't be- 
grudge them their good luck, but I do think it's 
unfair. And then there's another side to it. Some- 
times I wonder that men never think that a homely 
girl might work harder and prove more faithful 
than a pretty girl simply because she's got to — to 
hold down her job. I'd work my hands to the 
bone if somebody would only give me a chance — 
I'd be so grateful — oh, all the rest of my life I'd — 
But nobody will. What am I going to do? All 
my life I've read stories — and heard them too — 
about beautiful girls alone in large cities having 



136 Beckie's Job 

finally to do dreadful things in order to live — I've 
always thought that was so terrible. But in the 
last month I've got a different view on that For 
I can't do anything through beauty. What are you 
going to do if you haven't that chance? You've got 
to eat just the same." 

Mr. Pray's choleric blue eyes had gone from 
Beckie's face to the brisk scene outside his window. 
But there his gaze had set; his face had turned to 
a mask. Now he spoke. " Well, can't you really 
do anything? " he asked; and though perceptibly he 
tried to make his voice violent, perceptibly it had 
become gentle. " Isn't there something you've got 
on you that's different from other people?" 

" I can remember numbers," Beckie answered 
with the mental limpidity of despair. " It seems 
to me that I can remember every number that's 
ever been said in my presence from the day I was 
born until this moment. In school I could rattle 
off dates like a phonograph. And nobody in my 
family ever has to look in the telephone-book or 
the directory when I'm round. When I go out here, 
I shan't remember about what kind of furniture 
there is in this office or what color your eyes are 
or what the window looks out on, but I shall know 
that your telephone is 3456 Back Bay, that that 
picture has a tag with 23743 on it, and that the 
address of this office is 673 Boylston." 

Mr. Pray swung about hard. "Numbers! " 
said. "Numbers! Can you remember numbers 
If you can remember numbers, you're the girl Pi 
been looking for for ten years. See here. Tl 
pictures in our catalogue run from one to thirty-si 
thousand. Now, all those girls downstairs can re 






Beckie's Job 137 

member the names of the pictures, the artist, who 
painted them, the gallery where they are hung, and 
the city where the gallery is, but there isn't one of 
them can get the numbers, except the big sellers, 
without looking them up in the catalogue. I can't 
myself. And sometimes a bunch of a thousand pic- 
tures will come in from the factory that have all 
got to be numbered and numbered quick." 

11 Mr. Pray," Beckie said eagerly, " at the end 
of six months I should know the number of every 
picture in this place." 

"All right," Mr. Pray said shortly. "You're 
engaged. I'll start you on twelve dollars a week." 

" Oh," Beckie remarked casually that night just 
before dinner, u Dr. Pierson is going to sell out 
his practice and go to Los Angeles. He gave me 
notice the other day, and to-day, if you please, I 
walked right into the Renaissance Art Company and 
got a job at twelve dollars a week." 

M The Renaissance Art Company," Ed echoed. 
" That's on Boylston Street. You were awfully 
lucky to get in there, Beckie. I've met Pray. They 
say he's an awfully hard man to please but he's 
mighty good to his help. Swell joint, isn't it? 
When I go in there, I'm always hoping those skirts 
will tear off some cabaret stuff." 

" Looks like an aquarium to me," Matt said. 
" I'm always expecting one of those dolls to pull 
out a banana and eat it to prove she can live under 
water." 

" I think it's perfectly charming," Lainey de- 
clared. M Those girls always look to me like cap- 
tive princesses in Maeterlinck." 



138 Beckie's Job 






" Well, I'm glad you're out of that dentist office,' 
said Ann with satisfaction. " I'd just as soon have 
a job with the morgue." 

"Ann," Beckie said privately that night, "you 
know you said once that you'd like to design some 
clothes for me and that you'd like to show me how 
to do my hair a different way. Well, I want you 
to do that. You see those girls in Pray's dress like 
pictures. Now I know I can't look like a picture, 
but I don't want to look like a comic valentine. I've 
just borrowed twenty dollars from Ed, and I want 
you to go in town to-morrow and buy some stuff 
for a dress that will go with walls about the color 
of a dirty duster and curtains the color of those 
olives that look as though they were rotten." 

The war-horse scented battle. Ann's slumberous 
eyes exploded with anticipation. u I know exactly 
what I'm going to get," she announced after 
a brief interval of silent concentration. " I shall 
buy it in Chinatown. It will be a sage-green, some- 
thing with a lustrous surface and very dull, shadowy 
figure in it of the same color. It's going to be 
made very high-waisted, with a long skirt that just 
escapes the ground — that'll make you look tall. 
The girdle is going to be of tomato-red, combined 
with gray. The sleeves," Ann went on meditatively, 
" will be loose and come just to your elbow — your 
arms are so pretty." 

" I shall hate flowing sleeves," Beckie faltered. 
" But I'll wear them," she added hastily. 

" You ought to wear a string of dull red beads," 
Ann went on. 

u Oh my grief!" Beckie quavered. "Necklaces 



ices 



Beckie's Job 139 

always make me feel as if I was being hung. But 
I'll wear it," she added hastily. 

"Then I shall teach you how to do your hair." 
One of Ann's eyes was fixed, half closed, on her 
sister, as though Beckie were a picture she was 
painting. " I shall part it in the middle and pull it 
out soft about your face, and coil it low in your 
neck. You must wear a hair-net so's to keep it in 
all day long." 

" It will make me nervous as a witch, fiddling 
with a hair-net," Beckie groaned. " But I'll wear 
one," she added hastily. 

" Miss Ollivant," Mr. Pray called down from 
the mezzanine balcony six months later (he was 
reading from a list of figures that he held in his 
hand), "what's 987?" 

11 Cimabue Madonna, the Uffizzi, Florence," 
Beckie answered. 

"13426? " pursued Mr. Pray, making a note. 

" Vermeer Interior, The Hermitage, St. Peters- 
burg." 

"29567?" 

" Rosa Bonheur's * Horse Fair,' Metropolitan 
Gallery, New York." 

"6578?" 

" St. Agnes Outside the Walls, Rome." 

After a while, Mr. Pray returned to his office. 
Downstairs, Beckie moved from point to point, re- 
placing pictures in portfolios. The meager light 
slipped like water down her sage-green dress; but 
it caught in the ripples of her hair and trembled 
there in a tawny luster. It could not penetrate to her 
deep eyes;. they were already lighted from within. 



140 



Beckie's Job 



■ in 



A man came into the shop, glanced keenly in 
passing at her preoccupied face, ascended to the 
mezzanine. 

Beckie, still preoccupied, arose, photograph in 
hand, and followed him up the stairs. She stopped 
at the cabinet outside Mr. Pray's office. The con- 
versation of the two men penetrated her absorption. 

" Hullo, Chet," exclaimed Mr. Pray jovially. 
"How's the boy?" 

14 Fine and dandy," answered Chet. " Say, I see 
you engaged that homely little thing that applied 
for a job the last time I was here." 

41 Whaddye mean — homely?" roared Mr. Pray. 
14 How in thunder can ever you call her homely. 
That girl's got a bean on her that's the most useful 
thing in this establishment. Let me tell you her face 
grows on you. It's got more character in it than 
all those wax dolls down there put together." 



CHAPTER VII 

ANN'S NEW SET 

"VTOU don't like Mrs. Peabody,do you, Lainey?" 
X Ann asked, scooping dabs of face cream from 
the jar and slapping one on each cheek. 

" No," Lainey answered decisively, a I don't. 
At least I shouldn't quite say that. I don't dislike 
her. She interests me and fascinates me. She's as 
quiet — and yet I can't take my eyes off of her. I 
always feel as if there was a bomb in the room 
and somebody had just lighted the fuse." 

The two girls were alone in their big attic room. 
They were alone in the house, for that matter. Ed 
was in Panama. Beckie was staying with Aunt Mar- 
garet, Matt commuting with Lory Mack. In this 
Adamless community, Roly had become a negligible 
quantity. Ann sat before the big, tall, black walnut 
bureau, which, in spite of the premeditated coquetry 
of chintz draperies, still looked like a mausoleum. 
Lainey sat curled up on the bed, watching Ann. 
Lainey's dressing was always careless, preoccupied, 
uninspired, lacking in scenic effect and in dramatic 
quality. Ann's dressing, on the other hand, devel- 
oped suspense, climax, color, charm; it was a tech- 
nical marvel. Now she rubbed the cream off her 
face with a towel. The color flooded under her 
white skin; it seemed to raise a nap on it, to turn 
it to velvet, shot with light. Ann passed a powder- 

141 



142 Ann's New Set 

pad over it; the rose light glowed through a silver 
gossamer. 

" I think she's a wonder," Ann disagreed serenely, 
11 and I like her." Perhaps there was a shade to 
much of emphasis on Ann's like. She let down her 
hair. It fell heavily like a mantle of fur, short 
at the ears and ending in a point at her waist. 
She brushed it with swift, smashing strokes, 
coiled it. 

" But then I like all of those people," she con- 
cluded. " What is there about them that you don't 
like?" 

" I don't know," Lainey confessed frankly. 
" And it isn't that I dislike them exactly. It's more 
that I disapprove of them, and yet I hate to say 
disapprove because it sounds priggish. But people 
always appal me who work so hard to have a goo 



I 



time." 



" Well, you don't think having a good time 
easy, do you? " Ann demanded, smearing her cheeks 
with bandoline. " It certainly takes an awful lot 
of money." 

" That's the only thing it doesn't take — accord 
ing to my idea," asserted Lainey. u And as for 
the way they work at it — No, it doesn't seem to me 
that a good time comes that way." 

" I should think," Ann said, " being a Socialist 
and a militant, and all those queer things, that you'd 
like Bohemians." She pulled forward from the 
main mass two highly-burnished scrolls of hair, 
patted them gently onto the bandolined surfaces, 
thrust above them the huge curved pins that rein- 
forced their position. 

" I wouldn't call them bohemians exactly," 






Ann's New Set 143 

Lainey said, more analytic. " I'd call them bo- 
hemiacs. I don't know anything about it, of course, 
but it has always seemed to me that real bohemians 
would be simpler." 

" Well," said Ann with emphasis, u I like them 
all. The only way I can judge people is by their 
clothes; and they all wear perfectly stunning 
things." She drew on a little lace chemisette, which 
she had made with the assistance of Bird. She ad- 
justed it with quick deft movements of her big 
shapely hands. She passed the powder-pad over 
the triangle of neck that this exposed; again the 
flesh turned to velvet — the color of milk this time. 
" And, Lainey, I'm tired of knowing shabby peo- 
ple. I've known them all my life. I want to know 
some smart people for a change — people who do 
all kinds of things without asking what it costs. 
And then I do love a spender, and both Commodore 
Carleton and Mr. Talbot are spenders." She 
walked over to the bed and picked up the gown of 
the blue serge suit which she had made with the 
assistance of a seamstress. Bending and curving 
so that the hooks would not catch in her hair, she 
pulled it on over her head, coaxed it to slim smooth- 
ness and trimness. She plucked from the bureau 
the little, round, amusing, extraordinary hat which 
she had trimmed with no assistance whatever. It 
looked like an aeroplane of black satin with wings 
of black maline. " Of course, we know nice people ; 
but although they've got plenty of class, they cer- 
tainly are dull. It seems to me the most wonderful 
thing in the world that Mrs. Peabody has taken 
such a fancy to me." She drew on the chamois 
gloves which were so exquisitely clean because she 



144 Ann's New Set 

had cleaned them herself. " It seems to me that 
I'm living for the first time in my life." 

"Well, don't think for a moment that I'm not 
glad for you, Ann," Lainey said. Her tone was 
full of fervor. But as she watched her sister leave 
the house and walk briskly up the street, the enthu- 
siasm went out of her eyes ; they became all doubt. 

11 First you pull it free from the shell with your 
fork," said Jimmie Talbot. " Then you salt it. 
I never add anything but lemon-juice. But seeing 
you're a beginner, I guess we'll do the regular 
stunts. Now just a drop of tabasco. Here ! Here! 
That's too much. You'll burn the roof of your 
mouth off. Now a little horseradish. That's 
right. Squeeze the lemon over all of them. Re- 
member to swallow it whole. Now you're off." 

" Isn't it delicious," commented Ann. The men- 
tal glow that, with her, always turned to a physical 
glow now ran through her entire system. She ha< 
just encompassed her first little-neck clam and she 
had a conviction that that hazardous and tingling 
feat had admitted her to the final chamber of younj 
ladyhood. She ate the rest of the clams slowly, 
holding her fork with the instinctive grace, hall 
forceful grip, half butterfly caress, with which hei 
large hands closed on all small objects. From time 
to time, her glance shot through the room, and after 
each survey her eyes seemed to flash a more living 
gold, her cheeks a more violent bloom. 

It was the scene and the atmosphere in whicl 
she had in imagination seen herself a hundred times 
— the dinner-hour of Boston's biggest and smartest 
hotel. The room was crowded; the stadium froi 



Ann's New Set 145 

which Ann had witnessed her first varsity baseball 
game had seemed to empty its contents directly into 
the grill. The big room bulged to bursting with 
beautiful youth. The Harvard crimson and the 
iYale blue made a network of color everywhere. 
And in the air — half a guttural bubbling, half a 
high-pitched gabbling, crisscrossed with music, 
burst by jets of laughter and broken by the popping 
of champagne-corks — the noise pressed on Ann's 
bewildered sense like a ponderable thing. 

" Can you eat your squab without assistance?" 
Jimmie Talbot asked presently. 

" No," Ann confessed, " I can't, but I will. If 
they only served manicure-scissors, I'd know how 
to go at it. But somehow it seems so wicked. I 
feel as if I were eating the canary-bird." 

Their own table, Ann decided privately, was as 
interesting as any. Indeed, the arrival of their party 
stirred a long rippling wave of turned heads which 
began at the door and ended only when they sat 
down. Apparently the table had been reserved for 
them; it was set for eight and decorated with 
crimson. 

This in itself would provide substance for a talk 
until midnight with Lainey, but it was not all. 

For instance, a gentleman in evening-clothes, who 
Ann guessed to be the proprietor and who treated 
.Commodore Carleton with an obsequious kindness, 
had just presented each of the ladies with a souvenir. 
Ann's gift was a little figurine in cloth of a Harvard 
player. It would ornament her bureau, Ann vowed, 
until she died. Also, from time to time, a concealed 
orchestra emitted the latest and choicest tango 
music. Ann had enjoyed this more than anything, 






146 Ann's New Set 

until Mr. Talbot said, " What rotten music ! Why 
do hotels keep up this farce of having an 
orchestra? " 

" I don't know," Ann said, taking her cue at once. 
" Isn't it an absurd custom? " 

Besides all this, everybody except Ann had drunk 
cocktails. And now, reposing on the floor between 
her and Commodore Carleton, sparkled a silver 
bucket, filled with ice, from which emerged a big 
bottle with a golden top. Ann had not shared 
the cocktails; she had not tasted the foamy, sparkly 
contents of the gold-topped bottle. But everybody 
else had; their glasses had been filled twice. It 
seemed to Ann that she had never seen people so 
touchingly happy over a baseball game. Ann was 
happy too — happier than any of them — but not 
because of the Harvard victory, because she was 
where she was. 

It was a curious thing about these people — Ann 
had noticed it many times — they seemed to depend 
so much on drinks. Always they were just about 
to have a drink, or always they had just had one. 
The greatest catastrophe that could happen in their 
various excursions by sea or land was to strike a 
dry zone. They were always making detours in 
their automobile-trips to get to places they had not 
intended to visit, or to avoid spots they had pur- 
posed to explore, according as they turned out 
11 wet " or " dry." But they were very attractive 
about their drinking. Ann was experiencing a 
scathing revulsion against the atmosphere of total 
abstinence in which she had grown up. She discov- 
ered that all her life she had been harboring many 
foolish delusions. She had supposed, for instance, 



I 



Ann's New Set 147 

that when people drank, they began instantly to 
stutter and stagger. In point of fact, there was 
no change whatever as far as Ann could see — except 
for a more lively turn to the conversation after the 
second round of cocktails. And Jimmie Talbot 
was always much nicer then. He became talkative, 
communicative. Ann felt that she did not yet know 
these people very well, but after a second cocktail 
Jimmie Talbot dropped remarks all along the line 
of their tete-a-tete which cleared up much. Only 
one thing bothered. Commodore Carleton, who 
seemed ever to have one ear open for their con- 
versation, was constantly interrupting to engage 
Ann in tete-a-tete. But, although his talk always 
made Ann laugh, it also made her, as she told Lainey, 
feel more like sixteen than eighteen. 

u You see, Ann," Lainey had remarked at this, 
with one of her rare touches of humor, M Commo- 
dore Carleton doesn't realize yet that there's at 
least ten years' difference between those ages." 

Such an episode had just occurred. Mr. Talbot 
had become communicative. " You see that table 
over there, Ann?" he said. "Well, look at 
the girl with the setting hen on her hat. I'll tell 

you a story about her " when Commodore 

Carleton burst in. 

" This is to Ann," he said. Everybody raised a 
glass and drank deep. 

Ann sparkled and blazed, flushed and smiled. " I 
don't know what you say when anybody drinks to 
you," she confided to the table generally, " but it 
certainly makes you feel important." 

" Oh, Ann," Commodore Carleton sighed, " if I 
could only have your spirits on plain water." 



148 Ann's New Set 

Commodore Carleton proceeded to engage her in 
one of his little-girl talks. He asked her which she 
thought the prettiest girl in the room and he agreed 
with her choice. Ann asked him which he thought 
the most attractive man, and utterly disagreed with 
him. The orchestra played a selection from, 
11 Hansel und Gretel," and he told her all about 
the opera. He said that it was just old enough 
for Ann and that when it came to Boston he must 
remember to get tickets for her and her charming 
sister. To Ann's great delight, he made a note 
to that effect in a little leather notebook. 

At the same time, Ann secretly longed to resume 
her tete-a-tete with Jimmie Talbot. It would never 
occur to her to ask Commodore Carleton any but 
impersonal questions. But Jimmie Talbot had just 
swung into the mood in which with just a little help 
from her — the push of an interjected phrase, the 
pull of a tiny question — he would float into a full cur- 
rent of confidence. There were many definite ques- 
tions that Ann wanted to ask and many more, as 
yet vague and unformulated, that would, she knew, 
hurry in their wake. She was conscious of a great, 
a burning curiosity about these people. 

She had met this set all at once. Mrs. Damon, 
her nearest neighbor in Marlowe Place, had let the 
big old Damon house to Mrs. Peabody. Mrs. 
Damon asked Lainey and Ann to call on her tenants. 
Lainey and Ann had called — and all the rest had 
come naturally enough. Party after party had oc- 
curred — mainly on Jimmie Talbot's initiative. 
Lainey dropped out of the combination at once. 
For, except with Commodore Carleton, Lainey was 
not mentally at home. Ann, however, was per- 



Ann's New Set 149 

fectly at home. She liked everybody. She could 
not quite make up her mind which she preferred, 
Commodore Carleton or Jimmie Talbot. If she 
inclined a little towards the latter, it was only be- 
cause, so unmistakably, he inclined towards her. 
The two men were very different: Commodore 
Carleton so gracefully slender, so suavely dark, 
with so distinguished a baldness and such beautiful 
manners; Jimmie Talbot so athletically burly, so 
freshly blonde, with so infectious a gaiety and such 
beautiful clothes. But Ann was very certain that 
she liked Mrs. Peabody best of all. She said this 
to Lainey with a strenuous emphasis every time the 
opportunity presented. Ann was certain, too, that 
Mrs. Peabody liked her; although lately they had 
had little to say to each other. Ann had a feeling 
that Mrs. Peabody wanted to say something very 
much — that it trembled on her lips every time Ann 
accepted another invitation. 

Mrs. Peabody was the most amazing person 
that Ann had ever seen. 

She was one of those women who succeed in being 
wonderful-looking with utterly inadequate mate- 
rials; a skin naturally pasty, hair characterlessly 
black and straight, features at odds with all her 
facial contours. But she had a tall, slim, sharply- 
curved figure. She moved with the swift effortless 
dart of a sea creature. Her clothes always seemed 
the emanation of her personality. And the glassed- 
over top of her dressing-table supported files of 
magic unguents in cut-glass bottles and jeweled 
boxes. And so when, white-skinned, sleek-haired, 
jet-eyed, carmine-lipped, curved like a Damascus 
blade, her meager subtle draperies drifting like a 



150 Ann's New Set 

soul-spume, she came floating down the big shadowy 
parlors of the old Damon house, she seemed to 
have stepped from one of the Japanese prints in 
which the room abounded. Socially, she was a 
strange combination. One half the time she 
smothered under a listlessness that was the fellow 
of Commodore Carleton's; again she exploded with 
a vivacity that left Jimmie Talbot dry and formal. 

Of Mr. Peabody, Ann saw very little. He was 
a tall, thin, bald-headed spectacled gentleman, al- 
ways in smoking-jacket and house-slippers. He was 
writing a book — it was Lainey who discovered this 
— about the influence of Marco Polo on Christopher 
Columbus. Or was it of Christopher Columbus on 
Marco Polo — Ann could never remember which it 
was. But Lainey knew and Lainey said it would be 
an " epoch-making " book. Mr. Peabody did not 
do anything in particular beyond spending days at 
the Public Library and he seemed to have no rela- 
tion to the whirl of his wife's life. Commodore 
Carleton and Jimmie Talbot had a very definite 
relation to that whirl; they were the hubs of its 
wheels. There were, of course, spokes to those 
wheels. Three were present: Jock Clarkson, a 
plump, feathery-haired gentleman whose transparent 
epidermic softness contrasted strangely with his 
opaque ocular hardness; Miss Bernice Berringer, 
the first real chorus-girl, and Miss Rae Leigh, the 
first real artist's model that Ann had ever known. 

Mr. Peabody sat between the two young women. 
Ann noted with approval the attention they pai< 
him. First one filled his glass with half the contents 
of hers ; then the other augmented it from the bottle. 
Mr. Peabody passed rapidly from a stage of ex- 



Ann's New Set 151 

treme volubility about nothing in particular through 
one of great mirth about even less to a brooding 
silence. Finally he withdrew so far into himself 
that his eyelids drooped to cover his retreat. 
" Thinking of Marco Polo," Ann thought scorn- 
fully. " Isn't it fierce being a high-brow ! " 

The two ladies, indulgent of Mr. Peabody's in- 
tellectual absorption, devoted themselves thence- 
forth to the rest of the party. Ann like to watch 
them, although she stood a little in awe of them. 
Miss Leigh had never of her own accord addressed 
her. And Miss Berringer seemed not to look at 
Ann when she talked with her. Miss Berringer 
could sink her gaze deep enough into Jimmie Tal- 
bot's eyes, Ann observed. 

Miss Berringer was a big woman with eyes baby- 
ishly round and blue and a voice babyishly round 
and treble. She wore her golden hair carefully 
tousled ; it was all ripply, glinting ends. Her figure 
seemed to run from the point of her tiny, big- 
buckled shoes wider and wider until her square 
shoulders effected a truncation. Her white lace 
gown fitted this pyramid so perfectly that it looked 
as though it would have to be pared off. 

Miss Leigh, on the contrary, began at the top 
with a tiny, flat, smooth, russet-brown head which 
Lainey said reminded her of a snake that has just 
succeeded in coiling. And although architectur- 
ally she was as straight and compact as a sheathed 
umbrella, she ran down by means of her flame- 
colored pagoda dress to a greater and greater am- 
plitude. Miss Leigh was, in some respects, Ann 
thought, the most wonderful of them all; for she 
smoked cigarettes all the time. Ann decided that 



152 'Ann's New Set 

she must swallow the smoke; it was such a long 
time after she drew it into her mouth before it 
emerged, thinly coiling and fluttering, from her 
nostrils. Ann often wondered if Miss Leigh's 
strange murky pallor, through which the smolder- 
ing eyes seemed to have singed a slit, was the re- 
sult of this habit. Ann had a discontented idea that 
her own wild-rose bloom was a little vulgar. 

14 We're all going to the Pop Concert Thursday 
night, Ann," Jimmie Talbot said presently. " Re- 
member, don't make any engagement for it." 

"No, I won't," Ann said obediently. "Who's 
going?" 

" Oh, all that's here to-night," Talbot answered 
indifferently, " unless we drop Miss Berringer." 

" Oh," said Ann. And her " oh " had a little 
submerged question in it. She was wild to know 
why Miss Berringer should be dropped when it so 
distinctly ruined Miss Berringer's evening if Jimmie 
Talbot were not present. 

" She makes me sick," Talbot went on, as thougl 
answering that question. " I hate fat women, am 
way. Don't let yourself get fat, Ann, whatevei 
you do." 

Ann did not want to get fat. At the same tim< 
she thought that Miss Berringer was rather fasci 
nating. She said so. 

" And it seems to suit her, being plump — don't 
you think? " she advanced a little timidly. For the 
first time in her life, Ann was examining her opinions 
very carefully before she expressed them. 

"Well," Talbot went on, "if she didn't flas 
that baby-blue stare so often. And that baby-blue 
voice gets on my nerves. Bernice is a terrib* 



i 






Ann's New Set 153 

grafter too. I get so tired of paying for her dinners. 
Why the other night " 

And then — it was maddening — "This is to Ann," 
Commodore Carleton interrupted from the other 
side. Again everybody raised creaming glasses and 
drank. 

14 Dear me ! " said Ann, glowing and glittering, 
" you make me feel like a queen or something. 
My brothers haven't any idea what an important 
person I am." 

14 Oh, Ann," Commodore Carleton sighed again, 
" if I only could have your spirits on plain water." 

Again he engaged her in a little-girl talk. 

The dinner progressed. More and more fre- 
quently the glasses creamed full and creamed 
empty. By and by came coffee and what Ann after- 
wards described to Lainey as, M little darling glasses 
of syrupy-looking stuff with golden specks floating 
through it." Ann would have loved to taste this, 
but she declined it. 

u Now where'll we go?" Mrs. Peabody asked 
at last, dipping glittering nails into her finger-bowl. 

What, after all, she loved most about this set, 
Ann decided, was that their parties never seemed 
to end. They were always going somewhere 
else. 

" How about the Pop ? " Miss Berringer said. 

" No, I don't want to go to the Pop," Jimmie 
Talbot decided for them. " Besides we couldn't get 
a table now. Let's go joy-riding. I'll telephone for 
the car." 

11 Well, for goodness' sake, Jimmie," Miss Leigh 
said, " don't get us forty miles from a drink, the 
way •you did the other night." 



154 Ann's New Set 

" Well, did you have a good time ? " Lainey, 
popping her little filmy head from the pillow, con- 
templated her sister, with drooping eyes, sleepy- 
sweet. 

" Oh, lovely! " Ann sighed. Ann's color was as 
high, her eyes as brilliant, her lips as fresh, as at 
six o'clock. " We had a wonderful dinner and then 
we drove and drove; oh, everybody was so gay. 
And just think, Lainey, they've asked me to the 
Pop, Thursday night. I keep thinking they'll get 
sick of me and drop me. What have I to offer such 
wonderful people?" 

" You've got those eyes to offer them, foi 
one thing," Lainey said, dropping back on th< 
pillow. M They won't get sick of you as long as 
you keep them in your head." 

"Lainey/" Ann said. But, involuntarily, sh< 
turned and met with her own wide flaming gaze th< 
deep golden look in the mirror. 

Thursday night at the Pop turned out to b 
another wonderful occasion. Again their table had 
been engaged in advance. Again it seemed to Ann 
that a long wave of turned heads cast up a spray 
of comment as they took their seats. Mrs. Peabody 
would have excited notice anywhere. She wore 
black and white; two colors brought together al- 
ways in sharp contrast and in curious effects of 
angles and planes. More than ever, she looked 
like a study of herself done in the Japanesque man- 
ner by some clever painter. She was unusually 
apathetic. Perhaps for this reason she drank three 
absinthe frappes in succession. Commodore Carle- 
ton who, Ann thought, looked worn, devoted him 



Ann's New Set 155 

self to her; they talked in low tones. Ann often 
thought how interesting their conversation must be ; 
Commodore Carleton wouldn't dare to inflict little- 
girl talk on Mrs. Peabody. It was a small party. 
Miss Berringer, more than ever like a heroic-size 
bisque doll, was accompanied by a stranger, a tall, 
thin, sandy person, a Mr. Roper, who at regular 
intervals impaled Ann with a long, thin, expression- 
less glance. After the important matter of the 
drinks had been attended to, Ann commented regret- 
fully on Mr. Peabody's absence. 

" Yes, the old fool," Jimmie Talbot said unex- 
pectedly. " And I'm glad of it. I wish he'd get 
wise to the fact that nobody wants him, putting the 
kibosh on perfectly good parties, talking about that 
prehistoric gink, Polo Marco. I suppose some time 
he'll finish the rotten thing and then poor Carleton'll 
have to put up to get it printed." 

" But why should Commodore Carleton have 
to pay for it," Ann protested. " The Peabodys 
must have a lot of money. See how they spend 
it." 

" Well — yes — of course — but you see " Jim- 
mie Talbot seemed to lose all oral connection with 
his thought. " What I mean is — Well, it would be 
so like the Commodore — he's such a philanthropic 
guy — to get some publishers to pretend to accept 
the book — so that Peabody would never know what 
a lemon it was " 

11 Oh, I see," said Ann slowly. And she added 
blindly, more by way of making conversation than 
real comment, " Commodore Carleton looks tired 
to-night." 

Jimmie Talbot stopped to finish his high-ball. 



156 Ann's New Set 

" Yes, I guess he didn't sleep any last night. Mrs. 
Carleton had one of her attacks." 

" Mrs. Carleton ! " Ann exclaimed. " Is Commo- 
dore Carleton married?" 

"Why yes!" Talbot said this after a slight 
hesitation. But he went on volubly and smoothly 
enough. " Didn't you know that?" 

Ann had not known it; and for one instant she had 
a sensation of being cheated. The next moment, 
however, she realized her ignorance was merely the 
result of her stupidity. 

"Well, everybody else does," Talbot went on 
briskly. a Mrs. Carleton has been an invalid for 
years." 

11 Oh," Ann said blankly. It was to recover from 
this that she said, M Where is Mr. Clarkson this 
evening? " 

" In Chicago. His firm wired him to come. He 
left yesterday morning." 

Ann did not digest this. Her eyes had grown per- 
plexed. Indeed, all the evening, they held a little 
dulling shadow. Her gaze kept going from Mrs. 
Peabody to Commodore Carleton and back again. 
Nobody noticed this. Once Commodore Carleton 
engaged her in one of his little-girl talks; but ob- 
viously his mind was not on the conversation. It 
concluded with a question from Ann. " Where is 
Miss Leigh to-night?" 

14 She's in Chicago," the Commodore answered 
absently. u She went yesterday morning." 

" Well, did you have a good time to-night? " 
asked Lainey. 

" Lovely ! " Ann replied, and stopped abruptly. 



Ann's New Set 157 

Silence ensued. " Lainey Ollivant," Ann began 
fiercely after a while, M if you think I care what 
people's morals are, you might as well know that 
I don't. I don't care what they're doing so long 
as they seem well-behaved on the surface. I hate 
dull people and homely people and poor people and 
shabby people — women who look as if they did their 
own work and made their own clothes; and men 
who are tightwads and high-brows. I hate serious 
people and refined people. Take Miss Huling, for 
instance. You'd know she had class just to look 
at her hats. But I don't care for class any more. 

I like spenders better than anybody else." 

"All right!" A little -coo of mirth pulsed 
through Lainey's sleepy voice. " Don't mind me. 
What is your next engagement?" 

11 We're going to Nantasket on Commodore 
Carleton's yacht," Ann said with the air of one who 
unfolds a fairy-tale. u We're going to have dinner 
at a hotel and supper on board the yacht and we're 
going to sail home by moonlight. It's going to be 
rather a big party. There will be two automobiles 
at the wharf to meet us — Commodore Carleton's 
and Mr. Talbot's, Lainey." Again Ann had the 
air of challenging her sister, " Commodore Carle- 
ton is one of the finest and most delightful men 
I've ever known." 

" Oh, he's a duck," Lainey murmured so sleepily. 

II Why I'm not dead in love with him, I don't know." 

14 I never could fall in love with him," Ann said 
decidedly, "but I'd always like him." Again she 
threw an explosive at her sleepy sister, " And Mrs. 
Peabody is just as charming as she can be." 

11 Yes," Lainey agreed with reservation, M if a 



[158 Anil's New Set 

stick of dynamite suspended from the ceiling by a 
thread is charming." 

11 Well she is," Ann muttered. 

The trip to Nantasket was all that Ann expected 
of it. Only one blot marred the day's joy. And 
that came immediately after the long gay, sunlit sail 
down the harbor. They discovered that they were 
hungry.; yet it was too early to dine. Besides, as 
they had beaten the first of the regular excursion- 
boats, the hotels had not yet thrown off the night's 
torpor. An occasional small cafe showed an open 
door, a sleepy waiter moving within. They stepped 
into one of these. 

It was a small, clean bare room, each table cov- 
ered with enamel-cloth and set with a series of 
articles in heavy pressed-glass, sugar-bowl, pitcher, 
pepper-pot, salt-shaker, toothpick holder. An old 
man sat at the desk, painfully adding in longhand a 
list of special dishes to a pile of printed bills. He 
came over to their table, a frail, bent, gray-bearded 
figure. An extraordinary pair of spectacles made him 
grotesque. The glasses were thick and blue, rectan- 
gular in shape, quadruple, hinged so that one glass 
covered the eye and the other bent around the 
temple. 

Talbot ordered chowder. The old man went to 
the slide and called the order into the depths. But 
before bending over he took off his glasses and 
placed them on the desk. Without them, it was 
apparent he could see but dimly; he bent and peered 
and shambled. When the steaming dishes shot up 
from below, he himself served them, carrying the 
plates with great caution. 






Ann's New Set 159 

Whenever the old man turned his back, Jimmie 
Talbot did an imitation of him. The mimicry was 
perfect, but it made Ann uncomfortable; she was 
afraid that the victim would turn suddenly and get 
it. This did not happen, however; Talbot dropped 
his impersonation with lightning swiftness. Be- 
sides, Ann said to herself suddenly, without his 
glasses the old man was almost blind. In the end 
she laughed noiselessly with the rest. At the same 
time, the incident left an uncomfortable stain in her 
mind. The morning was half over before she com- 
pletely forgot it. 

But what followed would have wiped out an inci- 
dent far more unpleasant: a long crisp walk over 
the sparkling sand, dinner in a far-away hotel, the 
dining-room of which overlooked the sea from a 
high crag of rock; the invasion later of all the beach 
attractions, fortune-tellers, skating-rinks, roller- 
coasters, photographers, and shooting-galleries, the 
varied and manifold delights of Paradise Park. 
These events were interspersed with popcorn, pea- 
nuts, candy, soda, and hot-dogs. Ann had never 
seen so much money spent in her life. Last of all 
came the reembarkation, a supper on the water 
which seemed to be accompanied from beginning to 
end with fusillades of champagne-corks. 

Afterwards, the party divided up into pairs. Tal- 
bot took Ann to the bow to watch the dividing 
waters. They talked for a long time. It grew 
darker. The others were made to seem very far 
away by the twilight, by even the heavy plop of the 
waves against the boat, and the long, sibilant plash 
that followed. 



160 Ann's New Set 

Stars began to flicker here and there. The moon 
came up. 

" Oh, I'm tired," Ann said after a long while — 
and she sat down abruptly. 

Every physical element in Ann's appearance con- 
tradicted this assertion. She had none of Lainey's 
fragile transparency. Lainey looked like alabaster, 
silver-white straight through. Ann looked as 
though, if you were to cut into her, you would 
strike the golden-yellow of the plum, the scarlet- 
saffron of the peach. The long hot day had ac- 
centuated all her colorings. Her cheeks flared; her 
eyes blazed; her lips seemed to engage her teeth in 
a dance of rose madder with pearl. 

Jimmie Talbot looked at her critically. " You 
don't look it," he said, " although you've got a 
license. But I'll fix you up." Suddenly, as by a feat 
of legerdemain, he pulled a slender green bottle 
from one pocket, extracted two glasses from the 
other. The bottle was white-labeled, golden- 
headed. The glasses were flare-cupped and long- 
stemmed. " Come ! Have your first drink of the 
sparkle-stuff with me. It will set you up." 

11 Yes," said Ann with sudden resolution, " I 
will." Talbot's capable fingers were already insert- 
ing a corkscrew. There came a mimic explosion, the 
rush into the glass of a fluid, faintly golden, vio- 
lently creamy. " I'd like to know what I'm waiting 
for," Ann said scornfully, " putting off tasting 
champagne." 

" That's my idea of nothing to put off," said Tal- 
bot. He handed her the glass. The boat slapped 
a little of its iridescence on Ann's hand; it seemed 
to her that her flesh tingled. " May this be the 



Ann's New Set fi6i 

first of many, Ann," said Jimmie Talbot. They 
both drank, Talbot slowly, Ann, in the spirit of 
amateur bravado, at a single draught. He filled 
her glass again; she drank that quickly too. 

" Now," she said to herself triumphant but trepid, 
" if I see double and begin to stutter, I hope I have 
the sense to keep still about it." 

But she did not stutter; for she had no more in- 
clination to talk than at a wonderful drama. And 
she did not see double; she saw everything with a 
miraculous clarity as in strange dreams she had ex- 
perienced. She gazed sometimes at the moon which 
seemed gradually to come nearer and to swell to a 
spherical roundness. It inlaid everything with a 
luminous green enamel. She had a feeling that if 
she put her hand out, she could touch it. She looked 
off on the water which gradually stiffened to the 
consistency of a fabric, heavily embroidered with 
sparkling bullion. It seemed to scrape the side of 
the yacht. She had a feeling that she would like to 
get out and walk on that heaving solid surface. 
Mr. Talbot did a great deal of feverish ejaculatory 
talking, Ann a great deal of dreamy moveless listen- 
ing. Sometimes she lost track of what he was say- 
ing; it seemed to merge with the green luster of that 
spheroid moon or the silvery contours of that sub- 
stantial sea. And then sometimes what he said came 
shouted to her ear. 

14 but everybody says she leads him a deuce of 

a life — I know myself how kind Carleton's been — 
I've been to their house too many times — he's a 
wonder — if there ever was a prince of good fellows 
— so generous — everybody — perfect host — chari- 
table — number of people he carries along — wouldn't 



1 62 Ann's New Set 

believe it — something same situation with my own 
wife " 

So Mr. Talbot was married. For an instant that 
seemed hideous. But in a moment Ann had a more 
terrible sensation — that she had caught herself 
peeking through a keyhole. But it merged finally 
with the shine of an emerald moon on an argent 
sea. The moon began to flatten and the sea to melt. 

11 — never has understood me — not been hus 
band and wife for five years — her way and I go 
mine — my kind of people and I hate hers — if 
wasn't for the children, I'd get out to-morrow." 

So Mr. Talbot had children. This fact, hate- 
fully alien, also suddenly melted into the silver 
mesh of sea that had caught a bobbing green moon 
in its web. 

And so on and on. Gradually the moon grew 
flatter and flatter, and whiter and whiter, until it wa 
only silver moon. Gradually the sea grew thinner 
and thinner, and duller and duller, until it was only 
gray water. Wharves slid into view. 

Ann stirred and sat upright. " I feel as though 
I'd been asleep," she said gaily. 

Talbot stirred too, and his movement sent the 
empty bottle rolling. " Oh, I forgot," he said, as 
though that reminded him of something. His hand 
went to an inside pocket. It pulled out a pair of 
spectacles, of blue-glass, rectangular in shape, 
quadruple, hinged. " I swiped them when that old 
geezer wasn't looking." He leaped to his feet, 
slipped them on his eyes. Suddenly he was an old, 
bent, stumbling, shambling figure, serving an 
imaginary table. 

Ann watched — frozen. 



I 



Ann's New Set 163 

11 Give them to me," she commanded suddenly. 
And Talbot, smiling an assent, whipped the glasses 
off his eyes, presented them to her with a low bow. 

Ed, fresh from his trip, bronzed, clear-eyed, was 
striding up and down the living-room. " Why, 
Lainey," he was saying, " they're the worst crowd 
Ann could possibly run with. I should think Mrs. 
Damon was crazy — Nobody but a high-brow could 
possibly have — Carleton's a decent enough fellow, 
but he's been putting up for Mrs. Peabody for 
years. Jimmie Talbot's a regular rounder. He's 
pickled all the time. And when he's lit up, he gos- 
sips like an old woman. Peabody's a cold-blooded 
old reptile who's not earned his salt for ten years. 
As for Rae Leigh and Bernice Berringer, the least 
said about them, the better." 

Lainey looked interested in these disclosures, but 
not shocked. " You'd better tell Ann this." 

11 I'll tell her, all right," Ed said grimly. " Beckie 
forwarded your letters. Fortunately, I did not get 
them until I was sailing home. You can fancy what 
a stew my trip would have been if they'd come be- 
fore. As it was — What time is it? " 

" Twelve," Lainey answered, as Ed scooped out 
his watch. 

" They ought to have been back long before this," 
Ed said. " And after a day on the water, I should 
think they'd be too tired to go anywhere else. I 
can't imagine " 

It was in fact two o'clock before Ann arrived. 

" You needn't tell me anything, Ed," she said as 
she kissed her brother. " I've had a long talk with 
Commodore Carleton and he's done it much more 



164 Ann's New Set 

beautifully than you ever could. He's the most 
wonderful man I — although," she added, as one 
being honest with herself, " I'd guessed a lot of it. 
I'm through with those people — but not for the rea- 
sons you think. I'm late because — after we'd taken 
everybody home, I asked Commodore Carleton to 
drive me back to Nantasket in his machine. There 
was something I had to do at once, because I could 
not have closed my eyes until it was done. He un- 
derstood." She glided smoothly up the stairs. 

" Lainey," Ed exclaimed in exasperation, " I don't 
see how you could have been so blind." 

" I wasn't blind, Ed," Lainey answered. " I got 
it all. Not quite in the detail that you have given 
it — but as an atmosphere and an influence." 

14 Then, why in God's name " Ed began. But 

he did not finish. Despite their temperamental and 
intellectual differences, Ed and Lainey never had in 
conversation to finish their sentences. 

11 I'll tell you why, Ed," Lainey answered the 
question that had not been put. '* You see things 
are different nowadays. They don't bring girls up 
the old way any more — sheltering them from ex- 
perience and making them incapable of grappling 
with life when it offers a real problem. Ann is a 
very pretty girl; she's discontented, audacious, pleas- 
ure-loving and luxury-loving. She's yearned for 
such experiences as these, and it's her right to have 
them — in order to find out — I'm glad she's had 
them." 

" Oh, Lainey," Ed sat down heavily, as though 
a long tension had snapped, " you don't know what 
might have happened." 

44 1 know what couldn't happen," Lainey said, 



Ann's New Set 165 

11 for I know Ann. But whatever occurred, it's 
Ann's business — not ours." 

At the same time, "What changed you, Ann?" 
Lainey asked the moment she was alone with her 
sister. 

11 Well, I'll tell you, Lainey," Ann answered. " I 
still prefer smart people who know how to do things 
— and spenders — and I still don't care what their 
morals are. But I've discovered one thing that I 
didn't know about myself before — I guess I like 
them to be kind." 



CHAPTER VIII 
LAINEY AND THE ETERNAL MASCULINE 

"TT7HAT do you suppose I heard to-day? " 

W Ann Ollivant demanded. She suspended 
her pen over the ink-bottle, a golden star of mischief 
dancing in each eye, and gazed at the quiet family 
group. 

11 I'm sure I don't know," Lainey answered for 
them all, " and I never shall guess. Tell us quick." 

" That's right — you never will guess," agreed 
Ann. " You could have knocked me down with a 
feather." 

" Oh, do tell us, Ann," Beckie entreated, inter- 
rupting her count and putting her lace down. 

" That isn't all," Ann went on tantalizingly, bend- 
ing again to her writing. " I've got another piece 
of gossip that will make your hair curl." 

" Oh, quit your stalling, Ann!" Ed commanded 
over the top of his book. 

"Rubber!" Ann gibed. 

11 Come across!" Matt reinforced his brothei 
from the other room. 

" Rubber! " Ann gibed again. " Wait just one 
jiff till I copy the T's." She bent over a new ad- 
dress-book of a brilliant scarlet morocco, to which, 
from an old blank-book, she was transferring data. 

For a moment, there was no sound in the rooi 
but the scratching of Ann's pen and the fall of the 
coals in the grate. In one island of light made b] 

166 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 167 

the big student-lamp, Matt and Roly hung wordless, 
almost breathless, over the chess-board. In another 
oasis of gold, cast by the Japanese lamp, Beckie 
resumed her smocking and Ed his reading. Out- 
side the storm was besieging them with wet and 
clamor; the rain attacked the windows in sheets and 
jets; a high wind curled with the roar of a flame 
about the house, buffeted it, rocked it. In the 
pauses the woodbine tapped at the windows with its 
bony old fingers, rubbed against the casements, 
squeaked on the clapboards. 

" This will take all the leaves off the vine," Lainey 
said dreamily. " I'm sorry. Yesterday in the sun- 
shine they looked as though they'd been dipped in 
wine." 

Lainey had just shampooed her hair and was 
drying it at the fire. She knelt on the hearth, her 
face to the flame, her hair falling over it in a cas- 
cade of molten pale-gold. Wherever the firelight 
touched this cascade, it also turned to liquid, oozing 
red through the pale-gold mesh and spreading out in 
great splashes. Now and then Lainey seized hand- 
fuls of hair and worried them perfunctorily. 

" Please hurry, Ann!" Lainey's voice came, 
muffled, through the cascade. " I do love gossip. 
It's so exciting." 

Ann laughed triumphantly. " The first is about 
Edna Williamson," she began after a while. " She 
has just announced her engagement to Max Elton." 

"Max!" said Beckie, and "Edna!" said Ed. 
Their exclamations were simultaneous and their em- 
phases were the same. " Well, I've been expecting 
it," came from Lainey, and, " I thought it was 
Miriam Max was after," came from Matt. 



168 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

11 I'd like to know how you could expect it, Lainey 
Ollivant, when it's been such a surprise to everybody 
else," Ann answered her sister* " So did Miriam," 
she answered her brother. " That's what makes it 
gossip. Of course, the two girls living in the same 
apartment like that; and Max, being in the apartment 
above, he saw just as much of one as of the other. 
Miriam thought he was calling on her. But he 
wasn't. She's all broken up over it; and they say 
she's been an awful cat to poor Edna ever since." 

" That's the mistake girls are always making," 
Ed commented, " assuming that a man wants to 
marry them because he calls on them twice in suc- 
cession." 

" Sure ! " Matt agreed. " They're forever doing 
that. It keeps a fellow from calling a whole lot 
of places that he'd be going to all the time, other- 
wise. Check! I've got you sewed up there all 
right, Roly-Poly Pudding-and-Pie. Why, Tom La- 
throp was telling me only the other day that he 
started to call on a bunch of girls that he liked an 
awful lot. He was having a good time too. But 
the first thing he knew, the others kept leaving him 
alone with the oldest one. He hadn't any matri- 
monial intentions; so he beat it while the going was 
good. He says he'd been engaged if he hadn't. 
But oh, the frost he gets whenever he meets any oi 
them." 

Serves him right!" Roly said with scorn. 

Fusser! Calling on girls all the time. I wish 
the skirt had nailed him. I wouldn't have had any 
pity for him. Check! Who's looney now? 
guess I've got you on the run, Matthew-Mark-Luke- 
and John." 



u 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 169 

"What's the other gossip, Ann? " Ed demanded. 

" Rubber! " Ann gibed for the* third time. The 
mischief in her eyes seemed to liquefy, to splash over 
and run down to her brilliant lips. " Men are the 
fiercest gossips ever! Wait till I finish the W's." 

" You're quite right, Ann," came, muffled, from 
the sage Lainey. " Men are responsible for just 
as much gossip as women." Her hair was almost 
dry now, but she continued to shake the straight, 
glinty masses over the fender. 

There came another pause, in which the wind 
drove to shrill crescendo and the rain beat to noisy 
climax. Ann bent again to the scarlet address-book. 
Roly's black head — the lamplight made purple run- 
nels through its swart thatch — dipped close over the 
board. With mingled anger and dismay he attacked 
his problem. Matt's tawny head — the firelight 
turned its curling crest to carved copper — was 
thrown back. With mingled triumph and amuse- 
ment, he watched his brother. But Ed did not re- 
sume his reading, nor Beckie her crocheting. 

" Oh come on, Ann ! " Ed urged finally. 

" Come through! " Matt called. 

Ann laughed another tantalizing laugh. u Well," 
she began importantly, " there's been an awful break 
between Babe Davis and Sidney Warren. It seems 
that Babe, somehow, got it into her head that he was 
crazy about Jane Forrester. When he proposed, 
Babe was utterly dumfounded. She refused him 
and Sid got mad and he accused her of encouraging 
him. Now they're not speaking. Lucky escape 
for her, I say. For Sid's turned out to be an awful 
cad. He's going round knocking Babe to every- 
body." 



170 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

" Well, Babe certainly let him spend a lot of 
money on her," Ed pronounced judicially. 

" Yes. but he included Jane in all his parties," Ann 
explained, " and Jane is such a heart-smasher. And 
Babe isn't especially quick in the head, you know." 

With an abrupt movement, Lainey turned about 
and sat cross-legged on the hearth, her face towards 
her family. She threw her hair back. It fell to the 
floor and made there a little basket of turned-up 
ends. Her faint film of halo began to rise above her 
brow. Her figure was straight with decision, but 
her voice was soft with perplexity. " What I would 
like to know — what I can't see — what I don't 
understand — how is a girl to know when a man 
is calling on her, whether he's in love with her or 
not?" 

" What a question," commented Beckie, smock- 
ing wildly. " You can always tell. There's some- 
thing inside you that makes you realize. It's intui- 
tion." 

" Nothing inside me ever makes me realize how 
people feel towards me," Lainey said with decision. 
" I've occasionally had intuitions, of course, but they 
were just as likely to turn out to be unreliable. In 
fact, when I trust them, they're always wrong." 

" That's because you're such an absent-minded 
thing, Lainey," Ann explained pityingly. " You 
see, you don't give your intuitions a chance." 

11 You must be a very queer girl, Lainey," Beckie 
said vigorously. " Why, I always go by my intui- 
tions. I've never made a mistake yet. And if I 
don't stick to my first impressions of people, I al- 
ways regret it. Now, take that Mrs. Dalton — if 
I'd only trusted the way I felt about her, the first 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 171 

time I looked at her ! The moment I saw how near 
together her eyes were, I told you " 

" How about the time you gave that Armenian 
pedler five dollars to get educated on," Roland asked 
in the tone of scientific investigation, " and he 
swiped the hall-rug on his way out? " 

" That was different," Beckie said stiffly. " I'm 
not referring to things like that. Anybody might 
have made that mistake. I mean intuitions in re- 
gard to people you'd be likely to know — not for- 
eigners." 

" Well, if a girl hasn't any more intuition than 
I have," Lainey sighed, a little waxen wrinkle coming 
between her brows, u I still don't see how she's 
ever going to tell when a man's in love with her — 
or what's more important, when he isn't." 

44 You're not supposed to think of it, Lainey," 
Ann said with impatience. " It's very — very — un- 
womanly. You're not supposed to have ideas that 
a man wants to marry you." 

11 But I couldn't help thinking of it," Lainey per- 
sisted with her gentle obstinacy. " I couldn't help 
having ideas." 

" So much the worse for you, then," Ann said in 
a relentless voice. " But you oughtn't to, just the 
same. You're supposed to drift along, paying no 
attention to what he says or does, letting things 
take a natural course." 

14 And then when he proposes," an injection of 
scorn froze the perplexity in Lainey's tone, " you 
permit yourself to wake up to the fact that you've 
been in love with him all the time." 

14 Yes," said Ann. 

44 Yes," said Beckie. 



172 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 



. 



Lainey stared at her sisters, a thousand tiny in- 
dignations blazing in her face. " But — but — 
but " — apparently she staggered mentally as 
well as orally — " suppose he shouldn't propose 
at all?" 

" You still would take no notice of anything," 
Ann informed her. 

" That's one of the legitimate risks of the game," 
supplemented Ed. 

" But — but " Again, mentally and orally, 

Lainey staggered to silence. " Suppose," she took 
it up with an onrush of spirit, " suppose, by and by, 
you wake up to the fact that, by some awful fatality, 
you are in love with him and he has no intention 
of proposing to you, what do you do then? " She 
fixed her deep, blue-lighted gaze on Ann. 

11 He'd propose," Beckie thrust in grimly, " if 
you knew your business." 

" Anyway, Lainey," Roland called from the other 
room, " I'd knock his block off for you." 

u Not if I was around," Matt said. " The thing 
to do is to let a man feel free." 

Lainey's narrowed questioning, shimmering gaze 
still held Ann's wide, confident blazing look. 

Ann answered when the others stopped. " You 
do nothing," she said cuttingly, " if you are a lady." 

Lainey meditated, a tiny-boned, helpless-looking, 
bird-claw of a hand on each knee. Her released 
hair slid in flat straight masses forward over her 
shoulders, diminishing her face until it was almost 
lost in shadow. 

" It seems to me," she said finally with a sigh, 
11 it's an awful job being a lady." 

" I don't find it so," Ann stated superbly. 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 173 

11 You! " Roland exploded. " Who ever told you, 
you were a lady? " 

Ann was still superb enough not to answer. 

11 Fortunately for me," Lainey decided, " I don't 
have to bother about this question, anyway. Not 
being the kind of girl that attracts men — Besides, 
I never intend to marry, anyway." 

" They all say that, Lainey," Ed and Matt in- 
formed her in chorus. 

" Well, it would be a good principle to stick to," 
growled Roly. M I wish all girls had that idea." 

" But I should think for a girl like you, Ann," 
Lainey continued, ignoring Roland, " that all men 
find attractive, it would be very puzzling. How- 
ever, the thing to do, of course, is to assume that no 
man wants to marry you until he makes a deposition 
to that effect before a justice of the peace." 

" Lainey, I think that's the most immodest — and 
unlady-like — and mercenary remark I ever listened 
to," came in bursts of shocked phrases from Beckie. 

" Well, all I've got to say," began Ann, " is " 

The long strident peal of the door-bell inter- 
rupted. 

" Good Lord, who can that be this stormy 
night? " Ann concluded. 

"Oh, my stars!" Lainey started with a horri- 
fied vigor, " and garters ! " she ended in feeble dis- 
may. 

" Lainey Ollivant," Ann demanded sternly, " who 
have you invited here? " 

11 Some young men that Bird and I met at the 
local," Lainey answered meekly, " some Socialists. 
And I had forgotten all about it. My goodness! 
I'll never pass a general invitation again as long 



fi74 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

as I live. They always come at the worst possible 






" Stand up! " Ann commanded inflexibly. 

Obedient, Lainey stood up, slim as a paper-doll 
in the long, sage-green Chinese sa'am — an heirloom 
which she had resurrected from the attic. Her hair 
fell in straight, arrow-like strands, palely gold to 
her waist; her house-slippers pointed in red V's from 
beneath her narrow coat. 

" No, you're not going upstairs," Ann hissed 
swiftly. " I'm not going to entertain a group of high- 
brows when you haven't given me a moment to think 
of something to talk about. Roll up your hair ! " 

Obedient, Lainey bulked her hair in her neck, 
skewered it together; pegged it down. 

"Put on your cap!" continued the unyielding 
voice. 

Obedient, Lainey put on the cap. From under 
the lace ruffle, the hair fell on her forehead, a fine 
golden fringe like spun-glass. 

" Now open the door! " 

Obedient, Lainey opened the door. In another 
moment, she was performing prodigies of confused 
introductions. 

The three young men, thus suddenly thrown into 
the Ollivant circle, were contrasted types. Opinions 
differed widely in regard to them. 

Mr. Quentin Quigly had just come from Paris, 
via New York. He was a magazine writer and he 
was collecting material for an article entitled, " How 
Shall We Wake Up Boston? " He was the oldest 
of the three, a young man of a romantic aspect. 
He was big-featured and fine-featured. He had a 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 175 

plumpish look, as though he had been modeled with 
a bold incisiveness in wax and then allowed to melt 
a little. His brown eyes were full, expressive, and a 
little languid. His brown hair was thin, wavy, and 
a little long. He wore brown corduroy trousers, a 
loose blouse, a flowing tie, and a Stetson hat. Beckie 
said that he was as handsome " as a Greek god." 
Ann remarked that he had red eyelids. Roland 
observed that he was a fathead. Lainey said noth- 
ing. 

Mr. Worthington Pope had come straight from 
Millers Falls, Vermont, to Boston. He was a re- 
porter on the Chronicle. He was not so tall as 
Mr. Quigly, but he bulked bigger and he seemed 
to be cast in iron. His eyes were like wells of black 
ink, they were so big and changeless and sparkless; 
and it was as though his hair, brows, and lashes had 
been powdered with coal-dust. His skin and teeth 
were so milky that two great patches of crimson 
on his cheekbones looked like make-up. His razor 
seemed never to catch up with the black blur of his 
beard. " Looks like one of those cowboy heroes in 
the movies," said Beckie. " If he'd only shave his 
face more and his neck less!" remarked Ann. 
; ' You ought to see him box!" observed Matt. 
Lainey said nothing. 

Hopwood Lee — everybody called him Hop after 
that first evening — was an Oregonian who was study- 
ing at Harvard. He was no taller than Lainey 
and almost as small-waisted. His shoulders were 
enormous, as though they had been carved for a 
much bigger man and then fitted to his torso. He 
had small, brilliant gray eyes which twinkled humor- 
ously through thick brown lashes; big teeth which 



176 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 



;. 



glittered — humorously too — out of a wide mouth; 
a brown top, more like a pelt than hair; a chin like a 
rock, nothwithstanding it was almost divided into two 
chins by a deep cleft. " Looks like a little boy play- 
ing he was a man," said Beckie. " I hate those two 
gold teeth ! M remarked Ann. " You ought to see 
him pitch a ball ! " observed Ed. Lainey said noth- 
ing. 

11 Beckie," Lainey said one Sunday morning, ap- 
pearing in nightgown and kimono at her sister's 
door, " may I get in bed with you for a little 
while?" 

14 Of course," Beckie said sleepily. 

Lainey pitpattered across the room, threw her 
kimono over the back of the bed, ripped off her little 
scuffs on the edge of a chair, slipped under the 
clothes, snuggled. 

Beckie watched her. 

Lainey had changed in the last month. Her 
whole personality had quickened. Her little slim 
figure had gained a budding salience, her little oval 
face a deepening intensity. Her mystical gaze had 
widened; sparks flashed and died in its blue-gray 
haze. Her lips seemed to have burst into bloom 
too ; they curved up and away from each other like 
flower-petals. It was almost voluptuous — that con- 
trast of the whiteness and chill of her skin with the 
curbed, curled crimson of her wide, soft mouth. 

Beckie lay with her eyes open for a while, an ex- 
pectant look on her face. But nothing came from 
Lainey. Beckie's eyes gradually filmed; her lids 
fell. 

44 Beckie," Lainey said suddenly. Her clear little 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 177 

voice fell like a raindrop on the sleep-charged air. 
11 Do you ever think of marriage? " 

Beckie's eyes flashed open, scintillated. M Of 
course I do," she said. " All the time. Or," she 
corrected herself, " a lot of the time." 

" I don't," Lainey admitted in a crestfallen tone, 
" or at least I haven't much. In the past, I mean. 
Lately I have. The trouble with me is, I guess, that 
I never think of anything until I have to. And mar- 
riage is — so — so — strange — and — and ' ' 

Lainey stopped. Her voice faded into silence. 
She sighed. The sigh faded into silence. Beckie 
waited. Nothing more came. Gradually again her 
eyes filmed. Her lids dropped. 

u Beckie ! " Again Lainey called her sister back 
from the vestibule of dreams. And again Lainey's 
voice was like the splash in the sleep-saturated air of 
some chill liquid. " Do you feel as though — mar- 
riage — were an experience that you — ought to have. 
I mean — do you feel — that your life won't be — com- 
plete — without it? " 

" I should commit suicide to-morrow," Beckie an- 
swered simply, "if I didn't think I was going to get 
married some day. That's the way I feel." 

11 Do you, Beckie?" Lainey said. She sighed; 
but then, as though all along she had been afraid 
that this was the way it would be, she added, " I 
think Ann's like that, although perhaps she wouldn't 
admit it. Beckie, do you know I think there's some- 
thing very queer about me?" Lainey's tone had 
become grave, sorrowful, a little alarmed. " The 
thought of marriage fills me with a — a — a — disgust 
— yes, that's what it is — a loathing. I don't mean — - 
what you think I mean — exactly. I mean — Well, 



178 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 






when I go out to see Cousin Edith and walk up 
Edgemore Street between those two rows of mar- 
ried-looking houses." Lainey was suddenly fluent, 
facile, articulate again. M You know what I mean; 
each with a young married couple in it and perhaps 
a baby or two. And when I see the rubber-plant 
in the window and the iceman at the back door and 
the baby-carriage on the piazza and the baby's wash 
on the line, a sort of feeling of disgust comes over 
me that — that — well, Beckie, I just hate it. I hate 
it — that's all there is to it. It all looks so cut-and- 
dried, so like the end of things. It looks as though 
you had accepted a job and bound yourself to keep 
it until the end of your days; a job from which 
there'd never be any change — any advance in respon- 
sibility or increase in pay. That isn't all, either. It 
looks as though you'd shut the door in the face of 
romance and locked out adventure, as though you'd 
put your youth in a box in the attic. And when I 
hear Cousin Edith and Cousin Mark talking that 
married talk about — oh, you know — the train service 
and don't-forget-to-order-the-coal and be-sure-and- 
turn-the-gas-down-in-the-hall — oh, Beckie, it gives me 
a perfectly horrid sensation. Do you feel that way ? " 

11 No," replied Beckie calmly. " I don't know 
what you're talking about. I love to go out there. 
It's my ideal of a home." 

" Beckie," Lainey said, " sometimes I hate th( 
word home. But I guess I'm queer and different 
from other people." 

Beckie attempted no closer translation of this. 

" Beckie, I want to ask you another thing. Woul< 
you — would you — have ever thought — What I meai 
is, do you want to have children? " 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 179 

For a long moment, Beckie did not answer. 
Lainey said nothing. But the silence was the kind 
that accumulates each second in intensity. 
11 Lainey," Beckie broke in at last, u I'm twenty- 
eight. And if by the time I'm forty I haven't had a 
baby of my own, I'm going to adopt one." 

"Oh!" Lainey said, "Oh!" Then again, 
11 Oh ! " There were three emotions in those ohs, 
surprise, wonder, compassion. " How strange ! 
And yet it's beautiful. But, Beckie, I don't feel that 
way. I feel — I wish — I often think it would be so 
nice if babies came the way mother told us they did 
when we were children — growing out of water-lilies. 
Don't you remember the picture that used to hang 
in the nursery of an opening lily and a little duck 
of a baby peeking out from the petals. I believed 
that ever so long. I had a fight with Marie Maple- 
son when she told me the truth. I thought that that 
picture was proof. Oh, I think that would be nice. 
I mean — I don't see why we have to have fathers for 
our babies. I think they're awfully unnecessary. 
Now, if I could have a baby all my own without 
any father, I — oh, I'd love that." 

" Well, I wouldn't," Beckie proclaimed down- 
rightly. " I'd like a husband and a father for it. 
Who'd support it?" 

" I would — if it was mine," Lainey answered with 
conviction, " I'd find a way. I know I would." 

There came another long silence ; so long that this 
time the two girls drifted off to sleep. 

" Beckie," Lainey said, coming into her sister's 
room the following Sunday morning, " I want to 
talk with you. I'm troubled." 




180 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

" Well, now," Beckie said, yawning the sleep out 
of her hazel eyes, " we're getting to it. Why didn't 
you tell me last Sunday? What's it about? Mr. 
Quigly?" 

11 Yes, I tried to tell you," Lainey said, " but 
somehow I couldn't. No, it's about Mr. Pope." 

" What, about him? " Beckie snapped. 

11 You see, Beck, I don't understand about such 
things — and I want to do what's right. And 
you have so much intuition — and I haven't any 
— I'm a perfect fool. But it began two weeks 
ago." 

"What began?" Beckie demanded. "Lainey, 
do please be a little more clear." 

" Well, two weeks ago, Saturday afternoon, he 
asked me if I'd go walking with him. I said I 
would and did. He called for me. After we left 
the house, he said that he wanted to look at some 
vacant apartments and would I go with him. Of 
course I was willing, and he showed me a long string 
of addresses that he had got from real estate agents, 
many of them in Brookline here. Well, the long 
and short of it was that we spent the afternoon at 

it " 

• "Yes," Beckie said. "Go on!" 

" Well, it didn't happen in the first one we looked 
at, but in the second. And I don't know how I got 
the idea. But presently I found that we were con- 
sidering these apartments from the point of view 
— of a — married pair. He asked me all kinds of 
questions — and Beckie, I can't tell you how queer I 
felt when he would say, ' Do you like this, Lainey? ' 
or, * Is this your idea of a comfortable apartment? ' 
or, * Tell me what you think. I want to be guided 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 181 

by your opinion.' Always accenting the you and 
your! 1 

" What did you say? " Beckie asked. 

" Beckie, I didn't know what to say. I didn't 
know where to look. But I kept repeating as often 
as I could without seeming foolish that I wasn't very 
clever at that sort of thing, that I knew nothing what- 
ever about housekeeping and hated it, and that Ann 
was the one to go to, that she was so practical. And 
so forth — and so forth." 

11 What did he say to that? " 

11 Oh, that it wasn't Ann's opinion that he wanted 
but mine. Now what — you have so much intuition, 
Beckie — what do you think he means?" 

" There's only one interpretation of his meaning, 
Lainey. I'll tell you now what I've thought all 
along — Worth Pope is in love with you. I think 
he's shy, though, and that's his way of showing it. 
Oh, Lainey, can't you fall in love with him? I should 
so love to have a wedding in the family." 

11 Of course I can't — you goose! And yet, some- 
how, Beckie, I think you're wrong. I can't feel that 
he " 

" Why, good gracious, Lainey, don't you know 
when a man's in love with you? " 

" No. Why should I ? No one was ever in 
love with me before." 

11 But don't you have a feeling? Don't you real- 
ize that he's looking at you when you're not looking 
at him and that he always knows just what you're 
doing, always listening to what you're saying, always 
plotting and planning to get alone with you? " 

Lainey shook her head so vigorously that the bed 
shook too. " No, I've noticed nothing of those 



1 82 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

things. In fact, his eyes always seem to have a far- 
off look, as though he was thinking of something else. 
No, the only thing he does is to ask me to go to 
places with him. But so does Mr. Quigly." 

11 Well," Beckie said, exasperated, " what are you 
going to do about it? " 

11 Beckie, what can I do about it? " 

" Do you love him? Do you intend to marry 
him? In that case you do nothing about it." 

"No. No. Of course I don't love him; He 
reads nothing but the best-sellers." 

M Then you should tell him or show him in some 
way." 

" Beckie, I can't refuse a man before he asks me." 

" Well, all I know is, it's your duty as a lady to 
let him know in some way if you don't intend to 
accept him." 

Lainey groaned. " It's dreadful hard being a 
lady, isn't it Beck?" 

"Does Mr. Quigly act that way?" Beckie in- 
quired. 

"Oh no, I should say he didn't," answered Lainey 
" He's a comfort. He's always telling me about the 
other girls he calls on — he must know reams of 
them. And then he has very advanced ideas about 
love and marriage. He thinks the present system is 
all wrong. He says that women ought to have the 
to propose marriage just as much as a man. 
He ays that the perplexed conditions of to-day arise 
from wrong economic conditions. He says tha 
when women have become economically independent, 
the degrading conditions that surround love and 
marriage will be done away with. When women 
have as much to offer men, in the way of prosperity 






Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 183 

and ability and earning capacity, as at present men 
have to offer women, why then the wooing and pro- 
posing will come as often from one side as the other. 
But in these times, in order to facilitate the coming 
of better ones, it is our duty to indulge as much as 
possible in a free companionship with members 
of the other sex — I mean, friendship without the 
thought of love and marriage." 

" Bosh! " remarked Beckie. 

" Beckie," Lainey said, " he's right and you're 
wrong. He's taking me to a meeting in Newton 
to-morrow night. Now, I'm going to let you finish 
your nap." 

It was three nights later that Beckie, coming home 
late, found Lainey asleep in her bed. When Beckie 
turned up the gas, Lainey's lids flashed open, wide. 
" Is that you, Beckie?" she asked drowsily. 
Drowsily, too, she pulled herself up to a sitting posi- 
tion, fitted a pillow into her back. 

"More trouble?" Beckie asked, her eyes scin- 
tillating. 

"Beckie Ollivant, you're enjoying this!" Lainey 
reproached her sister. Perhaps she was enjoying it 
herself; for as she plunged into her narrative a 
smile, delicious with conscious power, showed her 
little teeth. " My dear, Mr. Pope called me up this 
afternoon and asked me if I'd meet him in town and 
go to tea with him. I said I would. I hoped nat 
I might have an opportunity to tell him. He put 
the hour at two. I thought that extraordinarily 
early; but when I met him, he asked me if I minded 
going about to some stores with him. Isaid I didn't 
— never suspecting — you know what an idiot I am, 



184 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

Beck. And — it seems — he was looking at furniture 
with the idea of fixing up that apartment and, al- 
though he didn't say it in so many words, there was 
always the insinuation that it was for two — not 
bachelor housekeeping at all." 

" Did he buy anything? " Beckie asked, hanging 
up her coat and hat. 

" No, he only looked at things. But, just as be- 
fore, he would say, ' What do you think, Lainey?' 
or, ' Remember, I'm depending on you! ' or, ' Tell 
me exactly how you feel about it.' " 

" Well, Lainey, I hope you told him " Beckie 

was beginning severely. 

11 But Beckie, how could I? A man who's made 
no effort to make love, who never looks at me when 
he talks to me — well, he's got to give me more of an 
opening than that." 

" Yes," Beckie said slowly, beginning to undress, 
" I suppose so. And, of course, it isn't as though 
he'd begun to buy those things. How about Quigly? 
Is he still talking about other girls? " 

" Oh no," Lainey said with one of her rare flashes 
of humor, u now that he's established an alibi, he 
doesn't have to. Oh, but Beckie, we went to that 
meeting together way out in Newton and, my dear, 
what do you suppose he did? " 

" What? " Beckie demanded. 

" We were late and he took a taxicab out there." 

" A taxicab ! " Beckie exclaimed. " It must ha 1 
cost a million dollars." 

" It did," Lainey said. " Eight dollars anc 
ninety cents'. Oh, I nearly died — watching that 
clock-thing jumping round. I told him if my hail 
turned white, it would be his fault. But he onl] 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 185 

laughed. I never saw anybody spend money like 
that. I told him so. He said nobody else ever had 
in Boston. He hates Boston. " 

Beckie bristled. " I'd like to know what he thinks 

New York has on it Do you like Mr. Quigly, 

Lainey? n 

" I do and I don't," Lainey answered in an analy- 
tic voice. " I like his ideas, but I'm not sure yet of 
his character. I mean his ideas are very free and 
emancipated and noble, but I have a sort of an idea 
that he would only live up to them so far as they 
justified him in doing unconventional things. I don't 
think that he'd suffer for a principle. But, although 
I like Worth Pope better, I'm more comfortable 
with Mr. Quigly. There's always a worry hang- 
ing over me when I'm with Worth. But I feel 
perfectly free when I'm with Quentin — knowing that 
he's not in love with me." 

14 Yes, all my intuition is that he isn't. But don't 
let it bother you too much, Lainey. Remember 
that mother said: if you were a lady, something 
would tell you how to behave in every position in 
which you were placed." 

" Well, I think some new situations have come up 
since mother's time," Lainey said without conscious 
sarcasm, " Oh, Beck, you are such a comfort 
to me." 

The following Saturday when Beckie came home 
a little early from work she found Lainey a dull, 
colorless, crushed heap on the sofa. Ann was sitting 
beside her. 

"What's happened?" Beckie inquired. 

11 Oh, that bounder of a Quigly," Ann answered 



1 86 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

viciously. " Didn't I tell you to never trust a man 
with red eyelids. " 

"What has he done?" Beckie asked. 

11 He's proposed to her," Ann answered sternly. 

11 Proposed ! " Beckie said in bewilderment. 
" Quentin Quigly ! Lainey, are you sure it was 
Quentin? " 

Lainey emitted a little spiritless rill of laughter. 
" I'll admit I'm absent-minded. But I'm not quite 
so dopey as that." 

" Well, what's all this about, then," Beckie went 
on. " It's no insult to propose to a girl." 

"It was the way he did it — beast!" sputtered 
Ann. 

" I refused him," Lainey explained. " And he 
got quite offensive. He accused me of encouraging 
him. I apologized and explained that I did not 
realize that his intentions were matrimonial and he 
said that I ought to have known they were. We 
had quite an unpleasant scene. Ann came home in 
the midst of it. She could not help hearing it — he 
talked so loud." 

" Talked! " This from Ann. u Bellowed, you 
mean." 

" But I don't want the boys to know anythin 
about it," Lainey concluded feebly. " There, 
there's Ed now." 

" Well, I declare, I never thought it was Que 
tin," Beckie said. " I thought— Hullo, Ed." 

Ed did not answer Beckie. " What's all this 
row about Quigly, Lainey?" he demanded sternly. 

" How did you know about it, Ed? " Lainey de- 
manded in her turn ; and her voice was no less stern 
than her brother's. 



. 









Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 187 

" I ran into Quigly before coming home," Ed 
answered. " I saw that he was considerably broken 
up over something and I asked him what the matter 
was. He evaded me at first, but I kept at him. 
Who's that? Oh, Matt and Roly. Finally, he 
told me the whole story and I must say — Beat it 
you fellows ! Oh, hullo, Hop ! Get out, all of you. 
Lainey and I want to have a talk." 

" No," said Lainey, " Stay here ! " Silvery 
flames fluttered her eyelashes; two flakes of solid 
color burst on her cheeks. "If Mr. Quigly is tak- 
ing the whole world into his confidence, so shall I. 
The situation is this, boys: Mr. Quigly proposed 
to me this afternoon and I refused him. He has 
taken me about a good deal, as you know, and — yes, 
spent a great deal of money on me. He accused 
me of encouraging him, and I told him that I didn't 
know that he meant to — that he thought of — that he 
wanted to marry me." 

Roly, obviously bored, opened Matt's paper. 
Matt fell into one of the big chairs and considered 
the subject, frowning. Hop Lee took a silent posi- 
tion in front of the fire. 

" Lainey, I should have thought you would have 
known that he was in love with you," Ed said accus- 
ingly. " Think of how often he's been here." 

" Why, Ed Ollivant," there was a hysterical note 
in Lainey's voice, " it was only a month ago, in this 
very room, that you and Matt told me that the great 
mistake girls were always making was to assume 
that men who called on them wanted to marry 
them." 

" That's true," Ed said. " But at the same time, 
you've got to show some common sense. There's 



1 88 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 






a point beyond which — you shouldn't let a man 
spend so much money on you. Quigly mentioned 
— not in any caddish way; it just happened to come 
out in talking about taxis in Boston — that it cost ten 
dollars bringing you in from Newton the other 
night/; 

" Eight-ninety — to be exact," corrected Lainey. 
"Well, all I can say is that I got into this trouble 
just by following your advice and assuming that he 
was not in love with me until he told me so. Why 
couldn't I have supposed Worth Pope was in love 
with me ? He's been taking me about — and spending 
money on me — if that's any criterion." 

" Well, Lainey, I think he is," Beckie put in. 

11 Well, he isn't," Lainey said. " He telephoned 
me to-day that he was going to be married at Christ- 
mas. He'd got a letter from the girl this morning 
saying she would. He said one reason why he came 
out here so often was that I reminded him of the 
girl. He showed me her picture in his watch. It 
looked just about as much like me as a cat — a little 
darling, blonde fairy creature. He said he asked 
my advice about flats and furniture and things be- 
cause he felt that my taste would be just like hers. 
At first she said that he'd got to pick out the apart- 
ment and all the furniture — but he said, when he 
wrote her that I was helping him look at things, she 
decided she'd rather do it herself." 

Beckie laughed. " I bet she did. You made that 
match all right." 

14 But," Lainey went on, addressing her brothers 
she had not even heard Beckie, " he never mentioned 
that girl to me; he wouldn't insult me by making 
such an explanation. Now, suppose I had taken a 



„ 



en all 



Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 189 

his attentions seriously. It would be a pretty nowdy- 
do now, with him marrying another girl in two 
months." 

11 Well, all IVe got to say," Ed promulgated, " is 
that you acted wisely in one case and like an idiot in 
the other." 

" That's right, Lainey," Matt agreed; " you can't 
be too careful. You've got to let a man feel free — • 
and you must not seem to be working him." 

" Well, Lainey," Roly said, " I'm glad you didn't 
take Quigly — how I'd enjoy punching that fat head 
of his! Only my fist would go through and come 
out the other side." 

Hop Lee came into the discussion. " I wouldn't 
bother about Quigly. Getting engaged is the eas- 
iest thing he does. I know at least three girls he's 
made love to." 

" Now, I have a proposition to put to you, 
Lainey," Hop said later when the excitement had 
died down. " There's a strike in Beverley and next 
week I want you to go with me to some of the 
I. W. W. meetings there. I think there's going to 
be some grand doings. I wish to announce to you 
in the presence of your family that, whatever my 
private feelings towards you may be, I don't consider 
that you are encouraging me by accompanying me." 

11 Hop," Lainey said, after an interval of calm 
consideration, M I accept your invitation. And in 
my turn, I promise you that, whatever my private 
feelings towards you are or become, I shall not con- 
sider that these invitations compromise you in any 
way. But I've had one brush with your sex and I 
find that the game works out to their advantage 
any way you play it. And so, in the meantime, go- 



190 Lainey and the Eternal Masculine 

ing to those I. W. W. meetings or anywhere 
with you, I'll pay my own expenses, if you please." 

u Lainey" Ann exclaimed, " I never heard such 
talk in my life. Do you think that's being a 
lady?" 

11 Oh, damn being a lady! " said Lainey Ollivant. 



CHAPTER IX 

ROLY COMES THROUGH 

"TS that you, Ed?" Beckie called and, not wait- 
J, ing for an answer, she added, " Come in a 
moment. I — we all want to talk with you." 

11 All right," Ed Ollivant answered. He leisurely 
removed his evening-hat, deposited it on a hook. 
He took off his smart evening-ulster, drew off the 
muffler of gray crocheted silk, folded them with the 
care a girl might have shown, and placed them on 
the hall-settle. He paused to glance in the long 
mirror above the seat — glanced critically, though, 
and only as one who prides himself on being cap- 
a-pie. His appraising glance might justifiably have 
developed into a complacent one, for the picture was 
comely. Tall, slim, Ed's grace of structure ex- 
pressed itself in grace of movement, but it was 
reinforced by a pervading suggestion of muscularity. 
Equally, his cold, blonde face would have shown 
almost too correct a line of feature if it had not been 
informed by a look of power. That grace and that 
power were the grace and power of steel, nervously 
carved. He strolled in the direction of his sister's 
voice. 

It was not on Beckie alone that he came — but 
Matt and Ann. The doors between the two rooms 
were open, but the outlines of the rooms lost them- 
selves in gloom. The hanging-lamp, however, 
dropped a cone of golden light on the bared dining- 

X 9 X 






192 Roly Comes Through 

room table, on Beckie's tumbled ripples of mahog- 
any-colored hair, on Ann's careful coils and curls 
and spirals of gold brown, on Mart's virile plume of 
copper red. The open-grate fire in the living-room 
— neglected — had died down to a soft heart of rose 
that pulsated under ar filigree of silver ash. But 
the stove in the dining-room — neglected also — had 
flared up until a round spot of scarlet gleamed on 
its bulging front. 

That spot of angry scarlet seemed to be the psy- 
chological symbol of the discussion ; it was reflected 
in the three faces that lifted to meet Ed's. 

Upright in her chair, her face a satiny crimson, 
her spool revolving rapidly on the table before her, 
her needles spitting sparks, Beckie crocheted — and 
crocheted violently, as one whose fingers are trying 
to keep pace with her racing thoughts. Opposite, 
her cheeks a velvety pink — before her on the table 
a basin of water, a tin of metal polish and an array 
of cloths — Ann rubbed at something she held in her 
lap — and rubbed with jabs and dashes of vigor as 
one who is emphasizing her own voiceless argument. 
Near, sprawled in the big morris-chair, his eyes a 
brilliant blue in contrast with his scarlet flush, Matt 
snapped an elastic band, sling-shot fashion, against 
the arm of his chair — and snapped it as one who ex- 
presses not ennui, but mental discomfort. 

If Ed got the atmosphere of unease, his composed 
look gave no sign. He wheeled a big chair from the 
bay-window, lifted it over the seam where the two 
rooms met, seated himself in it in an attitude whose 
correct grace was the very antithesis of Matt's care- 
less relaxation. With the quiet precision that 
marked all his movements — Ed was a human em- 



Roly Comes Through 193 

bodiment of the principle of efficiency — he reached 
into one pocket of his dinner-coat, brought out a 
cigarette-case of gold, superbly monogramed, 
snapped it open, removed a cigarette, placed it be- 
tween his lips, dropped the case back into his pocket. 
Still slowly, he drew from another pocket a match- 
safe, also of gold, and also superbly monogramed, 
snapped that open, withdrew a match, dropped the 
box into his pocket. Then, quickly he jabbed the 
match ablaze, lighted his cigarette, tossed the match 
into the coal-hod. But he paused to draw slowly on 
his cigarette and to send a volley of smoke-rings flut- 
tering across the table before he spoke. Then, 
u Lainey not home yet? " he inquired casually. 

Beckie had followed this process with the fas- 
cinated look which always illumined her eyes when 
Ed was about. Her lips formed to answer him. 
But, " No," Ann answered before her sister could 
speak. And as though to hold back what Beckie 
was going to say, she plunged Volubly onward. 
" She telephoned to-day that she would not be at 
home until Friday. She's having a fine time with 
Aunt Margaret. Oh, say — that reminds me. She 
says that Maddie Perkins brought her over a snap- 
shot that she took of mother once — that time she 
came here for a week-end. She took it when mother 
wasn't looking — just as Roly was coming up the 
piazza steps. Lainey says the expression is per- 
fectly lovely. You know how mother's eyes always 
changed when she looked at Roly. I could always 
get mother hopping mad by saying that Roly was her 
favorite child — but he was, just the same. Lainey 
says she's going to have some copies made for us — 
enlarged." 



194 R°ty Comes Through 

44 Fd like to see it," Ed said. And then, as 
though consciously aiding and abetting his sister's 
game, "What are you doing, Ann? " 

Again Beckie started to speak. But again — and 
this time she resorted to gesture — Ann, waving aloft 
a bowl of silver lined with gold, cut her off. " Ever 
see that before? " she challenged her brother exul- 
tantly. 

44 The silver service ! M Ed exclaimed. And in 
his clear, peremptory voice was a sudden note of 
emotion — surprise, pleasure, and a shade — so subtle 
and faint that it was a mere shadow of a shade — 
of sadness. 44 Lord," he added, 44 I'd forgotten all 
about it." 

44 Wait till I show you the rest of it" Ann lifted 
from the floor and placed beside the bowl a tall ro- 
tund coffee-pot, a short, squatty teapot, a shorter 
squattier sugar-bowl, a tall, lithe water-pitcher, a 
slim, lissome hot-water pot, a low, plump cream- 
pitcher — all a-shimmer and a-gleam and a-sparkle 
with the soft luster of old silver repolished. 
44 Doesn't it look lovely?" 

44 Great! " Ed said. 44 How did you happen to 
resurrect it? " 

For the third time Beckie started to speak. And 
for the third time Ann bustled into narrative ahead 
of her. Beckie closed her lips with a snap, but it 
was only to straighten and tighten them into a deeper 
look of resolution. 44 The funniest way. You see, 
Bird Barton had a day off. Some old gink in the 
firm died the other day and the store was closed 
for the funeral. So we decided we'd go shopping 
to-day. I met her in town. We went up Park 
Street from the Subway and Bird happened to stop 



Roly Comes Through 195 

in front of one of those old-furniture places — you 
know what a shark she is for antiques — and if there 
in the window wasn't a service the spit of ours, 
all polished up and looking so swell! Bird began 
to throw spasms over it, and I said, ' Oh, come on 
and do our shopping, Bird. We've got a service 
just like that!' 'Where?' asked Bird. 'Search 
me ! ' I said. ' Somewhere in the attic, I suppose. 
I haven't seen it for years.' ' Well, if you aren't a 
boob,' said Bird, ' and if your whole family aren't 
boneheads. Don't you know how valuable that 
Sheffield silver is ? ' < No,' I said. ' Well, I'll show 
you,' said Bird. We went in and priced it, and 
how much do you suppose they were charging for 
it? Five hundred dollars. Yes, sir. Bird looked 
at me and I looked at her, and she said, ' Let's? ' and 
I said, ' You're on! ' and we marched straight back 
from the Subway — mind you we hadn't done a drop 
of shopping — beat it home, sneaked up into the attic 
and spent the afternoon hunting for the service. 
Weren't we sights when we got through ! Bird had 
to take a bath and shampoo her hair. But we 
finally found it, black as the stove, wrapped up in 
pieces of old blanket. I've been working on it ever 
since. My arm is dead, but I can't leave it alone. 
Gee, doesn't it look swell. To tell the truth, I 
always thought of the silver service as something 
old-fashioned and queer. But now I can see that it 
has all kinds of class — especially if it's worth five 
hundred dollars. Gee, doesrit it look swell, 
though ! " Ann might have been applying the polish 
to her own eyes, they gleamed with so extraordinary 
a luster as she surveyed her handiwork. " I've put 
my hands out of commission, though." She stopped 



196 Roly Comes Through 

to examine her long, shapely fingers. " I'll be a 
week getting my nails back into shape." 

11 I remember," Matt began. He had abandoned 
his sling-shot operations with the elastic band. Now 
he sat upright. His brisk blue eyes took on a remi- 
niscent haze. " Mother always used the silver 
service and the pearl-handled knives and forks on 
Christmas and Thanksgiving. I always connect 
those two — silver service, pearl-handled knives and 
forks — with holidays and company." 

The tension about Beckie's mouth relaxed for a 
moment. " The last time we used the silver service 
was on Roly's tenth birthday. Do you remember 
we had a party for him? That was the last party 
we ever had in this house. After that, mother put 
the service away. It was so hard to keep it shined 
up without any maids." 

" We're going to use it every day now," Ann said 
with conviction. " There are not going to be any 
best things in this house. We're going to have our 
coffee in the morning out of this and our tea at noon 
out of this and our cocoa at night out of this." 
Her hands, gracefully capable, fluttered from pot 
to pot. u And these are our permanent sugar and 
creamer. We'll use the bowl for loaf sugar. And 
after this we are going to use those pearl-handled 
knives and forks. I hate saving up things for other 
people to use after you're dead." 

" Well," said Ed, " I'm glad you found it. It 
c inly is a pippin. I advise you to overhaul the 
at thoroughly some day and see if there aren't 
son other things you can dig up." 

" Vre going to," said Ann, " Bird and Lainey 
and e — some Sunday." 



Roly Comes Through 197 

11 Lord, what a gay house this used to be," Matt 
said, the fog of reminiscence still on his sea- 
blue eyes. " Something doing every minute. Peo- 
ple coming and going — dinners — dances — masque- 
rades " 

Ann set her soft, pouting mouth into a hard, red 
ripple of determination. "It's going to be gay 
again some time. You wait! " 

Ed flicked his cigarette end into the coal-hod, 
settled back in his chair. " Well, out with it, 
Beckie," he said. " What is it and who's it about? M 

Beckie's lips unlocked in a flash. " It's about 
Roly," she answered. " I'm worried to death 
about him." 

" It isn't so bad as it seems," Ann interpolated. 
" I'm sorry that I told on him." 

" How about it, Matt? " Ed turned to his brother. 
" Advise me to listen to it? " 

Matt looked uncomfortable. " Oh, I don't know 
that it's so very serious, but — Well, I guess you'd 
better listen to Beckie." 

11 All right, Beckie ! " Ed's tone tempered to 
resignation. "Fire away! What's Roly been do- 
ing?" 

" Oh, everything'* answered the unanalytic 
Beckie. " It's been going on for weeks and weeks 
now. And at first I thought I could manage him 
alone. But it's got beyond me, and to-night I had 
— oh, a dreadful time with him — he said perfectly 
awful things. And as for Matt — he swore at ..^ '71 
fearfully. So now you've got to take him in hand." 

" Well, get to the point, Beckie," Ed prodded his 
sister impatiently. 

M I'm getting there," Beckie insisted. M In the 



198 Roly Comes Through 

first place, he's so grouchy all the time that there's 
no living with him. And saucy! And the things 
he says to me — and Ann — well, they're the limit. 
I could overlook that, because boys are queer cattle, 
and Roly — mother used to say that Roly had ' cy- 
cles ' when he was as bad as he could be." 

14 Well, believe me" Ann interrupted crisply, 
" Roly's present cycle is some cycle." 

11 But," Beckie went straight on, " he's taken to 
staying out late. Night after night he doesn't get in 
until nearly twelve o'clock. He manages to beat you, 
Ed, by about five minutes. When I ask him where 
he's been, he just says, * Oh — out ! ' or, ' Oh, with 
Dink ! ' or, * Oh, just round ! ' Not that he's any 
different from you two. I'd never think of asking 
either of you where you'd been. But Roly's only a 
boy and he's got to tell me where he goes until he's 

eighteen. For one thing " Having run down a 

little, Beckie glanced off the main line of her argu- 
ment. " I don't think Dink Hardy is a good influ- 
ence for him." 

" I guess Dink's as good an influence for Roly 
as Roly is for him," Ann put in scornfully. " Prob- 
ably Mrs. Hardy is doing her best this very minute 
to get Dink to stop going with Roly." 

"Well, I'd like to hear her say anything like 
that!" Beckie bristled. "Dink Hardy doesn't 
know what to think until Roly tells him." 

" Much you know Dink," Ann continued, still 
scornful. " That innocent mild way he has is just 
put on when grown people are round. Dink Hardy 
is a perfect devil. I didn't sit in front of him in 
school for one whole year for nothing. Why, once 
he took every hairpin out of the back of my hair 



Roly Comes Through 199 

and me not realizing it. It took him nearly a whole 
study-hour to do it — he was so careful about it 
When Old Charley suddenly called on me for some- 
thing and I stood up, all my hair came tumbling 
down. I never was so mortified in my life. I 
could have murdered him." 

11 Well, anyway, I wouldn't have known what 
those two boys were doing all the time," Beckie 
said, " if Angie Hardy hadn't told me at church 
the other day. They bowl and play pool every 
night of their lives." 

She stopped to note the effect of this appalling 
revelation on her brothers. Ed stood the shock 
with exemplary composure. Matt mimicked his 
brother's unnatural calm. 

" Somebody's got to put a stop to it," Beckie went 
on. " Roly's so tired mornings, it's all Ann can do 
to get him off to school in time. He's late two or 
three times a week. And he sleeps all day long 
Saturday and Sunday. First thing we know he'll be 
down with a fit of sickness." 

" Not as long as he eats the way he does," inter- 
posed the clear-visioned Ann. " More likely he'll be 
expelled from school. I don't believe he gets any 
of his lessons. He never studies. I think that's 
what he's working for — to get dropped. He hates 
school. He wants to go to work. Not that I 
blame him ! I hated school worse than anything on 
earth." 

"Well, Roly's got to keep on going to school 
until he graduates," Ed said curtly. " Where is he 
now? " 

" He hasn't come in yet," Beckie said. 

Ed pressed open the slim, plain gold watch which 




200 Roly Comes Through 

he slipped from his pocket. " Quarter to twelve. 
I'm early to-night." 

11 He'll be here any moment now," Beckie prophe- 
sied. " You see if he isn't. He'll try to beat you, 
Ed, by a few moments." 

11 Where does he get the money to bowl and play 
pool with? " Matt inquired. 

" Oh, he does odd jobs," Ann answered vaguely. 
11 Aunt Lottie gets him to do things for her. And 
some of the other neighbors occasionally. Then 
I think he generally wins in pool and bowling from 
Dink. Dink always has plenty of spending money, 
you know." 

11 That isn't all," Beckie went on. " He's got so 
careless about his personal appearance ! He doesn't 
brush his clothes or black his shoes — or wash his 
face, I was going to say. I'm so ashamed of him 
when I meet him on the street — he looks so untidy. 
Lainey says — There ! Here he comes now." 

A key grated in the lock of the front door. The 
door jarred, swung open. 

" That you, Roly? " Beckie called. 

" Yes! " answered a sullen voice. 

" Come in here a moment," Beckie went on; " we 
want to speak to you." 

Roly waited to take his things off. In marked 
contrast with Ed's leisurely carefulness, he dropped 
his creased and mussy coat in a heap, threw his 
cap on top of it. u What do you want?" he 
growled. 

"We've got something to say to you," Beckie 
said in a conciliating voice. " We've been talking 
you over and we want to give you a little advice." 

Roly seated himself on the arm of a chair. He 







Roly Comes Through 201 

looked unkempt. His clothes needed pressing. 
His linen was soiled. His shoes were muddy. 
His tie raveled where the knot came. Whatever his 
experience since he left his sister earlier in the even- 
ing, it was apparent that it had not wiped away 
his sense of antagonism. The heavy purplish-red 
flush on his handsome dark face seemed to accent 
the sullen look of his mouth. His tumbled hair, 
falling in a torrent down over his forehead, seemed 
to intensify the scowl between his heavy brows. 
Under the defiant expression lay fatigue ; heavy hol- 
lows were gouged above his cheekbones, incipient 
hollows beneath them. At Beckie's words the 
glare in his big hazel eyes concentrated to a fiery 
glitter. 

" You're very kind," he answered with the heavy 
sarcasm of youth, " but I don't need any of your 
old advice. And if it's just the same to you, you 
can keep it, thank you." 

" Now, Roly," Beckie still placatory, was begin- 
ning, when — " Cut out that rough stuff, Roly," 
Ed interrupted. " How about this bowling and 
pool-playing? " he demanded sharply. 

"What do you mean, 'How about it'?" Roly 
came back with equal sharpness. 

11 I mean this: Are you bowling and playing pool 
till midnight three or four nights a week? " 

11 No," Roly answered with a heavy defiance. 
" I'm bowling and playing pool five or six nights 
a week — as many times as I get the chance. I'd 
like to know whose business it is what I do? " 

"Well, I'll show you whose business it is," Ed 
retorted hotly. M For I'll make it my business. 
You're to cut that out. See? " 



202 Roly Comes Through 






Roly glared at his brother. " No, I don't see," 
he said. "What's more, I won't cut it out." 

"♦ You'll cut it out," Ed said threateningly, " or 
I'll know the reason why." 

" You'll know the reason why, then," Roly as- 
sured him. 44 And you'll know it now. You're not 
my father or my mother. They're both dead and 
there's nobody got any right to tell me what I can 
do or what I can't do. And if you think you can 
keep me from going where I want, you're welcome 
to try it." 

The brothers for an instant looked singularly 
alike. It was as though the same expression of an 
ancestral defiance gleamed through Ed's golden 
sculpturesque regularity and Roly's bronze-red virile 
swarthiness. 

11 I'm head of this house," Ed announced. " And 
I intend to be master of it. I consider myself your 
guardian until you come of age. Now, you're going 
to stop this late-hour business if Matt and I have 
to take turns watching you." 

14 That's what you'll have to do to stop it," Roly 
prophesied. 44 I've been my own boss ever since 
mother died and I intend to keep on holding the 
job." 

44 All right. You try doing what you please," 
Ed advised. 44 You understand you are to be in 
this house every night at ten o'clock. You are to 
get up every morning when Ann calls you at half- 
past seven. You're not to be late to school. And 
you're not — what are the other things?" He 
turned to Beckie and Ann. 

Roly glared at his sisters. " Tattle-tales ! " he 
hissed. 



Roly Comes Through 203 

11 Oh yes, Roly," Beckie faltered, " if you only 
would be a little more careful about your appear- 
ance." 

"Yes, that's it," said Ed. "You're to brush 
your clothes every day and shine your shoes and 
comb your hair and put on a clean collar and do 
all the things your mother taught you to do." 

" You ought to think, Roly," Ann said dulcetly, 
" of what mother used to say to you, ' Remember 
that you are a gentleman's son! ' " 

Roly set his teeth. " Well — if you — don't give 
me — a pain," he emitted slowly. " With me with- 
out — " He stopped abruptly, but he began again. 
" — asking me to — " He stopped again and glared 
about at them all. u — when — " For the third 
time he stopped. " Oh, go to hell, the whole crowd 
of you ! " he concluded. He rushed out of the room 
and up the stairs. His door shut with a crash that 
resounded through the house. 

11 Isn't he the sweet thing? " Ann commented, 
rising and removing the silver service to the side- 
board. " That isn't a circumstance to the way he 
treats me. Golly, doesn't that look grand? Now 
you have some idea what I have to contend with 
mornings getting him out of bed. He swears some- 
thing awful, and the things he says to me ! Doesn't 
that make the rest of the stuff on the sideboard 
look like a rummage sale? I'm going to can that 
tin cake-basket to-morrow. There used to be a 
time when I could lick him. I'd like to take boxing- 
lessons off a real pugilist — so I could knock him 
down once or twice." 

"That's hardly the way to teach him manners, 
Ann," Ed said icily. 



204 Roly Comes Through 

11 1 know it isn't. But it would be a lot of sal 
faction to me," Ann replied. " I'm pretty strong 
for a girl, you know." She pushed up the sleeve 
of her Russian blouse, doubled up her fist, flexed a 
snowy arm, and contemplated a swelling biceps with 
pride. Her brown eyes flashed stars of amber. 

" Let me see, to-morrow's Saturday," Ed went 
on in a business-like tone. " Of course he'll sleep 
late, but I'll see that he gets up Monday morning, 
Ann, and to-morrow night, Beckie, I'll be home to 
see that he gets in at ten. Matt, we'll take turns 
standing guard. You're to be on the job Sunday 
night. I'll take Monday, and so on until we teach 
that young gentleman that we mean what we say." 

"All right," answered the good-natured Matt. 
But he hesitated. It was obvious that the job was 
distasteful to him. 

" Now, don't you be too severe with Roly to- 
night," Beckie admonished her brother anxiously 
the next morning. " You know mother always used 
to say that you couldn't drive him." 

11 You leave the whole matter to me, Beckie," Ed 
replied. " If I'm going to stop this business, I've 
got to do it in my own way." 

But Beckie departed to work with a face full of 
misgiving. " I hope Ed won't fight with Roly to- 
night," she said to Ann on her return. 

Ed did not fight with Roly that night. He had 
no chance. It was Saturday, and Roly returned to 
the house neither that day nor the next. 

"Where have you been these last two nights? " 
Ed demanded Monday night, as Roly, with an ap- 
pearance of elaborate indifference, seated himself 
at the table. 






•Roly Comes Through 205 

u I stayed with Dink," Roly answered sullenly. 

11 All right. We'll have that statement substan- 
tiated," Ed remarked. He went to the telephone. 
"What's the Hardy's number, Beckie?" he asked. 

" Copley, 5643," Beckie answered. 

" Copley, 5643," Ed echoed into the transmitter. 
14 Copley, 5643 ? " he questioned presently. " Oh, is 
this you, Angie ? . . . Good evening. . . . May 
I speak with your mother? . . . Oh, good even- 
ing, Mrs. Hardy. . . . This is Ed Ollivant. 
Pardon me for troubling you at this late hour, but 
did my younger brother week-end with you? . . . 
Oh, yes. . . .1 I see. . . . Yes. . . . Yes. 
. . . That was very kind of you. . . . I wanted 
to know in the interest of a little problem in family 
discipline. We're going to break up these late hours. 
,. . . You're quite right. ... I agree with you 
absolutely. Do you mind helping the thing along 
by not asking him again? . . . Thank you. You 
are very kind. . . . Thank you. ... I appre- 
ciate that. . . . Thank you. Good-night!" 

Ed strolled leisurely back to the table. 

The dinner ended in a silence unusual with the 
noisy Ollivants. 

44 Where are you going? " Ed demanded as Roly 
passed into the hall. 

44 Out ! " Roly answered without an instant's hesi- 
tation. 

44 Do you understand you are to be back by ten? " 

14 1 understand I'm to be back when I damn 
please," Roly blazed. 

44 You'll give me your promise to be back at ten 
or I'll go with you," Ed answered. 

Roly stared at his brother for a baffled second, 



2o6 Roly Comes Through 



in or 



his face the battleground for all the conflicting 
forces of futile young fury. 

" I'll be back," he admitted sullenly after a while. 

He kept his word as Ed, who was there to see 
that he did, attested the next morning. And he 
kept it the next night — but in this fashion. The 
easy-going Matt being on guard, Roly entered the 
house exactly at ten, but noiselessly through a back 
window. Noiselessly he stole up to his room. Matt 
napped and waked and dozed and waked again on 
the couch until Ed, coming home at three in the 
morning, shook him to consciousness. The brothers 
retired, breathing a vengeance which they reiterated 
sulphurously at breakfast to their sisters. In the 
midst of the meal Roly appeared, calm as a May 
morning. At the onslaught which greeted him, he 
announced jauntily that he had been in bed ever since 
ten the night before. 

11 You play a trick like that on us again," Ed 
threatened, white with wrath, " and, by God, I'll 
give you the damnedest hiding you've ever had in 
your life. Now, where were you, and what were 
you doing? " he demanded. 

11 None of your business," Roly answered 
promptly. 

Ed contemplated him for one instant in silence 
and his watch for another. Then, " I'll attend to 
your case to-night," he promised in the silky voice of 
his most dangerous mood. 

11 Oh, Roly," Beckie said in a distressed tone after 
the older boys had gone, " what are you being 
so bad for? You know what Ed's like when he gets 
mad." 

" You mind your own business," Roly suggested. 



Roly Comes Through 207 

"You girls got me into this with your tattling. 
And now you can keep your mouth shut. And as 
for Ed — I guess I can lick him if it comes down to 
cases." 

Wednesday night Roly did not come home at all, 
nor Thursday night. Beckie was almost sick with 
worry, and even the unperturbed Ann began to look 
dubious. " Now don't you girls get cold feet," Ed 
cautioned them. " I called up the school to-day. 
They said that he had been there both days — not 
even late. He'll have to come home some time, if 
it's only for a change of underwear. I'm going to 
starve him out. And when he does show up M 

Friday night Lainey made an appearance. " Oh, 
Lainey ! " Ann and Beckie began at once. " We've 
been having a perfectly terrible time with Roly! " 
They poured the whole story out on her haphazard, 
Ann ruthlessly interrupting Beckie's tale and Beckie 
as remorselessly tearing the narrative from Ann. 
11 And where do you suppose he is? " they concluded 
in unison. 

Lainey's small, pointed, blonde face remained ab- 
solutely unperturbed. u I'll tell you where he is," 
she answered calmly. " He's at Cousin Lucy's." 

11 How did you know? " Beckie asked. 

" Why, he came into the school one afternoon to 
borrow some money to pay his fare out there." 

11 Did he say anything about this trouble? " Ann 
demanded. 

" Not a word." 

" Well, I must say that was game of him," Ann 
commented approvingly. 

" Roly's been at Cousin Lucy's all the time," 
Beckie began the instant Ed and Matt appeared 



208 Roly Comes Through 

that night, " and Lainey says " She poured 

Lainey's story, second-hand, into their ears, an illog- 
ical Beckie-esque burst of narrative, much inter- 
rupted by comment and conjecture. Lainey did not 
contribute further data. She was very 'thoughtful 
during dinner. Afterwards, curled upon the couch, 
in front of the fire, in the faded green Chinese coat 
and the little red slippers which were her costume of 
relaxation, she seemed deliberately to maintain her 
quiet mood. Once only she forced herself into 
vivacity. 

" Oh, I want to show you that picture Maddie 
Perkins took of mother," she said, hurrying out of 
the room. " I'm having one framed for Roly," she 
added, returning from a breathless run upstairs. 
But even through the subdued comments, " Oh, isn't 
that lovely!" " Oh, how sweet she looks!" from 
the girls, " Gee, that's fine ! " and M Lord, isn't 
that natural 1 " from the boys, Lainey remained pre- 
occupied. 

"What's got into you, Lainey?" Ann asked 
once. " Generally we can't hear ourselves think 
when you come home from anywhere, you've got so 
much to tell us." 

Lainey made no response. But when Ed and 
Matt arose to leave for the inevitable nocturnal 
adventuring, she said, "Wait a moment, boys; I've 
got something to say to you." Her manner was 
peremptory, and suddenly the veil of her preoccu- 
pation began to lift. " It's about Roly," she began. 
She paused, punched a pair of sofa-cushions into a 
pliable mass between her shoulders, leaned back. 
" I'd like to do some talking now." Suddenly ignor- 
ing the cushions, she sat upright, bringing her slip- 



Roly Comes Through 209 

pered feet to the floor in a tiny stamp, her calm 
entirely gone, a little feminine pillar of interested 
exposition. 

M I don't believe youVe gone about this matter 
in the right way," she said. " I've been thinking 
about Roly ever since he came in to see me. Not 
that he said, as I told you, that there was anything 
wrong at home or that I suspected there was any 
trouble. It was the fact that, for the first time in 
his life, he borrowed money from me which set me 
to consideringjhis case. Do you remember mother 
used to say that although you always had to man- 
age Roly, it was easy enough to do it, because he 
could always be led through his affections." 

14 Didn't I tell you the other night," Beckie inter- 
rupted triumphantly, " that mother said you never 
could drive him? " 

44 Mother had her own system of disciplining 
him," Lainey went on. "There was a time, I re- 
member, before she was ill. Roly was only ten, 
but his share of the work was to fill the wood-basket 
from the cellar. He did something naughty — I've 

forgotten what it was — and Do you remember 

how mother punished him?" Lainey addressed her- 
self to Ed. 

Ed shook his head. 

" She punished him by getting the wood herself. 
Roly nearly died. Finally, he came to her, crying, 
and begged to let him help her. Roly is, I am con- 
vinced, much the least demonstrative of us all, but, 
on the other hand, I think he craves affection more 
than any of us. And no wonder. Think how crazy 
mother was about him. Why, she never stopped 
talking baby-talk to Roly. He remained her baby 



2io Roly Comes Through 






to the last day of her death. Do you remember 
when he first began to speak, he called himself 
'Doddy-Boy , instead of 'Roly-Boy'? When 
mother was alone with him she always called him 
4 Doddy-Boy.* I've heard her. And Aunt Mar- 
garet told me that she never referred to him in any 
other way. And how she petted him. The instant 
he'd open the door from school she'd call, 4 Is that 
my baby?' And when he was home she always 
moved her chair so she could keep her eyes on him. 
She used to go over his lessons with him every night. 
She just wrapped him round with thought and care 
and love and tenderness. Just think what mother's 
death must have meant to him — to have all that 
stop short and forever when he was only sixteen. It 
must have hit Roly harder than any of us." 

The group made involuntary movements of pro- 
test. "Oh, Lainey!" Ann exclaimed indignantly. 

" Oh, I know what you're going to say," Lainey 
anticipated. " Nevertheless, I'm telling you the 
truth. The rest of us had our various interests 
which we took up and threw ourselves into — hard — 
in order to forget. But poor little Roly had nothing 
outside — only school and the other boys. And 
then again the rest of us sort of pair off or group 
off together — Beckie and Ann and me — Ed and Matt 
— but Roly seems so alone, a boy after three girls 
and at the tail-end of the family. We all love Roly 
— love him dearly, of course — but he's out of the 
sphere of our companionship from his very youth. 
He must be lonely. He can't help being lonely. 
And he misses his mother terribly. I don't think 
he knows what's the matter with him. But it ac- 
counts partially for his grouches." 






Roly Comes Through 211 

" But, Lainey," Beckie said in a subdued tone. 
It was more as though she were defending herself 
than accusing Roly. " He's grown so careless about 
his appearance. You've no idea how he looks and 
when I speak to him about it " 

" It was rainy the day Roly came to see me," 
Lainey said. " As he sat, I noticed that a little 
puddle formed under one of his shoes. When he 
changed his position, I saw that there was a hole 
in the sole. Has it ever occurred to you that mother 
has been dead for nearly a year and we haven't 
bought Roly any new clothes yet? He had only the 
hand-me-downs that come from here and there — 
Uncle John's shirts, for instance. He's wearing 
practically the same clothes he wore when mother 
died. They're so spotted and threadbare that nat- 
urally he takes no interest in them. And you all 
know how much Roly enjoys smart clothes and 
what good taste he has — how fond he is, for in- 
stance, of nice shades of brown." 

" Well, of course," Ann admitted, " he does look 
awfully shabby. But then, boys of his age always 
look like the dickens." 

11 Dink Hardy doesn't," Lainey said. " Another 
thing! " she added. " Do you realize that although 
we insist on his staying in school, it has never oc- 
curred to us to give him an allowance? There are 
certain things a boy has to have and has to do — but 
Roly never has the money for any of these things. 
He has to depend on getting a chance to do odd jobs 
Saturdays — his holidays. No wonder he's crazy to 
go to work to earn some money. No self-respecting 
boy wants to live under those conditions." 

" But you must realize that that isn't all of it, 



212 Roly Comes Through 

Lainey," Ed said. Ed's tone was as non-commit- 
tal as his icy, impassive face. " He's bowling and 
playing pool until all hours." 

" That's his only source of income," Lainey de- 
clared, and then, " What else is there for him to 
do? " she demanded. " He doesn't want to stay at 
home and just listen to our talk and meet our callers. 
They don't interest him at all. He wouldn't be 
normal if they did. We've simply got to find some- 
thing better for him to do. We never do anything 
for Roly's entertainment." She paused. " I bet if 
you were to ask Roly about it to-night, he'd say 
there wasn't one of us cared a pin for him." 

14 What would you advise us to do, Lainey? " Ed 
broke the pregnant hush that trailed Lainey's last 
word. There was a sarcastic emphasis given to the 
word you, but he waited for his sister to answer. 

" I'll tell you," Lainey answered promptly. 

When Roland opened the door about noon Sun- 
day morning, the house seemed wrapped in calm. 
But as he stole to his room on the second floor there 
came from the girls' room a chatter — Beckie's low, 
cello-like tone, Lainey's soft bird-like accent, Ann's 
decided treble. From above floated fragments of 
a bass dialogue between Matt and Ed. Roly opened 
the door with care, slipped into his room with quiet, 
shut the door with caution, turned 

From the arm of one gas-jet there hung on a 
stretcher a suit of clothes, one of Ed's smart tweeds 
— brown. Under it, neatly shaped by wooden trees, 
was a pair of shoes, brown. From the other gas-jet 
hung, also on a stretcher, one of Matt's overcoats, 
a rough, loosely-woven cloth — brown. On the 






Roly Comes Through 213 

dresser-top lay a pile of new stockings — brown. 
From the dresser-frame dangled four new ties — 
shades of brown. 

Roly stared at these objects, one at a time. Then, 
suddenly, unconsciously attracted, he raised his eyes. 

Stuck into the frame of the mirror were five en- 
velopes. They all bore his name. 
^ Roly stared at these notes, one at a time. Then 
he opened them as they came to his hand. 

" Say, kid M (this was signed Matt), " I thought 
you might like this coat of mine, as I'm through with 
it.'' "Dear Roly" (it was Beckie's long, plain 
hand), " it has just occurred to me that you might 
need stockings. Put on one of the silk pairs to-day. 
They're for Sunday." " Dear Roly-Poly " (in lead 
pencil from Ann), M the ties are from me. I got 
them at Weld Swinnerton's — those you and I liked 
so much that time we went in there. Believe me, 
they took some simoleons. But I should worry. I 
took half the cash out of the housekeeping allow- 
ance. We're going to have jello, canned peaches, 
rice, cottage, tapioca and bread pudding for dessert 
for a month. Don't say anything about this to the 
family." " If this suit is too large (this was Ed's 
small, neat script) , take it to my tailor. The shoes 
will fit you, as they're a little small for me. I 
haven't worn them yet. In the coat-pocket you'll 
find something. It's a present from the family. 
Go into Boston Monday and stock up on what you 
need. After this you are to have an allowance of 
two dollars a week." 

Roly stared at this last note for a long time. 
Then he turned to the coat of Ed's suit, slipped his 
hand through the pockets. In one he struck a long 



214 Roly Comes Through 

manila envelope, unsealed. Out of it, at his touch, 
fell — clean and new — paper money, two yellow 
twenties, one green ten. 

Roly stared at the bills, turned them over, stared 
at them again. 

Finally, his eyes came back to the bureau to the 
only unopened envelope. " Roly, darling," Lainey 
wrote in her undeveloped schoolgirl hand, " my 
present is on the wall." 

Roly stared at this only an instant. Then his eyes 
lifted, wandered to the closet-door, over the win- 
dows, across the space at the side of the bed to 

The picture that Lainey had had framed for Roly 
was hanging there. Mrs. Ollivant, seated under a 
big, low-hanging vine, had raised herself upright in 
her invalid's chair. The ends of the long scarf of 
white lace that she wore on her head had fallen for- 
ward, framing softly her look of eager anticipation 
— the shining eyes, the smiling lips. Obviously, she 
was waiting to welcome somebody who was coming 
up the piazza steps — perhaps Roly did not have to 
be told who. 

Lainey tiptoed across the hall to Roly's room. 
But with her hand on the knob, she paused. Sud- 
denly she bent her head to listen. A scared look 
zigzagged across her face, opened her eyes wide, 
set her lips to trembling. She paused irresolutely. 

After an instant she tiptoed back. "We won't 
disturb him," she said to her sisters. "He won't 
want to see anybody for a while." She busied her- 
self rehanging the clothes in the closet. When she 
emerged her own eyes were red. 

Later, Roly's door opened and shut with a buoy- 



Roly Comes Through 215 

ant slam. The bathroom door opened and shut 
with equal force. There came from it the sound of 
a vigorous splashing, mingled with a shrill whistling, 
which always indicated Roly's tenancy of the tub. 
When he appeared at dinner, he was wearing Ed's 
suit and shoes, a pair of Beckie's stockings, one of 
Ann's ties. His face and hands shone with a 
scrubbed cleanliness that might have been the re- 
flection of his immaculate linen. His teeth made a 
dazzle almost phosphorescent in his vivid olive skin. 
His hair, freshly shampooed, flew about his face like 
a jetty hurricane. All the glare had gone out of 
his eyes; they were filled with an electric sparkle. 

11 Welcome, little stranger ! " Ed greeted him care- 
lessly, without looking up from his paper. 

And, " Hullo, kid," Matt threw over his shoulder. 

And, " Oh, you there, Roly? " Lainey called from 
the living-room. " We've got apple-dumplings and 
hard sauce for dessert. Ann made them specially 
for you." 

And, " Yes — and pipe the silver service, Roly," 
Ann said. " The last time we used it was on your 
tenth birthday, when mother had a party for you." 

And, "Roly there?" Beckie called from the 
kitchen. u Then dinner's ready." 

Roly looked at each of them. Then he gulped 
as with a sudden resolution. 

" Just wait a jiff while I telephone, Beck," he 
begged. He bounded into the parlor. " Copley, 
5643," he called. ... u Is this Copley, 5643?" 
he questioned. Roly talked loudly and distinctly, as 
though to a louder audience than the one at the 
other end of the wire. "Oh, hello, Mrs. Hardy; 
is Dink there? . . .All right. . ... Oh, 



2l6 



Roly Comes Through 



hullo, Dink. Say, Dink, what do you say to our 
joining that new gymnasium in Brookline? I wa 
just thinking it would be a good scheme to cut ou 
all this bowling and pool-playing. That doesn't ge 
a fellow anywhere and keeps him out late besides. 
I'd like to do some running. I hope to go in for 
the school-track team in the spring and I might a 
well begin to train now. IVe always thought F 
make a half-miler. Say, Dink, just let you and m 
run all winter and we'll beat one-fifty-two in th 
spring — easy." 






CHAPTER X 
MATT LOOKS UPON THE WINE 

"fT^HERE it is! " Beckie exclaimed, rushing to 

X the window and throwing up the sash. 
"Listen!" 

" No. That's only a train," Ann contradicted, 
following her. " Our clock's fast. There, there it 
is. Listen ! " 

11 That's an auto," Lainey explained, joining them. 
" No, the clock's right. I asked Ed to set it just 
before he left. There, there it is. Listen! " 

The three little necks craned to a listening angle. 
The three little heads dropped to a listening attitude. 
The three little faces sharpened to a listening expres- 
sion. 

" Isn't the snow wonderful to-night? " Lainey said 
dreamily as nothing happened. " How strange 
everything looks ! " 

At first sight, the world was strange — as though 
a flood of molten marble, engulfing it, had hardened 
and set to a silver glisten. And Marlowe Place in 
particular might have been the studio of some 
Brogdingnagian sculptor. Sheds showed the shapes 
of prehistoric earth-monsters. Bushes reared the 
fronts of prehistoric sea-monsters. Trees spread 
the wings of prehistoric air-monsters. The houses 
looked like enormous heads of which the bodies, 
enormous too, stood upright underground. They 

217 



Lly 

I 



218 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

wore — these heads — caps of snow, gigantically 
hooded and brimmed, veils of snow titanically sea 
loped and tucked, mufflers of snow, ponderous 
rolled and folded. The air covered the scene li 
an enormous crystal. And over the air arched a s 
of clouded quartz set with a few large stars carved 
from steel and a big round moon cut from diamon 

At second sight, however, the scene turned h 
man again. The windows of the houses were shee 
of gold. They were broken by dimly-seen circles o 
green, tied with bows of crimson, that hung between 
frost-filmed pane and lace-filmed curtain. Here the 
shadow of a tree, bearing the magic fruit of the 
season, candles, garlands, toys, was etched in black 
on the shades. There, a laughing profile suddenly 
silhouetted itself on the curtain, vanished again. 

" How quiet it is! " Lainey went on. " It's 
though everything was listening for something." 

A wind, knife-sharp, came zizzing through th 
place. The stars flamed. The moon flared. Th 
trees bent, became each the center of a miniatur 
white storm, righted themselves. Far-away a sleigh 
bell tinkled. Then the world became still again 

"There it is!" Beckie exclaimed joyously 
" One, two, three, four ! " 

11 Five, six, seven, eight! " Lainey chimed in wit 
her. 

" Nine, ten, eleven, twelve ! " Irresistibly at 
tracted, Ann joined the chorus. 

The bells flooded the universe with vibrations 
They shattered the crystal of the air, beat down 
ward, caught the world in an iron grip, shook it, 
beat upward, crashed against the sky. A solitary 
motor-horn in the distance let out a long liquid 



8 , 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 219 

sando. It floated on the air like a ribbon, wound 
itself mellowly through the twelve-tongue d cry of 
the bells. The vibrations caught it, tore it to films 
of sound. The films dissolved, disappeared. The 
bells stopped. The vibrations died. The world 
turned silent again. 

"Happy New Year!" Lainey said. 

"Happy New Year! Happy New Year!" 
Beckie and Ann took it up. 

They shut the windows and turned back to the 
seats at the living-room fire. The two rooms still 
bore their holiday decorations. A Christmas tree, 
glittering red and green, blue and silver, under the 
torrent of gold which seemed to pour from its peak, 
stood in the corner. Wreaths of holly decorated 
the windows. A bunch of mistletoe hung between 
the two rooms. Garlands of green wreathed the 
pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Ollivant. But the tree 
had begun to shed its shining, pungent plumage ; the 
blood-red holly berries had blackened and shrunk; 
the frost-white mistletoe berries had wizened and 
withered. On the hearth was a pan of molasses 
candy that Ann had made and a little blue-and-white 
pot of tea that Beckie had brewed. The three 
empty cups sat beside them. 

" We must take all those green things down before 
Twelfth Night," Lainey said absently, " or the 
goblins will get into them. Just think," she went 
on in an awed tone. " It's another year. Another 
year ! How mysterious that sounds ! Oh, isn't life 
wonderful! And the world — and space — and time 
— and — and — and everything! Why, it's just as 
though we were all on a raft in a stream and the 
stream were carrying us on and on and on — straight 



? 

k 's 






220 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

into eternity — we don't know where or why or how 
or anything. And it wouldn't make any differen 
if we did know — we'd have to go, just the sarm 
Every once in a while we pass a lighthouse and that's 
the New Year. And the queer thing about it is tha 
although the lighthouses are always the same diffe 
ence apart, the older we grow the nearer they seem 
to get together." 

One of Lainey's " fey " moods was on her. A 
silvery flame had kindled at the far end of the long, 
soft, gray tunnels that were her eyes. It fanned 
waves of color through her pale cheeks and ran 
sparkling cascades through her filmy hair. 

"Lainey Ollivant!" Ann said scathingly, "t 
boys say you're a nut when you go on in that dotty 
strain. And sometimes I agree with them. Now, 
talk sense." 

Lainey accepted without a murmur the prevailing 
opinion of her. M Well, anyway," she remonstrated 
mildly, " perhaps you'll admit that time flies." 

"Flies!" Ann repeated. "Flies! That's just 
what I won't admit. I should say not. Flies! It 
creeps, I never saw anything go so slow as time 
does. Why, it was ages before I got into my teens ! 
And now that I'm getting toward twenty, it's slower 
than ever. I suppose it is because I've always ex- 
pected that something would happen to me when 1 
grew up. But, of course, I know better than that 
now. Nothing ever happens in this hateful, horrid r 
hideous old world." 

From a light note of exasperation, Ann's voice 
had sunk to the roundest depths of her nineteei 
year-old pessimism. 

Her statement brought immediate contradicti< 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 22 r- 

11 Now I think lots of things happen," Beckie re- 
marked placidly. And " Why — why — why," Lainey 
positively stuttered. " Things are happening all the 
time — every minute." 

" What, for instance," Ann demanded in a bitter 
tone. " Tell me one thing that's ever happened to 
me — or us." 

Lainey did not answer. But perceptibly she 
probed her memory for data. 

" I'll tell you why nothing ever happens to us," 
Ann went on scornfully. " It's because we haven't 
the sense to makee anything happen. Why didn't we 
have a New Year's party to-night, for instance ? " 

II A New Year's party! " Beckie exclaimed with 
visible shock. " Why, I wouldn't know how to give 
a New Year's party. Besides, you know — well — ■ 
we never have had parties." 

II I know we haven't," Ann agreed, " but that's 
no reason why we shouldn't. I never had a New 
Year's celebration in my life and I never went to 
one except in a church or a hall — a watch-meeting 
or something stupid like that. But then, that's Bos- 
ton. Don't I wish I lived in New York ! Edwina 
Allen was there last New Year's and you ought to 
hear her tell about the party she went to in a res- 
taurant. There were twelve of them and they had 
to reserve the table weeks beforehand and they could 
order nothing to drink but champagne. The place 
was simply jammed with the most gorgeously dressed 
people you ever saw in your life. Edwina said the 
evening-wraps alone were the most wonderful crea- 
tions — the kind you only see in shop-windows in 
Boston. She said she never saw so much cham- 
pagne in her life. She didn't know there was so 



222 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

much in the world — it flowed like water. They 
gave all the ladies the prettiest favors you ever saw. 
And just before twelve, the waiters went round 
handing out bushels of confetti and those paper 
streamers and great big balloons and, oh, I can't 
remember all. And when the New Year sounded, a 
girl all in tights came out of a great clock in the 
corner and everybody cheered and fox-trotted and 
lame-ducked and sang and drank healths and you 
shook hands with perfect strangers — and then they 
all went out on Broadway and walked way up- 
town, and there were simply billions of people toot- 
ing horns and throwing confetti — and everybody 
talking to everybody — even the policemen. Oh, 
Edwina said it was the most marvelous sight she 
ever saw in her life.** 

" It must have been just like the night before 
Bunker Hill Day in Charlestown," remarked the 
guileless Lainey. 

11 Bunker Hill Day — Charlestown! " Ann said in 
the height of civic scorn. " That's just as much as 
you know about such things, Lainey — comparing a 
bum holiday with a real carnival. There was class 
to this New York celebration. Actors and actresses 
there — and wonderful show-girls, and artist's models 
and famous people of all descriptions. I don't know 
why I had to be born in Boston." 

" I don't know why you knock Boston so," Beckie 
commented indignantly. " I'm sure it's a beautiful 
city. Mother used to say that she traveled on 
three continents and she never saw anything any 
where so beautiful as Boston Common covered with 
snow and the moon shining on it. And I'm sure I 
agree with her." 









Matt Looks upon the Wine 223 

"Have you ever lived in any other city?" Ann 
demanded ruthlessly. 

"No," Beckie admitted reluctantly. 

" That's the answer to why you think so." 

" But everybody says so " — Beckie again rose and 
battled — " even people who've traveled." 

" If they're Bostonians of course they do. Well, 
I'm glad you like Boston, Beckie, seeing youVe got 
to live here. I call it a dead, cold, slow little burg 
and I'm going to get out of it just as* soon as I can. 
I'm going on the stage if it's necessary." This was 
Ann's deadliest threat. 

" But think of the culture here," Beckie remon- 
strated. 

" Culture ! " Ann repeated. " Culture, Who 
wants culture. Culture's gone out. My goodness, 
when I think of Boston, I don't blame people for 
being I. W. W.'s." 

14 Why don't you join the I. W. W., Ann?" 
Lainey suggested. Lainey, a little humorless nor- 
mally, could on occasions develop a subtle strain of 
sarcasm. " Things happen to them." 

"The I. W. W.," Ann repeated in a wearied 
voice. " The I. W. W. There's a lot of class to 
the I. W.W., isn't there?" 

" I'm thinking quite seriously of joining it myself," 
said Lainey. 

" Lainey Ollivant," Ann said in tones round and 
full with horror, " I will not stand for it. Think of 
having an I. W. W. in the family. It's bad enough 
your being a Socialist — but when it comes to being 
an I-Won't-Work — and picketing — and talking from 
soap-boxes on street-corners — and breaking ma- 
chinery — and everything — I can't see when you were 



224 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

going in for such queer things you didn't take up 
College Settlement work. College Settlement is 
perfectly correct. Lots of real society people go in 
for that — or even suffrage. But Socialism/ And 
as sure as you get to be an I. W. W., Lainey Olli- 
vant, you'll go to jail, you mark my words. Why, I 
never tasted champagne but once in all my life," Ann 
reverted to her original grievance. " And then I 
had only two teeny-weeny glasses. It was on board 
Commodore Carleton's yacht. That crowd drank 
champagne an awful lot. I always refused it. Now 
I wish I'd drunk every glass they offered me." 

In the height of her recklessness, Ann seized her 
little boudoir-cap and dashed it on the floor. " I'm 
sick of nothing happening," she announced. 

She was a monument to discontent at that mo- 
ment, her warm lips pouted to their most scornfu 
fullness, her big eyes lighted to their most scornfu 
blaze. Ann was the only one of the Ollivant girls 
who made a point of having negligee clothes. Now 
she wore a little, straight, flat, medieval-looking 
garment of a satin-surfaced exquisitely-faded rose. 
She had cut this down from an old evening-wrap 
of her mother's that she had found in the garret, just 
as she had cut her slippers down from a pair of high, 
pink-kid shoes which she had found there. The 
rose tones brought out all the lusciousness of her 
type — the tawny notes in her hair and brows and 
eyes; her anger seemed to superimpose upon that 
lusciousness an amber glitter. For an instant, her 
two sisters looked — little blonde Lainey — pale and 
neutral-tinted — bigger, darker Beckie — thick and 
dull in comparison. Then, as indignation colored 
them, Beckie's vigorous deep-toned brownness took 



! 






Matt Looks upon the Wine 225 

on a brighter fire, Lainey's frail light-shot blondness 
a heavier warmth. 

"I've never tasted champagne," Lainey asserted 
with an air of fiery rectitude, " or anything intoxicat- 
ing. I don't believe in drinking — or at least in 
women drinking — not until they're married, any- 
way." 

" I'm for temperance," Beckie insisted with a 
look imperious with obstinacy. " Mother always 
was." 

"Well, I'm not," Ann said. "I hate temper- 
ance or anything that prevents you from doing what 
you like. If there was a bottle of champagne in 
this house at this moment," she glared at her sisters, 
14 I'd drink it," she paused and added with a visible 
access of recklessness, " even if I got drunk." 

14 Oh, Ann! " exclaimed Lainey, scandalized. 

44 1 guess it's about time for us to go to bed," 
Beckie suggested in a disapproving tone. 

44 Well, as long as there's nothing else to do," 
Ann agreed, u I suppose we'd better." Her revo- 
lutionary spirit turned suddenly to listlessness. 
" Come on, Lainey." 

Lainey did not move. Instead, " Hark! " she ex- 
claimed. " Somebody's at the door. One of the 
boys is coming home." 

Somebody was at the door. Plainly there came 
through the silence the sound of a hand on the knob. 
A key clinked in the keyhole, scraped across the 
door-panel, slithered back in irresolute dashes over 
the wood, clattered in uncertain peckings at the key- 
hole again. The door opened suddenly. Some- 
body stumbled up the top stair, tripped over the 
threshold. 



226 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

11 Well, whoever it is, I should think he was blind," 
Ann remarked with captious intent. " Oh, it's 
Matt! Hullo, Matt! Happy New Year!" 

" Happy New Year, Matt! M Lainey and Beckie 
chorused. 

"Happy New Year, girls!" Matt responded. 
44 Happy New Year!" 

He stood in the hall for an instant, removing his 
hat and coat. He seemed to have trouble with 
both. The hat, as though possessed by a spirit of 
contrariety positively human, refused to be hung up. 
It fell from his hand twice and he was, each time, 
a long while in recovering it. 44 I request you to 
hang on that hook," Matt finally addressed it in a 
tone of steely courtesy. It obeyed. The coat was 
even more unruly than the hat — perhaps because 
Matt tried to cram it into the narrow drawer in 
the settle. It rolled and rippled and bulged out of 
his hands. Finally, he changed his mind as to its 
disposal, 44 Will you kindly stay where I put you? " 
he asked, hanging it with exquisite care beside his 
hat. The coat also obeyed. 

44 Happy New Year, girls ! " Matt repeated ab- 
sently as he entered the room. He made for a seat 
in front of the fire. He walked with perceptible 
care and precision, but the furniture kept getting in 
his way. A big chair reached out a treacherous 
arm and pulled him over. A table put forth a steal- 
thy foot and tripped him up. The couch started 
openly to bar his progress. He overcame all these 
obstacles, but only by the employment in equal quan- 
tities of strategy and diplomacy. 

44 Oh, do for goodness' sake pick up your 
feet, Matt," Ann rebuked him sharply once. 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 227 

" I shouldn't think you knew where you were 
going." 

" I don't," Matt admitted, still weaving towards 
a chair. And he laughed uproariously as at a joke 
on himself. But his face sobered instantly. A cun- 
ning expression wiped the mirth out. " I don't 
know where I'm going," he admitted again, " but — " 
he paused and swayed a little, u but," he added 
impressively, " Vm on my way." He contemplated 
his three sisters in silence as though marking the 
effect on them of this revelation. It produced no 
effect whatever and Matt seated himself in a chair by 
the fire. 

His face was flushed. His hair, which usually 
rose to so trim and rampant a crest of red, had 
rumpled and tumbled into the curls that he always 
tried so hard to smooth out. Beginning at the nape 
of his neck, they seemed to be running hard uphill 
over the round of his head to inundate his brow with 
their copper torrent. His eyelids dropped half over 
his eyes. Those eyes were dulled, although they 
held little quicksilver glints of mirth. His lips, as 
though he had lost control of them, kept breaking 
into smiles. These smiles widened until they broke 
and vanished. Suddenly without warning he threw 
himself back into his chair and burst into a roar 
of laughter. " Happy New Year, girls!" he 
said. 

Matt's laughter was infectious. The three girls 
laughed with him. " You must have been having 
a good time to be so happy, Matt," Lainey com- 
mented in her little voice. 

" I think you're silly," Ann remarked in her 
round notes. " What have you been doing? " 



228 Matt Looks upon the Wine 



" Oh, a lot of things," Matt answered vaguely. 
11 Been round to a lot of places — seen a lot of peo- 
ple — been round a lot — seen a lot — but " He 

stopped and appeared to grope for something he 
had forgotten. For a moment, his head dropped. 
His eyes, half closed, closed entirely. A look of 
cunning introspection crossed his face. Then ob- 
viously he got what he was searching for. u Vm 
on my way/" he pronounced impressively. Again 
he stared hard at his sisters. Immediately another 
mood caught him. "Happy New Year, girls!" 
He burst into roars of laughter. 

But his sisters did not laugh with him this time. 
" Oh, do stop, Matt," Beckie exclaimed. " I don't 
think that joke is funny any longer." 

" I didn't think it was funny at the beginning," 
Ann remarked caustically. 

Matt's eyes opened wide again. The mirth 
melted slowly from his face. In its place came a 
delicious dewiness as of complete relaxation. The 
little quicksilver glints of mischief vanished from 
his eyes; they became softly hazy. His lips kept 
flickering into smiles, not of amusement but of hap- 
piness. " I think it's awful funny," he said. 
" Happy New Year, girls ! Happy New Year, 
girls ! Happy New Year ! This year and next year 
and nexz year and the year after that and the year 
affer that and so on forever and ever and ever — 
andever — andever — andever — anever — anever — an- 
ever — happy — New Years-girls — happy-New Years- 
skerls — zappy-year-skerls — zappy-skerls ! " 

This protracted effort was a little too much for 
him. He fell back in his seat, pulled himself for- 
ward with a jerk, fell back, sagged and stayed 






Matt Looks upon the Wine 229 

Sagged. His eyes opened, closed, opened again. 
"Zappy!" he commented, "sounds like a puppy- 
dog." His eyes closed and stayed closed. 

Neither of the girls replied. Ann stared hard 
but movelessly at her brother, the full red lower lip 
gradually falling away from the pouting red upper 
one until a double ripple of pearl appeared between 
them. Her eyes opened wide until the whites ap- 
peared about the golden irises. Lainey stared hard, 
and movelessly too, the look of wonder in her face 
concentrating gradually to alarm. Her eyes did not 
open, but they darkened until they became panic- 
spots. Beckie stared but not movelessly. She came 
with a snap to an upright position. Her eyes nar- 
rowed as they studied Matt. 

For a noiseless interval, they all stared together 
at the sagging figure. The clock tapped madly, the 
fire splashed frantically as though trying to distract 
their attention. Then the three pairs of eyes — 
golden-brown, gray-blue, hazel-green — met in an ex- 
change of looks. Suddenly a deep flood of crimson 
pushed forward through the thick velvet of Ann's 
white skin. But through the delicate thinness of 
Lainey's transparent contours the blood raced back- 
wards, draining them of light and life. Beckie's 
did not change in color, but her expression set into 
strange lines and hollows. 

Beckie spoke first. She did not speak, really. She 
motioned with her lips. " He's drunk/' they ges- 
tured. 

Her sisters looked at her for what was obviously 
an interval of paralysis. Lainey sat frozen — a lit- 
tle image carved in ice, of horror. But Ann's ter- 
ror translated itself finally into speech — speech as 



230 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

silent as Beckie's. "What shall we do?" her lips 
motioned. 

" Get him to bed," Beckie signaled back. With 
an air of resolution, she arose. She bent over the 
recumbent Matt, fast asleep now and smiling in his 
sleep, shook him. " Wake up, Matt!" she com- 
manded. " It's time to go to bed." 

Matt opened one eye, then the other. He stared 
meditatively up into his sister's face. " Time to go 
to bed?" he questioned in a voice perfectly clear 
and exquisitely articulated. He appeared to con- 
sider the matter judicially. u Time to go to bed?, 
Time to go to bed? All right! All right!" He 
snapped the right so straight into Beckie's face that 
she rebounded from the charge. Suddenly he half 
closed his eyes. The cuLning look came back into 
his face. " I'm on my way!" he confided impres- 
sively. Again mirth wiped off this seriousness and 
he laughed. u Zappy-year-skerls ! " He roared. 

The little image in ice that was Lainey arose from 
her chair, placed itself at his side. " Stand up, 
Matt dear," she begged touchingly, u we'll help 
you." 

11 This way! " Beckie commanded. She took one 
arm. Lainey took the other. As they moved 
toward the hall, Ann fell in behind. 

Matt walked steadily under this compulsion until 
he reached the hall settle. That seemed suddenly to 
recall his early struggle. " I request you," he ad- 
dressed his hat in the tone of a steely courtesy, " to 
hang on that hook. Will you kindly stay where I 
put you? " he remarked to the coat. 

u Up the stairs, Matt dear," Lainey pleaded as 
with a child. 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 231 

"All right!" Matt agreed good-naturedly. And 
up he went, leaning first on Beckie, then on Lainey. 
" One step after another," he commented in a per- 
fectly clear voice at one period of their progress. 
The clearness vanished, however, as he proceeded 
to embroider this theme. u Jus think — one step 
affer anozzer — one-step-affer-anozzer — onestepaffer- 
anozzer." 

This refrain entertained him more than any pre- 
vious one. He held to it through their hobbling, 
stumbling progress up the first flight of stairs, 
through their swaying, weaving march through the 
hall, and their jerking, battering ascent of the second 
flight. " Aw-ways-one-step-affer-anozzer-girls. Jus- 
zink-of-zat-zat's-life — awways-one-step-affer-anozzer 
1 — affer-anozzer — aff-anozzer — av-anozzer — av-anoz- 
zer — sounds like a biscuit." 

He was absolutely docile, however, during this 
excursion, and he continued to be docile when they 
reached his room. Of his own accord, he fell imme- 
diately into the big chair, and under the compulsion 
of his condition into a deep sleep. Ann removed 
his collar and tie, Beckie his coat and waistcoat, 
Lainey his shoes and stockings. 

" That's all we can do," Beckie whispered at the 
end of these ministrations. " Let's get him into 
bed." 

Matt responded to a violent shaking long enough 
to rise at their bidding from the chair, to navigate 
across the room, to flop onto the bed where he ap- 
parently fell into a state of coma. But as they 
opened the door, his eyes opened. " Zappy-Year- 
skerls ! " he said, " Zapoy skerls ! Skerls — skerls — 
sounds like a fish ! " He dropped his lids for good. 



232 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

Beckie was equal to closing the door with calm 
and quiet. But only that. She flew in the wake 
of her panic-stricken sisters to the living-room. 
The three girls dropped into chairs and stared 
wide-eyed and gap-mouthed at each other — 
panting. 

" That's the most dreadful thing that ever hap- 
pened to me in my life," Beckie breathed in an in- 
stant. 

" L never was so frightened in all my existence," 
Ann intoned, " for if there's anything I have a hor- 
ror of, it's a drunken man." 

" Thank God, mother didn't live to see this ! " 
Lainey whispered. 

Ann's tone grew bitter. " I thought all the terri- 
ble things that could possibly happen to the Ollivai 
family had happened. But I was wrong, I see. It 
remained for us to raise a drunkard." 

Lainey set a hopeless blue-gray gaze on a point 
space. li Who does he take it from, Beckie? " sh< 
asked mournfully. " Do you know? " 

11 Oh, I know," Beckie said in despairing tone. 
11 I know. Only too well. I hate to tell you twc 
girls this. Because I know you've never realized il 
But I guess I've got to so that you can get whal 
you're up against. Uncle Warren was a drunkarc 
in his youth. I've always known it — though mothei 
never knew I knew. Josie Hill told me one night 
when she slept with me. She was awfully ashamed 
the next day and made me promise I wouldn't tell 
and I never have till now. Aunt Josephine had ar 
awful time with him for years. He'd come home 
two or three nights a week that way and she'd have 
to put him to bed. Suddenly, without any warning 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 233 

he stopped short though, and they were very happy 
their last years together." 

11 Poor Aunt Josephine ! " Lainey exclaimed. 
11 Poor, poor Auntie ! That's why she had that 
sweet, sad, patient look." 

44 I suppose that's the way Matt will be," said 
Ann. " Just imagine having to put him to bed two 
or three times a week. Well, the boys will have to 
do it. I won't." 

44 I don't know what Ed will say," Beckie went 
on in a frightened voice. M I'm almost afraid to 
tell him. It will be an awful shock to him. Ed's 
so correct and so fastidious. He'll have no mercy 
on Matt." 

" And Roly," Lainey interpolated somberly. 

"Thank goodness Roly was in bed and asleep," 
Beckie ejaculated. " We must keep it from him 
just as long as possible — it will be such a terrible 
example to him. I suppose he's bound to know 
some time, though." 

14 Yes, don't let Roly know," Lainey begged. 
44 It's awful to lose your faith in anybody. I never 
can respect Matt again." 

44 Do you suppose," Ann burst out in an accent of 
horror, "that anybody saw him? I should simply 
die if Mrs. Damon knew it." 

44 Or Aunt Lottie," Lainey said in a kindred hor- 
ror. " It would break her heart. She's always 
Seen so fond of Matt." 

In silence the three girls considered these two pos- 
sibilities. 

14 Well," Ann broke it abruptly, 44 1 guess the 
best thing we can do is to go to bed. I'm all in. 



must 



234 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

This has been a swell New Year's Eve for us, I 
say." ■ 

The three girls filed upstairs on tiptoe. They 
whispered their good-nights. They closed their 
doors with the utmost care, Lainey and Ann even 
undressed in the dark. Beckie, however, turned on 
all the lights in her room. As she moved about, 
undressing and hanging things up, her feet were 
leaden with utter exhaustion. But, in bed, new 
strength seemed to come to her. She turned and 
tossed, tossed and turned, readjusted her pillow a 
dozen times. The clock struck one, two. Beckie 
got up and wandered aimlessly about the room. 
Suddenly a little pattering footstep sounded outside 
in the hall. The knob turned. The door opene< 
"Are you awake, Beckie?" Lainey's tearful voi< 
called. " Can I come in?" 

" Oh, do come in, Lainey," Beckie answere< 
11 There isn't a drop of sleep in my body." Sh< 
arose and lighted the gas. 

Lainey appeared in its illumination, standing in 
the doorway. She wore her little shabby fur coat 
over her nightgown. Her hair, parted in the middle 
and combed straight down over her ears, fell in two 
flat stiff braids of pale gold. Its ends, tied with 
blue nursery-ribbon, made little paint-brush points 
at her waist. Lainey's eyes were red. Her mouth 
— so deeply hollowed in the shadowy corners, 
fully curled at the crimson center — hung slackly. 

11 Is Ann asleep? " Beckie asked. 

" Yes, she went to sleep right away," Lainey ai 
swered in a dead voice. " But I haven't closed my 
eyes. And then I heard you get up and I thought 
probably you felt the way I did — you'd rather 



an- 



.... 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 235 

with me than just lie and think. Who's that? Oh, 
Ann, you frightened me to death! Oh, Ann, did I 
wake you up? " 

14 No," Ann answered dully. " I haven't slept. I 
can't. I feel — I feel — well, I haven't felt so badly 
since Matt was arrested for speeding and Eel 
wouldn't bail him out and he had to spend the night 
in jail among common criminals. I try to think 
of other things and sometimes I do and then right in 
the midst of it, it all comes over me — and — and — 
and, oh, I feel as though a ton of coal had fallen on 
my mind." 

" I've been thinking too," Lainey said, " think- 
ing and thinking and thinking — turning.it all over. 
Isn't there some way Matt can be cured? " 

11 I've been wondering about that," Beckie re- 
plied, a little dash of hope in her voice. " Of 
course there are those places where you go and they 
cure you up. I shall talk to Ed to-morrow about 
sending Matt away before this thing grows on him. 
Ed will agree with me, I know. If we have any 
trouble with Matt, I shall simply insist on it and, 
Lainey, I want you to back me up. If it's neces- 
sary, I'll go to Verbeck Wales and Company and ask 
them to hold Matt's place open for him. I'll tell 
them that his whole future depends on his conquer- 
ing this habit now. Remember, you've got to stand 
by me, Lainey." 

" Oh, I will, Beckie," Lainey promised with fer- 
vor, " I will. You may be sure of that. I've got a 
hundred dollars saved up towards going to Europe. 
I shall offer it to Matt. I shall make him take it." 

"The trouble with those cures," Ann said with 
a tragic pessimism, " is that they don't always cure. 



lis 



236 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

Take Miriam Fales's brother. He came home a 
parently all right and they thought the whole thin 
was settled for keeps. But one month from 
very day he came home, he got dead drunk." 

" I know," Beckie admitted wanly. " It didn': 
work with Roy Baker, either. But in case the cure 
fails, there are other ways, I'm sure. I read the 
other day of a man who used to get drunk and hi 
wife put whiskey in every bit of food she cooke 
for him — coffee, bread, stew, meat, pie, pudding 
everything. Of course she had to cook his foo 
separately. But when he asked her what made 
everything taste of whiskey, she lied and said she 
didn't know. Well, he got so sick of the taste that 
he just naturally stopped drinking. I was wonder- 
ing if we could try that." 

11 I'm sure Matt would get onto that," Anr 
declared with a hopeless convincedness. 

" The worst of it is — oh, you two don't know al 
— but I've got to tell you — I can't keep it any longer.' 
Lainey's revelation came in frantic impulses of voice 
" Matt doesn't get it all from mother's side of th 
house. I didn't think I'd tell you this at first, bui 
I guess ( we'd better know the whole situation 
Father's cousin, Abner Smart, used to drink. One 
while I was staying with them over a Fourth of Jul 
■ — oh, I wasn't more than fourteen — he came horn 
drunk as a lord. His lodge was having some son 
of celebration. Cousin Lily was awfully mortifiec 
and, of course, I was scared almost out of my fiv 
senses. She begged me not to tell anybody and 
never have. And I never would now, if Cousin 
Abner wasn't dead. So you see, Matt gets it fron 
father's side of the family as well as mother's." 






Matt Looks upon the Wine 237 

1 

11 I never suspected Cousin Abner," Beckie said. 
44 It'll be doubly strong with Matt then, I suppose, " 
she sighed a long heavy sigh, " with two inheritances 
like that. Well, all I can say is what you said, 
Lainey, I'm glad mother didn't live to see this night." 

11 What shall we do? " Lainey asked helplessly. 

" I guess we'd better go back to bed, for one 
thing," Ann answered with a sudden weary burst of 
impatience. " It doesn't do any good to chew it over 
like this. And we certainly can't do anything to- 
night." 

" All right, Ann," Lainey agreed with her accus- 
tomed docility. 

14 Good-night, Ann," Beckie said sadly. u Good- 
night, Lainey." 

" Good-night, Beckie," her sisters chorused deso- 
lately. 

Ann, in the little wooden shoes which Aunt Lottie 
had brought her from Holland, clattered back to her 
room ; and Lainey, in the little straw scuffs which she 
had bought in Chinatown, shuffled behind her. The 
two girls got back into bed. 

44 Good-night, Lainey dear," Ann concluded trag- 
ically. 

" Good-night, Ann darling," Lainey answered 
mournfully. 

Lainey lay for a long interval perfectly straight 
and rigid. Then, no sound coming from Ann's side 
of the bed, she began to submit to the nervous pres- 
sure which was shooting her arms and legs in all 
directions from her body. Finally, she lifted herself 
up, sat on the edge of the bed for a while, arose, 
walked over to the window. 

The moon had disappeared, but all the stars ban- 



C4. 

o 



238 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

ished by its light had reappeared. They hung close 
over the pearly glisten of the snow. Lainey's ex- 
hausted tear-wet gaze wandered into that shoal of 
tiny fires, tangled there. 

Suddenly her door pushed open. 

11 Is that you, Lainey? " Beckie's voice called in a 
faint wisp of a whisper. " Can I come in? ' 

14 Yes," Lainey answered in a thin thread o 
sound. 44 No, I'll come to your room, so's not to 
wake Ann." 

44 I'm awake," Ann interrupted in a mere ripple o 
voice. u I can't sleep. I've been keeping still so's 
not to wake you, Lainey." 

Lainey pulled down the shades and lighted the ga 

Beckie had wound her long hair into a grotesque 
knot, had skewered it with a single hairpin to the 
top of her head. She had evidently put on the first 
thing in the closet that her flying fingers had found — 
a mackintosh. Beckie's eyes glared in her face 
Her teeth tore at her lips. Her hands plucked 
each other. 

44 I can't get my mind off it," Beckie declared 
wildly, 44 seems as if I had no control over m 
thoughts." 

44 1 can't, either," Lainey admitted franticall 
44 My head is going round like a top." 

44 1 don't believe I ever'll sleep again," A 
prophesied crazily. " Think of having a sot in the 
family!" 

44 I've been wondering," with an obvious effort, 
Lainey pulled herself together, 44 if there wasn't some 
other way of handling this situation. Couldn't we 
make home so attractive to Matt that he'd want to 
spend his evenings here. Then he couldn't 



" 



T 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 239 

drunk. Don't you think it would be a good scheme 
to have some parties, for instance, and invite all the 
people he likes.'' 

At the word parties a little fire of animation flared 
in Ann's face. " I think that's a wonderful idea," 
she approved with a tiny jet of vivacity. 

" Because," Lainey went on earnestly, " there's 
nothing really criminal about Matt. He likes nice 
girls and harmless times and all that sort of thing. 
I think that with care we could wean him from his 
present associates, whatever they are. For I'm sure 
somebody's responsible for his downfall. Matt's 
such a good boy." 

" Oh, take it from me, it's that crowd of Alice 
Downing's," Ann interpolated with a touch of her 
natural causticity. " I don't like them and never 
did." 

11 1 agree with you," Beckie said stoutly. " It's 
not Matt. It's the influences about him. Matt is 
naturally a good boy. He never would get drunk 
if somebody hadn't tempted him. And probably it 
was a woman. Well, I guess that's what we'd better 
try to do — to look after his evenings. I think that's 
a splendid idea, Lainey dear. I feel a lot better. 
I guess I'll go to bed. I think I can sleep now. 
Good-night, Lainey. Good-night, Ann." 

" Good-night, Beckie," her sisters chorused. 

Ann took her place on the inside of the bed. 
Lainey took her place on the outside. For a long 
while, Ann lay perfectly silent, snuggled into the 
little round kitten-like heap into which she always 
fell. Then, suddenly she began to tremble. The 
trembling became a frantic shaking. She pulled 
herself up with an elaborate care, climbed cautiously 



240 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

over Lainey, snatched a covering from the couch, ran 
to the door, rushed with an accelerating speed to 
Beckie's room. 

11 Beckie, Beckie," she called, the pulses of panic 
beating in her voice. " Are you awake? I'm com- 
ing in." 

" Yes, I'm awake. I haven't slept," Beckie ad- 
mitted wearily. " Oh, Ann, you mustn't take it so 
hard." She pulled her sister down on the bed. 

Two short, thick braids of chestnut hair fell, one 
on each side of Ann's face. Ann's hair was not 
nearly so thick as Lainey's, but it seemed thicker 
because it was coarser. There were broad pale-pink 
ribbons on the ends of her braids and broad pale- 
pink ribbons on her nightgown. No matter what 
Ann's state of mind, she always prepared herself 
for bed as for a state function. She had thrown 
over her nightgown an old camel's-hair shawl oi 
cream and dull blue, which had been her mother's. 
One corner dipped over her forehead. Huddle< 
and shaking in the shawl, her face with its big dark 
mournful eyes, its white skin, blanched of its vel- 
vety wild-rose color beginning, in spite of her un- 
flawed youth to show black shadowings of the night'i 
strain — she looked like some tragic girl-peasant. 

u Don't let Lainey hear us," Ann said in the 
midst of a volley of sobs. " Oh, is that you, Lainey 
Haven't you slept, either?" 

" I couldn't sleep if my life depended on it," 
Lainey announced in a stony voice. She sat down 
beside Ann, threw her arms about her. " Don't 
cry, Ann," she implored. " Please don't cry." 

" I can!t stand it any longer," Ann sobbed. " I 
think of Matt up there — sleeping in his clothes — 



3 
5 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 241 

d-d-d-dead d-d-d-drunk. I's so afraid it's a jug-jug- 
jug-judgment on me. The last thing I said be-b- 
before he came into the house was that if there was 
a b-b-b-bottle of ch-ch-ch-champagne here I'd drink 
it all. I'm going to sign the p-p-p-pledge to-mor- 
row." 

" Of course it's not a judgment on you, Ann," 
Beckie said indignantly. " If it's anything, it's the 
sins of the fathers. I'm glad you're crying, though. 
It will relax that awful t-t-t-tension." Beckie's own 
voice quivered. 

"Yes, Ann," Lainey reinforced 'her sister, 
" Beckie's right. It will do you good to cry. Cry 
all you want to. Cr-cr-cry till you c-c-can't cry any 
more." Lainey's own accent began to break. 

" Now, we'll all feel better," Beckie said after a 
while. " I guess we can sleep now." 

Yes, Ann dear," Lainey took up Beckie's plea. 
11 See, the light's beginning to come in the window. 
Let's go back to bed." 

" All right," Ann said with unaccustomed docility. 
" Good-night, Beckie," she added mournfully. 

" Good-night, Ann," Beckie answered sadly. 
11 Good-night, Lainey." 

" Good-night, Beckie," Lainey replied desolately. 

Outside the air of that first day of the new year 
seemed to flash and sparkle. A golden sun was^ 
pouring flame jewels through the still clearness. 
A blue sky dropped blue shadows onto a white 
world. Snow-birds cluttered and fluttered. Sleigh- 
bells caroled and chimed. Snow-shovels scraped and 
grated. Occasionally snow fell from peaked gables 
with a long steady roar. Occasionally icicles broke 



242 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

with a short brittle clink. From everywhere rang 
the cries of the coasters. From everybody came the 
call, "Happy New Year!" 

Inside, the three girls — pale-faced, wan-eyed, slow- 
motioned — went through the movements of getting 
breakfast. 

14 I'm trying to think how to break it to Ed," 
Beckie said. " I expect it'll about half kill him — 
the disgrace and everything. I never dreaded any- 
thing so in my life." 

"When is he coming home?" Lainey inquired 
listlessly. 

"Any moment now. He said he'd be here for 
breakfast. A box just came addressed to Matt. I 
wonder what it was? I put it upstairs against his 
door. There, there's Ed now." 

Ed's key cut cleanly into the lock. The three 
girls stood for an instant petrified. 

" Is that you, Ed? " Beckie quavered. " Oh, he's 
going upstairs first," Ann whispered. " He'll wak 
Matt," Lainey hissed. 

Beckie fired. " Well, perhaps Matt will have the 
manhood to confess what he's done. But 
Panic seized her. " — we'd better go up there. 
There's no knowing what might happen." 

The three girls hurried out into the hall. The 
defiant Beckie in the van, the listless Lainey in the 
rear, the cowering Ann between, they stole up the 
two flights of stairs. In the upper hallway, Beckie 
paused, her finger at her lip. Involuntarily, they put 
their arms round each other, set to statue stillness. 

From the boys' room came not only Ed's clear 
voice, but Roly's sleepy accent and Matt's sleepier 
one. 






Matt Looks upon the Wine 243 

"What's the matter with you, Matt?" Ed de- 
manded with the flattering frankness of brothers, 
" You look like something the cat brought in." 

" I feel worse than that," Matt admitted. " Get 
me some water, will you, Roly? And say, let me 
have the first bath, will you, Ed? " 

Matt sat on the edge of the bed, his head in his 
hands. His lack-luster hollowness showed a marked 
contrast to Ed's equable tinting. Ed's freshness was 
of the kind that no amount of late hours ever seemed 
to dim, but to-day even Ed looked a little sunken. 
Roly, still in his pajamas, showed the freshened col- 
oring of twelve hours' sleep. 

" How did you happen to go to bed with your 
clothes on? " Ed inquired calmly. " Splifflicated? " 

"Search me," Matt said. "Yes, I must 
have been jagged last night. I can't seem to 
remember anything about it. I went off with some 
people " 

"Alice Downing's crowd?" Ed questioned idly, 
smashing his thick golden hair with smart slapping 
strokes from two military brushes. 

" No, I don't know who — a gang of fellows — 
three drummers in the hardware business that Gus 
Clark introduced me to. We went — well, I don't 
know where — and did — well, I don't know what. 
And I got home — well, I don't remember when — and 
got to bed — well, I don't remember how. Did you 
put me to bed, Roly? " 

" No." 

" Then the girls must have." 

" You were soused all right," Roly grinned 
broadly. " I heard the girls helping you upstairs. 
I was too sleepy to get up. You were saying some- 



, 



244 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

thing about one foot after the other — over and over 
again." 

" Gee," Matt said, M I must have been pickled." 

11 You ought not to have come home drunk," Ed 
rebuked his brother. " I should have thought you'd 
have known better than that. You must have fright- 
ened the girls half to death. You know women are 
all bugs on this question. They'll have you in the 
D. T. ward inside of a week." He turned to Roly. 
" Remember, kid, if you ever get drunk — don't 
come home. Go somewhere. Go anywhere — and 
stay there — but dorit come home!" 

" I'll never get drunk," Roly growled. " I hate 
the taste of the stuff." 

" I didn't intend to get'tight, Ed," Matt said. " It 
was an accident. Generally, you know three drinks 
make me so uncomfortable I don't want any more. 
Lord, I'm sorry. I wouldn't have thrown a scare 
into the girls for anything. What'll I say to them? " 

M Don't say anything. Let them do the talking. 
They'll talk all right. If they don't pack you off to 
a cure, you're lucky." 

"Now, how did it happen?" Matt interrogated 
himself irritably. He clutched his head and thought 
hard. " Seems to me somebody mixed up a glass 
of beer, cocktails, whiskey, gin, and every other damn 
thing in sight and dared me to drink it. I did — and 
I went out soon after." 

" You kept saying, ' Happy New Year, skerls ! ' 
coming up the stairs," said Roly, still papably enjoy- 
ing his brother's situation. 

" Gee! " Matt said, " I must have been stewed." 

11 The first time I ever got loaded," Ed remarket 
reminiscently, u I came home too. Fortunately, 



rked 
tely, 



Matt Looks upon the Wine 245 

father and mother were away. Perhaps it was just 
as well, because it bothered me so, I never — well, 
I've always kept watch on myself ever since. Oh 
say, Matt, here's a box I found outside. It's ad- 
dressed to you." 

Matt languidly untied the string, tore away the 
paper, lifted the cover. " My shoes ! " he ex- 
claimed. " Why, where'd they come from? What 

did I wear " He peered about on the floor. 

"Where'd I get those shoes? Say, I must have 
bought myself a new pair of shoes. Look at them ! 
Well, I'll be— Swell-looking kicks all right! 
What did I pay for them?" He hunted languidly 
for the slip. " Twelve dollars. Twelve dollars! 
I can't afford to buy twelve-dollar shoes. Hell, I'd 
just bought myself one new pair ! " 

" You get drunk often enough," Ed promised, 
" and you'll be one of our classiest dressers ! " 

11 Gee ! " Matt said, " I must have been pie-eyed." 

Their arms about each other, the girls still stood 
frozen, a little Niobe group of terror. 

Suddenly Ann looked at Beckie. Beckie looked 
at Lainey. Lainey looked at Ann. A quiver zig- 
zagged across Lainey's face. It flashed through 
the air and spread to a ripple at Ann's generous 
mouth. The ripple widened, caught on Beckie's wan 
look, broke into a smile. Beckie covered her lips 
with a smothering hand. Ann filled her mouth with 
a gagging handkerchief. Lainey dropped her head 
to an inhibiting shoulder. Suddenly the group broke 
apart. The fragments made silently down the 
stairs. In the living-room, Ann threw herself on 
one chair and laughed. Beckie threw herself on an- 



246 Matt Looks upon the Wine 

other chair and cried. Lainey fell on the couch and 
both laughed and cried. 

When the three brothers came down the stairs, 
the girls had set the table. " Happy New Year, 
skerls ! " Roly called. " Happy New Year, spoys ! " 
Ann answered. " Come to breakfast! " 

Mutual understanding wrapped the Ollivant fam- 
ily in its peace. 



CHAPTER XI 

. BECKIE HEARS HER MOTHER'S VOICE 

<( IT TELL, but Beckie" Ann was saying and the 
V V degree of her exasperation could be gauged 
to a nicety by the degree of her emphasis, " every- 
body dances the new dances now. They aren't called 
the new dances any longer. It was all right to stand 
out against them two years ago. In fact, it was 
rather smart. Everybody was doing it ! But now — 
good gracious — nobody's doing it. Why, people will 
look upon you as a fossil and a bonehead." 

Her authoritative manner — Ann sat very straight 
as she delivered this pronunciamento — her working- 
clothes — plain skirt and middy-blouse of khaki — gave 
her a look of severity. But that look was nullified 
by a smile — ill-suppressed — of delightful anticipa- 
tion on her red mouth and a flash — not suppressed at 
all — of rapturous excitement in her golden eyes. 

Beckie was also in the clothes sacred to the morn- 
ings of Sundays and holidays. An apron, full, long, 
all-enveloping, with big pockets at the sides, con- 
cealed the sturdy active lines of her figure. A little 
sweeping-cap of dotted white muslin held flat every 
red-gold coil, every bronze-brown loop of her mahog- 
any-colored hair. She, too, sat very straight, but 
the flash that came into her eyes was pure indigna- 
tion. " Nevertheless,'' she asserted, " I shall never 
dance them." 

247 



248 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

" Oh, Beck, if you aren't a scream ! " Ann com- 
mented absently. " Oh, thank goodness, here's 
Matt. Sit down in that seat, Matt, and don't move 
out of it." 

" Ed isn't here yet," Matt remonstrated. He 
passed his hand over the faint, reddish-gold stubble 
on his chin. " Say, while you're waiting for Ed, let 
me go upstairs and shave." 

" You don't leave this room, one of you, once 
get you here," Ann said in a relentless voice. 

11 I've never thought you'd desert me, Lainey, 
Beckie went on. M Why, when I saw you fojx-tro 
ting the other night " 



I 



Lainey in morning costume too — long, slim, 
straight Chinese sa'am in a strange old green, 
pointed, heelless Turkish slippers in a gold-embroid- 
ered scarlet, her filmy hair, hanging in a loosely 
woven braid to her waist — smiled radiantly. 

" I'm crazy about them, Beck," she admitte< 
" They're so — so — so, well, I don't know how to d( 
scribe it — so exhilarating, so full of variety and a< 
tion. You feel almost as though you were makii 
a design when you do them." 

" You may feel exhilarated," Beckie said, " bi 
I'd hate to tell you how you look. I don't kno^ 
what mother would say." 

11 She'd probably say " interrupted Anr 

" Oh, thank goodness, here's Ed." 

Ed, the coolly-colored and finely-chiseled; Ec 
the freshly-shaven and sartorially-trim ; Ed, the hanc 
some, frigid, and impeccable, entered at a saunte 
" Now, what's all this about? " he asked as he seate ! 
himself on the couch. 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 249 

" I'll tell you as soon as Roly gets through his 
breakfast," Ann said. 

" I've nearly finished," Roly called from the din- 
ing-room. " Go on without me. I can hear what 
you're saying." 

" I'll wait until you finish," Ann said with weary 
patience. " If I start now, I know you'll interrupt, 
calling for everything you can think of." 

" All right," Roly said with an unexpected alacrity. 
u Just to prove that I'm a sport, I'll come right now 
in my half-starved condition." He looked long- 
ingly, however, at the coffee-cup drained to a half- 
inch residuum of sugar, the grapefruit shell scraped 
to a white dryness, the big bowl emptied of a heaped 
abundance of breakfast-food and the plate cleaned 
of a generous helping of ham and eggs. Finally, as 
one who tops off with a delicate morsel, he seized 
a banana and ate it in ravenous mouthfuls as he 
strolled into the living-room. 

Raven-black as to hair and brows, coffee-brown 
as to eyes and skin, satin-smooth as to texture, but 
boyishly heavy as to expression and boyishly inde- 
terminate as to feature, Roly seated himself between 
the golden-topped Ed and the copper-crested Matt. 

Ann heaved a long sigh. " I've got you together 
at last! And heaven knows it's been some job find- 
ing a time when I could herd you into one room. If 
a holiday hadn't come along, I don't know what I 
should have done — and that alone ought to convince 
you that what I am going to tell you is the truth — 
all of us having different work and different friends 
and different engagements and different everything, 
not to speak of " 

11 Oh, for the love of Mike, Ann," Ed broke out 



250 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

impatiently. " I've got an engagement. I've got 

to be down " 

11 There, there you are again ! " Ann interrupted 
with a pessimistic triumph. " You want me to hurry 
up. You always do. You've got an engagement. 
You always have. Everybody else is going some- 
where. They always are. That's the reason I've 
come to the conclusion that something's got to be 
done about this house. You all act as though you 
were doing one-night stands and this was a bum 
hotel you were staying at. Not that I blame you. 
It's so shabby and dingy and old-fashioned and 
horrid that — well, it's just got to be fixed up — that's 
all there is to that. You remember that, over a 
year ago, soon after mother died, when you decided 
that you'd let me leave school and take charge of the 
housekeeping, we made a great many very gran 
plans about doing the house over. And we did d< 
a few, dinky, little things. For one thing, we go 
rid of that fierce ark of a black walnut sideboar 
and put up shelves. Then we had it all planned f 
Beckie to move out of the big front room into our 
room, and for Lainey and me to move into the bac 
room and fix up the big front room into a living-roor 
for you boys. Well, did we do that? Yes, we di 
— not! } Ann swept the circle with a withering glance 
She made no effort to suppress the golden scorn th 
flared in her eyes. The flare died down, howeve 
as she continued equably, " And a good thing, to 
because all my ideas then were fierce. Green wick 
and Navajo rugs and pink, red, blue, yellow, and 
green bedrooms. You see Bird has taught me 
lot about interior decoration and now I see what 
place really needs!* 



J 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 251 

" It seems to me," Ed said in his most icy tone, 
14 that Bird Barton has put a good many ideas into 
your head." 

" Bird puts ideas into everybody's head." Lainey 
rushed to the defense of her friend. " She can't help 
it. She's so full of originality it just bubbles over 
onto other people." 

" Bird admits," Ann explained — again with pa- 
tience, the noble patience of the reformer this time 
— " that ever since she entered this house, her fingers 
have itched to get at it. She says that the lines and 
proportions of it are perfectly beautiful, but that 
the things in it are — she's right too. Nobody 
knows that any better than I do. I loathe it. Well, 
just to show you how I feel about this joint — I won't 
go to call on that wonderful-looking Mrs. Farring- 
ton who's taken the Smedley place just because I'm 
ashamed to have her come here and see this awful 
furniture. I should simply pass away when I saw 
her looking at that terrible oak combination of desk, 
bookcase and plate-rack in the dining-room. What 
first put me onto that was once when Mrs. Peabody 
called and I got the expression on her face when she 
piped it. I knew she was counting the mirrors in 
it." 

Ed contemplated his youngest sister with the quiz- 
zical amusement which was the sunniest aspect of his 
formal blonde regularity. " So you've chosen the 
nineteenth of April for this Declaration of Inde- 
pendence? " 

" I've chosen it," Ann declared hastily, " because 
it's a holiday and the only time I could get all of you 
together." 

The note of rebellion inside was echoed by the note 



252 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

of rebellion outside. Huge, black, bullet-like rain- 
drops were drawing thousands of inky lines across 
the landscape, reducing the fresh green of the park 
and yard and lawns, the warm brown of the streets 
and paths and alleys, the faded colorings of the 
pleasant old houses to a vague, moist, composite 
smudge. Overhead was a sky black and hard as 
iron. In spots the iron thinned and lightened to 
silver. At times the sun would melt a hole in that 
silver and pour cataracts of boiling gold over its 
edges. Then the bullet-drops would change to a 
faint dallying mist. The whole world would whirl 
in a golden glitter. Dapples of blue, incredibly soft 
and tender, would spot the sky. An instant of this 
splendor, then the silver edges came together, thick- 
ened to iron, the blue dapples disappeared, the thud 
ding downpour would begin again. 

11 Oh, what a wonderful day ! " Lainey said dream 
ily. " It doesn't know what it's going to do fro 
one moment to the next. But it's doing something. 
Oh, I can't express it exactly, but it makes you under- 
stand rebellion and revolution.'* 

Ann groaned. " Oh, for goodness' sake, Lainey, 
don't get started on Socialism. What has weather 
to do with anything like that? " 

" If we decided to make the changes," Ed inter 
posed artfully, " what is it you propose and what's 
the damage? " 

Ann took a paper from a table beside her. It 
was covered at one edge with neat lines of writing 
and at the other with trim files of figures. Evidently 
she knew these statistics by heart; for although she 
held the paper in her hand, she did not look at it. 
11 1 want first " she began. 



■ 






Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 253 

11 Oh, say, I'm not going to stay through all this 
truck," Roly protested, " I don't care what you do 
with the house. Besides, Dink and I are " 

11 Oh — well — go ! " Ann ordered. Apparently too 
indignant for articulateness, she watched Roly hurry 
through the dining-room, seize one more banana, and 
depart eating it. But her powers of expression came 
back with a rush when the door closed. " I do 
think," she said as one who, after years of careful 
research, lays down an important dictum, " that boys 
are the most degraded of God's creatures. We 
were taught in zoology that an ameba was the 
original low-brow — but what the most ignorant 
ameba that ever lived has on Roly I'd like to know. 
Still," she added with another one of her sudden 
drops to equability, " I'm glad he's gone. What 
good would he be in an esthetic discussion like this? 
Now, to begin with, I want this house to be re- 
papered and repainted from top to bottom." 

"Excuse me one moment, Ann," Matt said se- 
riously. " I'd just like to ask you what you think 
your last name is — Morgan or Rockefeller? " 

Ann's little teeth came together in a click of exas- 
peration. " I knew some knock like that was com- 
ing. Of course, it wouldn't occur to any of you to 
wait until I told you a few things. I know just as well 
as you that it sounds as though I wanted to spend 
the whole Rockefeller Foundation. But if you'll 
only listen to me as long as three minutes without 
interrupting, although — " she stopped and shot 
her golden glare about the circle — " I know that will 
strain your breeding to the utmost, you will'see that 
it is not going to be so expensive as it sounds. Now, 
for instance " She was at equilibrium again and 






254 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

running at full speed. " You remember that time 
Bird and I went through the attic, looking for the 
silver service. Well, just the little rummaging we 
did then convinced Bird that there were all kinds of 
things up there that were wonderful. Well, she and 
I have been exploring Saturday afternoons and Sun- 
days ever since, cleaning the place up, throwing out 
old truck and digging up stuff that we could use and 
planning what we could do with it." 

Matt groaned. " I bet there won't be a comfort- 
able chair in the house." 

" There, there you go again." Ann's eyes shot 
another succession of golden lightnings through the 
group. " Handing out the knocks before you know 
anything about it." 

" Shut up, Matt!" Ed ordered good-naturedly. 
" Go on, kid!" he said to his sister. "What did 
you find? " 

" Well, in some ways it was a disappointment. 
Of course, I had a vision — and so did Bird — of an- 
cestral mahogany, silver, glass, pewter, Chippendale, 

Sheraton, Hepplewhite " Ann waved these 

exotics of a new vocabulary with a nonchalance more 
impressive than triumphal banners. " Well, nothing 
like that materialized — only one old couch, broken 
and pretty shabby — Sheraton though and Bird says 

it's a wonder. We're going to put that in 

But to go on — we found a beautiful old bureau of 
mahogany and maple with the original brasses. 

We're going to put that in Oh, I'll come to that 

later. Then we discovered a set of old Windsor 
chairs with nine sticks at the back — Bird says they're 

rather uncommon. We're going to put those in 

But I'll come back to them. And what do you think? 






Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 255 

Bird said — you never saw anything like Bird — and 
stuck to it that there ought to be a maple table 
somewhere to match those chairs. We hunted high 
and low — it wasn't in the house anywhere. But 
Bird is a perfect ferret where old furniture is con- 
cerned. Where do you suppose we found it? In 
the woodshed behind that fierce old wardrobe that's 
been there since the year one. That table is a per- 
fect pippin, hexagonal in shape and duck feet. Bird 
says it will finish up gloriously like old-gold satin. 

We're going to put that in But first let me tell 

you — of course we found other things in the attic — 
I mean bric-a-brac. But I want to go on about our 
plans." 

Lainey actually bounced. " Ann, if you stop one 
instant I shall burst," she said. " And you haven't 
finished a single sentence." Her deep-set, blue-gray 
eyes had begun to shine with the liquid light of her 
excitement. Even Ed and Matt, though by this time 
smoking calmly, had begun to show a conservative 
masculine excitement. " Go on! " Ed urged. And, 
" We're listening," Matt prodded. 

Beckie alone sat very still and straight in her 
chair. 

" In the first place " Ann began. Under en- 
couragement, her manner had assumed a bustling 
importance. " We want to repaper these rooms in 
a plain cartridge. I hope I don't have to tell you 
that this kind of paper, big-figured like that, is an 
offense against art. If I could have my way I'd 
have gold paper and black paint; for I simply adore 
gold. But that would be too expensive. So as we 
can't have that, Bird and I decided on a golden- 
brown cartridge for paper and a soft gleamy ivory 



256 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

for paint. Then I'd make a clean sweep of the^ 
furniture. I mean all the dining-room stuff, that 
awful combination of settle and hat-rack in the 
hall." 

" Oh Lord, Ann," Matt remonstrated, " that hat- 
rack is very convenient, especially getting in late 
when it's dark. I like it." 

" I gathered that," Ann answered crisply, M that 
night you came home drunk. You actually talked to 
it. I thought you were going to hug it." Ann never 
lost a chance to remind Matt of his single fall from 
abstinence. " No," she continued inflexibly. " That 
hat-rack must go. If Mrs. Farrington should come 
to call, she'd think there was no class to this family 
the instant she laid her eyes on that unspeakable 
atrocity. No, we're going to put the lovely olc 
Sheraton couch that we found in the attic in its 
place. We're going to clean out the closet unde] 
the stairs in the hall and you are to hang youi 
things there. Of course it'll take me at least a 
month to teach all of you that. I'll have to stand 
over you with a gun ! And, oh, my land, the fights 
I'll have with Roly! " Ann's eyes softened to self- 
pity as in imagination she surveyed the thorny roa< 
that leads to an esthetic ideal. 

"How about this furniture?" Ed indicated the 
living-room in which they sat. 

u I'm coming to that," Ann promised. Her man- 
ner became slightly didactic, her voice pedagogic. 
" Bird says that though none of this is valuable from 
the collector's point of view, still it's perfectly 
harmless — good, solid, old mid-Victorian stuff. 
And she also said — the most comfortable furniture 
ever invented. Bird says she thinks it's the funniest 



le 

■ 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 257 

thing how all the Victorian stuff looks so much like 
Queen Victoria herself — dumpy and fat and do- 
mestic and roly-poly — but not a bit of temperament 
about it anywhere." 

" How the hell can furniture have tempera- 
ment? " Matt growled. 

" Ask Bird," Ann answered sweetly. " Why, Bird 
says that that Sheraton desk" — she pointed to 
the great family treasure — " is simply sizzling with 
temperament. However, all this furniture must be 
recovered — you see yourself how worn and moth- 
eaten and faded and spotted it is. Now up to this 
point, all I've talked about is spending money. 
Here's where we begin to save it. Bird and I are 
going to do the upholstering ourselves. She knows 
how and she is going to teach me. And we're 
going to upholster everything smooth, not button it 
down. Bird says all those little buttony hollows are 
inartistic and unhygienic. That's the furniture." 
Ann stopped and ran her eye down the written list 
on her paper. Then she put the paper down, and 
folded her arms. " Let me see. Oh, we've got to 
get rid of nearly all the pictures in this room," she 
announced with a convincing effect of calmness. 

" Pictures! " Ed repeated. His voice thrilled with 
emphasis and he stared at his sister — hard. 

" Not the paintings! " Matt demanded. His tone 
also tingled with emphasis and he looked at his sister 
questioningly and threateningly. 

" Not the portraits!" Lainey exclaimed. Her 
words also vibrated with emphasis and she had the 
air of one about to contemplate sacrilege. 

" Oh no. Not father's and mother's," Ann re- 
plied. " Of course not. They'd stay anyway. But 



258 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

Bird says they're really very nice — they've 2 great 
air of authenticity. She says that whoever painted 
them was a good artist. The drawing is quite as 
good as the color and both are exceptional. And as 
for the frames, she says she's never happened to see 
any like them — so elaborate and yet so chaste — 
she just loves that swell green-gold they've fade 



; 



n 



Under the pressure of so much new vocabulary, 
the Ollivants turned as with one accord and — a* 
from a new point of view — surveyed the two por- 
traits. In her pale-blue silk, with its deep flounces 
of thread lace, her fan of pale-rose ostrich-feathers 
and sticks of mother-of-pearl, Mrs. Ollivant, warmly, 
robustly blonde, met their look with a gaze tender, 
soft, and misty-blue. In his long frock-coat, carry- 
ing a shining hat, gloves, and a stick, Mr. Ollivant, 
richly-olive, sternly dark, sustained their glance with 
a keen-visioned, gray-eyed humorousness. 

14 Say, do you know it never occurred to me whal 
a peach father was ! " Ann said, " or what a swell 
dresser until Bird called my attention to it. I was 
showing her the family photographs and she said 
father's clothes were very elegant and smart. Of 
course I've always known that mother was a looker. 
How queer how you've never really noticed things 
you've been brought up with ! " Ann's voice had be- 
come a little dreamy. But it immediately became 
business-like again. " Yes, we keep the portraits. 
But" — she waved her right hand in the direc- 
tion of the right wall — " it's the scrap-heap for 
* Washington on Horseback ' and ' Sir Walter Scott 
in His Study.' " She waved her left arm in the di- 
rection of the left wall. " It's the ash-barrel for 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 259 

Landseer's * The Monarch of the Glen ' and for 
1 From Shore to Shore.' " She folded her arms. 
" And we're going to can General Milliken." 

She paused as though waiting for the storm to 
break. 

It broke. 

11 Nothing doing, Ann," Ed said with decision. 
" I won't stand for that. The General's picture has 
got to stay." 

11 Sure it has," agreed Matt. " Why, it wouldn't 
seem like home if when I came into this room that 
old duffer wasn't glaring down at me as though he'd 
like to beat my block off." 

" Oh yes, Ann," Lainey said with stressful accent 
that had a soft quality of uncertainty in it. " I do 
think you ought to keep General Milliken. It 
doesn't seem quite respectful to get rid of him." She 
turned to her elder sister, " What do you think, 
Beckie?" 

Beckie did not speak for a moment. But it was 
not because she lacked words. It was only that she 
was choosing from the hordes that fluttered to her 
lips. " I think — well, I don't know what I think — 
I mean I know well enough but I don't know how to 
put it. I never — I — I — I never listened to anything 
like this in all my life. I shouldn't think, Ann, that 
you had one atom of love or respect or reverence 
in your heart. And the rest of you aren't much 
better. To want to change our home all over! 
Why, I should hate it! I don't want it to look any 
different. Of course, I don't object to repapering 
and repainting, but when it comes to getting rid 
of my father's and mother's furniture and taking 
away the pictures that I was brought up with — es- 



260 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

pecially the portraits of my ancestors — well, I'll 
never give my consent." 

44 That's all nonsense, Beckie," Ed said decisively. 
" Why, you'd never get anywhere or do anything if 
you held by those sentiments. I don't feel any par- 
ticular love for the Scott or the Landseer or the 
others. But I do agree with you when it comes to 
the General's portrait — I draw the line there." 

"What do you like about it?" Ann demanded. 
And for an instant her patience cracked. " He isn't 
so very much of an ancestor. I mean he doesn't go 
so very far back. Father and mother both knew 
him. And the technic is perfectly dreadful, Bird 
says." 

11 What business is it of Bird Barton's, I'd like t 
know?" Beckie demanded stormily. 

" She said it was none of her business," Ann an 
swered, " and she didn't say one word about it unt: 
I dragged it from her. Will you tell me what yo 
like about it? " Ann continued with a resumption o 
her magnanimous patience. 

Deep silence fell. Outside the sun smashed a blu 
hole through the black sky. Cascades of gold pour 
ing through changed the inky downpour to a di- 
aphanous golden mist. 

The family surveyed the portrait of General 
Milliken. 

The General presided over the mantel. He wore 
his uniform and he stood upright, one hand on hi 
sword, the other resting on the table. The por- 
trait lacked physical authenticity in a very important 
regard, in that the General seemed to be two- 
dimensional. The face was only a rigid stark mask, 
although full justice had been done to its beefy, 



cciy, 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 261 

watery-eyed, iron-jawed expression. The body was 
but a stiff, hard fagade of unwrinkled uniform, al- 
though, down to the last round of glittering brass 
button and the last inch of gleaming gold braid, that 
uniform had been painted with conscientious care. 

" Well, I've never thought he was so very good- 
looking," Lainey said after a moment. And again 
her voice wavered with that soft uncertainty. M And, 
of course, since I've joined the Party — (There was 
only one party with Lainey nowadays, the Socialist) 
— " I do hate militarism. I confess the figure is a 
little stiff." Both bird-claw-like hands pressed flat 
on her knees, her braid falling over her shoulder, 
she bent forward and contemplated the portrait with 
a gaze deepening in concentration. 

11 Yes, it is stiff,'* Matt agreed. " I've always 
had an idea that the General posed only for the 
head — that they just rigged up some dummy for 
the body." 

" It's an insult to any dummy," Ann laughed 
ironically. " He looks to me like those weird things 
that ventriloquists hold on their laps. I expect him 
to say, ' Good-evening, audience,' any moment." 

" No, they didn't use a dummy," Ed explained. 
" I remember hearing Aunt Elmira tell about it. 
The General posed for that picture — but he was 
sick! " 

"Sick!" Ann repeated. "He was dead! You 
never can convince me that that's the picture of a 
live man. They took him out of his coffin and 
stood him up and " 

"Ann!" Beckie interrupted sternly. 

Ann subsided. There was another interval of 
silence in which the golden mist suddenly precipi- 



k 



262 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

tated to an inky downpour and the blue gash in the 
sky closed up hard and black again. 

11 Ann is right," Lainey said with a tumultuous 
conviction. M It's a dreadful piece of work. He 
does look like a corpse and anybody can see that he 
was a hateful, horrid, militaristic, capitalistic old 
tyrant. I can just imagine how he'd love to be 
called out against labor, and I can almost see him 
clubbing the I. W. W." 

11 Well, something's got to be done about the I 
W. W.," Ann vouchsafed. "What do you thin 
about the portrait, boys?" 

44 All right," Ed said with a sudden amenability. 
11 Go as far as you like, Ann. I never saw him. I 
have no particular love of him. Only don't throw 
him away. Put him in the attic. Somebody ma 
want him some day. How about it, Matt? " 

44 Beat it, General! " Matt saluted airily. 44 R 
tired— to the attic." 

44 Why, Ed Ollivant! What do you An 

you too, Matt! You can't really mean " Becki 

was inarticulate, but her indignation throbbec 
through her voice. " How can you say such things 
In the first place, I consider him a very handsomi 
man." 

44 Handsome!" This from Ann. 44 Why 
Beckie, he looks like Joe Weber will when he' 
dead." 

44 I'll never give my consent to it," Beckie de 
clared. 

44 We're only putting him in the attic, Beckie,' 
Ed explained. 44 What's the rest of your pla 






Not much beyond what I've told you. Tl 






Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 263 

point is this: Bird and Lainey and I will do what 
work we can — upholstering and putting the old fur- 
niture into shape. But the papering and painting 
ought to be done by a professional. What I want 
the family to do is to agree to share the expense 
equally after I subtract from it what the furniture 
brings." 

" I won't give one cent towards it," Beckie said, 
very quiet now — and white. 

" All right," Ann answered. " It's going to be 
done, though, Beckie. You're outvoted. Four of 
us is a majority." 

"What pictures are you going to have in this 
room, Ann? " Ed asked. It was apparent that with 
each moment Ed imbibed more and more of Ann's 
iconoclastic spirit. 

" Very few ! " Ann answered. " We're going to 
leave mother's and father's pictures just where they 
are. We're going to put one of the big mirrors over 
the mantel and the other just opposite over the couch 
in the hall — so they'll reflect and re-reflect in a per- 
fectly darling way. And that's all. Of course we 
found some things in the attic, but I don't want you to 
see them until they're in place. I do wish," she 
went on in a preoccupied way, u that we had some- 
thing for that big space there." She pointed into 
the dining-room. " I would like one smashing bit of 
color there. And so would Bird. You could see it 
from this room. I don't know exactly what. Bird 
says a big group of Japanese prints and that would 
be lovely, I think. Only Japanese prints are so ex- 
pensive. Besides, I'd rather have something modern 
— I mean futurist — something different and new and 
— and — and — — " Ann's eyes palpably darkened 



: 



264 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

as she sought in her mind for descriptive phrases. 
They lighted as she found them. " Something mys- 
terious and wild at the same time — if you get me." 

11 We don't," Matt said promptly. 

11 But anyway, I can let that wait. An inspira- 
tion will come to me some time, I know." Ann spoke 
now with the serene authority of genius. 

" How soon will this be done? " Ed asked. 

" I calculate that it will take about a week to d 
all the papering and painting. And I don't wan 
you boys to come home at all. Ed, you can go to 
the club — or somewhere. And, Matt, you can go to 
Lory Mack's — or somewhere. Cousin Edith says 
she'll take Roly, and Roly always loves to go there 
because she gives him layer-cake frosted and lined 
with goo for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bird is 
coming to stay here and we four girls will work like 
mad." 

" You needn't count on me," Beckie said with lip; 
so dry that they seemed to parch the words tha 
crossed them. " I won't do one thing towards chang 
ing this house over if you're going to sell any o 
mother's furniture. I don't blame you two girls so 
much; for you don't remember the days when 
mother took such an interest in all these things. Bu 
I shall never forgive you two boys, for you do re 
member." 

" Oh, Beckie!" Ann said impatiently, "what' 
the use of being a back number? I love my mothe 
and respect her memory. These things were nio 
enough for her time, but they're simply loathly no 
I've got to live here and I want it to look pretty, 
according to my ideas, just as she did, according tc 
hers. I thought for a long time, I'd like to give i 






Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 265 

party — a reception or even a dance — Maud Evans 
says she'd lend me her Victor any time — and she's 
got all the latest fox-trots. But I never would as 
long as these atrocities remain in this house." 

" There, now you see how it goes," Beckie said in 
a voice stony with her grim triumph, " these new 
dances in my mother's house. I think they're awful 
and I know she would. They're like those terrible 
futurist pictures that you and Bird are so crazy 
about. They are simply horrible. They don't mean 
anything and they're an insult to Michael Angelo 
and Rembrandt and Botticelli." 

" Oh, bother Rembrandt and Michael Angelo," 
Ann said flippantly. " Old flub-dubs ! As for Botti- 
celli, if he wasn't a futurist, I'd like to know who 
was?" 

" I feel— I feel " Beckie stammered. " It's 

as though I was losing my home. I shall never have 
the same love for it again — never — never." 

" Oh, yes, you will, Beck dear," Ann declared 
easily, " when you see how swell it looks. Don't 

worry about that. Well, now " Her golden 

eyes were rocking with joy. " I've got to call Bird 
up and tell her the results of this conference. We 
begin work here next Monday. Oh, I'm going to 
have the time of my life." Ann seized Lainey and 
they one-stepped madly about the room. 

The black sky broke lengthwise and inundated the 
world with sun. The sky became one huge ceiling of 
foamy blue. The air turned to a crystal globe 
filled with liquid gold. 

Beckie went up to her room. She immediately 
fell to work there, sweeping and cleaning. Picture- 
glass, windows, paint — everything that could be 



266 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 






k : 



washed — walls, furniture, bric-a-brac — everything 
that could be dusted — closet, bureau, desk — every- 
thing that could be rearranged — received its full 
share of attention. Yet Beckie's mind was not on 
her work. Her eyes looked off into space frequently 
and blurred at what they saw there. Sometimes she 
had to bite her quivering lips back to their normal 
firmness. At last, bathed, combed, dressed, s 
seated herself at the little oak desk, drew from 
drawer, which she first unlocked, a book. That 
book bore the name, " Diary." But it was not a 
diary; it was really a commonplace book. For, al- 
though Beckie frequently wrote in it, it was more 
often dedicated to recipes, quotations, pasted news 
paper clippings than to personal confessions. Bu 
such as it was, Beckie had kept one like it eve 
since her early teens. There were at least twent 
of these butcher-paper-covered blank-books stacke 
in her closet. To-day she wrote : 

11 Mother dear, they are * going to change th 
house all over and put away or even sell many o 
the things you loved so much. I did not agree to il 
I never will. And I will not help. I shall be loya 
to you and your ideas forever and ever and ever." 

When Beckie came home Monday night, a smell 
of dampness, mixed with a smell of paint, hung o 
the air. The dampness came from the top flo 
where the paperhangers had begun their work an 
the paint came from the lower floor where the 
painters had started theirs. Dinner was one long 
orgy of chatter between Ann and Lainey and Bird 
about the refurnished house. Beckie alone re- 
mained silent. 

" Don't you want to come out in the kitchen," Ann 



nd 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 267 

asked when they arose from the table, " and see the 
things we've brought down from the attic, Beckie? " 
There was an unusual note of pleading in her voice. 

" No," Beckie said stiffly. " It would only make 
me feel bad. I loved my mother too much to enjoy 
what you're doing to the things she cared for." 

The entreaty in Ann's voice changed to resent- 
ment. " Oh, for goodness' sake, do cut out that line 
of talk, Beckie. I loved my mother just as much as 
you did. But I can't love things the way I love 
people. That's the only difference between us." 

Immediately after dinner, Beckie locked herself 
in her room. 

11 1 don't know what they're doing, mother," she 
wrote in her diary. " I haven't looked. I can't. I 
never was so unhappy in my life." 

Beckie did not come home Tuesday night. By 
Wednesday night the damp smell had descended and 
the paint smell ascended one story. Again the 
dinner-talk bristled with the details of shopping ex- 
peditions and of the domestic revolution. 

" Don't you want to come out in the kitchen, 
Beckie," Lainey asked gently, " and see what we've 
done with the furniture ? " 

" No, thank you," Beckie replied with firmness 
and dignity, " I'm not interested." 

Again, immediately after dinner, she went to her 
room. 

11 It's like coming into a tomb, mother," she wrote 
in her diary. " I feel as though everybody in the 
family was dead. I can't stand it." 

Thursday Beckie did not come home. By Friday 
night both the damp smell and the paint smell had 
disappeared. The two lower rooms were closed. 



268 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

The girls ate in the kitchen: Ann and Lainey 
Bird still full of their shopping and their restoring; 
Beckie again starkly silent. This time they did not 
ask her to inspect results, although three times 
Bird's lips closed over what was obviously bitten- 
off entreaty. Afterwards, Beckie wrote in her 
diary : 

" It's all gone, mother dear, the home you loved 
so much. I don't want to stay here any longer. I 
can t. 

When Beckie got home early Saturday afterno 
the house was silent. Evidently the three girls ha 
not returned from their final shopping raid. Beckie 
went straight to her room, waited only to take off 
her hat and coat before she pulled out the huge o 
fashioned trunk from her roomy closet. 

After five, the front door opened, letting in 
three-ply fabric of girl-chatter. But after the first 
start, Beckie paid no attention to the gay sounds 
that drifted up to her. She finished her packing. 
She bathed and dressed. She put on her hat and c 
— slipped out of the house. 



on 



- 



11 Oh, Beckie dear, is that you? " Aunt Lottie ex 
claimed as the door to her living-room openec 
" Well, I am glad to see you. I haven't seen hie 
nor hair of one of you since you started fixing t 
house over. I see Ann going off to Boston eve 
morning — my stars, she looks happy! And I sa 
all three girls come in just a few minutes ago. 
expect Lainey's been shopping all day too, seeing it 
Saturday. Isn't this early for you, Beckie? " 

" Yes. I took the afternoon off for — for som 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 269 

thing. I thought I'd run over for a few minutes. 
There's something I want to talk over with you." 

Beckie sat down in one of the big comfortable 
morris-chairs and Aunt Lottie resumed the other. 
Aunt Lottie's hair was white, but somehow her head, 
like her trim ankles and her slim waist, had man- 
aged to conserve a girlish smallness. She was knit- 
ting and every movement vibrated with energy and 
efficiency. A long, bright-colored, closely-woven 
band was emerging from under her needles. A ball 
of many-colored worsteds lay in her lap. Her 
needles clinked and clattered and sparkled. She 
talked on, however — and with a briskness that per- 
fectly matched her movements — after her first keen 
glance at Beckie's gray face. 

" I don't know that I ever saw a prettier set of 
girls than Ann and Lainey and Bird," Aunt Lottie 
went on. " Ann and Bird are perfect beauties. 
Lainey isn't a beauty exactly, but she's real refined- 
looking. She'll be prettier, too, when she fills out. 
But it does seem as though Ann grew handsomer 
every minute of her life. And she's the spit of her 
mother. Every expression, every movement ! " The 
gray eyes that were so sharp and so kind at the same 
time seemed to lose focus for an instant. Aunt 
Lottie took off her glasses and wiped them. " I 
admire to watch her. She's more like your mother 
than any of you. Your mother was as quick as a 
cat, but sometimes I think Ann's even quicker. You 
and Lainey are Ollivants through and through, but 
Ann's a Carr from A to Zed." 

"Yes, she is like mother," Beckie said a little 
drearily. 

" She was over here a fortnight ago with Bird 



= 

ful 



270 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

and I asked them to show me those dances that t 
papers are so full of. So she and Bird danced so 
for me. I didn't see anything wrong with the 
But it was just like Ann to be wild about them. 
She's a pretty dancer too. That's just the way your 
mother would have been — many's the time she's 
danced all night long. She would have been dancing 
every one of them if she'd been alive and well. Wh 
I remember when roller-skating came in — yo 
mother was a bride — and she took it up at on 
There was an awful lot of talk among the Ollivan 
Your father's three aunts — the Ollivant girls — awf 
dried-up old maids they were too — made enough 
to-do about it. So your mother just took them to 
the rink with her one day, without telling them 
where they were going. At first they were hopping 
mad when they found out where they were. B 
after they'd watched a little while, Mattie — she w 
the youngest — said she was going to try it. She p 
the skates on — she'd always been a fine ice-skater 
and off she went like a bird. What's more, she got 
husband out of it. A gentleman there was so tak 
with her skating, he hunted round till he foun 
some one who could introduce them, and if you'll 
believe it, they were married six months afterwards 
to the day." 

Beckie was only half listening. She was gazin 
about her. For an instant her face relaxed. The 
setness about her mouth softened. The grimnes 
about her eyes melted. 

" I always love to come into this room, Aun 
Lottie," Beckie said. " It reminds me so of mother 
I've come over here so many times with her. No\* 
that they're changing the house over, it will be abou 



. 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 271 

the only place left where mother used to go that 
stays just as it was when she was alive." 

It was a room pleasantly reminiscent of the 
11 cozy " taste of a past generation. The paper and 
carpet were both " bright " in design, although an 
effort to harmonize them was apparent. The furni- 
ture was all of a highly-polished, mirrored, much- 
carved oak, the curtains of a big-figured, scalloped, 
much-starched lace. Walls were covered with 
pictures, mantels and tables with bric-a-brac — the 
heterogeneous, haphazard collection of a lifetime. 
Books herded in trim brilliant files in glass cases. 
Mineral specimens clustered in neatly-labeled 
groups in glass cabinets. But a certain spirit, not 
alone of use but of tender care, pulled all this to- 
gether into an atmosphere of comfort. Alien de- 
tails of sound and movement helped; the grand- 
father's clock ticking sturdily in the corner, the blos- 
soming plants thriving lustily at the windows. A 
huge, gray cat, wise-looking and fastidiously- 
groomed, snoozed close to the register. A canary 
hopped from the floor of his cage to the perch at 
its top, emitting the occasional screeches of his joy. 

" Well, I guess I think that myself," Aunt Lottie 
agreed. " More often than you would, perhaps. 
For this room has associations with your mother 
that you don't know anything about. You see, she 
and I refurnished our houses at the same time. One 
reason why we were such great friends was that, 
although in all other things we were as different as 
chalk is from cheese, we were alike in one thing — we 
loved modern furniture. When I inherited this 
house, it was full of old-fashioned hair-cloth that 
had belonged to my Aunt and Uncle Hepburn. 



s 



272 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

Yours was fitted out just the same way when your 
mother married your father — your grandfather Olli- 
vant's things. Of course I was my own mistress and 
could do as I pleased." 

Aunt Lottie gave a sudden pull to her worsted. 
Released, the ball bounded from her lap, rolled 
rainbow streak through the air and hit the cat in th 
head. He opened one somnolent eye, contemplate 
the blazing intruder with a cynical distrust, then 
closed it again. 

"Phillips Brooks hasn't got a drop of play in him," 
Aunt Lottie murmured disapprovingly. She nodded 
in the direction of the cat. " " I guess I've got to get 
a kitten. The trouble is, though, training them not 
to hurt Tamagno." She nodded in the direction o 
the canary. " Of course I was my own mistress an 
could do as I pleased, but your mother had the har 
est time making your father understand that i 
wasn't irreverence why she wanted new thing 
Land, she used to talk to me by the hour how sh 
hated that old black walnut stuff — she said they ha 
enough marble in the house to fit out a graveyar 
She was always making up epitaphs that ought t 
go on them — you know what a trainer she was. Sh 
loved bright things — so did I. And so when sh 
finally convinced your father that she was right, w 
both went into Boston, shopping every day for tw 
weeks. My land, weren't we tuckered out at night 
And the money we spent! She was always eggin 
me on and I was always urging her. We both got 
oak. We both loved it because it was so brig 
and we each bought two morris-chairs. One thin 
your mother could not do was to get your father t 
sell the black walnut sideboard. It was all carv 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 273 

with bunches of grapes. So your mother gilded 
them. That brightened it up a lot, and she always 
covered the top with some beautiful piece of pongee 
and ecru macrame work. But so long's she couldn't 
have the sideboard, she got that handsome piece 
that's in the dining-room, the desk and bookcase and 
plate-rack combined. She said she was going to buy 
the piece that had the most mirrors in it. ' Oh, how 
I do love the golden glow of that oak ! ' she'd say to 
me. ' Why, do you know, Lot, I love gold so much 
that I'd like to live in a house that was carved out 
of a gold nugget.' " 

" Yes, I guess Ann is like mother," Beckie ob- 
served. " She said the other day she'd like to paper 
the two rooms downstairs in gold." 

" There, didn't I tell you ! " Aunt Lottie exclaimed 
triumphantly. 

But Beckie did not answer. A change had come 
into her face that was not entirely the soothing 
effect of Aunt Lottie's placid reminiscences. It was 
as though she were hunting through her mind, find- 
ing and correlating ideas. The grandfather's clock 
nicked a whole quarter of a minute out of the silence 
before she spoke. Finally, " So father didn't want 
mother to make changes," she* stated more than 
questioned. 

" I should say he didn't. And when it came to 
repapering, just the same fuss! But she finally 
convinced him. But, land, he never could refuse 
her anything, in the long run. The paper on the 
house when she first came to live in it was all that 
old plain cartridge. I was brought up with it 
and I hated it just as your mother did. I see it's 
coming in style again. There won't ever be an inch 



274 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

of it in this house. And when all those beautiful 
figured papers became the rage, your mother waj 
crazy about them. She got a different kind foi 
every room. She always chose designs of flowers 
and ribbons. And such lovely borders as she picke< 
out — the deepest she could find. And she got 
paper with as much gold in it as possible for the 
parlor. The dining-room had a dado. She love< 
that more than anything. She said it gave her a 
chance to have two kinds of paper and two kinds oi 
borders in the same room." 

11 Ann's going to have plain cartridge-paper,' 1 
Beckie said. There was a troubled wonder in hei 
voice, a dazed uncertainty in her face. 

" I want to know ! " Aunt Lottie exclaimed. 
"Well, well, how things come back, don't they 
Seems as though the generations go through th( 
same experiences. But speaking of changes, I guess 
the only quarrel your mother ever had with youi 
father was about your great-great-grandfathei 
Ollivant's picture. You never saw that. And 
good thing too. It was a dreadful-looking picture. 
Your mother couldn't endure it. She said it de- 
pressed her — he was such a melancholy-lookinj 
creature. Then the paint was all cracked and peel- 
ing and it had an awful measly-looking frame. Youi 
mother finally got rid of it, but not until your fathe] 
and she had quarreled over it. She told your fathe] 
that the picture looked like old Warren of th( 
Museum as Dr. Pangloss. You won't remembei 
Warren, my dear, but your mother and I used t< 
see him in everything he did — a fine actor." 

" I've heard mother speak of him lots of times," 
Beckie interpolated. 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 275 

" Well, fortunately, General Milliken died and 
left your father a portrait of himself. Your mother 
was delighted with that. She said she didn't care 
what the picture looked like, as long as it had all 
those gold buttons and braid in it. She said she 
always fell dead in love with uniforms. General 
Milliken sort of took the place of your great-great- 
grandfather Ollivant, as you might say." 

" Ann doesn't like that picture," Beckie mur- 
mured. " She says he looks the way Joe Weber 
will when he's dead." 

Aunt Lottie's laugh, girlishly gay, filtered through 
the room. "Isn't that your mother to the life? 
She always saw the comical side of things too. Oh, 
I never did anything but laugh when I was with 
her. I used to come home dog-tired just from laugh- 
ing. Many's the time I've said to her, ' Jen Ollivant, 
if you make me laugh again, I'll leave the house.' 
One of the most lovable things about your mother — 
and, oh, how it did amuse your father — was the way 
she loved change. She was always rearranging the 
furniture in the rooms. Now I wasn't that way at 
all. As soon as I'd bought this furniture, I was per- 
fectly contented. I decided what the best place was 
for every piece and they all set to-day just where I. 
put them when they came into this house, thirty years 
ago. Now if your mother was alive, I expect she'd 
be wanting all the new things that are coming in. I 
often think what good fun she and Ann would have 
together; they'd be hand-in-glove in the changes 
Ann's making now. Of course the younger children 
don't remember her when she was so gay, but you 
do." 

" Oh yes," Beckie said fervently, " and so beau- 



276 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 






1 



tiful and kind. I often think of one thing. Mother 
always called me, ' My pretty little daughter/ and 
Lainey, ' My clever little daughter/ and Ann, c My 
merry little daughter.' I see now that she called me 
* pretty ' because she didn't want me to know that I 
wasn't pretty. I was almost grown up before I 
realized the truth. I'm glad she did that; for I did 
love beauty so. It would have broken my heart then 
to think I wasn't pretty. I don't care so much now." 

" Handsome is as handsome does," Aunt Lottie 
promulgated with a sage briskness. " You're good- 
looking enough, Beckie, and your hair is beautiful. 
And you're as smart as a whip and as bright as a 
dollar. Besides, you've looked twice as good, ever 
since you let Ann choose your clothes. That queer 
brown is very becoming to you and you do your hair 
so much softer. What was it you wanted to talk 
over with me? " 

" Oh, nothing," Beckie said evasively. " Only 
about the house. But I see Ann has told you." 

" Oh yes," Aunt Lottie declared. " She talked 
it over with me ten days ago. I'm sorry your 
mother isn't alive to see it all. She'd be so proud 
and happy." 

".Well, I guess I'll be going now," Beckie said. 
" Dinner must be most ready. Good-by, Aunt 
Lottie." 

" Good-by, Beckie. Tell Ann I'll be over to-night 
to see how the house looks." The silver glitter in 
the carefully-kept little hands died as Aunt Lottie 
suddenly stopped knitting. " Beckie," she said 
softly, " I'm going to tell you something now. It's 
a secret though. And you must never tell the others. 
Promise me." 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 277 

11 1 won't," Beckie promised. 

u I often accused your mother of it, but she never 
would admit it. It is the truth, though. You were 
her favorite child.' 1 

A soft light came into Deckie's clear-gazing, hazel- 
green eyes, burst there into their fullest scintillation, 
blotting out all their sadness. A warm color spread 
out under her clean-looking, freckle-dappled skin, 
wiping away all her fatigue. " Oh, thank you for 
telling me, Aunt Lottie. Good-night ! " 

As in a dream, Beckie proceeded across the street 
through a purple-misty spring dusk in which the 
stars nickered like fireflies and the street lights glim- 
mered like moons. As in a dream, she entered the 
house and ascended the stairs. But once in her 
room, she awoke to feverish action. She unpacked 
her trunk with a cyclonic speed and a clock-like 
efficiency, put everything back in its place. 

From downstairs presently came the noise of the 
arrival of the three boys. Beckie ran down to join 
them. 

The beautiful old Sheraton couch, newly-uphol- 
stered, which had taken the place of the hat-rack in 
the hall, bore a confusion of hats and coats, al- 
though the closet under the stairs held open a wel- 
coming door. The three girls — Ann all glittering, 
Lainey all gleaming, Bird all glowing with excite- 
ment — were receiving the praise of the boys. 

" It certainly looks swell, Bird," Ed was saying. 

And, " Class, Ann. Nothing but," Matt rein- 
forced him. 

11 Gee, I suppose I'll get used to it, some time," 
Roly grumbled. " But now I feel as though I was 
in a hotel or an art-museum or something." 



278 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

Fires were blazing high in both rooms; gas was 
shimmering low. The double light extracted the last 
atom of warmth from the new velvety, golden- 
brown paper and the new velvety, brown-and-blacl 
upholstering — diffused that warmth in the atmos- 
phere. Everything seemed to catch the light: th< 
old gold-framed mirrors placed opposite an< 
throwing back and forth shadowy, constantly-chang- 
ing visions of the excited young faces; the old can- 
delabra, lifting lighted candles and dripping rain- 
bow-faceted prisms; the gold-satin surfaces of th< 
old maple table and the old maple chairs; the 
bureau of maple and mahogany with the old hand- 
carved brasses set in it and the old silver service set 
on it. On the table daffodils fluttered their goldei 
wings, standing straight-stemmed in low, greei 
Chinese dishes, and on the piano a pair of gold- 
fish pursued their endless, sinuous quest in a bowl, 
like a bubble. Garret-loot — a framed sampler, 
pair of silhouettes, some Staffordshire groups, a fe^ 
old vases — added notes of faded color. The por- 
traits of Mr. and Mrs. Ollivant smiled on the scene. 

" You see the keynote of this room is gold an< 
brown," Ann explained. " It only needs one thing- 
a great splash of color over there. Something that 
would strike a discord — this is all a little tot 
harmonious, if you know what I mean." 

" I don't," said Roly promptly, " and I bet 
dollar you don't, either." 

u But I can't think what," Ann went on, unheeding 
this gibe. " Something futurist, though. What do 
you think of it, Beckie? " 

" I think it's perfectly lovely, Ann," Beckie said 
with the warmth of complete conviction. " I think 



Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 279 

you've done a wonderful job and I'm as sorry as I 
can be that I didn't help you. But it was only 
because I thought it would be a sort of — disrespect 
— to mother. I see now that it isn't and I know 
she'd like it. I'm just as crazy as I can be about it. 
And I'll tell you what I'll do, Ann. A young 
fellow came into the office the other day who'd just 
come from Paris. He is a futurist artist — a pupil of 
Matisse. He was up against it and he wanted Mr. 
Pray to buy one of his pictures. It seems Mr. Pray 
knew him once — they peddled fly-paper together 
years ago when they were awfully poor. Well, Mr. 
Pray bought one of his pictures. It's a terrible thing, 
I think. He calls it ' The Soul in Transit.' 
Mr. Pray bought it, but he won't have it round. He 
said that if any of us wanted it to take it. Nobody 
wanted it and there it is. I'll have it sent home 
Monday. You'll love it, Ann — so will Bird. The 
name he signs is Yvanne, but his real name's Mc- 
Gillicuddy." 

u Yvanne!" repeated Bird. u Do you mean to tell 
me that Yvanne is begging people to buy his stuff? 
Oh, Yvanne's a wonder. His color is most re- 
markable." 

" Oh, Beck! " Ann exclaimed. " If you aren't a 
darling. I can't wait until Monday. What does it 
look like?" 

" It looks like a badly-built spiral staircase," 
Beckie answered, " or a broken flying-machine." 

11 Oh, how wonderful ! " sighed Ann. " I hope 
it has plenty of color. What color is it? " 

Beckie wrinkled all over her face with the degree 
of her concentration. " Scarlet," she said imme- 
diately, " a lot of scarlet. And blue — a deep cobalt 



280 Beckie Hears Her Mother's Voice 

blue. Let me see," she began to go more slowly — 1 
" orange and green. Oh yes, dashes of a pink; 
yellow or a yellowy-pink. And — oh — I almost fo 
got — loads and loads of purple." 

"Doesn't that sound swell, Bird?" Ann co 
mented with rocking eyes. " It'll strike just t 
right single note of discord." 

11 It'll strike several, from Beckie's description, 
remarked the sardonic Ed. " Sounds to me like 
brass-band tuning up." 

Later: u Oh, by the way, Ann," Beckie said, " IVi 
decided to learn the new dances. But I'm going £ 
a teacher and get them right." 

" Oh, do, Beck," Ann applauded. " Oh, and a 
him to teach you the squirrel-jump first. It's t 
only one I can't seem to get." 

Later: Beckie seated herself at her desk. Fir 
she took down from the mantel the framed pictu 
of her mother that always stood there. It was t 
last studio picture for which Mrs. Ollivant ha 
posed — the old-time cabinet size. It purpose 
frankly to record a new dress, a trained tight-fittin 
gown of black velvet with fichu and cuffs of re 
lace. Beckie looked at it long, but she smiled a 
the time. 

Latest of all, she opened her diary. " It's a 
right, mother dear," she wrote. " I feel as thou 
I'd heard your voice." 



CHAPTER XII 
THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY 

IT was very quiet in the garden. It was that in- 
effable instant when golden day, half swooning, 
melts into the arms of ebon night. And it might 
have been that marvelous moment when jocund 
spring, standing tiptoe, receives the kiss of tragic 
summer. Starless, the sky still held its peacock blue- 
green against the dusk, although from its depths 
bubbled a half moon, pearly like a tear. Stirless, 
the air was like a still liquid through which the 
lighted windows showed like rectangles of gold-leaf 
pasted onto the house. Occasionally a breeze zig- 
zagged across the grass and caught in the vines that 
covered the ell, producing a faint green vibration in 
their filmy tangles. But always on the way back it 
gathered the perfumes of too many flowers, stag- 
gered, sagged, died of its weight. Now and then, 
one plaintive bird called to another plaintive bird; 
and then the air would explode with twitters and 
flutters. But always the last note was a drowsy 
:ry, ending in sleep. 

Ed Ollivant reached into his pocket for a match. 
He lighted his pipe. Head back, hands clasped be- 
hind him, his pipe curling downward, hugging the 
tine of his chin, the smoke weaving upward, unroll- 
ng a pale-gray ribbon, he contemplated the scene. 

From the kitchen came the sound of dishes being 
scraped and stacked. 

281 



282 The Pleasure of Your Company 

A breeze stronger than the rest blew the curtai 
aside. Snatches of talk came through to Ed. 

u — formal, I'd just love to have it formal 
be a family once more. You'd enjoy them too, Bi 
— especially Mrs. MacVeagh, Mrs. Farrington, a 
Miss Littledown. They're great swells. You kno 
what I mean. They've got the air that swells alwa 
have. You can tell that the instant you see it." T 
curtain rustled back, slapped against the scree 
blew outward again. u — always like this. V 
had this same feeling every spring since I've bee 
old enough to think. I'm always expectin 
something wonderful to happen and it nev 
does." 

This was Ann's voice. Her notes swelled to th 
normal round fullness, but in their depths quiver 
something alien — a kind of wistfulness. 

" Yes, I know. I've been through that enou 
times myself. And it doesn't happen. It can't 
done. Other things do, but not that wonderf 
glorious, unexpected surprise that you've been wai 
ing for all your life." 

These were Bird Barton's words. And her to 
also had the flute-like clearness with the dash 
cynicism that normally characterized it. 

Ed Ollivant strolled leisurely down the path 
the back fence. His three sisters, under Bird Bar 
ton's tutelage, had performed miracles in the yarc 
And yet all they had done, seemingly, was to remov 
the rotting old board-walks and to destroy the mang} 
old flower-plots. It was all grass-grown now, broke 
irregularly with bunches of flowers. The snow- 
drops and crocuses had gone, but the hyacinths 
daffodils, and narcissi were in the full flutter of theii 



The Pleasure of Your Company 283 

spring blooming. The vines that inclosed the yard 
on two sides as with a green waterfall remained 
untouched. In one corner, as of old, the lilac-bush 
would swing its inverted cone of perfume and blos- 
som against the globular pink-and-white mass of the 
apple-tree. In the other corner the syringa would 
glimmer white against the vague cloud of the smoke- 
bush. Between them stood, undisturbed but re- 
painted, the little hexagonal summer-house, a ruffle 
of boldly-carved wooden lace trimming its roof, a 
series of plump wooden acorns hanging from its 
points, a golden weathervane, in the shape of a 
galloping horse, curveting at its peak. And beyond 
the little two-storied bird-house, repainted also, 
gabled, towered, turreted, many-windowed and 
many-doored, still maintained its perch at the top 
of a high pole. 

Leisurely surveying all these things, Ed walked 
back to the house. He looked very handsome against 
that background of spring and in that atmosphere of 
twilight. His new gray suit carried a characteristic 
note of a conventional smartness. But there was a 
touch of personality given to his aspect by the vigor 
with which his long-fingered hands manipulated his 
pipe and the frankness with which he threw back his 
handsome, correctly-featured blonde face to sniff the 
encompassing fragrance. 

From the kitchen came the hiss of hot water 
pouring into the dishpan — " I feel so discouraged 
about" — the clink of glasses being dipped into it 
and hastily withdrawn — " all very well to do the 
house over " — a loud splash as the silver dropped 
into the water — " keep asking myself what good it 
has done " — a loud rattle as the dish-mop swished it 



:: 



284 The Pleasure of Your Company 

about — " what's it all for " — a loud crash as 
silver dumped into the draining-pan. 

Again Ed walked the length of the garden, 
no longer looked upward to sniff the air. His eyes 
were filmed with meditation. Years ago, this had 
been a very different kind of a garden. Along all 
the fences blazed a screen of morning-glories and 
in front of them, as though on guard, stood files and 
files of sunflowers. The center, cut into circle 
squares, and triangles, bore old-fashioned flower 
geranium, balsam, zinnia, marigold, heliotrop 
fuchsia, Johnny-jump-ups, lemon verbena, and dus 
miller. Perhaps, as he walked back and forth, 
Ollivant saw the genius of the place — the gay spi 
who had called all these quaint growths into bein 
and had reveled in their heterogeneous color — a ta 
blonde woman, robustly slim in an afternoon-gown 
of organdie muslin, striped in black vines an 
figured in purple iris, a broad flapping leghorn ha 
trimmed with black velvet ribbons and bunches 
lilac — a watering-pot in one hand and the tail of h 
skirt in the other. And beside her a little cha 
bareheaded, in white pique kilts, white socks co 
ing halfway over bulging, brown, scratched le 
and black ankle-ties fitting over short, plump, stubb 
feet — a little, pudgy chap, blue-eyed and snub-nosec 
dotted with freckles and capped with gold, wh 
tugged at the watering-pot and chirped unavailingl 
over and over, " Let me do it, mother." 

Could that little chap be himself? 

Again he came back to the door. He seate 
himself in the old rustic seat. The curtain flev 
back, rattled, flapped. With a sudden impatien 
movement, Ann reached forward, jerked it up hali 



The Pleasure of Your Company 285 

way. Framed by the window-square and lighted by 
the kitchen-lamp, the two faces came out like a por- 
trait: Ann all peach-like colorings, velvety surfaces, 
rounded contours, chestnut hair, golden eyes, scarlet 
lips — flower of the discontent of her late teens ; Bird, 
incisively but delicately cut, faintly but exquisitely 
tinted, hair smoky-dark and curling, eyes gray and 
star-set, lips soft and faintly pink — blossom of the 
cynicism of her early twenties. 

" — hasn't been through it herself? I tell you, 
Bird, that unless you have a father and mother — 
or a lot of money — you have no social standing 
whatever. And oh, how I do hate being nobody! 
I want to be somebody — you know what I mean — 
to count. The other two girls don't mind it. Beckie 
doesn't seem to think of it at all. Poor Beckie, she's 
never been a girl really. When she was my age, 
she was waiting hand and foot on poor mother, who 
had just begun to be ill. And I don't think Lainey 
ever thinks of these things, either. But Lainey and 
I aren't the least bit alike. And, in fact, Lainey's 
different from other girls. She loves to read more 
than anything else. She'd rather read than eat. 
And she's simply crazy about suffrage and Socialism 
and labor and those awful I. W. W.'s You are too 
— but, then, you like clothes and entertaining and 
going places and smart things. Now I'm only a 
regular girl, although I've never had a chance to 
feel like one. Maybe I'd be interested in direct 
action and votes for women and minimum wage if 
I'd ever had the chance to do the things other girls 
do. But now they just bore me and that's all there 
is to it. I don't want to uplift anybody and I'm 
not interested in the worthy poor. It isn't so bad 



286 The Pleasure of Your Company 

about clothes. I mean I'm not so unhappy as 
might be about the way I dress. Of course I don' 
really prefer to make my own gowns and trim m 
own hats. I'd much rather go into one of the Boyl 
ston Street shops and pick out just the suit and ha 
that I like. But as long as I can't do that, I'd rathe 
have the things I make than cheap, ready-mad 
suits all covered with buttons and braid and littl 
tabs and everything — or the gowns that a bum dres 
maker would turn out. And sometimes I really lov 
the little hats that I trim for myself. And often '. 
think my little dresses have a sort of air to them 
Wait a moment, I've got to empty this water — it' 
getting cold." 

11 You're perfectly right, Ann," Bird answered 
" You're very original. With a little training at a 
smart establishment, you could make wonderfu 
clothes." 

Again came the hiss of boiling water as Ann re 
filled the dishpan. The clatter of china punctuatec 
her talk, as a steady stream of plates, cups, anc 
saucers flowed from her hands to the draining-par 
and from the draining-pan to Bird's towel. 

But it's a fact," Ann presently took up her nar 
rative, " that I never get a chance to entertain the 
way I'd like to. You don't know, Bird, how des- 
perate it has made me at times. Why, when I got 
in with that Peabody set last summer, I was nearly 
crazy with delight just because they did such jolly 
things and spent so much money. When it began 
to get to me that there was something queer abou 
them, I closed my eyes to it at first. I wouldn't admi 
it to myself because I didn't want to see anything 
• that would make it impossible for me to go abou 



The Pleasure of Your Company 287 

with them. And then things happened that I couldn't 
pretend not to see and I had to cut them out. Ed 
would have made me, anyway. But you don't know 
how I enjoyed being with people who were doing ex- 
pensive things all the time." 

" Oh yes, I do," Bird answered. " You can't have 
lived in New York and been poor there without 
knowing what the joy of spending money is. The 
only thing I do maintain about New York is that, 
although you can spend more money there than in 
any place I know, trying to have a good time, you 
can also spend less there than anywhere else — and 
still have a good time. Boston is very different in 
that respect. It's like all small cities. People have 
their good times in their own homes, shut off from 
the world. There's something compressed and tight 
and selfish about it. Now a metropolis is different. 
It's generous and hospitable and open-handed. It 
has a human lovable quality. It's like people who've 
known the experience of being down-and-out. It 
understands as they do. It takes you right into its 
heart and asks no questions. Beside it, smaller 
cities seem cold and cruel and suspicious and narrow- 
minded." 

The peacock sky darkened suddenly. It was as 
though some power standing in the wings of the 
sidereal stage had switched off a whole row of 
lights. Fire seemed suddenly to blaze up behind the 
pearly moon, changing it to crystal. And suddenly, 
as though they had been thrown against it from be- 
hind, the sky was peppered with stars — little crystal 
stars holding a tiny taper of light. A pair of bird- 
cries made little liquid drops of sound in the silence. 
Still Ed sat quiet in the rustic seat. His pipe went 



288 The Pleasure of Your Company 

out. He reached for a match, started to strike it 
and then, as though he thought better of his inten- 
tion, dropped it back into his pocket. 

11 Why, Bird," it was apparent that Bird's gen 
eralization had flowed smoothly through Ann' 
mind, catching on no snag of interest there, 
have no social standing of any kind. I'm just hous 
keeper for this family. Father and mother mad 
this house a center for a lot of people. We wer 
somebody then. But that's all gone. We're n 
body now — especially me. The rest of the famil 
have their good times, but they always have the 
away from here. Their work has brought them int 
contact with interesting people. I don't mean Rol 
of course. He's too young to chase round with an 
body but a lot of little High School boys and girl 
that don't interest me any. Still, if mother was ali 
and well, I know she'd want to exercise some super 
vision over Roly's associates — she'd be giving little 
parties for him all the time. Take Lainey, though 
Lainey has rafts of friends that she's made at Hig 
School and through her teaching. She enjoys them 
immensely. I don't care for them very much — 
they're too — sort of serious and high-brow. Anc 
Beckie knows slews of people that she's met throug 
the relatives. They don't interest me, to be sure — 
they're too — kind of — countrified and back-number 
Matt too — Matt has an awfully good time. He' 
always going off on automobile-trips with people 
You see Matt's such a sport. He understands any 
motor. He's a crack shot. And then, being such a 
dandy tennis-player — Who do you suppose he's beer 
chasing round with lately? Eunice Littledown. 
don't suppose you know who she is — not having bee 



The Pleasure of Your Company 289 

long in Boston — but she's a real swell and an awfully 
original girl." 

" I've seen her name in the social gossip," Bird 
answered. " Tennis-player, isn't she? " 

u Oh yes," Ann answered. " A perfect wonder. 
And then she rides horseback and runs her own 
machine and drives a four-in-hand, golfs, swims, 
raises French poodles. She plays tennis a lot with 
Matt. Then take Ed — he's so good-looking and 
well-dressed and such a good dancer, and has such 
beautiful manners, he's awfully popular. Why, Bird, 
Ed knows people who are being mentioned in the 
society gossip right along. And that Mrs. Mac- 
Veagh he runs with so much is always being roasted 
in Town Tattle. Gee, doesn't she give the smart 
parties. But as for me, I haven't any crowd. 
There's no chance for me to meet anybody." 

Here Ann interrupted her own monologue with 
a loud splash as she poured the dish-water into the 
sink. She continued to talk, however, as she 
scrubbed the tables, rinsed the draining-pan, wrung 
out the dish-rag, put the dish-towels on the stove 
to boil. 

" Why, right here in Marlowe Place, there's a 
Tuesday Afternoon Club; nine girls who have the 
dandiest times. Maybe you've heard us mention 
them: Edwina Allen, Edna Williamson, Miriam 
Naylor, Marie Mapleson, and that gang. Jane 
Forrester's president. They give teas together and 
get up subscription-parties, luncheons, theater- 
parties. Why, just a little while ago, they got up a 
Bazaar of all Nations for suffrage — Ed and Matt 
helped — they ^ore Dutch costumes. The Tuesday 
Afternoon girls asked me to join them when they 



290 The Pleasure of Your Company- 
started, two years ago. But I didn't have the clothes 
to go round with a crowd like that, nor the money. 
I don't know that I would have enjoyed it, but I 
would have liked to give it the once-over. I used 
to know them quite intimately when I was younger — 
when things you wore didn't count so much — but 
now I never seem to see them, except when I mee 
them on the street. They're just as nice to me a 
ever — only we haven't the things in common tha 
we used to have. There's another thing about it. I 
never meet any men of my own age. I'm not man 
crazy, but I think it's every girl's right to know men 
Well, I can tell you, Bird, the other day, when 
met Len Lorrimer on the street and he asked m 

to go to tea with him And I would have gone 

if I hadn't promised Ed I wouldn't. You see this 
Len Lorrimer is a married man who doesn't liv 
with his wife. Well, all I know is that I can't stan 
this very long. Some time I'm going to run awa 
and go on the stage." 

Again the sky darkened. And now the power, 
standing in the sidereal wings, had switched off 
huge areas of light. The crystal moon changed to 
a silver moon. The fire behind it toned to a uni- 
form metallic glare. The crystal stars changed to 
silver stars. The tiny lighted tapers turned to little 
metallic twinkles. A cloud raced across the moon, 
caught on its horns, clutched it, muffled it, with a 
smoky gauze. More stars leaped into place — more 
and more — until the sky, clogged with heavy glitter- 
ing masses, began to sink closer to the earth. Th 
last liquid bird-note dented the silence. 

" Now we've got to hustle, Bird," Ann concluded, 
" to get to the theater in time." 



e 



The Pleasure of Your Company 291 

Ed arose, strolled leisurely out of the yard. Still 
bareheaded, he strolled to the apothecary-shop at 
the corner of Marlowe Place. He shut himself in 
the telephone box. " Give me Back Bay 8786," he 
demanded briskly. " Oh, Thomas, is Mrs. Mac- 
Veagh at home ? Ask her to come to the telephone, 
please. Is this you, Rita? Say, Rita, I want to ask 
a favor of you? " 

It was a prolonged talk. " The twenty-fifth, 
then," Ed concluded. " Don't forget, will you?" 

He strolled back to the house. 

" Lainey," Ann called. " Beckie. Oh, wake up! 
Do wake up! Beckie! Lainey! Lainey! Beck!" 

The little blonde head stirred first. Lainey's lids, 
thin as the petals of new-blown white violets, lifted 
slowly from eyes vague as the hearts of new-blown 
purple violets. Lainey's hair hung away from her 
head like an empty golden bag that tapered to a 
long, loose plait. Lainey did not rise. The little 
brunette head stirred next. But Beckie came to an 
upright position immediately, her stiff-lashed lids 
snapping up from her green-brown eyes, her 
mahogany-brown hair parted from her forehead to 
her neck, erupting in two tightly-braided horns, one 
over each ear. "What is it?" she demanded 
crossly. u Ann Ollivant, look at that clock. I'd like 
to spank you. The only morning I have to sleep 
too." 

The sun could not have been many minutes above 
the horizon. The sky was blush-pink with the dregs 
of dawn. The air was blush-soft with the dregs of 
dew. The May world glittered prismatically. The 
tiny gossamers that covered the grass bubbled moon- 



292 The Pleasure of Your Company 

stones, the cascade of vines that flowed from roof to 
garden scattered diamonds. 

M Oh, Beckie, don't get cross," Ann wheedled. 
11 I've hardly slept all night — I mean only in patches. 
I'm so excited about it. And I didn't wake you 
last night, though I was simply dying to talk it over. 
Bird wouldn't let me. She's fast asleep now. But 
I couldn't keep it another moment." 

44 Keep what?" Beckie's eyes had lost their last 
film of sleep. But Lainey's lids began to droop 
over her eyes. " Don't you dare go to sleep, Lainey 
Ollivant," Ann admonished her sister. Lainey's 
lids flew open again. 

Ann's eyes seemed bigger than usual. They 
gleamed with a fire that blazed higher and higher 
each moment, as though the very Torch of Joy were 
burning there. Her cheeks seemed pinker than 
usual. They foamed with a rose color that grew 
deeper and deeper every instant, as though the very 
Fountain of Happiness were playing there. She 
might not have slept, but she was youth and fresh- 
ness incarnate as she sat there, tubbed, nightgowned, 
and negligeed. 

"Well, hurry up," Beckie grumbled. "Tell 
us." 

" Ed wants to give a party," Ann announced. 
44 He says it's time we did some of the things that 
father and mother used to do. And you can say 
what you like, Beck, but it's because this house has 
been done over — and looks so swell — that he wants 
to show it off to his friends." 

44 What kind of a " Beckie started to ask. 

14 He doesn't know," Ann answered. " He's left 
that all to us." 



The Pleasure of Your Company 293 

11 When did he " Lainey began. 

11 Last night," Ann answered. u Bird and I were 
getting something to eat after the theater when Ed 
came in. He sat in the kitchen and talked with us 
for nearly an hour. He said for me to go ahead and 
do it right and he'd pay all the bills. Why he al- 
most gave me — carte blanche " 

14 Who's he going to " Beckie made a second 

attempt. 

" Everybody," Ann answered impressively. " He 
said to make out a list at once — so's to be sure to 
leave out nobody." 

" What did you decide to — > — " Lainey also made 
a second attempt. 

" A reception," Ann responded. " Bird and I 
talked the whole matter over before we closed our 
eyes and both of us dead for sleep. At first we 
thought of a tea — but that would have to be in the 
afternoon and would leave out all the men. Then 
we thought of a dance — but really these rooms aren't 
big enough. That would mean hiring a hall and 
then nobody'd see the house all fixed over new. Ed 
didn't say as much to me, but Bird and I both got it 
that he was dying to show the house to Mrs. Mac- 
Veagh. For, of course, although Mrs. MacVeagh 
has loads of money and she's as smart as she can 
be, I doubt if she knows a Hepplewhite from a 
Sheraton." Ann's eyes flashed a golden scorn of 
that condition of gross ignorance from which she 
.herself had emerged only a few months before. 
u Besides, Bird and I both thought a dance wouldn't 
be formal enough for a first function — and I'm crazy 
to give something formal — so we decided on the re- 
ception." 



294 The Pleasure of Your Company 

11 When will " Lainey began for the third 

time. 

" Ed wants it the twenty-fifth. I'm going to get 
right to work on that list. I want all the address- 
books in the family. Then we'll all have to get 
together and talk things over — there'll be a lot of im- 
portant matters to decide — what we'll wear, for 
stance. You two have simply got to have nei 
dresses. I am — if I have to pawn something. I'i 
going to wear pink. Bird says she'll wear whit< 
Lainey, you ought to have blue, and Beckie 

" All my life," Beckie said, doing a little intei 
rupting on her own account, M I have wanted a bla< 
evening-dress trimmed with shiny silver stuff." 

" Well, for once," Ann announced with a higl 
sense of relief in her voice, " you and I agree 01 
something, Beckie. I was going to say black. Thei 
we've got to decide what we'll have to eat and wh; 
form the invitations will take — and everything 
Now you can go to sleep, if you want to." 

When Beckie and Lainey entered the dining-room 
for the late Sunday breakfast, they found the rest oi 
the family all there ahead of them. Ed, with hi* 
eternal air of being perfectly dressed for the oca 
sipn, was hurrying through one paper; Matt, in tl 
baggy corduroy trousers and the blue flannel shii 
which with him spelled relaxation, was tearing 
through another; Roly, in knickers and his Hi{ 
School sweater, was calling loudly for food. Ai 
sat at the foot of the table, address-books, to the 
number of four, piled in front of her. Her excite 
ment had seeped to the farthest corner of the rooi 
but she was still pouring it out. She interrupt* 



The Pleasure of Your Company 295 

herself long enough to place on the table the tra- 
ditional Sunday breakfast of New England: baked 
beans, warmed over from the night before ; brown- 
bread, delectably-toasted; fish-balls, deliciously- 
browned; piccalilli; chili sauce. The rest of the 
family fell on the food with the zest of delayed 
breakfasters, but Ann confined herself to a cup of 
coffee that was mostly hot milk. Alternately she 
turned the pages of the address-books and shot 
questions from brother to sister and back again. 

" Now what shall we have to eat at the party? " 
she demanded suddenly. " That's a question I 
want you to think hard about.' ' 

" Well, if you're asking me," Roly said, com- 
pletely burying a fish-ball in piccalilli, " I don't have 
to think at all — ice-cream — bananas — griddle-cakes 
with maple syrup — and floating island pudding." 

" I'm not asking you, Roly," Ann announced 
stormily. " And you'll oblige me by keeping out 
of this discussion. Floating island padding! " 

" Beer and hot-dogs for mine," Matt answered 
with an equal celerity. 

" Oh, my goodness, what a family!" Ann ex- 
; claimed. " Matt, don't you understand this is a 
| formal function. It is to be swell. Hot-dogs! " 

" I should say something dainty" said Lainey the 
pacifist. " Little delicate sandwiches, ice-cream in 
pretty shapes, and darling little cakes." 

11 Men don't want anything dainty" interposed 

SBeckie with the contemptuous superiority of those 

who have cooked for the other sex. " Men want 

substantial things — cold meats, and salads and 

pickles and olives and cheese and sardines." 

"Oh, heavens, Beckie ! " Ann groaned, "you sound 



296 The Pleasure of Your Company 

like a delicatessen. Why don't you say boiled dinner 
or clam-chowder? This isn't a barbecue. It's a 
function. It's to be formal. You don't bother 
whether people get enough to eat or whether they 
like it or not — you just give them the correct thing." 

" Why don't you wait and discuss this matter 
with the caterer, Ann?" Ed suggested. 

" I guess I'll have to," Ann admitted scathingly, 
11 if this is all the help I'm going to get from this 
family. My goodness, I've never suspected how 
little class there is to you." 

"What do you do at a party like this?" Roly 
asked, as one who desires information. " Play 
games? " 

11 Oh, certainly," Ann answered in a tense voice. 
M Of course. Kissing games — post-office — pillow — 

clap-in-and-clap-out — spin the plate What a 

family ! Roly, do you know what the word formal 
means? " 

u No," Roly admitted. " But I know one thing. 
I'm not coming to this party until you hand out the 
grub." 

" That'll help some," Ann said darkly. " Now," 
she added with a new impetus, " we'll decide who's 
going to be invited." 

" I stipulate," Ed interposed, " that you invite all 
the neighbors in Marlowe Place." 

"All right," Ann agreed with a sigh. " Of 
course I know I've got to do that. It means, though, 
that old Mrs. Gookin will be here promptly at nine 
to stay until the last one goes. And everybody'! 
have to shout into that ear-trumpet." 

" And all the relatives," Beckie added. 

" I suppose so," Ann agreed with another sigh 



The Pleasure of Your Company 297 

11 And we've got such a million of them and such 
homely ones. And then they're all so fat and take 
up so much room. And I suppose Aunt Margaret 
will wear that fierce black satin with the jet, that 
she's worn ever since I can remember. Oh dear, 
why couldn't it be fixed so you could choose your 
own relatives." Her voice trailed into the silence 
of despair and then suddenly leaped into enthusiasm 
again. " Probably they'll have to take early trains. 
I've been going through all these address-books, 
making a choice — weeding out — you know what I 
mean." 

" Doing what? " Lainey demanded. 

" Weeding out. Good heavens, Lainey, you don't 
suppose I'm going to ask everybody. There's that 
Mike Milligan — that I. W. W. friend of yours. You 
don't think I'm going to invite a man that's always 
getting arrested? " 

"Why not? " Lainey asked. 

" Oh, my grief, Lainey, are you going to carry 
Socialism into your private life? I thought Socialism 
was something you just believed in and let it go 
at that. It's all right, I suppose, when it comes to 
crops and railroads and banks and stocks and bonds, 
but it certainly is going to put parties on the blink. 
Why, he wouldn't know what to wear or how to act. 
Do you think he'd want to come, boys?" Ann's 
voice melted from conviction to entreaty as she 
turned to her brothers for reinforcement. 

" If he thinks there's going to be anything to eat, 
he'll come," said Matt. " Sure ! If he's a regular 
I. W. W." 

Ann groaned. " And, Beckie, I wasn't going to 
invite that queer Miss Larkin, who has St. Vitus's 



298 The Pleasure of Your Company- 
dance so her nose twitches like a rabbit. And, Matt, 
you certainly don't expect me to invite Gus Clark, 
after the way he took you out that time and got you 
drunk." 

"If you don't invite Mike Milligan," began 
Lainey. 

" If you don't invite Almedia Larkin," began 
Beckie. 

11 If you don't invite Gus Clark," began Matt. 

" Don't invite me," they all ended in chorus. 

Ann stared for an interval of silence in which 
palpably exasperation grew to rage and boiled over. 
" All right," she agreed finally, " I'll invite every- 
body we know — that red-headed grocery-boy with 
the harelip and the piano-tuner with the glass eye, 
and the gas-man, whose false teeth jump up and 
down when he talks — and the ash-man and the ice- 
man and the policeman on the beat. Well, the 
party's ruined for me with all those lemons coming." 
There came another interval of silence, in which, 
obviously out of the ruins of her plans, Ann built 
another hope. " Do you think Mrs. MacVeagr 
would care to come?" she asked Ed. "And Mrs 
Farrington?" she asked Lainey. "And Misf 
Littledown?" she asked Matt. 

" I think probably Mrs. MacVeagh will come 
Ed answered with an elaborate indifference. " 
know nothing about her engagements, of course." 

" I'm sure Mrs. Farrington would like to come 
Lainey said. " She's always so sweet and lovely." 

" I don't know anything about Miss Littledown 
Matt replied, " except that she's a good sport, i 
ever I saw one." 

" Well then," Ann announced, as one who ma 



- 



The Pleasure of Your Company 299- 

noble concession for the good of the majority, " I 
suppose I might as well get the invitations out- 
Perhaps the lemons will be sick or something, though 
I never heard of such a case. Bird and I looked up 
the correct form in the etiquette-book. I'll start 
writing them at once." 

" You'd better have them printed," Roly sug- 
gested. " Nobody can read your writing." 

"Printed!" Ann breathed. "What a family!" 

11 The invitations are out," Ann announced the 
next night. " Do you suppose people will have the 
sense to answer them? " 

" No," Roly answered readily. " They'll prob- 
ably wait to see if something better doesn't turn up." 

" I started to go down to the caterer this morn- 
ing," Ann said, talking straight through Roly's re- 
mark, " and on the way a wonderful idea came to 
me — to ask those girls — you know the Misses Colby 
— who've opened that little tea-room on the Boule- 
vard — to cater for me. I went in to see them and 
they were perfectly lovely about it. They said that 
they would love to do it, as they were dying to work 
into this sort of thing. They said they'd come up 
here some morning and look over our table things. 
They said they liked to use the family's own stuff 
wherever it was possible — so it wouldn't look hired 
and rubber-stamp. I told them frankly that our 
china and silver was awful. They looked disap- 
pointed, but they went perfectly wild when I de- 
scribed the Sheffield plate set. Well, we talked for 
a long time and we designed, if I do say it myself, 
the most artistic eats you can possibly imagine." 

"When do you pass round the grub?" Roly 



3<X) The Pleasure of Your Company 

asked with interest. " I was talking with Dink 
to-day and he says he doesn't want to come till 

then." 

Ann's glance must have sawed through Roly's 
skull, but she went on, blithely ignoring him. " And 
I called up Miss Walker and she's coming day after 
to-morrow for a week. Then I went in town and 
got samples of dress-goods. I'm going in early to- 
morrow morning again. So, you girls can be mak- 
ing up your minds to-night what you want. I'll meet 
Bird at twelve to-morrow and, Beck, you at one. 
Lainey, I suppose you'll trust to Bird's and my 
judgment. Now you must remember that all next 
week will be given over to dressmaking. I'll work 
with Miss Walker all day and the rest of you car 
help evenings. At least Beck and Bird will. Oi 
course you won't be good for anything, Lainey." 

11 Can't I read aloud to you while you're sewing,' 
Lainey asked in an agony of good-will. u I'm jus 
starting ' Marcus Aurelius ' again." 

" If there's anything that would drive me ou 
of my skin quicker than being read to while I wa 
sewing," Ann was apparently addressing the cosmi 
spirit, for she glared into space, " I'd like t« 
know what it is. * Marcus Aurelius! ' What 
family!" 

" The acceptances are beginning to come in," An 
announced the next day. " I got Mrs. MacVeagh ; 
and Mrs. Farrington's and Miss Littledown's i i 
the first mail. Oh, such smart stationery — so el< • 
gant and simple — wait till I show you. And Mifc 
Milligan. He wrote from the I. W. W. hea< 
quarters and he inclosed a sticker which said som 



The Pleasure of Your Company 301 

thing about no hops being picked in California till 
two men were out of prison — I forget their names — 
and asked me if I wouldn't write to the governor 
about it. And, say, Beck, I went into Maddox, 
Lennon's, and got some silver stuff that put it all 
over that we saw at Candler's." 

" All right," Beckie said obediently. 

"And, Lainey, Bird and I decided we wouldn't 
let you get that deep-blue stuff you liked so much. 
We chose a paler blue — with a silver thread — oh, 
it's wonderful, it's like a night sky smothered in 
moonshine. You never saw anything so lovely." 

U A11 right," Lainey said docilely. 

"What do you think happened to-day?" Ann 
asked the next night. u Aunt Lottie came over this 
morning and insisted on our borrowing her two 
maids for the party — Hattie and Josie. Of course 
I was delighted. Aunt Lot makes them wear such 
correct aprons and caps and they're such swell-look- 
ing darkies. And then — what do you think? — she 
said we'd simply got to use her chest of silver and 
her set of black Chinese. You remember it — it's 
that English ware — oh, beautiful — -flowers and 
pagodas in Chinese coloring against a background of 
coal-black. Well, at first I wouldn't hear of it. But 
she said she'd run all the risk of breakage. She 
said it was the first real entertaining we'd done since 
long before mother died and she wanted it to be 
right. Well, when she talked of mother, the tears 
came into her eyes and, of course, I said yes, right 
away. Aunt Lottie says she's going to have a new 
dress too — a black and white foulard. Oodles of 
acceptances came to-day." 



302 The Pleasure of Your Company 






" Well, wonders will never cease," she greeted 
them the next night. " Of all things that I didn't 
expect. Old Mrs. Gookin called this morning and 
asked me if I didn't want to borrow her tulips for 
the party. She says she calculates that they'll be 
in full bloom then — they're a little late. You know 
she has boxes and boxes — she's a wizard at making 
them grow. At first I couldn't think of it, and then, 
suddenly, I saw how wonderful they'd be against that 
new brown paper — how they'd just light the house 
up. And I said yes. And then the next moment, 
Betsy Murray called up and asked me if I didn't 
want to use their brass candlesticks. She remem- 
bered hearing me say how I loved candlelight. You 
know she has wonderful candlesticks — some beauti- 
ful sconces among them. Of course I said yes. 
She's going to express them out to me the day of 
the party. Well, Aunt Lot's maids and silver and 
china and Mrs. Gookin's tulips and Betsy's candle- 
sticks were too much for me. I beat it right down 
to the Misses Colby. They were perfectly wild— « 
they say they're going to pull off a party that'll make 
people open their eyes. And then on my way back, 
I met the Tuesday Afternoon girls all pouring out 
of Edwina's. And they stopped me and they were 
so nice, said they were all coming. They kepi 
asking me if they couldn't help, and finally, I don'i 
know how it came about — I didn't propose it, the] 
offered it themselves — they asked if they couldn' 
serve as floaters — to circulate round at the receptior 
and introduce people and see that everybody had t 
good time. Of course I said yes, and now I don' 
feel the least bit worried about anything, becaus« 



The Pleasure of Your Company 303 

they all said they'd be here on the dot of nine. 
Wads of acceptances came to-day." 

" People have been calling me up all morning," 
Ann announced the next night, " to ask if they could 
bring friends who were visiting them. It was 
awfully nice the way they'd put it. ' I wouldn't ask 
if she weren't a charming girl,' or, ' I wouldn't bother 
you if he weren't a very interesting man.' But oh, 
the awful scare Mrs. Hunter threw into me. She 
said she wanted to bring a cousin — a man. And, at 
first, I thought it was that one who has epilepsy and 
I had a vision of him throwing a fit in the midst 
of the party with Mrs. MacVeagh there and Mrs. 
Farrington and Miss Littledown. Well, I nearly 
threw a fit myself right there at the telephone." 

"What do they do when they have fits? " Roly 
asked in what was apparently a spirit of scientific 
inquiry. 

" Oh, gnash their teeth and roll their eyes and 
kick," Ann answered with a superb assumption of 
complete medical information. 

" Say, if he's coming, I'm coming," Roly an- 
nounced with interest. 

" He isn't coming." Ann cruelly dashed his 
hopes. " It wasn't that one. It's a poet that's com- 
ing. Yes, the way they all said, * I wouldn't think of 
bringing a bore to your party,' made me awfully 
happy." 

" Oh, that reminds me," Roly broke in. " Dink 
Hardy's mother asked me to-day whether it was to 
be the twenty-first or the twenty-fifth — she couldn't 
tell from your writing which it was. You know, 
Ann, you never dot your i's or cross your f's. I told 



304 The Pleasure of Your Company 

you, you ought to have the invitations printed — 
you're such a bum writer." 

11 Oh, my stars ! " Ann ejaculated, " suppose they 
come on the twenty-first instead of the twenty-fifth. 
Oh, what shall I do. Well, I won't be home that 
night. I won't face them." 

" Put a sign in the window," said the care-free 
Roly, ll ' Party Thursday.' " 

" Now," Ann groaned, " I shall live in torment 
until the party's over. Rafts of acceptances came 
to-day." 

" Well, this afternoon I called up a few people 
that I hadn't heard from," Ann said the next night, 
41 and they all said my invitations read for the 
twenty-fifth; so I'm not bothering about that any 
more. That one is probably the only invitation that 
I did so badly. All I've got to worry about now is 
the weather. Oh, Aunt Margaret called me up and 
she told me she was going to have a new dress for 
the party. It sounded perfectly royal as she de- 
scribed it and it must have cost billions of dollars — 
purple-velvet brocade on cloth-of-gold — swell goods 
but, oh, the way it's going to be made ! She'll look 
exactly like Queen Victoria. Except that she's going 
to wear that fierce set of lava jewelry that she 
bought in Naples on her honeymoon, forty-sever 
years ago. Still with that dress and all that lovel} 
hair, she'll give the party a lot of tone — if she'll onb 
keep her mouth shut. But the moment she says, l . 
ain't a-going to,' and, * I can't tell nawthing about it 
— well, that make-up isn't going to do her a bit o 
good. Oh, I'm so tired of dressmaking. Slews o 
acceptances came to-day." 



The Pleasure of Your Company 305 

Out of this confusion emerged the night — a night 
clear and warm, moonless but full of stars. 

The two lower rooms thrown open, gleamed with 
light, and rioted with color. On walls and tables 
glittered candles in sticks of lustrous colonial brass 
and simple colonial shapes. On the piano and man- 
tels fluttered masses of tulips, blood-crimson and 
butter-yellow, rising straight and trim from their 
sheaths of green. The bared old maple table in the 
dining-room glistened like a hexagonal section of 
massy gold. Against it came out, in startling con- 
trast, Aunt Lottie's dishes of black Chinese. Here, 
too, glittered candles and fluttered tulips. Lainey, 
Ann, and Bird, in their slim evening-gowns, made a 
mass of color to which Beckie's black-and-silver con- 
tributed another heightening note. Ed, in even- 
ing-clothes, with his inalienable air of a care- 
free royalty performing a standardized function, 
strolled about as though waiting for the program 
to begin. Matt, also in evening-clothes, with his in- 
alienable air of an important official performing 
a new duty, leaped from room to room, carrying 
out Ann's last orders. Roly, not in evening-clothes, 
but unnaturally clean, brushed, and polished, sur- 
veyed everything with a strong expression of dis- 
approval. 

Suddenly, a paper appeared in Ann's hands. 
" Now get together all of you, family/' she com- 
manded, " right here in front of me. I've some last 
instructions to give you. I've made out a list of 
things you're not to do. Now listen! To begin 
with, you're to remember, first, last, and always, to 
keep it formal. I can't impress that on you too 
often. Keep it formal/ For that's the only way; 



306 The Pleasure of Your Company 






we can make a success of this party. I have no 
advice to give you, Ed, for you're the only member 
of the family that I can always depend on to do the 
right thing. Except this, please don't say anything 
about dancing; for the party will degenerate the mo- 
ment you do anything like that. I want this to be 
absolutely correct. Now you, Matt — if you feel 
thirsty, don't you go out and get beer from the ice- 
chest, the way you're always doing. And, Beckie, 
don't you ask for coffee in a big cup, the way you 
did once at one of Aunt Lot's teas. And I nearly 
died of mortification when you did it too. Lainey, 
don't you dare mention the word Socialism. And if 
you say the letters I. W. W., I shall scream and 
faint. As for you, Roly, no matter what you start to 
say, don't say it. It's sure to be some fierce break. 
I have had all the chairs, as you see, moved out into 
the kitchen. Nobody is to sit down." 
- M Suppose people ask for chairs? " Matt queried. 

14 Tell them to leave the house," Ann an- 
swered. 

" And don't let them form one of those ghastly 
circles," she went on, her speed unimpaired. " If 
they do, I shall call up the police or put in an alarm 
of fire — anything to break it up. I will not have one 
of those circles." 

" Well, how are they going to talk comfortably? " 
Beckie demanded. 

"They're not to talk comfortably," Ann an- 
swered. " They're to talk uncomfortably. This 
isn't a party where you're supposed to have a good 
time." 

" Suppose," Ed suggested gravely, " we should 
find a group enjoying themselves." 



i 



The Pleasure of Your Company 307 

" Separate them at once," Ann said with her first 
gleam of humor. 

" Now don't say anything," she concluded, " that 
would shock Mrs. MacVeagh, Mrs. Farrington, or 
Miss Littledown. And, remember, KEEP IT 
FORMAL!" 

This was at eight. At nine Ann was saying, 
" Well, I know it's going to be a failure. In the 
first place, I can tell by the way I look. Did you 
ever see anybody so yellow and haggard and hollow- 
eyed? Why didn't I get some rouge? I never can 
be entertaining when I know that I don't look well. 
And in the second place, I can tell by the way I feel 
that nobody's coming. You can always tell when 
nobody's coming — there's a kind of dull, shivery, 
empty, vacant, dead feeling in the atmosphere. 
Those rooms seem like an empty prison to me. And 
in the third place — oh, my goodness, there's the bell ! 
I wonder if Hattie'll hear it. Of course she won't. 
She's not accustomed to the sound of our bell. You 
go to the door, Matt. Oh no, don't do that. Tell 
Hattie, somebody, will you? She isn't hearing it. 
Yes, she is. No, she isn't. Here she comes. Re- 
member, KEEP IT FORMAL! ' 

At halfpast nine a score of people had arrived. 
The banished chairs, as though exorcised by a pres- 
tidigitator's skill, had reappeared, had formed a 
perfect circle in the front room. At one side Mrs. 
Gookin, flourishing her ear-trumpet, held a small 
group of the neighbors in a shouted conversation. 
At the other side Aunt Margaret, fearfully and 
wonderfully gorgeous, presided over a small court, 
made up of relatives. Lainey circled about Mrs. 



308 The Pleasure of Your Company 

Gookin, translating timidity and inarticulateness int 
the ear-trumpet. Beckie wove about Aunt Margaret, 
answering that lady's loud-voiced — and ungram- 
matical — questions. Ann stood in the background, 
glaring frenzied-eyed into space. " I don't care 
what happens now," she hissed once to Bird. " The 
Tuesday Afternoon girls have failed me. I know 
Mrs. MacVeagh and Mrs. Farrington and Miss 
Littledown aren't coming and it doesn't make any 
difference what anybody does. They can hold a 
temperance meeting if they want to." 

At quarter to ten there were thirty people in the 
room. Still the circle maintained an unbroken per- 
fection. Still the two groups refused to mix. " Did 
you ever hear anything like those Tuesday After- 
noon girls not being here yet?" Ann asked Bird in 

a bitter tone. " If ever I trust to Oh, my 

goodness, there's Mrs. MacVeagh's motor! Matt, 
Matt ! Mrs. MacVeagh's coming up the steps. Get 
rid of those chairs." 

"How can I?" Matt demanded. "People are 
sitting on them." 

14 Pull them from under them," Ann ordered in 
a distracted tone. 

"Where'll I put them?" There was a note 
that approximated hysteria in Matt's masculine 
tone. " I mean the people." 

"Throw them out the window — the chairs, I 
mean," Ann answered. M Til hold her upstairs talk- 
ing while you get them to stand up — the people, I 
mean. Praises be, here come the girls." 

At ten there were nearly a hundred people in the 
two rooms. Tall, lithe, brune, piquant, very pic- 



The Pleasure of Your Company 309 

turesque in her cherry and gold, the center of a 
group of men, Mrs. MacVeagh was filling the room 
with her staccato chatter and her fluting laugh. 
Pretty and gay, the Tuesday Afternoon girls were 
circulating briskly. 

" Thank heavens," Ann said, " that terrible cir- 
cle is broken up. Oh, Ed, here comes Mrs. Far- 
rington. Who's that getting out of the motor with 
her? Mike Milligan! Well, what — when — how 
did she know him? M 

At quarter past ten the rooms were filled. Slim, 
delicate, blonde, exquisite, very elegant in her 
evening-gown of black and white, the center of a 
group of women, Mrs. Farrington was radiating an 
atmosphere of cordiality to which the whole gather- 
ing unconsciously responded. The Tuesday After- 
noon girls had succeeded in introducing the relatives 
to neighbors and neighbors to relatives; they had 
broken the two groups ; mixed them. 

" If only Miss Littledown would come," Ann 
confided to Bird, " I'd be perfectly happy. Oh, 
there's her car now. My gracious, isn't that a won- 
derful gown — that combination of dragon's blood 
crimson and saffron-yellow? Now the party's going 
to be a success." 

Color flashed like rose-velvet banners in Ann's 
wan cheeks, light flashed like golden signal fires in 
her dull eyes. 

At halfpast ten the rooms were impassable. At 
eleven the maid began to pass the food which, ac- 
cording to Ann, she and the Misses Colby had 
" designed " — salads carved with calyx and corolla 



310 The Pleasure of Your Company 

that looked like flowers set in crisp nests of tiny 
lettuce leaves ; ices molded with stem and leaves that 
looked like fruit surrounded by lustrous shavings 
of frost candy; tiny sandwiches that were as pretty 
as cakes; tiny cakes that were as brilliant as jewels; 
coffee that ran melted topaz. 






Presently people began to leave — the elderly rela- 
tives first, the elderly neighbors next. " It's been a 
great success, Ann," Aunt Lottie whispered, her 
eyes wet. " I wish your mother and father had been 
alive to see it." " I never tasted such victuals in my 
life," Aunt Margaret announced in megaphone 
accents. " I must have et about a dozen of them 
little sandwiches." " Now, you children, keep it up, 
after we old folks have gone," Mrs. Gookin com- 
manded in stentorian tones. " You can't be young 
but once, you know." 

Suddenly the room was half empty. 

" Say," Ann suggested, " why can't we dance? 
Maud, can't the boys go over to your place and get 
the Victrola?" 

There came dancing and dancing and more 
dancing. 

In the midst of it, Ann went out into the kitchen 
to dismiss the maids. She found Mrs. MacVeagh 
and Matt, sitting opposite each other at the kitchen- 
table, dividing a bottle of beer. She stopped to talk 
with them. In the living-room the dancing stopped 
suddenly. The music did not start up. As Ann 
re-entered the dining-room, there came a burst of 
applause. Mrs. Farrington, at Mike Milligan's re- 
quest, was giving the peroration of a talk which she 



< 



The Pleasure of Your Company 311 

had delivered that night at the I. W. W. head- 
quarters — u Free Speech Fights in California. " At 
its close dancing started again. Suddenly there was 
a clatter outside on the stairs. The living-room 
doors flew open to admit Miss Littledown and Ed 
in the Dutch costumes left over from the Bazaar of 
All Nations. Amid plaudits, they executed a spirited 
clog. 

Then came dancing and dancing and more danc- 
ing. 

This was broken by a sudden raid on the ice-box 
for beer and on the kitchen-closet for crackers and 
cheese. 

Then came dancing and dancing and more danc- 
ing. 

It was two o'clock before the last guest left. It 
was three before Ed, Matt, and Roly, still dropping 
remarks, mounted the stairs to their rooms. It was 
four o'clock before Beckie, Lainey, and Bird, still 
gasping comments, crawled into bed. Five o'clock 
found Ann, still sparkle-eyed and joy-flushed, sit- 
ting at the window. 

" Oh, it was so beautiful," she sighed. " Just the 
way I wanted it to be — so smart and correct and 
formal at first, and so gay and unconventional and 
informal at the end. Anybody can have a stiff dull 
affair, but it takes a real social instinct to give a 
party that's full of pep. I guess we've inherited 
father's and mother's gift that way. Weren't Mrs. 
MacVeagh and Mrs. Farrington and Miss Little- 
down lovely? " 

She waited. 

" Yes," came almost inaudibly from her listeners. 



312 The Pleasure of Your Company 

11 Just think of Mrs. Farrington talking to the L 
W. W.'s. I can't get over that. It's simply impossi- 
ble nowadays to keep up with what's the correct thing 
to do. You can do almost anything, though, and get 
away with it, if you've got social position. And, oh — 
just think of me forgetting this. Jane Forrester said 
I simply must reconsider my refusal and join the 
Tuesday Afternoon Club. Ed was standing near 
and she appealed to him — and Ed said I must and 
I'm going to. Later, Ed told me he'd pay any extra 
expenses about entertaining. Wasn't that sweet of 
him, Beckie?" 

She waited. 

11 Yes," came in sleep-laden notes from Beckie 

u And I thought Miss Larkin was perfectly dear 
in that quaint little, black-and-white striped soft 
silk and that nice old lace and all those amethysts 
and that darling bunch of pansies. She looked like 
a real swell. You hardly noticed her St. Vitus's 
dance. Mrs. Farrington was so nice to her. And 
I don't know what I would have done if Gus Clark 
hadn't helped Matt get the chairs out that time. 
And, oh, Lainey, you didn't tell me that Mike Milli- 
gan was such a peach dancer. I could die fox- 
trotting with him. Did you do the hesitation with 
him?" 

She waited. 

" Yes," came in drowse-filled accents from Lainey 

"I feel just like a regular girl to-night," Anr 
went on, her •vivacity unimpaired. * " I feel fiv( 
years younger all of a sudden. I had a convictior 
that I never was going to have any youth. But nov 
I'm really going to have it. Isn't that lovely, Bird? ' 

She waited. 






The Pleasure of Your Company 313 

" Yes," came in slumber-drenched tones from 
Bird. 

There followed a long interval of silence. 

An old moon, like a wrecked ship white-sailed, 
was careening on a sky like a violet sea. Swarms 
of stars, like tiny silver birds, hung about that ship ; 
myriads of clouds, like filmy fairy fish, floated in 
that sea. A breeze brought the breath of the hya- 
cinths into the room; then the daffodils. A bird 
dropped a little jewel of sound into the quiet air, 
another and another, until the world was full of 
wide-awake peepings. Suddenly above the furry 
tree-line appeared a rose-gold disk. 

" But best of it all is," Ann concluded — and this 
time she spoke softly, as though she were addressing 
the rising sun — " we're on the map again. The 
Ollivant family has come back." 



THE END 



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