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The Tides of Barnegat, Page 2

Francis Hopkinson Smith



  For days the neighbors in and about the village of Warehold had beenlooking forward to Lucy's home-coming as one of the important epochs inthe history of the Manor House, quite as they would have done had Lucybeen a boy and the expected function one given in honor of the youthfulheir's majority. Most of them had known the father and mother of thesegirls, and all of them loved Jane, the gentle mistress of the home--atype of woman eminently qualified to maintain its prestige.

  It had been a great house in its day. Built in early Revolutionarytimes by Archibald Cobden, who had thrown up his office under the Crownand openly espoused the cause of the colonists, it had often been thescene of many of the festivities and social events following theconclusion of peace and for many years thereafter: the rooms were stillpointed out in which Washington and Lafayette had slept, as well as thesmall alcove where the dashing Bart de Klyn passed the night wheneverhe drove over in his coach with outriders from Bow Hill to Barnegat andthe sea.

  With the death of Colonel Creighton Cobden, who held a commission inthe War of 1812, all this magnificence of living had changed, and whenMorton Cobden, the father of Jane and Lucy, inherited the estate, butlittle was left except the Manor House, greatly out of repair, and someinvested property which brought in but a modest income. On hisdeath-bed Morton Cobden's last words were a prayer to Jane, theneighteen, that she would watch over and protect her younger sister, afair-haired child of eight, taking his own and her dead mother's place,a trust which had so dominated Jane's life that it had become thegreater part of her religion.

  Since then she had been the one strong hand in the home, looking afterits affairs, managing their income, and watching over every step of hersister's girlhood and womanhood. Two years before she had placed Lucyin one of the fashionable boarding-schools of Philadelphia, there tostudy "music and French," and to perfect herself in that "grace ofmanner and charm of conversation," which the two maiden ladies whopresided over its fortunes claimed in their modest advertisements theywere so competent to teach. Part of the curriculum was an enforcedabsence from home of two years, during which time none of her ownpeople were to visit her except in case of emergency.

  To-night, the once famous house shone with something of its old-timecolor. The candles were lighted in the big bronze candelabra--the oneswhich came from Paris; the best glass and china and all the old platewere brought out and placed on the sideboard and serving-tables; a woodfire was started (the nights were yet cold), its cheery blaze lightingup the brass fender and andirons before which many of Colonel Cobden'scronies had toasted their shins as they sipped their toddies in the olddays; easy-chairs and hair-cloth sofas were drawn from the walls; thebig lamps lighted, and many minor details perfected for the comfort ofthe expected guests.

  Jane entered the drawing-room in advance of Lucy and was busyingherself putting the final touches to the apartment,--arranging thesprays of blossoms over the clock and under the portrait of MortonCobden, which looked calmly down on the room from its place on thewalls, when the door opened softly and Martha--the old nurse had foryears been treated as a member of the family--stepped in, bowing andcurtsying as would an old woman in a play, the skirt of her new blacksilk gown that Ann Gossaway had made for her held out between her plumpfingers, her mob-cap with its long lace strings bobbing with everygesture. With her rosy cheeks, silver-rimmed spectacles, self-satisfiedsmile, and big puffy sleeves, she looked as if she might have steppedout of one of the old frames lining the walls.

  "What do ye think of me, Miss Jane? I'm proud as a peacock--that I am!"she cried, twisting herself about. "Do ye know, I never thought thatskinny dressmaker could do half as well. Is it long enough?" and shecraned her head in the attempt to see the edge of the skirt.

  "Fits you beautifully, Martha. You look fine," answered Jane in allsincerity, as she made a survey of the costume. "How does Lucy like it?"

  "The darlin' don't like it at all; she says I look like a pall-bearer,and ye ought to hear her laughin' at the cap. Is there anything thematter with it? The pastor's wife's got one, anyhow, and she's a yearyounger'n me."

  "Don't mind her, Martha--she laughs at everything; and how good it isto hear her! She never saw you look so well," replied Jane, as shemoved a jar from a table and placed it on the mantel to hold theblossoms she had picked in the garden. "What's she doing upstairs solong?"

  "Prinkin'--and lookin' that beautiful ye wouldn't know her. But thewidth and the thickness of her"--here the wrinkled fingers measured theincrease with a half circle in the air--"and the way she's plumpedout--not in one place, but all over--well, I tell ye, ye'd beastonished! She knows it, too, bless her heart! I don't blame her. Lether git all the comfort she kin when she's young--that's the time forlaughin'--the cryin' always comes later."

  No part of Martha's rhapsody over Lucy described Jane. Not in her bestmoments could she have been called beautiful--not even to-night whenLucy's home-coming had given a glow to her cheeks and a lustre to hereyes that nothing else had done for months. Her slender figure, almostangular in its contour with its closely drawn lines about the hips andback; her spare throat and neck, straight arms, thin wrists andhands--transparent hands, though exquisitely wrought, as were those ofall her race--all so expressive of high breeding and refinement,carried with them none of the illusions of beauty. The mould of thehead, moreover, even when softened by her smooth chestnut hair, wornclose to her ears and caught up in a coil behind, was too severe foraccepted standards, while her features wonderfully sympathetic as theywere, lacked the finer modeling demanded in perfect types of femaleloveliness, the eyebrows being almost straight, the cheeks sunken, withlittle shadows under the cheek-bones, and the lips narrow and oftendrawn.

  And yet with all these discrepancies and, to some minds, blemishesthere was a light in her deep gray eyes, a melody in her voice, a charmin her manner, a sureness of her being exactly the sort of woman onehoped she would be, a quick responsiveness to any confidence, all socaptivating and so satisfying that 'those who knew her forgot herslight physical shortcomings and carried away only the remembrance ofone so much out of the common and of so distinguished a personalitythat she became ever after the standard by which they judged all goodwomen.

  There were times, too--especially whenever Lucy entered the room or hername was mentioned--that there shone through Jane's eyes a certaininstantaneous kindling of the spirit which would irradiate her wholebeing as a candle does a lantern--a light betokening not onlyuncontrollable tenderness but unspeakable pride, dimmed now and thenwhen some word or act of her charge brought her face to face with theweight of the responsibility resting upon her--a responsibility faroutweighing that which most mothers would have felt. This so dominatedJane's every motion that it often robbed her of the full enjoyment ofthe companionship of a sister so young and so beautiful.

  If Jane, to quote Doctor John, looked like a lily swaying on a slenderstem, Lucy, when she bounded into the room to-night, was a full-blownrose tossed by a summer breeze. She came in with throat and neck bare;a woman all curves and dimples, her skin as pink as a shell; plump as ababy, and as fair, and yet with the form of a wood-nymph; dressed in aclinging, soft gown, the sleeves caught up at the shoulders revealingher beautiful arms, a spray of blossoms on her bosom, her blue eyesdancing with health, looking twenty rather than seventeen; glad of herfreedom, glad of her home and Jane and Martha, and of the lights andblossoms and the glint on silver and glass, and of all that made lifebreathable and livable.

  "Oh, but isn't it just too lovely to be at home!" she cried as sheskipped about. "No lights out at nine, no prayers, no getting up at sixo'clock and turning your mattress and washing in a sloppy littlewashroom. Oh, I'm so happy! I can't realize it's all true." As shespoke she raised herself on her toes so that she could see her face inthe mirror over the mantel. "Why, do you know, sister," she rattled on,her eyes studying her own face, "that Miss Sarah used to make us learna page of dictionary if we talked after the silence bell!

  "You must know the whole book by heart, then, dearie," replied Janewith a smile, as she bent over a table and pushed back some books tomake room for a bowl of arbutus she held in her hand.

  "Ah, but she didn't catch us very often. We used to stuff up the cracksin the doors so she couldn't hear us talk and smother our heads in thepillows. Jonesy, the English teacher, was the worst." She was stilllooking in the glass, her fingers busy with the spray of blossoms onher bosom. "She always wore felt slippers and crept around like a cat.She'd tell on anybody. We had a play one night in my room after lightswere out, and Maria Collins was Claude Melnotte and I was Pauline.Maria had a mustache blackened on her lips with a piece of burnt corkand I was all fixed up in a dressing-gown and sash. We never heardJonesy till she put her hand on the knob; then we blew out the candleand popped into bed. She smelled the candle-wick and leaned over andkissed Maria good-night, and the black all came off on her lips, andnext day we got three pages apiece--the mean old thing! How do I look,Martha? Is my hair all right?" Here she turned her head for the oldwoman's inspection.

  "Beautiful, darlin'. There won't one o' them know ye; they'll thinkye're a real livin' princess stepped out of a picture-book." Martha hadnot taken her eyes from Lucy since she entered the room.

  "See my little beau-catchers," she laughed, twisting her head so thatMartha could see the tiny Spanish curls she had flattened against hertemples. "They are for Bart Holt, and I'm going to cut sister out. Doyou think he'll remember me?" she prattled on, arching her neck.

  "It won't make any difference if he don't," Martha retorted in apositive tone. "But Cap'n Nat will, and so will the doctor and UncleEphraim and--who's that comin' this early?" and the old nurse pausedand listened to a heavy step on the porch. "It must be the cap'nhimself; there ain't nobody but him's got a tread like that; ye'd thinkhe was trampin' the deck o' one of his ships."

  The door of the drawing-room opened and a bluff, hearty, round-facedman of fifty, his iron-gray hair standing straight up on his head likea shoe-brush, dressed in a short pea-jacket surmounted by a low sailorcollar and loose necktie, stepped cheerily into the room.

  "Ah, Miss Jane!" Somehow all the neighbors, even the most intimate,remembered to prefix "Miss" when speaking to Jane. "So you've got thisfly-away back again? Where are ye? By jingo! let me look at you. Why!why! why! Did you ever! What have you been doing to yourself, lassie,that you should shed your shell like a bug and come out with wings likea butterfly? Why you're the prettiest thing I've seen since I got homefrom my last voyage."

  He had Lucy by both bands now, and was turning her about as if she hadbeen one of Ann Gossaway's models.

  "Have I changed, Captain Holt?"

  "No--not a mite. You've got a new suit of flesh and blood on yourbones, that's all. And it's the best in the locker. Well! Well! WELL!"He was still twisting her around. "She does ye proud, Martha," hecalled to the old nurse, who was just leaving the room to take chargeof the pantry, now that the guests had begun to arrive. "And so ye'rehome for good and all, lassie?"

  "Yes--isn't it lovely?"

  "Lovely? That's no name for it. You'll be settin' the young fellerscrazy 'bout here before they're a week older. Here come two of 'em now."

  Lucy turned her head quickly, just as the doctor and Barton Holtreached the door of the drawing-room. The elder of the two, DoctorJohn, greeted Jane as if she had been a duchess, bowing low as heapproached her, his eyes drinking in her every movement; then, after afew words, remembering the occasion as being one in honor of Lucy, hewalked slowly toward the young girl.

  "Why, Lucy, it's so delightful to get you back!" he cried, shaking herhand warmly. "And you are looking so well. Poor Martha has been on pinsand needles waiting for you. I told her just how it would be--thatshe'd lose her little girl--and she has," and he glanced at heradmiringly. "What did she say when she saw you?"

  "Oh, the silly old thing began to cry, just as they all do. Have youseen her dog?"

  The answer jarred on the doctor, although he excused her in his hearton the ground of her youth and her desire to appear at ease in talkingto him.

  "Do you mean Meg?" he asked, scanning her face the closer.

  "I don't know what she calls him--but he's the ugliest little beast Iever saw."

  "Yes--but so amusing. I never get tired of watching him. What is leftof him is the funniest thing alive. He's better than he looks, though.He and Rex have great times together."

  "I wish you would take him, then. I told Martha this morning that hemustn't poke his nose into my room, and he won't. He's a perfectfright."

  "But the dear old woman loves him," he protested with a tender tone inhis voice, his eyes fixed on Lucy.

  He had looked into the faces of too many young girls in hisprofessional career not to know something of what lay at the bottom oftheir natures. What he saw now came as a distinct surprise.

  "I don't care if she does," she retorted; "no, I don't," and she knither brow and shook her pretty head as she laughed.

  While they stood talking Bart Holt, who had lingered at the threshold,his eyes searching for the fair arrival, was advancing toward thecentre of the room. Suddenly he stood still, his gaze fixed on thevision of the girl in the clinging dress, with the blossoms resting onher breast. The curve of her back, the round of the hip; the way hermoulded shoulders rose above the lace of her bodice; the bare, fullarms tapering to the wrists;--the color, the movement, the grace of itall had taken away his breath. With only a side nod of recognitiontoward Jane, he walked straight to Lucy and with an "Excuse me,"elbowed the doctor out of the way in his eagerness to reach the girl'sside. The doctor smiled at the young man's impetuosity, bent his headto Lucy, and turned to where Jane was standing awaiting the arrival ofher other guests.

  The young man extended his hand. "I'm Bart Holt," he exclaimed; "youhaven't forgotten me, Miss Lucy, have you? We used to play together.Mighty glad to see you--been expecting you for a week."

  Lucy colored slightly and arched her head in a coquettish way. Hisfrankness pleased her; so did the look of unfeigned admiration in hiseyes.

  "Why, of course I haven't forgotten you, Mr. Holt. It was so nice ofyou to come," and she gave him the tips of her fingers--her own eyesmeanwhile, in one comprehensive glance, taking in his round head withits closely cropped curls, searching brown eyes, wavering mouth, broadshoulders, and shapely body, down to his small, well-turned feet. Theyoung fellow lacked the polish and well-bred grace of the doctor, justas he lacked his well-cut clothes and distinguished manners, but therewas a sort of easy effrontery and familiar air about him that some ofhis women admirers encouraged and others shrank from. Strange to say,this had appealed to Lucy before he had spoken a word.

  "And you've come home for good now, haven't you?" His eyes were stilldrinking in the beauty of the girl, his mind neither on his questionsnor her answers.

  "Yes, forever and ever," she replied, with a laugh that showed herwhite teeth.

  "Did you like it at school?" It was her lips now that held hisattention and the little curves under her dimpled chin. He thought hehad never seen so pretty a mouth and chin.

  "Not always; but we used to have lots of fun," answered the girl,studying him in return--the way his cravat was tied and the part of hishair. She thought he had well-shaped ears and that his nose andeyebrows looked like a picture she had in her room upstairs.

  "Come and tell me about it. Let's sit down here," he continued as hedrew her to a sofa and stood waiting until she took her seat.

  "Well, I will for a moment, until they begin to come in," she answered,her face all smiles. She liked the way he behaved towards her--notasking her permission, but taking the responsibility and by his mannercompelling a sort of obedience. "But I can't stay," she added. "Sisterwon't like it if I'm not with her to shake hands with everybody."

  "Oh, she won't mind me; I'm a great friend of Miss Jane's. Please goon; what kind of fun did you have? I like to hear about girls' scrapes.We had plenty of them at college, but I could
n't tell you half ofthem." He had settled himself beside her now, his appropriating eyesstill taking in her beauty.

  "Oh, all kinds," she replied as she bent her head and glanced at theblossoms on her breast to be assured of their protective covering.

  "But I shouldn't think you could have much fun with the teacherswatching you every minute," said Bart, moving nearer to her and turninghis body so he could look squarely into her eyes.

  "Yes, but they didn't find out half that was going on." Then she addedcoyly, "I don't know whether you can keep a secret--do you telleverything you hear?"

  "Never tell anything."

  "How do I know?"

  "I'll swear it." In proof he held up one hand and closed both eyes inmock reverence as if he were taking an oath. He was getting moreinterested now in her talk; up to this time her beauty had dazzled him."Never! So help me--" he mumbled impressively.

  "Well, one day we were walking out to the park--Now you're sure youwon't tell sister, she's so easily shocked?" The tone was the same, butthe inflection was shaded to closer intimacy.

  Again Bart cast up his eyes.

  "And all the girls were in a string with Miss Griggs, the Latinteacher, in front, and we all went in a cake shop and got a big pieceof gingerbread apiece. We were all eating away hard as we could when wesaw Miss Sarah coming. Every girl let her cake go, and when Miss Sarahgot to us the whole ten pieces were scattered along the sidewalk."

  Bart looked disappointed over the mild character of the scrape. Fromwhat he had seen of her he had supposed her adventures would beseasoned with a certain spice of deviltry.

  "I wouldn't have done that, I'd have hidden it in my pocket," hereplied, sliding down on the sofa until his head rested on the cushionnext her own.

  "We tried, but she was too close. Poor old Griggsey got a dreadfulscolding. She wasn't like Miss Jones--she wouldn't tell on the girls."

  "And did they let any of the fellows come to see you?" Bart asked.

  "No; only brothers and cousins once in a long while. Maria Collinstried to pass one of her beaux, Max Feilding, off as a cousin, but MissSarah went down to see him and poor Maria had to stay upstairs."

  "I'd have got in," said Bart with some emphasis, rousing himself fromhis position and twisting his body so he could again look squarely inher face. This escapade was more to his liking.

  "How?" asked Lucy in a tone that showed she not only quite believed it,but rather liked him the better for saying so.

  "Oh I don't know. I'd have cooked up some story." He was leaning overnow, toying with the lace that clung to Lucy's arms. "Did you ever haveany one of your own friends treated in that way?"

  Jane's voice cut short her answer. She had seen the two completelyabsorbed in each other, to the exclusion of the other guests who werenow coming in, and wanted Lucy beside her.

  The young girl waved her fan gayly in answer, rose to her feet, turnedher head close to Bart's, pointed to the incoming guests, whisperedsomething in his ear that made him laugh, listened while he whisperedto her in return, and in obedience to the summons crossed the room tomeet a group of the neighbors, among them old Judge Woolworthy, in asnuff-colored coat, high black stock, and bald head, and his bustlinglittle wife. Bart's last whisper to Lucy was in explanation of thelittle wife's manner--who now, all bows and smiles, was shaking handswith everybody about her.

  Then came Uncle Ephraim Tipple, and close beside him walked his spouse,Ann, in a camel's-hair shawl and poke-bonnet, the two preceded by UncleEphraim's stentorian laugh, which had been heard before their feet hadtouched the porch outside. Mrs. Cromartin now bustled in, accompaniedby her two daughters--slim, awkward girls, both dressed alike in highwaists and short frocks; and after them the Bunsbys, father, mother,and son--all smiles, the last a painfully thin young lawyer, in a lowcollar and a shock of whitey-brown hair, "looking like a patentwindow-mop resting against a wall," so Lucy described him afterward toMartha when she was putting her to bed; and finally the Colfords andBronsons, young and old, together with Pastor Dellenbaugh, thewhite-haired clergyman who preached in the only church in Warehold.

  When Lucy had performed her duty and the several greetings were over,and Uncle Ephraim had shaken the hand of the young hostess in truepump-handle fashion, the old man roaring with laughter all the time, asif it were the funniest thing in the world to find her alive; and thegood clergyman in his mildest and most impressive manner had said shegrew more and more like her mother every day--which was a flight ofimagination on the part of the dear man, for she didn't resemble her inthe least; and the two thin girls had remarked that it must be so"perfectly blissful" to get home; and the young lawyer had complimentedher on her wonderful, almost life-like resemblance to her grand-father,whose portrait hung in the court-house--and which was nearer thetruth--to all of which the young girl replied in her most gracioustones, thanking them for their kindness in coming to see her and forwelcoming her so cordially--the whole of Lucy's mind once more revertedto Bart.

  Indeed, the several lobes of her brain had been working in oppositionfor the past hour. While one-half of her mind was concocting politespeeches for her guests the other was absorbed in the fear that Bartwould either get tired of waiting for her return and leave the sofa, orthat some other girl friend of his would claim him and her delightfultalk be at an end.

  To the young girl fresh from school Bart represented the only thing inthe room that was entirely alive. The others talked platitudes andthemselves. He had encouraged her to talk of HERSELF and of the thingsshe liked. He had, too, about him an assurance and dominatingpersonality which, although it made her a little afraid of him, onlyadded to his attractiveness.

  While she stood wondering how many times the white-haired young lawyerwould tell her it was so nice to have her back, she felt a slightpressure on her arm and turned to face Bart.

  "You are wanted, please, Miss Lucy; may I offer you my arm? Excuse me,Bunsby--I'll give her to you again in a minute."

  Lucy slipped her arm into Bart's, and asked simply, "What for?"

  "To finish our talk, of course. Do you suppose I'm going to let thattow-head monopolize you?" he answered, pressing her arm closer to hisside with his own.

  Lucy laughed and tapped Bart with her fan in rebuke, and then therefollowed a bit of coquetry in which the young girl declared that he was"too mean for anything, and that she'd never seen anybody so conceited,and if he only knew, she might really prefer the 'tow head' to hisown;" to which Bart answered that his only excuse was that he was solonely he was nearly dead, and that he had only come to save hislife--the whole affair culminating in his conducting her back to thesofa with a great flourish and again seating himself beside her.

  "I've been watching you," he began when he had made her comfortablewith a small cushion behind her shoulders and another for her prettyfeet. "You don't act a bit like Miss Jane." As he spoke he leanedforward and flicked an imaginary something from her bare wrist withthat air which always characterized his early approaches to most women.

  "Why?" Lucy asked, pleased at his attentions and thanking him with amore direct look.

  "Oh, I don't know. You're more jolly, I think. I don't like girls whoturn out to be solemn after you know them a while; I was afraid youmight. You know it's a long time since I saw you."

  "Why, then, sister can't be solemn, for everybody says you and she aregreat friends," she replied with a light laugh, readjusting the lace ofher bodice.

  "So we are; nobody about here I think as much of as I do of yoursister. She's been mighty good to me. But you know what I mean: I meanthose don't-touch-me kind of girls who are always thinking you mean alot of things when you're only trying to be nice and friendly to them.I like to be a brother to a girl and to go sailing with her, andfishing, and not have her bother me about her feet getting a little bitwet, and not scream bloody murder when the boat gives a lurch. That'sthe kind of girl that's worth having."

  "And you don't find them?" laughed Lucy, looking at him out of thecorners of her eyes.
r />   "Well, not many. Do you mind little things like that?"

  As he spoke his eyes wandered over her bare shoulders until they restedon the blossoms, the sort of roaming, critical eyes that often cause awoman to wonder whether some part of her toilet has not been carelesslyput together. Then he added, with a sudden lowering of his voice:"That's a nice posy you've got. Who sent it?" and he bent his head asif to smell the cluster on her bosom.

  Lucy drew back and a slight flush suffused her cheek; his audacityfrightened her. She was fond of admiration, but this way of expressingit was new to her. The young man caught the movement and recoveredhimself. He had ventured on a thin spot, as was his custom, and thesound of the cracking ice had warned him in time.

  "Oh, I see, they're apple blossoms," he added carelessly as hestraightened up. "We've got a lot in our orchard. You like flowers, Isee." The even tone and perfect self-possession of the young manreassured her.

  "Oh, I adore them; don't you?" Lucy answered in a relieved, almostapologetic voice. She was sorry she had misjudged him. She liked himrather the better now for her mistake.

  "Well, that depends. Apple blossoms never looked pretty to me before;but then it makes a good deal of difference where they are," answeredBart with a low chuckle.

  Jane had been watching the two and had noticed. Bart's position andmanner. His easy familiarity of pose offended her. Instinctively sheglanced about the room, wondering if any of her guests had seen it.That Lucy did not resent it surprised her. She supposed her sister'srecent training would have made her a little more fastidious.

  "Come, Lucy," she called gently, moving toward her, "bring Bart overhere and join the other girls."

  "All right, Miss Jane, we'll be there in a minute," Bart answered inLucy's stead. Then he bent his head and said in a low voice:

  "Won't you give me half those blossoms?"

  "No; it would spoil the bunch."


  "No, not a single one. You wouldn't care for them, anyway."

  "Yes, I would." Here he stretched out his hand and touched the blossomson her neck.

  Lucy ducked her head in merry glee, sprang up, and with a triumphantcurtsy and a "No, you don't, sir--not this time," joined her sister,followed by art.

  The guests were now separated into big and little groups. Uncle Ephraimand the judge were hob-nobbing around the fireplace, listening to UncleEphraim's stories and joining in the laughter which every now and thenfilled the room. Captain Nat was deep in a discussion with Doctor Johnover some seafaring matter, and Jane and Mrs. Benson were discussing alocal charity with Pastor Dellenbaugh.

  The younger people being left to themselves soon began to pair off, thewhite-haired young lawyer disappearing with the older Miss Cromartinand Bart soon following with Lucy:--the outer porch and the long walkdown the garden path among the trees, despite the chilliness of thenight, seemed to be the only place in which they could be comfortable.

  During a lull in the discussion of Captain Nat's maritime news andwhile Mrs. Benson was talking to the pastor, Doctor John seized theopportunity to seat himself again by Jane.

  "Don't you think Lucy improved?" she asked, motioning the doctor to aplace beside her.

  "She's much more beautiful than I thought she would be," he answered ina hesitating way, looking toward Lucy, and seating himself in hisfavorite attitude, hands in his lap, one leg crossed over the other andhanging straight beside its fellow; only a man like the doctor, of morethan usual repose and of a certain elegance of form, Jane always said,could sit this way any length of time and be comfortable andunconscious of his posture. Then he added slowly, and as if he hadgiven the subject some consideration, "You won't keep her long, I'mafraid."

  "Oh, don't say that," Jane cried with a nervous start. "I don't knowwhat I would do if she should marry."

  "That don't sound like you, Miss Jane. You would be the first to denyyourself. You are too good to do otherwise." He spoke with a slightquiver in his voice, and yet with an emphasis that showed he believedit.

  "No; it is you who are good to think so," she replied in a softer tone,bending her head as she spoke, her eyes intent on her fan. "And nowtell me," she added quickly, raising her eyes to his as if to bar anyfurther tribute he might be on the point of paying to her--"I hear yourmother takes greatly to heart your having refused the hospitalappointment."

  "Yes, I'm afraid she does. Mother has a good many new-fashioned notionsnowadays." He laughed--a mellow, genial laugh; more in the spirit ofapology than of criticism.

  "And you don't want to go?" she asked, her eyes fixed on his.

  "Want to go? No, why should I? There would be nobody to look after thepeople here if I went away. You don't want me to leave, do you?" headded suddenly in an anxious tone.

  "Nobody does, doctor," she replied, parrying the question, her faceflushing with pleasure.

  Here Martha entered the room hurriedly and bending over Jane'sshoulder, whispered something in her ear. The doctor straightenedhimself and leaned back out of hearing.

  "Well, but I don't think she will take cold," Jane whispered in return,looking up into Martha's face. "Has she anything around her?"

  "Yes, your big red cloak; but the child's head is bare and there'smighty little on her neck, and she ought to come in. The wind's begunto blow and it's gettin' cold."

  "Where is she?" Jane continued, her face showing her surprise atMartha's statement.

  "Out by the gate with that dare-devil. He don't care who he gives cold.I told her she'd get her death, but she won't mind me."

  "Why, Martha, how can you talk so!" Jane retorted, with a disapprovingfrown. Then raising her voice so that the doctor could be brought intothe conversation, she added in her natural tone, "Whom did you say shewas with?"

  "Bart Holt," cried Martha aloud, nodding to the doctor as if to get hisassistance in saving her bairn from possible danger.

  Jane colored slightly and turned to Doctor John.

  "You go please, doctor, and bring them all in, or you may have some newpatients on your hands."

  The doctor looked from one to the other in doubt as to the cause of hisselection, but Jane's face showed none of the anxiety in Martha's.

  "Yes, certainly," he answered simply; "but I'll get myself into ahornet's nest. These young people don't like to be told what's good forthem," he added with a laugh, rising from his seat. "And after thatyou'll permit me to slip away without telling anybody, won't you? Mylast minute has come," and he glanced at his watch.

  "Going so soon? Why, I wanted you to stay for supper. It will be readyin a few minutes." Her voice had lost its buoyancy now. She neverwanted him to go. She never let him know it, but it pained her all thesame.

  "I would like to, but I cannot." All his heart was in his eyes as hespoke.

  "Someone ill?" she asked.

  "Yes, Fogarty's child. The little fellow may develop croup beforemorning. I saw him to-day, and his pulse was not right, he's a sturdylittle chap with a thick neck, and that kind always suffers most. Ifhe's worse Fogarty is to send word to my office," he added, holding outhis hand in parting.

  "Can I help?" Jane asked, retaining the doctor's hand in hers as if toget the answer.

  "No, I'll watch him closely. Good-night," and with a smile he bent hishead and withdrew.

  Martha followed the doctor to the outer door, and then grumbling hersatisfaction went back to the pantry to direct the servants inarranging upon the small table in the supper-room the simplerefreshments which always characterized the Cobdens' entertainments.

  Soon the girls and their beaux came trooping in to join their elders onthe way to the supper-room. Lucy hung back until the last (she had notliked the doctor's interference), Jane's long red cloak draped from hershoulders, the hood hanging down her back, her cheeks radiant, herbeautiful blond hair ruffled with the night wind, an aureole of goldframing her face. Bart followed close behind, a pleased, almosttriumphant smile playing about his lips.

  He had carried his point. The cluster o
f blossoms which had rested uponLucy's bosom was pinned to the lapel of his coat.