Rose's little daughter, pawn that she was in the game of Martie's fortunes, was pushed into play the following day. For Rose telephoned Martie at the Library, in the foggy early morning, that Doris was not well: there was a rather suspicious rash on the baby's chest, and if it really were measles, there must be no announcement luncheon to-day.
Martie had been eagerly awaiting that luncheon, when a dozen of the prominent young matrons of Monroe should learn of her engagement. She put up the telephone thoughtfully. Another delay. Another respite, when she might still say to herself over and over: "I could end it now. It isn't too late yet!"
In her hand to-day was a brief note brought to land by the tender of the Nippon Maru. Dean Silver and John had duly sailed, they were far out on the ocean now. That was settled. Now there was nothing to do but go on serenely with her interrupted plans.
And yet the restless excitement caused by his coming was still about her, she could not make herself forget. Everything that his odd and vibrant personality had touched was changed to her. The wallflowers he had twisted unseeingly in his nervous fingers, the kitchen where their eager, ardent talk had gone on over the boiling of coffee and the mixing of muffins, the hill they had climbed in gray, warm moonlight, these things belonged to him now. Martie touched the books he had praised tenderly, hearing his words again.
He had not written her: she knew why. She must be all or nothing to John now. He had not spoken of her to Dean, he was trying in his blundering boyish way to forget.
The novelist's note was short, and written in a tone of disappointment and reproach. Martie read it, and winced as she crumpled it in her hand. Presently she straightened it out, and read it again. She flattened it on the desk before her, and studied it resolutely, with reddened cheeks, and with a little pang at her heart.
Sally came in, full of happy plans. There was talk now of making Joe resident physician at the hospital, with a little house up there right near the big building. It would be so dignified, bubbled Sally, setting little Mary on the desk, where she and Aunt Mart could each tie a small, dragging shoe-lace.
"Of course, this won't be for a year or two, Mart--but think of the fun! A pretty house with a big porch, to match the main building, I suppose--"
"But you'll be a mile out of town, Sis!"
"Oh, I know--but I can run the children in to school in the Ford, and you'll have your own car, and that's all I really care about! This is only a possibility, you know. What are you thinking about, Mart?"
Martie laughed guiltily.
"I don't know what I was thinking," she confessed. Sally flushed, studying her with bright eyes.
"Have you heard--"
"From John? No, but he sailed. I have a note from Mr. Silver here. He was anxious to get him away, and they left suddenly. The sailing list was in the paper, too, with a little notice of them both. It's better so, I'm glad it's settled. But I wish I was a little more sure of what the next step should be."
"I don't believe Rose's Doris has the measles at all," Sally said thoughtfully, "and in that case, the luncheon will be in a day or two, and won't that be rather--rather a relief to you? Oh, and Mart," she broke off suddenly to say, "I have a letter for you here- -Teddy and Billy called for the mail yesterday, and they left this with mine."
Martie took the big envelope, smiling. The smile deepened as she read. After a minute she turned the letter about on the desk, so that Sally might read it too.
"From the editor of the magazine that took my other article," Martie explained. "I sent them another, two weeks ago."
MY DEAR MRS. BANNISTER:
Your second article has been read with much interest in this office, and we are glad to use it. Enclosed is a check for $100, which we hope will be satisfactory to you. Our readers have taken so continued an interest in your first article that we are glad to give them something more from your pen.
If you are ever in New York, will you favor us with a call? It is possible that we might interest you with an offer of permanent work on our staff. We make a special feature, as perhaps you know, of articles of interest to growing girls, and when we find a writer whose work has this appeal, we feel that she belongs to us.
In any case, let us hear from you soon again.
"A hundred dollars!" Sally said proudly, handing the letter back. "You smart thing! That's a nice letter, isn't it? Don't you think it is? I do. Listen, Mart, don't say anything about Joe's plans, will you? That's all in the air. I've got to go now, it's eleven. And Mart, don't worry too much about anything. It will all seem perfectly natural and pleasant once it's done. Good-bye, dear, I wish I could have been some help to you about it all!"
"You have been, Sally--I believe you've been the greatest help in the world!" Martie answered enigmatically, kissing Mary's soft little neck where the silky curls showed under the little scalloped bonnet. "Good-bye, dear--don't walk too fast in this sun!"
When Sally had tripped away, Martie sat on at the Library desk, staring vaguely into space. Outside, the village hummed with the peaceful sounds of a mild autumn morning. A soft fog had earlier enveloped it; it was rising now; every hour showed more of the encircling brown hills; by noon the school children would rush into a sunshiny world. Shopping women pushed baby-carriages over the crossings; a new generation of boys and girls would swarm to Bonestell's in the late afternoon. Time was always moving, under it all; in a few weeks the Clifford Frosts would be home again; in a few months the High School would stand on the ground where little Sally and Martie Monroe had played dolls' house a few years ago.
This was her last week at the Library; Daisy David was coming in to take her place. Already Miss Fanny suspected the truth, and her manner had changed toward Martie a little, already she was something of a personage in Monroe.
Women and children and old men came out and in, their whispers sounding in the quiet, airy space. Len's wife came in, with the third daughter who should have been a son. Teddy and Billy came in; they wanted five cents for nails; they had run out of nails. Measles had closed the little boys' classes, and they were wild with the joy of unexpected holiday.
Martie presently found herself telling Miss Fanny that she would like a few hours' freedom that afternoon: she had shopping to do. She ate her basket lunch as usual, then she walked out into the glaring afternoon light of Main Street. A summer wind was blowing, the warm air was full of grit and dust.
The Bank first, then Clifford's office, then a long, silent hour praying, in the empty little church, where the noises of Main Street were softened, as was the very daylight that penetrated the cheap coloured windows. Then Martie went to Dr. Ben's, and last of all to Sally's house.
She was to take Teddy home and Sally came with them to the gate. It was sunset and the wind had fallen. There was a sweet, sharp odour of dew on the dust.
"Be good to my boy, Sally!"
"Martie--as if he was mine!" Sally's eyes filled with tears at her sister's tone: she was to have Teddy during the honeymoon.
Martie suddenly kissed her, an unusually tender kiss.
"And love me, Sis!"
"Martie," Sally said troubled, "I always do!"
"I know you do!"
Martie laughed, with her own eyes suddenly wet, caught Teddy's little hand, and walked away. Sally watched the tall, splendid figure out of sight.
At the supper-table she was unusually thoughtful. Her eyes travelled about the familiar room, the room where her high-chair had stood years ago, the room where the Monroes had eaten tons of uninteresting bread and butter, and had poured gallons of weak cream into strong tea, and had cut hundreds of pies to Ma's or Lydia's mild apologies for the crust or the colour. How often had the windows of this room been steamy with the breath of onions and mashed potatoes, how many; limp napkins and spotted tablecloths had had their day there! Martie remembered, as long as she remembered anything, the walnut chairs, with their scrolls and knobs, and the black marble fireplace, with an old engraving, "Franklin at the Court of France," hanging above it. Mould had crept in and had stained the picture, which was crumpled in deep folds now, yet it would always be a work of art to Pa and to Lydia.
She looked at Lydia; gentle, faded, dowdy in her plum-coloured cloth dress, with imitation lace carefully sewed at neck and sleeves; at Lydia's flat cheeks and rather prim mouth. She was like her mother, but life had perforce broadened Ma, and it was narrowing Lydia. Lydia was young no longer, and Pa was old.
He sat chewing his food uncomfortably, with much working of the muscles of his face; some teeth were missing now, and some replaced with unmanageable artificial ones. The thin, oily hair was iron- gray, and his moustache, which had stayed black so much longer, was iron-gray, too, and stained yellow from the tobacco of his cigars. His eyes were set in bags of wrinkles; it was a discontented face, even when Pa was amiable and pleased by chance. Martie knew its every expression as well as she knew the brown-and-white china, and the blue glass spoon holder, and the napkin-ring with "Souvenir of Santa Cruz" on it. She could not help wondering what they would make of the new house when they got into it, and how the clumsy, shabby old furniture would look.
"Pa and Lyd," she said suddenly in a silence. Her tone was sufficiently odd to arrest their immediate attention. "Pa--Lyd--I went in to see Clifford this afternoon, and told him that I wanted to--to break our engagement!"
An amazed silence followed. Teddy, chewing steadily on raisin cookies, turned his eyes smilingly to his mother. He didn't quite understand, but whatever she did was all right. Malcolm settled his glasses with one lean, dark hand, and stared at his daughter. Lydia gave a horrified gasp, and looked quickly from her father to her sister: a look that was intended to serve the purpose of a fuse.
"How do you mean?" Malcolm asked painfully, at last.
"Well!" said Lydia, whose one fear was that she would not be able to fully express herself upon this outrage.
"I mean that I--I don't truly feel that I love him," Martie said, fitting her phraseology to her audience. "I respect him, of course, and I like him, but--but as the time came nearer, I couldn't feel--"
Her voice dropped in an awful silence.
"You certainly waited some time to make up your mind, Martie," said her father then, catching vaguely for a weapon and using it at random.
"But, Martie, what's your reason?" Lydia overflowed suddenly. "What earthly reason can you have--you can't just say that you don't want to, now--you can't just suddenly--I never heard of anything so--so inconsiderate! Why, what do you suppose everybody--"
"This is some of your heady nonsense, Martie," said her father's heavy voice, drowning down Lydia's clatter. "This is just the sort of mischief I expected to follow a visit from men as entirely irresponsible as these New York friends of yours. I expected something of this sort. Just as you are about to behave like a sensible woman, they come along to upset you--"
"Exactly!" Lydia added, quivering. "I never said a word to you, Pa," she went on hurriedly, "but I noticed it! I think it's perfectly amazing that you should; of course it's that! Martie listened to him, and Martie walked with him, and several people noticed it, and spoke to me about it! It's none of my business, of course, and I'm not going to interfere, but all I can say is this, if Martie Monroe plays fast and loose with a man like Cliff Frost, it will hurt us in this village more than she has any idea! What are people going to think, that's all! I certainly hope you will use your authority to bring her to her senses--just a few days before the wedding, with everybody expecting--"
"Perhaps you will tell me what Clifford thinks of this astonishing decision?" Malcolm asked, again interrupting Lydia's wild rush of words.
"Cliff was very generous, Pa. He feels that it is only a passing feeling, and that I must have time to think things over if I want it," Martie began.
"Ha! I should think so!" Lydia interpolated scornfully.
"At first he was inclined to laugh about it, and to think that it was nothing," Martie said almost timidly, glancing from one to the other, and keeping one hand over Teddy's hand.
"What makes you feel that you haven't given the thing due consideration, Martie?" her father asked darkly, with the air of humouring a child's fantastic whims.
"Yes! You've been engaged for months!" Lydia shot in.
"Well, it's only lately, Pa," Martie confessed mildly.
"Exactly! Since somebody came along to upset you!" said Lydia. "All I can say is, that I think it would break Ma's heart!" she added violently. "You give up a fine man like Cliff Frost, and now I suppose we'll have some of your divorced friends hanging about--"
"Lyd, dear, don't be so bitter," Martie said gently, almost maternally. "Mr. Dryden has gone off for a long tour; he may not be back for years. What I plan to do now is go to New York. I told Cliff that--that I wanted to go."
"May I ask how you intend to live there?" Malcolm asked, with magnificent and obvious restraint.
"By writing, Pa."
"You plan to take your child, and reenter--"
"I think I would leave Teddy, Pa, for a while at least." They had all left the table now, and gone into the parlour, and Martie, sinking into a chair, rested her chin on her hand, and looked bravely yet a trifle uncomfortably at her interlocutors. Teddy had dashed out into the yard.
"Now, I think we have heard about enough of this nonsense, Martie," said her father, in a changed and hostile tone. Lydia gave a satisfied nod; Pa was taking a stand at last. "You didn't have to say that you would marry Clifford," he went on sternly. "You did so as a responsible woman, of your own accord! Now you propose to make him and your family ridiculous, just for a whim. I sent you money to come on here, after your husband's death, and all your life I have tried to be a good father to you. What is my reward? You run away and marry the first irresponsible scamp that asks you; you show no sign of repentance or feeling until you are in trouble; you come back, at my invitation, and are made as welcome here as if you had been the most dutiful daughter in the world, and then--then--you propose to bring fresh sorrow and disgrace upon the parent who lifted you out of your misery, and offered you a home, and forgot and forgave the past! I am not a rich man, but what I have has been freely yours, your child has been promised a home for my lifetime. What more can you ask? But no," said Malcolm, pacing the floor, "you turn against me; yours is the hand that strikes me down in my age! Now I tell you, Martie, that things have gone far enough. If you follow your own course in this affair, you do so at your own risk. The day you break your engagement, you are no longer my daughter. The day you let it be known that you are acting in this flighty and irresponsible way, that day your welcome here is withdrawn! I will not be made the laughing-stock of this town!"
Lydia was in tears; Martie pale. But the younger woman did not speak. She had been watching her father with slightly dilated eyes and a rising breast, while he spoke.
"Cliff generous?" Malcolm went on. "Of course he's generous! He probably doesn't know what to make of it; responsible people don't blow hot and cold like this! The idea of your going in to him with any such cock-and-bull story as this! You'll break your engagement, eh?--and go on to New York for a while, eh?--and then come smiling back, I suppose, and marry him when it suits your own sweet will? Well, now, I'll tell you something, young lady," he added, with a sort of confident menace, "you'll do nothing of the kind! You sit down now and write Clifford a note, and tell him you were a fool. And don't let me ever hear another word of this New York nonsense! Upon my word, I don't know how I ever came to have such children! Other people's children seem to have some sense, and act like reasonable human beings, but mine--however, you know what I feel now, Martie. Going into the Bank indeed, and telling the man you're going to marry that you are 'afraid' this and you 'fancy' that! I'll not have it, I tell you!"
"I told him that I knew I was acting badly," Martie said, "I said that I felt terribly about it. I even cried--I'm not proud of myself, Pa! And he asked me to think it over, and not to worry about postponing the wedding, and--I think he was tremendously surprised, but he didn't say one unkind word!"
"Well, he should have, then," Malcolm said harshly. "And you are a fortunate woman if, when it suits your high-and-mightiness to come to your senses, he doesn't take his turn to jilt you! On my word, I never heard anything like it! What possesses you is more than I can understand. You deliberately bring unhappiness down on your family, and act as if you were proud of yourself! I don't pretend to be perfect, but all my life I have given my children generously--"
"Pa," Martie said suddenly, "I wonder if you believe that!" She stood up now, facing him, her breath coming quickly. It seemed to Martie that she had been waiting all her life to say this: hoping for the opportunity, years ago, dreading the necessity now. "I wonder if you believe," she said, trembling a little, "that you--and half the other fathers and mothers in the world--are really in the right! I didn't ask to be born; Sally didn't ask to be born. We didn't choose our sex. We came and we grew up, and went to school, and we had clothing and food enough. But then--then!--when we must really begin to live, you suddenly failed us. Oh, you aren't different from other fathers, Pa. It's just that you don't understand! What help had we then in forming human relationships? When did you ever tell us why this young man was a possible husband, and that one was not? I wanted to work, I wanted to be a nurse, or a bookkeeper--you laughed at me! I had a bitter experience--an experience that you could have spared me, and Lydia before me, if you had cared!--and I had a girl's hell to bear; I had to go about among my friends ashamed! You didn't comfort me; you didn't tell me that if I learned a little French, and brushed up my hair, and bought white shoes, the next young man wouldn't throw me over for a prettier and more accomplished woman! You were ashamed of me! Sally, just as ignorant as Teddy is this minute, dashed into marriage; she was afraid, as I was, of being a dependent old maid! She married a good man--but that wasn't your doing! I married a bad man, a man whose selfishness and cruelty ruined all my young days, crushed the youth right out of me, and he might be living yet, and Teddy and I tied to him yet but for a chance! I suffered dependence and hunger-- yes, and death, too," said Martie, crying now, "just because you didn't give me a livelihood, just because you didn't make me, and Sally, and Lydia, too, useful citizens! You did Len; why didn't you give us the same chance you gave Len? Len had college; he not only was encouraged to choose a profession, but he was made to! Our profession was marriage, and we weren't even prepared for that! I didn't know anything when I married. I didn't know whether Wallace was fit to be a husband or a father! I didn't know how motherhood came--all those first months were full of misgivings and doubts! I knew I was giving him all I had, and that financially I was just where I had been--worse off than ever, in fact, for there were the children to think of! Why didn't I have some work to do, so that I could have stepped into it, when bitter need came, and my children and I were almost starving? What has Len cost you, five thousand dollars, ten thousand? What did that statue to Grandfather Monroe cost you? Sally and I have never cost you anything but what we ate and wore!"
Malcolm had risen, too, and they were glaring at each other. The old man's putty-coloured face was pale, and his eyes glittered with fury.
"You were always a headstrong, wicked girl!" he said now, in a toneless dry voice, hardly above a whisper. "And heartless and wicked you will be to the end, I suppose! How dare you criticise your father, and your sainted mother? You choose your own life; you throw in your fortune with a ne'er-do-well, and then you come and reproach me! Don't--don't touch me!" he added, in a sort of furious crow, and as Martie laid a placating hand on his arm: "Don't come near me!"
"No, don't you dare come near him!" sobbed Lydia. "Poor, dear Pa, always so generous and so good to us! I should think you'd be afraid, Martie--I should think you'd actually be afraid to talk so wickedly!"
She essayed an embrace of her father, but Malcolm shook her loose, and crossed the hall; they heard the study door slam. For a few minutes the sisters stared at each other, then Martie went to the side door, and called Teddy in as quiet a voice as she could command, and Lydia vanished kitchenward, with only one scared and reproachful look.
But the evening was not over. After Teddy was in bed, Martie, staring at herself in the mirror, suddenly came to a new decision. She ran down to the study, and entered informally.
"Pa!" She was on his knee, her arms about him. "I'm sorry I am such a problem--so little a comfort!--to you. Forgive me, Pa, for I always truly loved you--"
"If you truly want my forgiveness," he said stiffly, trying to dislodge the clinging young arms, "you know how to deserve it--"
The old phraseology, and the old odour of teeth and skin! Martie alone was changed.
"But forgive me, Pa, and I'll truly try never to cross you again." Reluctantly, he conceded a response to her kiss, and she sat on the arm of his chair, and played with the thin locks of his hair while she completed the peace. Then she went into the kitchen, where Lydia was sitting at the table, soaking circles of paper in brandy for the preservation of the glasses of jelly ranged before her.
"Lyd, I just went and told Pa that I was sorry that I am such a beast, and we've made it up--"
"I don't think you ought to talk as if it was just a quarrel," Lydia said. "If Pa was angry with you, he had good cause--"
"Darling, I know he did! But I couldn't bear to go to sleep with ill feeling between us, and so I came down, and apologized, and did the whole thing handsomely--"
"You couldn't talk so lightly if you really cared, Mart!"
"I care tremendously, Lyd. Why don't you use paraffin?"
"I know," Lydia said with interest, "Angela does. But somehow Ma always did it this way."
"Well, I'll mark 'em for you!" Martie began to cut neat little labels from white paper, and to write on them, "Currant Jelly with Rasp. 1915." Presently she and Lydia were chatting pleasantly.
"I really put up too much one year," Lydia said, "and it began to spoil, so I sent a whole box of it out to the Poor House; I don't suppose they mind! But Mrs. Dolan there never sent my glasses back! However, this year I'll give you some, Mart; unless Polly put some up."
"Unless I go to New York!" Martie suggested.
Lydia's whole face darkened.
"And if I do, you and Sally will be good to Teddy?" his mother asked, her tone suddenly faltering.
"Martie, what possesses you to talk about going to New York now?"
"Oh, Lyddy, you'd never understand! It's just the longing to do something for myself, to hold my own there, to--well, to make good! Marrying here, and being comfortably supported here, seems like-- like failure, almost, to me! If it wasn't for Teddy, I believe that I would have gone long ago!"
"And a selfish feeling like that is strong enough to make you willing to break a good man's heart, and desert your child?" asked Lydia in calm tones.
"It won't break his heart, Lyd--not nearly so much as he broke yours, years ago! And when I can--when I could, I would send for my boy! He'd be happier here--" Martie, rather timidly watching her sister's face, suddenly realized the futility of this and changed her tone. "But let's not talk about it any more to-night, Lydia, we're both too tired and excited!"
"I don't understand you," Lydia said patiently and wearily, "I never did. I should think that sometimes you'd wonder whether you're right, and everybody else in the world is wrong--or whether the rest of us know something--"
Martie generously let her have the prized last word, and went upstairs again.
To her surprise she found Teddy awake. She sat down on the edge of the bed, and leaned over the small figure.
"Teddy, my own boy! Haven't you been asleep?"
"Moth'," he said, with a child's uncanny prescience of impending events, "if I were awfully, awfully bad--"
"Yes, Ted?" she encouraged him, as he paused.
"Would you ever leave me?" he asked anxiously.
The question stabbed her to the heart. She could not speak.
"I'm enough for you, aren't I?" he said eagerly. Still she did not speak. "Or do you need somebody else?" he asked urgently.
A pang went through her heart. She tightened her arm about him.
"Teddy! You are all I have, dear!"
His small warm hand played with the ruffle of her blouse.
"But--how about Uncle Cliff, and Uncle John, and all?" he asked. Martie was silent. "Are you going to marry them?" he added, with a child's hesitation to say what might be ridiculous.
"No, Ted," she answered honestly.
"Well, promise me," he said urgently, sitting up to tighten his arms about her throat, "promise me that you will never leave me! I will never leave you, if you will promise me that! promise!"
He was crying now, and Martie's own tears started thick and fast.
"I might have to leave you--just for a while--" she began.
"Not if you promised!" he said jealously.
"Even if I went away from Aunt Sally and the children, Ted, and we had to live in a little flat again?" she stammered.
"Even then!" he said, with a shaken attempt at a manly voice. "I remember the pears in the carts, and the box you dropped the train tickets into," he said encouragingly, "and I remember Margar's bottles that you used to let me wash! You'd take me into the parks, and down to the beach, wouldn't you, Moth'?"
"Oh, Teddy, my little son! I'd try to make a life for you, dear!"
"And we'd be our family, just you and me!" he said uncertainly.
"We'd be a family, all by ourselves," she promised him, laughing and crying. And she clung to him hungrily, kissing the smooth little forehead under the rich tumble of hair, her tears falling on his face. Ah, this was hers, this belonged to her alone, out of all the world. "I'm glad you told me how you felt about this, Teddy," she said. "It makes it all clearer to me. You and I, dear--that's the only real life for us. I owe you that. I promise you, we'll never be separated while Mother can help it."
His wet little face was pressed against hers.
"And you'll never talk about it any more!" he said violently. "Because I cry about it sometimes, at night--"
"Never again, my own son!" He lay back on his pillow with a breath of relief, but she kept her arms about him.
"Because you don't know how a boy feels about his own mother!" he assured her. Kneeling there, Martie wondered how she had come to forget his rights, forget his point of view for so long! He would always seem a baby to her, but he was a person now, and he had his part in, and his influence upon, her life. Suppose she had left him to cry out this secret hunger of his uncomforted; suppose, while she thought him contentedly playing with Billy and 'Lizabeth, he had been judging and blaming his mother?
While she knelt, thinking, he went to sleep. But Lydia wondered what was keeping Martie awake. The light in Martie's room was turned up, and fell in a yellow oblong across the gravel; Lydia dozed and awakened, but the light was always there.
Morning broke softly in a fog which did not lift as the hours went by. Malcolm was at home until after lunch, to which meal Teddy and Martie came downstairs unusually well dressed, Martie observing that she had errands down town. Teddy kissed Grandpa good-bye as usual, and his mother kissed Grandpa, too, which was not quite usual, and clung with her white hands to his lapel.
"Teddy and I have shopping to do down town, Pa, and I've written Cliff a note!" she said. Her father brightened.
"I'm glad you're inclined to act sensibly, my dear!" he said, departing. "I thought we'd hear a different story this morning!"
"What are you going down town for?" asked Lydia. "I ought to have some rubber rings from Mallon's."
"I'm taking a lot of things down--I have to pass the cleaner's anyway," answered Martie. "I'll get them, and send them."
"Oh, bring them; they'll go in your pocket," Lydia said. "Well, Ted, what'll you do when these measles are over, and you have to go back to school? You've put an awful good suit on him, Mart, just to play in."
"He'll change before he plays," Martie answered, nervously smiling. "Come, dear!"
"Don't forget your things for the cleaner's!" Lydia said, handing her her suitcase. Martie surprised the older sister with a sudden kiss.
"Thanks, Lyd, dear!" she said. "Good-bye! Come, Ted!"
They went down through the quiet village, shabby after the burning of the summer. Fog lay in wet, dark patches on the yellow grass, and in the thinning air was the good smell of wood fires. Grapes were piled outside the fruit stores and pasted at a slant on Bonestell's window was a neatly printed paper slip, "Chop Suey Sundae, 15c." Up on the brown hills the fog was rising.
They went to see Dr. Ben in his old offices opposite the Town Hall, and he gave Teddy a pink "sucker pill," as he had given Martie years ago.
At the grocery they met Sally, with all four children, and two small children more, and Aunt Mart had her usual kisses. Sally was afraid that Grace's baby boy had the measles, she confided to her sister, and had taken the twins for a time.
"Martie, how smart you look, and Ted all dressed up!" said Sally. "And look at my tramps in their old clothes! Mart, do go past Mason and White's and see the linen dress patterns in the window; there's a blue-and-tan there, and an all-white--they're too lovely!"
"Why don't you let me send you one, Sally?" Martie asked affectionately. "I'm rich! I drew my two hundred and eleven dollars' bank account yesterday, and cashed a check from my editor, and Cousin Allie's wedding check!" Sally flamed into immediate protest.
"Martie, I'll be wild if you do--you mustn't! I never would have spoken of it--"
Martie laughed as she kissed her sister, and presently Sally wheeled Mary's carriage away. But Teddy and his mother went into Mason and White's, nevertheless, and both the tan-and-blue and the all-white dress were taken out of the window and duly paid for and sent away. Teddy shouted to his mother when they were in the street again that there was Uncle Joe in the car, and he could have taken the dresses to Aunt Sally.
No, his mother told him, that was to be a surprise! But she crossed the street to talk in a low tone to Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe said more than once, "I'm with you--I think you're right!" and finally kissed Teddy, and suddenly kissed his mother, before he drove away.
Teddy was bursting with the thought of the surprise. But this afternoon was full of surprises. They were strolling along, peacefully enough, when suddenly his mother took his small arm and guided him into the station where they had arrived in Monroe nearly two years before.
A big train came thundering to a stop now as then, and Teddy's mother said to him quickly and urgently: "Climb in, Love. That's my boy! Get in, dear; mother'll explain to you later!"
She took a ticket from her bag, and showed it to the coloured porter, and they went down the little passage past the dressing room, and came to the big velvet seats which he remembered perfectly. His mother was breathing nervously, and she was quite pale as she discussed the question of Teddy's berth with the man who had letters on his cap.
She would not let Teddy look out of the windows until the train started, but it started in perhaps two minutes, and then she took off his hat and her own, and smoothed back his hair, and laughed delightfully like a little girl.
"Where are we goin'?" asked Teddy, charmed and excited.
"We're going to New York, Loveliness! We're going to make a new start!" she said.