A Girl of the Engineers

WE are a wandering family. Partly from restlessness, though I think we could be home-lovers, practically because our men are engineers, my father, my brothers, my cousins, — I have one in South Africa and one at Nome, — and we are not devoted to one branch of the profession. It is from the way in which camps and sojourning places take root in our lives that I infer our love for a home if we had one. Bridges, railroads, mines, irrigation, we have builded our house upon them all, and left it to those who would have built differently.

This summer my father is adding to the Long Line B. & C. electrical plant, and our home is ten miles from anywhere in the bottom of Turning Gorge. Strictly speaking, not in the bottom, for the river is the bottom, — all else is walls, and we live, as it were, in the act of scaling them. The power-house is built on the brink, the camp is pitched tier over tier above it. Our cabin is above the camp, and beyond us the road climbs out of the gorge to the summit.

It is a beautiful place, with its late sunrise and deep shadows, the turn and sparkle of the river to where the winding of the gorge shuts it from sight, and its roar that covers all sounds less big and drowsy; but I have sometimes thought that walls are walls, though they are great and pine-clad, and that we have been shut somewhat closely between them this summer. Papa says I take my responsibilities as elder sister too hard, but it seems to me that it is the others, Jimmy and Marianne, for instance, who take things hard, and I who sit by helplessly and wonder what is the matter with them.

Jimmy is my brother, younger than I, a dear, grim-looking fellow, not distinctly plain, as I am, but too harsh-featured to be handsome. It is Laddie who has stolen all the beauty in the family (and we know that mamma was beautiful), and absorbed it into her own enchanting little person. Her name is Gladys, though she makes no further use of it than to sign it formally. She is sixteen, and the peculiar delight and torment of her sister Kate’s existence. She has bright, dark eyes, and a singing voice. The voice is to be trained next year. I hope they won’t train something out of it. Now it is as haunting as a bird’s.

The other two members of the household are not of the family: George Romney is a chum of Jimmy’s (if their tacit friendship can be described as chummy), — also an engineer on the works. I remember him first when he and Jimmy were at Groton, and he was a beautiful boy, just growing up, and losing an unusual soprano. The voice has come back as a man’s, and it seems to be his only means of expression. I had thought Jimmy the most silent of beings, but George is more than silent, he is impenetrable. But he sings for us, and we give him pretty much the privileges of a relative, partly because we feel sure we should like him if it were possible to know him, and partly because we are walled up with him and can’t help it.

Marianne is more nearly one of us, inasmuch as she is engaged to Jimmy, —otherwise she could hardly be more different. She comes to us fresh from Boston and Europe, to know the family and the life she is entering, — I might add, the man she is to marry. She is an only child, peculiarly devoted to and dependent upon her father and mother, and accustomed to the most exquisite and thoughtful consideration from all around her. Through her eyes I notice for the first time how little our family affection takes the form of outward courtesy.

She is sitting out there on the hot pine steps, as white as a flower in her dark habit, questioning Laddie, with her eyes on the slopes of the gorge.

“Is there only that road? — only one way out ?”

“There is a trail on the other side of the river,” Laddie says. “We will go up some time if you like, but it’s pretty steep, and you have to do it on foot, — the ponies are all on this side.” They have been riding, and Laddie is flushed and Marianne pale with the heat.

Later: I stopped to make some sandwiches for Jimmy. He came striding up the trail from the works and ran up the steps, — the girls swept their skirts aside to let him pass.

“Can you get me something to eat, Kate?” he called through the window; “ something I can put in my pocket. I’m going up to the dam and I won’t be back to dinner,” and he went off to the stable. He rode round as I came out on the piazza with my packet, reached across the railing for it with a brief “Thanks!” and spurred his pony up the road. I think he had not glanced at Marianne. He was, as I have often seen him, hot upon his work, with not one stray faculty to spare. There was a set look about her mouth which I have seen there before. Poor child! She is taking Jimmy hard, I’m afraid, and I don’t so much wonder, — we are a dreadfully casual family at best, and Jimmy is perhaps the most so of any of us. If she only knew him as I know him! But of course she will.

I fear I am becoming a very Martha sort of girl; indeed, troubled about many things does n’t begin to describe me these days. Our Chinaman, for instance, I had always regarded as sufficient unto the summer, because he was honest and clean, and cooked in a wholesome way, if you shut him off on baking-powder. But I begin to see that the meals are by no means dainty, that Marianne tries to eat what does not really tempt her, yet she feels badly when I make little things for her alone.

It is very hot. After lunch, when the shadow of the gorge withdraws to the other side of the river, and the white road above and the white trails below dance in the heat, the sense of being shut in becomes a very nightmare. Marianne sits for hours on the steps, over her beautiful needlework, and Laddie, who has refused to dust the sitting-room, wanders about the premises with her guitar hanging from her neck, sits down with a sigh to learn the ninth position, and strays off into accompaniments and shrill, sweet snatches of song that make one feel more restless than soothed. And I blunder with my accounts, and sit long over my letter-writing because there is nothing to say. I generally have a good deal of it to do, as the rest of the family hate to write letters.

The evening is the time that we have always looked forward to, because then our men come home. But there has been a rush in the work this week, and Jimmy is in the office till late, and I have deserted papa, to make a fourth on the evening rides. Usually I am Marianne’s companion; George and Laddie ride ahead, leaving a trail of singing and whistling to follow them by. Their voices blend in a peculiar chord,— Laddie’s so clear and shrill, George’s with a depth, an almost passionate sweetness, that constantly surprises me. His speaking voice is entirely without expression. Laddie is an enchanted being on these night rides. She lets her hair down (she wears it on top of her head all day for coolness), and it is one sweep of black, and she rolls up her sleeves, and her arms are glowing white in the moonlight. I am sorry for George! But I know we can trust him, after a few words that I had with him once at the beginning of the summer. I really was alarmed for my little Laddie, he seemed to seek her so much, and of course they were always singing together, — and we wanted the singing. I said something to him as incidentally as I could about Laddie being only sixteen, and I thought we older children sometimes forgot, and treated her as if she were our age, and that we wanted her to stay young as long as possible. He looked at me a moment, and though I could gather nothing from his face,—you never can, — he apparently could from mine, and he said, “You can depend on me.” So I know he will wait bravely and let nothing touch her unconsciousness till the right time comes. It cannot be for years yet, but they are a beautiful pair, and, indeed, he looks nearly her age, his face is so unmarked, — I believe he is within a few months of mine.

No; it is not Laddie and George that are troubling me now; it is Marianne and Jimmy. I thought at first it was the heat and getting very tired with learning to ride that made her seem often listless and unhappy,even with Jimmy. But she says she is well, and her seat is pretty firm now, and she always has the easiest pony. It must be something more than that, — probably nothing of any importance, but I am afraid of the “little rift.”

Jimmy caught up with his office work yesterday, so he won’t have to work in the evening for a while. He was very late to dinner, and he came in and took his place with a hard-worked sigh. Laddie fired a melon-seed at him. I said across the table to papa, “I think you’ll have the pleasure of my company on the piazza to-night, dad.”

“ You can have my pony. I’ll stay behind,” said Laddie valiantly.

“Not if I have to have you around the house the next day,” I said. “You’ve got to be exercised, Laddie, or you’re too hard to live with.”

Laddie looked relieved.

“You’d better both go,” said Jimmy. “I shall not ride to-night.”

Marianne blushed, and I felt a twinge of sympathy. It was the first chance they had had in weeks to be alone together in the evening. There would be other rides, of course. But I could see that for some reason Marianne was living fiercely in the present, and that the loss of that ride meant to her far more — than the loss of a ride.

“What are you going to do?” asked Laddie.

“Go to bed,” said Jimmy. “I’m simply done.”

Marianne left the table somewhat before the rest of us. I found her standing on the steps waiting apparently for the horses, but staring out into the dusk with a tormented face. She turned as I joined her, and asked in a sweet voice, “What is the matter with Jimmy ? Is he ill ?”

“He’s very tired,” I suggested.

“Is he as tired as all that!”

“He has something on his mind.”

Her smile was like a dainty little snarl. “You take things so serenely on the surface, Kate. You ’ll be telling me next that he has me on his mind.”

I knew that she instantly repented this confession. I covered the silence. “It seems to be something that he wants to talk over with papa. They are smoking in the dining-room, and they’ve sent Wing out. Apparently he’s not to be allowed to clear the table to-night. I hope he won’t leave.”

There was a shuffle of hoofs round the corner of the house, and step of feet, and the measure of a song: —

“ Far and high the cranes give cry and
Spread their wings.
Angry is my darling, for she
No more sings.”

Round came George and Laddie, each with a pair of tugging ponies in tow, and a wail went up from Laddie: “ Oh, Kate, go and change your skirt quickly ! We shall never get started!”

Papa told me last night (while Jimmy was telling Marianne at the other end of the piazza) what they had been discussing in the dining-room while the rest of us were off riding. It was very late; Laddie had been sent to bed, remarking that she had thought it was Jimmy, not she, who was going to bed early, but it appeared she was mistaken. George had withdrawn himself discreetly; once I saw him cross a lighted space in the camp below, on his way to the office; it was a stifling night, and there were still groups of men at the doors of the tents, smoking and playing with the dogs. Well, it seems that Jimmy has been offered a position with a very good copper crowd, on a rather unusual salary, at Nacazari in Northern Mexico. The understanding would be that he shall stay three years. It is very interesting work, and papa says that if he suits these people the opportunities ahead are practically unlimited. And Jimmy’s work in Turning Gorge is nearly over; they are needing fewer and fewer men here. He has been applying for a position, with very discouraging results.

“He will take this one,” papa said. “He would be a fool not to.” His eyes followed the involuntary turn of mine toward the end of the piazza where Jimmy and Marianne sat speaking together in dim silhouette. Behind them heat lightning played along the rim of the gorge.

Both boys were out before breakfast next morning, and consequently late, and we left them to a deserted table. Afterwards Jimmy came tramping through the kitchen to the back piazza where I was surreptitiously beating up a spongecake that Marianne had evidently liked and attributed to Wing, — whose spongecake is impossible. He pulled up a candle-box and sat down opposite me with his chin very close to his knees. He rubbed it against them meditatively.

“Dad told you about my chance?”

“Yes,” I said. “And Marianne says you must go, does n’t she?” I was sure she had, —also I thought I knew how she had said it.

“Oh yes, she says I must go,” said Jimmy ruefully, “and she says it’s a good thing and all that, only — Kate, what is the matter with Marianne ? Is she ill ? ” — Marianne’s question of the night before.

“She’s not ill, Jimmy. But I don’t think you are so very nice to her, do you ?”

“Not nice to her?” Jimmy stared.

I went on beating my cake. Presently I suggested: “She’s used to very different people from us. We are n’t particularly nice to each other, you know. We’re busy and we’re lazy, and we forget.”

“But she is n’t a fussy girl,—not that kind at all. You don’t understand her.”

“No, I don’t think she’s fussy. But I think she’s not used to our sketchy way of living, and she has a good deal of time to think about things these days, and Turning Gorge ” —

“Oh yes, this living in the bottom of a hole!” growled Jimmy.

“Well, she told you to go. And you want to go, don’t you?”

“Why, of course. A man wants to go to places.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Oh yes.”

I could not help laughing. “Jimmy, if you don’t give Marianne a pretty thorough understanding of the nature of a man, why, nothing ever will.”

“I suppose I’m rather something of a fool not to be able to run my own affairs,” said Jimmy scowling, his eyes on the rotation of my mixing-spoon. “But could n’t you say something to her that would make her understand the way a man feels about going to new places and all that ?”

“No, my child, I could n’t. But can’t you do something to make her see how a man feels about a woman he” —

“I thought I did that when I asked her to marry me.”

“I should have said you did myself, knowing you,” I admitted, and wished I had had the bringing up of Marianne from infancy. Then I was struck with a solution.

“Jimmy, Jimmy,” I said, leaning across my bowl and looking into his eyes which were big and troubled. “Ask her again, and ask her to go with you when you go.”

“No! To Nacazari!”

“To the North Pole, if you happen to be going there.”

“ It is n’t a place, — she’s never heard of it, nor any of her people. It’s copper, and that means smelters, and that means smelter smoke.”

“There’s a sky, is n’t there?”

“Her people would n’t like it.”

“They’ll let her do what she sets her heart on.”

“Ah, you don’t know how she feels about them.”

“I know how she feels about you.”

I rose and began to pour my cake batter into the pans. A smile stole upon Jimmy’s lips, which he strove unsuccessfully to restrain; his face glowed, he tried to look gloomy.

“Well, I should n’t call that showing that I cared for her, I should call it giving her a chance to show that she cared for me.”

“It’s exactly the same thing,” I said. I scraped the last flecks of sweet dough from the bottom of my bowl and held the spoon out to Jimmy. “There, take your ‘scrape’ and be off with you.”

He grinned and reached up to taste as he used when we were children and begged for the “last scrape,” and then he departed whistling.

I had barely got my pans installed in the oven and shut the door upon them, when he came in again with a teased look on his face.

“Kate, where is Marianne?”

“Oh, Jimmy, I thought I had got rid of you. Marianne, indeed! And you a workingman. Go back to the camp where you belong.”

But he really was bothered.

“She’s not in the house anywhere. Laddie has n’t seen her since breakfast, and none of the ponies have been taken — she could n’t saddle one anyhow. — I said I would teach her,” he added irrelevantly.

“She has gone for a walk, — to the summit most probably.”

He looked up the first glaring bend of the road with anxious brows.

“I think she wanted to get away — by herself. You know the gorge seems pretty small at times.”

But after Jimmy had started for the summit (coolly disregarding the fact that he was wanted at the works), I had another idea. I got my hat and started down the trail. Laddie called to me derisively from the steps, “Are you going to hunt for Marianne in the seclusion of the camp?”

“I’m going across the river,” I said. I remembered Laddie’s telling her about the trail to French Corrāl.

The current of the river is too strong through Turning Gorge to row against; the boat is slung across on a cable, and it is every one’s business and no one’s business in particular to run the ferry.

I picked my way through the dust of the camp and escaped by degrees from its enthusiastic dogs. I presently became aware that George was waiting for me at the boat, and watching my progress with a suggestion of a smile.

“ Do you know if Marianne went across this morning ? ” I shouted to him between the roar of the power-house behind us and the river at our feet.

“Yes,” he said. “Shall I take you over ?”

He asked no questions (impassive people are very tactful in the negative), and did not offer to help me up the trail on the other side.

I think it must have been made down hill before it was made up, it is so uncompromising. It rises up before you and seems to hit you in the face. Five minutes of it are like an hour. But each time you stop to pant there is amazement at the height you have gained. The river drops to a gleaming line, the grand slopes of the gorge sink deeper and deeper, their bases are but the tops of trees, the sky grows vast around one, a breath of freer air draws across the summit. “Oh, Marianne,” I thought, “if you are up here on the walls of Turning Gorge this morning, have you not forgiven Jimmy for being more of a boy than a lover?”

I found her hidden under the low pines, flung on a drift of needles, with flushed cheeks and tear-stained eyes, like a grieving child. I felt guilty to have stolen upon her so, but it was too late to go back; she had seen me, and was saying, “ Oh, Kate, why have you come up here after me ? How broiling hot you look!”

I took off my hat and sat down beside her; she pulled herself nearer and laid her fair, rumpled head in my lap.

“I thought I should have died sooner than any one should know how I felt,” she said in a voice from which all energy seemed to have been wept away, “but I don’t seem to mind you.” Her eyes gazed up at my hot face thoughtfully. “Do you know that Jimmy is going to Mexico?”

“Yes,” I said. “It will be hard for you, but you know he is doing it for you. With that start he’ll be able to give you the comfort you ought to have when you are married.”

“Kate, Jimmy is glad to go!”

I smoothed her hair back and looked down into her eyes; they were full of trouble, like Jimmy’s.

“Marianne, I have lived all my life among these big boy men. Will you let me tell you something about them, — just as if I understood them and you did n’t ? ”

“Yes,” she said.

“ It is the engineers I mean, — the profession selects its own men, you know. And then out of those men some want the jobs in the cities near the crowds and the theatres and the girls; and others — Those are the men I know; they have been trained to stand alone, to talk little, never to complain, to bear dullness and monotony, — some of them are dull and monotonous themselves. But they are n’t petty; and in every one of them is a strange need that drives them out into the deserts; a craving for movement and freedom and fresh, new air that nothing can kill. And oh, but I’m glad it is so. It’s what keeps them young; it’s what makes them strong and exciting and different; it’s what makes their gentleness so wonderfully gentle; it’s what makes us love them. We could not do here the things our men do, but they need us all the more. And as long as we know that, why, we can forgive them if they are too busy to show it every hour of the day.

“ You see, I could be quite lofty on the subject, and make you laugh at me very much. As a matter of fact, when I came up the trail this morning I was not at all disturbed about Jimmy’s feeling for you; but I was wondering how much you care for him, — whether it’s just Jimmy before any one or anything in this world, — including yourself. Because I think you are going to have that question shrewdly tested pretty soon, — perhaps this morning.”

Marianne stared up at me, and I held her back against my knees and laughed into her pretty, wondering face.

“I know mighty well how you are going to stand the test. I have watched you, plucky little Bostonian. You are the stuff that soldiers’ and engineers’ wives are made of, and I want you for my Jimmy.” I kissed her and got upon my feet, and stepped out into the trail again.

“Shall I go with you ?” she murmured. “Must you go ?”

“There were some things I was doing at the house; but stay here and let the wind blow through you for a while. It’s nice, don’t you think?”

“Splendid! So big and broad.”

“You have been shut in a good deal!”

I left her gazing across the slopes with a far, sweet look. Halfway down I met Jimmy.

“You did n’t find her?” he said, but he knew by my smile that I had. I pulled his hair softly, and slipped past him down the trail.

I’m afraid I have been taking a good deal upon myself, and I’m just a little bit scared, but papa thinks it is all right. He took mamma to Deadwood when it was six hundred miles to get in by stage, and she must have been more inexperienced than Marianne, and he says she was happy. Papa does n’t think people are happy when they are not. I went over to the office, and we had a long talk about it out of “hours.” We are great friends. He often hardly speaks to me for days at a time when he is preoccupied (Jimmy gets his silence from him), but every now and then we clear things up with a splendid talk! — and it does away with all misunderstandings or complications. That is the way Jimmy and Marianne will manage when they are married.

They came in to lunch, both rather pale, but all the strain gone from between them. Afterwards Marianne went to her room to write to her mother. It will be nearly two weeks before she can have an answer.

In the meantime the days go monotonously on. Jimmy and Marianne are planning a house together. He goes first, and will see to the building and arrange for her coming when all is ready for her. She laughs when he says he will be ready in a month! They are to be married in San Francisco, and I suppose we shall all be down there for a confused week or two. Marianne does not mind his boyish blundering now; she has other things to think of.

As for me, I can’t help bothering my foolish head over a fancy that the strain of Laddie’s tormenting presence is beginning to wear very hard upon George. The fact that there’s nothing very tangible to make me think so is, I believe, one reason why I am bothered. Real anxieties have such simple expedients: you have only to decide what can be done and what cannot, and do immediately what you can. The question of how Marianne, with her sheltered up-bringing, is to be made comfortable and well and happy in the rough life she is going to does fill my mind, but not with uneasiness. I believe it can be done, like many another supposed impossibility, where people work together with a thorough good understanding. And even if it can’t, there remains the good understanding. It is the little strain that is not worth speaking of, that no one dares to speak of for fear of making it seem more real than it is, that worries me to a point I know must be absurd. It is certainly fed by the most absurd trivialities.

It was Sunday of last week that was such a long, hot day; the men all at home, but it was too hot to ride. We sat around on the shady side of the piazza: Jimmy cleaning his gun, and protecting Marianne and her white linen skirts from the dogs, who had been in the river and were very proud of it; Laddie fingering her guitar softly, and whistling to herself. George and I professed to be reading, but what I read did not hold me, and as often as I looked away from my book I saw that George’s black eyes had risen from his and were sweeping the rim of the gorge. He dropped them as Laddie’s lowbreathed whistle turned suddenly into loud sweet singing:—

“ Far and high the cranes give cry and
Spread their wings.”

— It was what they so often sang together as they rode, and it needed the vent of motion to carry off the restless thrill its cadence stirred in your blood. The deeper notes died up into highest, softest treble: —

“ But there yet shall be a day when
Love is heard ;
She shall listen, and her heart shall bid her
Come forth at my word.”

“Where did you get that song?” papa called from the doorway. He has a way of waking up to things that have been going on beneath his notice.

“It’s a Hungarian folk-song,” Laddie answered pompously.

“ Why, in Heaven’s name,” said George unexpectedly, “do you sing it on a day like this, to an accompaniment you have n’t half learned ?”

“Goodness!” said Laddie, and she really jumped. “I did n’t know George had nerves. I’m finding out things about him every day.” And she improvised an air to —

“ The fishes answered with a grin,
Why, what a temper you are in ! ”

and sang it at some length.

I never interfere with Laddie’s impudence, partly because it would do no good if I did, partly because I can’t resist wanting to hear what she will say next. We have all sharp tongues, but only Laddie is gifted with a ready one. George can usually defend himself, briefly and with point, and it is rather entertaining to hear them. This afternoon he was not responsive. Laddie made one or two sallies, and there was silence.

“ Jimmy, you are more dangerous than wet dogs when you have vaseline on your fingers,” said Marianne at the other end of the piazza.

“I think you might quarrel with me!” said Laddie. “Even Marianne and Jimmy are making out to, and we do it so much better! — Will you sing, then?” She started the crane song, but he did not join in.

“‘Is you mad, Honey?’” she quoted, and put her head on one side and wrinkled her brows inquiringly, as the dogs do. “Because if you are, I’m sorry. I did n’t mean to plague you as much as all that.”

“You don’t plague people when you mean to, Laddie,” George said. “Only sometimes when you don’t.”

I was beginning to read again, but something in his words went through me with a pang, and I looked up. He had pulled one of the dogs down into his lap and was fondling it, bending over it so that I could not see his face.

That Marianne’s letter from home fell like such a bomb amid our confident schemes showed how little we had really expected opposition. I think we are rather apt to be surprised that any one in his senses should object to what seems to us desirable.

She read it, flushing and paling by turns, and then cleared her throat and said she would like to read it aloud. “It will give mamma’s point of view more clearly than I can,” she said. It was a sweet, anxious, mother’s letter; not, I think, such a letter as our valiant little mother would have written. It cost Marianne a visible effort to read it to us, but she probably did not wish us to think her too easily quelled.

It said: “You must know, my dear child, how loath we are to refuse our consent to your dear, brave little plans, but you will realize some day how utterly wild and impracticable they are. And, forgive me, dear, — with all our affection for Jimmy, should he persist in such reckless dreams for your future, papa and I. could not think him fitted to take care of you, for many years to come, if ever. This is the side of his profession we have always dreaded, but we thought that now he would be looking for a position nearer home. There are many engineers doing well in the cities, with comfortable homes like other people’s.

“It is not as if there were some older woman there whom we knew, or as if I were well enough to be with you for the first year, or even if you could have with you some strong, capable girl-companion accustomed to frontier life, such as you describe Jimmy’s sister to be. Then I should feel, perhaps, quite differently.”...

When she finished, Jimmy was leaning forward, looking intently at me. He turned as Marianne said to him imploringly, “I can’t — I cant do what they refuse their consent to! Mamma is not well: I am all she has. It would n’t be the right way to begin.”

“Of course it would n’t,” said Jimmy gravely. His voice was very deep. Marianne covered her face with her hands and went to her room. Jimmy departed to the works; he was too hurt to comfort her just then.

Later I knocked at her door, and went in without waiting for an answer. I had come with a plan that brought the light into her face. We had a short, eager talk, the results of which I prepared to convey to Jimmy as I put on my hat and went down the trail to the office. Papa had gone to the dam. The cool outer room was empty; in the one beyond, George and Jimmy were prostrate across the drawing-table with their collars off, toiling at the maps. I summoned Jimmy with my eyes. He closed the drawing-room door behind him and stood with his back to it, smiling at me.

“I know. You’re going to help us out as usual. Kate, you’re a bully girl!”

“I hate third persons,” I said, “but I don’t see what else there is to be done.”

“You’re no more a third person than a nice dog would be,” said Jimmy affectionately, and with intent to be complimentary. “But perhaps it won’t be easy for you. Do you hate the thought of it ? ”

“No,” I said. “I like to go to new places, and I like difficulties, if I know just what they are, and I like Marianne; — for that matter, I like you,” and we grinned at each other. “The only thing that troubles me is Laddie. She is n’t going abroad with Aunt Gladys till the spring, and there ’ll be months and months in Turning Gorge.”

“Too much responsibility for her?”

“Oh no, she’s old enough for that; and with all due affection for sister Kate, she’ll probably be enchanted at the prospect of being housekeeper for dad, and the whole thing generally; but she will be lonely — after a while, you know, when dad begins to take her and her housekeeping as a matter of course, as he does wfith me.”

“ She has her pony; and George Romney is going to be here till spring, and he’s very nice to her.”

“Do you know him well, Jimmy?”


“Do you really mean well, or just better than any one else?”

“I think I do. He’s opened up to me somewhat now and then, especially lately,” Jimmy half smiled, as if recalling something. “He’s a good fellow, — unusual. Dad’s watched him at his work, and he says so, too. Don’t be hard on him, Katy.”

And so Jimmy had noticed it! Well, he certainly is nice to Laddie.

I wish I might go peacefully to bed tonight. It is very late, and I have finished all my packing; but George said, “When you are through upstairs, may I speak to you for a moment?” and as a matter of fact I ought to speak to him about Laddie. Only I dread to, and I am very tired.

The month in San Francisco went like a most unrestful dream. One never had any time to think, and shopping for — and with — other people is so very tiring; but indeed it was fun as well. How sweet Marianne’s mother was! How impossible it was to get anything done quickly with which she had to do, and how little one grudged the fact as long as one remained in her presence. Afterwards one made up time as best one could. How pretty Marianne was in her wedding dress, how more than pretty Laddie in her bridesmaid’s blue. (Ah, but she was lovelier still to-night, riding with the wind in her hair!)

Well, it is over now, and Jimmy is at Nacazari. Marianne and I are ready now to join him. We start to-morrow.

How could poor little Laddie go so comfortably to sleep in the midst of all my walking to and fro on the cradly boards of our room and opening and shutting drawers! The packing is all done now, though, and George is waiting for me. — Laddie is talking in her sleep, and smiling; her cheeks are all flushed with the wind. Is it “ George ” that she says ? — No, “ Judy,”— the name of her pony, — and they don’t sound in the least alike; I think I am certainly morbid about her. — George is waiting, but what am I to say to him ? What can I say ?

I stood in my indecision in the dark end of the living-room. The table with the lamp had been drawn to the other end, and George sat by it reading. Against the yellow pine of the wall his black, bent head and grave profile were in strong relief. A feeling almost of hatred went over me as I looked at him. He seemed a menace in our house. My poor little Laddie! How was her heart to be kept free and light beside the power of his love, — told or untold, — he who had charmed us all with his imperturbable beauty, his words that told nothing, his voice that seemed to tell so much!

He rose as I approached the table, and turned to me with a strange softening in his face that rather confused me, — it was too like that sweetness in his singing voice.

“You wished to speak to me ?” I said. “I want to speak to you, too, before I go, — about Laddie. It may be that there is no reason why I should, but I am leaving her in your charge, — in papa’s, of course, but in yours for all the hours when you will be together. I do trust you, but — I am trusting you with a great deal.”

“Yes,” he said in his even, unemphasized way. “You may be sure that no harm will come to her that I can prevent. You can depend on me.”

“You said that before,” I suggested.

“But have n’t I done it? You surely don’t mind the little rows we have ? That’s just to show that there’s no hard feeling.”

“Oh, don’t put me off!” I said. “I must say what is in my heart, whether I intrude on your feelings or not. I have trembled for her so this summer, — and there is all the winter before her. We want you to have her, George; but do be vigilant! She is happy and unconscious now. It is dreadful of me to talk like this when I have not your confidence, but I cannot help hearing in your voice, in your songs, even seeing in your face, — what she might see, too.”

“Kate, you are the only one who does not see.”

I did not heed him. “You know as well as I do there are more ways of letting a girl know you love her than — than just saying so!”

“I had thought there might be,” he said, “but the time has all gone by, and the only way to make her know is to tell her.”

I looked at him in utter amazement.

“Kate, I have loved you ever since you were — Laddie’s age,” he said.

His words were ceasing to have any meaning for me. “I — don’t understand,” was all I could answer.

“Not yet ? It is very hard to make you understand.”

I have come away to my room to think quietly, which, of course, I could not do downstairs with George. I have been trying to arrange my thoughts with some clearness, but they throng too heavily. I seem to know that when this has taken its proper place it will be seen to simplify things very much — for Laddie. For me it does not seem at all simple; hardly even right, and I cannot understand it. I am very tired. Perhaps I shall understand — to-morrow.