THE sense of relief that came with the telegram lasted all through his lonely dinner. He had been dreading the freezing Christmas journey to New Hampshire as, in the last three months, he had dreaded all physical exertion. When he left the hotel for a stroll up Broadway he was almost buoyant. He felt like doing something. What, he did not know; but all kinds of impulses were riddling the surface of his lethargy. A week or two of such a mood, he reflected, conscious of his invigorating quality, would set him up completely. He might even bring himself to consider the offer of the British Columbia people.

It was a beautiful night, nipping, but clear and still after a windy day — an ideal Christmas Eve. The air was electric; it seemed as if it must crackle and sparkle as he drew it through his nostrils. Wind-polished to an abnormal brightness, the stars glittered coldly like cut silver. In contrast, the golden windowlights, the notes of Christmas color, green wreaths and crimson ribbons, offered an agreeable warmth. Broadway hummed with belated shoppers — women worn but eager, men irritated and perplexed. On their faces lay the look of the Pursuit of the Gift. Everybody carried too many bundles, but the sprays of holly and mistletoe protruding from them made festival of this inconvenience.

George Daly moved slowly. Because he sauntered, most of the crowd looked once. Because of other reasons, many looked again. Erect and soldierly at sixty-nine, the combination of his extreme height and his handsome old face, still hawk-eyed and weather-beaten, was a striking one. The keen air whipped his face full of color, so that the lacklustre look of his sleeplessness, the lined look of his weakness and fatigue were, for the moment, wiped out.

He walked to Fifty-Ninth Street before his feeling of exhilaration began to evaporate. It came first in an inexplicable sense of detachment from the scene. He had all the provincialism of the naturalized New Yorker, New York belonged to him, and he to New York. It had never occurred to him that any aspect of the city could seem alien. But to-night it turned a cold shoulder on him. He could not feel a part of it. Why, he wondered.

Suddenly the reason came to him. He was not only on the outside of the scene but of the festival. Everybody else rushed. He strolled. Everybody else had an object. He alone was aimless. Worse, he was lonely.

He paused irresolutely on a corner, and in the interval his buoyancy went from him. His desire to do something dwindled. The mood of the last three months came back, blighting every impulse; came back with a throbbing sense of desolation; came back with one of his hopeless rebellions against old age. It was an earmark of senility that it could not handle freedom, he reflected bitterly. He had been at last released from an obligation that was irksome to him; and now he did not know what to do with himself. He was the foolish old slave of his habits — take one of them away and he had not initiative enough to fill the gap. It was dreadful to be lonely, but it was worse to be old. He looked questioningly down the crowded street. It might have been a vista in Mars for all the relation he felt to it. A panic came over him. He turned and walked swiftly back to the hotel. From a distance it seemed a haven of refuge.

But, once inside, a distaste for a lonely Christmas Eve in his room enveloped him. What could he do, he wondered listlessly. He did not want to make calls. Christmas Eve seemed a family festival as sacred against intrusion as Thanksgiving dinner. The theatre did not appeal to him. He wandered into the bar. One look was enough — a line of well-dressed riff-raff from the Tenderloin playing at enjoyment. Because nothing else offered, he went to the hotel register in the dim hope of finding a familiar name, perhaps one of the world-roving friends that he was always finding in unexpected corners. He scanned one column of new arrivals with an avid interest. Not even an acquaintance. He turned the page. And there he came upon what, after fifty years, made his blood leap faintly. It was a woman’s name, written in a woman’s hand — a tremulous but still characteristic handwriting.

“Mrs. Josephine Rumwill, San Francisco, Cal.”

Josephine Rumwill! He read “ Josephine Rumwill,” but he thought “ Jo Jackson.” He stared at it for a long moment in which he lived through a halfdecade of memories. And he smiled as a multitude of little red slippers seemed to dance upon the page. He roused himself and turned to the clerk.

“ Is this Mrs. Rumwill an old — an elderly person ? ” he asked.

“811 — let me see — yes, about seventy, I should say,” the man answered.

“ What time did she come? ”

“ Early this morning.”

“ Know how long she’s going to stay ? ”

“ She leaves in the morning,”

Daly considered these answers gravely. Then, like one in a dream, he went to a writing-desk and scratched off this note:

Dear Madam, — If you are the Jo Jackson that I used to know in California fifty years ago, and if you have a moment to spare anywhere, do let me come and see you, for I’m the loneliest old codger in the whole city to-night.

He called a boy and sent the note to her room.

He found himself, while he awaited the reply, pacing back and forth in an impatience that gave the lie to old age. Jo Jackson! What golden days the name brought up! He must see her. And unless she were a much-changed Jo, she would be as delighted to see him as he to see her. Jo Jackson! He wondered what she looked like now, after fifty years. He must see her. She was attractive enough when Peter Rumwill sent for her. Petite, pretty, piquante ; of all feminine types to introduce into a womanless miningcamp, she was the most provocative. Active as a child, full of spirits, bubbling with a coquetry that was half her insatiable energy, yet with the home-making instinct latent in her mothering type, she had brought the whole camp to her feet. But she was as straight as a die. Whatever matrimonial temptations more successful men had held out to her, she had kept her promise to poor, dreamy, easily-discouraged Peter Rumwill. And what a home she had made for him! Jo Jackson! He must see her.

But the boy had come — with a note. He tore it open with the fervor of a hero in melodrama.

DEAR GEORGE, — Give an old woman an hour’s time to make herself look as young as possible, and then come here and spend the evening with me. How I want to see you! Goodness, is n’t it strange!
Yours affectionately,
P. S. Please make yourself look young, too. O George, how I hate to be old !

His heart beat high when he knocked at her door. He had schooled himself to sustain the shock of her appearance, but he had not anticipated the apprehension with which he listened for her voice. It came almost with a girl’s accent, and he heard the quick rustle of her skirts as he opened the door. She stopped short of the threshold, held, as he was, by the wonder of the moment. Tears flooded to their eyes. But she was a woman and could speak, although her voice was half whisper.

“ Oh, Georgie! ” she said, and lifted her face to his kiss as naturally as on the day of her wedding.

It seemed a long time before he could speak. His heart was sinking slowly. For she showed every one of her seventy years. All the roses had died on her cheeks. All the blue had washed out of her eyes. The last glint of gold had bleached from her hair. Her face, shadowed by the sadness of reminiscence, looked sunken,looked dead.

“ I’ve brought you some California, Jo,” he said at last. He put a big white bundle into her arms.

She unwrapped it with a kind of nervous haste as if she wanted to find respite from something. And now she did not look at him. Was her heart, too, sinking with sadness ?

“ Manzanita! ” she exclaimed. Manzanita! Where on earth did you get it? Now it really feels like Christmas. But I should be homesick if you were n’t here, Georgie.” She held the big scarlet bunch at arm’s length and looked at it. “ What a beautiful color! You see everybody’s sent me red things, knowing I’d be alone this Christmas Eve; but, of course, nobody in the East would think of manzanita.”

He was conscious of a profusion of red Christmas decorations that took the curse off the florid hotel furnishings — holly and poinsettia everywhere. But he did not look about. Hungrily watching her moving figure, he found himself bombarded by a bewildering series of impressions.

She was old: white hair, sunken contours, faded surfaces —time had branded her with all these; and she was not old; there was something that time had left untouched, had augmented; no, time had created it. As in her girlhood, her brisk staccato talk flooded her face with light, and her feet tapped the floor in eager little dashes of energy when she walked. Her figure was still straight, still slender as a wand. But even the sum of these left much unaccounted for. The extra thing was the extraordinary vitality that she exuded. And yet it was not vitality. What was it — personality, magnetism ? He could not get it.

“I’ve come to meet my daughter, Marion,” went on her explaining chatter. “ She gets in from Europe on the Cedric to-morrow. Then we go to Boston on the noon train. That’s how I happen to be alone here, Christmas Eve.”

He had scarcely acknowledged his perplexity to himself before another impression came — an impression of — what was it? Ah, it came from her clothes. He examined each detail just as, when a boy, he had drunk down every girl-element in her pretty eastern finery. A scarf of Mexican lace, pure-white, tenuous, fluted in soft folds about her face. The pale-hued silk that she wore took silver lustres from the light, and fluttered noiselessly. He noted its cut that made as few concessions to age as a graduatinggown; diamonds of the purest water, in fragile, unobtrusive settings, pinning the scarf-ends to her shoulders : diamonds on her taper, well-kept fingers; and at last a faint perfume of white roses. There seemed a coquetry in all this — a delicate coquetry, redolent of lavender and old lace, that etherealized in the crucible of her age and his. Yet none the less was it deliberate, punctilious. It brought his spirits up.

“ I wanted to bring you a pair of twoand-a-half red slippers, Jo,” he laughed, “ but I did not dare.”

“ I would have worn them,” she said gallantly. “ And I could have worn them,” she added with a flash of pride. Something glittered at the tip of her skirts: she was lifting brilliantly-buckled ankles to a foot-stool. “ See, I’ve grown old and wrinkled, but my feet are just as small as then. Sit down, Georgie! ”

Her tone slipped into the imperiousness with which she had always treated him.

Perhaps it was that note in her voice which whiffed away the last figment of disillusion. For Jo Jackson had come back. It seemed to him that through the mask of faded coloring and sunken contours, the girl of twenty, rosy-cheeked, azure-eyed, coquetted with him.

“ Jo Jackson, you have n’t changed a particle,” he said — and believed himself.

“ You have! ” She examined him with open mischief now. “ You’re better-looking.” Which was true. “ Why, Georgie, you’re as handsome as a picture! ”

She was not disillusioned, then. His spirits took another leap.

“ When I read your name on the register — Lord ! you don’t know what it brought back — hundreds of things. But, mainly, the old bar and that little red satin slipper perched up over it — the one you sent Peter the year before you came out. Do you remember it? It was the first taste of a woman that some of us had had for five years. When Peter set it up there, men came from twenty miles round just to look at it. It nearly made a drunkard of me — buying drinks just for the chance of seeing it. It was such a dainty little thing! To this day I never see a red slipper anywhere without thinking of you. Lord! Jo, we were all crazy about you before you got out there. Why, we came near changing the name of the camp to Red Slipper; but something prevented, I’ve forgotten what. But we always insisted that it would bring us luck. And, sure enough, we struck it in the Red Slipper in a month.”

“ Peter always thought that slipper was his mascot,” Mrs. Rumwill said, with a practical woman’s indulgence for a crotchet of sentiment. “ He would never go anywhere — not even on a vacationtrip — without it. If it ever got lost — well, I wish you could have seen him. Why—”

She stopped and her eyes wandered to her trunk. She seemed to be considering something. But it came to nothing except the little mischievous smile, that, merely curling her lips at first, broke out finally into a laugh.

He laughed too, but not with her. He had been thinking.

“ Jo, do you remember the time you had teaching me to dance?”

“ Do I remember! Why, George, I used to be black and blue from it.”

“ I believe it.” He chuckled.

“ My very youngest grandchild knows about George Daly, and how I used to steal out of camp to give him dancing lessons.”

“ Grandchildren,” Daly repeated. “ Great Scott, Jo Jackson, what do you mean by having grandchildren ? ”

“ What do you mean, George Daly, by not having them ? ” she retorted with spirit. “ Grandchildren! I should say I had. My oldest grandson graduates at Stanford this spring. I’ve got to get back for his Commencement. His sister’s in Vassar.”

“ Just think of it! Just think of it! How many children did you have, Jo? ”

“ Four. Mark, Daisy, Marion, and Willie.”

“ I remember Mark and Daisy. How I loved Daisy! ”

“ Daisy died — did you hear? ” Her brooding look at him seemed to ask more than the question,

“ Daisy — I never heard. That was tough, Jo.”

“ O Georgie — you don’t know. I guess it was because Peter took it so hard that I did n’t have any time to think how I felt. Daisy was Peter’s favorite — the apple of his eye. But when I got to be an old woman, and the children all grown up with children of their own, I lived it all over again. That’s the worst thing about old age; it gives you time to think and mourn. I miss her now more than I ever did. She was the loveliest little thing — such hair, long and thick and golden — and such eyes. You remember her eyes — dove’s eyes, you always called them. She always kept that look in them. She was only sixteen when she died. Peter was never the same man afterwards.”

“ I don’t wonder. She sure was the sweetest little girl. It hurts me a lot to hear that, Jo,” He paused. “And Peter

— How long ? ” he ventured.

“Peter’s been dead twenty years.”

“ Is it as long as that ? Poor Jo.” He thought for a long, concentrated interval, in which he seemed to take account of many things. But it could not have been of any one of them that he spoke; his air seemed to betray a mental cant sideways. “ Where’s Mark now? ”

“ In Seattle. It’s Mark’s oldest son that’s in Stanford.”

“ And where are the other two ? ”

“Marion! She’s my other daughter. She’s married and living in Boston, though she’s been abroad for three months. Marion’s never had any children— she’s the one I’m going to visit. My other son, Willie — he was the baby, you know — Willie’s in Buenos Ayres. He’s not married yet. I haven’t seen Willie for five years.” She sighed; but, as if with a determined briskness, she turned to the brighter aspect of the situation. “ He’s a good boy — writes me regularly, the longest, jolliest letters.” Deliberately, it seemed, she let talk of herself slip away in the following pause, during which she dropped her eyes from his face to her own hands. “ You never married, Georgie,” she began.

“No. I was engaged once. But she died. I never felt like marrying after that.”

“ My poor lad,” Mrs. Rumwill said. Her eyes came back to his face. But with an exquisite deftness she did not touch his wound. “ I’ve followed your career as closely as I could,” she veered away from it. “It used to make me so proud when Peter’d read me about the big engineering things you were doing. It was exactly as if you were my oldest boy. I always had a mother’s feeling for you, I guess.”

“ You might well take all the credit of it — if there is any credit. I worked at first only to gain honor in your eyes.”

He stopped. A change — soft, subtle evasive — illuminated her face; another instant he saw that it was her faded blush. But she smiled in the same frank, clear-eyed way in which, as a girl, she had smiled through rose surging over deeper rose.

“ Of course,” he went on scrupulously, “ later I worked to please another

— Emmeline. Her name was Emmeline Purcell.”

He paused as he pauses who presents a gift. Mrs. Rumwill’s face softened to the compliment.

“ I always wondered what she would be like — and yet when you never married — I used to wonder and wonder — ” What it was she wondered she never told. Instead, “ Have you her picture? ” she asked with a kind of abruptness.

From a pocket he took a faded photograph, carte-de-visite size. Mrs. Rumwill examined with a long fixity the pensive oval of a face rising on a delicate neck, from slender, bared shoulders.

“She’s lovely,” she said, “lovely — angelic.” A wistful note lay, a little sad, in her appreciation. Her eyes bent again to the picture, but she seemed to look through it to other vistas.

“ I tried to please her,” Daly said, “ but I never knew. She died suddenly before I won my spurs. I hope I did.”

“ Of course you did,” Mrs. Rumwill protested. Her fervor rounded her voice out like the note of a bell; it killed the sadness in it. “How could you help pleasing her ? You were the purest, loveliest boy a woman ever saw. I tell you she died proud. And she’s proud now

— as I am.” She linked her name to that of his dead sweetheart with a smile, mutely apologetic. “ You don’t know how proud I am of you. Why, Georgie, you ’re wonderfully preserved. I guess you don’t know how splendid you are — especially if you have n’t had any women-folks to tell you so. It makes me happy, for I know you’ve lived the kind of life I wanted you to live. I used to be so afraid for you! How I brooded after you left the Red Slipper — you, motherless at sixteen and adrift in the world at twenty-one. I hated to let you go, but I knew it would be wicked to keep you tied to my apronstrings there. But I always thought you would have stayed if I d asked it. Would you ? ” she inquired with a suddenness almost strange.

“ Stay! Stay! Of course I would have stayed. I only went because you made me. How I hated to leave you. It was the worst wrench I ever had but one. O Jo, you were so good to me! ”

“Was I good ? ” she asked with the eagerness of a self-questioning long suppressed.

“ Good ? You were an angel! Heavens, you gave me my start! She — she was your kind of woman. It was something in her reminding me of you that first drew me to her.”

She took this in with a trembling smile, prolonged in the soft physical flutter that was her blush. But it seemed to plunge her into a deep reflection.

“Did you tell her about me?” she asked unexpectedly, out of it. And at his smiling, “ Oh, yes,” she asked suddenly, “ Did you tell her that?

He seemed to know exactly what she meant. Again smiling, he again answered, “ Oh yes.”

“ And what did she say ? ” Her interrogation came this time noth a haste almost breathless.

“ She said she must always love you as much as I, because you made me for her.”

Mrs. Rumwill studied this, her head bent, “ What a woman to lose! ” Her comment was almost whispered.

“ Do you wonder the light faded out of the world ? ” A spasm of his old pain crumpled his face; the deep note of his old despair fought its way to his voice. The animation had died out of his look. The last vestige of the mirth of an instant ago had gone with it. He was exhaustedlooking, wan, old.

She looked at him with a scrutiny the softest and tenderest. “ Georgie,” she said simply at last, “something ’s wrong. When you came in, I thought you looked fine. But now that I’ve had a better chance at you, I see you ’re not well. Tell me about it.”

“ It’s nothing.” He made an attempt at a smile. “ Just growing old, I guess.”

Her gaze grew acute with a compelling sympathy. “ Tell me about it, Georgie.” Again her girl’s voice rang imperiously in her brief order. “ I want to know every word of it.”

He gave a short, embarrassed laugh. “ Oh, I don’t know that there’s anything to tell, Jo. It’s just as I said; I’m growing old. Not growing old. I am old. I’m done. I would n’t admit it to myself, but it’s come upon me at last. Why, up to three months ago, I felt young — ”

His voice grew querulous as his indignation with his own impotence flowed into it.

“ I felt young with the best of them. Oh, I don’t say as young as twenty, but, certainly, as young as forty. Young, at least, as that first great change. You know, the one that comes about forty? ”

She nodded.

“It’s an awful blow — that feeling. A man would n’t go on after forty if he did n’t find capabilities in himself that take the place of the things that have passed. I did find them — plenty of them. It was my second wind. I could do things that I did n’t know it was in me to do. Things that seemed so big to me that I never regretted my youth. And, as sure as I live, I never had another feeling of that sort until three months ago. Then it all came over me like a flood.”

She nodded again. But she did not speak. She listened, tense.

“ It’s been awful — awful — this last three months. Why, Jo, I have no more interest in my work than you have. I, who have always been so proud that I seemed to keep my standing after younger men had gone out — that I’ve held my own with boys. For a month I’ve been trying to make myself close with an offer some British Columbia people have made me. And Jo — this is God’s truth. I want to do it. It’s a big piece of work — it would be the rounding-out of my career. I want to do it. How I want to do it! But, before God, I can’t. I can’t make myself. I’m as weak as a sick cat. I’m all in. I’m a dead one. I’m old and done, and I wish I were out of it.”

She had been following this confession with a look growing from interest to intense concentration. But, strangely enough, she punctuated the last of it with smiles of comprehension, not with the tears that, the moment he stopped, he was regretfully fearful of drawing; with little bird-like nods of her head; with sudden, half-inarticulate twitters of sympathy.

” Oh, I know all about it,” she said in a burst, catching it up with his last word. “ I know so well. Why I’ve been through it all myself, within two years. Georgie, listen to me. It began three years ago, after Willie went to Buenos Ayres. Willie and I had planned that I was to go to Seattle to live with Mark’s wife, or come on here to Boston to be with Marion, either or both as I pleased. But suddenly something came over me and I could n’t get up the gumption to do either. I wrote Mark and Marion that I’d come later; and although I put them off and put them off, I don’t think either of them suspected what I went through in those two years. I look back upon it now, and wonder how I lived through it. I shut myself up in the big San Francisco house, and never went anywhere and never saw anybody. Often I thought I was going to die. I had moments when I wanted to kill myself. I got the idea in my head that I was so old I was no use to anybody and that the best thing to do was just to stay there and die. But Georgie — ” She paused and her voice lowered impressively as if she were about to give him the inner secret of this spiritual crisis : —

“ I never lost my feeling that I wanted to go on if I could only make myself. And then, one morning last spring, I woke up — and everything had changed in the night. That awful depression and melancholy had gone. What it was, or how it came, or why it went, I shall never know. But gone it was. And how different I was! — I felt as light as a flame. My body was old — I had to take care of that — but my spirit could move mountains. Why, Georgie, I felt young. And yet, it was n’t youth either. I had n’t the strength of youth, but I had something else. I knew I could go on. Do you know what I did ? That very day I sat down and wrote Mark that I’d come up to Seattle for the summer and fall, and Marion that I’d come here for the winter. And then what do you suppose I did ? ”

Amusement at her own action brought back an old-time radiance to her smile.

“ I just went right out and bought me all the clothes I could think of — Why, I got a regular trousseau — silk gowns, laces — jewels, even.” Her hands made unconscious parade of their diamonds. “ Why, I had let myself go until I was positively shabby — and worse. I made up my mind that Paul and Marion should n’t be ashamed of me. I made up my mind that I was going to be as well-dressed as I knew how until I died.”

Her smile faded a little.

“ But ever since that experience I’ve been trying to study it out. And this I know, Georgie. There’s a kind of youth in old age that young people know nothing about. Or, at least, there’s no such thing as old age so long as you want to go on. If you’ve got the instinct to go on, the strength will come. You just wait for the impulse. It will come. I’m sure of it. I know, as well as I know my name, that you’ll have to take that British Columbia job. You’ll have to. Old age has nothing to do with the spirit. Some people are old at twenty because they’ve given up wanting to go on. Some are born old — they never wanted to go on. But you ’re young at sixty-nine because you still want to go on. And you will. I know it.”

George Daly woke up Christmas morning with a laugh on his lips. The laugh came at the end of a wonderful dream that burst like a bubble in his memory even as he tried to recall it. But, thinking hard, he seemed to catch a flittering glimpse of it,— enough to know that its scene was the Red Slipper Aline. Of course it had evolved out of Jo Jackson’s talk. How she had talked that jolly two hours that closed the evening he spent with her! The wit of her! The joy of her! The sheer charming femininity of her! How she had talked — it was really more wonderful how she had laughed. It came to him now — the secret of her strange vitality. It was not of the flesh, but of the soul; the energy that in her tempestuous youth leaped high, sank low, had changed to spirit; it burned in clear, bright flame, a steady, deathless thing.

Flashes of her reminiscences came back to him. She had recalled everything from the moment she struck the camp — the wonder of the redwoods and the rain shooting down in silver files between their straight boles; her surprise at the doorless cabins; her delight in the reception that the shy, overawed, dazzled men had given her — to the day, long after, when she went away with Peter. Then the comedies of the life into the queenship of which she had so easily slipped! Why, she had remembered every last foolish bear-story of its history. He had forgotten them all. Even about that inquisitive bruin who had broken into a flour-barrel and, driven out of camp, lumbered along the trail, a ghostly figure that shed a tangible aura. He roared at the picture. And then the gossip she had collected! She seemed to know what had become of everybody. She had kept on the track of each one of her subjects, following him as long as he was in sight, with her interested sympathy. Oh, the stories she had told him! He recalled one after another. He laughed again.

The sound of this third burst of laughter waked him completely. Waked him to much more than the new day. Waked him to a sense of a new feeling. He felt happy. He felt strong. He had sloughed off his old mood completely. Why, he felt young! He wanted to do something. His muscles tingled with strength. His eager spirit quested the future, looking for its opportunity. He could do anything. Oh, thank God, the British Columbia offer was still open. He’d do that last big thing yet. Jo Jackson’s words came back to him. “ There’s no such thing as old age as long as you want to go on.” He wanted to go on now. His mind was hungry for its old problems. His very fingers itched.

A knock at the door interrupted. It was a bell-boy. “ The lady in 811 went away this morning,” he said, “ but she told me to be sure and give you this, Christmas.”

From the extended hand, Daly took a narrow bundle, done up in white tissuepaper, tied with red Christmas ribbons, stuck with red Christmas berries. He opened it eagerly. It gleamed red as he unfolded it, but he did not guess what it was. From the last covering dropped into his hand a tiny slipper.

Of satin, faded and scarlet, of a quaint cut and curve, with a ridiculous, narrow, high heel — he knew it at once.

She had sent him the Red-Slipper luck. She had sent him Peter Rumwill’s luck. Tears came to his eyes. He smoothed it with a tender hand, recalling many things. And he marveled, pondering how much that delicate girl-thing had had to do with the course of his life. But whatever it had done for the past, it was going to do more for the future. It seemed to symbolize to him that new hold on life and ambition which she had breathed into him. He sat for a long time holding it.