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among the young men and boys in the works.
It is mighty hard for the church to get hold
of the young men of Heathfield while such
places are running full blast." There was a
slight tremor as of increased weakness in the
voice.

Glee heard a little whistle ; the tune was
from "CavalleriaRusticana"; the whistler, she
perceived from the sound, was moving leisurely
about the room.

" I am not interested in social reform
affairs, myself, Mr. Holt. Odd, isn't it ?
There is such a fad in that direction nowa-
days. And you see I leave all matters con-
nected with rents and leases wholly to my



52 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

good Mr. Miller. An excellent man, exceed-
ingly capable and conscientious. You may
have met him ? "

In every syllable Glee recognized the inflex-
ible, unapproachable coldness of the great mill-
owner on his hard, business side, thinly
disguised though it was in careless courtesy.
With a woman's piercing intuition she knew
that Compton's words were acting like a
bodily injury to the other man in his physical
prostration. She perceived, moreover, that a
great hope might have met its mortal wound
in that brief space.

Silence fell, but only for an instant, for
there was a sudden crash, the rattling of
chessmen rolling over the floor, a startled ex-
clamation from Compton :

" Come quick, somebody 1 "

Then Glee, entering with swift steps, saw
in the deep bay-window behind an overturned
chess-table, stretched half across a sofa's end,
the big, gaunt frame of a young man with a
white, unconscious face. In the middle of the
room Compton stood staring helpless.



THE LITTLE FIEND 53

" Hang it all ! " he said, startled out of
his customary elegant carelessness. "Why
couldn't the fellow have said he was getting
played out ? Oh, it's you, Glee ! Good !
Can't you pour something on his forehead ?
By Jove, I never saw a man collapse like that
before ! "

*###*##

Glee's eyes ran like lightning over the
serried ranks of neatly labelled bottles on a
chiffonier hard by. Mechanically she had
already taken in the bare hospital-like preci-
sion and * emptiness of the chamber, trans-
formed from its former and familiar luxury of
decoration and furnishing. Even in that flash
she noted that there was not a flower in the
room ! By the time that Compton had lifted
Holt's trailing limbs to the sofa and disposed
his head on a flat pillow, she was at his
elbow, a bottle of spirits of ammonia in her
hand.

She poured a few drops of the fluid into her
palm and bathed the sick man's forehead, then
getting frightened at the persistent rigidity of



54 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

his face, she began to tremble a bit and hastily
poured a copious flood of the pungent spirits
upon head and brow and temples. The fumes
penetrating his nostrils, Holt stirred slightly,
and weakly opened his eyes. Catching sight
of the unfamiliar outline of a dark, curly
head just above him he essayed a well-meant
smile. But as he lifted his eyelids the gener-
ous rivulets of ammonia which were trickling
down his temples and forehead found a dozen
channels by which to enter his eyes, with the
result that in an incalculably brief interval the
man was in the clutch of a fiery torment.

Compton and Glee turned pale as they saw
the convulsive action with which the poor
fellow pressed both hands upon his eyeballs,
his head rolling from side to side on the pil-
low, his limbs stiffened with the intolerable
anguish.

" Oh, Larry ! " groaned Glee, " what have I
done ? Run quick and telephone father.
Can't we get the nurse ? Call Clara. Fly ! "

Compton fled to the telephone, while Glee
stood for a moment beside the sofa, her con-



THE LITTLE FIEND 55

sciousness almost annihilated at the effect of
her own blundering carelessness. Had she
put the man's eyes out?

He was stiller now : great drops of sweat
stood out on his forehead, which like his
hands was seamed with heavy cords suddenly
brought to the surface. Glee was satisfied
that he was almost beyond consciousness again.

In a desperation which produced a sudden
calmness, the girl procured a bowl of ice
water from Clara, who, with white, scared
face, had entered the room. Below, the tele-
phone bell was being rung furiously.

Taking her own gossamer handkerchief
Glee knelt now by the sofa, and with a
hand of gentle, remorseful pity bathed the
fiery eyeballs with the ice water. Presently
she could see that she was bringing some
small measure of relief. A long, low groan
escaped the fiercely compressed lips, and then
in a moment came with a certain grim humor
the words:

" Keep it up ! "

As she continued the icy applications Glee,



56 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

for all her wordless misery, noted Holt's
rugged, though emaciated, face and frame ;
the strong cheek bones, so prominent now ;
the hollow cheeks below ; the square dogged
chin ; the powerful athlete's throat and chest ;
the muscular, clenched fists lying now across
his breast, telling, more than his face, their
story of what he suffered.

Little by little his sense of things was
returning. Plainly, being effectually blind-
folded, he took her for his nurse.

" Thank Heaven you have come," he mur-
mured faintly.

" What little fiend poured that fire
into my eyes ? " he asked in another moment,
with slow, difficult utterance. There was
silence.

" What did he do it for f " came with
a certain amazed patience.

Scalding tears were rolling down Glee's
cheeks as she whispered, " He was a horrid
fiend, but he is dreadfully sorry now."

He ought to be," was the sententious re-
sponse. " I am."



THE LITTLE FIEND 57

There was a fresh paroxysm of pain in
which he pushed Glee's hands intolerantly
away, and for all his will to be silent moaned
in the maddening torment. Then, as if in
penitence, he grasped her hands again and
held them fast against his eyes, murmuring,
" Such good hands kind hands what a
comfort to get you back you will never go
away again will you ? "

" Never," lied Glee under her breath, with
tearful alacrity.

" May the Lord preserve me from the
tender mercies of that fiend henceforth
and what comes next ? "

"And even forever," prompted Glee, sub-
missively.

" Amen," groaned Murray Holt.

The minutes seemed endless to them
both, each with its own mastering pain to
bear. But now came a most surprising
question :

Did they like the flowers ? "

Glee, speaking wholly at random, mur-
mured, " Oh, so much ! Delighted ! "



58 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

" That's good luck, anyway. I hope some
more have come?"

"Oh, yes," she replied, eager to tell the
truth, for which her chances just now seemed
so few. " The loveliest roses and orchids you
ever saw."

" Great ! I would send them, to-morrow,
to those Ship Street folks will you?"

"Yes, indeed."

Glee understood the flower business and a
certain mysterious basket carried by the nurse
on her afternoon walks better now ; likewise
the bare and unadorned chamber of " the
pampered parson." Fresh compunction visited
her. "Oh dear," she moaned, forgetting her-
self, " I shall certainly die of a guilty con-
science."

Holt now for the first time detected the
fact that this was not his nurse's voice. He
tried to open his eyes, but they were gently
compressed by a bandage held fast by a firm,
light hand.

Glee heard her father's step on the stairs.
Her heart bounded. She sprang to her feet.



THE LITTLE FIEND 59

" Who in the world is this, anyway ? "
muttered Holt, holding fast in his iron grasp
the small hand which still lay across his
eyes.

"The doctor is coming," whispered Glee.
" You will be all right now."

" I don't care about the doctor," was the
curt reply. Who is the nurse ? "

Still silence ; Glee standing holding his
eyes prisoners, and he, her hand.

Then, unnerved by all that she had under-
gone, and seeing in spite of herself instinc-
tively the comic side of the situation, the girl
broke out into a fit of rippling, irresistible
laughter.

" Who are you ? " cried Holt, imperiously,
when her brief laughter ended, as it was
bound to do, in fresh tears.

Doctor Cushier was approaching the door.
Compton at his side was telling him the sorry
tale.

" I am, oh, I am the fiend himself ! " mur-
mured Glee, wresting her hand from his
grasp.



60 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

" I believe you ! " was the hearty response,
and Holt threw both long arms blindly out
in an involuntary, boyish movement to catch
and capture his bewildering tormentor. But
she had fled from the room.



CHAPTER VI

CHECK

A WEEK passed. The cause and causer of
his painful accident remained enveloped in
puzzling uncertainty to the Reverend Murray
Holt.

Glee had met her father in the hall as she
fled unseen by Holt from the sickroom, and
had bound him over, as also Mr. Compton, to
silence concerning her part, lot, and presence
in the affair. The only explanation, there-
fore, given the patient was that he had
fainted while alone with Mr. Compton, and
that "one of the girls in the house," whom
he had called in to assist him, in her fright
and inexperience, had been careless in using
the restoratives. Unwilling naturally to em-
barrass his kindly and hospitable host by
further inquiries Holt had promptly dropped
the matter there. He could not, however, so

61



62 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

promptly banish it from his mind. The
double identity of that mysterious person,
who seemed to be at once his mischievous
destroyer and his tender nurse, ceased not to
give him food for provoking conjecture.
Echoes of that piteous, girlish wail, but vaguely
distinguished, " I shall die of a guilty con-
science ! " of that mocking, inconsequent, irre-
pressible laughter which followed ; the touch
of light, firm fingers on his burning brow and
eyes ; the shape of a delicate wrist held hard
in his own hand; the last half-smothered
murmur, " I am the little fiend himself ! "
all these fragments of that scene of confusion
recurred persistently to his mind in the slow,
summer days through which he sat with
bandaged and burning eyes.

The general devotion to the sufferer had
been redoubled. Mrs. Cushier and the doctor
had attended upon him assiduously ; Compton
had offered his service for blindfold chess
games with obliging and slightly remorseful
good-nature, while his sister Cecil had atoned
by unremitting attentions for her inability to



CHECK 63

sit with him on the day of his accident. Her
daily readings became established, and Mrs.
Cushier, in her acute sympathy for the sufferer
who had been so cruelly dealt with by some
member of her family, she could not learn
whom, waived her ingrained dislike to Cecil's
close companionship with the pastor and re-
pressed all inclination to cavil. She could
not, however, quite repress a sigh when
Cecil's tall, graceful figure in its perfection
of spotless summer raiment swept each after-
noon up the stairs to her graceful and be-
coming task, while Glee, cold, unresponsive,
and apparently indifferent, went about her
own personal avocations all unmoved.

Mrs. Cushier did not desire Glee to become
seriously interested in the young clergyman ;
the "pleached alley," led in quite another
direction, but with the instinct of maternal
jealousy she did not enjoy seeing another
bearing away a meed of gratitude and ad-
miration which should naturally have fallen
to her child.

As for Glee, she had become enigmatic to



64 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

her kinsfolk and acquaintances. Her father
and Compton alone held the key to her condi-
tion. The radiant brightness of her face had
vanished along with her gay and piquant merri-
ment. She grew pale and languid ; an anxious
little pucker had taken up its dwelling-place
between her dark eyebrows ; while her eyes in
their glassy weariness often seemed to speak
of long night-watches. For the fact was that
beneath her apparent coolness Glee was con-
sumed with anxiety for Murray Holt and
the consequences to him of her wretched
blunder.

However, the days brought speedy ease from
pain, and rapid healing, so that in a week, his
strength now almost recovered, and only weak-
ness of vision left apparently as trace of his
accident, Holt dismissed his nurse and pre-
pared to depart from his pleasant haven. The
doctor, however, insisted upon his remaining
two or three days longer, that he might keep
a close watch on his eyes.

The nurse being gone, Holt, as a declaration
of independence, announced that he should



CHECK 65

come down for the first time to luncheon
that day.

" At last, Glee, you will have to meet
your pastor," said Mrs. Cushier, hovering over
the lunch-table and adjusting certain details.
" Who could have believed that that blessed
man could have spent four weeks in our house
and you never once have seen his face ! And
how many little services you might have ren-
dered him ! Look at Cecil ! She has made
herself absolutely indispensable to him."

" Absolutely."

Glee spoke dryly and without interest.

Luncheon was served.

Tall, angular, his gray suit hanging loosely
on his shrunken limbs, his hollow cheeks half
hidden by the big green shade which wholly
concealed his eyes, Holt entered the room.

Mrs. Cushier hurried forward to greet him
and conduct him to his place. Glee, with
her cold, trembling hands clasped tight, her
eyelids fluttering, moved mechanically for-
ward.

"My daughter, Miss Cushier, Mr. Holt.



66 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

Strange, is it not, that you should never have
even seen each other until now ? "

" A little strange perhaps," was Holt's reply,
a tinge of coldness in his tone. The fact that
to the daughter of his host his long sojourn
in the house had been unwelcome had not
escaped him.

Glee extended her hand. She did not speak
at all. It was true in a sense that she never
had seen the man himself until now. His
height, his careless distinction and half-awk-
ward but wholly unconscious dignity, his for-
mal courtesy, the manifest traces of his much
suffering came upon her as a strange and sud-
den revelation. Through his physical weak-
ness, the rugged homeliness, even through the
slight stiffness of his manner, she felt the man-
hood of the man in a degree inexplicable and
even oppressive. Once before in that fleeting
glimpse of his face at the window she had
discerned somewhat of his spirit.

Meanwhile Murray Holt was wondering
where lay the charm for which he had so
often heard Miss Cushier was distinguished.



CHECK 67

Throughout luncheon she hardly spoke, and,
luncheon over, excused herself at once as she
had engaged to ride with Laurence Compton,
and the horses would be brought around
presently.

Half an hour later Holt was reclining in a
big leather chair in the Cushiers' darkened
library, listening to Cecil Compton's well-
modulated voice as she sat sweet and sympa-
thetic in her exquisite lilac lawn frills, and
read aloud from Henry George's "Progress
and Poverty," which she privately considered
arrant nonsense. Through the green Venetian
blinds he idly watched the saddle-horses as
they were held by Compton's groom on the
gravel walk before the side entrance ; Compton
stood beside them. He heard Glee's light step
in the hall, and the sound of an opening door.
Then she appeared outside. She was no longer
wan, cold, and unresponsive as he had seen
her at luncheon. The little pucker had left its
place between her brows, and her eyes were full
of light and merriment. He saw her white
teeth as she laughed saucily in answer to some



68 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

challenge of Compton's ; he noticed what he
had not taken in at luncheon, the spirited
grace of her figure, the charming contour of
her curly head. Why did this last percep-
tion give him a teasing sense of intimate
previous knowledge? It was doubtless one
of those baffling, sub-conscious tangled threads
which lead nowhere.

He watched the mounting, oblivious for the
moment to the claims and merits of single
tax, and as he saw the girl erect, dainty and
gleeful, sitting her horse with firm and gallant
grace, responding in roguish repartee to her
companion, he said to himself : " How com-
pletely it transforms that girl to be in her
lover's presence ! She is another being."

Cecil Compton, detecting his diverted atten-
tion, dropped her book and rose to peep
through the long bars of the blind.

" Larry and Glee ? " she questioned softly.
Oh, yes. Don't they look happy ? That is
one of those life-long attachments, Mr. Holt.
They have grown up together and for each
other, you know."



CHECK 69

Holt nodded with courteous but colorless
acquiescence. Plainly the affairs of Miss
Cushier and Mr. Compton did not deeply in-
terest him. Cecil took her book and read
on.

Two days brought marked increase of
strength to Holt, and such betterment to his
eyes that he was able to go out on the
veranda when the sun was not too bright,
and to lay aside the awkward green shade.

Meanwhile, calls and tributes increased at
a positively alarming rate. The nurse hav-
ing departed, and the secret of his disposal
of his floral offerings to "the submerged
tenth " through her being scrupulously kept
by Holt, and at least politely ignored in the
Cushier family, an embarrassing congestion
had ensued.

" Tuberoses have now set in ! " remarked
Glee, with a plaintive sigh as she slipped a
large, just-delivered cluster of odorous stalks
into a tall glass on the hall table, " and con-
fectionery. And there is no outlet. We-are-
having-a-sweet-time ! " the last sentence in a



70 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

droll staccato, after the fashion of a college
refrain she had brought back with her.

It was afternoon.

Mr. Holt was closeted with her father in
his private study. Her mother was just de-
scending the stairs, dressed to pay visits.

" Never mind, my dear," she said pensively
as she reached the floor, "you will not be
troubled much longer. You know Mr. Holt
is going to-morrow."

" Yes, mamma," Gladys cheerfully assented.

Just then Doctor Cushier opened his door
and came down the hall, addressing them
both with some casual affectionate comment.
"Where is Mr. Holt?" asked his wife.

" He has gone out on the veranda, I think."

"Are his eyes doing all right, Doctor?"
and his wife stopped on the doorstep. " You
have been giving them a last looking over?"

" Possibly not a last," said the doctor, mus-
ingly. " I am not quite satisfied with the
look of things to-day."

"Why, papa?" asked Gladys, quickly.

" It seems," said the doctor, slowly, " that



CHECK 71

some years ago Holt had serious trouble with
the right eye which has been stirred up again
by this inflammation, and there possibly may
be left a very slight scar on the cornea."

" What does that mean ? " asked the girl.

"Well," returned her father, deliberately,
" it may mean, if it cannot be removed, that
he will ultimately lose the sight of one
eye."

" Oh, Doctor ! " cried Mrs. Cushier, in great
concern. I never dreamed of such an out-
come as that, did you ? "

"I never dream."

Does Mr. Holt know it ? " asked Glee,
quickly.

" Oh, yes," was the almost impatient re-
ply. " You don't have to blink things with
a man like Holt."

Then after a slight pause, with a touch
of tenderness and a suppressed sigh :

" He is a mcwi, Gladys." Then moving to
his wife's side he said : " May I have a seat
in your trap, Laura ? I am going to try to
reach Earle by wire to-night. Do you know



72 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

whether they are up in the Catskills or still
in town ? "

"In the Catskills, I think. I had a note
from Marie last week dated there."

With this the doctor and his wife left
the house together. Mrs. Cushier's pleasant
face bore a disturbed expression, but Gladys,
left standing alone midway of the hall, looked
as if she were stricken to the heart.



CHAPTER VII

CONFESSOR AND PENITENT

ON the railing of the veranda, at the rear
of the house, which was thickly screened
with wistaria and woodbine, Murray Holt
sat in a careless attitude engaged in the pro-
saic occupation of whittling a piece of soft
pine wood.

Seeing Gladys Cushier coming toward him
around the corner of the house he hastily
stood and looked around at the litter he
had made upon the floor with a half-apolo-
getic smile.

" It is a terrible mess, isn't it ? " he said
ruefully, "but if you'll tell me where to
find a broom, Miss Cushier, I'll clear it off
all right. I can sweep splendidly."

" Oh, for pity's sake, Mr. Holt," cried the
girl in the sharp stress of her agitation, " don't
talk to me about brooms and shavings ! "

73



74 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

" Very well," was the quiet reply, no sur-
prise apparent at her evident excitement ; " if
you prefer, we will talk about the housing
of the poor, always an interesting subject,
or about the tariff reform

" ( The time has come,' the walrus said,

' To talk of many things ;
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings,' "

he added, repeating the quotation with an
oddly whimsical smile, and slipping back
into his place on the railing.

" Yes, the time has come," murmured poor
Glee in a half-smothered voice, to talk of
many things things which should have been
talked of long ago."

Struck by the sudden, wholly unusual
thickness in her voice, which seemed to
bring with it a pungent smell of aromatic
spirits of ammonia, and a small hand pressed
upon his eyes, Holt looked steadily and won-
deringly at the girl.

" You have a lively habit of rapid trans-
formation," he was thinking within himself.



CONFESSOR AND PENITENT 75

For the Miss Cushier who stood before him
was neither the coldly constrained daughter
of the house with whom he had established
simply a, civil acquaintance during the past
two days, nor the merry, merry maiden of
whom he had had occasional glimpses as she
came and went with Compton and others,
her familiar friends.

The girl who stood confronting him with
dark, dilated eyes had a face all white save
for a burning spot on each cheek, her scarlet
lips were parted and trembling, and her small
hands were clasped and pressed hard against
the buckle of her belt. Plainly, some ex-
traordinary event had drawn her wholly out
of herself.

".I have come to make a confession," she
said now, distinctly, but with a small, dry
sob under her breath.

" Oh, don't, I beg ! " remarked Holt, smil-
ing good-naturedly. The confessing type of
young womanhood in its relation to its spirit-
ual adviser was one with which he was al-
ready but too familiar, to his sorrow. " Take



76 HOLT OF HEATHFIELD

any shape but that, Miss Cushier, since so
many seem to be at your disposal ! I don't
hear confessions."

Glee looked into his wounded eyes with
searching directness. They were clear and
unclouded to her sight. Could she find in
them any knowledge of the full variety and
range of her identity ? It was impossible
to decide. Furthermore, their expression
was simply one of good-humored amusement
without the smallest suggestion of any tragic
or emotional experience such as she had
fancied him to be suffering at this hour.

What a twist Fate had given things ! Here
was she, the critical and cavilling Glee Cushier,
on her knees in spirit before this fancied
pampered, and posing egoist, as a tearful,
over-excited, remorseful suppliant before a
coldly indifferent judge! Verily she would
have liked at the moment to have had it out
with Fate for serving her such a trick !

And the most curious part of the situation
to Glee was that she seemed never to have
encountered a man so little pampered, so little



CONFESSOR AND PENITENT 77

posing, so little an egoist ! As he sat there
on the railing, sandy-haired and freckled,
with his long legs and his whittling he looked
singularly like an overgrown, rather jolly, and
altogether unsubjective schoolboy ! And at
this juncture, when he ought, according to
her theory of him, to have been wholly given
over to melancholy and heroics !

All the more for this her fierce penitence
drove her to persist in her determination.

" You will have to hear mine ! " she cried,
her voice trembling. " It is shameful of me
not to have made it before. I thought I
couldn't."

" If you are bent on this unhappy exercise,
Miss Cushier," said Holt, with ironical gravity,
rising and crossing the veranda, "at least
allow me to give you a chair," and he drew
a light bamboo rocker to her side.

Apparently failing to notice either his re-
mark or action in her strong preoccupation,
the girl moved to one of the stout pillars up-
holding the veranda roof, and braced herself
with her head tipped backward against it, her


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