Grace Louise (Smith) 1866-1959 Richmond.

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"The Brown Study," "A Court of Inquiry," "The In-

difference of Juliet," "Mrs. Red Pepper," "Red Pe-

per Burns," "Red and Black," "Red Pepper's

Patients," "Strawberry Acres," "The Second

Violin," "Round the Corner in Gay

Street," "Twenty-fourth of June,"

"Under the Country Sky," etc.


Publishers New York

Published by arrangement with Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc.
Printed in U. S. A.
































HEN on one blustering afternoon
m late March Professor Mark
Fenn came into the dingy old
college book-shop which was one
of his favourite haunts, he passed
by the magazine stand in a hurry,
though it was thick with all the
newest April publications and
vivid with their colour. His mind
was upon a certain row of book-
shelves in the dimmest part of the
back of the shop, where he had
yesterday discovered rich treasure.
Almost an hour later, when he had
decided, rather against his judg-
ment but wholly according to his
inclination, to purchase the full
tale of seven books which he
needed to complete a special group
in his collection, he passed the
magazine stand again, and this
time he halted. He had caught
sight of the name of Mary Fletcher,
emblazoned in large letters upon
the cover of The Centrepiece.


He put down his book and picked up the magazine, frown-
ing a little. Why should Mary be writing for The Centre-
piece ? He ran hastily through the pages he didn't have to go
far, for the story he sought was well toward the front, as Mary
Fletcher's things always were. He glanced at the opening
lines yes there it was the delightful, sparkling style which
flashed at you from the cold print with the first distinctive
paragraph. There were the exquisite illustrations her editors
never gave Mary anything but the best, these days.

Mark Fenn fished a dingy quarter from his pocket, waved
it at Booth, the old bookseller just now occupied with an-
other customer and placed it on the magazine stand. He
folded the bulky Centrepiece in the middle and stuffed it into
his overcoat pocket, picked up his package of books, and left
the shop.

When Harriet Fenn came down the street from the High
School where she held a teaching position, toward the little
old brown house where she and her brother lived together,
she saw the light in his study window which proclaimed that
he had reached home before her. At this time of year she
was quite sure to see that cheerful light shining from the two
lower front windows, the shades undrawn Mark never in
the world thought of shutting out the passers-by, though the
house lay so close to the street. Although Harriet's first
move when she came in was to go and twitch the shabby old
dark-red curtains together, jealous of intrusion, she was al-
ways glad Mark hadn't done it before her. That welcoming
light made all the difference to a weary school-teacher, the
presence of whose one brother in the old house kept it home
for her, as she was sure her presence did for him.

Mark didn't hear her come in he seldom did. She liked
to let herself in quietly and steal to the door of the square,
low-ceiled study, its walls lined from floor to ceiling with
books, in all sorts of bookcases. From year to year Mark had


extended his ever growing collection, more eager as to the con-
tents of the shelves than as to the beauty or uniformity of the
shelves themselves. Yet the result was not inharmonious;
somehow one forgot the motley character of the containers in
wonder and pleasure at the wealth of the collection itself. Not
that there were many fine bindings though here and there
one shone out richly; but there were rows upon rows of
those volumes in sober dress which speak of serious uses, and
which must make the backbone of any worthy library.

The Professor of Psychology at Newcomb College had
not thrown himself, as usual, into the dingy old study arm-
chair which he was wont to seek when he first came in after
the labours of the day. Neither had he taken the spindle-
backed chair which served him at his desk it had been his
father's before him. He was sitting on the edge of his desk,
hat shoved back, overcoat still on, his legs braced to hold
him steady, while he read with absorption from a popular

Harriet's affectionate eyes studied her brother's sturdy
figure for a long minute before she spoke. She was un-
doubtedly prejudiced in his favour, yet there was undeni-
ably something attractive about his looks. His was no
pale, scholastic, spectacled presentment of a being who
might have been normal if he hadn't developed his mind at
the expense of his body. Mark was thoroughly the mature
young athlete in his general aspect; his colour was healthy,
his lean, well-cut features were markedly interesting; dis-
cerning gray eyes looked out below straight brows, and the
firm lines of a very good mouth suggested both poise and
authority. He was several years older than Harriet, who
had herself been teaching for some six years since she left
college, though with her fair hair and girlish figure she by
no means looked as far along in the twenties as the records
declared her.


"It must be a pretty interesting story, to keep you from
undoing a package of new books," she observed, at length.

Mark looked up, met her scrutinizing eyes with the queer
one-sided smile which she knew of old to speak not entire
agreement with the proposition stated, and returned to his

"Dead tired, Harry?" he inquired, absent-mindedly.

"As usual. What else could I be after a week of mid-
year examinations? Never mind it's Friday night; and
I've brought home oysters for supper."

"Good!" But he was still absent-minded.

She came close and looked over his shoulder for a min-
ute or two. "Oh, by Mary Fletcher," she observed. "The
girls were talking about it to-day."

Since it was the last page of the story, the name of the
author was not in sight. Harriet had judged by internal
evidence; she had caught the characteristic original style
which was always to be recognized.

Mark read the last paragraph and dropped the magazine
upon his desk, where with its gay cover it lay incongruously
among its austere surroundings.

"Is it good?" Harriet asked, taking off her hat and running
ordering fingers over the pale-coloured masses of her hair.
"Oh, such a day! My whole grade has been positively on
wires, every minute. As a result I'm on a wire-edge to-
night, myself. Is the story good, Mark ? "

"It's Mary Fletcher," her brother responded, enigmat-
ically. "Neither more nor less. After a year of war-writing,
from France, I thought it might be more."

"Her war articles were very fine, I thought. So did you.**

"This is fiction."

"I'll read it, by and by. A Mary Fletcher story on Fri-
day night will make me forget all my troubles."

"There's no possible doubt of that," he admitted.


A hot ayster stew on a March Friday night is also,
for people who have been teaching all the week, a stimulant
for tired nerves. When Harriet Fenn had washed and put
away the supper dishes, and sat down at last in her brother
Mark's big shabby armchair beside the low study light, she
was in a mood to enjoy the relaxation which is one of the re-
wards of labour. She picked up the magazine, looking it
through, turning its pages with lingering fingers. At the other
side of the room Mark was crowding a row of books unmerci-
fully to make space for a thick volume from the opened
package upon his desk. Harriet glanced across at him, regard-
ing his profile against the dark background of the books.

"Mark, you look more like Father every day," she ob-
served, "and act like him. He was never happy till he'd
put a new book in its place. Not that he had many -com-
pared with you. How he would open his eyes at this room!
You must have doubled trebled the number he had."

"I'm afraid I have. Where I'm reckless in buying, he'd
have denied himself. I wish he hadn't. I wish I could
show him these I've brought home to-night."

Brother and sister instinctively looked up at the one pic-
ture the room contained a dark portrait hung above the
chimneypiece, with rows of books pressing close on either
side. Even on the chimneyshelf, below the portrait, two
uneven rows of small volumes were lined up, no further space
being available for their peculiar size. The portrait looked
down at the pair below steadily, with a kindly, fatherly gaze
from warmly human eyes, yet with a suggestion of severity
showing in the lines of the lips and the prominent chin.
Though such a father might condone faults in his children he
would be likely to deal harshly with the same faults in him-
self. It was preeminently the portrait of a scholar but,
unless every aspect of him misled, the man himself had been
greater than his own learning.


"You do resemble him more and more," Harriet said again.
"I'm glad of that. There never was anybody like him
except you."

"I'm not a particle like him. I don't deserve to be called
his son. I lost my temper at least five times to-day. In
my place he would have kept his absolutely; and had twice
the influence over the offenders."

"Just the same you're like him," Harriet persisted.
"And he'd have been glad to have you buy all the books you

"Do you realize," Mark said, with sudden vehemence,
"that my slim salary to-day is exactly double the biggest
he ever had, in the very last years of his life? And that at
the present outrageous scale of salaries! No wonder he
couldn't buy books except by going without meat which
he did, bless him. I wouldn't take ten times their cost for
that little old first collection of his. Do you see I've put
them all together again, in his first bookcase that he made
himself? There's the library of a scholar for you two hun-
dred and seventy-three books with the autograph of David
Matthew Fenn in every one of them. I'd like to show that
library to Mary Fletcher," he added, with sudden stern-
ness, "and tell her to study it and learn to write!"

"To write, Mark! Why, I thought you thought "

Harriet looked distinctly puzzled. Her gaze fell to the maga-
zine in her hand. Her fingers turned the pages till they came

to the story. "And, Behold " was its singular title.

She looked up again. "It looks delightful," she temporized.

"It is delightful." Mark turned again to the portrait.
"Father used to prophesy big things for her. I wonder what
he'd say to her now."

"Why, Mark! Has she lost? I've heard you say her
style was inimitable."

"It is. And her technique is perfect. But "


Harriet cried out sharply, interrupting him. "Why,
here's a picture of Mary! Did you see it? just over the
leaf. 'Mary Fletcher since her return from war-work in
France' Oh, isn't she lovely?"

Mark came across the room to look over her shoulder.
"My word she is!" he agreed.

"Lovely and full of fire as she always was. Just a
little older naturally." Harriet went on commenting,
studying the face before her. "But one wants her to be
and she's only the more interesting."

The photograph showed a face which might well challenge
attention, being not merely that of a decidedly attractive
young woman but of one whose intelligence and spirit were
clearly to be counted upon. There was something unusual
about the face; the eyes were those of a poet and dreamer,
yet the mouth suggested a sense of humour, and the firmly
rounded chin more than declared that its owner possessed
will and energy in plenty. The poise of the head with its
carefully ordered wealth of dark hair, the clear-cut curve of
neck and shoulder, spoke of one who held an assured posi-
tion. Altogether the somewhat prolonged contemplation
which both brother and sister gave this presentment of one
whom they had long known but had not seen much of late
could hardly be wondered at. Nobody who had ever known
Mary Fletcher could fail to be impressed at sight of this
latest view of her; it showed what life is capable of building
upon the foundation of a promising girlhood, such as Mark
and Harriet remembered.

" I beg your pardon " A pleasant, low voice spoke depre-

catingly. "You didn't hear the knocker, and I ventured in.
It's raining, and the wind blows right across your front porch.*'

Harriet sprang up, dropping the magazine. "Oh, do come
in, Miss Sara. No, we didn't hear you the wind's blowing
so. Let me take your wraps."


It was the Fenns' next-door neighbour, Miss Sara Graham.
She came in smiling, a slender, aristocratic little figure of a
middle-aged woman, with a scarf of fine blue silk tied about
her carefully arranged gray hair, a richly fur-lined cape
slipping from her shoulders. Harriet took charge of cape
and scarf, while Mark pushed the old armchair nearer the
smoking logs in the narrow little fireplace, and gave a bracing
poke to them which resulted in a freshly leaping blaze.

"I'm so very happy over some news of mine, I wanted to
come over and share it with you." Miss Graham drew a
letter from her little beaded handbag. "I knew you were
always interested in my niece's plans, and this one seems to
me very wonderful for me, and I hope for her."

With Harriet in the spindle-backed desk chair, waiting
with eager curiosity, and Mark leaning an elbow on the
chimneypiece shelf as he stood on the hearth-rug, poker
still in hand, the visitor read aloud a paragraph from the
long typed letter of many sheets.

"'Somehow I'm bitten with the hungriest desire to get back to
your blessed old home and your blessed young self.'

" You know Mary's extravagant way of putting things,"
Miss Graham interpolated, with a deprecating little laugh.

"'And I know of no place in the whole wide world where, it now
seems to me, I can better pull my vagrant thoughts and self
together, and make them do a respectable day's work. The book
the book I want to write my first real book, after all these vola-
tile short stories and the collections of them which don't really
count as books at all, you know that's all I can think of. And
now that I'm back from France, somehow I can't seem to settle
down here in the little old apartment, even with my dear Alexandra
Warren. Girls and men are always dropping in, and there are
theatres and supper parties without end something everlastingly
doing, and it's impossible to keep out of it, even on the plea of


work. Somehow it doesn't seem real life any more though before
I went across I thought it the only real life! I want to come back
to that jolly big room you always gave me. Did you know I used to
climb out from the west window, catch that long branch of the old
larch, and swing down to the porch roof, from which it was only a
long jump into the middle of your verbena bed ? No wonder you had
so much ill luck with your verbenas, those summers! And I want
to sit on the old cross-stitch footstool with the bits of arms, almost
in your big fireplace, in your adorable drawing-room with its old
mahogany and its portraits, and its samplers in frames, and its
cabinets of East India treasures ' "

Miss Graham broke off, glancing down the page. "The
child goes into such raptures over my plain old home," she
explained. "I'll find the place where she "

"Oh, please don't leave out the raptures," Harriet begged,
all the tired lines gone out of her pleasant face with the
interest of listening. "We like to hear every word Mary
ever wrote, you know. She writes so differently from other
people, even in her letters. Why, we were just reading her
last story, to-night, and talking of her." Harriet glanced at
her brother and bit her lip, remembering suddenly what
Mark had said or hadn't said but had implied, in criti-
cism of Mary. "We haven't really seen anything of her
since long before she went to France. It must be why
all of four years."

"She says it's five." Miss Graham was still turning over
the closely typed thin sheets, with their many dashes and the
unconsciously consistent paragraphing of the trained writer.
"It is three since her father and mother died, and she hadn't
been here for two years, at least, before that."

There was no change of tone in her quietly natural allusion
to the greatest tragedy of her own life. Mary Fletcher's
father and mother Mrs. Fletcher was Miss Graham's sister
had been killed together in a motor accident while trav-
elling in Italy. Dr. Fletcher had been the distinguished head-


master at Stevenson, a famous private school for boys. It
was from her girlish life in this school that Mary had come to
spend her summers with her aunt in the near-by small
college town. It had been her mother's home until her mar-
riage, and so by every association it was natural that Mary
should look upon it with affection.

"Oh, this is what I specially wanted you to hear," Miss
Graham went on, her face brightening again. She read with
a smile touching her delicate lips.

"'It seems to me, Aunt Sara, that if I could just live a perfectly
simple, rational life with you, for one whole year can you bear it to
have me that long? go to bed at ten o'clock [I can't fancy it!]
have grapefruit and coffee and 'Liza's jolly little old graham -rolls
in the morning, go for long tramps, and perhaps well have
Harriet Fenn and Professor Mark in, now and then, in the evenings,
by way of dissipation'" Harriet laughed out at this, and Mark
grinned darkly, in the shadow above the fire "'I could, perhaps,
after a while, give myself to serious work. I never can do it here,
now that I'm sure of. I really can't describe to you how it has
suddenly all palled upon me. For one whole year I don't want my
flowers out of a florist's shop, I want to pick them in your garden.
May I come, may I may I?"

"When will she come?" Harriet asked, understanding that
the matter was already settled. The light in Miss Graham's
face told that. What must it not mean to her to anticipate
having her quiet life enriched for a whole year by so delight-
ful a companionship as that of this still youthful yet challeng-
ingly mature personality ? Already Harriet could almost see
Mary running out of the austerely dignified white house with
its tall pillared porch to cross the lawn, leap the low hedge,
and dash into the little brown house next door, full of some
news or plan with which to startle her more staid neighbours.
Or would Mary conceivably have changed and be no
longer a hedge-leaper? She had been through much en;


larging experience since the Fenns had known her; would she
be somehow removed from them, even though, as her letter
suggested, she should "have them in, now and then by way
of dissipation"? Just what did Mary mean by that? Was
it a bit of a jeer at their quiet manner of life in the old college
town ? Harriet wondered.

"She gives me barely time to get her room in order," Miss
Graham declared happily. "And the piano must be tuned
she stipulated that. She wants to know if you've kept up
your practice on the 'cello" Mark shook his head regret-
fully "and says she must have music if she is to write. It
all sounds as if she were precisely her old what is the word
used so much these days ? her old temperamental self "

"Don't say it!" Mark fairly interrupted, a frown of
impatience crossing his brow. " Of all modern excuses for
intemperance and irrelevance and general idiocy that's the
worst. An author of her class is old enough to stop being
'temperamental' in her work and out of it and become
rational in her work and out of it. I want to see her do

Miss Graham stared up at him, not quite comprehending
his ferocity, and a little hurt, though she was used to his
abrupt statements, and knew well enough that his friendship
for her and for Mary herself was not to be questioned.

"Don't mind him," Harriet said quickly, as Mark picked
up the magazine which contained Mary's story. "He's
rather a bear to-night. The week's work has been heavy."
She shook her head warningly at her brother. But Miss
Graham had recognized the magazine and was reminded
of something in Mary's letter which she hadn't read to the

"Oh," she said, "Mary spoke of that. Have you read it?
I haven't yet. She calls it I think the word was
'punk'/" She spoke the unaccustomed syllable with a wry


little twist of her lips. "She said when I'd read it I should
know why she needed a year with me. Fm sorry I didn't
suppose Mary would ever write anything unworthy!"

"She hasn't." Harriet was quick in defense. "I haven't
read it myself, yet I know it isn't unworthy. Perhaps it
isn't her best all that she's capable of "

Miss Graham looked up with almost pleading in her blue
eyes at Mark, who had been standing with his arm upon the
chimneypiece, below the portrait of his father. He had
rather suddenly stiffened; the likeness to the face above
stood out strikingly.

"If she knows it's punk," he said, in answer to her un-
spoken question, "and if she's coming off up here to get away
from the temptation to keep on writing punk, there's hope
for her. Get her here, as soon as you can and if you'll
take my advice, don't coddle her too much. I'm not sure
I should tune the piano for her!"

"Why, Mark!" Harriet was smiling, yet she was a little
worried, lest he hurt the gentle lady for whom they both
cared so much. "I think it would do you yourself good to
get out the old 'cello and play with her. Only yesterday
you were planning to take me in town for a concert. You
said you were starved to hear some good music!"

"I certainly never used that word," denied her brother r
evidently nettled, the colour rising a little in his cheek.
" Starved' s not a word of mine, thank the Lord! Mary uses
it three times in one short story. Emotionalism over-
emphasis I've no use for 'em." He looked at Miss Gra-
ham, and his frowning brows smoothed somewhat. "I'm
afraid I am a grouch to-night," he admitted. "It's really
great news you bring us, neighbour, and we shall be glad to
see your Mary again, be she never so scornful of our limi-

"Scornful? I think she feels she needs limitations," said


Harriet Fenn, with one of the flashes of interpretation which
sometimes surprised her brother. "She's been having so
much, doing so much, experiencing so much; she wants to get
away where it's quiet and she can think it over. How can
one wonder! With all her success so much praise so
much vogue; and then this last year and a half abroad,
writing all those wonderful articles, in the midst of all the
excitement and tension. No wonder she wants to collect
herself. And this is just the place! I'm so glad she's

"I will tell her you say so." Miss Graham laid the sheets
of the letter together, the flush on her cheeks deepening as
she rose to go. "She really thinks very much of you both, I
know. And you will be good for her. Do you know, at the
bottom of it all, I think Mary is just a little tired? She
wrote so much, worked so hard, all the while she was over
there, she must need a real rest. It will give me great happi-
ness to look after her. Independent as she is, I know she
misses her father and mother."

The little dignified speech, so like the finely bred, sweet-
spirited woman who made it, brought Mark forward with a
quick word of apology.

"Forgive me, so she does, Miss Sara. She shall have the
best we can give her. Please tell her so, from me. I sus-
pect the matter with me is that I'm jealous of that mar-
vellous ability of hers and jealous for it, too that she shall
do the thing she's capable of and that she hasn't done

When Harriet had escorted her visitor to the door, and

Online LibraryGrace Louise (Smith) 1866-1959 RichmondFoursquare → online text (page 1 of 26)