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perpetual motion or a scheme for harnessing the sun?"

"A fool thing a man left here the other day; wanted
me to tell him why it didn't work. It doesn't work
because there's no sense in it.".

As he began to explain why the device was im-
practicable she snatched off his hat and flinging it
aside with a dramatic flourish handed him a sand-

"Don't waste your time on such foolishness; we're
only interested in machines that work!"

She sprang upon the bench and produced Trenton's

"Let your eye roam over that, old topi And don't
tell me you've let somebody take those things away
from you."

Durland pondered the letter, lifting the business
sheet closer to his eyes as he examined Trenton's
small neat signature. He walked to a closet and ex-
tracted some papers from the confused mass within.

"Well, daddy, what's the answer?"

"I got those patents all right; they cover my im-
provements on my old gas engine Cummings is mak-
ing. There's already been a fellow nosing round ask-
ing about 'em; from Cummings I guess. I got some-
thing now that's going to interest everybody that's
making motors; something I been working at two or
three years. Cummings can't have 'em. He hasn't
got any right to 'em! "

His eyes flashed as his hatred of Cummings for the
moment possessed him. Grace had never taken
seriously her father's hints that Cummings might have
got rid of him too soon. She had never before seen
him so agitated. He paced the floor, reiterating that
his former associate should never profit by his im-


provements on any of the old Cummings-Durland de-
vices. He paused, picked up an apple and bit into it

"Now, daddy," said Grace, "it isn't at all like you
to flare up that way. Mr. Trenton hasn't a thing to
do with Cummings; I happen to know that. But he's
a business adviser and particular friend of Kemp."

"Kemp!" Durland repeated, lifting his head with a
jerk. "You think maybe Kemp's interested? Kemp
could use these patents; there isn't a thing in these
improvements that wouldn't fit right into Kemp's

"That's perfectly grand! Now that you've got your
patents, what you want to do is to sit back and wait.
There must be something pretty good in your ideas or
Mr. Trenton wouldn't be interested. Wouldn't it be
wonderful if the dollars would begin to roll in?"

"I've been fooled a lot of times, Grace," he an-
swered, picking up his hat, staring at it as though it
were an unfamiliar thing and clapping it on his head.
"I guess you better not say anything about this at
home. If it doesn't come to anything I don't want
your mother disappointed."

"Of course not; it's our big secret, daddy. I just
love having secrets with you. After the row at home
the other night about Mr. Trenton's niece we'd better
never mention him."

"What was that all about, Grace?" he asked frown-
ing. "I didn't get what Ethel was drivin' at."

"Just making herself disagreeable, that's all. I
told a fib, but Ethel had no business to attack me
that way before guests."

"Ethel's kind o' different somehow," he said, draw-
ing the back of his hand across his mouth. "I guess
she means all right. Funny, you children ain't any


of you alike," he went on ruminatively. "I don't
ever seem to get much out o' Ethel and Roy."

"Roy and Ethel are both fond of you, daddy. And
you know I adore you; I'm simply crazy about you!"

She pounced upon him and threw her arms about
his neck, laughing at his struggles to avoid the kisses
she distributed over such parts of his face as were
free of grime.

"You're a mighty fine girl, Grace. There mustn't
anything happen to you," he said, freeing himself.

"Oh, you needn't be afraid, you dear angel ! Noth-
ing's going to happen to me! Here's where I skip
vamoose disappear! I'm going to take you to a show
tonight yes, I am! You be awfully surprised when
I spring it at supper."


Trenton wrote again that he would reach town at
noon of Christmas day and expected to remain a

"Why didn't you tell me Ward's been sick?" asked
Irene when Grace told her that he was coming.
"You're certainly the secretive little one."

"How did you know it?" Grace demanded. "You
and Tommy made up?"

The girls were putting up stock at the end of the
day and quiet reigned over the department, broken
only by the voices of gossiping employees.

"I've been dying to tell you something all day,"
said Irene holding up her hand on which the emerald
had been restored to it's old place. "Yes; Tommy told
me about Ward."

"Well "

"Oh, I've just taken him back on trial," said Irene


with a sigh. "Poor Tommy! Minnie got me up to her
apartment last night for supper and who should walk
in but Tommy! He swore that girl in Chi didn't
mean anything in his life. He saw her just once when
he had dinner with her and some other people; he was
careful to mention the other people! I believed him
even if he had denied the whole business on the tele-
phone. Tommy looks terribly pathetic. He's going to
die if he doesn't check up. His wife's gone to Cali-
fornia for the winter, and he's drowning his sorrow in
too much booze. Another victim of prohibition!
^Tommy's one of the million who didn't know he had
ito have it till they took it away from him!"

"Well, I'm glad you've fixed it up. It's much nicer
to be friends with him."

"Just a friend, that's all," replied Irene, slowly
shaking her head. "The poor boy really needs some-
body to keep him straight. From what he said his
wife went away in disgust. Why don't these women
stay at home and look after their husbands and not
leave the job to us poor working girls!"

"Irene, you're a perfect scream! Don't make me
laugh like that or we'll never get this stuff put away."

"It's not a laughing matter," said Irene, maintain-
ing her tone of lofty indignation. "I can tell you right
now that a woman who parks her husband's taking
an awful chance."

Before they separated Irene warned Grace that
Kemp had it in mind to drive them with Trenton to
The Shack Christmas afternoon.

"He wanted us to have dinner out there but I told
him nothing doing. I'd promised to play with my
family and besides I can't let him think I'm forgiving
him too easy."



On Christmas morning as Grace was helping in the
kitchen John Moore called her on the telephone. He
had moved to town the day before and thought it
would be fine if they could ride to the end of one of the
trolley lines that afternoon and take a tramp. Grace
excused herself with the plea that she already had an
engagement to go to a matinee.

She sang about her work, watching the clock to
mark the approach of the hour of Trenton's arrival.
His coming would bring a crisis in her life. The ex-
change of gifts in the household, the cheer all the
members of the family were trying to bring to the day
and the train of associations the festival inevitably
awakened touched her; but not as in other years.
There was a difference now. She stood free, self-
assured, confidently seeing in life a great adventure.

As quickly as possible after dinner she flew to her
room to dress, and at half past two reached Minnie
Lawton's, where she found Irene waiting.

"Tommy took Ward to The Shack from the train.
They had dinner out there. Tommy's car's waiting,
so we'll prance right along."

Grace was disappointed at not seeing Trenton at
Minnie's and on the drive to The Shack talked little.

"You either don't want to see him at all, or you're
consumed with anxiety," commented Irene.

Kemp had given her a thousand dollar bond for a
Christmas present. Her acceptance of the gift she
mentioned without apology. She was going to save
her money, she said in her spacious manner; a girl
who didn't put away something for a rainy day was
a fool.

The car was stopped suddenly just inside the


entrance to Kemp's farm and Trenton smilingly
opened the door.

"Merry Christmas! Tommy refused to leave the
fire! the poor old salamander! But being of tougher
fibre, here I am to meet you!"

His unexpected appearance had found Grace un-
prepared and she was grateful for the moment his
banter with Irene gave her to adjust herself. He stood
with head bared, the wind ruffling his hair. The
astrakan collar of his overcoat, turned up about his
neck, set off effectively his handsome head and high-
bred face. He was indubitably handsome, a man to
be noticed in a crowd. Grace felt a new pride in the
knowledge that he loved her. She laughed at some
mocking reply he gave Irene and found his gaze upon
her, the grave eyes all tenderness.

"For heaven's sake, get in, Ward!" exclaimed Irene.
"You'll catch your death standing there."

"I'm going to live forever ! Grace, are you shod for
a walk? Then we'll let Irene drive on!"

He led the way to a point where the driveway
skirted a woods-pasture, and opened a gate. The
sense of strangeness at being with him again passed
quickly as he began answering her questions about his
illness. He declared that he was too well-seasoned
to be killed by a cold. And besides he had found
that he had something to live for, and that made a
difference. A year before he would have relinquished
his life without regret; now through her he had found
the hope and the promise of life.

"I couldn't bear the idea of going indoors until I'd
had you all to myself a little while."

The trees rose tall and black against the bluest of
winter skies. A southwest wind whined fitfully
among the boughs overhead. Grace felt the power of


elemental forces in her blood. She was a free spirit
in a world where the children of men were created of
all time to be free. Through what Trenton was say-
ing and her replies this thought was dominant. It
lifted her to a mood of exaltation; it seemed that she
could touch the heavens with her finger tips. A
branch of brier caught her skirt and Trenton was
quickly on his knees to free it. He looked up into
her face before he rose and she touched his cheek with
her hand, lightly and caressingly.

"I make you my true knight," she said. "Arise,
Sir Ward!"

He rose and took her in his arms.

"Oh, my dearest! This is worth waiting for; this is
worth living for!"

"You are so dear," she whispered; "you are so won-

"Have you missed me; have you really thought of
me?" he asked. "Do I really mean something to

"Not something, but everything!"

There was a sob in her throat. She clung to him,
laying her cheek to his face, calling him by endearing
names that were new to her lips. "Sometimes I
doubted you, dear. When I didn't hear from you I
thought you'd forgotten; and it hurt me so!"

"I understand how that would be," he said ten-
derly. "I'd have let you know if there'd been any
way. I was afraid to ask my friends to telegraph; it
would have involved explanations."

"I only want your forgiveness. I'll never doubt
you again, dear!"

"We must have faith in each other; we must trust
each other," he said. "You know I'd trust you round
the world."


She clasped her arms about his neck and held him
in a long kiss to seal his faith in her. As they went
on she told him about Bob Cummings and the visit
to McGovern's.

"It was to give myself a chance to forget you. I
wanted to see if I could forget you. All that day I
had thought of you so steadily that I was unhappy.
I hated the thought of going home and sitting in my
room and thinking of you. Can you understand how
that would be?"

As she began the story in a tone that was half self-
accusation, half apology, he teasingly pretended to
make something tragic of it, but when he saw that it
was a matter of conscience with her to confess he has-
tened to make it easy for her. Assured that he saw
in the episode no disloyalty she gave every humorous
twist to the incident. He laughed till the woods rang
when she described the manner in which she had
slipped away from Cummings and taken the trolley

"I'm warned now," he said, "but don't you ever
try running away from me!"

"Oh, I don't know!" she cried. "I dare you to
catch me!" She vaulted the fence into a corn field
and alertly dodged him as he pursued her over the
stubble and among the shocks. She was fleet of foot
and easily outdistanced him. She ended the long
chase by hiding behind a shock and then as he
blundered about seeking her, she sprang out and flung
her arms about him.

"It's time to go to the house," he said, glancing at
the lowering sun. "Tommy threatened to have tea.
We'll take another way back; it's longer!"

"Isn't it too bad that things must end? I wish to-
day could last forever!"


"Let's think of it only as the beginning! Today I
refuse to think of anything disagreeable. I only ask
to be sure you belong to me."

"Oh, dear and splendid one, you don't question it!"
A smile played about her lips and her dark eyes were
afire. "I love you!" she whispered. "I love you! I
love you!"

The path they were following paralleled the highway
at this point and as they clung to each other a
man passed in the road, walking rapidly toward town.
He could hardly have failed to see their embrace.

It was John Moore, taking alone the tramp he had
asked Grace to share with him. He paused and
stared, lifted his hat and hurried on.


GRACE and Trenton had sprung apart as Moore
passed in the highway and they waited in silence un-
til the sound of his even step over the hard macadam
died away. The romp through the corn field had
lossened her hair and she began thrusting it back
under her hat. Trenton, straightening his tie, looked
the least bit crestfallen.

"Who was that?" he asked.

"John Moore, an awfully nice fellow I knew in
college. He's just moving to Indianapolis to go into
the law."

"There's no question but he saw us. It's so easy to
forget there are other people in the world 1 I hope his
seeing us won't embarrass you."

"Oh, John's all right," she replied. "The only em-
barrassment is that I fibbed to him about this after-
noon. He asked me to go walking, we did a lot of
tramping at college and I told him I was going to a

"Well, you were!" laughed Trenton; then with an
attempt at carelessness, "Is he a suitor?"

"Heavens, no! But I admire John as every one
does who knows him. He's a mighty good friend, and
the kindest soul in the world."

As they resumed their walk toward The Shack she
continued talking of John, Trenton manifesting a
sympathetic interest and asking questions to elicit
further anecdotes of Moore's varied activities at the



"He may be in love with you," he suggested. "You
see I can't help being just a little jealous of every
man you knew before you knew me."

"If John's in love with me he's very successful in
concealing it!" she laughed. "No; strange as it may
seem, he likes to talk to me and I'm proud of his
friendship. He does a lot of reading and thinking.
He's a fine character and you'd be sure to like him.
He's leaving the law school to go into Judge Sander's
office; the Judge has picked him for a winner."

"I know Sanders; he's Tommy's lawyer. I see
I'll have to keep an eye on Moore," he went on teas-
ingly. "I'm not sure he isn't likely to become a dan-
gerous rival!"

"I wish I were sure you could be jealous! Maybe
I'm jealous too! Hasn't that ever occurred to you?"

She was a little frightened at her temerity in asking
a question that was the crystalization of her con-
stant speculation as to his attitude toward his wife.
There flashed through her mind everything he had
said of Mrs. Trenton, which, to be sure, was very
little though the little required clarifying. She recalled
the apology in his St. Louis letter for having spoken of
Mrs. Trenton at all. In that first talk at The Shack
he had led her to believe that his wife gave him wide
liberty to do as he pleased ; but it was conceivable that
a woman might indulge her husband's acquaintance
with women she did not know and was not likely to
meet without sanctioning infidelity. Grace had per-
suaded herself that there was a distinct difference be-
tween entering into a liason with a man who still main-
tained martial relations with his wife and one who did
not. She was vastly pleased with the moral perception
that showed her this. And she was confident that she
had the will to dismiss him if his explanation of the


modus vivendi that existed between him and his wife
should prove to be unsatisfactory.

The cowpath they were traversing made it neces-
sary for them to walk singly and he went ahead, hold-
ing back the boughs that hung over the trail. For a
few minutes she thought he meant to ignore her ques-
tion but suddenly he stopped and swung round.

"I know what you're thinking of," he said quietly.
"You're thinking of Mrs. Trenton."

He pulled a twig from a young maple and broke it
into tiny bits. Grace wondered whether this trifling
unconscious act might not symbolize the casting aside
of such slight ties as bound him to his wife.

"Yes, I've thought of her a great deal. You couldn't
blame me for that."

"No; that's wholly natural," he said quickly. "You
wouldn't be the woman I know you to be if you didn't.
You have a right to know just what my relations are
with my wife. I'll be frank about it. I loved her
when I married her and I believe she loved me."

There was an appeal for sympathy in his eyes, a
helplessness in his tone that was new to her knowledge
of him. It was as though the thought of Mrs. Trenton
brought a crushing depression upon him. Jealousy
yielded to pity in her heart; she was touched with
something akin to maternal solicitude for his happi-
ness. But she wished to know more; the time had
come for an understanding of his attitude toward his
wife and of Mrs. Trenton's toward him.

"Does love really die?" she asked almost in a
whisper. "If you two loved each other once how can
you tell whether the love is dead or not?"

"It's the saddest thing in the world," he said, smil-
ing in his tolerance of her ignorance, "that love can
and does die. Mrs. Trenton and I meet rarely now;]


but our estrangement came about gradually. I admit
that the fault has been more than half mine. In every
such case there's always fault on both sides. When
I saw that her interests were carrying her away from
me, and particularly after she began to be a public
character through her writing and lecturing, I might
have asserted myself a little more strongly let her
know that I wanted her and needed her even if the
first passion was gone. But you may laugh at this
I had old-fashioned ideas that didn't square with her
new notions of things. I wanted children and a home
of the traditional kind. Possibly it was in my mind,"
he smiled wanly, "that I expected my wife to bring my
slippers and mother me when I was tired. All men are
babies, you know; but all women don't understand
that. Probably there's where the trouble began. And
I found myself more and more alone as Mrs. Trenton
got deeper into her reform work. She likes the excite-
ment of moving about and stirring people up. I think
she even enjoys being criticized by the newspapers.
I'm a peaceful person myself and can't quite under-
stand that. We still keep a house in Pittsburgh but I
haven't seen Mrs. Trenton there for a long time. I
doubt whether she any longer considers it her domicile.
When we've met it's been by accident or where I've
made the opportunity by going to some place where
she was lecturing. The breach has widened until
we're hardly more than acquaintances. She's said
that if I ever found a woman I thought I'd be happy
with to be frank about it. It may be in her mind to
free me if I ask it. I don't know. And that's the

"You don't you're sure you don't love her any
more?" Grace asked, uttering the words slowly.

"No"; he answered meeting her direct gaze with a


candor that was a part of his charm for her. "That's
all over. It was over before I met you But I sup-
pose, after a fashion, I'm still fond of her; she was
always interesting and amusing. Even as a girl she'd
been a great hand to take up with new ideas. When
the suffrage movement developed she found she could
write and speak and I saw less of her to a point where
we began an existence quite independent of each
other. I want you to be satisfied about this; if there's
anything you want to know "

"No; I believe you and I think I understand. And
I'm sorry very sorry for your unhappy times. I
wish "

"Yes, dear "

"Oh, you're so fine; so kind, so deserving of hap-
piness! I want so much to help you find it. I want
to be of real use to you. You deserve so much of

"But do I deserve you!" he asked softly.

She answered with a look all eloquent of her love,
and kissed him.

When they reached the house they found Irene and
Kemp in the living room engaged in a heated argu-
ment over Irene's preemption of a bottle of whiskey
which she had seized to prevent his further consump-
tion of the contents.

"Take it, Ward!" Irene cried, flinging off Kemp's
hold upon her arm and handing the bottle to Trenton.
"Tommy's had too much. I'm going to take him

"Gimme tha* bottle; gotta have another drink,"
blurted Kemp, lunging toward Trenton.

"Not another drop!" said Trenton, passing the bot-
tle to Grace, who ran with it to the dining room and
told Jerry to hide it. Kemp, caught in Trenton's


arms, drew back and stared, grinning stupidly in his
befuddlement at the legerdemain by which the bottle
had eluded him.

"Tommy's a naughty boy," said Irene. "He's nasty
when he's drunk. Hands off ! " she cried as Kemp again
menaced her. "Don't you dare touch me!"

"Not goin' home. Never goin' home. Coin' to
shtay right here," declared Kemp, tottering as he at-
tempted to assume an attitude of defiance.

The Japanese boy had brought in the tea tray and
was lighting the kettle-lamp.

"Everythin's goin' fine," Kemp continued, indicat-
ing the tray with a flourish. "Have nice chat over
teacups hiccups tea-cups joke, ha, ha! Guests
drink tea; host drink whisk key thass thirty year
ole, Ward. Can't change drinks; always makes me
sick change drinks. Where's tha' bottle?"

"You've spoiled everything by getting drunk," said
Irene viciously. "You're going home. You know
what you told me the other night at Minnie's. Your
doctor's warned you to cut out the booze or you'll die.
Your heart won't stand it."

Kemp turned toward her slowly, opening and clos-
ing his eyes in the effort to comprehend this statement.
He was very white; Trenton was watching him with
deep concern.

"Nothin' the matter with me. Jus' foolin' 'bout
doctor. Hadda get HP sympathy out o' Irene."

"I'll put you to bed, Tommy," said Trenton. "A
nap will pull you out of this."

"No y' don't, Ward, old man! Not slippy; not bit

"He's got a dinner engagement in town at seven
and I've got a date myself," said Irene. "I'll take
him home. The chauffeur will look after him. There's


no use letting him spoil the day for you and Grace.
You came out in the runabout, didn't you, Jerry? Jerry
can walk over to the interurban when he's ready to go
and you two can take your time about going in. You
can manage the runabout, can't you, Ward?"

"That's easy enough," Trenton replied, frowning in
his perplexity as he eyed Kemp, who had stumbled to
a chair where he sat breathing heavily. "But I don't
like your going in alone with Tommy."

Irene bent over Kemp and drew a phial from his
pocket. She shook out a tablet and placed it in his
mouth. The vigilant Japanese boy was ready with a
glass of water.

"Strych-ni-ah," explained Kemp with a drunken
grin. "How you come think o' that, Irene? First aid
'n all that sor' thing. Givin' me poison; thass wha'
she's doin'. Forgot I had tha' stuff in my pocket.
Awfu' funny. Doctor cut off whiskey and gimme rat
poison. Mos' singular. Mos' incomree in-com-pre-

He lay back in his chair and threw out his legs,
wagging his head as he laughed inordinately at his
lingual difficulties. When Trenton tried to feel his
pulse he good-naturedly resisted. He was perfectly all
right; never felt better in his life, he declared.

The question of his immediate return to town was
peremptorily settled by Irene, who rang for the car.

"His heart's certainly doing queer things," said
Trenton. "It would be better for us all to go in."

"Oh, he'll come out of it. It's nearly dark and I'll

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 17 of 27)