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The Little Red Chimney - Being the Love Story of a Candy Man
by Mary Finley Leonard
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THE LITTLE RED CHIMNEY



The Little Red Chimney

Being the Love Story of a Candy Man

BY MARY FINLEY LEONARD

Illustrations in Silhouette by KATHARINE GASSAWAY

New York—Duffield & Company—1914

Copyright, 1914, by DUFFIELD & COMPANY

* * * * *



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

In which the curtain rises on the Candy Wagon, and the leading characters are thrown together in a perfectly logical manner by Fate.

CHAPTER II

In which the Candy Man walks abroad in citizen's clothes, and is mistaken for a person of wealth and social importance.

CHAPTER III

In which the Little Red Chimney appears on the horizon, but without a clue to its importance. In which also the Candy Man has a glimpse of high life and is foolishly depressed by it.

CHAPTER IV

In which the Candy Man again sees the Grey Suit, and Virginia continues the story of the Little Red Chimney.

CHAPTER V

In which the double life of the heroine is explained, and Augustus McAllister proves an alibi.

CHAPTER VI

In which Margaret Elizabeth is discussed at the Breakfast Table; in which also, later on, she and Virginia and Uncle Bob talk before the fire, and in which finally Margaret Elizabeth seeks consolation by relating to Uncle Bob her adventure in the park.

CHAPTER VII

Shows how the Candy Wagon is visited in behalf of the Squirrel, and how pride suffers a fall; how Miss Bentley turns to Vedantic Philosophy to drown her annoyance, and discovers how hard it is to forget when you wish to.

CHAPTER VIII

In which the Miser's past history is touched upon; which shows how his solitude is again invaded, and how he makes a new friend.

CHAPTER IX

Shows how Miss Bentley and the Reporter take refuge in a cave, and how, in the course of the conversation which follows, she hears something which disposes her to feel more kindly toward the Candy Man; shows also how Uncle Bob proves faithless to his trust and his niece finds herself locked out in consequence.

CHAPTER X

In which the Little Red Chimney keeps Festival, and the Candy Man receives an unexpected invitation.

CHAPTER XI

In which a radical change of atmosphere is at once noticed; which shows how Miss Bentley repents of a too coming-on disposition, and lends an ear to the advantages of wealth.

CHAPTER XII

Which shows Miss Bentley recovering from a fit of what Uncle Bob calls Cantankerousness; in which a shipwrecked letter is brought to light, and Dr. Prue is called again to visit the child of the Park Superintendent.

CHAPTER XIII

In which the Candy Man relates his story, and the Miser comes upon Volume I of the shabby book with the funny name.

CHAPTER XIV

Shows how Mrs. Gerrard Pennington, unhappy and distraught, beseeches Uncle Bob to help her save Margaret Elizabeth; also how Mr. Gerrard Pennington comes to the rescue, and how in the end his wife submits gracefully to the inevitable, which is not so bad after all.

CHAPTER XV

In which the Fairy Godmother Society is again mentioned, among other things.



ILLUSTRATIONS

THE CANDY MAN

MARGARET ELIZABETH

VIRGINIA

DR. PRUE

UNCLE BOB

THE MISER

COUSIN AUGUSTUS

MRS. GERRARD PENNINGTON



* * * * *

To George Madden Martin

* * * * *



THE LITTLE RED CHIMNEY



CHAPTER ONE

In which the curtain rises on the Candy Wagon, and the leading characters are thrown together in a perfectly logical manner by Fate.

The Candy Wagon stood in its accustomed place on the Y.M.C.A. corner. The season was late October, and the leaves from the old sycamores, in league with the east wind, after waging a merry war with the janitor all morning, had swept, a triumphant host, across the broad sidewalk, to lie in heaps of golden brown along the curb and beneath the wheels of the Candy Wagon. In the intervals of trade, never brisk before noon, the Candy Man had watched the game, taking sides with the leaves.

Down the steps of the Y.M.C.A. building sauntered the Reporter. Perceiving the Candy Wagon at the curb he paused, scrutinising it jauntily, through a monocle formed by a thumb and finger.

The wagon, freshly emblazoned in legends of red, yellow and blue which advertised the character and merits of its wares, stood with its horseless shafts turned back and upward, in something of a prayerful attitude. The Reporter, advancing, lifted his arms in imitation, and recited: "Confident that upon investigation you will find everything as represented, we remain Yours to command, in fresh warpaint." He seated himself upon the adjacent carriage block and grinned widely at the Candy Man.

In spite of a former determination to confine his intercourse with the Reporter to strictly business lines, the Candy Man could not help a responsive grin.

The representative of the press demanded chewing gum, and receiving it, proceeded to remove its threefold wrappings and allow them to slip through his fingers to the street. "Women," he said, with seeming irrelevance and in a tone of defiance, "used to be at the bottom of everything; now they're on top."

The Candy Man was quick at putting two and two together. "I infer you are not in sympathy with the efforts of the Woman's Club and the Outdoor League to promote order and cleanliness in our home city," he observed, his eye on the debris so carelessly deposited upon the public thoroughfare.

"Right you are. Your inference is absolutely correct. The foundations of this American Commonwealth are threatened, and the Evening Record don't stand for it. Life's made a burden, liberty curtailed, happiness pursued at the point of the dust-pan. Here is the Democratic party of the State pledged to School Suffrage. The Equal Rights Association is to meet here next month, and—the mischief is, the pretty ones are taking it up! The first thing you know the Girl of All Others will be saying, 'Embrace me, embrace my cause.' Why, my Cousin Augustus met a regular peach of a girl at the country club,—visiting at the Gerrard Penningtons', don't you know, and almost the first question she asked him was did he believe in equal rights?" The Reporter paused for breath, pushing his hat back to the farthest limit and regarding the Candy Man curiously. "It is funny," he added, "how much you look like my Cousin Augustus. I wonder now if he could have been twins, and one stolen by the gypsies? You don't chance to have been stolen in infancy?"

This innocent question annoyed the Candy Man, although he ignored it, murmuring something to the effect that the Reporter's talents pointed to the stump. It might have been a guilty conscience or merely impatience at such flagrant nonsense, for surely he could not reasonably object to resembling Cousin Augustus. The Candy Man was a well-enough looking young fellow in his white jacket and cap, but nothing to brag of, that he need be haughty about a likeness to one so far above him in the social scale, whom in fact he had never seen.

The Reporter lingered in thoughtful silence while some westbound transfers purchased refreshment, then as a trio of theological students paused at the Candy Wagon, he restored his hat to its normal position and strolled away. On the Y.M.C.A. corner business had waked up.

For some time the Candy Wagon continued to reap a harvest from the rush of High School boys and younger children. Morning became afternoon, the clouds which the east wind had been industriously beating up gathered in force, and a fine rain began to fall. The throng on the street perceptibly lessened; the Candy Man had leisure once more to look about him.

A penetrating mist was veiling everything; the stone church, the seminary buildings, the tall apartment houses, the few old residences not yet crowded out, the drug store, the confectionery—all were softly blurred. The asphalt became a grey lake in which all the colour and movement of the busy street was reflected, and upon whose bosom the Candy Wagon seemed afloat. As the Candy Man watched, gleams of light presently began to pierce the mist, from a hundred windows, from passing street cars and cabs, from darting machines now transformed into strange, double-eyed demons. It was a scene of enchantment, and with pleasure he felt himself part of it, as in his turn he lit up his wagon.

The traffic officer, whose shrill whistle sounded continually above the clang of the trolley cars and the hoarse screams of impatient machines, probably viewed the situation differently. Given slippery streets, intersecting car lines, an increasing throng of vehicles and pedestrians, with a fog growing denser each moment, and the utmost vigilance is often helpless to avert an accident. So it was now.

The Candy Man did not actually see the occurrence, but later it developed that an automobile, in attempting to turn the corner, skidded, grazing the front of a car which had stopped to discharge some passengers, then crashing into a telegraph pole on the opposite side of the street. What he did see was the frightened rush of the crowd to the sidewalk, and in the rush, a girl, just stepping from the car, caught and carried forward and jostled in such a manner that she lost her footing and fell almost beneath the wheels of the Candy Wagon, and dangerously near the hoofs of a huge draught horse, brought by its driver to a halt in the nick of time.

The Candy Man was out and at her side in an instant, assisting her to rise. The panic swept past them, leaving only a long-legged child in a red tam, and a sad-faced elderly man in its wake. The Candy Man had seen all three before. The wearer of the red tam was one of the apartment-house children, the sad man was popularly known to the neighbourhood as the Miser, and the girl, to whose assistance he had sprung—well, he had seen her on two previous occasions.

As she stood in some bewilderment looking ruefully at the mud on her gloves and skirt, the merest glance showed her to be the sort of girl any one might have been glad to help.

"Thank you, I am not hurt—only rather shaken," she said in answer to the Candy Man.

"Here's your bag," announced the long-legged child, fishing it out of the soggy mass of leaves beneath the wagon. "And you need not worry about your skirt. Take it to Bauer's just round the corner; they'll clean it," she added.

The owner of the bag received it and the accompanying advice with an adorable smile in which there was merriment as well as appreciation. The Miser plucked the Candy Man by the sleeve and asked if the young lady did not wish a cab.

She answered for herself. "Thank you, no; I am quite all right—only muddy. But was it a bad accident? What happened?"

The Miser crossed the street where the crowd had gathered, to investigate, and returning reported the chauffeur probably done for. While he was gone the conductor of the street car appeared in quest of the names and addresses of everybody within a radius of ten blocks. In this way the Candy Man learned that her name was Bentley. She gave it reluctantly, as persons do on such occasions, and he failed to catch her street and number.

"I'm very sorry! I suppose there is nothing one can do?" she exclaimed, apropos of the chauffeur, and the next the Candy Man knew she was walking away in the mist hand in hand with the long-legged child.

"An unusually charming face," the Miser remarked, raising his umbrella.

To the sober mind "unusually charming" would seem a not unworthy compliment, but the Candy Man, as he resumed his place in the wagon, smiled scornfully at what he was pleased to consider its grotesque inadequacy. If he had anything better to offer, the Miser did not stay to hear it, but with a courteous "good evening" disappeared in his turn in the mist. An ambulance carried away the injured man, the crowd dispersed; the remains of the machine were towed away to a near-by garage. Night fell; the throng grew less, the rain gathered courage and became a downpour. There would be little doing in the way of business to-night.

As he made ready for early closing the Candy Man fell to thinking of the girl whose name was Bentley. Not that the name interested him save as a means of further identification. It was a phrase used by the Reporter this morning that occurred to him now as peculiarly applicable to her. The Girl of All Others! He rolled it as a sweet morsel under his tongue, undisturbed by the reflection that such descriptive titles are at present overworked—in dreams one has no need to be original.

Neither did it strike him as incongruous that he should have seen her first in the grocery kept by Mr. Simms, who catered to the needs of such as got their own breakfasts, and whose boiled ham was becoming famous, because it was really done. He went back to the experience, dwelling with pleasure upon each detail of it, even his annoyance at the grocer's daughter, who exchanged crochet patterns with the tailor's wife, after the manner of a French exercise, and ignored him. It was early and business had not yet begun on the Y.M.C.A. corner; still he could not wait forever. The grocer himself, who was attending to the wants of a lean and hungry-looking student, had just handed his rolls and smoked sausage across the counter, with a cheery "Breakfast is ready, ring the bell," when the door opened and the Girl of All Others came in.

She was tallish, but not very tall, and somewhat slight. She wore a grey suit—the same which had suffered this afternoon from contact with the street, and a soft felt hat of the same colour jammed down anyhow on her bright hair and pinned with a pinkish quill—or so it looked. The face beneath the bright hair was—— But at this point in his recollections the Candy Man all but lost himself in a maze of adjectives and adverbs. We know, at least, how the long-legged child ran to help, and finally went off hand in hand with her, and what the Miser said of her, and after all the best the Candy Man could do was to go back to the Reporter's phrase.

He had withdrawn a little behind a stack of breakfast foods where he could watch her, wondering that the clerks did not drop their several customers without ceremony and fly to do her bidding. She stood beside the counter and made overtures to a large Maltese cat who reposed there in solemn majesty. Beside the Maltese rose a pyramid of canned goods, and a placard announced, "Of interest to light house keepers." Upon this her eyes rested in evident surprise. "I didn't know there were any lighthouses in this part of the country," she said half aloud.



The Maltese laid a protesting paw upon her arm. It was not, however, the absurdity of her remark, but the cessation of her caresses he protested against. At the same moment her eyes met those of the Candy Man, across the stack of breakfast foods. His were laughing, and hers were instantly withdrawn. He saw her colour mounting as she exclaimed, addressing the cat, "How perfectly idiotic!"

He longed to assure her it was a perfectly natural mistake, the placard being but an amateurish affair; but he lacked the courage.

And then the grocer, having disposed of another customer, advanced to serve her, and the grocer's daughter, it seemed, was also at leisure; and though he would have preferred to watch the Girl of All Others doing the family marketing in a most competent manner, a thoughtful finger upon her lip, the Candy Man was forced to attend to his own business. In selecting a basket of grapes and ordering them sent to St. Mary's Hospital, he presently lost sight of her.

Once since then she had passed his corner on her way up the street. That was all until to-night. It seemed probable that she lived in the neighbourhood. Perhaps the Reporter would know.

Just here the recollection that he was a Candy Man brought him up short. His bright dreams began to fade. The Girl of All Others should of course be able to recognise true worth, even in a Candy Wagon, but such is the power of convention he was forced to own to himself it was more than possible she might not. Or if she did, her friends——

But these disheartening reflections were curtailed by the sudden appearance of a stout, grey horse under the conduct of a small boy. The shafts were lowered, the grey horse placed between them, and, after a few more preliminaries, the Candy Wagon, Candy Man and all, were removed from the scene of action, leaving the Y.M.C.A. corner to the rain and the fog, the gleaming lights, and the ceaseless clang of the trolley cars.



CHAPTER TWO

In which the Candy Man walks abroad in citizen's clothes, and is mistaken for a person of wealth and social importance.

The Candy Man strolled along a park path. The October day was crisp, the sky the bluest blue, the sunny landscape glowing with autumn's fairest colours. It was a Sunday morning not many days after the events of the first chapter, and back in the city the church bells were ringing for eleven o'clock service.

In citizen's clothes, and well-fitting ones at that, the Candy Man was a presentable young fellow. If his face seemed at first glance a trifle stern, this sternness was offset by the light in his eyes; a steady, purposeful glow, through which played at the smallest excuse a humorous twinkle.

After the ceaseless stir of the Y.M.C.A. corner, the stillness of the park was most grateful. At this hour on Sunday, if he avoided the golf grounds, it was to all intents his own. His objective point was a rustic arbour hung with rose vines and clematis, where was to be had a view of the river as it made an abrupt turn around the opposite hills. Here he might read, or gaze and dream, as it pleased him, reasonably secure from interruption once he had possession.

The Candy Man breathed deeply, and smiled to himself. It was a day to inspire confident dreams, for the joy of fulfilment was over the land. Was it the sudden fear that some other dreamer might be before him, or a subconscious prevision of what actually awaited him, that caused him to quicken his steps as he neared the arbour? However it may have been, as he took at a bound the three steps which led up to it, he came with startling suddenness upon Miss Bentley entering from the other side, her arms full of flowers. Their eyes met in a flash of recognition which there was no time to control. She bowed, not ungraciously, yet distantly, and with a faint puzzled frown on her brow, and he, as he lifted his hat, spoke her name, which, as he was not supposed to know it, he had no business to do; then they both laughed at the way in which they had bounced in at the same moment from opposite directions.

With some remark about the delightful day, the Candy Man, as a gentleman should, tried to pretend he was merely passing through, and though it was but a feeble performance, Miss Bentley should have accepted it without protest, then all would have been well. Instead, she said, still with that puzzled half frown, "Don't go, I am only waiting here a moment for my cousin, who has stopped at the superintendent's cottage." She motioned over her shoulder to a vine-covered dwelling just visible through the trees.

"Please do not put it in that way," he protested. "As if your being here did not add tremendously to my desire to remain. I am conscious of rushing in most unceremoniously upon you, and——"

Hesitating there, hat in hand, his manners were disarmingly frank. Miss Bentley laughed again as she deposited her flowers, a mass of pink and white cosmos, upon a bench, and sat down beside them. She seemed willing to have him put it as he liked. She wore the same grey suit and soft felt hat, jammed down any way on her bright hair and pinned with a pinkish quill, and was somehow, more emphatically than before, the Girl of All Others.

How could a Candy Man be expected to know what he was about? What wonder that his next remark should be a hope that she had suffered no ill effects from the accident?

"None at all, thank you," Miss Bentley replied, and the puzzled expression faded. It was as if she inwardly exclaimed, "Now I know!" "Aunt Eleanor," she added, "was needlessly alarmed. I seem rather given to accidents of late." Thus saying she began to arrange her flowers.

The Candy Man dropped down on the step where the view—of Miss Bentley—was most charming, as she softly laid one bloom upon another in caressing fashion, her curling lashes now almost touching her cheek, now lifted as she looked away to the river, or bent her gaze upon the occupant of the step.

"Do you often come here?" she asked, adding when he replied that this was the third time, that she thought he had rather an air of proprietorship.

He laughed at this, and explained how he had set out to pay a visit to a sick boy at St. Mary's Hospital, but had allowed the glorious day to tempt him to the park.

Below them on the terraced hillside a guard sat reading his paper; across the meadow a few golfers were to be seen against the horizon. All about them the birds and squirrels were busily minding their own affairs; above them smiled the blue, blue sky, and the cousin, whoever he or she might be, considerately lingered.

Like the shining river their talk flowed on. Beginning like it as a shallow stream, it broadened and deepened on its way, till presently fairy godmothers became its theme.

Miss Bentley was never able to recall what led up to it. The Candy Man only remembered her face, as, holding a crimson bloom against her cheek, she smiled down upon him thoughtfully, and asked him to guess what she meant to do when some one left her a fortune. "I have a strange presentiment that some one is going to," she said.

"How delightful!" he exclaimed, but did not hazard a guess, and she continued without giving him a chance: "I shall establish a Fairy Godmother Fund, the purpose of which shall be the distribution of good times; of pleasures large and small, among people who have few or none."

"It sounds," was the Candy Man's comment, "like the minutes of the first meeting. Please explain further. How will you select your beneficiaries?"

"I don't like your word," she objected. "Beneficiaries and fairy godmothers somehow do not go together. Still, I see what you mean, and while I have not as yet worked out the plan, I'm confident it could be managed. Suppose we know a poor teacher, for instance, who has nothing left over from her meagre salary after the necessary things are provided for, and who is, we'll say, hungry for grand opera. We would enclose opera tickets with a note asking her to go and have a good time, signed, 'Your Fairy Godmother,' and with a postscript something like this, 'If you cannot use them, hand them on to another of my godchildren.' Don't you think she would accept them?"

Under the spell of those lovely, serious eyes, the Candy Man rather thought she would.

"Of course," Miss Bentley went on, "it must be a secret society, never mentioned in the papers, unknown to those you call its beneficiaries. In this way there will be no occasion or demand for gratitude. No obligations will be imposed upon the recipients—that word is as bad as yours—let's call them godchildren—and the fairy godmother will have her fun in giving the good times, without bothering over whether they are properly grateful."

"You seem to have a grievance against gratitude," said the Candy Man laughing.

"I have," she owned.

"There are people who contend that there is little or none of it in the world," he added.

"And I am not sure it was meant there should be—much of it, I mean. It is an emotion—would you call it an emotion?"

"You might," said the Candy Man.

"Well, an emotion that turns to dust and ashes when you try to experience it, or demand it of others," concluded Miss Bentley with emphasis. "And you needn't laugh," she added.

The Candy Man disclaimed any thought of such a thing. He was profoundly serious. "It is really a great idea," he said. "A human agency whose benefits could be received as we receive those of Nature or Providence—as impersonally."

She nodded appreciatively. "You understand." And they were both aware of a sense of comradeship scarcely justified by the length of their acquaintance.

"May I ask your ideas as to the amount of this fund?" he said.

She considered a moment. "Well, say a hundred thousand," she suggested.

"You are expecting a large bequest, then."

"An income of five thousand would not be too much," insisted Miss Bentley. "We should wish to do bigger things than opera tickets, you know."

"There are persons who perhaps need a fairy godmother, whom money cannot help," the Candy Man continued thoughtfully. "There's an old man—not so old either—a sad grey man, whom the children on our block call the Miser. I am not an adept in reading faces, but I am sure there is nothing mean in his. It is only sad. I get interested in people," he added.

"So do I," cried his companion. "And of course, you are right. The Fairy Godmother Society would have to have more than one department. Naturally opera tickets would not do your man any good—unless we could get him to send them."

They laughed over this clever idea, and the Candy Man went on to say that there were lonely people in the world, who, through no fault of their own, were so circumstanced as to be cut off from those common human relationships which have much to do with the flavour of life.

"I don't quite understand," Miss Bentley began. But these young persons were not to be left to settle the affairs of the universe in one morning. A handkerchief waved in the distance by a stoutish lady, interrupted. "There's Cousin Prue," Miss Bentley cried, springing to her feet.

Hastily dividing her flowers into two bunches, she thrust one upon the Candy Man. "For your sick boy. You won't mind, as it isn't far. I have so enjoyed talking to you, Mr. McAllister. I shall hope to see you soon again. Aunt Eleanor often speaks of you."

This sudden descent to the conventional greatly embarrassed the Candy Man, but he had no time for a word. Miss Bentley was off like a flash, across the grass, before he could collect his scattered wits. He looked after her, till, in company with the stout lady, she disappeared from view. Then with a whimsical expression on his countenance, he took a leather case from his breast pocket, and opening it glanced at one of the cards within. It was as if he doubted his own identity and wished to be reassured.

The name engraved on the card was not McAllister, but Robert Deane Reynolds.



CHAPTER THREE

In which the Little Red Chimney appears on the horizon, but without a clue to its importance. In which also the Candy Man has a glimpse of high life and is foolishly depressed by it.

Starting from the Y.M.C.A. corner, walking up the avenue a block, then turning south, you came in a few steps to a modest grey house with a grass plat in front of it, a freshly reddened brick walk, and flower boxes in its windows. It was modest, not merely in the sense of being unpretentious, but also in that of a restrained propriety. You felt it to be a dwelling of character, wherein what should be done to-day, was never put off till to-morrow; where there was a place for everything and everything in it. Yet mingling with this propriety was an all-pervading cheer that appealed strongly to the homeless passerby.

The grey house presented a gable end to the street, and stretched a wing comfortably on either side. In one of these was a glass door, with "Office Hours 10-1," which caused you to glance again at the sign on the iron gate: "Dr. Prudence Vandegrift."

The other ell, which was of one story, had a double window, before which a rose bush grew, and when the blinds were up you had sometimes a glimpse of an opposite window, indicating that it was but one room deep. From its roof rose a small chimney that stood out from all the other chimneys, because, while they were grey like the house and its slate roof, it was red.

Strolling by in a leisure hour the Candy Man had remarked it and wondered why, and found himself continuing to wonder. Somehow that little red chimney took hold on his imagination. It was a magical chimney, poetic, alluring, at once a cheering and a depressing little chimney, for it stirred him to delicious dreams, which, when they faded, left him forlorn.

It was to Virginia he owed enlightenment. Virginia was the long-legged child who had fished Miss Bentley's bag from beneath the Candy Wagon, the indomitable leader of the Apartment House Pigeons, as the Candy Man had named them.

The Apartment House did not exclude children, neither did it encourage them, and when their individual quarters became too contracted to contain their exuberance, they perforce sought the street. Like pigeons they would descend in a flock, here, there, everywhere; perching in a blissful row before the soda fountain in the drug store; or if the state of the public purse did not warrant this, the curbstone and the wares of the Candy Wagon were cheerfully substituted. By virtue no doubt of her long legs and masterful spirit, Virginia ruled the flock. Under her guidance they made existence a weariness to the several janitors on the block.

As in defiance of law and order they circled one day on their roller skates, down the avenue and up the broad alley behind the Y.M.C.A., round and round, Virginia issued her orders: "You all go on, I want to talk to the Candy Man."

Being without as yet any theories, consistently democratic, she regarded him as a friend and brother. A state of society in which the position of Candy Man was next the throne, would have seemed perfectly logical to Virginia.



"You don't look much like Tim," she volunteered, dangling her legs from the carriage block. Her hair was dark and severely bobbed; her miniature nose was covered with freckles, and she squinted a little.

"No?" responded the Candy Man.

"Tim was Irish," she continued.

During business hours conversation of necessity took on a disjointed character. Unless you had great power of concentration you forgot in the intervals what you had been talking about. When a group of High School boys had been served and had gone their hilarious way Virginia began again. "You know the house with the Little Red Chimney?" she asked.

The Candy Man did.

"Well, a nice old man named Uncle Bob lives there, and I asked him why that chimney was red, and he said because it was new. A branch of a tree fell on the old one. The tree where the squirrel house is, you know."

The Candy Man remembered the tree.

"He said the doctor was going to have it painted, but he kind of liked it red, and so did her ladyship."

"And who might her ladyship be?" the Candy Man inquired.

"That's what I asked him, and he said, 'You come over and see,' and then he said—now listen to this, for it's just like a story." Virginia lifted an admonishing finger. "He said, whenever I saw smoke coming out of that Little Red Chimney, I might know her ladyship had come to town. You'd better believe I'm going to watch. And what do you think! I can see it from our dining-room window!" she concluded.

"Most interesting," said the Candy Man politely, without the least idea how interesting it really was.

Virginia's gaze suddenly fastened on a small book lying on the seat of the Candy Wagon, and she had seized it before its owner could protest. "What a funny name," she said. "'E p i c t e t u s.' What does that spell? And what made you cut a hole in this page? It looks like a window."

The page was a fly leaf, from which a name, possibly that of a former owner, had been removed. Below it the Candy Man's own name was now written.

"It was so when I got it," he answered, holding out his hand for it. He had no mind to have his book in any other keeping, for somewhere within its leaves lay a crimson flower.

Before she returned it Virginia examined the back. "Vol. I, what does that mean?" she asked, and without waiting for an answer she tossed it back to him, and ran to join the other pigeons.

From this time Virginia began to be almost as constant a visitor as the Reporter. She had a way of bursting into conversation without any preface whatever, speaking entirely from the fullness of her heart at the moment.

"I'd give anything in the world to be pretty," she remarked one day, resting her school bag on the carriage block and sighing deeply.

"But now honestly," said the Candy Man, regarding her gravely, "it seems to me you are a very nice-looking little girl, and who knows but you may turn out a great beauty some day? That is the way it happens in story books."

Virginia returned his gaze steadily. "Do you really think there is any chance? You are not laughing?"

He assured her he was intensely serious.

"Well, you are the first person who ever told me that. Uncle Harry said, 'Is it possible, Cornelia, that this is your child?' Cornelia is my mother, and she is a beauty. My brother is awfully good looking, too. Everybody thinks he ought to have been the girl. I'll tell you who I want to look like when I grow up. Don't you know that young lady who fell in the mud?"

Oh, yes, the Candy Man knew, and applauded Virginia's ambition. He would have been pleased to enlarge on the subject, even to the extent of neglecting business, but just as she began to be interesting Virginia remembered an errand to the drug store, and ran away.

That Sunday morning meeting with Miss Bentley had been reviewed by the Candy Man from every possible standpoint, and always, in conclusion, with the same questions. Could he have done otherwise? What would she think when she discovered her mistake? Who was his unknown double?

The opportunity offering, he made some guarded inquiries of the Reporter.

"Bentley?" repeated that gentleman, as he sharpened a bright yellow pencil. "Seem to have heard the name somewhere recently."

It was a matter of no particular importance to the Candy Man. He had chanced to hear the name given to the conductor by the young lady who was thrown down the night of the accident, and wondered——

The Reporter, who wasn't listening, here exclaimed: "I have it! It was this A.M. Maimie McHugh was interviewing Mrs. Gerrard Pennington over the office 'phone in regard to a luncheon she is giving this week in honour of her niece. Said niece's name me-thinks was Bentley. You will see it all in the social notes later. Covers for twelve, decorations in pink, La France roses, place cards from somewhere." He paused to laugh. "Maimie was doing it up brown, but she lacks tact. What does she do but ask for Miss Bentley's picture for the Saturday edition! I tried to stop her, but it was too late. You should have heard the 'phone buzz. 'My niece's picture in the Evening Record!' 'I don't care, mean old thing,' says Maimie, when she hung up. 'Nicer people than she is do it, and are glad to. 'That's all right, my honey,' I told her, 'but there are nice people and nice people, and it's up to you to know the variety you are dealing with, unless you like to be snubbed.' Still," the Reporter added reflectively, "Mrs. Gerrard Pennington and little McHugh can't afford to quarrel. After the luncheon Mrs. G.P. will probably send Maimie a pair of long white gloves, and when their pristine freshness has departed, Maimie will wear them to the office a time or two."

The Candy Man wished to know who Mrs. Gerrard Pennington was, anyway.

"She, my ignorant friend, is a four-ply Colonial Dame, so to speak. Distinguished grandfathers to burn, and the dough to support them, unlike another friend of mine who possessed every qualification needed to become a C.D. except on the clothes line."

"The joke," observed the Candy Man, "is old, but worth repeating. But did I understand you to say another friend? And am I to infer——?"

"You are far too keen for a Candy Man," said the Reporter, laughing. "Mrs. G.P. is friendly with the wealthy branch of our family. She regards my Cousin Augustus as a son. Now I think of it, your Miss Bentley cannot be her niece. She could scarcely fall out of a street car. A victoria or a limousine would be necessary in her case."

The Candy Man did not see his way clear to disclaim proprietorship in Miss Bentley, so let it pass. Certainly, on other grounds his Miss Bentley, to call her so, could not be Mrs. Gerrard Pennington's niece. Not that she lacked the charm to grace any position however high, but her simplicity and friendliness, the fact that she walked in the country with a stoutish relative who was intimate with the family of the park superintendent, the marketing he had witnessed, all went to prove his point.

Yet on the occasion of a fashionable noon wedding at the stone church near the Y.M.C.A. corner, all this impressive evidence was brought to naught. In the crush of machines and carriages the Candy Wagon was all but engulfed in high life. When the crowd surged out after the bridal party, the congestion for a few minutes baffled the efforts of the corps of police.

The Candy Man, looking on with much amusement at the well-dressed throng, presently received a thrill at the sound of a clear young voice exclaiming, "Here is the car, Aunt Eleanor—over here."

The haughtiest of limousines had taken up its station just beyond the Candy Wagon, and toward this the owner of the voice was piloting a majestic and breathless personage. If the Candy Man could have doubted his ears, he could not doubt his eyes. Here was the grace, the sparkle, the everything that made her his Miss Bentley, the Girl of All Others—except the grey suit. Now she wore velvet, and wonderful white plumes framed her face and touched her bright hair. No, there was no mistaking her. Reviewing the evidence he found it baffling. That absurd exclamation about lighthouses alone might be taken as indicating an unfamiliarity with the humbler walks of life.

The Reporter was at this time in daily attendance upon a convention in progress in a neighbouring hall, and he rarely failed to stop at the carriage block and pass the time of day on his way to and fro.

"Ah ha!" he exclaimed, on one of these occasions, after perusing in silence the first edition of the Evening Record; "I see my Cousin Augustus, on his return from New York, is to give a dinner dance in honour of Mrs. Gerrard Pennington's niece."

"I appreciate your innocent pride in Cousin Augustus, but may I inquire if by chance he possesses another name?" The Candy Man spoke with uncalled-for asperity.

"Sure," responded the Reporter, with a quizzical glance at his questioner; "several of 'em. Augustus Vincent McAllister is what he calls himself every day."



CHAPTER FOUR

In which the Candy Man again sees the Grey Suit, and Virginia continues the story of the Little Red Chimney.

It was Saturday afternoon, possibly the very next Saturday, or at most the Saturday after that, and the Candy Wagon was making money. The day of the week was unmistakable, for the working classes were getting home early; fathers of families with something extra for Sunday in paper bags under their arms. And the hat boxes! They passed the Candy Man's corner by the hundreds. Every feminine person in the big apartment houses must be intending to wear a new hat to-morrow.

There was something special going on at the Country Club—the Candy Man had taken to reading the social column—and the people of leisure and semi-leisure were to be well represented there, to judge by the machines speeding up the avenue; among them quite probably Miss Bentley and Mr. Augustus McAllister.

This not altogether pleasing reflection had scarcely taken shape in his mind, when, in the act of handing change to a customer, he beheld Miss Bentley coming toward him; without a doubt his Miss Bentley this time, for she wore the grey suit and the felt hat, jammed down any way on her bright hair and pinned with the pinkish quill. She was not alone. By her side walked a rather shabby, elderly man, with a rosy face, whose pockets bulged with newspapers, and who carried a large parcel. She was looking at him and he was looking at her, and they were both laughing. Comradeship of the most delightful kind was indicated.

Without a glance in the direction of the Candy Wagon they passed. Well, at any rate she wasn't at the Country Club. But how queer!

Earlier in the afternoon Virginia had gone by in dancing-school array, accompanied by an absurdly youthful mother. "I've got something to tell you," she called, and the Candy Man could see her being reproved for this unseemly familiarity.

His curiosity was but mildly stirred; indeed, having other things to think of, he had quite forgotten the incident, when on Monday she presented herself swinging her school bag.

"Say," she began, "I have found out about her Ladyship and the Little Red Chimney."

"Oh, have you?" he answered vaguely.

Virginia, resting her bag on the carriage block, looked disappointed. "I have been crazy to tell you, and now you don't care a bit."

"Indeed I do," the Candy Man protested. "I'm a trifle absent-minded, that's all."

Thus reassured she began: "Don't you know I told you I could see that chimney from our dining-room, and that I was going to watch it? Well, the other day at lunch I happened to look toward the window, and I jumped right out of my chair and clapped my hands and said, 'It's smoking, it's smoking!' There was company, and mother said, 'Good gracious, Virginia! what's smoking? You do make me so nervous!' Then I was sorry I'd said anything, because she wouldn't understand, you know. Well, after lunch I took one of Ted's balls, and went over to Uncle Bob's, and I got a little darkey boy to throw it in the yard, and then I went in to look for it. You see if Uncle Bob wasn't there and anybody asked me what I was doing, I could say I was looking for my brother's ball."

"I fear you are a deep one," remarked the Candy Man.

"No, I'm not, but I'm rather good at thinking of things," Virginia owned complacently. "And then," she continued, "I poked around the rose bush, and peeped in at the window, and sure enough she was there, brushing the hearth. She saw me and came to the window, and when I ran away, 'cause I thought maybe she was mad, she rapped, and then opened the window and called: 'Come in, little girl, and talk to me.' And now who do you think she turned out to be?"

A suspicion had been deepening in the Candy Man's breast for the last few moments. His heart actually thumped. "Not—you don't mean——?"

Virginia nodded violently. "Yes, the lady who fell and got muddy. And she's perfectly lovely, and I'm going there again. She asked me to."

Why, oh, why should such luck fall to the lot of a long-legged, freckle-nosed little girl, and not to him, the Candy Man wondered. He burned to ask innumerable questions, but compromised on one. Did Virginia know whether or not she had come to stay?

"Why, I guess so. She didn't have her hat on, and she was cleaning up—dusting, you know, and taking things out of a box."

"What sort of things?"

"Books and sofa pillows and pictures. I helped her, and by and by Uncle Bob came in."

"And what did he say?" asked the Candy Man, just to keep her going.

"Why, he said, didn't he tell me so? And wasn't it great to have her ladyship there?"

"And what did her ladyship say?"

"She said he was a dear, and I forget what else. Oh, but listen! I'll bet you can't guess what her name is."

He couldn't. He had racked his brain for a name at once sweet enough and possessing sufficient dignity. He had not found it for the good reason that no such name has been invented.

"It's a long name," said Virginia, "as long as mine. I am named for my grandmother, Mary Virginia, but they don't call me all of it." She paused to watch two white-plumed masons on their way to the commandery on the next block.

"Well?" said the Candy Man.

She laughed. "Oh, I forgot. Why, it is Margaret Elizabeth. The doctor came in; she's a lady doctor, you know, and said, 'Margaret Elizabeth, there'll be muffins for tea.' And she said, 'All right. Dr. Prue.' And Dr. Prue said, 'And cherry preserves, if you and Uncle Bob want them,' and Margaret Elizabeth said, 'Goody!' And I must go now," Virginia finished. "There's Betty looking for me."

Virginia might go and welcome. He had enough to occupy his thought for the present. Margaret Elizabeth! Such a name would never have suggested itself to him, yet it suited her. Beneath her young gaiety and charm there was something the name fitted. Margaret Elizabeth! He loved it already.

Why had he not guessed that the Little Red Chimney belonged to her? Had not the sight of it stirred his heart? And why should that have been so, except for some subtle fairy godmother suggestion? The picture of Margaret Elizabeth and Uncle Bob eating cherry preserves was a pleasant one. It brought her nearer. The Candy Man was inclined to like Uncle Bob, to think of him as a broad-minded person whose prejudices against Candy Men, granting he had them, might in time be overcome.

From being a bit low in his mind, the Candy Man's mood became positively jovial. When the sad grey man known to the children as the Miser, and invested with mysterious and awful powers, stopped to buy some hoarhound drops, he wished him a cheery good afternoon.

The Miser was evidently surprised, but responded courteously, and recalling the accident of two weeks ago, asked if the Candy Man had heard anything of the injured chauffeur.

It chanced that he had heard the Reporter say, only yesterday, that the man was doing well and likely to recover.

"And the young lady? I think I saw her the other day going into a house across the street from my own."

"The house with the Little Red Chimney?" asked the Candy Man indiscreetly, forgetting himself for the moment.

A smile slowly dawned on the face of the sad man, but quickly faded, as a flock of naughty pigeons tore by, screaming, "Lizer, Lizer, look out for the Miser!" If he had been about to make a comment, he thought better of it, and turned away.

Having identified the Little Red Chimney as the property of the Girl of All Others, the Candy Man now made a new discovery. He had a room in one of the old residences of the neighbourhood, so many of which in these days were being given over to boarding and lodging. Its windows overlooked a back yard, in which grew a great ash, and he had been interested to observe how long after other trees were bare this one kept its foliage. He found it one morning, however, giving up its leaves by the wholesale, under the touch of a sharp frost; and, wonder of wonders! through its bared branches that magical chimney came into view, with a corner of grey roof.

Not far away rose the big smoke stack belonging to the apartment houses, impressive in its loftiness, but to his fancy the Little Red Chimney held its own with dignity, standing for something unattainable by great smoke stacks, however important.

The Candy Man, it will be seen, did not attempt to reconcile conflicting evidence. He took what suited him and ignored the rest. Was Miss Bentley the niece of Mrs. Gerrard Pennington? She was also the niece of Uncle Bob. Did she ride in haughty limousines? She also rode in street cars. Was she wined and dined by the rich? She also ate muffins and cherry preserves, and brushed up the hearth of the Little Red Chimney.



CHAPTER FIVE

In which the double life led by the heroine is explained, and Augustus McAllister proves an alibi.

"Yes," said Miss Bentley, "I liked him. He turned out to be altogether different from my first impressions. That afternoon at the Country Club he seemed rather stiff—nice, assured manners, of course, but unresponsive. But then the way in which we bounced in upon each other was enough to break any amount of ice." She laughed at the recollection, clasping her hands behind her head.

Instead of the little grey hat jammed down anyhow, she wore this morning the most bewitching and frivolous of boudoir caps upon her bright head, and a shimmery, lacy empire something, that clung caressingly about her, and fell back becomingly from her round white arms. Miles and miles away from the Candy Wagon was Margaret Elizabeth, who had so recently hobnobbed down the avenue with Uncle Bob.

Mrs. Gerrard Pennington, in a similar garb, leaned an elbow on her desk, a dainty French trifle, and gazed, perhaps a bit wistfully, at Margaret Elizabeth's endearing young charms. "I am delighted that you like Augustus. He is a young man of sterling qualities. His mother and I were warm friends; I take a deep interest in him. Of course he is not showy; perhaps he might be called a little slow; but he is substantial, and while I should be the last to place an undue emphasis upon wealth, one need not overlook its advantages. Augustus has had unusual opportunities."

"Is Mr. McAllister rich?" Margaret Elizabeth dropped her arms in a surprise which in its turn stirred a like emotion in her aunt's breast, for Miss Bentley put rather a peculiar emphasis, it would seem, upon the word rich. "I should never have guessed it," she added.

If Mrs. Pennington had been perfectly honest with herself, she would have perceived that her own surprise indicated a suspicion that minus his wealth the aforesaid sterling qualities were something of a dead weight, but not for worlds would she have owned this. It would be a great thing for Margaret Elizabeth, if she liked him. If she could be the means of establishing dear old Richard's child in a position such as the future Mrs. Augustus would occupy, she would feel she had done her full duty. Mrs. Pennington was strong in the matter of duty.

"I should never have guessed it," Margaret Elizabeth repeated, after a minute spent in a quick review of that talk in the summer house.

"It is not always possible, surely, to gauge a person's bank account in the course of one conversation," her aunt suggested.

"I don't mean that; but don't you think, Aunt Eleanor, you can usually tell very rich people? They are apt to be limited, in a way. Not always, of course, but often. I can't explain it exactly. Perhaps it is over-refined."

"If to be refined is to be limited, I prefer to be limited," Mrs. Pennington remarked.

It was plain that unless Margaret Elizabeth went to the length of retailing the whole of that Sunday morning conversation, which was out of the question, she could not hope to make her meaning clear.

"What surprises me," her aunt went on, "is that you should have met Augustus in a public park. It is very unlike him. I wonder what he thought of you?"

This brought out Miss Bentley's dimples, as she owned he had seemed not displeased to meet her. "I explained that I was waiting for Dr. Prue, who had gone in to see one of the superintendent's children." She further assured her aunt that River Bend Park was a delightful place in which to enjoy nature, on Sunday morning or any other time.

"I confess I do not choose a public park when I wish to enjoy nature—except for driving, of course. Perhaps," added Mrs. Pennington, "that is what you call over-refined."

Margaret Elizabeth considered this thoughtfully. "Perhaps it is," she said. "Not being able to enjoy things that are free to everybody."

But Margaret Elizabeth in that frivolously-becoming cap was an antidote to her own remarks. Mrs. Pennington smiled indulgently. Richard's daughter came honestly by some eccentricities, not to mention those Vandegrifts, whose influence she greatly deplored.

"You will outgrow these socialistic ideas, my dear," she said. "But I am still puzzled, the more I think of it, at your meeting Augustus on Sunday morning. Was it two weeks ago? I am under the impression he left for New York that very day."

"He didn't mention it, but there are afternoon trains," answered Margaret Elizabeth. "He merely said something about a sick boy he was going to see at St. Mary's."

This again was very unlike Augustus, but Mrs. Pennington said no more. Meanwhile the faintest shadow of a doubt was dawning in her niece's mind; so shadowy she was scarcely aware of it, until, glowing from her walk across the park, she entered the drawing-room that afternoon.

There is, by the way, a difference between walking in Sunset Park, the abode of the elect, with a huge St. Bernard in leash, and taking the same exercise at River Bend, unchaperoned save by a chance guard. Any right-minded person must see this.

A young man, who sat talking to Mrs. Gerrard Pennington before the fire, rose at her entrance.

"I am glad you have come, Margaret Elizabeth," her aunt exclaimed. "I think you know Mr. McAllister? But we have rather a good joke on you, for August says he was never in his life in River Bend Park."

"How do you do, Miss Bentley. Awfully glad to see you. That is, except to motor through, don't you know, Mrs. Pennington."

Miss Bentley's brown eyes met Mr. McAllister's blue ones, and in the period of one brief glance she experienced almost as many sensations, and reviewed as much past history, as the proverbial drowning man. The casual resemblance was striking. But the eyes—these were not the friendly, merry eyes to which she had confided the fairy godmother nonsense. Fancy so much as mentioning fairy godmothers in the presence of these steely orbs.

Margaret Elizabeth was game, however.

"I was mistaken, of course," she owned lightly, as she shook hands. "I have met so many people, and am stupid at connecting names and faces. I recall Mr. McAllister perfectly." And straightway she plunged into New York and what was going on there. Had he seen "Grumpy" and wasn't it dear? And so on, and so on. Margaret Elizabeth could talk, and more than this she could look bewitching, and did, when she slipped out of her long coat, and with many graceful upward motions, removed her hat and fluffed her hair.

She would make tea, she loved to, in fact she seemed bent upon luring Augustus away from the fire and Mrs. Pennington. This young gentleman, whose mental processes were not rapid, and who habitually overworked any idea that found lodgment in his mind, was disposed to dwell upon River Bend Park and Miss Bentley's strange mistake in thinking she had seen him there, when actually, don't you know, he was on his way to New York. It was just as well not to have the situation complicated by the presence of her more alert relative, whose amused glances kept the glow on Margaret Elizabeth's cheek at a most becoming pitch. Perhaps, too, the subconscious thinking concerning that same queer mistake, which went on while she chatted so gaily, so skilfully leading the way to safer ground, had something to do with it.

Augustus, unaware that he was led, was as clay in her hands. He warmed to her expressions of pleasure in the proposed dinner dance, which were indeed entirely genuine. A dance was a dance, and Miss Bentley was young. As she poured tea her curling lashes rested now on her cheek, were now lifted in smiling glances at the complacent Augustus, much as when on a certain Sunday morning, while softly laying bloom against bloom, her eyes had now and again met the eyes of the Candy Man. There were other callers, other tea drinkers, but to none did Mr. McAllister surrender his place of vantage.

"If she keeps on like this, Augustus is hers—if she wants him," Mr. Gerrard Pennington remarked to his wife later in the evening.

"If I could have her all to myself," Mrs. Pennington sighed; "but any impression I may make is neutralised by her association with those Vandegrifts. It is an absurd arrangement, spending half her time down there."

"I think you are rather in the lead, aren't you, my dear?"

Mrs. Pennington shrugged her shoulders, but there was some triumph in her smile. "She is a dear child, in spite of some absurd notions, and I long to see her well and safely settled. I don't quite know in what her charm most lies, but she has it."

"Oh, it's her youth, and the conviction that it is all so jolly well worth while. She is so keen about everything." There was an odd twinkle in Mr. Pennington's eyes, usually so piercing beneath their bushy grey brows. Margaret Elizabeth called him Uncle Gerry. It was amusing. He liked it, and enjoyed playing the part of Uncle Gerry. "Of course she's bound to get over that. Still, I shouldn't be in any haste to settle her."

His wife thought of her brother, the Professor of Archaeology, now in the Far East. "It is queer, but Dick never has," she said, answering the first part of his sentence. But when she spoke again, it was to say energetically: "The Towers needs a mistress, and August is irreproachable. Really, I am devoted to the boy."

Mr. Pennington found this amusing.

"If only it were a colonial house. It is handsome, but I prefer simpler lines," Mrs. Pennington continued meditatively.

The Towers was a combination of feudal castle and Swiss chalet erected thirty years before by the parents of Augustus, and occupying a commanding position on Sunset Ridge. The irreverent sometimes referred to it as the Salt Shakers.

Margaret Elizabeth meanwhile, in the solitude of her own room, was asking herself questions, for which she found no answers.

"Who—oh, who was this person with the nice friendly eyes that led one on to talk about fairy godmothers?"

She considered it in profound seriousness for a time, then suddenly broke into unrestrained laughter.



CHAPTER SIX

In which Margaret Elizabeth is discussed at the Breakfast Table; in which also, later on, she and Virginia and Uncle Bob talk before the fire, and in which finally Margaret Elizabeth seeks consolation by relating to Uncle Bob her adventure in the park.

"No, she is not regularly beautiful," remarked Dr. Prue in her diagnostician manner as she poured her father's second cup of coffee, "but there is much that is captivating about her. Her hair grows prettily on her forehead, the firmness of her chin, the line of her lips in repose——"

"Mercy on us! You talk like a novel," interrupted Uncle Bob, who was longing to get in an oar. "Now I like her best when she laughs."

"But I was speaking of her face in repose."

"And any way," persisted Uncle Bob, "if she isn't a beauty, I don't know what you call it. She has the witchingest ways!"

"We were speaking of features, not ways. If you dissect her——"

"Good Heavens, Prue! Find another word."

"If you dissect her," the doctor repeated firmly, "you will find nothing remarkable in her separate features."

"But I insist," Uncle Bob spoke in a loud tone, and brought his fist down so emphatically his coffee spilled over into the saucer, "that beauty is a complex thing consisting of ways as well as features." The sentence was concluded in a milder tone, owing to the coffee.

"Nancy, give Mr. Vandegrift another saucer," said Dr. Prue.

"My dear, there is no need. I can pour this back," he protested. Then, a fresh saucer having been substituted, he went on: "Take a landscape——"

"I haven't time for landscapes this morning, father. I am due at the hospital at nine. You'll have to excuse me."

"Well, what I was going to say is, that it is the combination of all her separate qualities and characteristics, manifested in ways and otherwise, that is beautiful—that constitutes beauty. The something that makes her Margaret Elizabeth, that subtle—" Uncle Bob was talking against time.

"Now, father," Dr. Prue pushed back her chair and rose, "there is nothing subtle about Margaret Elizabeth, and you know it. She is a thoroughly nice, quite pretty girl, and that is all there is to it. If those Penningtons don't spoil her." With this the doctor disappeared.

"Miss Prue and her pa do argufy to beat the band," Nancy remarked to Jenny the cook as she waited for hot cakes.

"That's all, Nancy. I shan't want any more," her master told her when she carried them into the dining-room. "You needn't wait." As the door closed behind her he smiled to himself. He always enjoyed the leisurely comfort of those last cakes.

The morning sun shone in brightly, emphasising the pleasant, substantial appointments of the room and the breakfast table. Its glint in the old silver coffee pot was a joy to him; the unopened paper at his elbow spoke to him of the interests of a day, like it, not yet unfolded. Uncle Bob after his own fashion savoured life....



The sun had travelled around the house and was looking in at the west window of the Little Red Chimney Room, when Virginia discovered her ladyship sitting on a low stool by her hearthstone deep in meditation. "I saw the smoke," she announced, "so I thought I'd come over."

"I am glad to see you," Margaret Elizabeth said, waking up. "But what smoke do you mean?" And now it developed that although Miss Bentley was of course aware of the Little Red Chimney, and indeed preferred it red, she had not understood its significance.

In amused interest she listened while Virginia explained. "That dear, ridiculous Uncle Bob!" she cried, hugging her knees. "And what fun, Virginia!"

Virginia nodded. "Like a fairy-tale," she said.

"So it is," Miss Bentley agreed, and became again lost in thought.

From the other side of the hearth Virginia watched her. Her ladyship to-day wore a grey-blue gown with a broad white collar, and she contrasted harmoniously with the soft browns and greens of her surroundings. Uncle Bob should have been there to enjoy the glint of the sunshine in her hair.

It was an unobtrusive room, abounding in pleasant suggestions if you sat still and let them sink in: books around the walls, a few water colours and bits of porcelain, an open piano, a work table, a broad divan with many cushions, ferns in the windows, and the fire.

Virginia, however, saw nothing of this; she was looking at Margaret Elizabeth. "The Candy Man wanted to know where you stayed when you weren't here," she remarked at length.

Miss Bentley came out of her brown study in great surprise. Who in the world was the Candy Man?

"Why, you know the Candy Wagon on the Y.M.C.A. corner! And don't you remember how you fell in the mud, and the Candy Man helped you up, and I gave you your bag, and the Miser was there too?" Virginia spoke in patient toleration of Miss Bentley's strange lapse of memory.

"Naturally I was rather shaken and didn't notice. Was it a Candy Man who picked me up? And a miser, you say?" Chin in hand Margaret Elizabeth regarded her visitor. "It is all very interesting, but why should the Candy Man wish to know about me?"

Virginia owned that she had mentioned the Little Red Chimney to him, and that when the identity of her ladyship had come to light, he had exclaimed, "I might have guessed!"

"Well, really," said Miss Bentley, sitting up very straight, "what business is it of his to be guessing about me?"

"He isn't Irish like Tim," Virginia hastened to assure her. "He's very nice. He's a friend of mine."

Margaret Elizabeth laughed. "That makes it all right, I suppose; and if he picked me up—But who is the Miser?"

"He lives over there," Virginia pointed toward the front window, "in that stone house with the vine on it. Aleck says he has rooms and rooms full of money."

The house she indicated was almost black with time and soot, but its fine proportions suggested spacious, high-ceiled rooms, and whatever its present condition, a past of dignity and importance.

"How extremely interesting! What a remarkable neighbourhood this seems to be!"

"Is it like a fairy-tale where you stay when you aren't here?" Virginia asked.

Sudden illumination came to Margaret Elizabeth. "That is just what it isn't," she cried. "It's splendid and beautiful, and all sorts of things, except a fairy-tale. I wonder why? I love fairy-tales and Little Red Chimneys."

"So does the Candy Man," exclaimed Virginia, charmed at the coincidence. "It must be fun to be a Candy Man," she continued. "It isn't much like a fairy-tale where I live. I should like to live in a sure-enough house with stairs."

"You talk like a squirrel who lives in a tree. And speaking of squirrels, you and I must buy some nuts for our bunny sometime, from this Candy Man. If he picked me up I suppose I ought to patronise him. All the same, Virginia," and now Miss Bentley spoke with great seriousness, "I wish you not to say anything about me to him. It is rather silly, you know."

Virginia did not know, but she longed to do in every particular what Miss Bentley desired, so she promised.

The opal lights in the western sky were the only reminders left of the sunny day, when Uncle Bob, seated comfortably in the big armchair, listened to Margaret Elizabeth's confession, the flames dancing and curling around a fresh log meanwhile. In size it was but a modest log, for the fireplace was neither wide nor deep like those at Pennington Park, but the Little Red Chimney did its part so merrily and well that upon no other hearth could the flames dance and curl so gaily. At least so it had seemed to Margaret Elizabeth, sitting there chin in hand, after Virginia's departure.

"And you are certain you never met him before?" Uncle Bob ran his fingers through his hair and frowned thoughtfully.

"Perfectly certain. You see the resemblance was remarkable, all but the eyes, and I thought Mr. McAllister had simply waked up. People are sometimes stiff when you first meet them. He knew who I was, for he called me Miss Bentley. Naturally I thought it was some one I had met—particularly when he mentioned the accident. You see, in getting out of the machine at the Country Club a day or two before I caught my skirt in the door and fell, striking my elbow. It didn't amount to anything, though it hurt for a minute, but Aunt Eleanor made a great fuss. He may have been somewhere about at the time, but I didn't meet him. And it makes me furious," Margaret Elizabeth continued, "when I think of his not telling me."

"Telling you that you didn't know him?" asked Uncle Bob.

"Certainly, he should have said at the very beginning, 'Miss Bentley, you are mistaken in thinking you know me.'"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Uncle Bob.

"Now what are you laughing at?" his niece demanded. "Honestly, don't you think he should have?" But she laughed herself.

"Well, perhaps," he owned, reflecting, however, that if Margaret Elizabeth looked half so alluring that morning as she did now in her grey-blue frock, with her bright hair a bit tumbled, it was asking a good deal of human nature.

"Now, of course, Uncle Bob, this is strictly confidential. I wouldn't have Dr. Prue know for the world. It is bad enough to have Aunt Eleanor smiling sarcastically, though she doesn't know half. I think I have at length quieted her, and the great Augustus is entirely mollified." She paused to laugh again, then continued tragically, "Sympathy is what I need now. To begin with, it was the most perfect day—the sort to make you forget tiresome conventions."

Uncle Bob nodded. "Perhaps he forgot, too," he suggested.

Margaret Elizabeth bit her lip. "That's true. I must try to be fair. He had nice eyes, Uncle Bob—with a twinkle in them." A smile played over her lips, her dimple came and went. She gazed absently at the curling flame. Suddenly she rose from her ottoman, and seated herself bolt upright on the sofa with one of the plumpest cushions behind her. "All the same it was inexcusable in me," she declared sternly.

"What was?" asked her uncle.

"The nonsense I talked. About a Fairy Godmother Society! No doubt he was laughing in his sleeve all the time."

"Oh, I guess not. It sounds quite original and interesting. Have you copyrighted the idea?"

"Uncle Bob, you are a dear. Some time I'll tell you all about it—when I get over feeling so terribly, if I ever do."

"Now, really," insisted Uncle Bob, "I don't see why you should worry. You are almost certain to meet him again, and——"

"I shall die if I do," Margaret Elizabeth declared; but somehow the assertion failed to ring true.

"From what you have said he is plainly a gentleman, and altogether matters might be worse," Uncle Bob concluded.

Miss Bentley shook her head. "I don't see how they could be," she insisted.



CHAPTER SEVEN

Shows how the Candy Wagon is visited in behalf of the Squirrel, and how pride suffers a fall; how Miss Bentley turns to Vedantic Philosophy to drown her annoyance, and discovers how hard it is to forget when you wish to.

"When I reflect upon the small weight attaching to true worth unsupported by personal charm, I am tempted to turn cynic."

Dr. Prue closed her bag with a snap and lifted her arms to adjust a hatpin.

"Youth and beauty take the trick, that's a fact." Uncle Bob laughed as if he found it a delicious comedy.

They stood before the office window. At the gate the Apartment Pigeons were fluttering around Margaret Elizabeth, while her ladyship gravely admonished them for some piece of mischief.

"I believe she is taming the terrors," remarked the doctor.

"She had them all in the other afternoon," said Uncle Bob, "sitting cross-legged on the floor like little Orientals, while she told them stories. Margaret Elizabeth can manage them!" His tone thrilled with pride.

"Yes, and Miss Kitty Molloy will drop anything she has on hand to work for Miss Bentley; the market-man picks out his choicest fruit for her; and so it goes, if you call it managing. Well, I must be off. Good-by."

As Dr. Prue went out, Margaret Elizabeth, having dismissed the pigeons for the time being, came in, and sat down at her desk to finish a letter.

She wrote: "Yes, Uncle Bob and Cousin Prue argue as much as ever, and I suspect that more often than not I am the subject upon which they disagree. I am in a state of disagreement about myself, father dear. Society is absorbing beyond anything I dreamed of, and if I had not promised you to stop and think for at least ten minutes out of the fourteen hundred and forty, I fear I should have already become a real Society Person."

At this point Uncle Bob looked in. "Well, how many parties on hand now?" he asked.

Margaret Elizabeth laid down her pen and counted them off on her fingers, beginning with a tea at five, theatre and supper afterward, and so on, till the supply of fingers threatened to become exhausted.

"Go on, I'll lend you mine," said Uncle Bob. "Prue says," he added, "that it is enough to kill you, but you look pretty strong."

"She wouldn't mind if I worked my fingers to the bone for her hospital or the Suffrage Association, but I want a little fun first, Uncle Bob." Margaret Elizabeth supported an adorable chin in a pink palm and regarded her relative appealingly.

"That's what I tell Prue. It is natural you should like best to stay at Pennington Park, and go about in a splendid machine. I don't blame you in the least, and I don't wish you to feel bound to come down here when you don't really care to. Much as I love to have you, I shall not be hurt." Uncle Bob nodded at Margaret Elizabeth with a reassuring smile that in spite of intentions was a bit wistful too.

"I don't believe you understand, and for that matter, neither do I. I love you best, and the Little Red Chimney, and this darling room. There aren't any fairies at Pennington Park, but—I do like the whirl, the fun, the pretty things, and——"

"The admiration, Margaret Elizabeth; out with it. You'll feel better," said Uncle Bob.

"Well, yes, people do like me, and oh, I must show you something!" She sprang up, and from a box lying on the sofa she took a filmy, rose-coloured fabric. "What do you think of this?" she demanded, shaking out the shimmering folds before his surprised eyes.

He rose nobly to the occasion. "Why, it looks like a sunset cloud. Is it to wear?"

"Certainly. It is a pattern robe. Miss Kitty across the street is going to put it together for me. She is a genius. Sunset cloud is very poetic. Thank you, Uncle Bob. And now I must finish my letter before I go over to Miss Kitty's, and then I promised the children I'd go with them to buy some nuts for the squirrel. A bunny who has the courage to live so far downtown should be rewarded. I wish you had been here, Uncle Bob, to join our society." Margaret Elizabeth sat down with the rosy cloud all about her, and laughed at the recollection. "Never again will they throw a stone at his bunnyship. We laid our hands together so, and swore by the paw of the cinnamon bear and the ear of the tailless cat, to take the part of our brother beasts and birds. It was all on the spur of the moment, or I might have done better, but they were impressed."



"I should think so, indeed," remarked her uncle. "You are a sort of philanthropist after all."

"Yes, I have a very marked bump. That reminds me, if I don't see Dr. Prue, you tell her, please, that I am going to take Augustus McAllister to the Suffrage meeting."

Having returned her robe to its box, Miss Bentley sat down at her desk and wrote furiously for five minutes, then folded her letter, put it in the envelope, and addressed, stamped, and sealed it, concluding the business with a resolute fist. Shortly after, in the familiar grey suit, with the little grey hat jammed down anyhow on her bright hair, she went forth, the box containing the sunset cloud under her arm.

Homage and admiration attended upon her within Miss Kitty's humble establishment, and waited outside in the persons of the adoring pigeons. Virginia, having been unable to keep the story of the Little Red Chimney to herself, must now in consequence share her ladyship with the flock. But certain privileges were hers—to walk next to Miss Bentley and clasp her disengaged hand; to carry her bag or book; to act as her prime minister in keeping order.

Thus Miss Bentley went her triumphant way that afternoon, all unconscious that there was any triumph about it. Not that she was wholly unaware of her own charm. As she confessed to Uncle Bob, she knew people liked her, and the knowledge was pleasing. She was now on her way to be gracious to the Candy Man, and in this connection she had rehearsed a neat little scene in which she stood by and allowed the children to make their purchases, and then at the right moment asked easily if there had been any more accidents on the corner of late, adding something about his kindness in helping her up, and so on. The Candy Man would of course touch his cap, for from Virginia's account he was rather a nice Candy Man, and reply, "Not at all, Miss," or "That's all right"; then she would smile upon him and the incident would be closed.

The first half of the scene went off perfectly. The Candy Man was selling taffy to a nurse-maid when they approached, and if he saw who was coming, and if his heart was in his mouth, and if he felt a wild longing to escape from the Candy Wagon, he gave no sign. To Margaret Elizabeth, as they waited, he was a Candy Man in white jacket and cap, and nothing more.

The pigeons fluttered joyously. Miss Bentley uttered an impersonal good afternoon, Virginia advanced, a silver quarter in her palm, and demanded chestnuts for the squirrel. The bag was filled and held out to her, and as she handed over the quarter in exchange she explained, gratuitously, "We'll perhaps eat some of them ourselves."

At this the Candy Man looked up with a smile in his eyes, and met the glance of Miss Bentley, who immediately forgot all she had intended to say, for these were the eyes that were not the eyes of Augustus. There was no excuse for arguing the question. She knew it.

The point was, after all, Margaret Elizabeth concluded in the solitude of her own hearth-stone, not whether she had been equal to the occasion to-day—and she hadn't—but that he on a former occasion had been guilty of base behaviour. If this were a real Candy Man, one might excuse him, but he plainly was not. There was a mystery, and she loathed mysteries. She was annoyed to the point of exasperation. She would dismiss him from her mind now and forever.

Uncle Bob, reading the evening paper in the dining-room while Nancy set the table, admitting as she passed back and forth an occasional savoury odor from the kitchen region, became aware of sounds in the hall which betokened some one descending the stairs in haste. The next moment Margaret Elizabeth stood in the doorway.

"Uncle Bob," she said, as she drew a long white glove over her elbow, her face shadowed by her plumy hat, "you remember you said it might be worse, and I insisted it couldn't be? You were right, it is infinitely worse."

With this she was gone, and a premonitory buzz of great dignity and reserve from the street presently indicated that she was being borne away in the Pennington car.

And now it was that Miss Bentley discovered how impossible it is to forget when you wish to. You may assist a treacherous memory with a memorandum, but no corresponding resource offers when you wish to forget. You may succeed in diverting your thoughts for a time, but sooner or later, ten to one, in the most illogical manner, the very thing you seek to avoid forces itself upon your attention. What could have seemed further away from the Candy Man than ancient Hindoo Philosophy? And into this she plunged to drown her annoyance, and incidentally help a fellow member of the Tuesday Club. Margaret Elizabeth was ever ready to fill in a breach, and when Miss Allen came to her in despair, having been positively forbidden to use her eyes, she obligingly agreed to help her.

The subject grew, as all subjects have a way of doing. It was a providential ordering, Uncle Bob remarked, enabling the writers of papers to take refuge from criticism in the impressive statement that it is impossible to treat of the matter adequately in so short a space. Margaret Elizabeth laughed, and crossed out a paragraph at the bottom of her first page, and then set out for the Public Library.

Seated in the Reference Room, with more books than she could read in a year on the table before her, behold Miss Bentley presently inconsolable for lack of a certain authority she chanced to remember in the college library at home. The whole force of the Reference Room mourned with her, for Margaret Elizabeth in the part of earnest student was no less captivating than in her other roles.

"I know where there is a copy," said the youngest and wisest of the force, "but it won't do you any good. Mr. Knight, the man the children call the Miser, has one."

"I'll go and ask him to let me see it. I'd like to know a real live miser." Margaret Elizabeth closed the book she had in hand and rose.

The force gasped at her temerity. They had heard he was a horrid old man; but the youngest observed wisely that probably he wouldn't bite.

Miss Bentley, however, having recently developed a bump of discretion, did first consult Dr. Prue in the matter, who responded, "Why certainly, I see no objection to your asking to see the book. Mr. Knight is a harmless, studious man. I have met him on two occasions when I was called in to attend his housekeeper, Mrs. Sampson, and he was courtesy itself. I will go with you and introduce you, if you like."

Virginia, hanging around and overhearing, begged to be allowed to go too. "I'd love to see the inside of his house," she urged.

She was assured she would find it stupid, but this was as nothing compared with the glory of entering the abode of the Miser in company with her ladyship, and the other pigeons looking enviously on outside.

Dr. Prue, of course, had no time to waste, so Margaret Elizabeth hastened to find her pad and pencil, and across the street they went forthwith. The Miser was discovered in his library, a spacious, shabby room, yet not too shabby for dignity, full of valuable and even rare things, such as old prints and engravings, and most of all of books, which overflowed their shelves in a scholarly disorder not unfamiliar to Margaret Elizabeth.

With businesslike brevity Dr. Vandegrift presented her cousin and her credentials to Mr. Knight, who, with a quaint and formal courtesy, was happy to oblige the daughter of an author so distinguished in his chosen field.

Miss Bentley in her turn presented, with suitable gravity, Miss Virginia Brooks, who promised to be quiet as a mouse, and whose eyes betrayed her disappointment on discovering the inside of the Miser's house to be so much like any other.

After the necessary stir attending upon the finding of the desired volume, and getting settled to work, profound quiet again rested upon the library. Margaret Elizabeth wrote busily, her book propped upon a small stand before her, while across the room Virginia softly turned the leaves of a huge volume of engravings, pausing now and then to rest her cheek in her palm and regard the Miser steadily for a moment.

The master of the library had the air of having forgotten their presence altogether. Aided by a microscope, with a grave absorbed face, he studied and compared a series of prints spread before him. So quiet was it all, that the crackle and purr of the coal fire in the old-fashioned grate made itself quite audible, and the leisurely tick of the clock in the hall marked time solemnly.

Margaret Elizabeth's interest in Vedantic Philosophy began after a time to wane, and she allowed her attention to wander about the room, from object to object, until it concentrated upon the student himself. Was he really a miser? she wondered. He did not look it. His was rather the face of an ascetic. Suddenly it flashed into her mind that here was the sad, grey man of that unforgettable conversation in the park.

Virginia slipped down and came to her side. "Is there really a room full of gold?" she whispered.

Margaret Elizabeth shook her head sternly. It was time they were going. Her hand was tired. She would ask permission to come again. As she returned her book to the shelf, she displaced a smaller one, a shabby leather-bound book, at which she scarcely glanced, but upon which Virginia seized.

"The Candy Man has one like this," she said. "Such a funny name! See? Only his is Vol. one and this is Vol. two."

Miss Bentley cared not at all what strange books the Candy Man owned, and said so, frowning so severely you could scarcely have believed her to be the same person who only a few minutes later was thanking the Miser with such alluring grace of manner.

She was welcome to come when she chose, she was assured, with grave politeness. His library was at her disposal.

"You have many beautiful things," said Margaret Elizabeth. "This portrait above the mantel, for instance, seems to me very interesting."

The portrait in question was rather a splendid one of a military-looking man probably in his thirties. One of the best examples of Jouett's work it was generally considered, Mr. Knight explained, and said to have been an admirable likeness of his uncle, General Waite, at the time it was painted.

It was inexplicable that as Margaret Elizabeth gazed up at the general the eyes beneath the stern brows should become the eyes of the Candy Man. But her exasperation at this absurd illusion passed quickly into horrified embarrassment, when Virginia, edging toward the master of the house, asked explosively, "Say, have you really got a room full of gold?"

"There is one thing certain, you can never go there with me again," said Miss Bentley, on their way across the street.

"But Aleck said——" began the culprit.

"Never mind what he said. Aleck is a very ignorant little boy. People don't keep gold in rooms. If they have it they put it in the bank or send it to the mint."



CHAPTER EIGHT

In which the Miser's past history is touched upon; which shows how his solitude is again invaded, and how he makes a new friend.

"There isn't any mystery about him, so far as I know," said the Reporter, who was seated as usual upon the carriage block. The Candy Wagon continued to act as a magnet for him, and in season and out his genial presence confronted the Candy Man.

If his emphasis upon the pronoun was noticed, it was ignored. The mystery was, the Candy Man replied, how with such a face he could be a miser.

"Oh, he's a bit nutty, of course. My grandmother says his money came to him unexpectedly and the shock was too much for him. They say he has a notion he is holding it in trust. He is rational enough in every other way, a shrewd investor, in fact. His uncle, General Waite, who left him the money, was a connection of my grandmother's."

"The Miser is a cousin then?"

"Not on your tintype, my friend. Old Knight was a nephew of the general's wife, you see."

"And there were no other heirs?" asked the Candy Man.

"There was an own nephew, I have heard, who mysteriously disappeared shortly before the general's death. I have heard my grandmother mention it, but it was long before my day. Why are you interested?"

Even to himself the Candy Man could not quite explain his interest in this sad and lonely man, except that, as he had told Miss Bentley in their first and only conversation, he had a habit of getting interested in people. For example, in the house where he roomed there was a young couple who just now engaged his sympathies. The husband, a teacher in the Boys' High School, had been ill with typhoid, and the little wife's anxious face haunted the Candy Man. The husband was recovering, but of course the long illness had overtaxed their small resources, and—But, oh dear! weren't there hundreds of such cases? What was the good of thinking about it! Yet suppose there were a Fairy Godmother Society?

The Candy Man was a foolish dreamer, and his favourite dream in these days was of some time sitting beside the Little Red Chimney hearth, and discussing the Fairy Godmother Society with Miss Bentley. These bright dreams, however, were interspersed by moments of extreme depression, in which he cursed the day upon which he had become a Candy Man; moments when the horrified surprise in the eyes of Miss Bentley as she recognised him, rose up to torment him.

It was in one of these that the Reporter had presented himself this time, and when he was gone the Candy Man returned to his gloom. Having nothing else to do just then he opened the shabby book with the funny name, and looked at the crimson flower. Through the stain of the flower he read:

"If a person is fearful and abject, what else is necessary but to apply for permission to bury him as if he were dead."

The book had come into his possession by a curious chance not long before, and he treasured it, not so much for its sturdy philosophy, as because it was in some sort a link to the shadowy past of his early childhood.

The adjectives "fearful" and "abject" brought him up short. What manner of man was he to be so quickly overwhelmed by difficulties? As for being a Candy Man, did he not owe to this despised position his good fortune in meeting Miss Bentley at all?

Somewhere about eight o'clock the next evening, being Sunday, he might have been seen strolling by the house of the Little Red Chimney. That particular architectural feature had lost its identity in the shades of evening, but he was indulging the characteristic desire of a lover to gaze at his lady's window under the kindly cover of the night.

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