PRICED ABOVE RUBIES
IT WAS six-thirty in the evening, and Mrs.
Neal was cooking something over her gasjet; an ill-smelling something it was, with a pronounced fragrance of meat-scraps and onion about it. In order to reach the wall-jet, she had balanced her drab little figure on a somewhat rickety about chair, where she now clung and stirred precariously, with her worn old cheeks flushed and her bang awry.
It was the one great grievance of Mrs. Neal’s meek and uncomplaining life, that bang-—so palpably a “false front,” and so giddily red-brown, in contrast to her apologetic little knob of faded blonde-and-gray hair! But, when one buys secretly and in haste, and from a pitifully slender purse—what would you? The bang served its purpose, she thought; and then after ail, no one cared how looked!
“I only ’ope this chair don’t give away with me,” she thought worriedly in her native Cockney, as she stirred on.
“Just suppose, now, I should spill some o’ the stew on Mrs.
Downs’ lovely rug that she was so good and kind, lending me!”
She glanced down anxiously at the “lovely rug”—a fuzzy, brownish affair, on which a large purple dog of some undiscoverable breed disported himself, seeming to glare venomously the while, at a graygreen something—which might bave been either a day-bed bolster, an overturned ash-can, or a distant lake—one couldn’t be sure!
“If the little gas-stove hadn't gone back on me, I wouldn’t have to chanee this,” meditated Mrs.
Neal, and glanced down reproachfully at that false friend—a battered little one-burner affair, obviously clogged up with age and long service. It lay abandoned now on her small white-oilcloth-covered table, with its disused green rubber tubing curling despondently around its edge.
Well, the stew was ready now; so cautiously, and very painfully,
(for her rheumatism was bad that evening) Mrs. Neal clambered down from the rickety chair, and hobbled over to the sink which ornamented one corner of her boudoir. Very carefully she set the saucepan in one comer to cool, while she made the tea.
“Mrs. Neal! Mrs. Ne-eal?” came a cheerful voice from below, and brisk footsteps pattered upstairs just as she was re-mounting the rickety chair, tea-kettle in hand.
“It’s only me!” the cheerful voice explained ungrammatically, while Mrs. Neal hastily pushed the offending bang into place; and little Mrs. Downs, plump and smiling, entered without ceremony, a dish in her hand.
“Sam’s working to-night,” she announced, seating herself comfortably on the old golden-oak bed which was the room’s piece de resistance, “and Lady Brownie’s dining out; so I just hurried up and had supper early and got the dishes all done; then I heard you come in, so I thought I’d bring you up a little of this nice tapioca pudding that was standing around just begging for someone to eat it!”
She gave her cheerful laugh again and glanced about the familiar, shabby room, while little Mrs.
Neal twittered her thanks. Poor old thing, Libbie Downs thought, for at least the thousandth time, looking over at the decrepit little table and the one, aged chair; the rug which she herself had “loaned;” the old walnut dresser with its broken marble top, and three casters—a block of wood pinch-hitting for the fourth; the lumpy old bed, springless, on which she was sitting, and its two ragged quilts which he had brought around last month when the weather was beginning to get so cold—but he never would have, Mrs. Downs told herself indignantly, if she and Sam hadn’t given him some pretty hot shot
it '. She suddenly felt extremely indignant.
TT WAS none other than Mr. Ferdinand Neal, real esitate agent, on whom Mrs. Downs pinned that scornful “Ac.” A pronoun, she would have contended (had she known what one was) was all a fellow like that was entitled to—or maybe more; and not all the soothing words of her peaceful and placid husband could shake her in such opin-
Mrs. Neal, meanwhile, was still standing, tea-kettle in
“The little stove’s not up to much, lately,” she apologized, “so I just have to hold things over the gas-jet till I—” she hesitated, “—till I have time to get another.”
She made as if to clamber up on the old chair again.
“Mrs. Neal!” cried her landlady indignantly, bounding up and taking the kettle out of her hand. “Indeed, if anyone has to perch up on that chair, it won’t be you. with
your rheumatism!" She mounted briskly. \Y by didn't you come down in the kitchen, anyway, and boil your kettle?—And I’ll take that gasthing down for Sam to fix when he gets home tonight. ‘Can he fix it?' Well, I should think! Y ou ought to know Sam—never happy unless he’s puttering over something! I do believe that’s what he works nights for, in his old wholesale dry-goods place—puttering around among the bolts and hales of stuff there, just hoping he’ll find something to nail up, or file off. or glue together. And Srttadays, when he puts on those terrible old yellow crash trousers of his and starts painting the roof, or puttying at the windows—well, I could kill myself laughing!"
She descended cheerfully, boiling kettle in hand, inundated the waiting tea-leaves, and efficiently helped Mrs. Neal to set the white-oileloth-eovered table wth her outfit of one plate, one cup and saucer, one knife, fork and spoon (all from the Ten-Cent Store) and a fringed red napkin.
“Seems funny, to think how Sam and I used to live up on this floor,” she laughed, sitting down on the bed as Mrs. Neal began to eat. “It’s a good thing the woodwork has been done over since, or you could still see the lovely way he painted it—just so much every night and then the next time it would show the line where he’d left off and started again!”
She chuckled at the recollection.
“ THIRST, of course, after Father T gave us the house, we lived on the top floor, like the Kennedys now—nice young couple they are, too, I hope they’ll stay a long time!—and then after Sam was making a little more, we moved down here; that’s when we had the sink put in, over there, and this big stove; and we brought down this bed of Mother’s, and Sam’s favorite bureau that he'd had at home—I must remember to make him fix that caster!— Wasn’t it lucky you could use them, when you came; I hated to put them down cellar after we got that lovely bird’s-eye maple set.’ Well, then, Lady Brownie’s room, in the front there, was our parlor; lots of jolly parties we’ve had in there! I always liked this floor the best; not so much work! But of course, after Sam began to do so well in business he thought we ought to take the parlor floor and basement for ourselves, it would be sweller.”
She laughed, bouncing herself up and down on the decrepit old bed.
“Mrs. Brownell—’as she gone out, then?” queried the older woman, tasting the pudding with an appreciative smile.
“Yeh—her swell cousins are here for the week; invited her over to dine, in their suite at the M’ree Antoineife,” laughed Mrs. Downs, rising and stretching comfortably.
Lady Brownie will be getting too proud to feed with Sam and me any more, if this keeps up.
“Well, I must go downstairsawhile and put that wash to soak. Father Sam’s getting terrible fussy about his shirts lately, and this little wash-lady had better watch her step!—Holler down if you want anything."
IT WAS five years, now, since old Mrs. Neal had begun living thus precariously in someone elec -ho use; sleeping in a borrowed bed; standing her few. treasured photographs upon a borrowed dresser: and now, with food and clothes almost beyond her lean pocketbook, what could she do but accept gratefully whatever was offered'.’ —thankful that her eight-dollara-week wage as cierk in a litt'e neighborhood shop, somehow car ned her along; doubly thankful, 'hat kind little Libbie Downsnever once thought of asking her more
than her original ten dollars a month for room, gas. and Bundry “borrowed” furnishings. She had to buy coal for the fat old stove, and food, and clothes—well, but what clothes .did she need, she would argue?—and somehow she always managed to keep up the fifty cents a week for her insurance: oh, that was very important!—for then if—if anything should happen to her, why, there would be a little something for her boy Ferdinand.... And Ferdinand was all she had. . .
Life, some of us believe, is just a great film—an endless reel, which winding on and on, out of the vague and misty dawn of earth and into that unknown twilight to be. records faithfully scenes some day to be unrolled again perhaps when the Golden Book is opened to our fear ful eyes!
Shall we roll back the film now—say, for twenty-six
THE Neals were a young Cockney couple then, newly arrived in Canada, and quite disposed to like the “Canuck” country. Mr.
Oliver Neal was a perky, self-assured, rather domineering little man, with a Roman nose and bushy black eyebrows, who had been a small shop-keeper in London before the emigration bee commenced its ambitious buzzing in his “bow -ler.” Mrs. Oliver Neal,
(bora Matilda Dobbs) was a real clinging vine, if you like!—blonde, mildly cheerful, quiet and round-eyed, with a fixed look of surprise at a marvellous world. She realized that she belonged to a frail and foolish sex; but then, she had Oliver • to guide her, and Oliver knew everything.
As for Oliver, who rather inclined to the same opinion, he bustled about the cityin the first weeks of their stay, read ads. prodigiously, asked advice portentously,
and finally invested their little capital in a small haberdasher’s shop. He rented the shop and its living quarters above, with the privilege of buying the small frame building on easy terms. And there, a few months later, Ferdinand Neal, pearl of infancy and paragon of childhood, made his first appearance before an admiring world.
Ferdinand, though always rather pale and of undernourished appearance, in every other respect proved himself a model child. He never cried nor created disturbances; hour after hour, he would lie quietly in his little crib, sucking his thumb, and absorbed, no doubt, in obscure projects of his own.... Only an unkind person would ever call them “schemes!”
But with the arrival in this vale of tears of Master Thomas Aquinas Neal, two years younger, a painful contrast was at once created. Tommy, alas, was no staid philosopher, sunk in contemplation. Not his, to be a spectator of life! He wished, emphatically, to be up and doing; and if as yet he was unable to raise himself to any great heights of derring-do, he could at least raise his voice; and this he did, continuously, in howls that astonished the passers-by.
“He eyen’t a Neal at all, that child,” his father was wont to remark from time to time, regarding him malevolently. “We Neals was never for such unholy goings-on, none of us wasn't; he’s some ruddy changeling, that’s wot he is!” And Mrs. Matilda Neal, as time went on and Tommy’s badness became more glaringly manifest, heaved many an unwonted sigh. No doubt, as is the way with mothers, her heart yearned more over naughty Tommy, always being spanked, than over all the perfections of the peerless Ferdinand—“Pa’s good boy,” as her Oliver would proudly label him.
Time passed, the boys grew older: and it became shockingly evident that Tommy did not even revere his elder brother as all good little boys should. It was always Tommy who broke the vases, and chased the cat, and played tick-tack on the neighbors’ window-paneswhile Ferdinand only looked on, with disapproval; but when, in subsequent star-chamber proceedings, Ferdinand was asked who had done the deed, and with admirable candor responded that Tommy had—more than once the rebel Tommy, now grown into a red-haired, stocky, frecklefaced urchin, had been known to fly at his sleek-haired pale brother like an avenging cyclone!
“A ruddy bruiser, that’s wot ’e’s going for to be!" .Mr.
Oliver Neal was wont to mourn. “Alius for beating up poor delicate Ferdinand, ’e is, wot’s never give us an anxious second!”
And Mrs. Neal would sigh a little, and wonder how it was all going to come out anyway, and if she couldn’t coax Tommy to work harder at his lessons, and not be so naughty and rough____Ferdinand was so studious, and doing so
well in school!
A prophet, however, is notoriously without honor in his own country, and doubtless the same is true of a philosopher; that must be so, since one or two hardened and obtuse neighbors of the Neals had actually been heard to describe the peerless Ferdinand as “a white-livered little sneak!” and add the opinion that “he put Tommy up to half the things that the boy got whipped for!”
Meanwhile, the little haberdashery was flourishing. The neighborhood, though a poor one, was excellent for small businesses—just near enough to the shopping centre to gets its overflow, and not too far from the residence district to catch some of that trade. When the heirapparent was five, Mr. Neal made the last payment on the small frame building that housed both them and the shop, and took title; and when Ferdinand had turned ten, there was already a tidy sum in the savings bank toward the two boys’ education,“although,” grumbled Mr. Oliver Neal, contracting his bushy black eyebrows, “ ’igh school courses ’ull be wasted on the likes o’ that Tommy!”
At any rate, Tommy was fifteen and duly matriculated at the collegiate, when the blow' fell that was to change all their lives.
Ferdinand, thought not quite seventeen, was already a Senior, and stood high in his classes. Also, he stood high in the estimation of certain pretty young creatures in his neighborhood, who admired his pale, interesting face and sleekly-combed brown hair, and who whispered and giggled consciously whenever he passed them on his studious homeward way. Moreover, there actually was one of these fascinating young ladies—Rose Conaughty, aged fourteen, daughter of Conaughty’s stationery store on the next corner— who had been seen out walking with Ferdinand, and even sitting close to him during the movies of those days! Lucky Rose!. . . . As for blustering, boisterous young Tommy, he scorned girls and all their works.
IT WAS on a crisp October evening, then, while Father Neal was sitting in the little room behind the shop, smoking his old brier pipe and looking over his ledgers, that his portly friend Haskins, the butcher on the next block, dropped in for a friendly chat. Mrs. Neal was upstairs, clearing away the supper things. The excellent Ferdinand was also upstairs, in the bedroom shared by the two boys, reducing a cross-section of Cicero to its proper place in the scheme of things. Tommy, under instructions from his father to “tend shop,” had just come down the inside stairway leading from the door of the boys’ room to the rear of the shop-counter. With his plump cheeks flushed, and his carroty locks twisted in studious fingers, Tommy was doing his best to pencil out a synopsis of certain strange activities among Messrs. X, Y and Z.
“Hello, Tom!” said Haskins the butcher, regarding these struggles with some amusement. “Y'our father around?”
He liked Tommy—even though he had once caught that incorrigible young gentleman in the act of hanging up a dead cat among the rabbits deployed about his shop door.
“Yeh,” said Tommy abstractedly. “In the back room. I’m tending shop, ’cause Ferd has to study upstairs, where he has his books.”
Mr. Haskins, fat, red-faced and hearty, was cordially welcomed, back among the ledgers, and accepted a stogie. He then imparted the news that their street was going to have a new asphalt facing next week; yes, positive fact! Got the news just now, from his friend Alderman Burke. Guess Burke had helped get the deal through. Well, they’d all be glad enough to hear the last of those rattlety-bang old ruts near the car tracks.
Then a little excursion into politics. Had Neal ever taken out his second papers? No? Well, whenever he was ready to finish that job, Alderman Burke could help him along; and Haskins himself would take a little time off and go with VvY,if„ them. Why, sure! Only
too glad to give a neighbor rit a lift____And Neal, bob-
bing about like a pert, cheerful sparrow, set the date for the following week. This had been the form their evening chats had taken for years as they sat and puffed at their pipes and discussed everything political from national affairs down.
“And ’ow’s business, ’Askins?” Neal queried politely, jingling his thick, heavy gold watch-chain as the departing guest rose fatly from his chair.
“Fine! Fine!” said Haskins heartily. “That reminds me—to-morrow’s the old girl’s birthday”—(the old girl being Mrs. Emma Haskins)—“and I’m going tb give her a little surprise.”
He fumbled in his pockets, standing in the doorway between the back room and the shop, and pulled out a brown leather wallet.
“If I’d ask her does she want some of this fancy embroidered lon-jer-ay you read about in the Sunday papers, she’d give me the laugh,” he puffed. “So I got these out of the bank to-day—nice crisp fellows, all brand new —and she can just get whatever she likes.”
Tommy, over at the counter, glanced up absent-mindedly as Haskins rustled the five crisp, ten-dollar bills; and then, frowning with intense concentration, renewed his struggle against certain distinguished members of the alphabet family.
“First time I could ever do this much for her,” rumbled Haskins with your true fat man’s sentimentality. He stroked the bills affectionately as he replaced them in his wallet. “I can just see her face now!”
He chuckled, and nudging Mr. Neal jovially, bent his fat arm and put the wallet back in his pocket. Or he thought he did. And Mr. Neal, beaming in neighbourly fashion, ushered him out.
“Keep your h’eye on the shop, Thomas,” Mr. Neal then admonished his son with some sternness. “I’m going upstairs for forty winks.”
“Yes, sir,” said, or rather grunted, the earnest pursuer of unknown quantities.
“ ’Ad a bit too much of that tripe for supper, I’m thinking,” muttered Mr. Neal as he turned to the stairway. “Made me ’ead ache, it did.”
Later, as he reposed on the old red-plush sofa in the din-
ing-room, upstairs, he heard the shop stairway creaking. It might have been someone coming up, or someone going down—or both... .He was too near asleep to think much about it, and Mrs. Neal, at the round table with its red, fringed cover, was busily darning stockings under the student lamp and did not look up.
He dozed off, and slept until eight-thirty, when the subconscious mind’s alarm-clock must have told him that it was nearly time to close up the shop.
“Ho-hum!” he yawned, pulling himself to a sitting posture on the creaking old sofa. “Ferdinand go out, Mother?” “No,” she smiled back, placidly folding up a pair of stockings. “I just looked in, a while ago, and ’e was studying away that ’ard that ’e never even saw me.”
MR. NEAL descended the shop stairs—but paused halfway down, at the sound of an excited voice. It was undoubtedly Haskins’—but he had never heard that jovial personage so agitated.
“But I had it right here!” he was saying loudly, over and over: while Tommy, in a frightened voice, answered “Yes, sir,”—“No, sir,”—and “I don’t know, sir!”—impartially.
“’Ullo! What’s the trouble?” queried Mr. Neal, bouncing down into the shop, pompadour a-bristle.
“Lost my wallet!” groaned Haskins, his cheerful face actually pale. “I had it right here—you remember, don’t you!”
“Why—why of course you did!” frowned Mr. Neal, looking about portentously. He didn’t like having wallets lost in his shop; there was a nasty look about a thing like that; a chap didn’t want that sort of talk going about, you know!. ...
“Yes—you stood right here when you put it back in your pocket,” he scowled, looking closely at the floor; then, commandingly,
“You, Tom! What are you standing gaping there for? Look alive now, and—”
“We hunted everywhere, Father,” quavered Tommy. “Well, look againP’
So Tommy, wan and unwontedly quiet, helped them search every inch of the place; but there was no wallet to be found.
“Anyone been in since I went out?” Haskins inquired at last, mopping his quivering fat face.
“No, no one—only—”
“Only what?” snapped his father.
Tommy gave him a hunted look.
“I—mean I—no customers—” He stopped short. “Well, who was here then?” put in Haskins suspiciously. Tommy gulped.
“I—I—I—” he stammered. “I mean—I was here—we —we—we were all here—”
“The boy’s a fool!” said his father roughly. “ 'Ard luck, ’Askins—if you dropped it h’outside, your wallet’s miles away by this time!”
But the wallet was not miles away, after all; for Mrs. Neal, taking Tommy’s Sunday coat out of the boys’ room, an hour later, to sew up a rip she had noticed in its lining, was startled by something falling out of its sleeve and striking her foot—and much more startled, when that something proved to be a brown leather wallet, containing, among other things, five crisp new ten-dollar bills.
Her involuntary cry brought Ferdinand’s sleek brown head around from his books, and Tommy’s tousled carrotlocks up from his pillow. It also brought Mr. Oliver Neal in from the dining-room, where he had been morosely rocking in an old-fashioned chair of pressed green velvet, puffing at his old brier and meditating angrily on Haskins’ carelessness.
“ ’Ullo!” he said brusquely, knitting his black brows, “wot’s the row ’ere?”
And then he saw the wallet—in Mrs. Neal’s trembling hand.
THE next morning Tommy was gone. Mrs.
Neal had not slept at all; and yet she had not heard any creaking of the stairs. Tommy’s bank was minus its little hoard of pennies and nickels—perhaps three dollars in all—but his best clothes still hung in the closet, and nothing else was gone—nothing, that is, except a little tintype of his mother; one that had been taken on a Sunday outing at Centre Island.
And it was to his mother that a picture post-card came, ten days later, post-marked Vancouver, with a few words scrawled under its gaudy picture of dock-wallopers unloading an ocean freighter.
“Mother—don’t look for me back for awhile.—I guess you know I didn’t do it.—I am well.—Tom.” Mrs. Neal silently passed the card to her husband, whose bushy eyebrows bristled as he read it. He wished he hadn’t whipped Tommy so hard, that night.
He couldn’t help remembering how white the boy had grown, and what a strange expression his face had worn, even while he pressed his lips tightly together and said nothing.
“Well, what’s the use of ’is saying ’e didn’t do it?" he
blustered now. “Wasn’t no one else in the plyce! Wallets don’t walk about, promiscuous!”
Ferdinand, looking up from his books, nodded his sleek head in approval.
“That’s enough about ’im, anyway!” snarled Mr. Neal, stalking into his sanctum behind the shop and banging the door shut after him. That was the last time that he ever mentioned Tommy: and if Mrs. Neal did write secretly to Vancouver, as a heartbroken mother well might do, nothing ever came of it.
All happiness had departed from the simple life of the little shop. Haskins, indeed, had taken back his wallet quite joyfully, late that night when Mrs. Neal ran around with it, faltering out the carefully-rehearsed story of how they had found it behind some boxes, where it had probably been kicked in sweeping; still, he acted a little queerly afterward, the Neals noticed. And people would talk. What had become of Tommy? The whole neighbourhood wondered if he really had “gone West to work for some cousins”—and why. “Queer, his disappearing like that, with no one hearing a word about it till he was gone!” Streaks of white began to appear in Mr. Neal’s bushy black hair. He grew habitually silent and morose; even Ferdinand’s triumphant graduation from the collegiate and budding business career in a real estate office near by, failed to rouse him. As for Mrs. Neal, she fluttered pathetically about the little shop and the flat above; always perkily cheerful—and always with that misty look of unshed tears at the back of her pale-blue eyes. Life, she felt, was too much for her; yet it had seemed so simple,
And one morning, coming down in search of Mr. Neal when it was time to open the shop, she found him in his sacred back office, head on his arms, at the old-fashioned desk—quite dead. '
After the first wild burst of grief, in which she flung herself into the excellent Ferdinand’s arms with hysterical sobs and cries, while he patted her shoulder soothingly— though, perhaps, a bit unemotionally—Mrs. Neal dried her eyes, and with quivering lips, set herself again to face a strange, bewildering world.
“If Tommy would only come home!” she sighed. “Oh, we must try to get him back for—for—”
She could not bear to say “the funeral.”
Ferdinand shook his head doubtfully. Tommy, he reflected, had been gone three years now. . .Why, he must be eighteen! A man! Ferdinand was unpleasantly affected by the thought of a husky eighteen-year-old Tommy coming home.. .
Still, he could hardly object to advertisements; and accordingly “personals” were placed in all the leading papers of the West as well as the Coast begging Tommy Neal to come home.
But Tommy did not come.
It was natural, even inevitable, that Ferdinand should now step into his dead father’s shoes. Poor Matilda Neal would never have dreamed of suggesting that she should run the little shop herself, while he kept his clerkship in the nearbv real estate office. No-she had always leaned on
her husband’s wisdom, and now she leaned on Ferdinand’s. Ferdinand was so wonderful—so clever!
Yet business fell off, gradually, unaccountably. When the shop-latch rattled in the evenings, and Mrs. Neal looked out hopefully from the little back office (where she nowsat most of the time, with her sewing, to be near Ferdinand -more often than not it was Rose Conaughty who slipped in —with a smile for Ferdinand.
Rose was seventeen now, and had left high school to take a business course; a tall, very quiet girl, she was rather too thin, and had lips too tightly drawn for her age: yet she had comely dark hair, a graceful walk, and flickering, gray-green eyes—eyes with a certain cool allure in their depths. She and Ferdinand had an “understanding." or so the neighbours said; and Mrs. Neal liked to think so too. Sometimes, holding one of Ferdinand’s newly-darned socks in her thin, wrinkled fingers, she would fall into a revery that cheered her lonely old heart.
Ferdinand married—Ferdinand’s babies on her lap— little voices babbling about the shop and living rooms— why, how that would please Father, and Tommy!—Then, with a start, she would remember. . . .
AND so another year passed; a year of dwindling business, and of fretful abstraction on Ferdinand's part. The affairs of the shop did not worry Mrs. Neal, for she knew that her clever eldest son was equal to any situation; it was only a question of time when trade would pick up, under his efficient management. His morose pre-occupation did worry her, though; and finding him frowning over the ledgers, she would sometimes slip up behind him, and murmur, stroking his hair,
“Son, you work too ’ard, I do believe!”
“Oh, i’m all right, Mother! Don’t bother!” Ferdinand would usually answer, with a deeper frown; and Mrs. Neal, shaking her head anxiously, would scurry upstairs and construct some ponderous food masterpiece to tempt her poor overworked boy’s appetite: perhaps a roast, with real Yorkshire pudding beside it, or a majestic boiled apple-dumpling!
As a matter of fact, the cause of Ferdinand’s abstraction was merely that he hated the haberdashery business in toto: shirts, collars, customers, boxes, handkerchiefs, showcases, neckties, broom and dustpan—everything, in short, that was in or of the store, Ferdinand hated with a deadly hate; and he was about ready to tell his mother so.
Being head of the shop had seemed a great promotion to him, a year before; but now he wished from the bottom of his heart that he was back in Grimes and Gray's real estate office, at his shiny new flat-topped desk, with the chance before him to be a suburban salesman soon, taking in fat commissions.
One chilly October evening, about nine o’clock, Rose Gonaughty slipped quickly into the shop. She was breathing fast, and there was an unwonted excitement in her face. Old Mrs. Neal, looking out from the back office, smiled gently at the girl and turned back to her mending. She knew that Rose and Ferdinand would want to talk.
Rose unfolded a newspaper which had been tucked under her arm, spread it on the counter, beyond Mrs. Neal’s angle of vision, and with her back to the little office, began whispering to Ferdinand, who listened intently. Mrs. Neal did not try to hear what they were saying. Smiling over her work, she drifted off into one of her happy daydreams. Young love. Ferdinand and Rose!
Presently she heard Rose going out, and Ferdinand closing up the door after her—and then pulling down the shades, and locking up.
“Why, is it ten o’clock already, Son?” she asked in surprise.
“Near enough, Mother,” he said absently, walking back to her. He was holding a folded newspaper in his hand. He put his left foot against the rung of her rocking-chair, and contemplated his trim, well-polished boot admiringly.
“Well, Mother—” he began slowly. “I might as well tell you—Rose saw it in the paper tonight—Tommy has been killed—out West—in a train-wreck—’’
THAT was the first time that Mrs. Neal had ever fainted. It was with a bleak, dreary sense of failure—inefficiency—emptiness—that she gradually struggled back to consciousness. Ferdinand was slowly and carefully dampening her forehead from a glass of water that he held in one hand.
“Tommy!” she moaned. “Oh, it rnn’t be! Tommy—”
She burst out crying.
“Yes, Mother,” sighed Ferdinand. “Yes, the paper gives all the details . . but don’t read it now.
But she must read it, she must know! Dul!> she picked up the sheet, with its type swimming before lier eyes, i! was an old enough, usual enough story, when at last her tear-dimmed vision could make it out. the big news of a train-wreck near Moose Jaw, Siisk., and with it the little otherwise hardly worth quoting in the Eastern , of two hoboes, “riding the rods," found dead.
Continued on page 48
Priced Above Rubies
Continued from page 11
burned and mangled among the wreckage.
The younger, a sandy-haired youth of eighteen or twenty, said the newspaper account, wore a gold-seal ring with the initials T. A. N., and had a scorched and illegible post-card in his pocket on which the address “Mrs. Oliver Neal —dale, Ont.,” could barely be made out.
^ And so it was that Tommy Neal came
' I 'WO weeks after the funeral, on a rainy November afternoon, Mrs. Neal was sitting at her perpetual mending, in the little room behind the shop, tending shop alone, for Ferdinand was out on an errand. Ostensibly, that is, she was mending, but an observer, if there had been one, might have
seen that her pale-blue eyes had, more than ever, that look of unshed tears. Perhaps she was thinking how shabby the little shop was growing—fly-specked and dusty, the stock low, and not likely to be replenished either, for customers were few nowadays, and Ferdinand did not seem anxious to coax them in; then, too, their funds were so scanty. Bringing Tommy home had cost—but she must not think of that!... .the closed coffin which had rested so short a time in their little parlor.... the long silent ride into the country.. and then only a dull brown mound, left deserted and alone, with the
rain falling upon it____What an end for
her mischievous, laughing boy!
She twisted the ring which fitted her so
loosely—a seal-ring marked T. A. N., which she had given Tommy on his fourteenth birthday. ...
Two great tears rolled down her cheeks. Why—this would never do! Crying— and on Ferdinand’s great day, the day he was twenty-one! Shamefacedly she dried her eyes. Suppose he should catch her at it!—There he was, now! The latch rattled.
“Hullo, Mother,” said Ferdinand languidly, coming in. He pulled off his gloves, and, as she looked up rather piteously, patted her shoulder.
“Anyone been in? No? I thought not. Got that ball of string—not that we have much to wrap up with it!”
He walked out to the counter, and threw the string-ball into its proper box.
“Why don’t you take off your things, Ferdinand? Your ’at and coat do look that wet!”
“Oh, well, it’s nearly supper-time, and—” “Yes, Son,” she smiled at him, “and I 'aven’t forgot what day it is! You’ll see! I’ve made a cake for you, and the twentyone candles are on it, too, and. ... ”
Ferdinand took a few nervous steps up and down, while she was speaking.
“Oh, well, Mother,” he said uncomfortably, “the cake will keep all right till tomorrow, I guess—”
“Well, yes—you see—er-1 met Rose
just now, and I promised her to go over for supper with them—”
“With them?” His mother’s lips quivered.
“Now, it’s nothing for you to feel bad about, Mother! Rose has invited some people—sort of a surprise party, you know. I won’t be late—you won’t mind being by yourself for a few hours, surely! We can have the cake to-morrow, just as well.” Ferdinand’s mother did not say anything. She was pressing her lips together very tightly, so that their quivering should not again betray her.
After he had kissed her lightly and hurried away, she went upstairs and cleared away the little birthday supper on which she had worked so hard; the cake with its candles and streamers, the favors, and toilsomely drawn place-cards, which she had faithfully copied from a woman’s magazine. Then she went into Ferdinand’s room—a throb of memory which she could not stifle, said that it had been Tommy’s room too—and laid a folded document on Ferdinand’s pillow.
It was the birthday present with which she had planned to surprise him—a deed which made ovér to him all her share of the shop, and building, and furnishings, and the good-will of the business.
FERDINAND and Rose were married ■F very soon after that. There was really nothing to wait for, they thought. Rose had a position now as a junior stenographer—only eight a week, but then she would soon get more—and there was room and to spare for them in the littlo flat above the shop if they decided to stay on there.
Mrs. Neal cried a little, and kissed them both, when they came in one evening and told her they were married. Then she trotted upstairs, and after rummaging about for a while, crept down again with a little pointed lace collar in her hands.
“For you, Rose, my dear,” she said, smiling. “I ’ad it when I was just a girl like you—a present from an old family
“Oh, thank you!” said Rose, almost with enthusiasm—and managed to add, “. .. . Mother!”
“Well, now, Rose, I think you ought to thank me,” reflected Ferdinand. “You know Mother has made over everything in the place to me, so that’s my collar, by
He was not smiling, but Mrs. Neal, recognizing the jest, laughed almost girlishly-
“ ’Ave it your own way, Son!” she chuckled. “And true enough whatever I ’ave is yours!”
“Eyen’t you all I’ve got left?” she added softly.' “You—and Rose?”
A month or two passed. Mrs. Neal was busier now, as housekeeper for three instead of two. She tried very hard, too, —for somehow she felt that Rose’s standard of homemaking was different from her own.
It was on the evening when Rose spoke of her raise to $12 a week that Rose and Ferdinand had a long, whispered conference in their own room.
“So the very best thing you can do is to
take Grimes & Gray’s offer,” Rose decided. “Of course business is dull just now, but that won’t last. .. That Sunnyside office of theirs is nice. You’ll meet a good class of people out there, people that’ll help us up, instead of holding us down! We’ll take that little flat we looked at on Sunday; it’s near the office, and all new and up-to-date, nice every way; not like this old rickety place!”
She sniffed contemptuously, looking about at the dark woodwork and the huge flowered green wall paper which poor Mrs. Neal considered so “elegant.”
“Forty-five dollars—that’s a lot of rent to pay, even with steam heat,” Ferdinand demurred.
“We can manage all right, with your twenty a week to start, and commissions, and my twelve—“
“I don’t like having you work, Honey!” protested Ferdinand. “It doesn’t look right, and then besides—you know all Motherthinks aboutis—grandchildren—” “Oh, Ferdinand!” retorted Rose scornfully. “Don’t talk so silly! Haven’t I got a lovely position, and aren’t our lives all before us? We don’t want to tie ourselves down! The only thing we want to think about, is getting some money saved up and establishing ourselves. Get a nice home, and be comfortable—that’s what I want. I hate all this poverty-stricken way of living, and I always did!”
“After we get this place sold....” she went on.
“Why, of course. What did you think we’d do with it? We’ll list the building with Grimes & Gray for sale, that’s the only way, and auction off all the stock and fixtures right away—before the first of the month, when we’ll move out to Sunny-
“Mother will feel pretty bad,” Ferdinand said guiltily, “after living here so long----”
Rose quelled him with a look.
“Of course, I know it is the only thing to do,” he hedged. “There’s no trade worth getting, around here, and I can’t waste my whole life. After all, Rose, you're right.... we’ve got to think of ourselves once in a while!”
“But I’m afraid Mother won’t like Sunnyside,” he added after a moment’s thought.
“Sunnyside!” gasped Rose. “Why, Ferdinand Neal! You surely don’t expect to take her with us?”
Rose’s gray-green eyes flashed omin-
“I won’t have it,” she said decisively. “I won’t have her puttering around in my nice new kitchen, messing things up!” “But Rose—all the furniture, and everything, was hers; and. ...”
“And she gave it to you!” snapped Rose. “I don’t care. . . .you can tell her anything you want to. Tell her it’s only a temporary arrangement, until we can get a larger apartment. I don’t care what you tell her; only, she can’t come with us.”
“But if we sell out, here, what will she live on? I can’t support her out of my twenty a week!”
“Well, why should you?” Rose demanded. “After we get the money for this place and re-invest it, you can pay her an allowance out of that. .. .if you want to; but anyway, Mr. Johnson, the hardware man down street, needs someone to help him in his store; he’d be glad enough to get your mother; and we can watch the ads, and get her a nice room somewhere.” And as Rose said, so it was; for Rose’s word was law to her Ferdinand.
npHE auction was a neighborhood sensa-*■ tion and nine days’ wonder; but to poor old Matilda Neal, it seemed like the real end of the world. Dazed and speechless, she watched the old familiar fittings carried away by strangers; the show-cases, the step-ladder, the little fat heating-stove ... .yes, even the old desk from the back room. She had hoped Ferdinand would keep that.
But at least, the furniture of their humble rooms upstairs was not to be dispersed and scattered, she thought, trying to soothe the heart-ache that numbed her. It was almost a comfort to see the old redplush sofa, and the green rocking-chair, the round oak table, and the plump feather-beds, all loaded into a van together. They were going with Ferdinand and Rose; and that would be her home, too. . . .some day.
So, before she had really come out of her daze of grief, she was installed in Mrs.
Downs’ second-floor-back (kind, roundfaced little Libbie Downs, who was so sweet to her!) and she was trying, with pathetic strivings like a faithful old dog, to understand Mr. Johnson’s hardware business.
It was in those bleak days of her first winter alone, that old Mrs. Neal—old and worn indeed, though only fifty-three in actual years.... began to lie awake night after night on her hard pillow, wondering, hoping, fearing; bewildered, like a squirrel in a cage. The burning fingers of sciatica were already beginning to clutch her thin frame, and that once-lovely, ash-blonde hair was fading, and coining out in great handfuls. Shamefacedly, one evening, she slipped into a dingy hair-dresser’s on a side street, where dusty curled bangs and puffs had caught her eye in the window display. Her hair was beginning to look so dreadful—suppose Mr. Johnson should not want to keep her!
“A perfect match, Ma’am!” purred the much-frizzed and be-rhinestoned proprietress as she brought out a curly, reddishbrown bang. “A great bargain, too, only, two and a quarter!”
It was not a perfect match—only a perfect horror; but it restored a little of poor Mrs. Neal’s faltering self-respect; it made her more secure, in thought, among the shining pans and mottled kettles of Mr. Johnson’s emporium; and so, perhaps, jt was not altogether useless!
AND SO, on a certain frosty morning in January, 1919, Mrs. Libbie Downs and “Lady Brownie”—a quiet, selfpossessed old lady with soft gray hair, soft dark eyes, and a gentle voice—might have been seen at early breakfast in Mrs. Libbie’s basement dining-room.
“Have some more bacon, Lady Brownie,” coaxed plump little Mrs. Downs. “You’ll need it; it’s cold enough to-day to freeze the nose off a brass monkey. I only hope Sam’s ears don’t drop off him before he even gets to his office!”
“He left pretty early, didn’t he?” smiled Mrs. Brownell, stirring her coffee slowly. “I haven’t heard Mrs. Neal go out yet. Poor thing!”
“Poor thing!” flamed Mrs. Downs, “I should say she is a poor thing!”
She slapped down a piece of toast so viciously that it broke in two.
“And as for him. . . .thatFerdinand'.... . I’d like to shoot him. No, that wouldn’t do any good either... .1 suppose his nasty, snivelling wife would get everything, then!” "Now, Libbiekins!” reproved Mrs. Brownell mildly, shaking her head.
“Well, wouldn’t she? It makes me downright sick! There she is, private secretary to some big Victoria Street man, getting $40 a week at least.... and him making barrels of money in country building lots. . and always pleading poverty!”
“Maybe he really has everything tied up. .. land poor. . . as he claims,” soothed Lady Biownie, the peacemaker.
“Tied up? Nonsense! He ought to be tied up, though. ..by the neck. If it wasn’t for Sam, I’d tell him a few things! There they are, living in a beautiful big house, no children, and a housekeeper to take care of everything so that poor dear Rose can hold her good job.. . and even keeping two monstrous big collie dogs! Why, one of those mutts eats as much as a man.... and good sight more than poor old Mrs. Neal!”
“It is a shame,” admitted Lady Brownie, shaking her placid gray head and sighing. “But you spoke to him once. ...”
“Oh, yes, I spoke to him! That was away back last winter. I just told him it would be better if his mother was with them, where she could have more comforts .... and anyway she shouldn’t be going out to work, half crippled with rheumatism like she is.... ”
“And he said. . . . ”
“Yes he said. . .” Mrs. Libbie Downs angrily mimicked Ferdinand’s suave accents. “He said, ‘Ah well, my, dear Mrs. Downs, we all have to do our best, you know! And my mother really would not wish to be a burden upon us?”
"A burden!” Mrs. Brownell shook her head deprecatingly.
“Yes, a burden!. ... after she’d given him all her furniture, linens, every stick she had. And what about all the money they must have got for that shop building? She never got a cent of that.... you can see for yourself.”
She broke off» and angrily poured another cup of coffee, for Lady Brownie.
“She’d have frozen this winter, I guess, if I hadn’t made him bring her that quilt..
old ragged thing it is, too; they ought to be ashamed!”
"It’s not much worse than that muff was,” suggested Mrs. Brownell sadly.
“Yes—could you ever believe it? The nerve of that Rose, with her big house and her housekeeper and her collie dogs. . sending the poor old thing that nasty little dyed catskin muff... .for a Christmas present!. . . . and hardly big enough to get one hand into. ...”
“And she was so pleased!” Lady Brownie shook her head pityingly. “It’s just like the poor thing; just what you’d expect, when she even starves herself to keep up her little insurance, for Ferdinand...” “There she comes!” Libbie Downs jumped up and ran to look out. “I put ashes on the front stoop.... but I always worry for fear she’ll fall.”
While they watched, - old Mrs. Neal, bent wjith rheumatism, made her painful way down the steps, across the small yard and through the front gate. She stood clinging to the iron fence, afraid of the slippery side-walks. It was her custom, all winter, so to cling and wait urltil some husky neighbor or other happened along, whom she could ask to help her as far as the corner.
“There’s no one coming,” fretted little Mrs. Downs. “I’m going to throw on a coat and help her up the street myself.” “Oh, I wouldn’t go out this coid morning in those house-slippers, libbiekins,” demurred Mrs. Brownell. “Wait.... here comes a good big man; nobody from around here, though.”
THE burly passer-by, who was carefully scanning the numbers as he came up the block, had now caught sight of Mrs. Neal’s bent little figure, and quickened his steps.
“He’ll help her,” exulted Libbie Downs. “He’s saying something to... .oh! oh!.... Lady Brownie, she’s going to fall... .no.. . he’s caught her....oh, she’s hurt!”
She ran to the door, fumbled with the knob.. Lady Brownie, motionless at the window, saw the big man raising a limp form in his arms, striding toward them; but she had not heard him cry, “Mother!.... don’t you know me?”. nor Mrs. Neal, before consciousness slipped from her, murmur, “Tommy! My boy! My boy, Tommy!”
At three o’clock that afternoon, just when Mr. Ferdinand Neal was the busiest and the most unwilling to be disturbed, a large, crude stranger pushed his way past the dazed office boy and the gasping junior clerk, and without further ado opened the sacred door marked “Mr. Neal,... Private,” and slammed it rudely behind him. Mr. Ferdinand Neal turned quickly from his desk, and his pale face flushed; then, suddenly, as he gazed at the stocky carroty-haired intruder, the blood ebbed from his cheeks and his jaw dropped.
“Why, hello, Ferdie, old dear!” said the other in a low, mocking voice. “Hardly knew your dear little brother at the first glance, eh what?”
Noisily he dragged up a chair and flung himself into it, with his face hardly six inches from Ferdinand’s. His mouth tightened and a subtle menace crept into his boyish eyes.
“Thought I was safely dead, didn’t
you! Gee, how I wish I had known____a
few things I know now!....When that
hobo kid I picked up for a pal____Calgary
Pete, they called him.... knocked me out one dark night down at Edmonton and skipped with my clothes and the dollar or two I had, and even the ring mother’d given me.... well, I just thought it was a pretty low-down trick; but Calgary Pete got his... . smashed up in a train wreck, and his head nothing but a bloody pulp*
when they pulled him out.....Gee, if I’d
only known! If I’d only written! I didn’t want to write till I was a real success!....
I never even knew there’d been a wreck until.... until last night, when I heard I was dead and buried!”
He laughed hoarsely. Ferdinand, shrunk back against his desk and ghastly pale, said nothing.
“Yes, I sent Mother a card or two to the old address. I suppose those Jews that have the place now, didn’t know where to send them. Then, the war! I didn’t want her to know I was going over.... thought she’d worry.. Home last Fall and mustered out.... arm-bone full of shrapnel, went straight through to the Coast and started over. Oh, the old arm’s good enough now!”
He raised his left fist meditatively.... a hard brown fist.
“Yes, Calgary Pete got his. And now, you’ll get yours!”
Don’t you touch me!” gasped Ferdinand “I'll call for help. . . I’ll....”
“Shut up, you fool,” said Tommy briefly, pushing him back into his chair with a contemptuous hand. “I’m doing the talking just now, you’ll do the listening. .. . except when I give you your cue to pipe
“I told you to shut up, didn’t I?” said Tommy a little more tensely. “Just remember one thing....I’m over twentythree years old now, and for about twentytwo of those years, I’ve been longing to beat you to a pulp. A pale-yellow pulp. Don’t tempt me too far!” His breathing quickened. “I’d do it anyhow.... you
pup. . . right here and now.....if it
wasn’t for. .. Mother.” His tense voice trembled. “She’s suffered too much already....! ... Bah! what’s the use of talking about it, to youl"
He settled his chair with a thump.
“Now then. Down to brass tacks. You answer straight... .or I’ll smash in
that pasty face of yours.....Why did you
put that wallet of Haskins’ among pay clothes in the closet? Hoped they’d find it there, I suppose, and suspect me!”
“No... no... .” stammered Ferdinand. “I don’t know why. You remember .... you were in the shop, and I was studying upstairs; my head ached, and I was going out for a walk; I saw the wallet on the floor, when I came down; you were doing your algebra and didn’t look up, so I stuck it in my pocket. Then I opened the door to go out, and you looked up; .... I was afraid, so I just mumbled that it was beginning to rain and I guessed I wouldn’t go out.”
“Oh yes. .. .1 remember,” said Tommy coldly.
“I went upstairs. . . .1 couldn’t think; no place seemed safe enough; I was sitting there holding the wallet in my hand, when I heard Mother coming down the hall; I.... I was in ä panic. I ran and stuffed it into the closet... .your coat just happened to be nearest the door. When she came in, I pretended to be studying; I was afraid even to turn around. I was going to hide the money somewhere else, after everyone was asleep.... throw the wallet away, out of the window. .. .But she found it.”
“And so you let them think I had taken it.”
“Well. .. .well....” blustered Ferdinand, “. . . .what would you expect me to do?”
“Exactly that,” murmured Tommy, “exactly that. . . .particularly after I had kept still about your coming downstairs. By the way.... what was your idea, anyhow, in taking that money?”
FERDINAND colored, and his eyes shifted uneasily.
“Well. . . . ” he muml ed. “I was going to get a brooch-watch for Rose with it. One of those all the girls used to wear pinned to their shirt-waists. Rose was crazy for one; and I planned everything; I’d tell her I had found the watch in High ; Park. .. .then we would watch the ads, but no one would ever advertise for it, so after a while she would be safe enough in keeping it. Well, of course there would have been some risk for me but.... ”
“Ah, yes,” said Tommy bitingly, “that would have been a pity; and it’s too bad Rose never got that watch!” He laughed unpleasantly. “Perhaps, though, all the furniture, and linens, and silver, that she did get.... of Mother’s. . . have partly made up for it!”
Abruptly he moved his chair even closer to Ferdinand’s desk.
■ “Now, I have made a few little plans,” he said smoothly, “and I am sure you will be only too glad to fall in with them. It would be such a pity you know, to have an affair like this thrashed out in court! So embarrassing to dear Rose to have it even appear that she had defrauded a helpless old woman.... don’t you think so? At any rate, I have some papers already drawn up.... ”
He tossed two folded documents "brusquely upon the desk.
“All quite regular, you see. . . a little bond and mortgage for $3,600 on your house, in favor of Mother. ... ”
_ “What!” shrieked Ferdinand, trying to
Tommy coldly motioned him back.
“All quite regular, as I said.... not even as much as her share and mine would be legally—without the interest. How for-
tunate that you own your beautiful home out here, all free and clear! I had a search made this morning. Now, you and Rose can just execute these, and send them around to me by noon to-morrow, at Mrs. Downs’. The interest on this mortgage will give Mother a little pin-money now and then, but of course if there is any default, we shall regretfully have to start foreclosure.”
“I won’t.... Rose won’t...” Ferdinand began to stammer incoherently.
“Oh, I think you will. . . and I think Rose will!” Tommy’s red hair fairly bristled with menace. “Ah, about the furniture . . . . ” he went on more slowly. “The furniture, we won’t bother with, because I am taking Mother out to the Coast to live with me. Oh, yes.... I have a nice little fruit-farm in the Okanagan Valley now, with a partner. . . an honest partner; and a nice little bungalow; all ready, and just waiting for Mother to pick out the furniture.”
He rose, and pushed back his chair noisily.
“By noon to-morrow. . don’t forget!” He turned to the door.
“And now I am going down to see Haskins,” he smiled. “I always did like old Haskins! Oh, no... I won’t tell on you ... don’t worry. Because I think he has guessed... enough.... as it is.”
The door closed noisily.... then opened
“Oh, by the way, Ferdie dear!” came Tommy’s mocking voice. “When Mother and I start for the Coast, to-morrow night at seven, you and Rose will be at the Union Station to see us off. You will bring Mother some flowers; and you will both kiss her goodbye ... Is that clear?”
“Rose can take the consequences, then!” The door slammed.
EVENING, in the great bustling Union Station; and a bewildered little old lady, the dazzled center of an attentive group.
“I’ve brought you some flowers to wear on your trip. . . Mother. ...” said Rose, very low. (If her cheeks were paler than usual, and her lips even more tightly pressed, why, let that pass!)
“Violets!” cried old Mrs. Neal, like a delighted child. “Oh, ’ow sweet of you, my dear!”
Timidly she put her arms around Rose, and kissed her cold cheeks.
“Look, Tommy!” she cried then, “ eyen’t they lovely?”
“Now we must be going, Mother. . . it’s time for you to get on the train,” said Ferdinand hurriedly. He kissed his mother gracefully enough. “Come, Rose....Remember, Mother, when Tommy brings you back for a visit, you’re to stay with
They were gone.
“And that’s the last we’ll see of him.... I hope!” muttered little Mrs. Downs malevolently to Lady Brownie. Then the two pressed closer to the flushed and halftearful Mrs. Neal.
“How lovely your hair looks to-night!” whispered Libbie Downs warmly.
“Yes, doesn’t it?” Mrs. Neal naively raised her hat a little. “Tommy, ’e’s ’ad me shopping. .. on Roncesvalles too. . .. all afternoon, buying me this lovely dress an’ coat an’ ’at; an’ ’e took me to a big lovely cof......coffee-er’s, an’ ’e’ says to
them, ‘Fix ’er up to look real fashionable!’ ... .an’ they did!”
She beamed happily, patting the grayish-blonde waves that rippled under her pretty velvet toque; for the red-brown curly horror was gone!
“Well, come on, Mother,” laughed Tommy. “Goodbye, Mrs. Downs. .. Mrs. Brownell.... We won’t forget you!” The gate clanged shut, and the two women turned away.
“Well, Lady Brownie,” mused plump little Libbie Downs, “there goes a good little soul, just like those good mothers in the Bible. .. what did it say?....
‘priced above rubies’......”
“ ‘She is known in the gates. her price is above rubies. . . .’ ” essayed Mrs. Brownell, smiling tenderly.
But Mrs. Neal? Ah, she would have said that it was a good son whose price was above rubies! And hadn’t she two such sons?. . . And Rose besides. . . Rose, wh* had brought her those sweet violets, all dewy and fresh!
So the transcontinental train roared on through the night into a new life. . . .in sunny Okanagan Valley, a life transfigured by love.