Miss Marriott's Grit
Was Felicia Harcourt really the kind of “ninny who is afraid mice and snakes and cows?”
MISS MARRIOTT'S coming to-day! The announcement
created something of a stir on the Club House verandah, for few among the guests were so uninformed that they failed to recognize the name.
The gentleman who had ridden over from Lake O’Hara that morning re-
peated: “Coming to-day? Miss Helena Marriott—the mountain climber?”
“The Miss Marriott,” answered Mrs. Critcherly, with a shameless touch of pride. “You know of her, of course?”
The gentleman modestly admitted that he had met her. She had been at Banff while he was there.
At this, questions fell upon him like hail. How old was she? Was she really good looking? Heaven knew her photographs were stunning, but then you never could tell. . . . Had she a husband tucked away somewhere like a skeleton in the closet? Had she a hidden romance? And was it true that she had come down Mt. Assiniboine, head-foremost?
“I believe she has been in some ticklish situations,” murmured the gentleman, mildly.
“I understand that she saved her guide’s life by tunnelling through a glacier to the bottom of a crevasse into which he had fallen,” contributed a lady, with faultless riding clothes and an unconquerable fear of a horse.
“■ • • And she was lost in a blizzard on Mt. Stephen, wasn’t she? I read somewhere that she was climbing seventy-two hours without food.” “. . . And for two days, she was quite snow blind.”
. . And when her guide slipped and broke his leg, she carried him back to camp . . .”
_ Miss Marriott’s reputed achievements grew in picturesqueness and impossibility until even the most credulous protested. One statement, however, was universally admitted. In the language of Dimples Sloane, the flapper: “She’s the cat’s whiskers when it comes to a matter of grit!”
Alden trailed his gaze over Mt. Wapta, across the Summit to the pale blue glacier nestling on The President’s shoulder. His eyes were screened from toopenetrating observation by a barrage of smoke that burst from a sti bby black pipe. He had neither confirmed nor denied the assertions swirling around him, but when the hotel manager, Mrs. Critcherly, addressed him directly, he answered with becoming interest.
“So you’ve actually met her, Mr. Alden? That’s a mark of distinction in itself—such a famous person! How would you like to sit at her table? We’ll have to crowd a little this evening, and friends may as well be placed together.” Then, without
gether.” Then, without giving him time to speak, “I understand Miss Marriott’s bringing a companion.”
“A Miss-er-something-or-other. I’ve forgotten the name.”
“If the ladies have no objection,” said Alden, promptly, “I shall consider myself conspicuously honored by their company.”
'T'HE groups assembled on the verandah that evening A were actually less intrigued by the amethyst radiance of the surrounding peaks, than eager for a glimpse of Miss Marriott. Even the waitresses relaxed their vigilance, and hovered near the windows. Kitchenwards, every doorway framed at least three persons and the office staff had grown almost peevish with the suspense of waiting.
“Here they come!” cried Mrs. Critcherly, rushing out to the steps. She, herself, opened the motor door.
“This is Miss Marriott,” said the younger of the two women, indicating her companion. “I am Felicia Harcourt.” She spoke quickly, as though anxious there should be no mistake in their identities.
“My guide is coming along with the luggage,” announced Miss Marriott, cutting short Mrs. Critcherly’s welcome. “He’ll pitch his tent somewhere near. I suppose there’s a safe place where you can store the equipment?”
“Oh, certainly . . . with pleasure.”
“Thanks. Then, Felicia, you’d better get the mail, and the typewriter. We’re about six articles behind, you know . . . I’ll go to my room, Mrs. er—rur—which way?”
Alden pushed forward. The crowd watched breathlessly, keen on the scent of romance.
They were rewarded by noting a slight softening in Miss Marriott’s manner, and a decided stiffening in that of her companion. The usual pleasantries were exchanged as the three passed into the office.
“Well! What do you make of that?” demanded Dimples. “Did you see how she snubbed him?”
“The companion-person’s jealous, I should say,” replied her mother. “She has rather a good thing of it, and doesn’t encourage any poaching on her preserves.” “But I heard it rumored that Miss Marriott was in love with her guide,” volunteered Miss Croyle, the lady afraid of a horse. “They say he’s a gentleman impoverished by the war—a Russian or something, with a title he doesn’t use.”
“Even so, that wouldn’t debar other competitors,” argued Mrs. Sloane.
“On the contrary,” said another member of the group. “What price the Alpineer?”
“I think you’re abominable!” flared Dimples. “If she is in love with her guide, somebody ought to tell Mr. Alden! It would be rotten to see such a prince go in with that big handicap!”
“Hush, child!” warned her mother. “Here he comes.”
MISS HELENA MARRIOTT enjoyed a loud, resonant voice, and most of the people in the dining room were taken into her confidence at breakfast the following morning. She climbed because she couldn’t help it. Just as men love the sea, and return to its hardships, its cruelties, its dangers, so she was drawn to the mountain peaks, the glaciers.
“Again and again I’ve made ‘my last trip,’ and now look at me!” she invited, graciously. “Here I am, scarcely able to sit still, with the pinnacles of this splendid range calling me!”
She admitted having been tired, but hesitated at the word nervous. “If you mean afraid,” she said, “no. I think not, for myself. When Feodor was badly hurt one time, I felt pretty sick over it, but I wasn’t exactly nervous.”
Miss Harcourt spoke. She was several years younger than Miss Marriott and looked better adapted to gathering flowers in an old-fashioned garden, than climbing mountains. With the cruel intolerance of youth, Dimples characterized her as “the sort of ninny who is afraid of mice and snakes and cows.” Her words fell in little gushes, as though, at any moment, she might be cut off in the middle of a sentence. The people at the next table had to stop eating their toast to hear what she was saying. “I’ve never seen—Miss Marriott nervous,” she declared. “I don’t believe she knows the meaning of the word.”
“Do you climb, too?” asked Dimples, with insulting
“Oh, I just tag along,” returned the girl. “Miss Marriott has patience enough to try to make an Alpineer out of me.”
Miss Marriott shot a look out of the window and consulted her watch. With an absent air she helped herself to the marmalade, Miss Harcourt passed to her. “You do very well, Felicia,” she said, warmly. “There’s nothing the matter with your climbing. The trouble with you is that you don’t like it well enough. One must be unhappy unless one is climbing to make a good Alpineer, as you call it. Otherwise, it’s all apprehension, hard work and actual danger.”
Dimples plunged once more into the conversation. “Speaking of danger—you should do a movie. Miss Marriott! Some of those near-squeaks of yours would make a ripping picture! I can just see the sub-titles . . .” she said, closing her eyes. “Mt. Stephen’s moraine and Miss Marriott’s grit!’ ”
The climber smiled, indulgently. “My small exploits are not considered particularly important, dear child. If I were a prize fighter, now, or a baseball player . . . Besides, the expense of trips like mine does not appeal to the average motion picture company, on whose pay-roll you will seldom find an expert camera man and a skillful Alpinist, combined.”
“Didn’t I see a Sept in your outfit?” asked Lawrence Alden, making himself heard for the first time. He had been gravely attentive to the two ladies, apparently insensible to Miss Harcourt’s rebuffs and Miss Marriott’s indifference.
“Yes, this year I have a Sept—a small motion picture camera,” she explained to the room, “running about fifteen feet of film, and quite adequate for recording a peak or cloud effect—anything that really matters.”
The Gallery was more than a little affronted to note that notwithstanding the extreme dissimilarity between the two women under ordinary conditions, they were almost indistinguishable when dressed for climbing. Even Mr. Alden had to look twice to determine which was Miss Harcourt, and which was her famous companion. Their costumes were identical, from the broadbrimmed hats strapped under the chin, to the neat, nail-studded boots, oiled against intruding damp.
Feodor, tall, fair, slender, stood over the packs, apportioning them impartially. Dimples was furiously ?xcited to see that Alden had joined the party.
“Where’s the Sept?” cried Miss Marriott, in her ringing voice.. “I’ll carry that.”
Feodor was seen to demur. His words did not reach the Gallery.
“Nonsense!” Miss Marriott protested. “What’s a few ounces more or less on a short trip like this? You take the film, and give Mr. Alden the extra rope Miss Harcourt insists upon carrying.”
She flung a professional glance at the glacier gleaming softly in the morning haze. Streamers of thin mist trailed over the lake and tried to find an anchorage in the trees. The wind sang a wordless melody as it rushed about heavy with the odour of balsam.
“Come on,” cried Miss Marriott, impatiently. “I can’t wait another second!” As she led the quartet with a rhythmic, swinging stride, it was faithfully recorded by the battery of kodaks trained upon her that her pack was conspicuously larger than those of her companions.
“Did you see that load?” breathed Dimples. “She just snatched up everything at the last. Can you beat that woman for grit?”
IN THE middle of the first steep grade, Felicia Harcourt stopped with a shame-faced little laugh. “Sorry,” she said, looking up at Miss Marriott who was perched above her like an enormous heron, “but my pack seems to be wobbly. It’s one-sided and beastly uncomfortable.”
Continued on page 49
Miss Marriott’s Grit
Continued from page 10
Feodor, who was leading, looked patiently down with the air of one who has grown weary of this complaint. He made no move to help, but Alden sprang up beside the girl.
“Give me something,” he begged. “I’m very light. Can’t I take your lunch and the glasses?”
Miss Harcourt, however, refused to relinquish any part of her load. Instead, she persuaded Miss Marriott to give up the Sept and a few odds and ends which she divided with Alden. The adjustment completed, they went on at somewhat reduced speed—a pace, as Miss Harcourt explained, more happily adapted to her amateurish attainments.
There was no trial. If the glacier had been visited previously, the climbers had, without doubt, taken a different route. Delays were frequent while Feodor searched for the most direct passage. The heat was intense whenever they were shut off from the ice-tempered wind; and swarms of insects heightened the temperature of blood already fevered by the sun.
“Feodor,” called Miss Harcourt, after a long silence, “how does it look from up there? I call this pretty hard going for so small a reward.”
“Oh, Feiicia,” interrupted Miss Marriott, fanning herself so vigorously that her words were almost panted. “You aren’t tired, are you? You know how I hate to turn back once I tackle a job!” “No, I’m not exactly tired—”
“Well, then, do try to keep up! The going is a bit stiffish here. I admit it, but it can’t last long. Anybody watching you would get the idea that climbing and dawdling over an English lawn were one and the same thing. Look at me ... I work! I make an effort!”
Alden could not deny it. Miss Marriott’s streaming face was ample evidence. Nor could he convince himself that Felicia Harcourt was making a tenth of the struggle put forth by her companion. Like Feodor, she seemed to rise from crag to crag with the sort of resilience that suggested a soap bubble. Her face was scarcely flushed; her breathing was inaudible.
“I’ll do anything you say,” she returned, “if you’ll just keep leaning against that rock till I get a picture.” Her eyes flashed over the surroundings. “I’ll crawl over to that ledge on your right, from where you’ll show up beautifully against the sky-line.”
When Alden realized which ledge the girl indicated, he scrambled, short of breath and white of face, up to Feodor.
“You’re in charge of this expedition,” he said angrily. “Why don’t you forbid her to go there? One mis-step and she’s gone.”
Feodor shrugged. Keeping his eyes on Miss Marriott, he answered:
“I’ve given up making suggestions, let alone issuing commands.”
“But she’s taking such a needless risk,” persisted Alden, unconsciously holding himself tense as he watched Felicia working along the face of a tall cliff. “Suppose she should get dizzy—”
Again, the guide shrugged.
“No use getting excited,” he said, with his charming foreign accent. “She takes a good many risks—for a poor climber.”
At the call, Feodor transferred his gaze from Miss Marriott, whose face had assumed a more normal color, to the sheer wall upon which Miss Harcourt had mangaged to secure foothold. A curious light came into his eyes. His nostrils grew hard and white. He raised his hand, signalling that she had caught his attention. How small she looked! How frail! How superbly indifferent to her danger! There wasn’t a shrub or a blade of grass to give her the slightest assistance, should she trip or slide . . .
“Feodor,” she repeated, “I’ve got a topping place for a picture! You get Miss Marriott on the rope, so that I can take her scaling that rock from where she’s sitting up to you. A wonderful silhouette!” she added, squinting through the finder.
MISS MARRIOTT threw herself energetically into her performance. Presumably, she was a good actress, and contrived to make it look exceedingly difficult. By judicious use of her hands, feet, knees and finally her frontal bone, she gained the summit of the rock to which Alden and the guide had pulled her.
“Bravo!” cried the girl. “That will show the cushion-chair traveler what Alpine climbers have to tackle!” She moved nimbly to a safer position, sticking to the rock apparently by suction.
Alden felt rather squeamish and disinclined for lunch by the time she had joined them.
Feodor seemed suddenly ill-tempered and sullen. He ate his food in silence, and lighted Miss Marriott’s cigarette with a shockingly surly hand.
Despite the fairness of the day, there was a sense of disturbance in the atmosphere.
“Well,” said Miss Marriott, “we’d better push on. That’s the worst of starting late. By rights, we should have been away at dawn.”
“I know.” Felicia spoke apologetically. “But I was so tired this morning!”
Miss Marriott admitted that she was a little drowsy herself. She didn’t mind any amount of walking, she explained to Alden, but riding always made her want to sleep. “And we rode miles, yesterday. You had to call me, didn’t you, dear?” Felicia nodded.
“I heard you. I never sleep soundly. But I was too utterly contented to move.” Such did not appear to be Feodor’s state of mind. He flung his half-smoked cigarette away, and muttering something that nobody seemed to understand, disappeared from sight. A dark red wave flooded Felicia’s cheeks. But she chatted on as gaily as before, reminding Miss Marriott of a dozen thrilling incidents in her extraordinary career.
The minutes passed. Feodor had not returned.
“I’ll try to find him,” Alden volunteered. “Perhaps he’s taking a nap.”
The guide was wide awake, however. He was sitting behind a boulder, smoking as though large issues depended upon his effort.
“The ladies are waiting for you,” said Alden.
“Let them wait,” was the amazing retort. “I’m not going on.”
“But, see here—”
“I tell you, I’ve had enough! I’m going back.”
“But at least you can tell me why—”
There was an indefinable quality about the man that robbed his words of impudence. He spoke as an equal, and his manner did not suggest unreasonable insubordination. Alden forgot he was a guide, hired at five dollars a day, and felt only a vast curiosity as to the cause of his extraordinary conduct.
“Why?” he repeated, savagely. “Can’t you see why? Haven’t you a pair of eyes in your head? I tell you if we go on, we’ll have a suicide or a murder on our hands! Why, that woman—”
It was Felicia Harcourt’s voice, almost unrecognizable in its anger. It was Felicia Harcourt who stood near them, almost unrecognizable in her fury. Abashed, both men stared at her in : silence.
“Is this the way you keep your promise?” she blazed, looking at the guide. “Is this what you call helping me?” Then suddenly, her manner changed. “I’m sorry, Feodor! I know what it has cost you . . . indeed, I realize what a trial I have been! And you have been so splendid! But please, don’t desert me now! If you’ll only stand by me through to-day, I’ll promise never to ask you again. Meanwhile, I’ll try not to make it so hard for you.”
Alden saw the hard light die in Feodor’s eyes. He was not proof against the girl’s soft pleading.
“If I nearly broke my promise,” he said gruffly, “you completely broke : yours . .
She nodded. She was ever so sorry; and she was sorry, too, that all this unpleasantness had occurred before Mr. Alden. Would he please forget and forgive it? Climbers, like other monomaniacs, make mountains out of molehills.
THERE was a hurried re-adjustment of the packs, with the result that Miss Marriott’s back bulged like that of a j camel. She seemed to be carrying a cruel load, for her movements were marked by increasing deliberation; and yet, Alden could have sworn that his burden was heavier than when he started.
The going grew worse. A forbiddingly steep stretch lay between them and the ice. Miss Harcourt lagged behind. Alden lagged with her. Every few yards Feodor and Miss Marriott had to wait for them to catch up.
“Do you think we should go on?” asked Alden.
“Certainly! Why not?”
‘Well, it is beginning to tell on—” “If you will please go ahead with the others,” the girl cut in, crisply, “I think I can do better. Really, I am quite all right.”
But he was stubborn, too.
“I don’t want to go ahead, and I know you are all right. I was thinking—” “Are we near the ice, now?” she called. “Oh, good! Then, do give me a lift, Feodor!”
With a smile that was almost contemptuous, the guide jumped down and held out his hand. Meanwhile, Miss Marriott dropped on a rock and rested. Felicia Harcourt labored slowly up and sank panting beside her friend. “I don’t know where my breath goes,” she gasped. “Couldn’t we wait just a little minute?” “No more,” said Miss Marriott. “We’ve lost too much time already.”
FOR a while after reaching the ice, the walking was easier. Miss Harcourt took photographs of séracs, caves and Miss Marriott using her axe. Then they were halted by an ugly cravasse that separated them from what looked like an interesting bergshrund.
“Home, James!” said Miss Harcourt, laughing.
“Don’t be silly, Felicia,” reproved Miss Marriott. “There’s a snow bridge that looks perfectly good to me.”
“Perhaps,” said Feodor, from behind his glasses, “but I don’t like the ice over there. We’ll have to cut most of our way.” Miss Marriott took the glasses. She didn’t believe they would have to cut much of the way. She was determined to go on “Unless, Felicia, you—”
Felcia looked at Feodor, and hesitated. Whatever he hadintendedtosay.it was obvious that he changed his mind. Shrugging his shoulders, he muttered that he supposed it could be done.
“Then out with the rope, quickly,” commanded Miss Marriott. “You are not really afraid, Felicia?”
“N-no. Only—would you mind letting me go next to Feodor? I feel rather more confidence near him.”
Miss Marriott laughed,
“Baby,” she said. “When will you grow up and scrap your nerves?”
Alden was on the point of remarking that he understood the place next the guide was more hazardous than any other position in the line, when Felicia cut in.
“If you will take the Sept, Helena, dear,” she said, “perhaps you can get a picture of me on the bridge. When I do stunts like this, my hand wobbles so badly, I’m apt to spoil the film.”
“Well, who will take we?”
“I will be glad to try,” volunteered Alden. “However, as a matter of fact, it makes little difference which of you poses. Except in a close-up, it’s impossible to tell which is which.”
Felicia gave a little squeal of delight. “In that case,” she begged, “let me be your double, Helena! Oh, do! If Feodor will coach me, I’ll try all sorts of stunts . . . and it will be such wonderful practice for me!”
Miss Marriott was quite enthusiastic over the idea, but Alden could see that Feodor was anything but sympathetic. He roped the girl’s slender body with evident reluctance, and helped her through a number of difficult performances with so little encouragement that it was not visible to the unassisted eye.
“Don’t overdo the nervous part,” called Miss Marriott, as they were crossing the snow bridge. “You’re registering too much caution. Move faster . . . a few more feet, and I’ll have finished this roll.”
A little later, however, when, with Feodor’s assistance, she had made the passage, Felicia was rewarded by generous approbation.
“That’s not the easiest bridge I ever crossed,” she admitted. “You are not so good an actress as I imagined, but a better climber. Dear child, I am proud of you!” Owing to Felicia’s nervousness, Miss Marriott had the advantage of the steps cut by her as well as the guide. The ice was hard and its slope deceptive. The party made slow progress, mostly by crawling.
Then Miss Marriott slipped, and in catching herself, she managed to trample upon Alden’s hand. It was cut quite badly, but, as he said, himself, he was too close behind. However, to avoid doing him further injury, Miss Marriott took the last place in the line.
“One position is the same as another to me,” she said. “And if the nails in my boots are worn— You must look at them, Feodor. You know I don’t slip, as a rule.”
THEY had just started on again, when she lost her footing for the second time. Alden felt the sharp tug of the rope, and even as he braced himself, the tension relaxed and he plunged forward on his face. When he looked back, Miss Marriott was free, glissading down the slope towards the crevasse.
She clawed at the ice, but her axe wouldn’t hold.
“Feodor . . . help!” shouted Alden, as she disappeared over the edge.
A terrible cry roused the echoes of the hills, and Felicia Harcourt began to tear at the rope that bound her to the two men. In an instant, Feodor had seized her, defeating her effort towards freedom.
“Let me go!” she cried.
“Not till you’ll listen to reason.”
Like wrestlers they fought, fell, and rolled to Alden’s feet.
“All right ... all right ...” gasped the girl. “I’ll do what you say . . Only think quickly ... we must save I her!”
With the greatest possible caution and in the least possible time, the three slipped i down to the edge of the crevasse. There, perhaps sixty feet below, in what may I have been a snow-filled pothole, they could distinguish a dark object.
“She’s buried,” said Feodor. “I see her feet . . . she’s standing on her head.”
They shouted. There was no answer.
“Think of something, Feodor," panted the girl. Her face was drained of its color.
There followed a brief discussion. A curious configuration of the walls—a sudden narrowing near the pothole— created a serious difficulty; in Feodor’s opinion, a well-nigh impossible barrier between them and the space below. "Save for the force of the fall,” he said, “her body could not have wedged through.”
“Let me try to get down,” offered Alden.
“Absolutely no use.*’
“I’m going,” said the girl. “Don’t argue, please.”
But they wouldn’t agree, at once. The dangers were too evident. Anyone of a dozen projections might cut the rope while she worked without a foot-hold to dig the buried woman out. It was only when she represented her inability to be of any use in hauling up either of the men, that they consented.
“It’s the only thing to do,” she cried impatiently. “If I can’t manage any other way, I’ll throw a noose around her feet and let you pull her up head downwards. Only hurry—hurry. If she’s
alive, she will smother while we are wasting time.”
With set, white faces they saw her disappear. Inch by inch they paid out rope, although they knew by the impatient jerks that she was imploring them to let her make the descent faster.
“What do you think happened?” asked Alden, unable to bear the silence.
“Probably slipped—as usual,” replied the other indistinctly. He spoke as though his lips were stiff with cold. “I turned just as she went down . . . same thing happened to my brother, once . . . fell and cut the rope with his own axe, ' trying to grip the ice. Chopped it right through ...”
“What chance is there for her—er—for them?”
“Poor,” said Feodor, thickly. “Risky business hauling them up . . . ” He clenched his teeth. “If anything should happen to . . . But there’s nothing else to do . . . Take a day to work down the side . . .”
He covered a sound like a groan by mumbling something in his own tongue.
“I warned her! Two years ago, I told her what she was in for ... I wish to God that I’d exposed her, then!”
“Exposed whom?" asked Alden.
“The old woman, of course!” Some thread in the leash of his self-control seemed to snap. “Fraud . . . she is! Can’t climb . . . has no nerve! But
she doesn’t know it . . . nor does anyone else except . . . Miss Harcourt and me!”
“But, man—why did you go on?”
“Not much excuse. Insane, I suppose
. . Thought each time would be the last . . . Couldn’t keep away . . . And anyway, you know how you do things you swear you won’t—for a woman.” He broke off. “What’s happened?”
ALDEN crawled to the edge of the ■ crevasse and looked down. Felicia had squeezed through the tiny gap and was making a desperate effort to fasten the noose of her extra rope over Miss Marriott’s feet. There was no possible way for her to get abreast of the buried woman. Her only chance lay in working downward from mid-air. How long she would last was a question. The strain, the cold, and the agonizing grip of the rope were bound to tell. The men bathed in icy sweat, set their teeth and cursed their helplessness.
“Is she all right?” asked Feodor, after what seemed an eternity of waiting.
“So far,” Alden reassured him. “Pay out a little more . . . hold it . . . ah! She’s got it over . . I’ll give you a hand . . . Let’s pull!”
_ None of them liked to think of that time in after years. Three of the party lived a tortured century in a few minutes. Then, mercifully, one of them became numb to all sense of pain. How she thrust the limp, purple-faced swinging form through the narrow slit in the crevasse, Felicia never knew. How she continued to breath, with hot coils of steel crushing the breath from her body, she never could understand. How the men raised two sagging forms—a few inches at a time—so that they were not battered and torn by the sharp walls, was a miracle that was never explained. Pulling the two unconscious women over the edge of the crevasse was the most difficult part of all. Yet, that, too, was accomplished, and it then remained to revive them and discover the extent of whatever injuries they might have sustained.
For a time, the silence was broken only by the men’s hard breathing. They had wrapped the women in their coats and were shivering with nervousness and cold. Their hands were constantly interfering, as, with a sort of angry amazement, they found themselves applying their energies to Felicia Harcourt, to the neglect of her companion.
“Miss Marriott’s coming round,” said Feodor, at last.
“Fine,” replied Alden, absently. Felicia showed no signs of returning consciousness. The sun dropped out of sight, and little clouds, like pink balloons, drifted across the turquoise sky.
“I’ll carry her,” said Feodor. “We’ll have to go.”
“Better let me,” suggested Alden, “while you—” he made a significant motion of his head towards Miss Marriott.
“No. I’ll carry her,” repeated the guide. “Going down won’t be so bad.”
“We’ll take turns,” said Alden, firmly. And he had his way.
“TF YOU can’t understand it,” Felicia Jsaid, “you can’t understand me.”
She looked absurdly small and young,and her room was more like a Californian garden than part of a New York hospital.
“But what good did it do?” Alden was still stubborn.
“It gave her an interest in life and made her inexpressibly happy. Besides—I’ve never told you about my childhood. It isn’t a pretty story; and the only brightness I can remember was the love of Helena Marriott. She stood by me when we all went under; she put me on my feet when everyone else seemed to think the wisest course was to let me sink. Then, one day, she awoke to find herself middleaged with nothing to do. The climbing business was an accident ... A trip or two ... a couple of newspaper women, who had never been off the asphalt . . .” Felicia made a futile little gesture with the hand that was free “ . . . a staggering distortion of the truth for the sake of impressive copy . . . and the thing was done. There followed interviews and lectures and articles for the press . . . and absolute conviction! Do you understand that, Lawrence Alden? She hasn’t the remotest suspicion that all of this is untrue. The realization would kill her.”
“And you think she need never know?”
“I’m sure of it. Who’s to tell her—you or Feodor or I?”
“But will she be content to give up climbing?”
“Positively. She won’t go without me, and she won’t risk my life again. ” The girl laughed tenderly. “At last, Helena’s convinced that she can’t make a climber out of me.”
And then, for a time, they talked such foolishness! Alden complained that it was difficult to caress a plaster cast, and Felicia reminded him that unlike most heroines of Romance, she could deny the accusation of having clay feet. And just at an awkward moment, the nurse came in and was the first to offer her congratulations.
AS ALDEN floated down the steps, he collided with Dimples Sloane. “Fancy meeting you,” she cried. “Absolutely uncanny! This is my day to visit our Club Ward, and I was going to tell the dear souls about the summer— about you and Miss Marriott and the accident and everything! They adore thrills! But what have you been doing?” “Why, I’ve been getting myself engaged,” said Alden, rather to his own surprise. The words popped out before he had made up his mind to tell her.
“Engaged?” shrieked Dimples, gleefully. “How per-fectly morvullus! I know . . . you’re going to marry Misa Marriott!”
“No,” said Alden. “I’m going to marry Miss Marriott’s grit!”