ELEGANTLY CLOTH BOUND BOOKS. $1.25 Per Copy Postpaid PEARLS FROM MANY S EAS. A collection of the best thoughts of 400 writers. 528 pages. BIBLE CHARACTERS. An inspiring book. A collection of Sermons by the most renowned divines of their times on these subjects. 480 pages. THE FIRST MORTG.AGE. A pleasing and poetical presentation of Biblical Stories, 300 p. A YANKEE' S ADVENTURE IN SOUTH AFRICA. Giving the experiences, Dangers and N arrow Escapes of a Yankee seeking fortune i n that wi l d country. LIFE IN THE MINES OR CRIME A VEN GED. Including thrilling adventures among miners and outlaws. 343 pages. THIRTY-ONE YEARS ON THE PLAINS AND IN THE MOUNTAINS, by C. F Drannan, who went on the p lains when fiftteen years old. 656 p. CHIEF OF SCOUTS as Pilot to the Emigrants Across the Plains, by Drannan, a sequel to "ThirtyOne Years on the Plains." WILD LIFE IN THE FAR WEST. A full and graphic account of difficulties of all kinds met with in the wi l ds of Montana. 364 pages. ROUGH LIFE ON THE FRON TIER. The doings and darings of the 'men who pushed westward in the early days. 4 7 1 pages. TEN YEARS A COWBOY. Va ried experiences on the plains as a cowboy. 471 pages. EVILS OF THE CITIES. By Talmage. The Author, in company with detectives, visited many of the most vile and wicked places. 400 pages. HELEN BLAIR, a novel by Nina Mill er Elliott. An exceptionally interesting story by a great writer. WHEN THE HEART IS YOUNG. Nina Miller Elliott's se cond book. It is one of the best works of fiction brought out in recent years. EVERY WOMAN' S RIGHT. Nina Miller Elliott's latest book. Everyone who has read "Helen Blair" and "When the Heart is Young" will want to read this book.
-HELEN BLAIR A NOVEL BY Nina Miller Elliott THOS. W. JACKSON PUBLISHING CO. CHICAGO
Copyright 1915 BY THOS. w. JACKSON' PUBLISHING Co.
/ Helen Blair CHAPTER I. A wonderful May morning-the sky blue as indigo-with now and then a mantle of white fleecy clouds, banking themselves in patterns of beauty. Birds singing love songs to their mates. Nature so grand, so beautiful-bidding every one rejoice and worship the Great King of the Universe. Yet the little vine-covered cottage that sat far back from the road was filled with sorrow-sorrow almost greater than one feels in the hour of death. The little fam ily, of which there are thousands in the dear old Southland-gentle breeding, noble red blood in their veins, struggling with poverty, living a God-fearing life-had been dealt the blow that breaks the heart. Alice Blair, widow of '/;
8 HELEN BLAIR Richard Blair, sat holding the hands of her sister-in-law, Helen. Helen, hair that showed care, wonderful eyes of blue-. which she tried hard to keep closed-the long lashes were wet with unshed tears. The elder woman slipped from her chair, kneeling and clasping the girl to her breast, burst into a paroxism of weeping. "My baby sister, my little comfort-we will find a way-these doc tors must be will not close your eyes to all His beauty-you who have loved and obeyed Him. No I No I We will go to the great physician in the East.'' Kneeling before this child, her whole body convulsed with sobs, Alice Blair learned that the deepest, the most intense problem of love arfses not from the things we will not do for the beloved 's sake; but from the things we can do, because there is no capacity for doing. Life, cruel taskmaster that she is, does not hesitate to set the task with one hand, while with the other she holds back the ability to perform it. "Sister, mine, please don't cry. You know Dr.
HELEN BLAIR 9 Walter said I must not cry, because every time I do, it makes it so much worse. Come, dear, let us sit by the window. I hear my mocking bird calling for crumbs for her new family of yellow throats. Listen, Alice, I have learned to trill just as the motherbird does when she has fed the young ones and goes flying way up to the top of the oak tree to sit on a limb and enjoy her rest." Thus she prattled on of the birds and flowers, trying to interest the woman who had "mothered" her from infancy. The sun was slowly disappearing in the west; the evening breeze begun to rustle the leaves of the vine that climbed about the window. The gate swung open and Dr. Walter Jackson came quickly up the gravel path. Aunt Dicey ran to him from the back yard, where she was doing her best to shoo Miss Helen's bantam chickens in the coop. Raising her voice so that it could be heard, she called in her old mammy way: I ''Come here, honey; and he 'p me wid dese con-trary chickens-you know, Miss Helen '11 hab a fit if dey ain't on dat perch." Dr. Jackson
10 HELEN BLAIR laughingly went toward the old negro, who met him half way, saying: '' 'Scuse me, Doctor; I didn't want your he 'p wid de chickens, but I jes' had to put my min' to res'-'bout dat chile. Tell me the truf e-is it de Gospel fruf e T-is she bound to be bline T-and her wid dem pretty eyes and so sweet and sings lack de birds. Why, jes' dis mornin' I heered her and I thought 'twas the mocking bird what builds her nest every spring in our oak tree. I's praying, I is, dat de good Lord will show us a miricale and cure her." The old woman's sincerity was conveyed in her face. Taking the corner of her gingham apron, she wiped the tears from her eyes. Dr. Jackson put his hand on her shoulder, saying gently: "No, Aunt Dicey; don't grieve-I have come with good news; I have left no stone unturned to save that girl. Here in my pocket is a letter that tells me there is yet hope.'' "Glory be to God I" came in low accents from the woman, as she waddled back toward the
HELEN BLAIR 11 coop to close and lock the door to keep the '' trifiin' niggers from stealing dese poor little pullets.'' Alice the door for the Doctor. He reached for her hand, at the same time holding out a letter from Dr. Chester Armstrong, of New York City. "Now, what we are to do is send Helen to him at once. I have written and explained everything. He accepts the case on my terms. Now, my dear Alice, have her ready to leave Monday. I have friends going East and they will take charge of Helen.'' Conversation between the two kept up at a lively clip. Helen sat quietly, trying to realize the good fortune that had come to her. Yes, it was true-the great man of the East that she haP. prayed so hard for some good fairy to send her to him. Now she was actually to leave the dear ones behind and go to the big city. Many wonderful stories she read of all that was there, but now only one thing filled her beingthe great physician would look into her eyes-
12 HELEN BLAIR would use his skill, his power of healing, and she, Helen Blair, had one more chance to save her sight. She clasped her hands, murmuring: I blessed God_:_give me strength-give him power!"
Helen Blair in D New York City. octor Armstrong's office in
CHAPTER II. Chester Armstrong, prominent in his profession as an eye specialist, stood in his office watching Helen Blair as she hurriedly put her wraps on to leave after her daily treatment. "Call again at ten tomorrow." The door closed upon her. Turning into the room marked "private," he shut himself in to think over the headway he was making with this interesting patient. Two inonths before my story opens Dr. Arm strong had received a letter from an old college friend, telling him he was sending a patient, Helen Blair, who had some disease of the eye, requiring professional skill beyond that of the 13
14 HELEN BLAIR doctor around the southern town where sh lived, ending his letter: "Now, old chap, don't fall in love with the girl, but do what you can for her. She has no money-her voice is her fortune. Think what a feather it will be in your cap to send her home cured, after all these old-timers have had a dig at her. I hope I may see you ere the year is out. Yours, Walter.'' Going straight to the mirror, he surveyed himself, nearly six feet tall, broad, manly shoulders, eyes black as night, that gave a merry twinkle of satisfied vanity. He brushed the mass of black hair from his high forehead, speaking aloud : ''Come, come, pull yourself together, Chester, old dog; don't let golden hair that insists upon brushing your cheek as you lean over to use the dropper make a fool of you. This girl is not for you. Six months ago you closed the door upon all the feminine world, aave don't cause her unhappiness. She is a woman that means wife in every sense of the word. Her ambitions are in the right place. You must be all that your profession means_
HELEN BLAIR 16 perform miracles-above all, lead a quiet life. Si x months married, two evenings with the boys. I really am surprised at you, old chap." No one to have known Kate when she was the reigning belle of the college town would b elieve she could settle a f eilow so. The tinkle of the telephone disturbed his reverie. Open ing the door, he came smiling to greet the next patient, a man about town, connected with sev eral leading popular papers-very English, in sisting upon being classed as a journalist, not an ordinary newspaper man. Good morning, Doctor; I wish you to take a look at :rn,y eyes. Been working quite a bit at night; fear they are strained." After carefully examining the optics : ''Well, Mortimer, I think if you let up on the night work for a while and use a simple remedy for a few days, you will be all right-nothing serious.'' Seating himself opposite the patient, Dr. Armstrong talked to him of many interesting
16 HELEN BLAIR things of the day. When Mortimer was leav ing, he suddenly turned back. ''Bye the bye, Doctor; I met a very lovely young girl-Miss Blair-last night; she is a patient of yours, and a bright, intelligent person, with a mag nificent voice. What! you haven't heard her singT" "No, not yet; I am looking forward to that pleasure some time in the near future.'' "Well! well! my dear fellow, you surely have a treat in store. Say, Doctor, I do not wish you to think me impertinent-but, how about her eyes T Do you think she will ever be en tirely cured T I judge from my conversation with her that it is a serious case. I am much :interested in her. She is a dear friend of the young girl that will some day be Mrs. Reginald Mortimer.'' Going quickly into his private office, Dr. Arm strong came out with a small tablet in his h a nd. "Now, here, Mortimer, is the record I have kept of Miss Blair's case from the first day I
"By the way, Doctor, I met a patient of youl'tl, a Miss Blair. A charming girl.'' "Yes, Mr. Mortimer, Miss Blair is indeed a sweet girl. Speaking of the windows of the soul, in an my praetiee I never have yet 11een ach eyes.''
HELEN BLAIR 17 examined her. I really am proud of myself. 8ne is improving more rapidly than I expected. You know, in a small town there is always one doctor with the reputation of knowing it all; he stands there like a wall of stone. After hav ing consulted the Great I Am, if you go to one of th e climbers in the profession, no matter how much you improve, you really hate to let yourself believe it-you are so anxious that your family doctor still stands on his pedestal. So 'tis With Miss Blair. For several years she has been treated by a noted specialist in her home town, who had a wrong diagnosis of her case altogether. Simply because I do not believe in operations, removal of nerves and all kinds of painful treatment, she is afraid to believe what I tell her. Nevertheless, in three months Helen Blair will forget she had wept bitter tea.re ea.used by the thought of blindnei!I. And another thing, Mortimer, she will have no scars to mar her beauty. Why, a fellow would be a beast who would not move heaven and earth for remedies before bringing the knife
18 HELEN BLAIR near those eyes. Speak of 'windows of the soul,' in all my hospital work, or in my office, never yet have I seen such glorious eyes.'' When he ended this speech, he gave a short, quick laugh. Diving his hands deep into his pockets, he stood erect, much pleased with the effect his conversation had upon the English ma:. Mortimer, with hat in hand, looked at the handsome doctor. ''Good story. You shall have a full column just as soon as you tell me your patient is fully recovered. Good-day." Several ladies entered the waiting room. Dr. Armstrong, smiling a welcome to each, beckoned to the ''old lady in green goggles'' to come with him. He was soon busy and deeply interested in his day's work.
CHAPTER ill. Helen Blair, on her way to the Doctor'.; office, wondered if it could be true that she was in no danger of blindness. Try as she might, she could not shake off the terrible feeling of help lessness that came over her. What would be come of her if this man failed? When the conductor called Twenty-seventh Street, she with the crowd. Glancing at the large clock that was near the entrance of the office building, she saw that the big hand pointed to :five minutes of ten. She made it a point never to be late. Dr. Armstrong called from his private room: ."Good morning, Miss Blair; am waiting for you. I feel quite jubilant for you today; 19
20 HELEN BLAIR come right in.'' Taking both her hands, he pressed them gently. Closing the door, he c a me in front of Helen. She had taken her seat in the reclining chair. A few minutes were spent in examining the eyes. "Well, my young lady, do you know that I am to discharge my patient today? You are about ready to write the home folks that you have nothing to fear. Your eyes are as good as mine.'' As she grasped his meaning, she felt tears of joy running down her cheeks. She tried to speak. No sound came. Reaching out her hands, she took hold of her "deliverer" she now felt him to be. With a tense, drawn face her voice a whisper: "Doctor, is it trueT Is it true T Am I to have this terrible burden lifted fron:i me T Oh, God is good. You are good, grand and noble to give your life to this glorious work.'' Bringing his hands to her face, she kissed
HELEN BLAIR 21 them reverently. The young doctor was silent for some moments. Such gratitude for his pro fessional services had never been shown to him. Finally giving the girl a gentle pat upon her golden hair: ''Come now, we must not let the time go. There are many things to say. Brace up. You know I have been specially interested in your case. When the letter came from my old friend, advising me of your coming, and that your home oculist considered your case hope less, I determined I would relieve you. So worked up was I that I lay awake at night thinking of those blue eyes that must not be sacrificed. Each day I was impatient for your appointment, and so anxious to see the effect of the medicine. Now, Miss Blair, I find I have won. Your oculist at home was entirely wrong in his diagnosis. He used ":rong treatment. Nine out of ten would have done the same. I took a terrible chance, one that not one doctor in a thousand would; but Eureka we have won. For you can feel secure in one thing. The "in--
22 HELEN BLAIR curable disease" of the eye, four eminent phy sicians claim, was nothing more than a slight stigmatism. You kept your eyes constantly irritated. So, my young lady, once a wee k will be often enough for you to come-Thursdays at ten." All the time he was talking, a lonely, serious feeling was creeping over him. Helen sat in the large chair trying to realize the good news. Suddenly the full meaning of his words dawned upon her. She would not be blind. The beauti ful sunshine, the flowers, the blue sky would not be shut out from her forever. This man here, standing so complacently as if it was an every-day occurence for him to do some great and wonderful deed, was the instrument in God's hand by which all that made life worth living was given to her. So hard had she tried to be patient through the weary days and months spent in constant visits to professional men, that the good news was almost more than she could bear. With her hands firmly clasped, she stood close in front of Dr. Armstrong.
HELEN BLAIR 23 "What am I to say! How will I find words to tell you what I feel 1 Let me go now,'' as he held her hands to quiet her. ''When I get to my room, where I can sit and think, I will grow calmer; then words will form themselves. When I see you next I will be able to tell you all that is in my heart.'' How beautiful Helen looked. With the color gone from her cheeks, her features were per fect. Standing in the door for one moment, a smile such as Dr. Armstrong had never seen, broke over her face. "Let me come in the morning; I feel I come back to be assured of the blessed truth.'' "Indeed, you may come. I was regretting that I was so soon to miss your daily visits." ''Good-bye, I will not keep you waiting.'' Hurrying from the office, Helen went as fast as she could toward the park. She wanted to be near to nature, to breathe the fresh air. How thankful was her heart! What Divine Provi dence that sent her to this wonderful man! Oh,
HELEN BLAIR if she could only spread the glad tidings to the whole world. Here was a man who did miracles in healing. Thus her thoughts ran ae she watched the hurrying crowd. Armstrong whistled a popular air, completely satisfied with himself, wondering how the old fogies in Helen's home town would feel when she returned to them cured. He thought of the girl and wondered why more women were not like her. He had never seen her show those petty ways that most beautiful women possess. She was willful, yet her na tute was gentle and affectionate. What a wealth of passion was enclosed in the marble whiteness of her beautiful form. "Oh, to hold her in my arms in love's embrace I Why n<;>t make her mineT Why not give her the luxuries of lifef If she loved me, we would defy the convention set up by man. Why ehould one give up every thing in life for a woman, cold and selfish, per fectly satisfied to be admired by the world and called beautiful-her nature as cold and unre sponsive as the statues that adorn the elegant mansiOll wherein she dwella t"
''She must be minei Love is above law. For her l will defy the conventions set up b:r man.''
HELEN BLAIR 25 All the passion in Chester Armstrong's nature was fighting for mastery of him. In his selfishness he forgot everything but the mad desire to possess the beautiful Helen. His blood was boiling. He walked rapidly up and down the room, more determined each moment that she should be his, come what may. Patients entering brought him back to the duties of life, but all day he was in a nervous state, hardly able to keep his mind upon his work. Several times he left his office to go to a convenient caf e for a cocktail. By evening lie had decided to call Helen over the 'phone. Maybe she would allow him to call. While waiting, after giving the number, he grew nervous. "I wonder why I never thought of tf\lking to _her be fore T" "Hello! (yes, it is her.) Is this Miss BlairT This is Dr. Armstrong. Just thought I would call up to see how you have gotten through the day after the joyful news.'' "Oh, Doctor, how good of you! I am so
26 HELEN BLAIR happy that I feel that the whole world is good." "May I come up to see you a little while to. night?" Did she hesitate 1 He could almost feel she did. "Why, yes-you may; but you know I am i:o mighty poor quarters.'' ''Oh, that's all right. I will come about seven Maybe you would like to go out to dinner, bear some music; in fa c t, let's c e lebrate the wonder ful success we have bad. Bye-bye.'' So fast had Chester Armstrong spoken that he was almost out of breath. Now, to telephone to "the wife" that business would keep him down town until ten-thirty or eleven o'clock.
CHAPTER IV. The small room occupied by Helen Blair in the East Side boarding house seemed smaller and more unattractive than ever tonight. A couch bed, small dressing table and one chairall the room would hold. The few prints upon the wall, family photos, looked from cheap frames. The one plant she had bought by care ful saving. She surveyed the poor surround ings and wondered why she felt ashamed to have the handsome doctor know how miserable were her quarters. Yet she felt that J?.e would know she must be in just such a place. Wasn't he to receive monthly installments from the folks at home to pay for her treatment! 27
28 HELEN ELAIR "Oh, how very happy I will be to begin help ing. If only I could get a position in so:i;ne church." Her thoughts were interrupted by a tap upon the door. opening it. "Howdy do, I>r. Armstrong!" He stepped quickly into the room. "My! how sweet we look tonight: I know there will be more than one gentleman envying me. Come, put your things on; we will go to dinner." How much at home he was in her humble room. Helen for got that only a moment since she was dreading for the doctor to find out how poorly she lived. A Bohemian restaurant, where the crowd was all on pleasure bent. Music aided the digestion. How easily she could talk here. Her companion leaned over the tab le, looking straight into her eyes. "Helen, dear, do you know I am a very happy and proud man tonight. You are so beautiful,
HELEN BLAIR 29 10 good-and to think mine has been the hand that has saved you from a fate worse than death." While he spoke the girl was gazing as if hypnotized into his black e y es that held her blue ones spellbound. Laying her small white hand upon his arm, "How will I ever repay you t I know the folks at home will work and save until the money part is settled, but oh I that is not it. I want to do something myself, s
80 HELEN BLAIR "To be sure, you may. But still I will be the debtor, for dining out is one of the pleasures that has been denied me.'' The orchestra played "Trovatore," Helen singing softly, completely carried away with the music. Dr. Armstrong sat so near to her that he could feel thrills of ecstacy caused by an occasional touch of the shoulder. And he whispered: "Helen, how beautiful you are. How glorious that voice. We will yet feel proud of the little girl who has been so brave." Glancing at his watch, he said: "How time does fly when one is extremely happy. We must hurry now; it is near o'clock, and I always try to avoid explanations. I wonder why a man's wife insists upon knowing where he has been, who was there, and even the topic of con versation. Hey ho I they do, so we men must try to get our affairs in such shape that an occasional evening is necessary to arrange or talk over business, or meet an out-of-town friend at the club. Oh, any old story will do
HELEN BLAIR 31 until it wears out, or wif ey begins to suspect something. Then for a new fabrication.'' "Why, Doctor, is that the way married men deceive their wives 7 '' ''Yes; what of it 7 How many married women are there in this world but who are pining for some diversion T If they don't take it, they are silly. God made women to love and be loved. Here we are-give me your key." He stepped into the vestibule. ''Don't look so serious. You must not think seriously of all I say. Now, good-night, dear.'' Leaning toward her, he kissed her cheek. "I will be waiting for you in the morning. Sleep well. Good-night.'' Helen climbed the three flights of stairs, her cheeks flaming and heart beating so she could almost hear it. Seated upon the couch, with both hands holding her face, she whispered: "What does it mean T What does it mean 7" Slowly preparing for bed, her mind con reverberating to the affectionate good-
32 HELEN BLAIR night, the many carressing and little Dr. Armstrong had bestowed upon her, Helen tried to think, how, when a little girl things perplexed her, to make them easy she would sit in the little hide-bottom rocker Old Uncle Remus made for her, fold her hands, close her eyes for a long time, :r.nany childish tr?ubles had faded through such treatment. Why shouldn't the same "Good Fairy" come to her now when she was so in need of a guiding hand 1 How she longed for her dear, motherly Sister Alice to tell all her troubles to. She wrote a long letter once a week to her, filled with descriptions of New York ,'s free wondershow tonight she knew the cold, unresponsive ink and paper would not satisfy her longing to tell what was within her soul-she longed for Alice-for a listener who would understand. Leaning upon the window sill, Helen watched those who passed through the deserted street. She wondered if there were any who were as lonely as she. Finally she crept into bed-to dream happy dreams. She awoke with the sun
HELEN BLAIR streaming into her window. With a bound she sprung from her bed. Quickly dressing, she prepared her breakfast-a cup of coffee and a roll. Unconsciously she was humming a popular air-one she had heard at a concert. A quick rap at her door. Opening it, the maid handed her a note. Who could be sending her a note f With her nervous hands she opened it. A flush of radiant joy went over her face. To make sure she was not dreaming, she read aloud: "My Dear Miss Blair: We are trying voices for the choir of St. Stephen's Church. As you have been highly recommended by Mr. Mortimer, one of our vestrymen, as having a clear soprano voice, we will be pleased to have you meet with us Sun day evening at the church. ''Very Resp., "MAX Bmm, "Choir Master." With her head beating furiously and her cheeks flaming, she wrote a hearty acceptance.
34 HELEN BLAIR All day Helen sang as she went about her duties, wishing for Sunday night. She made up her mind not to be afraid-just sing with her whole soul. Many times she had attended St. Ste phen's. She loved the great big edifice, with the many memorial windows shedding their varied lights; the grand organ that pealed forth, lifting you higher and higher. She always joined in singing the hymns. Many had been attracted to her and wondered who the young girl was that sang the hymns and sat listening to the anthems with a radiant look of appreciation. Sunday night came at last. Helen Blair, dressed in a plain blue serge, with plain white collar and deep cuffs, a simple straw sailor hat. She sat quietly listening to the singers, waiting -her turn, wondering if she would please the exacting master. "Miss Blair," called the director. As she quietly rose, many admiring glances followed her. ''A mere child,'' was heard more than once.
HELEN BLAIR 35 "Miss Blair, have you studied voice 7" "No, sir," she answered, and it seemed that her fate 1 was hanging on a tender thread, for she heard several applicants give names of well-known instructors. ''Suppose you have some knowledge of music?" ''Yes, sir; I have taken piano lessons of a very good teacher in my home-down South.'' Coming to the organist, the director placed the music of ''Jerusalem, the Golden,'' handing Helen a copy at the same time. With a smile of self-assurance, she said: "I believe I know this-we sang it often in our church-I am an Episcopalian." Clearly she sang. Her voice filled the large church. The choir members were visibly ple ased as she sustained the high notes. Di rector Bond's smile of appreciatjon became con tagious, for the faces of all beamed with joy. Buck's "Te Deum" and "A Gloria" followed. With congratulations 9n every side, Helen bid
HELEN BLAIR them good-night. A prayer of an honest, thank ful heart ascended from her as she left the church-a member of the choir. Just as she was bidding Mr. Bond good-night, he called to one of the ladies who had sat through the prac tice. "Madame Linde, I am glad to have the pleas ure of introducing Miss Blair, whose voice you admired.'' "Miss Blair, may I have a few words with you f I suppose you are aware you have a rare voice, so we will not dwell upon that, only I offer to teach you, free, to prepare you for the great Sanger. If you will put yourself in my hands., do as I say, I feel your future is as sured.'' Almost overcome with emotion and excite ment, Helen gazed into the woman's face. Tears streamed down her cheeks. ''My dream! my dream '' She took the extended hand, carried it to her lips. "I am too full of joy to say what is in my heart, but it will come-I will tell
HELEN BLAIR 37 you later." Taking her card case, Madame Linde handed one to the girl. "Come at ten in the morning. We will make all arrangements for your lessons." Helen hurried home to write th e good news to Alice. Her letter was filled with gladness. Her soul poured itself out to the dear sister who was praying and waiting, denying herself the comforts of life so that this child might re ceive the benefit of medical skill. Helen told how she would soon be able to repay the :financial part-she already repaid with love the self denial of the loved one. As she rang the bell of Madame Linde 's studio, Helen felt her life was beginning to take on some of the things that she had longed for. A cheery good-morning from the Madame. "Now, sit here in front of me, dear; I want you to listen attentively to all I have to say. I suppose you are very curious to know why I went to hear you singf" ,,
38 HELEN BLAIR "Why, Madame Linde, I didn't know you were there to hear me especially. I thought you were hearing them all.'' ''So I did, dear; but you were the cause. I know all about you-the trouble you have had with your eyes. I know you will soon be a dis charged patient of my friend, Dr. Armstronghe has interested me in you. So you see it is he that really you must thank." "Why, Madame, he has never heard me sing. How does he know I am worthy of your kind ness-!" ''My dear, Mr. Mortimer has spread wide his opinion of your voice and his opinion is the open sesame to all music teachers, as he is critic on more than one newspaper, besides hav ing a musical education gained by hard study, just to be &ble to do hls work well.'' A tall girl came in and said something in a low tone to Madame. ''Yes, yes, I will be there directly." "Am sorry, my dear; I must cut
HELEN BLAIR 39 our little visit, but a business agent is here. Let me see my class book. Amelia l'' she called. The same tall girl brought in the book. "My open hours Thursday?" she asked. After a carefree glance, the girl said, ''Eleven to twelve and three to four.'' "Which suits you best, my dearf" "I would prefer three to four, as I go to Dr. Armstrong's Thursday morning.'' So everything was arranged. Helen Blair was a pupil of the famous Madame Linde.
CHAPTER V. Helen sat in the Doctor's office trying to make him understand her gratitude. He chatted pleasantly of current events as if he had done nothing out of the ordinary-just as if taking a young girl whom you had known scarcely three months, placing her under a famous singing teacher-in fact, being sponsor for her-was an every day occurrence. "I am well plea-sed, Helen, -that Mortimer was not mistaken in quality of your voice. Madame Linde says you are a great find and that the Metropolitan stage is sure to have BD other American prima donna. 40
HELEN BLAIR Eagerness was beaming from the girl's face. "Oh, Doctor, I will study so hard-I know you will never be sorry you have interested your self in my future. Whatever I make of myself, yours shall be the glory-for haven't you lifted me from the depths of misery! You have re stored my vision. No one to look at me now could believe how black the future looked three months ago. I owe it all to you-my Deliverer." Taking both his hands, she kissed them rev erently. Patting the girl gently, he said: "Tut, tut, my child, you have opened to me a new :fieM. of endeavor. I find great happiness in what I have done and the prospect of the future is my beautiful dream. Helen, I want to leave the past and its wreckage behind me-my youth is dead; but upon its grave blossoms the flower of eternal hope. My happiness now must come through making someone else happy-and that someone, dear childr is you. So think no more of what I do; only smile into my soul-lift the darkness that envelopes me. Mine, dear, is a dreary life."
42 HELEN BLAIR After an hour spent pleasantly Helen bade the Doctor good-bye, knowing she would see him in the evening-for their dinner twice a week was never forgotten by him. The weeks and months had passed quickly. Christmas_, with all its bustle and excitement, was here. The music for the Chri s tmas service was prepared. Helen had made good use of her instruction-her voice showed cultivation. The last choir practice was called; all were assembled, w li en the director came over and said to Helen : "Miss Blair, our soloist is critically ill; I must call upon you to take her place on Christ mas Day." She simply inclined her head-her hour at last. In big and important moments words to come. She followed the director to the organ. She sang over the two solos with out a single mistake, then took her place fo the choir. Not one gleam of triumph-she smiled
48 on those who congratulatei her-not one com ment could she make. The big church was filled Christmas morning. Dudley Lewis sat in a corner of the church waiting for the service to begin. He was impatient, for church-going with him came only about twice a year-Christmas and Easter. ''And there were shepherds abiding in the field." He leaned far forward-such a voice !who can she be T What he saw held him :fixed until the end of the song. This slip of a girlgolden hair, such wonderful eyes-and thai voice I "I must find out if she is singing here regularly. It is worth coming to hear her sing, and to look at her one feels heaven can't be far off." Little did he dream what part this girl would play in his life. Dudley Lewis had made a reputation as an architect-envied by men older and of more experience. As he sat study ing blue prints in his office, way up in the Metro tower, whistling softly, he thought of
44 HELEN BLAIR the girl who sang o:r. Christmas Day-the girl with the wonderful eyes. Ah! her eyes are wells of love for a man to drown himself in and find his heart. ''Come, come, I am getting sentimental over a girl I have seen but once; anyway, meth i nks Sunday morning I will go to church-to hear a sermon-:--yes Y''
CHAPTER VI. Could this be the same Helen Blair that four years ago stood trembling upon the threshold of life? What a change! Instead of a squalid hall bed room, with its cheap furniture, we find her surrounded with luxuries, for now is she not singing in concerts at fabulous sums 1 Her drawing room is noted for the brilliant men 11,nd women who gather there. Through the influence of Dr. Armstrong, she has been given a choir position in one of the large churches. He had insisted upon her moving into more desirable quarters. When she argued with him over the cost of living, he told her that he would see to that. From her cheap hall room 4S
\ 46 HELEN BLAIR she went into a large room, with bath, in a house occupied by artists and students, who lived in their own Bohemian way, paying little attention to the going and coming of those about them. The money Helen earned was sufficient for her needs, and she was able to send small sums home. She had grown to look for the two visits a week from Dr. Armstrongwhat happy times! She had rented a piano. She sang for him, while he lay comfortably upon the couch, smoking. One night, after three years of this freedom, Dr. Armstrong came in with clouded face ... "Why, Chester, dear, you are sad. Tell me what worries you f '' ''Nothing, dear; I am just tired; have had a hard day." Throwing himself upon the couch, she placed the pillows under his head to make him more comfortable. ''Suppose I make a cup of tea ; I have f rb.it,
. HELEN BLAIR 47 bread and butter. Let's have a real cosy tete..a tete instead of going out for dinner." "Wouldn't you prefer to go out, "No, indeed." As he lay there watching her prepare the lunch, he thought how beautiful she was. How he loved her l He must have her for his own. He had kissed her many times-fondledher as a father would. She had never been aware of the real nature of his affection. Tonight she must know that he could stand this platonic friendship no _longer. She must be his own. True, there was one great obstacle-his wife. Would she care 1 She did not suspect the friendship that now existed; why should she ever know? He lay with his eyes closed trying to devise a way to explain to Helen the change he wished to make in her life. "Mr. Doctor, dinner is served; get right up." She stood over the small table ar:ranging the tea things.
J 48 HELEN BLAIR "Why not bring it over by the couch f Then we can sit side by side." Suiting the action to the word, he reached and pulled the small table over to him. Helen sat down by him, pouring the tea. Placing one arm about the girl, he pressed her close. ''Oh, to have you always so.'' Two young people just started on the voya g e of life could have had no greater plea s ures than these. Pushing the table back, she said: "Now, don't you wish me to sing for you f" "No, dear, not tonight. Stay right here by me. There is a great burden upon me; d ark ness is hovering about. I see nothing in life but the humdrum l ; msiness cares of a man who could giv e so much to the woman he loves, and yet is tied hand and foot to a pasty beauty, who never has a sensation save love of self. Do you know, child, for three years I h a ve longed to take you in my arms to tell y ou all I feel? Don't you think y ou c oul d l ove m e? When I say love, I don't mean this feeling of
HELEN BLAIR 49 companionship. I want your love, my dear. I want to be the whole world to you-you must give up everything and everybody; let me be your day, your night.'' Helen sat as one who listens to a voice afar, trying to understand his meaning. Chester Armstrong held her in his arms, kissing her lips, her brow, calling her all the endearing names used by strong men in their moments ..., of weakness They sat for hours planning the future. He turned to her. "You must l eave this place, Helen; you must have a small apartment, with a maid. I will make inquiries of real estate men at once." After kissing her many times, he said ''good night." Helen wondered, when he had gone, why she had consent ed to leave this comfortable room; yet she knew the influence Chester Armstrong had over her was such that she could not resist hi s pleading. Why was it wrong for her to love him? He had been the kindest and best of
50 HELEN BLAIR men. Hadn't he given her back life and happi ness 7 She knew he was miserable in his home. Why not lavish some of the affection God had given her upon him? After making all these excuses for acceeding to his wishes, she walked over to a large picture of him. ''Oh, Chester, it must be love I feel for you. Yet, I don't know. I want to give and make you happy. I want to show you that I owe you all, only-I am afraid-so afraid.''
CHAPTER VIL For one year Helen had occupied this luxuri ous apartment. Chester Armstrong came and went at will. She had given him all he askedaffection. No one suspected the relations that existed. He was her known benefactor, for she told of ten of the wonderful cure and of the in fluence he brought to bear to gain her recogni tion in the musical world. When she held open doors for her friends, Dr. Armstrong came to add dignity to the occasion. Tonight Helen knew it was more than likely he would come; it had been several days since he had spent the entire evening with her. She dressed herself with unusual care. The house gown of palest St
52 HELEN BLAIR blue crepe clung closely to her, showing the rounded curves of her perfect figure. An artist of note had often tried to persuade Helen to sit for him in some of his best pictures. When she told Chester Armstrong, on one occasion, of the off er made, instead of looking upon the request as a compliment, he gruffiy said: ''I don't care to hear anything more of such nonsense." Then more gently, "Helen, dear, I couldn't stand for your charms to be sold to anyone. You are mine, the only real thing there is in life. I couldn't bear to think of you being a model, your charms exploited to the hungry throng of Bohemians, who go from one studio to another seeking models. Do you know, dear, how many women have been lured to their ruin by sitting an hour a day to some artist1 Oh, no, no, my dear, 'tis not alwaye the artist who leads them down. Take yourself, for instance. Should you sit for the distin guished gentleman who has been urging you, wouldn't the picture appear at some great art exhibit? You would be sought out by other
HELEN BLAIR artists. Your vanity would be fattered. Pic ture after picture would follow. Your face, your form becomes a public topic. Sooner or later, dear, you would feel the call of the studio. There is something in this artist life so infatuating that few girls. escape unscorched. No, Helen, you must never mention the subject to me. I suppose you think I am growing old and morose-'tis true. Somehow I feel you are slipping away from me. You are not the innocent girl you were; you are beginning to understand the world : I see changes in you daily. I wonder if I have made a mistake in allowing you such freedom T This fellow, Dud ley Lewis, seems pretty much at home here. How often does he call T '' / What was this undercurrent in his voice that caused Hefon to start. She tried tq make an answer. "Why, Chester, how can you speak in such tones to me T I have tried hard to please you, dear, but lately you are changed. I have done
54 HELEN BLAIR nothing. Mr. Lewis is no more to me than the other gentlemen who come here. He has never spent a single evening with me alone. It is unkind of you to say such things.'' Seeing the hurt his words had caused, he put both arms around the girl. ''Forgive me, sweetheart. I know I was a cad and deserve to be kicked. But, Helen, here lately I am afraid I will lose you." Woman like, she was pacified with hugs and kisses. It was long past midnight when Dr. Arm strong, holding Helen in his arms, vowed over and over his love and faith in her. He would never say ugly things again-he would believe fu her, no matter what came. "Good-night, dearie. How I wish I could give you the honor able position you deserve I" With her head upon his breast, the girl tried hard to give him the assurance of love he craved, but, when doubt creeps in upon rela tions such as these, a woman's heart rebels.
HELEN BLAIR 55 Above everything in life with woman is con fidence and trust. When she gives herself un reservedly to man, she must know be believes in her. Tonight Chester Armstrong had placed h e r in the class with the women who sold souls. Try as she would, she could not drive this thought from her. "Why don't you ask me when I am comingT You are unhappy, Helen; you are not yourself tonight." "Not the least bit, Chester, dear; I was trying to think. You are always so good and kind. I am afraid you are working too hard; it makes you irritable. You must take a vacation; you need it. Good-night. Sleep well, my dear.'' Drawing her to his breast, unable to reply, he hurried to the street. Going at once to bis own home, he unlocked the door. He heard the coughing that his wife tried so hard to sup press. He opened her door gently. "Still awake, Kate T'' Seeing the evening dress and coat upon the chair, "Why will you persist in
56 HELEN BLAIR wearing those low-n eck things 1 Don't y ou kno w yo u are killing yourself I heard you coughing as I came in the hall. Last night it was all night l ong Do you know what your physician told me 1 '' Sitting on the side of the bed, he took one of her hands. "Listen, Kate. Unless you take care of yourself, will go just as your mother did; no power on earth can save you. Consumption is in your family. You must give up this frivolous life.'' The fragile creature lay there with the tell tale flus h upon her cheeks. She tried hard to stifle the hackin g cought, so she could speak. At last with great effort, she said : ''Oh, Chester, dear; I don't much mind. My life has been such a mistake. I realiz e it more and more If I could onl y go back six years, to the day we were married, I would be so dif ferent. I would live for you only, dear. Too late! I know what Society means-'tis nothing but misery. You give all and gain nothing. As
HELEN BLAIR 57 long as you are able to keep giving and smiling, you are received with open arms, but the day that you can no longer amuse, when your health is broken, and you need good and true friends, you don't find them in the Smart Set. Chester, take m e away-take me away.'' The tears streamed down her cheeks. Taking his sick wife in his arms he comforted and petted her like a spoiled child. After an hour spent thus, he said: ''Now, dear, we will go to sleep and dream of some lov ely place where you may go to get well and strong.'' A s he leaned over to kiss her, she said sud denly: "Tonight l heard such lovely things of that girl who came from the South to you for treatment. Mrs. Byrne has been to several of her 'at homes.' She says Miss Blair is charming and h e r singing is divine. Won't you pleas e take me some time 7 We g e t cards, and you always attend. Why can't H"
58 HELEN BLAIR "No reason in the world, dear, that you shouldn't. This is the first time you have ever intimated any desire to meet Miss Blair." "Well, it is settled, Chester, that I am to go with you next Thursday evening. I shall look forward with great pleasure to meeting the young lady. Maybe I haven't acted just right, but I will make up for any negligence.'' Trying hard to keep the cloud from his brow, Dr. Armstrong passed into the next room, closing the door gently. What on earth could he do T He must take his wife into the home of Hel e n Blair. What would Helen say? Sup pose some psychological current told Kate that Helen was his T On the other hand, what if Helen should feel that Kate had come to ferret out the secret? Any way, Kate must have heard some 1it of gossip-she never in the world would care to meet people out of h er own set. lay awake for hours trying to find some way out of this dilemma. Falling to sleep, he dreamed that Helen and Kate were
HELEN BLAIR 69 hand in hand through a beautiful garden. He was on the outside, trying hard to climb the high wall. No matter how he tried, he failed. Morning broke clear and cold. Chester Arm strong went wearily down to his breakfast that was almost untouched. "My! nine o'clock! I must hurry to the office.'' Hardly had he entered the well-appointed room when the bell rang. The office girl, ad dressing him, said: ''Someone wishes to speak to you.'' "What's that? Mrs. Armstrong very illf Yes, yes; be up right away.'' Quickly donning his heavy coat, he hurried from the office. Through the long ride to his uptown home, Chester Armstrong sat wondering why he had :Q.eglected to go into his wife's room and inquire how she was. So far apart were these two that sometimes, though in the same house, it would be days they would never see each other. Now, when he knew his wife
60 HELEN BLAIR was really ill, he questioned why he had allowed himself to drift into this careless way. The car stopped at his corner; he hurriedly left his seat, meeting Dr. Black with his medi cine case. "Hello, Armstrong; hope your wife is not so seriously ill as Young is inclined to believe. He has just asked me to come up for consultation.'' The two walked along. Chester Armstrong could find few words. Here was his wife sick enough to worry two prominent physicians, and he spending the night under the same roof, knowing nothing, only she had a severe cold. ''Kate, why didn't you have me called? You know, dear, I never disturb you in the morning; it was such a shock to know you had taken a bad turn.'' The large brown eyes, made more brilliant by fever, looked up at him. The attempt to speak was checked by the coughing that was
HELEN BLAIR 61 almost constant. ''Never mind, dear; you will soon be all right." He watched the battle for life that Doctors Young and Black made for his wife. For days, pneumonia, in its most relentless form, was :fighting for a victim. Finally the crisis was past. Kate would live, but she must go to some other climate. The dread of her life, consump tion, was now to be guarded against. She grew stronger and able to take an interest in things about her. She thought of all the places where people who ea.red the terrible disease took refuge. ''Yes, I will ask him to take me to Colorado; Denver is a large city. Chester is yo ung; he can build up a practice there. He has wealth, so he can wait for patients." Kate sat and dreamed of that far-off Denver. She could hardly wait for him to come, so eager was she to unfold her plans. Already she felt new life. "Yes, we will go, and I will try so hard to live for Chester.'' The sun was slowly
/ 62 HELEN BLAIR sinking in the west; she sat by the window watching and waiting. "We will begin all over again, Chester and L''
' CHAPTER VIlL Sunset in the mountains of Colorado appeals to all the artistic nature in one's being. Tha blue clouds banked close upon the rosy reds, fading into yellow as the big ball sinks lower and IOwer the snow-capped peaks. Katherine Armstrong, wrapped in warm rugs, sat in the glass-enclosed veranda day after day. She sat here waiting-for what? The relief that death brings from that terror-consumption. She held in her hand a letter the post man had just left. The handwriting was familiar, for each week the same dainty sta tionery, with its delicate perfume, was left at 702 Avenue B. tapping her 63
.. 64 HELEN BLAIR cheek with the letter and watching the sun set, suddenly she thought of incense-holy incense; the small white missive fell to the floor. As it lay there, she read aloud, "Dr. Chester Arm strong, 702 Avenue B, Denver, Colorado." She set her teeth close and hard together. "How I hate you, Helen Blair. You have stolen his love from me ; you crept in like a thief in the night 'A count:ry mouse,' he calls you. Your innocent country manner was more fiendish than the practiced wiles of any professional courtesan.'' Stamping her tiny feet, she put her hands to her face ; tears coursed down the hollow cheeks. Her brown eyes were blazing with fever of ex citement and disease. After the fit of weeping, she was calmer, clasping her hands tightly, toy ing with her wedding ring that insisted upon slipping almost to the tip of the third finger. A quick step, that she knew was her husband's, came toward her. "Oh, it is you?" Chester Armstrong leaned
"'-, Mrs. Armstrong:-" How I hate you, Helen Blair! You have stolen his love from me. He calla you his little country mouse.''
HELEN BLAIR 65 over to kiss his wife. She caught tlie gleam of happiness that illumined his face, when he saw the letter at her feet. ''A letter from He1en Blair?" stooping to pick it up. "Yes, Miss Blair never fails to send her weekly diary." What a glorious thing it must be to have health and strength. A voice makes one very interest ing. Dr. Armstrong had long since ceased to make reply, or pay the slightest attention to Kate's spiteful remarks. As be was carefully tearing the end off the envelope, she grabbed it, t 1rew it far from him. In a voice hoarse with anger. "I hate her, she is a wicked woman, why does continue to keep you thinking of her? I know what you are going to say-she is grateful for your services, you are her deliverer.'' Hard, hysterical, mad ravings 'con vulsed the invalid. Chester Armstrong took the torn letter, carefully placing it in his coat pocket, seated himself near his sobbi!fg wife, slowly lighted his cigar, waiting for the parox ysm to pass. It was merely the outburst he knew would come. For days Kate had been on
66 HELEN BLAIR the verge of this breakdown. His thoughts went out over the miles that separated him from her, whose letter rested in his pocket. I love her. I shall always love her, she was meant for me. We were meant for each other. Yet it is not to be, it can never be. She has pointed me the way.'' Turning to his wife, who was now quiet, she leaned toward him, opening her lips, in an effort to speak. He gently put his hand over her mouth playfully saying, "No, it is my ti. me now. What a bad little Kate it was. I know you are not going to do so any more.'' A sigh, such as a tired child gives, came from her poor weak body, then in a peevish childish voice, ''Chester, dear, forgive me, I know I am wrong about Miss Blair, but there are so many wicked women in this world that count the appropriat ing of one's husband only a trifling affair.'' He smiled indulgently. "Yes, my dear-but you know me-be sensible-get well and be yourself once more.'' The nurse in her stiff white collar came to take Kate to her room. ''I will drop in to chat
HELEN BLAIR 67 with you for a short while before I turn in.'' He assisted her to the door, and seated him self again, with his hand in his pocket that held her letter. ''Alone with my vision of happiness and love, where there is no vision the people perish.'' When the midnight bells chimed out oil the still night, the glorious moon in its full splendor shone down upon the sleeping city, Chester Armstrong, the stern medical man, sought far and near (as authority on all diseases of the eye) was sitting with bowed head. A tiny white paper, that sent its perfume of holy incense to his soul, was held close to his lips. "Not now, dear, not now.'' Tears of which he was not ashamed hung upon his lashes, for 'twixt love and duty, he felt his was a hard burden. He counseled with himself, for he knew that his life was given to his invalid wife, who only lately discovered that she loved him. Why is it that too late, woman so often finds she has neglected the husband by her side. Her appre ciation may be abundant, but it is the silent
68 .HELEN BLAIR kind, her bugaboo is sentiment and when it is too late, she remembers, with a heart break, then all the pent up emotion seems to fill her soul with uncontrolable jealousy. I wonder if this is love, or is it the thought and dread of loss. Heigho, truly life is made up of strange mixtures of sunshine and shadow. I wonder if after all there can be a greater thing than love, a better thing than happiness t
CHAPTER IX. "How are you, dead" Chester Armstrong inquired of his wife as he bent over her bed, where the morning sun pouring in upon the pink down cover-lid and rich furnishings of the room, dispelled all thought of sickness. Kate, with her dainty gown beribboned and lace trimmed, looked more like a delicate and spoiled child, than a woman of thirty, who had been married for nearly eight years. A frown drew her eyes close together. "Oh, Chester, why do you always ask that hateful question? I don't rest, I simply lie here and stare.'' ''Tut I tut I child, I came in and looked you over several times last night, and each timo you were breath-69
70 HELEN BLAIR mg deeply with a peaceful expression upon your face. I know you must have been in some happy dreamland. Now cheer up, I am coming this afternoon to take you for a long drive We will drive through the mountain pass, it must be beautiful now, the flowers are beginning to peep through the cracks in the rocks. You remember how you enjoyed hunting for mountain violets last year this time T" Sitting on the side of her bed, he took both her hands in his: ''Can't you be a little more patient, thi s cli mate works wonders T'' Kate opened her large black eyes. How handsome he looked, the tell tale grey in his temples, the sad droop in the corners of the mouth, his eyes bad lost the little laughing devils, that used to be always twink ling there, ready for fun and frolic. She re alized the change, as she lay there with her hands tightly held in his, her lips trembled "Yes, dear, I will try to be more patient. Won't you forgive me for all the unkind things I sayT" For answer he lifted her gently in his arms, and talring her across the room to the
HELEN BLAIR 71 big arm chair, he placed her gently, with cush. ions and foot rest, making her comfortftLle, giv, ing her the morning paper, kissing her cheel\. "Bye-bJ:e, till this afternoon; be for your ride about three." She watched him down the street, until he turned a corner several blocks away. Glancing carelessly over the paper, she turned to the column, read of dances, theatre parties, and then things began to swim about her; lier eyes were fastened on this an nouncement: ''The Harmony Club has at last been successful in securing Miss Helen Blair, of New York City, to sing during their Song Fes tival, which takes place in May. Miss Blair is a southern woman, with a voice of marvelous sweetness.'' When the maid came in with the breakfast tray, she found a hysterical woman, she called Miss Kane, the nurse, all she could say was that she came at the usual hour, with breakfast, and found Mrs. Armstrong weeping and completely upset. Miss Kane picked up the paper from the floor, glancing over it with lifted brow, "Umph, umph, Miss Blair. I thought we
72 HELEN BLAIR were rid of her.'' Dr. Armstrong arrived at his office a little late, patients were waiting-one by one they were disposed of. Twelve-thirty be went to a nearby cafe, seating himself in a secluded cor ner, he ordered a cocktail and a light luncheon. "Now I will read Helen's letter." It had laid unopened in his pocket since he rescued it from his wife the evening before. Carefully smoothing the crumpled sheets, he could hardly believe what he was reading. Helen coming to Denver. All the passion in his soul was rampant, the blood flowed hot through his veins-how to break the news to Kate, little dreaming that the morning paper had saved him the trouble. He read the short letter over and over. ''Dear Doctor; can you believe it, I arh at last a real Prima Donna. I am leaving New York in a fort night, for a concert tour that will take me to many large cities. Early in May I sing in Den ver. Oh, how I hope your wife will be able to hear me sing. I don't think she has ever done so. I will be happy to see you both. Glad that
'7S the glorious climate we hear so much about has been so beneficial to her. With my heart swelling with gratitude to you, for I owe my present success to you, 'my deliverer.' Sincerely, Helen.'' The luncheon was almost untouched, but the waiter served several cocktails and a goodly number of cigarettes were smoked. It was long past the two o'clock office hour, when Dr. Armstrong entered his private room. His face bore the look of a man who had faced a problem in life, that meant more than business. He left the office earlier than u s ual, going through the park, trying hard to find a way to tell Kate of Helen's coming. His thoughts would fly back to the days when the little "country mouse" sat so patiently waiting her turn for treatment, she had come many miles to receive. He began to watch for her. The pleasant evenings, table d 'hote dinners, then better days for her, in a comfortable homey place. He could see her now, as she bade him ''good night.'' Seating himself he lighted a cigar and gave himself /
74 HELEN BLAIR completely to retrospection. He could recall every word, every Garess she had given him. Then the shadow of unseen danger-his wife's terrible illness, Helen's constant command, "your place is by your wife's side." The hur ried move to Denver, the weekly letter, always breathing gratitude, but never one regret, that he was far away, not one allusion to happy days of the past. The cigar had gone out, he threw it far from him and in a low decisive voice he said: "Love is above law, and when it comes, : a alone must be respected. Helen, you are mine by all the laws of God! I am bound by man's law to one who will have my best consideration for her comfort and care. My happiness I give for her-but, Oh, Helen, my little "country mouse", my heart is yours, too late to undo the past. I live in dreams of you-'tis all I have."
CHAPTER X. May the twelfth, at last, the longed for day. All Denver is in holiday attire, with smiles of welcome for the many strangers within her gates. Musicians of high and long degree from all parts of the West were gathered there. The Sangerfest was at its height; to-night the crowning event. The Metropolitan Concert Company would present some noted singers, among them a young American girl, Miss Helen Blair, who was rapidly becoming a not only for her wonderful voice, but her beauty and charm of manner, was gaining for her a place in the h earts of the people, that talent does not always make. 75
76 HELEN BLAIR The special train bearing the company of Artists, was winding its way through the moun tains of Colorado, just at peep of day. Helen had slept well through the night. She opened her eyes, evidence of her triumph in Chicago met her gaze. Flowers, magazines, baskets of fruit and wonderful boxes of bon bons, were there, reminding her that Chicago was pleased with her. A happy smile illumined her face. Arranging her pillows for a comfy rest, she let the shade run high, and with an indrawn breath of delight, she turned to gaze out upon the glorious wonders of nature. There is no pen able to describe the beauty of a Colorado sunrise. The big red ball, just behind the moun tains, that seems only a few yards off, when in reality, it is miles and miles. The atmos phere so clear that the naked eye is able to see obj'ects miles away. The train crawled around the mountains like a living, breathing serpent. She could see the engineer in his cab as he held his hand on the guiding lever. She thought of many tales of heroism, of the brave enginee:r
HELEN BLAIR 77 who refused to leave his post and lives he eaved. She could see the ena of the train, with its red lights, warning following trains. What if some thing were to go w rong with this great mechan ical monster? 8he gazed down into the hazy blue depths of a gorge upon whose brink they toppled. The day advanced, she had forgotten everything past, present and future. She was conscious only of the wonders of creation. God's own hand everywhere, more wonderful than all the mechanical and engineering feats accomplished by man, with mortar, steel and stone. Nature was King. She had forgotten that to-night Chester .Armstrong would listen as sh9 sang. At Pueblo, she was dressed and ready to go to the diner. The rest of the company had given orders not to be disturbed, so long had they been trooping that the wonders of Colorado scenery meant little to them. The colored porter gently tapp e d on the state room door. Helen opened it, he smiled and said, "Oh, you is up, is youf I jest thought maybe you'd like to get
78 HELEN BLAIR a good view of Pike's Peak, and if you does, I'll put a cheer on de back ob de observation car for you.'' Thanking the thoughtful negro, she dropped a shinning coin in his hand, the broad smile of thanks, showed his white teeth that made Helen think of the negroes down in her Southern home. He piloted her through several sleepers. Everyone seemed wrapped in deep sleep; they quietly made their way through the narrow green isles, an occasional loud snore would come from some one of the passengers. With her coat buttoned close about her, a heavy veil tied tight over her head, alone she sat watching the scenes that were on either ...... side. Could the tall peak in the distance be Pike's Peak? Yes, surely. The she had read of its snow-capped beauty had failed to fully describe its grandeur. The snow plainly visible, the sun now up and in all its glory, shone down upon the grey of the mountains; the beautiful coloring of red, yellow and blue, with the green of the moss covered rocks and scrubby trees, each fading into wonderful tints.
HELEN BLAIR 79 Nature's palette has daubs of color no artist has found. Mountain streams gurgled from the crevices of rocks, white frothy water poured into cataracts. Mining shacks dotted here and there, abandoned shafts stood as almost human evide:p.ce of hopes blasted. Something mysteri ously sad, she felt was around each of those abandoned spots. Who knows how many hearts ached over the failure to find the yellow dirt, that men exile themselves to dig, and bring home in triumph to their loved ones? Men with picks over their shoulders and the tin buckets of lunch, were climbing up the rocky intent upon the digging that would bring for tune. Some of them, no doubt, were old men with families, weary of waiting to strike luck. Others, young and full of hope that ''the find'' would enable them to establish a home for some sweet trusting girl, who was far away waiting for the good news. Now and then, as the train rus hed along, little white tents dotted the mountain side, she instinctively knew some health seeker lived in the lonely spot, for she read
80 HELEN BLAIR often in the newspapers of the health giving climate and of those affiicted with weak lungs, who liurried to the high altitude and lived in the open air. ''I wonder if Mrs. Armstrong has found health 1 '' Yes, Helen begun to wonder as she neared Denver. What would be Chester Armstrong's greeting? Her feeling toward him I she long since had realized, was of a boundless, nameless gratitude. Sleepless nights of sorrow and endless prayer to the Saviour, who forgave and said, "Go, sin no more", she spent trying to wipe from her memory the one false step. The passing beauties of nature stood evidence of God and his divine good. Helen lived every minute of her life over, since she came to New York, with shudders of fear she knew the cold unfeeling world would judge, knowing not conditions, since the night two weeks before Dr. Armstrong left New York with his sick wife. Helen had never touched one cent of the generous allowance regularly sent to her. Two years this money had accumulated to his credit. How was she to give it back with-
HELEN BLAIR 81 out hurting or wounding the kind hand that had been generous, and more, saved her? She knew he did not dream of the many hard privations she had suffered, rather than touch the money that was the price of untold misery. The small room in a quiet neighborhood, the occasional engagements to sing in concerts or parlor, her church position, the lessons from Sangar, oh, how she worked. One year, was it not a life time? Who has not had hard work and priva. tion? It is through sorrow, hurts and bruises that we gain success. ''Oh, Chester, my deliv erer, these two years have shown me the light. I wonder if Kate is still growing stronger.'' She little dreamed that Katharine Armstrong hated her with an intensity that sapped her life and vitality. Many scenes were enacted between Chester Armstrong and his wife; she accusing, he patient and enduring. Helen could see Colorado Springs in the distance. She closed her eyes. Oh, to be able forget the four years of her life, that would come like a horrible nightmare.
82 HELEN BLAIR The train was pulling into "The Springs", the platform crowded with eager faces, wait ing to welcome friends and inqoming pleasure and health seekers. Several frail looking men and women were being assisted from the train. A bride and groom smiling and covered with rice, going to Denver on their honeymoon. How happy were. Helen standing on the plat fo!:m watching the crowd, some with anxious faces bidding good bye, others joyous and fairly beaming with the pleasure of living. She won dered if in all the world there was a more beau tiful spot. "All aboard", the polite porter assisted her to the platform of the coach, she stood smiling, the train moved slowly. Two young girls waved at her, so happy and imbued with this pleasure giving crowd she leaned out and kissed her :fingers to them just so far as she could see them. "Miss Blair, "the porter was caliing. Two yellow envelopes in his hand. Smiling she took theni from him and turned into the state room. She closed the door before she opened
HELEN BLAIR 83 either. With flaming cheeks she read: "My hearty congratulations; just read of your tri umph in Chicago. All love, and my blessing. Dudley Lewis.'' Happy tears were on her cheeks. At last, at last. All love, a prayer of thanksgiving went up to One on high. Unheeded the second message lay in her lap. Helen's eyes were feasting upon ''all love and my blessing.'' Mechanically, she tore off the end of the other unoffending little envelope, suddenly her heart almost ceased to beat; she grew cold gasping for breath, hot blood was tearing through her being. "Will be at train to meet you. Chester Armstrong.'' The words stared at her, burned her soul, mocked her. ''Oh, God, help me! The past rises up to accuse me. Why should I suffer for this one transgression 1 Why should man, who is strong, be forgiven so much woman, who is weak, get the worst and be forgiven so little 1" Trembling with fear of something she could not explain, she sat for hours. The message from Dudley Lewis inside her bossom next to her heart; the one from Chester Armstrong was
84 HELEN BLAIR crumpled and held tight in her hand. She grew calmer, in her face a look of fixed determination. _"Oh, God help me in this hour, give me streI!gth, take not my love from me.'' .. /
CHAPTER XI. Tbe train steamed into the depot. Helen busied herself with her belongings. The porter with his genial smile came to the door. "Lor Miss, don you worry about dem grips, I's gwine to look after you .'' She told him to take the flowers and magazines home to his wife, every white tooth in his head was shining. Making her way to the vestibule, as the train stopped, she herself lifted to the ground. ''Welcome, welcome.'' Chester Armstrong, quivering in every nerve, trying hard to restrain himself; he wanted to clasp her to his heart, pour out his very soul to this lovely creature. Leading the way through the crowd that thronged the 85
86 HELEN BLAIR station, he seated himself by her side iri the big automobile that was waiting. "Drive to thb Brown Palace.'' Helen tried several times to speak, words refused to come, her lips were dry At last! in a voice hardly audible, "Your wife how is she, will she hear me sing tonight 7 '' Turn ing to the girl by his side, his face flaming, eyes glittering with suppressed emotion. "Is it of her you ask, after two years 1 Why not ask a dozen questions about myself? How can you have any thought now only of me 7 Oh, Helen, I have waited and prayed for this hour. I have longed for you, hungered for you. I am mad with waiting.'' He poured forth his love in torrents' of affection. She listened, grew cold and rigid. He seemed the barrier between her and love, and life, her future. A wall that stood like Gibraltar between Dudley Lewis, the man to whom she had given her whole heart; the few moments seemed years. Suddenly putting her hands to her face covering her eyes, to shut out some ugly vision. "Stop, stop, don't speak so. You have no right, and I have no right to listen,
HELEN BLAIR 87 think of your wife, think of what you are doing. I have paid dearly, for my hours of weakness, my days of madness." She saw the look of pain, he gave her, quickly she changed her tone of defiance, to one of entreaty. "Oh, Chester, can't you forget those mad days 1 Think of the present, remember the frail creature, who has only a short time here.'' He sank in his seat, opened his lips to speak. She placed her small hand upon his that rested on his knee. She heard him whisper: "and .don't you care 1" "Listen t_o me, dear, I do care, in one way, to me you will always be in the high and holy place, yes the holy place,-my Deliverer. I never look into a mirror and these eyes gaze back at me, without a blessing breathed to Heaven for you, but Chester, it was all wrong, I have conquered myself, conquered by the tragedy of a great mistake.'' The car drew up in front of the hotel. Dr. Armstrong, with a white face, and hands as cold as death, assisted her with her wraps; with dignity and considera tion he would have shown a queen. He accom..
88 HELEN BLAIR panied her to the ladies' parlor. Her rooms had. been engaged, the manager of her company was waiting for a business talk. "When may I see you?'' A rehearsal this afternoon, ere she had time to set the hour; he added I will be in the right hand box, with a party to-night; will see you immediate1y after your last number." Lift ing his hat, he left her. Dr. Armstrong turned into the Capitol grounds, acknowledging friend ly greetings. Many thought of his beautiful in valid wife, and hesitated to enquire of her, for the Doctor's face bore new traces of sorrow. Helen Blair, the Prima Donna, stood tremb ling and fearing, she felt herself sinking into the quick sand of humiliation, yet she knew the world was full of women who do blind unac countable, perhaps wicked things, without being so very wicked. Turning to the window, she looked out upon the beautiful city-in the dis tance, the snow capped mountains, peak after peak, the clouds piling against them, the smoke of trains crawling around the mountains, CJlrlesl its way to join the blue billowy clouds that
HELEN BLAIR 89 moved rapidly, shifting themselves into fantas tic :figures. As she stood watching the scene, plainly she could distinguish forms. A tall man stood with open arms, beckoning to her to come. A castle with high walls, the clouds changed into so many different things. Helen was fas cinated, her face was glued to the pane; taking a long deep breath, placing her hands over her beating heart, she felt the blessed paper that rested there. Oh, Dudley, my love, my love, deal with me gently, be just, remember our blessed Saviour said to the sinful man, ''Go, sin no more." I have paid, life can give us only moments, but for those moments we give a life time. A knock upon the door, brought her back to the present, the business of life, the maid came in with her gown pressed and ready to be worn. "Your bath is ready, Miss." Helen turn_ed slowly from the window, loath to give up her visions.
CHAPTER XII. Not a vacant seat in the vast auditorium. Music lovers from far and near were there. It was not the fashionable gathering that one finds in the old Metropolitan Opera House on Broad way, where the wealthy box owners are the centre of attraction, and the large part of the audience is wondering who is who, and if the jewels so lavishly displayed are real T Many holding season tickets, coming in long after the overture, to create a sensation, with imported gowns and georgeous jewels. This Denver au dience was composed of music lovers from all over the West, who were in their seats early. The hopeful miner sat next to the season's 90
HELEN BLAIR 91 debutante, his clean flannel shirt and neat black flowing bow tie bore evidence that he had come some distance to '' Denvertown'' to have a treat, music such as he remembered in his young days, before he determined to be a soldier of fortune. As one stood and looked over that crowd seeing the latest fashion in evening clothes, and well cut business suits, rubbing up against the flannel shirts, the handsomely gowned women, close to the plain best dress of her neighbor, the realization of nature was deeply felt. We all thirst for the beautiful in some form, there is an Jirtistic side to every human being. The conductor of the orchestra raised his baton, silence reigned, one human pulse seemed to beat time to the beautiful strains. The third number on the programme ''Aria'' from "Madam Butterfly," Miss Helen Blair. Tall and slender in her blonde beauty, she stood be fore them; those who had known her, or read of Opera Singers, expected an older, more matured woman, one with years of profession
" 92 HELEN BLAIR stamped upon her. The soft prelude of Puc cini 's masterpiece floated through the au ditorium. A vision of beauty, Helen stood, waiting-"He Will Come"-just a moment, an unsteady swaying, a wavering of the voice, the blindly trusting Madam Butterfly, trying to con vince her faithful Sukey that her husband would come to her and her child, every heart in the audience responded to the pathetic notes in her voice. It was her own heart crying out for her love, her life. She was unconsious of the crowd, the lights, everything, she only knew that close to her heart rested his promise, ''all love.'' The grand climax of the wonderful Aria, the finale, she abandoned herself to her faith, she sang as never before, such fine rich sweetness, such passion, the last note came high and well sustained, complete. silence, (the grandest ap plause), then a rumble as of thunder, clapping of hands, "bravo, bravo", time and time again she bowed to this music mad audience. The orchestra begun softly, "The Rosary." She sang the song, as if it were for each separate
Dr. Armstrong with a box party at the Grand Opera, Denver.
HELEN BLAIR 93 individual, each person seemed to feel that it was for themselves. She gave this number. Not once since her first entrance had she glanced toward the stage box on the right, she could feel his eyesupon her. Dr. Armstrong, with a party of friends, she knew was there. Before the concert begun he had told of his early ac quaintance with Miss Blair, how near she had been to blindness, the wonderful cure. When she made her entrance he leaned far forward to get at least a glance of recognition, but if she saw him no sign did she give; the slight tremor of voice at the beginning of her song was all. While she sang he gradually sank back into his chair. At the end he was a huddled heap, his nails had buried deep into his hands, he could not applaud with the noisy, only breathe her name, ''Helen, my heart of hearts, my song bird.'' He saw her bowing before them time and time again. No flush of triumph on her face. "The Rosary" could she sing that for this multitude? He had dreamed of the time when he would sit alone with her in some cosy quiet
94 HELEN BLAIR spot, and she would sing it for him, not only the words as Nevin wrote them, but her soul speak to his hungered heart. "Oh, Helen, how could you sing this song for any save meT" He hardly knew how the remainder of the evening passed, looking over the programme he saw she would not appear again. Excusing him self to his friends, he left them, going to the stage door, gave his card to the doorman, for Miss Blair. While he waited for her, he was trying in his mind to _fix some plan by which she would be with him, for all time. When he saw her standing before him with her wraps, be made an effort to say some of the thousand things in his mind, all he could say sounded foolish and flat. "Are you satisfied 7" She answered his question in Yankee fashion, by asking, "Did my voice fulfill your prophecy, or should I say expectation 7 Were you pleased 7" Holding her arm in a tight confidential way, he led her out into the night. "We will drive to the Albany, to the Orange Room, where we can have an hour's quiet before the concert crowd
HELEN BLAIR 95 begin to drop in." Both were silent during the drive of a few blocks. "Here we are." The head waiter bowing as he recognized the Doctor, led them to a cosy nook, "Oh, what a beautiful place I'' Helen exclaimed, with evident apprecia tion of the artistic decoration. ''I did not dream that away out here, so far from Broadway, one would :find such beauty, such a charming spot.'' She called attention to the beautiful things about her. Chester Armstrong was eagerly devouring her every look, trying to :find something of the old Helen, who was happy to be with him, to go with him to the out of the way places, that one who knows New York well, can so easily find. Could this handsomely gowned woman here before him, who had just left hundreds of enthusiastic admirers of her beauty, be the "little country mouse," his little patient? He thought of the two years of watchful care, with the platonic love that strengthened and grew, until he was beyond himself with passion, that mad destroyer of the sweet relation of man and woman. ''She must have loved me then,'' yet now
96 HELEN BLAIR that his heart was starving for one small crumb of affection, she was busy with thoughts of things about her, not once had she told him she was happy to be with him, or used her old name for him. Only once had she called him Chester, to ward off the unpleasant thoughts, he leaned far over th, e table one hand to his head, the other reaching for her small one, that toyed with a fork. "Tell me, Helen," "my little country mouse,'' can't you say ''Chester, I am happy to be with you once more?" She gave him a smile such as a child would give a father who had asked some act of obedience. She answered quickly, "You know I am glad and happy to be with you, my Deliverer. Don't I owe all I am now to you T If it were not for you, I would be struggling against that terrible fate that seemed to be mine-blindness." Still holding her hand, "Helen, you know what I mean, I don't want your gratitude, I want your love. You may as well talk of hiding the glory of the sunshine from the earth, as the fervor of a great passion from the object which
HE;LEN BLAIR 97 inspires it. Helen looked into his face, she saw there the nature of the man, she knew he loved her with that selfish love that would go to any extent and brook no interference. Her eyes dropped, she could not meet his gaze, she stood a criminal at the bar, her sins had found her out. ''Speak to me dear, tell me my fears are groundless. You do love me, don't you, Helen''' When no answer came his face flushed, in a hoarse voice, "is there another, has the love you once had for me, been given to another'" The little yellow envelope close to her heart whispered, "tell him, tell him all, he will under stand." With energy born of the determination to have her life, to do with as she saw fit, she pleaded, "Chester, 't you forget those ter rible days, forget our mistake, let me have my life now? I have tried so .hard to do the right thing since you came West; I have worked and struggled, I have never touched the money you sent, it is all there for you. I have prayed for Kate to be spared to yon; every breath I draw is a prayer to God to forgive us both for our
98 HELEN BLAIR madness. Won't you try, dearT Let me still be the "little country mouse", who holds you in a high place-My Forgive me if I have hurt you.'' His head was resting upon his arms, she could not see the convulsive work ing of his face, as he heard what she was saying. She gained courage, placing her hand upon his head, "listen to me dear, my weary days and ni g hts of waiting, hunger and, cold have chas tened my soul, have taught me there is only on e right way." ''I have found the way. God has been good, has wiped the past from me. Only to-day I begin to live, I know what Heaven must be. Heaven is home and children, his children. Chester I love, I love with all my soul, with all my being, every fibre in my body responds to his love, take my hands, give me your bless ing." Before she could finish her sentence, he stood before her a demon, a madman in his wrath. She cowered in her seat. "You love, Hal ha I ha I You-who is the lucky man who you f Listen to me. You have ruined
"Hal Ha! Hal There is another, ehf Who is hef Well, whoever he is, I will go to him and tell him all. You have mined my life. I will ruin yours.''
HELEN BLAIR 99 my life. I will ruin yours. I will go to him, who ever he is; I will tell him that for two years you were my mistress. Oh, a beautiful word, I see you are not pleased with it but I will tell him, you will yet come to me, you will grovel at my feet. You will beg for mercy." He was speaking in low cutting tones. She listened, the terrible truth burned her very soul. her words came, she hardly knew her own voice. ''No man can say his life is ruined or spoiled by another, no one except you can spoil your life. When you sink to lower than the nobility that is in you, you sink because you choose to sink; no will but your own can hold yeu in the vise. I know you speak the truth, the hateful detestable truth about my life, but I do not fear, there are some men in this world with souls, some who forgive an act of sin, seeking to raise and help an erring one, rather than trod upon a bruised and broken reed.'' Rising from the table, she looked a queen: ''Spare yourself the humiliation of confessing the relations of a seventeen year old country girl, who had her
100 HELEN BLAIR heart filled with gratitude, and her head filled with ambition, fed by flatt e ry. I will myself bare my life to him who love s me, who has been my friend, companion and inspiration for more than two years. Never yet has he uttered one word to me that could not be heard by the whole world. No, no, you have misjudged me, he shall know all.'' With dignity she turned from him, he followed her, saw her in the car, lifting his hat he closed the door. Tears refused to relieve the terrible agony. clasping and un clasping her hands, Helen Blair drove alone to / the hotel1 the maid was waiting. She wondered at the whiteness of Miss Blair's face, and her extreme nervousness. ''These singing and act ing people are always SQ temperamental," she mused and she leff the room with a polite good night.
CHAPTER XI. While Helen Blair, in far away Denver, pleaded for her love, her right to hap piness, Dudley Lewis, in his New York apartment, sat in his luxuriously furnished den, there surrounded by statues and art treasures collected in his travels, smoking a good cigar; he watched the little rings that he had learned to puff, rise one after the other. He was building castles, his heart was in the great Western City, of which he had read, but given little thought. 'ro-night he shunned his club, he wished to be alone, he wanted to send loving thoughts to her, and to feel that mental wires were flashing love mes101
102 HELEN BLAIR sages back. Why had he never thought to tell her of his love, why had he exacted no promise T He mused, three years I have known Helen, the past two years hardly a day that I have not seen her or spoken to her. How I have missed you I I wonder if the poet really knew when he wrote those verses, ''Absence makes the heart grow fonder." The soft footed Jap came in with the evening papers, drew the curtains, touched an electric button and the room was flooded with light. Turning to the servant, Lewis said: ''Cut off the lights, I will only I use the one here on the table. You may go. I will not need you to-night, Wang. Breakfast at seven-thirty in the morning." Lighting a fresh cigar, he gave himself completely to dreams. Across the table he fancied he could see the beautiful Helen, with the face of a won derful Madonna. She smiled at the babe in her arms and toyed with the dainty hand, then to see the dimples come and go, he would ask her some jovial question. Laying his paper aside, he knelt by her, holding them both mother and
HELEN BLAIR 103 child in fond embrace, kissing her cheek and smoothing her golden hair, renewing his vows of love, for Helen was his wife and the baby in her arms was the price of their devotion. Thus for hours his mind suggested the things he wanted most, wife, home and children, for if a man pile up the wealth of Croesus and has not wife and children, he is but a beggar among men. The clock in the Metropolitan Tower tolled out the mid-night hour. Dudley Lewis rose from his reveries, went to his desk, turned on the light, with his pen poised for an instant, then he wrote in a bold hand: ''Helen, my own, to-night my soul speaks to you. I have sat here in the dim light for hours planning and b uilding our future. Strange my rooms were never lonely before; you have never been here, but somehow to-night I missed you. It seemed you belonged here, and had gone away. I suffered all the pangs of longing for your return. I gave myself up to retrospection and you came, dear, you sat opposite me in the big arm chair. I will always call it your chair, the old blue and
104 HELEN BLAIR mahogany were a :fitting rest for your golden head. Helen, I am begging for your love, come to me dear, let me place the golden seal upon your hand before the world, let me crown you with God's richest blessing, a husband's love. The Almighty has endowed you with his won. derful gifts, all that makes woman sublime, but the love that blooms upon the altar of a woman's heart must have the sunlight of a husband's devotiOn, if that is withheld the tint of her beauty will fade, the rose from her cheeks and the brightness of her eyes will gradually disappear-she will go to her grave with a broken heart, and the world will never know the secret of her sorrow." Now Helen, dear, let me shower my love upon you. Come to me. Be my Helen, my wife, I am waiting your answer. All love and blessings, Dudley Lewis.'' Carefully reading the letter he addressed it to a well known St. Louis Hotel, he went to the nearest letter box as it dropped in with the others, he won dered if there were many men so impatient. He couldn't think of waiting 'till morning, the r
HELEN BLAIR 105 sooner the letter started on its way the sooner Helen would know how much he loved her, his hungry heart went reaching out, heart and soul singing for joy. "Oh, Helen, love is the begin ning, the middle and the end of everything. I am a new being, the future is ours." He turned the night key humming a popular air, going to his bed room, made himself ready for bed, turned out the light, instead of crawling into bed, he went to the window and knelt, look ing out over the city, the sacredness of prayer, his childhood teachings came rushing upon him, "Now I lay me," and "Our Father," rose to his lips, then humbly "Oh, Lord I pray you to make me worthy, give her into my keeping." Reverently bowed his head then crept into bed. When Lewis awakened in the morning, the sun was streaming into his room. Wang mov ing quietly: "Time for you to rise sir, your bath is r,eady." .After a light breakfast, he lighted a cigar, walked bri s kly along the Avenue to his office. The whole world seemed bright,
106 HELEN BLAIR the blue sky was bluer, the elevated train rumbled overhead, the noise did not annoy. Why should anything be counted disagreeable t He loved, his mind was busy with the future, never before was there so much to think about, to plan, strange his beloved Club where he had dined for years and spent most of his even ings, did not appeal to him. Somehow he didr t care to mingle with the old bachelors, who were regaling you with their talent soul mate, or the married man who finds his club more attractive than his own fireside. All Dudley Lewis wanted was to think, to dream, he counted every hourhe was waiting for a letter from Helen. How long was this concert tour to last T May and June, she had laughingly remarked that slie would be back in New York to help with the Fourth of July fireworks. "Maybe I will just take a vacation, run down South, ha, ha. I be lieve I really am getting young." Unlocking his apartment door one evening, more than a week since he had sent the letter to Helen, he now always looked over to the desk, wondering
HELEN BLAIR 107 if it had c t me! Yes, there it was, the well known hotel envelope. With trembling hands he took it. Wang had already: lighted the reading lamp. Seating himself in the big chair op posite the blue one that he called Helen's chair, he opened with strange foreboding her :first letter. My Dear Mr. Lewis: Your telegram and your letter are both with me. Would I had the power to tell you the joy and happiness I feel, knowing that you love me and ask me to share your life, to be that most wonderful, most glorious and beautiful thing in life-a good man's wife, the mother of his children, the keeper of his honor. How I wish I could say yes, yes, a thousand times yes, but I will have to wait until I see you. I fear to write all that must be told before we seal our love. Let me say to you that your little yellow telegram has been close to my heart since the hour it crune, it has breathed love and encour aged me. In Denver I would have failed completely had I not felt you were with me, and
108 HELEN BLAIR bade me falter not. I forgot the crowd dear, I sang to you. I believe that when one truly loves, that in hours of trial, no matter how many miles intervene, the mind has power great and wonderful-a silver line so fine that none save those who love can feel it, connects the two beings. I know yop. were sending all your soul to me. Those who love each other spiritually will find each other and dwell together through eternities of love. Before I answer the question that makes our lives, I must tell you something, something that may cause you to despise me, but I will make the confession and ask you to judge me with charity. I love you, would go to the end of the world through shadow and sunshine, your helpmate, but I must look in your eyes when I tell you all there is to tell. ''All love, ''Helen.'' Dudley Lewis read Helen's letter several times, ''all there is to tell'', ''poor child, I sup pose she has numerous poor relations, and pos sibly a bla<;k sheep of a brother. I will put her
HELEN BLAIR 109 mind at rest." Going to his desk he wrote out a telegram: "Don't tell me anything, only you love me. Dudley". Ringing for Wang, gave him the necessary money. ''Take this to the telegraph office in the block, send it 'rush.'
CHAPTER XIV. May and June went by as early spring usually does, every one busy getting ready for summer vacations. A hot July day. Dudley Lewis now accustomed to seeing the daily letter from Helen on his desk, was leaving his office to hurry home. As the time grew nearer for Helen to come to New York, he grew more impatient for her letter, sometimes he smiled to himself and thought of his first love affair, more than thirty years ago, when he walked miles just to sit across the aisle in the old fashioned country church from the fair Frances Poindexter. He was fifteen and she was twelve, smiling as he allowed his thoughts to go so far back into his 110
HELEN BLAIR 111 boyhood days. "Why, hello, Lewis." Looking up quickly he recognized two well known business men. "Come join us, on our way to have dinner with some dandy girls, just over from London, across the pond, 'some girls,' believe me. Talk about your 'Broadway Chickens-not in it with these London 'Ducks.' '' ''No, thanks, very much, but I must hurry home." "Now look here, Lewie, old chap, what's the matter, you have deserted the Club, we never see you on the gay white way, is she a blonde or a brunette, or maybe she is a lavender lady? I have seen several of the new wigs, it is surprising how attractive they are.'' Dudley laughed heartily at what the elder man thought was a clever speech. A typical New Yorker, a man of sixty five, well groomed, and tailored, with a wife and several grown children to his credit. Mr. Burns could be seen most any night in some of the gay cafes along Broadway, he was never alone, he was a frequenter of the show places where the girls in the chorus make eyes at the
112 HELEN BLAIR bald headed row, and accepted invitations for late or early suppers, and enjoyed automobiles, lobsters and wine, commonly known as "joy water." Bidding the gentlemen "good day" and wishing them luck, hurried home for the letter he knew he would find. Wang had placed it conspicuously so that as soon as he entered he would see it. Apprecia tive of Wang's thoughtfulness, he tore the enve lope and read: "Will be with you alfu0st as soon as this letter; our last concert is Sunday evening in Baltimore. Wednesday at eleven thirty, I arrive in New York. I am growing anxious to see the many things that only New York has. I have so much to tell you dear, this has been a wonderful experience. I am count-ing the hours until I see you. I am to o excited to write more." Dudley sat with the letter in his hand. "She is coming,'' then reading it over to make sure Wednesday was the day for her to arrive. The evening paper must be looked over, or Wang
HELEN BLAIR 113 would feel that part of the routine of daily life was being neglected. There was nothing of interest in the papers lately. Glancing over the head lines, he read: "Died in Denver." He knew that Denver had opened her gates in love to Helen. Who was this Katharine Carpenter Armstrong? Reading to the end of the funeral notices, "yes it is his wife-Dr. Chester Arm strong. This must be a sad blow, she was a beautiful woman. I remember that on account of his wife's poor health, he moved to Denver. Helen will be grieved, she has told me many times of the Doctor's kindness to her, and of the wonderful cure of her eyes.'' He allowed himself to wonder what he would do if he had to give Helen up. Never do we appreciate 's sorrow until we have the fear of the same calamity upon us. He little dreamed of the part Chester Armstrong would play in his life.
CHAPTER XV. When a Washington audience is pleased, it is a real triumph for the singer. It is a well established fact that the Capital City is filled with musical people, and diplomatic circles are artistic, demanding and thoroughly appreciating the best. Helen Blair had pleased, she sang with all the sweetness and cultivation that the I most exacting audience could ask. Generous applause and beautiful flowers bore testimony of her success. Bowing and smiling to the en thusiastic and happy crowd, she left the theatre immediately her songs were over. A small pale little newsboy stuck his face in her cab, "buy a paper, Miss." She tossed him a quarter. 114
HELEN BLAIR l15 He shook his head, ''Oh, Miss, ain't you got a penny, I can't change this 1 '' ''Keep it all, sonny.'' The grin on his face was happiness enough. The paper lay on the floor of the cab; she was thinking of the early return to New York; only another night and day, then Heaven "I tremble with fear." In front of the hotel, she reached for the paper, with flowers in her arm she entered the almost deserted lobby"' going to her rooms, she undressed slowly, too excited to sleep The gown she had worri was carefully laid upon the couch; flowers placed in the bath tub to preserve them. "Oh, I just can't sleep.'' Taking the paper, she turned the drop light on, made herself comfortable She read the society news, news of the tariff and the Mexican rumors of war. Then in a wild gesture of despair threw the paper from her, as if it were a serpent, sobs rent her body, she writhed in agony, "Oh, God, pity me." The sun shone and flooded the room, a heart broken creature was tossing in delirium, muttering and weeping.
116 HELEN BLAIR Nine-thirty the maid tried the door, no re sponse, she was sure she heard sobs and the lady asking for help, she told the porter in an excited manner. He went to report to the office. The clerk came at once, failing to get an answer to his knocks and calls, hearing dis tinctly the woman's call and he forced the door. There the beautiful singer, Miss Blair, crouched in a corner, the torn newspaper held tight in her hands. The kindly dis posed young fell ow picked her up in his arms, gently placed her in bed, sent at once for a physician and nurse. She lay there with wide open eyes that took no notice of those about her. Her cheeks flaming; a constant chatter of incoherent mutterings. The grave old physician shook his head. ''There has been a sudden and terrible shock; she may with careful nursing recover; she hasn't much chance, she must have perfect quiet, I think her family had best be notified. No, no, she must not be moved from here yet." The manager of the company was communicated with, he couldn't understand
HELEN BLAIR 117 such a sudden breakdown. Miss Blahhad been quite well and happy during the entil'e trip-Washington and New York papers contained accounts of the serious illness of Miss .Blair, who was just ending a most successful concert tour of the South and West. Dudley Lewis, seating himself for his after dinner cigar, and glancing at the evening papers, was shocked to read of Helen's serious illness. .he called, tapping the bell at the same time, "pack my bag, I am leaving on the eight-thirty train for Washington."
" CHAPTER XVI. Five weeks Helen ..dlair had been fighting for life. When she was able to be moved from the hotel in Washington, she was taken to a sani tarium. Dudley Lewis watched her while she lay there burning with fever, her beautiful hair had been sacrificed. How he longed for one glance of recognition, one smile, such as he had dreamed Helen would give him when she came home after three months. He often heard his name muttered with that of Chester Arm strong. Sometimes in an agonizing voice, cs My deliverer", "say it was all a mistake, be my friend, do not turn from me now.'' At such times when her temperature ran higher 118
HELEN BLAIR 119 than the day before, Dudley would hold the fragile hand, his face had become pale and drawn, with the constant watching. To-day the great specialist, who had been called from New York, assured the nurse the crisis would be pas sed, she must be watched every hour, every breath might be the one on which the verdict hung, if her temperature dropped and the pa i tient slept quietly, there was hope. Her vitality was almost used up. Ten o'clock and no visible effect of the quieting medicine, the restless head, the shifting eyes, all signs pointed to the acute nervousness that the doctors were :fight ing against. Dudley Lewis could see that Helen grew worse, his heart ached, oh, to be able to do something; what was this thing that weighed upon her niind? He had gathered enough from her delirium to know she "fas striving to keep something back in her poor tired brain. He held her hand. With strength he little dreamed she had Helen sat up in bed, beating her breast, trying to find something she had hidden
120 HELEN BLAIR there. "What is it, dear!" he asked. The nurse tried to soothe her, nothing would satisfy or quiet lier ravings. With one mad, wild scream she tore her night dress from her body. ''It is gone, it is gone I He said he would take you from me. I hid your letter here, in my heart, where no one would see it. Oh, little crumpled, yellow paper; you whispeted 'all love,' night and day. Now he has taken you from me.'' Moaning, she fell back upon the pillows. The nurse and Dudley gazed at each other, each wondering what it was 1 ''All love,'' oh, blessed words, had she not written to him, that his message sent to Colorado Springs, rested in her bosom. ''Oh, thank God, she was his." In her delirium she thought of him, and feared that some one wpuld take her from him. A new vow was registered to Heaven. Nothing under the sun, no circumstances, or combination of circumstances should take Helen out of his life, if God would spare her to him. An hour of terrible ravings, such as they had seen many times, :finally she sank a huddled heap, utterly
HELEN BLAIR 121 exhausted, like a tired child worn out with fret ting. For hours they watched, her breathing be came more regular, an occasional sigh. The doctor came in, felt her pulse and head, then opening her gown, laid his head on her heart, listening to the beats. Lewis and the nurse watched the face of the doctor, Lewis with grim determination to see hope, for all that made life worth living, hope that Helen would pass through this hour, and have strength left to battle for recovery and health. The profes sional sphinx-like face gave no sign-he waited, his own heart almost ceasing to beat. Dr. Lorn left the room, the nurse following. Dudley was left alone with the 'Jne being he loved. His soul was breathing prayers, "only spare her." While he sat with Helen's hai;i.d in his, many things of long ago came to his mind, he thought of his mother and wondered if she could look down and know, these past few weeks to him were full of intense suffering. He knew now why his father was sad and gloomy. Plainly he could see the little old fashioned house, in
122 HELEN BLAIR a small town in Virginia; how well he remem bered the night that his mother left them, his father had awakened him to come to his mother's room. When he stood half asleep by her side, his father kneeling with bowed head, there by his mother's side an infant, his little sister-boy as he was, a child of nature, he little dreamed he was called to bid farewell to his beautiful mother, who so soon would go on that long :journey, whence no traveler may return. Joy filled him, his one desire had been a sister, but the infant hailed with such delight was also the I cause of his mother's death, her life was given for the babe who slept so peacefully. Now it came to him, what his father's agony and tears meant. ''Heart of my heart,'' he whispered, "now I know." The nurse touched him. "Dr. Lorn wishes to speak with you." Going to the private office, the doctor standing by the win dow saw this strong man trembling before him. No qne8ticn. came from his lips, his eyes looked straight into those of medical man. A
HELEN BLAIR 123 criminal before the bar of justice no more appealingly ask for mercy. Ditdley :Gewi8 held to the chair until his nails dug info foe leather. ''I need not tell you how pleased I am to say that Miss Blair has passed the crisis, her nnd heart are almost normal, she will probably sleep for a few hours, when she awakens I am sure she will be perfectly rational, but there must be absolutely no excitement. So soon as she is able to travel, I advise she be taken South, some quiet country He heard Dr. Lorn in a dream; he was trying to control himself; his legs were shaking so he could hardly stand. Bidding him good day, the doctor passed into the r all, taking care to close the door. "Poor follow, pretty hard hit, just leave him in there alone for awniitl, he will pull him self together. Miss Blair m:1st have been very beautiful, my wife has been much interested in this case and will be pleased to hear such good of the young lady." .i'n hour and Dudley Lewis was still with boweC. head in the doctor's office.
124 HELEN BLAIR He was planning to take Helen somewhere. ''She must give me all the right, as soon as she is able to understand-a priest, a witness and a small legal paper is all that will be necessary to make me the happiest man in the world. In a few days I will take a run up to New York, give Wang instructions, look after the fellows in the office, get those bids in for the Dando structure. By that time Helen will be strong enough to travel. Then for my honeymoon, nursing my wife back to her beautiful self. Oh, Helen, I am the most thankful man in the world today. In some way we will make sub stantial return to Him who doeth all things well.'' Back he went to the room where she lay ,quietly sleeping. The nurse assured him with a pleased smile, knowing well the strain upon Lewis during these long days of waiting. Tak ing his seat near the window, with his face to Helen, he could see if she moved or opened her eyes. He must be the first to 'See returning reason; he must hear her speak, call his name ;
HELEN BLAIR 125 she must know that he was with her. The hours dragged slowly, the sun was getting lower, men were coming home from their day's work. The night nurse had come in and taken her place by Helen, but Dudley Lewis sat in almost the same position he had taken early in the after noon. Gazing toward her, he saw her hands moving. She turned her head restlessly, her lids quivered, she opened wide her eyes. Going softly across the room, he knelt by her side. A deep, long sigh, she turned her eyes slowly upon each object in the room. ''Oh, I am so tired.'' Such a weak, faint voice, one would hardly know but it was a very sick child who spoke. "Yes, dear," trying to control his voice, "but you are going to rest now. You must try to sleep again. No, no,'' her hand moved toward his, taking it gently. "Helen, dear, I am so happy."
:l26 HELEN BLAIR Closing her eyes, as if to hold them open was too great an effort1. ;;he said slowly: "I am so happy. s'
CHAPTER XVII. Dr. Armstrong spent most of his days with Kate. He knew the end was very near. When she slept he feared that her eyes would open only in that other world. She was a mer 3 shadow her former self. Day after day lay in her chair, placed in the sunny spots, where the cheerful rays would warm her. She had resigned herself to the inevitable, and now with what courage she could muster she tried to be cheerful and meet the call with something near resignation. No outward sign did Chester Armstrong give of the fierce conflict within, the disgust he felt for himself since he had shown Helen his other personality. A dogged 121
128 HELEN BLAIR determination had settled upon him. You never know the timber of a man's soul until something cuts into him deeply and brings the grain out strongly. With the knowledge that the climate of Colorado could not return Kate to health, that it would only be a few days until he would lay her in the spot she herself had selected, each day he tried to show her more gentle consideration. The last day that Kate was able to drive with him, she had insisted upon driving through the beautiful city of the dead. Slowly they drove through the quiet place, she showing much interest in the different lots, wondering who lay here and who there. ''Chester, dear, can't you get the lot right next to this for me f I have thought of it every time I come here. You see, we can then keep each other company.'' "Hush, my dear; it will be a long time be fore you will join the throng of those who have crossed the river." Unconsciously, he drove
HELEN BLAIR 129 faster; he was anxious to leave this dreary place. "But, Chester," Kate continued, "I brought you here just to show you the place I had se lected. Why, dear, this is not a lonely place; I have come here so many times, I feel that I will only join another crowd when I take up my abode over there with the isolated one. Now promise to do as I ask,'' said Kate, im patiently. "Why do you dwell on death 7 Why not think of brighter things 7 Think of getting well. Your mind has everything to do with your ailment," laughing, as if to tease. "Have you been reading your 'Science' lately?" ''Yes, Chester, I have. It has helped me to be prepared. I no longer dread, only I grow weary waiting. Listen, my husband; let me speak while I have the and courage. I have tried for a long time to say things to you, but always I was afraid; but now-'-" she bit her lip to keep back the tears, then
130 HELEN BLAIR hastened on: "Forgive me, Chester, for all the cruel, unkind things I have said to you. I know, dear, I have tried you sorely-have done things unworthy your wife-but I was so able, so sick," she hesitated, "and so unrea sonably jealous of Miss Blair. I know now it was all a mistake. You only cared for her as you do many of your patients. I have fought it all out. I have conquered myself. I know you were proud of the successful treatment you gave her eyes, after so many had failed. She, dear, was grateful. Why, Chester, I be lieve had I been saved from blindness by some man-had he saved me as you did Helen Blair-my gratitude would be boundless. I would fall down and worship; I would give soul and body to show my gratitude. No wonder she calls you her deliverer. You have saved her from a fate ten times worse than the cold future that is waiting great unknown-the reaper that shows no mercy. The olq man, weary with life, marches by the side of the fair young girl."
HELEN BLAIR 131 Kate spoke of all her married years, trying her best to undo some of the things she now knew had hurt and left their imprint Her husband was turning over in his mind what she had said-the word she had used-'' grati tude." Was it "gratitude" Helen had given him? ''Life is the stuff to try one's soul on; it comes slowly and painfully to some, to others it never comes," he mused. "I am being tried.'' Kate placed her hand upon his arm. "Let's go home, dear.'' He smiled his answer, turning into the main drive. The next week passed slowly. Always grati tude. The word burned into his brain. One Sunday morning the nurse came for him just as the sun was beginning to peek from behind the mountains. ''The end is near,'' she whis pered. "I have sent for Dr. Black." Hurrying to Kate's room, he took his place by her bed. Her breathing was labored, her
132 HELEN BLAIR hands cold and clammy, her eyes were staring and glassy. Dr. Black stood by, unable to pro long her life. All that medical science and indulgent husband could do/ was at an end. The fight was over. With the knowledge that Kate had passed into t4e great beyond, Chester Armstrong sent a fervent prayer to Him who judges us by our hearts and forgives seven times seven. "Listen to my prayer, Savior of mankind. Forgive me; I knew not what I Would to God I could undo the past. '' Every request Kate had made was carefully attended to. Just as the sun was sinking in the west, the procession halted by the lonely grave, where a flower-lined, newly prepared vault was ready to receive Katharine Carpenter Armstrong. The floral offerings bore evi dence of the esteem in which she was held by the new friends. Chester Armstrong, with his own hands, covered the new made grave with 1lowers. Then, looking at ''the lonely one,'' he
HELEN BLAIR 133 placed a wreath upon it, and to himself he said, as if speaking to her who had excited his wife' s sympathy: "I wonder if you were young and beautiful, if the climate failed you, too 7 '' With a lingering look at the two mounds, be went to his carriage and drove home. He allowed himself to review the past. Well be knew that Kate in her last days had given him food for thought. The weeks slipped away rapidly. Dr. Armstrong gave his undivided attention to his prac tice. His office was full of patients, eager for his services. Somehow, no matter how he tried to keep it down, the feeling of home-sickness would come. New York was beginning to call. Denver was any one could desire. But Chester Armstrong was longing for his old his old club, even the bright lights of Broadway caf es were beckoning to him. Then in a more serious strain something would whisper: "You will be near Helen. Strange ihe has
134 HELEN BLAIR never written me since Kate's death. Well, I am an awful cad, I must confess. I did not treat her kindly when she was here. I must admit I am a little hurt that no word has come from her, yet I have had no great desire to see her. I must have bad my awakening. Plucky giri, not one cent of my money bas she touched since I left New York. My New York bank shows that none of the checks have been cashed. I found out she bad given up the apartmentshe told me she was determined to make her own way in the world. Oh, Helen, my little country mouse, I loved you, and for me it was Gratitude 1"
CHAPTER xvm. Somehow, the call of New York is stronger than one who has lived in that mad throng can resist. So try as he would, Dr. Armstrong could not drown the ever calling voice of his old associates. We find him now, after three years' absence, once more established in his profession in handsomely furnished rooms in a fashionable uptown street. Little changed in appearance, the sprinkling of gray near his temples, a few pounds heavier, the same cordial welcome to patients who filled his rooms. He had not seen Helen, neither had he heard from her, o n ly through mutual friends. Someone had told him of her terrible illness; also of reports 135
136 HELEN BLAIR of her engagement to Dudley Lewis. Lewis, he heard, had spent much time with Helen in the South, where she had gone to recuper a t e While Dr. Armstrong was thinking and won dering if the ''old dame'' knew the real truth, or was she only indulging in a little society gossip, the office girl announced: "The tele phone, Doctor.'' "Yes, this is Dr. Armstrong. Dr. Walter Jackson T Where are you T Imperial T I will be right down. From Seventy-second street to Thirty-first is not far, when one goes at the rate of thirty miles an hour, disregarding speed laws." These two college chums had not seen each other for fifteen years, when they said good-by after the graduating class had been presented with sheepskins adorned with blue ribbons, Walter Jackson going back to a small town in Alabama to hang out his shingle among those who had seen him grow from the wonderful infant of doting parents, who themselves were
HELEN BLAIR 137 products of the same town. Chester Armstrong, with wealth at his command, able to wait for patients, decided to settle himself in .:a luxurious New York office. These old friends stood facing each other, their hands clasped in the old frat grip. The mantle of years dropped from them, they were boys again, re counting many pranks played on unsuspecting friends. As they spoke of the later years of life, Dr. Jackson, with a serious, professional air, remarked: "Chester, tell me something about Kate. I read in the New York papers of her death. I can hardly bring myself to believe she was a victim of the terrible lung trouble. She was the last girl I would have dreamed of going off that way. How do you account for iU" Leaning far back !n his chair, lboking straight ahead, Chester Armstrong said, in a low hardly above a whisper: "A careless disregard for simple colds, caused by low neck gowns, with weather below
138 HELEN BLAIR zero; damp feet, getting very warm1 going into the extreme cold, and," he he sitated, "worry was the cause of Kate's death. When pneu monia developed, after an unusually severe cold, it was too late ; she was not strong enough mentally or physically to battle with the dis ease as she should have done. Too late I real ized my part in the tragedy of a young life.'' Then, as if he had :finished with a distasteful subject, he handed a cigar to Doctor Jackson, lighting one himself, and rising said: "Come, l et's go. around to m y club; it is about time for lun ch." Plea ding an engagement, Jackson refused, saying: "If you are not engaged for dinner, meet me here at six; we will dine together and try to be boys again, at least in spirits.'' The swinging door closed and Chester Arm strong was out on Broadway. His old friend, standing still, looked after him. ''So Chester has had his cup of sorrow. Am
HELEN BLAIR 139 afraid it hes left a wound that will be a long while healing. Sorry I asked him about Kate; some natures pref er to nurse their sorrow in silence; others need sympathy. Chester is the brooding kind. He is young yet. Some lovely woman will step into the place made vacant. He will hear the voice of his own children. This will be an epoch in his life, just one of the chapters.'' Instead of joining his usual noonday friends in a cozy corner of his club for luncheon, Chester Armstrong went at once to his office. There in his private rooms he walked the floor nerv ously. There is no totture like unavailing regret. Yesterday is dead; repining is weak ness ; the only atonement one can make is to try to keep the faith, and sin no more. Our friendships hurry to short and poor con clusions, because we have made them of the texture of wine and dreams, instead of the rough fibre of the human heart. It is sad to contemplate and allow one's self to dream of the "might have been," and review the trans-
140 HELEN BLAIR gressions committed and excused under the headlines, "He loved." If one would stop just a moment and define the word ''love,'' let the full meaning sink deep into their passion-mad nature, few men would ruin the lives of women; for 'tis a conceded fact that the mistakes of woman most always result from her faith and confidence in him who prates of love. Some times there is temptation in physical contact, beyond the will and inclination, beyond the strength of reason, and the young, trusting girl, raised in her home like a tender plant, finds too late her mJl,ster man has been the one to blight the flower. The sins committed under the name of love would fill countless volumes. I wonder strong men do not hang their heads in fear and shame when they think of the lonely outcasts who lay their first false step and down ward path strewn with primroses to the pro fessed love of God's superior being, man. The business man, seated in his luxurious office, certainly has no evil intent when he makes the pretty stenographer's work easier
HELEN BLAIR 141 and an occasional invitation to lunch. Why does he fail to mention to his wife that he had taken his stenographer out for lunch 7 Be cause he knows, that down .in his heart and the dark recess of his soul, he is planning the destruction of a young and trusting girl. Fie I upon you strong men that you are. You have fought and conquered Wall Street markets; you have stood the test and strain of :financial ups and downs; but when one frail, hard-work ing girl sits near you, earning only enough to keep body and soul together, you haven't the courage :fight the animal passion bound up in your well-fed and wine-soaked bodies. So, under the guise of being in love, you tempt, :first with a box of bonbons, such as she has seen in Huyler's windows; theatre tickets for herself and slaving mother, growing bolder as the poor little fool begins to smile and flush at your entrance to the office. Now you go to lunch often together. Do you take her to the place you would take one in your own set? No, yon do not wish to be seen. Day by day yon
142 HELEN BLAIR gain your way into this poor girl's heart, for the heart of woman unused to the wiles of men in the busine ss world responds to kindness and gentle attention. Before the chapter ends, let's bow our heads in shame for the sins committed in love's name. ''God gaveHis beloved Son'' because he loved us, and to save the sin ful world. Martyrs have been burned at the stake, mothers grown gray bear in agony the sorrows of their children, for love; but it is left to man to destroy the object of his so-called love.
CHAPTER XIX. Helen Blair sat quietly in the living room of her old home. No queen could receive greater homage than had been given her after her terri ble illness in Washington. She had come home among those who loved her, to wait for her strength. Each day the roses began to peep from her cheeks, her eyes grew brighter. No one would scarcely believe that a short time ago Helen Blair was trembling upon the b1-in. k of the great unknown. In front of the old fashioned fire place, the hickory logs pilled high, the blaze lapping the logs, great tor J gu e s of flames cracking up the chimney, she sat in. a comfortable old rocker that had occupied the 143
144 HELEN BLAIR same place by the center table for years. She remembered as a child the same arrangements of furniture; the table was covered with the latest magazines, books, New York papers and numerous programs of plays and operas of the season now in its height. These were all evidences of Dudley's thoughtfulness, after his visit to the qUiet little town, where the gentle folks had opened their hospitable doors to him in proof of their heartfelt appreciation of his watchful kindness to their Helen. Not a day passed that his mes s age of love and some token of loyalty did not find its way to her, who sat day after day trying to think the right way. Dudley knew that his darling would soon be her old self again. He hoped that when the dogwood blossomed and the woods were sweet with the wild perfume, the birds singing their love songs to their mates, that Helen would let him come to her, to make her his bride to shield and protect her from every care. The magazine lay unheeded at her feet, Dudley's letter in her lap, with the question, "When
HELEN BLAIR 140 shall I come for you T'' Is a woman able to judge her own soul or can God alone do thaU Helen felt and knew that God had forgiven her one transgression. Her soul was white. She knew, too, that man seldom for gives. Could she go to Dudley with this black spot locked in her bosom, like the incurable cancer, eating her hearU Man gives a woman just as much of his life as he sees fit, but demands that she give him not only today and tomorrow, but yesterday. Woman is the crime of man. She has been his victim ever since Eden ; She wears on her flesh the traces of six thousand years of injustice. Tears were stealing down Helen's cheek, her mind was made up, she was fixed in her deter mination to risk her happiness, her love-she would bare her life. It had come at last-Choose. WJien a woman loves with an absolute love, when the real passion dominates her soul, there is nothing commonplace or ordinary in life for her. Every situation is idealized by the divine flame in her heart, every trial made
146 HELEN BLAIR easy, every trouble is sanctified; poverty haa no sting. There is nothing in life but to serve the loved One. So the fear of confessing to Dudley the ugly past, the past of her life that had almost driven her mad, she felt now was part of the suffering she would have to undergo before .she reached the zenith of that great "' happiness in store for her as his wif'0. She could almost hear him whisper his great love, his arms were about her. She repeated aloud: "He touched my body and it was sanctified; he laid his hand upon my brow and it was sa-crament. Oh, Dudley, my love, with clean hands and open heart, I come to you-deal gently with me." Alice Blair, Helen's sister-in-law, came in from a visit to a sick neighbor. "Have you been lonely, dearT I really didn't intend to leave you so long." "No, Alice; it seems I can do nothing but think. Now I know it is good for one to sit quietly and think. I believe it should be one
HELEN BLAIR 147 of the daily rules of life to have one hour de voted to silent thought. We would then be able to untangle hard knots." Laughing, Alice replied: "Well, dear, I am sure you haven't many knots to untie. There is the postman's whistle; I will go for the mail." As she lighted the lamp, she said, "I wonder who is going to be lucky this ti.met" After receiving the mail from the postman, Alice returned to the room, saying: ''Two for you, Helen-big, fat ones." Helen's face lighted up with happy anticipa tion. She knew Dudley's letter was one, and the other didn't matter much. "Thank you, dear," she said, taking the lettera from Alice. Dudley's letter was there-the big, bold w:fi ting she knew so well. The blood in her veins seemed to turn to some scalding fluid; she then grew cold and sick. The letter before her was from Chester Armstrong. What did it contain t Had he told her miserable story to Dud}eyt Did he send this letter to smite her,
148 HELEN BLAIR to accuse, and glory over her ignominyT With both letters unopened, she went to her room. Throwing herself with absolute abandonment upon her bed, she sobbed, heart-broken and al most distracted as she lay there: ''Oh, Dud ley, he will never take you from me. God will not permit it-God has told me so. I am strong-God has given me the strength of His strongest soldiers. I shall hope and fight until the end. You are mine. This one mistake this weakness of an innocent girl, who felt that her life must be given in gratitude to one who saved her from blindness. Oh I why didn't he let me go my wayT I didn't know the danger. These tears that burn my eyes are not of weak sorrow; they are born of fierce resentment, of a terrible passion that surges through me when I recall that horrid mockery that my poor fool ish heart mistook for love. Oh, God, I know now what possessed my whole being-Gratitude. I wanted to pay, to give. If only I could out the hateful two years! Like an avenging Nemesis, the hand points at me in every-
HELEN BLAIR 149 conscious hour." The sobs had ceased, her breath came in deep drawn gasps. Lighting her lamp by the bed, she braced herself for new battles. She opened first the letter from Dr. Armstrong, the one she dreaded. I think 'tis only human nature that urges us to get through with the disagreeable task first and to save the best for the last. She read the lefter from Dr. Armstrong, realizing more and more that she had to fear from this man. Telling her of his chance meet ing with Dr. Walter Jackson and how sorry he was to learn of her serious illness, the letter continued: 'My Little Country Mouse,' I wish I could tell you the disgust I feel for myself, when I look back upon the past, our last meeting in Denver, and the hideous part I played in an ugly scene. Will I ever forget you as you stood looking down atmef You were radiating pride from every pore, while I was torn and in furiated wHh the realiza,tion that another h.eld the heart I Oh, what a fate is bis
150 HELEN BLAIR who demands of the woman he ardently loves the boon of a fervent word, a passionate caress, and who does not receive it I Helen, I was f amished for your love. Like a beggar who had stood in vain, with outstretched hand, I wanted a crumb of your affection; miserable and poor, I desired your tenderness. All I have is a cruell y haunting thought, which I will do my best to put away as unworthy. I am an un happy human being, who for love of you has been :filled with horrible unending regret. Any other in your place would have deceived me in believing you cared once; that you loved me. But no I you lifted the veil when you acknowl edged that gratitude :filled your whole beingyou would have filled my heart with happiness could you have had the power. I know it is in spite of yourself that you have tortured me. I do not reproach you. I bear you no ill-will. You are so created that you will not realize what I experience when I see you, or speak to you. Why go on T I could never make you understand-set myself right in your eyes. One
HELEN BLAIR 151 thing more. The last time Kate was able to go with me for her drive1 she spoke of you. If it would help to make you happier in your new life, I want you to know she spoke of you ten derly and gently. I would not mention this, only you had condemned yourself as being in some way guilty with me in causing her sorrow. She opened my eyes to the real feeling you had for me. It was Kate that made me understand my position and the more than cowardly acts I had been guilty of. I will end this letter now, with this one request: If you should ever need a friend, remember I reserve the right to be your best friend. "I will also say: Could you consent to take and keep your place in my heart as my honored and worshipped wife, I would move heaven and earth to make you happy. If this is denied me, and you are the wife of another, I will hold you as pure as the angels and cherish the thoughts of the past as sacred as the temple wherein my God doth dwell. Faithfully, Ch011ter."
152 HELEN BLAIR ; Could this be from him T Could this come from him who had been so cruel, so stj.nging in his horrid accusations f The real man now in conscious hou ,r." The sobs had ceased, her breath came in deep drawn gasps. Lighting her lamp by the bed, his calmer moments knew himself. There was no outward sign of thanksgiving, but Helen's heart was full or the thoughts that make a garden of sweet memories. How little it takes to make a woman miserable l And how much less to make her happy. The wall that stood between her love and all that made happiness for her had crumbled and fallen, a mass of hideous regret was all with which she had to battle. She needed no long respite to think of the answer to this letter. The fire of gratitude still burned in her soul. She could never forget this man, whose professional skill had saved her from a fate worse than death. Without hesitation, she wrote: "My Deliverer-you will always be that to
-HELEN BLAIR 153 me-I have no words to express my feelings as I read your letter tonight. Once more you make me your debtor. You have offered me the honorable place in your life that I would give much to accept. But the woman who goes to your fireside and to your heart should go with a heart running over with love and affection. I do love you, but not the holy divine love that a good wife gives to her husband-sincere friendship, appreciation of the good that is in you, undying gratitude for kindness that can never be repaid, a profound respect for your professional knowledge. All I ask of you now is to be true to the best that is in you; be true to your God, to my hopes of you, and bring the world to your feet. As long as there is breath in my body, you will have my highest and best wishes. With deep appreciation of all your letter contains, yours sincerely, Helen." She stamped his letter, and a feeling of thank fulness was in her heart that he had not failed her. Her duty to Dudley was clearer than before-she. must tell him there had been an-
154 HELEN :BLAIR other. With her heart beating like mad, she opened his letter so full of love. He was so impatient for t}Je happy day. "My dear, I can think of nothing but our beautiful future.'' She finished reading his letter and pressed it to her lips, saying, ''Pray God that it may be our future."
CHAPTER XX. Twice her lips opened. No sound would come. Helen stood in front of Dudley. All the love in her soul, all the hopes of happi:ess were crowding their way to her heart that was thumping so loud and strong she feared he would hear it and ask the meaning. Two days before his letter had said, ''When you receive this I will be on my way to you just as fast as the steam can take me. Business in Louisville, Ky. My bids have been accepted for the new post office. PreP.are yourself. I am going to play Lochinvar-take you and run away with you." Alice, a wonderful housekeeper, had been 155
158 HELEN BLAIR very busy every minute. The guest chamber had never been so thoroughly done before new rugs, fresh curtains, a vase for the flowers she knew Helen would keep fresh in his room. ,. Aunt Dicy, the faithful black, who felt she was the most important part of the family, had spent two days making cakes and pies '' sich as no Yankee never did eat." She said tb Helen: "Honey, chile, them folks do'n kno' what fine ea tin' is. I don' tried onct to show one of dem edicated niggers how to stur up a puddin' outen her haid, but she spile a whole parcel of aigs dat make de inkerbater hen look sick, so I don' resoluted to pa yin' no mine The best linen and china, with the family silver, was ready, and Aunt Dicy had strict or ders not to join in the conversation while waiting on the table. Dudley held Helen in his arms, then put her from him to see the roses come and go. "What witch has taken possession of youT" he said. "You are more beautiful than I e:ver
HELEN BLAIR l5'f saw you. Who would ever dream that not so long ago you were an interesting invalid T Not a trace of your terrible illness,'' running his hand gently over her soft, golden curls; "even your crown of gold is more luxuriant. Come, now; sit here and tell me everything. What have you been doingT And the most important thing of aJl., when am I going to take you back to New York T I am besieged on every side to know when you are coming. You have many friends anxiously awaiting your return." He was holding her hands and could feel them tremble, little guessing the burden his dear one was striving to bear bravely. "Dudley, dear," she whispered, "I have so much to tell you. Will you try to listen 7 Do not judge me harshly. I must tell you." She saw his gesture of impatience and knew he was going to try to keep her from doing the thing she had set herself to do. "Promise not to interrupt me, nor speak until I get to the end. This is no easy task;
158 HELEN BLAIR but, dear, I love you too much to come to you with any part of my life you do not know.'' "Well, if I must be your father confessor, just let me light my cigar and make myself comfortable. Then, dear, you sit at my feet and unfold this wonderful story. But right here I beg to say, no matter what you tell me, I love you; you are going to be my wife." She looked straight into his eyes. He saw before him a woman whose soul was white. "Dudley," her voice was low, "before I knew you, there was another, one to whom I owe much. I gave myself unreservedly to him. Let me confess. It was not love, but gratitude, a fe e ling of absolute servitude to do his bid ding; his will seemed the only law I knew.'' She told the whole story, beginning with her longing at the age of twelve to be a singer, when those of her acquaintances in her small home town prophesied great things for pretty little Helen Blair. Then the terrible moments
HELEN BLAIR 159 of blindness-dark, miserable days-a ray of hope that came now and then when she would hear people speak of wonderful things done for helpless and disconsolate ones in that far-off city; but, alas, it would take money to get to the great specialist. Just as she was in despair, Dr. Walter Jackson, her brother's friend, came. He had found the way. Could it beT Was it true that the noted oculist was to try his skill 7 Was there a silver lining to this dark cloud? "In less1 time than I dreamed, I was estab lished in a cheap hall bed room, far out on the East Side, with only money enough to pay car fare and buy scanty meals. Oh, Dudley, were you ever horribly poor T Were you ever hungry-having to count your pennies T Week after week I went for treatmenir-would sit waiting-will I ever forget those hours of anxiety? At last it came; the treatment had proved successful. I would not be doomed to blindness. I bowed at my deliverer's feet; I wanted to be his slave. I didn't know the
160 HELEN BLAIR world-not one impure thought came to my mind. He asked me to go with him to listen to the music I loved. We would sit in quiet places. Never, so help me God, Dudley, did I dream I had no right to those hours of happi ness. Through him I was able to get a church choir position. Two years of this companion ship without harm. Oh, help me; I wouldn't open the wound, only I found you, and finding you, I found myself." She clung to his knees. Dudley Lewi13' face was rigid, his mouth firm. What would be the verdict? "I feel that I have lost you now, but I can never lose the memory of you, dear, while I live. I think I can not lose it death, and it is worth all the other memories I shall carry out of this life. Just a few moments, and I will be through this hateful story. You remember the night I met She looked up for his answer, but he was gazing far off, his eyes almost closed. ''How well I remember. It was my birthday-my twentieth birthday. I had just. gone to the apart ment-only a few weeks of the horrible life-
HELENBLAffi 161 and your eyes looked into mine. I knew then I had reached the parting of the ways. I must make reparation for the past-the one terrible step. I did l Ohl I did. I have paid the price. I know no woman finds peace until she has tas ted of all the poisoned dishes at the banquet of life; so, Dudley, I have tasted. I have eaten of each poisoned dish, served to me through mistaken ideas of what love isthrough blindness and ignorance. I accepted the viands. Now, dear, even if you send me from you as unworthy, I will not despair, for in my soul is boundless love. I will go back to my work with this hour hugged tight to me. I did not deceive him. I gave him my today, my yesterday, leaving the future in his hands to give me happiness or send me back to the world to fight for the place that I know belongs to woman, no matter if she has erred. There is One who holds out His hand to help such as I." Helen bowed her head upon Dudley's knees. Sobs convulsed her body, her eyes were dry, no
162 HELEN BLAIR tears came to relieve her tortured heart. Plac ing both his hands on her head, he remained quiet for a few moments; then lifting her in his arms, he folded her in a close embrace. Thus he rocked her gently, as a father would to soothe a fretful child. After a half hour, kissing her forehead, her lips, trying to bring the roses back to her pallid cheeks, with his face close to her, he whis pered: "My little wounded bird, go to your room now and rest. Forget everything riow that is in the past. Our lives are one. Hand in hand we go to happiness in the evening of life. Dear, we will sit before our fireside in the blessed faith, with hearts entwined and love that passeth understanding. He who loves much, forgives much. You are Helen, and I love you."
CHAPTER XXI. Dudley Lewis, back in New York, deeply en grossed in his work of making and drawing plans for two wonderful buildings for the Pan ama Exposition. So determined was he that they should be accepted, he worked night and day. Each day his letter to Helen was full of their future. "I have a happy surprise for you," he wrote, "but must not hint of it for fear I may not be able to pull it through.'' Alice and Helen were up early. Numerous dainty hand-made garments bore evidence of how their days were spent. Such beautiful creations o:f lace and ribbon I Although there 16.1
' 164 HELEN BLAIR was to be no showy wedding, all the things so necessary to the happiness of a bride were be ing made and laid away. "Helen, dear," said Alice, looking up from her frill of lace, ''how did you ever make up you mind to give up your career T I know you are going to say Dudley is so fine and grand, and all the nice things, but I just can't help from thinking about all the pians and dreams you had-how you worked and almost starved to become a great singer." "Now, Alice, don't you think being the wife of a good man, keeping his home in order, being the mother of his children, is the grandest career a woman can have T Then listen, Alice, dear; when you do not love anybody a career is a mighty big thing, but when you do love somebody there is nothing in all the world b.ig or important, except the love. Now you see, I am full of love; note in my song of life shall be a love note.'' "Will you give up your public singing!"
HELEN BLAIR 165 "Why, bless your heart, no; but I will sing for those who need it, I will lend my voice to help those who are unfortunate, and, Alice, I am going to that church in New York that gave me my chance. I intend to pay them back for their goodness. I will take my old place in the choir, not for money, but the glory there is in praising God who has been merciful and sent i this cup of joy to me." Day after day passed with these two sisters planning good deeds to be done. "Indeed, Alice, you are coming to New York, you are, to see all the wonderful and beautiful things you have read about. Then, too, I need you. How could I take charge of a real home without you to assist and teach me all the rules of good housekeeping?" "What will we do with Aunt DicyT You know she has refused to leave me since your brother's death." Helen repeated the question. "Do witli Ami t
166 HELEN BLAIR Dicyf Take her with us. Dudley and I have already talked it over. So, Miss Alice, just start in and make your plans to be transplanted for at least a year. You will find no trouble in renting this place, just as it stands. I wouldn't surprised if one of the professors of the new college would take it. Brother's library would surely be an inducement. After a year, you ai.P make up your mind if you would care to live in New Y then sell this place. See?'' Alice sewed on quietly, listening to Helen's happy chatter. Her thoughts were back in the past, thirty years ago, when she, a happy bride, came to this simple home, the wife of the man she adored; their married life, struggles with poverty, reverses crowded upon them; two beautiful children came to bless the union. They did not tarry long; before they could lisp "Mamma," God took them to be His own. Her husband's death left her alone, only for Helen, whom she had mothered since a tiny babe. Now she was to go to a home of her own. Would she go with hert No. Somewhere she
HELEN BLAIR 167 had read that young folks a.re better to them selves; so Alice was framing in her mind exCt?-ses that would keep her in the old house, near the resting place of those who had crossed the river. Aunt Dicy appeared in the door, wearing a blue check dress, white apron and bright ban dana. She was holding a letter far in front of her. "Here 'tis, honey," she said. "I done met the deliverance man down der in front of Massa Joneses. I jest up and axed him if my white folks' letter from de North city done came, and bless yo' h 'art, honey, I made dese old laigs do some steppin' to get it heer." "I thank you, Aunt Dicy. You must have had a real beau once, didn't you T And you know how glad you were to get his letters.'' "Yes'um, I had a beau, but Lord a mercy, 'twas one of dem no 'count Clark niggers, and he neber did l'arn to do n9 letter writin I
168 HELEN BLAIR I believe in my soul all dat nigger knowed was jes' a little gospel tooken from de scripter." Helen and Alice laughed heartily as Aunt Dicy waddled off toward the kitchen, talking to herself. "Listen, Alice; Dudley has had his plans ac cepted for one of the Panama Exposition build ings. Oh, think-think of it! Now he wants to be married early in June, sail from New Orleans, visit the Panama Canal and on to San Francisco. Such a honeymoon l'' her arms around Alice, she cried: ''Oh, Alice, dear, I am so happy-so happy!" The radiance of her countenance, more than her words, convinced Alice. She need have no fear for the future of this girl, who took the place of her own child. With a smile of motherly approval, she gathered up her sewing and left the room before Helen could see the tears trembling upon her eyelashes. There is always something sad and mysteri-
HELEN BLAIR 169 ous about the marriage of our loved ones. To the widow, who had been left alone, thoughts of her own happy wedding day, the home-coming to their little cottage, the days of eager thirst for kno w ledge of all the mysteries of home-making and housekeeping, crowded upon her today. With a sigh, she wiped the tears from her eyes, then forced a song tba t she had heard Helen sing, while she continued to sew the laces. Sitting by her window in her bed room, Helen's mind was running rampant with the thought of all that must be done before she e ntered h e r new life that seemed so beautiful and full of joy. She fully realized that it was not the wealth of the world that makes home happy and lightens the burdens of every-day life, but the tender acts of kindness lovingly bestowed, the precious words of love spoken with each passing day. Our thoughts should be embodied into words and our words into acts. "Yes," she mused, "I will live each day try-
170 HELEN BLAIR ing to do and think good. If you have beautiful thoughts in your mind, you have a garden of flowers.'' Passing quickly, she went in search of Alice, for there were many things to be planned. Only a few weeks remained until the June time. "Why, Alice, we must plan the wedding now." Seeing the trace of tears and the trembling lips of her sister, Helen put her arms around the lonely woman, and kissing her, said: "Oh, you dear, dear sister. Now don't you look seri ous or sad a single time. This is going to be a real joyous occasion. Let's see; just a quiet home affair-I refuse to have a fussy affair. No walking up the aisle to 'Here comes the bride,' and everybody whispering, 'Isn't she pale I' 'How handsome he looks I' '' Alice tried to get in a protest. "Yes, I know, you and brother had a real old-fashioned wedding, that was the topic of comment for yea .rs;
HELEN BLAIR 171 but just my old friends here in our little sitting room-Aunt Dicy to inVite the company in and stand near by to see that everything 'goes off right.' You know how she was when she was not allowed in the parlor when Polly Wiggins married the young man from Texas.'' "Helen," interrupted Alice, "I really think you should have a white satin dress and a veil with orange blossoms.'' "You can't change my mind one bit, Alice, because I want only a blue dress-blue is a sure sign, 'always true.' Aunt Dicy will feel very indignant that there will be no wedding sup per, and I think I have forgotten or abused all the old family traditions; but she can have all the old shoes and ric'e she wants to throw at the bride.'' The little town of Annistown was in great excitement. The wedding had been the one topic discussed for three or four weeks. Unless one has lived in a small town, you can scarcely conceive the interest the whole community takes
172 HELEN BLAIR in weddings, birth s' and deaths-the smalle _st bit of gossip is of great interest. Helen found herself the center of attraQtion. Very quietly she had gone about her preparations, but every girl in town knew what pattern in The Delineator had been used for the pretty frocks The I clerks in the store upon her with the air of "I know just what y ou want; you are getting your trousseau.'' Everything was in readiness. Tomorrow Dudley would come. The following day Dr. Black, the old minister who had baptized her in her infancy and read the burial service for all those in her family who had passed to the great beyond, would give his blessing and say the words that made her the wife of him she loved. The trunks packed; no hustle or. bustle for the last day. Alice, with great care, attended to every detail. A unt Dicy had not felt so important since Miss Alice and Helen's brother John were married years ago. Sunday morning when it was near time for the train to come, Helen and Alice drove to the
HELEN BLAIR 173
174 HELEN BLAIR selves, for she knew there was much of interesl for them to discuss. Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright. "Happy is the bride the sun shines on." Not a cloud in the blue sky, the birds singing and twittering, adding their joyous approval. The ceremony over, good-byes, blessings and God speed you! were spoken. Aunt Dicy, with a goodly number of old shoes and generous sup ply of rice, stationed herself near the gate. Dudley passed down the walk, with Helen, his wife, his face radiant with peace. The carriage was waiting to take them to tlie train. Helen waved at her friends that watched them pass through the street; the little children smiled at her, having heard so much of the wedding and how she had once lived in their town and gone to the same school that stood unpainted on the hill. Dudley took her hand in his and held it tight. "We have begun our journey, dear. God will shed his blessings on us. Love and con
HELEN BLAIR 175 ftdence will be our foundation. The home built on deeds and thoughtfulness and kindness need fear no storm; it will stand as firm as the rock of Gibraltar." As the train moved slowly through the town, Helen looked up at her husband and said: "We will fear no storm-we are one."
CHAPTER XXL Such a journey I At New Orleans Dudley Lewis and his bride were entertained in the true old Southern style. He had many friends there. The Virignia Club was filled with those who had known him and his father before him. He was justly proud of his beautiful wife with her gracious manner. All who met Helen were at once impressed. She was admired by women and men. A week spent in the old French city slipped by quick!y. On a grand morning in May they bade their friends good-by. The boat nioved down the Mississippi River. The beauti ful plantations, with stately white dwellings; the negro quarters : the sugar mills-all inter IUO
HELEN BLAIR 177 ested them. So different from scenes in the East, with its factory towns, small houses, with no yards .All nature seemed to whisper of hap piness, and Dudley, leaning over the rail, put his arm about Helen, saying: "No wonder you, my darling, are so sweet so lovely. You have taken on what God in tended woman to be from this dear old South land, with its sleepy drowsiness. When I have accumulated a fortune sufficient to keep us, we shall come down here and make a home on the banks of this wonderful river, where we can see the boats gliding out into the ocean. In the evening of life, 'tis nature that calls. The roar and rush of the city makes the nerves quivernothing satis:fiel!I. Yes, dear. I feel sure that 80mewhere along this lhoJ'.!8 a at.&tely ma.nsion will be our.a.'' Th ann was !inking and the eool breeze was beginning to make many go into the cabin; but Helen, close to Dudley, was listening to him build their future.
178 HELEN BLAffi "I have a surprise for you, dear," he said. did think1 I would keep it a real secret, but I am toq anxious to see your joy. Well, aren't you curious 7'' ''Oh, yes, dear; tell me. But I am so happy now that nothing seems to matter.'' "Look at me now; listen attentively. Here goes! Wheri. we reach New York, Alice and Aunt Dicy will be there with the house all ready for us. I leased a place twenty minutes out of the city-such a lovely drive. Alice consented to go and make it ready for us. Another thing-you are to learn to drive my car and take me to my office every morning and come for me in the evening. Gee i you will be a busy child I Husbands must be attended to." Helen was speechless with surprise and hap piness. ''Oh, Dudley I what can I say? You old dear!" While Dudley and Helen were seeing all the sights of the Panama Exposition, living in an
HELEN BLAIR 179 ecstasy of happiness, Alice and Aunt Dicy were busy with the home that would receive them on their Aunt Dicy, with her bandana and huge checked apron, was the source of comment for the neighbors-she didn't know that it was not customary to "neighbor" (as she called it) with those next door-so in three days she knew everyone in blocks around, an:d all knew of ''our Miss Helen, who could sing and was de puttiest gal in Alaba:rp.a, and done captured de Mr. Dudley am gran' As the Wes tern Union boy handed his yellow envelope to Aunt Dicy, she exclaimed with de-' light: "I knowed dey was comin' today-I done drop de sizzors three times and dey stuck in de floor." Alice read the message. "Yes, Aunty," slie said, "they will be here for dinner." ''Honey, which dinnerf You know I is kinder twisted cm dat subject. Down home dinner time
180 HELEN BLAIR is when de sun is in de middle of de sky. Up here dinner time is when all respectable folks ought to be thinkin' 'bout gwine to bed.'' Laughing at the old woman's idea of her new surroundings, Alice said: "Well, tonight at six-thirty; so we will have dinner at seven thirty." "Umph umph I yes, as I tole you-time ter be in bed.'' The hours flew quickly. All was in readinese. No young couple ever were more warmly welcomed. With hugs and kisses, Alice and Dud ley showed Helen over her new home. She was profuse in all her admiration-no one could have done this but her dear Dudley and Alice. "Now, look liere, honey," .!unt Diey put in; "I am de one what dQD.e de work-dese lovin' hands.'' "So you are-you blessed old soul." The evening passed in stories of the happy
HELEN BLAIR 181 two months spent in the west. With ''good ni ght" to Alice and Aunt Dicy, Dudley and H e len went to their room. The blessing of God was upon this household. Peace was in the hearts of those who loved-and were loved. [THE END.]
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:Elegantly Cloth Bound Books, $1.25 per Oop:r Ten Years a Cow Boy.-A full and vivid description of frontier life, including romance, adventure and all the varied experiences incident to a life on The Plains as cow boy, stock owner, rancher, etc., to gether with articles on cattle and sheep raising, how to make money, description of The Plains, etc. lliustrated with 100 full page engravings. Contains of reading matter 471 pages. Wild Life in the Far West.-By C. H. Simpson, a resident detective, living in this country Giving a full and graphic account of his thrilling ad ventures among the Indians and outlaws of Mon tana, including hunting, hair-breadth escapes, captivity, punishment and difficulties of all kinds met with in this wild country. Illustrated with 30 full-page engravings by G. S. Littlejohn. Read ing matter, 264 pages. Captain W. F. Dra.nnan, Chief of Scouts, as Pilot to Emigrant and Government Trains Across the Plains of the Wild West of Fifty Years Ago.This book, being a sequel to the famous "Thirty one Years on the Plains and in the Mountains,'' of w\hich over 100 editions have been printed in less than ten years, does not need any recommen dation; the author being an abundant warrant as to its value. The book contains over 400 pages of reading matter, and many illustrations.
If' Humorous Books THOS. JACKSON .JACKSON'S FIRST BOOK "On a Slow Train Through Arkan saw" has had the largest sale of any copyright book ever written. More than 3,000, 000 copies sold. It will sell forever-and a thousand years afterwards, .JACICSON'S SECOND BOOK "Through Missouri on a Mule." All fun-it will tickle you like a feather .JACKSON'S TfilRD BOOK "Thos. W. Jackson on a Fast Train From New York to Frisco"-will make you smile out loud .JACKSON'S FOURTH BOOK "I'm From Texas, You Can't Steer lie," is like a hard boiled egg-it can't be beat. JACKSON'S FIFTH BOOK "Don't Miss It! Thos. W. Jackson 'l'elling All the Late Ones." Beats anything-except a carpet .JAOKSON'S SIXTH BOOK "Thos. ,V. Jackson Catches a Fish and Tells the Story," is the best thing out-except an aching tooth .JA.OKSON'S SEVENTH BOOK "From Rhode Island. to Texas" for laughing purposes only .JACKSON'S EIGHTH BOOK "Ob, You Auto See the United States With Jackson""-dynamite for sorrow. ) JAOKSON' S LATEST BOOK "You Can't Beat It! Thos. W. Jackson Getting Off the Good Ones." It is s o funny babies in the next generation will cry for it." Paper Cover Only--35 Centa Per Copy