An Exchange of Courtesies by Robert Grant
In the opinion of many persons competent to judge, "The Beaches" was
suffering from an invasion of wealth. Unquestionably it had been
fashionable for a generation; but the people who had established summer
homes there were inhabitants of the large neighboring city which they
forsook during five months in the year to enjoy the ocean breezes and
sylvan scenery, for The Beaches afforded both. Well-to-do New England
families of refinement and taste, they enjoyed in comfort, without
ostentation, their picturesque surroundings. Their cottages were simple;
but each had its charming outlook to sea and a sufficient number of more
or less wooded acres to command privacy and breathing space. In the early
days the land had sold for a song, but it had risen steadily with the
times, as more and more people coveted a foothold. The last ten years had
introduced many changes; the older houses had been pulled down and
replaced by lordly structures with all the modern conveniences, including
spacious stables and farm buildings. Two clubs had been organized along
the six miles of coast to provide golf and tennis, afternoon teas and
bridge whist for the entertainment of the colony. The scale of living had
become more elaborate, and there had been many newcomers—people of
large means who offered for the finest sites sums which the owners could
not afford to refuse. The prices paid in several instances represented ten
times the original outlay. All the desirable locations were held by
proprietors fully aware of their value, and those bent on purchase must
pay what was asked or go without.
Then had occurred the invasion referred to—the coming to The Beaches
of the foreign contingent, so called: people of fabulous means,
multi-millionaires who were captains in one or another form of industry
and who sought this resort as a Mecca for the social uplifting of their
families and protection against summer heat. At their advent prices made
another jump—one which took the breath away. Several of the most
conservative owners parted with their estates after naming a figure which
they supposed beyond the danger point, and half a dozen second-rate
situations, affording but a paltry glimpse of the ocean, were snapped up
in eager competition by wealthy capitalists from Chicago, Pittsburg, and
St. Louis who had set their hearts on securing the best there was
Among the late comers was Daniel Anderson, known as the furniture king in
the jargon of trade, many times a millionaire, and comparatively a person
of leisure through the sale of his large plants to a trust. He hired for
the season, by long-distance telephone, at an amazing rental, one of the
more desirable places which was to let on account of the purpose of its
owners to spend the summer abroad. It was one of the newer houses, large
and commodious; yet its facilities were severely taxed by the Anderson
establishment, which fairly bristled with complexity. Horses by the score,
vehicles manifold, a steam yacht, and three automobiles were the more
striking symbols of a manifest design to curry favor by force of outdoing
The family consisted of Mrs. Anderson, who was nominally an invalid, and a
son and daughter of marriageable age. If it be stated that they were chips
of the old block, meaning their father, it must not be understood that he
had reached the moribund stage. On the contrary, he was still in the prime
of his energy, and, with the exception of the housekeeping details, set in
motion and directed the machinery of the establishment.
It had been his idea to come to The Beaches; and having found a foothold
there he was determined to make the most of the opportunity not only for
his children but himself. With his private secretary and typewriter at his
elbow he matured his scheme of carrying everything before him socially as
he had done in business. The passport to success in this new direction he
assumed to be lavish expenditure. It was a favorite maxim of his—trite
yet shrewdly entertained—that money will buy anything, and every man
has his price. So he began by subscribing to everything, when asked, twice
as much as any one else, and seeming to regard it as a privilege. Whoever
along The Beaches was interested in charity had merely to present a
subscription list to Mr. Anderson to obtain a liberal donation. The
equivalent was acquaintance. The man or woman who asked him for money
could not very well neglect to bow the next time they met, and so by the
end of the first summer he was on speaking terms with most of the men and
many of the women. Owing to his generosity, the fund for the building of a
new Episcopal church was completed, although he belonged to a different
denomination. He gave a drinking fountain for horses and dogs, and when
the selectmen begrudged to the summer residents the cost of rebuilding two
miles of road, Daniel Anderson defrayed the expense from his own pocket.
An ardent devotee of golf, and daily on the links, he presented toward the
end of the season superb trophies for the competition of both men and
women, with the promise of others in succeeding years. In short, he gave
the society whose favor he coveted to understand that it had merely "to
press the button" and he would do the rest.
Mr. Andersen's nearest neighbors were the Misses Ripley—Miss Rebecca
and Miss Caroline, or Carry, as she was invariably called. They were among
the oldest summer residents, for their father had been among the first to
recognize the attractions of The Beaches, and their childhood had been
passed there. Now they were middle-aged women and their father was dead;
but they continued to occupy season after season their cottage, the
location of which was one of the most picturesque on the whole shore. The
estate commanded a wide ocean view and included some charming woods on one
side and a small, sandy, curving beach on the other. The only view of the
water which the Andersons possessed was at an angle across this beach. The
house they occupied, though twice the size of the Ripley cottage, was
virtually in the rear of the Ripley domain, which lay tantalizingly
between them and a free sweep of the landscape.
One morning, early in October of the year of Mr. Anderson's advent to The
Beaches, the Ripley sisters, who were sitting on the piazza enjoying the
mellow haze of the autumn sunshine, saw, with some surprise, Mr. David
Walker, the real-estate broker, approaching across the lawn—surprise
because it was late in the year for holidays, and Mr. Walker invariably
went to town by the half-past eight train. Yet a visit from one of their
neighbors was always agreeable to them, and the one in question lived not
more than a quarter of a mile away and sometimes did drop in at afternoon
tea-time. Certain women might have attempted an apology for their
appearance, but Miss Rebecca seemed rather to glory in the shears which
dangled down from her apron-strings as she rose to greet her visitor; they
told so unmistakably that she had been enjoying herself trimming vines.
Miss Carry—who was still kittenish in spite of her forty years—as
she gave one of her hands to Mr. Walker held out with the other a basket
of seckel pears she had been gathering, and said:
Mr. Walker complied, and, having completed the preliminary commonplaces,
said, as he hurled the core with an energetic sweep of his arm into the
ocean at the base of the little bluff on which the cottage stood:
"There is no place on the shore which quite compares with this."
"We agree with you," said Miss Rebecca with dogged urbanity. "Is any one
of a different opinion?"
"On the contrary, I have come to make you an offer for it. It isn't usual
for real-estate men to crack up the properties they wish to purchase, but
I am not afraid of doing so in this case." He spoke buoyantly, as though
he felt confident that he was in a position to carry his point.
"An offer?" said Miss Rebecca. "For our place? You know that we have no
wish to sell. We have been invited several times to part with it, and
declined. It was you yourself who brought the last invitation. We are
still in the same frame of mind, aren't we, Carry?"
"Yes, indeed. Where should we get another which we like so well?"
"My principal invites you to name your own figure."
"That is very good of him, I'm sure. Who is he, by the way?"
"I don't mind telling you; it's your neighbor, Daniel Anderson." David
Walker smiled significantly. "He is ready to pay whatever you choose to
"Our horses are afraid of his automobiles, and his liveried grooms have
turned the head of one of our maids. Our little place is not in the
market, thank you, Mr. Walker."
The broker's beaming countenance showed no sign of discouragement. He
rearranged the gay blue flower which had almost detached itself from the
lapel of his coat, then said laconically:
"I am authorized by Mr. Anderson to offer you $500,000 for your property."
"What?" exclaimed Miss Rebecca.
"Half a million dollars for six acres," he added.
"The man must be crazy." Miss Rebecca stepped to the honeysuckle vine with
a detached air and snipped off a straggling tendril with her shears. "That
is a large sum of money," she added.
David Walker enjoyed the effect of his announcement; it was clear that he
had produced an impression.
"Money is no object to him. I told him that you did not wish to sell, and
he said that he would make it worth your while."
"Half a million dollars! We should be nearly rich," let fall Miss Carry,
upon whom the full import of the offer was breaking.
"Yes; and think what good you two ladies could do with all that money—practical
good," continued the broker, pressing his opportunity and availing himself
of his knowledge of their aspirations. "You could buy elsewhere and have
enough left over to endow a professorship at Bryn Mawr, Miss Rebecca; and
you, Miss Carry, would be able to revel in charitable donations."
Those who knew the Ripley sisters well were aware that plain speaking
never vexed them. Beating about the bush from artificiality or ignoring a
plain issue was the sort of thing they resented. Consequently, the
directness of David Walker's sally did not appear to them a liberty, but
merely a legitimate summing up of the situation. Miss Rebecca was the
spokesman as usual, though her choice was always governed by what she
conceived to be the welfare of her sister, whom she still looked on as
almost a very young person. Sitting upright and clasping her elbows, as
she was apt to do in moments of stress, she replied:
"Money is money, Mr. Walker, and half a million dollars is not to be
discarded lightly. We should be able, as you suggest, to do some good with
so much wealth. But, on the other hand, we don't need it, and we have no
one dependent on us for support. My brother is doing well and is likely to
leave his only child all that is good for her. We love this place.
Caroline may marry some day" (Miss Carry laughed protestingly at the
suggestion and ejaculated, "Not very likely"), "but I never shall. I
expect to come here as long as I live. We love every inch of the place—the
woods, the beach, the sea. Our garden, which we made ourselves, is our
delight. Why should we give up all this because some one offers us five
times what we supposed it to be worth? My sister is here to speak for
herself, but so far as I am concerned you may tell Mr. Anderson that if
our place is worth so much as that we cannot afford to part with it."
"Oh, no, it wouldn't do at all! Our heartstrings are round the roots of
these trees, Mr. Walker," added the younger sister in gentle echo of this
"Don't be in a hurry to decide; think it over. It will bear reflection,"
said the broker briskly.
"There's nothing to think over. It becomes clearer every minute," said
Miss Rebecca a little tartly. Then she added: "I dare say it will do him
good to find that some one has something which he cannot buy."
"He will be immensely disappointed, for his heart was set on it," said
David Walker gloomily. His emotions were not untinged by personal dismay,
for his commission would have been a large one.
He returned forthwith to his client, who was expecting him, and who met
him at the door.
"Well, Walker, what did the maiden ladies say? Have one of these," he
exclaimed, exhibiting some large cigars elaborately wrapped in gold foil.
"They're something peculiarly choice which a friend of mine—a Cuban—obtained
"They won't sell, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king frowned. He was a heavily built but compact man who
looked as though he were accustomed to butt his way through life and sweep
away opposition, yet affable and easy-going withal.
"They won't sell? You offered them my price?"
"It struck them as prodigious, but they were not tempted."
"I've got to have it somehow. With this land added to theirs I should have
the finest place on the shore."
The broker disregarded this flamboyant remark, which was merely a
repetition of what he had heard several times already. "I warned you," he
said, "that they might possibly refuse even this munificent offer. They
told me to tell you that if it was worth so much they could not afford to
"Is it not enough? They're poor, you told me—poor as church mice."
"Compared with you. But they have enough to live on simply, and—and
to be able to maintain such an establishment as yours, for instance, would
not add in the least degree to their happiness. On the contrary, it is
because they delight in the view and the woods and their little garden
just as they see them that they can't afford to let you have the place."
Now that the chances of a commission were slipping away David Walker was
not averse to convey in delicate language the truth which Miss Rebecca had
Mr. Anderson felt his chin meditatively. "I seem to be up against it," he
murmured. "You think they are not holding out for a higher figure?" he
David shook his head. Yet he added, with the instinct of a business man
ready to nurse a forlorn hope, "There would be no harm in trying. I don't
believe, though, that you have the ghost of a chance."
The furniture king reflected a moment. "I'll walk down there this
afternoon and make their acquaintance."
"A good idea," said Walker, contented to shift the responsibility of a
second offer. "You'll find them charming—real thoroughbreds," he saw
fit to add.
"A bit top-lofty?" queried the millionaire.
"Not in the least. But they have their own standards, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king's progress at The Beaches had been so uninterrupted on
the surface and so apparently satisfactory to himself that no one would
have guessed that he was not altogether content with it. With all his
easy-going optimism, it had not escaped his shrewd intelligence that his
family still lacked the social recognition he desired. People were civil
enough, but there were houses into which they were never asked in spite of
all his spending; and he was conscious that they were kept at arm's length
by polite processes too subtle to be openly resented. Yet he did resent in
his heart the check to his ambitions, and at the same time he sought
eagerly the cause with an open mind. It had already dawned on him that
when he was interested in a topic his voice was louder than the voices of
his new acquaintances. He had already given orders to his chauffeur that
the automobiles should be driven with some regard for the public safety.
Lately the idea had come to him, and he had imparted it to his son, that
the habit of ignoring impediments did not justify them in driving golf
balls on the links when, the players in front of them were slower than
On the way to visit the Misses Ripley later in the day the broker's remark
that they had standards of their own still lingered in his mind. He
preferred to think of them and others along the shore as stiff and what he
called top lofty; yet he intended to observe what he saw. He had been
given to understand that these ladies were almost paupers from his point
of view; and, though when he had asked who they were, David Walker had
described them as representatives of one of the oldest and most respected
families, he knew that they took no active part in the social life of the
colony as he beheld it; they played neither golf, tennis, nor bridge at
the club; they owned no automobile, and their stable was limited to two
horses; they certainly cut no such figure as seemed to him to become
people in their position, who could afford to refuse $500,000 for six
He was informed by the middle-aged, respectable-looking maid that the
ladies were in the garden behind the house. A narrow gravelled path
bordered with fragrant box led him to this. Its expanse was not large, but
the luxuriance and variety of the old-fashioned summer flowers attested
the devotion bestowed upon them. At the farther end was a trellised
summer-house in which he perceived that the maiden ladies were taking
afternoon tea. There was no sign of hothouse roses or rare exotic plants,
but he noticed a beehive, a quaint sundial with an inscription, and along
the middle path down which he walked were at intervals little dilapidated
busts or figures of stone on pedestals—some of them lacking tips of
noses or ears. It did not occur to Mr. Anderson that antiquity rather than
poverty was responsible for these ravages. Their existence gave him fresh
"Who can this be?" said Miss Carry with a gentle flutter. An unknown,
middle-aged man was still an object of curiosity to her.
Miss Rebecca raised her eyeglass. "I do believe, my dear, that it's—yes,
"But who?" queried Miss Carry.
Miss Rebecca rose instead of answering. The stranger was upon them,
walking briskly and hat in hand. His manner was distinctly breezy—more
so than a first meeting would ordinarily seem to her to justify.
"Good afternoon, ladies. Daniel Anderson is my name. My wife wasn't lucky
enough to find you at home when she returned your call, so I thought I'd
"It's very good of you to come to see us," said Miss Rebecca, relenting at
once. She liked characters—being something of one herself—and
her neighbor's heartiness was taking. "This is my sister, Miss Caroline
Ripley," she added to cement the introduction, "and I am Rebecca. Sit
down, Mr. Anderson; and may I give you a cup of tea?"
Four people were apt to be cosily crowded in the summer-house. Being only
a third person, the furniture king was able to settle himself in his seat
and look around him without fear that his legs would molest any one. He
gripped the arms of his chair and inhaled the fragrance of the garden.
"This is a lovely place, ladies," he asserted.
"Those hollyhocks and morning-glories and mignonettes take me back to old
times. Up to my place it's all roses and orchids. But my wife told me last
week that she heard old-fashioned flowers are coming in again. Seems she
"Oh, but we've had old-fashioned flowers for years! Our garden has been
always just like this—only becoming a little prettier all the time,
we venture to hope," said Miss Carry.
"I want to know!" said Mr. Anderson; and almost immediately he remembered
that both his son and daughter had cautioned him against the use of this
phrase at The Beaches. He received the dainty but evidently ancient cup
from Miss Rebecca, and seeing that the subject was, so to speak, before
the house, he tasted his tea and said:
"It's all pretty here—garden, view, and beach. And I hear you
decline to sell, ladies."
Miss Rebecca had been musing on the subject all day, and a heartfelt
response rose promptly to her lips—spoken with the simple grace of a
"Why should we sell, Mr. Anderson?"
The question was rather a poser to answer categorically; yet the would-be
purchaser felt that he sufficiently conveyed his meaning when he said:
"I thought I might have made it worth your while."
"We are people of small means in the modern sense of the word," Miss
Rebecca continued, thereby expressing more concretely his idea; "yet we
have sufficient for our needs. Our tastes are very simple. The sum which
you offered us is a fortune in itself—but we have no ambition for
great wealth or to change our mode of life. Our associations with this
place are so intimate and tender that money could not induce us to
desecrate them by a sale."
"I see," said Mr. Anderson. Light was indeed breaking on him. At the same
time his appreciation of the merits of the property had been growing every
minute. It was an exquisite autumn afternoon. From where they sat he could
behold the line of shore on either side with its background of dark green
woods. Below the wavelets lapped the shingle with melodious rhythm. As far
as the eye could see lay the bosom of the ocean unruffled, and lustrous
with the sheen of the dying day. Accustomed to prevail in buying his way,
he could not resist saying, after a moment of silence:
"If I were to increase my offer to a million would it make any difference
in your attitude?"
A suppressed gurgle of mingled surprise and amusement escaped Miss Carry.
Miss Rebecca paused a moment by way of politeness to one so generous. But
her tone when she spoke was unequivocal, and a shade sardonic.
"Not the least, Mr. Anderson. To tell the truth, we should scarcely
understand the difference."
One summer afternoon two years later the Ripley sisters were again
drinking tea in their attractive summer-house. In the interval the
peaceful current of their lives had been stirred to its depths by
unlooked-for happenings. Very shortly after their refusal of Mr.
Anderson's offer, their only brother, whose home was on the Hudson within
easy distance of New York, had died suddenly. He was a widower; and
consequently the protection of his only daughter straightway devolved on
them. She was eighteen and good-looking. This they knew from personal
observation at Thanksgiving Day and other family reunions; but owing to
the fact that Mabel Ripley had been quarantined by scarlet fever during
the summer of her sixteenth year, and in Europe the following summer, they
were conscious, prior to her arrival at The Beaches, that they were very
much in the dark as to her characteristics.
She proved to be the antipodes of what they had hoped for. Their
traditions had depicted a delicate-appearing girl with reserved manners
and a studious or artistic temperament, who would take an interest in the
garden and like nothing better than to read aloud to them the new books
while they did fancy-work. A certain amount of coy coquetry was to be
expected—would be welcomed, in fact, for there were too many Miss
Ripleys already. Proper facilities would be offered to her admirers, but
they took for granted that she would keep them at a respectful distance as
became a gentlewoman. She would be urged to take suitable exercise; they
would provide a horse, if necessary; and doubtless some of the young
people in the neighborhood would invite her occasionally to play tennis.
Mabel's enthusiasm at the nearness of the sea took precedence over every
other emotion as she stood on the piazza after the embraces were over.
"How adorably stunning! I must go out sailing the first thing," were her
Meanwhile the aunts were observing that she appeared the picture of health
and was tall and athletic-looking. In one hand she had carried a
tennis-racket in its case, in the other, a bag of golf clubs, as she
alighted from the vehicle. These evidently were her household gods. The
domestic vision which they had entertained might need rectification.
"You sail, of course?" Mabel asked, noticing, doubtless, that her
exclamation was received in silence.
Aunt Rebecca shook her head. "I haven't been in a sail-boat for twenty
"But whose steam yacht is that?"
"It belongs to Mr. Anderson, a wealthy neighbor."
"Anyhow, a knockabout is more fun—a twenty-footer," the girl
continued, her gaze still fixed on the haven which the indentations of the
coast afforded, along which at intervals groups of yachts, large and
small, floated at their moorings picturesque as sea-gulls on a
"There is an old rowboat in the barn. I daresay that Thomas, the coachman,
will take you out rowing sometimes after he has finished his work," said
Aunt Carry kindly.
"Do you swim?" inquired Aunt Rebecca, failing to note her niece's
"Like a duck. I'm quite as much at home on the water as on land. I've had
a sailboat since I was thirteen, and most of our summers have been spent
at Buzzard's Bay."
"But you're a young lady now," said Aunt Rebecca.
Mabel looked from one to the other as though she were speculating as to
what these new protectors were like. "Am I?" she asked with a smile. "I
must remember that, I suppose; but it will be hard to change all at once."
Thereupon she stepped lightly to the edge of the cliff that she might
enjoy more completely the view while she left them to digest this
"'No pent-up Utica contracts her powers,'" murmured Miss Rebecca, who was
fond of classic verse.
"It is evident that we shall have our hands full," answered Miss Carry.
"But she's fresh as a rose, and wide-awake. I'm sure the dear girl will
try to please us."
Mabel did try, and succeeded; but it was a success obtained at the cost of
setting at naught all her aunts' preconceived ideas regarding the correct
deportment of marriageable girls. The knockabout was forthcoming shortly
after she had demonstrated her amphibious qualities by diving from the
rocks and performing water feats which dazed her anxious guardians.
Indeed, she fairly lived in her bathing-dress until the novelty wore off.
Thomas, the coachman, who had been a fisherman in his day, announced with
a grin, after accompanying her on the trial trip of the hired cat-boat,
that he could teach her nothing about sailing. Henceforth her small craft
was almost daily a distant speck on the horizon, and braved the seas so
successfully under her guidance that presently the aunts forbore to watch
for disaster through a spyglass.
She could play tennis, too, with the best, as she demonstrated on the
courts of The Beaches Club. Her proficiency and spirit speedily made
friends for her among the young people of the colony, who visited her and
invited her to take part in their amusements. She was prepared to ride on
her bicycle wherever the interest of the moment called her, and deplored
the solemnity of the family carryall. When her aunts declared that a wheel
was too undignified a vehicle on which to go out to luncheon, she
compromised on a pony cart as a substitute, for she could drive almost as
well as she could sail. She took comparatively little interest in the
garden, and was not always at home at five-o'clock tea to read aloud the
latest books; but her amiability and natural gayety were like sunshine in
the house. She talked freely of what she did, and she had an excellent
"She's as unlike the girls of my day as one could imagine, and I do wish
she wouldn't drive about the country bareheaded, looking like a colt or a
young Indian," said Miss Rebecca pensively one morning, just after Mabel's
departure for the tennis-court. "But I must confess that she's the life of
the place, and we couldn't get on without her now. I don't think, though,
that she has done three hours of solid reading since she entered the
house. I call that deplorable."
"She's a dear," said Aunt Carry. "We haven't been much in the way of
seeing young girls of late, and Mabel doesn't seem to me different from
most of those who visit her. Twenty years ago, you remember, girls pecked
at their food and had to lie down most of the time. Now they eat it. What
I can't get quite used to is the habit of letting young men call them by
their first names on short acquaintance. In my time," she added with a
little sigh, "it would have been regarded as inconsistent with maidenly
reserve. I'm sure I heard the young man who was here last night say, 'I've
known you a week now; may I call you Mabel?'"
As to young men, be it stated, the subject of this conversation showed
herself impartially indifferent. Her attitude seemed to be that boys were
good fellows as well as girls, and should be encouraged accordingly. If
they chose to make embarrassing speeches regarding one's personal
appearance and to try to be alone with one as much as possible, while such
favoritism was rather a fillip to existence, it was to be considered at
bottom as an excellent joke. Young men came and young men went. Mabel
attracted her due share. Yet evidently she seemed to be as glad to see the
last comer as any of his predecessors.
Then occurred the second happening in the tranquil existence of the maiden
ladies. One day at the end of the first summer, an easterly day, when the
sky was beginning to be obscured by scud and the sea was swelling with the
approach of a storm, Dan Anderson, the only son of his father, was knocked
overboard by the boom while showing the heels of his thirty-foot
knockabout to the hired boat of his neighbor, Miss Mabel Ripley. They were
not racing, for his craft was unusually fast, as became a
multi-millionaire's plaything. Besides, he and the girl had merely a
bowing acquaintance. The Firefly was simply bobbing along on the
same tack as the Enchantress, while the fair skipper, who had
another girl as a companion, tried vainly, at a respectful distance, to
hold her own by skill.
The headway on Dan's yacht was so great that before the two dazed salts on
board realized what had happened their master was far astern. They bustled
to bring the Enchantress about and to come to his rescue in the
dingy. Stunned by the blow of the—spar, he had gone down like a
stone; so, in all probability, they would have been too late. When he came
up the second time it was on the port bow of the Firefly, but
completely out of reach. Giving the tiller to her friend, and stripping
off superfluous apparel, Mabel jumped overboard in time to grasp and hold
the drowning youth. There she kept him until aid reached them. But the
unconscious victim did not open his eyes until after he had been laid on
the Misses Ripley's lawn, where, by virtue of brandy from the
medicine-closet and hot-water bottles, the flickering spark of life was
coaxed into a flame.
It was an agitating experience for the aunts. But Mabel was none the worse
for the wetting; and though she naturally made light of her performance,
congratulations on her pluck and presence of mind came pouring in. David
Walker suggested that the Humane Society would be sure to take the matter
up and confer a medal upon the heroine. The members of the Anderson family
came severally to express with emotion their gratitude and admiration. The
father had not been there since his previous eventful visit, though once
or twice he had met his neighbors on the road and stopped to speak to
them, as if to show he harbored no malice in spite of his disappointment.
Now with a tremulous voice he bore testimony to the greatness of the mercy
which had been vouchsafed him.
The third and last happening might be regarded as a logical sequel to the
second by those who believe that marriages are made in heaven. It was to
ponder it again after having pondered it for twenty-four hours that the
Ripley sisters found themselves in their pleached garden at the close of
the day. That the event was not unforeseen by one of them was borne out by
the words of Miss Carry:
"I remember saying to myself that day on the lawn, Rebecca, that it would
be just like the modern girl if she were to marry him; because she saved
his life, I mean. If he had saved hers, as used to happen, she would never
have looked at him twice. I didn't mention it because it was only an idea,
which might have worried you."
"We have seen it coming, of course," answered Miss Rebecca, who was
clasping the points of her elbows. "And there was nothing to do about it—even
if we desired to. I can't help, though, feeling sorry that she isn't going
to marry some one we know all about—the family, I mean.
"Well," she added with a sigh, "the Andersons will get our place in the
end, after all, and we shall be obliged to associate more or less with
multi-millionaires for the rest of our days. It's depressing ethically;
but there's no use in quarrelling with one's own flesh and blood, if it is
a modern girl, for one would be quarrelling most of the time. We must make
the best of it, Carry, and—and try to like it."
"He really seems very nice," murmured Miss Carry. "He gives her some new
jewel almost every day."
Miss Rebecca sniffed disdainfully, as though to inquire if love was to be
attested by eighteen-carat gold rather than by summer blooms.
The sound of steps on the gravel path interrupted their confabulation.
"It is Mr. Anderson, père" said Miss Carry laconically.
"He is coming to take possession," responded her sister.
The crunch of the gravel under his solid, firm tread jarred on their
already wearied sensibilities. Nevertheless they knew that it behooved
them to be cordial and to accept the situation with good grace. Their
niece was over head and ears in love with a young man whose personal
character, so far as they knew, was not open to reproach, and who would be
heir to millions. What more was to be said? Indeed, Miss Rebecca was the
first to broach the subject after the greetings were over.
"Our young people seem to have made up their minds that they cannot live
apart," she said.
"So my son has informed me."
Mr. Anderson spoke gravely and then paused. His habitually confident
manner betrayed signs of nervousness.
"I told him this morning that there could be no engagement until after I
had talked with you," he added.
One could have heard a pin drop. Each of the sisters was tremulous to know
what was coming next. Could he possibly be meditating purse-proud
opposition? The Ripley blue blood simmered at the thought, and Miss
Rebecca, nervous in her turn, tapped the ground lightly with her foot.
"The day I was first here," he resumed, "you ladies taught me a lesson. I
believed then that money could command anything. I discovered that I was
mistaken. It provoked me, but it set me thinking. I've learned since that
the almighty dollar cannot buy gentle birth and—and the standards
which go with it."
Unexpectedly edifying as this admission was, his listeners sought in vain
to connect it with the immediate issue, and consequently forebore to
"The only return I can make for opening my eyes to the real truth is by
doing what I guess you would do if you or one of your folk were in my
shoes. I'm a very rich man, as you know. If your niece marries my son her
children will never come to want in their time. He's a good boy, if I do
say it; and I should be mighty proud of her."
Miss Carry breathed a gentle sigh of relief at this last avowal.
"I don't want her to marry him, though, without knowing the truth, and
perhaps when you hear it you'll decide that she must give him up."
Thereupon Mr. Anderson blew his nose by way of gathering his faculties for
the crucial words as a carter rests his horse before mounting the final
hill when the sledding is hard.
"I'm going to tell you how I made my first start. I was a clerk in a bank
and sharp as a needle in forecasting what was going to happen downtown. I
used to say to myself that if I had capital it would be easy to make money
breed money. Well, one day I borrowed from the bank, without the bank's
leave, $3,000 in order to speculate. I won on that deal and the next and
the next. Then I was able to return what I'd borrowed and to set up in a
small way for myself in the furniture business. That was my start, ladies—the
nest-egg of all I've got."
He sat back in his chair and passed his handkerchief across his forehead
like one who has performed with credit an agonizing duty.
There was silence for a moment. Unequivocal as the confession was, Miss
Rebecca, reluctant to believe her ears, asked with characteristic
"You mean that you—er—misappropriated the money?"
"I was an embezzler, strictly speaking."
"Perhaps you wonder why I told you this," he said, bending forward.
"No, we understand," said Miss Rebecca.
"We understand perfectly," exclaimed Miss Carry with gentle warmth.
"It's very honest of you, Mr. Anderson," said Miss Rebecca after a musing
"I've never been dishonest since then," he remarked naïvely. "But a year
ago I wouldn't have told you this, though it's been in the back of my mind
as a rankling sore, growing as I grew in wealth and respectability. I made
a bluff at believing that it didn't matter, and that a thing done has an
end. Well, now I've made a clean breast of it to the ones who have a right
to know. I should like you to tell Mabel."
As he spoke the lovers appeared in the near distance at the edge of the
lawn, coming up from the beach. "But I don't think it will be necessary to
tell my son," he added yearningly.
"Certainly not" said Miss Rebecca with emphasis.
The sisters exchanged glances, trying to read each other's thoughts.
"It's a blot in the 'scutcheon, of course," said Miss Rebecca. "It's for
our niece to say." But there was no sternness in her tone.
This gave Miss Carry courage. Her hand shook a little as she put down her
teacup, for she was shy of taking the initiative. "I think I know what she
would say. In our time it would probably have been different, on account
of the family—and heredity; but Mabel is a modern girl. And a modern
girl would say that she isn't to marry the father but the son. She loves
him, so I'm certain she would never give him up. Therefore is it best to
Daniel Anderson's face was illumined with the light of hope, and he turned
to the elder sister, whom he recognized as the final judge.
Miss Rebecca sniffed. Her ideas of everlasting justice were a little
disconcerted. Nevertheless she said firmly after brief hesitation:
"I was taught to believe that the sins of the fathers should be visited on
the children; but I believe, Carry, you're right."
"Bless you for that," exclaimed the furniture king. Then, groping in the
excess of his emotion for some fit expression of gratitude, he bent
forward and, taking Miss Rebecca's hand, pressed his lips upon her fingers
as an act of homage.
Miss Carry would have been justified in reflecting that it would have been
more fitting had he kissed her fingers instead. But she was used to taking
the second place in the household, and the happy expression of her
countenance suggested that her thoughts were otherwise engaged.