The "Daily Morning Chronicle"

by Annie Eliot Trumbull

THE village lay still and silent under the observant sun. The village street stretched in one direction down the hill to the two-miles-off railway station, and in the other to the large white house with pillared portico, from which there was a fine view of the sunset, and beyond which it still continued, purposeful but lonely, until it came suddenly upon half a dozen houses which turned out to be another village.

Not a man, woman, or child crossed from one house to another; not a dog or a cat wandered about in the sunshine. The white houses looked as if no one lived in them; the white church, with its sloping approach, looked as if no one ever preached in it and no one ever came to it to listen. It seemed to Lucyet Stevens, as she sat at the little window of the post-office, behind which her official face looked so much more important than it ever did anywhere else, as if the village street itself were listening for the arrival of the noon mail. For it was nearly time for the daily period of almost feverish activity. By and by from the station would come Truman Hanks with the leather bag which, in village and city alike, is the outward and visible sign of the fidelity of the government. It is probable that he will bring it up in a single carriage, for though sometimes he takes the two-seated one, in case there should be a human arrival who would like to be driven up, this possibility was so slight a one at this time of year that it was hardly worth considering. Then the village will awake; the two little girls who live down below the saw-mill will come up together, confiding on the way a secret or two, for which the past twenty-four hours would seem to have afforded slender material. Then old John Thomas will come limping across from his small house back of the church, to see if there is a letter for "her,"—she being his wife, and in occasional communication with their daughter in the city. Then the good-looking, roughly clad young farmer who takes care of the fine place with the pillared portico on the hill will saunter down to see if "the folks have sent any word about coming up for the summer." Then Miss Granger, who lives almost next door, will throw a shawl over her head and run in to see who has letters and, incidentally, if she has any herself; and then one or two wagons will draw up in front of the little store, and the men will come in for their daily papers.

As Lucyet came around to the daily papers she flushed and looked impatiently out of the door down the street. Not that the thought of the daily paper had not been all the time in the background of her mind, but having allowed her fancy to wander towards the attitude of the village and its prospective disturbance, she returned to the imminence of the daily paper again with a thrill of emotion. It was not one of the metropolitan journals which, as a body, the village subscribed for, nor was it one of the more widely known of those issued in smaller cities; it was an unpretentious sheet, neither very ably edited nor extensively circulated,—the chief spokesman of the nearest county town. But with all its limitations, its readers represented to Lucyet the great harsh, unknowing, and yet irresistibly attractive public.

It was not the first time that she had thus watched for it with mute excitement. Such episodes, though infrequent, had marked her otherwise uneventful existence at irregular intervals for more than a year. It would be more correct to say that they had altered its entire course; that such episodes had given to her life a double character,—one side of calmness, secrecy, indifference, and the other of delight, absorption, thrilled with a breathless excitement and uncertainty. But this time there was a greater than ordinary interest. The verses that she had sent last were more ambitious in conception; they had description in them, and mental analysis, and several other things which very likely she would not have called by their right names, though she felt their presence: her other contributions had belonged rather to the poetry of comment. She was sure, almost sure, that they had accepted these.

Unsophisticated Lucyet never dreamed of enclosing postage for return, so she could only breathlessly search the printed page to discover whether her lines were there or in the waste-basket. Friday's edition of the "Daily Morning Chronicle" was more or less given over to the feeble claims of general literature. To-day was Friday. Lucyet glanced through her little window—the tastefully disposed corner of which was dedicated to the postal service—at the tin of animal crackers, the jar of prunes, the suspended bacon, and the box of Spanish licorice, and pondered, half contemptuously, half pitifully, on what had been her life before she had written poems and sent them to the "Daily Morning Chronicle." Then her outlook had seemed scarcely wider than that of the animal crackers with their counterfeit vitality; now it seemed extended to the horizon of all humanity.

There was the sound of horses' feet coming over the hill. Was it the mail wagon? No, it was a heavier vehicle; and the voice of the farmer, slow and lumbering as the animals it encouraged, sounded down the village street. Over the crest of the hill appeared the summit of a load of hay going to the scales in front of the tavern to be weighed. So silent were the place and the hour, that it was like a commotion when the cart drew up, and the horses were unhitched and weighed, and then the load driven on, and the owner and the hotel-keeper exchanged observations of a genial nature. Finally the horses and the wagon creaked along the hot street down the road which led by the pillared white house, and again the village was at peace. Lucyet glanced at the clock. Was the mail going to be late this morning? No. The creaking of the hay wagon had but just lost itself in the silence, when her quick ear caught the rattle of the lighter carriage. Her first impulse was to step to the door and wait for it there, but she did not yield to it; she would do just as usual, neither more nor less. She would not for worlds have Truman Hanks suspect any special interest on her part. He might try to find out its cause; and a hot blush enveloped Lucyet as she contemplated the possibility of his assigning it to the true one. Only one person in all the village knew that Lucyet Stevens wrote poetry.

"Most time for the mail to be gittin' heavy," said Truman, as he handed over the limp receptacle; "the summer boarders 'll be along now, before long."

"Yes, I s'pose they will," answered Lucyet, her fingers trembling as they unlocked the bag.

"It's a backward season, though," he went on, watching her.

"Yes, it is uncommon backward; the apple blossoms aren't but just beginning to come out."

It seemed to her that there was suspicion in his observation. He leaned lazily over the counter, while she took out the mail within the little office with its front of letter-boxes.

"This hot spell 'll bring 'em out. It's the first hot spell we've had."

"Yes," she assented, blushing again, "it will."

She had spoken of the tardy apple blossoms in her poem,—it was entitled "Spring." Two or three people, having seen the mail go by, dropped in and disposed themselves in various attitudes to wait for it to be distributed. She hurried through the work, her fingers tingling to open each copy of the newspaper as she laid it in its place. At last it was done; the little window which had been shut to produce official seclusion was reopened; and the people came up, one by one, without much haste, and received the papers and now and then a letter. It did not take long; and afterward they stood about and talked and traded a little, their papers unopened in their hands. It was not likely that the news from outside was going to affect any one of them very much; they could wait for it; and reading matter was for careful attention at home, not for skimming over in public places.

Lucyet found their indifference phenomenal; they did not know what might be waiting for them in the first column of the third page. Was it waiting for them? The suspense was almost overwhelming; and yet she did not like to open the copy which lay at her disposal until the store was empty; she had a nervous feeling that they would all know what she was looking for. Slowly the group melted away, till there was no one left except the proprietor, who had gone into the back room to look after some seed corn, and Silas, the young farmer, who had thrown himself down into a chair to read his paper at his leisure, and was not noticing Lucyet. Eagerly she opened the printed sheet. She caught her breath in the joy of assurance. There it was—"Spring." It stood out as if it were printed all in capitals. After a furtive look out at the quiet street, where, in a rusty wagon, an old man was just picking up his reins and preparing to jog away from the post-office door, and a side glance at Silas's broad back over by the farther window, Lucyet read over her own lines. How different they looked from the copy in her own distinct, formal little handwriting! They had gained something,—but they had lost something too. They seemed unabashed, almost declamatory, in their sentiment. They had acquired a new and positive importance; it was as if the assertions they made had all at once become truths, had ceased to be tentative. She read them over again. No, they did not tell it all, all that she meant to say; but they brought back the day, and she was glad she had written them,—glad with an agitated, inexpressible gladness. She would like to know what people said of them; for a moment it seemed to her that she would not mind if they knew that she wrote them.

"Well," said Silas, laying down his paper and standing up, "there isn't a blamed thing in that paper!"

Lucyet looked up at him startled. Had she heard aright? Then the color slowly receded from her face and left it pale. Silas was quite unconscious of having made an unusual statement.

"Well, Lucyet," he went on, "going to the Christian Endeavor to-night?"

"I don't know," she stammered. "No," she added suddenly, "I am not." All endeavor was a mockery to her stunned soul.

"I dunno as I will either," he observed carelessly as he lounged out.

It was nothing to her whether he went or not, though once it might have been. She sat still for some minutes after he had gone, looking blankly at the paper. The page which a few minutes ago had seemed fairly to glow with interest had become mere columns of print concerning trivial things; for an instant she saw it with Silas's eyes. John Thomas came limping for his mail. He had been detained on the way, he explained, and was late. She handed him his paper through the window, dully, indifferently. She was suffering a measure of that disappointment which comes with what we have grown to believe attainment, and is so much more bitter than that of failure. But the revolt against this unnatural state of mind came before long. The elasticity of her own enthusiasm reasserted itself. It could not be that there was nothing in her poem. She read the lines over again. Two or three were not quite what they ought to be, somehow; but the rest of them the world would lay hold of,—that big sympathetic world which knew so much more than Silas Stevens.

When the hour came to close the office at noon, she locked the drawer and passed out of the door to the footpath with a sense of triumph under the habitual shyness of her manner. She still shrank from the publicity she had achieved, but she was conscious of an undercurrent of desire that her achievement, since it was real, should be recognized.

When the old postmaster died, leaving Lucyet, his only child, alone in the world, and interest in official quarters had procured for her the appointment in her father's place, a home had also been offered her at Miss Flood's; and it was thither that Lucyet now went for her noonday meal. Miss Delia Flood was of most kindly disposition and literary tastes. That these tastes were somewhat prescribed in their manifestation was no witness against their genuineness. It must be confessed that Miss Delia's preference was for the sentimental,—though she would have modestly shrunk from hearing it thus baldly stated,—and, naturally, for poetry above prose. The modern respect for "strength" in literature would have impressed her most painfully had she known of it. The mind turns aside from the contemplation of the effect that a story or two of Kipling's would have produced upon her could she have grasped their vocabulary; she would probably have taken to her bed in sheer fright, as she did in a thunderstorm. Poetry of the heart and emotions, which never verged, even most distantly, upon what her traditions and her susceptibilities told her was the indecorous, satisfied her highest demands, and the less said about nature, except by way of an occasional willow, or the sad, sweet scent of a jasmine flower, the better. Miss Delia had fostered Lucyet's love for literature; and it was to Miss Delia that Lucyet hastened with the great news of the publication of her poem. It was for this acute pleasure that she had hitherto kept the knowledge of her attempt from her,—and, too, that her joy might be full, and that she would not have to suffer the alternating phases of hope and fear through which Lucyet herself had passed.

As she entered the room where dinner stood on the table and Miss Delia waited to eat it with her, she suppressed the trembling excitement which threatened to make itself visible in her manner now that the words were upon her very lips. They seated themselves at the table. Miss Delia was small and wiry and grave, and never spilled anything on the tablecloth when helping.

"Miss Delia," said Lucyet, "I've written a poem."

Her companion looked at her and smiled a shrewd little smile. "I've guessed as much before now," she said.

"But," said Lucyet, laying down her knife and fork, "it has been printed."

"Printed, child!" exclaimed Miss Delia, almost dropping hers. At last the cup of satisfaction was at Lucyet's lips; at least she had not overestimated the purport of the event to one human being.

"Printed," repeated Lucyet, smiling softly. "Here it is in the paper."

Miss Delia pushed aside her plate, seized the paper, and, opening it, searched its columns. She had not to look long; there was but one poem. Lucyet watched with shining eyes. This is what it meant; this was the realization of her dreams—to see the reader pass over the rest of the page as trivial, to be arrested with spellbound interest at the word "Spring," to know that the words that held that absorbed attention were her words—her own.

As Miss Delia read, gradually her expression changed; from eagerness it faded into perplexity. Lucyet watched her breathlessly, her hands clasped, her thin arms and somewhat angular elbows resting on the coarse tablecloth. From perplexity Miss Delia's look was chilled into what the observant girl recognized, with a dull pain at her heart, as disappointment. Lucyet averted her gaze to a dish of ill-shaped boiled potatoes; there was no need of watching longer the face opposite. Miss Delia read it all through again, dwelling on certain lines, which she indicated by her forefinger, with special attention; then she looked up timidly. She met Lucyet's unsmiling eyes for a moment; then she, too, looked away, hurriedly, helplessly, to the dish of boiled potatoes.

"I'm sure it is very nice—very nice indeed, Lucyet," she said.

"But you don't like it," said Lucyet.

"Oh, yes, I do," poor Miss Delia hastened to say. "I do like it; the rhymes are in the right places, and all, and it looks so nice in the column." Mechanically she pulled her plate back again, and Lucyet did the same. "I'm proud of you, Lucyet," she went on with a forced little smile, "that you can write real poetry like that."

"But what if it isn't real poetry?" said Lucyet.

The doubt was wrung from her by the overwhelming bitterness of her disappointment. A rush of tears was smarting behind her rather inexpressive eyes; but she held them back. Miss Delia was thoroughly distressed. She put aside her own serious misgivings.

"But it must be," she argued eagerly, "or they wouldn't have printed it."

Lucyet shook her head as she forced herself to eat a morsel of bread. How unconvincing sounded the argument from another's lips! and yet she knew now that secretly it had carried with it more weight than she had realized. Miss Delia glanced apprehensively at the folded paper as it lay on the table. She herself was disappointed, deeply disappointed; she had expected much, and this,—why, this was, most of it, just what any one could find out for herself. But she must say something more. Lucyet's patient silence as she went on with her dinner, never raising the eyes which had so shone when she first spoke, demanded speech from her more urgently than louder claims.

"I suppose I thought perhaps there would be more about—about misfortune, and scattered leaves, and dells,"—poor Miss Delia smiled deprecatingly, while she felt wildly about for more tangible reminiscences of her favorite poets, that she might respond to the unuttered questioning of Lucyet,—"and"—she dropped her eyes—"lovers."

"I don't know anything about dells and lovers," said Lucyet, simply; "how should I?"

Miss Delia started a little. It had never occurred to her that one must know about things personally in order to write poetry about them. If it had, she would never have dreamed of mentioning lovers.

"No, of course not," she said hastily; "but writing about a thing isn't like knowing about it."

Lucyet was not experienced enough to detect any fallacy in this, and she dumbly acquiesced.

"You have in all the grass and trees and—and such things as you have in—very nicely, I'm sure," went on Miss Delia; "only next time"—and she smiled brightly—"next time you must put in what we don't see every day—like islands and reefs and such things. I know you could write a beautiful poem about a reef—a coral reef."

Lucyet tried to smile hopefully in return, but the attempt was a failure. She had finished her dinner, and she longed to get away; she was so hurt that she must be alone to see how it was to be borne. She helped Miss Delia clear the table and wash the dishes, almost in silence. Two or three times they exchanged words on indifferent subjects; Miss Delia asked who had had letters, and Lucyet told her, but it was hard work for both. When it was over, Lucyet paused in the doorway, putting on her straw hat to go back to the post-office.

Miss Delia stood a moment irresolute, and then stepped to her side. "Lucyet," she said, her voice trembling, "I don't understand it exactly. It isn't like the poetry I've been used to. There are things in it that I don't know what they mean. To be sure, that's so with all poetry that we do like,"—the tears were in her eyes; it is not an easy thing to disappoint one's best friend and to be conscious of it,—"but it isn't like what I thought it was going to be, just about what we see out of the window. But it's my fault, just as likely as not,"—she laid her hand on Lucyet's arm,—"that's what I want to say; you mustn't take it to heart—just 's likely 's not, it's my fault."

Miss Delia did not believe a word of what she was saying, which made it difficult for her to articulate; but she was making a brave effort in her sensitive loyalty.

"I know," said Lucyet, gently; "but I guess it isn't your fault;" and she slipped out to the road on her way to the post-office. Miss Delia went back, picked up the paper, and, seating herself at the window, she read "Spring" all through again, word by word; then she laid it aside again, shaking her head sadly.

Lucyet went quietly behind her little window. Her disappointment amounted to actual physical pain. She found no comfort, as a wiser person might have done, in certain of Miss Delia's expressions; she only realized that her best friend and her most generous critic could find nothing good in what she had done. Her duty this afternoon was only to make up the mail for the down train; then her time was her own till the next mail train came up at half-past five. At two o'clock she closed the office again and started on a long walk. She longed for the comfort of the solitary hillsides, where warm patches of sunlight lay at the foot of ragged stone walls, and there were long stretches of plain and meadow to be looked over, and rolling hills to comfort the soul. As she climbed a hill just before the place where a weedy untravelled road turned off from the highway leading between closely growing underbrush and stone walls, where now and then a shy bird rustled suddenly and invisibly among last year's dried leaves, she saw three countrymen standing by the wayside and talking with as near an approach to earnestness as ever visits the colloquies of the ordinary unemotional New Englander. One of them held a copy of the "Daily Chronicle," gesturing with it somewhat jerkily as he spoke.

For a moment the hope that it is hard to make away with revived in Lucyet's breast. Were they talking of the poem, she wondered, with a certain weary interest. She dreaded a fresh disappointment so keenly that it pained her to speculate much on the chance of it. It was not impossible that they were saying such meaningless stuff ought never to have been printed. As the pale girl drew near with the plodding, patient step which so often proclaims that walking is not a pleasure, but a necessity, of country life, the men did not lower their voices, which she heard distinctly as she passed.

"Wal, I tell you, 't was that," said one of them. "He didn't live more'n a little time after he took it."

"Mebbe he wouldn't have lived anyhow."

"Wal, mebbe he wouldn't. 'T ain't for me to say," responded the first speaker, evincing a certain piety, which, however, was not to be construed as at variance with his first statement.

"Wal, 't wa'n't this he took, was it?" demanded the man with the "Chronicle," waving it wildly.

"Wal, no, 't wa'n't," responded the other, reasonably. The third member of the party maintained an air of not being in a position to judge, and regarded Lucyet stolidly as she approached.

"Do, Lucyet?" he observed, unnoticed of the other two.

"I tell you this'll cure him. It'll cure anybody. Just read them testimonies,"—and he pressed the paper into the other's meagre hand. "Read that one, 'Rheumatiz of thirty years' standin',—it'll interest ye."

Lucyet went on up the hill, and turned into the weedy road. She had not a keen sense of the ridiculous. It did not strike her as funny that they should have been discussing a patent medicine instead of the verses on "Spring;" but her shrinking sense of defeat was deepened, and she felt, with an unconscious resentment, that most people cared very little about poetry. She wondered, without bitterness, and with a saddened distrust of her own power, if she could write an advertisement. Once within the precincts of the tangled road, her disquieted soul rejoiced in the freedom from observation. She felt as bruised and sore from the unsympathetic contact of her world as if it had been a larger one; and with the depression had come a startled sense of the irrevocableness of what she had done. Those printed words seemed so swift, so tangible. They would go so far, and afford such opportunity for the grasp of indifference, of ridicule! If she could only have them again, spoken, perhaps, but unheard!

Yet here, at least, where the enterprising grass grew in the rugged cart track, and the branches drooped impertinently before the face of the wayfarer, no one but herself need know that she was very near to tears. And as she came out of the shut-in portion of the road to a stretch of open country, where the warm light lay on the hillsides, and the air was sweetened by the breath of pines, her depression gave way to a keen sense of elation. She turned aside and, crossing a bit of elastic, dry grass, climbed to the top of the stone wall and looked about her. Her heart throbbed with confidence, doubly grateful for the previous distrust. Her own lines came back to her; it was this that somehow, imperfectly, but somehow, she had put into words. It was still spring, a late New England spring, though the unseasonable warmth of the day made it seem summer. The landscape bore the coloring of autumn rather than that of the earlier year. The trees were red and brown and yellow in their incipient leafage. Now and then, among the sere fields, there was a streak of vivid green, or a mound of rich brown, freshly turned earth; but for the most part they were bare. Here and there was the crimson of a new maple; in the distance were the reds and brown of new, not old, life. Only the birds sang as they never sing in autumn, a burst of clear, joyous anticipation—the trill of the meadowlark, the "sweet, sweet, piercing sweet" of the flashing oriole, the call of the catbird, and the melody of the white-bosomed thrush. And here and there a fountain of white bloom showed itself amid the sombreness of the fields, a pear or cherry tree decked from head to foot in bridal white, like a bit of fleecy cloud dropped from the floating masses above to the discouraged earth; along the wayside the white stars of the anemone, the wasteful profusion of the eyebright, and the sweet blue of the violet; and in solemn little clusters, the curled up fronds of the ferns, uttering a protest against longer imprisonment—let wind and sun look out! they would uncurl to-morrow! All these things set the barely blossomed branches, the barely clothed hillsides, at defiance. It was the beginning, not the end, the promise, not the regret—it was life, not death. Summer was afoot, not winter.

It was worth a longer walk, that half hour on the hillside; for it restored, in a measure, her sense of enjoyment, and substituted for the burden of defeat the exultation of expression, however faulty and however limited. But like other moods, this one was temporary; and as she retraced her steps and turned into the village street, she felt again the lassitude which follows the extinction of hope and the inexorable narrowing of the horizon which she had fancied extended.

It was usual for her at this hour to stop at the tavern for the mail which might be ready there, and herself take it to the post-office. In midsummer this mail was quite an important item, but at this time of year it amounted to little; nevertheless, she followed what had become the custom. She found one of the daughters of the house in the throes of composition.

"Oh, Lucyet," she exclaimed, "you don't say that's you! I want this to go to-night the worst way. Ain't you early?"

"Yes, I guess I am," said Lucyet, rather wearily.

"If you'll set on the piazzer and wait, I'll finish up in just a minute. You see we had to get dinner for two gentlemen as came down to go fishin' to-morrer, and it sorter put me back. I wish you'd wait."

"Well, I guess I can wait a few minutes," said Lucyet, the line between her personal and her official capacity being sometimes a difficult one to maintain rigidly. She seated herself on the piazza, not observing that she was just outside of the window of the room within which the two fishermen were smoking and talking in a desultory fashion. Later their voices fell idly on her ear, speaking a language she only half understood, blending with the few lazy sounds of the afternoon. The conversation was really extremely desultory, being chiefly maintained by the younger man of the two, who lounged on the sofa of unoriental luxury with a thorough-going perversion of the maker's plan,—his head being where his feet ought to have been and his feet hanging over the portion originally intended for the back of his head. The other man wore the frown of absorption as, a pencil in his hand, he worried through some pages of manuscript.

"Oh, I say," observed the idler, "ain't you 'most through slaughtering the innocents? I want to take that walk."

"I told you half an hour ago that if I could have a few uninterrupted minutes I'd be with you," answered the other man, without looking up. "They haven't fallen in my way yet."

"It's pity that moves me to speech," rejoined the first speaker, rising and sauntering to the window,—not that one outside of which Lucyet was sitting,—"pity for those young souls throbbing with the consciousness of power who may have forgotten to enclose a stamp for return. I feel when I interrupt you as if I were holding back the remorseless wheel of fate."

His companion allowed this speculative remark to pass without reply. The idler sauntered back to the table.

"What'll you bet, now, before you go any further, that it'll go into the waste-basket?"

"Stamped and addressed envelope enclosed," observed the patient editor, absently.

"Well, what odds will you give me of its being not necessarily devoid of literary merit, but unfitted for the special uses of your magazine?"

The other was still silent as he laid aside another page.

"Half the time," continued the idler, "to look at you, you wouldn't believe that you speak the truth when you express your thanks for the pleasure of reading their manuscripts. It would seem that that, too, was simulated."

The older man picked up a soft felt hat and threw it across the room at his companion, without taking his eyes from the page.

"Oh, well," went on the other, "I can read the newspaper. I can read what is printed, while you're reading what ought to be. Of course you and I know the things are never the same."

Picking up the paper, he resumed, approximately, his former attitude, and applied himself to its columns for a few moments of silence. Outside Lucyet sat quietly, her head resting against the white wooden wall of the house; and the editor made a mark or two.

"Now this is what the public want to know," resumed the idler, with a gratuitous air of having been pressed for his opinion. "You editors have a ridiculous way of talking about the public—"

"It strikes me that it is not I who have been making myself ridiculous talking about anything."

"The public! You just tell the great innocent public that you are giving them the sort of thing they like, and half the time they believe you, and half the time they don't. Now this man"—and he tapped the "Chronicle"—"knows an editor's business."

"Which is more than you do," interpolated the goaded man.

"'The frame for William Brown's new house is up. William may be trusted to finish as well as he has begun,'" read the idler, imperturbably. "'Miss Sophie Brown is visiting friends in Albany. The boys will be glad to see her back.' 'Fruit of all kinds will be scarce, though berries will be abundant.'"

The older man stood up, his pencil in his mouth. "Confound you, Richards! Either you keep still or I go to my room and lock the door."

"Oh, I'll keep still," said Richards, as if it was the first time it had been suggested. Again there was a silence.

The letter must be to Ada's young man, who was doing a good business in cash registers, it took so long to write it. It was within five minutes of the time Lucyet should be at the office. She moved to leave the piazza, when a not loud exclamation from Richards fell on her ear with unusual distinctness.

"By Jove! I say, just listen to this."

The editor looked up threateningly, and went back to his work again without a word.

"No, but really—it's quite in your line. Listen."

Lucyet had moved forward a step or two, when she stood motionless. The words that floated through the window were her own. Richards had an unusually sweet voice, and he was reading in a way entirely different from that in which he had rattled off the "personals." There seemed a new sweetness in every syllable; the warmth of the hillside, the perfume of opening apple blossoms, breathed between the lines. He read slowly, and the words fell on the still air that seemed waiting breathless to hear them. When he finished, Lucyet was leaning against the side of the house, her hand on her heart, her eyes shining,—and the editor was looking at the reader.

"There," he concluded, "ain't there something of the 'blackbird's tune and the beanflower's boon' in that?"

"Copied, of course?" inquired the editor, briefly.

"No. 'Written for the Daily Chronicle,' and signed 'L.' Not bad, are they? Of course I don't know," Richards scoffed, "and the public wouldn't know if it read them, but you know—"

"Read 'em again."

A second time, with increased expression, half mischievous now in its fervor, the lines on Spring fell in musical tones from Richards's lips. Still Lucyet stood breathless, her whole being thrilled with an impulse of exultant, inexpressible delight, listening as she had never listened before. It was as if she stood in the midst of a shining mist.

"She's got it in her, hasn't she?" Richards added, after a pause.

"Yes," said his companion, slowly. "She's got it in her fast enough;" and he returned to his page of manuscript. "Much good may it do her!" he added, with weary cynicism.

Richards laughed, and pulled a pack of cards out of his pocket. "I'll play solitaire," he said.

"Thank Heaven!" murmured the other, devoutly.

Ada arrived breathless. "Here 'tis," said she. "Did you think I was never comin'? You've got time enough; they ain't very prompt. There ain't anythin' the matter, is there?" she asked.

Lucyet took the letter mechanically. "No," she said, "there isn't anything the matter."

As she went swiftly toward the little post-office the rhythm of those lines was in her ears; the assured, incisive tones of that man's voice pulsed through her very soul. She was conscious of no hope for the future; she had no regret for the past; the present was a glory. In that moment Lucyet had taken a long, dizzying draught from the cup of success.