This is rather a curious story - not nearly as artistic
as if it were fiction. Fact seldom is artistic.
One thing is certain: Hildreth had never before heard
of a swastika; he had heard of Judge Grey, one of the Mixed Tribunal, and
he knew that the Sarna came from that magistrate as a wedding gift to his
father; but he never for one moment connected anything that ever happened
in the Orient with his stenographer and private secretary. Nor did he suspect
- but this story is running away from me backwards.
Reclining in his uncle's emblazoned armchair, the tips
of his fingers joined, young Hildreth gazed meditatively at the ceiling
through the drifting haze of his cigar. On the ceiling several delicately
tinted Cupids were attempting to asphyxiate one another with piles of roses.
The room and its furniture also were gayly ornamental after the style popularly
imputed to Louis XIV, that monarch being in no condition to deny the accusation.
There was a view through one door into a rococo library, through the windows
into a snowstorm at Thirtieth Street and Fifth Avenue. However, the ensemble
did not appear illogical if you turned your back to the window; besides,
there was the stenographer to look at. But Hildreth was gazing fixedly
at the ceiling through the stratified mist from his cigar.
The youthful stenographer, dimpled chin on hand, drummed
softly with her pencil tip and watched him sidewise out of two very beautiful
eyes. Her cuffs were as immaculate as her cool, white skin; her head, with
its thick, bright hair, harmonized with other pretty things; and I do not
think that Louis XIV would have repudiated her, at any rate.
Hildreth blew ring after ring of smoke at the ceiling,
passing his hand, at intervals, through his hair, which was rather short
and inclined to curl.
"Miss Grey," he said, "can't you thing of anything else
that rhymes with 'tin'?"
"Gin, din, thin," suggested the stenographer, referring
to a rhyming dictionary,
"We've used 'din' and 'thin' already in the second verse;
don't you remember? And we can't use 'gin' in any combination whatever;
I've tried it. Isn't there anything else you can think of?"
"Sin?" she inquired demurely.
"'Sin,'" he repeated. "'Sin' sounds interesting. We need
something to flavor the poem. Do you believe that you and I could make
any proper use of sin'?"
She appeared doubtful.
"Let us see, anyway. Read what you've taken," he said,
composing himself to listen to his own lines with the modest resignation
of the true poet.
And the girl sorted her notes and read softly:
"Behold them packed so snug within
She raised her blue eyes, looking at his inquiringly over
the penciled sheets of manuscript.
Their air-tight box of shining tin -
Hildreth's Honey Wafers!
"Ready for breakfast, lunch or din-
Ner; crisp and fresh and sweet and thin -
Hildreth's Honey Wafers!"
"There ought to be another verse," he mused.
"Don't you think so?"
"I think two verses of this kind are sufficient, Mr. Hildreth."
"You are mistaken; the poem is still incomplete.
The first verse, you see, is an impression - a sort of
word-picture of the tin box - a kind of prologue to prepare people for
what is inside the box in the second verse. In the second I explain that
Hildreth's Honey Wafers are all ready to eat, and I excite people's appetites.
Now, the third verse must gratify them. Don't you see?"
"Is it not good advertising to break off abruptly and
leave the public hungry?"
"No; that's only good literature; but in advertising you
must not leave your public discontented. People like to look at pictures
of other people who are enjoying something to repletion - pitching into
a generous trough of breakfast food, or pausing to savor the delicious
after-effects of a nerve tonic. Besides," he added moodily, puffing his
cigar, "my uncle requires three verses, and that settles it. What was that
rhyme you suggested?"
"I - I ventured to suggest 'sin.'"
"'Sin,'" he repeated thoughtfully, pinching his chin and
staring at the snowy roofs across Thirtieth Street. "Well, how would this
do for the third verse?
"They invigorate the hair and clear the skin,
And promote happiness in this world of sin -
Hildreth's Honey Wa --"
"But you have the meter all wrong again," she expostulated.
"You never pay any attention to the meter."
"Oh, you can fix that as you fixed the other versed!"
"Besides, is it really true that Hildreth's Honey Wafers
do all those things?"
He began an elaborate argument to prove that falling hair
and poor complexion were caused by improper nourishment, and that the wafers
were proper nourishment; but presently his voice dwindled to a grumble.
He relegated his cigar, looking at her askance.
"We might say," he resumed, "using poetic license:
"Into this world of crime and sin
She shook her head.
Like an angel above was wafted the box of tin;
"Why not?" he said.
"You can't compare a tin box to an angel above - and you
can't waft a tin box, you know---"
"Yes, I can. Poets' license ----"
"That is one of the troubles with your verses, Mr. Hildreth
-- there is so much license and so little -so-little----"
"You are rather rough on me," he said, coloring up.
"I don't mean to be; I only try to help you."
"I know it; you are very kind --- very amiable. I am perfectly
aware that a stenographer's duties do not include literary criticism. I
ought to be ashamed to ask your aid, but if I don't have it I'm done for."
"But I give it most freely, Mr. Hildreth."
"I know you do, and I'm also aware that I am imposing
on you most shamefully. After this week we'll let my verses go as I compose
them, It will probably put me out of business, but I can't help that."
"Mr. Hildreth, we simply cannot let your verses go unedited."
He looked at her for a moment in silence. "Can't you stand
my versed?" he inquired. And, as she made no reply: "If you can't-- if
they are really as bad as that, why, the public is going to recoil, too,
and I'll doubtless ruin the business for my uncle. He has no more idea
of good poetry than I have. I'll ruin him; and our rivals, The Bunsen's
Baby Biscuit Company, will call me blessed!"
"Your uncle writes you that he likes the advertising verses
you send him," she interrupted cheerily. "He tells you that the verses
have made the wafers worth a fortune."
"Yes, but you always have revised my verses, and he doesn't
know that. Every poem I've done for the Honey Wafers Company you've revised.
It is you who have made them well all over this continent."
"What of it?" she answered, amused, "as long as ;your
uncle is satisfied. I don't mind the trouble of editing your verses --
truly I don't." She rested her cheek on her wrist, playing the while with
her pencil. "I am very happy to do what I can, Mr. Hildreth. Shall we try
She seemed to grow more disturbingly pretty every day;
he permitted himself to look at her long enough to remember that he had
something else to do. "Din, pin, gin, sin," re repeated sullenly.
"What the mischief am I to write, anyway?"
"I don't think we can use 'sin,' do you?" she asked, lifting
her blues eyes.
Perhaps he found inspiration in them; he looked at them
hard; an inward struggle set his mouth in an uncompromising line. And this
is what he evolved:
"Bright as blue eyes that are innocent of sin
"You can't compare a tin box to blue eyes, Mr. Hildreth!
You surely must admit that."
Is the box of tin they're packed in--
Hildreth's Honey W--"
"Tin is bright, isn't it? Blue eyes are bright aren't
they? Well, if one's bright and the others are-----"
She shook her head slowly; her eyes had softened to a
violet tint. He noticed that phenomenon, but he did not know that he had
noticed it. His brows met in a frown of intense intellectual concentration;
for five full minutes he remained rigid in the agony of composition, the,
with a long breath, he delivered himself of another verse:
"Soft as the color of blue violets that grow
"Oh, dear!" said the stenographer with a sudden little indrawing
of her breath.
The woods, is perfume from the box of tin!
"If you want to laugh," he said, flushing, "go ahead.
I'm not sensitive"
"I had not desire to laugh, Mr. Hildreth; it's far beyond
He regarded her gloomily, relegated his cigar, and gazed
out of the frosty window. After a moment a smile twitched his mouth.
"I suppose it's not good -- that last idea about ingrowing
She laughed: she could not help it; he laughed, tool
"how long have we been working together?" he asked, leaning
back in his chair. He knew, but he wanted to know whether she knew.
She knew, but she pretended to think very hard before
answering, laying her pencil thoughtfully across her lip, immersed in calculation.
"It must be nearly a month, Mr. Hildreth."
"Impossible!" he exclaimed, pretending surprise.
"Almost," she insisted. "Let me see; I came to you on
the fifth -"
"The ninth," he said quickly. He was easily beguiled.
"Was it the ninth?" she asked wonderingly - though what
there was to wonder at is not clear, the date signalizing nothing in particular
except the day they first laid eyes on one another. "I believe it was the
ninth, after all. That would make it almost a month -"
"Exactly a month," he said triumphantly. "This is our
first anniversary - and you didn't know it!"
He stopped: he hadn't meant to use words of that sort.
People employ such expressions for other matters, not to commemorate the
date of a purely business engagement.
"What you mean to say, Mr. Hildreth, is that I have been
in your employment exactly a month," she said with amiable indifference.
"Exactly," he repeated, opening the inlaid cover of a
rococo desk and bringing forth a package. Then he rose to his feet
and made her a bow, full of the charm of good breeding: "May I venture
to offer a little gift in memory of the fortunate event?"
She stood up, surprised, quiet, a trifle perplexed.
"What fortunate event, Mr. Hildreth?"
"The annivers--the - pleasant occasion--" He floundered,
and she let him. It irritated him to flounder, for his intentions were
"What I mean to say is simple enough," he snapped. "You've
practically written my poems for me, and you didn't have to, but if you
hadn't I either should have ruined my uncle's business or lost my job,
and I'm grateful, and I wanted to give you something to show it - these
She took them, a trifle uncertain, but guided by inherited
instinct. She looked at the beautifully bound and dreadfully expensive
The constraint lasted only a second; she thanked him,
glanced at the title-page, where he had written the date and her name,
but not his own. His good taste appealing to her, she smiled at him in
a delightfully friendly fashion; and the charm of the transfiguration so
occupied him that, finding himself staring, he neutralized the rudeness
by closing his eyes with a wise look as though intent on pursuing elusive
rhymes for commercial purposes.
She seated herself at her little flyaway gilded desk once
more; he relapsed into his chair and sat there drumming with his fingers
on the golden foliations of the carved arms.
She had, instinctively, picked up her pencil and pad,
ready for dictation when the sacred fire should blaze up in him. The fire,
however, appeared to be out. There was not a sputter.
"And in all this time," he mused, continuing his cogitations
aloud, "You have never asked me why, in the name of common decency, I insisted
on trying to be a poet!"
As she made no reply:
"Have you? He repeated.
"Of course I haven't--"
"Is it because you are too civil to hurt a man's feelings?"
"It is because I am employed by you, Mr. Hildreth--"
"Because you are employed by me? Nonsense! That's no reason
why I should torture a cultivated ear with unspeakable rhymes. I wonder,
Miss Grey, what you really think of me?"
She could have told him that she didn't think of him at
all except in a business sense, which would have been an untruth, but the
proper answer for him. She thought of several answers, all reserved, indifferent,
discouraging the faintest hint of intimacy, and therefore suitable, Then
she said: "Would it interest you to know what your stenographer thinks
He said it would interest him excessively, and he desired
"I think," she said, not looking at him but at her pencil,
with which she was tracing arabesques on the pad, "I think that you could
do some things much better than - others. Oh, dear! That sounds like Tupper
- but it's true."
"You mean I'd make a better bandit, for example, than
I do a poet?"
"I don't know what qualification you have for the career
you suggest," she replied demurely.
"I understand you," he said; "it's as simple as those
" 'A fool is bent upon a twig, but wise men shun a bandit;
Which is really very clever if you only understand it."
They were both laughing, she with more reserve than he.
"If a bandit's life is not a happy one, what must a poet's
life resemble?" he demanded.
"Why, it's a perfect - but the word is inadequate, Miss
Grey. Did you ever for one mad moment suppose that I wrote rhymes for the
pleasure it gave me?"
"No," she said, "I didn't."
"Or did you imagine I was infatuated with the notion that
my rhymes gave pleasure to others?"
She laughed such a care-free laugh - so sweet, so entirely
gay and innocent - that he said impulsively: "I wish you'd let me tell
you how it is. I do so hate to appear a fool to you."
Something checked her mirth, yet it scarcely could be
what he said, for his speech and manner were quite free from offense.
"May I tell you?" he asked, conscious of the shadow of
constraint between them.
There was something in her silent acquiescence which hinted;
"My time is yours, Mr. Hildreth; abut, considering the strictly business
footing of our relations, hadn't you better begin to make your third verse?"
And no doubt the slight impatient movement of his shoulders meant: "No,
I won't begin my third verse; I desire to unburden to you a soul too long
misunderstood." But the interpretation of her silence and his shrug are
purely speculative on my part.
"I'd quit this verse making in a moment if I could," he
said; "but it's my livelihood. I always loathed poetry, even my own; but
I've simply got to earn my living."
"Surely," she said, with an instinctive glance around
the exceedingly ornate apartment, "it would be silly for you to give up
making advertising verses for your uncle as long as - as ---"
"As long as it permits me to live like this? Do you suppose
that this is my apartment? - that anything in it belongs to me? - that
my income from my wafer poetry would even pay for a single week's rent
here? There's the ghastly mockery of it. Why, my salary is just twice what
yours is; in other words, I divide with you every week."
She regarded him with amazement.
"Apartment, servants - everything belongs to my uncle.
"Unfortunately, one of his views is how to bring up his only nephew. Just
fancy a man fresh from Harvard flung neck and heels into his uncle's wafer
business on thirty dollars a week!"
"Dreadful," she motioned with her lips.
"Neck and heels! He said I was to find no favors, no privileges;
that I must begin at the lowest rung of the ladder, and, as he knew of
nothing lower than poetry, he set me to work writing Homey Wafer ads. I'm
to be promoted next year to be the artist that draws pictures for the ads.
After that I shall advance through the baking, packing, and truck departments
until I become a traveling salesman. Meanwhile, I've emerged from my cheap
boarding house to keep his servants busy till he returns."
She sat very still, watching him with her beautiful, serious
"Then, some day, I'm to be taken into concern and become
a partner if ---"
"If I don't marry."
"Oh!" she said faintly.
"But if I do ----"
There was an ominous pause; then she repeated calmly:
"If you do?"
"I'm down and out, and he leaves about five millions to
the Society for Psychical Research. A nice position for me if I should
ever fall in love, isn't it?"
The pause was longer this time.
"The Society for Psychical Research," she repeated under
"Yes. You know - they investigate spooks, and tip tables,
and go into trances, and see blond gentlemen coming over the ocean to marry
you, and dark ladies hiding around the corner."
"Is he interested in such things - your uncle?"
"Mad about them. He's up at his country place now with
a bunch of Columbia professors and Sixth Avenue clairvoyants, engaged in
crystal-gazing experiments. Later he's going to lecture about 'em
at Columbia University."
"What is crystal gazing?" she asked innocently.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know exactly. My uncle
and a fat clairvoyant in a pink teagown sit at a table and squint into
a big globe made of rock crystal; and he tells me that he can sit in his
chair up there at Adrintha Lodge and see, in the crystal, everything that
he wants to see - including how I'm behaving myself down here in town.
He told me that if I ever - ever kissed anybody he's see it and discharge
"Does he say he can see you?"
"And everything you are doing?"
"Every blessed thing."
"Do you believe it?" she asked anxiously.
"No, of course not. But I let him think he has me scared
She leaned forward on the table, clasping both hands under
"Is that what keeps you on your best behavior?"
It was rather a curious thing to say.
"Suppose," she added, "that your uncle was looking into
his crystal at this very minute. I think, if you please, we'd better stop
talking and begin our work. ... Don't you? I think we ought at least to
look as though we were busy."
"You don't believe that he could see us, do you?" demanded
"No; ... but suppose he could? Don't you think I'd better
copy your verses - or be doing something--"
She hastily placed a sheet of paper in the machine, slid
it into place, and struck several keys. It was quite unconscious on her
part, but when, a moment later, she turned the sheet over she found that
she had written his name about sixty times. The portent of this, however,
did not then strike her.
Somewhere in the room little silvery chimes sounded the
"Can it be two o'clock already?" she exclaimed.
He examined his watch in assumed surprise. "Why, we are
just in time!" he said hazily.
"Yes, Mr. Hildreth - in time for what?"
"You - you won't be offended - where anything but offense
is meant - will you?"
She had risen to face him; he, rather red about the ears,
began by making a mess until his irritation straightened out matters.
"It's only that you've been so kind to help me do all
that advertising poetry, and I'm so tremendously grateful, and it's our
first annivers - our - er - the occasion - You know what I mean. So please
stay to luncheon. Will you?"
"Please don't ask me, Mr. Hildreth -----"
"Yes, I will! You simply can't be offended; you simply
cannot mistake my attitude, my meaning ----"
"I am not offended. You are very thoughtful - amiable
- but I think I ought to go ----"
"Our anni - the date, you know - just to celebrate a purely
business arrangement which has been so delight - so profitable to me, I
"No, I could not stay, Mr. Hildreth ----"
"But it's partly for business purposes," he explained
anxiously. "Why, you must know, Miss Grey, that more business is transacted
at luncheon than before or after. That's what great financiers do;
they say to the head of a department: 'Lunch with me, Mr. So-and-so'?"
"Yes, often and often. And she understands!"
"Are you sure she does?"
"Mr. Hildreth, I should --- should like to --- there,
I admit it! But it is not convenable. I know it; you know it! It is not
the thing for us to do. I have no business here except as your stenographer.
I could not accept."
"If I were not in your employment I should not be here
with you. You know that."
"But I should perhaps be at your house it----"
"You are speculating in impossibilities." She bent her
head, smiling across the table at him, and dropping her hand on the books
he had given her. "Your kindness must have some bounds; let it end in these
bindings; I - I shall remember it with each leaf I turn." And as he said
nothing, but looked rather miserable, she added:
There was another interval of silence; she considered
his face anew. The unhappiness in it was evident.
"Do you really want me ... to talk business?"
"I want you to stay. Will you?"
She did not answer, though a little tremor touched her
"That's jolly!" he said gayly, and touched an electric
button behind him. And a moment later a maid in cap and apron respectfully
piloted her out of sight.
About half past two s Japanese butler served them in the
colonial breakfast room, and she laughed at the little silver trifle she
found beside her plate - a tiny type-machine made to hold scents in microscopic
crystal vials. Her initials were engraved upon it.
"You see," he said, "I do not regard our poetical partnership
lightly, even if you do. What you have done for me is going to enable me
to enter the firm on day - aided by your editing my verses."
"I never before understood," she admitted, "why you advertised
for a stenographer who was a graduate of Barnard College. And - when I
applied to you I was perfectly astonished when you asked me so anxiously
whether I could rhyme and draw pictures."
He examined his grape fruit and extracted a minted cherry
with great care. Presently he swallowed
"I knew from the first instant I saw you that my chance
in life had come," he observed.
"You didn't know it before you questioned me."
"Yes, I did."
He looked up at her: "I don't know how I knew it." She
was apparently interested in the aroma of her wine. "But I knew it." He
The vintage was doubtless worthy of the serious attention
she gave it.
"Do you know what wine that is?" he asked, amused.
"Yes; it is Sarna," she said simply.
"How did you know?" he exclaimed in amazement.
She lifted the glass with a pretty gesture: "Are you so
astonished that your stenographer knows the rarest wine in the world -
and the legend concerning it? A most inappropriate wine for such a luncheon,
"You are a constant series of endless astonishment to
me," he said. "Where on earth you ever heard of Sarna - and how you should
have known it when you saw it - this wine so rare that but one in ten thousand
experts ever heard of it---"
"Why did you have it served?" she asked directly. "Do
you know what this wine of Sarna signifies? Do you know every drop is worth
ten times its weight in gold? Do you know there are not three other
bottles of it known in the world?"
"I knew all that. I believed that Sarna alone was worthy
of - of" -he met her level gaze--- "of our first anniversary."
"No; it is inappropriate," she relied steadily. "Do you
not know the legend?"
"It is the only wine not forbidden by the Koran. Is that
what you mean? Or do you mean-" He hesitated.
"Yes, that. The last Khedive emptied that last glass of
the last but three bottles remaining in all the world while his bride's
lips were still wet with the dew of Sarna. It is the custom of Emperors
and Sultans - ask me for how long, and my answer is: as long as the saros;
compute it, oh, Heaven-born!" She crossed her pretty hands below her throat,
a smile, half gay, half tender, parting her lips.
"How did you know such things?" he asked.
"My father was a judge of the Mixed Tribunal," she answered
gravely. "My mother was married there; I was born in Cairo."
"Fate!" he said excitedly-"sheer Fate! My father was the
ex-Confederate, Hildreth Pasha, of the Khedival Court! The Sarna - that
bottle cradled there - came from a judge of the Mixed Tribunal! Shall
not their children touch the same glass?"
They both were excited, flushed, a little bewildered.
""Do you know the custom?" he asked recklessly.
"Y-es." She held up one slender finger; her mother's betrothal
ring, set with the diamond scarab, sparkled on the white skin; and she
drew the thin circlet form her finger and held it suspended over the glass
on golden Sarna. The single brilliant flashed and flashed as though the
sacred beetle were struggling to be free.
"Try it," he laughed. "Who knows what sign of fortune
the dead Sultans may send?"
"They - they only send a sign to - to brides----"
"I know it. Try!"
"But the mechanism is unknown to me; it is not possible
that a bath of this scented wine could start it----"
There was a glimmer, a little clinking splash in the slim
wineglass. They inspected the ring lying in the amber wine; they glanced
at one another rather foolishly. Then, looking at him, she raised the glass,
tasted, passed it to him. He tasted, his eyes on her, and set the half-empty
glass before her.
"I - I believe there's something happening to that ring,"
said Hildreth suddenly, rising and passing around the table to her side.
Breathless, they bent over the glass, heads close together.
"Doesn't it look to you as though that diamond scarab
were moving?" he said in a low voice.
"Yes; but it can't be - how can it----"
"Oh -h!" she whispered -"see! It-it's alive! It is unfolding
arms and legs like a crab."
"What on earth---" he stammered, but got no further, for
the girl caught him by the arm: "Look! Look! The swastika! It means
fortune! It means - it means----"
His hand shook as he lifted the glass and reversed it.
A shower of perfumed wine sprinkled the lace centerpiece; the mystic swastika,
glittering, magnificent, fell heavily upon the mahogany - a dull, gem-incrusted
lump of purest gold.
"What is it?" he gasped. "I thought it was alive, like
one of those jeweled Egyptian beetles! I thought those things were legs!"
"It is the swastika," she whispered, laying it in her
pink palm. "Who wears it shall always---" She stopped short, hesitated,
then the color in her face deepened, and she looked up over her shoulder
at him. "Will you something for me?" she asked
"Wear this. Will you?" She drew her tiny handkerchief
from her sleeve, tore a shred of cambric from it, passed it through the
swastika, and, before he knew what she meant to do, had tied it to his
"Just to see what happens," she said, laughing almost
hysterically. If there was the slightest chance of any luck in the world
she wished it to be his. It was all she had
"You resign your chance of fortune to me?" he asked curiously
- and, as she only nodded: "There is but one happiness Fortune can bring
me. Are you willing to trust it to me?"
Before she could reply a maid appeared with a telegram;
he asked her pardon, and opened it. Twice he read it, read it again,
nodded a dazed dismissal to the maid, read it again very carefully, and
finally, with a smile that was somewhat sickly, handed it across the table
What she read was this:
"Peter Hildreth," she repeated blankly.
Mohawk County, New York.
John Hildreth: I know what you're up to, and you had better
"But - but what does he mean?"
"That's what I'd like to know," said the young fellow
"Is he in the habit of telegraphing you?"
"No, he isn't; he never did such a thing."
She turned the yellow lead of paper over and over thoughtfully.
Then he suddenly encountered her disturbed gaze.
"He says that he knows what you're up to, and you'd better
stop," she said. "What are you up to, Mr. Hildreth?"
"Up to? Absolutely nothing! I'm fairly tingling with the
consciousness of innocence, righteousness, and good intentions. I don't
know what that old crank means -any more than you know."
"I -I am dreadfully afraid that I know what he means."
"I think he means me."
"Because I'm here - here lunching with you. He might draw
- dreadful conclusions."
"What on earth do you mean, Miss Grey? He never even heard
of you. How can he know you are here?"
"Suppose - suppose he is - is looking into his crystal!"
A sudden silence fell, lasting until the coffee was served.
"It is nonsense to suppose that people can do such things,"
said Hildreth abruptly.
"What things?" she asked, watching him set fire to a cigarette.
"Such things as looking into crystals and seeing nephew.
Anyway, what is there to see?" He waved his hands as though scattering
suspicion to the four winds. "What is there to see except a future financier
and his principal chief of department at a purely business luncheon-----"
"With silver souvenirs and Sarna," she murmured.
They laughed, feeling the constraint subsiding once more.
"Please let us talk a little business - for form's sake,
if nothing else," she said.
"All right; your salary is to be increased------"
"Mr. Hildreth, you cannot afford any extravagances, and
you know it."
"I am not going to let you write my verses, and profit
by it to your exclusion! Besides, this swastika is going to enable me to
afford anything, I understand."
"But you already divide your salary with me. You can't
"Yes, I can."
"No. no, no! Wait until you are promoted to be the advertising
artist. Wait until the swastika begins to help us - you."
"No; because then you'll have to draw all my7 pictures
for me, and your salary must be increased again."
"At that rate," she said, laughing, "I'll be half partner
when you are."
"Full partner - if the swastika knows it business. I -
I - wish he didn't have that crystal up there at Adrintha. I've a mind
to buy a rabbit's foot. With a rabbit's foot and a swastika we ought to
checkmate any crystal-gazing, pink-eyed clairvoyants."
"But - what have they to do with us?" she asked gently.
What he was about to say he only half divined - for she
was bewilderingly pretty - and perhaps she dimly foresaw it, too, for they
both flushed with a sudden constraint that was abruptly broken by the entrance
of the maid with another telegram.
"What the deuce---" stammered Hildreth, tearing open the
yellow envelope; and he read:
"Is - is it anything alarming?" asked the pretty stenographer
as he crumpled the paper.
John Hildreth: I'm watching you in my crystal. If you
want the Society for Psychical Research to become my heirs, do exactly
what you're doing with that girl.
"Alarming? I don't know - no! What the mischief has got
into that uncle of mine?"
"Is it from him?" she asked, turning pale.
"Yes - it is. But if he thinks he can make me believe
that he sees me in his dinky little crystal-----"
"Oh, don't talk that way," she pleaded; "there may be
things that we don't understand happening all the while----"
"There can't be!"
For a while she was dumb, mutely refusing to be reassured,
and presently, rising from the table, they passed into the gay little room
where her desk stood.
The fire was glowing very brightly in the carved fireplace
of golden and pearl-tinted onyx. He drew up his uncle's great chair for
her; she shook her head and looked meaningly at her pad and pencil, but
after a silent struggle with indecision and inclination she seated herself
by the gilt fender, pretty hands folded in acquiescence.
"Now," he said, "let us speak of those things that have
"What has come true, Mr. Hildreth?"
The slightest of rose tints touched her cheeks.
"Did you believe me unreal?" she asked.
He was leaning forward, looking up into her face, which
reflected the pink light of the fire. And what he started to say Heaven
alone knows, for his voice was dreadfully unsteady. However, it ceased
quickly enough when the maid knocked rather loudly and presented a third
telegram to her disconcerted master; and this what he read:
Stunned, the young man sat for a moment, vacant eyes fixed
on the writing that alternately blurred and sprang into dreadful distinctness
under his gaze. Presently he heard a voice not much like his own saying:
"It's nonsense; things like this don't happen in 1907 in the borough of
Manhattan. Why, that's Fifth Avenue out there, and there's Thirtieth
Street, too; besides, the town's full of police; and they pinch star-readers
and astrologers these days. Anyway, we have the swastika, and it will put
any Sixth Avenue astrologer out of business----"
John Hildreth: If you kiss that girl you're talking to
I'll disinherit you.
"I-I don't think I quite understand you," faltered the
He looked at her; the scared expression died out.
"I'll get my uncle on the long-distance 'phone in a moment,"
he said irritably. "There we'll clear up this business. Meanwhile--" He
twisted up the telegram as though to cast it on the coals.
"Let me see it," she said calmly.
"I-it is-no-I can't----"
"Then it concerns me?"
He was silent.
"Very well," she said. "Don't burn it; leave it for a
He laid the telegram on the arm of his chair. "It's more
crystal-gazing," he said, trying to laugh easily, and failing. "It is rater
extraordinary, too. But - see here, Miss Grey, it's utter nonsense to believe
that my uncle can actually see us here in this room!
"I concede that it is rather odd, even, perhaps, exceedingly
remarkable," he added slowly; "but I cannot believe that my uncle, two
hundred miles north of us, can see you and me in his confounded crystal.
My explanation of his telegrams is this: he has merely taken the precaution,
at intervals, to try to frighten me, assuming that I am in mischief, It's
"Not that I admit for one moment that you and I are in
mischief!" he explained hastily.
"But I admit it. It is all wrong, and we both know it.
If I am not here officially I ought not to be here at all."
"Can't I talk to you except on business?"
"Why should you?"
"Because I want to - because it is pleasant - because
it's the pleasantest thing that has ever come into my life!"
"That cannot be," she said, paling. "You know many people,
you go everywhere-everywhere that I do not----" If I were not an adverting
poet at thirty dollars a week," he said, "I'd not care where my uncle left
his millions. I'd do what I pleased-what I ought to do-what any man with
a train of sense would do."
"What would you do, Mr. Hildreth?"
"Make love to the girl I love, and not be scared away
like a rabbit!"
She was still paler when she said: "Are you-in love, then?"
"Yes; but I can't tell her."
She was silent, staring into the fire.
"I can't tell her, can I? I have nothing to offer - nothing
except a prospect of losing my expectations, A man can't tell a girl that
he loves her under such circumstances, can he?"
"I - don't know."
"Do you suppose a - a girl like that would wait for him
- until he got into the firm?"
"If she loved him," said Miss Grey in a low voice, "there
is absolutely no telling what that girl might do."
"Suppose," he said carelessly, "for the sake of illustration,
that I was, at this moment, with that girl. Now, suppose that I told her
I loved her; do you imagine that uncle of mine could see what I was about
- if I worked the swastika on him vigorously?"
"If you-if you would consent to aid me - just a little,
"I could soon prove whether it was safe to speak to the - the girl."
"How, Mr. Hildreth?"
"By just - just pretending that you were that other girl."
"You mean that you might practice a declaration - test
it - on me? Just to see how it might affect your uncle?"
"Yes," he said eagerly, "and if my uncle doesn't telegraph
again that he disowns me, why, I'll know that his other telegrams were
"And if he does telegraph that he has seen--- everything
- in his crystal?"
"Why - we'll have to wait-----"
"The other girl and you? I see. You and I can truthfully
deny our apparent guilt, can't we? .... I will do what I can, Mr. Hildreth."
She stood up, one little hand on the back of the chair.
He hesitated, then picked up the last telegram, opened it, and handed it
to her, reading it again over her shoulder:
"If you kiss that girl you're talking to I'll disinherit
you." A bright blush stained her skin.
"It is only - only to test his power," he managed to say,
but the thumping of his heart jarred his speech and scared him into silence.
"You - is it necessary to kiss me?"
"Yes - absolutely.
She met his gaze, standing erect, one hand on the chair,
Then she drew a long breath as he lifted her hand; her eyes closed. He
said: "I love you - I loved you the moment I saw you - a month ago!" This
was no doubt a mistake; he was mixing the two girls. "What do I care
for a crystal-squinting uncle, or for those accursed Honey Wafer verses?
If he's looking at us now let us convince him; shall we -sweetheart?"
She unclosed her eyes. "Am I to play my part when you
speak to me like that? I don't know how------"
"Do what I do," he stammered; and he encircled her slender
waist and kissed her until, cheeks aflame, she swayed a moment in his arms,
freed herself, and sank breathless into the chair, covering her face. And
he knelt beside her by the gilt fender, his lips to her fingers, stammering
words that almost stunned her and left her faint with their passion and
"You must have known that it was you I loved - that you
were that other girl. You must have seen it a thousand times!"
She was crying silently; she could not speak, but one
arm tightened around his neck in tremulous assent.
The telephone bell had been ringing for some time in their
ears, deaf to all sounds except each other's whispers; but at length he
stumbled to his feet, cleared his eyes of enchantment, and made his way
across the room to the receiver.
"What the deuce is the matter?"
"Oh, is that you, Uncle Peter?"
"Yes, I did get your telegrams, but I thought--------------"
You mean to say you can see us now?"
"No, I don't deny it; I did kiss her."
"Because I love her!"
"I can't help it; you can do as you please. And I may
as well tell you that I'm not afraid of your professors, or clairvoyants,
or your crystals, because I've got a swastika---------"
"You don't know what a swastika is? Well let me tell you
it's about five thousand times more powerful that a rabbit's foot . ...
What? ... Yes, I'll hold the wire till you look it up in the dictionary."
A throbbing silence. Then:
"Yes, Uncle Peter, I'm here."
"Very well; I'm sorry you're angry, and I regret that
you're not afraid of the swastika. I am quite willing to trust to it; the
swastika gave he the girl I love. And, by the
way, Uncle Peter, didn't you write me that my advertising
poems made a fortune for you out of your wafers? ... All right; I only
wanted to confess that she, not I, wrote them."
"Don't believe it? Why, I could no more write those charming
verses than you could!"
"You may imagine that with her talent and mine, and the
swastika working away for us, we are not going to starve----"
"That's just what we intend to do. Bunsen's Baby Biscuit
Company will appreciate our talents. Besides, she can draw---------"
"You can call it blackmail if you choose. But what do
you offer us to refuse advances from Bunsen?"
"No, I won't consider it, My price is full partnership
in the Hildreth's Honey Wafer Company, a cordial blessing from you, use
of your apartments for a year, and the
same old cozy place in your testament."
"Yes, in return we will write your poetry and draw your
pictures for you. And, besides, we'll name after you our first---------"
"Jack!" she exclaimed, aghast.
"Dearest, for Heaven's sake let me deal with him!" whispered
Hildreth; then he shouted through the transmitter:
"Is it all right, Uncle Peter?"
"I promise you - we promise you that we will name him
Peter! If you don't, by Heaven, I'll name him Bunsen--------"
"That's all right, but we're desperate. Peter or Bunsen;
take your choice!"
"Yes; and I'll have his photograph taken for Bunsen, and
under it I'll print: 'A Bunsen's Baby Biscuit Boy!'"
"Don't use such language; they'll cut us off!"
"Good! All right, Uncle Peter, you're a brick. But - just
one thing more; please put that crystal away for an hour or two--------"
"Because we'd like a little privacy!"
"Of course I shall. Long engagements are foolish-------"
"Dearest, you know they are," he said, turning toward
her. "Shall I tell him in a week?"
Her blue eyes filled; again the little tremor of acquiescence
set her red mouth quivering.
"In a week Uncle Peter!" he shouted.
"What? I'll ask her. Hold the wire."
And to her he said: "Sweetheart, our kind Uncle Peter
desires to say something civil to you. I -I think it may be something about
a check. Will you speak to him?"
She rose and came toward him; he handed her the receiver;
she raised her head, and he bent his.
They kissed -while his uncle waited.
Then she raised the receiver to her pretty ear, and said,
"Hello! Hello, Uncle Peter!"