She saw Sibley now for what it was—a village almost barren of beauty—a good, kindly, homey place, but so little and so dull! To go back there to live was quite impossible. "If I quit Mart I must find something to do here—in the East. I can't stand Sibley."
She longed for the Springs because of her home there and because of Ben—but she realized that it possessed, after all, but very limited opportunities for the purchase of culture. The great centres had begun to exercise dominion over her. She had ever been a lonely little soul, with no confidante of her own sex. Speech had never been fluent with her, and she was still elliptical, curt, and in a sense inexpressive. She had no chatter, and the ways of women were in many directions alien to her. Miss Franklin had been her teacher, and yet, while respecting her, she had never learned to love her. Next to Ben Fordyce she leaned upon the judgment and sympathy of the sculptor, whose fine eyes were aglow with a high purpose. She was certain that he was both good and wise.
Mart was much amused at his father, who refused to sleep a second night at the hotel. "It's too far from the street," said he. "I think I'll go stay with Fan if ye'll lay out the course that leads to her dure." So Lucius went with him, bearing a message from Haney: "Tell Fan I'll be over to see her to-morrow. I'm too tired to go to-day," and the father hurried away in joyous relief.
"'Tis unnatural to see a son of mine in such Babylonish splendor," he confided to Lucius. "Faith, it gives me a turn every time I see him unwind a bill from that big wad he carries in his pocket. 'Tis like palin' a red onion to him—nothing more."
The Captain was up early next day, and eager to see how his sister was getting along in her new house, and to please him Bertha went with him. The transposition of the McArdles, like most charitable enterprises, had not been entirely a success. The children had blubbered at being torn away from their playmates and the alleys and runways which they infested. They were like lusty rats suddenly let loose in a fine new barn with no dark corners, no burrows, no rotten planks, chips, or coal-heaps to dig into or hide beneath. The alleys in Glenwood were leafy lanes, the streets parked and concreted, and the school-yard unnaturally clean and shaded by fine young trees—which no one was allowed to climb.
Furthermore, there was work to do in the garden— and this was onerous to the boys. Then, too, they had to fight their battles all over again. However, they did this with pleasure, establishing dreadful reputations among the neat, knickerbocker "sissies" who were foolish enough to cross them. Dress, Mrs. McArdle declared, was now a real trial. The girls had to be "in trim all the time," and the boys were as violently in contrast to their fellows as a litter of brindle barn-kits beside a well-groomed tabby-cat's family. "I'm clean worn out with it, Mart," she confessed. "We've been here two weeks the day, and the children howlin' the whole time to go back and McArdle workin' himself to the figger of a spoon with a mind to polish the lawn and get the garden into seed."
But Mart only smiled. "'Tis good discipline, Fan."
Haney senior was delighted with his daughter's household. "Faith, the roar and tumble of the whelps brings back to me me own wife and childer. Them was good days. 'Twas hard skirmishin' some weeks for bacon and p'taties, but I got 'em someway, and you ate ivery flick of it—snappin' and snarlin', but happy as a box of pups."
His son and daughter looked at each other and laughed; then Mart said: "'Tis a sad memory the father has, a most inconvenient and embarrassing mind."
They all stayed to dinner, and Bertha rolled up her sleeves and helped in the kitchen while the Captain went to market with Lucius. McArdle having got a half-day off, came home highly wrought up again at thought of meeting Captain Haney and his handsome wife. He looked distinctly less care-worn, though he confessed that it was hard to rise at the hour necessary to reach his work at seven. Bertha's heart warmed to him. In a certain dreamy, speculative t urn of eye he was like her father—a man inventing new forms as naturally as other minds copy worn models. He was gaining in conversational powers, as he came to know Mart better, and took occasion to lay before him the plans for several inventions, small in themselves, but of possible value, so Lucius said.
There was something hearty, wholesome, and satisfying in this visit, and Bertha went away with increased liking for the McArdles. "I'm glad you gave them a boost, Mart," she said, as they left the house, "and you fixed it fine. Mac talked to me a half-hour explaining that you hadn't put it on a charity basis—just sold the house on long time."
"That was Lucius's idea. Wasn't it, Lucius?"
Lucius did not appear to hear.
They were whirring down an avenue bordered by elms in expanding leaf, the sky was filled with big white clouds like those which come and go over the great domes of the Rockies, and the air was warm and sweet, not yet dusked by the city's chimneys. Bertha's heart rose on joyous wing. "Let's call and take the Mosses for a ride," she suggested.
"With all the pleasure in the world," he replied; and when they drew up before the side door of the huge block, Bertha sprang out and hurried in without waiting for Lucius to accompany her.
Mrs. Moss came to the studio door, and Bertha's shining face so wrought upon her that she seized her and kissed her with sincere pleasure. "Joe, here's Mrs. Haney."
Moss was modelling a small figure on a stand near one of the windows, but left his work and came towards her with beaming smile. "What a coincidence! We were just discussing you. How do you do ? Shake my arm —my hands are muddy." She took his outbent wrist and shook it with frank heartiness. He explained: "I said you'd comeback; Julia declared, 'No. Once she tastes the glories of New York, good-bye to Chicago and the West.'"