She met Mrs. Brent with something of this mood in her manner, but was instantly softened and won by her visitor, who did not in the least resemble Miss Franklin in appearance, though her voice was wonderfully the same. Her eyes were wide, her brow serene, and her lips smiling.
"Why, you're a child," she said — "a mere babe! Dorothy didn't tell me that."
Bertha stiffened a little, and Mrs. Brent laughingly added: "Please don't be offended—I am really surprised." And then her manner became so winning that before the Western girl realized it she had given her consent to join a dinner-party the following night. "Come early, for we are to go to the theatre afterwards. I'll have some of the university people in to see you. Miss Franklin has made us all eager to meet you."
Bertha had a dim perception that this eagerness to meet her was curiosity, but her loyalty to her teacher and the charm of her visitor kept her from openly rebelling.
The Captain was not so easily persuaded. "'Tis poor business for me," he said. "Time was when I went to bed like a wolf—when the time served; but now I'm as regular to me couch as a one-legged duck. However, to keep me wife in tune, I'll go or come, as the case may be."
Mrs. Brent did not attempt to be funny with this wounded bear, and they parted very good friends.
As her visitor was going, Bertha suddenly said, "Wait a minute," and, going to her hand-bag, brought out an envelope addressed in Congdon's big scrawling hand. "Do you know these people?"
Mrs. Brent glanced at it. "Why, yes, Joe Moss is an artist. He's well-known here, and you'll like him. His wife is a very talented woman, and will be of great advantage to you. They know all the 'artistic gang,' as they call themselves, and they live a delightfully Bohemian life. They're right near here, and if I were you I'd go in to see them. I'd thought of having the Mosses to-morrow night, and this settles it. They must come. Good-bye till to-morrow at 7 p.m." And she went out, leaving the girl in a glow of increasing good-will.
Haney was looking over a list of names and addresses which Lucius had brought to him, and as Bertha returned he put his finger on one, and said: " I believe, on me soul, that this Patrick McArdle is me second sister's husband. 'Patrick McArdle, pattern-maker.' Sure, Charles said he was in a stove foundry. 'Tis over on the West Side, Lucius says. How would it do to slide over and see ?"
"I'm agreeable," she carelessly answered, her mind full of Mrs. Brent and the dinner.
Lucius interposed a word. "It's a very poor neighborhood, Captain. We can hardly get to it with a machine."
"Well, then we'll drive. I want to make a stab at finding my sister anny how."
Lucius submitted, but plainly disapproved of the whole connection. On the way Haney talked of his sister Fanny. "She was a bouncing, jolly-tempered girl, always down at the heels, but good to me. She was two years older, and was mother's main guy, as the sailors say. She was fairly industrious, though none of us ever worked just for the fun of it. Fan married all the other girls off to saloon-keepers or aldermen, which is all the same in pay, and then ended up by takin'a man far older than herself, who was not very strong and not very smart. He makes patterns in sand for the leaves and acorns you see on stove doors. For all we know, he may have made them that's on your new range at home."
The mention of that range brought to Bertha's mind a picture of her lovely kitchen, so light and bright and shining, and another spasm of homesickness and doubt seized her. "Mart, we had no business to come away and leave that house and all our nice things in it."
"Miss Franklin will see after it."
" But how can she ? She's gone nearly all day. And, besides, she's not up to housekeeping—it ain't her line. I feel like going right back this minute!"
This feeling of dismay was increased by the glimpses of the grimy West Side, into which they were plunging every moment deeper. After leaving the asphalt pavement the noise increased till they were unable to make each other hear without shouting, and so they sat in silence while the driver turned corners and dodged carts and cars till at last he turned abruptly into a side-street, and, driving slowly along over a rotting block pavement, drew up before a small, two-story frame house—a relic of the old-time city.
The yards were full of children, who all stopped their play to stare at this carriage, especially impressed by Lucius, who sat very erect on the seat beside the driver, resolutely doing a very disagreeable duty. At the door he got down and said: "Now, Captain, you give me a pointer or two, and I'll find out whether this is your McArdle or not."
"Just ask if Mrs. McArdle was Fan Haney, of Troy. That'll cover the specification," he answered.
By this time a large, fair-haired, slovenly woman had opened the door, and, with truculent voice, called out: "Who do you want to find?"
"Fan Haney, of Troy," answered the Captain.
"That's me," the woman retorted.
"Ye are sol Very well, thin, consider yourself under arrest this minute," said Haney, beginning to clamber out of the carriage.
The woman stared a moment; then a slow grin developed on her face so like to Haney's own that Bertha laughed. The lost sister was found.
As Haney neared her, he called out: "Well, Fan, ye're the same old sloven ye were when I used to kick your shins in Troy for soapin' me mouth."
"Mart Haney, by the piper!" she exclaimed, wiping her lips and hands in anticipation of a caress. "Where did ye borry the funeral wagon?"
He shook her hand—the kiss was out of his inclination—and responded in the same vein of mockery: "A friend of mine died the day, and I broke out of the procession to pay a call. Divil a bit the dead man cares."
"Who's with you in the carriage?" "Mrs. Haney, bedad." "Naw, it is not!" "Sure thing!"