MARCUS BELDEN did not have a very high opinion of women. The Italian fruit-dealer at the corner polished his apples, and laid the best ones on the top of the basket. Women were a lot like them, Marcus said. Underneath their selected top layer of sometimes really glorious charms the size of soul ran small, green and undeveloped. It was easy enough to see the powder on their faces, the polish on their nails, the rouge on their lips, but Marcus had never been able to discover anything very solid or durable underneath this veneer.
Feeling as he did about the sex, it was one of the jokes of fate that he had had four daughters born to him, and not a son among them. It was a sore point with him. He scarcely ever mentioned his family to his business associates. They never met. He felt that there was some sort of shame connected with the coincidence that, at the age of sixty, he found himself planted down irrevocably in a household infested by women, five of his own and three servants, eight in all.
Even Rhoda, the dog, was fat, fawning, and female! He believed his wife's canary was of the same sex too. He had never asked, but he had heard that females never sang, and certainly the smutty, yellow bird, to which were administered, daily, seeds and fresh water and a lukewarm morning bath, had not to his knowledge warbled a note in pay for its board and keep.
Being the only provider in the household, Marcus felt that it was only just that the form of government within the brick walls of the four-storied, brown-stone-front city house, which he had bought cheap when its former residents had been pushed out by the rush up-town of shops and noisy railways, should be that of an autocracy. What if the girls didn't like the neighbors in the block? He was paying the taxes. He was the one to be pleased. Every morsel of food that those girls of his put between their cherry lips, every garment they hung on their soft bodies, he paid for. Why shouldn't his word be law? Naturally, his taste ought to determine the seasoning of the food, the heat of his blood gauge the temperature of the rooms in winter, the whims of his moods govern the course of the conversation at dinner.
He wasn't a ruthless despot. His daughters were glorious, beautifully kept girls—well developed, small-hipped creatures with fine, pink skin, powdered to a velvety texture; nails professionally manicured; hair always perfectly coiffed and waved—that is, all but Ada's, and she, of course, was still a youngster. Marcus realized that it wasn't their fault that they were girls, possessed of feminine tastes, and governed by feminine instincts. As far as he was able, it was his intention that their perfectly natural desire for raiment and decoration should be gratified.
He was not an unaffectionate parent, either. He liked to find his daughters all gathered in the living-room, waiting for him when he blew in from his brisk walk from the elevated, after a busy day down-town; basking by the strong drop-lights he provided for them; their noses buried in the pages of the several evening papers taken for their benefit; sleek and smooth as a batch of freshly combed Pomeranians.
It was at this hour that he tweaked the pink lobes of their little ears, rubbed his rough chin against one of their velvety cheeks, bantered about their various lovers, tickled a silk-stockinged ankle, abruptly snatched off a satin slipper and hung it out of reach on the corner of a picture-frame, slipped a lemon-drop inside a flimsy blouse, and enjoyed the music of shrill little shrieks and high squeals. The Belden girls were always at home at six o'clock. It was a great nuisance, since dancing in the afternoon had become so popular, but it was their father's wish, and almost no sacrifice was too great to avoid his displeasure.
To-night when Marcus came in, although all the girls were at home, there wasn't a spark of playfulness about him. Ada had again disregarded his orders. It was another of fate's jokes, he supposed, that Ada should be the daughter to cause him more trouble than the other three all put together. Ada had been the last chance that he and Mary had had for a boy. As a child she had been his favorite, too—actually companionable to him, in the pig-tail stage. And now she had become an irritation—a problem. He provided her with every luxury, but she wasn't contented. It wasn't enough. She always wanted something more—trips to Europe, courses in Current Events, fifty-dollar daubs in oil paint, and actually, if you'll believe it, a Century Dictionary a year ago! The other three had been satisfied with their one year of boarding-school, but not Ada. There was a regular scene when she had wanted to go to college a year ago. Of course he had refused her. College! Humph! As if pretty, soft, little Ada had a brain of that sort!
The proof of her last offense he now carried in his inner pocket. As he entered the room where the girls and their mother, as usual, were gathered at this time of day, he gave them no greeting.
"Hello, dad," said Beatrice, the oldest daughter. She was a ripe thirty-two or three. She was like a piece of fruit grown for an exhibition.
"Home, puppa?" inquired Mary, from her rocking-chair in the bay-window. Mary was Marcus's wife. She was a drab, docile woman. She always sat in the bay-window. She liked to watch the people pass. Moreover, it was her only opportunity of catching an occasional glimpse of the young men who paid attention to her daughters. The Belden girls never entertained in their own home. Restaurants and hotels were provided for that.
Marcus made no response to the salutations made to him. He walked over to the center-table and took out from his pocket a sheet of blue paper.
"I want to know what this means." He held out the paper. "Who's been buying books to the tune of a hundred dollars?"
Ada was sitting on the arm of a chair with her feet in the seat, bent over a magazine. She was different from her sisters. They called her a youngster still, for although she was eighteen years old, she had not acquired yet the marks of sophisticated young ladyhood, which her sisters, Beatrice, and Susan, and Maizie, bore. Her hair, innocent of a net, and bearing no signs of curling tongs, always had a wind-blown appearance—mussy, her sisters called it. She was a lean, athletic girl. She looked more as if she had been brought up beside golf-links and tennis-courts, than in the atmosphere of matinées and movie-shows.
She did not look up from her magazine as she replied, "Isn't my mark there?"
Each of the Belden girls and their mother had her own particular sign, and when the bills arrived, they designated by whom the various articles were purchased. It was one of Marcus's requirements. He didn't believe in allowances. He didn't want his girls flaunting bank-accounts of their own. He preferred to wade through the columns upon columns of women's paraphernalia himself—camisoles, brassières, chemisettes—good Lord, like so much Greek to him!—egg massages, dry shampoos—but at least his hand was on the tiller.
"Oh," he replied to Ada, "you bought them, did you? Well, don't you know that you're not allowed to buy anything that can't come under one of the heads of Clothes, Amusements, or Body-upkeep, without permission? Haven't you ever heard that before?"
"Of course I have," the girl assured him. "But I've wanted a set of Stevenson for a long time, father."
"Well, get over wanting it. I'm not made of money. The best library in the country is only a car-fare away."
"They won't cost you anything, father. I had just ordered a new suit when I saw those books in the window, and what I did was to go back and cancel my suit, and order the books instead."
"Yes," retorted Marcus, "I've had that game worked before. Next time you happen to run across a diamond bracelet you want, or a pearl necklace, it will be instead of that suit again. I know women!"
"You know I don't care about jewelry, father," said Ada.
Just like a girl, thought Marcus. No use trying to argue with them. They always chase down a side-path after your similes and examples, and lose sight of the main issue. "You send the books back," he said.
"Oh, please, father." Ada's voice was beginning to tremble now. Absent from her father she was capable of all sorts of acts of rebellion, but in his presence she quailed. She wanted to tell him that she saved enough in marcel waves, hairnets, and "treatments," alone, a year, to pay for the books—just about. She wanted to remind him that he had just settled for an absolutely unnecessary party gown for Beatrice, without objection. But her heart pounded, and pressed, and her throat choked. All she could say was, "Oh, please let me keep them. Oh, please, please," in a hopeless, hysterical manner.
"You heard me," replied Marcus shortly.
"But, father," jerkily Ada brought out, swallowing before every two or three words, "I can't—I just can't send them back now. Some of the leaves are cut." She wondered now that she had dared.
Her father ripped the bill in two, crumbled it up, and fired it across the room in the direction of the waste-basket. "Oh," he retorted. "Thought you'd force them on me, did you? Well, you won't. Return those books to-morrow morning! Understand? I'll make all necessary adjustments. I've had about enough of your disregard of my wishes."
He approached his own particular arm-chair, and, as if the matter was closed, sat down in it. He adjusted his glasses and unfolded his evening paper.
Ada slipped down from her perch. "Oh, it's no use," she burst out (the paper was shielding her from her father's piercing eyes). "It's just no use ever trying to amount to anything in this house!"
"Expensively bound books won't perform the operation, young lady," sneered Marcus, his eyes running across the headlines of the paper. "Just so much more veneer. That's all."
Ada flung her magazine on the table, and left the room with a little rush. She went up-stairs fighting her tumultuous emotions as she mounted the two long flights to the room that she and Beatrice shared. She went in, closing the door behind her. It was an ugly room. A low gas flame in a round white globe dimly lit up its furnishings—ugly, ornate oak bed, ugly combination of pier-glass and chiffonier, ugly carpet, ugly paper. Upon the shelf, however, there rested one gem of artistic triumph—Beatrice's chic little twenty-dollar hat. Ada knew, too, that within the closet there hung a whole row of beautiful creations in silk, and satin, and broadcloth. The entire house was like that—common and ordinary in its furnishings, offensive even—and yet filled with artistic productions from dressmakers' shops and milliners.
As Ada stood with her back against the closed door, she could see the set of Stevenson extending for a bright four or five feet along the top of the curtained book-case in which Beatrice kept her carefully treed shoes. The books were like a lovely picture to Ada. She did not know Stevenson well. She wasn't a widely read girl, but in some vague way the exquisitely bound books typified beauty to Ada. Her purchase of them had been simply one of her feeble attempts to free her spirit from the suffocating effect of her surroundings. She crossed the room and took down one of the books. There was a fine powdery coating on its top gilt edge. She blew it away. The same fine white coating was everywhere, on table, shelf, and chiffonier. Such was the case, always, after Beatrice had been dressing. Ada sighed. She longed to purge herself of it all. She opened the book, and buried her nose in it, drawing in a long, deep breath of printer's ink and leather, and shutting out, for a moment, the sweetish odor of Beatrice's new hair tonic.
Two years ago Ada had spent six weeks in a small town in Connecticut with a distant relative whom she called Aunt Harriet. Aunt Harriet lived in a plain, austere little house. She was plain and austere herself. But just as the book-lined walls of her sparsely furnished living-room might have revealed beauty to him who took down the books from their shelves and read them, so did Aunt Harriet gradually reveal her beauty to Ada. She was a gray woman, tall, gaunt. Her clothes were uninteresting. Her time and money had been spent in beautifying her mind, and the results showed less in the cut of her rough, brown suits than in her intelligent eyes, inspiring conversation, and the atmosphere of good taste that permeated her chaste little house.
When Ada came home she not only perceived the cheap, common appearance of her father's house—the over-supply of drop-lights, newspapers, latest novels, and upholstered arm-chairs—but also she saw the tawdry condition of her own and her sisters' minds. Gropingly she had sought door after door through which she might escape from the stifling atmosphere of powder and paint, and gowns, and hats, and wraps, and scraps upon scraps of papier poudré left here and there—as common in this household as cigar-ashes in a home where men predominated.
But every door she had tried had been locked, and her father refused to give her the keys. It was unjust. He taunted women, called them frivolous, worthless; was ashamed of being the father of four girls. It was cruel. He dug spurs into her sides, and then held her in on the curb-bit. Oh, if she could only get it between her teeth!
She returned the volume she held to the top of the book-case, and walked over to the window. She stood staring out at a swinging arc-light at the corner of the street. Opposite to it there was a vacant building, covered with painted advertisements. One of the illumined signs suddenly caught Ada's attention.
"Amount to Something," it said. "Take Shorthand and Typewriting at Frye's Business College. Mornings, Afternoons or Evenings."
The sign had probably hung there for months, and stared into Ada's bedroom window, its message unread, unobserved by her. She smiled abruptly at the strange coincidence of the wording of the advertisement, "Amount to Something." She had flung a similar phrase at her father ten minutes ago. Was a knowledge of shorthand and typewriting a possible way to amount to something? How absurd!
But Aunt Harriet had told her once that she had dismissed her second maid and done the work herself, in order to own the little Meissonier, enshrined between two candles over the satinwood table from Italy. Was she, Ada, willing to labor for the vague something symbolized in the Stevenson? It might be managed. Her father never knew how she or her sisters spent the time when he was at his office. It flashed over Ada that if she was willing to humiliate herself to the extent of asking her tailor to send a bill for a suit she had never ordered, she might meet the expenses of tuition at Frye's Business College, as well as attend the course, without her father's knowledge. With the money she could earn, she could offer to herself resources for better things, now forbidden her.
But would she enjoy getting up every morning, rain or shine, however she felt, and going downtown into some noisy, stupid office, and working all day long? Would it not be wasted effort, when her father was more than able to provide her with the requisites for the nobler life, himself? If Marcus had been even a little lenient with her, indulged her in even a few of her desires, she might never have taken her leap, in spite of the illumined sign, nightly flashing its message.
When at last she did apply at Frye's Business College, it was more in a spirit of rebellion than for any exalted purpose of proving her capacity for suffering for her ideals.
Scarcely two weeks had passed after the cherished Stevenson had been returned, when Marcus refused to allow Ada to accept an unexpected invitation to spend a fortnight in Connecticut with Aunt Harriet. Since the never-forgotten summer two years ago, Ada had not seen Aunt Harriet. But Marcus didn't believe in Aunt Harriet's influence over Ada. He wanted no talk about it, either. She couldn't go. That was all there was to it. No more sniveling. He couldn't afford to support railroads, as well as box-offices and department stores. Scarcely had the redness disappeared from Ada's tear-stained eyes when, burning with indignation, fired with revolt, she called at Frye's Business College. A fortnight later, on the same morning that Beatrice started in on a course of rolling for reducing flesh, Ada began her shorthand and typewriting.
She could rely upon her mother's and sisters' silence. They would not tell her father. Whatever qualities the three older Belden girls might lack, they were kind and good-hearted. However foolish their little kid-sister seemed to them, they would not thwart her—not for anything. Month in and month out, Ada pursued her studies. It was only when she pictured to herself what her father's anger would be like when she was discovered that she hesitated, wavered, wondered if she had decided wisely. Books could be returned, even with the leaves cut, but it would be beyond her father's power to send back the skill in her finger-tips, to refuse to let her keep the hard-earned knowledge of dots and lines and curves.
She was so afraid of the reckoning which she knew was awaiting her around the next corner, or the next, or the next, that in the meantime she exerted herself to please her father in every way she knew how. She laughed with her sisters at his slurs at women; she was careful to make no requests that might annoy him; she gave him no occasion to speak even harshly to her. Marcus's daily late afternoon frolic with his batch of girls continued in sweet and even tenor.
One day in mid-June, after Ada had been studying stenography for nearly a year, a request came to the business college from a real-estate and insurance office for a typist to help out during the unexpected absence of one of the regular office girls. Could some one be sent down within an hour or so?
"Miss Belden, would you like to try this place?" one of the instructors abruptly asked, slipping her hand over the receiver as she spoke. "You were ready for a position a month ago. Better try it."
Ada flushed. "Do you think I could?" she gasped.
"Of course you can. Yes," she called into the receiver. "We have some one. I'll send her right down."
Ada had not intended to take a position until fall. Already the city was hot and stifling. It was near the end of the term at the business college, and Ada had been looking forward to the long, leisurely mornings again in store for her. But the position would be only for a week. Miss Smith assured her of that. It was a splendid opportunity for a little practical experience. It seemed, too, as if heaven must be on Ada's side, so to arrange matters that upon the occasion of her first trial her father was safely in Chicago on a business trip. If she should be detained by her employers, so that she was not at home by six o'clock, he would not be there to discover her. She agreed to try the position. The instructor gave her the name of the firm and the address written on a card:
"Belden & Roper—Insurance Agents."
But that was her own father's firm! Surely she could not go there! But why not? No one knew her at her father's office. She had been there only once, and then at night, after every one but the watchman had gone. Her father was in Chicago, and would be for some weeks yet. The same spirit that used to flash up in her when she was a child on roller-skates or a bicycle, to cross in front of a fast-approaching vehicle—to perform this difficult feat, or that—flamed high within her now.
Not until Mr. Roper asked her her name an hour later did she show hesitation. She started to reply Ada Belden, but stopped short three-fourths of the way through.
"I beg your pardon. Belle—did you say, Miss Ada Belle—? Over here, please, Miss Belle; this will be your desk."
It was as easy as that. Nobody suspected her. Nobody made it difficult or embarrassing. Ada found herself printing the name of her father's firm over and over again that first day with as much familiarity as if she hadn't stood in august awe of it all her life. Strange coincidence! Here she was in the sacred office where her father so often reminded them at home he slaved for their benefit. Here she was slaving, too!
On the sixth day at Belden & Roper's, Ada clipped her lunch-hour in half. She hadn't great speed yet, and the pile of work at the side of her machine was discouragingly high. She couldn't possibly finish it before eight o'clock, and she was frightened to stay alone in the office during the evening. She was exerting herself to the utmost, so that she might escape from the building by dark, when Mr. Roper interrupted:
"Can you take shorthand, Miss Belle?" he inquired.
Ada jumped and flushed. She hadn't acquired office composure yet. "Why, I think so," she stammered. "I might."
"Well, try it. Miss Foster has just gone for the day—headache. Mr. Belden unexpectedly returned, and must get off two or three letters to-night. He's in his office."
Before Ada could gather her distracted wits together Mr. Roper had turned, and was half-way across the room. What had she better do?
"He's waiting for you, Miss Belle," Mr. Roper called from his desk by the window.
Ada felt herself rising. She saw her hand reach out and take her pad and pencil. She observed herself approach her father's private office, watched her crooked forefinger knocking on the big black letters of her father's name. She heard his staccato "Come in," followed by the squeak of the unoiled hinges, as she pushed open the door and entered.
Her father was seated at the big, flat-topped mahogany desk in the center of the room, and there was a man in an arm-chair opposite. As Marcus's eyes fell upon Ada he rose, hastily shoving back his office chair. He did not observe that the girl was not in street costume.
"What's this mean? What's the matter?" he exclaimed. (Was somebody dead at home?) "Anybody sick?" he demanded.
Her father's last question gave Ada her cue. The stranger's presence steadied her as she replied, in a low voice: "Yes. Miss Foster left at three with a headache. Mr. Roper sent me in to take your letters. I am Miss Belle, the new stenographer who came when you were away."
Ada listened to her own calm voice with amazement. She couldn't keep it up long. She was fearfully afraid—really. If her father would pick up the office chair and knock her down with it, it would hurt less than that terrible expression gathering slowly in his piercing eyes. He stared at her in silence. He took her in, slowly—pad, pencil, cuff-guards—the whole ridiculous get-up. He couldn't in the least comprehend what the girl meant by this insolent escapade. She wasn't allowed down here.
"New stenographer, eh? Very well," he said, looking at her narrowly. He'd play the game. "This gentleman wants to dictate a letter," he went on. "Sit down and take it."
Ada managed to pass through the sharp-edged swords that seemed to extend from her father's eyes, half-way through her heart, and crossed the office, sitting down beside the stranger.
"I'm not very fast," she whispered to him, and then tremblingly placed her pencil at attention on the pad.
The stranger took compassion. Slowly his words came, distinctly, kindly even! There was a friend here!
Marcus stared in amazement. Good Heavens! Had the girl picked up somewhere a flimsy smattering of stenography, and dared she to come flaunting it here in his face? Obviously. His first impulse was to shake her and send her home to her mother. Silly little dilettante creature; trying to be smart and clever; making little dots and curves. Shorthand! Humph! Fancy-work to her! He'd settle her!
He did not glance at her as she left the private office ten minutes later. He made no sign of recognition throughout the afternoon. At five o'clock when he left to go home, he approached her corner, where, full of foreboding anxiety, Ada sat working and waiting.
"I want a copy of this advertising matter made and mailed to-night," he said briefly.
Ada glanced through the material. It would take two hours at best, and there was her regular work besides.
"All right," she said; and then, timidly: "Will it be all right if I'm not home at six to-night, father?"
"That is not my affair, Miss Belle," he snapped. "Stenographers whom I employ manage to complete their work without complaining to me about the hours."
Ada saw in a flash the plan of campaign her father had decided to adopt. Very well. Now that it was open warfare, and she felt the support of her troops, trained all winter in secret, daily drills, the confidence of preparedness was hers.
Next day when Mr. Roper told her that he and Mr. Belden had decided that they would require her services, or some other stenographer's, for July and August, and until September fifteenth, Ada felt within her, her fighting spirit struggling for its opportunity. She accepted her father's dare. Even when a letter from Aunt Harriet arrived—the third day after she had told Mr. Roper she would keep the position—inviting her to spend a month in Connecticut, and mysteriously inclosing railroad tickets, she did not waver—in spite of the fact, too, that her mother let drop the information that "puppa" wouldn't object.
Partly because of it, she detected her father's hand in the pitfalls and snares that appeared in the way. Defiantly she set herself the task of proving to him the stuff she was made of. No longer did she require the sign on the vacant building to urge her forward. She didn't even require the incentive of money of her own, with which to buy gilt-edged Stevensons, and courses in literature and art. They were ahead of her, of course waiting as reward after a hard-fought fight, but even without the golden promise of them Ada would have been none the less passionate and determined.
When at the end of a fortnight her father produced an envelope full of thrilling green strips of cardboard paper, and explained, "Tickets, Mary, for you and the four girls, to San Francisco and back," Ada's endurance was strained to its limit.
San Francisco! Last summer, the City of the Golden Gate had gone the way of the Stevenson, the college course, and the trip to Europe with two school friends two years ago. Ada ran the green tickets through her fingers. Names of long-beckoning cities, and dream-spots, flashed before her eyes. But she only shrugged her shoulders. "I hope you can redeem mine, father," she said.
Her mother and the three older girls started ten days later, and Ada and Marcus were left alone in the forlorn city house. Ada had never stayed in town all summer. The Beldens always spent six weeks at some hotel on the Atlantic coast, where there was dancing, and at least the possibility of dancing-partners, Marcus remaining behind with one of the servants to take care of him.
When Ada and her father found themselves opposite each other at the breakfast table, alone for the first time, Ada hoped with all her heart that the baffling, sphinx-like attitude that her father had assumed toward her, ever since she had stepped into his private office and announced herself as Miss Belle, the new stenographer, would now be abandoned. But no. Polite, civil, he was—but official. Naturally, the masquerade continued in the office; but here, at home, surely she could become his daughter again. She longed for him to tweak her ear, to rub his rough chin against her cheek; she might even endure one of his harmless probes at women, if only she could feel his friendliness again.
They never accompanied each other to and from the office. Ada left at least half an hour earlier in the morning, and always returned an hour, and sometimes two hours, later at night. There was often work left on her desk for her to do late in the afternoon, by the elder member of the firm of Belden & Roper, and sometimes she didn't get home until nine o'clock in the evening. True, she observed that her father seldom went to bed until she was in, but he never showed the least clemency or pity.
This cool, noncommittal manner of her father was to Ada thefeature of her ordeal. For ordeal it was. Of course she drooped, paled a little, in spite of the tonic which the family physician left for her, after the unexpected call he made her, one night when Marcus was absent at his club.
But there was one compensation, and Ada was not unaware of it. As the summer wore on, she was frequently in her father's private office, and to her amazement, even in the face of his determination to break her if he could, she found that as Miss Belle, the stenographer, she could not help but feel admiration for her employer. Often, sitting quiet and mouse-like in her stenographer's chair, she overheard bits of Marcus Belden's keen conversation, listened to men asking her father's advice, intuitively became aware of the good opinion in which he was held. Here in this world of his, he was not narrow, bigoted, or despotic. She knew very little about business, but she was as conscious of a certain clean, respected quality in her father's business methods, as she was aware of the vague fineness in the Stevenson she knew so slightly. As this revelation of her father took slow possession of her, her defiance gradually melted into a consuming desire to please Marcus Belden. Some nights she cried herself to sleep, because it seemed so hopeless ever to win him back again.
When the long-drawn-out strain of her father's silence and apparent displeasure did snap, the break came when Ada least expected it, and she was unprepared.
It occurred on the last day of her two months' contract with Belden & Roper. She didn't suppose anybody was aware of the significance of the date. No mention had been made to her that her time at the office was up.
Least of all did she suppose that her father, occupied with so many business affairs—she knew that one of the biggest transactions of his career had been hanging fire all summer—was conscious of the fact that she had accomplished what she had set out to do.
She was sitting at the table in her father's private office, working as usual at her machine, which had been moved from her old corner, a week ago, to this blessed spot, immediately in front of an electric fan. Mr. Roper and her father had been talking business for an hour. Above the clatter of her machine, she was vaguely aware that the two men had drifted from their business discussion into matters more personal. Mr. Roper frequently talked about his family. He was very proud of it. He had two boys and a girl. He kept a picture of them on his desk.
"Here's the latest of my Jack," Ada heard him say to her father, and he took out a small kodak picture from his pocket, and laid it on the desk before Marcus. "In overalls," he went on. "I tell you what, Marcus, that boy's got the stuff in him. I just suggested it, and, quick as a wink, off came the white flannels, and on went the blue jeans. He's given up a month of golf and swimming just to show his father he's no mollycoddle. Been working six days a week, in a machine-shop, for a whole month now. I won't deny I'm a bit cocky about him."
Ada's heart went out in sudden sympathy to her father. She understood now. Oh, why couldn't there have been one boy—just one!
She suffered as she waited for her father's reply.
"Look here, John," he said, tossing the picture aside, and leaning abruptly forward with his elbow on his knee. "My girl's been working in a hot, down-town office, six days a week for two months, and no suggestion from me. My girl's given up a month in Connecticut, and a trip to California, to show me she's no mollycoddle," he said.
Ada kept striking letters just to make a noise, but she couldn't think. She couldn't see.
"I tell you," Marcus Belden announced, and Ada heard his fist come down hard on the desk, "I couldn't be prouder of that girl of mine, John, if she were Marcus Belden, Junior."
That night when Ada opened the door to her room she saw something had happened to it.
Most of the chairs had been tipped upside down, and each corner of the bed was decorated with a shoe. Her heart gave a bound of joy. It was a sign of the return of her father's frolicsomeness. He was down-stairs now.
She turned to go down to him, and then, slowly, she saw the catalogues. They were everywhere—along the top of the door-casing, a-perch the pillows, on the floor, suspended from the chandelier—catalogues; catalogues of every university, college, and institution of learning in the country. Their significance slowly dawned upon her.
"Father, oh, father!" she called, and rushed down-stairs.