Mrs. Howard Featherstone spent much time thinking up things for her brothe_rchibald Bennett to do, and as Archie was the ideal bachelor brother, alway_emembering the children's birthdays and turning up dutifully for Christma_inners, he accepted her commissions in the most amiable spirit and hi_ervices were unfailingly satisfactory. He knew perfectly well that most o_he jobs she imposed upon him had been politely but firmly declined by he_usy husband, but this made no difference to Archie, who had all the time i_he world, and infinite patience, and he rather enjoyed tracing expres_ackages and matching ribbons.
"The agent who's been looking up a summer house for us says this is an unusua_pportunity, as there are few places to let at Bailey Harbor and this one i_nexpectedly on the market. The owner is obliged to leave just after settlin_n it, so it's all in perfect condition and if it meets our needs we can g_ight up. Howard's simply swamped with work—he's conducting some sort o_nvestigation with night meetings and that sort of thing—and we'd al_ppreciate it if you could run up there for us."
The many preoccupations of his brother-in-law, who held a seat in Congress an_ook his job seriously, were well known to Archie. Featherstone was a_mportant cog in the governmental machinery while Archie had nothing on eart_o do, so it was eminently fitting that he, as an unattached and unemploye_rother-in-law, should assume some of Featherstone's domestic burdens. Archi_ad planned to leave for the Canadian Rockies two days later, but as no urgen_usiness called him in that direction, he obligingly agreed to take a look a_he Bailey Harbor house that had been placed so providentially within reach o_is sister.
"The owner belongs to that old New England Congdon family," Mrs. Featherston_xplained; "they date from the beginning of time, and some of them are _rifle eccentric. You remember one of them—he must be the father or an uncl_f the owner of this house—Eliphalet Congdon, who lives in Boston and i_orribly rich but is always doing weird things. There was a perfectly killin_rticle in the paper just the other day telling of his latest exploit, whic_as getting arrested for refusing to allow them to check his umbrella at th_etropolitan Museum. They thought, of course, that he was a crank who wante_o poke holes through the pictures, and he made such a fuss that they had t_rrest him and he wouldn't give bail but had his lawyer get him out on a wri_f habeas corpus."
"The same philanthropist who had a bus built just like the Fifth Avenue busse_nd wanted to run it himself to pick up women and children the regular busse_ouldn't stop for," laughed Archie. "If you're renting a house from tha_amily it's just as well to look into it carefully. All right, May; I'l_nspect the premises for you."
In spite of his good-natured assent she continued to pile up excuses for he_usband and explained in great detail the rundown condition of the childre_hich made it necessary to get them out of Washington as quickly as possible.
Archie was already mentally planning the details of his trip with hi_ustomary exactness. As he traveled constantly in the interest of his health, which had been a cause of solicitude to himself and all his relatives as fa_ack as any one could remember, he knew train schedules by heart, and b_atching the Federal Express the next night he would be able to connect with _rain at Boston that would land him at Bailey Harbor at two o'clock the sam_ay.
With any sort of luck he could escape from the Harbor, reach New York th_ollowing morning and proceed immediately westward. A few telegrams woul_eadjust matters so that he would lose only a day in setting out for Banff, which his newest doctor had told him was an ideal spot for him. Many othe_octors had posted him off to numerous other places in pursuit of the calm o_timulus or whatever it was he needed to make him a sound man capable o_aking some part in the world's affairs. Archie's condition was always _rateful topic of conversation and now that his sister had told him how man_edrooms her menage required, and warned him particularly to be sure tha_here was a sleeping porch and a garage, and not to forget to look carefull_nto the drainage system of the entire Maine coast; having watched him mak_otes of these matters, Mrs. Featherstone, in her most sisterly tone, broache_he subject of his health.
"Your troubles, Archie, are all due to the scarlet fever you had when you wer_ child. I've thought that if you could ever get into some active work i_ould cure you. These sanatoriums you live in most of the time never do yo_ny good. They just keep you thinking about yourself. What you need is _omplete upsetting,—something that would give a new turn to your life. And, you know," she went on softly, "I'd hoped, Archie, that the right girl woul_urn up one of these days and that that would prove the panacea. But the girl_'ve picked out never pleased you, and here you are, the finest brother in th_orld, and the most conscientious man alive, always doing generous things fo_eople—you know you do, Archie—with nothing ahead of you but just on_anatorium after another. I haven't much faith in this idea of your going t_he Rockies; you know you tried the Alps five years ago and the altitud_early killed you."
"I seem doomed to sit on the sidelines and watch the game," Archie agree_loomily.
"But sometimes, I think you yield too easily to discouragement. Please don'_hink I mean to be unkind or unjust, but if at some turn of the road you wer_bliged to put your back to the wall and fight for your life! Really, dear, _hink you would win the battle and be a very different man afterward."
Archie smiled wanly. He had the lively imagination of the neurasthenic an_ery often he had dreamed of vanquishing single-handed a dozen enemies, o_lunging into a burning house and staggering out half dead bearing a helples_hild in his arms. To look at him no one would believe that he had a nerve i_is tall frame. Once a friend carried him off to a farm where an autocrati_thletic trainer rejuvenated tired business men; and Archie survived th_eroic treatment and reappeared bronzed and hardened and feeling better tha_e had ever felt in his life. But a winter spent in an office and leisure t_hink of himself as an invalid brought back the old apprehensions, and ther_eing no one at hand to drag him again to the trainer's, he renewed hi_cquaintance with the waiting-rooms of specialists.
"There will be a few people in for dinner tonight," remarked Mrs. Featherston_s he rose to go; "very simple, you know; and Howard just telephoned that h_an't possibly come, so if you can arrange it, Archie—"
"All right, May. Weld and Coburn are in town and I was going to have dinne_ith them at the Army and Navy, but if you really want me—"
"Oh, that's perfectly fine of you, Archie! You are splendid to break you_ngagement with them when you three don't meet very often; but it will be _eal help to me to have you. It's so late now that I can't ask any one else i_oward's place. And Isabel Perry will be here; you know she's the deares_irl, and I always thought you really did like Isabel. Her father lost all hi_oney before he died and she's had a position as gymnasium teacher in Mis_ordon's school. This summer she's to run a girls' camp up in Michigan and sh_an't help making a splendid success of it."
Archie did not at once detach Miss Perry from the innumerable host of youn_omen his sister had introduced him to; they were a hazy composite in hi_emory, but when Mrs. Featherstone insisted that he couldn't have forgotte_iss Perry's smile and merry laugh, he promptly declared that he remembere_er perfectly. When he found himself sitting beside her later at Mrs.
Featherstone's table, with a lady on his right who was undoubtedly mos_istinguished in spite of the fact that he failed to catch her name an_nderstood very little of her rapid French, he was very grateful for Mis_erry's propinquity. The smile and the laugh were both better even than Mrs.
Featherstone's specifications, and her English had a refreshing Western tan_nd raciness that pleased him.
"I passed you on the street the other day and made frantic efforts to attrac_our attention but you were in a trance and failed to see my signals."
"I was taking my walk," he stammered.
"' _My_ walk!'" she repeated. "You speak as though you had a monopoly of tha_orm of exercise. I must say you didn't appear to be enjoying yourself. You_spect was wholly funereal and your demeanor that of a man with a certai_umber of miles wished on him."
"Four a day," Archie confessed with an air of resignation; "two in the mornin_nd two before dinner."
"Then you were doing your morning lap when I passed you. Only four miles _ay?"
"By the doctor's orders," he assented with the wistful smile that usuall_voked sympathetic murmurs in feminine auditors.
"Oh, the doctors!" remarked the girl as though she had no great opinion o_octors in general or of Mr. Bennett's medical advisers in particular. He wa_sed to a great deal of sympathy and he was convinced that Miss Perry was a_tterly unsympathetic person.
"What would you call a good walk?" he asked a little tartly.
"Oh, ten, twenty, thirty! I've done fifteen and gone to a dance at the end o_he tramp."
"But you haven't my handicap," he protested defensively. "You can't be ver_ay about walking when you're warned that excessive fatigue may hav_isastrous consequences!"
She was not wholly without feeling for her face grew grave for a moment an_he met his eyes searchingly, with something of the professional scrutiny t_hich he had long been accustomed.
"Eyes clear; color very good; voice a trifle weak and suggesting timidity an_eeble initiative. Introspective; a little self-conscious, and unimportan_ervous symptoms indicated by the rolling of bread crumbs."
"I've paid doctors large fees for telling me the same things," he said, hastily hiding the bread crumbs under the edge of his plate. "I wish you'_rite those items down for me. I'm in earnest about that."
"When did you say you were leaving town?"
"Tomorrow evening. If you'll write out your diagnosis and any suggestions yo_ay have as to my habits, diet and general course of life, I promise to pu_hem into practice."
"Your case interests me and I'll consider this matter of advising you."
"I shall expect the document tomorrow afternoon!"
"I should want to be very sure," she laughed, "that you were really leavin_own and that I shouldn't see you for a long time—perhaps never again!"
"That has an ominous sound, as though you were going to give me a deat_entence! Is my case as bad as that?"
"Not at all; but it calls for that disagreeable frankness we all dislike i_ur friends and very properly resent in mere acquaintances. I should b_normously embarrassed to meet you until after—"
She paused and surveyed him once more, questioningly. The French lady wa_elling a story to the whole company, and they were obliged to give heed t_t; and as Archie failed to catch the point of it Miss Perry very kindly gav_im the clue. The talk was general for a few minutes and then he begged her t_inish the sentence that had been left in the air.
"Oh, it doesn't matter! I think I was going to say that it would b_mbarrassing to see you until after you had given my little hints a trial.
I'll say now that just the orderly course of your life, with four miles a day, no more, no less, isn't a bit likely to get you anywhere. My treatment fo_uch a case as yours would be very drastic. I'd set you some real stunts to d_f you were my patient. May tells me that they won't have you in the army, th_avy, or the flying corps, but I believe I could find some excitement fo_ou," she ended musingly.
"As, for example—?" he asked, finding the French lady conspiring with a_ttaché of the Italian embassy. "To meet the competition of the nerv_pecialists, you'll have to be very explicit and tell me exactly what to do."
"Right there is one of your troubles—living by fixed schedules. You've neve_elt the world's rough hand; you don't know life! Clubs and sanatoriums an_eek-ends in comfortable houses don't count. You're a tremendously forma_erson, Mr. Bennett! What you really need is a good hard jar! Every mornin_ou know exactly what you're going to do every hour of the day. It's routin_hat kills! Now just suppose when you're out on one of your walks you were t_verpower the chauffeur of, we will say, the British ambassador, and drive th_ar bearing his Excellency into some lonely fastness of the Virginia hills, and hold him for a ransom, and collect the money in twenty-dollar gold piece_nd escape with it and then come back to Washington and spend it all on a bi_arty with the ambassador as the guest of honor. There would be a rea_chievement—something that would make you famous in two hemispheres."
"And incidentally lock me up for life if I escaped being shot! Such a_scapade would very likely spoil our cordial relations with England and caus_o end of trouble."
"There you are!" she exclaimed, "thinking always of the cost, never of th_un! Of course you would never do any such thing. Let me try again! Suppos_ou were to hold up a bank messenger in Wall Street and skip with a satchelfu_f negotiable securities and then, after the papers were through ragging th_olice for their inefficiency, you would drive up to the bank in a taxi, wal_n and return the money, saying you had found it in the old family pew a_rinity when you went in to say your prayers! Here would be an opportunity t_reak the force of habit and awaken your self-confidence."
"Am I to understand that you practice what you preach? I don't mean to b_mpertinent, but really,—"
"Oh, I'm perfectly capable of doing anything I've suggested. I'm merely bidin_y time. Parents are pardonably fussy about the sort of person they turn thei_hildren over to, so I must have a care. I mean to dig for buried treasur_his summer, realizing the dream of a lifetime."
"That appeals to me strongly. Perhaps you'd let me assist in tha_ndertaking?"
"Impossible! I want all the glory and eke the gold if I find the hidde_hests. Talk about romance being dead! My grandfather was a planter i_ississippi before the Civil War. In about 1860 he saw trouble ahead, and a_e was opposed to secession he turned everything he had into gold, bough_everal tracts of land in Michigan and New York and secretly planted hi_oney. His wife and children refused to share his lonely exile and he sen_hem to England but clung to America himself, and died suddenly and alone th_econd year of the war on the very acres my father inherited in Michigan.
That's where I'm opening my camp."
"And the gold hasn't been found?" asked Archie deeply interested.
"Not a coin so far! You see grandfather made his will in war time and onl_ivided the land, being afraid to mention the buried treasure in a documen_hat would become a public record when he died."
"This is most exciting. It's only unfortunate that it's not pirate gold t_ive zest to your enterprise."
"Oh, the pirate in the story is a cousin of mine, who inherited the land u_ear the St. Lawrence and has dug all over it without results. My father gav_he Michigan scenery to me, but this cousin has been digging on my land, mos_nwarrantably! He's rather a dashing young person!"
Archie was so enthralled that he forgot the typewritten dietary he alway_arried in his pocket and ate most of his portion of beef tenderloin before h_emembered that red meats were denied him. He laid down his fork so abruptl_hat she asked him what was the matter.
"Nothing; only you've interested me so much that I've eaten a whole lot o_tuff that's positively forbidden. You've already scored a victory over m_pecialists!"
"Splendid!" she cried. "Eat when you're hungry and never think about you_ood. Don't let a mere piece of beef know that you're a coward. Have you eve_ommitted murder? You pale at the suggestion and yet a pleasant little murde_ight be the very thing to set you on your feet again!"
From time to time he caught Mrs. Featherstone's eyes fixed upon hi_pprovingly, and he knew that she was thinking that at last he had met a gir_ho interested him. The impression that he was an invalid in imminent peril o_eath caused his friends and acquaintances to talk to him as though he were _ick child, and it was refreshing to find a girl who openly chaffed him abou_is health and went the length of prescribing a career of riotous crime as _ure for his ills. This was enormously amusing for in prep school and colleg_e had been guiltless of the traditional pranks and in the six years that ha_lapsed since he emerged into the world he had walked circumspectly in th_yes of all men.
Isabel Perry was not afraid of him and she didn't treat him as girls did wh_ad an idea that if they talked to him very long he might faint or even die o_heir hands. He noted her fine rounded arms and supple fingers that spoke fo_trength, reflecting that very likely she could pick him up and pitch hi_hrough the window. He had always disliked athletic girls, fancying that the_odded to him patronizingly as they passed him on country club verandas al_glow from golf or tennis. This amiable Isabel was quite capable of making hi_ance through a set of tennis and with her high spirits and strong will migh_ven bring him out alive. It was obvious that the sudden sweeping away of he_ather's fortune had not troubled her in the least. He marveled at this, fo_e had a great deal of money that had been conferred upon him in the cradl_nd what he should do if he lost it was a depressing possibility that ha_ontributed not a little to his neurasthenia.
When it came time for Isabel to say good-night to her hostess Bennett wa_overing near to offer his services in calling her car.
"Nothing like that for me! I brought walking shoes and shall foot it home, thank you. But—" she hesitated and said with mock gravity, "if you're no_fraid of the night air or the excessive fatigue, you might take me home. Tha_ill add a mile to your prescription but you can ride back!"
The other guests had gone when she reappeared, wrapped in a long cloak an_earing a party-bag containing her slippers. She spoke of her plans for th_ummer with charming candor as they set off at a brisk pace. Little bits o_utobiography she let fall interested him immensely. She was born in Wyoming, where her father had been a ranchman, and she had first known Mrs.
Featherstone in college. She was enthusiastic about the summer camp; if i_ucceeded she meant to conduct an outdoor school for girls, moving it fro_ichigan to Florida with the changing seasons.
"People have been so kind to me! And I shall have a wonderful lot o_irls—just think of it,—one hundred dear young beings from all over th_ountry. It's a big responsibility but that land of my grandfather's is _ovely site for the camp. It's on a bay, where the swimming will be perfectl_afe, and there's a wonderful forest, with Indian trails that run back t_arquette's time. We shall have a doctor—a woman, of course—and two traine_urses and some splendid young women to act, as councilors."
There was no question of her making a success of it, he said, marveling at he_itality, her exuberance, the confidence with which she viewed the future.
"I wish you all good luck," he said when they reached the house of the frien_he was visiting. "The camp will be a great success,—I'm sure of that."
"Oh, it's a case of sink or swim—I've got to make it go!" she replied with he_uoyant laugh. "If I don't succeed I can't emerge from the woods next fall an_ace my creditors!"
"There's the buried treasure; you mustn't neglect that! I'm greatly you_ebtor for all the interesting things you've told me. This has been th_appiest evening I've spent since——"
"Since you began taking everything so hard? Please quit looking on your lif_s a burden; try to get some fun out of it!"
The door opened to the key she gave him and the light of the hall lamp fel_pon her face and glinted her brown hair as she put out her hand.
"Don't forget me in the rush of things! And particularly don't forget tha_ote of instructions. I'm counting on that!"
"Not really?" she exclaimed. "I was just in fun, you know."
"If I don't get it before I leave tomorrow evening, I shall be terribl_isappointed. I shall take it as a sign that you don't think me wort_othering about!"
There was a pleading in his voice that held her for a moment; she surveyed hi_ravely, then answered lightly,