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"O Penny! Why not? Oh, look here, I want you! Don't you like my parties? What's the matter?" He was so grieved, so concerned, he whose way was strewn thick with lovely girls who did n't judge him, that Penelope's heart seemed to break audibly before her task. She dropped her head.
"When something hurts you, seems to you wrong, sooner or later you have to make a protest, don't you?" Then she realized that she was almost pleading with him, and she violently flung off her weakness. "How can I come?" she demanded, looking straight into his face. "I think you have no right to give parties, and borrow money for them-to spend as you please, and then make a woman who is n't rich, and who works day and night, take the consequences. rowing is hideous! When I see you working up to it, I am so unhappy I could die. Why can't you realize that nothing you gain is worth-that price?" It was out. She had uttered the mortal insult, and now, if it must be, she would lose him. She braced herself to meet white-hot anger, but, to her amazement, Stuart turned to her with a glow of eagerness.
"I've always known you felt something like this," he exclaimed. "It is the only
thing about you that I have felt was n't -big, was n't worthy of you. My dear girl, you don't take a broad-enough view about money."
A spark of temper came to her aid. "About spending other people's money? No, perhaps I don't," she said.
Stuart was marvelously patient.
"Listen, Penny," he urged. "An artist's life has to be built up as a whole; it is n't so much a day. I could never have got where I am without Aunt Mary, and the first really big commission I land, don't you suppose she is going to get it all back, and more?"
"I think you will mean to pay her," said Penelope, all the more steadily because she so longed to give in; "but the minute you earn, you spend-always."
"I have to be happy," he told her gently. "That is the only way work goes. must be happy and see beauty. But suppose I get a commission like the Utica library, I only just missed that, - there will be thousands of dollars in a lump; and all I want is a hundred dollars to tide me over. Can't you see my point?"
They were speaking different languages. Penny's arms dropped.
"O Stuart Wise, Stuart Wise," she burst out, "how did you ever get that surname?"
"Penny-wise-that 's your right name," he returned, and then, the full significance of the title reaching him, he laughed the big, exultant "Ho! ho! ho!" that always filled the house. "Penny Wise!" he cried, and rocked, and hit his person in various places, then pulled himself sober to see how she was taking it. Penny had drawn her ledger to her, and was making a careful entry. Stuart ducked his head to look into her face, but only a cool line of cheek was visible. "Don't you think it's funny? Are n't you laughing a bit?" he begged.
"I am convulsed with amusement, but I have wasted all the time I can spare this morning," was the severe answer. "I wish you would go away.'
Stuart slowly rose, lingered, laughed
again, then went; but he evidently met Dr. Mary on the steps. Penelope heard them come in together and go into the consulting-room. Ten minutes later Stuart came out and hurried away, and at luncheon Dr. Mary's kind face wore the familiar shadow. She did not care about the money, but she had a guilty fear that it was not good for Stuart to get it.
Penelope felt with a sick conviction that when he came to think over what she had said, Stuart must be alienated; but three days later a cheerful, "Hello, Penny Wise!" greeted her from the doorway. It took all her college education to hide her heart's response.
"Hello, Pound Foolish!" she returned without looking up. He could see only the coppery braid that wreathed her small, fine head. A note of laughter answered.
"Darned if I don't call him that!" said Stuart. She turned then. A young bulldog, white, with one drab eye, and beaming general friendliness, was straining at the leash Stuart held.
"Well, who is that?" she demanded.
"He's a parlor boarder." Stuart brought him in with the fussy pride of a young parent. "Shake hands with the lady, old boy. Oh, here, don't kiss her! That's a liberty. Is n't he a beauty? Look here, Toodles, if you chew the rug, you'll get 'panked. Understand? Sit down and act like a little gentleman. Not that you are one." Stuart took the corner of the desk and shone on both dog and Penny. "Is n't he a peach?" he insisted.
"He's a darling! Tell me about him." "Well, he belongs to a poor chap named Simpson who 's lost his job-blew in night before last with the hardest-luck tale you ever heard. He s-stam-mers, t-too; t-took him half the night to get it t-t-told. He'll get on his feet again; he 's a good little fellow. At least, you don't like him much, but you 're so darn sorry for him. So he and Toodles are sleeping on the studio couch, though Toots prefers my chest, don't you, old boy?" He stooped to seize and shake the blunt jaw. Penelope was looking at him with a starry fix
"Have you known this man welllong?" she asked.
"Never saw him more than six times in my life," was the oblivious answer.
"Man and woman created He them,' was running through her head. "Oh, I like men best!" "That is beautiful of you!" she said breathlessly. She had heard many such tales from Stuart, and they always moved her to the depths.
He looked up into her moved face. "Why, Penny, it was all you," he said. "I was sort of wishing the poor devil would clear out, and then I thought, 'What would Penny do?' And so, of course, I made him stay. I always ask that when I'm up against a new proposition-'What would Penny do?' You 're so kind, so bully!" Before his straight look, frank and unaware as a boy's, her eyes fell.
"I can be kind like that," was her swift thought. "I can learn to be. Oh, I must be as kind as he thinks!"
"What I came in about," Stuart continued, "is my party to-morrow night. I want you to come. It's the biggest thing I ever gave; the studio is going to be a dream. Now you 've made your protest, -I understand just how you feel about it, you 've done your duty by me." He smiled unresentfully, indulgently even. "So come on and have a good time. P-lea-se, Penny!"
She was silent, smiling a little, as though she looked on a tempting prospect; but what she actually saw was Stuart, as beautiful as the morning in his Eastern robes, with the houris fluttering round him, laughing, luring, mercifully untrammeled by a conscience or a college education: Stuart sunnily kind to every one alike, and seeing to it that Penny had partners! She shivered.
"I don't feel up to it," she said. "You 're dear to want me, but I 'm working so hard. May I come in on my way home to-morrow and see the studio?"
Stuart was enchanted, and made her set the exact moment of her coming, that he might have the lights on and give her the whole effect at once.
"Bring Aunt Mary if you can," he added as he hurried off. Penny's expanding heart closed with a snap. She went back to her work with a vicious energy.
"I hate men; they 're stupid!" she said between her teeth.
Dr. Mary did not come home in time the next night, though Penny waited a conscientious five minutes. The studio was at the top of a ramshackle old building without elevators, and given up to many varieties of occupation. To-night the last flight displayed a carpet and palms, and Stuart's door was opened by a colored servant in gorgeous costume, who bowed silently before her, then lifted at curtain for her to pass into the studio.
It dropped behind her, leaving her in another century. Light fell from high lanterns, ruby and sapphire and gold, on rich couches and hangings, on a draped balcony, golden latticed, and a little playing fountain. Under a canopy shining with moon and stars lounged a turbaned figure in crimson and blue, drawing long breaths at a hooka, and gazing dreamily before him under drooped lids. He did not move an eyelash at her entrance, for a moment Penelope stood alien and forlorn in her modern clothes. Then color and incense and the beauty of the still figure seemed to break open her heart like some sacred vial, letting its precious. contents stream out. She dropped the hat that hid the coppery wreath of her hair and the cloak that blurred her slender grace and went slowly toward him. The sleepy eyes never moved, the hooka sent up its deliberate white puffs. Penelope knelt, and touched her forehead to the hand on his knee.
He started, then laughed out the familiar "Ho! ho!"
"Like it?" he asked happily. "What do you think of the fountain? I made the whole darn thing myself, and that lattice, too. Did you recognize the Potters' butler? Nina lent him, costume and all; he adores it. Now don't you wish you were coming?"
Penelope had sat down beside him, letting her head droop against an indigo
cushion. She smiled a little, but said nothing. Stuart showed off his various achievements with the enthusiasm of the creator, and wanted much advice about the coloring of his skin and the arrangement of his turban. His eyes kept returning to the pale brightness of her head. against the dark cushion.
"I'll give a Roman party for you some day," he said suddenly. She tried to laugh.
"Roman matron?" she protested.
"You have the kind of head they find on lovely old coins," he explained. "I like it a lot better than all this sloppy Persian stuff. Oh, don't go yet!" Penelope was rising.
"Why not?" she asked oddly. "Because it's so nice having you here," was the jubilant answer. "You 're such fun!"
The swift resolve, "Oh, I will be fun!" went through her like new life.
"It was great, the way you came in," he went on, shining down on her. "I never dreamed you 'd play up like that. It gave me a queer feeling for a minute. You 've got such a darn proud little head; I did n't suppose it could duck even in joke. And the way you dropped off your cloak,-I could see you,-that was stunning."
"It was n't only my cloak I was dropping," she said slowly, picking up the garment.
He stood like a young lord of Eastern romance in his gorgeous color and borrowed jewels, but it was happy intelligence that gleamed in his eyes, and he spoke with the voice of young America:
"I know; I get you. But we can't do it, can we? We 're always the same old -penny." He laughed again. "Well, Toodles, be still!" he broke off sternly. A whimper had come from behind a closed door. As Toodles still wept, he went to enforce discipline. Penny listened, smiling to herself, he was so happily parental. "Now you 've got a nice bed, and you 've had a lovely bone," she heard; "I can't have any row. I mean it, Toodles. Don't let me hear from you
again." He brought back a paternal face, pseudo-stern, with twitches of amusement. "Simpson 's got a job and gone, but he sold me old Toots," he explained. "I only paid forty dollars for him, pedigree and all."
The light faded from Penelope's face. "Forty-dollars!" she murmured, and turned to go.
"Now, look here, Penny!" He planted himself in her path. "I've just got fifty dollars that I never expected to see again, -I lent it to a fellow in trouble a year ago, and, by George! he brought it back, -so I sha'n't miss the money. And the dog makes me happy. You don't know
what it 's going to mean, having that little chap for company. I'll stay home more, work more. My dear girl, you 've got to get a broader view of these things." He was not angry, only patient and earnest and unchangeable. She dropped despairing hands.
"Oh, it's no use!" she cried. "I can only see that you might have given fifty dollars back to Dr. Mary. It was hers. All this gorgeousness and expense and time I can't see anything but Dr. Mary's tired face and old shoulders. never heard her say she had to be happy.” Tears burned her eyes. "Let me go! I have no use for you, Stuart Wise; I won't have anything more to do with you!"
She brushed past him and went out, carrying a last vision of him, grave, thoughtful, only mildly troubled. She did not go home, but turned back to Dr. Mary's little old house. The doctor had come in, and was preparing herself for dinner down in the office. Her weight made her shirk the stairs whenever possible.
"Forget something, Penny?" she called, with her unfailing interest, her voice richly ready to be sorry or amused or to show any sympathetic quality that was wanted. Then, coming out with a towel between her hands, she saw the white passion in the girl's face. "My dear!" she exclaimed.
"Dr. Mary, I want you to promise me something." Penny's body might shake,
but her voice was quick and hard. "It is none of my business, but I can't help that. I want you to promise me that in no circumstances whatever will you lend Stuart another dollar. I can't stand it. He is giving the craziest party yet, and he has just paid forty dollars for a dog. You 've got to stop. If he has n't the decent honesty-I know your affairs and I know his. Dr. Mary, you must refuse."
Left to herself, Dr. Mary might have excused the party and even chuckled over the dog; but Penny's stern young righteousness could not be denied. She sighed uncertainly.
"I know you are right," she admitted, and tried to temporize; but Penny would take nothing less than a promise. Mary reluctantly gave it. "I always did hate doing what I ought to," she grumbled.
"We shall probably see less of him," Penny's bitterness flung out. Dr. Mary wanted to keep her for dinner, but she hurried away.
Ten days dragged by-bleak, empty days that had to be lived through one by one. All Stuart's good qualities shone out to oppress Penny, his charm tortured her; but money laxity was the ugliest sin of all. Her spirit was glad that she had cut him out of her life, even though the flesh daily wasted. Dr. Mary watched her with compassionate amusement.
"You don't want to forget that Stuart is a good boy," she said one day, without preface. "As men go, he 's an extraordinarily good boy."
Penny did not look up from her work. "You promised," was all she said. Stuart came that morning. His quick, light step passed her door without pausing for the first time in all these years. his heels pattered the dog-the forty-dollar dog. Penny's righteous anger needed a goad just then. After a few minutes. Dr. Mary's door opened again; but instead of going by, Stuart came into the office, standing before her like one who has no time to waste. Penelope, looking up, saw him thin, pale, deeply concentrated.