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"Listen, Penny," he spoke as though nothing had happened,-"the night of the Persian party I got a perfectly corking idea, an Arabian-Nights scheme. It hit me all in a moment. There was a long line of girls-well, I can't stop to tell you; but it was stunning. I could hardly wait for the party to get out. I worked all the rest of the night, and pretty nearly day and night ever since, and I've got out the stunningest set of cartoons you ever gazed on. Glory! but they mean something! I took them to Whittaker and Smith, who are doing the Sheppard house, and they went right up in the air -crazy about them. They want them for the old man's library. We're going down to see him; he 's in Boston. It will be a ten-thousand-dollar job, but I've got to have at least twenty-five dollars to go on, and Aunt Mary says she has promised you she won't give me any. Now, will you let her off?" He was not angry or humiliated or anything but intent on the business in hand. And all these days, while she had been agonizing over his wound as well as her own, he had not known that she existed. The flame that had burned him thin and fine had taken him beyond the reach of her judgment. She felt little and weak and hopelessly insignificant as she silently nodded her head.
"Thanks. I'm leaving Toodles here," he added over his shoulder as he hurried off. A few moments later the front door banged after him.
Dr. Mary's kind eyes came nearly to an open twinkle that day when she found Penelope nursing the sprawling Toodles in her lap while she wrote over his head. "He howls to go home," the girl explained in a tried tone.
"Old nuisance!" Dr. Mary assented. "I wish you 'd take him with you for the night. I've got enough howling babies on my hands."
Penelope, having searched the house, threw on hat and coat, and started after him. She knew very well where he had gone.
"Old nuisance!" she silently scolded, trying not to be glad of an errand that took her to Stuart's door.
She did not at once get there, for in the lower hall of the old building there was a faint haze of smoke. It was probably of no importance, but, after knocking in vain on doors closed for the night, Penelope felt obliged to go out and get a policeman.
"Just to see that it is all right," she apologized to him.
He opened a door in the black depths of the hall and went down a step; then, springing back, he passed Penelope on a run that meant trouble. Something was shouted back at her, either to "get out" or to "get 'em out"; but she was already flying up the stairs to pound on every door. Not a voice answered or a head was thrust out. The silence and the thickening smoke were frightening; but there was a door at the top that she must reach. Door by door she earned her right to give that warning.
She had forgotten the dog until, at the end of her journey, breathless and choking, she found a white object pressed tightly against Stuart's door. That proved him not yet home, but she knocked to make sure, then caught the welcoming Toodles by the collar and started down.
There was commotion below and in the street. Steps were racing up through the thickening smoke. It came rolling up so heavily that on the last flight Penelope, still holding the dog, buried her face in her arm and crouched blindly down for breath. Toodles broke away, and at the same moment some one, mounting, caught her up and carried her bodily out into the merciful air. He crossed the street with her, setting her down in the shelter of a
"Of course I will," said Penelope, doorway; then, with an amazed gasp, quickly.
Her attentions kept Toodles resigned until late the next afternoon; then, seizing the chance of an unguarded door, he van
picked her up again and kissed her, holding her close. Penny's blurred eyes, clearing, looked up into Stuart's.
"All right?" he asked, then pressed his
cheek to hers and kissed her again and again. He did not seem in the least aware that he was doing anything unusual. When Penny made a faint movement of protest, he put her down on the steps, seating himself beside her. Toodles climbed joyously over them both, and they watched in silence while the helmeted men streamed through the building and the great hose went snaking in at the front door. When, after ten minutes of anxious work, the second engine and its crew were sent away, Stuart leaned back more comfortably.
"I've got about fifty thousand dollars' worth of borrowed rugs up there; have n't had time to return them," he observed; but he was not deeply concerned. In his thoughtful gravity there was a growing astonishment. He turned now and then for a long look at Penny's immovable profile, resting on her clasped fingers. At last he spoke:
"Why on earth don't we get married, Penny!" Her lips moved as though she caught her breath, but she did not answer. "Why, look here," he was growing excited,-"I 've got a ten-thousanddollar contract, and of course I love you. Why, I've always known you were the finest girl in the world; only I suppose I have n't been thinking much about marriage." His arm went about her; his radiant face bent down to look into hers. "Penny, I love you!" he exulted. Then, as she held rigidly away from him, his voice dropped to pleading: "Ah, Penny, p-lea-se! I do love you!"
"Oh, I don't see why!" she burst out.
"I carp at you and judge you; I condemn you. You know I do." Her fierceness demanded that he meet her with her own candor. "How can you love me?"
"Well," he thought it out, "yes, you come down on me; but-I don't knowI like my bath too cold and my towel too rough and my food a bit sharp; I 've always turned to things that hit me. And when you do approve-well, you 're pretty sweet, you know. Most people are soft with one, and then one gets tired of them. You feel sort of good, Penny. You 're foolish about money, but, hang it! I even love you for that!" Then suddenly they were laughing together, she helplessly, protestingly, with tears just beneath.
The hose was drawn out, the crowd drifted away, but still they sat in their shadowy doorway, the dog against their knees. Suddenly Penny burst out again:
"Oh, it's so hard to understand! Out of the party that you had no right to give, you 've got a big commission; and if the forty-dollar dog had n't run away home and brought me after him, so that I gave the alarm in time, your whole place would have burned up. But it was wrong just the same, Stuart; you had no right to the party or the dog." He only laughed. "Have it your Wise," he teased her.
She was looking ahead with shadowed eyes. Yes, he would make her suffer; but, compared with the suffering of a life without him- She pressed closer, lifting her face wholly to his.