On the next day, which was Sunday, Deborah made an appointment with her father's physician, and had a long talk with him at his house. Upon her return she went to her room and stayed there until evening, but when she came down to supper her manner was as usual. At the table she joined in the talk of Edith and the children, already deep in their preparations for the move up to the farm. George could hardly wait to start. That life would be a change indeed in Edith's plans for her family, and as they talked about it now the tension of hostility which had so long existed between the two sisters passed away. Each knew the clash had come to an end, that they would live together no more; and as though in remorse they drew close, Deborah with her suggestions, Edith in her friendly way of taking and discussing each one. Then Deborah went again to her room. Her room was just over Roger's, and waking several times in the night he heard his daughter walking the floor.
The next day she was up early and off to her school before he came down. It was a fine spring morning, Roger had had a good night's sleep, and as he walked to his office he was buoyed up by a feeling both of hope for his daughter and of solid satisfaction in himself as he remembered all that he had said to her. Curiously enough he could recall every word of it now. Every point which he had made rose up before him vividly. How clear he had been, how simple and true, and yet with what a tremendous effect he had piled the points one on the other. "By George," he thought with a little glow, "for a fellow who's never been in a pulpit I put up a devilish strong appeal." And he added sagely, "Let it work on the girl, give it a chance. She'll come out of this all right. This idea some fellows have, that every woman is born a fool, isn't fair, it isn't true. Just let a line of argument be presented to her strong and clear—straight from the shoulder—by some man—"
And again with a tingle of pleasure his mind recurred to his sermon. His pleasures had been few of late, so he dwelt on this little glow of pride and made the most of it while it was here.
At the office, as he entered his room, he stopped with a slight shock of surprise. John, standing on his crutches in front of a large table, had been going through the morning's mail, sorting out the routine letters Roger did not need to see. To-day he had just finished and was staring at the window. The light fell full on his sallow face and showed an amazing happiness. At Roger's step he started.
"Well, Johnny, how goes it this morning?"
"Fine, thank you," was the prompt reply. And John hobbled briskly over to his typewriter in the corner. Roger sat down at his desk. As he did so he glanced again at the cripple and felt a little pang of regret. "What will become of him," he asked, "when I close out my business?" He still thought of him as a mere boy, for looking at the small crooked form it was difficult to remember that John was twenty years of age. The lad had worked like a Trojan of late. Even Roger, engrossed as he had been in family anxieties, had noticed it in the last few weeks. He would have to make some provision for John. Deborah would see to it.... Roger went slowly through his mail. One letter was from the real estate firm through whom he was to sell the house. The deal had not been closed as yet, there were certain points still to be settled. So Roger called John to his desk and dictated a reply. When he finished there was a brief pause.
"That's all," said Roger gruffly.
The lad limped back to his corner and went to work at his machine. But presently he came over again and stood waiting awkwardly.
"What is it, Johnny?" Roger inquired, without looking up.
"Say, Mr. Gale," the boy began, in a carefully casual tone, "would you mind talking business a minute or two?"
"No. Fire ahead."
"Well, sir, you've had your own troubles lately, you haven't had much time for things here. The last time you went over the books was nearly a couple of weeks ago."
John paused and his look was portentous.
"Well," asked Roger, "what about it? Business been picking up any since then?"
"Yes, sir!" was the answer. "We didn't lose a cent last week! We made money! Fifteen dollars!"
"Good Lord, Johnny, we're getting rich."
"But that's nothing," John continued. "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Gale, I have been working lately on a new line I thought of. And now it's got agoing so fast it's getting clean away from me!" Again he stopped, and swallowed hard.
"Out with it, then," said Roger.
"I got it from the war," said John. "The papers are still half full of war news, and that's what's keeping our business down—because we ain't adopting ourselves to the new war conditions. So I figured it like this. Say there are a million people over here in America who've got either friends or relations in the armies over there. Say that all of 'em want to get news—not just this stuff about battles, but real live news of what's happened to Bill. Has Bill still got his legs and arms? Can he hold down a job when he gets home? News which counts for something! See? A big new market! Business for us! So I tried to see what I could do!" John excitedly shifted his crutches. Roger was watching intently.
"Go on, Johnny."
"Sure, I'll go on! One night I went to a library where they have English papers. I went over their files for about a month. I took one Canadian regiment—see?—and traced it through, and I got quite a story. Then I used some of the money I've saved and bought a whole bunch of papers. I piled 'em up in the room where I sleep and went through 'em nights. I hired two kids to help me. Well, Mr. Gale, the thing worked fine! In less than a week I had any amount of little bunches of clippings. See how I mean? Each bunch was the story of one regiment for a month. So I knew we could deliver the goods!
"Well, this was about ten days ago. And then I went after the market. I went to a man I met last year in an advertising office, and for fifty dollars we put an 'ad' in the Sunday Times. After that there was nothing to do but wait. The next day—nothing doing! I was here at seven-thirty and I went through every mail. Not a single answer to my 'ad'—and I thought I was busted! But Tuesday morning there were three, with five dollar checks inside of 'em! In the afternoon there were two more and the next day eleven! By the end of last week we'd had forty-six! Friday I put in another 'ad' and there've been over seventy more since then! That makes a hundred and twenty in all—six hundred dollars! And I'm swamped! I ain't done nothing yet—I've just kept 'em all for you to see!"
He went quickly to the table, gathered a pile of letters there and brought them over to Roger's desk. Roger glanced over a few of them, dazed. He looked around into John's shrewd face, where mingled devotion and triumph and business zeal were shining.
"Let's figure it out!" he proposed.
They were at it all day, laying their plans, "adopting" the work of the office to the new conditions. They found they would need a larger force, including a French and a German translator. They placed other "ads" in the papers. They forgot to have lunch and worked steadily on, till the outer rooms were empty and still. At last they were through. Roger wearily put on his cuffs, and went and got his coat and hat.
"Say, Mr. Gale," John asked him, "how about this letter—the one you dictated this morning to that firm about your house?" Roger turned and looked at him.
"Throw it into the basket," he said. "We'll write 'em another to-morrow and tell 'em we have changed our minds." He paused for just a moment, and then he added brusquely, "If this goes through as I hope it will, I guess you'd better come into the firm."
And he left the room abruptly. Behind him there was not a sound.
At home in his study, that evening, he made some more calculations. In a few weeks he would have money enough to start Edith and her family in their new life on the farm. For the present at least, the house was safe.
"Why, father." Edith came into the room. "I didn't know you had come home. What kept you so long at the office?"
"Oh, business, my dear—"
"Have you had any supper?"
"No, and I'd like some," he replied.
"I'll see to it myself," she said. Edith was good at this sort of thing, and the supper she brought was delicious. He ate it with keen relish. Then he went back to his study and picked up a book, an old favorite. He started to read, but presently dozed. The book dropped from his hands and he fell asleep.
He awakened with a start, and saw Deborah looking down at him. For a moment he stared up, as he came to his senses, and in his daughter's clear gray eyes he thought he saw a happiness which set his heart to beating fast.
"Well?" he questioned huskily.
"We're to be married right away."
He stared a moment longer; "Oh, I'm so glad, so glad, my dear. I was afraid you—" he stopped short. Deborah bent close to him, and he felt her squeeze his arm:
"I've been over and over all you said," she told him, in a low sweet voice. "I had a good many ups and downs. But I'm all through now—I'm sure you were right." And she pressed her cheek to his. "Oh, dad, dad—it's such a relief! And I'm so happy!... Thank you, dear."
"Where is Allan?" he asked presently.
"I'll get him," she said. She left the room, and in a moment Allan's tall ungainly form appeared in the doorway.
"Well, Allan, my boy," Roger cried.
"Oh, Roger Gale," said Allan softly. He was wringing Roger's hand.
"So she decided to risk you, eh," Roger said unsteadily. "Well, Baird, you look like a devilish risk for a woman like her—who has the whole world on her back as it is—"
"I know—I know—and how rash she has been! Only two years and her mind was made up!"
"But that's like her—that's our Deborah—always acting like a flash—"
"Stop acting like children!" Deborah cried. "And be sensible and listen to me! We're to be married to-morrow morning—"
"Why to-morrow?" Roger asked.
"Because," she said decidedly, "there has been enough fuss over this affair. So we'll just be married and have it done. And when Edith and the children go up next week to the mountains, we want to move right into this house."
"This house?" exclaimed her father.
"I know—it's sold," she answered. "But we're going to get a lease. We'll see the new owner and talk him around."
"Then you'll have to talk your father around—"
"You around?" And Deborah stared. "You mean to say you're not going to sell?"
"I do," said Roger blithely. He told them the story of John's new scheme. "And if things turn out in the office as I hope they will," he ended, "we'll clear the mortgage on the house and then make it your wedding gift—from the new firm to the new family."
Deborah choked a little:
"Allan! What do you think of us now?"
"I think," he answered, in a drawl, "that we'd better try to persuade the new firm to live with the new family."
"We will, and the sooner the better!" she said.
"I'm going up to the mountains," said Roger.
"Yes, but you're coming back in the fall, and when you do you're coming here! And you're going to live here years and years!"
"You're forgetting my doctor."
"Not at all. I had a long talk with him Sunday and I know just what I'm saying."
"You don't look it, my dear," said Roger, "but of course you may be right. If you take the proper care of me here—and John keeps booming things for the firm—"
"And George makes a huge success of the farm," Deborah added quickly.
"And Deborah of teaching the world—"
"Oh, Allan, hush up!"
"Look here," he said. "You go upstairs and tell Edith all this. Your father and I want to be alone."
"It's hard to decide," grunted Roger at last. "Which did it—my wonderful sermon or your own long waiting game? I'm inclined to think it was the game. For any other man but you—with all you've done, without any talk—no, sir, there wouldn't have been a chance. For she's modern, Baird, she's modern. And I'm going to live just as long as I can. I want to see what happens here."
The next night in his study, how quiet it was. Edith was busy packing upstairs, Deborah and Allan were gone. Thoughts drifted slowly across his mind. Well, she was married, the last of his daughters, the one whom he cared most for, the one who had taken the heaviest risks. And this was the greatest risk of all. For although she had put it happily out of her thoughts for the moment, Roger knew the old troublesome question was still there in Deborah's mind. The tenement children or her own, the big family or the small? He felt there would still be struggles ahead. And with a kind of a wistfulness he tried to see into the future here.
He gave a sudden start in his chair.
"By George!" he thought. "They forgot the ring!" Scowling, he tried to remember. Yes, in the brief simple service that day, in which so much had been omitted—music, flowers, wedding gown—even the ring had been left out. Why? Not from any principle, he knew that they were not such fools. No, they had simply forgotten it, in the haste of getting married at once. Well, by thunder, for a girl whose father had been a collector of rings for the best part of his natural life, it was pretty shabby to say the least! Then he recollected that he, too, had forgotten it. And this quieted him immediately.
He sank deep in his chair and took peace to his soul by thinking of the ring he would choose. And this carried his thoughts back over the years. For there had been so many rings....