Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Booming of Acre Hill - And Other Reminiscences of Urban and Suburban Life
Author: Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Booming of Acre Hill - And Other Reminiscences of Urban and Suburban Life" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL

AND OTHER REMINISCENCES OF URBAN AND SUBURBAN LIFE



[Illustration: "I'll Never, Never, Never, So Long As I Live"]



The Booming of Acre Hill

By

John Kendrick Bangs

Illustrations

By C. Dana Gibson

Published 1902 in New York and London



TO

WILLIAM LIVERMORE KINGMAN

WITH AFFECTIONATE REGARDS



These stories by Mr. Bangs have appeared
from time to time in _The Ladies Home Journal, The Woman's Home
Companion_, and the various publications of Messrs. HARPER & BROTHERS.



CONTENTS


THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL

THE STRANGE MISADVENTURES OF AN ORGAN

THE PLOT THAT FAILED

THE BASE INGRATITUDE OF BARKIS, M.D.

THE UTILITARIAN MR. CARRAWAY

THE BOOK SALES OF MR. PETERS

THE VALOR OF BRINLEY

WILKINS

THE MAYOR'S LAMPS

THE BALANCE OF POWER

JARLEY'S EXPERIMENT

JARLEY'S THANKSGIVING

HARRY AND MAUDE AND I--ALSO JAMES

AN AFFINITIVE ROMANCE:
  I. MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL
  II. MISS HENDERSON'S STANDARD
  III. A GLANCE AT MISS FLORA HENDERSON HERSELF
  IV. A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS
  V. CONCLUSION

MRS. UPTON'S DEVICE:
  I. THE RESOLVE
  II. A SUCCESSFUL CASE
  III. A SET-BACK
  IV. THE DEVICE



ILLUSTRATIONS

"I'LL NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, SO LONG AS I LIVE"

DURING THE INTERMEZZO



THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL

Acre Hill ten years ago was as void of houses as the primeval forest.
Indeed, in many ways it suggested the primeval forest. Then the Acre
Hill Land Improvement Company sprang up in a night, and before the
bewildered owners of its lovely solitudes and restful glades, who had
been paying taxes on their property for many years, quite grasped the
situation they found that they had sold out, and that their old-time
paradise was as surely lost to them as was Eden to Adam and Eve.

To-day Acre Hill is gridironed with macadamized streets that are lined
with houses of an architecture of various degrees of badness. Where
birds once sang, and squirrels gambolled, and stray foxes lurked, the
morning hours are made musical by the voices of milkmen, and the
squirrels have given place to children and nurse-maids. Where sturdy
oaks stood like sentinels guarding the forest folk from intrusion from
the outside world now stand tall wooden poles with glaring white
electric lights streaming from their tops. And the soughing of the winds
in the trees has given place to the clang of the bounding trolley. All
this is the work of the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company.

Yet if, as I have said, the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company sprang up
in a night, it passed many sleepless nights before it received the
rewards which come to him who destroys Nature. And when I speak of a
corporation passing sleepless nights I do so advisedly, for at the
beginning of its career the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company consisted
of one man--a mild-mannered man who had previously labored in similar
enterprises, and whose name was called blessed in a thousand
uncomfortable houses in uncomfortable suburbs elsewhere, that, like Acre
Hill, had once been garden spots, but had been "improved." Even a
professional improver of land finds sleep difficult to woo at the
beginning of such an enterprise. In the first instance, when one buys
land, giving a mortgage in full payment therefor, with the land as
security, one appears to have assumed a moderately heavy burden. Then,
when to this one adds the enormous expense of cutting streets through
the most beautiful of the sylvan glades, the building of sewers, and the
erection of sample houses, to say nothing of the strain upon the
intellect in the selection of names for the streets and lanes and
circles that spring into being, one cannot but wonder how the master
mind behind it all manages to survive.

But the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company did survive, and Dumfries
Corners watched its progress with much interest. Regrets were expressed
when some historic knoll was levelled in order to provide a nice flat
space for a public square. Youngsters who had bagged many a partridge on
Acre Hill felt like weeping when one stretch of bush after another was
cut ruthlessly away in order that a pretentious-looking structure, the
new home of the Acre Hill Country Club, might be erected. Lovers sighed
when certain noble old oaks fraught with sentimental associations fell
before the un-sentimental axes of the Improvement Company; and
numberless young Waltons muttered imprecations upon the corporation that
filled in with stone and ashes the dear old pond that once gave forth
fish in great abundance, and through earthen pipes diverted the running
brook, that hitherto had kept it full, into a brand-new sewer.

These lovers of nature could not understand the great need of our
constantly growing population for uncomfortable houses in inconvenient
suburbs, and in their failure to comprehend they became cavilers. But
others--those who admire the genius which enables a man to make
unproductive land productive, who hail as benefactor one who supplants a
profitless oak of a thousand years' standing with a thriving
butcher-shop--these people understood what was being done for Dumfries
Corners, but wondered how the venture was to be made profitable. There
were already more vacant houses in Dumfries Corners than could be
rented, more butcher-shops than could be supported, more clubs than
could be run without a deficit. But the Acre Hill Land Improvement
Company went on, and within three years paradise had become earth, and
the mild-mannered and exceedingly amiable gentleman who had replaced the
homes of the birds with some fifteen or twenty houses for small
families could look about him and see greater results than ever greeted
the eyes of Romulus in the days of the great Rome Land Improvement
Company.

Most wonderful of all, he was still solvent! But a city is not a city,
nor, in its own degree, a suburb a suburb, without inhabitants; and
while to a mind like that back of the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company
it is seemingly a moderately easy task to lay out a suburb in so far as
its exterior appointments are concerned, the rub comes in the getting of
citizens. A Standard Oil magnate can build a city if he is willing to
spend the money, but all the powers of heaven and earth combined cannot
manufacture offhand a citizenship. In an emergency of this nature most
land improvement companies would have issued pretty little pamphlets,
gotten up in exquisite taste, full of beautiful pictures and bubbling
over with enthusiastic text, all based upon possibilities rather than
upon realities. But the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company was sincere
and honest. It believed in advertising what it had; it believed in
dilating somewhat on the possibilities, but it was too honest to claim
for itself virtues it did not possess.

So it tried different methods. The Acre Hill Country Club was the first
of these, and a good idea it was. It was successful from the start,
socially. Great numbers attended the entertainments and dances, although
these were rather poorly conducted. Still, the Country Club was a grand
success. It gave much and received nothing. Dumfries Corners, reluctant
to approve of anything, approved of it.

But no lots were sold! The Acre Hill Land Improvement Company was
willing to make itself popular--very willing. Didn't mind giving
Dumfries Corners people free entertainment, but--lots didn't sell. What
is the use of paying the expenses of a club if lots don't sell? This was
a new problem for the company to consider. There were sixteen houses
ready for occupancy, and consuming interest at a terrible rate, but no
one came to look at them. Acre Hill was a charming spot, no doubt, but
for some unknown reason or other it failed to take hold of the popular
fancy, despite the attractions of the club.

Suddenly the head of the institution had an idea. In the great
metropolis there was an impecunious and popular member of Uppertendom
whose name had been appearing in the society journals with great
frequency for years. He formerly had been prosperous, but now he was
down financially; yet society still received and liked him, for he had
many good points and was fundamentally what the world calls a good
fellow.

"Why not send for Jocular Jimson Jones?" suggested the head and leading
spirit of the Improvement Company. "We can offer him one of our
cottages, and pay his debts if he has any, if he will live here and give
us the benefit of his social prestige."

The suggestion was received with enthusiasm. Mr. Jones was summoned,
came and inspected the cottage, and declined. He really couldn't, you
know. Of course he was down, but not quite down to the level of a
cottage of that particular kind. He still had plenty of friends whom he
could visit and who would be charmed to entertain him in the style to
which he was accustomed. Why, therefore, should he do this thing, and
bring himself down to the level of the ordinary commuter? No, indeed.
Not he! The Directors saw the point, and next offered him--and this time
he accepted--the free use of the residence of one of the officers of the
company, a really handsome, pretentious structure, with a commanding
view, stable, green-houses, graceful lawns, and all other appurtenances
of a well-appointed country seat. In addition to the furnishing of the
house in proper taste, they put coal in the cellar and fly-screens in
the windows. They filled the residence with servants, and indorsed the
young person at the grocer's and butcher's. They bought him a surrey and
a depot wagon. They bought him horses and they stocked him well with
fine cigars. They paid his tailor's bills, and sundry other pressing
monetary affairs were funded. In fact, the Acre Hill Land Improvement
Company set Jocular Jimson Jones up and then gave him _carte blanche_ to
entertain; and inasmuch as Jocular had a genius for entertaining, it
is hardly necessary to say that he availed himself of his opportunity.

During that first summer at Acre Hill Mr. Jones had the best time of his
life. His days were what the vulgar term "all velvet." His new residence
was so superb that it restored his credit in the metropolis, and city
"swells," to whom he was under social obligation, went home, after
having been paid in kind, wondering if Jocular Jimson Jones had
unearthed somewhere a recently deceased rich uncle. He gave suppers of
most lavish sort. He had vaudeville shows at the club-house, with talent
made up of the most exclusive young men and women of the city. The
Amateur Thespians of the Borough of Manhattan gave a whole series of
performances at the club during the autumn, and by slow degrees the
society papers began to take notice. Acre Hill began to be known as "a
favorite resort of the 400." Nay, even the sacred 150 had penetrated to
its very core, wonderingly, however, for none knew how Jocular Jimson
Jones could do it. Still, they never declined an invitation. As a
natural result the market for Acre Hill lots grew active. The sixteen
cottages were sold, and the purchasers found themselves right in the
swim. It was the easiest thing in the world to get into society if you
only knew how. Jocular Jimson Jones was a fine, approachable, neighborly
person, and at the Country Club dances was quite as attentive to the
hitherto unknown Mrs. Scraggs as he was to Mrs. John Jacob Wintergreen,
the acknowledged leader of the 400. Mrs. Wintergreen, too, was not
unapproachable. She talked pleasantly during a musicale at the
club-house with Mr. Scraggs, and said she hoped some day to have the
pleasure of meeting Mrs. Scraggs; and when Scraggs, in response, said he
would go and get her she most amiably begged him not to leave her alone.

Months went by, and where sixteen empty houses had been, there were now
sixty all occupied, and lots were going like hot cakes. Tuxedo was in
the shade. Lenox was dying. Newport was dead. Society flocked to Acre
Hill and hobnobbed with Acre Hillians. Acre Hillians became somewhat
proud of themselves, and rather took to looking down upon Dumfries
Corners people. Dumfries Corners people were nice, and all that, but
not particularly interesting in the sense that "our set," with Jocular
Jimson Jones at the head of it, was interesting.

Then came the County Ball. This Jocular engineered himself, and the
names of the lady patrons were selected from the oldest and the newest
on the list. Mrs. Wintergreen's name led, of course, but Mrs. Scraggs'
name was there too, sandwiched in between those of Mrs. Van
Cortlandtuyvel and Mrs. Gardenior, of Gardenior's Island, representing
two families which would carry social weight either in Boston or the
"other side of Market Street." There were four exalted names from the
city, one from Dumfries Corners, and seven from Acre Hill.

Then more lots sold, and still more, and then, alas, came the end!
Jocular Jimson Jones was too successful.

After two years of glory the social light of Acre Hill went out. The
Acre Hill Land Improvement Company retired from the business. All its
lots were sold, and, of course, there was no further need for the
services of Jocular Jimson Jones. His efforts were crowned with success.
His mission was accomplished, but he moved away--I think regretfully,
for, after all, he had found the Acre Hill people a most likable
lot--but it was inevitable that, there being no more fish to catch, the
anglers needed no bait, and Jocular Jimson had to go. Where he has gone
to there is no one who knows. He has disappeared wholly, even in the
metropolis, and, most unfortunately for Acre Hill, with Jocular Jimson
Jones have departed also all its social glories. None of the elect come
to its dances any more. The amateur thespians of the exclusive set no
longer play on the stage of its club-house, and it was only last week
that Mrs. John Jacob Wintergreen passed Mr. Scraggs on the street with a
cold glare of unrecognition.

Possibly when Acre Hill reads this it will understand, possibly not.

Dumfries Corners people understood it right along, but then they always
were a most suspicious lot, and fond of an amusing spectacle that cost
them nothing.



THE STRANGE MISADVENTURES OF AN ORGAN


Carson was a philosopher, and on the whole it was a great blessing that
he was so. No man needed to be possessor of a philosophical temperament
more than he, for, in addition to being a resident of Dumfries Corners,
Carson had other troubles which, to an excitable nature, would have made
life a prolonged period of misery. He was the sort of a man to whom
irritating misfortunes of the mosquito order have a way of coming. To
some of us it seemed as if a spiteful Nature took pleasure in pelting
Carson with petty annoyances, none of them large enough to excite
compassion, many of them of a sort to provoke a quiet smile. Of all the
dogs in the neighborhood it was always his dog that got run into the
pound, although it was equally true that Carson's dog was one of the few
that were properly licensed. If he bought a new horse something would
happen to it before a week had elapsed; and how his coachman once ripped
off the top of his depot wagon by driving it under a loose telephone
wire is still one of the stories of the vicinity in which he lives.
Anything out of the way in the shape of trouble seemed to choose the
Carson household for experimental purposes. He was the medium by which
new varieties of irritations were introduced to an ungrateful world, but
such was his nature that, given the companionship of Herbert Spencer and
a cigar, he could be absolutely counted on not to murmur.

This disposition to accept the trials and tribulations which came upon
him without a passionate outburst was not by any means due to
amiability. Carson was of too strong a character to be continually
amiable. He merely exercised his philosophy in meeting trouble. He
boiled within, but presented a calm, unruffled front to the world,
simply because to do otherwise would involve an expenditure of nervous
force which he did not consider to be worth while.

I can never forget the sense of admiring regard which I experienced
when in Genoa, while he and I were about to enter our banker's together,
he slipped upon a bit of banana peeling, bruising his knee and
destroying his trouser leg. I should have indulged in profane allusions
to the person who had thoughtlessly thrown the peeling upon the ground
if by some mischance the accident had happened to me. Carson, however,
did nothing of the sort, but treated me to a forcible abstract
consideration of the unthinking habits of the masses.

The unknown individual who was responsible for the accident did not
enter into the question; no one was consigned to everlasting torture in
the deepest depths of purgatory; a calm, dispassionate presentation of
an abstraction was all that greeted my ears. The practice of
thoughtlessness was condemned as a thing entirely apart from the
practitioner, and as a tendency needing correction. Inwardly, I know he
swore; outwardly, he was as serene as though nothing untoward had
happened to him. It was then that I came to admire Carson. Before that
he had my affectionate regard in fullest measure, but now admiration
for his deeper qualities set in, and it has in no sense diminished as
time has passed. Once, and once only, have I known him to depart from
his philosophical demeanor, and that one departure was, I think,
justified by the situation, since it was the culminating point of a
series of aggravations, to fail to yield to which would have required a
more than human strength.

The incident to which I refer was in connection with a fine organ, which
at large expense Carson had had built in his house, for, like all
philosophers, Carson has a great fondness for music, and is himself a
musician of no mean capacity. I have known him to sit down under a
parlor-lamp and read over the score of the "Meistersinger" just as
easily as you or I would peruse one of the lighter novels of the day.
This was one of his refuges. When his spirit was subjected to an extreme
tension he relieved his soul by flying to the composers; to use his own
very bad joke, when he was in need of composure he sought out the
"composures." As time progressed, however, and the petty annoyances grew
more numerous, the merely intellectual pleasure of the writings of
Wagner and Handel and Mozart possibly failed to suffice, and an organ
was contracted for.

"I enjoy reading the music," said he as we sat and talked over his plan,
"but sometimes--very often, in fact--I feel as if something ought to
shriek, and I'm going to have an organ of my own to do it for me."

So, as I have said, the organ was contracted for, was built, and an
additional series of trials began. Upon a very important occasion the
organ declined to shriek, although every effort to persuade it to
perform the functions for which it was designed was made. Forty or fifty
very charming people were gathered together to be introduced to the
virtues of the new instrument--for Carson was not the kind of man to
keep to himself the good things which came into his life; he shared all
his blessings, while keeping his woes to himself; a well-known virtuoso
was retained to set forth the possibilities of the acquisition, and all
was going as "merry as a marriage bell" when suddenly there came a
wheeze, and the fingers of the well-known virtuoso were powerless to
elicit the harmonious shrieks which all had come to hear.

It was a sad moment, but Carson was equal to the occasion.

"Something's out of gear," he said, with a laugh due rather to his
philosophical nature than to mirth. "I'm afraid we'll have to finish on
the piano."

       *       *       *       *       *

And so we did, and a delightful evening we had of it, although many of
us went home wondering what on earth was the matter with the organ.

A few days later I met Carson on the train and the mystery was solved.

"The trouble was with the water-pipes," he explained. "They were put in
wrong, and the location of the house is such that every time Colonel
Hawkins, on the other side of the street, takes a bath, all the water
that flows down the hill is diverted into his tub."

I tried not to laugh.

"You'll have to enter into an agreement with the Colonel," I said. "Make
him promise not to bathe between certain hours."

"That's a good idea," said Carson, smiling, "but after all I guess I'd
better change the pipes. Heaven forbid that in days like these I should
seek to let any personal gratification stand between another man and the
rare virtue of cleanliness."

Several weeks went by, and men were busily employed in seeing that the
water supply needed for a proper running of the organ came direct from
the mains, instead of coming from a pipe of limited capacity used in
common by a half dozen or more residents of a neighboring side street.

Somewhere about the end of the fourth week Carson invited me to dinner.
The organ was all right again, he said. The water supply was sufficient,
and if I cared to I might dine with him, and afterward spend an evening
sitting upon the organ bench while Carson himself manipulated the keys.
I naturally accepted the invitation, since, in addition to his other
delightful qualities, Carson is a past grand-master in the art of giving
dinners. He is a man with a taste, and a dinner good enough for him is a
thing to arouse the envy of the gods. Furthermore, as I have already
said, he is a musician of no mean order, and I know of no greater
pleasure than that of sitting by his side while he "potters through a
score," as he puts it. But there was a disappointment in store for us. I
called at the appointed hour and found the household more or less in
consternation. The cook had left, and a dinner of "cold things"
confronted us.

"She couldn't stand the organ," explained Carson. "She said it got on to
her nerves--'rumblin' like.'"

I gazed upon him in silent sympathy as we dined on cold roast beef,
stuffed olives, and ice cream.

"This is serious," my host observed as we sat over our coffee and cigars
after the repast. "That woman was the only decent cook we've managed to
secure in seven years, and, by Jingo, the minute she gets on to my taste
the organ gets on to her nerves and she departs!"

"One must eat," I observed.

"That's just it," said Carson. "If it comes to a question of cook or
organ the organ will have to go. She was right about it, though. The
organ does rumble like the dickens. Some of the bass notes make the
house buzz like an ocean-steamer blowing off steam." It was a
picturesque description, for I had noticed at times that when the organ
was being made to shriek fortissimo every bit of panelling in the house
seemed to rattle, and if a huge boiler of some sort suffering from
internal disturbance had been growling down in the cellar, the result
would have been quite similar.

"It may work out all right in time," Carson said. "The thing is new yet,
and you can't expect it to be mellow all at once. What I'm afraid of,
apart from the inability of our cook to stand the racket, is that this
quivering will structurally weaken the house. What do you think?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "Some of the wainscot panels rattle a bit,
but I imagine the house will stand it unless you go in too much for
Wagner. 'Tannhäuser' or 'Siegfried' might shake a few beams loose, but
lighter music, I think, can be indulged in with impunity."

Time did not serve, as Carson had hoped, to mellow things. Indeed, the
succeeding weeks brought more trouble, and most of it came through the
organ. Some of the rattling panels, in spite of every effort to make
them fast, rattled the more. One night when the servants were alone in
the house, of its own volition the organ sent forth, to break the still
hours, a blood-curdling basso-profundo groan that suggested ghosts to
their superstitious minds. The housemaid came to regard the instrument
as something uncanny, and, even as the cook had done before her, shook
the dust of the house of Carson from her feet.

Then a rat crawled into one of the pipes--Carson was unable to ascertain
which--and died there, with results that baffle description. I doubt if
Wagner himself could have expressed the situation in his most inspired
moments. Still Carson was philosophical.

"I'll play a requiem to the rodent," he said, "that will make him turn
over in his grave, wherever that interesting spot may be."

This he did, and the effect was superb, and no doubt the deceased did
turn over in his grave, for the improvisation called into play every
pipe on the whole instrument. However, I could see that this constant
pelting at the hands of an unkind fate through the medium of his most
cherished possession was having its effect upon Carson's hitherto
impregnable philosophy. When he spoke of the organ it was with a tone of
suppressed irritation which boded ill, and finally I was not surprised
to hear that he had offered to give the organ away.

"After all," he said, "I made a mistake--flying so high. A man doesn't
want a church-organ in his house any more than he wants an elephant for
a lap-dog. I've offered it to the Unitarian Church."

I felt a little hurt about this, for my own church was badly in need of
an instrument of that nature, but I said nothing, and considering the
amount of trouble the organ had given I got over my regret when I
realized that the Unitarian Church, and not mine, was shortly to have
it. In this, however, I was mistaken, for, after due deliberation, the
Unitarians decided that the organ was so very large that they'd have to
build a new church to go with it, and so declined it with thanks.

Carson bit his lip and then offered it to us. "Don't seem to be able to
give it away," he said. "But I'll try again. You tell your vestry that
if they want it they can have it. I'll take it out and put it in the
barn up in the hay-loft. They can take it or leave it. It will cost them
cartage and the expense of putting it up."

I thanked him, and joyously referred the matter to the vestry. At first
the members of that body were as pleased as I was, but after a few
minutes of jubilation the Chairman of the Finance Committee asked; "How
much will it cost to get this thing into shape?"

Nobody knew, and finally the acceptance of the gift was referred to a
committee consisting of the Chairman of the Finance Committee, the
Chairman of the Music Committee, and myself, with full power to act.

Inquiry showed that the cost of every item in connection with the
acceptance of the gift would amount to about a thousand dollars, and we
called upon Carson to complete the arrangement. He received us
cordially. We thanked him for his generosity, and were about to accept
the gift finally, when the Chairman of the Finance Committee said:

"It is very good of you, Mr. Carson, to give us this organ. Heaven knows
we need it, but it will cost us about a thousand dollars to put it
in."

"So I judged," said Carson. "But when it is in you'll have a
thirty-five-hundred-dollar organ."

"Splendid!" ejaculated the Chairman of the Music Committee.

"The great difficulty that now confronts us," said the financier, "is as
to how we shall raise that money. The church is very poor."

"I presume it is a good deal of a problem in these times," acquiesced
Carson. "Ah--"

"It's a most baffling one," continued the financier. "I suppose, Mr.
Carson," he added, "that if we do put it in and pass around a
subscription paper, we can count on you for--say two hundred and fifty
dollars?"

I stood aghast, for I saw the thread of Carson's philosophy snap.

"What?" he said, with an effort to control himself.

"I say I suppose we can count on you for a subscription of two hundred
and fifty dollars," repeated the financier.

There was a pause that seemed an eternity in passing. Carson's face
worked convulsively, and the seeming complacency of the Chairman of the
Finance Committee gave place to nervous apprehension as he watched the
color surge through the cheeks and temples of our host.

He thought Carson was about to have a stroke of apoplexy.

I tried to think of something to say that might relieve the strain, but
it wouldn't come, and on the whole I rather enjoyed the spectacle of the
strong philosopher struggling with inclination, and I think the
philosopher might have conquered had not the Chairman of the Music
Committee broken in jocularly with:

"Unless he chooses to make it five hundred dollars, eh?" And he grinned
maddeningly as he added: "If you'll give five hundred dollars we'll put
a brass plate on it and call it 'The Carson Memorial,' eh? Ha--ha--ha."

Carson rose from his seat, walked into the hall and put on his hat.

"Mr.--ah--Blank," said he to the financier, "would you and Mr. Hicks
mind walking down to the church with me?"

"Say, he's going to put it in for us!" whispered Hicks, the Chairman of
the Music Committee, rubbing his hands gleefully.

"Don't you want me, Carson?" I asked, rising.

"No--you stay here!" he replied, shortly.

And then the three went out, while I lit a cigar and pottered about
Carson's library. In half an hour he returned alone. His face was red
and his hand trembled slightly, but otherwise he had regained his
composure.

"Well?" said I.

"Well, I'm going to put it up," said he.

"Now--see here, Carson," I remonstrated. It seemed so like a rank
imposition on his generosity. To give the organ was enough, without
putting him to the expense of erecting it.

"Don't interrupt," said he. "I'm not going to put it up in the
organ-loft, as you suppose, but in a place where it is likely to be
quite as much appreciated."

"And that?" I asked.

"In the hay-loft," he replied.

"I don't blame you," said I, after a pause.

"Neither do I," said he.

"But why did you go down to the church?" I asked.

"Well," he explained, chuckling in spite of himself. "It was this way.
My grandfather, I have been told, used to be able to express himself
profanely without using a profane word, but I can't, and there were one
or two things I wanted to say to those men that wouldn't go well with
the decorations of my house, and which couldn't very well be said to a
guest in my house."

"But, man alive, you didn't go to the church to do your swearing?"

"No," he answered. "I did it on the way down; and," he added,
enthusiastically, "I did it exceeding well."

"But why the church?" I persisted.

"I thought after what I had to say to them," said he, "that they might
need a little religious consolation."

And with that the subject was dropped.

The organ, as Carson threatened, was transferred to the hay-loft and not
to the church, and as for the two Chairmen, they have several times
expressed themselves to the effect that Carson is a very irritable, not
to say profane, person.

But I am still inclined to think him a philosopher. Under the
provocation any man of a less philosophical temperament might have
forgotten the laws of hospitality and cursed his offending guests in his
own house.



THE PLOT THAT FAILED


Among the most promising residents of Dumfries Corners some ten years
ago was a certain Mr. Richard Partington Smithers, whose brilliant début
and equally sudden extinguishment in the field of literary endeavor have
given rise from time to time to no little discussion. He was young, very
young, indeed, at the time of his great literary success, and his
friends and neighbors prophesied great things for him. Yet nothing has
since come from his pen, and many have wondered why.

Thanks to Mr. Smithers himself I am enabled to make public the story of
his sudden withdrawal from the ranks of the immortals when on the very
threshold of the temple of fame.

Ten years have changed his point of view materially, and an experience
that once seemed tragedy to him is now in his eyes sufficiently tinged
with comedy, and his own position among us is so secure that he is
willing that the story of his failure should go forth.

After trying many professions Smithers had become a man of schemes. He
devised plans that should enrich other people. Unfortunately, he sold
these to other people on a royalty basis, and so failed to grow rich
himself. If he had only sold his plans outright and collected on the
spot he might sometime have made something; but this he did not do, and
as a consequence he rarely made anything that was at all considerable,
and finally, to keep the wolf out of his dining-room, he was forced to
take up poetry, that being in his estimation the last as well as the
easiest resource of a well-ordered citizen.

"I always threatened to take up poetry when all else had failed me," he
said to himself; "therefore I will now proceed to take up poetry.
Writing is purely manual labor, anyhow. Given a pad, a pencil, and
perseverance--three very important p's--and I can produce a fourth, a
poem, in short order. Sorry I didn't get to the end of my other ropes
before, now that I think of it."

And so he sat down and took up poetry.

He put it down again, however, very quickly.

"Dear me!" he ejaculated. "Now, who'd have thought that? Here I have the
pencil and the pad and the perseverance, but I'm hanged if the poem is
quite as easy as I had supposed. These little conceits aren't so easy to
write, after all, even when they contain no ideas. Of course, it isn't
hard to say:

  "'Sweet month of May, time of the violet wild,
  The dandelion golden, and the mild
  Ethereal sweetness of the blossoming trees,
  The soft suggested calor of the breeze,
  The ruby-breasted robin on the lawn,
  The thrushes piping sweetly at the dawn,
  The gently splashing waters by the weir,
  The rose- and lilac-laden atmosphere'--

"because, after all, it's nothing but a catalogue of the specialties of
May; but how the dickens to wind the thing up is what puzzles me. It's
too beautiful and truly poetic to be spoiled by a completing couplet
like:

  "'And in the distant dam the croaking frog
  Completes, O May, thy wondrous catalogue.'

"Nobody would take a thing like that--and pay for it; but what else can
be said? What do the violets wild, the dandelion, the ruby-breasted robin,
and the lilac-laden atmosphere and other features all do, I'd like to
know? What one of many verbs--oh, tut! Poetry very evidently is not in
my line, after all. I'll turn the vials of my vocabulary upon
essay-writing."

Which Partington, as his friends called him, proceeded at once to do. He
applied himself closely to his desk for one whole morning, and wrote a
very long paper on "The Tendency of the Middle Ages Towards
Artificialism." Hardly one of the fifteen thousand words employed by him
in the construction of this paper held fewer than five syllables, and
one or two of them got up as high as ten, a fact which led Partington to
think that the editor of the _South American Quarterly Review_ ought at
least to have the refusal of it. Apparently the editor of the _South
American Quarterly Review_ was only too eager to have the refusal of it,
because he refused it, or so Partington observed in confidence to an
acquaintance, in less time than it could possibly have taken him to
read it. After that the essay became emulous of men like Stanley and Joe
Cook. It became a great traveller, but never failed to get back in
safety to its fond parent, Richard Partington Smithers, as our hero now
called himself. Finally, Partington did manage to realize something on
his essay--that is to say, indirectly--for after "The Tendency of the
Middle Ages Towards Artificialism" had gone the rounds of all the
reviews, monthlies, dailies, and weeklies in the country, its author
pigeon-holed it, and, stringing together the printed slips it had
brought back to him upon the various occasions of its return, he sent
these under the head of "How Editors Reject" to an evening journal in
Boston, whose readers could know nothing of the subject, for reasons
that are familiar to those who are acquainted with American letters. For
this he not only received the editor's thanks, but a six months'
subscription to the journal in question--the latter of which was useful,
since every night, excluding Sundays, its columns contained much
valuable information on such subjects as "How to Live on Fifty Dollars
a Year," "How to Knit an Afghan with One Needle," and "How Not to Become
a Novelist."

Discouraged by the fate of his essay, Partington endeavored to get a
position on a railway somewhere as a conductor or brakeman; but failing
in this, he returned once more to his writing-table and wrote a novel.
This was the hardest work he had ever attempted. It took him quite a
week to think his story out and put it together; but when he had it done
he was glad he had stuck conscientiously to it, for the results really
seemed good to him. The book was charmingly written, he thought; so
charming, in fact, that he did not think it necessary to have a
type-written copy made of it before sending it out to the publishers.
Possibly this was a mistake. For a time Partington really believed it
was a mistake, because the publisher who saw it first returned it
without comment, prejudiced against it, no doubt, by the fact that it
came to him in the author's autograph. The second publisher was not so
rude. He said he would print it if Partington would advance one
thousand dollars to protect him against loss. The third publisher
evidently thought better of the book, for he only demanded protection to
the amount of seven hundred and fifty dollars, which, of course,
Partington could not pay; and in consequence _False but Fair_ never saw
the light of day as a published book.

"Is it rejected because of its length, its breadth, or what?" he had
asked the last publisher who had turned his back on the book.

"Well, to tell you the truth, Mr. Smithers," the publisher had answered,
"all that our readers had to say about it--and the three who read it
agreed unanimously--was that the book is immature. You do not write like
an adult."

"Thanks," said Partington, as he bowed himself out. "If that's the
truth, I'll try writing for juveniles. I'll sit right down to-night and
knock off a short story about 'Tommy and the Huckleberry-tree.' I don't
know whether huckleberries grow on trees or on huckles, but that will
make the tale all the more interesting. If they don't grow on trees
people will regard the story as romance. If they do grow on trees it
will be realism."

True to his promise, that night Partington did write a story, and
it was, as he had said it should be, about "Tommy and the
Huckleberry-tree"; and so amusing did it appear to the editor of that
eminent juvenile periodical, _Nursery Days_, because of what he supposed
was the author's studied ignorance on the subject of huckleberries, that
it was accepted instanter, and the name of Richard Partington Smithers
shortly appeared in all the glory of type.

Partington walked on air for at least a week after his effusion appeared
in print. He had visions night and day in which he seemed to see himself
the centre of the literary circle, and as he promenaded the avenue in
the afternoons he felt almost inclined to stop people who passed him by
to tell them who he was, and thus enable them to feast their eyes on one
whose name would shortly become a household word. All reasonable young
authors feel this way after their first draught at the soul-satisfying
spring of publicity. It is only that preposterous young person who was
born tired who fails to experience the sensations that were Partington's
that week; and at the end of the week, again like the reasonable young
author, he began to realize that immortality could not be gained by one
story treating of a fictitious Tommy and an imaginary huckleberry-tree,
and so he sat himself down at his desk once more, resolved this time to
clinch himself, as it were, in the public mind, with a tale of "Jimmie
and the Strawberry-mine." This story did not come as easily as the
other. In fact, Partington found it impossible to write more than a
third of the second tale that night. He couldn't bring his mind down to
it exactly, probably because his mind had been soaring so high since the
publication of his first effusion. For diversion as much as for anything
else during a lull in his flow of language he penned a short letter to
the editor of _Nursery Days_, and announced his intention to send the
story of "Jimmie and the Strawberry-mine" to him shortly--which was
unfortunate. If he had finished the story first and then sent it, it
might have been good enough to convince the editor against his judgment
that he ought to have it. A concrete story can often accomplish more
than an abstract idea. In this event it could not have accomplished
less, anyhow, for the editor promptly replied that he did not care for a
second story of that nature. There was no particular evidence in hand,
he said, that the children liked stories of that kind particularly,
adding that the first was only an experiment that it was not necessary
to repeat, and so on; polite, but unmistakably valedictory.

"No evidence in hand that they are liked, eh? Well, how on earth, I
wonder," Partington said, angrily, to himself, "do they ever find
evidence that things are liked? Do they go about asking subscribers, or
what?"

And then he picked up the issue of _Nursery Days_ that had started him
along on his way to immortality, to console himself, at all events, with
the sight of his published story. In turning over the leaves of the
periodical his eye fell upon a page across the top of which ran a highly
ornate cut which indicated that there was printed the "Post-office
Department of _Nursery Days_," on perusing which Partington found a
number of communications and editorial responses like these:


I.

  "DEAR POSTMASTER,--I have been taking _Nursery
  Days_ since Christmas, so I thought I would
  write you a letter. My birthday came a week
  ago Thursday. I received a watch and chain,
  a glove-buttoner, a penknife, and a set of ivory
  jackstraws. We have a cat at home whose
  name is Rumpelstiltzken. He is very sleepy,
  and sleeps all day. He always picks out the
  most comfortable chair, and then feels very
  much injured if we turn him out. I like Bolivar
  Wiggins's story in your last paper very
  much. Are you going to have any more stories
  by Bolivar Wiggins?

  "Your little friend,
  "HELEN CHECKERBY, aged seven.

"[We hope soon to have a new story from Mr. Wiggins, Helen. We wish we
could see your cat. He seems a very sensible cat.--EDITOR _Nursery
Days_.]"



II.

                                    "CANADA.

  I am a little girl nearly ten years old, and
  as I like your paper very much I thought you
  would like a letter from me. Here is a cow's
  head I drew. It is not very good, but I wanted
  to see if I would get a prize or not. I have two
  little sisters; their names are Jennie and Fanny.
  I hope I will see my letter in print. The stories
  I like best are Bolivar Wiggins's story about
  'Solemn Sophy' and his other one about
  'Bertie's Balloon.' Have you any more stories
  by him? I must close now, so good-bye.

  "LILLIAN JAMES.

"[Several, Lillian. Your cow is beautiful, and perhaps some day it will
appear in this column. Watch carefully, and maybe you will see
it.--EDITOR _Nursery Days_.]"

"Ah!" said Partington, softly, as he read these effusions. "That is why
Bolivar Wiggins is permitted to cover so much space, eh? The children
like his stories well enough to write letters about him--or perhaps
Bolivar himself--ah!"

The second "ah" uttered by Partington indicated that a thought had
flashed across his mind--a thought not particularly complimentary to
Bolivar Wiggins.

"Perhaps," he said, slowly, "Bolivar writes these letters to the editor
himself--and if Bolivar, why not I?"

It was a tempting--alas, too tempting--opportunity to supply the editor
of _Nursery Days_ with the needed evidence that stories of the "Tommy
and the Huckleberry-tree" order were the most popular literary novelty
of the day, and to it, in a moment of weakness, Partington succumbed. I
regret to have to record the fact that he passed the balance of the
night writing letters from fictitious "Sallies, aged six," "Warry and
Georgie, twins, aged twelve," and others dwelling in widely separated
sections of the country, to the number of at least two dozen, all of
which, being an expert penman, Partington wrote in a diversity of
juvenile hands that was worthy of a better cause. Here are two samples
of the letters he wrote that night:


I.

                        "NORWICH, CONNECTICUT.

  "I have taken the _Nursery Days_ for one year,
  and think it is a very nice paper. For pets I
  have two cats, named Lady Tompkins and
  Jimpsey. I have tried to solve the 'Caramel
  Puzzle,' but think one answer is wrong. I go
  to school, and there are forty-four scholars in
  my room. My little kitty Jimpsey sleeps all day
  long, and at night she is playful. She wakes
  me up in the morning, and then waits till I get
  up. Who is Mr. Smithers who wrote that beautiful
  story about 'Tommy and the Huckleberry-tree'?
  Everybody of all ages, from baby to my
  grandmother, likes it and hopes you will print
  more by that author.

  "SARAH WINKLETOP."


II.

                                    "YONKERS, N. Y.

  "Our Uncle Willie in New York sends us _Nursery
  Days_ every week. We like it immensely, and every
  one tries to get the first reading of it. "Tommy
  and the Huckleberry-tree" is a splendid story.
  Papa bought six copies of _Nursery Days_ with that
  in it to send to my little cousins in England.

  "JIMMIE CONWAY RHODES."

Others were more laudatory of Partington's story, some less so, but each
demanded more of his work.

These written, Partington made arrangements to have them posted from the
various towns wherein they were ostensibly written, and then, when they
had been posted, he chuckled slightly and sat down to await
developments.

It took a trifle over one week for developments to develop, and then
they developed rapidly. Just eight days after his conception of this
magnificent scheme the postman whistled at Partington's door and left
this note:


  "OFFICE OF NURSERY DAYS,
  "NEW YORK, _March_ 16, 1889.


  "_Richard Partington Smithers, Esq_.:

  "DEAR SIR,--Can you call upon me some afternoon this week? Yours truly,

  "THOMAS JACKSON TORPYHUE,
  "Editor _Nursery Days_."

"The bait is good, and I'll land the fish at once," said Partington, his
face wreathing with smiles. "I'll call upon Mr. Thomas Jackson Torpyhue."

And call he did. Two hours later he entered the sanctum of the editor of
_Nursery Days_.

"Good-afternoon," he said, as he sat down at the editor's side.

"Good-afternoon, Mr. Smithers," said Mr. Torpyhue. "I'm very glad to see
you."

"I thought you'd be," began Partington, forgetting himself for a moment
in his triumph. "If that wasn't evidence enough that I--ah--oh--er--ah!
Ahem! Why, certainly," he continued, suddenly recalling the fact that as
yet he could properly have no knowledge of the evidence in question.

The editor threw his head back and laughed, and Partington forced
himself to join him, nervously withal.

"You have heard of the evidence have you?" asked Mr. Torpyhue.

Partington gasped faintly, and said he thought not.

"Well, it's very strange, Mr. Smithers," said Mr. Torpyhue, "but do you
know that you have developed into one of our most popular authors?"

"Indeed?" queried Partington, pulling himself together and trying to
appear gratified.

"Yes, sir. Here is a bundle of twenty-four letters all received within
three days. One of the letters calls you the best writer of short
stories of the day. Another, from Canada, written by a parent, says that
you have written one of the most delightful bits of juvenile humor that
he has seen in forty years."

"How extremely flattering!" said Partington, faintly.

"Yes, extremely," assented the editor, dryly. "And now, Mr. Smithers,
I'm going to do for you what this paper has never done even to its most
popular author in the past."

"Now, my dear Mr. Torpyhue," began Partington, gaining courage, "I beg
you not to feel called upon to discriminate against your old favorites
in my favor. Your present rates of payment are entirely satisfac--"

"You misunderstand me, Mr. Smithers," interrupted Mr. Torpyhue.
"What I'm going to do to you that I never before have done even to our
most popular author is to return to you at once every one of those
highly entertaining manuscripts you have favored us with--we receive so
many real letters from real children that, of course, we cannot afford
to buy from you purely fictitious ones. These of yours are excellently
well done, but you see my point. One does not pay for things that can be
had gratis. Perhaps later you will try us with something else," he
added, with a grin.

Here Mr. Torpyhue paused, and Partington tried to think of something to
say. It was all so sudden, however, and, in spite of his misgivings, so
extremely unexpected, that his breath was taken away. He had neither
breath nor presence of mind enough left even to deny the allegation, and
when he did recover his breath he found himself walking dejectedly down
the stairs of the _Nursery Days_ building with his bundle of encomia in
his hands.

"I wonder how he caught on!" he groaned, as half an hour later he
entered his room and threw himself face downward on his couch.
Investigation after dinner gave him a clue.

Not one of the letters had been mailed from the town in which it had
been dated. The envelope containing the Washington letter bore the
Boston postmark. The Brooklyn missive had been sent from Chicago, that
from Norwich had been posted at Yonkers, and vice versa, and so on
through the whole list. Each and every one had, through some evil
chance, started wrong. In addition to this, Partington found that in a
forgetful moment he had appended to two of the communications an
editorial response promising more work from Mr. Smithers.

"I must have been muddled by my success with 'Tommy and the
Huckleberry-tree,'" he sighed, as he cast the documents into the fire.
"If that's the effect literary honors have on me I'd better quit the
profession, which leaves only two things to be done. I shall have to
commit one of two crimes--suicide or matrimony. The question now is,
which?"

He thought deeply for a moment, and then, putting on his hat and
over-coat, he turned off the gas and left the room.

"I'll call on Harris, borrow a cent from him, and let the toss decide,"
he said, as he passed out into the night.

Is it really any wonder that Mr. Smithers has given up literature?



THE BASE INGRATITUDE OF BARKIS, M.D.


The time has arrived when it is possibly proper that I should make a
note of the base ingratitude of Barkis, M.D. I have hesitated to do this
hitherto for several reasons, any one of which would prove a valid
excuse for my not doing so. To begin with, I have known Barkis ever
since he was a baby. I have tossed him in the air, to his own delight
and to the consternation of his mother, who feared lest I should fail to
catch him on his way down, or that I should underestimate the distance
between the top of his head and the ceiling on his way up. Later I have
held him on my knee and told him stories of an elevating nature--mostly
of my own composition--and have afterwards put these down upon paper and
sold them to syndicates at great profit. So that, in a sense, I am
beholden to Barkis for some measure of my prosperity. Then, when Barkis
grew older, I taught him the most approved methods of burning his
fingers on the Fourth of July, and when he went to college I am
convinced that he gained material aid from me in that I loaned him my
college scrap-books, which contained, among other things, a large number
of examination papers which I marvel greatly to-day that I was ever able
successfully to pass, and which gave to him some hint as to the ordeal
he was about to go through. In his younger professional days, also, I
have been Barkis's friend, and have called him up, to minister to a pain
I never had, at four o'clock in the morning, simply because I had reason
to believe that he needed four or five dollars to carry him through the
ensuing hours of the day.

Quotation books have told us that in love, as well as in war, all is
fair, and if this be true Barkis's ingratitude, the narration of which
cannot now give pain to any one, becomes, after all, nothing more than a
venial offence. I do not place much reliance upon the ethics of
quotation books generally, but when I remember my own young days, and
the things I did to discredit the other fellow in that little affair
which has brought so much happiness into my own life, I am inclined to
nail my flag to the masthead in defence of the principle that lovers can
do no wrong. It is no ordinary stake that a lover plays for, and if he
stacks the cards, and in other ways turns his back upon the guiding
principles of his life, blameworthy as he may be, I shall not blame him,
but shall incline rather towards applause.

On the other hand, something is due to the young ladies in the case, and
as much for their sake as for any other reason have I set upon paper
this narrative of the man's ingratitude, simply telling the story and
drawing no conclusions whatever.

Barkis was not endowed with much in the way of worldly possessions. His
father had died when the lad was very young, and had left the boy and
his mother to struggle on alone. But there was that in both of them
which enabled the mother to feel that the boy was worth struggling for,
and the boy at a very early age to realize the difficulties of the
struggle, and to like the difficulties because they afforded him an
opportunity to help his mother either by not giving her unnecessary
trouble or in bringing to her efforts in their mutual behalf aid of a
very positive kind.

Boys of this kind--and in saying this I cast no reflections whatsoever
upon that edifying race of living creatures whom I admire and respect
more than any other--are so rare that it did not take the neighbors of
the Barkis family many days to discover that the little chap was worth
watching, and if need be caring for in a way which should prove
substantial. There are so many ways, too, in which one may help a boy
without impairing his self-reliance that on the whole it was not very
difficult to assist Barkis. So when one of his neighbors employed him in
his office at a salary of eight dollars a week, when other boys received
only four for similar service, the lad, instead of feeling himself
favored, assumed an obligation and made himself worth five times as much
as the other boys, so that really his employer, and not he, belonged to
the debtor class.

Some said it was a pity that little Barkis wasted his talents in a real
estate office, but they were the people who didn't know him. He expended
his nervous energy in the real estate office, but his mind he managed to
keep free for the night school, and when it came to the ultimate it was
found that little Barkis had wasted nothing. He entered college when
several other boys--who had not served in a real estate office, who had
received diplomas from the high-school, and who had played while he had
studied--failed.

That his college days were a trial to his mother every one knew. She
wished him to keep his end up, and he did--and without spending all that
his mother sent him, either. The great trouble was that at the end of
his college course it was understood that Barkis intended studying
medicine. When that crept out the neighbors sighed. They deprecated the
resolve among themselves, but applauded the boy's intention to his face.

"Good for you, Jack!" said one. "You are just the man for a doctor, and
I'll give you all my business."

This man, of course, was a humorist.

Another said: "Jack, you are perfectly right. Real estate and coal are
not for you. Go in for medicine; when my leg is cut off you shall do the
cutting."

To avoid details, however, some of which would make a story in
themselves, Jack Barkis went through college, studied medicine, received
his diploma as a full-fledged M.D., and settled down at Dumfries Corners
for practice. And practice did not come! And income was not.

It was plainly visible to the community that Barkis was hard up, as the
saying is, and daily growing more so. To make matters worse, it was now
impossible to help him as the boy had been helped. He was no longer a
child, but a man; and the pleasing little subterfuges, which we had
employed to induce the boy to think he was making his way on his own
sturdy little legs, with the man were out of the question. His clothing
grew threadbare, and there were stories of insufficient nourishment. As
time went on the outward and visible signs of his poverty increased,
yet no one could devise any plan to help him.

And then came a solution, and inasmuch as it was brought about by the
S.F.M.E., an association of a dozen charming young women in the city
forming the Society for Mutual Encouragement, or Enjoyment, or
Endorsement, or something else beginning with E--I never could ascertain
definitely what the E stood for--it would seem as if the young ladies
should have received greater consideration than they did when prosperity
knocked at the Doctor's door.

It seems that the Doctor attended a dance one evening in a dress coat,
the quality and lack of quantity of which were a flagrant indication of
a sparse, not to say extremely needy, wardrobe. All his charm of manner,
his grace in the dance, his popularity, could not blind others to the
fact that he was ill-dressed, and the girls decided that something must
be done, and at once.

"We might give a lawn fete for his benefit," one of them suggested.

"He isn't a church or a Sunday-school," Miss Daisy Peters retorted.
"Besides, I know Jack Barkis well enough to know that he would never
accept charity from any one. We've got to help him professionally."

"We might boycott all the fellows at dances," suggested Miss Wilbur,
"unless they will patronize the Doctor. Decline to dance with them
unless they present a certificate from Jack proving that they are his
patients."

"Humph!" said Miss Peters. "That wouldn't do any good. They are all
healthy, and even if they did go to Jack for a prescription the chances
are they wouldn't pay him. They haven't much more money than he has."

"I am afraid that is true," assented Miss Wilbur. "Indeed, if they have
any at all, I can't say that they have given much sign of it this
winter. The Bachelors' Cotillon fell through for lack of interest, they
said, but I have my doubts on that score. It's my private opinion they
weren't willing or able to pay for it."

"Well, I'm sure I don't know what we can do to help Jack. If he had our
combined pocket-money he'd still be poor," sighed Miss Peters.

"He couldn't be induced to take it unless he earned it," said little
Betsy Barbett. "You all know that."

"Hurrah!" cried Miss Peters, clapping her hands ecstatically; "I have
it! I have it! I have it! We'll put him in the way of earning it."

And they all put their heads together, and the following was the result:

The next day Jack Barkis's telephone rang more often in an hour than it
had ever done before in a month, and every ring meant a call.

The first call was from Miss Daisy Peters, and he responded.

"I'm so sorry to send for you--er--Doctor," she said--she
had always called him Jack before, but now he had come
professionally--"for--for--Rover, but the poor dog is awfully
sick to-day, and Doctor Pruyn was out of town. Do you mind?"

"Certainly not, Daisy," he replied, a shade of disappointment on his
face. I am inclined to believe he had hoped to find old Mr. Peters at
death's door. "If the dog is sick I can help him. What are his
symptoms?"

And Miss Peters went on to say that her cherished Rover, she thought,
had malaria. He was tired and lazy, when usually he rivalled the cow
that jumped over the moon in activity. She neglected to say that she had
with her own fair hands given the poor beast a dose of sulphonal the
night before--not enough to hurt him, but sufficient to make him appear
tired and sleepy.

"I must see my patient," said the Doctor, cheerfully. "Will he come if I
whistle?"

Miss Peters was disinclined to accede to this demand. She was beginning
to grow fearful that Jack would see through her little subterfuge, and
that the efforts of the S.F.M.E. would prove fruitless.

"Oh," she demurred, "is that--er--necessary? Rover isn't a child, you
know. He won't stick out his tongue if you tell him to--and, er--I don't
think you could tell much from his pulse--and--"

"I'd better see him, though," observed Jack, quietly. "I certainly can't
prescribe unless I do."

So Rover was brought out, and it was indeed true that his old-time
activity had been superseded by a lethargy which made the wagging of
his tail a positive effort. Still, Doctor Barkis was equal to the
occasion, prescribed for the dog, and on his books that night wrote down
a modest item as against Mr. Billington Peters and to his own financial
credit. Furthermore, he had promised to call again the next day, which
meant more practice.

On his return home he found a hurry call awaiting him. Miss Betsy
Barbett had dislocated her wrist. So to the Barbett mansion sped Doctor
Barkis, and there, sure enough, was Miss Barbett apparently suffering
greatly.

"Oh, I am so glad you have come," she moaned. "It hurts dreadfully,
Jack--I mean Doctor."

"I'll fix that in a second," said he, and he did, although he thought it
odd that there were no signs of any inflammation. He was not aware that
one of the most cherished and fascinating accomplishments of Miss
Barbett during her childhood had been her ability to throw her wrist out
of joint. She could throw any of her joints out of place, but she
properly chose her wrist upon this occasion as being the better joint to
intrust to a young physician. If Jack had known that until his coming
her wrist had been all right, and that it had not become disjointed
until he rang the front door bell of the Barbett house, he might not
have been so pleased as he entered the item against Judge Barbett in his
book, nor would he have wondered at the lack of inflammation.

So it went. The Hicks's cook was suddenly taken ill--Mollie Hicks gave
her a dollar to do it--and Jack was summoned. The Tarletons' coachman
was kept out on a wet night for two hours by Janette Tarleton, and very
properly contracted a cold, for which the young woman made herself
responsible, and Doctor Barkis was called in. Then the society itself
discovered many a case among the worthy poor needing immediate medical
treatment from Barkis, M.D., and, although Jack wished to make no
charge, insisted that he should, and threatened to employ some one else
if he didn't.

By degrees a practice resulted from this conspiracy of the S.F.M.E., and
then a municipal election came along, and each candidate for the
Mayoralty was given quietly to understand by parties representing the
S.F.M.E., that unless Jack Barkis was made health officer of the city
he'd better look out for himself, and while both candidates vowed they
had made no pledges, each had sworn ten days before election-day by all
that was holy that Barkis should have this eighteen-hundred-dollar
office--and he got it! Young women may not vote, but they have influence
in small cities.

At the end of the second year of the S.F.M.E.'s resolve that Barkis must
be cared for he was in receipt of nearly twenty-eight hundred dollars a
year, could afford a gig, and so command a practice; and having obtained
his start, his own abilities took care of the rest.

And then what did Jack Barkis, M.D., do? When luxuries began to manifest
themselves in his home--indeed, when he found himself able to rent a
better one--whom did he ask to share its joys with him?

Miss Daisy Peters, who had dosed her dog that he might profit? No,
indeed!

Miss Betsy Barbett, who disfigured her fair wrist in his behalf? Alas,
no!

Miss Hicks, who had spent a dollar to bribe a cook that he might earn
two? No, the ungrateful wretch!

Any member of the S.F.M.E.? I regret to say not.

He went and married a girl from Los Angeles, whom he met on one of the
summer vacations the S.F.M.E. had put within his reach--a girl from whom
no portion of his measure of prosperity had come.

Such was the ingratitude of Barkis. They have never told me so, but I
think the S.F.M.E. feel it keenly. Barkis I believe to be unconscious of
it--but then he is in love with Mrs. Barkis, which is proper; and as I
have already indicated, when a man is in love there are a great many
things he does not see--in fact, there is only one thing he does see,
and that is Her Majesty, the Queen. I can't blame Barkis, and even
though I was aware of the conspiracy to make him prosperous, I did not
think of the ungrateful phase of it all until I spoke to Miss Peters
about his _fiancée_, who had visited Dumfries Corners.

"She's charming," said I. "Don't you think so?"

"Oh yes," said Miss Peters, dubiously. "But I don't see why Jack went
to Los Angeles for a wife."

"Ah?" said I. "Maybe it was the only place where he could find one."

"Thank you!" snapped Miss Peters. "For my part, I think the Dumfries
Corners girls are quite as attractive--ah--Betsy Barbett for
instance--or any other girl in Jack's circle."

"Like yourself?" I smiled.

"My!" she cried. "How can you say such a thing?"

And really I was sorry I had said it. It seemed so like twitting a
person on facts, when I came to think about it.



THE UTILITARIAN MR. CARRAWAY


The Christmas season was approaching, and Mr. Carraway, who had lately
become something of a philosopher, began to think about gifts for his
wife and children. The more he thought of them, the more firmly was he
convinced that there was something radically wrong with the system of
giving that had prevailed in past years. He conjured up visions of the
useless things he had given and received on previous occasions, and an
inventory of his personal receipts at the four celebrations leading up
to the present disclosed the fact that he was long on match-boxes,
cigar-cases, and smoking-jackets, the last every one of them too small,
with an appalling supply of knitted and crocheted objects, the gifts of
his children, in reserve. His boot-closet was a perfect revelation of
the misdirected Christmas energies of the young, disclosing, as it
always did upon occasions when he was in a great hurry, a half-dozen
pairs of worsted slippers, which he had received at Yuletide, some of
them adorned with stags of beads leaping over zephyr walls, and others
made in the image of cats of extraordinary color, with yellow glass eyes
set in directly over the toe whereon he kept his favorite corn. I am not
sure that it was not the stepping of an awkward visitor upon one of
these same glass eyes, while these slippers for the first time covered
his feet, that set Mr. Carraway to cogitating upon the hollowness of
"Christmas as She is Celebrated." Indeed, it is my impression that at
the very moment when that bit of adornment was pressed down upon Mr.
Carraway's corn he announced rather forcibly his disbelief in the
utility of any such infernal Christmas present as that. And as time went
on, and that offending, staring slipper slipped into his hand every time
he searched the closet in the dark for a left patent-leather pump, or
some other missing bit of foot-gear, the conviction grew upon him that
of the great reforms of which the world stood in crying need, the
reformation of the Christmas gift was possibly the most important.

The idea grew to be a mania with him, and he gradually developed into a
utilitarian of the most pronounced type. Nothing in the world so suited
him as an object, homely or otherwise, that could be used for something;
the things that were used for nothing had no attractions for him. After
this he developed further, and discovered new uses for old objects. Mrs.
Carraway's parlor vases were turned into receptacles for matches, or
papers, according to their size. The huge Satsuma vase became a more or
less satisfactory bill-file; and the cloisonné jar, by virtue of its
great durability, Mr. Carraway used as a receptacle for the family
golf-balls, much to the trepidation of his good wife, who considered
that the vase, like some women, had in its beauty a sufficient cause for
existence, and who would have preferred going without golf forever to
the destruction of her treasured bit of bric-à-brac.

Mrs. Carraway did her best to stay the steady advance in utilitarianism
of her husband. She could bide with him in most matters. In fact, until
it came to the use of the cloisonné jar for a golf-ball reservoir, she
considered the idea at least harmless, and was forced to admit that it
indeed held many good points.

"I think it is perfectly proper," she said, "to consider all things from
the point of view of their utility. I do not believe in sending a
ball-dress to a poor woman who is starving or suffering for want of
coal, but I must say, John, that you carry your theory too far when you
insist on using an object for some purpose for which it was manifestly
never intended."

"But who is to say what a thing is manifestly made for?" demanded
Carraway. "You don't know, or at least you can't say positively, what
one of many possible uses the designer and maker of any object had in
mind when he designed and made that especial object. This particular
vase was fashioned by a heathen. It is beautiful and graceful, but
beyond producing something beautiful and graceful, how can you say what
other notion that heathen had as to its possible usefulness? He may have
made it to hold flowers. He may have intended it for a water-jug. He may
have considered it a suitable receptacle in which its future favored
owner might keep his tobacco, or his opium, or any one of the thousand
and one things that you can put in a vase with a hope of getting it out
again."

"Well, we know he didn't intend it for golf-balls, anyhow," said Mrs.
Carraway. "For the very simple reason that the heathen don't play golf."

"They may play some kind of a game which is a heathen variation of
golf," observed Mr. Carraway, coldly.

"That couldn't be," persisted Mrs. Carraway. "judging from the effect of
Sunday golf-playing on church attendance, I don't think anything more
completely pagan than golf could be found. However--"

"But the fact remains, my dear," Carraway interrupted, "that while we
may surmise properly enough that the original maker of an object did not
intend it to be used for certain purposes, you cannot say positively,
because you don't know that your surmise is absolutely correct."

"But I think you can," said Mrs. Carraway. "In fact, _I_ will say
positively that the man who made our new frying-pan made it to fry
things in, and not to be used in connection with a tack-hammer as a
dinner-gong. I know that the hardware people who manufactured our
clothes-boiler, down in the laundry, did not design it as a toy
bass-drum for the children to bang on on the morning of the Fourth of
July. I would make a solemn affidavit to the fact that the maker of a
baby-carriage never dreamed of its possible use as an impromptu toboggan
for a couple of small boys to coast downhill on in midsummer. Yet these
things have been used for these various purposes in our own household
experience. A megaphone can be used as a beehive, and a hammock can be
turned into a fly-net for a horse, but you never think of doing so; and,
furthermore, you _can_ say positively that while the things may be used
for these purposes, the original maker never, never, never thought of
it."

"Nonsense," said Carraway, wilting a little. "Nonsense. You argue just
like a woman--"

"I think that was what I was designed for," laughed Mrs. Carraway. "Of
course I do."

"Oh! but what I mean is that you take utterly ridiculous and extreme
cases. The things never could happen. Who'd ever dream of making a
beehive out of a megaphone?"

"Oh, I think it might occur to the same ingenious mind that discovered
that a cloisonné vase would hold golf-balls," smiled Mrs. Carraway.

Carraway laughed. "There you go again," he said. "I wonder why women
can't argue without becoming ridiculous? It would be mighty poor economy
to pay $4 for a megaphone as a substitute for a $2 beehive."

"That is true," said Mrs. Carraway. "I never thought of that."

"Of course you didn't," retorted Carraway, triumphantly. "Of course you
didn't; and that's what I mean when I say you argue like a woman. You
get hold of what seems on the surface to be a regular solar-plexus
retort, and fail to see how it becomes a boomerang before you can say
Jack Robinson."

"I suppose if I hadn't been worried about the vase I would have thought
of it," said Mrs. Carraway, meekly. "It worries me to see a $150 vase
used for a purpose that a fifty-cent calico bag would serve quite as
well."

Carraway glanced searchingly at his wife.

"Well--ah--hem!" he said. "Quite right, my dear, quite right. I think,
on the whole, you would better get the calico bag."

For a few days after this little discussion Carraway was very reticent
about his utilitarian ideas. The more he thought of his wife's retort
the less secure he felt in his own position, and he was very sorry he
had spoken about boomerangs and solar-plexus retorts. But with time he
recovered his equanimity, and early in December returned to his old
ways.

"I've just been up in the attic," he said to his wife one Sunday
afternoon, when he appeared on the scene rather dusty of aspect.
"There's a whole lot of useful stuff up there going to waste. I found
four old beaver hats, any one of which would make a very good
waste-basket for the spare bedroom if it was suitably trimmed; and I
don't see why you don't take these straw hats of mine and make
work-baskets of them." Here he held out two relics of bygone fashions
to his wife. Mrs. Carraway took them silently. She was so filled with
suppressed laughter over her husband's suggestions that she hardly dared
to speak lest she should give way to her mirth, and a man does not
generally appreciate mirth at his own expense after he has been
rummaging in an attic for an hour or more, filling his lungs and
covering his clothes and hands with dust.

However, after a moment she managed to blurt out, "Perhaps I can make
one of them dainty enough to send to your mother for her Christmas
present."

"I was about to suggest that very same thing," said Carraway, brushing
the dust from his sleeve. "Either you could send it or Mollie"--Mollie
was Mr. Carraway's small daughter. "I think Mollie's grandmother would
be more pleased with a gift of that kind than with one of the useless
little fallals that children give their grandparents on Christmas Day.
What did she give her last year?"

The question was opportune, for it gave Mrs. Carraway a chance to laugh
outright with some other ostensible object than her husband. She availed
herself of the chance, threw her head back, and shook convulsively.

"She sent her a ball of shaving-paper," Mrs. Carraway said.

A faint smile flitted over Carraway's face. "Well, it might have been
worse," he said. "She can use it for curling-paper." He paused a moment.
Then he said: "I want to say to you, my dear, that--ah--I want Christmas
celebrated this year after my plan of selection. Instead of squandering
our hard-earned dollars on things no sensible person wants and none can
use, we will consider, first of all, practical utility."

"Very well," sighed Mrs. Carraway. "I quite agree as far as you and I
are concerned--but how about the children? I don't think Tommie would
feel very happy to wake up on Christmas morning and find a pair of
suspenders and a new suit of clothes under the tree. He needs both, but
he wants tin soldiers. And as for Mollie, she expects a doll."

"Well, I don't wish to be hard on the children," said Mr. Carraway, "but
now is the time to begin training them. There may be a temporary
disappointment, but in the end they will be happier for it. Of course I
don't say to give them necessities of life for Christmas, but in
selecting what we do give them, get something useful. Dolls and tin
soldiers and toy balloons are well enough in their way, but they are
absolutely useless. Therefore, I say, don't give them such things.
Surely Mollie would be pleased to receive a nice little fur tippet or a
muff, and I'll get Tommie a handsome snow-shovel, that he can use when
he cleans off the paths. He won't mind; it will be a gift worth having,
and by degrees he'll come to see that the plan of utility is a good
one."

Mrs. Carraway discreetly held her tongue, although she was far from
approving Carraway's course in so far as it affected the children. She
tacitly agreed to the proposition, but there was the light of an idea in
her eye.

The days intervening before Christmas passed rapidly away, and Christmas
eve finally came. Tommie and Mollie were bubbling over with suppressed
excitement, and frequently went off into spasms of giggles. There was
something very funny in the wind evidently. After dinner the small
family repaired to the library, where the children were in the habit of
distributing their gifts for their parents on the night before
Christmas. Mrs. Carraway was beaming, and so was Mr. Carraway. The
children had been informed of what they were to expect, and after an
hour or two of regret, they had put their little heads together, giggled
a half-dozen times, and accepted the situation.

"Your mother has presented me with a ton of coal, children," said
Carraway, smiling happily. "Now you may think that a funny sort of
gift--"

"Yeth, papa," said Mollie.

"Awful funny," said Tommie, wiggling with glee.

"Well, it does seem so at first, but, now, how much better to give me
that than to present me with something that I could look at for a few
days and then would have no further use for!"

"That's so, pa," said Mollie.

"I guess you're right," said Tommie. "Wat cher got for ma?"

"I have given her a brand-new set of china for the dining-room," said
Mr. Carraway.

"And it was just what I needed," said Mrs. Carraway, happily. "And now,
children, go up-stairs, and bring down your presents for your father."

The children sped noisily out of the room and up the stairs.

"I hope you impressed it on their minds that I wanted nothing useless?"
said Carraway.

"I did," said Mrs. Carraway. "I explained the whole thing to them, and
told them what they might expect to receive. Then I gave them each ten
dollars of the money they'd saved, and let them go shopping on their own
account. I don't know what they bought you, but it's something huge."

Mrs. Carraway had hardly finished when the two giggling tots came into
the room, carrying with difficulty a parcel, which, as Mrs. Carraway had
said, was indeed huge. Mr. Carraway eyed it with curiosity as the string
was unfastened and the package burst open.

"There," cried Tommie, breathlessly.

"It's all for you, pa, from Mollie and me." The two children stood to
one side. Mrs. Carraway appeared surprised in an amused fashion, while
Carraway stood appalled at what lay before him, as well he might; for
the package contained a great wax doll with deep staring blue eyes, a
small doll's house with two floors in it and a front door that opened,
china and chairs and table and bureaus in miniature to furnish the
house--indeed, all the paraphernalia of a well-ordered residence for a
French doll. Besides these were two boxes of tin soldiers, cannon,
tents, swords, a fully equipped lead army, a mechanical fish, and a
small zinc steamboat, suitable for a cruise in a bath-tub.

Carraway looked at the children, and the children looked at Carraway.

"Why," said he, as soon as he could recover his equanimity, "there must
be some mistake."

"No," said Mollie. "We picked 'em out for you ourselves. We thought
you'd need 'em."

Mrs. Carraway turned away to cough slightly.

"Need them?" demanded Carraway with a perplexed frown. "When?"

"Oh--to-morrow," said Tommie.

"What for?" demanded Carraway.

"_Why, to give to us, of course_" said the children in chorus.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My dear," said Carraway, two hours later, after the children had
retired, "I've been thinking this thing over."

"Yes?" said Mrs. Carraway.

"Yes," said Carraway; "and I've made up my mind that those children of
ours are born geniuses. I don't believe, after all, they could have
selected anything which would be more satisfactorily useful in the
present emergency."

"Well," observed Mrs. Carraway, quietly, "I don't either. I thought so
at the time when they asked my permission to do their shopping at the
International Toy Bazar."

"It's a solar-plexus retort, just the same," said Carraway, as he shook
his head and went to bed. "I think on the 1st of January, if you have no
objections, Mrs. Carraway, I will forswear utilitarianism--and you may
remove the golf-balls from the cloisonné vase as soon as you choose."



THE BOOK SALES OF MR. PETERS


Like many another town which frankly confesses itself to be a "city of
the third class," Dumfries Corners is not only well provided but
somewhat overburdened with impecunious institutions of a public and
semi-public nature. The large generosity of persons who never give to,
but are often identified with, churches, hospitals, associations of
philanthropic intent of one kind and another, in Dumfries Corners as
elsewhere, is frequently the cause of embarrassment to persons who do
give without being lavish of the so-called influence of their names.
There are quite a dozen individuals out of the forty thousand souls who
live in that favored town who find it convenient to give away as much as
five hundred dollars annually for the maintenance of milk dispensaries,
hospitals, and other deserving enterprises of similar nature for the
needy. Yet at the close of each fiscal year those who have given to this
extent are invariably confronted by "reports," issued by officials of
the various institutions, frankly confessing failure to make both ends
meet, and everybody wonders why more interest has not been taken.
"Surely, we have loaned our names!" they say. It never occurs to anybody
that one successful charity is better than six failures. It has never
entered into the minds of the managers of these enterprises that a man
disposed to give away five hundred dollars could make his contributions
to the public welfare more efficacious by giving the whole to one
institution instead of dividing it among twenty.

However, human nature is the same everywhere, and until the crack of
doom sounds mankind will be found undertaking more charity than it can
carry through successfully, not only in Dumfries Corners, but everywhere
else. It would be difficult to fix the responsibility for this state of
affairs, although the large generosity of those who lend their names and
blockade their pockets may consider itself a candidate for chief honors
in this somewhat vital matter. It may be, too, that the large generosity
of people who really are largely generous with their thousands has
something to do with it. There is more than one ten-thousand-dollar town
in existence which has accepted a hundred-thousand-dollar hospital from
generously disposed citizens, and the other citizens thereof have
properly hailed their benefactor's name with loud acclaim, but the
hundred-thousand-dollar hospital, which might have been a
fifty-thousand-dollar hospital, with an endowment of fifty thousand more
to make it self-supporting, has a tendency to ruin other charities quite
as worthy, because its maintenance pumps dry the pockets of those who
have to give. It will require a drastic course of training, I fear, to
open the eyes of the public to the fact that even generosity can be
overdone, and I must disclaim any desire to superintend the process of
securing their awakening, for it is an ungrateful task to criticise even
a mistakenly generous person; and man being by nature prone to
thoughtless judgments, the critic of a philanthropist who spends a
million of dollars to provide tortoise-shell combs for bald beggars
would shortly find himself in hot water. Therefore let us discuss not
the causes, but some of the results of the system which has placed upon
suburban shoulders such seemingly hopeless philanthropic burdens. At
Dumfries Corners the book sales of Mr. Peters, one of the vestrymen,
were one of these results.

There were two of these sales. The first, like all book sales for
charity, consisted largely of the vending of ice-cream and cake. The
second was different; but I shall not deal with that until I have
described the first.

This had been given at Mr. Peters's house, with the cheerful consent of
Mrs. Peters. The object was to raise seventy-five dollars, the sum
needed to repair the roof of Mr. Peters's church. In ordinary times the
congregation could have advanced the seventy-five dollars necessary to
keep the rain from trickling through the roof and leaking in a steady
stream upon the pew of Mrs. Bumpkin, a lady too useful in knitting
sweaters for the heathen in South Africa to be ignored. But in that year
of grace, 1897, there had been so many demands made upon everybody, from
the Saint William's Hospital for Trolley Victims, from the Mistletoe
Inn, a club for workingmen which was in its initial stages and most
worthily appealed to the public purse, and for the University Extension
Society, whose ten-cent lectures were attended by the swellest people in
Dumfries Corners and their daughters--and so on--that the collections of
Saint George's had necessarily fallen off to such an extent that
plumbers' bills were almost as much of a burden to the rector as the
needs of missionaries in Borneo for dress-suits and golf-clubs. In this
emergency, Mr. Peters, whose account at his bank had been overdrawn by
his check which had paid for painting the Sunday-school room pink in
order that the young religious idea might be taught to shoot under more
roseate circumstances than the blue walls would permit, and so could not
well offer to have the roof repaired at his own expense, suggested a
book sale.

"We can get a lot of books on sale from publishers," he said, "and I
haven't any doubt that Mrs. Peters will be glad to have the affair at
our house. We can surely raise seventy-five dollars in this way.
Besides, it will draw the ladies in the congregation together."

The offer was accepted. Mrs. Peters acquiesced. Peters and his
co-workers asked favors and got them from friends in the publishing
world. The day came. The books arrived, and the net results to the
Roofing Fund of Saint George's were gratifying. The vestry had asked for
seventy-five dollars, and the sale actually cleared eighty-three! To be
sure, Mr. Wiggins spent fifty dollars at the sale. And Mrs. Thompson
spent forty-nine. And the cake-table took in thirty-eight. And the
ice-cream was sold, thanks to the voracity of the children, for nineteen
dollars. And some pictures which had been donated by Mrs. Bumpkin sold
for thirty-one dollars, and the gambling cakes, with rings and gold
dollars in them, cleared fifteen. Still, when it was all reckoned up,
eighty-three dollars stood to the credit of the roof! In affairs of this
kind, results, not expenses, are considered.

Surely the venture was a success. Although from the point of view of
bringing the ladies of the congregation together--well, the less said
about that the better. In any event, parts of Dumfries Corners were
cooler the following summer than they had ever been before.

And then, in the natural sequence of events, the next year came. The
hospital, and the inn, and the various other institutions of the city
indorsed by prominent names, but void of resources, as usual, left the
church so poor that something had to be done to repair the cellar of
Saint George's by outside effort, water leaking in from the street. The
matter was discussed, and the amount needed was settled upon. This time
Saint George's needed ninety dollars. It didn't really need so much, but
it was thought well to ask for more than was needed, "because then, you
know, you're more likely to get it."

The book-cake-and-cream sale of the year before had been so successful
that everybody said: "By all means let us have another literary
afternoon at Mr. Peters's."

"All right!" said Peters, calmly, when the project was suggested.
"Certainly! Of course! Have anything you please at my house. Not that I
am running a casino, but that I really enjoy turning my house inside out
in a good cause once in a while," he added, with a smile which those
about him believed to be sincere. "Only," said he, "kindly make me
master of ceremonies on this occasion."

"Certainly!" replied the vestry. "If this thing is to be in your house
you ought to have everything to say about it."

"I ask for control," said Peters, "not because I am fond of power, but
because experience has taught me that somebody should control affairs of
this sort."

"Certainly," was the reply again, and Peters was made a committee of
one, with power to run the sale in his own way, and the vestry settled
down in that calm and contented frame of mind which goes with the
consciousness of solvency.

Three months elapsed, and nothing was done. No cards were issued from
the home of Peters announcing a sale of any kind, cake, cream, or books,
and the literary afternoon seemed to have sunk into oblivion. The
chairman of the Committee on Supplies, however, having gone into the
cellar one morning to inspect the coal reserve, found himself obliged
either to wade knee deep in water or to neglect his duty--and, of
course, being a sensible man, he chose the latter course. He knew that
in impecunious churches willing candidates for vestry honors were rare,
and he, therefore, properly saved himself for future use. Wading in
water might have brought on pneumonia, and he was aware that there
really isn't any reason why a man should die for a cause if there is a
reasonable excuse for his living in the same behalf. But he went home
angry.

"That cellar isn't repaired yet," he said to his wife. "You'd think from
the quantity of water there that ours was a Baptist church instead of
the Church of England."

"It's a shame!" ejaculated his wife, who, having that morning finished
embroidering a centre-piece for the dinner-table of the missionaries in
Madagascar, was full of conscious rectitude. "A perfect shame; who's to
blame, dear?"

"Peters," replied the chairman. "Same old story. He makes all sorts of
promises, and never carries 'em out. He thinks that just because he
pays a few bills we haven't anything to say. But he'll find out his
mistake. I'll call him down. I'll write him a letter he won't forget in
a hurry. If he wasn't willing to attend to the matter he had no business
to accept the responsibility. I'll write and tell him so."

And then, the righteous wrath of the chairman of the Committee on
Supplies having expended itself in this explosion at his own
dinner-table, that good gentleman forgot all about it, did not write the
letter, and in fact never thought of the matter again until the next
meeting of the vestry, when he suavely and jokingly inquired if the
Committee on Leaks and Book Sales had any report to make. To his
surprise Mr. Peters responded at once.

"Yes, gentlemen," he said, taking a check out of his pocket and handing
it to the treasurer. "The Committee on Leaks, Literature, and Lemonade
reports that the leak is still in excellent condition and is progressing
daily, while the Literature and Lemonade have produced the very
gratifying sum of one hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three
cents, a check for which I have just handed the treasurer."

Even the rector looked surprised.

"Pretty good result, eh?" said Peters. "You ask for ninety dollars and
get one hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents. You can
spend a hundred dollars now on the leak and make a perfect leak of it,
and have a balance of thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents to buy
books for the Hottentots or to invest in picture-books for the Blind
Asylum library."

"Ah--Mr. Peters," said the chairman of the Committee on Supplies,
"I--ah--I was not aware that you'd had the sale. I--ah--I didn't receive
any notice."

"Oh yes--we had it," said Peters, rubbing his hands together buoyantly.
"We had it last night, and it went off superbly."

"I am sorry," said the chairman of the Committee on Supplies. "I should
like to have been there."

"I didn't know of it myself, Mr. Peters," said the rector, "but I am
glad it was so successful. Were there many present?"

"Well--no," said Peters. "Not many. Fact is, Mrs. Peters and the
treasurer here and I were the only persons present, gentlemen. But the
results sought were more than accomplished."

"I don't see exactly how, unless we are to regard this check as a gift,"
observed the chairman of the Committee on Supplies, coldly.

"Well, I'll tell you how," said Peters. "The check isn't a gift at all.
Last year you had a book sale at my house, and this year you voted to
have another. I couldn't very well object--didn't want to, in fact. Very
glad to have it as long as I was allowed to control it. But last year we
cleared up a bare eighty dollars. This year we have cleared up one
hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents. Last year's book
sale cost me one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The children who
attended, aided and abetted by my own, spilled so much ice cream on my
dining-room rug that Mrs. Peters was forced to send it to the cleaners.
A very charming young woman whose name I shall not mention placed a
chocolate eclair upon my library sofa while she inspected a volume of
Gibson's drawings. Another equally charming young woman sat down upon
it, and, whatever it did to her dress, that eclair effectually ruined
the covering of my sofa. Then, as you may remember, the sale of books
took place in my library, and I had the pleasure of seeing, too late,
one of our sweetest little saleswomen replenishing her stock from my
shelves. She had sold out all the books that had been provided, and in a
mad moment of enthusiasm for the cause parted with a volume I had
secured after much difficulty in London to complete a set of some rarity
for about seven dollars less than the book had cost."

"Why did you not object?" demanded the chairman of the Committee on
Supplies.

"My dear sir," said Mr. Peters, "I never object to anything my guests
may do, particularly if they are charming and enthusiastic young women
engaged in church work. But I learned a lesson, and last night's book
sale was the result. If the chairman of the Committee on Supplies
demands it, here is a full account of receipts."

Mr. Peters handed over a memorandum
which read as follows:

Saving on Floors by not having Book Sale,    $18.00
Saving on Carpets by not having Book Sale,     6.50
Saving on Library by not having Book Sale,    29.00
Saving on Time by not having Book Sale,       50.00
Saving on Furniture by not having Book Sale   28.27
Saving on Incidentals by not having Book Sale  5.86
                                    Total   $137.63

"With this statement, gentlemen," said Mr. Peters, suavely, "should the
Finance Committee require it, I am prepared to submit the vouchers which
show how much wear and tear on a house is required to raise eighty
dollars for the heathen."

"That," said the chairman of the Finance Committee, "will not be
necessary--though--" and he added this wholly jocularly, "though I don't
think Mr. Peters should have charged for his time; fifty dollars is a
good deal of money."

"He didn't charge for his time," murmured the treasurer. "In this
statement he has paid for it!"

"Still," said he of Supplies, "the social end of it has been wiped out."

"Of course it has," retorted Mr. Peters. "And a very good thing it has
been, too. Did you ever know of a church function that did not arouse
animosities among the women, Mr. Squills?"

The gentleman, in the presence of men of truth, had to admit that he
never knew of such a thing.

"Then what's the matter with my book sale?" demanded Peters. "It has
raised more money than last year; has cost me no more--and there won't
be any social volcanoes for the vestry to sit over during the coming
year."

A dead silence came over all.

"I move," said Mr. Jones, at whose house the meeting was held, "that we
go into executive session. Mrs. Jones has provided some cold birds, and
a--ah--salad."

Mr. Jones's motion was carried, and before the meeting finally adjourned
under the genial influence of good-fellowship and pleasant converse Mr.
Peters's second book sale was voted to have been of the best quality.



THE VALOR OF BRINLEY


However differentiated from other suburban places Dumfries Corners may be
in most instances, in the matter of obtaining and retaining efficient
domestics the citizens of that charming town find it much like all other
communities of its class. Civilization brings with it everywhere, it
would seem, problems difficult of solution, and conspicuous among them
may be mentioned the servant problem. It is probable that the only
really happy young couple that ever escaped the annoyance of this
particular evil were Adam and Eve, and as one recalls their case it was
the interference of a third party, in the matter of their diet, that
brought all their troubles upon them, so that even they may not be said
to have enjoyed complete immunity from domestic trials. What quality it
is in human nature that leads a competent housemaid or a truly-talented
culinary artist to abhor the country-side, and to prefer the dark,
cellar-like kitchens of the city houses it is difficult to surmise; why
the suburban housekeeper finds her choice limited every autumn to the
maid that the city folks have chosen to reject is not clear. That these
are the conditions which confront surburban residents only the
exceptionally favored rustic can deny.

In Dumfries Corners, even were there no rich red upon the trees, no
calendar upon the walls, no invigorating tonic in the air to indicate
the season, all would know when autumn had arrived by the anxious,
hunted look upon the faces of the good women of that place as they ride
on the trains to and from the intelligence offices of the city looking
for additions to their _ménage_. Of course in Dumfries Corners, as
elsewhere, it is possible to employ home talent, but to do this requires
larger means than most suburbanites possess, for the very simple reason
that the home talent is always plentifully endowed with dependents.
These latter, to the number of eight or ten--which observation would
lead one to believe is the average of the successful local cook, for
instance--increase materially the butcher's and grocer's bills, and, one
not infrequently suspects, the coal man's as well.

Years ago, when he was young and inexperienced, the writer of this
narrative, his suspicions having been aroused by the seeming social
popularity of his cook, took occasion one Sunday afternoon to count the
number of mysterious packages, of about a pound in weight each, which
set forth from his kitchen and were carried along his walk in various
stages of ineffectual concealment by the lady's visitors. The result was
by no means appalling, seven being the total. But granting that seven
was a fair estimate of the whole week's output, and that the stream
flowed on Sundays only, and not steadily through the other six days, the
annual output, on a basis of fifty weeks--giving the cook's generosity a
two weeks' vacation--three hundred and fifty pounds of something were
diverted from his pantry into channels for which they were not
originally designed, and on a valuation of twenty-five cents apiece his
minimum contribution to his cook's dependents became thereby very
nearly one hundred dollars. Add to this the probable gifts to similarly
fortunate relatives of a competent local waitress, of an equally
generously disposed laundress with cousins, not to mention the genial,
open-handed generosity of a hired man in the matter of kindling-wood and
edibles, and living becomes expensive with local talent to help.

It is in recognition of this seemingly cast-iron rule that local service
is too expensive for persons of modest income, that the modern
economical house-wife prefers to fill her _ménage_ with maids from the
metropolis, even though it happen that she must take those who for one
reason or another have failed to please her city sisters. It may be,
too, that this is one of the reasons for the constant changes in most
suburban houses, for it is equally axiomatic that once an alien becomes
acclimated she takes on a _clientèle_ of adopted relatives, who in the
course of time become as much of a drain upon the treasury of the
household as the Simon-Pure article.

The Brinleys had been through the domestic mill in its every phase.
They had had cooks, and cooks, and cooks, and maids, and maids, and
maids, plus other maids; they had been face to face with arson and
murder; Mrs. Brinley had parted a laundress armed with a flat-iron from
a belligerent cook armed with an ice-pick, and twice the ministers of
the law had carried certain irate women bodily forth with the direst of
threats lest they should return later and remove the Brinley family from
the list of the living.

All of which contributed to Mrs. Brinley's unhappiness and rather
increased than diminished her natural timidity. Brinley, on the other
hand, professed to know no fear, but according to his theory that ways
and means were his care, and that the domestic affairs of his household
were his wife's, and beyond his jurisdiction, held himself aloof and
said never a word to the recalcitrant servant, confining what upbraiding
he did exclusively to Mrs. Brinley.

"Why don't you scold Bridget?" cried Mrs. Brinley one morning, after
Brinley had made a few remarks to his wife which were not to her taste,
inasmuch as she felt that she had done nothing to deserve them. "I
didn't burn the steak."

"That is very true, my dear," said Brinley, "but you are responsible for
the cook who did. It would never do for me to interfere. I have troubles
enough with my office-boys. This is your bailiwick, not mine, and until
I ask you to scold my clerks you mustn't ask me to scold your servants."
With this sage remark the valiant Brinley at once took his departure.

Time passed, and it so happened one autumn that the once happy household
found itself in the throes of a particularly aggravated case of cook.
She was a sixteen-dollar cook, and had been recommended as being
"splendid." In just what respect she showed her splendor, save in her
regal lack of manners and the marvellous coloring of her costumes on her
Sundays out, was never perceptible, but one thing that was wholly clear
at the end of a three-weeks' service was her independence of manner.

Meals were never ready on time, and the dinner-hour, instead of being a
fixed time beneath her sway, seemed to become a variable point,
according to the lady's whim. In the observance of the breakfast-hour
she was equally erratic, and on several trying occasions Brinley was on
the verge of the dilemma of either failing to keep an appointment in
town or going without his morning meal. Sometimes the coffee would come
to the table a thin, amber fluid that tasted like particularly bad
consommé. Again it would be served with all the thickness of a _purée_.
Her bread was similarly variable in its undesirability. There were
biscuits that held all the flaky charm of a snowball. There were loaves
of bread that reminded one of the stories of hardtack in Cuba during the
late unpleasantness. There were English muffins that rested upon poor
Brinley's digestion as the world may fairly be presumed to rest upon the
shoulders of Atlas, and, indeed, it is a tradition in the Brinley family
that one of this cook's pie-crusts rivalled Harveyized steel in its
impenetrability.

Indeed, Brinley, usually a silent sufferer, commented upon this cohesive
quality of Ellen's pastry on two different occasions. On the first he
advised Mrs. Brinley to learn the secret of Ellen's manipulation of the
ingredients of a pie-crust, and have herself capitalized to rival the
corporations which provide the government with armor-plate. On the
second he made the sage though disagreeable remark that the "next
apple-pie we have should be served with individual steam-drills." And he
one day accompanied Mrs. Brinley to a quiet golf links, and, when he had
teed up, that good lady observed one of Ellen's doughnuts upon the
little mound of sand before him instead of his favorite ball.

"I cut up the Silverton ball so," he said, as he addressed the tee,
"that I'm ashamed of myself. I may not play any better with this
doughnut, but it will never show the marks of the irons as a bit of mere
gutta-percha would."

"If you feel that way about Ellen," Mrs. Brinley observed, just as
Brinley was about to drive off with a real ball, "I don't see why you
don't discharge her."

Brinley took his eye off the ball to look indignantly upon his wife, and
consequently foozled.

"Discharge her? Why should I discharge her?" he demanded, his temper
growing as he observed where he had landed his ball. "I'm not running
the house, my dear. You are. I didn't ask you to tell Miss Flossie
Fairfax that, as she couldn't spell, she was no longer useful as a
stenographer in the office of Brinley & Rutherford. Why should you ask
me to tell a cook that her services are no longer required in the
establishment of Brinley & Brinley, of which you are the manager?"

"It isn't easy to discharge a girl," Mrs. Brinley began. "Particularly a
quarrelsome woman like Ellen."

"Oh, that's it," said Brinley. "You are afraid of her."

"Not exactly," said Mrs. Brinley. "But--"

"Of course, if you are afraid of her, I'll get rid of her," persisted
Brinley, valiantly. "Just wait until we get home. I'll show you a thing
or two when it comes to ridding one's self of an unfaithful servant. The
steak this morning looked like a stake that martyrs had been burned at,
and I am not afraid to say so."

And so it was decided that Brinley, on his return home, should interview
Ellen and inform her that her services would not be required after the
first of the month. "Now let's play golf," he said. "I'll settle Ellen
in a minute. Fore!"

How Brinley fulfilled his promise is best shown by his talk with Mrs.
Brinley the next morning when, somewhat red of face, he rejoined her in
the dining-room after his interview with Ellen.

"Well?" said Mrs. Brinley.

"It's all right," Brinley replied, with an uneasy glance at his wife.
"She's going to stay."

"Going to stay?" echoed Mrs. Brinley, her eyes opening wide in a very
natural astonishment. "Why, I thought you were going to discharge her?"

"Well--I was," he said, haltingly. "I was, of course. That's what I went
down for--but--er--you know, my dear, that there are two sides to every
question."

"Even to Ellen's biscuits?" Mrs. Brinley laughed.

"Never mind that. She's going to do better," said Brinley. "You'll find
that hereafter we've got a cook, and not an incendiary nor a forger of
armor-plate."

"And may I ask how this wonderful reform has been worked in the brief
space of ten minutes?" asked Mrs. Brinley. "Have you hypnotized her?"

"No," said Brinley. Then he looked rather sheepishly out of the window.
"I've given her an incentive to do better. I've increased her wages."

Mrs. Brinley gazed at him silently in open-mouthed wonder for a full
half-minute.

"You did what?" asked Mrs. Brinley.

"I told her we'd give her twenty dollars a month instead of sixteen,"
said Brinley. "You needn't laugh," he added. "I began very severely.
Asked her what she meant by ignoring our wishes as to hours. I dilated
forcefully upon her apparent fondness for burning steaks to a crisp,
and sending broiled chicken to the table looking as if somebody had
dropped a flat-iron on them."

"Good!" exclaimed Mrs. Brinley. "And what did she say? Was she
impertinent?"

"Not a bit of it," said Brinley "She took it very nicely until I spoke
of the muffins, after which I had intended to give her notice to quit,
but she took the wind completely out of my sails by asking me what I
expected at sixteen dollars a month."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Brinley.

"Exactly," said Brinley. "That was a point I had not considered at all.
After all, she was right. What can you expect for sixteen dollars?"

"Well, what next?" asked Mrs. Brinley, her eyes a-twinkle.

"I asked her if she thought she could do better on twenty dollars," he
answered. "She thought she could, and that's the way it stands now."

"I see," said Mrs. Brinley, and then she burst into a perfect explosion
of laughter, which she soon curbed, however, as she noticed the
expression on poor Brinley's face. "I've no doubt you have acted with
perfect justice in this matter, my dear George," she said. "But I think
hereafter I'll do my own discharging. Your way is rather
extravagant--er--don't you really think so?"

"Perhaps," said Brinley, and departed for town.

"The madam is right about that," he said to himself later in the day, as
he thought over the incident. "But extravagant or not, I couldn't have
discharged that woman if somebody had offered me a clear hundred. Mrs.
B. doesn't know it, but I was in a blue funk from start to finish."

In which surmise Brinley was wrong. Mrs. B. did know it, and when two
weeks later Ellen became absolutely impossible, and demanded a
kitchen-maid as the perquisite of a twenty-dollar cook, Mrs. Brinley
didn't think of calling upon her husband to perform the function of the
executioner, but like a brave woman actually summoned the cook into her
presence and did it herself. A less courageous woman would have gone
downstairs into the kitchen to do it.



WILKINS


It was a rather remarkable affair, taken altogether. Wilkins was not
what one would call an attractive man, and none of the young women of
Dumfries Corners who had met him had ever manifested anything but a
pronounced aversion to his society.

"I'd rather be a wall-flower than dance with Sam Wilkins," one of these
young women had said. "He not only can't dance, but, what is infinitely
worse, he doesn't know that he can't dance, and as for his
conversation--well, give me silence."

"You are perfectly right about that," said another. "Whenever I see him
about to waltz or two-step, I immediately remove myself from the scene,
and pray for the girl he's dancing with. He is a train-wrecker, and the
favorite resting-place for his heels is on some one else's foot. I've
heard that he steps on his own feet, too, he's so awkward, and I hope he
does if it hurts him as much as he hurts me when he steps on mine."

For Wilkins's sake I am very sorry to say that this feeling towards him
was invariable. I never cared much for him myself, but I felt rather
sorry for him when I perceived the persistent snubbing with which he was
everywhere received. He never seemed aware of it himself, happily,
however, and accepted my merely sympathetic attentions with that
superciliousness which always goes with conscious rectitude.

Conscious rectitude, I think, was Wilkins's trouble. He was good, and he
was aware of it, but he was not content with that. He wanted everybody
else to be good. I really believe that Wilkins could have carried on a
Platonic love affair with an auburn-haired girl for ten weeks without an
effort, he was so terribly good, which did not at all contribute to his
popularity. A fellow who talks about ritualism while walking in the
moonlight with a sentimental woman, doesn't count for much, and Wilkins
was always doing things like that. It was even whispered last winter
when he went sleigh-riding with that fascinating little widow, Mrs.
Broughton, that he let her do the driving, clasped his own hands in
front of him, and talked of nothing but the privations of the
missionaries in China, and never mentioned oysters or cold birds and a
bottle.

"And worst of all," snapped Mrs. Broughton, "he really seemed to enjoy
it. I never saw such a man!"

I have mentioned all these details for the purpose of indicating how
unpopular Wilkins was and how it was that he had become so, for with
this knowledge the reader will share the surprise which we all felt when
Wilkins suddenly blossomed forth as the most popular man of Dumfries
Corners. It was really a knockdown blow to the most of us, for while we
may have been jealous on occasions of each other, it never occurred to
any of us to be jealous of the train-wrecker.

I didn't like it when Araminta smiled upon Harry Burnham, but it was not
injurious to my self-respect that she should do it, because Harry
Burnham averages up as good a fellow as I am, and then Harry and I could
drown our differences in the flowing bowl later on. On the other hand,
if Harry's Fiametta cast side glances at me, of course Harry would be
wroth, but he could understand why Fiametta should be so affected by the
twinkle in my eye--an affection by the way which has often got me
unconsciously into trouble--that she should for the moment forget
herself and respond to it.

But when Araminta and Fiametta on a sudden, just after the leap-year
dance, wholly, and, as we thought, basely, deserted us for that emblem
of conscious rectitude, Sam Wilkins, a man whose eye couldn't learn to
twinkle in a thousand years, a mere human iceberg, then it was that we
were astounded. Nor was this secession limited to Araminta and Fiametta.
The conversion of the girls of Dumfries Corners to Wilkins was as
complete, as comprehensive, as it was startling to the men. Jack Lester,
as Bob Jenks expressed it, was "trun down" by Daisy Hawkins, who
appeared to have eyes for none but Wilkins, while Bob, in turn, when
going to make his usual Thursday evening call upon Miss Betsy Wilson,
discovered that Miss Betsy had gone to the University extension lecture
with the train-wrecker, an act unprecedented, for it had long been the
custom for Bob to spend his Thursday evenings at the Wilson mansion,
and, while nothing had as yet been announced, everybody in town was
getting his congratulations ready for Bob as soon as that which was
understood became a matter of common knowledge.

For a week or two we none of us let on that we had observed the
remarkable change that had come o'er the spirit of our dreams. Harry has
always been remarkable for his ability to conceal his feelings, and in
that respect I am a good second, and except for the fact that we spent
more time at the club playing pool nobody would have suspected that we
cared whether Araminta or Fiametta still loved us or not. Besides, we
each had a feeling that two could play at this Wilkins game, and I had
made up my mind that if Araminta could so easily find a substitute for
me I, with my twinkle, could as speedily replace her. That is to say, I
felt that I could create that impression in Araminta's mind, and that
was all I was after. I didn't really intend, however easy it would be
to do so, to create a flutter of a permanent nature in any other woman's
heart--that is, not until I was sure that Araminta was lost to me
forever. After a decent period of mourning I might have used my twinkle
for permanent effect, but at that moment my only idea was to show
Araminta that if one could be fickle, two could be twice as fickle.
Harry had the same course of treatment in store for Fiametta, and we
both made a strong bid for the company of Mary Brown, who, it must be
confessed, was a charming girl, and stood second in the affections of
every man in Dumfries Corners.

It was the opportunity of Mary Brown's life, for even as Harry and I had
decided, so had all the other jilted swains, but that curious girl
either could not or would not grasp it. She, too, had become a
Wilkinsite, and would have nothing to do with any of us. She declined to
attend the Beldens's musicale with me, and went bicycling with the
iceberg. She told Robinson she hated lectures, and went to a
stereopticon show with the train-wrecker. All the other men met with a
similar rebuff, and at the last meeting of the Chafing Dish Club she
capped the climax by refusing my lobster à la Newburg and Harry's
oysters poulet, to have a second helping to the sole-leather welsh
rarebit which Wilkins had constructed; Wilkins, a rank outsider, who had
been asked to come to the meeting by every blessed girl in the club,
although heretofore he had not been considered as a possible member, and
in fact had been black-balled by the girls themselves! And when it came
time for the girls to go home, instead of each one being escorted by a
single male member, Wilkins corralled the whole lot of them in a huge
omnibus which he had hired, and drove off with them, leaving us
disconsolate. He smiled so broadly you could see his teeth in the dark.

This, as I have said, capped the climax.

"That settles it," said Burnham. "I'm going to New York for a rest.
These Dumfries Corners girls needn't think they're the only women in the
world. There are others."

"I'm going to stay and stick it out," said I. "I've got my sister left.
She'll never succumb to the Wilkins influence." But alas! I leaned upon
a broken reed. My sister is a sensible girl, but she is "literary." She
had a joke in _Life_ once, and since that time she has neglected almost
everything but writing and her brother. She doesn't neglect me, and
altogether I'm glad she writes, since it fills her with enthusiasm until
the articles come back, and up to now she had not written poetry. But,
as I say, I leaned upon a broken reed, for when, the next day, I asked
her what she was writing, she laughed and showed me a sonnet.

"Poetry, eh?" I said, disapprovingly, as I looked over her manuscript.

"Yes," she answered, modestly. "A sonnet."

And I read, "To S.W."

"Who's 'S.W.?'" I asked, with a frown, although I little suspected what
her answer would be.

"Sam Wilkins," she replied.

I then realized the full force of Caesar's "Et tu, Brute?" and fled.

Meanwhile Wilkins was becoming insufferable. If Bunthorne was an ass, he
was at least clever, but this Wilkins--he was a whole drove of asses,
and not a redeeming feature to the lot. He could no more account for
his sudden popularity than we could, but he could not help realizing it
after a week or two, and then, for the first time in his life, he began
to take notice. We men all wanted to thrash him, and I think Burnham
would have done it if the rest of us hadn't prevented him.

"He needed a licking before this," said Harry, "but now he's worse than
ever. It isn't conscious rectitude now, it's triumphant virtue. He makes
me tired. He was telling me the other day that while girls might be
captivated by flippant, superficial, prancing dudes for a while, in the
end solid worth would win, and then he went on to say that the youth of
modern times cultivated his feet to the exclusion of his head, and that
while he had, of course, learned to dance, he had not devoted all his
time to it, and regarded it, after all, as a very minor sort of an
attraction as far as women are concerned. 'I don't rely on my dancing,
Burnham,' he said. 'It's the head, and the heart, my boy, that
triumphs.' And when I asked him where he learned all this he answered,
'from personal experience.'"

I immediately let go of Burnham. "Go and half-lick him, Harry," said I.
"And when you've done with him pass him over to me, and I'll finish him.
The supercilious ass."

That was the way Wilkins affected us.

The other men took their dose in different ways. Jenks began to drink a
little more; Lester drank a little less. Hicks didn't care much about it
one way or the other, and Wilson swore that if Wilkins came to call on
his sister again he'd kick him out of the house.

Six weeks rolled by thus, and finally Easter Sunday came. No mitigation
of the Wilkins visitation had entered into our lives. As the days wore
on the girls became more devoted to him than ever, and he became
correspondingly unbearable. The condescension with which he would treat
his fellow-men was something hardly to be tolerated, and the worst of it
was there didn't seem to be any way of bringing the girls to terms.
There wasn't anybody left for us to flirt with now that Mary Brown had
gone over to the enemy, she who had always been willing to flirt with
anybody.

"There's only one hope," said Jenks. "If he'll only marry one of 'em,
the others will come back. He can't marry 'em all, thank Heaven."

"Suppose it was Fiametta he married?" said I.

"Or Araminta!" was his preposterous retort.

"He'll never do that," said Lester. "He's in clover now, and for the
first time in his life, and the more of an ass he is the more he'll like
clover. He's paying attention to the lot. He'll never settle down to
one. It's all up with us--unless he bankrupts himself."

"He won't," observed Harry Burnham. "Conscious rectitude won't do
anything like that. I'm going to New York to call on an old flame, and I
advise the rest of you to do the same."

"Well, I don't know but what you are right," said I, "but Araminta shall
have one more chance. I'm going to church to-morrow. It's Easter Sunday,
and I'll offer to escort her home. If she says 'yes,' all right. If she
doesn't, I'm lost to her forever."

"Good scheme," quoth the others. "We're with you."

And that is what we all did. The girls were all there, resplendent in
new bonnets and toggery of other sorts, and the smirking Wilkins was
there too. He passed the plate after the sermon, and his rectitude shone
out oleaginously on every line of his face. It was as much as I could do
to keep from tripping him up in the aisle, and sending him and the
contribution-plate sprawling. I almost did it when I imagined his
feelings as the nickels rattled down through the register into the
furnace below, but I restrained myself--and the killing glances he threw
into those glass eyes of his, whenever he happened to hold the plate
before one of those Dumfries girls! It was sickening, and I came near to
flying before the close of the service. The others had the same
sensations and temptations, and it is a wonder that Wilkins did not meet
with some dreadful humiliation before he got the collection back into
the chancel. It was a terrible strain on us, and his horrid
unconsciousness that he was anything but perfect, and that the rest of
us were anything more than so many paving stones to be walked on, was
aggravating to a degree. Nothing unusual happened, however, and the
service came to an end, and with it came to us all another surprise, but
this time the surprise gave Wilkins a pain, and I had a front seat when
the blow was dealt.

It had occurred to the immaculate rival of all the manhood of Dumfries
Corners that he would honor Araminta with his society on the way home
from church, and he and I reached her side after service at one and the
same moment.

"May I have the pleasure of seeing you home?" said Wilkins, twirling his
mustache with a "resist me if you can" smile on his lips.

"Don't let me interfere," said I, dryly, and was about to turn away.

"Thank you, Mr. Wilkins," replied Araminta, "but Mr. Smithers has
already asked me."

It was a beautiful, lovely, sweet lie. I hadn't done anything of the
sort, but I'd meant to, of course, and perhaps Araminta had become a
mind reader. Wilkins got a little flushy around his cheek-bones, and
posted off to Fiametta, but she and Burnham were already en route and
apparently reconciled. So it went with all. Wilkins was left. Even my
sister, who, lacking Wilkins, would have to walk home with the
minister's wife, declined, and the fall of the great man was complete.
Mary Brown was the only one remaining in the field, and when he fled to
her she said she wasn't going home.

"Well, then," said Wilkins, "let me take you to wherever you are going?"

"Thank you," returned Miss Brown, "I'm not going there either," and she
joined Araminta and myself, much to our delight, for we have no secrets
from her. And then it all came out.

The girls had not loved us less, or Wilkins more, but they had resolved
to keep Lent with unusual rigor this year.

_They had sworn us off and taken up Wilkins for penance_.

Hard on Wilkins?

Not a bit of it. He's as conscious of his rectitude and as unconscious
of his unpopularity as ever.

Only he is a little more outspoken about women than he used to be, and
somehow or other he has let it creep out that he "doesn't find them
interesting."

"They can't even learn to dance without tripping a fellow up," says he.



THE MAYOR'S LAMPS


The serpent had crept into Eden. The Perkins household for ten years had
been little less than Paradise to its inmates, and then in a single
night the reptile of political ambition had dragged his slimy length
through those happy door-posts and now sat grinning indecently at the
inscription over the library mantel, a ribbon mosaic bearing the
sentiment "Here Dwells Content" let into the tiles thereof.

How it ever happened no man knoweth, but happen it did. Thaddeus Perkins
was snatched from the arms of Peace and plunged headlong into the jaws
of Political Warfare.

"They want me because they think I'm strong," he pleaded, in extenuation
of his acceptance of the nomination for Mayor of his town.

"But you ought to know better," returned Mrs. Perkins, failing to
realize what possible misconstruction her lord and master might put
upon the answer. "The idea of your meddling in politics when you've got
twice as much work as you can do already! I think it's awful!"

"I didn't seek it," he said, after hesitating a moment;
"they've--they've thrust it on me." Then he tried to be funny. "With me,
public office is a public thrust."

"Is there any salary?" asked Mrs. Perkins, treating the jest with the
contempt it merited.

"No," said Thaddeus. "Not a cent; but--"

"Not a cent!" cried Mrs. Perkins. "And you are going to give up all your
career, or at least two years of it, and probably the best two years of
your life, for--"

"Glory," said Thaddeus.

"Glory! Humph," said Mrs. Perkins, "I am not aware that nations are
talking of previous Mayors of Dumfries Corners. Mr. Jiggers's name is
not a household word outside of this city, is it?"

Mr. Jiggers was the gentleman, into whose shoes Thaddeus was seeking to
place his feet--the incumbent of the mighty office to which he aspired.

"Who is the present Lord Mayor of London?" the lady continued.

"Haven't the slightest idea," murmured the standard-bearer of the
Democratic party, hopelessly.

"Or Berlin, or Peking--or even of Chicago?" she went on.

"What has that got to do with it?" retorted the worm, turning a trifle.

"You spoke of glory--the glory of being Mayor of Dumfries Corners, a
city of 30,000 inhabitants. This is going to send your name echoing from
sea to sea, reverberating through Europe, and thundering down through
the ages to come; and yet you admit that the glories of the Mayors of
London with 4,000,000 souls, of Berlin, Chicago, and Peking, with
millions more, are so slight that you can't remember their names--or
even to have heard them, for that matter. Really, Thaddeus, I am
surprised at you. What you expect to get out of this besides nervous
prostration I must confess I cannot see."

"Lamps," said Thaddeus, clutching like a drowning man at the one
emolument of the coveted office.

Mrs. Perkins gazed at her husband anxiously. The answer was so
unexpected and seemingly so absurd that she for a moment feared he had
lost his mind. The notion that two years' service in so important an
office as that of Mayor of Dumfries Corners received as its sole reward
nothing but lamps was to her mind impossible.

"Is--is there anything the matter with you, dear?" she asked, placing
her hand on his brow. "You don't seem feverish."

"Feverish?" snapped the leader of his party. "Who said anything about my
being feverish?"

"Nobody, Teddy dear; but what you said about lamps made me think--made
me think your mind was wandering a trifle."

"Oh--that!" laughed Perkins. "No, indeed--it's true. They always give
the Mayor a pair of lamps. Some of them are very swell, too. You know
those wrought-iron standards that Mr. Berkeley has in front of his
place?"

"The ones at the driveway entrance, on the bowlders?"

"Yes."

"They're beauties. I've always admired those lamps very much."

"Well--they are the rewards of Mr. Berkeley's political virtue. I paid
for them, and so did all the rest of the tax-payers. They are his
Mayor's lamps, and if I'm elected I'll have a pair just like them, if I
want them like that."

"Oh, I do hope you'll get in, Teddy," said the little woman, anxiously,
after a reflective pause. "They'd look stunning on our gate-posts."

"I don't think I shall have them there," said Thaddeus. "Jiggers has the
right idea, seems to me--he's put 'em on the newel-posts of his front
porch steps."

"I don't suppose they'd give us the money and let us buy one handsome
cloisonné lamp from Tiffany's, would they?" Mrs. Perkins asked.

"A cloisonné lamp on a gate-post?" laughed Perkins.

"Of course not," rejoined the lady. "You know I didn't mean any such
thing. I saw a perfectly beautiful lamp in Tiffany's last Wednesday, and
it would go so well in the parlor--"

"That wouldn't be possible, my dear," said Thaddeus, still smiling.
"You don't quite catch the idea of those lamps. They're sort of like the
red, white, and blue lights in a drug-store window in intention. They
are put up to show the public that that is where a political
prescription for the body politic may be compounded. The public is
responsible for the bills, and the public expects to use what little
light can be extracted from them."

"Then all this generosity on the public's part is--"

"Merely that of the Indian who gives and takes back," said Thaddeus.

"And they must be out-of-doors?" asked Mrs. Perkins. "If I set the
cloisonné lamp in the window, it wouldn't do?"

"No," said Thaddeus. "They must be out-of-doors."

"Well, I hope the nasty old public will stay there too, and not come
traipsing all over my house," snapped Mrs. Perkins, indignantly.

And then for a little time the discussion of the Mayor's lamps stopped.

The campaign went on, and Thaddeus night after night was forced to go
out to speak here and there and everywhere. One night he travelled five
miles through mud and rain to address an organization of tax-payers, and
found them assembled before the long mahogany counter of a beer-saloon,
which was the "Hall" they had secured for the reception of the idol of
their hopes; and among them it is safe to say there was not one who ever
saw a tax-bill, and not many who knew more about those luxuries of life
than the delicious flunky, immortalized by Mr. Punch, who says to a
brother flunky, "I say, Tummas, wot is taxes?" And he told them his
principles and promised to do his best for them, and bade them
good-night, and went away leaving them parched and dry and downcast. And
then the other fellow came, and won their hearts and "set them up
again." Another night he attended another meeting and lost a number of
friends because he shone at both ends but not in the middle. If he had
taken a glittering coin or two from his vest-pocket on behalf of the
noble working-men there assembled in great numbers and spirituous mood,
they would have forgiven him his wit and patent-leather shoes--and so
it went. Perkins was nightly hauled hither and yon by the man he called
his "Hagenbeck," the manager of the wild animal he felt himself
gradually degenerating into, and his wife and home and children saw less
of him than of the unimportant floating voter whose mind was open to
conviction, but could be reached only by way of the throat.

"Two o'clock last night; one o'clock the night before; I suppose it'll
be three before you are in to-night?" Mrs. Perkins said, ruefully.

"I do not know, my dear," replied Thaddeus. "There are five meetings on
for to-night."

"Well, I think they ought to give you the lamps now," said Mrs. Perkins.
"It seems to me this is when you need them most."

"True," said Thaddeus, sadly, for in his secret soul he was beginning to
be afraid he would be elected; and now that he saw what kind of people
Mayors have to associate with, the glory of it did not seem to be worth
the cost. "I'm a sort of Night-Mayor just at present, and those lamps
would come in handy in the wee sma' hours," he groaned. And then he
sighed and pined for the peaceful days of yore when he was content to
walk his ways with no nation upon his shoulders.

"I never envied Atlas anyhow," he confided to himself later, as he
tossed about upon his bed and called himself names. "It always seemed to
me that this revolving globe must rub the skin off his neck and back;
but now, poor devil, with just one municipality hanging over me, I can
appreciate more than ever the difficulties of his position--except that
he doesn't have to make speeches to 'tax-payers.' Humph! Taxpayers! It's
tax-makers. If I'd promised to go into all sorts of wilderness
improvement for the sole and only purpose of putting these 'tax-payers'
on the corporation at the expense of real laboring-men, I'd win in a
canter."

"What is the matter, Thaddeus?" said Mrs. Perkins, coming in from the
other room. "Can't you sleep?"

"Don't want to sleep, my dear," returned the candidate. "When I go to
sleep I dream I'm addressing mass-meetings. I can't enjoy my rest
unless I stay awake. Did your mother come to-day?"

"Yes--and, oh, she's so enthusiastic, Teddy!"

"At last! About me? You don't mean it."

"No--about the lamps. She says lamps are just what we need to complete
the entrance. She thinks Mr. Berkeley's scheme of putting them on the
stone posts is the best. There's more dignity about it. Putting them on
the piazza steps, she says, looks ostentatious, and suggests a
beer-saloon or a road-house."

"Well, my dear, that's about all politics seems to amount to," said the
reformer. "If those lamps are to be a souvenir of the campaign, they
ought to suggest road-houses and beer-saloons."

"They will not be souvenirs of a campaign," replied Mrs. Perkins,
proudly. "They will be the outward and visible sign of my husband's
merit; the emblem of victory."

"The red badge of triumph, eh?" smiled the candidate, wanly. "Well, my
dear, have them where you please, and keep them well filled with
alcohol, even if they do burn gas. They'll represent the tax-payers
when they get that."

"You musn't get so tired, Thaddeus dear," said the little woman,
smoothing his forehead soothingly with her hand. "You seem unusually
tired to-night."

"I am," said Thaddeus, shortly. "The debate wore me out."

"Did you debate? I thought you said you wouldn't."

"Well, I did. Everybody said I was afraid to meet Captain Haskins on the
platform, so we had it out to-night over in the Tenth Ward. I talked for
sixty-eight minutes, gave 'em my views, and then he got up."

"What did he say. Could he answer you?"

"No--but he won the day. All he said was: 'Well, boys, I'm not much of a
talker, but I'll say one thing--Perkins, while my adversary, is still my
friend, and I'm proud of him. Now, if you'll all join me at the bar,
we'll drink his health--on me.'" Thaddeus paused, and then he added: "I
imagine they're cheering yet; at any rate, if I have as much health as
they drink--on Haskins--I'll double discount old Methuselah in the
matter of years."

The next morning at breakfast the pale and nervous standard-bearer was
affectionately greeted by his mother-in-law.

"I've been thinking about those lamps all night," she said, after a few
minutes. "The trouble about the gate-posts is that you have three
gate-posts and only two lamps."

"Maybe they'd let us buy three lamps instead of two," suggested Mrs.
Perkins.

"Well, we won't, even if they do let us," observed Perkins, with some
irritation. He had just received a newspaper from a kind friend in
Massachusetts with a comic biography and dissipated wood-cut of himself
in it. "I'm not starting a concert-hall, and I'm not going to put a row
of lamps along the front of my place."

"I quite agree with you," replied his mother-in-law. "It occurred to me
we might put them, like hanging lanterns, on each of the chimneys. It
would be odd."

Thaddeus muttered two syllables to himself, the latter of which sounded
like M'dodd, but exactly what it was he said I can only guess. Then he
added: "They won't go there. I can't get a gas-pipe up through those
chimneys. It's as much as we can do to get the smoke up, much less a
gas-pipe. Even if we got the gas-pipe through, it wouldn't do. A
putty-blower would choke up the flues."

"Well, I don't know," said the mother-in-law, placidly. "It seems to
me--"

A glance from Mrs. Perkins stopped the dear old lady. I think Mrs.
Perkins's sympathetic disposition taught her that her husband was having
a hard time being agreeable, and that further discussion of the lamp
question was likely to prove disastrous.

Thaddeus was soon called for by his manager, and started out to meet the
leading lights of the Hungarian and Italian quarters. The Germans had
been made solid the day before, and as for the Irish, they were supposed
to be with Perkins on principle, because Perkins was not in accord
politically with the existing administration.

"It's too bad he's so nervous," said his mother-in-law, as he went out.
"They say women are nervous, but I must say I don't think much of the
endurance of men. How absurd he was when he spoke of the gas-pipe
through the chimney!"

"Well, I suppose, my dear mother," said Mrs. Perkins, sadly--"I suppose
he can't be bothered with little details like the lamps now. There are
other questions to be considered."

"What is the exact issue?" asked the mother-in-law, interestedly.

"Well--the tariff, and--ah--and taxes, and--ah--money, and--ah--ah--I
think the saloon question enters in somehow. I believe Mr. Haskins wants
more of them, and Thaddeus says there are too many of them as it is. And
now they are both investigating them, I fancy, because Teddy was in one
the other day."

"We ought to help him a little," said the elder woman. "Let's just
relieve him of the whole lamp question; decide where to put them, go to
New York and pick them out, get estimates for the laying of the pipes,
and surprise him by having them all ready to put up the day after
election."

"Wouldn't it be fun!" cried Mrs. Perkins, delightedly. "He'll be so
surprised--poor dear boy. I'll do it. I'll send down this morning for
Mr. O'Hara to come up here and see how we can make the connection and
where the trenches for the pipes can be laid. Mr. O'Hara is the best-known
contractor in town, and I guess he's the man we want."

And immediately O'Hara was telephoned for to come up to Mr. Perkins's,
and the fair conspirators were not aware of, and probably will never
realize, the importance politically of that act. Mr. O'Hara refused to
come, but it was hinted about that Perkins had summoned him, and there
was great joy among the rank and file, and woe among the better
elements, for O'Hara was a boss, and a boss whose power was one of the
things Thaddeus was trying to break, and the cohorts fancied that the
apostle of purity had realized that without O'Hara reform was fallen
into the pit. Furthermore, as cities of the third class, like Dumfries
Corners, live conversationally on rumors and gossipings, it was not an
hour before almost all Dumfries Corners, except Thaddeus Perkins
himself and his manager, knew that the idol had bowed before the boss's
hat, and that the boss had returned the grand message that he'd see
Perkins in the Hudson River before he'd go to his damned mugwump temple;
and in two hours they also knew it, for they heard in no uncertain terms
from the secretary of the Municipal Club, a reform organization, which
had been instrumental in securing Perkins's nomination, who demanded to
know in an explicit yes or no as to whether any such message had been
sent. The denial was made, and then the lie was given; and many to this
day wonder exactly where the truth lay. At any rate, votes were lost and
few gained, and many a worthy friend of good government lost heart and
bemoaned the degeneration of the gentleman into the politician.

Perkins, worn out, irritated by, if not angry at, what he termed the
underhanded lying of the opposition, drove home for luncheon, and found
his wife and her mother in a state of high dudgeon. They had been
insulted.

"It was frightful the language that man used, Thaddeus," said Mrs.
Perkins.

"He wouldn't have dared do it except by telephone," put in the
mother-in-law, whose notions were somewhat old-fashioned. "I've always
hated that machine. People can lie to you and you can't look 'em in the
eye over it, and they can say things to your face with absolute
opportunity."

The dear old lady meant impunity, but it must be remembered that she
was excited.

"Well, I think he ought to be chastised," said Mrs. Perkins.

"Who? What are you talking about?" demanded Thaddeus.

"That nasty O'Hara man," said Mrs. Perkins. "He said 'he'd be damned'
over the wire."

Thaddeus immediately became energetic. "He didn't blackguard you, did
he?" he demanded.

"Yes, he did," said Mrs. Perkins, the water in her eyes affecting her
voice so that it became mellifluous instead of merely melodious.

"But how?" persisted Perkins.

"Well--we--we--rang him up--it was only as a surprise, you know,
dear--we rang him up--"

"You--you rang up--O'Hara?" cried Perkins, aghast. "It must have been
a surprise."

"Yes, Teddy. We were going to settle the lamp question; we thought you
were bothered enough with--well, with affairs of state--"

The candidate drew up proudly, but immediately became limp again as he
realized the situation.

"And," Mrs. Perkins continued, "we thought we'd relieve you of the lamp
question; and as Mr. O'Hara is a great contractor--the most noted in all
Dumfries Corners--isn't he?"

"Yes, yes, yes! he is!" said Perkins, furiously; "but what of that?"

"Well, that's why we rang him up," said Mrs. Perkins, with a sigh of
relief to find that she had selected the right man. "We wanted Mr.
O'Hara to dig the trench for the pipes, and lay the pipes--"

"He's a great pipe-layer!" ejaculated Perkins.

"Exactly," rejoined Mrs. Perkins, solemnly. "We'd heard that, and so we
asked him to come up."

"But, my dear," cried Perkins, dismayed, "you didn't tell him you
wanted him to put up my lamps? I'm not elected yet."

The agony of the moment for Perkins can be better imagined than
portrayed.

"He didn't give us the chance," said the mother-in-law. "He merely
swore."

Perkins drew a sigh of relief. He understood it all now, and in spite of
the position in which he was placed he was glad. "Jove!" he said to
himself, "it was a narrow escape. Suppose O'Hara had come! He'd have
enjoyed laying pipes for a Mayor's lamps for me--two weeks before
election."

And for the first time in weeks Perkins was faintly mirthful. The
narrowness of his escape had made him hysterical, and he actually
indulged in the luxury of a nervous laugh.

"That accounts for the rumor," he said to himself, and then his heart
grew heavy again. "The rumor is true, and--Oh, well, this is what I get
for dabbling in politics. If I ever get out of this alive, I vow by all
the gods politics shall know me no more."

"It was all right--my asking O'Hara, Thaddeus?" asked Mrs. Perkins.

"Oh yes, certainly, my dear--perfectly right. O'Hara is indeed, as you
thought, the most noted, not to say notorious, contractor in town, only
he's not laying pipes just now. He's pulling wires."

"For telephones, I presume?" said the old lady, placidly.

"Well, in a way," replied Thaddeus. "There's a great deal of vocality
about O'Hara's wires. But, Bess," he added, seriously, "just drop the
lamps until we get 'em, and confine your telephoning to your intimate
friends. An Irishman on a telephone in political times is apt to be a
trifle--er--artless in his choice of words. If you must talk to one of
'em, remember to put in the lightning plug before you begin."

With which injunction the candidate departed to address the Mohawks, an
independent political organization in the Second Ward, which was made up
of thinking men who never indorsed a candidate without knowing why, and
rarely before three o'clock of the afternoon of election day at that, by
whom he was received with cheers and back-slapping and button-holings
which convinced him that he was the most popular man on earth, though
on election day--but election day has yet to be described. It came, and
with it there came to Perkins a feeling very much like that which the
small boy experiences on the day before Christmas. He has been good for
two months, and he knows that to-morrow the period of probation will be
over and he can be as bad as he pleases again for a little while anyhow.

"However it turns out, I can tell 'em all to go to the devil to-morrow,"
chuckled Thaddeus, rubbing his hands gleefully.

"I don't think you ought to forget the lamps, Thaddeus," observed the
mother-in-law at breakfast. "Here it is election day and you haven't yet
decided where they shall go. Now I really think--"

"Never mind the lamps," returned Thaddeus. "Let's talk of ballot-boxes
to-day. To-morrow we can place the lamps."

"Very well, if you say so," said the old lady; "only I marvel at you
latter-day boys. In my young days a small matter like that would have
been settled long ago."

"Well, I'll compromise with you," said Thaddeus. "We won't wait until
to-morrow. I'll decide the question to-night--I'm really too busy now to
think of them."

"I shall be glad when we don't have to think about 'em at all," sighed
Mrs. Perkins, pouring out the candidate's coffee. "They've really been a
care to me. I don't like the idea of putting them on the porch, or on
the gate-posts either. They'll have to be kept clean, and goodness knows
I can't ask the girls to go out in the middle of winter to clean them if
they are on the gate-posts."

"Mike will clean them," said Thaddeus.

Mrs. Perkins sniffed when Mike's name was mentioned. "I doubt it," she
said. "He's been lots of good for two weeks."

"Mike has been lots of good for two weeks," echoed Thaddeus,
enthusiastically. "He's kept all the hired men in line, my dear."

"I've no doubt he's been of use politically, but from a domestic point
of view he's been awful. He's been drunk for the last week."

"Well, my love," said the candidate, despairingly, "some member of the
family had to be drunk for the last week, and I'd rather it was Mike
than you or any of the children. Mike's geniality has shed a radiance
about me among the hired men of this town that fills me with pride."

"I don't see, to go back to what I said in the very beginning, why we
can't have the lamps in-doors," returned Mrs. Perkins.

"I told you why not, my dear," said Perkins. "They are the perquisite of
the Mayor, but for the benefit of the public, because the public pays
for them."

"And hasn't the public, as you call it, taken possession of the inside
of your house?" demanded the mother-in-law. "I found seven gentlemen
sitting in the white and gold parlor only last night, and they hadn't
wiped their feet either."

"You don't understand," faltered the standard-bearer. "That business
isn't permanent. To-morrow I'll tell them to go round to the back door
and ask the cook."

"Humph!" said the mother-in-law. "I'm surprised at you. For a few paltry
votes you--" Just here the front door bell rang, and the business of
the day beginning stopped the conversation, which bade fair to become
unpleasant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night came. The votes were being counted, and at six o'clock Perkins was
informed that everything was going his way.

"Get your place ready for a brass band and a serenade," his manager
telephoned.

"I sha'n't!" ejaculated the candidate to himself, his old--time
independence asserting itself now that the polls were closed--and he was
right. He didn't have to. The band did not play in his front yard, for
at eight o'clock the tide that had set in strong for Perkins turned. At
ten, according to votes that had been counted, things were about even,
and the ladies retired. At twelve Perkins turned out the gas.

"That settles the lamp question, anyhow," he whispered to himself as he
went up-stairs, and then he went into Mrs. Perkins's room.

"Well, Bess," he said, "it's all over, and I've made up my mind as to
where the lamps are to go."

"Good!" said the little woman. "On the gate-posts?"

"No, dear. In the parlor--the cloisonné lamps from Tiffany's."

"Why, I thought you said we couldn't--"

"Well, we can. Our lamps can go in there whether the public likes it or
not. We are emancipated."

"But I don't understand," began Mrs. Perkins.

"Oh, it's simple," said Thaddeus, with a sigh of mingled relief and
chagrin. "It's simple enough. The other lamps are to be put--er--on
Captain Haskins's place."



THE BALANCE OF POWER


It was a pleasant night in the spring of 189-.

The residents of Dumfries Corners were enjoying an early spring, and
suffering from the demoralizing influences of a municipal election.
Incidentally Mr. Thaddeus Perkins, candidate, was beginning to feel very
much like Moses when he saw the promised land afar. The promised land
was now in plain sight; but whether or not the name of Perkins should be
inscribed in one of its high places depended upon the voters who on the
morrow were to let their ballots express their choice as to who should
preside over the interests of the city and hold in check the fiery,
untamed aldermen of Dumfries Corners.

The candidate was tired, very tired, and was trying to gain a few hours'
rest before plunging again and for the last time into the whirlpool of
vote-getting; and as he sat enjoying a few moments of blissful ease
behind the close-drawn portieres of his library there came the
much-dreaded sound of heavy feet upon the porch without, and the
door-bell rang.

"Norah!" cried the candidate, in an agonized stage-whisper, as the maid
approached in answer to the summons, "tell them I'm out, unless it's
some one of my personal friends."

"Yis, sorr," was the answer. "Oi will."

And the door was opened.

"Is Misther Perkins in?" came a deep, unmistakably "voting" voice from
without.

"Oi dun'no'. Are yees a personal friend of Misther Perkins?" was the
response, and the heart of the listening Perkins sought his boots.

"Oi am not, but--" said the deep voice.

"Thin he isn't in," said Norah, positively.

"When 'll he be back?" asked the visitor, huskily.

"Ye say ye niver met him?" demanded Norah.

"Oi told ye oi hadn't," said the visitor, a trifle irritably. "But--"

"Thin he'll niver be back," put in the glorious Norah, and she shut the
door with considerable force and retired.

For a moment the candidate was overcome; first he paled, but then
catching Mrs. Perkins's eye and noting a twinkle of amusement therein,
he yielded to his emotions and roared with laughter. What if Norah's
manner was unconventional? Had she not carried out instructions?

"My dear," said the candidate to Mrs. Perkins, as the shuffling feet on
the porch shuffled off into the night, "what wages do you pay Norah?"

"Sixteen dollars, Thaddeus," was the answer. "Why?"

"Make it twenty hereafter," replied the candidate. "She is an emerald
beyond price. If I had only let her meet the nominating committee when
they entered our little Eden three weeks ago, I should not now be
involved in this wretched game of politics."

"Well, I sincerely wish you had," Mrs. Perkins observed, heartily. "This
affair has made a very different man of you, and as for your family,
they hardly see you any more. You are neglecting every single household
duty for your horrid old politics."

"Well, now, my dear--" began the candidate.

"The pipes in the laundry have been leaking for four days now, and yet
you won't send for a plumber, or even let me send for one," continued
Mrs. Perkins.

"Well, Bessie dear, how can I? The race is awfully close. It wouldn't
surprise me if the majority either way was less than a hundred."

"There you go again, Thaddeus. What on earth has the leak in the laundry
pipes to do with the political situation?" asked the puzzled woman.

The candidate showed that in spite of his recent affiliations he still
retained some remnant of his former self-respect, for he blushed as he
thought of the explanation; but he tried nevertheless to shuffle out of
it.

"Of course you can't understand," he said, with a cowardly resolve to
shirk the issue. "That's because you are a woman, Bess. Women don't
understand great political questions. And what I have particularly
liked about you is that you never pretended that you did."

"Well, I'd like to know," persisted Mrs. Perkins. "I want to be of as
much assistance to my husband in his work as I can, and if public
questions are hereafter to be the problems of your life, they must
become my problems too. Besides, my curiosity is really aroused in this
especial case, and I'd love to know what bearing our calling a plumber
has upon the tariff, or the money question, or any other thing in
politics."

The candidate hesitated. He was cornered, and he did not exactly like
the prospect.

"Well--" he began. "You see, I'm standing as the representative of a
great party, and we--we naturally wish to win. If I am defeated, every
one will say that it is a rebuke to the administration at Washington;
and so, you see, we'd better let those leaks leak until day after
to-morrow, when the voting will all be over."

Mrs. Perkins looked at her husband narrowly.

"I think I'll have to call the doctor," was her comment. "Either for you
or for myself, Teddy. One of us is gone--wholly gone, mentally. There's
no question about it, either you are rambling in your speech, or I have
entirely lost all comprehension of the English language."

"I don't see--" began Perkins.

"Neither do I," interrupted Mrs. Perkins; "and I hardly hope to. You've
explained and explained, but how a plumber's calling here to fix a
laundry leak is to rebuke the administration at Washington is still far
beyond me."

"But the plumbers are said to hold the balance of power!" cried the
candidate. "There are a hundred of them here in Dumfries Corners, and
each one controls at least five assistants, which makes six hundred
voters in all. If I call in one, he and his five workers will vote for
me, but the other five hundred and ninety-four will vote for Haskins;
and if they do, the administration might as well go out of business.
Can't you see? It's the same with the dandelions. These spring elections
are perfect--ah--Gehenna for a candidate if it happens to be an early
spring like this."

Perkins's voice had the suggestion of a wail in it as he spoke of the
dandelions, and his wife's alarm grew upon her. She understood now
about the plumber, but his interjection of the dandelions had brought a
fearful doubt into her heart. Surely he was losing his mind.

"Dandelions, Thaddeus?" she echoed, aghast.

"Yes, dandelions," retorted the candidate, forcibly. "They've queered me
as much as anything. The neighbors say I'm not a good neighbor because I
don't have them pulled. Mike's been so thoroughly alcoholic all through
the fight, looking after my interests, that he can't pull them; and if I
hire two men to come and do the work, seven hundred other men will want
to know why they didn't get a chance."

"But why not employ boys?" demanded Mrs. Perkins.

"And be set down as an advocate of cheap child labor? Not I!" cried
Perkins.

"Then the dandelion-pullers are another balance of power, are they?"
asked Mrs. Perkins, beginning to grow somewhat easier in her mind as to
her husband's sanity.

"Precisely; you have a very remarkable gift of insight, Bess," answered
the candidate.

"And how many balances of power are there?" demanded the lady.

"The Lord only knows," sighed Perkins. "I've made about eighty of 'em
solid already, but as soon as one balance is fixed a thousand others
rise up like Banquo's ghost, and will not down. I haven't a doubt that
it was a balance of power that Norah just turned away from the front
door. They strike you everywhere. Why, even Bobbie ruined me with one of
them in the Eighth Ward the other day--one solidified balance wiped out
in a moment by my interesting son."

"Bobbie?" cried Mrs. Perkins. "A six-year-old boy?"

"Exactly--Bobbie, the six-year-old boy. I wish you'd keep the children
in the house until this infernal business is over. The Eighth Ward would
have elected me; but Bobbie ruined that," said Perkins, ruefully.

"But how?" cried Mrs. Perkins. "Have our children been out making
campaign speeches for the other side?"

"They have," assented Perkins. "They have indeed. You remember that man
Jorrigan?"

"The striker?" queried Mrs. Perkins, calling to mind a burly combination
of red hair and bad manners who had made himself very conspicuous of
late.

"Precisely. That's just the point," retorted Perkins. "The striker.
That's what he is, and it's what you call him."

"But you said he was a striker at breakfast last Wednesday," said Mrs.
Perkins. "We simply take your word for it."

"I know I did. He's also a balance of power, my dear. Jorrigan controls
the Eighth Ward. That's the only reason I've let him in the house," said
Thaddeus.

"You've been very chummy with him, I must say," sniffed Mrs. Perkins.

"Well, I've had to be," said the candidate. "That man is a power, and he
knows it."

"What's his business?" asked Mrs. Perkins.

"Interference between capital and labor," replied Perkins. "So I've
cultivated him."

"He never struck me as being a very cultivated person," smiled Mrs.
Perkins. "He has a suggestion of alcohol about him that is very
oppressive."

"I know--he has a very intoxicating presence," said the candidate,
joining in the smile. "But we are rid of his presence now and forever,
thanks to Bobbie. I got the news last night. He and his followers have
declared for Haskins, in spite of all his promises to me, and we can
attribute our personal good fortune and our political loss to Bobbie.
Bobbie met him on the street the other day."

"I know he did," said Mrs. Perkins. "He told me so, and he said that the
horrid man wanted to kiss him."

"It's true," said Perkins. "He did, and Bobbie wouldn't let him."

"Well, a man isn't going back on you because he can't kiss your whole
family, is he?" asked Mrs. Perkins, apprehensively. "If that's the
situation, I shall go to New York to-morrow."

Perkins laughed heartily. "No, my dear," he said. "You are safe enough
from that. But Jorrigan, when Bobbie refused, said, 'Well, young feller,
I guess you don't know who I am?' 'Yes, I do,' said Bobbie. 'You are
Mr. Jorrigan,' and Jorrigan was overjoyed; but Bobbie destroyed his good
work by adding, 'Jorrigan the striker,' and the striker's joy vanished.
'Who told you that?' said he. 'Pop--and he knows,' said Bobbie. That
night," continued Perkins, with a droll expression of mingled mirth and
annoyance, "the amalgamated mortar-mixers of the Eighth Ward decided
that consideration for the country's welfare should rise above partisan
politics, and that when it came to real statesmanship Haskins could give
me points. A ward wiped out in a night, and another highly interesting,
very thirsty balance of power gone over to the other side."

"I should think you'd give up, then," said Mrs. Perkins, despairfully.
She wanted her husband to win--not because she had any ambition to shine
as "Lady-Mayor," but because she did not wish Thaddeus to incur
disappointment or undergo the chagrin of a public rebuke. "You seem to
be losing balances of power right and left."

"Why should I give it up?" queried Perkins. "You don't suppose I am
having any better luck than Mr. Haskins, do you?"

"Is he losing them too?" asked Mrs. Perkins, hopefully.

"I judge so from what he tells me," said Perkins. "We took dinner
together at the Centurion in New York the other night, and he's a prince
of good fellows, Bess. He has just as much trouble as I have, and when I
met him on the train the other day he was as blue as I about the
future."

"You and the captain dining together?" ejaculated Mrs. Perkins.

"Certainly," said Perkins. "Why not? Our hatred is merely political, and
we can meet on a level of good-fellowship anywhere outside of Dumfries
Corners."

Mrs. Perkins laughed outright. "Isn't it funny!" she said.

"Why, Haskins is one of my best friends, generally," continued Perkins.
"I don't see anything funny about it. Just because we both happen to be
dragged into politics on opposite sides at the same moment is no reason
why we should begin cutting each other's throats, my dear. In fact, with
balances of power springing up all over town like mushrooms, we have
become companions in misery."

"Well, I don't see why you can't get together, then, and tell these
balances to go to--to grass," suggested Mrs. Perkins.

"Grass is too mild, my love," remarked the candidate, smiling quietly.
"They wouldn't go there, even if we told them to, so it would be simply
a waste of breath. We've got to grin and bear them until the polls
close, and then we can pitch in and tell 'em what we think of them."

"Just the same," continued Mrs. Perkins, "an agreement between Mr.
Haskins and you to ignore these people utterly, instead of taking them
into your family, would stop the whole abuse."

"That's a woman's idea," said Perkins, bravely, though in the innermost
recesses of his heart he wished he had thought of it before. "It isn't
practical politics, my love. You might as well say that two opposing
generals in a war could save thousands of lives by avoiding each other's
armies and keeping out of a fight."

"Well, I do say that," replied Mrs. Perkins, positively. "That's
exactly my view of what generals ought to do."

"And what would become of the war?" queried the candidate.

"There wouldn't be any," said the good little woman.

"Precisely," retorted Perkins. "Precisely. And if Haskins and I did what
you want us to do, there would be no more politics."

"Well, what of it?" demanded Mrs. Perkins. "Are politics the salvation
of the country? It's as bad as war."

"Humph!" grunted Perkins. "It is difficult to please women. You hate war
because, to settle a question of right, people go out into the field of
battle and mow each other down with guns; you cry for arbitration. Let
all questions, all differences of opinion, be settled by a resort to
reason, say you--which is beautiful, and undoubtedly proper. But when we
try to settle our differences by a bloodless warfare, in which the
ballot is one's ammunition, you cry down with politics. A political
contest is nothing but a bit of supreme arbitration, for which you peace
people are always clamoring, by the court of last resort, the people."
Mrs. Perkins smiled sweetly, and taking her husband's hand in hers,
stroked it softly.

"Teddy dear, you mustn't be so politic with me," she said; "I'm not a
campaign club. I know that sentiment you have just expressed is lofty
and noble, and ought to be true, and I know we used to think it was
true--three weeks ago I believed it when you said it; but this is now,
dear. This is to-night, not three weeks ago, and I have changed my
mind."

"Well," began the candidate, hesitatingly, "I don't know but that I am
weakening a trifle myself."

"I know," interposed Mrs. Perkins, "you are weakening. You know as well
as I do that the hard work you are doing is not in appealing to the
reason of the supreme court of arbitration, the people. You are
appealing, as you have said, yourself, to a large and interesting
variety of balances of power, that do not want your views or your
opinions or your arguments, but they do want your money to buy cigars
and beer with. They want you to buy their good-will; and even if you
bought it, I doubt if they would concede to you a controlling interest
in it if Mr. Haskins should happen to want some of it, and I don't doubt
he does."

"You don't know anything--" the candidate ventured.

"Yes I do, too," returned Mrs. Perkins, with the self-satisfied nod
which the average new woman gives when she thinks she is right, though
Mrs. Perkins had no pretensions in that direction, happily for her
family. "I know all that you have told me. I know that when you were to
dine at Colonel Buckley's on Wednesday night you wore your evening
dress, and that when leaving there early to go to the city and address
the Mohawk Independent Club you asked your manager if you could go
dressed as you were, and his answer was, 'Not on your life,' and you
went home and put on your business suit. You told me that yourself, and
yet you talk about the supreme court of arbitration, the people!"

"But, Bess, the Mohawks are a powerful organization," pleaded Perkins.
"I couldn't afford to offend them."

"No. It was the first balance of power that turned up. I remember it
well. It was to be convinced by arguments. You were going down there to
discuss principles, but you couldn't appeal to their judicial minds or
reach their reason unless you changed your clothes; and when you got
there as their guest, and ventured to ask for a glass of Vichy before
you spoke, do you remember what they brought you?" demanded Mrs.
Perkins, warming up to her subject.

The candidate smiled faintly. "Yes," he answered. "Beer."

"Exactly; and when he gave you the beer, that MacHenty man whispered in
your ear, 'Drink that; it'll go better wid the byes.'"

"He did," said Thaddeus, meekly.

"And yet you talk about this appeal to a reasonable balance of power!
Really, Teddy, you are becoming demoralized. Politics, as I see it, is
an appeal to thirst, and nothing else."

"'You never miss the voter till the keg runs dry,'" sang the candidate,
with a more or less successful attempt at gayety. "But never mind, Bess.
I've had enough, and if I'm beaten this time I'll never do it again. So
don't worry; and, after all, this is only a municipal election. The
difference between a grand inspiring massive war for principle and a
street riot. The supreme court of arbitration, the people, can be relied
on to do the right thing in the end. They are sane. They are honest.
They are not all thirsty, and in this as in all contests the blatant
attract the most attention. The barker at the door of the side show to
the circus makes more noise than the eight-headed boy that makes the
mare go."

"You're a trifle mixed in your metaphors, Teddy," said Mrs. Perkins.

"Well who wouldn't be, after a three weeks' appeal to an arid waste of
voters?"

"A waste of arid voters," amended Mrs. Perkins.

"The amendment is accepted," laughed Thaddeus. And at that moment a
telephone call from headquarters summoned him abroad.

"Good-night, Bess," he said, kissing his wife affectionately. "This is
the last night."

"Good-night, Teddy; I hope it is. And next time when they ask you to
run--"

"You shall be the balance of power, and decide the question for me,"
said the candidate, as, with sorrow in his heart, he left his home to
seek out what he called "the branch office of Hades," political
headquarters, where were gathered some fifty persons, most of whom began
life in other countries, under different skies, and to whom the national
anthem "America" meant less and aroused fewer sentiments worth having
than that attractive two-step "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning," and
who were yet sufficiently powerful with the various "balances" of the
town to hold its political destinies in their itching palms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two months after this discussion the late Honorable Thaddeus Perkins,
ex-candidate, and Mayor of Dumfries Corners only by courtesy of those
who honor defeated candidates with titles for which they have striven
unsuccessfully, was strolling through the country along the line of the
Croton Aqueduct, trying to disentangle, with the aid of the fresh sweet
air of an early summer afternoon, an idea for a sonnet from the mazes of
his brain. Stopping for a moment to look down upon the glorious Hudson
stretching its shimmering length like a bimetallic serpent to the north
and south, he suddenly became conscious of a pair of very sharp eyes
resting upon him, which a closer inspection showed belonged to a laborer
of seemingly diminutive stature, who was engaged in carrying earth in a
wheelbarrow from one dirt-pile to another. As Thaddeus caught his eye
the laborer assumed towering proportions. He rose up quite two feet
higher in the air and bowed.

"How do you do?" said Perkins, returning the salutation courteously,
wondering the while as to what might be the cause of this sudden change
of height.

"Oi'm well--which is nothin' new to me," replied the other. "Ut sheems
to me," he continued, "thot youse resimbles thot smart young felly
Perkins, the Mayor of Dumfries Corners--not!"

Perkins laughed. The sting of defeat had lost its power to annoy, and
his experience had become merely one of a thousand other nightmares of
the past.

"Do I?" he replied, resolving not to confess his identity, for the
moment at least.

"Only thinner," chuckled the laborer, shrinking up again; and Perkins
now saw that the legs of his new acquaintance were of an abnormally
unequal length, which forced him every time he shifted his weight from
one foot to the other to change his apparent height to a startling
degree. "An' a gude dale thinner," he repeated. "There's nothin' loike
polithical exersoize to take off th' flesh, parthicularly when ye miss
ut."

"I fancy you are right," said Perkins. "I never met Mr. Perkins--that
is, face to face--myself. Do you know him?"

The Irishman threw his head back and laughed.

"Well," he said, "oi'm not wan uv his pershonal fri'nds. But oi know um
when oi see um," and he looked Thaddeus straight in the eye as he grew
tall again.

"I'm sure it is Perkins's loss," returned Thaddeus, "that you are not a
personal friend of his."

"It was," said the Irishman. "My name is Finn," he added, with an air
which seemed to assume that Perkins would begin to tremble at the
dreaded word; but Perkins did not tremble. He merely replied,

"A very good name, Mr. Finn."

"Oi t'ink so," assented Mr. Finn. "Ut's better nor Dinnis, me young
fri'nd."

Perkins assented to this proposition as though it was merely general,
and had no particular application to the affairs of the moment. "I
suppose, Mr. Finn," he observed, shortly, "that you were one of the
earnest workers in the late campaign for Mr. Perkins?"

"Was he elicted?" asked Finn, scornfully.

"I believe not," began Thaddeus. "But--"

"Thot's me answer to your quistion, sorr," said Finn, with dignity.
"He'd 'a' had lamps befoor his house now, sorr, if he hadn't been gay
wid his front dure."

"Oh--he was gay with his front door, was he?" asked Perkins.

"He was thot, an' not ony too careful uv his windy-shades," replied
Finn.

Perkins looked at him inquiringly.

"Givin' me, Mike Finn, song an' dance about not bein' home, wid me
fri'nds outside on the lawn watchin' him troo de windy, laffin' loike a
hayeny."

"Excuse me--like a what?" said Thaddeus.

"A hayeny," repeated Mr. Finn. "Wan o' thim woild bastes as laffs at
nothin' much. 'Is he home?' sez oi. 'Are yees a pershonal fri'nd?' says
the gurl. 'Oi'm not,' sez oi. 'He ain't home,' says the gurl. 'Whin'll
he be back?' says oi. 'Niver,' says she, shlammin' the dure in me face;
and Mike Finn wid a certifikut uv election for um in his pocket!"

"A certificate of election?" cried Perkins. "And he wouldn't see you?"

"He would not."

"You were to an extent the balance of power, then?"

"That's what oi was," said Finn, enjoying what he thought was Perkins's
dismay; for he knew well enough to whom he was talking. "Oi was the rale
bonyfiday balance uv power. Oi've got foive sons, sorr, and ivery wan o'
thim byes is conthracthors, or, what's as good, bosses uv gangs on
public an' proivate works. There ain't wan uv thim foive byes as don't
conthrol twinty-foive votes, an' there ain't wan uv 'em as don't moind
what the ould mon says to um. Not wan, sorr. An' they resints the
turnin' down uv their father."

"That's as it should be," said Perkins.

"An' ut's as ut was, me young fri'nd. Whin oi wint home to me pershonal
fri'nds at th' Finn Club, Misther Perkins had losht me. Wan gone. Whin
oi tould the Finn Club, wan hundred sthrong, he losht thim. Wan hundred
and wan gone. Whin oi tould th' byes, he losht thim. Wan hundred an' six
gone. An' whin they tould their twinty-foive apiece, ivery twinty-foive
o' thim wint. Wan hundred an' six plus wan hundred an' twinty-foive
makes two hundred an' thirty-wan votes losht at the shlammin' uv the
front dure. An' whin two hundred an' thirty-wan votes laves wan soide
minus an' the other soide plus, th' gineral result is a difference uv
twoice two hundred an' thirty-wan, or foor hundred an' sixty-two. D'ye
mind thot, sorr?"

"I see," said Perkins. "And as this--ah--this particular candidate was
beaten by a bare majority of two or three hundred votes--"

"It was _me_ as done it!" put in the balance of power, shaking his
finger at Perkins impressively. "Me--Mike Finn!"

"Well, I hope Mr. Perkins hears of it, Mr. Finn," put in Thaddeus. "I am
told that he is wondering yet what hit him, and having put the affront
upon you, and through that inexcusable act lost the election, he ought
to know that you were his Nemesis."

"His what?" queried the real balance.

"His Nemesis. Nemesis is the name of a Greek goddess," exclaimed
Perkins.

"Oi'm no Greek, nor no goddess," retorted Finn, "but I give him the
throw-down."

"That's what I meant," explained Thaddeus. "The word has become part of
the English language. Nemesis was the Goddess of the Throw-down, and the
word is used to signify that."

"Oh, oi see," said Finn, scratching his head reflectively. Perkins took
his revelation a trifle too calmly. "You say you don't know this
Perkins," he asked.

"Well, I never met him," said the ex-candidate, smiling. "But I know
him."

Finn laughed again. "Oi'll bet ye do; an' oi guiss ye've seen his fa-ace
long about shavin'-toime in the mornin' in the lukin'-glash--eh?"

"Well, yes," smiled Perkins. "I confess I'm the man, Mr. Finn; but now
we are--personal friends--eh? I was fagged out that night, and--you
didn't send in your card, you know--and I didn't know it was you." The
balance of power cast down his eyes, and rubbing his hand on his
overalls as if to clean it, stretched it out. Perkins grasped it, and
Finn gave a slight gulp. He wasn't quite happy. The proffered friendship
of the man he had helped to defeat rather upset him; but he was equal to
the occasion.

"Niver moind, sorr," he said, when he had quite recovered. "You're young
yit. They've shoved yees out this toime, but wait awhoile. Yees'll be
back."

"No, Mr. Finn," replied Perkins, handing Finn a cigar. "Thanks to you, I
got out of a tight hole, and as our maid said to you that night, I'll
'niver be back.' But if you happen down my way again, I'll be glad to
see you--at any time. Good-bye."

The two parted, and Thaddeus walked home, thinking deeply of the
far-reaching effect in this life of little things; and as for Finn, he
bit off half the cigar Perkins had given him, and as he chewed upon it,
sitting on the edge of his barrow, he remarked forcibly to himself,
"Well, oi'll be daamned!"



JARLEY'S EXPERIMENT


Jarley was an inventive genius. He invented things for the pleasure of
it rather than with any idea of ultimately profiting from the results of
his ingenuity, which may explain why it was that his friends deemed many
of his contrivances a sheer waste of time. Among other things that
Jarley invented was a tennis-racket which could be folded up and packed
away in a trunk. The fact that any ordinary tennis-racket could be
packed away in any ordinary trunk without being folded up was to Jarley
no good reason why he should not devote his energies to the production
of the compact weapon of sport which he called the Jarley Racket. He was
after novelty, and utility was always a secondary consideration with
him. Others of his inventions were somewhat more startling. "The Jarley
Ready Writing-Desk for Night Use," for instance, was a really
remarkable conception. Its chief value lay in the saving of gas and
midnight oil to impecunious writers which its use was said to bring
about, and when fully equipped consisted simply of a writing-table with
all the appliances and conveniences thereof treated with phosphorus in
such a manner that in the blackest of darkness they could all be seen
readily. The ink even was phosphorescent. The paper was luminous in the
dark. The penholders, pens, pen-wipers, mucilage-bottle, everything, in
fact, that an author really needs for the production of literature, save
ideas, were so prepared that they could not fail to be visible to the
weakest eye in the darkest night without the aid of other illumination.
The chief trouble with the invention was that in the long-run it was
more expensive than gas or oil could possibly be in the most extravagant
household; but that bothered Jarley not a jot. Nor was he at all upset
when his ingenious Library Folding-Bed, comprising a real bookcase and
sofa-couch, failed to suit his practical-minded friends because, when
turned down for use as a couch, all the books in the bookcase side of
it fell out upon the floor. His arrangement was better than the ordinary
folding-bed, he said, because the bookcase side of it was not a sham,
but the real thing, while that of the folding-bed of commerce was a
delusion and a snare. As a hater of shams he justified his invention,
though of course it couldn't be put to much practical use unless the
purchaser was willing to take his books out of the shelves when he
intended using the piece of furniture for sleeping purposes. If the
purchaser was too lazy to do this it was not Jarley's fault, so the
inventor reasoned, nor did he intend improving his machine in order to
accommodate the lazy man in his pursuit of a life of indolence.

When Jarley married he turned his attention to the devising of apparatus
to make domestic life less trying to Mrs. Jarley. As a bachelor he had
contrived quite a number of mechanical effects which made his lonely
life easier. He had fitted up his rooms with devices by means of which,
while lying in bed on cold mornings, he could light his gas-stove
without getting up; and his cigars, the ends of which he had dipped in
sulphur, so that they could be lit by scratching them on the under side
of the mantel-piece, just as matches are ignited, were the delight of
his life. Now, however, he turned his mind towards helping little Mrs.
Jarley on in the domestic world. He prepared a chart by means of which
the monotony of marketing was done away with entirely. He also arranged
for her a charming automatic curl-paper box, and drew up a plan for a
patent pair of curling-tongs, which could be fastened to the gas-fixture
and kept heated to the degree required, so that it might be used at a
moment's notice. This was provided with a number of movable ends, all
different, in order that Mrs. Jarley could, if she chose, vary the
appearance of her curls according to her taste; and although the little
lady never approved of it sufficiently to have it made, it was
undoubtedly a valuable contrivance.

Then when Jarley junior came along to delight the parent soul,
self-rocking cradles and perpetual reservoirs for food were devised, and
some of them put into actual use, though, as a rule, Mrs. Jarley
preferred the old-fashioned methods to which she was by her home
training more accustomed.

The great invention of Jarley, however, was the result of his study of
Jarley junior as that very charming and exceedingly agile child
developed from infancy into boyhood. The idea came to him one Sunday
afternoon while Mrs. Jarley was at church. It was the nursemaid's
afternoon out, and Jarley had undertaken to care for Master Jarley in
the absence of his true guardians.

"Well, Jack," he said to his son, when they had been left in sole
possession of the Jarley mansion, "you and I must entertain each other
this afternoon. What shall we do?"

"I'd like to play choo-choo car with you," said Jack. "I'll be the
engine and you be the train."

"Very well," said Jarley. "Have you got your steam up?"

"Yeth," lisped Jack. "All aboard!"

Jarley hitched himself on to the engine as best he could by grabbing
hold of Jack's little coat tail, and the train started. It was the most
tedious journey Jarley ever undertook. The train went up and down
stairs, out upon the piazza, and finally landed in the kitchen, where
the engine fired up on such fuel as gingerbread and cookies.
Incidentally the train, as represented by Jarley, took on a load of
freight, consisting of the same fuel, and off they started again. At the
end of a half-hour's run Jarley was worn out, but the engine seemed to
gather strength and speed the farther it travelled; and as it let out a
fearful shriek--possibly a whistle--every time the rear end of the train
suggested side-tracking and a cessation of traffic for a month or two,
Jarley in his indulgence invariably withdrew the proposition. The
consequence was that when Mrs. Jarley returned from church Jarley was a
wreck, and as he handed the engine over to the maternal care he observed
with some testiness that in a well-kept household it seemed to him
matters should be so arranged that a busy man should not be compelled to
turn himself into a child's nurse, especially on the one day of the week
which he could devote to rest and relaxation. "If I had that boy's
energy," he said to himself as he fled to his library, "what wonders I
would accomplish! What a shame it is, too, that the wasted energy of
youth cannot be stored up in some way, so that when there comes the real
need for it, it can be made available!"

This thought was the germ of his invention. As he lay there in the
library he thought over the possibilities of life if the nervous force
of childhood, the misdirected energy of play-time, could only be put by
and drawn upon later just as man puts by the money he does not need in
the present for use in case of future rainy days. Then, as the sun sank
below the hills and the twilight hours with their inspiring softness
came on, Jarley resolved that he was the man to whom had come the
mission which should make of this ideal a reality. Probably in the full
glare of day he would not have undertaken it; but Jarley, in common with
most men of dreamy nature, felt in the quiet dusk the power to do all
things. He had the poetic temperament which sometimes leads on to great
things, and the man so gifted who does not feel himself capable, at that
hour of the day of rest, of battering down Gibraltar or of upbuilding
the whole human race, must account himself a failure.

"I'll do it," he murmured, drowsily, to himself, and he did. How he did
it was Jarley's own secret, and while he confides many things to me,
this secret he kept, and still keeps. All I know is that he fitted up a
play-room for Jack on the attic floor, and by means of an apparatus, the
peculiarities of whose construction he alone knows, he managed after a
while to store up the superfluous energy which Jack expended upon
everything that he did. Every time Jack turned a somersault he
contributed, unknown to himself, something to the growing bulk of
hoarded force in the reservoir provided for its reception. All the
strength necessary for the somersault was devoted to that operation. The
superfluity went to the reservoir. So, also, when in his play of scaling
imaginary rocks after fictitious wild beasts he endeavored futilely to
walk up the play-room wall, the unavailing energy went to augment the
stores from which Jarley hoped to extract so much that would prove of
value to the world.

When the reservoir was full the question that confronted Jarley was as
to the value of its contents, and to ascertain this he resolved upon an
experiment upon himself. No one else, he believed, would be willing to
subject himself to the experiment, nor did he wish at that time to let
others into his secret. Even Mrs. Jarley was not aware of his efforts,
and so he made the experiment. He liquefied the energy Jack had wasted,
and upon retiring one night took what he considered to be the proper
dose for the test. The effect was remarkable.

When he rose up the next morning he experienced a consciousness of power
that reminded him of sundry tales of Samson. But there was one drawback.
He did not seem quite able to control himself. For instance, instead of
dressing in the usual dignified and quiet way, he found himself prancing
about his room like a young colt, and while he was taking his bath he
had a yearning for objects of juvenile _virtu_ which had for many years
been strangers to his tub. He was not at all satisfied with his dip
plain and unadorned, and he had developed an unconquerable aversion for
soap. It was all he could do to restrain his inclination to call
vociferously for a number of small tin boats and birch-bark canoes,
without which Jack never bathed. He did conquer it, however, and at the
end of a half-hour managed to reach the end of his bath, though as a
rule he had hitherto rarely expended more than ten minutes in his
morning ablutions. Then came another difficulty. He found himself
utterly unable to stand still while he was putting on his clothes, and
finally Mrs. Jarley had to be called in to comb his hair for him. Jarley
himself could no more have taken the time to part it satisfactorily than
he could have flown.

"What _is_ the matter with you?" said Mrs. Jarley, as she made several
ineffectual attempts to get his truant locks into shape. "Have you
caught St. Vitus's dance?"

"Nothing's the matter with me," returned Jarley, standing on one foot
and hopping up and down thereon. "I feel well, that's all."

And then he tore out of the room, mounted the banisters, and slid
downstairs in an utterly unbecoming fashion, considering that he was a
man of thirty-five and the head of the house. He felt a little ashamed
of himself in the midst of this operation, particularly when he observed
that the waitress was standing in the hall below-stairs, looking at him
with eyes that betokened an astonishment as creditable to her as it was
disgraceful to him. He tried vainly to stop his wild descent when he
noted her presence. He clutched madly at the banisters, turning his
hands and knees into brakes in his effort to save his dignity; but once
started he could not stop, and as a consequence he went down like a
flash, slid precipitately over the newel-post, and landed with a cry of
mortification on the hall floor. He was not hurt, save in his
self-esteem, and gathering himself together, he endeavored to walk with
dignity into the dining-room; but he had hardly reached the door, when
he was overcome with a mad desire to whoop--and whoop he did. As a
consequence of the whoop Jack was scolded when Mrs. Jarley came down.
She had no idea that Jarley himself could be so blind to propriety as to
yell in so indecorous a fashion; and when poor little Jack was
upbraided, Jarley, despite his good intention to confess himself the
guilty party, discovered that the only act he was capable of was
giggling. Jack of course wept, and the more he wept the more Jarley
giggled, and was taken to task for encouraging the boy in his
misbehavior.

During breakfast he was unusually demonstrative. He could not bring
himself to await his turn when the potatoes were passed, and in his
eagerness to get at them he overturned his coffee, which served to turn
the tables a little, for Jack giggled at the mishap, while Jarley became
the centre of Mrs. Jarley's displeasure. What was worse, Jarley, try as
he might, could not resist the temptation to kick the legs of the table,
and it was not until Mrs. Jarley had threatened to dismiss Jack from her
presence, supposing that he must, of course, be the offender, that
Jarley assumed the burden of his misbehavior.

It was not until Jarley set out to his office, however, that he realized
the real horror of his condition. Instead of riding down-town on one
cable-car, as was his wont, he found himself trying, boy-like, to steal
a ride by jumping on a car platform and standing there until the
conductor came along, when he would hop off, ride a block or two on the
end of a truck, and then try a new car, so beating his way down-town.
Then he arrived at his office. I have neglected to state that while
invention was Jarley's avocation, he was by profession a lawyer, being
the junior member of a highly successful firm, at the head of which was
no less a person than the eminent William J. Baker, whose record at the
bar is too well known to require any further words of mine to recall him
to the minds of my readers. Jarley had not been in the office more than
ten minutes before he realized that he might better have remained at
home while the influence of Jack's wasted energy was within him. He was
in a state of irrepressibility. No matter how strongly he endeavored to
hold himself in check he could not do so, and his day down-town was like
the days of most boys who are permitted to spend a morning and an
afternoon with their parent in the workshop. The first thing he did on
reaching his desk was to roll back its folding top. This pleased him
unaccountably. He had never before imagined that so much fun could be
got out of the rolling top of a desk, and for a full quarter of an hour
he pulled it backward and forward, and so noisily withal that Mr. Baker
sent one of the clerks in to see if the office-boy had not become
suddenly insane.

Recalled to his true self for the moment, Jarley endeavored to get down
to work, but as he made the endeavor he became conscious that a
revolving chair has very pleasing qualities to one who is fond of
twirling. Round and round he twirled, and as he twirled he grabbed up
his cane, and in a moment realized that he was playing that he was on a
merry-go-round, and trying to secure a renewal of his right to ride by
catching imaginary rings on the end of his stick. This operation
consumed quite five minutes more of his time, and was accompanied by
such a vast number of "Hoop-las" that Mr. Baker came himself to see what
was the cause of the unseemly racket. Fortunately for Jarley, just as
his partner reached the doorway, the chair had reached the limit of its
twirling capacity, and having been unscrewed as far as it could be,
toppled over on to the floor, with Jarley underneath. "What in the
world does this mean, Jarley?" said Mr. Baker, severely, as he assisted
his fallen partner to rise.

"My chair has come apart," laughed Jarley, getting red in the face.

"That's the great trouble with that kind of chair," said Mr. Baker. "You
don't seem to mind the mishap very much."

"Oh no," said Jarley, gritting his teeth in his determination not to
follow his mad impulse to jump on Mr. Baker's shoulders and clamor for a
picky-back ride. "No; I don't mind little things like that much."

Here he stood on his right leg, as he had done before breakfast, and
began to hop.

"Hurt your foot?" queried Mr. Baker.

Jarley seized at the suggestion with all the despairing vigor of a
drowning man clutching at a rope.

"Yes; a little, but not enough to mention," he said; whereupon, much to
his relief, Mr. Baker turned away and went back to his own room.

"This will never do," Jarley moaned to himself when his partner had
gone. "If one of my clients should come in--"

Then he stopped and grinned like a mischievous lad. He had caught sight
of an old water-meter that had been used as an exhibit in a case he had
once tried against the city in behalf of an inventor, who had been led
to believe that the water board would adopt his patent and compel every
householder to buy one for the registration of water consumed. What fun
it would be to take that apart, he thought, and thinking thus was enough
to set him about the task. He locked his door, moved the strange-looking
contrivance out into the middle of the room, and tried to unscrew the
top of it with his eraser. The delicate blade of this improvised
screw-driver snapped off in an instant, whereupon Jarley tried the
scissors, with similar results. After a half-hour of this he gave up the
idea of taking the meter apart, but his soul immediately became
possessed of another idea, which was to see if it worked. The pursuit of
this brought him the most deliriously joyful sensations; and for an hour
he devoted himself to filling the machine up with water drawn from a
faucet at one side of his room, and poured into the meter from a
drinking-glass. It was not until the hour was up that he observed that
the water after passing through the meter came out upon the carpet, and
it is probable that even then he would not have noticed it had not the
tenants below sent up to inquire if there was not something wrong with
the water-pipes overhead.

When Jarley realized what had happened he wisely determined to give up
business for the day. While the spirit of Jack was within him, the
business he might transact was not likely to prove of value to himself
or to any one else. So he put on his hat and coat, called a cab, and
started for home. His experiences in the cab were quite of a kind with
the experiences of the morning, and attended with no little personal
danger. He would lean against the cab door and put his arm out and try
to touch horse-cars as they passed. Once or twice he nearly had his head
knocked off by sticking it out of the windows; but by some happy chance
he got interested in the cab curtains and the inviting little strings,
which, when pulled, made them fly up with a snap. Absorbed in this
occupation, he drove on, and gave up all such dangerous experiments as
playing tag with horse-cars and trucks, and arrived at home in time for
luncheon unhurt.

Mrs. Jarley was somewhat alarmed at the unexpected return of Mr. Jarley,
but was content with his explanation that while he never felt better in
his life, he deemed it best to return and attend to his work in the
privacy of his own home. For the proper accomplishment of this work he
said that he thought he would use Jack's nursery on the attic floor,
where he could be quiet, and he asked as an especial favor that he might
be left alone with Jack for the balance of the day.

He had made up his mind that his experiment, while a success in one
way, were not what he expected in another way. He had found Jack's
energy very energetic indeed, but not suited for adult use, and he even
found himself wondering why he had not thought of that before. However,
the thing to do now was to get rid of that spirit as soon as possible.
If it had become permanently a part of him, he had reached his second
childhood, which for a man of thirty-five is a disturbing thought. So
disturbing was it that Jarley resolved upon a heroic measure to cure
himself. _Similia similibus_ struck him as being the only possible cure,
and so, regardless of the possible consequences to his physical being,
he "permitted" Jack to be with him up-stairs "while he worked," as he
put it to Mrs. Jarley, though all others were forbidden to approach.

The result was as he had foreseen. Jack's energy in Jack, pure and
unadulterated, had very little trouble in wearing out the diluted energy
which his father had acquired from his superfluous stores, and night
coming on found Jarley, after a three hours' steady circus with his son,
in his normal condition mentally. But physically! What a poor wreck of a
human system was his when the last bit of the boyish spirit was
consumed! Had he worked at brick-laying for a week without rest Jarley
could not have been more prostrated physically. But he was happy. His
tests had proved that he could do certain things, but the results he had
expected as to the value of those things were not what he had hoped for.
At any rate, his experiment gave him greater sympathy with his boy than
he had ever had before, and they have become great chums. The greatest
disappointment of the whole affair is Jack's, who wonders why it is that
he and his father have no more afternoon acrobatics such as they had in
the play-room that day, but until he is a good many years older his
father cannot tell him, for the boy could not in the present stage of
his intellectual development understand him if he tried.

As for Mr. Baker and the people at the office, they were not at all
astonished to hear the next day that Jarley was laid up, and would
probably, not appear at the office again for a week, although they were
a little surprised when they learned that his trouble was rheumatism,
and not softening of the brain.



JARLEY'S THANKSGIVING


Jarley was in a blue mood the night before Thanksgiving. Things hadn't
gone quite to suit him during the year. He had lost two of his most
profitable clients--men upon whom for two years previously he had been
able to count for a steady income. It is true that he had lost them by
winning their respective suits, and had made two strong friends by so
doing; but, as he once put it to Mrs. Jarley, the worst position a man
could possibly get himself into was that of one who is long on friends
and short on income. He did not underestimate the value of friends, but
he didn't want too many of them; because beyond a certain number they
became luxuries rather than necessities, and his financial condition was
such that he could not afford luxuries.

"I love them all," he said, "but I haven't money enough to entertain a
quarter of them. The last time Billie Hicks was up here he smoked
sixteen Invincible cigars. Now, I am very fond of Billie Hicks, but with
cigars at twenty cents apiece I can't afford him more than one Sunday in
a year. He's getting a little cold because I haven't asked him up
since."

"Why don't you buy cheaper cigars? At our grocery store they have some
very nice looking ones at two for five cents," suggested Mrs. Jarley.

"I don't wish to have to move out of the house," said Jarley.

Mrs. Jarley failed to see the connection.

"Very likely you don't," said Jarley; "but if I smoked one of your
two-and-a-half-cent grocery cigars in this house, you'd see the point in
a minute. If you will get me a yard of cotton cloth, and let me put it
in the furnace fire, you'll get a fair idea of the kind of atmosphere
we'd be breathing if I allowed a cigar like that to be lit within fifty
feet of the front door."

"But you can get a good cigar for ten cents, can't you?" Mrs. Jarley
asked.

"Yes--very good," assented Jarley; "but Billie would probably smoke
thirty-two of those, and carry three or four away with him in his
pockets. I'd lose even more that way. It's a singular thing about
friends. They have some conscience about Invincible cigars, but they'll
take others by the handful."

Jarley was also somewhat blue upon this occasion because none of his
inventions--the little things he thought out in his leisure moments, and
out of some of which he had hoped to gain a deal of profit--had been
successful. The public had refused to place any confidence whatsoever in
his patent reversible spats, which, when turned inside out, could be
made useful as galoches; and the beaux of New York actually rejected
with scorn the celluloid chrysanthemum, which he had hoped would become
a popular boutonnière because of its durability and cheapness. An
impecunious young man with care could make one fifteen-cent
chrysanthemum of the Jarley order last through a whole season, and it
could be colored to suit the wearer's taste with the ordinary
paint-boxes that children so delight in; but in spite of this the
celluloid chrysanthemum was a distinct failure, and Jarley had had his
trouble for his pains, to say nothing of the cost of the model. But
worst of all the failures, because of the prospective losses its failure
entailed, was the Jarley safety lightning razor. Its failure was not due
to any lack of merit, for it certainly possessed much that was ingenious
and commendable. The affair was not different in principle from a
lawn-mower. Six little sharp blades set on a cylinder would revolve
rapidly as the pretty machine was pushed up and down the cheek of the
person shaving, and leave the face of that person as smooth as a piece
of velvet; but in announcing it to the world its inventor had made the
unfortunate statement that a child could use it with impunity, and some
would-be smart person on a comic paper took it up and wrote an
undeniably clever article on the futility of inventing a razor for
children. The consequence was that the safety razor was laughed out of
existence, and the additions to his residence which Jarley was going to
pay for out of the proceeds had to be abandoned.

"I don't like a blue funk," he said, "and generally I can find
something to be thankful for at this season; but I'm blest if this year,
beyond the fact that we're all alive, I can see any cause for
celebrating my thankfulness. I haven't enough of it to last ten minutes,
much less a day, what with the positive failure of my inventions, the
loss of income from what I once considered safe investments that have
gone to the wall, and the reduction of my professional earnings, not to
mention the fact that almost at the beginning of my professional year I
am as tired physically and mentally as I ought to be at the finish."

"Oh, well, say you are thankful, anyhow," suggested Mrs. Jarley. "You
will convince others that you are, and maybe, if you say it often
enough, you will convince yourself of the fact."

"Thanks," said Jarley. "It's possibly a good suggestion, but I don't
believe in pretending to be what I'm not. It might convince me that I am
thankful for something, but I don't want to be convinced when I know I'm
not."

Which shows, I think, how very blue Jarley was.

"There's one thing," he added, with a sigh of relief at the
thought--"I'll have a day of rest to-morrow anyhow. I've bought Jack a
football, and he can take it out on the tennis-court and play with it
all day, with intervals for meals."

"Why did you do that?" asked Mrs. Jarley, with a gesture not so much of
indignation as of disapproval. "I think football is such a brutal game;
and if Jack has a football at his present age, when he's in college
he'll want to play. I don't want to have my boy wearing his hair like a
Comanche Indian, and coming home with broken ribs and dislocated limbs."

"We'll let the broken ribs of 1904 and the wig of the same period
suffice for the evils of that year," retorted Jarley. "It's the present
I'm looking after, not the future ten or twelve years removed. If Jack
hasn't that football to-morrow he'll have me, and I've no desire in the
present condition of my physical well-being to be used by him as a
plaything. Deprived of the leathern ball, he might use me as a football
instead, and I must rest. That's all there is about it. Besides, if he
becomes an aspirant for football honors now it will be a good thing for
him. He'll take care of himself and try to improve his physique if he
once gets the notion in his head that he wants to go on a university
eleven. I want my boy to learn to be a man, and the football ambition is
likely to be a very useful aid in that direction. He knits reins very
well with a spool and a pin now, and I think it's time he graduated in
that art, unless the woman of the future, of whom we hear so much, is to
take man's place to such an extent that the man will have to take up
woman's work. If I thought the masculine tendency of our present-day
girls was likely to go much further, I might consent to the effemination
of Jack simply to secure his comfort as a married man of the future; but
I don't think that, and in consequence Jack is going to be brought up as
a boy, and not as a girl. The football goes."

This remark was another indication of Jarley's depression. He rarely
combated Mrs. Jarley's ideas, and when he did, and with a certain air of
irritation, it was invariably a sign of his low mental state.

"When you say that the football goes, do you mean that it stays?"
queried Mrs. Jarley, who was a little tired herself, and could not,
therefore, resist the temptation to indulge in a bit of innocent
repartee.

"I do," said Jarley, shortly. "Goes is sometimes a synonym for stays.
When I feel stronger I may invent a new language, which will have fewer
absurdities than English as she is spoke."

And with this Jarley went to bed, and slept the sleep of the just man
who is truly weary.

If he had foreseen the result of his football investment it is doubtful
if his sleep would have been so tranquil--unless, perchance, he were
fashioned after that rare pattern of mankind, Louis XVI. of France, who
called for his six or seven course dinner with a mob of howling,
bloodthirsty Parisians in his antechamber, and who on the eve of his
execution slept well, despite his knowledge that within fifteen hours
his head would in all probability be lopped off by the guillotine to
gratify the lust for blood which was the chief characteristic of the
promoters of the first French Republic.

At six on the morning of Thanksgiving Day Jarley was sleeping
peacefully, but the youthful Jack was not. Thanksgiving Day was not a
holiday in his eyes, but a day set apart for work, thanks to his
father's indulgence in providing him with a football. He had gone to bed
the night before with the ball hugged tightly to his breast; and along
about ten o'clock, when Jarley himself had gone into the nursery to put
that treasured good-night kiss upon the forehead of his sleeping boy,
tired as he was and blue as he was, he had difficulty in repressing the
laughter that manifested itself within him, for Jack lay prone, face
upward, with the football under the small of his back, and seemingly as
comfortable as though he were resting upon eider-down.

"That is certainly a characteristic football attitude," Jarley said,
when Mrs. Jarley had come to see what had caused her husband's chuckle.

"Yes--and so good for the spine!" returned Mrs. Jarley.

The attitude was changed, but the ball was left where Jack would see it
the first thing on awaking in the morning. At six, as I have said,
Jarley was sleeping peacefully, but Jack was not. He had opened his
eyes some minutes before, and on catching sight of his treasured
football he began to grin. The grin grew wider and wider, until
apparently it got too wide for the bed, and the boy leaped out of his
couch upon the floor. The first thing he did was to pat the ball gently
but firmly, very much as a kitten manifests its interest in a ball of
yarn. Then his attentions to his new plaything grew more pronounced and
vigorous, and within fifteen minutes it had been chased out of the
nursery into the parental bedchamber. Still Jarley slept. Mrs. Jarley
was merely half asleep. She tried to tell Jack to be quiet; but she was
not quite wide awake enough to do so as forcibly as was necessary, and
the result was that instead of abating his ardor, Jack plunged into his
sport more vigorously than ever.

And then Jarley was awakened--and what an awakening it was! Not one of
those peaceful comings-to that betoken the tranquil mind after a good
rest, but a return to consciousness with every warlike tendency in his
being aroused to the highest pitch. Jack had passed the ball with
considerable momentum on to the mantel-piece, which sent it backward on
the rebound to no less a feature than the nose of the slumbering Jarley.

"What the deuce was that?" cried Jarley, sitting up straight in bed. He
had forgotten all about the football, and to his suddenly restored
consciousness it seemed as if the ceiling must have fallen. Then he
rubbed his nose, which still ached from the force of the impact between
itself and the ball.

"It was the ball did it, papa," said Jack, meekly. "'Twasn't me."

In an instant Jarley was on the floor; and Jack, scenting trouble,
incontinently fled. The parent was angry from the top of his head to the
soles of his feet, but as the soles of his feet touched the floor his
anger abated. After all, Jack hadn't meant to hurt him, and having
witnessed several games of football, he knew how innately perverse an
oval-shaped affair like the ball itself could be. Furthermore, there was
Mrs. Jarley, who had disapproved of his purchase from the outset. If he
wreaked vengeance upon poor little Jack for his unwitting offence,
Jarley knew that he would in a measure weaken his position in the
argument of the night before. So, instead of chastising Jack, as he
really felt inclined to do, he picked up the ball, and repairing to the
nursery, summoned the boy to him in his sweetest tones.

"Never mind, old chap," he said, as Jack appeared before him. "I know
you didn't mean it; but you must play in here until it is time for you
to go out. Papa is very sleepy, and you disturb him."

"All right," said Jack. "I'll play in here. I forgot."

Then Jarley patted Jack on the head, rubbed his nose again dubiously,
for it still smarted from the effects of the blow it had sustained, and
retired to his bed once more. If he fondly hoped to sleep again, he soon
found that his hope was based upon a most shifting foundation, for the
whoops and cries and noises of all sorts, vocal and otherwise, that
emanated from the next room destroyed all possibility of his doing
anything of the sort. At first the very evident enjoyment of his son and
heir, as Jarley listened to his goings-on in the nursery, amused him
more or less; but his quiet smile soon turned to one of blank dismay
when he heard a thunderous roar from Jack, followed by a crash of glass.
Again springing from his bed, Jarley rushed into the nursery.

"Well, what's happened now?" he asked.

Jack's under lip curved in the manner which betokens tears ready to be
shed.

"Nun-nothing," he sobbed. "I was just k-kicking a goal, and that picture
got in the way."

Jarley looked for the picture that had got in the way, and at once
perceived that it would never get in the way again, since it was
irretrievably ruined. However, he was not overcome by wrath over this
incident, because the picture was not of any particular value. It was
only a highly colored print of three cats in a basket, which had come
with a Sunday newspaper, and had been cheaply framed and hung up in the
nursery because Jack had so willed. On principle Jarley had to show a
certain amount of displeasure over the accident, and he did as well as
he could under the circumstances, and retired.

For a while Jack played quietly enough, and Jarley was just about
dozing off into that delicious forty winks prior to getting up when
shrieks from the second Jarley boy came from the nursery. This time Mrs.
Jarley, with one or two expressions of natural impatience, deemed it her
duty to interfere. Jarley, she reasoned, had a perfect right to spoil
Jack if he pleased, but he had no right to permit Jack to do bodily
injury to Tommy; and as Tommy was making the house echo and re-echo with
his wails, she deemed it her duty to take a hand. Jarley meanwhile
pretended to sleep. He was as wide awake as he ever was; but the
atmosphere was not full of warmth, and upon this occasion, as well as
upon many others, his conscience permitted him to overlook the
shortcomings of his elder son, and to assume a somnolence which, while
it was not real, certainly did conduce to the maintenance of his
personal comfort. Mrs. Jarley, therefore, rose up in her wrath. It was
merely a motherly wrath, however, and those of us who have had mothers
will at once realize what that wrath amounted to. She repaired
immediately to the nursery, and without knowing anything of the
technical terms of the noble game of football, instinctively realized
that Jack and Tommy were having a "scrimmage." That is to say, she was
confronted with a structure made up as follows: basement, the ball;
first story, Tommy, with his small and tender stomach placed directly
over the ball; second story and roof, Jack, lying stomach upward and
wiggling, his back accurately registered on Tommy's back, to the
detriment and pain of Tommy.

"Get _up_, Jack!" Mrs. Jarley cried. "What on earth are you trying to do
to Tommy? Do you want to kill him?"

"Nome," Jack replied, innocently. "He wanted to play football, and I'm
letting him. He's Harvard and I'm Yale."

A smothered laugh from the adjoining room showed that Jarley was not so
soundly sleeping that he could not hear what was going on. Tommy
meanwhile continued to wail.

"Well, get up,--right away!" cried Mrs. Jarley. "I sha'n't have you
abusing Tommy this way."

"Ain't abusin' him," retorted Jack, rising. "I was 'commodatin' him. He
wanted to play. When I don't let him play I get scolded, and when I do
let him I'm scolded. 'Pears to me you don't want me to do anything."

Thus Thanksgiving Day began, not altogether well, but equanimity was
soon restored all around, and everything might have run smoothly from
that time on had not a cold drizzling rain set in about breakfast-time.
It was clearly to be an in-door day. And what a day it was!

At ten o'clock the football came into play again.

At eleven the score stood: one clock knocked off the mantel-piece in the
library; three chandelier globes broken to bits; one plaster Barye bear
destroyed by a low kick from the parlor floor; Tommy with his nose very
nearly out of joint, thanks to a flying wedge represented by Jack; Mrs.
Jarley's amiability in peril, and Jarley's irritability well developed.

At twelve the ball was confiscated, but restored at twelve-five for the
sake of peace and quiet.

At one, dinner was served and eaten in moody silence, Jack having
inadvertently punted the ball through the pantry, grazing the chignon
of the waitress, and landing in the mayonnaise. It was not a happy
dinner, and Jarley began to wish either that he had never been born or
that all footballs were in Ballyhack, wherever that might be.

"If it would only clear off!" he moaned. "That boy needs a playground as
big as the State of Texas anyhow, and here we are cooped up in the
house, with a football added."

"We'll have to take it away from him," said Mrs. Jarley, "or else you'll
have to take Jack up into the attic and play with him. I can't have
everything in the house smashed."

"We'll compromise on Jack's going to the attic. I have no desire to play
football," returned Jarley; and this was the plan agreed upon. It would
have been a good plan if Jarley had expended some of his inventive
genius upon some such game as football solitaire, and instructed Jack
therein beforehand; but this he had not done, and the result was that at
three o'clock Jarley found himself in the attic involved in a furious
game, in which he represented variously Harvard, the goal, the
goal-posts, the referee, and acting with too great frequency as
understudy for the ball. What he was not, Jack was, and the worst part
of it was that there was no tiring Jack. The longer he played, the
better he liked it. The oftener Jarley's shins received kicks intended
for the football, the louder he laughed. When Jarley, serving as a
goal-post, stood at one end of the attic, Jarley junior, standing
several yards away, often appeared to mistake him for two goal-posts,
and to make an honest effort to kick the ball through him. Slowly the
hours passed, until finally six o'clock struck, and Master Jack's supper
was announced.

The day was over at last. Wearily Jarley dragged himself down the stairs
and reckoned up the day's losses. In glass and bric-à-brac destroyed he
was some twenty or thirty dollars out. In mayonnaise dressing lost at
dinner through the untoward act of the football he was out one
pleasurable sensation to his palate, and Jarley was one of those, to
whom, that is a loss of an irreparable nature. In bodily estate he was
practically a bankrupt. Had he bicycled all morning and played golf all
the afternoon he could not have been half so weary. Had he been thrown
from a horse flat upon an asphalt pavement he could not have been half
so bruised; all of which Mrs. Jarley considerately noted, and with an
effort recovered her amiability for her husband's sake, so that after
eight o'clock, at which hour Jack retired to bed, a little rest was
obtainable, and Jarley's equanimity was slowly restored.

"Well," said Mrs. Jarley, as they went up-stairs at eleven, "it hasn't
been a very peaceful day, has it, dear?"

"Oh, that all depends on how you spell peace. If you spell it p-i-e-c-e,
it's been full of pieces," returned Jarley, with a smile; "but I say, my
dear, I want to modify my statement last night that I had nothing to be
thankful for. I have discovered one great blessing."

"What's that--a football?" queried Mrs. Jarley.

"Not by ten thousand long shots!" cried Jarley. "No, indeed. It's this:
I'm more thankful than I can express that Jack is not twins. If he had
been, you'd have been a widow this evening."



HARRY AND MAUDE AND I--ALSO JAMES


We both loved Maude deeply, and Maude loved us. We know that, because
Maude told us so. She told Harry so one Sunday evening on the way home
from church, and she told me so the following Saturday afternoon on the
way to the matinée.

This was the cause of the dispute Harry and I had in the club corner
that Saturday night. Harry and I are confidants, and neither of us has
secrets that the other does not share, and so, of course, Maude's
feeling towards each of us was fully revealed.

We did not quarrel over it, for Harry and I never quarrel. I want to
quarrel, but it is a peculiar thing about me that I always want to
quarrel with men named Harry, but never can quite do it. Harry is a name
which, _per se_, arouses my ire, but which carries with it also the
soothing qualities which dispel irritation.

This is a point for the philosopher, I think. Why is it that we cannot
quarrel with some men bearing certain names, while with far better men
bearing other names we are always at swords' points? Who ever quarrelled
with a man who had so endeared himself to the world, for instance, that
the world spoke of him as Jack, or Bob, or Willie? And who has not
quarrelled with Georges and Ebenezers and Horaces _ad lib_., and been
glad to have had the chance?

But this is a thing apart. This time we have set out to tell that other
story which is always mentioned but never told.

Maude loved us. That was the point upon which Harry and I agreed. We had
her authority for it; but where we differed was, which of the two did
she love the better?

Harry, of course, took his own side in the matter. He is a man of
prejudice, and argues from sentiment rather than from conviction.

He said that on her way home from church a girl's thoughts are of
necessity solemn, and her utterances are therefore, the solemn truth. He
added that, in a matter of such importance as love, the conclusion
reached after an hour or two of spiritual reflection and instruction,
such as church in the evening inspires, is the true conclusion.

On the other hand, I maintained that human nature has something to do
with women. Very little, of course, but still enough to make my point a
good one. It is human nature for a girl to prefer matinées to Sunday
evening services. This is sad, no doubt, but so are some other great
truths. Maude, as a true type of girlhood, would naturally think more of
the man who was taking her to a matinée than of the fellow who was
escorting her home from church, therefore she loved me better than she
did Harry, and he ought to have the sense to see it and withdraw.

Unfortunately, Harry is near-sighted in respect to arguments evolved by
the mind of another, though in the perception of refinements in his own
reasoning he has the eye of the eagle. "Love on the way to a matinée,"
he said, "is one part affection and nine parts enthusiasm."

"And love on the return from church is in all ten parts temporary
aberration," I returned. "It is what you might call Seventh Day
affection. Quiet, and no doubt sincere, but it is dissipated by the
rising of the Monday sun. It is like our good resolutions on New Year's
Day, which barely last over a fortnight. Some little word spoken by the
rector may have aroused in her breast a spark of love for you, but one
spark does not make a conflagration. Properly fanned it may develop into
one, but in itself it is nothing more than a spark. Who can say that it
was not pity that led Maude to speak so to you? Your necktie may have
been disarranged without your knowing it, and at a time when she could
not tell you of it. That sort of thing inspires pity, and you know as
well as I do that pity and love are cousins, but cousins who never
marry. You are favored, but not to the extent that I am."

"You argue well," returned Harry, "but you ignore the moon. In the
solemn presence of the great orb of night no woman would swear
falsely."

"You prick your argument with your point," I answered. "There were no
extraneous arguments brought to bear on Maude when she confessed
to me that she loved me. It was done in the cold light of day. There was
no moon around to egg her on when she confessed her affection for me. I
know the moon pretty well myself, and I know just what effect it has on
truth. I have told falsehoods in the moonlight that I knew were
falsehoods, and yet while Luna was looking on, no creature in the
universe could have convinced me of their untruthfulness. The moon's
rays have kissed the Blarney-stone, Harry. A moonlight truth is a
noonday lie."

"Doesn't the genial warmth of the sun ever lead one from the path of
truth?" queried Harry, satirical of manner.

"Yes," I answered. "But not in a horse-car with people treading on your
feet."

"What has that to do with it?" Harry asked.

"It was on a Broadway car that Maude confessed," I answered.

Harry looked blue. His eyes said: "Gad! How she must love you!" But his
lips said: "Ho! Nonsense!"

"It is the truth," said I, seeing that Harry was weakening. "As we were
waiting for the car to come along I said to her: 'Maude, I am not the
man I ought to be, but I have one redeeming quality: I love you to
distraction.'

"She was about to reply when the car came. We were requested to step
lively. We did so, and the car started. Then as we stood in the crowded
aisle of the car we spoke in enigmas.

"'Did you hear what I said, Maude?' I asked.

"'Yes,' said she, gazing softly out of the window, and a slight touch of
red coming into her cheeks. 'Yes, I heard.'

"'And what is your reply?' I whispered.

"'So do I,' she answered, with a sigh."

Harry laughed, and so irritatingly that had his name been Thomas I
should have struck him.

"What is the joke?" I asked.

"You won't think it's funny," Harry answered.

"Then it must be a poor joke," I retorted, a little nettled. "Well,
it's on you," he said. "You have simply shown me that Maude never told
you she loved you. That's the joke."

I was speechless with wrath, but my eyes spoke. "How have I shown that?"
they asked in my behalf.

"You say that you told Maude that _you_ loved _her_ to distraction. To
which declaration she replied, 'So do I.' Where there is in that any
avowal that _she_ loves _you_ I fail to see. She simply stated that she
too loved herself to distraction, and I breathe again."

"Hair-splitting!" said I, wrathfully.

"No--side-splitting!" returned Harry, with a roar of laughter. "Now my
declaration was very different from yours. It was made when Maude and I
were walking home from church. It was about nine o'clock, and the
streets were bathed in mellow moonlight. I declared myself because I
could not help myself. I had no intention of doing so when I started out
earlier in the evening, but the uplifting effect of the service of song
at church, combined with the most romantic kind of a moon, forced me
into it. I told her I was a struggler; that I was not yet able to
support a wife; and that while I did not wish to ask any pledge from
her, I could not resist telling her that I loved her with all my heart
and soul."

_I_ began to feel blue. "And what did she say?" I asked, a little
hoarsely.

"She said she returned my affection."

I braced up. "Ha, ha, ha!" I laughed. "This time the joke is on you."

"I fail to see it," he said.

"Of course," I retorted. "It is not one of your jokes. But say, Harry,
when you send a poem to a magazine and the editor doesn't want it, what
does he do with it?"

"Returns it. Ah!"

The "ah" was a gasp.

"You are the hair-splitter this time," said he, ruefully.

"I am," said I. "I could effectually destroy a whole wig of hairs like
that. If you are right in your reasoning as to Maude's love for me, I am
right as regards her love for you. We are both splitting hairs in most
unprofitable fashion."

"We are," said Harry, with a sigh. "There is only one way to settle the
matter."

"And that?"

"Let's call around there now and ask her."

"I am agreeable," said I.

"Often," said Harry, ringing for our coats.

In a few moments we were ready to depart; and as we stepped out into the
night, whom should we run up against but that detestable Jimmie Brown!

"Whither away, boys?" he asked; in his usual bubblesome manner.

"We are going to make a call."

"Ah! Well, wait a minute, won't you? I have some news. I'm in great
luck, and I want you fellows to join me in a health to the future Mrs.
B."

"Engaged at last, eh, Brown?" said Harry.

I did not speak, for I felt a sudden and most depressing sinking of the
heart.

"Yes," said Brown; and then he told us to whom.

It is not necessary to mention the lady's name. Suffice it to say that
Harry and I both returned to our corner in the club, discarded our
overcoats, and talked about two subjects.

The first was the weather.

The second, the fickleness of women.

Incidentally we agreed that there was something irritating about certain
names, and on this occasion James excited our ire somewhat more than was
normal.

But we did not lick James. We had too much regard for some one else to
split a hair of his head.



AN AFFINITIVE ROMANCE


I

MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL

Mr. Augustus Richards was thirty years of age and unmarried. He could
afford to marry, and he had admired many women, but none of them came up
to his ideals. Miss Fotheringay, for instance, represented his notions
as to what a woman should be physically, but intellectually he found
her wofully below his required standard. She was tall and
stately--Junoesque some people called her--but in her conversation she
was decidedly flippant. She was interested in all the small things of
life, but for the great ones she had no inclination. She preferred a
dance with a callow youth to a chat with a man of learning. She
worshipped artificial in-door life, but had no sympathy with nature.
The country she abominated, and her ideas of rest consisted solely in a
change of locality, which was why she went to Newport every summer,
there to indulge in further routs and dances when she wearied of the
routs and dances of New York.

Miss Patterson, on the other hand, represented to the fullest degree
the intellectual standard Mr. Augustus Richards had set up for the
winner of his affections. She was fond of poetry and of music. She was a
student of letters, and a clever talker on almost all the arts and
sciences in which Mr. Augustus Richards delighted. But, alas! physically
she was not what he could admire. She was small and insignificant in
appearance. She was pallid-faced, and, it must be confessed, extremely
scant of locks; and the idea of marrying her was to Mr. Augustus
Richards little short of preposterous. Others, there were, too, who
attracted him in some measure, but who likewise repelled him in
equal, if not greater measure.

What he wanted Mrs. Augustus Richards to be was a composite of the
best in the beautiful Miss Fotheringay, the intellectual Miss
Patterson, the comfortably rich but extremely loud Miss Barrows, with a
dash of the virtues of all the others thrown in.

For years he looked for such a one, but season after season passed away
and the ideal failed to materialize, as unfortunately most ideals have a
way of doing, and hither and yon Mr. Augustus Richards went unmarried,
and, as society said, a hopelessly confirmed old bachelor--more's the
pity.


II

MISS HENDERSON'S STANDARD

Miss Flora Henderson was born and bred in Boston, and, like Mr. Augustus
Richards, had reached the age of thirty without having yielded to the
allurements of matrimony. This was not because she had not had the
opportunity, for opportunity she had had in greatest measure. She made
her first appearance in society at the age of seventeen, and for every
year since that interesting occasion she had averaged four proposals of
marriage; and how many proposals that involved, every person who can
multiply thirteen by four can easily discover. Society said she was
stuck up, but she knew she wasn't. She did not reject men for the mere
love of it. It was not vanity that led her to say no to so many adoring
swains; it was simply the fact that not one in all the great number of
would-be protectors represented her notions as to the style of man with
whom she could be so happy that she would undertake the task of making
him so.

Miles Dawson, for instance, was the kind of man that any ordinary girl
would have snapped up the moment he declared himself. He had three
safe-deposit boxes in town, and there was evidence in sight that he did
not rent them for the purpose of keeping cigars in them. He had several
horses and carriages. He was a regular attendant upon all the social
functions of the season, and at many of them he appeared to enjoy
himself hugely. At the musicals and purely literary entertainments,
however, Miles Dawson always looked, as he was, extremely bored. Once
Miss Henderson had seen him yawn at a Shelley reading. He was, in short,
of the earth earthy, or perhaps, to be more accurate, of the horse
horsey. Intellectual pleasures were naught to him but fountains of
ennui, and being a very honest, frank sort of a person, he took no pains
to conceal the fact, and it ruined his chances with Miss Henderson, at
whose feet he had more than once laid the contents of the
deposit-boxes--figuratively, of course--as well as the use of his
stables and himself. The fact that he looked like a Greek god did not
influence her in the least; she knew he was by nature a far cry from
anything Greek or godlike, and she would have none of him.

Had he had the mental qualities of Henry Webster, the famous scholar of
Cambridge, it might have been different, but he hadn't these any more
than Henry Webster had Dawson's Greek godliness of person.

As for Webster, he too had laid bare a heart full of affection before
the cold gaze of Miss Flora Henderson, and with no more pleasing results
to himself than had attended the suit of his handsome rival, as he had
considered Dawson.

"I think I can make you happy," he had said, modestly. "We have many
traits in common. We are both extremely fond of reading of the better
sort. You would prove of inestimable service to me in the advancement of
my ambition in letters, as well as in the educational world, and I think
you would find me by nature responsive to every wish you could have. I
am a lover of music, and so are you. We both delight in the study of
art, and there is in us both that inherent love of nature which would
make of this earth a very paradise for me were you to become my life's
companion."

Then Miss Flora Henderson had looked upon his stern and extremely homely
face, and had unconsciously even to herself glanced rapidly at his
uncouth figure, and could not bring herself to answer yes. Here was the
intellectual man, but his physical shortcomings forbade the utterance of
the word which should make Henry Webster the happiest of men. Had he
written his proposal he would have stood a better chance, though I
doubt that in any event he could have succeeded. Then he could have
stood at least as an abstract mentality, but the intrusion of his
physical self destroyed all. She refused him, and he went back to his
books, oppressed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness, from which he
did not recover for one or two hours.

So it went with all the others. No man of all those who sought Miss
Henderson's favor had the godlike grace of Miles Dawson, combined with
the strong intellectuality of Henry Webster, with the added virtues of
wealth and amiability, steadfastness of purpose, and all that. It seemed
sometimes to Miss Flora Henderson, as it had often seemed to Mr.
Augustus Richards, that the standard set was too high, and that an
all-wise Providence was no longer sending the perfect being of the ideal
into the world, if, indeed, He had ever done so.

Both the man and the woman were yearning, they came finally to believe,
after the unattainable, but each was strong enough of character to do
with nothing less excellent.


III

A GLANCE AT MISS FLORA HENDERSON HERSELF

But what sort of a woman was Miss Flora Henderson, it may be asked, that
she should demand so much in the man with whom she should share the
burdens of life? Surely one should be wellnigh perfect one's self to
require so much of another--and I really think Miss Flora Henderson was
so.

In the first place, she was tall and stately--Junoesque some people
called her. She had an eye fit for all things. It was soft or hard, as
one wished it. It was melting or fixed, according to the mood one would
have her betray. She was never flippant, and while the small things of
life interested her to an extent, much more absorbed was she in the
great things which pertain to existence. Dance she could, and well, but
she danced not to the exclusion of all other things. With dancing people
she was a dancer full of the poetry of motion, and enjoying it openly
and innocently. With a man of learning, however, she was equally at
home as with the callow youth. With nature in her every mood was she in
sympathy. She was fond of poetry and of music; indeed, to sum up her
character in as few words as possible, she was everything that so
critical a dreamer of the ideal as Mr. Augustus Richards could have
wished for, nor was there one weak spot in the armor of her character at
which he could cavil.

In short, Miss Flora Henderson, of Boston, was the ideal of whom Mr.
Augustus Richards, of New York, dreamed.


IV

A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS

And as Miss Flora Henderson represented in every way the ideal of Mr.
Augustus Richards, so did he represent hers. He had the physical beauty
of Miles Dawson, and was quite the equal of the latter in the matter of
wealth. So many horses he had not, but he owned a sufficient number of
them. He was not horsemad, nor did he yawn over Shelley or despise
aesthetic pleasures. In truth, in the pursuit of aesthetic delights he
was as eager as Henry Webster. He was in all things the sort of man to
whom our heroine of Boston would have been willing to intrust her hand
and her heart.


V

CONCLUSION

But they never met.

And they lived happily ever after.



MRS. UPTON'S DEVICE


A TALE OF MATCH-MAKING

I

THE RESOLVE

  "For when two
  Join in the same adventure, one perceives
  Before the other how they ought to act."

  --BRYANT.

Mrs. Upton had made up her mind that it must be, and that was the
beginning of the end. The charming match-maker had not indulged her
passion for making others happy, willy-nilly, for some time--not, in
fact, since she had arranged the match between Marie Willoughby and Jack
Hearst, which, as the world knows, resulted first in a marriage, and
then, as the good lady had not foreseen, in a South Dakota divorce. This
unfortunate termination to her well-meant efforts in behalf of the
unhappy pair was a severe blow to Mrs. Upton. She had been for many
years the busiest of match-makers, and seldom had she failed to bring
about desirable results. In the homes of a large number of happy pairs
her name was blessed for all that she had done, and until this no
unhappy marriage had ever come from her efforts. One or two engagements
of her designing had failed to eventuate, owing to complications over
which she had no control, and with which she was in no way concerned;
but that was merely one of the risks of the business in which she was
engaged. The most expert artisan sometimes finds that he has made a
failure of some cherished bit of work, but he does not cease to pursue
his vocation because of that. So it was with Mrs. Upton, and when some
of her plans went askew, and two young persons whom she had designed for
each other chose to take two other young people into their hearts
instead, she accepted the situation with a merely negative feeling of
regret. But when she realized that it was she who had brought Marie
Willoughby and Jack Hearst together, and had, beyond all question, made
the match which resulted so unhappily, then was Mrs. Upton's regret and
sorrow of so positive a nature that she practically renounced her chief
occupation in life.

"I'll never, never, never, so long as I live, have anything more to do
with bringing about marriages!" she cried, tearfully, to her husband,
when that worthy gentleman showed her a despatch in the evening paper to
the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Jack had invoked the Western courts to free
them from a contract which had grown irksome to both. "I shall not even
help the most despairing lover over a misunderstanding which may result
in two broken hearts. I'm through. The very idea of Marie Willoughby and
Johnny Hearst not being able to get along together is preposterous. Why,
they were made for each other."

"I haven't a doubt of it," returned Upton, with whom it was a settled
principle of life always to agree with his better half. "But sometimes
there's a flaw in the workmanship, my dear, and while Marie may have
been made for Jack, and Jack for Marie, it is just possible that the
materials were not up to the specifications."

"Well, it's a burning shame, anyhow," said Mrs. Upton, "and I'll never
make another match."

"That's good," said Upton. "I wouldn't--or, if I did, I'd see to it that
it was a safety, instead of a fusee that burns fiercely for a minute and
then goes out altogether. Stick to vestas."

"I don't know what you mean by vestas, but I'm through just the same,"
retorted Mrs. Upton; and she really was--for five years.

"Vestas are nice quiet matches that don't splurge and splutter. They
give satisfaction to everybody. They burn evenly, and are altogether the
swell thing in matches--and their heads don't fly off either," Upton
explained.

"Well, I won't make even a vesta, you old goose," said Mrs. Upton,
smiling faintly.

"You've made one, and it's a beauty," observed Upton, quietly, referring
of course to their own case.

So, as I have said, Mrs. Upton forswore her match-making propensities
for a period of five years, and people noting the fact marvelled
greatly at her strength of character in keeping her hands out of matters
in which they had once done such notable service. And it did indeed
require much force of character in Mrs. Upton to hold herself aloof from
the matrimonial ventures of others; for, although she was now a woman
close upon forty, she had still the feelings of youth; she was fond of
the society of young people, and had been for a long time the
best-beloved chaperon in the community. It was hard for her to watch a
growing romance and not help it along as she had done of yore; and many
a time did her lips withhold the words that trembled upon them--words
which would have furthered the fortunes of a worthy suitor to a waiting
hand--but she had resolved, and there was the end of it.

It is history, however, that the strongest characters will at times
falter and fall, and so it was with Mrs. Upton and her resolution
finally. There came a time when the pressure was too strong to be
resisted.

"I can't help it, Henry," she said, as she thought it all over, and saw
wherein her duty lay. "We must bring Molly Meeker and Walter together.
He is just the sort of a man for her; and if there is one thing he needs
more than another to round out his character, it is a wife like Molly."

"Remember your oath, my dear," replied Upton.

"But this will be a vesta, Henry," smiled Mrs. Upton. "Walter and you
are very much alike, and you said the other night that Molly reminded
you of me--sometimes."

"That's true," said Upton. "She does--that's what I like about her--but,
after all, she isn't you. A mill-pond might remind you at times of a
great and beautiful lake, but it wouldn't be the lake, you know. I grant
that Walter and I are alike as two peas, but I deny that Molly can hold
a candle to you."

"Oh you!" snapped Mrs. Upton. "Haven't you got your eyes opened to my
faults yet?"

"Yessum," said Upton. "They're great, and I couldn't get along without
'em, but I wouldn't stand them for five minutes if I'd married Molly
Meeker instead of you. You'd better keep out of this. Stick to your
resolution. Let Molly choose her own husband, and Walter his wife. You
never can tell how things are going to turn out. Why, I introduced
Willie Timpkins to George Barker at the club one night last winter,
feeling that there were two fellows who were designed by Providence for
the old Damon and Pythias performance, and it wasn't ten minutes before
they were quarrelling like a couple of cats, and every time they meet
nowadays they have to be introduced all over again."

"I don't wonder at that at all," said Mrs. Upton. "Willie Timpkins is
precisely the same kind of a person that George Barker is, and when they
meet each other and realize that they are exactly alike, and see how
sort of small and mean they really are, it destroys their self-love."

"I never saw it in that light before," said Upton, reflectively, "but I
imagine you are right. There's lots in that. If a man really wrote down
on paper his candid opinion of himself, he'd have a good case for
slander against the publisher who printed it--I guess."

"I should think you'd have known better than to bring those two
together, and under the circumstances I don't wonder they hate each
other," said Mrs. Upton.

"Sympathy ought to count for something," pleaded Upton. "Don't you
think?"

"Of course," replied Mrs. Upton; "but a man wants to sympathize with the
other fellow, not with himself. If you were a woman you'd understand
that a little better. But to return to Molly and Walter--don't you think
they really were made for each other?"

"No, I don't," said Upton. "I don't believe that anybody ever was made
for anybody else. On that principle every baby that is born ought
to be labelled: _Fragile. Please forward to Soandso_. This
'made-for-each-other' business makes me tired. It's predestination all
over again, which is good enough for an express package, but doesn't go
where souls are involved. Suppose that through some circumstance over
which he has no control a Michigan man was made for a Russian girl--how
the deuce is she to get him?"

"That's all nonsense, Henry," said Mrs. Upton, impatiently. "I don't
know why," observed Upton. "I can quite understand how a Michigan man
might make a first-rate husband for a Russian girl. Your idea involves
the notion of affinity, and if I know anything about affinities, they
have to go chasing each other through the universe for cycle after
cycle, in the hope of some day meeting--and it's all beastly nonsense.
My affinity might be Delilah, and Samson's your beautiful self; but I'll
tell you, on my own responsibility, that if I had caught Samson hanging
about your father's house during my palmy days I'd have thrashed the
life out of him, whether his hair was short or long, and don't you
forget it, Mrs. Upton."

Mrs. Upton laughed heartily. "I've no doubt you could have done it, my
dear Henry," said she. "I'd have helped you, anyhow. But affinities or
not, we are placed here for a certain purpose--"

"I presume so," said Upton. "I haven't found out what it is, but I'm
satisfied."

"Yes--and so am I. Now," continued Mrs. Upton, "I think that we all
ought to help each other along. Whether I am your affinity or not, or
whether you are mine--"

"I _am_ yours--for keeps, too," said Upton. "I shall be just as
attentive in heaven, where marriage is not recognized, as I am here, if
I hang for it."

"Well--however that may be, we have this life to live, and we should go
about it in the best way possible. Now I believe that Walter will be
more of a man, will accomplish more in the end, if he marries Molly than
he will as a bachelor, or if he married--Jennie Perkins, for instance,
who is so much of a manly woman that she has no sympathy with either
sex."

"Right!" said Upton.

"You like Walter, don't you, and want him to succeed?"

"I do."

"You realize that an unmarried physician hasn't more than half a
chance?"

"Unfortunately yes," said Upton. "Though I don't agree that a man can
cut your leg off more expertly or carry you through the measles more
successfully just because he has happened to get married. As a matter
of fact, when I have my leg cut off I want it to be done by a man who
hasn't been kept awake all night by the squalling of his lately arrived
son."

"Nevertheless," said Mrs. Upton, "society decrees that a doctor needs a
wife to round him out. There's no disputing that fact--and it is
perfectly proper. Bachelors may know all about the science of medicine,
and make a fair showing in surgery, but it isn't until a man is married
that he becomes the wholly successful practitioner who inspires
confidence."

"I suppose it's so," said Upton. "No doubt of it. A man who has suffered
always does do better--"

"Henry!" ejaculated Mrs. Upton, severely. "Remember this: I didn't marry
you because I thought you were a cynic. Now Walter as a young physician
needs a wife--"

"I suppose he's got to have somebody to confide professional secrets
to," said Upton.

"That may be the reason for it," observed Mrs. Upton; "but whatever the
reason, it is a fact. He needs a wife, and I propose that he shall have
one; and it is very important that he should get the right one."

"Are you going to propose to the girl in his behalf?" queried Henry.

"No; but I think he's a man of sense, and I know Molly is. Now I propose
to bring them together, and to throw them at each other's heads in such
a way that they won't either of them guess that I am doing it--"

"Now, my dear," interrupted Upton, "don't! Don't try any throwing. You
know as well as I do that no woman can throw straight. If you throw
Molly Meeker at Walter's head--"

"I may strike his heart. Precisely!" said Mrs. Upton, triumphantly. "And
that's all I want. Then we shall have a beautiful wedding," she added,
with enthusiasm. "We'll give a little dinner on the 18th--a nice
informal dinner. We'll invite the Jacksons and the Peltons and Molly and
Walter. They will meet, fall in love like sensible people, and there you
are."

"I guess it's all right," said Upton, "though to fall in love sensibly
isn't possible, my dear. What people who get married ought to do is to
fall unreasonably, madly in love--"

But Mrs. Upton did not listen. She was already at her escritoire,
writing the invitations for the little dinner.


II

A SUCCESSFUL CASE

  "The pleasantest angling is to see the fish
  ... greedily devour the treacherous bait."
  --_Much Ado about Nothing_.

The invitations to Mrs. Upton's little dinner were speedily despatched
by the strategic maker of matches, and, to her great delight, were one
and all accepted with commendable promptness, as dinner invitations are
apt to be. The night came, and with it came also the unsuspecting young
doctor and the equally unsuspicious Miss Meeker. Everything was
charming. The Jacksons were pleased with the Peltons, and the Peltons
were pleased with the Jacksons, and, best of all, Walter was pleased
with Miss Meeker, while she was not wholly oblivious to his existence.
She even quoted something he happened to say at the table, after the
ladies had retired, leaving the men to their cigars, and had added that
"_that_ was the way she liked to hear a man talk"--all of which was very
encouraging to the well-disposed spider who was weaving the web for
these two particular flies. As for Bliss--Walter Bliss, M.D.--he was
very much impressed; so much so, indeed, that as the men left their
cigars to return to the ladies he managed to whisper into Upton's ear,

"Rather bright girl that, Henry."

"Very," said Upton. "Sensible, too. One of those bachelor girls who've
got too much sense to think much about men. Pity, rather, in a way, too.
She'd make a good wife, but, Lord save us! it would require an Alexander
or a Napoleon to make love to her."

"Oh, I don't know," said Bliss, confidently. "If the right man came
along--"

"Of course; but there aren't many right men," said Upton. "I've no doubt
there's somebody equal to the occasion somewhere, but with the
population of the world at the present figures there's a billion chances
to one she'll never meet him. What do you think of the financial
situation, Walter? Pretty bad, eh?"

Thus did the astute Mr. Upton play the cards dealt out to him by his
fairer half in this little game of hearts of her devising, and it is a
certain fact that he played them well, for the interjection of a more or
less political phase into their discussion rather whetted than otherwise
the desire of Dr. Bliss to talk about Miss Meeker.

"Oh, hang the financial situation! Where does she live, Henry?" was
Bliss's answer, from which Upton deduced that all was going well.

That his deductions were correct was speedily shown, for it was not many
days before Mrs. Upton, with a radiant face, handed Upton a note from
Walter asking her if she would not act as chaperon for a little sail on
the Sound upon his sloop. He thought a small party of four, consisting
of herself and Henry, Miss Meeker and himself, could have a jolly
afternoon and evening of it, dining on board in true picnic fashion, and
returning to earth in the moonlight.

"How do you like that, my lord?" she inquired, her eyes beaming with
delight.

"Dreadful!" said Henry. "Got to the moonlight stage already--poor Bliss!"

"Poor Bliss indeed," retorted Mrs. Upton. "Blissful Bliss, you ought to
call him. Shall we go?"

"Shall we go?" echoed Upton. "If I fell off the middle of Brooklyn
Bridge, would I land in the water?"

"I don't know," laughed Mrs. Upton. "You might drop into the smoke-stack
of a ferry-boat."

"Of course we'll go," said Upton. "I'd go yachting with my worst enemy."

"Very well. I'll accept," said Mrs. Upton, and she did. The sail was a
great success, and everything went exactly as the skilful match-maker
had wished. Bliss looked well in his yachting suit. The appointments of
the yacht were perfect. The afternoon was fine, the supper entrancing,
and the moonlight irresistible. Miss Meeker was duly impressed, and as
for the doctor, as Upton put it, he was "going down for the third time."

"If you aren't serious in this match, my dear, throw him a rope," he
pleaded, in his friend's behalf.

"He wouldn't avail himself of it if I did," said Mrs. Upton. "He wants
to drown--and I fancy Molly wants him to, too, because I can't get her
to mention his name any more."

"Is that a sign?" asked Upton.

"Indeed yes; if she talked about him all the time I should be afraid she
wasn't quite as deeply in love as I want her to be. She's only a woman,
you know, Henry. If she were a man, it would be different."

The indications were verified by the results. August came, and Mrs.
Upton invited Miss Meeker to spend the month at the Uptons' summer
cottage at Skirton, and Bliss was asked up for "a day or two" while she
was there.

"Isn't it a little dangerous, my dear?" Upton asked, when his wife asked
him to extend the hospitality of the cottage to Bliss. "I should think
twice before asking Walter to come."

"How absurd you are!" retorted the match-maker. "What earthly objection
can there be?"

"No objection at all," returned Upton, "but it may destroy all your good
work. It will be a terrible test for Walter, I am afraid--breakfast, for
instance, is a fearful ordeal for most men. They are so apt to be at
their very worst at breakfast, and it might happen that Walter could not
stand the strain upon him through a series of them. Then Molly may not
look well in the mornings. How is that? Is she like you--always at her
best?"

Mrs. Upton replied with a smile. It was evident that she did not
consider the danger very great.

"They might as well get used to seeing each other at breakfast," she
said. "If they find they don't admire each other at that time, it is
just as well they should know it in advance."

Hence it was, as I have said, that Bliss was invited to Skirton for a
day or two. And the day or two, in the most natural way in the world,
lengthened out into a week or two. There were walks and talks; there
were drives and long horseback rides along shaded mountain roads, and
when it rained there were mornings in the music-room together. Bliss was
good-natured at breakfast, and Molly developed a capacity for appearing
to advantage at that trying meal that aroused Upton's highest regard;
and finally--well, finally Miss Molly Meeker whispered something into
Mrs. Upton's ear, at which the latter was so overjoyed that she nearly
hugged her young friend to death.

"Here, my dear, look out," remonstrated Upton, who happened to be
present. "Don't take it all. Perhaps she wants to live long enough to
whisper something to me."

"I do," said Molly, and then she announced her engagement to Walter
Bliss; and she did it so sweetly that Upton had all he could do to keep
from manifesting his approval after the fashion adopted by his wife.

"I wish I was a literary man," said Upton to his wife the next day, when
they were talking over the situation. "If I knew how to write I'd make a
fortune, I believe, just following up the little romances that you
plan."

"Oh, nonsense, Henry," replied Mrs. Upton. "I don't plan any romances--I
select certain people for each other and bring them together, that is
all."

"And push 'em along--prod 'em slightly when they don't seem to get
started, eh?" insinuated Upton. "Well, yes--sometimes."

"And what else does a novelist do? He picks out two people, brings them
together, and pushes them along through as many chapters as he needs for
his book," said Henry. "That's all. Now if I could follow your couples
I'd have a tremendous advantage in basing my studies on living models
instead of having to imagine my realism. I repeat I wish I could write.
This little romance of Mollie and Walter that has just ended--"

"Just what?" asked Mrs. Upton.

"Just ended," repeated Upton. "What's the matter with that?"

"You mean just begun," said Mrs. Upton, with a sigh. "The hardest work a
match-maker has is in conducting the campaign after the nominations are
made. When two people love each other madly, they are apt to do a great
deal of quarrelling over absolutely nothing, and I'm not at all sure
that an engagement means marriage until the ceremony has taken place."

"And even then," suggested Henry, "there are the divorce courts, eh?"

"We won't refer to them," said Mrs. Upton, severely; "they are relics
of barbarism. But as for the ending of my romance, my real work now
begins. I must watch those two young people carefully and see that their
little quarrels are smoothed over, their irritations allayed, and that
every possible difference between them is adjusted."

"But you and I didn't quarrel when we were engaged," persisted Upton.

"No, we didn't, Henry," replied Mrs. Upton. "But that was only because
it takes two to make a quarrel, and I loved you so much that I was
really blind to all your possibilities as an irritant."

"Oh!" said Henry, reflectively.


III

A SET-BACK

  "All is confounded, all!
  Reproach and everlasting shame
  Sits mocking in our plumes."

  --_Henry V_.

Time demonstrated with great effectiveness the unhappy fact that Mrs.
Upton knew whereof she spoke when she likened an engagement to a
political campaign, in that the real battle begins after the nominations
are made. Walter Bliss had decided views as to life, and Miss Meeker was
hardly less settled in her convictions. Long before she had met Bliss,
in default of a real she had builded up in her mind an ideal man, which
at first, second, and even third sight Walter had seemed to her to
represent. But unfortunately there is a fourth sight, and the lover or
the _fiancée_ who can get beyond this is safe--comparatively safe, that
is, for everything in this world has its merits or its demerits,
comparatively speaking, and the comparison is more often than not made
from the point of view of what ought to be rather than of what really
is. Mrs. Upton was a realist--that is, she thought she was; and so was
Miss Meeker. Everybody looks at life from his or her own point of view,
and there must always be, consequently, two points of view, for there
will always be a male way and a female way of looking at things. Walter
was in love with his profession. Molly was in love with him as an
abstract thing. She knew nothing of him as a Washington fighting
measles; she was not aware whether he could combat tonsillitis as
successfully as Napoleon fought the Austrians or not, and it may be
added that she didn't care. He was merely a man in her estimation; a
thing in the abstract, and a most charming thing on the whole. He, on
the other hand, looked upon her not as a woman, but as a soul, and a
purified soul at that: an angel, indeed, without the incumbrance of
wings, was she, and with a rather more comprehensive knowledge of dress
than is attributed to most of angels. But two people cannot go on
forming an ideal of each other continuously without at some time
reaching a point of divergence, and Walter and Molly reached that point
within ten weeks. It happened that while calling upon her one evening
Walter received a professional summons which he admitted was all
nonsense--why should people call in doctors when it is "all nonsense"?

The call came while Walter was turning over the leaves at the piano as
Molly played.

"What is this?" he said, as he opened the note that was addressed to
him. "Humph! Mrs. Hubbard's boy is sick--"

"Must you go?" Molly asked.

"I suppose so," said Walter. "I saw him this afternoon, and there is not
the slightest thing the matter with him, but I must go."

"Why?" asked Molly. "Are you the kind of doctor they call in when
there's nothing the matter?"

She did not mean to be sarcastic, but she seemed to be, and Walter, of
course, like a properly sensitive soul, was hurt.

"I must go," he said, positively, ignoring the thrust.

"But you say there is nothing the matter with the boy," suggested Molly.

"I'm going just the same," said Walter, and he went.

Molly played on at the piano until she heard the front door slam, and
then she rose up and went to the window. Walter had gone and was out of
sight. Then, sad to say, she became philosophical. It doesn't really pay
for girls to become philosophical, but Molly did not know that, and she
began a course of reasoning.

"He knows he isn't needed, but he goes," she said to herself, as she
gazed dejectedly out of the window at the gaslamps on the other side of
the street. "And he will of course charge the Hubbards for his services,
admitting, however, that his services are nothing. That is not
conscientious--it is not professional. He is not practising for the love
of his profession, but for the love of money. I am disappointed in
him--and we were having such a pleasant time, too!"

So she ran on as she sat there in the window-seat looking out upon the
dreary street; and you may be sure that the commingling of her ideals
and her disappointments and her sense of loneliness did not help
Walter's case in the least, and that when they met the next time her
manner towards him was what some persons term "sniffy," which was a
manner Walter could not and would not abide. Hence a marked coolness
arose between the two, which by degrees became so intensified that at
about the time when Mrs. Upton was expected to be called in to assist at
a wedding, she was stunned by the information that "all was over between
them." "Just think of that, Henry," the good match-maker cried,
wrathfully. "All is over between them, and Molly pretends she is glad of
it."

"Made for each other too!" ejaculated Upton, with a mock air of sorrow.
"What was the matter?"

"I can't make out exactly," observed Mrs. Upton. "Molly told me all
about it, and it struck me as a merely silly lovers' quarrel, but she
won't hear of a reconciliation. She says she finds she was mistaken in
him. I wish you'd find out Walter's version of it."

"I respectfully refuse, my dear Mrs. Upton," returned Henry. "I'm not a
partner in your enterprise, and if you get a misfit couple returned on
your hands it is your lookout, not mine. Pity, isn't it, that you can't
manage matters like a tailor? Suit of clothes is made for me, I try it
on, don't like it, send it back and have it changed to fit. If you could
make a few alterations now in Molly--"

"Henry, you are flippant," asserted Mrs. Upton. "There's nothing the
matter with Molly--not the least little thing; and Walter ought to be
ashamed of himself to give her up, and I'm going to see that he
doesn't. I believe a law ought to be made, anyhow, requiring engaged
persons who want to break off to go into court and show cause why they
shouldn't be enjoined from so doing."

"A sort of antenuptial divorce law, eh?" suggested Upton. "That's not a
bad idea; you ought to write to the papers and suggest it--using your
maiden name, of course, not mine."

"If you would only find out from Walter what he's mad at, and tell him
he's an idiot and a heartless thing, maybe we could smooth it out,
because I know that 'way down in her soul Molly loves him."

"Very well, I'll do it," said Upton, good-naturedly; "but mind you it's
only to oblige you, and if Bliss throws me out of the club window for
meddling in his affairs, it will be your fault."

The doctor did not quite throw Upton out of the window that afternoon
when the subject came up, but he did the next thing to it. He turned
upon him, and with much gravity remarked: "Upton, I'll talk politics,
finance, medicine, surgery, literature, or neck-ties with you, but under
no circumstances will I talk about woman with anybody. I prefer a topic
concerning which it is possible occasionally to make an intelligent
surmise at least. Woman is as comprehensible to a finite mind as chaos.
Who's your tailor?"

"You ought to have seen us when he said that," observed Upton to his
wife, as he told her about the interview at dinner that evening. "He was
as solemn as an Alp, and apparently as immovable as the Sphinx; and as
for me, I simply withered on my stalk and crumbled away into dust.
Wherefore, my love, I am through; and hereafter if you are going to make
matches for my friends and need outside help, get a hired man to help
you. I'm did. If I were you I'd let 'em go their own way, and if their
lives are spoiled, why, your conscience is clear either way."

But Mrs. Upton had no sympathy with any such view as that. She had been
so near to victory that she was not going to surrender now without one
more charge. She tried a little sounding of Bliss herself, and finally
asked him point-blank if he would take dinner with herself and Upton and
Molly and make it up, and he declined absolutely; and it was just as
well, for when Molly heard of it she asserted that she had no doubt it
would have been a pleasant dinner, but that nothing could have induced
her to go. She never wished to see Dr. Bliss again--not even
professionally. Mrs. Upton was gradually becoming utterly discouraged.
The only hopeful feature of the situation was that there were no
"alternates" involved. Bliss was done forever with woman; Miss Meeker
had never cared for any man but Walter. Time passed, and the lovers were
adamant in their determination never to see each other again. Repeated
efforts to bring them together failed, until Mrs. Upton was in despair.
It is always darkest, however, just before dawn, and it finally happened
that just as hopelessness was beginning to take hold of Mrs. Upton's
heart her great device came to her.


IV

THE DEVICE

  "Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
  And all went merry as a marriage bell."
  --_Childe Harold_.

"Henry," said Mrs. Upton, one cold January morning, a great light of
possibilities dawning upon her troubled soul, "don't you want to take me
to the opera next Saturday? Calvé is to sing in 'Cavalleria,' and I am
very anxious to hear her again."

"I am sorry, but I can't," Upton answered. "I have an engagement with
Bliss at the club on Saturday. We're going to take lunch and finish up
our billiard tournament. I've got a lead of forty points."

"Oh! Well, then, get me two seats, and I'll take Molly," said the astute
match-maker. "And never mind about their being aisle seats. I prefer
them in the middle of the row, so that everybody won't be climbing over
us when they go out and in."

"All right; I will," said Henry, and the seats were duly procured.

Saturday came, and Upton went to the club, according to his appointment
with Walter; but Bliss was not there, nor had he sent any message of
explanation. Upton waited until three o'clock, and still the doctor came
not; and finally he left the club and sauntered up the Avenue to his
house, calling down the while imprecations upon the absent Walter.

"Hang these doctors!" he said, viciously. "They seem to think
professional engagements are the only ones worth keeping. Off in his
game, I fancy. That's the milk in the cocoanut."

Five minutes later he entered his library, and was astonished to see
Mrs. Upton there reading.

"Why, hullo! You here?" he said. "I thought you were at the opera."

"No, I didn't go," Mrs. Upton replied, with a smile.

"There seems to be something in the air that prevents people from
keeping their engagements to-day. Bliss didn't turn up," said Henry.
"What did you do with the tickets?"

"I sent Molly hers by messenger, and told her I'd join her at the
opera-house," said Mrs. Upton, her face beaming. "Did you say Walter
didn't go to the club?" she added, anxiously.

"Yes. He's a great fellow, he is! Got no more idea about sticking to an
engagement than a cat," said Upton. "Afraid of my forty points, I
imagine."

"Possibly; but maybe this will account for it," said Mrs. Upton, with a
sigh of relief, which hardly seemed necessary under the circumstances,
handing her husband a note.

"What's this?" asked Upton, scanning the address upon the envelope.

"A note--from Walter," Mrs. Upton replied. "Read it."

And Upton read as follows:

  "SATURDAY MORNING, _January_ --, 189-.

  "MY DEAR MRS. UPTON,--I am sorry to hear
  that Henry is called away, but there are compensations.
  If I cannot take luncheon with him,
  it will give me the greatest pleasure to listen to
  Calvé in your company. I may be a trifle late,
  but I shall most certainly avail myself of your
  kind thought of me.

  "Yours faithfully,
  "WALTER BLISS."

"What the deuce is this?" asked Upton. "I called away? Who said I was
called away?"

"I did," said Mrs. Upton, pursing her lips to keep from indulging in a
smile. "As soon as you left this morning I wrote Walter a note, telling
him that you had been hurriedly called to Philadelphia on business, and
that you'd asked me to let him know, not having time to do it yourself.
And I closed by saying that we had two seats for 'Cavalleria,' and that,
as my expected guest had disappointed me, I hoped he might come in if he
felt like it during the afternoon and hear Calvé. That's his answer. I
enclosed him the ticket."

"So that--" said Upton, beginning to comprehend.

"So that Molly and Walter are at the opera together. Hemmed in on both
sides, so that they can't escape, with the Intermezzo before them!" said
Mrs. Upton, with an air of triumph which was beautiful to look upon.

"Well, you are a genius!" cried Upton, finding his wife's enthusiasm
contagious. "I'm almost afraid of you!"

"And you don't think I did wrong to fib?" asked Mrs. Upton.

[Illustration: During the Intermezzo.]

"Oh, as for that," said Upton, "all geniuses lie! An abnormal
development in one direction always indicates an abnormal lack of
development in another. Your bump of ingenuity has for the moment
absorbed your bump of veracity; but I say, my dear, I wonder if they'll
speak?"

"Speak?" echoed Mrs. Upton. "Speak? Why, of course they will! Everybody
talks at the opera," she added, joyously.

An hour later the door-bell rang, and the maid announced Miss Meeker and
Dr. Bliss. They entered radiant, and not in the least embarrassed.

"Why, how do you do?" said Upton, as calmly as though nothing had
happened. "Didn't see you at the club," he added, with a sly wink at his
wife.

"Thought you were out of town," said Bliss; and then he turned and
glanced inquiringly at the lovely deceiver. But Mrs. Upton said nothing.
She was otherwise engaged; for Molly, upon entering the room, had walked
directly to her side, and throwing her arms about her neck, kissed her
several times most affectionately.

"You dear old thing!" she whispered.

"Mrs.--Upton--I'm very much obliged to you for a very pleasant afternoon,"
stammered Bliss, recovering from his surprise, the true inwardness of the
situation dawning upon him, "as well as for--a good many pleasant
afternoons to come. I--ah--I didn't see--ah--Molly until I got seated."

"No," said Molly; "and if he could have gotten away without disturbing a
lot of people, I think he'd have gone when he realized where he was. And
he wouldn't speak until the Intermezzo was half through."

"Well, I tried hard not to even then," said Walter; "but somehow or
other, when the Intermezzo got going, I couldn't help it, and--well,
it's to be next month."

And so it was. The wedding took place six weeks later; and all through
the service the organist played the Intermezzo in subdued tones, which
some people thought rather peculiar--but then they were not aware of all
the circumstances.


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Booming of Acre Hill - And Other Reminiscences of Urban and Suburban Life" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home