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Title: The Tinder-Box
Author: Daviess, Maria Thompson, 1872-1924
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 Tinder-Box" ***

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THE TINDER-BOX

[Illustration: "You don't need another vine," I answered mutinously.]



THE TINDER-BOX

BY

MARIA THOMPSON DAVIESS

Author of

"The Melting of Molly," "Miss Selina Lue," "Sue Jane," Etc.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN EDWIN JACKSON

NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO.

_Published, November, 1913_



I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO HANNAH DAVIESS PITTMAN WHO BLAZED MY TRAIL AND
STILL DOES



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                              PAGE

I. THE LOAD                             3

II. THE MAIDEN LANCE                   26

III. A FLINT-SPARK                     48

IV. SWEETER WHEN TAMED?                79

V. DEEPER THAN SHOULDERS OR RIBS      105

VI. MAN AND THE ASAFETIDA SPOON       136

VII. SOME SMOLDERINGS                 173

VIII. AN ATTAINED TO-MORROW           211

IX. DYNAMITE                          248

X. TOGETHER?                          282



ILLUSTRATIONS

"You don't need another vine," I answered mutinously....._Frontispiece_

He stood calmly in the midst of Sallie's family and baggage, both
animate and inanimate 38

"Say, Polk, I let the Pup git hung by her apron to the wheel of your
car" 98

His gray eyes were positively mysterious with interrupted dreams 182

"We must not allow the men time to get sore over this matter of the
League" 218

"Is this right?" he asked 244

"She's our Mother," he said 276

Scrouged so close to his arm that it was difficult for both of them to
walk 280



THE TINDER BOX

CHAPTER I

THE LOAD


All love is a gas, and it takes either loneliness, strength of
character, or religion to liquefy it into a condition to be ladled out
of us, one to another. There is a certain dangerously volatile state of
it; and occasionally people, especially of opposite sexes, try to
administer it to each other in that form, with asphyxiation resulting to
both hearts. And I'm willing to confess that it is generally a woman's
fault when such an accident occurs. That is, it is a mistake of her
nature, not one of intent. But she is learning!

Also when a woman is created, the winds have wooed star-dust, rose-dew,
peach-down, and a few flint-shavings into a whirlwind of deviltry, and
the world at large looks on in wonder and sore amazement, as well as
breathless interest. I know, because I am one, and have just been waked
up by the gyrations of the cyclone; and I'm deeply confounded. I don't
like it, and wish I could have slept longer, but Fate and Jane Mathers
decreed otherwise. At least Jane decreed, and Fate seems so far helpless
to controvert the decree.

I might have known that when this jolly, easy-going old Fate of mine,
which I inherited from a lot of indolent, pleasure-loving Harpeth Valley
Tennesseans, let me pack up my graduating thesis, my B.S., and some
delicious frocks, and go off to Paris for a degree from the Beaux Arts
in Architecture, we would be caught up with by some kind of Nemesis or
other, and put in our place in the biological and ethnological scheme of
existence. Yes, Fate and I are placed, and Jane did it.

Also, I am glad, now that I know what is going to happen to me, that I
had last week on shipboard, with Richard Hall bombarding my cardiac
regions with his honest eyes and booming voice discreetly muffled to
accord with the moonlight and the quiet places around the deck. I may
never get that sort of a joy-drink again, but it was so well done that
it will help me to administer the same to others when the awful occasion
arrives.

"A woman is the spark that lights the flame on the altar of the inner
man, dear, and you'll have to sparkle when your time comes," he warned
me, as I hurried what might have been a very tender parting, the last
night at sea.

"_Spark_"--she's a conflagration by this new plan of Jane's, but I'm
glad he didn't know about it then. He may have to suffer from it yet. It
is best for him to be as happy as he can as long as he can.

"Evelina, dear," said Jane, as she and Mary Elizabeth Conners and I sat
in the suite of apartments in which our proud Alma Mater had lodged us
old grads, returned for our second degrees, "your success has been
remarkable, and I am not surprised at all that that positively creative
thesis of yours on the Twentieth Century Garden, to which I listened
to-night, procured you an honorable mention in your class at the Beaux
Arts. The French are a nation that quickly recognizes genius. I am very
happy to-night. All your honors and achievements make me only the more
certain that I have chosen the right person for the glorious mission I
am about to offer you."

"Oh, no, Jane!" I exclaimed, from a sort of instinct for trouble to
come. I know that devoted, twenty-second century look in Jane's intense,
near-sighted eyes, and I always fend from it. She is a very dear person,
and I respectfully adore her. Indeed, I sometimes think she is the real
spine in my back that was left out of me, and of its own strength got
developed into another and a finer woman. She became captain of my
Freshman soul, at the same time she captured the captaincy of the boat
crew, on which I pulled stroke, and I'm still hitting the water when she
gives the word, though it now looks as if we are both adrift on the high
and uncharted seas--or sitting on the lid of a tinder-box, juggling
lighted torches.

"You see, dear," she went on to say slowly, drawing Mary Elizabeth into
the spell-bound circle of our intensity, as we three sat together with
our newly-engraved sheepskins on our knees, "for these two years while
you have been growing and developing along all your natural lines in a
country which was not your own, in a little pool I should call it, out
of even sight and sound of the current of events, we have been here in
your own land engaged in the great work of the organization and
reorganization which is molding the destinies of the women of our
times, and those that come after us. That is what I want to talk to you
about, and devoutly have I been praying that your heart will be
receptive to the call that has claimed the life of Mary Elizabeth and
me. There is a particular work, for which you are fitted as no other
woman I have ever known is fitted, and I want to lay the case plainly
before you to-night. Will you give me a hearing?"

And the hearing I gave that beloved and devout woman was the _reveille_
that awakened me to this--this whirlwind that seems to be both inside me
and outside me, and everywhere else in the whole world.

It's not woman's suffrage; it has gone way down past the road from votes
for women. I wish I could have stopped in that political field of
endeavor before Jane got to me. She might have left me there doing
little things like making speeches before the United States Senate and
running for Governor of Tennessee, after I had, single-handed, remade
the archaic constitution of that proud and bat-blind old State of my
birth; but such ease was not for me.

Of course for years, as all women have been doing who are sensible
enough to use the brains God gave them and stop depending on their
centuries-seasoned intuitions and fascinations, I have been reading
about this feminist revolution that seems all of a sudden to have
revoluted from nobody knows where, and I have been generally indignant
over things whether I understood them or not, and I have felt that I was
being oppressed by the opposite sex, even if I could not locate the
exact spot of the pain produced. I have always felt that when I got to
it I would shake off the shackles of my queer fondness and of my
dependence upon my oppressors, and do something revengeful to them.

When my father died in my Junior year and left me all alone in the
world, the first thing that made me feel life in my veins again was the
unholy rage I experienced when I found that he had left me bodaciously
and otherwise to my fifth cousin, James Hardin.

Cousin James is a healthy reversion to the primitive type of Father
Abraham, and he has so much aristocratic moss on him that he reminds me
of that old gray crag that hangs over Silver Creek out on Providence
Road. Artistically he is perfectly beautiful in an Old-Testament
fashion. He lives in an ancient, rambling house across the road from my
home, and he is making a souvenir collection of derelict women.
Everybody that dies in Glendale leaves him a relict, and including his
mother, Cousin Martha, he now has either seven or nine female charges,
depending on the sex of Sallie Carruthers's twin babies, which I can't
exactly remember, but will wager is feminine.

My being left to him was an insult to me, though of course Father did
not see it that way. He adored the Crag, as everybody else in Glendale
does, and wouldn't have considered not leaving him precious me. Wanting
to ignore Cousin James, because I was bound out to him until my
twenty-fifth year or marriage, which is worse, has kept me from Glendale
all these four years since father died suddenly while I was away at
college, laid up with the ankle which I broke in the gymnasium. Still,
as much as I resent him, I keep the letter the Crag wrote me the night
after Father died, right where I can put my hand on it if life suddenly
panics me for any reason. It covers all the circumstances I have yet
met. I wonder if I ought to burn it now!

But, to be honest with myself, I will have to confess that the
explosively sentimental scene on the front porch, the night I left for
college, with Polk Hayes has had something to do with my cowardice in
lingering in foreign climes. I feel that it is something I will have to
go on with some day, and the devil will have to pick up the chips. Polk
is the kind of man that ought to be exterminated by the government in
sympathy for its women wards, if his clan didn't make such good citizens
when they do finally marry. He ought at least to be labeled "poison for
the very young." I was very young out on the porch that night. Still, I
don't resent him like I do the archaic Crag.

And as Jane talked, my seasoned indignation of four years against my
keeper flared up, and while she paused at intervals for breath I hurled
out plans for his demolishment. I wish now I had been more
conservatively quiet, and left myself a loophole, but I didn't. I walked
into this situation and shut the door behind me.

"Yes, Evelina, I think you will have to insist forcibly on assuming
charge of your own social and financial affairs in your own home. It may
not be easy, with such a man as you describe, but you will accomplish
it. However, many mediocre women have proved their ability to attend to
their own fortunes, and do good business for themselves; but your battle
is to be fought on still higher grounds. You are to rise and establish
with your fellow-man a plane of common citizenship. You do it for his
sake and your own, and for that of humanity."

"Suppose, after I get up there on that plateau, I didn't find any man at
all," I ventured faint-heartedly, but with a ripple of my risibles; the
last in life I fear.

"You must reach down your hands to them and draw them up to you," she
answered in a tone of tonic inspiration. "You are to claim the same
right to express your emotions that a man has. You are to offer your
friendship to both men and women on the same frank terms, with no
degrading hesitancy caused by an embarrassment on account of your sex.
It is his due and yours. No form of affection is to be withheld from
him. It is to be done frankly and impressively, and when the time
comes--" I can hardly write this, but the memory of the wonderful though
fanatic light in Jane's eyes makes me able to scrawl it--"that you feel
the mating instinct in you move towards any man, I charge you that you
are to consider it a sacred obligation to express it with the same
honesty that a man would express the same thing to you, in like case,
even if he has shown no sign of that impulse toward you. No contortions
and contemptible indirect method of attack, but a fearless one that is
yours by right, and his though he may not acknowledge it. The barbaric
and senseless old convention that denies women the right of selection,
for which God has given her the superior instinct, is to be broken down
by just such women as you. A woman less dowered by beauty and all
feminine charm could not do it just yet, but to you, to whom the
command of men is a natural gift, is granted the wonderful chance to
prove that it can be done, honestly and triumphantly, with no sacrifice
of the sacredness of womanhood."

"Oh, Jane." I moaned into the arm of the chair on which I had bowed my
head.

I am moaning; now just as much, down in the bottom of my heart. Where
are all my gentle foremothers that smiled behind their lace fans and had
their lily-white hands kissed by cavalier gentlemen in starched ruffles,
out under the stars that rise over Old Harpeth, that they don't claim me
in a calm and peaceful death? Still, as much as I would like to die, I
am interested in what is going to happen.

"Yes, Evelina," she answered in an adamant tone of voice, "and when I
have the complete record of what, I know, will be your triumphant
vindication of the truth that it is possible and advisable for women to
assert their divine right to choose a mate for their sacred vocation of
bearing the race, I shall proceed, as I have told you, to choose five
other suitable young women to follow your example, and furnish them the
money, up to the sum of a hundred thousand dollars, after having been
convinced by your experience. Be careful to make the most minute
records, of even the most emotional phases of the question, in this book
for their guidance. Of course, they will never know the source of the
data, and I will help you elucidate and arrange the book, after it is
all accomplished."

If Jane hadn't had two million dollars all this trouble would not be.

"I can never do it!" I exclaimed with horror, "And the men will hate
it--and me. And if I did do it, I couldn't write it."

I almost sobbed as a vision flashed before me of thus verbally
snap-shotting the scene with dear old Dickie as we stood against the
rail of the ship and watched the waves fling back silvery radiance at
the full moon, and I also wondered how I was to render in serviceable
written data his husky:

"A woman is the flame that lights the spark--"

Also, what would that interview with Polk Hayes look like reproduced
with high lights?

"Now," she answered encouragingly, "don't fear the men, dear. They are
sensible and business-like creatures, and they will soon see how much to
their advantage it is to be married to women who have had an equal
privilege with themselves of showing their preferences. Then only can
they be sure that their unions are from real preferences and not
compromises, on the part of their wives, from lack of other choice. Of
course, a woman's pride will make her refrain from courtship, as does
her brother man, until she is financially independent, and
self-supporting, lest she be put in the position of a mendicant." Jane
has thought the whole thing out from Genesis to Revelation.

Still, that last clause about the mendicant leaves hope for the
benighted man who still wants the cling of the vine. A true vine would
never want--or be able--to hustle enough to flower sordid dollars
instead of curls and blushes.

"A woman would have to be--to be a good deal of a woman, not any less
one, to put such a thing across, Jane," I said, with a preflash of some
of the things that might happen in such a cruel crusade of reformation
and deprivation of rights.

"That is the reason I have chosen you to collect the data, Evelina,"
answered Jane, with another of those glorious tonic looks, issuing from
my backbone in her back. "The ultimate woman must be superb in body,
brain, and heart. You are that now more nearly than any one I have ever
seen. You are the woman!"

I was silenced with awe.

"Jane plans to choose five girls who would otherwise have to spend their
lives teaching in crowded cities after leaving college and to start them
in any profession they choose, with every chance of happiness, in the
smaller cities of the South and Middle West," said Mary Elizabeth
gently, and somehow the tears rose in my eyes, as I thought how the poor
dear had been teaching in the high school in Chicago the two glorious
years I had been frolicking abroad. No time, and no men to have good
times with.

And there were hundreds like her, I knew, in all the crowded parts of
the United States. And as I had begun, I thought further. Just because I
was embarrassed at the idea of proposing to some foolish man, who is of
no importance to me, himself, or the world in general, down in Glendale,
where they have all known me all my life, and would expect anything of
me anyway after I have defied tradition and gone to college, five
lovely, lonely girls would have to go without any delightful suitors
like Richard--or Polk Hayes, forever.

And, still further, I thought of the other girls, coming under the
influence of those five, who might be encouraged to hold up their heads
and look around, and at least help out their Richards in their
matrimonial quest, and as I sat there with Jane's compelling and Mary
Elizabeth's hungry eyes on me, I felt that I was being besought by all
the lovers of all the future generations to tear down some sort of awful
barrier and give them happiness. And it was the thought of the men that
was most appealing. It takes a woman who really likes them as I do, and
has their good really at heart, to see their side of the question as
Jane put it, poor dears. Suddenly, I felt that all the happiness of the
whole world was in one big, golden chalice, and that I had to hold it
steadily to give drink to all men and all women--with a vision of
little unborn kiddies in the future.

Then, before I could stop myself, I decided--and I hope the dear Lord--I
say it devoutly--indeed I do!--will help that poor man in Glendale if I
pick out the wrong one. I'm going to do it.

"I accept your appointment and terms, Jane," I said quietly, as I looked
both those devout, if fanatic, women in the face. "I pledge myself to go
back to Glendale, to live a happy, healthy, normal life, as useful as I
can make it. I had intended to do that anyway, for if I am to evolve the
real American garden. I can't do better than sketch and study those in
the Harpeth Valley, for at least two seasons all around. I shall work at
my profession whole-heartedly, take my allotted place in the community,
and refuse to recognize any difference in the obligations and
opportunities in my life and that of the men with whom I am thrown, and
to help all other women to take such a fearless and honest attitude--if
Glendale blows up in consequence. I will seek and claim marriage in
exactly the same fearless way a man does, and when I have found what I
want I shall expect you to put one hundred thousand dollars, twenty to
each, at the disposal of five other suitable young women, to follow my
example, as noted down in this book--if it has been successful. Shall I
give you some sort of written agreement?"

"Just record the agreement as a note in the book, and I will sign it,"
answered Jane, in her crispest and most business-like tone of voice,
though I could see she was trembling with excitement, and poor Mary
Elizabeth was both awe-struck and hopeful.

I'll invite Mary Elizabeth down to Glendale, as soon as I stake out my
own claim, poor dear!

And here I sit alone at midnight, with a huge, steel-bound,
lock-and-keyed book that Jane has had made for me, with my name and the
inscription, "In case of death, send unopened to Jane Mathers, Boston,
Massachusetts," on the back, committed to a cause as crazy and as
serious as anything since the Pilgrimages, or the Quest of the Knights
for the Grail. It also looks slightly like trying to produce a modern
Don Quixote, feminine edition, and my cheeks are flaming so that I
wouldn't look at them for worlds. And to write it all, too! I have
always had my opinion of women who spill their souls out of an
ink-bottle, but I ought to pardon a nihilist, that in the dead of night,
cold with terror, confides some awful appointment he has had made him,
to his nearest friend. I am the worst nihilist that ever existed, and
the bomb I am throwing may explode and destroy the human race. But, on
the other hand, the explosion might be of another kind. Suppose that
suddenly a real woman's entire nature should be revealed to the world,
might not the universe be enveloped in a rose glory and a love
symphony? We'll see!

Also, could the time ever come when a woman wouldn't risk hanging over
the ragged edge of Heaven to hold on to the hand of some man? Never!
Then, as that is the case, I see we must all keep the same firm grip on
the creatures we have always had, and haul them over the edge, but we
must not do it any more without letting them know about it--it isn't
honest. Yes, women must solidify their love into such a concrete form
that men can weigh and measure it, and decide for themselves whether
they want to--to climb to Heaven for it, or remain comfortable old
bachelors. We mustn't any more lead them into marriage blinded by the
overpowering gaseous fragrance called romantic love.

But, suppose I should lose all love for everybody in this queer quest
for enlightenment I have undertaken? Please, God, let a good man be in
Glendale, Tennessee, who will understand and protect me--no, that's the
wrong prayer! Protect him--no--both of us!



CHAPTER II

THE MAIDEN LANCE


A woman may shut her eyes, and put a man determinedly out of her heart,
and in two minutes she will wake up in an agony of fear that he isn't
there. Now, as I have decided that Glendale is to be the scene of this
bloodless revolution of mine--it would be awful to carry out such an
undertaking anywhere but under the protection of ancestral traditions--I
have operated Richard Hall out of my inmost being with the utmost
cruelty, on an average of every two hours, for this week Jane and I have
been in New York; and I have still got him with me.

I, at last, became determined, and chose the roof-garden at the Astor to
tell him good-by, and perform the final operation. First I tried to
establish a plane of common citizenship with him, by telling him how
much his two years' friendship across the waters had meant to me, while
we studied the same profession under the same masters, drew at the same
drawing-boards and watched dear old Paris flame into her jeweled
night-fire from Montmarte, together. I was frankly affectionate, and it
made him suspicious of me.

Then I tried to tell him just a little, only a hint, of my new attitude
towards his sex, and before he had had time even to grasp the idea he
exploded.

"Don't talk to me as if you were an alienist trying to examine an
abstruse case, Evelina," he growled, with extreme temper. "Go on down
and rusticate with your relatives for the summer, and fly the bats in
your belfry at the old moss-backs, while I am getting this Cincinnati
and Gulf Stations commission under way. Then, when I can, I will come
for you. Let's don't discuss the matter, and it's time I took you back
to your hotel."

Not a very encouraging tilt for my maiden lance.

I've had a thought. If I should turn and woo Dickie, like he does me, I
suppose we would be going-so fast in opposite directions that we would
be in danger of passing each other without recognizing signals. I wonder
if that might get to be the case of humanity at large if women do
undertake the tactics I am to experiment with, and a dearth of any kind
of loving and claiming at all be the result. I will elucidate that idea
and shoot it into Jane. But I have no hope; she'll have the answer
ticketed away in the right pigeon-hole, statistics and all, ready to
fire back at me.

I have a feeling that Jane won't expect such a diary as this locked cell
of a book is becoming, but I can select what looks like data for the
young from these soul squirmings, and only let her have those for The
Five. I don't know which are which now, and I'll have to put down the
whole drama.

And my home-coming last night was a drama that had in it so much comedy,
dashed with tragedy, that I'm a little breathless over it yet. Jane, and
my mind is breathing unevenly still.

Considering the situation, and my intentions, I was a bit frightened as
the huge engine rattled and roared its way along the steel rails that
were leading me back, down into the Harpeth Valley. But, when we crossed
the Kentucky line, I forgot the horrors of my mission, and I thrilled
gloriously at getting hack to my hills. Old Harpeth had just come into
sight, as we rounded into the valley and Providence Knob rested back
against it, in a pink glow that I knew came from the honeysuckle in
bloom all over it like a mantle. I traveled fast into the twilight, and
I saw all the stars smile out over the ridge, in answer to the hearth
stars in the valley, before I got across Silver Creek. I hadn't let any
one know that I was coming, so I couldn't expect any one to meet me at
the station at Glendale. There was nobody there I belonged to--just an
empty house. I suppose a man coming home like that would have whistled
and held up his head, but I couldn't. I'm a woman.

Suddenly, that long glowworm of a train stopped just long enough at
Glendale to eject me and my five trunks, with such hurried emphasis that
I felt I was being planted in the valley forever, and I would have to
root myself here or die. I still feel that way.

And as I stood just where my feet were planted, in the dust of the road,
instead of on the little ten-foot platform, that didn't quite reach to
my sleeper steps, I felt as small as I really am in comparison to the
universe. I looked after the train and groveled.

Then, just as I was about to start running down the track, away from
nowhere and to nowhere, I was brought to my senses by a loud boohoo, and
then a snubby choke, which seemed to come out of my bag and
steamer-blanket that stood in a pile before me.

"Train's gone, train's gone and left us! I knew it would, when Sallie
stopped to put the starch on her face all over again. And Cousin James,
he's as slow as molasses, and I couldn't dress two twins in not time to
button one baby. Oh, damn, oh, damn!" And the sobs rose to a perfect
storm of a wail.

Just at that moment, down the short platform an electric light, that was
so feeble that it seemed to show a pine-knot influence in its heredity,
was turned on by the station-agent, who was so slow that I perceived the
influence of a descent from old Mr. Territt, who drove the stage that
came down from the city before the war, and my fellow-sufferer stood
revealed.

She was a slim, red-haired bunch of galatea, stylish of cut as to
upturned nose and straight little skirt but wholly and defiantly unshod
save for a dusty white rag around one pink toe. A cunning little straw
bonnet, with an ecru lace jabot dangled in her hand, and her big brown
eyes reminded me of Jane's at her most inquisitive moments.

"If you was on a train, what did you git offen it _here_ for?" she
demanded of me, with both scorn and curiosity in her positive young
voice.

"I don't know why," I answered weakly, not at all in the tone of a
young-gallant-home-from-the-war mood I had intended to assume towards
the first inhabitant of my native town to whom I addressed a remark.

"We was all a-goin' down to Hillsboro, to visit Aunt Bettie Pollard for
a whole week, to Cousin Tom's wedding, but my family is too slow for
nothing but a funeral. And Cousin James, he's worse. He corned for us
ten minutes behind the town clock, and Mammy Dilsie had phthisic, so I
had to fix the two twins, and we're done left. I wisht I didn't have no
family!" And with her bare feet the young rebel raised a cloud of dust
that rose and settled on my skirt.

"There they come now," she continued, with the pained contempt still
rising in her voice.

And around the corner of the station hurried the family party, with all
the haste they would have been expected to use if they had not, just two
minutes earlier, beheld their train go relentlessly on down the valley
to Hillsboro and the wedding celebration. I hadn't placed the kiddie,
but I might have known, from her own description of her family, to whom
she belonged.

First came Sallie Carruthers, sailing along in the serene way that I
remembered to have always thought like a swan in no hurry, and in her
hands was a wet box from which rose sterns protruded.

Next in the procession came Aunt Dilsie, huge and black and wheezing,
fanning herself with a genteel turkey-tail fan, and carrying a large
covered basket.

But the tail-piece of the procession paralyzed all the home-coming
emotions that I had expected to be feeling, save that of pure hilarity.
James Hardin was carrying two bubbly, squirmy, tousle-headed babies, on
one arm, and a huge suitcase in the other hand, and his gray felt hat
set on the back of his shock of black hair at an angle of deep
desperation, though patience shone from every line of his strong, gaunt
body, and I could see in the half light that there were no lines of
irritation about his mouth, which Richard had said looked to him like
that of the prophet Hosea, when I had shown him the picture that Father
had had snapped of himself and the Crag, with their great string of
quail, on one of their hunting-trips, just before Father died.

"Eve!" he exclaimed, when he suddenly caught sight of me, standing in
the middle of the dusty road, with my impedimenta around me, and as he
spoke he dropped both babies on the platform in a bunch, and the small
trunk on the other side. Then he just stood and looked, and I had to
straighten the roar that was arising in me at the sight of him into a
conventional smile of greeting, suitable to bestow on an enemy.

But before the smile was well launched, Sallie bustled in and got the
full effect of it.

"Why, Evelina Shelby, you darling thing, when did you come?" she fairly
bubbled, as she clasped me in the most hospitable of arms, and bestowed
a slightly powdery kiss on both my cheeks. I weakly and femininely
enjoyed the hug, not that a man might not have--Sallie is a dear, and I
always did like her gush, shamefacedly.

"She got often that train that left us, and she ain't got a bit of
sense, or she wouldn't," answered the Blue Bunch for me, in a
matter-of-fact tone of voice.

"What for did you all unpack outen the surrey, if you sawed the train go
by?" she further demanded, with accusing practicality. "Don't you know
when youse left?"

"Oh, Henrietta," exclaimed Sallie, looking at the young-philosopher with
terrified helplessness. "Please don't mind her, Evelina. I don't
understand her being my child, and nobody does, unless it was Henry's
grandmother on his mother's side. You had heard of my loss?"

If I hadn't heard of the death of Henry Carruthers, Sallie's elaborate
black draperies, relieved by the filmy exquisiteness of white crepe
ruches at the neck and wrists, would have proclaimed the fact.

Suddenly, something made me look at Cousin James, as he stood calmly in
the midst of Sallie's family and baggage, both animate and inanimate,
and the laugh that had threatened for minutes fairly flared out into his
placid, young prophet face.

"Oh, I am so sorry, Sallie, and so glad to see all of you that I'm
laughing at the same time," I exclaimed to save myself from the
awfulness of greeting a young widow's announcement of her sorrow in such
an unfeeling manner. To cover my embarrassment and still further
struggles with the laugh that never seemed to be able to have itself
out, I bent and hugged up one of the toddlers, who were balancing
against the Crag's legs, with truly feminine fervor.

"I'm glad to see you, Evelina," said Cousin James gently, and I could
see that the billows of my mirth had got entirely past him.

I was glad he had escaped, and I found myself able to look with
composure at his queer, long-tailed gray coat, which made me know that
little old Mr. Pinkus, who had been Father's orderly all through the
war, was still alive and tailoring in his tiny shop down by the
post-office, though now that Father is dead he probably only does it for
Cousin James. The two of them had been his only customers for years. And
as I looked, I saw that the locks that curled in an ante-bellum fashion
around the Crag's ears, were slightly sprinkled with gray, and
remembered how he had loved and stood by Father, even in the manner of
wearing Pinkus clothes; my heart grew very large all of a sudden, and I
held out my hand to him.

[Illustration: He stood calmly in the midst of Sallie's family and
baggage, both animate and inanimate.]

"I'm glad to be at home," I said, gazing straight into his eyes, with a
look of affection that you would have been proud of, Jane,--using
unconsciously, until after I had done it, the warmth I had tried
unsuccessfully on Richard Hall at the Astor, not forty-eight hours
ago, but two thousand miles away. And it got a response that puzzles me
to think of yet. It was just a look, but there was a thought of Father
in it, also a suggestion of the glance he bestowed on Sallie's twins. I
remembered that the Crag seldom speaks, and that's what makes you spend
your time breathlessly listening to him.

"Well, come on, everybody, let's go home and undress, and forget about
the wedding," came in Henrietta's positive and executive tones. "Let's
go and take the strange lady with us. We can have company if we can't be
it. She can sleep other side of me, next the wall."

I have never met anybody else at all like Henrietta Carruthers, and I
never shall unless Jane Mathers marries and--I sincerely hope that some
day she and Jane will meet.

And the next ten minutes was one of the most strenuous periods of time I
ever put in, in all my life. I longed, really longed, to go home with
Sallie and Henrietta, and sleep next the wall at Widegables with the
rest of the Crag's collection. But I knew Glendale well enough to see
plainly that if I thus once give myself up to the conventions that by
Saturday night they would have me nicely settled with his relicts, or in
my home with probably two elderly widows and a maiden cousin or so to
look after me. And then, by the end of the next week, they would have
the most suitable person in town fairly hunted by both spoken and mental
influence, to the moonlight end of my front porch, with matrimonial
intentions in his pocket. I knew I had to take a positive stand, and
take it immediately. I must be masculinely firm. No feminine wiles would
serve in such a crisis as this.

So, I let Cousin James pack me into his low, prehistoric old surrey, in
the front seat, at his side, while Sallie took Aunt Dilsie and one twin
with her on the back seat. Henrietta scrouged down at my feet, and I
fearingly, but accommodatingly, accepted the other twin. It was a
perfect kitten of a baby, and purred itself to sleep against my shoulder
as soon as anchored.

The half-mile from the station, along the dusty, quiet village streets,
was accomplished in about the time it would take a modern vehicle to
traverse Manhattan lengthwise, and at last we stopped at the gate of
Widegables. The rambling, winged, wide-gabled, tall-columned old pile of
time-grayed brick and stone, sat back in the moonlight, in its tangle of
a garden, under its tall roof maples, with a dignity that went straight
to my heart. There is nothing better in France or England, and I feel
sure that there are not two hundred houses in America as good. I'll
paint it, just like I saw it to-night, for next Spring's Salon. A bright
light shone from the windows of the dining-room in the left wing, where
the collection of clinging vines were taking supper, unconscious of the
return of the left-behinds that threatened.

And as I glanced at my own tall-pillared, dark old house, that stands
just opposite Widegables, and is of the same period and style, I knew
that if I did not escape into its emptiness before I got into Cousin
Martha's comfortable arms, surrounded by the rest of the Crag's family,
I would never have the courage to enter into the estate of freedom I had
planned.

"Sallie," I said firmly, as I handed the limp Kitten down to Aunt
Dilsie, as Henrietta took the other one--"Puppy" I suppose I will have
to call the young animal,--from her mother and started on up the walk in
the lead of the return expedition, "I am going over to stay in my own
home to-night. I know it seems strange, but--I _must_. Please don't
worry about me."

"Why, dear, you can't stay by yourself, with no man on the place,"
exclaimed Sallie, in a tone of absolute panic. "I'll go tell Cousin
Martha you are here, while Cousin James unpacks your satchel and
things." And she hurried in her descent from the ark, and also hurried
in her quest for the reinforcement of Cousin Martha's authority.

"I'm going to escape before any of them come back," I said determinedly
to the Crag, who stood there still, just looking at me. "I'm not up to
arguing the question to-night, for the trip has been a long one, and
this is the first time I have been home since--Just let me have to-night
to myself, please." I found myself pleading to him, as he held up his
arms to lift me clear of the wheels.

His eyes were hurt and suffering for a second, then a strange light of
comprehension came from them into mine, like a benediction, as he gently
set me on my feet.

"Must you, Eve?"

"Yes," I answered, with a gulp that went all the way down to my
feminine toes, as I glanced across the road at the grim, dark old pile
that towered against the starlit sky. "I want to stay in my own house
to-night--and--and I'm not afraid."

"You won't need to be frightened. I understand, I think--and here's your
key, I always carry it in my pocket. Your Father's candle is on the
mantel. You shall have to-night to yourself. Good-night, and bless your
home-coming, dear!"

"Good-night," I answered as I turned away from his kind eyes quickly, to
keep from clinging-to him with might and main, and crossed the road to
my own gate. With my head up, and trying for the whistle, at least in my
heart, I went quickly along the front walk with its rows of blush
peonies, nodding along either edge. The two old purple lilacs beside the
front steps have grown so large they seemed to be barring my way into my
home with longing, sweet embraces, and a fragrant little climbing
rose, that has rioted across the front door, ever since I could
remember, bent down and left a kiss on my cheeks.

The warm, mellow old moon flooded a glow in front of me, through the big
front door, as I opened it, and then hastened to pour into the wide
windows as I threw back the shutters.

Logs lay ready for lighting in the wide fireplace at the end of the long
room, and Father's tobacco jar gleamed a reflected moonlight from its
pewter sides from the tall mantel-shelf. The old hooks melted into the
dusk of their cases along the wall, and the portrait of Grandfather
Shelby lost its fierce gaze and became benign from its place between the
windows.

I was being welcomed to the home of my fathers, with a soft dusk that
was as still and sweet as the grave. Sweet for those that want it; but I
didn't. Suddenly, I thrilled as alive as any terror-stricken woman that
ever found herself alone anywhere on any other edge of the world, and
then as suddenly found myself in a complete condition of fright
prostration, crouched on my own threshold. I was frightened at the dark,
and could not even cry. Then almost immediately, while I crouched
quivering in every nerve I seemed to hear a man's voice say
comfortingly:

"You don't need to be frightened."

Courageously I lifted my eyes and looked down between the old lilac
bushes, and saw just what I expected I would, a tall, gray figure,
pacing slowly up and down the road. Then it was that fear came into me,
stiffened my muscles and strengthened my soul--fear of myself and my own
conclusions about destiny and all things pertaining thereto.

I never want to go through such another hour as I spent putting things
in order in Father's room, which opens off the living-room, so I could
go to bed by candle-light in the bed in which he and I were both born.
I wanted to sleep there, and didn't even open any other part of the
grim old house.

And when I put out the candle and lay in the high, old four-post bed, I
again felt as small as I really am, and I was in danger of a bad
collapse from self-depreciation when my humor came to the rescue. I
might just as well have gone on and slept between Henrietta and the
wall, as was becoming my feminine situation, for here my determination
to assert my masculine privileges was keeping a real man doing sentry
duty up and down a moonlight road all night--and I wanted it.

"After this, James Hardin, you can consider yourself safe from any of my
attentions or intentions," I laughed to myself, as I turned my face into
the pillow, that was faintly scented from the lavender in which Mother
had always kept her linen. "I've been in Glendale two hours, and one man
is on the home base with his fingers crossed. James, you are free! Oh,
Jane!"



CHAPTER III

A FLINT SPARK


The greatest upheavals of nature are those that arrive suddenly, without
notifying the world days beforehand of their intentions of splitting the
crust of the Universe wide open. One is coming to Glendale by degrees,
but the town hasn't found out about it yet. I'm the only one who sees
it, and I'm afraid to tell.

When Old Harpeth, who has been looking down on a nice, peaceful, man
ordained, built, and protected world, woke Glendale up the morning after
my arrival and found me defiantly alone in the home of my fathers--also
of each of my foremothers, by the courtesy of dower--he muttered and
drew a veil of mist across his face. Slight showers ensued, but he had
to come out in less than an hour from pure curiosity. I found the old
garden heavenly in its riot of neglected buds, shoots, and blooms, wet
and welcoming with the soft odors of Heaven itself.

It was well I was out early to enjoy it, for that was to be the day of
my temptation and sore trial. I am glad I have recorded it all, for I
might have forgotten some day how wonderfully my very pliant, feminine
attitude rubbed in my masculine intentions as to my life on the blind
side of all the forces brought to bear on me to put me back into my
predestined place in the scheme of the existence.

"Your Cousin James's home is the place for you, Evelina, and until he
explained to me how you felt last night I was deeply hurt that you
hadn't come straight, with Sallie, to me and to him," said Cousin
Martha, in as severe a voice as was possible for such a placid
individual to produce. Cousin Martha is completely lovely, and the
Mossback gets his beauty from her. She is also such a perfect dear that
her influence is something terrific, even if negatively expressed.

"I have come to help you get your things together, so you can move over
before dinner," she continued with gentle force. "Now, what shall we put
in the portmanteau first? I see you have unpacked very little, and I am
glad that it confirms me in my feeling that your coming over here for
the night was just a dutiful sentiment for your lost loved ones, and not
any unmaidenly sense of independence in the matter of choice where it is
best for you to live. Of course, such a question as that must be left to
your guardian, and of course James will put you under my care."

"I--I really thought that perhaps Cousin James did not have room for me,
Cousin Martha," I answered meekly. "How many families has he with him
now?" I asked with a still further meekness that was the depths of
wiliness.

"There are three of us widows, whom he sustains and comforts for the
loss of our husbands, and also the three Norton girls, cousins on his
father's side of the house, you remember. It is impossible for them to
look after their plantation since their father's death robbed them of a
protector, at least, even though he had been paralyzed since Gettysburg.
James is a most wonderful man, my dear--a most wonderful man. Though as
he is my son I ought to think it in silence."

"Indeed he is," I answered from the heart. "But--but wouldn't it be a
little crowded for him to have another--another vine--that is, exactly
what would he do with me? I know Widegables is wide, but that is a
houseful, isn't it?"

"Well, all of us did feel that it made the house uncomfortably full when
Sallie came with the three children, but you know Henry Carruthers left
James his executor and guardian of the children, and Sallie of course
couldn't live alone, so Mrs. Hargrove and I moved into the south room
together, and gave Sallie and the children my room. It is a large room,
and it would be such a comfort to Sallie to have you stay with her and
help her at night with the children. She doesn't really feel able to get
up with them at all. Then Dilsie could sleep in the cabin, as she ought
to on account of the jimsonweed in her phthisic pipe. It would be such a
beautiful influence in your lonely life, Evelina, to have the children
to care for."

I wondered if Cousin Martha had ever heard that galatea bunch indulge in
such heartfelt oaths as had followed that train down the track last
night!

"It would be lovely," I answered--and the reply was not all insincerity,
as I thought of the darkness of that long night, and the Bunch's offer
of a place at her sturdy little back "next the wall."

"But I will be so busy with my own work, Cousin Martha, that I am afraid
I couldn't do justice to the situation and repay the children and Sallie
for crowding them."

"Why, you couldn't crowd us, Evelina, honey," came in Sallie's rich
voice, as she sailed into the room, trailing the Pup and the Kit at her
skirts and flying lavender ribbons at loose ends. "We've come to help
you move over right away."

"Well, not while I have a voice in the affairs of my own husband's
niece! How are you, Evelina, and are you crazy, Sallie Carruthers?" came
in a deep raven croak of a voice that sounded as if it had harked partly
from the tomb, as Aunt Augusta Shelby stood in the doorway, with reproof
on her lips and sternness on her brow. "Peter and I will have Evelina
move down immediately with us. James Hardin has as much in the way of a
family as he can very well stand up under now."

And as she spoke, Aunt Augusta glared at Sallie with such ferocity that
even Sallie's sunshiny presence was slightly dimmed.

"Are you ready, Evelina? Peter will send the surrey for your baggage,"
she continued, and for a moment I quailed, for Aunt Augusta's
determination of mind is always formidable, but I summoned my woman's
wit and man's courage, and answered quickly before she fairly snatched
me from under my own roof-tree.

"That would be lovely, Aunt Augusta, and how are you?" I answered and
asked in the same breath, as I drew near enough to her to receive a
business-like peck on my cheek. "I expect to have you and Uncle Peter to
look after me a lot, but somehow I feel that Father would have
liked--liked for me to live here and keep my home--his home--open. Some
way will arrange itself. I haven't talked with Cousin James yet," I
felt white feathers sprouting all over me, as I thus invoked the
masculine dominance I had come to lay.

"You'll have to settle that matter with your Uncle Peter, then, for,
following his dictates of which I did not approve, I have done our duty
by the orphan. Now, Evelina, let me say in my own person, that I
thoroughly approve of your doing just as you plan." And as she uttered
this heresy, she looked so straight and militant and altogether
commanding, that both Cousin Martha and Sallie quailed. I felt elated,
as if my soul were about to get sight of a kindred personality. Or
rather a soul-relative of yours, Jane.

"Oh, she would be so lonely, Mrs. Shelby, and she--" Sallie was
venturing to say with trepidation, when Aunt Augusta cut her short
without ceremony.

"Lonely, nonsense! Such a busy woman as I now feel sure Evelina is going
to be, will not have time to be lonely. I wish I could stay and talk
with you further about your plans, but I must hurry back and straighten
out Peter's mind on that question of the town water-supply that is to
come up in the meeting of the City Council to-day. He let it be
presented all wrong last time, and they got things so muddled that it
was voted on incorrectly. I will have to write it out for him so he can
explain it to them. I will need you in many ways to help me help Peter
be Mayor of Glendale, Evelina. I am wearied after ten years of the
strain of his office. I shall call on you for assistance often in the
most important matters," with which promise, that sounded like a threat,
she proceeded to march down the front path, almost stepping on
Henrietta, who was coming up the same path, with almost the same
emphasis. There was some sort of an explosion, and I hope the kind of
words I heard hurled after the train were not used.

"That old black crow is a-going to git in trouble with me some day,
Marfy," Henrietta remarked, as she settled herself on the arm of Cousin
Martha's chair, after bestowing a smudgy kiss on the little white curl
that wrapped around one of the dear old lady's pink little ears. I had
felt that way about Cousin Martha myself at the Bunch's age, and we
exchanged a sympathetic smile on the subject.

"Well, what _are_ you going to do, Evelina?" asked Sallie, and she
turned such a young, helpless, wondering face up to me from the center
of her cluster of babies, that my heart almost failed me at the idea of
pouring what seemed to me at that moment the poison of modernity into
the calm waters of her and Cousin Martha's primitive placidity.

"You'll have to live some place where there is a man," she continued,
with worried conviction.

My time had come, and the fight was on. Oh, Jane!

"I don't believe I really feel that way about it," I began in the
gentlest of manners, and slowly, so as to feel my way. "You see, Sallie
dear, and dearest Cousin Martha, I have had to be out in the world so
much--alone, that I am--used to it. I--I haven't had a man's protection
for so long that I don't need it, as I would if I were like you two
blessed sheltered women."

"I know it has been hard, dear," said Cousin Martha gently looking her
sympathy at my lorn state, over her glasses.

"I don't see how you have stood it at all," said Sallie, about to
dissolve in tears. "The love and protection and sympathy of a man are
the only things in life worth anything to a woman. Since my loss I don't
know what I would have done without Cousin James. You must come into his
kind care, Evelina."

"I must learn to endure loneliness," I answered sadly, about to begin to
gulp from force of example, and the pressure of long hereditary
influence.

I'm glad that I did not dissolve, however, before what followed
happened, for in the twinkling of two bare feet I was smothered in the
embrace of Henrietta, who in her rush brought either the Pup or the Kit,
I can't tell which yet, along to help her enfold me.

"I'll come stay with you forever, and we don't need no men! Don't
like 'em no-how!" she was exclaiming down my back, when a drawl from the
doorway made us all turn in that direction.

"Why, Henrietta, my own, can it be you who utter such cruel sentiments
in my absence?" and Polk Hayes lounged into the room, with the same
daring listlessness that he had used in trying to hold me in his arms
out on the porch the night I had said good-by to him and Glendale, four
years ago.

Henrietta's chubby little body gave a wriggle of delight, and much
sentiment beamed in her rugged, small face, as she answered him with
enthusiasm, though not stopping to couch her reply in exactly
complimentary terms.

"You don't count, Pokie," she exclaimed, as she made a good-natured face
at him.

"That's what Evelina said four years ago--and she has proved it," he
answered her, looking at me just exactly as if he had never left off
doing it since that last dance.

"How lovely to find you in the same exuberant spirits in which I left
you, Polk, dear," I exclaimed, as I got up to go and shake hands with
him, as he had sunk into the most comfortable chair in the room, without
troubling to bestow that attention upon me.

Some men's hearts beat with such a strong rhythm that every feminine
heart which comes within hearing distance immediately catches step, and
goes to waltzing. It has been four years since mine swung around
against his, at that dance, but I'm glad Cousin Martha was there, and
interrupted, us enough to make me drag my eyes from his, as he looked up
and I looked down.

"Please help us to persuade Evelina to come and live with James and me,
Polk, dear," she said, glancing at him with the deepest confidence and
affection in her eyes. There is no age-limit to Polk's victims, and
Cousin Martha had always adored him.

"All women do, Evelina, why not you--live with James?" he asked, and I
thought I detected a mocking flicker in his big, hazel, dangerous eyes.

"If I ever need protection it will be James--and Cousin Martha I will
run to for it--but I never will," I answered him, very simply, with not
a trace of the defiance I was fairly flinging at him in either my voice
or manner.

Paris and London and New York are nice safe places to live in, in
comparison with Glendale, Tennessee, in some respects. I wonder why I
hadn't been more scared than I was last night, as the train whirled me
down into proximity to Polk Hayes. But then I had had four years of
forgetting him stored up as a bulwark.

"But what _are_ you going to do, Evelina?" Sallie again began to
question, with positive alarm in her voice, and I saw that it was time
for me to produce some sort of a protector then and there--or
capitulate.

And I record the fact that I wanted to go home with Sallie and Cousin
Martha and the babies and--and live under the roof of the Mossback
forever. All that citizenship-feeling I had got poured into me from Jane
and had tried on Dickie, good old Dickie, had spilled out of me at the
first encounter with Polk.

There is a great big hunt going on in this world, and women are the ones
only a short lap ahead. Can we turn and make good the fight--or won't
we be torn to death? It has come to this it seems: women must either be
weak, and cling so close to man that she can't be struck, keep entirely
out of the range of his fists and arms,--or develop biceps equal to his.
Jane ought to have had me in training longer, for I'm discovering that
I'm weak--of biceps.

"Are you coming--are you coming to live with us, Evelina? Are you
coming? Answer!" questioned the small Henrietta, as she stood
commandingly in front of me.

"Please, Evelina," came in a coax from Sallie, while the Kit crawled
over and caught at my skirt as Cousin Martha raised her eyes to mine,
with a gentle echo of the combined wooings.

Then suddenly into Polk's eyes flamed still another demand, that
something told me I would have to answer later. I had capitulated and
closed this book forever when the deliverance came.

Jasper, a little older, but as black and pompous as ever, stood in the
doorway, and a portly figure, with yellow, shining face, on the step
behind him.

"Why, Uncle Jasper, how did you know I was here?" I exclaimed, as I
fairly ran to hold out my hand to him.

"Mas' James sont me word last night, and I woulder been here by
daybreak, Missie, 'cept I had to hunt dis yere suitable woman to bring
along with me. Make your 'beesence to Miss Evelina, Lucy Petunia," he
commanded.

"You needn't to bother to show her anything, child," he continued
calmly, "I'll learn her all she needs to know to suit us. Then, if in a
week she have shown suitable ability to please us both, my word is out
to marry her next Sunday night. Ain't that the understanding, Tuny?" he
this time demanded.

"Yes, sir," answered the Petunia with radiant but modest hope shining
from her comely yellow face.

"I've kept everything ready for you child, since Old Mas' died, and I
ain't never stayed offen the place a week at a time--I was just visiting
out Petunia's way when I heard you'd come, and gittin' a wife to tend to
us and back to you quick was the only thing that concerned me. Now, we
can all settle down comf'table, while I has Tuny knock up some dinner, a
company one I hopes, if Miss Martha and the rest will stay with us."
Jasper's manner is an exact copy of my Father's courtly grace, done in
sepia, and my eyes misted for a second, as I reciprocated his
invitation, taking acceptance for granted.

"Of course they will stay, Uncle Jasper."

"Well," remarked Sallie with a gasp, "you've gone to housekeeping in two
minutes, Evelina."

"Jasper has always been a very forceful personality," said Cousin
Martha. "He managed everything for your Father at the last, Evelina,
and I don't know how the whole town would have been easy about the
Colonel unless they had trusted Jasper."

"I like the terms on which he takes unto himself a wife," drawled Polk,
as he lighted a cigarette without looking at me. "Good for Jasper!"

"However, it does take a 'forceful personality' to capture a 'suitable
woman' in that manner," I answered with just as much unconcern, and then
we both roared, while even Sallie in all her anxiety joined in.

The commanding, black old man, and the happy-faced, plump, little yellow
woman, had saved one situation--and forced another, perhaps?

Jasper's home-coming dinner party was a large and successful one. Two of
the dear little old Horton lady-cousins got so impatient at Cousin
Martha's not bringing me back to Widegables that they came teetering
over to see about it, heavily accompanied by Mrs. Hargrove, whose son
had been Cousin James's best friend at the University of Virginia, and
died and left her to him since I had been at college. The ponderosity of
her mind was only equaled by that of her body. I must say Petunia made a
hit with the dear old soul, by the seasoning of her chicken gravy.

Sallie wanted to send the children home, but Jasper wouldn't let her,
and altogether we had eleven at the table.

Polk maneuvered for a seat at the head of my festive board, with a spark
of the devil in his eyes, but Jasper's sense of the proprieties did not
fail me, and he seated Cousin Martha in Father's chair, with great
ceremony.

And as I looked down the long table, bright with all the old silver
Jasper had had time to polish, gay with roses from my garden, that he
had coaxed Henrietta into gathering for him, which nodded back and
forth with the bubbling babies, suddenly my heart filled to the very
brim with love of it all--and for mine own people.

But, just as suddenly, a vision came into my mind of the long table
across the road at Widegables, with the Mossback seated at one end with
only two or three of his charges stretched along the empty sides to keep
him company.

I wanted him to be here with us! I wanted him badly, and I went to get
him. I excused myself suddenly, telling them all just why. I didn't look
at Polk, but Cousin Martha's face was lovely, as she told me to run
quickly.

I found him on the front porch, smoking his pipe alone, while the two
little relics, whom he had had left to dine with him, were taking their
two respective naps. Our dinner was late on account of the initiation of
Petunia, and he had finished before we began.

"I stole most of your family to-day," I plunged headlong into my
errand, "but I want you, too, most of all."

"You've got me, even if you do prefer to keep me across the road from
you," he answered, with the most solemn expression on his face, but with
a crinkle of a smile in the corners of his deep eyes.

I can't remember when I didn't look with eagerness for that crinkle in
his eyes, even when I was a child and he what I at that time considered
a most glorious grownup individual, though he must have been the most
helpless hobbledehoy that ever existed.

"You don't need another vine," I answered mutinously.

"You know I want you, but Jasper's is the privilege of looking after
you," he answered calmly. "I want you to be happy, Evelina," and I knew
as I raised my eyes to his that I could consider myself settled in my
own home.

"Well, then, come and have dinner number two with me," I answered with
a laugh that covered a little happy sigh that rose from my heart at the
look in the kind eyes bent on mine.

I felt, Jane, you would have approved of that look! It was so human to
human.

He came over with me, and that was one jolly party in the old
dining-room. They all stayed until almost sunset, and almost everybody
in town dropped in during the afternoon to welcome me home, and ask me
where I was going to live. Jasper and Petunia hovering in the
background, the tea-tray out on the porch set with the silver and damask
all of them knew of old, and the appearance of having been installed
with the full approval of Cousin Martha and James and the rest of the
family, stopped the questions on their lips, and they spent the
afternoon much enlivened but slightly puzzled.

Time doesn't do much to people in a place like the Harpeth Valley, that
is out of the stream of modern progress; and most of my friends seem to
have just been sitting still, rocking their lives along in the greatest
ease and comfort.

Still, Mamie Hall has three more kiddies, which, added to the four she
had when I left, makes a slightly high, if charming, set of stair-steps.
Mamie also looks decidedly worn, though pathetically sweet. Ned was with
her, and as fresh as any one of the buds. Maternity often wilts women,
but paternity is apt to make men bloom with the importance of it. Ned
showed off the bunch as if he had produced them all, while Mamie only
smiled like an angel in the background.

A slight bit of temper rose in a flush to my cheeks, as I watched
Caroline Lellyett sit on the steps and feed cake to one twin and two
stair-steps with as much hunger in her eyes for them as there was in
theirs for the cake. Lee Greenfield is the responsible party in this
case, and she has been loving him hopelessly for fifteen years. Lots of
other folks wanted to marry her, but Lee has pinned her in the psychic
spot and is watching her flutter.

Polk departed in the trail of Nell Kirkland's fluffy muslin skirts,
smoldering dangerously, I felt. Nell has grown up into a most lovely
individual, and I felt uneasy about her under Folk's ministrations. Her
eyes follow him rather persistently. On the whole, I am glad Jane
committed me to this woman's cause. I'll have to begin to exercise the
biceps of Nell's heart--as soon as I get some strength into my own.

And after they had all gone, I sat for an hour out on the front steps of
my big, empty old house, and enjoyed my own loneliness, if it could be
called enjoying. I could hear the Petunia's happy giggle, answering
Jasper's guttural pleasantries, out on the cabin porch behind the row of
lilac bushes. I do hope that Petunia gets much and the right sort of
courting during this week that Jasper has allowed her!

With the last rays of the sun, I had found time to read a long, dear
letter from Richard Hall, and though I had transferred it from my pocket
to my desk, while I dressed for the afternoon, its crackle was still in
my mind. I wondered what it all meant, this dissatisfied longing that
human beings send out across time and distance, one to and for another.

If a woman's heart were really like a great big golden chalice, full to
the brim with the kind of love she is taught God wants her to have in it
for all mankind, both men and women, why shouldn't she offer drafts of
it to every one who is thirsty, brothers as well as sisters? I wonder
how that would solve Jane's problem of emotional equality! I do love
Dicky--and--and I do love Polk--with an inclination to dodge. Now, if
there were enough of the right sort of love in me, I ought to be able to
get them to see it, and drink it for their comforting, and have no
trouble at all with them about their wanting to seize the cup, drain
all the love there is in it, shut it away from the rest of the
world--and then neglect it.

Yes, why can't I love Polk as I love you, Jane, and have him enjoy it?
Yes, why?

I think if I had Dicky off to myself for a long time, and very gently
led him up to the question of loving him hard in this new way, he might
be induced to sip out of the cup just to see if he liked it--and it
might be just what he craved, for the time being; but I doubt it. He
would storm and bluster at the idea.

Of course the Crag would let a woman love him in any old kind of new or
experimental way she wanted to, if it made her happy. He would take her
cup of tenderness and drink it as if it were sacramental wine, on his
knees. But he doesn't count. He has to be man to so many people that
there is danger of his becoming a kind of superman. Think of the old
Mossback being a progressive thing like that! I laughed out loud at the
idea--but the echo was dismal.

I wonder if Sallie will marry him.

And as I sat and thought and puzzled, the moonlight got richer and more
glowing, and it wooed open the throats of the thousand little
honeysuckle blossoms, clinging to the vine on the trellis, until they
poured out a perfect symphony of perfume to mingle in a hallelujah from
the lilacs and roses that ascended to the very stars themselves.

I had dropped my head on my arms, and let my eyes go roaming out to the
dim hills that banked against the radiant sky, when somebody seated
himself beside me, and a whiff of tobacco blew across my face, sweet
with having joined in the honeysuckle chorus. Nobody said a word for a
long time, and then I looked up and laughed into the deep, gray eyes
looking tenderly down into mine. With a thrill I realized that there
was one man in the world I could offer the chalice to and _trust_ him to
drink--moderately.

"Jamie," I said in a voice as young as it used to be when I trailed at
his heels, "thank you for letting me be contrary and independent and
puzzling. I have been busy adventuring with life, in queer places and
with people not like--like us. Now I want a little of real living and to
think--and feel. May I?"

"You may, dear," the Crag answered in a big comfortable voice, that was
a benediction in itself. "I understood last night when you told me that
you wanted to come home alone. I can trust Jasper with you, and I am
going to sleep down at the lodge room, right across the road here, so I
can hear you if you even think out loud. No one shall worry you about it
any more. Now will you promise to be happy?"

I could not answer him, I was so full of a deepness of peace. I just
laid my cheek against the sleeve of his queer old gray coat, to show
him what I could not say.

He let me do it, and went on smoking without noticing me.

Then, after a little while, he began to tell me all about Father and his
death, that had come so suddenly while he seemed as well as ever, and
how he had worried about my probably not wanting to be left to him, and
that he wanted me to feel independent, but to please let him do all that
I would to help me, and not to feel that I was alone with nobody to love
me. That he was always there, and would be forever and ever.

And he did stay so late that Jasper had to send him home!

There is such a thing as a man's being a father and mother and grown
sister and brother and a college-chum and a preacher of the Gospel and a
family physician to a woman--with no possibility of being her husband
either. She wouldn't so drag such a man from his high estate as to think
of such a worldly relation in connection with him.

I have certainly collected some phenomena in the reaction of a woman's
heart this day. Did you choose me wisely for these experiments, Jane?

It takes a woman of nerve to go to housekeeping in a tinder-box, when
she isn't sure she even knows what flint is when she sees it, and might
strike out a spark without intending it at all.



CHAPTER IV

SWEETER WHEN TAMED?


I wonder if men ever melt suddenly into little boys, and try to squirm
and run back to hide their heads in their mothers' skirts. It is an open
secret that starchy, modern women often long to wilt back into droopy
musk roses, that climb over gates and things, but they don't let each
other. When I feel myself getting soluble, I write it out to Jane and I
get a bracing cold wave of a letter in reply. The one this morning was
on the subject of love, or, at least, that is what Jane would have said
it was on. She wrote:


Yes, it is gratifying to know that Mary Elizabeth is so happily engaged
to the young teacher who has been in her work with her. She writes that
she was encouraged by our resolution, at last to be her best self while
in his presence as she had not had the courage to do last year. You see,
Evelina? And also, you are right in your conclusion that there is not
enough abstract love in this world of brotherhood and sisterhood; that
the doctrine of divine love calls us to give more and more of it. We
cannot give too much! But also, considerations for the advancement of
the world call for experiments by the more illumined women along more
definite and concrete lines. How old is this Mr. Hayes, on whom you have
chosen to note the reactions of sisterly affection? Are you sure that he
is not a fit subject for your consideration in the matter of a choice
for a mate?

Remember to be as frank in your expressions of regard for him as he is
in his of regard for you. That is the crux of the whole matter. Be
frank, be courageous! Let a man look freely into your heart, and thus
encouraged he will open his to you. Then you will both have an
opportunity to judge each other with reference to a life-long union. It
is the only way; and remember what rests on you in this matter. The
destinies of many women are involved.

       *       *       *       *       *

I don't say this in a spirit of levity, but I do wish Polk Hayes and
Jane Mathers were out on the front steps in the moonlight, after a good
supper that has made him comfortable, Jane to be attired in something
soft that would float against his arm, whether she wanted it to or not!
I believe it would be good for Jane, and make things easier for me. Be
frank with Polk as to how much he asphyxiates me? I know better than to
blow out the gas like that! No, Jane!

But what is a woman going to do when she is young and hearty and husky,
with the blood running through her veins at a two-forty rate, when her
orchard is in bloom, the mocking-birds are singing the night through,
and she is not really in love with anybody? The loneliness does fill
her heart full of the solution of love, and she has got to pour off some
of it into somebody's life. There is plenty of me to be both abstract
and concrete, at the same time, and I thought of Uncle Peter.

Uncle Peter Is the most explosive and crusty person that ever happened
in Glendale, and it takes all of Aunt Augusta's energy, common-sense and
force of character to keep him and the two chips he carries on his
shoulders, as a defiance to the world in general, from being in a
constant state of combustion. He has been ostensibly the Mayor of
Glendale for twenty-five years, and Aunt Augusta has done the work of
the office very well indeed, while he has blown up things in general
with great energy. He couldn't draw a long breath without her, but of
course he doesn't realize it. He thinks he is in a constant feud with
her and her sex. His ideas on the woman question are so terrific that I
have always run from them, but I concluded that it would be a good
thing for me to liquefy some of my vague humanitarianism, and help Aunt
Augusta with him, while she wrestles with the City Council on the water
question. Anyway, I have always had a guarded fondness for the old chap.

I chose a time when I knew Aunt Augusta had to be busy with his report
of the disastrous concrete paving trade the whole town had been sold out
on, and I lay in wait to capture him and the chips. This morning I
waited behind the old purple lilac at the gate, which immediately got
into the game by sweeping its purple-plumed arms all around me, so that
not a tag of my dimity alarmed him as he came slowly down the street.

"Uncle Peter," I said, as I stepped out in front of him suddenly,
"please, Uncle Peter, won't you come in and talk to me?"

"Hey? Evelina?"

"Yes, Uncle Peter, it's Evelina," and I hesitated with terror at the
snap in his dear old eyes, back under their white brows. Then I let my
eyes uncover my heart full of the elixir I had prepared for him, and
offered him as much as he could drink.

"I'm lonely," I said, with a little catch in my voice.

"Lonely--hey?" he grumbled, but his feet hesitated opposite my gate.

In about two and a half minutes I had him seated in a cushioned rocker
on the south side of the porch. Jasper had given us both a mint julep,
and Uncle Peter was much Jess thirsty than he had been for a long time.
Aunt Augusta is as temperate in all things as a steel ramrod.

"You see, Uncle Peter, I needed you so that I just had to kidnap you," I
said to him, as he wiped his lips with a pocket-handkerchief, as stiffly
starched as was his wife herself.

"Why didn't you go over and live in James's hennery--live with James--hey?"
he snapped, with the precision of a pistol cap.

To be just, I suppose Aunt Augusta's adamant disposition accounts, to
some extent, for Uncle Peter's explosive way of thinking and speaking. A
husband would have to knock Aunt Augusta's nature down to make any
impression whatever on it. Uncle Peter always has the air of firing an
idea and then ducking his head to avoid the return shot.

"His house is so full, and I need a lot of space to carry on my work," I
answered him, with the words I have used so often in the last two weeks
that they start to come when the Petunia asks me if I want waffles or
batter-cakes for supper.

"Well, Sallie Carruthers will get him, and then there'll be a dozen more
to run the measure over--children--hey? All girls! A woman like Sallie
would not be content with producing less than a dozen of her
kind--hey?"

His chuckle was so contagious that I couldn't help but join him, though
I didn't like it so very much. But why shouldn't I? Sallie is such a
gorgeous woman that a dozen of her in the next generation will be of
value to the State. Still, I didn't like it. I didn't enjoy thinking of
Cousin James as so serving his country.

"Carruthers left her to James--he'll have to take care of her. Henry
turned toes in good time. Piled rotten old business and big family on to
James's shoulders, and then died--good time--hey? Get a woman on your
hands, only thing to do is to marry or kill her. Poor James--hey?" He
peered at me with a twinkle in his eyes that demanded assent from me.

"Why, Uncle Peter, I don't know that Sallie has any such idea. She
grieves dreadfully over Mr. Carruthers, and I don't believe she would
think of marrying again," I answered, trying to put enough warmth in my
defense to convince myself.

"Most women are nothing but gourd-vines, grow all over a corn-stalk,
kill it, produce gourds until it frosts, and begin all over again in the
next generation. James has to do the hoeing around Sallie's roots, and
feed her. Might as well marry her--hey?"

"Does--does Cousin James have to support Sallie and the children, Uncle
Peter?" I asked, coming with reluctance down to the rock-bed of the
discussion.

"Thinks he does, and it serves him right--serves him right for starting
out to run a widow-ranch in the first place; it's like making a
collection of old shoes. He let Henry Carruthers persuade him to
mortgage everything and buy land on the river for the car-shops of the
new railroad, which just fooled the town out of a hundred thousand
dollars, and is going by on the other side of the river with the shops
up at Bolivar. If James didn't get all the lawing in Alton County they
would all starve to death--which would be hard on the constitution of
old lady Hargrove, and her two hundred-weight."

"Oh, has Cousin James really lost all of his fortune?" I asked, and I
was surprised at the amount of sympathetic dismay that rose in me at the
information.

"Everything but what he carries around under that old gray hat of
his--not so bad a fortune, at that!--hey?"

I feel I am going to love Uncle Peter for the way he disdainfully
admires Cousin James.

"And--and all of his--his guests are really dependent on him?" I asked
again, as the stupendous fact filtered into my mind.

"All the flock, all the flock," answered Uncle Peter, with what seemed,
under the circumstances, a heartless chuckle. "They each one have little
dabs of property, about as big as a handful of chicken feed, and as they
have each one given it all to James to manage, they expect an income in
return--and get it--all they ask for. A lot of useless old live
stock--all but Sallie, and she's worse--worse, hey?"

I agreed with his question--but I didn't say so.

"Glad your money is safe in Public Town Bonds and City Securities,
Evelina. If James could, he might lose it, and you'd have to move over.
It would then be nip and tuck between you and Sallie which got
James--nip and tuck--hey?"

"Oh, Uncle Peter!" I exclaimed with positive horror that was flavored
with a large dash of indignation.

"Well, yes, a race between a widow and a girl for a man is about like
one between a young duck and a spring chicken, across a mill-pond--girl
and chicken lose--hey? But let Sallie have him, since you don't need
him. I've got to go home and listen to Augusta talk about my business,
that she knows nothing in the world about, or I won't be ready for town
meeting this afternoon. Women are all fools,--hey?"

"Will you come again, Uncle Peter?" I asked eagerly. I had set out to
offer Uncle Peter a cup of niecely affection, and I had got a good,
stiff bracer to arouse me in return.

"I will, whenever I can escape Augusta," he answered, and there was such
a kindly crackle in his voice that I felt that he had wanted and needed
what I had offered him. "I'll drop in often and analyze the annals of
the town with you. Glad to have you home, child, good young blood to
stir me up--hey?"

And as I sat and watched the Mayor go saunteringly down the street, with
his crustiness carried like a child on his shoulder, which it delighted
him to have knocked off, so that he could philosophize in the restoring
of it to its position, suddenly a realization of the relation of
Glendale to the world in general was forced upon me--and I quailed.

Glendale is like a dozen other small towns in the Harpeth Valley; they
are all drowsy princesses who have just waked up enough to be wondering
what did it. The tentative kiss has not yet disclosed the presence of
the Prince of Revolution, and they are likely to doze for another
century or two. I think I had better go back into the wide world and let
them sleep on. One live member is likely to irritate the repose of the
whole body.

Their faint stirrings of progress are pathetic.

They have an electric plant, but, as I have noted before, the lights
therefrom show a strong trace of their pine-knot heredity, and go out on
all important occasions, whether of festivity or tragedy. Kerosene lamps
have to be kept filled and cleaned if a baby or a revival or a lawn
festival is expected.

They have a lovely, wide concrete pavement in front of six of the stores
around the public square, but no two stretches of the improvement join
each other, and it makes a shopping progression around the town somewhat
dangerous, on account of the sudden change of grade of the sidewalk,
about every sixty feet. Aunt Augusta wanted Uncle Peter to introduce a
bill in the City Council forcing all of the property owners on the
Square to put down the pavement in front of their houses, at small
payments per annum, the town assuming the contract at six per cent.
Uncle Peter refused, because he said that he felt a smooth walk around
the Square would call out what he called "a dimity parade" every
afternoon.

They have a water system that is supplied by so much mud from the river
that it often happens that the town has to go unwashed for a week, while
the pipes are cleaned out. There is a wonderful spring that could be
used, with a pump to supply the town, Aunt Augusta says.

The City Council tied up the town for a hundred thousand dollars'
subscription to the new railroad, and failed to tie the shops down in
the contract. They are to be built in Bolivar. A great many of the rich
men have lost a lot of money thereby, Cousin James the most of all, and
everybody is sitting up in bed blinking.

There are still worse things happening in the emotional realm of
Glendale.

Lee Greenfield has been in the state of going to ask Caroline Lellyett
to marry him for fifteen years, and has never done it. Caroline has been
beautiful all her life, but she is getting so thin and faded at thirty
that she is a tragedy. Lee goes to see her twice a week, and on Sunday
afternoon takes her out in his new and rakish runabout, that is as
modern as his behavior is obsolete. Caroline knows no better, and stands
it with sublime patience and lack of character. That is a situation I
won't be able to keep my hands off of much longer.

Ned Hall's wife has seven children with the oldest one not twelve, and
she looks fifty. Ned goes to all the dances at the Glendale Hotel
dining-room and looks thirty. He dresses beautifully and Nell and all
the girls like to dance with him. Just ordinary torture wouldn't do for
him.

Polk Hayes wouldn't be allowed to run loose in London society.

Sallie Carruthers is a great big husky woman, with three children that
she is responsible for having had. She and her family must consume tons
of green groceries every month and a perfectly innocent man pays for
them.

Mrs. Dodd, the carpenter-and-contractor's wife is a Boston woman who
came down here--Before I could write all about that Boston girl so that
Jane could understand perfectly the situation Polk came around from the
side street and seated himself on the railing of the porch so near the
arm of my chair that I couldn't rock without inconveniencing him.

I am glad he found me in the mood I was in and I am glad to record the
strong-minded--it came near being the strong-armed--contest in which we
indulged.

"Me for a woman that has a lot of spirit--she is so much sweeter when
tamed, Evelina," was one of the gentle remarks with which he
precipitated the riot. "I think it has been spunkily fascinating of you
to come and live by yourself in this old barn. It keeps me awake nights
just to think of you over here--alone. How long is the torture to go
on?"

Jane, I tried, but if I had frankly and courageously shown Polk Hayes
what was in my heart for him at that moment, I couldn't have answered
for the results.

From the time I was eighteen until I was twenty the same sort of assault
and battery had been handed out to me from him. He had beaten me with
his love. He didn't want me--he doesn't want any woman except so long as
he is uncertain that he can get her. Just because I had been firm with
him when even a child and denied him, he has been merciless. And now
that I am a woman and armed for the combat, it will be to the death.

Shall I double and take refuge in a labyrinth of subterfuge or turn and
fight? So I temporized to-day.

"It is lonely--but not quite 'torture' to me, with the family so close,
across the street," I answered him, and I went on whipping the lace on a
piece of fluff I am making, to discipline myself because I loathe a
needle so. "Please don't you worry over me, dear." I raised my eyes to
his and I tried the common citizenship look. It must have carried a
little way for he flushed, the first time I ever saw him do it, and his
hand with the cigarette in it shook.

"Evelina, are you real or a--farce?" he asked, after a few minutes of
peace.

"I'm trying to be real, Polk," I answered, and this time I raised my
eyes with perfect frankness. "If you could define a real woman, Polk,
in what terms would you express her?" I asked him straight out from the
shoulder.

"Hell fire and a hallelujah chorus, if she's beautiful," he answered me
promptly.

I laughed. I thought it was best under the circumstances.

"I'll tell you, Evelina," he continued, stealthily. "A man just can't
generalize the creatures. Apparently they are craving nothing so much as
emotional excitement and when you offer it to them they want to go to
housekeeping with it. Love is a business with them and not an art."

"Would you like to try a genuine friendship with one. Polk?" I asked,
and again struck from the shoulder--with my eyes.

"Help! Not if you mean yourself, beautiful," he answered promptly and
with fervor. "I wouldn't trust myself with you one minute off-guard like
that."

"You could safely."

"But I won't!"

"Will you try?"

"No!"

"Will you go over and sit in that chair while I tell you something
calmly, quietly, and seriously? It'll give you a new sensation and maybe
it will be good for you." I looked him straight in the face and the
battle of our eyes was something terrific. I had made up my mind to have
it out with him then and there. There was nothing else to do. I would be
frank and courageous and true to my vow--and accept the consequences.

He slid along the railing of the porch and down into the chair in almost
a daze of bewilderment.

"Polk," I began, concealing a gulp of terror, "I love you more than I
can possibly--"

[Illustration: "Say, Polk, I let the Pup git hung by her apron to the
wheel of your car."]

"Say, Polk, I let the Pup git hung by her apron to the wheel of your car
out in the road and her head is dangersome kinder upside down. It
might run away. Can you come and git her loose for me?"

Henrietta's calmness under dire circumstances was a lesson to both Polk
and me, for with two gasps that sounded as one we both raced across the
porch, down the path and out to the road where Folk's Hupp runabout
stood by the worn old stone post that had tethered the horses of the
wooers of many generations of the maids of my house.

But, prompt as our response to Henrietta's demand for rescue had been,
Cousin James was there before us. He stood in the middle of the dusty
road with the tousled mite in his arms, soothing her frightened sobs
against his cheek with the dearest tenderness and patting Sallie on the
back with the same comforting.

"Oh, Henrietta, how could you nearly kill your little sister like this?"
Sallie sobbed. "Please say something positive to her, James!"

"Henrietta," began Cousin James with a suspicion of embarrassment at
Polk's and my presence at the domestic scene. Polk choked a chuckle and
I could have murdered him.

"Wait a minute," said Henrietta, in her most commanding voice. "Sallie,
didn't you ask me to take that Pup from Aunt Dilsie, 'cause of the
phthisic, and keep her quiet while the Kit got a nap, and didn't I ask
you if it would be all right if I got her back whole and clean?"

"Yes, Henrietta, but you--"

"Ain't she whole all over and clean?"

"Yes, but--"

"Couldn't nobody do any better than that with one of them twins. I won't
try. If I have to 'muse her it has to be in my own way." And with her
head in the air the Bunch marched up the walk to the house.

At this Polk shouted and the rest of us laughed.

"Polk, please don't encourage Henrietta in the way she treats me and her
little sisters," Sallie begged between her laughs and her half-swallowed
sobs. "I need my friends' help with my children, not to have them make
it hard for me. Henrietta is devoted to you and you could influence her
so for the best. Please try to help me make a real woman out of her and
not some sort of a terrible--terrible suffragette."

Sallie is the most perfectly lovely woman I almost ever saw. She has
great violet eyes with black lashes that beg you for a piece of your
heart, and her mouth is as sweet as a blush rose with cheeks that almost
match it in rosiness. She and the babies always remind me of a cluster
rose and roses, flower and buds, and I don't see why every man that sees
her is not mad about her. They all used to be before she married, and I
suppose they will be again as soon as the crepe gets entirely worn off
her clothes. As she stood with the bubbly baby in her arms and looked
up at Polk I couldn't see how he could take it calmly.

"Sallie," he answered seriously, with a glint in his eyes over at me,
"if you'll give me a few days longer, I will then have found out by
experience what a real woman is and I'll begin on Henrietta for you
accordingly."

"Don't be too hard on the kiddie," Cousin James answered him with the
crinkle in the corner of his eyes that might have been called shrewd in
eyes less beautifully calm. "Let's trust a lot to Henrietta's powers of
observation of her mother and--her neighbors." He smiled suddenly, with
his whole face, over both Sallie and me, and went on down the street in
a way that made me sure he was forgetting all about all of us before he
reached the corner of the street.

"Isn't that old mossback a treat for the sight of gods and men?" asked
Polk with a laugh as we all stood watching the old gray coat-tails
flapping in the warm breeze that was rollicking across the valley.

"I don't know what I would do without him," said Sadie softly, with
tears suddenly misting the violets in her eyes as she turned away from
us with the baby in her arms and went slowly up the front walk of
Widegables.

"Please come stay with me a little while, Evelina," she pleaded back
over her shoulder. "I feel faint."

I hesitated, for, as we were on my side of the Road, Polk was still my
guest.

"Go on with Sallie, sweetie," he answered my hesitating. "I don't want
the snapped-off fraction of a declaration like you were about to offer
me. I can bide my time--and get my own." With which he turned and got
into his car as I went across the street.

Jane, I feel encouraged. I have done well to-day to get half way through
my declaration of independence--though he doesn't think that is what it
is going to be--to Polk. If I can just tell him how much I love him,
before he makes love to me we can get on such a sensible footing with
each other. I'll command the situation then.

But suppose I do get Polk calmed down to a nice friendship after old
Plato's recipe, what if I want to marry him?

Do I want to marry a friend?

Yes, I do!

No--no!



CHAPTER V

DEEPER THAN SHOULDERS AND RIBS


There are many fundamental differences between men and women which
strike deeper than breadth of shoulders and number of ribs on the right
side.

Men deliberately unearth matters of importance and women stumble on the
same things in the dark. It is then a question of the individual as to
the complications that result. One thing can be always counted on. A
woman likes to tangle life into a large mass and then straighten out the
threads at her leisure--and the man's leisure too.

Glendale affairs interest me more every day.

This has been a remarkable afternoon and I wish Jane had been in
Glendale to witness it.

"Say, Evelina, all the folks over at our house have gone crazy, and I
wish you would come over and help Cousin James with 'em," Henrietta
demanded, as I sat on my side porch, calmly hemming a ruffle on a dress
for the Kitten. Everybody sews for the twins and, as much as I hate it,
I can't help doing it.

"Why, Henrietta, what is the matter?" I demanded, as I hurried down the
front walk and across the road at her bare little heels. By the time I
got to the front gate I could hear sounds of lamentation.

"A railroad train wants to run right through the middle of all their
dead people and Sallie started the crying. Dead's dead, and if Cousin
James wants 'em run over. I wants 'em run over too." She answered over
her shoulder as we hurried through the wide front hall.

And a scene that beggars description met my eyes, as I stood in the
living-room door. I hope this account I am going to try and write will
get petrified by some kind of new element they will suddenly discover
some day and the manuscript be dug up from the ruins of Glendale to
interest the natives of the Argon age about 2800 A. D.

Sallie sat in the large armchair in the middle of the room weeping in
the slow, regular way a woman has of starting out with tears, when she
means to let them flow for hours, maybe days, and there were just five
echoes to her grief, all done in different keys and characters.

Cousin Martha knelt beside the chair and held Sallie's head on her ample
bosom, but I must say that the expression on her face was one of
bewilderment, as well as of grief.

The three little Horton cousins sat close together in the middle of the
old hair-cloth sofa by the window and were weeping as modestly and
helplessly as they did everything else in life, while Mrs. Hargrove, in
her chair under her son's portrait, was just plainly out and out
howling.

And on the hearth-rug, before the tiny fire of oak chips that the old
ladies liked to keep burning all summer, stood the master of the house
and, for once in my life, I have seen the personification of masculine
helplessness. He was a tragedy and I flew straight to him with arms wide
open, which clasped both his shoulders as I gave him a good shake to
arouse him from his paralyzation.

"What's the matter?" I demanded, with the second shake.

"I'm a brute, Evelina," he answered, and a sudden discouragement lined
every feature of his beautiful biblical face. I couldn't stand that and
I hugged him tight to my breast for an instant and then administered
another earthquake shake.

"Tell me exactly what has happened," I demanded, looking straight into
his tragic eyes and letting my hands slip from his shoulders down his
arms until they held both of his hands tight and warm in mine.

Jane, I was glad that I had offered the cup of my eyes to him full of
this curious inter-sex elixir of life that you have induced me to seek
so blindly, for he responded to the dose immediately and the color came
back into his face as he answered me just as sensibly as he would
another man.

"The men who are surveying the new railroad from Cincinnati to the Gulf
have laid their experimental lines across the corner of Greenwood
Cemetery and they say it will have to run that way or go across the
river and parallel the lines of the other road. If they come on this
side of the river they will force the other road to come across, too,
and in that case we will get the shops. It just happens that such a line
will make necessary the removal of--of poor Henry's remains to another
lot. Sallie's is the only lot in the cemetery that is that high on the
bluff. Henry didn't like the situation when he bought it himself, and I
thought that, as there is another lot right next to her mother's for
sale, she would not--but, of course, I was brutal to mention it to her.
I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me, Sallie." And as he
spoke he extracted himself from me and walked over and laid his hand on
Sallie's head.

"It was such a shock to her--poor Henry," sobbed little Cousin Jasmine,
and the other two little sisters sniffed in chorus.

"To have railroad trains running by Greenwood at all will be disturbing
to the peace of the dead," snorted Mrs. Hargrove. "We need no railroad
in Glendale. We have never had one, and that is my last word--no!"

"Four miles to the railroad station across the river is just a pleasant
drive in good weather," said Cousin Martha, plaintively, as she cuddled
Sallie's sobs more comfortably down on her shoulder.

"I feel that Henry would doubt my faithfulness to his memory, if I
consented to such a desecration," came in smothered tones from the
pillowing shoulder.

And not one of all those six women had stopped to think for one minute
that the minor fact of the disturbing of the ashes of Henry Carruthers
would be followed by the major one of the restoration of the widow's
fortune and the lifting of a huge financial burden off the strong
shoulders they were all separately and collectively leaning upon.

I exploded, but I am glad I drew the Crag out on the porch and did it to
him alone.

"Evelina, you are refreshing if strenuous," he laughed, after I had
spent five minutes in stating my opinions of women in general and a few
in particular. "But I ought not to have hurt Sallie by telling her
about the lines until they are a certainty. It is so far only a
possibility. They may go across the river anyway."

"And as for seeing Sallie swaddled in your consideration, and fed
yourself as a sacrifice from a spoon, I am tired of it," I flamed up
again. "It's not good for her. Feed and clothe her and her progeny,--men
in general have brought just such burdens as that upon you in particular
by their attitude towards us,--but do let her begin to exert just a
small area of her brain on the subject of the survival of the fit to
live. You don't swaddle or feed me!"

"Eve," he said, softly under his breath as his wonderful gentle eyes
sank down way below the indignation and explosiveness to the quiet pool
that lies at the very bottom of my heart.

Nobody ever found it before and I didn't know it was there myself, but I
felt as if it were being drained up into Heaven.

"Eve!" He said again, and it is a wonder that I didn't answer:

"Adam!"

I don't know just what would have happened if Uncle Peter hadn't broken
in on the interview with his crustiest chips on both shoulders and so
much excitement bottled up that he had to let it fly like a double
reporter.

"Dodson is down at the Hotel looking for you, James," he began as he
hurried up the steps. "Big scheme this--got him in a corner if the C. &
G. comes along this side of Old Harpeth--make him squeal--hey?"

"Who's Dodson?" I asked with the greatest excitement. I was for the
first time getting a whiff of the schemes of the masculine mighty, but I
was squelched promptly by Uncle Peter.

"We've no time for questions, Evelina, now--go back to your
tatting--hey?" He answered me as he began to buttonhole the Crag and
lead him down the steps.

"Dodson is the man who is laying down and contracting for the line
across the river, Evelina," answered Cousin James without taking any
notice whatever of Uncle Peter's squelching of me. "If this other line
can just be secured he will have to come to our terms--and the situation
will be saved." As he spoke he took my hand in his and led me at his
side, down the front walk to the gate, talking as he went, for Uncle
Peter was chuckling on ahead like a steam tug in a hurry.

"And the shades of Henry will again assume the maintenance of his
family," I hazarded with lack of respect of the dead, impudence to
Cousin James about his own affairs, and unkindness by implication to
Sallie, who loves me better than almost anybody in the world does. And I
got my just punishment by seeing a lovely look of tender concern rise in
Cousin James's eyes as he stopped short in the middle of the walk.

"I want to go back a minute to speak to Sallie before I go on down
town," he said, quickly, and before Uncle Peter's remonstrances had
exploded, he had taken the steps two at a bound and disappeared in the
front door.

"Sooner he marries that lazy lollypop the better," fumed Uncle Peter, as
he waited at the gate. "The way for a man to quench his thirst for
woman-sweets is to marry a pot of honey like that, and then come right
on back to the bread and butter game. Here's a letter Jasper gave me to
bring along for you from town. Go on and read it and do not disturb the
workings of my brain while I wait for James--workings of a great
brain--hey?"

I took the letter and hurried across the street because I wanted anyway
to get to some place by myself and think. There was no earthly reason
for it but I felt like an animal that has been hurt and wants to go off
and lick its wounds. A womanly woman that lives a lovely appealing life
right in a man's own home has a perfect right to gain his love,
especially if she is beautifully unconscious of her appeal. Besides, why
should a man want to take an independent, explosive, impudent firebrand
with all sorts of dreadful plots in her mind to his heart? He wouldn't
and doesn't!

There is no better sedative for a woman's disturbed and wounded emotions
than a little stiff brain work. Richard's letter braced my viny drooping
of mind at once and from thinking into the Crag's affairs of sentiment,
I turned with masculine vigor to begin to mix into his affairs of
finance. However, I wish that the first big business letter I ever got
in my life hadn't had to have a strain of love interest running through
it! Still Dickie is a trump card in the man pack.

It seems that as his father is one of the most influential directors
and largest stockholders in this new branch of the Cincinnati and Gulf
railroad he has got the commission for making the plans for all the
stations along the road, and he wants to give me the commission for
drawing all the gardens for all the station-yards. It will be tremendous
for both of us so young in life, and I never dared hope for such a
thing. I had only hoped to get a few private gardens of some of my
friends to laze and pose over, but this is startling. My mind is
beginning to work on in terms of hedges and fountains already and Dickie
may be coming South any minute.

And besides the hedges and gravel paths I have a feeling that Dickie's
father and the Crag and Sallie's girl-babies are fomenting around in my
mind getting ready to pop the cork of an idea soon. The combination
feels like some kind of a hunch--I sat still for a long time and let it
seethe, while I took stock of the situation.

There is a strange, mysterious kind of peace that begins to creep across
the Harpeth Valley, just as soon as the sun sinks low enough to throw
the red glow over the head of Old Harpeth. I suppose it happens in other
hill-rimmed valleys in other parts of the Universe, but it does seem as
if God himself is looking down to brood over us, and that the valley is
the hollow of His hand into which he is gathering us to rest in the
darkness of His night. I felt buffeted and in need of Him as I sank down
under the rose-vine over the porch and looked out across my garden to
the blue and rose hills beyond.

I have been in Glendale a whole month now, and I can't see that my
influence has revolutionized the town as yet. I don't seem to be of half
the importance that I thought I was going to be. I have tried, and I
have offered that bucket of love that I thought up to everybody, but
whether they have drunk of it to profit I am sure I can't say. In fact,
my loneliness has liquefied my gaseous affection into what almost looks
like officiousness.

Still, I know Uncle Peter is happier than he ever was before, because he
has got me to come to as a refuge from Aunt Augusta, a confidante for
his views of life that he is not allowed to express at home, and also
the certainty of one of Jasper's juleps.

Sallie has grown so dependent on me that my shoulders are assuming a
masculine squareness to support her weight. I am understudying Cousin
James to such an extent over at Widegables that I feel like the heir to
his house. Cousin Martha sends for me when the chimney smokes and the
cows get sick. I have twice changed five dollars for little Cousin
Jasmine, and sternly told the man from out on their farm on Providence
Road that he must not root up the lavender bushes to plant turnip-greens
in their places. I afterwards rented the patch from him to grow the
lavender because he said he couldn't lose the price that the greens
would bring him "for crotchets."

Mrs. Hargrove has given me her will to keep for her, and the sealed
instructions for her burial. I hope when the time comes the two behests
will strike a balance, but I doubt it.

Her ideas of a proper funeral seem to coincide with those of Queen
Victoria, whom she has admired through life and mourns sincerely.

Henrietta has not been heard to indulge in profane language since I had
a long talk with her last week out in the garden, that ended in stubby
tears and the gift of a very lovely locket which I impressed upon her
was as chaste in design as I wished her speech to become.

The twins have been provided with several very lovely pieces of wearing
apparel from my rapidly skill-acquiring needle. That's on the credit
side of my balance. But that is _all_--and it doesn't sound
revolutionary, does it, Jane?

Petunia married Jasper according to his word of promise, and I have
taught her to cook about five French dishes that he couldn't concoct to
save his life, and which help her to keep him in his place. His
pomposity grows daily but he eyes me with suspicion when he sees me in
secret conclave with Petunia.

"We needs a man around this place," I heard him mutter the other day as
I left the kitchen.

I wonder!

The garden has been weeded, replanted, trained, clipped and garnished,
and my arms are as husky and strong as a boy's and my nose badly
sunburned from my strenuosity with hoe and trimming scissors.

All of which I have done and done well. But when I think of all those
five girls that are waiting for me to solve the emotional formula by
which they can work out and establish the fact that man equals woman, I
get weak in the knees.

Jane's letters are just prods.

       *       *       *       *       *

Your highly cultivated artistic nature ought to be a very beautiful
revelation to the spiritual character of the young Methodist divine you
wrote me of in your last letter. Encourage him in every way with
affectionate interest in his work, especially in the Epworth League on
his country circuit. I am enclosing fifty dollars' subscription to the
work and I hope you will give as much You have not mentioned Mr. Hayes
for several letters. I fear you are prejudiced against him. Seek to know
and weigh his character before you judge him as unfit for your love.

       *       *       *       *       *

The highly spiritual Mr. Haley glared at Polk for an hour out here on my
porch, when he interrupted us in one of our Epworth League talks, in
such an unspiritual manner that Polk said he felt as if he had been
introduced to the Apostle Paul while he was still Saul of Tarsus. I had
to pet the Dominie decorously for a week before he regained his benign
manner. Of course, however, it was trying to even a highly spiritual
nature like his to have Polk insist on pinning a rose in my hair right
before his eyes.

About Polk I feel that I am in the midst of one of those great calm,
oily stretches of ocean that a ship is rocked gently in for a few hours
before the storm tosses it first to Heaven and then to hell. He is so
psychic, and in a way attuned to me, that he partly understands my
purpose in declaring my love for him to put him at a disadvantage in his
love-making to me, and he hasn't let me do it yet, while his tacit suit
goes on. It is a drawn battle between us and is going to be fought to
the death. In the meantime Nell--

And while I was on the porch sitting with Richard Hall's letter in my
hand, still unread, Nell herself came down the front walk and sat down
beside me.

"Why, I thought you had gone fishing with Polk," I said as I cuddled her
up to me a second. She laid her head on my shoulder and heaved such a
sigh that it shook us both.

"I didn't quite like to go with him alone and Henrietta wouldn't go
because a bee had stung the red-headed twin, and she wanted to stay to
scold Sallie," she answered with both hesitation and depression in her
voice.

"Polk is--is strenuous for a whole day's companionship," I answered,
experimentally, for I saw the time had come to exercise some of the
biceps in Nell's femininity in preparation for just what I knew she was
to get from Polk. My heart ached for what I knew she was suffering. I
had had exactly those growing pains for months following that experience
with him on the front porch after the dance four years ago. And I had
had change of scene and occupation to help.

"I don't understand him at all," faltered Nell, and she raised her eyes
as she bared her wound to me.

"Nell," I said with trepidation, as I began on this my first disciple,
"you aren't a bit ashamed or embarrassed or humiliated in showing me
that you love me, are you?"

"You know I've adored you ever since I could toddle at your heels,
Evelina," she answered, and the love-message her great brown eyes
flashed into mine was as sweet as anything that ever happened to me.

"Then, why should you wonder and suffer and restrain and be humiliated
at your love for Polk?" I asked, firing point blank at all of Nell's
traditions. "Why not tell him about it and ask him if he loves you?"

The shot landed with such force that Nell gasped, but answered as
straight out from the shoulder as I had aimed.

"I would rather die than have Polk Hayes know how he--he affects me,"
she answered with her head held high.

"Then, what you feel for him is not worthy love, but something entirely
unworthy," I answered loftily, with a very poor imitation of Jane's
impressiveness of speech.

"I know it," she faltered into my shoulder, "if it were Mr. James Hardin
I loved, I wouldn't mind anybody's knowing it, but something must be
wrong with Polk or me or the way I feel. What is it?"

For a moment I got so stiff all over that Nell raised her head from my
shoulder in surprise. Do all women feel about the Crag as I do?

"I don't know," I answered weakly.

And I don't know! Oh, Jane, your simple experiment proposition is about
to become compound quadratics.

Then I got a still further surprise.

"I wouldn't in the least mind telling Mr. James how I like him--if you
think it is all right," Nell mused, looking pensively at the first pale
star that was rising over Old Harpeth. "I would enjoy it, because I
have always adored him, and it would be so interesting to see what he'd
say."

"Nell," I said suddenly with determination, "do it! Tell any man you
like how much you like him--and see what happens."

"I feel as if--as if"--Nell faltered and I don't blame her; I wouldn't
have said as much to her--"I feel that to tell Mr. James I love _him_
would ease the pain, the--pain--that I feel about Polk. It would be so
interesting to tell a man a thing like that."

"Do it!" I gasped, and went foot in the class in romantics.

If any jungle explorer thinks he has mapped and charted a woman's heart
he had better pack up his instruments of warfare and recorders and come
down to Glendale, Tennessee.

Nell and I must have talked further along the same lines, but I don't
remember what we said. I have recorded the high lights on the
conversation, but long after I lost her I kept my whirlwind feeling of
amazement. It was like trying to balance calmly on the lid of the
tinder-box when you didn't know whether or not you had touched off the
fuse.

Has honeysuckle-garbed Old Harpeth been seeing things like this go on
for centuries and not interrupted? I think I would have been sitting
there questioning him until now, if Lee and Caroline hadn't stopped at
the gate and called to me.

I think Lee was giving Caroline this stroll home from the post-office in
the twilight as an extra treat in her week's allowance of him, and she
was so soft and glowing and sweet and pale that I wonder the Cherokee
roses on my hedge didn't droop their heads with humility before her.

"What's a lovely lady doing sitting all by herself in the gloaming?" Lee
asked in his rich, warm voice.

I hate him!

"Come take a walk with us, Evelina, dear," Caroline begged softly,
though I knew what it would mean to her if I should intrude on this
precious hour with her near-lover.

Please, God--if I seem to be calling You into a profane situation I
can't help it; I must have help!--show me some way to assist Caroline to
make Lee into a real man and then get him for herself. She must have him
and he needs her. And show me a way quick! Amen!

Jane, I hope you will be able to pick the data out of this jumble, but I
doubt it. Anyway I'm grateful for the lock and key on this book.

As I stood at the gate and watched Lee and Caroline saunter down the
moon-flecked street a mocking bird in the tallest of the oak twins that
are my roof shelter called wooingly from one of the top boughs and got
his answer from about the same place on the same limb.

If a woman starts out to be a trained nurse to an epidemic of
love-making, she is in great danger of doing something foolish her own
self. I am even glad it is prayer-meeting night for Mr. Haley; he is
safe in performing his rituals. He might misunderstand this mood.

I wonder if I ever was really over in sunny France being wooed and
happy!

Of course, I decided the first night I was here that, as circumstances
over which I had no control had decreed that Cousin James should stand
in the position of enforced protector to me, decent, communistic
femino-masculine honor demands that I refrain from any manoeuvers in his
direction to attract his thoughts and attention to the feminine me. I
can only meet him on the ordinary grounds of fellowship. And I suppose
the glad-to-see him coming up the street was of the neuter gender, but
it was very interesting.

"What did Dodson have to say--is he coming across?" I demanded of him
before he got quite to my gate.

"Not if he can help it," he answered as he came close and leaned against
one of the tall stone posts, so that his grandly shaped head with its
ante-bellum squirls of hair was silhouetted against the white-starred
wistaria vine in a way that made me frantic for several buckets of
monochrome water-colors and a couple of brushes as big as those used for
white-washing. In about ten great splotches I could have done a
masterpiece of him that would have drawn artistic fits from the public
of gay Paris. I never see him that I don't long for a box of pastels or
get the ghost of the odor of oil-paint in my nose.

"The whole thing will be settled in a month," he continued, with a sigh
that had a hint of depression in it and an astral shape of Sallie
manifested itself hanging on his shoulder. However, I controlled myself
and listened to him. "There is to be a meeting of the directors of both
roads over in Bolivar in a few weeks and they are to come to some
understanding. The line across the river is unquestionably the cheapest
and best grade and there is no chance of getting them to run along our
bluff--unless we can show them some advantage in doing so, and I can't
see what that will be."

"What makes it of advantage for a railroad to run through any given
point in a rural community like this, Cousin James?" I asked, with a
glow of intellect mounting to my head, the like of which I hadn't felt
since I delivered my Junior thesis in Political Economy with Jane
looking on, consumed with pride.

"Towns that have good stock or grain districts around them with good
roads for hauling do what is called 'feeding' a railroad," he answered.
"Bolivar can feed both roads with the whole of the Harpeth Valley on
that side of the river. They'll get the roads, I'm thinking. Poor old
Glendale!"

"Isn't there anything to feed the monsters this side of the river?" I
demanded, indignant at the barrenness of the south side of the valley of
Old Harpeth.

"Very little unless it's the scenery along the bluff," he replied, with
the depression sounding still more clearly in his voice and his
shoulders drooped against the unsympathetic old stone post in a way that
sent a pang to my heart.

"Jamie, is all you've got tied up in the venture?" I asked softly, using
the name that a very small I had given him in a long ago when the world
was young and not full of problems.

"That's not the worst, Evelina," he answered in a voice that was
positively haggard. "But what belongs to the rest of the family is all
in the same leaky craft. Carruthers put Sallie's in himself, but I
invested the mites belonging to the others. Of course, as far as the
old folks are concerned, I can more than take care of them, and if
anything happens there's enough life insurance and to spare for them. I
don't feel exactly responsible for Sallie's situation, but I do feel the
responsibility of their helplessness. Sallie is not fitted to cope with
the world and she ought to be well provided for. I feel that more and
more every day. Her helplessness is very beautiful and tender, but in a
way tragic, don't you think?"

I wish I had dared tell him for the second time that day what I did
think on the subject but I denied myself such frankness.

Anyway, men are just stupid, faithful children--some of them faithful, I
mean.

I felt that if I stood there talking with the Crag any longer, I might
grow pedagogical and teach him a few things so I sent him home across
the road. I knew all six women would stay awake until they heard him
lock them in, come down to the lodge and lock his own door.

It is very unworthy of me to enjoy his playing a watch-dog of tradition
across the road to an emancipated woman like myself. The situation both
keeps me awake and puts me to sleep--and it is sweet, though I don't
know why.

God never made anything more wonderful than a good man,--even a stupid
one. Lights out!



CHAPTER VI

MAX AND THE ASAFETIDA SPOON


I do wish the great man who is discovering how to put people into some
sort of metaphysical pickle that will suspend their animations until he
gets ready to wake them up, would hurry up with his investigations, so
he can catch Sallie before she begins to fade or wilt. Sallie, just as
she is, brought to life about five generations from now, would cause a
sensation.

Some women are so feminine that they are sticky, unless well spiced with
deviltry. Sallie's loveliness hasn't much seasoning. Still, I do love
her dearly, and I am just as much her slave as are any of the others. I
can't get out of it.

"Do you suppose we will ever get all of the clothes done for the twins?"
Nell sighed gently as we sat on my porch whipping yards of lace upon
white ruffles and whipping up our own spirits at the same time.
Everybody in Glendale sews for Sallie's children and it takes her all
her time to think up the clothes.

"Never," I answered.

"She's coming, and I do believe she has got more of this ruffling. I see
it floating down her skirt," Nell fairly groaned.

Nell ought to like to sew. She isn't emancipated enough to hate a needle
as I do. But the leaven is working and she's rising slowly. It might be
well for some man to work the dough down a little before she runs over
the pan. That's a primitively feminine wish and not at all in accordance
with my own advanced ideas.

I was becoming slightly snarled with my thread, and I was glad when
Sallie and her sweetness seated itself in the best rocker in the softest
breeze, which Nell had vacated for her.

"Children are the greatest happiness in life and also the greatest
responsibility, girls," she said, in her lovely rich voice that always
melts me to a solution of sympathy whenever she uses it pensively on me.
"Of course, I should be desolate without mine, but what could I do with
them, if I didn't have all of you dear people to help me with them?"

Her wistful dependence had charm.

I looked at the twin with the yellow fuzz on the top of its head that
has hall-marked it as the Kitten in my mind, seated on Sallie's lap with
her head on Sallie's shoulder looking like a baby bud folded against the
full rose, and I couldn't help laughing. Kit had been undressed three
times after her bath this morning while Cousin Martha, Cousin Jasmine
and Mrs. Hargrove argued with each other whether she should or shouldn't
have a scrap of flannel put on over her fat little stomach. Henrietta
finally decided the matter by being impudent and sensible to them all
about the temperature.

"Don't you all 'spose God made the sun some to heat up Kit's stomach?"
she demanded scornfully, as she grabbed the little roly-poly bone of
contention and marched off with her to finish dressing her on the front
porch in the direct rays of her instituted heater.

The household at large at Widegables can never agree on the clothing of
the twins and Henrietta often has to finish their toilets thus, by
force. Aunt Dilsie being reduced by her phthisic to a position that is
almost entirely ornamental, Henrietta's strength of character is the
only thing that has made the existence of the twins bearable to
themselves or other people.

As I have said before, I do wish that some day in the future you will
come under the direct rays of Henrietta's influence, Jane, dear!

"Yes, Sallie, I should call them a responsibility," I answered her with
a laugh, as I reached up my arms for the Kitten. Then, as the little
yellow head snuggled in the hollow that was instituted in the beginning
between a woman's breast and arm for the purpose of just such nestlings,
I whispered as I laid my lips against her little ear, "and a happiness,
too, darling."

And as Sallie rocked and recuperated her breath Nell eyed the ruffle
apprehensively.

"Are you going to let us make another dress for the kiddies, Sallie,
dear?" she finally was forced by her uneasiness to ask, though with the
deepest sweetness and consideration in her voice.

If I am ever a widow with young children I hope they will burn us all up
with the deceased rather than keep me wrapped in a cotton-wool of
sympathy, as all of us do Sallie.

"It's lovely of you, Nell, to want to do more for the babies after all
the beautiful things you and Evelina have made them, and I may be able
to get another white dress apiece for them after I give Cousin James the
bills, that are awful already, but this is some ruffling that I just
forced Mamie Hall to let me bring up to you girls to do for her baby.
The poor little dear is two months old and Mamie is just beginning on
his little dress for him. He has been wearing the plainest little slips.
Mamie says Ned remarked on the fact that the baby was hardly presentable
when you girls stopped in with him to see it the other day, Nell. I
urged her to get right to work fixing him up. It is wrong for children
not to be kept as daintily as their father likes to see them."

How any woman that is as spiritually-minded as I am, and who has so much
love for the whole world in her heart, and such a deep purpose always to
offer it to her fellowmen according to their need of it, can have the
vile temper I possess I cannot see.

"And the sight that would please me better than anything else I have
even thought up to want to see," I found myself saying when I became
conscious--I hope I didn't use any of the oaths of my forefathers which
must have been tempting my refined foremothers for generations and which
I secretly admire Henrietta for indulging in on occasions of impatience
with Sallie--"would be Ned Hall left entirely alone with that squirming
baby, that looks exactly like him, when it is having a terrible spell of
colic and Ned is in the midst of a sick headache, with all the other
children cold, hungry, and cross, the cook gone to a funeral, and the
nurse in a grouch because she couldn't go and--and he knowing that Mamie
was attired in a lovely, cool muslin dress, sitting up here on the porch
with us sipping a mint julep and smoking a ten-cent cigar, resting and
getting up an appetite for supper. I want him to have about five years
of such days and then he would deserve the joys of parenthood that he
now does not appreciate."

"Oh, Mamie wouldn't smoke a cigar!" was the exclamation that showed how
much Sallie got of the motif of my eruption.

"Glorious!" exclaimed Nell, with shining eyes.

I must be careful about Nell, she is going this new gait too fast for
one so young. Women must learn to fletcherize freedom if it is not to
give them indigestion of purpose.

"Still Ned provides everything in the world he can think of to help
Mamie," said Caroline, who had come up the walk just in time to fan the
flame in me by her sweet wistfulness, with a soft judiciousness in her
voice and eyes. "And Mamie adores the children and him."

If one man is unattainable to a woman all the other creatures take on
the hue of being valuable from the reflection. Caroline is pathetic!

"It would be robbing a woman of a privilege not to let her trot the
colic out of her own baby," Sallie got near enough in sight of the
discussion to shout softly from the rear.

I have often seen Cousin Martha on one side of the fire trotting the
Pup, and Cousin Jasmine on the other ministrating likewise to the Kit.
so Sallie could take a good nap, which she didn't at all need, on the
long sofa in the living-room at Widegables.

"Ned is a delightful man and, of course, Mamie adores him." Nell agreed
with an attitude of mind like to the attitude of a body sustained on the
top rail of a shaky fence.

"He doubtless would be just as delightful to Mamie standing by dropping
asafetida into a spoon to administer to the baby, as he is dancing with
you at the Assembly, Nell," I said, still frothy around the temper.

"He'll never do it again," was the prompt result I got from my shot.

"The trouble with you, Evelina," said Sallie, with ruminative
reflectiveness in her eyes, "is that you have never been married and do
not understand how noble a man can be under--"

"Yes, I should say that you had hit Evelina's trouble exactly on the
head, Sallie," came in Polk's drawl as he came over the rose hedge from
the side street and seated himself beside Caroline on the steps.

"Well, if I ever have a husband he'll prove his nobility by being
competent to make the correct connection between the asafetida spoon and
his own baby," was the answer that came with so much force that I
couldn't stop it after I fully realized Folk's presence and sex.

"Help!" exclaimed Polk, weakly, while Nell blushed into the fold of her
ruffle, Caroline looked slightly shocked and Sallie wholly scandalized
at my lack of delicacy.

I felt that the place had been reached, the audience provided, and the
time ripe for the first gun in my general revolution planned for
Glendale. I spoke calmly in a perfect panic of fear.

"I am glad Polk is here to speak for the masculine side of the
question," I said, looking all the three astonished women straight in
the face. "Polk, do you or do you not think that a man with a wife and
seven children ought to assume at least some of the domestic strain
resulting therefrom, like dropping the asafetida in the spoon for her
while she is wrestling with the youngest-born's colic?"

"Do I have to answer?" pleaded Polk, with desperation.

"Yes!"

"Then, under the circumstances I think the man ought to say: 'To hell
with the spoon,' grab a gun, go out and shoot up a bear and a couple of
wild turkeys for breakfast, throttle some coin out of some nearby
business corporation, send two to five trained nurses back to the
wigwam, stay down town to lunch and then go home with a tender little
kiss for the madame who meets him fluffy and smiling at the door. That's
my idea of true connubial bliss. Applications considered in the order of
their reception. Nell, you are sweet enough to eat in that blue muslin.
I'm glad I asked you to get one just that shade!"

And the inane chorus of pleased laughs that followed Polk Hayes's
brainless disposal of the important question in hand made me ashamed of
being a woman--though it was funny. Still I bided my time and Polk saw
the biding, I could tell by the expression in the corners of his eyes
that he kept turned away from me.

And in less than a half-hour he was left to my mercies, anything but
tender. Sallie took Nell and Caroline over home to help her decide how
wide a band of white it would be decorous for her to sew in the neck of
her new black meteor crepe. I see it coming that we will all have to
unite in getting Sallie out of mourning and into the trappings of
frivolity soon and I dread it. It takes so many opinions on any given
subject to satisfy Sallie that she ought to keep a tabulated
advice-book.

"Evelina," said Polk, experimentally, after he had seen them safely
across the street, and he moved along the steps until he sat against my
skirts, "are your family subject to colic?"

"No, they have strong brains instead," I answered icily.

"Said brains subject to colic, though," he mused in an impudent
undertone.

I laughed: I couldn't help it. One of the dangerous things about Polk is
that he gets you comfortable and warm of heart whenever he gets near
you. It wouldn't matter at all to him if you should freeze later for
lack of his warmth, just so he doesn't know about it.

"Polk," I began to say in a lovely serious tone of voice, looking him
square in the eyes and determined that as we were now on the subject of
basic things, like infantile colic, I would have it out with him along
all lines, "there is an awful shock coming to you when you realize
that--"

"That in the heat of this erudite and revolutionary discussion, which an
evil fate led me to drop in on, I have forgotten to give you this
telegram that came for you while I was down at the station shipping some
lumber. Be as easy as you can with me, Evelina, and remember that I am
your childhood's companion when you decide between us." With which he
handed me a blue telegram.

I opened it hastily and found that it was from Richard:

     Am coming down to Bolivar with C. & G. Commission. Be deciding
     about what I wrote you. Must.

     RICHARD.

I sat perfectly still for several seconds because I felt that a good
strong hand had reached out of the distance and gently grabbed me.
Dickie had bossed me strenuously through two years of the time before I
had awakened to the fact that, for his good, I must take the direction
of the affairs of him and his kind on my and my kind's shoulders.

I suppose a great many years of emancipation will have to pass over the
heads of women before they lose the gourd kind of feeling at the sight
of a particularly broad, strong pair of shoulders. My heart sparkled at
the idea of seeing Dickie again and being browbeaten in a good old,
methodical, tender way. I suppose the sparkle in my heart showed in my
eyes, for Polk sat up quickly and took notice of it very decidedly.

"Wire especially impassioned?" he asked, with a smolder in his eyes.

"Not especially." I answered serenely, "One of my friend's father is a
director in the C. & G. and he is coming down with him for the
conference over at Bolivar between the two roads next week."

"Good," answered Polk, heartily, as the flare died out of his eyes.

I was glad he didn't have to see the wire for I wanted to use Polk's
brain a while if I could get his emotions to sleep in my presence. It is
very exasperating for a woman to be offered flirtation when she is in
need of common sense from a man. There are so many times she needs the
one rather than the other, but the dear creatures refuse to realize it,
if she's under forty.

"Polk, do you see any logical, honest or dishonest way to get that Road
to take the Glendale bluff line?" I asked, with trepidation, for that
was the first time I had ever even begun to discuss anything
intelligently with Polk.

"None in the world, Evelina," he answered with a nice, straight,
intellectuality showing over his whole face and even his lazy, posing
figure. "I remonstrated with James and Henry Carruthers both when they
used their influence to have the bonds voted and I told James it was
madness to invest in all that field and swamp property with just a
chance of the shops. The trouble was that James had always left all his
business to Henry, along with the firm's business, for a man can't be
the kind of lawyer James is, and carry the details of the handling of
filthy lucre in the same mind that can make a speech like the one he
made down in Nashville last April, on the exchange of the Judiciary.
James can be the Governor of this good State any time he wants to, or
could, if Henry hadn't turned toes and left him such a bag to hold--no
reference to Sallie's figure intended, which is all to the good if you
like that kind of curves!"

I took a moment to choose my words.

"The C. & G. is going to take that bluff route," I answered calmly from
somewhere inside me that I had never used to speak from before.

"Do you know anything of the character of Mrs. Joshua?" asked Polk,
admiringly, but slipping down from his intellectual attitude of mind and
body and edging an inch nearer. "Bet she had a strong mind or Joshua
never could have pulled off that sun and moon stunt."

"Do you know, Polk, there is one woman in the world who could--could
handle you?" I said, as a sudden vision of what Jane would do, if Polk
sat on her skirts as he did on mine, flashed across my troubled brain.

"I'd be mighty particular as to who handles me," he answered impudently,
"Want to try?" And with the greatest audacity he laid his head gently
against my knee. I let it rest there a second and then tipped it back
against the arm of the rocker.

"It does hurt me to see a man like Cousin James fairly throttled by
women as he is being," I said as I looked across the street and noted
that the porch of Widegables was full to overflowing with the household
of women.

"Evelina," said Polk, as he stood up suddenly in front of me, "that old
Mossback is the finest man in this commonwealth, but from his situation
nobody can extract him, unless it is a woman with the wiliness of the
devil himself. Poison the whole bunch and I'll back you. But we'll have
to plot it later on. I see his reverence coming tripping along with a
tract in his hand for you and I'll be considerate enough to sneak
through the kitchen, get a hot muffin-cake that has been tantalizing my
nose all this time you have been sentimentalizing over me, and return
anon when I can have you all to myself in the melting moonlight in the
small hours after all religious folk are in bed. Until then!" And as he
went back through the front hall Mr. Haley came down the front walk.

"My dear Miss Shelby, how fortunate I am to find you alone," he
exclaimed with such genuine delight beaming from his nice, good,
friendly, gray eyes that I beamed up myself a bit out of pure
responsiveness.

"I am so glad to see you, Mr. Haley. Hasn't it been a lovely day?" I
answered, as I offered him the large rocker Sallie had vacated.

"It has, indeed, and I don't know when I have been as deeply happy. This
hour with you will be the very climax of the day's perfections, I feel
sure."

I smiled.

To follow you, Jane, I "let a man look freely into my heart and thus
encouraged he opened his to mine" and behold, I found Sallie and the
twins and Henrietta all squatting in the Dominie's cardiac regions, just
as comfortably as they do it at Widegables.

"My sympathies have become so enlisted in the struggle which Mrs.
Carruthers is having to curb the eccentricities of her oldest daughter
that I feel I must lay definite plans to help her. It is very difficult
for a young and naturally yielding woman like Mrs. Carruthers to
discipline alone even so young a child as Henrietta. I know you will
help me all you can to help her. Believe me, my dear friend, even in the
short time you have been in Glendale you have become a tower of strength
to me. I feel that I can take my most difficult and sacred perplexities
to you."

Now, what do you think of that, Jane? Be sure and rub this situation in
on all the waiting Five disciples. I defy any of them to do so well in
less than three months. This getting on a plane of common citizenship
with a fellow-man is easy. That is, with some men.

Still while you are getting on the plane somebody else gets the man.
What about that? I didn't want Mr. Haley, but what if I had?

"Yes, Henrietta is a handful, Mr. Haley," I answered with enthusiasm,
for even the mention of Henrietta enlivens me and somehow Mr. Haley's
getting in the game of "curbing" her stirred up my risibles. "But--but
Sallie already has a good many people to help her with the children. I
have been trying to--to influence Henrietta--and she does not swear
except on the most exasperating occasions now."

"The dear little child created a slight consternation in her Sunday
School class last week when they were being taught the great dramatic
story of Jonah's three days' incarceration in the whale. To quote her
exactly, so that you may see how it must have affected the other
children, she said: 'I swallowed a live fly onct myself and I'm not damn
fool enough to believe that whale kept Jonah down three days, alive and
kicking, no matter who says so.'

"She then marched out of the class and has not returned these two
succeeding Sabbaths. It was to talk over the matter I called on Mrs.
Carruthers this afternoon, and I have never had my sympathies so
stirred. We must help her, my dear friend!"

I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the hour I spent helping
that dear, good, funny man plan first aids to the rearing of Sallie's
children. Besides my coöperation he has planned to enlist that of Aunt
Augusta, and I was wicked enough to let him do it. In a small village
where the inhabitants have no chance at diversions like Wagnerian operas
and collapsing skyscrapers I felt that I had no right to avert the
spectacle of Aunt Augusta's disciplining Henrietta.

I'll write you all about it, Jane, in a special delivery letter.

Jasper whipped Petunia with great apparent severity day before
yesterday, and we have been having the most heavenly waffles and broiled
chicken ever since. I dismissed Jasper for doing it, but Petunia came
into my room and cried about it a half-hour, so I had to go out where he
was rubbing the silver and forgive him and hire him over.

"When a woman gits her mouth stuck out at a man and the world in general
three days hand running they ain't nothing to cure it but a stick," he
answered with lofty scorn.

"Yes'm, dat's so," answered Petunia. "I never come outen a spell so easy
before." And her yellow face had a pink glow of happiness all over it as
she smiled lovably on the black brute.

I went off into a corner and sat down for a quiet hour to think. Nobody
in the world knows everything.

"Supper's on the table," Jasper announced, after having seen Mr. Haley
go down the front walk to-night. Jasper has such great respect for the
cloth that never in the world would he have asked Mr. Haley in to supper
without having at least a day to prepare for him. Any of my other
friends he would have asked, regardless of whether or not I wanted them.

I somehow didn't feel that I could eat alone to-night, but it was too
late to go for Sallie or Cousin Jasmine, and besides it is weak-minded
to feel that way. Why shouldn't I want to eat by myself?

This is a great big house for just one woman, and I don't see why I have
to be that one! I never was intended to be single. I seem to even think
double. Way down in me there is a place that all my life I have been
laying things aside in to tell some day to somebody that will
understand. I don't remember a single one of them now, but when the time
comes somebody is going to ask me a question very softly and it is going
to be the key that will unlock the treasures of all my life, and he will
take them out one by one, and look at them and love them and smile over
them and scold over them and be frightened even to swearing over them,
perhaps weep over them, and then--while I'm very close--pray over them.
I could feel the tears getting tangled in my lashes, but I forced them
back.

Now, I don't see why I should have been sentimentalizing over myself
like that. Just such a longing, miserable, wait-until-he-comes--and
why-doesn't-he-hurry-or-I'll-take-the-wrong-man attitude of mind and
sentiment in women in general is what I have taken a vow on my soul, and
made a great big important wager to do away with. There are millions of
lovely men in the world and all I have to do is to go out and find the
right one, be gentle with him until he understands my mode of attack to
be a bit different from the usual crawfish one employed by women from
prehistoric times until now, but not later: and then domesticate him in
any way that suits me.

Here I've been in Glendale almost three months and have let my time be
occupied keeping house for nobody but myself and to entertain my
friends, planting a flower garden that can't be used at all for
nourishment, and sewing on another woman's baby clothes.

I've written millions of words in this book and there is as yet not one
word that will help the Five in the serious and important task of
proving that they have a right to choose their own mates, and certainly
nothing to help them perform the ceremonial.

If I don't do better than this Jane will withdraw her offer and there is
no telling how many years the human race will be retarded by my lack of
strength of character.

What do men do when they begin to see the gray hairs on their temples
and when they have been best-man at twenty-three weddings, and are tired
of being at christenings and buying rattles, and things at the club all
taste exactly alike, and they have purchased ten different kinds of
hair-tonic that it bores them to death to rub on the tops of their own
heads?

I don't want any man I know! I might want Polk, if I let him have half a
chance to make me, but that would be dishonorable.

I've got up so much nice warm sisterly love for Dickie and Mr. Haley
that I couldn't begin to love them in the right way now, I am afraid.
Still, I haven't seen Dickie for three months and maybe my desperation
will have the effect of enhancing his attractions. I hope so.

Still I am disgusted deeply with myself. I believe if I could experiment
with mankind I could make some kind of creature that would be a lot
better than a woman for all purposes, and I would--

"Supper's ready and company come," Jasper came to the front door to
announce for the third time, but this time with the unctuous voice of
delight that a guest always inspires in him. I promptly went in to
welcome my materialized desire whoever it happened to be.

The Crag was standing by the window in the half light that came, partly
from the candles in their tall old silver candlesticks that were
Grandmother Shelby's, and partly from the last glow of the sun down over
the ridge. That was what I needed!

"I was coming in from the fields across your back yard and I saw the
table lighted and you on the front porch, star-gazing, and--and I got
Jasper to invite me." he said as he came over and drew out my chair on
one side of that wide square table, while Jasper stood waiting to seat
him at the other, about a mile away.

"I wanted you," I answered him stupidly, as I sank into my place and
leaned my elbows on the table so I could drop my warm cheeks into my
hands comfortably. I didn't see why I should be blushing.

"That's the reason I came then," he answered, as he looked at me across
the bowl of musk roses that were sending out waves of sweetness to meet
those that were coming in from the honeysuckle climbing over the window.
"If you were ever lonely and needed me, Evelina, you would tell me,
wouldn't you?" he asked, as he leaned towards me and regarded me still
more closely.

And again those two treacherous tears rose and tangled themselves in my
lashes, though I did shake them away quickly as a smile quivered its way
to command of my mouth. But I was not quick enough and he saw them.

And what he did was just what I wanted him to do! He rose, picked up his
chair and came around that huge old table and sat down at the corner
just as near to my elbow as the steaming coffee pot would let him.

"If you wanted me any time, would you tell me, Evelina?" he insisted
from this closer range.

"No, I wouldn't," I answered with a laugh. "I would expect you to know
it, and come just like you did to-night."

"But--but it was I that wanted you badly in this case," he answered with
an echo of the laugh.

But even under the laugh I saw signs of excitement in his deep eyes and
his long, lean hands shook as they handed me his cup to pour the coffee.
Jasper had laid his silver and napkin in front of him and retired to
admonish Petunia as to the exact crispness of her first waffle.

"What is it?" I asked breathlessly, as I moved the coffee pot from
between us to the other side.

"Just a letter that came to me from the Democratic Headquarters in the
City, that shook me up a bit and made me want to--to tell _you_ about
it. Nobody else can know--I have been out on Old Harpeth all afternoon
fighting that out, and telling you is the only thing I have allowed
myself."

"They want you to be the next Governor," I said quickly. "And you will
be, too," I added, again using that queer place in my brain that seems
to know perfectly unknowable things and that only works in matters that
concern him.

"No!"

"Yes, Your Excellency," I hurled at him defiantly.

"You witch, you," he answered me with a pleased, teasing whimsicality
coming into his eyes. "Of course, you guessed the letter and it was dear
to have you do it, but we both know it is impossible. Nobody must hear
of it, and the telling you has been the best I could get out of it
anyway. Jasper, take my compliments to Petunia, this chicken is
perfection!"

That eighth wonder of the world which got lost was something even more
mysterious than the Sphinx. It was a marvel that could have been used
for women to compare men to. That man sat right there at my side and
ate four waffles, two large pieces of chicken and a liver-wing, drank
two cups of coffee, and then devoured a huge bowl of peaches and cream,
with three muffin-cakes, while enduring the tragedy of the realization
of having to decline the Governorship of his State.

I watched him do it, first in awe and then with a dim understanding of
something, I wasn't sure what. Most women, under the circumstances,
would have gone to bed and cried it out or at least have refused food
for hours. We've got to get over those habits before we get to the point
of having to refuse to be Governors of the States and railroad
presidents and things like that.

And while he ate, there I sat not able to more than nibble because I was
making up my mind to do something that scared me to death to think
about. That gaunt, craggy man in a shabby gray coat, cut ante-bellum
wise, with a cravat that wound itself around his collar, snowy and
dainty, but on the same lines as the coat and evidently of rural
manufacture in the style favored by the flower and chivalry of the day
of Henry Clay, had progressive me as completely overawed for several
minutes as any painted redskin ever dominated a squaw--or as Jasper did
Petunia in my own kitchen.

But after we were left alone with the roses and the candles and his
cigar, with only Jasper's gratified voice mumbling over compliments to
Petunia in the distance, I took my courage in my hands and plunged.

This can he used as data for the Five.

"James." I said, with such cool determination in my voice that it almost
froze my own tongue, "I meant to tell you about it several weeks ago, I
have decided to adopt Sallie and all the children. I intend to legally
adopt the children and just nominally adopt Sallie, but it will amount
to the same thing. I don't have to have your consent but I think it is
courteous to ask for it."

"What!" he exclaimed, as he sat up and looked at me with the expression
an alienist might use in an important examination.

"Yes," I answered, gaining courage with time. "You see, I was crying out
here on the porch with loneliness when you found me. I can't stand this
any longer. I must have a family right away and Sallie's just suits me.
I have to take a great deal of interest in them anyway and it would be
easier if I had complete control of them. It will leave you with enough
family to keep you from being lonely and then we can all be happy
together down into old age."

"Have you said anything about this to Sallie?" he asked weakly as he
dipped the end of his cigar into his glass of water and watched the
sputter with the greatest interest.

"Not yet, but don't you feel sure that she will consent?" I asked, with
confidence in my plan at fever heat. "Sallie is so generous and she
can't want to see me live lonely always, without any family at all. Now,
will she?"

"She would consent!" he answered slowly, and then he laid his head down
on the table right against my arm and shook so that the candlesticks
rattled against the candles. "But I don't," he gasped, and for the life
of me I couldn't tell whether he was crying or laughing, until he sat up
again.

"Eve," he said, with his eyes fairly dancing into mine, "if women in
general mean to walk over political difficulties as you are planning to
walk away with this one of mine, I'm for feminine rule. Don't you dare
say one word about such a thing to Sallie. Of course, it is impossible
as it is funny."

It was a tragedy to have such a lovely scheme as I had thought up on the
spur of the moment, knocked down suddenly by a half dozen positive words
from a mere man, and for a moment my eyes fought with his in open
rebellion. Then I rose haughtily and walked out on the front porch.

"Dear," he said, as he followed me and took my hand in his and drew me
near him, "don't you know that your wanting to put your shoulder under
any burden I may be bearing lifts it completely? There are things in
this situation that you can't understand. If I seem to make sacrifices,
they come from the depths of my heart and are not sacrifices. Will you
believe me?"

How can he help loving Sallie with her so emphatically there?

I answered him I suppose to his liking and he went on across the road to
Widegables and left me alone in the cruel darkness.

Please, God, when things seem to be drowning me like this make me swim
with head up. Amen!



CHAPTER VII

SOME SMOLDERINGS


I'm a failure! Yes, Jane, I am!

Polk Hayes is an up-to-date, bright man of the world, with lots of
brains and I should say about the average masculine nature, and a great
deal more than the average amount of human charm. However, he has got no
more brains than I have, has had really fewer advantages, and it ought
to be easy for me to hold my own against him. But I am about to fail on
him.

For the last two weeks he has been constantly with Nell and has got her
in a dreamy state that shows in her face and every movement of her slim
body. And yet I know without the shadow of a doubt that he is just
biding his time to try me out and get me on his own terms. My heart
aches for Nell, and I just couldn't see him murder her girlhood, and it
will amount to that if he involves her heart any more than it is. I made
up my mind to have it out with him and accordingly let him come and sit
on my side steps with me late yesterday afternoon, when I have avoided
being alone with him for a month.

"Polk," I asked him suddenly without giving him time to get the
situation into his own hands, skilled in their woman-handling, "do you
intend to marry Nell or just plain break her heart for the fun you get
out of it?"

His dangerous eyes smoldered back at me for a long minute before he
answered me:

"Men don't break women's hearts, Evelina."

"I think you are right," I answered slowly, "they do just wring and
distort them and deform them for life. But I intend to see that Nell's
has no such torturous operation performed on it if I can appeal to you
or convince her."

"When you argue with Nell be sure and don't tell her just exactly the
things _you_ have done to _me_ all this summer through, Evelina." he
answered coolly.

"What do you mean?" I demanded, positively cold with a kind of
astonished fear.

"I mean that I have never offered Nell one half of the torture you have
offered me, every day since you came home, with your damned affectionate
friendliness. When I laugh, you answer it before it gets articulate, and
when I gloom, you are as sympathetic as sympathy itself. I have held
your hand and kissed it, instituting and not quenching a raging thirst
thereby, as you are experienced enough to know. You have made yourself
everything for me that is responsive and desirable and beautiful and
worthy and have put me back every time I have reached out to grasp you.
You don't want me, you don't want to marry me at all, you just want
--excitement. You are as cold as ice that grinds and generates fire.
Very well, you don't have to take me--and I'll get what I can from
Nell--and others."

"Oh, Polk, how could you have misunderstood me like this?" I moaned from
the depths of an almost broken heart. But as I moaned I understood--I
understood!

I'm doing it all wrong! I had the most beautiful human love for him in
my heart and he thought it was all dastardly, cold coquetting. An awful
spark has been struck out of the flint. I'm not worthy to experiment
with this dreadful man-and-woman question. I just laid my head down on
my arms, resting on my knees and cowered at Polk's feet.

"Don't--Evelina, I didn't mean it." he said quickly in a shaken voice.
But he did!

I couldn't answer him and as I sat still and prayed in my heart for some
words to come that would do away with the horror I heard Sallie's voice
from my front walk, and she and Mr. Haley, each carrying a sleeping
twin, came around the corner of the porch.

That interruption was a direct answer to prayer, for God knew that I
just must have time to think before having this out with Polk. I
sometimes feel ashamed of the catastrophes I have to pray quick about,
but what would I do if I couldn't?

I don't know how I got through the rest of this evening, but I did--I
pray for sleep. Amen!

Watching the seasons follow each other in the Harpeth Valley gives me
the agony of a dumb poet, who can feel though not sing.

It was spring when I came down here four months ago, a young, tender,
mist-veiled, lilac-scented spring that nestled firmly in your heart and
made it ache with sweetness that you hardly understood yourself.

But before I knew it the young darling, with her curls and buds and
apple-blooms had gone and summer was rioting over the gardens and fields
and hills, rich, lush colored, radiant, redolent, gorgeous, rose-scented
and pulsing with a life that made me breathless. Even the roads along
the valley were bordered with flowers that the sun had wooed to the
swooning point.

But this week, early as it is, there has been a hint of autumn in the
air, and a haze is beginning to creep over the whole world, especially
in the early mornings, which are so dew-gemmed that they seem to be
hinting a warning of the near coming of frost and snow.

My garden has grown into a perfect riot of blooms, but for the last two
weeks queer slugs have begun to eat the tender buds that are forming for
October blooming, and I have been mourning over it by day and by night
and to everybody who will listen.

Aunt Augusta insists that the only thing to do is to get up with the
first crack of dawn and carefully search out each slug, remove it and
destroy it. She says if this is done for a week they will be
exterminated.

I carefully explained it all to Jasper and when I came down to breakfast
he was coming in with three queer green things, also with an injured air
of having been kept up all night. I didn't feel equal to making him go
on with the combat and ignored the question for two days until I saw all
the buds on my largest Neron done for in one night.

I have always been able to get up at the break of day to go
sketching--it was at daybreak that I made my sketch in the Defleury
gardens that captured the French art eye enough to get me my Salon
mention. If I could get up to splash water-colors at that hour, I surely
could rush to the protection of my own roses, so I went to bed with gray
dawn on my mind and the shutters wide open so the first light would get
full in my eyes.

I am glad that it was a good bright ray that woke me and partly dazzled
me, for the sight I had, after I had been kneeling down in the rose bed
for fifteen minutes, was something of a shock to me, though no reason in
the world why it should have been. I can't remember that I ever
speculated as to whether the Crag wore pajamas or not, and I don't see
that I should have been surprised that he did instead of the night shirt
of our common ancestry.

He came around the side of the house out of the sun-shot mist and was
half way down the garden path before I saw him or he saw me, and I must
say that his unconcern under the circumstances was rather remarkable.

He was attired in a light blue silk pajama jacket that was open at the
throat and half way down his broad breast. He had on his usual gray
trousers, but tag's of blue trailed out and ruffled around his bare
ankles, and across his bare heels that protruded from his slippers. His
hair was in heavy tousled black curls all over his head and his gray
eyes were positively mysterious with interrupted dreams. In one hand he
carried a tin can and in the other a small pointed stick, which looked
murderously fitted for the extermination of the marauders.

I was positively nervous over the prospect of his embarrassment when he
should catch sight of me, but there was none.

"Eve!" he exclaimed, with surprise, and a ray of pure delight drove away
the dreams in his eyes. Nobody in the wide world calls me Eve but just
the Crag, and he does it in a queer, still way when he is surprised to
see me, or glad, or sorry, or moved with any kind of sudden emotion.

And queer as it is I have to positively control the desire to answer him
with the correlated title--Adam!

"I forgot to tell you yesterday that I was coming over to get the slugs
for you, dear," he said as he came down the row of roses next to mine,
squatted opposite to where I was kneeling by the bushy, suffering Neron
and began to examine the under side of each leaf carefully. He was the
most beautiful thing I have ever seen in the early light with his great
chest bare and the blue of the pajamas melting into the bronze of his
throat and calling out the gray in his eyes. I had to force myself into
being gardener rather than artist, as we laughed together over the glass
bowl and silver spoon I had brought out for the undoing of the slugs.
Some day I'm going to paint him like that!

[Illustration: His gray eyes were positively mysterious with interrupted
dreams]

I found out about the pajamas from questioning Aunt Martha discreetly.
They seemed so incongruous in relation to the usual old Henry Clay coat
and stock collar, that I had to know the reason why. Mrs. Hargrove's son
was a very worldly man, she says, and wore them. It comforts her to make
them for the Crag to wear in memoriam. He wears the collars Cousin
Martha makes him with her own fingers after the pattern she made his
father's by, for the same reason, and lets Cousin Jasmine cut his hair
because she always cut her father's, Colonel Horton's, until his death.
That accounts for the ante-bellum curls and the irregular tags in the
back. I almost laughed when Cousin Martha was telling me, but I
remembered how a glow rose in my heart when I saw that he still had
Father's little old Confederate comrade tailor cut his coats on the same
pattern on which he had cut Father's, since the days of reconstruction.
Sometimes it startles me to find that with all my emancipation I am very
like other women.

But I wonder what I would do if Sallie attired him in any of the late
Henry's wearing apparel?

"What do you suppose is the why of such useless things as slugs?" I
speculated to stop that thought off sharp as we crawled down the row
together, he searching one side of each bush and I the other.

"Well, they brought on this nice companionable hunt for them, didn't
they?" he asked, looking over into my eyes with a laugh.

"I wanted to see you early this morning anyway," he hastily resumed.
"Sallie and the Dominie sat talking to you so late last night that I
didn't feel it was fair to come across after they left. But I wanted you
so I could hardly get to sleep, and I was just half awake from a dream
of you, when I came into the garden."

"My evenings don't belong to anybody, if you need them, Jamie, and you
don't have to be told that," I answered crossly when I thought what a
grand time I might have been having talking about real things with the
Crag, instead of wrestling with Polk's romantics or Sallie's and Mr.
Haley's gush.

"Go on and tell me all about it, while I crawl after you like a worm
myself," I snapped still further.

"Well, here goes! In the City Council meeting last night your Uncle
Peter told us about the plans that they have made up at Bolivar for
entertaining the C. & G. Commission, and the gloom of Polk and Lee, Ned
and the rest of them could have easily been cut in blocks and used for
cold storage purposes. They are just all down and out about it and no
fight left. Of course, they all lose by the bond issue, but I can't see
that it is bad enough to knock them all out like this. I got up in
mighty wrath and--and I have got myself into one job. My eloquence
landed me right into one large hole, and I am reaching out for a hand
from you."

"Here it is," and I reached over and left a smear of loam across the
back of his hand, while I brought away a brown circle around my wrist
that the responsive grasp of his fingers left. "Do you want me
single-handed to get the bluff line chosen?"

"Not quite, but almost," he answered with another laugh. "You would if
you tried. I haven't a doubt. Do you remember the talk we had the other
night about its seeming inhospitable of you not to invite the other
gentlemen in the Commission over to see you when you invite Hall and his
father? And you know you had partly planned some sort of entertainment
for the whole bunch. You had the right idea at the right place, as you
always do. As you said, we don't want Bolivar to see us with what looks
like a grouch on us at their good fortune, and I think that as the
Commission are all to be here as the guests of a private citizen,
Glendale ought to entertain them publicly. There is no hope to get the
line for us, but I would like those men at least to see what the beauty
of that bluff road would be. The line across the river runs through the
only ugly part of the valley, and while I know in the balance between
dollars and scenery, scenery will go down and out, still it would be
good for them to see it and at least get a vision of what might have
been, to haunt them when they take their first trip through the swamps
across the country there. Now, as you are to have them anyway, I want to
have the whole town entertain the whole Commission and Bolivar with what
is classically called among us a barbecue-rally, the countryside to be
invited. Bolivar is going to give them a banquet, to be as near like
what the Bolivarians imagine they have in New York as possible, and Mrs.
Doctor Henderson is to give them a pink tea reception to which carefully
chosen presentables, like you and me, are to be invited. You remember
that circus day in July?--a rally will be like that or more so. What do
you think?"

"Oh, I think you are a genius to think about it," I gasped, as I sat
down on a very cruet Killarney branch and just as quickly sat up again,
receiving comforting expressions of sympathy from across the bush, to
which I paid no heed. "Those blasé city men will go crazy about it. We
can have the barbecue up on the bluff, where we have always had it for
the political rallies, and a fish-fry and the country people in their
wagons with children tumbling all over everything and--and you will make
a great speech with all of us looking on and being proud of you, because
nobody in New York or beyond can do as well. We can invite a lot of
people up from the City and over from Bolivar and Hillsboro and
Providence to hear you tell them all about Tennessee while things are
cooking and--"

"This rally is to show off Glendale not--the Crag," he interrupted me
with a quizzical laugh.

Now, how did he know I called him the Crag in my heart? I suppose I did
it to his face and never knew. I seem to think right out loud when I am
with him and feel out loud, too. I ignored his levity, that was out of
place when he saw how my brain was beginning to work well and rapidly.

"You mean, don't you, Jamie, that you want to get Glendale past this
place that is--humiliating--swimming with her head up?" I asked softly
past a rose that drooped against my cheek.

Perfectly justifiable tears came to my lashes as I thought what a
humiliation it all was to him and the rest of them, to be passed by an
opportunity like that and left to die in their gray moldiness off the
main line of life--shelved.

"That is one of my prayers, to get past humiliations, swimming with my
head up," I added softly, though I blushed from my toes to my top curl
at the necessity that had called out the prayer the last time. It's
awful on a woman to feel herself growing up stiff and sturdy by a man's
side and then to get sight of a gourd-vine tangling itself up between
them. I'm the dryad out of one of my own twin oaks down by the gate,
and I want the other twin to be--

I wonder if his eyes really look to other women like deep gray pools
that you can look deeper and deeper into and never seem to get to the
bottom, no matter if the look does seem to last forever and you feel
yourself blushing and wanting to take your eyes away, or if it is just I
that get so drowned in them!

"You've a gallant stroke, Evelina," he said softly, as I at last gained
possession of my own sight. "And here I am with a hand out to you for
assistance in carrying out your own plan that seems to be just the thing
to--"

"Say, Cousin James. Aunt Marfy says for you to come home to breakfast
right away. Mis' Hargrove won't let nobody begin until you says the
blessing, and Cousin Jasmine have got the headache from waiting for her
coffee. What do you want to fool with Evelina this time of day for
anyway?" And with the delivery of which message and reproof Henrietta
stood on the edge of the path looking down upon us with great and
scornful interest.

"You've got on your night shirt and haven't combed your hair or washed
your face," she continued sternly. "There'll be hell to pay with all the
breakfast getting cold, and I'm empty down to my feet. Come on, quick!"

"Henrietta," I said, sternly, as I rose to my feet, "I've asked you once
not to say ugly words like that."

"I'll go make the lightning toilet, Henrietta. Do run like a good girl
and ask Mrs. Hargrove to let Cousin Jasmine have her cup of coffee right
away. I'll be there before the rest are dead from hunger," and Cousin
James skilfully interrupted the threatened feminine clash as he emptied
my glass bowl into his tin can and stuck the sharp stick in the ground
for future reference. Even Henrietta's pointed allusion to his toilet
had not in the least ruffled his equanimity or brought a shade of
consciousness to his face.

"Mis' Hargrove said that the Bible said not for any woman to say a
blessing at any table or at any place that anybody can hear her, when
Cousin Marfy wanted to be polite to the Lord by saying just a little one
and go on before we was all too hungry," answered Henrietta, in her most
scornfully tolerant voice. "If women eat out loud before everybody why
can't they pray their thank-you out loud like any man?"

"Answer her, Evelina," laughed Cousin James, as he hurried down the walk
away from us.

"Henrietta," I asked, in a calmly argumentative tone of voice as she and
I walked up the path to the house, "didn't Mr. Haley talk to you just
yesterday and tell you how wicked it is for you to use--use such strong
words as you do?"

Mr. Haley had told me just a few days ago that he and Aunt Augusta had
agreed to open their campaign of reform on Henrietta by a pastoral
lecture from him, to be followed strongly by a neighborly one from her.

"No, he never did any such thing," answered Henrietta, promptly--and
what Henrietta says is always the truth, because she isn't afraid of
anybody or anything enough to tell a lie---"he just telled me over and
over in a whole lot of words how I ought to love and be good to Sallie.
If I was to love Sallie that kind of way, he said, I would be so busy I
couldn't do none of the things Sallie don't like to do herself and makes
me do. 'Stid er saying, 'my precious mother, I love you and want to be
good because you want me to,' about every hour, I had better wipe the
twins' noses, and wash the dirt often them, and light Aunt Dilsie's
phthisic pipe, and get things upstairs for Sallie and Miss Jasmine and
everybody when they are downstairs. I'm too busy, I am, to be so
religious. And I'm too hungry to talk any more about it." With which she
departed.

I sank on the side steps and laughed until a busy old bumble-bee came
down from a late honeysuckle blossom and buzzed around to see what it
was all about. Henrietta's statement of the case was a graphic and just
one. Sallie has got a tendril around Henrietta which grows by the day.
Poor tot, she does have a hard and hardening time--and how can I lecture
her for swearing?

With a train of thought started by Henrietta I sat at my solitary
breakfast in a deeply contemplative mood. Life was going to press hard
on Henrietta. And reared in the fossilized atmosphere of Widegables,
which tried to draw all its six separate feminine breaths as one with a
lone, supporting man, how was she to develop the biceps of strength of
mind and soul, as well as body, to meet the conditions she was likely
to have to meet? Still her coming tussle with Aunt Augusta would be a
tonic at least. I was just breaking a last muffin and beginning to smile
when I saw a delegation coming down the street and turning into my front
gate; I rose to meet it with distinction.

Aunt Augusta marched at the head and Nell and Caroline were on each side
of her, while Sallie and Mamie Hall brought up the rear, walking more
deliberately and each carrying a baby, comparing some sort of white tags
of sewing. Cousin Martha was crossing the Road in their wake with her
knitting bag and palm leaf fan.

One thing I am proud of having accomplished this summer is the
establishing of friendly relations with Aunt Augusta. I made up my mind
that she probably needed to have some of my affection ladled out to her
more than anybody in Glendale, and I worked on all the volatile fear and
resentment and dislike I had ever had for her all my life, and I have
succeeded in liquefying it into a genuine liking for the martial old
personality. If Aunt Augusta had been a man she would have probably led
a regiment up San Juan Hill, died in the trenches, and covered herself
and family with glory. She is the newest woman in the Harpeth Valley,
and though sixty years old, she is lineally Sallie Carruthers's own
granddaughter.

"Evelina," she began, as soon as she had martialed her forces into
rocking-chairs, though she had Jasper bring her the stiffest and
straightest-backed one in the house, "I have collected as many women as
I had time to, and have come up here to tell you, and them, that the men
in Glendale are so lacking in sense and judgment that the time has come
for women to stand forth and assume the responsibility of them and
Glendale in general. As the wife of the poor decrepit Mayor, I appoint
myself chairman of the meeting pro tem and ask you to take the first
minutes. If disgrace is threatening us we must at least face it in an
orderly and parliamentary way. And I--"

"Oh, Mrs. Shelby, is it--is it smallpox?" and as Sallie spoke she hugged
up the Puppy baby, who happened to be the twin in her arms, so that she
bubbled and giggled, mistaking her embraces for those of frolicsome
affection.

Mamie turned pale and held her baby tight and I could see that she was
having light spasms of alarm, one for each one of the children and one
for Ned.

"Smallpox, fiddlesticks--I said disgrace, Sallie Carruthers, and the
worst kind of disgrace--municipal disgrace." And as Aunt Augusta named
the plague that was to come upon us, she looked as if she expected it to
wilt us all into sear and dried leaves. And in point of fact, we all did
rustle.

"Tell us about it," said Nell, with sparkling eyes and sitting up in her
low rocker as straight as Aunt Augusta did in her uncompromising seat.
The rest of them just looked helpless and undecided as to whether to be
relieved or not.

"Yes, municipal disgrace threatens the town, and the women must rise in
their strength and avert it," she declaimed majestically with her dark
eyes snapping.

"Yesterday afternoon James Hardin, who is the only patriotic male in
Glendale, put before the Town Council a most reasonable and
pride-bestirring proposition originated by Evelina Shelby, one of
Glendale's leading citizens, though a woman. She wants to offer the
far-famed hospitality of Glendale--which is the oldest and most
aristocratic town in the Harpeth Valley, except perhaps Hillsboro, and
which is not in the class with a vulgarly rich, modern place like
Bolivar, that has a soap-factory and streetcars, and was a mud-hole in
the landscape when the first Shelby built this very house,--to the
Commission of magnates who are to come down about the railroad lines
that are to be laid near us. James agrees with her and urges that it is
fitting and dignified that, when they are through with their vulgar
trafficking over at insignificant Bolivar, they be asked to partake of
real southern hospitality at its fountain head, especially as Evelina is
obliged to invite two of them as personal friends. Do you not see it in
that light?" And Aunt Augusta looked at us with the martial mien of a
general commanding his army for a campaign.

"It would be nice," answered Mamie, as she turned little Ned over on his
stomach across her knee and began to sway him and trot him at the same
time, which was his signal to get off into a nap. "But Ned said last
night that he had lost so much in the bond subscription, that he didn't
feel like spending any more money for an entertainment, that wouldn't do
one bit of good about the taxes or bonds or anything. The baby was
beginning to fret, so I don't think I understood it exactly."

"I don't think you did," answered Aunt Augusta, witheringly, "That is
not the point at all, and--"

"But Mr. Greenfield said last night, while he was discussing it with
Father, that it would do no good whatever and probably be an
embarrassment to the Commission, our putting in a pitiful bid like that.
He--" but Caroline got no further with the feminine echo of her
masculine opinion-former.

"Peter Shelby put that objection much more picturesquely than Lee
Greenfield," Aunt Augusta snapped. "He said that licking those men's
hands would turn his stomach, after swallowing that bond issue. However,
all this has nothing to do with the case. I am trying to--"

"Polk said last night that he thought it would be much more spectacular
for all the good looking women in town to go when we are invited to Mrs.
Henderson's tea for the big bugs, and dazzle 'em so that it would at
least put Glendale on the map," said Nell, with spirit. "He made me so
mad that I--"

"Mr. Haley thinks that we should be very careful not to feel malice or
envy towards Bolivar, but to rejoice at their good fortune in getting
both roads and the shops, even if it does mean a loss to us. What is
material wealth in this world anyway when we can depend so on--"
Sallie's expression was so beautifully silly and like the Dominie's,
that it was all that I could do not to give vent to an unworthy shout.
Nell saw it as I did and I felt her smother a giggle.

But before Aunt Augusta could get her breath to put the crux of the
matter straight before her feminine tribunal, Aunt Martha beat her to it
as she placidly rocked back and forth knitting lace for a petticoat for
Henrietta.

"Of course, Glendale doesn't really care about the railroad; in fact, we
would much rather not have our seclusion broken in upon, especially as
they might choose the route they have prospected"--with a glance at
Sallie--"but it is to show them our friendliness, more Bolivar than the
actual Commission, and our desire to rejoice with them in their good
fortune. It would be very mean spirited of us to ignore them and not
assist them in entertaining their guests, especially as some of them
must be invited. We've never been in such an attitude as that to
Bolivar!"

"Exactly, Martha," answered Aunt Augusta with relief. "The thought of
proud old Glendale putting herself in an attitude of municipal sulks
towards common Bolivar seemed an unbearable disgrace to me. Didn't we
invite them up for a great fish-fry on the river when they opened that
odious soap factory, and ask them to let us help take care of some of
their delegates when they had the Methodist Conference? They sent one of
the two bishops to you, you remember, Martha, and I am sure your
entertainment of him was so lavish that he went home ill. No man said
us nay in the exercising our right of religious hospitality, why should
they in our civic? We must not allow the town to put us in such an
attitude! Must Not! It was for this that I called this meeting at
Evelina's, as she was the one to propose this public-spirited and
creditable plan."

"But what shall we do if they don't want to have it?" asked Mamie.

"I have asked, when did the men of Glendale begin to dictate to the
women as to whom they should offer their hospitality?" answered Aunt
Augusta, as she arose to her feet. "Are we free women, and have we, or
have we not, command of our own storerooms and our own servants and our
own time and strength?"

And as I looked up at the tall, fierce, white-haired old dame of high
degree, daughter of the women of the Colonies and the women of the
Wilderness days, I got exactly the same sensation I had when I saw the
Goddess of Liberty loom up out of the mist as I sailed into the harbor
of my own land from a foreign one. And what I was feeling I knew every
woman present was feeling in a greater or less degree, except perhaps
Sallie, for her face was a puzzle of sore amazement and a pleading
desire for further sleep.

"Have we or have we not?" Aunt Augusta again demanded, and just then a
most wonderful thing happened!

Jane stood in our midst!

Oh, Jane, you were a miracle to me, but I must go on writing about it
all calmly for the sake of the Five!

I made a mad rush from my rocker to throw myself into her arms, but she
stopped me with one glance of her cold, official eye that quelled me,
and stood attention before Aunt Augusta.

"Madam President," she said in her grandest parliamentary voice, "it was
by accident that I interrupted the proceedings of what I take to be an
official meeting. Have I your permission to withdraw? I am Miss Shelby's
guest, Miss Mathers, and I can easily await her greetings until the
adjournment of this body."

Oh, Jane, and my arms just hungry for you!

"Madam," answered Aunt Augusta, in her grandest manner and a voice so
filled with cordiality that I hardly knew it, "it is the pleasure of the
chair to interrupt proceedings and to welcome you. Evelina, introduce us
all!"

It was all just glorious! I never saw anybody get a more lovely ovation
than Jane did from my friends, for they had all heard about her, read
with awe clippings I showed them about her speeches and--were about
ready for her.

Sallie kissed her on both cheeks, Mamie laid the baby in her arms with a
devout expression, and Nell clung to her with the rapture of the newly
proselyted in her face. Aunt Martha made her welcome in her dearest
manner and Caroline beamed on her with the return of a lot of the fire
and spirit of the youth that hanging on the doled-out affections of Lee
Greenfield had starved in her.

And it was characteristic of Jane and her methods that it took much less
time than it takes me to write it, for her to get all the greetings over
with, explain that she had sent me a letter telling me that she was
coming that must have gone astray, get everybody named and ticketed in
her mind, and get us all back to business.

Aunt Augusta explained the situation to her with so much feeling and
eloquence that she swept us all off our feet, and when she was ready to
put the question again to us as to our willingness to embark on our
defiance of our fellow-townsmen, the answer of enthusiastic acquiescence
was ready for her.

"Of course, as none of you have any official municipal status, the
invitation will have to be given informally, in a social way, to the
Commission through Miss Shelby's friend, Mr. Richard Hall," said Jane,
when Aunt Augusta had called on her to give us her opinion of the
situation in general and the mode of procedure. "We find it best in all
women-questions of the present, to do things in a perfectly legal and
parliamentary way."

"Must we tell them about it or not?" asked Mamie, in a wavering voice,
looking up devoutly at Jane, who had held young Ned against the stiff
white linen shirt of her traveling dress just as comfortably as if he
were her own seventh.

"Did they consult you before deciding to refuse your suggestion?" asked
Jane, calmly and thoughtfully.

"They did not," trumpeted Aunt Augusta.

"Then wouldn't it be the most regular way to proceed to get an
acceptance of the invitation from the Commission and then extend them
one to be present?" pronounced Jane, coolly, seemingly totally
unconscious that she was exploding; a bomb shell.

"It would, and we will consider it so settled," answered Aunt Augusta,
dominatingly.

This quick and revolutionary decision gave me a shock. I could see that
a woman doesn't like to feel that there is a stick of dynamite
between her and a man, when she puts her head down under his chin or her
cheek to his, but advanced women must suffer that. Still I'm glad that
the Crag is on our side of the fence. I felt sorry for Mamie and
Caroline--and Sallie looked a tragedy.

In fact, a shade of depression was about to steal over the spirits of
the meeting when Aunt Augusta luckily called for the discussion of plans
for the rally.

Feeding other human beings is the natural, instituted, physiological,
pathological, metaphysical, and spiritual outlet for a woman's nature,
and that is why she is so happy when she gets out her family receipt
book for a called rehearsal for the functioning of her hospitality. The
revolution went home happy and excited over the martialing of their
flesh pots.

I'm glad Jane is asleep across the hall to-night. If I had had to
shoulder all this outbreak by myself I would have compromised by
instituting a campaign of wheedling, the like of which this town never
suffered before, and then when this glorious rally was finally pulled
off, the cajoled masculine population would have fairly swelled with
pride over having done it!

Of course, by every known test of conduct and economics, their attitude
in the matter is entirely right. Men work to all given points in
straight, clear-cut, logical lines only to find women at the point of
results waiting for them, with unforeseen culminations, which would
have been impossible to them.

And I am also glad the Crag is partly responsible for starting, or at
least unconsciously aiding, this scheme in high finance of mine; and he
is also in reality the silent sponsor for this unhatched revolution. I
am deeply contented to go to sleep with that comforting; thought tucked
under my pillow.



CHAPTER VIII

AN ATTAINED TO-MORROW


I've changed my mind about a woman's being like a whirlwind. The women
of now are the attained to-morrow that the world since the beginning has
been trying to catch up with. Jane is that, and then the day after, too,
and what she has done to Glendale in these two weeks has stunned the old
town into a trance of delight and amazement. She has recreated us,
breathed the breath of modernity into us, and started the machine up the
grade of civilization at a pace that makes me hold my breath for fear of
something jolting us.

She and Aunt Augusta have organized an Equality League, and that wheel
came very near flying loose and being the finish of Uncle Peter.

He came to see me the morning of the first meeting and, when I saw him
coming up the front walk, I got an astral vision of the chips on his
shoulder enlarged to twice their natural size, and called to Jasper to
mix the juleps very long and extra deep. But deep as they were, to the
very top of the longest glasses, he couldn't drown his wrath in his.

"Women, women," he exploded from over the very mint sprig itself, "all
fools, all fools from the beginning of time; made that way on
purpose--on purpose--hey? World needs some sort of creature with no
better sense than to want to spend their lives fooling with babies and
the bread of life. Human young and religion are the only things in the
world men can't attend to for themselves and that's what they need women
for. Women with no brains--but all heart--all heart--hey?"

"Why should just a little brain hurt their heart-action. Uncle Peter?" I
asked mildly. There is nothing in the world that I ever met that I enjoy
any more than one of Uncle Peter's rages, and I always try to be meekly
inflammatory.

"They're never satisfied with using them to run church societies and
children's internal organs, but they want to use 'em on men and
civilization in general. Where'd you get that Yankee school-marm--hey?
Why don't she get a husband and a baby and settle down? Ten babies,
twenty babies if necessary--hey?"

"You are entirely mistaken as to the plans that Jane and Aunt Augusta
have for the League they are forming this morning, Uncle Peter." I began
to say with delight as to what was likely to ensue. "If you would only
listen to Jane while she--"

"Don't want to hear a word she has to say! All 'as the crackling of
thorns under a pot'--all the talk of fools."

"But surely you are not afraid to listen to her, Uncle Peter," I dared
to say, and then stood away.

"Afraid, afraid--never was afraid of anybody in my life, Augusta not
excepted!" he exclaimed, as he rose in his wrath. "The men of this town
will show the uprising hussies what we think of 'em, and put 'em back to
the heels of men, where they belong--belong--hey?"

And before I could remonstrate with him he was marching down the street
like a whole regiment out on a charge that was to be one of
extermination, or complete surrender.

The Crag told me that evening that the Mayor's office of Glendale had
reeked of brimstone, for hours, and the next Sunday Aunt Augusta sat in
their pew at church, militantly alone, while he occupied a seat in the
farthest limits of the amen corner, with equal militancy.

But Uncle Peter's attitude during the time of Jane's campaign for
general Equality in Glendale was pathetically like that of an old log,
that has been drifting comfortably down the stream of life with the tide
that bore its comrades, and suddenly got its end stuck in the mud so
that it was forced to stem alone the very tide it had been floating on.

Jane didn't throw any rocks at anybody's opinions or break the windows
of anybody's prejudices. She had the most lovely heart to heart talks
with the women separately, collectively, and in both small and large
bunches. I had them in to tea in the combinations that she wanted them,
and I must say that she was the loveliest thing with them that could be
imagined. She was just her stiff, ugly self, starchily clad in the most
beautifully tailored white linen, and they all went mad about her. The
Pup and the Kit clutched at her skirts until anybody else would have
been a mass of wrinkles, and the left breast of her linen blouse did
always bear a slight impress of little Ned's head. The congeniality of
Jane and that baby was a revelation to me and his colic ceased after the
first time she kneaded it out of his fat little stomach with her long,
slim, powerful hands according to a first-aid method she had learned in
her settlement work, with Mamie looking on in fear and adoration. It may
have been bloodless surgery but I suspect it of being partly hypnotism,
because the same sort of surgery was used on the minds of all my women
friends and with a like result.

The subject of the rally was a fine one for everybody to get together on
from the start and, before any of them realized that they were doing
anything but plan out the details of a big spread, the like of which
they had been doing for hospitable generations, for the railroad
Commission, they were organized into a flourishing Equality League, with
officers and by-laws and a sinking fund in the treasury.

"Now, Evelina," said Jane, as she sat on the edge of my bed braiding her
heavy, sleek, black braid that is as big as my wrist and that she
declares is her one beauty, though she ought to know that her straight,
strong-figure, ruddy complexion, aroma of strength and keen,
near-sighted eyes are--well, if not beauties, something very winning,
"we must not allow the men time to get sore over this matter of the
League. We must make them feel immediately that they are needed and
wanted intensely in the movement. They must be asked to take their
place, shoulder to shoulder, with us in this fight for better conditions
for the world and mankind in general. True to our theory we must offer
them our comradely affection and openly and honestly express our need of
them in our lives and in our activities. I was talking to Mrs.
Carruthers and Nell and Mrs. Hall and Caroline, as well as your Cousin
Martha, about it this afternoon and they all agreed with me that the men
would have cause to be aggrieved at us about seeming thus to be
organizing a life for ourselves apart from theirs, with no place in it
provided for them. Mrs. Carruthers said that she had felt that the
Reverend Mr. Haley had been deeply hurt already at not being masked to
open any of the meetings with prayer, and she volunteered to talk to him
and express for herself and us our need of him."

"That will be easy for Sallie, for she has been expressing need of
people in her fife as long as she has been living it," I answered with a
good-natured laugh, though I would have liked to have that interview
with the Dominie myself. He is so enthusiastic that I like to bask in
him once in a while.

[Illustration: "We must not allow the men to get sore over this matter
of the League"]

"I asked young Mr. Hayes to take me fishing with him to-morrow in order
to have a whole quiet day with him alone so that we could get closely in
touch with each other. I have had very little opportunity to talk with
him, but I have felt his sympathy in several interested glances we
have exchanged with each other. I am looking forward to the
establishment of a perfect friendship with him."

I told myself that I was mistaken in thinking that the expression in
Jane's eyes was softened to the verge of dreaminess and my inmost soul
shouted at the idea of Jane and Polk and their day alone in the woods.

Since that night that Polk humiliated me as completely as a man can
humiliate a woman, he has looked at me like a whipped child, and I
haven't looked at him at all I have used Jane as a wide-spread fan
behind which to hide from him. How was I to know what was going on on
the other side of the fan?

It is a relief to realize that in the world there are at least a few
women like Jane that don't have to be protected from Polk and his kind.
Jane is one of the hunted that has turned and has come back to meet the
pursuer with outstretched and disarming hand. This, I suspect, is to be
about her first real tussle; skoal to the victor!

"I advised your Aunt Augusta to ask you to talk again to your Uncle
Peter, and Nell is to seek an interview with Mr. Hardin at her earliest
opportunity, though I think the only result will be instruction and
uplift for Nell, as a more illumined thing I never had said to me on the
subject of the relation of men and women than the one he uttered to me
last night, as he said good-by to me out on the porch in that glorious
moonlight that seems brighter here in Glendale than I have ever seen it
out in the world anywhere else."

"What did he say?" I asked perfectly naturally, though a double-bladed
pain was twisted around in my solar plexus as the vision of Jane's last
night interview in the moonlight with the Crag, and Nell's
soon-to-be-one, hit me broadside at the same time. I haven't had one by
myself with him for a week.

"Why, of course, women are the breath that men draw into their lungs of
life to supply eternal combustion," was what he said when I asked him
point-blank what he thought of the League. "Only let us breathe slowly
as we ascend to still greater elevations with their consequent rarefied
air," he added, with the most heavenly thoughtfulness in his fine face.
"Did it ever occur to you, Evelina, that your Cousin James is really a
radiantly beautiful man? How could you be so mistaken, as to both him
and his personal appearance, as to apply such a name as Crag to him?"

Glendale is going to Jane's head!

"Don't you think he looks scraggy in that long-tailed coat, shocks of
taggy hair and a collar big enough to fit Old Harpeth?" I asked
deceitfully.

Why shouldn't I tell Jane what I really thought of Cousin James and
discuss him broadly and frankly? I don't know! Lately I don't want to
think about him or have anybody mention him in my presence. I've got a
consciousness of him way off in a corner of me somewhere and I'm just
brooding over it. Everybody in town has been in this house since Jane
has been here, all the time, and I haven't seen him alone for ages it
seems. Maybe that's why I have had to make a desert island inside myself
to take him to.

"And I have been thinking since you told me of the situation in which he
and Mrs. Carruthers have been placed by this financial catastrophe, how
wonderful it will be if love really does come to them, when her grief is
healed by time. He will rear her interesting children into women that
will be invaluable to the commonwealth," Jane continued as she tied a
blue bow on the end of her long black plait.

"Do you think that there--there are any signs of--of such a thing yet?"
I asked with pitiful weakness as I wilted down into my pillow.

"Just a bit in his manner to her, though I may be influenced in my
judgment by the evident suitability of such a solution of the
situation," she answered as she settled herself back against one of the
posts of my high old bed and looked me clean through and through, even
unto the shores of that desert island itself.

"I hope you have been noting these different emotional situations and
reactions among your friends carefully in your record, Evelina," she
continued in an interested and biological tone of voice and expression
of eye. "In a small community like this it is much easier to get at the
real underlying motive of such things than it is in a more complicated
civilization. I have seen you transcribing notes into our book. Since I
have come to Glendale I am more firmly determined than ever that the
attitude of emotional equality that we determined upon in the spring is
the true solution of most of the complicated man-and-woman problems. I
am anxious to see it tried out in five other different communities that
we will select. I would not seem to be indelicate, dear, but I do not
see any signs of your having been especially drawn emotionally towards
any of your friends, though your attitude of sisterly comradeship and
frankness with them is more beautiful than I thought it was possible for
such a thing to be. You are not being tempted to shirk any of your
duties of womanhood because of your interest in your art, are you? I
will confess to you that the thing that brought me down upon you was
your news of this commission for the series of station-gardens. I think
you will probably work better after this side of your nature is at rest.
Of course, a union with Mr. Hall would be ideal for you. You must
consider it seriously."

The "must" in Jane's voice sounded exactly like that "must" looked in
Richard's telegram, which has been enforced with others just as
emphatic ever since.

There are some men who are big enough to take a woman with a wound in
her heart and heal both it and her by their love. Richard is one of that
kind. What could any woman want more than her work and a man like that?

After Jane had laid her strong-minded head on the hard pillow, that I
had had to have concocted out of bats of cotton for her, I laid my face
against my own made of the soft breast feathers of a white flock of
hovering hen-mothers and wept on their softness.

A light was burning down in the lodge at the gate of Widegables. He
hasn't gone back to his room to sleep, even when I have Jane's
strong-mindedness in the house with me. I remember that I gave my word
of honor to myself that I wouldn't try any of my modern emotional
experiments on him the first night I slept in this house alone, with
only him over there to keep me from dying with primitive woman fright. I
shall keep my word to myself and propose to Richard if my contract with
Jane and the Five seems to call for it. In the meantime if I choose to
cry myself to sleep it is nobody's business.

I wonder if a mist rises up to Heaven every night from all the
woman-tears in all the world, and if God sees it, as it clings damp
around the hem of His garment, and smiles with such warm understanding
that it vanishes in a soft glow of sleep that He sends down to us!

Jane has arisen early several mornings and spent an hour before
breakfast composing a masterly and Machiavellian letter of invitation
from the Equality League to the inhabitants of Glendale and the
surrounding countryside to and beyond Bolivar to attend the rally given
by them in honor of the C. & G. Railroad Commission on Tuesday next. It
is to come out to-day in the weekly papers of Glendale, Bolivar,
Hillsboro, and Providence, and I hope there will not be so many cases of
heart-failure from rage that the gloom of many funerals will put out the
light of the rally. I hope no man will beat any woman in the Harpeth
Valley for it, and if he does, I hope he will do it so neither Jane nor
I will hear of it.

It was Aunt Augusta who thought up the insulting and incendiary plan of
having the rally as an offering of hospitality from the League, and I
hope if Uncle Peter is going to die over it he will not have the final
explosion in my presence.

Privately I spent a dollar and a half sending a night-letter to Richard
all about it and asking him if the Commissioners would be willing to
stand for this feminist plank in the barbecue deal. He had sent me the
nicest letter of acceptance from the Board when I had written the
invitation to them through him, as coming from the perfectly ladylike
feminine population of Glendale, and I didn't like to get them into a
woman-whirlwind without their own consent. I paid the boy at the
telegraph office five dollars not to talk about the matter to a human
soul, and threatened to have him dismissed if he did, so the bomb-shell
was kept in until this afternoon.

Richard replied to the telegram with characteristic directness:

     Delighted to be in at the fight. Seven of us rabid suffragists, two
     on the fence, and a half roast pig will convert the other. Found no
     answer to my question in letter of last Tuesday. Must!

     RICHARD.

It was nice of Jane to write out and get ready her bomb-shell and then
go off with Polk, so as not to see it explode. But I'm glad she did.
However, I did advise her to take a copy of it along with the reels and
the lunch-basket to read to him, as a starter of their day to be
devoted to the establishment of a perfect friendship between them.

Polk didn't look at me even once as I helped pack them and their traps
into his Hupp, but Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like Polk in
his white flannels, and he and Jane made a picture of perfectly blended
tailored smartness as they got ready for the break-away.

There are some men that acquire feminine obligations as rough cheviot
does lint and Henrietta is one of Polk's when it comes to the fishing
days. He takes her so often that she thinks she owns him and all the
trout in Little Harpeth, and she landed in the midst of the picnic with
her fighting clothes on.

"Where are you and her going at,--fishing?" she asked in a calmly
controlled voice that both of them had heard before, and which made us
quail in our boots and metaphorically duck our heads.

"Yes, we--er thought we would," he answered with an uncertainty of
voice and manner that bespoke abject fear.

"I'll be d---- if you shall," came the explosion, hot and loud. "I want
to go fishing with you, Polk, my own self, and she ain't no good for
nothing any way. You can't take her!"

"Henrietta!" I both beseeched and commanded in one breath.

"No, she ain't no good at all," was reiterated in the stormy young voice
as Henrietta caught hold of the nose of the panting Hupp and stood
directly in the path of destruction, if Polk had turned the driving
wheel a hair's breadth. "Uncle Peter says that she is er going to turn
the devil loose in Glendale, so they won't be no more whisky and no more
babies borned and men will get they noses rubbed in their plates, if
they don't eat the awful truck she is er going to teach the women to
cook for their husbands. An' the men won't marry no more then at all,
and I'll have to be a old maid like her."

Now, why did I write weeks ago that I would like to witness an encounter
between Jane and Henrietta! I didn't mean it, but I got it!

Without ruffling a hair or changing color Jane stepped out of the Hupp
and faced the foe. Henrietta is a tiny scrap of a woman, intense in a
wild, beautiful, almost hunted kind of way, and she is so thin that it
makes my heart ache. She is being fairly crushed with the beautiful
depending weight of her mother and the responsibility of the twins, and
somehow she is most pathetic. I made a motion to step between her and
Jane, but one look in Jane's face stopped me.

"Dear," she said, in her rich, throaty, strong voice as she looked
pleadingly at the militant midget facing her. Suddenly I was that
lonesome, homesick freshman by the waters of Lake Waban, with Jane's
awkward young arm around me, and I stood aside to let Henrietta come
into her heritage of Jane. "Don't you want to come with us?" was the
soft question that followed the commanding word of endearment.

"No!" was the short, but slightly mollified answer as Henrietta dug her
toes into the dust and began to look fascinated.

"I'm glad you don't want to come, because I've got some very important
business to ask you to attend to for me," answered Jane, in the brisk
tone of voice she uses in doing business with women, and which interests
them intensely by its very novelty and flatters them by seeming to endow
them with a kind of brain they didn't know they possessed. "I want you
to go upstairs and get my pocketbook. Be careful, for there is over a
hundred dollars in the roll of bills--Evelina will give you the key to
the desk--and go down to the drug store where they keep nice little
clocks and buy me the best one they have. Then please you wind it up
yourself and watch it all day to see if it keeps time with the clock in
your hall, and if it varies more than one minute, take it back and get
another. While you are in the drug store, if you have time, won't you
please select me a new tooth-brush and some nice kind of paste that you
think is good? Make them show you all they have. Pay for it out of one
of the bills."

"Want any good, smelly soap?" I came out of my trance of absolute
admiration to hear Henrietta ask in the capable voice of a secretary to
a millionaire. Her thin little face was flushed with excitement and
importance, and she edged two feet nearer the charmer.

"It would be a good thing to get about a half dozen cakes, wouldn't it?"
answered Jane, with slight uncertainty in her voice as if leaving the
decision of the matter partly to Henrietta.

"Yes, I believe I would," Henrietta decided judicially. "The 'New Mown
Hay' is what Jasper got for Petunia because he hit her too hard last
week and swelled her eye. They is a perfumery that goes with it at one
quarter a bottle. That makes it all cheaper."

"Exactly the thing, and we mustn't spend money unnecessarily," Jane
agreed. "But I don't want to trespass on your time, Henrietta, dear,"
she added with the deference she would have used in speaking to the
President of the Nation League or the founder of Hull House.

"No, ma'am, I'm glad to do it, and I'll go quick 'fore it gets any later
in the day for me to watch the clock," answered Henrietta in stately
tones that were very like Jane's and which I had never heard her employ
before.

And before any of the three of us got our breath her bare little feet
were flashing up my front walk.

"Help!" exclaimed Polk as he leaned back from his wheel and fanned
himself with his hat. "Do you use the same methods with grown beasts
that you do with cubs?" he added weakly.

"It's the same she has always used on me, only this is more dramatic.
Beware!" I said with a laugh as I insisted on just one squeeze of Jane's
white linen arm as she was climbing back into the car.

"That's a remarkably fine child and she should have good, dependable,
business-like habits put in the place of faulty and useless ones. Her
profanity will make no difference for the present and can be easily
corrected. Don't interfere with her attending to my commissions,
Evelina. Let's start, Mr. Hayes." And Jane settled herself calmly for
the spin out Providence Road.

"All the hundred dollars all by herself, Jane?" I called after them.

"Yes," floated back positively in the wake of the Hupp.

For several hours I attended to the business of my life in a haze of
meditation. If Henrietta ticks off the same number of minutes on the
woman-clock from Jane's standpoint, that Jane has marked off from her
own mother's, high noon is going to strike before we are ready for it.

But it was only an hour or two of high-minded communing with the future
that I got the time for, before I was involved in the whirl of dust that
swirled around the storm center, to darken and throw a shadow over
Glendale about the time of the publication of the Glendale News, which
occurs every Thursday near the hour of noon, so that all the subscribers
can take that enterprising sheet home to consume while waiting for
dinner, and can leave it for the women of their families to enjoy in the
afternoon.

I suspect that the digestion of Jane's Equality rally invitation
interfered with the digestion of much fried chicken, corn, and sweet
potatoes, under the roof-trees of the town and I spent the afternoon in
hearing results and keeping up the spirits of the insurgents.

Caroline came in with her head so high that she had difficulty in seeing
over her very slender and aristocratic nose, with a note from Lee
Greenfield which had just come to her, asking her to go with him in his
car over to Hillsboro to spend the day with Tom Pollard's wife, a visit
he knows she has been dying to make for two months, for she was one of
Pet's bridesmaids. He made casual and dastardly mention that there would
be a moon to come home by, but ignored completely the fact that Tuesday
was the day on which he had been invited by the League, of which he knew
she was a member, to meet and rally around the C. & G. Commission.

I helped her compose the answer, and I must say we hit Lee only in high
spots. I could see she was scared to death, and so was I, but her dander
was up, and I backed mine up along side it for the purpose of support.
Besides I feel in my heart that that note will dynamite the rocky old
situation between them into something more easily handled.

She had just gone to dispatch the missive by their negro gardener when
Mamie and Sallie came clucking in. Mamie's face was pink and
high-spirited, but Sallie was in one complete slump of mind and body.

"Mr. Haley has just stopped by to say that he thinks no price is too
great to pay for peace, and fellowship, and good-will in a community,"
she said, as she dropped into a rocker and looked pensively after the
retreating figure of the handsome young Dominie, who had accompanied
them to the gate but wisely no farther. He didn't know that Jane had
gone with Polk.

"And women to pay the price," answered Mamie, spiritedly. "I have just
told Ned that as yet I do not know enough to argue the question of
woman's wrongs with him, but I have learned a few of her rights. One of
_mine_ is to have him accept any invitation I am responsible for having
my friends offer him, and to accompany me to the entertainment if I
desire to go. I reminded him that I had not troubled him often as an
escort since my marriage. He was so scared that he almost let little Ned
drop out of his arms, and he got in an awful hurry to go to town, but he
asked me to have his gray flannels pressed before Tuesday and to buy him
a blue tie to go with a new shirt he has. I never like to spank Ned or
the children, but I must say it does clear the atmosphere."

"You don't think we could put it off or--or--" Sallie faltered.

"No!" answered Mamie and I together, and as I spoke I called Jasper to
set out more rockers and have Petunia get the tea-tray ready, for I saw
Aunt Augusta go across the road to collect Cousin Martha and Mrs.
Hargrove and the rest, while Nell whirled by in her rakish little car on
her way to the Square and called that she would be back.

When Nell used a thousand dollars of her own money, left her by her
grandmother, to buy that little Buick, Glendale promptly had a spell of
epilepsy that lasted for days. The whole town still dodges and swears
when it sees her coming, for she drives with a combination of feminine
recklessness and masculine speed that is to say the least alarming. To
see Aunt Augusta out for a spin with her is a delicious sight.

And it was most interesting to listen to a minute description of the
composite fit thrown by the male population of Glendale, at their rally
invitation, but as time was limited I finally coaxed the conversation
around to the subject of the viands to be offered the lordly creatures
in the way of propitiation for the insult that we were forcing them to
swallow by taking matters in our own hands, and then we had a really
glorious time.

I am glad I have had a year or more in Paris, months in Italy, weeks in
Berlin, and a sojourn in England, just so that I can be sure myself and
assure the others with authority that there are no such cooks in all the
world as the women in the Harpeth Valley of Tennessee, United States of
America.

The afternoon wore away on the wings of magic, and the long, purple
shadows were falling across the street, a rustle of cool night wind was
stirring the tree-tops and the first star was coming timidly out into
the gloaming, before they all realized that it was time to hurry and
scurry under roof-trees.

Lee Greenfield was waiting at the gate for Caroline.

Just as Henrietta had taken a last peep at the clock on the hall table
and gone to answer Sallie's call to come and help Aunt Dilsie in the
bedding of the Kitten and the Pup, Polk's Hupp stopped at the gate, and
he and Jane came up the front walk in the twilight together.

She had on his flannel coat over her linen one and his expression was
one of glorified and translucent daze. I didn't look at her--I felt as
if I couldn't. I was scared! For a second she held me in her arms and
kissed me, _really_--the first time she had ever done it in all my
life--and then went on upstairs with a nice, cool good-night and "thank
you" to Polk.

"Evelina," he said, as he handed me the empty lunch-basket and also the
empty fish-bucket, the first he had ever in his life brought in from
Little Harpeth, "I was right about that Hallelujah chorus being the true
definition of the real woman--only they are more so. I have seen a
light, and you pointed the way. Will you forgive me for being what I
was--and trust me--with--with--good-night!" He was gone!

Jane's kiss had been one of revelation--to me!

For a long time I sat out there in the cool, hazy, windy autumn
twilight breeze, that was heavy with the scent of luscious wild grapes
and tasseled corn, fanning the flame of loneliness in me until I
couldn't have stood it any longer if a tall gray figure of relief had
not come up the street and called me down to my front gate.

"Hail the instigator of a bloodless revolution," laughed the Crag as I
stopped myself with difficulty on the opposite side of the gate from
him. "The city fathers will have to capitulate, and now for the reign of
the mothers!"

"And the same old route to subjection chosen, through their stomachs to
their civic hearts," I answered impudently.

Overlooking my pertness he went on:

"Mayor Shelby was at home with Mrs. Augusta for two hours after dinner
and, as I came by the post-office, I heard him telling Polk in
remarkably chastened, if not entirely chaste language, that it was
'better to let the women have their kick-up on a feeding proposition
than on something worse,' as he classically put it."

"I know it is a great victory," I answered weakly, "but I'm too tired to
glory in it. I wish I was Sallie's Puppy being trotted across Aunt
Dilsie's knee, or Kit, getting a rocking in Cousin Martha's arms."

"Would any other arms do for the rocking?" came in a queer, audacious
voice, with a note in it that stilled something in me and made all the
world seem to be holding its breath.

"I'm tired of revoluting and it's--it's tenderness I want," I faltered
in a voice that hardly seemed strong enough to get so far up out of my
heart as to reach the ears of the Crag as he bent his head down close
over mine. He had come on my side of the gate at the first weak little
cry I had let myself make a minute or two before.

[Illustration: "Is this right?" he asked]

"Is this right?" he asked, as he gently took me in his arms, hollowed
his shoulder for a place for my head, and leaning against the old
gate he began to swing me gently to and fro, his cheek against my hair
and humming Aunt Dilsie's

"Swing low sweet chariot, fer to carry me home."

It was.

I know now what I want and I am going to have it. I'll fight the whole
world with naked hands for him. And I'm also going to find some way to
get him with all his absurd niceties of honor intact, just because that
will make him happier.

I'll begin at the beginning and some way unclasp those gourdy tendrils
that Sallie has been strangling him with. I will bunch all the rest of
his feminine collection and take them on my own hands. I'm going to make
a Governor out of him, and then a United States Senator and finally a
Supreme Judge. Help! Think of the old Mossback being a progressive, but
that's my party and Jane's.

I know he is going to hate terribly to have me ask him to marry me, and
I hate to hurt him so, but it is my duty to get Jane's fifty thousand
dollars so the Five may be as happy as I am to-night; only there aren't
five other Crags. I know it will be a life-long mortification to him to
have me do it, but he lost his chance to-night grand-mothering me. Still,
I did turn my lips away. I was not quite ready then--I am now.

If he wants to go on wearing clothes like that I'm going to let him,
even on the Senate floor, but I can't ever stand for Cousin Jasmine to
cut his hair any more. I want to do it myself, and I'm going to tell her
so, and why. She and I have cried over that miniature of the lost young
Confederate cousin of hers and she'll understand me.

But as I think it over--it always is best to be kind, and I believe I'll
let him get through this rally--it's just four days--free and happy man.

I don't know whether to go in and wake up Jane or not. I would like to
go to sleep with that kiss revelation between us, but maybe it is my
duty to the Five to extract some data from her while it is fresh, on the
foam. I am afraid it is going to go hard with her, but somehow I have a
newborn faith in Polk that makes me feel that he will make it as easy as
he can for her.

Isn't it a glorious thing to realize that neither she nor I will have to
sit and be tortured by waiting to see what those men are going to do?



CHAPTER IX

DYNAMITE


When a man injures a woman's feelings by any particular course of
conduct to which she objects, the maternal in her rises to the surface
and she treats and forgives him as she would a naughty child,--but a man
makes any kind of woman-affront into a lover's quarrel. That is what
masculine Glendale has been doing to its women folks for four days, and
I believe everybody has been secretly enjoying it.

As to the rally, they have stood aside with their hands in their pockets
and their noses in the air, and if it hadn't been for Aunt Augusta and
Nell and Jane being natural-born carpenters and draymen, we might have
had to give it up and let them go on with it to their own glory.

When Nell and Jane went to see Mr. Dodd about building the long tables
to serve the barbecue dinner on, he said he was too busy to do it and
hadn't even any lumber to sell.

Then things happened in my back yard that it sounds like a romance to
write about. Jane sent me over to borrow the Crag's team and wagon and
Henrietta and Cousin Martha and any of the rest of his woman-impedimenta
that I could get. He was out of town, trying a case over at Bolivar, and
wouldn't get back until Monday night.

I am glad he wasn't here, for it would have gone hard with me to treat
him in the manner that Jane decided it was best for all the women in
Glendale to treat all the men in this crisis. It sounded sweet and cold
as molasses dispenses itself to you in midwinter, and I could see it was
a strain on Mamie and Caroline and Mrs. Kirkland, Nell's mother, and
young Mrs. Dodd, the carpenter's wife,--the Boston girl that married him
before she realized him,--to keep it up from day to day.

Besides that I'm going to be a politician's wife--though he doesn't know
it yet--and I want the Crag to be away from the necessity of taking any
sides in this civilized warfare. That's one reason I am such a
go-between for Uncle Peter and the League, I am making votes for my man,
so I consider it all right for me never to deliver any of their messages
to each other as they are given to me, but to twist them into
agreeability to suit myself.

Sallie said the Dominie was entirely on our side and that was why she
went walking with him Sunday afternoon. All the other men were cool to
him and he is so sensitive.

But to get back to the back yard. I glory in writing it and want the
Five to consider it as almost sacred data, though I hope they will never
have to do likewise.

Jane and Nell and Aunt Augusta took the two axes and one large hammer
and tore down my back fence while I and the others loaded the planks on
the wagon. Jane appointed Henrietta to sit and hold the slow old horses
in case they should have got demoralized by the militant atmosphere
pervading Glendale and try to bolt. I never saw any human being enjoy
herself as Henrietta did, and it was worth it all just to look into her
radiant countenance.

Jane took all the hard top blows to do herself and left the unloosening
of the lower nails to Aunt Augusta while Nell ripped off the planks that
stuck. I could almost hear Nell's long, polished finger nails go with a
rip every time she jerked a particularly tough old plank into
subjection, and Aunt Augusta dispensed encouraging axioms about pioneer
work as she banged along behind Jane. Jane herself looked as cool as a
cucumber, didn't get the least bit ruffled, and had the expression on
her face that the truly normal woman has while she is hemming a baby's
flannel petticoat.

And though during the day many delightful crises were precipitated, the
most interesting were the expressions that devastated Polk Hayes's and
Lee Greenfield's faces as they came around the side of the house to see
what all that hammering was about.

"Caroline!" exclaimed Lee, in perfect agony, as he beheld the lady of
his ardent, though long-restrained, affections poised across the wheel
of the wagon tugging at the middle of a heavy plank which Mrs. Dodd and
I were pushing up to her, while Mamie, the mother of seven, stood firmly
on top of the wagon guiding it into place.

"Help!" gasped Polk, as he started to take the ax from Jane by force.

Then we all stopped while Jane quietly gurgled the molasses of the
situation to them, and sent them on down the street sadder and wiser
men. I thought Polk was going to cry on her shoulder before he was
finally persuaded to go and leave us to our fate, and the expression on
Lee's face as he looked up at torn, dirty, perspiring Caroline, with a
smudge on her nose and blood on her hand from an absolutely
insignificant scratch, was such as ought to have been on Ned's face as
he ought to have been standing by Mamie with the asafetida bottle.
That's mixed up but the Five ought to catch the point.

It took up all of Saturday afternoon and part of Monday morning, but we
built those tables, thereby disciplining masculine Glendale with a
severity that I didn't think could have been in us.

We all rested on Sunday, that is, ostensibly. Jane put down all sorts of
things on paper that everybody had to do on Monday and on Tuesday.
Henrietta sat by her in a state of trance and it did me good to see
Sallie out in the hammock at Widegables taking care of both the Kit and
the Pup, laboriously assisted by panting Aunt Dilsie, because Jane
explained to her so beautifully that she needed a lot of Henrietta's
time, that Sallie acquiesced with good-natured bewilderment. Of course,
Cousin Jasmine helped her some, but she was busy aiding Cousin Martha to
beat up some mysterious eggs in the kitchen--with the shutters shut
because it was Sunday. It was something that takes two days to "set" and
was to be the _pièce de résistance_, after the barbecue.

Mrs. Hargrove couldn't help Sallie at all with the kiddies, either,
because she was looking through all her boxes and bundles for a letter
from her son, which she thought said something about favoring woman's
rights, and if it is like she thinks it is, she is going to go to the
barbecue and get things nice and hot instead of having them brought to
her cold.

I had hoped to get a few minutes Sunday afternoon to myself so I could
go up into the garret and look through one of the trunks I brought from
Paris with me to see how many sets of things I have got left. I am going
to need a trousseau pretty soon, and I might need it more suddenly than
I expect. I don't see any reason for people's not marrying immediately
when they make up their minds, and my half of ours is made up strong
enough to decidedly influence rapidity in his. But then I really don't
believe that the Crag would care very much about the high lights of a
trousseau, and it was just as well that Nell came in to get me to help
her write a letter to National Headquarters to know if she could have
any kind of assignment in the Campaign for the Convention to alter the
Constitution in Tennessee when it meets next winter.

"Have you made up your mind fully to go in for public life, Nell?" I
asked mildly. "Some of your friends might not like it very much
and--and--"

"If you mean Polk Hayes, Evelina," Nell answered with the positiveness
that only a very young person can get up the courage to use, "I have
forgot that I was ever influenced by his narrow-minded, primitive
personality at all. If I ever love and marry it will be a man who can
appreciate and further my real woman's destiny."

"Well, then, that's all right," I answered with such relief in my heart
that it must have showed in my voice and face. I had worried about Nell
since I could see plainly, though she hasn't told me yet, and I am sure
he doesn't realize it, that Jane had decided Folk's destiny. Nell is not
twenty-one yet and she will find lots of men in the world that will be
fully capable of making her believe they feel that way about her
destiny, until they succeed in tying her up to using it for the real
utilitarian purposes they are sure such a pretty woman is created for.

It will take men in general another hundred years yet, and lots of
suffering, to realize that a woman's destiny is anything but himself,
and get to housekeeping with her on that basis.

Of course, I see the justice and need of perfect equality in all things
between the sexes, emotional equality especially, but I hope the time
will never come when men get as hungry to see their women folks as said
feminists get to see them, after they have been away about four days out
in the Harpeth Valley. It takes a woman's patience to stand the tug.

The Crag didn't jog into Glendale on his raw-boned old horse until
one-thirty Monday night. I had been watching down Providence Road for
him from my pillow ever since I put out my light at eleven, because Jane
had decided that it was our duty to go to bed early so as to be as fresh
as possible for the rally in the morning. She had walked to the gate
with Polk at ten and hadn't come back until eleven, so, of course, she
was ready to turn in. It was just foolish, primitive old convention
that kept me from slipping on my slippers and dressing-gown--I've got
the prettiest ones that ever came across the Atlantic, Louise de
Mereton, Rue de Rivoli, Paris--and going down to the gate to see him for
just a minute. That second he stood undecided in the middle of the road
looking at my darkened house was agony that I'm not going to put up with
very much longer.

Scientifically I feel that I'm thinking life with one lobe of my brain
and breathing with one lung. Still I made myself go to sleep.

Everybody believes in God in a different kind of way, and mine satisfies
me entirely. I know that the hairs of my head are numbered and that not
a sparrow falls; and I don't stop at that. I feel sure that my tears are
measured and my smiles are rejoiced over, and when I want a good day to
come to me I ask for it and mostly get it. There never was another like
the one He sent me down this morning on the first slim ray of dawn that
slid over the side of Old Harpeth!

The sun was warm and jolly and hospitable from the arrival of its first
rays, but the wind was deliciously cool and bracing and full of the wine
of October. It came racing across the fields laden with harvest scents,
blustering a bit now and then enough to bring down a shower of nuts or
to make the yellow corn in the shocks in the fields rustle ominously of
a winter soon to come.

The maples on the bluff were garmented in royal crimson brocaded with
yellow, the buck-bushes that grew along the edges of the rocks were
strung with magenta berries and regiments of tall royal purple iron
weeds and yellow-plumed golden-rod were marshaled in squads and clumps
for a background for the long tables.

Jane and I with Henrietta were out by the old gray moss rock at the
first break of day, installing Jasper and Petunia and a few of their
_confrères_. Jasper has always been king of all Glendale barbecue-pits
and he had had them dug the day before and filled with dry hickory fires
all night, and his mien was so haughty that I trembled for the slaves
under his command. His basket of "yarbs" was under the side of the rock
in hoodoo-like shadows and the wagons of poor, innocent, sacrificed
lambs and turkeys and sucking-pigs were backed up by the largest
infernal pit. Petunia was already elbow deep in a cedar tub of corn meal
for the pones, and another minion was shucking late roasting-ears and
washing the sweet potatoes to be packed down with the meat by eight
o-clock. A wagon was to collect the baked hams and sandwiches and
biscuits and confections of all variety and pedigree from the rest of
the League at ten o'clock.

We didn't know it then but another wagon was already being loaded very
privately in town with ice and bottles, glasses and lemons and mint and
kegs and schooners. I am awfully glad that the Equality League had
forgotten all about the wetting up of the rally, because I don't believe
we would have been equal to the situation with Aunt Augusta and Jane
both prohibition enthusiasts, but it did so promote the sentiment of
peace and good cheer during the day for us to all feel that the men had
not failed us in a crisis, as well as in the natural qualities inherent
in their offering for the feast. There was a whole case of Uncle Peter's
private stock. Could human nature have done better than that?

But if we did forget to provide the liquids, I am glad we had the
foresight to provide other viands enough to feed a regiment, because a
whole army came.

"Evelina," gasped Jane, as we stood on the edge of the bluff that
commands a view of almost all the Harpeth Valley stretched out like the
very garden of Eden itself, crossed by silver creeks, lined with broad
roads and mantled in the richness of the harvest haze, "can all those
wagons full of people be coming to accept our invitation?"

"Yes, they're our guests," I answered, with the elation of generations
of rally-givers rising in my breast, as I saw the stream of wagons and
carriages and buggies, with now and then a motor-car, all approaching
Glendale from all points of the compass.

"Have we enough to feed them. Jasper?" she turned and asked in still
further alarm.

"Nothing never give out in Glendale yit, since we took the cover offen
the pits for Old Hickory in my granddad's time," he answered, with a
trace of offense in his voice, as he stood over a half tub of butter
mixing in his yarbs with mutterings that sounded like incantations. I
drew Jane away for I felt that it was no time to disturb him, when the
basting of his baked meats was just about to begin.

I was glad that about all the countryside had gathered, unhitched their
wagons, picketed their horses, and got down to the enjoyment of the day
before the motor-cars bringing the distinguished guests had even started
from Bolivar. It was great to watch the farmers slap neighbors on the
back, exchange news and tobacco plugs, while the rosy women folks
grouped and ungrouped in radiant good cheer with children squirming and
tangling over and under and around the rejoicings.

"This, Evelina," remarked Jane, with controlled emotion in her voice and
a mist in her eyes behind their glasses, "is not only the bone and sinew
but also the rich red blood in the arteries of our nation. I feel
humbled and honored at being permitted to go among them."

And the sight of dear old Jane "mixing" with those Harpeth Valley farmer
folk was one of the things I have put aside to remember for always. They
all knew me, of course, and I was a bit teary at their greetings. Big
motherly women took me in their arms and younger ones laid their babies
in my arms and laughed and cried over me, while every few minutes some
rugged old farmer would call out for Colonel Shelby's "little gal" and
look searchingly in my face for the likeness to my fire-eating, old
Confederate, politician father.

But it was Jane that took them by storm and kept them, too, through the
crisis of the day. Jane is the _reveille_ the Harpeth Valley has been
waiting for for fifty years. I thought I was, but Jane is it.

And it was into an atmosphere of almost hilarious enjoyment that the
distinguished Commission arrived a few minutes before noon, just as
Jasper's barbecue-pits were beginning to send forth absolutely maddening
aromas.

Nell whirled up the hill first and turned her Buick across the road by
the bluff with that rakish skill of hers that always sends my heart into
my throat. And whom did she have sitting at her blue, embroidered linen
elbow but Richard Hall himself? Good old big, strong dandy Dickie, how
great it was to see him again, and if I had had my own heart in my
breast it would have leaped with delight at the sight of him! But even
the Crag's that I had exchanged mine for, though it was an entire
stranger to Dickie, beat fast enough in sympathy with the dance in my
eyes to send the color up to my face in good fashion as I hurried across
a clump of golden-rod to meet him.

"Evelina, the Lovely!" he exclaimed in his big booming voice, as he took
me by both shoulders and shook me instead of shaking merely my hand.

"Richard the Royal!" I answered in our old _Quartier Latin_ form of
greeting. I didn't look right into his eyes as I always had, however,
and something sent a keen pain through the exchanged heart in my breast
at the thought that I might be obliged to hurt the dandy old dear.

But suddenly the sight of Nell's loveliness cheered me. She had had
Dick in that car with her ever since nine o'clock, almost three hours,
showing him the sights of that teeming heavy lush harvest countryside
around Bolivar and Glendale, all over which are low-roofed old country
houses which brood over families that cluster around the unit that one
man and a woman make in their commonwealth. Nell's eyes were sweet as
she looked at him. I'll wait and see if I need to worry over him. With
the fervor I felt I had a right to, I then avoided the issue of
Richard's eyes, put it up to God and Nell, and introduced him to Jane.

And while the three of them stood waiting for Nell to back up the Buick
and put her spark-plug in her pocket,--only Richard calmly took it and
put it in his,--the rest of the cars came up the hill and turned into
the edge of the golden-rod.

Aunt Augusta was in the first one with the Chairman of the Commission,
whose name even would have paralyzed anybody but Aunt Augusta; and
Mamie and Cousin Martha, Caroline and several more of the ladies made up
the rest of the Committee who had gone to escort the distinguished
guests to the rally.

The Crag was in the last car with a perfectly delicious old gray-haired
edition of Dickie, and I almost fell on both their necks at once. What
saved them was Polk appearing between us with three long mint-topped
glasses.

I'm glad old Dick immediately had his eyebrows well tangled in the mint
of his julep, for I got my own eyes farther down into Cousin James's
deep gray ones than I expected and it was hard to come up. I hadn't had
a plunge in them for three days and I went pretty deep.

"Eve!" he said softly, as he raised his glass and smiled across his
green tuft.

Yes, I know he knows that I know, there is an answer to that name when
he says it that way, but I'm not going to give it until I am ready and
the place is romantically secluded enough to suit me. He just dares me
when he says it to me before other people. That reminds me, the harvest
moon is full to-night and rises an hour later every evening from now on.
I don't want to wait another month before I propose to him. I've always
chosen moonlight for that catastrophe of my life. I wonder if men have
as good times planning the culmination of their suits as I am having
with mine?

But I had to come down quickly to a little thing like the rally and give
the signal to feed all the five hundred people, who by that time were
nice, polite, ravening wolves, for Jasper had uncovered the turkey-pit
to keep them from getting too brown while the lambs caught up with them.

Jane was the master of ceremonies, because I balked at the last minute.
I think I would be capable of managing even a National Convention in
Chicago--that far away from the Harpeth Valley,--but I couldn't do it
with my friends of pioneer generations looking on. A man or woman never
grows up at all to the woman who has knitted baby socks for them or the
man who has let them ride down the hill on the front of his saddle.

And at the head of the center table Jane asked the Crag to sit beside
her, so that he would be in place to command attention for her when she
wanted to speak, and where everybody could hear him when he did.

And while the table was piled high and emptied, and piled high again, so
many bouquets of oratory were culled, tied, and cast at the guests along
the table that I believe they would have been obliged to pay exclusive
attention to them if the things to eat had not been just as odoriferous
and substantial. Before dinner was over everybody had spoken that was of
a suitable age, and some that had heretofore in the Harpeth Valley been
considered of an unsuitable sex.

Jane's speech of welcome made such an impression that it is no wonder
some of the old mothers in Israel got up to iterate it, as the dinner
progressed.

She, as usual, refrained from prejudice-smashing and
stones-at-glass-houses throwing, and she hadn't said ten sentences
before she had the whole feeding multitude with her.

She began on the way our pioneer mothers had to contrive to keep larders
stocked and good things ready for the households, and she tickled the
palate of every man present by mentioning every achievement in a
culinary way that every woman of his household had made in all the
generations that had gone over Harpeth Valley. She called all the
concoctions by their right names, too, and she always gave the name of
the originator, who was some dear old lady that was sleeping in the
Greenwood at the foot of the hill, or in some grave over at Providence
or Hillsboro or Bolivar, and who was grandmother or great-grandmother to
a hundred or more of the guests. I had wondered why Jane had been poring
over that old autograph manuscript receipt book in my desk for days, and
as she paid these modern resurrecting compliments to the long gone
cooks, tears and laughed literally deluged the table.

And as she built up, achievement by achievement, the domestic
woman-history of the valley, Jane showed in the most insidious way
possible how the pioneer women had been really the warp on which had
been woven the woof of the whole history of their part of the Nation,
political, financial, and religious. I never heard anything like it in
all my life, and as I looked down those long tables at those aroused,
tense, farmer faces, I knew Jane had cracked the geological crust of the
Harpeth Valley, and built a brake that would stop any whirlwind on the
woman-question that might attempt to come in on us over the Ridge from
the outside world. They saw her point and were hard hit. When "Votes for
Women" gets to coming down Providence Road the farmers will hitch up a
wagon and take mother and the children with a well-packed lunch basket
to meet it half way. This is a prophecy!

Then, after Jane sat down, I don't believe such a speechifying ever was
before as resounded out over the river, even in the time of Old Hickory.
Everybody had something to say and got to his feet to say it well, even
if some of them did brandish a turkey wing or a Iamb rib to emphasize
their points.

And the women were the funniest things I ever beheld, as we were treated
to one maiden speech after another, issuing from the lips of plump
matrons anywhere from thirty to sixty. They had never done it before,
but liked it after they had tried.

Mother Mayberry from Providence, who is the grand old woman of the whole
valley, having established her claim to the title thirty years ago by
taking up her dead doctor husband's practice and "riding saddlebags to
suffering ever since," as she puts it, broke the feminine ice by rising
from her seat by the side of one of the entranced Magnates,--who had
been so delighted with her and her philosophies that he could hardly do
his dinner justice,--and addressing the rally in her wonderful old voice
with her white curls flying and her cheeks as pink as a girl's.

"Children," she said, after everybody had clapped and clapped so she
couldn't get a start for several minutes, "The Harpeth Valley women have
been a-marching along behind the men for many a day, because their
strong shoulders had to break undergrowth for both, but now husbands and
fathers and sons have got their feet up on the bluff of Paradise Ridge,
and it does look like they will be a-reaching down their hands to help
us up, in the break of a new day, to stand by their side; and I, for
one, say mount!--I'm ready!"

A perfect war of applause answered her, and Dickie's father got up to go
down the whole length of the table to shake hands with her, but had to
wait until she came out of the embrace of Nell's fluffy arms, and got a
hand free from the Magnate on one side and Aunt Augusta on the other.

Even Sallie began to look speechful, and I believe she would have got up
and spoken a few words on the subject of women, and how they need men to
look after them, but she said something to Mr. Haley, who shook his head
and then got up and prosed beautifully to us for ten minutes, and would
have gone on longer, if he hadn't seen Henrietta begin to look mutinous.

The feast had begun at one o'clock, but by Jasper's skilful maneuvering
of one gorgeous viand after the other, into the right place, by having
relays of pones browned to the right turn and potatoes at the proper
bursting point, it had been prolonged until the shadows of late
afternoon were beginning to turn purple.

"Don't nobody ever leave one of my barbecue tables until sundown begins
to tetch up the empty bones," has been his boast for years. And as he
had cleared away the last scrap from the last table, he leaned against a
tree, exhausted and triumphant, with alert, adoring eyes fixed on the
Crag, who had risen in his place at the head of the long central table.

I had felt entirely too far away from him down at the other end with one
of the junior Magnates and Dickie, but I was glad then that I sat so I
could look straight into his face as the light from across the Harpeth
Valley illumined it without, while a wonderful glow lit it from within.

All of the others had spoken of the achievements of their families and
forefathers and vaunted the human history of the valley, but he spoke
of the great hill-rimmed Earth Pocket itself. He gave the Earth credit
for the crops that she had yielded up for her children's sustenance. He
described how she had bred forest kings for the building of their homes,
granted stores of fuel from her mines for their warming, and nourished
great white cotton patches and flocks of sheep to clothe them from
frosts and winds.

And as he spoke in a powerful voice that intoned up in the tree-tops
like a great deep bell, he turned and looked out over the valley with an
expression like what must have been on Moses's face when he saw into the
promised land.

[Illustration: "She's our mother," he said]

"She's our Mother," he said, as he flung back the long lock from across
his forehead and stretched out his strong arm and slender hand towards
the sun that was dropping fast down to the rim of Old Harpeth. "She has
bared her breasts to suckle us, covered us from sun and snow, and now
she expects something from us. If she has built us strong and ready,
then we are to answer when the world has need of us and her storehouses
and mines. We are to give out her invitations and welcome all who are
hungry and who come a-seeking. Gentlemen, her wealth and her fertility
are yours--and her beauty!"

For a long, long minute every face in the assembly was turned to the
setting sun, and a perfect glory rose from the valley and burned the
call of its grandeur into their eyes. We seemed to be looking across
fields and forests and streams to the dim purple hills that might be the
ramparts of the Holy City itself, while just below us lay the little
quiet village of the dead whose souls must just have gone before.

And after that everybody rose with one accord and began to hurry to
start out upon the long roads homeward, just as the great yellow moon
rose in the east to balance the red old sun that was sinking in the
west. Only the Magnate sat still in his place for several long minutes
looking out across to Old Harpeth, and I wondered whether he was
thinking about the Eternal City or how many rails it was going to take
to span the valley at his feet.

And I--I just stood on the edge of the bluff by myself and let my soul
lift up its wings of rejoicing that my Crag had got his beautiful desire
for apostrophizing the Mother-Valley so all the world might hear. And
then suddenly it came over me in a great warm, uplifting, awe-inspiring
rush that a woman who takes on herself voluntarily the responsibility of
marrying a poet and an orator and a mystic, who is the complete edition
of a Mossback that all those qualities imply, must square her shoulders
for a long, steady, pioneer march through a strange country.

Could such achievement be for me?

"Please God!" I prayed right across into the sunset, "make me a full
cup that never fails him!"

I don't know how long I stood talking with God that way about my man,
but when I turned and looked back under the maples everybody was gone,
and I could hear the last rattle and whirl going down the hill. For a
second I felt that there was nobody but Him and me left on the hill, but
even in that second my heart knew better.

"Now?" I questioned myself softly, out over to the yellow moon that had
at last languidly and gracefully risen, putting the finishing touch to
the scene I had been planning for my proposal.

"Evelina," said the Crag quietly from where he stood leaning against the
tallest maple, "shall we stay here forever and ever, or hurry down
through the cemetery by the short cut to the station to say good-by to
the railroaders as they expect us to do?"

Nobody ever had a better opening than that, and I ought to have said,
"Be mine, be mine," with some sort of personal variation of the theme,
and have clapped him to my breast and been happy ever after. That is
what a courageous man would have done under the circumstances, with an
opportunity like that, but I got the worst kind of scare I ever
experienced, and answered:

"How much time have we got? Do you think we can make it?"

"Plenty," he answered comfortably as I began to quicken my pace to the
little gate that leads between the hedge into the little half-acre of
those who rest. Then as I tried to pass him, he caught my hand and made
me walk in the narrow path close at his side.

[Illustration: Scrounged so close to his arm that it was difficult for
both of them to walk.]

Now even a very strong-minded woman, who had to go through a little
graveyard with moonlight making the tombstones glower out from deep
shadows of cedar trees, in the depths of which strange birds croak,
while the wind rustles the dry leaves into piles as they fall, wouldn't
feel like honorably proposing to the man she intended to marry, even
if she was scrouged so close to his arm that it was difficult for both
of them to walk, would she?

I excuse myself this time, but I must hold myself to the same standard
that I want to hold Lee Greenfield to. How do I know that he hasn't had
all sorts of cold, creepy feeling's keeping him from proposing to
Caroline?

I hereby promise myself that I will ask Cousin James to marry me the
next favorable opportunity I get, if I die with fright the next minute,
or have to make the opportunity.

Still, I can't help wondering what does keep him so composed under the
circumstances. Surely he wouldn't refuse me, but how do I know for sure?
How does a man even know if a woman is--?



CHAPTER X

TOGETHER?

When business and love crowd each other on a man's desk he calmly puts
love in a pigeon-hole to wait for a convenient time and attends strictly
to business, while a woman takes up and coddles the tender passion and
stands business over in the corner with its face to the wall to keep it
from intruding.

Dickie has been here a whole week since the barbecue-rally, ostensibly
trying to get me down to making a few preliminary sketches for the
gardens to his C. & G. railroad stations, and, of course, I am going to
do them. I'm interested in them and I'm sensible of the honor it is to
get the chance of making them: but the moon didn't rise until after ten
o'clock last night and I'm getting nervous about that scene of sentiment
I'm planning. I can't think of gardens!

Still, I am glad he stayed and that everybody has been giving him a
party and that Nell is always there, for he hasn't had time to notice
how I'm treating business and coddling--

Jane and Polk and Nell and Caroline and Lee and everybody else,
including Sallie and the Dominie, have been all over my house all day
and into the scandalous hours of the night, which in Glendale begin at
eleven o'clock and pass the limit at twelve, and I don't see how they
stand so much of not being alone with each other. It is wearing me out.

I had positively decided on my own side steps for the scene of my
proposal to the Crag, under the honeysuckle vine that still has a few
brave and hearty blossoms to encourage me, with the harvest moon
looking on, but moons and honeysuckle blossoms wait for no man and no
woman especially. They are both fading, and I've never got the spot to
myself more than a minute at a time yet. The Crag, with absolutely no
knowledge of my intentions, except it may be a psychic one, sits there
every night and smokes and looks out at Old Harpeth and maddens me,
while some one of the others walks in and out and around and about and
sits down beside him, where I want to be.

And as for the day time, I am so busy all day long, providing for this
perpetual house-party, that I am dead to even friendship by night. Jane
is doing over Glendale from city limits to the river, and I have to
spend my time keeping the dear town from finding out what is being done
to it.

She is hunting out everybody's pet idea or ideal for some sort of change
or improvement to his, especially _his_, native town, and then leading
him gently up to accomplishing it so that he will think he has done it
entirely by himself, but will tell the next man he meets that there is
nothing in the world like a tine energetic woman with good horse sense.
In fact, Jane is courting the entire male population in a most
scandalous fashion, and they'll be won before they know it.

"Now, that Confederate monument ought to have been built long ago out of
that boulder from the river instead of hauling in a slicked-up granite
slab that would er made the Glendale volunteers of '61 feel
uncomfortable like they would do in the beds in the city hotels. Great
idea of mine and that Yankee girl's--great idea--hey?" sputtered Uncle
Peter, after Jane had spent the evening down with him and Aunt Augusta.

"It is a fine idea, Uncle Peter," I agreed with a concealed giggle.

"I've subscribed the first five dollars of the fifty for hauling,
setting up and inscribing it, and we are going to let the women give
half of it out of the egg-money they have got in that Equality Quilting
Society--some kind of horse sense epidemic has broken out in this town,
horse sense, Evelina, hey?" And he went on down the street perfectly
delighted at having at last accomplished his pet scheme. He thought of
it as exclusively his own by now, of course.

And the monument is just the beginning of what is going to begin in
Glendale. Jane says so.

"There could be no better place than this rural community to try out a
number of theories I have had in political economy as related to the
activities of women, Evelina," she said to me to-day, looking at me in a
benign and slightly confused way from behind her glasses. "Mr. Hayes and
I were just talking some of them over to-night, and he seems so
interested in seeing me institute some of the most important ones. How
could you have ever thought such a man as he is lacking in seriousness
of purpose, dear?"

"I feel sure that it was just my own frivolous streak that called out
the frivolous in Polk, Jane dear," I answered with trepidation, hoping
and praying that the inquisition would not go much further, and trying
to remember just what I had written her about Polk.

"It may have been that," Jane answered, in a most naïvely relieved tone
of voice. "But you don't know how happy I am, dear, to see that that
streak is only an occasional charming vein that shows in you, but that
you are now settling down steadily to your profession. I feel sure that
when these garden drawings are done, you and Mr. Hall will have found
your correct places in each other's lives and it will be just a glorious
example of how superbly a man and woman can work together at the same
profession. Mr. Hardin and I were talking about it just last night out
on the side porch, and though he said very little I could see how
gratified he was at the honors that had come to you and how much he
likes Mr. Hall."

That settled it, and I made up my mind that when the Harvest Lady left
us to-night to sink behind Old Harpeth, she wasn't going to leave me
weakly lonesome. She doesn't set until two o'clock, and I'm going to
take all the time I need.

And as serious and solemn as I feel over taking such a step for two as I
am deciding on, I can't help looking forward to scribbling a terse and
impersonal account of my having proposed to the man of my choice in this
strong-minded book, adding a few words of sage advice for the Five,
locking it and handing it, key and all, to Jane with a dramatic demand
that she put her hundred thousand dollars in the Trust Company and begin
to choose the Five from those she has had in mind.

Then before she has had time to read it, I am going to sneakily get it
back and blot or tear out some of the things I have written. I can
decide later what will be data and what will be dangerous to the cause.

"And you will be glad to have me--come and live for a time in your home
life, dear?" Jane recalled me to the question in hand by saying
wistfully. "I feel that I have never had such good friends before,
anywhere, as these of yours are to me, Evelina," she added.

That's one time I got Jane completely in my arms and showed her what a
really good hugging means south of Mason and Dixon's line. From later
developments I am glad she had that slight initiation. It must have been
serviceable to her New England disposition.

Then just as I was going to ask some of the plans she--and Polk--had
made, over came Cousin Jasmine, with Cousin Annie and Mary, with Mrs.
Hargrove puffing along behind them. They had come to see Jane, but I
was allowed to stay and have my breath knocked out by their mission.

It seems Jane had got a great big book from some firm in New York that
tells alt about herb-growing, and how difficult it is to get the ones
needed for condiments and perfumes, and offering to buy first-class
lavender and thyme and bergamot and sweet fern and things of that kind
in any quantities at a good price. She had shown it to the little old
ladies who had been secretly grieving at the separation from their
garden out on their poorly rented farm, and the leaven had worked--on
Mrs. Hargrove also. They go back to the farm and she with them! She had
decided on raising mint to both dry and ship fresh, because he of the
gay pajamas always liked to have it strong and fresh for the julep of
his ancestors. I hope she won't forget to take that pattern of Japanese
extraction with her and make some for the Crag now and then, for it will
save my time. Horrors!

"We have fully decided on our course of action, Jane, and Evelina,
dears," said Cousin Jasmine in a positive little manner that she would
have been as incapable of a month ago, as is a pet kitten of barking at
the family dog, "but we do so dread to break it to dear James, because
we feel that he may think we are not happy under his roof and be
distressed. Do you believe we shall be able to make him see that we must
pursue our independent life, though always needing the support of his
affection and interest?"

"I believe you will, Cousin Jasmine," I said, wanting to both laugh and
cry to see the Crag's burdens begin to roll off his shoulders like this.
And the tears that didn't rise would have been real ones, too, for I
found that, down in the corner of my heart, I had adored the picture of
my oak with the tender little old vines clinging around him. It was the
producing gourd I had most objected to and I couldn't see but she would
be there until I unclasped her tendrils.

But I was forgetting that, in the modern theory of thought-waves, it is
the simplest minds that get the ripples first and hardest. Sallie came
over just as soon as the other delegation had got home to take the twins
off her hands. Jane had gone upstairs to make more calculations on our
reconstruction, and I was trying to get a large deep breath.

"Evelina." she said, as she sank in a chair near me and fastened her
large, very young-in-soul, eyes on mine, "were you just joking Nell, or
did you mean it, when you said the other day that you thought it would
be cowardly of a woman not to show a man that she loved him, if he for
any reason was not willing to make the first advances to her?" Sallie is
perfectly lovely in the faint lavender and pink things that Jane made
her decide to get in one conversation, whereas while Nell and Caroline
and I had been looking up and bringing her surreptitious samples of all
colors from the store all summer.

"Well, I don't know that I exactly meant Nell to take it all to heart,"
I answered without the slightest suspicion of what was coming. "But I do
think, Sallie, it would be no more than honest, fearless, and within a
woman's own greater rights."

"Mr. Haley was saying the other evening that a woman's sweet dependence
was a man's most precious heritage," Sallie gently mused out on the
atmosphere that was beginning to be pretty highly charged.

"Doesn't a woman have to depend on her husband's tenderness and care all
of the time--time she is bearing a child, Sallie, even up to the
asafoetida spoon crisis?" I asked with my cheeks in a flame but
determined to stand my ground. "It does seem to me that nature puts her
in a position to demand so much support from him in those times that she
ought to rely on herself when she can. Especially as she is likely to
bring an indefinite number of such crises into their joint existence."

Sallie laughed, for she remembered the high horse I had mounted on the
subject of Mamie and Ned Hall the day after the Assembly dance.

And as I laughed suddenly a picture I had seen down at the Hall's
flashed across my mind. I had gone down to tell Mamie something Aunt
Augusta wanted her to propose next day at a meeting of the Equality
League about drinking water in the public school building. Mamie has
learned to make, with pink cheeks and shining eyes, the quaintest little
speeches that always carry the house--and even made one at a public
meeting when we invited the men to hand over our fifty dollars for the
monument. Ned's face was a picture as he held a ruffle of her muslin
gown between his fingers while she stood up to do it.

But the picture that flashed through my mind was dearer than that and I
put it away in that jewel-box that I am going to open some day for my
own man.

Both Mamie's nurse and cook had gone to the third funeral of the season
and Mamie was feeding the entire family in the back yard. The kiddies
were sitting in a row along the top of the back steps, eating cookies
and milk, with bibs around their necks,--from the twelve year old
Jennie, who had tied on hers for fun, down to the chubby-kins next to
the baby,--and Mamie was sitting flat on the grass in front of them
nursing little Ned, with big Ned sitting beside her with his arm around
both her and the baby. He was looking first down into her face, and then
at the industrious kiddie getting his supper from the maternal fount,
and then at the handsome bunch on the steps, as he alternately munched a
bite of his cookie and fed Mamie one, to the delight of the children.
The expression on his face as he looked at them, and her, and ate and
laughed, is what is back of all that goes to make the American nation
the greatest on earth. Amen!

"Sallie," I said, as I reached out and took her plump white hand in
mine, "our men are the most wonderful in the world and they are ours any
way we get them. They don't care how it is done, and neither do we, just
so we belong in the right way."

"Then you don't think it would be any harm for me to tell Mr. Haley I
think I could live on eighteen hundred dollars a year, until he gets
sent to a larger church?" was the bomb that, thus encouraged, Sallie
exploded in my face.

I'm awfully glad that I didn't get a chance to answer, for I don't want
to be responsible for the future failure or success of Mr. Haley's
ministry. Just then Henrietta burst into the room with the Kitten in her
arms.

"Keep her for me, Evelina, please, ma'am," she said, with the dearest
little chuckle, but not forgetting the polite "please," which Jane had
had to suggest to her just once. What you've done for that wayward
unmanageable genius of a child, Jane dear, makes you deserve ten of your
own. That is--help!

"Cousin Augusta and Nell and Dickie and me is a going out to watch the
man put the dyn'mite in the hole to blow the creek right up and
Glendale, too, so they can see if they is enough clean water to put in
the waterworks," she continued to explain. "Nell is a-going to take
Dickie in her car, and Cousin Augusta is a-going to take me and Uncle
Peter in her buggy. Dilsie have got the Kit and Cousin Marfy is
a-watching to see she don't do nothing wrong with her. Oh, may I go,
Sallie? Jane said I must always ask you."

"Yes, dearest," answered Sallie, immensely flattered by the deference
thus paid her.

"How wonderful an influence the little talks Mr. Haley has had with
Henrietta have had on her," she said, with such a happy glow on her face
as the reformed one departed that I succeeded in suppressing the laugh
that rose in me at the memory of Henrietta's account of the first one of
the series.

Men need not fear that the time will ever come when they will cease to
get the credit for making Earth's wheels go around, from the female
inhabitants thereof. So I smiled to myself and buried my face in the
fragrance under the bubbly Puppy girl's chin and coaxed her arms to clasp
around my neck.

They are the holy throb of a woman's life--babies. Less than ten
wouldn't satisfy me unless well scattered in ages, Jane. On some
questions I am not modern.

"Still I do feel so miserable leaving Cousin James so alone all winter,"
Sallie continued with the most beautiful sympathy in her voice, as she
looked out of the window towards Widegables. "I wonder if I ought to
make up my mind to stay with him? He loves the children so, and you know
the plans of Cousin Jasmine and the others to go back to their farm."

"But he'll have his mother left," I said quietly but very encouragingly.
I seemed to see the little green tendril that had unclasped from the oak
turning on its stem and winding tight again.

"Miss Mathers was encouraging Cousin Martha to go to Colorado to see
Elizabeth and her family for a long visit this winter. She hasn't seen
Elizabeth since her mother died and she was so much interested in the
easy way of traveling these days, as Miss Mathers described it, that she
asked her to write for a time-table and what a ticket costs, just this
morning. I really ought not to desert Cousin James."

"But think how lonely Mr. Haley is down in the parsonage and of his
influence on Henrietta," I urged.

"Yes, I do feel drawn in both ways," sighed the poor tender gourd. "And
then you will be here by yourself, so you can watch over Cousin James,
as much as your work will allow you, can't you, Evelina?"

"Yes, I'll try to keep him from being too much alone," I answered with
the most deceitful unconcern.

"I see him coming to supper and I must go, for I want to be with him all
I can, if I am to leave him so soon. I may not make up my mind to it,"
with which threat Sallie departed and left me alone in the gloaming, a
situation which seems to be becoming chronic with me now.

If I had it, I'd give another hundred thousand dollars to the cause, to
hear that interview between Sallie and the Dominie. I wager he'll never
know what happened and would swear it didn't, if confronted with a
witness.

And also I felt so nervous with all this asking-in-marriage surging in
the atmosphere that it was with difficulty that I sat through supper
and listened to Jane and Polk, who had come in with her, plan town
sewerage. To-morrow night I knew the moon wouldn't rise until eleven
o'clock, and how did I know anyway that Sallie's emancipation might not
get started on the wrong track and run into my Crag? His chivalry would
never let him refuse a woman who proposed to him and he'll be in danger
until I can do it and tell the town about it.

Jane and Polk had promised Dickie and Nell to motor down Providence Road
as far as Cloverbend in the moonlight, and I think Caroline and Lee were
going too. Polk looked positively agonized with embarrassed sorrow at
leaving me all alone, and it was with difficulty that I got them off. I
pleaded the greatest fatigue and my impatience amounted to crossness.

After they had gone I dismissed Jasper and Petunia and locked the back
doors, put out all the lights in the house and retired to the side
steps, determined to be invisible no matter who called--and wait!

And for one mortal hour there I sat alone in that waning old moonlight,
that grew colder and paler by the minute, while the stiff breeze that
poured down from Old Harpeth began to be vicious and icy as it nipped my
ears and hands and nose and sent a chill down to my very toes.

Nobody came and there I sat!

Finally, with the tears tangling icily in my lashes, I got up and went
into the house and lighted the fat pine under the logs in the hall. They
had lain all ready for the torch for a whole year, just as I had lain
for a lifetime until a few weeks ago. Then suddenly they blazed--as I
had done.

My condition was pitiable. I felt that all nature had deserted me, the
climate, Indian summer, the harvest moon and my own charm, but my head
was up and I was going to crackle pluckily along to my blaze, so I
turned towards the door to go across the road and put my fate to the
test, even if I took pneumonia standing begging at his front door. I
hoped I would find him in the lodge and--

"Evelina," he exclaimed as he burst open my door, flung himself into the
firelight and seized my arm like a robber baron of the Twelfth Century,
making a grab for his lady-love in the midst of her hostile kindred, "I
thought I would never get here! I ran all the way up from the office.
Here's a telegram from Mr. Hall that says that the two roads have merged
and will take the bluff route past Glendale, and give us the shops,--and
wants to appoint me the General Attorney for the Southern Section. They
want me to come on to New York by the first train. Can you marry me in
the morning so we can take the noon express from Bolivar? I won't go
without you. Please, dear, please," and as he stood and looked at me in
the firelight, all the relief and excitement over his news died out of
his lovely eyes and just the want of me filled them from their very
depths.

For several interminable centuries of time I stood perfectly still and
looked into them daringly, drinking my fill for the first time and
offering him a like cup in my own.

"Eve," he said so softly that I doubt if he really spoke the word.

"Adam!" I let myself go, and at last pressed my answer against his lips
as he folded me tight and safe.

It must have been some time after, I am sure I don't know how long, but
I was most beautifully adjusted against his shoulder and he had my hand
pressed to his cheek, when the awfulness of what had happened brought me
straight up on my own feet and almost out of his arms.

"Oh, how could you have done it!" I fairly wailed, as I thought of what
this awful complication was going to lose for the Five to whom I felt
more tender in that second than I had ever felt before.

"Done what?" he demanded in alarm, pressing both my hands against his
breast and drawing me towards him again.

"Asked me to marry you when I--"

"I have been fighting desperately to see some way to offer myself and
all my impedimenta to you all this time, and this has made it all right,
don't you see, dear?" he interrupted me to say, as he took possession of
me again and held me with a tender fierceness, which had more of
suffering in it than passion. "I have always wanted you, Eve, since
before you went away, but it didn't seem right to ask you to come into a
life so encumbered as mine was. Poverty made it seem impossible, but
now, if you will be just a little patient with them all, I can
arrange--"

"I was going to arrange all that my own self, and now just see what you
have done to me and a whole lot of other women, besides making me
miserable all summer," and crowded so close under his chin that he
couldn't see my face, I told him all about the tinder-box Jane had
loaded and then set me on the lid to see that it exploded.

I had just worked myself up to the point of how my incendiary mission
was about to touch off all the other love affairs in town, when he began
to shake so with disrespectful laughter that I felt that my dignity was
about to demand that I withdraw coldly from his arms, where I had just
got so warm and comfortable and at home; but with the first slight
intimation of my intention, which was conveyed by a very feeble indeed
loosening of my arms from around his Henry Clay collar, he held me
firmly against him and controlled his unseemly mirth, only I could still
feel it convulsing his left lung,--though as I had no business being
near enough to notice it, I felt it only fair not to.

"Please don't worry about those other Five dear women," he begged, in
the nicest and most considerate voice possible so that I tightened my
arms again as I listened. "If Miss Mathers doesn't feel justified in
giving up the dowries by your--your failure to prove the proposition, we
can just invite them all down here and in Glendale and Bolivar and
Hillsboro and Providence, to say nothing of the countryside, we can
plant them all cozily. I can delicately explain to their choices exactly
how to let them manage circumstances like--" he illustrated his scheme
just here until it took time for me to get breath to listen to the rest
of his apology--"this and there is no telling, with such a start as the
cult has got in the Harpeth Valley already, how far ft will spread.
Please forgive me, dear!"

"Yes," I answered doubtfully. Then I raised my head and looked him full
in the face as I made my declaration calmly but with the perfect
conviction that I still have and always will have, world without end.
"Yes, but don't you think for one minute I don't _know_ that what Jane
and I and all the most advanced women in the world are trying for is the
right and just and the only way for men and women to come logically into
the kind of heritage you and I have stumbled into. Absolute freedom and
equality between all human beings is going to be the price of Kingdom
Come. I shall always be humiliated that I got scared out in the
graveyard and didn't do it to you. It is going to be the regret of my
life."

"Truly, I'm sorry, sweetheart," he answered most contritely. "If I were
to take my hat and go back to the gate and come in again properly and
let you do it, would that make you feel any better?"

"No, it wouldn't," I answered quickly because why should I be separated
from him all the two and a half minutes it would take to play out that
farce, when I have been separated from him all the twenty-five years
that stretch from now back until the day of my birth? "I am going to
bear it bravely and hold up my head and tell Jane--"

"I wouldn't bother to hold up my head to tell her, Evelina," came from
the doorway in Polk's delighted drawl as he and Jane stepped into the
room. "Pretty comfortably placed, that head, I should say."

"Oh, Jane!" I positively wailed as I extracted myself from the Crag's
gray arms and buried myself in Jane's white serge ones that opened to
receive me. And the seconds that I rested silently there Polk spent in
shaking both of the Crag's hands and pounding him on the back so that I
grew alarmed.

"I didn't do it, Jane, I didn't do it," I almost sobbed with fear of
what her disappointment was going to be. "He beat me to it!"

"Truly. I'm sorry," Cousin James added to my apology as he stood with
his arm on Polk's shoulder.

"I dare you, _dare_, you to tell 'em, Jane," Polk suddenly said, coming
over and putting a hand on one of my shoulders and one on Jane's.

"Evelina and Mr. Hardin," Jane answered gallantly with her head assuming
its lovely independent pose, but with the most wonderful blush spreading
the beauty that always ought to have been hers all over her one-time
plain face, "the wager stands as won by Evelina Shelby. She had properly
prepared the ground and sowed the seed of justice and right thinking
that I--I harvested to-night. I had the honor of offering marriage to
Mr. Hayes just about fifteen minutes ago. I consider that mode of
procedure proved as feasible and as soon as I have received my answer,
whatever it is, I shall immediately proceed with making the endowment
and choosing the five young women according to the agreement."

"Polk!" I exclaimed, turning to him in a perfect panic of alarm. Could
he be trifling with Jane?

"Evelina," answered Polk, giving me a shake and a shove over in the
direction of the Crag, "you ought to know me better than to think I
would answer such a question as Jane put to me, while driving a cranky
car in waning moonlight. If you and James will just mercifully betake
yourselves out there on the porch in the cold for a few minutes I will
try and add my data to this equality experiment with due dignity. Go!"

We went!

"Love-woman," whispered the Crag, after I had broken it to him that we
were going to be a Governor of Tennessee, and not a railroad attorney,
and he had crooned his "Swing Low" over me and rocked me against his
breast for a century of seconds, down on my old front gate, "you are
right about the whole question. I see that, and I want to help--but if
I'm stupid about life, will you hold my hand in the dark?"

"Yes," I answered with both generosity and courage.

And truly if the world is in the dusk of the dawn of a new day, what can
men and women do but cling tight and feel their way--together?





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